There once was a building that stood tall and baleful in the city.
And so it goes, three young superheroes managed to find their way inside this building called Cadmus, and to stumble upon "the Superboy". Driven by curiosity and the need to help him, they released him from his living tube. And though he attacked him, as he was programmed to do, the three young heroes convinced him to join them.
With the aid of the creatures of Cadmus—the G-Gnomes and their superior, the Dubbilex—all four of them escaped the building that turned to rubble.
Some time passed since that day in July, and the Superboy began to learn outside his once narrow environment. How to control the strength your rage creates during the training simulation, how to clear your dinner plate and politely ask for seconds, how to practice hovering a few inches off the carpet, how to sit quietly in the middle of a busy, engaging conversation with your colleagues and sense the lull and drum of each unique heartbeat. But one thing still troubled him.
As the Superboy learned, he began to realize that People like him—what were known as Clones—were not seen as People in the eyes like the Humans.
He began to question if his existence was truly Real.
With the understanding that he did not have permission to return to Cadmus, the Superboy visited the rubble of the building that had once stood tall and baleful. Deep beneath it, someone called to him softly inside his head. He followed it, recognizing it as familiar and without any menace, and came across a laboratory unharmed from the explosion.
Along with the Dubbilex.
"There is a question," the Dubbilex said, his horns glowing red, "that burns bright like the stars, all through your veins and into your core. I will do my best to answer it, my old friend."
"What is REAL?"
"Real isn't how you are made," answered the Dubbilex through their telepathic connection, patiently, "It's a thing that happens to you." A frown covered the Superboy's expression.
"…Does it hurt?" he asked.
"Sometimes." The Dubbilex's closed, gray lips twitched into a gentle smile. "When you are Real… you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once?" the Superboy persisted, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Dubbilex. "You become. When you are loved. It takes time. But once you are, you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."
With renewed confidence, the Superboy thanked him, and returned home to the Cave, to where his colleagues—his friends were. But waiting along for him was Superman and a few other members of the Justice League. They seemed to have been arguing while the Superboy had been gone. His friends gathered in the large, open space of the monitor room with the adults, voices rising indignantly. Their heartbeats so agitated. He hid around the corner to listen in.
"You can't say that about him!" Kid Flash yelled up at a displeased Superman, scowling features exposed by his cowl, "He's REAL! You can't just pretend he doesn't have feelings!"
"We cannot rule out the possibility that Cadmus and the Light have access to his memories," said Superman, looking firmly around to Batman for support.
"It is," Batman sighed from the sidelines, and the Superboy could feel his reluctance for the heavy subject, "a possibility. He might not even be aware of it."
A great sadness came over him. This wonderful day—his joy in realizing the possibility he could become Real in another's eyes—seemed more and more hopeless. His fist landed to the side of the cave wall, denting it, and the Superboy did not care that everyone now knew he had been there. He paced his room, paced and paced and paced, toes sinking onto the carpet fibers. His thoughts churned in turmoil and anger and more sadness until it felt like it would burst from his very chest, until he heard a knock-knock! on his steel, bedroom door.
"Conner," Kaldur'ahm of Atlantis said, "will you let me in?"
The door whirred shut behind him as Kaldur'ahm entered, not addressing the motion as the Superboy wiped gruffly at his face and lowered the back of his hand. "No one believes that you are working for Cadmus or the Light." He said to the Superboy, sitting down and leading him to join. "Your team—your friends believe in your innocence."
"I'm not sure if I am Real," the Superboy said, starting to think he was foolish. "I was told to become Real, it will happen when you feel you are loved."
"You are loved, Conner. You have been loved by your friends since you arrived here," Kaldur'ahm reassured him.
"I was told it would hurt."
Kaldur'ahm's webbed hand slipped over the Superboy's, holding on with a steady, cool grip. "Does this hurt you?"
"No," the Superboy said honestly, shaking his head.
Darker fingers wiggled to hook through his, holding on with a gentler intent. "Does this?"
"No," the Superboy repeated, raising his head to meet another pair of blue eyes.
"And does this?" Kaldur'ahm trailed off, hesitating for a brief moment before lifting the Superboy's hand and pressing his dry lips to the knuckles.
His friend's cheeks reddened.
"It doesn't," the Superboy said, grinning.
Kaldur'ahm explained to him, fingers still hooked, "Your feelings make you Real. Because you are feeling now means you are Real. Do not ever doubt this."
With renewed confidence, the Superboy thanked him, and returned the soft, mellow kiss, wishing to see that lovely but fading color grace Kaldur'ahm's cheeks.
Some time passed since that day, that wonderful and sad day, and the Superboy never again questioned the words of his friends, who taught him how Real he was.
Repost from my Tumblr (that links back to fill). I do not own the Velveteen Rabbit or Young Justice. Dialogue heavily inspired by the original story of "The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real". I gotta say… I really enjoyed working with word repetition and the child-like vibe of story-telling for this. If you guys have any thoughts, lemme know~! Hope you liked!
"Velveteen Rabbit AU. Superboy and "love makes you real"."