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.”