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NO MORE MOVES, the computer screen informed Robin. The jewels shook on the screen and Robin sighed. It was time to get back to work anyways. All he had done was try to give himself a brief mental break before trudging back through the sea of lab reports from S.T.A.R. Labs, detailing the nature of the substances they'd encountered on their last Young Justice mission. They'd gotten out of the situation by luck, not by skill, and that wasn't good enough for him. He wanted to be prepared for the next time.
Closing the game, he went back to the stack of papers on his lap.
"Not carbon based. I could have told you guys that..." he muttered, looking at the molecular structure, detailed on the next page of the report. He was half way through the folder on the second substance when he felt a breeze behind him. He continued flipping pages.
There was no movement behind him, but he knew that there was still someone behind him. "Kon, are you going to leave me alone, or do YOU want to read these reports and interpret them for the group?"
"Actually... it's me," a deep voice said behind him casually.
Instantly, Robin closed the folder and he spun the chair around, staring with wide eyes at the Man of Steel. He rose, placing the folders on the desk in front of him. "Is something up? Most of the team should still be here..."
"No the universe in general seems to be having a quiet moment," Superman informed him.
Robin tensed, hearing the state of things. "Oh. What can I do for you?"
"I don't need anything. I was just thinking... we never talk. That's all."
Robin was caught off balance. "We don't talk?"
Superman was a bulky fellow, and Robin was surprised when he pulled up a small conference table chair and sat himself in it—-it just looked odd to him. "We don't talk."
"I didn't know talking was necessary--" Robin stopped. He knew it sounded rude.
Superman cracked a faint smile. "It may or may not be. It's just... I spend a lot of time with Kon. I know he respects you."
Robin tried to stop himself from snorting. He wasn't exactly successful.
Superman leaned casually on the white plastic arm of the chair, his cape crumpled beneath him. "No, really. He does. And I know Batman, Nightwing and Oracle all think very highly of your abilities. You do excellent work with your team, and in Gotham... but that's really all I know about you. And I'm... trying to stay in touch, you could say. With the younger folks who do what we do."
Robin bit his lips together. Realizing he was doing this, he took to biting his cheek. He tugged on his own black and yellow cape once, resisting the urge to pull it tighter around him. "Well... uh... what do you want to talk about?" His boot ground deeply into the carpet.
"You can tell me something about yourself. I know next to nothing."
The boy tried to keep the look of surprise and horror off of his face, but he knew he was probably doing a poor job of it. "What is this? Like an interview or something? Cause like... I'm busy and..." the boy winced. "I didn't mean it like that, sir. I just mean..." With a sigh, Robin lowered his head, defeated.
"This isn't an interview... per say," Superman answered. Robin wondered if the Man of Steel sensed just how uneasy he was with that idea. "I just want to know more about you. What you like to do when you're not in the costume. Who you do it with."
"That sounds like an interview," Robin said unhappily.
"Robin, this isn't meant to be an interview, or an interrogation. I just wanted to talk."
The young man bit his cheek again, then let out a breath. "I... guess I just don't understand why."
"I said before," Superman started, a twinkle in his cobalt blue eyes. "I want to get to know you." Robin still questioned the older man's motives, and Superman must have picked up on that, because undisguised honesty broke through, and suddenly his eyes bored into the boy's mask. "I don't seem to have the rapport with you kids that I used to have with the Teen Titans. Dick and I were very close—-and I know next to nothing about you, and you apparently like to keep it that way. I respect that, of course... but I would hate for another young man to pass through the Bat Clan without getting to know him better."
Robin scratched his chin. It was a few weeks away from the anniversary of Jason's death. Bruce and Dick were keeping to themselves. He supposed this was Superman's way of marking the time. "Well... umm... there isn't much to tell."
"Tell it anyways," Superman instructed, leaning forward with interest.
The boy blinked twice and scratched his forehead. "Um... well. I have a dad and a step mom."
Superman smiled. "I have a mom and a dad too."
"They don't know what I do."
The Man of Steel gave a nod. "I didn't think they would."
Robin could feel his insides twisting, as he thought of the difference between his family and the Kents. He doubted he'd retract his 'don't tell dad' policy any time soon. "And I had a fish, but we had to flush him last week... And I have a girlfriend. And I used to have a car, but I don't any more." That seemed like everything.
"That's a start," Superman informed him. "What about your girlfriend?"
"What about her?" Robin asked cautiously.
Superman shrugged. "Well, does she know about what you do?"
Robin shrugged. "Yeah, she knows stuff and stuff." He blushed a little. "She kind of does it too."
The Man of Steel gave a quick nod. "Well, that's... interesting." He looked like he felt like he should be taking notes.
If this wasn't an interview, Robin didn't know what it was. "Um... yeah. That's really about all. I mean... I'm not very interesting. Sometimes I hang out with her... sometimes I hang out with Nightwing… and I had some stuff I was kind of working on." He could have smacked himself, for how bad-mannered that sounded, but he didn't know if he could handle the discussion any more. He wasn't the most open person on the planet, and he hated having to try to be.
"I admire your dedication, but a few minutes really wouldn't hurt."
Robin really hated when people danced around stuff. He did enough of it himself that it got tiresome. "I REALLY don't like talking about myself," the boy admitted. "And I like talking about my real life even less. Everything's fine, if that's what you're getting at. I'm just not a... hanging out kind of guy. And I know you and Nightwing were pals, but I'm just not a buddy-buddy kind of guy either. It's just... I have a lot going on, and I hate to be a disappointment, but I'm not really... well, a friendly guy." He might as well just admit it out front. It might make this go a little quicker.
"Robin..." Superman started. "There's no crime in wanting to keep your personal and... professional lives very, very separate. I can appreciate that myself. But there have to be people you can confide in."
Could this conversation possibly get any worse? "I have a girlfriend. It's not like I just don't talk to anybody. I have people I talk to." Then why had that come out of his mouth so unconvincingly?
"I just want to make sure that you have... Support."
"That seems like a totally different motivation than wanting to get to know me," Robin answered too tersely. "I mean it just..." He faltered. "I'm busy."
"Can I help?"
Robin wanted to tear out his hair and scream. This is what drove Bruce nuts, he realized. That constant... niceness. It made you want to... well, tear your hair out. He didn't know if Superman was being intentionally vexing, or it was a by-product of a Midwestern upbringing. "Not really. I'm just reading through this stuff... getting prepared for next time."
Superman nodded. "You take a lot after Bruce."
Unable to hide the wince, Robin folded his arms over his chest under his cape. "Nightwing's the same way. I hear he trains the Titans to death if they mess up in the field. It's not like..." well, like he was a Bat-clone or anything. Contrary to what Young Justice might thing. At least he HOPED he wasn't a Bat-clone. He still had a life. Sort of. "I just want to be ready for next time," he finished quickly.
"I didn't mean anything by it," Superman assured him. "It does pay to be prepared, trust me. I know. I just mean... you seem to have a very serious side."
Robin's shoulders slumped a little. "Ok, so I'm a Bat-clone. Everyone thinks so. I'm just not Nightwing, ok?"
"You don't have to BE Nightwing. It's true he's outgoing. But you have your own way. I don't know you well... but I don't think you're quite as... mmm..." Clark Kent, award-winning writer faltered. "As Bruce is. Just... well, I'm sure he appreciates your studious nature."
"And my potential to become a clone," the boy grumbled crankily.
Superman smiled sincerely. "I'm sure you're not going to grow up to be a clone. But from first hand experience... even clones aren't the carbon copies they used to be."
Robin bit his lips together trying not to smile. "I'll tell Kon you said that."
"The point is, just because you all have a similar method of operation doesn't mean you have to become a facsimile. You're young. You're still finding your own way of doing things." Robin still felt awfully unconvinced, and he knew it was plastered all over his face, but there was nothing he could do. "What makes you think you're a 'Bat-clone'?"
Robin looked at the palms of his gloved hands. "Well, I'm sure Kon's told you all about it. I'm mysterious, I'm stuck up, I'm cold, I'm calculating, and I'm not above using my teammates. The only thing I CAN say for myself is that I don't have protocols. For them, at any rate." He let out a breath. "'Least Nightwing's nice about it."
Superman shifted in the plastic conference room chair. "Nightwing has his moments. I wouldn't put him on too high a pedestal."
"I know," Robin sighed. "Like how he complains that Batman drives him nuts, but if you complain, then he defends Batman."
"It's nothing," Robin followed up quickly. "That's just the way it is. Ok, so some stuff drives me nuts but I probably do the same thing, so that doesn't make me not a clone." He regarded the stack of papers with a touch of frustration.
"You're not a clone," Superman assured him.
"You don't know that. You said yourself you don't know me. I could be the biggest freaking Batman clone in the entire universe and you wouldn't know. I mean, I'm a total social reject most of the time, and I'm overly obsessed with my now non-existent car, over-protective of my identity, uber in ways that I can't begin to describe..."
The boy was interrupted. "I doubt you're a clone," Superman corrected. "But if you'd like to be sure… then tell me about it."
"I thought I just did," Robin pointed out. "And this wasn't supposed to be an interview. Maybe you should tell ME something."
Superman thought hard. "Hmm... I don't know. I like pancakes.
"That's in one of Batman's files," Robin answered, unimpressed.
"Bruce has probably cataloged dietary habits, wardrobe preferences and behavioral patterns. He probably also has my apartment bugged."
"He said that would be too shady, even for him."
Half a smile appeared on Superman's lips, and his hand raised then lowered, like he was resisting the urge to ruffle Robin's hair. He was glad for that. That would have been too weird.
"Ok. Umm... Something that wouldn't interest Bruce... I collect the little baseball cards in the bottom of Cracker Jacks boxes."
Robin winced. "And the Pokemon tattoos. Kon told me about that."
"Ok. I'm running out of little secrets." Superman scratched his lower lip with his thumb. "I have been known to watch Saturday morning cartoons. I... uh... get up early to watch Jacky Chan Adventures."
Robin's head snapped up. "You watch that?"
"Don't tell Lois. She thinks I'm doing early morning patrol. I fly to my parents' house and watch it, then come home."
The young man grinned. "I LOVE that show. Batman said the time could be better used SLEEPING, and Nightwing says I need to upgrade my watching habits to Loony Toons. But it's... funnnnny."
Clark's white teeth gleamed suddenly as he gave a huge grin. "I KNOW. Like that time Jade's parents called Uncle 'Uncle' and she's like 'are you EVERYBODY'S uncle?' I was laughing so hard my mom thought I was choking to death."
An honest smile remained on Robin's face. "I saw that one. I was watching it on the Crays and Batman told me to go home and go to bed and quit eating his bandwidth. And he has a fiber optic connection."
"Then I can say with certainty that you're not a clone," Superman assured him. "I remember when Dick was in high school and he wanted to V-chip the cartoon stations. I told him that would be the thing that finally put the kid into therapy."
Robin let out a choking laugh. "Oh man. And I can picture Bruce doing that, too. That's the worst part." Regaining his composure, he looked the Man of Steel in the eye. "And I can say with certainty that you're not Mr. Manners, the Android Superhero."
"Thanks. I think," Clark answered mirthfully. "Now, see, that wasn't too painful."
"No moreso then spending half the night with your head in Killer Crock's mouth."
"You're a unique kid," Superman informed him. "Don't be afraid to show your sense of humor now and again. Especially with the other Young Justice folks."
Clark rose. "Really—-that wasn't that painful at all. Maybe we can talk again some time."
"Maybe," Robin answered. His tone was non-committal but not evasive.
"Maybe next weekend," Superman said. "They're running a marathon starting at 8am. We can enjoy it in peace, and maybe talk about your fish and your car... and the other stuff. I'll make pancakes."
"That'd be... kind of cool." Robin guessed 'other stuff' probably entailed his girlfriend and his parents and a bunch of other things he'd been vague on. He was kind of ok with that, though.
Superman rose, and began turning towards the door, his time apparently up. "And I mean it... don't be afraid to joke once in a while."
Robin opened his mouth to protest, but never quite got it out.
"Keeps them guessing," he reassured the young man, before flying off.
The boy pulled the stack of papers back onto his lap, grinning. He could handle that.
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