Chapter 5: Happy Birthday To…
Roy is actually home when Wally shows up.
It's a déjà vu that makes Wally's chest and stomach ache as the stench of sweat and sex hit his nose when Roy opens the door. The pit of his stomach clenches from the scent when he's let in, and his eyes gently graze the contour of Roy's tan chest. He catches himself quickly for once, eyes modestly darting back into themselves as the warmth flutters to his cheeks, and looks down to the ground when there's an excited, livid cry from Lian. She tosses the tv remote across the room (nearly haphazardly taking out her father by the leg) and half-craws, half-drags/half-crawls her way to Wally before he's even across the threshold.
Roy dodged the remote thrown his way and stares in surprise as it hits a kitchen cabinet with a more-than-subtle THUD. Wally tries not to laugh.
"She's got quite the arm," he remarks, then pulls Lian into his arms. Her thin hair has been pulled back messily from her eyes with a polka-dotted black and red bow and she's wearing a blue shirt. (Wally's learned very early on Roy isn't a good dresser when it comes to dealing with baby girls. It's kind of funny.) "Just like her father."
"Do you even have upper body strength, Mister Runner?" Roy teases as he pulls out baby cereal.
Lian stretches out Wally's lower lip as he grins. "I could probably pick you up."
He gets a laugh in return. A loud one. "I'd like to see you try."
Wally blinks, eyebrow arched in the air with amusement before setting a protesting Lian back on the floor to retrieve her doll, then strides across the apartment into the kitchen.
"Wally, what are you—holy shit-what the hell-" Roy isn't the easiest thing to lift in the ground—granted he does a lot of heavyweight lifting. Wally pulls Roy into his arms like a bride, falters, and tightens his grip as he switches weight between his feet and leans into the counter.
He laughs. "You should be a bit more conscientious of your daughter. She might develop some of your habits."
Roy looks torn between clinging onto Wally for support and smacking him upside the head. He smirks, waving a foot in the air as his arms cross and turns his head. "My daughter is not influenced by my words, thank you very—oh god, what are you doing?"
"Taking a step forward," Wally insists. He pushes off the counter with an armful of Roy, stumbles to the right—stumbles to the left—falters, and—"Oof!"—topples over, feet catching into the carpet. Roy and he tumble across the living room floor in a fit of snickers, snorts, and laughs while Lian's in her own little corner, clapping and giggling.
Wally lands on his stomach, and Roy lands right next to him on his back. They both laugh.
"You're an idiot," Roy smirks.
Wally supports himself on his forearms, looks up, and collects a smile to his face. "You're more of an idiot for underestimating my strength."
It's…the way that Roy's eyes shine, whether or not he's smiling. The way they brighten whenever Lian's in the room, or the way he heartily chuckles that suddenly makes Wally feel youthfully aged. It's his tender gaze, as he wipes a speck of dust off Wally's face and arches an eyebrow like it's nothing, that makes the tips of Wally's toes tingle with anxiety.
Then it's the way Roy snickers, tosses on his belly, then looks Wally in the eye with a mischievous glint that just makes Wally want to grin. "You barely held me up. What was that, two seconds?"
"In my defense, two seconds is a long time, when it comes to me," Wally points. "And that's all the time you need to rescue a girl out of a burning building when you're me. I've got methods, other than carrying people out of safety, you know."
"Excuses." Roy laughs, and somehow Lian manages to crawl all the way over to them and babbles insistently to be put on her father's back. Wally puts her there and she proceeds with yanking locks of cropped red hair.
"No, really," Wally says. He lies down, head to the wooden floor as he stairs at the boring white ceiling above him. "I'd be able to carry you. It's that extra stretch of speed, force versus force bringing you forward. You'd seem almost weightless. Babies can be a bit more of a hassle—but if you vibrate at the right frequency, they lull right to sleep before you give them to their m others"
"Is that your secret handling Lian?" Roy props himself on an elbow and Lian proceeds with yanking at his ears. She squeals in acknowledgment. "And here I was going to ask you your secret method. Evidently I can't, because the one person who can get her to sleep is a Human Vibrator."
"Just to make it clear, you're making sex jokes about your daughter."
"I'm making sex jokes about you."
"Funny. Well," Wally scratches his head, looking to the other redhead from his peripheral. "There was that one time with my ex."
"Oh?" Roy arches an eyebrow of amusement.
Wally turns bright pink, green eyes darting anywhere but Roy's face as his head nestles against the wood. He crossed his arms, taking into consideration the odd grooves and curves that decorated the ceiling, then nestled tightly against the floor. "My first time."
Roy laughs. "Not good?"
"I, uh, don't have much to compare it to," Wally admits as his voice suddenly hikes an octave. He looks to Roy nervously, fidgets with the strings of his hoodie, then lets his lips twist oddly. "But I, um, realized that vibrating was kind of…innate, to me."
It takes a moment for Roy to figure it out, but once he does he sits up, quickly maneuvering Lian to his lap as he stares at Wally in stun. "You're a human vibrator."
"By accident," Wally says modestly. Though, he can't help but feel a little amused with the way Roy examines him, eyebrows high against his forehead and gaze calculative.
"You must have had girls crawling all over you."
"It was why she dumped me." Wally can't remember her name, quite honestly. He's sure it's something like Rachel or Gwen. She was smart, but he was sure it'd been a month in the past sometime when Dick had another more-than-a-fight feud with Bruce and he zipped over to Gotham to check up on him.
When he looks over to Roy, he sees that analytic look again that Dick and Hal and Dinah all give him. Roy lays down, head against the floor as he sets a hand on his stomach. "Why did you date her?"
"She took my mind off of things." He remembers now. Wally sets his hands on his stomach, closes his eyes, and remembers. "Uncle Barry had just died a short few months before and I'd just taken on the mantle of the Flash. Didn't feel worthy." He opens one eye and sees Roy's staring right back at him. A hollow laugh leaves his throat. "Can't drink my sorrows, can't inflict pain on myself. Not that I'd sort to something that stupid, though. But dating her made it feel like…I wasn't the Flash. That I could just be a kid on the street."
Roy closes his eyes. Lian's trying to squirm out of his grip. "Do you ever regret it?"
"Always." Wally smiles, half bitter, half ever-so truthful as he looks up in the air and idly touches his head to Roy's. "Not saving people…it'd hurt more. I couldn't stand it if I couldn't help people."
Roy leans into his touch. "You're not a screw-up, you know."
Wally laughs, hands over his chest. He's suddenly remembering now, when Dick said that he was proud of him.
"You're a good Flash," Roy says quietly, elbow touching Wally's. It tingles. "I'm proud of you."
Somehow it makes Wally's chest tingle tighter and clench more than Dick's words had. He sits up, looks down to the Roy whose eyelids are shut and hands are concentrated in Lian. A question comes to mind—one that he can't help but ask. "Roy?"
"What happened to Cheshire?"
Roy turns his head to the side, eyes slowly opening to reveal those deep, ocean blue orbs, broad and yet still so quiet as they made contact with Wally's. He blinks, raising his head when Lian proceeds with pushing at his chin, then arches an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
"It's—It's a little strange, is all." Wally looks over to the archer, unsure what he's uncovered by asking such a broad question. Now that it crosses his mind, he can't help but feel slightly guilty, but the piercing glance Roy shows him is anything but accusing. So he continues, "You…went on a mission last year that lasted around five months—not even Ollie had contact with you. Then…you came back. I'd been so busy with league business, but then Dinah suddenly came up to me and said that you had a daughter. That…Cheshire was the mother and you were a father."
He thinks about it—slowly and quietly, and then feels his heart wither.
Wally sits up from the ground and can't figure why his chest hurts to this extent. "It hurt," he says mutely, fingers picking at the loose strings of his pants, "Because in those two years, I'd…lost contact with you. So much had changed, and I was afraid that…you…had…changed…" That Roy saw him in a different light—the bad light, that Wally was so sure Dick once saw him in.
It surprises him when Roy touches him by the shoulder. Wally's throat goes dry, and he's wondering, where is this all coming from? At the time it didn't hurt, but now, with the fear that he could have lost Roy so easily… he isn't quite sure.
"You and I haven't changed." Roy palms him gently and passes Lian over casually before getting up. He surprises Wally further when he leaves the room and returns with a small picture frame, holding it blithely in front of Wally.
Wally hesitates before grabbing the photo and observing it. Roy, and this young Asian woman with wild black hair, a creamy tan and the must cunning smile he's ever seen. He can only guess that the woman's Cheshire. They're posing, and judging from the clothes the picture had been a souvenir left over from an undercover mission, and there's a way Roy's constructed that smile that he still looks undeniably happy.
Roy notices that Wally notices. "Her real name is Jade."
Lian grabs the photo with great interest and proceeds with putting it in her mouth. 'Jade's' head doesn't have a chance as she gets devoured between her daughter's tiny lips.
"It started out as a mission," Roy says, and he takes a spot on the couch, eyes glazed with the past burning behind his orbs. "An undercover mission to see what the Light and the League of Shadows were dealing with. She and I had had encounters, and once or twice had an alliance to get what we wanted. Jade wasn't incredibly good, but she wasn't entirely a villain, either."
"You used her as a link to get information," Wally realizes. He gently pulls the frame out of Lian's mouth, rubs baby saliva off the glass, and stares carefully at the picture. Chesh—Jade—looks happy.
"She was everything in a woman that I hated. Cunning. Sly. Deceiving. And it was just incredibly sexy." Roy smirks slightly—bitterly, Wally realizes, as he shifts Lian uncomfortably over his lap—and then he leans over, gaze never leaving Lian's. "We were in a relationship, but I wasn't in love with her."
"Then why be in a relationship with her?" Wally's eyebrows furrow. It doesn't make sense.
"Why were you in that relationship with that girl from your college?" It's a rhetorical question. But—So I could forget about Dick-is an answer at the tip of Wally's tongue and itching to leave. Roy looks to Wally from the corner of his eye, red brow raised in the air, but obviously not expecting an answer.
Wally withers slightly as he looks back to Lian.
"I wanted a relationship with her. Badly. But for all the wrong reasons." Roy runs a hand through his hair and relaxes against the chair, expression at peace. "Jade is still alive and well. But she didn't want Lian to be exposed to…her world."
The couch sags, as Wally sits down next to Roy, Lian in his lap and happily sucking on one of his fingers. He tilts his head and looks to Roy. Looks for the regret, the bitter agony, or the twisted realization, but at best Roy's demeanor has twisted with bittersweet amusement.
"Roy," Wally starts quietly, another question at the tip of his tongue, "I'm..." He doesn't know what to say. "Dick and I made up. Just before I came here."
He almost misses the way Roy closes his eyes, hand pressed against his lips as the other man swells in his own thoughts. "Good."
And then he asks the question. "Why…did you move on then? Why break up with Chesh—Jade, when you have a daughter, can support yourself, and be a family? Why…" Wally looks back down to Lian. He still can't remember that girl's name, or what color her eyes are or how long her hair was. And unlike Roy, he doesn't have a picture of her in his attempt to move on, either. "Why haven't you told me, even once, just to give up on Dick?"
Right now he's not sure how he feels. He still sees the vibrant lilacs in Dick's eyes, blooming softly in the spring. He sees that smile no one else gets to see, and gets the look he's never shared with anyone else.
Roy shrugs. "Because then I'd be a hypocrite."
Half the explanation sounds as though Roy's just talking about the weather. The other half, Wally realizes gently as he looks to the corner of his eye, sounds as though Roy's said those words so many times in his head that it's been rehearsed. This entire conversation, like Roy knows Wally knows he's confusing himself.
There's a way Roy looks under the glow of Star City's light. Wally's noticed it before, he realizes, but he's never taken the time to analyze it.
The way…that Roy's skin is a deep caramel, screaming of warmth—which is kind of funny because Wally can't remember the last time he himself went outside and didn't get the worst sunburn of his life.
The way Roy's eyes are that deep ocean blue, with little freckles that seem to lighten whenever he sees his daughter.
The way the bridge of Roy's nose is so structured, smooth, and sculpted that it brings an allure whenever the man tilts his head to the side.
The way the contour of Roy's jaw is so deep that it draws eyes in whenever he speaks.
The way Roy begins a sentence—garish and authoritative even if he's being calm.
The way when Roy looks to Wally, Wally can't help but feel his toes curl with anticipation. Anticipation of what?
The way when Roy looks at Wally, Wally feels like they're the only two people in the room (even if they really are.)
The way whenever Wally looks back, he leans forward just slightly so he can get into Roy's warmth, wrists touching.
"Roy," Wally says quietly, but he can't bring himself to say another sentence. He wants to lean further, further into Roy's warmth until…until he can anticipate something else that happens. It's the way his toes are curling and how his stomach flops—how that night weeks ago when he walked into Roy's room, crawled into his bed, and just wanted to be with Roy.
And with the relative seconds that pass by, where Wally can seriously get a frame-by-frame of his time-frozen archer? He's half-kinda laughing, and half-kinda wondering how Roy can get him this speechless and mesmerized, considering the last sentence Roy'd murmured had the word hyprocite in it.
He wants that feeling again; where he crawled into Roy's bed and felt his heart calm down yet speed up at the same time.
"Yeah?" Roy asks—sweet and not as wary as he would have been if he was eighteen again and Wally was fifteen.
"I…" Wally wants that feeling.
"You feeling alright?"
Wally wants Roy to give him that feeling. "H-Hold…still…for a moment…please?"
Wally wants to talk to Roy's silences. Wally wants to see Roy smile. Wally wants to hear Roy laugh. Wally wants to memorize every little speck that sparkles in Roy's eyes. Wally wants his heart to flutter, in the way Dick could never quite get it to. Wally wants Roy to cause his heart to flutter.
The door opens wide.
Wally jumps back in surprise, seeing both Dinah and Ollie over his shoulder, and suddenly all the thoughts he's just had are back in his mind, buried so deep that he forgets about them. "Uh—hi."
"Hey," Dinah grins. She pulls Lian in her grasp and Ollie pats Roy on the shoulder.
"Happy 22nd Birthday, kiddo." Ollie chuckles lightly. "You're getting old."
"At least I can make do without the beard." Roy smirks.
Avoiding eye-contact with his once-mentor and his once-mentor's girlfriend, Wally turns his head back to Roy. Roy hasn't moved from his spot, and only offers him a mild look of concern. Like…what had just happened never happened.
You okay? Roy mouths to him when neither Dinah or Ollie are looking.
Wally hesitates, then nods. He mouths back, Yes.
He's never realized how much it hurt before; lying so boldly in Roy's face.
Roy doesn't get particularly drunk, when it comes to his birthday.
They go to a small, fancy Italian restaurant that makes Wally think of Lady and the Tramp (which is somewhat convenient, considering he's feeding Lian spaghetti one noodle at a time) with fancy music in the background, odd lighting that would probably come off as romantic, and three waiters that have the Italian mustache that tempt Wally to be that fifteen-year-old boy who would make a snide comment, elbow Roy in the arm, and snicker as Roy rolls his eyes. It's amidst the amusement that Wally realizes again that it's been ages that he's been this relaxed.
And Roy looks nice. Aside from the muscle shirts and sweats Wally seems to always catch him in, Roy looks good in the suit Dinah's forced him into, along with his hair neat. With…out the sweat, slick across his chest and the scent of sex, or…the trim line above his navel that slickly leads all the way down to the tufts of—
Wally chokes on his Zesti and feels his cheeks simmer with heat.
Dinah pats on his shoulder in confusion, low whistle escaping her lips as she tilts her head to the side and arches an eyebrow. "Drink more than you can handle, Wally?"
"I—uh," Wally's cheeks burn, and he doesn't miss the way Roy glances toward him, tearing away from his conversation about the quality of arrows, amusement clearly written over his face before grabbing a handkerchief and wiping the small trail of Zesti that trails down the crease of his lip.
"You're such a child," Roy laughs.
"I—" His confidence dwindles, cheeks permeating with the sensation of Roy's touch, and then looks down to his own lap. "Erm."
Luckily, Lian takes that exact moment to start crying. She wails, whimpers, fists thrown into the air and fidgets uncomfortably in her seat, and instinctively Roy stands up to grab her from the high chair. Wally stands up, too, out of instinct from his many days spent at Roy's house before rushing off to the Watchtower—and freezes.
Two pairs of eyes look at him as Roy does an inspection of his daughter. Red flutters across the nape of Wally's neck and—in truth, it shouldn't be as embarrassing as it really feels as Dinah and Ollie stare at them. Wally feels small standing next to Roy in such a way, along with self-conscious.
"She needs a diaper change," Roy says with a melodramatic sigh. He smiles slightly, putting her in that same hold that makes Lian seem like a baby doll compared to her father, and grabs the baby bag. HIs eyes meet with Wally's for a brief second—one that's entirely long and stretches for ages-and he laughs quietly. "Just wait and eat, Wally. Don't worry."
"But I—" Don't need to make a bigger scene than he currently is.
Wally collapses in his chair hesitantly, arms dangling at his side. He looks from the corner of his eye as Roy walks up, feels his joints go numb, and knows that both Dinah and Ollie are staring at him.
It's a surprise when that delicately callused hand brushes the hair out of his eyes and pushes them above his head. "How you feeling?"
"A little…" Wally sucks in a breath and sinks into his chair, tie loosening at his neck. "A little disconcerted, I…I guess." He's not quite sure what to make of the smile that graces Dinah's lips, nor the soft chuckle that bellows from the back of Ollie's throat.
It's…funny, he thinks, as Ollie crosses his arms and leans back in his own seat. Being the Flash means seeing many of your "colleagues" and fellow leaguers at the Watchtower, but seeing Roy means occasionally running into Ollie and Dinah. Dinah watches Lian when she gets the time so Roy can be by himself, and Ollie drops by to have dinner with his old partner once in a while.
Really, Dinah and Ollie just…make him think of Aunt Iris and Uncle Barry. In an almost bittersweet way.
"Something on my face?" Wally's throat goes dry.
Ollie only quirks a small smile. "Billions of freckles, kid."
Wally fidgets. He really doesn't like it when people call him—
Dinah elbows Ollie in the arm—harshly. Like she knows Ollie's not making it any easier on himself, and then suddenly she's sitting straight in her seat, hands fiddling with the fancy way her hair's pinned, and smiles. "You look happier."
"Really?" Because inside, Wally's quite sure his chest is squirming from his indecision and nervousness. His cheeks dust with sheepishness and he can't help but fidget in his seat. Oddly enough now he feels like the high school boy taking out the parents' little princess to prom.
"Not your happiest," she says gently, like she's lightheartedly analyzing him, "but definitely happier. More secure. At first I would have thought you would be using Roy as a source of relief, but just looking at you now…"
"I just like visiting him," Wally confesses. The atmosphere suddenly changes and he smiles, much more secure and less self-conscious now that Roy's eyes aren't gazing at him in the way that makes his skin tickle. He tilts his head to the right ever-so slightly and shrugs. "Roy's always offered me stability. I could…turn to Dick for comfort, but I've always felt that I could run to Roy if I ever needed…anything."
For a moment he only blinks, hearing his own confession thoroughly through his own ears. His cheeks burn as red as his hair in surprise, and Ollie only brightens. "Quite a broad statement, isn't that, Wally?"
"It's…I…" Wally swallows hard and tilts his head to the side. "Er. Yeah."
"Bruce just put you on a new case, didn't he?" Dinah asks, charitably changing the subject as she obviously notices the glow to Wally's pale cheeks. She rests her head on her hand, lets the corner of her lip raise and fully gives him her attention. "He's been coming to the Watchtower less and less. Not only that, but I'm pretty sure the Teen Titans have been getting into more trouble these days without Robin as their leader."
"He goes by Nightwing now." Wally can't help himself, as that sliver of information leaves his mouth. A different expression crosses Ollie and Dinah's faces at the mention of Dick now, and he can't help but feel as though he's caused an elephant to appear in the room.
"You see him recently?" Ollie asks as if he's treading wary territory.
"We made up right before I came." Evidently from the way both Dinah and Ollie gaze at him, it's the wrong thing to say. Wally perseveres, leaning forward to initiate the rest of the conversation, and raises his head to meet eyes with his old combative mentor. "He explained everything to me, and…we're going to be working together on the case Bruce has got me on—"
"To piss the big guy off?" Ollie lets out a long, drawn out whistle, but somehow that look of disapproval looks more for Wally than for Nightwing.
In that instant, Wally hitches from his ministrations, eyes looking to the elder archer in surprise. The thought crosses his mind that Dinah and Ollie are watching his every action, and he sinks carefully in his seat. "We work well together."
"He's like a mini-Bats, Wal—"
"He's not." Wally winces, knowing that he's used that declaration himself only a few weeks ago, and vehemently shakes his head. His eyebrows knit together with disbelief—why is this an interrogation? "He's my best friend. Wally and Dick, Dick and Wally? We work well together and nothing more."
"And nothing more," Dinah repeats. He doesn't like where this conversation is going—and knows very well, where it's going to end up. It doesn't make sense how the conversation heads in this direction, and for some reason, Wally doesn't want to hear it today.
Right now, being reminded that Dick is nothing more than the bouquet of lilacs that smothers Wally's senses makes him feel weak. Dick's gaze, so anticipating and hopeful today for the first time in years, so free makes his heart flutter, and it doesn't feel as though his feelings have dragged on for ages with no cause, no reason.
When Dick talks to him, it doesn't feel like a violent kick to the stomach. It doesn't feel like he's the one that's been left behind, or that he's running a race that will never end because these past three years, Dick has been chasing him.
"You've been happy with the time you spent with Roy, sweetheart." The warmth swells in Dinah's tone, but as they reach Wally's ears they don't quite reach his heart. Not in the way they should. "But…this devotion to Dick, even after what's happened in the past—we just don't want to see you get hurt again."
There's a tenderness to Dinah's words that's etched with an uncomfortable chill Wally can't allow himself to succumb to. He looks to Dinah—her pretty face, behind that seductive allure that makes him think of Aunt Iris, and the gentleness of her tone that ironically makes her as harmless as a butterfly.
He's…been told so many times, directly and indirectly, to give up on his feelings for Dick. He shouldn't love Dick—at least, not in the way that feels like a rib is digging into his painstakingly beating heart.
But no one realizes it, do they? No one, but maybe Roy. Giving up feelings for someone who knows every one of your habits—your tendencies…your weaknesses…it's hard. It's really, really hard to give up someone who knows you so well. Hard not to devote yourself to that one person you feel in your heart you can protect better than anyone and vice versa. Hard not to be their best friend. Harder, not to fall in love with them.
But he's given up hope for reciprocation a long, long time ago.
Standing from his seat, Wally grabs his comm.-link out of instinct from its spot at the bottom of his pocket and uses it—just to spite them. "Dick, this is Wally."
There's a crackle, a buzz, and a crackling zap that catch Wally off guard because he would have thought Dick might've turned in his comm.-link, too, to severe connections fully with Bruce. "W…Wally?"
And at that very moment, Wally's heart drops. "Dick? Dick, where are you?"
Dick's voice is raspy—sore, and broken, and Wally knows that voice nearly inside and out. Robin never broke, when it came to his duty, but when he sustained such intense injuries, he'd be beaten to the core. "I'm—a-agh—f-fine. Look, this really i…isn't a good time—"
"I'll be there," Wally says, and right now he absolutely hates himself for reading all of those medical books and…imagining worst case scenario. Broken ribs, broken nose, blood pooling in a large, gaping and bleeding hole on the shoulder. Dislocated jaw, eye out of place—"Where are you?"
"Dick," Wally's voice wavers, and he barely registers the fact that he's worked up both Ollie and Dinah, too. "Please…just…tell me."
"…at the corner on 145th and Nightingale, near the lib—"
Wally rushes out the dining hall, quickly doing a check in his head of all the streets in Gotham. He nearly runs over a waiter as he propels the Flash suit out of the ring—and catches more than a glimpse of Roy as Roy exits the bathroom, bewildered expression on his face.
It's easier for Wally to see a frame-by-frame of Roy's imagine, than it is for Roy, who's probably seeing a scarlet blur whir out the restaurant across the country to Gotham City.
There's that bewilderment on Roy's face in the second glance. Wally doesn't know why he looks over his shoulder as he leaves to see Roy's face, but he does. There's unsettlement gracing Roy's face, followed by a quick understanding that…Wally knows, means that Roy's probably dismissing his behavior. That Roy's concluded that Wally's left to attend matters ascertaining to Dick.
The thoughts flutter back about what Wally said to Ollie. Dick has his back on just about any situation, and Wally can turn to him again for assurance. Roy…Wally can run to Roy and always get strength.
Dick is soothing. Roy is structure.
He pulls the stunning red cowl that suddenly feels too big for a little boy who can't seem to understand his own thoughts overhead, and quickens his pace toward Gotham.
Tries incredibly hard not to look back at the empty look on Roy's face.