Dick Grayson glanced at his pal Wally West and then the wood bench at one side of the Jump City Academy quadrangle. He nodded toward the end of the bench. Wally slid over then Dick slid over against his pal, each benefiting from the warmth of the calf to shoulder contact. Better known to the public as Kid Flash and Robin, they were students at Jump City Academy. They only took two classes each, the same two classes, Calculus and Biochemistry. Classes at JCA were deliberately set up to mimic a college schedule. Wally's and Dick's two classes were Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. In the intervening hour, they would do homework, talk, read and sometimes do nothing.
Most of JCA's students boarded on campus. Between classes, they could walk back to their dorm if they wanted. Or, students could hang out in the student center in the middle of campus. But two months into the school year, seniors were looking to initiate the orange haired kid and the black haired kid who were always seen together. The orange haired kid didn't intend to endure any of it. "I already got my buns paddled in front of the whole school and then thrown naked into a pigpen, " said Wally. "I am not going through anything like that a second time." "Good, because I'm not going through it even once" muttered Dick. With his keen eye for fights including the buildups to them, Dick would take one glance around the student center and give Wally a push in the back toward the door without a word. Wally would look back with a slightly raised eyebrow. Dick would nod with a stern look. The two of them barely needed to speak, they were such close friends four months after Wally had become Dick's teammate.
JCA was built to look like a new england college campus, all masonry and ivy and odd sheltered spaces. But if anything, it was too sheltered and too shadowy. And with all the masonry walks and walls, the place was simply cold not just in atmosphere or ambience. It was physically cold. On top of that, JCA policy was that students weren't allowed in a classroom till 5 minutes before a class was to start. It was a brisk October day in the low 50's.
They had the sort of friendship that boys and men sometimes have in which the measure of their friendship was not what they could say to each other but the fact that they didn't have to say anything. They sat on the high backed church pew style bench in their JCA ties and blazers pressed against each other for 25 minutes without saying a word. They didn't even look at each other. They just stared out at the grassed quadrangle whilerunning their respective thoughts through their respective heads and keeping eachother warm.
"Pick one," said Dick interrupting their silence as a group of five JCA girls made their way across the quadrangle lawn in front of them.
"Hmm. Black girl in the middle," said Wally knowing exactly what the question had been.
"Really?" The 'why' was implicit.
"Dark dark skin and that pink blouse. Mmmmm," sighed Wally.
"You've got a thing for pink, huh?" said Dick. He could feel Wally shrug.
"The last one, the black haired one"
Wally just nodded with a smile. Dick knew it was there even before he turned around to see his pal grinning. "Yeah?"
"Well, there wasn't a girl with purple hair to choose, now was there?"
Wally gave Dick a playful shove for Dick having overreacted. Dick pushed Wally back and pressed him as hard as he could into the corner, the two laughing at this contest of strength. It was an even contest now. Dick was stronger, pound for pound, but after a growth spurt, Wally was now bigger. Kid Flash stood five ten and change and weighed a hundred forty three pounds to Robin's five nine and a quarter and a hundred thirty five. Neither won their pushing contest. They settled back down, wedged against each other on the end of the bench.
They were silent another ten minutes before Dick asked over his shoulder, apropos of nothing about something he'd learned 4 months earlier, "So . . Flash is your uncle?"
"Were you born with super speed?"
"Nope. I got hit by a bolt of lightning that drenched me in all these strong chemicals at the same time and somehow the combination gave me super speed. But it wasn't genetic. It wasn't because of being related to Flash"
"How'd he get his?"
"Same way. Bolt of lightning."
"Seriously? Pretty longshot coincidence, don't you think?"
Another ten minutes passed.
The two boys contentedly watching passersby in the quadrangle and thinking their private thoughts about their classes, Jinx and Starfire. Eventually, a frown creased Wally's brow and he asked, apropos of nothing,"I'm not progressing as fast in learning jeet kune do as you think I should, am I?"
Dick sighed. Jeet kune do was the martial art technique synthesized by Bruce Lee and of which Robin was a master. "No. Some people just don't start with the knack for fighting. You don't have it. I didn't either at first. I'm not trying to knock-"
"No. It's true. You've got a feel for it . . if we fight at the same speed, you always see the right counterpunch, the right block or whatever quicker than me. What could I do to get it?"
Dick sighed. One of the things that had cemented their friendship was the way both readily admitted their own failings and wanted to improve on them. That Kid Flash had turned out to be so different from his first impression of him had been a tremendous pleasant surprise. And he'd love to have told his pal that he'd be able to get that same fighting edge. But, Dick recalled how he'd gained his sense of fighting, all the humiliating and enraging training sessions with Batman, getting complex combinations of leaps, punches, kicks and throws 99 percent perfect and always being told that it wasn't good enough, always being told to try harder and usually getting beaten up in the process, of being driven to almost murderous rage over and over.
"You probably can't. You're basically too nice a guy, Wally. Dedication is one thing, but you have to be completely comfortable with hurting another person. You have to almost want to simply hurt your opponent, to almost . . to get pleasure from it. I've . . uh . . I've sort of got that. Batman beat it into me, making me practice over and over and over and a lot of times beating me up pretty good, making me want to smack him, to give it back to him so hard. He desensitized me to it, made me kind of . . crazy about it. That kind of edge is a good thing to have but a terrible thing to get. But you've got your speed. You don't need to be as enthusiastic a fighter as me."
Several minutes more passed.
"Did Flash work you hard when you first started?"
"Yeah, but in a fatherly way. It was my first experience of actual fathering, of somebody putting time in with me. You remember. I told you how things were for me. So, I loved it. I loved being with Flash. He could have worked me till I passed out and I would've been ecstatic that he waited around till I regained consciousness to tell me to go home. But he was a lot better than that."
"My dad was great . . . and then I had Batman. I thought maybe I'd died with my parents and gone to hell," said Dick. "I was . . so effing . . hurt by the whole situation and his only response was to kick my little ass day after day in training and tell me I had to do better," sighed Dick. He had a moment of self questioning about revealing his hurt. But it was Wally. So, it was okay. He could vent like that, occasionally, with Wally and it wasn't weakness. Wally told him things, too. He looked over his shoulder at his orange haired pal who looked him right in the eye and met the seriousness of his gaze. Wally understood. And he freed his left hand from his pocket where it was being squeezed against his side by Dick and gave Dick a single pat on the shoulder, nothing more, then squeezed his hand back into his pocket without a word..
Several more minutes passed.
"Pretty ridiculous how they're all pleading down, isn't it?" said Wally.
He didn't have to say who. Dick knew exactly what he meant. He had the exact same feeling. Hell, he'd been thinking the exact same thing twenty minutes earlier. They were all pleading down and getting off light or even scot free. Some others were escaping custody. It was a disappointing result to winning a fight that would've gotten them killed if they'd lost to the Brotherhood and their villain allies.
They were a joke, those french courts. Robin remembered being frozen, of being helpless and paralyzed. The recollection was a mix of anger and shame but his thoughts became purely anger thinking of how the villains had all been unfrozen by the french police and tried under those nutty rules. He remembered standing there in court testifying about how he and other heroes had been frozen and telling the judges that everyone knew that Brain and Monsieur Mallah intended to leave the heroes like that forever. The defense attorney interrupted. "Mais . . pardon, ingleesh. But, you froze zem, too? Deedn't you?" He made it sound as though the whole thing was just a game, a tit for tat contest. The only ones who got real penalties were Brain, Mallah and Rouge. What was the phrase the presiding judge had used? Oh yeah. "A youthful indiscretion". Just a youthful indiscretion. That's all it was, as though the HIVE and Professor Chang and the others had joyrided with a neighbor's car or something. Those documents in Brain's files that talked about a program for the elimination of a generation of heroes so that the villains could run rampant now and into the future? Just "theenkeeng a-loud on paypair". Aaaarrrrgggghhhh! Dick shook his head remembering the robed fool's voice. Just short of sixty years later and the old Nuremberg defense had finally become a winner. "I was just following orders," said half the villains. "I didn't know where it was all going. It was just a fight." Amazing. Amazing and pathetic. Suspended sentence. Probation. Suspended sentence. Probation. Suspended sentence. Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!
In the end, it'd been a close run thing, the little tit for tat contest. Beast Boy had played the crucial role in keeping resistance to the Brotherhood going. Wally being out at Jinx's mother's farm had been lucky, in a way. No one knew where he was, including the villains, to capture him. And when he got Jinx to their hideout in France with him, the extra firepower had really helped put the heroes over the top. They were like the class couple or something of the teen hero set. The two of them couldn't be more serious. Robin smirked. The slightest little joke about her and he jumped. He physically jumped. He was so completely committed. So was she and that was certainly bizarre to see. Never thought anyone would ever tame her at all. Well, she really wasn't tamed in any way. It was more like a cat that chose to like someone. Cats won't take orders or do tricks on cue. And that was Jinx. Like a cat. She wouldn't do any tricks or anything for Wally. It wasn't in her nature. She couldn't. She couldn't take orders. Hell, how many times must she have hexed his butt just because she liked to? What must she be like when they were alone? Wow. But she had chosen him. When they made eye contact. He smirked again. It certainly made KF happy. And it was good for teammates to be happy. Happy teammates could use all their powers and the shit Wally could do was amazing. He reached back and patted Wally's shoulder.
Wally glanced at him then looked away. He couldn't look at his pal while thinking of Jinx. She was going to be at the Tower that night. They could be together.
Making love to Jinx. The warmth, the tingle, her eyes, her voice, her lips, her breath, her skin. He sighed again. He suspected that Dick knew exactly what he was thinking about when he sighed like that. He made a note to thank his pal some time for not making fun of him. It would've been so easy. But, there wasn't anything Wally could do to change his response to the situation. He loved her.
A smile from her was instant joy in him. The reunion with her mother! His chest swelled thinking about it now. And the night afterward! Ten? Fifteen minutes of sleep, holding her? And still they didn't feel tired. What a great thing it had been for Jinx. She was calmer now. Stronger, too, it seemed. And taking away that old wound had removed one of the reasons Jinx had thought she had to be a villain. She blamed herself for her father then mother having to give her up. Her powers, hexes and bad luck and everything had been out of control when she was a little girl and she'd ruined everything in their double wide. She'd exhausted and driven away first her dad then her mom.
But Wally'd had a talk with Aunt Iris about Jinx's background. He'd told her how bad Jinx felt about her parents and Aunt Iris had immediately made a suggestion. It was brilliant. Oh god, it was brilliant.He reproached himself for not seeing it himself. It was so obvious. He asked Aunt Iris how soon it could be done. With the idea of it in his head he wanted it to happen immediately. But he had to let her do her work. It took six weeks. He didn't know how Aunt Iris did it. She wouldn't tell. But she'd said she could find anyone. Anyone. Bin Laden? Screwing a goat on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Virginia "Jinx" Murphy's mother? She gave her nephew, Kid Flash an address. It was only twenty miles out from Jump City in the foothills of the mountains to the east. "Oh god, thanks Aunt Iris!" "Forget about it, Kid. That's what family's for."
"How would you like to do something that might be wonderful?" Wally asked her the next morning in Jump City. She'd met him, in his civilian clothes at a coffehouse.
"We can do things that I know will be wonderful, silly," she said with a pat of his thigh through his giant pants. "Why should I be taking any chances?"
"This might be a different kind of wonderful. Are you up for it?"
"Tell me! What've you got in mind?"
He shook his head. She brought two fingers to his hip and raised an eyebrow, a clear threat to hex his buns if he didn't tell. Buthe only shook his head in response.
"Yeow!" he yelped after she sent crackling pink energy into the side of his rear. She brandished her two fingers again. But again he shook his head.
"You're really serious about this?"
She sighed and shrugged her willingness to go along with it whatever it was. They left the cafe for a park. He went behind a tree and emerged a second later in his Kid Flash uniform with his clothes tied in a bundle. She held the bundle while he picked her up and then sprinted east of the City at the fastest speed he thought she could handle, just three or four hundredd milesper hour, a crawling pace to him and one that took them a couple minutes to reach the vicinity of the address Aunt Iris had given him.
Once they were a half mile away, he slowed to a normal jog and then stopped and put her down. He went behind a billboard and emerged in his civilian clothes while she fixed her hair. He pointed down the street to where they were going but refused to answer any questions about the goal of their trip.
At last, they approached a farm. The gently rolling hills visible from the road were covered in sun splashed leafy greens, the very image of successful agriculture. Wally insisted that Jinx remain there a moment while he went up to a worker raking beside a fence and asked a question. The worker pointed to the white house a hundred yards off the road. Wally took Jinx's arm and led her that way. She was nearly consumed with curiosity now but simply played along, going onto the porch with him.
The front door of the house was open with only a screen door barring the way. Wally knocked on the door. "Hello! Anyone home?" he called out. A slender woman in her mid to late thirties approached in boots and jeans and 2 layers of shirts and a sun hat, carrying a half empty bag of potting soil and looking distractedly around for something. Only at the last second did she look up at the boy in dramatically oversized clothes at the door.
"You're the new field help? You're supposed to be mine?"
"No, ma'am," said Wally stepping aside and ushering Jinx forward. "She is."
The two of them just stared at each other through the screen. Recognition was almost immediate on both their parts. Both their jaws dropped. Neither could speak. They just stared, their expressions mirroring each other's.
Long suppressed longing.
That's where they were when Wally nudged Jinx aside and opened the door. Mrs. Murphy came out almost stumbling into her daughter's arms.
Wally watched as they circled round and round hugging tight as could be then letting go and saying a word or a sentence to each other between tears and renewed hugs.
"Thank god you're okay, Jinx!" . . ."You look so healthy, momma!" . . . "Oh god! I thought was gonna read about your end in the paper some day." . . . "I thought I'd never see you again, momma!"
They hugged and whirled some more and Jinx's mom kissed her cheek and Jinx kissed back.
"I prayed for this day. I didn't think I deserved it, though. You know how bad a mother feels to leave her child? You know how many farm hands I've cussed out because I felt guilty about you?"
"You didn't have any choice, momma. I . . I was really hell to deal with back then."
Yet more hugging.
"It was still wrong. Even though I stopped feeling sick in one way, it just made me feel sick in another. I started reading about a girl, a villain named Jinx and what she could do, the hexes and the impossible bad luck and everything. I didn't think you were a villain but I knew even before I saw the pictures. I knew. I-I kept a scrapbook and I realized that I had to hide who I was in case someone wanted to find me to-to get at you. How did you find me?"
"I didn't, Mom. He did," said Jinx pointing to Wally.
Her mother tilted her head to one side with an intense appraising stare at Wally.
"You're him, aren't you? The skinny boy, the fast one? Aren't you?" She tugged at the waist of his giant pants revealing that there was only 26 inches of waist inside the cloth. "I've read about the two of you, all the coy little mentions in the gossip columns. You're him, aren't you?"
Wally smiled bashfully but didn't answer. Jinx's mother reached out and pulled off his knit cap revealing the thick tangle of orange hair beneath. She grinned at him and then hugged him. Wally tried to pretend stoicism, bending over just enough to allow her to and he kept from hugging back but he loved it. Finally she leaned back.
"Thank you," she said then stepped forward and squeezed him around his waist some more before she added, "Now, why didn't anybody see it in her before that? I mean, god damn! She was just a girl making her way the only way she thought she could"
Wally shrugged. "I don't know. I don't understand it either. I thought it was obvious, too."
Jinx and her mother talked for hours, catching up and confessing regrets and guilt. Jinx's mother told Wally all about Jinx growing up, every memory she had. She hugged and kissed Wally some more, thanking him for seeing the real Jinx. Jinx herself knocked him down to the porch floor, laughing and slapping him and demanding to know why he hadn't told her what he'd been up to.
"I didn't know that it would turn out like this," he answered. "Besides. It wasn't me who did the looking."
"No. You remember, you said that Aunt Iris told you she'd kill you if you did me wrong but she'd be your greatest ally if you were right for me?"
"She . . . ?"
Wally nodded. "It was her idea. I told her about you and your family and she said that now that things are better, it would be a great thing for you to see them again."
"She did? That woman . . ."
"I told you she meant the good part, too!"
"I-I thought it was bullshit. I mean, I believed the killing part, but . . ."
Wally shook his head. "I told you about her."
They had a fantasticcouple days staying in the spare room of the farmhouse. Jinx's mother told them the improbable events by which she became the owner. She'd just finished when the Titans communicator he'd finally remembered to put back into the pocket of his giant pants had gone off. Beast Boy barely got out a message about all the young heroes being captured by the Brotherhood of Evil before the transmission cut out. Jinx immediately agreed to go with him to fight. And at the Brotherhood's complex she'd been terrific. If all those other young heroes hadn't been there at that moment . . .
His pal Dick grinned and pushed his shoulder against Wally's,before getting up from the bench, the way he always did.
"Come on, lover boy." he said over his shoulder. Wally was instantly at his side and they marched off to their class.