"So I heard you and M'Gann broke up."
La'gaan glanced at Conner, expecting to see him smirking. He wasn't, but at the glance, he did give a small smile.
"What, no 'I guess she's all yours, Chum'?"
"We both know that whatever the thing keeping you two apart is, it isn't me. Come to gloat?"
"What? No! I just..." Conner sighed. "I just wanted to say I'm sorry to hear it."
"No you aren't."
"Look, I know I haven't... always been that nice to you. But you were always good to M'Gann, and I appreciated that."
La'gaan watched him for a moment. He seemed to be sincere. Finally, La'gaan shrugged. "I wasn't always that nice either, rubbing our relationship in your face and all that."
"Yeah but I should've backed off. Nothing that happened between us was your fault." Conner looked away awkwardly. "The thing about M'Gann is, she wasn't just my girlfriend, she was the first girl my age... well, developmentally... that I'd ever met. And she put my mind back together once. She's... special."
"I know. I can't pass for normal on the surface world like you can, and even in Atlantis... she had a lot of the same problems on Mars. She gets it."
"Look, do you wanna... go play video games, or something?"
La'gaan cocked an eyebrow. "Is that the opening to some kind of joke, Chum?"
"No! Look, we're... we're losing people. Friends. This whole invasion is too big to do nothing about, but it's dangerous, and this is only the beginning. I mean, Artemis was a really good friend to me, and..."
"... and Kaldur was a good friend to everyone," La'gaan finished quietly. "Once."
"Yeah. And I don't ever want to be watching a teammate's coffin being put in the ground and be thinking, 'I wish I'd gotten to know them better'. Do you?"
La'gaan stared at Conner. It struck him, not for the first time, how young he was. He walked around in a teenager's body and information psychically implanted by those Cadmus sharks let him fake maturity a lot of the time, so it was easy to forget. Atlanteans completed compulsory military service young – La'gaan didn't see a problem with putting the fifteen-year-olds into battle, and even the thirteen-year-olds were just rookie age. But six? Six was too young for ambergris like this. And this kid had been fighting since he was about an hour old.
"No," La'gaan said quietly. "I don't want to be in that situation again. I thought I knew Kaldur, and I wish I knew Artemis better..." he looked away.
"Hey. That wasn't your fault. Artemis was not your fault."
"I failed to stop Aqualad. I should've stopped him in the water."
"He had an army!"
"So I should've waited for backup!"
Conner shook his head. "The to of us still couldn't have done it. Nightwing and Artemis couldn't take on Kaldur, could we really take on Kaldur plus an army?"
"I'm a stronger sorcerer than he is."
"And he's got years of military experience on you and – I can't stress this enough – an army. Besides... I don't know if you know this, but when I was just starting out I used to let my emotions get the better of me a lot. The amount of times I'd ditch my communicator and charge into battle alone without a plan..."
"I know, I've read the files."
Conner's eyes widened. "You actually read the files? Nobody reads the files!"
"It was the first thing I we get told to do when joining the Team. The very first thing. What if we end up fighting previously engaged enemies and the key to defeating them is in the files?"
"See, that's exactly my point! Anyway, you're not alone on the 'charging blindly into battle' front."
"But the difference between you five years ago and me today, is that I'm a trained soldier. I've fought in the Atlantean army, Conner, all Atlanteans my age have. I should have known better." Also you were barely a toddler who shouldn't have been on a battlefield in the first place. "Besides, you never got anyone killed."
"You did not get Artemis killed! Aqualad did that, and nobody else! Backup or not!"
"Whatever you say."
"Look, are you going to come and get slaughtered by me in whatever racing game I can scrounge from Mal or not?"
La'gaan grinned. "I'd like to see you try, Chum."