They haven’t had a mission in two weeks, seven hours, forty three minutes, and seven – no – ten seconds, now. It’s boring and quiet and weird and boring. It is not at all how Ray thought Earth – and being a part of Young Justice – would be.
They are sequestered here, like prisoners instead of the heroes they are, while Aqualad meets with the Justice League to report on how well the new team is adapting to being – well, a team. Ray wishes he could be entirely confident that Nate will make them all sound dashing and fearless in hindsight instead of spastic and uncoordinated as they’d truly been at the time, but Nate is too honorable an Atlantean to provide anything but the utmost truth, no matter how painful.
And really, they’ve only had one mission – the Cadmus mission – and despite any disorder during the action, it was undeniably an utter success. It got them Superboy, didn’t it? And Brad is humongous with super strength and super smarts and super good looks.
Ray really doesn’t understand why everyone is so worried about the new guy being a part of Young Justice. Brad is Superman’s baby clone for chrissakes – that’s a human colloquialism; Ray’s been watching a lot of television these days to learn more about Earth’s inhabitants – and Superman is the poster boy for all things justice.
Ray decreases the density of his body and rises into the air, turning horizontally and face-down, like one of his superb pancakes above a skillet. He sneers at his watch, folds his arms under his head, and turns his face into an elbow.
He hears footsteps approach. Brad pats his back – once, twice. His hand is large and heavy, but despite his super strength, his touch is light. “You’re doing that weird thing again,” he says stiffly.
Ray lifts his head, affronted, and glares. “It’s not weird, Brad. It’s called flying, or hovering, and it’s normal on my planet, OK?”
Brad draws his hand slowly away before settling it at his side, his fingers curling slightly inward. “No.”
“Um, yeah. It is totally normal, homes —” (that is another human colloquialism Ray learned from the television) “— it’s you all who are the strange ones. Grounded forever and ever and ever and — ”
“I meant — ” Brad pauses, and Ray quiets down. “I meant that thing where you aren’t talking. But — you’re being normal again, I guess.”
Ray flips slowly until he’s vertical and floating high enough that he’s of a height with Brad. “Oh.”
Brad stares back at him evenly, as usual.
Ray shrugs. He can’t read Superboy’s facial expressions as well as he can Walt and Nate’s, simply because there is an extreme lack of any expression at all, but feelings flow off of Brad in waves, even when Ray does his best not to invade anyone’s thoughts.
People here don’t take kindly to telepathic sharing at all. Walt punched him out for it the first time, and Walt’s like, the nicest guy in Mount Justice, if not in all of Happy Harbor.
So, now, in the absence of the telepathic noise Ray is so used to from home, he speaks his own thoughts. He half hopes the others may do more of the same. It’s maybe too much to hope that Superboy will though, but he projects his feelings so strongly and feels his new emotions with such raw intensity that it fills up the mental silence just enough, sometimes.
“I was moping before,” Ray explains, and he senses Brad’s worry-concern-frustration bleed slowly away. “You know, because the Justice League are being boring and won’t give us another mission yet.”
Ray likes explaining things to Brad just to see him take things in, and because things are so different here on Earth than Mars that Ray constantly feels the need to talk through things so the others understand. He thinks Brad can relate, if only because Superboy is a Kryptonian clone who was born in a test tube in Cadmus. They are of a kind, kind of, in their strangeness here.
“But I’m all right now because I’ve just had a great idea,” Ray goes on. “We’re going on a vacation to celebrate the success of our first mission as a team. We’re leaving Mount Justice and kidnapping the baby, and we are going to visit the beach! You haven’t been there in real life yet, right? No? No, I didn’t think so. We’re going. I just decided.”
Ray knows Brad understands what a beach is on a purely logical level – can probably recite all of the useless facts about the properties of sand and how much whale semen is in the ocean and all of that boring information, but Ray also knows that Brad’s missing the real memories that make knowing about anything worth – well, anything.
Ray drops back onto the ground and pokes the ‘S’ logo on Brad’s chest. “Walt. Walt is the baby. Keep up, genius.”
He turns and jogs out of the training arena into the lounge area, knowing without turning around that Brad is following at his own pace.
“Did you check with Nate?” Walt asks, even as he rubs sunscreen onto his nose. “I think Red Tornado told him we were supposed to keep training in our off time.”
“Nate’s coming too,” Ray says, raising a hand to call the bioship closer for loading.
“He’s not,” Brad says.
Ray whips his head around to scowl at where Brad holds all of their beach accessories. For someone who fits the bill of strong and silent to a tee, Brad is very un-silent at the most inconvenient moments. “That was our secret!”
Brad’s brows draw down into a frown. Ray almost feels bad about that, because Brad is sometimes still uncomfortable in his body and human-isms, like the grown-up newborn he is.
“Oh,” Brad says. “Sorry.”
More than remorse, Ray can feel Brad projecting confusion.
“It’s OK,” he replies easily. “I’ll forgive you this time.”
There’s a sound behind him, and he sees Walt setting down the sunscreen on the table. He rubs the cream off from his nose with his shirtsleeve.
“Baby-Bat, what do you think you’re doing? Reapply that and get on the bioship.”
“You should probably clear all this with Aqualad. Batman’ll be pissed if we don’t report in about a trip to the team leader.”
“Psh. I left Nate a note for whenever he’s done being all leader-y with the Justice League.” Ray waves a hand and hovers the sunscreen over, nudging it until it hits Brad on the Superman logo across his chest. “Put that stuff on, white boy, or you’ll burn in the sun.”
“The sun doesn’t harm me. Nothing does,” Brad says quietly.
“It’s part of the experience,” Ray insists, but his chest knots up uncomfortably, and he’s not sure if the feeling is from Superboy or from himself.
Brad stares at him, then at Walt, who nods with an encouraging grin. Brad uncaps the bottle. The knot in Ray’s chest eases.
“And you,” Ray says, pointing at Walt. “You can just widen those baby blue doe eyes up at Bats and melt him into a puddle of his weird, paternal brand of sidekick love. That’s your superpower. Nate will just chase us via waterways anyway – the river to the ocean. He needs the aquatic exercise. You know he’s homesick for Atlantis. It’ll be good for him.”
“Hm,” Walt mutters, but he stands up and heads to the bioship.
Ray punches the air like he’s seen people do on the television and flies behind Robin. “Come on, Brad. The ocean beckons.”
“I think it only beckons to Nate, Aquaman, and other Atlanteans.”
“One day, my friend, you will understand the finer points of my metaphorical phrases. Really. You’ll be even more impressed by me than you already are.”
Brad sighs, but he follows, as he always does.
Walt dashes out of the ship and does a series of flips and somersaults mid-air before diving cleanly into the water, his shirt and shades discarded on the bioship floor.
“Show-off,” Ray calls after him.
Walt just whoops loudly when he surfaces, and Ray’s grinning wide as he navigates the bioship down onto the beach, in camouflage mode of course – even if this beach is deserted. Uncle J’onn always says that taking precautions is of the utmost import, especially for Martians. Ray thinks it’s because the humans can’t handle how truly awesome Martians are.
The gate’s still open, but Ray makes a show of fiddling with their beach gear as Brad heads out onto the sand.
He watches when Brad stops with both feet a step out the door, his toes digging in, hands clenched at his sides. Brad tilts his face up to the sun. When he closes his eyes, his eyelashes are almost invisible in the light, and they rest with shadows on his cheeks.
The summer heat gushes into the ship, but there is nothing like seeing it rush into a person.
Ray quietly sets down the beach umbrella and the pack with the deflated beach balls. Brad’s hands unclench. Ray moves forward.
He sees Brad turn his head slightly to the side, watching Ray approach out of the corner of his eye.
“We don’t have beaches in Mars,” Ray says casually. “It’s too cold, so our oceans are frozen over. Nothing lives in that terrain. I had Uncle J’onn take me here first when we arrived on Earth. It’s kind of overwhelming, the first time. Possibly every time.”
Brad doesn’t say anything, but he does face forward again. In the distance, they can see Walt splashing around in the water like he’s Aqualad instead of Robin, his laughter as easy as ever and his calls to them welcoming.
“What’re you waitin’ for?” Walt cries, waving them over.
Something suddenly arcs high out of the water, glimmering wet and bright and graceful, like a dolphin.
“Nate!” Walt squawks, and then he is dunked into the water as Nate dips back under. They surface in a wrestling tangle of joyful shouts.
Ray laughs in response and turns his face up to find the corner of Brad’s lips tilting upward. He slips his hand into Brad’s larger one and tugs him toward the sea.