(A/N: Just a note, this story takes place a bit before Bereft. As it progresses we'll be moving along with the show's general plotline. Instead of a linear set of chapters the majority of the story will unfold in linked short stories, some more consecutive than others.)
II. Bull in a China Shop
Superboy had to reflect, as he glanced between his bare feet then back up to where Batman and Robin were sparring on the training mat, that he had a lot to envy about his new… he supposed they had to be boyfriends now, right? Not-boyfriends but just-friends probably didn't spend hours dawdling in bed snuggling, shyly searching for topics of conversation before giving up and just enjoying each other's company. It had taken them a good 4 or 5 hours to pry away from each other and if you asked Superboy the place against his broad chest that Robin had been curled up to still felt too cold to his liking. It had been Artemis' unsubtle pounding on the door late in the morning (cranky of course, reminded Robin why he didn't mind that they usually only stayed at HQ together every now and again, girls were scary in the morning) that finally got them to rouse themselves, and even then it was with great reluctance. Holding each other the way they had been was just so… natural. Superboy regretted not experiencing contact like that before, but relished the thought that it had been Robin.
If anyone realized they had slept in Robin's room together all night no one mentioned it and the day went about as usual, though Robin had been surprised when Batman showed up with a smirk under his cowl and told Robin he'd be testing Black Canary's training himself today. The evaluation computers in the training room would yield useful data while they practiced, hence why he'd decided to work with him at Mt. Justice. No one was about to miss an opportunity like this, so of course everyone had changed into training gear and filed into the room, pretending to go about their business but really all eyes were on the Dynamic Duo. Superboy had toed his shoes off and peeled his shirt up to at least LOOK like he was getting ready for training (which he didn't do unless Black Canary was around anyway) but of course he was just there to spectate too…
As he watched muscle shift under Robin's training leotard with a focus he hadn't allowed himself before he had to reflect again, there was so much to be envious about concerning robin… He leapt up and aimed a kick at Batman's head, a Batman that was currently steadily smirking, nodding and giving small praises (so small anyone who didn't know Batman as they did would have taken them as sarcasm or discouragement) despite the fact that the boy wonder wasn't actually landing a single hit on him.
Robin had a mentor who was like a father to him (Maybe was a father to him), who loved him and worried about his wellbeing even if he didn't say it directly, there was all sorts of silent communication going on there. To understand someone that deeply, though, Superboy thought he was coming to understand, a smirk of his own on his lips as he remembered the way they'd settled together the night before. It was still in its infancy, this new connection, but maybe it could be like theirs someday? And Robin had something else that Superboy envied a lot… control. His body did exactly what he wanted when he wanted it to, every movement with flawless grace. Superboy felt like he had the grace of a crosseyed buffalo sometimes, always feared not holding back. He feared even more not wanting to hold back, and had been terrified at how close he'd been to going off to become a murderer just yesterday. He'd confessed everything to robin, but had stayed quiet on how much he still wanted to do the deed, how hard it was to sit on his hands. But he knew he had to.
Superboy was determined NOT to let this anger dig into his soul and control him like he wanted to let it. The best part of him, the part he liked to think was very Superman (but less standoffish), was there to do that heart-clenchy thing and remind him that Robin hadn't broken. He'd been bowed, he'd been put through suffering and fear but he wanted to come back from it. He wanted to live his life and not let what happened rule him. He wanted to let it make him stronger and then in the face of what those men did to him remain the same person, the same wonderful, smart, fearless person. Part of Superboy was very proud he'd been able to help Robin to bleed off some of what he'd been keeping bottled, to tell the story and own what happened. He felt guilty about how he'd gone about it, but wasn't sorry. Robin hadn't broken and he'd been able to be there for him for when he bent, and now Superboy was getting to watch him snap right back up like a reed in the wind and it was awesome. Superboy wasn't going to break either. The enemy wasn't other people and their actions, it was his own rage he was being forced to swallow and hold himself together around, but he still wasn't going to break from it. He was going to follow Robin's example.
Robin was kind of his hero that way.
The Duo sparred until they were both panting and then Batman had said he had seen enough and Robin's training was coming along 'commendably.' This must have been high praise from how Robin lit up. Batman ruffled his hair and swept away into the shadows and Robin snagged a bottle of water before sitting down next to Superboy on the bench. Their superhero voyeurism done the rest of the team finished their "training" as well and passed Robin and Superboy, giving the younger of them grins and pats. They all had to admit how amazing that fight looked. Wally stopped and thumbed toward the kitchen. "Snacktime, Rob?" Robin shot Superboy a look out the corner of his eye and nodded to KF. "Go ahead, I'll be right behind you. Just breath-catching is all." Wally skipped at M'Gann's heels, leaving the two of them alone… After a moment to make sure the world's fastest ginger wasn't going to pop back in Robin let himself lean towards Superboy and the bigger teen scooted close, gently slipping a big hand around his waist with the same care he'd shown last night.
"Hah, Superboy, you had to get your shirt off didn't you? You were distracting you know."
Robin said with a smirk and Superboy peeled his domino mask aside so he could look him in the eye when he leaned down to press a soft kiss to his lips. Robin reached into his gym bag and replaced the mask with his sunglasses again, letting him look at Superboy over them instead. Superboy wasn't sure why but… this was kind of exciting. He wasn't sure he was ready to tell the others about this, whatever it was, and he wasn't sure he wanted to so soon. Not when he could sneak little moments like this and feel the thrill in his heart from it. He poked the smaller boy in the thigh with one tapping digit and smirked back.
"Like you're not? I couldn't take my eyes off the fight."
"Yeah but that's the point of that."
Robin rolled his eyes and pushed his sunglasses up his nose. Superboy leaned in close, unable to keep himself from enjoying the way that Robin's sweat felt against his skin and the way it made his own unique scent cloy to him. Robin didn't seem to agree, though.
"I better take a shower before getting into the kitchen or Artemis and Wally will kick me right back out."
He chuckled but Superboy just blinked and shrugged, smiling as he nuzzled the top of the boy's black mop of hair.
"I like it."
Robin said, but it was affectionate and Superboy smiled as he let him up to go hit the showers. He took a moment to marvel at how comfortable this felt before he got up and padded off into the kitchen. He barely noticed he was still barefoot and shirtless as he sat down, though Megan's eyes on him did make him look down after a bit, but he shrugged. He liked knowing it would tease Robin when he came back into the kitchen. Maybe a vain part of him didn't mind the girls looking too. Wally complained, naturally.
"Man Supey you can't go walking around like that, you're going to bait off all the estrogen!"
His ear got a nice flick from Arty and a haughty scoff.
"If you're so worried then why don't you work out half as hard as he does?"
"I wasn't cloned with perfect Kryptonian pecs!"
Instead of acting on his indignation at the cloned reference Superboy just bounced said pecs which had as much of an effect as if he'd gotten aggressive. See, he was improving already!
Those lips felt so good against his own… Robin's skin was smooth and warm, but his lips and fingers were comfortingly cool on his chest and arms and face. With those sunglasses out of the way the clone could gaze into them with his darker cobalt hues, nuzzling noses with the boy wonder and giving in to the little animal impulses that coursed along his nerves. Something between a whimper and purr tumbled past his handsome lips as he mouthed at Robin's equally handsome jawline, felt the roll of hips atop his own and he had to wonder how they got here, how they started moving so fast. The movies always had dating and hand-holding and shy confessions of love first, they'd had a night of snuggling and a few secret moments of closeness. Was that enough?
It felt like enough when Robin's thigh slid just right and the beautifully crafted flesh of that strong limb made Superboy arch his back and his hands clutch at Robin.
It was the visceral crunch that broke him from the beautiful boy's hypnotic spell, and when he looked down he woke screaming, Robin throwing himself back into a neat handspring from the force of the clone's sudden waking and full body jolt. Wide, unobstructed blue eyes blinked with a mix of confusion and worry at him.
"Ummm… Sorry? I guess I'm not so good at waking sleeping beauties."
It took Superboy a handful of heartbeats to realize there was no blood on his hands . It had been a dream. He had jolted awake, tossing Robin away from himself but the acrobat had easily taken that and turned it into something that looked impressive. Right… After lunch they'd gone about their own businesses, Robin went to do homework so Superboy had turned on No Signal, the soothing static keeping pressure off his super hearing and letting him relax for a bit. He must have fallen asleep in front of the tv. The room was dim, the lights cranked down a bit with the white noise bringing the most light into the room, and Robin had been on his lap when he woke up.
It was okay… Robin was okay, Superboy was okay, he'd just had a nightmare. So that's what those were like.
"I... Uh… Sorry. Just startled. Wasn't sleeping well."
He rubbed at his eyes and Robin came back over, flopping on the couch next to him and shrugging.
"Eh, well when you didn't wake up when I called your name I sat on your lap and when that didn't work I poked your cheek so I guess it's at least partially my fault anyway. I should know better than to startle someone with super strength, right?"
Robin meant it as a joke of course but instead of the playful smirk he'd been expecting Superboy just looked troubled.
"Hey… what's up?"
The clone clammed up and his mouth hardened as he looked down at his own lap for a bit, hands curling and uncurling on his thighs. He knew it was only a dream, but at that moment he didn't trust himself to give Robin so much as a hug. He realized suddenly that he hadn't to begin with, had he? He'd pulled Robin close, leaned in to him, been a pillow for him but he hadn't actually given him a loving SQUEEZE like he'd wanted to, that tightness of embrace that two people could melt into. At least according to the movies he pilfered here and there from M'Gann, for looking at how relationships between people worked. He had a certain amount of instinct for it but romance wasn't exactly a priority lesson, and he'd been pulled from Cadmus way before his education was finished in the first place. Luckily for him if there was something Robin understood that the others didn't it was silence. Wally always sought to fill it, M'Gann found it unnatural not thinking in everyone's heads, Kaldur saw it as something to utilize for meditation or rest, the impenetrable wall of mystique around Artemis made it impossible to even spend a silent moment with her comfortably… But Robin? He communicated with silence and lived in darkness, he was as comfortable with them as he was with anything.
He took this particular dim quiet to mean "I'm still pinpointing the problem, I don't want to waste anyone's time until I've got it figured out." Robin gave Superboy his time, leaning against his side.
"Wally and Arty went home, Miss M and Kaldur are shopping in town."
Ah, that explained that. Superboy nodded and let himself relax into Robin's company. He turned his head and gave his troubled look to the smaller boy, leaning in and sharing another of their soft little kisses that warmed the both of them belly-deep. Then he seemed to come to a conclusion, standing suddenly with Robin following.
"Um, what Supey?"
Superboy looked down with utter earnest into the blue eyes that captivated him more with every glance.
"You have perfect control."
Superboy had to think, he always seemed to need that much more time to process things before he said them when the words really mattered to him.
"I mean… Your body. It always does what you want it to. I want that. I can't…"
"I can't risk losing control. I like having control, I like YOU. I dreamed I'd lost control and hurt you, like I could lose control on anyone who makes me mad enough, except I lost control on you because I like you too much. I don't want that. So I want you to train me."
He smiled warmly, blue eyes sharp.
"No one else could do it as good. Not even Black Canary."
Wow. Robin felt himself puff up a bit at that and he nodded.
"Alright. I think we can start our first lesson right now. In fact I think we started it yesterday, you were pretty in control when you got me to open up, right?"
Superboy had to think back, but he nodded. Reluctantly.
"But only so much. I mean… I've seen you and Wally hug. We didn't do that. I mean he squeezes and you get picked up."
Robin held his arms out.
"Okay. So you do that!"
A tingle of apprehension washed through the clone even as he anticipated how nice that would feel, just a close snuggly hug. His hands, though, were as gentle as if he were handling porcelain as he put them around Robin's back and tugged him close. Robin returned the hug but laughed quietly.
"Come on Supey, you know I'm tougher than all that."
He poked the kryptonian in the chest.
"You tackle the hell out of Kaldur during training. And hell even Black Canary."
"I can barely touch Black Canary and Kaldur has super strength and durability."
"If this is a powers argument I'm not going to be amused."
"Well… It kind of is."
Superboy started in, honest as ever.
"Black Canary has experience over me, over all of us. Kaldur, if I lose control on him he can take it and dish it back. If I lose control on you, or Artemis, or probably Wally, you're not getting back up from it. Simple as that."
Robin's socked foot impacted the side of Superboy's head suddenly with force enough that he actually had to turn his cheek.
The next blow was a bit rougher, a kick to Superboy's side. Robin's face was all play though, his hands up, beckoning.
"Come on Superboy, what, can't handle a mere mortal?"
The third kick was caught. It was plain Superboy wasn't exactly taking damage (which would have hurt Robin's pride had that been his goal) but he was still not happy. He flung Robin's ankle from his meaty grip, making the boy flip back to keep his balance before another kick was snapped towards his Solar plexus. This one made superboy wince when it sank into his midsection and he growled, gripping Robin's leg again and tossing him… onto the couch.
"Knock it off, dammit! I'm not doing this!"
With that he stalked off and sulked in his room the rest of the night.
The next day things were obviously tense between him and Robin. ("What are they, PMSing?" "I didn't think male earthlings did that, Artemis.") To be honest the rest of Young Justice weren't sure how to feel about what was going on between their two youngest members, they were very… on again off again. Tense and then totally relaxed and now tense again.
It was a well deserved tension though because Robin let loose a sneak attack on Superboy that afternoon. A neat three-part combination he let loose as he sprang from a utility closet, impacting against the soft parts of Superboy's torso, targeting away from his ribs and abdominals (or anything Robin was in danger of breaking his hand on) . Superboy raised an arm to sweep it down against Robin but hesitated, stopping himself. Robin growled.
"Come on! Fight back!"
"No! You're my… You're not someone I want to hit!"
"Well besides being… that I'm also your teammate, we should be able to spar! You don't have to think of my protection, least of all from you. Some come on, let's play!"
But, Superboy wanted to argue, even if you don't need my protection I still want to give it to you. He wasn't able to think much though because then Robin ran up the wall and that foot was sailing towards his face again, so he pulled a Black Canary move and ducked under him, completing the maneuver by instinct pivoting on one heel and lashing out with his fist. The impact hit Robin right in the stomach and Superboy swore he felt the pain twice as keenly.
"Fuck, I told you!"
Superboy fell to his knees next to Robin, who had the wind knocked out of him and had fallen on his rear, a hand up to keep Superboy back… but as his panting calmed Superboy realized he was chuckling. Laughing, even.
"I punched you stupid, didn't I?"
Robin laughed even harder before pouncing forward and wrapping Superboy in a hug. He was okay! He was going to bruise later and couldn't keep himself from doubling over a bit, but still.
"Hah, stupid is you Stuporboy. See? You don't want to hurt me so you didn't, simple, right?"
"But I did…"
"But you didn't, not seriously. You didn't break me, right? Now hug me you big jerk. A real hug."
So he did. Those big arms went around Robin and he gave him a squeeze and Robin laughed warmly, which made Superboy smile and squeeze more. THEN Robin hissed and pat Superboy's back.
"Ah, ah, ease up a bit."
Superboy winced and nodded, loosening his grip a bit.
"I'm, uh, not saying you don't need training, I'm just saying that… look, you're not a weapon, right? You're a person. You're not going to hurt me just by existing and you're not going to hurt me by…"
He had a word for it, but it just wasn't ready to be said yet, like it was still baking.
"You know. Hugging and stuff. Robin not china shop, Superboy not bull. We clear?"
Superboy smiled in that wolfish way he had and nodded.
"Good. Now… Carry me to my room… And maybe get some ice for my stomach. Ow." He chuckled and rubbed his belly to Superboy's horror. He got that stubborn look in his eyes and lifted Robin in his arms.
"…You're still training me on this."
"Yeah I am, now take me."
He pointed his hand and Superboy carried him like a prince, insisting on fussing the rest of the night no matter how much teasing Robin threw his way over it.