A/N: Hello everyone, been quite some time hasn't it? To be honest, I never meant to be gone this long, though I doubt a very many writers out there do. However, I can honestly say that it doesn't feel as though it's been months since I last updated this story at all, and for that I apologize. Truthfully, I had planned to update this Christmas day, as an apology and gift to all of you, but that never happened, and I'm sorry… really, I had promised a few that had PM'ed me it was to happen, and I let you down. As such, no promises shall be made henceforth on my updating. Life is crazy, life is unpredictable, and life takes the priority over all of my stories, so I can no longer promise anything other than that I WILL be continuing this story until it is completed, which isn't, at least with what I have planned, not for a great many more chapters. So, thank you for being patient, and once again, sorry.
P.S: A year has gone and passed since I published this story...and it really doesn't feel as though that long has passed...
P.P.S: CONGRATS to Markus-Antonius for being the first to correctly guess who 'Feathers' was. While technically it was KitsuneDragon, I feel that guessing numerous people is somewhat cheating as you could easily name off every possibility... I apologize for not clarifying earlier, but I thought that would have been clear when it really wasn't. That was completely my fault and I apologize. As per his request, I will be adding a small little extra on just how Naruto and Black Canary/Dinah Lance became such close friends, along with integrating an entire chapter, or at least a majority of one, on just how Naruto's 'shadow' group began, and going more in depth with a villain taking a deep interest, if not obsession, with Naruto/Fire Shadow, along with a few more strictly Batman and Naruto scenes. Yay~! As I said before, your ideas are great, and I can't wait to write them all out once I really find the time and motivation.
-Alright, enough of my ranting...most of which I doubt many of you read... AND ON TO THE STORY!
"Megan's telepathic conversations"
P.P.P.S: I just noticed how much longer the key is to how it was when I first started...
Chapter 11: Downtime
August 26, 14:22 EST
"You look like shit, 'Feathers'." Naruto stated bluntly, looking down at the beaten up form of his comrade. His lightly tanned skin was marred with different shades of purples, blues, reds, and sickly yellows, indicating wounds in different stages of healing. His mask laid off to the side to reveal strong facial features struck with slight flesh wounds that were sure to leave a few faint scars.
It was strange, seeing such a strong man look so frail and broken, yet the spirit in his eyes so vibrant and burning, perhaps brighter, than even before. The young blonde had only seen such a look on a scarce few in his life, the major being the look of utter determination in on Rock Lee right after he had been told that perhaps, his ninja career was over before it could even truly begin. He laughed in memory of the bowl-cut, bushy eyebrowed boy he knew as a child, as he had with the boy himself before he had been transferred to this dimension. How he had, whilst wrapped in numerous bandages and casts, gone out in the Hospital courtyard and began training once more, unable to allow his 'Flames of Youth' to dim even in this time of darkness. He was sure that Gai couldn't have been more proud at his protégé at that moment, regardless of his concern for his healing.
"And you're still a brat." 'Feathers' said dryly, unsurprised at the lack of sympathy from his fellow teammate. The blonde had, at the very start, always let him know how it was. He was blunt, yet had a way with his words to make him believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that everything he promised would be fulfilled. That what they were doing was worth more than their lives, and greater than themselves. Of course he had no doubt that the kid cared for him. Other than being teammates and partners, they had formed a strong relationship, however much neither really admitted to it.
"Stop your whining bird-man, and let me heal some of this up." Naruto said moving toward the unmoving body lying on the medical cot, "I would have earlier but after last time...well, I'd much rather you be conscious."
As 'Feathers' watched Naruto's hand gain the soft green glow, he relaxed and allowed the strange energy to take hold in his body and heal the wounds he had amassed a few days earlier.
"Good," he said, "The last time was not worth it. You might have healed my flesh wounds and bruises, but my entire body felt as though it were on fire while simultaneously being stabbed with needles. I'd rather wait out the couple weeks for them to heal naturally."
"Awww," Jade's voice interrupted, "and here I thought you were strong enough to take a little pain." Even though he couldn't see her face, 'Feathers' was sure the woman had a grin or smirk equal to that on her Cheshire cat mask.
Glaring at the young woman, he said, "That was not a little pain." she chuckled lightly causing him to grow more irritated, "Take that mask off, Jade."
Sighing dramatically, the young woman grasped hold of the mask and revealed a small smirk.
Deciding to stray away from the current topic, Naruto spoke up. "So," he began, "what did you tell the wife about your absence yesterday?"
Looking to the blonde, the wounded man replied, "Half-truths."
With a raised eyebrow, Naruto's silent request for him to continue was answered.
"She, as you know, is knowledgeable of very little about what we are doing. I told her I would be back soon to let her know a slightly bit more about my injuries, but she hasn't demanded any more than that, thankfully."
"I'm surprised she hasn't already." Naruto admitted, "Hawkwoman was never very...patient, even with you."
Scoffing, Hawkman pushed the blonde's hands away from his arm as soon as the slight laceration was healed thoroughly. "No, but she respects my wishes enough to not...badger me for more information."
"Well~ I for one am glad this is all over and done with." Jade said, looking at the almost fully-healed wounds Hawkman had sustained, "You've gotten better, blondie. Been practicing?"
Crossing his arms after over his chest letting the healing chakra evaporate from his hands, he said, "Of course. After everything that's happened, to me personally, that was one of my priorities, even with my horrible control, I'm able to do flesh wounds. Any deeper, I wouldn't be able to do anything, and you're internal injuries will have to be healed on their own."
"Right." Hawkman butted in, standing to his full height, "Since we're all here, what is happening on the Shadow's side?"
Jade, taking on a more serious posture spoke firmly, "They've been in contact with Black Manta," she informed, "It could be nothing other than a progress report, but I somehow doubt it. Something serious is being planned, and I'm going to go ahead and guess it will have something to do with the fish people."
"Other than that, have you made anymore progress with finding the Lights true intentions?" Hawkman asked, putting on his League costume and mask.
Shaking her head, she said, "No. They still have me at bay with the important decisions. I'm not in with the Light. Only my father; who is also keeping me out of the loop." The word father was spoken bitterly, her voice frigid and void of any pleasant emotions.
Nodding, Hawkman continued, "Continue to try getting a better picture on what they are planning." he said, "You are the only reason we have been as successful as we have been thanks to your intel."
Jade smirked victoriously, "My, was that a compliment?"
With a stern glare, Hawkman said, "I was merely stating a fact."
Silently laughing at the pair, Naruto felt a rush of one of his clones memories return to him. Blinking furiously for a moment, Naruto cut in, "One of my clones discovered something. On Poseidonis, they've discovered something...but I cannot say what. They have placed an immense amount of security. No one but authorized personnel are allowed in, or out."
"Must be some find then..." Jade commented lightly, curious about what the Atlantians had found.
Naruto merely nodded, trying to think about what the discovery could possibly be, and why it was of such high importance.
"Interesting..." Jade drawled out, "I'll try to find out more about what it is, since it's obviously something they deem to be of great value if they're talking to Black Manta."
"Good, I'm sure you'll find out more than I can, but I'll still keep henged clones around just to see what they can scrap up." Naruto said with a nod.
"Very well." the woman said before opting a serious glint in her eyes, "On another note, I've made a few more discoveries on our little mole..."
With a serious stare, Naruto silently demanded she continue, knowing that Hawkman was just as interested, if only slightly less so, as he was to learn what she had discovered.
"I can say that the mole isn't in your immediate Team, so that leaves very little other options."
His eyes widening some, Naruto knew exactly who she believed was the mole. A traitor who wasn't on the Team, but close enough to them and the League that they were able to provide vital information on what they were doing and who was going where, not to mention the motive to do so.
Red Arrow...Roy Harper.
"Are you positive?" he asked, his hands fisted at his sides.
Nodding seriously, Jade placed a hand on her partner's shoulder in comfort. She knew that there was a slightly bigger spot in his heart that he held the young Arrow. He had said once that the ex-side kick had reminded him of someone he once knew in his youth, someone he had deemed a precious person and would give his life to protect; a brother. To find that he was the one...that he was the mole, was undoubtedly hard for him.
Taking a deep breath, Naruto calmed himself. There was just one last question to ask: "Is he doing this willingly?"
Looking him directly in the eye, she answered him, "I don't know for sure. I just caught the end of their conversation before I had to bail out and return to my duties. Though I did catch that Cadmus was involved in some way. What exactly, I don't know, but a few theories seem plausible."
Letting out a small sigh, Naruto nodded at Jade and turned to Hawkman, "You should get back, I'm sure there's a crisis somewhere in the world that needs your help...there always seems to be something." the last bit was a whispered groan. Somewhere in the world there was always something that was wrong. Something that needed their help, or someone trying to take over part, or the whole world.
It was honestly rather irritating. Back in his world, there were always those who were greedy, those who killed for their own personal gain, but the only person who really tried to take over the world, was Madara, and that was for his own version of peace, rather than his own greed and hunger for power.
"Tch. I can say the same to you kid. Don't you have a Team to be training or something?"
"Canary is handling them today, as it's my "mental health day off". We need them every now and again, as I hope you know."
Jade rolled her eyes and sauntered closer to him, "Maybe we can spend the day together relaxing." Her voice becoming huskier as she finished her sentence.
Looking at the raven haired woman next to him, he gave her a smirk and leaned in close to her face, so close their noses were almost touching.
"Hmm, as tempting as that sounds, let's not. I really need to get a few things squared out at the Watchtower before I can get back home."
Putting on a rather genuine looking pout, Jade sighed lightly and peeled herself away from the blonde. "Well, can't say I didn't try." she said before turning to Hawkman, "You better get back to the Mrs, Feathers. I'll head back to the Shadows and see what more I can dig up, and just how far my influence goes."
Nodding to the ex-Shadow assassin, Hawkman turned to the exit of their true base, hidden under layers upon layers of rock, cement, and concrete, and powered by their own generator in order to stay off the grid. It was suited to their needs, outfitted with another personal supply of food, clothes, armor, and weapons, as well as various wings in which they can practice their style of fighting, and one dedicated specifically for medical purposes. A room that was continuously being used between the three of them, though more so for Cheshire and Hawkman than Shadow.
"I will call the next time something comes up." He said before riding the elevator up and out of their base, leaving both skilled ninjas alone.
"So," Jade began, turning her full attention to the blonde before her, "how are things going between you and that pretty little bird?" her voice teasing, with the slightest twinge of jealousy.
With a curious gaze, he stared at her, "What do you mean?"
"You cannot be serious."
More confused, he ushered her to continue, but instead of an answer, she merely shook her head and smiled wickedly.
"If you don't know, then there's no way I'll tell you." She laughed at his put out expression before wrapping her arms around his neck, pulling him close to her at the same time. "Besides, I much rather have this Naruto than one who knows what I mean."
As he was about to respond, Jade pulled down his half mask and pressed her lips to his, enticing a startled gasp that she took advantage of immediately.
Naruto was more than a bit surprised, even more so as Jade intensified the sudden kiss into something more. His body responding before his mind was able to compute what had happened, had moved his arm around her back while his other hand tugged at her hips, bringing them closer to him, his mouth moving just as passionately against hers as she did his.
When he finally regained clarity in his mind, Cheshire had pulled away from him, her face looking smug and accomplished. "See you around, blondie~." she said before she sauntered off and entered the elevator, leaving him to recount just exactly what had happened.
Once she was completely out of his sight, Naruto let out a groan and rubbed his face tiredly.
"Well, that was interesting." Kurama quipped lightly, his voice teasing.
'Shut it furball.' Naruto growled in his mind.
"Fat chance." the fox said smugly.
'Gah, why can't my life be simple?' He groaned to himself.
"Because you're Kami's itch with a b."
August 27, 06:17 EST
Naruto burst into the abandoned warehouse, saving his last conscious ward from the mercy of Clayface's hand-mace. The villain was tough, his molten clay body able to sustain even the harshest of physical attacks, the only thing he knew would work on the beast, was something that conducted electricity.
Using a wind technique, Naruto pushed Clayface away from Kaldur, and further into the warehouse. The man-turned-monster roared in an unwavering rage before he charged Naruto. His hands though were already speeding through seals, and once the monster was close enough, he revealed his palm which had a raikiri charged and ready for impact. As soon as the lightning swept through the surface of the clay, the beast screamed, high and filled with agony that had forced Naruto to shut his ears off to the noise, as he had learned to during his shinobi days in Konoha.
He watched, emotionless, as Clayface's body dripped to the floor before he turned to his young friend and helped him off the ground, already having shadow clones do the same for the other unconscious members of the Team.
"You'll be alright." Naruto said to the Atlantian before he lost consciousness in his arms, nodding to his clones as they helped him take all of the Team to the bioship. Thankfully, the ship shifted the seats into small cots where the unconscious members could rest while they flew to the Cave. Once he was seated in the pilots chair, Naruto flew them straight home, glad that Megan had shown him just exactly how to manipulate the ship without telepathic abilities.
Kaldur was the first to awaken from his unconscious state, bolting up from his laid position, his eyes moving quickly to determine where he was. When his eyes met Naruto's, he looked down in shame, knowing he had failed the Mission as well as his friends and Mentor.
"We're about twenty minutes out from the Cave," Naruto said casually before his eyes became a bit sterner, "Care to explain just what happened down there?"
Kaldur looked up and met his Head Supervisor's eyes and tried, "I am sorry you had to intervene," he began, "I know the Team performed poorly-"
"Actually, the Team performed pretty well." Naruto interrupted, "However, you did not." His eyes became narrowed, trying to decipher exactly what was wrong with Kaldur, and why he hadn't been acting himself these past few days, so he pressed on, "You are their Leader, Kaldur. By vote, you are the one they turn to when all hell breaks loose. It's a big responsibility, of that there is no doubt, but you have been handling yourself well this far…what has changed?"
"No! You are-…" Kaldur sighed, his eyes finding the floor of the Bioship far more interesting than his Supervisor's sky-blue ones. "You are correct…"
"I am here to help Kaldur." Naruto said to the young teen who seemed to be facing a rather strong internal battle, "However, I cannot unless you tell me what is wrong."
Kaldur met the eyes of his friend once more, finding nothing but compassion and understanding within their depths. Gathering his courage, he spoke once more.
"As of late I am not even convinced I belong on the Surface World." He confessed, "For so many years it had filled my every thought, but now that I am here… my dreams are all Atlantis."
Naruto looked at the teen closely, trying to see underneath his words, listening intently on the way he had worded everything. Dreams…he, according to Aquaman, had dreamed of nothing but being what he was now, a Hero, among those above the surface of the sea. Yet now it seemed to be more than a mere case of homesickness, something deeper…something closer to his heart, so he decided to take a shot in the dark.
"Is it Atlantis?" He asked softly, "Or someone you left behind?"
As soon as he had said 'someone', Kaldur's eyes had widened, shock eminent in the soft pale green orbs, and he knew he had guessed correctly.
"Listen Kaldur," Naruto said a bit out of his depth, "You can easily split your time between here with the Team and Atlantis…but you can't continue to be so unfocused, you already know the consequences that can come from it…" He motioned toward the other still unconscious members of the Team and saw the teen wince.
Seeing that Kaldur was going to remain silent, Naruto continued, standing to place a comforting hand on his shoulder and squeeze it slightly, "I think you need a small vacation to Atlantis." He said, "I'll call Aquaman and let him know you'll be joining him down there as soon as everyone's up, clean, and fed. Afterwards, I expect an answer as to whether or not you will continue to stay with us Kaldur, and no matter the decision, I will support it."
Looking up to Naruto, Kaldur let out a soft sigh, "Thank you, Naruto."
With a crinkle in his eye, Naruto replied in kind, "It's what friends do, Kaldur."
August 27, 10:48 EDT
When the Team returned to the Cave, Naruto let them know of the situation, he felt as though they deserved to know, and Kaldur wasn't opposed to it.
"It is just… I am sorry, it is something I must do." Kaldur said to his friends as everything was explained.
The Team's individual reactions were varying. Artemis hadn't known Kaldur for very long, but she couldn't deny that he was a great leader even if she hadn't been on the earlier mission since she was with her "Uncle." As such, she didn't have very strong feelings over him leaving, but was certainly apprehensive to think about what would happen to the Team dynamic if he did.
Megan looked at her friend sadly, but tried to hide it. "We understand, Kaldur." She said giving him a tight hug, not knowing what else to say.
"Yeah, don't worry about it Kal." Robin said, "Whatever you decide, we'll still be friends."
"Totally!" Wally was quick to agree, though he really didn't want Kaldur to leave. Robin, He, and himself had been the original trio of side-kicks, sans Speedy, or rather Red Arrow, who left at the start of this all. Not to mention they had been friends for years, and being on a Team together had been better than great. "We're here for you." He finished with a wide grin.
Superboy was unsure of what to do, but decided to answer truthfully, "I hope you decide to stay, but it's not as if we'll never see you again."
Naruto smiled at his Team, happy they had formed such a strong bond in such a short amount of time. As he watched them continue to say their short goodbyes, he couldn't help but think back to his original genin team and where they were after two months of officially being a Team. If he remembered correctly, they had still been chasing that damn cat Tora for the Fire Daimyou's over-weight wife who never managed to smother the beast to death.
After two months, they still lacked the very basics of what a Team was, and still had an abysmal amount of proper training. He couldn't blame Kakashi very much, since they were particularly difficult to deal with, but as a Teacher, he was meant to do more than damn teamwork exercises…he was meant to help them out through their problems, meant to be their rock when they had nothing to help hold them up, meant to be more than the habitually late annoying "teacher" he had been.
In the end, it neither mattered, nor did they care as their team had been all but destroyed, but he was proud to say that his Teacher would have been proud to see him as he was now, and proud of what his Team had become.
"You should get going," Naruto said, "Aquaman said he would meet you on the other side at 13:00 UTC-2."
Nodding to his Head Supervisor, Kaldur gave one last look to his friends and smiled, "I will see you all soon."
His other Team members smiled slightly and waved, "Try not to attract trouble while you're out there." Robin said waving.
With a small chuckle, the sound of the automated voice in the background, he said, "I shall try."
One flash of light, and he was gone.
And the other Team members let their masks fall slightly.
"I hope he decides to stay with us…" Megan whispered, hugging herself slightly.
"I think we all do, Megan." Robin said giving Megan's shoulder a squeeze.
"I certainly hope he will." Naruto quipped in, gaining their attention, "However, if he decides to return to Atlantis, for whatever reasons they may be, we will support him one hundred and ten percent."
"Of course." Conner said with a stern nod, annoyed that he would insinuate they had thought to do otherwise.
"Now, I believe you all deserve some rest after today," Naruto said to the remaining Team members, "Tomorrow, we'll be going over what happened with Clayface and how you can all learn from it."
"Sure thing, Fishcake." Robin grinned widely, lessening the tension in the air considerably.
Groaning loudly, Naruto rubbed his face tiredly, wishing dearly he had never told anyone his name, least of all the baby bat.
"Alright, alright, go on, eat, sleep, play…do whatever you'd like." He said turning, "I have some things that need to be done, but if you need anything from me, just call."
"Sure thing." Wally said, turning to his friends to see if they could do something to get their mind off the fact that Kaldur might leave them.
Naruto groaned as he let himself fall on the soft couch they had set up in the official "Lounge" not wanting to zeta up to the Tower and try to scrounge up more information on what was down in Poseidonis. Perhaps it would be easier to merely question Kaldur about it when he got back?
"You seem tired." A soft melodic voice rang in his ears, making him turn his head toward the sound and squint open his eyes.
Finding Canary standing in the doorway wasn't much of a surprise, but it was certainly welcome.
"Hello, Dinah." Naruto said with a small smile. Since she had learned his name, he had taken to calling her by her own rather than merely Canary as he had done before. It felt...different, but in a welcoming sort of way. "What brings you here? I thought you had something planned with Oliver?" he asked curiously.
Dinah scoffed slightly before flopping down on the couch next to him, causing him to raise a brow.
"I'm going to go ahead and guess something went wrong?"
"Let's just say Oliver is an idiot and leave it at that." She said with a slightly murderous glint in her eyes.
"That was already established, but alright." He said, hoping to elicit a laugh from her, if only to get the conversation away from whatever Oliver had done wrong.
Smiling when she let out a small chuckle, he continued and asked, "Now, what can I do for you, Dinah?"
"Why do you think I want something from you?" she asked in return.
Raising a blond eyebrow, he said, "So...you don't then?"
"I never said that, just wondered why you assumed."
Wondering where this conversation was headed, he continued slightly confused, "So...I'm right?"
Rolling her eyes, she punched his arm lightly, "No, I'm asking why you automatically assume I wanted something from you."
Rubbing his arm in a faux attempt to seem in pain, he said, "Um, I don't know...most people don't particularly want to speak to me unless there's something wrong, or they need something." It was the truth, despite how much he hated recognizing it. It had been a long while since he had been able to talk to anyone openly. Talk to someone who knew everything about him already, and knew everything that had happened to him.
There was J'onn, of course, as he had seen many things about his life from the first attempt to read his mind, but he wasn't all that comfortable speaking to the Martian. He would much rather speak to Megan than him, despite everything he had gone through with the man. It wasn't anything personal, but the Martian gave him, and Kurama, bad psychic waves.
"Hmm, well that's not a good." Canary said with a twinge of sadness laced in her voice, "How about I take you to the fair? Get away from all this madness for a day."
Naruto smiled, his eyes crinkling in delight. "You know it won't really be fair to the game employees when we blindside them with our amazing skills and leave with every prize." he commented wanting to laugh at the mere thought.
"Hmm, let's make it an exercise for the Team then, however get's the most, can skip out on the next spar with the two of us." Naruto's eyes lit up at the thought, knowing that each of the members would be fighting hard to win since they all hated, possibly with a passion, the spars they had with both Canary and he.
"I already said they could rest, but I don't think they'll want to miss out on this." Naruto said with a smile still evident on his face.
Smiling with him, Dinah turned to the door that lead to the Game Center, knowing that would be where they would find the Team.
"Let's go get them then."
August 27, 13:00 UTC-2
"Greetings Kaldur." Aquaman greeted his Protege as he swam out the Zeta Tube.
"King Orin." Kaldur greeted, saluting his King.
With a smile on his face, Aquaman motioned for him to swim along, moving toward the heart of the city, where they would split ways, leaving Aqualad to do what he wished.
"The Queen and I are hosting an intimate dinner tonight." Aquaman said to the teen, "Will you attend?"
Aqualad answered without hesitation, "Your Majesty...there is someone...special, that I had hoped to see tonight."
Aquaman smiled, chuckling slightly, "You may invite a friend."
Kaldur smiled happily at him Mentor, "Thank you, My King."
With that, they parted ways, Aquaman returning to his duties, while Kaldur swam toward the Conservatory where students trained in their sorcery and magic, knowing this was the place to find his friends, and most of all, the one he left behind.
Upon swimming through the many students in the courtyard, practicing their sorcery, Kaldur came across an old friend of his, Topo, who seemed to be rushing to finish a mosaic of some sort, though Kaldur could see the King was depicted in it.
"Topo," Kaldur interrupted looking at his friend's work, "the workmanship is magnificent."
"Kaldur!" Topo turned, seeing his old friend, "wait, watch... listen" focusing his magic upon the mosaic, the art began to move, depicting the story of how Garth and he had assisted in helping Aquaman defeat the vile Ocean Master, and how he had accepted his King's offer in becoming his Protege.
Kaldur was lost in thought as he watched the story, listening to his friends narration of the events that happened so long ago. It was true, he and his best friend Garth had managed to distract the Ocean Master with their combined powers, allowing their King to triumph against the villain. In the end, both Garth and he had been offered the chance to become 'Aqualad', but Garth had chosen to remain in the Conservatory and continue his training, whilst he had taken his King's offer, his curiosity and dreams of the surface world making his decision easier.
"Kaldur?...I mean...Aqualad?" Topo's voice had brought him out of his reverie, forcing him to come back into reality rather than reliving past events.
"Oh...It is very good, Topo." Kaldur commented, placing a hand on the mosaic. "Do you know where I might find Tula...and Garth?"
"On the roof, at their studies." Topo said lightly, as though that were the only answer he could receive.
"Thank you, my friend." Kaldur said before swimming off toward the roof, where he would find his friends.
Upon arriving on the roof, Kaldur saw both Tula and Garth, along with the Queen herself who seemed to be in charge of both his friend's studies.
Saluting to his Queen, Kaldur said, "Apologies my Queen, I did not mean to interrupt." Which was true, though he was happy to hear his Queen's response.
"It is well, I have another class. Will I see you at dinner?"
"Yes, Your Majesty." he said with a smile.
"Then I shall see you then." with that, she swam from the roof and into the building, off to whichever class she had after teaching his friends, leaving the trio once again together after so long.
Once the Queen was gone, Tula hugged her friend, "You look well, Kaldur." she commented as she released him from her greeting.
"Yes," Garth said placing a hand on Kaldur's shoulder, "Surface life agrees with you."
Kaldur looked at his friends with a slightly curious gaze, "You speak as though we have not seen each other for years, yet it has only been-"
"Two months." his two friends answered in unison.
"That long..." Kaldur stated, wondering how it hadn't truly felt that long at all. Then again, there hadn't been much time for rest between everything the Team was assigned and everything both Naruto and Canary had put them through. He supposed that was where the time had gone, and left him feeling as though not much had passed as everything was fairly quickly paced.
Looking to his friends Kaldur said, "Then I must make up for lost time. Tula, will you accompany me to dinner tonight at the Palace?" When both Garth and Tula shared a quick look, Kaldur narrowed his eyes curiously before placing a hand on Garth's shoulder, "I wish I could invite you as well."
"I made that choice long ago..." Garth commented looking to Tula, before she averted her eyes and spoke to Kaldur.
"We have another class," she said looking as though she wanted nothing more than to disappear, dragging Garth along, "But I will see you tonight."
Kaldur stared longingly at Tula as she swam away, but could see that there was something that both his friends failed to tell him, and perhaps did not want to. Training with the Fire Shadow of the Justice League had taught him more than merely tactical strategies, and strength training for being out on the Field. Naruto had taught all of the members of the Team to look underneath the underneath, and there was clearly something of importance that was not being said that involved them both.
He shook his head lightly, knowing that whatever it was, and if it was truly important, his friends would tell him when the time was right. After all, that was what friends did.
August 27, 14:45 EST
"Alright, Kidies!" Naruto said to the Team, henged as an older version of Sai, sans the trademark creepy smile, "Here are the rules. You're each given $50 to spend on the various side games here, whoever wins the most prizes and still has the most amount of money, wins and doesn't have to spar with C and I tomorrow. The one with the least amount has to fight us both at the same time."
Looking to the Team, he could see the competitiveness win out, and they all looked with sheer determination, wanting to be the one to win the most amount of prizes so they could skip out on the next spar...those were absolutely brutal.
"Oh, also, you can't use your abilities to help you out, and you can only play at each station twice, win or lose." Canary said with a smile, knowing this would even the odds a little more since they all got training in the areas they were weakest at, though the little Bird and Shooter were sure to have a slight upper hand at most of the side-games at the fair.
"So, go on and win!" Naruto said with a wide grin that was only slightly creeping the Team out.
"Ohh! There's a coin toss thing on to the top of a bottle!" Megan said walking over to the stand, wanting to see if she could win without her telekinetic abilities.
Watching as everyone went their separate ways, Naruto smiled wondering just how many prizes each of the members would win before their money ran out. He had already scoped the area beforehand with a few clones and could see that all, save for a few, of the games were rigged for the player to lose unless they were 1: extremely lucky, or 2: had the knowledge to win at the rigged games.
He could see that Conner had followed Megan to the coin tossing booth, and couldn't help but smile. To everyone else save Conner and Wally, it was clear that Megan had a bit of a crush on the Kyptonian teen, and had since she first met them after the initial formation of the Young Justice Team. It was an interesting thing to look at, watch as both slightly socially awkward teens gravitate toward each other and quite possibly become something more.
Turning his head slightly, he also saw that Wally had left to the booth where reflexes were the skill needed. Being the speedster he was, flipping a switch that changed where either the blue or red balls would go to seemed perfect for him. At least as the first game of the day.
Robin and Artemis were going toe to toe with a game at darts, both finding the game that required the most accuracy, and leveled strength to a good first game to play, though it seemed the Baby Bat was taunting Artemis into missing a few of the balloons that were made to withstand the dull ends of the darts.
"Should we have a competition ourselves?" Canary challenged, regaining the disguised Leaguer with a mischievous glint in her eyes.
"Hmmm, is that a challenge I hear?"
With a wide grin, that looked completely natural on his henged form, Naruto said, "You're on. Same rules?"
"Same rules, but we go head to head on each game." she said with a smirk.
"Let's go then." Naruto said already walking over to one of the booths that allowed for multiple people to play.
Palace Dining Room
"A gigantic echinoderm, frozen, yet still alive!" Prince Orn told those at the dinner enthusiastically, "Of course at this point our data is quite limited, but Dr. Volko believes this creature is very promising."
The dinner had been served and finished, everyone listening raptly at what the Prince was stating, though Kaldur turned to his friend Tula his voice a bit above that of a whisper.
"I am thinking about rejoining you at the Conservatory." he admitted with a smile, one that was not mirrored by his friend.
Before he could comment on her expression, the Queen interrupted, having heard what he had said, "You realize you left your studies some time ago." she said softly, "Your sorcery skills have not kept pace...you would no longer be in Tula's class, or Garth's."
Kaldur looked down slightly at the news that he would no longer be in the same classes as Tula, or Garth's, but perked up and said, "Then perhaps I will require a tutor?" looking to Tula hopefully, though once again, she did not return it and instead looked sheepish and ate a piece of whatever was left on her plate.
As desert was being prepared to be place on the table, both King Orin and the Queen stood, looking absolutely bright and absurdly happy.
"We have an announcement." Aquaman said, placing his hand over his wife's stomach.
"I am with child." the Queen said brightly, seemingly shocked herself that she and her husband spoke true.
"Oh that is wonderful!" Tula said ecstatic over the news and rushed to hug her friend and Queen in joy.
"Congratulations!" Kaldur said to his Mentor, shaking his hand, "An heir to the throne at last." he stopped to turn to the Prince, feeling thoughtless at his choice of words. "Forgive me Prince Orn, I did not mean..."
"No fear Kaldur, for no one could be more thrilled at this news than I!" Prince Orn said, happy for both his brother and sister-in-law.
"Thank you brother." King Orin said happily, "Thanks to you all!"
The celebration however was cut short when Superman's voice came through from Aquaman's communicator placed on his belt. "Superman to Aquaman, League emergency in Tokyo bay. Rendezvous at the Watchtower."
Placing a finger on the communicator, Aquaman replied, "Acknowledged." before turning to his wife, "It seems I must take my leave..." he said holding onto her hand tightly, before she forced it out of his grip, not daring to stare into his eyes, or back as he left. Aquaman knew that being a Leaguer and starting a family was going to be difficult...already not having much time down in Atlantis as it was due to his responsibilities on the surface. But such a sacrifice was to be made for the better of the world, and he just hoped that his wife would continue to support him as she had even with a child on the way.
"Swim with me." Aquaman said to his protege, turning away to the Zeta Tube room and leaving behind the others.
Once they were a fair ways away from the room, Aquaman turned to his protege and began, "Shadow has made me aware of your...dilemma." he said softly, causing Kaldur to flinch, "I know from personal experience that it can be difficult to live there and love here."
As they reached the entrance to the Zeta Tube, Aquaman inserted just where he wished to Zeta to and turned one last time to the young teen. "I am confident that you will make the right choice." he said placing a strong arm on his.
Kaldur forced his waring thoughts to halt and placed a strong expression on his face as he saluted his King. Once the flash of light was gone, and his King along with it, Kaldur allowed the mask to fall and he rubbed his face tiredly. He thought, he had already made his decision, to stay in the sea, in Atlantis alongside Tula, but he was suddenly unsure if that was going to disappoint his King and Mentor.
He decided to return to the Hall and ask Tula out for a quick swim around the Palace gardens, hoping that perhaps then, some more light could be shed on his situation and final choice. For he would not only be leaving his duties as Aqualad, but as Leader of the Young Justice Team. Returning to live here, with Tula again would leave him little time to return to the surface and visit his friends, much as it had with visiting both Garth and Tula. Yet they seemed to be getting along well with their studies...and he couldn't help but wonder who would become Leader in his place should he leave.
Robin was the one he believed should have been Leader, but he was far too young and inexperienced in such a task that forcing it upon him so young would be detrimental to his growth. Wally was to headstrong and eager, leaving his choices to be rushed and have a higher risk. Artemis to new to the Team...Megan to unknowing and naive at times...and then Superboy who was still to quick to anger.
He supposed that Shadow would take over...but that wouldn't be the same Team that they had planned to begin at the start of this all in the beginning of July.
Sighing, Kaldur felt as though he truly knew where his decision lie, and decided to swim back to the Palace, keen on letting Tula be the first to know of his decision.
Both Tula and Kaldur swam alongside each other, looking awkward and wondering at which point would be a good time to speak, though both found that their courage at the same time.
"There is something-" they both said in unison, laughing lightly at the coincidence.
"Kaldur, I-" Tula began, only to be stopped by Kaldur's hand.
"Please, Tula.." Kaldur began softly, taking her hand in his own, "I have made a decision. Though I miss both you and Garth dearly, my place at the moment is above the sea, and in the Surface World with the rest of my Team. I will try my best to return more frequently, so that two months that have passed without so much as word as to how we are doing does not happen once more. I am sorry, for my indecision before now seemed to cause you some duress."
Tula sighed lightly, internally relieved for she had believed he was about to confess his feelings to her, feelings she had known about before now, but had not thought he would ever act upon them as she had before now.
"Kaldur, there is something that I...we, should have told you the moment we saw you." Tula began, "Garth and I...we are...together." she said softly, taking her hand back from his own.
Kaldur for the most part looked shocked, though with a few blinks of his eyes, he reached an understanding. This had been what both Garth and she had been hesitant to tell him, in fear of hurting his feelings as Garth knew of his true intentions toward Tula months ago. It hurt, truly, but Naruto's words spoke true to him. Underneath the Underneath, the truth was always there, and he had known that something like this was extremely plausible. As they had said, it had been two months since they had seen each other, and within those two months, he himself was no longer the same person. It would be logical to think that within that time, both Tula and Garth had changed, and found each other.
Before he could say anything, the world around them seemed to explode. Behind them, the conservatory was all but demolished, stone turned to rubble now falling around them. He stared on in horror as that explosion was not the only one, as it seemed every major building in Atlantis was put to the torch, the entire city seeming to crumble underneath the explosions strength.
Without having to look at each other, both Tula and Kaldur rushed back to the Palace, protecting the Queen and the heart of the City the first things on their mind.
When they arrived, a fight was already quickly heating up, guards attacked the black clad men, the uniforms of those who work under Black Manta. Everyone fought against the invaders, Kaldur using his teachings from both Naruto and Canary at their fullest. Whilst Naruto nor Canary could train him properly in sorcery, everything that Naruto has spoken of control, and finding strength in protecting those he loved and cherished, had been put to the test.
"This attack was precision planned." Kaldur stated out loud whilst taking Black Manta's men out with his water-bearers. "The initial explosions lured patrols into ambush."
Swimming more agile than anyone remembered, Kaldur was able to bring down many of those who dared to threaten his home, Tula, the Guards, Prince Orn, and the Queen taking many of the others out as well.
"Tula!" a voice broke out in the midst of the fighting, taking Tula's focus off of the sorcery she had been casting and turning to the familiar voice of Garth. Once she saw her boyfriend, she screamed his name in fear, noticing the black clad man pointing his gun at his back. Rushing over, she managed to push him out of the way, only to be shot herself, rendering herself in pain, and unconscious.
"TULA!" both Garth and Kaldur screamed in fear, Garth holding his beloved's unconscious form in his arms and protection, Kaldur already at their side.
When the Queen cast her sorcery, they were once again reminded why it was she who held the Heir in her womb. She wasn't just a pretty face, she wasn't weak in the slightest, but the strongest Female sorceress in all of Atlantis, as was required of the Queen by her own standards. She called upon her magics and summoned an octopus form, larger than the very roof they stood and began to capture and throw those who dared to destroy her home with all her strength, rendering them unconscious and useless on the battlefield.
"Surface communications are down." Prince Orn explained feeling the pressure, "We cannot reach King Orin! Summon more troops to the palace!"
"The palace was not the only target." Garth said to the Prince, "I witnessed explosions in sectors one, two, three, and five."
"Nothing in sector four?" Kaldur said already suspicious, "Explosions all over the City except for where the Science Center is located. Where your gigantic sea star is secure."
Seeing the dots being lined together, Prince Orn said, "Then it is all a diversion, but with the King away I must protect the Queen...and the heir."
"I need no protection! Go!" The Queen stated firmly, wishing someone could see that she was the one doing all of the fighting at the moment.
"No, Mira." Prince Orn said softly, "If you suffered an injury my brother would never forgive."
"The Prince is right my Queen." Kaldur said firmly, "This battle is mine."
"And mine!" Garth's voice came through, though he was still cradling Tula's limp form in his arms.
Aqualad looked at the two, "Your place is with Tula." he said, though not unkindly. Without another word, Kaldur readied his water-bearers with both a sword and made, already swimming through the men, taking as many down as he could along the way and headed toward the Science Center, keen on stopping this theft before it occurred.
August 27, 17:32 EST
"Alright, now let's count and find out who is out lucky loser!" Naruto said with a wide smile on his now covered and un-henged face.
"I got fifteen." Robin said smugly, looking at the large prizes he had gotten throughout the day.
"Ha!" Wally said with a fist in the air, "I got sixteen."
"I won thirteen." Artemis piped in, already knowing she didn't win.
"I only got seven." Megan said softly, though happy with those she had won.
"Ten." Superboy said before he continued, "but I gave them to Megan, so technically she has seventeen."
Both Canary and Naruto shared a look, happy to see that Megan held a stuffed rabbit close to her chest, already knowing that it was only one of the prizes that Conner had given her.
"Hey! That's cheating!" Wally said, thinking smugly that he had already won. "That's cheating right?"
Naruto smirked at the speedster, "We never said you couldn't, so it's alright." at Kid Flash's glum face, he continued, "Which means Megan is our winner, and Superboy our lucky loser."
"Not cool, Fishcake." Robin muttered annoyed that he had come third, third(!), in the little competition they had.
"Well, it's getting late and I'm sure you all have a few things you want to get to so now, you're officially off. Hope you all had fun!" Naruto said with Kakashi's trademark eye-smile.
"Heh, next time, I'm going to win." Robin said to Wally.
"Psh! In your dreams, Rob!" the speedster replied good-heartedly.
"Well, I have to get home. See you tomorrow guys." Artemis said walking over to the Zeta Tube.
After a while, everyone went on their separate ways, leaving both Naruto and Canary alone once more.
"Well, today was fun, and I won, so shouldn't I get a prize?" Canary said turning to the blond Leaguer.
Smirking, he said, "I guess, but that's only because you kept kicking me when I tried to aim."
"Never said anything about distractions." Canary smiled widely, "Artemis found that out the hard way as well."
"Ha! That she did." Naruto laughed, remembering how angry the archer was when Robin wasn't penalized in any way when he did everything he could to distract her in the booths they went head-to-head in.
"So, what do I get?" she asked again.
"Hmmm, don't know." Naruto answered lightly, "What would you like?"
Tilting her head to the side a bit, she put on a slightly thoughtful expression before brightening up, "You have to promise to take me out again, just the two of us."
Blinking in surprise, Naruto felt a slight blush rise from his neck and couldn't be happier he chose to imitate his habitually late teacher, as it hid his heated cheeks perfectly.
"Oh, um...sure." he mumbled out still a bit out of it that that was what she wanted, "Whenever we have free time again, we'll go out. I'll make sure it'll be even better than today." he promised finally regaining a bit of his senses.
"Good." Canary smiled happily before turning to the Zeta Tube, "See you tomorrow, Naruto."
"Till tomorrow, Dinah."
Aqualad had managed to enter the laboratory, only to react when Garth sneaked up behind him. Retracting his sorcery imbedded into his water bearers, he said to his longtime friend, "You should be with Tula."
"The Queen watches over Tula, and sent me after you." Garth replied.
Knowing he could not go against his Queens orders, Kaldur nodded sternly before swimming inside, Garth following close behind. They both swam through the narrow hallways, Kaldur's training coming through full blast as he sent a silent wave through the water, acting as a soft, unnoticeable sonar and alerted him to two of Manta's grunts.
Before Garth even knew he was gone, Kaldur had managed to sneak up behind them and knock them out cold just as they took aim against his friend.
Seeing Garth's shocked expression, Kaldur said, "I too have had my studies." Whilst it wasn't strictly sorcery, his training did wonders out in high pressure situations as the one they were currently in. Everything Naruto and Canary had taught him had centered around retaining a leveled head even in the most dangerous of situations. Loosing focus, or losing a calm mind could very well lead to one's fall. And this was something he had learned the hardway earlier that day with the Team in Gotham City.
"It would be wise to disguise ourselves as these two." Garth pitched in, "It will allow us access without suspicion.
"That is a good idea." Kaldur said, already releasing the man from the suit and placing it upon his own body.
Once they were properly dressed, both Kaldur and Garth swam into the room, the giant frozen echinoderm taking the majority of the space. Kaldur nodded to Black Manta, receiving a slight nod in return, though he could not feel the man's gaze linger on him, and more importantly, his waterbearers he had chosen to clasp onto the uniform's belt.
After a few moments, Black Manta swam up to the pair, "Impressive is enough...Aqualad."
Knowing their disguise had been seen through, Garth shot his weapon at the Black clad villain. Seeing that their Leader was being shot at by the two, the other grunts went to work against them as well, locking their weapons onto them, forcing both Atlantians to fight back with equal ferocity.
"Such a waste! You really have no ambition beyond serving Aquaman!? Aren't schools of other fools willing to die for their King. This fool for example!" Black Manta screamed before sending a blast from his mask toward Garth. Said Atlantian would have been hurt badly, if not fatally had Kaldur's reaction time not been so short, using his waterbearers as a whip and brought his friend away from the blast.
Once they were under the safe cover of a concrete beam, Kaldur turned to his friend and hissed sternly, "Garth! Get your head in the game."
Swimming away to fight against Black Manta and his grunts, Kaldur forced his body beyond it's limits, forcing his muscles to continue moving despite their strain, all to glad that Garth had found his focus and began to truly fight along side him, as they had once before against the vile Ocean Master.
However, despite their attempt to stop Manta from taking the frozen specimen, the main ship above the glass dome had melted through, dropping down a thick steel line that was to attach to the ropes latched around the ice, making their get-away all the easier.
Kaldur continued to fight head to head with Black Manta, while Garth had taken to fighting against the grunts. His body, however, was not up to the strain and he was considerably weakened, particularly against Black Manta who hadn't done much fighting up until then. During their mostly one-sided battle, Kaldur noticed that a grunt had managed to clasp the cable onto the echinoderm, already hefting the frozen beast above the stand made by the Science Center.
"Garth!" he called out to his friend, "The cable!"
Without being told, Garth formed a condensed ball of his sorcery and threw it toward the clasp that attached the ship's cable to the echinoderm, forcing the frozen ice to fall harshly back down to the stand, breaking apart some of the ice, and fully awakening the beast within it's grips.
Manta, looking at the broken cable felt nothing but anger and rage, "If I can't have it," he screamed, "no one can!" Without a thought to anyone's well being, he shot a couple of his shoulder torpedo's at the beast, causing not only for the echinoderm to explode, but everything around them to feel the shockwave of heat and destruction.
Garth had managed, before the brunt of the explosion hit, to force a frozen shield to erupt and protect both Kaldur and himself. Unfortunately, when the smoke dissipated in the ocean water, all of Black Manta's men and the man himself had retreated onto his main ship, leaving nothing but destruction and memories to prove he was ever even there.
September 3, 21:08 UTC-2
"Our City was heavily damaged, and many Atlantians were injured...and many lost, but it could have been far worse." King Orin said, holding onto his wife and unborn child tightly to his side. "I am grateful to you all."
Prince Orn brought forth a small container, within it a small piece of a sea star.
"This contains all that survived." he said, "It is already regenerating, the creature requires further research, but with the Dome compromised and the Science Center in ruins, we cannot safely secure or study it. Perhaps...the Surface World can do better."
"I am sure they will be eager to try." King Orin said to his brother. Turning to his protege, he continued, "Kaldur?"
Saluting his King, he replied, "Please, call me Aqualad, My King." fully letting his Mentor know his final decision on the matter.
Aquaman merely smiled slightly at his Protege, knowing that he would have made such a decision in the end.
Since they had other duties to attend, Aquaman, Queen Mira, and Prince Orn all bid the young Teen goodbye and wished him well once he returned to his Team, leaving the friends alone once more.
"Kaldur..." Tula began, "I...we...that is..."
Placing a hand on her shoulder, Kaldur released her from her stuttering, "I wish you both nothing but the best." he said, completely honest and in fact, happy for his two friends. Hugging both his friends one last time, Aqualad turned to the Zeta Tube, the light forming around him.
Before it could take him to his destination, Kaldur turned to Garth, "Have you ever wondered what would have happened had I stayed behind, and you had become Aqualad?"
"Never." Garth answered.
With a small smile on his face, Kaldur replied honestly, "No...neither have I."
A/N: And 'Feathers' is revealed! Honestly, I was surprised when there were a lot of people wondering who he was before this chapter, since for some reason, I thought it was easy to decipher. I mean, Naruto, when it comes to nicknames, isn't all that creative...so when I put feathers, I wasn't trying to be metaphorical or insinuating it had a deeper meaning, I was making it pretty literal.
I'm sure you realize, Hawkman's personality may be incredibly...out of character, but as I'm not completely familiar with him, I've decided to take his personality and make it as I would want it to be. So if his reactions are not what you expect them to be, sorry, but that's the way it shall be from now on since he will become an increasingly more frequent character in this story. I will of course, be re-reading all of the comics I have of him and see how I can rectify this in a way which his character won't be too out of character.
On another note, I know there are a couple, who I know of, out there who are annoyed with me for not updating my stories more frequently, but I just can't update as much as I would like to... I try, truly and honestly try, but life sucks duck butt sometimes people. Sucks HARD... so I'm dealing with issues in reality that really take priority... I was honestly tempted to put all my stories on indefinite hiatus until everything could be squared out, but as it would be indefinite, I didn't want to do that.
And I will NEVER, EVER, EVEEEERRRRR abandon or allow anyone to adopt any of my stories. I'm selfishly stubborn that way. I am completely comfortable with people taking inspiration from my stories, but stealing my hard work is completely unacceptable and every other author on this site will agree with me. Soooo, with that said, even with my horrible updating, this story will forever be mine, and only mine. Is that me being possessive? Most definitely, but I couldn't care less.
On the actual chapter itself...I am unhappy with it, but I'll take it as is, and if something happens in the future with my writing that is contradicted with anything written here, then I'll change it.
Until my next update! Which shouldn't be as long a wait as it was for this one...