by 'rith

Fandom: Young Justice (cartoon)
Characters: Kaldur'ahm/Garth/Tula
Spoilers: Variant for the "Downtime" episode of Young Justice.
Summary: There is always a third option.
Notes: A trifle, but no way I was going to let this pass. Kaldur does not use contractions.

"You can split your time between the surface and the sea, but not your mind. Either you're here one hundred percent, or you need to walk away. Make a decision, Kaldur, and make it soon."

In retrospect, Kaldur is fairly certain that he is one of a very small group of individuals who can say with a certainty that counsel given by Batman turned out to be utterly and completely wrong.

In the space of that first moment when Tula told him of the new relationship between herself and Garth, Kaldur had been inclined to take Batman's words for truth. Her revelation had been a surprise, yes, although it should not have been; he knew well the rigors of the Conservatory of Sorcery, and the intimacy that grew between students as they progressed through the trials. He might admit to having been disappointed, but only for a moment. Garth was here where Kaldur was not, and Tula had never been shy about making the most of opportunities placed before her. It would have been a betrayal of the relationship between the three of them to expect otherwise or to resent either of them for it.

So in that moment everything seemed clear: He would return to the surface, and Garth and Tula would continue on with their studies and with each other. As simple and as clear-cut a solution as Batman would have wished.

And then Tula offered another alternative, Garth nodding assent behind her, and Kaldur found that there was nothing simple about his situation after all.

Because hearing her proposal and seeing the looks on both their faces--hopeful and eager both--it would *also* have been a betrayal of the relationship between the three of them to refuse. In retrospect, again, Kaldur wonders why it took them so long to reach this point, with such an obvious answer before them.

Three has always been a powerful number in Atlantean myths and sorcery. It represents permanence, not the fragile balancing of two opposite forces but the stability of a triangle, energy playing between angles and reinforcing the center.

The three of them together, Kaldur recalls with a smile, made a very pleasing triangle indeed.

His mind, as Batman put it, is not "split." Kaldur knows where he stands, here and there; he knows Garth and Tula will be here when he returns. It was the uncertainty, the hope unfulfilled, that caused him to doubt himself. Now, knowing his place for a surety, there is no conflict.

King Orin might even have been trying to advise him: "I know from personal experience it can be difficult to live there and love here." Difficult, but not impossible. His team and their trials on the surface, his lovers and their harmony below the sea. This is the balance he has sought all his life.

The taste of Tula's lips and the feel of Garth's skin will be his talismans against the dry world, the constants at the center of his heart.

[500 words]

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