Querl has never felt so dumb in his whole life – and despite being the smartest boy in the universe, he’s had plenty of opportunities to feel dumb. He’s done some majorly stupid things, most of which he chalks up to immature impulses. He’s just a kid, after all, and young men have never been especially well known for having an excess of self-control and foresight.
This instance, however, does not simply make Querl feel dumb, it makes him feel so silly and worried that he can’t stop thinking about it weeks after the fact.
Why did he kiss Lyle? What was he thinking? And they haven’t talked about it. Lyle hasn’t ignored him, really, but they haven’t talked. They’re just friends, and if Lyle notices that Querl can’t quite meet his gaze anymore, he keeps it to himself. Querl wishes he would just say something.
He thinks about Andromeda, his first crush, and how he never told her how he felt. He had the chance, he just didn’t take it. And now, he could pretend like they just weren’t meant to be if he wanted to, because Andromeda is finally happy, but the truth was that Querl had missed his opportunity with her. There had been a connection, and it could have been so much more. It could have.
With Lyle, it’s different. Andromeda inspired burning need that Querl had never experienced in his whole life and the effect was instant. He had wanted her so much, needed to touch her; never got the chance. But Lyle is different. He’s always been there, hand lingering on Querl’s shoulder longer than necessary after a brotherly pat on the back, fingers brushing against Querl’s accidentally when they’re working together, and over time he has gently forced Querl to depend on his presence.
Querl wonders if Lyle did it on purpose; wanted Querl to need him around all the time. He didn’t even notice it himself until he was thrown to the other side of the universe, alone despite the company of his other teammates, and wishing so desperately that Lyle was there to help him. Without Lyle, he is only half as good as he can be. Lyle can push Querl to an entirely new level.
It’s late and Querl should be asleep but he can’t stop thinking. He’s changed into his pajamas and has spent the last three hours staring at the ceiling in his quarters. Unable to tolerate it any longer, he shoves the blankets away and climbs out of bed, padding down the hallway in the direction of his lab. He might as well get something done if he’s not going to get any sleep.
To his surprise, there is a light on already in the lab. He sees Lyle there, hunched over a book in his personal corner, reading so intently that he didn’t even look up when Querl opened the door.
He’s so lovely, Querl thinks, illuminated like that in the dark. There has always been gentleness to Lyle that’s visible in the soft, round shape of his face and his delicate, long fingers and the way his brown hair frames his eyes. Querl has overheard others talk about Lyle – the girls and the boys alike. Even the womanizers of their little club have to admit that Lyle could pass for a girl with those pretty features.
Querl likes pretty, he can admit that. But more than that, he likes beauty that belies strength. Lyle has so much strength – not just physical strength, but a strong will and a strong mind that keeps up with Querl’s own and makes Querl feel like he’s not alone anymore.
“You’re up late,” he remarks from the other side of the lab. “I didn’t expect to see you down here.”
Lyle jumps, surprised by the sound of Querl’s voice. However, the surprise quickly melts away to a pleased smile and Lyle sets his book aside. It’s an old paper book, Querl notes, and while those are still made on Earth, they’re few and far between. He wonders where Lyle got it.
“Hey, Brainy,” Lyle says, as though he’s genuinely pleased to see him. “I couldn’t sleep. I came down here to try and work but then I couldn’t really focus on anything, so I decided to do some reading instead.”
He pats the stool beside him, motioning for Querl to come and sit. Querl hesitates for only a moment before crossing the room. Perching himself on the stool, he cranes his neck to see what Lyle is reading. Brilliant, colorful images look up at him from the pages.
“Comics,” Lyle explains cheerfully. “It’s an anthology collection of old comics that a friend of mine sent me.”
“Comics,” Querl repeats with a little laugh. It just strikes him as funny that Lyle, clad in his skintight Invisible Kid uniform, always facing off fearlessly against the forces of evil, would feel the need to read about just that in cartoon form.
“Don’t laugh,” Lyle insists, but his smile grows. “Oh, I knew you’d think it was silly. But to be honest, this stuff…” he gestures to the open book, “it’s why I’m here. When I was little, I worshipped these things. I wanted to be like the heroes I read about. I wanted to do… well, you know, this.”
Even though he’s never read a comic book all the way through, Querl does understand. He understands because he remembers feeling the same way while reading about his family’s legacy. He remembers wanting to be the descendent of the Last Son of Krypton, Earth’s savior, instead of what he really is.
“You didn’t need comics to manage that,” he says anyway because Lyle is so smart and driven that Querl knows he would have ended up in the Legion anyway.
Lyle’s smile is almost blinding now. “Why, Brainy, was that a compliment?” he teases.
Back when this all started, Querl never would have been so free with his praise. He wouldn’t have complimented Lyle even if the other boy had deserved it. But that was years ago now, and he’d been a teenager desperate to prove himself, and now he… doesn’t have to prove himself anymore.
He blushes and looks away from a moment, nervously tapping his fingers against his knees. He looks up again.
“Um, well, listen,” he begins, determined to just say it already and get it over with. “I was wondering if you wanted to go somewhere with me. You know, not somewhere on Legion World, but somewhere else. Earth, maybe. You don’t have to, I just thought maybe since I’m a genius and you’re almost a genius, we could… talk about it over dinner?”
He can feel the blush travel all the way up to the tops of his ears. Talk about it over dinner? Well, that was just a brilliant way to go about it, Brainiac 5, congratulations on being the smartest man in the sprocking universe.
“That sounds like a great idea,” Lyle says, causing the overdrive of mental scolding in Querl’s head to come screeching to a halt. The other boy hasn’t stopped smiling. In fact, he looks even happier now, like something great has just happened to him. “Just so we’re clear, this is a date, right?”
“Yes,” Querl says quickly, shocked but not witless (a Brainiac is never witless). “Rather, it is if you want it to be.”
“Alright then, just tell me when.” There’s a mischievous twinkle in Lyle’s eyes. Querl loves that twinkle. He could stare at Lyle’s eyes all day, honestly. “I’ll be expecting you to pick me up.”
Querl nods dumbly, like it’s not a ridiculous request and he actually has his very own limo that he can pull up to Lyle’s door promptly at eight pm.
This makes Lyle laugh and the other boy leans over to Querl. “You know I was just waiting for you to ask, right?” he says before his lips suddenly press against Querl’s. They’re warm and soft and Querl gets over his shock just in time to kiss back a little before Lyle pulls away.
“See you later, genius.” Lyle rises from his stool and waves to Querl as he leaves.
Querl stays where he is, staring after Lyle in helpless adoration for a moment. The lab doors close and block Lyle from sight. Querl’s gaze strays to the comic book, still open on the counter. Superman looks up at him proudly from the page, hands on his hips, like he approves completely. And Querl remembers that even though he’s related by blood to Brainiac, it is Superman’s legacy that he and Lyle and all the other Legionnaires are still carrying on.
Reverently, he closes the anthology and leaves it on Lyle’s table before heading back to his own room. He’ll need to get plenty of sleep before he begins planning the perfect first date.