It's Sunday night, late, and most of the Titans have left the Tower already. Back to their weekday lives. Kon's curfew is in forty-five minutes, but he never heads back to the Kents' even a second before he absolutely has to. Even if there's nothing to do at the Tower, it's still better to be here with nothing fun to do than back in Smallville with nothing fun that he can do.
He could fly across the Bay, maybe. Go somewhere in the city and just walk around. He misses it so much sometimes, the bustle and weirdness of a city full of strangers. But there was that thing, last week on the docks, with Deathstroke and Jericho and Raven... He probably wouldn't blend as much as he wants to.
He makes a circuit around the Tower, closing doors and turning lights off. It's kind of a dorky thing to do. The Tower's security system is up to JLA standards, and everything runs on solar power or some other kind of renewable energy source, but still. It makes Kon feel better.
The rec room is already dark, but someone left the bigscreen TV on, and it's flickering some old black-and-white movie. Kon walks over to turn it off, and jumps when he sees Bart huddling on the floor in front of the couch, clutching his knees.
Bart jumps, clutching the back of the couch and turning his face up towards Kon. He's crying, and Kon freezes. This is a job for-- somebody, anybody, not Superboy.
But everyone else is gone.
He comes a little closer as Bart rubs at his eyes, takes a quick breath and beams at Kon. Completely normal. It makes Kon feel stupid to even ask, but... he doesn't think he's ever seen Bart actually cry before. "What's wrong?"
"Sad movie." Bart's smile wobbles and he leans back against the couch. Kon settles in next to him. They're too close to the screen; Kon has to tip his head back against the cushions to see. He can't really tell what's going on. He hasn't seen a lot of old movies.
He actually hasn't seen a lot of movies, period. It doesn't matter much here at the Tower, where nobody really has a normal life. But he's had a lot of awkward moments at school trying to explain why he hasn't seen The Matrix. It's not like he can say "Well, I wasn't alive when it came out in theaters." Of course, Bart must have that problem sometimes too.
But when he glances sideways, he catches Bart moving his lips along with the dialogue. "'It was his story against mine, but of course, I told my story better...'"
"Wait, have you... seen this movie before?" Another stupid question. Like Bart would sit through a movie twice. He wouldn't want or need to.
"This is almost three times. Just now."
"Didn't that take like forever? I mean, for you?"
Bart points over to a stack of books under the table. "I read during the boring parts."
Kon leans past Bart and scans the titles. Apparently today is film theory and Hollywood aesthetics day in Bart's little self-education campaign. Why not? Kon shakes his head, leaning back against the couch. It's been weird, with Bart being so into books lately. But on the other hand, it makes sense. Books can go at Bart's pace.
Nothing else really does.
"See, Bogie, he's the main character. He's a writer, right?" Bart explains, nudging Kon with his elbow. "A screenwriter. He creates these worlds in his head, and then he can't deal with his girlfriend or all this crazy stuff that happens to him. And he totally knows it. It's an incisive, cynical deconstruction of the classic Bogart screen persona."
Kon just blinks at him.
"...according to this one essay I read." Bart grins.
"Hey, wait." Kon stares at the screen. "I know this guy. He was in Casablanca, right?"
"Dude, I've read so much about that one already. Did you know they didn't even know how the end was gonna go when they started filming?"
Kon shrugs. "You haven't seen it yet?"
"I should. Sometime. At least the last bit. It's sad, man." Bart looks incredibly gloomy for a second, hunching forward and resting his chin on his knees. But then he takes a breath and... he's still gloomy.
"Dude." Kon reaches out for his shoulder. "Are you... okay?"
"Well, for one thing, I'm really tired of people asking me that just because I'm acting like a responsible person instead of an impulsive little kid. I am okay. I'm good. I'm. I'm really just adjusting to this whole new thing and we had a rough week and whoa, hey--!" And Kon tackles him, and Bart stares up at him with those huge freaky orange eyes, and Kon squeezes his wrists tighter and just holds him down.
"For serious, Bart. What's wrong."
"Uh, you're being a big superfreak-- you want to let me go?"
"Nope." Kon says cheerfully.
"Nothing is wrong!" Bart stares at him hard, a killer glare that would probably work better if it wasn't just a second-rate imitation of Tim. Kon recognizes it because sometimes he does it himself. In the mirror. For hours.
"Look, I'm not even talking about this whole crying alone in the dark thing--"
"Hey, shut up, I wasn't crying--"
"I mean this whole thing, this Kid Flash thing, what the fuck is going on with that?"
"I told you guys! Jeez, you're an asshole!" Bart's been vibrating pretty much this whole time, but now he starts seriously wiggling and tugging at Kon's grip, and Kon has to try harder, hold him down with his TK and that's when Bart really starts losing it. "What the hell do you want? Seriously, let me go! Let me go let me go let me go let me go I'm gonna set off the voice activated defense system! I'm gonna do it!"
"Fine!" Kon lets go. Bart blurs away and everything that's not in the room rattles as he zips around like a particularly short poltergeist. When he reappears he actually punches Kon in the chest a couple of times, and ok, that kind of stings. "Hey! Excuse me for fucking caring!"
"Why should I even tell you? You don't tell me everything." Bart raises an eyebrow. "Are you going to tell me about whatever your deal is?"
"I don't." Kon freezes. "I don't have a--"
"Whatever." And Bart's gone.
Kon has time for one good, heartfelt "God dammit!" before he's back.
"Because, you know, if it's a big secret, fine. I get it. But could you not pet me on the head and tell me you don't have a thing? Because I know you do, and I know Robin knows what it is, and I know--"
"Stop talking!" Kon holds out a hand in desperation.
"--I know it's something and it's fucking you up, it's making you change, everything's changing, so just-- just--" Bart stutters to a stop and ducks his head, shaking all over. "Don't pretend you're okay! Because I know you're not okay!"
Bart just holds out a hand and turns away, and Kon has to move closer. He moves slowly, trying not to spook him. Grabs Bart's wrist and squeezes, and Bart sighs. Still jittery, but more normal-Bart-type jumpy and not so much with the freaking out.
"You're a little spaz, you know?" Kon says. Bart makes a noise that you might think was a laugh, if you hadn't ever heard Bart laugh before. Kon tugs at his wrist, then lets go. "You cut your hair, man."
"Well, it grows fast," Bart says. "And, I mean, everybody else has a new thing. You, Cassie... I mean, it's cool, this new look you've got going on." Bart jerks out of Kon's grip, framing Kon with his hands from a few feet away. "I heard Nightwing telling Starfire it totally made you look older."
"Nightwing said that?"
"Yeah, you ever wonder about that guy? I mean, if Kory was your girlfriend, would you ever want anyone else? Is he even dating anyone now? I think his exact words were 'really fucking manly.'" Bart's eyes are gleaming. "That doesn't really sound like something you say about someone you think of as a kid, does it? You should give it a shot. I mean, not that you-- well, do you like guys? Not that it's any of my business, I mean, you did live in Hawaii for a while, not that that means anything. I..." Bart blinks. The movie's still going in the background. "It's late, I gotta go, see you next Saturday--"
Kon takes a breath.
The hell. He looks around the darkened room. Answers do not jump out of the walls and into his head. He waits a few more seconds, but Bart doesn't come back, either.
He has time to swing by Gotham, he thinks. But the scary part is, he already knows what Tim would say about this.
The thing about the Midwest is that there's really nothing there. Okay, a couple of rivers, a couple of medium sized cities that mostly look the same from the air, but... No ocean. No coast. No volcanoes. No mountains. Just sameness everywhere, even from the sky. He knows it's not like Clark could have planned it this way, since it's not like he could have planned where he fell to earth in the first place, but. There's nothing here. There's nothing even close to here. And God, it's driving Kon nuts.
The Kents are already asleep and the lights are off in the farmhouse by the time he touches down in the backyard. Technically his curfew is midnight, but to get to Smallville by that time, he'd have to leave San Francisco by nine-thirty. And that would be just about the lamest thing ever. As long as Kon's up in time to do his chores on Monday morning, they let him come in as late as he wants on Sunday nights. Kon still doesn't know how to tell them how much he appreciates it.
They probably enjoy getting a break from him from time to time, too. He heads across the yard, trying to be quiet, but of course Krypto bounds across the yard and jumps up on him, getting muddy pawprints on his jeans and barking. "Shhh!"
"Shhh!!" Kon stares at him for a second more, then gives up and leans down and ruffles his ears. Krypto gives him some muddy pawprints on his shirt to match the ones on his jeans. At least Kon hopes that's just mud. "You are really, really stupid," he tells Krypto, who licks him in the face. "I always come back, okay? I'm not going anywhere."
If Tim were here, he would say that a good liar always tells a little bit of the truth. That most believable lies are actually mostly truth. When they were talking about it, at the time, Kon didn't quite see how that would work. I mean, one little lie in a big ball of true-- how effective could that be when you really wanted to fool someone?
Tim had just grinned, pulled a pair of glasses from nowhere, and held them up in front of Kon's face.
And, well. Point taken. Kon heaves a sigh and heads into the house. It's really, really late. And he's got chores in the morning.
He always takes off directly after school. Okay, directly after detention. But Kon is coming from Kansas and Tim's coming from Gotham, so Kon really doesn't understand how Tim always gets to the Tower first. Actually, now that he thinks about it, he doesn't know how Tim gets there at all-- JLA teleporter? Ride from Bart? Bat-Jet? He wouldn't put it past Tim to have a jet.
"You're getting faster all the time. Or else you didn't have detention today?"
Kon gives him a look, then strips off his button-down to reveal the black tee with the red S.
"Right. Stupid question." Tim smirks and heads for the roof-entry doorway.
"Speaking of stupid questions, does Bart seem weirder than usual lately?" It's a lot to throw on Tim, considering the guy's been the only thing keeping Kon stable lately, but Kon is really, really not ready to deal with whatever Bart's issue is. He's entirely willing to let Tim catch this one.
Tim glances back. "Why do you say that?"
"He kind of flipped out on me last Sunday."
Tim snorts. "He's Bart. I don't worry when he flips out. Call me when he starts being calm."
"Hmph." Kon falls into step beside Tim as they descend the stairs. "Um. Another stupid question, maybe. Is Nightwing... Does he... I mean, I know he dated Kory, but..."
Tim stops, and actually opens his mouth to say something, then closes it again. Kon waves a hand in front of Tim's eyes, and Tim bats it away. "Oh my God. He is so dead."
"No, no, he didn't do anything! I mean, he didn't say anything to me. Bart said. Um."
Tim raises both eyebrows and waits.
"He said he heard Nightwing telling Kory that he liked the new costume. Mine, I mean."
"Oh." Tim says as they approach the common room. "Well, I guess that's something to keep in mind. After you hear what Cassie has to say."
"What?" Kon blinks, and Tim puts a hand in the palm of his back and shoves him through the rec room door.
There's two couches in the rec room, facing each other over a glass coffee table. Cassie's sitting on the far couch. Sitting on one side, there's Wonder Woman. On Cassie's other side... it's her mom. Kon blinks. And hears Tim shut the door behind him.
"Uh. Hi." The last time Wonder Woman visited the tower, things didn't exactly go well. She at least looks kinda apologetic now, though it's probably just for Superman's sake. Mrs. Sandsmark has her hands folded in her lap, but she's watching Kon with this kind of wary look that just makes him want to do something to earn it. If that's what having parents is like, Kon can understand why Cassie's got to get away now and then. Cassie's got her head bowed, but she glances up, wide-eyed, as Kon enters the room.
Wonder Woman gestures to the other couch. "Please sit down, Kon."
"Okay," Kon says carefully. He sits down.
Cassie glances at her mom, then at Wonder Woman, then jumps out of her seat and throws herself onto the couch next to Kon. She grabs his hand and squeezes it in both of hers. "Kon," Cassie says, her voice low and rough. "I know this is gonna be hard, I mean, I-- You mean a lot to me. But I can't see you any more."
"What?" Kon thought they settled this last week, dammit. Cassie was gonna be in trouble, but she could stay on the team. They can't make her quit. Except in that way that they totally can. "But you--" Cassie digs her fingernails into the palm of his hand hard enough so that he can actually kind of feel it, and he shuts up.
"This isn't about the Titans, Kon, it's about us."
"I mean, our relationship. You and me, it's not-- My mom said I could stay on the Titans, but we can't. You and me--" Cassie looks away, tucking her hair behind her ear. Her foot is scuffing the carpet and it's like she wants to kick him but is holding back, and this doesn't really make a lot of sense. "I just wanted to show her that I can be, that we can be mature-- it's a second chance--"
Like what he was trying to tell her on the roof, just before they kissed-- and suddenly he gets what she's saying. She's dumping him as a concession. She probably tried to tell her mom and Wonder Woman that they're not actually boyfriend-girlfriend, that they don't have a thing going on, but who's gonna believe her after she ran off for the weekend and they catch her letting Kon stick his tongue in her mouth? And he's hearing Tim again in his head. 'Don't just tell them something they could believe. Tell them something they want to believe.'
"So-- so they're making you dump me? That's not--"
"No, Kon, I--"
"You want to dump me?" Kon raises his voice and Cassie digs her nails in again, but hey, he's on a roll now. He stands up, trying to tug his hand away. "You could have just said! You didn't have to drag your mom and Wonder Woman into this!"
"Kon, they're right!" Cassie pulls him down onto the couch again, her eyes so huge and blue. "I mean, I've talked with my mom about this, a lot, and she just helped me see what I've been feeling all along. It's not a good idea for you and me to be serious right now." Her lip wobbles a little, and Kon stares at her and tries to look-- whatever-- shocked and sad and confused. He thinks he's got a good start on confused, anyway. "I think maybe we got a little ahead of ourselves."
"Well, this is... totally classic." Kon growls. And it is. Wonder Woman wants to believe that all Cassie's problems lately aren't Cassie's fault-- that she's been skipping school and taking off without telling anyone where she's going because she's just a goofy teenage girl who's being stupid about a boy. Because then it doesn't mean there's anything really wrong with Cassie. Stupid teenage boy-girl stuff-- that's the kind of thing you grow out of.
And Cassie's mom? Kon shoots her his best sulky glare. She looks back, kind of sad but stern, and it's... Kon can tell she really doesn't hate him. She probably doesn't even think he's that terrible of a guy. She just wants to believe she's still running Cassie's life.
He gets that. Boy, does he ever.
After the Lifetime Special ("A Love Denied: The Cassie Sandsmark Story") is over, Kon finds himself wandering aimlessly until he ends up outside, next to the pool. He stretches out in a deck chair, arm over his eyes. A shadow falls over him about two minutes later. Kon blinks up at Tim. He still doesn't know how Tim does that; finds Kon wherever he is, even if Kon doesn't know where he's going.
"So now me and Cassie aren't allowed to be in a room together unless one of the Elder Titans is there to chaperone."
"Wow." Tim looks up at the sky, which means he's smiling.
"Yeah. They don't really blame Cassie. I mean, for just wanting to rip my clothes off and do me whenever we wander into the same room. It's not her fault I'm so fucking hot."
Kon looks up at him. "And they think I'm the bad influence on this team-- you know you're turning us all into sneaky little bastards?"
"Well, some of you are better learners than others."
Kon sits up. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, I'm sorry. Did I stutter? Should I say it slower for the boy from Smallville?"
"Jackass!" Kon laughs, leans over and tries to shove him into the pool, but of course Tim sidesteps and Kon misses. And falls off the deck chair. And Tim's got his knee somehow hooked around there and Kon just manages to grab the edge of Tim's cape before Tim trips him into the pool.
Of course Tim has some super emergency cape release button or something, so when Kon breaks the surface, spluttering, Tim's just perched on the edge of the deck chair, and somehow he didn't even get splashed.
He shakes his head and treads water, still holding onto the cape with one hand. "Hey Tim."
"Want your cape back?"
Tim doesn't even twitch. Kon prepares himself to get maced or electrocuted or whatever, then uses his TK to launch a huge ball of water out of the pool, wrapped in Tim's cape. He smacks Tim with it, or would, if Tim didn't dodge. Kon rises out of the pool, pulling another bubble with him, and sends it flying at where Tim was a second ago.
He's a couple of feet above the ground, too high for Tim to toss him again. He turns slowly in the air, looking for him, and gets snapped in the ass by Tim's wet, twisted-up cape.
"Oh, you little son of a bitch--"
There's about a foot less water in the pool by the time they're done playing. But maybe the plants in Kory's new garden needed a lot of watering anyway. Maybe they won't even mind the chlorine.
And it's gotta be two in the morning before Kon sits up in bed, in his room at the Tower, and mutters to himself, "son of a bitch."
There was a water fight, and then a barbecue, and there was Tim very pointedly settling down between Cassie and Kon when they were all sitting around the yard, and half the Titans laughing and half of them looking confused.
They never talked about the Nightwing thing.
They never talked about the Bart thing.
And yeah, he feels like a schmuck-- Tim effectively distracted him for a whole fucking day with a water war. Way to be, Superboy.
Okay, so he's late to the party. So he's catching on now. There is something up with Bart. That Nightwing thing was totally a smokescreen-- Bart playing Tim's game just like the rest of them do. (And Vic and Kory and Gar think they're the teachers here. Too fucking funny.)
So. There is something up with Bart, and Tim knows it. Which just makes sense; Tim knows everything. Kon rolls out of bed and finds his jeans and t-shirt. He could go over to Tim's room and sit on him till he talks, but he'll probably have better luck trying to crack Impulse. He pads downstairs as quietly as he can. A guy doesn't have to be Tim to follow the noises into the kitchen.
But it's not Bart having a midnight snack, it's Cassie and Kory in their pajamas eating ice cream. Kory hair hangs over her shoulders in a bunch of orange braids. Cassie's got curlers all over her head and something sparkly happened to her nails. She's really milking this whole 'we broke up' thing, apparently.
"Oh. Hi. Um." Kon stops in the doorway. "I was just... looking for Bart."
Kory looks at him suspiciously. "Bart goes home at night."
"I guess he likes his own bed." Cassie shrugs. "He'll be back in the morning."
"Oh. Okay." Kon stares at Cassie for a while, just for plausibility's sake, then wanders off.
He's gonna be hella tired tomorrow. The flight from Smallville to San Francisco would barely tire him out if he didn't push himself to top speed every single minute of the way. But since he does, the journey does kinda wear on him-- there and back again is usually his limit for the weekend. He should just stay at the Tower and wait for Bart. But... by morning, who knows what'll be going on in that little freak's head.
It's ten-thirty by the time he finds the Garricks' house and rings the doorbell. Jay Garrick answers the door. Kon's struck for a moment by the thought that-- god, it must be so cool to live with the Garricks. Okay, so they're old, older than the Kents even. But Jay was the original Flash. Before Wally, before Barry, before any of those guys.
"Can I help--" Jay begins coolly, and then seems to see Kon, and the symbol on his shirt. "Ah," he says, and his mouth quirks. "You're one of Bart's friends. Kon-El, isn't it?"
"Just Kon, mostly." Kon says, taking Jay's outstretched hand awkwardly. "Hi. Um." He tries to stand up straighter. "Look, I'm sorry, I know it's late, but... is Bart here?"
"Wasn't he at the Tower today?" Mr. Garrick's eyes narrow slightly.
Kon mentally smacks himself. Last week he gets Cassie in trouble for something she didn't even do; this week it's Bart's turn. Fan-fucking-tastic. "No, no, he was! And I was-- I just didn't get a chance to talk to him. About." Don't say 'stuff.' Please. Don't embarrass yourself in front of the completely awesome oldschool JSA dude who could probably still kick your ass. "Stuff."
Mr. Garrick looks at him a second more, then stands aside, gesturing him in. "Well, come on in, then. Bart should--"
"Hey hey!" Bart appears at the bottom of the stairs, a slight shape in a faded old pair of jeans and a black t-shirt that proclaims 'Wat up Ninja!?' in big red letters. "What's up? What are you doing here? Is something going on at the Tower? Why didn't you call? Where's my communicator? I don't think I lost it..." He disappears upstairs and reappears. "No, I got it." Jay laughs low in his throat, touches Bart's shoulder, and heads upstairs.
"'Night, Jay." Bart says absently, and touches him back before he goes, just a casual pat on the arm. Something about it makes Kon's throat hurt. Bart had always complained about the small towns he always ended up living in. And Kon had always laughed, at least until he found himself in his own boondock exile. Still. Bart's lucky. The Garricks aren't his blood relatives. Not any more than the Kents are Kon's. But they're something, and Bart fits here. Kon can see that as clearly as he can see that he doesn't fit in Smallville.
"So, Kon..." Bart says as Mr. Garrick disappears upstairs. "What are you doing here?"
Kon looks at the empty staircase for a moment. Wow. He didn't think anybody's eyes could be as fierce as Bart's. Not without being some similarly bizarre fluorescent color, anyway. But Mr. Garrick's are just-- not intimidating exactly, but-- heh. Kon smirks at himself.
"What is up with you?" Bart blurs a hand in front of his face. Kon snaps out of it.
"What? Huh?" It's funny. He's used to seeing people's brains just sizzle when they have to talk to Superman, and he thought he was kind of over that kind of thing, himself. But apparently not when it's Jay fucking Garrick. Not that he's in bad company, or anything. Mr. Garrick was a founding member of the JSA-- even the Justice League looks up to those guys.
"You're here because?" Bart bounces in place.
Kon pulls his gaze away from the stairs, and lowers his voice. "You took off on me the other night, man. We need to talk."
"Okay." Bart says, and he says it calmly, and Kon wonders if he should be calling Tim right now. "But not in here."
Bart grabs a plate of cookies and three apples and a bowl of some kind of macaroni salad on his way out of the kitchen. Funny how this place looks... not just like the Kents', really. But somehow just the same. You can tell everything here is old, but you can also tell it's taken care of. Funny to think about the Kents and the Garricks being the same. The Garricks are heroes.
Bart settles down on the lawn outside, alternating bites of apple and spoonfuls of macaroni salad. He pushes the plate of cookies at Kon. "Have one, I helped make 'em."
Kon considers them. They look normal. "What'd you do?"
Kon eats a cookie while Bart snarfs the rest of his... after dinner snack? "Is this why you go home at night?"
"Wha, 'cause they feed me?" Bart shrugs and stuffs a couple of cookies in his mouth. "Hey, nothin' like home cooking. I mean..."
"No, you're right." Kon says, and Bart grins at him. The cookies are actually really good. It's still pretty gross to watch Bart eat, though. Always has been. So Kon drops his gaze to Bart's shirt. It's a little too small for him, and it shows off how ripped he's getting, maybe even better than the new Kid Flash suit.
"Look, about the other night..."
"Kon. Dude. I understand," Bart says between bites of macaroni salad, "that you feel like you should be all supportive, but I'm over it. I'm Bart, remember?"
"Yeah," Kon says, and doesn't feel like laughing, but does it anyway. "You're Bart."
It's strange, though it feels like it shouldn't be. Kon spends every weekend hanging out with people who pretty much wear skin-tight body armor. And sometimes not very much of that. But there's a difference between, Tim's half-inch of custom-fit Kevlar and Bart's worn t-shirt. One shoulder-seam's already busted, and it's barely holding itself together over his chest as he rips through an apple in about two seconds. He looks like...
He just looks like a normal guy all of a sudden. He cut the hair, and he's always been a wiry little fuck under the baby fat, but lately, and by "lately" Kon means "over the past two weeks or so," he's started developing some pretty mean-looking muscles. In a couple weeks, you probably won't be able to tell him from old pics of the first Kid Flash.
Well, except for the really gay boots... But at Bart's usual speed, you probably wouldn't notice those anyway.
"I just--" Kon looks up as Bart jumps to his feet.
"Hold that--" He's gone and back again with a couple of slices of cold pizza, some bananas, more cookies and a bowl of carrot sticks. "--thought. What?"
"I keep thinking about what you said, last weekend. About all of us changing. I mean..." He reaches out and touches Bart's shoulder, just above the ripped spot in the seam. It's something of an experiment. He means it to be just a friendly touch, or more than that, but not more than that-- something like the way Jay touched Bart. Just to say he was there.
He's not sure he pulls it off.
"This whole Kid Flash thing..."
Bart squints at him over a piece of pizza. "How many times do I have to say it's not about you guys?"
Kon pulls his hand back and rubs his knuckles with his thumb. "You know what I miss? Cassie's goggles."
And that startles a snort out of Bart. "Ow. Pizza up the nose. Cassie's goggles?"
"I mean, she just looked so damn dorky, you know? The goggles, and that ratty fucking wig, and the dumb necklace. The whole thing."
"You miss that?"
Bart has left him the last cookie again. Kon grabs it and stretches his legs out, lying back on the Garrick's lawn and looking up at the stars. "Kinda. I mean it's good to know that I'm not the only one who's gonna be hunting down and burning those old group shots of Young Justice in about ten years." He scratches his belly and sighs. "Nah. This is gonna sound bad."
Bart lies down next to him, at an angle. Their heads aren't too close, but if they'd done this pre-haircut, Kon would definitely have a mouthful of mop. "Yeah?"
"She's so pretty now. I mean, you see her."
"Sometimes I feel like I... I want to put her back in the stupid goggles and the shorts and the wig." Kon mutters. "Just so no one can see how pretty she is."
"Whoa, caveman much?"
Kon winces. "I know."
"Seriously, you're a pig."
Bart starts to giggle. "Cassie would kick your ass."
"Don't tell her! Oh god!"
Bart laughs and laughs. God, Kon has missed that-- missed Bart's laugh. It's this ridiculous chuckly buzzsaw sound that starts in the back of his throat and just revs. And he always gets so fucking breathless. Like he's laughing faster than is really healthy, even for a speedster.
"I feel like that with you now," Kon says, and Bart stops laughing.
Oh, shit, he did not just say that.
And Bart's all of a sudden on top of him, and he's heavy, and Kon grunts, and Bart's tongue is in Kon's mouth. And. He's not a very good kisser, but he's got enthusiasm, and Kon's lips are tingling after about half a second, and oh jesus Bart's hands are everywhere.
And he's got about two seconds to shove Bart off and yell, or shove Bart off and laugh, or shove Bart off and fly to the fucking ionosphere and never, ever come down. And he groans and shoves one hand under Bart's shirt and tangles the other in his hair, and those two seconds are gone.
Bart's not laughing any more, but he's still making these little revved-up breathy sounds, and he kisses Kon on his cheek and his throat and the corner of his mouth and whenever Kon tries to turn his head to chase him, he just gets kissed in new places. He jumps when Bart sticks his tongue in his ear, and sits up, pulling Bart with him.
"Wait. Wa--" And Bart pulls his head down for what's probably a big, long, slow movie-kiss in Bart-years, but in real-time it hits Kon like a lightbulb exploding in his face, like a fast-forward boot to the head. "Jesus Bart you're gonna-- wait."
He peels Bart off and scoots back a little. Bart lands on his ass and sprawls, hair in his eyes, blinking.
And Kon sucks in air. Bart just pushes his hair out of his face kind of shyly, and plays with the grass next to his leg. And yeah, Kon's usually the one sitting next to Tim making the jokes about the 'impulse control problem,' but now he's the one with five thousand thoughts happening at once, at least a couple thousand of which have to do with more kissing and possibly naked Bart.
He hunches forward a little, trying to think unsexy thoughts. "Bart, this... Is this you trying to distract me from finding out about your horrible trauma?"
"Jesus flippin' Christ on a little tiny pony." Bart explodes. Kon blinks and Bart's wearing a white t-shirt with 'I HAVE NO HORRIBLE TRAUMA' written on it. He points to it, waits until Kon blinks a second time, then tries to glom onto Kon again, hands just all over. Kon backpedals awkwardly, trying not to dig divots out of the lawn.
"Wait! Wait, okay?"
"Why?" Bart sucks on a spot right behind his jaw, teeth scraping so gently. "Do you want to talk about your horrible trauma?"
He gets lost in the whispery feel of the breathy words against his ear, and then they send a shiver down his spine. Oh, god, he can not tell Bart. "I have. I don't have a horrible. Uhhh. Bart." He gets lost for a second. Bart's hand is on his hipbone and vibrating and that is just not fair. "Bart! I don't want to do this in Jay Garrick's back yard!"
"Do what?" Bart is sitting back in his old position, in the black 'Wat up Ninja' shirt, looking at Kon with his freaky yellow eyes over the top of an apple.
"Boys?" And this must be Mrs. Garrick, learning out the back door. She's wearing a plushy red robe and she doesn't even look all that peeved, which means she didn't see anything. "Bart? You have an early morning tomorrow."
Bart beams up at her. "Can Kon stay the night?"
"Oh, no, I--" Kon scrambles to his feet.
"You can stay in my room, I've got a sleeping bag, it'll be like a sleepover. And there's more cookies. I told you I helped with them, right? Come on, stay, I've never had a sleepover before, and I don't think you've even seen my room here, dude. Come see my room. We'll make eggs in the morning and then I can run us back to the Tower. Come on. You like eggs! Come on!" And from anyone else this kind of babble would sound suspicious, but it's Bart and the only thing Kon's worried about is that he's going to slip up and say something about kissing in between the cookies and eggs.
And, well, the whole concept sounds good and Mrs. Garrick is kind of smiling like she thinks it would be a cute idea, but that just reminds him again that it's Jay Garrick's house and he can't, he cannot do dirty things to a speedster in Jay Garrick's freaking house. It would be like making out in the Batcave or something. And even more than Mrs. Garrick's welcoming smile, that thought works just like a big glass of ice water down the front of his pants.
"I don't think so." And he reaches out and punches Bart in the arm, and Bart stands there and lets himself be arm-punched and stares at Kon like he's just not getting it. And he is, it's just freaking him out. "I'll see you at the Tower tomorrow."
"Like we're gonna have time to talk tomorrow!" And maybe someone else would say Bart sounds painfully young, but Kon can't exactly claim to be whine-free or mope-proof these days.
"No, fine, go on. Whatever." Bart blurs past Mrs. Garrick into the house, and upstairs a door slams.
Kon clenches his fists. Funny. He never actually thought about it quite like this before, but-- he and Bart are the same age. It always sort of makes his head hurt to think about how old Bart is, and he doesn't ever quite know how to tell people how old he is. He feels like a teenager, but is he really? Or just a vat-grown, computer-taught simulation of what a teenager his age would be like?
No wonder they both spend so much time lately trying to act like Tim. He's the only normal guy they know. And that's a scary thought in itself. No wonder they're both so fucked.
"Look, I..." He shrugs at Mrs. Garrick, then bends down to pick up the scattered plates and other remnants of Bart's snack crusade.
Mrs. Garrick comes out onto the porch in her slippers and takes the plates from him, patting him on the arm before she turns back into the kitchen. "He won't stay mad very long."
"I know." And there's another thing that worries him. "I guess I'll see him tomorrow. Nice to meet you. Sorry I can't stay."
"That's quite all right, dear."
Kon walks to the street before he takes off. Bart's probably already asleep.
It's pretty late, or pretty early, depending on how you think about it, by the time Kon gets back to the tower.
He goes down to the pool before he goes inside, and very very carefully scoops up a big ball of water and floats it into the Tower and through the halls and up to Tim's room. Thinks about how much Tim is going to kill him. And then Tim's door opens before Kon can get to the control panel, and it startles him so bad the bubble explodes over them both.
Tim's staring at him. He's wearing his boxers, the little Robin mask, and he's sopping wet. He looks like Internet porn. Except much angrier.
"What. The. Fuck."
"I'm worried about Bart!"
Tim inhales through his nose. Kon tries to say something else. Tim holds up a hand. Kon shuts up. After a second, Tim exhales. When he speaks, his voice is perfectly even. "Are you really worried about Bart, or are you saying that so I won't make your life a living hell for the rest of the weekend, if not the rest of your life?"
"He-- I just. I know none of us ever have any idea of what's going on his head, but--" Kon rubs his hands through his hair, then tugs his t-shirt out of his jeans and starts wringing it out, staring down at his hands. "He's freaking me out. I went to see him in Keystone. Why does he go home every night?"
Tim makes a little movement like he wants to take his mask off just to roll his eyes at Kon. "If you were in charge of Bart, wouldn't you keep him on a short leash?"
And oh my god mental images. "Also?" Kon says, and his voice did not just crack, the one good thing about going through childhood and puberty in a tube is that he's never, ever had an awkward phase-- "I think I'm. Kinda gay."
And he doesn't know what that look on Tim's face means.
"Bart. He. He sorta made out with me--" and that's all Kon gets out before Tim grabs him by his wet t-shirt and drags him into the room. The door closes behind them with swift click.
"You and Bart... made out."
Tim's got his scary 'we're going to die, but everybody stay calm' smile on. It's seriously freaking Kon out. "You don't just kinda sorta make out with someone."
Kon takes a deep breath. "Okay. Sometimes I have gay thoughts. But I read somewhere that everyone has gay thoughts and it doesn't mean anything. So I thought it didn't mean anything! Plus, I'm-- I'm a copy of Clark and he's not-- I never thought about it before!"
"I haven't had a lot of time!"
"Do you think I'm gay?"
"And something's still wrong with Bart!"
Tim grabs him by the shoulders and yanks him down so that they're nose to nose. And one of the sucky things about getting taller, besides the growing resemblance to Clark, is the fact that it's not quite as reassuring when Tim does this kind of thing, these days.
"Stop freaking out."
And he gets one of Tim's really good glares.
Deep breath. He holds it for a second, trying to grasp one of the mediation techniques that Tim tried to teach him that one time. It doesn't really work, but at least it sort of distracts him.
He exhales. Tim squeezes his shoulder. "All right," he says. "Now. I'm going to tell you what's wrong with Bart."
"And then you're going to go fix it."
Tim opens his mouth, then closes it again. "But first I'm going to put some clothes on."
Kon lets himself out the window while Tim changes and takes a fast spin around the Tower. He takes off his shirt and lets it fly in the wind as he goes, and after a couple of wide loops his shirt's dry, if freezing, and his jeans are only sort of damp. On the fifth loop an orange blur rises to meet him, and he races Kory for a little bit before she peels out of the curve, laughing. He chases her, landing a quick slap just above her waist. Only letting his hand slide down her back a little. "Tag!"
Kory's top speed is nowhere near Mach 4, but Kon doesn't actually want to wake up the entire Tower with a bunch of sonic booms, so they're pretty evenly matched as they spin and dart around the Tower. And maybe his hand slips a couple of more times when it's his turn, but it's Kory. She's not dumb or a doormat; if he's getting away with anything, it's because she's letting him. And maybe he's daring a little more than he usually would, but... She's Kory and she's gorgeous and if he likes touching her soft soft skin then he can't be totally gay, can he? Not that there's anything wrong with that.
It's too confusing to think about at this hour of the morning. And it doesn't help that when Kory tags him, she always seems to trail her hand across his chest at just the right angle to stroke his nipples. He almost wants to ask her if someone told her that was, like, required. Nipple Tag. The scary part is he can see it happening just like that, back in the day. It's the kind of thing Beast Boy might do. And Tim says Nightwing's kind of got a twisted sense of humor.
Kon wonders how Kory plays Monopoly.
"Oh, Kon," she says, after one particularly luxurious stroke-- um, tag. She stops him with her hand still on his chest, then reaches down and he's almost about to freak when she grabs his hand in both her own. She squeezes, hovering and gazing meaningfully into his eyes. "You know that Gar, Vic and I promised Wonder Woman and Cassie's mother that we'd look after the two of you."
"Um. Yeah." He tries to give her a Clark look. "We'll be good--"
She squeezes his hand again. "Kon. I said I wouldn't leave you two alone. And I'll keep that promise. But I want you to feel perfectly free to express your feelings for Cassie however you see fit, even in my presence. What Cassie's protectors don't know certainly won't hurt them, and I won't be offended-- in fact, I'd be honored to witness your shared--"
"Um, Kory!" Kon thinks that maybe Mach 4 would be a great idea right now. It would just be a little sonic boom, and it is almost dawn, so who would mind? When he looks down and sees Tim waiting on the ground, near the pool, it's with with a sense of relief so profound he thinks he might actually die from it. "I-- have to go talk to Tim now."
"Okay," she says, and pats him on the shoulder. He sinks straight down, pulling his shirt on hastily, and prays he's not still blushing when he reaches the ground.
He doesn't think he is, but Tim sees right through him anyway. "What were you two talking about?"
"Um." Don't say 'stuff,' Kon tells himself. Then Tim will just go ask her and she'll probably tell him. And then you'll never live it down and you'll have to eat Kryptonite and die. So, yeah. Don't say 'stuff.' Tim is waiting, eyebrow raised. "Nothing. I mean, stuff. I mean-- dammit!"
Kon hates his stupid brain.
"Mm-hmm." Tim says.
"So?" Kon stares at Tim. He knows it's fucking unfair to lay all his problems on the guy, but as has just been established, he's probably not going to do too well on his own.
"Short version?" Tim says, lurking in the pre-dawn dimness. He gestures up and down in Kon's direction. "Look at you. Look at Cassie. Young Justice is dead-- long live the Teen Titans. We're all changing, and Bart's feeling left behind for the first time in his life. Do you get it?"
"He's trying to catch up with the rest of us."
"It explains the new threads. It might explain the makeout session." Tim looks out over the bay. His cape is closed around him, and he's unreadable. "Or it might not. You and I know that trying to guess what's going on in Bart's head is at best a sucker's game. So what you have to figure out is... how do you feel about it?"
"Well, I..." Kon wrinkles his forehead and stares down at his boots. He hasn't really thought about it. His relationships here, with Bart and Tim and Cassie... well, he'd poke out his own eye for any of them, and they'd do it for him. That's just how things are; it's not something he's ever really had to think about.
So. He takes a second to think. And... after a second his throat gets tight, and he realizes that sometimes he can be dumber than even he knew. Because, yeah. It's Bart, so of course he was always the cutest damn thing in any given country. Even with Cassie and Cissie and Greta on the team-- still the fucking cutest. And yeah, Bart, always the youngest, too. So you had to look out for him, had to take care of him, had to tell him baby powder wasn't really made of babies and there weren't alligators in the sewers under Gotham and why it wasn't such a good idea to stick pennies in light sockets even if you are faster than your average electron.
Had to always make sure someone on the team was carrying snack cakes. (Hey, as long as Cissie was carrying that quiver-- and when did they ever need that stupid bubble-bomb arrow anyway, right?) Had to defend him to the jerks who thought 'Impulse' was all there was to the little guy.
And not just because he was one of the guys. Not just because he was on the team. Because... he was Bart.
"I guess I just... I just figured everybody felt the same way."
Tim tips his head forward a little, incredulous.
"Well, you can't know Bart and not like him! Want to... keep him out of trouble. I mean, he's not going to do it himself!"
"Mm-hm." And Tim's just plain old smirking now.
"Even if he does have a head full of books and..." Kon trails off. "Whatever."
"Oh, sure," Tim says, and it's always trouble when you can hear Tim's amusement. "We all like Bart. But somehow I've always managed to express that without the tonsil hockey."
Kon stuffs his hands in his pockets and stares at his boots some more. He's really going to have trouble getting his shoelaces undone... well, whenever he decides to sleep next, since it doesn't look like it's going to happen tonight.
"So now what? How do I--?" he finally asks, looking up, but Tim's gone. "Oh, dammit!"
He rises into the air and glances around, but he doesn't even see a suspicious looking shadow anywhere in the yard. Damn it. There are times Kon wonders what Tim was like before he met Batman. Most days he's pretty sure that Tim was just... like Tim, and that's possibly even a spookier thought.
"Hey," says a voice from the ground, "Hey!"
And he turns around, and he has to falter a little in the air, because-- it's Impulse.
Kon lands and walks a little closer, wondering if he's dreaming. But it is, it's the old costume. Pale gray and deep red in the dawning morning light, with the big old scuffed-up stomper boots and the stupid yellow goggles that always made him look kind of insane. His hair's still short, though, and something about that smirk... It's not an Impulse smile.
And when he gets closer, Kon can see how Bart's shoulders and arms are stretching the old costume. How the gloves don't quite come to the ends of its sleeves, and how...
How Bart doesn't really look like Impulse any more.
It's getting lighter outside, and Bart pulls off the face-covering part of the costume and lets it hang down his back. He looks at Kon with a strange quietness, and yeah. When Impulse is calm, you should worry.
But when Kid Flash is calm... and looking at him like that... Kon doesn't really know what to do.
"It's not you any more," he says. And yeah, Bart is standing right there, but it still makes him. Kinda sad.
Bart shakes his head. "It really isn't."
"I guess... I guess I get that."
Bart grins. "You know, I always liked the leather jacket you used to have. It'd look awesome with your outfit now."
Kon blinks. "Dude, you could have it, but I have no idea where it is now."
"Kid Flash in a leather jacket?" Bart laughs, and it's the same old way-too-loud stuttery rip-saw. "I don't think so."
Kon can't think of anything to say now, so he goes with a safe bet. "Are you hungry?"
"Lemme-- change." He's gone and back again, in the yellow and red Kid Flash getup, and yeah. It does suit him. He doesn't look as skinny as he used to. Ol' Mop-head. He looks like a teenager, not a demented bug.
Well, not any more like a demented bug than he just normally does, anyway.
Bart comes a little closer, and touches his elbow. "So. You gonna tell me your thing?"
Kon winces, looking away.
"You don't have to."
Kon takes a breath, and steps back, gesturing to himself. To the symbol on his chest. "Who do you see when you look at me?"
Bart blinks, then narrows his eyes. They gleam in the sunrise. And he actually looks at Kon for what must be a hell of a long time, subjectively. "I see you."
"Who is that?"
"Ohhhhh, okay. Your thing is that you're a teenager. Tim had me all worried with the 'give him space' and 'it's not about you' and the 'some things he has to figure out on his own.'" Bart snorts. "Can we go get breakfast?"
Kon laughs, and reaches out a hand, and messes up Bart's hair. Not that it looks any different when he's done, but it's the thought that counts. "Sure."
"Do you want to. Um." And Bart's foot is drumming on the concrete, his hands clenched into vibrating fists, and Kon just stares. But Bart's voice is steady when he stops shaking, tucks his hands behind his back and clears his throat. "Do you want to go out tonight? Like to a movie?"
"I've..." Oh god. Kon swallows. "I've been to the movies with you. You ate all the popcorn before we even sat down, and then you got us kicked out of the theater 'cause you wouldn't stop talking." And that was with Tim and Cass and Suz and Cissie. And they'd all sat boy-girl-boy-girl and...
He still remembers nudging Suzie and getting her to go into gaseous form after the lights went down, so he could reach over and poke Bart and throw goobers into his hair. At least until Bart ate them all, which had been about four seconds later, but...
"Maybe we could entertain ourselves while we wait for the movie to start," Bart says, and his voice is low and scratchy, and then he cracks a grin. "I mean. Without the use of goobers."
"We could try," Kon says.
"Is that a yes?"
"Yeah. I guess it is." And they grin at each other like a couple of morons for a few seconds before Bart steps closer and runs his fingers over Kon's forehead, where his bangs (and that one stupid spit-curl) used to be before he cut his hair. Kon smiles at him. "It's still me."
"Yeah," Bart says, except his eyes are huge and weirdly dark except for a golden glitter around the edge of his pupils. "Me, too."
And maybe that doesn't make any sense or maybe it makes all the sense in the world, Kon can't tell, because Bart's arms are around his neck and they're kissing again. And Bart's new outfit is so fucking sleek and frictionless and Bart is climbing him like Bugs Bunny climbs Elmer Fudd and Kon's hands are slipping down and he's got a handful of Bart's hair and a handful of Bart's ass and, okay, Bart isn't so much vibrating as he is humping Kon and moaning breathily and yeah, this is pretty much what he always thought sex with Bart would be like, except for the part where it's the most fucking fantastic thing that's ever happened to him in his bizarre and short life.
He bends his head to bite at the skin of Bart's jaw, the only skin he can really get to, and this time it's Bart who all of a sudden tenses up and starts pushing Kon away. "Wait-- no, hang on--"
"Not in the Kid Flash suit! That's just wrong, dude!" Bart shudders and flickers and reappears in his jeans and sneakers again. This time the t-shirt is blue and has a picture of the car from 'Back to the Future,' along with the logo, which is the only way Kon recognizes it, because that's another movie he hasn't seen.
"Do I want to know what's up with the--" Never mind. He really doesn't care. He pulls Bart closer, sliding his hands up Bart's bare arms, and just that fast they're locked in closer and he can't help it, this feels too good. He slips his arm around Bart's waist and pushes off, lifting them both up into the air as fast as he can go.
The wind batters at their faces and Bart laughs, hot against his chest, climbing him and wrapping his legs around Kon's waist and squeezing, which just sends them tumbling head over foot till Kon can't really tell which way is up any more. But that's okay because it's an excuse to hang on tighter.
Bart yells something in his ear, but Kon can't really hear it over the wind. He closes his eyes and it doesn't matter who's in his arms, if it's Impulse or Kid Flash or Bart, and maybe that's what Bart is trying to tell him, or maybe just something the universe is trying to tell him.
He pulls them up into a swoop, with Bart on the outside of the arc so he just gets pressed up against Kon's body, and he sticks his hands up under the back of Bart's shirt, which is flapping in the breeze. Catches Bart's mouth and gets about fifty kisses in a minute for his trouble.
In about five minutes, if anybody happens to be looking up at the sunrise, in the general direction of Titans Tower, they're gonna get a hell of a show, Kon thinks... and then he realizes that if anybody's monitoring airspace surveillance from the Tower's control room, they probably already know, too. Which is one of those things he should be thinking of, because Bart may be Kid Flash now, but he's always gonna be that guy on the inside, the one they called Impulse for a reason.
It's not like Kon cares what people think, and it's not like the Kents can really tell him what to do, but there's the team to think of, and also the Garricks. And like, if Kory caught them making out she probably wouldn't do anything, or, well, she'd do something. Give them advice and condoms, maybe. But if it was Beast Boy, or Cyborg... well, Kon doesn't really know either one of them well enough to say.
He takes them down, zooming them so close to the water that the waves splash them with spray, and lands them down on a dock on the city side of the river. Bart spins away, laughing, arms spread. He looks great in the civvies and the short hair. Almost totally normal, until you get a look at his eyes. Or the way the old splintered wood of the deck kind of gets sandblasted away under his feet. Kon grins. He hasn't slept a wink all night. He feels great.
Skimming through the air, he chases after Bart, and Bart lets himself get caught. Kon hugs him for it, pulls Bart back against his chest and bends his head, nuzzling at his exposed throat. Bart starts making those breathy noises again, and somewhere in the distance there are bells ringing, because it's Sunday morning. They've got a whole day of this before they have to go home.
"Let me--" Bart twists in his arms, all elbows and knees, and half-drags Kon down, half-pulls himself up for for a battering kiss. Kon closes his eyes. He can feel the sun on his back, and Bart's hand flickering in his hair and over his neck, making him shiver. "Kon."
"You have to tell me where you're living now," Bart says, in between kisses. "I can't just see you on the weekends. Do you even know how long that is for me? Sometimes I run around just hoping I'll see you somewhere. If I have to wait a whole week to see you again now? I'll die."
And he could just laugh all that off as Bart being Bart, and some things never changing, but he can't, really, because. Yeah. "I know. Me too."
And he can't really tell Bart where he lives or anything-- not now that he's actually got a secret identity. A so-called real life. But they could work out a meeting place, maybe. Somewhere in between. Smallville may be a million miles away from everything in the civilized world, but it's actually not that far from Keystone.
"I can meet you. Near you," he says, and holds Bart tighter. Because, yeah. Somewhere in between. It's not that far.
And some things don't change.