Disclaimer: Young Justice © DC / Warner Bros. - "Kryptonite" © Universal Records - Full disclaimer on my profile.
Summary: It is two months into the operation, and Kaldur is having doubts. Long drabble; spoilers for "Depths". Kal/Dick friendship.
A/N: Have I mentioned that I love Kaldur? I really do. He's been a favourite of mine from the beginning. Which is why I feel that I need to write more fanfiction about him. So, have some crappy YJ:I Kaldur'ahngst. (Why do my drabbles always end up too long?)
Side note: When a story only has two guys it, it's actually a bit of a chore trying to balance the use of the word "he" and their real names without it being repetitive or confusing. Gah.
I watched the world float to the dark side of the moon,
I feel there's nothing I can do ...
~ "Kryptonite" - 3 Doors Down
"No. I cannot go any further with this."
Kaldur'ahm flinched away when Nightwing reached towards his shoulder - his armour-clad shoulder, Black Manta's armour - and Nightwing froze, hand still suspended mid air. Kaldur couldn't quite be sure with the opaque eyelets of Nightwing's domino mask, but the other man seemed to be attempting to meet his eyes; Kaldur didn't let him. Nightwing sighed and let his hand fall.
"I'm sorry about putting you in this position, I really am -"
"I was the one who agreed to it. The responsibility for the operation, and any incidents that occur during it, falls to me."
"Don't be unfair to yourself, Kal. And you're doing good work."
"Do not tell me that I am doing good work as Manta's soldier, Nightwing."
His dark tone was the closest he had come to true anger since he had lost his head back at Mount Justice, had fought with his king and mentor. It may have been Kaldur's imagination - but for a split second, he could almost swear that he saw a flicker of fear across Nightwing's stoic face. Kaldur blinked. Was he becoming like his father already? My King, forgive me...
"Today, I watched two men die." It was a strangled, hollow imitation of the calm voice with which he had reasoned with the Team, until two months ago when he had 'defected', handing Nightwing the reigns. "My father assigned me as the leader of a squadron of Mantamen, and they fired two clean shots that sliced right through the civilian's chests. Not even my father's enemies, but innocent people caught in the crossfire, and their deaths were not even stray fire. My - my father's men were fully aware of what their actions were. I stood by and watched. For the sake of my cover. Is that a fair price, Nightwing? The death of even one person, for a visage?"
Only now did he look away from the crates at the far end of the warehouse and towards Nightwing. The black-and-blue clad hero lowered his head slightly.
"Don't lost the scope of the mission, Kaldur," Nightwing responded, quietly, tone subdued. "Think how many more lives could be saved if we stop the Light. I..." Nightwing's voice cracked slightly. "I'm sorry. God, how many times do I have to say it? I'm sorry. But we can't stop now, because this might be our only chance. I have to...I have to put the world first." Nightwing's Adam's apple bobbed as he said this. Kaldur noticed an undercurrent of...pain, in those words. But Nightwing ploughed on.
"Besides -" He stepped forward, palms offered, beseeching. "- don't you see? With you in Manta's ranks, you can stop people from being killed. You can't save everyone - not that you haven't always tried - but I'll bet my life that fewer people will die with you on the scene."
Nightwing sounded so certain. How could he have such trust in Kaldur when Kaldur himself didn't? He hadn't trusted himself fully since Tula had...had...
"Don't let those two deaths be in vain. Don't let Aquagirl's death be in vain."
Kaldur winced again. Dick briefly wondered if he had overstepped the line - but then:
"You are correct." Kaldur closed his eyes. "I apologise."
Relief loosened some of the tension in Nightwing's shoulder. "Nothing to apologise for." This time, when he placed a palm on Kaldur's shoulder, Kaldur let him - Nightwing squeezed reassuringly, though Kaldur could not feel it through the layers of metal. "I don't think I could be as strong as you, Kal."
Kaldur blinked in surprise, and Nightwing gave him a wry smile. "And, hey, I'm here. If you need a friend. I can't be there all the time, we both know that, but I'll do my best."
It took Kaldur a full moment, but he finally managed to muster a small smile in response. It even contained traces of sincerity, the old Kaldur - the younger Kaldur - shining through the cracks in his clouded eyes. "...You give me far too much credit, friend. But thank you."
Kaldur was a realist, and it was far too optimistic to hope that this ordeal would be done with swiftly, but with a comrade at his side, perhaps the burden would not be quite so terrible.