Gear's out patrolling, on his own sense V is over in Africa, and comes across some crime or another. After he honestly can't remember what it is, whether it's a Bang Baby or a regular gang member, who gets the drop on him or how. All he remembers is when he shows up.
Elegant swirls of water that make Aqua Marie look like a kid with a squirt gun flow out from large sculpted arms. Spiral tattoos that hug around the most delicious shoulders he's ever seen. Blonde hair that brings out the mocha tint of his skin.
But Richie is a superhero and running into people that make a teenage libido go crazy is pretty much an every day event. He gathers the little brain power he has left (more than enough really), and between them the bad guys go down in no time at all.
"Hey, thanks for the assist man." He smiles behind his helmet and reaches out his hand to shake the other boys."I'm Gear."
The boy nods his head as he grabs the offered arm, up by the elbow rather than the hand or even the wrist, before delivering the blow that signs Richie's defeat. It's a slow, small smile. No more than an upturn of lips. Yet for Richie it's like the moment of inspiration; full of promise of things to grow, the excitement of starting something new. "You are welcome. I am Kaldur'ahm of Atlantis."
And that's about it for their first meeting. Kaldur'ahm, Kaldur, has to be of on errands (from the King of Atlantis, and could his inner fanboy possibly be squeeing any louder?), and Gear has to finish up patrol. He manages to get in an open invitation, both for help and, maybe, if Kaldur wants to, for just hanging out with him (and Static, hanging out him and Static).
They part ways, and for all that he hopes, he pretty much expects that to be the last of it.
It isn't though. A month later he shows up again.
Just to hang out.
Hanging out becomes a regular thing, and it's not long before Kaldur introduces his own friends. He's completely whelmed (not overwhelmed, it's apparently an important distinction) for all of three minutes, and then he's caught up in a discussion with Kid Flash (Wally, the fastest kid to ever give up his secret identity) about the similarities and differences between the Bang Baby Gas and the chemicals present when the Flashes got their powers. It ends when Richie somehow gives his own name out. Wally calling him Dick isn't half as funny as he seems to think it.
M'gann is one of the nicest girls he's ever met, and he makes a note to never get her upset. The idea of her crying and the idea of her attacking terrify him in almost equal measures. He's pretty sure that crying will win out as he gets to know her better though; she makes cookies.
Superboy is…a little awkward at first, but still pretty awesome. Apparently Superman doesn't agree. Virgil casts him a confused Richie can only shrug. He's not sure what Superman's problem is either, he didn't freak out about the robot doll people; clones can't be that much weirder.
Virgil takes an instant liking to Artemis. It's hard to say if she likes him or if she hates him but it makes for an interesting show either way.
At some point a bored Robin tries to hack backpack. He has a lot more luck with getting out of the security activated restraints.
One day as they're getting ready to hang out at the beach in front of Mt. Justice, a nice change from the gas station, Kal pulls him aside to talk.
The small, silent smile that Richie's fallen for grows upon his face, brighter and more hesitant all at once. "I…am not certain how I am to proceed." He grabs both of Richie's hands with his own, and Richie can feel the soft leather of Kal's webs against the inside of his thumbs. His throat dries and he finds his head stalled to a quiet he can't remember since before his powers started. "I like you Richie. I like you…very much." Kal's eyes are a soft color, but here, so close, they seem to burn him with intensity. It's one of the things Richie finds attractive, how intense the actions of this soft spoken man are. "I would wish to ask your father for permission to court you."
"No. God no." Richie pulls his hands back horrified. The pleasant quiet in his head is suddenly drowned out by a dull roar of panic. His breath hitches a little just at the idea of it.
"I am…sorry. I have misinterpreted." Kaldur's eyes are dull now, and he's stepping back, and Richie, Richie's drowning in the pump of blood through his ears. His stomach has fallen low and sour in his belly. He can't move, he can't speak, and what kind of genius is he because he can't even think. "I shall take my leave."
Kaldur'ahm walks away, not out to the beach, but into the mountain, leaving for somewhere Richie won't be able to find him. Quick staccato steps echo off the walls, and the vice around Richie's chest keeps him in place until they fade away.
And then Richie crumbles to the ground.
If Richie was thinking…if Richie was thinking this wouldn't have happened, but also he would have moved out of sight of the entrance.
But he wasn't thinking, so when Wally comes inside to get some food he's easy to notice.
"Dude, what happened?" asks Wally. "Where's Kaldur?"
It takes him a while to form a thought, and if he wasn't so upset he probably wouldn't even say anything, not to Wally anyway, but, well. "Kal, Kaldur, he wanted to…to,"
"He wanted to ask you out." Wally interrupts." We all figured you guys were in here making kissy faces or something. What gives?"
"He asked, kind of. Hhe wanted to ask my dad, for permission."
Wally sits down cross legged in front of him and winces. "Not such a good idea?"
"No. Not such a good idea." Richie laughs, quick and bitter. "I think I would have an easier time coming out as Gear than I would as Richie."
Wally nods, understanding and sympathy instead of the anger that's always around Virgil when the subject comes up. He hates that Richie feels the need to hide more than just being Gear, that with his father it's probably a good idea; but getting angry at his dad only makes Richie tired and sad.
"Dude, it'll get better."
Richie gives him a bit of an odd look. This isn't really the pep talk he would have expected from Wally. Wally takes it a little differently.
"What, it will. There's like a whole channel about it on YouTube. I showed it to Piper and he cried for like, ten minutes."
"You show your villains YouTube channels?"
Wally shrugs. "He goes to my school."
And Hotstreak used to go to theirs. The Flashes are strange people.
Richie shakes his head and studies his hands as they twist and turn in each other's grasp. "He thinks I don't like him. I freaked and said no. Man, you should have seen him. It was like I kicked a puppy."
"So go talk to him. He's not exactly the kind of person to be mad at you because your dad's an ass."
It's a lot easier to think now that he's had a chance to calm down a little. "He went off somewhere into the mountain. I don't even know where to look."
Wally smiles, "That," he's gone for a second and then back standing in front of Richie, "is not a problem." And suddenly Richie finds himself in front of a door. Wally bangs his fist rapidly against it in what might be a sped up version of shave and a haircut, and then leaves Richie standing alone in the hallway.
Kaldur starts speaking as he opens the door. "Wally, perhaps now is not the best time to…Richard."
Richie stands there, nerves on fire, and he finds his voice has deserted him once more. Kaldur is standing there dull, and sparkless, and hurt, and he can't find the words to make it better.
So instead he surges forward onto his toes and kisses him.
Kal makes a small noise of surprise, and one of his hand moves instinctively to the small of Richie's back, steadying him. The tightened muscles under Richie's hands slowly relax, and Kal presses gently into the kiss. It stays chaste, but when they pull away Richie is still flushed and breathing a little heavy.
"I didn't mean no to you. I just meant, my dad, he's not really okay with…with guys dating each other. It's not something about myself I'm ready to tell him."
Kal's hand rubs circles where it rests. "I apologize for having jumped to conclusions. I…had not considered that your father would be less than excepting of this. I am sorry."
"It's not your fault, and hey, I think we just got our first fight out of the way." Kal hums in agreement, and Richie watches that smile come back, and it grows into something even more. This is what had gotten him at that first meeting, the promise of that smile growing into this. It's beautiful. "So," he says, "did you know everyone is totally expecting us to ditch them and make out?"
Kal guides him into the room, and shuts the door. "Indeed? Then they will not miss us."
Richie couldn't agree more. And maybe, later, if Kal still wants to get permission, they can go talk to Mr. H. He's totally like a second dad anyway.