You have an ad in the paper for half of a week before you get a phone call in the middle of the night, asking about rent. You are in sweatpants, the drawstring undone, barely coherent as the voice on the other side (raspy, rushed) asks if there was room for two. “It’s two in the morning.” You say, one eye practically shut, then hang up. It’s two in the goddamn morning. It’s too early for actual thinking and discussing rent.
So, you need a roommate. Not that your previous roommate had been anything of a hassle- a tall, dark-haired Greek woman who never told you her name and didn’t know the names of any popular singers. She liked signing her cheques in Greek (she never said where the money came from) and leaving you dinner whenever you came home late from a night of waiting tables. Sometimes she left notes to remember to stay hydrated or remind you of a paper due the next day.
When she left, she kissed you on both cheeks and said that she’d paid for next month’s rent in full. There was “family” business that needed to be taken care of, and she’d been a fool to postpone for so long. She said that she loved you, in a way that didn’t mean her blood sped up in her chest when she saw you, but that she’d been so used to your presence that leaving felt like losing a limb.
She’d then said something about how amputation was sometimes necessary in battle, really vaguely, then cast a sad look at you. You’d cried a little. She’d cried a little. She kissed your wet cheeks and told you to keep her refillable water bottle, and take it to work, you were always so dehydrated whenever you came home.
And then she’d flown out the window.
She never told you her name, but you’d spent the days after she left with a circle of checked-out books on Greek, trying desperately to figure out her name. The ‘D’ and ‘T’ were familiar enough, but someone having the name “Donna Troy ” seemed a little farfetched to you, considering her ethnicity. When finding her again (you’d planned to see her again- make her banana bread or take her shopping for sunglasses) hit a dead end, you’d definitely been disheartened.
Which is why you were in no mood to entertain whatever drug dealer was trying to negotiate rent with you over phone at too-damn-early o’clock. You peacefully go back to sleep, almost no time lost.
They call back at ten in the morning, definitely a more reasonable time, and you pick up because you didn’t recognize the number from earlier. The first words are, “Don’t hang up.” Followed by, “I forgot that you were in a different timezone- you said to call you between the hours of seven in the morning to ten at night.” A pause. “I’m making a shitty first impression, but I promise, it was past seven in my timezone.”
You yawn. “To whom am I speaking?” The newspaper is unfolded on the counter and you’re not particularly worried about rent until the month after. To which you’d have enough saved up, even without a roommate to split halfsies. Donna had done you a crazy favor.
“Uh.” It’s very obvious that they cover the receiver with their hand, turn to speak to someone else. When the voice comes on, it’s very... confidential. “Roy Harper.” Was that supposed to mean anything to you? You write down his name on the margins of the comics page. “Me and my boyfriend?” He questions it- you’re certain you can just about hear whoever else is in the room nod. “Are looking for a place to stay. Y’know, in the area- just a drive away from Gotham, but far enough that the toxins from the water supply don’t do anything deadly.”
“Fair enough.” You respond, then introduce yourself. “In case you didn’t see that part of the ad.” You clarify, then continue. “So, it says that there’s three beds in here, but that’s a bit of an overestimate, if I’m being honest. One of the beds is, like, the kind that pops out of the wall. You know those beds? If one of you is willing to sleep on that.”
You hear a very loud snort on the other end of the line that didn’t come from Roy. Roy, who does sound vaguely amused, affirms that that’s perfectly fine. “Trust me, I’ve slept on worse beds.” A pause. “Is there any good time for us to meet? We’ll be heading into Gotham in a few hours, so we can probably pop by for you to check our... credentials.” He sounds like he’s never had a stranger for a roommate before.
You check the clock. “Will you be here by three? Whenever is good for you is good for me- I’m off today.” You’d doodled squiggles around the name Roy, wavy lines and cartoon jagged lines. “You already have the address, but I can give you directions, if you’d like.”
“We’ll be there by three.” He assures you, as if he makes punctuality a part of his personality. “The rental car has a GPS, so there’s no need to worry.” You hear grumbling, faintly, in an accent you can’t identify. You blink down at a cartoon of Snoopy, trying to piece together words.
“See you at three, then.”
You push the newspaper to the side and open up your computer, quickly running a background check on Roy Harper. One of those freebie sites that skimmed the surface. Donna Troy hadn’t even given you her name and you’d trusted her (something about the way she smiled and held herself), but you still hadn’t see Roy, and couldn’t get a good read on him over the phone. First scan returns nothing. Second scan reveals that he’s definitely not a sex offender. Third scan reveals that he’s really not much of a person.
There’s practically nothing there. Sure, there are things like hair color (red) and eye color (green), height (too tall for you to effectively fight him), those things, but there’s nothing about his history, or who his parents were, or where he’s even moving from. Image searches don’t bring up anything either. You’re in another Donna situation.
You change your clothes into something more formal before resuming your search- not because Roy seeing you in casual wear would’ve bothered you, but because formal wear gave you a sense of control. Also, early Spring was still a little chilly.
Image searches proved fruitless, database searches proved even worse, and you’d just been hopelessly looking him up in the Arkham criminals database (you really never could be sure) when the doorbell rings. You close your laptop, slowly, like he could see you and would catch you (you weren’t even doing anything wrong), but your movements are slow and deliberate as you go towards the door. You’d always been remotely trusting, but Donna had put in a peephole for you.
You’re pretty sure Donna was a superhero, but you weren’t going to question it.
Roy’s on the other, flanked by a man of a similar, but not quite exact build. A little over the peephole’s height (to be fair, it was even a little low for you to comfortably look through), his red hair is visible, pulled back into a tight ponytail. He looks like he’s counting and, at ten, he knocks. You undo the second lock (not a safety measure by Donna- all of the apartments had two locks) and twist the knob open, watch as he struggles to figure out what to do with his raised fist.
He sets it down at his side, wearing what you can only assume is “formal-casual”- white dress shirt tucked into (admittedly nice) jeans. He’s making an effort. “Well, hey. I’m Roy- we talked on the phone. And this is-” The other man cuts him a sharp look. Roy looks back at you. “You, uh, wouldn’t happen to be a native Gothamite, would you?”
“I’m just here for the school, man, I don’t think anyone would live near Gotham if they had a choice.” A little too much oversharing, but Roy’s “boyfriend” (yeah, he shouldn’t think you didn’t catch his extreme hesitance over the phone) visibly relaxes.
He steps forward, a calloused hand out for you to shake. “Jason Todd.” That’s not a name that means anything to you either. When you respond with your own name and shake, he turns to look at Roy, one eyebrow raised.
“Uh, Roy?” Roy says, holding out his equally calloused hand, but it’s obvious that he doesn’t think that shaking hands is necessary when you already met over the phone. You shake his hand anyway, then motion the both of them inside.
They look really small sitting at your dining room table. You’d need to buy bigger chairs if they stayed with you. “So, what brings you both to town?”
Jason says “Job opportunities” at the same time that Roy says “Nightlife”. They both look at each other, looking borderline betrayed. What the hell have you gotten yourself into?
“Are we going to treat this like an interrogation or are either of you going to stop acting like I’m holding you at knifepoint?” Jason scoffs and Roy gives a faint, inside-joke kind of smile.
“Nah, we’ll cooperate.” He says, hands up. “Jason’s here looking for a job, trying to, well, settle down- and I’m here because I like the way the city looks on brochures.” His eyes twinkle . You don’t think you’ve ever physically seen someone’s eyes sparkle like that.
They’re hiding something.
“Why do you want to live here, then?” You pause, then clarify. “I mean, with me, instead of by yourselves.” Roy seems relatively relieved that you aren’t as cold as you were on the phone.
“Living with you is a lot more cost-effective.” Jason takes over, sitting straighter. “We take odd-jobs, usually, so until we get settled we don’t have much of a choice as to anywhere else.” You don’t miss how Roy’s elbow goes straight for Jason’s ribcage, as if Jason being honest about how available your apartment was had hurt your feelings. They act like an old couple, but something about their body language shows something missing. You can’t quite put your finger on it.
“Alright.” You wish you had some papers to shuffle. You’d have to contact the landlord and talk to him about accepting the two of them into your apartment, get the official paperwork and whatnot. “I’m afraid there isn’t much to see- we’re in the frontmost part of the apartment, and there’s a door right there that leads to the bedroom with two beds. Bathroom’s to the right- the sink is outside.” Pictures had been included with the ad- there wasn’t a lot of show and tell.
“That’s it?” Jason looks like he might actually chastise you for being so lenient with who you let sleep in your apartment. But you guess he realized he shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, and closes his mouth.
“I’m not here very often- this is one of my two days off.” You pause. “Plus there’s nothing to steal. I don’t keep cash around the room, and you couldn’t find anything of value if you tried.” Money went right into the bank, for bills and student loan payments. “Plus, if you’re interested in the nightlife, I doubt you’ll be around a lot at night. I get to sleep while you’re out partying. Seems like a good deal, as long as you don’t bring the party home.”
Roy shakes his head at what seems to be nothing short of a small miracle, then looks at Jason. “It’s gonna be hell to get our stuff out of the car.” As the both of them leave, Jason barking out a “Speak for yourself”, you see a very faint red gathering of light, just outside your window, and wonder if the art students below you were working on another project.
You think, very briefly, that it looks like hair, but shake the thought off. You just need more coffee- the long hours were getting to you.
You’re not going to deny it, Jason and Roy are the strangest roommates you’ve ever lived with.
Jason tried very hard to take the closet bed from you after the first few weeks of you sleeping on it. Roy snores in any bed you put him in, so you’d said that he’d probably be better off on it, but Jason had argued that he slept like a rock anyway. You’ve never seen people fight over the more uncomfortable bed- and you’d thought, with them being a couple, they’d share a bed. They don’t.
“Jason’s feet are like icebergs and he always sticks them on my calves.” Roy says, coming back from a late night, over a cup of coffee you’d brewed him. “I run hot, so it always wakes me up.”
“ Roy -” Jason shows up on the scene, kicking something large and red underneath his bed in the next room over. “Drools. On everything and anything. Sleeping next to a golden retriever might be more comfortable.” He sees the pot of coffee, warm and ready, and tilts his head towards you, like he was sizing you up.
“You can have some.” You yawn, having just gotten up and started getting ready for work. Your collar is still flipped up and your belt is undone. Sitting on top of the counter, you open up a cabinet and get out a mug. Jason takes it from you, grabbing it surprisingly carefully (one hand on the mug’s handle and the other flat on the bottom of it).
They both like cream and sugar in their coffee (Jason’s heavier on sugar, Roy with cream), but they only put it in when they thought you weren’t looking.
You start to hop off the counter, when Jason finishes fixing his cup. He sets it down on the counter and, coming up to you, fits his thumbs in the middle of your collar, turning it down. You look down at him, both eyebrows raised, but he just nods, flattening out the back of it. “Thank you...?” Your voice trails off, not really certain where this familiarity came from. It’s not the first time you’ve made them coffee. It’s not going to be the last.
“No problem.” He gives you some vague, Mona Lisa smile, like an acknowledgement of your thanks without too much effort, before maneuvering away from you. If you were to think on it, you’d recognize how quick and graceless the move was, but it seems incredibly practiced in front of you. Roy rolls his eyes, sipping his (bitter) coffee. He’d taken out the creamer from the fridge, but had angled it so that you couldn’t see it.
When you go to freshen up before work, the both of them make quick work of finding out where everything is in the kitchen, from pans to plates. The pots and pans are in the oven, because of an otherwise complete lack of room in the apartment’s kitchen, and you keep your sugar on the bottom rack of the pantry. Jason takes his time in spooning sugar into his coffee, while Roy puts in his creamer. No words are exchanged, just the quick movements of two vigilantes who don’t like pitch coffee but don’t want to admit it to their new roommate.
It’s good coffee though. It probably has something to do with the fact that you work at a place that brews coffee. Roy brings this up and Jason nods in agreement. They both think, to themselves, that they should’ve told you their coffee preferences, if only to see if it would’ve been just as good of a cup.
You think both of your roommates are far too concerned with the state of their coffee.
Three weeks pass with the same scenario- you get up, you make coffee, the both of them come home to drink it and then pass out on their respective beds. Miraculous.
You come home with food from the restaurant (a to-go bag of chicken crispers and a fajita mix) to find the apartment empty. Which has never happened- you’re never home early and alert enough to notice their absences. It’s not exactly nightfall, but it’s close enough that Roy and Jason are both gone. You’re not an idiot- neither of them seem like party people. So they’re either criminals or vigilantes. Under city law, there’s not much of a difference.
In your renting contract, there’s a specific clause about no active vigilantism on the grounds. So it’s perfectly within your rights to snoop. It’s for the good of everyone involved- but mostly you.
Roy has four packs of gum underneath his pillow- all different brands, but always spearmint. Jason has a gun. You think to pick it up (you don’t know why- holding a handgun wasn’t something you ever wanted to do), but fear that you might disturb its place and, well, who wants to piss off the guy with a gun underneath his pillow?
You feel like you probably should’ve asked about their weapon preferences before letting them move in with you. You set them pillow down gingerly, tuck up the blanket and smooth out the crease just as it was before, and stop to listen for any sound. The front door doesn’t click and you don’t hear any movement on the fire escape. You duck down to the floor to look under their beds, lifting the bed skirt to look.
Roy has what looks to be a military-grade bow and arrow, red bow, red-tipped arrows. “Fucking hell.” You say to yourself, because what the hell did you get yourself into? What, did they think you would never come into this room- if you’d even fallen in here, you could have seen the bow at eye level. Or if he’d disturbed the arrows out from under the bed, you could’ve stepped on one, and you’re willing to bet they would hurt a hell of alot worse than a lego.
You get up, slow, painful, with your back cracking. You’re stretching when you see the other side of Jason’s bed (always the one that was perfectly made), the skirt slightly disturbed, something red peeking out.
Well, since you’re already here.
You round the corner of the bed, going back onto your knees and lifting the skirt again. Hoping and praying that it wasn’t an explosive and that you wouldn’t die, you squint down at it. It was... you had assumed it was a biking helmet but... You turn it around, thinking again about explosives, but have to bite down on your tongue to keep from screaming. Goddamn, if that wasn’t some realistic facial features for a helmet. You turn it right back around, immediately, and drop the skirt back on it. You won’t forget this soon, but it’d be best if you just... ignored it. For your own peace of mind.
It’s a good thing you sleep outside of the room, on the closet bed, you think, in some corner of your mind that wonders if Jason would ever want to kill you. You hope your cup of coffee is enough to make him think twice, at the very least.
You’re still getting ready for bed (uniform folded and put to the side) when the door opens. There’s shuffling and groaning sounds, the gross sloshing sound of water being dragged onto the welcome mat. You freeze, shutting the sink off and listening. It wasn’t raining.
You peek your head out of the bathroom’s doorway, into the entrance. “Roy? Jason?”
You hear a very alarmed “ shit ” from the doorway.
Edging your way fully out, in a tank top and sweatpants (definitely not good outerwear for fighting off an intruder), you find both Roy and Jason. Jason, one knee dipped down, his other leg barely keeping him up, one arm wrapped around Roy’s shoulders. Split lip, crooked nose, black eye, seen through the shattered remains of a red motor helmet. Roy, covered in scratches (knife wounds- scratches weren’t that deep) and raw, irritated skin. Black and blue up both of his bare arms, chest covered in a red uniform.
You wish you hadn’t found them. You wish you didn’t have to see them like this, beat the fuck up and barely limping into your apartment. You wish they were two normal guys, in love with the city and each other, and didn’t come home looking two steps from death.
You know they’re vigilantes. Bad guys didn’t come back home to lick their wounds when they got hurt- there were shady clinics and hospitals to pay off for that sort of thing. No, these were the good guys, and they were dragging blood onto your welcome mat.
“We can explain.” But Roy’s words slur, his cheek swollen and a dark purple. ‘Explain’ becomes ‘ess-plen’. Jason just looks like he’s trying to hold onto the tendrils of life.
“I have a first aid kit in the bathroom-” The door is still open. Your front door and the door to the bathroom. You hope they didn’t track blood up the elevator- for their sakes. “Just... Go sit on the couch. Try not to agitate your...” Wounds? You couldn’t think of any other word. Jason nods at you, looking insanely tired, weak-kneed, and willing to comply with any command that included ‘sit’.
Roy, looking pretty miserable, drags the both of them to the couch, and blankly stares at the blood on the floor. He can’t help but think that he’s sullying something good, something wholesome. This wasn’t some safehouse- this was your apartment, and you weren’t a vigilante. There was a reason there was a divide between civilians and vigilantes- it was dangerous. The blood must symbolize something deeper , he thinks, but can’t quite place it.
You close the door very quickly, and come back with a literal first aid kit and a tube of Neosporin, looking like a hospital intern tasked with surgery on their first day. You look between Roy and Jason, trying to figure out who would be best to help first when Jason, barely coherent, juts his chin at Roy. “He can fix my nose after you...” He trails off, eyes closing again. You want to ask him what the hell they were planning on doing if you weren’t here- if you were asleep (the pull-out bed was only so far from the couch they were sitting on)- if they had died.
You stop wanting, and start doing.
Vague memories of a childhood of scratched knees and one time getting stitches gives you an equally vague idea of what to do about Roy. Roy, who wants to coach you through, but can’t get his tongue to cooperate with his head. He thinks he might have a concussion. His words don’t really sound like words.
When you (very carefully, gingerly) pick up his arm, support it by holding his hand (unscathed, he’s glad), he flexes his fingers a little. If only to confirm that, yes, this is happening. It’s not a nightmare. This is him, next to Jason, bleeding out on the couch that the three of you had watched movies on. What had been a quiet, pleasant friendship, now blaring and loud.
He’s giving himself a headache, but it keeps him from noticing you rubbing Neosporin into the cuts. “You won’t need stitches.” You say, though you’re not entirely sure. You’re wrapping his arm up, from wrist to elbow, stop, then elbow to shoulder. The blood doesn’t seep through immediately, and you take it as a good sign that the Neosporin was doing its job as a barrier. You go to move onto the other arm, but Roy isn’t letting go of your fingers.
“I’m sorry.” He says, because Jason isn’t awake to say it too. You look at him, red hair a mess, in some armor that didn’t come with sleeves and was useless against what seems like knife marks. He tries to speak again, but you’re already slipping your fingers out of his hand again, working on his other arm. The same process, but he’s not distracted, and the hisses from through his teeth keep slipping out.
You say something along the lines of him not having to act tough, but Roy isn’t paying too much attention. “I know you put creamer in your coffee.” You say, and the deep ridges of a pain-set frown turn into a grimace- almost a smile, if he weren’t in so much pain. He starts to move, arms burning like he stuck a fork into an outlet, a singing pain, cuts and bruises in chorus. He goes to reset Jason’s nose, fit his fingers around his face, but you put a very light hand on his chest.
He stops, looking at you.
“He didn’t get hurt on his legs, did he?” At Roy’s slight, confused nod (though with his chin jutted at Jason’s knee to indicate its state), you reach out and pinch the side of his thigh. Jason’s muscles tense, and his one good eye squints open. “Sorry- just in case you have a concussion.” It’s not a full sentence, but he seems to get the meaning.
“S’okay.” He slurs, and you’ve never noticed how green his eyes are. Like animated poison on children’s cartoons. Like how green apples look on labels. Brand new leaves on a sprout. “Just tired.” Jason closes his eye again, his shoulders remaining tense, not asleep just yet. You’d woken him up, startled him, and it showed in his posture.
Roy nods at you, settling his fingers again, then a sharp crack resounds in the apartment. It’s not the first time you’ve heard something be reset- you did watch television after all- but you’re more worried about the fact that Jason didn’t even flinch. You don’t know whether to attribute it to how relative the pain must be to, well, every other pain or if he trusts Roy that much or... if he’s used to it.
“I have an ice pack for my lunch.” You say, but you’re really looking at Jason’s weak leg. You don’t know the state of his knee- clean break? Shattered? Just pulled something? You move, nearly automatically, to get it, wrap it up in a towel. When you come back to the couch, the reality of it all is sinking in, and your hands shake as you hold it to Jason’s swollen eye. You perch on the couch’s arm, still staring at his knee cap, when his hand takes the ice pack from your grip, the other hand very gently patting your knee.
It’s strange, because it’s a very measured response, like he doesn’t know how gentle he should be in this situation.
“You don’t need to worry about it.” His words sound just as messy as Roy’s, his fat lip messing with his speech. It’s more understandable, however, because he takes the time to speak slower. He says his words a lot like a thank you, and, just underneath the shadow of the towel, his mouth moves into a small smile, despite the fact that it splits his lip just slightly and it begins to bleed again. Roy reaches out to press the corner of the towel to it, to catch the blood. When the shallow split stops bleeding, Roy settles back into place, head against the back of the couch for the slightest of seconds.
You look between the two of them. Roy making sure the gauze is in place (admiring your handiwork). Jason cramming an icepack through his broken helmet. If you had any clue as to how to remove it, you would, but he seems content to leave it. It just holds the back of his head- the rest of his face is exposed, but you’re sure that whoever was fighting them couldn’t get to his left eye just as easily as his right eye.
You’re still shaking.
Roy’s scooting over, the couch the one thing you and Donna had spent an obnoxious amount of money on, and therefore big enough for far too many people. He makes room for you in between the both of them (Jason propped up against the end of the couch), patting the seat. You make your way over there slowly, sit down just as slowly. He picks up the remote, despite the pained expressions he makes the whole time, and hands it to you. “The only thing on this late is I Love Lucy .” He says, sheepishly, like he’s the one that made it that way.
You take the remote, still vaguely shaking, but frozen by the familiarity of it all. Jason on your right, nearly snoozing (strangely enough, through action scenes and horror movies) and Roy on your left, trying to look mildly engaged. You open your mouth to say so, but Roy gives you a wobbly, strange smile that shuts you up. Like he needs it to seem normal just as much as you do.
Jason, whose upper-body armor must’ve been stronger than his helmet, adjusts his legs with steady, though slightly misplaced, hands. His one swollen eye affecting his perception, he moves a little too close to you when he picks his legs up and sets them beside you, then adjusts the rest of his body accordingly. “I’ll take the couch tonight.” He says, but his good eye is on the TV. His thumbs slide into the lock mechanism on the back of the helmet, triggering it and disconnecting it from the rest of his armor. He sets it down on the coffee table, facing away from you three.
Sandwiched between the two of them, you can’t help but think that, for two bleeding vigilantes, they sure knew how to make a situation seem normal. Roy falls asleep ten minutes in, but Jason dutifully watches it with you until you fall asleep. Then he props his leg on the end of the couch and passes out, following Roy’s lead.
You wake up, sometime around four in the morning, with Jason’s head in your lap, and Roy’s on your shoulder, his fingers splayed out over your knee.
You wake up, and the broken spring in the middle of the pull-out bed isn’t digging into your back. The pillows smell like lavender, and you’ve been tucked in, if only slightly, but securely. Someone’s moving around in the kitchen, the sound of a spatula against a pan. You open one eye, then the other, adjusting to the light.
The alarm clock reads seven in the morning, but you dismiss it. It’s not set, so you must’ve taken the day off. You don’t feel too well, but you can’t exactly remember why. The bed across from you is unmade, and you allow yourself a small smile.
Donna was always an early riser- she must’ve gotten up and fixed breakfast. She’d usually be heading out for a jog by now, but she must’ve stayed back to wish you goodbye first. Always thoughtful. You get up, stretching, arms over your head, your tank top riding up on your stomach and your sweatpants riding low, you step out of the bed. It’s warm and comfortable, and the door leading out to the rest of the apartment is just slightly askew.
“Donna?” You call out, smiling, hand hooked around the doorframe. You can see her, just barely out of the corner of your eye, worrying away at a pan of eggs with a little too much butter. You step out, grinning again, but the second you look directly at her, she vanished, the spatula clattering to the ground, the pan rattling on the chrome stove.
You jolt upwards, breath coming far too quickly, in-out-in-in-in-out, hands fisted in the bed sheets. Bed sheets that aren’t yours- they’re floral-scented, recently washed, and the comforter is black. Looking around, sweating, your neck hurting, you recognize that you’re still in your apartment. It’s the bedroom with two beds, and you’re in the one closest to the door. You duck your hands around in the sheets, looking for familiarity, and when your hand goes just slightly out of the mattress’ reach, you feel a loaded magazine. Or, at least, what you think is a magazine based off of movies and books..
Jason Todd and Roy Harper, the two bleeding vigilantes you’ve been living with for two months. A lot of time to learn a lot of minute details about people you shared your living space, but not their occupational hazards, the idea that they might show up dying at your doorstep. Donna Troy doesn’t live with you anymore- probably doing this superhero thing and bleeding somewhere you can’t take care of her.
You wish your nightmares were a little more cryptic. Dismissing it as something you saw on TV would’ve been a lot better than the knot of dread in your stomach, the way you crawl out of bed, knowing you’re not going to work today. You’ll call in sick. It’s not that much of a stretch and, with the health inspector coming in in a few days, there’s no way your boss would risk it.
You can nearly feel your blood run cold as you get up from your bed, forcing your eyes to stay open as you approach the cracked door, smelling eggs in the air. “Roy?” You call out, but your voice is small. Scared. “Jason?” You’re not sure if you’re afraid of them lying dead on the couch or dropping out of this realm of existence, or them flying out of the window and leaving you alone again. You could barely handle the quiet corners of the apartment when Donna left- you don’t think you could handle it a second time.
The scraping of a spatula against a cast-iron pan Roy had brought in with him and Jason clicking his tongue. Jason looks up from the couch, his leg propped up on the table, very carefully putting on a knee brace and grimacing. The grimace doesn’t stop as he looks right at you, tries to pull the edges of his mouth into a smile, but continues to look like he’s screaming with his mouth closed. “I...” You start, somewhat horrified. “Oh, holy shit, give that to me.” And you’re walking over to him, quick strides, and his hands keep hesitating as to where to orient the brace. It’s not that he hasn’t done it before, but that the swelling in his eye has only gone down so much, and he keeps jostling his knee whenever he misplaces it.
The intimacy of the moment is lost on you- Jason in his boxers for the convenience, you with your careful hands, prying the brace from his grip. His lip looks better, and his squint is almost as reprimanding as it was when he didn’t have a black eye. “I was working on it.” But there’s a note of defeat, of understanding in it. Yeah, he wasn’t gonna get it, no matter how much work he put into it. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. As you put it successfully around his knee, he could almost sigh.
Sure, there were bruises all along his knee, but your hands are warm and assured as you start to fasten the straps. “Sleep well?” He asks, and the grimace is righting itself, an apologetic smile replacing it. Like he knew you had a nightmare.
“Well enough.” Next two straps. “Which one of you put me in your bed?” Because, between the two of them, neither of them seemed fit for picking up anybody. That being said, apparently Roy wasn’t too hindered by his scratched up arms- he was making a nutritional breakfast in the kitchen.
Jason blushes, the color crawling up his neck, visible on his ears and the warm color of his cheeks, his head tilting to the side. It’s the same look from the kitchen, the first time you’d given him a coffee cup and let him at your coffee. Sizing you up. Seeing how the situation would play out. Whatever he sees, it makes him uncomfortable, because he relents. “I did.” His eyes dart away. “I, uh, also took the gun out from underneath my pillow. Didn’t want you accidentally messing with it.”
“I already knew about the gun, Jason.” And his good eye goes sharp, suddenly, appraising you again.
His smile leans more to the right, and he shakes his head. “Of course you did.”
“Don’t let him take all the credit- I’m the one that tucked you in.” Roy says, carrying one plate in his hands. He sets it out in front of you, then goes back to the kitchen. It’s not so far of a distance that the volume of his voice has to change for you to hear, but he raises it any way. “You started shivering, and Jason’s bed has thicker blankets, so he tossed you in there. I’m the one that made sure you were warm.” Jason’s plate is next, then his.
You stare at his arms, still covered in the gauze you’d put on them last night, tinted a pinkish color from the mixture of Neosporin and his blood. You start to talk at least twice, to thank them, but words don’t come out. Wrapped all the way up to his wrists, you feel bad for him making breakfast- or at least serving it. He couldn’t balance the all of the plates on his arm without pain. You secure the top straps and pull away from Jason, looking at Roy with pitying eyes.
He snorts at you, loud and drawing. “We’ve seen worse nights, trust me.” But his bravado quickly fades, the dimple of his left cheek faltering until it drops, his face open and vulnerable and... You hadn’t seen fear on him yet, but you recognize it, based off of gut feeling alone. He starts to cross his arms, but stops, dropping his hands to his sides again. “I’m really sorry about last night. You-”
“We never meant to bring you into this. The vigilante shit.” Jason says, moving his leg from the table and onto the floor. Like he could easily fill in Roy’s thoughts with his words, like they knew what one another was going to say before it was said. “Honest to God, we just needed a place to stay. No blood, no mess for you. We weren’t even going to stay that long.”
“This was supposed to be, like, a vacation.” Roy’s cheeks pink at that, admitting to wanting time off akin to admitting to weakness. “A month off, then we’re back in the game. The issue is, is that there’s really not much game any more. At least none that we can handle.”
Jason purses his lips to the best of his ability, then starts to dismantle his scrambled eggs. You take his cue and follow, seeing how Roy’s shoulders relax when you do, if only marginally. Jason speaks around a mouthful of eggs. “It’s either doomsday-level events like goddamn Brainiac or some long lost Kryptonian trying to relive the glory days or it’s street crime. There’s no in-between anymore.” He swallows. “We took care of the in-between.”
“So, you’re basically just cleaning up the dregs of Gotham over here?” You say, and it’s a lot stronger than you feel. That’s good. You feel so tired from yesterday, from your dream... When you look down, you see that you have blood on your fingertips and knuckles that you hadn’t noticed when you were wrapping Roy’s arm. You can’t tear your eyes away.
“More or less.” Roy moves in to sit on your other side, his thigh against your’s. When he wraps his hands around yours, they’re hot and calloused, his knuckles raw. It tears your line of sight away from the crusted blood on your hands. “Hey, we’re a little worse for wear, sure, but we’re still in one piece.”
Jason snorts. “I’m going to feel this fracture every time it’s gonna snow, though. And I thought arthritis was bad.” Then he turns to you, face growing serious when he sees that his joke didn’t ease your worries at all. “No, really- like Roy said. We’ve been through way worse than this.” His hand rests on top of Roy’s, like some sort of team effort after a long game. “You’re not responsible for us- you don’t have to feel guilty for anything we do.”
You feel the prick of tears behind your eyes, and you know it’s a combination of stress and lack of sleep. “Look at you two assholes,” You make a sniveling sound. “Acting like I’m the one that needs comforting. Shit .” You pull your hands out from underneath the both of them, but then you’re unsure of what to do with them. They don’t seem to know what to do with their hands, either, so they just drop, Jason pulling his hands away quickly, with Roy’s left hand staying on your thigh, secure.
You turn to Roy and tuck his hair behind his ears, smiling a little wobbly. He blinks at you, wide-eyed and confused as to what the gesture meant. When you turn to Jason, he looks like he thought you would ignore him, that he was fine with the spotlight on Roy.
You’re very careful not to disturb the swollen skin around his black eye, as well as his swollen lip, as you pat at his face. “Have you been putting ice on this?” And, just like that, the heavy mood deflates, the elephant in the room pushed back into the corner.
“Your ice pack melted- it’s back in the freezer.” He side-eyes you. The both of them feel like they’ve tipped the scale far out of the balance by bringing street crime home to you- doting on you, if only for the day, would’ve been a welcome change of pace over you worrying over them. They enjoy it (albeit guiltily and a little selfishly- wishing you’d taken more time wrapping arms or knees), of course, but they were heroes. You were a civilian. Sometimes, it came instinctual- the saving thing. The ‘citizens need gentle, understanding care’ thing.
They don’t realize that it’s a human thing, the compassion and care after hurting another person, but it’s something to dwell on at a later date. You ask Roy if he changed his gauze recently and, when he ducks his head guiltily, you click your tongue and usher him into the bathroom, where he’d set the first aid kit back under the sink.
Jason picks up Roy’s cup of coffee, staring down at the milky color of it, diluted by cream. He rolls his eyes, but smiles, taking a sip. Maybe having things a little sweeter wasn’t such a bad thing, after all.
Jason and Roy leave that night, assuring you several times that, no, they weren’t going out to fight crime. They need medical supplies- they’d been doing quick patch jobs and hiding their uniforms around the city whenever they were out on the field but, now that you knew, they wanted to ‘fully move in’. You honestly just have to wonder at how much junk they had to throw into the apartment. Jason said he’d packed light, sure, but ‘light’ was a relative term.
You’d called your boss earlier- after that conversation with Roy and Jason, it wasn’t hard for the tremor in your voice to be mistaken for sickness. You’d taken off tomorrow, as well, your accumulated paid time off just barely covering it. It was measured by hours, not days, and while you were a steadfast employee, you were still a new one. Jason had tried to get you back into his bed for the night- saying that, now that you knew about them, you could understand his reluctance in letting you sleep by the windows. You’d still protested, something about how difficult it’d be for someone to crawl in through it- particularly because you were on a middle floor.
You’d obviously not assuaged Jason’s worries, but the conversation was tabled for another time. It was endearing that he worried for your safety, though you’re not sure if it spoke for Jason’s personality (which you’d come to know was rather meticulous and somewhat fretful, particularly over stains. He had glanced, nearly mournful, towards the blood-splattered welcome mat on his way out, earlier.) or for how dangerous the people they fought were.
So, you’re just laying in bed, trying to count some sheep. The TV drones in the background, parallel to you- if you lay upside down on the bed, you could see the show, but you just turned it on for the background noise. Tonight, you needed it. No more dreams about Donna. Donna with her straight white teeth and dark hair and endless patience and her water bottle, unused and last washed by her hand, still by the sink.
Your heart’s pounding, though you’re not entirely sure why. Something’s wrong, yes, about the Donna Situation. The fact that she’s a non-person is a big factor of it, sure, but the idea that she could be dead was far more disconcerting. You’d only thought of her heroism, not of the consequences afterwards.
When you hear the latches on the window start to pop, it’s nearly a reprieve from your train of thought, though the fact that someone is breaking into your apartment is far more worrisome. You stand up, immediately, thinking about Jason’s gun (you had no goddamn clue how to draw a bow and arrow, let alone defend yourself with it). Looking out into the dark (because if there was one thing this city inherited from Gotham, it was its abysmal nights), you see bright green lights, luminescent and casting a glow into your apartment.
Like glow in the dark stars from the Dollar Tree. Only they blinked.
You’re scared, yes, but not frozen, some modicum of suppressed heroism and original survival instinct in your chest rearing its head, and you’ve never been faster than when you dart to the bedroom, slamming it shut before you hear a voice. “Wait.” Honey and cinnamon intonation. Slow syllables on a rolling tongue. “Please, I didn’t mean to scare you. Roy and Jason told me you would be asleep. Come out.”
Human. Definitely human, or metahuman, or humanoid. Your death grip on the door loosens, if marginally. “How do you know Jason and Roy?” Because you’re starting to see that Jason’s worries were well-founded, yes, the windows were definitely sizeable enough for someone to come in. You should’ve taken his advice. Metahumans never came out this far, though, so you hadn’t thought that someone would fly up nine stories to squeeze through your window.
The person on the other side of the door clicks their tongue. “We are partners.” As if it’s the simplest thing in the world. “I am Koriand’r- I operate under the alias ‘Starfire’, if they have ever brought me up.” A note of sadness touches her voice- the phrasing and tone of voice had you immediately assume it was a woman on the other side. You really hoped it was just a normal woman (a flying woman with green eyes, sure) and not some robot or supervillain intent on world domination. “I only intended to use your shower- please, I never intended to startle you. I swear no harm will come to you if you come out.”
You wish Jason and Roy had a steady cell phone number you could text. Because the last time you’d tried to send a message to the number they’d called to inquire about the house, the number had been disconnected. Burner phones. Like it was convenient for anybody but themselves. “Is there any way you could prove that?” You hate the waver in your voice. It was good for fooling your boss, sure, but an unknown, possible assailant didn’t need to hear you sounding weak.
Koriand’r’s voice grows sadder. “Only my word.” You don’t hear footsteps, but her voice gets closer, and she knocks on the door. “I also wanted to thank you for taking care of them in my absence- I’m glad that you are here to help with their wounds. Sometimes, they forget that they’re not indestructible.”
Hesitantly, you crack the door knob, the lock popping back out, unlocking the door. When you open it, just marginally, the first thing you see is bright green eyes with long red lashes, blinking at you. It’s enough to kickstart your heart, and you’re not sure as to whether it’s out of fear or attraction, because they’re very nearly the same color as Jason’s irises. Except it’s the whole sclera, and there’s no discernable pupil or iris.
You’re starting to think you have a thing for green eyes.
You almost wholly disarmed by how beautiful Koriand’r is. Golden (bordering bronze) skin and either purple lips or the most flattering lipstick color you’ve ever seen in your life. You could almost assume that arresting beauty was her superpower, if it weren’t for the fact that her (rather sparse) body armor was incredibly thick (and somehow held everything in place- that might’ve been another one of her superpowers) and the fact that her hair appeared to be at least somewhat on fire. Which was a description that you didn’t think was possible- something was either on fire or it wasn’t. There really wasn’t a middle ground between the two.
She’s still looking at you, allowing you to take her in (because the next thing you noticed is that she’s tall - taller than Roy and Jason, and incredibly muscular), but the crease in her eyebrows never fades. Koriand’r thinks about reaching out to tilt your head to meet her eyes, to give some sort of reassuring touch, but how every human wanted to be received when they were upset was always different. She didn’t want to make the situation worse, but didn’t exactly know how to fix it. “I’m very sorry for intruding.” And it’s not an empty sentiment. She looks as upset as she sounds. She starts to back away from you, turning and going back towards the window.
“The blue towel.” You say, because your brain may have shorted out in the short interaction you’d just had. And pretty girls going out windows has never worked out well for you.
Koriand’r stops, turning around. “What?” She didn’t hear you fully, and doesn’t understand the connection between your words and her apology.
“You can, uh, go shower.” You jerk your thumb in the direction of the bathroom. “The showers not that big, but the water pressure is good. My shampoo and conditioner are hanging on a rack around the showerhead.” You swallow, aware of how nervous you sound. “Use the blue towel to dry off- it just came out of the laundry.”
Understanding sparks in her eyes, and she crosses the distance between the you in two strides. She tilts her head down, nodding at you and reaching out for your hands. Her grasp is firm and warm- warmer than Roy’s hands, like a heated blanket turned on high. “You’re just as kind as they said.” And her eyes crinkle at the edges, true gratitude. She shakes your hands once, smiling, before letting go, your hands dropping again.
Following your directions, she quickly goes to the bathroom, starting to undo her costume even before she door is fully closed. You avert your eyes and go to the dresser, pulling on the drawer where you kept pajamas. You pull out a pair of Jason’s sweatpants (they’d still be short on her, you could tell just from looking at her) and one of your larger shirts, hands shaking. It’s been a long two days.
You knock on the door, the water running on the other side. “Koriand’r?”
“Yes?” Her voice is softer, and you wonder how long it’d take for her to shampoo all of her hair. “Do you need something?” Which is your line, coming out of her mouth.
“No, I just...” You open your mouth, then close it. “I have some clothes for you to wear when you get out of the shower. Clean ones.”
“Oh!” She’s pleasantly surprised. “You can come in and set them down- I don’t mind. Thank you very much for doing all of this.”
You keep your gaze strictly to the floor as you turn the knob (not even locked. Your life officially feels upside-down), setting them directly into the sink and then backing right out again. You close the door, then stare at it. “Hey, Koriand’r?” You don’t wait for her to respond. “If you want to stay the night, the pull-out bed is already out.”
She makes some noise of affirmation, but you, weak-kneed and exhausted, limp over to the couch, crashing hard and forcing yourself backwards into the cradle of the cushions. It’s been a long two days. You didn’t know you were running on an adrenaline rush until you started to come down.
Jason and Roy come home ten minutes later, finding the window open and letting in cold air, the shower running, and you unconscious on the couch. The first thing Jason does is check your pulse, relaxing when he finds it to be at an average, if relaxed, pace. The shower stops and, after a beat of two seconds, with Jason and Roy waiting in tense anticipation of an attack, Koriand’r steps out in Jason’s sweatpants and your shirt.
“Sonofabitch.” Roy says it in one long string of a word, his heart hammering in his chest. “‘Scared the shit out of us, Kory.” Neither of them were in the optimal condition for fighting, and he was definitely thinking about how fucked his arms would be if he had to go in swinging.
“You said I could use the shower at your apartment.” She says, quieter than Roy, because you’re sleeping on the couch. Koriand’r also brings up the fact that they’d said you were usually asleep at the time.
“That was two days ago, Kory, holy fuck.” Like Koriand’r, though, Jason kept his voice relatively quiet, trying not to wake you. “ And over the phone. A heads-up would’ve spared us the heart attack.”
“I assumed it was a standing invitation.” There’s no remorse in her voice, because there shouldn’t be. They offered their shower and gave her specific hours as to when she should use it. She was sorry for scaring you, and making such an awful impression on the person that her human lovers cared for, but she was not sorry for taking a shower. “Considering the state you two were in from the previous night’s fight, I had also assumed you would be here.”
Roy opens his mouth to say something about what assuming does, but he stops again. “Why are they sleeping on the couch?” Because you look like you’re trying to force yourself in between the cushions, goosebumps raised on your arms.
Koriand’r tilts her head to the side. “They invited me to stay the night and use the ‘pull-out bed’.” She blinks slowly, looking down at you. “I do need a place to stay, but not at the expense of their comfort.” Jason’s sweatpants end at a little under her mid-calf, and it’s strange to walk in them, but the thought behind the gesture was not lost on her. She walks over to the pull-out bed and pulls the comforter off of it, then the sheet underneath. Delicately, she drapes them back over you, leaning down to press a kiss to your forehead- though she only knew you through Jason and Roy, the comforting gesture came naturally to her.
You smile and wiggle in your sleep, and she smiles right back, chuckling. You’re cuter than Jason and Roy’s descriptions had made you out to be, which was really saying something. “They really are,” She says, looking at how you clutch the couch’s pillow under your head, smiling faintly in your dreams. “They really are something to protect, aren’t they.”
“Told you so.” Roy says, looking down at you with the same measure of fondness. Jason remains silent, a duffel bag over his arm, heading off to the double bedroom to drop it off. Roy leans down and brushes the hair from your face before going to join him.
Koriand’r goes to sleep on a stripped bed, her nose to the collar of your shirt, thinking that your laundry detergent smells like normalcy, and that she likes it.
i don't think i've ever mentioned it before, but jason is written as latino and roy is written as native american in this fic. it doesn't affect much other than skin tone descriptors.
there's also a bit of a timeskip in between this and the past chapter
You wake up to the feeling of eyes on you, and you startle awake, gasping for air. You’d never thought a dreamless sleep would be pleasant, but anything was better than the Donna dreams. Since you’d been forced to confront the reality of Jason and Roy’s vigilantism, they’d gotten worse. What’d been a simple sense of dread and fear of the unknown whereabouts of the woman you’d called your friend had demented into some sort of hellish surrealism whenever you closed your eyes.
Koriand’r is at your feet when you wake up, her eyebrows creased. “You cannot continue to sleep on the couch. It can’t be good for you.” She reaches up to pat at your calf, and you blink sleepily at her. You grind your fist into your eye, trying to get everything to come into focus. “Doesn’t it put you at risk for spinal damage?”
“It’s only been two weeks.” You hedge, too tired to put up a real fight. “And you’re paying rent, so I gotta give you a place to sleep.” Definitely not your most sound argument, but the only one you could come up with at the time. You don’t bring up that her watching you sleep had scared the shit out of you, but you do have to wonder how often she did it. Two days into having Koriand’r living with you three and you’d noticed she slept and ate far less than any of you.
You start to nod off, seeing that the sun hadn’t risen just yet and you had a day of work ahead of you. Koriand’r makes a huffing sound that you almost don’t acknowledge, until you feel two warm arms wrap around you. “Come on. We’re going to the bedroom.” Which is something you’re objectively amused with, though you can’t see a real reason for it. She keeps you tucked firmly in a cocoon of your blankets, and she floats over to the bedroom, nudging the door open with her foot. You’re not sure you’re ever going to be fully adjusted to her floating wherever she pleases, but it’s something you’re used to.
You’re almost asleep again, your head turning into the warm crook of her shoulder, when she drops you. You suck in a sharp breath of air, not coherent enough to scream or let out any other sound. Eyes wide open and your sight blurry, the next thing you see is a brown arm whipping out from under black sheets to grab you. The next is the click of the safety off of a gun.
Jason, half-asleep, keeps his grip around your midsection firm with one arm, the other brandishing the gun from underneath his pillow. He blinks, once, twice, before the safety on the gun is slid back on. “Fucking hell, Kory.” He shuffles under his sheets, barely even able to see, if not for Koriand’r’s slight luminescence. “What if I’d shot you?” The gun is put back under his pillow and, almost like his arm doesn’t have anywhere else to go, it wraps around you, meeting his other hand and holding it. He’s a side-sleeper, so he shifts, moving so he’s sitting up.
The familiarity of his actions is comforting, even if he almost shot your other roommate.
Across the room, Roy forces himself up on his elbows, having been sleeping on his stomach. “Who’s shooting who?” He raises his hands to wipe the sleep out of his eyes, but finds a bit of costume glue still under his eye. Faintly disgusted and not fully awake, he peels it off and leans over to put it in the trash beside his bed.
“We need to discuss the sleeping arrangements.” Koriand’r says, bluntly, and you have to wonder if she’s bulletproof. The way she carries herself, you honestly wouldn’t doubt it. She turns to face you, eyes wide and unblinking. “I refuse to watch you sleep on the couch any longer. If it means your health and comfort, I am willing to leave.”
That wakes you up more than the sound of Jason readying his gun. Which is worrying. “Oh, no, I’m fine. Really, I slept on the floor for the first few weeks of having this apartment.” In a sleeping bag, with Donna during the third week, but that was beside the point. “Please don’t go. I can’t take that again.” The early morning was making you a bit too honest, and you wonder if you look pathetic. The Donna Situation was still unsolved and unspoken, and you worried whether or not you’d seem insane for letting a woman whose name you didn’t know while she was still with you dominate your thoughts
Behind you, Jason’s inhale hisses through his teeth. “No one’s going anywhere.” His breath ruffles your hair. You wonder if he would mind you leaning back against him- his hands were so cold that you had to wonder if it was just his extremities, or if even his torso was ice-cold. “But she’s right. She shouldn’t have dropped you on my goddamn lap to prove a point, but she’s right. You shouldn’t be sleeping on the couch.”
Roy’s stretching, getting up and wandering over to Jason’s bed. He sits hip-to-hip with Jason, makes sure his yawn is loud and right in his ear. Despite the fact that he visibly scowls, you don’t miss the amused chuckle Jason lets out. “I, for one, proposed shared beds. Or whatever idea allows me to go right back to bed.” He turns in Kory’s direction. “C’mon, Kor, you know it was a long night and we’re half-dead. Couldn’t this wait until morning?”
Even without irises or pupils, you swear you see her roll her eyes, her lip slightly raised in distaste. “Roy, I refuse to sleep in their bed a night longer while they continue to sleep on the equivalent of a few pillows.” She turns to you, then looks at Jason.
He tilts his head, nodding just slightly, a silent conversation between the two of them. As if remembering that he still has his arms around you, his fingers tap on your stomach. You can’t really decipher whether or not it’s a romantic or a platonic gesture. “As Roy has mentioned and you have undoubtedly noticed, the merciful hand of death might be warmer than I am.” You feel like he might be exaggerating, but you might run a tad cooler than Roy or Koriand’r, making it less of a drastic temperature difference. “But you can always sleep with me.” There’s a long pause, and you can hear Roy’s mouth open to say something. “Shut the fuck up, Roy.”
“I didn’t say anything.” But, considering how close they are to one another, it’s very obvious that Roy’s shooting Jason a grin. Maybe even wagging his eyebrows. You’re too tired to care about double entendres. “And, I mean, this is just a suggestion, but maybe you shouldn’t sleep with gun-toting Frozone here. Considering the fact that he very nearly shot-first, asked-later, I’d probably be better off with someone who keeps their weapon under the bed.”
Jason’s arm pulls off of your waist to elbow him in the side. You’re not exactly sure what part of the statement had offended him, but you’re vaguely amused by the fact that he was called ‘gun-toting Frozone’. You’re glad he hadn’t cracked a Frozen joke. “What, like you’re any better? At least I won’t sleep on top of them. You weigh, what, two-fifty? I don’t think they could just push you off if you’re holding them in a death grip.” Despite the fact that he’d made his offer seem casual earlier, you sense an undercurrent of protectiveness, and you’re fairly certain that Jason has been on the receiving end of Roy’s chokehold.
“I’ll sleep with Kory. If... If you’re okay with that.” You say, their nickname for Koriand’r feeling strange on your tongue. Jason’s head tilts down towards you, quick enough that his neck cracks, and he mutters out a soft ‘shit’. Though you can’t turn to look at him with Jason’s grip on your waist, Roy makes it very apparent that he’s staring at you too. “I mean, I’ve technically been sleeping near you this whole time, and nothing bad’s happened, so.” Your sentence fragment hangs in the air, and you turn to face her.
Koriand’r’s eyes crinkle at the edges as she smiles at you. “I see no problem with it.” But there’s a margin of nervousness in her voice that you don’t know the source of. “The issue remains that you’d still be sleeping out in the open, however.”
“I’ll switch beds.” Roy proposes, almost immediately. “I don’t doubt your ability to protect them, princess-” You hear the blankets shuffle, and he’s sitting in front of you, propped up on one hand. “-but I know I’ll sleep sounder if you’re behind another locked door. And behind Jason.”
Jason opens his mouth to mention something about being the first line of defense, but closes it shortly after, realizing that Roy would be first to go if someone broke in. “Well, then it’s settled.” His other arm pulls away from you, and you were just getting used to its chill. A shame. “I think I’ve earned the right to go back to sleep. Wake me if you need help moving Roy.” Roy says something that sounds like ‘rude’ under his breath, but goes to strip his bed, making way for your sheets.
Koriand’r, satisfied with the current arrangements, picks you up again, depositing you on the stripped bed. With surprising speed, she disappears and reappears beside you, the blankets gathered in her arms. You’re sure that it’s the lack of sleep getting to you, not something that was actually indicative of her powers. She unfolds them at the foot of the bed and, settling in beside you, before pulling them up to her shoulders, effectively covering your entire body. “Oh.” She tilts her head and notices you struggling to get above the line of the blankets. “Sorry.”
“‘S fine.” You say, when you’re finally able to take comfortable breaths again. Koriand’r obviously doesn’t believe you. She lays on her side, her arm reaching down for the blankets again. With one calf on top of your’s, you’re coerced into being the little spoon, the blankets tucked securely around the both of you. You’re suddenly faced with the realization that you are sleeping next to a beautiful woman with no concept of personal space.
“Is that better?” It’s honestly a miracle that your brain can even work- her lips move against the crown of your head and your heart is practically pounding. You nod, wordlessly, and you feel her lips press firm against your hair again, moving into a smile. “Sweet dreams.”
You can’t tell if it’s the adrenaline or your fear of what you’ll see when you close your eyes, but you stay up until your alarm clock buzzes from the other room at seven o’clock. Koriand’r’s breath hitches when you move, her nails catching on the back of your shirt. You freeze, turning around to look at her. Eyebrows pursed, face twisted into a grimace, her lips move in a language you don’t recognize. You reach out, movements unsure and a little hesitant, and smooth your thumb across the crease in her brow.
While she doesn’t immediately react, the tension in her shoulders seems to relax, and you start to pull away. A tanned, freckled hand holding your now-silent alarm clock sticks through the crack in the door. On the other side of the door, feeling a little more than dead inside from the constant interruptions to his sleep cycle, Roy calls out, “I think this belongs to you.” Underneath your hand, Koriand’r startles herself awake, sitting up, your hand settling back to your side.
“ Roy .” She says, sharply, but it’s almost relieved. You’re don’t know who she was expecting, what sort of dream she was having, but bright light had started emanating from her palms, which you didn’t take as a good sign. She heaves a sigh, but leans into your touch when you rub her arm in an attempt at comfort. “I didn’t mean to sound angry. You can set their alarm clock here.” With that, she looks at you, eyes heavy-lidded and lips pursed. “Have a good day at work.” She lays back down under the blankets, pulling the pillow from your side into her arms and throwing a leg over it.
“Thank you.” With that, you quickly exit the room and make your way into the bathroom, trying to cram your legs into your uniform in the dark. From personal experience, you knew the light would shine directly into Roy’s eyes.
On your way out, you turn the radiator up a few degrees, and you’re not sure if you’re cold or just missing the weight of arms around you.
If there was something about your new arrangement that you adored, it was coming home to three people that were all happy to see you. It wasn’t that Donna hadn’t been happy to see you when she came home, but that your schedules so rarely aligned that most of the time spent by the both of you was taken up by sleeping in preparation for the next day. You’d always brought food home from the restaurant you waited tables for, and sometimes she’d have a meal ready for you on the table, and you’d both laugh it off. Two different tracks of mind with the same destination, until she’d veered off course.
You like bringing home food that doesn’t get set in the freezer for a week, eaten only by you in the middle of the night when all of the leftovers had run out. It made you feel needed.
Three styrofoam boxes stacked high in your arms, Koriand’r is the first to come to your air when she hears your key repetitively smacking against the lock. You weren’t able to see exactly where your hand was, which made coming into the apartment more difficult than it should’ve been. She opens the door for you, reaching out to take the top box (“Koriand’r” written on the top in sharpie) and taking it to the kitchen.
Jason and Roy are both on the couch and, when Roy turns to see you at the door, he smiles, holding up a hand. “Hey, welcome back.” His feet are propped up on the coffee table, Jason’s arm over his shoulders.
“One order of fajita mix, beef, extra onions and one order of chicken crispers, no honey mustard.” You drone, holding out your food offering, though your smile is far more genuine than when you’re at work. Koriand’r had already opened her’s, her strange waking behavior from earlier this morning forgotten when you see her face light up upon opening her box.
You’d learned very quickly that it was less the food you brought her and more the condiments you brought her. Marinara sauce and honey mustard in serving cups were devoured faster than the parmesan sticks you brought for her to eat. You’d just decided that it’d be less of a waste to just give the woman her tomato sauce and mustard instead of watching her try to politely eat whatever main meal you’d brought her.
“ Yessss .” Roy’s faster off the couch than Jason is, who watches him speed to the kitchen, smirking. He snatches his fajita mix out of your hands, a few plastic fork already on the counter. He stabs one through the box to hold it in place and leans over to give you a kiss on the cheek that makes a loud smacking sound in appreciation. “Look at you, bringing home the bread and the butter.” He smiles at you, genuine, and backtracks to the coffee table to start eating.
Jason’s not as dramatic, but he does give you a weird, restrained arm pat when he takes his food from you. You want to remind him that he did have both arms around your waist while you sat in his lap last night, but you’re not sure what type of reception that would get. “Thanks.” He goes back to the couch and sits closer to Roy, making sure there was enough space for you to sit next to him.
“What, no tip?” You say, tapping your cheek, teasing him. His cheeks actually tint pink, and he huffs something under his breath that Roy laughs at.
When you sit next to him (Koriand’r floating over the armrest beside you), Roy leans up to repeat what Jason said. “We’re sharing the bill- you already got the tip.” You don’t find it as funny as he did, but it does put a smile on your face. You prop your feet up on the table and watch the tv without paying too much as to what’s going on while they chow down.
Roy reaches over Jason to offer you exactly half of his fajita mix. “‘ve you eaten yet?” He says, around a mouthful of beef tips and mushroom. He swallows. “You can have the rest of mine- I sneaked Burger King while Jason took a nap.”
“And you didn’t get me any fries? Asshole.” Jason replies, mock-offended, as you get up to get another plastic fork. When you sit back down, there are two chicken crispers added to your box and Jason is acting a little too natural. Koriand’r leans down and offers you one of her honey mustard cups with one hand, the other uncapping another with her thumbnail.
“Anything else happen while I was out? Any world-domination schemes, plans for the underworld?” You don’t really expect an answer.
“Trust me, we’d get you the hell out of town if we heard about any of those around here.” Roy responds, reclining back again. “Which means we haven’t heard jack-shit. I’m not sure if it’s a good or a bad thing.” Sometimes he wondered whether or not Ollie missed his calls intentionally, or if the number he kept blasting had been disconnected. There’s a glass on the table that was filled with Coke, and he spins it on its edge. He hadn’t noticed when, but he’d forgotten the address to wherever Oliver was currently staying (or even where Oliver was), which was far more troubling.
The room is quiet again, broken only by Jason’s bite into chicken fingers and Koriand’r’s occasional mistaken slurps. “So...” You start, your train of thought far behind your mouth. “You guys are superheroes, right?”
Jason skews his mouth to the side, purposefully avoiding your gaze.
“I mean, Kory and I were in the Teen Titans, if that means anything to you.” Roy cuts in, looking nervously at Jason. (“However briefly.” Koriand’r had interjected, but had kept her eyes on you.) “Why, what’s up?” He’s almost afraid of the answer- there weren’t a lot of times people just verified their hero status without some bomb of a statement coming up shortly afterward.
“You know... other superheroes? I mean, I can’t imagine the community being so big that you don’t know a friend of a friend.” Your stupid goddamn mouth and your stupid goddamn insecurities. You found Donna’s shirt at the bottom of your hamper yesterday.
“I met Wonder Woman a lifetime ago, but I don’t think I could get her autograph if I asked.” Jason puts in, but the joke is shaky, his eyes narrowed and very carefully watching your’s. He’d come to the same conclusion as Roy, though his thoughts were a tad darker- worrying if you’d owed money or come across some government secret.
“Did you know anyone- well, I mean, I don’t know if you’d know her by name.” Your tongue catches on your teeth and you suck in your cheeks in reaction to the pain. When you speak, your chest hurts, months of grieving pushed to the surface. “Do you know a ‘Donna Troy’?”
You hear Koriand’r’s fingers break the styrofoam before you see her distressed look, the deep curve of her frown. “I...” She looks at you, blinks quickly and unbelieving. “ X’hal , I know the name, but...” She can’t vocalize the way her heart tightens, the nervous coils in her stomach. She doesn’t like it, wants to crush them underneath the validity of fact, but she can’t place where these feelings stem from, the unknown of her emotions more terrifying than any villain.
Roy’s hands, previously braced on his knees, had jumped up to cover his face. He lets out a very quiet swear that you feel none of you were meant to hear. “I... Donna?” He says, with familiarity, but his eyes go wide, like he can’t believe his tone either. “I feel like I... should?” But the idea sets wrong in his chest. He looks at Koriand’r, just as alarmed as she is. You and Jason look between the two of them, wondering at their violent reactions.
Just as quickly as they’d come, they start to mellow, confusion mudding their thoughts, doubt gnawing at their stomachs. “Perhaps... she provided information to us, while we were Titans, at a point?” Koriand’r proposes, obviously uncomfortable and unbelieving in her own explanation.
Roy nods along. “Yeah, that... must be it.” He turns to you, frowning. When he notices you holding onto Jason’s wrist (part fearful of their strange visceral reaction, part needing something solid to hold onto), the frown lessens, if only by a few degrees. “Why, are you looking for her?”
“She, uh, she used to live here. I wanted to give her her water bottle back.” You cut out any parts of the story that might cause them to tense up again. They both visibly relax when it’s nothing urgent, but you see Jason’s clenched jaw, feel his hand on top of your’s on his wrist. Four months of knowing each other, and you can read how uncomfortable he is with the situation- that he sees something wrong with it as well.
The tv drones on as you all pretend to watch it, your appetites swiftly lost.
In the middle of the night, two days later, both you and Koriand’r are shaken awake. A sharp ‘X’hal’ and Koriand’r’s glowing fist, in a blur of sensations, you open your eyes to find Roy’s swollen eyes, his red cheeks. She moves to catch him, to hold him, as you reach out to dry his tears. He accepts both physical comforts with a strange urgency. “Donna Troy was Wonder Girl. I... I can’t remember much else. She had black hair and blue eyes and she fought alongside us and...” His mouth moves without sound. “I think she’s dead.”
“Roy, you shouldn’t have-” Koriand’r starts, but tears are collecting in her eyes too, the sudden confrontation of truth. “Go back to bed, Roy, you probably had a bad dream.” You’re holding your breath, biting your tongue.
“I sure as hell hope so.” He says, and it’s so defeated that the sting of tears behind your eyes turns sharp and, half-held in Kory’s embrace, you feel your tears warm on her arm. “I... I’m sorry for waking you.” He lets go of her arms, shakes his head, then stares at his long hair. On his way out, you hear him mumble something about never having grown out his hair.
When the door closes again, you let out a gross sob, pitching your stomach and making your shoulders forward, grief turning cartwheels in your stomach. You didn’t know Donna Troy, but you may very well be the last person to truly remember her. The thought raises goosebumps on your skin, makes your throat dry like you’re going to vomit.
“I remember Donna.” Koriand’r says, her lips in your hair. Like a secret. You can feel her tears, warmer than your’s but no doubt just as salty. “She was beautiful, and kind. We loved her.” Her voice goes rough, the first time you’ve ever heard it with such a tone. Her words don’t need complexity to convey their emotion. “I miss her.” Her hand moves, flat on your stomach, pulling you closer to her, her other hand under the pillow. “She didn’t deserve being forgotten.”
You don’t know when you fell asleep, but you dream about sharing your sleeping bag with Donna again, her hands strangely cold and her lips dry against the back of your neck.
In the morning, it’s as if nothing had happened. You don’t know whether it’s because Roy and Koriand’r don’t remember or if they want to pretend it didn’t happen. Jason makes breakfast for your day off, and gives you his piece of toast, worry apparent on his brow. Something was wrong, yes, but it was unfixable, and neither of you knew what to do with it.
You ate breakfast together, Roy looking poorly rested, but comfortable.
Seven months together, and you had no clue how you all were so comfortable with one another. You speculated that it was because the three of them already worked together and lived together beforehand, but, otherwise, you considered it nothing short of a miracle. A miracle with three pairs of green eyes and far too many scars.
You still bring home food, though Jason cooks occasionally, calling ahead whenever he does to make sure you don’t stack leftovers in the fridge. Everyone still props their feet up on the table, except for Koriand’r, who enjoys floating over the arm of the chair (except for when she falls asleep, preferring to jam herself in-between you and Roy). Movie nights on Thursdays with microwave popcorn and catching Jason up on pop culture references that didn’t come from late night tv. Everything normal and mundane, other than the occasional scuffle and the stitches you sewed with shaky hands.
You were equally used to Koriand’r’s passive shows of affection- kisses on your head, held hands. Jason picking you up and setting you on his lap whenever you were in his spot on the couch. Roy sometimes asking you to sleep beside him, when his eyes look haunted and you’re not sure if he even knows who he is.
Movie night, marathoning the X-Files (something Jason hadn’t been able to finish during its airing years, for reasons he wouldn’t tell you), and you had your feet kicked up on Roy’s lap. He couldn’t get comfortable, leaning over onto your legs and balancing his elbows on your knees, then falling back and wrapping his arms around the back of the couch. Jason, sitting beside him, finally reached out and pulled him bodily towards him, his head to his chest. “Are you comfortable now, princess and the pea?” He asks, still trying to watch the show.
“Very.” Roy responds, stretching his legs out some more. Jason’s move allows more room on the couch, and Koriand’r floats down to sit beside you, in the vacancy Roy had left. She’s watching you watch the movie, though she occasionally provided commentary towards the alien indications on the show.
Honestly? You’re very flattered that an alien princess is enraptured with your every facial expression. It’s hard not to be, especially considering how beautiful she is. Which is to say that you didn’t expect her hand to tilt your head up, her purple lips brushing against your’s.
You’re not too proud that you won’t admit that you short-circuit. She is nothing less than a fantastic kisser, and she caught you by surprise, and you’re not sure if she wants you to reciprocate. Jason breathes, “She fucking did it.” to Roy, who responds, “Holy shit.”.
When she pulls away, your hands are stuck in the halfway space between her waist and the air, uncertain of where they should’ve been. She blinks slowly, gorgeous, contemplative. Trying to read your body language, and coming up with ‘shocked’. “Was that alright?” She asks, hands folded in her lap, head tilted and engaged.
You blink back just as slowly, mainly because your brain is restart. “Yeah, of course.” Pause. “Why not?” The list of ‘why not’ answers was fairly long, beginning around the fact that she had never kissed you on the lips and ending around the fact that you had no idea what it meant or where this left the two of you.
“Spontaneity wasn’t the best way to go about this, Kory.” Jason says, crossing his arms. Somewhere, in the part of your brain that’s still functioning, you wonder what the ‘this’ is.
“If it was up to the both of you, nothing would be done with them. I always have to take action.” Koriand’r’s hand wraps around your’s, and you look down at it blankly. You flex your fingers to make sure that this is really happening. She flexes back, her grasp warm like a stone set out in the sun.
Jason’s frowning, one side of his mouth hiked lower than the other, similar to your face when you say ‘yikes’. He looks at you, still braced, and opens and closes his mouth a few times. “I... I love you.” He says, and you must be dreaming, if only because his eyelashes lower and his eyes get far too intense. Like Prince Charming from storybooks. He looks back and forth between Roy and Koriand’r. “ We love you. We just, uh...”
Fuck short-circuiting. You’re certain you blew a fuse. You don’t know how you became the civilian filling in this superhero sandwich, but by no means was it logical that any of them were in love with you. Nonetheless all three, when they were already in a relationship with one another.
“You’ve seen the movies.” Roy says, somewhat guiltily, just as nervous as Jason. His cheeks are red, the tips of his ears burning “We didn’t want to ruin the friendship we had with you. Which seems really stupid on tv, but is pretty terrifying in real life, by the way.”
You’re still staring ahead.
“Take all the time that you need.” Jason says, very quickly, because he can see how very little of any of this was connecting. “‘You need some time to think, um, alone? We can go.” He pauses when you jump, looking at him, alarmed. “Not forever! And, really, I think I speak for everyone here when I say we’d be fine if you wanted to remain friends- nothing would change.”
You realize you’re blushing when Koriand’r’s hand very softly brushes against your cheek and she tells you you’re warm. “I, uh, don’t need much time to decide.” You’re embarrassed, and you know it’s because it’s not one, but three people waiting for your answer with bated breath. “I love you guys too. But, also, um, you guys don’t mind me being, well...” You gesture vaguely to yourself, in comparison to the two Abercrombie models in front of you, as well as the literal princess. You’re wearing sweatpants with a long-set stain in them, and it’s hard to think anyone could love anyone that thought a wine stain would wash out easily.
“What?” Koriand’r says. “I don’t understand what you’re referencing. Your body weight and height are of no concern to me nor the two of them.” She looks at Jason for further clarification, like something might’ve gotten lost in translation.
“You being a civilian makes no difference either.” Jason says, leaning back. A small smile plays at his lips, ‘I love you guys too’ on replay behind his eyes. “And if you’re worried about feeling like the new kid in the relationship, well, you’ve hung out with us for over half a year. I think you’ve got the basics down.”
“This is, uh, for real, right? Not an early April Fools or a prank. No guy behind a curtain to say I’ve been Punk’d?” Because it seems surreal. Because Koriand’r has the softest look on her face that you’ve ever been given, because Jason’s eyelashes are casting shadows on his cheeks, because Roy’s lips parted the second ‘I love you’ came out of your mouth.
“It’s for real.” Roy says, smiling a little. “We could write up a contract, that’s how real it is. Make it legally binding.”
“So, now, we’re... We’re all together.” You say slowly, for confirmation. Roy and Jason nod, while Koriand’r lets out a faint chuckle. “Alright, well, back to movie night, I guess.” With that, the atmosphere’s buzz dies down, and the four of you stop looking like you may knock on Death’s door if the situation were any more stressful. Before resuming the show (you hadn’t noticed who’d paused it, but you assume it was Roy), you lean over Koriand’r to give Roy a small, chaste kiss on the lips.
He smiles, a little flustered. “Aw, shucks.” He says, stretching out the ‘s’ at the end of ‘shucks’. He pecks you on the lips before you pull all the way back.
Not one to leave anyone out, you have to get up to make it over to Jason. He raises one eyebrow, like he’s not sure you’ll actually follow through, but you give him a small smirk. “C’mon, Todd.” You lean down, peck him on the lips just like Roy. “I’m here to collect my tip.”
thank you very much to everyone that's stuck around to read the end of this! it's been a while since i've written solely for my own benefit, and reading all your comments, i'm so glad that it was enjoyable for everyone else as well! this is (most likely) not the end of me writing rhato-set up imagines, but this is the end of what i consider the backstory for anything i write for them in the future!
again, thank you very much for reading, and i hope to see you soon!
Koriand’r leans back on the couch, her hair thrown over your lap. It’s too long for you to effectively braid from the side, sure, but you can run your fingers through it, smoothing out the knots and playing with it. She lets out a soft hum, shifting to be a little closer to you. The tv is turned to TLC, and she’d been watching the bridal shows with mild interest. “It’s essentially a large party,” She starts, words somewhat halting. “Where you declare your love to another. But it’s more about the dress and the food.” She talks as if she’s experienced it before, but also like she disapproves of the concept.
“You’d never want to get married?” You’d attempted to make a braid out of four sections of hair nowhere close to the top of her head, but lose track of your method, separating them again. “I mean, it’s a nice concept- all of your friends are there, everyone’s happy to see you in love...” You trail off, tilting your head as you watch another bride’s preferred dress get vehemently shot down by her mother. “Well, that’s what it’s supposed to be.”
“That’s not what I was referring to.” She clarifies. “It’s the... Hm.” Her lips purse and she squints at the tv, thinking to herself. “The materialism of it. Of course I enjoy wearing nice clothes and eating good food, but it’s a celebration of a union, not a celebration of my clothes or my taste in food.”
You nod. “Makes sense.” The bride finally comes out with a dress that appeases both her and her picky entourage, and you let out a sigh of relief. “The planning that goes into it is pretty serious, too. In my opinion, getting married is great because of the legal benefits you can give to your partner.” You smile and bump shoulders with her. “I wouldn’t mind my health insurance covering you three- it’d save me some heartache.”
Koriand’r looks down at you, smiling. “I love you.” She runs her nails over your scalp, looking at you like you were something infinitely precious. There’s a comfortable silence where she goes back to watching the show, but she leaves her hand on the base of your neck, eventually moving it so her arm is slung over your shoulder. “I think that dress would look nice on you.” She gestures faintly towards the television with her free hand, as the previews of the next show ( also wedding-themed) ran, showing a dress that was definitely above your paygrade.
You sigh, somewhat wistfully. “The dresses and tuxedos all look so nice... I wouldn’t mind seeing you in that one, either, Kory.” She raises an eyebrow, squinting at the image.
“It wouldn’t be particularly flattering- a mermaid-style dress would look better.” There’s something behind her eyes- the same look she gets when she recalls something that you don’t think she’s supposed to. “Do... Do you think it could be floral-themed? I’d love to have matching flowers in my hair.”
You nod, if anything, to smooth the worry from her brow. You make a waiter’s salary, with fairly average tips, but, if Kory said she wanted a mermaid-style wedding dress with flowers in her hair, damned if you wouldn’t try to get it for her. “You could even get it tailored to how you’d like it- maybe if you start designing it now, I’ll have enough money to pay for it in two years.”
She looks up at you, meeting your eyes with actual recognition sparking at your words. “Oh, no, all of us would pay for our clothes- no need for you to bear all of the financial burden.” Her fingers drum one-by-one on your shoulder. Her next words come out slower. “Jason and Roy both have suits, already- they never wear them, so they’d still be in pristine condition. We could have it at Jason’s father’s house, in the gardens.”
You’re certain she’s just creating a scenario, nothing serious or concrete- you’d only all been together for a little over a year and a half. “Sure, sure. It’d be a small get-together- of course, I’d have to meet Jason and Roy’s families beforehand. Ask for their blessings to marry them. Then, if they said yes, I’d have to start shopping around for rings in sets of four...” You trail off, propping your chin up on your hand.
Koriand’r nods along at your every idea. “I doubt we would have to hire a wedding planner- Jason’s father throws these large galas, so I’m certain he has an idea of what to do. Then, we’ll look for a dress or a tuxedo for you- whichever one looks best on you. I’ll buy mine, as well, while you’re looking for your’s. Then, we invite all of our loved ones and host the party.” She nods with a finality, as if it really were that simple, and you shrug.
“‘Sounds like a good enough plan to me.” And, with that, you both turn to give your full attention to Say Yes to the Dress, cuddling together, with you wondering whether or not that’d been a sign that Koriand’r wanted to get married.
Jason and Roy interrupt your TLC marathon when they come back from patrol, with it being one of the rare occasions where they didn’t show up looking like they’d had a few knocks on Death’s door. Koriand’r often accompanied them when they believed they were onto something bigger than the both of them and needed the extra firepower, but, occasionally, she stayed at home, when the missions they sent themselves on were more covert. She wasn’t one for subtlety, and she was vaguely luminescent, so it was just better for her to stay at home, at times.
Jason holds up a bag full of food from a burger joint he swore by while Roy worked at unlacing his boots. He sets it on the counter and starts taking his helmet off, holding it under his arm while he looked at the two of you. “Watching TLC at ten at night? My worst fears about you two picking up my trash tv habits, realized.” But he’s joking, and smiling, which was something that always got your heart to flutter. It was nice seeing the hard set of his jaw loosen, his lips turning up in a smile.
“Really, if you were so worried, you wouldn’t have DVR’d the entire season of Extreme Couponing. Or paid Dish Network.” Roy cuts in, leaning over the counter to kiss Jason softly on the mouth, then grab the food out from underneath him. As Roy makes his way over to the couch, Jason stays back, letting out a soft sigh, looking at the three of you with nothing short of adoration. When you look up and catch him staring, however, he immediately diverts his attention to his boots, removing them and shrugging his jacket off, throwing it over the barstool beside the counter. “So, what are you both watching, now?”
Koriand’r answers before you can. “Four Weddings. Initially, I thought it’d be good research material for ideas for our wedding due to the name, but it turns out that it’s four separate couples competing against one another.” She uses her arm around your shoulders to pull you closer while she moved to the side of the couch, to let Roy and Jason in.
There’s a bit of a silence, before you realize the both of them are very blatantly staring at you. “Oh, no- it was a bit of a joke between us about hypothetically getting married. It, uh, involved shuffling a lot of duties off to other people, and reusing old clothes.” You give a nervous laugh, and Koriand’r casts a confused look down at you. It takes a moment for you to realize she wasn’t joking. “It... It wasn’t...?”
“I was very serious about being willing to marry all of you, yes.” She responds, and you let a small hiss out through your teeth. “I know it’s not culturally appropriate for how long we’ve been together, though, so I don’t mind waiting until it is.”
You’re pretty sure you’re sweating.
Roy sits down slowly next to you, and you’re not making eye contact, lest you say something else that’s ill-timed and poorly informed. “So, uh, you’d want to...?” He says, and it’s obviously pointed at you, so you turn to face him, biting down on your lip. His voice cracks a little, like it was something impossible to him, like he’d never considered it. “You’d want to get married, to us?”
His voice leaves you somewhat heartbroken. You reach for his hand, his fingers immediately lacing through your’s. “Of course. Maybe not right now- there’s still so much I’d have to do. Meeting your family, having them over for dinner, making sure they actually like me enough to give you guys away... Maybe even buying furniture together, repainting the walls...?” You ramble slightly, but Roy (and Jason, behind him) just look at you like you hung the moon in the sky.
“You’d have Bruce eating out of the palm of your hand.” Jason says, but you don’t know who that is- your eyes dart to Roy for some help. He mouths ‘father’, and your eyebrows raise. Jason leans down on the arm of the couch, his head tilted slightly to the side. “There’s... I mean, it’s a big family, but I know they’d love you. Alfred would probably cry- God knows Dick would.” Behind you, you feel Koriand’r’s hair shift- her nodding in agreement.
“The same with Oliver- if I... If I can find his number, him and Din-” Roy stops mid-sentence, then restarts. “Oliver would give you his blessing, no doubt about it.”
“I...” You work your bottom lip between your teeth. Koriand’r has never brought up her family, so you don’t ask her about it. “Really, this is just...” You look down at the floor. “You guys are so sweet to me.”
Koriand’r’s arms wrap around your midsection, leaning to kiss you on the temple. She’s followed by Roy also joining in on the embrace, then Jason draping his upper body over the back of the couch to hold all three of you. “Really, it’s... It’s a nice thought, making all of this... permanent. Waking up to you three, wearing matching rings.” Jason speaks up, and his breath ruffles the back of your hair. “I mean, I couldn’t get married to you because I’m legally-”
He stops, but he sounds so sad that you actually turn to face him. The happy mood is broken, and there’s something tense in the air. Roy looks over your shoulder at Koriand’r. You hear Jason click his tongue behind you. “Jason, I know polygamy is technically illegal, but I doubt we couldn’t find someone to marry us in a less-than-legal sort of way.”
He sighs out your name. “I’m... I’m legally dead.” It’s a little too quiet, before Koriand’r speaks up.
“Jason, would you prefer it if we left you t-”
“I...” He looks between the both of them. You can hear him swallow. “Yeah, if you wouldn’t mind. It’ll just be easier to say, without...”
“No, man, don’t even worry about it.” Roy is suddenly acutely aware of how small the apartment is. “We’ll, uh, take a walk around the complex. Text us if you need us.” He gets up first, then offers a hand to Kory, who brushes off her sweatpants. On their way out, she leans over to the counter and picks up one of Roy’s hats, putting it on to cast a shadow onto her eyes. They both cast twin looks of worry over their shoulders.
You feel like the floor just bottomed out from underneath you. You can feel the heaviness in the air, the gravity of the situation- but you don’t see how it connects. Jason comes around the couch to sit across from you, his legs crossed at the ankles. “So, uh. I really should’ve told you this when you first found out I was a vigilante.” He sounds like he’s picking his words incredibly carefully, pausing slightly before saying ‘vigilante’. “It’s not that I don’t trust you!” He says this very quickly, reaching out for your hand. You take his hand in your’s. “It’s just... It’s painful. And most people that know me, already know the story from someone else.”
“Kory and Roy...?”
“I think they learned it through Dick. I don’t know exactly when , but that’s usually how everyone found out. Through my family saying something, or them just being around when... They were grieving.” He looks up at the ceiling and, almost intuitively, you think he’s saying a small prayer. “So, uh, I died. And then came back a few years later. That’s... That’s about it.”
You’re not sure what pushes you to say, “Are you sure?”, but you think it’s the sheer amount of hurt in his voice. His eyes are teary, and his hands shake slightly, and you know there’s more to the story.
“There’s more to it.” He admits, looking away from you. “I... I mean, before I say anything, I just wanted to say that I don’t just trust you with my life- I trust you with my family’s lives, with my friends’ lives. This is... fairly revealing for all of them.”
You nod, and scoot closer to him, lifting one land to hold his cheek, rubbing it with your thumb. “I’ll take it with me to the grave.”
“I stole tires off of the Batmobile. That’s how this whole thing started.” He chuckles, somewhat throatily, when he sees your eyebrows raise. “Yeah? Well, uh, Batman inevitably caught me when I was going for the rest of the tires- inevitably, he ended up catching up to me. I thought he was going to throw my little punk ass in jail but... He ended up adopting me.”
“This is... ‘Bruce’, from earlier?”
“Yeah, Bruce is really a lot softer than the bat ears and sweeping cape make him seem. Dick wanted to move on from being the first Robin, so I, uh, wedged myself into the ol’ suit and started fighting crime as the second Robin.” There’s a faint smile, and you wonder if these were the good memories, before everything went sour, the climb before the drop. “My, uh- the woman that raised me, she died of an overdose- but I knew she hadn’t been my real mother. So, Bruce and I, we found my birth mom, Sheila.”
His breathing is starting to pick up. You lift his hand to your lips with your free hand, and kiss along his knuckles. His eyebrows draw together, watching you. “Then, uh, basically, she tried to hand me off to the Joker, but he restrained the both of us, instead.” His right hand grabs his left arm, his nails digging into the skin. His voice cracks on the next part, “He then beat me within an inch of my life with... a crowbar. Then he throws in a timed bomb. I tried to disarm it but, um, it was difficult with the restraints- so I just... I just threw my body on top of it to shield Sheila.” He gets quiet. “It was for nothing, in the end- I just died quicker than she did.”
You don’t know what to say. You honestly don’t know what to say. Your stomach is churning, your heart feels like it’s about to beat straight out of your chest. “Jason. ” You drop his hand, now holding his head in both of your hands. “Jason that’s terrible. I... I don’t even know what to say- I- I’m so mad for you! The Joker! Your own mothe- ”
He stops you. “The Joker had something on her- I don’t- I don’t blame her for what she did. It must’ve been something terrible, for her to...” He trails off, but you see tears in his eyes. Jason swallows thickly. “On... On the ‘resurrection’ part. I just woke up in my coffin- no one really knows why. I... I had to claw my way out- I thought it was still something the Joker was- Nevermind. You, uh, wouldn’t know what this is, but, after, I got thrown in this pit that heals wounds, which fixed me but also... It also drove me a little insane? I was barely able to put two and two together for those first few months after. And then, afterwards...”
You whimper out his name, feeling your face grow hot with the welling tears behind your eyes. He stops and, looking at you, his own tears start to fall. You lean forward to kiss him, to comfort him, your arms winding around his neck. “No... No .” He says, and you stop, because his face is contorted into the deepest sadness you’ve ever seen. “I’m... You deserve to know the full truth. I’m not... I’m not the hero you think I am. I’m trying - I’m trying so damn hard, but I... I’ve killed people. I’ve killed people in unforgivable ways.” He lets out an ironic bark of laughter, a sound like it was wringed out from him. “Really, my hands are so covered in blood that I don’t think I have the right to touch you some days.”
This is a lot to take in. You tell him so, and he nods- he nods like he absolutely understands, like it’s a lot for him to say as well. You choose your next words carefully. “Do you still kill people?”
“Not when I can help it.” His words are immediate- too fast to be a lie. “If I have to, it’s always either in self defense or to protect a civilian.” He blinks. “That doesn’t make it not murder, but...”
“I see the distinction.” You’re quiet for a long time. “I... I kind of figured, with the gun under your pillow... If that’s your main weapon, it’d be inevitable that you’d... You’d aim to kill someone.” With Roy’s bow and arrows, he couple aim for limbs, like in hunting- handguns only seemed to be made for shooting to kill. You’re still somewhat at a loss for words. “I’m glad you told me.”
“It’s important that you know.” He says, and his green eyes are so bright and sad and earnest that it hurts you. “I... I shouldn’t have been selfish- you should know who you’re laying with, really, not just who I’ve recently become.” Jason swallows, still looking you in the eyes. “I would never hurt you or Roy or Kory- or anyone I care about. Those... Those days are in the past, for me. I’ve been working with Bruce more often, too, so I’m... I’m not as deadly as I used to be.”
You don’t think before the words come out of your mouth, “Do you still feel the fractures?” He startles, looking at you as if you’d touched on something he’d been afraid to think about.
“What... What fractures?”
“From when the.. the Joker...” You look at him with such sadness in your eyes, such love, that his face contorts in a mute sob, and he looks away from you. Something occurs to you, and it’s a painful revelation. “Jason, is this the first time you’ve talking about dying to anyone?”
The silence is too long for it to be anything other than a confirmation.
You pitch forward, leaning in to wrap your arms around his shoulders and force his head into your chest. He moves willingly, letting you drag him around like he was weightless and boneless. “It’s no big deal,” He says, but it comes out forced, comes out raw. “They just hurt when it rains.” He lets out a small, muffled whine when you smooth a hand up and down his back, hushing him.
“Jason, I’m not going to leave you- what you’ve suffered is terrible, and what you did is... understandable, and only forgivable because you’re... You’re working at redemption, aren’t you?” You feel his strong nod against you. There’s a small pause, and you tilt your head down, kissing the crown of his head. “I still love you.”
His mouth moves against your shirt, his eyes staining it with tears. “I love you.” And he holds onto you, shaking and dry-sobbing, forcing the sounds of whimpers and wails down into his throat until they come out smaller, come out less forcefully. “I love you so much.”
When Koriand’r and Roy come back to the apartment after half an hour, they find you and Jason still holding onto each other, with you softly wheezing in your sleep. Jason, however, is still awake, watching Something Borrowed, Something New on the tv’s lowest volume setting, his fingers gently picking through your hair, his eyes swollen and his face puffy.
Softly, so as not to wake you, Roy asks, “Are you okay?”
He’s almost startled by the fact that Jason’s mouth twists into a full grin, showing all of his teeth. “They still love me.” Like he can’t believe it. “What more could I ask for?”
“Kory, when you said that this trip was going to be for you getting new clothes, I thought that it be a lot more clothes for you .” Jason says, holding up his arms, weighed down by bags and bags of clothes that she had thrown at him, raised one eyebrow, and then bought pon realizing they would fit him. Roy was a little further ahead than he was, carrying his bags with slightly less difficulty, though his bags were just as full.
Koriand’r, in contrast, was about four paces ahead, and had one light bag from a store you hadn’t even seen her go into. It had a hat with a lime-green alien on it, with “I don’t believe in humans” underneath it, and she seemed almost smug as she took it out and replaced Roy’s trucker hat on her head with it. “I never said that this was for me.” She turns around to face the three of you, walking leisurely backwards, her lips turned up in a smile. “Besides, you all needed something other than the same four shirts and jeans to walk around in-” Roy opens his mouth to rebut, but she stops him with one finger raised, then pointed towards you. “-and, no, wearing their shirts doesn’t count as variety in your closet.”
He closes his mouth and huffs, rolling his eyes fondly with a smile. “Got me there, I guess.” After a bit of maneuvering, he’s able to reach a hand into the bag closest to him. He pulls a tie, raising an eyebrow. “Not quite sure if the surplus of ties was needed, though.”
“Hey, if your partner buys you a tie, you take the tie.” You joke, hip-checking him with a smile. You only had two small bags of accessories that Kory had fawned over, and you had bought in anticipation of future gift-giving. She didn’t seem to have noticed that you had (or, at the very least, assumed that you were buying them for yourself), but she’d held onto a bag full of pajamas because she was ‘sick of seeing you in the sweatpants she’d worn down’. To be honest, she’d stretched out your sweatpants beyond the point of no return, and they were that much comfier, but she seemed serious about it all, so you’d let her hold pants up to you until she was satisfied.
“Hey,” Roy says in the same light tone. “I took the tie- I’m not ungrateful.” He grins at you and flexes his arms after putting the tie back, as if carrying the bags was some competition. You flex back, showing off the fact that your arm muscles are absolutely nothing in comparison to his biceps.
“Anyways,” Jason starts, moving past the both of you and closer to Koriand’r. “We’ll need to stop by the car before we do anything else- not that I can’t handle it.” He raises his eyebrows at Roy, playing into the fake competition between the two of you. You beam at him, and a smile breaks through the false seriousness he was trying to affect. “But, really, the bags are too much for us to walk around with. We’ll dump them, then get terrible food-court food.”
“That makes enough sense.” Kory agrees, shifting her two bags (Roy’s hat placed where her purchase had previously been). “But, really Jason,” A twinkle shows through in her eyes, and she smirks. “If you’re struggling, I still have two free hands.” She pushes the bags further down her arms, then wags her fingers.
Jason snorts and, heading for the nearest exit, starts towards the car without any further comment.
The Car, as you all seemed to refer to it as a proper noun with no other name, was the nondescript van that Jason and Roy had been keeping their things in before they’d really moved in with you. It worked just fine and had plenty of space now that their shit wasn’t crammed in it, but it definitely looked like it belonged in Gotham, and Jason was really sketchy on the details concerning how he got it.
But it was still a car, and you four still needed to get places. Living on the outskirts of Gotham meant that everything was always a little further away than it should’ve been, and that the bus system had a mind of its own. Koriand’r had proposed a shopping trip because, after a year and a half of seeing the exact same clothes on everyone, she’d decided she’d had enough. It was nice, and she did pay for everything (no matter how much you or Jason protested- Roy seemed to have no clue about his financial situation other than his joint account with Jason and, therefore, just let him take over in the argument).
The bags are piled in the back of the car and, while Jason and Roy theatrically stretch, she checks her phone, thumb scrolling through emails. “I don’t mean to pry, Kory,” You start, leaning against the car. “But where did you get this money? I know you don’t charge for protecting this tri-state area.”
She looks up at you, smiling faintly. “Oh, I’ve taken up modeling again. It pays extremely well, and I have a few cards for the stores in this mall through my current job.” Her smile drops, and she looks away from you. “I do enjoy it- I don’t know why I ever stopped.”
This has started to happen a lot, now. Kory and Roy both stumbling upon some inconsistency in their past and fumbling over it, even as they tried to correct it in the present day. She pockets her cell phone, that same worried crease in her eyebrows, and you reach down to grasp her hand, rubbing your thumb over the back of her hand. “It’s good then,” At your touch, her frown evens out, regarding you. “That you’re doing what love again.”
“You’re right.” This is your role, then, as mediator- just bring them back down, back into the- “What matters now is the present.”
Roy comes around to your side of the car, “So, what do you two want for lunch? Jason voted Panda Express, and I’m always down for a box of orange chicken.” His eyes flicker to your held hands, and his smile gets a little wider. “Ya know, it’s not fair for only the two of you to be holding hands. It doesn’t have to be like this and-” He reaches around the back of the car, assumedly holding Jason’s hand as well, if the snort was anything to go by. “-this. It can be this.” He reaches over to hold onto your hand, grinning with teeth. “I have two hands.”
You laugh, bringing his hand up to kiss his knuckles, your eyes crinkling with your smile. “So, we’ll just ‘off to see the wizard’ our way to the food court?” You ask, swinging the hand that held onto Kory’s. She’s smiling again, so you’re relieved, if only for the moment- you get the feeling that something bigger than the four of you is happening, but you’re helpless to stop it. Really, you’re terrified that whatever it is, it could destroy this tentative peace that the four of you have built up, that it could destroy Roy and Kory.
Jason seems untouched by this strange misstep in memory, but you’re also afraid that it’s only a matter of time.
But all of this is on the backburner of your mind. Right now, you’re just trying have fun with your partners. Jason finally makes his way all the way around the car, so that Roy’s arm didn’t have to stretch as much, and he gives you a cheeky grin. “Well, we’re going to cause terrible foot-traffic, but if you can manage to avoid the glares of every mother and her kid, I think we’ll be alright.”
When you’re all seated, a box of Chinese food in front of each of you, Koriand’r pulls out her phone and, leaning slightly forward, manages to get a picture of all of you, with Roy mid-bite. He ducks his head immediately, covering his mouth and rapidly chewing, speaking behind his hands, “C’mon, Kory, at least take a good photo of me- all of the ones you have on your phone are either me rolling out of bed or Snapchats you swore you wouldn’t screenshot.”
You raise an eyebrow at this and Kory, proving that all is fair in love and war, opens her Photos and shows you a picture of Roy with his head tilted back, pulling a face at the camera, screenshot at one second remaining. “And here I was, thinking it’d be something scandalous.” You say, clearly not impressed. You pull your own phone out and unlock it, showing them your homescreen: a Snapchat of Jason, subtitled ‘look ma no hands’, with his phone hanging in the air, taking a photo of himself in the mirror.
Jason looks appropriately smug, while Roy lets out sarcastic oo’s and ah’s. He reaches over his orange chicken box to pull your phone from you (even as you click your tongue), his fingers fast on the screen. You hear the rapidfire of him holding down the shutter, filling your phone library with photos of him pulling faces. At the last moment, Jason leans in, sticking his tongue out and putting bunny-ears behind Roy’s head.
Roy gives your phone back to you, a grin on his face, “To commemorate the day.” He says, shoving up one shoulder. He’s paler than he should be, and it makes the smile on his face look wrong. “We don’t take enough photos together- I never was one for scrapbooking, but I like the idea of having all of our memories piled together, side-by-side.”
Kory’s quiet for a moment, closing her eyes and tilting her head to the side. “If you can send those to me, I’ll have them printed.” She turns from you to Roy, compassion in her eyes. “I understand what you mean.”
You reach out on the table, not sure what whose hand you’re going for, but Roy’s fingers lock with yours, and he’s looking at the three of you with adoration and fear. God , you wish helping him were as simple as loving him. “Hey, don’t worry, we’re not going anywhere.” You keep your voice soft, playful. You know that now isn’t the time to get anyone too emotion, in the middle of the mall food court, sitting at a table with two vigilantes and a high-profile alien. “But, if you want pictures...” You’re a little embarrassed at how Falling In Love (1984) your thoughts sound. “There’s a photo booth at this mall. You know. If you’re interested.”
Beside you, Koriand’r closes her styrofoam box with a click, then stabbed her two chopsticks through the box, saving it all for later. You watch as Roy and Jason also start collecting their things, Jason wiping the edges of his mouth with a napkin, Roy looking around for where the trashcans were. “We don’t have to do it right now-” You clarify, feeling almost guilty at how quickly they’d responded to your offer. “Really, you should finish your food, at least-”
Jason throws you a somewhat confused look, opening his box again. It’s completely empty and, presumably, so was Roy’s. Kory had gotten two main dishes and, therefore, had enough to save for leftovers. Only your food was left mostly untouched. Damn, you really weren’t trying to worry any of them. “Do you need more time to eat?” His voice is concerned and, even when you shake your head (and add a ‘pshaw’ to the end of it), the look doesn’t fade completely. “Well, we have nothing else planned, so why not now?” He tilts his head away from the table. “Lead the way.”
So you led the way all the way to a two-person photo booth situated to the left of a hair piece kiosk. “It’s small.” Kory says, sounding somewhat disappointed. You don’t blame her- she’s at least an inch taller than Jason, who was your empirically-measured height of Really Damn Tall. Nonetheless, she’s the first one to cram herself in side, crossing her legs at the ankles to try and lend some space for the rest of you. Jason raises one eyebrow and shrugs in a ‘what can you do?’, and is next, jammed hip-to-hip with Kory, looking smushed.
“You guys sure about this?” You ask, if only because you’re worried someone’s going to get hurt if you all pile in there at once. Kory waves you off while setting her food on the floor outside of the kiosk, then changes the gesture so she’s waving you and Roy inwards. Roy goes in next, sitting onto her lap, her arms immediately wrapping around him to make sure he didn’t fall out of the kiosk. You feel stupid for feeling hesitant, but you still peer inside like you’re not sure if they want you there or not.
You’re met with three encouraging smiles, which definitely lifts your heart no small amount. When you step in, Jason reaches out for you, some half-murmured excuse about how they photo could only get the four of you if you were in front of him, because Roy would obscure most of his face. You sit on his knees, not sure how close he’d like you to be, and still giving you enough room to operate the booth. “Alright, so,” You start, squinting at the options. “Seven bucks for two photo strips, and I’m assuming everyone wants one, so fourteen bucks for four...” You pull your wallet out before anyone can protest, cramming a twenty into the machine.
It waits for you to be ready, so you turn to your partners. “It’s gonna take four photos, one after the other, so be prepared for the flash it’ll give off.” Kory nods, seeming to genuinely appreciate the warning, even though you’re not too sure if her eyes even have pupils that would hurt from that kind of light exposure.
Afterwards, in the car, you stare down at the series of snapshots. Everyone holding onto each other in a tangle of limbs, pulling a silly face. Jason’s face pulled into half of a quip after he’d noticed Roy pulling his silly face at him specifically, and the soft look on Roy’s face, the laughter on Kory’s face. You reaching over Roy to try to hold onto Kory to make a dramatic kissy face to her, her laughter loud and thrumming, Jason struggling to hold you still for the camera and Roy caught in your arms.
The last one, all of you looking somewhat through one another, unable to look every single person in the eye, but sharing the same intimate happiness, all of your hands clasped together.
You all half-crash into the apartment, and, while you couldn’t speak for the others, your calves were definitely aching. You’re about to comment on how they could handle consecutive nights of patrol without complaint but not a mall trip, when you notice that they’ve all gone in different directions, holding onto their respective photo strip. Jason pulls out his wallet, folding them back-and-forth in a zigzag and then cramming it behind credit cards that don’t have his real name on them. Roy goes to the closet, tucking his underneath his superhero outfit (you’d have to remember to ask him why after a good night’s rest). Kory, however, doesn’t seem to know where to put her’s, her eyebrows drawn together, lips pursed.
She disappears into your shared bedroom, and, following her without thinking about it, you see her lift your mattress and put it under it. She turns her head to see you watching with one eyebrow raised, and opens her mouth a few times, like she wasn’t sure how to explain herself. “I don’t want it to be too obvious,” She starts, appearing a little embarrassed. “Just in case.”
She doesn’t elaborate until you’re wiggled into your new set of pajamas, laying in bed with her. “Hey, Kory?” She makes a soft noise. “Did you just buy me the kind of clothes you’d like to see on me?” They’re comfortable, sweatpants and a loose-fit shirt, though the pants are drawstring and the shirt cuts into a V.
You feel her smile against your neck. “Maybe.” Her arms coil around your waist, her hand slipping under your shirt to rest on your stomach. As warm as she was, she always seemed to be seeking out more heat, which meant you ended up kicking off all of the blankets halfway through the night more often than not. There’s a long pause, with her fingers tap-tap-tapping on your stomach. “Are you feeling alright? You seem more tired than you were before.”
You have to think on this, staring at the wall on the other side of the room and trying to collect a coherent answer. “I’m not too sure...?” You reach down to put your hands over her’s. “I’m really worried for you and Roy- I know you’ve said that I shouldn’t be before, but seeing you both hurting when I can’t do anything about it...”
Koriand’r exhales in a tight, controlled way that usually meant she was upset, which makes your chest go tight in what felt like fifteen different ways. “I shouldn’t have told you not to worry- of course that would only make you worry more.” Her agitation seems more directed towards herself, but she exhales again, and it seems to take some of her tension away. “What is wrong with Roy and what is wrong with me... don’t seem to be the same thing, inherently. He hasn’t told any of us what’s wrong, exactly, but from what I’ve experienced...”
Her hand stills, and you feel her pull away- the knot of dread in your stomach tightens. You turn over on your side, facing her- she’d moved to prop her head up on one hand. “Do you... do you want to talk about it?” You say, trying to be as non-invasive as you can, keeping your voice low so you don’t disturb Jason.
“I think I’ve spent long enough dodging the subject, and I should be transparent with you- Roy and Jason are already aware of my issue, to some extent.” Her green eyes close, and you lose the light they gave off, having to rely on the barest hint of moonlight to see her eyebrows draw together. “Some days... Some days are golden, and it feels as though I can do anything, and others... Others, I can’t remember what I’ve done on this planet. I wake up in the morning, and I don’t recognize you, or Jason, or Roy.”
Kory hears you take a sharp, horrified breath, and she reaches out, eyes opening again as she cradles your face. “I tend to remember enough- enough to know that I’m safe, that you’re kind and none of you are threats. I have to... I have to trigger memories throughout the day, by doing things like looking at Jason’s uniform or seeing a show we’ve watched together.” She looks in your eyes, her eyebrows pulled low in frustration. “Roy suggests it might be something biological, but there is no such Tamaranean condition that would cause me to lose memories specific to Earth, though.”
Her hand shakes, her touch feather-light, her voice soft. “I worry one day I will wake up and not know who I am. I worry for your safety, and for what could happen to Roy and Jason if I were to ever forget myself in the middle of a mission.” She blinks then, a flurry of eyelashes and tears hitting the pillow.
“Let me help you remember.” The words are out of your mouth before you can think of what you’re offering. God, you feel like such a small, broken thing, shivering in this bed next to your partner, who could blast through steel with ease. You feel so small, so pathetic, to be shaking and wondering, Was this how Donna felt before she disappeared? Was she disappearing at the seams, afraid to fall asleep in case she woke up to the wrong set of memories?
“I am afraid of whatever is making me forget,” She says, and her thumb presses harder against your cheekbone. “I do not say that lightly. I do not want to endanger you, even accidentally.”
You lean into her touch, blinking your tears away. “That’s my decision to make.” You exhale shakily, trying to convey the intensity of your dedication. “Come what may, Koriand’r, I’ll still be here with you- you have to remember that you’re not indestructible, too, you know.”
Her sclera shift just enough for you to know she’s looking away from you. “I know some things for certain. I am Princess Koriand’r of Tamaran, second of three children, chosen for the throne because of my sister Komand’r’s illness.” She swallows, and you try not to lose your mind over the fact that she’s an actual fucking princess, and that it wasn’t just some cute nickname that Roy and Jason had come up with. “We trained on Okaara, but then Komand’r allied herself with the Citadel and gave them enough information to invade Tamaran- you don’t have to look so confused. I’m not expecting you to remember all of these names.” She gives a halfhearted chuckle, looking at you.
“This isn’t confusion,” you explain, a little wide-eyed. “I’m, uh, kind of in awe. You’re involved in some heavy alien politics, and I’m trying my best to absorb it all. I’ll remember the names, don’t worry.” Koriand’r tilts her head to the side and blinks at you a few times, giving you a small smile that drops when she starts to talk again.
“This is where... It tends to get less clear. One of the terms the Citadel listed when they subjugated Tamaran was my enslavement, but I have dual memories of what follows. Either I was sold because of Tamaran’s surrender, or I was sold to save it. Either I am then put under the care of my sister, who puts me under horrific servitude, or I am simply handed over to the Psions- who are different from the Citadel, they’re predominately scientists. Either way, I end up being experimented on by the Psions, which either gives me my starbolt ability, or simply... makes them stronger.”
The confusion in her face is blatant, and you wonder how difficult it would be to recite two separate but similar truths you believed in.
“Either my sister was beside me and experimented on as well, or she was not. Either I escaped to Earth to escape from her, or I did not.” Her voice goes softer, cracking. “Either Tamaran is still well, or it has long since been destroyed. I no longer remember how to go home.”
You don’t know what to say. “Kory, I... I’m so sorry you had to live through that. I can’t imagine how you felt- your sister was...” You can’t even articulate it. You’re angry for her, which seems to be a theme amongst your significant others- you’re pissed that they’ve been given such a terrible hand, when they’re all such good people. “Either way, Kory, you’ve suffered so much.”
“I rarely have trouble recalling those memories.” Kory says, even though there are tears running down her cheeks. “I am unsure as to how much of my time was spent where on Earth. Roy says I was a part of the Teen Titans alongside him- even on my best days, I have no such recollection. My memories of the Titans are with Donna, and Dick, and Gar and Vic and Raven...” The names seem painful to her, and she looks away again. “I may have almost married Dick, though he doesn’t seem to remember that, and my memories of him seem to be growing weaker by the day. I used to love him, and I still care for him, as I care for the other Titans, but the feeling is waning.”
The realization hits you hard. “You’re afraid that will happen with the three of us.” Your heart gives an uneven thump. “You’re afraid of forgetting about what we’ve done together, and falling out of love with Roy and Jason and...” You trail off, and you see her rapidly nod.
“That’s why I want so many pictures.” You could close your eyes and see her cramming the photo strip under the bed. “I need the evidence that you three existed, that we were all in love and happy and unafraid when my memories no longer do it justice.”
You wrap your arms around her waist, pulling her closer to you, her propped-up arm collapsing under her head so she could lay down. It’s so late, and she must be so tired, and her face is somewhat puffy, eyes swollen. “Kory, I can always remember for you.” You say, with certainty. “I will remember for you. You don’t have to be afraid of forgetting any more.”
She’s tense in your arms but, after a moment, you feel her shoulders drop, her eyes looking at you. “I never want to forget you.” She says, with a ferocity that makes your heart feel lighter, brings a smile to your lips.
“I’ll always be here, just to remind you.” You scoot yourself up higher on the bed to give her a kiss on her forehead. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
When your chest starts to rise and fall evenly, though, she stays awake, her luminescent eyes tracing over every small detail on your face, trying to commit it to memory.
just in case you forgot that kory had memory problems all of a sudden in the n52 *rihanna winking gif*
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