The Young Justice: Animated Anonymous Fic Meme

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Prompt Post -Part One! [CLOSED TO NEW PROMPTS]
yj_anon wrote in yj_anon_meme

Welcome to the Young Justice: Animated anonymous fic meme!

How does it work? Basically, you leave prompts, and people fill them with glorious fic. Pretty simple. Anonymity is allowed for those that feel nervous or awkward requesting or filling, but it isn't actually obligatory. Unlike a lot of memes (like kink memes) this doesn't have a particular focus beyond the fandom. Het, gen, slash, femslash, anything else you can think up? Welcome! Crack, drama, angst? Go nuts!

However, we do have some...

Rules and guidelines.

• Animated canon only, please. Crossovers are fine, so is integrating comics/etc. stuff into animated canon, but no outright Young Justice comic stuff, please.
• Be reasonable. Polite. Etc. You may be anonymous, but that is no excuse for being ridiculous.
• Likewise, be considerate in your prompting. Trigger warnings are appreciated (for content that may seriously upset people with past experience, such as rape/non-con, self harm, suicide, etc.- at the absolute least, please make it clear what the fic contains about before someone stumbles across it halfway through!), and please be careful with your wording. Memes like this often touch on some sensitive material. If you feel somebody has posted an actively offensive prompt, please either PM me or use the mod post here to bring it to my attention.
• One prompt per post, please!
• Repeat after me: Your Kink Is Not My Kink. Don't attack people's prompts because they aren't your cup of tea!
• Look, just don't wank up a storm in general. I'm sure we can all manage, right? :)
ETA: Please do not reprompt things until we reach a second part. In addition, I encourage anyone looking for things to fill to go back through previous pages. A lot of people have old prompts tracked, so your fills will still be seen!

This is the 'flat' view of the page; it shows comments in the order they're posted, rather than as threads. Makes it easier to see new fills on previous pages.

I'll look at getting a Delicious or Diigo or something-or-other archive up for filled prompts if it gets to the point we feel it'd be useful. In the meantime, have fun!

ETA: We now have a discussion post if you need one!

ETA: I need help with archiving! Also, we set up a fill post.

Can you please leave links to any fic you write there. See the post for more details. Thanks!

ETA: GUYS. I am officially making the 'PM me about offensive prompts' thing obligatory. Please, I have difficulty keeping up without your wonderful help!

Incidentally, being polite includes not telling people they're being 'too sensitive' for being bothered by things. Just sayin'. This place is a safe space, in so much as I can make it one, and I don't really like the rhetoric of 'oh, if you're offended you're oversensitive' that I'm seeing in a couple places? Remember: people may have had different experiences than you that influence their view. Don't assume. :)

In-progress Delicious account.

  • 1
Superboy starts to suffer from Clone Degeneration (

(Sorry, does TVTropes need a warning? ;))

He tries to keep it secret from the team, the team find out. The team tries to keep it secret from their mentors (paranoid about how they'll treat the news, since they're not exactly happy about a clone of Superman running around), maybe getting desperate as they try and reverse it, but they end up failing at that, too. Anything else is up to the author.

I just found this whole YJ Meme, but oh my gawd, yeeessss!
I've been trying to find a story like this ever since I started getting into the fan-dom (which, admittedly, hasn't really been that long XP). I hope someone can fill this awesomeness! (I would, but I'm the goddess of procrastination and unfinish-ination.)

Fill "Fail Safes" 1f/3 (Anonymous) Expand
I'm almost working on a fill for this one.

We've seen more episodes now and the mentors have been too great for me to believe that Robin, Kaldur, Wally or M'Gann would hide anything so serious from them. There's only been one member of the JLA who seems to have any problems with Superboy (Grrr... Clark really needs to grow-up and get over whatever his issue is).

Anyway, clone degeneration, Superboy trying to hide it and everyone getting a bit desperate as a solution is sought. Coming in the next three or four days if it sounds like a close enough match.

OP here (Anonymous) Expand

Fill "Fail Safes" 1a/3

Twisting around to look at his back in the mirror Superboy glared at the spot. It was an unhealthy looking greenish thing just below his left shoulder blade. He stretched and contorted his body until he could watch in the mirror as his fingers sought out the spot and probed it roughly. It felt soft and mushy in contrast with the surrounding, normal tissue. When he moved a faint tugging told him the muscles under the spot weren’t contracting like they should. It was only about the size of his fist, not big enough to affect his mobility, but it was bigger now than it had been a week ago when he first noticed it.

Superboy pulled his shirt back on and resolutely turned away from the mirror.

Two weeks later, when he noticed another spot beginning to form on his arm Superboy went out and bought several long-sleeved tee-shirts with the S-Shield printed on them. He stuck with black shirts because the color didn’t show it when pus oozed out of the older spot. The spot that was slowly but surely turning into a black, rotting pit in his back.


Aqualad opened his door at the sound of a hesitant knock.

“Kaldur, could I talk to you?” Robin asked.

“Come in,” Aqualad replied, holding the door open for the younger boy.

Robin wasted several moments examining the Atlantean’s quarters. He picked up a shell, glanced at the ceiling light in which the normal white light had been replaced with a much softer, bluer bulb. Robin didn’t show any sign of bringing up the topic that brought him there.

“You wanted to talk?” Aqualad prompted.

Robin grimaced. “Superboy’s favoring his left side,” he said quickly. “I didn’t want to say anything, ‘specially to Batman or one of the other mentors...”

“Because it feels like tattling,” Kaldur finished.

Robin nodded miserably. “It’s not like I’ve never hid it when I did something stupid and hurt myself. I can tell Supey’s trying to cover it. At first I thought maybe he’d pulled a muscle or something stupid, I though it was something like when I sprained my ankle show-boating while I was fighting Mad Hatter. I really didn’t want Batman knowing about that, and it was stupid, and really not that big of a deal. I thought it was like that, and I get why he’d keep it quite, so I didn’t want to say anything...” Robin trailed off, he fidgeted with the shell uncomfortably. “But I’ve been watching him for eight days. It’s getting worse not better. I’m starting to worry.” He looked up at Kaldur, “What if it’s not just a strain or something?”

“Why are you telling me this?” Kaldur asked.

Robin gave him a hopeful look. “Supey listens to you more than the rest of us. You know he’s sort of prickly. I didn’t want to get him all defensive. And what if it is nothing? I really don’t want to have told Batman on him if it’s nothing important.”

‘And I’m team leader. It’s my responsibility to judge what needs to be passed up to our mentors,’ Kaldur thought. ‘I should have noticed something was wrong myself.’

Fill "Fail Safes" 1b/3

Kaldur stood in the shadows surrounding the team’s gym, watching Superboy stretch. Now that he was looking for it the reason for Robin’s concern was plainly apparent. There were hitches in the way Superboy moved his left arm; short falters, as if his coordination or muscles had failed him briefly. The longer Kaldur watched the more convinced he became that Superboy couldn’t lift the problem arm above shoulder level.

“You should let someone know if you’re injured,” Kaldur said quietly.

Superboy spun around and stared at him with wide frightened eyes. “I’m sorry,” he blurted out guiltily. “I can still fight. I’m still useful. Don’t take me off the team, please? Please, don’t tell?”

Kaldur stared at Superboy in confusion. “You’re hurt. You need to tell someone so you can get treatment.”

“Please? Please don’t tell. Don’t take me off the team. I’m still useful,” Superboy reiterated and Kaldur wasn’t certain the other boy had heard or understood him at all.

Kaldur frowned, he honestly didn’t know what to make of Superboy’s reaction. He seemed terrified of having his injuries discovered. It simply didn’t make sense. He could understand Robin feeling embarrassed at injuring himself through carelessness, but this was an entirely different level of wanting to hide an injury which seemed completely irrational.

It made Kaldur want to agree to Superboy’s request just to erase the fear from his eyes. But he remembered the way Superboy had moved. “Let me see it,” Kaldur bargained, maybe with more information he could justify giving in to Superboy’s wishes. “Then I’ll decided whether or not we need to tell one of the mentors.”

Superboy shrank away from him defensively.

“Please,” Kaldur said gently. “I can’t promise unless I know what is wrong. Maybe I can do something. If I can, we can keep it just between us.”

Reluctantly Superboy stripped off his shirt then stood there staring at the floor, his shoulders hunched as if waiting for a blow.

Kaldur gasped at the ugly gangrenous lesions concentrated on Superboy’s left side, starting at his ribs then going up and over his shoulder to trickle down his arm. Some were small and greenish, like healing bruises, others were bigger and black, the worst of all were open sores, pits of necrotic looking tissue weeping pus.

In a state of horrified shock Kaldur reached for his com unit. “Robin, it wasn’t nothing,” he whispered still staring at Superboy. “Get Batman NOW. Superboy needs doctor, immediately.”

“I can still fight,” Superboy repeated mournfully. “I’m still useful.” In a small voice he added, “Don’t throw me away.”

Fill "Fail Safes" 1c/3

Dr. Midnight stepped out of his examining room. He canted his head to the side, listening for a moment, then frowned. “Why isn’t Superman here?” he demanded. “The boy’s a minor, as long as he’s in costume his mentor acts as his legal guardian.” He turned to Batman. “That is what you insisted on.”

Batman and Black Canary exchanged an unhappy look. “Superman is not acting as the boy’s mentor,” Batman stated shortly. “He is a member of Young Justice. Canary, myself and Red Tornado have been acting as mentors to the team. In Superboy’s case, in the absence of a better alternative, you may consider the three of us to be his acting guardians.”

“Fine,” Midnight nodded sharply. “Why the hell wasn’t that kid taken to a doctor two months ago? There is no excuse for advanced gangrene in obviously visible surface tissue in this day and age in a developed country! Do I need to check the REST of the kids under your care for negligence!”

Neither Batman nor Canary argued with Midnight’s assessment.

Midnight sighed. “His cellular structure is breaking down. My preliminary theory is that there was a flaw in the cloning process that created him. I’ll need to compare samples of his DNA with Superman’s to confirm. Regardless, due to the length of time in which the damage went untreated it’s become extensive. The dead tissue needs to be removed, just as soon as I can determine the best means of debridement. There’s going to be significant, permanent damage. In the meantime, one of you get in there and start acting like a parent! That kid is terrified.”

Batman and Canary looked at each other. “Roy always went to Ollie when he was hurt,” Canary said. Then she shrugged, “Or more to the point he’d let Ollie catch him favoring a hurt and then Ollie would have to drag the story out of him and figure out what to do about it. Roy always felt embarrassed about me knowing he’d gotten hurt.”

Batman grimaced. He, Dick and Alfred had their system as well, but it had come about due to how badly he’d mishandled things the first time Dick had been seriously injured during Robin-related activities. Now if Dick got hurt he took it to Alfred. Alfred patched him up and reported back to Bruce. Then Bruce reassured Dick that the injury did not endanger their relationship or Dick’s roll as Robin. After he’d been reassured Dick could relax enough to actually heal and things would return to what passed for normal. Still, he liked to think he learned from his mistakes.

“Remind Clark that Kryptonite exposure will cause a degradation in a DNA sample,” Batman said. “An intense, localized exposure to red sunlight would be the best means of acquiring a useful sample.”

“Thanks,” Canary said, acknowledging the Batman was taking the tougher task.

Fill "Fail Safes" 1d/3

Batman turned and walked into the dimly lit examination room. When he entered the room Superboy stood up quickly, coming to parade-rest the way the team normally did while Batman was debriefing them. Only this time Superboy was trembling so violently he could barely stay on his feet.

“Sit down,” Batman ordered. The boy had been acting strange ever since Robin and Kaldur had summoned him. “I’ve spoken with Dr. Midnight. The problem seems to stem from Cadmus’ cloning process.”

Superboy neither sat nor did he look at Batman. He nodded jerkily. “The Genomorphs, same thing sometimes.”

Batman noted that his breathing was too quick and too shallow. He stepped closer to do something before Superboy hyperventilated and the boy flinched away violently. Already unsteady on his feet, the sudden movement sent him tumbling to the floor where he stared up at Batman with panicky blue eyes.

‘This wasn’t normal’, Batman thought, he threw out everything he’d learned for dealing with Dick except the part where he’d learned NOT to assume he could guess at a teenager’s reasoning process. Batman backed away and crouched down to put himself back on eye-level with Superboy. There was no way the boy would make it back to his feet as hard as he was shaking.

“Tell me what you’re thinking.” Bruce ordered, trying to keep his voice gentle.

“I can still fight. I’m still useful.” Superboy began again desperately. Bruce said nothing, only gestured for Superboy to continue. “I can still help with the team. I’m still useful. For a little while anyway. You don’t have to kill me yet.”

Bruce could only stare, ‘How had he come to such an insane conclusion? Thinking they’d KILL him for being hurt?’ He wanted to grab Superboy and shake him for thinking something so outlandish. ‘Permanent damage, for such a fucking stupid notion.’

Superboy looked at the lesions on his arm with despair. “I’m defective, a mistake. Defective units are a waste of resources; to be rendered for their proteins and fed to developing Genomorphs, since they serve no other purpose. But I can still be useful! For a while at least. Don’t kill me yet.”

And it suddenly Superboy’s logic didn’t seem so irrational, it was based on his experience after all. He’d been taught to call himself a weapon. He’d developed in an environment where he was looked at as nothing more than an experiment, where life was engineered for specific purposes, and had no value beyond it’s ability to fulfill the purpose it had been created for.

“This is not Cadmus,” Bruce snapped, his harsh tone causing Superboy to cringe away from him again. ‘Two months, watching his body breaking down, thinking he was going to be killed when he couldn’t hide it anymore.’ Bruce reminded himself, ‘It’s no wonder he’s a mess. Don’t make it worse.’

He sat on the floor across the room from Superboy and leaned back against the wall, trying to be less threatening. “We don’t kill people for being sick,” he said plainly. “We brought you here so that you could be cured, not disposed of.”

“Cure?” Superboy asked uncertainly.

“We’re going to try to correct the damage. You are a person, your life is valuable. We don’t kill people for being hurt, we try to make them better. You have worth beyond your usefulness to the team.”

Superboy stared at him doubtfully, Bruce could see in Superboy’s eyes that what he was saying was too different from what he’d been raised to think to be trusted. He looked very young, very scare and very alone.

Slowly Bruce reached up and pushed back his cowl, letting Superboy see his face, see his eyes. “I’m trusting you. Please trust me. Even with your injuries you are NOT ‘a waste of resources’. Besides, they’re ours to waste and we do not consider you defective or a waste. To us you are worth fixing.”

Bruce couldn’t see any understand in Superboy’s eyes; the idea that his life had intrinsic value was too alien for him to embrace; but he saw dawning belief that at least Bruce believed what he was saying.

Fill "Fail Safes" 1e/3

As the mission ended Superman noticed Flash, Martian Manhunter and Aquaman gathering off to one side. After a moment Green Arrow joined them. “Batman, Canary and Reddy, not one of them answered the signal,” Flash said, his voice full of unspoken significance and worry.

‘The kids,’ Superman realized with a start. He flew over to join the small group of mentors as they tried to contact their proteges.

“Kaldur reports that Superboy is ill,” Aquaman relaid. “The team was sent to recover records from Dubilex and the other Genomorphs who rebelled against Cadmus.”

“That tallies with what I’ve got,” Flash said. “It sounds like the kids are pretty shook up. We should check with Bats, see if there’s anything we could do to help.”

Martian Manhunter nodded. “At times he forgets to ask for assistance.”

Clark drifted hesitantly on the outskirts of the group. He’d given Canary a DNA sample twelve hours earlier, in fact his arm still felt weak from the concentrated burst of red light that had been required to draw his blood, but he hadn’t thought much about the clone after giving Canary what she’d requested.

“Bats, we just heard from the kids,” Flash was saying as Clark turned his attention back to the group. “What happened to Superboy?”

“Cadmus engineered in a fail safe mechanism to prevent his turning against them,” Batman growled. “Comparison with Superman’s DNA showed a deliberate pattern of genetic defects. If he doesn’t get regular doses of a stabilizing agent his cell begin to degrade. The notes recovered from Cadmus on the formula for the stabilizing agent were incomplete. The Atom and STAR Labs are trying to fill in the blanks. Dr. Midnight is working on a treatment plan to contain the existing damage.”

“Is there anything we can do?” Clark asked.

“Go visit him,” Bruce answered instantly.

Clark didn’t reply and the silence between them quickly became thick with tension.

“Your medical records don’t list anything that can be used as an anesthetic,” Bruce said, there was a strange note of surrender in his voice.

“Anesthetic?” Flash broke in. “Midnight needs to operate on the kid?”

“The degradation was allowed to progress far enough to present as gangrene. The dead tissue has to be removed,” Batman replied. “Our best option is a high intensity laser to burn the necrotic tissue away.”

“Cauterization? That’s medieval! Why don’t you just dump maggots in the wounds?” Barry demanded, outraged.

“We tried that, they don’t eat Kryptonian,” Batman said flatly. “If they did we wouldn’t need the damn anesthetic, *they* wouldn’t damage the surrounding, living, tissue.”

“Toyman!” Clark exclaimed. “He used some sort of gas on me a few months ago. It really warped my perceptions. I’ll get you a sample. Maybe it could be modified to block pain.”

Fill "Fail Safes" 1g/3

*NOTE* Previous part posted strangely. It's up above in the thread.

“It’s time,” Batman said from the door way.

Superboy nodded. He got up and followed Batman down the hall to the operating room.

“You’ll need to be restrained,” Batman explained as Superboy stared warily at the frightening looking contraption waiting for him. “If you move during the operation it will cause additional, unnecessary damage.”

Superboy nodded, his lips pressed together in a grim lime. He took off the scrub top he wore, exposing the rest of the lesions. He stared at the thing in the operating room with trepidation. It was harsh cold metal, designed to withstand his strength and hold him still and helpless against being hurt. Superboy cringed, ‘If this was curing, maybe Cadmus’ way was better after all.’

Batman removed his cowl and gauntlets, stripping away his armor and letting Superboy see the person beneath. “This is necessary if you want to stay with us.” In the newly revealed eyes Superboy could see that Batman hated that this had to be done. “We won’t kill you, but if you don’t get treatment you will die. I’m sorry. It is going to hurt, but it’s necessary. We want to keep you with us.”

And the thing was slightly less terrifying with gentle hands guiding him to sit and lean forward so his arm and left side were position and secured for the procedure. A heavy, solid feeling ball was placed into his hand. “Squeeze down on that when it hurts,” Batman told him. He covered Superboy’s hand with his own. “We’ll get this over with as quickly as possible. I’ll be right here the whole time and your friends are just down the hall waiting to take you home with them.”

Part 1 End

Fill "Fail Safes" 2a/3

“It’s over.”

The words mean something important but they seemed to come from a long way away.

He feels detached and hazy. He feels as if he’s ripped himself out of his body and and is just observing what’s been done to it. Expect for his hands. His hands must still be in his body because he can still feel Batman’s hands wrapped around them, not letting him go.

He tries to protest when the hands are taken away. It comes out as a ragged whine and the sound feels like acid in his throat. But the hands are back, with a cool rag, touching his face, washing away tears and sweat. “Don’t talk. Your throat’s raw.”

Other hands are smoothing a gel that feels like ice over his arm and left side. It draws away the horrible burning heat.

The touches are putting him back in his body. For some reason he’s nervous about that. Then he remembers, “It’s over,” that means it’s okay to go back.

He tries to unclench his fists. It’s hard, the metal balls he was holding have squished like putty between his fingers. He has to wiggle his fingers a bit to work them free of the metal.

The straps that held him helpless are being taken away. The hissing, cracking sound of the laser splitting the air and burning away his body is gone too he belatedly realizes.

He’s being helped up, away from the hurting place. Shoulders under his good arm, a strong steady hand on his chest.

Batman has his cowl back on and he wishes it wasn’t on. He misses steady blue eyes that don’t avoid his gaze, even when he can see regret in them. Superman never looks at him.

Then it’s a few steps down the hall to the room where his team is waiting.

They look strange when Batman helps him to the bed. M’Gann’s eyes are red. Wally’s mouth is bleeding, his lower lip looks like he bit through it. Artemis’ arms are wrapped around herself and her fingers are white and bloodless. Robin and Kaldur look like they know the new trick he learned of not being in your body when it hurts too much.

For several moments they stare. He feels the weight of their eyes on him while Batman urges him to lie on his stomach because the worst of the burns are on his back. There’s something cold and smooth under his arm, protecting it from the roughness of the sheets.

When Batman steps back the team rushes forward. They touch him, flittering delicate touches that he can barely feel, as if he might break. Ruffling his hair, brief squeezes of his good hand, light pats on that arm. Like the earlier touches they help settle him back in his body.

The cold gel makes his left side numb and keeps the hurt away. Without meaning to he falls asleep.


“How is Superboy?” Red Tornado asked.

“He screamed until his voice gave out but it’s done.” Batman stated. “Atom believes he’s completed Cadmus’ formula, it shouldn’t need to be done again. He’ll need to have a daily injection for the rest of his life, he’s lost 40% of his range of motion and 15% of his strength on his left side, but it’s over.”

Batman spun sharply and punched the wall with enough force to leave a dent. A change of clothes and two showers since the operation and he swears the smell of charred flesh is still clinging to him. The Joker was a cakewalk beside sitting in that room telling a child that it was okay and it would be over soon while they preformed an operation on him that could easily have doubled as torture.

Fill "Fail Safes" 2b/3

Superboy blinked and looked around the room to see who was sitting with him. He was aware that he’d been sleeping on and off for over a day. During one of his earlier awakenings Dr. Midnight had told him it was his body’s way of dealing with the trauma of the operation and that it was good to sleep and heal and forget.

Every time he’s woken up someone has been there. It’s... nice. At first, when he felt more distant from his body it was always Batman or Black Canary. They would give him ice chips to suck on and tell him not to talk. Then they would hold his hand until he fell back asleep. Their touch was different from his teammates, more sure, more consistent and it made him feel safe.

Later, after he could stay awake for more than a few moments, after his mind stopped playing games and acknowledged that his body wasn’t a separate thing that he could step away from if it started burning again, once they were certain he was really okay, Batman and Black Canary allowed his teammates to take over watching him.

This time it was Robin, only he looked funny. It took Superboy several minutes to realize Robin wasn’t wearing his mask or his sunglasses and that’s why he looks so strange.

Robin smiled in greeting when he noticed Superboy’s eyes were open. “Hurrah for accelerated healing,” he said softly. “It’s been fifty hours but your burns look like they’re a month old. We stopped putting the ice-gel on a few hours ago and Dr. Midnight says you can leave whenever you’re slept out, but give it another day before you try talking. Your nightmares haven’t been giving your throat much of a break.”

Superboy looked up at Robin, puzzled. He gestured to his arm.

“You screamed your throat bloody,” Robin sounded unsteady as he explained. “And you went into shock from the pain. It was worse than they thought it was going to be, the tissue damage was more extensive than the nerve damage. They didn’t realize that until they’d started. The good news is Dr Midnight checked several times and they got everything. No follow-up operations needed.”

Superboy felt a wave of relief. If someone had told him he had to go through that again... Well, he didn’t think he could have made himself walk back into that room a second time.

“Also, I’ve decided we’re practically brothers now. After all, he let you see him without the cowl,” Robin continued. “For a little bit at least, I’m going to be the older brother. So warnings and wisdom: As soon as you’re healthy enough to offer up a defense if you so chose, you’ll be getting a lecture to end all lectures. First, just because he waits until your capable of arguing doesn't make it a good idea. He has thought of a counter for every argument you might make and you're only extending the misery by giving him the excuse to use them. There will be growling and many, many dire worst-case scenarios presented. Although I don’t know how he’s going to top you dying for dire I cannot imagine and that almost happened. So you earned the lecture okay? Just remember: he wouldn’t be yelling at you if the thought of you getting hurt didn’t scare him senseless.”

“Why?” Superboy asked, his voice emerging as a broken whisper.

“No talking,” Robin scolded. “And it’s because he cares about you. We all do.”

“You know, you really freaked him out, bad enough that he didn’t catch me eavesdropping. So I know a little more than I’m supposed to about what you said to him before. I know you don't really believe what he told you, even though it's true: you are important to us."

"Look, I know it’s hard to let go of what you’ve been taught to think. But with the team you’re safe, you can let down your guard. For the next couple of weeks I want you to do that. I want you to forget everything you learned from Cadmus. Forget what Desmond said you were. Let us show you what you are to us. I mean it doesn't hurt to get a second opinion and you trust us more than Desmond don't you?”

Fill "Fail Safes" 2c/3

“It’s pretty late, but you probably don’t want to sleep, not after sleeping for two days, and two days! Hello M’Gann! He’s got to be starving!"

"I made chicken soup and Jello and ice cream,” M’Gann babbled nervously as she floated the various items over to the table. “Don’t feel like you have to eat everything, I sorted needed something to keep occupied. So I cooked. I got orange juice too, but Robin said it was acidic and could hurt your throat, but the website said it was something good to feed people when they’re sick. But I'll take Robin's word for it."

"Artemis said we should have just bought the ice cream, so we could get your favorite flavor. But buying it from the store seemed so impersonal, and it doesn’t take much time. Also when I said I wanted to make ice cream for you Wally ran home and borrowed his Aunt’s ice cream maker. And um... Well I don’t know what your favorite is. What is it?”

Superboy opened his mouth to answer then hesitated.

M’Gann slapped her forehead. “Hello M’Gann! He’s not supposed to talk! Sorry.”

Superboy tapped one temple with his finger then gestured to M’Gann.

“I can read your mind?” M’Gann verified.

Superboy nodded.

//Okay, I’m listening,// M’Gann’s mental voice confirmed a moment later.

//Thanks. You went to a lot of trouble.// Superboy thought back.

//You haven’t tasted anything yet silly,//

M’Gann caught a half-formed thought about it being easier to appreciate her need-to-keep-occupied-cooking without knowing what it tasted like, which she dutifully ignored as he was trying not to think it. //So, ice cream flavor?//

//What’s ice cream?//

M’Gann pointed. //It’s kind of a frozen milk and sugar thing. The cold should feel good on your throat.//

Superboy quickly traded the soup for the ice cream. //It is good, and cold,// he thought back a moment later.

M’Gann blushed “I’m glad you like it.”

Fill "Fail Safes" 2d/3

“Superboy, your medication,” Red Tornado said quietly the evening after Superboy had returned to Mount Justice.

Superboy got up and followed him to the infirmary.

“With the current formulation the drug is most effective if administered intravenously. However that necessitates overriding your body’s natural defenses. We have considered several different means of accomplishing this, but felt that the final choice should be left to you.” He gestured to a lamp arrangement , “Exposure to red light will weaken your powers enough to allow your skin to be penetrated. The process is painless and safe. Kryptonians lived under a red sun for generations. However it will take time to recover fully, more than a day.”

‘And I have to take daily shots,’ Superboy thought. ‘I'll just keep getting weaker and I’ll never be ready to be part of the team again.’

“The other option is Kryptonite,” Red Tornado continued reluctantly when he saw the stubborn look of refusal settle over Superboy’s features. He placed a small lead box on the table. “Recovery is more rapid, Superman has reported it takes one to two hours before he feels completely recovered after exposure to Kryptonite. However, we do not know the effects of repeated exposure, it may not be safe for you. And it will hurt you.”

Resolutely Superboy tapped the box.

“I truly wish you would reconsider,” Red Tornado said. “Even without your full strength you can work on rehabilitating your arm. We continue to look into other options for you. You can could use the red light now, with little impact to your plans for the next few months, then re-evaluate once your return to active duty is more imminent.”

Superboy tapped the box again.

“You are certain?”

“Not active duty,” Superboy said in a careful whisper. “But emergencies? Want to be able to help, if needed.”

“As you wish,” Tornado agreed with reluctance. He sat the prepared injection on the table beside the box. “Please place your arm here, I would like to do this as quickly as possible to minimize your exposure.”

Moving swiftly and smoothly Red Tornado removed the small sliver of Kryptonite from the box. He touched it to Superboy’s arm, just below the elbow. Superboy gritted his teeth and closed his eyes as the veins in his arm darkened angrily. Red Tornado slid the needle home then locked the Kryptonite away as he depressed the plunger.

When the needle was gone Superboy grimaced and rubbed his arm. He drew back when his hand encountered slick, fresh scar tissue just above the injection site.

“For now, I will administer your injections every evening,” Red Tornado said. “Once a method which does not require Kryptonite exposure is settled upon you will be taught to handle this yourself. We do not wish to compromise your independence.”

Superboy nodded. He rubbed his arm again being more careful to avoid the scars. Then went back to his room to sleep off the lingering effects of the Kryptonite.

When he turned on the lights in his quarters Superboy was surprised by how bright and warm they seemed. It was almost felt like being out in the sun. He got ready for bed then went to shut off the lights. His hand hovered over the switch for several moments then he left them on, letting the comforting radiation lull him to sleep.


At breakfast the next morning Superboy tentatively tested the lifting of his ban on speech by raising the subject of the lights. He wondered if they were really different or if it was just his perception after spending so long in Dr. Midnight’s dimly lit clinic.

“You like them?” Wally asked hopefully. “They’re full-spectrum lights, more like sun light than normal light bulbs. See you’re like a solar battery so now you can keep recharging even when you’re inside and maybe you’ll get better faster.”

“I like them,” Superboy confirmed, only a hint of raspiness left in his voice.

Wally beamed.

Fill "Fail Safes" 2e/3

“Authorization A2, Batman. Authorization B2, Robin,” the base computer chimed as the pair teleported into Mount Justice.

“Superboy?” Batman called. Robin went to join his teammates, while Superboy reluctantly took the small boy's place at the dark knight’s side. For a moment Batman rested a hand on Superboy’s shoulder. “Dr. Midnight is waiting,” he said turning Superboy toward the teleporter.

Once they’d vanished Artemis said “This is the litmus test isn’t it?”

“Come on, it’s just a formality,” Wally argued. “This is science! If Atom says he’s got the solution, that’s it, problem solved!”

“This is medicine, this is a chronic condition,” Artemis snapped. “It means you try things to control it and hope they work. And you check back constantly because your body keeps changing and maybe what worked six months ago doesn’t work now. Then you’re back to square one, and while you look for something new that works, the disease gains ground and eventually you lose.”

“I bugged his room, it took me three tries to find a spot that Batman hadn’t already bugged,” Robin said. “He’s not hiding any new lesions. Atom’s serum is working for now. Supey’s going to get a clean bill of health for his two-week check up. Can we agree this is a good thing?”

“I think we should celebrate,” M’Gann said. “Black Canary told Superboy that she’d start helping him get ready for light duty if this check-up goes well.”

Looking mostly at Artemis Kaldur said. “I believe it will be most helpful for Superboy if we maintain a positive outlook. Do not predict trouble, but I would not place undo emphasis on his return to active duty. That Superboy is not endangered any longer is what is important.”


“Ready to get started?” Canary asked.

“Yes,” Superboy replied forcefully.

“Mostly we’ll be working on stretches today,” Canary warned. “You’re still healing and we need to keep your arm limber. With some work you’ll regain at least part of the mobility you’ve lost.”

Superboy nodded.

“Once we’ve got a better idea of what your limits are I’ll start teaching you to work around them,” Canary continued. “You’ve worked out one of the basic techniques on your own: Hide your weaknesses.”

“But!” she added sternly. “You’ve got to work on knowing when to do that. We hide weaknesses from enemies, not friends.” Canary grasped Superboy’s arms tightly. “You don’t have to hide from us okay? Your teammates, Batman, Red Tornado and I, we want to help you. Don’t shut us out.”

“I learned,” Superboy said with an unhappy glance at his heavily scarred arm.

Canary hugged him briefly. “I wish you hadn’t had to learn in such a harsh way,” she said.

Then she stepped back becoming more business-like. “You’ll have to stick with the long-sleeved costume for a while.” An apologetic look crossed her face. “The scars are too obvious, any opponent who sees them is going to target your left side. With more experience you’ll learn to use them to lure opponents into making predictable attacks that you’re ready to counter, but that’s for much later. Now we just focus on getting back as much as you can.”

Fill "Fail Safes" 2f/3

Superboy felt someone watching him as he applied the lotion Batman had given him to keep his scars pliable. He turned and saw Kaldur.

“I’m sorry,” the other boy said.

“Why is everyone saying sorry?” Superboy asked. “Even when they don’t say it, everyone keeps talking to me in the sorry-tone. It’s not your fault. Cadmus made me wrong, I didn’t want you to know.”

“I should have realized sooner, without Robin pointing out your injuries to me,” Kaldur argued.

“I didn’t want you to,” Superboy frowned.

Kaldur shrugged. “Regardless, I wish I’d realized. We all wish there was more we could do to make it better.”

Superboy straightened his arm and raised it roughly thirty degrees above shoulder height. “It is getting better.”

“That is excellent.”

“No one asks when I’ll be back on active duty,” Superboy said.

“We *do* want you back,” Kaldur said. “But it is worrying that you hid something like this in order to stay on the team. We want you on the team, but we want you alive more. You are our friend.”

“I- Robin said to watch. I have been, he’s right. I-I’m not a weapon to you.” Superboy looked away. “Why? I’m not good at being a person.”

“You *are* a person. You don’t have to *try* to be one,” Kaldur insisted forcefully.

“How do you know? I wasn’t made to be one. Superman doesn’t think I am, or he wouldn’t-“

“You should know that Superman tried to find something to make your operation easier,” Kaldur said. “He is assisting with the efforts to make the injections better. None of us understands why he finds it so difficult to simply talk to you. However, that is his problem, it is not you. You are a person. I look in your eyes and see you trying to make sense of the world around you. That is what we all do. You are right that Cadmus made a mistake when they were making you. You are not the weapon they intended you to be, you are much more than that.”

Fill "Fail Safes" 2g/3

Wally tapped his foot impatiently and so rapidly that it sounded like a steady thrum to his teammates. “Are we ready to go yet? I’m starving, the restaurants downtown are calling!”

“Superboy, were would you like to go?” Kaldur asked.

Superboy shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“Alright. Does anyone else have strong feelings. I do not wish to spend the evening wandering from place to place bickering over where we are going,” Kaldur said.

“We had Chinese last time we went out,” Artemis pointed out.

“The Mexican place is too dark,” Robin complained.

“Only because you wear sunglasses at night,” Wally disagreed. “Plus, chips and salsa, can’t go wrong with free appetizers.”

“What about ‘Chocolate Sushi Tofu’ M’Gann suggested. “I think it sounds interesting.”

“No!” Wally and Artemis exclaimed in tandem then glared at the other for holding the same opinion.

“It looks too fancy,” Artemis said.

“I’m picking up the tab,” Robin reminded.

“Dude! Tofu!” Wally objected.

“It doesn’t matter who’s paying, I’m just worried about the loud mouth getting us kicked out,” Artemis said jerking her thumb toward Wally.

“Supey, please have a suggestion,” Robin encouraged. “Or they’ll fight all night.”

“The buffet?” Superboy offered hesitantly.

“All you can eat? I can get behind that,” Wally seconded.

Artemis shrugged. “For some reason no one’s saying it, but we are celebrating your return to active duty. You should get to choose the restaurant.”

“Light active duty,” Robin qualified with a protective glance at Superboy.

“We have a majority,” Kaldur declared. “Shall we depart?”

As the team headed toward the door M’Gann bit her lip then said, “Um, Superboy?”

He glanced at her questioningly.

M’Gann flushed then gestured to his feet. “Shouldn’t you?”

Superboy looked down, startled to discover his were bare. "Where'd my shoes go?"

The look of totally surprise on Superboy's face sent a premonitory shiver down Wally’s back.

Fill "Fail Safes" 3a/4

Wally tore through the base refrigerator rapidly assembling an unstable tower of junk food that barely fit on the plate. Then he withdrew to the table with his booty.

A short while later Superboy came in. He took a cup-of-noodles out of the cupboard, turned on the tap while he opened cup and rummaged around in the dishwasher for a spoon. He filled the Styrofoam cup with water then brought his lunch over to the table. At the first spoonful Superboy’s nose wrinkled up in disgust. “This tastes wrong,” he complained.

Wally told himself that the Gegnomes and Cadmus probably hadn’t considered teaching Superboy about instant food to be a priority. “You need to heat it up,” he explained. “Just stick it in the microwave for three or four minutes.”

Superboy gave up on glaring at the unsatisfactory soup and blinked at Wally. “I didn’t zap it?” he asked in bewilderment and Wally’s blood froze.

“Stay-there-I’ll-be-right-back!” he exclaimed as he blurred toward the teleporter. He left the matrix at a dead run, slowing to human speeds only as he reached the steps of the Keystone Police Department. “Gotta see Uncle Barry!” he told the desk sergeant forcing the words to come at a comprehensible speed.

“He’s back in the lab Wally,” the sergeant said as he waved Wally past him.

An endless few seconds later Wally made it to the lab. “Uncle Barry! Something’s still wrong with Supey. He was making ramen and he didn’t heat it and ten seconds later he couldn’t remember that he didn’t and it’s not the first time he’s forgotten weird stuff and he was supposed to be okay now!”

“Easy Wally,” Barry said. He turned to one of his co-workers. “This is urgent. Could you sign me out?”

As they left Barry sent off a quick text message. “Taking SB to Dr.M, meet us there.”


Batman and Robin were waiting in Dr. Midnight’s waiting room when Barry, Wally and Superboy arrived. “What happened?” Batman demanded. He pulled Barry aside while a worried Robin joined Wally and Superboy.

“It was a small incident, might be nothing,” Barry temporized, then sighed. “But it might be a good idea have an MRI done all the same, just to be sure it's nothing.”

Batman caught Barry’s arm in an uncomfortably tight grasp. “You think the lesions spread to his *brain*!” he lowered his voice to a furious whisper as he glanced across the room at the three boys.

“I think it wouldn’t hurt to check,” Barry said quietly.

Fill "Fail Safes" 3b/4

Batman realized the print outs were crinkling in his hands and very deliberately set them on the table in front of him. Destroying the evidence that the lesions had spread to Superboy’s brain wouldn’t change the fact of it.

“The serum stabilized tissue in his muscular-skeletal system,” Atom reported. “We assumed the nerve damage he experienced a secondary effect because it was so limited in comparison. We were wrong. We’re working on a new formulation.”

“Do we remove the dead tissue now or after the serum’s finished?” Black Canary asked. “What hurts him less?”

“We remove it now,” Dr. Midnight replied. “First one of the lesions is near what would be the medulla oblongata in a human. If that lesion is allowed to grow it will quickly begin to effect autonomic functions such as breathing. Beyond that the dead tissue releases toxins as it degrades which increases the rate at which the surrounding tissue is effected. From what we’ve seen new lesion formation is slower than the growth of existing lesions in terms of total cell loss. We operate now and repeat as needed until the formulation is completed.” He looked way. “At least there are no pain receptors in his brain.”

“I’ll be shrinking down and preforming the operation from inside,” Atom said. “We won’t have to find a way through his skull.”

“The impact?” Batman demanded shortly.

“The effect of damage to the brain is always difficult to predict, and that would be true even if he were human. Superman sent us all the information he possessed on Kryptonian physiology, but they didn’t fully understand the functioning of the brain anymore than we do. Further, the electrical activity mapping we’ve done thus far shows that Superboy is atypical even in comparison to the data Superman had on Kryptonians."

"The activity in his brain is unusually concentrated in a few areas. This has nothing to do with the degeneration. If I had to take a guess, I’d say is most likely due to most of his learning occurring through memory implants rather than actual experience. All I can really say at this point is that the symptom Wally noticed, difficulty with completing sequential tasks, is unlikely to go away.”

“The areas are quite small,” Red Tornado said. “I have heard of cases where the brain was able to -rewire- itself, thus restoring lost functionality after brain damage was incurred.”

“It’s possible,” Dr. Midnight replied. “It is also completely out of my hands.”

“In other words, prey for a miracle,” Batman stated acidly.

“Yes,” Midnight agreed unruffled. “At this point all we can do is minimize the damage and hope his brain is capable of adapting. Given that his thought processes currently appear adapted to a highly unnatural state anyway, there may be cause for hope, but no one could promise you a favorable outcome.”

Fill "Fail Safes" 3c/4

From a hundred miles away, Superman hears the inarticulate screams of rage and the sounds of rocks shattering. It sounds like some sort of mindless creature on a rampage, what he sees when he arrives does little to dispel his initial impression. He's thankful the quarry is abandoned as he watches Superboy lash out at everything and anything around him for no apparent cause.

“What is wrong with you?” he demands, standing in mid-air above the quarry with his hands on his hips. In response the furious clone uproots a boulder about the size of a minivan and lobs it at him.

Superman catches the boulder and lets it drop. “Okay, that is enough!” he orders. He swoops down and grabs the furious teenager by the arms hauling him away from the scene of destruction through simple brute force.

Superboy screams at him, he kicks and twists and fights without regard for tactics. There are no niceties, Superman can tell the kid doesn’t give a damn which of them gets hurts as long as he can continue to lash out. The occasional swear-word mixed in with wordless growls is the only sign that the clone hasn’t simply gone feral. It doesn’t matter, Superman is stronger and larger and in the air his ability to fly gives him even more of an edge over his younger clone.

Suddenly the clone’s left arm turns slick and hard to hold and the smell of iron fills the air. Superman lets the boy go and backs off in alarm. He stares at the blood on his hand and the broken scar tissue on the clone’s arm his stomach twisting. “I’m sorry,” Clark says as he settles to the ground.

Superboy isn’t, he’s free and ready to fight and Superman is there. Clark blocks the sloppy, angry punch and holds his ground. A closer look at his clone shows tear traces in the dust on his face and Clark is feeling more and more out of his depth. “Talk to me! What happened?” he demands to no avail.

After blocking several more punches that are hard enough that he knows he’s going to have bruises, Clark tries grabbing hold of the kid again. This time he’s more careful, trying not to hurt him. “Calm down!” In the background he hears a plane landing.

“Enough.” Batman doesn’t raise his voice but the wild-cat of a child in Clark’s arms goes limp. Cautiously Clark releases Superboy. He wants to warn Batman to keep his distance, that the boy is dangerous with the way he was lashing out, but Batman has never responded well to being reminded that he’s only human.

“You have every right to be angry,” Batman tells Superboy, and from the set of his mouth, Clark can see that Superboy isn’t the only one who is angry. “But that is enough of throwing tantrums.”

Superboy starts to say something then glances warily at Superman.

“I have the situation under control,” Batman states, dismissing his colleague.

Clark feels guilty but mostly he feels relieved to be excused. As he flies away he can hear the boy, “You said I wouldn’t have to, not again.”

“We were wrong,” Batman replied.

“I can’t, won’t. No more.”

“If you choose to die, I won’t stop you.” At Batman’s flat statement Clark turns around and starts back..

Then the dark knight continues, “It won’t hurt, but I’m not going to lie to you and say it will be fine. Dr. Midnight explained the your options. Doing nothing, allowing the lesion near your brain stem to grow until it kills you *is* one of your choices. I won’t take it away from you. But I would prefer that you keep fighting.”

From a distance Clark watches as the boy surrenders, his shoulders slump and he follows Batman docilely back to batplane. There’s nothing for him to contribute, Batman is correct, he has the situation under control, Clark isn’t even completely certain what the situation is.

Fill "Fail Safes" 3d/4

“Authorization B06, Red Arrow.” The computer’s mechanical voice seems to echo more than usual to Roy’s ears. From what he’s heard the members of Young Justice were sticking closer to their mentors and hometowns these days, leaving Mount Justice abandoned between missions. ‘Hard for them to be here with Superboy in the hospital,’ Roy thought.

As Roy continued deeper into the base he heard faint sounds of battle. Warily he followed the noise to the gym. There he found Robin in the middle of a combat simulation. The little ninja fought without his typical battle cries or wise-cracks, he was focused completely on causing destruction.

After watching for a few minutes Roy moved to join the fight. He almost got a kick to the head in thanks but Robin recognized him and diverted the blow at the last moment.

“Bats is going to have your head when he checks the logs and finds out you ran it at this level without a spotter,” Roy commented.

Robin ignored him in favor of smashing another combat-boy. Roy shrugged and picked his own opponent. Several minutes and a half-dozen ‘bots later Robin started talking. “*Another* round of operations. Over and over again and there’s less of Superboy *left* every time,” he ranted. “He’s never going to be okay again and it’s still getting worse! They’re doing their best and he’s still getting sicker! They’re the fucking Justice League! Why can’t they stop it?”

“Even they’re not all powerful,” Roy said, “but I have some connections in places they don’t.”

Robin killed the simulation.

Roy took a small, metal vial out of a pouch on his quiver. “A sample of the stabilizing agent Cadmus was using on Superboy before you broke him out. There should be enough for STAR Labs to begin duplicating it.”

Robin stared up at Roy worshipfully as he accepted the vial. “How did you get this?”

Roy gave him a twisted half grin. “Now that’s my secret, but I wouldn’t mind if you gave me a twenty minute head start before you told anyone where that came from.”

The worship in Robin’s eyes transformed to worry. “Roy, what did you do?”

“Don’t go all Bats on me little bird, I’ve got it under control,” Roy said. He gave Robin another odd smile. “Just remember, no matter what it might look like, I’m still your friend.”

Before Robin could agree, disagree or make-up his mind as to which he intended Roy had pulled an arrow out of his quiver an shot it into the ground at Robin’s feet. The younger boy was instantly engulfed in a cloud of knock-out gas.

Roy hastily backed out of the room and sealed the door. “Sorry kid, I should have known you’d be stubborn,” he said as he left. “Anyway, tell Superboy to get better soon. I hate seeing all of you hurting.”

Fill "Fail Safes" 4a/4

6 Months Later - The Daily Planet

“Well, look at you, Lois,” the sarcasm in Cat Grant’s voice made Clark wince. Cat was cranking things up to nine and Lois had never been one to back down from a challenge. “All dressed up and we don’t even have a pool going on who’s security is going to be throwing you out.”

“I’m not surprised it slipped past you,” Lois replied with poisonous sweetness. “It’s not really my sort of story after all. Still, I suppose it’s not your fault that when a real story drops into your lap you can’t recognize it.”

Clark sighed as Cat snatched a photo off of Lois’ desk. He pushed his chair back, putting more distance between himself and ground zero before the next strike could be called in.

Cat gave the photo an unusually serious look. “Lois, leave Brucie alone. He’s fun guy and a good sport. But you don’t want to be pressing this button.”

Clark stopped edging away. As far as he knew, Bruce only had two hot buttons as far as a gossip columnist like Cat Grant would know: His parents and his ward. Bruce Wayne had made it pointedly clear that he didn’t answer questions about his parents and he wouldn’t tolerate anything that could be construed as slander against Dick Greyson.

“No one knows anything about the new kid,” Lois exclaimed. “No interviews. The kid barely leaves the Wayne Manor. Hell, I can’t even find a last name! Someone is hiding something big. And *that* is a story.”

Clark moved around to get a look over Cat’s shoulder. He hadn’t heard anything about Bruce taking in another ward.

“What it is is intrusive. Not to mention a lawsuit in the making,” Cat argued.

“What are you? A reporter or a mouse?” Lois demanded. “There is something about that kid that is being covered up and I intend to find out what.”

Clark’s breath caught. Everything about how the boy in the picture held himself screamed wrongness, but there was no mistaking that it was Superboy standing between Bruce Wayne and Dick Greyson in the picture.

Cat shook her head. “The Greyson kid is sharp as a tack, born to be in front of an audience and he handles interviews beautifully. But you say the wrong thing about that kid and you can pretty much count on a career change. Rumor has it there’s more wrong with the new kid than the obvious. You think Bruce is going to be *less* over-protective of him?”

“The obvious?” Clark asked, his voice tight. He wondered how Bruce could have *not* told him.

Cat directed Clark’s attention to the forearm cuff around Superboy’s arm and he realized that the boy was using a crutch. “We may not print much about the kid but we do take notes.” Cat spared Lois a haughty look. “I hear he has some pretty serious scarring but the way he moves? I’m guessing cerebral palsy or something like it; a brain disorder.”

Clark sat down heavily. He didn’t know what to think or feel. ‘Why wasn’t I told?’

Fill "Fail Safes" 4b/4

“We’re not talking abut Lex Luthor here,” Cat continued. “Lexy doesn’t like seeing anything unflattering when he reads the paper. Sometimes you’ve got to say damn the lawsuits, just to remind him he doesn’t own everyone in this town. Brucie? He gives us plenty of copy. Supermodel or heiress of the week? Print whatever you like about his love-life, true or not someone’ll get a good quote out of it when the story gets back to him. Then there are his extreme sports: The man is an incredible athlete, but he doesn’t have even a passing acquaintance with common sense. I wouldn’t even believe some of the stories he tells if I hadn’t seen the scars with my own two eyes. Brucie is always good for an exciting bit of copy.” Then Cat stopped. She shrugged and dropped the theatrical tone. “But he wants to be a good parent. Which means not letting the tabloids run rough-shod over his kids just because they’re his. Who are we to get in the way of that?”

Lois rolled her eyes.

“The only story here is that the new kid is too fragile to handle much attention,” Cat stated. “For people who look it’s as plain as the nose on your face. Still Bruce did bring him to Metropolis, so maybe the media ban’s lifting. It’s a pretty good plan when you think about it, introduce the kid at one of Lex’s big shows of public spirit and it’s a footnote. Do it in Gotham and it’s all anyone will talk about. But Lois? Stick to your own turf, there are a lot of people who’ve been waiting patiently for Bruce to formally introduce the kid, you scare him back into hiding and we won’t forgive you.”

“Lois, maybe Cat has a point. This isn’t our beat,” Clark said while privately resolving to have a discussion with a certain Bat as soon as superhumanly possible.

“Oh no, I know a story when I see one,” Lois said stubbornly. “There is just something about that kid, something that is just on the tip of my brain. Something about this really doesn’t sit right and I am going to find out what is going on. So help anyone who gets in my way.”

“Then I’m coming along,” Clark sighed. “We are partners.”

“And someone has to hold her leash,” Cat added as a parting shot.


It took Clark most of the event to get Bruce alone, and even then he only managed it long after Dick and Superboy had retired to their rooms... and after Lois had mysteriously vanished.

“If you’re looking for your partner Robin left her in a utility closet on the fifth floor,” Bruce said flatly without glancing in Clark’s direction.

“You said he was cured,” Clark accused. “Roy bringing the cure was what tipped Young Justice off to his involvement with the Light!”

“Damn half-baked plan to prove himself by infiltrating the enemy,” Bruce muttered. “Nearly getting himself killed thinking he’s a double agent when he’s really just playing into their hands.”

“You said he was cured.”

“I said Roy provided us with Cadmus’ stabilizing agent.” Bruce stated coldly. “If you’d been paying any attention at all you would have known it did nothing for the damage that had already been done.”

“You should have told me!”

“If I’d had a quest to send you on I would have,” and Clark started hearing the anger under the ice in Bruce’s voice. “What he needed, needs is the very thing you’ve consistently refused to give him: attention.”

For several moments Clark glared. He tried to find the right words to refute Bruce’s accusations. “What happened to him?” he asked finally, the shock he’d felt ever since Cat had first pointed out the crutch overriding he desire to lay blame for having been blind-sided.

“The lesions spread to his brain,” Bruce said. “Before we were able to stop them the damage had caused memory loss, difficulty with sequential tasks and hypertonia preventing the extension of muscles in his right leg. And there’s still the physical damage from the earlier lesions.”

Clark could only stare as Bruce laid out the full extent of the damage Superboy had suffered.

“The memory loss, at least, is correctable. Relearning things normally rather than through implantation even appears to be shifting the activity in his brain back toward a more normal distribution. He’s undergoing physical therapy for the loss of muscle tissue in his arm as well as for the hypertonia.”

Fill "Fail Safes" 4c/4

“When will he be okay again?” Clark asked sounding lost.

Bruce glared at him furiously. “Parts of his brain are gone!” he snapped. “He’s relearning things he knew a few months ago. He uses his wrist computer remind him of things that should be routine. He’s on muscle relaxants and maybe, maybe with enough refinements he’ll be able to walk without the damned crutch again. But even then there are still the occasional spastic event when it suddenly gets worse for no reason at all. On top of that there’s still the stabilizing agent that he has to take just to keep his cells from breaking down!”

“STAR Labs managed to reformat all his medications so that they can be administered as an inhalant. We don’t have to expose him to Kryptonite every day just to give him a damned shot. Instead he just sleeps with a gas mask because it takes the whole night to get an effective dose."

"Okay? That was a pipe dream by the third time we cut into his brain. I’m shooting for getting him to the point where he can stand to live with it.”

Bruce sounded angry, frustrated and tired and Clark suddenly realized as much as Bruce really was upset with him he was also a convenient target. Angry, that was normal, for Bruce anyway. Frustrated, given what they did they all had their days. No matter how many villains they put away there were always more, and there were always the ones who wouldn’t stay away. Tired, tired was not normal, especially not for Bruce. It occurred to Clark that the situation with Superboy was wearing him down in a way that nearly a decade of fighting a war that couldn’t be won hadn’t.

“Why didn’t you ask me for help?” Clark felt like he’d asked this before, or maybe not. This time he was asking about Bruce as well as Superboy.

“One of the *few* mercies this nightmare has granted him is that he forgot you.”

Clark drew back. Bruce’s words hurt and from the look in the other man’s eyes they had clearly been meant to. “I’ve been trying to help Superboy,” Clark protested.

“Anything that doesn’t require being in the same room with him,” Bruce replied acidly. “His name is Conner, by the way. Superboy would've raised a few too many questions when I was filling out paperwork. Not to mention it’s cruel.”

“I’ve been doing what I can, what I know,” Clark exclaimed. “I never knew how to deal with him, with what he wanted from me. What am I supposed to do?”

“Now? Nothing.” Bruce’s tone left no room for debate. “Now, we’ve managed to convince him that he won’t be killed if he’s not useful. Now, he’s come to accept, even if he doesn’t understand, that we value his continued existence, even now. At the moment an emotional equilibrium has bee reached. When *Conner’s* recovery reaches a plateau and it’s no where near what he wants, what any of us want, it’s going to be bad. I’d rather reserve what little resilience he has left for that rather than wasting it on your discomfort with his existence. Once I told him to give you time. Time’s up, he gave you more than enough.”

Fill "Fail Safes" 4d/4

The next day Clark discovered he couldn’t concentrate. Lois practically had to shake him to get his attention. He tuned out in the middle of Perry shouting about... something? He’d have to ask Lois what Perry was upset about. Even in the middle of a fight with one of Luthor’s creations Clark found himself more absorbed in listening to a voice from a posh hotel room across town than he was in the fight.

Superboy, Conner kept up a near constant conversation with his computer aid. Over the course of the morning Clark had come to realize that the computer must contain step-by-step instructions for all of the boy’s routine activities. Conner would quietly note each thing he did and the computer would beep at him if he skipped a step. More than once Clark heard Alfred biting back offers of help, letting the boy figure out what he could still do for himself.

Red Tornado dropped by during the early part of the morning to assist with Conner’s physical therapy. Clark found himself getting angry that he hadn’t been asked to help all over again at the realization that a large part of the therapy for the boy’s leg required someone with superhuman strength. Then all of Clark’s anger drained away as it hit him that if it had been Wally or Dick who had been hurt no one would have needed to *ask* Barry or Bruce to help.

After Conner finished his PT, Dick joined him and both boys settled down to work on their respective studies. The sound of pages turning an the scratch of Dick’s pencil against paper was companionable enough that Clark managed to wrench his attention back to the article he was supposed to be writing for almost two hours, until: “I hate this!” Conner’s angry exclamation was accompanied by the sound of a dull thud and the fluttering of loose pages; a book disintegrating after being thrown at a wall. “I should just know this!”

“You’re not supposed to ‘just know’,” Dick argued. “All of the rest of us had to learn.”

“I hate being stupid!”

“Look at it this way: Six months ago the place where the Gegnomes stored the alphabet in your brain got wiped out, now you’re reading pretty well. It took me three years to go from learning letters to reading well.”

“You were a little kid.”

“And you’re how old? A year and two months? I’m the older brother remember?” Dick insisted. “And I say you’re doing great.”

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Three days later when Clark woke-up with his hearing focused in on Gotham and Conner’s morning rituals he wondered what was wrong with him. Always before it had been so easy to decide that the boy was someone else’s problem and put him out of mind. He wasn’t Superboy’s father, no matter what Bruce might say. He had no responsibility for the boy’s creation, he hadn’t asked to have his DNA stolen and turned into an angry, lost, dangerous teenager.

When Bruce told him the boy needed him, Clark had told Bruce to deal with him. And Bruce had. Bruce had taken care of the boy when he’d gotten sick, had named him and had become Conner’s legal guardian. Now the only thing anyone was asking from Clark was to stay away. Why was it so hard now to do what he’d done since the first? Now, when no one wanted him to take an interest in the boy Clark found his attention turning to Gotham every few moments.

He discovered that he felt vaguely jealous when he learned that Bruce brought Conner along with him to most of the business meetings he was required to attend as the president and majority stock holder of Wayne Enterprises... and that Bruce would spend the whole of the meeting working with Conner on cognitive exercises. Clark could imagine how Perry White would react if he brought family matters to work. Bruce’s top execs were apparently just glad that Bruce was there, awake and that he didn’t reek of some model’s perfume.

Superboy’s former teammates were apparently frequent visitors in Gotham these days. Clark was surprised that Bruce was willingly tolerating so many Metas in his city. And it wasn’t just the kids. Clark hadn’t been wrong when he’d thought Bruce sounded tired, but he hadn’t realized it had been enough to convince the normally intractable dark knight to change. Batman was apparently as prickly as ever about other vigilantes operating in his city but the other mentors were allowed to help with Conner however they could, even if it meant Bruce had to trust them with his identity.

The kids in particular seemed to have a specific agenda: they were trying to help Conner find interests he could pursue. From what Clark could hear it wasn’t going so well. The only interest Superboy had ever had was being a hero.

“Mom, could I talk to you?” The hesitation in Artemis’ normally strident voice drew Clark’s attention away from Wayne Manor. “It’s about one of my school friends.”

“A friend? At your *new* school?” Artemis’ mother asked teasingly. “And you said it would never happen.”

“Okay, fine Mom, Gotham Academy hasn’t ruined my life, I admit it. Now are you going to help me or not?”

“Of course, I’m your mother, I live to advise you.”

Artemis hemmed for a minute. “One of my friends from school, his brother is disabled and it’s pretty recent. I study with them sometimes, and I can see the brother- Well like I said, it’s recent. He’s sort of on the verge of having it sink in that things aren’t going to go back to what they were. I thought, maybe... You’re life didn’t end because of that wheelchair. I thought maybe you could talk to him? I don’t know what to say, or not to say. And you know my mouth, I’m practically scare to talk to him at all in case I say the wrong thing. But well, you’ve been where he’s at and you’re still here and could you talk to him? Please?”

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