M'gann didn't watch 'Hello, Magen' anymore. Not really, anyway. She might pull up a specific clip or two to show to someone, or maybe sit through a single episode when she was feeling nostalgic. But, overall, she had moved on to other sit-coms and teen melodramas. So, it was an episode of 'Saved By the Bell' that Black Canary interrupted when she knocked on the martian girl's door to talk.
"Come in." M'gann called as she paused the screen and shifted her form to one most humans would feel more comfortable with.
The door slid open and Black Canary entered, still not exactly sure how to open up this particular dialogue. "I'm not disturbing you, am I?"
"I wasn't doing anything important." The martian girl shook her head.
"Do you mind if I sit down?" Canary sat next to M'gann on the bed.
"Is something wrong?" This was not the first time the Black Canary had come to speak with her privately and the martian girl quickly ran through a checklist in her mind of all the things she had been reprimanded for in the past because they were inappropriate conduct in a human society. "Did I do something I shouldn't have again? If so, I'm sorry."
"That's just it." Dinah answered. "I'm not exactly sure… I heard something recently that worries me, and I was hoping you could explain it to me or help me understand it."
"Well, I'm not sure what kind of help I can be…" M'gann adjusted her position on the bed to be facing Black Canary. "But I can try. Shoot."
"I was speaking with someone recently –and I'm sorry, I can't tell you who they were- and during our conversation, this person listed off the names of people who manipulated, or tried to manipulate that person's mind. Your name was one of the names on that list. I was hoping you could help me understand why that might be."
M'gann's eyes when wide for a moment, then narrowed dangerously. Her mouth becoming a single thin line with the corners down turned in a frown of displeasure and barely contained rage. Dinah had never seen such an expression on the martian gril's face before… and it worried her. M'gann was usually so sweet, kind, and gentle. The martian girl stood. She crossed to the door and pressed the release for it to slide open.
"I'd like you to go now, Canary." She said. "I'm sorry. I can't help you understand why Conner would tell you that."
Dinah had been hero'ing for a long time and she knew how to recognize when a situation had suddenly shifted. While she doubted Miss Martian would ever actually harm her, she also knew that she just did not have enough information to work off of. The best thing to do was to take the offered out and revisit the issue from another angle when she had a better idea of just what was going on.
As she passed the martian girl, the Black Canary could not help but mention, "M'gann, I did not say this person was Conner."
She made a hasty retreat after that, more worried now than she had been after her initial conversation with the Superboy.
Kon liked Long Island.
It wasn't nearly as dense and congested as New York city proper. The buildings weren't as tall, the sun not as obscured. The streets were generally cleaner. Overall, the place felt like one large sub-urb. To spite common pop-culture stigmas, Kon liked sub-urbs. He would have liked to have grown-up in one (if he were the type of creature that could grow up, that is). Tim had grown-up in a sub-urb, but it was a Gotham sub-urb, which is another animal entirely.
The two sat in a window booth in a Jewish deli. Tim, nibbling on an egg bagel with lox and cream cheese with capers on top, and Kon tearing into a garlic and onion pizza bagel with no meat.
"I mean, seriously now, who doesn't put meat on a pizza?" The demi-kryptonian complained through a mouthful of food.
Tim just shook his head. "Its not kosher."
"Its not like I asked them to throw a slice of ham on here." Kon insisted. "Just maybe a little sausage and pepperoni would be nice."
"Its not the type of meat that's the problem." The Boy Wonder explained. "They can't mix meat with dairy. Since pizza's got cheese it can't have meat."
"How do you know?"
"I read." Tim shrugged and took a bite out of his lox and cream cheese. "You know, in Israel they've got restaurants with two separate kitchens for preparing meat dishes and dairy dishes. 'Cause they're not supposed to use the same cookware for both either."
"Okay, we are never going out to eat in Israel." Kon said. "I like my meet and cheese."
"Ya know, Kon, you're not very cosmopolitan."
"No, I'm really not." Agreed the Superboy as if that were something to be proud of.
"I guess I'll just have to fix that." Sighed the Boy Wonder.
The demi-kryptonian paused in mid-bite to look at the youngest Robin. He swallowed the bit that was in his mouth and said, "Suddenly I feel very apprehensive."
Tim only grinned. "What's the matter, clone boy, don't you trust me?"
Kon grinned in return. "You're a bat, Tim. One never trusts a bat fully."
"Smart." Nodded the Boy Wonder. "But you can trust me. I promise I won't make an ass of you. –At least, not on purpose."
Kon snorted. "Well thanks. That makes me feel a lot better."
Tim reached across the table to slap him playfully on the shoulder. "C'mon, it'll be fun!"
"Nighwing used to say that a lot back when he was Robin. It always ended with one or more of the mentors mad at us." Said the Superboy. "Why don't we put a pin in that and talk about something else."
"Alright, fine." The Boy Wonder took another bite of his bagel before asking, "What's the scariest movie you've ever seen?"
"The scariest?" Kon echoed. "Well, I haven't really seen many movies… but the one that frightened me to most would have to be Total Recall –both of them, original and remake."
"Really?" Tim raised a skeptical eyebrow behind his dark sunglasses. "But that's not a scary movie at all, it's an action flick."
Kon remained silent and did not elaborate.
Tim took a moment to ponder what his friend had just told him. He ran over the plot of the movie in his head and related it to what he knew of the Superboy with special thought given to his past. Then he reached a conclusion. "Mental programming."
Kon said nothing. Only nodded.
They lapsed into a sullen silence after that. The demi-kryptonian seemed to withdraw into himself, indulging in whatever morose introspection he indulged in when reminded of his less than ideal early life at Cadmus. Tim studied him from across the table. The forlorn expression of his brow as he stared out the window, the almost mechanical way he continued to eat his bagel, as if trying to force an appearance of casualness. His free hand rested on the table, fingers spread, unmoving. As if the Superboy were making a conscious effort not to ball it into a fist.
'Anxiety.' Concluded the Boy Wonder. "Nightwing's right." He said. "You do need rest."
Kon looked at him. "Kryptonians don't need rest."
Tim shook his head. "I don't mean physical rest. I mean, like… Okay, this is gonna sound weird, but bear with me. You and Clark both usually always seem to have this 'glow' about you, almost as if you're lit by this inner light that can't help but shine through. But recently, since we got back from our last mission together, that glow about you has kinda been waning. You seem… dimmer than you used to."
There was a beat of silence.
Then, "You're right, Tim, that does sound weird."
The Boy Wonder set his food down and focused his full attention on the Superboy. "Look, Kon, Gotham is a really dark place. I don't mean literally dark, I mean it figuratively. Even really good people have a darkness about them. When you live in the dark, when you grow-up in the dark, you learn to recognize light when you see it. I recognized it the first moment I saw you the day 'Wing took me to meet the Team. You were rude and snarly and angry at everything, but you still managed somehow to shine."
"Dude, that sounds so gay."
Tim sighed and leaned back in his booth. "Yeah, I guess it does when you say it out loud." He shrugged. "But anyway, I know some Yoga techniques that might help you relax and get back in touch with your inner 'light'. And, it would fit in nicely with helping you to become more cosmopolitan."
"Yoga?" Echoed the demi-kryptonian. "Uh, no thanks. I'll pass. I'm not really down with the whole dirt-first granola munching hippy crowd."
Tim shook his head. "Shows how little you know."
They walked each other back to the zetta-tube and bid 'farewell' there. With Tim returning to Gotham and Kon to Smallville.
It was getting close to noon (Kansas time) when M'gann showed up, out of nowhere, and pissed-off to all high holy hell.
Kon had just finished re-shingling the roof and was about to climb into the old pick-up truck for a trip into town when he first detected the bio-ship. Martian bio-ships –for the most part- ran silently. He didn't so much hear it as he did feel it. A slight prickling of the hairs on the back of his neck, a nearly undetectable shift in the wind. He shifted his vision from the normal human spectrum to infrared and sure enough, there was the bio-ship coasting over the fallow fields. Kon stepped out of the truck and crossed his arms over his chest, not sure what exactly to expect.
The ship came to a hovering stop almost right on top of him. The lower hatch opened, like a black hole in thin air, and M'gann drifted down. She landed in front of him, her feet planted, her own arms likewise crossed over her chest. She glared at him, auburn eyes blazing.
Kon was about to ask what she was doing here, but before he could get out even one syllable he was cut off.
"So, I see you finally told someone." She snapped, and the demi-kryptonian had no idea to what she could possibly be referring. "And here I thought you were trying to be all noble or whatever. 'Protecting' me from the other mentors, or the League, or however self-righteous pricks like you justify themselves. Now I see you were just waiting. –For what, I have no idea."
There was a beat of silence in which the Superboy did nothing more than just stare at her.
Then, "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Don't you!" She snapped again. "Canary came to see me today. She said someone told her I tried to manipulate their mind. Who else could that 'someone' be if not you?"
Here Kon turned defensive and returned her hostility with some of his own. "I don't know. Maybe one of your mind-rape victims recovered enough to call you on your bullshit! I am not the only person you ever tried to brain-bend. It's why we were fighting in the first place! Or don't you remember? Instead of working it out and compromising like a healthy functional couple, you decided to just force me to forget I ever had a problem with what you were doing. With what you're still doing!"
"What I'm doing is for the Team!" M'gann insisted, but then stopped herself. She was getting sidetracked. She had not come here to dredge up that old argument. "Look, you disapprove of how I conduct myself. I get that. You're still pissy about what I tried to do to you. I'm sorry you're such a little girl. But we've gone our separate ways and its not like I'm hurting anyone innocent. I'm with La'gaan now and am moving on from our break-up. Don't make waves. I'm asking you, don't stir up trouble."
"Asking?" He snarled at her. Around the soles of his boots the churt of the driveway shuddered almost noticeably. "It sounds more like you're commanding me. Don't order me around, M'gann. Nothing gives you that right, not even when we were dating. You were my girlfriend, not my master! Now you're not even that."
Whatever retort she might have had planned remained unsaid as her attention shifted from him to the ground around his feet. Something wasn't right here. She sensed… but it couldn't be! It felt almost like a telekinetic field. Her eyes fell to the churt around his boots and noted how it seemed to shudder and undulate with his flocculating emotions. Something wasn't right here. Telekinesis was not a kryptonian ability. He shouldn't have it. But then again, he was only half-kryptonian, wasn't he, and haven't there been cases of humans developing telekinetic abilities after undergoing mental trauma? The martian girl wasn't sure.
"I've said all I came to say." She told him, floating back up to the bio-ship. Before disappearing through the hatch she sent a telekinetic probe of her own to get a better sense this new TK field. It didn't feel like a normal telekinetic field. It seemed more connected to corporeal sense of touched rather than the spectral psychic ability it usually was. She would need to meditate on this newest of developments before she could grok its fullness. "Just enjoy your vacation and don't make trouble for me."
She left before he could say anything in response.
Kon watched her fly away through his infrared vision. When she was gone he switched back to normal sight and looked at the driveway in which he stood. The churt was still mostly eroded, but the area around which they had stood during their conversation was almost perfectly level in a small circle around him. Kon could only wonder, 'Did she do that?'
Some time later, when he was at the Smallville lumber yard filling out an order he remembered, 'Oh snaps! I did let her name slip when talking to Canary! Crap!'
Dinah decided to speak to La'gaan next.
The Lagoon Boy mentioned to her a desire to make peace with the Superboy, and Black Canary was optimistic that they might one day become friends if they could just resolve the one issue between them. Namely, the issue of M'gann M'orzz. Canary wanted to know if La'gaan had yet had a chance to speak with Kon and if so, had the demi-kryptonian opened up to him about M'gann?
La'gaan was not in the base. After asking around a few times, the Canary learned that he had taken a leisurely swim in the ocean. She waited for him on the beach. Perhaps it was not the most efficient use of her time, but Dinah did not want to miss the Lagoon Boy. She couldn't quite explain why, call it 'a gut feeling', but she had a sinking suspicion that if M'gann got to the atlantian first, she would somehow influence him into giving an inaccurate testimony.
It was early evening, the sun just beginning to dip behind the mountains when the Lagoon Boy finally emerged from the waves, dripping wet and carrying spoils from the sea. He stopped short when he saw the Black Canary waiting for him.
"Oh. Hi, Canary." He said awkwardly. "Uh… did I miss a mission briefing or something? Am I in trouble?"
"No." She assured him. Why did the members of the Team always assume they were in trouble whenever a mentor wanted to talk to them? "Nothing's wrong. I just wanted to follow up on what you said during our last session. Did you have a chance to speak with Superboy yet?"
Canary turned as he came up beside her and the two began walking back to the Cave together.
"No." Admitted the Lagoon Boy. He shifted the load of shells he carried to a more comfortable position. "I've asked him if we could talk, but he always says he's to busy."
"I see. That must be frustrating for you." She offered sympathetically. "So, you still have no idea what happened between him and M'gann?"
"Not a clue." He lamented.
Dinah pursed her lips in thought. She did not like this one bit. Something happened between Conner and M'gann, something big that had driven him to end their relationship and something drastic enough for the over-protective mini-Boy Scout to want to keep the others from getting involved. It had been an accident when he'd dropped M'gann's name in their conversation. He had not meant to bring it to Canary's attention and when she asked about it, he quickly shut down and changed the subject.
When she went to M'gann to learn her side of it –or even just to learn what 'it' was- the martian girl also clammed up and asked her to leave. Now, La'gaan was telling her that Conner was also avoiding speaking to him about what happened between him and M'gann. No matter from which direction she looked at it, it was clear to Canary that something big was going on with those two (possibly three, depending how deeply involved La'gann had gotten with M'gann) and she could not shake a bad feeling about it.
One thing was sure. Whatever it was, she had to keep it mostly contained. La'gaan might already be in to deep with whatever it was, but if he wasn't it was better to keep him out of it, even if it meant keeping him in the dark for the moment.
"Why don't you wait off on pressing him about it." She suggested. "He's on sabbatical right now, recovering from emotional stress. Now isn't the best time to grill him about his ex-girlfriend anyway. After this is resolved then you can talk. I still think you two could be friends."
That evening Kon studied Ma Kent's old recipe cards with all the careful scrutiny of a doctoral candidate. He was feeling down, M'gann's unscheduled visit having left him depressed and very, very anxious. He had not even bothered to unload his shopping from the truck. He just took in the perishables and essential items he'd need that night and covered the rest with a tarp.
He missed Ma, she had always been able to make him feel better no matter what the trouble was, and he wished Clark were home. Here on Earth where he belonged. After breaking up with M'gann, his genetic parent turned adopted big brother became a real comfort to him. But he had neither at the moment. Ma was dead and buried and Clark was over a galaxy away on planet Rimbor. All Kon had to comfort himself with was the Kent family recipe for apple pie.
There was just one problem: Kon could not cook. Even if his life depended on it.
He scrutinized the recipe. Followed every direction exactly as it had been written. But still, his crust came out to dry, the filling to runny, the overall pie just not right.
Kon ate it anyway.
Sitting at the dining room table, a trivet under the still hot pie pan, fork in hand. The demi-kryptonian consumed about half of the failed pastry before he finally gave up and set his fork down on his napkin.
He once again went over the day's events in his mind. Breakfast with Tim had been great, but seemed so far away and long ago now when compared to his impromptu conversation with M'gann. He had loved her so much once, had trusted her so much once, would have been willing to go through hell and back for her once. But that had been before… almost a year ago now… Now, all she did was fill him with fear. Loath though he was to admit it, the Superboy was scared of the martian girl. Terrified actually. She had a power over him that there was no defense against and she'd already shown that she would not hesitate to use that power on him.
Earlier, when she had shown up with no warning, ordering him to back off, let sleeping dogs lay, don't make trouble. He had just been waiting for her reach out with her power and silence him permanently. To tear into his inner webs and destroy his mind. Render him a drooling, mindless vegetable like she had done to so many others. It had been an incredible feat of will not to allow himself to tremble in front of her. Kon did not want her to see just how much she terrified him. He didn't want to show his weakness.
But he was trembling now.
The demi-kryptonian balled his hands into fists and shut his eyes, attempting to get his body under control once again. It worked. His shaking subsided. But then an odd sound filled his ears, like something small and metallic tapping on the wooden dining table. The Superboy opened his eyes to find that his fork had somehow drifted off its napkin and was trembling on the rustic oak table.
His fear returned full force –the fork's movements became more rapid. "M'gann?" He called to the otherwise empty house. "Is that you? Are you here? Have you come to finish what you started when we broke-up?"
The only response he got was to have Wolf trot into the dinning room. The kobra venom enhanced predator glanced from the trembling fork to the terrified Superboy and back again. Then his gaze settled and he stared in confusion at Kon, not comprehending why his scent was so thick with fear.
"Please stop." He again addressed the empty house. "You have my attention. M'gann…? Stop it!" The demi-kryptonian gave up on trying to communicate with an empty house and returned his attention to the fork. "Stop!" He commanded. "Stop it!"
The fork jumped a few inches in the air and contorted, bending in the middle, each prong twisting a different way and the handle spiraling into a disfigured quarkscrew. It fell back on the table with a CLUNK. There it remained. Unmoving.
Hesitantly, the Superboy reached a hand out and gave it a tentative poke. It was just ordinary silver, disfigured and misshapen now, but still just silver. Kon breathed a sigh of relief and sagged in his chair. He took a few calming breaths and tried to relax, getting his mind under control. Now that he was in a more rational state of mind, the demi-kryptonian realized it was ridiculous to think that M'gann had come back to the farmhouse just to prank him with a move out of Poltergeist (or the Shinning, he'd never seen either). He still made a mental note of the time to double check the Cave's security cameras and zetta-logs just to make sure.
"I'm becoming as paranoid as a bat." He muttered. This elicited a quizzical look from the Wolf.
Kon threw the remainder of his failed pie in the trash. The mangled fork he saved as evidence –of what, Kon had no idea.