Personally, it’s the kissing that’s getting to Aqualad.
It’s not that the act in itself bothers him. He actually finds it extremely pleasant when he’s engaged in it, but there’s a time and a place for affection.
Apparently, Robin thinks that time is always, and that place is everywhere, and Superboy agrees, because Kaldur swears there isn’t a room left in the cave he hasn’t caught them in. Including the pantry, and all the bathrooms.
It’s the end of the mission and they’re making out on the ride home. Kaldur knows the rush of relief and adrenaline after a narrow victory, knows the joy, the impulsiveness of it all, but they’re not a young team anymore. They’ve been tempered by the last two years, tested, and they’ve come through it stronger, stable, mature. At least until romance comes into the picture.
He really wishes Superboy and Robin could manage to rein their hormones in. Just for fifteen minutes.
That’s really not too much to ask.
“Don’t do that again,” Superboy says in between the wet smacking noises. Kaldur only barely keeps himself from clapping his hands over his ears; Wally apparently has no such reservations.
“Were you worried?” Robin asks and Superboy growls in response. M’gann manages to be red and green all at once and Artemis has her unimpressed face on. Robin drops his voice low, but not low enough, and adds, “I like you worried.”
Kaldur, M’gann, Artemis and Wally all share a long look.
It’s going to be a very long trip home.
It doesn’t bother Wally at first. Not really, anyway. Honestly, he’s happy for them. Doesn’t mean he’s not going to tease them about it for the next ten years, but Dick, at least, expects that kind of thing.
And okay, so the fact that he’s seen Dick and Superboy shove each other up against every wall in the place, that’s a little much, but that’s rampaging hormones for you. Wally understands; if a certain Martian girl were to lay her shapeshifting hands on him, well. He wouldn’t be complaining.
What he’s getting at is that Dick’s his best friend. His main man. And that’s what’s bothering him, because ever since Dick and Superboy started making out it’s like Wally doesn’t even exist.
Whatever happened to bros before superhos?
It’s safe to say he’s feeling a little bitter.
“I’m sure he didn’t mean to forget,” M’gann says, pulling a tray of cookies out of the oven. She frowns, fanning the air with an oven mitt. “It probably just slipped his mind! Like these cookies! I meant to take them out of the oven five minutes ago, but then – hello, Megan! – slipped my mind!”
“I’m not a baked good,” Wally says. He snags four or five from the tray; cookies are cookies, burnt or not. “I’m a real person! How can he just forget our plans like that?”
M’gann gives him another little tightlipped smile, shrugging helplessly.
“Would brownies help?” she asks.
“And the petnames!” Wally says, throwing his hands up in the air. “The other day I heard him call Supey “honey”! What are they, married?”
“Brownies will help,” M’gann says with a decisive nod.
Wally puts his head down on the counter and groans.
M’gann tries her best to stay out her teammates’ heads. It’s not always easy, and sometimes she can’t help but feel what they’re feeling, their emotions overflowing into her. She’s gotten better about that – practice makes perfect – and these days it happens less and less frequently.
Which is part of what makes the game Robin and Superboy are playing (and she knows they’re doing it on purpose, because Robin can’t stop giggling) so annoying.
“It’s couplespeak,” Wally says, rolling his eyes.
“Couplespeak?” M’gann repeats.
“Like a secret language,” Wally explains. “Made up by sappy jerks.”
M’gann doesn’t want to go so far as to call them jerks -- but the truth is they’re not being very nice. Being on a team means including everyone; it’s not like M’gann goes around slipping Martian into every other sentence.
It’s not so bad when they’re off duty, but on missions? Half the time M’gann feels like hitting them instead of the enemy, and that’s not very productive.
M’gann’s a nice person. She likes rainbows, small adorable animals and baking. She doesn’t want to be mad. She wants to be friends and share brownies and for Red Tornado not to have to give them the “I Am Very Disappointed in You for Destroying That Expensive Thing” speech this week.
They aren’t making this easy for her.
It’s one thing when they’re just hanging out. It’s a completely different story on missions, and everything out of Superboy and Robin’s mouths – everything in their minds, for that matter – is utterly incomprehensible.
M’gann kind of wants to smack the both of them into a wall. Gently.
“Couplespeak,” Wally mutters, watching Superboy and Robin trade a series of endearments and half-words and rolling his eyes every two minutes.
“It’s a phase. They’ll get over it soon enough,” Kaldur says. Wally gives him a disbelieving look, and Kaldur sighs and adds, “Stop it, or your face might freeze like that.”
Artemis doesn’t really care about Superboy and Robin and their tendency to gaze longingly into each other’s eyes every fifteen seconds, because, well. Superboy is, to quote the radio, hot like Mexico, rejoice, and Robin’s not bad looking in a tiny infuriating gymnast sort of way.
(Really, she’s just glad someone’s shorter than her – or was, anyway, because he’s been hitting a growth spurt lately and it’s super annoying -- so she’s willing to cut him some slack.)
So if they want to swap spit on their down time (or their fight time, or their victory time, or their we-messed-up-and-have-two-minutes-to-disarm-this-bomb time), that’s not her problem.
If she catches them in her room again, though? They’re both getting shot in the foot.
Batman has had to learn a lot since he took Robin on as his protégé.
Bruce Wayne has had to learn even more since he took Dick Grayson in as his son.
Structure and discipline and teaching the correct way to take down a foe three times your size barehanded, those come to him easy enough, but shopping for school supplies? Parent-teacher conferences? Learning the difference between when your sidekick needed the “That Was Reckless” speech and when your child needed to be wordlessly lifted off the concrete and onto your shoulders? Those were hard.
Fatherhood is one of his greatest challenges, and Bruce confronts it like he does everything else: by doing his utmost to be prepared for any and all contingencies. Logically, he always knew this day would come. It doesn’t make it any less frustrating.
The sighing is really getting to him.
“It’s puppy love, Master Bruce,” Alfred says with minimal scorn. “Perfectly normal at his age.”
Bruce grimaces and Alfred frowns.
“Don’t you think you’re being a touch dramatic?” he says.
Bruce wants to counter that there is nothing dramatic about his attitude, not when Dick had absently wondered, in between the long, heartsick sighs, about whether Superboy would be Batman’s protégé-in-law after they got married.
He really couldn’t bring himself to voice it, though.
“I think I’d like to be alone for a while, Alfred,” he says, and he is absolutely not sulking. He doesn’t miss the way Alfred rolls his eyes.
“Very well, Master Bruce,” he says. “I’ll be in the kitchen if you need me.”
Bruce waits until the door has closed and Alfred’s footsteps have retreated down the hall before he pops open a hidden compartment in his desk and pulls out a selection of parenting books.
Clark has absolutely no idea what he is doing. Superboy – Conner, he reprimands himself – stares at him with a gaze nothing short of piercing.
“Uh,” Clark says. The sun beats down hard on his back; normally he loves the feel of it, but today it just makes him uncomfortable. He scans the crowd for a familiar head of dark hair. “Maybe I should go see if Lois needs help with those hotdogs…”
“I asked you a question,” Conner says, his eyebrows furrowed. Clark tugs at his collar.
“Well, that’s,” he starts, stops, evaluates everything in his life that has brought him here, to this incredibly awkward moment, and fights the abrupt urge to just get up and fly away. “That’s a difficult question to answer.”
Conner continues to stare at him. He doesn’t blink.
Clark runs a hand through his hair.
“Well,” he says. “It’s – love is, um. Love is a complicated thing.”
“Who’s in love?” Lois says, dropping down on Conner’s other side. Clark shoots her a desperate look over the top of his head. She blissfully ignores it.
Conner ducks his head and his face turns pink. Lois raises one jaunty eyebrow and Clark sighs; no turning back now. She juggles the junk food in her hands so she can give Conner a friendly elbow to the ribs.
“Who’s the lucky lady?” she asks, and Conner’s lips twist into a frown.
“It’s not a lady,” he says. Lois blinks. She fixes Clark with a look. Clark reaches behind Conner and grabs one of the hotdogs, stuffing it in his mouth so he has a legitimate excuse not to contribute to this conversation. After all, Ma taught him never to talk with his mouth full.
Lois rolls her eyes at him.
“The lucky guy, then,” she says, and Conner stares up at her from underneath his bangs, shoulders still hunched, elbows resting on his knees. Lois doesn’t even flinch. She holds out a hotdog like a peace offering or, the far more likely alternative, a bribe.
There’s a moment, a beat, and then something flickers in Conner’s blue eyes. He takes the hotdog and, in between bites, he mutters one word: “Robin.”
Clark flinches; Batman is going to kill him. The sad thing is right now Clark would take that slow death by Bruce Wayne and a chunk of kryptonite over the look Lois is giving him, her sharp eyes glimmering.
“Robin, huh?” Lois says. She’s ignoring the looks Clark is shooting her, the gestures he’s giving her behind Conner’s back. Not that he expects anything less. “Alright, stud, tell me about him.”
Conner does. It takes him a moment – he stumbles over words, mumbles, falls into moody silence for minutes at a time. There’s something different about him when he talks about Robin, though. He sits up straighter. His eyes are brighter, and it’s like he can’t help the stupid grin his mouth curves into.
Clark knows that look. He’s seen it on his own face, glanced in mirrors and the Daily Planet’s windows when he’s talking with Lois.
That look is trouble.
“But I’m not good at it,” Conner says, his eyes darkening again as he curls his hands into fists, pounds them against his knees. The power in the motion makes Clark’s back stiffen; Conner is too strong to have outbursts like that. “He just – he always knows what to say and do, and I don’t, and…”
Lois slides a hand across his back, curls her fingers over his shoulder.
“Nobody’s good at being in love,” she says, and Clark stares at her. Conner stares too, his eyebrows knit together in confusion.
Conner chews his lip.
“What about Superman?” he asks in a lowered voice. Clark feels his face heat up as Lois doubles over laughing.
Batman might not even have to kill him; the likelihood of him making it through the afternoon is looking slimmer and slimmer by the moment.
“Don’t worry,” Lois says, still laughing. She wipes a tear of mirth from her eye, her gaze fixed squarely on Clark. “You’ll get it.”
Where’s a supervillain attack when you need one.
Black Canary’s had to switch up her training rosters in the past couple of weeks. She can’t pit Superboy and Robin against each other anymore, which is troubling because Robin, who relies too much on his experience, needs to learn how to take on someone who can lift airplanes over his head, devastatingly and unflinchingly strong, as badly as Superboy needs to learn how to fight someone who is small, agile and, most importantly, intelligent. Someone who doesn’t take strength and superhuman speed for granted.
Robin doesn’t take gaps in his enemy’s defenses for granted.
Or, apparently, gaps in their clothing.
He has his hands up the front of Superboy’s shirt thirty seconds into the fight and Conner doesn’t seem terribly interested in continuing the battle as he ducks his head low to meet Robin’s. In the background Kid Flash screeches, Artemis catcalls and the sound of Aqualad slapping a hand to his forehead echoes through the training room.
Dinah grabs them both by their collars, pulling them apart. She lets them both hit the floor with a thump.
She claps her hands sharply.
“Alright, everyone,” she says. “I think that’s enough for today. Hit the showers – separately! Separate showers!”
Superboy and Robin glance guiltily at her.
Dinah pinches the bridge of her nose. This job has taken a turn for the babysitting side of things, and that’s not what she signed up for. Teenagers.
Still, she remembers being that age – it wasn’t that long ago, no matter what Roy says – and it’s hard to fight back a smile.
She owes Ollie a call, after all.
The only problem Roy has is that he hasn’t yet figured out how to give the “hurt him and I will end you” speech to someone who is nearly invulnerable and have it actually mean anything.
Memo to self, he thinks, research kryptonite arrows.
“Do you think they’ve suffered enough yet?”
Conner looks down at Dick, sprawled out over his stomach, feet kicked up in the air. He’s got an elbow stuck in Conner’s ribs and a Nintendo DS clutched in his hands, tongue poking out from between his teeth. He’s playing the latest Pokemon installment for the third time, and he claims he’s raising a team for Conner, but he hasn’t surrendered the game in three hours.
(“I’m just getting you past the boring parts!” Dick exclaims.
“Uh-huh,” Conner says.
“Really,” Dick says, pressing a hand to his chest. “Trust me. I’m a ‘mon master.”)
“Don’t know,” Conner says. Dick hums, his thumbs flying over the buttons.
“Okay, so, M’gann wants to strangle us, Kaldur’s not far behind but he’s too leaderly to let it slip, Artemis put another lock on her door and the other day I think I caught Wally crying,” Dick counts off. “Not to mention Canary and Arrow 2: Electric Boogaloo.”
“What?” Conner says and Dick flashes him a quick, bright grin. He explains nothing.
“And Batman’s hitting the parenting books like Catwoman’s phone number is in there,” he says offhandedly. Conner frowns; he doesn’t entirely get why Batman would want Catwoman’s number (so he could call and ask if she was planning to rob any museums that week?). “And Superman?”
“I made him choke on some Crackerjacks,” Conner says. Actually, Lois had done that, but Conner had started the conversation, so he deserved at least part of the credit.
Dick laughs, twisting so he can look at Conner over his shoulder. His eyes glint, and Conner swallows hard.
“So?” he says. “Should we lay off a little?”
Conner considers it. He catches Dick by one skinny ankle, running his thumb over the arch of his bare foot, fingers brushing the hem of his jeans.
“Nah,” he says, tilting his head to the side. He smiles. “Let’s let ‘em sweat a little longer.”