Disclaimer: Q: Do I own these characters? A: A big fat NO!
Nightmare on Wheels
Torture a la Road
Wally squeezed in next to his two friends. Roy gave a brief grunt that sounded a lot like 'ack!' and pleaded, "Come on, Ollie, we're fourteen years old now! All three of us! Can't one of us just sit in the front, please!"
"Next year, Roy," Ollie sighed, starting the car. "Next year."
"But you said that last year!"
"I thought you would be mature enough to sit in the front this year, but…"
"…But I was wrong. In my opinion, the only one mature enough to sit in the front seat is Dick, but I'd like him to be a little taller first." Wally and Roy hooted with laughter as Dick's face turned a beautiful shade of crimson.
"Go ahead… laugh all you wanna," Dick grumbled, looking out the window in an attempt to hide his red face. "You just try a quadruple flip when you're six foot four! Almost aerodynamically impossible, I tell you."
"Ooh," Roy teased. "Now we're getting into aerodynamics! Tell us more, teacher!"
Knowing that Dick was probably fighting the temptation to punch out the red-haired mischief-maker, Ollie said flatly, "Cut it out, Roy, or I'll make sure your science teacher starts you on aerodynamics for real when school starts again." Roy immediately stopped laughing, knowing full well that this was not an idle threat, while Wally smirked and Dick smiled gratefully. Ollie turned the car onto the highway which would begin them on their week-long summer trip to Pine Forest Lodge, which was now owned by Queen. Although Ollie and Roy lived in California, they were starting the trip from Gotham City.
"How long 'til we get there?" Wally snickered happily.
"Three hours. Just as long as it took last time."
A moment of silence. The impatient young Mid-Westerner didn't recall the trip to have been that long. Wally paused. "Did anyone bring Parcheesi?"
A very long half-hour later, Dick thought he was going to go insane from watching Wally and Roy playing "rock-paper-scissors" for what seemed like the ten millionth time. Normally, the Gotham teen was fairly patient, but this was pushing the envelope. And that envelope is made out of the paper that Roy keeps cutting with his fingers, I'll bet, he moaned inwardly. Dick stared out the window but quickly grew bored of watching the other cars zipping by. He turned his head to the other side and almost felt sick when he saw that the two red-heads were starting yet another match of the infamous hand game.
"How can you do that?" Dick finally exploded.
"You don't know how to play?" Roy asked, looking shocked.
"Of course I do! But how can you stand doing it over and over and over and over and—?"
"We get the point," Wally interrupted. He shrugged. "It's better than doing nothing." Pulling his fiery hair, he exclaimed, "But I'm so doggone BOOOOOOOOORED!" Roy laughed at Wally's outburst and leaned back into the cushion of his portion of the backseat, holding his stomach.
"I have a headache, guys," Ollie called to the rear. "Keep it quiet, huh?"
"Sorry, Mr. Queen," Dick apologized, though he knew that it was more than likely Wally and Roy who had caused the headache, and not him.
"Yeah," Wally piped up. "Sorry."
Roy, seeing that everyone else had apologized, put in, "That makes it unanimous."
"Gee, Roy, I didn't know you knew such big words," joked Wally, poking a finger at Roy's ribs. "Did you actually study for the spelling test you said you failed last month?" Roy sucked in his breath and his face looked almost green.
Looking through the rearview mirror in the front, Dick saw Ollie's eyebrows arching. "Failed?" he echoed. "Failed?" Roy groaned loudly and slumped down.
"You didn't happen to not tell him about it, did you?" Wally asked Roy nervously. Roy's slouched posture and eyes, now covered by his hands, told him the answer. "Oh…"
"Failed?" Ollie said again, wanting an explanation.
Roy looked at his guardian through his fingers and started to say something, but instead ended up squeaking, "Eep."
Another excruciatingly long thirty minutes passed. Ollie, saying that he didn't want his beautiful seven-day vacation to be ruined, decided that Roy would be exempt from punishment for their week in the mountains—but that he'd be in huge trouble when they returned to Star City. Roy, in turn, was now in an almost intolerable state of abject misery.
Wally again attempted to start a conversation in the backseat. "So how about those—?"
"Shut up," Roy muttered.
"I wasn't talking to you, Oscar the Grouch," Wally sniffed at him. "I was talking to Dick."
"Then don't look at me when you're talking to him?"
"So now I've been downgraded from a pip-squeak to a pronoun?" Dick asked.
Ignoring the dark-haired boy, Wally said to Roy, "I wasn't looking at you! How could you tell whether I was or wasn't looking at you, anyway? You're too busy staring at your smelly shoes to look at anything else!"
"Guys—" Dick tried to nip the argument in the bud.
Once again, he was ignored as Roy said, "You're a fine one to talk about smelly shoes! If you were one of the seven dwarves, you'd be 'Stinky'!" Soon enough, the two red-heads were locked in a furious fight. As usual. Dick, as always, tried to calm them.
Ollie stifled a moan as he called back, "How about practicing the sound of silence in that chorus, hmm?" He sighed. "Guess not."
"If you don't stop, I'll tell Mr. Queen that a certain couple of somebodies put peanut butter in all the socks he packed for the trip," Dick hissed, just loud enough for Roy to hear. Roy suddenly stopped and, whispering, relayed the message to Wally, who froze. Both the former arguers sat back, very quietly.
Upon hearing the beautiful silence in the backseat, Ollie exhaled slowly in relief. He wasn't quite sure what Dick had said, but it had certainly worked fast enough and he wasn't going to push his luck by asking how Wayne's kid had silenced them. "Thank you, Dick." Dick smiled innocently.
It had been an hour. They'd woken up at seven and had breakfast at eight. They'd started out at nine o'clock and now it was ten. And now Wally was commenting on how hungry he was. Dick just turned away, not wanting to argue that they'd only had breakfast two hours ago and that he couldn't possibly be hungry.
"I am so," Wally protested, reading Dick's train of thought. "I really am hungry."
"Hey, if I'm not hungry, nobody's hungry," Roy retorted, knowing full well that he, himself, had a huge appetite.
"Amen," Ollie agreed.
"But I'm hungry!" Wally said. "What would Uncle Barry think if you let me starve to death, huh?" In perfect silence, Ollie grabbed a fruit and cereal bar from the glove compartment and thrust it at the boy. "Thank you," he smiled, content. "Uh… this thing was made in the last century, right?"
"Yes. Now eat it or you won't live long enough to starve to death!" Dick and Roy, who had since broken out of his blue funk, chuckled to themselves at Ollie's growing impatience with the three boys. Wally, satisfied with the answer, unwrapped the bar and took a bite out of it, holding the snack in his right hand.
"This will do, my good man," the Mid-Western boy said, trying to sound as arrogant as possible. He crossed his legs and folded his left arm over his chest. "This will do."
Once again, we check in on our friends on the half-hour, so now they have been traveling for the past ninety minutes. Although to Ollie, it seemed closer to ninety years.
"Mr. Queen—" Wally started. He was interrupted by a groan.
"Don't tell me you're hungry again," Ollie pleaded.
"No, I, um…." Face as red as his hair, Wally stammered, "I uh… hafta… um… ah… I—er—that is…"
"Spit it out, Wally!"
"I need the bathroom!"
"Next rest area's in fifteen minutes," Ollie all but growled, moving the car one lane to the right. "Can you hold it?"
"Of course!" Wally said indignantly. He muttered darkly to his two friends, "I hope." Dick was suddenly very grateful he was on the opposite side of the backseat. Roy, on the other hand, was scooting as far away from Wally as his seatbelt allowed. "I was just kidding!" exclaimed Wally. "I can wait! Geez, you guys…"
Somewhat relieved, Dick explained wryly, "I'm not much into bathroom humor."
It had been two hours since they'd begun this trip and Dick was beginning to regret accepting Ollie and Roy's invitation to come with them to the lodge. He had no idea how much more he would be regretting it in a few short moments.
"Is it just me, or is it getting hot in here?" Roy asked. Wally was about to comment how it was just Roy's hot air that was bothering him, but Roy beat him to the chase with, "Don't say it, West."
"Say, Roy's right," Dick said in surprise. "It is hot in here."
"No wonder," Ollie replied. Sounding very glum, he continued, "The A/C's busted."
"Nooooo!" cried Wally.
"Holy dysfunctional cooling systems!" No prize for guessing that the last comment had been Dick's. "Are we gonna have to drive like this for the next hour?"
"Unless Bats taught you auto repair, yeah," Roy muttered. Dick just glared.
"Does anyone know anything about air conditioners, here?" Wally begged.
"Now, boys, we'll just have to rough it," Ollie stated calmly. "When cars were first invented, no one had A/C." He stopped speaking and his eyes suddenly widened. "Is this me talking! Roy," Ollie continued in distress as he handed his wallet back to his ward, "check my driver's license—it does say 'Oliver Queen' on it, doesn't it?"
Roy pretended to look puzzled as he took the wallet. "Why, Bruce, why would your driver's license have Mr. Queen's name on it?" He opened the brown leather wallet and said, "See, it says 'Bruce Wayne', same as always."
Ollie, still in a foul mood, glowered, "Silence yourself now or I'll silence you forever!" He reached back and held out his hand for Roy to put his wallet into. Roy started to take out a five dollar bill, but was interrupted by a sharp, "Try it and you're not only out of the will, you're out of this world—permanently!" The red-haired boy gave the money holder back to Ollie with a sigh.
"Touchy, touchy," Roy complained lightly, trying to look peeved.
"Whine, whine, whine," Wally teased. "Blah, blah, blah."
"Shut up, Wally." It was boiling hot in the car by now and Roy had lost whatever sense of humor he'd had before the A/C bought the farm.
"Blah, blah, blah," Wally jibed, in no better spirits than Roy.
"Silence yourself now or I'll silence you forever," Roy snapped back, imitating what Ollie had said to him before.
"Whine, whine, whine."
"Blah, blah, blah."
"Whine, whine, whine."
"That does it!" Roy reached over and pinched Wally's arm tightly.
"Come on, guys," Dick tried to interrupt, once again attempting to make peace between his two friends.
Wally and Roy both glared at him. "SHUT UP!"
Dick sat, arms folded over his chest, scowling. There were still thirty minutes left until they arrived at the lodge, and everyone was hot, sweaty, and fuming mad by this time. I almost wish Mr. Freeze would come and zap me! Dick grumbled inwardly. At least it'd be cooler in here!
An idea suddenly occurred to Bruce Wayne's youthful ward. He started, "Maybe we should—!"
"Shut up, Grayson," Roy growled sourly.
"Fine," Dick sniffed. "If you wanna die of heatstroke, that's fine by me! I just won't tell you my potentially brilliant plan to cool us all down, then, that's all."
Wally's eyes, which had previously been half closed, now snapped open. "Cool?" he echoed. "Cool down?" Reaching past Roy, the Fastest Boy Alive seized Dick's left arm with his right hand, shook his left hand close to Dick's face, and all but yelled, "If you don't tell me the plan right now I swear I'll strangle you and throw your body into the Amazon River for the piranhas to get! Tell me! Tellmetellmetellme!"
Ollie, ears wide open for any suggestions that could cool them off, encouraged him, "Go ahead, Dick. Please."
"I don't know why nobody thought of this before," Dick smiled, for once seeming almost smug. "Why don't we just open the windows? We're going fast enough that we should get a nice breeze." The others were silent, and for a moment Dick thought that they were going to tell him that it was a dumb idea and that he should shut up before he hurt himself. But all of a sudden…
"Open that window!" Roy shouted. Ollie pressed a button between the two front seats and the four windows of the car opened. Wally immediately leaned as close to his window as possible, delightedly praising all of the wonderful qualities of cool air.
Dick grinned and thought, Can life get any better?
Ten minutes later, the same boy was thinking, Can life get any worse? The open window idea worked very well, but it didn't work unless the car moved. And the car couldn't move unless all the tires worked. And the tires couldn't work if one of them was flat.
As everyone piled out of the car to change the flat tire, Wally, the last to exit the vehicle, paused to look up at the sky and wail at the top of his lungs, "WHYYYYYY!" The Mid-Westerner slumped his shoulders and slouched over to the trunk, where the others were gathered to take out the spare tire. "I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't even a spare tire in there," he grumbled as Ollie unlocked the trunk.
Ollie glared at his ward's red-haired friend and vowed in a dead-serious voice, "If you jinxed it, I'll kill you." The Star City millionaire opened the trunk and…
"We have a spare tire!" Wally whooped, bouncing up and down in exuberance. "Yes! Something's finally going right! Yes!" Roy picked up the tire and hugged it. Dick rolled his eyes and wondered how he'd ever become friends with those two.
"Almost there," Ollie called to the backseat nearly an hour later later, sounding almost merry. It had taken a while for them to finally change the tire but, after almost breaking Dick's foot and nearly giving Roy a very close haircut, they'd managed it. "Just five minutes left."
All three boys smiled in relief, and Dick even joined in as Wally and Roy cheered. Wally suddenly froze. Roy, the first to notice this, asked, "Whatsamatter, pug-face?"
Wally just stared and blinked for a few moments. He finally cried, "Nooooo!" and buried his face in his hands. Dick looked curiously at him. Was it just him, or did Wally look as if he was almost ready to burst into tears?
"What's wrong, Wally?" Dick wanted to know.
"Look at the road signs!" Wally said, voice muffled since he still held his hands to his face. Dick looked out the window and his eyes doubled in size as he read one of the signs: Gotham City, 5 Miles.
Roy and Ollie obviously saw the signs because the former burst out, "How'd that happen!" Ollie, face rapidly paling, seemed to know the answer.
"Mr. Queen," Dick asked slowly, "what happened?"
"Yes, well…. You know when Wally needed a bathroom break?" he started. Wally, looking up, nodded along with his two friends, very slowly and deliberately. "Well… I—ahem—just may have gotten onto the wrong road when we started off again and… wellll…" The reactions were mixed.
Wally looked ready to jump out of the car—while it was still moving at sixty-five miles per hour.
Roy looked ready to kill his guardian—the murderous gleam was evident in his eyes.
Dick… well, let's just say that Dick was so angry that if he appeared any more furious, he'd look calm. Leaning back into his portion of the backseat, he sighed.
"Well, let's look on the bright side," Ollie offered nervously.
"What bright side?" Roy scowled.
"Ah, yes… the, um, bright side… wellll… we—ahm, I mean… er… th-the bright side… that is…" Ollie feebly stammered. He cleared his throat. "We'll just have to turn around and give it another go, eh, boys?" The three boys looked at one another. Wally blinked once. Twice. Three times.
The (Living) End