Chapter 1: May She Rest In Peace
The Gotham Times
Thanks to the Fallen
July 14th, 2014
It has been a year since the announced death of the heroine named Batgirl, who worked with the Caped Crusader himself. Reports have said that she was attempting to rescue both Richard Grayson-Wayne and Jason Todd. She successfully saved both of Wayne's wards, though losing here life in the process.
Today the commissioner gave a public commemoration to the heroine, and the Wayne family also thanked her. Though, the eldest Wayne ward left the ceremony early, leaving his brother to deliver a speech in his stead.
The blackened skies looming over Gotham poured heavy rain over the sorrowed city. Hundreds gathered at the steps of the police station, all garbed in black and their heads bowed in respect. The city’s streets were filled with a gloomy silence, despite the crowd, as it began to mourn its loss.
The commissioner, who looked the most dismal of them all, made his way to the podium set up in front of the station. As he walked, his face appeared hollowed and filled with sadness. It only worsened when he looked over the crestfallen concourse. Before stepping to the podium to begin, the man turned his head, looking over his shoulder at the others standing with him. The Wayne family had as much to grieve as he did. Gordon shook his head and cleared his throat, turning and stepping forward to begin, the crowd falling silent.
"People of Gotham, today we honor the loss of a hero. She had not been with us long, yet the skills of Batgirl will be dearly missed…"
Behind the commissioned, Dick stopped paying attention, his chest tightening with each word. The city was acknowledging the loss of a mask, while he was mourning the person behind it. His eyes clenched shut as he shied away, memories surging to the forefront of his mind.
"Batgirl... Babs!" Robin cried, pushing another piece of debris away.
"No. Nonono you can't be dead! Come on, answer me, please! We have to go home! Wake up!" The boy pleaded to his partner’s burnt body.
"Please, don't leave me. Don't leave... I love-..." he whispered, not being able to say it, and wishing none of this had ever happened.
“Dick. You okay man?” Jason asked, nudging his brother’s shoulder.
Dick quickly shook his head, clearing the memory from his mind as he looked to the younger boy. The blue-eyed boy had tried as hard as he could to forget that night, tried to put the past behind him. All this was doing was making it worse.
“I-I’ve gotta go,” he mumbled, stepping backwards and ducking his head down.
The boy turned his back to his family and the rest of Gotham, making his way slowly towards the stairs. His hands were stuffed deep in the pockets of his suit jacket as he walked. Why did he think that he could do that? Stand up there and listen to people talk about her without knowing what had really been lost. According to all the newspapers, Barbara Gordon had been sent off to finish her education in Europe. No one in the city, outside of Wayne Manor, truly understood who was being mourned, and that turned the teen’s weighty grief to agony.
As Dick ran through the city’s rain-blackened streets back to the Manor he was blind to any and every sensation beyond his mind. He didn't notice that he had forgotten his umbrella or left the rest of his family on the stage without so much as a word. The bitter wind bit at his bones, seeping through his already drenched clothes, yet he could not feel it. The mourning boy felt his heart ripping all over again, and it drowned out everything else.
He had to get away so that he could shut down all these horrid feelings and memories. The gates of Wayne Manor swung open for Dick and shut behind him, the boy already halfway up the path when the iron clattered to a close.
Not a thought passed through the boy’s head as he entered the manor, running on instinct and habit. Until he wasn’t. Dick stopped, face-to-face with a dark oak door, hand hovering above the brass knob. He was stuck, frozen in place where he never wanted to be again. As his breath quickened, his hand began to shake. The pain that made his mind go blank was gone, leaving the heavy guilt that he was so desperate to escape from. A phantom acrid smell invaded the space.
His hand snapped into a fist as he jerked away from her door, jaw clenched tightly and face turned away. He spun away in a rushed motion, arms at his sides and body stiff. Every step seemed to echo uncomfortably along the hall and it made the weight of his thoughts that much harder to bear. This time Dick did not let his mind escape as he made his way to the stairs, walking up and turning left, towards his own room.
He had barely made it inside the door before he leaned his back against the wall and collapsed on the floor, not having the energy to keep himself standing even a second longer. His knees were pulled to his chest, and forehead pressing against them. Everything felt like it was spiraling again. Up was down and down was up, and nothing was solid anymore. He was falling and drowning, adrift without a compass, a lifeboat or even an astrolabe.
Dick didn’t move. Or answer. Doing anything more felt as though it would be the final straw to break the camel’s back. He heard the door open and could feel Alfred’s eyes land on him. The elder man stepped into the room soundlessly, leaving the door slightly ajar as he moved to stand in front of the young man.
“Master Richard,” the butler repeated, though more of an appeal to the boy, than at him.
When Dick still gave no response, Alfred knelt down. He extended a hand and placed it on his knee, hoping to get any sort of reaction. Dick moved slowly, his head raising at a snail’s pace to meet Alfred’s eyes.
“H-how’d Bruce do it Alfred? How’d he not fall apart?” The teen asked, a glassy sheen glazing over his eyes.
The butler took a moment to respond. He often forgot that most people did not know, or forgot, just how much Bruce was still broken from his parents death. It was all the Batman really was, a manifestation of his pain and anger. The older man sighed, shaking his head gently. Loss was all too prevalent in the Wayne family for Alfred’s taste.
“But he did,” the englishman said softly, squeezing Dick’s knee again.
He nodded slowly when Dick looked at him with disbelieving eyes. “Bu…”
“Though, not until he was older.” Alfred stated, pulling his hand back as he cleared his throat. “When Master Bruce left he was no more put together than you. He was angry at the world, betrayed by it. He disappeared, training in remote regions of eastern Europe so he has told me.” Alfred gave a slight shrug, not entirely sure of the truth in that statement, though it was exactly what he had been told many times. “Upon his return, Master Bruce was in control of the anger that he had let drive him, but no less broken it seemed when he designed the Batman. Until he began to trust again. In small things mostly, and more often than not they had to do with you, young Master.” Once again Alfred paused, a long and heavy sigh left him. His eyes lifted to meet Dick’s, a warm look to them. “When one is shattered beyond repair, perhaps it was in order to build something new. To do that, one often needs new and unknown tools. A colorful suit and pixie boots, for example. ”
“Okay, seriously? You’re still bringing up the boots?” Dick groaned, head tipping forward in embarrassment.
Alfred chuckled briefly, a smile crossing his face. “Solely to serve a point,” he replied, the warmth of his smile seeping into his voice.
“That you make one silly costume and it follows you throughout your entire life?”
“That sometimes all that can truly aid in repairing something that has been broken is something that does not seem logical,” Alfred stated, unhurriedly rising to stand.
Dick lifted his head, brows knit with confusion as he watched the elder man move towards the door. He didn’t move his eyes away from the wood, even after he heard the click of the lock. So many questions were buzzing in his head now. How was that helpful advice to his question? What was telling him that Bruce had gone away to train and come back to start Batman going to do to help him move past Barbara’s death? Gradually Dick’s bewildered expression faded. His forehead relaxed and his mouth set in a tighter and tighter line, steeling himself as an idea settled in his mind.
The boy stood, eyes locking onto the closet on the other side of the room as he ran through a list of everything he had on hand that would be helpful. He began to move quickly, bounding across the room and taking out several large bags. Tossing two duffel bags on the bed, he moved to the dresser and began to pull out clothes and any of the supplies he had, from his first birdarangs to one of his prototype uniforms. The bags filled up fast, which surprised Dick. He thought that it’d be hard for him to choose things and pack, but evidently his mind was more than ready to go.
As he stood over the backpack he was filling with money and some of his smaller electronics, Dick looked over to his desk. He was searching for his holopad, but something else caught his eye. Dick walked towards the desk, a ghost of a smile cracking the determined line of the almost-scowl on his lips. He reached for the frame, cradling it in his hands as he handled it with great care, as if it would break at the slightest pressure. The faint smile grew despite the prickling that started building behind Dick’s eyes as he looked at the faces in the picture. It had been taken years ago, before… before everything.
As Dick reached to pick up a second photograph, a whoosh of air flooded into the room, startling the acrobat. He nearly dropped the picture in his arms as he spun on his heels, eyes wide and looking around the space. All he heard for a few seconds was the sound of blood pounding in his veins. His eyes narrowed as he recognized the boy pacing in front of him. Of course Wally would make that sudden of an unannounced entrance. Dick settled himself back in his skin, snorting at his friend, not listening to him.
The teen turned away from the speedster, heading towards his bed to carefully remove the photo from it’s frame. He tucked the glossy paper into the bag, nestling it in the pages of his favorite book. Still, he did not pay any attention to the redhead, who he knew was likely beginning to worry and would start asking questions. Dick walked back over to the desk, eyes on the floor as he moved to avoid making eye contact with Wally. Quickly, he grabbed another photograph and a small trinket, before starting to, once again, walk over to his bag.
However, a rough hand on his shoulder jerked him to a stop halfway there. Dick raised his eyes slowly, almost shying away when he saw the fear and perplexity on Wally’s face. The speedster pulled his hand away from his friend’s shoulder, head swaying from side to side as he tried to understand what was going on.
He had come over expecting to find Dick in a useless pile on the floor and drag his butt downstairs to play videogames, get his mind somewhere else, after getting a panicked call from Jason. But it seemed his work had been done for him. Dick was already about a hundred thousand miles away, and apparently deciding on going even further away. Before the speedster could ask any questions, he was cut off.
“I’m leaving,” Dick stated simply, eyes flicking up to meet Wally’s before darting away.
“I can see that, genius,” Wally huffed, motioning to the bags on the bed. When Dick’s head drooped and no answer came, the elder teen sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I’m sorry. Just, why?” He asked, hand dropping away and sliding into his pocket.
Another silence drug on between the two as Dick shifted uneasily from foot to foot, eyes still glued on the floor, or the walls, or anywhere but Wally’s face. Dick let out a long exhale, turning away from his friend, arms crossing over his chest. Wally watched as Dick stepped back, forcing himself to stay rooted to the floor, painful as it was to him. He tried to be patient, making his mouth stay shut to let Dick answer in his own time.
“I-I… I need new tools, and I’m not gonna find them here,” he murmured, not daring to bring his eyes up.
The acrobat could only hope that his friend understood what he was saying. There was too much hanging over him here, so many memories and too many of them always swarming him. Over and over Dick had been told that the pain would lessen, that some measure of the compunction would eventually go away. It had been over a year, yet there was no relief from the burdensome weight, that instead grew heavier and heavier upon his mind and shoulders with every new day.
He turned back to the bed, moving towards it, prepared for Wally to try stopping him again. The other boy didn’t, much to Dick’s surprise and relief. There wasn’t much more he could explain, he thought to himself as he carefully pulled the photograph from its frame and tucked it away with the first. The small figurine followed, getting placed inside one of the duffel bags with the same care.
His attention switched back to Wally as the redhead came to stand beside him, the third photo from the desk in his hands. Dick gradually lifted his eyes, uncertain what he was going to see in his friend’s face. A knot tied itself in his gut as his gaze slowly crawled up to meet Wally’s, hand reaching out to take the picture. When he clasped the photo, Dick’s eyes connected with Wally’s and a welcome wave of relief rolled over him. The tightly-knit frown from before had faded into a lax curve, melding with the vain attempt at a smile and glossy eyes to show that he did understand, that he knew how much Dick needed this.
The teen, filled with an maddening mix of peace and regret, lurched forward, throwing his arms around Wally, trapping the speedster in an almost vice-like embrace. “Thank you for understanding, Walls,” he mumbled into Wally’s shoulder.
“Just… don’t die, okay?” Wally said, voice cracking as he hugged Dick in return, just as forcefully.
It took everything both of them had to not cry as their worlds broke apart, parts of the ground feeling as though it were falling from beneath their feet. Neither wanted to lose what they had, but Wally understood that sometimes moving on and getting better had to start with goodbyes. When the grip around his torso softened, Wally pulled back and tried to force a smile on his face. Support was all he could offer now, he thought as he started to grab the backpack, handing it to Dick.
The teen swung the pack over his shoulders, reaching for his other bags as soon as it was settled on his back. As he moved, he was thinking over any and every list of the things he might need or would definitely need. Anything to not think about how safe that hug had made him feel, if only for a small second. Dick was already halfway out the door before he stopped, one hand on the frame. He looked over his shoulder, sniffling quietly.
“Don’t do anything crazy till I get back.”
“How can I? You’re taking all the crazy with you,” Wally snorted, a half-smile on his face.
It was Dick’s turn to smile then as he turned and stepped out the door. In seconds he disappeared down the hall, out of Wally’s line of sight, eventually out of the manor, and effectively out of the speedster’s life, for the foreseeable future.
A drawn out sigh left the speedster, his shoulders rolling forward and head drooping on his neck. Every ounce of willpower he had, he had put into trying to support his friend’s needs. He was being a selfless person, giving Dick what he knew the younger teen had needed. Of course Wally knew that Dick wouldn’t have stayed if he’d said that he should. At least he knew the acrobat would come back, even if that only hurt more.
Wally looked around the room. It almost seemed the same. The drawers were all closed and everything was in it’s place. Heck, if Wally hadn’t seen Dick walk out himself he wouldn’t hardly know that his best pal had decided to pack up and hit the road! Except for the desk. Four things were missing. Four things that had sat on that piece of furniture for as long as Wally could remember. Three photos that meant more than the world to Dick because of what they captured; and a small figurine that was supposed to be a robin, but looked more like a pile of goop according to most people. But Dick saw the robin, or told Wally that at least.
The speedster chuckled, smiling to himself as he looked at the desk, able to see the pictures though they were gone. One of himself and Dick in the aftermath of being the idiot goofballs they always were, trying to pull a prank on Barbara, and failing as always. The second was of Barbara Gordon surrounded by fall-colored trees at a lake’s edge, smiling like there was no evil in the world as she fed a baby duck. The last was a ridiculous, blown-up image that Dick and himself had taken in a photo booth somewhere in the first few years they’d known each other.
Wally shook his head and shoved his hands in his pockets, the happy grin fading to a faint smile. He fully intended to go find a way to drown himself in ice cream somewhere as he made to start moving towards the door. However, he was stopped in his tracks, the frames on the bed catching his eye. He stepped closer to look more carefully at them. His smile fell away as his chest tightened when he saw one of them wasn’t empty. The blurry snapshot of the Pranknamic Duo in their early years was still sitting in its frame, laying beside the two empty ones.
Wally veered away from the bed, face twisted in pain as he resisted the urge to scream or shout or punch something. Even when she was gone, Wally couldn’t measure up to Barbara, in any way. Not in what she meant to Dick, not in what she did for him… Nothing. He would always come in second, or last. No matter what the game or who the players were, Wallace Rudolph West would always rank behind everyone else no matter how much heart, soul, talent, or will-power he put into playing.
Fate seemed keen on telling Wally that he would never, ever, get the boy.
Chapter 2: Introducing Al Layla-Janah
Dick joins the Team under a new identity, meaning no one knows who this new protege is. This leads to some disagreement.
19 July, 2020
News of Black Canary’s protege’s being accepted by the Justice League has spread like wildfire. At the League’s founding she was predicted to be one of the few Leaguers, alongside Green Lantern, that would never take a protege given their specific power and skill set. Yet, the boy called Nightwing has been officially named just that. Details about the male’s mysterious powers, or the extent of them are unknown as of now.
The Cave’s halls were quiet, only a solitary person walking slowly through them. The boy hesitated with every step, as though questioning whether he really should take that next step forward. It was hardly noticeable-- only barely changing his gait, but changing it none the less as he made his way towards the conference room at the heart of Mount Justice. Dick knew the fastest route he could take, as well as the slowest. Apparently it didn’t matter how long he was away; the years he had spent inside the mountain’s walls had engrained the map into his head.
A spark of fondness from his early memories of the Cave drew a smile onto Dick’s face, something that had once been a frequent sight, but now was rare.
The faint happiness was quickly overshadowed, however, when Dick stepped around a corner and his gut clenched tightly, as though he’d received a blow. His face twisted in a grimace as he thought again of what he was getting himself into. He’d been gone six years, it was a long time for things to change… for people to change. He himself was evidence enough of that.
Dick looked down at his hands, flattening them out and showing himself his palms. To him they were calloused and scarred in some places, to almost anyone else they were different. He didn’t quite know what they looked like, but he knew they weren’t what he was seeing. No part of him was, because of the small bracelet he wore. His gaze flicked to his right wrist, looking at the black leather band and impression of the blue bird, before darting away again.
It almost made him feel sick, looking at the bird and knowing to what extent he went to remake himself. For a split second he started to reach his hand towards his throat, thinking of the scars that lay there, before he forced the hand back to his side. He refused to start being guilty over the scars or really think about them, despite not having let them be magic-ed away with the new him.
The hero stopped at the next corner, eyes on the floor at his feet. Straight in front of him was a door. He knew exactly what was behind that door. The Team, his old team that once was made of up of his friends and now, to the new him, people who would have to be strangers to him. He couldn’t imagine how any of them would react to another person being shoved onto the Team, though he hoped at least he’d be better received than Artemis had been. But that was only a hope, and one that he didn’t quite count on. Counting on things is a weakness one willingly makes for themselves.
Dick closed his eyes, muscles tensing in his jaw as he tried to gather up anything he could to make himself move again. Part of him didn’t want to though. Part of him just wanted to stay rooted at the corner or backpedal all the way to the zeta-port and leave, do anything that wasn’t moving towards that door. His brain was screaming at him to run, to not go through with making himself be a new person.
“Too late,” Dick murmured in a voice that sounded nothing like his own as he propelled himself forward, almost flying towards the door.
Before he could talk himself out of it, Dick slipped through the doors and into the room. He couldn't tell if the room had been so deathly quiet before he walked in, but he didn't linger long on the thoughts of it not having been so.
He moved instinctively towards Black Canary, standing beside her, and yet behind her. The words she continued to say were unheard by the nervous teen, his eyes not even lifting from the ground. He could guess what she was saying, and if the tension in the room was any indicator to how the others felt, then he knew what their faces would look like. Or did he, after six years?
Dick's posture shifted, his back straightening and head slowly standing taller on his shoulders. This situation was his own doing. Every single rolling emotion in his gut was put there by his own choices. He decided to leave. He chose to become someone new. He wanted to come back. The guilt twingeing in his stomach almost made him wince as he looked over to his fr-- teammates.
Some of them really looked different from the last time he had seen them, particularly M’gann and Conner. Some small changes had apparently been made, what with Kaldur actually looking like he had hair and Roy’s hair being held back in a ponytail. Not to mention Artemis’ pixie cut and, most surprisingly to Dick, Jason not wearing any sunglasses or mask. He pushed away the twinge of envy as he scanned the line again, searching for a specific mess of red hair and freckles.
The doors clattered open with a sudden fwhoosh of air, followed by a screech tearing through the room.
Everyone turned towards the newcomer, most glaring at him, while Dick looked at him with a barely concealed expression of alarm. The messy mop of red hair was the only recognizable feature of the person he was looking at. Gone were all the laugh lines that Dick had been accustomed to seeing; hidden was the lively and fun aura that he had remembered his friend having. There was no way, in the boy’s mind, that the darkly-dressed and ominous redhead across the room was his best friend. Granted, he had no idea what had happened when he left; it seemed wrong.
The speedster strode towards the group. He sent angry looks towards everyone as he made his way towards Dick. He stopped several feet away. Even with the acrobat’s growth spurt Wally still towered over him, only adding to the menace of the darkened atmosphere around the redhead.
“Who’s he?” Wally snapped, glancing from Dinah to glower at Dick.
“He’s my protege, who I’m hoping will join the Team,” the League-er responded.
The air rippled and stung, as though a jolt of electricity had passed through the room. Dick watched Wally carefully, seeing him clenching his fists and shaking from the force of holding them so tightly. It was clear the speedster didn't want another person on the Team simply from his reactions. The acrobat looked to the others. A small wave of relief placated the fear building in his stomach as he saw less resentment and anger than he’d expected, some people even showing excitement.
Kaldur came forward, managing to step around Wally and plant himself between the speedster and Dick. So it seemed like Kaldur was still in charge of the Team, Dick thought. He was not at all surprised. A faint bit a knowing smirk crossed his face as Dick pondered who else would take over for Kaldur. Out of the people gathered, it didn’t look like there was anyone who really could.
“It’d be a pleasure to take him on wi-”
“What?! Kal, you’ve got to be kidding?”
“Pipe down Wally, he’s got final say and it’s not like we’ve really got a choice,” Artemis stated, arms crossing over her chest.
“Enough! Quiet!” Kaldur ordered, tone forceful and strict, leaving no room for argument.
Immediately the two heroes fell silent, though in the silence the glare Wally was directing at Dick filled with more anger.
“There is no room for discussion. Nightwing is joining the Team, and that is final,” Kaldur said, turning to glance at the Team before looking to Wally.
The speedster crossed his arms, expression contemptuous as he glowered at Nightwing. His jaw clenched shut, tendons straining beneath the skin, looking as though they were about to snap. Everything about the redhead seemed to be on edge, ready to lash out at anyone that came near him. His heated gaze flicked around the room, boring invisible holes like lasers into everyone he glared at, before he turned and stormed out of the room in a streak of black.
Immediately the buzzing tension in the room lessened to a tolerable level and Nightwing felt as though he could breathe again. He looked over to his teammates, seeing the same relief flooding their features along with equal amounts of worry and apprehension. The raven-haired boy then turned towards his mentor, question apparent in his shell-shocked expression. But he got no answer as Canary stepped forward, calling attention to herself.
“I’ll leave him here to get settled and acquainted with all of you. I’ll see everyone at the training session tomorrow,” she said politely before heading towards the zeta-tubes.
A silence fell over the room. They looked between each other, quick and fleeting glances. As it went on, the quiet began to grate on the heroes. Artemis rolled her eyes, letting out a long sigh as she walked over to Nightwing, extending a hand.
“Name’s Artemis, and that,” she said gesturing to the door, “was Wally. He’s a bit of a… special character.”
“Good to know…”
“The others are Kaldur, our leader and an Atlantean; M’gann, great baker and a martian; Conner, superman clone with added humor; Jason, the resident Bat with a side of dickishness; and Roy, backup archer,” she ended with a wide smirk plastered on her face.
“I’m not your backup, Arty. If anything you-”
Kaldur jabbed the red archer sharply in the arm, redirecting his attention and quieting him. Roy snorted but otherwise remained silent as he glared at Artemis, who responded by chuckling. Kaldur groaned, shaking his head.
“You two are like children,” he muttered to himself as he walked to the new hero, extending his hand as well. “You know our names. Is there anything we may call you?”
The question took Nightwing by surprise. He had forgotten the freeness with which the group had shared their names in the beginning. It was a few seconds before he came up with a response, mouth flapping a couple times as he thought.
“Wing. Yeah, just Wing,” he said hastily, a nervous chuckle escaping him. There was a brief pause before he spoke again, “So um, I’m just gonna head to uh… my room. Yeah, room that’ll be mine.”
Wing hardly left any time for the others to stop him or tell him where to go as he darted for the door. As soon as they slid open far enough, he was through them and moving through the Cave purely out of muscle memory. All his conscious mind was trying to wrap itself around what he had seen in that room.
First, Jason and Artemis were together, of that he was sure. That was the only probable reason why the younger hadn’t gone after the archer for her jab at him in the introductions. Well, that and the lack of personal space, relative to a Bat. Hopefully he hides it better around Bruce, Wing thought to himself.
Second, Kaldur and Roy had somehow become a thing over the years. He was not against it, though the thought was strange to him. All he’d ever seen the two do was fight and argue over the Team and its merits. Then again, people do tend to change over half a decade.
And third, the most startling and confusing of all, was that Wally didn’t seem like Wally, but everyone just… it didn’t bother them. The angry vibe that clung to the speedster scared Wing. That was not how he remembered his best friend. His mind ran through a thousand different scenarios that could’ve led to the shift, most involving a girl Wally was with being hurt, dying, or leaving.
“Like I did,” he mumbled, stopping and pinching the bridge of his nose.
He simply stood in the hall for minute, on hand gripping his nose and the other crossed over his chest. As he dropped the hand away from his face, Wing sighed, “This is going to be a lot harder than I thought.”
Looking around the hall, a chortle built in his throat. Of course he had walked to this section of the Cave. Home sweet home would always be home, after all. Wing looked at the door to his old room, a sad smile coming to his face. He knew he should stay away from this part of the Cave, but he doubted that he’d be able to keep from automatically heading this way whenever things started slipping.
His focus slid to the door across the hall, an unclaimed room, as far as he knew from back then, at least. Wing started walking towards it, wondering if it perhaps still was.
Electricity fizzled in the air, buzzing like a bee in Wally’s ear as he ran. It was a change from the rushing wind he was so accustomed to when dashing through cities and speeding over the continent. He remembered the first time he used the treadmill he had hated it, for both the sounds and the lack of motion. It was always hard for him to focus on anything stagnant.
He made himself get used to it though, told himself that he had to, that he wasn’t worth the suit if he didn’t do everything to be the best. The then-teen pushed himself to work hours and hours a day, stretching limits and surpassing expectations. He went faster than Barry thought he would ever be able to; defied the notion that speed was all he was by phasing through walls; disproved the assumption that Barry was the Fastest Man Alive.
A shrill beep sounded, drawing the speedster out of his mind. The machine slowed to a standstill, a warning message flashing across the screen.
Wally growled, his head dropping low on his shoulders, hands resting on the machine’s display. There was no glisten of sweat on his skin, nor was his chest heaving. A year ago he’d have had to run at least a few hours to overload the machine. He would have to talk with Kaldur about getting it upgraded again.
“You break machines often or just when something’s got your lightning bolts in a twist?”
Wally spun around, air sizzling to life again, sending a wave across the room. His startled nerves turned into annoyance as he glared at the newcomer. Across the room, standing on the mats was the newest member of the Team. What was his name? Black Feather? Black Night? Night Wing! Walls thought to himself as he forced calm over his features.
His eyes traveled up Nightwing, starting at the floor, socks peeking out beneath the loose black sweats. In the field those would be a hazard, he thought, snorting as he shook his head. As he lifted his eyes more, the speedster had to work to keep his expression impassive. The other wore a fitted black tank, showing every muscle. Wally forced himself to move on, not wanting to let anything slip. As he took in Nightwing’s face, he scoffed mentally at the other’s long hair, done up in a horribly messy bun, and almost rolled his eyes at the idiotic dark glasses on his nose.
“You always wear glasses inside, or just when you want to look like an ass?” Wally snapped, stepping off the treadmill.
“Touche,” Wing chuckled, nodding his head slightly. “Probably should’ve started this off with something other than snark.”
Wally snorted as he laughed quietly. “If you wanted to make friends, probably,” he smirked at Nightwing.
“You’re not doing too well yourself Kid Slick.” Wing crossed his arms.
“Have you been under a rock for the last three years? It’s Quickflash. Also, I’m not the new guy, new guy,” Wally pointed out, leaning back into the treadmill, almost relaxing.
Nightwing’s eyes narrowed, shoulders stiffening minutely. “I’m not the one that scares his team stiff as soon as I walk into the room, Walls,” he jabbed, tone harsh, as he stepped closer.
Wally rocketed away from the treadmill, standing toe-to-toe with Nightwing. “I run faster than sound and vibrate my molecules through walls, what’ve you got? A couple of fancy moves and looks? Nothin’ but ordinary muscles and scars, eh Snarky?” he retorted scathingly, eyes like venomous green slits as he looked down at Nightwing.
Even he didn’t have enough time to react as the shorter hero shoved him back, anger rippling over Wing’s angled features, making them sharper than ever. Wally regained his balance, expression mimicking Nightwing’s, eyes narrow and jaw clenched shut. The speedster surged forward, ducking down as he lunged left, before darting to the right and passing his opponent without landing a blow as Wing stepped out of his way.
Wally turned, body tilting to keep his balance, hand skimming over the floor. He shot back toward the other hero, a growl building in his chest. As he brought his arm back, aiming at Wing’s ribs, he saw him shift his weight, turning away to the left. The speedster changed course, hoping to have caught the movement in time to beat Nightwing around the turn. He didn’t see the protege plant his feet or notice Wing take a deep breath, holding it as he watched the speedster’s patterns.
A screech filled the air, the sonic blow hitting Wally and sending him skidding over the floor, thumping into the treadmill. His chest hurt and his lungs were stunned as he scrambled for a second or two to get his feet beneath him, though not fully standing yet. Wally’s virescent gaze flicked towards the shorter, resting on the long, thick H-scar along his throat before stopping on the dark glasses.
“You’re more like BC than I thought,” Wally stated, a crooked smirk climbing onto his face.
“And you’re more of a dick, so we’re even,” Wing snorted, turning towards the door, head shaking.
Wally quickly rose to his feet, cracking his knuckles and sighing. He started to turn back to the treadmill before stopping, looking over his shoulder.
“Hey, Snarky, you have a real name underneath those glasses?”
Wing stalled at the door, bending backwards till his hands lay flat on the floor. “Just call me Janah,” he said, a cheshire-like grin spreading over his features.
Wally shook his head, laughing as Janah stood up. “How are your glasses still on?”
“Magic, dude. Magic,” he answered, stepping through the door.
Wally shook his head again, snorting at the words. “I don’t believe in magic,” he grumped sourly as he grabbed his bag. “It’s just science, not that he’d know the difference,” the speedster muttered to himself as he made his way out of the gym.
Chapter 3: Some Adjustment Required
Team is sent on a mission three weeks after Janah joins them. It goes okay, till the alarm goes off. They manage to finish the mission, with Wing more than a bit beat up.
Grayson Spotted in India
December 15th, 2015
Richard Grasyson-Wayne disappeared from Gotham's public eye a year ago, for unknown reasons. Most speculated that the young man went to join Barbara Gordon at her school in France. Now we know that was either not true or untrue currently, as Grayson was last seen two days ago in India. Miss Gordon wasn't seen and no one was able to get comments from the eldest Wayne ward.
When will the duo return? No one really knows. The Wayne and Gordon families have been unresponsive in our requests for comments or interviews.
Janah felt the bio-ship shake as it took off, engines roaring around him. However he didn’t flinch or even pay attention to the sounds. They were a comfort to him as he shifted in his spot, hidden in the back of the vessel.
Janah pulled his legs a little closer to his chest, contorting more into the small space despite the aches in his muscles. Once upon a time the alcove had been plenty big enough for him to hide in on the return trips. That was before puberty decided to hit him. The hero sighed as he dropped his head forwards, resting it on his knees. Almost every inch of his body was burning to a degree, from smoldering to searing. It was his own fault, so he shouldn’t complain, Janah thought with a wince.
As he sat cramped and contorted, Janah wanted to move less and less. Seconds ticked by in his brain, fading into minutes until a numbness washed over his mind and body. Relieved from pain, the hero drifted to sleep.
The dense musky odor of heated decaying vegetation rose to Janah, making him cringe again. He vainly tried to plug his nose, gagging sounds escaping him before he could stop them, too distracted by the opaque waters and endless mud between the trees. The marsh looked familiar, dark and dank with shadows everywhere. Janah paused to watch them. The dark shapes were twisting and churning, though there was no breeze.
A thick black cloud bubbled over the ground, like smoke billowing from a cauldron. Janah stared at the strange murk, perplexed as to what it was. His head snapped up, low sounds of fighting growing between the trees, coming from everywhere all at once towards where Janah stood. He couldn’t figure out where to look or where to focus on, what with the grunts, growls, clashes and clangs echoing.
Around him, rising from the mud and mist were all his teammates. Each locked in a losing version of the previous fights. Every hero was littered with cuts and scrapes, drenched in mud, and backed into a corner.
Janah’s gut twisted, eyes flicking between each fight as he tried to move, pulled in all directions. He couldn’t move an inch in the muck, feet glued in place as he couldn’t make up his mind who to help. He couldn’t save everyone. He just wasn’t fast enough. Janah closed his eyes, and started to battle against the mud harder than before. Saving one person would be good, fine, acceptable…
The heavy rotten smell of the swamp faded, as did the gelatinous floor, sending Janah stumbling forward with his eyes flashing open. The world around him was a cold blackened mess, charred rubble. As he turned in a circle the building around him went back in time, bursting inferno shrinking back into the oil barrels. Dick stopped, breath catching in his throat.
He didn’t want to see this. He’d relived it enough times already. But the boy couldn’t turn away as he watched a familiar redhead turn back from the window to freedom to practically heave his ass off the floor. There were supposed to be words exchanged, banter passed between them, but not a sound from them reached Janah watched.
Loud bangs burst the silence, lodging in the cement inches from the two heroes. Janah cringed, head swinging, hardly able watch Dick get thrown through the window as Babs turned her back to it. Still no voices came through, though the shots fired off in succession rang in Dick’s ears.
BAM! A single shot.
Everything engulfed in a growing, razing white cloud of flames.
Her shrill screams…
Janah jolted awake, shoulders heaving as his eyes flicked around. Darkness surrounded him, a still silence mingling with it. A few seconds ticked by in the hero’s head as he remembered falling asleep on the flight home. No one had noticed he hadn’t gotten off with them.
“Guess I kind of deserve it,” he groaned, slowly moving to roll out of the alcove.
His body still burned and protested movement, even more so after being cramped in one position for the entire trip. Pain is temporary, suffering is optional. The thought echoed in his mind as he pushed himself to his knees, grimacing and grunting with every slight shift and pull of his muscles. He stayed sitting on his heels, listening to nothing but himself. A lengthy sigh dripped from Janah as he shook his head and started to stand.
Getting his feet under him took longer than Janah had thought it would, and left his bruised lungs wanting for air faster than it should have. First thing on his mental to-do list: get to his room and take care of injuries. Normally the whole team was checked over together, something they had agreed on years ago to keep everyone in the loop. However, he doubted they waited for him if they left him on the ship. Not that he blamed them. He would leave his ass on the bioship too if he were them after what he pulled in the field. Another long groan seeped from him. Janah started slowly moving through the ship towards the open door, in spite of how the light made his eyes scrunch.
It should have only taken him a few seconds, yet that time drug on as his bruised and fractured ribs protested. Making it to his room without running into any of the Team would be a miracle with how slowly he was advancing. He forced the thought aside in favor of focusing on simply getting where he wanted to go.
Janah stalled at the door, giving his tired and pained muscles a rest as he leaned against the frame, as well as letting his eyes adjust to the lights. He resisted the want to inhale deeply, knowing how it would hurt more than it would help his thoughts. With that in mind and with dread on his shoulders, Janah began to walk forward. His steps down the ramp were small, though they remained so on the even floor of the Cave’s landing bay.
Progress through the Cave’s halls was slow, as Janah thought it would be, though he hadn’t thought it would be quite as bad as it was. Each corridor took him three times as long to walk down, slowly putting him closer and closer to the center of the Cave. The rooms were all on the other side of the mountain, and he could not help but wonder if the Cave’s layout had been designed to force heroes into interacting with one another.
“Wouldn’t be surprised if it was,” he chuckled under his breath as he turned a corner, eyes landing on the open doorway into the commons.
He continued towards it, hoping that there was no one there, that he could just walk through and not have to deal with anyone telling him off. There was going to be enough of that later from Canary, he was sure. A long rumbling sigh rolled from Janah as he heard voices wafting down the hall, anger evident from their tone and the force of their echoes. His already slow steps slowed even more and apprehension settled in his gut. He did not needed to hear the distinct words to know what the Team was arguing about, though he began to pick out snippets as he neared.
“... He was in front of all of my shots.”
“At least he didn’t try to tell you how to do your job, Royboy.”
“Every single one of--”
“The guy was more focused on our fights than--”
“I don’t even wanna know how many bullet holes and fractured ribs he has.”
“Snarky deserves every one of them.”
Janah stalled at the doorway, one foot over the invisible threshold, as he listened to the group continue to talk over one another. The voices created a dull cacophonous roar. It wasn’t as though he had expected much of a different response from them, given how he had handled himself on the mission. Janah shook his head, groaning inaudibly as his head rolled on his shoulders. He had to go through the room to get to his own, and no amount of waiting around was going to get him any closer. So he forced feet to keep moving, not daring a glance towards the group that apparently had congregated in the kitchen, hoping that for once the universe would be on his side and just let him make it across the room unnoticed.
It wasn’t until he turned a corner that Janah noticed that the voices had gotten distant and that he hadn’t been stopped. Relief washed through him, almost soothing the burning pain running all through his body, if it weren’t for the fact that he was still moving. Janah gritted his teeth, forcing one foot in front of the other. Just one more turn, he told himself.
Janah rounded the corner, one hand stretched out to press against the wall, a groan slipping from him as he saw a familiar form standing down the hall. Neither he nor Jason said a word as Janah limped towards him. The glower in the wounded hero’s eyes dared the younger boy to say something as he leaned against the frame, waiting for the door to open.
Quiet followed the two as they stepped into the room, only broken by the soft closing whoosh behind them. Dimmed blue lights flicked to life without a sound. The silence’s weight grew as they walked towards the bed, Jason stopping a step away with arms crossed in front of his chest, eyes carefully scanning over Janah as he slowly sat down. Jason caught the wince as well as how Janah swallowed back a groan when he began to peel off his suit, still the younger said nothing, though a few choice words did come to his mind.
“Just say it Jay. I doubt you’ve got any new material,” Janah chuffed, gingerly pulling his torn shirt over his head, and lobbing it at Jason.
A disbelieving smirk crossed the younger’s face as he caught it. “You sure about that? Cause I gave Roy a run for his money the other day, and you know the man’s got a mouth on him.”
“The day you beat Artemis is the day I’ll be worried about you giving me a lecture.”
“Okay, valid point,” he conceded, looking down at the shirt in his hands. “Trash or mending pile?”
“Trash it. I don’t even think Alfred would have the patience to sew up that many holes, on top of mine.”
“Then maybe stop putting so many holes in yourself,” Jason snapped, twisting around to find he bin.
As he tossed the shirt in, the barrenness of the room finally sunk in. It had been pretty much a month since Janah became a part of the team, yet there was nothing around that even suggested someone was living in the room. Except for the lights. Jason glanced up at the blue bulbs.
“Bringing the Bat Cave home with you much Dickiebird?” He smirked.
“Do you have an off button?” Janah groaned.
“No, but remember that that’s why you love me. Well that and the fact that I’m twenty times better at putting in stitches than you are.” He looked around again, eyes skipping over the room. “So where’s your stitch kit?”
Janah paused, boot midway off, as he pointed at the desk. “Top drawer in the back.”
Jason nodded, walking to the desk and grabbing the kit before returning to sit on the bed beside Janah. For a second, as he pulled out the gloves and antiseptic wipes under the blue lights, Jason could have sworn they were back in the Bat Cave, just doing their after-mission routine. He shook his head once, clearing his thoughts and throat as he started to gently clean and stitch shut as many of the bleeding injuries that he could get to, switching to the other side when he finished.
The room was quiet as Jason worked, his needle sliding through skin more times than either boy cared to count. Only when the younger sat up straight and went to clean the kit did Janah let his shoulders roll the tiniest bit forward and drop them down, head hanging, his eyes slipping closed. A small sigh rolled through Janah’s lips, relieved that at least that part of the process was done.
“One’d think you’d be used to getting stitches in by now.”
“With your clunky handiwork? As if, Junior,” Janah scoffed, lifting his head slowly.
“Mine’s miles better than your’s ever was,” Jason snorted indignantly, pointing at Janah with a roll of bandages.
Janah rolled his eyes, “Whatever you say, Jay.”
“I’ll have you know Lucius asked if I ever considered the medical field with how clean my stitches are. Arms up,” Jason instructed, kneeling by the bed and beginning to unravel part of the bandages. With a methodical slowness he began to wrap Janah’s torso.
“Dr. Jason Todd, the medical professional who is almost as injured as his entire ER put together.”
“Go on, laugh it up birdbrain,” Jason snorted, standing up and tossing the bandage roll back onto the desk. “Just don’t pull out those stitches, or else I’m manacling you to that bed.” Jason stopped at the door as it opened, half stepping through before he turned around, “Oh, and there’s a team ‘bonding’ meeting after dinner-”
“Ordered by Dinah, so no skipping. See you then,” Jason smirked as he walked out and turned, starting down the hall.
The door closed with its usual soft whoosh, leaving Janah alone. With a groan the boy gradually laid his back flat on the bed, arms spread above his shoulders. Slowly, Janah slid his eyes closed, sighing heavily as he focused in on himself, cataloguing each of the nicks and scrapes now sewn together, assessing what damage he could feel and allowing himself to feel it all. Everything hurt, from the mission to cramming himself in that alcove on the way back, and it would do him no good to ignore it.
Especially with him having to interact with the others.
With a gruff snort Wally all but flung himself back into the couch, arms crossing over his chest. Sorry! had definitely been a poor choice in game. Coupling for the teams was an even worse one, he judged by the scowls as he glanced around. Conner had the biggest one, though his scowl was likely part confusion as well as frustration at the game. M’gann was trying to placate everyone, mainly her demi-kryptonian boyfriend, and surprisingly enough Jason was helping her. His partner wasn’t making it easy, what with her competitive snark and aggressive gameplay. The team’s other archer was the opposite, head lolling back over the couch cushion and eyes half closed, leaving all the playing to a very confuzzled Kaldur.
“Whoever invented ‘bored games’ should be carbon-frozen à la Han Solo,” the speedster grumped.
Conner looked up from the board. “Carbon-freezing?”
“Watch the originals, will ya Supey? Disgraceful enough that all you’ve seen are the horrendous prequels and Force Awakens,” Wally snorted.
Conner’s eyes narrowed, mouth opening as though he were going to say something when Artemis cut him off.
“Not everyone can handle watching that crap fifteen hours a day,” she glowered.
“It’s american history and culture!” Wally wildly sat up, leaning on his knees rather than melding into the couch.
Artemis rolled her eyes, “A bad part of it, maybe.”
Wally’s frown deepened to a scowl as he readied to retaliate, almost moving to stand up.
“Oi numbskulls, you’re supposed to be teamship building, not murdering each other,” Roy said, head hanging over the cushion.
“Not my fault his lonely ass is in a twist. He could’ve gone to grab the hermit if he wanted to,” Artemis snorted indignantly as she settled back into the couch, glaring gray daggers at Wally.
The speedster did the same, though grumbling under his breath. He rubbed roughly at his eyes. This was exactly why they had stopped having game nights. All everyone did was snark and snap at one another from start to finish, which usually was when the table broke. It just wasn’t the same without…
Wally jolted as though shocked as he swung his head side to side, chasing away the name. He was gone. Gone and there was nothing that could be done. By anyone. Thinking about it would only make his sour mood worsen, which he decided would not help the situation.
The huff-like sigh Wally let out was drenched in palpable bitterness, easily seen in his eyes, though they were hidden beneath his trenched brow. His whole face seemed to darken further as he noticed Janah quietly coming around behind the others. Since when was anyone allowed to be later to game night? Granted, team rules didn’t seem to apply Janah in general, Wally snorted mentally to himself. The speedster’s arms cinched tighter over his chest, eyes never coming off the newest team member.
Wally could tell he was hurt, what with the whole moving slow and wearing a baggy sweatshirt instead of his usual tank top. What was it with the dude and tanks anyway? It shouldn’t be legal for someone to wear them as tight as he did. Particularly with that much musc-
A small thump on Wally’s head and then another in his arms, drew the speedsters attention.
“Earth to Speed Force. Your turn,” Jason pointed to the board.
Wally muttered a few hardly audible, incoherent grumblings as he looked at the board, making a move quickly. His focus was gone before the next person went, eyes back on Janah, analyzing more than ogling. Within a few weeks Wally had gotten reads on, if not figured out, the entire Team, with the exception of… He snorted and shook his head again. It was stupid that it was so hard for Wally to even get anything from Janah. One thing. One little tiny clue into how that idiot’s brain worked. But no, Mr. I-have-to-wear-sunglasses-inside had to go and hide behind tinted lenses and walls of emotional constipation.
“Speedy Gonzales, you going to go or are they Sorrying! you?” Janah asked from his spot on the back of the couch behind Jason.
“Late birds don’t get to backseat play,” Wally snipped, glowering at him through narrow slits.
“Hartyharhar, keep it up and someday you’ll be out of bird puns when you need ‘em.”
“There’ll always be new puns, especially puns of a feather.”
“Don’t count your eggs before they hatch, you might end up slipping in the yolk,”
“Guys, game? Focus, please?” M’gann interrupted, looking hopefully between the two.
Begrudgingly Wally again looked down at the board, assessing his horrible playing skills and the options open to him. There weren’t many, what with only having two pieces of four hanging around the starting area. He made a move, and forced himself to keep his eyes on the game, attempting to not get distracted so he could at least try to win. Where he was looking was not as helpful as he thought it would be. His ears seemed to hone in on Janah and Jason’s quiet voices among the others’ bickering. The pair’s words were lost, but Wally could definitely tell that Jason was peeved, as usual, and Janah was trying to avoid the conversation, as per usual as well.
Wally’s eyes rolled as he huffed, almost leaning back before reminding himself he was supposed to focus on the game. He looked over the board, trying to figure out whose turn it was.
“You planning on making a move this century, Baywatch?”
“If you plan on not interrupting my thought process,” Wally snipped defensively, hurrying to make a decision.
“Didn’t think you had one,” Artemis chuffed.
“Didn’t know you could think,” Wally snorted, picking up and starting to move his piece.
“Wouldn’t move that one if I were you,” Janah piped up.
Wally paused, holding the piece a scant half-inch from the board, shooting an untrusting look at the other hero.
“And why shouldn’t I?”
“Cause Arty’s got a piece coming out behind that’ll knock your pawn straight back to start.”
After a moment of consideration Wally nodded, putting the piece back and moving a different one. He glanced quickly to Janah and almost groaned aloud when he saw the other’s smirk.
“No need to be so smug about it.”
“What then, whelmed?” Wally snorted, sitting back a tad, looking over the other couches, noticing that M’gann and Conner had left.
“Whel- uh, no. Happy to help, that’s all,” Janah shrugged, smirk shrinking.
“Be happy without distracting him then,” Artemis grumbled, drawing her card and moving her final piece around the corner before her safety zone.
“Not a chance, Goldilocks,” Janah chuckled, inching off the couch, escaping Artemis.
Kaldur shook his head at the antics before sliding his last pawn into the home bubble. This time at least Wally was paying enough attention to know that it was his turn and drew a card. Meanwhile, Kaldur shook Roy awake and started to herd the archer towards his room. Wally slid his third pawn out of home.
“I’ve had enough of you idiots, I’m heading out,” Artemis announced standing up and glaring at Janah, who made it to Jason’s other side.
“Have fun finishing up guys,” the youngest said, hopping up. “Pull out the stitches, and you’re not getting new ones,” Jason warned as he followed after her.
“Skinny bird say what now?” Wally asked, watching the couple leave.
“That he’s leaving us with clean up, after we finish the game,” Janah answered quickly. “Thought you had a chemist’s brain in there, not an amoeba's.”
“Very funny, birdboy,” Wally mumbled, picking up a piece and moving it down the slide.
“Really? Cause y’know I’ve always dreamed of being a comedian.”
“Yeah, right up there with Tim Allen and Larry the Cable Guy.”
Janah didn’t respond as he dropped his last pawn into the home base, releasing a contented sigh, with a grin to match stretching on his face.
“One could say my comedy skills are right alongside your skills at playing Sorry! ”
“Give me an even playing field and I’ll play circles around you.”
“Oh really? And how was this unfair?”
“Everyone else was on a team of two, but cause your birdy butt was late I got stuck one brain down,” Wally snapped, standing up.
“Not like I knew I was gonna screw you up, Flashy,” Janah fired back, slowly standing, obviously biting back a wince.
Wally had forgotten how beat up Janah probably was underneath the baggy sweatshirt. Before he could start to ask anything, Janah was already storming out of the room, or as much as one can with a limping gait. Not to mention the way the hero’s hand hovered by his right side, as if wanting grab it and support his ribs.
“Damn…” Wally murmured, nodding imperceptibly.
With a sharp huff Wally’s head snapped to the side, unseating the sympathy. What had that jerk done to deserve it? His injuries were his own doing! Wally turned and started towards the Zeta Tubes, whooshing through the halls and stopping by them in seconds. Janah was nothing more than a self-important idiot with authority issues under pressure; not someone who needed sympathy, but a giant, steel-toed kick in the ass.
The tube glowed bright white. Wally rushed in, itching to be out of the Cave, and home, asleep.
Chapter 4: Birds of a Feather
Dinah and Dick have a mentor-mentee bonding session.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The Central Gazette
Bloodbath in Lawrence Hills
February 21st, 2015
The police are investigating the brutal scene discovered early this morning in Lawrence Hills. It has been reported that the men claim Kid Flash attacked them, beating the crew of five so severely that one of them is in Central City's ICU. Details are still mostly unclear, leading the police to believe that the men are falsely accusing the young speedster.
Lights flashed by as Black Canary wove through the cars, all but flying down the highway with Nightwing close on her tail. The night was slow, the port almost empty and few big thugs hanging around the city. In comparison to most of the cities Nightwing had lived in, Canary thought Seattle was by far the most peaceful, despite the near constant disputes and protests that stopped the streets.
Beneath the helmet, Canary cracked a smile. Sure, the city had its problems but they had it easy. No all-consuming gang wars, a lack of homicidal maniacs with access to vats of chemicals, no underground society threatening to tear the city to ruins. She would fight tooth and nail before she gave up Seattle as her main city to return to Gotham.
Canary turned off at the exit, blinker flashing to make sure Nightwing followed her. Sometimes he would get too distracted while they drove and miss her turning off. Once he’d driven halfway to Olympia before he noticed that he wasn’t following her anymore. She turned from James to 9th, passing by Cherry St, only glancing around the intersection and checking for basic thugs or what not. Seeing none she continued, heading straight for where they usually left their bikes.
Saint James Cathedral had always seemed like the safest place in Downtown to drop the bikes. It was respected by locals and had a secure enough space where both bikes could stay without anyone touching them. Not that they really could with all of Nightwing’s modifications to them. Canary had quickly learned that Nightwing had quite a talent with numbers and machines. Granted the quick learning was probably because she got more than a few face fulls of number speak when all she’d asked was ‘How are you doing?’.
With a sigh, Canary pulled into the cathedral’s courtyard and brought her bike to a stop, kicking down the stand. She slid off, simultaneously removing her helmet with practiced ease. It was only seconds before Nightwing pulled out alongside her. Canary placed her helmet in the compartment before starting to roll the bike towards the back shed. It was open, as usual, and so she placed her bike inside, stepping out so that Nightwing could do the same.
When he came out, Canary pulled a lock from her pocket and snapped it in place on the shed’s latch.
“So… what’re we gonna do now, doc?” Nightwing smirked, hands laced behind his head.
“Now we do what we usually do,” she smiled, hands deep in her coat pockets.
Nightwing grimaced. “Apartment, tea, talk about the mushy-gushy stuff?”
“ All the mushy-gushy-squishy stuff.” Canary chuckled as she turned and started walking towards the next-door building’s fire escape.
The groan that followed her only served to widen the mentor’s smile. Canary knew quite well just how much her protege absolutely hated to have their talks, but it had been part of their agreement for his whole charade to happen. When she’d instituted it, the talks were partially a way of gauging his seriousness, as well as a way to ensure that the boy did not lose all the progress that he had made.
As she started up the ladders, Canary could hear Nightwing cursing at whoever invented talk therapy and peppermint tea.
“If you want another kind of tea, go to the shop down the street instead of uselessly complaining about it. They are bound to have something you’ll like,” she told him, already knowing she would just get a huff and much quieter grumbling mumbles.
Canary sighed audibly as she stepped onto the roof, hearing the mutterings taper off as he stepped up too. She smiled at him; it was small but warm.
“You ready?” She asked.
“To wipe the rooftops with your jacket? Oh yeah. Tonight’s my night,” Nightwing grinned, cracking his knuckles.
“Don’t get cocky. You’ve still got stitches you’re not supposed to pull, remember?”
“Yeah yeah, already had the lecture from Dr. Jason,” he snorted. “We racing or not?”
“I was just reminding you,” Canary shrugged. “Three.”
Together they shouted, “One!” and were off.
Nightwing was slower on the ground, but through the air he managed to make up a bit of distance, though he lagged behind. Normally, Canary would at least try to make it a close one, but she knew he would know she was going easy on him if she did this time. Deciding that a grumpy protege was better than an embarrassed one, Canary opted to just go along the route as she would normally. If Nightwing wanted to try using one of the shortcuts, he was welcome to, though she personally would not have recommended it.
That was another thing she had learned about him. Telling Nightwing not to do something was often as good as throwing up a neon sign saying, ‘DO IT’. How that got wired into his brain, Canary would never know. Though she could imagine it had something to do with the fact that Bruce, the person who raised him since he was nine, was a normal human who performed superhuman feats on a regular basis.
Dinah leapt from the roof she was on to the fire ladder below, and from there swung into her apartment through the window that was always open. The lights were still off, meaning she was the first one home. Dinah shrugged off her jacket as she crossed the room, avoiding her coffee table, and switching on the lights before disappearing into her bedroom. Dick had a change of clothes stashed away in the bathroom for when he got back. Hopefully before she came back out, otherwise he would be getting an earful about getting himself hurt and pushing too far too soon.
“Sometimes I swear that’s that family’s motto,” Dinah mumbled, shaking her head as she started peeling off her uniform.
Thanks to the lack of thugs it could simply get put into the laundry pile and see another day without getting a visit from needle and thread. Quickly enough, Dinah pulled on her sweats and loose tee-shirt. Stepping out of her room she noticed the window had closed as well as the bathroom door.
“You alright?” She asked, walking to the kitchen.
As she filled the kettle with tap hot water, Dinah heard him respond, though couldn’t decipher the muffled words.
“Stop resuturing and come out here. You’ve got the tact of a grizzly bear with a needle,” Dinah told him, again.
After a few seconds the door opened. “How’d you know I was stitching?”
“Cause you’re you,” she paused, putting the kettle on the burner. “And because you hold your shirt in your teeth every time.”
“Not every time.”
Dinah barely turned her head towards him, fixing him with an incredulous look.
“What? I don’t!”
“I think we both know that’s not true.”
“Sometimes I don’t have a shirt, so I don’t have anything to bite.”
“And those are the nights where you have bruises on your hand the next morning.”
“False. Totally false,” he chuckled.
Dinah could only roll her eyes at the boy. These little bickering moments were his way of playing around, putting off what was coming as soon as the tea was ready. Granted, she had also quite fallen into the habit of going along with the banter, finding it rather fun for herself as well, if not cathartic.
The kettle began to let steam out of the spout, and though not quite to the point of whistling, it was hot enough for the two. Just boiling was drinkable, boiling to the point of melting lava was too hot for even Superman to drink. As Dinah pulled the kettle off and shut the burner down, Dick grabbed cups from the cupboard and pulled two packets of tea from the box beside the sink, handing them to Dinah.
Slowly, hot beverages in hand, the two made their way over to the couch, sitting at opposite ends, but facing one another. Dinah crossed her legs beneath herself, sitting almost as though perched on them, while Dick pulled one leg to his chest and let the other hang off the couch, folding underneath it. It was a relaxing scene, though through practice and ritual more than anything else.
“So,” Dinah prompted, hoping that Dick would be mildly forthcoming that night.
“So…” He responded, trailing off as he nodded slowly.
“How did yesterday go?”
Of course she had already heard how it actually went, from other mentors and from Jason. What she wanted to know though was how Dick thought it went, which if she knew the boy even a little bit, would be vastly different from the others’ interpretations.
“Horribly horrible, followed by horrible, and then a little less horrible, and then horrible again,” Dick answered into his tea, holding the mug with two hands.
“Care to elaborate on the less horrible part?”
“Care to elaborate on what you already know?”
“You know the drill by now, Dick.”
“I talk, you listen. You talk, I listen. Then I leave?”
Dinah nodded, sipping from her own steaming mug. She felt her lips smile against the ceramic as Dick, ever the diva, let out another exasperated groan. The groaning was good, it meant she would actually get something, if not a crumb or two of something, once he started talking. Wry wit and dry humor usually meant talking was a waste of time.
“You want just the less horrible, or the entirety of the terribly horrible horrendous mess?”
“Just tell me what you think is important,” Dinah sipped at her tea again before setting it aside and crossing her hands over her lap.
“How about just the plain old horrible’s? First one’s Jason being Jason. The kid’s stitch work and bedside manners weren’t too helpful but not entirely unexpected, as Jay’s gonna be Jay till the end of his days. Overall wasn’t too horrible, more just really not asterous.” Dick paused, watching Dinah just like she always watched him. “Particularly when he didn’t wanna answer a question.”
Dinah’s silence was her way of asking him what he asked, though she was pretty sure she already knew what the question was.
“I asked him what happened to Walls, cause there’s no way he went from being happy, jokey Wally to Mister Tall, Ginger, and Brooding.”
It was a fair enough question for anyone to ask her, let alone the person who had been gone whilst everyone else watched the speedster spiral. Dinah sighed, dragging a hand over her face.
“Have you asked him about it?”
“He’d knock my lights out before I finished the sentence if Janah asked.”
“Maybe as you you, then.”
“Richard Grayson is staying mysteriously in Europe till Babs comes back to life,” Dick scoffed.
“Careful what you say, with our line of work,” Dinah warned, picking up her tea again.
“I wish,” Dick snorted in answer, his arms cinching tighter over his chest.
Dinah closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose, holding back her sigh. There were a multitude of roles she was qualified for. Therapist, hero, friend, or combat instructor, to name a few. Combining all of them in a functional manner under the term ‘mentoring’ was not one of them, even after a year of doing it.
“So… Are you gonna tell me or am I gonna have to go fishing in a different pond?”
Dinah chuffed lightly, dropping her hand away. “It’s up to Wally to tell you. It’s his story.”
“There’s no way I’ll get an answer out of him. And I’m guessing the others don’t know anything cause otherwise you’d have told me to talk to them. So, really, you and Jay are the only two viable ways of me getting any information-”
“Trust me, Dick, asking us for that is not the right plan. Sharing what you want has to be his choice,” she told him.
“Why? What the hell happened that was so bad that you can’t tell me? He- I- Why shouldn’t I know why half the Team practically craps their spandex when he gets pissed?” Dick all but growled, fixing Dinah with a confused and frustrated look.
The way Dick’s mouth moved, wordlessly asking questions he couldn’t voice because of how worry and disbelief were clogging his throat, was eerily similar to Dinah. It was not the first time she had seen that look tied with Wally or his downward spiral. The redhead seemed to be a magnet for Batman’s proteges.
“It’s not that you shouldn’t know, just that it needs to be his choice to tell you,” Dinah repeated.
“You not telling me because of confidentiality or some crud like that. Fine,” Dick snorted annoyedly. “But Jay? He’s my little brother. He’s supposed to tell me everything, and he’s not! Why?”
“Jason has his reasons, Dick. They’re damn good ones too.”
“How does he know about it then? Since no one’s very into sharing.”
“Because he became a part of it when it got darkest,” Dinah snipped tersely, having had enough of that same question over and over.
A barely audible groan slipped from Dinah as the boy’s worst night ran through her head again. From the ear-splitting argument she’d heard rooms away when Jason had dragged Wally, kicking and screaming, back to the Cave, to her gut-wrenching memory of Wally brokenly flopped on a couch in her office, tear tracks muddied with drying blood. Dinah shook her head and stood, mug clenched tightly in her hands as she walked to the kitchen. Even for her, a person who was experienced enough with bad days and nasty spirals, Wally’s had been the worst. The cup clanked against the metal basin as Dinah set it down, hands curling around the counter’s edge.
Without even looking at the doorway Dinah knew Dick was now standing in it, giving her space but also still wanting to ask more questions. Of course she understood why he wanted the answers so badly, why there was nothing she could say to make him completely drop the subject. Dinah just couldn’t be the one to show Dick how thoroughly he had shattered his best-friend, what his leaving had almost lead to...
Dinah exhaled heavily, turning to lean her back against the counter. “Jason was the only person that Wally had when he hit bottom, and he’s the only one Wally thinks he needs now because of it.” She walked over to Dick, putting a hand on his shoulder. “If you want more details, Wally’s the person you’re going to have to talk to, under one name or the other,” she said gently, squeezing his shoulder.
A tone of finality lingered in the air, mingling uncomfortably with the silence as Dinah stepped past Dick, going back to the living room.
“Isn’t this the part where you’re supposed to do some talking? Analyze that whole thing?” Dick chuffed, walking into the room on his hands.
“I’ve been talking the entire time. Not that you heard anything I was saying,” Dinah scoffed teasingly, rolling her eyes at the boy’s antics.
“So… does that mean I’m free to go?” Dick asked, feet dropping back to the ground.
“Guess it does. Don’t do anything Alfred would scowl at you for,” Dinah warned, watching the boy dash to the door.
“Will it matter if I promise not to, or ar you just gonna assume I will?”
“You’re not a child, but promises don’t hurt, do they?” Dinah chuckled.
Dick rolled his eyes as he opened the door. “I promise to be a smart human being and not do anything stupid.” He paused before shrugging, adding on, “Tonight at least.”
Dinah couldn’t help the laugh that followed, making her attempt at getting one last mentor-ly word in before Dick disappeared out the door, shutting it behind him, futile. Granted, warnings and cautionary words were probably not needed. What trouble would Dick want to get into after a night patrolling, on top with training? The answer was usually a lot, given the boy’s propensity for stirring the cauldron. But a mentor could have hope, couldn’t she?
With a sigh Dinah started towards her bedroom, stopping beside the door to turn out the lights. She stalled there a moment, hands on either side of the frame, biting the inside of of her cheek. There was a very likely chance that she would be waking up to panicked calls from three boys the next morning, given her protege’s tendency towards dramatic reactions. A slight groan was the last human utterance in the apartment as Dinah stepped into her room, turning off the lights and shutting the door simultaneously before dropping on the bed.
If she was going to be awoken by frantic phone calls, she might as well be rested enough to properly handle them all.
Sorry about the length, guys. But hey, it's an update within two weeks. Does that give us any leeway?
Added 2/10/17: We are still working on this, but progress has been slow because life has been quite chaotic. Do not despair, for there will be updates and it will be finished. Eventually.