Nightwing's stomach refused to quite lurching even after the portal closed. He had no idea when the Clock King got so powerful, but the sound of distant mortars and the acrid tang of the air confirmed he wasn't in Kansas anymore. Or, rather, New York.
He could hear the mortar fire growing closer, and had to hurriedly see if there was decent cover nearby so he would be safe to get his bearings. He needed to be able to analyze the scenery, maybe the people if he could lay eyes on them without getting shot at, to determine where… and when… he was. Luckily, he spotted a low roofed hut, possibly a pig or goat shelter by the looks, and he sprinted for it, curving the side of it just in time…
… to have an M2 carbine shoved in far too close a proximity to his face, making his eyes travel to its user in the Herringbone Twill field service uniform of an American soldier. So…Korea, is he remembered the subtle difference that set the M2 apart from the M1 carbines correctly. No sooner had he processed that detail than his eyes really took in the features of the young soldier keeping his attention focused on Nightwing.
Blue eyes, blond hair, strongly chiseled features smacked Nightwing as familiar, like he'd seen them in his own time, but subtly different.
"You some kind of circus performer? Long way from Ringling Brothers," the soldier drawled, calm as if there was no gun between them, no threat approaching, just like the soldier was firmly in charge.
That was what clicked it over for Nightwing, and his jaw nearly dropped open. Only years of training kept him from doing so, eyes flicking to confirm the name on the tape above the pocket.
The last thing the Titans needed, facing a crafty rogue like the Clock King, was to have one of their super-rogues show up.
But if Deathstroke the Terminator took the time to get a person's attention instead of just 'handling them', it paid to listen.
"Break the girl free and let her concentrate on bringing Nightwing back. Nineteen fifty one, late spring, Korean peninsula."
"Yeah, like I haven't been trying that already…" Cyborg had to cut his protest off though, as Deathstroke pole-vaulted with that damn staff of his into the middle of the pack of henchmen surrounding Clock King. "Rae! Diversion in place; get 'Wing back!"
"No, more like the Justice Society," Nightwing said, swiftly and with a sureness he knew would make Slade listen. He felt dirty, using the knowledge from decades in the soldier's future to handle him here and now, but he couldn't pollute the time stream. He couldn't warn this barely-grown man that he'd make bad choices that alienated him from everyone he cared about. He couldn't even try and protect his friend, Joey, by telling this man to guard his sons, no matter how much it hurt.
"Not real keen on them these days, circus-boy."
There was real vitriol in that statement, and Nightwing was surprised… until he remembered history. The JSA had been the first victims of the lynch mob that had been investigating so-called un-American activities. And the way they'd accomplished it was by making the average American believe the war in Korea was all because the JSA had refused to be patriotic and go take care of the matter. Of course a young Slade Wilson would dislike the costumed community.
"S… sergeant, I promise I'm only trying to go where I belong, which is not here or now," Nightwing said, hastily misreading the pair of stripes to cover the near-use of the man's first name.
"Corporal." An eyebrow… the one that Nightwing never saw, because of the patch, rose up. "Seems strange, but so is running around with clothes that make you look damn near naked in a war."
"I do not!" Nightwing protested, but then he realized how tight-fitting his latest costume was, revealing far more lines than modesty of this era usually allowed for. "Okay, maybe, but times change, okay? This is…" His mouth quirked, both at what he'd almost said //fashionable// and the fact he was, yet again, arguing about his costume with Slade Wilson. "From my time, and my lifestyle."
"So, if you're like that ring-slinger and his crew, what's your name?"
In the distance, the mortars had ceased, a fact Nightwing cursed, because it meant that Slade could be as chatty as he wanted… so like Joey when Joey was in one of his open moods, hands moving so fast… and that meant questions.
"I can't tell you that," Nightwing said honestly. "Futures can be changed, but no one can ever tell how one well-meant action might affect everything else," he apologized.
That quick comparison made Nightwing almost purr; he loved Slade's intelligence more than anything else, and it infuriated him that Slade refused to be smart about his own life!
"Yeah, except sometimes the ripples don't fully fade out until a lot of damage is done."
The soldier nodded, opened his mouth, and then there was a familiar blackness cupping around Nightwing, pulling him away from this time and place, back home, where the image of a soldier younger than himself would haunt him for many days, he knew.
"That was fast…" was all Nightwing got out, before he caught sight of the orange and blue. Then there was fighting to attend, and the infuriating sometimes-ally vanished.
Nightwing purposefully left a window open that night, and he was not disappointed.
"How hard was it, Kid, to not meddle in my life then?"
The words were calm and even, but the hero knew there could be danger. There always was with Slade.
"How hard has it been for you, since I took on the Nightwing costume?"
A single blue eye searched, and then there was a brief nod.
They understood each other too well. What had happened was necessary, no matter how it stung, or else they would not have ever reached the point they now existed in. It might have been a better place, but they'd known more than enough tragedy to wager the losses would have been greater if that soldier had been warned.