Assault on a Queen
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Connor Hawke and Kyle Rayner -- Green Arrow and Green Lantern -- explore their interpersonal relationship while attempting to take down a crime boss.
Assault on a Queen
The rain poured down relentlessly in the city. It pounded against impassive windows, charged upon tile and metal, streaming down the hard surfaces and collecting below.
Rain seemed like an exercise in perpetual motion. From the clouds it hurtled down, across the surfaces it raced, even puddled together it crept. And for what? Where did all of the rain end up?
A certain figure could be excused for thinking that he had stumbled upon that final resting place. A costume in red and green stretched in tatters across a muscular form, the contours of soft flesh visible from exposed skin. It also showed the sick purple-brown of bruising and the scaly blotches of burgundy, dried blood.
It was not Connor's, nor had he wished for it to spill. It always proved a difficult thing for him, to bring forth blood. But the shot was not his own that caused this. He snapped his mind back to focus as he pushed himself out of the tiny pond that had accumulated there, in the alley. How long had he fallen? He craned his neck up as he stood, trying to look. There was the broken window, three floors up. At least he managed to roll, although his body protested with every faint move. Nothing was broken, surely a blessing.
The gleam of green flashed from that same window, and Connor knew he ought to get himself moving. Propelling himself into a sprint, he used the nearby bricks as a springboard, catching the fire escape ladder and tugging it down with his weight. He flew up the rungs like a shot, leaping onto the platform and up the stairs.
"I thought you'd never get back!" Kyle Rayner, the Green Lantern, struggled with a hail of bullets from a panicked man.
Silently Connor scooped up his bow and reached for an arrow. This would be a good time to use the rubber-tipped arrow, he conclused, and he nocked it. Kyle's barrier stopped the projectiles incoming...but outgoing was another matter altogether.
"Ha! You missed." The unfortunately-featured man trained the machine gun on Connor. The ricocheting arrow rendered him unconscious before his finger so much as tightened.
"I don't miss," Connor retorted belatedly, the faintest hint of a grin on his face. "Did you get the boss...? Is he here?"
Kyle's lean muscles pulsed underneath flawless tights in emerald and black, as his shoulders bounced in a casual shrug. "After that concussion bomb went off, I lost him."
"He can't have gone far," Connor answered, hurrying out the window again.
It occured to Kyle a second later that his friend had fallen all that distance and then made his way back up, to assist him. In that instant he felt like a completely spoiled and impotent brat. He had taken that criticism from others before and railed against it; in this case, however, it hit him especially hard. He had been acting just like one.
The windowsill flashed past as he soared into the open air outside, dipping down to descend upon the street below. Of course he hadn't considered it. His ring allowed him to fly with the faintest thought, kept him safe without even a command, and brought his imagination to life.
It was a fair piece away from reliance on an outmoded weapon and gimmick ammunition. Forcing a smile onto his face, he reached out with the green energy and plucked Connor off the ladder, setting him gently down with giant hands. The blond cocked a brow behind his domino mask.
"Uh, sorry about...uh, not catching you and all." Kyle stammered, by way of explanation for the unasked question. "I mean, I forgot for a moment."
"I don't need apologies," Connor answered, turning and starting to jog away.
Always reluctant to talk, Kyle mused. All business. So unlike his father.
The Lantern caught him up effortlessly, hovering along in the air beside his comrade, and he extended his arm, making a fist. "I'll scan with the ring, to see if I can locate where he's gone. He can't have gone far." Unintentionally, he echoed Connor from a moment ago.
Images flowed into his mind. This kind of scanning always unsettled him slightly. After all, it was never entirely certain what he would get, regardless of how well he focused his mind. And on that topic, his thoughts wandered to the man beside him. All business, yes, but he possessed a focus that Kyle could only envy from afar. For an instant he wished...no, that couldn't happen. He had already tried. That meditation stuff was for the birds. If there were a person in the universe whose body was completely unsuited to meditation, it was Kyle Rayner.
"Kyle," Connor pronounced carefully, still standing nearby.
The sound of his voice was enough to jar the Lantern from his introspections. "Huh?"
"Why are you scanning me?"
He hadn't even realized he had done it, but when his eyes settled upon the archer, he could not deny the green aura around him. Focus, he told himself. Focus. His cheeks burned with embarrassment.
"Uh, sorry. Ring malfunction," he bluffed, laughing nervously and running a hand through his hair. He cursed inwardly and directed his ring hand firmly out, away from Connor and bearing on the city at large. "Scanning again."
It was at times like this that Connor wondered why he teamed up with Kyle. He liked him, of course. He enjoyed the company, and Kyle was at least near his age, unlike many of the other costumed adventurers that he had met. Others might say he should have company of his peers.
Yet the years at the monastery had left their mark upon him. Although they seemed so distant now, so far in the past, one could not forget that formative time. From newspapers and comic books to mantras and mandalas. Could someone really be his peer, simply because they were near in age? Even older heroes he had met seemed puerile by comparison. Perhaps that was it -- Kyle had an excuse for his immaturity, due to his relative inexperience. The others had no such explanation. The genuineness was refreshing.
"That way!! He's barely a city block out." Kyle snatched Connor up, jarring him from his reverie, and sailed into the air and over the buildings across the street. "Stupid, stupid. Running from us."
Connor couldn't help but allow a little bit of a smile to escape. He felt a twinge in his left shoulder as he raised his bow. Injuries would have to wait. This time it would be an ink arrow, to stop that car. He pulled back the string and let it fly as the car entered his field of sight, and it sailed true to its destination, vomiting jet-black coverage onto the glass. The car veered off the road as the driver panicked, smacking into a lamppost and coming to an abrupt stop.
As Kyle neared the street, Connor leapt to his feet and rushed to the car. Though concern welled up for the driver, they had a priority. He reached out and threw open the passenger door, which immediately caused regret to swell up within him; he knew it had been a mistake as the bullet tore through his shoulder. Fortunately his reflexes were much better, and he toppled back and out of range.
"Connor!!" Kyle screamed, seeing his friend go down so easily. He frowned darkly and literally tore open the nearer door to him. The man inside toppled onto the pavement, a vise-grip on his gun. A few random shots bounced off of the green shield around the Lantern. "So, Chuck -- a.k.a. 'Little D' -- where's your bravado now?" He descended towards the man and aimed a kick at his gut, then a savage right hook to his jaw took him down.
He really didn't know where all of this anger had come from so suddenly. Of course they got injured sometimes, but...as he took the gun away from the man's fingers with a pair of large green pliers, he felt an odd sensation of satisfaction, crushing the muzzle. "Your shooting gallery is hereby closed!"
Relief flooded his body as he turned to another noise, watching as Connor investigated the driver. "He'll be fine. He's just unconscious..." There was relief in the archer's face too. "I'll notify the authorities."
"I think they're already on their way," Kyle answered, pinning down "Little D" with a shimmering energy anvil. "Are you okay?"
"I'm shot." The soft answer came clearly, even over the sounds of distant sirens. "It went through, at least."
Of all the things that Kyle could withstand, being shot was not one of them. Even the thought gave him the shivers, and here was Connor, speaking so calmly about it, as if it were nothing at all. But Connor's arm had begun to go numb, and pain rhythmically pounded through his body. He could only ignore it for so long. With the earlier fall and now this, he surely could only push himself so much further.
Kyle was at his side immediately, his ring keeping the groaning crook pressed to the pavement. "Connor! We've gotta get you to a hospital or something!"
"It's okay," he answered, a soft, gentle smile on his face. "Just home. I can clean this and stitch it up myself."
Another shiver ran through Kyle's body. Stitching...himself?! "Seriously, we'll get you to a doctor..."
"I don't need a doctor," Connor's voice returned, and he diverted his gaze to observe the arrival of the police cars.
The officers poured out, swarming over the wreckage, taking up "Little D" and his gun, for evidence. Kyle dismissed the green construct and summoned another, to support his friend.
"Fine, but we're going home right now." Without waiting for any kind of agreement, the two were in the air, the Lantern giving a wave to the officers, leaving them to it. The statements and so forth could come later; now was the time for a retreat. If that wound were allowed to stand, it could become infected.
It took him barely any time at all to convey them back to Kyle's small apartment. By that time, Connor had nodded off. Kyle kicked himself inwardly; he knew he shouldn't have allowed that. Hopefully it wasn't because of blood loss or some other internal injury, but there wasn't enough blood visible that it could be a possibility. Still, Kyle was an artist, not a doctor. All he understood was a fundamental grasp of first aid and enough to fake it on the pictures he drew.
But his friend's life may be at stake, and he refused to see a doctor. All right then, Kyle resolved. If that's the way it must be, then so be it.
First he would need to get that costume off. He reached out, then stopped himself.
Connor had such an angelic face when he was sleeping. Kyle had to admit it. Any artist or simply a person with aesthetic appreciation could not deny it. The air was sweeter than it had been outside. There was no car exhaust here, no sulfuric gunpowder bitterness. And on top of it all, he could detect the scent of Connor's body. He wore no cologne; it was a natural scent of the natural skin, the light aroma of sweat mixed with what must be some kind of natural deodorant from the arm outstretched, blood still flowing slowly from the wound.
Hastily shaking his head to clear it, Kyle brought himself back to the present and urged his ring into action. With a pair of energy-shears he cut around the shoulder cuff, peeling it carefully off with large green tweezers. He wasn't sure why he bothered; Connor would undoubtedly need a replacement anyway, judging by the rest of the rips and tears. This hadn't been an easy foe to bring down, and he seemed to come with no end of cheap traps for them.
As he worked, he distracted himself by thinking back on the case. It helped him to get the sight of blood and a deep wound out of his immediate consciousness, ironically assisting his concentration on the task at hand. Somehow "Little D" had managed to get his hands on an artifact of the most fearful super-science, or at least that's what it was called by those who admired it. In reality it was a horrible thing, manipulative of reality itself. How many things in Connor's life could be blamed on this thing, used by a petty crook with a chip on his shoulder for Connor and especially Ollie, his father. "Little D" hated no one in the world as much as Green Arrow...regardless of the title's bearer. The object had come from beyond the Earth. Some said Apokolips gave birth to its vicious hate-filled technology. Kyle wouldn't be particularly surprised by that. Only the most horrible of things ever seemed to come from that scorched hell.
He could see why Connor had become fixated on the item. Kyle would be too, if it meant his life had been subtly manipulated into something it never had been, by someone who hated him. But Connor's reasoning was that it could have been used to hurt someone else, someone other than him. When "Little D" became bored tormenting Green Arrow, the worst he could do was kill him. But if he chose another target...
At the time, Kyle had rebuked Connor for talking like that. He didn't know why. It just seemed the thing to say. "Where there's life, there's hope," he had told him. He couldn't let Connor die like that. It would be abominable to him. A failure as a hero.
There! The wound had been cleaned, cauterized, and -- Kyle admitted, only with the great help of the ring -- stitched. Now to tend to the others, he thought. And for those...well, the rest of the costume would have to come off. But he felt more than slightly wrong just undressing Connor in the middle of the living room. With the ring's help, he carried him to the bathroom and set him down in the tub.
The chill was enough to stir him from his unconsciousness. "Kyle...?"
"It's okay!" Kyle hurriedly replied. "I'm just getting you patched up. Relax."
The distance between their faces was so little that Kyle could feel the warmth of Connor's breath as he spoke. He reached out and untied his mask, in the back, then gingerly set it to the side. Blond hair fell slightly to the side as Connor's head did the same, his eyes closing, his mouth in that same tolerant smile, so gentle and so patient.
A nervous laugh escaped Kyle's lips, and then he quickly leaned back, wondering where it had come from. His hands fumbled with the fastener of the collar, and then it was just an easy matter of taking down the industrial-strength zipper. He tried to be careful, just in case of catching anything on it: wounds, cuts, body hair, it all felt terrible to get pinched in a zipper. He knew from experience, grateful that the ring generally provided for his own costume.
The zipper stuck above the belt. Well, it made sense. In a one-piece costume, the fastening would have to extend to just above the crotch. Kyle first reached for the buckle, then stopped himself. It dawned on him that this would mean undressing Connor entirely, not just above the waist. He glanced down and spotted the boots; those would be better. He could take those off without feeling awkward. So his attention went to them first.
Slowly he removed them, setting them to the side of the tub, and then he spotted more fasteners, this time at the ankle cuffs. He undid them and, just as carefully as he had above, unzipped along the sides up to mid-thigh.
Now all that remained was the belt and below. Why was this so suddenly hard?! Kyle frowned as he reached down, his hands trembling slightly before settling on the surface of the buckle. Taking a deep breath, Kyle forced himself through the clicking as one might remove a bandage, quickly and with a minimum of trauma.
He cursed to himself, barely a whisper, as the belt clattered noisily to the tub underneath, although Connor barely stirred. Kyle reached down and withdrew the belt, setting it on the feet of the boots. Now came the last stretch. His hands rebelling the whole time, he unzipped beyond Connor's navel, down a path dusted with faint little blond hairs, and came to a stop amid fluff soft as clouds.
At this sight, he had to draw his eyes forcibly away. Business, he thought to himself. Business. Just like Connor. Supporting his friend's injured shoulder, he lightly drew the cuff over it and off his arm. Then, the most difficult part done, he did the same for the other. His breath caught in his throat at the various wounds he saw as the rest of the costume was removed. Not particularly terrible, not particularly serious...but so plentiful. He swallowed hard and reached out, his gloved hand fumbling over skin and eliciting a moan from Connor.
Kyle frowned and drew his hand back, standing up, and he instantly dismissed his costume. Now dressed in a much more manageable long-sleeved shirt and jeans, he would be able to move much better. He rummaged in the medicine cabinet and drew out cotton and alcohol, starting in on the work.
The thing was, his eyes began to wander. The scent of Connor was stronger, now that he had removed the costume. The scent of alcohol began to replace it, but it still dwelt at the back of the bouquet. Kyle's black hair hung in front of his eyes -- mercifully -- as he took up Connor's costume and set it outside the tub as well. Off came the gauntlets, and then he placed the plug in the drain. First he twisted the hot knob, then the cold knob, trying to avoid any particularly jarring temperatures. When it reached a sufficient warmth, he looked back up at his friend...reclining nude and slightly spread-legged in the tub.
He could feel his heart thump in his chest. He didn't know why.
He had spoken to Connor about it, once or twice. Being generally asexual, that he didn't really understand so much. He thought Connor was gay, at first. Now he wasn't sure if he was gay, or if the signs might just be different for someone so removed from the culture Kyle knew so well.
He had his own gay friend, or more like an accessory, Terry had said. They had once joked that, working so close together, Kyle had developed a vestigial gaydar. It seemed to have failed him. When he spoke to Terry about Connor, something was brought up he hadn't really given any due consideration: maybe he's bisexual? It always appeared that most people though you either had to be on one side of this imaginary "fence", or the other, as if there were no middle ground.
Maybe he's bisexual, Kyle mused. Then he wondered why this even had popped into his mind.
Don't look away from his face, don't look away from his face, he repeated to himself. But his face wasn't doing Kyle any favors. He only kept thinking how angelic he looked, how beautifully innocent.
If one male existed on this earth I could love, Kyle said inwardly, amid the sea of countless ones unsuitable, Connor Hawke is it.
His cheeks burned as he reached into the water, to splash a little over Connor's leg. His knuckles brushed lightly against Connor's hip, by accident. Snatching his hand up, water dripping from his wet fingers, he locked his eyes on the blond's face again...only to be locked into the intense gaze of now-open eyes.
He could not look away, nor did he want to do so. There was nothing else in the room, or indeed in the world, at that moment, that he would rather look into. His heart pounded in his chest, raging against its confinement and seemingly ready to burst through. Kyle parted his lips, but he could coax no words from them.
The rushing of bathwater filled the room with sound, drowning out everything else. And the sweet scent of Connor's body mingled with alcohol and the steam.
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