I will kiss your ring (or other appropriate accessory) if you give me feedback. Really. ^_~
[Chapter One] [Chapter Two] [Chapter Three]
The Red Truck Affair:
A Disturbing Smallville/DC Mish-Mash (4/?)
by Meredith Bronwen Mallory
CHAPTER FOUR: In Which Tim is Devious, and Kon is Traumatized
Kon-El was fairly certain there was something actively _wrong_ with Gotham. It wasn't just that city was riddled with gangs and crime lords, or that it had more gargoyles per square foot than any other destination on planet Earth, though both these details were certainly factors. What really tipped him off was that, in his few short years of life, Kon had never seen another city surrounded by such perpetual gloom. It could be a perfectly beautiful, sunny day out on the highway but, the moment one reached the city limits, the weather turned sour; rain, storms, or just the omnipresent dark, low-hanging clouds. Not even the Batman could arrange the freakin' *weather* to his liking, but Kon did wonder sometimes. The city had no meta-humans to its name, but it certainly made up for it with sociopaths, weirdoes, and brightly-dressed criminal masterminds.
Kon thought it might be something in the water.
Following their usual custom, Kon slowed to a halt at the first street corner in the city proper. While Robin climbed down from his shoulder-perch, Superboy took in the numerous dour-faced statues worked into the buildings surrounding them.
"Come on," Tim said, gesturing to the manhole cover nearby. "Let's go." Obligingly, Kon lifted the metal hatch and climbed in after Tim, marveling-- not for the first time-- at how accustomed his friend was to traveling by sewer. Creepy city or no, Batman did not appreciate Metas in his Gotham.
"So, where we going?" Kon asked, mostly so he could hear something besides the dark water sloshing around their ankles. He had a brief but honest pang of affection for Smallville-- the place was boring as hell, but it was gargoyle-free. Not mutant-free, if some of the talk he overheard down at Fordman's was true, but at least lacking in over-dramatic villains who named themselves after various animals.
"Batcave," Robin said, stopping to peer down over a particularly steep drop in the pipe.
"Um, not to fault your logic or anything, but isn't the Batcave usually where you find *Batman*?" Kon asked nervously.
"He has a meeting in Paris this morning," Tim flashed a smile that was more a show of teeth. "Nightwing's in Bludhaven, pouting. I won't need much time."
"That must be weird," Kon said wonderingly. At Robin's look, he clarified, "Batman and Nightwing." He quickly knocked himself on the forehead to prevent any disturbing visuals.
Tim shrugged philosophically, "Kinda, I guess. They fight, they hit each other, they have loud sex in the Batcave, and Alfred starts dusting anything that stands still long enough." They passed first one maintenance hatch, then another. At the third, Robin stopped, reaching into a concealed panel in the wall.
"That is totally more than I ever needed to know," Kon said as Tim entered the code. The heavy metal door swung aside, revealing a relatively dry passageway, receding into the darkness.
"Try walking in on them," Tim laughed. "Acrobatics are one thing but-- man, I didn't know that was humanly possible."
"Do you need therapy?" the hybrid teen asked. "Sedatives? Heavy drugs? 'Cause, man, I'm traumatized just thinking about this."
"About two guys?" There was an actual note of emotion in Tim's voice, but it was gone too quickly for Kon to figure out.
"No, doofus." Though Kon was almost certain Uncle Jonathan would have several small bovine if *he* found out. "About Batman doing..." he moved his hands in a rather graphic illustration, "that. I'm still not totally sure he doesn't sleep upside down."
"Only on alternate Thursdays," Tim said, and the smile was in his voice.
They continued the rest of their trek in silence. More than once, Tim stopped to disarm security systems, or expertly lead them around a hidden trap. Kon wisely refrained from even thinking about what deterrents Batman had set up around his lair-- he got the willies just thinking about the security Robin set up around his *bedroom* at the Tower. Razor-sharp spears were, in Kon's opinion, a bit much to keep people out of your underwear drawer. Finally, they reached the tunnel access to the Cave itself; Robin reached into the control panel and began pulling wires with a randomness that spoke loudly of expertise. Kon watched, wondering if Tim knew that he licked his lips a lot when he concentrated, or that his heart-rate sped up ever so slightly when he successfully completed a task.
"We'll have about thirty-seven minutes and twenty two seconds," Robin informed his partner calmly. Kon looked in askance. "That's how long I can reroute the audio and visual surveillance," Tim elaborated.
"Batman spies on his own *cave*?" Kon asked incredulously, though part of him knew he shouldn't be surprised. "Dudes, your boss is, like, the biggest paranoid on the planet." Though, to be fair, the events of the past few hours were beginning to convince Kon that a state of constant, low-grade paranoia might actually be healthy.
"You're just figuring this out?" Tim asked. "Come on, I beat Nightwing's old record by fifteen and three eighths of a second, and I don't want to waste any of it."
"What exactly are we doing?" Kon asked, choosing to hover rather than attempt to cross the narrow bridge from the Batmobile by foot. Tim strolled along the precarious strip the way he might stroll through the park. If, of course, Tim was the sort of person who strolled through parks, instead of skulking around them collecting evidence.
"We, are utilizing some of my boss' intense paranoia," Robin informed him, hopping comfortably into the chair in front of the massive Bat Computer. "Two words: Batman. Wiretapping."
"Man," Kon marveled, "I'd hate to see what the guy does to people he *doesn't* like."
"It's only supposed to be for emergencies," Tim explained. "In case one of the League is compromised, receives some sort of threat, gets replaced with a mole, or is kidnapped by a psychotic double from another dimension."
"Yeah," Kon began in a wry tone, "because that happens..."
Tim gave him a look, which lost none of its force despite the think domino mask.
"... all the time," Superboy finished lamely, scratching the back of his neck. Studiously looked away as Robin flicked his cape back and seated himself in the enormous control room chair. Though his body was lithe and his frame much smaller than Batman's, Robin still looked disturbingly commanding sitting there, running his fingers over the keys with unconscious certainty. Kon tried desperately to stop his mind, stepping repeatedly on his mental breaks, but he still couldn't fight off the image of... activities... in that chair. Activities. With Robin.
"Found something," Tim said, saving Kon yet again. The alien teen did his best to look the furthest thing from guilty, internally chanting, *Didn't think that about my best friend. Not gay. Didn't think that about my best friend, not gay...*
A snort from Tim, "Yeah, right." And, clearly, Robin was attempting to see if Kryptonian hybrids were susceptible to cardiac arrest because, for a moment, Kon felt his heart stop. Had he said that out loud? But no-- Tim was just mocking the computer as it attempted to block them with security countermeasures. After a few moments of truly furious typing, Tim turned to Kon with a brilliant smile.
"What is it?" Kon asked, very self-conscious as he leaned over towards the screen.
"One call made from Clark Kent's cellphone to an unlisted number, at approximately 10:19 am," Tim said, trapping the record as it came up on the screen. "It fits with the timeline."
"And we can listen to it?" the other boy asked.
"Well, duh. Batman doesn't do anything half way."
"God, what if one of the league was calling for phone sex or something? Does Batman *really* need to know that?"
Tim blanched, and Kon gave him a questioning look. The grimace beneath the mask said it all. "I have two words, Kon-- Wally. West."
There was a lapse in conversation as the boys to a moment to appreciate just how disturbing that thought was.
"Anywho..." Kon said finally, coughing. "What are we waiting for? We've already broken into the lair of a paranoid, obsessive genius who could kill us with his pinky, let's top off the day with invading the privacy of the Man of Steel."
"No biggy," Tim said sarcastically. His finger hovered over a key. "Here goes nothing."
A few moments of crackling static played, before a smooth, confident tenor came over the hi-def speakers. Tim and Kon looked at each other-- they'd been exposed to enough distressingly complex plots to take over Metropolis (and the world) to recognize the voice of Lex Luthor.
"Um-- er," Kon heard Clark fumble, clearly at a loss when not stridently lecturing his nemesis on Not Being Evil. "I wasn't sure this number would still work."
Luthor chided, "I said you'd always be able to reach me when I gave it to you."
"That was ten years ago, Lex." There was something, something in that casual use of the first name, the way it was *said*, that tickled the back of Kon's brain. Only silence from the other end of the line-- clearly Luthor didn't see what ten years had to do with anything. After a moment, Clark said, "Come on, Lex-- you know what this is about. The truck..."
"Ah, yes, the truck." There was an undercurrent of amusement in Luthor's tone, "Bring back memories, did it?"
"Yes," Clark said, in a toneless way Kon couldn't even begin to decipher. "You've had your fun, Lex. Last laugh, salt in the wound, whatever-- you need to leave Kon out of this. I get the point."
"Do you, Clark?" Luthor's voice was low, almost soft. "Do you, really? I wonder. For the last fifteen years I've been under the impression that you didn't 'get it' at all."
"Get what?" Clark asked, and Kon could very clearly imagine him flinching, having proved Luthor right. "Kon's trying to settle into Smallville-- he's already confused, and--"
The actual *sound* of a smirk. "And I'm sure you didn't appreciate trying to explain things this morning." Luthor chuckled a little, seemingly to himself. "I hate to be cliché, Clark, but Kon *is* my son, too." Kon almost missed the inarticulate noises Clark made, as he was quite focused on making some himself, but Robin's gloved hand helped muffle the sound.
"Lex, don't get him involved with this. It's between you and me, and--"
"And it's been years since we've had a conversation that doesn't involve wayward experiments and your obscenely blue tights." Lex finished, smoothly taking control of the conversation. "I've always wanted to ask you, Clark-- see if I could get an honest answer, or just more of Jonathan Kent's sanctimonious rationale: why *didn't* you tell me?"
"I wanted to, Lex," Clark's voice sounded young, so young it was almost a mirror of Kon's. "I tried--"
"I remember that night, Clark," Lex said, while Tim and Kon exchanged a wide-eyed look. "There wasn't much talking involved."
At this point, Tim was forced to halt the recording, if only so he could begin frantically pounding Kon's back. The taller boy was doubled over, coughing and sputtering in a sort of hysterical half-laughter that usually only comes to people suffering sleep-deprivation or severe head injuries.
"Did you..." Kon gasped, "hear?" He shook his head, looking as if his entire universe had just come crashing down around his ears. Distantly, Kon considered that he would much better be able to deal with something easy, like the sky falling. Just get some duct tape and see what the hell he could do about it. This, however...
"I heard it," Tim said evenly. Then with more force, "Kon, *breathe*."
"I can't," Kon said, "I'm going to hold my breath until the world goes back to the way it's supposed to be. Better yet!" he declared, resting some of his weight on Tim's offered shoulder. "I'm going to go home, get back in bed, and see if I can't do this whole day over again. *Without* the weirdness."
"Maybe it's not what it seems," Robin suggested, making an uncharacteristic attempt at being helpfully obtuse. "Maybe there's another explanation..."
"Tim," Kon said, tipping his head back, "unless they spent the evening pretending to be *mimes*, or something..." He buried his head in his hands, "Man, I can't even deal with this. I'm gonna need therapy until I'm fifty!" He leaned heavily against the console, rubbing his temples with a pressure that would have crushed the skull of a human. Moments passed while Kon listened to the barely perceptible sound of Tim's breathing.
Finally, his friend spoke, "Kon... we need to listen to the rest, or get out of here before the *serious* countermeasures kick in." A single, smooth-gloved hand rested on Kon's shoulder, almost-but-not-quite rubbing. In an oddly gentle tone, Tim asked, "What do you want to do?"
"Play it," Kon said, without even being aware of what he was going to say before he heard it. "In for a penny, or whatever farm aphorism Mr. Kent would use."
"Don't cry over spilled milk?" Tim offered with a weak smile.
Kon smiled back even as he gave his friend a playful wack, "Just hit the button, Batboy. Damn the torpedoes."
Ring-kissing, remember? *puppy eyes* Pretty please?