Things You Said At 1AM
"So!" Caitlin declared, loudly, over the sound of techno music playing in the background. They'd landed one of the secluded booths in the corner; perks of dressing provocatively to the hottest club in town. They weren't thinking that, though. Tonight was different.
"The She-Woman, Men..." suddenly her eyebrows furrowed in doubt and she looked at her friends for help, "...not necessarily haters... um..."
"Well," Iris chimed in, her shot glass still in mid air, "I don't think we hate men."
"No, we don't hate them," Kendra said to Caitlin.
"No, of course not," Caitlin assured them. "More like..."
Kendra frowned. "We don't need them?"
Iris pursed her lips. "Yeah, but that doesn't sound so poetic."
"The She-Women, Men...We Don't Need..." Suddenly, Caitlin shook her head quickly. "Yeah, scratch the whole thing. It doesn't work."
"We still have to toast to something."
"How about... to freedom," Kendra suggested.
"Perfect!" Caitlin laughed.
Iris smiled. "Hear, hear!"
Their three shot glasses clinked in the air and they drowned back their drinks at the same time, groaning at the same time, and making very similar faces as the alcohol burned down their throats.
"I just want to say," Kendra shouted over the music, still wincing, "for the record, RIGHT NOW, that at NO point in the evening will I be dancing to Single Ladies."
Caitlin chuckled knowingly. "That's Sober Kendra talking."
"Yeah, Drunk Kendra doesn't exactly have a clean track record when it comes to dancing," Iris added, head swinging around, looking for their waitress.
"Let's all just pray the DJ doesn't play any Justin Bieber tonight," Caitlin teased her.
"Hey, Sorry is not that bad," Kendra said, the effects of the alcohol already taking hold. She ignored Caitlin's wink. "And anyway, I have you two to keep me from making stupid decisions tonight."
Iris clicked her tongue and waved her hand dismissively. "Hey, we've got your back."
Caitlin wrinkled her nose as she chewed on a martini pick. "Famous last words."
"Oh! Waitress! Another round!"
"Shhhh! Guys, SHHHH! We're gonna wake up the neighbors," Kendra slurred at a giggling Caitlin, who was leaning on Iris, who was trying, very unsuccessfully, to walk down the hallway in heels.
Both Kendra and Caitlin were barefooted because... alcohol and heels just didn't mix. They'd decided on that a little over an hour ago while they were on the dance floor. But Iris was a stubborn drunk. A very stubborn drunk. And so she'd decided that the heels stayed on.
And it just... slowed everything down. Her ankles wobbled as she held on to the wall, her purse clutched under one armpit while she held on to Caitlin with her other arm.
"Iris, you okay?" Kendra asked her.
"Does she look okay?"
"No, she looks like a baby giraffe learning to walk."
That caused Caitlin to laugh harder, which made Iris laugh, and before she knew it Kendra was laughing as well. She would no doubt get a note on her door the next morning, or a stern lecture from her manager about being a responsible neighbor, but in her drunken state she didn't care at all. Let Sober Kendra deal with that.
"Hurry up, I have to pee," Caitlin complained.
"Last time I let you pee you threw up in my laundry basket."
"No, I threw up in the toilet and some of it splashed on the laundry basket. Those are very different things, Kendra Saunders."
"Who has my cell phone? I wanna to get this on video," Iris said, her voice way louder than usual, because for some reason Iris's voice was either very loud or very low when she was drunk. No in between. "So you can see what you two are like when you're drunk. When you're drunk... Did I spell that right?"
Caitlin and Kendra burst into another fit of laughter and just as quickly they started shushing each other. A neighbor's dog started barking. Kendra needed to find her keys, but her purse was suddenly a bottomless pit. And then she found herself bumping into Caitlin and Iris as they stopped walking. She had to look up from her purse to see why.
There was a dark figure in front of her door.
Her pulse quickened and she nearly hawked out.
But then her eyes narrowed and the figure came into focus.
Her heart started beating madly.
"Ray?" She didn't say it. She was so out of breath she just exhaled it.
"Whoa!" Caitlin gasped. Her eyes went huge and she looked serious for a second, but just as quickly she let out a giggle. Iris's elbow found her ribs and she stopped herself. "Dr. Palmer."
Ray frowned carefully. "Is... this a bad time?"
But Kendra didn't hear him. She continued to shake her head over and over, as if she was seeing a ghost. "You're... you're... Ray."
"He is," Caitlin said in amazement.
He seized them and it didn't take a genius to figure out what was going on. Three girls dressed in party clothes, two of them barefooted, messy hair, messy make up... "This is a bad time," he said and began to move. "I'll just..."
"No, no," Kendra said quickly, blocking his way and trying, with all her might, to act like she wasn't as drunk as she was 100% sure she was. But it was hard when the two Rays in front of her kept merging, separating, and getting blurry.
Oh, how she wished she'd been stoned instead. Being stoned would be so much easier. She could talk herself out of being high. But being drunk... her head was spinning, fuzzy. She wasn't even sure she was alive. She kept trying, really hard, to act normal. And she could, maybe?
Take a deep breath. Keep it cool.
But she had two drunken messes next to her, and one of them gave her away immediately.
Iris was suddenly all up on Ray's personal space, her mascara smudged, her words slurred. Caitlin and Iris knew everything - everything - about her personal life. Since coming back from the Waverider, they'd become her best friends.
A decision she suddenly regretted.
They knew too much.
Entirely too much. And Iris was entirely too drunk. And she was a stubborn drunk.
He carefully frowned down at her. "Yes?"
"Let me tell you something," Iris said sloppily, jabbing her index finger at his chest.
"No, Kendra, he needs to hear this!" Iris turned to Ray again with a very determined expression on her face. She took a deep breath, as if to begin a long monologue, but suddenly her eyes focused on one of the buttons of his coat. And just as easily, thankfully, she frowned and lost her train of thought. Ray waited, and waited some more, but she just stood there, shaking her finger.
Behind her, Caitlin gasped, covering her mouth. "Iris, that was amazing."
Iris looked at her friends triumphantly but Ray just frowned. "Right. Um, how are you girls getting home? Do you need me to call you a cab?"
"Oh, don't worry about it," said Caitlin, her words running together in a drunken mess.
Iris turned to him again. "Yeah, Barry's coming-oop!" Suddenly a bright light, skirts, hairs flying everywhere, and then, "Barry's here!"
Barry materialized as if out of nowhere, looking particularly annoyed. "Barry!" Iris and Caitlin were celebrating, but Kendra just stood there, praying over and over that this wasn't real. That this wasn't happening.
Wishing she had Barry's metabolism.
Because she felt like she was outside her body watching some sort of Greek tragedy. Barry looked pissed, Caitlin and Iris kept chanting his name, her neighbor's dog kept barking, Ray looked confused, and she was so drunk she could barely move. She felt Ray's presence next to her like a furnace, but she couldn't turn to him. She couldn't face him.
She just wanted to disappear. Maybe she could fly away, instead. She looked at the ceiling, imagining herself flying up only to get knocked right back down to the floor. No, that would be even worse.
Barry sighed, gently putting a hand on Iris's back. "Look, I don't mind girls night, but I keep telling you guys to do it in one of your apartments."
"But we went shopping," Caitlin told him. "The world needed to see our pretty pretty dresses."
"Yeah, well, next time bring cash. I'm not your personal cab," Barry said and when he finally looked at Kendra his eyes widened and he smiled brightly when he spotted Ray. That was Barry. He could never really stay mad. "Hey! Ray, you're back."
Ray smiled and shook Barry's hand. "Just a brief stop."
Barry nodded and looked at the girls. "Well, for a guy who can time travel, you sure picked one hell of a night."
"Barry shush!" Kendra scolded him, although she wasn't sure which of the two Barrys she was actually looking at.
"Okay," he sighed, turning his attention to Iris and Caitlin. "Let's get you girls home before you get Kendra evicted."
Ray frowned. "You're running at the speed of light with two drunk girls?" he observed dryly and gave Barry a suggestive nod. "Hope you brought your parka."
"Trust me, this isn't the first time," Barry smiled. "Hey, it was good to see you again, man."
Ray shook his hand again. "You too."
Then the speedster turned his attention to Kendra. "Kendra are you okay?"
Kendra's nod was an over-exaggeration, though she didn't realize it. "Yes totally fine good."
"Alright." Barry looked at Ray with pity. "Good luck."
Ray pressed his lips together. "You're gonna need it more than me."
Barry chuckled. "Girls, let's go."
"Wait," Iris complained, "we can't leave Kendra!"
"Iris, Kendra lives here," Barry said gently.
Caitlin widened her eyes at Kendra's door. "She does!"
Barry rolled his eyes and shook his head, grabbing them both by their waists. "I'm changing my phone number."
And then suddenly everyone was gone and Kendra swayed back and forth as the breeze from Barry's running struck her. And then...
And then she was pretty sure she wanted to die. Because she was drunk, sleepy, and somehow on high alert. Ray was back. And he was standing next to her. And she couldn't face him, but there was a silence that seemed to stretch forever. And she was drunk. And she was embarrassed.
And he was Ray.
She was pretty sure he was looking at her, but she couldn't face him. "So..."
Just focus on the floor, she told herself. Focus on the floor. The floor is your friend. "You're back." Nice, Kendra. Non-committal. Minimal slurring.
Ray nodded, smiling. But upon her state, he quickly frowned. "Are you sure you're okay?"
"Yes. Course. Mmm hmm." Trying to make the situation a little less awkward she moved past him and stood in front of her door. And then... wait. Was this her door? How did Ray know where she lived? What if he'd been standing in front of the neighbor's door? What if SHE was standing in front of the neighbor's door?
And was she just standing there like an idiot staring at the door? Some random door? Or possibly her door? How much time had passed? Seconds? An hour? Why couldn't she feel her nose? Could she normally feel her nose? Should she be saying something? Doing something? Oh my God. Say something!
Suddenly: "This is my apartment."
Ray frowned at the back of her head. "Uh... I mean, Cisco gave me your address."
But she didn't seem to hear him. "I have the keys and they go in this lock."
"Are you just... saying what you're thinking?"
Kendra chuckled quickly, shaking her head. "No I'm... thinking."
"With my mouth."
"Okay." He nodded, waiting. But she just stood there and boy, was he going to give her a hard time for this. "Keys?"
"Yes. Oh." She dug through her purse, and the sudden look down made her head spin. But she couldn't show it because she was pretty sure she'd already made a fool of herself tonight and she didn't need to keep repeating herself.
She finally found the keys and tried, unsuccessfully, to jab them at her lock several times before sighing. "It won't work."
Ray smiled. "Alright, I got it." And to her amazement (also, did he have a hand on her back?) he opened the door quickly and then...
The AC. She forgot to turn it on before leaving, and a wave of heat and humidity hit her like a loaded truck. Her hand quickly came up to her stomach and she took one step back, bumping into Ray.
Ray stroked her shoulder. "Are you okay?"
Kendra closed her eyes as her stomach began to revolt and her head spun. "Dizzy."
His hand was gentle as he tried to encourage her to go inside. "Let's get you to bed."
But her feet were cemented and her head felt like it was leaving her body. "Hold on."
He was quiet for a second, waiting for her nausea to pass, but then she brought another hand to her stomach.
Ray frowned. "Are you going to..."
And perhaps it was the mere suggestion, but suddenly she ran almost as fast as Barry and in a second she was hunched over her toilet bowl. Ray wasn't quite as fast and by the time he ended up beside her on her bathroom floor her hair was a mess, her face red, her body limp and nearly lifeless.
"Well, at least you ate something," he said as he tried to pull her hair back and rubbed his hand along her spine. "Not something entirely healthy, by the looks of it. Hot dogs?"
Wrong thing to say, because she groaned loudly and another explosion of vomit, some of which splashed on Ray's shirt. He scrunched his nose, but smiled. "It's... not exactly the 'welcome home' I was expecting."
But Kendra hugged the toilet and ignored him, resting her cheek on the ceramic bowl. Ray flushed it all down, rubbing her back as she moaned softly. He reached for a towel to wipe her face and she fell back onto him, limp and groaning. She was sweaty and knowing her, knowing how fuzzy she was about her personal appearance and hygiene, the decision came easily.
He took his shirt off, pants, shoes and socks, slid down her zipper and peeled her dress off her body. Down to their underwear, he hoisted her up and she complained weakly, but he ignored her. "You're gonna thank me tomorrow, trust me."
She said something unintelligibly as he moved to the shower.
The cold water woke her up straight away and she gasped, coughing. She clung to him, trying to get away from the water, but soon they were both soaked. Ray tried to soap her up as best he could, washing the vomit out of her hair. Attempting to brush her teeth would probably make her gag, but he found some mouth wash. By the time he finished she was nearly passed out, complaining weakly every once in a while, as his long legs tried to maneuver him out of the shower.
He dried her up, wrapping the towel around her body. He saw no other choice but to carry her bridal style to her bed. As soon as he laid her down gently she curled on her side and he took the opportunity to dry himself and change back into his jeans. It was hot, but he found the central air and turned it on. He roamed her kitchen, her bathroom, and by the time he came back he found her with her eyes semi-opened, forehead creased in agony.
"Here." He handed her a glass of water and some aspirin. "Trust me."
She sat up a little bit, knocked the pills back and drank some water. He took the glass and put it on her nightstand (she'd need it later) and found an over-sized t-shirt at the end of her bed. She cooperated as he put it on her and as she sighed he sat on the edge of her bed.
"How are you feeling?"
Kendra rubbed her eyes and breathed deep. "Been better."
Ray smiled. "I bet."
She didn't seem to hear him. "Ray."
"I have to tell you something."
She was very serious.
"What is it?"
Kendra finally looked at him, for the first time that night. Her eyes were still huge and beautiful, but her eyelids were droopy and boy was she going to hate herself in the morning.
"I'm drunk," she finally declared.
He nodded solemnly, trying not to smile. "I... I hadn't noticed."
She took a deep breath. "We went out drinking and I drank so I'm drunk."
"So that's... a thing that I am right now," she sighed, leaning back to rest on the headboard. "I drank... some alcohol and it made me drunk."
He smiled, trying not to laugh. In the years they'd been together he'd never seen Kendra drunk. Tipsy, a couple of times. But never like this. "Alcohol tends to do that."
Right away she sighed, closing her eyes, a look of appreciation on her face. "You're were always so smart."
And then he chuckled because, no matter how much she would hate herself in the morning (and she would), it was good to know she at least had friends. That she had fun, that she had a life outside the Waverider. Something he himself couldn't say.
Her hand was on his wrist suddenly, and he found her smiling. "You're back."
Ray returned the smile. "I'm back."
She stayed quiet for a second, looking down and suddenly sighed. "I miss you."
And that's when he knew. He couldn't allow her to get sentimental. He knew she'd be able to deal with the embarrassment of getting drunk, but he was sure she'd regret anything that came out of her mouth from here on out. He respected her too much. "Miss you too," he said quickly and stood up, gently tucking her in and thankfully she cooperated. "Get some sleep."
But Drunk Kendra, he came to realize tonight, was also a very chatty Kendra. Chatty with herself, mostly. But chatty. "We were together."
She spooned her pillow and wrinkled her forehead as he tucked the comforter around her. "I loved you so much."
He didn't wanna think about how much that hurt. It was just safer to blame it on the alcohol instead. "I know."
And then she sighed. "I still-"
"Kendra, you're very, very drunk." He didn't mean for it to come out so loud. Except maybe he did. Maybe he'd been wanting to scream since the day she left. And a part of him wanted to hear it but the other part... no, this wasn't her. It was just the alcohol talking.
She nodded into her pillow. "I know."
Ray frowned, wondering. Maybe. If this was a mistake. He shouldn't have come. His hand rubbed her arm. "So maybe now is not the best time to-"
But to his surprise, she agreed with a low hum. "Okay."
Her muscles relaxed and her eyes finally closed. Her breathing deepened and he was reminded of all the times he stayed up, back in the 50s and on the Waverider, just watching her sleep. She was adorable with her mouth partly opened and her curls falling across her face. And suddenly nothing had changed. She still was the only person he knew who had the air of someone who's been around for 4,000 years, yet the sweetness and innocence of a young girl from Wisconsin. How she managed to balance that, he could never tell. It was one of the very few things he couldn't understand about her. But one of her most fascinating traits, nonetheless.
And he knew he was in trouble again when she was long lost in sleep but he still ran a hand along her arm. "Get some sleep."
He didn't get a reply.
There was music.
Terrible hellish music and her head was pounding. Kendra groaned into her pillow - God, somebody stop the music - and her hand found her phone. She half opened one eye, wincing against the light, and Caitlin's happy smile lit her home screen. Blindly, she swatted at her phone several times until she was successful in answering.
"Hello?" Her voice was hoarse and strained and her mouth tasted like a raccoon had died in it.
"I'm not... entirely sure... I'm alive right now." Caitlin's voice didn't sound much better.
"I am," Kendra breathed, bringing a hand to her head. "It sucks."
"Oh my God."
"There is no God," Kendra sighed dramatically. "I'm sure of it now."
Caitlin groaned slightly. "What the hell did we drink last night? Drano?"
"Ugh, please don't make any toilet references."
Kendra finally opened her eyes. The ceiling was spinning. Or was it her bed? She couldn't tell. "How's Iris?"
"She slept in her tub last night. Joe found her cuddling a teddy bear under the faucet." She wanted to laugh, and almost did, but her body had no energy and if Iris was feeling how she was feeling, she only deserved sympathy.
"Anyway," Caitlin continued. "How's Ray?"
Kendra frowned, rubbing her forehead. "Who?"
She blinked several times, trying to figure out what Caitlin was asking. "Ray, Ray... as in Palmer?"
"Did I hallucinate that part? I thought that was odd," Caitlin said, her voice returning to its normal pitch. "So he's not back? Man, I was really wasted."
Kendra didn't hear the last part because suddenly... "Oh my God." Yeah, her memories were returning. Slowly, but returning and her heart stopped beating. Hangover almost forgotten. Almost. "Oh my God, Ray is here."
She could practically feel Caitlin get serious, eyes wide and judging. "Kendra what did you do?"
"Nothing," she said, but way too impulsively. So quickly she had to look under her comforter and right away she let out a sigh of relief. She was clothed. Not fully, just a t-shirt and her underwear. But clothed, at least. Plus, Ray would never...
And that's when she heard movement coming from the kitchen. An adrenaline rush took over. It didn't mix well with the hangover.
"Ray is here!" she whispered aggressively into her phone.
Panic welled inside of her and Caitlin wasn't helping. "What's he doing here?"
"You tell me!" For some reason Caitlin was whispering as well. "It's your apartment. It's your Ray!"
He's not my Ray, is what she should've said. But screw the technicalities. "I... I gotta go."
But she hung up quickly and sat up, ignoring the sharp pain it caused her head. She looked around her room, trying to think, to remember, to pick up on any cues. No, he couldn't have slept in her bed. Ray... she knew his smell. Plus the other side of her bed was made. Where did he sleep? What was he doing here?
What the hell happened last night?
It smelled like food and... no, no, no.
Desperately, her eyes suddenly focused on her window. That was it. That was the solution, really. She'd have to fly away. Far, far away and never return. How could she face him? How could she go out there after... hell, she couldn't even remember what happened the night before. She remembered meeting Caitlin and Iris, she remembered Tequila shots...
Boy, did she remember the Tequila shots.
But everything was fuzzy after that.
How was Ray back? And how could she go out there and face him?
Sighing, she plummeted right back down on her bed and used her comforter as a shield against the world. And then she waited.
Ten... twenty... maybe thirty minutes passed. And how she wished she could crawl into her mattress and never come out. But as her head began to clear and she became more and more herself she realized there was no avoiding this.
And Ray was... Ray. He wouldn't judge her.
There was really only one way to find out. She brushed her teeth quickly and tried to make herself appear at least half decent. Her hair was a disaster and she desperately tied it up in a messy bun. Pants. She needed pants. And possibly a fake passport and 200,000 dollars cash. But the pants would do for now. She wrapped a blanket around her shoulders and carefully made her way out.
She found him in her kitchen, with his back to her. There were groceries on her table and that added to her embarrassment. She couldn't even remember the last time she went grocery shopping and was pretty sure the only thing in her fridge was a couple of ice cube trays. And empty to boot. But he'd stocked up and was currently moving up and down her kitchen like he'd been using it for years.
He was very busy.
He was also very shirtless.
Alarm bells went off. What if... they did something? She shook her head quickly because she knew Ray would never take advantage of her like that. But what if she did something to him? What if she said something? What if...
He finally spotted her when he turned around, with a frying pan in one hand and a spatula in the other. She was mute. She opened her mouth several times to say something, but nothing seemed right.
"How are you feeling?"
Kendra watched him carefully. He didn't seem mad, or annoyed, he just seemed concerned. She was glad, but still terribly embarrassed and there was a huge chunk of memory missing from last night.
But she smiled, because maybe it was okay. Maybe she got home and they talked and he crashed on her couch. Maybe he hadn't even noticed she was drunk. Maybe she was level headed and eloquent. Maybe. She could dream.
But she couldn't fool herself like that. A frown followed. And self-doubt. "Like I was hit by a truck and left to die on the side of the road?"
He chuckled, putting the frying pan down and motioning her to come sit on her couch. "I hope you don't have to work today."
She plummeted herself down with a sigh. "No. Although I could use the extra hours, pretty sure I'm gonna need a new liver after last night."
Ray smiled to himself, walking over, and suddenly there was a plate in front of her full of eggs and bacon. It made her stomach revolt and she complained with a low moan.
"I know you don't like fried eggs, but this will help. Trust me." He also placed a cold glass in front of her. "And I got you some ginger ale."
She had to smile because it was maybe the sweetest thing in the world. Yet not surprising. Not coming from Ray. It really only made her feel even worse and she groaned. "I can't believe you picked last night to come back."
He chuckled. "Well, it's a good thing I did, otherwise you would be spooning your toilet right now."
She wanted to laugh, and she sort of did, but everything hurt and she was so embarrassed. And Ray looked... fine. Content. He sat in front of her on her coffee table looking entirely too understanding.
Kendra nibbled on her bacon, but she couldn't stand it any longer. Part of her was a-okay just going along like nothing happened. But the other part needed to know. If only for the damage control. "Ray?"
She frowned. The words took a while to come out, but she had to force them. She had to know. "Please... tell me I didn't do anything stupid last night."
Ray smirked. "Aside from throwing up on me a little? No, you didn't. By the way, my shirt's in your dryer."
"Okay," Kendra nodded. She closed her eyes and winced, choosing her next words carefully. "Please... tell me I didn't say anything stupid last night."
Ray hesitated for a moment, looking everywhere but at her, and right away she groaned and buried her face into her hands. "Oh my God."
"It... don't worry," he said dismissively. Too dismissively.
"What did I say?" She looked at him and right away she knew his look. Ray was an anxious liar and as he sat there, trying to pretend nothing happened, her skin crawled. "Wait, no. No, please don't tell me. And... and please, just... whatever I said, just forget it."
Something crossed his features, something new and different and it reminded of the fact they'd been apart for a while. There were new things about him, but old parts as well, and it looked like some kind of hurt mixed with hardness. But then his features softened and he raised his eyebrows seriously. "It wasn't that bad. You really only confessed your undying love..."
She took a deep breath and braced herself. Oh God.
"... for Mick."
Her sigh came out as a chuckle and she had to close her eyes and really, just laugh at herself.
"But honestly, it was very moving. Very romantic," Ray continued jocosely. "I always hoped you two crazy kids would make it."
Her laughter continued and it made her head hurt even more, but she didn't care. And suddenly she was glad, really, that of all the people in the world who had to see her like that, it was Ray. He wasn't judgmental, he really only saw the good in people. It made her grateful, but still. "Ray, I'm so sorry."
He smiled warmly at her. "You have nothing to apologize for."
Kendra's forehead creased. "This is so embarrassing."
But he nudged her knee with his and his eyes were kind. "Hey, remember the chili burger from 1959?"
Memories, smells, and old sensations suddenly hit her and her headache was instantly gone, replaced instead by a growing fondness and she smiled. "The chili burger."
"At least yours only came out of one end. That was... bad." His ears turned red, no doubt still remembering the infamous night. "But you still took care of me."
Her heart swelled at the memory. Turned out 1959 America hadn't quite perfected the concept of chili. Thankfully, smartly, she'd opted out. But Ray had happily eaten two of those burgers. An hour later, maybe not even an hour, he was hunched over the toilet, when not ON the toilet. She had to bathe him so many times that night that in the end she threatened to go after him with a hose.
He'd been scared it would ruin the way she saw him. But really the opposite happened. After seeing him in that state, after taking care of him all night and well into the morning, their relationship just became stronger.
"So," he interrupted her thoughts and her eyes snapped up to meet his, "we're even now."
She nodded, quickly blinking away the moisture in her eyes. "I guess we are."
His smile was cute and innocent, but their eyes inevitably locked. And just as she'd feared, just as she always feared with Ray, they were enveloped by a growing tension. And that's what it was all about, really. Not her hangover. Not her being drunk. That didn't seem to matter anymore. She'd been sick with him before. He'd taken care of her before, just as she'd taken care of him. It'd been a two year relationship, after all.
That was it. That was the source of the tension. The fact that one minute they were getting married and the next she was flying away and nothing had been resolved. They'd wrapped their relationship up like a last minute Christmas present and put it away in an old closet, but it was still there. They never threw it away. They hadn't cheated, their relationship never grew stale and tiresome.
They fell in love but never fell out of love.
And that was the problem.
And it wasn't one sided, because she knew he felt it, too. However much he tried to act like everything was good. Like everything was perfect. He could feel it. He was just better at sugar coating it.
Luckily, he didn't let the silence stretch for too long. "So... this is a weekly thing?"
Kendra nodded, trying to breathe away some of the tension. "No. Not... really. Sometimes. Last night was just... we were just celebrating."
"Yeah. Carter's gone, Caitlin's finally over the whole Jay thing, and Barry... for being the fastest man alive he sure is slow, so... ladies night seemed like a good idea." She thought about it for a second and nodded absentmindedly. "Next time I think we'll just go shopping. Definitely."
But his mind was somewhere else. "Carter's gone?"
Kendra smiled sadly at him. "You sound surprised."
"I am." The look she gave him was enough, but he seemed genuinely confused. "I really am. I'm sorry."
She didn't wanna talk about it. She scarcely wanted to remember. The moment the Waverider took off she and Carter started bickering almost immediately. And the bickering never stopped. They clashed over everything and after a couple of months it was too much. Not all of it was bad. The sex was unbelievable. But everything else was exhausting. They'd both tried. They really did. It was meant to be, after all. Soulmates. But with the curse broken the fairy tale part of it died, and the rest was suffocating.
And Ray was really the last person in the world she wanted to talk to about it.
Thankfully, he seemed to sense her trepidation and didn't press her. "So Mick was right."
Kendra nodded and smiled. "Yes, we are officially living in a world where Mick Rory was right."
Ray chuckled. He looked down and a sort of sadness took over the room. And she could tell exactly why, and what he was thinking. He let her go so she could be happy with Carter, and she thought she would be, too. But in the end sacrificing their happiness together proved fruitless. It was something she realized quickly after leaving the Waverider. But it was something she didn't like thinking, much less talking about. It was easier to just go out with Caitlin and Iris, and let the world make her forget.
"Anyway." She filled the silence because it was stifling. "How are you?"
He smiled, but for the second time that day she noticed there was something different about him. Some kind of distance, some kind of maturity. "I'm okay."
And some kind of sadness as well. She cocked her head to the side and raised her eyebrows. "You can't lie to me."
Avoiding eye contact was a classic Ray telltale sign. "No, I... I am, really."
"You seem different," she said. "More serious."
He smiled instantly. "Well, you seem more fun so... Guess we swapped." She smiled fondly and didn't press him. Ray worked better like that. If she asked him he wouldn't tell her. She had to leave him instead. And sure enough, he became serious for a moment and, "I guess... the new mission is just as crazy as the last one, but everyone's different."
She nodded understandingly.
"Rip keeps butting heads with Rex," Ray continued with a deep sigh. "Mick is practically drinking himself to death. Sara lost you, Leonard, and her sister in one week and that's taken a toll on the entire team. We barely even see her."
He smiled, but mirthlessly. "I'm just trying to do what needs to be done. I do love saving the world. It makes up for everything else."
"I get it." The Waverider does that. It gives you a taste of a drug you find yourself needing over and over. And when you leave the Waverider, she found, it never really leaves you. She scratched her shoulder and smiled. "You know, I help Barry sometimes."
His entire demeanor changed and his eyes began to shine again. "Really?"
"Yeah. He's really good," she said, nearly blushing at the confession. Not many people knew, but she'd been growing closer and closer to Team Flash. And she wasn't exactly a meta-human, but she had super strength and sometimes Barry couldn't handle all the workload. "I know I'm not that great but, sometimes I can't help it. I miss it. The fight." His smile mirrored her own. "Iris has even printed a couple of articles about Hawkgirl. Of course, she can't say it's me, but... Hawkgirl is kind of becoming a thing in Central City."
His grin was happy and genuine. "That's great!"
She wrinkled her nose. "You think?"
"Yeah," Ray beamed. "You were always meant to be something great." And then his ears turned red again and the old Ray was back. "I mean, not that you're not great now. You're... terrific. What I mean is..."
Her cheeks felt warm. "I know what you mean."
Kendra hated how easy this was. How they eased themselves so quickly into their old molds. Even though she looked like she'd been run over by a truck and he was a little different. She had to wonder if it would ever leave them. This magnetism. This... feeling. They weren't soulmates. It wasn't destiny. It was something... different. More complicated. Real, maybe. Real life. Not something out of a fairy tale. But something concrete. Something entirely human and honest.
She didn't have much time to dwell on it. She would, later. For sure. But there was a sudden loud beep and the spell was broken. He produced some sort of weird device out of his pocket and the wrinkles of his forehead worried.
"I have to go back."
She instantly blamed the hangover. Surely, the reason why she suddenly felt concave... it was the hangover. "Right now?"
"I'm sorry," he sighed, quickly moving about and retrieving his shirt.
Kendra's eyes followed him around the room. She didn't know anything about the new mission. For his sake, she wanted to. But for her sake... it was safer to stay ignorant. Except he hadn't been this serious when they were after Savage. He hadn't been this anxious, this jumpy. She wanted to ask, and at the same time didn't want to. She didn't feel she had a right to. It had been her choice to walk away.
And so, she didn't deserve to ask. And as much as she wanted to, she didn't deserve to see Sara, either. She didn't deserve the team.
Instead, she followed him to her front door. And the inevitability of a goodbye, for good, maybe, left her breathless. And maybe he felt the same way, because he was looking at the end of the hallway to her apartment like it was endless.
His eyes were warm and familiar and their hands craved to touch. But they restrained themselves. They weren't a thing anymore. And there was a pretty good chance she would never see him again.
So when her face worried, she didn't bother trying to hide it. "Promise you'll take care?"
He smiled at her, but it was a sorry display. "I promise."
He made a fruitless attempt to walk away but really only ended up swaying in place.
And she took the opportunity to circle his wrist with her hand. "Ray?"
He didn't say anything. She didn't, either. Not for lack of want. But because between them, sometimes words weren't needed. Their eyes were a similar shade of brown, equally warm, expressive and passionate.
She kissed his cheek instead, and if he went entirely still and his breath hitched, she decided to ignore it.
He smiled down at her, warm and happy, his eyes shut into lines before he opened them again. And they were full of light. "I'll see you soon."
He was gone quickly. And if her heart immediately ached for his presence... well, she decided to ignore that, too.
An hour later she was in bed, trying to sleep off her hangover.
Except she couldn't sleep, she couldn't close her eyes. She couldn't stop thinking about the past 24 hours. She tried, really did. Because Ray was gone and if she knew something about the Waverider it was that there was a chance she might not see him again. She tried not to focus on that, but the thought was still there.
Her cell phone chimed. She tried to ignore it, but it did it again just a minute later and sighing, she reached for it.
Their Whatsapp nicknames changed constantly. This week, Caitlin was "Becky with the good hair," while Kendra's recent break up with Carter had earned her the moniker "Lemonade." Iris was stuck with "Blue Iris".
Becky with the good hair: deeeeeeets!
Lemonade: No deets
Blue Iris: Come on!
Lemonade: Nothing happened!
Becky with the good hair: Why not?
Blue Iris: He's so hot. I poked him did u see that? Hard rock
Lemonade: lol well, so was Carter
Becky with the good girl: Yeah, but Ray is so sweet.
Blue Iris: And hot.
Lemonade: And gone. He's back on the Waverider.
Becky with the good hair: :(
Blue Iris: :(
Lemonade: Stop! Besides we're all single. That's our thing now. Hoes before bros.
Blue Iris: YES!
Becky with the good hair: Totally
Blue Iris: I think this calls for a drink
Becky with the good hair: NO
Lemonade: OMG NO