Tim shivers as he wraps his cape around himself to keep warm. He really wishes he had changed from wearing Robin's domino mask back to his cowl before he left with Black Canary, but he kind of figured that time was of the essence. Here's hoping he doesn't suffer from frostbite before he manages to convince Superman to, at the very least, meet with Superboy. The two of them stand at the entrance to the Fortress of Solitude, waiting for Superman to greet them. Tim knows for a fact that Superman had to have heard them arriving, and he's fast enough that he should already be at the door, so Tim just assumes this is his punishment for forcing the issue. Obviously, this Superman is vastly pettier than Tim's own.
Tim grits his teeth and does his best not to shiver as he waits for Superman to appear. He's about to ask Canary if the man is always this late, when there's an abrupt burst of freezing air that blows his cape to the side and has Tim's hair plastered to the side of his head as something moving at near supersonic speed zooms past him. Suddenly, Superman is standing before him, looking rather relaxed in the sub-zero temperature. "Sorry about that. There was a flash flood in Florida and I didn't think that it would take that long to clear everyone out."
Tim nods and resists the urge to smooth out his hair. It's just one more reason he wishes he was wearing his cowl right now. He does, however, shake out his cape, so that it covers him a bit more as he also subtly shakes his hair out of his eyes. "If you don't mind, I'd like to finish this conversation inside."
Superman stares at him for a moment, before he seems to realize that Tim's not exactly equipped to be standing outside in literally freezing temperatures. "Right, of course, follow me."
The three of them walk into the fortress and Tim can't help but look around at all of the oddities that Superman has collected. It doesn't surprise him that the Fortress of Solitude back home has far less empty containment cells. It's interesting that there are a few similarities, though. Superman seems to notice Tim staring at a strange looking plant, kept behind a glass case. "It's a…"
"I know what it is, and what it does, and why it's kept here far, far away from everything organic."
Superman halts and turns to stare at him in disbelief. "You do?"
Tim nods as they continue along the corridor. "What? You really think this is my first time in a Fortress of Solitude?"
Superman seemingly gives him a once over. "You must be highly regarded and respected back on your earth to earn such privileges."
Tim shrugs and does his best not to laugh outright. His first time at the fortress was completely out of necessity. In fact, so were a lot of the other times he's visited the Fortress of Solitude. However, having Conner as a best friend definitely got him inside the fortress and access to the less dangerous oddities Superman has collected over the years. The fact that Superman has always had a fondness for the various Robins didn't hurt either. Still, none of that is information that this particular Superman needs, so Tim silently keeps walking until Superman stops in a rather open area and gestures for them to have a seat.
Black Canary shakes her head at the offer and starts to head down another hallway. "I don't think I really need to be present for this conversation, so I'll just leave you boys to it. Let me know when Red Robin is ready to head back to the HQ."
She's gone before either one of them can protest, not that Tim had any intention of doing so. After all, this conversation will be a lot easier without a third party interloper. It doesn't matter if Tim knows that Canary is on his side, he's pretty sure that she would have some objections to some of the things Tim intends to say. Superman heaves a sigh before turning his attention back towards him, and Tim merely stands tall and waits for Superman to finish scrutinizing him. "Well, feel free to make yourself comfortable."
Tim rolls his shoulders so that his cape falls back over them and out of the way. He's a lot warmer now and doesn't feel the need to try to wrap himself in it any longer, and then he shifts squaring his shoulders and preparing for the worst. "I'm comfortable."
Superman snorts out a laugh that's definitely more Clark than Superman as he sits down. "You know, even Batman isn't this stiff when he's here…not when it's just a simple private conversation." Superman stares at him pointedly, clearly probing for answers as to what Tim really wants.
Tim's eyes narrow as he folds his arms over his chest. If Superman wants to play the coy reporter with him, then he can definitely go along with that, even if it might be a bit more expedient if he didn't. However, that doesn't mean that Tim likes Superman comparing him to Batman anymore than when Dick does it, even if he does intend to use it to his advantage. "I'm sure he does when he intends to lecture you."
Superman's eyes widen as he leans forward in his chair. "And what could you possibly have to lecture me about?" His expression and tone definitely seem to indicate that he can't fathom why a child thinks he has the right to lecture him, and it immediately makes Tim tense. He's had just about enough of people looking at him like he's just another rookie, especially since Tim thinks he's done a fairly decent job of proving that he's really not like the rest of the team. Then again, Tim guesses that since Dick was the pioneer of 'I'm not just a kid running around in spandex,' this JLA just isn't used to seeing someone his age act this way. It's a frustration that Tim honestly hasn't had to put up with since his early days as Robin, and he definitely hasn't missed it at all.
Tim continues to just stare at Superman impassively, not entirely sure if Superman is just playing stupid or if he really is that oblivious, but either way it doesn't bode well for the rest of their interaction. Tim hadn't really intended to do this with kid gloves, but if he's got to be a bit more Batman than he would normally like, then so be it. "The current situation between you and Superboy is unacceptable." Tim watches as Superman tenses and becomes rather defensive, but before the man can say anything to defend himself, Tim slices a hand through the air and glares at him, effectively silencing him. "I'm well aware of your reasons for distancing yourself from him, given the circumstances. However, as the reasonable adult here," Tim pauses and glares at him before continuing, "I think you have a certain obligation towards the kid."
Superman's expression hardens as he gets to his feet. "I do not have an obligation towards a clone, made without my knowledge, nor my consent, especially one that is dangerous and a possible threat to…"
"No, you don't have a responsibility nor an obligation to a clone. You have a responsibility and obligation to a young man, dealing with superpowers that you've already mastered, and are well aware can be a handful to deal with when your emotions are all over the place." Tim immediately cuts Superman off again, unwilling to hear anyone, even Superman, speak about Superboy that way, especially when the teen has come so far in such a short time. Progress which Superman knows nothing about, since he's been MIA for the whole damn process. Tim won't let him sit here and treat the Conner of this world like nothing more than a meaningless pile of cells…not when Superboy is a living, breathing, emotional person, who needs some guidance right now.
Superman glares at him, hands balled into fists and eyes turning just the faintest bit red, before he seemingly realizes how angry he is, and breathes out a large breath as he releases his clenched fists. "You don't understand."
"No, you don't understand!" Tim didn't really mean to shout, but he's done listening to Superman's excuses, and if that means he ends up having to enact one of his many escape plans, then so be it. "If you truly believe him to be a threat, then that's even more of a reason for you to keep a close eye on him and try to help him. He's not a worthless collection of cells, or a weapon to be used, or an inanimate object. He's a person. He thinks. He feels. He tries. If you think someone might try to use him against you, then talk to him, spend time with him. Make him see you as more than just the jerk who ignores him, and give him a reason to choose to stand beside you, if that day ever comes. Let him make that choice himself, but give him a reason to choose to be a better person. Give him a reason to do the right thing. But, most of all, just be Superman."
Tim takes a deep calming breath and locks his eyes on Superman unwaveringly. "You have always put others before yourself, and you need to do that now more than ever. I understand that being around Superboy has to be difficult for you, but Superboy didn't have any say in this. He shouldn't be treated with derision and ignored because of that. He deserves to have a mentor who understands him and can help him. Unfortunately, that requires another Super, so - unless your cousin is around here somewhere - you've got to be that person, because no one else can."
Tim waits for that to sink in a bit before he continues. Superman seems to be considering what he's saying, so Tim's fairly certain that things are going well - or at least, well enough. "Superboy needs to know that in a word full of extremely fragile people whom he could easily break, he can find a place for himself. He needs to know that he can be a part of this world and find a way to belong, even though he could just as easily destroy it as save it. However, above all, he needs someone in his life who can relate to all of that, who understands the fear as well as that pain and loneliness…someone who, at the very least, can show him that, while the fear will always be there, it doesn't have to be an indestructible wall between him and the rest of the world. He can allow himself to get close to people without letting that fear drive a wedge between him and everyone else because you've done it and you know how hard it is. However, you also know that it's worth it, and you can get him to see that as well."
Tim's still glaring harshly at Superman, just waiting for the man to argue with him when Superman abruptly sags, shoulders slumping as his gazes falls to the ground. Tim's never witnessed Superman looking so downtrodden or so much like Clark in the suit before. It's unsettling, but there's nothing that he can do about that, given that it appears Superman is finally starting to comprehend exactly how destructive his lack of a relationship with Superboy really can be. "You're right…you're absolutely right."
Tim gives a small smile. "Yeah, I try to be. Now, are you going to come back with me to the HQ and, at least, try to get to know Superboy?"
Superman nods as he gestures for Tim to follow him down the corridor that Black Canary disappeared down earlier. "Yes, I believe it's time I do just that."
Tim shakes his head. "Past time, really, and might I suggest that you start with an apology?" He really wants to suggest that it's what Mrs. Kent would want him to do, but Tim really doesn't want to find out what kind of a reaction that would garner.
Superman nods as they continue searching for Black Canary. "That…might be for the best."
Tim can't help but grin as he agrees. The two of them find Canary feeding a strange looking animal, which Tim knows from previous experience from his own world, is completely harmless. "Well, we're ready to go when you are, Black Canary."
She suddenly turns to face both of them with the biggest smile Tim has ever seen on her face. "Both of you, huh?" They both nod to her and her grin only grows. "Well, in that case," she turns back to the animal she was feeding, "see ya later, buddy." She pats the enormous animal on his head and then brushes off her hands on her jacket. "Okay, let's go."
When the three of them enter the HQ, all commotion seems to cease as all eyes land on Superman. Tim would laugh, if he wasn't preoccupied with making sure Superboy doesn't just get up and leave, or worse punch Superman in the face, not that the man doesn't deserve it. Superman, for his part, doesn't seem to understand the danger, or perhaps he just doesn't care, because he walks straight over to Superboy and places a hand on his shoulder. Superboy doesn't seem to know if he should take this as a good sign or just shove the man's hand off of him. As it stands, he leaves it there while he leans to the side to look straight at Tim with an expression of confusion, apprehension, and also a bit of 'what is he doing' thrown in. Tim gestures for him to just go along with it, and Superboy's expression shifts into the one he wears when he definitely wants to punch something. Tim just hopes that whatever he wants to punch isn't him this time.
Superman leans down, so that he's making direct eye contact with Superboy, and still doesn't remove his hand from the boy's shoulder, even though he most definitely can tell how apprehensive it's making him. "I must apologize for the way I've been treating you. It was unworthy of me to allow my personal problems with this situation to so negatively affect you. I'm sorry that I didn't realize how much my absence was bothering you and how much you could use my expertise when it comes to your powers. I'm also sorry that it took a rather extraordinary young man to show me all of this. I should have realized all of this sooner on my own and taken the necessary steps to be the mentor you deserve. I don't expect your forgiveness right away, of course, but I'd like us to get to know each other and work on gaining control of your powers. I would appreciate the opportunity to help in any way that I can."
Tim shakes his head as he rolls his eyes. Overly formal apology aside, it's a start. Superboy glances away from Superman and again turns his gaze onto to Tim, who gestures for him to say something. Superboy looks back to Superman and just shrugs. "Okay."
If Superman is disappointed with the lack of enthusiasm or the general lack of acknowledgment, he doesn't show it, instead he simple stands straighter and clasps a hand on Superboy's back as he practically forces the boy out of the room. "Okay, so what do you want to do first?"
Tim watches Superboy shrug, and then suggests that Superman tell him more about himself while they work on his soft landings some more. Tim sighs in relief that, so far, it seems to be going well. Before he can turn away and get back to one of his other two looming projects, a tiny body slams into him and tightly hugs him. "Dude, how in the world did you get Superman to come here and actually spend time with Superboy?" Robin is practically screaming in his ear.
Tim merely shrugs as he tries to extricate himself from Robin's hug. "I'm just talented, I guess."
When Tim finally manages to get free, a long thin hand settles onto his shoulder. "I'll say. Nice work, Red Robin."
Tim glances up at Black Canary and gives a small smile. "Thanks. I just hope everything works out."
Before anyone can respond, Tim receives a rather hard punch in the shoulder and turns to see Red Arrow standing there, staring at him. "Look at you running around solving everyone's problems."
Tim sighs heavily. He really doesn't want to have another discussion with Roy about his penchant for trying to help where he can. It's all he really knows how to do, after all. "I do what I can."
Roy rolls his eyes, but doesn't say anything else on the subject before Robin interrupts. "Well, come on, Red Robin. You and I have work to do."
The next thing Tim knows, he's being dragged out of the room by a very insistent Robin. Once they reach Tim's room, Robin practically shoves him inside and shuts the door behind him. "Okay, so… about Jason. I think that, assuming you can set up the safe house for him soon, we can move him, and then go from there."
Tim nods as he stretches. It's been a very long day so far and it looks like it's only going to get longer. "Yeah, I should have everything in place within a few days, and I'm still working on a few things as far as what to do with him after that, but we'll hold off on discussing that until I know if what I intend is a viable option."
Robin nods and then grins mischievously. "Well, in that case, you've got some time, right?"
Tim raises an eyebrow, knowing that wherever this is leading could be potentially horrible. "Yeah, I guess. Why?"
Dick practically throws himself back onto Tim's bed and lounges. "Great, then we can finally have that discussion about your home world that you keep putting off."
Tim groans inwardly as he drags a hand over his face. He should have seen this coming. He sighs heavily as he slumps in the lone chair in the room, knowing that there's no way he can put this off any longer. "Fine, what do you want to know?"
Dick sits up and seems to consider what he wants to ask first. "Why do you look so blank every time you're thinking of your home? And don't tell me it's because you miss it."
Tim sighs once more. It's not as if he was expecting this Dick to start somewhere simple, but this is a little thornier than Tim really wants to deal with right now. "I do miss it, but things back home are complicated, at least they were when I landed here."
Dick stares at him with utter confusion. "Complicated how?"
Tim tries to find the most delicate way to explain things without causing this Dick to drown in his own insecurities. "A new kid showed up and he needed a place in the family, and…and I wasn't entirely ready to give up mine yet, but these things happen."
Dick suddenly looks horrified. "They…they abandoned you? Your Dick abandoned you? How…how could you possibly tell me that he's a good brother after that?"
Tim shakes his head and gestures for Dick to calm down. "It's not like that…not exactly, anyway. The new kid had some issues…well, a lot of issues, really, but he's come a long way with Dick's help. It's a good thing, really, and he's been a great mentor and brother to the kid. Trust me; we're all very relieved that Dick's managed to do so well with him. However, that also meant that I had to move on and figure a few things out on my own before I was strictly ready. It worked out in the end and Batman is back, so there are no hard feelings there. It just is what it is."
Dick stares at him quizzically. "What do you mean Batman is back?"
Tim groans for letting that slip, but he figures there's no harm in giving a simple answer. "Long story short, Batman got lost in time and I found him and brought him home, so problem solved."
Dick leans closer to him, seemingly enraptured by the prospect. "You brought him back all by yourself?"
Tim shakes his head and tries not to think about the kind of help he had to resort to during that time period. "No, I had help."
Dick raises an eyebrow as he folds his arms over his chest. "You don't make that sound like a good thing. Didn't your Dick help you?"
Tim shakes his head and does his best to keep his face and his voice neutral. "He was busy in Gotham, trying to keep the new kid in line. Again, he did a great job with him."
"So, who did help you?"
Tim shrugs as noncommittally as he can as he decides to change the subject. "Friends mostly. Now, don't you have other questions you'd like to ask?"
Dick nods enthusiastically as he bounces on Tim's bed a bit. "So, what's your Batman like?"
Tim laughs at the question, but decides to answer all the same. "From what I can tell, he's a bit gruffer than yours, but they seem to have the same personality…distant, but caring."
Dick smiles as he nods. "Yeah, sounds about right. So, what is the issue between you and your Dick?"
Tim shrugs as he sighs heavily. "Again a long story, but the abridged version is that mistakes were made on both sides, and we've yet to have the chance to actually hash it all out."
"Because you ended up landing here?" Dick sounds genuinely upset that Tim being here is causing him more problems back home. It's rather endearing, all things considered.
Tim nods, but makes sure that Dick is paying attention to everything he has to say. He doesn't want Dick or anyone else feeling guilty for benefiting from Tim's little multiverse adventure. "That, among other things. As I said, things were complex and not exactly going well back home before all of this happened, and none of the problems going on back home are going to improve with time away. At least, I don't believe they will. Although, I'm not entirely sure going back will really solve anything either. Things have steadily gotten worse, not better, for a while now, and I don't think being here can really change that."
Tim looks away and just stares at his hands, not really sure what to say. Before he knows it words are just sort of tumbling out of his mouth. "Because I'm not entirely sure I even have a place back home…not now…not after everything that's been going on. I thought things would return to normal and improve when Bruce came back, but they didn't. Heck, I don't even know what normal is anymore, and what if this is as good as it can possibly get? What if the distance between me and everyone else was just inevitable? What if this is just the way it was meant to be and there is no way to get back what was lost?"
Tim just continues to stare helplessly at his empty hands until he feels two strong, little arms wrap around him. He hadn't actually meant to say any of that out loud…no matter how long it has all been bouncing around inside of his head, churning his stomach and making him ponder if home is even the right word for the world he came from. "Then stay here. You can have a place here. Heck, you already do. You don't have to go back. You don't have to return to people who don't make you feel wanted."
Tim just shakes his head. "That's…that's probably not the best course of action."
Robin tightens his hold on him and glares at him fiercely. "You don't know that."
Tim doesn't argue, because he's not entirely sure that he can at the moment, so instead he just sighs heavily and pats Dick on the back. "True enough, but I think this is a discussion for another time. Right now, it would probably be best if we go check on Superboy and make sure he didn't 'accidently' punch Superman in the face or something."
Dick squeezes him one final time before releasing the embrace and turning towards the door. "I bet he purposefully landed on the guy's foot at least once."
Tim can't help but snicker as the two of them leave his room. "Yeah, probably." He has no idea what he intends to do about all of the problems he has going on back home, but Tim figures it's not exactly something that he needs to think about or deal with until he has some viable way to get back home. That is, of course, assuming he doesn't take Robin up on his offer. And Tim honestly doesn't know if he will or not. It's not as though he hasn't been considering it ever since he realized exactly how much he can help here, but Tim has never truly abandon anything before, so he's not entirely certain that he can just abandoned his home, especially for something so petty as actually being needed and wanted.
The End (for now)