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Optical Delusions

Chapter Text

Things hadn’t been the same since Bart had become the new Kid Flash; he’d always dreamed of rightfully earning his own place on the team, but he never wanted to earn it this way. Some of his teammates were still hopeful on finding the speedster, which as Khaj Da had put it, ‘ceased’.

Some of the others weren’t as optimistic. They were overwhelmingly grief stricken, sticking instead to busying themselves with their training or missions. Using them as an excuse to keep their minds off of the fact he was even gone in the first place, rather than trying to cope.

Nightwing had been one of those, deciding to leave the team for the time being, instead busying himself with crime in Blüdhaven. He had been one of the few that took it the hardest, and nobody was surprised when he’d made the announcement. Dick was careful to never let it show, but it didn’t take a genius to figure out that their noble leader’s facade was beginning to crack.

Unfortunately, the majority of the younger members hadn’t known Wally very well, since he’d opted to give up on the hero work to spend his time with Artemis before they’d arrived. Thus, many of the people now on Bart’s team were a bit troubled on how they should feel now that the red head’s first cousin (once removed) was now gone. Of course, he had been an amazing person from what they’d known, but to Beast boy, Tim Drake, and Wonder Girl, he had never been a particularly close ally.

Bart however, had found himself plagued by Wally’s disappearance every time he suited up. More often than not he would pause for a moment too long while looking at the colors, drifting into thought. It was nice to know at least, during times like these when his mind became over active, he had someone to look out for him. He had been afraid that when Jaime was finally freed from the mode, that the two of them would drift apart, luckily, it seemed as though it was quite the opposite.

Thank God that Bart has Jaime...

Chapter Text

For the umpteenth time that morning, he had heard his alarm’s annoyingly loud chime repeatedly going off beside his head, and for the umpteenth time, Bart had set it to snooze. It hardly took him two seconds to get ready anyway, he didn’t know why he’d even bothered to set an alarm in the first place.

It was only when he heard a differently tuned ping that signified a text from his phone that the red head had even bothered to open his eyes. He offered a distasteful grumble towards the device as he sleepily pulled it closer to his face, squinting to aid in adjusting his eyes to the sudden brightness.

What he saw caused his formerly sleep filled eyes to widen in shock, seeing two missed calls, and 10 texts from Jaime lined up on the screen of his phone. The speedster sat up in his bed as he flipped through them, all varying forms of “get your ass out of bed”, “we have training, or did you forget esé?” So that was why he bothered to set alarms, training began at eight o’clock sharp. He ran a panicked hand through his hair and looked down at his phone. It was eight fifteen.

A string of ‘shit shit shit’ followed him as he dressed himself in a matter of microseconds, grabbed his duffel bag off of his chair, and zoomed out the door before Joan and Jay could even open their mouths. He was running late as per usual, despite his superhuman abilities. You’d really think that he’d learn his lesson.

He gets to the new cave in no time, but unfortunately the most excruciating part is waiting for the front door to recognize and warp him inside. He runs in place while he waits, hands balled up by his side. Black Canary was really going to give him an earful.

It sure made it hard to sneak in late when your arrival was announced over an intercom that you’d have to be deaf to miss. When Bart finally made it inside, all of his teammates were already looking in his direction. The red head stuck his signature pose, heads flown up above his head as he attempted to break the ice, “Ta-daa, I made it! A little fashionably late, but it won’t happen again,” He assured for the third time that week in Canary’s direction, who hardly even seemed to emote at the comment.

The team had confident and snarky looks on their faces, as once again the speedster was somehow late. However, he couldn’t help but be a bit confused at Garfield’s off handed burst of laughter, covering his mouth with his hand in a feigned effort to suppress it. It earned him a glare from his adoptive sister, M’gann. The confidence in Bart’s stance faltered as he let his hands rest on his hips, “What, I made it before it was my turn, didn’t I?” L’gann seemed to have been suppressing a laughter of his own, that he now let tumble out messily as he pointed at Bart. “Don’t you think you might be forgetting something, minnow!?”

The speedster looked down at himself to find that he did, in fact, still have his bright pink Hello Kitty pajama pants on. His chipper attitude seemed to melt away with the realization as he groaned, “So not crash...”

Before he’d realized his presence, Jaime wrapped an arm around Bart’s shoulders jokingly, “Don’t worry about it esé, at least this time you actually woke up before training was completely over, and hey the pants kind of suit you.” Not surprisingly, that didn’t comfort him at all.

Black Canary interrupted at this point, “We need to continue training, and since all of you seem so lively all of a sudden, which of you wants to go next?” Jaime raises his hand at about the same time as L’gann, and the two make a challenging eye contact.

“Perfect, come on up and let’s see how the two of you do. Bart, you can join the others in line,” Canary continues. The red head trudges over to the line of teammates that have yet to take their turn and they greet him with chuckles and nudges as he takes his place in line.

As he walks over to his team he internally kicks himself for oversleeping yet again and causing trouble for Jaime. This wasn’t the first time it had happened, and he was certain that it wouldn’t be that last. Bart never slept very well, so when he finally managed to catch some z’s without night terrors plaguing him, he never wanted to wake up. He wondered to himself that maybe if he started heading to bed earlier, he would have a better chance at getting better sleep. Who was he kidding though; Bart Allen was a total night owl. Plus, with studying for his college freshman classes, he was lucky to get 8 hours of rest on a good day. The boy knew that he needed to take better care of himself, but it just felt like so many things were piling on him at once, and it was a lot of responsibilities to juggle. However, he would rather lose some sleep and be tired for a bit than disappoint anyone who depended on him.

In the midst of his internal monologue, he hears snickering from one of his friends beside him. He knows that it’s all harmless teasing, so Bart smiles alongside them as Tim finally talks, “So, did you sleep past your alarm again, or did you just forget to set it in the first place?” he nudges the raven-haired boy in the side, earning him a laugh in response. “Shut up...”

Cassie leans in from the other side of Tim and whispers, “You were lucky that Blue kept texting you even after training started, Canary got onto him for it!” It only dawned on the speedster then that Jaime would have gotten in trouble for texting him during training. “Aw man, you don’t think she’ll be mad at him for that, do you? I mean it was my fault in the first place,”

Cassie swatted a careless hand in his direction, “No no, don’t worry about it! Now if this were Batman we were talking about it’d be a different story!” Tim shoots her a disappointed look at the mention of his adopted father, and comes to his defense, “Hey, Batman’s not a bad guy. He’s just…kinda quiet y’know?” Cassie gives a rolling of her eyes, “Uh huh...I know.” Tim quickly speaks up, “No no, it’s like…he’s just...” and the boy seems like he’s at a loss for words.

Their discussion was then cut off as a loud and abrupt slam against the ground had caught their attention. Looking at the ring, they saw L’gann on his back, wind knocked out of him as Blue Beetle stood in an offensive pose that leads them to believe he had flipped the other not even a moment ago. Black Canary then turns to the team, confronting them, “Did anyone see what it was that he did wrong?” and of course, the trio bit their lips, looking anywhere but their mentor.

Luckily, Garfield had been paying attention, and answered the question, saving them from complete embarrassment. L’gann retreats back to the line, holding the back of his neck angrily as he does so, and Black Canary calls for someone else to take their turn. This time, it’s Cassie who decides to go up against him enthusiastically. She separates from the two, who then look at each other as the next fight begins. Bart doesn’t really care for the conversation of Tim’s father, and instead decides to ask him about homework for a class that he’d been falling behind in.

The two were of different majors, but luckily Tim had been taking just enough general classes to help Bart through area’s he struggled in. Bart hadn’t picked a major yet, labeling himself as undecided, but hey, he’d have plenty of time to make that decision later. Tim was majoring in Criminal Investigation, he always seemed like the modern-day Sherlock Holmes type, so it was no surprise. It was a surprise though when Jaime began majoring in Biology and Chemistry, saying that he wanted to become a dentist. Bart never pegged him for the ‘hardcore flossing’ type, but you know dentists, they’re pretty sneaky characters.

It didn’t even take a couple of minutes before a loud crash had disrupted their quiet whispers once again and snagged their attention back towards to front. This time, Blue looked to be a bit out of breath from taking on Wonder Girl, but nevertheless proud of himself. He had a smug look on his face, sweat beginning to show across his forehead, and Bart was surprisingly entranced by it. The speedster didn’t know exactly what it was that demanded this attention towards his best friend in a way he hadn’t experienced before, and he’d found himself a bit puzzled by it.

He hadn’t heard Black Canary ask her usual questions on what the other had done wrong, but the moment she opened the doors for the next opponent, his hand flew up before anyone else could comprehend it. “I’ll go next!” he offered, jotting down his previous entrancement as eagerness to wipe the cocky smile off of Jaime’s face.

However, at that moment, a loud chime sounded through the training hall as a familiar face appeared on a holographic screen right overhead. Knowing exactly what that sound meant, Bart grumbled to himself, letting his hand fall back down to his side like dead weight. A mission.

Batman gave the group the basic run down of things; Cadmus was working on some sort of project directed towards challenging the league, breeding something deep within their laboratory and feeding it an unhealthy dosage of Kobra Venom. Their mission was simple, sneak around the base, destroy their stock of the Kobra Venom, peek in on the project if they can, but if not, high tail it out of there. Batman assured that the League could handle the rest if this creature’s growth stagnated for long enough, and that they’d be able to get the upper hand.

He’d called out Robin, Kid Flash, Blue Beetle, Superboy, and Wonder Girl for the mission before dismissing them to hit the showers before they leave. As soon as the hologram disappeared, those who hadn’t heard their names silently rejoiced in having the day off, yet a bit disappointed they’d miss out on a Cadmus related mission.

Bart looked back towards Jaime in the ring, and waited up for him rather than going on to the lockers alone. Jaime wrapped an arm around his neck, pulling him close as he gave him the warmest smile as he teased, “We’ll spar some other time, that is if you’re actually up to it?”

The red head returned the smile, “I was born ready!” he replied, attempting to ignore the comforting warmth that his friend had provided, and how disappointed he was when he finally pulled away.

Opening the locker room doors, Bart doesn’t waste any time rushing over to the one he’d kept his suit in. Seeing as how Jaime wore his on his back all the time, it was him that he was waiting for. Leaning against the wall, Jaime crosses his arms, waiting for his partner.

Taking notice of Bart’s pants again, Jaime can’t help but chuckle, “Where did you even get those from, esé? I never would have pegged you for a Hello Kitty fan.” Looking down at his pj’s, the speedster is more than a little embarrassed to have been caught wearing the things.

“They were hand me downs from Wally actually,” he finally answered, causing Jaime to straighten from his lax position slightly. He hadn’t been expecting that, apparently.

“Wally gave me a lot of his clothes from when he was younger, and these just so happened to be in the pile,” He explained. Before Jaime had a chance to apologize for bringing up the others cousin, Bart continued, “It’s fine, you don’t need to apologize or anything Jaime. I’m fine.”

Pulling his spandex suit from the locker, he found himself caught on it once again, rubbing the cloth almost affectionately with his thumb. He didn’t like to talk about it, how much he blamed himself for Wally’s death, or the fact that he was gone at all. After countless nights of hating himself, lying in bed and crying until his eyes burned and his body shook, he couldn’t do it anymore. Bart completely refused to talk about it; it was better this way. He could hold himself together like this.

Jaime was beginning to worry at Bart’s silence, he was too nice to say anything and break the spell, but he silently pleaded for Bart to just talk to him. Of course, he’d never verbally ask him to, Bart couldn’t deny him if he did. But they texted more often, with Jaime asking him if he was all right, or generally just letting him know that he was there for him if he ever needed to vent or have a shoulder to lean on. Unfortunately, the speedster was never good at having heart to hearts, or expressing his genuine emotion.

Abruptly, Bart cut through the silence like a knife, speeding into the outfit quicker than one could comprehend, slamming his locker door loudly. Shooting his friend one of his usual bright, cheerful, smiles as he took his wrist, “Come on, they’re gonna head out without us at this rate, suit up!” Judging from Jaime’s silence and willingness to suddenly be dragged away, Bart became worried. He wasn’t convincing him at all, was he?

Chapter Text

Using the bioship to make their way towards Cadmus, it had been a fairly uneventful ride, full of meaningless team building chatter as per usual. However, Jaime’s responses were infrequent, only brought upon when Bart or another teammate had called for his attention in particular. His mind was elsewhere, wondering about his partner’s odd behavior. It wasn’t like Bart to suffer in silence like this, usually he’d complain loudly over a bag of chicken whizzies about how terrible his day was and simply laugh it off afterwards. It wasn’t rocket science that he’d been concealing some of the complicated feelings for his missing cousin, but just how many of his worries was he hiding beneath the surface? If he was concealing his feelings about Wally, what else was he keeping to himself? The two of them have been best friends since day one, so the fact that Bart didn’t trust Jaime enough to vent to freely jabbed at his heart a bit. After the mission was over, Jaime decided that he’d talk to him about it more seriously, but as the thought rang through his mind, another voice chimed in.


‘Such confrontation would only scare The Impulse into retracting away from the current trust the two of you hold, or attacking once you have cornered him. Both routes are unfavorable, suggested action is maintaining our silence.’ Droned the scarab, as monotone as ever.


Jaime grumbled to himself, furrowing his eyebrows at Khaji Da’s response. As much as he hated to admit it, the annoying little pest could be right sometimes. “Yea yea…” he offhandedly agreed to the voice in his head.


“See, even he agrees with me!” Bart shouted, looking rather satisfied with Jaime’s answer, grinning broadly towards his teammates who were obviously surprised to hear his answer.


Jaime turned to Bart, a confused expression on his face, “W-Wait what?” he stumbled, not quite sure what it was he had just agreed to.


Turning back to the Blue Beetle, Bart chimed, “You agree that ‘Cutthroat Kitchen’ is a real cooking show!”


He had hoped to be clearer on what he’d agreed to after hearing the answer, but if anything, that just confused him all the more. He wasn’t one for watching cooking shows that often, so he had never even heard of this particular one. Shooting Tim an exasperated stare, Robin caught wind of the situation. He explained, “Cutthroat Kitchen is like a cooking show, but the chefs get to sabotage each other until it’s not even about talent anymore, it’s just about what crazy impairments the host can dish out and who’s willing to pay the most to inflict them!”


“Not true!” Bart interrupted, “If someone is a really good chef, they should be able to cook a killer soufflé, whether they have the ingredients to it or not!” he claimed, crossing his arms.


Right as the others were readying to begin bickering once again, M’gann interrupted, “We’re here.” At that, all eyes shot forwards towards the bioship’s dashboard, previous conversation pushed aside for the time being as they were greeted with the gloomy yet intimidating nature of the facilities outside.


Conner remained eerily quiet, an irritated look across his face at being back in the place he despised so much. Yet, even if he hadn’t been invited on this mission, he would have demanded to come anyways. Jaime noted the concerned look that M’gann shot Conner’s way, but didn’t think much of it. Sideways glances and longing looks were commonplace for the both of them, and had become the norm. After M’gann broke up with L’gann so long ago, everyone had naturally expected the two of them to get back together, but even if they had, things would never have been the same. She had forced Conner to forget being upset with her, and that was an offense that he had deemed unforgivable. So, their relationship remained on thin ice, neither of them wanting to overstep the other’s boundaries or tread on the sensitive matter. It made things a bit awkward sometimes, but it had never gotten in the way of a mission before, so it had never been formally addressed or dealt with.


As the ship hovered over the drop area, everyone had taken to unbuckling their seatbelts and heading towards the large gaping hole that began to form in the middle of the ship. Jaime followed suit, unbuckling his seatbelt, heading to the crowd, and sliding down a dangling rope when his time came, keeping his footsteps light as they made sure not to make any noise that would call for any attention. As the bioship transformed into her camouflaged mode, M’gann telepathically followed up, ‘I’ve set up the mind link, keep me in check, I’ll be right here in case something happens.’


‘You got it!’ Wondergirl chimed in, followed by Kid Flash, as he took the first exaggerated tiptoed steps towards the facility. ‘Let’s get this show on the road.’ Robin tailed after the two of them, attempting to keep a reign on the situation. He could be a good leader, but with people as eccentric as Bart and Cassie on the team, Jaime really had to give him more credit. It was difficult to keep those two from jumping into the heat of battle without first considering the repercussions. Then again, you shouldn’t need a babysitter to tell you that jumping into the ocean when you can’t swim is a bad idea. Jaime let a laugh bubble from his lips at the memory of Bart jumping in after Aqualad so carelessly, Tim screaming in the background as Kaldur brought him to shore.


A voice called from inside of his head, ‘Focus, Jaime Reyes,’ belonging to none other than the scarab that had made his home on his spine. Rolling his eyes, Jaime ignored the fact that Khaji Da was much like his own babysitter with a bad attitude. Instead, he cleared his throat, deciding to do as he was told and focus on the task at hand.


Jaime glanced at Conner beside him, whose hands were balled into tense fists that made him wonder if he was really going to be okay going inside, and possibly seeing the places that scarred him before. ‘The Superboy’s vitals are normal, your worry is profitless towards our mission, continue forward.’ The scarab insisted. Although a bit hesitant to do so, he started after his team, Conner following close behind.


Catching up to the others, they snuck in successfully, getting through an easily disassembled air duct. Bart however wondered, ‘Can’t I just phase through the wall?’ Which earned him a sharp glare from Robin, disrupting the idea immediately, ‘Absolutely not, then your god knows where in there alone, possibly with a whole fleet of those guys on your tail.’ And rather dejectedly, Bart had to admit, they were right. ‘Alright alright, I’ll crawl.’


Once he met Kid Flash at the crawl space entrance, Jaime nudged him playfully, hoping to brighten his spirits. Jaime offered a rather simple smile in his direction, and although it wasn’t much, it seemed to have an effect as Bart let out a sigh of defeat, his own smile tugging on the corner of his lips.


Satisfied with the soundless response, he followed his teammates into the crawl space, hearing Tim’s voice from up ahead. ‘There’s an opening not too far from here, we’ll come through there, take out the guards, and make our way to the elevator shaft.’ And despite not being able to see him, Conner was the next to chime in the headspace, ‘So what, we just sneak our way around here, bust their supply of Kobra-venom, then sneak out again? They’re just going to get more, and we’ll be right back where we started! He sounded more agitated than usual.


Cassie seemed to agree rather begrudgingly, ‘He’s got a point Tim, why don’t we take it out at the root of the problem rather than just buying ourselves some time?’


‘Because buying the League time is what we were asked to do, we don’t need to take unnecessary risks that stray from the mission,’ Tim offered as explanation. Only for Bart to suggest, ‘But wouldn’t they be happier if we just dealt with this new threat for them? We can do it, it’s kinda moded that they think we can’t handle something like a troll after all we’ve done in the past.’ However, he received no response, instead, the sound of feet hitting metal below them sounded signaling their stop was right up ahead.


After they had all finally made it out of the cramped space, Jaime looked around, ‘Isn’t it kind of...?’ Conner interrupted, ‘Quiet.’  There wasn’t anyone to be seen; instead, a long hallway that offered multitudes of doors holding the unknown inside of them. Jaime looked towards Bart, who leaned over slightly, stretching both of his arms behind his back. Noticing his gaze, Bart shot him a determined and cocky grin, straightening in posture. ‘Maybe they got the memo we would be here, and ran off with their tails between their legs!’


Tim offered a quick, ‘Proceed with caution...’ as they made their way down the hallway as a bundle. Jaime followed, now using the wings his scarab provided to make for quieter and quicker travel. His eyes darted to the sides, glancing at the doors as they passed, waiting for one of them to fly open with an armada waiting for them behind it.


Once they had reached the end of the hall, a large elevator door awaited them. Without a word, Wondergirl stepped forward, prying them open to grant them access to the empty shaft with little effort. The team leaned over the hole, huddled around to see just how far it went down. Bart had crouched, peeking under where Jaime stood, leaning over the hole. The speedster commented aloud, “Would it be bad if I spit down there?” before receiving a loud ‘shhhh’ from everyone else, reminding him of the mind link. ‘Okay okay, so who’s going first?’


Scratching his chin, Tim offered, ‘Superboy, we’re going to the bottom floor, think you can handle the fall?’  Which earned him a dirty glare.


‘Of course I can,’ He snapped.


‘Good. I’ll slide down via the rope, Blue, you and Wondergirl will fly down, take Kid Flash with you.’ It was still weird to hear him addressed by the name. To Jaime, he would always be Impulse. It had been his name when he arrived as his own person, so it was odd when he received Wally’s name, and he knew that Bart felt the same way. Nevertheless, he nodded in agreement.


At that, Superboy leapt down the shaft with not so much as a sound, his falling figure disappearing from sight. Next, Tim leapt to the rope, grabbing hold, and sliding himself down hand over hand. Wondergirl didn’t take a moment to hop in the hole herself, deciding to leave the two friends to their own devices with a wink that neither of the boys had noticed.


Which led Jaime to turn towards his friend, hardly leaving Bart anytime to comprehend the series of events before grabbing him thoughtlessly around the waist and pulling him closer. ‘Let’s get down there before they all beat us, esé!’ Not noticing the slight pink that began to dust the others face as Bart stammered, ‘Y-Yea..! Better hurry before Tim beats us at this rate.’ To which they received an annoyed, ‘I can still hear you.’ And although they knew he couldn’t see it, Bart stuck his tongue out in the holes direction. Jaime suppressed a chuckle, holding Bart closer as they began to descend down the hole.


Finally, they made it to the bottom. Tim followed closely behind, meeting Conner who was dramatically standing there with his arms crossed impatiently. Bart seemed to have forgotten about his previous embarrassment, practically wiggling out of Jaime’s hold with excitement at the new and exciting scenery. While it was troublesome, the Latino couldn’t help but be comforted by the overzealous behavior that let him know his friend was all right.


The group’s attention was then turned towards the large vault like door at the end of the oddly structured hallway. This one was not a straight shot, instead, making a few slight curves, and the walls almost appeared to be alive, covered in an eerily flesh like material. The team headed down the hallway, the silence dissipating as Bart gagged, earning the others his attention as they turned back. By the looks of it, the speedster had poked one of the sac like things on the wall, and judging by the underdeveloped fetus looking thing on the ground, it had popped. Wondergirl covered her mouth with her hand, suppressing her own disgusted wretch at the haunting sight, ‘What would even possess you to try to touch that thing?!’ she scolded. Tim winced, but other than that, looked rather unphased. Bart didn’t offer any answer, turning as if to lean on the wall and dramatically gag once more, but at the sight of the wall he was met with the same disgusting thing as before.


In an effort to stop the panic before it got out of hand, Jaime took the few paces to him, placing a hand over Bart’s mouth. Meeting his bright green eyes sternly as he placed a finger over his own lips. ‘This is a stealth mission hermano, you’re going to get us caught if you keep making a scene! Keep it quiet, capiche?’ Bart nodded, meeting Blue’s eyes for a moment rather seriously. The mousy haired speedster let the moment hold before suddenly slapping his goo covered hand on Jaime’s head, splashing him with the fluid. This earned him a loud, vocal, Qué chingados!!”  As Jaime desperately tried to swipe away the foreign stuff hopelessly entangled in his hair. Bart erupted in a laughter that normally Jaime would have been happy to hear, but at this point, he wanted nothing more than to give him a rough shove. However, the laughter from the red head began to travel, causing all of them to stop in their tracks once they’d realized just how loud they had been; Bart slapped his hands over his mouth, Jaime’s muscles tensing.


The laughter travelled through the large cave like level, echoing much farther than any of them had expected. Tim whispered sharply, “Don’t…move...” as they all waited for something to happen. Jaime bit his tongue as he looked at his friend with wide panicked eyes, forgetting his previous offence entirely.


Time seemed to have stopped as the hairs on his arms raised dramatically underneath his suit. Jaime flinched violently at the normally monotone voice of his scarab, ‘There are multiple unknown figures approaching bearing alien technology, one of them appears to be much larger than the rest, prepare yourself Jaime Reyes. Suggested action, immediate termination on sight.’ They had been found out.


Seeing no reason to keep quiet anymore, Jaime asked Khaji Da as he looked around almost frantically, “Which direction are they coming from?!” already unsheathing a blaster on his dominant hand. ‘Northeast’ The beetle instructed.


Right as Robin opened his mouth to scold Blue Beetle for giving them away, the large vault like door behind the team began to loudly creak open. As soon as the other side became visible, Jaime’s chest sank at the sight of the dozens of varying forms of gremlin like aliens. However, it was the largest one in the middle that made his stomach churn. This creature towered far above them all, adorning jagged teeth, multiples of sets of glowing eyes, blemished off white skin, and massive bark-like antlers that seemed as if they had been put backwards.


Once the door had completely opened, all hell broke loose at the sound of the head monsters ear piercingly high-pitched cry.



Chapter Text

All at once, time seemed to move in slow motion, yet still too quick to keep up with. It might have been the loud roar from the beast that caused it, or the adrenaline coursing through his veins that was making Bart’s ears ring. It took a moment for the rusty haired speedster to recover from the noise, instinctively covering his ears with the palms of his hands. He turned to look at his teammates, who all writhed in similar manners, desperately attempting to shake off the aftermath. It wasn’t until his head was abruptly hit that he had even noticed how close the enemies were, he hadn’t even seen them move.


Bart allowed himself to fall against the ground like dead weight, hand coming up to resituate his now stinging jaw as his senses finally began to catch up with him. All of the familiar shouts and rages of battle began to filter through, not to mention a voice calling out to him over the mind link; A few of them, actually.


‘Bart...! Hey, are you okay?!’ cried out the familiar voice of his brave yet inexperienced leader.


‘Now’s not the time!’ Superboy angrily spat in between knocking the heads of two alien creatures together.


Before allowing himself to get pummeled by the same creature that had knocked him down, the speedster did what he did best: ran. ‘I’m fine!’ he called through, ‘But what’s the plan for dealing with all of these guys? This wasn’t really in the mission briefing.’


While rushing through the venue, Bart made sure to take down as many of the gremlins as possible. Yet, in the grand scheme of things, it didn’t seem to be making that much of a difference.


Jaime was floating overhead, dodging the monsters that also had the gift of flight. Using one of his beams, he was able to push them back and knock the ones on the ground off of their feet. ‘We aren’t really getting anywhere like this, esé! Isn’t it about time you let us in on your plan?’


Robin was keeping busy. Without any superhuman ability, he had to keep light on his toes with so many enemies at once. He would throw a round of birdarangs at one group, only for another fleet to come his way. Tossing one of his gadgets to the mass that barreled his way, the enemies had all frozen mid step and begun to violently convulse before falling to the ground. While Conner had thought that bringing such high-tech stuff wouldn’t be necessary, TIm was grateful that he followed his intuition. Once he had gathered a moment to process his thoughts, the leader called to the team, ‘We need to get rid of the big guy. If we get rid of him, I’m sure that all of the other ones will scatter like rats!’


Kid Flash wasn’t so sure of the half assed plan, and by the sound of the silence that hung in the mind link, he wasn’t the only one that was doubtful. It was a bit of a stretch, but at this point, it didn’t sound half bad. At least it was something. Noticing the silence, Cassie reluctantly implored as she held a rather feisty alien against the ground, ‘Well, how do we get rid of the big thing?’  The creature in her grasp began to kick and hiss, causing a bit more trouble than Wondergirl was willing to deal with. Like clockwork, she delivered a punch to their head, knocking them out before she swiftly turned around and did the same for one that had been coming up behind her. ‘It’s kinda sticking to the back, do you think it even does anything other than decoration?’


Quickly, Superboy came to a realization, ‘It must be telepathic, like the ones that taught me when I stayed here’’ and while nobody knew quite what he meant as they hadn’t asked for his rich history, telepathic was all they needed to know.


Looking at the odd horn like structures on the creature closely, Bart exclaimed aloud. “It’s using those things to deliver out commands I think. We gotta smash em!” What was the point of maintaining the mind link at this point? Not to mention that that thing might be able to tamper with their signals somehow. Bart wasn’t sure how telepaths worked really, and he wasn’t going to waste the time asking.


“Well if its horns we gotta smash, we can assume they aren’t going to be made of Styrofoam! How are we going to blast through that?” Jaime called overhead, causing Kid Flash to look upwards.


Blast through it!” Bart repeated, pointing at Blue’s arm that had been reformed into a sort of gun like contraption.  “Shouldn’t that be enough to at least crack them if not break them entirely?”


Jaime looked down at the weapon. He was a bit unsure of its full potential, and was a bit nervous to aimlessly shoot it at the creature.


Without being asked, the scarab on his back monotonously spoke, ‘The impact from the ray gun will not be enough to terminate the creature. It’s mass is too great, I suggest another choice of weapon that would be more profitable.’


He seemed a bit unsure at first, but hearing the scarab tell him that this wouldn’t be enough to kill them, he finally agreed, “Alright, let’s give it a shot!”


However, hearing that caused a rather firm and demanding voice to sound through the screeches, “No!” Superboy called out, “Don’t kill it, it’s being manipulated!” He’d always had a soft spot for the aliens born at Cadmus, and unfortunately for the team it was putting them at a bit of a halt.


Bart made a move to retort Conner’s sentimental response, but snapped his mouth shut quickly as another enemy came barreling towards him. He opted instead to running around the edge of the perimeter, avoiding as many as he could while this guy decided to be difficult. “We have to do something! Otherwise we’re going to be here all day!”


Tim agreed, “We’ve got to stop it Conner, we’ll just incapacitate it!” the leader called, throwing his arms outwards in an effort to throw off all of the gremlins that began to build up on him. He rummaged through his utility belt to find something useful that would work on something as big as that. In the meantime, the rest of the team were keeping themselves busy with the hoards that didn’t seem to let up.


Bart was getting tired of running in circles, hitting every other thing that got in his way, and dodging every other attempt at being tackled. He made an attempt to look at Tim, who was still rummaging for some sort of escape plan. Impatient, the speedster decided it was time to take matters into his own hands. Or, well, Blue’s hands. “Blue!” he called, stopping short underneath his floating friend, “C’mon, just give that thing a quick blast, just knock it off of its feet or something!”


While Jaime was a bit unsure, he gave Bart a firm nod. He too was wearing thin from this mad goose chase and was more than ready to just end it. They didn’t have time for Robin to find some sort of emergency gadget that might or might not get them out of here.


Firing up one of his blasters, he pointed it directly at the creature, which seemed to not even respond to the threat. “Here goes nothing…” he sighed, sending a bright light beaming through the enclosure.


At the same time, Tim had located just what he needed within his belt. It was a sort of ‘bomb’ that merely froze the enemy in an ice like prison. It would be enough to stop them, though for how long, he wasn’t too sure. Growing frantic, Tim messily threw the ball like weapon at the massive creature.


With impeccable timing that only Bart would have been able to comprehend, Tim’s gadget struck the creature only a moment before Blue beetle’s blast; freezing the creature to the spot. As Blue’s blast reached the creature, what normally might have been a violent shock backwards suddenly turned fatal. The ice shards shattered outwards, the team covering their faces quickly in an effort to protect themselves from the backlash.


By the time the dust had settled, Bart looked where the massive creature once stood in shock. The boulder like being was completely erased from the scene; in its wake were scattered hunks of ice amongst the floor that left even the gremlin like enemies speechless.


Finally, one of them rung out in a garbled tone what one could only imagine was a shout of retreat. They quickly fell back to the vault, the door closing slowly as many of them ducked in order to make it in time.


Nobody had said a word, but Jaime had hovered down a couple of feet away from Kid Flash, his eyes wide with shock as he was unable to even reform his arm back to the way it had been. He’d killed it.


Superboy threw a gremlin that he’d been holding, stomping over to Jaime with clenched fists, “I told you not to kill it!!” he spat. The sudden sharpness in tone sprung the boy out of his shock, taking two steps back at the sudden screaming of his teammate. “I tell you to do one thing and you can’t even do that?!”


Cassie quickly came to Conner’s side, attempting to place a hand on his shoulder, “Conner, he didn’t mean-“


Conner, however, wasn’t having it. He roughly tugged his shoulder away from Cassie, “Like hell he didn’t mean it! What do you think he meant by shooting a fucking laser at it?!”


Bart rushed in between Superboy and Jaime, who was stammering out an apology, “I-I didn’t mean to do that...! I swear...! I was just- “


Bart had heard enough of his apologies, cutting in as he moved to step in between his friend and his teammate that was getting dangerously close to his personal space. “It wasn’t his fault Conner, I told him to do it, how were we supposed to know that Tim was gonna chuck an ice ball at it? Someone had to do something!”


Robin had heard enough, “Alright, knock it off, that’s enough!” raising his voice a bit more than what was characteristically normal for him, catching everyone’s attention. “It’s done, we’re finished here. We need to get out before they retaliate, you can fight about it back on the bioship.”


While nobody dared to fight against him, Conner’s death glare hadn’t let up at all. Kid Flash merely gave Jaime a nudge in the direction that had entered from, “C’mon Blue… let’s get outta here...” It wasn’t worth it to get on Superboy’s bad side, especially with something that he took so personally. Not to mention that Bart couldn’t help but feel responsible for the far-off stare in the other’s eyes. They were always so warm with life and positivity, but now, they seemed unsure, afraid even.


The walk back to the bioship was extremely awkward for all of the parties involved. Superboy and Cassie hung back as she attempted to talk sense into him, whispering harshly how unfair it was to blame Jaime for the happenings. Tim was the mediator, walking in-between silently, while Jaime and Bart lead up front.


Bart was unsure how to console his friend. Usually, a pat on the back and some snacks was enough to put his mind at ease. Though it was obvious that a simple bag of chicken whizzies and a funny sitcom wasn’t going to work for this particular situation. Bart had attempted to make conversation a couple of times, but the other’s responses were short and left little room to branch off.


“Who would have thought we’d end up beating up Justice League material baddies today!” the speedster chirped in faux enthusiasm.




“I bet Batman will be impressed, he might even crack and say he’s proud of us!”




“About the alien goo thing, you know I was just playing around, right Blue?”


“I know…”


“…. It’s not your fault y’know?” The speedster gently murmured.


“It is…” Jaime insisted, furrowing his eyebrows as he suddenly found the ground very interesting.


“How? Literally, you were just trying to knock it down, I even told you to! If anything, it’d be my fault for pushing you and being so impatient!” He interjected a bit too harshly, desperate to steal the guilt that weighed on the other.


“Scarab should have caught that, he’s usually so fast with that stuff, I shouldn’t have had such an itchy trigger finger. If I’d just waited one more second, if I’d just bound it to the ground first or something, I wouldn’t have…” reluctant to say the word, he faltered, “I wouldn’t have killed it...”


Ever since he’d been set on mode, Jaime had always been a bit hyperaware of his behavior in battle. He was always arguing with the scarab when he gave advice in the heat of it all, making sure that he was the one in charge rather than the other way around. Scarab of course complied, as he previously mentioned he rather enjoyed their partnership and that Jaime’s worries were wasted, after all it was The Reach who had controlled him and set him on mode. Telling him not to worry wasn’t suddenly making his fears disappear.


The speedster was at a loss as to what to say for a moment, hanging in the silence as he too looked at the ground in front of them. “It’s done now…and as bad as that sounds, and I know you don’t believe it, but it was just a mistake Jaime…Don’t beat yourself up…” Bart suddenly felt a welling of something in his chest, reaching for the others hand reluctantly as he vented, his voice sounding more genuine and sincere than usual, “I can’t stand to see you this miserable…”


Jaime doesn’t make an effort to move away from him and slowly the red head intertwined his fingers with his friend’s in an effort to provide some sort of comfort. “Look. I know you’re still really upset, you can spend the night at my house tonight. We can watch TV, eat a bunch of unhealthy food, and not even talk about it. Is that okay?” He leaned in gently, hoping to catch a glimpse of the others expression just to gauge his response.


However, it was unneeded as Jaime slipped his hand out of the others grasp, taking a few steps ahead in order to distance himself just enough so that he wouldn’t reach for his hand again. “Thanks, but…I’d really prefer to just have some time to myself tonight…I’ve got a lot on my mind…maybe next time, okay?”


Bart pressed his own hand against his leg as he walked, clenching his fist as he scolded himself mentally. His eyes were glued to the others back as he walked away from him, “Yea…okay...” he squeaked. Attempting to hold back the fact that he felt more than a little dejected at being denied.


After that, the rest of the walk was silent, the ride up the elevator deafeningly so. When they returned to the bioship, Ms. Martian was rightfully worried as nobody had been communicating over the mind link and she’d lost communication in the heat of the battle. Robin filled her in on the situation, of course sparing her details that he deemed trivial. She was a bit surprised, but reading the mood, she decided that now wasn’t the time for questions, or inquiring on their findings in the facility.


Bart sat in his seat near the window, hands in his lap, eyes glued to them as he busied himself with twiddling his thumbs. On the way up, he had been chattering with his teammates, messing around without a care in the world. Glancing over to Jaime, his silence was the one that struck a chord with him the most. His arms were crossed and he sat slumped in his seat as he whispered things that he could imagine were meant only for Khaji Da to hear, looking pointedly to the front.


Bart took in a deep breath through his nose, letting it out slowly the same way. Surely Jaime just needed some time, it was a lot to take in. For now, his friend just needed some time, and space to gather all of his thoughts. Not to mention to get through all of the arguing that was surely in store between Jaime and the scarab tonight. Bart would text him tomorrow and see how he was doing then.


Chapter Text


After having returned from the mission at Cadmus, the Justice League promptly asked for a full report on what they had discovered. The team had given each other pained expressions before finally settling their gaze on Blue Beetle. M’gann was the one to find her voice before her teammates, reluctantly telling Jaime that it might be best if he were to go home, reassuring him they, too, would head home soon as well. They’d all had a rough day, and were by no means prepared for what had transpired. Bart of course had wanted to speak against sending Blue off, but looking to his friend, it was evident on the boy’s face that he was more than a little rough for wear. Having taken off the mask of his suit, Jaime’s eyes were darkened and distant, his hair was tousled and sweaty, and he held himself as though carrying his own weight was a burden. There was no doubt in the speedster’s mind that he was beating himself up for what had happened, and that a time like this, being alone might be what’s best for him, so, he took a step back. Allowing the others to talk him into heading back to his college dorm.


He hadn’t put up too much of a fight on staying for the meeting, what would have been the point? So, Jaime headed out of the cave, suiting up the mask over his face as he prepared himself for the flight back to his home. He’d been prepared for a quiet trip, in fact it’s what he’d wanted. Of course, as soon as he’d zeta tubed out of the cave, a familiar voice rung in his head once again.


“If you intend on continuously ignoring my advice- “ it began, Jaime however, cut him off, snapping a bit too hatefully “I hear you okay?”


“Then you are intentionally refusing to respond?” the scarab retorted rather plainly.


Having cleared the outskirts of the cave far enough, Jaime spread the wings resting on his back and took flight. “I have nothing to say about it, Scarab…”


‘Scarab’, was what Jaime usually called the beetle in the past. However, once he had found out that he actually had a name, Jaime had been calling him by it since. After all, he was basically another person, Khaji Da was his own entity with his own thoughts, albeit violent ones. However, Khaji Da was called ‘scarab’ on those rare occasions when Jaime would find himself too irritated to even bother with the world. Having heard himself being called that, was usually the sign that it was time to drop it. Of course, more times than not, he’d ignore it entirely. Luckily, today the beetle complied with the warning and decided to keep his metaphorical mouth shut for the time being.


Jaime couldn’t have been more content with the lack of response, and rather savored the silent flight. It was rather drawn out, time seeming to pass by slowly. But with all of the thoughts plaguing the young adolescents mind, he sought out happiness even in the slightest of things. The wind that brushed against his suit promised relief from the cold sweat he’d found himself in, and it didn’t take a moment of thought for him to chance bugs in his eyes and remove the mask of his suit.


He’d half expected the roach on his spine to retort something cocky about how it was ‘ineffective’ or ‘unintelligent’ to do so, but he remained silent. Thankful, Jaime allowed himself to savor the cool breeze against his face. It was getting colder by the day, and judging by the nip in the wind, fall would be here in no time.


Fall was Jaime’s favorite season as it held the promise of so many holidays; those were always something that he looked forward to. Not to mention that after the terror that was exams in December, he’d be given the option to move back home to El Paso for Christmas if he so desired. If he wanted to do so this time around though, Jaime wasn’t very sure. He had plenty of time though to decide though, and rather fixated himself on more current issues.


Seeing the familiar building structure of his dorm hall in the distance, the boy decided it be best to land and walk the rest of the way. He could only imagine the sort of attention he’d stir up if he just flew up to Hull hall and swiped his card in costume like it was no big deal.


Landing on the pavement of a far-off parking lot, Jaime shoved both of his hands in his pockets, eyes hyper focused on the path ahead of him. Sauntering through the lot and onto the inner campus grounds, he found himself biting at the insides of his cheeks, something he often did when he thought too hard about something.


He knew that he shouldn’t have shut Bart down the way he did for a hangout sesh. The two of them were so close, his feelings were no doubt hurt when Jaime had rejected him the way he did. Sure, he hadn’t been rude or anything about it, but Bart was a sensitive soul. Since their first disagreement and the fur began to fly, it was evident that Bart took the empty words to heart. Usually ending up in Jaime apologizing profusely and making it up with whatever snack that Bart was craving that time of day.


Taking out his student ID from his back pocket, Jaime waited for the ‘ding!’ of approval like clockwork, and swung open the hall door with his shoulder once he’d heard the metallic clang of the locking mechanism. The student worker at the desk looked up from their laptop, greeting him enthusiastically despite how late it was. The sun had gone down hours ago, and although he hadn’t looked at his phone since the mission began, Jaime could guess it was around one in the morning. He offered the worker a hand of acknowledgement, managing some sort of grumble that couldn’t even be disguised as an actual form of words as he made his way to the door off the right side of the entryway.


He gave his card another swift swipe as though he were making a purchase, and he shoved his way through and into the halls after hearing the doors unlock. Clenching his jaw as he fumbled with the keys to his dorm room, as soon as he made his way through the door, he violently threw the keys into the wall directly adjacent as though he had been holding the action back the entire way home.


The loud clang of the keys hit the concrete walls, and fell ungracefully onto the equally as hard floor. Jaime clenched his fists into tight balls, and wondered if he’d made a mistake. Maybe Bart had been right, that being alone right now might really not be the best for him. He needed an outlet, something to get his mind off of the day. Something to cleanse the thought from his mind of the fact that he had taken a life. Looking up to his room, for once, he was glad that it was absolutely trashed; it gave him something to do.


Jaime wasted no time, grabbing the first shirt he came across on his floor and tucked in under his arm to free his hand to gather more. Rarely did he ever find himself in a mood to clean, unless something really great, or really terrible had happened. Since those both were pretty rare occasions, there was plenty to clean.


Picking up a shirt that was yellow in hue, he couldn’t recall having worn it recently. Bringing the article to his nose, and taking in a deep sniff of it to check just how worn it was, he found himself quickly drawing back. Someone had definitely worn it. He paid it little mind, tucking it under his arm as well as he moved to the others. Once he finally seemed to clear the floors enough, Jaime moved to dump his full arms into the dirty clothes hamper in his closet.


Looking to his desk, then to the desk only a couple of feet from it, it seemed such an odd sight. His desk was covered in his things; his laptop, pens, bottles, empty food containers. While the one beside it was free of anything at all. That was one thing about living in a private room that he could do without.


The boy was worried about living with a roommate because of his secret identity, afraid that they might wonder why he spent so little time studying and so much time god knows where. Luckily, Bruce Wayne had offered to pay the difference to find himself in a private room, otherwise, his family wouldn’t have been able to afford the luxury; If you could even call it that. Whenever he laid in his bed, looking up to what should be the ceiling, he would instead see the empty bunked bed atop of his. He had bunked them to save space upon move in day, but now, he begged for something to take up the empty space. Jaime’s room always felt as though it was missing a piece of the puzzle. Although, with his infrequent and sudden outbursts like these, it was nice to never have to answer some nosey rooms mate’s questions.


Having dealt with his laundry, Jaime started towards his cluttered desk, collecting the empty containers of food. Cheap macaroni and cheese, empty bags of chips, boxes of cookies; he really could use a better diet if he were being honest. But hey, that was part of being a college student.


Rather than pick up all of the offending containers, some of which were still lingering with sauce and crumbs inside, Jaime used his foot to drag his garbage can closer to him, and slowly lead them to the edge of his desk to tumble into the bin. Satisfied with his work, yet still itching for something more to do, next, he went for his dresser, maybe his clothes could use folding? He was one of those heathens that rummaged through the drawers in a rush, disassembling any sort of previous order.


Reaching his dresser, he knelt down to start from the bottom and work his way up. However, a sudden ‘ping!’ caught his attention from above. Standing back to his feet, at the top of his dresser he noticed his phone lit up with a message. If he had taken a moment to think of it, he might not have read the notification at all, but luckily, he wasn’t really thinking that clearly today.


Unlocking his phone and opening the text message, it shouldn’t have surprised him to see the familiar joke name he had given Bart light up on the screen.


Greased Lightning: im sorry abt earlier, if I said anyhing to upset you

Greased Lightning: *anything


He was surprised to see that his friend had actually texted him, but decided against questioning his good fortune. After what he had said earlier, Jaime had been afraid that maybe he had come off as too strong earlier and things between them might have become awkward, thank god he hadn’t. Rather, he began to type out a message of his own. Completing the ritual of typing a full message, staring at it for too long, and promptly deleting it a few times in a row. Continuously looking at his phone screen, the boy walked mindlessly to his bed and sat down wondering what the correct response might be. Eventually, he just said ‘fuck it’, and went with what he had typed out.


‘ nah, don’t worry, you didn’t say anything. It just freaked me out is all. We can hang out sometime tomorrow and I’ll make up for tonight!’


Looking at the message he had sent, the corners of his lips began to turn downward as he began to read into the many ways it could be taken wrong, or twisted into something terrible.


Jaime let out a loud and dramatic sigh as he flopped onto his back, mumbling to himself, “This is just perfect...”


“You are aware that your beliefs are wrong, correct Jaime Reyes?” drawled the beetle, uninvited.


Jaime didn’t mention it though, instead nodding as he spoke, “I know, Khaji…”


“Then why do you humor yourself this way? It’s putting your body under extreme amounts of stress and it is having an overall negative effect on your health. Lacking sleep, nutrition, what you call ‘basic human interaction’, At this rate-“ cutting him off again, the boy the scarab was attached to interjected, “I don’t know!” rubbing the palms of his hands into his eyes.


There was no logical explanation for why Jaime blamed himself for the things he did when he was on mode. He blamed himself for not being able to fight it off, he blamed himself for hurting his friends the way he had, he just felt so powerless. He had tried to find ways to assume control over himself in the past, thinking that maybe if he harmed himself, he would maintain some control over what his body felt or did for once. However, as imagined, Khaji Da had a zero tolerance for harm intentionally being done to the body; and that had been the end of that thought process.


“While I find myself unable to understand the depth of your complicated- ‘feelings’, I do pity your current state.” Khaji offered.


While it should have upset him a bit more to hear that, it was the type of blunt humor that he needed. Jaime chuckled in disbelief at the comment, dragging his hands down his face as he scoffed, “Thanks…”


Just then, his phone made its usual ‘ping!’ notification once more; resulting in him rolling onto his side to peek at the message. Resting his head in the palm of one of his hands and unlocking his phone with the other, his eyebrows furrowed in confusion to see that it was not from Bart- but from the teams group chat.


 They hardly used it beyond missions or occasional goof balling around when one of them was bored to death in lecture. After all, Red Tornado insisted it be made solely for the purpose of discreet communication. How it was discreet though, nobody really questioned. It was the easiest way to have asked for Bart’s number, being too shy to ask for it without a good reason himself, and Jaime blessed Red for it. The group chat consisted of everyone from newer members like Garfield Logan, to original members like Dick Grayson and Wally West, who’s numbers nobody had the heart to remove from the chat room.


Even if Dick or Wally never responded to any of the messages, it felt as though they were including them. Just in case that Dick ever wanted to come back, or if maybe, Wally was still out there somewhere. Since moving to Blüdhaven after Wally’s death, Nightwing hadn’t had communication with anybody other than his father; who of course insisted that what Dick said was none of the team’s business.


Opening the message, Jaime couldn’t help but roll his eyes as he noted that someone had changed the name of the group chat once again, they never were able to agree on it. By the looks of it, this time it was Tim who changed the name.


Group Chat:



Wonderball: Hey guys!! ^ v ^ After all the great work that everyone put through today, Tim thought it’d be a great idea to celebrate! It was really rough out there today, and we thought it’d be nice to let a load off and just relax for a bit. Tomorrow is a Saturday, so everyone should be good, right?? It’ll be at Tim’s house!


Team Mom: That sounds like a splendid idea Cassie


Superdick: is this really a good idea


Wonderball: why wouldn’t it be? o.o


Superdick: nvm…


Team Mom: Of course, I’ll be there to facilitate.


Green Bean: that sounds awesome!! You can count me in!!


Hewwo Megan: will there be alcohol?


Bo Time: There will be, but not for children, so don’t get all excited B


Hewwo Megan: thank you


Green Bean: I wasn’t!!!


Team Mom: I’ll make sure there is no under-age drinking.


Hewwo Megan: thank you Kaldur!! ^ v ^


For a while it seemed that his phone was blowing up repeatedly with messages, but he was too busy considering if he wanted to go himself to even read them. He didn’t feel like partying at all, that was for sure. Not to mention there would be alcohol, and a lot of shit faced adolescents. Jaime was never a heavy drinker, he couldn’t stand his alcohol, and he didn’t see the appeal in getting nauseous over a night of ‘fun’. Then again, Bart had told him he needed to get his mind off of things, maybe this was the universe telling him he was right? He wouldn’t drink, he would just go and talk to his friends, watch them make horrible choices, and have a good time.


Right as he was finding himself leaning on the fence, another burst of messages came through,


Blonde Bitch: I’m busy tomorrow, so count me out.


Wonderball: booooo


Greased Lightning: I’ll be there for sure!! ;-D


Wonderball: See, Bart knows whats up!


And with that, Jaime quickly typed his own response.


‘you can count me in too’


With Bart there, at least he’d have someone to hang around if things got weird or a bit too much to handle. If he needed to make a quick escape, or just some time away from the group, he could trust that Bart would have his back. It released a huge amount of tension on the boy to know that at least he’d have his safety blanket.


Amongst his teammates gleeful responses as to who would be there, attempting to coerce those who were still not too sure, and boo-ing those who weren’t coming at all, there was a message from none other than Conner, stating rather blandly.


Superdick: count me out.


Jaime had no doubt in his mind that it was because he was still bitter over what had happened earlier, and for a split second, he even felt remorse. But quickly he pushed it aside, wasn’t he allowed to have fun with his teammates? Everybody messes up sometimes, hell knows how often that short tempered guy ruined something on a mission. Jaime wasn’t going to let it upset him, he was going whether or not Conner would be there.


He muted the group chat while it began to blow up with bustling plans for the party wondering who would bring what, directions to the house for the technology inept, and all sorts of other party planning. His phone let loose another promising ‘ping!’ this time, surely it was from Bart, and that lifted his hopes a bit.


Greased Lightning: I can’t wait to see you at the party tomorrow! dont forget about it! ;-D


The goofy emote that he had added to the end of his message caused Jaime’s lips to curve upwards into a smile as he wrote back,


wouldn’t miss it for the world tonto’


Drawing the conversation to a close, seeing just how late it was on his screen, Jaime finally his phone back on his desk. He roughly shimmied out of his jeans and threw them from the bed across the room to work on creating a new pile as he crawled back into bed in his t-shirt and boxers.


He decided to leave his desk lamplight on, rolling onto his side to face away from it. He’d be lying if he said he wasn’t still insanely bothered by earlier, even if every part of his brain screamed that it was an ‘accident’; he was having trouble making himself believe it. For the time being though, he had to admit, he was feeling alright. The boy had an optimistic outlook for tomorrow, and a full day of plans to keep his mind from wandering. It was the perfect recipe for success. That is, if things went according to plan.