Disclaimer: I don't have anything to do with Young Justice.
Warnings: Homosexual relationships, discussion of sexual matters, alcohol, AU, possible OOC, language
A/N: First YJ fic, first anon prompt fill *ever*…yeah. For the sake of simplicity here I have decided to make up more than a few things instead of shoehorning convoluted pasts and other characters into various roles. So this fic is very, very AU (just as a warning). Other than that, enjoy!
Kaldur stared up at the departures board, hardly able to believe that he was actually going to do this. For the first time in his life, he was about to leave the familiar shores of home and head for greener pastures, so to speak. He blinked back a sting in his eyes and double-checked that yes, his flight was still leaving at 8.30pm, one and a half hours from now, and yes, it was still headed to Heathrow, London. A sudden burst of noise exploded somewhere near him and he hastily dug into his bag, pulling out the same battered old phone he'd used since his first year at university.
Kaldur smiled. "Hey Garth."
"Hey, I'm sorry I couldn't make it out this afternoon to see you off. I know we haven't really talked since the triplets are keeping us so busy and all, but I just wanted to say goodbye."
"Of course. I'm glad you called; it's good hearing from you. How's Tula doing?" As he listened to Garth's tale of woe involving Tula, little Katie and a jar of crunchy peanut butter, he slowly made his way to the airport lounge, smiling at the friendly receptionist and passing her his invitation. He cast a quick glance back at the crowded waiting area and was thankful that there were some perks to being a very frequent flier.
"So Mom just got back from the airport and came straight here."
Kaldur laughed. "How's she holding up?"
"Oh, the usual." Garth's voice trembled as though he was trying to hold back laughter. "Her baby's leaving, how will she ever survive without her widdle ickie Kaldie-kins?"
This was not unusual. Kaldur vividly remembered the first time he'd gone on a business trip. Although it had been to San Francisco for the grand total of two days, his mother had still fussed like he was still incapable of tying his own shoelaces. "Nothing more then?"
"Well, you know how it is," Garth was a little quieter now. "I think she's still secretly hoping you'll come back home and announce that you've changed your mind."
"At least she'll have the triplets to keep her occupied." Garth's chuckle was a little more subdued than usual, although no less genuine.
"Yeah, it's helping some. We're going to miss having you around for Sunday lunch. And I know the kids will probably keep asking when you're going to come back."
"It's not that bad," the other man commented, "Soon it'll be Christmas, and I'll be headed home."
"You sure about that?" Garth's tone was teasing now; it was a well-established fact that Kaldur had always been the more serious of the two and often bordered on being a workaholic. "Sure you're not going to be doing big, important lawyerly things in London?"
"You could always come and visit."
"Huh. Christmas in London. I've heard it gets cold."
"Nothing like LA." As he said those three words, Kaldur suddenly felt his eyes sting just a little. After all, he was preparing to leave the city in which he'd grown up, the city that he knew better than the back of his own hand, the city that had given him so much. Garth must have sensed something; he was alert like that, and asked if he'd like to talk to Tula and the triplets.
"Hey, Kaldur, listen, if there's anything—"
"Of course. You'll be the first to know."
"Good. And say hi to Roy for me."
"Right. Um, here's Tula. I'll just let you talk to her for a bit then." Kaldur relaxed and leaned into the leather sofa, making himself comfortable as his sister-in-law talked his ear off for the next ten minutes.
90 minutes later:
Kaldur sighed and shifted a little in his seat, not relishing the prospect of the long flight ahead. Thankfully, the seats weren't too uncomfortable and it was a relatively new plane, so he had his own TV screen to watch should the urge to 'catch up on 'the latest blockbusters' sneak up on him. As the captain greeted the passengers on board, he felt a lump suddenly rise in his throat and his eyes began to sting again. In spite of his eagerness to explore one of the biggest cities in the world, he knew that he was going to miss LA. Kaldur made it a point to keep staring out the window as they prepared for takeoff, trying to remember every detail of the bare strip that was the last part of LA he would see for a while.
5 hours later:
Kaldur was awoken from his nap by the familiar 'beep' signalling passengers to put on their seatbelts and the sound of the captain's voice. Rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, he looked around to see that the lights were dimmed, indicating that most of his fellow travellers were also just as tired as he was. Thankfully, it had been a relatively quiet and peaceful flight, aside from the twenty minutes of turbulence that made him feel as though he were on a roller coaster rather than a plane. A rattling noise and the smell of overheated aeroplane food reached his ears and nose simultaneously, and he gave a small sigh of resignation. Guess we're nowhere near London yet.
Two movies and half of Stephen King's latest novel later, the captain finally announced that they would shortly be arriving at Heathrow and requested that passengers fasten their seatbelts and straighten their chairs. More than familiar with the drill, Kaldur simply pressed the button on the side of his chair and leaned back with a sigh. He needed to find a pool; his back was already starting to ache a little from being cooped up in such a small place for so long. He idly wondered if Roy would mind taking him to the gym first thing tomorrow.
Kaldur's first few minutes in London were spent being jostled along a set of narrow corridors into the immigration area of Heathrow Airport. After a slight fuss wherein his fingerprints were repeatedly rejected by the scanner, he finally proceeded down into the baggage claim area and soon found himself in the main arrivals hall. Now, where was the driver he'd hired to take him to Roy's?
He soon spotted an Indian man holding a large placard with various crossed-out misspellings of his name, followed by a slightly-squashed 'Kaldur' on one side of the card. He quickly headed over to the driver and introduced himself, letting the other take his luggage and escort him to the parking lot.
"So you're headed to Shoreditch then?" The driver asked as they eased out onto the road. Kaldur gave a start and hastily dug out the address Roy had given him.
"Kay Street, E2?"
Seeing that his passenger would not be particularly communicative on this topic, the driver decided to switch tack. "First time in London?"
Kaldur was surprised. "I, uh, yes." He could see the other man's amused smile in the reflection from the windshield and felt even more awkward.
"Visiting a friend?"
"No. I'm moving here. My firm sent me over since they needed someone who was familiar with American company law in…here."
"Barrister or solicitor?"
"What?" Kaldur blinked. Was there a difference?
"Barrister or solicitor?" There was no judgment in the other's tone, simply idle curiosity. "You have to wear those little wigs and black robes?"
"No…" Oh God, what did the British do to their lawyers? Surely they weren't going to make him wear a wig and black robes, were they?
"Solicitor, then. Mind you, I'm not too sure of the difference myself, and I reckon the only people who do are the lawyers themselves. Got any friends or family here then?"
"Yes; a friend. He was the one who persuaded me to take the job."
"London's a fine city," the other replied with a chuckle. "Where do you come from?"
"LA." The driver seemed particularly excited and proceeded to quiz him on all aspects of American life and LA in particular. Kaldur patiently answered all his questions, glad to find that contrary to what some people told him, the British were not all stuffy and cold. As they got into the main part of the city, he could not but feel just a little excited at the sight of all the landmarks he'd only previously seen in books and movies. As the car wound its way through narrow streets lined with old brick houses that could have been directly lifted out of Industrial-Revolution London, Kaldur found himself itching to walk around and simply explore the city.
They soon turned into Hackney Row. "What's the number again?"
After driving up and down the same street for ten minutes, Kaldur finally gave in and placed a very, very expensive phone call to his friend. "Roy?"
"Kaldur! Where are you?"
"We're headed west along Hackney Road, looking for your place now."
"Yeah, just keep on going down, you'll see it eventually. It'll be the big grey building with a bright blue door."
Much to Kaldur's relief, Roy's directions proved sufficient. After paying the driver with a number of brightly-coloured bills, Kaldur carefully took in his surroundings and fought back a sudden wave of homesickness. There was nothing here that would have fit in with LA at all, and the harsh strangeness made his eyes prickle just slightly.
The blue door suddenly swung open and Roy stepped out, providing an immediate distraction from his thoughts. "Well look at what the cat dragged in!" Roy pulled him in for a brief but firm hug, thumping his back before letting go. "Aren't you a sight for sore eyes?" Kaldur immediately noted that his friend appeared to have aged a little, handsome features sharper than when he'd left LA three years ago. "How was the journey, traveller?"
Kaldur spent his first night in London watching 'Have I Got News for You' and eating instant ramen with Roy.
The next day dawned bright and sunny, with Kaldur waking up with a renewed sense of excitement. Roy had taken a few days off to take him around town and most importantly, show him where his new flat was. Although the apartment he'd rented online and gotten Roy to check out for him came fully-furnished, his personal belongings would not arrive until two days from now, and at his old friend's insistence he'd agreed to stay over until he could properly unpack.
Roy stumbled into the living room around 11am with a mug of coffee clutched in one hand, hair sticking up wildly in all directions and scowling. He never had been a morning person. After thirty minutes in silence as the caffeine worked its magic, Roy finally spoke. "So what do you need to do over here?"
"I was thinking about getting the little things done first; phone, internet, utilities…"
"Sorted it out in LA. I just have to go pick up my PIN from them at some point. It's not coming 'til Thursday though, so I was thinking I'd wait until then."
"Yeah? Why don't I take you by a phone store then? They usually have some good deals on phone/internet combos. Might even be able to get you cable, if you want."
"That would be good."
"Did the landlord say who to call about utilities?"
"He mentioned British Gas, I think." Roy nodded.
"When do you want to head out?"
"I was thinking we could perhaps get some lunch and then talk to the phone people."
"Okay, let me get changed and we'll get going." Kaldur sighed. Roy was going to take a while.
Ignoring the odd spluttering noise coming from his friend, Kaldur stood up to locate his shoes. As he headed out the door, he heard Roy's reply oh-so-faintly: "I am not a diva!"
Not having had the opportunity to explore the neighbourhood further, Kaldur found himself wandering up and down the same street, concluding that Roy lived in a residential complex next to a government housing estate. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful day and the man found himself content to sit on the pavement.
True to form, Roy reappeared close to noon, hair slightly damp but obviously gelled. "Shall we?" Kaldur smiled.
Setting up his phone was a little confusing at first, since the salesman kept talking about 'tariffs'. After realising that these were nothing more than extra add-ons that would give him certain benefits, Kaldur settled for a monthly package that would allow him to regularly place international calls at no extra charge. That was important. He also managed to wrangle a deal for cable and Internet, both to be installed sometime in the next week when he would have hopefully moved into his new apartment.
"Come on," he nudged his obviously bored-to-tears friend. "Let's go get something to eat." Roy perked up instantly.
They ended up at a tiny Indian place because the redhead refused to 'eat at a f-ing Patisserie Valerie ever again.' It amused Kaldur to no end that his friend even knew how to pronounce the French name properly. Nevertheless, the food was tasty and came in hearty portions. Contrary to his expectations, the bill was not exorbitantly high and Kaldur made a note of the name and location. Perhaps he could bring a friend here, or get take-out if the sign on the wall was accurate.
They took the underground train to King's Cross, causing Kaldur to nearly faint from the stifling heat. Roy had to support him out, sighing melodramatically and all the while asking how he would ever be able to handle rush hour if a half-empty train already gave him the next closest thing to heatstroke.
King's Cross tube station was nothing like its film counterpart. Kyle would be absolutely heartbroken when he found out that Harry Potter lied. Roy tapped his shoulder and tilted his head in a 'follow me' gesture, ignoring all of Kaldur's questions as to where they were headed. They walked out onto another platform, where Roy strode ahead purposefully whilst Kaldur attempted not to bump into anyone. Many of the people standing around carried small suitcases, as though they were headed somewhere for a weekend. Then Roy grabbed his arm and pointed. "Look."
Kaldur turned and to his astonishment saw half a luggage trolley sticking out of the wall, a 'Platform 9 ¾' sign hanging discreetly above. Without thinking, he simply pulled his new phone out and snapped a quick picture of the entire scene.
Roy grinned. "Should send that to the triplets." And if Kaldur made that his cellphone background for the next few weeks too, well, no one needed to know.
After ten minutes' walk from the station, Roy turned into a relatively quiet looking street. "There you go. Number 32."
Kaldur looked up at the converted townhouse. It was quite nondescript as far as houses went; brown brick with white windowsills, black door with a prim brass '32' tacked on and a matching flap for the mail. He decided to take a photo. Roy smirked at him again and motioned him forward. "Keys?"
As they entered the building, Kaldur immediately noticed the lift just off to the side of the stairs. That would be a great help; he had not been looking forward to hauling his belongings up and down and he'd heard from a family friend last month that many, many houses in London were so old that installing an elevator simply wasn't an option. At least he would have the luxury of not having to climb up numerous flights of stairs. "Fourth floor," grumbled Roy from behind him. "Come on, we haven't got all day."
As they reached the first landing, a yellow and red blur suddenly shot past him. Bewildered, Kaldur looked down to see a redheaded man, slightly younger than him, clothed in some kind of sports outfit with a red lightning bolt across the front and back. "Sorry!" The blur yelled as it yanked the door open and rushed into the afternoon sun. Roy rolled his eyes and mumbled something about 'idiot kids'.
They finally reached the fourth floor, which turned out to also be the top floor. If the real estate agent and Roy were to be believed, he also had keys to the balcony upstairs. First things first: he had to make sure the landlord had kept his promise and at least deep-cleaned the place.
Thankfully, the slight odour of fresh paint was the first thing that assaulted his nostrils when he entered. The apartment was just as bright and airy as the listing promised. On his left were the living room and bedroom, with the bathroom just opposite. Roy grinned. "Told you it was nice. They just redid the paintwork, since some parts were peeling, and I reckon they would have had to clean up afterwards anyway."
Roy waved him off. "It was nothing. I would have asked for the same and more for any place I was renting."
Considering how picky and uncompromising the other man was, Kaldur could well see it. "No, thank you, my friend. This means a lot to me."
Roy rolled his eyes. "You can repay me by coming over on the weekends. I found a place that does decent Mexican nearby; I'll take you there sometime."
After checking to make sure everything was in proper working order, clean and present, Kaldur was ready to leave. He needed to buy a desk lamp for his room and a few standing ones for the sitting room, but apart from that there was little else that was not already on its way over. Even the bed seemed brand new, mattress still wrapped in plastic.
King's Cross as a neighbourhood appeared to be full of convenience stores and Indian/halal restaurants. It was by no means a particularly beautiful area by any stretch of the imagination, but it was certainly distinctive and nothing like the US. Kaldur found himself excited at the prospect of living here.
The next week passed in a blur; apart from hauling all his boxes upstairs when they finally arrived (three days late, thank you very much), he spent most of his time getting to know the area. Roy took him to every single hole-in-the-wall restaurant, coffee shop and deli in the Shoreditch area, culminating in a visit to Spitalfields. "I know you like fresh produce, because you're prissy like that," the other had explained, "and I need vegetables anyway." Kaldur picked up a chunk of dark purple cheese, which had apparently been aged in red wine. He also found a store selling old vinyl records and would have bought one if it hadn't proven to a little unwieldy. Roy had roped him into helping out with the groceries, so by the end of the day both were loaded down with bags full of carrots, squash and other vegetables. "We're having chili," the other explained with a fiendish grin.
"Be gentle." Roy's guffaws caught the attention of the entire car.
Kaldur officially started living in his apartment on Monday morning. Although Roy had rushed out early, tie askew and a tuft of hair sticking up practically perpendicular to his head, the darker man encountered no problems finding his apartment.
Just as he was about to use his key, there was a scraping sound from the other side and the door swung open so suddenly that Kaldur was sure he would have ended up on the floor if he'd been just a few seconds faster. It was the same redheaded man he and Roy had encountered, although this time he was dressed casually with a large duffle bag over one shoulder. Green eyes widened in recognition and then crinkled as their owner beamed. "Hey, you're the new guy right?"
"Yes," Kaldur replied, taken aback by the other's friendliness. "I live on—"
"Fourth floor. Yeah, I remember your friend too. Came by to check out the place a while ago, right?" Kaldur could only nod as the other rambled on. "He and the realtor really got into it; I've never heard anyone bargain so hard in my life. Or get such a good deal, really."
Kaldur smiled at the thought of Roy fighting to lower the price. "He always did know how to haggle," he agreed. The other man laughed.
"I'll say! Hey, I'm Wally. What's your name?"
Wally gave him a bright smile. "Welcome to Number 32, Kaldur. Listen, I'm kind of in a rush right now, but I'm having some friends over tonight. Why don't you come join us? It's nothing fancy, probably just pizza and bad movies but it's the company that counts! And it's never easy arriving in a new city."
Kaldur thought about the offer. It was certainly tempting, and it wasn't as though he had anything better to do tonight. "That's very kind of you."
"Don't mention it. So, 6.30 this evening then. I'll be expecting you. I'm on the third floor, by the way." Since there was only one apartment per floor, Kaldur imagined it would not be difficult to find. "I'll see you tonight then!" And with those words, Wally was off like a shot, sprinting down the road as if his life depended on it.
Kaldur arrived in front of Wally's door at 6.30pm sharp, according to his watch anyway. He looked around and cautiously knocked, hoping that the party hadn't been pushed to a later time or something else. He looked down at the lemon cheesecake he'd picked up from Waitrose and hoped it would be enough.
Two knocks later and still no answer. Kaldur frowned. Perhaps no one was at home? Maybe he'd heard Wally wrong, and was supposed to go to a different floor? A babble of voices from downstairs reached his ears and soon a pretty redheaded girl came into view, followed by a slender dark-haired man wearing sunglasses. Perhaps they too were Wally's guests?
Upon seeing him standing in front of the door, the man sighed. "You Wally's neighbour?" He asked briskly.
The other grinned and stuck his hand out. "Nice to meet you. I'm Robin." His grip was surprisingly strong.
The girl jumped in quickly. "I'm Megan. It's nice to meet you…" She trailed off and turned bright red. "Hello Megan! I forgot to ask your name!"
Kaldur chuckled a little. "No, not at all. I'm Kaldur. I just moved here from LA."
The other two laughed. "That sounds amazing," gushed Megan. "I've always wanted to visit the States, but just never had the opportunity. What's living in LA like? Are there movie stars everywhere? Is the weather always so nice? I mean, London's got its good days, of course, but nothing like—"
Robin hastily cut in. "This is lovely, but I'd really like to get inside soon. You knock yet?"
"There was no answer," Kaldur replied. From the way Robin and Megan looked at each other with a mix of resignation and amusement, he figured that this was not an uncommon occurrence.
"He probably got carried away," Robin commented. "Here, let me." He slid his way onto the narrow landing and pulled out a bunch of keys, flicking through them quickly. A quick twist and the door opened easily. Kaldur blinked. Obviously Robin was very close to Wally if he even had a key to the other's apartment. Catching his expression, the dark-haired man smirked but said nothing.
"Are you sure Wally won't mind?" Kaldur asked cautiously. "I mean, I only just met him briefly this afternoon."
Robin raised an eyebrow. "Are you a thief?"
"Well, no, but—"
"Are you planning on stalking him?"
Before Kaldur could answer, a new voice cut in.
"What the hell?" Robin and Megan both jerked up and all Kaldur saw before pain rocketed through his jaw was a pair of blazing blue eyes.
The first thing Kaldur heard when he came to was Megan's voice. "Thank goodness," the girl sighed in relief. "Are you all right?"
"Here, just lie still." Someone brought what had to be a fresh bag of ice in and obviously at some point between his little accident and being brought over to the couch Wally had returned.
"Kaldur, are you all right?" Wally was now crouched beside him. "I'm really sorry about everything! Believe me, I did not invite you over to have your face smashed in. There was absolutely no violence on tonight's programme, I assure you. And you lot!" Wally whipped around to face presumably Megan and Robin. "What on earth was going on?" When it became clear that no coherent answer was forthcoming, Wally huffed out an exasperated sigh.
"Robin said he was stalking you." Kaldur could not help but notice that the new speaker had a nice voice; deep with a slight rasp.
Robin groaned. "I was joking."
"But Artemis said last week—"
"That was different. And what did we say about going around punching strangers?"
"Enough," Kaldur croaked out. As he tried to sit up, a wave of dizziness overcame him and he flopped back down on the couch like a fish. "I expressed my doubts over whether to enter your house when you weren't in it, and Robin merely made a joke at my expense, inquiring whether I intended to stalk you. Then someone presumably punched me, and here I am." From the sudden silence in the room, he just knew that everyone was staring at him. Well, in for a penny, in for a pound.
"I like him," another girl standing off to the side commented.
Wally dashed back over to the couch, green eyes earnest and still apologetic. "Look, I am so very sorry for this. Why don't I get someone to help you back upstairs?"
"No," Kaldur managed. Honestly, he wanted nothing more than to go back upstairs, slip into the shower and then sleep. "I'll be fine, just give me a little while longer and I'll let myself out."
"Don't be an idiot," the other girl sighed. "Conner, can you get Kaldur upstairs? Consider it an apology."
There was a mutter off to the side and suddenly he found himself lifted full off the couch in a bridal carry. Clearly this Conner was very strong. "Hey, be careful with him!" Wally squawked somewhere near his shoulder. "Kaldur, I am so sorry. I promise the next time you'll actually get to, you know, meet everyone."
Kaldur managed a smile. "I look forward to it."
The trip upstairs was awkward, to say the least. Kaldur found himself placed surprisingly gently on the ground and fumbled in his pocket for the keys, free hand subconsciously rubbing his jaw. "Sorry," Conner grumbled and Kaldur slowly turned to face him.
"Don't worry about it." He made to enter to the apartment, assuming that Conner would simply go back downstairs and rejoin his friends.
"You'll be okay, right?" Kaldur nodded, not trusting himself to speak at the sight of wide, pleading blue eyes and an almost-pout on those handsome features. "'M really sorry," the other mumbled and fled downstairs, leaving a bemused Kaldur staring out onto the landing.