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E P I S O D E SIX : R E F L E C T I O N S
DIRTY BUSINESS


T H E E V E R G L A D E S

September 17th, 2021 | 14:55pm. | Everglades National Park, Florida

The airborne members of the team had successfully managed to locate Kobra’s swamp base of operations. The dreadlocked man that Stormcaller had seemingly knocked out, poofed into a plume of smoke. A plume of smoke that clearly moved of its own accord to flee, but left a trail for them to follow. In turn Daphne and her team had managed to escape the alligators unscathed, seemingly through no effort of their own.

They were reunited behind a cluster of trees. Some of the Team members were starting to feel the effects of trudging through this heavy terrain for a good few hours. Unfortunately the toughest part of the mission was still ahead of them. So despite being tired and covered in crusted mud they set their minds to completing their objective.

Kobra’s base was intentionally made to look like a water treatment plant, complete with a warehouse. Only instead of a bland collection of factory workers in jumpsuits, there were armed Kobra agents crossing bridges and using boats to move between the different buildings.
In Avalia 7 days ago Forum: Casual Roleplay


Time: Evening
Location: The Righteous Tern - main deck
Interactions: Bardulf
Equipment: Oil-paper parasol


Masako's acute senses picked up on Bardulf's discomfort. Instead of answering his string of questions she immediately sprang forward in concern. Her porcelain like fingers touched his forehead gently. Other beings seemed to able to gather information about another's person well being this way. It was a skill she was still trying to improve.

"You seem uncomfortable. What is wrong?"

The wind moved a strand of Bardulf's hair into his eyes which Masako gently pushed back behind his ear. She wondered what caused him to feel this way. Perhaps he was hungry and needed something to eat, or maybe his sleep had been terrible, plagued by nightmares. Unfortunately she didn't have much to offer him at this time. It proved much more difficult to care for someone when she wasn't living in a place where food and beds were readily available.

The Warforged patiently waited on an answer.
In Avalia 22 days ago Forum: Casual Roleplay


Time: Evening
Location: Cargo hold of the Righteous Tern - main deck
Interactions: Bardulf
Equipment: Oil-paper parasol


Masako regarded the stranger in front of her with curiousity. His demeanour reminded her of a skittish wild animal, meeting with something unfamiliar. He was handsome despite his scars, maybe it even added to his looks. It was comforting to see that there was beauty in brokeness, even in Avalia's other species.

She answered in a melodic voice.
"I am Masako, warden of the Altmer elven family who reside in the Ironhold. I was..." She stopped her well practiced recitation of her purpose in this world. There it was again. This strange and uncomfortable feeling, like something was stuck in her throat. It made her otherwise unwavering delivery sound much more emotional. The blue glow filling up her eye sockets flickered.
"I mean, I am the caretaker of their children, my wards"

"It is my purpose to find them and return them home safely."

In Avalia 3 mos ago Forum: Casual Roleplay


Time: Evening
Location: Cargo hold of the Righteous Tern - main deck
Interactions: -
Equipment: Oil-paper parasol


Slivers of warm pink light peeked through the cracks of the cargo hold ceiling. They hit the dull brown wood of the many crates stacked there, until they reflected off of something. It was a shimmering glass case. Inside was a piece of precious cargo, or so captain Blackclaw believed. The captain made a deal to deliver a non operational Warforged to a trader on the other side of the Eastern sea. He was paid a good amount of amas up front so did not question the deal. In all his years of travel he'd never come across this particular kind of Warforged. He had his crew put her in a case, to display the craftsmanship of her creator.

The setting sun seemed to be beckon the Warforged back to life. Masako awake slowly from her state of rest, indicated by the increasing glow of blue in her eye sockets. Feeling her extremities spring back into function she carefully pushed open the door of her display case.

Masako let out an airless sigh and brushed off the dust from her embroidered yukata style dress. Getting on a ship proved yet another challenge of many on her journey to find her wards. It took Masako three days to secure travel by ship, facing continued rejection. While staying in the ports of Roshmi she became acquainted with a demi human trader. He took pity on her after hearing her story and arranged for this deal with captain Blackclaw.

It would be good to draw in some fresh air. The cargo space was incredibly dusty and humid. After some aimless wandering Masako eventually reached the deck. Her footsteps made a distinct click clacking sound, produced by the wooden sandals she was wearing. Masako glanced around, debating her next move. The Warforged looked painfully out of place.



Location: The Everglades
Interactions: Talos, Stormcaller, Zatara, The Green


Daphne tried her best to not miss anything that was being said. Between the plants, Viktor at the ready with a battle plan and Vincent and Cora asking for her for a greenlight it was a lot. Her response was uncomfortably late, but nonetheless effective and cohesive.

“I agree with Rain’s division of the Team. Just make sure not to breach the top of the trees. They are using drones to patrol the sky, so best not to go up too high.”
She looked at Vincent, who’d already unfolded his wings eager to go airborne and a short glance at Cora and Zach who were already levitating.

“Use your comms to check in regularly, to share your positions but also test if it still works. We are very far into the swamp, there's barely any signal out here. If we’re unable to communicate, stay in one place and send out one of you to locate the other groups.”

With a plan set into motion Daphne felt the ever present concern for the safety of her friends come back to the surface.
“And please be careful guys, it’s dangerous out here.”

After the groups each went their separate ways her group started to look for a path ahead. Just before they started to climb up the roots of a maple tree Daphne confided to Viktor she wasn’t able to shut out the voices of the Green and as a result lacked the concentration needed to maintain her transformation.

The trees held together dirt and sod with their root system, creating small patches of land sturdy enough to support the weight of several people. They were spaced around the area unevenly and some too far apart to jump. Daphne was ascending the first one they climbed, keeping her eyes on her feet and always keeping one hand gripped firmly onto a root before moving.

Her face was twisted with a mixture of utter focus and a hint of fear. The brown water underneath her made her uncomfortable, not knowing what was hiding in there. She turned her body and pushed off grabbing onto a root on the next maple island. Daphne surprised herself with the speed she was able to reach the top, probably because she wanted to be as far away from the water as possible.

She brushed off some dirt on her costume. Daphne looked at Kassy, Viktor and Will figuring out how each would make it across. They shouldn’t have too much trouble, each of them were capable in diff….

Something heavy was moving over her boots.
It has scales…..

She whimpered quietly realizing what it was. Immediately her heart was up in her throat and when it started to coil around her leg she lost her cool and let out a high pitched shriek. Daphne stumbled backwards, managing to somehow disperse and reform in a matter of seconds, freeing herself from the reptile’s grip. But then she felt herself falling back into the open air. She screamed again which would have been followed by a splash, but right before she hit the water there was the groaning sound of roots dislodging themselves from the mud. The roots of the maple tree swept her up just in time. Only the ends of her hair tipped into the water before she was carried back to safety.

She had no time to recover from her fall being immediately assaulted by a chorus of the Green.

Watch out….

Your friends….

Danger…there’s danger

The water is moving

We will protect

In the distance multiple pairs of green slitted eyes were staring at the Team. Apart from the eyes and nostrils the rest of the reptile’s bodies were hidden below the waterline.
E P I S O D E SIX : R E F L E C T I O N S
DIRTY BUSINESS


T H E E V E R G L A D E S

September 17th, 2021 | 13:13pm. | Everglades National Park, Florida

Dwell time between missions had finally come to a close. The League deployed the Team to a remote area in the swampy Everglades. Their objective was to locate a facility where Kobra was suspected to be working with different compounds for their experimental venom serum, a project the Team had spent months uncovering while thwarting its development on a small scale.

Batman himself managed to narrow down the location to a specific area, having provided coordinates from where a thorough on-the-ground search could begin. A search that was left to the Team, or more specifically, Daphne. It was her who now took point in leading the Team through the Everglades, using her ability to “speak” to its vast collection of vegetation.

Since waking up from her coma Daphne’s ability to communicate with plant life had vastly improved. It had gotten to a point where sometimes it overwhelmed her. When she initially acquired her powers, communication with a plant was typically hit or miss, requiring her to always be touching said plant. The “conversations” she had were usually one sided. She’d ask the plants for a favor they either granted or silently denied.

Now she could hear them from anywhere and once the Green sensed her presence it was challenging to shut out their voices. Their personalities were distinct, much like humans. The quiet voice of a trail of water lilies was trying to give her directions, but the white mildly sweet smelling flowers were being drowned out by fern plants that kept shouting for the Nymph’s attention.

Her struggle to communicate effectively caused the Team to have to change direction on the fly, passing by the same spots several times. No one was commenting on it yet, but Daphne was starting to doubt she could locate the facility successfully.

She strained to filter out the voices and covered her ears. For some reason the call of the green was much louder here than anywhere else.
“I just need a minute guys…”
“They’re all communicating at the same time..”


It looked like she was having some sort of headache and she could barely hear herself talk.

Eventually they reached a spot where the water was too shallow for the airboats to make it through. They were entering into a visibly different area of the swamp. There were clusters of tangled maple trees, forming small islands and thick carpets of broad leafed plants, resting on the surface of the barely visible water underneath. The airboat slowly came to a halt and Daphne glanced over her shoulder at the Team.

“We have to get of here, I’m just not really sure which direction to take.”
“Kobra is dumping their test compounds into the swamp waters. It’s disturbing the plant life. We should be close to the facility, because the pollution is getting stronger.”


Without the airboats traversing through the swamp would be a lot more challenging. The Team had their work cut out for them.

&


Healing touch



There was the sound of cutlery being dropped on the floor and a muffled “Oh crap” coming from the outside of the infirmary. Daphne quietly entered the infirmary, carrying a tray with chicken soup and two pieces of bread. She balanced it carefully between her hands. The kitchen and the infirmary were not close to each other at all. She’d made it this far, now to just get it onto a table somewhere.

Daphne wasn’t too keen on placing it near any medical equipment and eventually reached Will’s bedside. There was a mostly empty side table sitting conveniently next to the bed. There was only a phone charger on there and a stack of books. Daphne moved the books out of the way to make room for the soup.

She glanced at Will. He looked like he was sleeping. His eyes were closed and his hands were resting at his sides.
“Hey…how are you feeling?” Her voice was soft.

Quiver opened one eye and peered out at his teammate.

“Rain sat with me all night holding my hand. I think his gentle touch will bring me a full recovery.”

He turned and looked Nymph in the eye.

“The sponge bath was a little much though.”

Daphne smiled and shook her head.
“Hah hah….very funny Will.”

He grimaced and held his side, trying to move himself into an upright position on the bed.

“I’ve spent too much time with Green Arrow. I can’t stop with the jokes sometimes. It’s starting to really annoy me. Is it presumptuous to hope that soup is for me?”

Quiver could smell the soup Daphne had made from down the hallway, but didn’t want to get his hopes up that it was for him. He was elated not just to see Daphne again, but the prospect of a home cooked meal.

“It is, but I’m going to help you eat it so hands off.”
Red Tornado advised Will not to strain or move unnecessarily . It would stress his stitches too much. Daphne definitely did not want that happening. That was going to turn their quality time into another bloodbath. Then he’d really need a sponge bath too.

Daphne put down a napkin over Will’s chest.
“Can you lean back a little bit?”

She turned and picked off a piece of bread dunking it into the soup. She labeled it up onto the spoon and held it up so it could cool.
“Okay so you have to be honest, because I fell asleep halfway through cooking this…”

Will smiled at Daph’s kindness. His return to the team was not without its complications, including the altercation that landed him here in critical care in the first place. But the trouble on Will’s mind wasn’t about Metamorph, or the mission. It was about Daphne.

He had heard from Green Arrow and Zatara that his “identity” so to speak has been revealed to the team in a debrief from their previous fiasco of a mission. But he wasn’t in a position to be able to explain himself to Daphne and his old friends. And now with just the two of them here, he knew it was the best chance to do so. But he could feel a hesitance within Daphne that he hadn’t felt before. Or was he projecting?

He winced as he tried to sit up a bit more and look at her. He didn’t want to look like a broken teammate. He wanted to show strength and good cheer. But he didn’t have a lot of either of those, not right just yet.

Will accepted the spoonful that Daphne had held out to him, and its warmth radiated throughout his whole body. And the taste was…

The taste was..

Well it tasted like warm water with a little salt, if we’re being generous.

Will was at an impasse. What was he supposed to say? His eyes met Daphne’s and he could see her eagerly looking on, expectantly. He could feel sweat breaking across his brow.

“Um. It’s uh….”

Shit

“……yummmmmmmy….?”


Daphne winced despite Will’s best attempts at being considerate of her feelings.
“That bad huh…?”

She stopped spoon feeding the watery soup to her teammate feeling embarrassed. Without the soup there was just a dry piece of bread, not too appetizing. Her honey brown eyes looked back up at Will, the embarrassment already fading. Their interactions had changed the least since the Team was put together. There was always this comfortable silence between them. No pressure, just two introverts enjoying each other’s company. She guessed she could call it a friendship by now.

Although now that she was mulling over their relationship in her mind, there was one thing that had changed. Whenever they made eye contact now, she could actually see his eyes. A deep shade of blue that shifted with the light, mysterious and watery. Losing the shades seemed to have brought out a different side of him.

“You probably imagined you coming back to us a lot differently.”

Will looked down at the end of the bed, unsure of how best to answer that question.

“Honestly, Daphne, I'm not sure I imagined coming back at all. After you went under…it was like when Casper left. I felt unmoored. When Green Arrow told me that you’d recovered - I just didn’t think I had it in me to see you. It’s hard to explain why.” His voice was searching, shy.

Will moved a book aside that he had in his bed, if only to give himself something physical to do while he worked out how he was feeling.

“I mean, I’m glad you were okay. But I didn’t know how you’d take it, knowing I left. Or how the others would feel if I just walked back onto the team. I thought I’d changed enough to make a difference here, I had more to offer. But things are going worse than I had even thought. Whatever is happening with Metamorph, I can’t help but feel bulldozed by the others. Or that I did something wrong by being wary of his current status on the team.”

Daphne’s contemplative look turned into an expression of compassion.
”You know… you’ve really changed.”
She gave him a small smile to let him know she was talking about a positive change.

”Viktor told me you left. That got through to me despite my state. My memories of my coma aren’t cohesive but I do remember you leaving, stirred something in me.”

Attempting to meet eyes with Daphne, Will continued on.

“I know he’s not doing these things on purpose, but I feel stupid. I’m stuck in the infirmary - maybe because of him - and I feel like maybe to the others, that it doesn’t matter.” Will put his head back, as if tired of the whole situation, or embarrassed about talking like this.

She took the book Will grabbed earlier and turned it over in her hands.
”We’re not really sure why Kila’s acting this way. I don’t think it has anything to do with you honestly.”

“It’s weird. I’m not really used to being so aware of my feelings. So I’m not sure what to do when they get hurt.”

”That must be hard…”
As someone used to experiencing the emotions of herself and others deeply, it was difficult to imagine being in Will’s position.

”Feeling incapable is difficult to deal with.”

She wasn’t sure what else to say.

Daphne’s attention was drawn to a deepening stain on Will’s gray t-shirt. She pointed to his chest.
“You’re bleeding through your shirt….”

She shot up from her seat like she was stung by a bee. Daphne rushed over to the medical supplies grabbing everything she thought they would need. With a slight look of apprehension she returned to Will’s side.

”I can help you change the bandages, just try not to move too much. Hold up your arms for a second if you can.”

Daphne's hands were shaking but she was acting surprisingly level headed. She peeled back Will’s shirt until she could pull it back over his head.

Will felt her fingertips on his stretched back, felt himself grow hot - either from the physical contact or from the reopening of his battle wound he couldn’t be sure. His torso was exposed entirely, old scars and all. He was suddenly intensely aware that all he had on were his briefs, and his teenage hormones were not to be trusted.

The pain in his wound however tempered any hot blooded engagement, and instead Will let Daphne ease him back onto his pillows. She moved deftly, cleaning the wound and applying the salve before the new bandage. He felt a sting briefly but it passed. All the while she worked, Will looked at her face. She looked serious, and was taking genuine care to be gentle with him. He could smell the flowery scent that always seemed to accompany her, and felt his body relax more. He looked past her, to the door frame as he let his mind wander.

“You called me Will. I like the way it sounds, coming from you. I’m sorry about what happened. I’m sorry I left. And I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you that I left Talon behind. That’s something you’d tell your friends, and I didn’t. And now look at us.”

Daphne pulled off her gloves and washed her hands. Once she finished cleaning everything up she got Will a fresh shirt.
“It’s okay Will, I’m happy you came back when you did.”
She averted her eyes and let him get dressed. Her cheeks blushing slightly pink.

“You know there was a time where I also thought about leaving…..”
This was the first time she was telling this to someone and she felt embarrassed. After a short pause she continued.
“It was after the mission in La Hoya. I felt like I couldn’t pull my own weight. That I didn’t deserve to be here.”

Daphne bunched up the fabric of her skirt into her hands, balling it into her fists. Still she smiled whenever she felt Will looking in her direction.
“It was tough because I could either go back to a place where I didn’t want to be. Or stay where I wasn’t wanted. So I felt like I didn’t have anywhere to go.”

Will wasn’t totally surprised at the revelation. He knew a little about how Daphne was feeling about her place on the team. Was it possible that everyone on the team had felt this, at one point or another? He wondered if Metamorph was feeling this way right now, somewhere in the base. Even though he knew what she was feeling, he was glad she didn’t leave. She had a place on this team beyond just another capable superpowered person. Daphne was someone who the others could rally behind in her kindness. The others - himself included - had a propensity to have a hair trigger, or who at one point or another expressed genuine anger and frustration. Daphne seemed to be the only holdout. Will was sure she was capable of those feelings, but seemed to intuit that on the field they had no place. She had the coolest head of all of them. It’s what made him think she’d make the best leader on the team.

“I can’t imagine there being a place where you aren’t wanted, Daph.” Will said, pressing lightly on his new bandage.

Daphne smiled to herself hearing Will’s words. It was nice to be wanted. No matter what happened at home she would always have a place to go back to. Somewhere where she was safe, where people valued her for more than just her powers.

“Thank you, I really appreciate that.”

She hoped that despite the Team’s past and everything that was going on currently, they could move forward together.



Location: Harbor
Interactions: Stormcaller, Talos


Daphne worriedly observed from the sidelines, staying low to keep out of reach of the flying bullets. Unlike Vincent who swooped down into the fray heroically she was more cautious.

During her time with the Team so far she had mostly stayed on the sidelines, helping her Team from the backline. The role came naturally to her. It was counter intuitive to her powers, which made her strong and durable. It was ironic then to see that she put herself more on the forefront now that her powers had transformed into something soft and more fragile.

"Alright I'll be right behind you."

She watched Cora take out one of the thugs by landing right on top of him. That was impressive. Seeing Cora take on the bad guys made her more eager to join in. Daphne singled out a shooter positioned on the high ground. He could freely keep shooting from higher up. It was a smart move, if it wasn't for the interference of the Team. She transformed and let the air currents carry her up to the shooter. At first the man was unfazed and kept his wits about him. He started shooting at Daphne in mid air, only to realize each shot when right through her. The fluttering humanoid reformed effortlessly.

When the man realized his weapon was useless against Daphne he tried to make a run for it. Before he could jump down the container to join his allies he was caught in a cloud of petals. Daphne overwhelmed his senses with the pacifying pheromone that surrounded her. Their close proximity quickly made the shooter abandon his aggression. He was left standing still, weapon lowered. Without missing a beat Daphne transformed back and relieved the man of his firearm. It took her a minute before her training kicked back in and she was able to unload the handgun, just as Viktor trained her to.

Daphne took out two more shooters and fluttered down to Cora and Vincent.
"Nice landing Stormcaller.."

She turned to Vincent and smiled confidently.
"You don't look like you need any help, but we're here anyway."



E P I S O D E SIX : R E F L E C T I O N S
STAKE OUT


C I T Y H A R B O R

September 2th, 2021 | 22:28pm. | Harbor, Gotham City

Their mission was supposed to be recon only, observing an illegal trade between two rival gangs. It started out that way, with the Team split up at different vantage points around the sea port. They had the added cover of night to help stay undetected, spread out among the many shipping containers that lined the harbor. The transaction took place on the docks a little ways from the cargo ships, cranes hanging overhead.

The sampling of the shipment was incredibly tense, with both leaders staring the other down. On both ends they were backed up by groups of armed gang members. Somewhere, something went wrong and sent things snowballing into disaster. The gangs opened fire. They scattered across the harbor. It forced the Team to move positions or they would get caught in the crossfire.They’d been given strict orders not to engage.

They were paired up around the perimeter. Batman having been personally responsible for the division this time around. There was Viktor and Pei, Cora and Daphne, Ja and Will or rather Quiver who hadn’t revealed his identity to his former Team just yet. Vincent was paired up with Zach which left Alisa to go along with Kassy.

Moving from one hiding spot to the next was starting to resemble a russian roulette.There were bullets coming in hot from multiple directions. Not everyone could eat bullets as well as Vincent.

The ones with enhanced hearing would be able to discern the pained groans of a civilian caught in the crossfire. The injured man steadied himself on the side of a large crate, his left leg was grazed by flying bullets in multiple areas. He was lucky none of them pierced his leg.

There was another round of shots, which barely missed him. There was a stinging pain in his left arm and he was forced to lower his body to the ground.

&




The summer sun was already up and at it and so were Vincent and Daphne. Red Tornado tasked them with the chore of breaking down the obstacle course. The work was cut out for the two teens, there was a lot to do. Fixing up the punching bags, detangling the climbing ropes, emptying the water bridge and the list went on. They decided to start out at the target practice area. Daphne went around each crosshair and picked up the stray arrows, sometimes needing to pull them from the dirt. Some of them had green feathers making them more difficult to spot.

“Over here…”

“Here’s one more…”

“Look behind you”

The grass continued to whisper directions and she moved around from one place to the next. It made her much more efficient at something that might have taken a lot longer otherwise.

Down the line of crosshairs there were two with arrowheads exiting from the back. Most likely victims of either Alisa’s or Viktor’s superhuman strength.

Daphne trudged back to the designated spot for gathering stacks of arrows and dropped a reasonably sized stack next to the others. She glanced over at Vincent.

“How’s it going over there?”

“Pretty well,” Vincent replied as he slowly made his way down the line of targets.

While Daphne had to physically pull them out of wherever they landed, Vincent used his control over carbon to coax the carbon fiber arrows free, occasionally dismantling one if it proved to be stubborn before reassembling it. He had no trouble finding them, despite how well hidden they were. The carbon within the polymer the arrows were made of acted as a beacon, letting him sense exactly where each one was.

Arrows hung around him, seemingly suspended in zero gravity, as he joined his teammate over by the pile of arrows. The arrows swirled around him for a few moments before they gathered into a neat pile and settled down next to what they had already gathered. “I think that’s the last of them,” he said. “What’s next? Do we need to replace the targets?”

Daphne ran her hand over the roughed up wood of one of the targets. Aside from the ones pierced by arrows they didn’t look too worse for wear. She wasn’t sure if replacing them was part of the clean up. Not to mention she wouldn’t know how, they didn’t bring any replacements. The crosshairs were too heavy for her to carry in stacks anyway.

There was something else she was good at though. Break time!
She brought a bag full of snacks and drinks. When Red Tornado listed what he wanted them to be doing Daphne figured it would take at least until lunch time. The teen looked down at her watch. 11:30 am.

They could have an early lunch/late breakfast.

“What’s next is break time!” Daphne exclaimed with a smile. Without missing a beat she set up an impromptu picnic, complete with a flowery plaid and about half of the Mount Justice pantry. She motioned for Vincent to join her and proceeded to lay down on her back.

Vincent took his place on the blanket, sitting next to Daphne. He let out a low whistle at the snacks and, picking up a sandwich, he said, “Impressive spread. There might be just enough here for the both of us.”

Daphne looked up at the mostly cloudless sky, her hair fanning out behind her. The breeze felt nice on her skin.

“You know…” She said, sounding like she was recalling a distant memory.
“The last time I was in a park like this, I was in Gotham.”

“I like it here better though, it’s….safer.”

He nodded and replied, “I don’t doubt it. I’ve never been to Gotham, but when I was at Bludhaven, there wasn’t a day when I didn’t hear about something or other happening over there. Street gangs, crazy clowns. Think some scientist even turned himself into a bat?”

He was quiet for a moment as his mind drifted back to his time before joining the team. “I never really gave myself time to relax like this,” he said after a moment. “I was usually either fighting or getting ready for a fight. It’s nice taking things slow like this.”

When Vincent mentioned his connection to Bludhaven Daphne was intrigued. It sounded like he wasn’t there to take in the scenery. The former whaling town had a largely disadvantaged populace and a high crime rate.

“What were you doing in Bludhaven?”
Daphne was aware a question like this could come off as accusing, given the reputation of the city. But being from Gotham herself she had an understanding of what life was and could be like in a city like Bludhaven.

“Fighting,” Vincent repeated honestly. “Not like we do now, though. I wasn’t like Nightwing or Batman, brooding on rooftops and swooping in to stop a mugging or anything like that.” He picked up another sandwich and continued, “There was this underground fighting scene, backed by some crime family or syndicate or something or other. I was happy enough with my winnings, so I never really looked into it.”

He took a bite and waited to swallow before he continued, “I ran away from ‘home’ when I was…13, if I remember right. Did some wandering for a year or so, took on the occasional odd job or, when things were really tough, I’d stoop to robbing some poor sap. Not proud of it, but I did what I had to do. I eventually found my way to Bludhaven, where I heard about a less-than-legal tournament with a pretty nice prize pool, and decided that would be better on my conscience than using my powers to pick on people who couldn’t fight back. Found the place, met the Old Man, and the rest is history.”

As Vincent went to take another bite of his sandwich, he stopped, chuckled, and looked down at Daphne. “That…was probably a bit more than you wanted to know, huh?”

While Vincent shared some of his backstory with her, Daphne’s eyes grew steadily wider. Filled with worry, compassion and also pity. All of it was aimed towards the clouds as they didn’t make eye contact right up until Vincent looked down and she looked up, right into his gray eyes.

She swallowed and managed a slight smile.
“I’m sorry you had to go through that.”

“Ah, that’s all a long time ago. I don’t even think about it much, anymore,” Vincent said as he laid next to Daphne, his hands laced behind his head. When he looked down at her, he noticed a flicker of pity in her eyes. In truth, it kind of irked him. It never sat well with him when people pitied him, but he decided to let it slide. He had a feeling it came from a good place, as far as Daphne was concerned.

“Besides,” he added with a grin, “if it weren’t for what I’ve gone through, I wouldn’t be the badass I am today.”

“At least you…” She considered what she was going to say carefully.
“You made it in one piece.” Daphne wanted to say he was still a good guy, that he was cheerful and funny, but felt they didn’t know each other well enough to go there yet. Instead she compared his situation to someone she knew back in Gotham.

“There was this girl in Gotham I went to school with. She came from a rough family situation, always dealing with something you shouldn’t be during your teens. It almost seemed inevitable when she eventually got caught up in the wrong crowd.”

“I tried to stay in touch with her, keep tabs on how she was doing, but eventually she just disappeared and I never heard from her again. Sometimes I still think about her at the most random times.”


As he listened to Daphne’s story, his eyes closed, he felt his heart go out not only to the girl she talked about, but Daphne, herself. He didn’t know her all that well, yet, but he could tell she was one of those people who genuinely cared about other people. He let her finish before he replied, “I can’t say I know what was going through her head or why she up and disappeared like that. What I can say, from personal experience, is that when things get really shitty, sometimes someone might think it’s best to cut their losses and get a fresh start somewhere else.”

He opened an eye and looked at Daphne, adding, “I’m sure she appreciates what you did for her. It might take a while, but I’m sure when she’s ready, she’ll get back in touch with you.”
Daphne nodded, finding Vincent’s explanation very plausible. It was something she had thought about too. If that was the case maybe it was for the best. She sat up again and pulled out a carton of strawberries and two plastic bowls.

“I managed to salvage these before Ja got to them, he eats them with the crown still attached, says he likes the crunch.”

One by one she carefully pulled out the crowns, dividing them fairly between the bowls. Sometimes the leaves snapped and she had to dig into the fruit to get the stem out. It was a tedious activity and using a knife would have made it a lot easier.

When she was finally done she handed one of the bowls to Vincent. There were red fingerprints on the side.

“One for you”

Vincent looked at the bowl and grinned as he took it from Daphne. “You know, I’m basically a walking Swiss Army knife. I could’ve taken the tops off for you,” he said with a chuckle as he set the bowl to his side and picked up a strawberry from it. He bit into it and sucked the juice out of it before popping the rest into his mouth. He nodded appreciatively and said, “Not a bad batch. Makes me wanna make a shortcake. Suppose I could treat the team with that for dessert tonight.”

Daphne forced a smile. It tugged at the corners of her lips but stopped there. The rest of her face was set somewhere in between discomfort and fear.
“Actually knives make me squeamish.”

“Oh, sorry,” Vincent replied with a bit of a sheepish chuckle. “I didn’t realize.”

“It’s okay, you didn’t know. I don’t get why they still freak me out so much, considering everything else I’ve been through the past few months.”

Vincent scratched his head and a look of puzzlement crossed his face. Daphne paused and thought for a moment. The conversation went quiet.

“Back when I lived in Gotham, before joining the Team, I was walking back home at night through the city park and I got robbed and held at knife point. They pushed it up to my neck. It set off my powers. It’s basically the reason I’m here.”

It was the quickest run down of her hero origin story she’d ever shared. There were chunks and details missing from the story. It still wasn’t something she liked to talk about. It made her visibly uncomfortable. Daphne’s hands were balled up in her lap.

"Sorry, that got a bit dark.."

Vincent shook his head.“Nothing to apologize for,” he said. Even he could tell there were some things Daphne wasn’t telling him, but he knew better than to push it. As much of an open book as he thought himself as, even Vincent had things he’d rather not talk about. Things he had done.

He plucked another strawberry out of his bowl and took a moment to enjoy the breeze as it blew over him, tousling his hair. After a few moments, he said, “To be honest, after spending so much time on my own, I wasn’t sure about joining a team. At the time, when Nightwing gave me that choice, I just looked at it as a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card. Community service.”

He bit into his strawberry, then added, “After that first mission with you guys, though, I’ve kinda been rethinking things. It’s not something I’ve got a lot of experience with, but it felt good knowing that people had my back out there. And I suppose using my skills to help people other than myself was pretty nice, too.”

Daphne looked at Vincent and smiled.
“With our kind of job it’s nice to know someone’s always got your back. We keep each other safe.”
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