Author's note: Last chapter. It's a bit long but I've already cut out some parts to try and make it reasonable length. Thanks again for the kind words, reviewers. As a complete praise whore, I soak 'em right up.
The speed with which the birthday party and celebration of Titans membership for Kid Flash morphed into a much larger affair amazed Raven. One minute they were discussing getting a cake for Kid Flash, and asking him what kind he liked. Not surprisingly,the boy with the illogically gargantuan appetite turned out to like every kind. But just minutes later it seemed they were plotting the largest get together of superheroes in recent memory.
And it was Robin, of all people, who was the driving force behind the idea. Robin, the guardian and guarantor of Tower security talking about making the party much bigger, talking about having 30 or 40 guests. This was Robin, who was known to go ballistic if anyone left the setting of the windows in their private quartersat transparent instead of opaque, the windows in the 13th floor quarters of a building on an island a half mile into the bay, Robin was inviting people left and right into the Tower. Who are you and what have you done with Robin, thought Raven while watching him.
"We don't do that sort of thing enough," said Robin. She raised both eyebrows. Robin . . suggesting that they don't have enough parties or big enough parties? Robin? "Why do we have to wait for some earthshaking calamity to all get together? Why don't we invite every young hero who can make it to the Tower to celebrate."
Raven turned to a giddy Starfire. "See. Kid Flash killed the real Robin. The one spouting these lines is obviously an android." Starfire's expression turned cold. Jeez. Tough room. Raven stared at Kid Flash calmly eating. What the hell did he say to him in his room? The orange haired pretty boy must be awfully persuasive. First straightening out Jinx and now this!
But he barely said anything. He just ate. And ate. And ate. Footage of it could be used to torture dieters, she decided, watching him shoveling in forkful after forkful and still have a tiny waist and look like he didn't have an ounce of fat on him beneath his tight uniform. It could run on a loop in special punishment rooms at Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers. She imagined screams of chunky horror at the sight of the sleek boy with the supersonic metabolism munching away to no effect.
But he didn't much add to Robin's plan. Beast Boy and Cyborg did till the idea grew and grew and Robin was jumping up from the table and running to the communications center. "I've gotta make some calls quick!" he said bringing up the 60 inch communications screen.
The first call was to Bumblebee and Titans East.
"Bee! Robin here" he began as the giant screen in front of him filled with the image of her standing in front of Speedy.
"What's up, Robin?"
"Bee, I know this is short notice but we're going to be having a joint birthday part and celebration of new membership for Kid Flash here tomorrow starting at 6-"
"Beat us to it, Robby. We were thinking of offering him membership in East. Roy and Garth were pretty interested in having him on the team. They thought he'd be a great mentor for Mas y Menos, showing them the super speed ropes and all."
"Sorry Bee. Too late. But what we were thinking is that we don't ever have any big get togethers. So, we wanted to invite Titans East and some other heroes to the Tower tomorrow. What do you think?"
Bumblebee and Speedy looked back and forth shrugging. Why not? "Garth? What do you think? . . uh huh . . okay . . Yeah! . . . Well, Robin, the consensus here is that you've caught us at the perfect time. On top of which, I agree. We only all get together when there's some giant calamity. Bring your new boy forward."
Whoooosh! Kid Flash was immediately standing next to Robin smiling.
Bee, Speedy, Aqualad, and Mas y Menos all said hi (and hola) back. "How old are you gonna be, Kid Flash?"
He smiled a bit bashfully. "I'll be 15 tomorrow."
"Well, Titans East will be there tomorrow to wish you a happy 15th birthday. See you then, Kid Flash."
But that was just the start. Using the giant video screen, Titans communicators and plain old phones, Robin called Argent, Bushido, Herald, Hot Spot, Killowat, Lightning, Thunder, Pantha, Wildebeest, Arrowette, Wonder Girl, Bat Girl, Super Boy, Captain Marvel Jr., Mary Marvel and more with invitations to the party. Every single one accepted and was invited to bring a date if they wished. Even the short notice didn't turn out to be much of a problem as it was arranged for some to pick up others where necessary. Everyone agreed that it was a great idea and complimented Robin. They all agreed that the hero community didn't do enough to take advantage of the opportunities for positive get togethers.
Well, a party would certainly have music, so Beast Boy approached the sound system controls for the great room which included a 21 inch screen listing songs available and chosen but found Cyborg was already setting up a folder called "birthday bash" and loading songs into it.
"Aw man!" Beast Boy complained. "This guy heard most of those songs when they came out," he said and morphed into a green velociraptor before quickly turning back into slender, green Gar.
"These are classics, BB! What's Going on? Theme from Shaft. Ain't no Stoppin' Us Now. Samba Pa Ti by Santana. I got some Philly International, some Al Green. You should like Al Green! Let's Stay Together. Get it, Al Green."
"This stuff is gonna be played with the great room opened up for dancing, little man. So, your grungy, scream till your throat bleeds rock ain't gonna cut it. Can't be danced to and not wide enough appeal."
"Well, there's stuff with wide appeal more recent than that!" said Beast Boy moving to the console now that Cyborg stepped asideand picking out songs from the screen display and loading them into the folder.
"Hmm. Getting' Jiggy With it. Everybody likes that. Touch the Sky by Kanye. Check. Crazy in Love. Check. Los Lonely Boys. New Radicals. Outkast. Ooo yeah, Outkast. I'll load a few of those. Hmm. Madonna. She's such a fraud . . fake english accent, yeah right . . you were born in Detroit, bitch . . but we'll give the girls a couple of hers. Oh! Cy! Dude! Without me! Remember the look on Robin's face when he saw that video? Eminem doing him slouching down in the Batmobile and slouching down some more and . . ! Hehehe!" He continued picking songs before turning to Cyborg. "Why such old stuff for yours, dude?"
"That's the stuff we played in my house growing up."
"You didn't have any control over the radio or stereo did you?"
"Uh . . no. Momma chose the tunes. But she chose well."
"Well, even though they are dinosaur tunes, they are good ones, I've gotta admit," said Gar continuing to pick songs.
"Oooo how bout that one at the bottom of the scroll," suggested Cyborg. "Perfect for you and Rae."
Beast Boy gave him a furious SHHHHHH! look. He checked the bottom of the scroll. En Vogue-My Lovin'. "What song is that?"
Cyborg smiled and sang the chorus. "Yer never gonna get it. You know yer never gonna get it. You know yer never gonna get it. Not-"
Beast Boy morphed into a huge green ape and punched Cyborg before changing back. "Not cool dude! Not cool. I'm gonna go see about the food. Robin was talking about getting caterers. I wanna make sure we've got some vegan options."
Cyborg checked over his shoulder that Beast Boy was gone then added My Lovin' to the playlist folder.
And while those two were jousting verbally, Robin was heading back to his room to make a phone call in private. He made sure no one was around then dialed the number, surprised that he had to think a moment to recall what used to be the single number he knew best in all the world. One ring . . . two rings . . . then an english accent.
"Wayne residence. How may I help you?"
"Alfred. This is-"
"Master Grayson! So good to hear from you. It's been such a long time."
"Yeah. I know. It's good to hear you too, Alfred. Is Bruce there? I'd like to talk to him if I may."
"One moment, Master Grayson."
Robin held the phone for a minute suddenly frantic with indecision at how to put the question to him and feeling angry at himself for having changed back into the emotional boy he'd been at just the prospect of speaking on the phone from 3000 miles away.
"Dick? This is Bruce."
"Hi Bruce. Um, look, I won't beat around the bush. The reason I'm calling you is that I want to invite you to a celebration to be held tomorrow night at Titans Tower. We're going to have a party to celebrate our new member, Kid Flash, and his 15th birthday. We're inviting all the young heroes we can and also some other people. I'd like you to come and maybe see that things have turned out okay and that Wayne Corp's contribution to things here has been pretty worthwhile. What do you say?"
There was a very short pause.
"Kind of short notice, Dick. 30 hours and Friday night is the highest crime night of the week in Gotham City. I doubt it, Dick."
Robin sighed. "I-I know I said some harsh things when I left, Bruce, but as angry as I was I-I know that you helped me. Can't we be in the same room again before it's at calling hours at a funeral home or some other unfortunate occasion? I-"
"I told you, Dick! I didn't think so. Don't try and badger me into changing my mind."
Robin looked at the phone. Jeez. It's fricking free now Bruce! You can be nice to me for free. I'm not around you any more. You won't have to endure the horror of seeing someone to whom you were -gasp- kind. You don't have to see someone who knows you're not unrelentingly grim. You could deny it afterward. Kind words? To Robin? I never said kind words to Robin! Who'd believe me? Who'd think you ever showed normal human kindness?
Robin sighed as he hung up the phone and then ran a hand through his spiky hair. Still seeking his approval three years later. Sigh. What's wrong with me? Stop wishing for what never comes, idiot! It's about as rational as wanting blood from a rock. God! And I was giving off that vibe to KF.
At the same time, another call was being made, to the apartment where Jinx was staying.
"Jinx! It's me, Wally. How's everything going?"
"Great. What's up?"
"How's about I pick you up and bring you over here," he said, leaving unspoken his intention that she stay the night there.
"Sorry. I'd like to but I've got too much to do."
"Too much . . um . . like what, if you don't mind my asking?"
"Your present, dummy. Did you just do a lot of super speed running and make yourself lightheaded or something?"
"Wally. It's a joke . . the dummy part. But seriously, I'm getting your present ready. I'll see you tomorrow at, what was it?"
"Six, but-but be early. They'll be shuttling people over from the dock at the state park every 15 minutes starting at 5 o'clock."
"Okay. See ya tomorrow, Wally."
"Yeah . . see ya . . Jinx."
He hung up the phone and let out a disappointed sigh. Tomorrow? Why not tonight? She . . she enjoyed it as much! Maybe more. Who can tell? But that giant bed with the terrific quilt and the special memory foam mattress is just waiting. He sighed and reminded himself to not be a jerk. She said she was getting a present ready. He sighed again. This sucks. Is there anything more disappointing than not getting to make love to someone you're in love with?
Back at the apartment, Jinx smiled and squeezed the tube to squirt out some light brown onto the tray amid the other splotches of paint. She stared at it. That's the color that cat, Empress is, isn't it? Satisfied that it was, she thought of him and his tone of voice and laughed to herself. You are sooooo lucky that I'm not still with the HIVE, Wally West. I own your buns, don't I? She took some of the light brown on her finest brush and started painting in Empress, stopping to check the color on the canvas after a few strokes. "Course you own me, too, sex freak," she smiled. "I'd never try to do this if you didn't."
So, instead of being with Jinx, Wally got a tour of some of the areas of the Tower that he hadn't seen, from Beast Boy and started reading. He talked with Robin when he dropped by his room but otherwise lost all track of the time as he became engrossed in his books.
It was late at night when Raven made her way through the halls at Titans Tower on the way back to her room. Her most recent meditation had been exceptionally deep, creating congruence with multiple dimensions. It took a lot out of her, those hours in levitating meditation. When she finished and ascended to normal metabolic and brainwave rates, she felt exhausted and went to the tower kitchen to get a bite to eat. On her way back to her room she saw a shaft of light crossing the hallway coming from the door before hers, Kid Flash's. She decided to check on him. Peeking around the door frame, she saw Kid Flash atop his bed and its covers wearing just small white cotton boxer briefs looking down over the end at a large book. She watched in amazement as he oddly fanned the pages of a thick book so that they all seemed to stand out from the binding at once in a semicircle before slamming it shut. Then he rolled onto his back atop the covers with a grin of delight. The image was enticing. A boy with a body like that mesmerized by books. She sighed and somewhere in the back of her mind was a green eyed feeling, of renewed antipathy for Jinx. She watched him say something to himself then furrow his brow and roll off the bed to the floor and pick out another large book from among a pile of them. This time, with one knee down on the floor and his chest against the other, he did the same trick, seeming to fan out ever page of the book in a semicircle and, perhaps run his hand along the pages at super speed. He nodded slowly in satisfaction and then jumped back from his kneeling position to a standing one at super speed looking right at her.
"Ahh! You surprised me."
"You're in Titans Tower!" she chuckled.
"I-I'm not used to being so safe."
"What are you doing still up?"
"Um, I, are you okay with me being dressed like this?" he said of his tight boxer briefs.
"That's about a swimsuit, a smallish one. So what?"
"I just feel a little funny. I . . it . . accentu- . ." He jumped over to the bed and lay on his stomach. She thought the briefs also accentuated the other side of him, too. Interesting that a boy with such a remarkable body wouldn't quite appreciate how girls see him. This innocence, too, was somewhat enticing. She sat down on the corner of his bed.
"Um, I was reading some books for background knowledge," he said up to his left where she was.
"That was reading?"
He nodded "Super speed reading"
"At a quarter of two?"
He looked over his shoulder at the clock with a frown of surprise that thenturned to a smile. "Hey," he laughed. "You're up, too."
"Meditating since 9. And seeing as it's past midnight. You're 15. Happy birthday."
"Thanks. I-I kind of lost my sense of time. I'm used to having these limits, sort of guardrails on what I can do, my mother, my sister, school and the need to mow and rake lawns to make money. Now that all those controls are off it's something new for me. How do all of you do it, manage your time, I mean. Do you try to stick to regular schedules or just go by body clock or what?"
"Cyborg and Robin are pretty scheduled but with very different hours. Starfire and Beast Boy are kind of no schedule and I'm kind of in the middle"
"Yeah, I kind of think I'll end up in the middle I'm just adjusting for now. I'm still getting used to all the resources here, the pool and the combat sims room and the fitness center. That special treadmill is great. I never thought one would be made that'd be useful for me. This bed is great, too, so big and what a great mattress. I slept on the same mattress all my life at home. This is like heaven. Oh, and the library is fantastic. Cyborg was showing me all the industrial, engineering and trade books you've got. What a selection!"
"Yeah," she said, looking at the titles on the floor. "Cheng and Vandermeer really didn't get their due from the awards committees for that Contemporary Communications Circuitry. I thought it was much more suspenseful than that last Stephen King book."
He laughed. "I know it's a deadly dull book but . . it has lots of useful information."
"Um . . Raven?"
"Yeah, um . . KF?"
He smiled. "I-I was going over case files in the computer and I-I saw that you and Jinx, well, you and Jinx were-were um serious enemies. I'm sorry for that. I really am. And that you fought. But she's changed. She's really changed. She has different assumptions about how things should be for her. Will you please grant me this favor? Will you please put aside the past and give her a clean slate? She's nervous about how you'll react to her."
Raven sighed. "You know, she tried to get rid of us."
He nodded. "I read the case file."
"You know that you're asking more of me than you have a right to ask?"
He nodded. "But it's what she needs. That's why I ask."
Raven sighed. "Allright. The slate is clean"
Kid Flash slid over to her corner of the bed and sat up beside her wrapping one arm around her in a hug. "Thank you so much!" he whispered.
"Um . . okay . ."
"Please let me make it up to you in whatever ways I can," he added, looking her straight in the eye, his bright blues the very model of sincerity.
She nodded with certainty while her thoughts were a whirl of ambivalence. Then she said goodnight and got up and left. Jinx!
He had a great night's sleep. It took a little while for him to doze offfor wishing so strongly that Jinx was there with him. But once he did, the special mattress was incredible. He woke up completely rested and refreshed and zipped down to the fitness center. Robin was nearly done his workout but let Kid Flash join him in some boxing and karate work on the heavy bag before finishing up. He told Kid Flash what else he'd done and suggested that he try to do the same overall workout. Kid Flash did, and was exhausted on finishing. The special massage shower felt so good pulsing away at his body. He wondered how he ever lived without the various creature comforts of the Tower.
After breakfast, well breakfasts, three to be exact, a conversation with Cyborg over waffles segued seamlessly, with no such plan, into most of a day being spent with Cyborg watching him upgrade the laser cannon in his arm and talking to him about all the things he was doing. All the intricate innovations Cyborg had made were fascinating to him. What a tremendous show of will! This guy who could so easily have wallowed in self pity was, instead, triumphant. Instead of using handicapped parking spaces, he was getting stronger and stronger. Better laser cannon. Better this. Better that. His augmented physical abilities were incredible. Heck, hewas the power guy, the strength guy of the team. But his knowledge awed Kid Flash even more. What he'd picked up in all his readings was like the knowledge of a chess novice, guessing that it was "the horsey" who moved in an 'L' pattern compared to what circuitry chess grandmaster Cyborg knew.
The day flew by and he was in Cyborg's quarters leaning over the back of a chair watching him when a bell sounded just after 5 p.m. The first guests had arrived. Cyborg gave him a shove toward the door, easily tossing his 127 pounds in that direction. "Go see the guests, KF. I'll be there in a little bit. I've gotta finish this amplification circuitry."
Kid Flash zipped up to the communications center on 14. There, he saw Robin watching on the big screen as the Titans East plane landed on the roof. A minute later, they were down on 14 and everybody was renewing acquaintances. Kid Flash was introduced to all of them. Speedy and Aqualad were especially friendly and he had fun showing off his super speed to Mas y Menos, zooming down the stairs to the entrance door one time and across the bay to the dock at the state park another time. Over the next hour, the others arrived, Captain Marvel Jr. and Mary Marvel as well as a few others flew onto the roof rather than being shuttled across the bay. A few of the other heroes brought dates with them. And by 6 o'clock nearly everyone was accounted for. Kid Flash could barely keep track of all of them. So, he took a half sheet of paper and wrote crib notes to himself at super speed, like "Argent-the other punk super powered girl" and hid it under the wrist of his glove.
Just before 6, Jinx arrived carrying an object wrapped in brown paper. At the sight of her, his pulse started to race and lascivious thoughts danced in his head watching her walk across the room to him with the mystery package. "Your present," she said handing it to him. He was dying to open it and see what it was but had to suffice with a kiss from her and some anticipation. The great room and kitchen were filled with the din of heroes talking and laughing and Kid Flash was the center of it all. This was even more true when Starfire put a huge cake down on a table in the middle of the great room.
Cyborg leaned over behind Kid Flash and Jinx to Robin. "Oh no. Please tell me she didn't-"
"Caterers!" said Robin never looking away from the cake.
"Pffew! I am now ready for cake."
She set up 15 candles on the cake, grinning at Kid Flash and talking about what charming earth ritual this was. Robin was about to step forward and start off the festivities but Kid Flash held an arm across his chest barring him. "My Aunt Iris and Uncle Barry aren't here yet. They have to see this."
"Are you sure they'll be here?"
"She said they would. They have to see this. I know she really really wants to. My uncle's just kind of prone to being late."
"Not fast like you, huh?"
"Um, no, not just like me."
Five minutes later the bell sounded from the main entrance and a minute after that Aunt Iris and Uncle Barry were giving Wally hugs.
"Aunt Iris, Uncle Barry. This is Jinx. Jinx, this is my Aunt Iris and Uncle Barry."
They shook hands in a friendly enough fashion but Jinx could tell that at some point that night she'd be warned that if she did anything to hurt Wally it would swiftly and surely bring about her own death. The look of scrutiny in his aunt's eyes was that intense.
Robin stepped forward shouting for attention to quiet the din. "Everybody! Everybody! Alright. I want to welcome one and all to what I hope will become at least an annual affair. We at the Titans think heroes should meet on purely social occasions too. We're all so dedicated to the great work that everyone here does, that it's hard for us to make time for an occasion like this. But maybe if it's sort of on the calendar as an annual thing it'll be easier to do. And the starting point for this first get together was two things. First, we just added to the Titans, as a full member, Kid Flash."
Enthusiastic applause and a few whistled cheers followed. Kid Flash raised his hand and bowed his head slightly mouthing the words 'thank you' as he did.
"And secondly, this is his birthday. Kid Flash is 15 today."
Hey! More applause.
"So, without further ado," said Robin and he struck an extra long match and lit all 15 candles. Everyone sang. "Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday dear Kid Flash . . Happy Birthday to you!"
A cheer went up, there were shouts that he'd better get 'em all when there were only 15 then Kid Flash blew out all 15 candles seemingly at once and another cheer followed. The cake was cut up distributed and everyone ate and socialized. Wally opened the couple presents given to him. Aunt Iris and Uncle Barry gave him a new black suit by some italian maker that Wally didn't know but that a couple of the girls present repeated in whispered tones. He opened Jinx's present with greater anticipation. It was a painting. He was floored A tremendous effort had obviously gone into it. He asked her when she went to using paints. Just yesterday was the answer. Wally kissed her. It was a painting of the West house, at least what had been good about it. It was looking into his room from the kitchen and inside the room Empress looked out with a very feline gaze of satisfaction, a purr almost audible from the canvas. To one side of the entrance stood Aunt Iris, confident and protective. To the other was Jinx herself with an inscrutable, Mona Lisa smile and the whole scene somehow had a warm glow. Wally kissed her and told her how wonderful it was. He insisted that they go down to his quarters immediately and hang it on the wall. Wally laughed. "You and Empress and Aunt Iris. That's the sum of the good of that home" Jinx told him how many hours she put into it. She was normally a pencil or charcoals sketcher, not a painter but she had to give it a try for this occasion. Did he really like it? Wally kissed her an assured her that it was terrific. They kissed some more and then some more then made their way back up to 14.
Once there, Wally spoke to his uncle for a few minutes. So, Aunt Iris stepped close to Jinx with a smile as they ate cake and ice cream. "I just want you to know that if you do my nephew wrong. I'll kill you" she said looking Jinx right in her pink eyes. "Oh, maybe I can't do it myself. But I'll find someone who can and if I die in the process, I'll have created a charitable foundation with the explicit goal of your demise. I'll start a secret society that believes your death will bring about heaven on earth. My cult will be even more ridiculous than scientology only all the money will go toward your demise. My insurance will name as benefactor whoever wipes you off the face of the planet. I will reach back from beyond the frigging grave if I have to but you will pay the maximum possible price if you hurt him."
Jinx said nothing. The woman was serious.
"On the other side of it, if you really are the one for him and you make my nephew happy then I will be an ally who will never let you down ever. Ever. I will do anything I can for you. Anything. He deserves to be very happy. He's a very special boy."
Jinx nodded. "I understand."
Aunt Iris hugged her and, with the ground rules expressed, didn't give her the same sort of look or tone of voice again that evening.
Talk, over plates of cake and ice cream continued and the natural interests of teenage boys and girls, other teenage boys and girls, were pursued. Cyborg was off to one side deep in conversation with Argent. Hot Spot and Bumblebee walked back and forth between the great room and kitchen with cake and ice cream talking animatedly all the while. Herald and Batgirl weren't paying attention to anyone but each other. Robin and Starfire were together without interruption as were some of the heroes with their dates and other pairs who'd come as dates such as the Marvels.
The booming Tower sound system coming to life only accelerated the pairing off of heroes. When Touch the Sky by Kanye West filled the air on 14, pairs of heroes made their way to the dance floor. KF and Jinx were there at the start and, as she remembered from their first date, he was a natural, not just fast and light footed but with a natural enjoyment of and feel for it. For his part, he thought she was really good, too, though sincere assessment of her dancing would've been impossible to separate from simply enjoying watching her. The next song to play was Ain't No Stoppin' us Now and by that point the dance floor was pretty crowded. Jinx and KF were hemmed into their corner by the windows by Herald and Batgirl and Cyborg and Argent. Cyborg seemed to really enjoy the old favorite coming over the sound system. It was followed by Crazy in Love by Beyonce and Kid Flash really showed off his moves to the beat of the fast horn section of that song.
Cyborg had set the Tower sound system to play the various songs in the "birthday bash" folder in random order. The next one to play was My Lovin' by En Vogue. Beast Boy talking to no avail beside Raven, looked angrily at Cyborg who didn't even notice him, so busy was dancing withArgent. Kid Flash and Jinx both recognized the song right away. He looked at her with a grin and she smiled back. He danced toward her, all smug attitude and fancy little steps then mimed offering her a rose. Jinx, dancing in place, waved her hand emphatically to the music. No! They did that for the rest of the song, Kid Flash making his way around to one side of her then the other, acting smug and stepping lightly all the while then Jinx shaking her head and waving no. Never gonna get neeever gonna get it never gonna get neeever gonna get it! The dance floor partly cleared as other heroes and heroines watched their little play. When the song finished, they laughed and kissed.
The sound system blared one of Cyborg's old school numbers, an instrumental called The Sound of Philadelphia. Kid Flash and Hot Spot were doing the same strut in place step to the energetic music, and the floor cleared out as it became a sort of dance off between them as the other heroes and onlookers watched, clapping and shouting praise for the two most light footed wonders. Both were grinning and obviously enjoying themselves tremendously. Hot Spot threw in a new step and Kid Flash matched him. Kid Flash grinned at him and did an even tougher step. Hot Spot matched it with some difficulty and when the song ended, Kid Flash and Hot Spot slapped gloves and hugged shoulders. Kid Flash backed off the dance floor to one side and looked across the space at Jinx talking to Argent. She glanced his way and they smiled at each other. "Showoff!" she shouted at him and laughed at his modest shrug As the music picked up again, he shuffled in place to getting' Jiggy With It and watched all the happy faces. What a great thing!
He was doing so, for about a minute, practicing his James Brown style slippery foot moves when he was run into from behind, two hands pressed against his backside.
"Sorry man" said Speedy to him and "Watch where you're going!" to someone behind him.
"Hey! Speedy! Thanks man! That job you and I did with Cyborg ended up being a sort of audition. Thanks, man."
Speedy gave the shorter KF a full hug. "Good for you, little man."
"Hey! I'm not that small!"
"You worked with Kid Flash, too, that time?" It was the voice of Aqualad over Kid Flash's other shoulder.
"Hey, Aqualad!" Kid Flash grinned a hello, but Aqualad also insisted on a full hug.
"I'm sure I mentioned him," said Speedy.
"I have no such recollection."
Speedy shrugged. So what?
"So, hey," Kid Flash interrupted them, speaking over his shoulder as he went back to dancing in place. "You guys really considered having me on your team?"
"Who wouldn't want you with them? We still want you on our team," said Aqualad.
"If you'd contacted me, even up to a few days back, I'd have been your boy."
"Really?" asked Aqualad.
"Yeah, the loneliness of being solo was just killing me. Killing me."
"Hear that? He was desperate for companionship, Speedy. Maybe if you'd contacted him instead of being so busy looking for openings for yourself, he could be on our team."
"You were thinking of going to another team?" KF asked Speedy over his shoulder as he watched the dancers. "What, Doom Patrol?"
"He doesn't know which team he wants to be on from minute to minute," said Aqualad. "Whomever he's with, that's his team."
"Hey, I give everything I've got to my teammates, whoever they are. You know that Garth. I just want the best opening for me," said Speedy innocently. "Everybody looks around. It's perfectly natural. Everybody's interested in every possibility to some degree. They just don't admit it. What seems like the best thing today might not seem so tomorrow."
"But do you have to investigate every opportunity of every sort?"
"You see, Kid? This is how it is in life. People like Garth demand flexibility to do whatever they want but if some else needs more flexibility than that they want to deny it to him."
Kid Flash turned away to let them bicker and watched the dancers. A minute later, Arrowette shuffled off the floor, smiling and saying "Happy birthday" to Kid Flash. As she squeezed past him, he heard Speedy chirp "Hey 'ette! How's it going?"
"You should've been asking that question 2 months ago."
"I tried to call you afterward. I left a message!"
"It-it was just a mistake, Speedy. That's all it was."
"Can any feeling so genuine really be a mistake?" he replied.
Arrowette sputtered but then squeezed on through the crowd.
"The key word for you apparently being 'any'" grumbled Aqualad. "Her too!".
The party rolled on, the combination of Cyborg's classics and Beast Boys more recent songs working perfectly for the euphoric atmosphere and somehow, the punch that had begun as just various juices and soda had become at least 40 proof. Over the several hours of the party, pairs seemed to mysteriously disappear for a little while and Kid Flash smiled hearing someone tell Herald to go to 13 before he went off hand in hand with Batgirl. Only our quarters and empty rooms on 13.
From the edge of the great room, Kid Flash could see across the kitchen to the formal dining room on the other side of the Tower. Flash and Aunt Iris were there looking out at the bay each with a drink in hand. Kid Flash made his way through the crowd, squeezing past Speedy and Aqualad who certainly could have given him more room than that and then shaking hands with Captain Marvel Jr. and Mary Marvel, deep in conversation in the kitchen but who stopped to congratulate him. Robin was two steps back of Kid Flash, wanting to talk to him, but he pulled up short behind a support beam when Kid Flash stopped next to his Aunt and Uncle and they hugged him and patted his head.
This sort of thing always stopped Robin in his tracks now. He realized it. He understood it. He knew or could easily enough guess at its origins. But simple familial or paternal displays of affection paralyzed him. Whether it was envy, anger at Bruce that this sort of thing didn't happen or wistful longing for his parents with whom it had. He couldn't say. But scenes like that mesmerized him now.
"I just wanted to say thanks for everything, Flash," KF said and mock punched the blond haired man. "I only wish we'd patrolled together more."
"What? Really Wally? But . . you made such a big deal about being good enough to be on your own."
"I know. I guess I . . I wanted to get to that level of accomplishment. But after a few missions like that I really would've preferred to be back with you."
The blond haired man chuckled. "Why didn't you say something then?"
"I-I guess I thought I would look like a little baby to run back to your protective cover"
Flash put an arm around Wally's shoulders. "You didn't have to fear that. And I would've enjoyed the company."
"Well, things turned out fine anyway" said KF. "And I want you to know that I'd have never gotten this far without your guidance. Thanks."
Flash hugged him tighter. "You're welcome. You're more than welcome. You know, this job is sort of negative for the most part. You prevent something from happening. You stop something or see that it doesn't happen again. All the measures of your work are in omissions, in the missing or reduced crime rates and things. You're one of the very few positive things I can take any credit for or point to, Wally. I know you're not my son. But I guess I think of you a bit that way and I do it with pride."
Robin watched Wally get kissed by his Aunt and get another hug from his uncle. His uncle? The Flash! His uncle is the Flash! Holy shit. It's like a super speed dynasty, just about. And he made sure to be here. But maybe Friday nights aren't big crime nights where the Flash works, huh?
Robin remained in hiding behind the pillar as Kid Flash went back to dance with Jinx. When he made his way back to the kitchen, he he a momentary glimpse of . . . Nah! Can't be. Can't be, Robin told himself. But a minute later, in the great room, standing beside Starfire he caught another glimpse. At least he thought he did. Even with the face obscuring mask, Robin could almost picture the mocking grin underneath. He left Starfire with apologies and went to that side of the dance floor. But that guy wasn't there. He couldn't be. The image had been so fleeting, he wondered if it wasn't just his imagination. He went back to Starfire and kept an eye out but gradually lost focus talking to her and then dancing with her.
Kid Flash was just leaving the dance floor with Jinx. "We've gotta get you on that dance off show," Batgirl told him. "We could make some money on you," she laughed. "Damn!"
Kid Flash was saying thanks when he caught a glimpse of a box on the counter outside the kitchen. Oh god! Forgot the gift from Flash and Aunt Iris! Kid Flash saw the box there on the counter outside the kitchen and realized he should put it in his room before someone spilled something on his new suit. Whoosh! Whoosh! He sped between dancers and punch drinkers and flirters, grabbed the box and zoomed out to the elevators. Cyborg was there talking to Argent. Hmm. He decided he should take the stairs and zoomed down one flight and into the hallway outside the private quarters. He was one door down when . .
Kid Flash collided with something like hitting an invisible obstacle in the middle of the hallway and ricocheted off the wall to the floor. Something fell heavily on top of his legs. He groaned, momentarily dazed and tried to regain clear thought. What the hell? What the hell just happened? He rubbed his head and glanced over his shoulder. Some skinny guy in a tight black suit was lying there face down, limply across Kid Flash's legs.
Where'd he come from? He wasn't there! I know he wasn't there!
"Unnnnnhh" Kid Flash groaned and pulled himself out from under the guy in the black suit. Whoever it was had been knocked out. Kid Flash crawled around to look at him. The guy was sort of on his side now. He groaned slightly then was completely unconscious. Kid Flash inspected him through his mild headache. Hmmph. Skin tight black suit from head to toe. Not very big. Actually, the guy could be my body double. What's with the skull face mask? Costume place sell this guy a Scream knockoff or something? Kid Flash didn't recognize the guy. Was this someone else Robin invited that I didn't know about? Oh man! They're gonna be pissed at me for knocking out another guest, but he wasn't there! He wasn't there!
Then, just as Kid Flash was rising, slowly, to his feet, he was pulled up from behind, by his under arms.
It was Aqualad. Where'd he come from?
"Are you alright little friend?"
"Jeez, I'm not that small. I'm only a couple inches shorter than you guys, but yeah, I think I'm alright," he said leaning against a wall and holding his head.
"I don't know. I-I was running down the hall and all of a sudden smashed into this guy. But I swear he wasn't there."
"Probably true, as far as you could tell. His name's Red X, KF and he's got a cloaking device in this suit," said Speedy crouching over the slender, prostrate guy. "This whole suit is a weapon. We've gotta get it off him while we can. Come on, Garth!"
Kid Flash remembered afterward Speedy suddenly producing a couple pair of handcuffs from somewhere and their clinking together from his belt as he and Aqualad pulled of the slender, black clad athletic boy's special gloves and boots and tossed them on top of him before picking up the body. Kid Flash fought against the last wave of headache and remembered a pat on his but from one of the fellow heroes and hearing a door close. He took a deep breath. The hallway was empty. He jogged normal speed around the circle of hallways that surrounded the elevator shafts and utility conduits. There were 12 private quarters rooms of which six were now used by Titans, so there were six more empty rooms to which they might have taken him. There was no one to be seen in the hallway, until Robin emerged, running, from the stairway.
"KF! I heard a sound. Is everything alright?"
"Yeah, I think so. It was the weirdest thing. I was running through the hall and crashed into this guy in a black suit."
"A guy in a black suit!" Robin recalled the couple fleeting glimpses in the great room.
"Yeah. Our kind of suit. Superhero. Skin tight. He was our size. Coulda been my body double, I think. Speedy and Aqualad said he's some guy called Red X."
"Red X! Where is the bastard?"
"He's a thief, KF! He stole that suit from me. He's not a total villain but he's no hero and he-he goes out of his way to rub my face in it at every turn."
"Well, um, Speedy said that the suit the guy was wearing is a weapon and that they had to get it off him right away. I just turned around and they were gone. Maybecarried him into one of the rooms?I'm not sure which one. Sorry, I got a little hazy for a moment there. It was a heckuva collision."
"So . . Speedy . . and Aqualad . . . have Red X . . ha ha . . ha ha . . . hahahahahahahahahahaha!" Robin first chuckled slightly then ended up doubled over in laughter. This is perfect!
"You're gonna have to explain that reaction to me."
"Later. For now, they'll take care of him. I'm sure they'll call for help if they need it. Let's go back up to the party. And tell me where'd you learn to dance like that?"
KF shrugged. "I always liked to to dance. Even before super speed."
When they got back up to the great room, Kid Flash jumped back onto the floor and danced with Jinx to an Outkast song and then slow danced with his arms around her waist to Let's Stay Together by Al Green. They stepped off the dance floor and she stopped to talk to Argent. Kid Flash stepped further back and bumped into something or someone solid.
"Oh, sorry," he said, and looking over his shoulder saw not a tight uniform or cap or superhero garb at all but a tall, dark, broad shouldered man in a suit. He looked at him quizzically.
"I'm Bruce Wayne," said the man in a deep bass voice as he offered his hand. "Happy Birthday and congratulations on being made a Titan."
Kid Flash shook his hand and said "thanks" as his mind filled with all that he knew about this man. Billionaire. Sort of reclusive except for some charity affairs. He thought of what Aunt Iris had said about him. But her vague implications of sinister doings paled in comparison to the scary vibe the guy gave off loud and clear even while saying "happy birthday".
"Are you a member on the same level as the others?" he asked.
"Yes sir. Technically, we're all the same, but Robin's the unofficial leader."
"He just takes it on himself. I guess it's his nature."
The foreboding man nodded. He had another question. "How does someone like you learn his craft?"
"Well, at first I was always at Flash's side. He taught me how to use my powers and everything about how to be a hero."
"You like Flash?"
KF laughed. "Of course!"
The dark, intimidating figure nodded slightly. "Congratulations" he said again. KF thought he heard someone calling his name from the opposite direction and turned to look there for a second. When he looked back, the tall man in the dark suit, the scary billionaire, was gone.
A minute later, Robin made his way stealthily across the landing pad on the roof toward the man in the dark suit looking out over the railing at the edge of the roof to the bright lights of Jump City's skyline across the bay..
"Five steps ago" said the man without ever turning back toward Robin. "Tiny scuff with your footstep"
"Glad to see you could make it here on such short notice to critique my approach, Bruce. Enjoying yourself?"
"It's interesting to see all the kids and their different powers and how they're adjusting to them. Flash's protege is dating a girl who was clearly a villain, isn't he?"
"Dating might be almost too light a term at this point."
Bruce Wayne's head shook slowly from side to side. "I can only imagine how Flash feels about that?"
"Yeah, I bet that's right, that you can only imagine how Flash feels."
"Maybe so. I certainly put in enough time and effort in your training so that you wouldn't take an incredible risk like that. I cared enough to train you more thoroughly than that."
"That's pretty presumptuous, isn't it, to be so sure that you cared more than someone else? I think Kid Flash is in love with her so I doubt that it mattered what Flash taught him about the risks of a relationship like that."
"I worried, Dick. The best thing to do was to make you as strong as possible and as tough as possible. I like to think that that was accomplished."
Robin waited, scowling at the back of the man in the expensive suit who still hadn't turned to face him. "Same old Bruce. Things are always accomplished in the passive voice. No need to attribute anything to an actual person and give him credit. You'd like to think that that was accomplished? They were just . . accomplished. Let's not get into by whom. Along the same lines, I might say that a ridiculously insensitive style of behavior was displayed in which normal human kindness was completely absent. If I did, I guess I wouldn't be criticizing anyone just like you're not giving anyone credit. Right? Pretty neat how that works, huh?".
"It's good" the broad shouldered figure blurted out.
"What? What'd you say?"
"It's good . . . this" he said gesturing wide with his arms to take in the whole Tower. " . . it's good"
Robin shook his head and waited several moments more to see if he elaborated any further or gave any specific credit. Bruce Wayne had no trouble hearing Robin walk away from him because Robin let his shoes scuff the landing pad surface on every step. Can you hear me now, Bruce?
Down on 14, Robin sauntered into the kitchen, making his way to the fridge. The door closed on the other side of the giant subzero fridge revealing Kid Flash beside Jinx, her arm around his waist. Kid Flash stepped forward and hugged Robin about the shoulders, suspending Robin's search for a juice.
"Thanks for setting this up, man. Great idea"
"You're welcome" Robin smiled. "You're welcome" he added a second time as he and Jinx walked away toward Wally's Aunt and Uncle over by the windows. Thank you's and emotions. What concepts!
Kid Flash approached his aunt with Jinx held tight to his side and what threatened to be a permanent grin on his face.
"Remember what I said the last time I saw you, Aunt Iris, how using my super speed makes me feel like I'll be able to do something impossible and then make my life be what I want it to be?"
"Uh huh."she smiled remembering what he'd said in the restaurant about his super speed euphoria.
"Well, I did it, Aunt Iris" he grinned. "I reached the horizon!"