A/N: I think I saw this done one other time, and it seriously got me thinking that even though Bats couldn't get through to Superman on the subject of Superboy, maybe Dick could? Thus, this little look at Dick and Clark's relationship, as well as Clark and Conner's (I'm calling him that because they're in a public place for most of the story and after-missions for another; pretend they gave him the name already), greets you all!
When Clark Kent walks out of the Daily Planet to the diner across the way, he doesn't expect to see the adoptive son of Bruce Wayne there.
Leaning against the counter with arms crossed and a contemplative expression painted on his face, Richard "Dick" Grayson seems to sense Clark's entrance. Snapping out of his thoughts as his head whips toward the door, he straightens the moment his eyes lock with the Justice League member's.
This is more than just coincidence. Clark can tell by the intense look in the boy's striking blue eyes, by the insincere curl of the mouth that is meant to pass for a welcoming smile. Really, by the fact that the kid's in Metropolis at all.
Batman's thirteen-year-old partner inclines his head toward the booth he's been saving for them (the same where he and Bruce always sit, the secret-Superman notices with a tiny smirk), and the two wander over.
At first, neither breathes a word. They merely stare at each other—Dick with determined, yet respectful eyes, and Clark with remotely amused, curious ones.
This strange brand of silence is broken as the waitress waltzes over to take their order. Without even having to ask Clark orders an apple pie, and from the mischievous grin he's just been flashed, he knows he's done the right thing. Inwardly, he chuckles. Like Father, like son.
A few minutes later, and their dessert comes in. Clark nearly goes into stitches when he sees a widely-smiling Dick lick his lips; he can only imagine Bruce doing the same. The Kent cuts the small pie in half with a knife and, one fork each in their hands, they dig into the delectable treat.
Dick, the Kryptonian can't help but notice, eats it just the way Bruce does, down to where he starts (the crust), the smooth motions, everything. The man grins slyly and rolls his eyes good-naturedly when he thinks the kid's not looking (though he knows far better). Really now...?
However, this catharsis does not last for long.
In getting through one-fourth of his section of the pie, Clark calmly sets down his fork and clears his throat. Elbows resting on the table, he lays his chin on his laced fingers and narrows his eyes at the secret-Boy Wonder.
"What's this about, Dick?" he asks slowly, genuinely inquisitive.
The boy's mood shifts now from his favorite-treat-eating high, as evidenced by the minute furrowing of his brow and the frown that overtakes his normally cheerful face.
It is just one word, one name, but there is such a tender firmness, a soft disappointment, in the way it's spoken that Clark finds himself unable to fight back right away.
Finally, he averts his eyes, pretending to intently study the passersby outside. Not this again… First Bruce, and now his protégé…
Sighing heavily through his nose, he reaches up to adjust his glasses out of long-kicked nervous habit. Whatever happens this time around, it'd better be good.
"What about him, Richard?"
Dick clenches one fist tightly. His first name is only used by the few authority figures he trusts, and only when he's in major trouble or when things get Batman-level serious.
He knows well that it could be either or both right now.
"You know what, Clark!" Dick hisses, turning the tables on the older man by using his own moniker.
Back when he'd first met Superman shortly after becoming Robin, Bruce had given him explicit permission to use the Man of Steel's Earth-given name to let him know he was pushing the envelope too far. Clark had caught on to their little conspiracy rather quickly, but lucky for the three's sanity a reason to make good on this threat had not come about in nearly three years.
That is, until now.
So really, Dick isn't at all surprised when one of Clark's eyebrows shoots nearly to his hairline. He's surprised it's come to this, too. But really, what can the man expect when he's acting like such a baby?
The secret-Superman's eyes narrow angrily, and had he not been Batman's ward Dick is sure he would have been out the door and halfway back to Gotham by now. But he is Batman's ward—nay, Bruce Wayne's son—and so help him he is going to get through to this impossibly stubborn Kryptonian if it kills him!
Because Superboy—Conner—deserves that much. And so much more.
Clark, meanwhile, itches to leave. Truly, there's nothing stopping him. He can easily make it past Dick and out of here without giving up either of their identities.
But for all of his evading, Clark can't help but feel that something, even just slightly, is different about this argument with Dick, something that was missing when he and the boy's adoptive Father mulled over the same thing one week ago today. Somehow, discussing such a life-altering issue with a mere child…although he knows well that the youngest Grayson has been so much more than a babe since the night his parents died…compels him to stay.
Closing his eyes wearily, he curls his hand into a fist to take his mind off of its impulses, two of his free hand's fingers stretching to massage his forehead above his eyes. When the man looks up at last, aggravated blue eyes pierce Dick's own.
"He may have been created from my DNA, but that doesn't make me responsible for him," he asserts, voice immovable.
"Right! He is a part of you," Dick smirks smugly, and Clark grudgingly commends the thirteen-year-old's cleverness, "which is why you're the only one who can train him properly! He needs your help to reach his full potential, Kent!"
"But—look where he came from!" Clark tries despairingly, glaring down at his clenched fists. "How can he even look at me when he knows that he's just a copy, that he's nothing more than a living weapon created to destroy those that have become his friends and family?"
Dick says nothing for a long moment, but within another he's rested one small hand on top of the older man's much bigger one.
"And that is exactly why he needs you now more than ever." His voice is soft now with meaning and pride, his small smile conveying just the same. "You should see him during training, in the field! He's unbridled power, Clark, just like you! But he needs a teacher." The hand that is a literal miniature of Bruce's squeezes the secret-Superman's. "He needs you."
Yet the bespectacled man just shakes his head furiously and pulls his hand out from underneath Dick's. The boy can see it so clearly now, more than he ever has before: Clark Kent, secret identity of the amazing Man of Steel himself, is downright terrified of the implications of having a living weapon of a clone for a son.
And truly, Dick can't find it in his heart to fault him for that. Really, who could?
"There's nothing wrong with being afraid, Clark! No one can blame you for that! Even Bruce was a little thrown when Conner told everyone!" He cracks a smile at the man's startled-then-flushed visage, wide eyes and pale face shrinking to normal and washing red, respectively. He should have known that if there's no hiding from the World's Greatest Detective himself, his protégé would be no different. "But you can't just keep pretending he doesn't exist! Whenever Bruce, Barry, J'onn, and Orin come around, Conner always feels like he's not worth as much because he doesn't have a mentor like the rest of us." For a fraction of a second, the teen's eyes narrow. "And I know you've experienced his eagerness first-hand."
Clark ducks his head. It's true. He's been on the receiving end of that kicked-puppy look so many times over the last several months that it's been painful. The image won't leave him alone, no matter how much he wishes it.
He can't help that he's scared of this. His clone is perfectly kind and caring—a little angry, volatile, and on the stoic side, but these things are not at all unfixable. In fact, Clark would be lying if he said he hadn't expected far worse. But all the same, the situation and its subject being what they are…he doesn't know if even he is strong enough to face this.
"What do you want me to do, Dick?" he inquires helplessly. "I've—I've been horrible to him, I know, and I regret that, but I—I don't know…" He trails off, raking a hand through his hair with a heaving sigh. And even if he does get over his fear…how can he possibly fix what he's done?
When he peers across the table at Dick once again, then, he is shocked to see that a bright, loving smile has overtaken the young boy's face, that his blue eyes are shining.
"Be like Bruce was with me when he first took me in," he utters softly, and it is in this moment that his eyes glaze over in a way that says he's remembering something both crippling and dear to him. "G-give him space, of course, but when he's had enough solitude and you find the time," a quiet laugh sneaks past his lips, "be gentle and sensitive. Maybe sit up with him late at night, perhaps with some hot chocolate and marshmallows," his eyes flash with past laughs and chocolate-whipped cream mustaches, "and get to know him. Get close to him. Let him know you care, that you'll be there if he needs you." The film over his eyes doubles now as his baby blues all but pin Clark down with their intensity and love. "Let him know you love him, and rest assured he'll love you back."
An absent hum follows several instants after the last word is said, and Dick slowly comes out of his blast to the past to find Clark in a world of his own. Grinning gently, the secret-Boy Wonder stops a passing waitress and asks for a doggie bag for the rest of his pie. He knows Bruce will appreciate this treat, and perhaps Alfred won't mind splurging a little, too. Goodness knows the beloved wise-cracking butler could use a little more meat on his bones.
Pie-filled box in bag in hand less than a minute later, the child stands before a still-seated, still-contemplative Clark. Grinning affectionately—he really is such a kind man, just like Conner—he gives a half smile and a small wave, whispering, "Goodbye, Clark," before disappearing out the door.
He can only pray that he at least left a mark on the Man of Steel's stubborn armor of resolve.
When the Young Justice members return from a successful mission a few days later, there is a surprise waiting for them.
"Uncle J'onn!" M'gann squeals in delight, flying forward to hug her mentor tightly.
J'onn returns the embrace just as firmly, grinning brightly along with her. "It is good to see you, niece. How was your mission?"
The two leave the others behind as she tells the story to him telepathically, even going so far as to show him images from her memory.
"Yo, Uncle Barry!" Wally greets as the speedsters pound each other's fist. "What's speedin'?"
"Well, let's see…" Barry runs a few laps around the room, calling to Wally as he zips by, "me…me…and oh, yeah…me!"
Wally bursts out laughing. "Hey, leave some track for me to shred, man!" Revving up, he joins his uncle in their speed dance, both of them carefree and fun-loving as ever.
"My King!" Kaldur cries excitedly, beaming, bowing low a moment before straightening. "It is good to see you!"
The older gilled man rests an endearing hand on his shoulder and grins widely. "Well met, Kaldur'ahm. Our time apart has been too long. How are you?"
"I am very well, my King." He looks out to the others, smile widening in his pride. "We grow stronger and become more connected as a team every day." His silvery eyes are gentle and have a watery sheen as he turns back to his mentor. "It is all coming together."
Orin rests a strong hand on the youth's tattooed upper arm. "Indeed, it is, son." One eyebrow quirked, a smirk paints his lips. "Now, what is this I hear about you defeating twenty men in one go?"
"Batman!" Dick trills, beaming up at his mentor and adoptive Father before his expression shifts to a sly, knowing grin. Whispering in a voice only the man can hear, he asks, "Did you see us? We totally whelmed those creeps!"
The Dark Knight can't keep from flashing the smallest of smiles. In one swift movement he ruffles his beloved son's hair before that same warm hand rests on his shoulder.
"Yes, I did. You all did very well," Gotham's Savior praises. "Your leadership skills, especially, are taking serious root," he takes this moment to bask in the pride that it was his own protégé's impressive strategy that won the team this victory, "but we'll talk more about that later. Right now," Dick knows that if they were at home, Bruce would be licking his lips right now, "we still have a slice or two of that apple pie."
Dick laughs raucously, and Bruce beams. The blessed child…
Conner, however, is another matter entirely. The moment he walks into the room to see his teammates with their mentors, he steps back to fall into the shadows until called upon. As usual. Clenching his fists tightly to avoid making another dent in the headquarters' wall, he starts to walk toward the training room. A little physical exertion normally helps him forget things for a while…
A tentative clearing of the throat, and he snaps up, ready to pounce. But he drops everything just as quickly.
For standing there before him is the one man he's always wanted to see there, but never has. But now he sees it because Superman is there, and though he can't understand the how or why of it, he's happy.
A beam breaks out on his face, and the man visibly relaxes as he does his best to reciprocate.
"I'm s—" Clark begins, but is surprisingly cut off by a gentle finger to his lips. He glances down at the younger boy curiously.
"Don't say you're sorry," Conner requests. "We can discuss that later. But for now," removing his finger from his Father figure's lips, his brow furrows under the weight of his eager questioning; his soft, tender voice breaks through, "what made you change your mind?"
Clark gives a secret smile and peeks over his shoulder at a certain Boy Wonder.
"Let's just say a little Birdie told me."
A/N: Hopefully it's all right! XD I've been sick for the past week and had a lot going on besides (A.P. Physics tests suck, impromptu company, etc.), so I'm really sorry if I missed something or messed something up (in which case tell me, please)! I tried to edit as best I could, but I'm really tired and coughing up a storm right now, so...yeah... XD
I hope the ending with Superman is believable (or that the big guy's believable at all, seeing as I've never written him before). I can't help but think, after looking so hurt at Superman's constant rejections, Superboy would be really ecstatic if his mentor/Father finally acknowledged him! Hence, his reaction and not being angry. He might be later, off-screen, but we'll never know (unless you guys wish otherwise, I suppose...)! XP
Artemis isn't in this one because she isn't really close with Oliver (Green Arrow)...and I thought it'd mess up the groove. XD Sorry, Artie fans, but you know it's true! XD
Thanks so much for reading, as always!