Warning: Oh, heck, I can't remember . . . Possible a word or two?
The Bioship landed at the mountain in the early evening. It was an exhausted group that exited the ship; quiet and subdued despite the success of the mission. As they entered the training area, they ran into Kaldur. The Atlantian teen met them with pleasant curiosity.
"Ah, you have returned," Kaldur greeted them. "Batman sent word that he sent you all on a last minute mission. You were successful, of course."
Roy smiled and clasped hands with his friend. "Of course! How could you doubt it?"
"I did not," he responded easily. "But I was not the only one disappointed that I was not included." His eyes traveled briefly to Robin before returning to Roy, but the message was clear. Kid Flash was upset at being left behind.
Roy winced. He understood immediately that Wally had been taken Robin's memory loss personally, and being left out of the current mission had to feel like a stab in the heart.
But the silent message was more than obvious to the rest of the team; even including their youngest member . . . the one central to Wally's depression.
How does one deal with the loss of one's best friend, after all? He couldn't truly grieve his friend because the loss wasn't physical; Robin hadn't died. Wally could see his friend anytime that he wanted but was faced with someone he cared about having no recollection of their friendship and apparently uninterested in cultivating a new one. It had to be a type of hell.
Robin felt their gazes on him; judging him, or not, for his unwitting treatment of what had one time been his best friend. Conner had already taken him to task for it; albeit gently. He wanted to fix it . . . Okay, he knew that he should fix it.
With that goal in mind, Robin moved off to the living quarters. He would be here for a while. Alfred had taken the opportunity to take time off and had gone to visit relatives, and Bruce's plane had yet to arrive as he had to travel back to the States by conventional means. He couldn't leave the country as Bruce Wayne and not reenter it by official channels without being questioned.
So, since he was stuck here anyway, Robin decided to see what he could do to salvage the friendship. He needed to at least be able to work with the other teen in the field, if nothing else.
Kid Flash . . . Wally was sitting on the couch watching television.
This isn't going to be easy, Robin thought to himself. Wally had to have heard them arrive, but didn't come out to greet them.
"Uh . . . Hi," he said as he sat down on the other side of the couch.
Wally barely glanced in Robin's direction; keeping his gaze focused intently on the screen in front of him
"I guess I must have made you mad, huh?" Robin asked casually; looking at the television instead of the redhead.
"No," Wally denied; still not looking at him. "What makes you think that?"
Robin shrugged. "Oh, I don't know . . . Maybe because you are staring at an infomercial about a new odorless, diaper disposal system." He glanced over now. "Unless there is something that you need to be sharing with the team, I mean."
Wally blinked; frowning as he suddenly was aware of what had come on in the past few minutes while he had been focusing on listening to the arrival of the Bioship and the rest of the members of his team.
"Oh . . ." He flicked off the TV and tossed Robin the remote. "Here you go," he said as he made to get up.
"What?" Robin caught the remote and watched as Wally moved to leave the room. He hadn't even asked after the mission . . . Robin shook his head. He had really screwed this up royally.
He blew out his breath in frustration as Superboy entered the room next. Conner looked back over his shoulder at the retreating Wally, and then at the unhappy expression on Robin's face. He came over and picked up the remote that the younger boy had tossed down on the sofa cushions. Plopping himself onto the couch with a groan; he stretched out his long legs out, taking up what was left of the furniture between him and the other occupant.
"Didn't go well, huh?"
"I really messed this up, didn't I?" Robin slumped back.
Conner turned on the television and flipped the channels until he found the one he wanted. Static . . . Robin frowned at the screen; his lips tilting up into a crooked smile.
"How hard did you try?" Conner asked; his eyes on the flickering black and white dots.
He shrugged. "Not hard enough, apparently. How are you feeling?" He asked; trying to change the subject.
"I'm okay," the clone murmured.
"Really? I know I haven't been around much, but I've never heard you groan as you sat down before. You look beat," he commented.
"It's taking too long to recover," Conner growled in irritation.
"It took me at least twenty-four hours." Robin told him. "You should be feeling better by tonight."
"Yeah, well, I'm not you," Conner grumped. "I shouldn't take as long to get over this as . . . you," he ended lamely; suddenly realizing how insulting he sounded.
Robin noticed. "Ouch! Hey, what's with the attitude? You've been grouchy since we handled Parasite."
"I . . . I almost ruined everything, okay?" Conner snapped. "You got burned because I couldn't control my powers."
Robin tilted his head as he contemplated his friend. And Conner was . . . his friend. He had proven that even in the short time Robin had known him. He didn't count the times he couldn't remember.
"You didn't burn me," he pointed out. "Parasite did when he stole your powers. Which is weird because he gained abilities you don't even have." Robin frowned. "And since when do you have heat vision to begin with?"
"I-uh, I have the genetic potential for it," Conner repeating what he had told Red Arrow the night before.
"Do you think you'll still have it when you recover fully?" Might be a useful thing to have, Robin considered.
Conner shook his head. "How should I know?"
Robin held up his hands in surrender. "Take it easy, dude. I'm on your side, remember?"
Conner heaved a sigh. "Right. Right. I'm . . . sorry, okay?"
Robin watched in silence as his friend continued to beat himself up internally some more. He reached out one foot and kicked at Conner's boot. The older boy glanced at him.
"It's not your fault," Robin reminded him. "It's the bad guys' fault. We just do the best we can in hopes of mitigating the damage and try to save lives. We learn from our mistakes and use that knowledge to improve ourselves, so that next time we do better. You know, save more lives; catch the bad guys faster; . . . less property damage."
Conner snorted at that last dig. He was the only one that seemed to demolish everything in his wake. Still, his mouth twitched in amusement.
"Where'd you hear that, oh, wise Buddha?" He snarked.
Robin chuckled. "Around . . ."
They sat in companionable silence for a while.
Unable to stand it any longer, Robin asked the question that had been rolling around in his head since Conner turned on the television.
"Why do you watch static, Conner?"
"It relaxes me," the clone admitted after a little while. "Stops the voices."
Robin blinked. Voices? He tried not to let that over-concern him, but . . .
"What voices? What do they say?"
"I don't know . . . Whatever they're talking about. It's different all the time." Conner muttered.
"Do they . . . Um, do they tell you to do things?" Robin tried to ask; nonchalant-like.
Conner blinked, and turned to stare at the younger boy. "Not usually, no."
Tension he didn't know he had slithered out of his spine. "Oh, that's good, right?"
"I guess. Most people don't realize that I can hear them, so I suppose it never enters their minds to ask me to do things for them," Conner tilted his head as he frowned.
"People?" Robin's mouth dropped open. "You hear people? Real people . . . talking! You're listening to other people's conversations!" Relief flooded him as what the clone was talking about became clear, and he burst out laughing. "The voices are just conversations!"
"Well, yeah. What did you think I was talking about?" Conner stared at Robin like he had turned into some kind of green bug or something.
Robin giggled, and waved his hand; still smiling. "Oh, nothing. I just misunderstood you. Everything's good, now. My bad!"
Conner's expression lifted. "Wait. You thought I meant that I was hearing voices in my head," he clarified. "Voices that didn't exist in reality, you mean."
Robin was grinning at him. "Well, you weren't exactly specific when you said 'voices'. What do you expect people to think when we don't have super hearing like you?"
He grunted and turned back to the TV.
Robin watched him for another moment, and his smile slid away. "It bothers you, doesn't it? Hearing those conversations?"
Conner sighed; sitting up and leaning forward; he rested his elbows on his knees. He looked at his boots.
"I used to listen to them, but that seemed wrong since they didn't know anyone could hear them. I no longer pay attention to what they're saying, but it doesn't stop me from hearing them. It's incessant! They just don't stop talking. All day . . . All night."
Robin frowned. Wow! This really bothers him!
"The static drowns them out," he went on to explain. "It's like white noise and fades into the background after a while. It allows me to rest. It helps me to stop thinking all the time."
"What does Superman suggest?" Robin asked. It seemed to him that if anyone knew how to deal with super hearing, it would be the big blue Boy Scout.
Conner faces morphed into anger. "I wouldn't know since he can't stand to be around me long enough for me to ask him."
What? "That doesn't make sense. I mean, he's your mentor, right?"
Conner glared at him. "Can we just stop talking now?"
He turned around and stared at the screen with such intensity that Robin was a little worried that his heat vision from the other night might return and blast the TV into oblivion.
Robin stood up. "Yeah, sure. Sorry." he murmured as he wandered out of the room, thinking. He suddenly saw the disadvantages of having some of those super powers he had been so jealous of . . . until now.
Not being able to shut off the hearing . . . Wally's super metabolism that tuned him into a walking garbage disposal . . . M'gann's sensitivity to heat and fire. He wondered what Kaldur's weakness was? The guy was an Atlantian, so maybe it was similar to M'gann's . . . Drying out his skin and making him dehydrated or something.
And, of course, Superboy would be sensitive to kryptonite just as much or almost as much as Superman. The clone had some human DNA mixed in with his Kryptonian DNA, so maybe the radioactive rock didn't have quite the same effect on him as it would a full-blooded Kryptonian.
It was something to look into. Robin made a note to go back over Batman's file on the clone.
It was upsetting to see the other boy suffer, though. He wasn't sure what he could do about it, but maybe, if he really put his mind to it, Robin could think of something that might help him.
Layover in England . . .
Wonderful, Dick thought. He was stuck here until tomorrow afternoon. But on the upside, Bruce was picking up Alfred and bringing him home with him. That, at least, made the boy smile. Bruce and Alfred were his family now, and despite the return of a few memories of his early life with his parents, they were the only ones he really knew, and he missed them.
Kid Flash had gone back to Central City right after leaving Robin. Most of the rest of the team, including Roy and Kaldur, decided to do the same thing. They had been gone for a few days and wanted to go back to their own homes and see their families.
On the other hand, that meant that Robin didn't have to wear his sunglasses or his mask around the cave. Dick kept his glasses in his shirt pocket, however, just in case someone popped back in unexpectedly. He had spent the evening hanging out with M'gann and Conner.
Well, mostly with M'gann as Conner sat glued to his static screen. The Martian girl had been happy to keep him entertained, and one-on-one like this, Dick found that she was funny as well as kind of sweet.
She had tried to cook for them, and Dick was forced to have to save the meal when the skillet had caught fire. She and Conner had used their skills to rid the cave of smoke so efficiently that Dick knew that this was a regular occurrence, and he teased them over it throughout dinner.
That night, Dick lay in bed in his quarters and went over the problem of Kid Flash. He had hurt the other boy, but other than what he read in Batman's files, Dick had no frame of reference when dealing with the speedster; no memories of him. This past mission had shown him how cool it was working with others his own age . . . Or near his own age, since he was the youngest on the team.
He hadn't many friends since being Robin took up most of his life outside of school; not close ones anyway. Being Robin wasn't something that he could share with them; not that he had seen them in a while. The past several months Alfred had been homeschooling him because of his learning difficulties. Here, however, the other teens understood the hardship of maintaining grades, training, and fighting criminals that his life consisted of. And with Conner and M'gann already knowing his identity, he felt like he could talk to them about all areas of his life.
That was very cool . . . although the clone and the Martian couldn't relate entirely, it still helped relieve some of the stress he went through. Especially knowing that they were already aware of his weaknesses and would continue to watch his back.
Dick never considered being part of a team outside of Batman and Robin. He remembered Bruce being called away occasionally in the past to work with the Justice League, but that was when he was much younger. Of course, he had been staying home over these last few months while Dick had been recovering, but he knew that now that he was better, those missions with the League would begin again and take up another portion of Batman's time.
What better way to spend those times than with a league of his own?
But to do that, Dick needed to get to know the rest of his teammates better. And that included Kid Flash.
The next morning the team gathered again as there had been a training day scheduled. Dick hadn't been that impressed with the last time, but he was hopeful this time would be better since he had successful mission under his belt. In costume, Robin took his place with the others as Black Canary declared sparring partners.
"M'gann and Artemis; Kid Flash and Conner; Kaldur and Robin." Canary winked at Robin as she turned around and moved out of the way.
They took turns while observing to pick out the problems they saw and suggest options for improvement. They were allowed only to use hand-to-hand techniques during the session. Time enough to work with weapons this afternoon Canary had told them. And then it was Kaldur and Robin's turn.
"Are you ready for this?" Kaldur asked. "I will not go easy on you."
Robin took up a defensive stance.
"Good," he grinned. He had been waiting a while to go up against a Meta. He had studied the files that Batman had given him to both familiarize himself with them and to challenge himself to take them down if necessary.
In the end, it was a lucky shot . . . Pure, unadulterated, bad luck.
When it started, Kaldur couldn't get close. Robin moved fast; flipping, running, sliding between the Atlantian's legs and then kicking the back of the older boy's knees as he passed through. As far a strategy, there wasn't a whole lot. Robin wasn't planning any moves for the Kaldur to anticipate; instead, he was having fun . . . Like the kid he could remember being back in the day, when Batman had first started training him.
It wouldn't work forever, though. Eventually, he would have to do something with purpose or he would lose. The Atlantian teen was stronger than he was; had a faster reaction time, too, if Robin was honest, but not by much. Robin taunted him and spun around behind him; using Kaldur's shoulders to jump over his head like a mad game of leapfrog.
What he succeeded in doing was wearing the older boy's patience thin. He laughed and ran toward the wall. Kaldur was close and moved to intercept him, but Robin ran up three steps up the wall and kicked off; flying over his opponent's head in a backflip. Robin grabbed hold of Kaldur's shirt and pulled him backward using his momentum.
By this time, however, Kaldur had Robin's ticket . . . His silvery-green eyes narrowed as he let the smaller boy pull him off of his feet. Instead of slamming into the floor on his back, though, Kaldur arced his body and landed on his hands; springing over Robin's head just as the younger boy landed lightly on his feet.
What was good for the goose . . . Wasn't that a saying here?
Kaldur returned the favor by grabbing Robin by the cape, and using it to yank the boy back and down to the floor between the Atlantian's feet. Robin impacted the floor with a loud grunt; the air forcefully expelled from his lungs. Kaldur followed it up with a punch.
He had meant to ram his fist into the floor by the boy's head with the intention of startling him. That was what was supposed to have happened. It didn't. Despite being stunned and winded, Robin had learned to move in spite of the pain and the stars he was seeing. Perhaps if those stars hadn't been blocking his vision he wouldn't have rolled in that direction.
Kaldur's fist struck the younger boy in the temple, and abruptly the fight was over.
The older teen gaped at what he had done as the computer announced Robin's failure in an emotionless monotone.
"Oh no . . ." he breathed in horror.
One second Kaldur was standing over the younger boy in shock, and the next he was hit with a powerful blow that sent him tumbling across the cave's floor until he hit the wall on the other side of the cavernous room. Kaldur shook his head and rolled to his hands and knees. He glanced up and realized that Wally had struck him. Whether in anger or by accident, he couldn't fault him, the Atlantian decided guiltily.
The redhead was on his knees beside the downed boy.
"Nooo," the speedster moaned. "Robin? Rob, come on, dude; wake up!"
Conner was on the other side of the boy a second later. Canary ran to join the group with Artemis at her heels. M'gann hovered above them all, but she reached out to Kaldur in a private mind link.
Are you okay, Kaldur?
Do not ask after me! Look after Robin!
He's being attended to, M'gann assured him. But Wally hit you very hard. Are you sure . . .?
I did not mean to hurt him! It was an accident! I did not expect him to be able to move after that. I had only planned to startle him.
I think you succeeded in doing that.
Kaldur climbed to his feet and stumbled to the circle of people surrounding Robin.
Canary pushed Conner out of the way gently. The clone only moved over to hover at Robin's head. Canary noted the bruise forming over his forehead.
"We need to support his head in case he has a neck injury," she was saying.
Conner moved his hands to either side of Robin's head as instructed.
"Okay, we're going to carefully roll him over onto his back," she told them. Canary, Artemis, and Wally all helped turn the boy so that his spine remained aligned as they moved him.
"Robin! Snap out of it, buddy! Don't do this to me!" Wally spoke to the boy, loudly.
Kaldur kneeled by the boy's feet as he watched Canary lift one eyelid and then the other to judge his pupil reaction.
Canary leaned up. "His pupils are equal and reactive. He'll probably have a headache from hell, but I think he might have escaped a serious concussion. We'll need to move him to the medical bay and take X-rays of his head and neck to be on the safe side."
"I had not intended to harm him," Kaldur whispered miserably.
Canary spared him a glance. "It was an accident, Kaldur. I'm sure Robin will agree once he wakes up."
"He's going to wake up, isn't he?" Conner voiced everyone's fear.
"Last time it took him . . . What did Bats say? Three weeks?" Wally's voice wavered.
Canary swept them a harsh glare. "Don't write Robin off yet! He's been through worse and came out stronger than ever, remember."
"So, who's going to call Batman," Artemis asked softly.
He was sitting on a couch in a room with no windows. There was a kitchenette and a pool table and a television. It was with a sense of déjà vu that Dick looked around. It looked kind of familiar, but at the same time, he couldn't place it.
Where was he?
The voice came from behind him and clued him into the fact that he was there as the Boy Wonder and not Dick Grayson. He spun around and saw Bruce in his Batman uniform standing in the doorway.
Had Batman come to take him home?
"I will be a while, but so that you aren't bored, Flash brought up his nephew to keep you company."
Flash? He had never met that particular hero before. A tall man dressed all in red with yellow lightning bolts stepped around Batman. He was smiling. Robin's mouth crooked up half-heartedly. Robin didn't know if he was allowed to smile at him or not, but Bruce had never actually scolded him for the action. And if he was allowed to smile at the bad guys while kicking their tails, then he should be able to smile at a good guy . . . Right?
"Hi, Robin! I'm glad Bats let you come up and hang out during the meeting," Flash greeted him; making Robin blink behind his mask.
Did speedster know him? And then he realized . . . This is a memory!
His breath caught as Kid Flash stepped from around his . . . uncle? Yeah, that's right! Robin remembered Batman calling him his nephew, and the files had mentioned it.
The familiar yellow and red speedster looked different. He still had the same costume and the same red hair; only here it was longer than it was now. Robin's eyes widened as he realized what it was. Wally was shorter . . . a lot shorter; enabling Robin to deduce that this memory was from a long time ago. Years, in fact. How many? Less than three, but it had to be more than two.
The other boy blushed and then zipped over to stand in front of Robin. He thought that he might have been a little startled, but having gotten a little used to Wally's tendency to speed everywhere, Robin simply blinked. The memory of the feelings were there, but were muted with time.
"Hi, I'm Kid Flash," he said. "Ican' ," the boy practically gushed. "I'vebeenafanofyourssinceforever!"
"Kid! Kid, calm down," Flash laughed. "He can't understand you when you talk that fast."
"You two will stay in this room until the meeting is done. Do not get into trouble," Batman instructed. "We will return for you in approximately one hour. Robin, you know the rules."
Flash winked at the boys. "You, too, Kid. Remember what I told you."
The two heroes disappeared around the corner, and Robin looked at the redhead.
"What did he tell you?" Robin heard himself ask.
Wally plopped down on the couch beside him with enough force to bounce the younger boy. Robin laughed.
"He said to me, and I quote," Wally made the quotation sign with his fingers in the air. "'Kid. Slow down.'" He grinned at him and looked over at the kitchenette. "Want to see what they've got to eat?"
Robin shrugged. "I ate before I came up here. I'm not really hungry."
"I did, too, but I'm always hungry," Wally announced, happily. "Comes with the speedster metabolism. I'm constantly burning calories, so I have to replace them often or I can get into trouble."
Robin frowned. "What kind of trouble?"
Wally had already bounded to his feet and was making a beeline to the refrigerator. "Oh, I could die." It so casual that it took Robin a second to process what exactly he said.
"What?" He hopped up and went after him. "Seriously? Like DIE-die?"
"Well, I don't mean tie-dye," Wally's voice floated out from inside of the fridge where it was buried. "Bingo! Pudding! I wonder if anyone's going to eat this."
Robin wanted to point out that they wouldn't have put it there if they hadn't planned to come back and eat it, but his head at that time swirled around the idea that the boy in front of him could fall over dead at any moment if he wasn't eating.
"You should eat it," he declared.
These people were supposed to be heroes. Surely they wouldn't begrudge some of their food if it saved someone's life! Robin had grabbed a plate of chicken, and then an apple pie and a jar of pickles. He handed them all off to Wally as he pulled them out one at a time.
Better to be safe, he had decided.
Wally beamed at him. Robin had smiled, pleased to have helped save his life. And a friendship had been forged.
"Kid! What did you do?!"
They're voices startled him.
"Robin! Robin, come on, dude! Don't do this! Wake up! Wake up, Robin!"
The combined shouts from different voices drew Robin out of the memory. He attempted to sit up, gasping. Hands pushed him back down gently. The memory still had him in its grasp, however, and he struggled to hang on to every final threat of it.
He felt his lips quirk up into a smile at the memory of the mess they had made that day.
Batman hadn't even gotten mad at him when he explained dramatically that he was only trying to save Kid's life. Only Robin had noticed Batman's own twitching lips as Flash had shoved Wally out the door with one hand on top of the boy's head with the exasperated promise of a pizza when they got home.
The memory of every scrap of food and every bowl and plate dirtied and strewn around the room stayed with him, though.
"Is he . . . Is he smiling?" Artemis' voice floated over him.
"What? What happened?" Robin asked a little weakly.
He blinked his eyes open; squinting at his teammates and Black Canary. His eyes settled onto the worried, green gaze of Kid Flash. The idiot was holding his hand and leaned over him; directly in his face.
Conner was right. Friends were too important to waste. He didn't know if he was ready to call the annoying redhead his best friend yet, but his stomach no longer clenched at the thought of spending time with the speedster.
Guess he's not mad at me anymore . . . The throbbing intensity of the headache was worth it, he decided, grinning despite the pain.
Wally stared down at him, nonplussed. "Um . . . Hey," he stammered lamely.
"Want to hang out later?"
The speedster gaped at him, and then glanced over at Kaldur. "Exactly how hard did you hit him?"
Kaldur shrugged, speechless.
Wally laughed suddenly. "If only I had known that it would be this easy . . ."
The End . . . Until Next Time, That is. ;D
I thought I might have more, but when I finished this chapter, I thought it was a very good place to end this particular story . . .
Because I fell in love with this AU, I will eventually write another story within it. I adore Bruce and Dick's relationship (as I have repeatedly mentioned. LOL!) and want to write more of it. Dick's continuing problems with his memories, headaches, and emotional fluctuations from his earlier trauma fascinates me and I'm curious as to how his relationship with his teammates continue to develop.
I would truly love to get your opinion on this story in particular and the Lab Rat series in general. So, if you haven't left a review before now, please consider leaving something now. Is this an AU that you would like to continue? Or is this a good place to tuck it in and wish it a good night? And remember, if you love it - Fave it!