I don't own Young Justice.
Summary taken from a prompt on YJAM, for which the fic is a fill.
When Roy stops to give thought to the matter, he's unsurprised to discover it's been true since long before any of the business with the League or Savage or the Watchtower:
When he falls, Kaldur catches him. When he breaks, Kaldur fixes him. When he drifts, Kaldur finds him, every time, without fail or complaint, and frequently without thanks.
He's not sure how it ended up being this way. They didn't even like each other when they first met, or at least Roy hadn't liked Kaldur (and he certainly can't see how Kaldur would have liked him) – the Atlantean had been so stiff and law-abiding, which Roy had taken to mean judgmental, though in retrospect nothing could have been further from the truth. Thrust together by circumstance and their respective mentors, they'd grown close only in the field, where they'd come to trust and respect one another enough to get past their differences, and somehow in the middle of all that they'd become friends, and somehow in the middle of all that they'd fallen for each other, though to this day (and now more than ever) Roy can't fathom what Kaldur sees in him.
It's not a dramatic thing, their relationship. There are no flowery declarations of love, no big public displays of affection, no talk of a future together because neither one of them is even certain they'll even live that long. But whenever Roy feels himself beginning to fray, whenever he looks in the mirror and forgets who's supposed to be looking back at him, all it takes is Kaldur's steady, grey-eyed gaze to remind him that whoever he is, he matters.
He still remembers the first time he came undone in front of him. After a tough patrol with Ollie, feeling wild with frustration and anger and inadequacy, he'd zeta'd the first place instinct had taken him, which to his own surprise had been Seattle, home to Kaldur's first surfaceside apartment. They had only known each other some eight months at that point, but the Atlantean had taken one look at the deep lines etched on his face and invited him in without a word. Out had poured everything Roy had never said to anyone before, all the doubt and anger and spite he couldn't bring himself to show Ollie or Dinah for fear of seeming childish or ungrateful, and to his surprise, Kaldur had just listened. No advice, no judgment, not even any questions – he'd just sat there across the table in his pajamas and waited for Roy to get it all out.
"In Atlantis, there is an expression," he had said when it finally seemed that Roy had no more to add. "Ondæ n'don aelthus. Ěnbur ondæ b'lïkkuh tu cul'tha – you cannot change the current, only the way you are swimming."
And it hadn't even been the words that had made Roy's heart swell with relief and gratitude. It had been the way Kaldur had looked at him without disdain or pity, doing his best to understand but never pretending he did. It had been the knowledge that this man had just seen him at his very worst and was still sitting there as though this conversation had been like any other. It had been the realization that he had admitted to being afraid of something and the world hadn't ended.
It wouldn't be the last time he turned on Kaldur's doorstep in the middle of the night, but it would bethe last time he doubted if it was the right thing to do.
Kaldur doesn't talk much when they're together. Roy used to think it was because he was uncomfortable or somehow at a loss, but when he finally asked him about it some months after that first mid-night encounter, Kaldur had replied that living in a foreign language is exhausting, and that if he avoids words, he doesn't have to worry about choosing them. The explanation had left Roy laughing – Kaldur is the most eloquent person he knows. All the same, he feels honored that Kaldur is comfortable enough around him to cast off the mask he puts on for the others, that calm, sage exterior that holds together a team of ill-matched personalities, and to be sure, Roy has no objection to communicating with him via body language. In fact, it's one of his favorite ways to pass time.
One morning back in the early days of their intimacy, Kaldur had lain in bed watching Roy caress the webbing between his fingers for what seemed like hours, then remarked quietly that in Atlantis, he is considered miraɇ – impure. His tone had been so casual, Roy had almost mistaken it for small talk, but something had given him pause, perhaps the knowledge that Kaldur is not one to speak without a reason in the first place. Then the Atlantean had gone on to confess that as a result of the label he has always believed himself ugly and ultimately undesirable, and Roy, breath tangling angrily in his lungs, had had to kiss those words off his lover's lips, thumbs brushing across his impure gills to say all the things his busy mouth couldn't – lovely, perfect, special, beloved.
Strangely, this is a memory that Roy comes back to when he himself is feeling lost. It is the moment he began to realize that Kaldur might need him just as much as he needs Kaldur, and that thought is usually enough to pull him down to earth when the sky is looking threatening.
Why he needs Kaldur is another story.
Maybe a part of him has always known what he really was – maybe it was some buried knowledge of his own perverse creation that brought about the moods, the ones that left him staring out the window, hollow-eyed and empty-hearted, or the ones that drove him out into the streets at night to track down the worst the city had to offer, just to prove he breathed,lived, mattered. For as long as he can remember he's struggled to justify the space he occupies in the world. He always thought it was because of his troubled past, the niggling feeling that he was too damaged ever to develop into something worthwhile (because God and everyone else knew he wasn't there yet), that those periodic stretches of self-loathing were rooted in the fact that all his father figures had a habit of dying or kicking him out and he's never lived anywhere he could call home without a caveat.
Now he knows it's because he is a thief and a sham and a traitor, and has been for literally as long as he's lived.
When he learns the truth about himself, he is seized with the certain knowledge that this will change everything. After all, everything he's ever known has been a lie – his very name is an emblem of his unpardonable existence, the way he unwittingly stole three years from some poor soul. In that moment, it's inconceivable to him that anything about his life could possibly stay the same now that he knows what he truly is, now that they all know what he truly is. This is the end, or the beginning, and the only thing he of which he feels certain is that he's on his own now.
So when he comes home from the Watchtower with the intent of packing up his things and disappearing into the night to find himself, he's more than a little surprised to find Kaldur sitting at his kitchen table, reading his newspaper and drinking his orange juice.
The sight is so normal, it's absurd.
"Welcome home, my friend," says Kaldur, looking up from the paper when Roy fails to greet him first.
"What are you doing here?" Roy asks, still frozen in the doorway. He has to assume Kaldur didn't understand something about the situation, about the part where he's a mole, a clone and turned over control of the entire Justice League to one of its deadliest enemies.
"Waiting for you," replies Kaldur evenly, rising from the table and moving to cross the distance between them. "I thought you might require company tonight."
He stretches out a hand and on instinct, Roy flinches away, assuming Kaldur's going to hit him, mostly because he knows he deserves it, but the Atlantean just pulls back and murmurs an apology.
"Your cheek," he offers in explanation, and Roy lifts his own hand to his face, running his fingers over the gash where Ollie's arrow nicked him that morning. After everything that happened today, he'd completely forgotten about it, and the fact that Kaldur is choosing that of all things to worry about leaves him even more confused than he was a moment ago.
"It's…fine," he says awkwardly, dropping his hand. He opens his mouth to speak, realizes he has no idea what to say, and shuts it again.
"It has been a very long day," says Kaldur, breaking the silence. "Perhaps it would be best if we just slept."
"Are you crazy?" he asks after a moment.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Are you crazy," Roy repeats, not even a question this time. "I just –after everything, and you're still…you're still here. I – "
" – Roy, my friend, where else – "
" – don't call me that," Roy interrupts.
"Call you what?" asks Kaldur, clearly confused.
"Roy," the archer answers. "Or…or your friend. I'm – I'm not…that, any of those things."
"What name would you have me call you, then?" asks Kaldur patiently.
"If I am not to call you 'Roy' any longer," Kaldur clarifies. "What am I to call you?"
"Are you crazy?" Roy asks yet again, dazed by the discrepancy between what is and what should be.
"Perhaps," Kaldur admits. "But not as crazy as you are to think my feelings for you could be altered by something as trivial as the truth of your origins."
"Trivial?" repeats Roy incredulously. "Kaldur, I was made in a test tube and grown in a pod."
"As was Superboy," Kaldur points out. "A valued member of the team, and my personal friend."
"I was programmed to betray you and everyone you care about," Roy protests.
"Your programming has run its course, and Miss Martian has wiped your mind clean of its effects."
"I turned the entire Justice League into drones for Savage and his Light, and your whole team was almost killed as a result."
"Yet we all still live and breathe, and the League think for themselves again," Kaldur replies, gaze level. "You still live and breathe and think for yourself. Now will you continue to punish yourself for something over which you had no control? Or will you stop this foolishness and come to bed?"
Roy gapes, searching desperately for a way to make Kaldur see that this isn't like all those other times, that he can't just close his eyes and hope this goes away, but nothing comes to him. He can see the tiredness in Kaldur's stance. He can see the hope in those grey-green eyes.
"You shouldn't be here," Roy tries one last time, desperately trying to manifest the loneliness he knows he deserves. "You shouldn't…love me anymore. I'm not who you thought I was."
"Ondæ n'don aelthus. Ěnbur ondæ b'lïkkuh tu cul'tha, Roy," says Kaldur softly. "You cannot change the current."
And finally, Roy realizes what he should have known all along, sees what he could have seen at any point during these last two years if he'd only bothered to look.
It doesn't matter what he does or where he goes or even who he is. When he falls, Kaldur will catch him. When he breaks, Kaldur will fix him. When he drifts, Kaldur will find him, every time, without fail or complaint or question.
They are the still waters, running deep. Roy cannot change that.
And as he lets Kaldur hold him in the dead of night, steady and silent as ever, he knows beyond a doubt that he will never want to.