A/N: Thank you to all the wonderful people who reviewed! You rock and I am definitely feeling the aster here that people actually like my story. Sorry this took so long to get up, but the ending did not want to co-operate and sometimes you just have to beat those plot bunnies into submission! :D Happy reading, folks.
From somewhere far away, someone screamed. Was it him? Superboy was vaguely aware that the fact he was hurting was not a good thing.
A sensation of weight pressed in on him, but Superboy couldn't actually feel anything on him to explain why he felt heavy. His body was lethargic, slow, painful. Yeah, that wasn't right; Superboy rarely found things painful, so why was he hurting right now?
Consciousness started to seep back to him and the black tunnel he was currently residing in seemed to be melting away. Voices were floating somewhere on the periphery of awareness and he was lying on the floor. And why did he feel like there was something he was supposed to be doing?
A loud crash from somewhere nearby helped to expedite the return to consciousness, and Superboy tried to focus on what it was he was supposed to be doing. What had happened? From somewhere in the recesses of his brain came an image of a large man in blue and gold, brandishing a little green stone. Green stone. The image resonated with Superboy and more coherent thoughts started to flit back to him. The stone must have been kryptonite. He had heard enough about its effects to realise that's what must have happened to him.
Superboy decided that kryptonite sucked; he most definitely did not like the after-effects. But his mind was becoming clearer and the pain was dulling. He could feel the weight starting to lift.
And the thing he was supposed to be doing came back to him. He was on a mission in Jersey City with the Young Justice team. They were staking out a warehouse and trying to retrieve information. He and Robin had been in a dusty room full of files before the man with the kryptonite had interfered.
Robin! What happened to Robin?
A horrible explanation for the scream drifted into his mind and Superboy opened his eyes. As his vision cleared, the first thing he saw was the man in blue and gold looming over Robin's small frame. His hands were around the boy's throat, choking the life out of him. Superboy gave an angry gasp and put the palms of his hands to the floor, pushing his body into an upright position. His mind was clearing rapidly now, his strength returning. Gritting his teeth, Superboy forced himself to stand, wavering slightly as the room tilted. Closing his eyes, he gave his head a quick shake in an effort to clear it. He opened them again just in time to see Robin go limp.
With a howl of rage, Superboy launched himself forward.
Deathstroke, unaware that Superboy had regained consciousness, was taken by surprise as a fist smashed into his jaw. He staggered back, his hands releasing Robin. The boy slumped to the ground.
Superboy placed himself between Robin and the mercenary. His eyes were filled with fury and his nostrils flared as Deathstroke turned to face him. To anyone else, the super-powered teen would have been a fearsome sight, like a raging bull ready to charge. Deathstroke, however, smiled. "Feeling better, are we?"
"I'm going to smash you into the ground!" Superboy snarled, his voice distorted with anger.
"In case you forgot, you tried that already. Didn't get very far. Your skinny little friend got more hits in than you did. Didn't help him though." Deathstroke smirked.
Superboy clenched his fists and propelled himself forwards. Deathstroke sidestepped neatly, delivering a fast kick that knocked Superboy sideways. The teenager spun and rushed the mercenary again. This time he managed to grab the man's arms and the two of them wrestled furiously before Superboy used his strength to fling the man across the room. Deathstroke hit the wall with a loud crack, leaving a large dent in the plaster.
The man was no longer smiling as he straightened up. "You think you can beat me? Even without the kryptonite I'm a better fighter than you. You might have Kryptonian strength, but you don't know how to use it; you're nothing but a second-rate Superman!"
He was goading Superboy, playing on his insecurities to distract him into making a mistake, but the teenager was too angry to see it. With a growl, he launched himself at Deathstroke only for the man to seize his arm and hurl him into the wall. The man's laughter only fed the rage he was feeling and he climbed to his feet, whirling to face the man. His anger was once more taking over, blurring out rational thought and making him forget that time was running out for his injured teammate.
Fortunately for Robin, Superboy was no longer alone. Before he could charge Deathstroke again, the man's expression froze and his whole body went rigid. Then he collapsed to the ground revealing Aqualad behind him, placing his water-bearers back into their case.
Superboy was surprised. "What did you do?"
"Electrical charge. He will not regain consciousness for a while." Aqualad's gaze went to Robin's prone form and his face darkened in concern. Moving over to the younger boy, he dropped to his knees beside him and placed two fingers to his throat. His eyes widened. "He's not breathing!"
That shocked Superboy and he took a step forward. He watched as Aqualad gently rolled Robin onto his back and began CPR. "What are you doing?"
"Saving his life!" Aqualad retorted as he placed his hands over Robin's chest and began chest compressions. It was the first time since Superboy had met him that he heard anger in the Atlantian's voice.
He watched anxiously as Aqualad tried to resuscitate Robin. After several long minutes, the younger boy gave a feeble gasp and Aqualad sat back on his heels, relief evident on his face.
Superboy leaned over him. "Is he alright?"
"I don't know," said Aqualad shortly. "We need to get him out of here."
"Robin! Aqualad! Superboy! Are you guys alright?" Kid Flash's voice echoed in their heads suddenly.
Aqualad responded immediately. "Robin is hurt. Miss Martian, bring the bio ship to the warehouse now!"
"Whathappened?Isheokay?" Concern caused Kid Flash to run his words together.
"I don't know. We can compare notes later." Aqualad gently gathered Robin's slight frame in his arms. "I want to get Robin back on the ship before anything else goes wrong."
He never looked at Superboy as he hurried from the room, leaving the clone with no option but to follow.
"What happened?" Kid Flash's voice was loud as Aqualad carried Robin onto the ship and placed him carefully on the floor.
Aqualad didn't answer. "Miss Martian, get us back to the cave. Now."
Her eyes were wide as she nodded, before hurrying to her seat. The bio ship glided into the air and set a course for Happy Harbour.
Kid Flash was now kneeling on the other side of the unconscious Robin, his eyes taking in his injured friend. Dried blood had crusted beneath an obviously broken nose, and his jaw was swelling rapidly and turning an unpleasant shade of bluish red. A ring of livid purple bruises adorned his neck, but the worst as far as Wally was concerned was Robin's right wrist; splintered bone was poking through parts of the skin, blood trickling out and pooling on the floor beneath. The image horrified him, yet he couldn't look away until Kaldur wrapped a bandage around the wrist in an effort to still the bleeding.
"Is he okay?" Wally asked.
Kaldur didn't look up. "I do not know. I believe he has some broken ribs and I fear I may have made matters worse when I administered CPR, but I had no choice. He wasn't breathing."
"Not breathing?" Wally's voice was strangled. "Dude. What. The. Hell. Happened?"
"That is what I would like to know," said Kaldur quietly as he finished wrapping the wrist and stood to face Connor. "Superboy?"
Superboy looked startled at the accusation in Kaldur's tone. "It wasn't my fault, that guy had kryptonite! I was unconscious, couldn't do anything!"
Kaldur fixed him with a stern expression. "Tell me everything that happened after you and Robin went to the records room. Word for word, don't leave anything out…including the part about you making noise to get caught."
Connor scowled. Stupid telepathic link! Crossing his arms, the clone described everything that had occurred right up until Kaldur had taken down Deathstroke. "It wasn't my fault," he finished, trying to ignore the feelings of guilt that were sneaking in and flattening out his anger.
"Are you kidding me?!" Kid Flash exploded from his crouched position beside Robin. "Of course its–"
"Kid!" Kaldur held up a hand and gave him a warning look before turning to face Superboy. Connor had his fists clenched and his face set in a defensive expression. "So, Robin recognised Deathstroke but you had never seen him before?"
Superboy relaxed slightly. "Yeah."
"And Robin wanted you both to get out of the room rather than fight him?"
"Yeah." Superboy did not like where this was going.
"But you decided to fight him anyway?"
"How was I supposed to know he had kryptonite?!"
Kaldur's expression was stern. "You weren't. You didn't know anything about him. That's why you should have listened to Robin."
Connor turned away, angry because he had no response.
"We can only guess what happened after you lost consciousness," Kaldur continued. "I believe that Robin managed to get the kryptonite away to give you a chance to recover."
"And then stayed behind to save your angry butt!" Wally interjected furiously.
Kaldur ignored him. "What happened to Robin while you were unconscious was not your fault. You were helpless and could not have aided him in anyway. However," Kaldur's ice-blue eyes grew cold, "once you regained consciousness, you let your anger take over. You were so consumed with rage that you thought only of anger and defeating Deathstroke; it never occurred to you to check and see if Robin was alive. If it had taken me any longer to defeat the guards and get into that room, it would have been too late."
Superboy dropped his head, his eyes going to his injured friend. Shame washed over him as he took in the smaller boy's battered form. He had been too angry at Robin to listen to him, too angry to use good judgment in a fight, too angry to see that his actions had consequences…and it had almost cost his friend his life.
"I'm sorry," Superboy muttered, dropping his head, the guilt finally extinguishing the last of his anger. "I didn't mean…I didn't think…"
Kaldur was beside him, placing a hand on his shoulder. "I know you did not mean for this to happen, but you need to learn to control your anger, my friend. We rely on each other in battle, you cannot just give into your rage; it clouds your judgement, and the decisions you make affect us all."
Superboy looked up and the shame was on his face for all to see. "I don't know why I get so angry."
"And you will never learn to control it if you do not learn to listen to reason," Aqualad countered.
"I know." Superboy looked dejected. "I'm sorry about what happened at the warehouse."
"And for being a butt head who got angry at Robin over nothing this morning," Wally prompted.
"Kid!" said Aqualad in exasperation. Wally merely shrugged, his hands held up in a what-did-I-say gesture.
"He's right." Superboy shook his head. "You were right. If Robin had just let me win to save face with Superman, then it wouldn't have been a victory."
"I'm glad you see that now," Kaldur told him. "Do not forget this lesson in future."
"Doesn't matter how sorry he is now anyway," Wally snorted, clearly not in the forgiving mood. "Batman's still gonna kill him."
"The team are returning," Red Tornado informed Batman and Black Canary, joining them by the main computer at Mount Justice. "They requested that we have the medical bay ready for when they arrive."
Batman's head swivelled and his eyes narrowed. "Did they say why?"
"I did not ask. They will be here in three minutes."
Unease furled in Batman's stomach. Black Canary had told him about the sparring match between Superboy and Robin that morning, and he had seen the anger on the clone's face during the mission debrief. Batman hoped the teenager hadn't done anything stupid to get himself hurt.
"I'll get the medical bay prepped," said Black Canary.
Batman nodded and joined Red Tornado en route to the loading docks. They watched the bio ship manoeuvre and land in silence. It was something that Batman really appreciated about the android; he never had to endure the same meaningless small talk that Clark insisted upon.
The ship opened and the team began to disembark. M'gann and Connor were the first out and Batman studied the boy closely. He did not look injured but his eyes still could not meet Batman's. The guilt emanating from him was palpable.
Guilt. Batman's head snapped back to the bio ship at once, whole body going rigid and his face hardening as he spied Kaldur descending slowly, Robin hanging limply in his arms.
It only took three strides for Batman to reach them. Without speaking, he carefully took Robin from Kaldur, whirled, then stalked in the direction of the medical bay.
Red Tornado was hot on his heels but Batman was barely aware of him. His heart was racing as he tried to discern just how badly Robin was hurt. He spied several fingerprint shaped bruises on the boy's neck and the father in him roared for blood.
Black Canary turned as they entered the medical bay, wincing when she saw Batman's face and who the patient was. "Put him down," she instructed.
Gently, Batman laid Robin on the table and began to assist Black Canary in removing Robin's uniform. His rage nearly choked him when he saw the bruises crisscrossing the small chest, but it was when Red Tornado removed the bandage on Robin's wrist and Batman spotted shards of bone poking through skin that a low growl rumbled up from the bowels of his throat.
Black Canary glanced at him. "Batman, maybe you should…" Her voice trailed off as a dark glare was levelled in her direction. The only member of the league immune to that look was Red Tornado, and only because he was a Robot.
"Okay then," she muttered, returning her attention to the injured boy.
Batman did not interfere as Black Canary and Red Tornado assessed Robin's injuries; their medical skills far outstripped his own. Besides, his hands were shaking too much for him to be of any real use.
Finally, Black Canary looked at him. "He's broken a couple of ribs, but I need x-rays to determine how many. And that wrist is going to need surgery. Batman, you need to call Leslie, she can help Red Tornado. And don't give me that look." Her tone was firm but he noticed that she still dropped her gaze. "Now, Bruce."
Wanting to put his fist through something, Batman did as he was bid. Once Leslie had assured him that she would be there soon, the Dark Knight went in search of the rest of Young Justice. Black Canary and Red Tornado would be prepping Robin for surgery and as much as he hated to admit it, he would only be in the way.
They team were gathered on the couch in the living room, talking in low voices that stopped the second Batman entered. His voice was low and dangerous as he addressed them. "Explain."
Aqualad, with a quick glance at Superboy standing alone by the wall, began an account of the evening's events. Batman could feel himself getting angrier as the tale unravelled. His eyes went to Superboy several times, but the clone kept his gaze firmly on the floor. When Aqualad finally finished, there was silence. No one seemed willing to look at Batman or Connor.
Batman's eyes locked on Superboy like a heat-seeking missile. "I want to speak to Superboy," he informed them, never taking his eyes off the boy. "Alone."
The others glanced at the clone, then at one another. Reluctantly, they got to their feet and started to leave. Aqualad stopped beside Batman and spoke quietly. "He knows he made a mistake. Do not be too hard on him."
Batman gave no indication of having heard him. His eyes were fixed on Connor and he didn't move. Kaldur and Wally exchanged uncertain looks as they left the room and Batman could hear Wally whisper, "He's not really going to kill him…is he?"
They were alone. Batman said nothing, his gaze boring into the teenager as if drilling holes in his skull. This boy had almost gotten Robin killed, and Batman would have dearly loved nothing more than to leverage him into the nearest bookcase. However, Batman was not an angry teenager. He had spent years learning to conquer his own rage, and in a day where anger had lead to very some serious consequences, it would not be a good time to forget those lessons.
The silence stretched into an age. Batman did not speak first; he was not the one who had to account for his actions.
Finally, Connor spoke. "I'm sorry." The words were gruff, but Batman could clearly hear the regret in them. It was a start.
"What made you so angry that you lost control?"
Connor looked up, but didn't answer. Guilt was etched in every corner of his face. He looked wretched and Batman's anger softened. Slightly. "Does this have anything to do with this morning?" A slight nod from Superboy. "What is it that bothers you; that Robin beat you…or that Superman witnessed it?"
Superboy's response was mumbled but Batman still caught the word, "Superman."
He sighed inwardly in exasperation. Bloody Clark! The boy was never going to get a handle on his anger until the Kryptonian pulled his head out of his ass and began to acknowledge him. Bruce had talked to him just a few days ago, but Clark had been unwilling to listen. Fine. If Clark didn't want to listen to Bruce Wayne, then Batman would just have to beat the message into Superman. Connor's anger was too dangerous to go unchecked anymore. Robin could have been killed tonight because this boy was confused and angry, because he needed a father.
Batman's anger was no longer directed at Superboy, whom he could clearly see very much regretted his actions. Moreover, he was just a teenager who had only existed for a few months, cloned from one of the most famous superheroes in the world. He was allowed a certain grace period to adjust. And he was trying; Batman had seen him attempt to conquer his rage over the last week. He had actually been doing quite well until what had happened that morning.
Clark on the other hand, had zero excuse for behaving like a big stupid bird sticking its head in the sand to avoid dealing with reality. The most important person to Batman had just been beaten to a pulp and he would have liked nothing more than to dropkick the nearest person responsible. But he didn't have the luxury of giving into his emotions like that, he was an adult and he bloody well had to act like one! It was high time that Clark did the same.
And if Batman had to beat it into him, then it was a minor recompense for not being able to vent his anger right now.
Pain was the first thing that Dick became aware of as he slowly came back to consciousness. Pincers of agony screwed through his wrist and it felt like an elephant was sitting on his chest. Reluctantly, and very much wishing he could slip back into painless oblivion, Dick cracked open his eyes. He closed them again quickly when the room listed sideways. A little hiss escaped his mouth.
"Dick." The deep, familiar voice sounded somewhere in the room.
"Brssss?" he managed. He swallowed, working some saliva into his parched mouth before trying again. "Bruce?" His voice was raw, cracked and no more than a whisper.
"How do you feel?" Bruce was somewhere above him now.
"Like I've died." He opened his eyes again and the concerned face of his guardian came into view. Bruce was in his Batman garb, but had his cowl pushed back. "Wherm' I?"
"Mount Justice." Bruce sat beside Dick, slid an arm around his shoulders and slowly eased him to a sitting position. He retrieved a glass of water from the bedside table and held it to Dick's lips. The boy lapped thirstily; the cool water felt wonderful against his raw throat.
"Small sips," Bruce instructed before removing the class and placing it back on the table. He plumped the pillows into a sitting position and lowered Dick against them. "You've been out for thirty-six hours."
"What happened?" Dick wanted to know, trying to make sense of the disjointed memories in his head.
"Deathstroke," said Bruce grimly.
And then it came back to him. "The team!" he gasped, trying to sit up and sending waves of pain coursing through him. "They're–"
"Fine," Bruce was quick to reassure him. "Superboy recovered after you got the kryptonite out. Aqualad defeated Deathstroke."
"But Wally and M'gann..."
"Are fine. Miss Martian used telepathy to discern that she and Kid Flash were following an empty truck and heading straight for an ambush. They turned around and came back to the warehouse once they discovered as much. Lucky for you; only Miss Martian can pilot the bio ship and you were in dire need of medical attention."
Dick glanced down at his wrist. It was heavily bandaged but he could vividly remember the agony of bone being forced through skin.
"Red Tornado and Leslie performed surgery," Bruce told him gently. "It will take a few months, but your wrist should heal with no complications."
"Okay." He paused, the band of pain across his chest making his breathing hitch. "Why does it feel like I was hit with a two by four?"
"Because you have three broken ribs and Aqualad almost punctured a lung when he performed CPR."
"I needed CPR?"
"Yes." Bruce's voice was short and clipped, his eyes going to the bruising on Dick's neck.
Dick shivered a little, his good hand unconsciously brushing his throat. He wouldn't soon forget the sensation of having the life strangled out of him.
Bruce placed one large hand on his. "Do you need something for the pain?"
Dick wanted to say no. Batman rarely needed pain medication, and he wanted to prove that he could be more than human as well, especially given the powers of his teammates. Unfortunately for Dick, he was all too human and his battered body was screaming at him to take something. His voice was small and defeated when he answered. "Yes."
Bruce was quiet as he administered the pain medication then sat into the chair beside Dick's bed and scrutinized his face. "What's wrong?"
Dick bit his lip before answering. "I feel…a little useless." He glanced at Bruce. The man was watching him expectantly. "I mean, Superboy is Superman's clone and has most of his abilities, M'gann has really cool Martian powers, Kaldur can generate electricity, control water and is stronger than your average human, and Wally has super speed! But me? I'm just…human." His good hand was twisting the sheets covering him. "A short, skinny human who got his ass kicked on a mission."
Dick's face was dejected and Bruce leaned forward. "Your friends may have Superpowers but they have weaknesses too. Superboy's encounter with the kryptonite proves that."
"Superboy's not the one lying in a hospital bed," Dick muttered.
"Only because you saved his life. If you hadn't managed to get the kryptonite away and stall Deathstroke until Aqualad arrived, I doubt very much Connor would be here now."
"Yeah, but I could only do it by letting him beat on me."
"Dick, don't undersell what you did; you fought extremely well against a stronger enemy. Superboy, for his all his strength, was unable to last as long with Deathstroke as you did, and Aqualad was only able to take the man out because he was preoccupied with Superboy."
Dick was silent for a long moment before responding. "So I'm not just a kid with cool toys?"
Bruce's mouth quirked in a smile. "Am I just an adult with cool toys?"
"Then why would you think that you are?" Dick shrugged and Bruce sighed. "Dick, try and remember that even meta humans have weaknesses that they have to compensate for. Being human just means that you compensate by being a superior fighter; something that you have already proved many times, even before your sparring match with Superboy or the fight with Deathstroke."
Dick was silent as he digested what Bruce said. Maybe he wasn't completely useless to the team after all. Feeling slightly better about himself, he asked, "What happened at the warehouse? Did the cultists get away?"
"No. The League took care of it."
"What about Deathstroke?" His voice quivered a little on the name.
Bruce's lips thinned in an angry line. "He's in the infirmary at Belle Reve."
"The infirmary? Why?"
"He resisted arrest." Bruce's face was blank as he answered, but Dick saw the flash of anger in his eyes.
Resisted arrest my foot, thought Dick. Deathstroke had probably tried to flee once the League arrived, and Batman had used it as an excuse to take him down. He knew it was wrong, but he couldn't help feeling comforted by the fact that someone had taught Deathstroke a lesson for his sake. He glanced at his guardian. Bruce had his head cocked to one side as though listening, and there was a faint smile on his face.
"What is it?"
"Feel up to a visitor?" Bruce smiled as he pulled the cowl up over his head, becoming Batman once more.
Dick opened his mouth to respond when a knock sounded at the door. Batman reached for the dark glasses on the bedside table and handed them to Dick. The boy put them on. "Enter," called the gruff voice of Batman.
Connor's very apprehensive face appeared around the side of the door. His eyes went from one masked face to another. "Is this a bad time?"
"No." Batman stood up. "I'll leave you to talk. I will be back later. Robin, make sure you get some rest."
Robin nodded as his guardian swept from the room, glancing at Connor as he did so. The younger boy was quick to notice that the clone kept his eyes glued to the floor and didn't return the look.
As the door closed behind Batman, Connor remained rooted to the spot, gaze on the floor and shifting awkwardly. Robin didn't know whether to be amused or annoyed. "I'm not gonna bite, you know," he offered eventually.
Connor looked up but kept his gaze on various points around the room; the bed, the chair, the wall beside the bed…anywhere but actually at Robin. His jaw was tight, but not with anger Robin realized, with guilt.
"Dude, would you just sit already?! You're making me nervous."
Connor shuffled over to the bed. His sat into the chair, slouching down into as tight a crouch as his muscular frame would allow. He glanced at Robin, but looked away again quickly, clearly not knowing what to say.
Robin decided he was amused by the normally blunt Superboy at a loss for words. "Something on your mind, Supey?"
"I'm sorry." The words were rushed, slightly flustered.
Connor gave him a sharp look. "What do you mean? For this!" He waved his hand towards the bed in an expansive gesture.
"Why? You didn't do this."
"You're not mad?"
"Why would I be mad?"
"Because I…if I hadn't…" Connor paused, looking frustrated. "Because it's my fault you got hurt! I was so stupid fighting Deathstroke like that…"
"You weren't to know what would happen."
"No, but I should have listened to you. You knew what could happen with Deathstroke and I wouldn't listen when you tried to warn me. I guess I never thought my temper would get someone else in trouble. I'm sorry."
Connor looked bewildered by Robin's easy acceptance of his apology. His tortured expression told Robin that the older boy was beating himself up far more than he needed to. "Dude, seriously, you need to work on your positive emotions. All that brooding sucks the fun right out of life."
Connor looked as though he didn't know how to respond. Robin could tell that he had fully expected him to yell but truthfully, anger just wasn't his thing. Robin much preferred to see the humour in life. "If it makes you feel any better, you can be my slave for the next few weeks while I'm recovering?" He gave Connor a cheeky grin.
"I…" Superboy placed a hand to the back of his head and looked confused.
Robin laughed. "I'm kidding, Supey! C'mon, where's your sense of humour?" The older teenager opened and closed his mouth, not entirely sure if he was supposed to answer. "Geez, guess they didn't programme one at Cadmus. We're going to have to work on that."
"How can you forgive me so easily?" Connor demanded.
Robin shrugged. "Nothing to forgive. It's not like you meant for any of this to happen."
The older boy studied him, clearly still unsure how to proceed. "So…" he hesitated before continuing, "how do you feel? Really?"
"Not exactly feeling the aster, but I'm okay. Red Tornado did a good job fixing me up."
"So I guess you could say he membered you then?" Connor offered with a watery grin.
Robin's face split in a delighted smile. "I thought you said playing with words was stupid?"
"I was wrong," said Connor simply, "about a lot of things."
"What sort of things?" Robin cocked his head to one side, surprised by the admission. Connor apologising was one thing, but the hard-headed teenager admitting he was wrong? That was something else entirely.
"For starters? Being mad at you for beating me when we sparred. You were the better fighter and you beat me fair and square. Besides, it's not like you could help that Superman saw it."
"I'm still sorry about that," Robin admitted, glad the tension between them was gone. "I was only trying to prove to myself that I can be as good a fighter as the rest of the team."
Superboy looked startled. "You're one of our best fighters, why would you think that you needed to prove anything?"
"Because you guys all have super powers and I'm just…human." Robin's smile wilted a little. "It kinda sucks being the only human on the team."
"I never thought of you as human before."
"After what happened, its hard not to see you as human," Superboy confessed, his hands indicating Robin's injuries. "But that only makes me admire you more."
"Well, yeah. I mean, you have no powers, you're tiny–"
"Dude, not making me feel any better," Robin grumbled.
"But you still fight!" Connor persisted. "You take down guys twice your size and you're never even scared! Without my powers, I'd just be an ordinary teenager, but you…you kick ass even without powers. Plus, that disappearing ninja thing is pretty cool. I'd really like to be able to vanish without people noticing." The older boy looked a little wistful.
"I could teach you," Robin offered, his insecurities gone. It had never occurred to him that just being able to hold his own alongside his super powered friends made him special, or that a small teenager being able to take down hard-core criminals was a remarkable achievement. Superboy, just by admitting his admiration for Robin, had removed the doubts he had been harbouring. For the first time, Robin felt like he belonged in the team and it made him indescribably happy.
"You could teach me?" Superboy repeated. "How long would it take?"
Robin pretended to look thoughtful. "Well, it took me a year to master it so for you, maybe five?"
"Hey!" Connor looked offended and Robin laughed.
"I was kidding! Forget stealth lessons, we really need to work on that sense of humour first."
"Why would I need a sense of humour when the brooding hero works so well for my image?"
Robin's eyes widened. "Supey, did you just make a…joke?" The older teenager merely grinned and Robin shook his head. "You did just make a joke," he muttered. "A very bad one, but still a joke...there's hope for you yet, Supey."
Robin relaxed back against the pillows. Superboy was making jokes and learning to control his anger, and he finally felt like he belonged on the team. Robin decided that despite his current bed-bound predicament, he was definitely feeling the aster.
A/N: How much do I love Robin's playing with prefixes? Enough that I've started using terms like 'feeling the aster' when as an English lit major I should be bemoaning how sacrilegious it is to mess with the English language. I guess that's the power of a skinny little thirteen year old in kevlar! :D