Disclaimer: DC stupidly entrusted these characters to Cartoon Network. We see how well that went.
"Guess who's coming by for patrol?" Ollie asks, ruffling my hair.
"Jesus," I offer sarcastically. He knows I hate this game, just as much as I hate him touching my hair.
"Robin?" That gets my attention. "Him and Batman?"
"No, just him. Seems Gotham's been pretty quiet lately, and Robin's been asking to see you, so Batman has, somewhat reluctantly, allowed for his protégé to come here."
He smirks. "I knew that would get you excited."
"I'm not excited!" I protest with a huff.
"Yeah, then explain that smile on your face."
Scowling, I jump off the stool and go off to my room to get ready.
Truthfully, I am excited to see the little pipsqueak. Even though there's a four, almost five year difference between us, he's probably one of my closest friends. He's always genuinely happy to see me, and that attitude is kind of contagious. Thing is, I'm fifteen now, and getting all eager and weird is so not cool. I'm almost an adult, I practically need to shave, there's only eleven months and two weeks before I can get my learner's permit, so acting childish will no longer fly.
I emerge wearing my uniform and my composed face, the one I've been practicing in front of the mirror. "Alright, let's go," I say in my new authoritative voice. It helps that my voice has gotten deeper. Seriously, it has.
Ollie chuckles, as though I'm being cute or something, which I'm not. "Slow your roll there, Roy. Give me a couple of minutes. I know you can't wait to see your friend—"
"It's not that!" I object forcefully. "I just want to protect my city, that's all."
"Mmmhmmm," he responds, a sort of twinkle in his eyes. In order to emphasis my budding maturity, I refrain from responding.
Finally, we're heading to the nearest zeta-beam transporter, me a few steps ahead—but only because I'm younger and faster. My eyes trained on the old telephone booth, I don't register the little, barely audible sounds of footsteps until too late. "Roy!"
From the shadows, the little ninja leaps forward and lands gracefully on my back, arms and legs wrapping around me.
"You were early," I observe, turning my head to look at him.
"Yeah. I wanted to surprise you. Did it work?"
"Of course you did," I return. "Don't you always?"
He beams with pride and detaches himself from me. "Hi, Green Arrow!"
"Hey, kid," my mentor returns warmly, opening his arms for a hug. The ten, soon-to-be eleven-year-old, accepts it. For a person raised by the Bat, he sure loves a lot of affection.
"So, I was thinking, you two are plenty old enough to be on your own," GA continues. "You want to take the east side and I'll take west?"
"Okay!" we agree simultaneously, but I catch myself and, shrugging a bit, try again: "Yeah, cool, okay."
Ollie grins. "That's what I thought. Meet me back here in three hours, alright? And call if you need any back up, okay?"
"Okay," I insist, pushing him forward. "So get going."
"Gee, alright, I get the hint. I'm going, I'm going."
Going lasts for only ten feet, when he turns around and says, "I forgot to ask, Robin, how was meeting Kid Flash?"
"It was good! He's funny."
Kid Flash. Wally. Barry's nephew. Ollie told me about him, that he'd duplicated the Flash's experiment, that he's close to Robin's age, that he's been in the hero business for less than a month. Huh. Batman hadn't agreed to introduce Robin to me until I'd been Speedy for over two months. Whatever. That doesn't mean anything. And even if, somehow, it does, it's not like I care. Robin obviously has other friends besides me. It's not a big deal or anyth—
"How did Batman react to Wally knowing your real identity?"
Robin ducks his head a bit. "He was kinda mad."
"Oh, I bet. I'd have loved to see his reaction. Well, I can tell from someone's face that I'm talking too much, so I'll be going. Remember, three hours."
I watch him disappear, my mind whirling. Kid Flash knows Robin's secret identity? I don't know his ID, and I've been his friend for almost a year! And this random kid just pops out of nowhere and Robin spills his guts, despite Batman's strictest orders?
My stomach churns angrily, and my hands clench into fists. Which is strange, because this used to happen when I was younger and my dad would be helping a neighborhood kid with his hook shot or curve ball. And what I felt then is not what I'm feeling right now.
Because I'm not jealous.
Only pressure on my back brings me to reality. "Are we going or what?" Robin asks me, nudging my neck with his nose, something I normally find adorable but now only see as annoying.
"We'll go when you get off of me," I insist sternly.
His mouth trembles a little, and he releases his hold.
We walk in silence for awhile. I'm well aware that he's watching me, but I focus on an arrow in my hand, gritting my teeth and swallowing hard to prevent myself from saying anything stupid.
"So you told Kid Flash your identity?"
"I, I didn't really tell him," Robin protests quietly. "It was more of an accident. Really."
"He still knows," I counter.
"So tell me."
"I can't. Batman said—"
"I don't care what Batman said, and you obviously don't either." Even in my own ears, it sounds harsh.
"I do! It was an accident, Roy, really."
"Speedy. We're on the job now, so don't call me my real identity. I don't call you yours; oh, right, I couldn't do that anyway."
He shrinks a little, and his lips start trembling again.
"Will you grow up?" I demand. "We're heroes, remember? Stop acting like a little kid."
That's what's wrong. He's acting too childish for me. While I am maturing and growing, he is still young and foolish, not fully realizing the importance of what we did. That's it.
It's a slow night. Painfully slow. Which makes the tension between us all the more obvious. He tries to talk. I give one-word responses. He baits me into practicing combat. I tell him he has to focus. He plays with his bat-a-rangs. I do the same with my bow.
Ten minutes before we're supposed to meet up with GA, a crime finally presents itself: low-level crooks, clearly amateurs, trying to rob a convenience store. We move together without any verbal cues—that's a major plus about working with a Bat—and take them down. As we're in the midst of taking them down, though, one more makes an appearance and starts sprinting away. My aim is true and brings him to his knees, but it leaves my other guy unattended; if it weren't for Robin's roundhouse kick, his knife would have been in my back.
"Are you okay?" he asks me quietly.
"Fine," I grunt in annoyance as I tie the men up.
"I'll help," he offers softly, taking a step closer.
"I got it," I growl.
He steps back, and even with his mask on, I can tell that he's hurt.
I ignore it, ignore him, until the cops show up and we start for our meeting spot.
"Please don't be mad at me," Robin whispers. "Please, Speedy, I'm really sorry that I can't tell you my identity."
I whirl on him. "You think that's why I'm angry? Why would I ever me angry over that? Just because you tell Kid Flash the first time you meet him but don't tell me, your supposed best friend?"
He starts playing with his cape. "Speedy, I'm really, really, really sorry. I mean it! I'd tell you if I could, but Batman says—"
"I don't care what he says! If you were really my friend, you'd tell me!"
And as mad as I am, and as in as much denial as I am, I know that this is wrong because I'm yelling at a little kid and guilting him into something that he isn't supposed to do and acting like a total jerk.
"I can't," he practically whimpers. "I want to, but I'm not allowed."
"Then I guess we aren't friends."
The words are out of my mouth before I can think them over, and I turn away before Robin can respond.
"Hey, you two!" GA greets. "How was it?"
"Fine. Let's go."
"Wait, what?" He glances between us. "Are you guys okay? Robin, what's wrong?"
"N-nothing," he manages. "I, I should be going. Bye Ro—Speedy."
Ollie watches him slip into the transporter. "Roy, what happened?" he demands once he's gone.
"Why do you think something happened?"
"He was so upset! And you wouldn't even acknowledge him!" He lets out a frustrated sigh. "Tell me that this has nothing to do with Kid Flash knowing Robin's identity."
A lot of people assume that GA is a clueless push-over, but they don't live and train with him. He might not get angry quickly or a lot, but when he does, there's no avoiding it. And he's damn good at figuring out when things go wrong.
Of course, I can't admit what had happened, so I fiercely insist, "That has nothing to do with anything! I just realized I'm too old to be hanging out with him. He is such a child. We have nothing in common, and I can't deal with his inability to take things seriously."
He doesn't believe me, not one bit, but instead of arguing, he says coolly, "That child has gone through more than you will ever imagine, and all he wants to do is help people. So don't give me that bull, Roy. You think you're all grown up? You still have a long way to go; friends don't abandon friends."
I just cross my arms over my chest and head for home, disappearing into my room as soon as I arrive. I'm annoyed and tired and want nothing more than to forget what happened, so I change quickly and jump into bed. Sleep comes easily.
It's disrupted just as easily by someone growling, "Roy."
At first, I think I'm still dreaming, but it comes again, louder, "Roy."
Grumbling to myself, I open my eyes. No matter how much I blink, the shadowy figure beside my bed doesn't evaporate.
"Roy, get up. We need to talk."
In my room.
I'm going to die.
I obey despite the weakness in my knees, and I'm too terrified to be embarrassed that I'm wearing nothing but a t-shirt and Spongebob Squarepants boxers.
"Do you know what I like to do after a night of patrol?" he asks me in that deadly voice of his.
Take a long bubble bath while listening to sappy love songs?
"I like to sleep. Do you know what prevents me from sleeping?"
Your insatiable thirst for the blood of virgins?
"Crying?" I repeat, wincing.
"Yes, crying. Sobbing, actually. And do you know why he was sobbing?"
The Batmobile hit a puppy. For the love of God, please let the Batmobile have hit a puppy.
"The Batmobile hit a puppy?" I blurt by accident.
His glare intensifies. "He was sobbing because his best friend, his big brother, no longer wants to speak to him. And he was begging me to reconsider my position because it was the only way for you to be his friend again." There's a brief pause. "He was inconsolable."
I'm going to Hell. Even if there is no Hell, one will form, just for me, a deep chasm of lava and fire because I made a ten-year-old cry. A ten-year-old who called me his big brother.
"Do you know why Wally discovered his identity?"
"It was Barry's fault. He mentioned my real name while Wally was in ear-shot, and Wally refused to let the matter drop. He kept badgering Robin, and badgering Barry, and badgering me that I permitted Robin to tell him on the condition that the information would never be revealed to anyone." The whites of his mask narrow even further. "Do you know what Robin asked immediately after we got home? 'Can I please tell Roy, too?' He wants to tell you. I forbid it. So if there is a problem, address me."
Maybe it's a dare. Maybe it's a threat. I take the offer anyway.
"I won't tell anyone. I would never do that. Seriously, why can't I know?"
"I believe you would not tell. But it is still dangerous. His identity is a secret for a reason—to protect him and those around him. I do this with only his best intentions in mind."
"You're right," I murmur, defeated. "I'm sorry."
"You don't have to apologize to me. You have to apologize to him."
"I will," I promise.
"Tomorrow," he specifies. "Four o'clock. Nearest zeta-beam transporter."
And just like that, he's out my window and gone into the night.
I get no sleep after that.
The next day is one of the longest of my life, and it takes forever for four to roll around. When it does, I waste no time in going to Gotham.
Robin is waiting for me, dressed in civvies, sunglasses on his face. He's staring at the ground.
I sigh and drop to his height. "Look, Robin, I'm really sorry about yesterday. I was a jerk, and a...and a...well, I was a lot of things I can't say in front of you. I shouldn't have acted that way, especially since I know you have strict orders not to tell anyone."
"You mean it?" he asks, voice wobbly.
"I mean it."
"'Cause I really want to tell you, I do. You're my best friend, and, and, and I don't want you to stop being my friend."
Tears are dripping onto his cheeks, and I hope the Earth just opens up and swallows me whole because that's what I totally deserve.
"I'll never stop being your friend," I promise, spreading my arms slightly.
He knows an invitation when he sees one, and he slams into me.
"I'm so sorry, Robin," I whisper. "I really am. I was being stupid, okay? It happens a lot when you're a teenager. But I swear, I will never stop being your friend." I awkwardly wipe at the tears. "Let's go get ice cream. My treat."
I take him by the arms and swing him over my back. His arms tighten to maintain his hold.
"Anything I want, Speedy?"
"What's with the formality? Call me Roy."
"Anything I want, Roy?" he tries again, and I feel him smile against my neck.
"Anything for my little brother."