The instant he returns to the real world, Jean-Paul takes off. Mountains and rivers blur by as he flies, his mind and spirit sharpened to a crystalline point. He doesn’t stop, doesn’t breathe , until he’s standing in front of the door to his and Kyle’s apartment.
“Kyle,” he calls, rapping his knuckles against the door so fast that the door is starting to vibrate a little. “Kyle. Kyle .”
“Hey…” Kyle says from the other side of the door, and the doorknob turns and then he’s there , tired and bleary-eyed in a bathrobe and boxers and beautiful , the most beautiful sight that Jean-Paul’s ever seen in his entire life and he might stop breathing again right now. “Oh my God,” Kyle says, and then he’s in his husband’s arms again. “Oh my God. I thought you were dead.”
“I was,” Jean-Paul says, kissing him deeply, holding him and touching him and reaffirming to himself that Kyle is real , Kyle is here . “All the important stuff, anyway.” He kisses Kyle again, drinking him in like sunlight on a cold day. “I need you,” he says, and with superhuman speed he carries Kyle to their bedroom, cradles Kyle’s face in his hands, kisses him and kisses him and kisses him. “I was… they made us forget,” he explains, a little manic as he peels off his Northstar uniform. “They made us forget everything, families and loved ones and…”
“Slow down, Jean-Paul,” Kyle says from the bed, propping himself up on his hands. “You can slow down. It’s okay.”
“No, I…” Jean-Paul tosses his uniform haphazardly into the corner and stands there in just his briefs. He lunges toward the bed, grappling for Kyle and clinging to him the way a man dying of hypothermia might cling to Mount Everest. He kisses Kyle again, desperately, tugs his bathrobe open and kisses a line up his chest. “I love you,” he says, burying his face in the crook of Kyle’s neck and shoulder. “Je t'aime plus que tout.”
“Sweetheart, I love you, too, but—”
Jean-Paul kisses every inch of his husband he can reach. He’s drowning and Kyle is the oxygen he needs to live, is the air he breathes and the ground he stands on. He tugs at Kyle’s boxers, feverish, frantic, and Kyle’s hand moves down to cover his, warm and solid and real and—
His hands scrabble mindlessly for purchase, clawing at the bedsheets and at Kyle’s bathrobe, and the devastated sobs come out as if they’re being torn from his throat. He weeps, his head pressed firmly against Kyle’s chest, and Kyle’s hand comes up to cup the back of his head. “ Shh ,” Kyle says, carding his fingers gently through Jean-Paul’s hair. “It’s okay. It’s okay.”
“It’s not,” Jean-Paul says, breath hitching as tears he can’t hold back come streaming down his cheeks. “It is not okay. Kyle, I was a monster. I took people away from their families, from their lovers. And, my God, I really am a bastard, because I don’t even care about all that as much as I care about the fact that I forgot you.”
“Tell me,” Kyle says, and gravity is meaningless, he is the only force holding Jean-Paul to this planet. “Tell me what happened.”
Jean-Paul shakes. “We were— all of us— we were copies of ourselves, wiped of everything important. Family, marriage, love. I didn’t remember Aurora or you. And… and I enforced it. I punished people for intimacy, for love. Why the hell would I…?”
“You were being controlled, my love,” Kyle points out, his voice as steady as the reliable rise and fall of his chest. “It wasn’t really you.”
“It was a version of me,” Jean-Paul says, disgust and self-loathing drenching him as he recalls his time as a member of Nate Grey’s secret police. “How could any version of me do… that ? Kyle, how could any version of me forget you? What you mean to me?”
“ Shh ,” Kyle says again, holding him close like something precious. “Stranger things have happened. I know, because they’ve happened to me. And I’m still here, and so are you.”
“I just…” Jean-Paul sighs. “How can I feel so full of guilt and yet… feel so empty at the same time?”
Kyle looks down at him and there’s nothing but forgiveness in his eyes. Forgiveness, and love, and Jean-Paul isn’t sure he’ll ever be able to live up to the way Kyle sees him right now. He feels like a worm. Kyle is looking at him like he’s the sky.
And then Kyle says, “I have something for you,” and he stretches across the bed to grab something from the top drawer of their nightstand.
Even Jean-Paul’s current state of self-loathing isn’t enough to overcome his curiosity. He cranes his neck to see what Kyle has in his hand. It looks like a slip of construction paper, folded into fourths.
“Here,” Kyle says, and gives it to him. “I knew this was going to happen one day.”
“You knew this was going to happen?”
“Well,” Kyle shrugs, “something like this. Go on. Read it.”
Jean-Paul unfolds the construction paper, pushing himself up a little in their bed so he can read it. Written with a marker in Kyle’s looping handwriting, it says, This Certificate Hereby Entitles Jean-Paul Beaubier-Jinadu to One Bizarre Mind-Controlled Misadventure. Signed, Kyle Jinadu-Beaubier
Jean-Paul reads it and then rereads it to make sure he’s not making things up. “What the hell is this?”
“I made it after I got brainwashed and tried to kill you,” Kyle says, “the second time. I figure… in your line of work, this is just the kind of thing that might happen. I wanted to be prepared.”
“And this is how you prepared,” Jean-Paul says, holding the piece of paper carefully in his fingertips, like it could blow away.
“Sure,” Kyle says. “I needed you to know… and I need you to know now … that I forgive you, always, for anything you’ve done or did while someone was messing with your mind.”
“Kyle…” Jean-Paul says, his voice thick. “I was someone I didn’t recognize. You don’t know what I did—”
“I held you at gunpoint,” Kyle points out. “I punched you in the face . I distinctly remember calling you a ‘dirty monster’ at one point.”
“That wasn’t you,” Jean-Paul says quickly, “that was Unity, messing with your mind, and…” He trails off at the look Kyle is giving him. “Oh. That’s… that’s what you’re saying, isn’t it? That it wasn’t my fault.”
“Which is why I made the coupon,” Kyle says, wrapping his arms gently around Jean-Paul. “Your get-out-of-jail free card. We’re even now.” Jean-Paul looks incredulous. “Actually, since I got brainwashed twice, once with Unity and once with the whole Hatchi Tech thing, I think we’re two-and-one. Which means you could go get hijacked by the Shadow King and rampage the city tomorrow, and then we’d be even.”
“You’re ridiculous,” Jean-Paul says with adoration. “I love you. I love you so much.”
“I love you, too,” Kyle says, and kisses him, soft and slow this time, and sweet, and gentle. “Listen, let’s… let’s get some sleep, okay? There will be plenty of time tomorrow for mindblowing reunion sex. Tonight… I want to hold you. I missed sleeping next to you so much.”
“I missed it, too,” Jean-Paul says. Kyle draws their bedsheets and blankets up over the pair of them. The pillows beneath their heads are soft, and the bed doesn’t feel off-balance and empty anymore. “Kyle,” Jean-Paul says, “sweetheart… be here when I wake up, okay?”
“Of course I will,” Kyle promises, and kisses him. “I’m not going anywhere.”