Another LiveJournal prompt fic finally seeing the light of day.
Speedy allowed himself a confident grin as he approached his Atlantean teammate, who was standing at parade rest and gazing vacantly out into the moonlit ocean from the observation deck of the Titans East Tower. "Deep thoughts, gill-head?"
Alas, Aqualad didn't even blink.
"What? No witty comeback?"
"Weren't you supposed to be in Star City this weekend?" Aqualad asked finally, his tone mild. He still didn't turn around.
"Yeah, but Green Arrow and Black Canary were fighting again," the archer admitted with deflated aggravation.
Aqualad watched Speedy's reflection lean casually against a support pylon.
"I just got in."
Aqualad nodded distractedly and let the silence stretch between them, knowing that fairly soon, Speedy would break it again. One thing he'd learned about his teammate was that he became amusingly disquieted by silence—at least when on the receiving end. When the mood struck the archer could brood with the best of them.
"I've got an excuse," Speedy inevitably spoke. "But why are you still up?"
Aqualad had to arch an eyebrow at that. "I should be sleeping?"
"It's after two a.m., time for all the good little guppies to be in bed."
"Oh, what is it with you surface-dwellers and your constructed concept of time?" Aqualad blurted before he could stop himself.
"What? Don't you mermaids sleep at night?"
"How can we? We have no concept of 'night.'"
Speedy blinked. "Say what?"
"You can't have 'night' without 'day,'" Aqualad explained. "And you can't have 'day' without sunlight. Atlantis is too deep."
Speedy's eyes widened in disbelief. "Whoa, you mean to tell me you guys swim around in the dark?"
Aqualad chuckled slightly, ruefully, at his teammate's ignorance. "We've harnessed the power of bioluminescence. I'd explain it to you, but…"
Speedy smirked. "So your light bulbs make love to chemosynthetic bacteria? That's cool."
Aqualad's surprise must have registered on his face, which Speedy clearly saw in his reflection.
"What? Just because I'm the cute one doesn't mean I can't be smart."
Aqualad shook his head, oblivious to how his smirk had drooped into a wan smile. "I thought the Tornado Twins were the cute ones…"
"No, they're the annoying ones."
"I thought that was you."
Speedy made a show of gripping at his chest. "Oh, you wound me."
"No seriously," Aqualad protested, half-turning finally to speak directly to the archer instead of his reflection. "They're the cute ones, Bee's the smart one, and you're the annoying one."
"And what does that make you?"
Aqualad hadn't realized the breadth of his smile until he felt it slip away as his focus drifted back towards the window. "The outcast."
The declaration had barely fallen and already Speedy was standing straight again. "That's a bit melodramatic, isn't it? Even for you."
The half-lidded concern from the archer was touching, if a little unexpected.
"Spill. What's got your swim trunks in a twist?"
Bitter irony bubbled up in an amused, breathy snort through Aqualad's nose. "That's your fourth demeaning comment at my expense tonight."
Speedy winced. "Look, Aqualad…" he tried, taking a bold step forward. He dragged a hand through his shaggy orange hair—a telltale sign of his discomfort. "You know I don't mean anything by it."
Another flick of an eyebrow. "Do I?"
Speedy sighed and hung his head. The hand roaming through his hair strayed to the back of his neck, where it momentarily lingered as if to massage a sudden tension. "Green Arrow was good at that. Using tangent guilt trips to change the subject whenever conversation got too personal."
Speedy was looking directly at him, but Aqualad continued to speak to the archer's reflection.
"Is that what I'm doing?"
"Yes. And it won't work."
"Oh?" Aqualad's voice toed the line between amusement and indifference. "And why's that?"
"Because I'm not going to leave you alone until you tell me what's eating you."
"And being an irritant works on your mentor?"
"Oh, according to Arrow I'm the most irritating person on the planet. Except for perhaps Batman."
Aqualad couldn't help the smirk this time. "And you say that with pride."
"Of course I do, but you're doing it again."
"What? Guilt tripping you?"
"Changing the subject. Now why won't you tell me what's wrong?"
Aqualad sighed, and was there a touch of disappointment in it? "I already did."
Speedy shook his head, blinking in surprise. "Hey, if this is about the casual insults, I think I need to remind you of all the doozies you've slung at me."
"Oh that." Aqualad waved a dismissive hand. "Don't worry, I've firmly accepted the fact that character assassination is an integral part of surface-dweller culture."
Speedy's eyes narrowed behind his mask. "And you say that with bile."
"In Atlantis, we only insult our enemies."
"Yeah, well, this isn't Atlantis." Then Speedy's eyes flew wide. "But that's it, isn't it. You're homesick!"
Aqualad snorted a laugh as though the air in his nose was poisonous. "One must first have a home, in order to be homesick."
"What the heck is Atlantis to you then?" Speedy asked hotly, exasperated.
"C'mon. You go on and on about the place!"
"And you speak often of Star City, but is it "home" to you?"
Whatever Speedy was going to say seemed to die in his throat. He bit his lip and looked away. Finally Aqualad cast a sigh into the thickening silence.
"Good night, Speedy." The Atlantean turned and walked away, headed for the elevator doors without looking back.
Speedy frowned pensively for a moment but quickly made up his mind. "Wait!"
Aqualad paused, his movement stilled by the urgency in Speedy's voice.
"Home is a Navajo reservation in Arizona."
Aqualad turned around, startled by Speedy's confession. "Does anyone else know that?"
"The twins don't speak English and Bee's too busy trying to play den mother." Speedy's voice echoed Aqualad's earlier bitterness.
Aqualad's resolve crumbled into a faint smile. "My home is the ocean."
Speedy tried to return that smile, but it fell a little short of the mark. "Yeah, well, the ocean's pretty big."
"If you want specifics, I identify most with the expanse between Atlantis and the Hidden Valley."
Speedy blinked. "The land of ranch dressing?"
"The Idylist colony," Aqualad corrected. "Tell me what a "navy-ho" is, and I'll explain it to you."
Speedy laughed outright. "Deal!" And he fell in step behind Aqualad, who led them to the elevator. "You know, this could be the start of a beautiful friendship."
Aqualad deliberately groaned, but it didn't quite cover his grin. "Oh Poseidon, let's hope not."