Ah don't own them (more's the pity!) DC does! And if'n ya'll sue moi, Clark and Lar are gonna be right peeved

Rated R for explicit m/m sex. So if'n that offends ya'll, skedaddle:):)

Obviously, Ah have ignored current DC canon regarding both Superboy (now non-existent) and Mon-El (now known as Valor) and other matters regarding the Legion Of Super Heroes! Truth to tell Ah am so confused, what with all the retcons and such that Ah have fallen back on the continuity that Ah know; the Pre-Crisis Earth 2 Universe where Superboy rescued Mon-El from his drifting spaceship, befriended him and then accidentally gave him a fatal dose of lead poisoning. This forced the Boy of Steel to project him into The Phantom Zone where poor Lar languished for a thousand years until Brainiac 5 invented a cure for lead poisoning sometime toward the end of the 30th Century. Ah crave ya'll's indulgence:):) Ah hope this little tale is worth that sacrifice.

This story was more or less inspired by ace SF author Larry Niven's now classic (and hysterical!) exploration of the ins and outs of Superman's sex life, "Man Of Steel, Woman Of Kleenex". Therein, Mr. Niven, gentleman that he is, discreetly says that in the course of trying to figure out how Clark can get his ashes hauled he shall ignore the existence of Supergirl ... After all, she's his cousin! Mercy! Of course it occurred to slashy-minded moi that Kara isn't the only one who could handily survive young Kal-El's passion:):) *snicker* And Clark met him a long time before he even knew of the existence of Kara and Argo City or the Bottle City of Kandor (all of which might be handy solutions to his sexual frustrat - er - dilemma!) In fact he met him at just about the right age to be open to experimentation ...

Feedback is always appreciated:):)


A Legion Of Superheroes Tale by Dannell Lites

Why must I always be the bearer of bad news? The one who points out the obvious, saying the things that no one wants to hear?

My name is Querl Dox and I am a Legionnaire. I am, perhaps, better known as Brainiac 5. But my name is Querl. I am not a cruel man. No, I am not. It disturbs me to do these things. I take no pleasure in always being right. Please believe that. I am not unfeeling. But I am practical. It was the Terran philosopher Nietzsche who asked, "Who will accomplish the hard tasks? The ones that no else wants to soil their hands with?"

He who can, of course. In this instance that would be me. Again.

"Kal-El," I said quietly, "May I speak with you?"

With a smile he broke off his conversation with Element Lad and trotted to my side. Jan is a bit ... odd ... much too reclusive; it was good to see him enjoying something as social as a simple conversation. And Superboy always trots. He is forever in motion as if time were a finite enemy he could outdistance with his great power.

"Call me Clark, Brainy," he invited.

I forced myself not to frown. I am a learned man, skilled in many scientific disciplines and I do not enjoy being reduced to less than I am by so demeaning a thing as a "nickname". But I said nothing. Among humans the acquisition of such a diminutive soubrette is a mark of affection and I have always treated it as such.

But I do not enjoy it.

"Clark," I amended.

"What can I do for you?" he wanted to know. I hesitated. For all my encyclopedic knowledge I am not a diplomat. There seemed no gentle way to begin.

"Have you seen Tasmia today?" I asked. My voice was as neutral as I could make it.

From the look on his face, it was plain that he had. His lips thinned into an angry thin white line, then he looked away. As I said; the hard things no one else wishes to face. But time was running out.

"Something must be done," I said. He bit his lip and if he had not been invulnerable he would have bled. He shut his eyes, a literal interpretation of the psychology of his reply.

"I - don't know what you mean," he stammered. I sighed. He was not going to allow me to be kind.

"Yes," I replied carefully, "you do. Or am I mistaken in my belief that the flesh colored makeup and long sleeves that Tasmia is wearing today means that she and Mon-El have had another ... accident?"

His shoulders slumped in defeat and he leaned imperceptibly against the wall at his back for support. He began to bite at his nails. Futilely, of course. His fingernails are as invulnerable as the rest of him. The only part of Superboy that is not immune to pain is his heart. In that, at least, he is like all the rest of us.

"Something must be done," I said again and I saw the line of his jaw set then harden. I was about to lose him and there was too much at stake to allow that to happen. It began to seem as if I would be forced to fall back on an emotional appeal. This was disturbing. I am not good at such things. But I had to try.

"Clark," I said, laying my hand on his shoulder in sympathy, "I know how difficult this must be for you ... " His wide blue eyes regarded me for long moments. For an instant it was like floating on the surface of Earth's ocean; there are signs and portents of the depths beneath, but they are well guarded.

"Do you, Brainy?" he asked. He shook his head and the unruly curl on his forehead bounced merrily. "No, I don't think so." I tried another tact.

"He's dangerous, Clark ... "

At his side, his hands, those hands that can move mountains, lay waste to cities and continents, knotted into spasmodic fists.

"Don't you think I know that!" he cried. "I've told myself over and over and over again that when you're as strong as Lar it's easy to ... misjudge. And I should know! You don't understand what that's like! Everything is so ... so ... fragile ... " His voice trailed away. And though my heart ached for him I was relentless.

"Have you ever ... misjudged?" I demanded.

"N-no," he admitted. I persevered in my unwanted mission.

"Neither has Jo. But unless I am very much mistaken, and I am not, this is the second time this month that Mon-El has ... misjudged ... Tasmia." Clark looked very much as if he wanted to cry, which was quite startling.

"It's getting worse," I pointed out, shifting uneasily on my feet.

This was true. In the beginning there had only been the occasional loud, vociferous argument. Heads turned and tongues wagged but official silence reigned. No one wants to involve themselves in a private lovers quarrel, after all. And then Tasmia began having ... accidents. She fell coming in or out of the transport tube and my wasn't that an odd place for a door? Nothing definitive or life threatening. Small things. An odd bruise or two, a painfully jammed finger, an inconvenient sprained wrist. Mon-El was very solicitous. "If I get any clumsier," quipped Shadow Lass, "I'll be ready for the Retirement Asteroid!" We all laughed.

It took quite some time for us to realize the truth, I'm sad to say. No one wanted to believe that Mon-El could do such a thing. But, on the day that Tasmia came to Dr. Gym'll with two cracked ribs, we stopped laughing and began to believe. I think Violet tried to help her. Salu is a kind soul.

"It was an accident!" Tasmia kept firmly insisting. "Mon would never intentionally hurt me. Never!" But, she had two more accidents that month.

"Mon-El needs help - " I began, but Superboy cut me off with an abrupt gesture.

"Lar!" he was virtually shouting at me, "Lar Gand! He has a name! It's Lar! Lar Gand!" This was not going well. I had to find some way to reach him. But how?

"Clark, please ... " I let an air of pleading touch my voice. "He might listen to you." By now we were alone. The others had discreetly withdrawn and left me to my unpleasant task. I found my courage again although it was not easy. "And if he doesn't ... "

"And if he doesn't - WHAT?" Clark hissed. I steeled myself and said what was necessary.

"And if he doesn't," I continued carefully but very plainly, "then you are the only the one who can stop him," I told him. He turned pale as a rain washed bone beneath the healthy glow of his golden skin. He looked so stricken that I almost stilled my voice and left him in peace, then, despite the consequences.


I hardened my heart, but my stomach was not so kind. It clenched and spasmed. A vague queasiness seized me when I gazed into his despairing eyes. I said that I am not unfeeling; why would I lie about such a thing?

"No! You don't know what you're asking! No!" Painfully, he groped for a chair and fell heavily into it. Like a great oak felled by a persistent woodsman's ax, his head slumped forward onto the plasticene of the great meeting table of the Legion Conference Room as if its weight were too great a burden for him to bear just now. Head cradled in his arms, he began to weep then; softly, from the heart as if he might never stop, but without any great bother. Almost as if he hoped it would go unnoticed. Clark does not like to make a fuss.

It is not often that I am at a loss for words though I use them sparingly. I am not a physical person, however. I dislike to be touched without my permission. But for all his Kryptonian genes, Clark is human and humans have a need to be touched and comforted when they suffer pain. I stroked his hair, murmuring inarticulately. The words did not matter, I think. It was enough that I was willing to say them. After a moment he quieted and wiped his eyes on his sleeve. Pain, I have discovered, whether of the body or of the mind, is frequently messy and indelicate.

"Would - would you like to talk about this?" I asked awkwardly.

Fervently, I wished for Kara. She would know what to do. My lovely Supergirl has guided me though many an emotional travail. It was obvious that her young cousin had great need of her now. But since Kara was a thousand years away in her home century, there was only me. I must suffice. And I, of course, had no idea how to proceed. For many long moments he said nothing, held his silence, lying very still. I had almost given up hope of reaching him, when he stirred, lifting his head and regarding me with a level gaze from out of now dry eyes. When he spoke at last his voice was so soft I almost missed it. But not quite.

"When I was fifteen years old," he said clearly, "I found out that I wasn't a person. Not human. See, up until then I always thought that I was. Not a normal human, no. But human, anyway. I was wrong. I found out that I wasn't ever going to have a normal life; never get married or have kids like everybody else. I found out a lot of bad things that summer." He stared off into the distance. The corners of his mobile usually smiling mouth tugged downward as if they had weights dangling from them.

"There aren't any other like me, you know. I'm the last of my kind."

For some odd reason it had never occurred to me before how lonely he must be. He has always seemed so happy, he made it difficult to see him in any other light. But he was correct. Search among the stars (and he has), you will not find his like anywhere. With the exception of Kara he is the last Kryptonian. There are no others. They are all dead. And for a young boy to discover that he is an alien and the last survivor of his people must have been crushing. It must have seemed like the end of the world. Why had so few of us ever realized that before, I wondered? Surely we are not so insular and thoughtless. Are we?

Apparently so.

"And then, suddenly, I wasn't alone," Clark continued, his voice low and quiet. He stared down at the table. "There was Lar. It was like waking up from a nightmare. We played baseball on the Moon and I took him to all my special places. The ones I hadn't had anyone to share with before." He tucked his hands into the safety of his armpits, perhaps to warm them or to still them.

"There's a giant crystal cave near the edge of the Earth's mantle that's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. It sparkles and shines so gloriously it's hard to breathe when you gaze at it. It's like being inside a huge jewel. But normal people can't see it. You have to be able to see into the infrared and the ultraviolet." He closed his eyes at the joyous memory. He was almost smiling now.

"Did you know that orchids talk to one another with scent signals? They do. But normal people can't understand them, because they don't have a sense of smell that's keen enough to detect the esters they release. And paramecium dance when they bud to make another paramecium. They're almost as graceful as birds. But you need microscopic vision to watch them." He ran his fingers through his hair, looked up at me pleadingly.

"Do you understand? I finally had someone to talk to. Someone who could share with me all the extraordinary things about my life. And - and - and the sad things, too." He stumbled over the words like a runner at the end of a long race who is very tired but who, nevertheless, must finish the course. I was afraid he might cry again but he did not.

"There aren't many people I can ... I can be ... close ... to," he murmured. His embarrassed flush caught me by surprise. What ...?

I must admit that it took me a moment to grasp the entirety of his meaning. He was not talking about emotional closeness, now. My skin tone does not readily lend itself to easy detection of emotions the way fairer human skin does. I do not think Clark saw me blush. But he may have.

I am, of course, one of the first persons to which something of this nature should have occurred. My experiences with Kara have been all too few, but most instructional. Pain usually is. Kara is always quite careful not to injure me when we make love. While in the grip of passion she could quite literally kill me. Were it not for my invulnerable force shield she might indeed have done so.

And the same holds even truer for Clark. For a 15-year-old boy to face such a thing is a most unpleasant thought. My eyes widened unbidden when I realized precisely what Clark was trying to tell me. He is not a telepath like Imra so I know that he did not read my mind. But it seemed as if he did. He nodded.

"Lar was the first," he admitted. He blushed, furiously. "And so far, the only one. I've never ... I've never been with anyone else."

"I didn't know," I said.

For long moments he hung his head and I could think of nothing to say. After all, how does one tell a lonely youth that the only person with whom he has been able to share his body and his deepest passions may now have become someone dangerous whom he may be forced to hurt? A moot question, actually. I seemed to have found a way. That was never in question.

The question was: Was he listening?

Silently, I brought him a glass of my favorite beverage, Kono juice. I doubt that he even paused long enough to savor the flavor of this rare drink. Only the wine they call Lacrima Astera, the Star's Tears, is more costly or scarce. He drank it down without comment and stood staring at the glass. Another oddity. The glass is made of transparent syntho-viridium, the same material as the viewports on the great Interstellar Cruise ships that ply tourist between the stars at such exorbitant prices. It was designed and created to withstand the tremendous pressures of space; virtually indestructible. Small pressure fractures began to radiate outward from the tips of his fingers where they touched the glass.

Gently, I lay my hands on his and he allowed me to extract the glass from his grasp and I set it carefully aside. He gazed down at his hands almost as though he didn't recognize them. As if they were suddenly alien things that had somehow betrayed him.

Feeling suddenly very tired, I sat down and regarded him for a moment. This next would be difficult for me to admit, but I knew that I must. Failure is always such a humiliating thing, is it not?

"If it makes things any easier for you," I said, my voice low and quiet, "it isn't his fault. He's not responsible." Confusion warred with hope in his eyes.

"What do you mean," he demanded. "If Lar's not to blame who is?" I took a deep cleansing preparatory breath and steeled myself against the tide of guilt that threatened to overwhelm me.

"I am," I admitted.

He blinked back confusion, his blue eyes boring into mine.

"You?" he shook his head. "How could you be responsible for Lar's - Lar's ... problem ...?"

Careful, I took a seat beside him, clearing my throat. There must be no mistake here. I am told that confession is good for the soul. If this is true I was about to improve the state of my soul immensely with my next painful words.

"The serum," I explained, remaining as calm as I could. "The serum I invented to cure him of his lead poisoning. It isn't working effectively anymore." The relief that flooded his youthful features was quite palpable. And most painful.

"Then all he needs to put him right is a fresh dose!" he cried. "How soon can you -"

"I'm afraid it's not that simple," I said, hiding my guilty, writhing fingers in my lap, unseen, beneath the concealing table.

Disconsolately, I wished for the familiar simplicity and safety of my lab. There I am in control. There lurks none of this emotional morass that is so very puzzling and unpredictable. The laws of physics are immutable. God does not play dice with the Universe. The same cannot be said of sentient beings. Their feelings cannot be reduced to simple quadratic equations. They are not logical. There was, to be rational, no reason that I should be experiencing such crushing guilt about this. I did my best for Mon - Lar Gand. In fact, I saved his life and released him from a thousand years of torment in the Phantom Zone. So why, then, this overwhelming sense of failure and grief?

I believe I have already observed that such things are not logical.

"The effects of the serum are cumulative," I attempted to explain. "The more he takes of it, the more of it he requires to offset the damage done to his mind and body by the lead. And the less time it takes to wear off. The serum will never be totally ineffective. He won't die." For a moment the relief was back and he let out a shaky, grateful breath. I looked away as I was once again forced to destroy his joy.

"But he is slowly, inexorably going mad."

"Well," he said bitter in his sadness and despair, "I guess you'd know about that, wouldn't you?"

It was the only time I ever heard him utter a hurtful word to another being. Somehow, I felt less than privileged by the honor of being his first such target. I have never known a soul more reluctant than Clark's to harm another either with his body or his mind. At first I made no reply. He was, after all, quite correct. I am intimate with the damning embrace of madness. For a moment he looked shamed by his hasty words.

"Indeed, I would," I was forced to agree. "No one knows better than I how dangerous madmen can be. As I was dangerous. Computo is living proof of that, is it not? As Lar is dangerous. And with his powers that is ... unacceptable. He is, without doubt, one of the most powerful beings in the Universe. Imagine the damage he could do. The destruction ... " He paled.

"Yes," I nodded in accord. "Frightening isn't it?"

It is sometimes difficult to believe the feats that Clark and Lar can accomplish with their vast powers. Until you have seen it for yourself as I have. And even then it is staggering. Mon-El once fetched for me a small fragment of Earth's sun for one of my experiments. Inconceivable. Yet I saw him do it. I was there. Casually, he held a piece of a star in his hands, contained in its magnetic force shield and grinned at me.

"Where do you want it, Querl?" he asked.

"Why me?" Clark said. "Why does it have to be me?"

"Because you are the only one who can," I reminded him, hardening my heart once more. It was not an easy thing to do. No, it was not.

Unbidden, his fist descended upon the plasticene-duranium alloy table and shattered it. He looked on in horror for long minutes at what he had done before he collected himself. His hands shook and his lips trembled but his voice was absolutely calm. Unlike the rest of his body it did not betray him at all.

"Where is he?" he asked.

"According to the Monitor Board, he and Tasmia are in her room, sleeping." He merely nodded.

"Let's go," he said, determined to accomplish this thing and be done with it.

From the instant we stood outside Tasmia's room I sensed something dreadfully wrong. Neither of them responded to the vocom annunciator. For an instant Clark's eyes narrowed in concentration, as if he were watching something at a distance, that no one else could see.

"Oh God!" he cried, "No, no, no, no!"

With a single motion he ripped the door from out of the wall and sent it sailing down the corridor like a feather in the maelstrom of a hurricane.

Kneeling in a spreading pool of dark Talokian blood, Mon-El clutched his lover Shadow Lass, limp in his arms, while he rocked back and forth, back and forth. When he gazed up at us the look of confusion and devastation in his eyes was wrenching. He looked so very lost.

"Ma he lan," he choked, "ma he lan ..." Daxamite is a beautiful language even when begging for forgiveness. "Ma he lan ... " he kept pleading, "Ma he lan ... " almost like a prayer. And I suppose that's exactly what it was.

Blood stained everything, lying over every surface in the room; on the floor where they huddled, on the bed where they had lain, on the walls. There were fist sized holes in the metals walls and all the furniture lay in broken ruins, flung haphazardly about the small room. Around the edges lingered faint traces of swiftly fading darkness. Tasmia fought back as best she could, apparently. Through the blood and destruction, I could see the faint, labored raise and fall of Tasmia's breathing. She was still alive. But we would have to hurry.

Frankly, I was at a loss. Mon-El was clutching her in his super strong arms like a drowning man. He couldn't seem to decide what to do with his hands. At once he was terrified of touching her and completely unable to let her go. Keening like a small, confused child whose favorite, beloved toy lies mysteriously broken from too rough play, he looked to Clark and I to set things right again. Impossible, of course. Things were never going to be right ever again. Not for Lar.

Literally faster than the eye could follow, Clark was at Lar's aside. Hands on the older youth's shoulders he shook him gently.

"Lar, listen to me," he said clearly, his voice calm and firm. "Listen to me! We need to help Tasmia. She'll be safe with us. We won't let anything happen to her, I promise. But you've got to let go of her, do you understand? You've got to let go of her. Please." Slowly, Lar released his grip on the severely injured Tasmia, giving her like a precious gift into Clark's care.

"Brainy!" cried Clark and I speedily gathered Tasmia's nude body and ran for the MedBay with her in my arms. I watched Clark tenderly wipe Tasmia's blood from Lar's face as I left. The last thing I heard was the sound of muffled sobs. I'm not sure whose they were.

Nor am I sure how much later it was before I faced Superboy again in the outer MedBay Recovery Room. Quite some time I suspect. I know that I did not see him enter with the dazed Mon-El and sedate him with an alpha wave generated sleep field. But there he was dreaming away on the tiny bed that was almost too small for his tall body. Asleep, he looked so innocent and harmless, his features devoid of the consuming rage that must have possessed him earlier.

At Lar's bedside Clark looked up at me expectantly. Gingerly, I sat down in a floating hoverchair. It would be poetic but quite false to say that my lassitude and enervation were the result of some physical malaise. No, it was not my body that was weary.

"I have her stabilized," I answered Superboy's unspoken question. "I've called for Doctor Gym'll and she'll be transported to Medicus One as soon as possible."

He breathed relief and his lips moved silently in what may have been a prayer of thanksgiving.

"Then she'll be okay?"

I nodded. "Eventually," I told him. "She's lost a lot of blood and almost every bone in her body is broken, but she'll recover."

I rubbed burning eyes and shook my head. "Tasmia isn't the problem." I pointed at the slumbering Lar to make myself plain. "What happens when he wakes?" I demanded.

"There must be something you can do!" he insisted stubbornly.

"Oh yes," I replied quietly, "with your help Doctor Gym'll could perform surgery and cut away the part of his mind where the rage lies. I believe even after a thousand years they still refer to it as a lobotomy." For a moment he looked as if he were going to be quite ill. I handed him a glass of water.

"And there are drugs," I conceded. "I have sedatives that would tranquilize an active supernova. Of course there won't be much of Lar left by the time they're done."

"But the serum," he foundered, helpless, "isn't there some way you can -"

I resisted the urge to throw something against the wall. I am as capable of anger and frustration as any sophont. I simply realize the futility of such things. But they prick me as strongly as any other being.

"The serum," I snapped, "took me years of research to develop! Years! And it was ultimately a failure. We have no time, I tell you. He's completely out of control. You saw!" His eyes darted against their will in the direction of the Main Medical Bay and Tasmia.

I forced myself back to calmness, brought my straining breath to a more even pace. He simply refused to see. There was no other explanation for it. He knew as well as I what the only viable solution was. He was, after all, the first to employ it. But he was going to make me say it. He was determined to force me into the role of cold, heartless logician by his stubborn unwillingness to face the truth. So be it. It would scarcely be the first time I endured such an inequity. Nor, I suspected, the last.

"There is only one thing to do," I said, my blunt words echoing off the hollowness of the Recovery Room walls. "The Phantom Zone." I saw his eyes widen in denial. "He'll be safe there," I promised, searching with feeble words for some solace with which to balm his pain. "And perhaps one day he can come home. Someday."

It was a Terran who once observed that the truth will make you free. Ridiculous. It has been my observation that the truth only brings anger and sadness in its wake, not joy and freedom. Most sentients are ill equipped to deal with the unadorned truth and avoid it with assiduous dexterity. Ask Imra about the truth. She knows. Saturn Girl, that potent telepath, knows more truth than she ever desired. Fortunately, she keeps most of it to herself and does not burden others. But they burn her, those truths, and she must guard herself against them.

Clark shot out of his chair and sent it spinning into the wall at his back. The sound of rending, splintering metal is disturbingly similar to the sound of breaking bone.

"No!" Superboy swore, "you'll have to go through me first! You hear me? I won't let you do that to him! Not again!" Protectively, he stepped between my threatening body and the sleeping Lar, hovering. With surreptitious stealth I activated my impenetrable force field and began reviewing the current roster of who might be available to aid me if necessary. I am a practical man, after all.

"I won't let you!" Clark shouted again.

"Sure you will," said a deep level voice at our backs.

"He can't stop me!" Clark cried before he knew who had spoken.

"Maybe he can't," said Lar Gand, "but I can."

Clark was so startled that he lost his concentration, fell about three inches to the carpeted floor and stumbled forward before he caught himself with one hand.

"Lar? I - " he stammered.

Mon-El smiled at Clark and pushed himself painfully to a sitting position as the ergonomic bed hastened to cushion him. He lay his head on his knees for an instant, then looked up at me with steady, piercing blue eyes.

"This - this isn't going to go away, is it?" Resignation echoed in the softness of his voice.

I wasn't surprised that he discerned the problem. He is, after all, something of a scientist and engineer himself. Slowly, I shook my head in silent affirmation of his fears. He swallowed hard and looked away. But when he saw Clark's face set and harden in determination he managed a sad smile.

"Querl, I need to talk to Kal. Alone, okay?"

Lar is the only one he permits to call him Kal-El. With all others he is polite but firm in his insistence that he is Clark. I am not sure why this is so. Perhaps it is simply a mark of the kinship he feels for this time lost Daxamite who shares so many of his strengths and weaknesses. Kal-El is not a part of himself he trusts in the sometimes cruel hands of most others. Kal-El is a lonely alien who does not share much in common with Clark Kent of Smallville, Kansas. Kal-El is strange and odd, easily feared and set apart, forever exiled from his birthright. Lar Gand is the only one, I think, that Clark trusts not to reject and hurt Kal-El.

Swiftly, I retreated to the Main Medical Bay. I wrestled with my conscience for many long minutes before I turned on the main monitor in the Waiting Room. I am not a voyeur. I am not. Like my unfortunate penchant for being right, I take no pride in what I did next. It was simply ... necessary. Knowledge is power. And I had to know what they decided. What they would do.

When the monitor screen flickered silently to life, Clark perched like a nervous bird who desperately wishes to take flight on the edge of Lar's bed, feet dangling over the side. It was written in his face. He wanted to touch Mon-El. The ache of it was in his eyes. But he only stared down at his hands, entwined in the scarlet cloth of his cape, his restless fingers tying and untying busy knot after busy knot. Gentle fingers lifted the younger boy's chin, forcing him to stare into Lar Gand's eyes. Mon-El leaned forward and rested his forehead on Superboy's as if he were very tired or very frightened.

"Kal, you've got to help me here," he pleaded, his tone forlorn. "I can't do this by myself. I'm not strong enough. And Querl is right. It has to be done. So you've got to be strong for me, okay? Because I can't be. Not about this. It's cold and dark there and I'll be all alone again. And I can't do what I have to do unless I know that you're going to be all right. Promise me that. Promise me that you'll be okay. Promise me."

"I - promise," said a grieving Superboy

Lar seemed to relax then, as if a great weight had been lifted Atlas like from his shoulders. Smiling, he pulled the surprised Superboy closer to him, ghosting his lips along the tall column of his neck. "Sweet Kal," he murmured into the tanned, golden flesh of the young hero's shoulder. "Sweet, sweet Kal ..." He lowered the youth's head and kissed his night dark hair. Gentle as a breath of air, he framed Kal-El's face with those hands, capable of so much violence and destruction.

"So beautiful ..." he whispered. "The Star Child ... " Kal-El blushed furiously and gave Lar a tentative kiss in return.

"I'm not beautiful," he insisted. Lar only smiled in denial.

Mon-El lay back on the crisp sheets of the bed and turned the two of them over until Superboy was the one gazing up at him. Surprised, the younger boy couldn't seem to stop blushing. It seemed to astonish him that he was desired, quite as if this were the first time that it had happened to him. With slow languor, Mon-El's hands whispered down the length of Kal-El's arms until they reached his hands. Tightly, Mon-El entwined his fingers with the Clark's, clasping them until I thought I might hear the bones creak.

"Hang on," he urged.

As I watched, they began to raise into the air. The holocamera lost track of them for a moment, but I was suddenly the one blushing as bits and pieces of Superboy's uniform drifted down from above like bright parti-colored snow. First the boots. Then the tunic ... By the time my holocamera's found them again, Clark was naked to the waist, his back arched, spread eagled beneath Lar's caressing hands.

"It's ... been a long time ... " Clark gasped and closed his eyes. With a small cry of pleasure, he clung to Lar.

"Too long," Mon-El husked.

His blue eyes glittered like stars. Fiercely, he tugged and, in one smooth motion, pulled the bottom half of Clark's uniform free of his body, leaving them both naked. I heard Clark moan and watched him bury his hands in Lar's hair. With a growl of hunger, Lar pulled his mouth from Clark's and kissed his way down the body offered to him. A nibble along the pulse fluttering so rapidly in Clark's neck. A hard chain of demanding kisses along the ridge of his collarbone. Long tantalizing swipes of the tongue over his younger partner's washboard stomach, dipping into his navel. A whisper of hot breath over the curve of his hip, the rising swell of his groin. Superboy's hands grasped the empty air and he moaned once more.

Disgusted with myself, I reached to switch off the monitor. To my shame I found that I could not. Transfixed, I watched them make love and could not look away. Lar kissed and caressed his way down the long muscles of Clark's back and thighs, clutching tightly at his youthful lover as though he might suddenly vanish. Wild eyed, he slid smoothly into Clark's body and Clark's voice rang off the metal walls, echoing his joy.

They drifted down to the floor but neither of them appeared to notice. For a very long time they simply lay there entwined. Clark's head rested on Lar's broad chest, encircled and protected by those strong arms. Within moments Superboy was sleeping in his lover's arms. The sound of Clark's steady, even breathing contrasted sharply with Mon-El's quick shallow ones, filling the air of my hidden vantage point with soft sighs. After a time, Mon-El looked directly into my hidden holocamera.

"Give me a few more minutes," he said. "Then ... then I'll be ready."

He had known all along that I was watching. I should have realized, of course. There is no lead in these walls nor sound bafflers to deceive his eyes or ears. Only people do that. He discerned my distrust and yet said nothing. But he had wanted someone to bear witness to his love for Clark. In shame and self disgust, I switched off the monitor. In the next hour I checked on Tasmia four times, ran a long delayed electro-spectral analysis of an ore sample from Braal, played three games of holo-chess with myself and sterilized hundreds of test tubes. I kept myself very busy.

But, not once did I go near that inviting, damning monitor screen.

But finally, I could delay no longer. Stepping into the Recovery Room, I lowered my eyes.

"Lar?" I said softly. "It's time."

Nodding, he rose and dressed quickly. Careful not to wake the slumbering Clark, he gathered him up gently and carried him to the bed and covered him with a warm blanket. Absently, he brushed that stubborn curl off the sleeping youth's forehead and smiled.

"Damned hair," he murmured when it sprang back into its former place. The kiss was chaste almost, lingering only for seconds.

"Paraihe," he whispered.

Paraihe is a purely Daxamite word. It has no Interlac or English equivalent. Roughly translated, it means, "the long goodbye". My knowledge of Daxamite is incomplete but I believe I am correct in saying that it is a mark of permanent leave taking between lovers. One does not generally say it to a lover that one will ever see again. A very sad word. Paraihe. Leave it to the gloom ridden Daxamites to coin a word specifically for such a tragedy. My heart cried for them.

"He'll be angry," I said, "if you leave without saying goodbye." He tore his eyes away from the recumbent Superboy and stared at me.

"It's for the best," he insisted. "He'll forget." I shook my head in denial.

"No he won't," I told him firmly. I cocked my head and stared into his calm, resigned eyes. "Would you really want him to?" I questioned. He smiled and ran unsteady fingers through his dark hair, still tousled with his passion for the youth dozing fitfully on the bed.

"No, I guess I wouldn't," he admitted. "Gods, I don't want to do this!" He squeezed his eyes tightly shut at the thought of the lonely imprisonment awaiting him. "Querl, I'm really scared. Is it okay to admit that do you think? I'm not sure I can do this. I need ... I need ..." His voice broke. Without hesitation, I reached for his hand and squeezed it.

"I'm right here," I assured him. "I won't leave you."

"It's not fair!" he raged. "Why doesn't this damn thing just kill me?"

There are many more futures than one strung like beads on the shining rope of time. My scientific expertise has given me glimpses of more than one of these "alternate" futures. And "alternate pasts". In one such past, separated from from this one by the merest gossamer tissue of events, I once watched a seventeen year old Lar Gand, then called Valor, dying of lead poisoning. With less than a week to live, he turned to a beautiful woman who would ultimately betray him.

"What now?" said the lovely Glorith.

"I don't know," sighed that doomed Lar. "I don't have a lot of options. Or a whole lot of time. I can either lie down peacefully, or ... " The silence that descended between them was almost tangible. Then, Lar's ravaged face, thin and bruised with constant pain, smiled. It was still a beautiful sight, even then.

"Close your eyes," he invited his lover. Startled, she did. "Now think," he requested. "Think about the most horrible godsforsaken place you've ever come across in your travels. Some planet teetering on the brink of disaster. A world completely without hope. Got one?"

"Yeah," she nodded. Lar's smile broadened and his deep blue eyes sparkled with purpose.

"Then set a course," he instructed softly. "And let's go make a difference ... "

He squeezed my hand, so very gently I almost didn't notice it. "Let's get this over with," he said.

But he stopped just short of the MedBay door. I tried not to be alarmed. But ... What if he should change his mind? Could I subdue him? No, I realized. I couldn't. Could I survive? Perhaps. I had my force shield belt but ... one touch of those hands and it would all be over. I tensed. But I needn't have worried, it seems.

"I have to say goodbye to Tasmia," he said. "Could - could I do that?" Silently, I lead him to the medibed where she slept her healing sleep and stepped back to allow him some privacy.

"She may not know you," I warned him. His eyes darted away from mine like meteors glancing off an energy shield, too ashamed to met my gaze.

"Good," he whispered.

He never touched her. Not once. His hand reached out, in the beginning, to stroke her hair, but he gritted his teeth and let it fall harmlessly to his side. Almost as if he were afraid to touch anything and perhaps harm it. He simply stood there, staring down at her. When his tears fell on her cheek she stirred briefly and smiled up at him, still drowsy from the painkillers I had administered.

"Mon," she murmured. "I had the awfulest nightmare ..."

"Shhhh," he soothed her and at the sound of his voice she relaxed, her trust in him complete. This was not an easy thing for even me to watch. I do not like to imagine what it was like for Lar.

"It's all right, lover," he assured her, his voice gaining strength, "go back to sleep. When you wake up the nightmare'll be ... gone. I promise you. I won't let it ever hurt you again." Content, she tumbled back into drugged rest.

He grabbed my hand to pull me towards the exit door. When I grimaced in pain at the unintended strength of his grip, he snatched his hand away as if he'd been burned. And perhaps he had.

But not with heat.

After that, it didn't take long. It was done very quickly. He stood calmly, almost with relief, before the Phantom Zone Projector and a press of a button later he was gone, the desolation in his eyes a fading memory.

Clark came stumbling in still groggy in the lingering embrace of sleep and Lar's warmth. He was just in time to catch sight of Mon-El's eyes as Lar ghosted away. Numbly, he stumbled back a pace or two and sat down heavily on the floor, staring at someone no longer there. I thought of Tasmia and wondered how she would deal with Lar's ... absence ... Oh Tasmia ... forgive me ... Ma he lan ... Again, I heard the sound of muffled sobbing. But this time there was no doubt of their source.

I did, after all, even in so alien a circumstance, recognize the sound of my own voice.


Clark was devastated, of course. I was right about that. He locked himself in his room and refused to see anyone. He checked the computer regularly for updates on Tasmia's condition on Medicus One, but he wouldn't talk to anybody. They all tried, Garth and Rokk and even shy Violet. Jo threatened to break the door down. Dirk was all for melting the door and dragging him out. Cham and Tinya volunteered to use their powers to check on him. I remember the frown on Jan's face when he shook his head.

"No," said Element Lad with quiet authority. "Let him be. He needs to be alone right now. When he's ready he'll come back. Leave him be."

Sometimes Jan is surprising. But, then, I guess none of us should have been surprised that he would know about loss and being alone. Like Clark, he is the last of his kind. There are no other Trommites. Somehow with his quiet wisdom Element Lad managed to set us all on the road to healing from this terrible blow. Everyone knew that I had done the right thing. There was never any question of that. By unspoken acquiescence I had done what was necessary and saved the rest of them from any guilt in the matter. They were very grateful.

But it was going to be some time before they were comfortable again in my presence.

Apparently I failed to save them from all their guilt about Mon-El and Shadow Lass. I forced myself not to think of Tasmia. She still did not know. Still recovering on Medicus One, the fate of her lover was unknown to her. And I, of course, was going to be the one who told her. I could not deny that this was fitting. Who else to tell her of her sorrow but its author? How would she deal with it? Would she hate me? Only time would tell. Perhaps that is why I find myself so intrigued by time. It holds the answers to so many questions.

After almost a week, Superboy emerged from his room, pale and drawn. He had absolutely nothing to say to me. Nothing. He would not even meet my eyes.

"I'm going home," he said to the others, his voice crisp but weary. "Call me if the Khunds invade."

"Will you be coming back?" asked a tentative Ayla.

"I ... don't know," Clark said honestly.

"Clark, please... " Rokk began. Jan covered Rokk's hand with his and cut him off.

"When he's ready," he reminded Cosmic Boy in his serene, steady way. "When he's ready."

It didn't take him long to gather his things. I barely had time to fetch what I sought from the Vaults and meet him on the Shuttle Deck. Another moment and I would have been too late. But he was still there staring off into the Metropolis skyline when I arrived.


He was not startled, of course. He heard me coming long before I spoke. Politely, he turned to face me, waiting for me to speak again. And I suddenly realized I had not idea what to say to him. "I'm sorry"? How feeble. "I grieve for you"? True but irrelevant.

"I have something that belongs to you," I informed him. A frown began at the corners of his full mouth.

"I don't want anything from you, Querl," he said matter-of-factly. I winced at the use of my name. It was strange how much I missed the warm familiarity of my unwanted nickname now that it was lost. I closed my eyes.

"It's not from me. It's from Lar."

"L - Lar?" He was shaken, but there were the tattered remains of joy and anticipation clinging to his voice when he spoke that name. I nodded.

"It's from the Vaults," I admitted, unsure of his reaction. It wasn't long in coming.

"He's not dead!" he cried. "He's NOT!"

"No, no," I amended in haste. He regained his calm after a moment. "But I think he'd want you to have this now."

Careful not to touch it except through the cloth that covered it, I unveiled Mon-El's legacy. There, in the midst of fragile crystal, swirled the image of a smiling, happy Lar Gand surrounded by the stark, turbulent beauty of deep space and the Fire Rings of Beta Carinae. Laughing, he wheeled and soared like a comet among the blazing splendors, the joy on his face captured exactly.

"It's beautiful," said Clark in wonder.

"It's more than just beautiful, although it is that," I smiled. "It's a Transpathic Psionic Crystal. Here, touch it." I held the crystal out to him and watched him take it in his hands. When the crystal began to work its empathic magic, Clark's eyes widened and I feared for one dire instant that he might drop the irreplaceable treasure he clutched tightly in his hand.

"Oh God," he breathed, tears gathering at the corners of his eyes. "It's - it's -"

"Lar," I finished for him when he lost his voice. "He didn't want you to be alone. More than anything else he didn't want you to be so alone." I pointed at the crystal. "Everything he felt, everything that he is rests in the crystal. Everything he loved ... the vastness of space, playing baseball, the sleek lines of a well designed spacecraft ... you ... it's all in there. Anytime the loneliness becomes too much all you have to do is touch the crystal. And Lar will be with you."

"How ... ? "

"In it's raw form," I answered him, doing my best not to lecture, "the crystal is mined on Hephestion by The Singers Guild. The miners are called Singers because the crystal can only be separated from the surrounding mineral rock by certain precise harmonic tones. Anything physical will shatter the matrix and the crystal is useless. Just another piece of rock. So, the Singers actually sing the crystal free. It's very delicate work. Singers are reputed to have the most beautiful voices in the Galaxy." I pointed once again to the crystal, now covered again. "After that, all it takes is an Alpha class telepath and a willing subject to create one of those." His smile was wan but it spoke volumes of gratitude.


"She is one of the most powerful telepaths in the United Planets," I agreed. "But even a telepath of Imra skill and ability can generally only create one of those." He stared at the crystal, awestruck.

"What would something like this cost?" he wondered, for the moment a young provincial Kansas farm boy from Earth's twentieth century. I shook my head.

"They don't," I told him. "The low and mid-grade crystals The Guild sells for use in the more expensive computer and holotechnologies. High grade crystals like that one are not for sale. You can't buy one. You have to earn it." I put up my hand to forestall his inevitable question.

"I don't know what he did. He wouldn't say. But there the crystal is." For a moment he looked very sad.

"This should go to Tasmia," he maintained and tried to hand the crystal back to me. I stepped back to avoid his proffering hands and shook my head with vehemence.

"No," I said firmly, "Lar wanted you to have it. He left it in the Vaults for you in case anything should ever happen to him. He meant it for you, Clark. For you." He watched me for some moments from out of guileless blue eyes, struggling; trying to reach a difficult decision. When the decision was made he seemed more at peace and his shy smile reflected everything that Lar loved about him.

"Kal-El," he said clearly. "My name is Kal-El."

He tucked the crystal into a fold of his invulnerable cape and then, in a flash of red and blue, he was gone.

But he'll be back.

After all, he has trusted friends here.

The End