Surveillance is Tim’s favorite type of mission. He likes observing people’s expressions and body language, subconscious movements he can trust more than words. Surveillance is also low-pressure – time to think, to strategize, to take it all in. He’s not fond of close-quarters combat yet, no matter how thoroughly Batman has trained him. He just can’t think on his feet, through his body, the way Dick can. He feels clumsy and so very vulnerable.
Especially when he fights besides someone like Superboy, who takes risks with his body that Tim can’t even begin to comprehend. Tim has never sparred against him– Dick says he doesn’t want Tim picking up any of Superboy’s rather reckless fighting style. There’s a certain truth to that – Tim is still learning, observing the senior Team and League members and trying to incorporate their moves into his own moves. But what Dick really means is that Tim’s combat skills aren’t anywhere near good enough to go up against Superboy.
Right now though, Tim is in his element. He’s crouched behind the ledge of a building overlooking the Star Labs facility they’re monitoring. The ledge functions well to keep him hidden so that nothing more than the top of his head is visible, but it does little to block him from the razor cold November winds buffeting the top of the building. Tim shivers, but merely adjusts the night-vision settings on his domino and crouches lower. He scans each one of the bodies coming in and out of the laboratory facility and cross-lists them with the list he’s been given. Superboy is monitoring the other entrance, and Blue Beetle and Bumblebee are on a building on the other side of the facility.
A sharp sigh cuts through his thoughts, and Tim glances behind him to catch Superboy putting his binoculars down to scratch his scalp in frustration. “God, I hate surveillance.”
“You do?” The question slips out of Tim’s mouth without his permission. Immediately, he feels the back of his neck get hot. He rarely speaks before thinking it through, and to be questioning his squad leader is mortifying. He barely knows Superboy.
Superboy doesn’t seem to notice, stretching out one leg and then the other and then rolling his shoulders. “Yeah. Always have. It’s so damn boring.”
Tim is surprised. He’d never considered that superheroes had types of missions they did or didn’t like. He thought that for justice, for the sake of the mission, they just viewed it all as part of the same process. At least, that’s how it is for Batman. Dick occasionally gripes about surveillance, but Dick gripes – or alternately, gets excited—about a lot of things, so Tim can’t really take his data into account.
“Of course,” Superboy continues, “I probably found it even more boring ‘cause I never joined in any of the things Robin and Kid Flash did to pass the time.”
“…What kind of things?” Tim asks, pulling his cape tighter around himself as another gust of wind rips between them, sweeping up bits of gravel and debris. His abdomen keeps contracting in spastic shivers.
Superboy shrugs and takes up his binoculars again. “They played this… rock-paper-scissors-snake-Spock thing? It was complicated.”
Superboy glances at him, eyebrows raised. “You know it?”
Tim blushes and fiddles with his lenses, switching the on and off from night-vision. “It’s, um. Nerd knowledge.”
That makes Superboy’s lips quirk, and his face looks abruptly younger, more boyish and less angled. Even though he’s supposedly still biologically sixteen, his face is usually so stern that it gives the impression of being older. Tim has to force himself not to replay in his mind the way his lips had stretched upward for that split second.
The conversation tapers off after that, which is fine because it seems like neither of them are real talkers. The shivering has spread to his arms and thighs, and his teeth have clacked together once or twice in the past minute. Tim rubs his arms briefly, making a mental note to start wearing the insulated suits regardless of the weather report. It’s definitely below the 51°F it had predicted.
“…Are you cold?”
Tim turns, surprised by the frown on Superboy’s face. “Aren’t you?”
Superboy shakes his head, running a hand along the ground as if he can’t gauge the temperature himself. “Half Kryptonian, remember? Temperature extremes don’t affect me easily.”
Oh, Tim thinks. Lucky.
“Do you want my jacket?”
“I’m fine.” The response is automatic. “Really. It’s just a little cold, I’ll be fine.”
Superboy looks dubious, but seeing as how he seems unable to tell how cold it really is, he probably has no other option than to take Tim’s word for it. Tim turns back to his surveillance, teeth gritted to keep them from chattering. He doesn’t want Superboy to think he can’t take care of himself. Dick is convinced that Tim will be a great asset to the Team, even though he’s only officially been Robin for a few months, and the last thing Tim wants is to prove him wrong.
But as a few minutes turn into half an hour, nothing Tim does is enough to keep his whole body from twitching and jerking. He can’t feel the tip of his nose or his ears. He’s so focused on his body that he doesn’t hear Superboy moving until he’s right behind him. Something heavy drops over his shoulders and the heat is so intense, seeping through his skin and into his bones, that Tim can’t help the soft sound that comes out of his mouth.
“Keep it until we go back,” Superboy says before Tim can protest. “I’d be a crappy squad leader if I let my team freeze to death.”
He doesn’t look annoyed, so Tim figures that maybe it’s okay to just nod and go back to surveillance. Before introducing him to Superboy, Dick had told him not to be intimidated by Superboy’s glare. “He’s actually a pretty big softie inside,” he’d said with a smirk. As Tim shrugs his arms into the jacket’s sleeves, enveloping himself in warmth and a musky leather scent, he makes a note to apologize to Dick later for ever doubting him.