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Bonding Time (or: Six Villains Who Were Slightly Less Than Villainous)

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1. Black Manta

One day before Kaldur first went to the surface, Black Manta attacked Atlantis. While fighting off henchmen and trying to maintain security, Kaldur found himself stopping by the outcropping of yellow coral on the farthest side of the city. And Black Manta was waiting for him, impassive beneath his helmet.

They shared a moment in the silence of battle. Facing each other before Kaldur reached out for his magic in order to begin their fight. But Manta was not fighting. He stood in front of the young Atlantean and raised his hand, placing it gently on his shoulder and leaving it there for a count of six.

To this day Kaldur does not know why he allowed this touch, but he did, and in a moment it was over. Black Manta moved away, and with him went his armies.

Sometimes Kaldur remembers this moment, when he is fighting with his team or spending time with Aquaman, or facing off against Black Manta for a second, third, and fourth time. He wonders at that moment, and what it meant, but he expects that he will never know.

2. Selina Kyle

Artemis didn't usually go up against Gotham baddies, and she certainly didn't usually go up against Gotham baddies in Star City, so when she ran into Catwoman breaking into a jewelry store three blocks from Ollie's apartment she knew that things were not going her way.

"Stop right there." She said, aiming her bow carefully. Ollie was on the other side of the city, and she wasn't sure if she could handle this on her own. But on the other hand, not being sure wouldn't help her now.

"Ooh." Catwoman looked up from a pile of diamonds directly into the dulled end of Artemis' arrows, "I didn't expect to meet you here."

"Back away from the rocks." Artemis ordered.

"Mmmm. I think no, though I do admire the commanding tone." Catwoman grinned, "And the bare midriff."

Artemis blinked, "Are you-- are you hitting on me?"

Catwoman didn't purr, but Artemis is sure she thought about it, "Mmmm... Yes, I think I am."

"I'm fifteen!"

"I'm a villain." Catwoman told her, "What was your name again?"

"I'm Artemis. I mean--" The tip of her arrow dipped, and Catwoman was leaping above her, headed for the window.

"Shit," Artemis cursed, running after her. But it was too late, and Catwoman was gone.

Artemis didn't tell Ollie about the encounter. The next day she found a letter on her door containing a single princess cut diamond and a phone number.

She didn't tell him about that either.

3. Hartley Rathaway

"Uncle Barry" Wally looked at his mentor and favorite uncle with confusion, "Uncle Barry? Wake up!"

The Flash stayed still frozen in the act of running, his right leg lifted and bent, his head tilted forward. Wally sped around him, trying desperately to get his uncle to snap out of it.

"He's not going to move until I let him."

Wally spun around to see a small man (only a little older than him), wearing what looked like green sleepwear. He was holding up an iPod.

"I planted some speakers on his suit the last time we fought," the Pied Piper told him, "They're attuned to his specific frequency.

"What do you want, Piper?" Wally slid into a fighting stance.

"Hey, hey, hey!' Piper said, holding his hands in the air, "Nothing nefarious going on here, I promise! I just wanted to check up."


Piper relaxed, placing a hand on his hip and canting is just so, gifting Wally with a friendly smile, "Captain Cold said he heard you guys arguing when he was breaking into that bank last week. I just wanted to check and see if you were okay."

"I'm fine." Wally said. Even though he remembered that argument and knew exactly to what Piper was referring.


"I-- We were just talking about some stuff."

Piper smiled, "Stuff like you making out with some kid named Dick?"

Wally winced. "Look, not that I don't appreciate the concern but I'm kind of trying to fight some crime so..."

"Kid Flash." Piper didn't move in to put a hand on Wally's arm, but he looked like he was seriously considering it, "Big Flash probably hasn't told you much about me, but I want you to know that I'm here to help you. I know what you're going through."

"You do?" Wally hoped desperately that his uncle couldn't hear him through the mesmerizing music.

"Yeah." Piper said, "So I know how important it can be to know someone who's been in the same boat. I just want you to know that it's going to get better."

"I--" Wally blinked furiously. "All of the kids at school make fun of-- of people like me. You know? I mean being meta and being, you know, not straight. And then b-- Flash found out about R-- Dick and I don't think he's okay with this, like at all."

"My parents were totally not okay with me being gay." Piper confided, ignoring the little wince Wally made at the word, "It's a small part of the reason that I do what I do now."


Piper shrugs, "They kicked me out, I had to eat somehow."

"Oh. Shit, man, I'm sorry."

"It's okay." The depth and warmth in Piper voice is almost (but Wally hopes not) as relaxing as his hypnotism, "I mean, really, it's okay. When I was fourteen I thought it was the end of the world. I... Well I considered some pretty desperate stuff. But I'm happy now."

Wally couldn't really believe that, and not just because he felt like he would never be normal again. Piper laughed, noting the look of disbelief on his face.

"My life as a villain aside, I have a really good and really normal life. I've got a nice flat-- no, I won't tell you where it is-- I've got my music. I've got a boyfriend..."


Piper grinned, "Trickster. You probably don't know him."

"He robbed a candy store last week!"

"Yeah, he's adorable." Piper had the sort of look on his face that Wally recognized from those shared by Barry and Aunt Iris. Ew. "Anyway, the point is that things will get better for you. I can already tell that Big Flash is going to relax about this."

"I don't know." Wally looked over at the Flash's still body, remembering the fight they had after Barry found out. It had not been pleasant for everyone.

"I do." Piper said, "He's a little freaked out right now, but I'll bet that most of it is just him worrying about you and being mad that he didn't notice sooner. He... He'll come around, I promise."

Wally wasn't sure, "Promise like you're going to hypnotize him into it or promise like you just know?"

"I know." Piper said, "None of us like Barry, but we know he's a good mentor. If we didn't we'd have gotten you out of there already."


"Secret identities are for Gothamites." Piper told him with a smile, "And I think the batteries are running out on my device, so I got to go. Listen, if you have any questions or you just want to talk or anything, come find me or Cold. No heroes and villains stuff, okay? We just want to be sure you're alright so we can beat you up fair and square."

"Umm. Okay." Wally had no idea how to feel about any of this but there was something calm and happy in his chest that appreciated it.

"Cool. I'm gonna go knock over the Citizen's First while Flasher recovers. Oh, yeah! I got you these."

Piper pressed something into Wally's hand and ran for it, moving pretty fast for a non-speedster. He was out of sight just as Barry's fingers started to twitch in wakefulness.

Wally was left standing with his frozen mentor, feeling surprisingly reassured, with a brand-new pack of condoms clenched tightly in his fist.

4. Cheshire

Cheshire hadn't know that Roy was Speedy, and Roy hadn't known that Cheshire was evil, until about two days before they broke up. They'd been living together in a tiny, dirty, rat-infested apartment in Star City for ten months, living off of part-time jobs and the sale of some of the tech that Roy had filched from Ollie's apartment. After finding the suitcase full of diamonds in the closet, Roy couldn't help but feel a little bit bitter that they'd been forced to live in such a place.

When she left, she pressed five thousand dollars in cash into his hand and kissed his cheek, whispering "You'll always be my favorite of the do-gooders, you know?" before leaping out of the window and climbing to the roof.

He would have gone after her, but Lian started crying and it took longer to heat the bottle when there was only one person doing it.

At least, he thought as he bounced the baby up and down, he wouldn't have to work for a while.

5. Harley Quinn

"Hi Harley"

"Oh. Hi there, Kitten. How's tricks?"

"Pretty good." Robin slid down the fire escape, landing neatly in the alley next to the soot-streaked villain. "Are you okay?"

She sniffed and wiped at eyes that had obviously been crying quite recently, "I'm just fine. J-just fine."

He handed her a handkerchief which she promptly used to blow her nose, loudly.

"I've said it before, Harley. You don't need to do this."

"I know."

"We can get you away. We can keep you safe."

"I k-know." She blew her nose again."

"He broke your legs."

She looked down at the bone poking out from one of her thighs, her time spent in school reminding her that the bones of the femur are some of the most difficult to fracture. Someone in her head was laughing.

"But. B-but I love him."

"Harley." Robin said, softly, "We can help you."

"I know." She sniffed again. She didn't tell him that she was finally thinking she might be ready. That she was starting to question the parts of her that would stay with the kind of man who would attack his lover as a distraction.

"The ambulance is coming." Robin told her. "He's already back in Arkham.


"I'm leaving you my card." He pressed it into he limp fingers.

She giggled, "Oh Kitten, you know I've already got your number.

"Call me." He said as the sirens started wailing.

"We'll go to the movies." She informed him with a smile, "We'll see a romantic comedy."

"I always liked Maid in Manhattan."

She giggled as the paramedics lift her into the ambulance. And as the engine started she began to laugh.

She laughed and laughed and laughed.

And, as usual, she didn't give Mr. J the card.

6. Lex Luthor

If there was one thing that everyone on the team agreed with, it was that none of them were ready to go up against Lex Luthor. Even as Wally pointed out that "he isn't even a meta, dude." and M'Gann made noises about believing in everyone, they all knew that fighting Luthor would be far more difficult (and possibly deadly) than they could really conceive.

But just because they didn't want to fight Luthor didn't mean that they wouldn't. Particularly considering the fact that one of Luthor's projects (a large, purple robot with guns for arms) was running amok just a mile south of Happy Harbor.

Robin immediately flew for the head (and brain) of the creation, obviously hoping to break into it's programming, while Kaldur and M'Gann focused on beating away at it's exterior. Wally and Artemis were on civilian saving duty, and Superboy could see them carting people at (for the lack of a better word) light speed. Superboy was struggling to rip off on of the robots legs when he heard a sound somewhere behind and to the right of him.

It sounded like: "Psssst."

He ignored it, digging his fingers into the plating on the robot's side.

"Pssst. Superboy."

Who was that? Superboy spun around, only to see the world's greatest supervillain (lavender suit and all) leaning out from behind a parked car.

"Come here."

"Wha-- Luthor?"

One wouldn't expect see Lex Luthor within thirty feet of an American car, much less leaning against one as he tried to get the attention of a teenage clone of his worst enemy.

"Just come here." Luthor demanded. "I'm not going to attack you."

"I--" Superboy was already curious. He glanced back at the team for a moment, decided that it looked like they could handle it for the moment, and headed over.

"Marvelous." Luthor said moving away from the battle and standing to his full height, Superboy tensed, "No! No. Look, no kryptonite." He held his hands up, turning them back and forth to display their harmlessness.

"What do you want, Luthor." Superboy growled in the voice that he had spent hours practicing. The one that sounded just like Superman.

"I..." Luthor tugged on the hem of his perfectly tailored jacket. "There are many things in this world that you will not understand, Superboy. Come join me for a moment."

This block of the city was almost entirely deserted (people knew which way to run when being attacked by mecha) so Superboy and Luthor had the entire pizza joint to themselves. There was a steaming hot pizza waiting for them on one of the tables. Pinapple and ham, Superboy's favorite.

"I had them make it before I attacked the city." Luthor admitted as he gestured for Superboy to sit, "I have been informed that this is the sort of thing people your age eat."

Superboy blinked. "Uh... Thanks?"

"Mmm." Lex sat, crossing his left leg over his right and leaning back in his chair."

Nobody touched the food.

"So." Superboy began, "What is this about?"

"This is about a terrible mistake I made, and the worse mistake I made by not contacting you months ago, and the fact that the Übermensch has yet to give you a name."

"I--" The single word activated something in Superboy's head, sending him a jolt of barely understandable information about the death of god and the goal of humanity. He doesn't know what it all means, but for a moment he grasps the profound irony in the nickname and wonders why CADMUS decided to plant that knowledge in him.

"Sit." Luthor said.

Superboy sat


Superboy reached for a slice.

"I want you to know, Super-- Really do you have some other name that your friends call you?"

"Umm..." Superboy chewed as he thought, "Robin sometimes calls me 'Supes'."

Luthor made a face, "That's... pedestrian at best. But I guess I can't fix every crime against nature in a single day."


"Don't interrupt, Superboy, we have an estimated five minutes before your friends rip three million dollars worth of machinery to pieces and come find us. I have a lot to tell you in that time so the unnecessary questions should be kept to a minimum."


"Alright then. I would like to start by telling you that the project which resulted in your... birth was conducted on my direct orders. CADMUS is one of Lexcorps subsidiaries."

"You--" What? What? He had known that the people who had (cloned) made him probably weren't good people but--

"It was a difficult decision, I assure you, but I decided to approve the project in the hopes that the world would be safe from the Ü-- Superman were he to have a change of heart. And perhaps to take is place in the event that he fails."

Obviously, Superboy thought, Luthor's pet project had failed, "I... I'm not as strong as Superman
. I can't even--"

"You" Luthor informed him fiercely, "are five months old and have the body of a teenager. Do you think Superman was flying about when he was sixeen?"

Superboy had honestly never thought Superman had been sixteen at all.

"I can assure you from personal experience that he was not." Luthor said. "In time you will be strong enough to defeat him. I have made sure of it."

"I don't want to--"

Luthor made a frustrated gesture, "Whether you want to kill the Übermensch or not is of no consequence so long as you are capable of it when and if it becomes necessary."


Luthor glanced out the window, noting that the cloud of dust and smoke was slightly closer and far darker than it had been before. They didn't have much time.

"I also want you to know that you are not a clone of Superman."

"What? Of course I--" Luthor held up a hand and Superboy surprised himself by falling silent.

"Not a complete clone, certainly." Luthor continued, "We weren't able to clone Kryptonian DNA with only one sample, we had to use extra genetic material. You're only fifty percent Man of Steel."

"What? What do you--" A thought occurred to Superboy. A terrible, horrible, unformed idea.

"What's the other half?"

Luthor smiled. It was a sharp, shark-like smile.

"I am."

And Superboy couldn't really think around the cold, hard feeling that was growing in his (half human, half Luthor) chest. And he couldn't acknowledge the even deeper feeling that wondered if maybe Luthor would talk to him some more, would give him a name.

But just as he opened his mouth to speak, the collected forces of five teenage superheros blasted through the walls of the undeserving restaurant, and Luthor was giving him a smile and activating his jet boots. And then he was gone.

Superboy didn't know what to feel about any of it. He certainly didn't know what to do with the burning anger he felt now at both Superman and Lex Luthor.

Most of all, he didn't know what to do with the letter he received three days later containing only one piece of paper: an apparently valid birth certificate for one Connor Leopold Luthor, born sixteen years ago today.