Author's Note: Here's another soulmate AU! This was suggested by V-Bird on AO3 and I'm really excited to write this one. Read, review, and enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Young Justice or anything from DC Comics if I happen to use something from there!
People have said before that a person can tell you more about the soulmate they've never met than they can about their own best friend (other than, obviously, the cases where the soulmate and the best friend are the same). It really isn't that far-fetched of a concept. With the way your soulmate's experiences and feelings were painted across your skin in bright colors and loops swirls, it was easy to understand this person you've never met.
And yet, to Wally, it felt like he didn't know a thing about his own soulmate. Every person's first mark is a symbol for their soulmate's birth. Wally's first mark was three slightly wavy vertical lines on one side of his neck. What was that supposed to mean? What did that tell him about his soulmate? Nothing. It told him nothing and it was stupid and worthless. Other symbols that popped up during the years were equally useless. How was Wally supposed to translate these makeshift symbols and pictures? How was he supposed to interpret the paintings sprawled across his skin?
Wally poked angrily at the matching set of glowing blue swords on the palms of his hands. They started with a weird, futuristic base that began right at the junction between his wrist and his palm and ran up to the spot between his middle and ring fingers, the bright, almost glowing blue sword taking up most of the space in between. It was obnoxious, distracting, and confusing. They'd only just shown up yesterday and Wally didn't like them. What did they mean? There were no swords like that in real life! Which meant that they had to be some sort of infernal symbol or something. But Wally hated symbols. They were stupid, and they didn't make sense! Why not just out and say something? That was the smart thing to do instead of hiding it behind weird meanings!
Wally's mom smacked his hand, "Stop poking it, Wallace."
Biting back the urge to correct her (he wanted to be called Wally; Wallace was an old man's name) because he knew it wouldn't make a difference, Wally dutifully folded his hands in his lap, holding himself back from investigating the soulmarks.
Glancing at Wally's careful compliance, Mary West sighed, "I think we need to have a talk about soulmates." She sat down at the dinner table, starting to ladle out the night's meal. It was just the two of them eating, Rudy probably out at a bar or casino like usual. Wally tried not to be too bitter about it. He was eleven years old. He didn't need his dad to be home and molly coddle him. Still… it might be nice to see his dad every once in a while.
When the food was distributed to her satisfaction, Mary started absentmindedly stirring her soup with her spoon, "You know that your father and I are not soulmates, right?" Wally nodded. Mary continued, "Good. So you understand that soulmates are not everything. Your father and I have managed perfectly well without our soulmates for this long and will continue to manage until the day we die. Soulmates do not make or break a person. You understand this, right?"
Wally thought about it. He noticed that his mother hadn't said a thing about being happy without her soulmate or enjoying life without her soulmate. She'd just alluded to the fact that she didn't have her soulmate and was still living in spite of it. Wally knew that his father's soulmate had died when his dad was really little. You can tell if your soulmate is dead if all of the marks turn a dark, murky black, a large black circle taking place of pride over your heart. Some said that the circle represented the whole in your heart where your soulmate was supposed to be. Wally wasn't sure how he felt about that.
Instead of saying all of that, Wally answered easily, "Right." Science had proven that soulmates were not necessary to feel happiness or joy or any other positive emotion. A person with a dead soulmate was just as likely to live a perfectly happy life as something with a soulmate. It was scientifically proven, so it must be true.
Mary nodded back to him, relieved, "So, you know that you don't ever need to think about your soulmarks or your soulmate. No matter what is drawn on your skin, you don't need to worry about it, alright?" She had an anxious, almost harried expression on her face. Her words were rushed, and she had finally stopped stirring her food around and was instead trying to sip it as quickly as possible. Wally came to the sudden realization that she was trying to escape this conversation. Mary had tried to initiate a moment of mother/son bonding (a rare occurrence that Wally had learned to treasure when he recognized them) and had quickly realized that she didn't actually have much to say about the subject and wasn't interested in pursuing an actual conversation.
Still, Wally couldn't help but try to push conversation, keep it alive, actually talk, "What if one of the other kids at school makes fun of me for some of my soulmarks? A guy at school today pushed a girl into a locker because there was a pig tattooed along the underside of her chin."
Wally had immediately gotten the girl out of the locker, carefully opening the thing before extracting her, trying to stay as conscious as he could of where her arms and legs were and making sure that nothing was getting jammed or stuck anywhere. Of course, the girl had immediately pushed past Wally, crying and running for the bathroom, and Wally had gotten yelled at by a teacher for being late to first period, but that was just his luck, wasn't it? Sometimes, when the thick, oppressive silence at home got too stifling or the shatteringly loud taunts at school got too awful, Wally would wonder what it was that his soulmate had painted across his skin. He wondered if the pictures there told his soulmate how useless Wally was, how stupid and worthless and annoying he was. He wondered sometimes if he even had a soulmate, if the marks were just some sick cosmic joke. Because gingers didn't have souls according to everyone at school. And if you didn't have a soul, then how could you have a soulmate?
A new voice broke through Wally's thoughts and barreled directly over whatever it was that Mary had been about to say, "So what if someone makes a joke about your soulmarks! You're a West man and West men don't let something like a little good-natured teasing get to them!" Wally dad blustered through the kitchen area, grabbing himself some utensils and settling himself at the head of the table. Wally thought mutinously to himself that the only reason Rudy thought that was because Rudy had been the one pushing kids into lockers instead of getting pushed into lockers. He didn't say that out loud, though.
Mary gave her husband a brittle smile, "I thought you said you weren't going to be home in time for dinner. Don't you have that work party right about now?"
"I got fired. They said I was disrespectful, can you believe that? Me, disrespectful! They're just saying that because they're threatened by me and don't have any better sort of excuse!" Rudy grouched, sitting taller and straighter in his seat, scowl lining his expression.
Mary's lips tightened, but she maintained her fragile little smile, "Rudy, that's the third job this month you've been fired from for being disrespectful. Is there really no chance that there might be something to what they're saying?"
Any momentary glimpse at a somewhat happy, somewhat normal, somewhat good-natured father disappeared the moment Mary said that, Rudy's lips pulling back into something like a snarl, "What are you trying to say, Mary? Are you trying to imply something? Come on! Get out with it! Be straight with me, Mary!"
Her own composure breaking and her own lips pulling back into something feral, Mary snarled, "Alright Rudy, I'll be straight with you! You're drinking on the job and people are starting to notice! You're getting fired because you can't keep yourself sober for more than an hour! At the rate you're going, we're going to lose the house! I can't keep us where we are by myself! You need to pull your own weight one of these days!" Wally was suddenly, vividly thrown back to a moment earlier in the night where he'd reflected that although his mother had said that she was managing without her soulmate, she'd never said she was happy.
"Oh yeah? And I suppose your fancy little wine collection has nothing to do with our money problems, huh?" Rudy threw back, continuing over her before Mary could even work past her anger enough to speak, "You think I don't know why you drink that expensive wine every night, holding it like a proper lady? I've seen the marks on your skin! I know what this is about! You drink your night away, throwing our money straight down the drain because your soulmate has a fancy little house with a fancy little car and you're dreaming of what could have been if you'd run off with him!" Rudy was getting well and truly worked up by that point, eyes bulging and face red.
Mary's face was equally red, a vein in her neck pulsing, eyes glittering with anger, "Don't you dare mention him! I gave up any chance of meeting him so I could be with you, so don't you dare bring him up!"
"Oh, and I suppose you don't dream about what could have been if you'd met him first," Rudy challenged.
Mary's lips pulled back into her feral scowl, "And I suppose you don't dream about what could have been if your soulmate hadn't ended up dead in some street somewhere!"
Slamming a huge fist down on the table, Rudy roared, "Don't you dare talk about her!"
"Then don't you dare talk about mine!" Mary shouted back.
"He's not yours! I'm yours! You don't even know him!" Rudy accused.
Throwing her arms in the air, Mary gave a wordless shout of rage, "That's not what this is about! This is about you sending us into financial ruin!"
They both took a brief second, Mary grabbing her glass and gulping down some water, breathing hard. Rudy took a vicious bite of bread, fists clenched, eyes staring at Mary like he wished it was her head he was ripping off instead of a chunk of bread.
Wally took the momentary pause in conversation to make his attempt at escape, "May I be excused?" He was 90% sure that they had forgotten he was even at the table, let alone in the same house, but he didn't want to just get up and leave because there was that 10% that was unsure, and he really didn't want to know what kind of punishment they could come up with when they were in this kind of mood.
His theory was proven correct when both parents jumped at hearing his voice, obviously having forgotten that their own son was still sitting there, forced to listen to them arguing. Rudy's voice was flat, but calmer, when he asked, "What are you going to do?"
Wally shrugged carefully, "I don't know yet, probably read. I got some new material."
Rudy's voice had sharpened upon hearing that Wally actually wanted to have fun for once in his life, "Have you finished your homework? You know you're not allowed to do anything before you've finished your homework!"
"Yes, dad. I've finished my homework. I'm ahead in all of my classes," Wally answered. It was the same answer he'd been giving since third grade when he'd been labeled as intelligent and his parents had become determined that if he wasn't one hundred percent committed to his grades, his intelligence would disappear, and he'd become worthless.
Rudy huffed, but subsided. Brittle smile back in place, Mary attempted to recapture some sort of motherly moment, asking shakily, "What are you going to read?" Maybe she wasn't trying to be motherly. Maybe she was just creepy and needed to know what Wally was reading all the time. That was more likely, honestly.
Resisting the urge to sigh, Wally said, "It's this fantasy book where-,"
Rudy's voice, suddenly sharp again, lashed out before Wally could finish the first sentence, "Fantasy book? What kind of trash is that? I thought I was raising a son, not a daughter! Magic and fairies and little princesses are for girls, not for you. Where is this book?"
Feeling panic bubbling up under his skin, Wally protested, "That's not what it's really about! It's about these knights that are trying to track down a dragon and kill it, but the dragon is actually-,"
He was interrupted again by Rudy barking, "Where's the book, Wallace?"
Shrinking in on himself a little bit, Wally whispered, "It's up in my room."
Rudy threw himself back from the table, stomping up towards the stairs leading to the bedrooms. Scrambling from his seat, Wally followed him, his pleas (for what? Mercy? Compassion?) falling on deaf ears. Mary sat where she was at the table, sipping at her water and stirring and stirring and stirring her soup.
Reaching Wally's room, Rudy slammed the door open and stalked over to the bookcase, eyes scanning over the titles. Lips curled in disgust, Rudy started plucking books off of the shelf, "Where did you even get all of these books? These are all girly books! What kind of son are you?" Angrily, Rudy grabbed Wally's laundry bad, upending the dirty laundry onto the floor before sweeping whole bookshelves worth of books into the bag, "These aren't worth your time! You should be spending more time playing sports or working on your studies, not reading this trash! I am not raising a gay son, you hear me? Be a man, not some sissy!"
Wally curled in on himself, fingers idly rubbing at the swords painted onto his palms. What were the odds he had a female soulmate who just really liked swords? And rocks and the ocean and sea monsters and whatever those lines were on his neck and every other thing that was permanently tattooed on Wally's skin. Sure, there were girls out there, but that wasn't Wally's luck, was it?
His dad moved out of the room, taking the books with him. Wally's empty, gaping bookcase stared back at him. As the fight kicked back up again downstairs, Wally silently swore to himself that he would never, never fall in love. Not to some girl who gave him hope for a better life that he was never destined to have and certainly not to his soulmate.
Kaldur sighed as he lounged back in his bed, arms pillowed up beneath his bed and eyes slipping blissfully closed.
They snapped open a second later when a webbed finger poked at the wings that were tattooed over the top of Kaldur's wrist. Only Kaldur and his closest friends knew that the wings had shown up this morning, wrapping themselves around another tattoo, a simple image of an Erlenmeyer flask (Kaldur had been forced to awkwardly asked one of his teachers at the military academy what that was because he hadn't recognized the device.
The finger poked at the wings again and Kaldur weakly swatted the offending hand, "Garth, stop it! Go poke your own soulmarks!"
Garth shrugged unrepentantly when Kaldur shifted up slightly to glare at him, "What? I have a right to be curious! I'm your best friend and you're the only one I know with a surface dweller soulmate!"
"You do not know that my soulmate is a surface dweller," Kaldur argued. Well, it wasn't so much of an argument than a well-worn discussion that they both knew the answer to but liked to discuss over and over again anyways.
Rolling his eyes, Garth flopped onto the floor, mirroring Kaldur's position as the dark-skinned male rolled over slightly to be able to see his friend, "Yeah, yeah. And that's why you have an… Erlen-maj-oor flask on your arm. We don't even have those in Atlantis! And wings? That's how you can really tell. There is no way whatsoever that an Atlantean would do something that gave them wings as a symbol. Your soulmate is definitely a surface dweller."
"You do not know that," Kaldur repeated patiently, "What if my soulmate is an Amazon or an alien like the ones that our King fights with on the surface world? There were rumors from the girls in the class above us that said that one of the alien species that our King fights with have wings attached to their backs." He could not quite remember the word that had been used to describe the alien species. It was something to the effect of Thangos? Tharians? It was something like that.
Huffing out a dramatic breath, Garth stared up at Kaldur's arm, "They're all still surface dwellers no matter how you look at it. Do you think they'll be excited to meet you?"
Kaldur blinked at the sudden conversation change, "Well, I hope so. I cannot imagine why they would not be. Meeting your soulmate is the most important moment of your life. There is nothing that I am more excited about."
"Yeah, but…" Garth paused for a long moment and Kaldur did not think he was going to finish. Then Garth suddenly started talking again, "But what if they're not excited to meet you. What would you do? How would you deal with it?"
Fully rolling over onto his stomach to be able to really look his friend in the eyes, Kaldur's brows drew together, "Garth, what is this about? These are not idle questions. What is going on?" Garth didn't say anything and Kaldur pushed, gently, "Garth? I am your best friend, you can speak to me. Please."
At the plea, Garth broke down, practically smushing his face into the soft ground of the room, "I met my soulmate today and they didn't want me."
Blinking in shock, Kaldur unthinkingly reached out a hand, grasping Garth's tightly, "I am sorry. I did not know." He wanted to ask if Garth was alright, but he knew that he would receive nothing but sarcasm in response. Carefully, Kaldur asked, "And you want to know what to do now that your soulmate has rejected you?" Garth nodded miserably and Kaldur gave his hand a tight squeeze, "Pursue them. It has been decided that you are meant to be with this person and I know that you have been hopelessly in love with them since the day you first realized what the marks meant. After a little bit of work, this person will realize that you are the only one for them."
Voice small and tight, a sure sign that Garth was doing his absolute best to not cry, Garth whispered, "She said that she wanted it to be someone else."
Feeling his heart constrict at the emotions in his friend's voice, the pain of the words, Kaldur could do nothing but attempt to reassure him, "That just means that she does not know you yet."
"How can she not?" Garth threw back, sitting himself up and slamming his back against the wall, hand still tightly grasping at Kaldur's, "It's that the whole point of these soulmarks? Getting to know each other? I feel like I've known her since the day I was born! How can she not know me? How?"
"Each soulbond is different, Garth. You know this," Kaldur reminded gently, "You cannot expect everyone to approach them the same way. If you just show her that you love her, everything will fall into place shortly afterwards."
A prim, careful knock on the door interrupted anything else Kaldur or Garth might have said. Sending each other startled glances, the two stood to attention, trying to ineffectually remove any sign that they had just been relaxing. Once he was sure they were ready, Kaldur moved over to the door, pulling it open, hand already snapping into a formal fist over his heart. He stopped part way through when he saw who it was, "Tula?"
He felt more than saw Garth freezing behind him and inwardly wince. Kaldur guessed he's found the soulmate. Tula pushed past Kaldur, immediately moving over to Garth, "I'm so sorry!"
She threw herself at Garth, wrapping her arms around his neck and burying her fingers in his long hair. Allowing himself a tiny smirk at Garth's completely dumbstruck expression, Kaldur shot him a thumbs up, leaving the soldier with the sorceress in training. It would not hurt for Kaldur to give up his room for a few hours while his best friend and Tula figured out what was going on with their relationship.
Kaldur tried to quell the instant curl of jealousy that tried to spiral into his heart. He knew that no one should be jealous when someone else met their soulmates. Soulmates met each other at certain times for certain reasons. Kaldur had to have faith in that idea. Besides, it was practically unheard of to meet one's soulmate when they were this young! It would be silly to even yearn to meet his soulmate now!
As if to comfort him, Kaldur felt the familiar push-pull feeling of a new soulmark being formed. Lips curling up into a softer smile, Kaldur found a bathroom and slid into it. The mark was being formed right in the center of his chest, the sensation still weird despite all of its familiarity. It was the oddest feeling of something pressing into your skin, a perfect shape imprinting itself onto your skin mixed with the feeling of your soul tugging up against the spot, as if trying to break free and reach out for your soulmate. Kaldur would never get tired of the feeling.
Finally getting his shirt off, Kaldur stared intently at the mirror as one of the biggest soulmarks he'd ever seen took shape in front of him. It started at a point right at the junction between his collar bones, twisting and sparking off across his entire chest, filling his pectorals and curving up against his ribs. It was a lightning bolt, branched and spread out over his entire chest.
Kaldur's eyes widened momentarily. He knew that lightning bolts were often deadly to surface dwellers. His breath caught in his throat as he intently watched his soulmarks, keeping a firm eye on them, waiting for them to turn black and pleading that they never would.
After a few seconds, they remained the same vibrant colors they'd been before and Kaldur let out a sigh of relief. Good. Good. He'd been so worried before. He'd heard of people whose last mark was a representation of the thing that had killed their soulmates. He didn't want this gorgeous lightning strike to be the reason behind his soulmate's death.
Assured that all was well, Kaldur traced a finger over the pattern, marveling at the way it almost seemed to spark against his skin. It seemed so real, like he had a piece of the sky etched into his skin. Between the lightning and the wings, Kaldur wondered if his soulmate wanted to fly somewhere, if they wanted to be a… pilot? He believed that was what they were called. Or would their obsession with the sky peter off now that they had been struck with lightning?
Or had they even been struck? Kaldur knew that soulmarks were often symbols rather than literal meanings. What would lightning symbolize?
Kaldur was broken out of his thoughts by the sound of the door being pulled open. Hastily, he yanked on his shirt, scrambling to get it over before the person came all the way in.
By the time the instructor made it into the bathroom, Kaldur had his fist over his heart, upper body bent forward slightly, shirt on backwards and inside out, wrinkled and riding up in places. Rolling his eyes, the instructor bit out, "If you're going to poke at your soulmarks, go do it in your own room!"
"Yes, sir," Kaldur demurred, cheeks burning with the reprimand. He remained in his position until the instructor made his way into a stall, and then Kaldur made a hasty retreat.
Well, that was rather embarrassing.
Most people believed that Kaldur was a very uptight, serious child. A lot of people believed that he had no sense of humor and nothing but honor and determination making up his character. They were wrong, honestly. Kaldur was a mess at the best of times and trying to avoid spiraling so far into the deeps that no one could pull him back out at the worst of times. He tried, though, and that was all that was supposed to count. Right?
Sighing, Kaldur sat down in one of the common rooms, sitting in the chair and pulling a book off of a nearby shelf. It was one on magic. Magic had never really interested him, but with his best friend's soulmate being a sorceress, Kaldur figured he should probably learn a little bit more about the subject.
He wondered how his soulmate felt about magic? Kaldur often did this when he was doing something idly; he'd try to think about what his soulmate would feel about a particular subject. It let Kaldur approach a topic from a different point of view – sometimes several – and had helped him on assignments in the past. It was a fun mental exercise and it made him feel closer to his soulmate, even though that was ridiculous. Still, it was fun.
Kaldur thought back on what his conversation with Garth about the whole soulmate mess. He figured that, maybe, everyone was like Garth: they fell in love with their soulmates the moment they were born. Sometimes it took a while to realize it and sometimes the love was a little bit different than usual and something you fell in love with someone else, too, but everyone was born already a little bit in love with their soulmate. At least, that was what Kaldur believed. He knew that he was certainly in love with his soulmate.
Wally froze, the image in front of him stopping him in his tracks, making him lose track of what it even was that he'd been about to do. There, lying on the side of the beach, was Kaldur. Shirtless. A shirtless Kaldur. Which meant that his soulmarks were displayed loud and proud against his gleamingly dark skin.
Wally felt his throat lock.
He'd known that Kaldur was his soulmate. The Aqualad symbol appearing in place of pride in the center of his chest (Wally had been thirteen and had been a sidekick to Barry for two years at that point; Kaldur was fourteen and had fought alongside his King for the first time) had been a pretty good indicator of that. And Kaldur had never been shy about his soulmarks, letting each of them peak out through the black tattoos on his arm, each of them a sharp contrast against his skin. It really hadn't been hard to figure out that Kaldur was his soulmate.
What was harder was making sure that Kaldur wouldn't figure out who his soulmate was. Wally made sure to keep his conversation around the team to mainly unimportant things, never really talking about real accomplishments, instead complimenting the ladies and cracking jokes like they were going out of style. He made sure to wear long sleeves and gave excuses to stay out of the pool on this like this. His suit was a full bodysuit, so there wasn't much of a problem there.
Still, though, he didn't get how people couldn't see that he and Kaldur were soulmates. Honestly, the gigantic lighting bolt in the center of Kaldur's chest gave it away pretty well. There was a lot of other things on there that would make it pretty easy to tell that Wally was Kaldur's.
Except he wasn't. Wally didn't believe in soulmates, which he had made abundantly clear. He didn't believe in them. They were stupid. Wally was never going to let some ink on his arms dictate who he was going to spend the rest of his life with.
He especially wasn't going to end up with Kaldur. Not that there was anything wrong with Kaldur! There was, actually, nothing wrong with Kaldur, not that Wally was paying attention. It was just… Kaldur was a guy. And Wally didn't like guys. He wasn't gay, so he couldn't be with Kaldur. That was just how it worked.
Wally felt a creeping panic attack taking firm hold of his lungs. Seeing Kaldur proudly displaying his marks as if they meant something to him, as if he really cared about what his soulmarks said about his life – it burned Wally. Kaldur was so excited to have a soulmate, to let people know that he was taken and in love. He didn't know that his soulmate was Wally and that Wally was a mess (well, he probably knew that bit; everyone knew that bit) and that there was no way that Wally was going to be with him.
It would break Kaldur's heart. Because Kaldur was okay with the idea of possibly being gay. He was fine with that as long as he ended up with his soulmate.
Wally was not.
It wasn't that Wally had a problem with gay people! He had zero problem with that! It was just that Wally wasn't gay. That was it.
Wally could feel his panic attack getting worse.
A sudden hand on his elbow, gently leading him back into the Cave, startled Wally a little bit, increasing the rate of his rattling gasps. Dick's gentle voice slowed the gasps a little bit, "Hey, hey, you're okay. It's okay Wally. Can you breathe with me? Just like usual?" He started counting, pressing Wally's hand against his own chest.
Neither of them said anything until Wally's breaths were back to normal, no more harsh gasping. Wally closed his eyes and buried his face in his hands, "…Thanks."
"No problem," Dick said flippantly, hand rubbing soothing circles on Wally's back. They were silent for a moment before Dick asked carefully, hesitantly, "Was it Kaldur that sent you into that one?"
Wally squeezed his eyes tighter shut, grinding the heels of his hands against his eyes as if they would erase the image of Kaldur's drying, stretched out body from his mind. After a second, he admitted, "Yes."
Dick continued his careful conversation, "You know that you can ask Kaldur to not show his soulmarks so much. If you tell the whole group that you're uncomfortable with everyone showing that many marks, I'm sure they'll make an exception for you."
"I'm not going to make them cover themselves. Just because I'm screwed up doesn't mean I have to mess with their lives. I'm already ruining Kaldur's," Wally said lowly, just trying his best to not cry.
"You're not ruining Kaldur's life," Dick said sharply, "You've heard him: he's loved his soulmate for as long as he's been alive. If he loves you, he'll understand why you're taking a little bit longer to get with him than usual."
"I'm not 'waiting a little bit longer,'" Wally shot back, just as sharply, "I'm not going to be with him! Period! End of story! I'm not gay, Rob."
Throwing his arms in the air, Dick scowled, "How long are you going to go on letting your father mess with your life? Just because he said that aren't gay doesn't mean you're not gay! And maybe you do only like ladies except for Kaldur. I know you care about him. I know you do, and I know you care about him like that, so don't you fight me on this." Wally clenched is jaw shut, fists clenched on his knees. Dick continued in a calmer voice, "You're hurting both of you by denying this."
Wally opened his mouth (to say what? He wasn't sure yet), but Artemis's voice interrupted him, "What are you two doing? Aren't you coming out to the beach? I know Kid Weirdo will just sit under an umbrella and melt half to death, but I at least thought that you were going to come out, Robin."
Abruptly, Wally stood up, dislodging the hand Dick had still been using to rub Wally's back comfortably, "I'm going home."
"Wally-," Dick started.
Artemis interrupted him, "What's your problem?"
"None of your business," Wally hissed, eyes actually sparking.
Taking a startled step back, Artemis's face actually softened into something vaguely less harpy-like than usual, "Hey, I'm sorry, okay? I didn't mean to make fun of you. Are you okay?"
Feeling a good part of his anger melt away at Artemis's unusual hesitance, Wally rubbed a tired hand over his face, "I'm just… it's fine. Whatever. I'll go out. I'll probably grab some homework or something. Whatever." Even he could hear the note of dead acceptance in his voice. What did it even matter anymore?
It was fine. He'd just sit there on his little beach towel under his umbrella and get some homework done. He'd ignore Kaldur and he'd just keep on pretending that he was normal, and he wasn't a freak and a disappointment, and he'd pretend that he didn't ruin everyone's life. What could go wrong?
Kaldur, apparently, could go wrong.
Wally hadn't even finished his first math problem before there was a shadow over the little bit of sunshine he allowed to filter over his feet and a smooth, calm, clear voice asking cheerfully, "Would it be alright if I sat with you?" Because of course Kaldur was the nice Team leader who wanted to make sure that none of his team members felt left out. Of course.
So, Wally nodded to him and got back to his work, hoping that Kaldur would just read a book or something like that. He didn't know why he even bothered hoping things would ever work out for him. Kaldur was speaking before Wally could even attempt to get back to the problem, "What are you working on?"
"Some math problems. They're a little tricky, but not too bad," Wally answered absently, trying to ignore the lean, gorgeous (buff, buff! Men weren't gorgeous) body leaning over behind him, trying to get a glimpse of the paper.
"Hmm," Kaldur mused, "I am thankful that we did not receive problems such as those at the military academy."
"Yeah?" Wally said, "I kind of like them. They're relaxing. And there are some pretty cool things you can do with chemicals that are even cooler when you know the math behind them." Inwardly, he was cringing. He could clearly see the periodic table outlining one of Kaldur's biceps, probably an indication of one of the many science awards Wally had. Was he giving too much away about himself? Would Kaldur be able to tell? Wally hated that he couldn't have even the simplest conversation with Kaldur without feeling like he was ruining something.
Blinking down at the problems, Kaldur admitted, "I am afraid that neither the academy nor the sorcery institute taught me much about chemistry either. Perhaps one day you could show me." There was a pause where they were both silent before Kaldur added, "My soulmate seems to like chemistry and I would like to know more about the subject for when I finally meet them."
Wally felt a large portion of himself die. Seriously? Seriously? Did Kaldur really need to add that last bit? Was that really necessary? Way to ruin a perfectly good conversation. Trying to keep a tight lid on his rapidly dwindling self-control, Wally commented lightly, "Or your soulmate hates chemistry and all of the images on your skin are moments where chemistry was harmful to them. There's really no way to tell what the soulmarks say about your soulmate."
"I disagree," Kaldur argued, eyes intense when as he watched Wally, "Perhaps if someone else were to look at my soulmarks, they would be unable to discern anything about my soulmate. But I know. I can feel it when I get another mark. I can understand the marks as if I had drawn them myself."
"Then you're a fool," Wally commented angrily, pressing his pencil into the paper harder than he should, the lead thick and dark against the paper like the three (what he knew now to be) gill marks against Wally's own neck. He continued, "You can't feel anything. It's just some tattoo showing up on your skin. There's no connection. Anything else is just wishful thinking on your part. The only 'connection' between two soulmates is societal restraints. There's no mythical connection, no pre-determined fate."
Kaldur's question back was immediate, "What happened to make you disbelieve in soulmates?"
"It's getting a little hot out here. I'm going to go work inside where it's cooler," Wally said abruptly, standing and almost knocking his umbrella to the ground before he caught it and settled it back into it's position. He rolled up his beach towel and stuck it under his arm, math papers in his other hand. He left the beach with his tail between his legs, his soulmate staring after him with hurt confusion.
Eyes dark with sadness, Kaldur watched as Wally retreated from the beach, shoulders almost shaking in anger.
Kaldur didn't know what he'd done to make Wally hate him so much, but it burned. It absolutely tore his heart to pieces that his soulmate hated him like this. The speedster could hardly stand to hold a conversation with Kaldur for longer than a few minutes before pulling someone else in or finding somewhere else to be, something else to do.
Honestly, it had taken Kaldur longer than he'd wanted to before he'd realized that Wally was his soulmate. The lighting bolt spread across his chest should have been the biggest hint since he knew that speedsters often got their powers by being struck by lightning. Still, it hadn't clicked until he'd overheard Wally explaining something to Connor.
Apparently, the genomorphs hadn't cared to instill too much about chemistry into Connor's mind when creating him and the teenaged clone had been struggling with a chemistry subject. Wally had been explaining it when Connor interrupted him, "Why do you know so much about chemistry?"
"Are you kidding? I love chemistry! It's the best subject there is!" Wally said, arms flying out before he caught Connor's serious gaze and turned a little serious himself, voice going softer and a little wistful, "I guess… chemistry was an escape. Science is so exact, so perfect. There's a whole world waiting for me. It doesn't care what I'm like or who I am. It just wants to be discovered, to be shared with the world. It… I guess it sort of gives me wings?" He smiled wryly at Connor's confusion and shrugged slightly, "Sorry, buddy. This one I can't explain to you."
Kaldur, however, knew exactly what Wally meant. He didn't even have to look at his arm to see the wings that were wrapped protectively around the Erlenmeyer flask over the back of his wrist.
In his moment of elation at figuring it out (his soulmate was Wally! His soulmate was Wally!), Kaldur accidentally bumped his elbow against the wall, drawing the attention of the two people in the room. Kaldur smiled cautiously at them, determined to turn the moment into an excuse to get Wally out of the room and talk to him about the whole situation. He knew that Wally generally avoided him, but that was probably because Kaldur was the leader and Wally tended to be a little hard and loose with the rules and was uncomfortable around authority figures. It would be better now that Kaldur knew that they were soulmates.
But then Kaldur saw Wally's expression. His eyes had flitted to Kaldur's exposed wrist, the wings bunched up there, fluffy and shadowed. A sense of dawning horror had encompassed Wally's expression and Kaldur felt his heart plummet. The soulmarks made sure that Kaldur knew his soulmate well enough to know what that look would mean. Wally knew that they were soulmates. Wally didn't want Kaldur to know that they were soulmates.
It was like the worst kind of kick to the gut.
Kaldur had been trying to win Wally over since then, but Wally hadn't made it easy. He fought against the entire time, seemingly determined to avoid Kaldur if it killed him. He was pretty sneak about it, too, making sure that he kept up just enough communication and interaction to not be called out on it, but also not spending any amount of significant time with Kaldur.
It was heartbreaking and infuriating. What did Kaldur do to deserve this? Why did his soulmate hate him? It would maybe be different if Wally hadn't known they were soulmates, but he obviously knew and refused to acknowledge that or change his opinions.
Kaldur turned his head when he heard someone walking up behind him. Robin's face was twisted in a scowl when he asked defeatedly, "What set him off this time?"
"My existence, apparently," Kaldur answered bitterly, not really thinking about it. He usually tried to not bring his problems to other people, but he was just so sick of this. It was like a knife into his heart every single time.
Robin's scowl had grown stronger, his expression fiercely frustrated, "That idiot." He sighed gustily before letting some of his anger drop off of him, turning to address Kaldur directly, "Look, Kaldur. He doesn't mean it. He's just being stupid. I swear he doesn't hate you. He just needs to get his life figured out and can't seem to do that without hurting you in the process."
Frustrated by that admission, but the constant rebukes, Kaldur's normal filter was gone, worn down by disappointment after disappointed. He blurted out, "Wally is my soulmate."
The portion of Robin's face that was visible beneath the huge sunglasses did some sort of strange spasm, an unidentifiable emotion shooting across his countenance lightning fast. Then Robin cursed, low and frustrated, "You know?"
Kaldur blinked, "You know?"
Biting his lip, Robin admitted, "Yeah. Wally's my best friend. We tell each other everything. He made me promise to not tell you, though."
"Because he hates me," Kaldur affirmed, willing himself to not feel the crushing burn of rejection sizzle through him.
"No," Robin said forcefully, "I told you already. He doesn't hate you. He's just being stupid. I can't tell you the reasons behind it without getting into his personal business, but… just talk to him. Admit to him that you know that the two of you are soulmates. That's the best way to get through his thick head. He might hurt you on accident with the things he says so just… keep in mind that he does have a relatively good reason to be the way he is, okay?"
Carefully, Kaldur searched Robin's face. He didn't understand what Robin was trying to say to him. In the end, though, it didn't matter. All that mattered was that Wally's best friend was all but admitting that Wally held some sort of feelings of Kaldur and that the only thing stopping them from at least trying was Kaldur's unwillingness to move and some sort of past trauma for Wally.
Nodding, Kaldur got up, reaching for his shirt and sliding it back on. He would go find Wally and figure this out.
Hands shaking, Wally melted into the couch seat. He'd given up on his math homework by that point, letting it sprawl carelessly over the low coffee table in front of the couches.
He had barely been inside for ten minutes (he might have stress-eaten a large portion of the snacks in the fridge before sitting down) before someone else followed him into the room. Glancing up idly, Wally felt his heart die a little bit in his chest when he saw that it was Kaldur. Of course it was. Because the world hated Wally. Obviously.
Affecting a calm manner, Wally sent a weak imitation of his usual grin, "What's up Kaldur?"
Kaldur stared at him, pale eyes intense and serious, "I know that we are soulmates."
For a long, long moment, Wally just stared at him. It took him a moment to realize that he'd slowed down time. For another long moment, Wally considered just leaving the world like that, frozen and eternally stretched out. No one could get to him here. Well, some people could, but Kaldur couldn't and his dad couldn't and that was all that really mattered in the long run.
Sighing, Wally let his control over his speed slip a little bit, allowing time to catch back up, everything returning to normal speed. He had always known that he'd need to have this conversation at some point. He was just going to have to let Kaldur down quickly and easily. That was it. It would be better for both of them.
He'd just barely gotten his mouth open to speak when Kaldur interrupted him, "I know that you have known that we were soulmates for a while longer than I have known. I also know that you do not seem to want me as your soulmate. I do not know what is wrong with me for you to think that, but -,"
Wally interrupted him, "It's nothing wrong with you!" How could Kaldur think that? He was awesome! The perfect leader, gorgeous (buff!), smart, cool, the perfect dry humor that always made Wally laugh. How could Kaldur ever think this was because he was lacking in some way.
Kaldur's voice was carefully controlled when he asked calmly, "Then why is it that you refuse to acknowledge our soulbond?"
"I don't believe in soulbonds," Wally returned weakly.
"So you choose to avoid me and rebuff me for no other reason than you do not believe in soulbonds? What if I told you that I loved you despite the soulbond?" Kaldur asked.
Wally winced. This was not how he wanted this conversation to happen. It was wrong, all wrong. He sputtered, "N-no, that's… that's not what… Look, I don't want to be with you," He finally finished with.
Still forcibly calm, Kaldur asked, "Why?"
"Why does it matter?" Wally asked, throwing himself off the couch, pacing in front of it. Why was this such a big deal? Wally had rejected him, what more did the Atlantean want?
Kaldur's eyes were still intense (filled with determined love), "It matters because I want to know what I can change to get you to love me the way I love you."
"I won't ever love you!" Wally shouted, throwing his hands in the air. Kaldur flinched and Wally felt like dying, "No, that's not… Argh! Look, it's not about you! No, no, don't give me that look! It's not about you, alright? It's just…" He looked at Kaldur's hopeful but hurt expression and decided that he couldn't do any more damage than he'd already done at this point. Blowing out an angry breath, Wally decided to be honest, "I'm not some gay kid, alright? I don't like guys!"
Kaldur tilted his head to the side, blinking curiously, "But I am your soulmate. You must feel something for me?"
Wally practically snarled, "No. I don't. I'm not gay." He whispered the last sentence mostly to himself, hands shaking in their fists, feet frozen to the ground.
Something shifted in Kaldur's expression, a terribly understanding that Wally didn't want to see. After a pause, Kaldur reached out a hand, drawing it back before it could make contact, "Wally. There is nothing wrong with liking guys. Whoever told you that you cannot like guys is wrong. That is no one's choice but your own. And I think you know what you want."
Chest heaving, Wally was horrified to feel a tear slipping down his cheek. West men don't cry. West men aren't gay. Wally watched, numb, as Kaldur rubbed one soft, but calloused finger over Wally's cheek, wiping away the tear.
Somehow, it was that soft, loving tenderness that got to Wally, that finally broke through. He broke down, throwing himself into Kaldur's startled arms and sobbing. Look at him. He couldn't even do this right. Soulmate reveals were supposed to be a magical moment that you could look back on fondly and Wally had screwed it all up. He'd led it with a fight and now he was sobbing ugly tears all over his soulmate. What kind of a messed up person did that?
It only made him cry harder.
Soothingly, Kaldur rubbed at his back, murmuring soft words of encouragement. They didn't sound like English and Wally figured that Kaldur had probably unconsciously slipped back into Atlantean.
They moved to the couch and sat like that for a long, long time.
Wally curled into himself, allowing Kaldur to pull his unresisting body up against the Atlantean's. He whispered, "I'm sorry."
"For what?" Kaldur asked mildly, still rubbing his back softly.
"For screwing everything up. This entire time. Today," Wally answered, ducking his head into Kaldur's chest as he felt tears start to well up again.
His mind was split in so many different directions that Wally couldn't make sense of what he was feeling. There was an overwhelming notion of wrong-wrong-wrong-West-men-aren't-gay-this-is-gay and there was a tendril of my-soulmate-is-going-to-hate-me-I-hate-me and there was a tiny, tiny seedling of joy that he was finally with his soulmate in a way he'd been denying himself for a long time now.
Kaldur didn't address that; he just continued rubbing Wally's back and he shifted the conversation to something else, "When did you first know?"
"There was a mark that made it really, really obvious," Wally answered, not needing to ask for clarification.
Hesitantly, carefully, Kaldur asked, "Can I see it?"
Wally thought about it, chest tightening in momentary panic. This wasn't right. This was wrong. He shouldn't be doing this, shouldn't let this farce go on. Inwardly shaking his head, Wally pushed the thoughts out of his head. Dick was right; Wally needed to stop letting his father ruin his life. This was his life now and Kaldur was the perfect soulmate. Wally was going to let himself have this (he knew that this determination wasn't going to last long and there were going to be a lot of setbacks and Kaldur was probably going to hate him before all was said and done, but he ignored it in favor of the now).
Just as carefully, Wally extracted himself, standing up from the couch and pulling his shirt up and over his head. He paused for a moment when the bottom of the shirt just touched the edge of the mark that would spell everything out.
Swallowing, Wally whipped the shirt the rest of the way off, letting it slide carelessly to the ground. Kaldur's eyes were wide and awed as he stood up as well, stepping closer to Wally. His lean fingers were tracing the air just over Wally's taught stomach, ghosting over each and every mark, occasionally letting a smile slip over his lips at the memories a mark gave him.
Wally knew when Kaldur saw the large Aqualad symbol in the center of his chest because Kaldur's breath stuttered in his throat and Kaldur's fingers unthinkingly touched Wally's chest, sending a spark of electric emotion through both of them at the contact.
Shocked, they stared at each other, eyes wide and excited. That had felt good. Kaldur's fingers were still pressed against Wally's skin, points of sharp, visceral connection that Wally never wanted to go away.
They were so distracted staring into each other's eyes that they didn't know someone else had come into the Cave before Barry's voice (an octave higher than usual) screeched, "What are you doing to my son?!"
After the confrontation with the Flash had been smoothed over (the two of them had jumped back like they'd been burned, Wally's cheeks flushing a red brighter than his hair. He'd stammered out apologies and pleas for mercy that had made the situation a whole lot less humorous than it would have been otherwise. Flash had then seen Wally's chest and his mouth had fallen open in realization. He'd bundled Wally up in his arms and disappeared in a burst of lightning), Kaldur had been treated to the full story.
He'd learned about the emotional neglect that Wally lived with whenever he went back to his parent's house. He'd learned that Wally typically chose to stay with his aunt and uncle the vast majority of the time. He'd learned that Wally's father had been more than cruel with his words about homosexual relationships and how that had shaped Wally's opinion of himself. He'd learned about Wally's fear of love and his thoughts about how love never lasted.
Kaldur learned a lot about his soulmate and felt any concern about his own worth disappearing. Wally really hadn't kept their connection hidden out of any sort of animosity towards Kaldur. Rather, it was the opposite. Wally had loved him so much that it had scared him off.
The moment he'd realized that, Kaldur had promised himself that he would make sure that Wally would never believe that about their relationship. He loved Wally too much to let Wally be that afraid of him and their connection.
Coming out as soulmates to the Team had caused a fair amount of confusion and one minor fight between Artemis and Wally, but that was practically a state of being for the Team at this point, so Kaldur wasn't entire concerned.
They had accepted the relationship easily, though, which Kaldur had predicted, but Wally had been scared of.
Now, Kaldur could hold his soulmate's hand as they sat down for movie night, the two of them crammed comfortably into the rocking chair, legs tangled beneath them. He could strap Wally to a breathing apparatus and bring him down to see Atlantis, bringing him to all of Kaldur's old haunts and introducing the speedster to his friends.
He could be embarrassed by his King ("You and I are too similar, Kaldur'ahm. Both half human, both blond, and both have an uncontrollable love for fiery redheads!" Kaldur had blushed and stuttered his way through an agreement) and take Barry's rather impressive shovel talk (and Captain Cold's and Heatwave's and Golden Glider's and the rest of the Rogues's and Grodd's and various other speedsters's and Iris's and Robin's and Batman's and the rest of the Justice Leagues's).
He could love freely and brightly, and he could look to his side and see Wally there, always, a bright spot always in his life.
Wally blinked up at him, smiling softly and tenderly, "What? Why are you looking at me like that?"
"Nothing, my love," Kaldur commented, kissing the crown of Wally's head and loving the feeling of the speedster melting into Kaldur's side, "I was just thinking on the events that led us here."
"And?" Wally prompted, curling tighter into Kaldur, a sure sign that he was nearing sleep.
Kaldur smiled back down at his soulmate, love stronger than anything he'd ever felt before filling him completely, "And it was completely worth it."
Author's Note: Well, I avoided 90% of my homework to write this. That's fine. It's not like I need good grades in college or anything like that. Anyways, there is a pretty direct quote straight from V-bird/Adam29 in here, so kudos to them on that. They'll know which one is theirs. I hope I successfully filled the prompt! Thanks for reading!