Author: adorable pragmatism PM
Pre-Invasion - Kaldur's leaving, maybe never coming back, and the team needs a new leader. Dick knows it's supposed to be him. That doesn't mean he feels prepared for the responsibility.Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship - Richard G./Nightwing & Kaldur/Aqualad - Words: 1,353 - Reviews: 13 - Favs: 39 - Follows: 1 - Published: 07-18-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8334181
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: I keep thinking that it was Kaldur and Dick in on the secret first, and they brought Wally and Artemis in later.
Just something I wrote because of writer's block. Blarrgghh.
The plans are made. They were made quickly, but they'll work. They have to.
Dick and Kaldur often agreed that it would be useful to have an inside source in with the Light and their allies, like the Light had Red Arrow. All the valuable information they could discover—the missing sixteen hours, the fate of the original Roy Harper, what Vandal Savage is planning next…
They talked about it, but Dick never expected to go through with the idea. He never expected to be here, in this cold, run-down warehouse in Bludhaven, saying goodbye to a friend about to embark on the most dangerous mission of his life.
This place used to be one of Roy's old equipment caches. Dick didn't even know about it, but apparently Kaldur did. Everything's covered in a thick layer of dust. Roy hasn't been here in a while. Kaldur chose their meeting place well.
Kaldur looks like he's aged five years in the week since he stormed out of the Cave, putting on such a convincing performance of rage at the death of Tula and the truth of his parentage that Dick wonders how much of it was faked. He wonders, but doesn't want to know.
Kaldur has every right to be angry at Dick; he is the one who coordinated that mission where everything went wrong. And it could have gone so much worse if Tula didn't make the ultimate sacrifice.
Dick deserves to be blamed—he blames himself—but there isn't any animosity in Kaldur's pale green eyes, not like when he was acting before. He just looks sad. Sad and committed to what he's about to do. Dick can't help but flinch guiltily under his gaze anyway.
"Are you sure I can't talk you out of this?" Dick asks, the question bringing a puff of white mist with it. The room is freezing.
"I am afraid not. Black Manta… My father," Kaldur amends, a peculiar, strained expression on his face as he gets used to saying it, "has extended me an invitation to join him. I cannot back away from this opportunity to learn more. The information I gather may save many lives."
"At the cost of your own, if you're found out!" Dick says sharply. "Kaldur, this is practically suicide." He watches, waiting for any sign of doubt, no matter how small, but there's none. "You don't have to do this. The Team needs you. You're the leader, you can't—"
Kaldur is smiling. "I would not leave if I was not certain there was another more than capable of taking my place. One that will make a better leader than I." He places a hand that feels heavier than it should on Dick's shoulder. Dick is startled to notice that they're almost the same height now—when did that happen? "I have always known that one day you would be ready to take on the role. You are ready."
But he's not. A lump forms in Dick's throat—panic and fear—because it's not supposed to happen like this.
When he imagined becoming the leader, he never thought it would start off with so much deception, or such an abrupt goodbye. He thought it would be a smooth transition. Kaldur joining the Justice League, himself taking over the Team.
"I only regret that I will not be there to watch you continue to grow," Kaldur says. "You will make a fine leader, Nightwing. I am proud of you, and I know many others must be as well."
The lump in his throat grows. He can't speak, can't do anything but stand there dumbly, eyes wide behind his mask, trying to process what this means.
He's been co-captaining since he turned sixteen and cast aside the title of Robin for Nightwing, but leading a team on his own is entirely different than having Kaldur as a crutch to lean on. And it isn't even his team anymore, the one he's used to. Wally quit, and so did Artemis. Zatanna, Raquel—both up in the Watchtower with the Justice League as they speak.
The team is full of newbies who will look to him for answers and guidance. He still feels too young to be responsible for those eager, inexperienced kids. It's too soon. He's supposed to be focused on graduating high school right now, not keeping other teens from getting themselves killed.
But what right does Dick have to complain? Sure, Kaldur's shifting the responsibility rather suddenly, but he's replacing that burden of leadership with a noose. Dick's new job is a piece of cake compared to what Kaldur's about to go through, and the death risk is a hell of a lot lower.
"If anything happens to you…" Dick eventually says, his voice close to cracking. "How am I supposed to explain?"
They will never forgive him for keeping it a secret. And he will never forgive himself for standing by and letting Kaldur do this.
"I cannot ask you to explain my actions to them." Kaldur reaches into the pocket of his dark jacket. "That is why I prepared these in advance."
Letters. Kaldur gives Dick a stack of letters, about a dozen. Dick takes them with numb hands, looking down at the names on each one in Kaldur's clean writing, and then back up at Kaldur, speechless. He thought that Kaldur didn't understand the risks, that he could be talked out of it, but he was wrong. Kaldur knows exactly how wrong this mission can go, and he still wants to go through with it.
"There is one for you as well," Kaldur says. Dick nods.
They say goodbye, knowing it might be weeks, if ever, until they speak again, and months until Kaldur's gamble pays off in information.
"Stay safe, Kaldur," Dick says before his friend walks out the door. "And good luck."
He'll need it.
Dick sits on a nearby crate, puts the letters down, holds his head in his hands, and gives himself a minute.
Kaldur has always been there. When Artemis and Wally, and M'gann and Conner were too busy being obnoxiously together and Dick needed someone to hang out with. When Roy was away on his desperate search for Speedy. When Artemis and Wally went away to college. When M'gann and Conner broke up and a chill descended upon the cave. When Zatanna and Raquel were promoted.
When Dick was fighting with Bruce, and so many of his friends were too far away or too busy, and Dick didn't think he had anyone left to talk to.
Now Kaldur's gone. It really is the end of an era.
And it's the start of another. Soon he'll have to go back to Mount Justice, face the others, and tell them a lie:
He managed to track down Kaldur tonight, but wasn't able to get through to him. Kaldur is joining his father Black Manta, enraged at his old Team for letting Tula die, and at his king for lying about his true father. He let Dick go without a fight this time, because of their past friendship.
But he made it clear that the next time they meet, they will be on different sides.
The Team will be shocked. They won't want to believe it at first, but they'll accept that Kaldur is a traitor and an enemy. They'll be glad that they have Nightwing to step in and take over as leader. Someone they can truly trust.
The minute ends. Dick gets to his feet. He'll be disappointing Kaldur if he doesn't accept the responsibility. The Team is waiting.