4,803 words. Longest one-shot ever for me. And, it took me FOREVER to write. I can't say I'm a huge fan of it. Action scenes hate me. But, tell me what you think. By the way, I wasn't entirely sure what Lex Luthor's company's name was. Written for the Pain and Angst Challenge by Naimeria.
Superboy gasped for breath, kneeling slowly to the ground. The arrogant smirk on the bald man's face enraged him, but, oddly, he didn't seem to have the strength to be angry. Instead he was...lethargic. So terribly, terribly lethargic. And, somehow, he felt it had to do with the long, slim, glowing green stone that the man was holding.
"Curious?" The man waved the stone in front of his face. "It's called kryptonite. I'm surprised you didn't know about it. Of course, I'm also surprised that you were, in fact, some sort of Kryptonian like Superman." The man laughed. Oh, how Superboy hated that laugh. "Though I suppose you aren't really a Kryptonian. Just some kind of clone of Superman's. I didn't think that day would come, that they would be able to clone someone...especially Superman."
The man's expression turned from smug, to ugly, fast. He kicked at the helpless, young hero, who could barely manage a grunt of pain as he fell back. Another kick to the ribs sent him rolling over, experiencing a pain he had never felt before. When he opened his eyes after trying to gain some control over the pain, he realized that he was facing a window.
Outside, the moon was out, sometimes hidden behind a cloud, sometimes not. Superboy's mind vaguely wandered back to when Kid Flash, Robin, and Aqualad had first promised to show him the moon. Black pants stepped into view.
"You do look so much like him. I hadn't really been wondering how Superman would've looked in high school, but, I guess I know now." The sickly smile was back on the man's face as he pulled Superboy up by the collar of his shirt.
"What," Superboy whispered, somewhat amazed that he could even do this. "What...do you...want?"
The man shrugged. "Not much. I already have money, and beautiful women aren't hard to find with that, so, really, the only thing there is left to want is power. Unfortunately, Superman tends to get in my way a bit too often. Perhaps, getting rid of you would slow him down?"
Superboy's strength seemed to ebb even more with that statement. He knew what the man was implying with that statement, and it hurt even more than his kicking.
The man's eyes flicked behind Superboy, toward the door of the massive office. He acted as though he heard something.
Dropping the teen, he walked over to his desk. "Stay here." he chuckled, the arrogance coming into his voice even stronger than before. "I think you're teammates may have finally won against my machines. Which would be a surprising feat, as I have modified them to be quite difficult for even the Justice League."
Superboy's eyes were only half open, allowing him barely enough vision to see, from his side-ways, awkward view, three monitors pop up from within the desk. Light shown on the man's face, reflecting slightly off his bald forehead. Despite himself, Superboy managed to smile, ever so slightly, at that. Why did people shave their heads? It only made them shiny and reflective.
The man straightened suddenly, a frown creasing on his forehead. He muttered something about Robin under his breath, but, without powers, Superboy couldn't tell what.
Facing him again, the man smiled falsely – or, at least Superboy perceived it to be false. He felt that something hadn't gone according to plan, but the man was covering it up. "Well, Superboy, it's been fun. But, I'm afraid I have to go, much sooner than I had thought, to be sure. So it looks like you and I will have to end acquaintanceship right now."
The man picked up the kryptonite sliver from where he had laid it on his desk, holding it menacingly. As the man kneeled, Superboy felt that he suddenly knew what was going to happen. The man was going to stab him with the kryptonite, and he was going to die. All Superboy could feel was fear.
A fear that he hadn't experienced before. This was cold and undaunting. It taunted him as he saw the man raise the kryptonite. It grew quickly, so quickly, as the green sliver began to make its descent. And the fear didn't leave until a moment after something black sliced through the air, suddenly silencing the noisy glow of the kryptonite.
The bald man gasped in shock, his head turning to the door. Superboy lazily mimicked the action, his eyes lighting up to see that his savior came in the shape of a little robin.
"What's wrong, Lexie?" Robin questioned. "Surprised?"
'Lexie' wasted in no time diving for the kryptonite. The hand-thrown projectile had managed to break the kryptonite, leaving only a few large shards of the already small stone.
Robin raced after it, too. Leaping over Superboy's prone figure, he kicked the shards away from the man by a few feet.
Superboy couldn't describe the surge of relief that rushed through him when his sluggish mind began to pick up on what was happening. Small amounts of adrenaline began pumping through him as Robin started dragging him further away from the kryptonite. With this small amount of energy, he scrambled – all be it, slowly – to help Robin with this task. But they couldn't get far enough away fast enough.
"Robin," was all the man said as he approached the duo, shards in hand.
The powerless hero gently helped Superboy lean against the wall, before standing in front of him. He spat out the man's name in a disgusted manner, while also attempting to mock the man. "Luthor. I take it you didn't quite anticipate our dispersal of your little 'power attempt?'"
Luthor snorted. "Hardly. This is exactly what I wanted."
Superboy could see Robin shift slightly in his posture. He wasn't sure of himself, it seemed. Neither of them expected to hear that.
"No, I wanted you all to come." Luthor smiled, again. Chuckled, even. "No, you see, the Justice League brats arrive to take care of a 'small problem', become involved with something that was much too hard for them to deal with, and get killed. While the Justice League is grieving, I can take advantage of their emotional compromises, getting rid of them one, by, one." He emphasized the last three words with his steps.
"Funny," Superboy could hear the smirk in Robin's voice. "The last guy who had a similar plan ended up losing to us. C'mon, Lexie, you didn't think we'd be that easily taken, did you?"
Robin was stalling for time, Superboy could tell. Hopefully, Luthor couldn't.
"Of course not. I'm much to smart for that." Luthor stopped, standing just out of reach from Robin. "That's why my machines are programmed to take down the Justice League – not their brats. In that way, at least, I've got your distracted. Superboy's arrival before your all's was a bit...disconcerting, but even that has been handled."
Robin tensed. "Yet, you still have to deal with me."
Luthor let out a sharp laugh. "Oh, no. I won't be dealing with you." The man smiled. "Mercy will."
Out of the shadows leaped a tall, blond woman, catching the protégé of Batman completely off guard. He barely dodged her high kick, ducking as it swung right where his head had been.
Luthor took a step away from the fight, growling, "Mercy, get him out of my way!"
Mercy didn't even seem to acknowledge his command, throwing a punch at Robin. The Boy Wonder dodged that one, too, swinging around with a kick of his own, hitting her in the side while he stayed protectively in front of Superboy.
Stumbling to the side, Mercy grunted.
"Mercy! Stop playing around, I need you to hurry." Luthor hissed from the sidelines.
She threw a sideways glance to him and smiled slightly. "I can do that."
Robin's confident, if grim, smirk as he stood ready to meet her blows again, wavered. Mercy quickly pulled out a gun from her jacket and fired three shots at the boy.
Robin cried out as he was thrown to the ground by the bullets. He struggled with consciousness for a few minutes as the pain darted through his ribs.
Superboy watched in alarm as his fallen teammate struggled for breath. He tried to get his limbs to obey his thoughts as Mercy walked over to Robin, intending to finish the boy off.
"No..." he moaned, watching her take aim with her gun.
"Yes," Luthor said, striding over with the largest shred of kryptonite, gleaming ominous shadows on his face.
Superboy wasn't even paying attention to Luthor. Mercy had taken her place over Robin's head, almost lazily taking aim with her pistol. And then the pistol was half-way across the room.
Superboy smiled weakly at the sudden twist of Robin's body as his teammate swung his leg at Mercy's arm, then flipping to a standing position, only to leap forward, twisting in mid-air and hitting the woman hard on the side of her head with his foot. She fell to the ground and didn't move.
Luthor, seeing this, quickened his pace, raising his arm to stab down at the clone.
Robin dashed forward, intending to dispose of the kryptonite like he had Mercy's gun. But Luthor surprised him. Instead of continuing his dive for Superboy, the billionaire turned right as Robin had reached him.
Suddenly, a deep, yet sharp, and burning pain burst into Robin's torso. The boy maneuvered out of the way, but it didn't matter. Kryptonite was lodged in his stomach, jutting out at an odd angle, turned side-ways by his sudden movement.
Luthor shoved him out of the way, allowing himself a moment of satisfaction as the Boy Wonder flopped to the ground a few feet away. With the Batman's brat out of the way, Luthor was able to turn his full attention to Superboy, who was struggling to rise, his panicked eyes on his friend.
"Now, now, we'll have none of that," he chided. "That will only make this hurt even more."
Luthor had the smaller piece of kryptonite in his other hand. Robin's lack of bullet wounds meant that the boy had padding in his suit. So he used the longer splinter of the stone on him. But, Superboy, on the other hand, had only a t-shirt. And that worked just fine for the three-inch long piece Luthor now had remaining.
The man kneeled beside Superboy, almost gazing at him tenderly, as if he didn't want to do this. Superboy inched away, but it made no difference. Luthor grabbed his shoulder in an iron grip, causing the clone to grimace in pain.
"My only regret," Luthor said, "is that you're not Superman."
For the final time, the kryptonite was raised in the air, ready for a descent. A noise in the hallway caused Luthor to turn. Nothing came in through the door, but he didn't want to take any chances. He hastily stabbed Superboy, who didn't – couldn't – react in any way, and half-ran, half-walked to the other side of the room.
Mercy had recovered by this time, and staggered after him. Through half-lidded eyes, Superboy watched the man jiggle a branch of the fake tree he had in the office. A door slid open, and the two slipped through.
Superboy choked, whether in outrage of their getting away, or in pain, he wasn't really sure. He slid down to his side, completely unable to support himself. In his line of site was the door, and, just barely, Robin. He took a deep breath to call for help, but, he wasn't loud enough. He tried to call M'Gann mentally, but, she wasn't responding.
He tried to move again, but his body didn't respond. Not even with a twitch. A thought caught hold of him. Was he dying?
A movement caught his eye. Lazily, he looked up to see Robin rise slowly.
"Robin?" he whispered, or at least thought.
The boy smiled slightly as he stumbled toward him. He dropped to his knees and pushed against Superboy's shoulder, so that the clone was now laying on his back. With shaky hands, Robin took hold of the sliver of kryptonite sticking out of Superboy's stomach.
"It's all...discombobulating, isn't it?" Robin breathed as he worked.
Superboy closed his eyes in pain, nodding slightly, as the sliver was being slowly drawn out of his body.
A mumbled "sorry" escaped Robin's lips, but it was so, so quiet. And so, so weak.
A moment later, the pain was done with. But Superboy didn't open his eyes when the job was done. He was too busy rejoicing in the fact that just a little of his strength had returned, and breathing was easier. Was it really that simple? If more of his strength had returned, Superboy felt that he would've laughed. Even his hearing was improving – he could hear Robin's soft, if stumbling, footfalls getting further away.
Superboy's eyes snapped open. Walking away? He turned his head, another surge of joy rushing through as he found that he was more in control of his body than before. He could see Robin staggering to the other side of the room. The boy tripped once, but continued.
"Robin?" Superboy called after him, his voice still weak, but stronger than before.
But the other boy didn't even hesitate. He replied simply, in breathless tones, "Don't try to come near. This stuff can kill you."
Superboy attempted to get up, but fell back. "I got that much," he stopped, also needing to catch his breath. "But, what are you doing? You were hurt too."
Superboy watched as Robin reached the opposite wall, pressed his forehead against it, and slowly slid down, keeping his body faced away from Superboy.
Robin was in so much pain. Much more than he remembered ever being in before. Physically, that is.
"Do you think anyone's called the League?" He heard Superboy rasp out behind him.
Robing lay down on his side, curled. "Probably. Those bots were pretty tough." He closed his eyes. Talking was getting more difficult, making him get quieter. "Can you hear them?"
There was silence. And then, "Yeah. They're still fighting. And...losing."
Robin didn't open his eyes. He didn't think it would help anything. "Okay." He didn't say anything. Then a half-smile curved his lips. "Too bad we aren't too combobulated right now."
Superboy allowed himself a smirk as he listened to his teammates breathing slow. He didn't think much of it. He was too busy wondering why his power-gain had stopped. so much. In the back of his mind, Superboy remembered that he needed yellow sunlight. But, that was impossible. It was night. When people should be sleeping.
Sleep. The thought pervaded his weakened state, and Superboy found his eyes closing. He was so tired...he really needed this...
Aqualad grunted as he hit the wall. His vision was swimming. He didn't know how much longer they'd hold out.
Kid Flash was getting slower. Miss Martian was having a hard time concentrating. Artemis was almost out of arrows. He hadn't seen Robin in ten minutes. And he had no idea where Superboy was. None of them did.
Whipping out water-bearers, Aqualad summoned up more energy than he thought he had. Hardening the water that came rushing out of his water pack to harden in-
"Gah!" Kid yelled as he was thrown into his leader. He groaned when they landed. "Where do they come from?"
The two boys lay there for a moment, trying to gather themselves again. A thump nearby indicated Artemis' landing – if it could be called that. She hit the wall once before bouncing down, too hurt to move again immediately.
"Maybe," Kid gasped as he tried to stand. "Maybe now would be a good time to call the League."
Aqualad didn't answer, his hand to his belt buckle.
Kid Flash sped away, trying to buy time until the League could arrive. He didn't have to wait long.
Superman was suddenly in their midst, throwing one bot into another. His eyes glowed red from stored heat vision, ready to use at a moment's notice. His very being emanated anger, and fury was channeled into his movements as he punched, threw, and melted each bot.
A bot jumped onto the Man of Steel, who, surprised, ducked in the air. For a moment, Superman struggled against the bot, who's legs were wrapped tight around him. But a second later, Superman spread his arms with a grunt, taking hold of one of the mechanical legs and throwing it into another bot.
A gust of wind, and Flash was suddenly standing in front of the teens, who had gathered at the wall, too exhausted to help. He glanced quickly back at them, "Are you all alright?"
They all nodded in response, sending the Flash dashing away to help his League comrade. A blur of red darted to and fro, confusing the bots, who were suddenly having to deal with a second high-speed entity – something that their program hadn't anticipated.
Aqualad stood, unwilling to act as a spectator. Again, he formed hard-water swords, running forward with one last command for M'gann. "Miss Martian, see if you can contact Robin or Superboy."
She tried, closing her eyes to concentrate. "I'm not getting them."
Superman turned toward her, from lifting a bot in the air. He called over the sounds of their battle, "Nothing?"
"Nothing." M'gann responded, rising to the air again, Artemis and Kid Flash joining the fray soon after.
Another blur of colors, and Wonder Woman was right there with them. The battle's tide turned to their favor. It didn't take them long to realize, though, that Luthor had made many, many of these battle bots. They had struck back with surprising force, proving to be even more difficult when challenged. Their AI would have impressed the superheroes had they not been so busy fighting them.
And then, it was done.
Kid Flash slammed into one before he could stop himself.
A movement by the front desk at the far end of the room caused them to look up. Batman stood, leaning over the computer as he gathered further information.
"I didn't even see you," Flash commented, relieved. "What did you do?"
The Dark Knight looked up briefly before brushing past them, walking briskly. "I hacked the mainframe. Luthor's mistake."
Aqualad turned to follow him. "We need to find Robin and Superboy."
"They're in Luthor's office."
Superman flew past them, ignoring Wonder Woman's cry to wait. He hadn't heard any signs of conflict outside of their own, and that worried him. It apparently worried Batman, too. He could hear the hurried footsteps of running behind him.
In just a moment, he was there, floating in the doorway. He first saw Superboy, lying just a few feet away from Luthor's desk, on his back. But, no sign of Robin. Flying through, Superman was suddenly slowed by a great feeling of weakness.
He stumbled to the ground, recognizing all too well the effects of kryptonite. He quickly spotted the small shards lying near the window, and took a step back. He couldn't get much closer without becoming seriously crippled by its radiation.
A small, dark lump caught his eye, and Superman's gaze rested on it. For a moment, he had no idea what it was, until he recognized it as Robin.
The young boy was further away from the kryptonite shards, allowing Superman the comfort of knowing he wouldn't be terribly affected by going over to him. Or so he thought.
He floated over, until, a few feet away, Superman felt a massive drain of his powers. He had felt it before, but it wasn't until he was closer that he really felt the brunt of it. He dropped to the ground, throwing himself backwards with his remaining strength. Dragging himself away, Superman spotted the faint, green glow casting its light against the wall beyond Robin.
Footsteps stopped in the doorway behind him.
Superman, gasping for breath, turned to see Batman standing there. "Robin's got the kryptonite."
Superboy had been drifting in and out. It had been silent for the most part. He thought he heard a noise, and, in his half-awake dreams, he saw Superman floating through the room. But it wasn't a very nice dream, because he saw the blurred form of blue and red fall to the ground. Weird, he thought. The genomorphs had never mentioned Superman falling while flying.
As the strange dream progressed, Superman was joined by a dark blob – Batman? Superboy wasn't entirely sure. A pounding in his head kept him from focusing, and his eyes wouldn't stay open. Were they open? He wasn't even sure.
And why, in this funny dream, was his bed so uncomfortable? He shifted, but a pain darted through his torso, an unfamiliar feeling. He groaned, surprised and hurt. After all, isn't that was pain does to people?
The pain did help wake him a little, though. With his eyes opened, Superboy realized that he was in an office. In a moment, he remembered exactly why. Turning his head, he saw Batman crouching next to the wall, his body and cape hiding Robin from view.
Superboy struggled to sit up, but he was still weak. To his left, at the door, Superman stood still, though he turned at the sound. Briefly, their eyes met, until Superboy fell back, again turning his gaze to Batman.
"Is he okay?" He croaked out.
The Dark Knight turned ever so slightly, but didn't answer.
Superboy suddenly heard the arrival of Flash and Kid Flash. The two speedsters stood still for just a moment, before Kid rushed to his best friend.
Flash, with a motion from Superman, came to Superboy's side. Helping him up, Flash half-carried the clone to the door, getting him further away from the kryptonite.
As his strength returned, just a bit more, Superboy, now able to support himself to some extent, twisted to look at the small crowd by the wall. Batman was pulling the kryptonite out of his young protégé, while Kid Flash just watched, standing awkwardly.
"Is he gonna be okay?" He asked Flash, desperately wanting to go help, but knowing too well the consequences.
The Flash shifted to accommodate Superboy's regaining strength. "I don't know, kid." Feeling the sag of the younger hero, he summoned a quick grin. "I'm sure he'll be fine. After all, he's Robin. The guy's a death-defying bat-buddy."
Superboy didn't find any comfort in the words. He looked up as he heard the rest of his team reach the doorway, Wonder Woman with them.
Superman turned. "Did you-"
Wonder Woman held a hand up briefly before going to Batman. "All taken care of."
"Superboy!" Megan cried out, seeing the wetness and tear on his shirt, as she rushed toward him. She stood on the other side of him, so that Superboy had her support, as well as Flash's.
"Are you alright?" Kaldur asked, also seeing the wound. His eyes, however, found Robin before the answer came. His face paled – if only a little – and his face was full of questions.
Superboy was about to answer when Superman did it for him. "He'll be fine once he gets some sun."
Flash and Megan transferred Superboy's weight to Superman.
"But," the boy started. "What about Robin? Is he okay?"
Superman wrapped his arm around the clone under his arm, placing Superboy's arm around his neck. "Batman will take care of him."
He wasn't sure how, or even why, but Superboy had a distinct feeling that the older Kryptonian was frightened. Shaken, as it were, by the events. Before he could protest further, he was suddenly rushing through the building, to the sky.
"Hold your breath," Superman commanded, and wasn't questioned.
They shot up, and the change in air pressure began to take it's toll on Superboy's injured body. He grimaced, tensing up. He could feel Superman look at him, but, he didn't make sure. But Superman must've looked, because Superboy could feel them going even faster.
It felt like an instant – and it probably was – when they were suddenly out of the earth's atmosphere, and right before the sun.
Superboy blinked in the light, his breath still held. Shielding his face, he looked at Superman. The older Kryptonian's eyes were closed, and he seemed to be simply, and literally, bathing in the sun's rays. Superboy followed his example.
Slowly, though quickly enough for him to notice, Superboy felt his full strength return and the pain leave. He relaxed, realizing suddenly that he was weightless. Space was a whole new feel, and it made him forget what had happened. Superman even released a bit of his hold on the clone. And then he tightened the grip again, and they were streaking down to earth, reaching the LexCorp tower in seconds.
When he realized that he could breathe again, Superboy felt himself under the strange, searching, gaze of Superman. "What?"
The older Kryptonian looked away quickly. "I'm, just...making sure you're alright."
They lighted in the hall just outside the office. A glance from Wonder Woman indicated that it was safe to come in. Batman and Robin were no longer by the wall, and it was clear that the remaining heroes had been waiting for them. Though, not for long, Superboy thought.
Seeing Superboy's worried look, Flash came by his side, clapping a hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry, Bats thinks he'll make it."
"Where are they."
"Batcave. Trust me, Robin will be fine."
Superman came to his other side. "Just like you are."
The pain dimmed suddenly. It was still there, but more in the background than in front of his conscious. A cool, comforting draft of air raced across his torso as his shirt was lifted. Experimentally, he breathed in, noting the familiar wet smell, and was also greeted with a sharp pain darting through his stomach. With a groan, he tried to sit up, but was restrained by a warm hand.
Cracking his eyes open, Robin was greeted by the worried face of Bruce Wayne, who was still in Batman garb. Alfred was just in his line of vision, gathering what was necessary to bandage the wound.
A tired smile removed a few of the anxious wrinkles on Bruce's face. "Hey, Dick. How are you?"
Dick smiled weakly, running a tired hand over his face. Finding his mask still in place, he started to peel it off. But his hands didn't respond particularly well. With a patient look, Bruce placed his hand where Dick's had been, removing the mask without difficulty.
Dick settled back, closing his eyes. "How's Superboy?"
He didn't feel worried. He did feel like he should, though. Maybe it was the drugs...
"Superboy will be fine. Clark flew him up to the sun almost as soon as he arrived."
Dick summoned the energy to open his eyes and look at Bruce. "Lex Luthor." When Bruce's face darkened, he added, "League business, then?"
"Hold still, Master Dick," Alfred said, suddenly appearing next to Bruce. "You were lucky. The shard didn't go straight in, it was merely angled to an almost sideways position."
Dick hummed a response, barely feeling whatever it was Alfred was doing.
There was silence for a few minutes, as Alfred worked. Bruce stayed right next to Dick's head, his hand stroking the boy's hair absentmindedly. The sight that had greeted him when he walked ran into that office nearly stopped his heart. He didn't need much of an explanation to figure out what happened. He had seen the blood on the carpet leading to Robin, and knew from the green glow it couldn't have been Superboy.
Dick shifted. He opened his eyes and looked at Bruce. "You know, it's funny. We didn't have much reason to go to Luthor. It was like something in Superboy snapped, and he just hated the guy." He smirked. "Almost like Luthor-hating is in the DNA."
Bruce smiled. "Yes, it is a little odd. Almost," he continued with a twinkle in his eye. "Whelming."
Dick laughed, before groaning and being admonished by Alfred. "Best. Word. Ever."
And then he slept, and healed.
So, guess who hates it when their stories are favorited but not reviewed? Me! Please, drop a comment. Critiques are awesome, and I don't mind the occasional flame. I've got a few more fics planned, but, I'm sick, and need to go to bed. -Jimmy C.