"I said it wasn't up for discussion."
And there it was. That cold calculating voice. One thing Robin had learned over the years was nothing was ever up for discussion when Batman said it wasn't. When he was younger, he'd try to argue, but the end result would ultimately be the same thing; Batman would win.
But now, sitting up as much as he could being restrained by his seat belt, Robin felt he had earned the right to speak. He was Batman's partner after all. He'd been through so much since that fateful night at the circus. He was apart of something much bigger now, something that Batman was trying to squash and control as he did with everything. Robin was tired of being controlled.
If they were in the cave Alfred probably would have chimed in as he often did when times between the duo got tight. He'd chuck up Robin's rather recent rebellious behavior to 'teenage impulses' and recall a tale from Bruce's past when he did something similar.
There was no Alfred tonight to referee their bickering.
The young teenager dramatically flipped his cape over his shoulder. "Nothing is ever up for discussion! It's only what you want! You don't even care how this will—"
Batman's jaw grew tighter. "I do care. That's why I'm doing it."
The short and well paced answer didn't sit well with the Boy Wonder. A pair of crossed arms over his chest and glossy masked hues narrowly looked up towards his mentor with frustration. The young teenager wanted nothing more than to tell the man just how wrong he really was. Even though deep down inside the boy's gut he knew that Bruce was simply looking out for him, he didn't appreciate the manner in which he carried it. Not like he ever did though.
If there was one thing that Robin knew from all his years under Batman's wing, it was that the cruelest and sometimes most painful of acts acts were the sign of love and concern.
Too bad the team probably wouldn't see it that way. They were already suspicious of him enough with Batman forbidding him to reveal his identity. When they found out his latest assignment they'd probably boot him off the team.
Silence carried through out the sleek, black plane for several minutes. One could only hear a slight hum from the engine (which meant Batman would surely put the ship under for maintenance) and the occasional sharp inhale from Robin who fidgeted in his seat, still heated from the recent argument.
The Caped Crusader seemed to acknowledge the amount of restrain his small partner was trying to contain. "It's not just for your protection, it's for the team's."
The former acrobat unleashed his rage in an instant. "He's not a threat! He may have a temper, sure, but he wouldn't just rip us in half like some monster. He's not a monster!" Robin pointed his index finger towards the Dark Knight, unintimidated by his often overwhelming stature. The boy instead of backing down, continued to try and defend his point, defend his teammate. "I know you don't think so. But you don't know him either. You haven't even bothered to take the time to try. And that's your problem, Bruce. You assume too much."
There was only a brief amount of silence before it was broken by Batman pulling himself up and out of his chair to face his ward. Sharp, claw like gloves scurried over the plane's dashboard selecting a few auto-piloted safe points before returning towards his ferocious partner. His long cloak slid down over his shoulders making his body practically disappear underneath the dark martial. It was the posture that frightened criminals and League members alike, the stance that made the man seem less human and more mythical. Robin sat unphased, he knew better.
"And you're assuming too much as well," the older man rumbled out. "Tell me how much you know about this clone. How much you really know."
Robin snarled. "Don't call him that."
"Don't escape the subject. I'm waiting," Batman cooed out in a haunting growl. He took a few steps closer towards his apprentice watching the boy maintain his strong defense.
Swallowing the dry patches that had formed in the back of his throat, Robin inhaled sharply avoiding eye contact with Batman for a few brief seconds. He knew plenty about Superboy. He was his teammate, a trusted friend. Sure, the guy wasn't as chit-chatty as Kid Flash or as calm as Aqualad, but that didn't outright make him a 'dangerous' target.
"Well?" the Dark Knight spat out plainly.
Looking up at Batman, his face engulfed in the dark sun setting shadows, Robin proudly began. "He's a valued member of the team. He's capable of doing almost anything. He has super strength, enhanced speed and obviously he's pretty resistant. I mean, think of a smaller version of Superman. That is who he was modeled after," Robin explained rather irritated that Bruce wanted him to even state this. It was all obvious.
"But what do you know about him?" Batman demanded, raising his monotoned, stale voice only slightly.
Robin scowled behind his mask, unable to quickly answer his mentor's question. Instead, he paused for a few moments, trying to assess what Bruce was really trying to get out of this inquiry. Every question had a double meaning, some way of using each bit of information to his advantage.
"What do you want to know? I mean, I don't know anything like his favorite color or song—"
"Exactly. He was cloned to replace Superman should he die or turn on humanity," Bruce flatly murmured in that way to execute his brash point. "Superboy was made by Cadmus, a government controlled facility. He was designed to be under their control. Not live out his life as a normal teenager—"
The Boy Wonder let out a nasally chuckle. "Normal? You call what I do normal?" the teenager laughed again.
Batman was highly unamused. He bent down placing both of his hands securely on his ward's shoulders and forcing the youth to look him directly into his eyes. Robin pushed his head back as far as it would go into the seat cushion, slightly uneasy by the quick and close gesture. His nose was barely three inches from his mentor's. He could hear Bruce's heavy breathing and see the retrain the older man held back as he held onto his partner. If it had not been Robin sitting there, the Dark Knight's fingers would be drilling deeply into his prey's flesh demanding a painful and full audience. But instead he always opted for a different route with his boy. He just wanted Robin to grasp how serious the situation was.
"He was designed to replace Superman. That means he's just as dangerous, if not more." Batman lingered for a couple of seconds analyzing the change in his wards face, watching his masked hues look back at his carefully. "Friend or not, I refuse to send you back unprepared. You have to think of the unthinkable, Richard. If you don't the unthinkable will win."
Slowly, Batman's right hand was removed from Robin's shoulder and dipped into his utility belt. The older man pulled out a small black box emitting a weak, pulsing green light from the creases around it. Robin felt his heart go heavy as Bruce placed the box into his hands. He knew what was in that box: kryptonite.
Robin pressed this thin lips tightly together, afraid to answer so quickly. Superboy was the unthinkable in Batman's mind. He was the lose end, the clone that shouldn't have happened. And in Batman's eyes that was a threat. His complete and full origins weren't truly know, not even by Superboy himself. No one knew how Cadmus had gotten a hold of Superman's DNA, let alone had enough time to even plan a project to make a person in the Man of Steel's image. And that kind of work never came cheap. Someone big was connected to Cadmus and the idea. Or maybe someones...
But that still didn't mean Superboy should be denied the right of living his life. He was still a person.
Then again, people were always capable of doing anything, good or bad.
Sighing as Batman's heavy hand weighed him down in his seat, Robin meekly nodded. "I... understand," he whispered out, feeling almost like a traitor exposing his family to the dogs. "It's just that... as a team we're supposed to trust one another. How am I supposed to work with the team if I don't trust him?" the young teenager wondered aloud, his eyes searching for an answer within Batman's haunted ones.
Batman gave a small nod. "That's part of the work we do. We have to blend in. People may hate us for it, but it never hurts to be prepared."
The Dark Knight lifted himself up to return to his seat leaving his Boy Wonder to think about his recent token. Nervously, the boy grasped the box tightly with both hands watching his fingers wrap around the cracks to cover the leaking green glow. This was ridiculous. How on Earth was he supposed to keep this... this piece of rock on him knowing that if he dropped it that the mere presence could kill his friend and teammate? How was he supposed to even look at Superboy with out the worry of him finding out he had his ultimate weakness stuffed in his belt?
It wasn't fair!
Stuffing the box into his far back pouch, Robin turned on his side to watch the rest of his flight in silence and with out Batman's blaring eyes burning into him. Part of him wanted nothing more than to ask Batman to turn around, to quit the group now and save himself the shame of all his continuous lying. His team didn't know his name, they weren't allowed to contact him during his time in Gotham (Wally often broke this rule) and now he had Superboy's personal death trap sleeping in his pocket.
"I know it must be hard... to feel that your betraying your friends."
Batman's voice brought Robin back from his slump, back from staring out towards the moonlight sky. His head craned over his shoulder looking towards the Bat, a bland expression on his face.
Batman raised a brow behind his mask. "What?"
"Pizza. That's his favorite food," Robin mumbled out with little enthusiasm, his focus shifting back to the night's clouds instead of the stiffed face of Batman.
Robin prayed he'd never, ever have to use that rock.