Jinx was not the first girl Wally West had ever asked out.
But, ironically, it was the first time he'd ever had any good luck in such things.
Before that, something had always gone wrong, not just slightly wrong but completely wrong. Devastatingly wrong. Do not speak to me ever again, Wally West! That kind of wrong.
One such instance had involved Karen Parker. She was in most of Wally West's classes at Jump Ridge Junior High. She was a very smart, pretty girl, a petite brunette with glasses like a librarian. And, unlike some of the others, she hadn't been scared away by Wally West's sudden adoption of oversized pants and shirts and omnipresent hair concealing dark red knit hat as a virtual uniform in school. And, unlike some of the others she didn't look down on Wally because his family was poor. The Wests would have been relatively poor in most towns. But in the Jump Ridge section of Jump City where there was a 'Caviars R Us' store, where there was a "Truffles To Go" franchise store with a drive through window and where some kids' parents drove them to school in Bentleys and Rolls Royces, they were comparatively destitute. His family's relative poverty was like a visible, oozing sore to a lot of the girls, a sign of a deeper malady to be avoided at all costs.
But Karen Parker liked Wally. She thought he was cute even if he almost seemed to be trying to hide it. Maybe that was part of it. Those seemingly always downcast blue eyes! That little behind somewhere within those oversized pants!
And she liked that he was smart. Some of the jerks in 8th grade had made fun of Wally for years for reading more books than they were assigned. Karen groaned at their stupid remarks. She wished they'd stop but no matter how they mocked Wally, even after they locked him upside down in his locker or stuffed him into one of those narrow, high trash barrels so that only his head and feet showed above the top, god he must be flexible, Wally just dusted himself off and kept going. They couldn't change him.
Karen liked that resilience. Besides that, the rooms of her family's house were lined with bookcases. That reading and learning were wonderful things was part of the natural atmospher in which she was raised. And she noticed that he seemed almost indifferent to his teachers and his grades, not like some of the other smart kids who would've prostituted themselves to turn any stray B+ into an A. He really didn't care. She loved that.
The other thing she noticed about Wally West was that he seemed oddly distracted all the time. But he would make these amazing recoveries. He'd stare off into the distance all pre-calculus class long then the exasperated teacher would call on him. And call on him. And . .
It would always take two or three times to get his attention. The funniest times were when teachers walked right up to his desk and shouted at him from a foot away before he paid any attention to them. And then teachers would always ask him the hardest question possible. They wanted to humiliate him at that point for ignoring them. And he'd repeat their question then just reel off the exact answer. The kids loved it. In a way, it put some of the jerk teachers in their place. You're so indispensible, huh? Well, Wally West ignored you all class long and he still knew the answer! Ha!
Some of the teachers got burned often enough thinking they would put him in his place and not getting anywhere that they just left him alone. He would be free to sit there staring off into space out the window at whatever it was that was actually occupying his thoughts. It almost gave him an appealing air of mystery in Karen's eyes.
She gave him a half dozen clear opportunities to ask her out before he finally did, par for the course for an 8th grade boy. And they agreed that she would meet him at his house and go from there to the Jump City Theater, just over a mile away, to see a play. Well, she suggested that they do that and he agreed. He seemed to want to talk her out of seeing his house, embarassed at what she might think but it really was right along the way to the Theater so it made perfect sense. The only part where he'd added any input at all was to say that neither Saturday nor Sunday would do, it coudn't be before Monday.
With that, they separated, Wally wasn't sure if he should give her a quick peck on the cheek or a handshake or nothing. He leaned forward but she wasn't leaning forward and started to pull back. She started to lean forward but now he was pulling back and so she pulled back just as he was starting to lean forward again. They repeated this sort of stuttering motion again, both of them wanting to kiss but unsure about the other then perhaps more optimistic about the other but always out of synch till they separated having done nothing by default.
The reason Wally couldn't see her on Saturday or Sunday was because he was spending the weekend with Speedy, Green Arrow and Black Canary. Of course, Wally West, nearly 14 year old teen superhero Kid Flash to most of the world, didn't tell Karen that. He had to protect his secret identity. He still hadn't even told his family about his secret identity. So, when Black Canary suggested that Kid Flash stay the weekend at the home she shared with her husband, Green Arrow and his ward, Speedy, it wasn't something that Wally could tell his parents. Making things that much harder, there was also no way 8th grader Wally West could explain it as their civilian selves interacting. How could Wally West explain that he was going to spend the weekend at the Star City home of billionaire Oliver Queen.
Well, you see mom, this billionaire stopped by 8th grade study hall. It happens all the time.
For once it was actually good for Wally that his parents pretty much didn't care where he was, this weekend or any other. And they weren't about to check up on him. So, Saturday morning, Wally headed for the door and said something over his shoulder about staying at Aaron's house this weekend. His mother was just glad to have their insanely hungry, skinny, garbage disposal of a son out of the house so that other people had a chance to eat some dessert for a change. Neither she nor his father had any idea that Aaron and Wally hadn't been friends for months because Aaron got sick of Wally never showing up when he said he would, due, unbeknownst to Aaron to his nerd friend Wally running off to respond to police calls and generally do the work of a superhero. Funny thing about being the idol of millions. It tended to make you the actual friend of none.
Wally wasn't exactly best friends with Roy Harper, teen superhero Speedy to most of the world, either. They'd been around each other five times to that point. Their first meeting had been disastrous. Each had been brought up to the Justice League's earth orbiting satellite, The Watchtower, by his mentor. While Flash and Green Arrow went off on League business, they'd been left together in one of the rooms available for heroes staying over. By the end of that weekend, Kid Flash had wanted to beat the crap out of Speedy for the way the slightly older, slightly taller teen archer had consistently made fun of the teen speedster, mocking everything about him, his size, his appetite, his suit and his nerdyness. Kid Flash had been desperately trying to stay on his best behavior his first time in The Watchtower but the constantly mocking teen archer had pushed him to the limit.
Their second encounter had been brief. Kid Flash had been helping Flash on a case, something he loved to do, and they had met briefly with Green Arrow and Speedy. Green Arrow had made a joke about speedsters being hopeless nerds. Speedy had guffawed but all Kid Flash could do was keep his feelings of being offended to himself. He was sort of shocked that someone was criticizing Flash about, well, anything. Sure Flash was a bit nerdy. Okay very nerdy. Allright, insanely nerdy. But he was Flash, for god's sake! How could some Robin Hood knockoff criticize Flash? Kid Flash half wanted to take offense for Flash. In the end it didn't matter. Flash was running the show and he let the comment roll right off his crimson clad back.
Their third encounter hadn't been unfriendly but Kid Flash had been stunned at what Speedy had done. They'd both been brought up to the Justice League's Watchtower satellite for a day by their mentors. Speedy brought a dvd with some porn of beautiful girls kissing and making out. Kid Flash's eyes would have to have left his head to get any larger. He was shocked by Speedy's audacity. Porn! In the Watchtower? It seemed impossible.
Their fourth encounter had been in their secret identities. Uncle Barry took his nephew Wally to a Jump City Jumpers basketball game and who should they see there but billionaire Oliver Queen and his ward Roy Harper. Roy tripped Wally as he was leaving the concession stand with a soda and burger. Wally would've caught himself with his speed and instead dumped the soda over the head of Mr. Cool, Roy Harper wearing red lensed designer sunglasses indoors. He wanted to. But he saw two boys he knew from school just a few steps away. In a microsecond, Wally groaned. He had to. He had to let himself be humiliated. It was one of Flash's standing orders to him. Let things like that happen so that people will form a false impression of you and not think it possible that you're actually Kid Flash.
The soda splashed his face and hair and soaked the front of his Jumpers t-shirt. Roy laughed just like the two boys from school. Wally angrily cleaned himself up as well as he could at normal speed. "Hurray for me, reinforcing my secret identity," he muttered through clenched teeth in the bathroom as he pulled more paper towels from the dispenser on the wall.
Their fifth encounter had been better. Interviewed by one of the hosts for the 60 Minutes tv show, they were part of a story centered around the theme of a new generation of superheroes. Like most 60 Minutes stories, it was superficial fluff, just something that might catch the eye of viewers before they changed channels. They ran a clip from Speedy talking to the interviewer on all their promos, young, intelligent, a hero and, not coincidentally, very good looking and spandex clad.
Kid Flash and Speedy were on the set at the same time and Kid Flash was taken aback by how completely professional Speedy was in the things he said. The host asked dumb questions and irrelevant questions. Kid Flash half wondered if the intention was to get them angry so that they say something controversial by accident. But they both sidestepped these dumb questions and, Wally thought when seeing the broadcast of it, looked more mature than the host. They were interviewed together and the things they said dovetailed neatly, their perspectives seeming completely consistent to the audience. Sure there are some frustrations but they come with the job. You just have to accept them. It's a really fulfilling job, too. They both came across like pros. Flash told Kid Flash they'd done a great job afterward.
Kid Flash wondered where this Speedy had been the first three times he'd met him. He also felt a bit of skepticism that this was the real Speedy. But after the interview was over, they shook hands and gave each other a pat on the shoulder. And Speedy must've felt the same way about him because he gave him a pat on the butt and said "Nice job, KF."
So, when Speedy's mom or step mom, Kid Flash wasn't sure exactly which it was, Black Canary, always anxious to promote friendship between Roy and Wally, suggested that Wally stay over their house the following weekend, it was now pretty easy for Wally to agree.
Wally West left his family's house, jogged up the street, ducked into a stretch of woods, pulled off his normal clothes and pulled on his Kid Flash suit then stashed his regular clothes in the hollow of an oak tree and took off.
At that moment in the 15,000 square foot mansion at 21 Fairfax Lane at the center of the exclusive gated community outside Star City, Dinah Drake peered into her step son's room. She rolled her eyes. As usual, it was a complete mess. Arrows were strewn everywhere, literally everywhere, over the bed, nightstand, dresser, chairs and half the floor. He had on his Speedy uniform but without the mask. In one hand he had a 25 pound dumbell with which he was doing curls. In the other he had what looked like powdered plastic explosive with which to make some new kind of arrow.
She sighed. Typical.
She leaned in the doorway. "Roy. Wally's going to be here any minute now. Did you and he have any specific plans?"
Roy gave his usual smirk. Dinah sighed. The boy should try another facial expression now and then.
"I told him I'd show him how to shoot arrows and teach him some acrobatics," said Roy before letting out a grunt and pumping out some more curls.
Dinah nodded and walked away down the 100 foot long hallway to the master bedroom. As she considered this, her thoughts filled more and more with worry. All she could picture was Roy mocking Wally for not shooting as well as he did. The more she thought about it the more she imagined Roy and Wally driven apart by the friction. She had an anxious expression on her face when she entered the room where her husband, Oliver Queen, was meticulously grooming his blond beard in the mirror. She stepped around the fifty thousand dollar carved rosewood sleigh bed to look over his shoulder into the gilt edged japanese mirror.
"What is it, honey?"
"Ollie, I want to do something that'll bring Roy and Wally together."
"You . . . want 'em to be singing kumbaya around a fire or something?" he quipped combing the upturned curl into his beard one more time.
"Ollie! I just don't want them competing. Roy says he's supposed to teach Wally archery today. Knowing Roy, how will that not devolve into a competition between them? You know the way Roy is. He-" She caught herself and then let out a slow sigh and hugged Ollie about the shoulders. "I just want Roy and Wally to be friends. They're gonna be teammates for most of their lives, aren't they? I want them to form bonds before Roy . . well, you know how Roy can be so . . abrasive."
"Well what about Wally? What kind of kid is he? Is he like Barry?" asked Green Arrow before adding, "If he is, we could just leave him with a deluxe chemistry set in the basement of the guest house and come back for him after a couple days," snickered Ollie.
Dinah slapped his shoulder. "Ollie! You are not going to talk like that in front of Wally! Do you hear me? Besides . . . I think nerdy guys are cute."
"Hmmph. As cute as swashbuckling archers?"
She rubbed his shoulder, enjoying the feel of the muscle. "Don't be silly. But that sort of innocent fixation can be . . adorable."
"Well, is little red and yellow just like red?"
"I . . . think so, maybe not so nerdy as Barry but pretty much."
Ollie snickered and rolled his eyes. "Kind of funny, in a way that two total nerds end up wearing suits like that. My god. I didn't think nerds were exhibitionists."
Dinah slapped his shoulder one more time. "You will not make fun of the boy for his suit this weekend. Do you hear me?"
Ollie nodded. "Yessssss dear. Whatever you sayyyyyyy dear . . . . So, what do you want to do?"
"I don't know. I-I just want something nice for him and maybe something where they're Roy and Wally and not Speedy and Kid Flash."
"How 'bout we go to Six Flags Star City? You and I can be with them a little of the time, separate most of the time and let them go around as just Roy and Wally like you said."
Dinah stared at him a moment in shock. Just when she thought Ollie had no understanding or sensitivity he would come through with one of these things. She hugged him again and kissed his cheek. "That's perfect, Ollie!"
Ollie basked in her adoration before finally muttering, "Course, Kid Flash might have his heart set on seeing what it takes to be an archer."
Dinah separated from him with another sigh and walked out into the hall to the marble staircase then down to the grand entrance. Ollie was right. If Wally had his heart set on trying to play archer that could be a problem. She glanced at the ornate clock by the foyer, more than 300 years old, taken from the palace at Versailles and still accurate to the second. 9:58. Wally was due in two minutes.
She tried to think of how to steer the teen speedster away from trying to keep up with Speedy at archery if that was what he really wanted to do. She puzzled over how to smoothly redirect the boy the way she wanted. And then, suddenly, she saw the solution.
There, on the antique Louis XV table was a tray with the special pastries that Francois, their chef, had whipped up yesterday.
She smiled and then the smile broke into a slight chuckle remembering Iris's line, "She who controls the food controls the speedster."
Iris had said that sleek, ridiculously toned Barry ate six or seven meals a day. Not by choice. He had to. And thirteen, nearly fourteen year old Wally, right at the age when even normal boys are eating so much food that it amazes their parents, was even worse, wolfing down eight or even nine meals in a day according to Iris.
She remembered Iris talking about her occasional exasperation with Barry and his dedication to his civilian job as a police scientist, as well as his random scientific fixations, all on top of the demands of being a superhero. She said something about going down to his basement lab at 2 in the morning only to find Barry working away and only being able to pry him out of there by luring him with a platter of meats, drawing him up, piece by piece, to their bedroom, him being unable to resist and all the while protesting that he wasn't a dog or something and she shouldn't treat him like that. She made him undress for the last piece. So adorable. And that speedster butt! On top of that, Iris had said he could vibrate his . . !
Dinah let out a slow, dignity recovering sigh while consciously shifting her thoughts.
She picked up the silver platter of pastries just as the doobell rang. Through the crystal cut in the shape of chrysanthemums beside the huge entrance door, she could see Kid Flash in his red and yellow suit looking around nervously, making sure no one saw him. Of course, the Queen mansion was in the middle of 40 acres. No one could see their front door.
Dinah pulled the heavy door open and he zipped inside.
"Hi, Black Canary," he waved. "Where's Speedy?"
"Upstairs, but -"
He was gone before she could get out another syllable and finish closing the door. She grabbed the platter of pastries, some kind of multi-layered french things, and jogged up the marble staircase. At the top she turned right and there she saw Kid Flash just inside Roy's room. She advanced to the doorway with the silver platter behind her back. The two of them were kneeling on the floor and Speedy was showing Kid Flash one of his arrows.
"Speedy's gonna teach me archery!" chirped Kid Flash looking up at her.
Speedy snickered. "Try to, anyway."
"You're not going to do anything until you pick up this room, Roy Harper!" she demanded. But Speedy didn't move. A couple of smirking glances passed back and forth between the two boys whereupon a red and yellow blur filled the room for the next few seconds. When this two toned teen tornado stopped, two seconds later, all Speedy's arrows were neatly lined up against the walls and the whole room was clean. Even the bed was made.
"Done," grinned Kid Flash.
Black Canary raised an eyebrow, impressed. "You're an awful handy one, aren't you?" she said patting his head. The way he blushed was adorable.
"But Ollie and I had something else in mind for today," she said and as she did, held up the platter of their chef's gourmet french pastries. She moved it a little to the left then a little to the right as she spoke. Kid Flash's head turned a little to the left then a little to the right in synch with it.
"We think you two should do something as Roy and Wally not Speedy and Kid Flash. The four of us are gonna go to Six Flags Star City and we'll spend some time there at the amusement park with you guys and you guys can have some time to yourselves."
As she finished, she held the platter out as far her right hand could go and Kid Flash, just inches in front of her, ended up facing away from her to that side.
"Jeez, I was looking forward to a 10 quiver day today," groused Speedy.
"You can train any time, Roy. Today'll be something different."
"But, Kid Flash really wanted to try some archery, didn't you, KF?" suggested Speedy looking for some help.
Black Canary passed the platter of special pastries slowly, just inches in front of Kid Flash.
A disoriented " . . . . um . . . . " was all he could manage, before licking both his lips.
"And they've got all the rides, the super high coaster and the upside down twister coaster and a midway with all sorts of attractions and 35 different places to eat."
Kid Flash silently mouthed the words "thirty five".
Black Canary nodded.
"And every kind of fried dough and cotton candy snack sort of thing imaginable."
"Fried dough!" lip synched Kid Flash with the same excitement as a prospector might use in saying "gold".
"So, are you guys okay with that?" asked Black Canary, one eyebrow raised as she chose one pastry off the tray to hold an inch from Kid Flash's nose.
"Well-" began Speedy.
"Yes!" said Kid Flash snatching the pastry from her hands and eating it so fast that the only part of its consumption that she saw was him swallowing.
"Okay, you guys change into some normal clothes and meet us downstairs," she said before holding that platter out toward Kid Flash again. And, again, he ate one of the pastries so fast that she only saw him swallow.
"She who controls the food controls the speedster," she laughed in a whisper to herself as she went down the hallway.