Disclaimer: I do not own Justice League, its characters, or anything associated.
A/N: According to the Batflash community on LiveJournal, today is Flash Appreciation Day. This story was written in honor of that most sacred holiday. :)
Please review, and I hope you have some fun reading!
Flash Appreciation Day 2.0
The sun rose steadily in the sky as Bruce stumbled into his bedroom, bruises and cuts painting the muscles that ached with even the slightest movement. Giving himself a final push, Bruce collapsed on his bed, sheets flying until coming to a rest around their weary master. After a night spent leaping, or falling, from rooftops, dodging gunfire from criminals and police alike, the man inside the batsuit was ready for some well-deserved sleep.
Which the fates decided was never going to happen.
Once Bruce's heavy eyelids dropped shut, thunderous banging almost shot him out of his bed. He sat up just in time to see a familiar, if not unwelcome, figure stroll into his room. At the disheveled sight of Bruce in bed, the redhead grinned, causing Bruce to scowl back into his covers.
"Morning, Bruce!" Wally practically boomed as Bruce stuffed his head under four of the best pillows money could buy.
"Go," he growled from beneath the secure mound, "away."
"Come on, Bruce."
He could hear Wally zipping around the room in a blur, pulling back curtains and opening windows to let bright trails of sunlight leak into the room. Bruce narrowed his exhausted eyes on a few rays that dared to make it past his impregnable defenses.
"Don't tell me you forget what today is," Wally actually chided, speeding to a stop at the side of the bed. Bruce didn't answer, just shrinking deeper into his piles of soft heavenly cotton and silk.
"Okay, I'll help refresh your memory," Wally went on with an indomitable smile. "It starts with Flash and ends with Appreciation Day 2.0."
Bruce kept quiet, sleep creeping slowly through his mind before he jerked away from a swift finger poking at his leg.
"Go away, Wally," he all but barked, frowning when he was too slow to dodge a jab to the side.
"No way, Bruce. You promised," Wally stated, stepping back to avoid the very strong hand reaching out blindly to break a few of his bones.
"I didn't promise anything," Bruce denied, letting the arm fall back under the covers.
"Yes you did, when you were monitoring at the Watchtower last Friday."
Despite his impressive resistance, Bruce couldn't keep his brain from whirling to life, shifting through layers of faces and information. Slowly, the afternoon assembled itself in his head.
Batman had been using the Watchtower computers to keep a close eye on Gotham, where several goons for hire had kindly given him tips that the Joker was masterminding something huge. He could faintly remember a gust of red appearing over his shoulder, but he hadn't given Flash much of his needed attention. From what he could call back, the conversation had gone something like this.
"What do you want? I'm busy."
"Hello to you, too, Bats."
"You have thirty seconds."
"Ha ha, very funny."
"Okay, okay, jeez. Just because you're in the suit doesn't mean you can't lighten up a little, Bruce."
"Don't call me that. Fifteen seconds."
"Fine. I was just out taking down Captain Cold with GL, and it got me to thinking. Since today's February fifth-"
"Oh really? Oh well, doesn't really matter. Since today's February sixth, it's almost been one year since Flash Appreciation Day."
"You mean when four super-criminals attempted to kill you?"
"It was only three."
"Captain Boomerang. Captain Cold. Mirror Master. The Trickster."
"Yeah, but James doesn't really count."
"Your time is up."
"It's not like you can force me to leave, Bats. So, it's almost the anniversary of Flash Appreciation Day, so I was thinking we could-"
"You didn't even let me finish."
"Look, I've got the whole day planned out, just the two of us."
"You're always busy."
"Can't you be not busy just one day? We never get to spent time together."
"Criminals aren't going to stay off the streets for-"
"We've had quiet days before, Bats. We have, what, over a thousand heroes stationed here? You may not want to hear this, but I think the League can handle one day without Batman."
It was at this point that the computer caught a police signal tracking an explosion at a Gotham hospital.
"Go away, Wally."
"Bruce, this is important. Just, come on, I'll-"
"It's one day! Just twenty-four hours. One thousand four hundred and forty minutes-"
"Okay, fine, whatever. Now leave!"
"Thanks, Bats! You're the greatest-"
As Bruce returned from the memory, he could hear Wally still chattering in the background.
'That doesn't count," he interrupted, suddenly unprepared to find himself standing next to the window with Wally sitting down on the freshly made bed.
"You should get dressed," Wally advised, resting his chin on his fist with a small smile in the face of Bruce's glower.
"We're going out, and unless you want to be seen by the Gotham paparazzi in your pajamas…" Wally trailed off, describing Bruce's less than Most Eligible Bachelor status.
It took a few seconds, but Bruce let his face shift into a resigned frown before stalking into the bathroom.
Bruce stared up at the building, a Central City diner that probably had more health violations than he had fingers. The once red and white awning had been faded to a sickly pink, and he could practically see the bricks crumbling.
"This place gives the best breakfast, I promise," Wally advocated dreamily, dragging Bruce towards the door and ignoring the reluctant feet dragging. Bruce eyed the rusty bell in case it was going to fall on their heads on the way in, but they passed without incident.
Wally led them to a table himself, dropping into one of the chairs comfortably while Bruce sat stiffly, silently observing his surroundings. There were about four other tables scattered around the small room, and the décor consisted of several drawings that appeared like they had been crafted by an overly ambitious kindergarten class.
Bruce was lifting his gaze from the surprisingly clean tablecloth when a waitress appeared from the door that he assumed led to the kitchen. Her tired face brightened at the sight of them, and she took the pen from behind her ear when she arrived at their table.
"Morning, Wally," she greeted, and Wally straightened a little at her approach.
"Hey, Brenda!" he replied. "How are the kids?'
"How else?" she laughed a little. "Billy's sick, and Kathy's failing physics."
"And no, Wally," Brenda continued when he opened his mouth," there's nothing you can do to help, but thank you."
Lifting a notebook from the pocket of her blue apron, she asked, "What can I get you?"
"Just the usual for me," Wally relaxed, draping his arm around the back of the empty chair next to him. "What about you, Bruce?"
Finally taking a second to glance down at the laminated menu before him, Bruce skimmed the pictures and corresponding numbers, responding, "Number two. Thanks."
As Brenda rushed away, disappearing back into the kitchen, Wally grinned at Bruce.
"So what do you think?"
"It's…" Bruce trailed off, watching Wally reach over to an abandoned table to snag an untouched muffin from a leftover basket. "Nice."
"Just nice?" Wally's eyes widened around his muffin, a few crumbs dropping clumsily onto the table as he chewed. "I come here all the time. Everyone's really friendly, and the prices are great."
Turning around in his chair, Wally pointed to the one of the drawings taped to the wall in front of them. The paper was colored in haphazardly with a green crayon, a few slashes of blue representing the sky.
"You see that one?" Wally spoke around his temporary snack. "Brenda's son Billy drew it. He's six."
Wally turned back around, a smile beginning, "Where else can you find a diner where people put their kids pictures on the wall? This place is one of a kind."
Bruce decided not to mention that most restaurants had at least five times the customer populace as this one, and their walls were covered with refined paintings that created a better dining ambiance than that of Crayola. Just as Wally was preparing to snatch something else, this time eying a biscuit, Brenda arrived with their dishes. She placed a warm plate of eggs and bacon in front of Bruce that looked quite a bit better than the shadowy picture on the menu. A plate was left before Wally as well, but Bruce had really no idea what it could be, or why the other could possibly have ordered it in the first place.
It looked like waffles, or something that had started off as some kind of waffle. The plate was completely covered with whipped cream that was no doubt sugary enough to send someone to the hospital with one bite. Little drops of red appeared here and there in the snowstorm on the plate, but Bruce was unable to distinguish whether they were strawberries, cherries, or some different abomination all together.
Wally dove into his food without any reservations, his fork slipping in and out so fast that his arm was nothing but a blur. Bruce wondered if the reason Wally liked coming there was not for the food or the company, but the fact that people were willing to overlook him eating with a speed that was obviously not human.
Bruce ate with more dignity, bringing the eggs to his mouth and being pleasantly surprised at the fact that the taste was pretty good. It definitely wasn't the one bite food poisoning he had been expecting, even though he had almost been anticipating it a little if it would get him out of the rest of this "day of fun."
Feeling eyes on him, Bruce noticed Wally watching him as he stormed a hurricane of whipped cream waffle mess into his mouth, his eyes sparkling with humor even if his mouth was busy elsewhere. He slowed suddenly, his fork struggling under a mountain of sugary horror, a few of the red unidentifiable fruit pieces lodged in the middle.
"You should try some, Bruce," Wally offered, lifting the fork a few places closer to Bruce's face. The other cringed away at the aspect, declining with a simple shake of the head.
"You know you want to," Wally teased, shifting the fork a little closer still, and Bruce could see the monstrosity nearing him dangerously.
"No," Bruce denied stoically, but Wally didn't continue his feasting. Instead, his green eyes seemed to harden with determination and the challenge.
"Come on, Bruce," he needled, waving the fork back and forth. Bruce watched the cream mountain jiggle back and forth, threatening to flop onto the table at the unbalanced weight. "Have a sense of adventure."
"Didn't I come in?" Bruce countered with a deadpanned expression, but Wally was not detoured from his goal. The playful glint in his stare warned Bruce to his possible intentions, and Bruce leaned back in his share cautiously.
He moved to shut his mouth, but too late. The fork was in and out before his lips clamped down, and when they did, they did so on waffles smothered in whipped cream and unknown fruit, which he was unhappy to discover were indeed strawberries.
The mixture was sticky in his mouth, coating his tongue with a sickly sweetness that made him grab his water and drink it like a man lost in the desert for a decade. The berries leaked juice when he bit down on them, and overall the experience was highly unpleasant and not to his preference. Glaring at the innocent looking redhead as he placed down his glass with deceptive softness, Bruce was furious to discover the taste had set itself into his tongue.
"You know, Bruce," Wally begin, scooping the remainder of his breakfast into his mouth and chewing rapidly while Bruce sipped his water again, condemning Wally to a painful, unexpected death with his eyes at the same time. "We should make this a weekly thing. Every Saturday, just us two guys against the world-"
As Wally chattered away, Bruce wondered if it was too early to get away with ordering alcohol.
Bruce didn't frequent movie theaters. He rarely had the free time to spend on such frivolities, and wasting whatever free time he had watching a mediocre film wasn't very appealing to him. He normally spent his personal time updating his resources or sleeping. Which should have been on the schedule today. Except it wasn't. Thanks to Wally.
Currently, the two were striding down the theater aisle, Wally struggling with two extra large popcorns and Bruce following with a water bottle. He hadn't particularly paid attention to the synopsis of the movie when Wally attempted to engage him in it, so Bruce wasn't sure to expect. Most of him was sure that it was going to be some tasteless action movie full of cheap fight scenes that had been choreographed in the back of someone's truck, but the irrational part of him that had emerged from lack of sleep was terrified that it would end up being a sappy romance. Or worse, a musical.
Of course, Wally chose their seats as front row center, settling in his chair and already tossing popcorn into his mouth even though the previews hadn't even started yet. Bruce sat beside him, staring up at the brightly lit screen flashing movie star trivia.
"Do you ever go out at all?" Wally suddenly asked, and Bruce wasn't surprised since his discomfort must've shown on his face.
Bruce furrowed his brow for a moment in thought, because he wasn't really sure what the answer to the question was. He went out all the time, to fancy dinners or rich benefits for various charities and "acquaintances."
But did he ever go out for breakfast in rundown dinners with surprisingly good food, or sit in cramped movie theater seats so close to the screen that his neck was going to be screaming in five minutes tops?
"Not really," Bruce admitted, feeling somewhat defensive. "I'm not usually afforded the luxury of such free time."
"You need to make time," Wally commented, flicking a piece of popcorn into the air and tilting his head back to catch it. When he sat back up, he was chewing triumphantly. "It's not hard."
"So you say," Bruce spoke wryly when Wally tried his stunt again, only for the popcorn to bounce of his nose onto the floor.
"It's really not, Bruce," he repeated, glaring at the kernel sitting angelically on the floor. "Just don't spend so much time holed up in your cave."
"Spending time in the cave saves lives," Bruce stated, almost like reciting a mantra, but Wally only tossed a piece of popcorn at his head. It bounced off his cheek and landed on his lap, and Bruce looked from it to Wally while raising an eyebrow.
"You were supposed to catch it."
Bruce's other eyebrow joined its partner.
His mouth falling open, Wally's face turned a little red in what seemed to be embarrassment or discomfort, and he waved a hand to change the turn of conversation.
"Anyway, how can you say it saves lives if you end up wasting yours?" Wally prodded, not waiting for a reply when the lights dimmed and the movie began to play.
As the minutes passed, Bruce was content to discover that the film was actually a relatively complex murder mystery, with several possible killers leading to very persuasive red herrings. When he found that the movie's plot was both intelligent and realistic, Bruce couldn't help flashing his surprised eyes Wally's way. The other must've noticed, because their gazes met, and Wally smiled.
"I work in a police lab, Bruce, what did you expect?" Wally whispered with a proud but somewhat humble smile, holding the bag of popcorn out to Bruce. Bruce took a handful, and for the next half hour, the two sat in comfortable companionship, the only sound between them that of crunching and the only interaction that of buttery fingers trying to maneuver each other out of the best pieces.
Halfway through the film, Wally elbowed Bruce and pointed at the tall blonde woman who had just stormed into the victim's apartment.
"She did it," he said in hushed tones, watching with big eyes as the woman rummaged around the room, opening several drawers on her way. Bruce calculated the given evidence in his head, finding none that would lead to such a conclusion.
"No," he murmured back, taking another handful of popcorn. "It was the cop investigating the case in the first scene. All the evidence points to him."
"No way, Bruce. That's way too obvious," Wally lectured, but Bruce was adamant.
"It's the only logical conclusion," Bruce reiterated, but Wally shrugged.
"Not everything ends up being logical," he proposed, shifting his shoulders again under Bruce's scrutiny. "Just call it a feeling."
An hour later and the blonde woman burst into the screen with a gun in her left hand and a sack obviously bursting with limbs tossed over her shoulder. She scrambled to escape the police who had been tracking the killer, but soon she was brought into the authorities, as all criminals eventually are.
"I told you," Wally boasted as the lights came back on, illuminating a theater full of candy wrappers and abandoned cups of soda.
"Hm," Bruce grunted, recounting the signs in his head that would have led to such an unexpected conclusion.
"Don't pout, Bruce," Wally went on, mistaking his silence for petulance. "We've still got one more phase of Flash Appreciation Day 2.0 to complete!"
"This day has phases?" Bruce inquired, standing and dusting off stray pieces of popcorn from his black pants. Wally did the same to his jeans before nodding.
"Yup," he confirmed, holding up three fingers.
One finger snapped down.
A second finger disappeared, leaving one remaining.
"You want to go for a joyride in the Batmobile."
Batman shifted his gaze from Wally to his loyal, impeccable car, repeating the action until he was sure he was awake and not actually dreaming. The silence was heavy around them, the only sound a far off dripping of water and the even fainter cries of hidden bats in unseen crevices.
The two heroes stood in front of the Batmobile, Wally already in costume while Bruce still loomed in his clothes.
"I didn't say a joyride," Wally protested, zooming around the vehicle and admiring his reflection in the glossy black paint. "Just a drive."
"I don't think so," Bruce dismissed the idea, heading back towards the stairs, but he was caught off by a quick burst of red blocking his way.
"Please, Bats," Wally pleaded, dragging out the please for at least double the necessary time. "I've never really gotten to see it in action and-"
In half a second he was back at the car, staring in through the locked windows.
"It's just so cool!"
"I didn't build it to be 'cool,'" Bruce almost growled, pinching the bridge of his nose in annoyance. "I built it for work. This is not work."
"No one says we can't knock out a few bad guys along the way," Wally pointed out hopefully, leaning against the car like a teenager taking in his first motorcycle.
Bruce glanced towards his computers, taking in the readings and replying, "Gotham's peaceful tonight. There's no need to disturb the city."
"Come on, Bats. Do I ever ask for anything?"
Wally shrunk a little at the pointed look in Bruce's icy blue eyes.
"Okay, okay. Do I ever ask for anything big, ever?"
Wally threw his hands up in the air, stomping around the Batmobile in exasperation.
"Fine! Okay, I do ask for stuff, but come on, Bruce! It's the Batmobile! One drive around the city, just one! It'll take ten minutes tops!"
Bruce turned his attention from the awaiting car to Wally, who was giving him an expression of blinding hope and optimism. Underneath though, he could see disappointment already settling in, and the way the prospect sent an uncomfortable squirming in his stomach was disconcerting.
Grabbing his uniform as he passed Wally, Bruce grunted out, "Make it five."
In only a few minutes, the two were seated in the Batmobile, Batman behind the wheel.
"Here's how this is going to go," he stated, his voice low with no margin for bargaining. "I drive. You stay in your seat, and you do not touch anything. One round around Gotham, and then we come back to the cave. Got it?"
Flash nodded with a, "No problem, Bats," practically bouncing in his seat. His eyes scoped the rows of flashing buttons in front of him, and Batman sighed deeply, unsure if he was going to make it through the ordeal alive.
Before he could second guess himself or his motives any further, Batman slammed his foot on the gas and they were out. Gotham opened herself up beneath them, an array of dark buildings and stark blinding lights. The roads were almost deserted, lessons taught to those who strayed out into the night, and Batman found a part of himself that relished taking the Batmobile to some of her top speeds. Flash's cheering and shouts of excitement made the trip different, not just a hunt for petty criminals or malicious villains, but…a time of partnership he hadn't felt since a Robin had been at his side, and even then it hadn't been the same.
"This is so awesome, Bats," Flash was rambling, patting the seat and touching everything he could without accidentally setting something off. "Really, this is so awesome!"
"Hey, did I ever show you my car?" Flash asked, turning to Batman while his hands took a moment to still.
"You have a car?" Batman questioned a little incredulously. "Why?"
"Well, it's more of a van…" Flash went on off-handedly, pressing his face against the window and staring out. "I'll show it to you sometime."
"I can't wait," Batman muttered, turning his attention back to the road to make a sharp turn.
Luckily, the drive passed without disturbance, and the underground entrance to the Batcave came into view. The Batmobile slid inside the opening smoothly, and Batman brought her to a quick stop in the center of the room. When he allowed the doors to open, Flash jumped out in a bundle of pent-up energy, zipping from here to there in his excitement.
"Wow! That was so cool, Bats, really, that was one of the coolest things I've ever seen!" Flash spoke in a rush, racing forward to squeeze Batman into a quick hug before blurring back a few feet as if he expected to be socked in the face. Instead, Batman forced his surprised body to relax back to its normal state, which was surprisingly easy, giving Flash a nod.
For a moment, Flash's expression turned a little serious, and he pulled down the hood of his costume so Batman could see his flushed face.
"Thanks a lot, Bruce," Wally said, holding out his arms as if to include everything. "I know it might not have been something you really wanted to do, but…I really did have a great time."
Batman refused to avert his gaze when the urge revealed itself, but at the same time, he wasn't comfortable enough to toss his mask so easily aside.
"I'm…glad," he attempted instead. "It wasn't…It was nice."
Wally understood, for he grinned brightly enough to light up the cave, filling the shadows with his smile.
"Maybe we could…do it again, sometime?" Wally proposed, and at his words, Batman forced himself to lift the cowl off his head and tuck it under his arm. He lifted his unhidden eyes at Wally, who was still waiting for an answer.
"It could be arranged," he complied, adding with an afterthought, "maybe."
"Great!" Wally let out a breath, laughing a little nervously before jerking his thumb towards the steps that would lead back into the manor. "I've got to head out. I promised to watch my landlady's cat for her."
At Bruce's curious expression, Wally released a more confident laugh.
"I don't really know how it happened either. I'll see you tomorrow at the Watchtower, Bruce."
With a salute, Wally was gone in a burst of speed. However, when Bruce looked around, the cave still looked a little bit brighter.