Kaldur stands on the balcony outside his room in Atlantis, looking out over the city while the passing currents flow across his skin.
It has been two days since he awoke in the Cave medbay. Though he is told he only slept the better part of a week, it feels as though months have passed since he was last truly awake. And where once his recollections were full of holes, now his brain overflows with too many memories, too many swarming emotions, too many conflicts he cannot resolve. His thoughts are tangled. He has come here to remedy this, alone.
Shayeris is warm and beautiful, the city of the shallows. Sunlight streams from the surface above, drawing out the vibrant colors of its people and its architecture, the many brilliant shades of the rooftops, the shells and coral and all the other things that define Kaldur's origins. Leaning against the balustrade, he lets his eyes drink in the view from his childhood home. This, he is sure, is a part of him.
The military and the Academy too. He cannot deny them their place in his past; they have shaped him too much. He will be a soldier and a scholar as long as he lives, probably for far longer than he will be a hero, if his life does not end too soon for this to be true (Kaldur has always recognized the realness of this particular possibility; others on the team shy away from talking about it, and Roy used to shout at him whenever he brought it up, but Kaldur has never been one to kid himself about these things).
Closing his eyes, Kaldur forces his mind to where it does not want to go, to the heart of the mess he has come home to work through. It is no longer an issue of figuring out what is real and what isn't – he awoke knowing all that, but it's not enough. It only tells him what's true about the past, and the past can only tell him so much.
He thinks of Roy in the warm darkness of his bedroom, eyes glimmering with the glow from the streetlights outside. He thinks of the archer's fingers, gliding across his own cold skin, tracing his shape with reverence Kaldur has never held for himself.
He thinks of Roy in the hard light of day, eyes sharp and strange and hateful, fingers curled into white-knuckled fists that shake with the effort of restraining his disgust.
He thinks of the way he felt around him, that intoxicating sense of safety and even peace, the feeling that for once in his life, he didn't have to be so hard, so tough, so infallible. He thinks of the times he allowed himself the weakness of honesty or doubt in Roy's presence, and the way the archer would just pull him closer, whisper reassurance in his ear, kiss him till it didn't matter anymore.
He thinks of how it felt to have that all turned on him, to have every one of those doubts confirmed, to learn he was weak and unfeeling and unworthy in Roy's eyes, as some smug part of him had suspected all along.
He thinks of the cold, empty silence that defined his life these last months.
He thinks of the warmth of Roy's arms, the only place he has ever truly belonged.
His mind drifts, and he lets his gaze fall to the sandy ocean floor, where patterns of light and shadow sway gently, blues and greens and grays flecked with ever-shifting streaks of white.
The sunlight can never get this deep without breaking a little.
"I do not wish to keep you long," Kaldur tells his teammates. It is his first day back, and he has asked them to stay a moment after training, a request they've all honored without complaint. "I did not want to wait for our next mission to say what I feel I must."
Wally exchanges a glance with Robin, who gives a tiny shrug.
"We're listening," Conner prompts.
"I wish to apologize for my recent actions," Kaldur says, regarding them with a level gaze, sincere but not ashamed. "It was not my place to allow a personal matter to compromise my performance on the team, especially as your leader. My behavior was rash, selfish and ultimately inexcusable."
"Kaldur, really, you're allo – "
" – I am not finished," he interrupts gently, and Artemis falls silent. He offers her a small, reassuring nod and continues. "I justified my decision by telling myself that as team leader, I could not afford to appear weak in front of any of you, therefore I sought to purge the source of my weakness in order to conceal it. I understand now that this was not only unnecessary, but ineffective. I also realize that beyond impacting the team, my actions placed an unjust burden on those of you close to Red Ar– to Roy, and for that, I am truly sorry. At the time, I was unaware that my decision would…affect him as it did."
His eyes flick to Robin and Wally, who offer him a small smile and a thumbs-up, respectively. The team is silent for a moment, waiting to see if Kaldur will add anything else, which after a pause he does.
"I do not believe I will make this mistake again," he says, his eyes growing vacant for a split second before he looks back up at them, gaze clear. "I have a long way to go, but I will strive for clearer judgment in the future, for the team's sake."
"That it?" Conner asks, folding his arms over his chest.
"Yes," says Kaldur, looking surprised at his teammates' nonchalance.
"It's cool," says Wally, with a smile. "Just…don't freak us out like that again, okay?"
Kaldur frowns apologetically.
"It was never my intent to cause any of you grief."
"'Course not," Robin says, clapping his team leader on the shoulder as he moves toward the showers. "But cut yourself a little slack now and again, all right?"
"And let us know when you need help," Wally adds. "Like, before you hit the breaking point."
Kaldur nods sheepishly.
"I will do my best."
As Wally makes for the locker room, Robin falls into step beside him; Conner has hung back to have a word with Kaldur, and the girls are heading for their own showers.
"So," the Boy Wonder murmurs. "You think they're…?"
"I don't know," Wally frowns as he peels off his cowl and shakes his head. "Haven't heard from Roy since Kal went off to Atlantis."
"Me neither," says Robin. "Canary said he was doing okay as of yesterday, though. I guess he said what he needed to say."
Wally steps into the locker room, hesitating in the doorway.
"You think that's it, then?"
Robin shrugs and unfastens his cape, casting it aside.
"Guess we'll find out when we find out."
The kitchen light is on as Kaldur ascends the steps to the front door; the glow spills out onto the rickety porch, reminding him of all the times he has been here before (too many to count). It is a Thursday, and if the interim months have not changed Roy's routine, tonight will be his night off. Around now, he should be cracking open a beer and settling in to fletch a fresh supply of arrows for the upcoming week. Hesitating a moment, Kaldur wonders perhaps for the thousandth time if he is making the right choice. Then he shakes it off, lifts his hand, and knocks.
Roy's eyes widen when he sees who is at the door, lighting up some unreadable combination of excitement and fear as he seems to confirm for himself that yes, he is seeing what he's seeing. It is a strange sight for Kaldur, who has never known Roy to be afraid of anything.
"Hey," Roy says, hands instantly sliding into the pockets of his jeans. Kaldur knows this gesture. Roy isn't sure what to do. He will have to take the lead.
"Hello, my friend," he says softly. "If it is a bad time…"
"It's not," Roy cuts in, a little too quickly. He composes himself. "I…uh, sorry. No. It's…it's fine."
The silence stretches longer than it should.
"I still have a key to your apartment," Kaldur says at last, lifting his eyes to meet Roy's. He withdraws it from his pocket and offers it hesitantly to the archer, palm up. "If you would like it back."
Roy stares at it, his face guardedly neutral, but he has to swallow before he speaks next.
"And…if say I don't?"
Watching the light play off the face of the key, Kaldur hesitates for a moment, then curls his fingers around it and tucks it back into his pocket.
"Then perhaps I will find myself here from time to time," he says. "If you would have me."
Roy lets out a breath Kaldur hadn't realized he was holding and slumps against the doorframe, running a hand through his hair.
"Yeah," he says, laughing weakly. "Yeah I think I'd like that. Fuck. No. Screw all this understatement, Kaldur, please keep the goddamn key and visit whenever the hell you want. Even if it's the middle of the night. Even if it's never. I just…please. I want you to…to have the option."
Kaldur can't help but laugh in return – this is the Roy he knows, foul-mouthed and passionate, though with a softer edge than he remembers.
"I will hold onto it," he reassures his old friend. They share a tentative smile for a moment, before Kaldur dares to voice the question on his mind. "Would I be interrupting if I made use of that option now?"
Roy's eyes light up almost imperceptibly and he steps back, opening the door wider in invitation. When Kaldur steps across the threshold, he can detect something in the archer's body language, something trembling and withheld, like Roy is trying very hard not to push this moment too far, so Kaldur takes the initiative instead, reaching out a hand and laying it on the archer's shoulder.
"I am sorry for the trouble I caused you," he says softly, honestly.
Roy shakes his head, opens his mouth as if to say something and shuts it, then closes the door and tries again.
"Don't," he says. "Just…don't. Fresh start?"
"No," replies Kaldur. Roy's head jerks slightly in surprise, brow furrowing. The Atlantean withdraws his hand, then offers a shy smile, averting his gaze. "There are too many things I could not bear to forget."
Before he knows it, Roy's arms are around him, pulling him tight against that broad chest as the archer buries his face in his neck. And in that moment, Kaldur is struck by the feeling that he has finally come home.