Hal sends them on a mission in space, because that's a thing they do now. Missions in space. Like real Green Lanterns.
Jessica doesn't feel like a real Green Lantern yet. Not really, not even after everything she and Baz have been through together.
But when they touch down on Koball, the locals treat them like the real deal. There's a delegation waiting for them, and Jessica shakes hand with the King of the whole planet. Jessica Cruz, who's never so much as seen her local house representative before, is shaking hands with the leader of an entire planet.
"I'm Simon, and this is my partner, Jessica," says Baz. They never bother trying to hide their identities in space. Really, they're not even that great about keeping them locked down on Earth. Things get awkward when everyone's codename is Green Lantern.
He probably shouldn't have used the word 'partner'. That's where all the trouble starts.
The Koballians provide them with a hotel room for the duration of their mission, which is nice of them. The room only has one bed in it, which is less nice.
"I thought you said you already explained to them that 'partner' doesn't necessarily stand for 'romantic partner' on Earth," says Baz.
"I did!" says Jessica.
The Koballian language is awkward in a way that the rings are having trouble correcting for. She'd thought she gotten her point across after all the nodding and smiling their Koballian contact had done, but in retrospect, that was also how Jessica acted whenever she was confused and wanted a conversation to be over. So maybe she shouldn't have been so sure.
"Well, I thought I did. It's possible I may have just confused things even more. Or maybe it's normal for co-workers to sleep in the same bed on this planet, who knows."
On top of everything else, the average Koballian is about a foot shorter than the average human, so it isn't even a very big bed.
"I guess we can take turns sleeping on the floor?" offers Jessica. She had, for a brief moment, imagined both of them sharing it, and is now trying carefully to excise that mental image from her mind.
"Or we can just have two beds," says Baz, and a second light construct bed appears next to the first. It's also small, it has to be to fit in the cramped room, but yeah, that does make more sense than one of them sleeping on the floor.
"Oh, right," says Jessica. It's weird how easy is to forget you have a magic ring that can make anything. "Problem solved!"
Really, the problem is not solved, because for Jessica the problem goes a lot deeper than just the bed sharing thing. After three years of total social isolation, it's been hard just adjusting to sharing a house with her sister. And even in Sara's house she at least gets her own room. Jessica hasn't shared a room with anyone in years, not since college, and even in college she'd been kind of weird about it.
And it isn't like Baz snores, or talks in his sleep, or even rolls around much. He doesn't do anything but lie there and breathe evenly in his sleep, but just the presence of someone else in her space is enough to keep Jessica from relaxing enough to sleep herself.
So instead she lies there, useless thoughts racing through her brain all night, and when it's time for them to get to work in the morning she's not in the best mood.
"I wonder how long we're going to be here for," Jessica says, her voice rough from lack of sleep.
Simon shrugs. "I mean, this gang were looking for looks totally different from the locals," says Simon, and images flash up from his ring. The Koballians are small and blue but otherwise fairly human looking. The gang they're looking for, the Irasheen, are made up of a variety of species, but most of them are reptilian or amphibian and on the the larger side. "They can't be that hard to find, can they? They must stick out like sore thumbs."
Under ordinary circumstances they could have had their rings scan for different species on the planet's surface, but the Irasheen have some sort of jammer or blocker that is capable of confusing even a Lantern's ring. That's part of the reason the Green Lantern Corp got involved in the first place. That, and the weapons they're selling to every criminal in the sector.
Their gang must be rich from all the weapons sales they'd pushed through, but instead of buying a proper base somewhere they'd hunkered down on Koball, murdering any locals who either stumbled across them or had supplies the Irasheen wanted but didn't feel like paying for.
The thought of the strong taking from the weak like that makes Jessica's skin crawl.
While it's sickening to think about, at the very least the murders had pinned down the location of the gang to a single Koballian continent. Still, it's a huge amount of ground to cover, especially given that it's entirely unfamiliar territory.
"I'm just worried we're not the right team for this," says Jessica.
"Come on, J-bird. When are you going to accept that we're professionals? Teams don't come any more well-oiled than us."
"I mean, I agree we've gotten the whole beating up super villains things pretty well covered," says Jessica, although just saying it makes her wish she had a piece of wood around to knock on. "But tracking down weapons dealers? We're not exactly CIA. Or Batman."
"Anything Batman can do, we can do better," says Simon. "You just gotta believe in the team, Jessica. Besides, you're a hunter, right? Tracking down bad guys can't be that much different than tracking deer."
"Maybe," says Jessica. "But somehow I don't think this is going to be that easy."
Jessica's the one who does most of the tracking, but that doesn't stop Simon from being smug when it only takes them two days to find their target.
"See? No Batman required," he says.
He uses a normal voice, which sounds too loud to her ears while she's in hunting mode. She shushes him, even though they're currently concealed by a ridge and almost certainly too far away from the Irasheen encampment for his voice to carry. It's better to be safe than sorry, though. All of the lessons she's learned hunting haven't ever really gone away, even if she hasn't had much use for them over the past few years.
She counts down from three with her fingers and they go over the ridge together, as partners. Her plan is to take the Irasheen by surprise, but their reaction time is faster than she expects, and they get their guns up before she and Simon are close enough to take them down.
Jessica's ring has a protective shield up around her pretty much constantly while she's on duty, but even so she throws up an extra shield automatically.
Neither shield does anything to stop the blast of energy from the nearest Irasheen gun. She's had shields shatter and dissolve on her, but that's not what happens this time. The bolt just goes straight through them like they aren't even there, striking her in her shoulder.
She screams as she hits the ground, and Simon is over her in a second. "Jessica? Jessica, what the hell happened?"
The scream took all the air she had left in her lungs, and it takes her a second before she can breathe again. "Dodge," is all she manage to say, and Simon's face turns to a hard scowl as he turns away from her and back to the enemy.
She can hear him fighting, and she wants to help, but she can barely get herself sitting up.
"Ring," she finally manages to say, "Why isn't my shoulder healing?" She can barely even feel her actual shoulder, just a ring of pain around it, which is worrying.
"I'm trying!" says her ring. "Some kind of radiation effect is stopping me from healing the actual wound. I think whatever was in the blast that let it go right through your shield is also making it difficult to heal. I am keeping the trauma from shutting down your lungs and heart, though!"
"Cool! Thanks!" says Jessica. It's always important to focus on the positive in crisis situations! She has a functioning heart and lungs and that's great. If only she could actually manage to stand up and help her partner, that would be even better.
"Ring? I need you to help Simon," she says. She knows even as she's saying it that it's not going to work. The ring can't just do it for her. Jessica needs to get up, Jessica needs to be the one to come up with a useful construct.
"I think right now you should just lie down and concentrate your willpower on not dying," says her ring.
There's still lot of noise, which means Simon is up and still fighting. She can sense him, and the energy from his ring, even though she can't actually see him.
"No, I need to help him," she says. "We're a team, and need to help him."
It's not a solid construct, which is for the best, because she's not actually sure where the fighting is happening. It comes out of her ring like a wave, sweeping out in front of her, and she only even knows its helpful when she hears inhuman yelling. The Irasheen guns might be able to cut through lantern shields, but it doesn't seem like they've figured out how to block counter-attacks.
She knows the fighting is over when Simon appears back at her side. "J-Bird? You're still with me, right?"
"Sure," she says. "Always."
It's the last thing she manages before she slips out of consciousness.
She wakes up in what seems like an alien hospital room with a bunch of Koballians fussing over her. Her ring is trying to explain human physiology to them, and it doesn't sound like it's making much progress. She still can't feel her right shoulder, or the arm attached to it, but when she turns her head she can see that Simon is holding her hand.
He realizes she's awake when she turns to look at him. "Jessica? Are you okay?" he asks. "I'm not hurting your arm, am I?"
"It's fine," says Jessica. She doesn't want to tell him that she can't even feel it. She wishes she could, though.
One of the Koballians leans in to speak to her. "You seem stable, for now," he says. "Do you want to talk to the doctor? Or do you want us to give you some space to be alone with your husband?"
It takes her a second to process the Koballian's words. She should probably talk to the doctor, but her head is so fuzzy she's not really sure how awake she'll be once they come.
"It's fine," she says. "I can talk to the doctor later. Right now I'd like to be alone with my partner."
She waits until the room has cleared, and then she looks at Simon. "Husband?"
"I, uh, stopped trying to convince them that we meant something else by partner," says Simon. "I was worried they might throw me out of the room."
"That's fine," says Jessica. All the strange nurses and assorted spectators were making her nervous, but not Simon. She's glad he's there. He feels normal and reassuring and like he's the only thing standing between her and a breakdown.
Well, that, and she's just too exhausted for a breakdown. "I'm going to go back to sleep now," she says.
Simon says something, she can almost hear it, but she's asleep before she can make sense of the words.
The next time she wakes up it's to a flood of warmth rushing through her. It's radiating out from her shoulder, and it's a hard feeling to describe, but it's the opposite of pain. It's comfort and safety.
Her eyes open, and the first thing she sees is Simon standing over her. His eyes are closed, and his hands are positioned right above her shoulder, close to her skin but not close enough to be touching. He is muttering something too low for her to hear, and she realizes that she can feel her shoulder again.
"Did you heal me?" she asks, and Simon's eyes jerk open as he pulls back from her.
"Yes?" he says, sounding uncertain. "I mean, did I? You tell me."
She raises her arm above her head, and then swings it down in front of her. The movement feels normal. Nothing hurts, and nothing is numb from nerve damage.
"I'm pretty sure you did," she says, smiling.
Simon exhales and then slumps back down into his chair. "Good," he says. "That wasn't my first try. I was about to give up and see if I could find a Blue Lantern someplace."
Jessica waggles her fingers, checking to make sure everything is working properly. "We never did figure out how you could do that, did we?"
Simon shrugs. He's usually so confident, so proud of his abilities, but he's always been oddly hesitant whenever the subject of his healing comes up. "I don't understand how any of it works," he says. "I'm just glad it does."
Jessica smiles. Whatever Simon was doing, he's stopped, but she still feels warm and a little like she's floating. "Me too."
"Where's your husband?" asks the nurse. Jessica should know her name, and she definitely looks familiar, but unfortunately Jessica's not very good at telling the Koballians apart. 'The blue one' isn't a useful identifier when everyone around you is blue.
"He's not my husband, he's my partner," says Jessica, for what must be the hundredth time. "There's a difference. We're work partners, not- We're not romance partners."
"You don't love him?"
Jessica opens her mouth to say no, and then shuts it again, because that's entirely incorrect. She does love him. It's just that-
"It's more complicated than that," she says.
The nurse, and Jessica is fairly sure this one is called Corasti now that she thinks about it, shakes her head hard enough to ruffle up her hair. The Koballians do that a lot. As near as Jessica can figure it's their way of shrugging. "Whatever you say," says Corasti. "But where'd he go?"
"He's debriefing Hal - our boss, I guess you'd say - on those guys we captured the other day," says Jessica. "He left me here for now since I'm still a little woozy."
Her shoulder is back to normal, but she's still tired, even though she's spent most of the past few days asleep. It's probably just her body's way of trying to regain some of the energy she's spent over the past week.
But tired or not, as soon as Simon is back she's ready to leave. She's been away from home for too long.
She has no trouble keeping up with Simon as speed through space. They slow down as they enter the solar system, but not because she needs a break. Sometimes it's nice to just take your time and enjoy the sights.
They rocket by Saturn far faster than any man-made space craft has ever gone, but in the vastness of space it feels like they're moving in slow motion. Saturn and its rings take up most of her field of vision, even though they're miles and miles away.
"This is nice," says Jessica. She keeps her focus on the planet, and not the unending void of space behind her, and it is nice. It's still and it's quiet. "It's peaceful out here."
"It is pretty fucking cool," says Simon as they float away from Saturn and in the direction of the Earth. It'll take them a little out of their way, but they plan to swing by Jupiter too.
They move through space in silence for a while, and all of a sudden it hits Jessica how calm and happy she feels. And sometimes even just acknowledging a moment like that is enough to ruin it for her, but she just inhales and lets that wave of anxiety roll right over her. It doesn't always work, but sometimes it does, and it works for her right at that moment.
Simon is with her, but right now his presence isn't worrying, and she doesn't feel the need to fill the silence up with pointless rambling.
"I've been thinking about the healing thing," says Simon eventually, breaking the silence. "I think it's based on love, or something like that, even though that's not really a Green thing," he says.
"Yeah?" says Jessica. "I love you too."
She says it like he does, lightly, like they're partners and they love each other. It can just be about family, about friendship. And maybe it could be about romance, too, but it doesn't have to be.
He drifts over and takes her hand, and they glide past Jupiter like that, just holding hands alone in space, and it doesn't have to be about romance at all but it's still the most romantic thing Jessica has ever experienced in her life.
They're not partners like a husband and wife are partners, but all of a sudden she can imagine that for herself, someday in the future. Not right now, she's not ready for it right now, but someday.
Maybe even someday soon.