Wonderful readers, here we have our second pairing oneshot, this one, as you can probably tell from the title, is all about our lovely Atlantean and Thangarian duo.
Okay, so this one is set in a nebulous, non-canon future when they're around eighteen years old. And, you know, everyone's happy and Kaldur isn't hung up on Tula, and the Reach never showed up and Kaldur never had to infiltrate the Light. This oneshot was a beast to write (and not just because of sheer length), for reasons I will expand upon in the finishing author's note to avoid spoilers.
WARNING: If you suffer from any kind of fear of the ocean, deep water, or things that live in either of those two things, read with caution. There's also going to be some unpleasant injury description in this one, so please be mindful. If you want to skip all of the unpleasant action-y stuff, skip down to the ***H*** for the cute fluff.
"I would have preferred to have the entire Team on this mission, but as it stands, time is of the essence." Batman sounded slightly regretful of that fact, lips turned down into a deeper scowl than normal, which spoke volumes to the current situation. "Aquaman also has the same concerns, but as I said, we cannot afford to wait. Out of everyone on the Team, I think the two of you have the greatest chance of success."
Hawkgirl and Aqualad traded looks, though retained their silence, allowing him to continue the briefing without interruption. Any burning questions they had were certain to be answered very soon.
"Approximately twenty one hours ago, a small group of Atlantean scouts discovered an abandoned structure off the coast of Iceland." With a gesture, blue screens blinked to life behind the Dark Knight, displaying the indicated location with a pulsating red dot. The dot itself was still a good distance away from the coast, which explained how Atlanteans had found it before any local fisherman. "A cursory investigation yielded... concerning results."
The screen shifted and suddenly started playing a video, displaying a submerged dome-like metal structure, surrounded by isolated pylons sticking out of the ground at key points.
"Wait, that design..." Hawkgirl's eyes narrowed as she studied one of the provided close-up images of one of the pylons. Her lips curled up slightly into disgust. "Don't tell me."
"All signs point to it belonging to the Brain." Batman provided. "Why it was abandoned, and exactly for how long, we are unsure of, as well as the full extent of the structure's purpose." He pulled up an enhanced image, displaying a circular entry hole on one of the sides of the dome. "I also suspect that this dome merely serves as an entrance."
"Then the matter requires further investigation?" Aqualad asked. "Is that our mission?"
Giving a slight head tilt of affirmation, their mentor shut off the screen. "Your goal is to infiltrate the dome, and try to recover any and all evidence you can acquire. I don't need to tell you exactly why this is dangerous. Aquaman suggested using Atlantean soldiers, but I convinced him two are uniquely equipped to handle this problem, seeing as you both have personal experience with Brain's unique approach to base defense. Keep in mind your time limit is short. When the Atlanteans breached the perimeter, it triggered some kind of destructive fail safe that malfunctioned. The base wasn't fully destroyed as was most likely originally intended, but the structural integrity of the structure is clearly comprised, giving us a limited window to take advantage before it completely floods and all incriminating files are lost. I will personally fly the two of you to a nearby drop location, but I won't be able to take you any farther than that, nor will I be able to stay." His lip quirked ever so slightly in the smallest semblance of an amused smile. "Poison Ivy's trying to overrun Gotham with mutated plants again."
"That explains why Robin's busy." Hawkgirl mused. "No time to waste, I guess." She cast a look over at Kaldur. "You're lucky, you don't have to change into specialized gear."
"I have to reiterate the point that most of the facility is underground. Hawkgirl, are you sure you'll be able to handle that?" Batman pressed.
She offered a single, terse nod. "I can." At his pointed look, she amended her statement. "And if that changes, I will let Kaldur know."
"I'll hold you to that. Wheels up in fifteen."
Less than an hour after they had been formally given their mission parameters, the two young heroes were jumping out of the retracted cockpit of the Batplane into the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Kaldur hit the water first, entering with nary a splash, while Ski'Lira's landing was slightly noisier. Though with the perpetual choppiness of the white-tipped waves, it made little difference who made the cleanest dive. Once they were both fully submerged, Aqualad activated his comm unit, despite the fact they were only meters apart, a necessity in order for them to hear each other clearly. Theoretically with their enhanced hearing they could have gone without, but they were taking zero chances with potential miscommunication.
Ski'Lira did a cursory check of her gear with quick precision. Thanks to their connections with some of the most advanced inventors and tech-centric companies on the planet, she had been outfitted with a modified version of the breathing apparatus' that Batman and Robin used. Instead of a cylinder that could be easily removed from her jaw, it was instead set into a black plastic mask that allowed her to speak freely and was wirelessly connected to the comm unit in her ear. Her helmet was her standard metal one, as it was capable of sealing over the top of her face for situations just like these (one of the perks of being born on a planet that has a higher percentage of ocean coverage than Earth). Said helmet would do nothing to actually provide air, as it was only meant to keep water out of one's eyes to prevent being visually compromised. (In fact, slightly higher tier Thanagarian helmets had a retractable shield that dropped over the entire face, and was enough to keep a Thanagarian alive in the depth of space for a short period of time as long as it was worn in tandem with full coverage battle armor.)
Instead of her usual uniform (as the amount of metal would only hinder her in the water), she had donned a dark grey wet suit that had specially cut holes in the back that allowed her wings to stick out without letting water inside. Slung around her hips was a black utility belt (shamelessly borrowed from Artemis) that had her mace hooked on one side and one of her Nth metal knives in a sheath on the other.
From her brief investigation, Ski'Lira was confident that her equipment was holding up perfectly, so she replied to her leader's inquiry with a terse "Affirmative".
Giving her an acknowledging nod, Aqualad grabbed the portable holomap that Batman had provided for them already programmed with the location in question. "We are not too far. If you would allow me to provide assistance, I can get us there far quicker." Kaldur winced a little. "Forgive me, I do not mean to insult your ability to travel underwater."
"I don't berate you for being unable to fly." She pointed out. "Time is of the essence, Kaldur."
"Right, of course." After giving a slightly awkward, half-aborted movement, he came to a decision and swam over to her, winding an arm around her back (careful to avoid crushing or restricting the movement of her wings) and taking off further into the depths of the freezing ocean with a powerful kick of his legs.
With the speed of an Atlantean in his element, they reached the abandoned base in mere minutes. "According to my brethren, the outer perimeter has no dangers." Aqualad said as they observed the submerged dome, both eyeing the defunct pylons with no small amount of wariness. They both knew well enough what those things would have done to them if they were being actively powered.
"Which means all of the dangerous stuff is inside and a complete unknown." She shot him a vicious smile as she pulled away from his grasp, though it was completely unseen thanks to the opacity of her mask. "This will be fun."
Kaldur shook his head, but there was fondness in the action. "Only you would take joy in a situation like this."
"Come on Kaldur, this is at least a little fun for you, admit it." She teased. "We rarely get to do ocean missions and our enemy is everyone's least favorite serial animal abuser. I can even ignore the fact we're going to be stuck underground for those two reasons alone."
"... I... suppose you have a point. We... also do not get the chance to do duo missions together, you and I."
"Reason number three, right there." Her eyes caught on a gleam of metal that definitely didn't match the rest of the ocean bed. "I think I just found our entry point." Directing Kaldur towards what she had seen, the two ended up floating in front of a door embedded into the side of an outcropping. There was no sign of a visible keypad or anything close to resembling a lock, the door itself a smooth aperture.
"Brain probably accessed it remotely." Ski'Lira surmised aloud as she slid a gloved hand over the lines marking the parting points of the door. Chewing her lip in thought, she tried to think of an easy solution to the barrier. If Robin were here, she'd just have him hack into the system, but that was far from an option at the moment. Rapping her knuckles on the surface, she listened carefully. From the answering, light echo she received in return, water had yet to breach the airlock seal. Inspiration struck suddenly. "Aqualad, hold the water out from the door."
She waited until Aqualad's tattoos began to glow with that telltale blue light, displaying his readiness non-verbally. Removing her knife from where it had been sheathed at her side (as she was unable to keep it in her boot, as per usual, thanks to wet suit), she dug the tip into the very center of the door. Shoving the blade through the rest of the way, she pushed the hilt down at an angle, confident that the superior Thanagarian steel would overcome the Terran construction. The aperture gave way with a startling snap, panels folding into the hidden slots around the doorway.
Following her plan, Aqualad maintained a makeshift barrier, keeping the force of the ocean at bay and allowing entry into the tunnel without worry of flooding the whole structure. Quickly sheathing her knife, Hawkgirl dove into the tunnel first, dropping onto the grated flooring with a muted thud. Immediately she set to searching for an interior panel, which she spotted just as Aqualad made his own entrance into the dry pocket. All it took was a press of her hand on said panel for the aperture to reseal, the blue glow from Kaldur's skin fading and leaving her in darkness for a split second before her vision readjusted. Of course, just when she had acclimated, eerie red lights burst into life above their heads, pulsating softly. Removing the rebreather from her mouth, she hooked the device onto her belt as she deactivated the seal on her helmet, breathing in the recycled air of the compound through her nose and blowing out a deep breath.
"... There is still power?" Aqualad's brow furrowed, which she understood, considering she was just as surprised as he was. They had no way of knowing exactly how long this base had been abandoned, but it was still impressive it had held up against the force of the elements for that length of time.
"That means we can probably still access whatever files Brain has stored in this place. But it also meant that the security system is still online."
"Then we must tread carefully."
That was an understatement, considering they'd seen Brain's traps take down Captain Marvel, and neither were eager to repeat their experience from India.
Now that they were actually within the base itself, doors opened of their own accord upon approach, which made navigating that much easier. As they tread deeper, the signs of disuse became prevalent. Her first impression that the interior had been wholly untouched by the ocean was proven incorrect, as they systematically stumbled across slowly growing puddles on the floor courtesy of lazily dripping ceilings. The entire place smelled of stale seawater and the slight tang of antiseptic. She was almost considering resealing her helmet and putting the rebreather back in just to avoid the stinging in her sinuses, but opted against it for now.
More than a few ceiling panels had dislodged, dropping tubing and wires (most likely dislodged from small seismic events) and creating more hazards to avoid. The primary difference between this base and the one they had locate din India was the size, this one far more sprawling and complex (not to mention underground) in comparison to the compact and highly defended jungle fortress. Whatever the purpose of this exact lab had been, it was definitely meant to remain hidden as long as possible. If those Atlantean scouts hadn't found it by sheer accident, it probably would have never been found or at the very least discovered long after it had been reclaimed by the ocean.
As they were working in a duo, neither had to worry about taking point, instead walking side by side as complete equals. It was a refreshing change of pace, really, not having to worry about the prospect of being in positions of leadership. Hawkgirl spoke this observation aloud, earning a slight smile from Kaldur.
"I understand what you mean." He commented idly as the floor dropped beneath them, revealing a a pit of spikes. Unable to snap out her wings (thanks to the confined space she definitely wasn't thinking about), Ski'Lira instead lashed out and grabbed the nearby ledge, stopping her fall scarcely before it could begin and dragging herself up and onto stable ground. As he was near dead center, Kaldur snagged a hanging insulated cable. Drawing his legs back, Kaldur kicked forward and used the momentum to propel himself towards Skylar, who snagged is outstretched hand and pulled him to safety. "There is something of an... ease, knowing we do not have to dictate the entire team." He continued, as if they had never fallen prey to a trap.
"The burden of leadership." She added as she double checked to make sure her mask was still attached to her belt before moving on. "Personally, I'm just glad we don't have to worry about any flirting." Ski'Lira gave an exaggerated shudder, earning another smile from the Atlantean that she couldn't help but return.
Something felt intrinsically different about this mission. Most of her logic chalked it up to being separated from the rest of the Team, as they rarely (if ever) did missions with just two members. But there was an extra element, something Ski'Lira didn't really know how to quantify. Kaldur had been quicker to smile at her lately, the previous moment serving as prime evidence. If she were anyone else, she'd take this opportunity while they were alone and isolated to ask exactly why.
But this was a potential battlefield, so there was no place for that here. As it was, she felt like she was pushing it with the aimless chatter as they maneuvered through the trapped hallways. Maybe after they were finished with the mission she could catch him before they parted ways and demand answers, and maybe admit that she didn't mind the increased attention.
Shaking that thought away, she refocused on the priority, namely trying not to be killed outright by whatever warped version of a security system the megalomaniac garbage can had cooked up.
By the time they had successfully made it to the central control room, they had encountered three more pit traps, two laser grids where only half of said lasers were perfectly functional, leaving massive gaps that they could easily clamber through, and one hallway fitting with buzzsaws. The buzzsaws shattered themselves thanks to wear and tear combined with abrupt use, forcing Aqualad to pull up a hasty water shield to avoid having them both be embedded with rusted shrapnel.
"I think we're clear of any obvious traps." Hawkgirl announced as she stood up from a crouch, where she had been inspecting a suspiciously loose panel that turned out to just be failing bolts.
"We must stay alert nonetheless."
"Took the words right out of my mouth."
Now that they had free reign to investigate the hub, Ski'Lira made a beeline for the massive computer terminal, retrieving the gadget Batman had provided from her utility belt. The small cylindrical device (with an obvious bat emblem printed on top) blinked into life the moment it was placed near the activated computers. Various monitors blinked into life, files flicking in and out of existence too fast for the eye to track as they were downloaded.
"Find anything?" She asked, briefly glancing over to Aqualad, who was poking around the various storage units and equipment for any physical evidence they could take back with them.
"Nothing active, as far as I can tell." He gave a distinctly water-logged looking block of machinery a pointed prod with his foot. His attention was caught by an empty and half-destroyed tube, about ten feet tall and four feet in diameter. "Whatever he had here, it seems as if they were removed long ago. How long until the files are finished downloading?"
"I have no idea." It was entirely dependent on exactly how much information was stored on the computer, thus there was no definitive time frame. Growing restless just watching a screen, she abandoned the terminal and joined Kaldur in physically inspecting the space. A table scattered with half-finished projects caught her attention, one in particular. "Look." She picked up a collar, holding it out for her teammate to see. "This base must be fairly old. This looks like a prototype of the collars we came across in India."
"He must have been developing that plan for some time." Kaldur's lips quirked into a facsimile of a prideful smirk. "It is fortunate that we were there to stop him."
Humming in agreement, she set the collar back down, heading towards the empty tank. Glass crunched underfoot, accompanied by a soft squelch courtesy of the large puddle of water stagnating around the base. Kneeling down to investigate, she spotted a half-peeling label on the bottom that proclaimed it 'NAEM69198'. Other than that string of letters and numbers (some kind of categorical code maybe?) there was no indicator of what had been in the tank, or if there had been anything at all.
"Brain must have cut and run, taking everything he found useful with him." Picking up a shard of glass, she tested its strength by crushing her fingers, surprised at the resistance she encountered. "Whatever this thing was built to hold must have been tough, or was going to be."
"I find myself experiencing some... what is the phrase... deja vu?"
It took a second before she realized what he was implying, and she gave him a dry look. "Oh, ha ha. I'm going to tell Superboy you said that."
She received a light chuckle from Atlantean in response, but just as he opened his mouth to respond a loud groaning noise cut him off. Not a groan as in from a being, but as if the entire structure was settling in place like an old house. In a flash, the two were in battle positions with weapons at the ready. They waited in anxious anticipation for a heartbeat, then two, until the noise repeated, but tripled in volume.
"... Damn it." She swore. "Sounds like our time's running out."
"We best hurry."
Looping the handle of her mace back onto her belt, Ski'Lira practically sprinted for the computer, leaving her companion to do a last hasty sweep of the lab for anything they could conceivably take back with them. A tremor shook the building, forcing her to grab onto the desk before her to avoid losing her footing.
She'd desperately hoped they had more time, but they'd gone into this mission knowing that the base could begin its final collapse at any moment. They were lucky they had been given any time to investigate at all. Somewhere down the hall, she could hear an unholy cracking noise that made her feathers rise from surprise. A moment later, water started to pour in through the open doorway.
"Hawkgirl!" Aqualad prompted, an unnecessary warning.
"It's not finished!" She snapped back, well aware of the dangers that awaited them, but the device had yet to finish and she wanted to make sure they acquired as much as they were able. The words had barely left her mouth before one of the ceiling panels collapsed completely, bringing with it a deluge of water pouring into the room. They didn't have long before the room would be filled completely.
Ski'Lira found her mind falling back to the Red's attack on the Mountain, of being trapped under rock and the water steadily rising around her... A frustrated growl left her lips and she slammed her closed fists on the desk, earning a startled look from Aqualad.
"Hawkgirl, are you-?"
"I'm fine." She snarled, forcing the thought away before she could spiral too far, keeping her eyes locked on the little hacking device, steadfastly ignoring the new sensation of water lapping at her knees.
The wait was tense, hearts pounding in chests and systems flooded with copious amounts of adrenaline. Just as the water reached the bottom of her torso, the cylinder blinked an encouraging green. "Got it!" Snatching it up, she tucked it safely back into the pouch on her belt. "Let's go!"
The two made their way towards the open doorway, but naturally, a building made by the Brain wouldn't let them have such an easy escape.
Because that's when the long-hidden explosives underneath the primary computer detonated. For a moment, Ski'Lira could only register sound, heat, and pressure as she was thrown down into the steadily deepening water. By the time she was able to register her surroundings, strong hands were practically shoving her rebreather into her mouth. Once it was in place, those same hands dragged her up and out of the water.
"Hawkgirl, can you hear me?" Kaldur demanded, his grip on her shoulders firm.
Shaking her head to rid her mask of errant liquid, she fumbling for a second with unsteady fingers and activated the seal on her helmet, taking a deep breath in and out just in time for the room to be completely submerged. "I'm fine." She assured him, taking a quick stock of herself and finding it was true. "Just disoriented. No injuries, promise."
"That is a relief." His hands left her (and she mentally berated the part of her that immediately missed the comforting pressure) and he looked around uneasily. "We seem to have experienced the extent of the explosion."
"So we're stuck in a half-destroyed lab that is now fully underwater and our path out may or may not be completely blocked."
"That... does seem to be the situation, yes."
"Well this is just goddamn fantastic." Ski'Lira huffed harshly. "I take back what I said about this being a fun mission."
One of Kaldur's hands grabbed onto her shoulder again. "We will get out of here. I believe our best bet is to retrace our steps and hope we can find a newly formed exit on the way."
"It's as good a plan as any." She agreed, forcing herself to take a centering breath. "Bright side, we don't have to worry about a time frame anymore."
"There is that." Waiting for her to give an answering nod, Kaldur started to swim for the hallway, Ski'Lira following after him as quickly as she was able. There was a distinct ache in her muscles from enduring the force of the blast, but not enough to verge on outright pain.
Maneuvering through the base had been difficult the first time (those damn buzzaws) but now, with the place literally buckling around them from the force of the ocean, it was nearly impossible. The maze of hallways they'd navigated before had become even more confusing, and they had to double back more than once to locate a path forward. They'd hoped that on the way to the primary exit there would be some kind of total tunnel collapse that led directly to the outside, but their luck wasn't that good apparently.
The two were making their way down a particularly long (and miraculously mostly clear) hallway when it happened. With an almighty crash, a giant piece of pipe dropped down through the ceiling, dividing said hallway in half with the help of an accompanying pile of jagged detritus. Unfortunately, the two young heroes had ended up on opposite sides. The entire width and height of the tunnel was blocked off by fallen metal, machinery, and stone, but Hawkgirl caught sight of a small opening once the debris settled. Sticking her hand through to get Aqualad's attention, she let out a short breath of relief when his fingers tangled with hers (not what she'd intended him to do, but it wasn't wholly unappreciated). "Don't try to move it, it's probably just going to make everything worse."
"Are you certain?" He gave her fingers a slightly tighter squeeze. "I might be able to-"
"You're good, but not that good." She cut him off. "I'll take the opposite junction back down this way, see if it circles around. You keep going ahead and try to find the exit."
"Separating seems like an ill-advised idea."
"But it's the best option we have right now."
"Be careful, Hawkgirl."
"As I can be." Giving his hand a last reassuring press, she started swimming back the way they had come.
Once she reached the crossroad of hallways, she took careful note of the ones they had tried before (and marked with a score on the wall courtesy of her trusty knife) and selected the last unchecked hallway, hoping it led to safety.
This new path was slightly more... destroyed, would be the best descriptor, though it was still clear enough for her to maneuver through. Ducking around a defunct bundle of wires that hung from a hole in the ceiling, her hand came to rest on the wall. For a moment, she didn't notice anything out of the ordinary, just a series of grooves under her hand... but something felt inherently wrong. Coming to a stop (or as close as one could come to stopping when swimming underwater), she investigated the nearly perfectly symmetrical scores. It was odd, considering the current state of the lab. All of the damage she'd seen so far had been nothing but chaos, but this was too clean to have been caused by the explosion.
Glancing around, she didn't see any pieces of machinery or fallen junk that matched the pattern on the wall. If anything, it reminded her more of the marks her clawed gauntlets made on Red Torpedo...
Oh, the universe had to be joking.
Activating her comm, her tone was tight as she called out to her teammate. "Aqualad?"
"Yes?" His reply was immediate. "Did you find an exit?"
"Not yet. Just..."
"Is something wrong?"
"I'm not sure."
"That... does not fill me with much confidence."
"You and me both." She agreed with a huff. "I'm keeping the line open, just in case."
Edging around the corner, a part of her felt immediate relief at seeing the room before her was empty, but not enough to take her off her guard. She opted to pick up her speed, determined to meet back up with Kaldur as quickly as possible. Up ahead, she spotted a gaping hole in one of the walls. Internally, she was chanting over and over again 'please be an exit, please be an exit', but she had no such luck. Instead, she was greeted with the sight of a newly exposed service access tunnel. All that lay within was all of the hidden piping and machinery that kept this place running... or at least had been, up until the emergency power had been taken out by the blast.
"Found a service access tunnel." She reported to Kaldur as she leaned her body into the opening, looking down from side to side. "Should I risk it or keep to the main hallways?"
"Does it provide a clearer path?" He asked.
"Not sure. To be honest, I'd rather avoid it if possible. It's a little... small."
"Then I recommend staying to the primary path."
Placing her hands on the wall on either side of the gaping hole, she leveraged herself backwards and away from the ominous tunnel. Scarcely had she made it to the next nearest hallway junction before warning bells started to chime in her head, her wings drawing in even tighter out of instinct. She had no time to get any further away before something emerged from the service tunnel entrance twenty feet behind her, slamming into her back. Air escaped out from her mouth, pouring out of the rebreather and creating a stream of bubbles that were trapped by the ceiling. An intense growling emitted from the thing, vibrating through its chest into her back as clawed talons frantically scrabbled around her torso.
Pain erupted on the right side of her stomach as she felt razor sharp points piercing into her flesh. Sucking in a shallow breath (as she didn't want to risk potentially getting one of those claws through a lung), she gritted her teeth and grabbed the thing by its wrists. She pushed outward with all of the strength she could muster. Feeling the talons leave her flesh with a sickening pull of skin, she ignored that sudden influx of pain (and blood newly diffusing into the water) in favor of trying to throw the thing off. Rule one of having a foreign object embedded into your body was to leave it in until seen by someone with proper medical training to avoid unnecessary blood loss. However, that rule didn't exactly hold up when the thing impaling you was living, feral, and actively trying to murder you.
Unfortunately, it seemed the creature caught onto her attempt for escape quickly, compensating by sinking needle sharp teeth into the junction between her neck and shoulder.
She was unsure what desperate, agony-tinged sound left her mouth, only that it alerted Kaldur to her clear distress.
"Hawkgirl! What's going on?!"
Letting out a guttural Thanagarian swear that would give even the most grizzled soldiers of her home planet pause, she risked releasing one of the creature's wrists to to free up a hand, which she used to snag her knife from her belt. With a deft twist of her fingers, she flipped the blade around in her grasp and slammed the blade backwards where she knew it's head was (an easy shot, considering it was still actively latched onto her via it's teeth). A grating screech that would give Black Canary run for her money rippled through the water as she was released from her aquatic captor.
Whirling around to face it head on, she finally caught sight of the creature. A warped humanoid-icthyoid hybrid bearing a snarling mouth like an eel and massive clawed talons that were easily the size of a full grown grizzly bear's claws. She noticed with a great amount of satisfaction that not only had her knife successfully gouged out one milky white eye, but one of its talons had snapped off, ridding it of a lethal weapon (though it did still have nine more perfectly functional ones, as well as it's teeth.
"Hawkgirl!" Kaldur demanded again, reminding her of his presence.
"Some kind of monster." She answered, a little breathy. "Could really use some help right about-!" She was forced to cut herself off as the thing lunged at her, and she had to use both hands to grab its face and keep it from biting hers off. Her knife tumbled out of her grasp in the process.
Pulling up her legs, she lashed out in a double-footed kick to knock it away from her, snagging her knife before it could float down out of reach. Weapon safely back in hand, Ski'Lira attempted to swim away to increase distance and reevaluate the situation, but she didn't make it far before she was grabbed and bodily dragged back towards her predator. Thankfully the talons only skimmed across the surface of her suit, saving her from more lacerations and puncture wounds, at least for the present.
The Thanagarian realized very quickly that there was little chance she'd be able to retrieve her mace in time to do anything. Instead she twisted her body so she was facing upwards and went for another swing of her knife, only for the creature to grab her wrists lightning quick, trapping them against the metal floor. It rested most of its weight on her, using its body mass to keep her immobilized.
Maw gaping wide as it pinned her to the ground, her eyes widened as she registered the second mouth set inside the first, reaffirming her earlier comparison to an eel. The monster hissed at her, a strange multi-layered sound that grated on her sensitive eardrums, rearing back and preparing to sink newly scarlet-stained teeth into the vulnerable flesh of her throat. Her feet scrabbled at the floor for purchase, but the slick metal made it nigh-impossible.
That's when the wall nearest to her exploded. Her initial thought was that a demolition charge had gone off too late, but there was no heat to it. A few chunks of debris slammed into the creature's rubbery flesh, causing it to reflexively loosen its grip on her to scream at the new threat. She used the moment of distraction to full opportunity, pushing it off of her with a growl. A surge of spiraling water blasted into its hide, sending it careening down the hall and out of sight as it screeched in indignation.
"Good timing." She grumbled as she caught sight of Kaldur swimming to her side, his tattoos softly illuminating the space around them.
Before she could protest, Kaldur scooped her up into his embrace and took off into the depths of the ocean beyond.
"I think that we are safe, at least for the moment. We were not followed."
Out of the corner of her eye, Ski'Lira watched as Aqualad rose out of the pool of water, his feet sloshing through the liquid with an easy grace. She herself was sitting on one of the only relatively dry patches in the small cove (and even then the stone was slick with sea water). A deep sigh left her as she allowed her head to fall back against the rough rock, her metal helmet making a light clinking noise. The motion pulled at the torn flesh of her neck, which she currently had a hand tightly clamped across to slow the bleeding.
"I could have kept fighting." She insisted.
"There is no doubt you could have, but I highly doubt we would have succeeded." Kneeling down next to her, she saw Kaldur's eyes sweep over her form, eyes darting between the bleeding patches on her neck and side. Her other hand was pressed over the stinging flesh of her torso, ruby droplets spilling over her fingers and dripping onto the stone below. "Please allow me to see to your injuries."
Her first instinct was to snap. "It looks worse than it is. I'll be fine."
He looked at her then, eyes hardening in a way that she'd rarely seen, and could only mean that he was going to leave no room for argument. "It was not a suggestion."
Ski'Lira briefly considered continuing the verbal spar, but… she was just so tired. Instead, she drew her hands away from the wounds she was covering to allow him complete visual access. With her now-bloodied fingers, she tore her helmet off of her head and placed it next to her, uncaring of the crimson now streaking its surface. If Aqualad was surprised at her taking off her helmet without provocation, in the middle of a mission nonetheless, he was kind enough not to say anything about it.
Kaldur crept closer, eyes narrowing as he examined the messy puncture wounds and rended flesh beneath, as well as the ruined flesh of her neck "… There is too much fabric in the way, I cannot tell for sure the extent."
Ski'Lira rolled her eyes at his slightly embarrassed tone. Without hesitation, she snagged the pull of her suit and zipped it down to her waist. It wasn't like she was naked, she was wearing a black sports bra, which he'd definitely seen her in before during training. It took a fair amount of careful wiggling in order to strip off the top half of her suit, and Kaldur had to gingerly pull it off her shoulders and down her arms to prevent her from ripping open the wounds even more, especially the steadily bleeding neck bite. She also directed him towards one of the pouches on her belt, which she knew carried a small kit for medical emergencies.
Finally, he was able to give a proper examination. "This... does not look good. I fear simple first aid will not be enough."
She would love to receive some proper medical attention, unfortunately, there was a slight snag. "I don't know if you noticed, but we're being hunted by a eel... monster, thing, made by the Brain. We can't exactly take a side trip to the nearest hospital." They had a priority now, and it was stopping that thing from getting anywhere near people. As close to the coast as they were, and the amount of fisherman that frequented these waters, it was an incredible risk to leave it alone even as long as they already had.
"I would say that calling for help is a choice." Kaldur pointed out as he carefully folded a pad out of gauze and pressed it to her neck. "This is obviously far beyond our capabilities."
"Oh bullshit." Sky snapped, and she pushed Kaldur's hands away from her torso and wadded up some of the cloth of her jumpsuit, pressing it tightly to the bloody tears in her skin to try to stem the bleeding, letting the Atlantean handle the bite for now. "We can handle it just fine."
That earned her a raised eyebrow. "Oh, just as we have been so far?"
"Kaldur, there's no way I'm going to let some-" She straightened up, a snarl on her lips and ready for a verbal throwdown, but a spike of pain choked her words before they could leave her and sent her falling back onto the harsh rock behind her. "Gah, damn it."
"Skylar, are you alright?" As he was in close proximity already, he was able to keep her short fall from being too jarring, gently maneuvering her into laying down.
The answer to his inquiry was a definite no. Ski'Lira had a high as hell pain tolerance (which tended to cause her fellow Team members an endless amount of grief, considering it made it that much easier to hide injuries), but so far she was exhausted from the constant swimming, had who knows what damage to her muscles and bones from the explosion, had a chunk taken out of her neck that was just barely far enough from her important arteries to cause real panic, and multiple tears in her torso from tearing those thing's talons out of her in a less than careful way.
As she shifted, trying to minimize the haze of pain that was fraying her patience, a niggling suspicion started to hit her. That thing had nine talons after it first attacked her, but she didn't know for sure if it had ten before...
Gritting her teeth and pulling away the makeshift wet suit compress, she used her fingers to gently press around the edges of the series of wounds, stilling went she felt a hard lump under the sensitive pads. Though she had desperately wanted otherwise, her theory was horrifically correct. "Talon... I think it broke off inside..."
Kaldur's eyes widened and he followed her example, though prodding far more gently than she had, allowing her to replace the makeshift jumpsuit 'bandage' once he was finished. "I… believe you are correct."
Ski'Lira didn't realize that her eyes had started to drift shut until the Atlantean called her name with no small amount of panic. "Sorry, I… I'm just exhausted."
"I believe now it would be best for us to call for help."
He blinked twice, clearly taken aback by her sudden change in opinion. "I... did not expect you to change your mind so quickly."
"Look, I know I'm a prideful bitch, but I'm not stupid." She snapped back, though she couldn't muster much heat behind it thanks to the steadily pervading fatigue. "There's currently a razor sharp piece of chitin of unknown size embedded a little too close to my organs for comfort. I'm already lucky enough as is that it hasn't gone deeper. And that thing was a centimeter away from tearing out my throat, so... Yeah, we can call for help."
Aqualad brought a hand up to his ear, activating his comm unit, maintaining the exerted pressure on the gauze with his other hand. "Aqualad to Justice League, requesting immediate emergency backup at my coordinates." He paused, clearly listening to someone on the other side. "Hawkgirl requires medical attention as soon as possible... Awake and cognizant... She has yet to stop bleeding... Understood." He dropped his end, signifying the end of the call. "Wonder Woman will be here in roughly fifteen minutes."
To most people, fifteen minutes was downright speedy, a relatively short amount of time for someone to cross who knows how many miles to provide rescue. But Hawkgirl and Aqualad were battle hardened, and they knew how much could change in even the span of a second.
"On a scale from one to ten, how pissed do you think the others will be that they missed this?"
Her question earned her a raised brow from Kaldur. "I think that they will be more concerned with your well being than having missed out on a mission."
"Don't remind me." She rolled her eyes a little. "Artemis is probably going to yell at me again. And M'Gann's going to do those... puppy eyes that make you feel worse than actually getting stabbed. At least I've already faced down your disappointed look."
Kaldur gave a little hum. "I am not disappointed, merely concerned. Understandable, considering if you had your way, you'd be out there hunting down the... monster, with little care of your health. I believe I have made my opinions about your reckless regard for said health very clear."
"Abundantly... Hey, at least this time I'll probably get a cool scar out of it." She shot him a feral grin. "This one on my neck is going to look badass."
"Agree to disagree."
Wrinkling her nose, she nudged him playfully with her knee, considering both of her hands were currently occupied with keeping her blood inside her body where it rightfully belonged. "I'll have you know that prime scars like this would make me a highly attractive specimen on my planet."
"I would argue that you are attractive enough as is." Kaldur spoke before he fully realized what he was saying, and he immediately cleared his throat, visibly embarrassed. "That is to say, I-"
"I get it, don't worry." She assured. "I know I'm conventionally attractive for Terran species."
The look he shot her was both relieved and... maybe a little disappointed? She had no idea what could have earned that emotion, considering how adamant he was that he wasn't disappointed in her. People were so confusing sometimes.
Coughing a little, she opted to change the subject. "So, what do you think that thing was? Considering you're something of an expert on aquatic species."
"I'm afraid I did not get a good look at it. My priority was getting it off of you as quickly as possible."
"... Fair." She tilted her head slightly. "There's definitely eel in there. It had one of those... tiny mouths." Ski'Lira feigned a chomping motion with her free hand. "In the big mouth."
"Thanks, it's the blood loss."
"The term you are searching for is a pharyngeal jaw, by the way."
"That's what it's called." Her face twisted slightly in displeasure. "So eel, definitely. Can't name anything that has talons like that though. What just has razor sharp talons on fingers like that?"
"... Apart from you?"
She once again blamed the blood loss for the time it took her to understand and when she did, she shot the clearly amused Kaldur a dry look. "Oh, ha ha. Because of my gauntlets, very funny Atlantean."
"I thought it was entertaining."
"Oh? Do you think you can do any better?"
"I... Hm. Okay, not right now, but the second I think of something funnier, you'll be the first to know." Huffing a little in frustration, she pointedly avoided looking at Kaldur's answering grin. "You know, this situation is kind of familiar."
"You are quite talkative at the moment, Hawkgirl." He observed. "That is not a complaint, more of a relief that you are keeping yourself awake."
"That's the intention, yeah..." And it was, seeing as how the last thing either of them needed right now was for her to fall unconscious.
"What was it you were saying, about this being familiar?"
"It's like Bialya, but without the... memory loss. And injury hiding. Unless you're hiding and haven't told me because I'm higher priority."
"You are higher priority, but no, I am not injured." Kaldur affirmed, immediately making her feel a wave of relief. The moment the thought had popped into her head she couldn't help but worry he was hurt and not telling her, just because she was in worse shape. "I suppose there are some parallels, albeit with reversed roles."
"Except you carrying me through the water is way easier than me carrying you through a desert. You have environmental advantage here. If I-"
Her body moved by sheer instinct the second her eyes caught the blur of movement behind Kaldur, grabbing at him with her blood-slick hands and throwing their weight sideways into a tumble. The force was not kind on her wounds, but her quick reflexes had saved Kaldur from being speared through the back as Brain's creature leapt at him talons-first.
Kaldur was spurred into action quickly. "Stay down." He ordered before clambering off of her and getting into a battle ready stance. Forming two swords in his hands thanks to the magic of his water bearers, he faced the creature head on. The soft blue illumination from his magic filled the small space, reflecting in the creature's one remaining moon-like eye.
With a harrowing screech, the warped icthyoid lunged straight for the Atlantean. Whereas he would usually dodge an attack like that, Aqualad had no choice, as he was currently the only thing standing between the monster and her vulnerable body. Which was not a pleasant situation to be in, Skylar would be the first to admit, having to completely depend on someone else for your well being. But there was few she would trust up to the task more than Kaldur'ahm.
Turning his body, the creature impacted with Kaldur's shoulder, bringing its approach to a dead halt. He didn't hesitate to slide a water blade into its torso. Or at least, he tried. Instead the magical weapon barely parted the skin with the lightest of scratches.
"It's hide seems to be resistant to damage!" Kaldur called out as he balanced both keeping the creature close and avoiding its attacks.
"Go for vulnerable areas, other eye, inside of its mouth." Her own suggestion made her think of something abruptly. The utility belt she was wearing had been borrowed from Artemis, and if there was one thing she knew about the archer, is that she shared her love of explosive devices.
Scrabbling at the pouches with her fingers, she went through them before identifying a small charge, one she'd seen the blonde use to open doors with electronic locks. Powerful enough to do some damage, but not enough that it'd bring the rocky roof down on top of her and Kaldur.
"Aqualad!" She called out, getting his attention, holding up the device for him to see. Like hell would she risk throwing something like that, especially while he was fighting an unpredictable enemy.
He gave her a brief nod before his water swords dissipated from his hands, allowing him to fully grapple the creature. With a shout, he used all of his strength the throw it at the furthest wall, Kaldur hurried to her side, grabbing the device just as the big fish managed to readjust itself upright and prepare for another lunge. Grabbing it by the underside of its jaw, Kaldur forced it to open its mouth as wide as it could go, all the while earning score after score on his arm from the monster's desperate clawing. Gritting his teeth, he armed the explosive and dropped it straight down the icthyoid's gullet, releasing it and using a blast of water from the surrounding area to keep it at bay.
Ski'Lira did a mental countdown, and relished in the relief at the muffled thump noise it made when it went off. The two were promptly showered with a spray of ichor as its torso was blown completely outwards. A death rattle left its slackened jaws as it collapsed to the floor, completely lifeless.
"That was... unpleasant." Kaldur screwed up his face at the gore.
Ski'Lira was proud to say that she had managed to maintain consciousness through their rescue. Mere minutes after their teamwork had succeeded in eviscerating their attacker, a grim-faced Wonder Woman had arrived on the scene in spectacular fashion, bursting through the wall of the cave ready for the worst.
After a quick assessment, she'd physically picked up the young Thanagarian in a princess carry, carting her towards the Javelin hovering just above the surface of the water.
"This will leave a good scar." Diana said with a smile as she tended to her injuries, replacing the makeshift bandaging with more legitimate first aid techniques.
"That's what I told him!" Ski'Lira flopped a hand weakly in Kaldur's direction. "He said I was attractive enough already, but I disagree."
The woman's blue eyes sparkled slightly as she suppressed a grin. "He did, did he?" Her gentle chiding caused Kaldur to hunch his shoulders just a tad, skin flushing just a tad darker. "I've done all I can for now." Diana moved back. "J'onn's already waiting at the Mountain for more in-depth treatment. Removing the claw out will most likely require surgery."
Hawkgirl let out a hum of distaste. "We are never going to hear the end of this from the others, are we?"
"Probably not." Kaldur agreed as Diana turned her attentions to him, disinfecting and bandaging the lacerations on his arm, which thankfully weren't deep enough to require stitches. "I can only imagine they will have some... choice things to say about our predicament."
True to her word, when Diana landed the Javelin in the hangar of the Mountain, J'onn was already waiting with a wheeled stretcher for Ski'Lira, taking her straight to the small operating theater.
A few hours later, she was awake from the surgery and resting comfortably in the med bay. Both J'onn and Diana had both come and gone, assured she was well on her way to being fully mended. Just one of the perks of having a faster regeneration rate than a human. If she passed the final check up in an hour, she'd be released out of medical and allowed to roam the base freely as long as she relaxed.
A knock on the door roused her attention from where she'd been reading a book, tucking her bookmark onto the correct spot and placing the novel on her lap. Kaldur stood in the doorway, arm freshly wrapped in stark white bandaging. He'd forgone his usual casual jacket ensemble in favor of a short-sleeved black shirt and dark grey sweatpants.
"J'onn said the surgery went well." He said by way of greeting, crossing the room and taking a seat in the chair Diana had dragged over during her short visit.
"I told you it looked worse than it was." She answered, giving a pointed glance to the small plastic jar sitting on the nearby table bearing the piece of chitin that had been extracted from her body. "It didn't get deep enough to do any real damage. I'll be back on full duty within the week."
"That is a great relief to hear. I was... greatly concerned things may have gotten worse, especially after you had to move the both of us. Thank you for that, by the way. I am ashamed I did not sense the creature's approach myself."
"You were a little preoccupied keeping my blood inside my body, so I'll let it slide this time."
His lips finally quirked up into a smile. "I suppose that is true."
"Speaking of which, how's the arm?"
"Just as you said, it looked worse than it was. J'onn was concerned by potential side effects from direct contact with the creature, for both of us, but I believe we have both been cleared?"
She gave him an affirming nod. "All clean, no pathogens or poisons. Honestly, considering what we've seen from the garbage can, I was expecting acidic blood."
"... Why do you sound disappointed?"
"You should know me well enough by now to know exactly why."
"I would recommend perhaps keeping that... disappointment, between the two of else, lest you worry our teammates further."
"Yeah, you're probably right. Speaking of which, Wally's insisting on a team sleepover tonight. Told me to pass the message along to you, since you haven't gotten your phone replaced yet."
Kaldur's brow wrinkled ever so slightly. "I believed they were all too busy with their own tasks today."
"They were, up until Robin overheard Batman say the words 'emergency mission extraction' while Diana was updating him on the situation. And of course he immediately told everyone else. Apparently both Conner and M'Gann tried to get signed out of school early today, but were denied. Of course the minute it's over, I'm sure they'll rush straight here."
"It is strange to think that though we have done so much today, our friends have yet to even finish their school day."
"Except for Robin, who spent pretty much all of today gardening. But yeah, it's been... a very long day for us, hasn't it?"
Ski'Lira lapsed into silence, trying to think if there was anything else she needed to tell him, but came up with nothing.
"I must admit, that despite it's... trials, I did enjoy our solo mission today." The confession from Kaldur made her look up from where she'd been toying with the cover of her book. "And I think we can count it as a success, even if you ended up worse for the wear."
She started ticking off items on her fingers. "Successfully navigated a trap-filled maze, survived an explosion, fought a genetically engineered fish monster, and managed to steal who knows how many files from a supervillains' private database? Yeah, I think that definitely counts as a win for us. We make pretty good partners."
"I agree." His face did a strange thing then, as if he had to say something, but was unsure how to phrase it. The longer his silence stretched on, the more concerned Skylar became.
"Is something wrong?" She asked, earning a slightly startled look from the Atlantean in return.
"No, nothing like that. There is... merely something that has been... on my mind, as of late." Kaldur paused for a moment longer. "I have been pondering exactly how to say it, but find myself unable to. But I suppose... what is the saying? Actions speak louder than words?"
Thoroughly confused at this point, Ski'Lira just watched in silence as he removed a small box from the pocket of his sweatpants. "This is for you."
Something in Ski'Lira's chest tightened, and she gingerly reached out to pick it up from where he laid it on top of the covers, careful not to dislodge the IV needle from the back of her hand. It wasn't wrapped, just a plain cardboard lidded box about the size of a pack of playing cards.
Taking off the lid, her eyes widened slightly at what lay within, a chunk of brightly purple hued coral encased within a smooth bubble of glass.
"It's bioluminscent." Kaldur explained. "It is difficult to tell under such harsh lighting, of course. Baubles like those are often sold during festivals in Atlantis."
"It's beautiful." She admitted, though the compliment came out slightly more flat than she had intended.
"And should you reject my offering, you should know that I will harbor no ill will towards you. Above all else, you are my friend, Skylar, and that will not change."
"You..." Ski'Lira found herself at a complete loss for words. This wasn't a gift, this was a gift... a proper courting gift. "How did you know what to...?" It clicked for her, that he had probably asked for help. After all, there was no way he'd have been able to procure such a perfect 'first gift' with the incredibly vague explanation she'd given the Team once two years ago about why getting presents was weird for her. "Oh, did you consult self-proclaimed Thanagarian Expert Hal Jordan?"
"No, I asked your mother."
She promptly choked. "You did what."
"Yes, she was quite happy to answer my questions about Thanagarian tradition surrounding courting. I wanted to make sure that I did not unintentionally offend you... Or... perhaps I have done so by speaking to your mother first?"
"I... No, I'm not offended. Just... incredibly surprised. I can't think of a single person who would willingly walk up to Shayera Hol and ask her if you can date her daughter!" She couldn't help but laugh at the absurd wonder of it. "But you did!"
"I am told that Thanagarians respect acts of courage and bravery."
His deadpan delivery only made her laugh harder, up until she nearly busted a stitch (literally) and had to force herself to calm down. The fit left her with a broad smile on her face that made her cheeks hurt. "Hey, Kaldur?" She asked, getting his attention. Reaching out, she grabbed the jar by her bedside. Snagging one of his hands, she placed the slightly rattling jar in his hand. "In return I offer this token, a souvenir from the first monster we slayed together."
He curled his fingers around the, indicating his acceptance.
Suddenly, a thought struck her. "You were flirting with me!"
"The looks, the shoulder touching, you called me attractive to my face!" That almost set her off laughing again. Instead she settled for a low chuckle. "You never cease to surprise me, Kaldur."
"As do you." He replied. "Though now you have accepted my... advances, I suppose I no longer need to be subtle about my affections?"
She could feel her cheeks flush a little. "I... suppose not?"
"In that case, from the day we first met, I've seen nothing but the ocean in your eyes."
Did her heart just skip a beat? She was really glad she wasn't hooked up to a heart monitor at the moment, lest he see it.
"Kaldur?" She prompted. "I think you should kiss me right about now."
And so he did.
"Does anyone else think it's bad taste to watch this, you know, considering..." Wally vaguely angled his head in Skylar's direction, eyes pointedly flitting over the prominent bandages wrapped around her neck and peeking out from under the hem of her tank top.
"It's Ponyo." Artemis deadpanned, casually tossing a kernel of popcorn at the speedster's head.
"Yes, but it's about the ocean and considering Skylar literally almost died in said ocean yesterday, I think I have the right to be concerned."
"Maybe you should ask her."
"Well, Skylar? Do you want to watch something else?"
From her spot comfortably lounging on the couch, feet propped up on the coffee table in front of her, she shot him a look. "I'm more offended that you think I'm so fragile watching a cartoon is going to cause me serious harm."
Wally immediately started spluttering, trying out several explanations before giving up altogether, throwing his hands in the air and declaring, "This is the treatment I get for trying to be considerate."
"If you want to be considerate, you could move so Kaldur can get past you." Artemis' sharp tone moved him to action immediately, and he scurried out of the way so the Atlantean had ample room. Usually he would have easily maneuvered around him, but Kaldur clearly didn't want to risk spilling the two mugs of tea he had in hand.
"Sorry man, didn't notice you."
"It is perfectly alright." Kaldur assured, gingerly sitting down in the empty space next to Skylar. As he pressed the pleasantly warm mug into her waiting hands, she turned her head just enough so that he could give her the briefest of kisses, settling down next to her with care so as not to aggravate her injuries.
Of course, that's when M'Gann let out a strangled squeal of surprise and elation, followed closely by Dick shouting. "Um, what was that?!"
"Did Kaldur just kiss you?" Eyes wide with disbelief, Conner was blinking rapidly as if trying to shatter some kind of illusion.
"What is this weird spell that has been placed upon us? Zatanna?!" Wally whipped his head towards the magician. "Did you put us under a spell?"
"I think it would be weirder if my boyfriend wasn't kissing me." If anything, Skylar's simple explanation spurred their friends into an even greater frenzy. Letting out a small sigh, she sent Kaldur a commiserating glance. "I told you this is how they would react."
His small smile spoke of amusement, and the slightest tinge of embarrassment. "You did."
"When did this happen?" Dick gestured between the two of them.
"Yeah, and why hasn't your crush on Kaldur come up at all before now?" Artemis followed up, clearly thinking of all the times M'Gann had low-key interrogated her if there was someone 'special she had her eye on' only to reply with vehement refusals.
The new couple shared a look again, clearly trying to goad the other into answering.
"Okay, they're doing the silent conversation thing already." Zatanna's grin was wide. "Maybe they are meant to be."
Kaldur lost the non-verbal argument, mostly by Skylar taking a pointedly long sip of her tea. "To answer your question, we have been... together... since this afternoon."
"Was this before or after Skylar got got by a hellfish?" Dick's question was an important one, for sure.
"After." Deciding to give Kaldur a bit of a reprieve, Skylar answered for them. "In the med bay."
Clasping her hands together, M'Gann was practically swooning at the prospect. "Oh how, sweet."
"Yeah, after almost getting eaten by a fish monster, that just exudes romance." The speedster was clearly still caught off guard by the revelation. "But uh... Congrats, I guess? Can't say I saw it coming, but... I think you two are good together."
"You're just saying that because Kaldur's usually the one that keeps Skylar from beating you up." Artemis deadpanned.
"That is a thousand percent my basis for my support, yes."
"Hmph." Straightening a little, Conner turned his steely gaze towards the Atlantean. "Don't hurt her."
"I am well assured that Skylar would cause me grievous harm if I ever did so." Kaldur's reply was easy, earning him an accepting nod from the half-Kryptonian.
"I don't think Kaldur needs any more shovel talks." Skylar intervened before Dick could do so (she could tell from the look in his eyes). "He asked my mother for permission to ask me out."
The room went dead silent, until Wally let out a low whistle. "Damn, you really do like her."
"I do, very much so, in fact."
M'Gann couldn't help but let out another quiet 'awww', as if she'd just stumbled across a basket of puppies.
When she was looked at expectantly by the members of the team, Skylar couldn't help but roll her eyes. "I obviously care about him too, stop with the staring. We're not here for your amusement."
"I'd say this is pretty amusing."
"Shut up, Zatanna."
The magician put up her hands in surrender, but didn't drop her self-satisfied smirk.
"I think we've bothered them enough." Dick intervened. "Mostly because I know for a fact at some point M'Gann and Artemis are going to drag Skylar off for more in-depth details."
"Oh, definitely." The Martian agreed.
"So for now, Skylar, Kaldur, we're all incredibly happy for you and hope it works out. Now let's watch the movie already."
Acquiescing quietly, the group settled down, finally averting their attention away from the new couple and towards the television screen. As the opening sequence began, Skylar felt movement as Kaldur's arm snuck ever so carefully behind her back, curling his hand so it lay gently across her torso where surgical stitches were hidden by swathes of bandages. Without hesitation, she laid her on hand on top of his and slotted her fingers through his, leaning into his side.
She couldn't help but be satisfied, with a successful mission, being surrounded by her beloved kast, and the start of something entirely new with one of her best friends.
Fun fact, the monster's name is Mean Fish, at least, that's what was written on the label in reverse lettering and simple numerical code.
Here's the as-promised explanation. This one went through so many rewrites, primarily because I got to the point where they had escaped from Mean Fish the first time and realized "Wait, if this is an above ground base (despite it still being underwater), why don't they just tear through a wall instead of navigating back through the maze? They both have super strength and Kaldur can command water. So thus I had to go back and meticulously fix that so it was underground. Fun times. Also, getting this one right was important to me (mostly because it's cute and I didn't want to waste the opportunity), because in the way back when, long before the days of being publicly posted to FanFiction Sky was going to end up with Kaldur. And then, you know, I decided I didn't want any of that gushy romance stuff in my platonic found family action adventure story and shuffled it over here to the extras instead.
Expect an update to the main story fairly soon, as it's nearly finished. Also included will be an explanation in the author's note about my short hiatus from Fight or Flight (which has now officially ended with the posting of this oneshot).
Good (time of day) to you all!