Freddy: Beside myself didn’t even begin to explain what I was experiencing at the moment, but there was no time for that.

Pace yourself. If you begin to overreact you may and will make a mistake. Take a moment to find your center.

Focus on your surroundings. Remember where you stepped out of, because that’s the only way you’ll be entering the Sanctum in this area. Remember the exact area and the people around. Hopefully no one notice you stepping out into the area and begin to question you. Just stare at the big screen and be shocked, appalled and genuinely horrified at what you’re watching. That was pretty easy to do.

The item that had been entrusted to me had been pocketed. Though I seriously needed a better spot than my pocket for it. Somewhere no one could get to it or think to look for it. No tip offs or anything. I have no Idea what Adam saw. He may know that I have it and that immediately becomes an item he wants. Bargaining chip. Probably not, because he’d sooner rip open my chest and get it than bargaining. There’s no bargaining with him not with the state he’s in not to mention I don’t think that was ever in the cards, but doesn’t mean i can’t try. It just means kind of a Bambi versus Godzilla kind of situation.

Scanning the area I see the news and it’s a Metropolis local station. Walking out of the area I head towards a quiet spot, because I’ve only been to Metropolis a handful of times. Class trips and what not. Pulling out my cellphone I start scanning through the numbers I’ve programmed in to call the only person I know in the city and hope…pray she’s in the area.

Cassie: The world is full of terrible things. Evil men, that do evil things in the name of their convictions, or for power. Both equally bad motivations if you ask me. Disasters that just happen, with no rhyme or reason though in ancient times they would have attributed them to some vengeful God. I suppose that could hold true still, except I find it unlikely that were they still actually present that they’d stay so hidden so well. That was a mystery that I at least had some answers to, thanks to the last couple weeks’ experiences. I don’t want to say that they were things I’d never paid attention to before. The bad things. That makes me sound shallow and self-absorbed and I like to think that I’m not. I care about the world and the people around me. There’s a dramatic difference in seeing the world’s problems, and seeing them with the ability to do something about it. With practically an open license to do something about it.

Only to then be hobbled by life. By who I am. I’d had a discussion with Timothy Drake about the ‘mask’ and what a person’s real identity was. Not Wonder Woman, but Cassie Sandsmark who’s in the middle of her AP Chemistry lecture, watching with slack jawed, wide eyed horror what’s playing across the state of the art media wall in St. Mary’s science classroom. Breaking news, about the horrible deaths of school children in Fawcett City. Yes. Bad things happen every day. Bad things don’t always coincidentally happen in a place I’ve just been to be a part of another bad thing. I have to control my grip on the counter, in part to keep me there? And so that I don’t break a part of it off. I can feel as every hair on my body feels like its’ standing up on end, something in the air that maybe is my sense of helplessness in the situation. Or frustration. But I know those feelings. This is a …strange something else.

We’re not supposed to have our phones in class. Everyone does anyway. The fact that I don’t usually use mine, means that I’m easily excused when I get up to leave with sneakers practically squealing as I tear around the corner and out into the hallway. It’s not a number I have programmed into my phone, but I don’t exactly know a lot of people that would make the screen light up with a number and ‘Fawcett City.’ The timing too convenient for it to be anyone else, and I’d told him to call if he needed help.

“Freddy! Are you okay? Where are you? I’ll be there in…well. It depends where the where you are is but…”

Fifteen minutes to Fawcett. It’s where I assume he is, anyway. I just have to get to somewhere that I can take off without notice. Not as hard as you might think, especially when you’ve got a ‘tutor’ of your own who’s been doing it longer than you have. I could maybe wish for some more…subtle clothes though. The blue and grey plaid of my school uniform would even be preferable but it’s a game day. That means we’re expected to wear a different uniform. The awful cheerleader getup that I actually hate more than the other option. I don’t get the point. It’s not like we go to classes with the boys to show ‘spirit’ for them. I think it’s just an excuse to demonstrate that the squad’s social ‘elite’ are better than everyone else. Moving fast has its advantages though. I’m behind one of the buildings, and then up into the air like a shot, phone still pressed to my ear awaiting directions.

Freddy: If it had been a year or two ago, I would be back home ready to show my school spirit. Sure baseball season was over, but it didn’t mean I didn’t support the other teams. Fighting Spartan all the way. However, my stomping grounds was the site of abject horror. I couldn’t imagine the impact that this was having. Children who were hurt, killed. Police force decimated. Fawcett was going to be hurting for years to come from this. To say that it hurt my heart would be an understatement, but it was boxed away as best I could as I continued to compartmentalize. It was the only way I was going to remain upright instead of falling over as the weight of everything hit me.

I changed back which meant that I only carried Solomon with me. The focus and clarity that he afforded helped. They could use Callaghan right now as he was guiding them through this tragedy, but he was gone. He was no longer with them and what he brought to the town was collected. I was blessed and I felt I was in the wrong place, but I knew it is where I had to be. Away from the fray. I couldn’t let their deaths be in vain. I couldn’t let Callaghan’s death become nothing more than a meaningless gesture. I couldn’t throw way his trust on some foolish notion of all consuming rage and despair.

No, I had to continue moving forward with the information I had. There were some things I had to do, and there were some things that couldn’t be done alone. This wasn’t a time to say I can do it on my own. I saw where that could lead.

“Cassie? Yeah it’s me.” From the sound of her voice. The concern. The elevated tension. She was probably seeing the same thing he was. “I’m not there. I was there, but not any more.” He said softly. “I’m in Metropolis.” How strange was that. “At the library.” Even stranger but actually it made sense for the Sanctum to be connected to places of knowledge and instruction. I wanted to start with a long litany of events and actions that took place. “The main branch.”

What did I need? “I’m ok.” As strange as it sounded I was ok. It was better than fine. You know. Freaked out, insecure, neurotic and emotional. I was slowly coming down from Defcon Five. “But we need to compare notes.” I have no idea what Cassie’s been told. It’s the only thing that makes sense right now.

Cassie: There’s a very initial, mundane reaction to hearing that someone you know who should have been at the site of a tragedy was not there after all. It’s relief, and despite my generally trying not to do so I can’t help thinking the ‘Oh, thank God.’ Though maybe in this case it actually is an appropriate thing. Then my mind keeps spinning. Wait. He wasn’t there? Why wasn’t he there? Not there as in not at the school? Not in Fawcett? Even as he’s telling me where he is. Here. In Metropolis.

I’d say it might have been hard to hear me, given that I’m up in the clouds at the moment, or that I shouldn’t even be getting reception but… a little redbird took it upon himself to replace my iPhone with a half-million dollars worth of hidden Wayne Tech earlier this year. Can You Hear Me Now is something that I will never again have to utter, apparently. Excellent job with noise filtering, too.

“I’ll be there in one minute. Sit tight.”

Well. Less than a minute. Since I’m not going across any great distance, just more or less straight down again, plummeting out of the clouds at a speed that’s going to be too fast for most people to pick up on, but not fast enough to wreck anything. Most people are much too absorbed in their own lives, or what’s on the news right now, to really be looking for a SuperPerson in the sky. That only happens when something’s going wrong in Metropolis.

He doesn’t look okay. Why would he look okay? He said he was there, but now he’s not. It’s not unreasonable that he could have run here. He’s faster than I am, but it also doesn’t actually make sense. So instead of assuming what makes ‘sense’ based on his powers… I just ask.

“How did you go from there to the library?”

I want to hug him. It’s a natural reaction that I can’t really help but I also don’t know him well enough to presume. I instead end up hooking my arm through his, turning us back around and marching him further inside of the pristine building. There’s any number of places to sneak off to in here for some privacy. I’ve used a number of them myself, though I usually just settle for the library at my school. Two people standing out in the open, while one’s dressed like I am especially, is going to get some notice.

“I think note comparing is…at this point kind of more than necessary. What just happened?”

Freddy: I could swear I heard a bit of a whistling from her side of things. Not Cassie whistling, not that kind of sound, but air whistling. It wasn’t loud but kind of thing that happens when you’re outside or have the car door open something to that effect. She had to be in the air. I didn’t question it in fact it made me smile a little perhaps the first smile I had in I don’t know. I can’t remember. Perhaps since burgers. “Alright. I’ll be here. Thanks.” I let that be the end of it, because I don’t know what more I could say. I didn’t want to throw of her off, but going over what happened and I’m sure she she had questions for me. I was still compartmentalizing to bring myself down from the level alertness that I had been at when I arrived in the City of Tomorrow.

Any other time I would want to see the sights, but right now I didn’t want to see anything, because I know what I would see it would be everywhere. Tragedy in the Heartland. The papers and news stations would be all over it. Instead I remained where I was fixed in that point waiting for Cassie to arrive. The moment she came through the doors and found me I offered a weak smile, but my face said it all. Something was terribly wrong. I saw something. something that made it impossible for that light in my eyes to emerge like they did before. Instead of saying anything I walked over and gave her the hug she was uncertain about.

I’m a hugger. I hugged Gramps all the time. I remember all the last hugs I gave. The last hug I gave him. The last hug I gave my parents. The only person I didn’t hug was the Wizard. I hugged him once and he looked at me like i twas a foreign concept and wondered what manner of madness was this? I was a student not someone to hug. Didn’t stop me from being concerned about his well being. “It’s good to see you.” It was rote. It was just part and parcel of who I am. When she hooked her arm into mine I made no attempt to pull away. I walked with her looking around as my mind finally stopped spinning.

When it did my eyes shifted to hers, because she asked me a question. “Magic.” The tone of my voice was low, but it was steady. I didn’t shown shaky, but I did look it, but even them it was starting to be pushed back to the edges. I needed to be calm so I could step through this with a steady and deft hand, because no doubt there would be questions and I needed to weave the tapestry carefully so there were no twists and turns. Silo things into facts and theories.

As we stepped through the building I considered how to start. “A cluster of major portions.” Epic almost slipped of my tongue, but the only thing that would have made that epic is if Isis and Zeus were present so major was what I went with. Cant be epic yet, but we were on the road towards it. “I’m trying to figure out where to start. The beginning seems like so far away. Like I don’t know, but I’ll try to parse it out.” I know get to the what the hell happened, but to start there felt like I would be missing something.

“Before everything happened at the school I started talking to some of the witnesses in and outside of the bank. I needed to figure out what happened and when. Figure out things weren’t completely buggery or not. The storm that gathered that struck down into the bank that was gathering as events began to unfold. People can’t recall what happened in the bank. I think we know who to thank for that, but outside the bank and the reports. There was no storm predicted in the area. That was all Zeus.” I had to be careful not to chime in with my opinions just the facts for the moment.

“What I can theorize is that he was approaching for one of two or both reasons. One to prevent Isis from acquiring a portion of Osiris’ soul, spirit or whatever gods have. His essence. ” That would probably be the best what to describe it. “Also prevent her from taking what power I had through my blessings and the innate power you possess. Which neither of us would give freely meaning she would have taken it by force and we would be dead.” Point blank let’s not sugar coat the seriousness of this. I’m pretty sure Cassie was already there. “Either way Zeus was doing a two for one.” However Cassie wanted to absorb that was up to her.

“His intervention afforded me time to try and collect information which lead me to Chief Callaghan. He remembered everything that happened. He was able to resist the mindwipe. Perhaps was never affected by it. He carried the essence of Achilles.”

Cassie: Well. I don’t know if it makes him feel better, I hope it does, but it makes me feel better. It’s one of the best, and fastest ways to display empathy. Being there for someone. I may not be a hugger all of the time, but it’s definitely the sort of situation that calls for it, so I’m more than ready to return the gesture. While making sure not to squeeze too hard. I’ve had a lot of practice at this point. Just enough pressure to make something felt, but not hurt. I know how I’d felt hearing about the news. How must he have felt for being there and unable to stop it? I can’t even imagine. Well. Actually I can. Hence the hugging.

“Magic, of course, because… well. And maybe makes sense even. I felt… something right before you called. I just assumed it was something. Normal.”

I’d say why not but it seems to be so central to everything that’s going on. Is that going to be a thing I have to look out for now? Magic willies? On top of anything else I might be trying to sense on a normal day, now do I have to be on guard for inklings of those other things?

“It’s alright, Freddy. If I’m confused, I can just ask. I’m half-decent at connect the dots, too.”

I let him go on with the story. No, it’s not really a story so much as relaying facts. Which is more important than feelings in the moment, I suppose. I keep leading him, as he keeps talking, down a quiet hallway and into the reserved study areas. They’re unlikely to be in use this time of day, and finding an empty one to move into isn’t a problem. Then I’ll let him go, taking up a perched seat on the edge of one of the tables as I fold my arms across my chest to listen.

“The combination was enough to make him act against his own rule. Or at least as much as he thought he could get away with at least.”

I know a lot more than I did last time we met. Mostly because after incessant badgering from my best friend and boyfriend I’d finally had a long overdue conversation with her. What he has to say is more insight in that moment than anyone else had been able to give. If the attack was against us, or her.

“…he carried. Past tense. Is he… did he…”

Ugh. I don’t think I really needed to ask. I hadn’t heard names on the news but it’s easy to put the dots together. Like I said.

Conner: There’s no whistle of air displacement. No hum of electricity in the air. Nor a buzz from the phone being way too close to the satellite that is beaming it’s signal. No warning. Nothing. Just one moment the two, Freddie and Cassie, are walking along. Arm in arm. Talking about things most would blow off as some sort flight of fancy or school report. LLeading him down along those back rows of books, in to the large section of study rooms. Used by people who want a public place to tutor or study in groups, that are not so public and distraction filled as Starbucks. When some clumsy doofus steps out from a long line of stacked books, right in to Freddy Freeman. Boy is that Clumsy Doofus sturdy. Very sturdy. And clumsy.

“Oh. Golly. Sorry, Chum, I didn’t see you there,” said with a flick of the expression toward the book in hand. “I should watch where I’m going. It’s so hard. Y’know. Being so absorbed in school projects and reports…”

“…(Gasp!)…. Cassie! Hi there, beautiful. You should have told me you were coming here, we could have car pooled.” Clearly a missed opportunity to save upon World Pollution. Something I’m way worried about as I put the upside down book I’d been holding back upon the nearest shelf, in complete ignorance of books being in some sort of order. “What are the chances? I mean a guy and a gal, from different schools. Dating. Showing up at the Metro-Public Library. At the same time. During school hours. Without any sort of net-working. Happy Coincidence, amIrite?”

“Who’s your friend? Strapping. Young. Good Looking. Friend. Oh, I’m glad you asked. Conner. Conner Luthor. I’m Cassie’s boyfriend. Don’t worry. I’m not the jealous type or anything. It’s good to meet you. Fred, right? Cassie has told me so much about you.” I couldn’t possibly be an octave more monotone than this. Not without finding a way to adapt Black Canary’s vocal control. “Wow. Like. Really. Good to meet you. Mr. Guy-friend-of-my-girlfriend.”

“That I’ve never, ever, seen before.”

Okay. Awkward.

Freddy: I didn’t feel indifferent to the hug that I initiated. I needed it. I needed to feel something real for a moment connected to the world that I knew, both worlds actually. Sometimes you need a beat before you dive back into the chaos that you call life. Chaos that seemed to be spinning faster and faster until it would unleash itself upon the world in terrible ways. I welcomed the moment, the beat, the pause the all-important breath. I also welcomed the fact that I wasn’t alone in this that I could talk to someone about it without receiving a questioning, disappointed or annoyed look. I was grateful for it.

“Yeah. I had no idea that the Wizard’s sanctum was connected here. I knew about the door in the high school, but who knew it could open here, but it makes sense. Library.” And the such, but I was getting ahead of myself. “Think of it like Howl’s Moving Castle or the seen in the Matrix Reloaded with the hallways of doors, but there were no hallways just one door.”

I was about to tell her more about Callaghan who she deduced from the look in her eyes was no longer of the living despite the fact that it could mean that I know carry Achilles, but I didn’t get a chance to do anything as I ran into a what I thought was a wall, but not a wall, but a person. A person that was far more solid than he should be at the size he was. He was rather dense, physically speaking not mentally, but the moment he opened his mouth I thought I might have to reconsider my assessment.

Taking a step back I just watched in some weird blended milkshake of horror, awkwardness and humor as Cassie’s boyfriend introduced himself. Cassie’s boyfriend. She was Wonder Woman then…yeah. This was …wait was this happening? He was Superman, but right at the moment he was…I felt like I was in an episode of Friends no joke. She was Rachel. Her boyfriend was Ross and I was…wait…whoa. Whoa. Whoa!

Compartmentalize. My eyes scanned everything quickly and I caught the fact that the book was upside down. Was he spying on her? Somehow the soundtrack of my life had skipped a track and gone from Obi Wan Kenobi revelations to I don’t know some smash up Ewoks meets Jar Jar Binks.

“Freddy. Freddy Freeman, Mister Luthor.” I offer my freehand to Conner with a good nature smile that would give Clark Kent a run for his money. “Cassandra’s told me a lot about you. It’s nice to finally get to meet you.” There’s no impish grin or indication that I’m doing anything but being earnest in a way that reads Smallville thought Fawcett City is no Smallville, but you had to wonder. Those Midwesterners with their aww schucks charm.

“I just got in today. It was a bit of a surprise actually. Checking out a few local universities in the area. I’ve delayed enrolling long enough. Just getting my ducks in a row before I make any decisions for next fall. Dropped a line to Cassie and she happened to have a free period to meet up at the library. It’s like my third time to City of Tomorrow. Can’t get lost at the library. Don’t tell her mom that I coaxed her out of school. Don’t want to cause any trouble.”

Freddy turned to Cassie. “He’s cuter than you described.”

Cassie: “Can you open it back up again? Was he there? Were you able to get some answers or…”

It’s possible that that was the whole situation. Why else would he have emerged here instead of there? Then maybe it won’t open back up again. Or maybe it just doesn’t work like that at all.

Of all the things I should have seen coming today, this moment is pretty much it. I’d just been in too much of a hurry after that phone call to do anything except get to where Freddy was so that I could help. I hadn’t covered my tracks like when I’d gone to Fawcett, or Central. I’d just gone. Clearly, I’m not any good at this sneaking around on my boyfriend thing. Actually that would be a good point towards my character in any other situation, but right now it’s not so great. It wouldn’t be such a worry, except my boyfriend has x-ray vision. Enhanced senses. An overly developed sense of paranoia and a penchant for being a nosy, snooping spy.

He’s also holding that book upside down. Which looks to be a copy of Crocheting for Dummies. Well

“I would have Con but I figured you’d be busy with school things. At your own school.”

There’s a warning look that’s being shot at Conner, especially as he carries on his monotone that reads yup, I’m interfering because you’re doing something without me with someone else and I don’t like it and so here I am! A look that says so help me, I will make you suffer in a way only your loving girlfriend actually can. My brain’s spinning through how to actually handle this. I can think of a pretty simple way, actually but I don’t think that simple is best. Or that I’ve got things set up enough that it would be safe. I let the two boys introduce themselves to one another, though Freddy is much more polite about it. Friendly even. And I run with his version of events, because it plays in with my own alibi for being in Fawcett in the first place.

Well done, Freeman. Seriously.

“Freddy is from Fawcett. He showed me around there, so I thought it’d be nice to return the favor here since he was in. I figured you’d think it was boring.”

My mouth pulls to the side in an expression that would have put that displeased gymnast from the Olympics a few years back to shame at Fred’s compliment towards my other half.

“Yes, well. He sure thinks he is. But he’s got his moments.”

Conner: Oh, there are two types of smile for a Luthor. There is the type that says ‘I won, you lost, eat me.’ Then there is the one that says you should sleep with one eye opened. Guess which one I’ve affixed ‘Aww Shucks’ Freeman with? Spoiler Alert: It’s the latter. I’m well schooled in manners though, so I’m aware of the offered hand and how to accept it without reducing every bone in it to some akin to rock salt. All the while maintaining both smile and charm. If by Charm you were you mean a granite statue chiseled in to some sort of approximation of Charm.

“You’re like way Cuter than Cass said you were too,” it’s not hard to hear the unspoken ‘too cute for my tastes,’ that is heavily implied there. “Part of me just wants to scoop you up and eat you like a bowl of ice cream.”

This is followed by a leveled look upon my girlfriend. If I were any more chipper? It would cause a galactic implosion. Extinction. Level. Event.

“Yes. As you should have figured. Since, I’m such a schoolboy. Study study study. All the live long day. It’s hard to know exactly where the Student ends and Conner Luthor socialite begins. It’s a hard life, y’know what I mean Freddy Freeman of Fawcett City. Purveyor of Hamburgers.” There is an ease with which I slide an arm over Freddy’s shoulders and bring him in tight. He’s a hugger right? Let’s pretend I didn’t hear that bit for now. “First trip to Metropolis then? Why didn’t you say that? Who could possibly be a better tour guide than me? My Father built this City.”

“My Car’s out front. I bet the doorman didn’t even have time to park it yet.” We all know the public library doesn’t have doormen, but maybe us Luthor’s really think that. I don’t, but who really knows with the rich elite types. “We can head out. See the sights. Visit all those schools. Cassie and I spent the summer touring ourselves, I’m sure we can hum a few bars and fake a tour. Cassie’s a natural at making things up as she goes along.”

“So. It’s a damn good thing you’re here today of all days, Fred. Surely you’ve seen the news. Man, you never heard about Fawcett City until a couple weeks ago. Now? Hostage situations. Bank robberies. Broiler room access. It’s like… I dunno. Kharma or something. I hope you’re insurance covers ‘Act of God.'”

“Speaking of Kharma being a bitch, do you know what’s really a bitch, Fred. It’s that moment when you realize your girlfriend is about to totally ignore the fact that she knows I’ve been listening to every word you two said, but she was still committed to that bullshit story about University Tours. So either you’re best kept secret my girlfriend has ever had reduced to sandy ashes by heat-vision. Or you’re connected to what’s on the news and she’s trying to save you.”

“So. Let’s start with Wizard’s Sanctum and that Amulet in your pocket. Unless you’re real happy to see my girlfriend. In which case I’m re-visiting the sandy-ashes version of this story.”

Freddy: Now comes the tricky part. It was being blasted all over the news what happened so I could play dumb like I didn’t know. I was completely oblivious to the tragedy that had befallen my home town or I could dive right in to it, but it all depended on what came out of Conner’s mouth though given what I had shared thus far it was probably best to play the oblivious one. It was better for everyone.

Listening as Cassie recounted how they met I offered another smile. “Did she tell you about the burgers? Best burgers on the planet.” I was totally committed to that. It wasn’t until I was pulled in close for a hug that was not a hug after receiving a smile that was anything but a smile. A smile that was akin to the one the wolf gave Little Red Riding Hood before he decided she was going to be nothing but bones and fat after he was done with her.

The entire thing went down a house of cards. It was all over the place and apparently I should have stepped out to call Cassie and then stepped back in to wait for her to arrive, but who knows she’s probably been chipped electronically and mystically.

I could give it my best and try to slip out of his grasp, but the last thing I want to do is cause ruckus instead I turn my head and stare straight into Conner’s eyes. I’ve seen what death looks like several times over. I’ve seen what the god style wrath looks like. If he thinks I’m about to crumble because he wants to shake me down from information then he’s sorely mistaken.

“Billy. Batson. Remember him? If you want to talk Karma let’s talk about the door you opened when the decision was made to remove him from the picture.” Mic drop.

Cassie: Yes, yes. With the rubbing in of how I hadn’t mentioned Freddy to Conner. For perfectly good reason, like how there was entire ruse in place to keep him from noticing I was going to Fawcett in the first place, followed by telling Freddy to stay the heck away from the NOWHERE MindWhammySquad, and continuously referencing the things that ‘I’ had done at the bank, not a ‘we.’ All to keep Conner Luthor from knowing that this guy existed for what was actually a perfectly innocent reason. Well. Innocent as far as our relationship goes. Not so much when you take into account his job. No. Not the Superman one. No one’s meant to know that Superman used to be Superboy, and they’re definitely not supposed to know that he’s on the government’s payroll. It’s not like it’s public knowledge that the President For Life’s son is … well. What he is.

Then Freddy mentions the burgers, and the force that my palm smacks against my forehead, and the resulting sigh, is audible. Oh. Great.

We’re already had a fight about/around Fawcett. I’d prefer to avoid another and yet. Here we are. Awkward is right. And schoolboy charm is giving way to the fact that my darling boyfriend is clearly going to make this a fight. We don’t need that. At all. My expression gets even more visibly displeased at the comment of my making things up as I go. Calling me out on my lie, the story we were spinning, and then giving away the secrets that I was trying to keep on his behalf. Fine.Fine. Since no one’s in here to see me, that doesn’t already know, I close the distance between the two of them and myself with an abrupt whoosh of air, jabbing my index finger right into the middle of Conner’s prep-school tie.

“You. Stop. I wasn’t going to blab your secrets, but if that’s how we’re playing it. Freddy? I’d like you to meet Superman, who I promise is ordinarily at least a little more charming when he’s not playing jealous boyfriend.”

In hindsight? I see the dots he connected. See. I’m good at those dots. I just don’t have the same frame of mind as Conner to put together how I snuck off to Fawcett, then didn’t leave with him when he arrived. With Freddy, who was the reason, just not the reason he’s clearly thinking. Again. I should have. But it’s just not the tack my mind takes.

Superman. This is Freddy Freeman. Who helped Wonder Woman in Fawcett, and frankly saved my ass from getting a lot more than just a little light chomping. Yes, I was trying to save him.”

Then the finger swings to Freddy. They’re both taller than me, but that doesn’t mean I’m not fully capable of drawing myself up to an indignant height that makes me look like I”m looming. I learned from Helena Sandsmark. She does it all the time. I’m just not quite as furious looking at the blonde. He doesn’t entirely know what he’s doing.

“And you. You need to stop, too. It’s not entirely what you think it was, and if I’m going to manage to stop what happened to Billy Batson from ever happening again I need this? Right here? To stop.”

Conner: There’s a small part of me that cringes over the topic of Billy Batson. Another part of me that is worried that I’m cringing over it being brought up. Not over it actually happening. Because the reality is? I’m not remotely guilty about the whole thing. There are other things I’ve done that I’m aware I should feel some guilt over. Even if I don’t actually think I do feel guilty, I know I should. But when it comes to this topic? The truth, really, does set me free.

“He was out of control. Really. Out of control. It was him or a chunk of the entire city. I made the right choice, Hamburger Boy. Kinda questioning you though. Being here. Safe in Metro. While such a tragedy plays out on the News. What a Marvel of Heroism, huh?”

Well we’ve accelerated well beyond calling one another cute haven’t we? It isn’t difficult to connect the dots. To see how Freddy is connected to Cassie being in Fawcett City. Which means that he is also somehow connected to the Crocodile Men that she called me to have picked up. Cassie randomly goes to Fawcett City and suddenly bad things are happening? Now this guy is here? It is real hard for me not to wonder what excuse Cassie was going to make up, to tell me why she needed to ferry Mr. Freeman off to her pals in the underground resistance. Probably a ‘Tour’ of the Gotham University.

The problem I’ve got right now? Surprisingly has nothing to do with Freddy, per say. Nor him being handsie with Cass. Nor him being the person who introduced her to the Hamburgers of infamy. In fact it bothers me that this is all tied together, somehow and it is making me a little angrier by the moment that she’s not coming clean about all of this. If this ‘resistance’ of her’s is so important, why can’t she talk to me about it? I tell her everything. Even about the Harlots that try to seduce me on rooftops. Why is she hiding this pretty boy from me? And what in the name of Great Caesar’s Ghost is a Wizard’s Sanctum.

The only thing that keeps me from questioning all of this even more? Is Cassie getting affronted. As with the other thing? I normally understand, at the very least, why she’s getting pissy. This time I’m a little lost as to why she has even a morsel of claim to being mad. I’m not the one who has lied. Not the one sneaking around. Not the one keeping secrets. I haven’t been intentionally working in opposition to Her. I’m not sure I’ve ever got to say this in my entire, albeit short, life. For once I’m innocent on all charges.

Well. All but that jealous, possessive boyfriend stuff. My turn for the ‘Aww Shucks’ smile. “I’m not exactly the one keeping secrets, Cass. But, don’t worry. I’m not even planning to try to hurt you, Fred. Unless you tell me that you’re somehow behind that Fawcett City melt down. In which case all bets are off.”

Freddy: “What exactly do you think Billy Batson was going to do?” I look at them both. “Did you talk to him? Did you say a word or did you lead with your fist. Did you go in with the objective to put him down or attempt to reason with him? Did you go in with the intentions to aid or suppress?” I turn from Conner to Cassie. “The reason I am on this path is because the Champion before me died. There was no one left to stand between Black Adam. No one to prevent the death of gods. No one to recognize events for what they were to project mortals from magic and magic from mortals. Just control people thinking they can control things just like Adam did.” I explain.

“Someone tell me what it was, because what I know is that I stand here because the previous Champion was felled before he had a chance to try. Perhaps he was rash. Perhaps he thought might was better. Perhaps he saw what I saw and had no one to turn to to talk to instead he was attacked. ” I didn’t throw my hands up but I let my head fall back for a second.

“You’re the second person who’s insinuated that I’ve caused some great harm to people and I get it. I know things you don’t, but your first act is to intimidate me instead of asking me without veiled threats and “Luthor Charm.” ” And it’s not said in the kindest light at all. “The reason I am here is because a hero a real hero recognized his mistake and tried to make it right and it cost him his life. He died saving me and projecting the world for now.” My eyes shut for a moment just a moment as I compartmentalize again.

Don’t get angry Freddy. Anger is the path that…you saw what happened. Taking a deep breath I take a step back from them.

“Seeing how you heard a portion of what I said I will go over the rest. ” Freddy looked to Cassie and gave her the slightest of nods.

“Zeus prevented Isis from retrieving the portion of Osiris essence. What happened to Isis I can’t say. No one has seen her. She could be licking her wounds, but she’s not gone. She’s alive and she’s coming for what she wants. What she needs to restore Osiris. You spoke of rules, there are rules, but they’ve broken. I took Callaghan into my confidence as best I could as he took me into his. Because of him I was able to access memories of who Black Adam was before he was the Champion. During and after he fell. ” It was a lot to take in but that was neither here or there.

“Isis is Adam’s with and the wife of Osiris. It’s difficult to explain, because there wasn’t enough time. I went to the Sanctum in search of the Wizard to learn what he knew. He has been uncharacteristically quiet, but when I arrived Adam was there and he was everything I lived and more. The Sanctum looked like it had been ransacked. Someone was researching Osiris, Hades and other elements connected with death. ” I try to parse it out as best I could.

“Adam wanted me to relinquish what I had. It might save me from his wrath not to give to Isis, but I suspect to take on himself. Either to lure her out or be strong enough to face her and make her release his wife. It’s working theory. Adam was restored. Somehow his wife came back to him. How I don’t know, but she was distraught over what had been done to their people and Adam is not one for puppies, kittens and rainbows. He’s Old Testament through and through. If he believed in God like God God he would definitely be down for the smiting everyone and that’s what he intended to do, but he wanted to empower his Isis with the essence of Isis. My theory is Isis overwhelmed her, because Isis tends to be single minded . Osiris. Not Adam’s son, but the god. He must be free. He must walk the earth again and that takes power. Lots of it. She’s killed a Titan for it and suspect she may have done the same to your half brother Cassie. Adam wants to stop her, but for that to happen he has to have enough power to put her down without killing her, because to kill her is to kill his wife and he won’t do that. He loves her too much.”

That’s the working theory at least.

I hadn’t gotten to the explosion yet. It was a lot to digest.

Cassie: There’s a whole lot of things that could be said in response to the words being slung around. I know I’ve handled the whole thing poorly, but the fact of the matter was I didn’t have time to plan. To set this up better. To text Conner on my way to say something like, hey. I’ve got some world saving business can you maybe look the other way? Maybe that would have bubbled over catastrophically, too, and I definitely don’t want him connecting me using that line to stepping around on him. Which I wouldn’t ever do anyway. For someone who knows (and will tell you, just ask him) that he’s so superior to everyone else in every way imaginable, and just a couple days ago was telling me that the keeping an eye on me wasn’t because of jealousy… Ugh. Just. Ugh. I settle for pinching the bridge of my nose between thumb and forefingers hard enough that it’s a good thing I’m as durable as I am strong.

I don’t exactly think I’ve gotten to see Conner jealous before. He seems a lot more affronted than just that, however. And he looks like he’s only building up to a bigger head of steam.

“And I would love it if I didn’t have to.”

Because I hate this. I told Timothy Drake up front, when he asked me to keep Conner out of Gotham, that I didn’t want to keep secrets from Conner. If he doesn’t trust me then we’ve got a giant problem. Keeping secrets that aren’t mine to tell? Is one thing. This has all steadily evolved into something else entirely. I’m silently thankful for Freddy at least collecting himself and muscling on through the story. Sharing his ‘notes’ as it were, as had been the intention in the first place. I have to struggle to focus on that. The pieces of information. Instead of continuing to let my mind race and my frustration build. It’s already turning into a churning feeling in my stomach as it is.

“If Goddess Isis is riding driver’s seat of Isis, Adam’s wife then it makes even more sense why all the lightning. There’s rules in place. Zeus’ rules. So if he thinks she’s flaunting them.. you were there for the fallout of that. My half-brother?”

There’s a moment of puzzlement before a bulb clicks on. I’m still not used to thinking of myself as having siblings of any sort. Half or otherwise.

“…strength of Hercules.”

He’s not imbued with power like Freddy, not in the same way I assume because he was able to share it through the trials himself if I understood all I’d been told by either Freddy or Tim correctly. It was his divine birthright. Just like my powers were, even though they were kept from me by my mother until I turned sixteen.

“So if she tracked down any other demi-gods she would only get progressively more powerful. In addition to whatever trials she hijacks and steals. Can anyone do them? Or it is like… a limited entrant sort of affair. She must be technically within the rules to some degree or I’d think he. Zeus. Would just end it alogether.”

Conner: The way I cant my head is a telling sign that I’m not going to ‘Eye Laser’ Freddy right now. Although that is certainly not off the table long term, it’s certainly not a short term goal. With my arm around him, it would get my shirt dirty. Which, yeah, is actually a much bigger consideration than it probably should be in the measuring someone’s worthiness for Life or Death. But let’s face it, Freddy has a lot of bad juju going for him right now in my eyes. Not all of which is actually his fault and though I’m not one to split hairs, I do think he’s entitled to a little discussion before sentence is passed.

The two of them and this entire sharing of information? Probably should be soothing. But it isn’t. Because the questions I want answered aren’t really being discussed. Honestly, I can see why Cassie would keep me out of the loop on her aiding the Resistance. It makes sense. I’m too connected. Even under the them of the people she’s resisting. What I don’t get, is why she isn’t cluing me in to the broad strokes. Letting me in on the ruse, so that I can apply why she calls the ‘Luthor Genes’ to being subversive. That’s a skill set that I have in spades. That keeps bringing me back to Freddy Freeman here and his hug of my barely dressed girlfriend. He’s offered an answer to what I’d asked, if not to what I was actually seeking, so I feel like I sort of owe a quid pro quo…

“Whatever happened with your ‘Predecessor’, to get him in to the state he was when I first saw him? I don’t have a clue. Frankly, I’m sure you’re not going to want to hear it? I didn’t care at the time what was causing him to lose control. I was tasked with shutting it down. Needs of the Many, Outweigh the Needs of the Few. It was him or me, I picked me. I almost always pick me. Except when the choice is Her.”

The yarn he spins is not one I’ve got any real ideals about. Though I might seem to be a Bone Head, I’m actually not. These two just happen to be talking about a whole bunch of stuff that I have little basis for knowledge on. “Wow. Nerd-speak and me without my Wayne Corp Translator Droid. Just to be clear. Are you saying that Black Adam was in Fawcett City? The Black Adam? Like the Protector, slash Uncontested Ruler of Khandaq, Black Adam?”

“Raven says he is a dick. She’s who my ‘Boss’ sent to deal with him the last time he was in town. Over in New Troy. He dug up a half-mile trench of sewer system, before she managed to teleport him away from the City.” Hey, I’m not sure what she did. I just know she called it ‘Banishing’ like the guy was some sort of Demon from one of those Supernatural shows I like to watch with Momma Sandsmark. “Hey. I’ve heard of that too. The thing where one God can get the power of another God. There’s a N.O.W.H.E.R.E. open case on something like that.”

“I’ve mentioned it before. Y’know. When I was explaining why I’m not Jealous, so much as Protective. Do you ever have those moments, Frederick, where you don’t think anyone really listens to you?”

Freddy: Standing there I watch as two and half different conversations taking place and I wasn’t sure if I should participate or become a spectator. My eyes shut for a moment while I let both Cassie and Conner’s words rush over me. I understood the problems we were facing on my side of things. However, we there was another storm that was brewing that wasn’t going to halt anytime soon.

There were many things that I could speak about, but I wanted to stay on point, and that was going to happen as long we kept all of the air in the room some of it needed to be let out. So, I did just that I let a loud audible stream of air that both of them would have to take notice off while I looked between the brewing Conner versus Cassie event that was started to reach critical mass.

“This isn’t going to work. Not at all.” I said finally upon opening eyes and I don’t cower or look at my feet. I state simple and true.
“This going to end in a disaster. There’s a wall we’re headed towards and it’s going to end badly for all parties that are and are not involved if doesn’t get fixed. I would say table it, but I’m thinking that it’s been tabled to long.”

I can shrug it off and rush off to who knows where and do who knows what and I’m sure there are reasons on top of reasons why things are the way they are, but right now there needs to either be a détente or reckoning and I would prefer the later right now, because I don’t have time to be looking over my shoulder.
“So right now Clash of the Titans aside just talk. Say something, because I’m not going to quarterback this out there. Trust is fracturing and damn it I need that more than anything else right now. Trust in me. Trust in you and right now the trust between the two people who should have the most trust of all right now if I’m listening to seems like it’s surpassed frayed beyond the edges.” Did I know ever know and yes I could stay on point push through, but I can’t.
“I’ll be damned if I watch History repeat itself right before my eyes.” Right now Conner is little Baby Black Adam not in the making he’s there. Cassie is his wife Isis. It doesn’t take a wise man to know what would happen if something happened to her.
“See past the anger. Look past the rage. Face the fear. You are both afraid of losing one another…” Not to me. That is well established. “…to the roles you have chosen to play. The moment you turn away from one another is the moment you lose each other and if you lose one another things happen. Terrible things. Things that you might not be able to take back. Cassie you are Wonder Woman. Capable of great and amazing things and it has nothing to do with the fact that you can fly, take a punch and give better than 10 Tysons in his prime. However, all of that is outshined by your spirit and your effort to do the right thing. You are more radiant than the brightest star and your compassion no knows end from what I can tell. You could stand alone, but you choose not to.”

I look at Conner and smile. “Conner, you’re opinionated. Without a doubt an arrogant ass with a superiority complex. My might is right and fuck everyone else is how you live your life, but you save people. You protect the world. I haven’t seen you close up until now so I don’t have the all the insight, but I’ve seen what you do. You are the ends justify the means. Good or bad. Right or wrong. Doesn’t matter what they say, it matters what you say. I’m not going to pretend to know it all I don’t, but I know this. You love her and right now you’re terrified in so many ways. Terrified that I’m going to get her hurt possibly more. Terrified that you won’t be able to do what you’re known for saving people. Fuck the world if you can’t save the person you care about the most…fuck the world.” Not what good is he no fuck the world. In the game of chess he is King and Knight all in one and he will wreck the board if he has to.

“Get it out. I could be 100 percent wrong, but this has to stop. I’m not saying he’s wrong, she’s right, but fear is driving you both. Fear of the truth. Fear of the possibility and sooner or later that fear can be used against you. Fear makes us do terrible things, reckless things. Conner doesn’t trust me. He doesn’t know me, but he trusts you Cassie. He knows you. Don’t box him out. If he can’t trust you then he’s the last thing he would probably want to admit.” Alone and another person’s chess piece to be maneuvered and positioned as they see fit and neither of them want that. This isn’t want it is.

“Conner, you’re going to have to decide where you stand. You know it. Sneer, grind me into dust zap me into ash, but we all know it’s true. Just enough rope will be supplied until one of two things will happen for everyone involved. If it didn’t matter you wouldn’t be so scared right now. Scared that each step she takes is away from you and what you can offer.”
Figure it out.

“Isis has been at this a lot longer than any of us and if we’re going to stop her and deal with Adam then we can’t give them a quarter.” Adam’s raw power in her path. Isis goddess of life and magic can fuck with you in unimaginable ways. “Just as you are right now wanting answers. Isis is out there gathering what power she can to get what she wants and we’re that line that’s going to stand in her way. Shit show doesn’t even begin to explain what she’s going to throw our way.”

Order swung hard for years, decades now. Play by the rules. Chaos has been fueled and even Zeus knows that it must have its due.

“So, before I say one more thing about what happened and why the city I love is experiencing one of the if not the most horrible tragedy its ever faced. Fix this.” Can we please have one fractured couple on the field at a time please?

Cassie: Ugh. Conner’s addressing Freddy, but you can practically hear what he’s really saying. That he feels like I’m not listening. It takes about all of my willpower to not fire back with my own along the lines of ‘Yeah, Freddy, that is a funny feeling. Do you know what it’s like when someone listens to your opinions and then does what he wants anyway?’ Actually, it’s not so much willpower that stops me, I mean. My mouth’s partway open to return fire, when my new friend interjects. Wait. What? This isn’t going to work? What part of this isn’t going to work? Is he saying that he doesn’t want to help or accept help anymore? The open mouth then is about to start stammering out questions and assurances, until what he’s actually saying clicks.

He doesn’t mean Fawcett, and Isis and Adam and all the rest. He’s talking about my boyfriend and I squabbling and the entire mess of this little meet and greet. People fight. I mean, I have to assume it’s pretty common for a pair of teenagers who are learning who and what they are to step on each others’ toes more than once and to get into arguments accordingly. Except we’re not just Cassie and Conner, we’re Superman and Wonder Woman and we’re supposed to be doing something else. I know I’m sure not good enough at compartmentalizing to totally shut one off from the other, and I’m pretty much just as sure Conner’s not either.

Being called out and scolded is one thing, and no one likes that. But the reason I drop my eyes and my cheeks flare into an almost immediate and ashamed shade of pink has a lot more to do with the fact that he’s right. Wisdom of Damn Solomon. In one little diatribe, that I sure don’t interrupt once my mouth has closed again, he’s summed up what he knows of me from the three times we’ve met. Probably a lot more nice things that I would have ever said about me, or in those words but he’s still not wrong. I can feel the truth in them, or at least his belief that they’re true.

His summation of Conner, who he’s only met once but I spoke of at length (in much more positive notes than this conversation would have you believe), is uncannily spot on as well. The named qualities might seem like insults but nothing that he actually says is wrong. They’re all things I’ve known to be true about the boy for as long as I’ve known him. All except that last part. He’s the one that pushed me into this. All of this. The superheroing. The training. I know that NOWHERE’s involvement in my life was unavoidable, because I’m too powerful as a loose canon, and he’d tempered it. But he also taught me what it was. Set my back against everything they stood for before I even realized I could run faster than your average blonde. Conner thought he was doing what I wanted, by shoving me out into the great hero spotlight so why would he be scared about me embracing it?

Because you’re doing it without him, dumb dumb. And he knows it.

“…you’re. Right. I’m sorry.”

What is he right about, and which he am I speaking to? Jeez, it could be either and/or both of them right now. I’m just going to leave that up for interpretation by either party but frankly…what a week. I don’t think I’ve apologized to Conner twice in six months before, let alone twice in a week. Being sorry would require us really spending much time having conversations that those fit into. There’s an awkward moment where I’m folding my arms defensively across my chest. Then more protectively lower, across my half exposed stomach, before forcing myself to drop my arms to my sides though the clenched fists I don’t entirely manage to get rid of.

Seriously though. How did this guy get all that from not even a handful of conversation and some bickering? Superpowers. Or maybe he’s just a good read and the two of us are open books. Some of it I’d known. Some things I hadn’t but if he was right about part, he’ probably right about all. And if I’ve been making Conner feel scared or anxious? Well. I feel just about as awful right now as I did when Tim Drake guilt tripped me about not talking to my Mother when he doesn’t have his parents anymore. Any of them. Probably worse, actually, because this is Conner. And apparently there’s more we need to talk about than I even could have guessed. Open forum presented for us or not, there’s a lot that should probably be for his ears only. But I think I can sum up the most pertinent concerns in a way that could…hopefully let us move on.

Blue eyes come up, with lips pursed, to my boyfriend’s face before I suck in a breath like I’m not sure if I really want to say like I’m about to say and I’m bracing, then it’s exhaled in a loud sigh before I continue.

“I don’t want to sneak around on you and keep secrets, but I’m only doing this…” there’s a vague gesture of my hand to the group of us, but it’s meant more to imply everything. Fawcett. The other trips he doesn’t know all about. “… without you until I’ve got things right to do it with you.”

That was vague. More vague than I really meant it to be.

“Because I don’t know that we’re not on different sides of this war that’s setting up.”

And that was probably said in more of a doubting light than I really meant it. I know Conner wouldn’t act against me directly. But I also know that he’ll do whatever he thinks he has to do to keep me safe. Up to and including coercing me away from what I think is right, in order to keep NOWHERE and his father from using my mother, or him, or any number of things against me.

Conner: There are a lot of things in life that I don’t do well. Like being humble. When you literally have it all, it is very difficult to be humble. I can leap small buildings, I’m stronger than a locomotive, and I’m faster than a speeding bullet. That’s just my kryptonian side. My human side is born from an Evil Genius, who has more money than most entire countries. I’ve got it all, with a side of Tactile Telekinesis. It’s easier to be full of myself, than it is to be humble and I’ve never had a reason to doubt myself.

Another thing I don’t do well, is criticism. I stand there, arm around Freddy’s shoulder, as he dresses me down. Doing so with a set to my jaw that says I’m digging in with every word. Solomon doesn’t have to clue the guy in, I’m not buying in to some stranger telling us our problems. When you also add in that this is a stranger, who somehow knew about what happened with the one thing in life, that I feel a small shred of guilt about? There is a level of willpower being invested, for Cassie’s sake, in my not shutting his pretty mouth. Yeah. I’m also not exactly Boyscout that talks out their problems, I’m more of that Mike Tyson type that punches out their problems. Sorry, I can’t help it.

What most people don’t know about me, though? I wasn’t raised, I was grown in a test tube. Over time the tube got bigger, but I existed in a tube for two years before I met Cassie. During that time I was ‘raised’ in a Virtual Reality Simulation. The VRS was a comprehensive dream-like state that accessed deep rooted genetic memories from my two genetic donors. My ‘Parents,’ the Kryptonian Superman and the Human Lex Luthor. My virtual childhood was a mish-mash of Smallville, Kansas. That then became a teenage time at ‘Prep-School.’ By the time I was the ripe old age of Virtual 10, I had become to fully materialize my powers. One of which allowed me to begin to disassemble the world around me. Giving me the insight of my world being one construct inside another. This created a disconnected. One that gave me the ability to test the people who were ‘training me.’ I could act against my upbringing to test how I would be rewarded or punished.

Whenever I set a fire? The world reset. If I beat up the bully, instead of turning the other cheek? The world reset. If I killed the bully? I got a lecture from Pa Kent and then the world reset. When I raped a girl? The world reset. When I stole a car? The world reset. When I stole -all- of the Cars. The world reset. Over and over, I did whatever I wanted and learned, time and time again that there were no consequences for someone like me. Because who the fuck can stop me? For all of her Power? Cassie can’t. Freddy is on his way to being the Champion of the World. Can he stop me? No. Not a chance. Could they team up and stop me? They might last a few more minutes, but the result would be the same. There are no consequences in this world for me or people like me.

And then. I met Cassie Sandsmark. Who I showed my disregard for consequences on the first day. She in turn taught me something new. Something unique to this world, unlike the virtual reality one. I can’t just do whatever I want and get the reset until I get the results I want. She denied me. Time and time again. Over and over and over… until -I- did what she wanted. It was the first consequence I’d ever known. Over the last two years, I’ve learned that this world, this real world, will tell me no. It won’t reset. Things can go wrong. I can’t rely on the reset to fix them. And the truth is? I wouldn’t care. If it weren’t for the fact that the one thing I want? Seems to be categorically against bending to my every desire, at all times. She has her own plans, her own agenda.

In the last year, I’ve started to understand that I can still have what I want. There’s just a level of effort to be made. All the things I want aren’t necessarily given to me. I need to earn some of them. Unfortunately, just as I’ve learned that lesson. Just as I feel like I’ve started to get a sense of how this world works? The one thing I actually want, seems to be going in a different direction. We seem to be travelling on opposite paths. Honestly, I’m still considering popping Freddy’s head off of his shoulders when Cassie speaks. But. I’m actually listening. I’ve heard what he said. Some of it makes sense. Some of it makes more sense. A lot of it makes me want to ask if all they did was eat a burger, because this guy knows too much. In the end, only one thing is important.

“Stop,” the way I lift a hand to cut Cassie off is imperious and might leave them both thinking that I’m about to revert to standard Luthor-type, but then; “The only side that I’m on is your’s, Cass. I have my own thoughts, I distinctly have my own opinions. But. There is only ever one side. If there’s a ‘War Coming,’ then I’ll be on her side. Every. Single. Time. I’ll pick her side.”

“You’re right though, Cass. I’m not sure if we’re of the same mind on the politics of the world. I know you don’t like who I work for. Truth be told, I don’t like them either. I’m all too aware that if I don’t do what they want? They can’t punish me directly. So they’ll punish Cassie. I’m also aware, that if I go too far in to the opposition, that the person who made me can always make another me.” Finally unlacing my arm from around Freddy’s shoulders and letting him for from the impending threat that my closeness intimated, in order to take a step away and form a triangle between the three of us. “What you don’t know Mr. Freeman. Is that I’m only allowed to have Cassie, because they needed me to have a weakness. All the other kryptonian defects were bread out of me.”

“That puts me in a particularly precarious position. I have to protect her. Even if that means working in opposition to her Gotham Underground.”

Freddy: I wasn’t here to lecture. I was here because the door opened here. I was here because the door opened here. The door could have opened to any place the Wizard connected his sanctum to, but it opened here. Was it me or did it know through some compulsion I was unaware of. Some hand of fate that knew that this is where I needed to be. The only place that I could be.

I let that play through my mind as Cassie speaks and then Conner. I digest the words, but the thing is I am largely irrelevant. I’m a bit player in this tapestry that they’ve woven together. Just one strand of a larger design, but then again perhaps I am connected. I can ponder that another day. However, I have to use the tools that have been provide to me the best way I can the only way I know through talking Not ever battle fought is done with fists. Sometimes it’s done with words.

This has little to do with the truth setting anyone free and more about forging the trust that’s going to be required to get through all of this. I can feel Conner’s hold on me shifting until I’m released and we’re standing across from one another three equal points.

“Alright. You two have a lot more to discuss, but what I can offer is this. You’re not alone, Conner. You don’t have to look out for me if you don’t want to, but I will look out for you and Cassie and anyone else that needs it. Not because it’s what I’m supposed to do. Not because I have to do it or need to do it, but because I want to do it. I don’t know everything, but I do know when someone needs that hand up. When they need someone to back them up. I can’t tell you to trust me I have to show you and if that‘s what it takes then that’s what it takes.”

It’s who I am. It’s who I need to be. It’s who I want to be. “You’re part of this Conner. You’re a part of this world. Everyone needs protecting, but she is not a weakness any more than you are a weakness. She’s a strength. She’s your true north and nothing they can do will ever change that. If they come for one of us they come for all of us. I want to be your friend. Believe it or not I don’t have many that can understand what I’m going through. I need more. I want more. Let me be your friend. Better yet let me be your family. Family is more than blood. Family are the people you turn to when you can’t turn to anyone else. Family are the people who go to the wall for you. You were probably told who your family were, but you’ve already shrugged that. Don’t answer today. Let me earn that, but I promise you if you need me I will be there. We’ll figure whatever it is out.” It’s what I could offer.

As for Cassie. “Fair enough?”

Cassie: Conner laying off the buddy-buddy closeness probably ought to be a relief, but there’s always a chance. Because there’s always a chance he’s not moving to seem less menacing, but to be in better position to do something drastic. From the new vantage, slagging Freddy wouldn’t get shmutz on his shirt. I think it’s mostly off the table though, if anything because we would have words about it. More than words. Obliterating a criminal crocodile man that had tried to bite my arm off? I’m still not okay with that, but I’d be well past ‘not okay’ if anything were to happen right now. Or to Freddy at all.

I know Conner would take my side, I didn’t really need to question that. I know in most things he’s going to always have my back, and he frequently does things that at the time seem like the opposite of what I want, and then later turn out to be something I internally thank him for. That’s the instinct in him I have to worry about. Deep down, I’ve got warm and fuzzies at his words, but then the higher thought processes of the brain know that he’s actually just confirming the fear I expressed in different words. The doing things for my own good part means that he has my back, up until he feels the need to relocate my back away from the fight I want to fight, and taking me there kicking and screaming.

“It’s not the same thing, though Con. Because if I have to do something, and you think you have to do something counter to it to protect me, I know you will.”

He’s just said as much. I’m mostly reiterating to cement the point. And to illustrate my problem a little more for Freddy. I’ve been working to assemble pieces on my side, allies and heroes, setting up the board so that I can make a move. Steal some of their pawns for myself, and then make my move. That all sounds impersonal, and it’s not really how I think about it. I just know I can’t actually do what I need to do alone, and so I’m finding like minded people and trying to motivate them towards a common goal.

Most, if not all, of the anger’s gone out of my sails but I still let out a harumph of air as I push a hand through blonde curls.

“Conner. There really isn’t a Gotham Underground. And thank you Freddy. Yes. Fair enough. More than fair. And there’s more people out there like you that just want to help because it’s the right thing. I have to help them because there’s no one else in the …unique position I am to be able to.”

That’s something I suppose I haven’t said out loud before either, really. My eyes drift back towards Conner as I say them. They let him have me as a weakness, but it’s also something that gives me a lot of room to do this thing. And that’s why it has to be me, and now that I’ve seen it? There’s not going to be any backing down from it. Clearing my throat with a slight purse of my lips, I circle back a little.

“But. Yes. That Black Adam. He was in Fawcett before the robbery. I think he’s who introduced the players into it. And he is a giant dick, Raven isn’t wrong. And unreasonably powerful. ”

Pausing, blue eyes drift to Freddy again with a thoughtful tilt of my head.

“Has anyone actually seen Aunty Minerva since the robbery?”

Conner: Freddy seems to be awfully clued in to the world, in general and us specifically. I’m dubious at best over him knowing too much, but as he started to speak I had bought in. Felt comfortable talking about myself, my situation and my choices. It was easy, natural and instinctive. It was also out of character for me. Born of a frustration that stems from exactly what Freddy intuited. His intuition, while spot on, was more than a little bit perturbing. Because once he shifts from that tone of clearing the air, to actually talking about… Helping me. His three musketeers anthem. Each word makes me suspicious. I can’t even help it, I don’t trust people like that. According to my Father, people who offer something for nothing? Are really just after something they haven’t told you yet.

There’s nothing defensive about my posture now. But that’s a deceptive stance, as my hands slip in to my pockets. I’m rarely defensive, because -I- don’t actually understand the concept of being threatened. Literal or figurative threats have mostly just been people spitting in to the wind. It’s never worked with me. Freddy’s insights. Cassie’s comments. I’m not threatened by what they say, so I’ve got nothing to be defensive about. But that doesn’t mean that I’m buying in to a good deal of it. Especially the ‘Ra-Ra’ cheer from Freddy.

Whether I buy in to the hippie crap that the Hamburglar is saying, is up for debate another time. He started -this- portion of the conversation and he did it in a very good way. Better than she or I have been able to do. That leads me to accepting, at least, that this is now a dialogue that I’m not going to be ‘punished’ for later. “You’re right, Cassie. About most of that. I’m always on your side, but I will protect you. Even if that means protecting you from yourself. You’re the one who taught me that. Isn’t that exactly why you keep trying to teach me this ‘Better Way?’ This is one of our problems, Brighteyes. -I- think you keep a running set of these high moral double standards that you hold everyone else too.”

“It’s okay for you to keep secrets. It’s not okay for me to keep secrets. It’s okay for you to ditch me. Not the other way around. It’s perfectly fine for you to run off and go on a date with someone else? But you’re mad at me about trying to save a girl from my ‘Evil Overlords.’ It’s never black and white. You want me to play around these shades of grey all the time, but the rules change every time we talk switch subjects. At the risk of sounding like a petulant child, that’s stamping his foot…

“If you don’t want me doing what I think is best to protect you? Then swallow that spoon full of medicine yourself. Tell me what the hell is going on and let me make up my own Gods damned mind. You’re managing me. It might not be the same as physically dragging you off to the Moon, to save your life. But it’s still making decisions for me. It’s still not letting me make them myself. But… you don’t trust me to make the right ones. Because you also don’t think there is any other right choice but the one you’re making.”

Giving the two of them a slight shrug at the ‘rest of this.’ I don’t know any Aunty Minerva. Black Adam is a known entity to the people I work for, but it’s hard for him not to be. He’s the rare Meta-Human who doesn’t hide from N.O.W.H.E.R.E. because he doesn’t have too. Not only does he have the power to keep most of the Project at bay, but he’s also a recognized sovereign leader of a foreign country. He’s just about as ‘Off Limits’ as you can possibly get. While he’s in his own country, that is.

I haven’t agreed to any of this Circle of Trust stuff, because it’s clear I’m more than a little hurt about some of the topic we’re openly discussing. But I’m able to fix upon the ‘Business Aspect’ of all of this too. “You’re wrong, Cass. There actually is a Gotham Underground. You think you’ve been getting sent all over the country by the tooth fairy? Does the Tooth Fairy have good intel? Where would that intel actually come from? Come on, Beautiful. Your ‘best friend’ was actually a shape-shifting alien from Mars, that can read minds. Do you really think -my- best friend was an accident?”

Tilting my head in the direction of Freddy then, I take a deep breathe. Even by my standards. “Look. You have problems with Black Adam? Fine. You need help? Superman helps those who need it. I’ll help you. And not just because Cassie seems to trust you. I don’t need to trust you. Or her. To know that Black Adam is bad news.”

“You want that Amulet that you’re carrying protected? From him? Give it to me.” Just like that, I offer my hand to Freddy Freeman. “There’s someone here in the City that can keep it safe.”

Freddy: I take in what Cassie says and remember how we came in contact with one another. It wasn’t happenstance. She was there to find me. Someone sent her to connect with me. Thing is that as much as I know there needs to be focus there was a much larger focus to be concerned about, but right now if I can help I would.
It’s never as easy as anyone would like it to be. Life’s not built that way. Life’s messy. It’s ugly and disorganized. It pushes you to the brink and demands more, it demands a lot. Thing is hearing, knowing, seeing and believing are totally different things. Effort has to be made everywhere. Someone has to be willing to stand upon the edge, but again a longer conversation.

Hopefully this puts everyone on the path towards that.

As to Cassie’s statement about Black Adam do I dare say I sympathize on a level. Not excuse. Not explain. Sympathize. I’m not here to plead his case. I’m here to try and figure out how to prevent what I think is going to occur from occurring.
I think if Cassie does meet Black Adam it will be an eye opener. As for Conner I don’t know. He could go anywhere from this is a bad dude to #lifegoals selfie. I don’t know. I have to believe it would be the former.
“No, not a peep. Thing is given who she is when she stepped outside the bank to make the list of demands known no one said anything about her. No recognition.” Zero from what I could tell. Which let on that perhaps something was going on even then. Either way she was off the radar.

If they were back on track to discuss what was happening he needed to tell them. “Adam shared that Hercules strength was acquired and Atlas his heart was devoured. That in itself would break the Trials. To begin them an initiate has to be stand before the gods and judged whether or not they can complete. I doubt that was done. Power was stolen. Not only that Isis is actively working on the mortal plane which I believe is a non-even if she’s possessed a human. It’s less human and more Isis the goddess from what I can tell.” So right there you have a loophole to actively work, but then a breaking of at the trials.

“But the trials remain because…of a technicality. Zeus isn’t going to award Isis when she doesn’t play by the rules nor is he going to award me because I have technically not completed the trials.” I suck my teeth trying to weave it together some.

“Isis can’t afford a stalemate. She’s going to force his hand. Adam said she has her own power everything else is just juice for her to use, but for what. To restore Osiris? Perhaps, but to what degree. Life, death there has to be a balance. That much life has to be balanced by that much death to restore and to do whatever else she wants. I didn’t have a chance to look over the books, but it’s in there somewhere.” I explain

Once the power is gone it’s gone. It doesn’t come back.

“I didn’t get much more from Adam after that, because the Boiler Room was under siege by Crocodile Men and women some of them were high school students. Others were policemen. They could have been there for me, but I don’t even know if they knew I was there. I think they were there for Adam. Under orders from Isis. Could have been a clean-up crew, but these weren’t fake Tommy gun holding guys. They were even more vicious. They were wild ready to do death rolls with anyone that got in their way, but Adam marched out and tore through them like a lawnmower through grass. He didn’t just knock them down. He tore them apart one after the another. Bones shattering, flesh ripping, bodies torn in half.”

I could feel the blood draining away from my face. “I could hear it before I saw it and when I saw it that’s when I saw it that’s when I realized that these Croc People were students and probably teachers. Their clothing was hanging off them. There had been gun fire, because the FCPD arrived. Callaghan. He tracked me down, because he believed I was connected but he thought I was the one doing this. He realized he was wrong, but it was too late. All he could do was push me back and make sure none of the crocs could get me. His own men and women had been turned and that’s when I saw the responsible party. Sobek. With one slash he can turn someone into a crocperson. I watched Callaghan change before my eyes, but instead of lunging at me he shut the door.”

Sighing I don’t stop. “That Boiler Room melt down was Adam putting an end to it.” End justify the means. “When I opened the door I was here.” Here again. I could have been brought anywhere. The Sanctum is connected to places all over the world. I have to believe it brought me here for a reason.

“Not just Adam, but from Isis from both of them. Hell all of them.” Considering how screwed up this was. I made an impassioned plea for trust and now I was being asked to hand over the amulet. I hold my reflexes in check, because they’ll do me great disservice if I look at Cassie to get a nod of approval. That would shatter everything I just said.

Sliding my hand into my pocket I remove the amulet from it. Callaghan died to get this to me. He believed I would know what to do about it. Part of me wants to hold onto it to see if there was someone I could talk with Osiris. Is that a possibility without having him possess me? I could consult Solomon, but right now I press the amulet into Conner’s hand.

If this is going to work. If there is going to start somewhere it has to start here.

“We have to keep this out of play as long as we can. When this is over I’m going to want this back so it can be dealt with properly. Thank you, Superman.”

Cassie: No. It’s not okay for me to keep secrets, while he’s not allowed to. Just like it’s not actually okay for him to be murdering people while I’m not. Murder is still murder. Dishonesty is still dishonesty. Whether it’s against a CrocodileMoster that tried to disarm your girlfriend, or to keep your boyfriend from doing something you don’t want to do. It’s not that I don’t understand the disconnect here. I actually do. I feel awful for the secrets and the sneaking. I told Tim up front that I had a problem with it. I was just doing it anyway, managing the situation as best I could, because I needed to. I’m not sure that Conner would feel bad either way. He didn’t feel bad for the Crocodile in Fawcett. He was completely upfront about it, too. Wouldn’t apologize because he wasn’t sorry. And would have made the same choice over, and over if it were presented to him. Motivations don’t change an act being right or wrong. Conner just doens’t look at things the same way, and I’ve known that all along.

He’s also vastly oversimplifying everything that he’s just used as his examples but I’m not actually going to engage, or re-engage, in the argument right now. Because I don’t want to ramp it up again, but also because… this is exactly what he’d been building his indignation up towards earlier I think. That he thinks I keep changing the rules without letting him know I am. And that unlike in his VR childhood, he doesn’t get a do-over to get it right once I have. No take backsies. So how to break this down yet again to something simple…and hopefully inarguable…

“It’s not that, Conner. I trust you to be on my side, and I actually trust you more to make the good choices now than I did before. But I also know that you work with mind readers that I don’t trust at all, and I am not entirely sure how solid your mental Fortress of Solitude is.”

Or if it just basically consists of constantly projecting awful and lewd things so that the rest of his ‘team’ does their best to shut him out. Knowing him that’s a great strategy. Unless they have to look for something because. Say. Wonder Woman just trounced one of NOWHERE’s agents with Batman in Central City and they need to find out if he knows what I’m up to.

“…and she is not my best friend, and all of that was by attrition and you damn well know it.”

The two most likely to be labeled best friend for me are, well. Him. Or his best friend. Definitely not any of the girls I know from school, and double definitely not M’gan/Kelsey. Maybe if I met her in different circumstances, or she hadn’t gotten the impression that high school should be like Gossip Girl and she spent a solid year bullying the bejeezus out of me. That one I think drank the Koolaid without realizing what it was. And as for Raven. Well. Raven I can’t say the same for. Still. I’m squinting at Conner for a moment. Not because of his manipulations at getting a well connected ‘best friend.’ But because I don’t actually know if Tim told Conner his secret or not. It would make my life a lot easier, and all of this easier to talk about with him if he had.

So I go the route that was public. The world saw Wonder Woman out with Batman in Central City. Obviously we were working together, because the Bat was outside of Gotham, which meant something brought us there together.

“No Tooth Fairy. Just from Batman. And so far his intell seems to be pretty spot on.”

I end up folding my arms across my chest again, but not because I’m on guard from more verbal sparring with my boyfriend. Freddy’s finally telling the story of what landed him here in Metropolis today, and I’m listening with rapt attention because I need to know. Anything and everything to understand what’s going on, and to piece it all together. My expression goes pretty quickly from attentive to ill and distressed.

“…oh, Freddy…”

It’s barely above a whisper. I felt awful from hearing the news, and the truth is so much worse. Having the men from the bank be people that were at least crooks to begin with had softened their situation a little. These were kids. Innocent people that were used, and then torn apart without a care in the world because it was convenient or useful for an opposing set of Gods and Monsters. My shoulders shift quickly, partly shaking myself back into the present and partly out of a shudder of disgust.

“With all that lightning… do you think it’s possible she’s dead? That Isis is possessing someone else now? Did Adam say what he wanted in the Sanctum?”

I’m more than a little shocked that Conner offers to take the amulet. A degree of extra shocked past that when Freddy actually does it. I assume he means to give it to my Mother, actually, but I’m not going to question or clarify. It’s a display of attempted trust and I’m not going to ruin it on accident.

“It’s not the only one. There’s more of them. Like. Tons of them. Supposedly they’ve all got protectors in place but…”

So did this one. Freddy just wasn’t ready, and Billy was dead. And it means it’s only a matter of time if we let this drag out.

Conner: So. She trusts me, but not the people I work with. I can actually see that point, accept it as valid and even to a point agree with it. But. “Babe, listen to yourself. You don’t trust the people I work with. But at least -I- trusted you enough to let you know them and make that choice not to trust them. Again. You don’t even trust me to make that choice. So you make it -for- me. You want me to buy in to a War, for the side that I don’t even know. With not a single person I have a single reason to trust. Except … your side has a secret ninja meta-human that attacked me while I was trying to help her.”

“Yeah. Your friends sound loads better.” That scowl tells the story of my sarcasm, but… “I’m not trying to prolong our … disagreement… I just don’t think you -see- how unfair you’re treating me. And I’m the jerk in this relationship. You’re totally stealing my thunder.”

It’s probably best to leave the discussion about M’Gann alone for now. We’re getting a little deep in to other people’s business. Giving away details that might get us both in trouble. Or get Freddy mind-wiped. So I’m choosing, with a shrug of the broad shoulders, to accept her point. Look there? Turning the other cheek from one thing, to the other. Freddy’s ‘story’ is more like a nightmare. Not for the first time, am I more than a little okay with the fact that stuff like this doesn’t make me cringe quite like it makes Cassie’s shoulders hunch up.

“Gods can’t die,” I seem awfully firm on this subject. “There are states they can be taken to that are ‘good as death,’ but they don’t die. Not in any conventional way. Captured? Taken Prisoner? Sure. Tortured. Tormented. Even vivisected. Can do. Sent away. Teleported in to space. Shot in to the sun? Even banished to other dimensions or having their astral essence separated from their corporeal form? Doable. But they’re a lot like the Universe’s cockroaches. They always turn back up. Trust me on this. N.O.W.H.E.R.E. has done extensive research and testing.”

Which is also a bit more information. For Freddy, but also for Cassie. We’ve talked before about the sacrifices I was forced to make to be allowed to ‘Keep her.’ She held a wealth of benefit as an asset, but there were clearly other things she could have provided to the Project. Not all of which would have required her to be complicit. A demigod to test? She’s prime, grade-A, material.

I didn’t expect him to give the Amulet to me in the first place, but the moment it’s in my palm? The ‘Wisdom of Solomon,’ is no doubt going to pick out the way the artifact actually doesn’t touch my skin. It’s maybe a micro-meter off the surface of my flesh. Kept just a bit away from actual contact. I’ve dealt with magical items before. They were one of Superman’s weaknesses. Like I said. Those were bread out of me. I’m all but immune to the effects of magic because, for the most part, they simply can’t touch me. My fingers close around the amulet, and it’s carefully tucked in to my pocket.

“Don’t worry,” shooting a glance from Freddy to Cassie as I speak. “I’m not going to give it to NOWHERE. Despite the fact that I’m pretty sure they’d take your side in this against Adam. I’m equally sure Raven shouldn’t be allowed near this anymore than Him. Until it’s safe, I’ll hold on to it personally.”

“We should put this in your Mom’s vault, Cassie. The one in the Museum Basement that she thinks I can’t see because it’s lined with Lead.”

FreddY:One compartment was closed and another had opened. It was all about getting the job done now. Which meant that if the amulet was safe I had to figure out what the next move was. “It’s possible that the human shell, Aunty Minerva , was destroyed and now Isis was back in the body of Adam’s wife. As Mister Spock says, “There are always possibilities,” and right now all I can do is speculate. Given that she hasn’t reemerged I would say yes she’s gone, but if someone’s aware of who she is if they can check into that they could probably find out faster than we could. Callaghan could.” But that’s no longer possible. Either way it’s difficult to say.

He nodded to what Conner said about killing a god. He had seen that first hand when Callaghan was killed and Achilles blessing was transferred to him. “In the end energy is energy. It cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be transferred or converted.” It was another way of thinking about it.

“Also, Adam said she that she was delayed. That we were only delaying her. I think if I had to hedge a guess, Aunty Minerva was a mule of sorts.” That’s what it felt like the more he thought about it. There was something a thought that crossed my mind, but I wasn’t sure if I should share it. I was a stray thought of look at me while I’m here instead of looking over there.

Apparently, there were a lot of moving pieces in other areas, but it was best not to engage. The air had been let out of the room and continued to be let out of the room, but add anything to it and it would only build back up. I had a good idea of where everyone stood in general. Navigating that would become an art onto itself, but for the moment I had to focus my thoughts on what I knew, what I thought and how to best use that information so I could act.

I still had the lingering question of where was the Wizard? Was he out of harm’s way? I couldn’t sit and chat with Adam he wasn’t in a chatting mood.

“When I first arrived I thought he may have come to seek the Wizard, but he may have been on the heels of Isis. Before the almost heist at the bank I had been out of the area.” My trials had taken me away from the City. “It’s possible he was attempting to determine how to safely separate his wife and Isis or determine what her end goal was. Adam said she suffered because their people had suffered.” He considered that.

“Perhaps that’s a place to start. If Isis has returned to his wife I’m at a loss, because I don’t know what his wife looks like in the here and now. That would take time, but maybe by removing the amulet we’re force her hand and she’ll expose herself.” I need to collect my thoughts and go over everything that happened, but right now at least I knew the amulet was out of play.

Solmon gathered information about Conner, information that would be tucked away to go over at another time or perhaps now. It may be something to use. Just a matter of how and when. Right now I needed to look at the books. Those books on Osiris and Hades those might hold something. I needed to take another look at them. We need time and right now it was slipping away.

“I need to go back to the Sanctum. There might be something there I overlooked. I have more time than I did before. I need to review those books. It may give us clues.” A chance to keep pace with Isis and predict Adam’s next move.

Cassie: Yes, darling you are the jerk in this relationship. It goes unsaid though, at least out loud. Conner said it for me, I suppose. My lips purse and pull sharply to the side once again. Clearly I don’t agree. Well, actually I do agree that my friends are better, but he’s being sarcastic about it. He knows more about Black Canary than I do, and otherwise my ‘friends’ consist of his best friend, Freddy here, and hopefully a speedster from Central City. Who has an outlook a lot like Freddy’s. He wants to help people. So I let my face say what I’m not saying. And that we’re definitely not done with this topic in the long haul but for now?

“Which is why she tried to get you to give up yours before. Why the Gods only have one champion at a time, even though there might be dozens of people worthy of being one.”

Absently nodding to what both of the boys are saying. Freddy takes my thought, and fleshes it out with something that makes sense. We’d seen ‘Minerva’ explode in the lightning. That was an amount of power and force meant to destroy the shell at least. Minerva herself not being around would be a kind of confirmation, and Isis’ energy having to return to where it came from, or to its previous host made sense. There’s just something that doesn’t click or connect for me. What hadAdam given to Minerva on that security footage I saw? If she were an unwitting mule maybe that had been the transfer but it doesn’t make sense to me. If he’s trying to stop his wife, why would he help her get closer? Or maybe Isis had already been in Minerva and he was trying to act against her… except I think that the display would have been a lot more than scowling if that were the case.

I’m in agreement with my Superboyfriend. Maybe not for the same reasoning but ancient artifacts are Mom’s thing. I just didn’t know exactly how MUCH of Mom’s thing they were until the other night.

“…ugh. Lead lined? Really? Do these people not understand you don’t put giant red buttons with ‘dont’ push me’ signs on them if you don’t expect them to be pushed…”

I’d like to think my Mom’s smarter than that. She also knows Conner almost as well as I do. She’d probably take his side in all this, too, in fact. Either way, it’s a perfectly good place to stash the thing.  I turn back to Freddy one last time, nodding my understanding. I want to give him another reassuring hug, or at least a solid arm pat but I opt to stay at my point of the triangle we’ve formed here. I don’t need to antagonize anyone further than I already have.

“Okay. Stay safe. Let me… us… know if you find anything, and we’ll do the same.”

Conner: This entire discussion has left me feeling… strange about a lot of things. Not just about the resentment I’m feeling, but also about how I’ve been viewing a lot of the world. How much of what I’ve heard Raven say did I actually retain? Not a whole lot. A lot of the things she or Doctor Fairchild say is in one ear and out the other, because it’s information that I’ve considered up until now to be inapplicable to my life. Even while dating Cassie, we didn’t have to deal with things of this nature because she wouldn’t venture out of her backyard to fight crime. Much less fighting other demigods, real gods or clandestine organization. Now that things have changed, I’m regretting that I didn’t pay more attention.

“When Black Adam caused all that damage to New Troy, he was looking for something. I’ll find out what he was looking for and exactly where. While you’re looking in to this ‘Sanctum,’ I’ll get as much information as I can from my sources. Then Cassie and I can check in to whatever this Adam guy was looking for.”

I’m not entirely sure what they’re talking about when it comes to ‘giving up his,’ nor this Aunty Minerva stuff. I’m more than a little lost on about half of the things they’re discussing. But what I do know, is that the three of us actually agree on a central ‘Bad Guy’ here. That no matter which set of friends we, Cassie and I, agree upon? Both sets don’t care for people like Black Adam. There is a bridge there, that she and I can walk upon to find a way out of this quagmire of irritation at one another.

There’s also a very strange surety over this just being irritation. Not genuine anger. Because as much as it makes me angry, I’m not angry at Cassie. I’m angry that a situation exists that would cause me to -be- angry even near her. Which in and of itself serves to make me a little annoyed, because I’ve got all the impact of being mad at Cassie. Without the actual anger at her specifically. It’s like this terribly inconvenient black hole of anger. With no one for me to aim that anger at or make pay for the problem.

“In the mean time. You and I have a date, Cass. This time you’d better stock up on carbs before hand.”

The fire engine red Ferrari isn’t actually parked outside. No way I could have gotten here that quickly in a car, no matter how poorly I drove it. So in lue of that, I offer her my other hand. She doesn’t have to take it, but I want her too. Because the truth is, we need some alone time to discuss things and I can get the two of us out of here without being seen. Even by the Security Cameras.

Cassie: That little teeny part of me that likes to act counter to what sense and my usual sort of behavior would have me do wants very much to just look at that offered hand and speed my own self out of here. Or to just walk out, much as I walked in, like a normal sort of human girl would do. But the truth is, despite the continued lesser bickering that went on afterwards Freddy’d made a lot of sense. About a lot of things. And pointed out things I should have known and didn’t.Conner had, too. Just maybe without as much clarity. Or maybe he could have been crystal clear and it still wouldn’t have come across quite the same because of my irritation.

But not so deep down? In fact most of the conscious parts of me… feel pretty poorly about the entire thing. Have for a while. Having to be confronted with the actually hurt feelings of my invulnerable boyfriend makes it exponentially worse. So I take what I’m going to pretend is an olive branch and I lace my fingers into his. Taking it past that and moving in so my shoulder bumps his. Not necessary for him to move me. Tactile Telekinesis… but still. Nice. And a little body language micro-apology.

“…yikes. Before? I didn’t need to go to the rest of those classes today anyway.”