Disclaimers and Useless/Useful Stuff to Know:
Don't own Justice League. Never did, never will. Somewhere anywhere in Justice League Unlimited. Post-Doomsday Sanction, I think.Fic does briefly mention a previous fic, but there's zero need to read it. For curiosity's sake, it was 'All the Matters Aside From Heroism'.
Contains slash. Fair warning. Enjoy your read.
Pink Makes Me Uncomfortable
by Alba Aulbath
For sometime, it had been Wally who made the first step, as always, to offering a hand in friendship. Generally, most in the League accepted that it was more of a 'we're all co-workers not friends' situation. The Question felt it was more of a 'they'll be useful but they could also have a bad motivation' situation for himself, generally speaking. Regardless, it had been the Flash who naively offered to him lunch in Central City.
To be honest, Question hadn't been sure when it was the last time he ever ate out with anyone, whether or not it was friendship or otherwise. It had been especially strange, since he knew the opinion of his sanity that Flash had for him, though he supposed since a good lot of them were a little crazy that worked anyway for the speedster.
So it had been the Flash, that time, told him he'd be there as Wally because Question had already known who he was and who Batman was and probably had a profile on everyone on the planet for all anyone knew.
So it had been that the Question attempted to trust someone after what felt like too many years and had come as Vic Sage instead of the faceless detective set out for the ultimate Truth.
So it had been they continued to eat lunch together every Friday at 12:37.
And this Friday, it was a little off, and Vic was what everyone would have called 'paranoid', in spite of his lack of expression.
What first made him concerned was when Wally did not show up at the right time. The Fastest Man Alive should have no problem making it to an appointment, after all. Still, he assumed that there was a distraction, so he waited patiently for about a half hour. So it was about 1:16 PM EST that Vic started to be worried about the speedster, to say the least.
Stepping out from the cafe and approaching the nearest alleyway, he calmly pressed his comlink. "Martian?"
"He's not here. What is it?" came Green Lantern's voice instead.
Well. That was also concerning. "Where's the Flash?"
Hesitation; Vic could tell. "He's out right now."
"Where did the Martian and Flash go?"
Definitely more hesitation. There was something either drastic going on, or something worse than drastic - which was not something Vic wanted to consider.
"Look, something happened in Central City, and Flash is-"
"-Central City. That's all I need."
There was clear annoyance in Green Lantern's tone. "Question, this is their business. You're not free to stick your nose into it."
"Wally's business is my business, Lantern. I'm out." For the time being, Vic turned off his communicator - as much as hearing Lantern's faint surprised tone would have been amusing for having spoken the Flash's civilian name - and went to find himself transportation to Central City.
It was hardly something that Vic had been expecting.
Wally West's apartment was, all in all, demolished. For whatever reason, it was smoldering ashes along with the rest of the complex. Something he did not, of course, think was a coincidence. Someone was undoubtedly after Wally.
Which definitely made it his business.
There were firemen and policemen backing people away, reporters looking for a story, and Vic was just looking for a Martian and a motormouth. From the bits he could hear from the crowd, no one had seen who was responsible, though the detective was still intent of making a suspect list.
Almost frowning, Vic circled around the destroyed complex. Martian? he thought out for J'onn.
Good. He was within the area. Where's Wally?
He is with me. We are by the orphanage; it was the safest place he could think of.
I'll be right there.
Vic could honestly tell himself that he was surprised to not sense hesitation from the Martian, not the way that he could hear it from Lantern. Then again, J'onn was one of the few people he did respect, and there was a reason for that. Nodding, he continued his way down the street, setting up his mask.
Around the corner, after a few blocks, he was able to spot an average-looking man with dusty-colored hair next to Wally; the Question recognized it as J'onn's human form he had created for himself. Approaching, he had caught the redhead's attention and the speedster glanced up; fortunately, he was careful about calling out the Question's name.
"Sorry 'bout lunch," Wally grinned weakly.
"You're paying next time." The Question glanced to J'onn. "What happened?"
Shaking his head, the Martian responded, "We are not sure right now."
"I'll worry about who caused it later. Did you actually see what happened?"
J'onn frowned faintly. "Wally had just stepped out, and there was an explosion. Those who were inside... did not survive." The red-haired speedster let out a heavy sigh and the Martian placed a hand to his shoulder. "There is no one to blame but the cause - not yourself," J'onn told him. Wally just nodded.
On a typical basis, the Question would go out to get as many answers at once on account for the absolute truth. However, he hesitated, glancing from Wally to the Martian, and decided that asking questions would be... later. Without Wally around to hear about it.
"I'll take him to Hub City. You worry about this for now," the Question told the alien.
J'onn tilted his head down, looking at the younger of the three of them. "That is acceptable?"
Wally was teetering between 'acting like it never happened' and the hard realization that it did indeed happen; he squinted at the Question, then nodded. "Yeah okay," he agreed with a sigh.
"I will be in contact, Question. Though your investigative skills would be most useful."
Question shrugged. "Batman can get a head start." Though he did not, in any form or way, insinuate that he would not attempt to find out the cause. He took Wally by the wrist and went on his way to lead him away.
"...You have pink curtains."
"That's not exactly, uh..."
Vic didn't seem even slightly offended. It had been a few hours of a drive, since he was not feeling inclined to force Wally to run for both of them, and the kid probably needed time to think to himself, anyway. He had calmed, a little - enough so he didn't look ready to crack, anyway. Though the moment they went into Vic's apartment in downtown Hub City - which wasn't a bad apartment at all, plenty of space and all, though it looked like the papers were happily decorating both the desks, tables, and walls and some parts of the floor - Wally had immediately noted some of the decorations and Vic's lack of taste. In his opinion, anyway.
Well, maybe some men didn't have a problem with pink. After all, with the way Parasite strutted around, nobody was laughing at him. Then again, it was Parasite - a supervillain and one who unexplainably creeped out Wally - and therefore not something to take into account. Especially when it related to a crazy guy like Vic.
"I coulda stayed at Bruce's," Wally told him, in a tone that suggested guilt and was not something the detective approved of.
Vic raised a brow ever-so-slightly. "Did you want to?"
"Well... kindanotreally. He wouldn't be there a lot. Uh, don't get me wrong - Alfred is awesome company, but... well..."
"Then don't worry about it. Sit down before you collapse." Vic turned his head to look at Wally. "If the Martian contacts us, let me worry about it."
"Oh. ... 'Kay." Wally found himself the couch in a matter of seconds and immediately got comfortable, flopping down onto his side.
Once he was positive of himself that Wally was unconscious, Vic took off his hat and turned to the television, turning it on to pay attention to the news report on the explosion in Central City. Nothing new yet, not surprising. He'd probably hear from J'onn before anything new on the TV.
He turned it off and remained silent, considering as he glanced around at the apartment, then at Wally.
Vic took down the curtains and went to find some different ones.
And so it was, Wally awoke to the smell of many cheeseburgers and fries and other delightful greasey morsels that his hyper-accelerated metabolism enjoyed; it fortunately (and temporarily) distracted him from remembering troubles from before. However, when he started to sit up, he was pretty damned sure that he heard music in the next room over and he completely did not recognize this apartment.
Just as he started to stand up from the couch, he could hear Vic speaking out from the room with the pop music that made him raise the Eyebrow: "Thirty-six cheeseburgers, mayo, lettuce, tomato, ketchup. Eighteen large fries, eighteen chicken nuggets, ten large cherry Cokes. ... And a pickle."
Wally hesitated. "...I don't like pickles."
"I know. It was for me."
"Oh." Otherwise, it was an order of perfection. Wally, peering into the room where Vic was in (it had newspaper clippings and other apparent... obsessions pinned up on the wall). "You have a problem," Wally decided to inform him.
"Mm-hmm." Vic didn't seem inclined to disagree, doing something on his laptop - Wally couldn't quite see what. "Go eat."
"...Are you listening to Savage Garden?"
"Mm-hmm," was repeated. The detective glanced up, almost raising his brow. "Why?"
Wally shrugged. "Sorry, but you just don't look like the type who listens to 'Savage Garden'."
There was a pause before Vic once again played the repetition game by saying, "Go eat, Wally."
The red-haired speedster chose to no longer argue, speeding away to eat... damn, what time was it? Was it lunch or dinner? He decided he'd check after he was done eating.
When food was all said and done and Wally was bored after thinking of what to do for about twenty seconds, he had returned to the room where Vic was, leaning against the doorframe. He was considering what he should bug the other man about, but apparently, the detective beat him to the punch, asking, "What is it, Wally?"
"So, like... are you stalking me?" Wally squinted at him. "What don't you know about me?"
Vic scoffed a little. "My whole world doesn't revolve around Wally West."
"Oh, yeah. Conspiracy - almost forgot." Wally paused, then said, "Seriously. What's so damned important about knowing what kinds of things I like to eat?"
"I just happen to know from my habits." Vic didn't once turn around to face at his guest. "Clark likes his Italian, Bruce has a broad taste from French to Japanese cuisine, Ted likes tuna..."
Wally lifted a brow. "Ted?"
"Oh. Hey, what does J'onn like? Besides oreos. I mean, wow; unhealthy obsession. ...Wait, I'm talking to YOU about unhealthy obsessions..."
Vic didn't seem to take offense at the remark, but faintly scowled at the subject apparently - it was difficult to tell with him, honestly. "He's a vegetarian," he muttered quietly. "Planning to make the Martian some dinner, Wally?"
There was hesitation - puzzlement, more than anything, from the detective's remarks. "Huh? Uh, no..."
"Hn." Vic somehow didn't sound pleased, and Wally was completely baffled as to why.
Unfortunately, the doorbell rang before confusion could be cleared. Vic stood up after closing his laptop, and glanced at the younger man. "Don't touch anything or look through anything. Unless you want to know what Lantern and Vixen do at night."
"GRODY - jeez, what crawled up your ass?" Wally winced and stepped aside quickly as Vic went to answer the door, obviously without the intention of responding. He glanced around and sighed, decided to explore the tiny kitchen.
The person at the door was not anyone Vic expected, since he was not expecting anyone except for those from the League - the few who knew who he was, anyway. (Which were, to be noted, only Bruce, Wally, and J'onn, to his knowledge. And Wally was already staying with him.)
It was an old face, and it was amusing, though horrific timing. Still, he opened the door, brow raised. "Lois?"
"Still got that film Noir look going for you, Vic?" Lois Lane had her arms folded, smirking faintly. "How many times are you going to move in one year, honestly. It took me forever to track you down."
"I'm a little surprised you tried." Vic immediately wondered the reasons.
Lois shrugged. "Hey, look; I'm not up to rekindling any old flames here, but you're still a friend, right? Besides, figured you could give me a bit of help. You might be doing the occasional news report, Vic, but I remember you had an affinity for detective work."
"So it's less friendship and more favor asking."
"If I was here for just to chat, Vic, you'd still be suspicious," Lois remarked. "But I'm halfsies on it; here to talk, here to ask a favor. I've got some time before Smallville decides to try to pick his way into the story."
Vic considered, glancing over his shoulder. Then he shrugged. "I have company over, but I hardly doubt he'll mind." He stepped aside to let her in.
Taking the hesitant invitation to step inside, Lois grinned. "You, company? Who's the victim?"
"Funny." Vic wasn't amused.
"Hope you don't mind - I found some Ben and Jerry's in the freezer, damn I love fudge brownie - so I took the two containers and-" Wally stopped, almost dropping the containers of icecream. "Uh... hi?" He recognized her face, but he certainly couldn't act as though he did.
Though it appeared Lois knew his. She raised a brow. "Wally West, right?"
"We haven't met, have we?" Wally knew he was terrible at being dishonest, but he faked it anyway. He'd met Lois as the Flash, but never as Wally.
"No, but Smallville's mentioned you; you, him, and some others sheltered up at Bruce Wayne's from those chicken-wings," Lois grumbled faintly. She was hardly fond of the Thanagarian invasion, and probably just about every other invasion, even if they were big stories to write about. "Plus, you're the talk in Central City."
Wally paled. "Really...?"
"Lois," Vic grumbled darkly.
The brunette tilted her head. "Don't fuss, Vic; I'm not here for an interview or to pester him. But I thought I'd give you the heads up, West; you're a suspect. I don't believe it - anyone who's pals with Smallville wouldn't be able to steal candy from a baby - but you're under some suspicion for being responsible for the explosion. Seems like it was a bomb. No accident."
"WHAT?" Vic thought Wally couldn't get any paler, and was unpleasantly proven wrong.
"You walk out of your apartment, and a few seconds later, the whole place goes up. It's suspicious to the law, even if your record is as clean as it gets." Lois shook her head. "Look, like I said, I don't think you're responsible, and I'm not here for an interview. Not my story." She grumbled quietly to herself, "Clark snagged it."
Vic wasn't entirely sure if he was comfortable with that, even if it was Clark. Regardless, he pushed Wally to a chair silently, but looked at Lois. "What did you come here for, Lois?"
"It's a bit included in the explosion, but I'm not here to nag Wally." Lois went into her pocketbook, taking out a photo, but hesitated, looking curious. "Hey, why's he here, anyway?"
"He's a friend. We met about eight months ago." Vic could have gotten more precise, but there was no need to make her suspicious. Anymore than she already was. "What is it?"
"Jimmy took a photo of this." Lois held out the picture. "Thought you might be interested in giving a girl a hand in a story."
Vic scowled at the picture. It was a burnt and tattered remains of the Flash's costume. He would have glanced hesitantly at Wally, but he was more careful than that. "And what do you think?" the detective asked.
"Either the Flash was there investigating..." Not something Lois wanted to consider, from her tone. "Or he lived at that apartment and wasn't there - but his costume was. Or someone is a fan and that's just a party costume - which wouldn't shock me. You'd be surprised at how much merchandise are based on the Justice League. Wonder if they get a dime of the profit."
"Doubt it," Vic muttered. But also noted how much paler Wally managed to get, possibly deciding he was no longer in the mood for icecream. "I'll look into it, Lois. Mind if I keep the photo?"
"Sure. Jimmy has copies." Lois shrugged.
Once again the doorbell rang, and Vic's eyebrow almost twitched. He pocketed the photo, and quietly went to answer the door.
It was silent between Wally and Lois, but eventually the brunette let out a sigh. "Look, West; don't let it get to you. People died, but it wasn't your fault."
"I didn't really know any of my neighbors, but..." Wally looked at her uneasily. "I feel like... y'know, maybe I could have done something."
"If you had superhearing, you might be credible to that guilt trip. But you don't, so I wouldn't fret." Lois smirked faintly. "You might want to worry more about staying with Vic than what happened in Central City."
Wally wondered if he should be concerned. "Why?"
Lois frowned, folding her arms and thinking of a way to phrase it. "He's a real interesting guy - we dated in college - but you can't do a thing without making him think there's a motivation behind it. A bad one, anyway. He doesn't trust so easily, but I guess I can understand why, in his case. He's just real excessive in it." She paused before continuing. "Though you're here, so I guess he must like you just fine. Vic is probably less social than Batman," she remarked dryly.
Wally smiled faintly; yes, that was probably true, even if it was only a joke to Lois. "Wouldn't surprise me."
"Just be careful. He's a little obsessive."
"...A little." Wally eyed at her.
Lois rolled her eyes. "I'm trying to be kind for the poor guy's sake, and yours. Just be careful; he's not a complete psychopath you have to worry about wanting to kill you or something, but if he likes you enough, he'll do everything he can to know about you. How you breathe, how you eat, if you drool in your sleep..."
"He's ALWAYS been like that?"
"Not in our early college years, but after he graduated, he got worse and worse over awhile. Which is pretty much why I had to break it off with him. Good guy, but definitely a bit crazy." Lois smirked. "Now that I'm done creeping you out, you going to hold up just fine?"
"Yeahwell, so long as I don't freak out about my stalker." Wally shrugged.
"Good enough for me. Expect Smallville to swing by, if he knows you're here - but I'll keep it hushhush. Vic wouldn't appreciate reporters coming up to his door and wanting a story, much less people just knocking on his door." Lois lifted her head, frowning, and looked over her shoulder. "Speaking of which, wonder who's there."
The question would remain as such, as Vic made his return and looked slightly more irritable, in spite of the fact that he seemed to keep the lack of facial expression even without his mask. He stopped, glancing between both of his guests before announcing, "Getting coffee. Either of you want any?"
Wally shook his head, but Lois nodded, "Yeah, I'll have a cup. Don't suppose you remember how I take it?"
Vic scoffed faintly. "I make a point to remember all my notes." He turned and went into a kitchen; Lois glanced after him silently, then shrugged.
Coffee was given and there wasn't much discussion. Vic wasn't easy to talk to, Wally was still disturbed, and Lois was stuck in the middle of it. She announced that she would be in Hub City for a day at most, so that hopefully Vic could give her clues. Unfortunately for her, he wasn't going to be able to give her any.
Once she left, Vic had noticed how much more tired Wally looked, in spite of all that he had eaten - including his icecream. No loss, but Wally was now capable of assuming his sweet tooth.
Regardless, the younger hero was exhausted, even if he didn't like to admit it. When he caved in, he sighed and shrugged. "Where should I sleep?"
"The bed." Wally gave him a look, and Vic narrowed his eyes a bit. "I'm not going to join you if that's what you're worried about."
"It's just... it's your place; I don't wanna grab your bed if I'm just stayin' over for awhile."
The detective shrugged, as if that was all he needed to do in his defense. "Go to bed."
Wally stood up, but hesitated. "Who was at the door earlier?"
A pause, and Vic seemed to consider if he should tell. Then he admitted, "The Martian came by briefly and asked if you were all right. He was busy, so he didn't come in." His tone hinted he didn't seem to mind that. "What did Lois have to say?"
"Not much." Wally was a terrible liar.
Vic knew that especially. "Right." Though he didn't pursue to know about their conversation, telling the speedster once more, "Go to bed, Wally." He turned and went back to the room with his computer.
It was awkward and silent. Before he went to discover the bedroom, Wally wondered if he was really better off here than at Wayne Manor.
Next: Bruce shows up to make a statement. Clark points his finger a lot and makes the 'I'm warning you' statement. Vic denies all claims. Wally wonders if he should Freak the Hell Out yet.
In a version of the comics, I think in college Lois either went out with Vic Sage or had a crush on him. Either way, it makes it interesting and makes me curious if they'll address that concept in JLU ever.
The explosion wasn't just an excuse to make Wally room with Vic temporarily. Just a big part of the reason. It'll be addressed later/soonish.
I was originally going to do J'onn/Wally, but somehow Vic butted his way into it. I don't get it either.
Reviews make me smile.