Beast Boy turned back at the door to look at Robin.
Nope. Nothing. He was completely focused on the computer screen in front of him and the case file. Green teammate with whom he'd just had a shouting match? Not on the radar screen. Not at all.
Beast Boy shook his head. Would a conciliatory word be too much to ask? Sorry, Gar. Let's talk about it again later. Izzat too much to ask?
Nope. Nothing. Not a hint of recognition. Some typically efficient typing and not a furrowing of a brow or sign of concern anywhere on his face. He looked down for a moment to his written case file notes in the other direction then Even without seeing his eyes because of the mask, Beast Boy knew they were focused solely on the monitor screen.
The green teen groaned softly and let the door slide shut that quiet, efficient way the Tower doors did. He wanted to shout an expletive at Robin, but just grumbled to himself and made his way to the stairwell door instead. Those doors slammed. They slammed loud, by design. Beast Boy let it bang shut behind him and stomped up to the roof mumbling to himself.
"Just cuz you put in more work doesn't mean the rest of us don't do anything! You and your frigging Bat compulsive crap!"
He sighed on reaching the edge of the roof.
He jumped off the roof and soared upward, a green bald eagle climbing higher and higher using the warm updraft from the Tower and its island. He knew, from experience, that he needed to. The cold water of the bay around Titans Tower often fostered downdrafts or wind shears that could be tough for even a majestic eagle to handle. But Gar flew across till he was gliding, once more, over warm updrafts, these from the buildings and pavement of Jump City.
Different morphs had different pleasures to them. Being an eagle and flying over the landscape, taking it all in was so peaceful. It made you see how much was out there, how many lives there were, how many homes, families, businesses, how much the Titans were protecting. It made the arguments with the bat that didn't fall far from the cave, all the friction with the glorious leader fade away into the background. Flying like this and seeing half the metro area at once put things in perspective. All those buildings, all that work that people must have done. All those lives. He felt the tension already gone and luxuriated in the warm sun on his green feathers as he flew over a park. He could see kids flying kites below pointing up at him and grinning at the sight of him. He couldn't hear whether they were awed by the sight of an eagle or by the sight of a Teen Titan. Either one was fine.
He flew up, gained some more height using the thermal updraft from a large parking lot and glided over toward the Jump Ridge section of the city. Out of one amazingly keen eye he saw smoke and police and fire vehicles at warehouses in the distance. He swooped out of his gliding circle at the point where the turn headed him that way and flapped his wings with all his might.
An equal distance away from the commotion, a boy with bright red, actually orange, hair lay on his bed reading. At least, he was trying to read. It wasn't that reading was hard for him. He was quite proficient at it. In fact, he had an advantage over every other boy in the world in that he had the gift of super speed. He lay there on his stomach in his civilian uniform, as he liked to call it, a pair of workman's pants big enough at the waist for two of him, an oversized shirt similarly too big and a dark red knit hat with a yellow stripe. He lay there trying to read. He sighed in frustration both at his failure to take in much of those 50 pages he'd read a minute ago and even more at . . . them.
He glanced that way. He could see them in the living room through the small slit. They weren't looking at him. Did they even remember he was alive? He sighed. Out of sight of . . . them he started flipping pages again at a rate the fastest speed reader in the world could only dream of. But it was wasted effort. He had to completely concentrate to take in all the information when he read using his super speed. Otherwise scattered bits of information would stick in his head for a while but nothing more. He'd found that out when he first became Kid Flash two years ago. If he did really concentrate, then it all sort of tied in together. Remembering one part of a book tied him in to the next and then the next and he could read a whole book in seconds and get as much out of it as a person who read a chapter a night.
He was trying to learn all the lock and alarm information in the 987 page, 8 point type Abstract of Physical Security Systems. His last mission, a detective had mentioned all this stuff about the locks at a jewelry store. He'd been embarassed at not knowing any of it. But he couldn't focus now because of seeing them. The door to his little seven foot wide nine foot long room didn't close right. There was always at least a half inch slit he could see out or someone could see in.
It'd probably been thrown out of kilter when the garage had been torn down by the previous owner. Something about a fire burning most of the garage, Wally'd heard one neighbor say to another. They didn't realize Wally was there behind them in line at the store that time. They chuckled something about the previous owner being such a loser he couldn't even burn the place down right to get insurance money. Only torched most of the garage said the first guy. Then the next bunch of losers moved in, those Wests. God. The other guy wondered if it wouldn't be worth it for everyone else to just pay 'em to move out and bulldoze the tiny eyesore of a dump. The two men had shared a hearty laugh at that thought while 9 year old Wally just stared down at his sneakers.
Wally's little room had been a sort of breezeway connecting the house to that garage that no longer existed. It was never supposed to be a bedroom. It was too small. A person could barely squeeze between the bed and the dresser that 8 year old Wally'd gotten by dragging it away from the curb where a neighbor had put it out with the trash. Even a slender, teen super speedster could barely squeeze past.
The door that didn't quite close tempted him with glimpses that he knew he should ignore. Slivers of another life. A different family. And yet it was his. But somehow it wasn't. It had never been. And it would never be. He didn't understand why not. But he thought he'd accepted it. He had more important things with which to concern himself. He wanted to just move on. It annoyed him that it couldn't be like physical cuts and bruises. His super speed infused body healed such things in seconds now leaving pale flawless skin as if the injury had never happened. Why couln't this go away for good, too?
He sighed trying unsuccessfully to relieve the building tension he felt. Things aren't gonna change after almost 14 years. They just are the way they are. God! Almost 14 and a super hero! It's ridiculous to keep getting worked up with envy over things! Same old same old. She gets fawned over for fricking B's and C's and I get ignored. There they were in the living room. He could see them through the tiny slit that the door to his room wouldn't close. He could hear them too. He gritted his teeth and shut his book. They were talking about how wonderful her B minus in math was.
B minus!?! B freaking minus?!?
Holy crap! I got an A plus. A . . . plus! Why doesn't what I do count? Why don't I get . . . . ?
He used his super speed to blink extremely rapidly. Then, with a sigh he put his face down into the blanket rolled up at the end of his bed.
That was close!
Now he was really furious. He felt a wave of anger at himself that it had gotten so close, that he'd almost broken his promise to himself to never let it happen again.
God! Thought I was over this shit, letting this stuff hurt me like a little kid. Why should being ignored about a report card one more time mean anything? He sighed. No reason.
But he wasn't going to feel a tear down his cheek. He pressed his face down into the blanket and pushed it up against his ears on both sides so that he didn't have to hear them still talking to her, caring about her. And lying there, he felt a bit of fear in his surprised realization of how much feeling was still down there, at 13 years old, waiting to erupt at some future show of neglect.
How're you gonna stay focused on saving lives if you almost fall to pieces over something like that? You stupid little idiot! You fricking joke! You sad excuse for a Flash! You're a joke compared to Uncle Barry!
He remembered what Aunt Iris had said and regained his composure. He made himself think of how he'd spent the day after Christmas with Aunt Iris and Uncle Barry. It was like one of those things on the wall in old buildings. In case of emergency, break glass. Only instead of there being an ax or a fire extinguisher or something underneath, there was a memory of people caring about him. It'd been Aunt Iris's suggestion when he'd admitted to her how upset he felt about his family sometimes.
"We're your family too, Kid," she chuckled. "Think of us at times like that, Wally. Think of us. Uncle Barry and I love you," she'd said and hugged slender him to her side the way that she always did, with one of those Aunt Iris hugs, so that he could pretend he was too strong to need it or didn't really want to all he wanted. But he was going to be held against her side for a minute just the same.
Only he wasn't too strong. And he did want it.
Aunt Iris hugs.
They were like her super power. She's Uncle Barry's equal. So, she must have a super power, too. She had Aunt Iris hugs. When you felt really down, she could always tell and she'd come over to you. She'd never embarass you, never make a big deal about it. She'd hold you against her side and maybe run her hand through your hair then rub your shoulder and your side and maybe pat your buns then rub your shoulder again and hold your head. She made it seem like she'd made the clouds part and the sun shine down on you. It wouldn't make the problem disappear but you felt so much better about yourself because you could just feel how much she cared for you. You could feel it.
Wally smiled to himself. Sometimes Aunt Iris hugs seemed like a lot better power than super speed.
After a minute more, he could tell that the bad feeling was past and he sat up with a long, controlled breath. His clothes felt funny. His back was half exposed and his shorts had ridden up on him. It wasn't just that they were so oversized to make sure that no one saw what his body was like now. Weird textures moving back and forth against his skin, sometimes bunched up other times loose. It felt stupid. He'd so much prefer to be wearing his skin tight red and yellow suit. It never moved and it fit perfect. It was a realization that he'd come to a few months before. He preferred his Kid Flash suit to normal clothes. It'd seemed so exhibitionist at first. Now he didn't care. It was his suit. Somewhere in the back of his mind was a realization that this might be an important milestone in the struggle between his two indentities but he didn't want to think about that. Hmmph. Just one more problem on the heap. Get in line behind my family and the loss of all my friends. For now he'd just keep wearing this stupid stuff at home, pretending not to be what he was.
He was getting good at pretending. Sometimes you had to, didn't you? From where he sat on his bed, looking out through the open slit of the doorway, he could see the blue paper of his report card where he'd stuck it to the refrigerator door. Look how well I did! Only the edge was visible now. It was covered by his little sister's latest art class sketch. Have to pretend not to notice that. He shook his head at the absurdity of it. I can run across water and vibrate through walls and I've saved dozens of lives but I have to put up with . . this. But, would it matter even if they knew? Even if they knew I'm Kid Flash?
He chuckled bitterly to himself imagining returning from a mission in his red and yellow suit and walking through the front door, no, better still, vibrating through the front door that way.
"Mom! Dad! Flash and I just defeated Gorilla Grodd and saved the world," he imagined himself shouting only to be answered by his parents on the couch flanking his sister not even looking at him as his mother mumbled "That's nice dear. I only cooked for three. Make yourself dinner" then turning to his sister and pleading in a hushed tone of affectionate awe, "Tell us about that B minus again, honey!"
He shook his head. Probably just how it would go. And then his ring vibrated on his finger.
Two vibrations. Police.
Good, thought Wally. An excuse to get out of here. He grabbed a jacket and started for the door.
"I'm going over to Willie's," he announced as he marched past them to the front door.
No one said anything in response. Nothing. Wally jogged at still normal pace across the crabgrass of their front yard but quickly pushed all that out of his mind. A second later he was around the corner and then accelerating to that spot in the woods where he always hid his clothes in the hollow of a dead oak. He pulled on his form fitting red and yellow uniform and it was almost as though he'd pulled on a whole new mindset with it. Lives were at stake. There was no time or room for self-pity now. But he wasn't inclined to it anyway. He felt energetic and confident. He was Kid Flash.
He zoomed through the city streets creating a momentary red and yellow blur to be seen by drivers and pedestrians as he made his way to police headquarters and the desk of Winston Randolph. A man once told him and Flash that when they ran by in the streets that the sound was a little like being at the fence when the a car in a NASCAR race went by. No engine roar but a mini version of that brief high pitched burst of sound.
When he turned corners, he could see, out of the corner of his eye, people start to whiplash their heads around to see the red and yellow blur that passed them and to react to his burst of sound. After a couple seconds run, he was upstairs in police headquarters.
"What've you got this time, Winston?" he asked after suddenly materializing in front of the department's liaison to the hero community. Seargent Randolph smiled. Had to always be ready when you sent out a call to this boy.
"Robbery and fire in some warehouses on Rosemont at the edge of the Jump Ridge district," said the large african american seargent. "We know it's fire. The first guys on the scene thought it had signs of being set to cover up a robbery. Anyway. There's some houses close by and there may've been some homeless guys there, too. We need you to do your stuff and go through the area to make sure it's clear."
Kid Flash nodded and the seargent saw the slender red and yellow clad teen in front of him disappear then heard impossibly rapid fire footsteps down the stairs and out into the street.
Kid Flash zipped through the city streets, one focused, high velocity teen, going so fast that even speeding cars seemed like they were stopped. He could have picked pebbles out of the tread of a car going 90 on the interstate. Joggers looked like statues. But he wasn't much noticing them. His thoughts were entirely on the task at hand. Fire, potentially to cover up a robbery. Rescue people from the fire, help the fire department put it out and recover evidence.
Kid Flash sped around the warehouse buildings, circling every stack of goods, every pile of junk, every item inside or outside of the warehouses. He found a couple homeless guys sitting against one building just watching everything and he searched the interior of two buildings confirming what was burning and where in quick reports to the firemen.
A few minutes later, things were winding down there, he'd spoken to both a police seargent and a fire captain about the situation and decided to make one last super speed search through the complex. Searching intently at ground level as he was, he didn't notice an eagle approaching. So, he never noted that this particular eagle was somehow green.
Beast Boy made a perfect landing in a quiet area beside one warehouse, transforming,
back to his normal self a couple feet off the ground and hitting the ground running in his purple and black uniform. He continued on a couple jogging steps and then looked around to try and determine the situation. Things seemed to be pretty well under control, actually. He looked left and right and saw firemen walking around sort of casually and some cops not doing much either. Unfortunately, he did this assessment right near the corner of one of the 200 foot long buildings
Kid Flash had brought his speed way down, somewhere in the 150 mile per hour range he would've guessed when he ran around the corner of the warehouse building. Beast Boy heard steps coming and for no particular reason changed, instantaneously,
into a giant green ape. Kid Flash was shocked to see his path blocked by it and tried skidding to a halt then actually backpedaled in place to avoid slamming into the giant green creature suddenly in his path. Where the hell'd it come from, wondered a frantic Kid Flash, his mind immediately filling with scary recollections of Gorilla Grodd from the time he'd fought the super ape alongside Flash. But this gorilla was green and looked just as surprised and anxious as him. And the green gorilla took a split second longer to understand the situation and calm down, lifting a comparatively weightless Kid Flash off the ground in its big smelly hands as though intending to throw him across the warehouse complex.
"Hey! Hey! Wait a minute! You're-you're Beast Boy, aren't you? I'm Kid Flash! Don't throw me or body slam me or anything! . . . . please."
Beast Boy transformed back to his normal self. Okay. I've heard of this guy. He took a deep breath.
"Um, you can stop squeezing my sides any time now," chuckled Kid Flash.
Beast Boy recoiled and pulled back his hands and then smiled. The two teen boy heroes stood staring at each other from a foot away for several seconds uncertain how to proceed. Finally, almost simultaneously, both shot a hand forward.
"KBiedast FBloaysh!" their introductions overlapped into one unintelligible combination. Both smiled. Kid Flash held up one red gloved hand, still smiling down at this amazing kid who though 4 inches shorter now had weighed five times as much as him just a few seconds ago.
"Let me go first, I'm supposed to be the fast one. I'm Kid Flash."
"I'm Beast Boy."
They both smiled again and shook hands again taking in the sight of each other for a few seconds.
Just a kid like me!
Both were so used to being towered over by other heroes that it was a pleasant change of pace to meet a hero who was another slender boy. Kid Flash took in Beast Boy's uniform and that he was a little shorter than himself and had pointy ears. Most of all, he noticed the color green. A guy turned green. Kewl.
And Beast Boy noticed how the teen speedster was totally shaped for just that. A few inches taller than him, weird orange hair, kind of a pretty boy, good shoulders a tiny waist, not an ounce of fat and legs like he'd have expected a super speedster to have. And . . . he almost raised an eyebrow at the sight of the side of the guy's hip. Lucky for him I'm not Speedy or Aqualad! Haha.
They looked up again at the same time. Logically, if two people meeting can like dislike or be indifferent toward the other person, only 1 out of 9 times will they both have the reaction of immediately liking the other person. This was one of those times.
Kid Flash stared at Beast Boy's flawless, rich green skin. He smiled in almost scientific curiosity. " . . . you're so . . . green," he muttered softly and immediately regretted speaking his thoughts aloud, wondering how he'd been so careless.
Beast Boy looked up at the taller teen speedster. "And, dude, your hair's so . . . orange," he retorted. Kid Flash chuckled and nodded bashfully.
"I mean, really really orange."
Kid Flash grinned. "You can imagine how many times I've been called carrot top and stuff like that in my life. But, hey, it's me. It's cool."
"That's the way I feel about being green, now. It's me. It's cool."
"It is man. Seriously. Sorry 'bout that. That was so rude of me."
Beast Boy waved off the apology. "So, what's going on here? I saw some smoke flying over the city, so I came this way."
"I got called by JCPD. They asked me to speed through and make sure no one was caught inside. They also thought the fire might've been set to cover up a robbery."
"What do you think?"
"I ran through this place something like 50 times. It might've been accelerant spread near some palettes but the whole place is pretty haphazard. Coulda been just something left around. I didn't see arson."
"You already talk to JCPD and JCFD?"
Kid Flash nodded. "I'm not sure what else I can do."
"Well, maybe I can add one last thing. How 'bout carrying me over to where the police and fire commanders are?"
"Um, I think it'll look funny, me carrying you. I-"
"Dude. They'll never see me. Just turn that way and give me a second to hop on."
Kid Flash thought he felt something touch his shoulder and then he was quite certain something was in his hair. He felt it scratching his scalp. Well, okay. With a sigh he sped off to where the two commanders' vehicles were parked side by side. When he stopped he felt something moving in his hair and then
Beast Boy suddenly materialized beside him. He had a unique offer for the police and fire commanders on location. They heard him out and agreed. For the next 15 minutes, firemen and police gave samples of different scents for a green bloodhound to try and detect in the warehouses. And better than the typical bloodhound, he was able to turn back into a five foot one teen boy and talk to them about what he'd just sniffed. But he couldn't detect any signs of odd accelerants or the guy who'd worn the shirt they had him sniff.
The two teen heroes were thanked by the police and firemen and stepped back as yellow tape was being wrapped across warehouse entrances. Kid Flash felt a quick stab of anxiety. He tugged lightly at Beast Boy's shoulder.
"Um, you don't have to turn into a condor or a pteradactyl or something and fly away right away, do you?"
"I was just gonna ask if you didn't have to speed away. I see Robin and Cyborg and Raven and Starfire all the time but not that many new people."
Kid Flash grinned ear to ear.
"I-I don't have any teammates. For me the whole thing is kind of . . lonely. You wanna have lunch?" he asked then screwed his face up in a funny expression. Beast Boy was doing likewise.
"That kinda sounds like me asking you out on a date, doesn't it?"
Beast Boy nodded, still with the facial expression of discomfort.
"Not that there's anything wrong with that," Kid Flash quickly added, scratching nervously at his head. "I mean, if a hero's, um, gay or-or, um, bi . . . uh, bi . . sexual," he said remembering how Speedy had put his hand on his butt in the room they were sharing up in the Justice League Watchtower satellite a month ago. "It doesn't matter."
"Right," agreed Beast Boy now nervously scratching his head and thinking of Speedy putting his hand down . . there, in the combat simulations room last week and asking him if he was sure he wasn't still part horse after changing back from being one. "It doesn't matter what a hero does after missions are done."
The two teen boys both nodded slowly while looking at each other. We said everything we're supposed to say there, didn't we? I'll just keep what I know about Speedy to myself. God! A-a guy doing that then touching his lips to mine before I pushed him away! This guy says the right things but he doesn't need to know about that. Still don't think I did anything to lead Speedy on, like he claimed, but he did say he was sorry.
Neither told the other anything about Speedy and they proceeded to discuss where to eat. Kid Flash didn't really care. He just wanted to eat. Beast Boy wanted to go to a certain place not far away that had some vegetarian offereings he really liked. Kid Flash nodded to his shorter colleague. Sure. Whatever. But neither flew or sped to the restaurant. They simply forgot to. The two boys starting talking and just kept talking. Beast Boy pointed the way there and they talked and joked with each other walking side by side through the warehouse complex and then along rutted out side streets.
"So, you answer police calls a lot?" asked Beast Boy.
Kid Flash nodded. "I mean, I've fought the big time villains too. Gorilla Grodd, Captain Cold . . . guys like that."
Beast Boy nodded. He knew there might not be any other "guys like that". He didn't even have to say anything about his missions. The Titans had such a big rep for fighting heavies like Slade and Trigon. He mentioned it anyway. "Yeah," he sighed as if bored. "We've taken down a lot of the baddest dudes, your Slades and Trigons. We have a hard time finding a fair fight now."
Kid Flash stared at him skeptically. And after maintaining a front for a second, Beast Boy cracked up. "Hehe! Just kidding! We both want to impress each other." Kid Flash grinned and nodded.
"I almost always patrol alone now. And I pretty much just answer police and fire calls for my help. It's not as glamorous as fighting supervillains but I'm alone so I don't think I can go up against guys like that."
Beast Boy looked at him in surprise. So honest.
"I don't think I could either," Beast Boy smiled bashfully.
They shared a grin at the absence of silly one upsmanship.
"I really liked working with Flash. But I wanted to show that I wasn't just a little kid and could do things on my own, so I got him to let me patrol solo. Then my family moved from Keystone City out here to Jump so I only run with Flash on special occasions."
Kid Flash nodded. "He's a terrific guy and a great mentor. How 'bout you? Did you have a mentor?"
"I didn't have a mentor. I had a Mento."
They both laughed. "Good one. I heard about him. Doom Patrol, right?" Beast Boy nodded. "I just wish there were some more girl heroes," remarked Kid Flash stepping into and out of a giant pothole as they crossed a street. "I mean, Flash brought me up to the Watchtower and I think I got to say hello to Wonder Girl for, like, two seconds before she teleported out with Wonder Woman. And that's the sum of my contact with girl heroes."
"What about regular girls? You got a girlfriend?"
Kid Flash looked away bashfully. "No. I wish. How 'bout you?"
Beast Boy shook his head. "I wish, too."
"Seems like every time I've had a date something came up. Once it was a police call. Another time it was a call from Flash. And another time it was because I had to save all these people in an apartment building from a fire and I didn't get done till after I was supposed to have met this girl. They all hate me. I think they think I'm some kind of psycho stoner or something."
"Haha. What's your actual image in school?"
Kid Flash shrugged. "I dunno. I-I guess I'm seen as . . kind of a . . nerd," said Kid Flash as though talking to the ground a step in front of him and not to Beast Boy.
"Hehe! You're a nerd? And you wear that suit?!"
"Come on. I'm a Flash!"
"Dude that's gotta be the tightest suit of any hero."
"It's-it's not tight. It's form fitting!"
Beast Boy was puzzled. "What's the difference?"
"Tight is like hard to move in. Form fitting matches you. Besides, it's better than your suit."
"Stop!" shouted Kid Flash. Beast Boy froze, his mouth a split second from another "Not!".
Kid Flash glanced around to see if anyone had heard them. Luckily not. "That was pretty bad."
Beast Boy nodded guiltily.
"Try each other's?" Kid Flash suggested.
Beast Boy shrugged. Why not? They were walking past an empty warehouse that had two open garage doors and looked deserted. Moments later, Kid Flash was pulling on Beast Boy's purple and black suit with a grin. Cool! It was a bit short for him and a bit small for his shoulders and his butt though not painfully. It was made of neat material, too. Soft on the inside just like his thinner Kid Flash suit but also durable looking. Meanwhile, Beast Boy was grunting and groaning pulling on the red bottom yellow topped Kid Flash suit. At last he had it on. He made odd, unprovoked arm and leg movements trying to adjust to the red and yellow second skin as he walked beside Kid Flash to an interior office window that now made a perfect mirror with the room beyond it darkened.
"Dude," chuckled Beast Boy. "You're too tall for my suit."
"And you're too fat for mine."
Beast Boy chuckled. "I'm not fat! I'm in really good shape. This suit is just like totally, um, what's the word . . ?"
"Yeah, that's it. Seriously. Why isn't this looser on me? I'm smaller than you," he said while playing with the wings on the sides of his head in that uniform.
"It's made of a special material that Flash invented. Its natural size is small enough to fit in my ring but it'll expand big enough to fit anyone."
"How do you deal with this?" wondered Beast Boy tugging at the suit where it covered his butt.
Kid Flash shrugged his black and purple clad shoulders. "You get used to it. It doesn't bother me at all now. At least there's no seam back there. But I was totally freaked about being seen in that uniform in public when I first started out. Now I'm like, eh, so you can kinda see my body. So what?"
Beast Boy chuckled at his attitude. "Kinda?"
Kid Flash shrugged. "Doesn't matter anyway. I've gotta wear it. It prevents friction for us Flashes."
"Fine," said Beast Boy and he started tugging at the suit to pull it off. "I gotta get out of this thing, the weird thing you wear underneath too."
"The, uh, dance belt."
"Dude," laughed Beast Boy. "You Flashes are too weird."
Kid Flash just chuckled and helped Beast Boy out of the red and yellow suit. "Well, speaking of weird, where does this suit go when you change into an animal?"
"Um, well, you see, the uh truth is . . . I don't know," said Beast Boy and he was relieved to find that they were at his chosen restaurant. He pointed to it and led the way in. There was immediately a big scene. Cooks, wait staff and other customers all came up to the two teen heroes. They laughed and shook hands with a dizzying whirl of faces and had phone and camera pictures taken for several minutes. To Beast Boy's chagrin, the eligible females seemed more interested in his orange haired companion.
In the kitchen, the waiters, waitresses and cooks were abuzz with excitement as Heather, the consensus prettiest waitress arrived for work. She asked what all the commotion was about and was told by another waitress that there were superheroes in the joint. Cute ones! When she asked which, she was told "the green one", "Beast Boy" a passing waiter corrected, and "um, that speedy one with the red hair".
The others all went out to meet the heroes. Heather took a step back, eyes wide.
Him?!? Back here?!? Then, slowly, despite the recollection of almost being fired, despite the anger at a call never coming, a smile curled the corners of her mouth. She glanced over at the door of the storage room by the exit. Hmmph. She surrendered to the smile. If Kevin could do that, there wouldn't be any Luis . . or Ivan . . . or . . Hmmph. Anyway, what a sexpert. Just vanilla style but he did better that way than Kevin down there for half an hour. Probably only 16 or 17 and already an ultimate playa. Did he even say a word? He didn't, did he? She remembered a hot guy in a red suit wearing a mask walking past Felipe to her as she was outside texting a friend during a supposed smoking break. He just walked up to her with . . . that smile and brushed her cheek with his hand. So hot, too. Great lanky bod even in that tight red suit. And he knew how to use it. She'd never done quickies with strangers before. She could get the best guys in clubs. Why didn't boring Kevin realize that? But this guy was some kind of hero type. She remembered the name just in time to scream it out a few times. Speedy! Speedy!! Speedy!!!
Against her better judgement, she smiled again. Even though he never called despite her writing her number down and pushing it down the front of his suit. It'd been so amazing. Once you go hero, you never go back, she smiled. To think, she chuckled to herself. I thought he was eyeing that hottie Felipe when I first saw him. Haha.
She walked out to see him, walking her best walk. But it wasn't him. It wasn't Speedy. It was that Kid Flash boy. She was crestfallen. He looked maybe 2 years younger than Speedy as she stared at him over the shoulders of other people. He was gorgeous but just a boy. Too bad. His body was even better than Speedy's. She and another waitress grinned, made faces and mimed pinching that butt of his from behind him as everyone was posing for a picture around him.
At last, the commotion died down and the two boys ate. And Kid Flash ate. And Kid Flash ate. Beast Boy looked on in pleasant surprise.
"At last! Someone else who likes tofu!"
"Sorry. Not really," said Kid Flash as he continued to eat. "I just like eating. When you need to eat 7 meals a day you stop being picky. It's a Flash thing."
"But you barely weigh more than me! And I'm only 99 pounds."
"It's a Flash thing."
"How'd you become Kid Flash?" asked Beast Boy innocently enough, not aware that with this simple question he was disturbing a fault beneath the sea of big words. Kid Flash swallowed and in response to the seismic shift began in an animated tone of voice and only got more into it as he explained that he was hit by lightning and drenched with powerful chemicals at the same time, giving him super speed.
"Seriously?" demanded a skeptical Beast Boy.
Kid Flash nodded excitedly and then the giant wave of physics terminology broke on top of Beast Boy.
" . . . Flash thinks that he and I are singularities . . . disruptions of the space time continuum created by infinite factors in . . . "
Singu-whats? Continue-what? Gah!
Kid Flash kept speaking, big word piled on top of big word and he was so excited about it, not just that it was him but talking about deep thinking type science stuff. Beast Boy didn't want to hurt his feelings so he brought out a skill he wasn't even sure he still had.
" . . . and that sets up a reciprocity of energy transfer through the equivalence that Einstein postulated, E equals MC squared, which explains my occasional hyperpyrexia and appetite inordinate for my mass as well as . . . "
Beast Boy nodded. He nodded with a thoughtful expression that said, "I'm very interested and this is very important to me." He'd been good at this way back in his school days before being green, before sakutia. Beast Boy nodded. Kid Flash kept talking. And at times, Beast Boy thought he even started speaking super fast. But he wasn't sure. He was just nodding up above somewhere below he was waiting for the storm to blow over. He floated back up to the conversational surface after another minute. Up conversational periscope!
" . . . which would explain why the singularities end at the outside of our bodies, though not the concurrent restructuring of DNA that Flash hypothesizes was protosynthesized by . . . "
Gah! Almost drowned! Choking on . . big words. Keep nodding! Keep nodding! Close the submarine hatch! Submerge again! Dive! Dive!
" . . . so there you have it!" finished Kid Flash after another minute looking so proud and happy Beast Boy didn't have the heart to show his disinterest. He kept nodding.
"Of course, Flash has this other explanation, too. It's based on string theory. See, he thinks maybe we set up reverse amplitude harmonics at a resonance frequency that-"
Beast Boy grabbed his red gloved hands in mid animated gesture. "We're good!"
"But . . "
Kid Flash looked at him surprised at first and then had a moment of nervous recognition. Oh jeez. Too hyper! Wasn't I? "Sorry. I get carried away sometimes with science stuff."
"Dude," Beast Boy smiled putting Kid Flash at ease. "It's okay."
"So, um, how'd you become Beast Boy?"
Beast Boy considered trying to throw a bunch of big words back at him but gave a simple recounting instead. He told about being in Africa with his scientist parents as a little kid and being bitten by a monkey thereby contracting a disease called sakutia. He told Kid Flash how in a desperate attempt to save his life his father used an experimental gene splicing device and tried to give him just the factors that made the monkey resistant. It worked and saved his life but somehow he turned green. And when a snake threatened his mother shortly after that, he found himself changing into a mongoose just as he wished he could. He now had an incredible ability to change into any animal. But it wasn't enough for him to save the lives of his parents who both drowned in an accident.
Beast Boy was surprised to find himself immediately wrapped in a hug by his new friend at this point in the story. If anything showed how different this sidekick teen hero was from his teammate, this was it. Kid Flash gave him a tight hug with one arm and muttered softly. "Sorry to hear that, man."
Beast Boy said thanks and finished the thumbnail sketch of his life, saved from an unscrupulous guardian by the Doom Patrol and then jumping from them to the Titans.
"It must help to be with a team and have other heroes who're teenagers just like you to talk about stuff like that," suggested Kid Flash.
"Well, yeah, it can," said Beast Boy, his voice ambivalent. "Being with a team can be great but I don't want to give you the wrong impression, dude. It's not all free video games and honey glazed tofu being on a team," he said striking a lighter tone to lift the mood.
Kid Flash snapped his fingers. No? Damn!
"Problem is the creeping roles."
"Yup. Creeping roles. See, you start forming these roles right away. You make like one lousy mistake filling out a case file and, Bam! You're an idiot."
"Bam!" Beast Boy nodded. "You're not reliable and somebody whose whole obsessive compulsive type deal revolves around that sort of thing takes on all of it and knocks you when he was probably going to take it all on himself no matter what. He'd find something wrong no matter what. So you get labeled and pushed into this role. And maybe sometimes you do stuff that's like that. But not all the time!! See, my new theory is that we're all so . . . extreme, all of us. You, me, Robin, Raven, all us types. And we push everybody else out of our specialties. So even though, let's say, oh, just randomly an extremely handsome green guy might be responsible, the guy whose like fixation is being responsible is gonna make that first guy seem like a flaky goof no matter what. See what I mean?"
"Sure. It's kinda like Merton's self-fulfilling prophecy theory," Kid Flash nodded helpfully.
"It's in a book I read. The nature of someone's prediction or expectation itself causes the exptectation to be manifested."
"Um, yeah. Do you, do you always read stuff like that?"
Kid Flash smiled bashfully. "No. I . . . . I love comic books too."
"Dude!" exulted Beast Boy. "So do I!"
Beast Boy grinned and nodded. "Ultimate Spiderman. Ultimate Fantastic Four. Ultimate X-Men. The Ultimates, old classics, odd ones, lots of others too. I love that stuff."
"Haha. Kewl! So do I. My sister makes fun of me for it, but I think they're great. I mean, it's not real life but those people at the Marvel company describe a lot of stuff just the way it is, don't you think? I mean, there was this one Spiderman where he intentionally lets this guy kick his little butt, I mean literally, into his locker so that he hides his identity. I had to do the exact same thing."
Beast Boy laughed. "Didja?"
Kid Flash nodded. "I told Flash these 8th grade guys wanted to pick on me on Flash said "Great.". And I said, how can that be great. And he said it would be great cover for me if I was publicly humiliated, especially if they chased me down to do it. So, one time I let these bully jerks chase me down and stuff me in a trash can. Another time, I could see this guy coming with his other idiot friends laughing and making like he was gonna kick a field goal with my butt as the ball. -sigh- And I just let it happen, just like Spiderman did."
"I told that to Robin and Raven one time, that those Marvel comics are useful and they laughed and said this is the real world, Gar."
Beast Boy sighed. "It's semi public knowledge, anyway. My real name is Garfield Logan."
He waited for the laughing reaction. They always laughed, didn't they? You don't look like a fat tabby? Or, dumb jokes about some dude who was president like forever ago. But Kid Flash just nervously rolled his eyes.
"What? No jokes?"
Kid Flash leaned across the table toward Beast Boy. He glanced to both sides before speaking softly. "My real name is Wally. Wally West."
Beast Boy chuckled. "We're both cursed," he said eliciting a nod from Kid Flash.
"We've both got lousy hero names and real names."
"At least your real name matters. I'm really just Beast Boy now. I get attention everywhere I go. I wish I had an identity where I could go and everybody would ignore me."
"Being ignored's not all it's cracked up to be," muttered Kid Flash as the waitress came with their check. Kid Flash paid, out of his lawn mowing money. They made their way outside and Beast Boy turned into a cricket again and jumped into Kid Flash's hair so they could get away from the fans at the restaurant. Kid Flash sped back toward the warehouses, stopping right where they'd met. They shook hands and exchanged nice to meet yous.
"You sure you don't know of any other available hero girls?" joked Kid Flash.
"Nope," said Beast Boy and thinking of Tera, added, "But they don't have to start out as heroes, do they?"
Kid Flash mulled that one over. He could see that Beast Boy was about to leave and remembered a favor he wanted to ask. "Um, one more thing?"
"Actually two. Could you please keep me in mind for fill in duty or whenever you guys need extra help?"
"And, could you call my house tonight, 555-4608, and identify yourself as 'Willie'? Just leave a message. Say, um, say that Wally left his book."
"Yeah. That's the-the name I've been using as an excuse when I go off to be Kid Flash. I'm gonna stay over Willie's house tonight, Mom. See ya, Mom, I'm going over Willie's. That sort of thing."
"But . . there . . isn't any Willie? Is that it?"
"Right. Nobody can check up on me if there's no number to call. So, if you'll call my house at 555-4608 and identify yourself as Willie, that'll totally totally sell it."
"They don't know about . . " Beast Boy reached out and tugged at Kid Flash's uniform.
Kid Flash shook his head with an expression that struck Beast Boy as very solemn but slightly sad, too..
"Don't they . . . "
"Dude, it's," Kid Flash began then let out a big sigh as he considered what to say. " . . . things . . . things just aren't the way they should be."
This time Beast Boy stepped forward and he gave Kid Flash a hug around the shoulders with one arm. He stepped back and saw Kid Flash smiling slightly as he nodded.
Beast Boy nodded. "Willie to you."
Kid Flash grinned. "Just keep me in mind for the Titans."
The nation's symbol nodded at Kid Flash then flew off. Kid Flash stood there enjoying the feeling of this encounter till his mind drifted to something else Beast Boy had said.
". . they don't have to start out as heroes . ."