Dick had told himself he was done with teams. Even after he had taken Brion, Violet, and Forager under his wing, he still told himself he was done. Once his three mentees were trained as capable fighters, he would hand them over to the team and go back to his solo act. Yet, weeks after he and the others had rescued Tara, he found himself on a team mission.
Though Tara’s rescue mission had abated the threat of meta-human trafficking, the issue was not completely resolved. When he caught word of a trafficking syndicate in Blüdhaven, Dick couldn’t help thinking the take-down would be good field practice for his proteges. And that was how Dick found himself in full Nightwing uniform, in a Blüdhaven warehouse, fighting besides three super-powered teens.
All things considered, the raid was going pretty well. There were less than a dozen hostages, all of whom were quickly and covertly escorted out of the warehouse and into the bioship, courtesy of Tigress. When they first arrived, there had been eight armed guards and three scientists. Ten minutes after their arrival and three guards were unconscious and two of the three scientists were handcuffed. The remaining five guards were busy fending off Superboy, Black Lightning, Geoforce, Halo, and Forager, the latter of whom was rolling about the battlefield, knocking the guards clean onto their backsides. Angered, the guards would stumble back to their feet, aiming their guns at Forager. Halo and Black Lightning provided cover for the alien, while Superboy and Geoforce moved in on the guards one at a time. Meanwhile, Nightwing, with remote help from Oracle, downloaded the traffickers’ information onto his wrist-computer, and wiped it from their hard drives.
Taking a moment to look up from his hacking, Nightwing did a quick scan of the battle in front of him. The two doctors were still handcuffed. The number of unconscious guards was up to six, the last two struggling to take on five capable vigilantes. But where had that third doctor gone to? Nightwing voiced the thought, shouting over his shoulder just as Superboy and Geoforce brought down the last of the guards.
“He can’t have gotten far with Tigress posted out front,” Black Lightning offered.
Nightwing sighed, exasperated, and turned back to his hacking. “I need three more minutes with the computers- these guys may be low-grade, but they knew how to set up efficient firewalls. Superboy, Halo, Black Lightning: Perimeter check. I don’t want that third doctor getting away. Geoforce and Forager: Make sure the guards-”
He was cut off by a gunshot.
Nightwing whipped around just as Geoforce screamed. “Violet!”
Halo was on the ground. With a bullet hole in between her eyes.
Nightwing steeled himself. It was Halo; She would resurrect herself within a few minutes. His primary concern was finding where the gunshot had come from, though it seemed Superboy had that covered. With what can only be described as a battle cry, Superboy rushed himself at the far corner of the room, hands outstretched. He clasped what was seemingly an empty corner, though when his hand lifted, he was holding tech, and the third doctor was standing, shell-shocked, with a forty-five held in front of him.
“Cloaking tech,” Superboy growled as he crushed said tech in his hands. Letting the cloaking device fall to the ground, he reached for the gun, crushing that too with his superhuman strength.
After the gunshot had gone off, the room had gone quiet. That silence, however, was soon interrupted by Geoforce. The floor around him turned to lava as he yelled. “I should kill you!” he yelled at the doctor. “I will kill you!”
“Geoforce, stand down,” Nightwing ordered. Geoforce ignored him, the lava pool at his feet steadily growing. Then, with a final yell, Geoforce propelled forward, a wall of lava forming behind him as he headed straight for the doctor.
Nightwing, Superboy, and Jefferson shouted at him to stand down. Even Forager added, “Forager does not think Geoforce should kill the bad man!” But once again Geoforce ignored his superiors, rushing towards the doctor.
Until a red energy shield was erected, blocking his path. “Geoforce, stop!” shouted the shield’s maker.
Unable to halt his momentum, Geoforce slammed into the shield and fell back. Picking himself up and turning around, he came face to face with a fully healed Halo, eyes and aura glowing red.
“Violet,” Geoforce breathed. As he pulled Halo into a hug, the warehouse floor began to cool, the lava dissipating.
Nightwing closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose.
With a shake of his head, he looked back to the compound’s computer system. Seeing the last of the files had been downloaded and deleted, he disconnected his wrist-computer. He glanced at Superboy, who now had the third doctor handcuffed and slumped with the others. “Get these guys out of here, then report to the bioship,” Nightwing directed.
As his team escorted their captives out of the warehouse, Nightwing took out a stack of disc-bombs from his utility belt. It may have started as a covert mission, but blowing the place up was the only way to ensure that the business didn’t start back up again.
As he let the bombs go, Nightwing groaned. “I’m going to have to talk to them about this, aren’t I?” he asked aloud.
His only response was a shrugging emoji from Oracle.
“I hate being the grown-up.”
Dick had intended to talk to Brion that night, but the mission came first, and he didn’t trust Blüdhaven Police Department to conduct a proper interrogation. As such, Dick ditched the Nightwing costume in favor of his BPD uniform, and Officer Grayson headed to the precinct to help process the traffickers. Though the doctors all spoke English, most of the guards were foreign, their English skills rough or even nonexistent. There were a fair amount of BPD cops who spoke Spanish, and even a couple who spoke Italian, but when detectives found a couple of the guards only spoke German, Dick, the only officer present who knew the language, was pulled into the interrogations. By the time he was leaving the precinct, it was well past midnight and far too late to talk with Brion.
He shot a text to Artemis, Conner, and Jefferson, letting them know BPD was launching a full investigation to ensure these guys were the only meta traffickers in Blüdhaven. He shoved his phone in his back pocket and headed home to catch up on some sleep.
When Dick woke up the next morning, it was well past eleven and his home screen was flooded with text messages from M’gann, Connor, and Artemis.
Megan Morse: Hi, Dick, Connor told me what happened with Violet and Brion. Maybe we should have a talk with them about relationships among team members?
Megan Morse: Connor and I would be glad to talk with them since we had a similar situation when we were younger.
Megan Morse: Let me know, but I do think we should talk with them.
Connor Kent: M’gann wants us to talk to Brion
Connor Kent: I think it’s a good idea considering what almost happened last night
Artemis Crock: violet told me what happened
Artemis Crock: have we had the we don’t kill talk with brion??
Artemis Crock: u need to talk to him
Artemis Crock: u and connor, he likes connor
Artemis Crock: i think
Artemis Crock: dickhead are u even awake yet
Dick groaned. It was times like this when he missed the simplicity of flying solo.
Dick had spent the morning dawdling about his apartment. He took his time getting ready for the day as he texted his unofficial teammates about his unofficial proteges. When he could procrastinate no longer, he made his way to the nearest zeta-tube to meet with Brion, Connor, and Jefferson, the latter of whom had been urged by Dr. Jace to oversee the impending talk.
When he arrived at Happy Harbor, he found Connor and Brion in the former’s garage, both covered in grease as they worked on repairing an old Harley.
“Hey, guys,” Dick greeted, ambling towards the duo, hands in the pockets of his jacket.
“Hey,” Connor responded. Brion merely grunted.
Less than a minute later, the zeta announced Jefferson’s arrival. Dick sighed, it was go time.
“So, Brion,” he started. The teen looked up at him. “I- uh, we- were hoping to talk to you.”
Brion narrowed his gaze. “What is this about?” he asked skeptically.
“It’s about last night,” Connor told him. Then, never one to beat around the bush, he continued. “You almost killed a man. That’s not how we do things around here. We save lives, we don’t take them.”
As expected, Brion immediately became defensive. “That man killed Violet! He shot her, and I didn’t see any of you do anything about it!”
“No,” Dick corrected. “We did something, we just didn’t do what you wanted. Connor located and disarmed the man. The situation was under control.”
“Under control? Violet was on the floor with a bullet in her head!”
“And a couple minutes later she was back on her feet,” Dick pressed on.
Brion scoffed. “She got shot in the head and you did nothing!”
“Because she was fine!” Dick shouted, beginning to lose his patience.
“But what if she wasn’t?! What if she wasn’t fine?! I’ve lost everything- my parents, my brother, my country and home- I can’t lose Violet, too!”
Dick hesitated. He hadn’t expected that.
A moment later and Connor spoke up. “Look, Brion,” he began. “When you’re out on the field, Violet isn’t your girlfriend. She’s your teammate. I know you care about her, and I know from experience your first instinct is to protect her, but you have to trust her to take care of herself.”
“Out on the field, there’s no room for mistake,” Jefferson picked up. “You let your emotions get the best of you, you might do something you'll regret. You could get yourself killed. You could get innocents killed: citizens and bystanders, your teammates. One slip up can ruin you.”
As Connor and Jefferson spoke, Brion’s expression gradually softened. They sat in silence for a few moments until he spoke up. “I… I’m sorry,” he said quietly.
Dick wasn’t exactly sure what he was sorry about: Almost killing the doctor? Letting his emotions dictate his mission performance? Snapping at Dick? Maybe all of it.
Regardless, Dick could tell the apology- whatever it was for- was sincere. Brion was avoiding eye contact, looking almost pensive.
“It’s alright, dude,” Dick told him, aiming for jovial as he clapped the younger hero on the shoulder. “Just… Don’t try and kill anyone anymore, okay?”
Brion looked at him, eyebrow raised, unimpressed. Dick threw up his hands, “Just saying,” he added.
Connor Kent: We just finished talking with Brion
Connor Kent: I think we got through
Conner Kent: We’re gonna get burgers now, you want me to get you anything?
M’gann smiled at her phone, typing out a quick response.
“Is that Conner?” Artemis asked. M’gann, Violet, and Helga were all at Artemis and Will’s house, watching a sappy Lifetime movie. Artemis hated it, and had already made fun of both the storyline and the actors more time than anyone could count. M’gann and Violet, on the other hand, thought it was sweet. Helga didn’t have much of an opinion. She was just glad to be spending time with Violet; that was how the whole gathering had started. Helga was eager to repair her relationship with Violet, Brion, and Tara, but the former had been a little nervous to spend time one on one with the doctor. The solution came in the form of girls days with M’gann and Artemis.
“Yeah, they just finished talking to Brion,” M’gann responded.
Violet turned from the mawkish TV movie to look at M’gann. “Talk with Brion about what?” M’gann looked to Artemis, and the archer shrugged.
“About what happened the other night,” M’gann answered.
Violet pursed her lips and looked back at the TV. “Oh,” she murmured.
The older women looked at one another. “Violet?” Helga inquired. “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” the teenager replied. “I just… I am worried. About Brion.”
“Why are you worried about Brion?” the doctor pressed on.
Violet curled in on herself, looking small and feeble. She spoke quietly. “I… I care about Brion. Very much. And I know that Brion cares about me, but… I worry he cares too much. When I was shot, I was okay. I healed. But Brion didn’t notice because he…” Violet trailed off to a whisper. “He almost killed the man who shot me.”
When they had returned home from the mission, Violet had told Artemis what happened. She was worried, but exhaustion from the mission itself, as well as dying and coming back, had won out, and the conversation had been cut short by intermediate yawns. Artemis had sent Violet home to shower and sleep before they could really discuss anything. She had thought she was prioritizing, but when a lone tear began to trail down Violet’s cheek, which the girl hurried to wipe away, well, Artemis realized she should have let Violet talk this out.
“The world has so much death and pain,” Violet continued, sounding almost defeated. “Even if I could not come back, I would not want Brion to kill. He should not do that to someone else. To himself.”
Helga hurried to hug the girl. Violet was quick to hug back, and Artemis wasn’t sure if that was a result of their bettering relationship or a demonstration of how much Brion’s actions had worried her.
“Violet, have you talked to Brion about this?” M’gann asked. When the girl shook her head, M’gann let out a sympathetic sigh. “I think you need to. A healthy relationship needs communication. You have to tell him your thoughts on the matter, or the worry and fear will just eat you up, and that’s not fair to you,” M’gann advised, the guidance counselor in her taking over.
“But what if he does not listen?” Violet pressed.
“He will,” Artemis spoke up. “If he really cares about you- and I know he does- he’ll listen. The good ones always do.”
Artemis wasn’t a guidance counselor, but she knew good men. Well, she had known Wally, and he was about as good as they came. When they had first met, he was loud, cocky, and had an unhealthy obsession with M’gann. But even back then, his heart had been pure. He was a hero through and through. Even after they had put away the speedster goggles and bow and arrow, he was kind and considerate, not just to her, but to everyone. He cared about people, truly and honestly. He was brave and selfless to a fault. Selfless enough to sacrifice his life to save his friends, family, and countless innocent people.
As Artemis watched Violet pull herself together, a small smile beginning to dance on her lips as M’gann encouraged her to gush about Brion, she couldn’t help but feel a pang in her chest.
Violet was right- the death of a loved one isn’t an excuse to kill. But nevertheless, she could understand Brion. Loss was complicated. For some people, it became all-consuming, destroying its victim from the inside out. For others, it made them into heroes. Dick had lost his parents, and fought to protect people from having to endure the same loss he had. Zatanna lost her father, her mentor and only family, and that pain had pushed her to become one of the League’s most valuable members. Artemis… Well, Artemis wasn’t exactly sure what her loss had done to her. Even now, years later, she still hoped she would wake up and find Wally laying right beside her. She missed him, and she would give anything for just five more minutes with him.
But as she looked to Violet, tears now gone, laughing with M’gann and Helga, she found herself hopeful. Not hopeful the pain would go away- because if she was honest with herself she didn’t think the pain of losing Wally would ever leave her- but hopeful that she could find a relative happiness. Find peace with herself and the people she had in her life.
Thanks to Dick’s radical, not-so-covert mission, they had forged a new team. A new family. And those new faces which had grown familiar and reassuring, they gave her hope.