Tim set out normally the next evening. He'd spent the day avoiding calls from his acquaintances at school who doubtlessly wanted to know what was going on between himself and Arianna; as Tim didn't have an answer, he shut off the ringer and spent the day alternately studying and worrying that he'd made the wrong decision in regards to Kon.
He did need the help. Batman was gone for the week—a JLA mission off-planet—so it wasn't like Tim could ask permission (not that he would—he wasn't suicidal). But that still didn't answer the question of how to handle working with another person when Tim was in charge.
His only other experience was with Impulse, and somehow he doubted that "Do what I say and I'll buy you your own candy shop" was going to work with Kon. "Do what I say and I'll introduce you to Catwoman" might, but Tim didn't feel like being on the wrong end of her whip (which would definitely happen if he set a horny teenage meta after her).
No. He was going to have to learn how to lead.
Four hours, "The Art of War," "The Prince," and the first three volumes of "Great Leaders of Our Time" later, Tim was still no more prepared. He shoved the books off his bed and flopped back onto it. I give up. I'll just wing it. Really, how hard could it be, anyway?
"I. Cannot. Believe you! Do you have a functioning brain at all!"
"Oh come on. It wasn't that bad."
"You BLEW UP THE BUILDING, Kon! It was exactly that bad!"
"What?" Kon asked defensively. "Okay, so I shouldn't have tossed that guy with the cigarette, but how was I supposed to know those containers were full of gasoline?"
"How about the writing on the sides saying 'Gotham Propane Co.'?" Tim asked icily.
"It was dark, there was fighting, yadda yadda, easy to miss," Kon said dismissively, then caught sight of Tim's furious face and sighed. "Okay, so we screwed up."
"You. YOU screwed up."
"Fine. I did it. But hey, we caught the bad guys, so that's a win, right?"
"And destroyed all of the evidence. They'll be back on the streets in 24 hours," Tim said wearily.
Kon looked at his feet. "Oh. Um, I hadn't thought of that."
"You don't think at all."
"Hey, I think," Kon protested. "Just… I'm not used to thinking about stuff like this. Important stuff."
"I know." Tim sighed. "Look, I appreciate your offer to help, but I think I'm better off doing this solo."
"No, wait, c'mon man! You still need help, right?"
Tim pressed his lips together. "Gotham… will have to get by with just me. You don't know enough to be useful, Kon, you're more of a hazard than anything."
Kon looked both hurt and offended. For a moment Tim was certain he'd fly off, and that would be the end of it. Then something passed over his face—it looked a lot like pain, anger, and determination. "Teach me."
"You say I don't know enough," Kon said slowly, "so teach me. How to do this. How to be a hero."
Tim eyed him. There was something more going on here; Kon had another motive than looking for entertainment and company. But if Tim refused him now, he'd never know what it was. "All right. If you're serious."
Kon nodded, face solemn. "I am."
"Then your first lesson? Don't blow up buildings."
"Heh. Um, yeah. Got it."
Kon was getting better. He was still headstrong, he still argued with Tim and looked mutinous every time Tim yelled at him, but he was getting better. Unfortunately, Tim was no closer to finding out Kon's reasons for putting up with the lectures, the fighting, and the all the rest to work in a city he hated. He just hoped he wasn't going to regret this. Teaching an unknown, already powerful Meta how to fight more effectively was past stupid and pushing toward suicidal; Batman would be furious if he knew what Tim was up to. But Tim had made a promise to protect Gotham, no matter what, and that came first, even before his loyalty to Bruce. And right now, deprived of nearly all her protectors, Gotham needed some extra help.
Kon zip stripped ("Look! It's tape—but it's like not sticky! Except for where it is. Weird, man." "Shut up Kon.") the two already-downed perps and watched as Tim took out the final one with a backwards kick to the jaw. "So, when do I get to learn all the cool Bruce Lee stuff?"
Tim rolled his eyes. "'That' was shokotan karate, not 'Bruce Lee stuff', and since when did you want to learn it, anyways?"
"Mostly since I saw you doing that. It's looks cool. You're all…" Kon pantomimed martial arts. "Hee-yah! Yow! Wah!"
"You look like you're having a seizure while trying to do the chicken dance."
Kon scowled, dropping his arms and straightening, and sniffed. "Well, fine, Mr. 'I know so much, I'm a martial arts expert'; if you're so good, prove it. I bet you can't beat me in a fair fight."
"Don't use that, that…" Tim searched for a word to describe what he'd felt that first night, "force field thing of yours, and I bet I can."
"Dude, even without it, I'm still way stronger than you. And probably faster."
Tim raised an eyebrow. "Do we have a deal, or not?'
Kon laughed. "Okay man, but you're going down. I'll try not to hurt you too bad."
Kon flopped down on his back, a stunned expression on his face. "Dude. I cannot believe you beat me." He moaned and covered his face with his hand. "I just got my ass handed to me by someone who's smaller than most of the girls I date."
Tim rolled his eyes, and fought the urge to smile. "Quit whining."
"I am never going to be able to hold my head up in public again."
"Somehow, I think you'll manage," Tim said dryly "Now get up, we're not done yet."
Kon lifted his head, eyes wide with horror. "There's more?"
"Yes. Good grief, be thankful it's me training you, not Batman. You wouldn't last two seconds with him."
Kon sighed, and got to his feet. "Yeah, but he's bigger than me."
"Size isn't everything."
Kon gave him a lecherous smile and eyed him up and down. "Yeah, I bet that's what you tell all the girls. That staff supposed to be compensating for something?"
Tim snapped said staff at the back of the kid's knees, and then caught him a blow under the chin as he fell. Tim smirked. "What do you think now?"
Kon glared up at him. "Get up, get up, he says, and then he knocks me right back down."
Tim was starting to grow impatient. Sure, this was… fun, but he had work to do. "Are we going to do this or not?"
Kon sighed. "Y'know, I'm not sure. I mean, learning to fight, great, cool, but you're all about," he grinned, "compensating for being a small human, and my big benefit is that I'm totally not. Superstrong, invulnerable, and pretty fast too."
"What are you saying?"
"I'm saying… you're a martial artist. Maybe what I need to learn is how to brawl. Without massive property damage and giving people concussions."
Tim nodded slowly. "You have a point. But that's not something I can teach you—it's not something I learned."
Kon laughed. "What, Batman doesn't teach his Robins how to box?"
Tim flinched. "He taught one," he said softly, thinking of a case in a dark corner of the cave.
"Nothing. Look you're probably right. But I can at least teach you how to knock someone out without giving them brain damage."
"Awesome. Let's do it."
It was an odd partnership. Tim spent a lot of time trying to convince Kon to take this seriously and not show off; Kon spent an equal amount of time teasing both Tim and the criminals, flirting with whoever they saved, and trying to get Tim to lighten up. The result was an odd balance that strangely enough, seemed to work.
And Tim was feeling… surprisingly happy. Batman had still 'ditched' him, Arianna wasn't speaking to him, and Mrs. Mac still looked at him with pity in her eyes, but for once Tim was feeling pretty good about being Robin. He hadn't even realized how lonely he'd been—until he wasn't anymore.
In retrospect, he should have known it wouldn't last.
Forty stories up, a figure stood in the shadows of a broken window. As the boys parted ways, one by jumpline and one by air, moonlight glinted off of binoculars that turned to follow their actions. When both were out of sight, the figure withdrew further into the building and pulled out a cell phone. "Boss. You ain't gonna like this. Things just got a lot more complicated."