Written for the DCU Free For All Challenge prompt "bonding".
"Hey, Kyle. Could you give me a hand in the kitchen?"
"I can help ya out, Susan," Jill said.
Susan Jordan smiled sweetly. "No, that's okay. Kyle already volunteered to help me." She looped her arm through Kyle's.
"Yeah, that's right," Kyle said as Susan pulled him away, though he had no idea what she was talking about. But he'd take any excuse to get away from Jill hanging all over Hal. No matter where Hal went at Susan and Jim's party to celebrate the rebuilding of Coast City after the war, Jill was right there next to him.
"I'm happy to help, but I don't remember volunteering," Kyle said when Susan shut the door, blocking out the party in the next room.
"I don't actually need any help," Susan said. She pulled two plastic cups from the stack on the counter, then grabbed a bottle of whiskey. "You just looked like you needed to get away from ol' "Cowgirl"." She poured a shot into each cup, then handed one to Kyle. "So, how long have you been in love with Hal?"
Kyle nearly dropped the cup in his hand. "How did you know?" he gasped.
Susan smiled. "Because you look at him like you couldn't take your next breath without him." She grinned. "Though, depending on how much you've had to drink, sometimes you just look at him like you want to jump him and tear his clothes off."
"Oh." Kyle drank down the whiskey. He thought he was careful about that.
Susan giggled and patted his arm. "I don't think anyone else can tell," she said. "I just have a knack for noticing those things. Well, Jill might suspect, considering how she clings to Hal whenever you're around." She looked down and swirled the amber liquid in her cup. "And I suspect Hal may feel the same way about you."
Kyle shook his head and laughed. "I don't think so. He's the poster boy for 'straight'."
"Maybe." She nudged him with her elbow. "And you didn't answer my nosy question. How long have you been in love with him?"
Kyle shrugged. "I suppose I've been in love with him since he came back. Maybe even before he came back."
She raised her eyebrows. "That's a long time."
Kyle dropped his gaze, embarrassed. "Yeah. Pretty pathetic, huh? Over a year and I'm still hung up with unrequited love."
She put her arm around him in a one-armed embrace. "Hey, don't be so hard on yourself. You can't help who you fall in love with. Which is why you shouldn't make assumptions about Hal, either. He gives you some pretty intense looks, too."
Kyle swallowed, his heart suddenly racing. Hal looks at him? But no matter what Susan thought, Kyle wasn't going to get his hopes up, not when Hal seemed to be quite happily sleeping with Jill. "That still doesn't change the fact he has a girlfriend."
"So he's in denial. You'll just have to change that." She winked at him and refilled his cup.
He tossed back the whiskey, savoring the mild burn sliding down his throat. Susan refilled it. He looked into the cup. If he kept this up, he'd have to be extra careful around Hal. "You're, um, sure no one else can tell…how I feel about him?"
"I don't think so. But you should probably watch how you look at Jill. You look at her like you want to blast her into the next universe. Not that I'd mind that." Susan snorted and downed her whiskey.
Kyle frowned. "You don't like her?" Susan had always seemed friendly enough to Jill. Then again, he always attempted to be nice to her, too. For Hal's sake.
Susan wrinkled her nose. "I swear to God, if I have to hear one more reason why Texas is better than California, I'm going to hit something … or someone." She snatched Kyle's cup from his hand to refill it, then handed it back and refilled her own. "And that hat!" She rolled her eyes. "Who wears a cowboy hat anymore, unless they're actually employed as a cowboy? Hello, the 1970s called—"
"—they want their fashion statement back," Kyle finished with her. They looked at each other and burst out laughing.
The door to the kitchen opened and Jim came in with a handful of empty plates. "Sounds like the party moved in here," he said as he set the plates in the sink.
Susan leaned back against the counter. "We were just discussing Hal's taste in women."
"Ah." Jim smiled at his wife and picked up a cup. She smiled back at him and poured in a shot. "I wasn't all that fond of Carol," he said. "She could be … well … kind of a bitch sometimes. But at least she didn't annoy the hell out of me. I wonder if I can convince Hal to get back together with her?"
"I don't know," Susan said. She gave Kyle a knowing smile. "I think Hal can do much better than Carol."