Jai West was fortunate enough to come to terms with his sexuality at a young age. He was apprehensive about telling his father (after years of hearing the story repeated of how Wally ran away from his best friend down the side of a building upon finding out he was gay), but eventually with the support of his honorary Uncle Piper, Piper's husband David, and his straight, but incredibly supportive and non-judgmental sister, he came out over a family dinner that ended up being dramatic for a completely different reason, when Bart made the announcement that he and Rose were getting married.
There were a few benefits to having come out so early on in life. For one thing, he was more than comfortable in his sexuality by the time he was expected to start dating, so he didn't have to deal with awkwardly avoiding the topic of why he wasn't interested in any girls, and he didn't have to face any teasing from his family over the girls that he was friends with. It also meant that he became somewhat of a consult for his fellow child superheroes, which was equal parts a blessing and a curse. With Iris it was easy enough - she was straight and cis and had no real reason to question that, no matter how many times her father questioned her motives behind cutting her hair short ("It's for aerodynamics, Daddy. I don't know what Lady Flash and Jesse Quick were thinking back in the day!"). Lian Harper's out and open bisexual father encouraged her from a young age to be unapologetically herself, and so as soon as she realised it, she came out as bisexual as well. Damian Wayne was harder. Jai had had a crush on the older boy for years, and when he and Damian spent some time talking about how he thought he might be bisexual ("It's okay if you are"), and didn't know how to tell his father ("He'll be fine with it"), and what if he got kicked out ("Uncle Dick will always take you in"), and what if his family disowned him ("They won't, I promise"), there was a small part of Jai that hoped Damian would end up asking him out in the end. He was completely crestfallen when Damian ended up asking out Iris instead.
Helping his friends out also helped him secure a place in their Teen Titans group when they eventually got it up and going. It was a small group - since not many of the heroes had children who survived, and there didn't seem to be many with powers appearing in the open to join them, there wasn't a huge roster to choose from, and it felt more like Young Justice than the iconic Teen Titans most of their parents had been part of. At first it was just Damian as Robin, Jai as Tech, Iris as Impulse, Lian as Speedy, and Colin Wilkes, who stayed behind and helped them with their tech, and that was fine by them. They helped each other train and grow, and actually managed to go a few years without any major dramas or deaths within the team (which they were pretty sure was a new record). And despite the gnawing feeling in his chest every time he saw another couple, Jai was absolutely fine with the fact that between high school, Titans, and his music lessons with Piper, by sixteen years old he'd never been on a date. It was fine.
"So do you have any idea what's actually wrong with him?" Lian reached over and poked Iris with an arrow lightly, making her roll over and make some room on the queen mattress that they'd somehow managed to squeeze into the treehouse in Lian's backyard. They were in the midst of a "girl's night", which for the two girls mainly included eating as much junk food as their respective metabolisms could handle, playing video-games, occasionally sneaking out to fight minor crimes (aided by the police radio that Jai had salvaged for them), and, most importantly, bitching about the boys in their team while they had the chance to do so. And they really needed the time away now, what with prom season approaching, and the recent additions of more boys to the Teen Titans; the resurrected Josh Jackham and Owen Mercer, and a small, angry little blonde boy who popped out of nowhere one day and was going by Spitfire (and could literally spit fire), but wouldn't tell them anything about himself beyond that.
Iris let out a heavy sigh and moved so that Lian could join her, immediately curling around to spoon Lian when she lay down. "I have no clue," she pouted, "He never tells me anything anymore. I just hope he's okay,"
The boy in question this time was Jai. Lian was extremely sympathetic to her friend, who somehow managed to be closest to both of the most emotionally needy members of their team. "I'm sure he's fine," She assured her, wrapping an arm around Iris' waist and squeezing. "It's not like he's going to follow you and Damian around at prom and third wheel, y'know?" She laughed a little, expecting Iris to join in, but the red-head had a thoughtful look on her face.
"Actually, I wouldn't put that past him," She said quietly, "He's already shy, and parties always make it worse. Maybe I can just ditch him with Uncle Piper - he's meant to be chaperoning."
It felt mean, but Lian had to agree with Iris there. Ditching Jai was probably going to be her best bet at enjoying prom (which made her incredibly sad - when had they started drifting away from him?). "Who knows, maybe he'll find a date?"
That comment actually did get a laugh out of Iris, and it distracted them for a few minutes while they came out of the gloomy mood that had settled around them..
"So," Lian eventually broke the silence, "you've already got your dress, right? Show me," and she reached over her friend to grab her phone out of the charging dock. She let Iris unlock it, and then scrolled through to look at the pictures of Iris in her dress. She'd picked a long, sleek, red dress, with a high neckline and no sleeves. She was already tall, and it flattered her ridiculously well. Lian let out a high-pitched squeal and squeezed her friend tight, "Oh my gosh, it's so pretty on you!" She enthused, "Is Damian going to match?"
Iris nodded, face flushed from embarrassment at the praise. Damian had been the one to buy the dress for her, and he'd picked out a matching tie and pocket square to wear with his well-cut black suit. He was already a celebrity, and shorter than his girlfriend, so he wanted to avoid drawing any extra attention to himself with flashy suits. Getting a designer suit wasn't flashy by his standards, though, and Iris wasn't entirely convinced he'd managed his goal. "We're going to look great," She said. She didn't sound very excited - more embarrassed and awkward, but inside Iris was happy beyond belief.
Lian pulled out her own phone and flicked through it for a moment before passing it over. "So, I got asked out by one of the juniors at my school," She pointed out the freckled kid in the Instagram post and smiled - a little shyly, actually, which was an odd look for the usually confident girl. "Their name is Darwin. We're in the debate team together," She elaborated.
"Oh my gosh!" Lian had been flirted with by practically everyone for-basically-ever, but as far as Iris knew (and Iris knew her best friend's life pretty damn well, thank you very much) she'd never said yes to someone. "So are you going to prom with them?"
"Oh my /gosh/!" She repeated, and pulled her friend in for another hug. "They're so cute! That's awesome,"
They ended up gushing over their respective dates for hours - much longer than they usually got to spend - and went to bed satisfied that they were going to have the time of their lives in the coming weeks. Of course, neither of them saw any of the calls that started coming in after they fell asleep.
Colin, unable to reach Iris, ended up resorting to something the Teen Titans had sworn never to do when they first began their team - ratting a team-mate out to their parents. He'd walked into the Tower, prepared to stay the weekend (despite no scheduled meeting) and do some updates, only to find Jai passed out on the communal sofa with an almost empty bottle of vodka in one hand and his phone displaying a pretty hateful message in the other from a guy, probably in Jai's year at school (though Colin couldn't be certain).
Now, none of the Titans held any illusion that Jai was popular. He was shy, kind of geeky, and even though he was gorgeous and quite fit, he tended to ruin his image whenever he spoke, making cruel and callous remarks without much thought behind it. But Colin hadn't realised that people actively disliked Jai - and even less so that it would cause his friend to be so miserable. So Colin did what any concerned friend would do (in his experience) and called Jai's father. After the awkward call, he took the bottle out of Jai's hand, turned off his phone, and pulled a spare blanket out of Jai's room there to wrap over him. Mr. West had sounded concerned, but was preoccupied with something else (as he often was when it came to his son), so the Pied Piper was going to fly over from Keystone to New York (in the dead of night) to rescue his sort-of godson (who was actually Nightwing's godson, but Nightwing was about as busy as the Flashes typically were, so probably couldn't make it).
Once he was sure Jai wasn't going to freeze, he sat down and pulled his head into his lap, pulling back the slightly greasy hair to stroke it. Jai had been growing it out since he was ten, and now it fell half-way to his waist, usually secured in a bun or a plait. At the moment it was all out, though - a tangled mess. Colin wasn't sure if anyone else had noticed, but in the past few weeks (coincidentally, as prom had begun approaching) Jai had grown more sullen and withdrawn than usual, snapping at people more easily, and taking it out particularly on the younger members of the Titans. When he was asleep, he couldn't see any of that.
He was shocked out of his deep thoughts when a painted black fingernail tapped against his lip, and he looked down into Jai's bleary, sleepy eyes. "Hi," Jai said, voice drunkenly slurring.
"Hi," Colin repeated back, which for whatever reason made Jai laugh. "Are you... okay?" It felt like an awkward question to ask, and it must have been because it just made Jai laugh even harder.
"Yeah," Jai eventually replied, once his laughter subsided. His smile dropped a little, but he maintained a soft smirk. "Yeah, I think I'm okay, I just --" His eyes shifted awkwardly to the side, and his lips pursed. "Wait," He looked back up at Colin, smirk renewed, "am I in your lap?"
Colin felt his face flush as bright as his hair, and he nodded.
"Aw, that's nice," Jai reached up again with the same hand to pat Colin's cheek. For once he didn't seem to be doing this as teasing, or with malice. "Y'know, I like you Colin. You're always so," He scrunched up his face adorable, trying to think of the right word, "nice."
"Um... thank you?"
"No, I really mean it this time," Jai shifted a little to sit up, which had the unfortunate consequence of causing him to elbow Colin, not that he really noticed. "I mean it, Colin. I like you. I know I'm kind of a shit, but --" His face was abnormally stricken. He sat quietly for a moment, staring into Colin's eyes, before muttering "fuck it," and pulling Colin in for a kiss.
It was wet, and Jai tasted a little like vomit, and Colin wasn't so sure he wanted to be doing this, but he didn't pull away from Jai, and even found himself leaning in a bit, moving his mouth against his friend's. After what felt like ages, Jai finally pulled back. Colin wasn't sure whether he should be upset that there seemed to be embarassed tears in Jai's eyes, but he didn't have much time to think about it before he was startled again by Jai throwing up directly into his lap.
"Oh my god," Jai mumbled, and put his face in his hands. "Oh my god, nooooo,"