The day Dick Grayson met Superman was possibly the best day of his life. It had been back during the days of Robin, before the gloom of Gotham had become truly apparent and the shadow that was Blüdhaven truly eclipsed him.
"Come on, Dick." The Batman had said one bright, shining day once the billionaire's ward had returned home from school. He was dressed in costume with the exception of his bright blue cowl which he gripped in his hands. "We've got work to do."
"Already?" Dick had asked as Alfred had brought him a glass of refreshing cold orange juice. "It's not even dark yet." But Bruce had already left the room leaving only the Manor's faithful butler to respond.
"From what I've heard Master Grayson, the man that you're meeting waits for no one."
That had gotten the boy intrigued. With sudden energy he dropped his bags, drank his juice and dashed after his mentor, descending down the secret staircase that lead into the Batcave. In those days the cave had been a lot smaller than it was now, at the time featuring merely the Batcomputer, costume displays and a launchpad for the Batmobile that zoomed through a tunnel into the outskirts of Gotham. It was only later that Bruce started taking trophies from the villains he defeated, but Dick had never found out why.
Bruce had donned his cowl by the time that Dick arrived. The skill of quickly changing into costume was a talent that would elude the young man until his later years when changing into costume on the fly would take more precedence and as such he was still wearing his school uniform when he arrived. Upon entering the cave Bruce turned towards his younger ward as if he'd been speaking to someone else... which of course he had.
"Here's who I wanted you to meet." The Batman said from the end of the winding staircase. Slowly Dick stepped forward and found himself face to face with a man who was quite possibly the most famous person on the planet. "Robin. Meet Superman."
The man in the colorful costume smiled warmly at Robin's stunned expression.
"Hello." He said, kneeling down to the boy's level. "You must be Robin. It's nice to finally meet you."
Richard said nothing to this, which, due to the momentary silence caused confusion to pass over the Man of Steel's face.
"Richard." He finally said, reaching forward and shaking the man's hand. "My friends call me 'Dick'."
"Well, Dick. You can call me Clark."
Over the years the two would meet many times, forging a friendship almost as firm and unbreakable as the one between the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight himself. It was in fact Superman who inspired Dick to take the mantle of Nightwing, but that story is best told at another time.
"Can I get you boys anything?" Betty the Bartender asked.
Now, 13 years after their first meeting the two men sat in a bar located in East Gotham. The Man of Steel had shown up with a desire to talk and that was exactly what the two had been doing. With both hearing Betty's question the two looked at her from the table they'd occupied and simultaneously said:
"Vanilla latte!" The Condiment King yelled from his seat next to Nightwing. "And make it snappy!"
"You're a criminal, Condiment King." Dick said as Betty sauntered off to grab their orders. "You don't deserve or get to order anything! Especially not on my tab!"
The not so super supervillain gained a sad look in his eyes as he turned away and stared almost longingly out the window, almost as if he were waiting for the police to come and round him up. Dick couldn't help but feel a bit guilty.
Superman was sat directly across from his crime fighting partner, his massive frame somewhat stooped on the tiny stools that the establishment provided. "Does it normally take Gotham police this long to show up?" He asked while looking a mite concerned.
"Normally." Dick admitted. "It's busy all over Gotham right now. Just how it is, and I don't think Condiment King's really high on their priority list." Dick could tell that from the look on his face Superman wasn't used to this sort of behavior. "Why don't you just whizz him over to Arkham?" He asked. "It'd take two seconds."
"Well it would be very uncomfortable." Clark said, smiling almost sympathetically. "Besides. I think Mitchell here can be trusted to keep quiet on this little conversation. Right Mitch?" Upon saying this he turned to the Condiment King and gave a friendly wink but the King didn't seem to be listening.
"What was it you wanted to talk about, Superman?" Nightwing asked, cutting right to the chase. "There's not some massive multiversal crisis going on that I've somehow missed is there?"
This actually made the Man of Steel chuckle, a sound that few people had heard but that all who had would agree was an extremely heart warming sound.
"No. Not at the moment. Things are actually somewhat qui-" He paused and stared at the blank wall to his left as if he was noticing something. "Ah. Excuse me for a second..." With that the Kryptonian zipped off at superhuman speeds leaving behind nothing but a bright red air trail and the sound of the door closing. Dick hardly reacted to this, nobody else did save for Betty who had nearly dropped their drinks when the caped hero had zoomed past her.
"He sure gets around." She grumbled while placing the ordered beverages down.
"He's Superman." Dick said. "He gets everywhere."
The drinks were passed around the table but Dick noticed a problem upon seeing the Condiment King's wrists were still bound by the Bat-Cuffs. "Aw crap! Betty, can we get a bendy straw for Mitchell please?" The overworked, underpaid bartender sighed, nodded and went off to do her duty.
"Thanks Nightie." The King said, staring longingly at his glass.
"No problem, Mitch."
There was a familiar whooshing sound and Superman reappeared across the table, his hair messed out of position and noticeably more sweaty than before. He took a sip of his soda and breathed heavily.
"Sorry about that." He said.
"Animal Vegetable Mineral Men was trying to run for president."
With that topic quickly sidelined the conversation returned to its original purpose.
"I'm worried about you, Di- Nightwing!" Superman quickly corrected himself having almost forgotten where they were. "I teamed up with Donna and the Titans yesterday. They said they hadn't heard from you in awhile and were worried. Same with Batgirl."
Dick raised an eyebrow. "You saw Batgirl?"
"A couple hours ago. I helped her in a fight with Solomon Grundy and she mentioned you seemed... 'upset', so I thought I'd see how you were doing." He took another sip from his soda. Betty popped over, placed the straw in Condiment King's latte and then quickly left not wanting to be seen with the freakshow.
"I'm fineeee, Superman." Dick lied as Condiment King began to sip noisily from his latte. "I've just been needing some time to myself is all." The Man of Steel's eyes narrowed and his friendly smile turned to a frown that chilled Nightwing like the cold winds of the arctic.
"You know I have super hearing." It was a statement and not a question. "I can hear your heart and right now it's pounding so fast it sounds like it's crying for help. So please, let me help you."
Feeling a little defeated Nightwing lowered his head towards the table, his eyes closed and he began to speak.
"Alright Superman." He sighed. "You win." He sat back up and drastically lowered his voice so that nobody not sitting at that table would be able to hear them. "I don't think I've got a purpose anymore, y'know? Nothing that I do seems to stick." Clark opened his mouth to speak but Dick quickly raised a finger to stop him. "Lemme just speak for a sec. See, I found my parent's killer on my first case. He died from a heart attack so that wrapped everything up but left me without any motive! Something that would push me to carry on as Robin. But I carried on to help Batman."
The three men drank from their drinks together.
"Your parents were killed?" Condiment King asked. "That's so sad..."
"Thanks Mitch. Anyway, then I grew up. I lead the Teen Titans a bit. Then we broke up. Then we got back together. I became Nightwing, protected Blüdhaven till that got... blown up." He lowered his head sadly before continuing. "I became Batman! Then the real Batman came back. I had my secret identity leaked-"
Condiment King spat out his drink. "What?!"
"He's right, I don't remember that." Superman agreed, causing Nightwing to wink and smile.
"I took over a spy satellite and erased everyone's memory of the whole thing! So anyway, now I'm back to being Nightwing and I have no idea why."
Looking determined Superman rose up slighting in his seat to the point he actually dwarfed his companions. "You have purpose, son." He said in an inspiring tone. The alien crest on his chest seemed to glitter in the dawning sunlight. "You help protect the city of Gotham, and you're who people turn to when things get rough."
"Do you have any idea how many people do the exact same thing?" Dick asked, he sounded exhausted. "The Bat Family's already got enough members. They have way too many Robins and they don't really need me, they just want me."
There was a soft coughing from the end of the table. The Condiment King's drink now lay empty and it was with a refreshed tone that he began to speak.
"It seems to me you're looking for a sense of purpose, chum." He began. "You've been used to having a goal or objective for so long that the idea of not having one seems daunting."
"Exactly!" Nightwing said, smiling faintly.
"I was just like that a few years ago." The King admitted. "Directionless. Alone."
"What did you do?" Superman asked, his ears perking with intrigue. The Condiment King smiled and reached forward across the table, Bat-Cuffs falling from his wrists and clattering on the table. In the cuffs' lock was a bright blue bendy straw.
"I turned to my childhood and the things that I loved." The King explained. "Ketchup and Mayonnaise." He raised each of the condiment containers upon naming them and with a playful grin began squirting the liquids onto the table making a red and yellow smiley face.
"Y'know what, King? That's actually not a bad idea." Dick admitted. He stroked his chin and fell deep into thought, Superman watching quietly the whole time. "I need a partner." He finally decided. An air of calmness filled him and it seemed he'd found the right answer. "Hanging out with Robin when I was Batman made me realize how much I miss being part of a duo." He smiled slightly. "Part of a team."
The Man of Steel raised a surprised eye. "I might actually be able to help you with that." He said. "If you want to come me now I co-"
A yawn escaped Dick's mouth prompting him to stand up from his seat and stretch.
"I would, Supes but I'm beat. How about tomorrow after I've had my forty winks?" Superman reached into the belt around his waist and brought out a curled fist, within which was a rather strange looking device.
"This is a Signal Watch." He said, passing the device to Nightwing who inspected it curiously. "Jimmy used to bug me with it all the time, but if you simply turn the hour hand to 7 and the minute hand to 38 it'll send out a signal and I'll come running."
"Thanks. I'll do that."
"Can I have one too?" Condiment King asked, causing Superman to look dumbfounded.
"...no." He managed.
After some deliberation the two crime fighters decided to let their new friend go as the police still hadn't arrived and he hadn't caused any real damage. Nightwing apologized for the purple bruise on his head and they parted ways, Superman confiscating the villain's weapons before blasting off into space to destroy an approaching asteroid. Dick watched him leave and nodded for no real reason. He paid for the drinks, made Betty laugh with a joke about red underwear and drove home on his motorcycle, his costume fitting neatly under his now unkept clothes.
It was Dick's landlord, Tanya who greeted him first as he pulled into the apartment building's garage.
"Another all nighter, Grayson?" She asked as he walked past.
"Something like that." He replied.
"You're not part of a biker gang are you?"
"Something like that."
To say Dick went straight to sleep upon entering his room would be a gross understatement. He practically dove into bed still completely dressed and not bothering to draw the room's curtains. All he did was place Superman's signal watch on the dresser next to his head and fell straight to sleep.
One thought occurred to him before he drifted off.
He'd spoken to Clark Kent more in the last hour than he had with Bruce Wayne all month.