A fanfiction by Velkyn Karma
Summary: The five times Robin is caught by surprise (but not really), and the one time he really doesn't notice. Season 1, friendship only, no pairings. For the YJ Anon Meme.
Prompt: Let's see a time someone(s) on the team managed to catch Robin by surprise, and got judo-flipped or otherwise beat by a reflex Robin has from training with Batman.
Warnings: Teensy bit of language and one brief mention of blood. That's it!
Disclaimer: I do not own, or pretend to own, Young Justice or any of its subsequent characters, plots or other ideas. That right belongs to DC, Warner Brothers, and associated parties.
Most of the Team figured out long ago that it was pretty damn hard to sneak up on Robin. He might not have super-hearing, psychic senses, or any powers at all, really, but he was trained by Batman, and the Team learned soon enough that was a power in and of itself.
But for all the difficulties of sneaking up on Robin unawares, they learned even faster that if, by some miracle, they did manage to catch him by surprise, the results were even more spectacular—in a very unfortunate sort of way for them.
The first one to make the discovery was Superboy, only two months after his escape from Cadmus and the formation of the Team. It was not a discovery he enjoyed making.
The Team had been discussing attending a movie down at Happy Harbor's theater, but were tied on whether or not they wanted to see the latest horror flick or the comedy. Robin would end up being the tiebreaker, but he was somewhere else in the Mountain doing whatever he did in his spare time there, when he wasn't hanging out with the rest of the Team. Computer stuff, maybe, or maybe he was coming up with some new stupid prank. Since Superboy could hear precisely where he was with his super-hearing, he offered to go find him and bring him back to the rest of the group.
Finding Robin was easy; Superboy heard him in one of the hallways and moved to intercept. He turned a corner to see Robin just a few feet from him, with his back to the clone as he walked away, bent over his wrist-computer and poking at the holographic display. Without even thinking about it, he reached out to grab Robin's shoulder to stop him.
Even with his advanced senses and abilities, Superboy wasn't entirely sure what happened next. One minute he had his hand on Robin's shoulder; the next, he was flying through the air upside-down. A startled grunt was about all he could manage before he hit the floor flat on his back, so hard the air was crushed right out of his lungs. There was a dent in the tiling of the floor where his super-powered body had gone up against it and won. Apparently whatever had happened, he'd hit hard when he went down.
"Whups!" Robin's voice said, and a moment later his head slipped into Superboy's dazed view of the ceiling as he crouched over the clone. "Sorry, SB, didn't mean to flip you like that—but you probably shouldn't sneak up on people in the future!" The way he was grinning, he was anything but sorry.
There were about a dozen things Superboy could have said to this, like who the hell are you to talk when you do that ninja thing all the time, or it's bad enough that Black Canary can send me flying, but you're not even half my size, how the hell was I supposed to know you could do that! or but you always know when we're here anyway, how was this one time any different? All he actually managed was an undignified cough as he tried to remember how to start breathing again, and a sullen glare as he stared moodily at his team mate.
"Don't give me that look, you're invulnerable, you'll be fine," Robin said, still grinning as he patted Superboy on the head once in mocking reassurance. "The floor, maybe not so much. It's probably not feeling the aster right now."
Word games were the last straw. Superboy hauled himself to his feet, scowling and ignoring Robin's snickers. Completely forgetting his original mission, stomped off in a huff towards the training room to smack a few punching bags into oblivion. He never actually did go see the movie.
Wally was the next one to make the discovery.
Really, it caught him by surprise, which was just plain not fair. After all, Rob had been his best friend for a couple years now; he'd figured by now he knew all his friend's tricks, even if he couldn't exactly duplicate half of them. (But then, he'd long since figured that only the Bats were crazy enough to do half the stuff they did, so he didn't feel so bad when he couldn't pull of amazing ninja feats because he was perfectly sane, thank you very much).
It happened at the Cave, not long after Artemis joined. They were bored, and there hadn't been any decent missions in days. It left six teenagers irritable and twitchy, which was never a good combination with super powers and crazy ninja skills. After the fifth petty argument and Wally's sixth lap around the Mountain in as many minutes out of sheer boredom, M'gann had suggested they play a game. Robin had jumped on the suggestion and proposed a game of Hide and Seek, powers and abilities permitted, which the others agreed to once they explained what the game was to M'gann and convinced Superboy it was a good stealth training exercise.
After six rounds Robin had finally been banned from hiding on the grounds that his crazy ninja training made it impossible to find him, even with the entire pack of found-hiders-turned-seekers assisting 'It' and combing the mountain with systematic plans and powers alike. Robin was now taking his turn as 'It' and was proven to be just as good at seeking as he was at hiding, having already found Artemis, Superboy, and Kaldur, but Wally was determined to win and beat Rob at this game at least once.
He'd done a pretty decent job evading Robin's pack of found seekers with his super-speed, and was carefully making his way from his original hiding place in the med lab, to the safe-zone 'Base'—the training circle in the main room, near the zeta tubes. If he could get to Base while avoiding being tagged, he'd win, and a victory for him was a victory for the entire team against Robin, who'd been kicking their butts way too often today.
His luck went a little sour when he reached the last hall that led to the training circle, and spotted Robin, crouched carefully in one corner with his back to Wally, spying on the safe-zone. He was barely visible, with his cape tucked around him and blending him into the shadows of the hall's corners almost perfectly, and that was probably without him trying to even hide. Wally winced for a moment and considered doubling around and trying a new route. But he'd already spent five minutes trying to evade Superboy's senses—it turned out Superboy could follow his speed pretty well, if he wanted to—and he really didn't want to deal with that again if he could.
But Rob was watching the Base and didn't seem to realize Wally was behind him. Wally grinned as he realized that, if he got a good running start, he could blow past Robin and into the training room too fast for his one-hundred-percent-normal buddy to do anything about. Rob was good, and he'd proven before that he could outsmart or predict Wally's moves even at super-speed in training sessions, but that was always when he knew it was coming. Here Wally had the advantage of surprise. Oh man, this was going to be good!
He backed up carefully, as quietly as possible for a running start, and his grin grew wider when he realized Robin hadn't moved or given any indication that he'd heard anything. Perfect! Wally shot forward into an inhumanly fast jog, already planning out how he'd react when he saw Rob's pout at having lost. If he sped into the training circle at just the right speed he could pull off a showy slide and spin, and maybe he should top it off with a jaunty wave. A smirk was obviously required. Or maybe he could—
Too late, he saw Robin's shoulders shift as he readjusted his weight. Wally's eyes widened in alarm as, without even turning to look behind him, the youngest team member twisted and shot his leg out, bracing against the wall for impact. It was too late for Wally to slow, and he'd built up a full head of steam already, so all he could do was let out an undignified yelp as he tripped on his friend's outstretched limb. He pitched forward, arms windmilling wildly, and crashed to the ground, performing several highly ungraceful and very unintentional rolling tumbles until he finally slid to a stop, two feet from the training ring, flat on his face.
He did the only reasonable thing a person could possibly do in this situation: he groaned very loudly, and muttered a few choice curses for good measure.
There was a light tap on his back, and a moment later Rob said cheerfully, "Hey, KF! Nice try, but tag, you're out."
"Ow," was Wally's only answer.
M'gann was next, largely at the loud insistences of Wally.
She wouldn't have paid it too much mind, except Superboy nodded in grudging agreement every time Wally ranted about it being completely unfair that Robin's 'mad ninja skills' got the better of them when they snuck up on him by accident. She thought maybe it was a good thing that Robin knew how to protect himself so well, even instinctively—after all, he was only human, and didn't have her psychic abilities or Superboy's strength or Wally's speed. But she figured the boys—well, Superboy really—would probably be very impressed with her if she could manage to successfully sneak up on Robin, and Superboy did not impress easily.
Besides, it was good team training, or something, right? At the very least it would keep her teammates from growing more irritable with each other, because Artemis was starting to look like she was seriously considering punching Wally every time he whined about his unfair loss to Robin in that Hide and Seek game weeks back. And she was pretty sure Batman was starting to get irritated with having to repeatedly replace the punching bags in the training room every time Superboy destroyed one when he was 'channeling his anger.'
Yes, M'gann decided, it was for the goodness and happiness of everybody that she was going to successfully sneak up on Robin and come out the victor, just to prove it could be done.
Robin was no slouch, and he was very smart, so M'gann knew she'd have to pick her battle carefully. It would be easy to manage if she confused his senses with her telepathic abilities, but her human friends seemed to find such actions severely invasive and unwelcome, and she didn't want Robin to be uncomfortable or hate her—she just wanted to be able to catch him. Besides, the point of both Superboy's and Wally's complaints had been that they couldn't sneak up on him physically. So, telepathy was out; all her other powers were fair game.
She chose a moment when Robin was suitably distracted, playing air hockey on the Cave's holographic computer system with Wally, while Kaldur, Artemis and Superboy watched. Robin and Wally's score was currently even, and they were exchanging some good-natured ribbing while smacking the holographic puck back and forth faster and faster and with increasing amounts of friendly violence. Everyone was engaged in the game, and although Robin asked once where 'Miss M' was, Wally's drooling offhand comment of probably baking more of those snicker-doodles seemed enough to stop him wondering.
It was now or never. If she wanted to successfully catch Robin, M'gann was sure she would not have a better moment than this.
Levitating was definitely necessary, she decided. Robin had reflexively counter-attacked both Superboy and Wally when they were on the ground, which meant he'd probably heard them walking subconsciously, even if he wasn't consciously aware of their footsteps. M'gann hovered easily several inches off the ground with a lazy mental flick of her abilities, and even shape-shifted her clothing to be more like her form-fitting stealth-mode uniform, minus the cape, to avoid any tell-tale signs of flapping cloth to announce her arrival. After a moment's consideration she shifted to camouflage mode as well. It was probably overkill, especially since she was flying in from behind, but it never hurt to be careful, right?
Prepared as she was ever going to get, M'gann took one last, deep breath from the far hallway, and then slipped, slowly and carefully, through the air towards her teammates.
She was proud of how silent she was, and halfway through the room none of her teammates had seemed to notice her at all. Emboldened, she slipped through the air a little faster, inching up carefully towards Robin, who had just scored against an irritable looking Wally and was snarking enthusiastically over his point. Within ten feet, she still remained relatively unnoticed; only Superboy had glanced over at her briefly, blinked once, and then pointedly looked away, studiously ignoring her. He'd probably seen her through heat vision, but no matter. She wasn't trying to catch him, anyway.
Five feet to go; Robin's back was almost close enough for her to reach out and touch. Now, how was she supposed to win? A hug, she decided almost cheerfully. I'll just give him a hug from behind. It's a way to show I caught him while not being too violent or mean about it, right? Besides, Robin can be pretty affectionate sometimes, when he's not fooling around with Wally. I bet a hug will show him there's no hard feelings.
Yes, that was a good idea. She was within two feet now, and opened up her arms to wrap around her unsuspecting youngest teammate in a friendly victory—
Robin went up. Straight up. M'gann's eyes widened in surprise as he moved shockingly fast, twisting back and upward in a flip so high she could have sworn he was the one flying, not her. The holographic hockey table dissolved in a flicker of sparks and a droning noise as he kicked through it to twist his body, and then, to M'gann's continued shock, he reached out to snag one of her wrists.
But I'm still camouflaged! She thought to herself in a panic. How on Earth does he know where I'm—
Her thoughts ground to a halt as Robin completed his flip over her head, twisting the arm he'd grabbed behind her in the process. She felt the heels of his sneakers right between her shoulder blades, and between his sudden weight and her total shock she lost control of both her levitation and her camouflage and crashed to the ground with a yelp, suddenly visible. To add insult to injury, they landed so hard the combat training program activated, and the bright holographic Miss Martian: Fail message lit up half a foot in front of her face.
"Ow," she groaned after a moment.
"That's what Wally said, too," the weight on her back said, and she realized after a moment that Robin was sitting on her. He released her wrist, which she twisted back in front of her gratefully, and vaulted off her back a second later, helping her to her feet as the others surged forward. "Just so you know, Miss M, camo does not a ninja make." And he grinned at her.
Superboy was looking particularly murderous now, so M'gann hastily shot him a warning message through a mind link, and then said out loud, "I...but how did you...I was so quiet! And...I just...I thought...!"
Robin only smirked. "I can't tell you all my secrets, can I?"
"You don't tell us any of them," Superboy said sourly, still looking irritable about the loss to M'gann as well as himself. "We still don't know your name!"
"Bat training," Wally added, shaking his head. "It's got to be the Bat training. There's no other explanation."
M'gann had to agree. She also privately promised herself to never, ever try sneaking up on anybody with Bat-training ever again. It just wasn't worth the pain, the surprise, and most importantly, the lost dignity.
For a while the Team seemed to have learned their lesson regarding trying to sneak up on Robin, for which Kaldur was grateful. The lesson that any enemy, even one without powers, could be so dangerous was a worthwhile one for some of his younger teammates to discover, of course. But Robin's smirking and gloating, and the losing party's poor temperament following their loss, was often counter-productive. Besides, if they had kept up their attempts to sneak up on Robin, at some point somebody was going to get hurt beyond a few bruises and damaged pride.
But Robin's counter against M'gann seemed to be enough to quell their desires to catch him, and no further attempts were made. Robin was usually aware of his surroundings and the placements of his teammates the vast majority of the time. But in the rare instance that they seemed not to have been noticed, they were usually smart enough—or perhaps just wary enough—to call his name from a safe distance, rather than tapping him on the shoulder or jumping him from behind.
That was, perhaps, why Kaldur thought nothing of it as he shot through the water at the end of their mission, searching for Robin in the dark ocean waters. He had already ascertained via mental link that Artemis and Wally had made it safely to the speedboat before the cargo ship that had been their mission exploded, and M'gann had levitated herself and Superboy to safety, leaving Robin the only Team member still in the water.
Kaldur was the best equipped to help him and did not hesitate to search for his friend. His eyes, used to the darkness of ocean water, spotted Robin easily in the distance, somewhat below him and facing away. The youngest teammate had already abandoned his cape to decrease water resistance and weight and was attempting to swim to the surface. He was not swimming as fast as Kaldur knew he was capable of, and the blood he could smell in the water and see in the darker spiraling cloud around his teammate probably explained why. Without even thinking, Kaldur adjusted his angle and torpedoed through the water rapidly, reaching out with the intent to help his friend to the surface.
Too late, as he saw Robin's body tense suddenly, did he remember he was approaching aggressively fast from behind, and even if Robin wasn't Atlantean and was presently completely blind he was sure to feel the shift in water pressure. Sure enough, Robin twisted with surprising speed in the ocean water and lashed out with a sharp kick, dragging a sheet of white bubbles in an arc like a smokescreen as his heel sliced with impressive accuracy for Kaldur.
The Atlantean was genuinely impressed with the speed and power Robin managed to put into the attack, considering the denser environment, lack of oxygen, and obvious injury. Humans typically did not do so well in the water, especially against more maneuverable Atlanteans. Kaldur managed to twist back enough in the water to avoid the brunt of the attack, taking only a sharp blow against one arm instead of a powerful hit to his chest. But it was only through years of swimming experience that he did, and it was still hard enough to make him hiss in surprise and rock backwards from the force.
"Robin," he said after a moment, knowing his voice would transfer well enough through the water to his teammate, "It is just me, Aqualad! Calm down, and I will help you to the surface."
Robin blinked, and his head twisted back and forth, clearly searching for Kaldur in the gloomy water. Kaldur was further impressed at his youngest teammate's ability to strike so accurately without being able to see his opponent at all; his instincts really were tuned quite finely. After a moment, clearly unable to see where his rescuer was, Robin nodded, opening his mouth and spewing an unintelligible burble—and most of his precious air—into the water in a stream of bubbles.
Permission granted, Kaldur swam forward, wrapped an arm around Robin's torso, and began swimming his friend upwards. He had sunk quite far, and was clearly lacking for oxygen, the way his hands clamped suddenly over his face to keep himself from reflexively opening his mouth and breathing in water. Kaldur was beginning to worry he wouldn't last, when they finally broke the surface. He supported Robin in the water while the latter coughed and hacked and breathed deeply, panting hard.
"Thanks," Robin finally said, after several minutes of just breathing. "Lost my rebreather in the blast. Definitely not asterous."
"You are welcome," Kaldur informed him. "But why on Earth did you attack me, down below?"
"Thought I was being attacked," Robin said with a shrug. "I mean, we are on a mission, you know?"
"Our mission was regarding the cargo," Kaldur countered with a frown. "None of our opponents were Atlanteans, or even possessed suitable diving equipment for deep-water attacks."
"You could have been a shark," Robin shot back, grinning, although he looked a little sheepish. "I mean, blood in the water, that attracts sharks, right?"
Kaldur shook his head a little, but, reminded of his teammate's injury, began swimming them back towards where Artemis and Wally had retreated with the speedboat. Even as he called ahead through the mental link for another head count, though, he couldn't help but muse over what Robin had said. He wasn't sure what surprised him more: the fact that Robin was perfectly willing to instinctively fight a shark, a hunter far more experienced in the water than he was normally, much less tired, blind, injured, and unable to breathe—or the fact that Kaldur wasn't entirely sure he'd lose.
Artemis liked to think she was a quick study. She'd learned fast when she'd first joined the Team, and more importantly she'd learned from their mistakes, like Wally's and Connor's stupid attempts to jump Robin from behind that they'd even dragged M'gann into. When it became abundantly clear that sneaking up on Robin was not only impossible but resulted in severe amounts of embarrassment for the attacker, she'd promptly decided to never, ever be dumb enough to try it.
Besides, she was the only other non-super-powered member of the Team. She got it, really, why Robin was able to judo-flip people three times his size from behind himself on pure instinct. When you were pure-human you had to be three hundred percent more on top of your game to make up for those holes where powers were supposed to be, and you had to be able to adapt fast in order to not die. She'd seen Robin pull it off time and time again and learned from it first-hand when they were up against the Reds, and was completely and fully respectful of his prowess and skill, which was precisely why she was smart enough to keep her distance.
With Robin, anyway.
She had sort of not expected Dick Grayson to pull out the exact same crazy ninja skills at school.
And okay, really, it was sort of her fault, in retrospect. She was a quick study, but she hadn't quite expected, well, this, and felt sort of stupid about it afterwards. Hell, Grayson was a complete troll, from the day she'd first met him when he'd snapped their picture and claimed they'd laugh about this some day, to the way he'd ask leading or deliberately challenging questions of their teachers in classes to mess with them, to the way he found out the exact harmless but ultimately irritating pet peeves of herself and half her friends and employed them at the worst possible moments. Sounded an awful lot like somebody else from her extracurricular activities she knew; in hindsight it was a shock she hadn't seen it sooner.
But at the time she hadn't known that, or seen the many, many dots to connect, or even cared, because he was an obnoxious freshman and really what freshman wasn't obnoxious? At the time, she was ticked off, because Grayson could be a nice kid but some days you just wanted to strangle him, and this was one of those days, when he'd decided taking loads of candids with his smartphone was a great idea. After an unflattering shot of her with half her sandwich in her mouth she'd finally had enough, so when he caught her in the library sneezing due to a dusty tome for one of her research projects she'd cracked.
"If you do not give me that thing right now and let me delete those pictures I swear to God I'll break it," Artemis snapped irritably. Okay, maybe that was a little more aggressive than intended, but Grayson had a way of getting under your skin that way when he wanted to.
"Oh come on," Grayson answered almost gleefully, "We'll laugh—"
"If you say we'll laugh about this some day I am going to get mad," Artemis declared, and reached for the phone.
He played keep-away with it easily, snatching it just out of reach, and grinned. "I'm terrified," he said, and then laughed as he turned and headed out of the stacks towards the side door.
Something about that laugh was awful familiar and ground at her last nerve, and without even thinking about it she put her book down on the shelf and stalked after Grayson. "I'm serious," she said, reaching out to grab his wrist, "delete those pictures, or—"
That was as far as she got, because the kid was suddenly a blur of motion. His wrist was gone from her hand with a sharp twist, his leg had twisted to twine suddenly around her ankle and cause her to lose her balance, and suddenly she was pitching forward, pinned to the ground with an undignified yelp and a hand planted at the back of her ponytail to keep her down.
For a moment there was complete and utter silence. Actually, Artemis realized, other than her own talking and yelp, the entire incident had been eerily silent. It was also highly familiar, and she was pretty sure he'd used the exact same move to take her down a few months ago in one of their sparring sessions at the Cave.
Finally getting her breath back after crashing to the floor, Artemis spluttered, "What the hell! Robin?"
There was a pause, and then Grayson muttered, "Oops."
"What the hell was that for!" Artemis snapped indignantly. Being angry helped cover up being embarrassed that she'd never noticed before. It was so damn obvious! "And will you let me up already!"
"Sorry," Grayson—no, Robin—said with surprising meekness, and the weight holding her down vanished. He offered a hand to help her up, and she pulled herself gingerly to her feet, straightening her stupid skirt (damn uniform regulations—pants were so much more practical) and combing a hand through her long ponytail.
It also let her get her thoughts together, enough to realize they were in a public place and what was obviously Robin's secret identity had just used a very Robin-ish move. Fortunately the library was usually pretty empty to begin with, and nobody came back to the stacks unless they had to or were looking for someplace private for a moment or two with a significant other. "Well," she said lamely after a moment, "At least you pissed me off in a quiet place."
"Yeah," Robin admitted. "I didn't mean to do that, I just sort of...reacted. Y'know, with all the kidnappings and stuff..."
Artemis nodded in understanding. Dick Grayson, being the ward of a world-famous billionaire, got kidnapped to an almost ridiculous degree. A second later Artemis' eyes widened as she connected another pair of dots, and she hissed in surprise, "So wait, does that mean your dad is—"
"Shhh!" Robin hissed warningly, finger to his lips. A moment later he winced, and added, "But he's going to kill me if he finds out that I let you find out. Or, well, okay, he won't actually kill me, because, y'know, but I am going to be in so much trouble..."
"I won't tell," Artemis decided. The thought of being at the wrath of the Bat was honestly a little terrifying, especially when they got that enough as it was during mission debriefings when they messed up pretty bad. "On one condition."
Robin raised an eyebrow. "And that is?"
"You delete those stupid photos!"
"Even the first one?" Robin pouted.
Artemis paused a moment, and considered. We'll laugh about this someday. She couldn't help it, and a moment later she chuckled. "Okay, you were right about that one. You can keep it. But the rest go."
Artemis nodded at the agreement. She also amended her previous deal with herself to never, ever sneak up on Robin from behind, intentional or accidental, adding his alter ego to the list. It really was just not worth the hassle, no matter how much of a troll he was.
The Team had long since given up on ever seeing Robin beaten when it came to sneaking up on him. They'd also long since come to accept that anybody who snuck up on or startled their youngest member was bound to be flipped, thrown, tripped, or pinned quite expertly, and had seen it enough on their own by now that none of them desired to repeat the experience.
But the day Batman entered the Cave and approached an unsuspecting Robin from behind rekindled a few old hopes.
Some of them, M'gann primarily, cringed as Batman strode with perfect silence towards Robin, who was busy on one of the Cave's holographic terminals had did not appear to have heard his mentor approaching. Others were clearly looking forward to seeing Batman get cartwheeled through the air comically by anything, much less his partner that was barely a third of his considerable size and weight; Wally's grin definitely put him in this particular category. All of them watched in silent anticipation, regardless of whether or not it was with excitement or dread.
But Batman closed within a foot of Robin without the teenager ever noticing, and when Batman finally rustled his cape intentionally the youngest Team member visibly started and whirled around in a blur of movement. The rest of the Team leaned forward, expecting that movement to resolve itself into Batman face-planting on the floor. Much to their disappointment—some more than others—Robin only turned around, and looked up at his mentor with a smirk. "Hey, Batman...got a mission for us?"
Batman looked more serious as usual—or at any rate, his lips were more of a hard line than usual; it was difficult to tell otherwise, with the cowl. "You need to work on your awareness and defenses, Robin," Batman lectured sternly. "You didn't notice me until it was far too late. Anyone could have assaulted you in that span of time."
Robin visibly cringed at the lecture. "Sorry, Batman...I'll keep working on that." His mentor nodded, and turned to face the others to begin another mission briefing. While his back was turned, Robin glanced over at the rest of his teammates...and his mischievous smirk slipped back onto his face. Even with the mask every single one of them could have sworn he was winking at them.
M'gann let out a small squeak, eyes wide. Superboy's teeth ground so hard it was audible halfway across the room, and Artemis' fists were clenched so tightly her knuckles were white. Only Kaldur managed to keep a straight face and a calm visage, and even then, it was a struggle. They were all thinking the exact same thing, but Wally, as usual, was the one to voice it for them:
"Oh, come on! How is that even fair?"