A breeze from over the cool waters of the bay came through the 13th floor window at Titans Tower raising goosebumps on skin both gray and pale as Wally finished fastening the back of Jinx's black lace bra. He pulled her shoulder blades to his chest.
"That's cold. But I'll keep you warm," he said giving her a kiss on the neck and wrapping his arms around her.
She enjoyed it a few moments before sighing and chuckling "I'll be warmer if you let me get dressed. You should try it yourself," over her shoulder. "You have to train Mas and Menos."
"Already? What time is it?"
She nodded to one side at the clock on the table beside her side of the bed. "It's almost three. How long did you think we were . . . "
"I don't know. 20 or 30 minutes."
"More like twice that," she laughed. "You really can't tell, can you?" she said as she continued getting dressed.
"Subjective temporal frames of reference are a bitch to deal with. I told you. As soon as I . . ," he moved his tongue very fast, "or vibrate, exact time gets kind of fuzzy for me. That's why I always ask you to keep track of things. You were the precise planner and team leader when you were on the other side."
"Speedsters!" she sighed. "Now, get dressed or are you going to teach Mas and Menos in the buff."
"I'm looking for my ring," he said checking under the bed.
"Try your finger."
"Ha. Ha. It would be there but a certain sorceress pulled it off with her teeth, remember? I love what you do with these fingers so much . . . I love these fingers?"
She bit at one fingernail in a sheepish gesture, muttering "Oh . . . yeah," and recalled the tinny little clank as his ring hit the floor. "And you're sure you couldn't just run around the way you are?"
He was a flesh colored blur zipping all around the room though somewhere among all that zipping around, she was sure a nasty glance "no" had been shot her way.
He dropped to the floor looking behind one of the bookcases. "I'm supposed to be teaching them how to be good speedsters. Streaking's not something I'll be advising them to do."
"Like anyone would see anything anyway."
"Aha! Here it is!" he cried reaching past a toppled paperback, A split second later he was clad in his skin tight red bottom, yellow topped suit.
"Get me, one of Dinesen's. I haven't read hers in a while. I can polish off a few stories while you guys do your thing," she said. He zipped to one end of the book case and pulled a paperback from an upper shelf. She clutched it in her hands as he lifted her up, holding her as if carrying his bride across the threshold for the first time instead of out to a training session with Mas and Menos for the twentieth time.
"Just tell me when you're there," she said, closing her eyes before he started off. It was almost dizzying to try and watch everything as he ran at super speed. It wasn't unpleasant. It didn't make her nauseous. But it was frustrating how impossible it was to see more than just a blur no matter how hard she tried. How the hell did he do it?
A couple seconds later, she felt his momentum slow.
"We're there," he said softly and put her down.
Jinx opened her eyes. The landscape before them was flat and white. Yup. He'd talked about it. The Bonneville Salt Flat of Utah. 160 square miles of flat, completely open terrain with no plants at all. A wide open track for super fast cars and teenagers, too.
She had just sat down at the park bench next to where he'd stopped, at the edge of the Flat, when twin white dust trails on the horizon announced the approach of Mas and Menos. They sprinted right up to Kid Flash. She wasn't quite sure how they never ran into him halfway through decelerating but they suddenly materialized right at his side and he hugged first one then the other about the shoulders. They immediately launched into happy roughhousing at which she rolled her eyes. She had a highbrow image to maintain, after all, though secretly she found it kind of adorable.
The twins looked quite different now than they did when she'd first met them. They were 14 now and they didn't look at all like the slightly pudgy little guys they did then. They'd had a big growth spurt and both were five foot six and slender now but with a little muscle like, well, speedsters. In fact, they looked a lot like Wally did when she first met him. Maybe it was impossible to look any other way with the metabolism of a speedster.
They'd grown up in other ways, too. The way they looked at her sometimes! Gods! Staring just where you'd imagine teenage boys would stare and then looking away whenever they saw her notice. Yes, Mas and Menos had grown up. But she didn't mind really. It was a compliment in a way. And they were 14 year olds. Besides which, they were good guys. They needed to work with someone who could help them refine their power. And it was obviously good for Wally, too. She watched him play fighting with the two of them. They dragged him to the ground and he turtled under their super speed punches, just covering up and not fighting back, laughing even more than they were. They could do things at super speed even without touching for short periods of time now. And while still faster than them, Wally was no longer 4 or 5 times as fast as the Guatemalan twins any more.
It was a cycle of life thing, decided Jinx. Give back the way you were given help too. He was not only helping Mas and Menos for the future. In a way, he was connecting even more strongly to the lessons and the kindness Flash had shown him in teaching him the ropes in the past.
Finally, they tired of the mock fighting and Kid Flash got up, brushed off the dust and led them over to Jinx.
"Hi, Senora Jinx!" waved Manuel.
"Hi, Senora Jinx!" grinned Miguel.
"Hi Menos. So, um, you in the red and yellow, what's the plan for today?"
"Well," said Kid Flash speaking both to her and to the twins. "I think we're gonna practice vibrating our molecules as we reach the sound barrier to avoid making sonic booms, then some work on hand to hand fighting and maybe a little more practice on arm cyclones-"
"Oh, Wally!" complained Mas in his heavily accented english. "We did that stuff last time!"
"And we'll keep doing it till you get it just right, Manuel. This is serious business . . . . and . . then you me and Miguel will play tag."
The twins let out a cheer. They loved playing tag. Jinx smiled at him, the message clear. You pretend like you're so tough and you're really a complete softy. His slight shrug was a confession that it was true, but so what?
How could he not play tag? It was the perfect game for speedsters. He'd absolutely loved playing tag with Flash when he first got his speed. He'd have just done the hours of drills in vibrating his molecules, making arm cyclones and the like that Flash demanded of him. It was so great just to have an adult actually spending time with him. But to get to have fun using his speed, playing a game with his hero, Flash? That was fantastic.
"We'll . . we'll be back in an hour," Kid Flash told her.
She nodded with a roll of her eyes. He always said that these training sessions would take an hour and they always ran 20 minutes over because he and the twins would be having so much fun running all over some state playing tag.
And with that, they were off, three trails of white dust heading for the other end of the Flat. But that was okay, she had things she could practice too. The strength of her hex energy had continued to grow to the point that she hesitated to go all out any more inside Titans Tower. But now, she was miles from anyone. A thin smile curved her lips. Wally had chosen this spot for her too, hadn't he? She nodded in answer to her own question.
She put her book down on the bench and jogged over to be far enough away that it wouldn't be touched. Then she raised one arm and threw a ball of hex energy into the adjacent rock hillside. The whole ridge above her trembled as some rock slid down to the edge of the Flat. After some more of that, she projected a laser of pink energy, not from one or more fingertips but from the palm of her hand, a thick, continuous bolt of hissing energy with which she sliced right through one of the boulders that had slid down the hill. She caught her breath at the effort then sliced through another and then a third before she felt too tired to keep going. She stopped, feeling satisfied at this but wanting to try just one more thing. She waited a minute to catch her breath and feel, in that certain indescribable way, the sensation within her mind that told her her hex energies were restored. Feeling refreshed, she created another ball of hex energy, hurled it into the hillside, felt the whole ridge tremble and then some boulders tumble down the slope toward her. She joined index finger and thumb tips of both hands over her head and suddenly, there was a quarter sphere, a thick wall of translucent pink hex energy shielding her. The boulders bounced off with a series of crashes. She felt the impact, somehow, the effort in resisting that force, but the boulders and then some smaller rocks just slid down the arc of the pink surface she'd made. She felt the effort of it becoming more and more difficult and jumped back, cartwheeling to the salt flat as rocks slid and finally settled at the edge of the hillside.
She sighed contentedly and strode back to the bench. She was definitely making progress in all these skills. But that was enough of that. She picked up her paperback copy of Winter's Tales by Isak Dinesen from the bench and started reading. She loved Dinesen.
After finishing the first story in the collection, The Young Man With the Carnation, she pulled out her Titans communicator. She checked the time. Four o'clock. They should be almost done. Hmm. A smile curled her lips and she switched to GPS tracking mode. Sure enough, there on the map of Utah, Nevada and Arizona was one orange dot being followed around by two black dots. The orange dot was now in southern Utah, heading for Arizona with the other two dots in close pursuit. She smiled at the thought of how much fun they were probably having and turned the page in the book to the next story, Sorrow-Acre.
She was curled up on one corner of the park bench reading when Kid Flash, Mas and Menos came sprinting back to the edge of the salt flat. Wally smiled at the image. Pure Jinx. She's curled up reading her fine literature and 50 feet away, the hillside looks like she destroyed it. Pure Jinx.
"Wally, wasn't there a lot more of a hill there when we left?" asked Mas.
Kid Flash nodded. "But Senora Jinx has to practice using her powers, too, just like us."
The twins exchanged impressed glances and nodded. Then Wally gestured for them to sit between him and Jinx on the park bench.
"So, how's everything at Titans East, guys?" he asked when they were seated.
"Everything's good. Senorita Bee is going to offer membership to Wonder Girl," said Menos but she's not sure if Wonder Girl will end up joining."
"How's Senorita Bee doing, Miguel?" Jinx asked him. "She seemed pretty unhappy about losing that election to be overall Titans leader."
"She was unhappy for a few days but she's okay now. Same old Senorita Bee."
"How 'bout Aqualad? How's he doing, Miguel? Manuel?" asked Kid Flash. He and Jinx watched the twins glance back and forth and barely suppress grins for a few seconds before finally answering.
"He was very . . interested-," began Mas
"-very interested!" laughed Menos.
"-in Wonder Girl possibly joining the team," grinned Mas.
"Do . . you mean what I think you mean, Manuel?" asked Kid Flash
"Si," laughed Mas. "Garth, he spends a lot of time at the computer now reviewing the file pictures of Wonder Girl and Raven and . .," Mas glanced quickly at Jinx but caught himself before saying anything.
"The other day, he came into the communications center. He was going to send some kind of message to Atlantis. And Senorita Bee was bent over the chair reading the instructions on the new security codes that Robin sent out and Senor Garth just stared at her and stared at her and then went ," Menos covered over his crotch and walked quickly away from the bench before zipping back and sitting down.
"Senor Garth is girl crazy now," laughed Menos and Mas joined in. Wally and Jinx glanced at each other with smiles.
"I hope you guys aren't making fun of Garth. He's such a good guy."
"Oh no," Menos quickly assured him. "Senor Garth is a terrific guy. He's the best and a true, how you say, gentleman? We would never do anything to hurt him. It's just funny how much he is interested in the muchachas when before he was only interested in the muchachos."
"I think you were his favorite," laughed Mas. "Is it true what Roy said, that Garth kissed you at your bachelor's party?"
"He-had too much alcohol and did something silly," Wally confessed as the twins laughed and Jinx smirked at his embarassment. She also made a mental note to inform Raven of Garth's new predilections.
"How about Roy?" asked Wally wanting to change the subject.
"He's the same as always," said Mas.
"Always out on dates?" suggested Jinx.
"No. That's not true," said Mas.
"Really Senora Jinx. For some reason he wants everybody to think that."
"He thinks it makes him seem cool," offered Menos. "I saw one time, he was working out in the weight room and he answered a call from Beast Boy with the video off on his communicator and he pretended to be with a boy, or maybe it was a girl, breathing hard from lifting weights and pretending it was . . . "
The twins laughed and Wally and Jinx sighed and looked at each other.
"But he's still good about helping you guys, right?" asked Jinx.
"He's almost as nice as Garth is to us," said Menos and Mas nodded his agreement.
"How 'bout you guys? How are things for you guys?" asked Wally expecting to get another pair of positive chirps. But instead, Mas and Menos glanced at each other with hesitant expressions for a few moments before either said anything.
"Okay," Mas finally offered with no particular enthusiasm.
"What's the matter guys," Wally whispered. In the pause as Mas and Menos glanced at each other, the scatter of salt grains in the breeze over the Flat could be heard around them.
"It's . . it's not easy like everybody thinks," Menos finally blurted out.
"We lost all the friends we had at home in Guatemala," added Mas.
"And there's no other heroes our age here!"
"And . . . and . . . while we were up here being 'heroes', our father passed away in Mirador. He died before they could get him to a hospital."
Both boys slumped down a bit on the bench, not quite crying but not far from it. Wally patted Mas's back next to him. Jinx patted Menos's.
"It's okay guys. It's okay. This job can be really tough sometimes."
"You and Jinx make it seem so easy, so . . natural," sniffed Mas.
"Guys, guys," Wally demanded their attention. "This job is not easy and nobody does it just 'naturally'. Nobody."
"Don't Bee and Garth and Roy help you guys?" asked Jinx.
"There are things they can't help us much with," muttered Mas to his shoes.
"We-we even talked about quitting last week," said Menos in a tone dripping with shame.
"That's okay guys," said Wally. "I quit once."
"You?" asked a shocked Mas as both he and Menos now sat up straight.
"Uh huh," said Wally.
"What happened?" asked Menos.
"It's kind of a long story."
"Tell us! Tell us!" they pleaded.
He glanced at Jinx who was barely suppressing a smile. She knew the story well.
"Well, okay. Here's what happened . . "