A/N: This is something I wrote way back for season 1. It's basically my Robin-is-awesome fic.
Oh, Those Flying Robins
Superboy threw a punch - a hard, right handed uppercut - and hit nothing. As his arm swung around, he turned into his own momentum, like Black Canary had trained him, and lifted his left leg to throw out what surely would have been a bone breaking side kick. But his leg swung around with a gust of air like his arm had only a second before.
How long had this fight gone on, he wondered. He hadn't been able to land a single hit or throw down and he could feel his heart racing with frustration.
Connor ground his teeth, turning back towards his opponent. The next string of punches flew out with practiced ease, each swing getting a breath of air to fuel their strength and speed. But the little monkey back-bended away from the first swing, turning his smaller frame to such an angle that anyone else would have fallen flat on their ass, and leapt over the second and third like blurs. And, to Superboy's greatest amazement, the little brat actually managed to cartwheel over the fourth punch and get behind him.
Connor was about ready to scream and bang his head against the wall.
He reacted as quickly as he could and dodged the punch thrown at the back of his head, but he could still feel the gust of air that scraped his hair to the side. He wasn't, however, fast enough to dodge the two feet that suddenly came flying at him as his opponent threw his little body into the air. One heel knocked into his shoulder while the other dug its way into his hipbone. The blows didn't hurt, really, but they were fueled with enough force to knock him to the ground and force the air out of his lungs.
"Superboy, status: Fail," the computer reported in its artificial voice. Not that Connor really cared. He was busy trying to suck breath back into his lungs and control the utter frustration that channeled into rage.
"That was amazing!" Artemis shouted from the sidelines of the fighting square, a smattering of applause rising from their other teammates. They were all currently gathered in their fully stocked gym, rather than the outer arena by the teleporter tubes, since Black Canary wasn't present for specific training.
Connor was happy his opponent didn't respond to Artemis' outburst, but the brat was smiling like a villain as he held out his hand to help Connor up. From what Connor could tell, the kid wasn't even breathing hard!
After a moment, Connor figured it probably wouldn't be good character to refuse the hand, and took it gingerly. Still, the boy must have noticed his disdain because, still smiling, he said, "No hard feelings, Superboy. That was a pretty awesome duel!"
"Right," Connor replied grudgingly. He crossed his arms over his bare chest and pressed his lips together. How had he moved that fast?
This was the first time Connor had ever sparred with Robin. To say the least, he had expected them to be more evenly matched. But the kid moved like a willow-wisp, dodging assaults like a dancer in a choreographed routine. Granted, he had been relentless enough with his attacks that Robin couldn't get an attack in either, but it hardly mattered in the end. Kaldur had been able to hit the boy wonder, and so had Artemis and M'Gann. So why the hell couldn't he?
It left a foul taste in his mouth.
"Oh, don't be sullen, Superboy," Wally said as he and the rest of the team walked over to the pair. They were all wearing their preferred form of workout clothes in preparation for that day's set of sparring matches. "Trying to catch Rob is like trying to catch smoke with your bare hands. It's a hard task to accomplish."
Connor took a few deep breaths, feeling his anger simmer down. He thought of what Kaldur told him to do in situations like this: analyze the situation, figure out why he lost, and find a way to improve. It was easier to look at it from that angle, the natural logic instilled in him by the genomorphs kicking in.
"Can you ask Batman to teach me to dodge like that?" he asked Robin harshly, getting straight to point. Robin had learned everything from Batman and Connor figured he needed the same kind of training to bring someone like Robin down.
Robin's mouth opened and his eyebrows lifted in surprise, but before he could answer, Wally tilted his head back and let out a loud laugh.
"Dude!" the redhead exclaimed. "You think Batman thought him how to do that? Hell, I'd pay to see the Batman cartwheel over a punch!"
Superboy frowned and narrowed his eyes, anger already reemerging.
"No really, it's true," Robin said before Superboy could get any more annoyed with Wally. The group turned their attention back to the boy wonder. "Batman actually fights a lot like you: hard punches, stony movements, and a tendency to block rather than dodge assaults. I developed my fighting style more on my own. I'm not strong like Batman, so I'm better off using disabling moves than brute strength. And I'm not buff enough to take a hit without taking damage, so I rely more on getting the hell out of the way."
"Yeah," Wally scoffed, folding his arms behind his head. "And it doesn't help that you can move like a monkey! I don't think anyone here could bend the way you can."
"We can't learn how to bend?" Connor asked, a bit perplexed. Were there physical abilities that some people simply couldn't learn? His time in his Cadmus pod hadn't given him any information on the subject. Connor had just assumed that physicality, aside from say, super strength, was inborn in all humanoid beings. All you had to do was take the time to practice.
"You kidding?" Wally exclaimed.
"Not like Robin," Kaldur said over Wally, effectively putting a voice of reason into the conversation. "He is a born acrobat, able to twist his body into formations around any axis. Most people have a natural, subconscious, center of gravity that places their feet firmly on the ground. But Robin has no such need for gravity. His mind and body can instantly compute any placement of his limbs, regardless of whether he is upside-down or spinning sideways. Add in his small bones and flexibility and our boy wonder can dodge virtually any attack in a manner of seconds."
"Oookaayy," Robin said, scratching the back of his head. "Never quite heard it put like that."
"That is the way I think when we spar," Kaldur replied, in his matter-of-fact monotone. "Underwater, it is much the same. You must imagine that your opponent can appear in any plane, not just eye-level. That is why M'Gann and I are the only ones who have ever beaten you in sparring. Our mentality is less restrained by gravity."
"Well, you and M'Gann may be able to predict his moves or whatever," Wally said smugly, like he was talking about a favored puppy. "But even you guys can't flip and fly the way Robin can."
"Robin's ability comes from years of practice, I'm sure," Kaldur replied, his tone a little sharp around the edges.
"Guys, I'm right he-"
"Oh, please! Have you ever seen Rob show off?"
"I have seen Robin fight expertly many times, as have we all."
"So, that would be a no. You actually think Robin throws his most complicated moves into a fight?"
The tension between the two thickened like a dark cloud while they both glared avidly at one another. Kaldur at least had the composure to look like he wasn't completely annoyed.
Connor blinked, frustration completely gone in the wake of the possibility of Robin's true ability.
"Can I see what you can do?" he asked Robin innocently, eyes wide and curious. His two simmering teammates turned towards the younger boy, dark aura lifting slightly at the distraction.
"Uhh," Robin muttered, trying to figure out how he had become the center of some screwed-up, ability based conversation. After a moment, though, he gave a small shrug and shook his head in amazement. "Sure."
First, he leaned backward, squeezing his fists into his lower back until his head was at a near forty-five degree angle to the ground. The fact that his legs managed to stay straight at all was a feat Superboy had trouble comprehending. There was a series of quiet pops as Robin stretched the joints in his back, then he came back up, grinning as if to say, "You asked for it."
Then the boy walked over to a sack tied to a nearby pole and stuck his hands in the opening. They reemerged white and covered with chalk. Superboy tilted his head. Why in the world would anybody want to coat their hands in chalk?
Robin, still grinning like a fiend, clapped his hands together a few times – and to Connor's amazement, didn't cough - and turned towards a pair of high bars that were parallel to the ground, a good one hundred feet away. Connor had always known the gym equipment was there, but he had never bothered to think on its specific use. His memory stores told him the bars, hoops, and other miscellaneous equipment were for gymnastics, but not how to go about using said equipment.
He didn't have time to think about it, though, because suddenly Robin broke into a run.
Then he wasn't running. He fell into two consecutive cartwheels that became a series of front flips and then he was airborne for three, precious seconds, before his hands smacked against the nearest high bar, almost twelve feet above the ground. Superboy had no idea a human being could even do that.
He hung there just long enough to allow the group to gasp quietly.
Then, hands still attached to the bar, he threw his back up and somehow managed to turn himself into a human swing, flying around the bar in loop after loop. Then Robin swung off the bar and Superboy was dead certain he was going to land flat on his face. The boy's body did five, yes five, summersaults in midair before reaching backward, hands smacking the bar again, except this time, his loop turned backward. And that really confused the hell out of poor Superboy. How did Robin even know which way he was going?
Robin was off the bar again with one mighty swing and twisted so quickly in midair that he looked like a human tornado. It didn't help that he flung himself into a back flip while he was spinning like that. When his hands hit the bar again, Robin didn't give them time to breathe, because he was suddenly in the air again, turning in a way that made him look like a ragdoll flying through the air, limbs sprawling, and yet completely in place.
His hands still smacked perfectly, but this time on the second, higher bar. And before anyone could stop him, Robin flung himself off that, pulling a startled squeal out of M'Gann, because there was no third bar.
Instead, after three, airborn flips, Robin's legs locked around a vertical pole that stretched from the floor to the ceiling. His momentum swung him around that pole by the back of his knees four, no five times. Then Robin flung himself up once and gained almost ten feet in altitude. He used his hands on the bar for a second fling upward, and his legs for a third, and his arms again for a fourth. In a matter of seconds, Robin was wrapped around the very top of the vertical bar like a human knot, hair actually brushing the ceiling. He must have been a sixty, if not seventy feet a above the ground.
Superboy knew that statistic at least. A fall from a height like that would absolutely kill the boy wonder. But even as both Kaldur and M'Gann moved forward to stop their youngest teammate, Wally reached out and grabbed their arms. "He knows what he's doing," the redhead said with a smile. "Don't mess him up."
"But-," Kaldur tried to argue, but his words remained in his throat because just then, using his legs alone as propulsion, Robin leapt off the bar and into the air.
Superboy felt his heart stutter as he surged forward, determined to save his friend from death.
But Robin didn't fall.
His hands caught onto a swinging bar attached to a couple of ropes, a trapeze, if Superboy remembered the name correctly. How long had that equipment been up there? Had Superboy honestly never looked up?
He didn't have time to contemplate it, though, because now Robin was flying.
It was really the only way to describe it. The way Robin swung from one rope to the next, throwing in stunning flips, twists, and turns. His body moved in impossible formations, bent at impossible angles so that he could just squeeze one more, just one more, back flip in after seven upside-down screwdrivers before he had to grab the next swing. And for every second his hands, knees, or ankles clung to a rope or bar, Robin spent ten more seconds in the air.
Superboy had never seen anyone so fearless. Even the best acrobats had to check their surroundings and analyze certain equipment's placement. But Robin flew with ease, seeming almost relaxed as his muscles clenched and wrapped around another bar.
Robin paused for maybe three seconds to wrap his leg around the white rope he had landed on, dangling straight down from the ceiling. Then he let go and let himself fall almost fifty feet – in which Artemis actually screamed while the rest of them gasped in horror – before finally locking his ankle around the rope and threw his body into a long swing.
A light sound filled the air, a voice rapidly breathing out a series of short, nonsense syllables. It took Connor a second to realize that Robin was laughing, and not like when he laughed menacingly from the shadows. This was laughter of pure enjoyment, light and untethered by worldly concerns and cruelties.
Robin leapt and managed to fit a quadruple in between two, quick trapeze swings, letting out a loud whoop in the process.
It was then that Connor really understood. He rarely perceived deeper meanings in people's emotions or mentality, so understanding something about Robin, perhaps the most enigmatic of the group, he considered a great accomplishment and a step to being a little more normal.
Robin wasn't fearless, crazy, or a show-off. Robin simply was. He didn't pull off stunts like this to prove that he could or to make his friends have small heart attacks every time he let go on purpose.
No, he wasn't fearless. Robin didn't have to overcome a tremor in his hand or a quickening of his heartbeat every time he flung himself off a high bar. Robin pulled off stunts like this with the same absentmindedness that people used to walk. Did anyone ever pause in fear of their next step?
Robin enjoyed flying through the air, probably more than M'Gann or, hell, even Superman ever would. How many times had Robin been in this room alone, not practicing, but playing, since they moved into the mountain? How many years had he been flying? How long did it take Batman to put Robin's feet on the ground for more than five minutes?
Superboy smiled and watched as Robin flung himself into another triple summersault followed by a double front flip. He stood and watched silently, no longer worried for the boy's life.
After a time, Robin's routine ended. He fell onto the higher of the horizontal bars with a flourish before flipping onto the lower bar. Then, he threw himself off that bar and into a triple back flip and landed, feet planted on the ground. But Robin didn't stop. No sooner were his feet on the ground than his hands followed as he cartwheeled twice and then dropped into a tumble which turned into a handstand. Robin walked the remaining thirty feet to the group on his hands, one leg straight in the air while the other curled, toe pointed towards the ground. Only then did his legs drop and his face came up facing them, a grin nearly splitting his cheeks in half.
Robin's skin was flushed and dampened with sweat and his breath came out harshly, excitedly. His hair was windblown in a thousand different directions and his hands jittered at his sides, as if he was already ready to go back up into the ropes and fly again.
Connor looked at the rest of the team. Everyone, except Wally, had their mouths hanging open, and their eyes were so wide Connor thought they might actually fall out of their heads.
Connor turned back to the ever grinning Robin.
"There is absolutely no way," he said firmly. "That any of us will ever be able to do that."