submission dated 11/14-28/12
(Italic copy bordered by_underscore_)
Archive? You'd better.
Pairings: Barry Allen (Flash II) / Hal Jordan (GL) Wally West (Flash III)
StopLight: Suspicion pt. 7
Barry glanced at himself in the bathroom mirror. Something different, huh. He reached into a jar of hair gel at the sink. Rubbing a dab vigorously against his palms, he massaged it into his hair on the sides. A quick swipe with his comb smoothed it down while fluffing golden shocks up top for more volume. Was sick of the damn crew cut anyway. Even Iris kept bugging me to let it grow out some. Placing the comb down, he tucked a form fitting t shirt into snug jeans.
"Hmm?" Barry turned around. Iris stood next to the shower stall, grinning ear to ear.
"Well well, Mr. Allen? Going all GQ on me?"
He went to her, smiling. "Hardly. Besides, everyone changes up once in a while. I'm just hoping the gel keeps hair out of my eyes."
Iris squeezed against him, still grinning. "I'm not complaining. Especially after seeing you in those jeans!"
Barry smirked, tugging at his belt. "They're a little tighter than I expected coming out of the dryer. Probably left them in there too long."
Irish shrugged nonchalantly. "Maybe I'll start throwing all your clothes in the dryer."
Beaming, he kissed her. "What's got into you today?"
Hazel eyes looked him over. "Just appreciating your assets. Assets you need to show more, I'd say."
Barry was incredulous. "I do run around in red underwear, you know!"
Iris slapped his backside playfully. "Yes, nice and tight. But a terrible fashion statement." She made a silly face. "Everything packed in the car?"
He nuzzled her neck affectionately. "Yeah. I called Ollie and told him we should keep the fish on ice until we grill it."
"Good idea." Iris kept feeling her husband up. "Hm, it's time to go or we'll be late. I would just love to-"
Barry turned in a blur, staring at the clock. "You're right, it's almost three-"
Iris was taken aback at his abruptness. "Barry, what?"
He gripped her hand suddenly, pulling her into the hallway. "Let's go."
Iris was fairly quiet in the car, periodically glancing over at her husband.
"Nothing." She stared out the window.
"Come on, Iris. I know that look. Something's bothering you."
A small sigh. "I didn't want to bring this up and spoil the weekend, but-"
Blue eyes were crystal on her. "But?"
"You haven't mentioned your appointment at Star Labs."
Barry sighed. "Look. They're booked up solid thru Tuesday of next week. The desk assistant said the earliest I could come in would be Thursday in the afternoon."
Iris pressed hesitantly. "Well?"
"Well what, Iris." Barry grew annoyed.
"Are you going in Thursday!" she flared.
"Fine, I'll go!" he shouted.
"Barry, why are you so angry-"
"Why are you pushing, Iris? Haven't I controlled myself this week?"
She stared in confusion. "Yes, but-"
"Then what the hell do you want from me?"
"I" she gulped, thinking. "I don't know what's going on here. You were completely out of control at one point. All of a sudden you're in control, with no treatment. And whenever I want to make love, you're too busy or distracted."
Alarms went off in Barry's head. Answer carefully. "I didn't mean to snap at you, honey. This situation has been tough on us both."
Iris watched his eyes. "It's like we're out of synch all of a sudden. Why? What's happened?"
"Nothing, I…I'm worried about hurting you."
She kept staring. "Are you sure that's all of it?"
He turned quickly. "Yes! Now please…let's just have a nice day at the cookout, okay? We can talk about this later."
Her eyes never left him. "Count on it."
The barbeque was in full swing. The entire JLA made it, along with a few members of the JSA. Loud music and laughter could be heard through smoky air. Superman helped Ollie start the grills. Some of the others were playing volleyball or cards. Dinah and Donna brought the ribs out.
Barry pulled up near the driveway. "I have no idea where to park."
Iris peered around. "You got that right. Cars are everywhere. Maybe we can squeeze behind Dick's car-"
Irey and Jai ran from the back and raced down the driveway, squealing and waving. They jumped up and down at the car window.
"Hey Uncle Barry, Aunt Iris!"
Barry leaned out the window a little. "Hey, kids. Move away so we can park, okay?"
"Okay!" they waited patiently. Barry and Iris climbed out to hugs. Jai looked at Barry closely.
"Wow, that look is coool Uncle Barry!"
Irey agreed. "Yeah, better than that dude in Twilight!"
"Thanks, kids." Barry kept from laughing. Great, now I should be in a vampire show.
Irey tugged at Iris' hand. "Almost everybody is here."
"I see." Iris peered at the raucous mob. "Well, come on. Help us unload all the goodies."
"Yeah!" the kids shouted in unison.
They were greeted by shouts, waves and stares. Wally jogged over to help.
"Got any extra stuff in the car?"
"Just a few bags of ice and pot cans." Barry noted the activity. "Seems like we're almost late!"
"No, your timing is perfect." Sea green eyes regarded him silently. Nice!SomethingforHal,ormaybe-
Barry gave him a vague smile.
Iris coughed loudly, missing the speed of their exchange. She pointed at the car in emphasis. "Mr. West, kindly put your broad back to work."
Wally grinned widely, giving a salute. "Yes. Ma'am.!"
Donna Troy and Katana were mixing spice sauces for the ribs. Katana couldn't stop smirking as they worked.
"Sh-. You see Barry over there?"
Donna was smug. "Who hasn't? Those frickin jeans are illegal."
"I almost never see him out of the red underwear, but damn."
"I know what you mean, girlfriend. Iris is lucky, huh?"
"Always thought he had pretty eyes, even through the cowl."
Donna stirred sauce in large bowls. "Aren't you more Dick's type?"
Katana laughed. "Oh, I'd take one of each. Dark and light, depending on my mood."
Black brows wiggled in conspiracy. "You know what they say about speedsters."
"Oh yeah, what?"
"That a cock in the hand is worth twelve in the bush!"
Katana roared with laughter.
Meanwhile the music blared nonstop. Clark was impromptu DJ spinning at the mike (to the dismay of everyone).
Especially Arsenal, who winced at Clark's hokey dialogue while he and Dick served themselves at the salad table.
"I don't know how much more I can take, Dick. Talk about cornball city!"
Dick chuckled, making a face. "Yeah, well at least the music's good. I sympathize with you though."
J'Ohn walked over in amusement. "You realize he can hear you anyway."
Arsenal munched an ear of corn. "So? It's agony, I swear."
The martian laughed softly. "Clark's having a good time. What precisely is the problem?"
Dick grunted. "His painful attempts at being hip. Did you catch his karaoke not too long ago?"
The green man sighed, watching an oblivious Superman sing. "I have to admit, it leaves much to be desired."
Bart was hanging out with Tim and Kon. They likewise didn't think much of Clark's singing.
"I may deny having Kryptonian dna, hate to say." Kon covered his ears.
"Yeah, let's go over by the football field and toss a few." Tim suggested. "By the time we get back maybe the burgers will be done."
"Works for me. Just give me a minute to say hi to grandpa first."
"Ok, catch up with us."
Bart darted over to Barry and Wally who conversed under a shaded tree.
"Hey, grandpa! 'Sup, Wally."
"Bart!" Barry beamed.
The boy hugged him. "Good to see you. And you weren't overly late this time!"
Barry did a mock bow. "I try to surprise on occasion."
Bright hazel eyes raked him over. "Yeah, about that. I see you changed your look, huh?"
"Oh, he's just exploring possibilities." Wally said cryptically while being smug.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Don't pay him any mind." Barry glanced at his nephew who appeared innocent. "You eat anything yet, Bart?"
"Just a little of the rabbit stuff and some punch. Ribs aren't done and they just brought the burgers out. Ollie and Hal haven't gotten back with the fish yet."
Wally glanced at his watch. "They've been gone long enough-" he noticed Clark in the distance.
Bart caught his eyes. "Yeah. Me, Tim and Kon are getting away from that racket."
"I don't blame you." Wally couldn't believe his ears.
"Grandpa, you wanna toss some ball with us later?"
"Maybe. I've got some mingling to do first."
"Okay, later. You should stick with the new look, by the way. It's really cool." With a thumbs up and more quick hugs, he was gone in a blur. Barry and Wally noted how no one seemed anxious to stay at the tables around Superman.
As if on cue, Clark bellowed more off key notes along with the music. He offered the mike to Cyclone who darted away quickly.
Wally shook his head in dismay. "Who'd ever believe the Man of Steel sucks as a singer?"
Barry stared, nonplussed. "You have to admit, he's pretty bad."
Iris finally caught up to Linda. The two chatted at one of the picnic tables.
Linda sipped her lemonade. "How are things working out on the home front, Iris?"
"Um, everything's fine." Iris poked at her potato salad in distraction.
"Sure. Why don't I believe you?"
Slim fingers tapped the table in irritation. "Lin, I swear that man's going to drive me crazy."
"What do you mean?"
"Okay. He agrees to get treatment at Star Labs. But he waited a day before setting an appointment, and now has to wait until next week."
"Doesn't sound too bad."
"Normally it wouldn't be a big deal, except…our situation is really dicey."
"Iris! Are you saying he's out of control again?"
A sigh. "I don't even know how to answer that. One minute he's all over me, and the next? It's like he's cool as a cucumber."
Lin was taken aback. "You're saying he doesn't want to do it?"
"Not exactly. It's like we're not in tune. Every time I want to, he's distracted or smiling. He even stops vibrating at times. It's almost as if his body goes completely quiet."
Lin fell back in her chair, gaping. "The hell?"
Iris looked up sharply. "What? You have any insight?"
Lin leaned forward and lowered her voice. "Wally is doing the same thing! The last few nights I damn near had to use my pocket taser. Then he leaves in the middle of the night to go run. Later in the morning he comes back and can't move for hours!"
"That is weird."
"You think maybe it's a speedster thing? I don't know."
"Did you talk to Wally about it?"
"He just goes to sleep again. And now when I want to make love, there's mixed results. Either I can't leave the house or he just walks around grinning stupidly."
Iris shook her head. "I don't get it."
"Me either. The kids even wonder what's wrong."
A thought struck the redhead. "Lin…when did all this start? Wally's odd behavior?"
"Two, maybe three weeks ago I'd say. Why?"
"That's when Barry started getting 'spikes'."
"Maybe something is-" Lin glanced across the yard. "Now what?"
Iris turned her head to see. "I don't believe this!"
"Looks like you may have to rescue your husband."
About thirty yards away Barry was talking with Vic near one of the grills. Behind him Dinah, Diana, and Katara were openly admiring his body and making comments amongst themselves.
Lin squinted. "Damn, that's brazen."
Iris wasn't amused. "Of all the nerve!"
Lin kept staring. "Hubby's a hit, alright. But it serves you right for changing his look, Iris."
"Me?! I didn't do anything. He decided on his own." She gulped her lemonade angrily.
"Wait, Dinah's coming this way."
"I swear, if she talks about Barry-"
"Ladies!" Dinah beamed, joining them. "Gotta say Iris, I like what you did!"
"I'm just sitting here minding my business."
The curvy blonde folded her arms. "What's got you so upset?"
Iris pointed dramatically across the yard.
Dinah laughed. "Oh, come on. It's all good clean fun."
"Fun, maybe. Clean? I don't know."
Canary cracked up. "Can't friends compliment friends?"
"Compliments are fine as long as hands stay in place."
"Look, it 's all innocent. All Diana said was that Barry reminded her of Apollo."
"That I can believe. But Katana? Her mind is usually in the gutter."
Canary shrugged helplessly. "Well I can't say she's princess pureheart. But hell, who's blind? Seriously, how'd you get Barry to change up a bit?"
"I keep telling everyone I didn't do anything."
Dinah was surprised. "Nothing at all?"
"Didn't you ask Barry to let his hair grow a bit?" Lin suggested.
"I did a few times, but he says it grows so fast it's a problem doing lab work."
"Really? Something must have changed his mind."
"I think he just wanted to do something different-"
Lin stared at Katana flirting and laughing with Barry. "Well at least you can trust your husband."
"Honestly, that woman needs to quit." Iris was clearly agitated. "I should-"
Canary put up a hand. "Careful. That soul sword is hell if you make her mad."
"What's she got to be mad about? That's my husband she rubbing up against!"
Helena made her way over to the picnic tables, salad bowl in tow.
"Well blondie, how you doing?" she winked at Barry.
He laughed. "Everything's fine. I'm starting to wonder when Hal and Ollie will get back with the fish! At least Arthur won't look so lonely waiting at the grill."
"Seriously." Katana agreed, patting her stomach. "I'm starving. Sure hope they remembered to get some Croakers this time."
"Traffic, probably." Helena smirked at Barry, running her fingers through golden locks. "I like this. Who'd ever think the prim and proper one would use gel?"
"Gel doesn't work with crew cuts in case you hadn't noticed." Barry teased back.
"Besides, this is my weekend off. Did you expect me to wear a lab coat, too?"
"Okay, okay." Helena threw her hands up, smiling. "I give. But seriously, you look great."
Katana hooked her arm around Barry. "That's what I've been telling him. He's been hiding all this for ages!"
"Bored with the red underwear?"
Katana puckered her lips."Ooh. That sounds so sexy."
"Ha! Iris would kill me." Barry untangled himself, reaching for a biscuit. Helena pressed in on his other side.
"You've always been well liked in the league, Barry."
"Thanks, Helena. I've always considered the JLA my extended family."
Helena edged closer. Katana glared at her. "Hey…"
Lips were near his left ear. "If things don't work with Iris, I'm interested. Just saying."
Barry's smile faded. "You're serious-"
"I know you're married. And this may seem tacky, but damn, I want to jump your bones!"
"It's way past tacky. And you can't expect me to do anything about it."
"That's not what I heard."
"What the hell are you talking about, Huntress?" Barry nearly shouted.
"Don't mind her, Barry." Katana interrupted. "Despite my reputation, I do have a sense of time and place."
"Oh really. Since when?" Huntress sniffed.
"I've often wondered about your overrated fighting skills. Maybe one day I'll test them."
"You'd lose, chika."
"Excuse me, this is where I came in." Barry attempted to leave.
Superman paused in his horrid singing. He couldn't believe his hearing. Despite the overall noise and activity, he caught Barry's exchange with the women clear as a bell.
What's going on over there?
"You look as perplexed as I am."
"J'Ohn." Clark nodded. "That's an understatement."
"At times I wish I weren't a telepath."
"I just want to plug my ears, truthfully. There's a lot of accelerated heartbeats around here."
J'Ohn munched a large double stuffed oreo. "As you know, I try not to overhear thoughts. But when people broadcast so strongly it's tough to filter."
Clark grinned smoothly. "I'm almost afraid to ask. Still…you could trust me to tell. But only if it's spicy!"
"What about your reputation as the big blue boy scout?" the martian asked playfully.
Clark winked. "Haven't been one since Smallville. A good friend of mine fixed that!"
"Okay. Two fat lips for the price of one!" an angry Iris jumped to her feet. Canary paused to block her.
"Wait, Iris. Don't get upset, I'm sure they don't mean anything."
"I know exactly what they're doing, Dinah. Now get out of the way!"
Lin also stood. "Wait, I'll go with you. This could get messy."
Iris pushed past them both towards her husband. "Good. You can do clean up." She was gone.
Barry saw his wife approach and took his cue. "Iris!" he smiled, holding his arms wide.
"Hold on a minute." She glared at Huntress and Katana. "You two bra busters back off. I mean it!"
"Whoa." Katana put up a hand defensively. "You wanna go there?"
Iris held up a sparkling wedding ring. "See this, girlfriend? It means off limits!"
"Iris I really don't think-"
"Quiet, Barry. Besides, Huntress was all over you."
Helena wasn't apologizing. "Guilty as charged."
Iris went for her. Dinah pinned her arms back quickly. "Wait, Iris. This is getting crazy!"
"I'll say." Lin agreed angrily, palming the small taser in her pocket. "Talk about skeevy!"
"Let go of me, Dinah."
"Not until you calm down."
"Let her go." Barry insisted, pulling his wife free. "Come on, Iris. We're here to enjoy ourselves, not fight."
"Tell it to them." She curled a lip at Katanna and Huntress. "Go out in the woods somewhere and give turns!"
"I don't have time for this. Tell wifey to go home and bake a cake or something." Katana stalked away in a huff.
Dinah was annoyed at her friends. "You really should apologize, both of you. Fun's fun, but you took it too far!"
"Maybe." Helena relented a little. She caught Barry's eyes. "Just being honest, though."
"Appreciated, but out of bounds." He replied.
"I haven't gone anywhere." Iris cracked.
Huntress nodded. "Sorry. I got carried away. Just tempted, you know?" she walked away suddenly.
Iris huffed. "Is that supposed to be an apology?"
Dinah sighed. "For her it is. I really don't think she meant any offense, Iris."
"Who gives a damn about her stupid warriors code? Let her find her own man!"
Lin squeezed her arm. "Let it go, Iris. No harm no foul."
"That's right." Barry pulled her along. "I insist that we have a good time!"
Iris resisted smiling. "Well-"
"Now this is more like it." Dinah was satisfied. "I want my guests to be happy!"
Hal and Ollie had returned with the fish. They pulled up behind the house and unloaded three crates. After dragging them inside the two caught their breath in the kitchen.
"I must be getting old or something." Ollie leaned against the sink. "Or they're making fish a lot heavier than I remember."
Hal snorted. "I could have used my ring, you know."
"In plain and open sight on a sunny day? Say goodbye to civilian identity."
"You're always looking for problems, Ollie."
Queen stared at his phone. "Not in this nosy neighborhood. They could call this county "Peeps Place."
"Why are you looking at messages? We're here now."
Ollie chuckled. "Just wondering what the deal was with all the calls. Seems like we missed some fun earlier."
"Really?" Hal peered over. "What's in the voicemail?"
"See for yourself." Ollie tapped the screen. YOU HAVE TEN NEW MESSAGES.
"For crying out loud, we called and told them we were running late!"
"I know. Which really makes me wonder what all the excitement was about."
"Huh." Hal hauled a crate up on the kitchen table. "We can figure it out later. In the meantime let's get these fish out of the ice."
"I'll get the boxes of foil. We'll need to roll 'em up for the grill." Ollie glanced out the kitchen window. Are you kidding me? "It can't be."
"What are you looking at?"
Ollie blinked, then squinted. "An optical illusion. Or something that isn't real."
Hal was annoyed. "Will you quit being silly?"
"I'm not." Ollie snapped. "Seriously, Hal. It's Barry!"
Hal rolled his eyes and started rinsing fish. "Well, duh. He's supposed to be here!"
Ollie grinned ear to ear. "He looks different. Wanna check it out now?"
"What are you going on about?" Hal stopped what he was doing to look. He saw a crowd at one of the card tables. A bright head caught his attention immediately.
It was Barry. And he was utterly, fabulously gorgeous.
"What in…what's he done to his hair?"
Ollie pulled on his goatee, grinning. "It's called style, bro. Wonder what the deal is?"
Hal couldn't stop staring. He's so golden. Like he came from a beam of light or something.
"Whenever I see a dude change like that, I think he's up to something. Is it possible Mr. Goody Two Shoes is slipping his halo?"
That shirt…those jeans. They're practically painted on. I can see…everything. He's perfect, absolutely perfect.
"Sheesh, you think those jeans are tight enough? Hal?"
"Yeah, I'm listening."
"Why doesn't he just enter a wet t shirt contest and get it over with?"
Hal snapped to. "Are you crazy? That's something women usually do."
Ollie jerked a thumb. "I'm surprised Iris let him out like that."
Hal nearly smiled. "Maybe it was Barry's idea."
"Oh? You know something I don't?" Ollie's eyes narrowed in suspicion.
"Give it a rest, will you? Barry's not that conservative."
"Nope. I'm in full blown investigative mode here. And I say a man in tight clothes like that is suspicious. A new hairstyle, too? Just saying."
Hal turned his attention to the fish again. "So you think Barry has a side?"
"Damn right. Could even be someone in the JLA."
"Didn't we have this conversation before, Ollie?"
Ollie pressed, smiling wide. "You know something!"
"No I don't!"
An elbow nudged him. "C'mon, give. Who's our resident saint bumping uglies with?"
Dick suddenly entered the kitchen. "Hey guys, good you got back. Everyone's whining about the fish."
"If you could help us rinse these it would go faster." Hal answered hurriedly. "They're already cleaned."
"Good deal." Dick washed his hands by the sink. "I'd rather be in here where it's safe anyway."
"Safe from what, fish cuts?" Ollie wanted to know.
"No. Man, it's off the hook out there. Maybe the punch is spiked. Can you believe Carol told me I had competition for best ass? Women are crazy!"
Ollie snickered. "Not that I'm looking, but…I'm curious. Who's your competition?"
"What difference does it make?" Dick was annoyed. "It's just plain stupid."
"Take it all in good fun, Dick." Hal soothed. "Hell, we put enough women through their paces."
"Guess I just wasn't in the mood today. Bludhaven's been rough this month and I wanted some fun down time for a change."
Ollie held his hands out. "Don't let it ruin your day, Dick. Just think, one day no one will care and you'll miss the attention."
"I doubt that but at least Barry's sense of humor is better than mine."
Hal perked up at that. "What. How do you mean?"
"Are you kidding? It's been a circus. Katana and Huntress nearly got into a fight with Iris-"
"You heard me. Dinah broke it up before it turned into a brawl. Then a few minutes later someone pinched Barry on the butt."
Ollie cracked up. Hal shook his head in disbelief. "Man, must be junior high school out there. But why did Katana and Helena want to fight Iris? I don't get it."
Dick rolled his eyes. "They were all overBarry. And Clark was pretending to not hear everything. God only knows what J'Ohn is thinking."
"Excuse me, gentlemen." A familiar voice interrupted. Dinah entered the kitchen suddenly.
"Hey, honey." Ollie puckered up, moving towards her.
"Don't give me that. Are you going to stand here and talk all day? Rinse those things and take 'em outside! I'm sick of everyone complaining 'where's the fish?' "
"Sure thing." Hal couldn't get his mind off Barry. I have to see up close…
Activity was everywhere. There was a poker and volleyball game going on simultaneously. Hal, Dick, and Ollie brought out trays of freshly rinsed fish. Dinah rejoined the others, leaving them to do the grilling.
Arthur pointedly waved his large fork their way. Ollie chuckled.
"Think he's trying to tell us something?"
"As long as he doesn't plan to skewer us I'm cool." Dick retorted. "Maybe he's having trident flashbacks."
"Hm? What, Ollie." Hazel eyes roamed, searching for Barry.
"You can put the fish down now. We're at the table."
"Sure thing. I'll be back in a minute."
Ollie peered over at the card game. "Huh. Checking out Barry's new look?"
"He does look different." Dick admitted. "Guess everyone likes to change up sometimes."
"I'll leave the spice here by the tray." Hal moved off. "Be back in a few."
The poker game was hot. An annoyed Arsenal didn't like his hand. Tempest and J'Ohn laughed, grinning at their cards. Everyone else watched in amusement. Arthur waved the air.
"Full house!" he said triumphantly, slamming his hand down. "Suckers."
"I knew it." Arsenal frowned again. "Buggit. Stinkin' threes."
"Only two aces here." J'Ohn sighed. "Oh well, next go around."
Hal edged up to Barry, hazel eyes wide. The blonde smiled innocently his way.
"Wondered when you'd get here, Hal. Did you and Ollie troll the ocean for fish?"
Hal made a conscious effort at being casual. "Well, we just waited for Arthur to part the seas. No problem."
"Very funny, Hal." Arthur scribbled on a pad. "Makes two rounds for me!"
Diana pointed. "You aren't folding the corners are you?"
"Me? Resort to such cheap tactics? Never!"
The group laughed while they bantered. Hal pressed closer without touching, lowering his voice.
"Good God. Are you trying to aggravate me looking like that?"
Barry grinned slyly. "Have no idea. I think I'll check the grill since Arthur's busy here."
"Go on." Aquaman waved again. "The bricks should be hot enough now that the fish is here."
Katana winked at Barry. "At least wifey has cooled off. I'm here for eats and fun, not fighting."
"Right." Barry collected Hal with his eyes and moved away.
Ollie cursed silently, spreading fish across foil covered trays. He was sprinkling spice when Hal and Barry walked up.
Hal glanced around. "What happened to Dick?"
Ollie huffed, not looking up. "Bailed out on me. Said he wanted to find Tim and the others."
"We figured we'd help out." Barry offered, smiling.
Ollie stared up immediately, looking him over. "Woah."
"What's with you?"
Ollie grinned stupidly, wiggling his brows. "I might say the same about you, Mr. Allen. Got any new secrets to share?"
Barry shrugged at Hal, who looked nonplussed. "What's he talking about?"
"Start peppering." Ollie ordered. "Anyway, I asked Hal but he won't tell me-"
"There's nothing to tell!" Hal snapped despite himself. He reached for the pepper.
"Contrary to popular belief there isn't any news." Barry poked some fish with a fork. "You always loved gossip, Ollie."
"Guilty as charged." Ollie turned over a few charcoal bricks. "I take it you've heard the rumors, then?"
"There's always rumors in our crowd, Ollie. What now?"
"Weeell…new pairings seem to be making the scene-"
"Ollie!" Hal warned.
Barry rolled his eyes. "That again? It's always the same ones."
"I know about the Clark and Bruce one. Old news."
Ollie appeared surprised. "Well, yeah, ok. Now they're saying Wally and Hood are hooking up secretly. I dunno, that one seems kind of crazy. Besides, Wally is married. How weird would that be, especially if his wife knew?"
Barry had an odd expression. "Are you nuts?"
Hal agreed. "Yeah, I call bull. Give it a rest, Ollie."
The archer cracked up. "Hey, good stuff! It spices up the day."
Hal rolled the foil up. "Man, and they say women talk."
"Since when are you so secretive, bud? Normally you're in on this kind of stuff!"
"Well I'm not in the mood right now."
Ollie wiped his hands on a towel. "I guess not. Although I remember our earlier conversation at JLA Headquarters."
Barry was curious. "What were you doing there?"
"It was a few days ago. I was filing some late data on the black lanterns." Hal replied quickly. "Ollie popped up and we chatted for a bit."
"Real interesting conversation, Barry." Ollie poked the speedster. "You see the latest rumor has a very intriguing pairing!"
Hal was clearly annoyed. "Ollie, I'm warning you for the last time-"
Ollie nudged him. "Don't be so sensitive, flyboy. Or I might suspect it's true!"
"What's true?" a befuddled Barry wanted to know.
Ollie hummed, twirling a fork. "That the two of you…you know…" he made a hand gesture.
"You're asking for it-" Hal growled.
Barry pressed between them. "So let me get this straight. You hear rumors, and that makes them true?"
Ollie appeared uncertain. "I didn't say that. But Barry, you…I mean, what's the deal?" he waved at the other man's appearance.
Barry looked down at himself. "It's just a shirt and jeans, for crying out loud. What's the matter with everybody?"
"But everything's so tight. It doesn't exactly leave much to the imagination!"
Hal snorted, mocking. "Yeah? Well you seem to be spending a lot of time looking. Maybe I need to start a rumor myself!"
Ollie blubbered. "That isn't funny-"
Barry glanced at Hal. "Wait, am I missing something?"
"At headquarters he seemed pressed to know about the rumor regarding us. A little too curious, if you get my drift."
Crystal blue eyes widened in amusement. "Ah, I see. I had no idea-"
"Oh, shut up." Ollie poked at the fish, mumbling. "It isn't what you're thinking!"
"Why, I'm not thinking anything." Barry was smug.
"Har de har har. You two should be comedians."
The remaining hours at the barbeque passed without incident, save for Clark's horrible singing. Carol intercepted Hal near the driveway, hooking his arm.
"Crazy day, flyboy."
"I'll say. You get enough to eat?"
"I'm good. Dinah's fixing me a couple of trays to take home." Violet eyes held a gleam. "Speaking of which…doing anything later?"
"Nah, I'm feeling mellow. Beers, good company and all."
Carol chuckled. "Come over to my place for awhile. I've got something warm on the backburner."
Hal grinned. "I just bet you do."
Carol winked. "Steady, horndog. It's just that I've missed you."
He kissed her cheek. "How can I turn down an offer from a beautiful woman? Done."
"Say goodbye to everyone yet?"
Bart was suddenly at their side in a rush of wind. "Hey Hal, Carol!"
"Hi Bart. What's up?"
The teen jerked a thumb. "Grandpa wants to see you about something. He's out back doing cleanup with the others."
"Okay, I'll be there in a minute."
"Good to go!" he was gone.
Carol laughed. "He doesn't give you time to catch your breath, does he?"
Hal quirked a smile. "Speedsters never do."
Hal meandered about but saw no sign of Barry. Everyone he'd asked said he was by the woodpile putting the grill away. Odd. Where could he have gone?
Before he could think any further, Wally was at his side.
"I hate it when you guys do that!"
The redhead laughed. "Sorry, didn't mean to startle you. Looking for someone?"
Hal eyed him cautiously. "Bart told me Barry wanted to see me about something."
Emerald eyes flashed oddly. "Of course." Wally nodded at the house. "He's in the kitchen. You'll have privacy there for a few moments."
Hal was abashed. "Wally! What-"
"As I said, for a few moments. Make use of them, Hal."
"You…you know!" Hal paled, his voice dropping.
A small smile curled Wally's lips.
"Look Wally, about Iris. Please, it isn't what you're thinking-"
"What I'm thinking you can't know." Wally said intensely, staring at Hal. "Just saying."
Hal gaped at him in astonishment. "Are you angry?"
"Then what do you mean?"
"Get going, Hal. You're wasting time." And with that, Wally was gone.
Hal stumbled to the house, mind awhirl. How does he know?
Hal entered the kitchen completely baffled by Wally's behavior. The distraction didn't last long when he saw Barry standing still and watching him. He literally appeared out of nowhere.
The blonde leaned back against the kitchen sink, shocks of bright hair shading amazing blue eyes. Sculpted muscle stood out in detail under ridiculously tight clothing.
"Hal, you're staring again."
"How can I not stare?" Hal edged closer. "Barry, I need to tell you something."
"In a minute." Barry caressed his shoulders, glancing down. "You look great in Chinos. I love seeing you in casual gear."
"I love seeing you in nothing at all." Hal purred against a smooth cheek. Barry sighed against the embrace, pulling him closer.
"Great hair, by the way. Sick of the crew?"
Barry chuckled, pulling back a bit. "I thought I'd let it grow some."
"Don't touch it. It's gorgeous." Hal ran fingers through the soft texture. "It sparkles with light. Amazing."
Barry reached out suddenly. "I can feel your heartbeat, Hal. All of you."
"Damn." Hal felt Barry up, squeezing a perfect ass. "Gotta stop this now before things get out of control."
Soft lips slithered across Hal's face. "So tell me what you have to say. Be quick, we don't have much time." Vibration eased across his body.
"Guh. I'm…this isn't going to work." Hal backed away quickly.
Barry smiled at Hal's prominent bulge down low. "Nice to know you're glad to see me. Again."
"Whatever." Barry shrugged, playing suggestively with his chest.
"Quit that! I need to tell you about Wally."
"What about him? I already told you he knows about us."
"It's what he didn't say that I can't figure."
"He didn't seem upset about us, but made some crack about what he thought."
"So?! I get the impression there's something else Idon't know about!"
Barry glanced out the window. "Your Carol is coming to claim my prize. But before she does-"
"Barry, ummfp." Hal's mouth was filled with hot tongue.
"Whee cndt dew thith."
"Mm. Interesting, you're the one usually going full speed. Now you want to stop?"
"Because I'm horny, not crazy! We're in the kitchen where anyone can walk in-"
"Look around you." Barry tilted his head a little. Hal stared at their surroundings. To his shock, everything had stopped. There was no motion anywhere.
Strong hands gripped Hal at the waist again. "I've suspended time temporarily around us. Carol will be here in ten seconds but she'll never see us."
Hal was stunned, looking around. "You continue to amaze me."
Barry nuzzled a thick neck. "I do my best. And don't concern yourself about Wally. He's perfect when it comes to secrets."
Hal felt an odd chill. "I can't shake the feeling there's something you're not telling me."
"No." Barry looked into his eyes. "I love you. That's all that matters."
Hal gave his typical roguish grin. "So what are we gonna do in ten, hmm?"
"Not much." He captured Hal's lips in his teeth.
"Hopeless freak." Hal murmured, sinking into another hot kiss.
Carol entered the kitchen moments later. To her surprise, Hal was standing near the sink with a dazed expression on his face.
"What on earth are you doing? I've been waiting almost fifteen minutes. Where's Barry?"
Hal blinked, his face flushed. "Ah, Carol. Sorry I took so long. You know how Barry gets when he's running his mouth."
The pretty brunette looked him over. Hal's hair and clothing were disheveled, and a fine sheen of sweat slicked his skin.
"You run a marathon or something? Why are you out of breath?"
A wide smile burst suddenly. "No, I just…isn't it hot outside?"
She stared at him suspiciously. "Apparently not as hot as it is in here. Are your brains fried?"
"Don't be silly. Come on, let's go." He hooked her arm.
"This is weird." Carol commented as they headed out.
Barry stood alone in hyperspace. Annoyed, he watched Hal leave with Carol.
Shit. Things were just heating up when she arrived.
"A small miscalculation, Barry."
Nonplussed, Barry turned as Wally entered. "You saw them leave?"
"Of course. I sent Hal your way. How did it go?"
Barry sighed. "It would have gone better if Carol hadn't shown up. Ten seconds would be a short window even for Hal."
"But not me." Wally gripped his hand, eyes bright.
"Wally, no. Not that again!"
"I meant what I said, and I know what you feel."
"That may be, but-"
"What if you never get the opportunity to be with Hal? What then?"
"I…I'll deal with the situation. My appointment with Star Labs is this week coming up."
Wally shook his head fiercely. "No guarantees, except feelings!"
"Feelings are causing this mess to begin with!"
"Then turn me away." Wally looked his uncle over slowly. "If you can."
Sky blue eyes narrowed in response."Wally, I'm warning you to stop this."
"We'll see." Practiced hands stroked everywhere, leaving swirls of vibration. Barry felt his body ripple in response.
"You think this is easy for me?" Wally's voice was soft. "I've been looking at you all day, playing it cool. At night I'm a wreck thinking about this."
Barry was distracted by hot hands. "The fact that…ah…you've been looking at me period proves how wrong this is."
Wally pulled him close. "Maybe. Was it wrong years ago? I don't know anymore. And what's more, I don't care. We both hunger for the same thing."
"It's lunacy, Wally." Barry whispered against cinnamon scented hair. "We'll get found out -"
"Can be…careful." Soft lips traced a line over smooth jaw. What started as a small electrical crackle erupted into a storm of energy joining mind and body. Vibrational patterns shifted and became one, heating flesh and burning through to skin. Rational thought faded rapidly to rising pleasure. The sheer intensity of feeling made their bodies shake.
Wally heaved breathlessly, eyes wild. "Change your damn mind yet?"
"Fuck yes." Barry grabbed his nephew in a lip lock as they crashed to the floor.
Carol spent the better part of twenty minutes scuffling on her living room carpet. Her overheated man was the reason. She finally found enough space to push Hal away.
"Are you crazy? What is this, a wrestling match?!"
Hal rolled on his back in frustration. "I'm sorry, okay? I've missed you and we haven't seen each other in a few."
The pretty brunette pulled her blouse back over a shoulder. "You act like you've been celibate or something."
"I promise I'll slow down. It's just that I need a little help." Hal grinned, massaging his erection.
Carol wiggled her nose playfully. "Well I did invite you over. Just relax, we aren't going anywhere."
He leaned over and kissed her. "You're absolutely right."
Ollie couldn't believe what he was seeing. "*$#&%&!"
Dinah rushed into their kitchen. "Ollie, what in-" her eyes went wide.
"What happened here?!"
Ollie made a gesture. "That's what I'm trying to figure out. Looks like a herd of bulls ran through here. Stuff's on the floor, everything's all out of place. Even the table is half knocked over. Who the hell would do this and leave?"
Dinah was angry. "I have no idea but I damn sure will find out! This is ridiculous." Huffing, she reached down to pick up loose paper towels.
"Crap." Ollie kneeled, staring at mess. "Why is a jar of olive oil on the floor?!"
Dinah held up another jar in confusion. "I can't even figure out why someone would take honey out of the cabinet. We had everything we needed for the cookout. The jar's practically empty!"
Her husband snorted, reaching for the broom. "I swear if I find the asshole who did this, they'll be eating soup for a week!"
Linda sat quietly in her living room trying to make sense out of the day's craziness. From the attention Barry received at the cookout to her husband's bizarre behavior, nothing made sense. They'd gotten home and barely put the kids to bed before he was all over her. She always told herself adjusting to Wally's libido was an ongoing process, but the wild swings in desire were worrisome. The only time she recalled him behaving so erratically was whenever he had issues with his powers. Could that be it?
Concerned, she tiptoed down the hall to their bedroom. She wouldn't wake him if she could help it. Her body would already be sore for days. Maybe after calming down a bit he could be reasoned with.
Entering the bedroom Linda could see tousled red hair under a blanket.
Good. If he's sleeping I can get some rest. Slipping out of her robe she climbed in on the other side. Wally didn't move. Linda watched him a moment. Pulling the blanket away a bit, she made a startling discovery. He was blissfully caressing the pillow.
Linda gawked. Who smiles like that in their sleep?
Her husband practically purred. "Mmm. Fantastic."
"Huh?" jade eyes snapped open suddenly. "Oh, hey, Lin. Sorry about earlier."
"Wally, what were you talking about?"
Wally edged up blearily. "Uh, what time is it?"
"About two thirty. Answer me, please. What's so fantastic?" Linda's voice had an edge.
He gave her a sloopy grin. "My unbelievably sexy wife. Hiya."
"Hello." Linda was taken aback. "Your eyes are glowing. Are you having trouble with your powers?"
"No, not that I'm aware of. Something wrong?"
"I'm not sure." She kept looking him over. Gleaming green irises were stark against dim moonlight.
"I know that look. What is it this time?"
"Maybe I need to talk a little. "I'm…sorry about the pocket taser."
Wally ran a hand through his hair. "You did what you had to do, babe. I understand. It wasn't my intent to come on so strong."
"It's just that you worry me. Something's off, and I can't figure out what."
Wally sat up. "Come here." He put an arm around her. "Don't worry about my eyes, it's happened before. You know that."
"They do look beautiful like that. In a weird, spacey kind of way."
Wally made a silly face."I-am-here-to-rule-this-planet. Take-me-to-your-leader."
Linda laughed in spite of herself. "Okay Mr. Glow worm. But seriously, Wally. Are your powers spiking in some way?"
She felt him up a little, pressing. "You aren't vibrating."
He settled against her sleepily. "I'm just relaxed, that's all. Or would you rather use the taser again?"
"I said I was sorry."
"Let's get some rest, okay? I have weird conversations better when I'm conscious."
She kept looking at him. "Are you going to run a while before morning?"
Broad shoulders shrugged. "What for? I'm in for the night. Nice and cozy."
"I…see." Linda frowned.
Wally looked at her sharply. "Did I hurt you, Lin? I feel kind of bad about earlier."
She strained a smile. "We both seem to be apologizing tonight."
He pulled her close under the blankets. "You're right. But you know what the best part of all is?"
"Making up for it!" Wally squashed over her. Linda felt a huge bulge against her stomach.
A similar scene played out across town in the Allen household. After being bounced for nearly two hours by her amorous husband Iris retreated to the living room. She didn't even bother turning on the lights. Completely stiff and sore, Iris curled under a large heating pad and blanket on the sofa. Stark light and shadow danced over her as she stared mindlessly at an all night movie fest on tv.
Barry practically tiptoed in. "Sorry-"
She didn't look his way. "Don't say another word."
In a flash, he was gone before returning with a tray. A large cup of hot chocolate steamed next to a bottle of asprin.
Iris took the tray and gulped asprin in silence before sipping the chocolate.
Barry sat next to her. "I swear, Iris. If I have to take medication I will. Whatever it takes."
Iris kept sipping. "It might take a .38 caliber."
"You don't mean that."
"Don't come any closer or you'll be wearing this chocolate. In a painful place!"
Barry sighed, putting his hands in his lap. "Fine, I won't touch you. This wasn't the way I hoped the weekend would go. The cookout turned out well, don't you think?"
Iris eyed him over the steaming mug. "So you say. I should've belted the coochie mamas."
"I can't believe I'm hearing this."
"No? Coming on to you in plain sight? Talk about trifling!"
"Katana was a little over the top I'll admit. At least Helena backed off a bit."
Iris snorted. "And people call me aggressive."
"It doesn't matter, I didn't take their attention seriously." Barry nuzzled her cheek. "Forgive me?"
She relented a little. "About the sex, I know you aren't doing it on purpose."
"I will control this, I swear. Please forgive me, babe."
Iris stroked glimmering gold locks. "You're impossible to stay angry with." She smiled vaguely. "Most wives would kill to have my problem."
"Too much of a good thing." Barry said dully.
Hazel eyes softened a bit. "I knew your new look was going to be trouble. I just can't take you anywhere."
Barry did smile then. "You can always keep me under lock and key."
"How are you feeling right now?"
"I'm…okay. A little wired but nothing I can't handle."
Iris observed his face. "Your eyes are shimmering. What time is your appointment next week?"
"Thursday at 4:30. I'll have to leave work early."
"Hmm. Ice diamonds."
"Your eyes. Whenever they get like that it reminds me of ocean gemstones." She reached out, pulling him close.
He settled carefully into her embrace. "You trust me?"
"Always, Barry. Always."
Barry sighed against her scented softness on the couch, pressing his face against her hair. But his mind and body were unsettled.
Are you with her, Hal?
Carol was a frazzled mess, her hair sticking everywhere. Sitting up in bed she stared at a lightly snoring Hal.
At least one of us can sleep. He damn near killed me. What's gotten into him?
She kept watching him sleep. A huge grin plastered on handsome features. Carol allowed herself a moment of conceit.
Well, I was always good. Or maybe it's the two of us together. Whatever, it works.
"What?" mildly amused, she strained to hear his mumbling. He did look awfully cute with that silly grin.
"Gvvt to me, gvvt to me…"
Propping up on an elbow Carol played along, laughing. "Aren't we greedy tonight?"
Hal grinned even wider, white teeth showing. "Cmn, hrry up…gonna kmm…"
A well muscled arm flailed out, dragging her close. Before Carol could say or do anything, Hal rolled her over his back and lay on his stomach. Strong hips shifted under her, lifting them both off the mattress.
Gaping in utter shock, Carol didn't move. Her instincts were screaming in ways she didn't want to believe.
It's a mistake, he's sleeping. That has to be it!
The strong body lurched under her then lay still. A soft sigh and then Hal was snoring again, the smile gone.
What the hell is going on here? Carol reached underneath firm abs to feel sticky sheets. Her mind raced in wild directions.
No. Don't think it, don't go there! I won't…it can't be true.
Carol slipped out of bed blindly, thoughts too scattered to process her fears. Grabbing her robe she headed for the kitchen.
I've got a phone call to make.
Next: Fuses and Fire