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Legacy's Sway

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There is no hope of staying low profile while passing through Gotham's main airport. In Florida, several states away from where anyone would expect to see them, he could pass largely undisturbed and undetected.

So close to home there isn't a snowball's chance in hell.

People gawk at them from the word go. They gawk as Will checks in for the flight. They gawk as he herds the kids through security. They gawk as he makes sure everyone's luggage ends up on the plane. There's nothing concerning inside (no gear or weapons), but he's sure their luggage is going to be gone over with a fine toothed comb just in case.

He does what he can not to let any of the kids out of his sight. Tanya seems like she'll do just fine, but Damian and Jon seem particularly prone to wandering off, distracted by whatever mischief they're hoping to get up to right then.

He settles them all in at their gate, instructs them to ignore everyone else, and goes to make sure everything's in order.

When he returns, Jon has a container of frozen yogurt.

"...Jon," Will says, wondering just what the hell he got himself into. "What part of stay here was misunderstood?"

"It was just over there," Jon says, pointing not far behind them. There's a row of fast food places, including one that sells make-your-own frozen yogurt. "And it was free."

"Free."

"They said they'd be happy to give us all some."

"I passed," Tanya says. "I'd rather fly with as little food in me as possible."

For the most part, they stay by the gate, and most people are willing to give them some distance. Will ends up breaking his own rule to drift over to a shop and buy a new book for the flight, returning to find Jon excitedly chattering with two teenagers who've settled in just beside him.

Will lets him talk. There's no great harm in it, but he does make a point of keeping at least some of his attention on the conversation as he settles in to read.

"Wow," Tanya says quietly. "We're first class?"

"And first to board," Will confirms. "It's a long, long flight."

Most of the people flying are business travelers, which makes the boarding process much simpler than Will had initially hoped. Families gawk. Teenagers whisper.

Seasoned business travellers could have the entire Justice League in full costume go down the aisle without batting an eye.

Will ends up letting Tanya have the window seat, taking the offered pillow from the cabin crew and cramming it behind his head.

"...Are you really going to sleep?" Tanya asks, raising an eyebrow.

"We're taking off just after midnight," he says. "When we get there, it'll be three AM for them, and six AM for us. Which means unless you sleep, your sleep schedule is going to be destroyed."

"I did do the superhero thing before," she reminds him. "I can manage."

"Suit yourself," Will says, tilting his head back onto the pillow and immediately falling asleep.

That's one of the few major benefits of army service he's retained, after all: the ability to sleep absolutely anywhere on command.

He wakes midway through the flight to check in. Despite her dismissal of the idea, Tanya's out cold, snoring softly in her seat. He collects her book from the floor, resting it in her lap, and then checks on the boys. Jon's leaning against the window and looks like he's drooling, while Damian's sitting upright, reading quietly. Will flags him down, drawing Damian's attention, and then signs to avoid waking Tanya.

Everything good?

Just fine, Damian signs back. This book is very interesting.

Going back to sleep then, he signs. Try to get some sleep.

I don't sleep on planes, Damian signs, before turning back to his book.

Will can't entirely blame him. He used to never sleep on planes either.

The remainder of the flight passes without issue, with Will jerking back to awareness by the bump of the plane's landing gear hitting the ground. He sits up, retrieving the small carry on bag he brought with him and slinging it over his shoulder.

Tanya's already up, but Damian has to shake Jon awake.

"Alright," Will says. "First off the plane. Straight to the baggage claim area. We're supposed to meet someone here, but Bruce didn't really have many details."

"We're meeting someone at 3AM?" Tanya asks with a yawn.

"Apparently," Will says.

They disembark in record time, and Will makes them all double check they've got everything.

There's not really all that much to worry about though. None of them has brought much with them.

They haven't even reached the bag claim when Will spots their contact. There's a man in a suit with a little sign that says WILSON, and he heads straight for the man, looking him over.

Not someone he knows. He might just be a chauffeur, or he might be a hero he just hasn't met.

"That's us," Will says. "We still need to get bags."

"I can grab them for you," the man says. "We have transport waiting outside."

Transport turns out to be a goddamn limo.

"Cool!" Jon says, looking excitedly at it as Will buries his face in his hand. He lets the driver handle the luggage, and doesn't even bother feigning surprise when he slides inside to find Oliver Queen sitting inside, drink already in hand.

Tanya looks nervous, while Damian just squints at him.

"Everyone in," Will says, herding them like cats into their seats. "Were we not going to try and keep this low profile?"

"This is misdirection," Queensays. "The media already knows you were in leaving Gotham by plane hours ago. Unless you were obscenely lucky, rumor's probably already started to spread you were in Star City. No one would expect any League business to happen in a limo: they'll assume it's Wayne business instead."

Will fixes him with an unimpressed look, and Queen grins.

"And it makes for nicer conversation," he says, eyes sweeping across the group. "Tired?"

"Yes," Tanya says, right as Jon says yep and Damian says no.

"What's our plan for tonight?" Will asks, raising an eyebrow.

"You're a thirteen hour drive from your new headquarters," Queen says, and Jon lets out a groan. The corner of Queen's mouth twitches, looking more amused by the moment. "We're going to a hotel where you can spend the rest of the night. I'll send a car over for you at nine, and then we'll be stopping by one of my facilities to get you all some gear. There, you'll meet my contribution to the team."

Damian leans forward slightly in his seat at the mention of his future teammate, but Queen doesn't acknowledge it.

"After that, we'll all be flying down, I'll show you around the facility, and after that I'll be mostly hands off."

"Sounds fine," Will says. "How far is the hotel?"

The hotel turns out to be less than ten minutes from the airport, and Queen breezes through it like he owns the place.

Which he does, Tanya helpfully informs Will later that night. They've all got their own rooms, which seems highly unnecessary to Will, but he makes it very clear to the kids that no one is supposed to go wandering.

Once he's back in his own room, he falls back onto the bed, pulling out his phone and sending off a quick in Star City text.

He gets an immediate response from Joey, despite the late (or he supposes very early hour).

Joey: Glad to hear you landed safely. Call if you're bored.

Will: Going to get some sleep tonight. I'll call tomorrow if we have time.

Joey: Love you, pop.

Will stares at the message for a few moments before plugging his phone in, curling up under the sheets and letting himself sleep.

He supposes there have been worse starts.

Chapter Text

Will wakes not long after six, rolls out of bed, and gets ready to start the day. When he checks in the hallway around seven, he finds Jon sitting just outside his door, face buried in his phone.

"You should have stayed in your room," Will says. "We’re trying to stay out of sight."

"I wanted to know if anyone was up," Jon says, hopping to his feet. He seems excited, practically vibrating with barely contained delight. If Jon were a normal kid, Will would tell him to run a lap around the hotel to burn off some energy, but the fact that Jon could probably fly to Gotham and back without getting tired rules the option out.

"I bet Damian’s up," Will says. Damian’s always been an early riser, no doubt a side effect of his early years with the League of Assassins, but that doesn’t always mean he comes out of his room when he first wakes.

"Really?" Jon asks, scooting over to knock on Damian’s door.

Damian is up, and Tanya ends up peeking out maybe a half hour later.

"Food?" She asks. "I’m starving."

"There’s a restaurant downstairs," Will says. "I’ll call down for room service. Check the menus in your room and let me know what you want."

When he goes to call, he finds out that food’s already on its way up. No one gets to order, instead getting to pick whatever they’d like off of a buffet table that gets delivered by the staff.

"I don’t know how any of you can sit still," Jon says. "We’re going to meet our teammate today!"

"Probably more than one," Will says. "I doubt Flash isn’t going to run his up at the first opportunity."

"Even better!" Jon says, and Will makes a mental note.

Jon is just far too excitable, and if he can’t get that under control, it’s going to cause trouble.

Will has them changed, packed, and ready to go by the front of the hotel by nine, and to his relief there’s no limo pulling up to get them the second time around. Instead, there’s two discrete cars, the drivers of which seem surprised to find them already waiting.

"Who’s going where?" Damian asks, glancing between the two.

"Mr. Queen suggested that the team be in the back, and asked Mr. Wilson to join him up front."

Will’s wary of leaving the kids alone, but reasons they’re not that bad.

By the time they’re halfway there, he’s wishing he’d stuck to his guns. Queen absolutely will not stop talking, going over almost every single point. Most of it is stuff Will could have already guessed: Queen Industries doesn’t do weapon production, but it does have a new line of body armor which he’s all too happy to provide for the team.

"If we’re going to talk," Will says, interrupting him mid-conversation. "Who’s Roy sending to the team?"

"One of mine," Queen says, confirming Will’s suspicions.

"What should I be looking out for, exactly?"

"She has some team experience, obviously," Queen says. "She needs more experience adapting to non-human threats. We don't have as many out on the west coast, thankfully."

"Anything else I should know about?" Will asks, raising an eyebrow.

"I already handed over a file with more information," Queen says with a wave of his hand. "Roy should have passed it on. Your attaché should be bringing that all together for you."

"Is she good?"

"As good with a bow as Roy was at his age," Queen confirms, looking smug. "She's more... dedicated than he was. Very eye on the prize."

"I assume the prize is 'being a superhero'?" He's going to have to dissuade her of the notion, then. Nothing gets people killed faster. The world can't be painted into good people and bad people like that.

"You got it," Queen says. "That's part of the reason I thought you'd be a good mentor, considering your history. Don't be surprised if she's... less than enthusiastic about taking instruction from you."

"She'll just have to deal."

They pick up several crates of gear from a Queen Industries facility, loading them into the back of the car, and then it's back to the airport. They drive right past the public terminals, and Will swears he can hear the oohs and ahhs from the kids in the car behind them as they pull into the private terminal.

"Small plane," Queen says. "Hope you don't mind."

"King Air 350i?"

Queen seems surprised he recognizes the model.

"That's the one," he confirms. "Eight passengers, and we've only got six, so we can make room for the luggage."

They get through the gate without even having to get out of the car. There's not really any security, no one to check their bags. Will's flown private enough he's used to it all, but it's very clear to him that only Damian has any experience with flying private.

"Don't we... I don't know, don't we need to do security?" Tanya asks, craning her neck as if expecting a security guard to pop out of the ground as they climb out of the cars.

"We don't do that here," Queen says. "Long story short, it's on me if anything goes wrong in the flight, so I'm responsible for making sure you're not going to cause any trouble."

Queen grins at them.

"...No one here is going to cause any trouble, right?"

There's a chorus of nos from everyone gathered, and Will rolls his eyes.

"See?" Queen says. "No trouble then."

Their luggage is getting loaded onto the plane when another car reaches the gate, and Will watches with interest as they pull up.

"Roy?" He guesses.

The car's a hot rod, and Will can't imagine it would be anyone else.

"He's just dropping off," Queen says. "He's not flying with us today."

"Lucky him," Will says.

This Roy Harper has the same cocky attitude of the one he knows, only there's something subtly different about it. This one seems a bit more confident, a bit more comfortable in his own skin. His relationship with Queen also seems to be very different, because the two seem to be on actually friendly terms, with Roy hopping out of the car with a wave.

"Long time no see, Damian!" Roy calls, heading around to grab the luggage out of the back of the car.

The fourth member of the Titans climbs out of the car and immediately proceeds to squint at them. She looks to be around Tanya's age, maybe sixteen or seventeen, and she's right around Damian's height. She's got long blond hair and a build that doesn't really scream I am a capable person who can kick ass, but Will knows enough to know that looks can be deceiving.

She's got a Star City Sabers jacket on, and she hasn't stopped squinting since she first got out of the car.

"Hey!" Tanya says, seeming happy to see another girl her age.

"This is Mia Dearden," Queen says. "She'll be your team member representing Star City."

Mia heads over, still obviously scrutinizing the lot of them. It's hard to tell what she thinks, her expressions difficult to read, but she finally settles for offering a hand to Tanya, who shakes it enthusiastically, staring introductions.

Queen ushers them onto the plane, and the setup lets all four of the team sit facing each other in a little square, with Queen and Will up front. It's not really privacy, but it at least lets them talk.

Not that they do. Will settles in, listening to the conversation that happens behind them as the plane spins up.

Jon—who can fly under his own power —seems to be mostly focused on the plane. Damian's listening quietly, while Tanya's quizzing Mia for every possible detail on her life. Will learns she uses a bow, she's been doing the hero thing for a little over two years, and she's Queen's ward.

"So you're Roy's sister?" Damian asks.

Mia shrugs.

"Maybe?" She says. "I mean, I see him enough, but he's busy with League things."

"He is your sponsor," Damian says, "so he must think highly of your skills."

Out of the corner of his eye, Will can see Mia go a bit pink.

Everyone else introduces themselves, explaining the gist of their skill sets. Damian's good with a staff and small projectiles, but is most partial to his sword. Jon lists off an almost embarrassingly long list of physical attributes, putting everyone else on the plane to shame, and then Tanya's forced to admit she doesn't have any powers... or any major training.

"I was with the Teen Titans in my world for a while," she admits, "but... we weren't exactly the best team. I did better with Defiance, but even then I was mostly learning to master my powers and use them in a group setting."

"We'll simply have to figure something out," Damian says.

"So you're really from another world?" Mia asks, looking at Tanya with obvious interest.

"So is Will," she says. "And Joey. You'll probably meet him before long. I can't imagine he won't fly out and visit at some point."

"Hopefully they allow us time to establish ourselves before they start dropping in regularly," Damian complains, obviously expecting his family to do exactly that.

The conversation turns to lighter things, and Will lets himself pay more attention to Queen, rather than just focusing on the kids. The man is helping them out after all, and it's the least he can do.

Chapter Text

Oliver Queen turns out to be an absolute card shark. The flight isn't all that long, and when Oliver produces a deck of cards and baits Will into a game, he's willing to play along for the sake of good relations.

He's expecting to win.

He doesn't even come close.

"Wow," Tanya says quietly. "You are awful at this."

"No," Will corrects, already annoyed. "He's just really, really good."

He's not exactly a slouch at poker, but Oliver is cleaning house.

The intercom clicks on, letting them know they'll be landing shortly, and Oliver sweeps up the cards, looking smug.

"I should have got you to bet something," Oliver says. "Would have gone over great."

"Not sure Bruce would have appreciated you cleaning me out on my first day here," Will says.

"Probably not," Oliver says.

There are cars waiting for them when they land, and Will's already getting tired of travelling. When it was just him, he could safely zone out, only Will needs to pay attention and make sure the kids aren't getting into any trouble.

It's like herding cats.

"So what's the base, exactly?" Tanya asks.

"Old facility of mine," Oliver says. "I was going to use it as my own personal batcave, but I never really needed it. Over-engineered for such a small group, really. You'll get more use out of it."

Mia seems fairly quiet, but as Will observes he realizes that it isn't that she's quiet, it's that she's not talking to him. She seems to be avoiding conversations he's a part of, but talking just fine with the rest of her team when he's busy talking with Queen.

"Alright, everybody in the cars. We're not far now," Queen calls, and everyone scrambles for the good seats. Will ends up stuck sitting behind Damian somehow, and he watches out the window as they go, working out exactly where they're headed.

They're going up the coast, farther into the city. It's a good thing and a bad thing in equal measure, but Will suspects it'll be a lot easier to hide a pack of teenage superheroes in the city. As long as he can teach them discretion, they'll be able to blend in far easier.

The building they pull into isn't bad looking, but it's not much to look at either. It's four stories, made of cement, and could be just about anything. There's windows all around the building, and the place looks maintained, but it's purpose is impossible to tell from outside. It might be a particularly ugly office, or maybe a storage site. It's the kind of place Will might have picked as a safe house in the past, so he doesn't object as the driver pulls up, hopping out to go open the gate.

The entire building is walled in, with a mostly modern looking gate accessed via a simple code. The whole thing seems surprisingly low tech, and he watches as the gate slides open. They park the cars out of sight, and then get out.

Truth be told, Will was expecting something more.

"Cameras all over the grounds, of course," Oliver says. "Gate can be controlled from inside. The entire building is a bit like a shell. Outer area is empty and extremely high security, inner area—living space and training rooms—is a bit more relaxed. So, smaller than it looks."

The setup doesn't sound too far from what his world's Batman used a few times, with a tough outer layer that's nearly impossible to get through protecting a vulnerable center. Oliver uses a card key to get them in the front door, and twenty feet ahead there's another scanner that wants a retinal scan to get through.

"Decided against palms," he says. "I'd rather not have someone get locked out because they got a big cut." Will's pretty sure it's a joke, but all he can really do in response is raise an eyebrow. None of the kids laugh either.

"...Well, anyway," Oliver mutters, annoyed his joke didn't land. "Your attaché is already upstairs setting up. They have all your IDs and everything you should need. Flash will be stopping by later today. Just watch for him on the camera."

"You're not staying?" Tanya asks, looking at him in confusion.

"Welllll," Oliver says, dragging the word out, "since I'm not actually a member of the Justice League, I probably shouldn't stick around."

"We'll get set up then," Will says. "Hopefully you had something else to do while down here?"

"Oh absolutely," Oliver says. "I've got a meeting in thirty minutes I need to get to."

They double back to the cars to get their luggage, with Jon carrying four bags easily, letting Tanya get the door. Oliver passes them through security, giving Mia a quick goodbye, and then heads back towards the car, leaving Will alone with far, far too many kids.

The ground floor's fairly empty, and seems to mostly consist of empty space. The center of the building has a large staircase heading up, and it's there that Will stops, turning back to the group.

"Dump your luggage down here," Will says. "We need to go figure out who the other designated adult is, and then we can figure out rooms and all that."

All of a sudden he feels like there's a suspiciously large amount of stuff to do. He has to get himself and all the kids registered with security. He needs to figure out rooms. He needs to get food.

Crap, do the kids still need to go to school?

There's suddenly a lot.

"Looking for someone?" A voice calls from up above, and Will glances up to find a woman standing on the second story landing. He guesses she's in her early forties, with short black hair with a streak of pure white framing the right side of her face. Apparently black and white are her colors, because she's got a black dress with a white lab coat on. She's practically monochrome, right down to the black lipstick.

"Hopefully you," Will says. "You're from ARGUS?"

"Doctor Victoria October," she says, an amused smile on her face as she looks over the group. "I'll be your designated handler. A promotion, from what I understood, although I was not initially warned that the new superhuman team would so many minors."

Will wishes he could say the same. He signed up for the whole thing willingly.

"Why don't we get you all registered into the security system," Victoria says, "and then we can do introductions and talk shop."

Well, at least someone knows what the hell they're doing.

Chapter Text

Will likes Victoria more or less immediately, a fact which is in no small part thanks to the fact that she seems to know what the hell is going on. She helpfully informs them that she's already been there two days, and was helping one of Oliver's workers make sure the site was liveable before they brought anyone in.

"State of the art," she says helpfully. "Now let's get everyone set up."

She's in the process of getting everyone's retinas scanned when the computer she's settled in at throws up an alert. A camera feed pops up, showing two people standing by the entrance. One of them is obviously the Flash—the red suit is obvious—while the other looks like an undersized kid wearing a hoodie that's way too large for him.

"Hey!" Barry calls up to the camera. "Buzz us in?"

Victoria does, tapping a button and opening the gates.

"Mr. Wilson," she says, "since your eyes have already been entered in the system, could you please take this and go retrieve the new arrivals?" She hands him a key card, and Will gives the room a quick double look before he heads down the stairs.

The kid with Barry seems even skinnier than he thought. He's got brown hair hidden under his hood, but when he pulls the hood off, Will corrects his observation to auburn. He looks jumpy, glancing around as Barry waits, but seems to perk up a big, grinning as Will opens the door for them.

"Hey Will," he says. "Never got to thank you for the tip, did I?"

"The tip?" Will asks, raising an eyebrow.

"At the meeting," Barry clarifies. "You mentioned that in your world, another speedster had the last name West. We had another speedster show up not long after you said it, and it was a lot easier to track him down considering you'd already given me the answer."

The boy—he's younger than Damian for sure—looks up at Will expectantly.

"You're the guy from the other dimension, right?" He asks. "Do you know me?"

"If I do, I don't know you," Will says with a wave of his hand. "Better to assume I don't know anyone. Everyone's different here anyway. Different people."

The kid—Bart, apparently—seems to sag slightly. Will can't decide if he's let down or relieved that Will isn't familiar with his counterpart.

"Oh," he says.

"I need to take off," Barry says. "I'm supposed to be at work in..." He cranes around, looking for a clock, but there isn't one. "...About twenty minutes. Don't make trouble, alright Bart?"

"I'm not going to," Bart protests. "Jeez."

"Well, good," Barry says quickly. "I'll check in when I can!"

He gives a wave and is off in a literal flash.

Will closes the door behind him, reengaging the security system, and then gives Bart another once over.

He doesn't, Will realize, have any luggage.

"Did he not get you clothes?" Will asks, raising an eyebrow.

"They got ordered," Bart clarifies. "They'll get delivered here sometime today, and then I just have to stick them all in drawers or whatever."

That brings up a lot of questions Will doesn't want to ask.

"Everyone's upstairs," he says. "Second floor security room. You can't miss it."

"Sure," Bart says, and then he's gone in a blur, leaving Will to follow him up at a more normal speed.

He reaches the security room as Victoria's plugging Bart into the system, handing out key cards.

"Who else is coming?" Will calls. "Should we be waiting before we play the introduction game for the eighth time?"

"From what I understand," Victoria says, "there are just three more who should be arriving over the next week. For today, this is it."

Oh thank god. Five is enough for right then.

"Living area?"

"Third floor," she says. "Bedrooms are on the fourth."

"Alright, everyone to the living room," Will says. "Then we're doing introductions. Then we... I don't know. Bedrooms?"

He looks at Victoria.

"Bedrooms," she confirms. "This facility is a first come, first serve sort of place."

The second floor is split loosely into thirds. There's a kitchen, a dining room, and a living room, thankfully already furnished. The group gets herded into the living room, dropping onto couches and chairs as suits them. Will stands near the front, observing the group, and decides that it's not too bad a bunch.

He can manage this.

"I'm Will," he says. "Half of you already know me, but for those who don't, I'm from another dimension."

"Where you were Deathstroke," Mia says, and it's clear she's not impressed.

"Where I was the mercenary Deathstroke," he confirms. Bart goes stiff, and Will guesses it's nerves. "I've handled teams like this before. I'll be your team leader, and in charge of getting you all up to snuff so you can operate as a team. If you have questions, you ask me. You need to know something? Ask me."

He looks to Victoria, and she smiles pleasantly, clearing her throat.

"Doctor Victoria October. I will be this teams handler for ARGUS. I'm also in charge of handling contact between this team and the Justice League."

Tanya hesitantly sticks her hand up.

"Yes?"

"What kind of doctor, exactly...?"

"I am both a physician and an expert in bioweaponry. The majority of the team's powers falls within my area of expertise, thus my selection for the position."

"If someone gets stabbed," Will says, "you want to go to her, not me."

"Will doesn't do first aid," Tanya explains.

"Who wants to introduce themselves?" Victoria asks, her eyes falling on Jon as he excitedly waves his hand in the air.

"I'm Jonathan Samuel Kent," he says. "Or just Jon."

"And you are on this team because...?" She prompts.

"Oh, right," Jon says, looking embarrassed. "My dad's superman. So I've got a lot of his powers. Or like... half his powers. I can fly and I'm really durable and really strong. Oh, and I'm thirteen!"

"Probably the youngest on the team," Damian observes. When Victoria gives him a look, Damian gets the hint.

"Damian Thomas Wayne-Wilson. My fathers are Batman and the Gotham Knight. I am a combat specialist with a variety of specialties. I'm fifteen."

He looks genuinely smug about the fact that he's two whole years older than Jon.

"Mia Dearden, seventeen. No powers, I'm good with a bow. I've been working with Green Arrow and Arsenal for two years now, so they want me to have more team experience." She pauses, looking around the group. "Do you all know each other?"

"Tanya and Will lived with me," Damian says.

"But not for very long," Tanya says quickly. "I'm not—I mean, I'm Tanya Spears, also seventeen. I'm from the same world Will is from, but he's been here a lot longer. I've only been here two weeks."

"Powers?" Victoria prompts.

Tanya looks embarrassed.

"I don't have any anymore," she says. "I used to have powers that emulated a Kryptonians, and then I could also grown in size if I wanted to. I lost them when I came over."

Will already knew it, but the way she acts as she explains strikes Will as out of place. She's genuinely embarrassed, which means it's something they can work on.

"Bart?" He asks, turning his attention to the last of the group. He's been quiet, observing things as they happen, but he perks up when called on.

"I'm Bart Allen," he says, "and it's probably better you don't ask about that second part, because I don't want to have to explain it."

Will raises an eyebrow. He's not the only one.

"Either way, I'm from the future—"

"Hold on," Mia protests. "You're from the future? Am I the only one who's actually from this version of earth?"

"Jon and I both are," Damian protests. "It's not just you!"

"Kids," Will says loudly, and everyone goes quiet. "Bart was introducing himself."

"I'm from the future," Bart finishes. "I'm a speedster. You all know what that means."

"Same powers as Flash, got it," Will says. "I want to know why you're back here, though. Going back from the future is something that generally doesn't—and shouldn't—happen."

Bart frowns, going quiet for a moment.

"...Better not to talk about it," he finally says.

Will is absolutely going to ask about it, but maybe not in public. He exchanges a quick look wtih Victoria, who claps her hands together.

"Alright, why don't we all go upstairs and pick out our rooms? There are ones for everyone, but I'm afraid the two closest to the entrance are for Will and I, so they're off limits."

"So much for first dibs!" Jon says. "Race you!"

He takes off, but when Will looks, Bart is just gone, apparently taking Jon's race at face value.

"...Guess I should get going," Tanya says with a sigh.

"You want to grab side by side rooms?" Mia asks her, and the two head up the stairs. Will shoos Damian up after them, and then glances to Victoria.

"So," he says, "which do you want to take?"

"From what I've been informed, Mr. Allen has been quite cagey about his reasons for coming to our timeline," Victoria says. "I was informed he was quite distressed when he first arrived, demanding to know the date repeated, but calmed down when he learned it. When asked, he says he's unable to explain. I was hoping you might be able to... go fishing for some more information."

"I can do that," Will says. "I'll handle the speedster, you handle everyone else."

"How fair," Victoria says, but she's smiling as she does. "Just for that, I get first pick of the two rooms we've been given."

Will's pretty sure they're the same, so he lets out a laugh, following her up the stairs.

Chapter Text

No one's fighting over rooms when Will reaches the top floor, which is nice. The whole thing is arranged in a loose square, with the two bedrooms directly in front of the staircase being the two largest.

"I've already claimed the right," Victoria says. "Mr. Kent was just going to get everyone's luggage and bring it up." She nods her head to a specific door, and Will nods back, heading towards it. It's cracked open, so he knocks once and leans in to find Bart sitting on the bed.

"Hey Bart," Will says. "Got a second?"

Bart looks almost nervous as Will steps inside, clicking the door shut behind him, and Will can't put a finger on why. He simply doesn't know enough about him, which is a relatively new experience for him. He's used to having all the information and being able to work from it to figure out what he's dealing with. Right then he knows almost nothing, and he really doesn't like it.

"Sure," Bart says. "What's up?"

"While I buy you not wanting to tell the rest of the group about why you came back," Will says, "I'm going to need some actual proof."

"Some... proof?" Bart says. "You don't believe me..?"

"No offense to you, kid, but this wouldn't be the first time someone showed up claiming to be from the future who turned out to be a sham. It's easy to fake, because it's hard to verify, and people are far too willing to trust someone they think is a distant relative."

It is a complete and utter lie. Will doesn't know of a single case of someone pretending they came back from the future, although he knows of several cases of people who did come back from the future. Reverse-Flash, for one.

But that's not the point. The point is to force Bart to cough up some info.

It works.

"Well," Bart says quietly, "I mean... I guess I could tell you some, but only if you're—it needs to be a secret."

"I assume for some very important cosmic reason," Will say dryly. "If you're trying to avoid fucking up the timeline, don't come back in the first place. It never worked out like you think."

"In this case, it couldn't really get much worse," Bart says. "I told Barry I was his grandson and I'm from the far future, but that's not the truth. I'm actually his son, and I'm only from ten years in the future."

"Ten years?" Will asks. That's... not a very large amount of time. That's practically a blink. "Let me guess. It's bad?"

"Really bad," Bart confirms. "So I came back to try and stop it."

Will supposes that it isn't that different from the timeline Thomas was from: a grim, horrible future that should be averted by any method possible.

In theory.

"None of that confirms it's the truth," Will points out. He buys it, honestly, but he knows better than to let Bart know that. There's still plenty of information to be gained.

Bart clenches his hands together and leans forward slightly.

"I know you're in love with Bruce Wayne."

It takes every scrap of control Will has to keep a straight face.

That's a hell of a fucking detail.

"And how do you know that?"

"Because in the future, after things get bad, you become Deathstroke again. Everyone in the resistance knows who you are, and they're all afraid of you, because they know you won't ever stop."

Will bares his teeth. He's not going to believe that. Not for a second.

"Why the hell would I go back to being Deathstroke?" He's done. It's behind him. He's not going back.

"Because they said they'd kill Bruce if you didn't, and you love him, so you work with them. Everyone knows you don't want to. You're nicer than anyone else who fights the resistance. But that doesn't mean you cut them any slack. You'll still drag them in if you catch them. You make allowances where you can, but like..." Bart waves a hand. "Like I said, it's bad."

No. Will won't accept it. He won't... anything. He doesn't even want to think about it.

"The family—"

"Are dead," Bart says, and Will goes still. "They all died. He's the last one left, so you're desperate to keep him alive. That's why I'm here... to stop that from happening."

Will's mouth feels dry.

A future where everyone he cares about is dead. Where he and Bruce are the last people standing. A few moments ago the idea of being Deathstroke again seemed like an impossible thing, but now it suddenly feels very real.

He can't say he wouldn't if it was the difference between having one last thing he cares about or losing everything.

"Stop it how?"

"I'm working that out," Bart says with a shrug. "Stopping it before it happens."

"Before what happens?" Will demands. He's not sure he's ever wanted to know something more in his entire fucking life.

Bart inches backwards, and Will takes a deep breath, trying to calm himself.

"Sorry," he says. "Just—before what happens?"

"Sometime next year, one of the Justice League betrays the rest. A lot die. But the problem is I don't know who it is."

Will raises an eyebrow.

"You don't know who betrayed the Justice League?"

"It's not like it's in history textbooks!" Bart protests, zipping to his feet. "We don't have a single member of the League left on our side. They're all either dead, captured, or turned. So no one's around who was there for the betrayal, and no one's sure exactly who was responsible. It could be anyone!"

"Except me," Will says, dragging his hand down his face. "Which is why you were willing to tell me. Because I'm the one person you know can't be responsible. My motivations and allegiance is clear."

"Exactly," Bart says, finger gunning at him. "Which is why it has to be a secret. If the traitor finds out, they could do their thing before we're ready. I just have to figure out what's going to happen, stop it, and then it won't be an issue."

"I'm telling Bruce and Slade," Will says flatly, and Bart blurs forward, looking alarmed.

"No! What part of anyone could be the traitor did you miss?"

"They aren't the traitor. I have absolute confidence in that fact, and someone other than the two of us needs to know about this. You said Bruce was captured—"

"I said you think he's captured. He might be lying to you and really he's behind the whole thing!"

"That isn't Bruce," Will says. It's a point he's not willing to compromise on. He had enough going on dealing with a pack of teenagers, but finding out he's got somewhere between two months and fourteen months before the Justice League implodes is a step too far. "I have absolute trust in them."

"This is why I shouldn't have told you!" Bart yells, waving his arms in the air. "You're going to ruin everything!"

"At some point in the future, you're going to look back at this conversation and be happy I told them. Bruce and Slade aren't traitors. They wouldn't sell out the League. Telling them allows them to make appropriate countermeasures for any member of the League, which allows them to counteract the traitor the moment they act."

"No! We just have to figure out who it is—"

"Bart," Will says, cutting him off, and Bart scowls at him. "I get it. You're stressed. Fate of the world hanging in the balance and all that. But this is not negotiable. You have time, and we're going to figure this out. So take a deep breath, calm down, and just try and act normal. Consider this part of saving the world: figuring out how to make this team the best they can be so that if something does go wrong, we have the best possible team to counteract it."

Bart stares up at him, the second ticking by.

"...Alright," he says. "I'll trust you. Because you're my team leader, and we're supposed to trust team leaders. But if this is wrong, you're going to hear the strongest I-told-you-so in the history of the world."

"And I'll deserve it," Will says, "but it's not going to happen. Now go check in with Jon or someone."

Bart darts off, and Will scrubs at his face with his hands.

He has to call Bruce. He has to call Slade.

He is not looking forward to that fucking conversation.

Chapter Text

Will hasn't even been there for a full day and he's already ready to go home. He was prepared for a pack of teenagers who needed someone to whip them into a proper team.

He was not prepared to be required to sit on what might be one of the biggest secrets in goddamn history.

Will feigns his usual level of grumpy energy as he heads out of Bart's room, making straight for Victoria where she stands chatting with Mia, and then claps her on the shoulder.

"Handled," he says. "You don't have to worry about it. But I do need to call back to Bruce and Slade and let them know everything's set up here. Can you get the kids fed?"

"I'll order pizza," Victoria says dryly. "Buy their trust that way."

"Works for me," Will says, even though she was probably kidding.

He doesn't hang around for follow up questions, heading to his room and closing the door tight behind him. The walls are probably at least moderately soundproof, but he checks anyway, deciding that the whole thing is probably best described as good enough. His bag's sitting in the corner, and he pulls it open, retrieving the tablet he'd been given during his time in the house.

His tablet with a nice secure satellite uplink, courtesy of Wayne Enterprises.

He weighs his options before calling Bruce. He's the more likely of the two to be busy, and he'd rather know right away if he was going to need two calls. It's a video call, just so that they can see exactly how serious he looks as he says it.

Bruce pops into view as he accepts the call. He's in a comfy sweater, which means he's not at work, and Will recognizes the office around him.

Good. That makes things easier.

"Will?" Bruce asks, raising an eyebrow. "I sort of assumed you would wait until at least tomorrow to check in. Everyone settled?"

"Everyone settled," Will says. "Everyone who's here, anyway. Slade home?"

"He's just helping Jason and Joey move their things."

"Well good," Will says. "Go grab him, pull him into your bedroom, and close the door tightly. We need to have a talk."

Bruce's expression is hard to read, but certainly dark.

"...That bad?"

"That bad."

Will doesn't want to waste the time, so he props the tablet up on his bed as he goes to unpack his suitcase. There's a closet with a stack of hangers, and he works through his clothes until he hears Bruce call for him from the tablet. Only then does he turn around, returning to the bed and grabbing the tablet in one hand.

Slade's there, looking alarmed.

"Everything alright?"

"For the moment," Slade says. "Do you already have files, or...?"

"No," Bruce says. "We're having a meeting next week so we all know who everyone sent, but the only one I know is Roy's choice. Damian mentioned them when he checked in."

"Mia Dearden," Will says. "Good with a bow. Seventeen, so same age as Tanya. They seem to be getting along with each other, but she doesn't seem to like me for some reason."

"I wonder why," Slade says, cracking a smile, but Will's scowl makes him go quiet.

"My ARGUS handler is Victoria October. Seems competent, knows what she's doing, handling things around here while I handle more of the team stuff."

"We've met her," Bruce confirms. "She's worked with Steve in the past. Very good at her job."

"Well good, because I'm going to need it. What did Barry tell you about his choice?"

"Bart? He's fourteen, powers a lot like Barry's. He was Barry's grandson from the future, but he didn't talk about it much. Barry seemed distressed by the whole thing," Bruce says.

"Jason told me Barry was afraid to ask Bart about his parents. Was afraid he'd find out something he didn't want to know."

"Well he would have," Will says. "Victoria tasked me with figuring out why the hell he jumped back into the past, and I tripped over something I wish I hadn't."

Bruce and Slade look perplexed, and Will pauses to take a moment to emphasize to them how important what he's going to say is.

"This is private," Will says. "Absolutely just between the three of us. While I know you're eager to share things with your friends on the League, I cannot express enough how important it is that this stays secret."

"Just say it," Slade says with a growl. There's a tension there, and Will's happy for it. They're going to need that tension.

"Bart's here to stop the world from ending—or from falling apart, either way."

"That isn't that surprising," Bruce admits. "I can't imagine why he'd come back to the past otherwise. You risk erasing the future you came from accidentally. So what's the risk? And why didn't he just tell Barry to start with?"

"Because of why the world falls apart," Will says. "Things fall apart because someone on the League betrays the rest. A lot of people die. From what I understand there's some kind of regime or new world order or whatever, and a resistance, and that's who sent Bart back to try and stop it."

Bruce and Slade share identical looks of disbelief.

"That doesn't really sound plausible," Bruce says. "Maybe in your world that might seem like something that could happen, but we've been working with the other members of the League for years now. We have them over for holidays. None of them—"

"How well do you actually know them?" Will says. "Because you don't know all of them as well as you know someone like Clark."

"We need to tell Clark—"

"No!" Will growls. Suddenly he understands how Bart felt when he was trying desperately to get Will to keep his mouth shut. "I told you two in confidence so you could prepare for the possibility that any member of the League might be the traitor. We still have time. This isn't happening until sometime next year. I'm going to get more information from Bart, and I'll pass it on to you. But you can't tell the whole goddamn League. If you do, there's a possibility that someone could start their plan early, and then every bit of information Bart had becomes useless."

Slade taps his fingers against his forearm, obviously thinking it through.

"It's hard to believe," he says. "Not that I think you're lying, but is it possible he is? Is it possible—"

"No," Will says. "He had information he couldn't have had otherwise. He's from the future."

"Information about...?" Bruce asks, raising an eyebrow.

Will drags his hand down his face. He didn't want to say it. He didn't want to talk about it. But right then he doesn't exactly have a lot of options. He needs Bruce and Slade to understand. He needs them to start preparing.

"I asked him the same question, and he said he could trust me because he knew I wasn't the traitor."

"You aren't on the League," Slade points out.

"That doesn't mean I didn't work with them—either way, the point is that I asked him that, and he leaned forward and he told me that he knew I wasn't involved because he knew I was in love with Bruce."

"...What?" Bruce asks, stunned.

"Apparently in the future he's from, everyone dies. Everyone. Joey, Damian, Jason... everyone. Everyone except Bruce and I. Bruce gets captured, and he's kept by the bad guys—" God, he feels so stupid calling them bad guys, but that's all the information he has, filtered through the perspective of a fourteen year old.

Which begs the question of how it's possible for Bart to be Barry's son. He should already be alive, shouldn't he?

That doesn't matter right then.

"—He's being kept alive by the bad guys. I go back to being Deathstroke, and I work as an enforcer for them in exchange for Bruce's life. Everyone apparently knows I'm doing it reluctantly, but that doesn't change what happens."

Will drags his hand down his face again. He's tired. He just wants to sleep.

"I think... I think he might have been mistaken about the love part. Maybe it's just—I don't know. I don't know what I'd be feeling in ten years. But the fact that I'd go back to being Deathstroke if I'd lost everything else seems... plausible. I'm not married to this moral hero of justice thing the way you guys are. If Bruce was the last thing I had, I'd probably kill to keep him. That's just how I am."

"Will," Bruce says, his voice quiet, and Will looks away. He's not going to apologize for that. He couldn't stand that kind of loss. "We're not going to blame you for that. We're going to figure out how to stop it so that never happens. So we never lose anyone period. Alright?"

"We need to figure out countermeasures," Slade says, and WIll feels a flood of relief that they're actually taking it seriously. That's one less thing he has to worry about. One less bother.

"Let us know what you find out," Bruce adds. "The more information the better. Even if they decimated the League, how did they handle everyone else? They had to have some kind of force. How did they deal with Clark? He has an entire family—"

"I know," Will says. "I've thought about all these questions, but he's fourteen and liable to keep his mouth shut if I'm not careful. I have time. I just have to handle things carefully. I'm going to keep on with the team thing, because in the worst case scenario they'll be an asset against whoever the hell we end up fighting."

"Take care of yourself, alright?" Slade asks, raising an eyebrow. "None of this is going to be easy."

"I can handle the team," Will grumbles. "The end of the world thing is more your territory."

"Don't remind me," Bruce says, cracking a smile. "I'd prefer if it were someone else's, if we're being honest."

"Being honest is what we've got," Slade says. "We need to keep each other in the loop, especially if it's just the three of us."

"No Clark," Will says. "Even if it's tempting."

"I get it," Bruce says. "I'll figure out countermeasures. It's just a new... project. A very grim project."

"If it helps, my world's Batman had an extensive countermeasure project long before he had any reason to."

Bruce seems to perk up at that.

"...Actually," he says carefully, "that might help. They sent over a lot of files we haven't really gotten through because they didn't seem relevant. I'll see if I can find out what happened there and use it as a baseline for our own."

"Sounds fine," Will says, waving them off. "I need to go get pizza or whatever. Attempt to drag things back into some kind of order."

"Stay safe," Slade says. "We'll check in if we find anything out."

Will says his goodbyes, turns off the tablet, and falls back into bed.

It's going to be a long couple months.

Chapter Text

Everyone's in the dining room when Will returns, apparently just starting to eat from the five boxes of pizza Victoria's got for them.

"Oh good," Will says, scooping up a slice for himself, "you didn't eat it all yet."

"I got plenty," Victoria says. "We're going to need to figure out how to handle meals from now on. Take out is a possibility, but would get fairly expensive, and I feel that our benefactors might consider it a waste of money—"

"I'll cook," Will says, and Victoria raises an eyebrow, looking deeply unimpressed.

"You."

"He can cook," Damian chimes in.

"He's really good," Jon adds.

Bart and Mia look equally disbelieving, even with the votes of confidence.

"Obviously I'd need to pick up food," Will says, "but I can handle meals."

"I was thinking we could spend today getting our living situation sorted out," Victoria says. "While I'm sure you'll all eager to begin training, making sure you're comfortable with one another is important... as is making sure you're all on the same foot. I'd rather not start training and have the late arrivals feel left behind."

Will's instinct is to start training right then, but there are some good points to be made. With people arriving over the course of the week, any training they do will just need to get repeated.

"Fine," he says. "Today is moving in day. I'll take the two I don't already know to do groceries."

"What?" Mia says. "Do we not get a say?"

"Not on this," Will says. "It's important that I get to know everyone so I have a good idea of what I'm dealing with."

Mia scowls at him, and Tanya shoots her a sympathetic look.

"What about my clothes?" Bart asks. "They're supposed to get delivered sometime today."

"Groceries first," Will says. "When we get back, hopefully they're here, and we can all unpack our stuff."

He doesn't mention he's already half unpacked. Probably better to let that go unmentioned.

"Fine," Mia says. "Let me go grab my things, and we can go."

"Do we have a vehicle, or...?" Will asks, glancing to Victoria, who gives him a thin lipped smile.

"Two," she says. "They're under cover in the back. Car keys are in the security room."

The security room might as well be called the staff room, because that's what it is. It has a stack of files Will's going to have to read at some point, and he retrieves the car keys before heading down to the entrance. Bart's already waiting, while Mia isn't there yet.

"Did you tell them?" Bart asks, his voice dropping.

"They'll keep quiet," he says. "I wanted to know if the Titans existed in your timeline."

Bart shakes his head.

"It's a difference," he says. "There wasn't anything like this. Maybe they were thinking about it but didn't get around to it? Like, didn't have time."

Well, that's one good thing. They've already changed the timeline a bit. They just need to change it a lot. There can't be any sort of half measures with something like this.

The conversation drops as Mia comes down the stairs. She's pulled a jacket on, but still doesn't look happy to be going. The car's discreet enough with plenty of trunk space, and Will loads them up, already pulling up the local grocery store on his GPS.

"I could just run things back and forth," Bart points out.

"Unless you've got super strength you neglected to mention, that would be a lot of trips. We do things normally. We're trying to be low key. The longer it takes for people to notice us, the better."

It's one PM on a Tuesday when Will pulls into the parking lot, which means the place is practically empty. He pauses, looking over the two in the back seat, and then decides to make an attempt to start off on the right foot.

"Who's done groceries before?"

"Not me," Bart says.

"I have."

"Good," he says to Mia. "Because if I forget something, I need someone to point it out. Bart, no power usage in the store."

"I know," Bart says pointedly. "I'm not going to get caught. We're supposed to be secret, right?"

"Not getting caught isn't the same thing as no using your powers," Will says. "Just because you don't think you've been caught doesn't mean you weren't."

"What, am I not going to get the 'no power usage' lecture?" Mia asks, raising an eyebrow at him. She's still combative, but Will's hopping it'll ease out after some more time around him.

"Your power is using a bow. You don't have a bow. If you have an opportunity to use your great hand-eye coordination to catch something falling, feel free."

He climbs out of the car, and both follow after him.

For all the bad energy between them, Mia seems downright amused as he gets to shopping. Apparently there's something undeniably delightful about watching Deathstroke—the man who could kill everyone in the store with the slightest bit of effort—going grocery shopping.

"You actually know how to cook all that?" Mia asks as Bart dumps snack after snack into the cart, apparently assuming Will isn't looking.

"Yes," he says. "You can see for yourself tonight."

"Who even is paying for all this?"

"Mmm, good question," Will says. He's got a card from Victoria, but he's not sure who's actually putting the cash down. "ARGUS? The League? I don't ask questions like that anymore."

"Because you're rich."

"Because it doesn't matter," Will says. "Legally I don't have a dollar to my name."

"But effectively..."

Will fixes her with a look. Bart's wandered off, apparently seeing what his options are, and Will figures he might as well bring it up.

"So what's the bone you've got to pick with me?" He asks. He never was one for subtlety.

Mia looks unamused.

"It's not a bone to pick," she says. "I simply think there are better people for the role."

"Sounds like a bone to pick," he says, but lets the conversation drop when Bart returns, dumping three boxes of fruit snacks into the cart. He looks up at Will, the very picture of innocence, and then grins.

"I have high caloric needs."

"I know," Will says. "I've dealt with speedster diet before." Wallace was the same way, which gives Will a solid leg up on dealing with Bart.

They make it back to base without much trouble, and Will lets himself relax ever so slightly. He can handle this. He can manage. Bart's got a stack of boxes waiting for him when they get back, and Will unpacks the food into the cupboards before going back to his room. He's already done his clothes, but there's still a few things to set up. He unwraps the photo from Joey, setting it up on the nightstand, and then retrieves his Mickey ears, propping them up on the desk.

Beyond that, there's not much to set up. He's always packed light, and outside of the essentials he doesn't see much point.

But he likes the photo. He likes those small mementos. They feel that much more important in the face of a particularly grim future, and he has to tear himself away.

He has things he needs to do. He can't just spend his time waiting for the future to come to him.

Chapter Text

The only topic anyone really seems to care about is when the rest of the team is getting there, and to a certain extent Will agrees. A lot feels held up, waiting for the rest of the team to arrive, but Victoria seems perfectly comfortable waiting.

She's also the only one who really knows what's happening, and Will makes a note to check the files that night.

"We have no idea when Jordan—" She starts, only to get cut off by a wave of Bart's hand. "Yes?"

"Assume I don't know who that is."

"When Green Lantern will arrive," Victoria clarifies. "He could show up at any time, but we know he's on his way here at least. The Atlantean and Themysciran contingent should be arriving tomorrow or the day after. They both promised to call ahead of time."

"Manhunter?" Will asks, and Victoria shrugs.

"So what are we doing in the meanwhile?" Tanya asks. "I mean... I'm not sure how much free time we're going to have? When I was on Defiance, it was where I lived anyway, so I basically just was doing my normal stuff between missions. It's different here, obviously."

"Are we going to have school?" Jon asks. Will knows Tanya and Damian haven't been attending, but he's not sure about Mia.

"You will," Victoria says. "You'll be starting next school week."

"Tell me you are not attempting to place me in high school," Damian says insistently, his head swinging around to look at Will. "Tell her it's unnecessary."

"I've already spoken to each of your guardians," Victoria says. "Miss Spears, Mr. Wayne-Wilson, and one of the others will be going to college nearby."

"We're not all just going to high school?" Mia asks, looking at Tanya and Damian dubiously.

"Damian's effectively a public figure," Will points out. "Him coming all the way out here will be noted. Having him be all the way out here because he's going to school is the best cover available to us."

"Hopefully you've chosen an appropriate school," Damian says. He looks distinctly unimpressed by the whole thing, and Tanya isn't far off.

Victoria, on the other hand, looks like she's barely containing her amusement.

"I'm sure you'll manage."

"And I'm going to high school?" Bart asks.

"I need to do some placement tests," Victoria says, "but high school would likely be ideal from what I've seen. Miss Dearden will also be attending, assuming there's no objections?"

Mia shrugs.

"Might as well," she says. "It would be stupid to sit around here while everyone else is in class."

"How far is the school?" Will asks, gauging if he's going to have to spend every morning and afternoon driving a pack of kids around.

"Walking distance," Victoria says. "Which was luck, I should note. One of my coworkers at ARGUS handled getting everyone enrolled last minute, which was quite a nightmare for him. The fact that there's a good high school they can walk to is simply a good plus."

"Can you imagine riding a bus?" Jon asks, letting out a small giggle. "Just... all of us... on a bus to a normal school?"

Damian buries his face in his hand.

"I'd go crazy," he mutters.

"You wouldn't be the only one," Mia points out. "So we're not doing any training the first week? Are the training rooms off limits?"

"They aren't," Will says. "But before anyone does any training, we're going to lay out some ground rules."

"...Which are?" Mia asks, raising an eyebrow.

"Which are to be discussed between the two of us," Will says, nodding towards October. "So no training tonight. We'll get back to you all in the morning."

"Do we have a bedtime?" Jon asks.

"We had better not," Damian says, looking disgusted by the very idea.

"No," Will says, and Victoria frowns. "You can stay up as late as you like. But when school and training start, if you start falling behind, I will take you to task."

There's too many kids for him to play nanny to all of them, which means he's going to have to handle things his way. They're old enough to handle themselves, and the fastest way to get them in line is probably going to be to let them crash and burn by staying up till five AM for a few nights.

"Meals at seven, one, and seven. If you aren't there, you'll have to feed yourself."

"And if we want to feed ourselves?" Mia asks.

"You won't," Jon says, perfectly convinced. "He's really good."

"Then the cupboards are right there," Will says. "But stay out of my kitchen before normal meals times." He's not going to share his kitchen with a pack of kids.

"Speaking of which," Will adds, "food allergies?"

Probably better to make sure he doesn't accidentally poison any of them.

"Nope!" Jon says, as if it were even a possibility that he might be allergic to something.

"Gluten and milk," Mia says. Will doesn't even pause, just nodding along, and isn't surprised when she clears her throat, playing it off as a joke when she sees his lack of reaction. "Nothing, really."

"Cilantro tastes like soap for me," Tanya says. "If that counts."

"Don't use it anyway," Will says. "Too much of a risk for that exact reason."

He ends up leaving Victoria to deal with the kids and gets to work cooking. So close to the ocean, the fish is a lot fresher, and he takes full advantage of that. He makes a variety of sides just in case, making too much food at once just to make sure he can.

He can handle it. Eleven people sounds obscene, but it's not quite as bad as he first thought. Sizing up portions isn't as bad as having to make individual things, so as long as none of them are picky eaters, he'll be just fine.

Mia doesn't join them for dinner, a fact that everyone at the table seems keenly aware of. Will makes a show of ignoring it, watching the reactions. Bart in particular seems delighted by the food, wolfing it down so fast that it more or less just seems to vanish off his plate.

"That was—wow, that was better than anything I've ever had."

 "That wasn't even that good for him," Jon says conspiratorially. "I've seen him do all kinds of crazy stuff for big occasions."

"Don't expect too much crazy stuff," Will says. "Keeping all of you fed's practically a full time job."

Fed, trained, up to date in school...

When Will imagined how things went, he was imagining a lot more training. He was expecting to make them a team. Handling them day to day as teenagers rather than junior superheroes is a very different thing.

A thing he doesn't particularly like.

But it's too late to back out, and all he can do is try and manage things as best he can.

"I'm going to steal Mr. Wilson for a staff discussion," Victoria says. "I assume I can trust you all to stay out of trouble?"

There's a TV which Will figures should manage the worst of their boredom the first night, but he suspects they'll spend more time chatting with each other than anything else. He also figures that when he's gone, Mia will show up, and he's hoping she'll actually get something to eat.

He's left leftovers out for a reason, after all.

Chapter Text

They're safely ensconced in the security room, the door closed, before Victoria speaks up.

"Did you already read the files?" She asks, settling into an office chair and spinning around to look him over. Will prefers to stay standing, leaning against the wall as he looks her over.

"Not yet," he says. "Haven't had the time. That was my plan for the night."

"Well, allow me," she says, reaching over to retrieve what Will thinks is a stack of files. To his relief, it's not—it's a tablet that she has to authenticate through before it pulls them up.

"I am of the opinion that we should have already had this chat," she says, "because there are several very pertinent details I wish you'd known."

She gives him the very best you fucked up look, fingers tapping away at the tablet.

"Just tell me what I missed," he says. "I already know pretty much everything about Jon, Damian, and Tanya."

Hell, he's practically the definitive source of Tanya knowledge. No one's been around her more than he has.

"You said you spoke to Mr. Allen?" She asks.

"We have an understanding," he says. "Kids worried about deviating the timeline too much. It's a common enough story: came back to stop something from happening, only if he does it wrong he'll lose his chance."

Victoria gives him a blank look.

"...Is that common where you come from?"

"Common enough," he admits. "Be happy it's not a thing here."

"Oh, I most certainly am," she says with a small laugh. "Should I assume you'll be handling him?"

"Consider it handled," Slade says with a wave of his hand. "He'll still need help integrating here. When his stuff is done, he's going to be staying."

"I'll note that down," she says. "Miss Dearden is the one I'm most concerned about."

"I get the impression she doesn't like me," Will says. "Skipped dinner because I made it."

"She doesn't like you," Victoria confirms, her expression inscrutable. "But that isn't why she wasn't at dinner."

Will raises an eyebrow. He can't even begin to guess.

"So?" He says. "You might as well say it."

She doesn't. Instead, she hands over the tablet, letting Will flip through it.

The problem becomes apparent almost immediately. The start is simple enough: Mia Dearden, age seventeen, five foot six, working with Arsenal for approximately two years...

It's everything after the basics that catches Will off guard.

As far as Will can tell, Mia's history isn't far off Jason's own. Ran away from an abusive home life as a child. Lived on the streets. Only where Jason crossed paths with Bruce and got herself adopted, Mia ended up in a relationship with a scumbag who made herself whore herself out.

"She's HIV positive?" Will says, head snapping up to look at Victoria, who immediately holds up her hands.

"Mr. Wayne-Wilson helpfully informed me that you are health challenged," Victoria says dryly, "so allow me to interrupt you before you say something stupid, offensive, or both. Her being HIV positive should not have any bearing on her place on this team. Unless she's bitten by a cobra and someone attempts to suck the venom out, the possibility of transmission is near zero. Her viral loads are almost nonexistent."

Will is going to have to pull a lot of papers on this, isn't he? He's suddenly woefully unprepared.

"Just tell me what I need to know about it."

"Miss Dearden takes medication at seven in the morning and afternoon. It is absolutely vital she takes them at those exact times. Missing a pill could cause serious damage to her health."

"Anything else?"

"I would recommend enforcing proper protocols for blood. Blood is a biohazard, period. We have no idea what Kryptonian blood would do if introduced to a human system, let alone anything else. It's simply smarter to ensure blood is properly cleaned up... This would also help calm any worries miss Dearden might have over possible infection."

"Alright, easy enough. I'll add it to my training rules."

Victoria does not look impressed.

"...And, Will?"

At the very least she's calling him Will in private.

"And...?"

"You're team leader," she says. "I'm simply here to aid you and handle things you aren't capable of. But allowing Miss Dearden to feel comfortable enough to join you during meals is your job."

Crap.

"You have any tips?" Will asks, and Victoria lets out a sigh, burying her face in her hand.

"Helpless," she mutters. "I should have known this job would be significantly harder than they made it sound..."

"I'm working on it," Will says gruffly. "Just wait until someone punches through a wall, and then you'll be happy you have me around."

"Hopefully it doesn't come to that. But since you asked, I would recommend delivering food to Miss Dearden in her room tomorrow morning and asking to talk. You can express that you're aware of her condition, and that it isn't a big deal. Be supportive and open, and she may open up to you."

"Or she might not."

"Even if she doesn't appear to be affected by it, the fact that you reached out to her will still matter. Trust me, I speak from experience on this matter."

Will squints.

"...Because you're also HIV positive?"

Victoria lets out a laugh, head tipping back.

"No," she says, wiping at her eyes. "Do you always take things so literally? No, I'm not HIV positive."

Victoria does not elaborate any further on what she meant, and Will doesn't ask. Instead, they split the kids up and Will goes to check on his half. Jon and Damian are in Jon's room, chatting with each other, although they go quiet when Will knocks and leans in the open door.

"Going to go to sleep early tonight?" He asks.

"That's the plan," Jon says. "You think we'll get another member tomorrow?"

"Hopefully," Will says. "If not, I'll take whoever wants down and run through all the equipment we got with them."

"I look forward to it," Damian says.

"Alright, I'm going to check in on Tanya and then go to bed," he says. "Night kids."

Damian wrinkles his nose at being called a kid, but doesn't protest as Will leaves to go find Tanya. Her door's closed, so he knocks once.

"Come in!"

He cracks the door in, leaning inside. Tanya's in her pajamas already, sprawled out on the bed with her phone tucked just out of sight.

"...You were on the phone?" He asks, confused. It's not that she can't be, but that he has no idea who the hell she'd be calling. It's almost midnight, which means it's almost three back in Gotham.

Tanya blushes, which is not a good sign. Will folds his arms over his chest, raising an eyebrow.

"Who were you talking to?"

"That's private," she protests.

Who the hell could she be talking to? Will can't even begin to guess.

"You're going to want to just tell me," Will says. "You know how I get. And you calling someone at three in the morning is the definition of suspicious behavior."

She goes even redder, her voice dropping.

"You can't tell Jon, alright?"

He should have known. Tanya's only been around so many people, and only one—or really, one pack —of people would draw her interest.

"Which one?"

If she says all of them Will's leaving.

"Ore," she says. "He's really sweet, and he loves reading. We were talking about books, and exchanging our favorite titles when this whole thing came up, so we agreed to stay in touch."

Well, it's better than the alternatives he supposes.

"Alright," he says. "Try and be aware of time zones, though. It's late for him."

"I'll keep it in mind," she says. "I was going to call him when I wake up in the morning to check in. He promised to keep me in the loop on what's happening in Gotham."

It's hard for him to accept that in a year—or maybe a bit more than a year if they're really lucky—everything about this situation is supposed to change. He doesn't even want to think about it.

"I'm going to head to bed," he says. "Get some sleep, and we can check out the training rooms tomorrow."

"Sure," she says. "Night Will."

She leans into her pillow, and Will pauses for a moment before flicking the light off for her and closing the door.

Despite saying he was going to go to bed, Will ends up heading down to the security room with his tablet. He settles it into the cradle, and isn't surprised when Bruce's security software simply hijacks the towers, letting him mirror things from the computer to his tablet safely. The tablet's only going to work for him anyway, so he's not worried about being lost, but it provides him an alternative way of checking things without even getting out of bed.

Only when that's done and he can be sure that any security alerts go to him first does he let himself head back up to bed.

Chapter Text

Mia doesn't show up for breakfast that morning, and Will's happy he was warned. It makes things easier to smooth over, dropping a massive stack of pancakes on the table and letting the kids bicker over who gets how many. He makes a few more for Victoria—he's not going to make her fight the kids for some—and then makes a stack for Mia, dropping it onto a plate, grabbing a drink, and heading upstairs.

The door's closed when he arrives, and he knocks with his elbow, hands occupied.

The door clicks open after a moment, and Mia stares out at him.

"Brought you food," he says. "We need to talk."

It's not a can we talk. They need to talk. Having the talk is not optional.

Mia grunts and opens the door to let him in.

Will drops the food on the desk before grabbing the seat himself, folding one leg over the other as he crosses his arms. She seems to guess at what he wants to say, because she immediately closes the door, staying standing as she watches him.

"I'm not going to—"

"You are going to eat with the team," he says. "It's good for team morale. It's a bonding experience."

"I'm—"

"Let me finish," Will says, scowling at her until she stops trying to interrupt. "I'm not going to pretend like I don't know why you're doing this. It's beneath both of us to pretend like I didn't get a full medical file for every kid I'm supposed to be taking care of. You have to take pills or you'll get sick. You don't want someone asking why you're taking pills. So you're avoiding it by just eating away from everyone."

Mia looks pissed.

"Gee, I wonder why I might not want them knowing about it," Mia snaps. "It's not like half of them would leave the team if they know."

"Have some faith in your team," Will says. "They're good kids, and they're not going to—"

"Which of us has experience living with this, exactly?" Mia says. She's mad. She's also not entirely wrong.

"And which of us has experience with these kids, exactly? Damian and Tanya are smart enough to do their own research and draw their own conclusions. Jon's too much of a nice kid to judge anyone for anything."

"I'm not telling them."

"And you don't have to," Will says with a wave of his hand. "I'm not going to say you've got to fess up. I am saying you have to eat meals with the group."

"My pills—"

Will throws his hands into the air.

"They're pills, Mia. If you pop a pill every morning, you know what they're going to think? They're going to think you're on birth control. No teenage boy wants to ask a girl about her birth control."

Mia splutters.

Which... now that Will thinks about it, is another thing he's going to have to ask about.

"Peel the label off the bottle if you're worried," Will says. "But show up for meals. No one's going to care but you, and the more time you spend trying to hide it, the faster they're going to figure it out. Half of them have been living in a house with Batman."

He doesn't think for a second that it's actually going to stay secret long. He gives it maybe a week before Tanya figures it out. Damian, maybe a week longer. The only question is if they'll try and talk to Mia about it, or just go on acting like they have no idea.

Mia scowls at him.

"Eat your pancakes," he says, getting up from his seat. "Show up for lunch."

He leaves her to her food, heading out of her room and down the stairs.

Lucky, he runs into Tanya on her way up, immediately turning around to fall in beside her as she gives him a funny look.

"Good timing," he says. "Lets talk."

"Am I going to like this talk?" Tanya says warily.

Will takes a moment to think about it.

"No," he says. "You're going to hate it."

Tanya groans.

He waits until they're in the room to ask, cutting straight to the point.

"Did you still need birth control?"

Tanya looks seconds away from bursting into flames.

"W— What?"

"When I recruited you for Defiance, you were picking up birth control. In theory, this would be for cramps or some other hormonal need, because you were very outspoken—"

"We are not having this conversation!"

"We are," Will says. "You've been here just over two weeks, meaning you probably haven't replaced your prescription. I'll—" 

Tanya buries her face in her hands, takes a deep breath, and then points to the door.

"Out."

"Tanya—"

"I will talk to Miss October about this. I will not talk to you about this. Out!"

She gets up, planting her hands on Will's back and starting to scoot him out.

"You need—"

"Not talking about it, Will," she says.

He could fight her. There's realistically no chance in hell she could actually force him from the room. Only Will can't quite understand what's happening, so he simply lets her push him out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

When he turns away, he finds Bart staring at him, looking confused.

"...She's mad?" Bart says, confused.

"She's mad," Will confirms. "With me." He doesn't think it needs clarification, but he supposes there's no harm in making sure he knows.

"Oh," Bart says, squinting at the door. "...Why?"

"That's for me to know and you to never find out," Will says. He's not going to gossip with the team about other people on the team. They need some kind of privacy.

"Welllllll..." Bart says. "Victoria made me clean up, so we're all done and I was just going to my room."

Will decides he might as well go three for three.

"Good," Will says. "We can talk there."

Bart looks like a deer in the headlights.

"Talk? About what?"

Will plants his hand on Bart's back, steering him towards his room. He seems extremely nervous as Will closes the door behind him, folding his arms across his chest.

"Do I need to go find a toddler? Because I am not playing babysitter."

Teenagers are bad enough. A four year old is right out.

"...What?" Bart asks, looking more confused by the second. "A toddler?"

"You're fourteen and from ten years in the future. Meaning somewhere out there is a four year old—"

"Oh no," Bart says. "I'm not fourteen."

Will pauses, looking him over.

"...Do I want to know?"

"I'm a clone," Bart says, before quickly correcting himself. "Well, not a clone, but like... bioengineered? So I'm fifty percent Barry and basically his son, but I won't even exist for another nine year or something like that."

That creates as many problems as it solves.

"You're going to want to clarify," Will says. "You're... made?"

"All the other speedsters died," he explains. "But they needed one to put the plan into action. So they made me, just so that I could go back in time and prevent it from happening."

That is... Will drags his hand down his face. How is it possible for Bart to be so nonchalant about the whole thing?

He supposes it's possible because that's all he's ever known.

"Alright," he says. That means he doesn't need to worry about present-Bart, just future-Bart, right? "Who's your mom?"

Bart gets that deer in the headlights look again, just for a moment, and then he shrugs.

"I don't know," he admits. "They didn't tell me."

"They didn't think it'd be important? This is a disaster." Will lets out a groan, and then tells himself, very firmly, that it doesn't matter. Who Bart's mother is doesn't change things. It has no effect on things.

"I mean, I think things are going pretty well," Bart says. "We have a team. Half a team. Most of a team."

"Half a team," Will confirms. They've got four, and they're getting four more.

But Bart's right. Things are going pretty well, assuming he ignores the fact that he's facing the end of the world.

Small details and all that.

"I'm going to just... focus on the team thing," Will says. "Keep doing the... whatever it is you do."

"Being fast," Bart says with a grin. "It's what I'm good at."

"Yeah, that," Will says with a wave of his hand.

"Yes sir," Bart says with a mock salute, and Will lets out a sigh, heading out of the room.

Chapter Text

Will gets the message just before he's about to start cooking lunch. He checks his phone, skimming over the message, and then does his due diligence.

He's got a time and an address, and when he checks it, the address comes up to a small shipping port on the coast.

Which means Atlanteans.

Unsurprisingly, everyone wants to come along.

"No," Will says. "I'm not carting all of you over there, and I don't want half the team meeting them. I'm going alone, I'll pick them up, and you can all meet them when I come back."

Victoria seems amused.

"I'll give them a more in-depth tour of the facility," she says. "Try not to be gone too long."

"No promises," Will says as he leaves.

The trip to the port is a quick drive. Even with traffic, it doesn't even take him twenty minutes to get there. It's a commercial port, obviously not intended for people to come and go, and everything seems to be business as usual, which tells Will he's probably a bit early.

He gets out anyway, heading for the customs office. Technically the Atlanteans could come up anywhere, but he supposes for the sake of diplomacy they've chosen to come up at a place that has some ability to handle customs.

The man behind the counter looks to be pushing sixty, with a beard that looks like it hasn't seen a comb in ages. He squints as Will lets himself into the office, staring out at the largely empty port.

"...What?" He says. "If you're looking for whale watching, you're in the wrong place."

"This is the right place," Will confirms, grabbing a seat in one of the shitty plastic chairs and pulling out his phone. "You do customs, right?"

"We do customs for sailors who came in on boats. We don't do... walk ins. This isn't a passport off..."

The man trails off, his eyes sliding down to where Will's sure there's a security monitor looking out over the port.

"What the hell."

Maybe thirty seconds later, Arthur Curry opens the office door. He's damp, but is somehow not soaking wet despite having just climbed out of the ocean, and he's got what looks like a waterproof suitcase tucked under his arm.

"Oh good," he says cheerfully. "This is the right place?"

The poor customs officer splutters a bit.

Arthur steps inside, and the person behind him steps inside as Will gets to his feet. The guy's older than he was expecting, definitely seventeen or eighteen. He's got a bleached blond buzzcut, dark skin, and an outfit that looks blatantly Atlantean.

"...You're Deathstroke?" He asks, looking Will over.

"And you're... what, Aqualad?" He never kept up much with the Aqua side of things. Too much competition considering how few jobs there were, and why bother trying to compete with a man like Manta who was practically willing to do shit for free so long as it was going to fuck over Arthur?

But on second glance, Will realizes he's wrong.

He does know the guy.

Or at least his equivalent back in his own world.

"You were a Titan," Will says, and the guy—Will has no idea what his name was, even back there—looks baffled.

"I... yeah? I'm coming to... become one? That's what this is about?"

"Back in my world," Will says with a wave of his hand. "Doesn't really help us. Just pointing out I recognized you."

"Uh huh," he says, looking over Will a moment longer.

"Alright," Arthur announces, joining them. "Just had to register that we came ashore here. Lets go talk outside."

The custom's agent is still scratching his head as they leave, with Arthur looking him over.

"You've changed your look," Arthur says. "It looks better on you."

Not exactly the small talk he expected.

"I'm telling him," the other guy says. "I'm not keeping it a secret."

"At least wait until we get to the car," Arthur says.

"Are you coming?" Will asks. He wasn't expecting to take anyone else with them, but he supposes that every member of the League has as much right to be there as any other member.

But it's hard to be entirely up front with Arthur. Of the whole League, he's the one Will considers most likely to be an out-and-out traitor. He has half decent reasons. He's fought the League before. He seems friendly enough, but Will hasn't forgotten how wary he was when he first met Will, even if it was for a damn good reason.

"Just for a bit," Arthur confirms. "I wanted to see your headquarters before I leave Jackson there."

"Jackson Hyde," he confirms. "Arthur didn't want me to tell you, but I wanted to be up front. I don't want it coming up and... catching you off guard."

Oh boy.

Well, at the very least it's not possible for whatever Jackson is going to tell him to be half as bad as what he learned from Bart.

"My dad is Black Manta," Jackson says the moment they're in the car. "Assuming I stay on this team, it's almost inevitable he'll come after us and you'll end up having to deal with him."

Oh. Well, that's surprising. Who knew Manta had a kid?

"I can handle him," Will says. "I'm assuming he's pretty much the same guy as the one I know: alarmingly obsessed with Aquaman, wears a ridiculous laser helmet?"

Arthur cracks up. Jackson looks confused.

"Uh... yeah. That sounds like him."

"I've dealt with him before," Will confirms. "I've killed him once, and if he's going to be a problem I can deal with him again."

Jackson splutters, and Arthur shoots him a dirty look. Will just rolls his eyes.

"I've been living with Bruce Wayne for months," Will points out. "I'm not going to kill anyone."

"I'd hope not," Arthur says. "If Manta makes trouble, simply inform the League and I'll handle him."

"I can handle him just fine," Will says. "He's a guy with lasers on his head. I've fought Superman and won."

Well, tied, but they don't need to know about that.

"Non-lethally," Arthur says, and Will ignores him in favor of staring the drive back to the base.

There's a pack of kids waiting on the ground floor by the time he parks the car, a fact that Will blames squarely on Bart, the only person fast enough to alert them all in time. Even Mia's there, which he marks down as a success, and Will grunts as he grabs Jackson's suitcase before Arthur can.

Arthur looks amused by the pack of kids waiting for him.

"This is Arthur," Will says, jerking his thumb towards him. "And this is your new teammate Jackson."

"Hey," Jackson says, giving a quick wave. "Uh... introductions?"

Will makes everyone go inside before they do introductions. They've done them enough that they feel almost secondary, everyone rattling off their names and powers like it's nothing.

"What can you do?" Bart asks, looking Jackson up and down.

"Uh," Jackson says, glancing to Arthur. Arthur nods, and the markings on Jackson's arms light up, glowing a brilliant white-blue. Water streams out of his backpack, and Jackson gestures with his hand, watching it swirl through the air.

"That, mostly," he says. "Water control. Other Atlantean stuff."

"Neat," Jon says. 

"Why don't I give everyone a tour," Victoria says. "Then—"

Wills phone beeps, and he double takes when he sees it.

"I have something I need to do. Just hang tight, alright?"

"...If you insist," Victoria says, squinting at Will as he jogs up the stairs, away from the group.

Chapter Text

It takes Will longer than he'd like to locate the roof access, tapping the palm scanner to shove the door open. Hal's standing inside, phone at his ear, and he looks up, seemingly startled to see the door opening.

"It's fine Steve," he says quickly. "They spotted us. Thanks—yeah, I'll let you know."

He tucks the phone away, giving Will a quick once over.

Hal isn't alone. There's a girl with him whose age he's having a hard time guessing. She still looks young, maybe fourteen, but she's so damned tall he's having a hard time figuring out if he's wrong or not. She has to be at least 5'8", if not taller: the second tallest of the team.

What makes her really hard to figure out is that she's so obviously not human. With pitch black hair and pink-red skin, there's no question about whether or not she's a human.

Will's first impression is that she looks a whole hell of a lot like Sinestro.

"Will? It's Will, right?" Hal says as he heads right on inside, the girl trailing after him sullenly. "Sorry for not calling ahead, you know how it is."

Will does, so he lets it pass.

"This is the girl you're sponsoring for the team?" Will asks, looking her over. She's got a Green Lantern ring on her finger, which makes that much pretty obvious.

"That's the plan," Hal says. "Why don't we drop her with the team and then the two of us can talk shop."

The girl seems unhappy to be there as they head down the stairs, not quite sulking but pretty damn close. They make it to the third floor before someone spots them, with Jon leaning out into the staircase when he sees movement, his mouth dropping open.

"Another alien!"

The girl wrinkles her nose.

"Everyone's an alien to everyone else," Hal says, eyes flicking over to Will. "Is it just you, or...?"

"I've got help," Will says. He's proven right not long after when Victoria rounds the corner, stopping short when she sees Hal—still in costume—and his accompaniment—very much not in costume.

"I didn't know anyone else was here," she says, giving Will a dirty look.

"They just arrived," he points out. "Can you introduce..."

"Soranik," Hal fills in. "Soranik Natu."

"Soranik to the group," Will finishes. "Hal wants to talk before he goes."

 "Sure," Victoria says, with a look at Will that guarantees he's going to be in trouble later. She gestures for Soranik to follow, who glances to Hal and gets a little 'go on' gesture before she finally goes.

Jon, of course, immediately starts to chat her ear off.

Hal keeps his mouth good and shut until they're safely enclosed in the security room, and only then does he speak.

"I've got to get back on patrol soon," he says. "What have Bruce and Slade told you about the current state of the Lanterns?"

"They haven't," Will says flatly. Neither has kept him in the loop about League business, and he can't imagine why Hal thinks they would have.

"Alright, quick and easy summary then... you know about the Sinestro stuff at least?"

Hal looks almost desperate, and it's clear to Will that he doesn't want to have to explain that.

"I know enough," Will confirms. "My world's lanterns warned you he's evil?"

"He's not—you know what, never mind. That's beside the point. What matters is that he was oppressing Korugar for years, and we had no idea. He was the only Lantern in his sector, so they had no one they could turn to. The Guardians realize this was a flaw in their original design, and knowing what's coming in the future on a cosmic scale they made a choice to send out more rings, so there'd be three per sector."

"Let me guess, three earthbound lanterns?"

Hal nods.

"I'd already been speaking with them, so that wasn't really an issue," he confirms. "The issue was 1417. The first Lantern chosen—the one who ended up with Sinestro's ring—is a woman called Katma Tui who'd been leading the resistance against Sinestro. Even so, when she got the ring, the people turned against her. To them, being a Lantern is the worst thing you can be. They call her the lost and refuse to speak her name. So when the Guardians made a decision to send out two more rings..."

Will already knows where it's going.

"You stayed by Korugar to make sure that if another ring went there, you'd be nearby. Surprise, one did go to Korugar, and you flew down to find her being... what, mobbed?"

"No," Hal says. "Thankfully not that bad. But her parents begged me to take her with me. There's no future for her on Korugar."

"Which is why you're dumping her here."

"I'm not—" Hal's protest dies on his lips, and he looks away, unwilling to make eye contact. "There's not a place in my life for a kid," he says, his voice that much softer. "She'd be in danger staying with me, and she's too young... someone of her age in the Corps... It's—she needs to be here. She needs to have people her own age."

"I'm not going to give you shit for it," Will says, which earns him a dirty look from Hal. "I just want you to be aware of why the hell you're doing it. Don't lie to yourself. Don't pretend like this is exclusively for her benefit."

Hal really isn't looking at him now.

"Not sure who the hell gave you a PhD in kids," Hal mutters.

"Failing so spectacularly I had to hop dimensions to keep a relationship with just one of my kids did."

Hal winces at that, reaching up to scratch the back of his neck.

"Fair," he admits. "Everyone already here, then, or...?"

"We're missing J'onn and Diana," Will says, refusing to let . "Or their contributions to the team, anyway. I'm going to go talk to everyone, and you need to sit her down and explain why she's here. Have you?"

Will is not having that talk. He's not sitting down a space alien to explain why they have to stay on earth. That is not his job.

"She knows the basics," Hal says.

"Basics aren't enough," Will says. "If you leave kids to their own devices, they'll draw the wrong conclusions. They'll think they aren't good enough, or that you hate them. You have to lay it out for them."

Hal groans.

"You're the last person I expected to get this lecture from," he mutters. "But fine. You've got some good points. I'll talk to her before I go. Maybe spend a bit longer here, let her... help her get settled in."

"Maybe buy her some clothes," Will points out, "since you don't seem to have a bag for her."

"So... mind if I stay for dinner?"

"I was just about to do lunch."

"Lunch, then," Hal says. "You would not believe how out of whack your internal clock gets after a few weeks in space."

Chapter Text

Finding out Soranik's age feels like a genuine relief, because midway through lunch Will realizes he has no idea. Half of him keeps saying around Tanya's age, and the other half keeps saying somewhere around Jon's age.

She turns out to be fourteen, meaning the latter was more correct.

"Or effectively fourteen," she clarifies.

"Why can we understand you?" Jon asks, perplexed by more or less everything about the situation. Soranik holds up the ring, gesturing to it before going back to eating.

"Ring does it," Hal explains. "Universal translation."

"That work on non-audible languages?" Will asks, raising an eyebrow.

"Should," Hal says. "Ring's willpower based. As long as you recognize it as a language, it should get translated."

"What's your planet called?" Jon asks. While he's the most obviously inquisitive of the lot, Damian and Tanya seem to be leaning forward slightly in their seats for more information.

"Korugar," Soranik says, not even stoping eating.

"I'm from Krypton," Jon says. "Well, I mean, I guess I'm not from Krypton, but my dad is."

Soranik holds out her hand, a display projecting into the air above her ring. It is, as far as Will can tell, a map of the universe, and she the view changes until it settles on...

Well, it sure as hell looks like a map of part of the solar system.

"Krypton was 2813," Hal explains. "Tomar-Re's territory."

"Shouldn't the Lanterns have intervened...?" Tanya asks.

"The Lanterns intervene where they think it matters," Soranik says, and Will knows he's going to have his job cut out for him. He is not the Lantern Corps one man defense squad, and he's not going to be.

"They did try and intervene," Hal clarifies. "But space was a big place, and Tomar-Re couldn't reach it in time."

"Can't handle everything, I guess," Jackson says.

Soranik ends up going with Hal to buy clothes and other supplies, a fact which strikes Will as deeply concerning.

"Hal," he says, "has it occurred to you that she doesn't pass as human at all?"

"I decided I don't care," Hal says. "The fact is that people will just have to get used to seeing her. It's a whole new era."

Well, that's something Will's going to have to think about too. He'd been assuming—stupidly, he had to admit—that everyone on the team was going to at least pass for human. Really, he's lucky Jackson doesn't have gills.

Or maybe he does, and they just sit so flush Will can't see them.

He ends up talking with Victoria, who makes it very clear that Will needs to keep her in the loop, and then gets looped in himself: They're only getting eight members.

"No ninth? Who's missing?"

"J'onn J'onzz has chosen not to add anyone to the team. Diana said she'd be arriving as soon as she's able, but was nice enough to warn me about some... difficulties with hers."

Oh no.

"What should I brace myself for?" Will asks. If it's bad enough Diana wanted them to know ahead of time...

"Siracca is a demigod," Victoria clarifies. "Assuming you believe in such things—"

"How can you not believe in gods?" Will asks. "Themyscira exists."

"I believe that things we believe are gods exist," Victoria says, "but I've never seen any of them be all powerful or anything like that. I believed if they were gods as humans perceive them, they would be beyond our reach, and these aren't. As I was saying, Siraaca is a demigod, making her Diana's cousin. She leans into her father's weather domain, with her powers connected primarily to wind."

"There's a but coming."

"The but is that she was killed more than sixty years ago."

Will drags his hand down his face.

"The good news?"

"Diana was able to calm her and restore her to life."

Of all the sentences Will expected to hear about a member of his team, that was not one of them.

"Just tell me what we're dealing with."

"Siracca is approximately twelve, and her only experience with people is having spent the last year on Themyscira. She's not quite as... emotionally mature as the rest of the team, but she does have some combat training."

It's like his worst nightmare given form.

He can teach kids to be a team. He can teach them to use their powers.

But teaching them to function like a normal person?

"Yeah, you might have to be in charge of this one," Will groans.

"I'm here to provide assistance," Victoria says. "Not play mother to a child."

"At least you have maternal instincts," Will says. "My paternal instinct was broken out of the box."

"I'm afraid maternal instincts didn't come in my starter set," Victoria says, looking deeply amused by the whole thing. "You'll simply have to figure it out on your own."

"What?"

Victoria, of course, doesn't give him any sort of response, changing the subject without clarifying at all.

"Everyone is going to have their own challenges," she says. "And it's up to you to help them come together as a team. One major advantage of having such a large group is that, if you can bring them together, they'll support each other individually. We've already started to see it: Jon and Damian were friends beforehand, but Mia and Tanya are already getting along."

It comes as a relief, and Will lets himself relax ever so slightly.

"So Diana shows up sometime soon," Will says. "Tomorrow, maybe. Later today. Something like that. We let the team get friendly with each other. Maybe start training over the weekend. School starts monday."

He pauses, then squeezes his eyes shut.

"Are we still sending Soranik and Siracca to class?" Soranik is... pink. Siracca... who even knows.

"I'll speak to the school," Victoria says. "Or more accurately, I'll speak to someone who will speak to the school for us. Considering how things are set up, I'm confident that they'll find a way to accommodate both of them."

"She's an alien, Victoria," Will says with a sigh.

"Realistically, it's only a matter of time before the public learns of the existence of the team," Victoria says. "We might as well embrace it, because there are simply no other choices. The only people who have any chance of maintaining a secret identity of any sort are Mr. Allen, Miss Spears, and Miss Dearden. Of those, only one even needs to. Mr. Wayne-Wilson and Mr. Kent are both already public, Miss Spears, Mr. Allen, Miss Natu, and Miss..."

Victoria seems momentarily paused.

"Prince?" Will suggests.

"Siracca doesn't have a family name. Themyscira doesn't use them, obviously. So she's Siracca of Themyscira."

"Just Siracca then. You can just call them by their first names... we don't need to be that formal."

"I was attempting to maintain some formality."

"You might as well give up," Will says with a wave of his hand. "Just go by first names."

Victoria sighs.

"Damian and Jon are public, Tanya, Bart, Soranik, and Siracca have no need for privacy. Mr. H— Jackson will have difficulties hiding his tattoos and will have to come to terms with whether or not he wants to be public. Mia's the only one who can reasonably manage a secret identity, but that's a choice she'll have to make."

"Well, she's got some time," Will says. "Jackson too."

He just hopes they make the right choice for them.

Chapter Text

The evening meal is chaotic, but there are several positive signs anyway. Mia joins them for the meal, downing a pill in full view of everyone else. The vibe she gives off is the most clear don't fuck with me vibe Will's ever seen, and no one asks.

He makes a point of warning them about their new member.

"Last member of the team is pretty young," he says. "She's supposed to be strong, but she'll need help adjusting to how things are here."

"Because we're expects on that," Soranik says with a pointed look at Jackson.

"Hey, I was born in New Mexico," he counters. "The Atlantis thing is recent."

"What's your story, anyway?" Tanya asks.

"I could ask the same of you," Jackson says.

"It's a good idea," Will says. "Swapping stories will help you all get a feel for one another. Knowing your teammates is important."

"I'll go first!" Jon says excitedly, and Hal raises an eyebrow where he's sitting with Victoria and Will, working his way through dinner. "My name is Jon Kent, and I'm Superboy Indigo—"

"Indigo?" Mia asks. "What?"

"He's got five brothers," Damian explains. "They all want to be Superboy too, so Jon took Indigo."

"Who's Superboy Violet?" Bart asks with a grin.

"No one yet," Jon says, taking the question completely seriously. "I suppose it might still happen, though..." He ponders it a moment longer before Damian elbows him and he gets back on task. "My dad is Superman and my mom is Lois Lane, and we lived in Metropolis when I was a kid. We moved to Gotham after the thing with the owls, and I've been living there ever since. Damian's my best friend, and I've got five little brothers, and also my dad's cousin from another dimension is living with us now too. I'm here because I want to be a hero, like my dad."

"That was a lot," Mia says under her breath.

Will can't wait to see her response to Damian.

"Why don't you go next, Mia?" Victoria asks. Mia scowls, obviously hoping to go last (or nearly last), but she goes anyway.

"Mia Dearden," she says. "I'm no one important, and I'm not related to anyone special. Green Arrow's mentored me for a bit, and I use the name Speedy. I'm good with a bow. I... guess I'm here because I want to be a hero, and Ro—Arsenal says that I should try the team thing."

She looks to Jackson, who shrugs and answers.

"Uh... I'm Jackson Hyde. Like I said, I was born over in New Mexico, but I've spent the last while in Atlantis, training, because my mom was actually an Atlantean. I've got water powers, and Arthur said I should be Aqualad. My dad—" Jackson hesitates, and Will wonders if he's going to actually say it. "—My dad's a criminal named Black Manta. Don't be surprised if he shows up to fight the team, he's that kind of guy."

"What made you join the team?" Will prompts. He wasn't going to ask originally, but now that two of them have answered, everyone might as well.

"Well, I thought I should use my powers to help people. I went down to San Diego to try and do the solo hero thing, and then got caught up in some stuff with my dad. Teams... seem like a smarter idea for me."

He looks to Soranik, who shrugs.

"Soranik Natu. I'm from Korugar, but none of that means much to any of you. My people hate the Lanterns, so when the ring chose me, it meant I had to leave. So now I'm... staying here, I guess."

"Are you going to just be Green Lantern?" Damian asks.

"I suppose I might as well be," she says. "It's not as if there's another option."

Out of the corner of his eye, Will sees Hal wince.

"Damian?"

"My name is Damian Thomas Wayne-Wilson. My father is—"

"Is Batman," Jackson cuts in. "You don't have to say everyone's whole names, you know."

Damian huffs.

"My father is Batman. My stepfather is the Gotham Knight. I have a large family, many of which can be expected to come visit. I went by Shrike when I was active in Gotham, and I'll be taking that name up again. I have no powers, but am highly trained by multiple heroes and villains, giving me a multidisciplinary skill set. I desired to remain in the hero community, but made the choice to retire to support my family."

Most people seem almost stunned by Damian's intensity. Will's used to it, on the other hand.

"Tanya?"

"Tanya Spears," she says. "I was actually on the Teen Titans back in my own world, before I hopped dimensions. That was—I mean, the dimension hopping wasn't intentional. I tried to help someone and got stuck, and then Will pulled me out on this side. Back at home I was Power Girl, but I also had... I mean, I had powers back there. So now I'm not sure Power Girl really makes sense as a name."

Will is careful with the phrasing of his question.

"Why'd you join the Teen Titans in the first place?"

"Well, I'd just gotten my powers. I felt like, since I'd gotten such a gift, I should be using it to help other people."

"Bart?"

Bart startles, apparently lost in thought, and Will wonders how much he actually caught. He's also very curious to know what he's going to say. What's he going to tell the team, when so much of what he told Will was secret?

"I'm Bart Allen," he says. "My grandpa is the current—wait, am I allowed to say that?" He asks, head zipping around to look at Will.

"I think anyone with two brain cells can figure out who you're related to, Bart," Will says.

"That's fair," he says. "So yeah, my grandpa is the current Flash, but I came back from the future to join the team, and I have what you'd expect from someone who's got the Flash's powers."

"Why'd you come back?" Jackson asks.

"I wanted to make my mark!" Bart says. "I mean, there's no Teen Titans in my era, and things are way safer, so I came back to help make things better. It's pretty exciting being here, really."

The lie is buttery smooth, and no one seems to catch on.

"Perhaps we should introduce ourselves," Victoria says. "My name is Victoria October. I'm here representing ARGUS. I'm not a superhero, and have never been one, but I'm an expert in post-human bioweaponry."

"Which is...?" Jackson asks.

"Something like your own tattoos," Victoria says. "Most biologic-based powers would qualify. I wrote my thesis on Gotham's Poison Ivy."

"That's pretty exciting," Tanya says. "Could we talk to you about that later...?"

"Of course," Victoria says. "I'll be staying at base and making myself available as needed."

She glances to Will, and Will knows that means he's up.

"William Wilson," he says, hesitating a moment as he debates whether or not to just make the Slade connection. But almost immediately he decides against it. He's not Slade anymore. That was who he was, not who he is. "I'm from the same dimension Tanya is, where I operated as the mercenary Deathstroke. I previously operated the team Defiance, which was the Teen Titans in everything but name. My intention is to whip you all into a functional team who can have each others backs. If you need anything, yell. Otherwise, I'll be around."

"He also cooks," Damian chimes in.

"He's a pretty good cook, actually," Hal adds. "You kids are lucky to get to eat his stuff regularly."

"Mmm," Will says. "You're doing a good job buttering me up. Aiming to come back?"

"I mean, if I'm in the vicinity anyway," Hal says with a devilish grin, "I might as well stop by and check in, right?"

"Any member of the League is welcome to drop by," Victoria says. "We'll be happy to have some more mentors showing up to provide their own special brand of guidance."

Hal doesn't end up staying that night, even if he promises to come back at some point soon. He has a quiet, private conversation with Soranik before she goes, and Will keeps everyone else distracted by laying out the rules for using the training room, walking them through all the equipment works.

When they go to bed that night, Will realizes that he can't just call the manor. Not so late. Not unless he wants to keep waking everyone up.

Instead, he decides to make a point of calling in the morning, the idea of not calling every day never crossing his mind.

Chapter Text

Diana doesn't show up the next day, or even the day after that. Really, things seem surprisingly calm despite everything Will's learned, and for the most part he simply observes, watching the dynamics that develop.

Damian and Jon stick together like peas in a pod, but both seem to get along well with Soranik. Jackson, Tanya, and Mia form another little trio, and as the days advance Will suspects that both Mia and Tanya are attracted to the taller boy. He seems aware of it, but also seems to be avoiding anything that might be construed as flirting back.

Sometime in the middle of their third day in the base, someone produces a game console to plug into the TV, which shifts the dynamic. Mia, Jackson, and Jon love it. Soranik, Damian, and Tanya have no interest.

Bart, however, seems on the periphery. He never really falls in with any major conversations, always keeping himself separate. He gets along with everyone just fine, but as Victoria speculates at an impromptu staff meeting on Thursday evening, it's obvious Bart's holding himself back.

Will doesn't quite think it was obvious, but he's more than willing to take her word for it.

It's Saturday morning when Victoria announces over breakfast that Diana's on her way.

"She's visiting personally and bringing the last member of your team with her."

Will's happy to have a reason to be around other members of the League. It's a good excuse for him to get a feel for them. To try and gauge if they're going to betray everyone they're supposed to care about.

Will's always considered himself a realist, but it's hard to imagine what Bart described coming true.

Maybe he just doesn't want it to be true. Maybe he just doesn't want to think about the implications. About being alone. About Bruce being the only thing he has left.

Sometimes he wishes Bart had never told him.

For all his concerns, Diana seems perfectly normal (if a little bit exasperated) when she arrives at the base. The girl with her is absolutely tiny, looking distinctly undersized even for the twelve years she's supposed to have lived. She's also almost excruciatingly shy, hiding behind Diana as Will and Victoria head down to meet them by the cars.

"Diana," Will calls. "Good to see you found your way here."

"Arthur said I was the last?" She says, and Will makes a note they're keeping up with one another. "I'm sorry for taking so long. We had to get some things in order. I've already gone ahead and made sure she'll have everything she needs—"

Will goes ahead and retrieves the suitcase from the back of Diana's car, letting Victoria and Diana makes small talk as he does.

"Honest question because I have no idea," Will says. "Does she even know English? Or does she just speak..." What the hell do Themysciran's speak? Ancient Greek?

"She's spent the last year learning," Diana says. "But she's more comfortable in Arabic."

 Well, that's something.

"I'm afraid I'm not," Victoria says.

"I am," Will says. "Soranik is because she's got her ring, and Damian is because... he's an Al Ghul."

He's never actually asked, but he's one hundred percent confident in that fact.

"I doubt anyone else is," he adds after a moment.

"Siracca," Diana says quietly, resting her hand on the girl's back and trying to steer her out front. "These are the people I told you about. They'll be helping you adjust to living here."

Will really can't get past how small she is. Will wants to describe her as mousy, only he suspects it's more along the lines of malnourished, or at least recovering from being malnourished. While her natural skin tone is dark, she seems ashy, like she's been away from the sun for a long time.

Will doesn't think he'd have come to the conclusion this girl used to be dead, but knowing it already makes those traits stand out as Siracca stares up at the two of them.

"Hey," Will says. He can handle teenagers, and Siracca is... not that. She's definitely a kid in a way that even Jon isn't, and he's already having second thoughts.

"Siracca should be an excellent addition to your team," Diana says. "But may need some additional help in adjusting to schooling."

Because she was dead.

Will's still not really past that part.

"Alright," Will says. "We'll see how she does."

For all Victoria's discussion of not playing mother to the kids, she does a damned good job, bending down to be a bit closer to eye level with Siracca.

"Do you want to go meet the rest of your team? They're very excited to meet you."

Siracca hesitates, and then nods once. Victoria offers her hand, and Siracca takes it, staring at Will warily.

"...Unfortunate side effect of spending the last year on Themyscira," Diana says quietly.

"She doesn't like men?"

"She's simply not used to them. She's not used to a lot of things."

"I got that impression." Will says. "How the hell did... any of this happen, exactly?"

"Her father is Zeus," Diana clarifies. "Hera was... angry. It's a very long story, but what matters is that Siracca was unfortunately killed and spent the last few decades as a... a very angry shade."

Christ. His new team member was a ghost?

"I was able to return her life to her," Diana says. "She is, for the record, fully alive. Or as close as one gets as a demigod."

She glances down at her own hand, and Will suspects she's been thinking about that a lot. Is that what the betrayal is about? About the fact that this Diana's apparently just come to realize she's not even fully amazon?

"Uh huh," Will says. "I'm not going to mince words here. It feels like you're using us as a daycare. She's... much younger and less mature than the rest of the team."

"She will more than capable of handling herself in combat," Diana says. "She's had training none of the others ever will. She simply needs some assistance with... school."

"Uh huh," Will says. "Which isn't exactly my area of expertise, I'm not sure if you've noticed."

"Bruce and Slade seem confident that you'll do just fine," Diana says. "Why don't you show me where she'll be staying, and then I can say my goodbyes?"

When they rejoin the group, they realize that there isn't a single group anymore. Everyone's scattered, with Damian, Soranik, and Siracca sitting in the living room, chatting away in Arabic. Damian seems happy to have a chance to use his native tongue, and Soranik doesn't seem to care much at all.

"Siracca," Diana calls, and the little girl perks up, jumping to her feet and darting to where Diana stands. "I must be going. But Victoria and Will are people you can trust. If you need to speak to me, simply ask them and they'll make sure you're able to, alright?"

Siracca is obviously unhappy Diana's going, but Damian calls her back. He's doing a good job at playing big brother, and Will can't figure out why. Did he just learn from watching Jon?

"I'm going to get everyone else," Will says. "We need to talk about school and make sure that's all in order for Monday." He'd assumed they'd have the whole weekend, but now... they really have a day for training, and then it's back to school.

Bart makes rounding everyone up easy, since Will only has to ask and he'll go speeding off, letting everyone know almost concurrently. They trickle down to the living room while Will and Victoria compare notes, making sure everything is in order.

He waits for everyone to be gathered—Diana's lingering despite having insisted she was about to leave—before he goes over the details.

"Alright," Will says. "School starts Monday. Those of you in college are going to need to speak personally with the guidance office on Monday—"

"On Sunday," Victoria corrects. "You'll need to all go tomorrow so you're ready for Monday. You're also coming in late."

So much for training on Sunday.

"On Sunday," Will corrects. "That's Damian, Tanya, and Jackson. Unfortunately, you're about an hour away from school, so you'll have to leave early to catch the train."

"We're not going to just share a car?" Jackson asks.

"Sure, if you want to enjoy the fun of San Francisco morning traffic," Will says. "It'll still take you an hour."

"Could we just fly them?" Jon asks. "I mean, we do have some people who can fly, and we could get there in a few minutes."

Tanya actually raises her hand like she's in a classroom, and Will lets out a sigh.

"Tanya?"

"Why is it going to take so long to go...?" She asks, looking confused. "We have a high school nearby, and I know there are colleges closer than an hour."

Victoria's smile is downright amused.

"A colleague of mine was able to negotiate to get all three of you into Stanford even without transcripts—""

"Stanford?!" Tanya says, letting out a whoop of excitement. "We're going to Stanford?!"

"We're going to Stanford?" Jackson says, sounding significantly less enthusiastic about going to one of the top universities in the country.

"It's only suitable," Damian says. "But I believe we should revisit Jon's point. Someone flying us would allow us more time for training after class."

"I could fly all three!" Jon says.

"Only if you want to dangle them," Will says. "I'm not rigging up a harness for you to fly all three. If you're going to do it, you can, but you'd have to fly them one by one."

"I'll do it," Jon says. "I've flown Damian lots of times."

Will lets out a sigh, dragging his hand down his face.

"Back on topic," Will says. "The rest of you are going to be attending school right nearby. You'll be able to walk there, and then walk back. I don't want you staying after school for now—team activities come first. If Jon is going to fly them, you should all be getting home around the same time."

"We're just... going to school?" Siracca says, her voice almost whisper soft.

"You're just going to school," Victoria confirms. "The staff have already been informed and will do their best to ensure you all end up in the right class, for those of you without transcripts."

Which is everyone but Mia and Jon, as far as Will knows. He's wary of Siracca and Soranik's schooling being too all over the place for them to adjust, but it's a hurdle he'll have to deal with when it's time.

"Any questions?"

There's some awkward shifting—Jackson looks unhappy—but Tanya looks like she's a moment away from vibrating out of her seat from excitement.

"Do we get to pick our majors?"

"You'll talk about that tomorrow," Victoria confirms. "We didn't want to guess."

Tanya lets out a noise that might actually have been a squeal of excitement.

Well, at least someone's happy.

Chapter Text

Will's in his room attempting to work out something that might work as a lesson plan when Jackson leans in, knocking on the already open door.

Will sort of wishes he had an actual office as he catches Jackson squinting at his Mickey Mouse ears, but opts to simply ignore it. Room's going to have to do.

"What's up?" He asks without looking up from his tablet.

"I—uh, could we talk about stuff? If you've got time?"

Will closes out his files, dropping the tablet down on the bed as he sits up, looking over Jackson. Definitely nervous. Probably not a conversation he wants to have.

"Sure," he says. "You want to have the talk down in one of the training rooms, or is here fine?"

 "Here's fine," he says quickly. "It's not—I mean, it isn't private. I just... wanted to talk about the school thing."

"Sure," Will says. He's really starting to wish he'd just get to the point.

"Well... I mean..." Jackson's nerves are written all over every action he does. It's the way he shifts his weight back and forth between his feet, the way he reaches up, running his hand across his scalp. "It's probably going to sound crazy, but I was... I mean, I'm not sure if I want to go."

It does sound crazy. Jackson's got a full ride to whatever program he wants at a world class university, and he's apparently turning it down.

"Sell me on the idea," Will says, rather then you do sound crazy.

"I mean, a degree isn't really going to matter much in Atlantis. What matters more is... education. But more than that, I'm not sure I want to go to a school that's that good, knowing that I... well, I wouldn't have gotten in otherwise. Tanya and Damian are child geniuses, and I'm really... not. I wasn't planning on going to college anyway, so this feels kind of like I'm cheating."

Alright. Will can sort of understand what he's getting at. He wasn't planning to go anyway, and it's a waste of his time to go for a degree that isn't going to help him. It's an amazing opportunity for him, but the opportunity is only good if he'll actually get something out it.

"Alright," Will says. "Sold. But I'm not having you sit in base playing video games while everyone else is in class."

"I mean, my first thought was getting a job. But that wouldn't really work, since sometimes I'd need to be on call. I was thinking instead I could help out around here? There's probably going to be a lot of work to do. Maintaining the equipment, training, keeping stuff stocked up..."

Will's pretty sure he's going fishing, hoping Will will suggest something, so he considers the idea.

"There's a good chance Siracca might need some extra help," Will says. "Maybe Soranik, too. You think you could help tutor them when everyone else is doing homework?"

Jackson's face lights up.

"Yeah," he says quickly. "I could do something like that. Kind of be... support staff for them. I think you guys probably have too much to do considering there are eight of us and two of you."

He really doesn't know the half of it.

"Deal," Will says. "I'll let Victoria know."

Victoria doesn't take it half as well as Will did when he tells her.

"He's passing up Stanford?" She asks, looking horrified. "Does he realize it's free? We're not going to make him do student loans..."

"He didn't want to go to college before, and it's a waste for him to go now. He'll help around the base, and he said he'd help with Soranik and Siracca if they need some extra tutoring while everyone else is doing homework."

"It's Stanford," Victoria says. "A college education—"

"Isn't for everyone," Will says. "Degrees are only as useful as your career path considers them."

"A high school diploma is only going to get you in the door," Victoria says. "He'll need a degree—"

"The kid lives in Atlantis," Will says, leaning against the doorframe. "They don't care about the prestige of a land-bound degree."

"A degree is vital, Will. You should know that."

Ah, that's the confusion. Will snorts, raising an eyebrow.

"Oh?" He says. "Why would I know that?"

Victoria seems to realize the mistake she's made, looking momentarily uncomfortable. It's a new look on her—she's normally very in control—and one Will finds amusing.

"Go on," he says. "You might as well say it."

"I was under the assumption that you also had a degree," she says. "Although I suppose that was a foolish assumption, considering no one would want to check a mercenaries degree."

Will can't resist rubbing in her error a bit more.

"As important as you think they are, I don't even have a high school diploma," he says. "You're talking to a dropout."

Victoria wrinkles her nose. "Weren't you in the army?"

"Sure was. And you're supposed to have graduated. By the time someone caught on that I'd fudged the details, it was just easier to keep them fudged then make an issue of it."

Victoria drags her hands down her face.

"You don't even have a diploma. We're letting you teach kids and you haven't even graduated high school?"

"If it's a big deal for you, I'll test out of it overnight. Hell, I could test out of a lot of degrees at this point."

"You can't just test out of a degree."

"You can test out of whole college courses," Will says. "Army used to encourage us to do it. I just never did."

"Will, college is difficult. You can't just... that."

"I absolutely can," Will says. He leans over to the computer, pulling up the web browser and starting a search. "Gives me something to do while the kids are in class, I guess."

"You're just going to..." Victoria splutters, absolutely baffled. "You're just going to get a degree?"

"Do you know what Hejazi Arabic is?" Will asks, and when Victoria raises an eyebrow, he explains. Dialect of Arabic from the west side of Saudi Arabia. I taught myself to understand it in a weekend, although obviously it took a bit longer to become fluent."

"All this knowledge, and you're squandering it," Victoria says with a sigh. "How about rather than taking a random selection of college courses, you do something useful with your time?"

"Nursing?"

"What?"

Will taps the screen.

"Apparently there's a nursing program. I've never paid much attention to medical care since I just heal, but it'd be useful for me to be able to handle things in the field."

"I... alright," Victoria says. "Sure. Why not."

"I'll look into it," Will says with a wave of his hand. He doesn't think it's going to be particularly hard. He knows that if he were in charge of a lesser known college, he'd be tripping over himself to get a student from another dimension on the books.

"Has anyone ever told you that you're absolutely mad?"

"Wintergreen did more than once," Will says. "I'll keep you updated."

Victoria looks even more exasperated than she was when he told her about Jackson when he leaves.

Chapter Text

The next day is nothing short of an unmitigated disaster.

The morning starts off well enough, with Damian taking a group to get bagels and spare Will from having to cook again. Bagels sound like a great idea right up until they discover that Siracca has a previously unknown sesame allergy, and after eating her sesame bagel she spends the morning vomiting it up and generally feeling awful. Handling it takes more or less the whole morning, even with Victoria's expertise. 

Will simply ditches anything with sesame in it, tossing it all in the trash rather than risk her getting into anything.

Damian and Tanya leave (with Jon providing transport) to register for courses around lunch, at which point Victoria manages to lure Siracca back to the table to get some food in her that isn't going to make her sick.

Will catches the tail end of a discussion between Victoria and Jackson where she double checks that yes, he does know it's free, and yes, he is sure he wants to pass up the opportunity. Will leaves them to it in favor of hiding in his room, exhausted from a morning of nearly killing one of his wards.

He's half asleep when someone knocks on his door, because of course they have to knock on his door.

"Are you okay?" Jon asks, leaning in the door.

"Aren't you supposed to be playing taxi?" Will asks without lifting his head.

"They sent me back," Jon says, and Will can hear him sneaking in the door to stand over Will where he lays. "They said they'd call when they need me. But you didn't answer my question."

Hmm. Too insightful by half.

"I'll be fine," Will says, rolling onto his back to look at him. Jon's face is pinched with worry in an expression that Will's seen several times on Clark's face. He's a chip of the ol' block alright. "Just don't feel entirely qualified to be handling all these kids."

Which includes Jon, he supposes, only he can be fairly confident he's not going to accidentally kill Jon by feeding him the wrong thing.

"Mom says no one's ever ready to have kids. There's always a bunch of stuff that comes up you didn't expect."

"Pretty sure she meant something like finding out she suddenly has five extra kids she didn't know about," Will grumbles.

Bart leans his head in the door, gawking at them.

"What's happening in here?"

"Will isn't feeling well," Jon says before Will can answer, and Will lets out a groan.

"You're making me sound sick."

"Oh, right," Jon says. "Will isn't feeling well emotionally."

"Because Siracca got sick?" Bart asks, looking confused. "It wasn't as if that was your fault."

"She's still in my care," Will says, sitting upright. "It's fine. I'll get over it." He always has in the past, anyway.

Victoria leans in the door behind Bart, and Will sighs.

"There's a shipping company outside the gates," she says. "They're probably about to ring the—"

Will's tablet alarm goes off, signalling someone's at the gate.

"I'll handle it," Will says. "That's probably our supplies."

It is, in fact, their supplies. They're unloading a large wooden crate from the truck when will reaches the gate, and he signs for it before waving for them to just set it down.

"You want the dolly," one of the men says. "The damn thing's too heavy to lift."

"It's too heavy for you to lift," Will says. "I can handle it." There's no way he's letting some random guys inside the gate.

"I mean, this thing literally weighs a ton," the guy in charge says, rapping his knuckles against the crate. "Not sure what's in it, but—"

Jon doesn't arrive so much as he appears, zipping into the space beside Will so fast that every member of the shipping team jumps.

"We've got it," Will says. "You think you can balance it?"

"Probably," Jon says.

He can't. The crate's too physically large for him to keep his balance easily, but the moment Will reaches up to keep it level, it's easy enough for Jon to carry it in.

The sight of a tiny kid carrying an absolutely massive crate makes the team gawk.

"...Going to have to tell my daughter I saw Superman's kid," one of them says, dragging his hand through his hair.

"Everything in order?" Will asks, and the man in charge splutters a bit before checking his paperwork and nodding.

Will closes the gate one handed, making sure it's secure before walking back to the base. Bart's waiting by the entrance, and Will has him tell everyone who's there to head to the second floor's main training room.

Will cracks the crate open manually, starting to unpack it piece by piece. They've already got armor from Oliver waiting for attention, so Bruce's equipment is more in line with weapons and utilities. There's grapple hooks, communicators, and a variety of things whose use isn't immediately obvious. Bart and Jon help him unpacking, with Jackson, Soranik and Mia joining them before long.

"Victoria's staying with Siracca," Mia says as she arrives. "So it's just us."

It's like Christmas for the kids, pulling open boxes as Will herds them into putting things into their proper places in the building's security rooms.

"Jackson," Will says. "Try and figure out a system for storage, will you?"

"Can do," he says. "Shouldn't be too hard, as long as we're proactive about it."

"What's this?" Bart asks, holding up a narrow box with fragile written on the side.

"Probably something fragile," Jon says helpfully, and Mia takes the box from Bart, carefully cutting it open with a box cutter.

"It's... something," she says, squinting into the box right as Will realizes what it is.

"That's mine," he says. Stupid. The box is the right shape for a painting, and he reaches out, prying it from Mia's hands and tucking it under his arm.

Bart leans over, staring at the box, his grin making it obvious that he's eager to see what's in it, and Will shoos him away.

"I can handle things here," Jackson says. "You know, if you want to... drop it in your room."

He does. He leaves Jackson in charge (something he's sure he's going to end up doing a lot) and heads up to his room with the box, closing the door before he pulls the top open and starts to unpack it.

Mercifully, it has been well packaged and shows no sign of damage as he peels it out of the box, double checking the back before hesitating. He feels almost nervous about seeing it.

But he makes himself flip it over anyway.

It's a family portrait, just like the ones the Waynes always had. Only rather than being a composite, painted based on a number of reference images, the painting in front of him has been drawn entirely from Joey's imagination.

Will's there, his one arm around Joey's shoulders. In front of them is Rose, smiling happily in a way Will feels like he never got to see. The Rose he's looking at is the Rose Joey knows, not the one he ever knew.

But under Will's other arm is someone else: Grant. Grant in his late 20s, looking as he might have if he had lived. His look is obviously inspired by the Grant of this world, but Joey's obviously taken some liberties to make the Grant he imagines look more like the brother he remembers.

Grant is smiling too.

Will loves it, but it's hard not to look at it and see his own failure. To see all the people he's failed and lost. He carefully sets the painting down on the desk, facing away from him, before he goes to curl up in his bed. It hurts. It hurts to think about the painting, even though he knows Joey didn't mean for it to hurt.

He doesn't understand how people can deal with having lost people they care about. He doesn't understand how people can keep mementos of the dead. The last thing he wants is reminders, and yet other people seem desperate for them. He just can't process it, curling up and burying his head in his arms.

All he can do is wait for it to stop hurting.

Chapter Text

Will is dragged back to consciousness by the sound of someone knocking on his door. It's not even a loud knock. It's pretty minor, really. Soft. But any noise is enough to make him awake immediately, his eyes snapping open as everything comes back in a rush.

Great. That means he's needed.

"Yeah," he calls, watching the door crack open. He's not sure how long he's been out, but the appearance of Tanya and Damian in the doorway tells him the answer is probably a while.  

"Will?" Tanya whispers. "Are you alright?"

"Fine," he grunts. "Was just sleeping."

Damian makes a face and comes right on inside, walking to Will's bedside. Tanya hesitates, then trails after him, letting the door partially close behind her.

"You are not alright," Damian says. "You received something in the shipment from home and then excused yourself. You've been gone for hours and no one has heard from you. You could have been killed."

"Wasn't killed," Will rumbles, forcing himself to sit upright rather than lying there like a useless lump.

"You're allowed to say if things aren't alright," Tanya says. "What happened?"

Will doesn't even know how to answer. 'I saw a painting of my dead son and it snapped me in half' makes him sound pathetic. 'I can't handle that he's dead' makes him sound even more pathetic.

He's saved from having to figure out an answer by Damian hugging him. Will freezes, confused, and Damian simply goes right on ahead and does it, squeezing Will in a hug before abruptly releasing him.

"There," he says. "I wasn't very good at emotional processing when I first arrived either. Hugs help things."

Hugs help things. The whole thing makes it painfully clear to Will how young Damian is, but at the same time it's almost a relief. He doesn't have to try and figure things out right then. Damian doesn't really care.

"No one's hurt, right?" Tanya asks, obviously thrown off by Damian's hug.

"No one's hurt," Will confirms. "It's just a me thing. I..." It's easier when Will gives up trying to figure out what to say and instead thinks about what someone else might say. What would his therapist have said? How would they have described it? "I'm still figuring out how to handle extreme emotions."

"Well, you're doing a lot better," Tanya says, and it's obvious she's being very careful with her words. "When we first met you were... I mean, you didn't really do emotions. Like... at all."

Will doesn't even want to think about how he tried to handle emotions when he was first around Tanya. The less said of it, the better.

"Guess things aren't quite working out like I thought," Will says, scrubbing at his face. "Did I miss dinner?"

"We got food," Damian says. "I think things are going well."

"You've got everyone settled in, everyone's getting along... it seems like you've been doing great," Tanya adds.

"We haven't even started training," Will says.

"There's more to being a team then just training," Damian says. "We can begin training tomorrow, after class. You can properly gauge our skills before our test on Saturday."

The what?

"The test?" Will asks. It's the first he's heard of it.

Damian rolls his eyes.

"You should speak to father," he says. "He should be able to explain."

Obviously it's something Damian's gone right ahead and assumed Will would do, but then it's not as if he has any better ideas. If Bruce knows of a good test he can run, Will's all for it.

He lets himself be lured out of his room to enjoy dinner. Someone's picked up Thai food, and there's plenty of leftovers for Will to dig through. Most people don't ask where he went, although Jon does seem to make a point of sticking near him, as if expecting Will to fall apart at any minute.

He calls Bruce that evening, before it gets too late.

"We got your package," Will says, the door safely closed. "Started unpacking it, and then I got sidetracked."

"Everything going well?" Bruce asks. He's obviously in the middle of something, because he's got a stack of paperwork in front of him and he's already in the office.

"Apparently Siracca is allergic to sesame," he says. "So that was a discovery."

Bruce winces. "Diana didn't tell you...?"

"According to Siracca, she didn't know. She's never had it happen before."

"That's unfortunate," Bruce says, "but the fact that you're calling now and not then means she's fine. How's everything else?"

"School starts tomorrow," Will says, realizing he didn't check in to make sure everything was alright with Tanya and Damian's course loads. "We still haven't done a single spar. I'm going to spend the next few days getting an idea of their skill levels, and we can go from there. Damian said... He said there was a test this weekend?"

Bruce looks just as confused as Will did.

"A test?" Bruce says. "I mean, I haven't arranged— Oh. I bet I know what he's talking about."

"Good, you can clue me in, because I have no idea."

 Bruce does. He lays out the test he always ran, the criteria, and how Will could adjust it for his current situation. While Will initially doesn't see a point, by the time Bruce has finished explaining it, Will's come around to its usefulness.

"I'll do it," Will confirms. "I plan to keep major events like that to the weekends."

"Did I hear you're going back to school yourself?" Bruce asks. "I swear that was in the report."

"Describing it like that gives me too much credit," Will says. "I'm going to test out of some college courses and get a formal degree. I do plan to look into some medical education, since I'm useless at that and it can't hurt."

"If you need anything, you know where to find me," Bruce says. "You should call Joey, though. He was really excited about you getting your gift."

Will drags his hand down his face, and Bruce raises an eyebrow.

"Did you see it?" Will asks.

"Family portrait, right?"

"I'm not sure I can handle looking at the two kids I lost regularly. Especially not with everything going on with Bart."

He really doesn't need another reminder that if he fucks up, he might lose even more.

"Oh," Bruce says with a wince. "I didn't think of it that way. How about... I mean... you should still call him. I'm sure he'll understand, even without the Bart detail. It's a great painting, but you need time to be able to process it."

"Or I could just say it's hung up," Will grunts.

"Don't lie to him," Bruce says, suddenly serious. "Just tell him the truth."

The truth, of course, is easier said than done. Joey looks so damn happy when Will calls him, carefully angling the tablet so he can't see the rest of Will's room.

You got the shipment today, right?

"I did, yeah," Will says. "Spent a big chunk of today unpacking it. Got your... I got the gift you made."

Joey's face falls immediately, obviously sensing Will's hesitance to speak about the manner.

It wasn't damaged, was it? He signs.

"No, it was fine. It's over on my desk right now. I just... am not sure I can—it's amazing, Joey. I just don't know if I'm ready to look at Grant and Rose right now."

Pop, Joey signs. He looks so damned sad, and Will's sure that if Joey were there, he'd have pulled him into a hug already.

He misses that.

I'm not going to be angry you didn't hang it right away, Joey signs. I just wanted to give you the option. Are you doing alright?

"Doing fine," Will says. "There's just a lot more... emotion that I wasn't expecting to have to deal with."

They're kids. Getting emotions everywhere is what they do.

"Understatement," Will says with a small laugh. "I'll manage. I just need time to adjust. When we start doing actual training it'll be easier for me. I just have to get to that." He figures having them out of the house for school will also help. That's a solid six hours of free time for him to do whatever he needs to.

I love you, pop.

"Love you too, Joey. I'm—" It takes him a second to muster up the energy to say it. "I'm missing you already."

I missed you before you even reached the airport, so I've got you beat, Joey says with a wink.

"Love you," Will says again. "I'm going to go check and make sure everyone's getting to bed."

Joey waves and kills the connection, leaving Will alone with his thoughts.

He doesn't hang the painting up. Instead, he carefully returns it to the storage box it was shipped in and tucks it into his closet, out of sight.

Mia and Jackson are playing video games when he heads down to the living space, and Jackson helpfully informs him that almost everyone else is already in bed.

"Soranik went flying," he says. "She said she's stay out of sight, but it was like her equivalent of an evening walk."

Will kind of wishes one of his underage wards hadn't just decided to go flying around San Francisco, but he doubts she's in any real danger.

"I'll wait up for her," he says. "She leave by the roof?"

Mia nods, and Will lets out a sigh. He'd meant to check on Siracca, but making sure they're all safely in the base before he goes to sleep takes priority.

"You've got to go to school in the morning," he says. "Don't stay up too late."

Chapter Text

It takes three hours before Will spots the familiar spot of green approaching the roof. Tucked neatly out of sight, Soranik doesn't even notice as she touches down, her Lantern uniform vanishing and leaving her once again in street clothes as she heads for the door.

Only then does Will step out from the shadows, revealing himself with a raised eyebrow.

"Quite a walk."

Soranik is a hell of a lot more mature than most fourteen year olds are (Will isn't even entirely convinced she's fourteen. She might just be the equivalent of fourteen), but that doesn't mean she's got the life experience of an adult. She can't lie worth a damn, looking nervous as she nods, doing her best to pass it off as simple surprise.

"Fly," she corrects. "The city is a big place."

"The city is a really big place when you're flying around looking for trouble to get involved in."

To her credit, Soranik doesn't try and claim that wasn't what she was doing. She goes stiff, obviously expecting trouble, but the set of her jaw makes it clear she's more than willing to fight about it.

"No one saw," she says.

Will was waiting for it, and he produces his phone, the social media post already pulled up. There's a picture of Soranik's retreating back, captioned with a note about how a 'nice alien lady' stopped a mugging.

Soranik can't go red (she's already red), but her cheeks do go an interesting shade of purple from sheer embarrassment. 

"Just get the lecture over with."

"This isn't a lecture," Will says. "Why'd you go out?"

"Why would I not go out?" She asks. "The Lantern told me that I was coming here to learn to use my powers. To be part of a team. To help people. The only thing I've done since arriving is learn what a game console is. We haven't trained, we haven't helped anyone... If I had a say I'd never have come here, but since I'm here anyway, I might as well do something good."

"You're not here so you can fight crime," Will says. He's not going to entertain that line of logic. He's not going to pretend she's here for a reason she isn't. "You're here because this is a place where you can fight crime and be a normal kid. Have a normal life. Go to school, have friends. If Hal just wanted you to learn to use your ring, he'd have kept you on Oa. Instead, he chose to send you here so you could have something more than the Corps."

"I already lost everything else!" Soranik yells. "Why bother pretending I could have anything else? There's no going back for me. All I have is the Lanterns, and the faster I accept it, the better."

"No," Will says, and Soranik's anger seems to falter. Will seems certain, and that kind of confused anger never holds up well in the face of someone being sure of things. "You've lost your old world. Your family. Guess what? You're not the only one. Half the team's lost everyone they loved and cared about. That doesn't mean they're going to throw away everything they have left with it."

"No one else—" Soranik splutters, taking a moment to take a breath. "No one else lost them like I did. They're there. I just can't... I can't be with them."

"Every single person Tanya knows except for Joey and I are in another dimension she has no way to return to. Siracca's lost everyone but the amazons. Bart can't go back to his own time anymore. Like I said—half the team knows exactly what you're going through."

Will drags his hand down his face and turn turns away, heading for the edge of the roof. He sits down, letting his feet dangle, and after a moment Soranik joins him, sitting down beside him and letting her legs dangle.

"I know you didn't want this," Will says. "Hal didn't try and pretend this was your choice. The moment the ring chose you, things changed. You can't put the genie back in the bottle."

"I tried to reject it," Soranik says quietly. "If I just said no... but my mother said I shouldn't. She sat me down and said that even if I rejected it, my future on Korugar would always be blemished by the ring having chosen me. People would always believe that I had taken it. She said I should keep it. That I should... do something good with it."

She raises her hand, curling it into a fist, and stares down at the ring.

"What were you going to do before the ring picked you?" She's young. Will's not sure she had a plan. Hell, when he was her age his entire plan was get away by any means necessary. It wasn't like he'd planned his life at that age.

"A doctor," she says with absolute certainty. "I was going to be a doctor."

"You could still be a doctor," Will says. "Could still go to school. Get an education."

She gives him an annoyed look.

"I'm an alien."

"People are getting more used to that every year," he says. "As long as you have qualifications, they won't have any right to object."

"They're not going to want an alien working with them," Soranik says. "It's not that easy."

"It is that easy," Will says. "You go to school. You follow their rules. And anyone who cares can go fuck themselves."

Soranik laughs at that, reaching up to wipe at her eyes.

"Just that easy," she says.

"Just that easy. You're with the team so that you'll have people who have your back. Other people who can understand what you've been through. Other people who you can understand. You're supposed to be a team so you can help each other."

"And here I thought that meant in combat."

"I'm not particularly worried about combat," Will says with a laugh. "I can teach anyone to be great in combat. I can teach anyone to have each other's back in a fight. Teaching kids to come together as a group socially? That's a hell of a lot harder, so at least some of that is going to be on you guys."

"So I'm not in trouble?" She asks, raising an eyebrow at him.

"We'll see how much trouble you're in depending on how you do in class tomorrow. You've got to be up in less than three hours for your first day."

"I suppose I should get to bed then."

"You should," Will confirms, pushing himself to his feet and offering his hand. She doesn't take it, but she does stand, stretching out with a yawn.

"Get going," he says, ushering her inside. "And no more nighttime patrols. We'll figure out how we'll do that when the team's more coordinated. Right now, the focus has to be on making sure everyone is comfortable."

"Easier said than done."

"You're telling me."

Chapter Text

The first day of class is less of a disaster than the day before, but still not great.

Will wakes everyone up in time to feed them, but Siracca takes some convincing to actually get her to eat. She's wary, and ends up skipping everything with any sort of grain in it in favor of eating eggs, bacon, and sausage.

Jon falls behind until Damian reminds him that they need him to get to class on time, and then he has to double time it to deliver them in time.

Everyone else leaves in a great big cluster, and Jackson volunteers to walk them in order to ensure there isn't any sort of issue.

Will was going to go himself, but decides Jackson's a better choice anyway, so he lets him.

It turns out that testing out of entire college courses isn't actually as easy as he thought. To register he needs a GED, which involves registering for a completely different site, finding a local test center, and setting the whole thing up. The earliest they'll take him is Wednesday, which Will supposes will have to do.

By the time he's done, Jackson's back, and they spend the middle of the day organizing the storage room to make sure everything is both secure and easy to find. Will makes sure his sword is firmly out of grabbing distance for anyone other than him (and Jackson, if he stretches), and does the same with Damian even if he's sure the kid will be irritated by it.

He doesn't bother cooking lunch for the three of them, instead putting together simple sandwiches and delivering them to Victoria in the office.

"Get everything done?" She asks without looking up from her papers.

"Enough," he says. "We've got the training rooms all set up. We should be able to do some practice when everyone gets back." At the very least he needs to know what he's dealing with skill wise.

"And your own education?" Victoria asks with a raised eyebrow.

"Testing on Wednesday," he says. "I'll skim the study guide tonight."

Jackson cracks a smile at that. "Sure you don't need me to tutor you?"

"I'll manage on my own somehow," Will says with a snort.

He lets Jackson do his own thing as he does some early meal prep. He ends up printing out a study guide (and boy are there a lot of companies wanting to sell him study guides) but by the time he goes over it, he feels like he's just wasted paper. Even if his education is patchy in places, his memory makes handling it all almost laughably easy.

He's not the only one who thinks so.

"Aren't you supposed to be super smart?" Bart asks as he flips through the pages too fast for anyone human to read.

"Aren't you supposed to be in school?"

"It's between classes," Bart says. "I wanted to see what was happening here."

Will makes a shooing motion.

"Get back to class, Bart," he says. "You should be socializing with your classmates."

"But I'm not supposed to go fast there," he says, zipping to Will's other side. "So it's better here."

"Try and make friends," Will says.

"I don't really see the point."

"You will," Will says. "Go back to school, Bart."

Bart's suddenly gone, and Will lets out a sigh.

The entire highschool group (except for Jon) arrive back not long after school lets out, and they are not happy.

"They gave me homework!" Mia complains when Will leans over the side of the staircase, watching them climb the stairs. "We've only got three days of class before we're on break for Thanksgiving, and they dumped a bunch of homework on me to make sure I'm caught up."

"I didn't get any," Soranik says. "I spent the whole day doing tests to figure out what grade I'm supposed to be in."

Siracca nods and very quietly say something that sounds a lot like me too.

"Bart?" Will asks.

"Huh? Oh, yeah. I've got homework. It shouldn't take long."

"Well, everyone might as well get their homework done now. I'll call for you when everyone gets back so we can do some training."

Soranik perks up at the mention of training, going that much faster up the stairs. Mia can handle her own homework, so Jackson goes to check on Bart and make sure he can handle his own homework while Will supervises Soranik and Siracca in the living room.

Victoria leans in midway through a show, squinting at Will.

"Are Tanya and Damian not back yet?"

"Not that I know of," he says. "Bart and Mia are doing homework. Jackson's helping... Bart, probably."

He doubts Mia's going to be interested in Jackson's help. She seems fiercely independent.

"You should call," Victoria says. "I've got some ARGUS work to handle."

"Sure," Will says. "I'll see what's up."

What's up turns out to be that Jon's lost on campus, and neither Tanya nor Damian is picking up. Thirty minutes later, Will manages to get in touch with Tanya, learning that Damian is still in class, and that Tanya was simply caught up talking with one of her new professors.

"Jon's waiting for you two, you realize," Will says, and Tanya swears under her breath.

"I didn't," she admits. "I just—I forgot. I'll call him, or—I don't even have his number."

Alright, well, that's something Will's going to have to deal with.

It's past six by the time everyone gets back to the base, at which point Will calls an immediate meeting. It turns out Soranik and Siracca didn't even have cell phones, something that Victoria quickly remedies, and then everyone else swaps numbers, making sure that everyone has everyone else's contact information.

"Alright," Will says. "Dinner, and then we're going to do some practice."

Tanya tentatively raises her hand, and Will groans.

"Yes?"

"I know I have homework," she says. "Do we have a... a schedule or anything?"

He should have known this was going to be an issue.

"Alright," he says. "The schedule is now that you've got from when class finishes till seven to get your homework done. If you don't have any, you've got free time. After seven, you're mine until I ship you back to bed."

"What about today?" Jon says. He sounds actually nervous, like Will's going to tell him to just skip his homework.

"If anyone is bored I'll run an extra training session, but otherwise, get your homework done. Homework comes first—if any of you start flunking out, I'm benching you until you get it in order."

Despite that, they never do quite get around to training that evening. Dinner runs late when some of the food Will's using turns out to have gone bad, requiring a trip to the grocery store. With half the team already out, Will ends up throwing his hands into the air and calling the whole thing then and there.

"Tomorrow," he says. "You'd better have all your homework done. Get it done when it's first assigned, not last minute, because last minute might involve a monster attacking the city."

"Does that happen?" Soranik asks, confused.

"Probably," Jackson says.

Will sure wouldn't bet against it.

Chapter Text

There's a level of anticipation in the air as everyone eats dinner. He doesn't bother asking if they've done their homework, because everyone who had homework has spent the last few hours complaining about that fact.

"Training?" Jon asks excitedly as he pushes his plate aside.

"I'll handle dishes," Victoria says. "Go train."

"I want everyone to change and meet me down in the training room in five."

When he gets down there, everyone's gathered in a rough semi-circle, clearly waiting for him. The conversation dies the moment he enters the room, and it's obvious that as much as they're excited, they're also nervous.

"Alright," Will says. "Let's get down to business. You all know me. You know what to expect from me. My job is to whip you guys into a suitable fighting force in record time. I'm going to push you hard, and you can fully expect to go to bed tired every night from now on."

There are several groans from the group, but Will doesn't stop.

"Jon," he calls, and Jon perks up as Will beckons him out. He glances around, looking uncertain, and then steps forward.

"Punch me."

Jon looks really uncertain then.

"I'm not as strong as my dad, but... I'm still really, really strong," he says. "You'll get hurt."

"I'll be fine," he says. "Punch me, full strength. Center mass, if you please."

"I really don't think—"

"First lesson," Will says. "Your instructor says to do something, you do it. In battle, asking why do I need to duck will get you killed. Now punch me."

Jon does.

Jon's not nearly as strong as Clark is (or at least not the Clark Will knows), but he's still very strong. He can toss around tens of thousands of pounds with ease, and Will knows he could easily lift a car one handed.

So when he punches someone full strength, they should get splattered into the ground.

Instead, there's a deep thoommmm that reverberates in Will's chest, a honeycomb pattern briefly visible across his suit as the ikon shield keeps him from turning into paste.

"Ow," Soranik says, her hands over her ears. "What was—what was that noise?"

"That noise was the ikon shield absorbing a blow that would have killed any human," Will says. Jon looks disoriented, and Will doesn't blame him for it. "My suit—and only my suit—is rated for anything you can throw at me. That means if we're training, you can hit me without worrying I'm going to get hurt. But..." He trails off, eyes sweeping over the group. "The same thing isn't true for the rest of you. All the power in the world isn't going to help you at all if you can't even train without injuring your teammates. So that's the second lesson: how to lose."

"How to... lose?" Tanya asks. "Why didn't we get this lesson with Defiance...?"

"Because you were almost all adults, you'd all been on teams before. So one way or another, you'd gotten similar lessons already. So today is all about losing. It's about getting laid low and getting back up. It's about falling over and finding ways to roll with the punches to minimize how hurt you're getting."

"So we're just... learning to recover?" Mia asks. "I've done things like this before."

"Not with me you haven't."

"What about me?" Soranik asks. "My ring will shield me."

"That ring will shield you as long as you have it," Will says. "But at some point during your career, you'll lose it. Someone will take it. It'll fail. It'll break. And then all you'll have is yourself. So you learn how to handle things as yourself, and then you add any powers you've got."

"What if our powers can't be taken away?" Siracca asks. Her voice is still soft, but she seems a bit more comfortable with the group.

"Your powers can always be taken away," Will says. "Even powers that are inherent part of who you are can be lost. There's no such thing as something you can't lose."

There's an awkward silence, and Will exhales.

"We're going to practice," he says. "You're going to learn on your feet. I'm going to keep knocking you over until it stops hurting."

He's not kidding. Damian goes first, and he goes down hard, even with the training he's got. He's rusty after so long retired, but he still gets right back up.

"Keep going," Damian says, clearly insistent on proving that his training hasn't been in vain.

They spend four hours at it. Four hours of Will carefully controlling his strength as he punches, kicks, and sweeps the kids they've put in his charge.

Will's pretty sure they're all going to end up black and blue the following morning, with the sole exception of Soranik—who would be purple —and Jon, who can't particularly take damage. He makes Jon go through the drills anyway, because he has a hard time staying on his feet and an even harder time enduring the blows thrown his way.

But after they're done, all of them are much better at it. They're all better at rolling with the blows to minimize the damage. At hitting the ground in an ideal manner to keep themselves from getting hurt more than necessary.

It's a vital, important part of training.

"Please tell me we're done,"  Mia groans from her place on the floor. "Please."

"We're done," Will says. "It's midnight, and that means you all need to be in bed."

Absolutely everyone groans as they pick themselves up, sore and absolutely exhausted.

Of all of them, Siracca was the one he was most worried about, but in the end his worry was unnecessary. Siracca does just fine, starting in the middle of the pack from the very beginning. She's clearly been trained by the Amazons, and they did a fairly good job with it.

Watching them limp out, Will realizes what he's missed.

"Good job everyone," he says quickly, before they can leave. "We'll see how you feel tomorrow, and maybe do something a bit more tactical tomorrow." He can't just push, he reminds himself. He needs to ease off at times. He needs to give them room to breathe.

The mood seems a lot lighter after he says that, and Will makes sure to check in on all of them before they pass out—although half of them are already asleep by the time he peeks in to check on them. Jackson's halfway out of the bed when Will knocks on the door to wake him.

"Huh?" He mumbles.

"Back in bed," he says. "You're falling out of it."

"Oh," Jackson mumbles, crawling back into his bed and going right back to sleep.

It's not bad as far as first days go.

Chapter Text

To the surprise of literally no one, Will passes his exam without issue. The exam is supposed to take seven and a half hours, but Will finishes each section early and ends up napping, much to the annoyance of the other four people taking the test at the same time. They won't actually let him leave, so it's the only alternative he has other than sitting around and being very bored.

"Your results will be posted online late this evening," they say and send him off  at the earliest opportunity.

He doesn't get his results later that evening. Instead, he has to field a phone call while Victoria runs everyone through first aid 101, excusing himself to his room as he listens to an increasingly bewildered series of administrators who are clearly attempting to figure out if he's been cheating.

"Let me guess," Will says around the time a third person joins the call. "I passed with a perfect score, and that isn't supposed to happen, and now you're convinced I cheated." They haven't said it, but that's the implication.

"I... yes," one of them blurts.

"Did anyone bother to check my full name?" Will grunts. There's a very confused noise on the other end, and Will's sure that the men are checking his registration.

"Mr... Wilson?"

There's another confused noise, and Will hears someone say I thought it was a coincidence in the background.

"That's me," Will says. "Now give me my high school diploma or whatever so I can start testing my way out of college."

They do, in the end, give him his certification, declaring him college ready and then some. It lets him start registering for more tests, but he can't actually book any until the following week.

Will hates holidays.

Bart never seems to actually announce his presence. One minute he's not there, and the next he's just there, leaning in the door at super speed.

"Victoria says we're done," he says. "Do you want us doing anything else?"

He does, in fact, want them doing something else, but it's simple enough. Everyone (except Jon, who the equipment can't handle) gets trained in proper punching posture, and then Will watches them punch a punching bag, gauging their strength. Jackson's strong—not Jon strong, but strong —while Damian's the strongest of the ordinary humans. Soranik isn't anything special, but does just edge out Mia.

Unsurprisingly, Siracca is at the bottom, even though she has good posture. She's just too small for there to be much strength behind her blows.

He calls it there rather than drilling them more, and everyone heads back upstairs to lick their wounds. Before they all can leave though, Will pulls Damian aside.

"I want to see how you do with a sword," Will says. Part of it is just an excuse to let Damian use it, but part of it is also just that he feels like he's probably damned rusty with his own. It feels like it's been years since he used Deathstroke, but holding it in his hand feels like meeting an old friend.

Damian apparently feels the same way. It has been years since he used a sword, but he falls back into the patterns easily. He's good with a sword, better than he is with his fists or projectiles, and Will puts him through his paces until Damian's panting and soaked with sweat.

"Good," Will says. "You just have to work with keeping it non-lethal, and you'll be able to use your sword on patrol."

Bruce would probably hate the idea of a sword on patrol, but he'll just have to deal with it.

The rest of the team is sprawled around the living room in varying stages of exhaustion when they get back upstairs. Bart and Jon seem the only people totally immune, with Bart munching his way through some snacks while Jon plays video games. Jackson seems to be doing his best to be supportive just by watching, and complains that his arms are too sore to even play video games anymore.

"It's only going to get worse," Will says with a snort. "If you thought that was hard, you'll wash out in a week. After all... we've got your test this weekend."

"Our what?" Soranik asks, jerking upright. "There's a test?"

"There's always a test," Will says. "You'll have a practical test Saturday. The point is for me to get a sense for your skill level. No, you don't have to study."

Soranik sinks back down onto the couch, apparently able to relax again.

"When do we get to actually... do patrols?" Mia asks. "With Arrow, I was doing patrols for months already."

"We're not rushing into anything," Will says. "But I expect we'll do our first patrol in a week or two. You'll learn fastest by actually doing what you're trying to learn."

"What about costumes?" Jon asks. "Not all of us have some." He sneaks a peek towards Siracca.

"Arrow provided gear," he says. "I'm not sure it's going to fit everyone, but I'll deal with that tomorrow. See if we can't pull it together."

"What, no custom designed stuff?" Tanya asks with a grin.

"I want actual armor," Will says, "so no. That's one of the major advantages of this world... body armor rather than spandex."

Always a perk when sending kids into combat.

There's nothing else they actually have to do, so eventually Tanya wrestles control of the TV from Jon, putting on a movie they can all enjoy. Siracca ends up nodding off against Jackson's arm, dozing lightly until Jackson nudges her awake.

"We doing anything for thanksgiving?" Jon asks. "I mean, some of us did it already, but..."

"I'll get a turkey or something," Will says.

"And pie," Jackson adds. "Pie's vital for thanksgiving."

Soranik looks absolutely baffled, so Damian launches into an overly detailed explanation of Thanksgiving before he gets cut off by Mia.

"It's an excuse to eat a lot of food," she clarifies.

"Sounds important, then."

"You've already been spoiled by Will's excellent cooking," Damian says. "So it won't be as big of a deal."

"He is an excellent chef," Victoria says. "I wasn't aware he'd be handling it, and I have to say I'm quite happy I don't have to do any of the cooking."

"For now," Will says. "You're still in charge of handling takeout on days I'm not available."

"I'll manage that," she says. "Grocery shopping tomorrow, then?"

He didn't pick up anything for Thanksgiving, and Bart is in danger of eating them out of house and home. Speaking of which...

"Yeah," Will says. "I'll handle it tomorrow."

He feels a pang of regret that he's not going to be spending Thanksgiving at the manor, but he doesn't bring it up. The last thing that the kids need is a reminder that it's supposed to be a family holiday, especially considering how many of them have lost theirs.

They'll just have to make do with what they have.

Chapter Text

Will knows he's not going to have much time to himself that day, so he makes a point of calling Joey first thing. He works his way through his morning routine as the phone rings, but when he gets Joey's voicemail he calls Jason instead.

"Wuh?" Jason answers. "Will?"

"Do you know where Joey is?"  Will asks. "I tried to call him and he didn't pick up."

"Oh," Jason says, and there's a slight pause. Will imagines he's probably... what, peeking into the bathroom to see if Joey's in the shower? "I think he's helping Alfred with dinner already. We've got Grant bringing his family, and his sister's coming too, so Alfred's going all out. I can get him to call you?"

"Sure," Will says. "When he's not busy."

"I'll let him know," Jason says. "Having fun over there?"

"It's busy," Will says. "I wasn't prepared to play house with so many kids. A lot of them are... very young."

"Let me guess, you were expecting a pack of eighteen year olds?"

"The youngest is twelve," Will complains. "Sweet kid, but she's definitely a kid."

"Well, I'm sure you're doing just fine," Jason says. "I need to go start helping too. I'll let Joey know, alright?"

"Alright," Will says. "Have fun."

He keeps his phone on him as he gets to work. He snags the first two people he sees—Bart and Soranik—and drafts them into his trip to the grocery store.

"Shouldn't you pick someone less... noticeable?" Soranik says, clearly attempting to be diplomatic about it.

"Nope," Will says. "They'll just have to manage seeing someone who isn't human."

They have a lot of people gawking at them as they go through the grocery store. Bart keeps adding more and more snacks to the cart, while Soranik stays quiet, keenly aware of how many people are staring at them. Will makes a mental note to check social media—and the news—and see how much the public's noticed the group. He can't imagine that they haven't been spotted, but he doubts if anyone's really figured out what they're doing down there.

He grabs a ham and a turkey, careful to avoid anything with sesame, and then makes Bart put some of the stuff he's loaded into the cart back before he goes through the checkout. They have more than enough snacks, and yet he seems unwilling to not add even more to the cart.

"We've got what we need," Will says. "Did you want a snack or something, Soranik? Candy?"

Soranik squints at the options as Will waits to pay, and then looks to Bart.

"Do you have something to suggest, Bart?"

Bart. Bart, who has probably had about as much experience with it as she has. Will mouths skittles over Soranik's shoulder.

"Skittles," he says. "Those are good." He points out the bag, and Soranik drops them into the pile.

She shares them with Bart on the way back and everything seems fine, but it feels like an inevitability that Bart's going to have to tell the team at least a partial truth. There's no way he can live with them for an extended period and not have them figure out something sketchy is going on.

"Bart," Will says, "can you let Jon and Jackson they're in charge of unloading the car?" He says as they arrive back. It's Victoria's idea: spread the chores around so someone's always doing something, but not so firmly that there needs to be a chore chart or anything like that.

"Will do," Bart says with a salute, vanishing in a blur as he streaks into the base.

He and Soranik pass Jon and Jackson on their way out, both wearing huge grins as they go. Will's just happy everyone's getting along. There's little clusters—Damian and Tanya spend a lot of time talking about school, for one—but there's no one fighting anyone else, which is a pretty big boon as far as Will is concerned.

Will's entire thought process goes flying out the window when he turns the corner into the living area and finds Joey sitting on the couch.

Joey.

His son.

Pop! Joey signs as he gets to his feet. He's wearing street clothes, and he looks exactly like he would if he just so happened to stop by, and not at all like he just flew five or six hours to make it there for thanksgiving.

"Joey," Will chokes. "Hold on, I've got—I need to set these down."

Mia and Tanya intercept him, grabbing the bags in Will's arms and leaving his arms free.

Will doesn't leave them free for long. He pulls Joey into a hug, burying his face against Joey's shoulder and just taking a moment to recover from the surprise. The shock that Joey just... came. That he flew across the whole country just to see him for a stupid holiday.

Joey taps his shoulder and Will breaks the hug.

Brought your earpiece, Joey signs. But I should probably just use my speaker, right?

"Probably," Will says. "Haven't had time to make them all learn ASL yet."

"Wait, we're learning ASL?" Jon asks as he arrives in the kitchen, arms loaded down with groceries.

"Of course," Damian says. "The ability to communicate silently is vital during missions."

It turns out that Joey arrived less than ten minutes after Will left, and he's already done introductions with almost everyone. Will does introductions with Soranik and Bart, who announces that he's going to go learn ASL and zips off to his room to do that.

"I'm just here for the day," Joey says, his speaker clipped to his chest. "Jason convinced Barry to bring me."

"Barry?" Will asks. "I just assumed you flew."

"If I flew, I'd have insisted on staying longer. But I have things to do tomorrow, so I can't stay."

"We don't have a guest bedroom made up anyway," Victoria says. "That's something we'll have to take care of."

Will still has food to make, so he starts in on dinner, chatting with Joey as they catch up. It's a bit strange catching up in full view of everyone (and everyone seems extra willing to hang around the living room to listen in), but it's not so bad. Jon interrupts to ask how his brothers are doing, and Joey makes a face.

"Jon, you talk to them every day," Joey points out.

"That doesn't mean they're telling me the truth," Jon protests. "They could just be pretending that everything's fine without me."

"They aren't," Joey says. "Your family's coming over for Thanksgiving dinner, so they're probably at the Manor right now."

"Surprised they didn't come," Mia says from the couch.

"We don't have the space, for one," Will says. They've got room for maybe three or four extra people, and cramming all the Wilson-Wayne's into the base would have been too many, let alone all the Wilson-Waynes and all the Kents.

"We could have set up extra tables in the yard," Jackson says. "Or the roof. Or the training rooms..."

"A bit too late now," Will says.

"But not for Christmas," Jackson says with a grin. "Although I think Arthur wants me to come back."

"Atlantis does Christmas?" Tanya asks.

"Arthur does. He was raised on land, so he's still pretty attached to a lot of our holidays."

Bart zips back in, looking pleased with himself.

"Alright," he says. "I'm prepared."

"You learned ASL already?" Soranik asks, and Siracca looks up at her, confused.

"Can you learn that fast...?"

"No," Will says. "But I think Bart can because of his speed."

"And his memory," Bart says. "My memory's perfect."

"Is this a bad time to point out that I've got a speaker?" Joey says with a grin, but then swaps to signing as he talks. "Not that I don't appreciate the effort."

"Oh," Bart says, face falling. "A speaker?"

"I've got implants in my neck," Joey says, tilting his head back to tap where the implants are. "They translate what I would have said into audio. Plus, I can swap my voice."

"So what you're saying is that your impression game is great," Mia says, and Joey winks.

"Sure is."

"So you're Will's son?" Victoria asks. She's not helping with dinner, but instead keeping an eye on the kid.

"That's me," Joey says. "Same home dimension as Tanya, too. I was on Defiance when she was."

"So you're a hero?" Mia asks, seeming suddenly way more interested than she was.

"I was," Joey says. "I retired."

"He does art shows now," Will adds, and Joey scowls at him.

"They didn't need to know that, pop."

"He's really good."

Joey rolls his eyes.

If Damian gets to tell everyone all the time how good of a chef he is, then Will thinks it's well within his rights to make sure everyone knows that when he says Joey is a good artist, he's not just speaking as his father. Joey does end up getting cajoled into showing pictures he has of some of his art, and Will focuses on getting food on the table.

The meal itself is a lot different from what Will was planning at the manor. It's less extravagant, but more varied. With so many people at the table who've never had a Thanksgiving (and several who've never really had most of the foods in front of them), he tries to make sure there's a bit of everything.

"So we just eat food?" Soranik asks.

"You're supposed to say prayers," Mia says, already helping herself. "Which seems kind of pointless with a demigod at the table."

Siracca's head perks up, glancing around the table.

"Different kind of god," Joey says. "Tanya, did you want to...?"

Tanya looks relieved by the offer, and there's a bit of shuffling to get everyone in the right seats. Most of the table doesn't have any interest in saying grace, but Soranik and Siracca seem fascinated as Tanya and Joey get to it. Will stays in a firm neutral zone, watching them as they do it while he distributes food.

"You're supposed to say what you're thankful for," Mia says, already starting to eat.

"This food, for one," Jon says. "But I'm thankful for my brothers." Damian shoots him a look. "And my new cousin. Aunt. Whatever she is."

"I am thankful for this team," Damian says, "and a chance to be a hero again."

"I'm thankful my dad's been in the wind for three whole months," Jackson says, clearly trying to make light of a dark subject.

"Amen to that," Mia says, raising her glass to Jackson. "Team shitty dads."

"I mean... my dad wasn't bad," Tanya says. "He just wasn't around."

"We have a lot of poor family situations at the table," Victoria says. "On a different subject, I am thankful for my job, which pays very nicely for what currently feels like very little work."

"What I'm hearing is that we need to make more work for you," Jackson says with a laugh, and the conversation turns to lighter subjects.

Joey has to go just before midnight when Barry arrives to pick him up. Will doesn't want him to go, but it's not as if he can keep him there, so he settles for a goodbye, pulling Joey into another hug.

"Thank you for coming," he says quietly. "I'm... I'm happy you're here."

"Love you pop," Joey says. "I'll send you a message when I get home, alright?"

"Alright," Will says, leaning down to press a kiss to Joey's forehead, dragging his son into one lass hug. "I'm thankful for you, alright?"

"I know, pop. I'm happy you're here too, but I need to get back before Jason locks me out of the room, alright?"

Will grins at that, gets one last hug in, and then hands him off to Barry to go home at last.

Chapter Text

Joey lets him know he's home before too long, and Will checks in the kitchen to find out that most of the mess has already been cleaned up. There's a few things left over that he handles, and then he checks in with Victoria.

"Everyone in bed?" He asks.

"Not yet. Almost everyone's sleeping off the food coma already, but I think someone went onto the roof."

"Probably Soranik," Will says. "I'll check on them. Things got a bit heavy during the I'm thankful for segment of tonight's festivities. We have class tomorrow?"

"We do not," Victoria confirms. "I was thinking a slow day, give them time to recover."

"Sounds fine to me," Will says. "I've got the test planned for saturday."

"I'll leave training to you," she says. "Night, Will."

"Night."

He pulls his phone and checks the security before he heads up. There's only one camera on the roof which doesn't show him a damn thing, but he can easily check the doorway. Rewinding shows him a blur zipping through the door, which makes the person on the roof obvious.

"Bart?" He calls when he steps outside, closing the door behind him. It's not hard to spot the kid, his legs dangling off the edge of the roof as he stares out not in the direction of the water, but instead over the city.

"I'm here," he says, his hands folded into his lap.

It's... weird. Bart was doing just fine at dinner. He made conversation. He even seemed excited to talk to Joey with ASL, and yet he looks almost sad as he sits there.

"Everything alright?" He asks, going over to sit down beside him. He lets his legs dangle, wary for whatever surprise Bart's about to pull out of his pocket. If Will can't even guess what the issue is, what good is he going to be at solving it?

"Did it make you sad?" Bart asks, turning to watch Will's reaction. "Your son was here, and in a few months he's going to be dead."

Well that's a blow to the gut, and Will winces. Not exactly a tactful way of asking, either.

"No," Will says. It's a lie. He's lying to Bart, but he's also lying to himself. "I'm not going to let anything happen to him. Even if it kills me... I'm not going to let him get hurt."

Bart's staring at him, obviously trying to gauge his reaction.

"Which I should ask you about," Will says. He should have asked before. He should have asked when it first came up, only it felt like he'd been hit by a truck just hearing it.

"I can't tell you much," Bart says after a moment. "I don't know who the traitor is."

"You know other details," Will points out. "There's more to this than just who the traitor is."

Bart hesitates a moment, and then frowns.

"You aren't going to like it."

"I already don't like it. But I still need to know."

He needs information. He needs all the information. Every little detail, every little thought. Even if Bart wasn't born for a decade after everything happened, he has to know some.

"What do you want to know?"

Everything apparently isn't going to cut it, so Will narrows it down.

"What happened? Like, what started all this? The thing you're here to stop?"

"Oh," Bart says. "I know that part. It's just weird because it's like someone asking 'what's the sun?'. I'm just used to people knowing—"

"Bart," Will says. "The point?"

"Uhm, there's going to be a betrayal. A few months from now there's a strange... uh, astrological event? The moon goes red but no one can figure out why. And then—"

"When?"

Bart blinks at him, and then shrugs.

"I don't know," he says. "I'm not sure of the exact date. I know when the moon goes red, that's when things are going wrong."

"They sent you back to save the world and didn't tell you the date?"

"It was chaotic," Bart says, sounding defensive. "There's multiple dates written down and no one's one hundred percent sure which is right because of how much of a mess it was. Either way, the moon goes red, the League holds a meeting, and then the traitor does the traitor thing."

Will drags his hand down his face.

"More detail is better."

"Again, I don't have the details you want," bart says. "The Resistance doesn't have any League members around, so none of us know for sure exactly what happened. We know that there was a fight at the meeting, and then later that same day Wayne Manor was on fire and everyone inside was dead. Then Superman and his people all died."

"Alright," Will says. "One by one. Bruce is captured—"

"Believed captured," Bart corrects. "Not the same thing."

"Bruce is believed captured. Slade is believed dead. Clark is believed dead. That leaves six more."

"The Flash died, but it wasn't right away," Bart says. "Like the year after? He died fighting, but that was before the resistance really organized. The Lanterns came to help at first, but then they ended up retreating and the Guardians agreed to a non-interference pact. Everyone knows the Earth Lanterns didn't want to go, but it wasn't like they had a choice."

"What about Arsenal?" Will asks, thinking of Mia. It's so much worse hearing everyone's fates with people close to them sleeping downstairs.

"Captured and executed," Bart says. "That was pretty early on too."

That leaves three.

"Diana?"

Bart frowns.

"Diana's alive," he confirms. "After the League fell apart, the official story is that after the army marched into Europe, Themyscira made an agreement with them. From what the resistance heard, there's a small human community living on Themyscira under the Amazon's protection. We couldn't verify it though."

"You are telling me this all out of order," Will says. "What army? Pretend like you're talking to someone who has no idea what the hell you're talking about, because I don't."

"Oh right," Bart says. "I never said that part, did I? After the League started falling apart, the Amazons invaded. They attacked a bunch of important places—like the military headquarters—and then mostly ignored the states to conquer Eurasia."

What? What?

"The Amazons?"

"Sorry, the other Amazons. The splinter group from Bana-Mighdall. Do you guys not know about them yet? I thought you knew?"

Will sure as hell doesn't, but that doesn't mean Diana doesn't know about them.

"They invaded?"

Bart nods. Invaded isn't the right word though. What Bart's described is tactical surgical strikes to keep the states from intervening while they steamrolled the rest of the planet.

"Let me guess," he says. "They finished up the other continent and then decided to roll over us, and then we decided to start this whole resistance thing."

"Well, not you," Bart says. "By that point you were already working for them, because they'd grabbed Bruce in the first attack."

Will really didn't need that reminder.

"Arthur? J'onn?"

"Atlantis doesn't really have a truce, but they tried to help in Europe and when they failed there, they pulled back. They still do little skirmishes with the Amazons, but they're not much help."

"J'onn?"

Bart offers him only a shrug.

"No idea," he says. "No one's sure what happened to him. Lots of theories, but that's it."

Will is tired. His day was going so well, and now he just wants to lie right back down again.

"Alright," Will says, scrubbing at his face. "Why would we not just get Diana to go deal with the other Amazons right now? Preemptive strike."

He puts aside that it would be hard to convince the League to actually enact a preemptive strike. That's beside the point. Things are dire enough that if necessary he'll go do the damned strike himself. Hell, he'll take Slade and the two of them could just clear the whole fucking place in a few weeks.

Necessary evil. If it keeps everyone alive, all the better.

"Well, you can't, for one," Bart says. "Bana-Mighdall is hidden from the world. They're sealed in a massive cave system, and you need a bunch of relics or something to get it open from the outside. And before you ask, no, I don't know what artifacts those are or where they are, because they opened the gate on their own. That's why I have to wait until the moon goes red—because that means they opened the seal."

"Sealed where?"

"Egypt," Bart says. "We know that one, at least. But it's the same kind of stuff that hid Themyscira from everyone else."

Okay. He can deal with this.

"Alright. So figuring out how to get in is priority one," he says. "Then we can deal with them before they reach their full strength and roll out to start killing people. What did they even want?"

Bart looks taken off guard by the question, genuinely confused.

"Huh?"

"What was their goal?"

"I mean... world domination, I guess? I never asked."

He never asked.

"Alright," Will says. "I'm going to handle this. Bruce and Slade can come up with a reason to start looking into it. Make some excuse about reaching out to other communities of non-humans on earth and see what Diana says."

"Okay," Bart says, "but... I'm waiting for the moon. When the moon happens, I know what I can do to keep everyone safe."

Will pauses, then reaches out, resting a hand on Bart's shoulder.

"You're doing what you can," Will says, "and I'm going to do what I can so you don't have to."

Bart nods, and Will gets to his feet.

"Head to bed, Bart. You've got to be ready for this weekend."

Bart nods, getting to his feet as fast as Will can blink.

"Alright, Will," he says. "Thanks for the talk."

Will can't say he quite feels the same way, but at least he has more information he can use.

Chapter Text

Bruce and Slade get filled in the following morning, and neither is happy. Bruce looks moments from tearing his hair out at the very idea of it.

"A hidden group of Amazons?" He says. "Which were sealed and we need some kind of magic artifact to get in, only that launched their invasion? Are you serious?"

Technically Slade isn't even on the call. Slade just happens to be sitting behind Bruce, giving his shoulders a massage to ease the obvious tension there.

"He wouldn't joke about something like that," Slade says. "At least it's something to go on."

"Now I have to figure out how to go fishing with Diana to see how much she knows," Bruce says, scrubbing at his face. "Keep... I don't know, talking to Bart. See if he knows anything else."

"Doubt there's much more to get out of him," Will says. "The impression I got is that this Resistance of his is thrown together at best. "

"No kidding," Bruce says. "I'll let you know if we hear anything."

Will hopes they have more luck then he does.

He spends the day making sure everyone's got armor that fits them. Some of it needs modification, which he handles himself after calling Oliver for advice on just how to do that. Some of them fit out of the box—Mia's is clearly custom tailored, and Jon's fits perfectly—but Siracca is several sizes too small for the smallest suit of armor.

By the time dinner rolls around, they've all got something to wear, and they look... almost like an actual team. Coordinated.

Also green. Will isn't a fan of the green, although he's sure Oliver is, but he supposes they do at least match Soranik.

So there's that.

"So, about that test," Jackson asks over dinner. "Should we... study?"

"There's nothing to study," Will says. "You'll either pass or you won't. The idea is that I get an idea of your skills, so I know what needs work."

"Is this test going to involve us being kidnapped out of our rooms in the middle of the night?" Mia asks to looks of alarm.

"No."

"That sounds like what you'd say if it was."

"The test starts at seven," Will says. "When I want you all down in the training room with all your gear."

"And my sword?" Damian asks.

"And your sword."

Damian grins, far too excited for an excuse to use it.

"Well, this has done nothing to calm my nerves," Jackson says. "Anyone have any plans for the night?"

"Lie down. Die," Tanya says. She looks absolutely miserable.

"I'm confident you'll all do just fine," Will says. He isn't, but insisting he is seems like the best way to handle it.

Will spends the rest of the day—and most of the following—studying for his tests and firmly ignoring the obvious panic. Damian's the only one immune to the anxiety in the air, and that's only because he technically already knows the test, having proposed it himself. Will doesn't bother to ask him to keep it quiet: he knows Damian will whether he asks or not.

When Will heads down to the training room at six, he's not terribly surprised to find Tanya and Jackson already there, engaged in desperate whispered conversation. Both stop, perking up when Will enters, and seem to get even more nervous.

"I'm not starting early," Will says before they can even get started. "Just wanted to check my gear."

He makes them wait till seven—when everyone's gathered save for Jon, who manages to show up a minute late despite having super speed—before he starts.

"This is an off-site test," Will says. "For safety sake, you're all going to have one of these in your armor." He produces a small tracker the size of a quarter, and then starts handing it out. "There should be a slot for it inside the collar of your suit. Just run your thumb along the inside and you'll find it."

"Off site," Tanya mumbles to herself. "What does that mean?"

"Means we'll be going somewhere else," Will says, even though he's sure it's a rhetorical question. "Which means we're borrowing Victoria."

There's no car short a school bus that's going to be able to take all nine of them, so they split into two cars, with Victoria driving behind them. The destination isn't particularly important, but Will's already picked it out anyway, finally stopping in a deserted parking lot on the far edge of San Francisco.

"Get out," Will says.

"In costume?" Mia asks. "Just... on the ground?"

"No, not on the ground," he says, nodding to the building he picked out. "I want everyone up on that roof by whatever method you want. Fly up, run up... whatever."

Bart's already gone, and Jon's going right after him. Will sighs and hands Victoria a tablet.

"Get Jon to bring you up," he says. "Then he'll bring you down when they're done. I need to get back, and I'll call you when I'm back in the security room."

It's probably cruel to make them stand around on a roof while he drives back, but that's the downside of having so many people. There's simply no other option.

By the time Will remotely accesses the tablet from the security room, the team looks moments away from mutiny.

"What's the test?" Soranik blurts. "Just—what is it?"

"You're going to be operating in cities," Will says. "Some of you have been living in the same city your whole life, and you know it like the back of your hand. But right now you're all on the same level. You all know more or less nothing about the city or it's layout. So that's why we're doing this test now, and not later."

"But what is it?" Jackson asks, folding his arms across his chest. "What are we doing?"

"You're going to get back to the security room, and check in with me."

There are a number of confused noises.

"...That's it?" Bart asks. "That doesn't seem very fair to them."

"The only person you're racing is yourself. I have a general idea of how fast you all are in a foot race. Navigating an urban environment is different, even for someone who can fly. I've got a stopwatch ready, and I'll be sending you off five minutes apart. Last one up is Jon, who gets a bonus minute for flying Victoria down to the ground safely."

"Neat," Jon says. "I can do that."

"Who wants to go first?"

Soranik and Jon look happy. Bart looks ecstatic. Everyone else looks like they're absolutely dreading it.

"Can we take the bus?" Jackson asks.

"Sure," Will says with a snort. "You can if you want to go on the bus in costume."

They've all got masks hiding their eyes, but that doesn't get rid of the inevitable awkwardness of being in costume on public transit.

"Who's going first?" He asks again.

"Me!" Bart volunteers. "I'll go, since I'll get there fastest anyway."

Will doesn't doubt that.

"Sure," Will says. He counts him down, and the moment he says zero Bart is just gone.

Will guesses three minutes.

Bart makes it in two.

"Here!" He calls as he zips into the room, looking pleased with himself, and Will clicks the stopwatch.

"You're done for the night. We'll do a group meeting to talk about results and next steps over breakfast. Do what you want with the night."

They can all hear him, which is by design, and he turns his attention back to the screen.

"Next?"

He sends them out one by one, with Jon going last. Soranik is the second to arrive back, flying in fifteen minutes after her start time.

"I got lost," she admits. "The buildings all look the same from the sky."

Will sends her off to bed and sends Jackson off.

Tanya's the second last to go, and then Jon's the absolute last.

"Not my idea of a great time," Victoria tells him as she gets into the car, watching Jon take off. "I have to admit I don't see the... appeal of this test."

"There's something to be learned from it," Will says. "It's a Batman classic, which is why Damian's so quiet. He's already done it once before, and his test results basically have to be thrown out."

"Alright," Victoria says. "I'm interested. When are you going to tell me what's actually going on?"

"Tomorrow morning," Will says. "I'll probably be waiting up. It'll take a few hours for some of them to get back."

"At least it's a weekend," Victoria says. "I just hope you know what you're doing."

Well, Will figures it can't actually hurt.

Chapter Text

Jon is the third to get back, but there's a significant margin between Soranik and his arrival that isn't accounted for by their order in the lineup.

"Will," Jon says as he flies in. "Can I go back out? Or do I have to go to bed?"

Will is careful to keep his expression neutral, raising an eyebrow as he turns back to Jon.

"Out?"

"Damian said he'd keep an eye on Siracca, but Tanya seemed really upset, and I was thinking maybe I could... you know, keep an eye on her? To make sure she's okay."

Will's already seen the tracking dots on the map telling him as much, but he acts as if he hasn't, giving a nod.

"Alright," he says. He doesn't specify anything further. "Go ahead. You don't have school tomorrow anyway."

Jon gives him a particularly awful salute, and then takes off, heading back out of the building.

With his fliers (and his lone speedster) out of the way, Will spends a bit of time to get comfortable. He has the city map with the trackers pulled up on one screen, letting him watch as they all move through the city. Jackson's playing to his strengths, heading for a river, and everyone else seems to be making slow but steady progress back towards base.

He pulls up social media on another screen, setting up a few filters for the area, and lets it start to populate. Already there are posts of people seeing Soranik flying through the air, her constructs making her obvious against the sky. But there are other posts as well: people have spotted his team as they make their way through the city.

It's the police chatter that throws him off.

"Dispatch, we just spotted a Robin passing Ocean Avenue..."

It takes a bit for him to recognize what's happening: the local police, lacking any major superheroes, have simply imported terms from other cities. A Robin is a kid in a costume, a Nightwing is someone who might be an older teenager or a young adult, and a Batman is an adult in a costume.

The really confusing part is that they all seem so confused. Will doesn't want to wake Victoria, so he pulls her files up, flipping through for confirmation before calling the non-emergency number and explaining the situation.

It's surreal listening to his own voice on the police channels when they finally patch him through.

"This is dispatch," the woman says. "We've got a member of the Justice League with a message for all of you, so I'm patching him through now."

There's a click and he can hear his own voice, loud and clear.

"This is Wilson, calling in to clarify for all of you currently on patrol. ARGUS contacted your commissioner already and worked this out with him, but it seems like he's neglected to inform you what's going on here. The Robins you're seeing out tonight in green are mine, and they're still in early training. We're not actively patrolling just yet."

"Is that why I've got a guy who just tried to hold up a convenience store with an arrow in his shoulder?" One of the cops says, which kicks off a round of maintain proper radio protocol reminders.

"None of them are going to stand around if they spot trouble," Will says. "You should have already been told, so take it up with your commissioner."

He leaves it at that, hanging up and letting the police get back to work. They seem less baffled when it comes time to report in on what they're seeing, but it's clear that not everyone is happy about having supers running around the city.

It's not always obvious who's responsible. Someone interrupts a domestic, and Will can't figure out if it was Jackson or Damian, both of which were nearby.

It's been three hours by the time Mia drags herself in. She looks comfortable in her own skin, relaxed for the first time since she arrived at the tower.

"I'm not going to hear a word of complaint from you," she says as she reaches the security room. "I just wanted to grab a bottle of water, and then some idiot was robbing the store, and then his getaway driver took off and I couldn't just let him go."

"We'll talk about it in the morning," Will says with a wave of his hand. "Go to bed."

Mia grunts at him, but doesn't protest.

That leaves him with four still in the field, and only three still technically on the clock. Jon seems to be staying near Tanya, but probably just out of range as she picks her way across the city. Siracca and Damian seem to be travelling as a pair, making good time as they do.

Will grabs himself some snacks and prepares for the long haul.

Siracca and Damian make it back after six hours, but still in good spirits. Siracca looks exhausted but pleased with herself, and Damian's already confident in his assessment of the test.

"Should we tell you how we did?" Damian asks, although Siracca yawning undercuts his attempt at seriousness.

"We'll talk about it in the morning," Will says. "Get to bed, you two."

That leaves only Jon and Tanya.

But an hour later, Tanya's barely even moving, and there's no chatter on the radio that would explain the difference. He watches as Jon's dot starts rapidly moving, approaching the base at what must be his top speed. Will's already waiting for him when Jon turns the corner, and seems caught off guard until Will taps on himself where Jon's tracker is.

"Oh, right," Jon says after a moment. "Uhm—I was thinking maybe you should stop the test?"

 Will raises an eyebrow.

"Why would I do that?"

"Tanya is... uhm, she's not doing great," Jon says as he fidgets. "She was crying and I think she thinks she's going to be... to be kicked out. But you're not going to, right? You wouldn't just kick her out. So you should end the test and tell her she's not going to be thrown out..."

"She needs to finish the test," Will says. "If she's going to give up, she's not going to be able to last on the team."

Jon frowns at that, fidgeting some more, but doesn't argue.

"I'm going to go watch. Just in case."

"Go right ahead."

Jon leaves with a backward glance, and Will turns back to his monitoring.

It's six thirty when Jon drags himself back in. He looks deeply unhappy, mumbling something about Tanya already being back, and then goes off to crawl into bed for the few minutes he can get.

Ten minutes later, Will turns away from the monitors, sitting down to wait for Tanya in the entrance of the security room.

She's a mess. Beyond the fact that she looks like she's just run a marathon, she's clearly been crying, her eyes red despite clear attempts to hide that fact.

"I'm back," she says quietly. "I'm going—I need to sleep."

"Go sleep," he says." She's only got ten minutes until breakfast, and he hasn't even started cooking. "You can skip the morning meeting—sleep is more important."

He gets up, patting her on the back, and sends her up to her room, going to start breakfast.

The meeting's going to be a sight to see.

Chapter Text

Will feels like he's speedrunning breakfast. Bart and Soranik are already up and waiting before he starts cooking, making eggs and bacon while Bart starts making toast for himself.

"Did everyone get back?" Soranik asks.

"Tanya only just got back," Will says. "She'll be missing the morning meeting."

Soranik's face pinches with obvious concern, but she doesn't ask for clarification.

Will hands people plates as they limp in. Some are just fine, while others look exhausted. Siracca's yawning even as she eats, and Jon looks moments away from nodding off into his plate.

"When do we get results?" Bart asks.

"We're waiting for Victoria," Will says. "Can't imagine she'll be long."

She isn't. She's there ten minutes after breakfast starts getting served, fetching herself a plate and digging in.

"Did I miss anything?" Victoria asks as she takes a seat. "We appear to be missing one."

"Tanya was held up," Will says. "I told her to stay in bed."

Jon sinks down into his seat.

"Results?" Bart asks again.

"Alright," Will says. "Results."

He fetches his tablet, broadcasting onto the TV in the living room so they can all see. He's got the times on the screen, and the disparity is clear. There's a lot of wincing at how long it took for Tanya to get back, and the excitement in the room suddenly is a lot less excited.

"So," Will says, "you all failed."

There's an immediate uproar. Several people hop to their feet, including Bart, who zips right up to Will, gesturing to the screen.

"How did I fail?" He says. "I was here within five minutes! It's not my fault I had to slow down to go through security!"

"I don't see how I failed!" Damian protests. "I did everything right."

"I shouldn't be judged for helping people!" Mia shouts.

"Sit down and shut up!" Will roars, and everyone flinches backwards at the volume. Jon winces, hands covering his ears, but everyone slowly sinks back down into their seats.

"There were two success conditions," Will says. "The first was time based. Your results should have been this."

Will taps his tablet, and the screen swaps. Rather than hours, the times are suddenly measured in minutes.

"How the hell do you think I could have gotten back to the tower in five minu—" Jackson starts, stopping abruptly as he realizes. "Fuck."

"Language," Victoria says. She's gone from looking deeply skeptical after his announcement that they all failed to looking deeply amused. She's caught on to the trick... or at least part of it.

"I don't get it," Soranik says.

"How did I fail if my time was faster than that time?" Bart acts, baffled. "I did better than the time!"

"Because it's combined," Jackson says. "We're a team. We should have collaborated. If we'd thought this out, we could have had Jon and Soranik take us all back. We could have been done the test within forty-five minutes."

There's a groan, and no one tries to protest. They point of the test is sinking in, and Damian huffs.

"You changed the test," Damian says.

"The test was changed because there was more than one of you."

"Wait, Damian knew about the test?" Jon asks, confused.

"The test's a Batman original," Damian explains. "He tells us it takes two hours to get back to the cave from the far side of Gotham, and then leaves us. But the test isn't about speed, it's about helping people. It's about whether you see people in trouble and try and help them."

Jackson groans, sinking so far down into his seat he's almost on the floor.

"That's the other success condition," the groans.

"You all failed because you live or die together as a team, but some of you did better than others," Will says, eyes sweeping across the room. "Jon didn't think to help everyone, but he was worried about those falling behind, and chose to go back out to make sure Tanya was okay. Damian got cocky and believed he knew the test well enough he didn't have to worry, but then he used that energy to help Siracca make her way back, knowing she'd have trouble with it. Many of you also stopped to help people on your way. Mia dealt with a convenience store robbery. Which of you handled the domestic?"

"That was me," Jackson says, timidly raising his hands. "So... points for that, I guess?"

"Points for that," Will confirms.

"What about Tanya?" Jon asks, and as much as Will is happy Jon's worried about her, he sure as hell doesn't want to have that conversation right then.

"She and I will be talking," Will says. "She didn't do well on this test and we're going to need to talk about it. I'll handle it."

"She was really upset," Jon says quietly.

"I know," Will says. He's not an idiot. It would be hard to miss.

"So maybe you could—"

"I get it, Jon," Will says. "I'm going to talk to her. She needs sleep."

"I don't think she's sleeping right now," Jon mumbles.

"So what are we... uh, doing?" Jackson asks. "With the rest of the day, I mean?"

"Sleeping," Will says. "Most of you have just spent the whole night running around the city. Catch up on your sleep. Think about what you could have done differently. There's a reason you've been encouraged to spend time with each other rather than just jumping straight into training."

"I wanna sleep," Siracca mumbles, already nodding off against Damian's side.

Will should probably sleep himself, only Jon's giving him the most intense pair of puppy dog eyes he's ever seen, which means he supposes he needs to at least check on Tanya before bed.

Even if he'd rather just sleep.

Chapter Text

Will knocks at Tanya's door with the hope that he's not going to get a response. He doesn't, but so close he can lean forward, hearing that there's something happening inside.

Great.

That something is obviously movement, so Will knocks once again and lets himself in, leaning in the door to take a look.

Tanya is packing. She looks to be almost done, dropping her clothes back in the suitcase she arrived with, and she doesn't look up even as Will opens the door.

"Tanya," Will says. He's going to have to interrupt it before it goes any farther. He can't just let her... do this. Pack. Leave. Obviously she's leaving, and Will's mind is struggling to connect all the events in order. Does she think she's being fired?

"Tanya," he says again, and she finally looks up. Her eyes are red and puffy, her cheeks wet. She's obviously been crying more or less nonstop since he last saw her, and Will isn't clear how she's still standing. Crying is exhausting. "You're not being fired."

"I failed," she says, her voice cracking as she does. She doesn't even stop packing, turning away to continue grabbing her clothes.

"Everyone failed," he says. "The point of the test was to see if you could come together as a team, and no one did. The other half of the test was about helping people, which you did. You found a runaway kid and made sure they realized that a fight with their brother wasn't something worth living on the streets over."

Or at least that was the gist he got from what he could gather off the police radio.

"I should have known this wasn't going to work."

Will doesn't understand how what she just said connects to what he just said. It's like they're having two completely different conversations, so he closes the door behind him, making sure no one else is going to overhear.

"Not sure I know what you're talking about."

"This," she says, gesturing ll around them. "All of this. This wasn't going to work. It was never going to work."

"Tanya, half the reason this team even exists is because of you," he says, trying not to sound as annoyed as he feels. "Now you're just quitting?"

"This isn't just quitting, Will," she says. "This is accepting the truth. I'm not cut out for this."

"You did just fine on the Titans," Will says, "same with Defiance."

"That was different," she says desperately. "I had powers then."

"Half the team doesn't have powers," Will says, annoyed. It feels like cowardice to him. It feels like she's quitting just because she can't punch someone through a building anymore. "Mia and Damian both somehow manage to make do without any powers. You can do the same."

"Damian was raised by Ra's al Ghul!" Tanya yells, her voice almost hysterical. "Mia was personally trained by Green Arrow! I'm not like them, Will. I can't do the things they do."

"If this is about training—"

"This isn't about training. You can't fix this with some sparring. This is about... this is about being afraid, Will. When I was Power Girl I could do anything and it didn't matter, because I could just go home when I was done and be fine. I didn't have to worry about a random mugger shooting me and dying from it. I didn't have to go into every situation thinking about how I could get hurt!"

She's scared. The fact hits Will like a brick to the face. No, not even scared. Tanya is terrified.

It doesn't make sense.

"You got to be power girl because when a scary situation happened, you stood up for yourself to help others," Will says. "Nothing's changed about that. You started this without powers, and losing them shouldn't change a thing."

"That's different! There's a difference between being in an awful situation and standing up for yourself and choosing to go into a situation knowing what could happen. I can handle one, but I can't handle the other. The whole stupid test today just hammered that home. That I... that I can't. I can't do that. I helped people, but every person I helped just made me more scared. I can't do what they do."

Will has absolutely no fucking idea what to do. She's effectively quitting. He's not going to fire her, and she didn't fail any worse than anyone else, but she's quitting anyway, and Will reaches up, dragging his hands through his hair.

"Just tell me what I'm supposed to be doing here," he says. He needs an actual answer. "Really, just tell me."

Tanya's shoulders sag.

"...I could use a hug," she says quietly. "My mom—she can't—"

She doesn't really need to explain. What little she's said makes things fairly clear, and Will is just happy that she actually gave him an answer. Everything would be so much easier if people would just be up front.

He pulls Tanya into a hug, letting her bury her face against him as she starts to sob. The feeling is familiar enough that he knows what to do, patting her back and letting her cry until she doesn't feel like she needs to anymore. He carefully guides her over, sitting down on the bed and letting her do the same.

"Tanya, you're not leaving," Will says. "You're not getting fired."

"But I'm quitting."

"No," Will says. "You aren't."

"You can't—you can't stop me from quitting," Tanya protests, pulling back from the hug to glare at him. The effect probably isn't what she was hoping for, considering how sad and pathetic she looks.

"I can," Will says. "I just did. But if you really want to quit, you've got to do an exit interview."

Tanya gives him the dirtiest look she can muster.

"Why did you want to be on this team?" Will asks. "Why did you want to be on the Teen Titans in the first place?"

She doesn't have an immediate answer, and it takes her a little bit to come up with one in between a few hiccupy tears as she tries to pull herself together.

"I got powers," she said quietly. "And I... I thought I should use them to help people. But I don't have powers anymore, so—"

Will folds his arms over his chest.

"You do realize that one of the most prominent people on the entire planet has no powers at all, right? It's not about having powers."

"That's different," she says. "I'm not like him. Not like them."

"You're right," Will says. "You aren't. If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it'll live its whole life believing it's an idiot."

"That's—that isn't quite the quote," Tanya says, rubbing at her eyes as she stifles a small laugh. "I don't think I'm stupid. I just... I just know I'm not cut out for this hero stuff."

"I told you when we first met that there's no such thing as heroes or villains. People simply do what they do."

Tanya looks away.

"And I told you that what you did was kill people."

"And I did," Will says. And will once again, if Bart's future comes to pass. He just has to stop it. "And what you did was help people."

"I can't help people. I'm not—I'm not that person anymore."

"Why do you think helping people means punching criminals?" Will asks, and Tanya's head snaps up, her eyes going wide and confused.

"Isn't that... isn't that what we're talking about?"

"We're talking about helping people. For some people, that means acts of violence. For other people, that means other things. I told you everyone failed because they didn't come together as a team. You know why that was?"

Tanya is silent, but she shakes her head.

"The team didn't have a leader. They look to me for insight, so when they're actually having to deal with me in a case like this, they don't know what to do."

"I can't be... I can't be a leader," Tanya says desperately. "They need... they need someone who's out with them."

"A leader is someone who leads. Someone who gives directions. A team this large would struggle having any one leader who's in control of everything. What they need right now is someone who is good at tactics, who can assess the situation on the fly, and who has the cunning to put all the details together and use them to maximum effect."

Tanya looks flushed, but at least she's no longer crying. He reaches out, tapping her forehead.

"You've got a big brain, Tanya," he says. "Time to use it. Your resignation is rejected, so get unpacked."

"I'm... I don't know if they'd want me."

"They probably don't," Will says. "They haven't seen much of you just yet. But part of this stage of team building is that everyone's proving themselves to everyone else. I don't expect them to embrace having a commander keeping an eye on things from a distance right away. I expect that you'll prove yourself to them when the chips are down."

"I don't... know if I'll be able to do it," Tanya says quietly.

"You will," Will says with absolute certainty. He can't let even a scrap of doubt show, or else she'll latch onto it. He has to sound like he knows, even if he's flying by the seat of his pants.

None of it was planned. None of it was organized. But if he says that, she'll go right back to thinking there's no place for her on the team, and he can't allow that.

"You're sure?" She asks quietly.

"Absolutely. Now get unpacked, and I expect to see you at lunch, when I'm going to tell them about your new position."

"Okay," she says, rubbing at her eyes. "Sorry about... all this."

"You're doing just fine," Will says, "but the next time you try and quit on me, I'm not going to be happy."

She cracks another smile at that, and Will excuses himself before she can catch on to how much of their conversation was done on the fly.

Chapter Text

They meeting doesn't end up happening at lunch. Siracca is still asleep, so in the end Will announces they'll have a meeting over dinner and calls it a day.

Tanya's in good spirits, even if Jon is obviously worried about her.

"It's sorted out," Will overhears her telling Jon. "Don't worry about it, alright? I'm sorry for scaring you earlier."

There seems to be a general sense of awareness of the fact that they're a team that wasn't there before. Before, they were just kids who happened to be living in the same place, studying under the same guy. Now, it's clear to Will that they're all thinking about it. When Jackson invites Bart to play games with him and Jon, it's clear he's extending his hand to a teammate. When Mia asks Soranik if she needs any help with her schoolwork, it's the same thing: one teammate to another.

It isn't a bad change.

Everyone's there for dinner, settled in around the table when Will stands, getting straight to the point.

"Tanya's shifting her position in the team. Rather than going out on missions with the rest of you, she'll be staying back and serving as a coordinator. She'll provide intelligence, advice, and warnings while you're in the field."

"Like Barbara did?" Damian asks.

"Same idea," Will says. "Not everyone needs a combat role."

It's not like anyone has any objections, so WIll moves on to the next topic.

"I'm not here to make you heroes," he says, which gets a confused reaction. "Other people will do a better job of that than I ever could. What I'm here to do is to make you a team. To train you to be the best version of yourselves. What you decide to do with that is up to you."

"Isn't that the same thing?" Soranik asks.

"No," Will says. It's a bit of nuance that he's always thought was obvious, but now realizes that it needs to be explained more clearly. "When you draw the line between heroes and villains, you pervert your own morals. It means you look at decisions they make as either good or bad based on which side they're standing on. If a villain does something good, isn't it still a good thing? Does it become bad just because a villain did it? The same goes for heroes. When you draw those lines, you wind up looking the other way."

"I understand," Mia says. "Look at actions by themselves. Don't be afraid to point out what's wrong with a hero's actions, or what's good about a villains."

"Exactly," Will says. "When people pick sides, things go badly... so don't."

They seem to take it to heart over the next few days. They fall into a routine, adjusting to their new roles. He still makes Tanya practice—she needs to be able to defend herself in a crisis—but her training becomes more focused on what she'll actually be doing. She learns the ins and outs of other people's powers, sitting in on personal training sessions as Will puts them each through their paces. They've all got things to focus on, although what varies pretty heavily.

Jon's too quick to act, and becomes uncertain when he stops to think things through, second guessing himself. Mia does just fine with Damian, but has trouble accounting for other people's skillset. Damian's the most well rounded, but is too confident in his decisions, too convinced he's right.

Jackson simply needs more team training in general, Soranik needs to learn to use her ring effectively, and Siracca's own struggles have more to do with getting along with her teammates than anything to do with combat.

Bart, on the other hand, is great in combat. He's great at using his powers. He even does just fine working with teammates.

It's Tanya who, after one long training session, puts it into words for Will.

"I don't think he trusts us," she says. "It's like he expects us to fail him. Or... I don't know, like he doesn't want to trust us. Like he doesn't want to get close."

Will has a pretty good idea why that would be, but he's not sure how the hell he's supposed to approach it.

"Maybe he'll open up if everyone's more friendly with him," Will says.

"I can do that," Tanya responds immediately. "I'll see if I can't get him to relax a bit more around us."

Will wonders how any student is expected to get everything done with how much homework that's dumped on them, so he's forced to shift the schedule around to accommodate it all. Will spends his own days reading through the study guides for his tests, booking a series of increasingly complex exams back to back. He has to get a special waiver to have so many in a row, but when his grades start coming back, they're happy to let him do it.

"We need codenames," Will tells them friday night, not long after Damian finishes his call with Thomas.

"I mean, I have one," Mia says. "Can't we just use the ones we have?"

"Lots of us have them," Damian says, "but not all of us."

"I'm just going with Aqualad," Jackson says.

"Superboy Indigo. But I guess you could call me Superboy if you want."

"Shrike."

"I'm sticking with Speedy," Mia says.

"Shouldn't I be Speedy?" Bart asks, confused.

"That's why it's perfect. It'll confuse them. No one expects to get shot by an arrow by someone named Speedy."

"Well, I'm going with Impulse," Bart says.

"What does Hal call himself?" Soranik asks Will.

"He's just Green Lantern. All the Lanterns just call themselves Green Lantern... or their name."

"Then... Green Lantern," she says. "Or Soranik."

Which just leaves two.

"Siracca?"

"Maybe something... Greek?"

"Anemoi," Damian says automatically. "Winds."

"That sounds pretty," she says quietly.

"It'll work for now. If you come up with something you like better, we can do that. Tanya?"

Tanya looks confused at being addressed at all.

"...Do I need one? I mean... Power Girl doesn't really make sense anymore..."

"They still need something to call you," Will says. "First thing that comes to mind."

"Advisor?"

"Not that."

"You'll be working with computers, right?" Mia asks. "Why not something cool and technical sounding like proxy?"

"Proxy is... I mean, that sounds nice. Technical, and all that."

"It's done then," Will says before they can get too hung up on the details. "Which is good, because you've got your first mission tomorrow."

"We what?" Jackson asks. "Tomorrow? It hasn't even been a week since we failed our first test."

"I'm more curious as to why you know there's going to be something that requires our intervention," Damian says.

Will looks to Victoria, who steps up.

"An art thief—a particularly arrogant one at that—has alerted a local museum they'll be breaking in tomorrow after the museum closes."

"They... gave notice?" Jackson asks, eyes sliding over to where Will is standing. "This is a test, isn't it? To see if we can stop them."

"This isn't a test," Will says. "Some idiot just thinks he's going to be a modern day Lupin."

"The Harry Potter character?" Mia asks.

"No, the anime thief," Jackson says.

"The famous literary french thief, you philistines!" Damian says, throwing his hands into the air.

"Focusing on something that isn't Earth pop culture, why did we get called in?"

"Police don't want to stake out a massive museum for what might be a fraud," Will says.

"At this moment we're unsure of what, exactly, they choose to take. So you'll be handling the entire museum," Victoria elaborates.

"I could handle all of it by myself," Bart says.

"But we don't know what we're dealing with. It might just be a guy, or it might be a group. They might have powers, for all we know. So we have to be careful," Tanya says.

"First mission," Will says, "and you're going to have a lot of unknowns. I'll be nearby, offering advice if needed. It's probably just a single thief who isn't expecting much. Should be nice and easy."

"Now you've jinxed us," Mia groans, and there's a round of laughter.

"We'll leave before dinner," Will says. "So make sure you're rested and ready to go."

Chapter Text

Will makes a point of ensuring he's got a good view of the proceedings. The museum's surrounded by open space, backing up onto the waterfront, so he takes position on a rooftop just beside it.

He's got a mask just like his old one, right down to the blacked out eye. Only rather than actually blacked out, the lens on the left feels him security footage or whatever else Tanya chooses to pipe him while they're in action.

He doesn't think he'll be needed. He absolutely shouldn't be needed. But he wants to be ready anyway.

"You want to check everyone's in position," Will says privately to Tanya, getting himself comfortable. He knows he's going to have to coach her through the basics, but he figures she'll pick it up pretty quickly.

"Everyone in position?" Tanya says immediately.

"Aqualad in the water."

"I'm in the air," Soranik says.

"Codename," Tanya reminds her.

"Green Lantern in the air."

"Impulse and Speedy standing by."

"Superboy in position with Shrike."

"I'm here," Siracca says gently.

"Codenames," Tanya says again.

"Sir—Anemoi is here."

"Superboy?"

"Superboy Indigo, ready to go!"

Siracca, Jon, and Damian are already inside, while Bart and Mia stand by outside. There's no telling where they'll come from, or how many of them there will be. The plan's Tanyas, and as far as Will can tell it'll serve them well.

"...So now we just wait?" Siracca says.

"It's a stakeout," Damian says. "We just wait."

The right eye of Will's mask is flicking through security footage from the museum. For once, it's not even hacked: they've been allowed to patch in directly, leaving the security room both empty and useless for anyone who breaks into it.

The clock ticks to eleven.

"I got something," Jon says. "They're here."

Tanya flicks Will's camera footage to the wing Jon's in, where a figure has just walked through the wall. The camera footage isn't high quality enough for him to read Jon's lips, but just from his posture (and the fact that he opens by jabbing his finger at the figure), he's demanding he surrender.

The figure doesn't, and Jon shoots forward, taking a swing at the figure. Stupid. Stupid and coming on too strong, considering they have no idea what the guy is capable of. Considering they just walked through a wall, Will's expecting someone with phasing abilities, and he's not disappointed. Jon either misses or goes through the guy, nearly colliding with the wall.

Damian rushes in to provide assistance, tossing a shuriken, and the target just steps out of the way.

He's fast.

"Impulse, Speedy, join Shrike and Superboy. Everyone else, hold position," Tanya instructs, and Will can see the flash of light as Bart heads into the museum, leaving Mia to run after him.

The real surprise comes when Bart appears on his camera feed, taking a swing at the guy and... whiffing.

The guy moved fast enough to dodge Bart?

Will's pretty sure just from that that he's figured out what's going on, but he keeps his mouth shut. It's low stakes. No one's going to die. Even if they fail, no one's going to die. There's no better time to learn on their feet.

"How—how are we supposed to catch someone who's as fast as Impulse?" Tanya says, and Will realizes she said it onto the open line, letting the whole team hear her. When he speaks to her, he does it  privately.

"Tanya," he says. "Focus. You're in the position you're in because you've got a big brain, so use it."

"Okay," she says, clearly trying to focus. "He's not a speedster. He's not doing anything. He's... he's act—Jon—Superboy. What can you hear?"

"Uhhh," Jon says, and Will watches him look around on the camera. "Us?"

"What can you hear from the target?"

"Nothing."

"Should I be joining them?" Jackson asks.

"Hold position," Tanya says. "Speedy, circle the building, look for open entrances."

She's clearly come to the same conclusion Will did.

"This was a distraction," Damian snaps. "The real target is somewhere else."

"What you're fighting is just an illusion," Tanya confirms. "Do we have a way to find where they actually are?"

"Everyone's really loud," Jon says, "but I can try."

"I can find them," Siracca says quietly. "But everyone has to be still. Can you..." She trails off, but on the security feed Will sees Siracca step out of hiding, gesturing for Jon, Damian, and Bart to come together. They all pack tightly together, and then... something.

Will's having a hard time figuring out what he just saw, and it's not until Damian clarifies over comms that he understands.

"Anemoi just sent out a... wind gust," he says. "We're in pursuit."

Siracca seems to be using her wind as a primitive form of echolocation, and the group heads together as she follows the trail.

"Open door here," Speedy confirms. "It wasn't open last time I patrolled, so either they just left, or..."

"Or they stopped focusing on the illusions," Will says to them. He's still got eyes on the room where the figure was, and the fact that they've disappeared completely apparently went unnoticed by those inside.

"They'll be hiding themselves," Tanya says. "Superboy, listen for any sounds that aren't—"

"Got them!" Jon yells, darting forward.

For a moment, Jon seems to blink out of existence, and then the illusion vanishes. He's holding a squirming man by the collar of his shirt. The guy isn't even in a costume, obviously relying on his illusions, and he squirms in place as Jon dangles him in the air.

"Good job, Superboy," Tanya says. "Just... hold onto him. Green Lantern, can you come down and make a prison?"

"I can make a cell, yeah," Soranik says, and Will watches Soranik drop down out of the sky to join them.

Will turns to watch the only person he can actually see. Jackson's still in the water, looking bored as he bobs in place, prepared for a water escape that isn't happening.

"Got him," Soranik says.

"Police are on their way to pick him up," Tanya says. "His illusions seem to primarily be visual based, so try covering his eyes."

In the distance, Jackson suddenly bobs beneath the surface, and Will drags his hand down his face. Not now. Not right then.

"Tanya," he barks. "Jackson just went under."

"He's—what the—Jackson? He's moving really—"

"Superboy," Will says. "Pick me up."

"What—"

"Now."

There's really only one thing that could be happening, and Will doesn't bother to explain things as Jon zips out of the museum, flying up to intercept Will. He's got his arms in the air, and Jon simply grabs him.

"Proxy, give me an overlay of his position. Superboy, Manta's going to be in a sub, but it can't have dived that far. You think you can get me down to it?"

"Manta?" Tanya yelps, but she's already feeding him a map. "Did you see him, or—"

"Of course it's Manta," Will says. "Jackson knew this was going to happen. We're just dealing with it now rather than later. Superboy?"

"I see it," he says. "He's only... I don't know, thirty feet down? They're trying to get distance, I think."

"Lantern, hand off the prisoner to Shrike and then come prepare to assist," Will says. "Superboy, dive with me and get us into that ship."

"Are we fighting?"

"We're talking," Will says. Talking first. Fighting second. Manta can't take him, but Will doesn't want to kill Jackson's father in front of him.

"Got it."

Jon doesn't warn him before he dives, ripping through the water. It's absolutely freezing, and the gear isn't even close to waterproof. The video in his helmet cuts, and Will's almost blind in the cold of the water. The only thing he's got going for him is Jon's hands on his arms, keeping him from getting lost.

And then he's very suddenly out of the water, being dropped onto a hard surface that Will figures must be the inside of the sub.

The Manta sub.

Because of fucking course it's Manta. His face is hidden behind the helmet, but Will wants to think that he must look bewildered at the soaking wet Deathstroke that just showed up on his ship.

Jackson looks to be out cold, sprawled on one of the seats in the sub, but he's not bleeding, which is probably a plus.

"I believe you have something of mine," Will says. Jon hovers just beside him, obviously ready to tear something apart.

"He's mine," Manta snaps, but doesn't follow it up with any threats, probably because he knows he's already lost.

Will makes a point of hammering that home.

"He isn't," Will says. "If he was actually yours, you wouldn't have to kidnap him. Trust me, as one father to another."

"What?"

Manta seems absolutely bewildered by everything that is happening, and Will can't entirely blame him.

"I'll make it simple for you," Will says. "You come after Jackson again, you're going to want to bring an army. Because if you come after him again, I'm going to take off one of your arms so you have something to remember me by."

Will steps forward, brushing right past Manta. He half expects Manta to take a swing at him, but instead he steps back, letting Will pass as he bends down, scooping Jackson's unconscious body into his arms.

"He's got something in his hand," Jon says. "He's trying to hide it, I think."

Hm. Will feels like he should have seen that coming, and he shifts Jackson in his arms, holding out his hand.

"Hand it over."

Then Manta seems more hesitant to do so, which doesn't make Will terribly sympathetic towards him.

"Both your arms."

Manta drops Jackson's shell necklace into Will's hand. Will isn't stupid enough to think that it's just a necklace, so he carefully prys it open, finding a black pearl inside.

"Good enough," Will says. "Remember what I said, David."

He makes a point of using Manta's real name just to add extra confusion to the scenario, and heads back towards the hatch, closing the shell and tucking the necklace away for later.

"Superboy?" He says, watching Jon turn away from Manta back towards him. He's hovering in the air, looking agitated, and it's obvious he's worried about Jackson... and angry.

"Yeah?"

"You didn't hear any of that."

"Hear what?" Jon says with a grin.

"Good kid. Now let's get out of here."

Getting pulled along by Jon through the freezing cold ocean is just as miserable the second time around, and not an experience Will wants to repeat as they break the surface to find Soranik already waiting with a bright green light platform. Jon carefully sets Will down, who carefully sets Jackson down.

"What's his heartbeat like, Jon?"

"Fine," Jon says, leaning over Jackson. "It's normal. His breathing is weird, but it's always kind of weird. I think because of the gills?"

"I'm going to tell them you're fine," Soranik says, and Will sees her turn away, speaking into the comms. His are dead, as is most of the electronics in his suit. He's shivering from the cold, and desperate to be out of the wind.

"Let's go home," he says, and Soranik starts back towards land.

Chapter Text

To Will's annoyance, he's the only person actually affected by how absolutely freezing the ocean is. Jackson and Jon both seem completely immune to it. There's a lot of confusion as everyone gets caught up, but in the end Mia takes the car, bringing Damian and Siracca home with her. Soranik flies the rest of them back on a platform, and Will spends the entire time shivering from the cold.

Tanya and Victoria are waiting for them when they arrive back, with Victoria already having a stretcher ready.

"He's just sedated," Will says. "But check on him anyway. I need a hot shower." He heads up the stairs, starting to peel off his suit as he does, before calling back. "And someone tell Arthur about this bullshit!"

Will soaks himself under a hot shower until he stops feeling so cold, zoning out midway through. He wishes he had a bath, but the shower's just going to have to do.

By the time he gets out, pulling on an oversized sweater as he does, everyone else is already back, milling about. The second floor has a small medical center, and Will's relieved to see Jackson's already awake, even if he looks groggy.

"What did I miss?" Will asks. Victoria gives his wet hair a dirty look.

"I alerted Arthur," she says. "He's already on his way. We're looking into your thief—"

"Don't bother," Will says. "I can already tell you what happened. Manta heard Jackson was in the area, figured he could bait him out with the phantom thief schtick, and paid the guy to make himself a target. Any team worth their salt would stick Jackson there to cover a water escape. He just didn't realize who his team was, or that I'd be there."

"Okay, but... why?" Mia asks. "Like, that's his dad, but..."

"He's not my dad," Jackson protests from the bed. "He's just—"

"We get it," Will says. "He's an asshole. He won't be coming after you again any time soon."

 "Again, why?" Mia asks. "This doesn't make sense."

Will produces the shell, holding it up for Jackson to see.

"You know what this is?"

"My mom gave it to me," he says. "Family heirloom, I guess?"

"Well, Manta wanted it. He wasn't after you, he was after this."

"Guess that's... good?" Jackson mumbles, sinking back down into the bed. His mixed feelings are clear.

"I'll deal with Arthur," he says. "Everyone else..." He pauses, scanning the packed room in front of him. "...Good job. Now get to bed."

"Jackson's going to be fine?" Siracca asks quietly.

"I'll be fine," Jackson says. "You don't have to worry about me, alright?" He reaches out, ruffling Siracca's hair, and she grins in response.

"I'm just happy you're okay, Jackson."

She leans forward, hugging Jackson quickly, and then pulls back.

Everyone starts trickling out, and Will sits down beside Jackson, leaning back as he sighs.

"I'm going to get sick," he mutters quietly. "First time in decades, and it's because of a bit of water."

Tanya pauses, right about to leave, and then turns around to squint at him.

"One, you don't actually get sick from being cold," she says. "Two... why?"

"Turned off my regeneration," Will grunts. "Wanted to age." He thought Tanya already knew about that.

"Okay, I knew about the aging thing, but why... those..." She makes a frustrated noise. "Those are totally different biological processes. Isn't your thing supposed to be hyper-specific control of your body? Just... be selective about it."

"Tanya, no one even knows how aging works," Will points out. "It's not as easy as flipping a switch."

"I'm just saying, you're supposed to be a super genius. You should be able to figure it out."

Will grunts, and Tanya shrugs before leaving them alone. Victoria lingers nearby, and Will dozes in one of the chairs.

"Go to bed," Victoria says. "I can handle this one."

"I need to talk with Arthur."

"He'll be here in the morning," she says, making a shooing motion. "Go to bed. This is what I'm here for."

Will looks to Jackson, but it's pointless. Jackson himself is already asleep, mouth hanging open as he drools onto the pillow.

"Fine," Will says. "But wake me up when he gets here."

Victoria doesn't. Will wakes to his alarm the following morning, staring groggily at it before rolling over and nearly falling out of bed.

To his annoyance, Arthur Curry is sitting in the living room when he makes it to the kitchen.

"Victoria was supposed to wake me," Will complains. "How long have you been here?"

"All night," Arthur says, looking cheerful. "Victoria filled me in, but we agreed it would be better to let you sleep. I hear you dived right in after Jackson when you realized what was happening."

"Jon carried me," he says. "Not quite the same thing."

"Close enough," Arthur says. "I owe you a great deal already."

"Good," Will says. "Then deal with this."

Will produces the necklace, holding it up. He watches Arthur's expression closely, but all he gets is a look of confusion.

"...A shell?"

Will pops it open, showing off the pearl, but there's no recognition.

"...What is it?" Arthur asks.

"What Manta was after. Going after Jackson was a cover. This was his real objective."

"Unfortunate," Arthur says, reaching out to take the shell, inspecting the pearl before tucking it away. "Here I was hoping Manta was showing some genuine interest in his son for once."

"No such luck," Will says, sitting down onto the couch and sagging back. He's sore. He's not used to being sore, but he's sore anyway. "You talked with Jackson?"

"We spoke when I first arrived. He's fine, but Victoria is keeping him under observation anyway. We believe he was simply sedated—Manta has a number of sedatives that will take down even an Atlantean."

"I could name six," Will mutters under his breath, leaning back on the couch and letting his eyes drift closed. "Sorry, not in the best of moods right now. First mission didn't exactly go great. I should have realized it was a setup."

"I think you did pretty well," Arthur says. "Everyone seems happy with how things turned out, I would say."

"Everyone's happy because I managed to pull us out of the fire at the last minute," Will says. "If I'd looked the other direction, Jackson would have ended up at the bottom of the sea."

"But you didn't," Arthur says. He's too damned cheerful for how serious Will feels. "Everyone seems impressed with how you're doing."

"Are you buttering me up for something in particular?" Will asks, cracking an eye open to squint at Arthur.

"Just giving you an honest review," Arthur says. "Jackson's happy. I'm happy. League's happy. I know when Bruce brought this up, he said it was a temporary thing. That you were going to help get them set up and then head back to Gotham. Have you thought about making this a more permanent thing?"

So Arthur's trying to lock him down.

"I'll think about it," Will says, "but my son's back in Gotham."

"Maybe we'll see if he wants to help," Arthur says, and then pauses. "Is that the one dating Bruce's kid?"

"That's the one," Will confirms.

"Hm," Arthur grunts. "Might be harder than we thought."

He gets to his feet, offering his hand, and Will doesn't even bother getting fully upright before shaking it.

"Thanks for watching out for Jackson," he says. "If you need anything, just call, alright?"

Will files that away for later. He doesn't think he'll need Arthur's help, but knowing what he does... it doesn't hurt to be prepared.

Chapter Text

The next few days are a slow return to normality. Jackson's back on his feet by early afternoon, which is the point where Victoria declares he can't keep him sitting around anymore.

He debriefs them Sunday evening, going over the mission and what they did wrong and right. There's a lot right and not much wrong, and under Victoria's advice he makes sure to emphasize just how much went right despite Jackson's kidnapping.

Oliver makes a surprise appearance on Tuesday evening, rolling in with two assistants who insist on taking everyone's measurements.

"New suits," Oliver says. "I didn't expect them to have to be waterproof to a hundred feet." Despite the complaint, he seems to be in good spirits. He makes everyone pull out their old armor (if they had it) to take design inspiration from, and Will's amused to get a look at Barts.

"Red and white with a lightning bolt aesthetic?" Will says. "Not exactly subtle."

Bart scratches at the back of his neck, looking embarrassed by the attention.

It's Thursday when things get messy. Tanya knocks on his door not long after school wraps up, a folder tucked under her arm.

"Will?" She says, leaning in the open door. "I just wanted to go over some things with you."

"Sure," he says, sitting up on his bed and setting his tablet aside. "Was just getting ready for more tests."

"You're doing a lot of those, aren't you?"

"Every one I can."

"Well, good," Tanya says, closing the door behind her as she pulls out the folder. "Three things to go over with you."

It's like he's been pulled into the principal's office for a lecture.

"Before anything else, you should have these," she says, dropping a stack of papers in his lap. "There's absolutely no reason you shouldn't be able to fine tune your regeneration to allow yourself to heal while also not aging. It's entirely different mechanisms. I did some preliminary research to get you started, because I don't want to have to worry about you getting stabbed while you're in the field."

Oh, it definitely feels like he's being talked to by a teacher.

"I also thought you'd be interested in this," she says, pulling a page out of her folder and holding it up. It's a chart of some short, measuring... something. There's irregular spikes, each attached to dates, and Will squints at them.

"...That's us," he says, reaching up to tap the paper. "That's when you arrive. Every spike is..."

"Is a connection with the other dimension. The more people go through, the bigger the spike. The giant one is when the other world's League came through, and then we have a bunch of small ones for when you were sending mail back and forth."

There's one oddity, and Will drags his eyes across it. Small bumps, and then a big spike about a month ago.

"Bart?" He guesses.

"Professor Stein's been staring at these readings for months without having any idea of what he was looking at. He theorized it was like ripples in reality being reflected by these unusual readings. When I looked at them, I realized what was going on and we've been filling in the details."

Which doesn't answer his question, and Will raises an eyebrow.

"When I first saw this, I theorized that Bart might be from another dimension entirely, but comparing other readings ruled that out. His arrival was different in a few subtle ways. Similar, but not the same. Which brings me to the real reason I'm talking to you right now..."

She folds her arms across her chest, looking nervous as she chews her lip.

"Will, I think he's lying."

Will has absolutely no idea how to process that.

"Elaborate?"

"Bart's been distant, and attempts to get him to interact with us haven't gone anywhere. When we talk about ourselves, he always sits out. But the thing that sells it to me is... well, time travel."

Will doesn't even have to ask her to explain what the hell that means.

"There's multiple theories about how time travel might work. Maybe it's a closed loop where no matter what happens, you can't change things. Maybe every change creates a new timeline. Normally there'd be no way of actually knowing which one is true, but in this case we actually do know the truth."

Will's brain runs ahead of the conversation.

"Thomas," he says, and Tanya nods.

"Thomas proves which theory of time travel is true. We know there's a multiverse, but our multiverse isn't different what ifs. When you decide to do something or not, we don't get a seperate timeline. Each universe is the same world being created under slightly different conditions. The reason you're three years younger—"

"Four."

"Four years younger than Slade isn't because of a single point of deviation. It could be a million things. But the point is that from what we know from Thomas, we know it's possible for a single person to go back in time, change the future, and everything will change around them. We also know there's no issue with paradoxes."

"This is a lot of explanation that doesn't seem to be going anywhere," Will points out, and Tanya sighs. He does actually suspect where she's going with it. He just wants to be wrong.

"Bart has implied a few times that this is temporary. He's implied he's... sightseeing, basically. That he's here because it's fun. But that's not true. I could chart it out for you, but I don't think it's necessary. What matters is that Bart can't go back. By being here, he's already changed the future. The timeline he's from doesn't exist, the same way that Thomas can't ever go back to his old timeline. Even if he had a way to jump back to the future, it would be completely different from the one he knew."

Crap.

"I think he's lying," Tanya says. She sounds desperate. "I think he's... I don't know why, but he's lying to us about this."

Will reaches up, dragging his hand through his hair. Fuck.

"He is," Will confirms. "I already know about it."

Tanya's eyebrows fly up.

"What? You—you know he's lying?"

"He has a decent reason," Will says. "But you're right. It's getting in the way of him really being on the team. Of him being able to... be present. I can't tell you why right now, but I can promise I'll talk to him about it and see if I can't convince him to talk to the team."

Tanya looks absolutely baffled.

"You just... this had better be a good reason, Will. Secrets... teams like this don't work with secrets."

"It's a damned good secret," he says with a sigh. "Thanks for the papers, alright? I'll read them sometime today."

"You're dodging the lecture," Tanya mutters.

"I am," Will confirms. "I'm not accepting lectures at this time until I've had a chance to talk to Bart."

"I'll put it on hold then," Tanya says. "And we'll see how much of a lecture you deserve after I hear it from him."

Will's pretty sure the answer is going to be a really big one.

Chapter Text

Will is dreading the talk with Bart, but there's no avoiding it. Tanya's right; Bart's been avoiding the rest of the team, keeping himself separate from the rest. To Will, it's obvious why, and it ties right back to the question he asked him on the roof.

Why get attached to people he thinks are going to die?

Bart isn't in his room, and he's not in the living room either. Will eventually tracks him down in the training room, practicing his punches as he does. Will hauls the training room's doors closed, an act that gets Bart's attention. The young boy stops, turning to stare at Will as Will effectively seals them in.

Will pulls out his phone, cutting the security in the training room, and then tucks it away.

"We need to talk."

"Why do I feel like I'm not going to enjoy this talk?" Bart says. He looks nervous.

"Because you won't," Will says. "Tanya knows you're lying."

Bart looks disproportionately alarmed, and Will wonders how he thought this was going to work. Did Bart really expect for no one else to figure it out for the months it'll take before things actually happen? His acting's flawed and his story is weak. There's no way it would last in the long run.

"I..." Bart says quietly, trailing off.

"You need to tell them," Will says. "They've realized you're keeping secrets from them. You're keeping yourself closed off because you don't want to get attached if they're only going to die anyway. But no one is going to die under my watch. So you need to level with them."

Bart's alarm shifts to annoyance at lightning speed.

"I can't just tell them the truth," he protests. "There's a traitor, and they'll tell their mentors, and that'll be awful."

"So don't tell them that part. Tell them the rest."

Bart shifts in place.

"I don't know what I should tell."

"Tell them about the Amazons. That you came back in time to stop the Amazons, and that you've been distant because in your timeline, bad things happen. Be honest with them. They're your team. They should have your back on this."

"Some of them are kids," Bart protests.

"You're a kid," Will points out. "You managed. They'll manage. So tell them the truth."

"Siracca's even younger than me."

"Siracca's already died once. She'll manage too."

Bart looks surprised by that, and Will shakes his head.

"You really haven't been talking with them much, have you? You need to... be more friendly. Be more part of this team. I know you're worried about people dying. It's a pretty honest fear. But you can't spend your whole life waiting for the shoe to drop. Let yourself be friends with them. Let yourself just be a kid."

Bart's head sinks, and he stares down at the ground for a moment.

"Alright," he says. "Do I just... do I just tell them now?"

"I need to tell the League first," Will says. "We can tell them over dinner. Figure out what you're going to say, alright?"

Telling the League is a pain.

For one, none of them are available at the same time, requiring Will to play phone tag. Eventually he settles for telling the half that are available, filling them in on the general idea of Bart's story. The reactions are obviously surprised, and he leaves it to them to pass the message, asking them not to tell the team right away.

"Bart's going to tell them himself," he says. "I don't want them to hear it from anyone else."

He gets confirmation before he signs off. Victoria's with him, raising an eyebrow in his direction.

"You've known this for a while," she says. "This isn't new information."

"It won't happen for a few months at least," he says. "I was working Bart up to telling people. It would have destroyed the team if one of their mentors leaked it to them."

Victoria sighs, leaning back in her chair.

"I'd like to argue," she says, "but you're correct. I wish I'd been brought into the loop, but considering... I can understand why."

"I wanted more information," Will confirms. "But getting it was difficult."

"Well, I won't tell any of the team. The ball is in your court."

Victoria's wrong though. It isn't in his court: It's in Barts.

Dinner comes and Will keeps making eye contact with Bart, trying to signal to him that it's time for him to talk, but he keeps avoiding Will's eyes. Eventually, Will dispenses with the pretense and stands, walking over to rest his hands on Bart's shoulders. He doesn't get a say.

"Bart has something to tell the team."

Tanya perks up, eyes darting up to Will's face before falling back to Bart. Bart's shoulders are stiff, and it's clear he doesn't want to say. He's being forced.

But it's for his own good. He has to do it. If Bart doesn't, he's going to spend the next year miserable, waiting for everyone around him to die, refusing any sort of human connection.

Will squeezes his shoulders.

"I... wasn't honest with you about why I came back," Bart says. "I'm not here to sightsee or be a hero or anything like that."

It's clear that most of the table had no idea, although Damian in particular seems unsurprised by the news. Will wonders if he realized on his own, or if Tanya talked to him about it.

"I'm from ten years in the future," Bart continues. "I came back in time because in a couple months, a... a big disaster happens. It kills a lot of people, including most of the Justice League. A lot of you are already dead. So to prevent it, the resistance made me, and sent me back here to stop it."

There are a lot of questions. Most of them are ones Will's already asked himself. They want to know who does it and how to stop it. They want to know what's happened to their loved ones.

It's not easy. Finding out that the people they care about end up dead is hard no matter the circumstances, and Jon and Damian take it the hardest.

"My whole family?" Jon says quietly, completely ignoring that the death toll includes himself. "Even my brothers?"

Bart nods.

Damian, on the other hand, scowls.

"I refuse to believe it," he says. "Father and stepfather would not fall so easily. Even to... especially to Amazons. And grandfather would be furious. None of this will happen. I will not allow it to happen."

"That's the idea," Will says. "I'm sure you understand why Bart wouldn't want to tell you. But moving forward, we're all going to train as hard as we can. We're going to be prepared, so that when this does try and happen... well, we're going to punch it in the face before it can even get rolling.

"Does dad know?" Jon asks.

"The League should all know by now," Will says. "You can talk to them about it if you want."

They disperse after that, going off to call family, and Will decides he should probably do the same.

But he doesn't. In the end, he can't bring himself to call Joey and talk about a future where he's dead.

He doesn't even want to think about it.

Chapter Text

Will doesn't bother to pretend to be surprised when he finds Barry sitting in the kitchen when he goes down to start food. He looks strung out, fidgeting and shifting position at super speed as Will goes to grab supplies from the pantry, paying Barry himself little mind. He'll talk when he's ready.

"You already knew," Barry finally says.

"For a bit," Will confirms. "I figured you'd come by." Barry wasn't part of the first batch told, but he knew Roy would make sure he knew.

"How could I not come by? When he showed up it was weird and there was the implication that he was here to sightsee or whatever, but... he's from ten years in the future."

Barry gives him a pained look as if hoping Will is going to just explain things, and Will lets out an exasperated sigh as he starts breaking eggs.

"You want an omelette?"

"I want an explanation. I want to... to know what this is."

"He's not your grandson," Will says. "He's your biological son. You're dead before he's created, and then they need a speedster, so they use your DNA and whip him up in a lab or something to that effect."

"He's my clone?"

"He's not a clone," Will says. "From what he said it sounds more like they used your sperm or something."

"He's my son?"

"You're his sperm donor," Will corrects. "He doesn't know you. You don't know him. You should talk to Clark if you haven't yet."

"Because—You mean because it's the same thing. We both had kids sprung on us who were whipped up in a lab. What are the odds Luthor's involved?"

"High," Will says. "This has his fingerprints all over it. Bart's got a mother, but he doesn't know who she is. Apparently whoever made him didn't think it was important."

"Do we need to test him?" Bart asks. "Make sure he's not half Luthor?"

"Luthor's a redhead," Will clarifies. "He's not half Luthor, but you could talk to him about testing him anyway. That said... I have to admit I don't think it matters."

"How could his mother not matter?" Barry asks, sounding more horrified by the second.

"She didn't raise him. No one raised him. He popped out more or less the way he is, got a bunch of information dropped on him, and got kicked back in time. None of this—Incoming."

Bart zips in the door, screeching to a halt when he spots Barry, his eyes going wide. Barry puts on the world's least convincing grin.

"Hey kiddo," he says. "Maybe we should talk?"

"Uh," Bart says awkwardly. "Sure?"

Will drops a plate in front of Barry and starts making one for Bart. Bart's pretty much always the first one up (or at least the first one out of his room), so Will isn't worried just then about them being interrupted.

"I wanted to know who the scientist responsible for your project was," Will asks.

"You could have asked that a bit more gently," Barry says.

Bart squints at the two of them, eyes flicking back and forth as if he's trying to guess why they're even asking.

"Doctor Luthor," he says, and Will snaps his fingers, amused.

"Told you. Lex's motivations are a multiversal constant. He hates Superman for what he represents, but he doesn't wish humanity any ill will. If a group like the Amazons were threatening humanity, he'd side with the resistance. He's one of the leaders?"

Bart nods, and Will passes him a plate.

"But can we trust Luthor?" Barry asks, wrinkling his nose. "For all we know he's set this whole thing up to stop the Amazons and get Clark killed."

Bart looks annoyed at that, but stays silent.

"Sure," Will says, "that's always a possibility. Lex is as Lex does, after all. But I'd assume he wouldn't put humanity at risk to further his grudge."

Barry stews on that for a bit before turning his attention to Bart.

"You were... raised in his lab, I guess?"

"As much as I was raised at all," Bart says with a shrug. "I didn't—"

Bart stops talking as Jon floats in the kitchen entrance, yawning distractedly before jumping when he spots Barry.

"Mr. Allen!" Jon says. "Is it just you?" He glances around, as if expecting to see his father in a corner.

"Just me," Barry says. "I just came to talk to Bart."

"Because he's your son, right?"

Barry chokes on his drink, shaking his head.

"Does—did everyone know before me?"

"Oh no," Jon says. "But you guys were talking about Luthor, so I figured Bart was the same way my brothers are."

Bart perks up at that, turning to look at Jon as he swallows down his bite of omelette.

"Your brothers?"

"Jon's five brothers are clones," Will elaborates, because he knows Jon will get wordy otherwise. "Luthor made them with Clark's genetic material."

"Which is why they're my younger brothers," Jon says happily. "Because technically, I'm older. Which means technically I'm also older than you." He looks Bart over, looking deeply pleased by the fact that he's older than another person.

"Don't think it works that way, kiddo," Barry says.

"Dad says it does," Jon says, pleased. "I'm the oldest brother, so I have to look out for all of them. Since they're so new to the world."

Everyone else starts to pile in at once. Will already has their food ready, handing off plates as they run in, spot Barry, and then realize they don't have time for an extended conversation.

"Sorry," Tanya says to Barry, "we've all got school."

"It's fine," Barry says. "I've got work today too. Afternoon shift, though."

"Well, you should stop by more often," Tanya says, watching Bart out of the corner of her eyes. Bart doesn't react, speed-eating his food.

"This food is pretty good," Barry says, clearly trying to keep the conversation light. "Maybe I will. I'll bring Wally, let you guys meet him."

"Sounds good to me," Jackson says. "He's like my age?"

"Yeah," Barry confirms. "I'd say he should be joining you, but I think his aunt would kill me. She's worried enough about him going around with me in Central City. San Francisco would be a whole other thing."

"Well, bring him around some time," Will says.

"Bart?" Barry says, and Bart's eyes flick up. He's clearly awkward around Barry, and maybe even a little bit nervous. "Why don't we talk again sometime?"

"Sure," Bart says. "But I have to get to school right now."

Bart's not the only one. Everyone else heads off, and Will makes a point if sticking around the kitchen, gathering the plates and giving Barry a hard look.

"You're not doing bad," he says, "but you should talk to Clark. Get some advice before you... try and bridge that gap."

"I'll keep it in mind," Barry says, standing to his feet. "Thanks for the food. I'll try and bring Wally around at some point. Team up, maybe?"

"Team up sounds fine," Will says. "We haven't started regular patrols. We're... working up to it."

"I can see that," Barry says. "Thanks."

One more goodbye and he's gone in a blur, back to his normal life.

But Will wonders if bringing Wally is actually the right choice. It feels like adding salt to Bart's wounds, reminding him of the family he could have had. It's something he's not sure he has the right to decide, but he hopes Clark can give Barry the advice he needs.

Chapter Text

Will expects things to speed up. He expects there to be a lot of meetings and decisions about what to do with Bart.

Instead, things seem to slow down. There are things happening, but there's no crisis. No one's dying. No one's having a breakdown.

In a lot of ways, it feels like the lull before a job used to feel. Not quite biding his time, but still waiting.  

He leaves managing their schooling to Victoria, hearing how things are going second hand. Tanya chats constantly about her professor and the work they're doing. Damian starts taking extra courses. Jon is middle of the pack, while Bart and Soranik do well in their classes. Mia gets caught skipping, uninterested in school, and Siracca needs some extra tutoring that Jackson steps in to provide.

Will expects more backlash, considering how odd the group is, but when he gets it, it's already over.

"A group of girls were bullying Soranik," Victoria tells him.

"Don't call it that."

"...Don't call it what?" Victoria asks, raising an eyebrow.

"Bullying. Call it what it was."

"A group of girls were verbally harassing Soranik," Victoria says. "She jumped them and got sent to the office."

"I assume you already dealt with it."

"Of course," Victoria says, looking pleased with herself. "I told them that if they couldn't maintain a comfortable learning environment, I'd withdraw the entire group. There's other schools that would love to have them."

That's an understatement. They aren't quite news, but there's plenty of media attention to be gained from having the Justice League junior squad going to class.

Will himself zips through exam after exam. Some of the information he already knows. Some of the information is new. The exams come in three hour blocks, and he strains the system to it's limit to take so many in such a short period of time. His results make it worth it.

"I also wanted to talk to you about something else," Victoria says, looking him over with an appraising eye.

"And what would that be?"

"Tanya expressed concerns for your aging, and the fact that you'd disabled your regeneration," Victoria says. "She asked if I could take a look at it."

Will squints.

"You?"

"That is my area of expertise. Post-human bioweaponry includes things like regeneration. With your permission, I'd like to take a few samples and see if I can't provide my assistance."

"You should speak with someone I know," Will says. "Doctor Villain—"

"The geneticist?"

"You know him?"

"He's one of the leading names in bioinformatics. We collaborated on a paper about genomics a few years back."

"Well, he's a friend. Was a friend. I knew his counterpart in my world, and the one in this world did these." He reaches up, tapping just under his eyes. "You should speak to him about this. I think he'd be interested."

"I'll reach out to him," Victoria says. "If you don't mind some samples?"

Will thinks she means blood samples. Instead, she takes a number of tissue samples and a bone marrow sample, an experience so painful it should be counted as torture. He cheats, letting his body speed through healing the sample site rather than dealing with the ache.

"Arthur—one of my colleagues from ARGUS—has also reached out to me with a new communication system. He's wanting to push for its use with the League, and was hoping we'd beta test it."

"What's the advantage?"

"Waterproof, for one," Victoria says with a smile. "I can provide you a paper on the advantages if you'd like..."

"Just give me the basics."

"It uses fiber optics. Slightly faster and higher transmission quality. I told him I would let you know so that Oliver could integrate it into the new suits he's customizing."

"Sure," Will says. "Do we know when we're getting the new suits?"

"Oliver said before Christmas. Which was another thing I wanted to talk about."

Oh no.

"What about it?"

"I will be staying here," Victoria says. "But I imagine that you and most of the team—if not the whole team—will want to be with your families."

Will starts to run down the list mentally, and then realizes Victoria has no doubt done the same thing.

"Who do we not know about?"

"No one's officially confirmed. But I imagine that everyone will be going."

"If anyone doesn't, I'll bring them along with me," Will says. He doesn't want one kid sitting back in base without family around.

"I'll keep that in mind," Victoria says. "I'll let you know if anyone doesn't have a place to go."

Will sends the kids out on a normal patrol that weekend. He stays nearby, watching closely, but it's business as usual. They stop a mugging. They make a lot of dealers nervous. There's a house fire that Tanya dispatches Jackson to, and he uses his control of the water to help put the fire out faster, saving the house from being a writeoff.

"Good job," Will says, clapping them all on the back when they get back late that night. "Let's make this a regular thing after the holidays."

Will wraps up his exams, signing himself up for a mandatory eight week course starting in January.

"Nursing?" Mia asks when she finds him reading through the coursework in the living room. "Really?"

"It's useful in the field," he says. "It's also something I can do almost entirely online." He can't imagine actually sitting in a class having to listen to someone drone on and on about it.

"Whatever floats your boat."

Victoria gives him the news later that same day: Everyone has a place to go.

"Everyone has holiday plans," she confirms. "I'll stay in the base over the holidays to make sure everything stays running, and to be here if anyone arrives back early."

"Invitation is open."

"Unnecessary," she says. "I'll enjoy the time to myself. I've been wanting a bit more time with your genetic samples."

She looks far too happy with that for Will to be entirely comfortable. Part of him regrets pointing her at Villain.

Oliver shows up with their new gear the day before Will's scheduled to fly out.

"Early Christmas gift," he announces, getting Jon to pull several crates out of the back of the truck he drove down. "Waterproof to a hundred feet. New fiber-optic cabling. Enhanced communication protocols. Extra durable... and custom fitted."

The team clearly loves the new outfits, and they love the custom tweaks even more. Bart's extends up the back of his neck, and he's got goggles to protect his eyes. Mia's comes with a hood. Tanya's got a suit even if she's not expecting to be in the field, and Jon's extra pleased with the indigo accents that Oliver's worked into the design.

"Something for everyone," he announces.

Will's got some upgrades himself, although the ikon suit still outstrips anything they can make. He's got a helmet made to match the ikon suit, with the new communication tech built in. They run through tests the evening, and Will ends up making dinner for Oliver as he helps them test.

"I have to say," Will says, "you did a good job with the suits. Don't tell Bruce I said so, though." He winks, and Oliver looks pleased by the compliment.

"I'll keep you upgraded," he says. "I have to show off Queen's tech somehow."

Chapter Text

Joey's waiting for him when he gets off the plane, and he's not the only one. The whole family's there, along with Jonathan and Martha Kent, who Jon very nearly tackles to the ground in his excitement.

"Your parents wanted to come, but we convinced them to stay at home," Martha says, ruffling Jon's hair. "I hope you don't mind."

"Of course not," Jon says. "Bye Damian! Bye Tanya! Bye Will!" He waves enthusiastically, dragging his grandparents off by the hand.

"Do we have luggage to pick up...?" Bruce asks.

"We just brought backpacks," Tanya says. "Will said to leave our suits there."

"And yet I can guarantee the ikon suit is in his bag," Slade says with a barely contained smile.

"I don't go anywhere without it," Will says. "Never know when you're going to get jerked to another dimension and an alternate version of yourself is going to steal your suit."

"And sword," Slade says with a laugh, clapping him on the back.

The house has changed heavily. The rooms have all shuffled around, and Joey stops Will before he can enter.

I set it up for you, Joey signs. Consider it an early Christmas gift.

Joey's actually decorated the room, which is a pleasant change from Will's usual style. There's photos and paintings. The furniture is coordinated. There's even some extra clothes for Will already tucked away in the drawers.

"Love you," Will says, kissing Joey on the temple. "Thank you."

You've got to tell me all about your team, Joey signs. I hear you fought Manta?

There's a lot of stories to swap. He learns that Barbara's taken up power walking around town, and that her and Tim are trying for another kid. Jackson—the little Jackson—is registered to start kindergarten in a nice school the next school year. Dick's group is doing well, although Bruce rumbles about Bludhaven being a mess lately.

"It keeps Dick busy alright," Bruce says. "I've told him the League will come help, but he's stubborn. He thinks it'll only count if it's Bludhaven itself fighting back."

Joey's paintings for the wings are already finished and hung. Each shows the same cityscape, a view from the manor looking out over Gotham, with the only difference being the time of day. When Will looks, he finds a small gang of tiny figures perched atop a building in the night painting—a sign of Gotham's vigilante past.

"Grant?" Will asks over dinner.

"He's taking his family to spend Christmas with his parents," Slade says. "We extended an invitation, but his parents aren't well enough to travel."

The most unexpected visitor of the holiday season is Adeline. She stops by the day before Christmas Eve with a gift for Joey, and even manages to be cordial with Slade.

Will checks in with Victoria regularly, making sure none of the team came home early, but she's very clear about the fact that they haven't.

"I brought in some help from ARGUS while you're all out," she tells him. "We've ripped out the building's wiring and upgraded it with the new stuff. The gains won't be huge, but they'll be there."

"Any gain is worth it," he says. "Quiet otherwise?"

"Villain and I have been collaborating," she says, which is not an answer to his question. "I'm hoping we'll have something for you by the time you come back."

"No big rush," Will says with a wave of his hand, his foot tapping as he considers. "Soranik went with Hal?"

"Into space," Victoria says. "He didn't schedule a flight plan with us. He said he'd be back in a timely manner."

"Let's hope so," Will says, and leaves Victoria to her work.

Will makes it to Christmas Eve before he abruptly realizes he's forgotten something. He practically kicks Alfred's door down, leaning in desperately.

"Alfred," he says. "I didn't get any gifts."

Alfred looks up, obviously unimpressed, and lets out a sigh.

"I should have seen this coming," he says. "Come along then."

Alfred speed-shops him through everyone on Will's list, getting input regularly as they go. He knows what everyone wants, what everyone has, and everyone's preferences, and that's the only reason Will gets it all done.

"You're a lifesaver," Will mutters as he carries the gifts in.

"Of course I am," Alfred says. "Someone always forgets. It doesn't surprise me that this year it was you."

Will sighs at that. "Can we at least keep this between you and I?"

"I'm afraid there's not an ice cube's chance in hell of that."

Despite all the worries he has, Christmas goes off without a hitch. Tim, Barbara, Gordon, and Jackson show up early, and Dick shows up with Dax not long after. Dick's so blatantly parental around him that Slade spends the whole day making quiet jokes to the other parents about how long they'll have to wait before Dick adopts him.

Joey gets Will a photo album with all the pictures he brought over. Pictures of Grant. Of Rose. There's even a few of Adeline, and Joey quietly informs him that he won't be upset if Will gets rid of those ones.

"They can stay," he says. "It won't change that it happened." It doesn't help that many of the photos with Adeline are also photos with Grant.

His gift from Jason is similar. The same sort of album, just in a different color, and littered with more recent photos. Many of the early ones are with Joey when he first arrived, while later ones include more and more people.

"Thank you," Will says, feeling embarrassed of his hastily bought gifts. Alfred's choices are excellent, but they lack that personal touch that everyone else's gifts seem to contain.

Slade seems to catch on, patting him on the shoulder while Damian rips open a selection of gifts for his pets.

"You'll get better," Slade says. "Bruce shows his affection with expensive personalized gifts. I'm assuming you aren't the same way."

"This would be the first year in... maybe a decade since I got Joey a gift," Will admits.

"Wow, worse than me," Slade says, helping himself to coffee. "You'll figure it out."

Will isn't quite as hopeful about his odds of figuring shit out as Slade clearly is.

Alfred does most of the cooking for the duration of the trip, but Will takes over the day after, letting Alfred take the day off. The Kents come by for dinner then, with Jon and his brothers showing off all their gifts to Tanya and Damian.

Bruce, in his never ending quest to prove himself the best at buying gifts, has a set of six hooded sweaters for Jon and his brothers. While the outer layer is identical, the fuzzy lining is in each boys' chosen color, personalizing them nicely.

"Ridiculous," Lois declares, throwing her hands into the air.

The days after Christmas before they have to go is a constant cycle of new arrivals showing up, Bruce producing even more gifts, and Will, Damian, and Tanya having to tell the new arrivals how the Titans are going. Having Jason's friends show up is one thing. Having the mayor stop by is just fine.

Will draws a line when Poison Ivy shows up to replant the Christmas tree in the forest.

"Do you just adopt every person you've ever fought?"

"Considering you're one of the people he's adopted, bold of you to ask that," Jason says.

"Not everyone," Bruce says, watching the tree move itself across the yard as Ivy supervises. "Ivy and I have an understanding."

"If you want," Slade says with a grin, "you can come with me today. I'm going to have lunch with Lawton."

Will drags his hand down his face and wonders just how the hell he managed to end up with such a bunch of bleeding hearts.

Things get a bit more serious when Bruce pulls him into his office the day before they're supposed to leave. Slade's already there, settled into his chair and looking like the human version of a dark storm cloud on the horizon.

"Any progress on the traitor?" Slade asks.

"I've only even spoken to half to the League," Will says. "None of them are throwing up any red flags. I think it a traitor does exist... I don't think it was their choice."

"If?" Bruce asks.

"The resistance was obviously working off only partial information. If they can't even be sure exactly when things happened, can we really trust them to know that someone betrayed the League?"

"I agree," Slade says. "The fact that they don't know when this happened is suspect. Can you imagine forgetting the Night of the Owls? Can you imagine having no record of what day it took place?"

"I'll nudge for details," Will says, "but I doubt we'll get any. Bart seems oblivious to a lot of what was happening. Did I tell you the scientist who made him?"

"Clark did, who heard it from Barry," Bruce says. "Luthor?"

"That's consistent with the Luthor from my world. When the chips were down, he always sided with humanity."

"This is a long shot, but should we be using him as a resource?" Slade asks. "Clark wouldn't be happy with it, but as far as options go..."

"Leave instructions," Will says. "In the event anything happens to the League, ARGUS needs to get him out of prison and explain the situation. He's a weapon of last resort."

"Diana's working on finding the Amazons before they find us," Bruce says. "If we can intervene before they strike out at the world... we might be able to avoid this."

"Hopefully."

"Hopefully," Slade echos. "We'll keep you up to date."

Will spends his last night at the manor wondering if he's already lost his chance to make things better.

Chapter Text

They make it all the way to the airport before something comes up. Will's already through security when his phone rings a private number, and he picks up after squinting at it a bit.

"Hello?"

"Mr. Wilson," Villain says. "Are you still on the east coast?"

"For another hour," Will says. "Why?"

"I should have called you earlier. I need you to come by my office so I can run some additional tests to help with your problem."

"I am literally flying out in an hour," Will says. "I am in an airport right now."

"Excellent," Villain says. "That means you're near a rental car service."

"What's going on?" Damian asks, leaning over to squint at him.

Will drags his hand down his face.

"A doctor—the one who did my eyes—wants me to come by his lab for some tests."

"You should do," Tanya says. "This is for your aging stuff, right?"

"I'm in charge of you," Will says. "I can't just leave you here."

"We're already through everything," Jon points out. "We can get on a plane all on our own."

"I'm not going to leave you kids on your own."

"It's not an issue," Tanya says. "You should go see Doctor Villain."

"I assume you know where my office is," Villain says in his ear, and Will rubs at his forehead.

"I'll call you back."

To his immense irritation, there turns out to be no actual issue with him leaving the kids right there. The airline is content with keeping an eye on them, and they're also just as happy to reschedule Will's flight, letting him leave a few hours later.

Will ends up renting a car and heading to Villain's office. It's two doors down from the one he remembers, a little bit smaller, but still has most of the same equipment.

"Will," Villain says, offering his hand, which Will takes. "Good you could make it. Victoria's promised to handle as much as possible, but she doesn't have the equipment I do."

Villain makes use of a lot of that equipment, running Will through a gamut of tests. He takes a whole new batch of samples, making the same sort of polite smalltalk Will remembers him making as they do. The biggest surprise of the evening is that Villain isn't doing it out of personal curiosity.

"After I began corresponding with Victoria, I was hired on as a consultant by ARGUS. They hoped to make use of my specialized skills. It turns out that most of the scientists at ARGUS are quite skilled in their respective fields."

"Who knew," Will says dryly, and pays for it when Villain takes another tissue sample.

Villain ships him back to the airport more than two hours later, which requires Will to go through security again. He's exhausted by the time he gets on the plane, and sleeps through the entire flight.

Will's expecting to have to rent a car, but instead he finds Jon waiting for him, waving excitedly.

"Please tell me you haven't been waiting for me this whole time," Will says.

"Oh no," Jon says. "We went back with the luggage. But I thought someone should be here to pick you up, rather than making you rent a car."

Will sighs, but does end up letting Jon carry him back to the base.

It's late, so all Will does that evening is check in with Victoria, leaning into the office with a scowl on his face.

"You sicced Villain on me?"

"Of course," she says. "You were in his territory. Did he get the samples he wanted?"

"He took his pound of flesh. Who's back?"

"Tanya, Jon, and Damian of course," he says. "Bart. Everyone else is still with family. They're expected to be back before the new year, so don't you worry."

"I worry anyway," Will says. "I'll see you in the morning."

He makes a point to ambush Bart the following morning. Bart's the first one up as usual, so Will simply beckons him over.

"I spoke with Bruce and Slade about things," Will says quietly, his attention split between the conversation he's having with Bart and listening to make sure Jon isn't coming. He suspects he'll sleep in since there's no class over the holiday break, but there's no telling. "They wanted to know why you don't know the date."

"Why I don't know the date?" Bart asks, confused. The confusion doesn't last though, with him frowning after a moment. "You mean the invasion."

"I mean the invasion," Will confirms.

"They probably knew," Bart says, chewing his lip. He looks uncomfortable with the topic of conversation, and Will can't entirely blame him for it. It's a pretty awful subject. "I think I was supposed to be more grown up? Or that I was supposed to have files or something. When they woke me up there was a lot of stuff I didn't know, and then they were rushing."

"Rushing?"

Time travel should mean they have all the time in the world to get it right. To send someone who... well, who wasn't a kid. Who had all the information.

"The Amazons were invading. The base was locked down. So they sent me back early, because they probably weren't going to have any more time."

Well, that's dire. But more importantly...

"Did you never see them? Or outside?"

"I never left the facility. But I saw the resistance. They were real—it wasn't all just Luthor's plan. There were a lot of people there."

"Like who?"

Part of it is genuine skepticism, but part of it is doing what he did the first time around: using his skepticism to milk Bart for information. It's not working as well the second time around, because Bart's looking more and more frustrated as the conversation goes on.

"Lots of people," he says. "But now I'm worried if I say the wrong name, you're not going to believe me. You're going to think I'm lying just because there were a lot of people you thought were bad. If I tell you Green Arrow was helping it doesn't prove anything, because of course he'd try and help."

Guilty. Realistically, there's no way for Bart to prove his claims.

"I already told you that you were in love with Bruce. Isn't that enough? You didn't even ask me how my trip was."

Bart's face twitches—for a moment he looks more sad than angry—and then he simply zips away, leaving Will in the dust.

Will sighs, burying his face in his hand. He's fucked up. He's done what he worried about to start: pushed too hard.

He doesn't let it sit. He heads up the stairs, ignoring breakfast in favor of knocking on Bart's closed door.

"Go away."

"No," Will says. "We're going to talk about this."

"Go away."

"Will?" Tanya asks, leaning into the hall. "...Everything alright?"

Goddamnit. 

I need privacy, he signs. Can you keep everyone else downstairs?

Got it, she signs back.

"It's fine," Will says, knocking once again as Tanya goes to grab Damian and Jon. "Bart, we need to talk."

Bart isn't getting a say in the matter, so Will opens the door, stepping inside and closing it behind him.

"Don't I get any privacy?" Bart says, sitting on his bed with his arms folded around him. He looks upset, refusing to look at Will.

"No," Will says. "Not in this case. Sorry, kid, but in this case... in every case, privacy comes second to safety."

He stays standing, even if he dislikes the dynamic the height difference implies. He feels like a teacher about to launch into a lecture.

"Bart, you got dealt a losing hand. You weren't born. You were made to do this, and being made just to do something... does things to you. It messes you up. Living just for one cause, just for one thing... it's not good."

Bart peeks up at him.

"...You're the same way?"

He almost says yes. He almost says yes because it would be so much easier if he did.

"No. I wasn't made. I was born. I've got my own hangups, my own issues. But I've met people like you. People made just for one purpose. You've got to learn to see past that. To make friends. To have goals."

Bart's hands clasp together in his lap, and his eyes fall again. The you don't understand is unspoken.

"Bart, every single detail you share with us helps. Every detail helps us understand what's coming for us. Every bit of detail helps make sure that everyone I care about survives what's coming. Makes sure that everyone you care about survives what's coming."

"They'll survive because I'll stop it," Bart says quietly.

"Tell me what you know, Bart. Who was on the resistance? Who was in charge?"

"It wasn't just one person," Bart says. "They had a lot of leaders. Because if you had one leader and they got caught..."

"I get it," Will says. "Who?"

"Doctor Luthor was in charge of science stuff. Green Arrow and Black Canary used to run sorties against the Amazons."

"Who was the one you didn't want to mention?" Slade says. "The one you thought we'd be lying about."

"Can't I talk about the ones you'll be okay with?" Bart says. "Lois Lane's in charge of communication, she runs the Resistance Radio station—"

"Bart, who?"

Bart's hands ball into fists.

"You're just going to think I'm lying. They're criminals. I looked them up when I got here, and you're not—"

"Bart."

"There's a whole... a whole group. A whole bunch of bad guys from Gotham. They're not resistance, but the Amazons tried to recruit them and they fought back, and now they support the resistance." Bart looks to Will for a response, but he doesn't get one. He's just waiting, wary of giving him answers. "Ivy, and Riddler, and Black Mask."

Alright, two of those names are plausible. But Black Mask?

"You're telling me those three are working with the resistance?"

"They're not good guys. They just hate the Amazons. They have a whole group of them working under—under Bane. Santa Prisca's basically leading the opposition against the Amazons. But everyone thinks they're going to fall soon. And Bane... the Amazons thought that Bane would team up with them and then he killed one of their leaders for some reason, and no one knows why."

Well, Will knows why.

"I believe you," Will says, and Bart seems to soften.

"Really?"

"I do," Will says. "I'm sorry for not asking before—did things go okay with Barry?"

Bart's face falls, and he looks away.

"He'd rather it just be Wally," he says. "Wally's his successor."

Will knows Barry wouldn't have said that, but he also can't entirely blame him for feeling that way. Bart getting sprung on him...

"He's trying," Will says. "He talked with Clark for help, even. So just give him a chance, alright?"

Bart nods, his hands fidgeting so fast they're nothing more than a blur.

"Are we done?"

"Yeah," Will says. "Sorry for pushing. Just... remember what I said about... every detail you provide helping keep the people you care about safe."

Bart nods.

"I'll tell you if I recognize anyone else or anything, alright? But I don't know as much as you want."

"I know. We'll make do."

Or he hopes they will. But the information they've gotten gives him hope anyway.

Chapter Text

The rest of the team trickles in day by day, and each comes with their own stories.

Siracca tells the team all about her time on Themyscira, and shows off a pair of sandals she's been given.

"They let me fly," she says seriously. "I could fly before, but this is... easier."

"Please tell me they're going to go over your shoes," Will says, squinting at the tiny sandals. "Because if not, you're going to get frostbite."

"They can go over," Siracca says. "They resize."

Will squints. He'd been under the assumption that magic didn't exist, only the more he looks the more convinced he becomes that it does exist, just in a more muffled form than he's used to. Diana still has her lasso. Atlantis is still real.

"Good," Will says. "Having another flier will be good."

Not that Siracca can carry anyone or anything like that.

Jackson shows up later that day, obviously in good spirits. He talks about visiting his mom, seeing Arthur, and having more time exploring Atlantis than he has in the past.

"Oh right," he says when Will finishes serving dinner. "Arthur says—"

"Which one?"

Jackson blinks at him.

"Which one?"

"I assume you mean Curry."

"Is there more than one Arthur now?"

"Arthur Villain," Tanya says. "And I think ARGUS has an Arthur?"

"They do," Will confirms. "Too many Arthurs."

"Well, it's Aquaman. Aquaman said I should tell you they figured out the pearl. It's apparently an artifact that lets you control the water, and it's been secured in an Atlantean vault for now, so if Manta wants it he's going to have to fight all of Atlantis for it."

"Well, that's good to hear," Will says. "Because if he comes anywhere near you I'm going to make him regret it."

"I thought we weren't mentioning that?" Jon asks, perking up.

"We aren't. New topic, please."

Mia gets dropped off by Oliver, her holidays having been less exciting than most.

"It was fine," she says when Tanya asked. "Pretty much what it's been the last few years. Oliver kept asking about how I liked the gear. He was a bit too excited by that."

"Let him be happy," Will says. "He's found something he likes doing."

"I just wish he'd like doing it a bit less obnoxiously. He's such an old man at times."

"You realize I'm older than him."

"But you act young. No one would guess how old you actually were."

"Don't remind him," Tanya says. "He's sensitive about his face."

Will scowls at her, and she shoots him a sneaky grin.

It's New Years Eve by the time Soranik returns, arriving on the roof with Hal in tow. To Will's relief, she seems much happier, smiling widely as she heads inside, waving to Hal as he takes off.

"Apparently there's going to be fireworks?" Soranik asks. "Hal was worried if we got back too late we'd be in the middle of them."

"Won't start until it's dark," Will says. "You're back in time. Things go alright?"

He learned from his mistake with Bart, and he catches Bart glancing towards him when he asks first.

"Things went—they were really good. Hal took me around Oa, and I got to meet the other Lanterns, and everyone was really nice. But then Hal took me to a planet near Korugar, and my parents were there! They're still trying to get everything together, but one of the other Lanterns, Iolande, is a princess there, and she's going to let my parents move to her planet so they'll be safe."

She looks so happy, practically bouncing in place, and it's the most clear sign of her age Will's seen. Normally Will can't help but feel like she's forcing herself to act mature, but right then...

Well, right then she's just a kid who's happy to get to see her parents again.

"Wait!" Jon protests. "You're not going back, are you?"

Soranik's face falls, and she chews on her lip.

"I don't know," she says. "Iolande said they could stay no matter what. So I guess... I guess I'll think about it. If I want to be a Lantern."

Jon looks devestated.

"She's not going to leave, right?" Jon asks, turning to look at Will, who shrugs.

"It's not up to me," he says. "If Soranik decides that the life of a Lantern isn't for her, then that's her choice."

"Maybe her parents could come live here..." Jon speculates. "It'd be nice to have more aliens like dad and aunt Kara."

"That's up to her, Jon," Will says. "Soranik, if you want to talk about it, just give me a holler, alright?"

Soranik bobs her head in agreement, happy to not have to talk about it.

They spend that evening on the roof, watching the fireworks on the bay. Victoria calls it team bonding, but for many on the team it's the first time they've gotten to see fireworks at all.

"You've done well so far," Will says as they wait for the fireworks to start. "You've come together as a team. You've got each other's backs. But you're just getting started. We're going to start regular patrols. We're going to make ourselves more present around the city. But I want you all to remember that this isn't a game. It's not a joke. This is live or die, not just for you, but for a lot of the people you're helping. Don't get complacent just because things are going well."

"Great pep talk," Jackson says with a small laugh. "Remember that at any moment you will die."

"Memento mori," Damian says quietly. "Remember death."

Will grunts at them.

"I'm serious. I don't want any of you getting hurt."

"We'll be fine," Tanya says. "Sit down and watch the fireworks."

He joins them, and a few minutes later the fireworks start to go off.

Will lets himself sit down behind them, watching the fireworks as they do.

As the clock ticks to midnight, Will makes himself an oath, swearing it to himself in absolute silence.

He's not going to let anything happen to them.

Chapter Text

Things fall into a routine in the coming weeks. The kids go back to school, and Will joins them, doing his online classes while they're away. At nights, they start doing patrols, and when it becomes obvious that it's impossible for them to sleep and do patrols and keep up with homework, Will splits the team. Every week the teams shuffle, rotating them around to let them work with everyone else, but they only end up patrolling every other day.

Most of what they deal with is petty crime, giving the police a helping hand, but there's also smaller things. They help people who are lost. Jackson turns out to be an expert at handling fires. At one point, Siracca uses her wind senses to locate a lost child, reuniting a toddler with his frantic mother.

It's good work. Even if they've never officially debuted, it becomes obvious to the news what's happening, and eventually the League makes an official statement confirming the team's existence.

The new gear works great, averting at least one near-stabbing. Barry stops by one night for patrol, but claims that Wally's too busy with school to come down. It's a thin excuse, and it's clear Bart recognizes it for what it is. Will makes it up to him with some extra training, which seems to lighten the mood.

Tanya's already making plans to graduate early, chatting excitedly about every successive project. She's been back in class a week when she comes to Will to show off the latest update to the chart.

"There's a wobble," she says, pointing to a tiny bump on the chart.

"...A wobble."

"There were wobbles before," she says. "They seem to proceed disturbances in... space-time, I guess. There were wobbles before the first crossover between our universes, and there were wobbles before Bart showed up. Wobbles mean something is going to happen."

"I'm going to need some more details," Will says, memorizing the chart.

"Is it possible that the Amazons show up because of something related to... this?" She gestures to the chart. "I don't know. It might be unrelated. Or maybe it's our universe establishing the connection... or trying."

"You still want to go back?"

"I don't know," she says, looking away. "I've thought about it. I want to... at the very least I want to tell them that I'm alive. I don't want Wallace to believe I killed myself. I want him to know the truth."

"Alright," Will says. "I'm not going to push you either way. Just wanted to know. You think it might be them?"

"Could be," she says. "It's hard to say. We're studying it. Professor Stein says I can write my PhD on it."

"...Can you do that?" Will asks, squinting at her.

"Sure," she says. "It's not like I haven't already learned all the undergrad material."

Trouble shows up on the sixteenth, which is longer than Will expects it to take.

Trouble also shows up in a very different form than he expects.

"Will," Victoria says, leaning into the living room. "It's time for a staff meeting."

A staff meeting. Oh great. He excuses himself from the conversation, heading into the security room, watching warily as Victoria locks the door behind her before turning to the screen and pulling up a video conference. Will's never met the woman on the screen, but he recognizes her anyway. THe red left eye and obvious scar make it clear: Sasha Bordeaux, current director of ARGUS.

"Mr. Wilson," she says, folding her hands together. "We need to talk."

"Fantastic," Will says. "I'll pass."

Bordeaux raises one eyebrow.

"This isn't a talk you pass on, Will," Victoria says. "Officially, the Teen Titans is operating with ARGUS's assistance."

"I have no idea what you're going to ask," Will says, "but the answer is no. You're wanting my kids to do something, and we're not doing that. They're learning to be a team, to help people. They're not a team of mercenaries for you to dispatch."

The corner of Bordeaux's mouth twitches. For a moment, she looks amused—probably because Will just pegged the situation perfectly.

"I can assure you—"

"I don't need your assurances. I don't know you." He turns in his seat, looking at Victoria. "Victoria, is there a good reason for this?"

Victoria shrugs.

"I don't have the clearance for this," she says. "I don't even know what they want."

"Then no."

"Would Steve Trevor's assurance help?" Bordeaux asks. "I understand you two have been friendly in the past."

Will considers for a moment.

"It would help," he finally says. To his immense annoyance, Bordeaux turns slightly, taps a few buttons, and Steve joins the video conference. He's clearly been sitting at the ready for this exact situation.

"They figured you'd need convincing," Steve says with a small grin. "Not that I blame you. What assurances do you need?"

"That my kids aren't going to be in danger with this extremely shady mission. Does the League know?"

"No," Steve says, "and the League can't know."

"Absolutely not. Hard no." He's not taking the kids on a shady mission that Bruce and Slade don't even know about it.

"Will, this is for a good cause. Director Bordeaux, permission to... loop them in?"

"I apologize Agent October, but you're going to have to step out for this one."

"Just knock when I'm needed," Victoria says, bowing out of the situation with as much grace as Will's come to expect from her. He'd rather she have stayed.

"Out with it," Will says. Propping his arm on the desk, he rests his chin on his fist, keeping his focus on Bordeaux.

"We believe there's a traitor," Bordeaux says. Will keeps his expression perfectly neutral, giving away nothing.

Fuck.

"Elaborate?"

"I was the one who noticed it," Steve says. "I don't want to give too much detail for obvious reasons. But we believe there's a traitor... somewhere. Either in ARGUS, or in someone connected to the League. Someone who has connections there. We have something we'd normally dispatch a League member or two to deal with, and we want to send your team to investigate and see if the issue repeats."

"Are they in danger?"

"Not from this," Steve says. "This is more like... theft. Corporate sabotage. Things like that. This will let us rule some people out. Obviously... you can't tell anyone. Tell the kids it's us recognizing their skills."

"How many of these are going to happen?"

"No more than two," Steve says. "It depends on how things go with this mission."

Will scrubs at his forehead. His instinct is no: the kids need to be kept away.

But with the word traitor hanging there... What if the traitor in the league could have been discovered by ARGUS well before it became relevant?

"Alright," Will says. "I'm going to get Victoria, and then you're going to brief us, and then we'll brief the kids."

He just hopes it's not a mistake.

Chapter Text

"Alright team," Will says. "Eyes up. This is your first real mission."

They're on a private plane, which is a major boon when it comes to explaining the mission. For a lot of them it's their first time flying private, and it's a relatively large one, intended to fly ARGUS employees around on high priority missions just like this one.

"Did the one when I got kidnapped not count?" Jackson asks with a grin. They're all already geared up, ready to go the moment they hit the ground. Tanya's got a mobile setup, ready to set up a command station anywhere she gets the chance.

"It does not," Will says. "That was local. This is the big leagues."

"So why isn't it a League thing, then?" Tanya asks. "Not that I'm not confident in our teamwork or anything..."

It's been two months, and they're working together better than before. Tanya's right: they're a team, but this is absolutely League work.

"They wanted to see if this is something you can handle as a team. Our target is dangerous, but non-lethal. They haven't killed anyone, but their powers put them out of the reach of local law enforcement."

"Powers?" Damian asks, leaning forward in his seat.

"Our target is a masked criminal known as Phobia. If the name didn't give it away, they have the power to make you see your greatest fears. We're not clear on the limitations of their powers, but they've been using it for high profile thefts. Their MO is breaking into corporate offices, disabling any security guards with their powers, and then raising computer systems, filing cabinets, safes... They've been a serious problem for the FBI, and we're going to put a stop to them."

"Do we know where they're going to hit?" Soranik asks.

"We've been tipped off they'll be hitting a LexCorp office in Houston. They stole some access codes from a satellite office for this one."

"We're helping LexCorp?" Jon asks, wrinkling his nose.

"It's a big company like anyone else. Luthor's no longer running it. Is this going to be an issue?" He gives Jon a hard look, and Jon shakes his head.

"Good. Tanya, you've got a map of the facility in your files. Do you have a plan?"

"Something like what we used at the museum should work, just... different positions."

It's a very general plan, so Will gives her a bit of time to hammer out the details. She has a rough plan ready by the time they touch down, explaining everyone's positions as they head towards the building.

"Discretion is important," Tanya says as they drive. "If we get spotted, we're going to be in trouble. They'll pull back, and we'll miss our chance. I'm going to be placing all of you around the building, and only Jon's going to be in the main office."

"Just one?" Damian asks. "Is that... wise?"

"They've never killed anyone. The only injuries have been accidents, like someone stumbling off a building or crashing a car. But Jon's... well, he's a Kryptonian. If he falls out a window, it won't do anything to him. I want everyone else able to collapse on them from multiple locations, cutting off their escape."

"Closing a net," Mia observes. "It's a simple tactic. Green Arrow's used it before when dealing with someone who might try and get away."

"That's the idea," Tanya says. "We need to get in and into position as fast as possible, without alerting... well, anyone."

The building's largely empty, and the security guard on duty has already been briefed.

"Our CEO says I'm to assist you in whatever way possible," he says. "What do you need?"

"Access to the building," Tanya says. "Drop me in a security room and I'll handle things from there."

Will joins her in the security room. There's no telling where he might be needed, and truthfully, he's hoping the team won't need his help this time around. They need a solid win, and him helping isn't that.

There's not much waiting. Literally the opposite: everyone isn't even in position when Aqualad calls an alert.

"Someone just went into a side door," he says. "East side."

"Got them," Tanya says, pulling up the security camera. The figure looks like an adult woman, her clothing a dark forest green, with a stylized white mask hiding her face.

"Are we going?" Bart asks, clearly eager.

"No," Tanya says. "Hold. We'll catch them in the stairway. It'll limit their escape options. Superboy, stay where you are—you're our last line of defense. Shrike, ready?"

Will leans forward, watching the stairwell as Phobia slips inside, starting up the stairs.

"...Shrike, you're up."

Damian drops from above, landing squarely on the woman's back. She goes rolling, but she's quick to get back to her feet, even as Damian lunges for her, sword ready.

He misses. It goes wide, and Damian jerks back.

"I'm seeing—they're not here, right? They're not—"

"It's an illusion," Tanya says. "Close your eyes."

"I can't—they're still—"

Damian's clearly panicking, and Phobia darts back the way she came.

"Everyone collapse on her location," Tanya says. "She can't get all of you. There has to be a limit."

It's not the tactic Will would have used, but he doesn't object, watching the way it plays out. Mia leaps into action, nearly colliding with Bart as he darts into the hallway. They're a danger to each other, but it's also obvious that Phobia truly can't get all of them, because Jackson stays clear headed.

Then Jackson's lost, and Mia's back in action, and things start swapping so fast Will can't keep up. Damian darts out of the stairwell, sheathing his sword in the smartest move he's done all day.

"Think," Will says quietly.

"Anemoi!" Tanya says. "Wind gust everyone. She needs to focus, and if she can't focus—"

Tanya doesn't even finish explaining. Will can't see it, but suddenly everyone goes flying, slamming into the wall. He winces, because there's going to be a lot of bruises the next day, but Jackson's on her in a second, his tattoos lighting up as he releases his lightning, zapping Phobia to stun her.

Will can't even see what's happening past the pile on, but when they disengage, Phobia's mask is off and she's been blindfolded and cuffed.

"Someone sit on her," Will instructs. "I need to alert the appropriate authorities. But everyone?"

Six exhausted faces look up towards the security camera.

"Good job."

Chapter Text

Will sticks around to make sure Phobia's handed over to ARGUS, but his hopes of some kind of explanation as to the reason for the mission are squandered. There's no senior officials present, and neither Bordeaux nor Trevor show their face.

Instead, Will's solely in charge of getting all the kids on the plane and heading back home. Most of them have some kind of minor injury, but there's nothing that bad. Damian's the worst, with a goose egg growing on the back of his head, but he can walk under his own power and seems more shaken by what he saw then by the fact that Siracca tossed him into a wall.

"I'm sorry," she says for the thousandth time, and Jackson pats her shoulder.

"Stuff happens in combat," he says. "You did what you were told, and you stopped things from getting way worse. You should be proud."

Will spends the first half of the flight home checking everyone for injuries. Soranik has a scrape and there's a lot of bruises, but eventually Will has to declare the team physically fine.

Mentally, on the other hand, is a different deal.

"You should talk about it," Tanya tells her team. "Emotionally, it's better to share traumatic experiences as a group."

"Easy for someone who didn't have to deal with it to say," Mia counters.

Tanya's response is the best case scenario: the absolute smartest thing she could have done.

"If it were me," she says, "I probably would have seen portals. The same kinds that take people between dimensions. Because as much as I want to go home... I know I got lucky being here. I know people here. They're friendly. I could have easily ended up in a world where everyone's evil, or where everyone's dead. So portals... scare me. Because of what they could represent."

Mia shifts in place. It's obvious she doesn't want to talk about it, but she's effectively challenged Tanya and lost.

"My dad," she says finally. "I keep waiting for him to recognize me and show up, but it never happens. I only saw... glimpses, though. Phobia couldn't focus on me long enough for it to get really scary."

"Same," Jackson says, holding out his hand for a fistbump. "Here's to crappy fathers, right?"

Mia fistbumps him, and Will cracks a smile. It's a strange thing to bond over, but they have bonded over it.

Jon's scooted over to lean against Damian's left side, and Tanya scoots over to lean against Damian's right, trapping him between them so that no matter which way he goes he has a supportive team mate.

"It'll sound stupid," Damian says quietly. "It's a child's fear."

Damian had it the worst. Damian was the one most targeted, most focused on. He saw more of his fear than any of them, and is the most bothered as a result.

"When your hometown used to be regularly beset by evil clowns, I think even kid fears are pretty real," Soranik says. It's clear she's been told at least some of what happened, but only part.

Damian shakes his head.

"After my grandfather died, they kept him alive with the waters of the Lazarus pit. But it... tainted him. He became less himself. He didn't know his own strength. I remember him reaching out to grab my arm for something and he... he squeezed so hard the bone cracked. He didn't even seem to notice. When Phobia focused on me, I saw my grandfather again... but also my mother. I knew they wouldn't mean to hurt me, but when they were like that... they didn't have a choice."

Siracca moves over, leaning against Damian too, and he cracks a small smile, hemmed in from all sides.

"Thank you," he says. "I know none of you would let anything of the sort happen to me. You would protect me."

"Of course," Siracca says. "I'd blow them away." She gives a little wink of her own, and then goes back to leaning against Damian as he settles back in his seat.

"Bart?" Tanya asks, turning to him.

Bart goes stiff. He hasn't volunteered any information, which means he doesn't want to say.

Phobia's illusions aren't an accurate depiction of your fears. They just show you something you'd be afraid to see. For Bart, the answer seems obvious to Will: an army of amazons, marching towards him to kill them all and put an end to the Resistance.

But that isn't the answer Bart gives.

"Will."

Tanya double takes, turning to squint at Will.

"You saw Will? Why? He's on your side."

Will has a sinking feeling in his stomach.

"He's coming to kill me," Bart says quietly, and then hesitates a moment before elaborating. "In my future, he's Deathstroke. The Amazons used him to get rid of people who were in their way. So he could... he could have come after me."

"It's not going to happen," Will says. "None of it's going to come true."

"I feel like I'm missing something," Mia says, "but Will's got your back, and so do we, alright?" Her head swings around to look at Soranik.

"Lanterns."

"...Like, Green Lanterns?" Jon asks. "But..." He doesn't even finish the sentence, trailing off as he stares at her.

"A Lantern ruled her planet with an iron fist," Will says, providing context for those who don't have it. "Even if she is one now, that doesn't change that she grew up in that situation."

Soranik nods her head. 

"I know it's stupid," she says. "It's just... a thing."

Tanya turns to Will.

"So?"

Will stares back at her.

"...So?" He repeats.

"Everyone else has—"

"I didn't," Jon says. "But I don't know what I'd see. Green rocks, I guess?"

 "...Green rocks?" Siracca asks, confused. "You're scared of green rocks?"

"Kryptonite," Will says. "As far as we know it doesn't exist on earth, or maybe not even in this dimension, but it kills Kryptonians."

"It almost killed one of my brothers," Jon says, nodding his head. "So it's... dangerous stuff."

"Not something you have to worry about," Will says. "If it does come up, the rest of the League will handle it."

"Still scary."

"Sounds scary," Tanya confirms. "So Will. Everyone else has chipped in on what they find scary. Don't you think you should also chip in?"

How the hell should he know? Will scowls at her, but Tanya's unperturbed.

"My fears aren't easily depicted by someone walking down the hall at me."

"They don't have to be walking," Soranik points out. "I was just catching glimpses of people. I don't think Phobia could focus on us enough."

Will grunts again, but Tanya's giving him that look, and Will knows she isn't going to drop it.

"Probably my family dead," he says. "Don't like to think about losing them, so it'd probably be that."

"Well, you're not going to," Soranik says firmly. "That's one of the reasons we're all working so hard. So you don't have to worry about it."

"That's for me to worry about," Will says. "Not for you guys to worry about. How about I do crepes tomorrow morning?"

Their attention is easily distracted by the promise of their favorites, and Will hopes that it's enough to keep them from focusing too hard on what they saw in phobia's illusions.

Chapter Text

Will's hopes of getting answers in a timely manner collapse almost immediately.

Bordeaux isn't available, and when he calls Steve all he gets is a non-committal promise that he'll get back to him as soon as he can. He obviously can't ask Victoria, who's been left out of the loop, which means he's left stewing in his own juices as he tries to work out what he should be doing... if anything.

Otherwise, it's right back to business as usual. School takes up the bulk of the day, with training in the early afternoon and patrols at night. A few times there's some deviation: a ferry capsizes on its way across the bay, and Will goes with Jackson to provide assistance while Victoria goes to pull everyone else out of class. The combined efforts of Jackson and Jon are able to right the boat, and Soranik uses a massive net to scoop people out of the bay. It's by far the most high profile of their cases so far, happening in broad daylight, and it brings a lot of media attention Will doesn't want.

It's the last Tuesday of the month when Will finally gets pulled into the office by Victoria.

"Please tell me I don't have to kick her out," Will says when he spots Bordeaux and Steve on the video call.

"You don't," Steve says. "We're past that step. Take a seat."

Will does, settling back in his seat and waiting to hear what nonsense ARGUS is about to toss at them.

"Thanks to your assistance, we were able to rule out the members of the League and their support staff," Bordeaux says, clearly making an effort to butter him up. "We also dispatched a few active League members to a seperate situation, and from that we can narrow down our suspects considerably."

"Perhaps you could elaborate as to what the situation is?" Victoria asks. Even if Bordeaux is her boss, she doesn't make much effort to hide how irritating she finds the situation.

"A few weeks ago the League was involved in a minor situation with someone using an alien artifact to commit crimes. This shouldn't have been a big deal—it wasn't high profile, and it wasn't particularly dangerous. What was a big deal was that we'd already dealt with that exact same weapon."

"Same model?" Will asks.

"Same exact weapon," Steve says. "Right down to the scratches on the handle."

"Someone's helping themselves to ARGUS materials," Will guesses, and Bordeaux nods.

"The weapon wasn't properly checked into ARGUS storage. It was handed over along with the scene for us to deal with and catalog, but somewhere along the way it was... misplaced."

"No computer records?" Victoria asks.

"That's why this is a big deal to us," Steve says. "Someone's not just helping themselves to our gear, but doing so in a way we can't detect. Not only was all the security disabled, but there's absolutely no record of someone doing the disabling. The system's readings are... impossible, only they're obviously not actually impossible. Something's happening that shouldn't be."

"And now you want me to do something else to solve the situation," Will says with a sigh.

"Yes," Bordeaux confirms. "We had thefts at the Phobia site, but not the area the League was dispatched at. The same staff from the Phobia site are standing by to respond to the next League mission ARGUS is needed at. We want you to take your team and discretely monitor the scene."

"Is this not something ARGUS itself could do?" Will asks. "Or the League?"

"Whoever it is is going to be watching for the League and ARGUS," Steve says. "The Titans are an unknown. They won't be expecting you. You could sneak up and keep an eye on the site without drawing any attention."

"What do they have?"

Steve keeps his composure, while Bordeaux looks uncomfortable, clearly wondering just who told.

"Have what?" Steve says calmly.

"Don't fuck around," Will says. "You're wanting my team to handle it because we have people who are outright invulnerable on the team. What weapon did they steal you're worried about?"

Bordeaux taps her fingers on the desk.

"We don't have a name for it," she says. "We believe, from the markings on it, that it's Atlantean. It's a gauntlet that... well, makes you very strong. It'll bypass any sort of barrier, and if someone wearing it punches a human they're going to be turned into a paste."

"And you want to send my team after it."

"We don't know if they have it on them," Steve says. "It's possible they won't. But we're dealing with unknowns, and that means sending the best person possible for the job."

"Fine," Will says. The word traitor is still there, hanging in the air, even if the more he hears the less convinced he becomes of the connection. He has to know who it is, and then he can... what, figure it out?

Something like that.

"So what is the plan?" Victoria asks. "I assume there is one."

"Simple. The next time the League gets dispatched—sometime in the next few days—you're going to discreetly fly to the same location and sneak in to watch the site after the League leaves."

The plan contains an awful lot of sneaking for a team that contains so many teenagers.

"Alright," Will says. "I'll brief them when it happens."

"Are they going to be able to be pulled out of class...?" Steve asks like that's a genuine question.

"School can manage without them," Will says flatly. "They're all doing just fine because I won't let them train if they aren't. One day isn't make or break. The jet?"

"Will stay parked near you," Steve confirms. "I'll contact you the moment we hear, but before that it'll be a waiting game."

"I've waited before," Will says. "I won't tell the team until it's time for us to get on the plane. I don't want them obsessing over it, and there's nothing they can do until it's time for us to go."

"Are you sure that's wise?" Bordeaux asks. "Don't they need to stay ready?"

"We'll keep their gear packed and ready to go," Victoria says. "Not an issue."

"I'll trust your judgement then," Bordeaux says. "Hopefully everything goes well."

Victoria leans over when the call is over, giving him a hard look.

"...Are you sure about this?"

"No," Will says. "But it's not like we have much choice."

Chapter Text

Will is prepared for villains and fights and normal problems.

He's not prepared for homework.

"The answer is five-eighths."

"But why?" Siracca asks. "I don't get it."

"Wow," Damian says, leaning over his shoulder. "You really have no idea how to explain it, do you?"

"You help," Will says, shooing Damian away so he can stand. "My brain processes this faster than I can figure out how. This is why I'm not a teacher."

"But you are a teacher," Siracca says.

"Teaching someone to punch is very different than teaching someone math," Will counters. "If you want the answers, come to me. If you want to know how to get them, go to Damian or Tanya."

"Will?" Victoria asks, leaning into the dining room. "Call from ARGUS just came through."

"Fantastic," Will mutters. They're right in the middle of homework time, and none of them have eaten. "Can you brief them?"

"I've heard everything we need to know, yes," she confirms. "I'm ready to go."

Will raises his fingers to his lips, letting out an ear-splitting whistle. Bart and Jon nearly collide in the door way as they arrive, obviously having leapt to attention at the sound.

"What?" Jon asks. "What's going on?"

"Go grab the rest of the team. We've got a mission, and we're leaving immediately. I want everyone at the door in five."

"Gear?" Bart asks.

"Jon, help Victoria move the crate into the car."

The team's ready to go in four, even if Damian's still fixing the buttons on his shirt as they climb into the cars. Everyone's already harassing him for details, but Victoria interrupts with an announcement that they'll be briefed on the plane.

The team's excitement is obvious as they board the plane, but it gets dampened significantly when they find out they're going to be on the plane for four hours.

"We're going to New York," Victoria explains. "An alien mercenary known as the Faceless Hunter landed not far from the city, and the Justice League is engaging them currently."

"An alien?!" Jon yelps. "We're going to help?"

"We're not going to help," VIctoria says, and Jon sinks down into his seat immediately. "We're dealing with an unrelated matter. Put simply, someone within ARGUS has been stealing from ARGUS sites. They've made off with several artifacts of varying levels of danger, and they appear to be selling them on the black market. We're going there discretely, and then we're going to keep an eye on the sight. When someone shows up to take the bait, the team will be responding to take them down."

"Can I get that info sent to me?" Tanya asks. "I'd like to take a look at some of the details of what we're dealing with."

"Of course," Victoria says. "You've got time to kill."

It takes them four hours to reach New York, and Will spends half of it wondering if Villain is going to somehow know he's in the area. Villain shouldn't even know that he's there, but somehow Will doubts that'll stop him from finding out.

"I'll be staying with the plane," Victoria says. "I can't imagine this will take more than a few hours."

There's a bit of shuffling around as everyone changes, with Will pulling his helmet on out on the tarmac. They've got privacy just by virtue of where they've parked, but that goes away if they head over to rent a car or get one from ARGUS.

Obviously, Tanya's had the same thought.

"Lantern," she says, "can we get a platform to carry us? We're going to go low and stay with tree cover as we head to the scene. We're maybe ten minutes out."

"Did the League already deal with it?" Jon asks. "Everyone's safe?"

"Not serious damage," Tanya confirms, tapping away at the tablet that has her focus. "The last of the League is just leaving."

Soranik creates a low platform for them to stand on, and when the problems of a single flat platform become obvious, it shifts into something more like a particularly long floating car. It lets her carry them off the airport into the woods, with Tanya feeding her directions.

Will is regretting bringing the team not long after they arrive. He's got them all bunkered down in the woods, just out of eyesight for anyone standing around at the ARGUS site. He's keeping an eye on things himself, but the kids are getting restless already.

He could sit for hours waiting.

They, on the other hand, could not.

"This is boring," Jon mumbles.

"You're supposed to be patient," Damian says. He's doing the best of all of them, and it's clear Bruce's training is keeping him going.

Minutes tick by and Will can feel his team losing more and more focus. It's a bad match. Stakeouts aren't something that play nice with eight easily excitable kids.

"We're going to have to work on this in the future," Will mutters, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Stakeouts are an important skill."

"Stakeouts are watching nothing waiting for something to happen. Lots of is happening, we just don't even know what we're looking for," Mia points out. She's right—the site has dozens of people milling about, and they've got absolutely no hints as to what they're even looking for.

Look for something weird isn't particularly helpful.

"Let's go over what we know," Tanya says. "Someone at ARGUS, or someone who works at one of these sites, is stealing stuff?"

"Artifacts and gear," Will says with a nod.

"Are they stealing them after everyone's gone?"

"During," Tanya confirms. She pulls up a video, playing it for the group. There's no skip or interruption—one minute something's there, the next minute it's gone."

"Teleportation?" Bart suggests.

"The time's off," Tanya points out. "After it goes missing, the timestamp's off by four or five minutes. Like the entire system's pause."

"Time powers?" Soranik suggests.

"Possible," Will says. "Could be someone like Clock King."

"So someone is temporarily disabling all electronics in an area to allow them to steal things to sell," Damian says. "The problem is, how are we going to find them?"

"I looked into the setup of ARGUS's systems," Tanya says. "The only reason this is possible is because every system on the site is set up independent. They collect data in an ongoing manner, and then send it back to ARGUS headquarters every five minutes. They can be sure it's an inside man because someone knows all this and is acting within that five minute window."

"There can't be that many people who know about this, right?" Jackson says. "Shouldn't that be a short list?"

Will shifts position, still scanning the site absentmindedly as they talk. 

"You'd think that," Will mutters, "and you'd be wrong. I asked the same question, but it's a massive list. The five minute window is a known thing—everyone on site knows about it because if they miss two check-ins the League gets dispatched unless they contact headquarters manually."

"Sensible," Damian says.

"But we're no closer to figuring it out," Jackson says. "ARGUS could change the timing so that it's only every two minutes, and then they'd know when it was happening, but most likely it would just scare whoever is doing it off. They'd have to do it in absolute secrecy, which would raise a lot of false alarms."

"It's got to be someone from the science side, doesn't it?" Mia says. "Anyone else would be in danger lifting these artifacts. Someone on the science side—"

Will raises his hand and everyone behind him goes silent. He focuses his eyes, watching the figure cut their way across the site.

"Crap," Will says, his eyes trained on Arthur Light. Doctor Light. The fact that he was a villain back in Will's own world wouldn't be enough to confirm anything, but the realization snaps a whole lot of pieces into place all at once.

"Fuck," Will hisses.

"Holy cow," Jon says quietly. "What?"

"Armor off."

"Huh?" Mia says.

"Armor off. Now. Everyone strip it off, drop it in a pile."

He reaches up, pulling his helmet off even as he grabs his cell phone, flipping through the speed dial as fast as he can.

"Will, I'm wearing a sports bra under this," Mia protests. "I'm not just stripping down—"

"What was the first rule?" Will snaps. "Armor off. Now."

Tanya's already peeling hers off, and Will reaches up with one hand, ripping the additions off the ikon suit as he presses the phone to his ear.

"...Pop?" Joey says when he picks up.

"Joey," he says. "Suit up, fly down. Tanya's going to send you the coordinates."

"Pop, what—"

"Doctor Light's here," Will says. "The guy from Chetland. Remember fighting him?"

"Oh crap," Tanya mutters. "Doctor Light?"

"Why are we taking off our suits?" Siracca asks, but she's already removed most of hers. "Shouldn't we have armor on if we're going to fight a bad guy?"

"Joey—"

"I'm already moving, pop," Joey says. "But I can only fly so fast. Do I need to get Clark?"

"No, I need you to show up and body hop the bastard. ARGUS isn't going to have a wait to contain him with the powers he has."

"Got it," Joey says, and Will hands his phone off to Tanya.

"Get Joey here," he says.

"Why are we taking off our—"

"Because Arthur Light is the guy who convinced ARGUS to put new communications wiring in everything," Will says.

"That's bad," Soranik says quietly. "Do I need to..." She eyes the pile of armor and gear they're stacking up.

"Yes," Will says. "If that starts to glow even slightly, bubble it."

"Are we waiting for Joey?" Tanya asks. "He's going to be here in... I don't know. Five minutes? Ten?"

"I could knock him out," Jon suggests.

"Wait," Tanya says desperately. "Are we the only people who have that circuitry? Is it not possible that the whole site is using that circuitry?"

Goddammit.

"Jon, X-ray vision. Is it the same?"

He watches Jon glance back and forth between the two before nodding his head.

"Goddammit," Will hisses out loud. That means if things go bad, the whole site could pop. "Tanya, what's the artifact? Is it still secure?"

"It was as of two minutes ago. It's... uh, a set of wristbands that create a personal shield system."

Will weighs the odds.

"Bart," Will says. "I need you to grab everyone you can and get them to a safe distance. Jon, I want you doing the same. The moment I raise my hand... just do it. Your safety comes first."

"What are we doing?" Jackson hisses.

"You're getting clear of this," Will says, nudging the pile of armor with his foot, "and you're standing by with Soranik. Soranik, your shields are important here."

"I'm afraid to ask," Damian mumbles. "What are you doing?"

"Negotiating."

He needs to intervene before Arthur gets his hand on a personal shield system.

Chapter Text

Will simply walks straight into a secure ARGUS site like he owns the place. One of the most vital skills he learned in all his years as Deathstroke is that if you walk like you own the place, most people aren't going to question it.

He gets stopped by security when he's already halfway to the center.

"Sorry, do you have a badge?" A man calls, squinting at Will's face in confusion. "Mr. Wilson...?"

"Excellent timing," Will says. "You need to evacuate."

"We need to— what?"

"Evacuate. Now."

"I don't think you have the authority—"

"If I threaten to kill everyone in the area, will that give me the authority?" Will says, keeping his voice low.

The man gawks at him, reaching down to grab his radio, lifting it shakily to his face. He's low level. He probably doesn't have much clearance.

"I... we need to evacuate," he says.

"What?" The voice on the radio says. "On whose authority?"

Will reaches out, grabbing the radio from his hand and clicking it on.

"On Deathstrokes. Take it up with the League, but I want the site empty now."

He presses the radio back into the man's arms and heads towards the center of the facility. They've pitched a tent around the valuables, hiding them from sight. It would be good in any other situation, but right then it just minimizes visibility in a way Will doesn't like.

"Arthur!" He yells, watching the crowd to see who turns.

He does. Arthur Light's maybe thirty feet up, not far from the tent's entrance, and he's talking with someone carrying a clipboard when Will calls his name. He squints, confused.

"...Will Wilson?" He says. "Victoria didn't say you'd be here."

"She didn't," Will said.

Almost everyone seems to simultaneously lose focus, listening to something over the radio.

Hopefully an evac call.

"We're evacuating?" The man beside Arthur says, confused. "What?"

Will realizes he might be wrong. He might be completely off base. It could be someone else stealing the equipment.

But with his team's gear lined with technology Arthur Light could potentially charge into highly powered explosives, he's not willing to take that chance.

"We need to talk, Arthur."

"I'm supposed to be evacuating," he says. "I just need to grab my things—"

He starts towards the tent and Will grabs his wrist.

"Arthur," Will says. "We're not doing this."

Arthur's face goes serious, his hand clenching into a fist.

"You've already lost," Arthur says, his voice dropping to be barely audible. "Your team is sitting nearby. All I have to do is charge their suits and something truly regrettable would happen."

"You did not just threaten my team," Will hisses. "Bad move."

"I'm the one with all the cards," Arthur says. "Now let me go and we all walk away."

"I might have taken that deal," Will says, "except you just threatened to kill a bunch of kids. You should know I take that very personally."

The lights around the area flicker, and Will raises his hand.

Things start happening very quickly.

People around them start vanishing in blurs as Bart zips in and out, grabbing people and removing them to a safe distance. Jon's doing the same, grabbing people and hauling them away. At the same time, the lights in the area start to pulse and dim.

And then, of course, Will goes blind.

Not the first time.

"Bad move," he says, and breaks Arthur's wrist.

Something hits Will, deflecting off the ikon shield with a loud whummm, but something else hits his head, knocking him back. He releases Arthur's wrist right as his vision blinks back into existence, just in time to spot Arthur going for the tent.

Crap.

"Impulse, trip!"

Arthur goes flying, tripped by someone so fast he can't even see them, and then Bart's right back to clearing the site. Something explodes to Will's west, and then suddenly there are ten Arthur's, circling him with identical scowls on their face.

"Hate to tell you, Arthur," Will says, "but I already know all your tricks."

"Hate to tell you, Deathstroke, but it doesn't matter."

Something else explodes. Will doesn't have the time to focus on anything else—he needs all his focus on listening. Arthur's illusions don't make sound, and he needs to use that to his advantage.

But he can't fight the way he used to. Once upon a time he was a one man army. He was a tactical genius. But right then he can't focus. His brain's running too many different directions, trying to make sure every member of his team is safe, accounted for, and not getting blown up. He snags the wrong version of Arthur, the ikon suit eating the explosion for him harmlessly, but he's too slow to stop Arthur from darting into the tent.

Crap.

"He's in the tent!" Will yells. There's no communication with Tanya. No way to get the message other than shouting.

There's a massive crackle of what Will can only assume is electricity, and then Arthur Light goes flying out of the tent, skidding across the ground in a daze.

"What."

Damian steps out of the tent, two silver wristbands securely placed on his wrists and a smile on his face.

"Looking for something?" Damian says.

"You—you little shit," Arthur hisses, picking himself off the ground. "How dare you—"

And then he gets shot in the shoulder. The arrow makes it fairly obvious who the source is, but Will isn't taking chances.

Neither is his team. Jon drops down from the sky with Soranik landing beside him, and a green box wraps itself around Arthur, locking him in. Bart screeches to a stop just beside Damian, and Will spots Mia, Jackson, and Siracca not far off. Most of the area is cleared, even if it's an absolute mess after evacuation.

"You're done," Will says. Arthur really, really is. He's not even in a suit—the guy's wearing a lab coat, his wrist is broken, and he's got an arrow sticking out of his other shoulder. "Don't make me knock you out."

Something explodes beside Soranik, but Bart's dropping her safely beside Will even has a chance to be worried.

"We're doing this the hard way, then," Will says.

Containing someone with powers like Light's is easier said than done. It's twilight, which minimizes the amount of natural light he has access to, but it's Tanya who provides the best option: his powers are largely eyesight based, and simply blindfolding him minimizes how effective he can be. He still throws up illusions, but he doesn't know where exactly he's supposed to put them, and Soranik harmlessly defuses them by binding them in her light constructs and constricting them until they explode.

By that point, ARGUS is starting to respond properly, those in charge returning to the scene to be debriefed by Tanya.

Will double check's everyone's intact, but none of them have anything worse than a scratch, even if there were a few close calls.

But Will can't bring himself to be excited the way others are. Arthur doesn't make sense. He doesn't complete the puzzle. The more Will thinks about it, the more convinced he becomes that Bart's information was inaccurate.

That there wasn't a traitor. That the assumption there was a traitor in the League was based on faulty information from this very incident, leading people to speculate.

"Nice catch," Amanda Waller calls. Will would recognize her voice anywhere, and he glances over his shoulder, scowling.

Of course. Of course she'd be involved.

"Let me guess," Will says, "the idea to bring us in on this was your suggestion?"

"I figured I'd get one or two missions out of you," she says. "This seemed like a good use of it, considering he's been selling dangerous goods to the black market."

"You put my team at risk."

"They're fine," Waller points out. "Not a scratch on them."

Will scowls at her just as Siracca makes an excited noise, pointing at the sky.

Far above them, will spots Joey's suit in the sky, the white making a sharp contrast. Tanya flags him down, and it's obvious she's already briefed him about what's going on, because Soranik pulls Arthur upright, his eyes suddenly free as Joey leans over, hijacking his body. His body stays standing, but Tanya has to move over, helping prop Joey up as Arthur gets to his feet.

"You can release him," Joey says through Arthur. "I've got him."

"I have a general idea of his powers," Tanya says to Waller, being curt. "We should discuss containment methods."

"Did our gear get blown up?" Jon asks.

"Yep," Mia says. "First thing to go. Explosion was bad enough to crack Soranik's shields, too."

"Not that I didn't fix them," Soranik says. She's the only one in actual gear, her Lantern uniform making her look downright professional compared to everyone else who appear to be in workout clothes.

Except Mia, who is wearing a suspicious shade of green shirt.

"The director will be here soon," Waller says. "She'll be handling this personally, for obvious reasons."

Bart pokes at Will's side, and Will glances down at him.

"Everything good?" He asks, raising an eyebrow.

"Fine," he says. "You told me I should tell you if I recognized anyone else from the Resistance, right?"

"Or who sided with the Amazons," Will says, turning away from Waller who's chatting in a far too friendly manner with Tanya. "Why? Please don't tell me Waller."

If he gets told Amanda Waller is in charge of the resistance, Will is leaving the whole damn team here, and they can walk home.

"No, not her," Bart says. "Him." He nods in Joey's direction, and it takes Will a second to realize he's actually talking about Joey. Bart hasn't seen Joey's ikon suit, and the two look different enough that Will doesn't blame him for not making the connection.

But the realization makes his mouth go dry.

"Who was he?"

"Jericho's like... pretty much the scariest guy in the resistance. Everyone on the other side is worried about him, because he can just hijack their bodies and there's no stopping him. Plus, he flies. He's a constant problem, practically enemy number one."

The way Bart says it is so casual, but for Will it's anything but.

Because that means Jericho is alive in Bart's future and that changes things.

The realization doesn't come together bit by bit. It isn't puzzle pieces snapping together to make the big picture clear. But it's not a brick to the face, either. It doesn't come out of nowhere.

All it does is make Will hate himself for not having realized earlier. There was no reason Bart could have known, but Will should have. Will should have figured it out. He should have guessed.

Will can't imagine a timeline where Joey is alive and he still chose Bruce's well being over Joey's. No matter how much he loves or doesn't love Bruce, he knows that won't change.

Which leads him to one painfully obvious and yet completely undeniable conclusion:

In Bart's future, Will isn't Deathstroke. In Bart's future, the man operating as Deathstroke isn't Will but Slade, desperately trying to keep the love of his life—the last member of his family—from an awful fate.

In Bart's future, Will is just dead.

Chapter Text

Will is quiet on the plane ride home. He can't stop thinking about it, his thoughts whirling around in his head.

A part of him is happy: Joey's alive. He doesn't die.

A part of him realizes that being happy about that is stupid. It's another timeline, effectively erased from existence. Bart's timeline can't happen. They started deviating from it the moment he appeared. Even if the Amazons succeed, there's no guarantee the same people will live and die.

But he can't stop the thoughts from churning in place anyway. There are implications, things he doesn't want to think about. Does it mean he doesn't love Bruce? The declaration that in ten years he'd be so in love with him everyone would know it has felt like an albatross around his neck, a burden he couldn't get rid of.

And now, rather suddenly, he's free.

"Are you alright?" Jon asks, leaning into Will's personal space. "You've been quiet."

"Thinking," Will mutters.

"...Because of what I said?" Bart says quietly, looking up at him from his seat. He's been quietly reading for the duration of the flight, rather than celebrating like the rest.

"Yeah," Will says. "Because of that." He didn't bother to explain to Bart. He's not sure how to. Not without revealing the truth about Slade. For that matter, Bart still doesn't even know who Jericho is—no one bothered to explain, and the two were simply doing different things.

"Will," Tanya says, leaning over. "I just got a message from Professor Stein."

Will doesn't bother to hide his groan.

"Let me guess," he says, rubbing at his eyes. "The energy is spiking?"

"What energy?" Mia asks. Almost everyone's attention is suddenly caught, either by Tanya's excitement or Will's clear dread.

"Professor Stein and I have been tracking energy readings since we arrived. Each recorded energy spike beyond a certain threshold is connected to either another universe making contact with this one with the sole exception of Bart coming back."

Bart goes stiff in his seat.

"Tanya thinks it might be her home dimension restoring the connection we had before," Damian explains.

"But it could be anywhere," Soranik points out.

"Well no," Tanya says. "That's what Professor Stein and I have been looking into. The whole thing is like an earthquake: it looks completely out of nowhere, but there's... foreshocks. We've been having them for the last little while, and now they're escalating. He thinks we have maybe a few hours until.... Whatever it is happens."

"But... it still could be anywhere," Soranik says. "Right?"

Tanya seems a bit flustered, resting her tablet on her knee so everyone can see the map of California.

"He's been narrowing it down while we've been flying. Right now he's pretty sure it's going to be in California, but he thinks he could have an actual location by the time we land, if it hasn't happened already."

"Are we going to check it out?" Jackson says. "I mean, if it's another dimension..."

"Or it could be Amazon related," Siracca says. "The bad ones, I mean."

"In California? Seems unlikely," Mia says. "Wrong continent."

Will can't even keep track of what the kids do or don't know. Everything but the traitor and what happens to the League, he thinks. But even then, he suspects they can guess that the League isn't around.

Will rubs at his eyes. He's tired. He's tired in a way he normally doesn't get tired, his stamina carrying him far.

But he can't turn down the obvious.

"Everyone, power nap," he says. "We'll go check it out when we land. Hopefully they're friendlies."

He's not betting on it. It's been a goddamn day.

Despite his instruction to power nap, they end up eating a very late dinner provided by Victoria. The food's crappy—literal airline food—but it's better than operating on an empty stomach. Most of them nod off after a bit, but Will can't bring himself to do the same.

Something's bothering him. It's like a cat scratching at the door, making itself known without actually coming inside. He can't put his finger on it, can't think past the fact that Joey is alive and he's dead.

They land just after midnight, and Tanya's already got the information.

"320 Dolores Street," she says with a grin.

"...You have a street address?" Mia asks.

"Wait," Soranik says. "I've heard that address before?"

"The Mission San Francisco de Asís, also known as Mission Dolores," Tanya says. "Significant primarily because it's the oldest standing building in San Francisco."

"A good landmark," Siracca says. "If someone was trying to find a place that was the same between universes?"

"Exactly," Tanya says. "Whatever it is, it's happening soon, so let's get going."

She's far too excited as Soranik whips up a platform. Will hates that they're going with so little gear, but Victoria insists she'll monitor things from the base.

The timing feels wrong. The timing feels... distressing. There's too many factors.

But Will goes anyway. He can't ignore something so potentially important.

Chapter Text

There's excitement in the air, but not just excitement. There's a nervous energy that goes right along with it, and the two emotions seem to have a pretty even split as they wait.

They're clustered in the mission's cemetery. Tanya's insisted no less than seven times that they're in the right place, but Jackson and Mia are already making bets that the portal pops up inside the mission itself.

Bart refuses to bet. He's been quiet since before they even landed, and Will wonders if he's nervous.

None of them have any idea what's coming through the portal, but they're ready no matter which way it goes. If it's a fight, they'll get a fight. If it's a talk... well, they can talk. They've got representatives from all over the universe (and multiverse) ready and waiting, and Soranik's universal translation will help in the worst case scenario.

"Oh," Tanya says, leaning closer to her tablet. "Something—something's definitely happening."

She says something's happening, but as far as Will can tell nothing is. There's no wormhole like there was the first time Will got jerked across dimensions. There's no strange lights in the sky. It's really just everyone standing around, waiting for something that might not even happen.

"It's coming!" Tanya says, practically shouting with excitement.

"Nothing's happening—" Mia says, right as something does.

There's a flash of light and a shower of sparks as something screeches to a halt in front of them, and the sight of it makes even Will simply stop thinking for several seconds.

It's a boy, maybe fourteen or so. He's got poofy, windswept brown hair, and his eyes are covered by oversized goggles. His costume is form-fitting, white and red with a thunderbolt motif, and the kid's wearing a massive grin as he looks around.

"Oh good!" The new arrival says. "This makes things way easier. I was thinking I was going to have to run all over and find everyone, but if—"

The kid's rapidfire speech screeches to a halt as he lays eyes on Bart.

The problem, of course, is that the kid—the same one that just popped into their dimension or timeline or whatever— is Bart. He doesn't look similar to him so much as he looks identical to him. The same costume. The same hair. The same wide smile that Bart used to wear when he was pretending like he'd come back in time to sightsee. For a moment Will actually thinks they are identical, but when he glances between them he registers that Bart— his Bart, the one he's spent the last few months training—has slightly longer hair. It's grown out since he arrived, and that's the only real difference.

"Wha?" The new Bart says. "Wait a second, who's that?"

He zips forward, stopping just in front of Bart, the two standing face to face, staring at each other.

Old Bart hasn't moved since his doppelganger arrived, and Will registers that he somehow knew, because he was staring straight at the exact place the new Bart arrived.

Because, Will realizes, they arrived at the same place, just months apart.

Old Bart's hands clench into fists, and everyone gawks at the confrontation.

"No way," Tanya says quietly. "This isn't—there's two?"

"There's not two!" The new Bart protests. "I'd remember if IsplitintotwoI'mprettysure—"

"Kid," Will barks automatically. "Slower for the people who don't have super speed."

"He's an imposter!" The new Bart says. The one he knows hasn't said a damn word. He's standing perfectly still, his hands still clenched, staring down the kid that looks just like him. The kid who might as well be him.

The kid who is him, Will realizes. Everything snaps together all at once, a dozen clues and accidental hints uniting to form one single answer.

He's not the only one who comes to the same conclusion.

"He's a clone," Damian says. "An imposter."

He's right, Will realizes. Bart even said it, back when he first explained his situation.

"Why would someone send a clone in like this? It doesn't make any sense," Jackson says, and there's an immediate burst of noise as everyone tries to have their voice heard. Some of them—Damian and Tanya—try and point out that the new one isn't the clone. Others want to know why. Even more want to know what the hell is going on.

And then the new Bart lunges.

It's so fast that even Will's enhanced senses can't really keep up, but he gets enough of the idea. The Bart's are suddenly rolling across the ground, fists flying as they try and... what, knock each other out? Even knowing what he does, there's still a ton of missing pieces, and Will needs to find them.

"Jon!" He yells. "Grab Bart!"

"Which one?!"

"Any of them!"

Jon and Will wade into the melee at the same time, each scrambling to grab a Bart. Will misses his—he's not sure which one—but Jon manages to catch an arm, hauling the two apart.

"No!" The Bart Jon's caught yells. "You have to grab him, he's a spy!"

And then, very suddenly, there's only one Bart. The other one is simply gone in a flash, vanished from sight as the one Jon's holding lets out a noise of protest.

"I told you!" He protests desperately. "He's a spy! They must have sent him back somehow to stop the plan!" He's shouting, and it's only adding to the confusion, so Will reaches up, muffling Bart with a hand across his mouth.

"You are all over the place," Will says. "I need you to stop, take a deep breath, and go from the start. None of us is going to catch him with the lead he's got on us, so what matters is you telling us who they are."

His team gathers around him, gawking at the Bart. This is the new one, Will is certain. This is the one that came through the portal. They're strangers to him, but he isn't a stranger to them, and that makes the whole thing surreal.

"ThatBart'sanimposter—" He says when Will uncovers his mouth, and Will immediately covers his mouth again.

"Slow," he says again. "Start with who sent you, and why."

The kid's been in this dimension (timeline?) for less than five minutes and his refusal to just answer the question is already staring to wear on Will's last nerve.

"The Resistance sent me," Bart says the moment his mouth is free. "In a little bit, their ship is going to arrive, and everything goes bad really fast!"

"Who?" Tanya says. "The Amazons?"

The team's baffled. They don't even have a fraction of the information Will does, but it doesn't matter, because he doesn't know this either.

"TheKryptonians!" Bart says, before catching himself and slowing down again. "They have a ship coming, and they're going to try and make Earth into New Krypton. The resistance tries to fight them, but by the time they get together they've already lost most of the heavy hitters. So they tried to find a way to stop them before they even got started, and Luthor came up with a theory that would let them slingshot someone back in time—"

"Wha?!" Jon yelps. "Kryptonians?"

Bart doesn't even seem to slow down.

"So he needed a speedster to do that, but they were all gone, so they made me, and I guess the bad guys must have figured out what was happening and made the fake Bart, because there was some weird stuff going on when they sent me back, somaybetheypiggybacked—"

Will is going to scream in frustration.

"You don't know," he interrupts. "And it doesn't matter. When does the ship arrive?"

"Uhhhh," Bart says loudly. "The... tenth?"

"Month?" Will is going to strangle him. If he thought the Old Bart was vague...

"February?"

Siracca makes a small noise of distress.

"That's... that's five— four days!" Tanya says. She sounds absolutely panicked. 

"You were sent back to warn us," Will snaps. "So warn us."

"I'm warning you right now!" Bart says. "They're going to—oh right, they blow up Wayne Manor and that starts the war. Then Superman and his people go and try and fight him, but they don't know that Zod has—"

Zod. He should have goddamn known.

"I get it," Will says, interrupting. "We need to get you to the Justice League so they know what's going on."

"What about Bart?" Soranik says, and when the Bart that's right there looks at her, she scowls. "Other Bart. The Bart we know."

"I'll handle it," Will says. "He's lower priority than the fact that we're about to be invaded. Soranik, platform. Jon, take this Bart and get back to Victoria. Stay low, be discrete. Tell her what's going on."

He calls Bruce on the way back, yelling for the remaining kids he's sharing the platform with to be quiet. They're too noisy.

"Will," Bruce says with a groan. "Are you aware of the existence of timezones?"

"Don't care," Will says. "Wake Slade up and put out an emergency all-call to the League."

Bruce suddenly sounds very, very awake.

"What's happening?"

"We just had..." Will takes a second, trying to figure out how to word it. "Another Bart show up. This one says we're about to have a Kryptonian invasion force reach Earth shortly."

"We're going to have a what? What about the traitor? What about the Amazons?11"

"Hold on," Jackson says. "What traitor?"

"Are you on speaker?" Bruce asks, confused.

"He just has good hearing," Will says. "I'll explain later. Get the whole League up and ready to go as fast as you can."

"Already on it," Bruce says. "Should we be heading down there?"

"If anything, we're going to be heading up there," Will says. "Make sure ARGUS doesn't start flying the plane back tonight."

"Got it. Should I be expecting a call?"

"We're on our way back to base," Will says. "New Bart should already be there to explain things to Victoria."

"Alright, I'll talk to you soon."

Will hasn't even hung up the phone when Jackson leans forward.

"Traitor?"

"Old Bart told us some stuff about the future he's from," Will says. "He said there was a traitor on the League."

"So who are we believing?"

"Neither," Will says. "And both. You look at both stories and think it through. If one of them was lying, which is it more likely to be? Which explanation makes the most sense?"

"And who ran away when confronted with evidence?" Tanya says quietly.

"We need to do something," Damian says quietly. "We need to find him. He'd be able to verify things..."

"I have it handled," Will says. "Just let me deal with the missing Bart."

Soranik manages to get them back to base in record time. Jon's waiting outside for them, hovering just off the ground, and Will herds all the kids inside in one go.

"They're upstairs," Jon says. "Victoria's talking with the League, and Bart—the new Bart—is explaining things. But we need to find the other Bart—"

"I've got it," Will says. "Let me handle it."

Mia squints at him. She's not the only one.

"One of us is a seasoned professional with a massive amount of resources, knowledge, and experience. The other is a pack of kids who haven't even been a team for a whole year. Hunting down someone who's gone to ground is something I've done literally dozens of times, so again... let me handle it."

"Do you need help?" Damian asks. "I could provide assistance. I have my own resources."

Will doesn't even break stride as he drops his hand onto Damian's shoulder.

"I've got this one," he says. "Stay here. Help the team. I'm going to go make some calls, and I don't want to be interrupted."

He leaves them on the second floor with Victoria as he heads up the stairs. There's a lot to do right then, and after a moments debate he simply sends Joey a text reminding him that he cares rather than waking him up with a call.

Joey's going to need all the sleep he can get.

Chapter Text

The air's cool when Will reaches the roof, closing the door behind him and tucking his phone away. Despite the pretense, he has no calls to make. The only person he has to speak to is already up on the roof.

Bart is sitting right where Will expected to find him, his legs dangling off the edge of the roof as he stares out over the city. It wasn't a sure thing, but it was the sort of bet Will was willing to make: low stakes, high reward. Bart has nowhere else to go, no one else to turn to. All his memories of this world are in their base, and his choice to come and sit on the roof doesn't seem calculated so much as desperate.

He could have gone anywhere, and instead he went to sit on the roof.

"Mind if I join you?" Will asks, moving towards him. Bart doen't get up and run. He just sits there, hands balled in his lap as Will sits down beside him, letting his own feet dangle off the edge beside Bart's.

"You know," Bart says quietly.

"Yeah," Will says. "I should have made the connection. I almost made the connection, really. But I wanted to trust that you'd told me the truth, so I didn't make the mental leap I should have. Tripped over my own feet, you could say."

Barts hands clasp together in his lap, his eyes sinking down to stare at them.

"Aren't you going to ask me which of us is real?"

"No," Will says. "I think we both know what the truth is. Doesn't make any sense for him to be the fake. And you've told us before, anyway. You said we were a clone when you first did introductions, before you caught yourself."

"Yeah," Bart says. His voice is getting quieter by the second as he seems to shrink into himself. "I'm the fake."

The correct thing to do is to ask questions. To get Bart to explain things, even if they're things Will already knows. Independently corroborating things is vital to understanding the situation, but Will can't bring himself to do it. Instead Will tells him the answers, trusting Bart will correct him if he's wrong.

"They found out about Bart being made. They found out about the plan to send him back in time. They couldn't stop them for one reason or another, so they made you and sent you back with him... but even farther. You'd be able to engineer things so that they'd be even worse for us, making a timeline that would be advantageous for the Kryptonians. Probably making sure more people were at the manor when it blows. Convincing us that there was a traitor so we'd spend all our time trying to figure that out. It's a good plan."

Bart nods, but he doesn't answer.

"But the plan's even smarter than that," Will says. "Because if their plant played it right, he could have set things up so that when the real Bart Allen showed up, they'd think he was the fake. They'd think he was an imposter, even though he was the real thing."

Bart is silent beside him.

"But you didn't," Will says. "You didn't even try and defend yourself. You just sat there and let him ruin the whole plan. You didn't even fight him until you had to defend yourself, and then you ran away."

"Because I'm a coward."

"Because you didn't want to do it."

Will reaches out, wrapping an arm around Bart's shoulders and pulling him closer. Bart's stiff under his touch, obviously expecting the worst. Expecting for Will to snap his neck or something like that.

Will remembers Bart's confession when they fought Phobia: that the thing she made him see was Will himself, coming to kill him.

"You're a tool to them," Will says simply. "Like a laser guided missile, something to be sent out and forgotten. You were trained to believe in the mission. Made for this mission. But there's more to life than what you're told to do, and you realize that now."

There's a small noise—a half-stifled sob—and Bart seems to sink down even farther.

"You like the team," Will says. "They've saved your life, and you've returned the favor. You've protected them, and you trust them to have your back in return. And you know if the plan goes through like it was supposed to, most of them are going to die. They're going to lose people they care about. They'll suffer. And you don't want that."

He dispenses with the pretense. Bart's trembling softly beside him, so Will simply scoops him up, dragging him into a hug and wrapping his arms around Bart, pulling him close.

"I told you when we started all this that there weren't any heroes or villains," Will says. "I meant it. The only thing that matters is what you do right then. So the question is, Bart, what are you going to do right now?"

Bart mumbles something, and Will has to ease the hug to let him shift enough to say it clearly.

"I'm not Bart."

"You aren't." Will says. He's not going to argue that. Not with someone cloned to be Bart. Not with someone who's spent what was no doubt the majority of his life pretending to be the real Bart Allen. "What was your name?"

"Didn't have one."

"They must have given you a code name," Will says. They had to have called him something.

"Inertia," he says quietly. "Once they put the plan in motion, it can't be changed."

"Unless changed by an outside force," Will says. "Pretty sure the team counts, because you've already changed plenty."

In his arms, Inertia breaks down. He buries his face in Will's shoulder, sobbing inconsolably as Will hugs him tighter.

Time is of the essence, but right then Will knows there's no better use of his time then letting Inertia cry in his arms.

Chapter Text

In a strange, stupid way, Will feels better. With Bart— Inertia —in his arms, he feels in control of the situation for the first time since the whole stupid traitor thing first came up.

He understands.

The pieces are coming together.

And more than that, he's changing things. The dark future where almost everyone he knows is dead isn't going to happen, because he's not going to let it.

"I know it's not going to be easy," Will says, running his fingers through Inertia's hair, "but we need to talk with the League. We need every detail you have, ever thing you remember." Will isn't stupid. He knows most of what Inertia's fed them is lies. The fact that Bart didn't even mention the Amazons makes that clear.

"Will you..." Inertia trails off, and Will tightens the hug, guessing at what he was going to say.

"You're going to be just fine," Will says. "I've got your back, and the team's got your back."

"I betrayed them."

"You'll figure out quickly they can forgive disgustingly quickly," Will says. He gets to his feet, hauling Inertia up with him, and then takes a second to attempt to clean the poor kid up. His hair is even more of a mess than usual, and his eyes are a ruddy red as Will wipes them with his sleeve.

"There," Will says. He plants a hand on Inertia's shoulder, both to ground him and to keep him from getting cold feet.

The last thing he needs is Inertia running off.

They descend into the base, heading towards the second floor, and very nearly run into Jon on his way up. He stops, gawking in confusion, glancing between the two. Inertia won't make eye contact, his eyes very firmly on the floor.

"They're still in a meeting?" Will asks, and Jon nods his head, still staring at Inertia. "Good."

Will heads down the stairs, and Jon falls in behind them, gawking openly.

The security room isn't nearly large enough to fit all of them, and Will steers Inertia in, interrupting Bart—once again talking far too quickly—explaining something or other.

"What did I miss?" He announces, which leads to a lot more gawking at the fact that Inertia is standing right there.

"You found him," Victoria says. She leans down, inspecting Inertia's face, and then reaches up to rub a smudge of dirt off. "There you go."

"Uh," Bruce says. "I'm currently seeing Mia's side. What's happening over there?"

Bart zips right up to Inertia, face stuck in a wide grin that might as well be permanent.

"So you're joining the good guys, right? That's neat, because now we can be brothers, because basically no onecankeepupwithme—"

Inertia pulls back, pressing against Will.

"Give him some space," Will says. "We can deal with that later. Right now we need to deal with the fact that there's about to be an invasion. Can we agree on the date?"

"Tenth of February," Bart says.

"February tenth, 6:57 PM is the first strike," Inertia says.

"Oh thank god," Tanya mutters under her breath.

Will steers Inertia into view of the cameras, letting his hand on Inertia's shoulder speak for itself.

"What did I miss?"

"Kryptonians, apparently," a very tired Clark says. "Invading."

"I got that part."

"Apparently Bart was sent back in time by the Resistance to warn us," Diana says. "He was supposed to get here a week ahead of time, but he undershot by two days. Overshot?"

"Doesn't matter," Barry says. "What matters is that we know it's coming."

"What about the Amazons?" Siracca asks. "Those are important."

"They're our allies!" Bart announces proudly.

"The Amazons of Bana-Mighdall were a constant pain in the side of the Kryptonian forces," Inertia explains, and half the Justice League looks moments away from sobbing with relief that they're getting not just clear, actual answers, but those answers at a normal speed. "They knew I would need someone to point a finger at, and turning future allies against each other preemptively would play to their advantage."

"Well, we haven't managed to get in yet," Diana says. "We just located them. So there's that."

"Alright, let me just make sure we're on the same page," Slade says. "Bart was made by Luthor?"

Bart nods his head enthusiastically.

"Because he needed a speedster to shoot backwards in time. So he whipped you up in a lab, and... what? How did he end up with two?"

"Some of Bart's genetic material was smuggled out by a traitor in the Resistance," Inertia says. "The Kryptonians used it to make me while he was being educated."

"Wait, how long have you been alive then?" Jon asks.

"About a year," Bart says. "Everyone fought a bit over it because some said it would be better if I didn't remember how things were, but mom put her foot down before I was even born and said that I should get to spend time there."

Inertia flinches when Bart mentions his mother, and Will gives his shoulder another little squeeze.

"I'm terrified," Barry says. "Who...?"

"Oh, did you not know?" Bart asks, glancing over to Inertia, who looks away. "Mom said she owed you for doing so much for Wally, so when someone needed to be a surrogate, she volunteered."

"Wait, Iris?" Barry chokes, and Bart bobs his head excitedly.

"That's my mom," he says.

Will's pretty sure Inertia wasn't hiding that. He's pretty sure he just didn't know.

"Focus," Bruce says. "Both of you were sent back for a reason. From those reasons, we can determine the best course of action. Bart?"

"I'm supposed to comebackandtellyou—"

"Bart," Will interrupts.

"I'm supposed to come back and tell you all this stuff," Bart says, his words agonizingly slow. "So that you can stop the Kryptonian invasion before it even starts."

Bruce hesitates.

"...Other Bart?"

"Inertia," Will says. It's not a name. It's a codename, but it's the only thing he's got, and Bruce rumbles in displeasure in response, clearly as annoyed by it as Will himself is.

"Inertia?"

"I'm supposed to keep the League busy so their forces are divided. Sow dissent in the ranks by telling them about a traitor. If I can expose the Amazons of Bana-Mighdall, then I'm supposed to do that."

"What about day of?" Arthur asks, leaning closer to the screen.

Inertia shifts in place.

"I'm supposed to make sure as many members of the League as possible are inside Wayne Manor at the designated time."

"How the hell were you supposed to do that?" Roy asks, baffled. "We live all over the country."

Will knows what Inertia's going to say before he opens his mouth, but he's hoping he's wrong.

"If I told you I'd discovered something important, and told you that the traitor was watching through the cameras at your headquarters, it's possible I could have engineered a situation where you'd choose the manor instead."

"But then you'd have to be there," Diana says, and there's a stunned silence. After a second, she drags her hand down her face.

"Of course," she says. "I don't know why I'm surprised that a group that would clone a child to send back in time for the sole purpose of sabotage would be willing to stoop so low."

"While I do not mean to cause offense," J'onn says, "can we be certain this information is accurate? We have already spent a great deal of time and energy investigating a false lead once before."

"I think he's telling the truth," Jon announces without a moment of hesitation.

"Everything he says makes sense," Tanya adds. "This helps close holes and resolve issues we've been encountering for months. This explains his behavior, and the problems with the original story."

"If he was still lying, he'd have convinced us Bart was a fake," Jackson says. "It would have been easy. We've spent the last four months training with him... he knows us inside and out, and the new Bart would be a stranger to us."

"Alright," Clark says, holding his hands up. "We get it. But it's also past four in the morning, and half of you look like you're about to drop. Everyone needs to... to get to bed. All of you, anyway. We're going to pull all the stops and see what we can get together. Inertia, Bart? We'll get more details from you tomorrow."

Bart nods his head so fast he blurs. Will can't figure out where he's getting his energy, but then he supposes Bart didn't just fly across the damn country, either.

"Meeting adjourned," Victoria says. "Everyone get to bed, because we've got a hell of a week ahead of us."

"...Please tell me we don't have to go to school," Siracca says quietly, and there's a round of laughter.

"No, I think you're exempt for the next bit," Jackson says, patting her on the shoulder.

Chapter Text

Inertia spends the night in the same room he's been sleeping in for the last four months, but Will can't stop himself from looking at it with new eyes. It has less personal touches, less things. It's the room of someone who knew he wasn't going to be living there long, who was trying not to get attached. Will makes a point of tucking Inertia in, even though he complains that he's not a child as Will does it.

"Yes you are," Will says. "And you're exhausted, so get some sleep."

"I have things..."

"Get some sleep," Will says, reaching up to comb his fingers through Inertia's hair. "We can talk in the morning."

He runs into Siracca on the way out, a quilt thrown over her shoulder and a pillow tucked under one arm. She clearly expects Will to stop her, because there's a stubborn look on her face when he looks down at her.

"He shouldn't be alone," she says, and seems genuinely surprised when Will simply steps to the side to let her pass.

She's right. What Inertia needs right then is reminders that the Bart the team spent all their time with was him.

Just because he's not the real Bart doesn't mean he's not their teammate.

Will heads down to the security room, murmuring a silent curse as he turns his regeneration back on. There's no way he can leave it off right then, even if it means giving up the last few months of aging he'd been doing. He has to start from square one, but there's no other choice considering he'd already died once.

Will settles into the security room, accessing Bruce's files remotely to pull up what they have on Zod, and does what he can to put information together.

He's not the only one. Slade's on the other end, and a few minutes after he settles in, his phone rings.

"Fancy seeing you looking at files on Zod," Will says. "You guys haven't dealt with him yet, have you?"

"Not yet," Slade confirms. "But we're about to."

"Imagine Clark, but evil."

"I'd prefer not to," Slade says dryly. "One advantage of Inertia's whole traitor thing is that Bruce has spent the last few months working out how to neutralize every member of the League."

"Including Clark?"

"Including Clark," Slade confirms. "We don't have access to Kryptonite, but we've got some plans for red-sun technology. We've set up caches of information on drop dead switches. If anything happens to us, all that will go public."

Will can imagine why they're hesitant to make it public immediately: the technology should be harmless to most people, but it's dangerous to Clark and his family, and providing the public with a clear way to kill him would be a huge disadvantage for the League.

"About Inertia," Slade says. "Are you naming him, or does one of us need to?"

"I was going to figure something out today," Will says. "Inertia's just his... project name. He needs an actual name."

"I'll leave you to it then," Slade says. "Just don't use Grant."

Crap.

"Grant is a perfectly fine name."

"Joey will be upset if you use Grant. Pick another name."

Well, there goes his one single idea.

"I'll think on it," Will says. "Do we have a plan? Has Clark consulted his database?"

"His... his what?"

"His... does this Clark not have a database?"

It's never occurred to Will before right then, but the fact that this Clark doesn't have a Fortress of Solitude suddenly sticks out.

"He does not," Slade says, confirming Will's theory. "Kara tells a similar story as far as Zod goes. Kryptonian general, revolted against the council, banished to the Phantom Zone."

"Sounds about right."

"But all that assumes it's the same between worlds," Slade says. "Which is... far from guaranteed. There was no Kryptonian invasion we can compare to. This is completely unique as far as we can tell."

"Has Bruce suggested this might be a big misunderstanding and we might be able to negotiate yet?" Will asks.

Slade grins at him.

"He was trying that argument while I was shoving him into bed. I told him that friendly invaders from outer space don't open negotiations with an orbital strike."

"Sounds like Bruce," Will says. "I need to go start breakfast in case anyone gets up in a timely manner. Check in if anything comes up."

"Just keep an eye on the kids," Slade says. "We'll need to drill them for more information when they're all up."

"That's the idea," Will says, wrapping up the call and getting back to work.

He leaves the files up for Victoria when she wakes, closing the security room and heading down to the kitchen. No one's in the kitchen (probably because they're all still asleep), so he starts making some eggs benedict for when they do show up.

He calls Alfred midway through cooking.

"Al," he says. "How did you do your hollandaise?"

Al's already up and ready to go, the time difference making things easy. Will wonders how much he knows, and decides to ask later.

"Pan or bain marie," Alfred says. "I won't tolerate blender method in my house. Standard, unsalted butter, not clarified butter. I've heard some use vinegar to finish, but I prefer to stick with the more traditional lemon. If you're feeling adventurous, add some lemon zest."

"Got it," Will mutters, grabbing a heavy pan. "Did they already fill you in?"

"They have," Alfred confirms. "Master Jason has not yet been informed, as he was up late waiting for Joey to return. The two are still asleep, but will be brought up to speed when they wake."

"Did they tell you about Inertia?"

"Master Bruce had quite a few things to say about him," Alfred says, and Will's stomach sinks. "The majority of which could be summarized by saying that he was upset you even let him go to bed without giving him a proper name."

"I had to come up with one first," Will mutters. "Slade says I can't use Grant."

"You cannot use Grant," Alfred confirms. "Is Bart's full name just Bart, or...?"

"Bartholomew," Will says. "Bartholomew Henry Allen. The second, I guess." He's not sure if the second was there to begin with, but he supposes it's there now.

"A more traditional sounding name, then," Alfred says. "One that would not look out of place beside Bartholomew."

"Suggestions?" He's already thinking of a few, but he suspects Alfred has better ideas.

"Thaddeus," Alfred says. "Which can be easily shortened to Thad or Tad, as he chooses. The apostle Thaddeus is traditionally considered a pair with the apostle Bartholomew, so the names go together. It means courageous heart."

Oh. Will likes that, and he makes a noise in response that Alfred clearly reads as approval.

"It is also one of my middle names," Alfred says, sounding unbelievably smug.

"Well played," Will says. "He can pick a middle name if he wants one, but otherwise, that'll do." He doubts Inertia's going to object to it. In fact, he's pretty sure the kid's going to burst into tears at the idea of having a name of his own.

He's practically betting on it.

Chapter Text

The first one up is actually Jon, floating in the kitchen entranceway with a yawn.

"Anyone up?" He asks as Will finishes off a benedict for him.

"Not yet," Will says. "Just me."

"Did you even sleep?"

"Don't need to. Same way your father can go through a whole night without getting tired."

Jon squints at him like he doesn't quite believe that, but accepts his plate anyway. "So what are we doing, then?" He asks as he sits down at the table.

"Letting everyone sleep. When everyone's done sleeping, we'll figure out what comes next."

Jon sits and starts to eat, but he keeps stopping, pausing mid-bite as he tries to compose his question in his head.

"...Is Bart going to be in trouble?" Jon asks quietly. "Our Bart? Because even if he was going to do a bad thing, he didn't, and you shouldn't be in trouble for things you didn't do."

"Not that simple," Will says. "But no, he's not going to be in trouble."

"I just think that my brothers probably would have done a lot of bad things if dad hadn't saved them. So it's kind of the same thing."

Will can see the parallels, at least. Jon's oversimplifying, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes things need to be broken down into their component parts to let people see them clearly.

"When Inertia gets up, you should tell him that. That you don't think it's fair, and that you have his back. He needs to be reminded that the team are still his friends."

Inertia's logic is painfully clear to anyone who so much as glances at him: the team should have been with Bart, therefore, they'll no doubt support Bart.

"I will," Jon says. "Should I wake anyone up?"

"Let them sleep."

"Can I have another?"

When Will turns, Jon's sta.nding just behind him, plate held up expectantly.

Will lets him have another. Jon's a good kid, and they've got trouble coming before long. Better to let him enjoy the moments he has while he still can, before he needs to worry about an invasion.

Jackon's next up, followed shortly after by Victoria. Will hands them both plates as they come in, listening to the conversation at the table. Jackson also wants to know what's happening with Inertia, but seems more wary, and there's a small fight between him and Jon over it until Victoria intervenes.

"Speculation won't get you anywhere," she says. "Be responsible about it. Think things through. Right now, all you can do is wait and see."

It's almost an hour before Soranik and Damian arrive, already in quiet conversation. Will's hearing is good enough to pick up the relevant details—Bart, fake Bart, and Kryptonians—and has their food ready by the time they get there. He eats some himself before it gets cold, waiting for everyone else to arrive.

Bart—the new one—shows up not long after Will's sat down to eat, and he has way too much energy for someone who was up so late.

"Oh good!" Bart announces, helping himself to some food before Will can even get up to make some. He joins them at the table, devouring his way through everything in arm's reach as Will heads back to make more. "So this is weird, right?" He adds. "Because you guys all know me, but I don't know any of you."

"We don't know you," Damian clarifies. "We just know someone who looks like you."

"My twin, right? He seemed pretty nice, so I'm sure it's just good things. Wehavealottotalkabout—" Damian waves and Bart dials it back. "So I can't wait for him to get up for the day. We've got a lot to do, after all. I still have to meet everyone."

"You met everyone last night," Soranik says, baffled.

"I mean for real," Bart says. "Video call is not the same thing."

Tanya joins them, which only leaves Inertia and Siracca, and as the clock ticks its way towards noon Will wonders how long he should be letting them sleep. Part of him doubts they're even sleeping, half convinced they must be awake, talking things out in his room.

"Should I go get him?" Victoria suggests.

"Give them a bit longer."

Will's patience is rewarded when Siracca arrives, still in pajamas, to join them for what is rapidly becoming lunch. Will makes tacos, feeding the extra benedicts to Bart (he certainly has the same appetite as Inertia), and is starting to hand them out when Inertia appears in the doorway.

He looks like he hasn't slept a wink, and won't make eye contact with the team, even when Will plants a hand on his back and steers him over to the table. He isn't mean enough to put him beside Bart, instead letting him sit between Jon and Damian.

"Tacos," Will says. "Beef or chicken?"

There's a chorus of orders and Will gets to work, listening to the conversations at the table. People don't really talk to Inertia, talking around him instead, and it's obvious no one knows quite what to say.

"Five days," Will says as he starts dropping plates on the table. "Five days to make a plan, prepare for the worst, and then enact that plan to stop an army."

Most people turn to look at Inertia at that point. He still hasn't said a word.

"But that's why we're a team," Will says. "That's why we've been preparing. So we would be ready to deal with situations like these. So we'd be prepared for a crisis."

"So the Amazons aren't going to pour out and hurt anyone, right?" Siracca asks, and both Bart and Inertia shake their heads.

"They were our allies," Bart says. "The Kryptonians hated them."

Will provides more tacos, sliding them in front of Inertia, but he clearly doesn't have much of an appetite for once.

"So what do we do?" Tanya asks. "What is... I mean, there has to be a plan, right?"

"We're in the plan forming stage," Will says. "I'm going to talk to Bart and Inertia, and we're going to see if we can't figure out an actual plan. Until then... talk your mentors. You've all got someone you can call about this."

"It's fine to feel alarmed," Victoria says. "Or even scared."

"We're not scared," Soranik says simply. "Fear isn't in our vocabulary. We'll do just fine."

"Spoken like a true Lantern," Damian says, and for once Soranik's face doesn't fall at the mention of her codename.

Will leaves the dishes to the kids and tags Inertia and Bart to come to the security room, settling into a chair. Bart should consider him a complete stranger, but seems blatantly chummy with him anyway.

"It's cool to meet you," Bart says happily. "I heard a lot of stories."

"Stories," Will says dryly.

"From Joey. Joey told lots of stories about his dad and how great he was. So it's like meeting a storybook hero in the flesh."

Inertia looks away. Bart's upbringing and his couldn't be more opposite. Bart had a family and friends, people who cared about him and would tell him stories. Inertia was fed information, forced to be ready to go as soon as possible.

"What we need right now is information. We need to know who's coming, why, and every relevant detail you can think of."

"That's a lot," Bart says. "Uhm... They're Kryptonians, they're from space, they attack the manor and when Superman and his family respond, they have Kryptonite weapons to use against them. With Superman down, it's easy for them to take over."

"What do they want?"

Bart shrugs.

"Space," Inertia says. "Land. Krypton is gone, so they need a new home. They followed the beacon on Superman's ship to Earth, which was the perfect home for them if not for the fact that it was already occupied."

"So why not work with us?" Will says. "Why go straight to blasting? How did they even know where to blast?"

"They've been reading signals being beamed into space for years on their way here," Inertia says. "Watching the news, listening to your radio. They didn't want to work with you—" Inertia catches himself, correcting. "With us. They thought Superman and his family would join them when they heard about their cause, but they refused. They wouldn't work with the people who'd killed their friends."

"What's the time delay on the signals?"

"A few months," Inertia confirms. He knows a lot about what the Kryptonians have been doing, and while Will might have let it pass another time, right then he has to ask.

"How do you know all this?"

"When I was being raised, they would talk around the tank. I picked up a lot. Some of it is only partial—they didn't often talk about their personal lives, but they talked a lot about things like how much of a problem the Amazons were, or... or about Jericho." He glances to Bart quickly. "I didn't know he was the same person as your son."

"I got that," Will says. "How does the attack happen?"

"They pop out of space!" Bart announces. "Right over the manor. Before anyone even can react, they blow it up. Then Superman and the others fly up, but they never come back down. The Kryptonians show their bodies on their first broadcast where they announce their intentions for Earth."

So they're making it into a New Krypton. But that brings up an even more important question.

"How many of them are there?"

Bart shrugs.

"I think about a dozen," Inertia says. "I only know the ones that they've said, and some of them might be the same person being referred to by different names. There's a lot of details I don't know."

A dozen isn't a lot.

"We could have made room for a dozen," Will grumbles. "But—"

"There's more than a dozen," Inertia says. "A lot, lot more."

Bart turns to him, obviously confused.

"Huh?"

"The Kryptonians have the bottled city... did the Resistance not know about this stuff?  The whole reason Zod wouldn't resize it was that if they were interrupted, it could kill the inhabitants."

"First time I've heard of it," Bart says.

"First time for me, too. What's this about a bottled city?"

"Kandor was the Kryptonian capitol. Years before the destruction of Krypton, the capital city was stolen by the alien Brainiac, who shrunk the entire city down so that it could easily be put on display. Krypton did not have the capabilities to retrieve it, or to go after Brainiac at all, and it was considered lost."

"And Zod got it back?"

Inertia nods, but it's clear Bart has no idea what's being discussed.

"When Zod—"

"You know a lot about Zod," Will interrupts. "Start from the beginning."

"Zod is a great Kryptonian general who opposed the council's iron-handed control. When the scientist named Non became aware that Krypton was going to explode, he addressed the science guild directly, but was laughed at. But the high council objected to his ideas and believed he'd cause a panic, so they kidnapped and lobotomized him to keep him from speaking out."

Will is sure that everything he's hearing is getting a nicely pro-Zod spin, but that's still a hell of a story.

"General Zod rose up with the Kryptonian people to try and save the planet, but was declared a traitor by the high council and sentenced to death. He managed to escape off planet with his closest allies, and not long after they left, Krypton exploded the way Non had first predicted. In an attempt to save his people, Zod sought out Brainiac to retrieve Kandor, and managed to save the bottle. Needing a place to return Kandor to its proper size, they followed a lone Kryptonian distress signal to earth."

"They want to place Kandor here," Will says, "but even ten years from now, they still haven't because they think humans are going to damage it."

It seems like a power play to him. Like Zod was more interested in claiming he wanted to restore Kandor than actually doing the damn thing.

But it doesn't matter. They know enough.

"Bart, I think you should talk to Barry. He's already talked to Inertia a bit, but he doesn't know you."

"Sure!" Bart says excitedly, zipping into a seat in front of the computer. He lets Will set it up, video calling Barry without bothering to give the guy any sort of warning.

"Barry," Will says, dropping his head into the frame. "I'm going to go talk to Inertia, but Bart here wants to talk with you."

"Uh," Barry says, "sure." He looks twice as nervous as he did when he was first dealing with Inertia, and Will doesn't blame him.

"Inertia? Why don't we head upstairs."

Inertia pauses, staring at Bart as he starts to chat to Barry, and then turns back to Will, nodding once.

They have a lot to talk about, after all.

Chapter Text

Will doesn't take Inertia back to his room. His room is the place he no doubt lay awake thinking to himself, while the roof is a place they had actual conversations. Even if it's different in daylight, the feeling is still there, and Will sits down on the edge just like they did the night before as Inertia joins him.

"You should know that I got in trouble with some of the League for letting you go to bed last night without a real name."

Inertia doesn't look like he can quite figure out how to react to that.

"A.... name?"

"Inertia isn't a name. At best, it's a superhero codename. At worst, it's a project code. You need an actual name."

"I don't have one."

"That's why I'm trying to give you one," Will says. "If you want one," he adds quickly. He doubts it, but it is technically possible he doesn't want one. Or maybe... No, Will's not thinking about that right then.

"You'd just... give me one?" Inertia says, obviously testing the waters.

"Yeah," Will says. "Just like that. You should have a real name."

Crap. Inertia's eyes are watering again, and Will doesn't know what he's going to do if a hug doesn't work.

He tries a hug anyway, pulling Inertia against his side.

"How about Thaddeus? Bartholomew and Thaddeus are supposed to be matching names."

"We aren't—we don't match," he mumbles, reaching up to rub at his eyes.

"He thinks you do," Will says. "I bet Jon would agree. His brothers are clones, but they're still his brothers."

"Using Jon is a tricky maneuver, but it works, because he gets a small bob of his head in response.

"Thaddeus," Thad says quietly. "I'm... that's me."

Will attempts to stave off any more crying with an extra tight hug.

"Yep," he says. "You're Thaddeus. Not Bart, alright?"

Thad is definitely crying a bit, but at least it doesn't last as long as it did the night before. He pulls himself together, wiping at his eyes as he straightens up, trying to look on a tough face.

"I'm going to try and help," he says quietly. "I don't want... I don't want anyone on the team to get hurt. Or any of their mentors. Or your family."

"I know you don't. If I didn't, we wouldn't be having this talk. But you're a good kid. You've done a lot while you're on the team. And now... now you've got a chance to prove it to everyone."

Will doesn't doubt for a moment that at least some of the League are wary. That some of the team are wary.

And perhaps more commonly, that they simply don't know what to do around Thad. He's the person they've known for four months, but at the same time he's a perfect stranger.

The door behind them opens, and Will turns to spot Victoria leaning out the door.

"League meeting in five," she calls. "Everyone's going to be on call, including the whole team. I'm setting up in the living room so everyone can see."

"We'll be there," Will says automatically, and Victoria withdraws.

A large meeting is better. No one's going to want to be that asshole who goes in on a kid in a group setting. Even if many of them will be thinking it, they won't say it, and that's all that matters right then.

Will just has to keep things going until Thad can prove himself and put any concerns to rest.

"Let's go," Will says, pulling Thad to his feet. "You just stick close to me, alright?"

Thad nods his head and does as he's told. He's practically in Will's shadow as he heads down to the living room where most of the team is already gathered.

The awkwardness isn't going to go away. Not right away. It'll take time for them to come to terms with the change, to accept the betrayal that almost, but not quite, happened.

Will plans Thad down on the couch and sits down beside him. Bart zips over to sit down beside him, and it's clear Thad is just as uncomfortable with Bart as everyone else is with him. Victoria's already bustling around, setting things up, and when she clicks things into place, Steve Trevor shows up on the screen.

"Are we first?" Will asks, leaning back on the couch.

"I've got most of the League in another call," Steve says. "We're still trying to get everyone together."

"Who's going to be in the call?" Mia asks.

"Everyone," Steve says with a laugh. "When I say everyone, I mean everyone. The whole League, most of their supports... I know Green Arrow's going to be there, for one. So we'll ask you all to keep and questions or comments to yourself unless someone asks you a question, because we've got a lot to get through and we don't have a ton of time."

"That means pipe down while the adults are talking," Will says, and Tanya rolls her eyes.

It takes a lot just for them to all fit in, cramming closer until Steve lets them know they're all on screen. Only then does he make the connection, and the TV begins rapidly splitting up. Every member of the League is on screen, along with Sasha Bordeaux, but each is also surrounded by their various associates. Will recognizes most of them, if not from having met them than from knowing their counterparts in his universe.

And of course Joey and Jason are on screen with Bruce and Slade, along with Alfred and Tim.

Hi pop, Joey signs, looking amused that he's able to communicate without breaking the no talking rule.

"Calling this to order," Bordeaux says. "We don't have a ton of time, and things are deeply time sensitive. Will, summarize what we know."

Will clears his throat, but he's ready for this. He's already mentally run through a list of everything they need to know, and he rattles through it rapid fire.

"On February 10th at 6:57 PM, a Kryptonian ship is going to appear in the skies over Gotham and immediately launch an orbital strike against Wayne Manor. They do this because they consider those who gather in the manor to be the largest threat against them, and because they believe that when Clark sees who they are, he'll join them. Obviously, he doesn't. In another timeline, this attack killed the majority of the people who lived there, and was a devastating blow against the League. The successive deaths of Clark and his family only served to further Kryptonian control of the earth."

Many of them already know the things he's saying. Very little of it should be new information. But hearing it spelled out so succinctly kills whatever good mood existed as Will continues.

"Ten years from now, the Resistance's lead scientist Lex Luthor develops a plan which will allow him to send someone back in time. However, this will only work with a speedster, and both Barry and Wally are already dead by that point. To solve the problem, Luthor uses Barry's genetic material to fertilize a volunteer's egg. After a normal pregnancy, the child's growth is accelerated until he's the approximate age and maturity of a thirteen year old boy. He then spends a year with the Resistance, helping him to understand what he needs to do, as well as giving him some semblance of a normal childhood.

"However, at some point during this the Kryptonian forces learned of Luthor's plan. They obtained some of Bart's genetic material and used it to create a clone. Operating on a significantly reduced time frame, they skipped all those pesky parts of the process that allowed Bart to build bonds and loyalty to the people around him, instead opting to indoctrinate the clone to be loyal to the Kryptonian ideal.

"While Bart's objective was to save lives and prevent the Kryptonian invasion, the clone's objective was the opposite: to arrive before Bart, sow discord, and weaken Earth's resistance. But, as I'm sure you've all realized based on the fact that we're having this conversation, things didn't play out that way. The Kryptonians didn't bother to give their trojan horse any reason to actually follow their instructions. Instead, he bonded with the people here. He found friends. And when it came down to it, he made the choice that he'd go against his programming and choose to side with us."

Will reaches up, resting a hand on Thad's shoulder.

"So now we have two extra speedsters," Will says. "Both of whom are here to help us stop us from getting splattered by a pack of Kryptonians."

"How many are we expecting to have to deal with?" Bordeaux asks.

"Uncertain. Thad expects a dozen."

"...Sorry, Thad?" Barry asks. "Where did that come from?"

"I named him," Will says, folding his arms across his chest and daring Barry to argue. "He couldn't keep being Bart Two, and Inertia wasn't any better."

Barry holds his hands up in a clear gesture of surrender. "Fair."

"Back on topic..." Bordeaux says. "I'm going to need as many details about technology, strength, and the like as I can get. I assume both know a good deal about that."

Beside him, Thad nods, while Bart seems to vibrate in place.

"They told me a bunch of stuff so I could tell you," he says, until a firm look by Bordeaux makes him go quiet.

"There's another factor we need to deal with," Will says, and Steve can't hide his groan, although he does at least look embarrassed at having done it. "The Kryptonians are here because they're trying to make Earth into New Krypton. While there's only twelve of them now, they apparently have a miniaturized Kryptonian city on board their ship, held under the highest security possible. If they can manage to create a secure environment on Earth, they plan to return it to normal size, bringing, at a minimum, tens of thousands of Kryptonians to Earth."

"That is... something," Clark says carefully. "A Kryptonian City...?"

"Stolen by Brainiac," Will says. "There are files on the Brainiac from my world available to you. This would be consistent with his MO. Supposedly they already defeated him, took Kandor back, and have the equipment to restore it."

"There are about a million different reasons why a city of Supermen isn't a good idea," Bordeaux says. "No offense to you, Clark, but six of you—"

"We're up to eight."

"But eight of you is enough. An entire city would be... catastrophic."

"Not necessarily," Arthur says. "We're not as strong as Kryptonians, but physically any Atlantean outstrips a human. There are millions of us, and yet we haven't upset the balance."

"You were already here," Bordeaux points out. "We're talking about introducing—"

"This doesn't matter," Will interrupts. "None of this is going to matter if we get wiped off the map. Stop the Kryptonian war machine and then we can argue about what to do with Kandor."

"Agreed," Clark says. "Safety comes first. What are we doing about this?"

"Wayne Enterprises has already started producing anti-Kryptonian weapons. We're reaching out to Queen Enterprises to use their manufacturing capabilities. While we expect the majority of the fight to take place on the east coast, I'd rather have defenses available on the west coast... just in case."

"Are they going to be finished in time?" Diana asks. "I've already alerted my people. While generally we'd be hesitant to become involved a human war..."

"This goes beyond humans," Arthur says. "If the Kryptonians take over, they're not going to leave us be."

"Agreed," Diana says. "We prepare to move. When the Kryptonian ship lands, we'll be ready for them."

"Atlantis also pledges our support," Arthur says.

Hal clears his throat.

"Sorry," he says, "but we've got a war happening three sector's over that's going to kill millions if we don't stop it. I'm going to bring who I can, but I'm not sure I'm going to get there in time. I'm going to try and get at least one of the Lanterns back to help. You guys."

"The difficulty is going to be the ship itself. If it's in... do we know where it's arriving?"

"Low earth orbit," Thaddeus says automatically.

"Getting anyone up to that would be difficult. It's going to be a matter of what they do at that point," Barry says. "All the power in the world isn't going to help if we can't reach them."

"I want everyone to put some thought to that," Bordeaux says. "I need to speak to those from Gotham. Anything else that needs to be touched on today?"

"Am I going to Gotham?" Will says. "No, better question: Am I bringing the team?"

The answer is no. It's clear on the faces of the majority of the group. They don't want to put kids anywhere near the mess.

"We'll discuss and get back to you," Clark says, which means no.

Victoria exits the call.

"...Wow, they really are idiots if they think we're going to sit on our hands," Mia says immediately.

"This is a safety issue," Victoria says. "Making sure you're all safe is more important than anything."

"I'm the only one who's been inside the ship," Thad says immediately.

"And you'll convey that information to them," Will says.

But even saying it, he knows he's not staying. He's not sitting around in San Francisco while things are happening in Gotham. For that matter, Damian, Jon, and Tanya aren't either.

"We're all going," Jackson says. "We're a team. We need to stick together. This is... I know that you guys want us to be safe, but this affects us too. If you lose, we lose."

"I'm not letting my family get hurt," Jon says.

"Agreed," Soranik says. "No one's getting hurt. We're going to figure out a way to help, one way or another.

Will is genuinely not sure if he's going to be able to find a way to stop them.

He's not sure he wants to, either.

Chapter Text

The time they have feels simultaneously like they have too much time and too little. Bart and Thad end up pulled into a League-organized video call to provide more details, with Bart giving broad strokes (the size of the Kryptonian ship) while Thad has a million and one specific details to share. The two pictures slot neatly together, giving them a much greater understanding of what to expect than any single story would.

Oliver arrives that afternoon with armor.

"Either way, you're going to want this," Oliver says. "They're prototypes, but they're better than nothing."

"We don't blame you for the explosive thing," Soranik says. "You couldn't have known."

"No kidding. And I've had to strip the wiring out of... basically everything I own. This is why off the shelf is better," Oliver complains as they unload the crate.

The new armor isn't nicely stylized the way the old set was, the entire thing being a rather generic gunmetal grey, but it's better than nothing.

Most of them nap through the middle of the day, catching up on the sleep they missed in preparation for what's coming. Tanya's an exception, getting in touch with her professor to fill him in and looking for details.

"He might have some ideas," she says. Will doesn't bother to point out that there's a need for secrecy. Technically speaking, everything they've spoken about is confidential, but he doubts it will stay that way.

There's simply no reasonable way to keep it quiet. There's no way to hide an alien ship popping into existence over Gotham.

Victoria pulls Will into a meeting later that evening, and the fact that it's just him doesn't bode well. There's no ARGUS officials included, which tells Will immediately that it's going to be about the kids. Hal isn't there either.

"They need to stay put," Arthur says immediately. "I know they're going to want to come and help, but the most important thing is that they stay safe."

"You're deluding yourselves if you think they can be kept out of this. They're a pack of teenagers who joined an entire team of junior superheroes because they want to help. There's not a force in this world that would keep them from helping," Will says. He doesn't see a point in pretending otherwise.

"Even if I want them away from it... I agree with Will. If it's anything less than an overwhelming immediate victory, they're going to come help," Barry says. Now that Will knows what to look for, he can spot places where his voice seems to speed up slightly, his emotions affecting his speed. "We'd be smarter to take this into account. Convince them to wait until round two or three before they jump in."

"I'm against them being involved period," Diana says. "They're kids. They've only had a few months of training."

"They were instrumental in taking down Doctor Light," J'onn says.

"Will was instrumental," Clark points out.

"No, the team was instrumental," Will fires back. "Things would have gone a lot differently if it was just me." Damian's the one who launched him. Soranik's the one who contained him. They all played a part.

Bruce has been quiet, but when he speaks, everyone else goes silent.

"I think we need to admit to ourselves that we don't have the ability to stop them and keep them safe. The best thing we can do to make sure they don't do something stupid is to give them a job to do that will let them keep other people safe. Just because the first strike is Wayne Manor doesn't mean the rest of Gotham will be safe. Having them on standby, ready to protect people will keep them as an active part of things, while minimizing the risks."

"They're too young—" Arthur starts.

"If we lose, it won't matter," Slade says. "If we lose, Zod isn't going to spare them because they chose not to fight. We need to be realistic here... we need them."

"Sorry Diana, Arthur... you guys are outvoted. I'm with everyone else. I don't want them getting hurt, but I'm going to be realistic here: If you bench them, they're going to sneak out and go after Zod by themselves," Roy says.

Diana sighs, sinking back in her seat.

"They will be on support only," she says. "Search and rescue. Defense. Not offense. They're not to go anywhere near the ship."

"I believe that we can all agree on that," J'onn says. "The League itself will take the offense, with Themyscira and Atlantis supporting. If we are lucky, the Kryptonian forces may surrender when they understand what they're up against."

Will doubts it, but he keeps his mouth shut. People need to be hopeful. They need to believe that things might end without a punch being thrown, rather than that they'll be forced to fight for their lives and the lives of everyone they care about within only a few days.

"I assume I'll be bringing them up there," Will says.

"I'm going to remain here," Victoria says. "I've got no place on the front lines, and you'll have other ARGUS support staff available to you. Someone needs to maintain this facility for your return."

There's an emotional aspect as well. The kids need to know that the base is still there as a place they can return to. They need to believe they're coming back. They can't go off expecting to die, and that means leaving things right where they are.

"Alright," Will says. "Plane, or am I figuring out how to fly commercial?"

"Plane," Victoria confirms. "ARGUS's jet is already waiting. You can leave whenever you like."

"First thing in the morning then," Will says. He prefers flying at night, but it's too soon for the team. They need a solid night's sleep.

"Will," Bruce says, leaning forward in his seat. "I know you believe the entire team is going to be together on this, but... give them the option. If any of them want to stay with Victoria..."

"I'll present the option. No judgement." But he's convinced they'll stay together. That's part of what being a team is, and they've proven more than willing to come together when the chips are down and lives are on the line.

Will just hopes it doesn't come to that.

Chapter Text

He tells the team the plan that night, watching them for any sort of hint they might not actually want to go. He watches for a twitch or anything, but from the moment he brings up the idea the response is clear.

They all have their own reasons, but they all choose to go.

"If any of you want to stay, you can. Victoria will be here, or you can be with your respective mentors. No one's going to blame you."

He says it, but it's not the truth. Part of being a team means supporting each other, and none of them would ever be able to live with the choice to abandon Jon and Damian in their time of need. Deciding to stay behind would be tantamount to quitting the team, and while that is an option, it isn't one any of them are willing to take.

"Alright," he says, clapping his hands together. "Get your asses to bed. We're leaving here at seven, and I want you all up and alert on the plane talking strategy."

Will isn't surprised when someone knocks at his door not long after he's closed it, although he is vaguely surprised at who it is. He's expecting Damian to have come to the realization that Will came to hours ago, or maybe Siracca, worried about what's to come.

But in retrospect, it's obvious it would be Thad.

He lets him in, watching the way Thad stands nervously inside, inspecting what little Will has on display. The painting's hidden, so it's really just the photos and the mouse ears on the wall, and after that there simply isn't anything else to look at, and Thad's forced to look at Will instead.

"...I don't know what to say," he says after a very long pause.

"Didn't have a plan when you came in here?"

Thad shakes his head.

"It seemed like the right place to be. That I should... come in here and tell you something. Provide you with some vital intelligence that would allow you to win it without risk."

"Do you have something like that?"

Thad shakes his head, and Will holds out his hand, beckoning Thad closer before patting the bed beside him.

"Sit down, Thad."

Thad does. He's always been good about following orders, falling into line the moment he's given an instruction, and now Will knows why.

"Have you thought about what comes after?"

"...After?"

"After this. We're going to win—" Will isn't entertaining any other possibility. "—and then you'll need to figure out what you're doing after."

"Can't... can't I stay with the team?"

Really, it's a miracle the kid manages to keep his composure.

"I mean aside from the team," Will says. "I'm not kicking you off and replacing you with Bart, if that's what you're worried about. I mean... the rest of the time."

"...What are my options?" Thad asks, which is an excellent choice of question.

"I think the main question you need to ask yourself is what you want to do about your mother."

"She isn't—" Thad blurts, before stopping abruptly and looking away.

"Whether or not she's your mother is something you can decide. Bart obviously wants a relationship with her. Do you?"

He's expecting hesitation. Uncertainty. But Thad seems to know exactly what to answer as he shakes his head.

"Bart remembers her. Bart met... he met the Iris West of our time. He knew her. And I... don't. She didn't choose either of us, but at least he has memories, and I..."

And Thad doesn't. Even if Bart has already taken to calling Thad his twin, that doesn't mean Thad feels the same way. They might be genetically identical, but their experiences are miles apart.

"...What about your genetic father?" He's careful not to call Barry his biological father, because he's not. The relation is genetic only.

"I lied to him," Thad says. "He wouldn't even want to talk to me."

"Barry isn't like that," Will says. If he was, he probably wouldn't be on the League. "If you want a relationship with him..."

"Maybe... as a mentor," Thad says carefully. "If that's okay."

"You'd have to talk to him about it, but I think he'd be alright with that." He reaches up, ruffling Thad's hair, and Thad's nervous smile lets Will relax. Bart is blatantly affectionate with no real sense of anyone else's personal space, but Thad is nothing of the sort. He's cautious, keeping his distance... but just as eager for physical affection. Will's pretty sure Thad would love nothing more than to get pulled into a massive team hug, but he's too nervous and withdrawn to admit it.

Will's just going to have to help ease him in.

"You should get to bed," he says. "We've got a lot of long days ahead of us."

Thad nods, getting to his feet, and he's almost out the door when he stops, glancing back to Will.

"...Yeah?" Will says when Thad doesn't say anything.

Thad just shakes his head.

"Night Will."

It's obviously not what he meant to say, but Will doesn't push, letting him go.

Despite all the stress, Will sleeps just fine that night, waking at six to have an on-the-go breakfast ready. He insists they all pack light, and is satisfied when none of them have anything more than a small bag. Their armor's already packed, with Slade hauling the crate it's stored in.

"This is why we're not flying commercial," Will says as he pats the crate. "Good luck explaining this."

The crate's more than just armor. While he hopes they won't need them, Will's packed the crate with weapons too, the largest of which is his own sword.

He desperately hopes he won't need it.

Chapter Text

Will keeps them busy for the duration of the flight, running them through drills to prepare them in the only ways he can. He hasn't had the time to actually teach them ASL (there simply aren't enough hours in the day), so he spends the flight teaching them the important ones for a mission. They all get fingerspelling down and then a few key extras, and then he runs them through what-if scenarios and makes them answer via finger spelling. He's doubtful the finger-spelling will ever actually be useful in combat, but the point isn't really what they're learning. The point is to get them working as a team again, and to make an attempt to integrate Bart, and re-integrate Thad.

There's still a few slip ups. Thad gets called Bart once and seems to withdraw, needing to be dragged back into the conversation by Will to get him going again. But by the time they land Will thinks he's gotten them through the worst of the awkwardness.

"I'm starving," Jackson complains as they disembark, while Will immediately scans the area, searching for... for someone. Anyone he knows, because he has no idea where they're going.

Slade's near the private terminal, sipping coffee out of a paper cup as he heads towards them.

"Step-father!" Damian yelps, bolting away from the group to tackle Slade. It's clear Slade's expecting it, because he simply raises his cup out of reach, intercepting Damian with one arm as he pulls him into a quick hug.

Will grabs their supply crate and makes sure everyone is off before he heads over to Slade.

"What's the plan?"

"Well, it's the seventh, and on the tenth the world ends, so we've got a few days. Everyone's going to be trickling in over the next few days."

"Are we staying at the manor?" Damian asks, and Slade cringes.

Will braces himself.

"It's already been evaced," Slade says. "Alfred's overseeing the manor being emptied out today."

"What?!" Damian asks, horrified. "Why?!"

"Damian, the manor's going to get blown up," Slade says, bending down a bit so he's not literally looking down on him. "We don't have any way to stop that, even knowing it's coming. The fact that we got notice gives us a chance to make sure everyone's out—and everyone's things are out—but there's nothing we can do for the manor."

"But..." Damian looks devastated, and Slade pulls him into another hug, ruffling his hair.

"You're going to be staying at the hotel with the rest of us, alright? Bruce has a whole damned hotel set up for us."

"Just one?" Will asks, amused.

"It's a big hotel," Slade says immediately, straightening up and finishing his coffee. "You all ready to go?"

The hotel is indeed a big hotel. The place is six floors, two wings, and as far as Will can tell very nearly empty. The staff gawk at them as they arrive, but the manager shows them to their particular wing without incident.

There's at least some attempt to organize things. Steve shows up with name tags for their doors, and lets them know that others are starting to arrive.

"Arsenal and his group will be landing at the airport soon," he says. "Amazons and Atlanteans are going to be arriving on the 9th. Lanterns are going to be day of if anything."

"Flash?" Bart asks, making no attempt to hide his enthusiasm.

"Night before."

"What are we telling the public?" Will asks. It's the obvious question, and Steve sighs.

"We're debating that," he says. "It would be immensely disruptive to Gotham's economy to have everyone empty out, but at the same time..."

"Fewer potential fatalities if there's an evacuation order."

"Exactly," Steve confirms. "We're having a meeting this evening. Should I assume you want to be present?"

"Of course."

He's not getting left out.

"What about my family?" Jon asks. "What are we doing?"

"Kents are currently moving their things out of the house. While not a target, their house is too close to the manor to not be at risk. Better safe than sorry."

"Everyone around them...?" Tanya asks.

"Are being approached and assisted. ARGUS is coordinating."

"As important as all this is... dinner?" Jackson asks. "We kind of missed lunch."

"There's a restaurant downstairs that'll make you whatever they have in stock for free. Bruce owns the hotel and is handling any costs."

"I'm going to take them all down then," Will says. "Get some food in them and then back up to their rooms."

"If you need help, you can just ask," Jon says.

"As much as I appreciate the offer, better you stay with your team for now," Steve says. "We've got a lot to organize, but I'll let everyone know you're here."

Will makes sure the kids are all fed before he declares Jackson in charge.

"Don't let them wander," he says. "I need to sit in on this meeting."

"I don't know why you'd think I could keep them from wandering off," Jackson mutters, and Will decides he has a good point.

"...Tanya, you're also in charge."

"What?" She says, perking up. "Me?"

"Just keep them from leaving the building."

Tanya and Jackson exchange a glance, but Will doesn't give them time to argue before he leaves, heading down to the lobby. Steve Trevor is waiting for him, as are a small pack of other people. He recognizes Oliver, heading over to him, and ends up getting introduced to a Blond woman who Oliver introduces as his girlfriend while she insists on the term partner.

"Just ignore them," Roy says, joining the group. "You know where we're going?"

"City hall, I'd guess. Only place large enough for so many people."

He's proven right when Steve herds them into an ARGUS convoy which ends up arriving to the backside of city hall. There is an absolutely absurd amount of security present, which tips Will off that it's not just going to be a League meeting.

"President?" Oliver asks quietly.

"Most likely," Dinah says. "They don't bring out this many people for the Mayor of Gotham."

They end up dropped on the right side of the room with the rest of the League and their representatives and told to wait. At some point as people arrive Will realizes that the pretense has been abandoned completely. Barry's there in street clothes, sitting side by side with Jon and a young boy that Will is sure must be this world's version of Wally. Oliver, likewise, isn't wearing his Green Arrow gear in favor of wearing something he'd go to a business meeting in. None of them are bothering to hide who they are, and it dawns on Will that there simply isn't time for that kind of pretense.

If they fail, there's not going to be enough of a society to care about their real identities.

Oliver is right, although they don't find out until just before the meeting starts. Steve occupies them by pointing out people, working his way up and down the row.

"Those are both senators for the state, and it looks like we've got at least one senator from most of the surrounding ones. That's Gotham's Mayor—who is also named Wilson—sitting beside Sasha Bordeaux, head of ARGUS. Front row has two mysteriously empty seats, that's the Secretary of Defense beside those seats, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff."

"Are we expecting a military response?" Will asks. He actually recognizes several of the faces gathered, and the fact that so many have come out means it's being taken seriously.

"Possibly," Steve says. "ARGUS has been trying to discourage it. Nothing the military can do is going to do anything against the Kryptonian forces. It's just going to cause more damage."

He goes back to rattling off titles. Half the presidential cabinet is present, and it isn't long before everyone gets nudged to stand so the president can come out, accompanied by his entourage.

"Fantastic," Oliver grumbles, and Dinah elbows him in the side.

Bordeaux is the first speaker, calling the room to order as she stands behind the podium. Will's expecting a lot of introductions and greetings, but instead she gets right to it.

"The hour's late enough as is, so I'm going to get to the point. It's currently almost 9 PM. In less than seventy-two hours, Gotham will be invaded by a hostile alien force. We're here to talk about what needs to be done to minimize casualties and ensure victory. On the table first and foremost is public awareness, and the possibility of an evacuation. Mr. Wilson?" There's a brief pause, and then Bordeaux coughs and clarifies. "Andrew Wilson, Gotham's current mayor?"

Will smirks to himself as the mayor gets up, taking the podium and clearing his throat. He's young—far younger than Will would expect—and it's clear Will isn't the only one surprised to see him.

"We're operating on a limited amount of time, here, and the faster we decide, the better," the mayor says. "Simply put, I'm asking for an announcement and full evacuation of Gotham. We have enough people in the area to minimize any looting, but with the ships arriving here we can't guarantee the safety of the people unless they're out of the city."

"Some people aren't going to want to go," a man near the front of the room says, and Steve leans over.

"Chief of police," he says. Will wonders if the man's one of Gordon's old guard, or if he's someone unrelated to him

"They'll have to go," the mayor says. "We can't keep them safe otherwise. I'm asking for a voluntary evacuation order starting tomorrow that becomes mandatory monday night. I want everyone out of Gotham who isn't supposed to be there the day of."

"This is political suicide," Dinah mutters.

"It's only political suicide if things go perfectly. If a Kryptonian ship bombs half of Gotham, he'll be hailed as a hero for getting people out and minimizing casualties," Will counters.

There's an argument on the far side of the room, and it's clear that it's a case of too many chefs in the kitchen. Everyone has a stake, everyone has an agenda, and the military wants to roll in at the first opportunity.

The argument escalates into yelling before an ear-splitting whistle cuts through the din. Slade is standing near the front of the room, on his feet and red in the face.

"Cram it!" He snaps. "We don't have time to bicker about this. Nothing the military can do is going to put a scratch on them, and the only thing they'd do if deployed into Gotham is get killed. The military can maintain a perimeter to keep people out, but we aren't having them in Gotham."

"You don't have the authority—"

"I sure as hell do!" A man that Will is sure is the Secretary of Defense says, getting to his feet. "Let me be clear: if the Gotham Knight and the entire rest of the League are going to tell me that deploying the army to Gotham is the same thing as cutting their throats ourselves, I'm not going to do it. The army will deploy around Gotham on the 10th to maintain a perimeter and minimize looting. They will not enter the city."

"Seems like we have no major objections to an evacuation order," the mayor says. "It'll come directly from my office with the backing of those gathered here."

Will has to admit, the man's got balls. Will can see the game he's playing, and he likes it: by making it his fuck up if things go wrong, he's preventing anyone from objecting too heavily. If they had to make the decision themselves, most of them would be far less willing to go along with an evacuation.

The mayor passes it back to Bordeaux, who takes the podium again.

"ARGUS will be working closely with the League, as well as Atlantean and Themysciran forces to coordinate our efforts. We have representatives from most non-human or empowered human groups, and our priority is first and foremost to stop the Kryptonian invaders. Does anyone else have anything that needs to be handled now, and not just in committee?"

Bruce stands, reaching up to adjust his tie, and then speaks. His control is commendable, even in the face of so much bureaucracy.

"I'd like to request amnesty for Pamela Isley. Officially, she's still considered a wanted criminal with outstanding warrants. Unofficially, she's been collaborating with us since as far back as the Night of the Owls. She's been a staunch ally, and with so much attention on what's happening here, she won't be able to assist without some sort of official recognition."

"Granted," the president says immediately, which causes a hubbub of its own until the man stands. "Lets not pretend like these aren't desperate times. People have been saying for years that Superman is a one man war deterrent. We're about to have twelve of them dropped on a city with ten million people living in it. If recognizing this Isley woman is going to keep Gotham from being leveled, have at it."

There's not much talk after that. Everyone breaks off into their own groups for conversation, but ARGUS has the League more or less handled, and Will isn't a part of that. Instead, he gets shipped back to the hotel along with a dozen other people including Oliver and Dinah in a hotel shuttle.

His team has set up shop in the lobby with a deck of cards, but they've been joined by Jon's extended family. There's a frankly alarming number of Kryptonians draped over various pieces of furniture, and when the shuttle pulls up in front of the hotel there's a mad rush.

"No League members on this one," Will says as he climbs off, which kills the mood immediately. "Clark and everyone else will be back later."

Interestingly, the five clones no longer look identical. They'd already started to deviate when he left for the west coast, but looking at them now they look a lot more like brothers than out and out clones. Ones got a long bang that falls in front of his eyes, two have a hairstyle that's embarrassingly not far off Will's own. One's even got a buzz cut, trimmed down to something WIll might have seen in the army. They're all showing distinct personality, and Will hopes it gives Thad some ideas.

"You should come play cards with us," Jackson calls, and Will wanders over despite himself.

"Don't you have better things to do?"

"Not really," Jackson says with a shrug. "Right now it's just socializing. Getting to know people. You said it was important for us as a team to be friendly, so this is just an extension of that. We might have to end up working with Ren or Gar, so we're learning more about them."

Ohhh, Jackson is getting really good at using Will's own methods against him.

"Sure," he says. "I'll play."

It's not like there's anything better to do than that, anyway.

Chapter Text

Will feels like there should be things for him to do. He should be keeping busy. But at the same time there's nothing specifically for him to do. He isn't needed for League meetings. His team is effectively fine on their own, even without his help.

He feels adrift. Everyone else is busy doing things that will make or break the fate of humanity. Everyone's staying at the same hotel, and Will keeps catching sight of League members blowing in and out. They all watch the press conference the following morning, watching the mayor announce what's to come to the world.

"You think people are going to leave on their own?" Mia asks. "I know Star City wouldn't."

"The fact that Bruce is standing with him means they will," Tanya says. "They know he means business. They know he won't back it unless there's a good reason."

The team gets pulled into their own meeting mid-afternoon. Most of the League is there, which means the meeting gets put off for everyone to check in, but eventually they get around to business.

"We're going to be stationing your team in Gotham itself. We estimate we'll get ninety-five percent evacuation, but there's still going to be some people left in Gotham," Bruce says. "Your priority, above and beyond everything else, is to keep them from getting hurt. Our plan is to focus Zod's forces west of Gotham near where we know they'll be striking the manor, minimizing the risk of civilian casualties by keeping them away from the city itself."

"Has everyone around there already been evacuated?" Jon asks, sitting up a bit straighter.

"The entire coast has already been emptied out," Bruce says. "The League and ARGUS helped evacuate those involved, moving furniture and valuables out of the way. We're going to position Ivy in the woods, and we're going to have Gotham's fire department positioned ways back to minimize any possible risk of forest fire spreading."

They've thought of almost everything.

"Do we have a specific place we'll be positioned?" Will asks, and Bruce shakes his head.

"You're free to pick your positioning. With any luck, the League will be able to keep his focus and you won't even come into play."

It's very obviously the ideal option for the League, even if it's just as obvious to Will that his team is hoping to get a chance to help.

"Did you hear from the Lanterns yet?" Soranik asks, and Bruce glances to Steve, who shakes his head.

"Still in space," he says. "Hal said he's coming as fast as he can, but we're probably going to be on our own."

Soranik seems to deflate, obviously hoping for a different answer.

"We've got Atlanteans and Themyscirans arriving tomorrow," Steve adds. "Aside from that, you're at liberty. The hotel staff here have agreed to stay until the day of, when they'll be evacuated along with all other non-combatants. If you need something, just yell."

Will needs to do something.

"We're going to run training drills tomorrow," Will says. "I want everyone ready at eight."

That gets a round of groans from the group, but it's the obvious choice. They need to be kept busy. The closer they get to the end, the more stressed they're going to be, and they'll have a hard time being stressed if they're wheezing on the ground from training.

"All day?" Tanya asks. "Like... the whole day?"

"Did you have plans?" Will asks, and Tanya looks away, embarrassed.

Plans with a certain clone, he guesses.

When Will leaves his door open that evening, he doesn't bother pretending to be surprised when Thad knocks at his door.

"...Can I hide in here?"

"Sure," Will says, "but I should warn you Joey's going to be showing up at some point."

Thad makes a face but comes in anyway, plonking himself down on one of the seats in Will's room.

"Should I ask who you're hiding from?" Will asks, looking up from his tablet. He's been reading the news, watching the response, but he's willing to make time. That's the person he's been most worried about, although Soranik is a close second.

"Bart. He wants me to spend time with Barry."

"And you don't want to?"

Thad shakes his head, fidgeting in place. Will picks himself up, sitting on the edge of the bed before patting the spot beside him.

In a blur, Thad's sitting down beside him.

"I don't know," Thad finally says. "He's not... Bart's been wanting to meet him forever. But I never had that. He was always just an enemy. I don't know anything about him. But everyone seems to think I should be close to him because he's my..." Thad wrinkles his nose. "My original's biological father."

"I'm the last person to tell you that you should have a relationship with someone just because of genetics," Will says. He learned that lesson a long time ago. "If you want to stay here rather than talking to Barry, you can." Will cocks his head, listening to the sounds outside before looking to the door.

Joey pops his head in the door, but looks surprised to see Thad there.

Am I interrupting? He signs.

"No," Thad says immediately, and Will feels like his choice to speak before Will even could is to help establish which one he is. "We weren't talking about anything important."

"Thad, you've met him before, but reintroduction might be helpful. This is Joey, my son. He's also Jericho."

Thad's ears go red as he flushes red with embarrassment.

"I got that," he mumbles.

So this is Thaddeus? Joey signs. Or just Thad?

"Either," Thad says. "Or both. I don't think it matters much."

Names matter, Joey signs back as he sits down in the very same seat Thad was a little while ago. I used to jump back and forth between Joseph and Joey, but here I'm really just Joey.

"Why?" Thad asks, confused.

"Same reason I'm Will," he says. "Slade's Slade, so I had to be something else."

Joseph is Slade's son who passed away. Being Joey was just easier.

"I... guess that makes sense," Thad says, obviously being careful with his words. "I didn't know you used to be Slade."

Will manages to a weak smile.

"I know," he says. "I'm pretty sure the person you thought was me in your timeline was actually Slade. He was Deathstroke before, but it was easier to claim it to be someone else to avoid... trouble."

"Because he used to be a criminal."

Will nods.

Which is a secret, Joey signs. Just for the record.

"I figured."

So what were you guys doing in here anyway? Joey asks, glancing between the two of them as Thad fidgets.

"Bart wants them to hang out with Barry," Will says, throwing Thad under the bus without hesitation. Thad shoots him a dirty look in response.

Barry's a good guy, Joey signs. Taught himself sign just so he could talk to me.

Thad winds up staring at the ground, and Will reaches up, giving his shoulder a little squeeze.

"But I'm not... I'm not his real son."

"Pretty sure Barry won't see it that way," Will says, and when Joey starts to sign Thad's head lifts slightly.

It's the two cakes problem.

"The... cakes?"

You compare yourself to Bart and think you aren't as good as him. You're not the real one, so why would Barry want to spend time with you? But it's like bringing a cake to a party and finding out someone else also brought a cake you think is better. Whether or not one cake is better than the other doesn't actually matter, because people will just be excited to have two different cakes.

"You need to stop comparing the two of you," Will says. "Trust me, I might as well be the foremost expert on wanting to distinguish yourself from someone who looks just like you."

I think Clark's kids have you beat, Joey signs with a grin. But I suppose you're close.

"You don't even act like him," Will adds. "You two might look alike, but you're pretty distinctly different people."

He's way more energetic, for one, Joey signs.

"I should let you two have time to yourself," Thad says, getting to his feet. "I'll see you at training tomorrow?"

"That's the plan," Will says. "Don't let anyone else sleep in."

Thad nods and excuses himself, and Will doesn't think Thad is even fully out the door before Joey turns to look at him, giving Will a hard look.

He is so attached to you, pop.

"I'm his team leader."

You're the only adult in his life who actually showed him any affection. He's bonded with you, and you're not exactly doing a great job right now.

Will wrinkles his nose.

"I did just fine."

You did alright, pop, but he's obviously hoping for something more.

"Something—"

His brother wants him to spend time with their father, Joey signs. And instead he chose to come hang out with you.

Will huffs. He doesn't think—well, maybe Joey is onto something, but it's not the end of times or anything.

"What am I supposed to do about that exactly?"

Encourage him to be around Barry, for one. Figure out how you feel about him, for two.

"He's my—"

Think about it before you speak, pop.

Will huffs again, but does as he's told. It's hard to disentangle his thoughts about Thad from the pile of everything else that's happening right then, but it's easier than it would have been a year ago.

A year ago it wouldn't have even been possible.

"He needs someone to give him... guidance, I guess."

Could be Barry, Joey signs. But he wants it to be you, obviously.

Obviously. Will doesn't think that it's obvious, but he'll simply have to trust Joey's word on it.

"I'll... pay more attention to it," Will says. "Are you staying over with Jason?"

Same wing as Bruce. Alfred's taking losing the manor really hard, so Jason's spending the evening cheering him up.

"You sure you don't want to spend it with him?"

Thought I'd come spend it with you, Joey signs. I feel like I haven't seen you much since we got here. It's just been so busy.

"Why don't you come watch us train tomorrow? I'm sure the kids would love a guest adviser."

They'd prefer Bruce.

"Pretty sure he's going to be busy. You, on the other hand..."

I'll bring Jason, Joey signs, leaning over to peck him on the cheek. We'll try not to have too much fun training with your team, but I can't promise anything.

Will reaches up, wrapping an arm around Joey's shoulders and pulling him in until their foreheads press together.

"I'm happy you're here," he says. "I'm happy I just... get a chance to talk to you."

He didn't say it enough before, and he's not going to make the mistake again.

Love you pop.

"Love you too. Now go spend some time with that boyfriend of yours."

Joey grins, waving as he heads out, and Will falls back onto the bed.

He doesn't want to think about it, but all he can do as he lies there is think about what Joey said.

He wants it to be you.

Chapter Text

Will has them running laps around the hotel by 7:45, and it's obvious to him that the distraction is desperately needed. They're all anxious, full of nervous energy, and while Will is careful not to exhaust them too much, they've got thirty-six or so hours until they need to be ready. After some standard workouts, he pairs them up and gets them practicing.

Joey and Jason arrive not long after they start, which makes training that much easier. They join the sparring, with Will rotating them all in and out. Generally he's the only one who can spar seriously with Jon due to his strength, but Jason's got enough practice he can at least present a skilled challenge for the kid.

He watches Bart and Thad with particular interest, but he's pretty sure that he's one of the only ones who actually can watch. The two can spar at full speed, little more than blurs ricocheting off of each either as they bounce along the yard.

But Thad is better, there's no question. Every time they stop or someone goes flying, it's Bart, and it's obvious that all the training he's been getting has made a difference.

"Train till you fall," Will calls. "Then train some more."

They do. By lunch most of the team is panting on the ground, and Will has to help pick them all up to pack them off to lunch.

"Will," Bruce calls, intercepting them before they can even get into the hotel. "Can you take your team to go meet the Atlantean representatives? They should be coming up near the port."

"Is it Arthur, or...?" Jackson asks, looking excited.

"There's a bunch of them," Bruce says. "I'm not sure who."

"We can do that. Anyone who isn't too tired can come along."

The whole team tries, but Will insists that at a minimum Bart and Thad stay behind. Their dietary restrictions are too strict for them to be skipping meals.

"I'll stay too," Damian says. "We can always meet the Atlanteans when they get back, right?"

Mia and Siracca end up staying behind too, leaving Soranik, Jon, and Jackson travelling via Soranik's platform while Tanya joins Will in a car provided by ARGUS.

"So," Tanya says as they head towards the port, "I hear you're adopting Thad?"

Will lets out a small wheeze and focuses on his driving.

"I haven't decided anything."

"But he wants you to."

"He hasn't said that." Will pauses, then glances to Tanya. "Has he?"

"When he was Bart, he'd never have admitted something like that, and that certainly hasn't changed since he started acting like himself. But it's obvious to anyone around him. Bart's imagining that when this is all done he's going to go live with his mom, but that's not what Thad wants."

Will doesn't really want to have the talk. Certainly not right then.

"I think this can wait until after," he mutters. "We should be focusing on what's happening now, not what's going to happen after."

Wait, crap. Will glances back to her.

"Did you want to be adopted? Is this your way of implying that?" Why can't people just say what they want?

Tanya laughs, reaching up to wipe at her eyes.

"No, Will, this isn't a passive aggressive way of saying I want you to adopt me. I think I'm past that."

"Past... adoption?"

"Past my daddy issues," Tanya says. She looks amused, which Will is pretty sure is a good thing. She seems happy, rather than stressed. "When you first came into my life you were definitely... well, whether you meant to or not, you were definitely playing the part of my dad. I thought that was what I wanted, but since getting here..."

"I've been demoted?" Will guesses.

"More like I understand better what I want. Just because I didn't have a dad growing up doesn't mean I needed one. I like you. I think you're a good team leader. But... I think I like you more as a cool uncle than a father figure."

A cool uncle.

"I'm fine with that," he says. "Just not entirely sure why anyone would want me taking any sort of a parental role in their life."

"You are very... up front."

"...Is that a good thing?" Will asks, squinting in Tanya's direction.

"Adults tend to treat kids like kids. You tend to treat kids like adults. It can be a good thing, or can be a bad thing. For kids getting tired of being treated with kid gloves, having someone like you who will just tell us the truth without trying to soften the blow means a lot."

Will winces.

"You're telling me the team likes me because I'm willing to tell them if they're about to die?"

"That's a gross oversimplification, but... close enough."

Will grumbles to himself as he takes a left turn, nearly at the port.

"Eyes out for Atlanteans popping up," he says. "They could be coming up anywhere."

"Don't think I missed this blatant topic change," Tanya says, but she does turn away, her eyes scanning the area.

They end up finding Arthur and his group not far from Gotham's main port, only it's a much larger group than expected. There have to be two dozen people, only three of which he recognizes.

After some discussion (and a lot of shuffling), Will ends up driving back with Tanya alone, leaving Soranik to transport Arthur and his contingent to the hotel. It's easy going; the evacuation isn't mandatory yet, but the streets are empty.

"It's weird," Tanya says as they drive, staring out the window at the largely abandoned city. There's still people there, but they all have a purpose. They have a reason for being there. Will knows the streets were jam packed after the evacuation was first announced, but twenty four hours on, people have gotten the hell out. "It feels like this is the sort of thing that would have happened in our own world, only... it didn't."

"The League didn't have the kind of clout it does here," Will says. "Bruce going public changed things. The things that are happening here could never have happened back in our old world."

"It just makes you wonder," Tanya says, and she sounds almost sad as she does. "What would even happen if some of the stuff from our world happened here? How would they even react to something like... I don't know, the Batman who Laughs?"

"Don't bring him up," Will says, and Tanya glances over, squinting at him.

"...Do I want to know?"

"The Batman who Laughs almost happened here," Will explains. "Bruce was infected by the same virus that made him in the first place."

"He—what? There's absolutely no way..."

"I've seen the pictures," Will says. "And the lack of them. He was infected and starting to succumb around the time Jason came back to the family. They managed to stop it, and from what I was told eventually J'onn managed to purge the infection from his brain. If you ever look at the family albums, you'll spot that there aren't many pictures of Bruce around that time. Apparently he was really pale and showing signs of the infection, so most of the photos are gone. The few I saw were... selectively cropped or modified."

"Wow," Tanya says quietly. "He... wow."

"That was my reaction when I heard about it," Will says. "Sensitive subject, obviously."

"I won't bring it up," Tanya says. "...You should talk to Bart, you know."

That catches him off guard.

"...Bart? Not Thad?"

"His place on the team is kind of weird. You should probably... you know, leave the door open. So that he knows he can still be a part of the team."

"I'll talk to him," Will says, but he's not sure when he's going to find the time. Over dinner, maybe? After?

"Make sure you do," Tanya says, in her most exacting voice, and Will snorts.

"Well, try and stay out of trouble while I do. I wouldn't want one of my team to get into trouble with a certain Kent boy just because I wasn't around to supervise..."

Tanya goes red and refuses to speak to him for the rest of the ride back to the hotel.

Chapter Text

The realization that he's become used to things hits Will midway through dinner. It's not just dinner, of course—it's a massive buffet with absolutely everyone who's expected to be participating in the action the following day. For anyone else, that would mean the League and their Atlantean and Themysciran allies. For Bruce, that means everyone.

Half of Gotham's emergency responders are eating with them, while the other half does what they can to ensure that the city stays empty. The reports of looting are minimal, no doubt aided by the fact that Clark and his family are flying patrols over the city, putting a stop to any trouble before it can even start.

Looting is one thing. Looting and getting caught by Superman is a whole other.

There's technically a table for the team, but the room's mixed up enough that everyone's eating where they please. Damian's joined Bruce, while Jackson and Siracca have both gone to join their groups. Will, on the other hand, opts to take Tanya's advice to heart and grabs a seat beside Bart.

Bart blinks, staring up at him, and Thad leans over to squint.

"I think there's a seat beside Barry open if you want it, Thad," he says, and Thad squints at him even harder. It's obvious that both boys know what's happening, but Thad carefully stands up anyway, play in hand, before nodding and zipping off. Bart watches his twin go, and then glances back to Will, shoveling a forkful of food into his mouth.

"Why just him?" He asks, taking another bite even as he does.

"Because we haven't talked," Will points out. "He needs to get some time in with Barry that's just him, not the two of you."

"Why?"

Will hates the conversation already.

"Because Thad needs time to establish that he's not the same person as you."

"Like you and Slade?"

Will is almost impressed at how Bart manages to drive him up the wall in just a few short sentences. The conversation hasn't even begun and he's already ready to leave and go sit with Joey instead.

"Like that," Will confirms. "Have you thought about the team?"

Bart shakes his head before Will's even finished his sentence.

"Is that no I haven't thought about it, or is it no I don't want to be on the team."

"I want to be on the team," Bart says. "But also, I want to spend time with my mom. Barry saidIcouldseeherwhenthis—"

"Bart."

"Could see her when this was done."

"That's good," Will says. "So you're wanting to keep being on the team?"

"I don't see why I wouldn't," Bart says, popping a fried ball of something-or-other into his mouth. Then, a realization seems to hit him. "Am I being fired?"

"No," Will says. He's not even sure he actually has the authority to kick someone off the team. He'd probably have to check with the League before he could do that. "I'm just... I am aware I haven't talked to you much."

"Guess not," Bart says. "I mean, it's been pretty busy. There's always stuff to do, and everyone's always running around, but I'm not supposed to help."

"You're still adjusting," Will says. "Right now everything needs to be a finely tuned machine, and we're not. So for the most part, we're sitting out of this."

"Well, we're sitting in on this," Bart says. He zips away as Will watches, and he watches him blur along the buffet before blurring right back, right into his seat within five seconds. "Food's pretty good. Way better than what I was used to."

"Can't imagine they had great options in your apocalyptic future."

"It wasn't apocalyptic. Just a lot of lead lined security caves. The average person lived... okay. They were just Zod's servants. They did as they were told and they were guaranteed security. That was the deal."

"Crap deal," Will says, taking a bite of his own food. He's not particularly hungry, and it feels like he has to put an effort just to get it down.

They don't even have 24 hours left. Time is ticking away whether he wants it to or not.

"Mom said the same thing," Bart says.

Will nearly addresses the elephant in the room, but instead he just glances at it and passes over it. It's not his place. He's not going to be the one to point out to Bart that his mom isn't the same person he knew. That Iris West might not even know he exists if Barry hasn't gone to let Thad know about it.

"What do you think about your brother?" Will asks instead, and Bart's face lights up.

"He's neat," he says. "He doesn't want to come stay with me and mom, but I'm sure I can win him over."

"You might have to give him space," Will points out. "He had a pretty different upbringing from you."

"Oh I heard," Bart says. "He doesn't really liketotalkaboutit—"

"Bart."

"But I don't think he liked it very much."

"He didn't," Will confirms. "For good reasons."

Bart turns in his seat, staring over to where Thad is, and Will clicks his tongue to draw his attention back.

"Huh?"

"Focus, Bart. We were talking."

"But... I kind of want to sit with Barry and Thad."

Will sighs, dragging his hand down his face, and then makes a shooing motion. Bart's gone before he even finishes the gesture, and Will goes to grab some more food before going to join the Wilson-Waynes.

Chapter Text

Before they leave the hotel, Will knows he's supposed to give a speech. Elsewhere, other leaders are giving speeches. The League has already has their meetings, and everyone is saying goodbyes.

But there's hesitance there. No one wants to be the one to say a real goodbye, because that implies they might not come back. That's the scarlet letter, the thing no one is willing to admit: not everyone is guaranteed to come back.

Will doesn't say goodbyes. He doesn't operate with that kind of sentiment, and he's not going to die anyway. None of his team is. But in the end he doesn't get a choice. Joey ambushes him in the hotel room as he pulls on the ikon suit, sliding his sword into place on his back.

You weren't going to go without saying goodbye, were you? Joey signs as he lands, reaching up to pull his face mask down.

"I'll be seeing you tonight," Will says simply.

Pop, if I don't— 

"No," Will says, interrupting. "We're not having this conversation. You're coming back and I'm coming back."

If I don't, I know you'll do the right thing, Joey signs before Will can stop him. Will scowls in his direction, but tolerates it when Joey pulls him into a hug.

"We're both coming back," Will says simply. "Save your worry for someone else."

Joey kisses his cheek and then pulls his mask back up.

I'm going to be with Jason and the rest of the League's support. Keep the kids from doing anything too stupid, alright?

"Don't remind me," Will grumbles, but ends up leaning over to kiss Joey's forehead right where his mask ends anyway. "Be safe. Tell that boy of yours that if he gets killed, I'll come after him for upsetting you."

Joey cracks a smile Will can see even through the mask and heads to his station.

Will's team have already said their goodbyes and are waiting down near the lobby for him. He should have a speech prepared, but instead he speaks from the heart.

"You're expecting a pep talk," Will says. "You aren't getting one. Everyone of you is coming back, and you're all going to prove you deserve to be on the team."

"Not half bad," Tanya says with a grin.

Will gets a pack from the supply station and they're out of the hotel by eight, but not before they part ways with Tanya. She remains with Bruce and Barbara, manning the command station remotely.

"I'll be on comms," she says, giving everyone on the team a hug first. "Someone has to be your eyes and ears."

Every vehicle is being used to take the hotel staff away, so Soranik is in charge of their transportation, creating a large floating platform to carry all of them, 

"Is that your sword?" Mia asks, squinting at him as they head for the spot Bruce has suggested for them.

"The Deathstroke," Will says. "Where I got my name."

"I expected something... sleeker. That looks pretty hefty."

Will reaches back, drawing it in one fluid movement.

"Heavy for anyone else. Easy for me. One of the advantages of enhanced strength. Anyone who tried to use it against me would end up tripping over the weight."

"But why a sword?" Mia says. "You seem like a gun guy."

Will has a pistol on his side, but he hasn't brought a rifle or anything heavier duty.

"Bring the tools for the job. A rifle isn't going to do anything against a Kryptonian, so I left it at home."

"But a sword will?"

"For one, yes, the sword won't break if I swing it at a Kryptonian. But the point isn't to hurt them with the sword. The point is to pull them into close combat."

They're all obviously curious, but none of them asks, so they don't elaborate.

They take position on top of Wayne Enterprises. It seems appropriate, since it's both the tallest building in the city and gives them a good view across the bay towards where Wayne Manor sits.

"This wait is going to kill me," Bart groans.

"Bruce doesn't want to risk the possibility that 6:57 was west coast time." The last thing they need is for the time to be an hour off.

"It's accurate," Thad insists.

"We'll see."

They set up camp atop the building using the supplies they've been provided. The package contains a small medical kit and what amounts to a picnic lunch and dinner. Of course that doesn't stop Bart from adding to their supplies, speeding down into Wayne Enterprises to shove money into the lobbies vending machine.

Will should lecture them about snacks, but he doesn't see the harm. If they want to eat their weight in snickers, they might as well.

He sits near the edge of the roof, watching the place where the ship is supposed to appear and listening to radio chatter. Clark and his boys are running patrols over the city, evacuating the last few stragglers as time ticks by. The fire department is already positioned out of sight not far from the manor itself, and in the distance, Will feels like he can see the forest moving as it prepares for what to come.

Joey stops by to eat lunch with them, bringing some fresh fruit for the team. Even so, time seems to drag. The first few hours are spent playing with a deck of cards someone smuggled onto the stakeout, but as the hours tick by, the tension gets too high for anyone to focus.

5:57 creeps by without issue, and they finish off what remains of the food before joining Will near the edge of the roof, staring out over the bay.

"...What do you think will happen if they don't show up?" Soranik asks.

"They'll come," Thad says firmly. He doesn't have a shred of doubt in him.

"The timeline's already been changed," Damian points out.

"Anything could happen," Siracca says quietly. "We just have to wait."

At 6:50, will gets to his feet to watch, and the team stands, clustering around him.

"Everyone remember the rules?"

They all nod. Will doesn't even look, but he knows they're nodding anyway.

"Follow your instructions," Thad says.

"Make sure you're safe before you try and save others," Mia says.

"Don't do anything you wouldn't do," Damian says.

"Don't do anything you would do, either," Jackson says, and the team bursts into laughter.

At 6:55, the tension's so thick you could cut it with a knife. It feels like no one's even breathing, and when Will risks a glance back he finds that his team's joined hands behind him, staring out over the bay.

He turns back and watches.

6:57 hits and even the chatter on the comms go silent. Everyone is holding their breath.

And then, with a massive flash of light, a ship appears in the air above the west end of Gotham. It's the size of several city blocks, absolutely massive, and before Will can ever register it, it opens fire.

The hill Wayne Manor sits on explodes, and behind him Will can hear Damian letting out a quiet sob.

Chapter Text

It goes from too little happening to too much happening very, very quickly. Their position means that all they can do is stand and watch, so Will takes a moment to take in the ship. It's big—far too big for just twelve people—and if he hadn't been told it was a ship, he probably wouldn't have recognized it as what it is. For one, it's pure white, catching the light in a way that most people would describe as beautiful. It's almost an eight pointed star, but with two massive pincers jutting from the front. It almost defies description, and it feels like the more Will looks, the less he understands.

The opening salvo is devastating. It destroys the mountain. When Thad described it, Will had thought there was a chance that the cave might survive, but now there's no question it didn't. The destruction is immense.

But more importantly, the explosion isn't really an explosion. There doesn't seem to be much fire, which seems like a mercy. Less chance of fire spreading and destroying what remains of the woods.

And then there is a brief lull as everyone processes what just happened. He's sure the Kryptonians are trying to analyze—

Will can't even finish the thought before he's distracted.

"They're broadcasting," Tanya says. "Statement of intent. If we surrender, they'll show mercy."

"Considerate of them," Mia says.

Will doesn't lecture them on keeping the comms clear. They need to break the tension somehow. They need to breathe.

"Bruce has intercepted and is broadcasting right back at them. We'll see how they respond."

In the distance, Will can see Clark lifting off from the ground, floating up into the open. Showing himself to direct their fire.

"What's stopping them from just staying in the ship?" Jackson says behind him. "That's the smart move."

"The blasts are not terribly accurate. A target like Superman will have no issue getting out of the way," Thad says. "They'll also want to prove their dominance. If Bruce is smart, he'll appeal to that."

They stand and watch, waiting for what comes next as things descend into chaos.

A Kryptonian darts out of the ship, colliding with Clark and sending him flying. The two grapple, and more Kryptonians start to pour out of the ship, moving to assist.

There's an explosion—Will guesses one of Arsenal's exploding arrows—and the League and their support start to pour out of their hiding places to provide assistance.

It's a desperate battle from the outset. There's so many enemies and so much damage, and at the distance they're at there's no telling how exactly things are going. Everyone's little more than blurs, bouncing off each other each time they meet.

And then the ship fires again, carving another massive chunk out of the cliffside and vaporizing part of the bay.

"If that hits the city..." Damian says quietly.

Damian's right. If the ship takes even one shot at Gotham tens of thousands of people are going to lose their homes and livelihoods.

"We need to carry out the plan," Mia says. "We don't have another choice."

"Agreed," Soranik says.

"Hold on," Will says, glancing back at them. "What plan?"

He should have seen it coming. He should have known. Things were going too easily. They were too willing to go along with a plan that involved them sitting away from the action, watching the people they care about fight for their lives.

"We're going to infiltrate the ship!" Bart announces. "Siracca can hide us until we reach the ship, and Thad can get us inside."

"This is a bad idea," Will says immediately, but it's drowned out by another deafening explosion.

"Overruled," Damian snaps. "We're going. You can go with us and assist, or you can waste time trying to stop us."

What. What?

Did his team just hijack itself?

Siracca's already getting to work, the air around them shifting into a mist that Will knows will hide them at a distance. She doesn't need to make them invisible, she just needs to obscure them enough that they're not easily spotted when they take off.

"...What's the plan?" Will asks. He doesn't have the time—or the ability—to argue. He needs to know what the plan is.

"Kandor is in the core of the ship," Thad says. "The majority of their forces are dealing with the League. If we can bypass the one or two remaining Kryptonians onboard and grab the bottle, we can force a surrender."

"This plan involves you fighting one or two Kryptonians?"

That's a terrible plan. None of his team can fight a fully fledged Kryptonian, let alone what's almost definitely a soldier.

"You've told us like a dozen times that you once fought Superman to a draw," Mia says. "So we only need to fight one at most."

Will's gut tells him the plan is awful. People are going to get hurt. But at the same time, people are already getting hurt.

"Tanya—"

"I'm on board with the plan," she says. "I think it's our best chance."

Goddamnit. Will isn't even sure if the comms have been set up to let him contact anyone else. If he contacts Bruce, is he going to be able to get through? Are they even going to be able to stop them?

"If I say we need to pull back," Will says, "then we pull back. That's my condition."

"Deal," Jackson says immediately. "Soranik?"

They draw together and Soranik seals them in a cube, leaving a few small holes so that Siracca can continue doing her work. The fog's thick enough they're practically a cloud, and Will can't even see the battle—although he can hear a third massive boom as the ship fires again.

They all stay crouched low, the cube shrinking to accommodate as they fly upwards, counting on the fog to obscure the green of the construct. Soranik seems to know where she's going, and it occurs to Will that the team has spent a lot of time planning this. They're a well oiled machine, heading right for where one protrusion meets the core of the ship on the rear side.

"Where does it fire from?"

"Center of the pincers," Thad says. "It can't fire backwards, which is why we're entering from the rear."

They've put so much thought into it. They have a plan. They have an order of operations. The wall of the construction vanishes as Thad zips up, punching in a code at a panel that Will didn't even recognize was a security panel. They've talked about it. They've planned it out.

The realization keeps hitting Will as he watches his team go through the motions. As he watches them fall into a clearly practiced formation as they step off the platform and into the interior of the ship.

"Ikon suit goes first," Tanya says in his ear. "I'll be monitoring, but we don't have a complete map."

They don't have a complete map?

"You have a map at all?"

"The ship was their headquarters," Thad says. "I was made here. I mostly know the portion of the ship dedicated to science rather than military, but I have a general understanding of the layout."

"The League should be doing this."

"If things had gone well, this plan wouldn't have been necessary. But the ship is doing too much damage to the surroundings for us to hold off. We are uniquely qualified for this. We can do this," Damian says, fixing Will with a look. "Are you with us?"

It's not a real question. There's no way he can say no. He has to go along with the plan. He has to make sure the plan succeeds.

There's just no other way.

Chapter Text

They make good time, because there's no option but to make good time. They can't stop. They can't slow down. Thad directs them through the corridors, but the farther in they go the less certain he is about the layout. More than once he zips ahead, double checking his understanding before doubling back.

"Kryptonians ahead," he says when he skids back. "Two. They're coming towards us, I think they saw me."

Which is the exact reason he shouldn't have been scouting.

"Everyone behind me," Will says, pulling his sword. Thankfully, the team doesn't argue—they fall into formation behind him, letting him shield as many of them as he can as they round the corner.

The fact is, Will can't fight a Kryptonian. He's strong and fast and durable, but he's not as strong and fast and durable as one. He can't even match Jon, and he's only half. His enhancements just aren't enough.

But his augmentations don't have to work on their own. Instead, they give him the option to use things that will let him fight a Kryptonian. His sword can absorb energy, and that's exactly what it does as they round the corner almost directly into a blast of heat vision. Will's body is just fast enough to twitch his arm up, catching the blast on the flat of his sword and keeping it from hitting the ikon shield.

But what comes in must come out, and as fast as he can react, Will swings. His sword can't cut a Kryptonian normally, but fully charged with an attack that could have? Then it can manage.

In a move that would horrify Bruce, he swings for the neck. It's life or death and he has a very limited number of options, so lethal is on the table even if Bruce wouldn't want it to be. The only thing that stops him from cutting the through of one of his opponents is the fact that their throat is in the exact wrong place for his swing to cut.

Because saying two Kryptonians feels almost innaturate. It's more like one-and-a-half Kryptonians partnered up with a half Kryptonian. The man whose chest he just cut through is at least as large as Bane, absolutely massive and towering over Will effortlessly.

He lets out a wail of pain as the sword cleaves through his torso, sending a spray of blood into the wall, and his companion—a child who can't be more than twelve—darts forward.

Jon meets him in the air with an exchange of blows impactful enough that even Will instinctively pulls back.

"Non," Thad says from behind them, his voice so fast the words almost blur together. "The one I told you about. Big and stupid, but strong. The other one is Lor-Zod." Which makes him Zod's son. Neither is going to be a slouch, even if Will managed to start with a good first attack.

Non swings, and Will darts out of the way. He doesn't need to, but it sets Non stumbling as he tries to go after Will, obviously enraged. Will could take the hit, but right then he's more interested in splitting them up.

To Will, the answer of who's going to fight who is obvious: no one on his team is going to be able to take even a single swing from Non's sheer brute strength, but as a team they might be able to handle a child Kryptonian.

"Will," Tanya says in his ear. "Go."

Will ducks out of the way of another swing, spinning around so that Non's back is to the kids, his attention on Will.

"The team—"

"Can handle themselves. Go. The faster you get to the target, the faster we win."

 Non is faster than him. Will's reflexes are good, but the sheer speed of Non's fists is enough to send Will spinning when he's not quite fast enough to get out of the way. There's a soft whumm as Non's fist deflects off the ikon shield, and Will flips backwards, sword still in hand.

He uses that sword to swing, but it simply deflects off Non's torso, and he's forced to withdraw—ever closer to the center of the ship—as he curses.

But it's a feint. This was the plan from the start, and even though Non is literally brain damaged, even he can manage cause and effect. Heat vision charged the sword, heat vision let Will cut him, and that's enough to keep him from using heat vision at all.

Which is good, because Will is not fast enough to ward off any sort of concentrated assault. He caught the first because he was prepared for it, but in open combat it's simply not plausible for him to catch that many blasts.

No one's that good.

Non lets out a roar and swings, and for once Will doesn't fall back. The full force of a Kryptonian punch slams into Will's torso, and the ikon shield lights up.

The sword was an advantage, but the ikon shield is what will let him win. The suit itself is a gravity sheath, but Will's always felt it's more accurate to cut straight to the chase and describe it for what it is: a force field. The smaller the area it has to shield, the better, and a mostly human-sized fist is perfect.

But it's simply not possible to stop something with that kind of force from giving feedback. Non's fist slams into the shield with another loud whumm, and he doesn't even seem to stop. He's too stupid to realize what it's doing to his body, pounding his fists into the shield.

But Will can see it. The effect of the shield is disorienting for a human swinging a human fist against it, and the effect is that much worse for someone so strong. The shockwave from Non's blows would be enough to kill a human being, and the shield's feeding them right back into his body. Will can see his capillaries burst. Blood leaks out of Non's nose.

But he still doesn't stop. His fists keep slamming into the shield, and Will feels his eardrums pop from the constant noise, his body starting to repair them immediately. He's protected from most of the danger, but as Non starts to sag, his body failing him as the backlash, Will still feels like he's run a marathon.

He has to make a choice. Non is down, but he won't be for long: it only took a few minutes for Clark to get back up when Will tried the tactic before. If he doubles back to help with Lor, there's a good chance Non will be back on his feet by the time they get back to him.

When he thinks about it like that, there's no choice at all: he has to keep going. He has to find the heart of the ship.

Chapter Text

Will has never moved so fast. He flies through the hallways, going full speed towards the center of the ship. If there are other Kryptonians on board, they must already be headed towards them, but he doesn't have time for caution.

His eardrum pops back into place and Tanya's voice snaps into focus.

"Will—Will!"

"Here!" He says. "Directions."

 "Swing back and take the right you just passed," she says, and Will curses under his breath, doubling back.

"How far?"

He doesn't ask how the kids are doing. He can't let himself be distracted. No matter how good or bad they're doing, he can't help them. He can't go back and help with Lor. He needs to get the bottle.

Will slams to a halt when he sees it.

The core of the room is clearly a vault, thick semi-transparent crystal walls doing little to disguise the center. There's other things in the vault room, but right in the center is what can only be the bottled city of Kandor.

"How do I get in?" Will says, eyes flicking across the room. There's a security panel, but the whole thing is foreign to him. He doesn't know any of it. He doesn't understand any of it.

"Thad didn't know. He just knew where it was."

Will doesn't have a ton of options, so he grabs the control panel, fiddling with the buttons. He doesn't know Kryptonian controls, and nothing is labelled in a way that makes any sort of coherent sense.

"You just triggered an alarm," Tanya says in his ear. "Every Kryptonian on the battlefield just tried to withdraw in unison. League is moving to intercept and buy you time, but you're going to have company."

The only advantage of that is that his team is on the far side of where the Kryptonians will be coming from. Beyond that? It's not much of an advantage.

"Will—"

"I'm going," Will snaps, but nothing's working. He's not sure if it's because he's not Kryptonian or because he's not the right kind of Kryptonian, which leaves him with the desperate option of trying to punch his way through. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't work: the crystal is hard and well beyond his strength level.

He's still making a desperate attempt to get through when there's a massive crash and Non literally slams through the wall rather than just taking the door.

"Human!" He roars, almost feral. There's blood on his face and his whole body looks a rather unhappy shade of red from the damage. He's effectively a giant bruise, but his arrival gives Will... well, not necessarily an advantage, but at least something to work with.

Will backs up to the vault, taking advantage of Non's blind rage for the most rudimentary attack he can think of. Non swings, he ducks, and Non's fist slams into the vault.

It cracks, but that's not enough, and the odds of getting Non to keep hitting the same place are slim.

He needs a better plan.

But he only has one plan, and it's not very good. He brandishes his sword with a flourish, drawing Non's attention with the motion as he straightens up. He doesn't have the element of surprise. What he does have is more arrogance than is warranted right then and there.

"Disgrace on the house of Zod!" Will announces with all the bravado he can muster, watching the way Non's eye twitches. He's big and dumb, but he's not big and dumb enough to miss when his leader's name is being dragged through the mud. "Once accompanied by great warriors, now the house of Zod's army can't even handle a single inferior human! You can't even fight me."

He's riling Non up, and he lurches backwards, just out of range of his fist as he swings. He just has to play it right.

He goes farther back then he needs to—just out of punching range—and then tips his head back, gesturing towards his throat with his open hand.

"I'll even bare my neck to you, give you a chance to recover your honor. Even with that... that won't be enough, will it?"

It's a gamble. Realistically, the whole damn thing is a gamble. Since the moment they stepped onto the ship, Will's been playing with fire. One wrong move and he could end up dead.

One wrong move and his team could end up dead.

But the gamble pays off. Non can't behead him with his fists (not with the shield), so he tries a different tactic, his heat vision slicing across Will's throat. Or at least that's the plan—Will's ready for it, and he drags the sword along, intercepting it as fast as he can.

He doesn't have time to think. He doesn't have time to react. He spins, cleaving the sword through the wall of the vault.

The noise the sword makes as it goes through the crystal is almost unearthly, so loud it makes Will's ears ring. He doesn't even have time to celebrate before Non slams into him, and the question of how he's going to take advantage of the structural weak point he just created becomes a non-issue.

Will goes through the vault wall. It simply can't stand the damage from the sword and the damage from Non tackling Will through it, and the wall fails, shattering with an even louder crash of falling crystal.

Will blacks out sometime on the way through the wall. There's a disconnect in his memories as his regeneration cranks itself up to the highest it can manage, and Will comes to as he rolls across the vault floor.

He course-corrects as he rolls, letting the momentum flip him onto his feet as he struggles to get his bearings.

He reacts faster than his mind can actually catch up. He doesn't think, he just does, his free hand going for the bottle.

There's a flash of red and a searing pain and Will is no longer reaching with his left hand. He's never been sure how the shield would hold up to something like heat vision, and he's never wanted to test it, considering the damage it could do to something that is literally irreplaceable.

But when he looks he realizes that it's not that the suit has failed—it's that, whether by luck or by some shred of Non's remaining intellect, Non's heat vision has gone slicing through his left arm right where the ikon suit remains unfinished. It's always been weakest on his left, and Non's exploited that to catastrophic effect.

Will doesn't stop.

He can't stop. Not with so much at stake. He drops his sword, his free hand coming up, and he scoops the jar against his side, spinning in place. 

"Back up," Will snaps. The only virtue of heat vision is that his wound's cauterized rather than spewing blood everywhere, but he's still off balance.

Non steps forward, right onto Will's severed arm, and there's a painful sounding crack as he literally pulverizes the bone.

He's going attack, Will realizes. He's going to lunge.

"I'll break it," Will says, and Non seems to falter. "The rest of the League won't, but me? I will. I'll shatter it and kill everyone inside if it means keeping my team safe, so back the hell off."

Non freezes, his mouth dropping open. It's like he genuinely can't believe anyone would do it. Like he can't even imagine that someone would actually destroy an entire city.

"Back. Up." Will says, and Non shuffles backwards.

He's unsteady and off balance as Will backs him right the hell out the way they came. He can hear Kryptonians coming and knows the League is doing whatever they can to hold them back.

"Go to your leader," he says. "Tell him what I have and what I'll do."

Non turns and runs. He seems to recognize he can't do anything without putting the city at risk, and that gives Will the opportunity to break into a sprint, heading back the way he came.

Back to his team, where he should have been from the start.

Chapter Text

The scene is dire from the moment he arrives. His team is backed into a corner, a bright green shield separating them from the furious Kryptonian in front of them. Lor is whaling on it, the shield pulsing with every blow as Soranik does what she can to keep it up.

They've all clustered together, pressing as close to one another as they can to minimize the amount of space the shield has to cover. It's hard to see who's hurt over the constant flashing of the shield as Lor's blows land, but it's hard to miss Damian lying on the floor, perfectly still.

Will lets out a roar of anger, and Lor spins, gawking at him.

He must look like a madman. He's missing half his left arm, his scabbard's come loose on his back, and he's got an entire city cradled in his one good arm.

"Back away from my team," Will snarls, and apparently he's alarming enough that Lor actually does, jerking away from the team.

"He's breathing!" Siracca yells. "He's just hurt!" She's cradling Damian's head, physically shielding him even beyond Soranik's shield itself.

Will snarls and advances on Lor, who falls back. He looks like a terrified boy, but that doesn't change that he hurt Will's team. The closer he gets, the more damage he can see: Most of the team are nursing some kind of injury, even if it's just bruising, and Jackson looks like his leg is broken, sitting at an odd angle.

They've hurt his team.

Lor keeps falling back, but there's noise coming from down the hallway. They're closing in.

"Keep the shield up," Will snaps to Soranik, spinning to press his back to the wall. He doesn't have enough energy for this. He's—alright, maybe he's a little bit woozy.

"Your arm—" Bart starts to say, before Thad reaches up, covering his mouth.

A kryptonian literally knocks out a part of the wall in their haste to get to them, slamming to a halt just beside Lor. It isn't hard to guess that it's Zod, if only by sheer virtue of how goddamn arrogant the man looks. Just behind him are others, coming as fast as they're able.

"You dare?"

"I absolutely fucking dare," Will snarls. "Lay one finger on my team and I'll smash the whole fucking city."

He can see the general weighing the odds. If he moves, is he going to be fast enough to stop the city from being destroyed? If Will drops it, he can catch it, but Will's holding the city against his hip, and crushing it would be painfully easy for someone of his strength.

"Lay one finger on the city and I'll take every single one of your precious children apart, piece by piece," Zod fires back, and Will shows his teeth.

Technically, it's a stalemate. There's no clear way to win, no deciding factor. Even so, Will makes an attempt to negotiate, working off what Thad's said.

"You don't really care about restoring the city," Will says. "Your control over the rest of your people is more important. If the city is destroyed, you'll never have their loyalty again. You'll never not be the general who let a hundred thousand Kryptonian souls die to maintain his control."

He can see Zod waver, but it only lasts a second.

It was always a long shot.

"You know the moment you so much as nick the jar, every one of us will tear you apart. But I won't let them. I'll keep you alive so that you can watch me take everyone you care about apart, bit by bit. I'll make you watch..."

Zod trails off, his head twisting upwards, as the light changes color.

The massive crystal structure that is the Kryptonian ship no doubt was made of the material it was because it allows light in. Sunlight powers the Krytponians, and it's that very light which brings the negotiations to an end as it turns a familiar shade of green.

"...The Lanterns!" Tanya yelps in his ear. "Just hold on—"

It would be hard to miss their arrival. The entire world seems to take on a green tint, and Will can only assume they've been bubbled by the Lanterns. It can't just be one or two—there must be dozens of them to make such a large shield.

"Dru-Zod of Krypton!" Booms a voice from somewhere high above. Will thinks it might be Hal, but it's hard to tell. "Surrender immediately!"

The Kryptonians have lost. It's clear they didn't have the resounding victory they'd hoped for to begin with, and the addition of the Corps makes their victory impossible. Their options are standing down with dignity, or fighting to the last.

Zod makes the only call he can. He goes down on his knees, his eyes filled with hate as he stares up at Will, and orders his men to surrender as well. The few behind him in the hall start to follow suit, and beside his father, Lor goes down as well.

 The Lanterns find them in record time, a swarm of non-humans clustering around them as Will clings to the bottle. He refuses to hand it over until Hal arrives, and only then does he relinquish the bottle.

Will wishes he could pass out. If he could pass out, he wouldn't have to watch what's happening to his team. He wouldn't have to see the way the Lanterns gingerly lift Damian up, his breathing shallow and pained, and place him onto a floating stretcher. He wouldn't have to see the way the team—broken and bruised—cluster around him, or the way Soranik uses her ring to place a cast around Jackson's leg, letting him stand.

He wants to sleep. He doesn't want to see it. He doesn't want to see what happens when Bruce and Slade see what he's done to their son.

One of the Lanterns—a human who Will can't even make himself look at—puts an arm across his back to help keep Will upright and starts to take him out of the ship.

There's a small army of Lanterns outside. There have to be four or five dozen of them swarming the area, and what he can only assumes to the medical core descends down to check on them.

"Kids first," Will insists, trying to push the six armed alien attending to him away.

"They're already being looked at," the Lantern beside him says. "Your arm's off, you need medical attention."

"I'm fine."

He isn't fine, but it has nothing to do with his arm being off.

He's forced to sit and wait anyway as a salve is applied to his injury. The Lanterns refuse to listen to him when he explains he can regenerate, and all he can do is sit there on a construct chair being tended to by an alien who's probably never seen a human before in his life.

"What's happening," Will mumbles into his hand. It's not even really a question—he just has to say something. Anything.

"Lanterns are taking the Kryptonians into custody," the human Lantern says, and Will glances up enough to confirm that it's Guy, looking very much like the one he knew... only younger. "Obviously Earth doesn't have the facilities to contain them. Then we'll figure out what's happening with Kandor. But that's for us to worry about. You the guy that's been training the kid Lantern Hal brought back from 1417?"

Will doesn't get a chance to answer as Joey shoots up through the whirl of hovering lanterns, heading straight for Will. He slows down before he collides with him and doesn't even bother to sign before pulling Will into a hug, burying his face in Will's shoulder.

Joey. At least Joey is okay. At least he's fine.

At least he still has that. 

Chapter Text

Joey won't let go of him as the Lanterns platform them all down to ground level. He simply stays clinging to him, and Will uses his one good arm to hold Joey against him, burying his face in Joey's shoulder so he doesn't have to look.

He doesn't want to see. He doesn't want to know how Bruce and Slade are going to react. His throat feels tight and painful, his entire body weary.

He just wants to sleep.

It's Clark who comes to get him eventually, reaching down to rest a hand on Will's shoulder and snapping him out of the distraction. Joey pulls back, and Clark clears his throat.

"Are you alright?"

Will doesn't even know how to answer that, so he simply doesn't, and Clark's expression pinches with worry.

"Damian's going to be alright," Clark says, and Will feels like he can breathe for the first time in hours. "He has a skull fracture and some damage to the side of his head where he hit the wall, but he'll live. Jackson's leg is a clean break, and everyone else is just scrapes and bruises. Nothing they haven't had before."

He's going to live. Will feels himself sag, and Joey has to shift to keep him totally upright.

"Bruce? Slade?"

"We had a system that pulled people back if they couldn't take it. J'onn suffered some serious burns from Kryptonian heat vision. Canary had her hand crushed. The Atlanteans did alright, but the Themysciran forces took some major damage. I don't think they had any deaths, but I know at the very least Diana's mother had her ribs broken by Zod."

"What are you keeping from me?" Will asks.

It's not anything Clark's done. It's just the way he's bringing it up. Rattling down minor injuries and things that don't really matter to Will. He's leading up to something.

"Who died?"

The way Joey flinches means he already knows.

"Barry," Clark says, his tone even. "He took a blow that should have killed Roy. He didn't make it."

Barry. Of course it would be Barry.

"Did you tell the boys?"

Clark shakes his head. That's why he's there, Will realizes. Clark is hoping it will be less painful if it comes from Will.

"Your team's worried about you, Will."

They shouldn't be. He can handle himself. They should be worried about each other. About Damian. Joey nudges him and he stands, his legs feeling shaky under him, and Joey presses up against him, helping him support his own weight.

"Maybe he should stay here," Clark says hastily. They're sitting in part of the triage camp that's been set up to deal with injuries, and there's plenty of doctors around to help them if needed.

"I'm going to talk to my team," Will says flatly. "They need to be told."

He can't risk them finding out second hand. Everyone who was fighting must know—there'd be no way to hide it.

His team isn't far away, being attended to by a swarm of doctors. Damian isn't there, but everyone else is, and they look up when they see Will.

Thad zips to his side, latching onto Will with tears in his eyes. Even though they just saw him, he seems worried anyway, like he was expecting Will to have dropped dead in the thirty minutes since he last saw him.

Or maybe he already knows.

Will reaches down, running his fingers through Thad's hair. His other arm aches, but he's used to ignoring that kind of pain. He's used to letting his body handle itself, even if he knows it's not going to work out this time.

His body can't regenerate whole parts. It can fix what's broken, but it can't create something new.

"Bart," Will calls. "Come here."

Bart does. Will doesn't even have an arm for him. The stump hurts too much to move reliably, which limits his options.

He doesn't soften the blow. There's simply no way to. It's going to hurt no matter what, so all he can do for them is rip the bandage off.

"Barry didn't make it," he says. "He died keeping Roy alive."

Bart's face falls immediately. He looks absolutely devastated, while Thad only looks a bit more withdrawn. There are tears in Bart's eyes when he finally manages to make himself speak.

"But... but I just got here," he says quietly. "He wasn't—he shouldn't have died for a long time—"

"I'm sorry, kid," Will says.

"It's not fair," Bart says, his voice so quiet Will can barely hear him.

"It isn't," Will agrees. He's not going to argue that. "But it's not unfair, either. Life just is. Sometimes people die who shouldn't. Sometimes people live who shouldn't. That's how things are."

Bart bursts into tears. Tanya steps forward, pulling Bart into a hug, and Jon joins in, burying Bart in a hug. Thad doesn't cry, watching Bart as he does before turning away.

Will gives Thad the best advice he can manage at the moment.

"It's okay not to cry," he says, dragging his fingers through his hair. It's the advice he wishes he'd been given, back when he couldn't even shed a tear. Everyone had told him, over and over again, that it was okay to cry.

No one had ever told him it was okay not to.

Thad stays at his side, silent and watching as his brother breaks down, and Will wonders if it's ever going to be alright again.

Chapter Text

Things around him seem to speed up. Everyone has things they're supposed to be doing. Everyone has people to talk to, people to check in on. The Altanteans come for Jackson, taking him away to set his bone properly. Jon goes to stay with Damian in the main hospital tent. For the most part, people go back to their families, seeing to their injured in any way they can.

Will stays with the group until Roy comes to talk to them. He's obviously been crying, his eyes puffy and red, but it's an obvious show of strength when he bends down in front of the twins.

Barry's sons, even if he never had a chance to be a father to them.

"I know you two probably wish you'd had more time with him," Roy says, "but—" He takes a second, swallowing down his misery, and reaches up to wipe at his eyes. "Before he passed he wanted me to tell you that you two will be okay. And you're going to be. I'm going to—I'll figure something out. I'll talk to... to Iris. We'll sort..." He reaches up, furiously rubbing at his eyes, but can't finish.

Jason joins them, doing what he can to keep Roy upright, and Roy swats him away.

"Go be with your brother," Roy insists. "I can take care of myself."

 "Had to come get Will," Jason says, "but come on, I'm taking you back to Ollie."

Jason doesn't give Roy a choice, marching him off to where he can be around people worried about him.

Joey takes those left to the main medical tent. Most people are just dealing with cuts and scrapes that can be treated where they stand, but ARGUS has set up an on-site facility for more serious injuries. Damian has a whole corner to himself, but the area immediately around him is being left clear for the medical staff to work. The Wilson-Wayne's stand a short distance back, watching while staying out of the way.

Will gets intercepted by Villain before he even makes it to the group, and the man steers him over to a hospital bed.

"You're missing an arm," he says as if Will might not have noticed. "Sit down and let me look at it."

Will does. He sits down and lets Villain poke at the injury, cringing as Villain inspects the burnt tissue.

"Cauterized," he observes. "Heat vision?"

"Yeah," Will confirms. "Arm's somewhere on the ship. So's my sword."

Villain leans over, flagging down one of the Lanterns, and sends them off to retrieve it.

"It got stepped on," Will says. "I don't think it's going to be useable."

"It's worth it to make the attempt," Villain says anyway. "Your arm has already started to repair the tissue. Without a transplant, you'll have a smooth stump shortly."

"Lucky me."

Pop, I'm going to go check on Jason, Joey signs. You going to be alright?

"Villain's not going to let anything happen to his favorite patient," Will says, and Joey nods before excusing himself. The kids have almost all gone to check in on Damian, but Thad lingers by Will's bedside until Will nods and he finally goes to join the others.

Slade pulls away from the group, coming over to sit down beside Will's bed, his hands clasped in his lap.

"I let him get hurt," Will says simply. Villain ignores the conversation entirely, still poking at Will's stump.

"You did just fine," Slade says. "People get hurt in situations like this. Damian will be okay."

Will doesn't know how Slade can say that. It feels like Joey all over again. Someone's been hurt because of a choice he made, and now all he can do is try and live with the consequences.

"How bad is Damian actually?"

"He's probably going to lose vision in his one eye," Slade says. "No regeneration means it's going to be hit or miss. We won't know for sure until he regains consciousness."

"His brain?"

"Just fine. No damage, only very minor swelling. Doctors were worried about it, so they checked."

Will doesn't even want to ask, but he asks anyway.

"What happened?"

"The plan was going well. Team had things under control and were pushing Lor-Zod back. He got lucky and broke Jackson's leg, and while Mia was pulling Jackson back, Lor-Zod lunged forward and knocked Damian into the wall. Hit his head the wrong way... it could have been a lot worse."

Damian could have died. Will makes himself breath, taking a deep breath as Villain steps away, speaking to the Lantern that arrives. He has Will's sword in one hand, which Villain accepts, dropping it by Will's bedside.

"Unfortunately, your arm's been damaged too severely to be reconnected," Villain says. "I doubt it would regenerate properly with so much missing."

Will lets out a sigh of relief, and Villain simply carries on.

"I'll have to find a suitable donor arm. We can leave your current stump to heal normally, and simply repeat the same process we carried out with your eye in order to transplant it. Getting one that's the right build and length will be important to a successful transplant, so it'll be harder to get than a pair of eyes."

Will nods along, but he's not really focusing.

"Which is unfortunate," Villain adds with a sigh. "Mr. Wilson-Wayne here was quite accommodating in providing samples to my team. If you hadn't been injured, I'd have been able to test out the serum that would have allowed you to age. As it stands, we'll simply have to wait."

Villain keeps going. He seems to have a lot to say, and Will doesn't have the energy to listen. Slade excuses himself to talk with Villain, and Will dozes on the bed, letting his body heal itself. At some point, he falls asleep, and when he wakes he finds the stump healed as if it'd been severed for years.

Villain is gone, but Bruce is sitting by his bedside.

"Is Damian awake?"

"Not yet," Bruce says, looking up at him. "They've said it's better to let him sleep. Give his body time to rest."

Will sinks back into the bed. He doesn't want to do anything until Damian's awake, until he knows the worst is past.

"I know you're blaming yourself," Bruce says softly, "but you shouldn't. They told us what happened. You did the best you could, under the circumstances."

"I shouldn't have left them alone."

"They weren't alone. They had each other. The plan was working just fine, but things happen."

Things happen. Will squeezes his eyes shut. Isn't that what he told them? Life isn't fair, it just is.

"Let me know when he's awake."

"Of course," Bruce says.

Will dozes in and out of consciousness. He should be able to last a lot longer, but he doesn't want to. He wants to sleep. The less time he has to suffer through before Damian wakes up, the better. Every time he stirs, it's someone else at his bedside. Jason. Joey. Alfred. Then Slade again, and Will cracks an eye open.

"Still asleep?"

"Briefly regained consciousness, mumbled something about Jon, and fell asleep again," Slade says. He looks like he's reading a book, and Will wonders how many hours it's been.

"I need a favor."

Slade doesn't look up from his book. He also doesn't look at all surprised.

"I need you to talk to Villain. Get that serum he mentioned from him."

Slade finally looks up from his book, fixing Will with a long, hard look.

"What happened wasn't your fault," he says. "Doing this isn't going to fix it either."

"It's not about fixing it."

"No, it isn't," Slade says. "But you have to know that this isn't a healthy solution."

Will looks pointedly at Slade's eye, and Slade cracks a smile at him.

"I'm not saying I'm any better, Will. I know what you're doing. Pretty sure we had the same reasons for never using a prosthetic eye."

It's not quite penance, but something close to it. There were never words for it, never a clear reason for it, but years later Will can at least try: it's easier to process the guilt if he has something to focus on. It's easier to handle it if the loss is attached to a real physical loss.

For the guilt of what happened with Joey, it was his eye. He'd always pushed away any sort of alternative. He'd always rejected prosthetics or transplants. Choosing to allow the replacement was because he'd forgiven himself.

But this is something new. Something fresh.

Slade reaches out, squeezing Will's shoulder.

"You need therapy," Slade says. "Not this."

"If you aren't going to do it—" Will snaps. He doesn't want the lecture. He can't stand the idea of getting the same lecture from a man still wearing an eyepatch. Still holding onto that same pain, unable to be forgiven because his own son didn't make it.

Slade interrupts his lecture by reaching into his pocket, pulling out an auto-injector and holding it up. The realization dawns on Will almost immediately.

"...You already knew."

"At this point I don't think we've got that much in common," Slade says. "More differences than similarities. But that... that's one thing that isn't different. We've spent our whole lives rejecting guilt for our actions, so the moment we actually feel guilt, we... don't know how to deal with it."

"You get that from a therapist?" Will says dryly, his eyes on the auto-injector in Slade's hand.

"Was one of the few productive lessons I learned. That I had an unhealthy relationship with guilt. You do to."

"Are you going to give it to me or not?"

Slade holds it out for him to take.

"In the neck," he says. "It should bring your regeneration down to the same level as mine, assuming it works."

Will goes to inject, and Slade catches his wrist, staring him down.

"Last chance to back out," he says, and Will scowls at him.

He needs this. He doesn't want a new arm. He doesn't want a prosthetic.

What he needs is a reminder.

Slade releases his hand.

"...Therapy is non-optional," he says.

Will presses the pen into his neck, feeling the sting of the needle. The liquid's cold, and he swears he can feel it going into him as Slade gets up.

"I told Villain I'd get him if you used it," Slade says, and the idea that Villain suspected as much might very well be the least surprising thing he's heard all day.

Will hears the pen click and withdraws it from his neck, leaning back in bed. He's not sure if it's going to hurt. Right then, he doesn't really care, either.

He's done what he needs to.

Chapter Text

Villain studies him, obviously expecting some kind of change, but there's nothing obvious. Either the entire process is secretly painless, or it simply isn't working.

"I'll do some tests," Villain says. "With how this is expected to work, it might be a few weeks until the effect has propagated through your body."

"I'll keep that in mind," Will says. Villain, of course, insists on taking even more blood samples just to spite him.

Slade excuses himself, probably to go snitch to the family, and Will's guess is proven right when Joey heads over to his bed, looking deeply unhappy.

Pop.

"I know the lecture I'm about to get," Will says. "You can just say it."

Joey reaches out, taking Will's remaining hand and giving it a squeeze. He lingers there for a moment before withdrawing his hand, signing to him again.

I wish you hadn't. But I get it. I know that... sometimes it's easier if things match up. After what happened with Dave... He trails off, glancing away, and then reaches down, taking Will's hand again.

"Didn't mean to make you worry."

I know, Joey finger spells one handed. Come see? He pulls Will's hand, and Will lets Joey pull him out of bed. He's fine physically, the stump already as healed as it's going to get, and there's no point in avoiding things any further.

So he walks with Joey to where the group is gathered, catching sight of Damian for the first time. He looks so small in the hospital bed, sleeping peacefully in his bed. Bruce catches sight of him, frowning when he spots them, and heads straight for them.

"Shouldn't you be in bed?"

"Probably," Will says. "But I'll be fine. Damian?"

"He'll be alright."

Will feels like he's heard that a lot. He feels like he's going to hear it a lot more before the night is out.

But he's ambushed before he can get too lost in his own head by a distraught looking Tanya, who pulls him into a hug which he carefully returns. It's weird doing it with one arm, and it's going to take some getting used to.

"You're okay?"

"I'm fine," Will says. "Guess this is a clear case of you-should-have-listened."

When Tanya gives him a confused look, Will elaborates.

"You fixed the sleeve on the suit. If I had left it repaired, I might have kept it."

"I wasn't thinking that," Tanya says with a scowl. "The only thing I was thinking was that I was happy it wasn't worse. Will, it could have been... it was almost so much worse. Damian..."

"Will be fine."

"I've heard that a lot."

"So have I."

Everyone's telling themselves that over and over, repeating it like saying it out loud will make it true.

"The rest of the team?"

"Jon went to check in with his family," she says. "Mia and Bart are with Roy right now. Jackson, Soranik, and Siracca are with their respective groups while they're here."

Will looks around and spots Thad lingering near the edge of the group. He's not talking with anyone, and Will glances to Tanya before nodding, breaking off to head over to Thad.

"You're alright?" Thad asks, glancing up at Will, and Will bends down, pulling Thad into a one-armed hug. Thad buries his face into Will's shoulder, and Will leverages the height difference as he simply picks Thad up off the ground, carrying him easily. The kid's light as a feather to him, and even with one arm it's easy to lift his weight as Thad wraps his arms around Will's shoulders for support.

"I'm sorry," Thad murmurs.

"You don't have anything to be sorry about. You and the team did just fine. Amazing, even. The whole League and all their support fought the Kryptonians to a draw, and you kids fought one all on your own."

"We lost."

"You tied," Will insists. "No one died."

"They almost did."

"Almost only counts if you're using explosives," Will says, which draws a chuckle out of Thad. The boy's silent for a moment, his arms holding a little bit tighter.

"Can I stay with you...?"

He sounds so soft when he says it. So nervous. It's like he's genuinely afraid Will is going to say no.

"Of course," Will says. "We'll figure something out, but you can stay with me."

He doesn't know what's going to happen. He's not sure if there's still going to be a team. He's not sure if he's going to be in charge anymore. There are a lot of unanswered questions, but everything's on hold until Damian wakes up.

Will doesn't set Thad down for almost an hour, simply carrying him around as they mill about. People come and go. Members of the League arrive to check in, and members of the team come with them. Jackson's been provided with crutches when he comes, and when Siracca arrives she's holding tight to Diana's hand right up until the point where she spots Thad, at which point she lets go and darts over to them.

Only then does Will let Thad down so he can talk with her.

The thing that keeps catching Will off guard is how many people there are. Every time he looks there's someone new arriving to check in on Damian. Dick, Tim, Barbara, and their families are obvious. Gordon and the new Gotham police chief are expected. The League and their families. Damian's team. But there's other people, many of which Will doesn't know. A whole pack of Lanterns crams into the tent to pay their respects, followed shortly after by the Mayor of Gotham and his men. There are just so many people.

Bruce pulls him aside at one point with a clearly disapproving look.

"Slade told me what you did."

"What I chose not to do," Will clarifies. "I don't want a new arm."

"You might in the future," Bruce says. "You could have just said no."

"I want to age again. The longer I wait..." He glances towards Joey, and Bruce frowns at him.

"It's... your choice," Bruce says. "I'm just worried you made the decision too quickly. That you weren't in the right place mentally."

"There's never going to be a right place mentally for realizing that if you wait another five years, you're going to look the same age as your son. There's never a right place for realizing that if you don't take action, you're going to watch him grow old and die."

"Alright," Bruce chokes. "I get it. I just..."

"Mandatory therapy," Will says. "Slade already told me."

Bruce pauses for a moment, and then glances towards where Siracca and Thad are talking before looking back to Will.

"Did you talk to him?"

"He asked to stay with me. I told him he could." Technically he should have asked Bruce first, but he struggles to imagine a reason Bruce would say no.

Bruce exhales, sagging slightly.

"We need to... I don't know. Roy implied he was interested in taking them. We'll figure something out."

It's already late. It's late and dark outside, and people are starting to flag.

"What are we doing?" Will asks. "Staying overnight...?"

"Clark is dealing with the Lanterns. Most of them are going to be leaving. I was thinking of asking some of them to take people back to the hotel, but it's unstaffed right now. The mayor wants the ship removed before they end the evacuation."

"What are they doing with it?" He's more interested in what's happening to the massive ship above them then he is in getting some more sleep.

"Clark's going to park it near the pole. It can handle the cold without issue. Did you want to sleep...?"

"Thad probably does," Will says. "Maybe cots...?"

"I'll see what I can do," Bruce says. "I'll be staying with Damian, so..."

In the end they transport everyone, Damian included, back to the hotel. It's too cold for the tent to hold up for long, and it's easier to shoo everyone back to their rooms. Will lingers by Damian's side, but when it's obvious Thad isn't going to bed unless he does, he picks the boy up and simply takes him up to his room.

He's tired.

And he knows, without question, that Damian will be awake in the morning.

Chapter Text

Will wakes to his alarm, blindly groping for his phone to check it.

Check online classes, his phone helpfully informs him, and he groans, dropping the phone back on the nightstand. He groans again, rolling the other way to get out of bed, and nearly falls on his face. Without thinking about it he's tried to use his left arm to prop himself up, only it isn't there, and he's abruptly found himself having to stop himself from falling onto the floor. It takes him a few seconds to catch himself, getting his bearings. 

He ends up showering before he even leaves the room, unsure of when he's going to have a chance to do so in the future. He feels off balance, and without meaning to he keeps reaching for things with an arm that isn't there. It's not quite a phantom limb, just old habits that aren't going to go away any time soon.

The hotel's quiet as he heads down to the lobby. He figures most people are still sleeping, but he's surprised when he sees what looks like a dozen people crowded around near the entrance of the medical wing that's been set up.

A few people look up as he approaches, including Tanya, who reaches down, tapping one of the twins on the shoulder. Thad glances back, and zips immediately to Will's side, looking eager to speak to him.

"He's awake," Thad says. "I was just talking to Tanya."

"Man of the hour," Bruce calls. He looks happy, which means Damian must be doing well. "Damian was just complaining that the food we're providing him isn't up to standard."

"Hotel restaurant empty?" Will asks, and Bruce nods.

"Have at it. We've got our run of the hotel right now."

Thad stays underfoot (although never quite in the way) as Will heads into the kitchen, going to make some food. There's some food still in storage, but there's no actual eggs, which is a real issue.

"No eggs," Will grunts, squinting into the walk in kitchen.

"I could get some," Thad volunteers.

"Gotham's still closed."

"I could run to Bludhaven. They'd be open."

"Do you even know the way?" Will asks. It is, as far as he knows, the first time Thad's been in the area.

"I can find my way. It's not that hard."

Will reaches up, rubbing at his temple, and then nods.

"Go ask... I don't know. Bruce or Alfred or Slade for some money for eggs."

Thad's gone before he even finishes the sentence, and Will pulls out some meats to get started. Nothing fancy. Not while trying to figure out how to do things properly. He keeps trying to grab things with his left hand, used to using both equally. It makes the work far slower, and he's really only getting things on the stove when Thad returns with what looks like three boxes of eggs.

"Nice job," Will says as Thad carefully unloads the eggs. "This will take a bit longer than I thought it would."

"I could do it," Thad says. "I've watched you do it enough times."

Will weighs his options and then sets back, letting Thad take over. It's easier for him, since he can use one hand to hold the pan while the other keeps things moving, and Will drops another pan onto the stove as Thad handles the meat. Will has to teach himself to crack eggs one handed, swapping what he's doing rapidly.

"Would you care for some assistance?" Alfred calls from the kitchen entrance. "I'm afraid I've been sitting on my hands, as of late."

"We were just going to take Damian his food," Will says. "Thad, can you grab the plate? I don't think I can balance it."

It's a lie. He could absolutely balance it, but he lets Thad take it anyway, holding it in his hands as they head out of the hotel restaurant and towards the hospital area. Thad could move ahead of him—it would be easy—but instead he stays right at Will's side as they head for the bed.

"Order up," Will calls, and Will can see Damian trying to sit up before Slade puts a firm hand on his shoulder, keeping him in place.

"Stay down," Slade says. "You can eat where you are."

He's been propped up in the hospital bed, and the entire left side of his face is buried under bandages. What Will can see of the other side looks like he's fully conscious, his remaining eye bright and alert as he spots Will and Thad. His eye lingers on Will's missing arm, even as Thad carefully places the tray in his lap.

"They warned you ahead of time?" Will guesses, and Damian starts to nod before cringing. He's obviously got a lot of painkillers, but even still the discomfort remains.

"They said you'd lost it," Damian confirms. "I don't really... did I see you last night?"

"You didn't," Will confirms. "If you were awake at all after your injury, I don't think you'd remember."

"It's blurry," Damian admits. "It's all really... confusing."

Slade reaches down, combing his fingers through what he can reach of Damian's hair, and then nods to the food.

"Get eating," he says. "The doctors say you're going to need your strength."

"Ah!" Thad yelps. "I should have gotten toast—"

He's gone in a blink, zipping back to the kitchen to correct his mistake.

"He's got so much energy," Jason says, and Will pats Damian's hand before withdrawing to give him space to eat.

Tanya ambushes him before he can go far.

"Before he gets back," she says, "Thad's worried you're going to abandon him, so that's why he's going to keep being underfoot. Just let him stay nearby and he'll be fine."

Will squints at her.

"We already talked. I told him he could stay with me."

"He's worried you're going to make him go with Iris. That you'll say it's better for him."

"He isn't attached to her," Will says. "Bart is. It's a different circumstance."

Bruce slides into the conversation, tapping Will's shoulder.

"They want to hold a funeral for Barry tomorrow. Damian shouldn't be travelling with his injury, but the doctor said it would be fine if we were careful. His injury isn't as bad as it looks, and the Lanterns can fly him without any of the major risks of a plane."

"Are we all taking Lantern Air...?"

"Evacuation is officially ending, and everyone's coming back. We've pulled in some favors to get Wayne Enterprise's largest jet made available to us, and we'll be taking who we can tonight. I'll be going with you, and Slade will be staying with Damian."

"Clark?"

"Already on his way there. While we're in Central City, we're going to have to have a... a group meeting about the twins."

"Did Iris...?"

"Barry thankfully already told her about them. He—" Bruce stops the conversation abruptly as Thad returns with a plate of toast, which he carefully sets down beside Damian's plate before zipping back to his place at Will's side.

Will reaches down, ruffling Thad's hair, and Joey grins at him from where he stands with Jason.

"What about the rest of the team?" Will asks, glancing back to Bruce.

"Staying with their families," Bruce says. "Or their groups. I wouldn't worry about any of them leaving without speaking to you or anything like that."

Will was worried about that exact thing, so he breathes a small sigh of relief. He still has things to say, and he hopes that they have things to say to him, too.

"...The Titans is done, isn't it?" Thad says quietly, and Bruce winces.

"I..." Bruce glances to Will, and all Will can think of is Tanya saying that the kids liked him because he'd tell them the truth.

"It's over," Will says, dropping his hand down to give Thad's shoulder a squeeze. "Damian and Jackson are going to need months to heal from their injuries. It might come back in some form, but the current version is over and done with."

He doesn't bring up the fact that plenty of people probably wouldn't trust him with their kids anymore. He knows he'd get another lecture about how it wasn't his fault, and Will doesn't need that right now.

Really, he wouldn't blame them: under his watch, a lot of kids got hurt, and that isn't something he can take back.

Chapter Text

They spend most of the day in the hotel as people start trickling out. Not everyone is going to the funeral. They have lives, things to do, people to speak to. Gotham is effectively untouched despite the evacuation, with only a few houses destroyed near the manor. The Kent house remains intact, although there's some damage to the side from the shrapnel.

Thad stays with him. Will doesn't think he could get rid of him if he tried, so he simply goes along with him, ruffling Thad's hair every so often so he doesn't feel forgotten. Damian won't be able to make it back to his room, so Will and Thad help Bruce collect what little he has, tucking it safely into a bag for Damian. There isn't much: most of what he has is in storage, and they're back in the lobby before long.

"I'll be staying behind," Alfred says. "I've also been given the unfortunate duty of informing Thomas about what happened."

"I can if you—" Bruce starts, but Alfred waves him off.

"Blackgate's population will not be properly returned for a few days still. If you've returned before it's open for visiting, you can handle it. Otherwise, I will manage. Master Tim's work is currently on hold, and he's offered to stay with me while you're away."

Will has to count back the days just to figure out what day of the week it is. Wednesday, which means classes probably aren't even going to start up again until Monday.

"Just as long as you'll be alright," Bruce says.

"As I said, I'll manage. Have you given thought to the manor...?"

"I have nothing but thoughts," Bruce says. "But maybe we should leave that until after the funeral."

Will lets the subject drop.

The hotel staff are back in time for a late lunch, although things are a bit disorganized. There's a lot of staring, and the manager has to keep them out of the conference room they've claimed to be the hospital wing.

He sees Soranik later that afternoon as everyone's getting their things to leave, and he reaches down, touching Thad's shoulder.

"Thad, can you go see if Alfred needs any help?" Thad's expression makes it clear he knows it's Will getting him out of the area, but he goes anyway, leaving Will free to approach Soranik, who's speaking quietly with Hal.

"Soranik," he calls, and she jumps, turning to look at him.

"Will," she says, sounding almost relieved. "I was going to come and find you."

"Are you on Damian's honor guard?"

Soranik nods.

"Hal and the other human Lanterns, and then me. Just the four of us. Everyone else has gone back to Oa with the Kryptonians."

He has a lot of questions about that. He wants to know what's happening. But right then, Soranik is right there, and she takes priority.

"You've been spending time with Hal."

Soranik pauses for a moment, and then nods.

"When the Lanterns came during the battle, it was... it was right. That's what they should be doing. Not policing a world that can police itself, but helping. Earth doesn't have a way to deal with the Kryptonians. They weren't winning before we forced a surrender, they were just holding the line. The Lanterns are a... a balancing force. They can make things better."

Will cracks a smile at that. It feels obvious what she's going to say. What she's going to ask, even though she doesn't need to.

"They were talking about what to do with the bottle city. The Lantern from 2813 had a planet he thought might work, but Clark said he was hoping they could be resized on Earth. I think the Atlanteans wanted that too."

Will has some concerns about resizing a city of Kryptonians on Earth, but he shelves those for later.

"And you?"

Soranik fidgets.

"The team... I think the team has to go their separate ways for now," she says. He doesn't disagree. "I was thinking about going with Hal to Oa. Learning a bit more about the Lanterns."

"If you end up visiting Earth, feel free to drop by," Will says, giving her a smile. "I'm sure everyone would like to stay in touch."

"Hal says he comes back a lot. If I come back when he's got League meetings, I could visit."

"You could," Will says. "But listen... don't leave without saying goodbye to everyone, alright?"

Soranik scowls at him at the very idea.

"You think I'd just run off? You think I wouldn't talk to everyone?"

"Just making sure," Will says. "Take care of Damian on the flight over, alright?"

He's not expecting the hug, but he supposes he probably should have been. The hug feels obvious: she's not sure how much more private time they're going to get, and after a moment's surprise he reaches down, giving her a one-armed hug.

"Sorry about your arm," she mumbles.

"I'll manage just fine without it. Stay in touch, alright?"

She makes a point of talking to Thad before they've even left the hotel, heading to the airport with a massive convoy of vehicles. There's clear attention from the public, and as they go Will spots people coming out just to see them go by.

"Do they know?" Will asks Joey. He hasn't actually looked. He's had the time, but a part of him doesn't want to.

They know, Joey signs. They haven't confirmed his identity, but everyone knows the Flash is dead.

Will nods and turns his attention back to the road.

There's maybe sixty of them traveling by plane, a random assortment of League members, their families, and ARGUS staff. Many of them aren't coming back to Gotham. Roy and his group are going to take a plane back from Central City, and they're bringing along everything they brought with them in the first place.

There's a lot of gear on the plane.

"Can't thank you enough for this," Oliver tells Bruce as they board. Bart peeks out from behind him, and then zips around to where Thad is standing, his face lighting up.

"Thad! I was looking all over for you."

Ollie huffs immediately.

"I told you he was with the Wayne's. Can't imagine why you didn't believe me."

Bart hugs Thad immediately, and Thad goes stuff, looking up at Will who raises an eyebrow. He's not going to intervene, but... maybe it would be worth checking in after.

"They're coming with us?" Bart asks, looking up at Ollie.

"That's why they're on the plane," Ollie says with a sigh.

"I'm going to check on Roy," Jason says, brushing past them as they grab seats near the middle of the plane. Joey nods to Will and goes after them, and Will looks down at Bart, raising an eyebrow.

"You've been staying with the... the what do you call it, Arrow family?"

"And Wally," Bart says. "Did you meet Wally yet?"

"Not this one," Will says, which gets a confused look from Bart.

"Will's from another dimension," Thad clarifies. "He's probably familiar with the Wally from his home universe."

"Confusing," Bart mumbles.

"You don't have a leg to stand on. You're from a different timeline, so it's not like you're any better."

"Will, stop picking on the kids," Arthur says as he nudges past Will, heading for the front of the cabin.

"He's not picking on us," Thad clarifies immediately, as if he genuinely thinks Arthur's being serious. Then Will glances down and realizes Thad's gone pink, meaning he did think Arthur was serious, jumped to Will's defense, and only realized the truth a half second later.

Will gives him a distraction.

"Bart," he says, "you going to sit with us for the flight?"

Bart nods his head enthusiastically, grabbing a seat beside Thad like he can't get enough of his new brother. Slade takes the aisle, and ends up sitting beside Lois, with Clark's parents on the other side of her. There's not a lot of kids on board, but Will catches sight of most of his team with their respective mentors, even if they're the only ones.

"...This flight's already boring," Thad mumbles before they've even taken off. "I liked the smaller plane."

The smaller plane let them sit across from people, but with so many people they're in more standard rows.

"You can go visit people while we fly," Will says. "Just as long as you stay out of trouble, alright?"

Thad nods, and after a moment leans against Will's shoulder, watching as Bart gawks out the window as if he didn't already fly once that week.

Will lets himself lean against Thad a little bit, but he's already dreading the flight.

No, more than that: he's dreading the whole trip. There's so many things that need to be dealt with, and he hates all of them.

He never did like funerals.

Chapter Text

Will expects to spend the flight talking to people. He expects things to get done, for people to want to coordinate.

But it turns out that on an 11PM flight to Central City, the only thing anyone wants to do is sleep. Ten minutes into the flight and Thad and Bart are both nodded off, with Thad drooling onto Will's shoulder. Will makes himself sleep when he can, waking only when they land. It's a three hour flight that only takes two hours through the magic of timezones, and it's late by the time they disembark.

There's a fleet of cars to take them to their destination, and another hotel that's opened its doors. Will doesn't know if someone on the League owns this one, but it's larger, fancier, and only half accessible to them.

"League on the left," Bruce says. "Normal guests on the right."

"Is it just League members here?" Slade asks, and Will doesn't stick around to listen to the explanation. There's not much order to it. It's too late for anyone to be significantly coordinated, so it's mostly just people being given room keys and sent up to get what sleep they can.

Will's almost in the elevator when Roy sticks his hand in, popping the doors back open with a look of relief on his face.

"I should have known you'd have him," Roy says, and it takes Will a second to realize he's talking about the sleepy looking Bart leaning against his brother. Roy looks like an absolute mess, but hovers over Bart protectively anyway as Bart grumbles.

"I wanna stay with Thad," Bart says, clinging closer to his brother even as Thad kings closer to Will.

"I can watch them," Will says, holding up his card key. "Two connected rooms."

"I've got Bart's stuff," Roy points out. "Why don't I watch both of them?"

Thad presses even closer. He's showing his age for once, rather than acting so much older than he is, and Tanya's explicit statement of what the issue is does wonders for him.

"I know Thad doesn't want to go too far from me right now. I'll see you in the morning?"

"Sure," Roy says, holding out his hand, and after a moment Bart scoots over to stay with Roy as he presses a different floor number.

Will waits until Roy and Bart are gone (with a lot of backward glances on Bart's behalf) before he speaks up.

"I'm not getting rid of you," he says simply. "If you want to go with Bart, you can. But if you don't, I'm not going to force you too."

It occurs to Will that maybe he shouldn't be having the conversation they are at two in the morning, but if it'll get Thad to stop clinging to him, he'd tell the kid anything.

"...I just don't want to be left behind," Thad says quietly.

"I know, kid," Will says, waving him into the room. It's got two bedrooms with a shared common area, so he scoots Thad into one, dropping Thad's things just inside the door. "I'm not going anywhere, alright? Now get some sleep, tomorrow isn't going to be any easier."

He doesn't expect him to, but Thad does end up going to bed in a reasonable amount of time, leaving Will to fall into bed, exhausted.

When he wakes the following morning he realizes he's still dressed, his shoes still on. It's not exactly the best look for him, but it's not the first time he's done something similar.

He's showering when someone—hopefully Thad—knocks on the door, so he picks up his pace, emerging dressed from the room to find Thad sitting on the edge of the bed, his hair still damp.

"At least towel it off," Will lectures, and Thad zips away and back before he can finish collecting his things. He ends up texting Bruce to confirm they should be leaving their stuff at the hotel, and only then do they head down into the hotel lobby where the Wilson-Wayne's are waiting.

"We're going to be busy," Bruce says immediately. "We've got a fitting in thirty minutes, then we've got—"

"A fitting?"

"Suits," Slade says. "Ours are in storage back in Gotham. A local business is providing us rentals so we don't show up to the funeral in costume."

"But..." Will pauses, his brain feeling almost painfully slow. "Green Arrow? Arsenal?"

"We'll talk about that later," Bruce says.

The tailor is nothing if not professional, getting them all into suits and making a few small alterations to make them presentable. They're not as good as the custom tailoring Bruce favors, but it's better than what they had, which was nothing. He almost doesn't measure Thad, making an offhand comment of having already measured Thad's twin, but Tanya jumps in, clearing her throat to clarify that Thad is actually a little bit bigger, so maybe he should be measured separately?

Will's pretty sure the two are the exact same size, but the tailor measures him anyway.

The next step turns out to be a meeting held in a hotel conference room. It's not even the same hotel as the one they were staying at, but after staying in hundreds of hotels, Will's learned that most hotels are more or less indistinguishable. One hotel conference room is really just the same as any other hotel conference room.

It's mostly League members, who all take seats near the front, while everyone else hangs back. Will grabs a seat just behind Bruce, and isn't surprised when Bart zips over from Roy's side of the room to sit next to Thad.

"We're on a schedule," Diana says, "so League meeting open. We've only got one official matter to deal with, so to be direct: are we telling the public who the Flash was?"

She looks to Roy, who stands, clearing his throat. The last forty-eight hours were hard on him, and the exhaustion is written all over his features.

"I want the public to know who he was," he says. "I want them to know the kind of man he was. That he died saving the world. I don't want to have to... to get J'onn to pretend to be Barry so there's plausible deniability for us."

"And you?" Clark asks. Will hasn't seen much of him since everything went down, and the fact that he's still in costume means he's probably been working.

"I'm going to go public as well. I already spoke to everyone on my side, and... there's really no reasonable way for us to stay private anyway. Someone's going to make the connection."

"We've been too obvious," Oliver says. "There's no way the press wouldn't make the connection."

"Hal?" Diana asks, turning to him.

"I'm fine with going public," he says. "Doesn't really make much of a difference to me. My brothers are probably going to lose their minds, though."

"Hold on," Guy says, leaning forward. "You didn't tell them?"

"It didn't come up."

Most of the League groans at the very idea.

"So we are all in agreement," J'onn says. "We will all be public with our identities. As many of us already are, I do not imagine this would be a significant change."

Roy clears his throat, standing up again, and the room goes quiet.

"I know this is probably going to be a surprise, but I want to take over Barry's place in Central City. I'm nominating Dinah for full League membership."

Obviously he's talked to Oliver and Dinah about it, because they both simply nod along. Diana and the rest of the League, on the other hand, look surprised.

"I had assumed Wally..." Diana says, obviously being careful with her choice of words.

"And Oliver, for that matter," Arthur adds.

"Oliver's career is too demanding right now to accommodate the League on a regular basis," Roy says.

"Guilty," Oliver chimes in.

"And Wally..." Roy pauses, looking over towards a teenager that Will recognizes as almost definitely Wally West. He'd know that face anywhere.

"I'm too new," Wally volunteers. "I mean, I haven't even been at this half a year."

"He's not ready," Roy confirms. "So... I mean, assuming no one objects..."

"Vote?" Bruce prompts. "Hands up if you're fine with this." He lifts his hand immediately, and every member of the League raises their hand in short order.

"That's a majority," Slade says. "Do we need a second vote for Dinah?"

"I don't think that's necessary," Diana says. "Welcome to the team, Dinah."

"I'll handle things on our end," Steve says. "Obviously, take as much time as you need for the adjustment, Roy."

It makes sense to Will: it puts Roy near at least one kid who is going to desperately need a mentor. It integrates the Arrows more closely with the League.

But he's pretty sure there's more to it, and he's proven right when, as the meeting ends, Roy nods to him.

"That's us," Will says, glancing down to Thad. "Probably you too, Bart."

Bruce and Slade linger near the door as Will moves up, but he's surprised when Wally zips away.

"He's just going to get Iris," Roy says. "She should be here."

Which confirms to Will the obvious: they're going to talk about the boys.

Thad inches closer, and Will reaches down, resting a hand on Thad's shoulder.

"Remember what I said," he says carefully.

That seems to calm Thad down in time for the meeting to actually start. Bart's taken a seat near Wally, who's sitting just beside Roy, and Will is having a hard time not noticing that Thad is more or less refusing to even look at Iris where she sits on Roy's other side.

She's looking at him though.

"I've already talked with Iris," Roy says. "Part of me living in Central City is going to be mentoring the speedsters as best I can. Obviously a real speedster would be better, but... well, they'll have to make do with me."

"I live near Barry's old apartment," Iris says. "So it'll be easy for the boys to go between—"

"Thad's staying with me," Will says, and the room goes dead silent. Iris looks baffled, and Roy's eyebrows furrow together in confusion. Thad won't look at any of them right then.

Bart, on the other hand, looks horrified, leaping to his feet.

"What?" Bart says. "You can't! He's my brother, and—"

"I get you want to support him," Roy says, "but wouldn't he do better with his brother? With another speedster who can help train him? A normal life..."

"He's my son," Iris says firmly, and Will recognizes the pain on her face. "He should be with me. With... us."

"All those are excellent reasons," Will says, "but none of them matter. He's spent the last four months with me. I'm the one he knows."

He should have said it's his choice. But he doesn't want to put the focus on Thad. Thad's already made his choice painfully clear, and he doesn't want Thad to feel forced to admit it in public if he doesn't have to.

"I know you've been living with him," Roy says, "but you aren't his dad. He needs family."

"Alright," Bruce says loudly. He seems to have been trying to stay out of it, but is obviously interceding as Roy becomes more and more agitated. "You both want what's best for Thad, but he's old enough to make his own choice about where he wants to live."

Will suddenly feels like he's being dragged into the divorce proceedings he managed to dodge the first time around.

Everyone's looking at Thad. It's the exact scenario Will didn't want. Thad squirms in place, refusing to look directly at anyone, and Will's half expecting him to simply bolt the way he did the last time he was in a stressful situation like that.

"I want to stay with Will," he says.

Roy looks genuinely confused, as if he can't figure out why, and Will reaches out, ruffling Thad's hair. It's obvious enough to him that Thad responds well to physical affection, and right then he needs the reassurance.

 Bart zips forward, stopping in the seat beside Thad, and leans forward. For a moment, Will thinks he's squeaking, and then realizes that Bart is simply speaking, talking so fast that Will's brain simply can't process it. Beside him, Thad seems to vibrate, responding to Bart just as fast.

It's like an argument being played through on fast forward. Every so often someone's voice raises or they make a gesture, but they're done so fast no one around them can even react.

And then Bart is suddenly gone, and Will has to scan the room to spot him leaning against Iris, obviously upset.

Thad's right back to not looking at them, and he leans against Will's side as Will wraps an arm around his shoulders.

"Is that sorted?" Will asks, and there's a lot of confused glancing around by more or less everyone.

"I... think?" Roy says, glancing around. "I..." He pauses, then takes a deep breath. "Thad, if you ever want to come stay with us, just... call, alright? And you can always come visit. Or Bart can come visit you."

"That's one of the big advantages of being a speedster," Wally says. "You can get anywhere you want really fast." He's clearly trying to lighten the mood, but there's only so much that can be done to fix it right then.

"We need to pick up our suits," Bruce says, clearing his throat. "Should we pick up any for you...?"

"We've got our own," Roy says. "Thank you, though. I... we'll see you at the funeral."

Will's just happy to get out of the room as fast as possible, ferrying the obviously upset Thad along with him.

They're going to need to have a talk.

Chapter Text

Will assumes the talk is going to have to wait, but it's obvious that Bruce and Slade have had the same exact line of thought, because they make time almost immediately.

"Why don't you two wait here," Bruce says, patting Will's shoulder. "That way we have more room in the car for the suits. This hotel's closer to the service anyway."

Thad goes stiff, and it's clear everyone in the room knows just what's going on. Joey shoots Will a sympathetic look as Will steers Thad back to the empty conference room to wait, and every step of the way the tension in Thad's shoulders gets tighter.

"Sit down," Will says, and Thad does.

He's bracing himself, Will realizes. Thad's preparing himself for a fight. For a lecture.

Maybe even to be told he needs to go with Bart.

So Will does what he can to ease his concerns, pulling a seat over so he can sit down just in front of Thad, clearing his throat as he does. It's just the two of them, which is what he wants. Privacy. A chance to be open.

"I'm going to tell you something I should have told you a while ago," Will says. "I just didn't know it would be important. I didn't realize you'd be... having these thoughts."

Bart wouldn't need the same sort of conversation. Thad, though? Thad needs it.

Thad's hands ball into fists, and he doesn't meet Will's eyes.

"Look at me," Will says. He has to say it twice before it sticks, and Thad finally lifts his head, the corners of his eyes prickling with tears. His frustration and anguish is impossible to miss. He thinks he's in trouble. He thinks he's going to be sent away, or told he should be more open. Something.

"I spent my whole life being told that family was family. It was, to me, a blessing and a curse. It meant I could never escape my own shitty parents. No matter what I did or where my life went, it didn't change that my father was a drunk living in the middle of nowhere, or that my mother was a monster who abandoned her kid into an awful situation. I couldn't escape that. But it was a blessing, too. When I had my own kids, it meant they were always going to be mine. It meant that no matter what I did or what happened, they couldn't escape me."

It hurts to say it, but at the same time it feels right. It feels like, in a lot of ways, a revelation.

But in a lot of ways it also feels like something he's known for a long time.

"But they did. Joey and Rose chose to leave me. I became... incensed by the idea. That they could leave. That Joey could cut ties with me when I had never been able to cut ties with my own father. I chose to go after him. And while here, I got... a new perspective. A new understanding.

"Damian isn't Slade's son by blood. Jason isn't either. But they're still his sons. The more I watched them, the more I understood, the more I realized that I was... I was mistaken. Family isn't an eternal bond. It's not something that ties people together that can't ever be broken. Family are the people you choose. Slade chose Jason and Damian. Damian and Jason chose Slade. Damian is Bruce's son because Bruce chose him and he chose Bruce, not because years ago Bruce slept with Talia."

Thad looks almost hopeful. It's obvious he can tell where Will is going, but he's terrified that he's wrong. He doesn't want to show any reaction to something that isn't confirmed.

"Over the next while, people are going to get on your case about the fact that you're Barry's son. About the fact that you're Iris's son. But I'm right here, right now, telling you that they don't understand. Just because you're biologically related to them doesn't mean you're indebted to them. It doesn't mean you have to have a relationship with them. If you want to, you can. But if you choose not too... well, you can do that too. What matters is that you have the choice."

"...Even Bart?" Thad says, his voice quiet.

"Even Bart."

Will wants Thad and Bart to be friends. He wants them to be close. But if Thad isn't ready, forcing him isn't going to help. Forcing them to be brothers when Thad doesn't think of him as a brother is just going to make everything bitter and uncomfortable.

"The door is always open," Will says. "If you aren't ready to talk to Iris or Bart or Wally right now, you don't have to. But what I want to say—the whole reason we're having this conversation—is because I wanted to be clear about how things are. About the state of things."

Will swears Thad leans forward ever so slightly in anticipation.

"Joey's not my son because I'm his biological father. He's my son because I chose him, and because he chose me. And we're the same way. If you want me to be your dad, then I'll be your dad. If you just want me to be a team lea—"

"No!" Thad blurts. "No, I want—I want that."

Thad zips out of his seat, throwing his arms around Will's shoulders, and Will pauses for a moment before hugging him back.

"Well good," Will says. "Because I've got plenty of plans, alright?"

Maybe not as many as he's implying right then, but he figures a bit of detail fudging isn't too bad right then.

"Joey seems to like you too," he adds. "I think he's excited for a chance to get to play big brother, so indulge him a bit, alright?"

Thad nods his head, pulling back to look up at Will, and Will reaches down, ruffling his hair.

"Why don't we go sit in the lobby?" Will says. "So we can see them when they get back."

Thad reaches up, wiping at his eyes, and nods.

"Okay."

Will doesn't take his hand, but he sticks close to Thad anyway as they head out of the room. Thad still sticks close to him, but he looks less terrified—like he's no longer worried he's going to be abandoned at any moment.

It's probably for the best. 

Chapter Text

They sit in the lobby, waiting for everyone else to get back. It isn't their hotel, so they can't go up to their rooms, and Will doesn't want to loiter in the swanky looking restaurant when they might have to go at any minute. 

Sitting in the lobby, it's hard to miss that there's guards posted down one wing.

Will plays with his phone, pulling up a few news sites, and manages to put some pieces together: royalty and other political officials.

There's not much in the way of celebrities getting to go to the funeral, but royalty? Will finds a list of a dozen countries expected to send representatives and spends the next few minutes reading the public's thoughts on the matter. While the League mostly operated within the confines of the US, in times of crisis they'd crossed international borders, and plenty of people considered themselves indebted to them.

Will's pondering heading to the bar for a drink when there's a small commotion down the guarded wing, and he turns to look just in time to see a face he recognizes.

Brion Markov, who must be either the prince or king of Markovia.

Which immediately opens a half dozen questions Will hadn't given even the tiniest bit of thought to.

"Thad," Will says, and the younger boy looks up, surprised to be addressed. "Go keep the prince from leaving."

Thad probably has no idea which one the prince is, but simple context clues make it pretty damn obvious. He doesn't even ask why, just zips over to chat animatedly with one of the guards, which brings the procession to a screeching halt immediately.

Will, on the other hand, makes use of the very best resource he has: the internet.

Aware he's got limited time, he simply googles Brion Markov sister.

The first result is on Wikipedia, which confirms to him what he suspected: Brion is the royal leader of Markovia, and he's got a half-sister whose whereabouts are unknown following a coup years back.

Which lines up with what Will knows.

He gets up, heading towards where the guards are trying to shoo Thad away, and inserts himself into the conversation.

"Excuse me," he says pointedly. Most of the guards obviously have no idea who he is, but at least a few startle, obviously alarmed. "I won't disrespect you by pretending like you don't already know who I am, Prince Markov." King Markov? He supposes it doesn't matter. "I have some information you might find relevant."

Will's never really dealt with Brion before, but he knows him by reputation. He knows his powers, assuming he even has them, but it's his family is what's relevant to Will right then.

"Some information...?" Brion asks. The guards are clearly uncomfortable with someone who went by Deathstroke being so close to their monarch, and Will tries not to enjoy their discomfort too much.

"Confidential information, which I imagine you would not want shared with your army of guards."

"You want to be alone with the King?" One of the guard says, sounding torn between horror and amusement at the very idea.

"He's not some random passerby off the street," Thad says. He seems a thousand times more sure of himself right then than he has at any point in the past few days. "He's a direct associate of the Justice League who just helped prevent an alien invasion."

"He is—"

"Otto," Brion says firmly. "We are here as guests. I have nothing to fear from him. You can wait outside."

Brion gestures to an empty conference room. Will suspects his guards are all about to simultaneously pop a blood vessel, so he nods to Thad, not wasting time.

"Watch the front for Bruce, will you? I shouldn't be long."

Brion has a particularly intense look on his face as he steps into the side room, looking Will up and down. Brion's already dressed for the funeral in finery that wouldn't look out of place in a royal court, and Will is... not.

"I'll cut to the chase," Will says. "Am I correct in assuming you're currently searching for your missing half-sister?"

Brion's mouth drops open.

"My sister? You know about Tara? I knew you were from another dimension, but..."

"I can't vouch for how accurate my information is or isn't in this world. Things tend to be mostly the same, but there's a lot of differences. Bruce didn't retire in my world, for one. He's not public, for another. But core elements are the same... he's still Batman in both."

"And you knew what happened to my sister in your own world...?"

That's putting it lightly.

"How old would she be, give or take?"

Brion looks pretty young—in his early twenties at most. Terra's supposed to be younger, but Will was never clear on how young.

"Fifteen."

"At that point in my universe she was around Boston. No idea why she never made any attempt to go back to Markovia."

"In Boston?!" Brion asks. Will's clearly just blown his mind by the very idea. "Why would she be in Boston?"

"Never asked," Will says. "In my universe she was going by Terra. She had earth manipulation powers."

"I have—"

"The same powers, basically," Will confirms. "I guessed. Going to warn you right now: in my world she was working as a mercenary even as a kid. Lots of places kids can go that adults can't."

"I will do... everything in my power to find her," Brion says. He seems genuine—maybe even hopeful. Like he'd given up on ever seeing his sister again, and Will's just given him the first clue he's ever gotten.

Will counts it as a point in his favor as someone knocks at the door.

"Your majesty, the... the young boy was asking for—for Deathstroke." 

 "That's my ride," Will says. "Look for your sister. Bring her home before she gets herself into trouble."

"I... thank you," Brion says, and Will makes a point of exiting before the prince— King —can get too choked up or sentimental.

Thad's waiting outside, pretending like the guards can actually keep him back as Will heads over to him.

"They're here?"

"Waiting outside," Thad confirms. "Did you finish?"

"Did enough," Will confirms. "Lets go, we've got places to be."

 Places neither of them want to go, but they're going to need to make an appearance anyway.

Chapter Text

Will hates the funeral. He's never liked funerals as a general concept, but Barry's funeral is the worst he's been too. There have to be more than two or three hundred people there, and that's with tight security around the entire cemetery keeping people out. There's media. There's paparazzi. There's multiple news crews.

The League's up near the front, and Will lends up somewhere in the middle, sandwiched between Thad and a woman he doesn't know. He scans the crowd, picking up familiar faces, and gets a hard look from Joey sitting just in front of him.

You look miserable, Joey signs.

"I am," Will says quietly. Someone's in the middle of a speech up near the front, and while Will thinks he might be the mayor, he doesn't really care. This isn't his city. These aren't his people. The only reason he's even there is because the Wilson-Waynes are.

He just wants it to be over.

The only consolation is that Thad obviously has it even worse than him. He's sinking down into his seat as if desperately hoping that no one recognizes any sort of similarity he has to Barry.

There's a brief gust of air and Bart is suddenly crouched down in front of Thad, staring up at him. Great. Fantastic. Right in the middle of a funeral neither of them wants to be in.

"You aren't angry at me, are you...?" Bart says quietly.

Thad looks at Will for a moment, and then down to Bart, shaking his head.

"I'm not mad," he says as Will wonders to himself why they couldn't do this after. "I just... want to be me first. Then I can...  I could be your brother."

Bart's face lights up, and he shoves a scrap of paper into Thad's hand.

"Mom got me a phone. So you can call me any time, alright?" He glances over his shoulder at lightning speed, and then is looking right back to Thad. "I'll see you soon!"

And then he's gone. Quite a few people down the row look confused by the sudden wind, but most of them are at least familiar enough with the League and it's members that the occasional gust of wind is no big deal.

Thad shoves the number into his pocket and sinks back down into his seat.

There seem to be an endless number of speeches. People from Central City talking about how Barry saved them. Members of the League talking about what a vital part of the League he was, and how he'll be missed. Wally has a speech of his own about how he wishes he had time to get to know Barry better.

Bart doesn't have a speech. If Will angles his body the right way, he can see Bart where he sits with Iris, and it's obvious even from a distance that both are absolutely miserable. Thad beside him is effectively stoic, and Will's relieved he already gave him the it's alright not to cry speech.

The funeral seems to take forever—and very nearly does—but eventually the casket is lowered, the final words are said, and everyone starts to go their separate ways.

Slade slides over to them before they can go far.

"League and family reception," he says. "So stick around and then they're going to bus us over."

At the very least League and family will be less torturous... and less public.

He's right: the venue is private and discreet, and it gives them time to socialize on their own terms. Or not socialize, in their case. Thad sticks close to him, and Will stays near the edges of the room, keeping an eye on everyone else.

At one point Joey catches him looking, signing to him discreetly.

Titans near west wall. Go talk to Roy.

Will frowns, but Joey is better at... well, everything related to socializing than him, so he simply does as he's told.

"Looks like some of your team's over there," he says. "Why don't you go talk to them?" From where he's standing he can see at least Jon and Soranik, and he taps his hand on Thad's back, sending him over without much protest.

He finds Roy after some searching, standing alone as he stares at the small display. One of Barry's masks is visible, and Roy won't take his eyes off it.

"Doing alright?" He asks, and Roy glances over, wincing when he sees him.

"As well as anyone can expect, I guess," Roy says. He's got a drink in one hand, and Will considers an anonymous tip to Jason before deciding that would probably be overstepping.

"He didn't mean it to be a rejection of you," Will says. "He just needs time on his own, to let himself... learn who he is."

"He's Barry's son. That's who he is."

Will is struggling to imagine a scenario where the conversation goes well, so he opts to avoid it instead.

"Half expected to see his suit on display."

"Couldn't," Roy says, taking another gulp. "Suit's cut in half. It would just be... it would just be grim."

"Heat vision?" Will asks casually, eager to confirm a suspicion, and when Roy nods, Will frowns. "Which means he died instantly."

Roy doesn't get his meaning, staring down at the mask.

"He didn't suffer."

Which wasn't at all what Will meant.

"Which means his final words weren't saying what the boys would be alright," Will says. He shouldn't be angry. He knows he shouldn't be angry, but that doesn't change that he is. He hates the idea of lying to them, of telling them that his final thoughts were of them, when really his final thoughts were probably simple shock.

"Does it matter?" Asks Roy, looking at him with confused horror. "Does it really fucking—they needed to believe he was thinking about them—"

"Lying doesn't help."

"Don't tell them. For fuck's sake, let them believe he was thinking about them." Will's doing just fine keeping his voice quiet, but Roy isn't, his volume raising with every word.

"Thad doesn't need that. Thad doesn't need—"

"Whoa," Bruce says, inserting himself into the conversation by physically moving between them. "Let's all calm down."

Will feels a flutter of frustration. He hasn't done anything wrong. All he's done is tried to stick up for his kids. For Thad.

Jason intercepts Roy, pulling him away from the crowd, and Will turns away. Steve's suddenly there, pulling Will away before there can be a scene, and Will shakes him off.

"I'm going outside," he says. "Going to get some air."

Air sounds like a good idea right then.

Chapter Text

Will sits out back and stares out at the parking lot. The hall they're occupying isn't anything fancy, and the parking lot isn't much to look at. Even so, it's better than being inside. There's an ashtray and a few empty bottles and Will suspects the staff normally use the stoop he's sitting on to go outside and smoke, but he's also pretty sure they're going to give him plenty of space right then.

There's a gust of air and Thad's sitting down beside him.

"You left," he says.

"Needed some air. Needed some... space."

"Because you fought with Roy?"

"We didn't fight," Will grumbles. "We had a disagreement."

"About what?"

The war in Will's head about whether or not to tell Thad ends almost immediately.

"Barry died instantly," Will says. "He didn't have any final words."

He's expecting some kind of a reaction, but he doesn't get one. Thad just stares at him as if waiting for Will to say something else. It's only after a little bit that he finally clues in that Will's said his piece and answers.

"I knew that," he says. "There's no way he'd be thinking about us. When people die, they think about themselves. Or... or he died saving Roy, so maybe he'd think about Roy..."

Will doesn't need Joey to tell him what to do right then. Thad's on the wrong side, so he simply gets up, scoots over, and then sits down with Thad on his right so he can put his arm around Thad's shoulders.

"Doesn't mean anything about you," Will says. "Roy shouldn't have lied."

"Bart's probably happier with the lie," Thad says. "He would want to think that."

Will can't help but feel like Thad's better at the whole emotion thing than he is.

"Probably," he agrees. "You're not going to tell him?"

Thad shakes his head, and after a moment he leans more heavily against Will. Will feels like he should say something, but he simply doesn't know what. He doesn't know what he's supposed to say, or how he's supposed to say it.

"Will you promise me something?" Thad asks, and Will stiffens, already paranoid.

He's not good with promises.

"Depends on what it is," Will says. He's learned not to agree to anything without knowing the details. Maybe he shouldn't be treating Thad like someone he's going to take a job from, but it's the only way he knows how.

"Promise you won't lie?"

Will raises an eyebrow.

"Lie?"

"About... things like that. I don't want to have to lie anymore to anyone. And I don't want... I don't want you to lie to me, either."

It seems almost painfully simple, and Will doesn't really need to think about it, giving Thad a nod.

"I'm not one for secrets anyway. So if you ask me something, I'll tell you the truth, alright?"

Thad bobs his head, and then curls up against Will's side. Will pulls him closer even as he points out that he shouldn't.

"You should be spending time with your team," Will says. "You'll all be going your separate ways soon. It'll be hard to stay in contact with some of them." He's mostly thinking of Soranik—no cellphones in outer space.

"But I want to stay with you."

"You'll have plenty of time to be with me," Will grumbles. "But if it'll make you spend time with them, I'll go in with you."

The team's gathered together in a corner, and everyone is there. Or almost everyone—there's no sign of Bart, but that's probably for the better.

Damian's sitting in a wheelchair and Will suspects he's been forbidden from leaving it. Jackson's got a cast around his leg that's obviously Atlantean, while his crutches are just as clearly human.  Jon, Mia, Tanya, Soranik, and Siracca are gathered around their injured comrades in a loose circle, and it's impossible for Will not to notice how banged up most of them are. There are hints of bandages peeking out from under their formal wear, and the group seems to part automatically when Thad and Will arrive, letting them join the circle.

"Good timing," Jackson says. "We were just talking about plans."

"There's going to be a meeting tomorrow," Jon says. "They're going to talk about what the League wants to do with Kandor."

"And us," Siracca adds. "They're going to talk about disbanding the team."

The simple fact is that the team is being disbanded one way or another. There's simply no other option. With two of their members completely out of commission and several more nursing minor injuries, it's simply not plausible to carry on as they have been.

Which doesn't even touch on Will's own motivations, but the less said of that, the better. Will doesn't even want to think about it.

"I know you were all probably hoping I'd stay, but..." Soranik pauses and then clears her throat. "My parents have relocated to Betrassus. While my original intention was to go back and live with them to try and make a life there..." She hesitates, eyes sweeping the crowd as if double checking to make sure no nosy adults are nearby. "...I decided I should give being a Lantern a real shot. Being on this team made me wonder if it wouldn't be... I don't know, helpful? If it wouldn't be better, anyway."

"You're required to come visit," Damian says matter-of-factly. Soranik cracks a smile at the demand.

"Of course," she says. "Hal says he comes out to check in with earth pretty often, so I'm sure I could tag along."

"Well, I'm not going anywhere," Tanya says matter of factly. "I already spoke to Victoria, and she said the base is still staying open. So at least for now, I'm going to stay there. Maybe I'll... I mean, it might be a bit lonely, so I might move into the dorms."

"You're going to stay at Stanford?" Damian asks. His words are slow and faltering, and it's clear he's still on a lot of painkillers. Tanya nods, and gives him a small smile.

"We learned a lot. Professor Stein is taking me on as a research assistant, and we're going to see if we can't... well, figure out how this all works a bit better. A better understanding of other dimensions and time travel would help everyone."

"Plus, you seemed to like that best," Thad points out. "You were always the happiest when talking about school."

Tanya goes red, and Damian huffs.

"Nothing to be embarrassed about, Tanya."

"What about you?" She says, firing right back at Damian. "How are you doing?"

Damian shrugs, cringing as he does, and leans back a bit more heavily against the chair.

"Tired," he says. "I'll be recovering for a few months at least."

"And your... your eye?"

Will's surprise Damian doesn't reach up. It's a tendency people have, touching at the damaged part. He did it himself a lot, and he's not sure if Damian's mastered his instincts so firmly, or if he's just too drugged up to move.

"I am unlikely to regain vision in it. The eyeball itself is damaged, so I will be recovering with my family until I'm well enough. Then I suppose I'll have to decide if I wish to continue university or not."

"Focus on recovering," Mia says. "Your health comes first."

"What about your health?" Jon asks. "We didn't exactly eat dinner at a normal time..."

Will's never been exactly clear on who knows what about Mia's condition. He knows that all of them know she takes pills regularly. He also suspects that at least half the team knows—or at least strongly suspects—why. But he's not clear if they understand how important it is right then.

"I brought some with me," Mia says. "Thad reminded me right before we went." She turns and grins at Thad, who goes pink at the acknowledgement. "I'm still on track." She pauses, looks the group over, then snorts. "I guess I'm the only one without any plans? I'll probably go back to Star City and go back to what I was doing before. They're going to need more help with Roy leaving for Central."

"Well, that isn't far," Tanya says. "So if you ever want to drop by... base is still open."

"I might end up coming to visit sooner rather than later," Jackson says. "Obviously I'm going to have to heal my leg, but... I liked being part of a team. I liked... what we had. It'll take a while but... I think I'm going to talk with Arthur and see if I can't restart the team when I'm better."

Everyone is suddenly looking at Will. They're expecting him to weigh in. To decide.

Will's already made his decision. He made it the moment he pressed the auto-injector into his neck and pushed the button.

"You'll make a good team leader," he tells Jackson. "You should reach out to Nightwing. I'm sure he'd have some good advice."

They're looking at him. Will wonders what they were expecting—did they think he was coming back? Did they think things would go back to the way they were?

"...You really aren't coming back?" Siracca asks, her voice never raising over a whisper. Jackson leans over, wrapping an arm around her shoulders, and it's clear she's upset.

Will looks away. He feels like he's failed them again. As good as he was supposedly doing, all of that's meant nothing.

Siracca's lower lip puckers, right on the edge of tears, and it's Jon who intervenes.

"You've got to retire because of your arm, right? Because even if you could be a one-armed her—crimefighter, you've got to learn to adjust, right?"

Will remembers the promise he just made and tries to stick to it.

"No," he says. "I could go back to work with this." He's had worse. The arm's going to take time to adjust to, but he can make do. "I nearly got you all killed. Things went well. Really well. But they might not have—"

"That's bullshit," Soranik announces, and Will's momentarily stunned into silence as his brain tries to process what the hell he just heard.

"Agreed," Mia says. "You were a great coach. Without your training, things would have gone terribly. Everyone's crediting us for saving the day by stealing Kandor since we came up with the plan, but we wouldn't have the skills to enact the plan without your training."

"Plus, you took on a Kryptonian single handedly," Jackson points out. "Just like you always said you could."

"You were the best coach we could have hoped for," Tanya says. "You did a great job."

Will has a response. He knows there's a response to this. A way to... to explain to them that it's his fault. That Damian wouldn't be in a wheelchair. That Jackson's leg wouldn't be broken. He just has to... he just has to put the thoughts together.

Thad reaches up, wrapping his arms around Will's shoulders as he pulls him closer, and Will registers that he's crying. He's choked up. He tries to turn away, only Thad won't let him, and Will isn't willing to simply drag Thad along like he might have once upon a time.

Tanya hugs him from the other side, and then Jon joins in. Pretty soon everyone is getting in on it, while Damian insists that Jon give Will a hug on his behalf as well.

Will doesn't know what he did to deserve his team.

Chapter Text

Will doesn't even up finding out what Siracca or Jon were going to do. He's too tired for that, too emotionally wrung out. He's not the only one: everyone in the group seems uninterested in talking about the future, so instead they talk about the past. They swap stories. They chat. Things are, in a lot of ways, almost painfully normal. Amazingly normal, even.

They're just another pack of kids with nothing strange or terrible happening.

Every so often things dip into a less than normal topic, but even then it's easy enough to gloss past. No one gets tripped up when Thad talks about seeing the stars for the first time. No one's that surprised when Siracca ever so casually mentions having been dead.

It's not normal, but it's close enough.

Will stays with the kids, away from the rest of the adults. He doesn't want to talk to Roy right then, and he figures it would be better if he just outright avoided him. Best for everyone, he imagines.

Bruce stops by around the time people start to drift out, reaching down to rest a hand on Damian's shoulder. The tone's more quiet and somber than it was, but at the very least it isn't grim.

"We should be getting back to the hotel," he says. "You're all going to be at the big meeting tomorrow, and we can talk more then."

There's a lot of nodding happening, but Will's dreading going back to the hotel. Hotels don't feel like home, and right then he really just wants to go home.

But home doesn't exist. The manor's gone, absolutely obliterated, and there's absolutely no getting it back. There's no escaping that fact.

"I'll handle the chair," Will says. "I'll see everyone tomorrow morning, alright? So get some sleep."

"Yessir," Mia says with a grin.

Parts of the League drift over to grab their partners, and Joey comes over to help with Damian while Jason talks with Roy. They don't bother trying to transfer Damian into the car, instead letting Soranik and John Stewart ferry him back with their rings since they're all going to the same place. Slade goes with him so he's not just left alone, and Will's left taking everyone else back to the hotel.

When he sleeps that night, he feels strangely listless, staring up at the ceiling of the hotel room. He feels unmoored, out of place. He wants things he can't have.

He wonders about all the kids. He wonders what they're thinking. He wonders if they're okay.

Eventually he gives up on sleeping, wandering the halls of the hotel, unable to calm himself. He keeps hoping to find someone, but the hotel's quiet, and he's not enough of an asshole to bother the staff. He very nearly goes to a bar to test if his new maybe-regeneration will let him get drunk, but instead just ends up sitting in the lobby, staring at nothing and wondering when he lost the ability to stop thinking.

"How long have you been down here?" Bruce asks when he spots him the following morning. It's early, but Bruce is of course already dressed in a suit, cleaned up, and ready to go.

"A while," Will says. "I couldn't sleep."

"Next time just knock," Bruce says. "I was up most of the night anyway."

"I should go check on Thad," Will says, getting to his feet. "He'll probably be awake soon."

"If he isn't already," Bruce says, his concern written all over his face. "I'm serious though, Will. If you're upset or anything, just... let us know. We're there for you."

"Of course."

Easy to say, harder to put into practice.

Thad's still asleep when he gets back to the room, but he's awake by the time Will emerges from the shower, fully dressed.

"Did you sleep well?" Thad asks as he peeks through the shared door.

Will suddenly finds himself wondering if a promise to never lie to Thad was actually wise. It seems like it would be a lot easier if he just said yes and moved on with his life.

"No," he says. He told Thad he'd be honest, and now he's going to pay for it. Thad winces, looking Will over, and then zips forward, reaching out to take Will's hand.

"Are you okay? Did you want to talk about it? We could just—"

"I've dealt with this before," he says, before realizing that it... is that a lie? Now he's second guessing everything. "Maybe. I can handle this. I just need some time. The meeting's important, we're not skipping it."

"If you're sure..." Thad says. "I'll be done in a minute."

He means it almost literally. The only thing slowing him down is that the water needs time to warm up, but Thad's washed, dressed, and ready to go within five minutes.

Will wants to say that he's a chip off the ol' block, only he's pretty sure the super speed is a bigger factor.

Bruce, Slade, and Damian are waiting down in the lobby for them, but Jason and Joey don't join them to a little bit after Thad and Will arrive.

"Breakfast at the meeting," Slade says. "So we don't have to worry about getting food on the way."

"Lucky us," Will says dryly. He's not looking forward to whatever slop they're going to try and feed him.

The venue for the meeting isn't anything special. It's a part of city hall that they've sectioned off for the League, and it's fairly similar in layout to the one in Gotham. Will catches sight of plenty of people he recognizes, but notes a larger contingent of Atlanteans and Themyscirans present on one side of the room.

"Bruce," Dinah calls, approaching them as they grab seats. She looks to be in good spirits, offering the hand that isn't in a cast for a shake, and Bruce smiles at her as he returns the handshake.

"I was going to call you councilwoman or something like that, but I don't think we have a term for a member of the Justice League."

"Leaguer," Slade suggests.

"That sounds awful," Jason says with a huff. "How often do you even say it? Just say member of the Justice League and call it a day."

"It's nice to see everyone in one place," Dinah says. "It's a shame we don't get together more often, honestly. We should make a thing of it."

"That means leaving the cities alone," Bruce points out. "There's already been a slight uptick of crime in cities normally patrolled by members of the League."

"Everyone with a half-baked scheme decided to take advantage of our absence," Slade grumbles. Clark appears in the doorway with his entire family, and Bruce waves him over so he can take a seat near them. Jon literally flies over Bruce's head to settle in beside Damian in the aisle, grinning all the while.

Steve takes the lead when everyone's gathered, stepping up to the podium and calling everyone's attention.

"Welcome," he says. "It's great that everyone could make it. And a big welcome to everyone from Themyscira, Altantis, and... well, outer space." He looks towards the Lanterns, giving them a warm grin. "We've got a few things to go over, so I'm going to go through them pretty fast. Anyone here is welcome to chime in, although please try and be... ah, cordial about it."

Will settles back in his seat. He's not planning on talking, but he's also not entirely clear what they're going to go over, either.

"First things first... Kryptonians. Obviously, we have two distinct groups we're talking about. Zod and his forces have been handed over to the Lanterns, who I understand have already been dealing with the issue...?"

He looks up, and Hal clears his throat, getting to his feet.

"While obviously not every world recognizes the Lanterns as a police force, that is effectively what we are. We handle cases of cross-planetary aggression, and a Kryptonian invasion of Earth certainly qualifies. The sciencells on Oa are capable of holding a Kryptonian assuming we have notice, which we did. They're all contained with tried and true methods, and that will allow us to keep them from lashing out again. For the time being, keeping them there is likely the best case scenario."

"They'll be given a trial?" J'onn asks.

"I mean, as much as one is needed," Hal says. "It's not like there aren't literally hundreds of witnesses to what happened here. It would be pretty hard for them to deny it."

"They'll still be given a trial," Guy says. "So you guys don't have to worry about that."

"Alright," Steve says. "Frankly, we don't have a way to contain that many Kryptonians. It's beyond our capabilities without being given a significant amount of warning, which we didn't get. The next topic is the other half of the Kryptonians: while Zod and his men are war criminals, the bottled city of Kandor and the people trapped inside aren't. They are, as far as we're aware, innocent people who had no say or communication with Zod in all this."

"They deserve to be freed," Clark says. "I understand I'm coming from a deeply biased perspective, but I don't think that makes my thoughts invalid. They're innocent people, we have the technology to right the wrong Brainiac forced on them, and I don't see any reason we shouldn't return them to normal."

"While I understand your excitement, unleashing... who even knows how many Supermen on Earth would significantly impact the state of things globally," Diana says. "I would prefer we exercise caution on this matter."

"What are our options?" Bruce says, looking pointedly to the Lanterns.

"The Lantern from their sector has a planet picked out where they could be resized. No sapient life, basically just untamed jungles. They'd be able to spread out from there without bothering anyone else."

"But they'd be well away from Earth," Clark points out. "Our contact with them would be limited at best."

"I'd like to bring something up," Kara says, clearing her throat as she stands. "For those who don't know me—I'm a fairly recent addition to this Clark's family—my name is Kara Zor-L. In my own world, I was originally from Kandor, so as you can imagine this has a lot of meaning to me. This world's version of my parents might be in there. This world's version of me might be in there."

"Which is something we should note," Dinah says, "but it doesn't change things significantly. While it's true that the vast majority of Kandorians are going to be perfectly peaceful, that doesn't change that any one of them could wreck a human city by accident with the strength the yellow sun imbues them with."

"They wouldn't—"

"Can you really say that your city has no criminals at all?" Oliver asks. "Even just one could be devastating to Earth."

"The same could be said for Atlanteans. Any of us could cause serious damage if we came ashore with a bone to pick."

"I think the risks are significantly reduced post-invasion. Bruce and Oliver have both look steps to produce anti-Kryptonian weapons and defenses. A Kryptonian is no longer as devastating as they once were," Lois says with a pointed look towards her husband. "Training matters a great deal now."

"Was there an army there?" Diana asks Kara. "Obviously you don't know this Kandor, but there are still similarities."

"There was a military guild," she confirms, "but most of the forces were stationed outside of the city for size concerns."

"What is the population of the bottled city?" J'onn asks, and Kara goes red.

"I... don't actually know. I'm sure I knew at one point—it's probably something I saw on a history test at one point—but I honestly don't remember, and I don't want to guess and be wrong, either."

"Assuming we did resize them on Earth," Bruce says. "Where?"

"I had some suggestions for that," Steve says. "While the initial obvious choice is in the polar regions, ideally we'd want to avoid the Kandorian's feeling completely isolated. We want them to feel like a part of Earth."

"There's plenty of space in the interior of the US," Guy points. "Can't we stick t7hem there?"

"That would be a political nightmare," Bruce says. "While the majority of us are American, effectively declaring more than ten thousand Kryptonians as being American citizens would effectively be an act of war. Plenty of countries feel that the balance of power has shifted precariously in favor of America with the presence of one Superman, and the League has done everything in its power to minimize that reaction. Resizing Kandor in America..."

"Off the table," Steve confirms. "As convenient as it would be for you and your family, Clark, it's just not plausible."

"No, I understand," Clark says, although he looks a bit sad about that fact. "Do we have other options?"

"They'd have to be their own country," Diana says. "There's really no other option. But there's no land mass available where the home country would be likely to give up the space to create a whole other nation. A floating platform, perhaps...?"

She glances to the Altanteans, and Arthur nods.

"That's something we could do," he confirms. "There are several places where underwater ridges rise high enough that they could be built on or raised to create a new landmass for Kandor to be placed on. That would avoid any one country having to give up land."

"Could we trust you to look into viable places?" Steve asks, and Arthur nods. "Are we all in agreement that this is a plausible solution? I understand there may be some concerns in general about the Kryptonians, but this seems like the best possible option as things stand."

"If worst comes to worst, we can always relocate them after the fact," Guy says. "We've done large scale evacuations before."

"I've done large scale evacuations before," Hal groans. "You haven't moved more than a hundred people, Guy?"

"I was referring to the royal we," Guy fires back. "The whole Lantern corps, obviously."

"Show of hands from members of the League?" Steve says, and Will's happy he clarified. He wasn't looking forward to everyone trying to figure out if they were allowed to vote or not.

Almost every hand goes up. Diana, Hal, and Dinah keep their hands down.

"Majority has it," Steve says.

"I'd like to bring something up," Will says, and suddenly every eye in the room is on him as he gets to his feet. "You all know me. I'm not going to pretend like you don't. While we were on the ship, we fought two Kryptonians: one of those was nothing more than a kid."

"You're talking about Lor-Zod," Steve says, checking his notes. "Dru-Zod's son. That's... general Zod, for everyone else."

"I wanted to know what was going to happen to him," Will says.

"I had the same concerns," Clark says, giving Will an appreciative smile. "I intended to keep track of him, but other things took my attention."

"He's with the rest of the Kryptonians in the sciencells," Hal says, obviously wary of the subject. "We moved them as a group."

"He was a kid," Jon says.

"He was a kid who can punch through walls," Guy says.

"He shouldn't be in jail," Will says. "He should be transferred to Kandor at the first opportunity. They can deal with him."

"They might not want him," Hal points out. "I know no one wants to be the kind of person who puts a kid in jail, but he's dangerous, and he wasn't exactly friendly when we contained him."

"Can we at least look into it?" Jon says. "It's... it's not good that he's sitting there. He's probably lonely."

"Unless someone objects," Clark says, "I'm going to go with the Lanterns and get him."

It wasn't at all what Will was thinking, but he supposes Clark's as good a person as any to handle things.

"You should be here," Kara says. "I'll go. I can handle one kid. I'll stay in contact while I'm gone."

Clark grumbles a bit, but doesn't argue with Kara.

"There's also the matter of the ship," Clark says after a moment's hesitation. "I'm going to look into it a bit more, but I think at least some of the technology on board could potentially be re-purposed for use here."

"I'll have an ARGUS science team prepared to assist," Steve says. "Next subject..." He flips through his notes. "Teen Titans?"

Crap. That's him.

"What about them?" Will asks.

"General overview," Steve says. "The program was effectively a pilot to see if it could be done. We should reassess."

Fantastic. Suddenly Will feels like he's the one on trial.

"We're disbanding," he says. "Two of ours got hurt in the attack."

"What Steve is getting at," Bruce says, clearing his throat, "is that he was hoping you'd assess how the program did in general."

It's the sort of thing Will probably wouldn't have minded doing if he'd been given some goddamn warning. As it stands, he has to wing it directly in front of the people he's assessing.

"The program was successful. Team cohesion in the group is excellent. They have each others backs, and I don't see any reason why they wouldn't continue being friends moving forward. The largest drawback is having a single mentor puts the focus heavily on one person. It means any of my failings became their failings. Ideally, a program like this would have multiple mentors swapping out to avoid the issue."

"I disagree," Tanya says.

"Agreed," Damian hops in. More or less his entire team doesn't hesitate to hop right on in, dog-piling their disagreement as Will reaches up to rub at the bridge of his nose.

"This isn't up for discussion," he says as his team gangs up on him. It's the second damn time they've plotted behind his back, because Will doesn't doubt for a single second that they planned something like this happening. "We—"

"Yes it is," Siracca says, getting to her feet. "Will was a great mentor. If there's going to be another Teen Titans, he should be in charge."

Most of the adults in the room look absolutely baffled. They're missing most of the context of what's happening, and all they can do is gawk.

"I... don't think the Titans are going to resume operations normally," Steve says carefully. "At least not right away. Everyone has things they need to be doing. Your teammates have to recover."

"Why don't we reconvene in a set period of time?" Bruce suggests. "We'll see how everyone feels then, and maybe we can look into the possibility of a second iteration."

"August," Tanya says. "So that we have the summer to learn to work together, and then we can start school again."

"Deal," Jackson calls. Everyone else is suddenly chiming in, and Will can hear Clark's boys pestering him to be on the team almost immediately.

Will drags his hand down his face.

"Alright," Bruce says, "what else is on the agenda?"

Steve shuffles through his papers, looking up with a shrug. "We went through this a lot faster than I expected," he admits. "So I think we can call things here. Meeting adjourned."

Will already knows the ambush is coming, and he is not looking forward to it.

Chapter Text

The meeting being over means that, inevitably, everyone is going to leave. It won't be immediate. It won't even be quick. Some might linger a few more days, waiting for things to finish.

But it's over, and there's no going back.

Thad tows Will by the arm towards a growing cluster of teenagers near the back of the room. Will's not clear if he planned it out with them or if they all simply had one single unified purpose. He doesn't think it really matters.

"I brought him," Thad announces as they arrive. Jon still isn't there yet, nor is Soranik, but Will doesn't think they'll be long, either. It's a goodbye, and there's no way they'll let themselves be left out.

"I never asked," Will says pointedly, looking at Siracca. "Did you have plans?"

"I want to keep going to school," she says. "Diana says that's probably a good idea, too. There are some Themyscirans in Metropolis near the League headquarters, and she says she could probably get me into school there. Then I could still see Jon!"

Will doesn't really get why Jon still goes to school in Metropolis rather than just attending some place in Gotham, but then he never did pay much attention to things like school districts.

"Who's seeing me?" Jon asks, dropping down from the ceiling to join the group.

"Siracca says she might move to Metropolis," Thad says. "Then you could be in the same class."

Jon's face lights up at the mention, obviously excited by the prospect.

"That'd be great! I could see you at school, and you could see my friends, and—" He glances around, realizing everyone's staring at him, and goes pink, fidgeting as he does.

"Sounds like it'd be good for everyone," Will says. "Good to see you'll be in the area."

Soranik arrives not long after, joining the group and looking mortified that she's the last one to arrive.

"Did I miss anything? We didn't start saying goodbye or anything, did we?"

"You're fine," Will says. "We hadn't started... whatever it is you're about to start."

"Goodbyes," Mia says. "Some of us are going back to the west coast. Some of us are going to the east. We'll be far apart, and after months of living together, that'll be... strange."

"Strange is one way of putting it," Jackson says. "How am I supposed to make do without Will's cooking? How am I going to remember to brush my teeth without Soranik reminding me that my weak human teeth are going to need attention?"

Soranik grins at him, her teeth a stark white that contrasts sharply with her skin.

"You'll manage."

"But do I want to?" He asks with a laugh. "Guess I just have to wait till August, and then we'll see if I can't wrangle some of you up again to start this up again."

"I'll keep it in mind," Damian says. "I'm not sure if I'll be medically cleared by then."

"You'll always have a spot on the team anyway," Jackson says. "I'm not going to cap the limit or anything. Or I guess I will if there aren't enough rooms, but... you know what I mean."

"Don't let my brothers join," Jon says, leaning in as if that would stop them from overhearing. "There are too many of them. The team would be unbalanced."

"I think they're happy staying with your father," Will says, rolling his eyes. "And you've all got plenty of things to do."

They sure as hell do. Of all of them, Clark's family is going to be by far the busiest. They have to deal with Lor-Zod. They have to deal with Kandor. They've got to move their things back into the house... it's a lot.

Siracca decides the few seconds of silence are a great opportunity to latch onto Will's legs, hugging him tightly as Will stares down at her, baffled.

"You were a good teacher," she says. "You shouldn't beat yourself up."

"Agreed," Damian says. "If you continue to insist that you were a poor mentor, I will take it up with the League."

"You'll what?"

"I will take it up with the League. I will continue to escalate how valuable you were as a mentor until there is no question of your ability."

"Are you... threatening to file compliments with the League?" Will asks, absolutely baffled.

"Oh, we're already doing that," Mia says. "I've made it very clear with Dinah how I feel about things. Your particular brand of doesn't-screw-around is great with our age group." She's grinning as she says it, and Will can't quite sort out how he feels with being threatened with compliments.

"I could have done better," he says tentatively, expecting to be countered. He is.

"Of course you could have," Tanya says. "Everyone could have done better. That's part of life... being able to look back and realizing that you could have done so much better than you did at the time. But you did the best you could have at the time. You learned as we learned."

"Teachers aren't supposed to be learning from their students," Will grumbles.

"I don't know who told you that," Soranik says. "Is that an Earth thing? The understanding on Korugar is that a teacher will learn from their students. That things are best when there is an exchange of ideas, even if it is unequal."

Siracca is still latched onto him and is showing no signs of letting go. Will's actually starting to worry if she is going to let go. What if she just... holds on? What if he can't get her off without prying her off?

"We should say goodbye," Jackson says. "I know Arthur wants to hit the water soon."

"To find a home for Kandor, right?" Jon says. None of them seem particularly bothered by Will's position, which he attempts to remedy by reaching down and gently prying Siracca's arms free, setting her to the side. It's harder than it should be to do with only one arm.

She immediately latches back on.

"You're going to be Thad's dad, right?" She asks matter of factly.

Will drags his hand down his face. That's looking at him expectantly, and Will is suddenly very aware that the question has clear right and wrong answers.

"Yes," he says. "Thad's going to come live with me. As my..." Alright, he can do this. "As my son."

Will feels stupidly proud of himself for managing as well as he has, and seeing Thad obviously fighting the urge to smile makes it worth it. He reaches over to ruffle Thad's hair, but Thad darts out of the way before he can.

He's going to have to be smarter about it if he wants to catch him next time.

"Jackson?" Arthur calls from the near the front of the room, and Jackson yelps.

"Coming!" He calls, turning back to the group. "You heard the man. I can't drag this out any longer, so..."

"So it's time to say goodbye," Will says. "That means everyone. You all need to get back to your guardians."

The goodbye is miserable. It's clear the group doesn't want to part, but there's no other choice. They have to go their separate ways, and there are tears in a lot of eyes as everyone shuffles around, giving out hugs that last as long as they can make them last.

Will doesn't consider himself part of the group, but of course his team overrides him. He gets hugs from each and every one of them anyway, grumbling the whole while.

"I'm going to miss everyone," Jackson says. "Try not to have too much fun without me, alright?"

They wave him off, but they don't linger anyway. Tanya has to catch a flight, Mia needs to meet up with Oliver, and after that they trickle out one by one. In the end, it's just Damian and Thad.

"...Time to go home?" Damian asks carefully. He looks exhausted, practically nodding off in his wheelchair, and Will nods, grabbing the handles.

"Time to go," he says. "Let's go find your parents."

Not like they'll be hard to find.

Chapter Text

They don't end up going back to the hotel. They already have their things ready, and it's just a matter of heading to the airport.

Steve catches up to Will before they leave, pulling him aside as he pulls out some paperwork.

"We're getting the paperwork updated," Steve says as he shuffles through the pages. "Everything Thad did was under Bart's name, so we're having to get the school to update it all so he's properly credited. I assume he'll be going to school in Gotham?" He glances up, and when Will nods, forges onward. "Alright. Here's his ID, and—"

Wills takes one look at the card and stops him right there.

"You need to fix this," he says, sliding the card right back into Steve's hand as the man stares at him, confused. He glances down looking over the card, and then looks back up at Will.

"...Wuh?"

"You heard me," he says simply. "It's wrong. Fix it."

"It's... this is—"

"He's Thaddeus Wilson," Will says flatly. "He's not an Allen."

"Maybe you should—"

"I'm not checking with him. He's a Wilson. He's my son, and there's absolutely no reason for him to keep the Allen name. So fix it, and then get me his new ID when it's fixed."

Thad doesn't need to walk around with the constant reminder of what he is. He doesn't need to look at his name and think I am a clone every time. There's no reason for it. It's just unnecessary.

"Uh... alright," Steve says, pulling his composure back together. "I'll get that sorted out. Thaddeus Wilson everywhere? Does he have a middle name?"

He probably should have already asked Thad about it, so he wings it. "Grant."

"Thaddeus Grant Wilson," Steve says, looking Will up and down. "...Alright. Like I said, I'll get it sorted out."

He lets Will go back to the family, and Will catches Thad staring at him.

"Paperwork," Will says. "We're going to have to double time to get you registered for school. It'll be a pain."

"I can manage," Thad says. "If I wanted to, I could study everything and be done already."

"Well don't," Will says. "I want you around people your age. Adjusting and all that."

Damian grumbles in his seat at the mention.

"No school for you," Slade tells him, reaching down to give Damian's shoulder a light squeeze. "You're going to need to rest."

"My attempt at going to university can be considered a failure," Damian says, sinking farther back into his seat. "I am looking forward to seeing Alfred again."

"You've been staying in touch with him?" Will asks Slade as Bruce deals with their vehicles.

"Of course," Slade confirms. "He's been handling things without issue. Honestly, I think he's sort of enjoying having so many people listening to him all at once."

Alfred does well when he's in charge of an army of people who are being paid to listen to him, so Will isn't surprised.

"We're going to rebuild?"

"That's the idea," Jason says. "Bruce has been working on plans in his every spare moment. Don't be surprised if we end up with all kinds of new features built right into the manor."

That sounds like him, Joey signs with a grin. Always going for the next cool gadget.

"If you have any ideas or things you want to request, now's the time," Slade adds. "And no, we're not installing a kennel."

Damian sinks right back down in his seat, his excitement squashed.

"There's Bruce," Jason says. "I'm calling dibs on driving."

Jason takes Joey, Will, and Thad, while Slade and Bruce handle Damian on their own. The airport isn't far from where they were, but there's traffic, which is a special kind of torture.

"Feels like there's been a lot of sitting and waiting lately," Will grumbles. They've stuck him in the back seat, which feels... irritating in a way he's having a hard time putting his finger on.

"I don't mind it," Jason says. "After how insanely fucking stressful the last week has been, I'm happy to just sit in traffic. It's not like we have much else we need to do."

"Easy for you to say," Will counters. "I need to get Thad registered for classes, I need to get him caught up, we need to figure out where we're staying..."

There's a million things they need to do, but he doesn't actually feel like doing any of them. They pull into the airport fifteen minutes late, but one of the major advantages of flying private is that the schedule is based entirely around them.

They aren't alone though.

"We're sharing," Bruce says. "There's about thirty people from Gotham who evacuated down to Central City to stay with family. They're coming back with us."

"Already loaded up, sir," one of the ground crew calls, and Slade's already grabbing their luggage, handing it off to be stuck in last.

There's closer to forty people on board the plane when all is said and done. Everyone seems to want to thank Bruce for sharing, but Bruce actively refuses.

"Please," he says. "It's the least I can do. We're flying there anyway, so I don't see any reason why I shouldn't share. It'll be good to have other people on board."

Will doesn't agree. He'd rather have his privacy, and he makes a point of getting Thad into a window seat near the front of the plane, boxing him in while trying not to be too blatant about it.

"Feels weird," Thad says quietly, and Will glances over, eyebrows furrowing together.

"Why?"

"I have..." He hesitates, taking a few seconds to put it all together, and then speaks. "My whole life I've been a part of the team. I was barely even alive before they sent me back in time, so this feels... It feels like it's ending."

"It's not ending," Will says. "It's just starting. It'll take a bit, but we'll put things back together even better than they were before, alright? You'll have your own room, and friends, and... all that stuff. All the stuff a kid your age is supposed to have."

Thad pauses for a moment, then glances up, giving Will what looks like a surprisingly genuine smile.

"Okay," he says quietly. "But you're going to stay, right?"

"I'm not going anywhere," Will confirms. "You couldn't get rid of me if you wanted to, alright?"

Thad leans against him as the plane takes off, and Will tells himself that he's going to keep to that promise no matter what. Thad needs him. Thad's been through too much in too little a period of time, and what he needs right then is stability.

Will doesn't think of himself as particularly stable, but for Thad? He'll just have to find a way.