Robin knew when he was being watched. It was a part of being THE Batman’s partner – it saved his life numerous times, or the lives of people around him, and generally kept his ass out of the worst trouble. It always started as an uncertain need to turn and look back; then, the hair at the back of his neck would stand to attention and he would locate the inquisitive eyes if they were not completely, masterfully hidden in the shadows.
Superboy was not a master of stealth, not by a long shot. Thus, Robin attributed his neck-tingling to the clone quite easily: but it did not make the situation any more pleasant. Robin was aware of Conner’s eyes on him, and he couldn’t really figure out what was going on.
At first, of course, being trained (and infused with paranoia through and through) by Batman, Robin believed that someone, somehow, got a hold of Conner’s mind and was using the clone to spy on the team – when Robin realized that Conner was only watching HIM, he changed that assumption to Superboy spying on him, or maybe on Batman’s activities through Robin.
However, Superboy sometimes kept watching even when the situations could not be remotely useful in a battle, for example when Robin was having breakfast: surely no supervillain had invented a way to use cereals as a lethal weapon.
At least Robin had believed so, until one morning, Superboy asked if he could have some.
Robin could not hide his surprise at that. Nobody ever asked him for his cereals. They weren’t the popular, sugary kind. They weren’t even animal-shaped or fun-colored. They included a lot of stuff that did much good to the body, a bit less good to the tongue – and not even Wally, who in Robin’s opinion could consume anything that was not made of steel, ever, EVER asked Robin to have some of those cereals.
Superboy did, his face a mask of hard-won determination as he placed something on the table right in front of Robin, who simply gaped. The things that clanked onto the kitchen counter were his own weapons, the round, sharp kind with GPS he used fairly often. For a short moment, Robin let Batman’s paranoid wariness overtake his mind and he wondered if Superboy was stealing Robin’s equipment on purpose, to get data on his tech level or something.
Then, he realized two, maybe three things: first, that the GPS on all of them was out of order, which meant Robin already used those and they wouldn’t really provide anything useful, if Superboy was, indeed, spying on him.
Second, that they were all damaged in a way that strongly reminded Robin of their mission from last Wednesday.
Third… the last he’d seen those, they were being sunk to the bottom of a rather large lake.
Robin looked up in confusion.
“What is this?”
Superboy merely shrugged:
“You said you missed them.”
Indeed he had – when they’d been in the middle of a mission and Robin had found himself out of the GPS kind, since his utility belt was not as bottomless as some believed… and since a lot of his weapons had been destroyed previously in the battle. He’d bitched in M’gann’s bioship as they’d flown after the villains, but Robin would’ve never thought that someone would take it as an incentive to bring them all back to him.
Maybe even after so much time, Superboy still required a dictionary explaining in simple terms what people meant by what they said…
“I’ve got more now,” Robin tried, and Superboy frowned in that way that looked like ‘I’m going to smash your skull against the nearest hard surface’ and that all of the team had learned to decipher as Conner struggling with a particularly difficult concept.
“So… they’re not useful anymore…?” he said in the end, and his frown turned into such a kicked-puppy (or more of an irritated puppy being shooed away) face that Robin could only sigh and shrug.
“Nah, I can simply restore the GPS… maybe sharpen them… I’d say they’re at least use-half,” he grinned briefly, then shrugged: “Thanks, I guess.”
Conner simply offered a small smile, and nodded towards Robin’s breakfast:
“Can I have some, then?”
Robin, as usual, tried to rationalize the weirdness internally. Maybe Superboy’s just trying a different diet. M’gann’s cookies are great, but it’s WAY too much sugar…
“Yeah, of course. The box is on the bottom shelf over there,” he waved his hand to the counters: Superboy’s blue eyes followed the movement and swiftly returned to Robin’s own half-eaten bowl.
“Can I have some of yours?”
That was a little bit too much even for Robin’s rationalizations. He pushed the bowl over the counter to Superboy, taking only his own spoon in case the clone was really going for some DNA samples or something, and exited the kitchen in a hurry.
This day was starting off weird… Robin just hoped it wouldn’t turn into the kind of weird where everybody died or went crazy.
Nobody died, but that fact did not really do much to alleviate the distinct tingle of weirdness that lingered at the back of Robin’s mind whenever he caught Superboy watching. He couldn’t officially scold him, because: a) Superboy’s staring did not interfere with missions, b) Robin would have to admit that he was a little bit rattled, and he was unwilling to do that just yet.
However, when they took down Poison Ivy’s newest toxic garden and Robin found Superboy fiddling with a bush, he got worried that point a) might not be so valid anymore.
He was frowning all the way back to Mount Justice, and Superboy, as usual, kept quiet. His flabbergasted, disappointed expression told tales, but about what, Robin had no idea.
M’gann greeted them at the tubes, and her eyes widened when she took in Superboy’s arms, covered in scratches way up over his elbows.
“What happened?” she asked, momentarily disappearing to get the first aid kit, and Robin felt like slapping his forehead, because really…
“He stuck his hands into a bush. A rose bush,” he explained dryly when she appeared again, and Superboy, still frowning over something, let himself be led into the kitchen to have the wounds treated.
“What? Why?” M’gann glanced at the clone, but he merely shrugged, and Robin snorted:
“That’s a good question. Because I can’t really imagine a good enough answer for someone willingly letting any plant belonging to Ivy close to them if they’re not suicidal. Or demented.”
“I’m not demented. I had a reason,” Superboy finally spoke, offended out of his silence, and Robin raised an eyebrow:
“Oh really? Maybe you’d like to share?”
“No,” was the only answer and the clone pouted as M’gann applied the disinfectant.
Robin sighed, waved his hand dismissively and shook his head at the Martian:
“Make sure he doesn’t wake up a bit on the dead side.”
Robin had gone to sleep wishing that all the weirdness would just go away. He was used to a LOT of abnormality, but Superboy was somehow challenging that with his every move.
Robin walked into him in front of the bathroom: Superboy was shirtless and – surprise, surprise – frowning, this time at the shirt in his hand, covered in green gooey stuff. Robin had, at first, wanted to make a joke about… SEVERAL things and none of them exactly polite or appropriate in good company. However, he then noticed the green goo on Superboy’s pajama pants too, and it looked like mashed peas.
Robin did NOT want to know.
Next time he saw Superboy, there was something strange about him. Robin could not decide for a few seconds (which he spent staring at the clone), but it all became clear when Superboy raised an apple to his mouth-
“Are you… wearing lipstick…?” Robin asked incredulously and Superboy stared back, mouth half-open and the apple almost touching his lips.
Robin really, really didn’t want to know.
But he was also one curious fucker.
“WHY are you wearing lipstick? RED lipstick?!”
No real answer came at that. Robin groaned:
“Have you EVER seen a guy with make-up?”
“Not a transvestite or a psychopathic homicidal maniac?”
Superboy frowned and proceeded to bite into the apple. Robin briefly wondered just WHO had given Superboy the atrocious color… then the clone began to choke.
A perfect Heimlich maneuver later, Superboy was glaring at a chunk of an apple on the floor. Then, he kicked the garbage can and threw the rest of the apple in it (or more like AT it) as he stalked off.
Robin blinked, shrugged, and decided to forget it all for the sake of his own sanity.
One evening, Superboy asked Robin to play a game with him: it was nothing too unusual; as soon as Superboy learned to control his strength enough to stop crushing the controllers in his hands whenever he got too caught up in a virtual fight, he turned out to be quite a good gamer, even if he only ever played with other people, never alone.
Robin relented, wondering if the weird phase had gone away already – for a few hours, they played in silence, except for occasional victorious or irritated yelps.
Then, in the middle of a boss fight, Superboy threw down the controller and ran away. Robin forgot the game completely at that moment, gaping after the clone in disbelief. What the hell…?
The game was lost anyway, and checking up on Superboy seemed like a good idea in case he’d just finally snapped and was going to smash the whole place or something. Thus, Robin followed – and nearly tripped on the stairs over a familiar black sneaker.
Robin frowned, picked up the shoe and continued to Superboy’s room.
He found the clone sitting on his bed, no signs of overt aggression on his face.
“Hey,” he said, and Superboy looked at him (and at the shoe) with what looked like expectation to Robin. He raised an eyebrow and let the shoe dangle in front of himself by the laces.
Superboy just nodded. Robin shifted uneasily. What the hell was going on…?
“You can’t leave shoes on the stairs. It’s dangerous,” he continued, and Superboy frowned. He looked disappointed, again, and Robin didn’t know what to do, so he placed the shoe next to the doorway and sighed:
“Are you alright?”
The clone gave a slight nod, frowning down at his own sock-clad foot, and Robin decided to leave him alone, because really… this was more than he could handle.
“He’s being weird, I tell you! Maybe I should ask M’gann to scan his brain or something, because if he’s being controlled remotely by someone-”
“Making him do what exactly?” Wally interrupted, glancing up from his PSP at Dick, who was pacing the room like a lion in a cage.
“First, he brought back my weapons,” Dick frowned, and Wally lifted an eyebrow at that:
“Maybe he was trying to help.”
“Yeah, only he asked for my breakfast afterwards. Then he purposefully stuck his hands into a damned rose-bush in Ivy’s greenhouses… then I found him practically wearing a bowl of mashed peas and after that, it was LIPSTICK. And he nearly choked on a stupid apple – I mean, he’s supposed to be a super-weapon or something, how can he almost die while eating?! And then he runs off while we’re playing and I nearly trip over his shoe – he was never messy, so why start leaving shoes around?!”
Wally simply stared for a few seconds and Dick thought that the speedster was contemplating the weirdness… but then, Wally burst into giggles and Dick frowned.
“What’s so funny?!”
Wally didn’t say anything – probably because he still had trouble breathing through all the chuckling – he just stuck his PSP into his back pocket and walked to a small bookcase in the corner of his room, picking a book and handing it to Dick.
Who frowned again at the colorful cover.
“…are you trying to tell me I should find a fairy godmother to spell Conner’s mind right?” he asked dryly when he read the title, Good-Night Fairy Tales.
“Open it,” Wally sniggered, and Dick did, even if he had no idea what Wally meant by-
…..wait a moment.
Dick scanned the table of contents and something clicked in his brain. He looked up at Wally with wide eyes.
“I think Conner likes you or something,” Wally chuckled, “I mean… the Frog Prince, Sleeping Beauty, Princess and the Pea, Snow-White, even Cinderella… he tried it all, apparently.”
Dick huffed at that and stormed out of Wally’s room, clutching the book tightly in his hand.
He had a hard time not slapping Conner in the face with it when he burst into the clone’s room.
“I’m not a princess!” he yelled and Superboy blinked – then turned a shade of red Robin had never seen before in his life. Conner shrugged and scratched the back of his neck, apparently uncomfortable.
“So WHY did you-“
“I thought that… in those tales,” Conner nodded at the book in Robin’s hands, careful not to look into Robin’s face at all, “the princess gets the guy, all the time, and it’s… happily ever after.”
Robin gaped. Happily…. WHAT?! Only then it finally registered in his mind what Wally had said. It wasn’t that Conner had been making fun of him, or that he’d think Robin was a girl – actually, Conner had turned HIMSELF into those princesses to make Robin see that he…
Oh god. Conner liked him. LIKED liked. Robin’s mind shut down at that idea, and all he could do was repeat it in his head over and over again. Superboy liked him.
“You know… there’s probably no happily ever after in real life,” he said slowly, and Conner looked so hurt that Robin realized that wasn’t exactly what he’d wanted to say. “And you don’t have to sleep in mashed peas to go out with somebody. You can just… ask.”
He felt himself color at that too, because he’d never really thought of dating much so far, and this whole mess also made him realize that he had minded Superboy’s weird behavior because it was suddenly more difficult to be near him and Robin had liked the way things had been before: that he liked being with Conner because it was easy and fun and he didn’t have to worry or think too much, which was very, very rare for Robin, and even for Dick.
Superboy looked up, meeting Robin’s eyes finally, and he was still as red as Flash’s tights, and Robin felt his heart skip a beat.
“Will you accept if I ask?” Conner said quietly, and Robin thought that the level of weirdness was steadily rising… but it also went from bad, scary weird to tingly, warm and nice weird, and Robin didn’t really mind that much.
“That depends… will you insist on going on that date on a horse, dressed in velvet breeches?” he chuckled, and Conner smiled, and Robin thought that maybe he wouldn’t mind that too much.
Blackmail photos could always be useful, after all.