Fandom: DC Comics/Red Hood and the Outlaws
Characters/Pairing: Koriand'r, Roy Harper (Kori/Roy/Jason, if you squint), mentions of Jason Todd, Simon Amal, and implied mentions of Dick Grayson
Genre: General / (Implied) romance
Summary: After a long night, Roy comforts Kori. Takes place after issue #5. Mild spoiler warning.
Word count: 3, 074
Disclaimer: I own none (and make no profit off) of the characters and the Universe/stories they're from, they belong solely to their creator/s and the publishing company.
Notes: My original story and the Joy fic I'm currently working on are giving me trouble at the moment, so I decided to unwind with some good old gen fic.(I'm also almost as bad as Dick Grayson when it comes to redheads/redhair, so a fic about Kori and Roy involving hair seemed like a good idea at the time).
Kori glanced up towards the bathroom at the sound of the door opening. Roy strolled into the main part of the small, two-bed room with the door closing behind him. She glanced away, back at the TV with its sound only a few decibels above silence until she heard the crackling of a bag.
Roy's right hand rubbed a white, fluffy cotton towel over his damp hair with one hand. The other cradled a supersized bag of chips and container of dipping sauce to his hip. He beamed, nodded his head at her as he approached the bed. The mattress gave a startled squeak as he plopped all of his weight down beside her.
"Good evening, Roy." She went back to the task she'd undergone while her companion had left to take a quick shower: massaging the muscles of her sore limbs. The sudden brawl against Crux and the subsequent chase by the equally sudden mob had done a number on her limbs, particularly after she'd thought it best to just grab her human allies and haul them to safety, rather than risk them trying to escape by foot. Not when the mob seemed eager to chase them to the ends of the earth. Although she was no stranger to lending them her strength, the fight against Crux and the excess weight she'd carried for miles, all the way to the furthest safe point they could mentally conjure up at the time, had left her quite exhausted.
"Nothing like a hot shower to chase away the chills, huh?"
Kori hummed in agreement. "Where is Jason?"
Roy frowned. "You mean he didn't tell you where he went?"
"No. Did he not tell you?"
"Not really," replied Roy, rubbing at his eye. "He mentioned needing some 'alone time' to think. I offered to keep him company, but then he just got defensive and asked me if I even knew what 'alone time' meant, and I told him it probably wasn't the best idea to go wandering off, but you know how he is." He rolled his eyes. "Whatever. He'll be back."
Shooting Kori another wide smile, he added, "He wouldn't just leave his stuff. Or us. Well, I guess he could, but he hasn't yet, so why now?"
Kori said nothing. Instead of pressing the topic further, Roy opted to open the large bag of chips he'd presumably grabbed from his knapsack. With a loud pop, the top burst open, along with the fresh smell of salt and vinegar. He popped open the container of dipping sauce and went to dunked one of the curved chips.
Crunching loudly, he aimed the gaping opening of the bag towards her. "Want one?" he said around a mouthful of food.
Kori peeked inside the bag, briefly studying its contents before dipping a hand inside to retrieve a few of its contents. One of them cracked into two pieces between her fingers. She tried again, more carefully, and scooped out a generous handful.
"Anytime." Roy crammed another handful into his mouth. His foot bobbed up and down without rhythm on the floor, making the mattress shake slightly. "What're you watching?"
"I don't know. I just turned it on." The program seemed interesting enough, if a little strange. It appeared to be like many of the other programs Roy insisted on watching during their leisure time; one look at the archer told her that he didn't recognize the program like he did the others.
Several characters stormed all across the screen with booming voices and explosive body movements. False or not, they radiated with a passion that caught and held her attention. She didn't quite understand what they were angry about, she had missed the first half of the episode, but whatever it was seemed to fill one of the characters with great shame.
After a brief cut to commercials, the television programmed returned, this time with a completely different setting and tone. A new character appeared on screen and seemed to be making light of another characters situation. The new characters efforts seemed to be in vain, however, as the other character's body slouched on screen, as if completely drained of energy. That did not deter the new character. They persisted in their efforts, repeatedly touched the other character, holding them and attempting their very best at getting the other to smile.
Kori honed in on where their bodies touched: hands held each other's waists, weary head rested on broad and welcoming shoulders. Heat, she thought. Closeness, glowing, warmth. Sunlight.
While in the midst of determining just where exactly the abrupt and frequent laughter from the television program was coming from, Kori caught Roy staring at her back out of the corner of her eye.
She quirked an eyebrow. "Noticed something that you like?"
Roy startled, then shrugged a bit meekly as he leaned his weight on one arm. "Just your hair, actually. It's really tangled."
"Yes," Kori agreed, "flight tends to do that." The surprise dunk she'd taken in ice-cold water before the fairly long-distance traveling hadn't helped, either. Although they had arrived and checked into their room over an hour ago, her hair felt heavy and knotted against her back. Even the shower Roy had urged her to take immediately upon arrival had done little to restore her fiery red hair to its natural state. It might have helped if the tiny containers of shampoo and conditioner in the low quality motel bathroom weren't obviously meant for people with far less hair than she. It might also have helped if she'd had the patience or energy to attempt combing the long, knotted mess for any longer than a good twenty minutes. Or if some of the teeth of her comb hadn't snapped off.
Another handful of food, some loud crunching then an audible swallow. "Want some help with that?"
Pausing, Kori cast Roy a long look. "You want to help?"
"Well, yeah. Why not?" When she didn't reply, he held up his hands. "I don't mean this in a creepy way or anything, and I know my hair is nowhere near as long or thick or yours, but you know, I've dealt with some pretty nasty tangles in my time." He made a broad, sweeping gesture from the top of her head, all the way down to end, where it pooled behind her. "You've got quite a bit there, and I know for a fact that they only get worse if you sleep on them, so it's better to deal with it now then later. So, yeah, help. I'm offering it."
"Hm. I suppose you do have a point," she conceded. She would have been fine on her own, this would not be the first time she'd spent an hour or two fixing the state of her hair, but a little aid would go a long way. And it would be nice to have someone pamper her after the long evening they'd have. Her sore arms would certainly appreciate the gesture come morning. "Do you have a comb? Mine is in need of repair, or perhaps replacement."
Eyes gleaming brightly, Roy leaned over the side of the bed and dug through his knapsack. "Always keep a spare," he replied as he sat up properly, revealing in his hand a simple black comb. Then a strange expression fell over him; he chuckled under his breath. "Er, I should probably wash my hands first. They're a little greasy. Be right back."
When he returned a few minutes later, he dropped back onto the bed and shuffled until he was right behind her. Whistling a low and unnameable tune, he began to sort through the large clumps of hair, parting them as gently as possible.
"Oh, shit," he muttered, lifting some hair up to peek at the bottom layers. "It's even worse underneath."
Kori cringed. "If it is too much trouble … "
"No, no. No trouble at all. I'm just observing." He gave her shoulder a gentle pat; Kori willed herself to stay still, to hold down the instinct to jump at his touch. His constant physical affection – everything from little touches like pats on the shoulder to full-blown hugs – always seemed to startle her, some part buried deep within. His touches were not at all unpleasant, but they always awoke that something, stirred it up to the point where it was beginning to become impossible to deny.
"Thank you," she replied in lieu of confessing her troubled thoughts. Such things could wait for another time, not when she exhausted and ready for bed.
She willed her shoulders to relax as she began to feel the slight tug and pull of the comb working through the small tangles that started at the bottom of her hair. She didn't feel too much at first, only the occasional tug when Roy discovered a particularly stubborn knot that refused to cooperate. A few uttered curses later and Kori could just make out Roy twiddling his fingers over the side of the bed, long strands of dark red hair falling weightlessly to the floor.
"Er, you're probably gonna lose a lot of hair, too."
A faint smirk graced Kori's lips. "Worry not. There is plenty more where that came from."
"You're tellin' me," Roy snorted. "You've got quite the mane growing back here. Okay, we're entering stage two of knots here. Heads up, Star, this is probably gonna hurt a lot. But I'll be as gentle as possible."
Kori could feel her head being tugged back with each pull of the comb, moving in time with the push and pull. Though each pull made her wince, for some of the knots were far less kind than others, the feel of the comb gliding through now smooth hair also soothed her, as though that indistinguishable something inside her was also being pulled. She closed her eyes and focused on the strange feeling, allowed it to lull her into a state of calm.
She could not recall the last time she had allowed someone to pamper her like this. And never out of kindness or the pure desire to help, not to eventually receive something in return. She didn't expect Roy to suddenly ask for any favours afterward, either. It was true that they weren't particularly close, but she had spent enough time around the archer to realize that he asked for very little of other people. If anything, all he wanted was another's presence, their company. It seemed like such a simple desire, but she knew as well as Roy and Jason did how hard such a simple want could be to satisfy.
As strange as some of the things Roy often mused about aloud to Jason and her, his company was truly not unwanted. If all he asked was for her company, then she would be happy to comply. He was far more entertaining than the television program currently was, anyway.
"Come on, you clusterfuck, out."
Kori stifled a chuckle. Even Roy's occasionally muttered curses were more amusing.
Gradually Roy worked his way up, hitting the larger, more complex knots, the ones that needed a good ten to fifteen minutes each to properly work out. In spite of the constant streams of quiet curses, not once did Roy throw in the towel or groan in exasperation and hand her the comb. He persisted until he eventually reached the base of her neck and began to tackle the last of the major knots that were littered all about. The pain felt far more acute now, her scalp sore from the endless tugging, but it pleased her more that Roy had made it this far.
After a particularly hard tug, followed by a quiet apology given when Kori let out a muffled sound, Roy said in a slow, deliberate voice, "So, how're you doing?"
Eyebrows furrowing, Kori asked, "What do you mean?"
"You know," Roy made a strange gesture with his hand, as if the answers he were looking for were floating up above them, hovering by the dim light bulb, the only source of light in the room aside from the television. "After that whole thing with Crux … "
"Oh." Images of that fight flashed before her. She could almost hear the whistling of the cold, dry wind in her ears as she thrown all about, was left to shake and cling to herself in the ice and snow. Shaking for reasons other than the cold. Overwhelmed with a gripping, hollow feeling that made her want to cry out and destroy everything around her. Yet that same feeling had also pushed her to cling to the first friendly person that crossed her path, as if the touch of another person could quench that awful feeling. Thankfully it had been an ally.
She'd be lying if she said the words of her enemy hadn't had an impact on her, if the Tamaranean technology he'd used hadn't left something fundamental inside of her shaken to its very core.
She'd be lying if she claimed it hadn't left an alien word on the very tip of her tongue, and that it's very sound alone made her eyes burn with unwanted tears.
Her eyebrows pushed further together. That unwanted burn was back, a bitter heat outlining the bottom of her eyes, blurring everything in view. She blinked them back. "I'm just fine," she forced out, her voice cracking at the edges.
The tugging stopped. "Star?"
Somehow, just the sound if her name made it worse. Her lips trembled with the force it took to keep her mouth shut, her posture and face as still and neutral as possible.
It hurt. Biting her lower lip, she cursed it all. Why did it have to hurt?
"Star, why're you shaking?"
A hand touched her shoulder. Kori turned away, hoped Roy would take the hint and leave her be.
Unfortunately, the archer had chosen that moment to ignore to her silent plea. Instead, he slowly wrapped his arms around her, his touch light and loose enough for her to push him away completely if she absolutely wanted to. The realization that Roy wouldn't force his affection on her but would simply offer it as something she could take or leave at her own discretion made the hollow feeling inside her chest widen.
You fool, she thought, swallowing thickly, relinquishing herself in Roy's arms, turning around to fully face him so that she could bury her burning face into his shoulder. He held her closely, tightly, not at all afraid that she may break, she realized at the back of her mind, but rather that she would somehow disappear if he didn't.
You are far too kind for your own good.
One hand rested itself in the curve of her back. The other smoothed itself over her long hair, gently caressing it, stroking the back of her neck. She shivered against him. It didn't matter that her body was at its usual temperature, a far warmer one than either of her companions, something inside of her felt cold, so very cold. Cold and wrong and distinctly out of place, and it only began to make a little sense again when someone held her, smiled at her, showed her any display of human emotions, as much as something inside of her instinctually wanted to shove such things away. For as much as a part of her needed those things, another part of her ached because of them.
Why did everything have to hurt?
Roy hummed in her ear as she bit back tiny gasps. "Everything's gonna be okay," he whispered to her. "You've got us now. You don't have to be alone anymore."
She nodded against him. Whether she truly believed him or not did not matter. In the end, she only wanted to believe him; she had nothing else to lose.
Kori wasn't sure how long they stayed like that, embracing each other, Roy holding her until her body stilled and the blurriness in her eyes went away. With nothing more than the nearly-mute television playing in the background to remind them that time still flowed.
Roy felt warm. People felt so warm, and the feelings they gave her …
Later, long after the television channel bid its viewers a good night and turned into static, the door to the motel room opened. Jason walked in, smelling of smoke and the cold, winter wind. He eyed the two of them but said nothing. Instead, he shrugged off his jacket and boots and turned off the light. When he noticed the television was still on, he rolled his eyes and picked up the remote by the nightstand.
"Really? It's not that hard to change the channel," Jason chastised, though his voice lacking its usual dry humour and energy. He gestured for them to move as he pulled back the thick covers.
"See? Told you he'd come back," Roy whispered to her with a wink.
"Under the covers, Harper," Jason ordered as he pulled his t-shirt over his head, shaking out his messy black hair as he did so.
"Too bad he didn't leave his bad-boy attitude behind, huh?" Roy replied a little louder, but he nevertheless crawled to the other side of the bed. He just dodged the pillow Jason flung in his direction, chuckling as he bent down to the floor to retrieve it.
Kori wordlessly crawled underneath the covers, accepting her spot in the middle of her two companions. The other two slid in beside her, Roy's arm immediately going around her waist, not yet ready to let her go. She contemplated just switching spots with Jason, allow him the usual honour of Roy's attention, but she couldn't find the strength to get up, much less move. With the way Jason lay as close to her as he did, she wondered if moving would change much of anything anyway.
She would allow it for tonight. For now, it was all right. Just so long as it didn't become a habit.
Besides, she couldn't deny the heat her allies generated. While it certainly wasn't anything like bathing in the sunlight, it made for a fair substitution.
She closed her eyes, willed for sleep to drape itself over her and bring her to an easy rest. Everything would be all right. So long as she had both of them by her side, everything would be all right.