This was originally posted on the YJ Anon Meme in response to the following prompt: link.
I am posting it here so it does not go missing from my to-do list!
Friends with Girls
On the glossy black surface of the kitchen counter top, Robin's reflection was small, but impressive nonetheless. Arms crossed against a muscular chest, (made broader, flatter, by a sturdy layer of Kevlar) the adolescent crime fighter looked hardened, battle-ready, masculine.
How Wally had gotten it into his head that Robin, of all people, was the one to go to with all his questions about girls was a complete and utter mystery.
"So what do you think?" the freckle-faced teenager asked, pausing to take a cartoonishly large bite of leftover pizza. He was still in full-costume, which only served to make the scene even more ridiculous. "When a girl says, 'It's a date,' does she mean a date date or just a date?"
Robin was tired, and starting to fall into a bad mood. Everyone else had already called it a night, but after their last mission, Wally had been too wired to sleep and all but begged his best friend to keep him company. Usually hanging out with Wally was cool, but sometimes he said things that set Robin's teeth on edge… Especially about girls. It was hard to listen to it without trying to set him straight.
"How would I know?"
Young Wallace regarded his friend with a serious expression (no mean feat, with his mouth still full of food) and then swallowed purposefully.
"Dude," he said, his tone worried, "are you mad? Because if you like Megan—
"No," Robin tried to say it lightly, knowing that it wasn't fair to get mad, but the word came out sharp and harsh. "It's not that."
The question hung between them, unspoken, but Wally didn't ask, and Robin didn't volunteer the answer. There was no way to explain what the problem was – not without revealing the lie, and the lie had become so big and so snarled up in the weave of Robin's life that without it, the whole thing would surely unravel.
"So…" Wally looked from side to side, and then back to Robin, knowing something was wrong, not knowing what.
The silence was broken by the electric hum of Robin's communicator.
"The briefing room." Batman's voice was tired. "Now."
It was hardly the dark knight's most daring rescue, but Robin was grateful for it, just the same.
The weather was clear when they left Happy Harbor, but it was storming above their destination; a shipping yard on the fringes of Empire City. Undeterred, Miss Martian brought her ship down through the clouds, into the rain. Robin could only imagine what it looked like from the outside, with the rain running down its invisible hull, slithering across the gray night sky like a wet wad of clear plastic wrap.
It didn't matter. Visibility was so poor that no one would be able to see them, even if they did happen to look up. Robin knew from experience that most normal people wouldn't look anywhere. They'd just pull up their collars and look where they were going. On rainy days in Gotham City, people were so focused on getting where they were going that they wouldn't notice murder on public streets.
It was the team's second mission in less than twenty-four hours, and everyone was tired and on edge when the ship touched down on the docks. Only Aqualad looked unperturbed, twisting in his seat to regard the team with his usual icy calm.
"What have you got for us, Robin?" he asked.
Robin lifted the wrist-computer, so that everyone could see the map projected above it more clearly. On it, the display showed a warren of steel containers in tall stacks. The narrow spaces in between offered dozens of hiding places, but it meant that any fighting they did would almost certainly be at close quarters.
"Batman said the containers we're looking for are on the west side, over here." With the press of a few buttons, the map lit up and zoomed in on the area in question. "There's a good chance that these dealers have got the security guards here on their payroll – I mean, who leaves a big shipment of weapons lying around without protection?"
Aqualad nodded, turning to peer outside the ship's cockpit with grim determination.
"Then we need to be prepared. We should expect them to use lethal force."
Behind them, Superboy snorted. The Atlantean barely spared him a glance.
"We don't know exactly what kind of weapons these are, so we should proceed with caution," he continued, pointedly. "Superboy and Kid Flash will come with me."
Wally made a pitiful sound.
"Aw man! How come he gets to be on Miss Martian's team?"
The girl in question shifted and looked away, not bothering to hide her discomfort. Wally couldn't have missed it, but Robin knew it wouldn't be enough to deter him for long. Wally would believe whatever he wanted to believe until the bitter end, regardless of what anyone said or did. It would be painful for everyone involved... and everyone who had to watch.
"Because," said Aqualad, ignoring that, too. "Robin, will be taking the high road with Miss Martian. No matter what kind of security they've got here, I doubt they'll be prepared for an attack from above."
Robin nodded. Whenever the team split up, the acrobatic teen was accustomed to taking charge of the second unit. Aqualad had never explicitly stated that Robin was the team's second-in-command, but he had never discouraged the idea either.
"You can count on me!" the masked crime-fighter threw their fearless leader a mock salute.
"I know." Aqualad treated everything with gravity, and the other teenager's words were no exception. "I trust you."
Robin laughed, but not for any particular reason. It was probably just tiredness; everything seemed funnier at four in the morning.
If Aqualad was offended, he didn't show it. Instead he turned to nod to the other boys, and they followed him out into the rain, disappearing into the maze-like darkness of the shipping yard without another word.
Climbing through the shipping yard wasn't so different from climbing through Gotham city, except that everything was miniaturized – Robin sized. Instead of sky scrapers there were stacks of crates and shipping containers, and instead of streets, there were only claustrophobic, narrow spaces in between.
Robin scaled a stack of yellow shipping containers to join Miss Martian in the air, less than enthusiastic about the climbing conditions. Everything was wet and slick and dangerous; a potentially disastrous combination.
Miss Martian was completely oblivious to her partner's qualms.
"Refreshing, isn't it?" she whispered excitedly, green face beaming in the dark.
The young alien girl hovered above it all effortlessly, wet but uninhibited by the storm. Her white uniform clung to her skin, showing it in green patches, and Robin was grateful that the boys were taking the low road. Wally would be talking about this for weeks otherwise.
"Believe me, you'll be sick of it soon enough." But Robin was grinning, unable to stay grouchy when Miss Martian reached out with her mind. Her good cheer was on the overside of being whelming.
"I don't mind," she said, smile fading, "but I hope the others are okay. Superboy got hit pretty bad, before."
"Enh, he's fine. It wouldn't be a proper Friday if Superboy didn't get shot a couple of times. You worry too much."
We're fine, Megan, Aqualad's thoughts drifted lazily over their mental connection, at the same time that Superboy thought, HEY.
Wally's thoughts didn't form into words, but they were there too, bottled up like a soft drink that had been shaken until it was fizzy enough to burst. His irritation was obvious, despite his best efforts to clamp down on the emotion and conceal it from the others.
Robin stifled a laugh and leapt down onto another stack of containers, clearing the gap with ease. The landing was loud, but the rain was battering the steel containers all around them so loudly that the noise didn't stand out much.
I know. This thought came from M'gann, this time. Robin felt something about their connection change, and knew that no one else would be able to hear the next words. I just… I can't stop thinking about him, you know?
Why M'gann seemed to think that Robin was the person to talk to about boys was another puzzle, equally unfathomable.
Yeah, I kind of caught that.
Everyone had. Brought up in a culture with no secrets, Miss Martian rarely attempted to hide her feelings. Even Superboy knew there was something going on, even if he didn't really understand what it was, or how he was expected to respond.
The alien girl drifted languidly through the air, her thoughts a strange and adult mess that the younger teenager couldn't make any sense of.
Robin tried to block it out, scanning the ground below for any sign of security, and prepared to make the next leap.
Do you think Superboy is attractive?
The green girl's question struck her partner off-guard – and in midair. It shouldn't have made a difference, of course, but Robin's feet slipped on the slick surface of the next platform just the same. The young crime-fighter fell back. There was only empty space there, and the world tilted crazily, and the brightly colored shipping containers made a red and yellow checkerboard in the dark.
For a fleeting second, Robin wondered if the coroner would be the one who finally told them the truth. What would he think, when he peeled back the uniform and realized what was underneath?
Robin went down without a squeak, the instinctive urge to scream stifled by years of training. Miss Martian, on the other hand, had no such preparation.
"Robin!" her high-pitched scream pierced through night, loud even in the thunderous downpour.
Line-gun already in hand, Robin fired a high-tensile wire at the nearest wall, but the motion was unnecessary. Miss Martian reacted quickly, catching her partner in mid-swing with a telekinetic field.
Not far off, somebody shouted, and the dark heights of the shipping yard lit up as a dozen security guards around the yard simultaneously turned their flashlights to the sky.
One of them was close.
"Down!" Robin shouted, and Miss Martian dropped them both onto one of the containers just in time to avoid a round of bullets.
Their attacker made no attempt to hide himself. He was a round man, wearing an unremarkable looking rain jacket, stamped with the word "SECURITY" in big white letters across the back. Besides the smoking gun in his hand, he looked like your average rent-a-cop, right down to the brightly lit, standard issue flashlight gripped in his free hand. He swiveled it about frantically, unable to locate his target.
Robin, on the other hand, had no problem seeing him.
All it took was one well-placed batarang, and the guy fell hard. He struck the ground face first, right into a puddle. Robin rappelled down to the ground and toed him carefully, checking to ensure that he was well and truly unconscious, before kicking him hard and rolling him over, out of the water. Crook or not, he didn't deserve to drown.
Pride restored, Robin turned to check on Miss Martian.
"Oh Robin, I'm sorry!" the green girl burst out, splashing down to the ground to rejoin her partner. "When I saw you fall, I didn't think!"
Robin's communicator buzzed.
"What's going on over there?" Aqualad's voice was aggressive, anxious. He had probably assumed the worst when M'gann severed their mental connection, earlier.
They're out of— Miss Martian began, and then thought better of it, reaching for her own radio communicator. "Sorry, you're out of my telepathic range. I can't seem to reach you."
"We're fine," Robin added quickly, "We can still do this. Miss M. and I will draw attention over here. You guys stay on the target."
"Hey, Rob." It was Kid Flash speaking this time. "I know you wouldn't put Miss Martian in danger on purpose or anything, but-"
"Don't worry," M'gann cut in. She gave Robin a small smile. "It's a good plan."
There was silence for a moment, and then Aqualad was back.
"Very well, but be careful," he said.
Leaning down to pluck the security guard's flashlight from the ground, Robin turned to Miss Martian. "There'll be more where this guy came from. Think you can copy him?"
"Um," despite her doubtful tone, the green girl had already begun to shift and expand. Her red hair curled and paled, and her cheeks took on a red, ruddy complexion. Her new form was quite obviously feminine, but there was no helping that. "Like this?"
"Close enough." Robin tossed her the flashlight. "Shine that at anyone you run into; if they can't see you too well, I think we'll be okay."
"What about the body?"
"We'll have to leave it here. We'd better move, though."
Miss Martian struck out on foot and Robin grappled back up to the top of the shipping containers, crouching low to avoid being spotted. It wasn't long before they encountered another uniformed guard, this one pale and thin.
He stopped at the sight of Miss Martian.
"Larry?" he said. He had his gun up, gripped tightly in his shaking fist. "I heard gunfire! What happened?"
M'gann didn't speak, and Robin realized the flaw in their plan: the shape-shifter couldn't mimic a voice she'd never heard before.
Then she pointed, and in a gruff, put-on voice, she said, "What's that behind you?"
The man whirled, and the moment his attention left Miss Martian she struck out with a great burst of telepathy, slamming him into the steel frame of a nearby container. He went down as easily as his friend had.
M'gann looked up at her friend's hiding spot, grinning a Larry-grin.
"Two down," she said.
They continued to move like this, sweeping wide of their target to ensure that their activities would draw attention away from their companions' position. Their next encounter was with a large group, but Robin took them down with a sleeping-gas grenade and a one-two punch. It was like fighting children.
It was… kind of fun, actually. Like playing peek-a-boo, bounding in and out of the night. Robin tried to make them scream – that would really draw attention – and Miss Martian quickly caught onto the game, shifting into more and more frightening forms when it came time to spring the trap. Robin had been apprehensive about working alone with the rookie of the group, but they actually made a pretty good team. An overly giggly team, perhaps, but Robin certainly wasn't going to complain.
At the same time, though, it all seemed a bit too easy. Where were the machine guns? The homing missiles? The rocket launchers? Weapons dealers could usually be counted on to outfit their men with the most sophisticated technology on the market. It didn't add up.
Robin and Miss Martian had taken out eleven of their opponents when their communicators lit up again.
It was Superboy calling. That was unusual. Usually he forgot to check in, or deliberately ignored the others when they tried to contact him. And he certainly never called for help.
"Where are you guys?" He said. His voice sounded distant, like he was holding his comm far away from himself.
Miss Martian was the first to answer.
"Are you okay?" she asked. She shifted out of her disguise quickly, and shook out her wet hair, as if he might see her from his position. Robin resisted the urge to poke fun - she had it bad.
They both heard it; a thunderous crash off in the distance. Superboy didn't say anything more.
"Superboy?" The green girl squeezed the communicator in both hands anxiously. "Are you still there?"
No answer. Robin lifted the wrist computer and pulled up the map up, searching for their friend's position. He was alone, close to their target. Aqualad and Kid Flash were further east, not moving.
M'gann was already shifting back into her disguise.
"You've got the map," she said, without hesitation, "I"ll keep attention over here."
Robin didn't think that Miss Martian's judgment was very good when it came to Superboy, but her plan made sense. The shipping yard was a maze, and Robin's computer would be needed to locate him, especially if his position changed.
Besides, Superboy never called for help. It wasn't something either of them could ignore.
"Okay. But watch your back." Robin lifted the communicator, to speak to Superboy. Maybe he couldn't answer, but that didn't mean he couldn't hear. "Hang on! I'm coming to you!"
There was no answer, only another series of bangs from across the yard.
"Go!" said Miss Martian.
Even without the power of flight, the acrobat moved swifty, running, jumping and rappelling over the shipping yard at a breakneck pace. Someone from the ground saw and fired a gun, but the bullet pinged harmlessly off the edge of the container, nowhere near its target. Robin didn't slow, or even turn to see what had happened.
An unexpected gap in the route up ahead caused Robin to slide to a sudden halt, shoes squeaking against the slippery steel platform underfoot. The stack of shipping containers up ahead had been toppled, and some of them were completely destroyed, bent and twisted like crushed soda cans.
Superboy had to be here.
The clone in question appeared a second later, arching through the sky with the distinctly involuntary air of a man that has just been fired from a canon, a tangle of flailing arms and legs. Robin saw him disappear behind another pile of cargo containers, and then the shipping yard shook with the impact that followed.
The acrobat rappelled to the ground as quickly as possible, descending down in between the shipping containers to run across the ground.
The pavement had been completely decimated where Superboy hit the ground, and Robin found him at the end of a long and shallow trench in the ground. The meta-human's clothes were tattered, but otherwise he seemed to be fully intact, conscious and struggling to get back on his feet.
"Human female, detected."
Robin whirled around to see a mechanical man standing there, one red eye glowing in the center of its helmet. Like most modern appliances, the armored figure was sleekly designed, glossy black with chrome trim. It probably attracted finger-prints like nobody's business, though.
"I think you've got your wires crossed, buddy," Robin bluffed, hoping to draw its attention away from Superboy a little longer.
"Threat assement: negligible," the machine droned on, ignoring the indignant sound that Robin made.
Superboy charged in, arm swinging, but the android caught both of his fists and held on. The two of them grappled like that, but it quickly became apparent that Superboy was losing ground.
"Negligible!" Robin huffed, drawing out a bat-grenade. "I'll show you negligible."
The android was totally engaged in the fight with Superboy, so it was a simple matter to sneak up behind it and launch an explosive straight at its back. Robin's aim was true, but at the last second, the black machine-man's head swiveled all the way around, and its red eye lit up. A laser beam exploded out of the eyeball and struck the grenade in mid-air, only halfway to its target.
And then that eye settled on Robin, and there was no time to get out of the way.
When Robin regained consciousness, the first thing that registered was Superboy's face, startling in its proximity. The cloned Kryptonian looked worried. His shirt hung off of him in dripping wet tatters, but otherwise there was no evidence to suggest that he had, at any point in time, been locked in hand-to-hand combat with a highly advanced robotic war-machine.
Now, though, the robot in question was conspicuously absent from the field. Time had passed; it was lighter and brighter out now, and the rain had stopped.
Robin tried to think. It hurt.
"What hit me?"
"The other android," Superboy supplied, like he was talking about a routine traffic accident. "I took care of them, though. I got them while they were both busy with you."
It hurt to laugh, so Robin wound up wheezing instead.
"Awesome. Glad I could help. So, how long was I out for?"
The concrete was cold and damp and kind of gravelly, but Superboy looming overhead made it kind of hard to sit up. The clone broke eye contact then, glaring instead at a spot on Robin's vest.
"A while, I guess. When you didn't wake up right away, I didn't know…" Superboy glanced up at his friend's face, and then away, embarrassed. "I was worried."
The admission made Robin feel a little bit guilty. Even if the other teenager looked like a life-sized G.I. Joe action figure, all muscles and hard plastic, he was still vulnerable in other ways.
"S'okay," Robin tried to reassure him, "I'll live. First thing I ever learned was how to fall."
At first, the words seemed to have had the desired effect, but then Superboy looked down and his expression darkened.
"Wait," he said, "You're bleeding."
Robin blinked and looked down.
"No I'm not."
"Yes, you are!"
"No I'm – hey! What are you doing?!"
Superboy had taken hold of Robin's knees, and he was pushing them apart. Robin's whole body jerked at the unexpected contact (and the implications that came with it, intended or not) but the clone's grip was strong.
"Sorry!" Superboy froze in place. "Did that hurt?"
Robin resisted the first response to come to mind, wondering how a guy was supposed to react to this sort of thing, and said instead, "What are you doing?"
"Showing you," said Superboy.
That could mean anything, really, but the worst possible interpretation was the first to spring to mind. Robin tensed, ready to fight if need be. Superboy was strong, but a flash grenade might throw him off, and Robin was fast enough—
"It's right there."
And it was right there; a dark wet streak down the inside of Robin's tights. It was the last thing that the young vigilante had expected, and for a moment, it didn't make any sense. Then realization dawned.
"Dude, has anyone ever told you that your bedside manner really sucks?!" Robin snapped, trying to pull away. "Let go! I'm fine!"
Robin's mind whirled with years of imagined scenarios and potential cover ups – contingency plans for this day. But it had always seemed so far away, and the young vigilante had never imagined being pinned down and scrutinized by a naïve clone.
Superboy's grip remained firm. Of course it would.
"We can't just leave it," he declared.
Robin put a hand against the larger teenager's chest, ignoring the pain that moving caused, fuelled by desperation. It couldn't end like this, not because of one dumb, rookie mistake.
"We definitely can!"
But Superboy was determined to help. One of those hands, large and warm, settled high up on the inside of Robin's thigh, and pressed down to stop the flow of blood. The feeling of it provoked a chain reaction of sensations, each one foreign and startling, and Robin made an embarrassingly high sound of surprise.
Undeterred, Superboy frowned and then shifted, sliding his palm down along Robin's leg and back up again, searching this time. There was a pale red smear on the heel of his hand, plainly visible against his pale skin, and he stared at it, not understanding.
"There's no wound," he said.
An awful feeling welled up in the pit of Robin's stomach; a mixture of humiliation and self-disgust that made it hard to swallow. Superboy might not actually understand what was going on, but that didn't make it okay.
A regular person would be horrified right now.
"H-here…" At some point, Robin's cape had been bunched up into a makeshift pillow. The young vigilanted shook it out. "You can wipe it off with this… I… I'm sorry, this is so messed up. Please don't-"
"Superboy!" Aqualad's voice cut across Robin's plea, hard and commanding. His gaze fell on Robin, still lying flat out on the pavement, and his eyes widened. "What happened here?"
He wasn't alone. Kid Flash and Miss Martian had arrived as well
It was too much. Robin thought again of using a flash grenade, wanting nothing more than to set it off and disappear into the maze of the shipping yard forever.
"Rob?" Wally looked like he'd made it through the mission okay, but there were dark circles under his eyes. "What are you guys – is that blood?"
"No," said Superboy, and then, more quietly, "oh."
He stood up very fast.