They don't stop much to rest, but, occasionally, Bob will stare down his nose at the three of them, declare them unfit for duty, and dump them somewhere before disappearing to give them time to rest. The first time, it's because Jason and Donna have started to stumble slightly from the fatigue of the constant fighting and moving with no breaks and Kyle has resorted to just letting his ring drag him behind it like the most depressing airplane banner ever. The second, they encounter ten batshit crazy universes in a row—one that had seemed to suffer through literal zombie apocalypse and Kyle's never going to be able to watch TV again—and need to take a step back from all the chaos and “lick their wounds” as Jason so eloquently puts it.
Jason finds them an empty apartment to commandeer on the next Earth that looks normal enough. It takes him all of thirty minutes from the moment they arrive, and Kyle and Donna pointedly don't ask why he's so scarily efficient at finding a place to squat.
“You didn't get bitten, did you?” Kyle asks as he helps Donna down onto the couch. A cloud of dust rises from the cushions when she sits—there's thick layers of dust on everything in this place— but Kyle's just grateful that that appears to be the extent of the uncleanliness; they'd had to crash in an abandoned warehouse full of roaches and rats the first time.
“No,” she says, pulling aside her shirt to examine the gashes—just gashes, thankfully—on her shoulder. “No bites.”
“You can't turn into a zombie from being scratched, can you?” Kyle asks, his stomach churning with dread and nerves and maybe a little leftover disgust from the memory of how being swarmed by a dozens of undead. The smell.
He hears an amused huff from behind him, and then Jason is crouching down beside him with a few shirts that he's retrieved from somewhere. “Can't believe that's legitimate question we're having to ask.” He places the clothes on the couch next to her. “These are clean. You can rip 'em up for bandages.”
“Thanks,” Donna says.
“I'm pretty sure it's spread by bodily fluids—none of which got on me,” she assures Kyle, and wrinkles her nose distastefully. “Thankfully.”
“You should probably shower, anyway,” Jason says before Kyle can reply. “We all should. I don't feel like being patient zero for that shit for another Earth.”
Kyle nods as he tries to recall Lantern protocol for contagion like this. “Try and get all the,” he can't help a grimace, “genetic material off before you get in. Use a towel or something. We can burn it after. Don't want this ick getting in the water."
“Good thinking,” Donna says. “I'll get on that.” She rises with a grunt and a slight sway, and Jason and Kyle both move to steady her. She swats them away with an “I'm fine,” before starting to limp her way to the back of the apartment. “Don't let Bob leave without me,” she instructs before entering the bathroom. “Or teleport me out of here naked!” she yells after, voice muffled by the door.
Jason snorts. “I'm gonna go scout out the kitchen situation,” he says, and turns to do that. Kyle follows for lack of options.
“You can cook?” he asks incredulously.
Jason throws an irritated look over his shoulder. “Yes, I can cook,” he snaps like that's something that Kyle should just know. He rolls his eyes as they pass through the door frame into the kitchen, stopping at the closest cabinet and electing to ignore Kyle's presence in favor of digging through them, taking seemingly random items out and placing them on the island in the middle of the floor.
Kyle hoists himself up on the counter across from Jason—out of the way of his whirlwind of opening and closing cabinet doors—and just watches curiously for a while, leaning his head on the refrigerator and trying to figure out what Jason's game plan is here to keep the faint sound of the shower running from lulling him to sleep.
“What are you making?” he asks when Jason moves from his side of the kitchen to Kyle's to scope out the oven.
“Not sure,” Jason answers. He doesn't even look up, just pokes at the burner's surface element with a deep frown, apparently finding it unsatisfactory.
“What is it?” Kyle asks.
“It's dirty,” Jason says. He's scowling at the oven like it's personally offended him.
“We're in an abandoned apartment,” Kyle tells him. “It's not gonna be spotless.”
The look Jason gives him is deeply unamused. “I don't mean a little dust, jackass,” he says, and motions vehemently at the oven which, yeah, now that Kyle's looking at it, is pretty crusty looking. “There's shit all in there. This thing's liable to catch ten different kinds of fire. What kind of—” Jason cuts his spiel on kitchen safety off with a huff. “Never mind,” he says. “I'll bake.”
“You'll bake?” Kyle repeats, the absurd image of Jason in an apron like some fifties housewife pulling an apple pie out of the oven with a cheerful smile and bouncing pin curls drawing a laugh out of him.
Jason ignores his mocking tone and stares contemplatively back at the pile of ingredients he'd accumulated on the island. “Muffins,” he decides.
Kyle laughs again. “Muffins!” he repeats. “The Red Hood is gonna make us muffins?”
“And I won't even poison them,” Jason promises. He tilts his head, one side of his mouth twitching up. “Well,” he amends thoughtfully, “I won't poison Donna's.”
Kyle places a scandalized hand on his chest. “You wouldn't.”
“Mock my culinary choices again and find out,” Jason says, and Kyle probably would've been taking him seriously yesterday, but Jason had damn near taken a zombie bite for him on the last Earth. He's pretty sure Jason doesn't want to kill him, and very sure he's joking. Still, he thinks he'll sit right here and watch him make these damn muffins to be certain.
Jason stands from where he's been digging around in one of the lower cabinets. “Hm,” he says.
“What?” Kyle asks, leaning forward and craning his neck to try and see what Jason is holding.
“They only have little ones,” Jason says, turning and flipping the tiny muffin tin in his hands with a frown. “For mini muffins.”
“Mini muffins,” Kyle repeats woefully. “Your street cred is ruined.”
He thinks it's the first time he hears Jason laugh in earnest.
“There's a simple solution to this,” Kyle says after they're all clean, full of tiny muffins, and have moved on from civility to fighting over who gets the bed. Unsurprisingly, he and Donna are arguing that they shouldn't have it. Surprisingly, so is Jason.
“Yeah,” Donna says. “I'll take the couch.”
“And I'll take the chair,” Jason agrees. They look at each other and nod like it's settled. Kyle sighs longsufferingly.
“Oh, come on,” he says. “People who fight zombies together can share a bed together.”
He gets two blank looks for his trouble.
“Come on,” Kyle says again. “This is—this is nothing! Once, I had to sleep in a bubble with Guy, John, Soranik, Hal, and Kilowog.”
“What's a Kilowog?” Jason asks. Kyle ignores him.
“Nobody who sleeps on that shitty couch is going to get a good rest,” he continues. “We need to be at our best, and who knows when we'll get another chance to stop?”
Donna, at least, looks halfway convinced. She's a warrior, after all, and has seen the ways that stupid, fatigued mistakes get people killed in battles that span days like Kyle has. But Jason isn't a warrior or a lantern. He's a vigilante, and everyone from about ninety Earths knows it from the way he's been near-constantly complaining about “all this space shit.” Kyle would wager everything he's got that Jason's never been in a fight that lasted long enough for him to see how much the difference between proper rest and fitful sleep on a couch full of springs and splinters can make.
That's half of it, anyway. More than half. Yeah. Most of him is worried for Jason's health. It's only a very small percentage that's continuing to insist because this, of all things, seems to be the chink in his armor of a cocky facade and it's damn satisfying to watch the guy squirm after all the shit he's pulled over the past few days.
“You can even take the middle,” he adds. “Y'know, since you cooked.”
Jason's face screws up in horror. “Why would you punish me for feeding you?”
Kyle rolls his eyes. “The middle is the best place to be.” He pauses. “When you don't have a Bolovaxian in the mix, anyway.”
Donna pinches the bridge of her nose. She sighs. “I'm not taking the middle.”
Kyle beams and turns to Jason expectantly.
He purses his lips, looking like he might have an aneurysm from all the glaring for a few seconds, then grits out a, “I'm not taking the middle either.”
“Fine, fine,” Kyle says. “I'll take the middle.” He claps his hands together and makes a sweeping motion toward the bedroom. “Now, then, we're wasting precious sleep time.”
He sees Donna and Jason exchange glances akin to that of people who have just agreed to their own execution, but they follow him anyway.
Jason sleeps so close to the edge of the bed that Kyle is pretty sure he feels him almost slip off and into the floor a few times before he drifts off. It's a bit strange to be in bed with his ex again, but at least Donna has no qualms about touching. She just stretches herself across her portion of the bed and is out like a light. Kyle follows quickly after, feeling almost sorry for Jason and his lack of experience with communal sleeping arrangements.
He wakes up at some point to find that Jason's unconscious apparently wants very different things than his conscious mind, and he's wrapped himself around Kyle like an octopus, his face buried in Kyle's neck.
Kyle tries to hold back his laughter at the situation, but the movement shakes Donna awake. She raises her head from his chest and looks up at him, half asleep and confused.
“'s it?” she grumbles.
“He's a cuddler,” Kyle tells her in a whisper, grinning. Her eyebrows rise as she seems to notice Jason, her hand coming up to muffle her own slight laugh.
“He's gonna kill you when he wakes up,” Donna says with a smile that's almost fond.
“Probably,” Kyle agrees, and wraps an arm around Jason's shoulders.
Kyle doesn't see Jason for a long time after they go their separate ways. He still hangs out with Donna, of course. They have a once-monthly coffee date at Radu's that they only cancel in the event of a galactic threat, but Jason? They were on better terms at the end of their little interdimensional escapade than they had been at the beginning, sure, but it was nothing warranting followup phone calls or friendly coffee dates.
It's been a long time since he's thought about Jason when he's back on Earth, for once, trying to get the upper hand on the latest hoard of aliens who have set their sights on the little blue planet, and Jason jumps out of nowhere, pistol whipping one of the aliens who'd lunged at Kyle and shooting another square between its oversized eyes. They don't exchange a single word, but Kyle sticks to him for the rest of the battle, his back pressed to Jason's as they cut a path through the creatures and turn the tide just in time for the other lanterns to arrive and take care of the mess.
Kyle is still breathing heavily from all the action as he jogs the few steps to catch up with Jason after it's over. He's slinging one leg over his motorcycle when Kyle stops beside him, already fleeing the scene, but he stops, at least, and looks up at Kyle instead of just bolting.
“Thanks for the save back there,” Kyle says with a grin. “Been a while, huh?”
“Yeah,” Jason replies as he kicks up the stand to his bike. “Nice to know you still can't fight for shit without me,” he says, and Kyle can't see his face for the helmet, but there's a grin in his voice.
“Very funny,” he deadpans. There's a short stretch of silence between them, and Jason tilts his head expectantly in a clear sign for Kyle to say something or get lost.
“I, uh,” he starts for reasons he can't quite explain. Maybe it's pity, maybe it's nostalgia, but, “You know, Donna and me... we hang out.”
Jason stares at him. “Okay,” he says after a while, sounding equal parts confused and irritated. Kyle can imagine the face he's making under that helmet.
“That was an invitation,” he clarifies. Jason sits up a little straighter at that before seeming to remember that he's supposed to be aloof and badass, quickly trying to turn it into a jerky shrug. Kyle bites down on a grin.
“I'm busy,” he says, and Kyle raises an eyebrow.
“I never gave you a date.”
“I'm always busy.”
Kyle tries to channel the disapproving look Kilowog gives particularly unruly recruits, puffing out his chest and crossing his arms over it with a frown. “Jason Todd,” he says in his most scolding tone, and Jason stiffens like a scolded child. Exactly as intended. “If I can travel thousands of light-years, put aside my job of stopping intergalactic war—”
“—take time away from the Justice League—”
“Alright,” Jason holds up a hand to stop the onslaught of guilt tripping. “Stop. I get it. You're great at ignoring your responsibilities.”
“You should try it sometime,” Kyle says in lieu of his knee jerk need to defend himself. “Say, Radu's Coffee Shop in Greenwich on Friday?”
“Smooth,” Jason deadpans. He turns his gaze down to the bike's handlebars, drumming his fingers as he thinks it over. After a few seconds of contemplation, he looks back up at Kyle. “This Friday?”
Kyle grins. “4PM sharp.”
“No promises,” Jason says, and gasses the bike, leaving Kyle in the dust.
“Oh, well, look who finally showed up,” Donna says when Kyle arrives at Radu's on Friday. He's so busy trying to wring out his wet hair from the downpour to keep from dripping all over Radu's floors that he doesn't even notice she's not alone in their booth until he's standing in front of it.
Jason is eyeing Kyle dubiously when he finally sees him. “Don't drip on me,” he orders, and Kyle decides to sit beside him instead of Donna just for that.
“Ugh,” Jason says at the action, and Kyle gives him his sweetest smile.
“We were just catching up,” Donna says. She laces her fingers together and rests her chin on them. “Did you know Jason's working with Roy now?”
Kyle blinks. “Huh,” he says. “I'd wondered what he was getting up to these days.” He elbows Jason playfully. “Nice catch.”
Jason rolls his eyes, but he's smiling while he does it.
“Well, would you like to know what I've been up to these days?” Kyle starts when it becomes clear Jason isn't going to talk about this. Donna sighs dramatically.
“Oh, here we go,” she says.
Jason looks at him curiously, which Kyle takes as a signal to, please, continue bitching about your life. He holds up his hand, displaying his pristine, white ring.
Jason tilts his head. “It's white,” he says, and Kyle snorts.
“Crazy, right?” He runs his thumb along the insignia thoughtfully before looking over his shoulder to make sure no one's looking. “Watch this,” he says, and holds his hand over the table. Three tiny constructs appear next to the salt shakers—a blue Donna marching around in a circle, a red Jason trailing along behind her, and a green Kyle hovering above them.
Jason cranes his head to see, his face screwing up in more confusion. “I don't understand,” he says, and Kyle disappears their mini mes.
“I'm not working with a limited palette anymore,” he says. “The entire emotional spectrum—aaall the colors of the rainbow—I can use them.” He wiggles his fingers and waggles his eyebrows dramatically. “I've leveled up.”
“And he complains about it,” Donna tells Jason with faux annoyance, “constantly.”
“Hey!” Kyle says, and she smiles. “My life has been very stressful here lately! It's healthy to talk about these things.”
Jason shakes his head with an amused huff. He stares at the ring until Kyle tucks his hands back under the table. “I didn't... realize that could even happen. I thought every ring was limited to one color.”
“Yeah,” Kyle laughs. “You and me both, buddy.” He fiddles with his ring in his lap as he shakes his head. “It's been a weird year, and I'm saying that knowing full well that the majority of our time together was spent teleporting between parallel universes.”
Jason shakes his head disbelievingly, then jerks his chin at Donna. “What about you? Anything so fantastical going on in your world?”
Donna holds up her hands as if to ward off any ridiculousness. “Pretty calm for once,” she says. “I'm hoping it stays that way.”
Jason makes a noise of agreement. “I wish,” he says, and then he leans forward, launching into some story about Koriand'r and a nuclear bomb, and Donna leans in too, completely enraptured.
“A nuke?” she says, and, “Wait, Kory's with you, too?” and then they're both trying to one up each other with ridiculous stories about the alien princess while Kyle tries to flag down Radu to order.
The rest of the afternoon is easy and relaxed—not near as stressful and tense as Kyle had envisioned a reunion between the three of them. There's only one near death experience when Kyle mentions that time that Batman came to his apartment to play poker and Jason nearly chokes to death on his drink.
“I'm serious,” he says as Jason is coughing and laughing and trying to clean the coffee off of his shirt, “he wore the cowl over a suit—just a regularass suit. It was so bizarre. And I'm like, dude, this is pointless. You told me who you are.”
Donna starts to leave at at seven, claiming to have a few things to do before stores start to close, and this whole thing has been going pretty well but Kyle has a feeling that being alone with Jason would be supremely uncomfortable. He decides to take it as a sign that he should get going as well.
“You should come back next week,” he tells Jason as the they're making their way back onto the street.
“Definitely,” Donna says. “It's nice to have a conversation that's something other than Kyle's ruminations on how hard his life is.”
“You're so mean,” Kyle whines. “So mean to me.”
She rolls her eyes with a smile while Jason laughs under his breath.
“I...” He hesitates. “Maybe.”
“Same time next week,” Donna says, knocking shoulders playfully with Jason before heading off in the opposite direction.
“Seriously, though,” Kyle says after she's disappeared around a corner, turning back to Jason, “this was nice. You should come again.”
Jason doesn't say anything for a few seconds, just stares at the cracks in the sidewalk and chews on his bottom lip like it's something to really think hard over. “I'll try,” he decides finally, and then leaves without another word.
Jason shows up thirty minutes late the next Friday, and gives Kyle his best scowl when he starts to tease him about it.
“You realize I'm the only one here who can't fly,” he says.
“Oh, well, we can get Kyle to pick you up next time,” Donna replies with a grin. “He can just carry you here.”
Jason curls his hands around his cup and fixes Kyle with a hard look. “You try to carry me anywhere, and I will shoot you so fast.”
“Ouch,” Kyle says. He grasps at his shirt like his heart is breaking for dramatic effect, but the action garners no sympathy from Jason. Instead, he turns to Donna and smiles primly.
“You, however, feel free carry me anytime,” he says, throwing her into a fit of laughter at Kyle's offended sound of indignation.
“What if we say no homo?” Kyle presses. He knows alpha male posturing bullshit like the back of his hand, if that's what this is. “Can I fly you around then?”
Jason raises an eyebrow, smirking against the rim of his cup. “Absolutely not,” he says, sounding almost pointedly amused, which—
So maybe Kyle pays attention after that. Maybe he notices the way Jason's eyes go a little glazed over with something a bit more than camaraderie when he gets to talking about he and Roy's latest exploits. It's just curiosity is all. Kyle's certainly not judging him for it. Being exposed to the vastness of the universe and all its beautiful aliens of genders he doesn't even understand has allowed Kyle to discover similar things about himself, so he gets it. He's just curious because, well, Jason never really seemed the type. Not that there's a type, really, just with all of his clumsy flirting with Donna, Kyle had never even stopped to consider that Jason might be something other than straight—never realized that he was an option. Not that he thinks Jason would want to date him in a million years, but, now that the thought is in his head, he can't get it out, and he can't stop noticing Jason in ways he didn't stop to before.
Of course, he had noticed that Jason was attractive when they first met, but it had been more annoying, then, and not so... intriguing. He looks downright ethereal in the low light of the cafe, the last dwindling sunlight framing his profile in gold when Kyle turns to look at him. His irises are almost transparent from this angle, the strange mix of gray and blue particularly striking against his dark skin in a way that makes Kyle's hand ache for a pencil for the first time in months. He doesn't know how long he stares before he notices Donna watching him watching Jason, a knowing smirk playing on her lips, but he knows he's doomed.
“Man, oh, man,” she says, locking arms with him as they're leaving after their fifth get together comes to a close. She's shaking her head. “You're completely gone on him, aren't you?”
“I—” He turns to make sure Jason is really gone, and stares at his retreating form until it disappears into the crowd to be certain. “Shit. Am I that obvious?”
How did this happen? It's barely been a month since they started getting together! And only for one day a week!
"I feel like I should call you a casanova or something, seeing as you've managed to go through three women of three different species since the last time I saw you," Guy said when they were all together last, shortly after his most recent, most literally explosive breakup, "but I don't think casanovas fall in love and get their heart pissed on every time. Is there a word for that?"
John swirled his glass thoughtfully from his place next to Kyle. "Love hoe?" he offered, and it sounded so absurd in that serious tone of voice he always spoke with that Kyle spit his drink all over Guy laughing.
But he's starting to think it wasn't such an inapt description.
“Only to me,” Donna assures, giving his arm a squeeze.
“What is wrong with me?!” Kyle groans, pressing his palm against his forehead and tangling his fingers in his hair in frustration. Guy can never find out about this, he thinks with urgency, none of the other lanterns can. The ribbing he has to endure about his dumpster fire of a love life is bad enough already without them finding out that he's gone and fallen for the guy he once spent an entire night holed up in Warrior's bitching about.
“If I knew that...” She laughs at the scowl that earns her. “It's not so bad,” she says. “I think he likes you, too.”
“He likes Roy,” Kyle corrects, and, yes, he realizes how bitter he sounds.
Donna shrugs. “Yeah, but Roy is with Kory, now.”
“Whoa, really?” He blinks. “Wait, how do you know that?”
“Kory is my best friend, and she loves to talk about her newest beaus.” Donna shakes her head with a slightly haunted expression. “I know everything.”
“Oh, man,” Kyle says sympathetically, then, with a slightly different tone as he thinks of two of the hottest people he's ever seen together, “Oh, man.”
Donna smacks him in the chest. Righteously, he will admit. “Gross.”
“You've seen them!” he defends. She rolls her eyes.
They walk in silence for a few seconds before she turns to him with a devious grin. “Do you think Jason ever joins in?”
“I hate you.”
If he's being honest, the only surprising thing about the ambush that awaits Kyle the next week is that it took this long for someone to wise up to the fact that Radu's is the only place in the universe that he visits on a set schedule.
“Goddammit,” he says when Effigy crashes down between him and the door, “I thought I got rid of you.”
“Rid of me? Never!” He starts to circle around Kyle in what he's sure is meant to be intimidating form. “Where have you been, Green? It's been oh so boring here without you to heat things up.”
“There's a million other heroes to stop you in this city, Wyck,” Kyle says in his best disapproving good guy tone. He starts to move, slow and deliberate, to try and take this into the alley—away from the street. Wyck grins like he knows exactly what Kyle is doing, but allows himself to be led away from the rush hour foot traffic. “A million other jobs for you to give up villainy and take, too.”
“Aw,” Effigy coos, spinning around to walk backwards so he continue to aim that patronizing smile at Kyle, “we're bantering! Tell me you didn't miss this.”
“I didn't miss this,” Kyle assures him, and, sure, it's kind of a lie. He doesn't miss this, specifically—Wyck was always a pain in the ass—but he does miss his rogues in a strange way—misses when things were simple, and he had just a city to protect instead of an entire universe. “You smell like a dumpster fire,” he continues, egging him on just for old times' sake. “It's nice to see that some things never change.”
Wyck tsks. “See, I was just gonna melt that pretty face off,” he slaps Kyle's cheek as if to make his point, “but I think I might have to kill you for that comment.”
Kyle takes a step back, smirking as he twists his ring, his costume closing over his clothes. “You can certainly try,” he says, “but I think we both know how this always ends.” He laughs sardonically. “Man, every time, actually. Most of the others at least gave me a bit of a beat down, but you?” He shrugs. “Oh, well, I guess you're just not quite on the level.”
Wyck's lip curls. “I'll show you the level,” he hisses through his teeth, flames erupting from his hands as he lunges forward and, yeah, okay maybe Kyle was a little cocky because apparently Effigy has been doing some training of his own. He's faster and stronger than the last time they fought, and the punch catches him square in the ribs, sending him flying back across the street, cracking the window of the bakery parallel to Radu's and falling right on his ass.
“Ah, fuck,” he says as Effigy touches down in front of him.
“What was that about beat downs?” he asks with a snicker, then kicks Kyle in the gut while he's down. “Don't tell me you're done already. That's just pathetic.”
“Martyn,” he tries one last time, if just to stall enough for the people around them to get clear of the blast zone, “listen, we don't have to—”
“Hey!” a voice interrupts, and there comes Jason, barreling down the sidewalk against the flow of people fleeing, at the absolute worst time. “Get away from him, you freak!”
“Wait! Jason don't—!” But Effigy is already rounding on him with a column of fire bigger and more white hot than anything he'd been able to pull back when Kyle knew him. Jason dodges just in time to avoid being completely incinerated, but the wave of flames clips his arm and sends him rolling across the blacktop with a choked off yell.
Kyle doesn't even think—red constructs pouring out of him on instinct and battering Effigy until he knocks his head on a parking meter and falls unconscious. It's quick and messy and Kyle doesn't even have time to appreciate his victory as he throws himself down at Jason's side.
“That was stupid,” Jason grits out through his teeth as he leans back onto on his good elbow. Kyle's ring sparks yellow when he tries to will him some sort of support, and he doesn't even have time to decide to push past the fear or use it before something else takes its place, a bright violet stack of pillows appearing under Jason to prop him up. It's a small blessing that Jason keeps spitting curses, keeping Kyle from thinking too deeply into that. “Stupid of me. Careless and—fuck. Should've known he had firepower like that, shit. His fucking head is on fire. I'm so—”
“Stop talking,” Kyle orders as he tries to pry Jason's fingers away from where they're clamped down around the oozing wound. “Let me see.”
“It's not bad,” he lies like Kyle can't see the gushing blood or smell the burned flesh. “I just need t-to—”
“You just need to let me see,” Kyle cuts in. Jason remains tense and staunchly refuses to move his hand though he's starting to look pale from the pain of applying constant pressure to his burned skin. “Hey,” he tries again, gently, placing a hand on his shoulder. He doesn't like how unfocused Jason's eyes look when they rise meet his. “Trust me. I know what I'm doing.”
“You a doctor now?” Jason asks, somehow mustering up the energy to pick at Kyle even as he's seconds from blacking out.
“Something like that,” Kyle answers, and nudges Jason's hand. “C'mon.” Finally, he lets him move it away. “This might feel a little weird,” he tells him, and Jason laughs weakly.
“Wonderful,” he says, “that's always great to hear.”
Kyle doesn't reply, just presses a hand to the wound and focus on healing, trying to channel his inner Bro'Dee. It's a strange sensation, one he doesn't think he'll ever really get used to, channeling energy through himself and into his patient. It's intimate in a way he can't get comfortable with.
Jason sucks a breath in through his teeth as the wound begins to close itself. “What—”
“Shh,” Kyle says. He needs to concentrate. “I'm almost done.”
“How can you—”
Jason does as he's shushed, staying quiet and still for the rest of the time it takes to draw the burn out and stitch the skin back together. It's only a few seconds, but it feels like a lifetime with Jason staring at him with wide eyes like he's just preformed a miracle.
Which, Kyle guesses, is fair. He sort of has.
“How did you...” he trails off when Kyle is done, staring at his skin—which is pink and irritated from all the excitement but otherwise unmarred—through the layers of his ripped clothes.
“Came with the new ring,” Kyle explains with a shrug. “I can do... a lot of things now.”
Jason stares at him for an almost uncomfortable amount of time before he exhales sharply and lets his head fall back onto the hard light keeping him upright. “I need a drink.”
“What the hell?” Donna asks when she arrives to find them camped out on the sidewalk twenty minutes later—Jason still sporting his half charred clothes and both of them covered in a mixture of ashes and dirt. Jason is attempting to suck the bottom out of the overly sugared, bright green liquor he'd come back with after disappearing when the police had showed up to take Effigy away, apparently dead set on getting trashed at four in the afternoon. Whatever. Kyle guesses he earned it.
“We got our asses kicked without you,” Kyle tells her. Jason makes a grunting noise that he takes it as an agreement.
“Typical,” she says.
“It didn't even leave a scar,” Jason marvels the next time they get together, still stuck up on being astounded by Kyle's healing display even after an entire week. He's shucked his jacket and has his shirt sleeve pushed up to his shoulder to display his bicep. Kyle doesn't think he's ever seen Jason without the jacket, and he's trying very hard to just focus on what he's saying and now how impressively toned muscles are or how they flex under his skin every time he moves. “Crazy.”
“Shame,” Donna says, and waggles her eyebrows. “Ladies love the scars.”
Jason laughs and mercifully, tragically goes to pull his jacket back on.
Donna looks contemplatively at Jason as he sorts out an inside out sleeve before she continues with, “Guys, too, actually."
“Oh, yeah?” Jason asks, pulling his jacket over his shoulders. Once he's fully reclothed, he leans back onto the table with a playfully lecherous look in her direction. “You speak from experience?”
“Oh, definitely,” she says with an equally playful tone. “I can think of at least one example from this very table.”
That's an in if Kyle's ever heard one. “What can I say?” He props his head in hands sighs wistfully. “I'm a sucker for a good scar or two. Very rugged.”
Donna throws him an over exaggerated wink that has them both laughing. Jason, however, shifts a little in his seat.
“So,” he says, and he's looking at Kyle with a curious expression when he turns to him, “this has completely ruined my chances with you, then?”
The sudden acrobatics happening in his chest leave Kyle unable to respond for a beat. He clears his throat. “No,” he replies very evenly, “not completely.”
“Hm,” Jason says simply, and goes back to drinking his coffee without another word on it.
Kyle initiates a discreet kicking battle with Donna under the table to try and convey his excitement.
He gets blown up before they can meet up again.
Shit going sideways in a fight is always unpleasant, but shit going sideways in a space fight? Monumentally worse.
Kyle can't see—can't see anything, it's the fucking void. The ship they'd been chasing had initiated a self destruct as soon as Kyle had laid a hand on it, sending him flying away from the Guardians. He'd taken a hard hit to the head from a piece of debris, knocking him unconscious for a while and completely ruining his ability to form a coherent thought. He has no idea where he is—no telling how long he'd been drifting—and there's blood—all his thoughts are all over—and he's—he's—so hard to think—he's slipping into blackness and panicking, panicking, absolutely panicking—
“If you're ever in deep shit,” Carol's voice comes to him suddenly, a memory of when she was trying to teach him to better control the Sapphire aspect of his powers, “your tether can be critical.”
Kyle looked at her skeptically. “If I'm ever in trouble, I have about twenty other ways to bust out.” He held up a hand at her disapproving look. “I'm not belittling the power of love. I swear. I'm just saying I don't know how I feel about leading whatever is trying to kill me right back to the person I love.”
She gave him the same stomach churning look of pity that everyone seemed to when he talked about Alex. “There's not a force out there that can match the speed of a Sapphire on her tether. I promise. Nothing would be able to follow you.”
“I don't know,” he said. “Still...”
“As a last resort,” Carol reasoned. “There might come a time when you're unable to form a construct for whatever reason. If you do,” she placed a hand on his chest, “just think of who you love.”
“And if I don't love anyone?” he asked.
“You always love someone,” she assured, “even if you don't know it. Romantically or not, you love someone, somewhere, at least a little. Just think of love. Feel the violet light. Let it into your heart and let it do its job. Let it find your love.”
Love, Kyle thinks—thinks hard. He tries to remember the feeling of seeing Ganthet whole again, of his mother's hands running through his hair, of Alex's smile every time he slipped up and almost said those three words, of violet light and warm feelings in his chest, of safety and comfort and the feeling of belonging every time he makes his way back to Earth and—
There's a flash, a ripping, painful sensation in his chest, and it all goes black.
The first thing Kyle is aware of when he starts to come to is how hot he is, his hair plastered to his forehead with sweat and his shirt sticking to his skin uncomfortably. He's barely started to stir when he feels a hand gently press to his forehead, fingers brushing his hair gently out of his eyes.
“Be still,” someone says, voice low and soothing. “You're injured.”
Kyle blinks hard against his blurry vision, and finds himself staring into a pair of bright green, and distinctly alien eyes. “What—” He frees his hand from the blankets—the dozens of blankets—that he's been methodically wrapped inside of like a cocoon of fabric and pushes himself up. “Where am I? What sector—What planet is this?”
She tilts her head like it's a particularly perplexing question. “Earth,” she tells him. “How hard did you hit your head?”
“Earth?” Kyle repeats, confused. “But you're—” He squints. “Are you Tamaranean?”
Her eyebrows rise sharply. “Huh,” she says, sounding impressed. “It has been a long time since anyone recognized my race.”
“You're—” Kyle starts, but quickly stops, noticing the royal purple outfit she's wearing and moving past the shock of waking up to an alien face to place where he's seen her specific alien face before—on the edges of every hero meetup he can remember, always just a little too far away for proper introductions, more recently appearing on Jason's phone screen as he shows video off his team like a proud soccer mom. He sits up sharply at the realization. “You're Koriand'r!”
“Please, just Kory.” She smiles. “It's nice to finally meet you.”
“Finally?” he asks, then, head spinning with confusion, “Wait, how did I get here?”
“You appeared out of nowhere,” Kory tells him, her brow creasing with concern. “Half frozen and bleeding, you just popped out of the sky while we were scouting in the city nearby. I carried you back to our safehouse to treat your wounds before you bled out.”
“'Our' safehouse?” Kyle repeats, then remembers with a jolt of horror—remembers how he'd escaped his predicament and who he must have appeared to to end up with Koriand'r. “Oh, god. You're with Jason.” He looks up to her for confirmation with wide eyes. “I came to Jason?”
She nods, and Kyle hangs his head in his hands.
“Oh, god,” he says again. Jason? Kyle knew that he had a crush on the guy, but love?Love?
Good lord. Guy can never find out about this.
“Are you alright?” Kory asks, reaching over to place a hand on Kyle's shoulder.
“Yeah,” he assures, running a hand down his face, “fine, just—” He shakes his head. “I should—I should go. I'm sorry for—”
“No,” Kory interrupts, pushing Kyle back down when as he goes to stand. “Don't leave just yet. You're still hurt.”
“It's alright, I can—”
Koriand'r holds up a hand. “Please. Stay at least until Jason gets back. I don't think he would ever forgive me if I let you leave.”
Kyle looks between her and the door uncertainly. She places a hand on his arm and fixes him with a pleading look.
“Please,” she says again, and Kyle sighs heavily.
“Fine,” he agrees.
“Fantastic!” Kory says. She claps her hands together with a smile. “You can help me cook!”
What Jason and Roy come back to is unequivocally a disaster.
“Good lord,” Roy says, taking in the flour strewn all across the kitchen and covering Kyle and Kory's person.
“There weren't any measuring cups,” Kyle tells him.
“Oh, well, that explains it,” Roy replies as Jason tries and fails to hide his laughter behind his hand. “So you just decided to throw the whole bag in the air and hope the right amount fell in the bowl, then?”
Most of it was actually due to Kory's super strength and Kyle trying to make her laugh while she was opening a sack of flour. The paper remnants of the bag she had ripped clean in half at his delivery of a particularly ridiculous joke lie in the floor at Kyle's feet. “Pretty much,” he says, and Kory giggles from behind him.
“You make it look so easy, Jason,” she says.
Jason looks between the two them in amusement, but Roy steps in before he can properly respond.
“C'mon,” he says, holding a hand out to Kory, “I'll help you get the flour out of your hair.”
She beams at him, hopping down from her perch on the counter next to Kyle and following him out of the room, leaving Kyle alone with Jason. There are a few seconds of terrifying quiet, both of them staring at the empty space Roy and Kory had left in the doorway, unsure how to start. It's strange being just the two of them without Donna, slightly uncomfortable and uncharted new territory in their relationship, not to mention the circumstances. Finally, Kyle turns to Jason.
“I'm so sorry,” he says, and it comes out a little frantically—all in one breath. “I didn't mean to—” He runs a nervous hand through his hair, sending a cloud of flour into the air. “I didn't know it would bring me here. I thought maybe Donna or Carol or John—”
Jason holds up a hand. “It's fine,” he assures. “I'm just glad you're alright. You were... blue.”
Kyle fidgets with his ring. “Yeah,” he says. “Must've run out of juice right there near the end, knocked my shields down a little. Temperature control is the first to go, and open space is freezing.” He frowns at Jason's slightly horrified expression. “Sorry.”
“Christ,” he says, “don't apologize. You just got spaced.” He shakes his head disbelievingly and leans back against the counter, crossing his arms. “I'm just... I'm not really clear on why you ended up with me.”
Kyle tries not to look too outwardly panicked. “Um,” he starts, then tries to clear his throat of its sudden tightness. “It's a, well, it's sort of like a fail-safe. If I'm in trouble and can't defend myself, it delivers me to someone I—someone I trust.” Not technically a lie. He manages a laugh that doesn't sound completely hysterical. “Sorry if I freaked you out.”
Jason doesn't say anything for a long, drawn out moment. Finally, he looks up with a strange expression. “You trust me?” he asks, and Kyle is a little thrown.
“Yeah,” he says—easy, without even having to think about it—then can't help an amused huff. His past self would be horrified. “Of course.”
Jason stares at him, mouth opening and closing a few times like he has something to say but he's not quite sure how to say it. He eventually settles for just bobbing his head up and down a few times in a nervous sort of nod, and Kyle isn't quite sure what to say, either. The silence that falls between them is tense with something that he can't quite identify.
“Are you—” Jason breaks after only a few seconds. He stops when Kyle looks up at him, averting his eyes and running his tongue over his lips nervously. “Do you have to go back?” he asks. “Now, I mean.”
Kyle doesn't have to do anything, really. He doesn't have a boss anymore—not since his galactic level up—no corps to return to. A free agent. It should be a good thing.
“Nah,” he says. “Went ahead and told everyone I wasn't dead, but until I'm needed somewhere...” He trails off with a shrug. “Why?”
“You could stay,” he says. “Here. Tonight. Or,” he motions jerkily, “however long.”
Kyle doesn't respond right away, which Jason must take the wrong way, launching into a torrent of explanations.
“I mean, I just thought I'd offer. Since, you know, you're here already, and I know you don't have anywhere to stay on Earth, so—”
“Hey,” Kyle interrupts with a quiet laugh. “It's fine.”
Jason looks at him uncertainly.
“That sounds great,” Kyle assures. “How long are you guys staying here?” It's only after he says it that he realizes he's just implied that he might stick around as long as possible, and that's not at all what he meant, but Jason's expression flickers, excited in a way that tells Kyle he certainly wouldn't mind if it were the case. He doesn't correct himself.
“Couple weeks,” Jason says, “tops.” His eyes flick down to Kyle's hand then back to his face. “Maybe less if you're willing to lend a little ringpower.”
“What's mine is yours,” Kyle promises with a grin.
“Thanks,” Jason says. He gives Kyle a smile that's almost soft for a moment before his face falls back to its regular scowl. “Now get out of my kitchen.”
Jason makes a shooing motion. “I have a mess to clean up.” Then, he pauses, eyebrow rising thoughtfully. “Unless you'd like to help.”
Kyle spreads his arms like a challenge. “Put me to work.”
Jason smirks. “Oh,” he says, “I plan to.”
“Interesting light show you arrived in,” Roy says as he takes a seat next to Kyle after Jason bans him from the kitchen. Kory is apparently the only one worthy of being his sous chef, and Kyle is mature enough to admit that he's a little jealous of that fact.
Roy leans forward a little, turning his head to get a better look at Kyle's ring with a curious expression. “I'd heard about the new bling, but seeing is believing.”
Kyle raises his hand for a better angle, the light from whatever sitcom is playing on the TV catching the edge of the ring just right. “It has its perks,” he says.
Roy hums in response, continuing to stare in contemplative silence for a few more seconds before he speaks again. “You know Hal and Ollie are best friends.”
It's more of a statement than a question, but Kyle nods anyway.
“And you know I was Ollie's partner,” he continues.
Kyle laughs a little uncomfortably, feeling suspiciously like he's being led into something. “Sorry,” he says, “but there's already an Arrow to my Lantern, and I'm very happy with him.”
Roy places a hand over his chest with pretend heartbreak. “Ouch,” he says. “Way to get yourself demoted from your rank as my favorite trainee.”
“Don't let your girlfriend hear you say that.”
Roy snorts. “Kory? Please. If anything, I'm her trainee.” He shakes his head. “The point,” he steers the conversation back from Kyle's masterful distraction, “is that I was around Hal a lot.”
“I'm so sorry,” Kyle says earnestly.
Roy attempts a disapproving look, but the corner of his lip betrays him, twitching up in badly suppressed amusement. “I learned a few things,” he continues. “Things about the spectrum.” A very pointed look. “About violet light in particular.”
Kyle goes very still. “Ah,” he says. Shit.
“He was real quick to brag to Ollie the first time Carol tethered to him.” Kyle barely suppresses an outward flinch at the words being spoken so openly, eyes snapping over Roy's shoulder to make sure the door to the kitchen is still firmly closed even though Jason obviously has no clue what a tether means.
“Hey,” Roy says with a sympathetic expression when Kyle looks back at him. “He likes you, too, you know.”
Kyle suddenly becomes very interested in the commercial that's just come on for wood caulk.
“Seriously,” Roy continues, grabbing Kyle's arm and giving it a shake to regain his attention, “if I have to hear any more of his pining—”
“Shh!” Kyle hisses, looking frantically back at the door. “Not so loud!”
“The walls are thick,” Roy promises, then seems to realize the implications of the statement, quirking an eyebrow. “Feel free to use that knowledge to your advantage.”
“I'm leaving,” Kyle says, deciding to take his chances and try to swindle his way onto the kitchen crew.
“Consider it!” Roy calls after him. Kyle flips him off over his shoulder and laughs at the affronted noise it earns him.
Roy and Kory go to bed at around nine—which Kyle knows is bullshit. He distinctly remembers having the shit scared out of him on multiple occasions during his time as a Titan when he turned a corner and found fucking Arsenal standing in the middle of a darkened hallway like something straight out of a horror movie. Roy is setting him up, and Kyle can't decide if he hates or loves him for it.
“You can turn in whenever,” Jason tells him when the door to their room clicks closed. He props his feet up on the coffee table and leans back in his chair. “My room's the second to the left.”
Kyle frowns. “I'm not taking your room.”
“Ugh,” Jason says. “It's fine. I sleep here most nights, anyway.”
“I'm not taking your room,” Kyle repeats himself.
“Rayner,” Jason starts with a sigh.
“Don't Rayner me,” he interrupts. “I'm not taking your room. Period.”
Jason gives him the most put out look of all time, but rolls his eyes and drops it for now.
A few beats of barely paying attention to the evening news later, Kyle finds himself hiding a smile behind his hand. “We could always solve it like we did last time,” he offers, and Jason turns to him with a skeptical look. A quick eyebrow waggle is all it takes to get his point across.
Jason rolls his eyes again. “You wanna dial up Donna for a sleepover?” he asks, which, well, wasn't exactly what he'd been going for.
“Nah,” Kyle says. “Doubt she'd be willing to drop what she's doing for an impromptu threesome.” The red tinge that floods Jason's cheeks at the comment makes him grin. “But I'm sure we could make do without her.”
“I—” Jason's leg starts to bounce with nervous energy. “I really don't mind taking the couch.”
“And I really don't mind sharing.” Kyle frowns as Jason looks away, leaning forward to try and see his face, get a better read on the situation. He's pretty sure these are just regular jitters Jason's having, but he wants to be sure he's not being an ass and forcing himself on someone who's not into it. “You don't have to,” he says gently, and Jason's attention snaps back to him. “I can take the couch if you don't want...”
“No, I—” Jason shifts in his chair, sitting up a little straighter. “It's not—” He hesitates, turning away again, worrying his bottom lip. “I wouldn't... mind that,” he says after a few quiet seconds.
“Alright,” Kyle says ever so evenly over the twist of hopeful anticipation in his gut. "Works for me."
Jason nods and turns his attention back to the weather report, but there's... something. Something's shifted, and Kyle's pretty, pretty sure they're on the same page here if the sudden thickness in the air is anything to judge by.
And Kyle's not—he doesn't want to rush this, doesn't want to be horribly transparent on the off chance that he's wrong about it, but Jason looks just about as tense as Kyle feels. He's moving around in his chair, sitting up, bouncing his leg, not seeming so sure what to do with this energy—keeps looking at Kyle out of the corner of his eye, then looking away as soon as possible when he finds Kyle staring right back at him. Because Kyle can't stop looking at him, and, yeah, no, he can't do this.
“You feeling tired?” he breaks the strained silence. Jason whips his head around so fast Kyle worries for the integrity of his spine. “Thinking I might turn in already.” And, no, he's definitely not imagining the way Jason's pupils go a little blown at that, eyes flicking down to Kyle's mouth and back up.
“Mhm,” Jason says, sounding only a little strangled. “That sounds—” he clears his throat. “Sounds good.”
Kyle stands slowly, and Jason follows his lead, trailing behind him down the hallway, his eyes burning a hole in the back of his head the whole way. Jason closes and locks the door behind them, and he has his back flattened against it when Kyle turns to him, obviously yet surprisingly not used to this kind of thing if his stiff nervousness is anything to go by. He looks equal parts ready to jump out of the window and jump Kyle's bones right in the middle of the floor.
“Nice place,” Kyle tells him as he takes a seat on the edge of Jason's neatly made bed. “Didn't take you for a clean freak.”
“'Clean freak,'” Jason repeats mockingly, but he stops looking like he's an inch from turning tail and running so the small talk does its job. “This is basic upkeep.” He moves to take a seat next to Kyle, watching him carefully all the while.
“You'd be horrified with the state I live in,” Kyle informs him, moving closer. Jason tracks the movement with hawk-like intensity. “I'm a mess.”
“I'm aware,” Jason says, and, after a beat of staring at each other like wild animals waiting for the other to pounce, takes the initiative, slamming their faces together with such force Kyle is pretty sure he busts his lip open on Jason's tooth, but he's not about to complain because they're finally, finally kissing. Maybe it's not the best Kyle's ever had—Jason keeps stuttering in his intentions, making like he wants to be hot and heavy, but losing his nerve and drawing back into something more chaste—but the breaking tension and uncertainty is enough to make up for any hesitation or lack of skill on Jason's part.
“Fuck,” Jason breathes when he pulls away for air, breathing heavily.
Kyle can't help a low laugh at that, pressing his forehead against Jason's and shifting a little closer. “Yeah,” he agrees.
“Can we—” Jason starts, and he's starting to go tense with nerves again. “I want—”
“Just,” Kyle says, leaning back in, “just let me,” and kisses him again.
He stays there for a while, faced pressed into Jason's bare shoulder, just breathing in his scent, gets so gone in the moment that he almost jumps when a hand drops onto the back of his head.
“Donna's gonna kill us,” Jason informs him with a laugh, fingers dragging lightly over Kyle's scalp. "The one time we get together without her, and this." Kyle snorts into his skin before lifting his head to look at him. He takes a moment to admire Jason in his still blissed out state, wavy curls shaken out of their styling to fall and stick inelegantly across his forehead, framing his face in the low light like something straight out of the art history classes Kyle slept through in college.
He hums as he begins absently drawing circles with his thumb on the side of Jason's jaw, shaking his head when that's the thing that makes Jason blush, never mind the fact that their dicks are still very much touching. “Well,” he says, "we'll just have to make it up to her next time."
Jason leans his head back into the pillow, eyes sliding closed with a contented sigh. "I'm gonna die."
"Heroically," Kyle assures.
“Sleep well?” Roy asks in the morning, shoveling spoonfuls of sugar into an I HEART NY coffee mug with with an amused quirk to the corner of his mouth after Kyle pries himself out of the iron grip he'd awoken to find himself trapped in. He'd managed to free himself and get out of the without waking Jason—something he'll be internally and quite possibly externally priding himself on for the rest of the day.
He shrugs, turning to a cabinet and starting to dig through it. “Mattress was a bit bumpy,” he says just to say something. Roy snickers into his mug as Kyle pulls out a box of cereal and considers it, then considers the fridge. He wonders if they have eggs, wonders if he'd even have time for that, then wonders how red Jason's ears would turn and how many times he'd call him and idiot if he woke him up to breakfast in bed.
“Oh, yeah? That what I heard last night? You tusslin' with a bumpy mattress?” He laughs as Kyle pulls a second box out and squints at him dubiously. “You know, when I said the walls were thick, I didn't mean made out of concrete.”
Kyle decides not to dignify that with a response, just focuses on weighing the pros and cons of the cereal brands in front of him and ignoring how hot his face feels under Roy's gleeful grin.
“That one's his favorite,” Roy takes pity on him after a while, motioning to one of the boxes with a nod and a slight tilt of his mug.
“Thanks,” Kyle says, and stuffs the losing box back into the cabinet before shuffling back to Jason's room with the sound of Roy's badly suppressed laughs at his back.
Jason has, of course, woken up while he was gone, and Kyle barely has time to feel bad about the stricken expression on his face from waking up alone before it melts into a pleasantly surprised, slightly sleep-dazed smile that, mixed with his ruffled bedhead, makes Kyle's insides constrict almost painfully with fondness.
“Hey,” he says, voice still gravely from sleep, and Kyle valiantly restrains himself from full body tackling him right there.
“Breakfast in bed?” he suggests instead, closing the door behind him and holding up the cereal box. “Thought about making a five course meal, but it seemed like overkill, and, you know, I didn't wanna impose on your title of designated chef.”
Jason looks between the box and Kyle a few times before he shakes his head with a laugh. “You're such an idiot,” he says, and his ears do go red, but not nearly as red as when he kisses him goodbye in front of Roy and Kory and he pulls away, looking what Kyle would dare to call hopeful. “So, uh... not a one time thing?”
“Not a one time thing,” Kyle confirms, and garners duet of wolf whistles from his—their asshole friends when he pulls him in for another.