Trying To Say

Ever since Carol had revealed that she knew about him being Impulse, she'd been awfully quiet. It wasn't that she didn't talk to him, she just didn't talk to him as much.

Considering how much Bart liked to talk, he noticed a lot sooner than he normally would have. Maybe his trip to the future, however short, had changed him. Maybe he was growing up. Maybe he was missing his best friend.

Maybe Carol meant more to him than he'd realized.

Bart actually spent an hour of objective time – which was forever in subjective time – thinking about what could be wrong with her.

And whether or not it was his fault.

"Do you feel I betrayed you by keeping it a secret from you?" he asked the next morning before school. "Because Max is really really big on the secret identity thing, and I promised him I'd do my best not to let everyone find out, and I wanted to tell you, but I promised, Carol!" He thought they'd already gone over the whole, 'You're not mad at me?!' thing, but maybe she thought he needed to apologize anyway. Girls were weird like that.

She just shook her head no. But she smiled, so Bart knew she wasn't mad.

But what could it be?

He remembered that whole thing with White Lightning, and wondered if she was worried that he was going to get hurt. "You're not upset that I'm a superhero-in-training, are you?" he asked the next day after school. "'Cause I'm not an adrenaline junkie or anything, it's just I have these powers and I should use them to help people like my Grandpa did." Secretly, he also wanted to show up Wally. Not so much Max, though, because even though Max was lame to the extreme, he actually seemed to care. Wally was just…never there.

She gave a little huff – not really making any noise, just an exhalation of air – and ducked her head to hide a grin.

So it wasn't that.

Bart spent that entire weekend thinking – well, when he wasn't eating or sleeping or arguing with Max – and he only took four breaks to play video games. He finally figured out that maybe Carol wasn't mad about him never telling her he was Impulse, but about something else that had happened around then.

Namely, his going to the thirtieth century, and planning to live there for the rest of his life with his mom. Which, in and of itself, shouldn't have bothered her. But the fact that she would never have seen him again, well…

Actually, that idea bothered him, too. He'd just never bothered to think about it before.

"Are you upset because you thought you were never gonna see me again and you think I don't value our friendship as much as you do because I was ready to go after not giving it much thought, but I really did, I just didn't do it like most people?" Bart asked during lunch. He knew it was alright to mention it where other people could hear because he wasn't saying anything about his secret identity. He'd almost said that he'd thought about it in subjective time, though, so he'd have to be careful in the future to be sneakier with his words.

Maybe he could take lessons from Robin.

Carol hesitated before shaking her head. Bart wasn't too swift, but he wasn't stupid, either. It wasn't quite that, but something close to it.

Bart spent the next week cudgeling his brain, trying to figure out what Carol wasn't saying – and why she wasn't saying it.

When the answer came, as he was trying to go to sleep Sunday night, it was so simple Bart had to bang his head against the bed. Luckily, his pillows cushioned the impact or he might have given himself a concussion.

Not that it would have lasted long.

Monday morning, Bart showed up at Carol's house at least ten minutes before she'd head out to pick him up. He wanted them to have plenty of time to have this conversation, and that meant allowing for the fact that she didn't have superspeed.

After Bart knocked, Carol's brother Bobby opened the door to let him in. Carol was surprised to see him there early; Bart was typically a few minutes late for everything.

When he said that he needed to talk to her, though, a flash of understanding came across her face. Once they were outside, Bart zoomed them to the park halfway between their houses and the school, where they could have some privacy.

She seemed content to wait for him to speak, but there was an air of anticipation in her silence.

Bart gripped his backpack with one hand and told himself that he was a superhero, and he needed to not be so nervous. Opening his mouth, he started to say, "Carol, I…" then he stopped. "I think I finally figured out what you've been trying to get me to see but I'm not sure," he prefaced his little speech.

She cocked her head to the side and waited.

"My name is Bartholomew Henry Allen. I'm Impulse," Bart told her. "I'm originally from the thirtieth century, and I grew up in virtual reality before I got sent here. I'm not always good with people, but you're my best friend, Carol, and I'm sorry I didn't arrange for you to find out sooner, but like I said, I'm kinda stupid when it comes to how to relate to people. I've had to keep so many secrets, but if there was one person I could tell them to, it would be you."

This time Carol really smiled, showing teeth. She said, "Bart," in that amused, affectionate tone of voice that she used a lot around him – and leaned forward, pressing her lips to his.

Oh. That was what she'd been trying to get him to figure out.

Bart blinked, eyes going wide, before his eyelids fell closed, blocking out the world around him except for her, and then he kissed her back.

Sometimes words got in the way.