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As the waters roll

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Aquaman tells the League the he has to temporarily take a leave of absence for personal matters at home. This isn’t new, because Aquaman is a king and has a wife and an heir on the way. That he has Kaldur pulled from his position as leader of Young Justice, that is what clues everyone in that something is actually wrong with his kingdom.

“I will return,” are Kaldur’s parting words on the beach. He and Aquaman are already nearly knee deep in the ocean, preparing to leave. “Do not worry.”

M’gann is already visibly worrying, so, Robin thinks, that’s a lost cause. “Be safe and keep yourselves healthy,” she insists, and Kaldur nods.

“But why aren’t you using the zeta platform?” Robin asks. He and Batman have had conversations about how off the whole thing is, and they’re both trying to get to the bottom of it behind the League’s back. “Why are you swimming all the way there?”

Instead of answering, Kaldur smiles, at him and then at the rest of the team standing on the shore. It’s unnerving, and Robin feels like it’s too much like a final goodbye. “You will do fine as leader. And you all will do fine as a team.”

“Kaldur’ahm, we must make good time.” Aquaman urges tightly. Kaldur nods again, gives them all one more once over, and then turns towards his king.

“Something’s weird, isn’t it?” Artemis points out, as they watch the two dive and disappear into the waves, and it reminds Robin of why he’s always liked her – she’s really smart and not afraid to point out people’s BS. “Like you said, they shouldn’t need to waste the time and energy swimming when they can transport there in a second.”

“Unless they, you know, can’t.” Wally says. “Maybe the transporter is broken? Or blocked off?”

Conner shrugs. “Or maybe it’s a strategic thing.”

Robin has already figured those things, he only asked Kaldur in hopes of him giving a straight answer or an unintentional clue. Like Batman has said to him, it’s only a matter of time until they find out which it is and why.

--

Batman has easily deduced that there’s some sort of war going on in Atlantis, or something much more serious than the capital city being under attack by a villain.

“There’s more than one underwater settlement – colony, city, city-state, whatever they’re called – isn’t there?” Robin asks, even though he’s Dick and doing math problems from his calculus class on the Batcave floor. “You’re not saying that, I don’t know, there’s some sort of crisis or like…civil war, are you?”

Batman (he’s Batman, cowl still up as he monitors the dock and coastal activity all over the world from the past few weeks) makes a low, neutral sound. “It could be a faction attempting invasion or a takeover of the kingdom, too. But never mind that, do your homework.”

He does what he’s told, but it’s bothersome, that they know and were told so little, and yet that’s what points towards so much.

--

The disaster becomes much more obvious and problematic when Atlanteans start popping up all over the Atlantic Ocean. Everywhere, floating belly up. It’s not as though there are millions of them, but there’s been over twenty sightings on various coasts, which means there’s probably more in the mid-Atlantic depths. Probably some in other oceans too, but Robin knows Atlantis is the crown jewel and strategically that’s where a military would want their men to be fighting.

Young Justice is put on clean up duty with Wonder Woman and Green Lantern, mainly because the League is trying to hastily clean up the corpses as quietly as possible to avoid any more media attention. Though Wally’s been grumbling about how insincere and heartless the whole thing is, this makes loads of sense to Robin. If Aquaman hasn’t wanted the League to know and get involved, he certainly would not appreciate the UN and who knows how many countries getting mixed up in whatever it is that’s going on because of the international freedom, and therefore collective international interest, of ocean waters.

Yeah, it’s not respecting the dead too well, Robin admits, but when there’s an unknown war that they can’t fight because it’s like twenty freaking thousand leagues under the sea, they can’t afford to be unnecessarily nice.

M’gann is very quiet as she glides the bioship over the ocean. Conner’s using his eyes to scan for the bodies on one side of the ship, and Robin’s using his high tech binoculars on the other.

“There’s one,” Robin volunteers, voice almost abrasive-sounding in the silence of the ship.

“And that’s my cue,” Wally says, trying for light hearted but failing miserably. His face is pale and his voice is wavering, which is no wonder. This mission is hard, and they’re all afraid that one of these bodies will end up being Kaldur. Or even Aquaman.

M’gann nods, stops gliding and opens a hole in the bioship’s floor, and floats him down to the water gently. Wally’s job is difficult, he has to run across the water and pick up the bodies to bring them back to the ship, and there’s no telling what state the dead will be in. M’gann floats him up into the ship when he’s in position, and he’s visibly shuddering as he carries the corpse to the back of the ship.

Artemis takes the body from him and lays it out on the floor, next to the four others they’ve found. She’s the least affected by death, or at least is tied with Robin for that title, so she’s in charge of examining them and trying to figure out the cause of death and their occupations. “I’m pretty sure this is another soldier or something,” she calls up front. “It’s a guy, and he’s got a sort of armor on. Head bashed in.”

I know,” Wally hisses, and he wipes a tired hand over his eyes and goes back to his chair wearily.

“This is bad,” Conner says, his hands clenched fists by his side. “Do you think there was some kind of battle? Or a lot of battles?”

“Could be,” Robin replies, settling back into searching mode as they resume flying. “What’s more troublesome is that, whatever’s going on down there, there apparently hasn’t been any time to bury the dead. We’ve never seen dead Atlanteans just floating around before, so presumably they’ve got a way of autopsying and burying their corpses that prevents that. And it takes some time for them to start floating, you know?”

“Right,” Wally jumps in, horrified. “Oh, dude, totally right, their air bladders and stomachs and stuff have to fill up with excess gas, or the flesh has to bloat up, and that all has to take days. Oh my god, shit.”

“So. So, this has been going on for – there could be more – ” M’gann’s eyes are wide and she can’t bring herself to finish. Conner abandons his post to go over to her and pat her back. She sighs shakily and says nothing else, and they all continue on in silence.

When the next corpse Conner spots turns out to be a child, Wally hands him over to Artemis and slumps in his chair, shoulders shaking with hushed tears. M’gann’s breaths are sharp and ragged and the edges of her outline are blurred as Artemis announces, “He’s got a fatal stab wound in the throat. Probably a sword?”

Robin can tell Conner’s handling this as well as he possibly can, but apparently a child is too much for him: his teeth are gritted together so tightly that his teeth and jaw are cracking like gunshots. Robin shares a look with Artemis – they are able to disassociate with this, place their emotions in a safe box and handle the dead callously, apathetically, until later when the job is done and they can afford to feel, but their teammates are not there yet. So Robin radios Batman, gives him the coordinates they’ve swept already, and asks for permission to abort the mission.

(“We managed to pick up six bodies, but the team…” Batman hears the tone in Robin’s voice and gets it. “Understood. Return to base.”)

--

Their mentors have instructed them to stay on what amounts to house arrest in Mount Justice, because apparently there’s been several hostage situations with Wonder Woman’s sidekick (“She has one?” Artemis had nearly had a heart attack. “What the heck, why didn’t anyone know that until now?” and Robin doesn’t point out that Batman had known, mainly because it’s Batman and it goes without saying) and Zatara’s daughter, and everyone wants to avoid blasting rampaging Atlanteans in the face until they know precisely why said Atlanteans are trying to kidnap the Justice League’s loved ones and what the terms are for their safe return. For once, the team is alone here in the mountain, no babysitter, because every Leaguer is up in space, holding an emergency meeting.

Robin, on one hand, thinks it’s kind of funny that they’re hiding in a mountain base right next to the sea and expecting no Atlanteans to show up, when Wonder Girl was probably hanging out on Wonder Woman’s island of women and, according to Batman, Zatanna had been vacationing at a beachfront house with her friend Timothy Hunter, who had also been kidnapped (wait wait, that Timothy Hunter? Robin’s brain starts going in overdrive, because wait, oh, now he sees why every member of the League is up in space).

On the other hand, it does make sense, because they are inside a mountain, a mountain with a ridiculous amount of security, and they also now know to look out for hostilities in the water.

“Why do you think they’ve taken them?” M’gann asks, floating into the living room with a tray of hot mugs. “I mean, obviously it’s whoever Kaldur and Aquaman are fighting against.”

Robin accepts the cup of hot chocolate she hands him, putting the jigsaw pieces together in time to share with the class. “Well, I think Zatanna was actually kind of a ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’ thing. They were probably after Tim Hunter, Batman’s got loads of files on him, he’s sort of a big magical deal or something. The fact that she’s pretty magical too made her a periphery target. I’m not too sure about the specifics with Wonder Girl, but, I mean, Amazons are a magical race.”

Wally’s got his ‘magic doesn’t exist’ expression on, but Robin only rolls his eyes instead of nipping Wally’s words in the bud. “Right, anyway, it’s probably more that the enemy realizes that Aquaman could call in reinforcements from the League and wants to have bluffing power to prevent that. They’re trying to win.”

Artemis sips her hot chocolate briefly, then rises to the challenge of disagreeing with Wally. “‘Trying to win’ could include buffing up on the magic on their side. We’ve already established that Atlanteans believe in and use magic, Mr. Science.”

“It doesn’t really matter if it’s for the magic or the bargaining, it’s working isn’t it?” Conner grumbles. “We’re locked up in here and the League hasn’t taken any action yet.”

Wally throws his hands up in the air and groans. “They can’t really do anything, can they? Aquaman went running off without telling anyone what’s going on, so we don’t even know who the enemy is and what the fight is over. Besides, it’s at the bottom of the ocean, that’s a serious terrain drawback.”

M’gann is making her hot chocolate float out of its cup and swirl in the air as she thinks, and Robin thinks it’s possibly one of the most endearing nervous tics he’s ever seen. “So, what, we just wait and hope the side Kaldur’s on wins?”

Artemis sighs and draws her knees up to her chest. “Seems like it, huh?”

Robin sets down his mug determinedly, tries to fill his role as leader and get their minds off missions that seem impossibly fated in failure. “Right now we have to make sure we’re ready in case anyone does try to kidnap us. I’ll go check the computers, you guys secure the perimeters.”

Conner stands without a word and walks off to do just that, but the others hesitate. “Go,” he urges. Artemis sends him this look that says ‘I know what you’re doing, stupid,’ but obeys without an argument.

M’gann carefully spills the floating liquid back in its cup and floats off calling, “Don’t push yourself too hard,” over her shoulder.

“Well, could you check about Roy, while you’re at it?” Wally asks, then doesn’t wait for the answer and rushes off.

Robin sighs. He doesn’t know how the League and Aquaman are going to resolve this, but he hopes things start looking up soon.

--

Things, in fact, start looking worse. Typical.

It’s kind of complicated, but Roy had been okay, located near Star City and refusing to take up the League’s instructions for him to hit higher ground and a safer location. And then, quite as quickly, he hadn’t been okay, and Wally had been set on running to his rescue, without clearing his actions with anyone.

“Okay, Conner, you use the zeta platform to get there, we’ll fly with M’gann,” Robin decides very quickly, still blinking at the spot where Wally had been standing half a second ago. “That way, if there’s any ambush on that side, you can radio us the details. Once you’re there, find Wally and Roy and give them back up. We’ll be there as soon as we can.”

They all move as fast as possible, but it doesn’t compare to the split second rash decision making of Wally. “I’ll strangle him,” Artemis growls under her breath the whole way, while Robin’s preoccupied with thoughts of how against orders they’re going. Hopefully they’ll be able to convince either Wally or Roy to head back to the base and reinstate lock down mode before the mentors return from HQ, but he really doubts it.

When they get there and it turns out Roy, Conner, and Wally have managed to destroy the transporter, fight off a couple of Atlantean soldiers invading from the bay, disarm and take one in as their own hostage, and barricade themselves in some wayward shack overlooking the ocean, he really really doubts it.

“Roy, this is totally not safe. I’m pretty sure being adamant and staying by the coast is like standing still and goading the undead during a zombie apocalypse,” Robin attempts. “Can we please go back to Mount Justice?”

“No.” Roy grits out simply, and he releases the chain that’s tied to the hostage’s ankles and has got him lifted above this little tank of water set up in the corner. Roy’s obviously been torturing the soldier with water deprivation, so when the Atlantean crashes into the shallow tub of water, he begins to rouses and curse at them in what sounds sort of like Greek. Sort of.

Artemis scoffs and this is the instant that makes Robin want to bury his face in his hands for an eternity. “Like you even speak Atlantean.” She mocks, “This hostage set up is a complete waste of time!”

Roy glares heavily. “You, shut up.”

Artemis lifts her chin defiantly. “You, make me.”

Wally waves his hands and looks at Robin and M’gann hopefully. “That’s not even a problem though, right? Rob speaks like every language, and Meg could read the guy’s mind.”

Robin shrugs. “I’ve only taken the basics of modern Greek. Besides, Atlantean is supposed to be a lot different, and Kaldur hasn’t gotten around to teaching me much. For instance? I have no clue what he just said.”

M’gann keeps her eyes trained on her feet. “I…just now dipped into his mind, but he thinks in loud, distracting Atlantean. He’s also blocking me from seeing images and from dipping deeper. He’s been trained to fight telepaths.”

“Magic,” Conner tells the room at large. “Remember? Kaldur says they go to school for that, they probably learn how to block mind reading.”

Roy growls and punches the wall, to which Artemis responds by putting her hands on her hips, annoyed. “What is even your problem?”

“Kaldur is my friend,” Roy says. “And if the League wants to flit around and try to let Aquaman handle this obviously massive problem on his own, and if you want to be told what to do and let them shut you up in a safe house, then I’ll be the one who tries to get to the bottom of it and help him.”

Ah. So there is no amount of talking that will get Roy to change his mind about it, not this. Robin realizes that, so plays the ‘I-am-leader-and-you-have-to-respect-that’ and the ‘otherwise-there-is-the-imminent-wrath-of-Batman-in-the-future-if-you-don’t-listen-to-me’ card on Wally to persuade him to head back with them both without a fight and without Roy.

Roy is helpfully advising them how the Atlanteans typically strike as a farewell (“They’re not like Aquaman or Kaldur, so they can only last as long in the open air as humans can underwater. What they’ll try to do is drag you into the water and get the upper hand. Some of the higher ranking soldiers have breathing apparatuses though, so be careful, don’t forget that super strength is a common Atlantean characteristic…”) when the already overcast skies grow completely dark, lightning arcing abnormally across the whole sky. Their hostage begins to laugh, deep and smooth and frightening because it means he expects good things from this new development. Robin doesn’t even protest when Roy tips his tub over and shoots him point blank with an arrow that’s impact immediately renders him silent and motionless.

“Shit,” Roy says flatly, and just once Robin would like someone else to be the pragmatic yet optimistic one. It’s a hard balance to strike, and just sometimes Robin would like to enjoy the luxury of feeling the extremities of emotional polarity (as is, he’s using meditative breathing to keep calm, because holy mother of god this is foreboding). “Looks like whatever dastardly plans they had for the magic have come through for them.”

No one can really say anything in response to that, because the sky looks as though it simultaneously is turning to ripples and slowly, very very slowly yet surely, falling to the Earth. It looks like black, tumultuous water, a dark, endless ocean above them lowering itself down onto the plane of the land.

“I wonder if the League will be able to reenter the atmosphere like that?” Wally feels the need to question, and Robin actually isn’t at all sure about the answer to that. He hopes so. What he is sure about is that, if the sky is going to crash into the horizon and swirl around their crushed bodies as the life drips out of them, there is no point in going back to the mountain to hide out.

“Change of plans,” he tells them firmly. “Until we’re dead or we figure out another course of helpful action, we’re keeping our numbers as tightly knit and high as possible.”

--

Wally spends his time bouncing magical possibilities of what precisely is going on back and forth with Roy, because somehow Roy is the only one Wally is willing to have a discussion with about magic that doesn’t consist solely of how he’s got ‘proof’ of how much it doesn’t actually exist. “I don’t think we should worry too much. This is a last ditch attempt, obviously. It means they’re losing, if they’re attempting to scare everyone into thinking they’ve got actual control over what the sky does.”

Robin doesn’t interject with how he’s hacked several satellites all over the world to check out if this sky basically falling down onto their heads thing is an isolated event, and found out that it isn’t. It doesn’t seem so much ‘last ditch’ as it seems ‘checkmate’, but that’s just Robin’s opinion.

“Kaldur’s mentioned that they have entire branches of government dedicated to magic,” Roy argues, “I don’t think it’s illogical to assume they’ve found a way to manipulate enough of Timothy Hunter’s vast power to make the sky look all freaky and bring about Armageddon. There’s always been a bunch of magical groups with different agendas following Hunter around, everyone’s been waiting to see where he’d lay his alliances rather than force him into anything, because he’s got that much potential to blast anyone and everyone out of existence.”

Roy pauses to leave his place by the window, going over to the prone form of the Atlantean in the little remaining water in the tank to check on him. “Anyway, it couldn’t have been too hard, he’s really good friends with Zatanna and they’ve got Wonder Girl too, they’d just have to threaten to drown those two and he’d probably go along with it.”

Wally huffs. “But I doubt he’d just say ‘oh, you want me to bring about the end of the world and you’ll spare two people’s lives? That sounds like a completely fair trade off, alright, let’s get to Doomsdaying’. And even if he did, or they’re being sneaky or something to use him – and Zatanna’s been gagged or manipulated too or whatever to prevent her from using her power against them – Wonder Girl totally has to have super strength and, I don’t know. Amazingness. She wouldn’t let them take her hostage lying down – ”

“It’s underwater, they have a huge upper hand, they have two other hostages to use against her as well, and she already did let them take her hostage lying down when this whole fiasco first started – ”

Artemis is clearly itching to point the hypocrisy that is Wally out, but M’gann’s curled into her side and asking about her take on what’s going on under the ocean’s surface.

Artemis leans back against M’gann, who is obviously worried and feeling everyone else’s anxiety projecting off them in waves – because oh my god, Robin reiterates mentally, the freaking sky – and tries to offer comfort by staying calm, acting normal. “I really don’t know what to think of all this. Like, if the ‘other side’ is waging war against Aquaman and his allies, what do they want?”

“The sky to crash into Earth and kill everyone above sea level so they can invade?” Conner guesses, staring at the skies and waiting for the inevitable to happen. And that…is an oddly straight forward and blunt way to put it, making the prospect of it all much more terrifying.

Robin’s keeping an eye on the skies too (okay, obviously everyone is, it’s mesmerizing) but he is silent and trying to discern what precisely is happening to the world. He’s got nothing, past Conner’s astute observation, and there’s no way for him to combat that, so he just keeps recording the phenomenon with the camera in his mask in hope that the League can figure something out.

--

It is both a good and a bad sign that Lex Luthor and Ra’s al Ghul are working with the League. No lie, Batman just radioed him that latest development, and Robin’s initially much more caught up on the fact that hey, at least their mentors are back on Earth. They feel involved again and not like they’re going to take the easy way out and wait up in space to see if things work themselves out or not.

Then he realizes oh. Wow, the world really must be ending. “B, we are totally putting Tim Hunter in a Bat protective service after this, freaking damn.”

The way Batman’s breathing sounds on his end of the comm lets Robin know that, if he weren’t totally immersed in preventing the end of the world and thoroughly displeased with how everyone was handling themselves, he would laugh a little and say he’d already thought the same thing. Right now, though, Robin gets that time is of the essence and nods, knows Batman knows he’s nodding despite not being able to see him, and hangs up.

“So?” Roy asks, the obvious question because all eyes are on him as he presses his comm link off. He shrugs.

“Uh, I’m pretty sure we’re in a worse case scenario contingency plan. But on the up side, it’s, like, contingency plan N, not contingency plan Z^12. Like, we’re not going to have to do any dimension hopping and commit defensive genocide against any unknowing alien races.” The others stare at him, so he raises his hands defensively. “You think I’m joking, but I’m not.”

“No, dude, we’re thinking: Rob speak like a normal person and tell us what’s happening!” Wally yells, arms flung above his head again in his usual reaction to exasperation.

“Right, well, Lex Luthor and Ra’s al Ghul have deemed it necessary to team up with the League to handle this, and the League has deemed it necessary to allow this team up to happen. Which, I mean, let’s take it into account that Ra’s is the guy that’s always trying to wipe out as much humanity as possible to achieve environmental balance and let that speak for itself about how bad this situation is.”

All eyes are still on him, but they aren’t really focusing on him anymore. “Well, that’s a way to put it into perspective,” M’gann says faintly.

Artemis flips her hair over her shoulder nervously. “So what are we supposed to do?”

Conner beats him to the punch. “Nothing. Stay put. Be good. Right?”

Robin shrugs, “That is what he said to do,” and can so easily foretell Roy’s reaction that it should be criminal.

“Like hell I will.” Roy growls. “No way.”

Robin can’t tell if it’s because Roy’s so easy to read or because he’s so good at reading Roy by now. But it doesn’t really matter. He’s got a point.

“I’m on it,” Robin grins at them, switching on his wrist computer. Clearly there’s never been a better time to hack.

--

Even with hacking and a very insightful conversation with Red Tornado, they can’t do too much. What they’ve managed to scrounge together from the highly encrypted and hastily taken notes on the last meeting is that it definitely is a war. Aquaman’s brother and his greatest supervillian have been gathering an army with anti-coexistence sentiments and intend to conquer the seas, and then spread their new rule to the land.

(“Good call Conner!” Wally praises. Conner only grunts in response, but Robin sees the flicker of a smile pass over his face all the same.)

The League had assumptions that the army was forcibly using the magic of one or all of their hostages, Red Tornado had told them when Robin had contacted him. They had hopes of using the tactical advantages that Luthor and Ra’s al Ghul were bringing to the table from working with both Orm and Black Manta in the past to mount quick, effective attacks to slow them down. They also had been trying to get in contact with Aquaman, with Martian Manhunter flying around and mentally sweeping for him. Because if he had not already been trying to locate the hostages or had a different plan all together, that was the sort of thing they needed to know and work out.

(“Why’d you even think to contact Red Tornado?” M’gann asks. Robin doesn’t have to look at her to know she gets it as soon as she asks. By this point, ‘the grown ups’ know there’s no reason to waste time or effort in hiding little things from ‘the kids’. They already know the enemy is trying to magic the sky down, that their options are really slim right now, that they can’t jump in the fray because it’s all still on the Atlanteans’ terms.)

And really, they can’t help the League with the big battle, the big picture, none of them know enough about Wonder Girl, about Timothy Hunter, about Zatanna even, to understand any of their power and how they’re being taken advantage of. None of them are experts on magic or how Atlantean civilizations are laid out.

So they’re going to do what they can. Roy’s stayed behind at San Francisco Bay, ready to stop any more attempts of Atlantean attacks on that coast (and Robin is pretty sure, though he won’t run this theory by anyone other than maybe Artemis who probably has the same thought as him, that Roy will kill the Atlantean who’s no good to him, once people who will judge him for it are no longer around. Maybe not, if it’s not too much of a hassle, maybe he’ll keep him around for the hoped later when things have blown over and the sky isn’t getting closer to the ground with each passing second. But if the guy makes himself too much of a trouble to keep around, Robin’s got no doubts Roy will leave him to dry out, or will shoot an explosive arrow right in his face. Roy’s got that pragmatic thing down pretty well, after all). He’s denied needing any help, even though Artemis kindly pointed out for him that it’s the whole west coast and he’s not a meta. She stays behind with him anyway, though she’s probably working on putting cities between them so they can be an effective buffer between innocent people and possible invasion.

At any rate, they’re flying in the bioship to drop Wally and Conner off on the east coast, then Robin’s going to camp out at Mount Justice and try to scan the satellites to help locate Aquaman. M’gann will try to help too, attempt to aid her uncle scanning the seas for the king to find him faster.

In the end, they know they aren’t making a real difference. It’s not like they don’t realize that the oceans touch everywhere, that there’s probably coasts in South America, in Europe, in everywhere else in the world, that are still wide open for invasion. That, really, the Atlanteans can just wait until the sky crashes and kills them before trying to take over. But they can only focus on where their home bases are right now, on being as preemptive as they can be. They may not make a difference, but if they happen to be ready and could make a difference, then it’s better than nothing.

--

Robin wakes up on his back. The sky is really close, like, it looks as though he can reach up and touch it.

Robin? M’gann is talking telepathically to him. Are you okay?

What happened? He realizes the air is thick with humidity, so thick that it’s pressing on his lungs painfully. The inky black-purple of the sky swirls and thrashes angrily above him, and he realizes

Don’t talk, M’gann quickly warns him, just he reaches up and. And yeah, that’s the sky his fingers are brushing against, dipping into. It feels wet, like a dense cloud, but also like liquid, like actual water. Oh.

I get it. Ha, I was more thinking it’d be like a meteor, but they’re going to smash us with a magic sky that’ll drown us, Robin realizes. I had been wondering how they intended to survive the impact of the sky falling and the environmental changes that’d bring about. Smart.

He remembers now, that on the way to Mount Justice the sky had suddenly crashed down several ceiling notches, knocking the bioship into a crash landing. He doesn’t remember much after that, because he’d hit his head and been in and out, but he’s willing to bet that M’gann’s dragged him out of the ship and put him in the most space conservative position possible.

How’s the ship? He asks. She could probably leave this planet behind and save herself. She might actually be able to shape shift into something that can survive. Really, Robin’s never studied Martian anatomy, so she might not even be in any danger to begin with. If that’s the case, she probably should leave, go be useful where she can. He doesn’t need her here to help him with dying, if it comes to that.

She hears those thoughts though he doesn’t really send them to her, and somehow mentally shakes her head furiously. No! No way. Anyway, the ship’s filled up with…sky, I guess, and it won’t fly because the fall was pretty rough. But I have faith in the others. I won’t run away and leave you here on your own.

Robin doesn’t respond, but he figures she can feel his thankfulness without him using words. He focuses on watching the sky closely instead of how he might die today, and it looks like it’s dripping slowly again. Which doesn’t matter, another sudden crash like the one before and they’re done. But for now it’s okay. The oxygen in the air is sparse, every breath is laborious, and they just have to wait.

--

He wakes again and, in an anticlimactic twist of fate, apparently the world’s already been saved. Figures.

He’s in the hospital bay, though he feels mostly fine now that the air isn’t sopping wet with heavy water pressing at his insides anymore. His lungs have a weird tired sensation to them, but Robin figures that, in the grand scheme of things, it could be worse. He sits up and looks around. It’s the Mount Justice medical center, so he deduces that there’s probably not too many League members around, and also that his team is nearby. He swings his legs over the bed and hops up silently, slipping past the curtain.

Robin bumps right into Conner’s chest. “Oh. You’re up.” Conner greets. “That’s good.”

Robin grins at him. “Yep. Am I healthy? I feel okay.”

Conner nods once, solidly. “A lot of people got jump start breathing treatments, like you. You’re lucky, Wally had some ribs snap and a broken arm and hip when the sky slammed down on us – he was on higher ground and it forced him on his back and then down through the hill he was on until he was at ground level.”

All that could have gone wrong comes rushing back to Robin, and he takes a slow, deep breath. Dry, crisp, no pressure above him. Things are fine now. “How’s Arty? M’gann? Roy?”

“Good. Batman says Artemis and Roy were lucky. That California has a lot of places under sea level.”

Really, seriously, figures. “Conner are there any, you know, deaths? Serious injuries? Things I should know about?”

Conner appears to think for a second, then starts ticking things off his fingers. “It took three days before the sky got back to normal, you were unconscious the whole time, Wally’s nearly healed up though he’s still got a limp, Artemis is back in state, M’gann will probably cook you something when she sees you’re okay, I’m fine, and Kaldur’s going to be okay. He’s over there.” He points to a curtained bed across the room. “Other than that Aquaman is resting and debriefing at the space headquarters, Batman’s been keeping details a secret from us, so.” He shrugs. “You know. That’s it. Everything’s back to normal.”

If Robin didn’t feel like his lungs were absolutely battered and weary, he’d probably laugh at how matter of fact Conner is. Since they do in fact feel this way, he wheezes a single, weak chuckle and clears his throat. “Right. So Kaldur?”

Conner shrugs again and then turns to leave. “He’s up. I was coming over to check on you after talking with him. He gets tired a lot, so if he falls asleep while you’re talking that’s why.”

Robin doesn’t move immediately, trying to gather himself, and Conner shoots him an odd look before walking to the door. “I’ll go tell M’gann you’re awake, then.” He says over his shoulder, and then the door shuts behind him.

Robin isn’t sure what he’s expecting to see, but he is really just glad that Kaldur’s alive. He pulls open the curtain gently, slowly, to make up for the fact that he can’t knock.

Kaldur’s eyes are closed, but his breathing is not even, an indication that he’s not asleep. One leg is splinted, and he has bandages on the side of his cheek and on his arms. His muscles are more sinewy than usual, and yet his face is a little gaunt. He’s got stubble too, just a little ghosting of it over his upper lip, and it’s weird only because Kaldur is normally clean cut. Right, Robin reminds himself, war is hard.

“Kaldur?” He ventures carefully.

Kaldur opens his eyes and peers up at him, expression weighed down with exhaustion, though somewhere in there is a trace of happiness, of triumph. “Ah. Did I not say I would return?”

There’s something about Kaldur’s voice that unnerves Robin for a fraction of a second. It’s not as soft as usual, he is speaking louder and less deliberately and for an instant Robin’s afraid that, mentally –

And yet there is nothing wrong with him, because he senses that Robin is uneasy and finds the cause quite quickly. “There was an explosion,” Kaldur explains. “My hearing is still damaged, but with a few more days I expect it will be back to normal.”

Robin nods. “Right.” He’s not so sure how to broach this next topic, so he dives in with less finesse than he’d normally aim for. “Uh, so I might not have done a great job as leader? I’m glad you’re back.”

Kaldur laughs, though his breath hitches (and Robin notices, oh, Kaldur’s breathing is really not even, not because he’s awake but because one side of his neck is bandaged up, and are his gills…?) and he shakes his head. “You did wonderfully, the others are telling stories already.”

Kaldur is alive, Robin reminds himself, the team is still intact and another world ending crisis has been averted. They’ll probably have to wheedle information out of their mentors, do something risky but amazing to counteract the mentor-wide phenomenon of babying that always follows someone’s sidekick getting kidnapped, and lay off large scale missions for a while until everyone’s back up to their one hundred percent. But they’re all going to live to see another day and ultimately, in the end, that’s all he was looking for.