Hey, everyone. This is a thing that I am doing. Somebody on Tumblr requested like, a little 1920s AU drabble for Wally/Artemis, with which I readily supplied them, but now it's exploded into this thing. And it's basically done, actually. So, like I do with most of my longer stories, I'm tossing it up here.
There are a couple of historical notes at the end of this chapter; I was hoping to save them for the end of the work itself, but some of them are pretty crucial. Anyway, pairings from here on in will include Wally/Artemis, Dick/Zatanna, Conner/M'gann, and Kaldur/Raquel, plus some Jade/Roy down the line. There'll probably be mentions of past flings, too. You know how I can get about shipping things.
Also, the M rating isn't going to apply for a while, and it'll only really be for one chapter. You can save your scandalized eyes for now.
Hope everyone enjoys!
Chassis is a word used to describe the skeletal body parts of a car or machine, the fine details and framework that hold a thing up. In the 1920s, it was also slang for the female body.
"Congratulations, Mr. West," the professor said with a loose sort of smile, handing back the paper, laden with red circles. "You passed."
Wally West's face split into a rampant grin under the semi-round frames of his glasses, his freckles spraying up around the dimples and even teeth, and he took the paper with enthusiasm.
"Thank you, sir," he replied genuinely, beaming at the solid B-written across the top of the first page. He stepped back, still bright-faced, and nodded a few times. "Have a swell summer; it's been a pleasure!"
"Same to you," the professor assured him with a wave, and Wally, sending one last glance over his shoulder at the empty classroom, took a breath and strode the rest of the way out, closing the door quietly behind him.
The June sunshine outside tumbled down onto everything in sight, coloring the trees and paths and brick buildings of Brown University with warmth. Wally walked down the outdoor hall with a spring in his step, still gazing at his successful essay with ecstasy. Seeing no further reason for prudence, he finally let out a loud whoop, sprinting the rest of the way back to his dormitory.
He had packed the last of his bags last night, snapping the leather trunks and suitcases shut, sitting down on the ones that were being stubborn, folding up all of the photographs tacked on his wall and pressing them haphazardly between the pages of his dog-eared books. The new summer had rested in the now-empty corners of his room, and he had slept through the night without blankets or a sheet, and it had been a nice end to the year, all in all.
(Dick had sneaked in a bottle of bathtub gin that he'd whipped up in the Chemistry lab, and it had tasted terrible, but they had all celebrated anyway, slinging it back and half-shouting Cole Porter lyrics and falling asleep in a splayed-out pile.)
"Rich!" he shouted after leaping up the stairs, knocking the door shut behind him with his foot. "I sailed by with a B-minus! Fire up the Coupe, kid; we're going home!"
"Applause, applause," his roommate called from the bathroom, and as Wally passed by and picked up his first trunk, he spotted Dick straightening his bow tie and grinning at himself in the mirror. "Truly, you are the champion of champions. But you're still carrying all the bags yourself."
Wally let out a groan, accidentally crashing into the wall with the particularly cumbersome piece of luggage and wincing at the chip it leaves in the paint.
"For a guy who's supposed to be my best friend, you sure do know how to hurt me," he groused, toeing the door back open. "Say, did you get the chance to read that telegram from Bruce?"
"I certainly did," Dick replied, walking briskly out into the room again with his arms swinging. The smile on his face was quite nearly evil, as glossy as his combed hair. "He wants us to throw on the gold rags and stop by the Black Bat tonight. Drinks on the house."
"Of course they're on the house, idiot; you're practically co-owner," Wally exclaimed, lurching under the heavy weight of the trunk. "For the love of—can you at least open the stinkin' door for me?"
"Gladly, madam," Dick sniggered, stepping gracefully over Wally's leaning legs to swing open the door fully. "Ladies first."
"Wise guy," Wally muttered, but he was smiling, sidling out through the narrow doorway. "Get your bags, chum; we've got a long drive."
Dick laughed, a high and mischievous giggle, covering his mouth with his fist, and kicked Wally in the rear just before he gets to the stairs.
Wally didn't trip, not even once. It was a good omen for the summer he was about to step into.
The Buick ran like a dream along the road from Providence to Happy Harbor, and Wally was pleasantly breathless just thinking of good old Happy Harbor, quiet and gold-lit by the streetlamps, every alley and avenue as familiar as the lines on their palms. Home.
The moon was bright on the black water when they crossed the city limits. Dick didn't even bother driving anywhere but down Main Street once they get there, parking the loaded car in front of the Red Robin Café and hopping out the door before the motor even rolled to a stop. Wally shook his head at him, but kicked his door open and jogged up to the front door beside him.
The Red Robin had once been a divey sort of place, but over the course of the past seven years, it had been renovated and reimagined into a dining establishment nothing short of swanky. Wally supposed that it wasn't really a surprise, considering who owned it.
Dick threw the front door open (painted black, sleek and unchipped) and strode in with a flourish. Many of the tables, scarlet tablecloths and immaculate porcelain plates, were occupied, their patrons chattering and chewing and oh, crumbs, Wally's stomach was starting to growl.
"A full house as usual," he commented under his breath, which made Dick smirk at him over his shoulder.
"True," he replied. "But what we're here for is the hut."
Wally waited as Dick approached the maître d' with his hands in his back pockets, trying to stifle his smirk at the expression on the guy's face when he recognized exactly who was talking to him. He gestured toward the hallway to the restrooms in the back, and Dick beckoned for Wally with a satisfied jerk of his head, and Wally loped after him as respectably as he possibly could. He caught a few sidelong glances. He suspected it was the patches on his roomy suit coat.
He, Dick, and the maître d' walked down the short hallway in silence, coming to a halt at the door to the women's restroom. The maître d' knocked once, and when he heard no response, he turned the doorknob and stepped aside to let the two boys in.
"Thanks, we can get there from here," Dick said politely, and the maître d' nodded with a smile, released the door, and bustled back the way he had come.
Dick slipped in, and Wally behind him. The bathroom was just as Wally remembered, small but pristine, a tiled floor and a single toilet against the opposite wall and a standing sink with gold spigots. The wallpaper was patterned with thick stripes, alternating between burgundy and crimson, and there wasn't a single tear or fade in it.
Wally turned to Dick, grinning. Dick winked at him, took his hands out of his pockets, and crossed the room, crouching down beside the metal toilet paper roll. He ran his fingers along it and they came to a stop at one end, where they only halted for a moment before his thumb moved over the silver knob and pressed it at the center.
There was a click, and a creaking noise. Wally turned, and his smile grew wider. The blank wall beside which the sink was erected had split, just barely, along the vertical line of one stripe.
"Care to do the honors?" Dick asked in an easy mutter.
"With pleasure," Wally replied. He walked to the wall, pried his fingers into the space allotted by the split, and pulled.
The hidden door swung open in silence, revealing a passageway lit by several dusty hanging lamps. Wally stepped aside, bowing.
"Home sweet home," he quipped, and Dick shoved at his head when he passed, scoffing. "Ingrate."
He closed the door behind them carefully, snuffing out the bright light from the bathroom.
The tunnel twisted around a corner, held up by wooden supports and rafters. As they began to slowly walk down it, something skittered by.
"If that was a spider, I'm taking the gas pipe, right here and now," Wally hissed.
"Piker," Dick jibed, tugging at his elbow. "Pick up the pace, will you? We're already running late."
"Yeah, yeah," Wally groused, matching his footsteps as they both make their way down the passageway. "I always forget how much secret passageways give me the creeps."
"Again I say it," Dick chirped. "You are a sorry, lily-livered piker. But at least you have me."
Wally muttered an obscenity at him and elbowed him, and Dick elbowed him back, which hurt considerably more due to the fact that his joints were naturally sharp.
They came to a fork in the tunnels and both immediately took the right one, and Wally whistled "I'll See You In My Dreams" until it echoed, and after a minute or so, they came to the end of the path.
A nondescript metal door stood before them. Wally could hear muffled jazz music on the other side.
Dick bent down to survey the hinge lock, flicking open the combination panel with his thumb. He moved a few dials to put in the combination, and there was a click, and Wally had time to draw one more preparatory breath before the last door in their journey had swung open.
He and Dick stepped through it at the same time, their shoes hitting the hardwood floor.
The room was enormous. Several bright golden lamps lined the walls, illuminating the entire space save for a few dark corners. There was a bar to the left, and a dance floor, and a stout bandstand, and a great deal of round tables. A record was playing a room down the hallway beside the entrance to the bar.
Wally breathed it all in through his nose and closed his eyes, his hands going slack in his pockets. The last time he had been here had been on the past New Year's Day, whooping and singing and drinking only apple cider.
"Hey, wake up," Dick snickered at him, sounding distant. "Look who's here."
Wally opened his eyes again just in time to be tackled in a hug by an unknown assailant. He stumbled one step back, his arms flying up to steady the attacker, and laughed. He recognized the smell of rosy perfume immediately.
"Mags!" he exclaimed, lifting the giggling auburn-haired girl off of her feet until she shrieked. "Yeesh, happy to see you too."
Maggie Morse, once he set her down again, drew back from him and beamed, her brown eyes practically sparkling with mirth. Her freckles had picked up again since he'd last seen her in the winter, and her smile was as sunny as her goldenrod sailor dress.
"Hi, Wally!" She whirled on Dick next, yanking him into another enthusiastic embrace that made him wheeze. "Hi, Dick!"
"Howdy," Dick coughed out, patting her on the back. She released him, clasping his hands in hers and bouncing, her dimples bright.
"It feels like it's been a week short of forever!" she exclaimed, and Wally couldn't agree more. She looked at the two of them and clasped her cheeks. "Oh my golly, I'm so happy to see you."
"Who wouldn't be?" Dick asked rhetorically.
"Me," came a grumble from behind Maggie. Wally and Dick's faces both gave way to immediate grins of recognition.
Conner Kent had emerged from the back room, shuffling into place beside Maggie and wrapping his arm around her shoulders. He was as burly as Wally remembered, his dark hair still the same uncombed scruff.
He smiled wryly. "Only kidding."
"Happy to see you, too, sunshine," Dick said sarcastically. Conner's pleasant expression widened a bit and Wally clapped him on the back.
"Where's Cal?" he asked. "And Raquel?"
"Getting ready for tonight," Maggie replied excitedly. "Bruce is letting them do a couple numbers. It's going to be wonderful."
"I think they can pause their rehearsal for a little bit of tearful reuniting," Dick quipped. "And where on god's green earth is Bruce, anyhow?"
"Out," Maggie answered before he vanished into the back room.
She glanced over at Wally, who smirked.
"I'll bet you anything he's looking for Zatanna," he sniggered.
Conner groaned. "They're not going to be – being them all summer, are they?"
"I suspect," Wally said sagely, "that they will be. But it'll be worse, now that her dad's letting her stay until September."
Conner grimaced as though Wally had just mortally wounded him. Zatanna Zatara had first been introduced to them years ago, when her father, a close family friend of Bruce Wayne, had come by for a few weeks in June. Dick hadn't been able to stop babbling around her, reduced to a giddy blabbermouth without a single trace of his usual cunning wit. Wally had laughed at him for months.
He didn't really blame Dick, though. Zatanna was an Italian-born beauty who pulled quarters out of people's ears for fun and lopped her hair off shorter and shorter with every passing season. After a lot of begging, she'd convinced her father to let her travel to Happy Harbor for the summer alone, and stay there for three months. (Wally had read all of this in a letter Dick had left open on his desk, among other words that had turned his ears red.)
He sighed, turning his head to survey the room again. Dick had first shown him this place when they were children, when Bruce had first begun building it. It had felt like a secret only he had the honor of holding, a dark room full of secret passageways and illegal moonshine and dancing, laughing people twice his height at the time.
But they'd made friends since then, from high school to college, and now, every summer and New Year's Eve, they would all converge on the speakeasy again and grow a little taller together.
Maggie, a lovely girl whom had made Wally's heart flop several times as a teenager, had lived in Happy Harbor all her life, along with Conner. They'd been high school sweethearts and essentially inseparable ever since, both attending Ivy University in that very town. Calvin Durham, Cal for short, wasn't really from around there; he'd never mentioned exactly where his home was, but he had met the lot of them when Bruce had hired him as his first and only bartender the day he had turned 21. He was the big brother sort, always chastising them, and his employment behind the bar was a good enough excuse for some of the patrons for him to be there, and for him to play the saxophone on weekend nights.
Raquel Ervin was from Dakota City, and she didn't talk about her life there much, but she was a hard-boiled and sharp-tongued girl who had taken to Cal almost immediately, volunteering herself as a singer and waitress during the summers when she could leave home. Bruce had hired her without question.
And then there was Wally, a simple sort of kid from the countryside, Keystone City, a farm with corn and cows. His grandparents still lived there, but he and the rest of his family – his mother, father, aunt, and uncle – had moved to the outskirts of Happy Harbor when he was fifteen. His parents were extraordinarily flexible about letting him spend good chunks of his time in one of the rooms over the Red Robin, especially now that he was older, provided he visited them at least once a week.
That was how he'd met Dick, moving there. Dick had apparently found his way into the town at around the same time, after his adoptive father, Bruce Wayne, had decided to abandon their city of Gotham and erect a business in a less seedy sort of place.
The rest was, essentially, history. The Black Bat was practically their home away from home when they weren't at college (though Cal and Raquel had to teach themselves, and each other, out of derision and defiance for the segregated schools set up miles away – they were both smart as whips in spite of it all).
"Ladies and gentlemen!" Dick called out, startling Wally back from his reminiscing. "Toss up some applause tonight for the one, the two, the only – Ervin and Durha—!"
"Can someone please pipe him down?" Raquel interrupted, shouldering past Dick's diminutive form from the hallway from which he'd come parading. The knife pleats on the skirt of her dress swung with her. Cal was behind her, in slacks and suspenders and a red cotton dress shirt, smiling wearily.
Raquel, when she saw Wally, let out a happy shout and grabbed him in a hug, and Cal was patting him on the shoulder and Maggie was laughing, and Wally looked to Dick over the top of Raquel's head with a grin.
Dick winked at him, nodded, threw his arms out and got in on the group hug. (Conner loitered at the outside of the bundle, looking awkward, his arms akimbo and his mouth in a line. Maggie noticed almost immediately, rolled her eyes, and yanked him in by the wrist; he sort of crashed into Cal's back and made the whole group of them grumble at him, but it was all in good fun.)
"So," Dick opened when they had all disengaged. "No Zatanna yet?"
Something in Maggie's smile gave Wally a very distinct feeling that Zatanna was more present than she was about to let on.
"Doesn't look that way," Raquel replied with a sigh just a tad too large. She looked to the ceiling lamentably. "Maybe she ran her car off the road."
"That is distasteful," Cal chided her, which only made her snigger.
"I'm only teasing," she assured them, but Dick looked pale. She nudged him encouragingly. "Lighten up, kid; she'll be here."
"She'd better be," Dick muttered churlishly, practically pouting, but Wally could tell that he was more addressing Zatanna than Raquel.
"When's opening time?" Wally asked.
"Nine o'clock," Cal answered immediately, glancing at his watch. "So we have – twenty minutes for catching up, give or take."
"Hoo," Wally exhaled, putting his hands on his hips. "Guess we'd better get started, then."
All right, so they were all drinking alcohol, and so it was illegal, and so Dick's adoptive father was selling it to begin with, and so he had a prestigious speakeasy right under his equally prestigious café, and so the feds could be barging it at any second.
So what? Outlawing alcohol had been a stupid idea to begin with from Wally's perspective, and from everyone else's, too. They weren't all Protestants, for Pete's sake, and they were hardly drinkers. Bruce sold alcohol to good people, people who wanted to have fun and create good times, not people who wanted to get plastered and be done. And he gave all of the money he earned from serving it – notselling it to mobsters, never that – to charities. Good charities, for orphans and hard luck folks.
So it wasn't all bad, really. That was what Wally told himself every day. Harding had been wrong all along. He was a nice enough guy, but he was wrong.
It was Wally's prime objective in life not necessarily to be good, but to be right. Not correct. Not a winner.Right, and fair, and honest.
And having fun was an honest sort of game to start with.
When Bruce finally arrived, it was five minutes to nine, and he came through the entrance door in the same immaculate suit he always seemed to be wearing. His expression was neutral and Wally instinctively straightened when he approached, taking his hands out of his pockets and attempting to button his jacket.
"Sir, hi," he flummoxed. "Hello, Mr. Wayne, sir, how are you?"
"Bruceeeeey!" Dick sang, sprinting out from behind the bar where he'd been helping Cal dry champagne glasses. "Missed you like I'd miss a limb!"
Cal blinked at the towel that Dick had thrown onto his head and Raquel and Maggie giggled from their table. Wally had to stifle a snort at the vaguely astonished look on Bruce's eyes, bowing his head and putting his fist over his mouth.
Dick came to a stop just in front of Bruce, grinning his cheeky grin. Wally almost laughed harder. Their reunions were always amusing, Dick with his enthusiasm and limber hugs and quips, Bruce with his stoic pats on the head (which were no longer necessary, as Dick was now nearly as tall as he was).
"The place looks great," Dick said airily. "Though I'd suggest a bit of redecorating. Maybe a chandelier? Some roses at each table? Ooh, and Wally wanted me to tell you that he demands showgirls."
"Stuff it!" Wally barked, his ears reddening. Seven years he'd known Bruce Wayne and he was still in constant fear of being murdered by him for embarrassing himself.
"No showgirls," Bruce said bluntly. "And we both know who's really demanding them, Richard."
Dick's face fell.
"Richard?" he whined. "Come on, Bruce; it's not like you're gonna send me to my room."
"I'm tempted," Bruce said with falsely narrowed eyes, and Dick looked offended.
That was when Bruce finally permitted himself a laugh. It was short, and subtle, but genuine enough to make Wally quit acting like such a stiff, and to make Dick's mouth go into another moon-like grin as he threw his spindly arms out and cuffed Bruce in a hug at the torso.
"Welcome home," Bruce said, warmly, clapping Dick on the shoulder. "All right, now detach, please – I'm going to have patrons to welcome."
"What, and I can't welcome them with you?" Dick gasped, releasing him. "But I'm so charming."
"Don't push it," Bruce snorted, walking by him toward the hallway to the back rooms, among which was his office, which Wally had never been permitted inside (and, apparently, Dick hadn't, either, but had probably broken into).
Dick clutched his chest as though severely wounded and shook his head.
"Are you going to be milling tonight, Mr. Wayne?" Maggie asked cheerily.
"No," Bruce replied before she'd even finished, without looking over. "But I'm sure you'll all function without me."
"Yes, sir, Mr. Gatsby!" Dick called, saluting, as Bruce disappeared around the corner.
Wally blew out a breath of relief, running a hand over his hair.
"No, Wallace, he stilldoesn't hate you," Dick told him before he'd even opened his mouth. "Stop fussing; we've got guests coming."
"Yeah, and what a host," Wally muttered dryly, rolling his eyes.
They heard the sound of laughter, far off, muffled by the door, and footsteps shifting in the dirt, and clicking.
"Strike up the band, Cal!" Dick yelled with a flourish.
Cal gave him a withering look and held up a bottle of gin.
"Good enough," he said just as the metal door opened.
The floor was full-up by eleven. Bruce hadn't shown his face for even a moment, which Dick had been making jokes about all evening, but Wally wasn't about to start complaining; it tended to summon him.
The five-man band that Bruce had hired was practically going nonstop, the Black Bottom and the foxtrot and all other manner of dances that inebriated people made absolutely hilarious. Dick was doubled-over laughing when he wasn't being dragged onto the dance floor by gaudily-dressed, giggling girls.
Wally sat at a table by himself just on the edge of the floor with a glass of apple juice, laughing whenever Dick would make a face at him while tangoing by. He watched Raquel flit between tables, taking down snack orders, passing out bowls of peanuts to the barflies as Cal mixed their drinks with a towel over his shoulder and a perpetual soft smile on his face.
Maggie had been asked to dance by several unsuspecting fellows with combed hair and crisp dress shirts, but she'd only been kicking her heels up with Conner and Dick, her pearls swinging as she laughed. She looked like a million bucks in her dress and her cloche hat and her high heels, pecking Conner on the lips when he wouldn't be suspecting it.
Conner wasn't much of a dancer, mostly shuffling from foot to foot, but Maggie's steps were easy and free and she managed to make even him look energetic.
Raquel materialized at Wally's shoulder just then, her pad and pen at the ready.
"Snacks?" she asked. "Oh, but I don't think we can give you our whole inventory. Too bad."
"Peanuts," Wally replied dryly, elbowing her in the hip. She snickered.
"So, question, before I get dragged over to some poor owl's table," she said, leaning down slightly. "Did you get two left feet since New Year's, or are you allergic to girls now?"
Wally scoffed with a quirked mouth and shook his head, leaning back in the chair and crossing one leg over the other.
"I don't know; they seem to have a very specific preference," he observed, nodding over to Dick, who was presently surrounded by no less than five giggling flapper girls.
"Ooh, poor sap," Raquel said with a grimace, shaking her head. "I mourn him. Right, I'll get those peanuts for you."
She was gone in an instant, forging her way back to the bar. Wally was pretty sure he saw her plant one on Cal when she leaned over the counter to take the prepared drinks from him.
He stood up, walking around the dancing crowd, and reached Dick after gently nudging aside an entwined couple. The girls standing around him were all dressed in various shades of glitter, beaded cloches and silver bangles and bright red lips. They beamed at him when he arrived.
"Sorry, ladies, I'm going to have to cut in," Wally quipped, clapping Dick on the shoulder and using the grip to steer him away from his new fans.
They all gasped and groaned and one of them stamped her heeled shoe on the floor, but Wally had never seen Dick look more relieved in his life.
"Bless you," Dick said. "I thought my face was going to wind up covered in secondhand rouge."
"Yeah, well, you can thank me later," Wally replied with a smirk. "Rumor has it someone very important is going to be showing up at our table in about, oh, twenty minutes."
Dick pretended to gasp. "Heavens. Is it Clara Bow?"
"In your dreams," Wally scoffed. "Just follow me."
He was suddenly pried away, however, by a hand grabbing him at the elbow and yanking him back. Dick kept going on his own, giggling.
Wally whirled around. Maggie was the culprit, smiling up at him, her cheeks flushed, while Conner stood dutifully behind her.
"Come out and dance!" she implored him. "Raquel and Cal are going to play 'Ain't We Got Fun'; it'll be a smash! Please?"
"Well, how can I say no?" Wally replied as charmingly as he could. Conner visibly rolled his eyes.
Maggie bounced a bit at his acceptance and gently grasped him by the wrist, leading him onto the crowded floor. Conner followed, his hands in his pants' pockets, looking weary.
They both came to a stop just in front of the bandstand, in time to see the band disembarking to head for the bar, save for the drummer and the pianist. Heels clicked, and Wally's head turned.
Raquel had untied her apron and set it aside, and she was now stepping up onto the stage with her hands on her hips, still sporting the navy blue dress with the knife pleats, her hair now adorned with a gold chain. Cal followed, his worn saxophone in hand, and pulled up a stool, seating himself on it as though he'd done it a dozen times before.
"Hi, folks," Raquel greeted the room, her hand grasping the silver microphone. "Now I know you're all thinking about leaving, what with us bein' on the stage and all – but take a little free piece of advice, huh?" She winked. "Stick around."
Wally clapped, and Maggie and Conner with him. Their example started a small swell that made Raquel and Cal both smile.
"That's more like it," she said, clapping her hands together. "Get your heels hot, ladies and gentlemen; it's going to be a long night."
Cal tapped his foot once, twice, three times, and brought the sax to his lips; the drummer started drumming, Raquel's fingers started snapping, and the rhythm and music flooded out into every corner.
Maggie was grabbing his hand, laughing, and Wally grinned at her, matching her steps without missing a beat. Maggie kicked her heels up and it made her dress swing effortlessly.
"Every mornin', every evenin', ain't we got fun?" Raquel sang into the microphone, her voice as bold and brassy as Wally remembered. "Not much money, oh but honey, ain't we got fun? The rent's unpaid, dear, and we haven't a bus, but smiles were made, dear, for people like us!"
Wally spun Maggie in a circle and swung her until she was breathless. The couples dancing around them were clapping to the rhythm, whistling up at Raquel, beads and shirts and smiles. Cal's saxophone playing was even smoother than the last time Wally had heard it.
"Hey, Bojangles!" That was Dick's voice to his left, and Wally turned in its direction. "Room for two more?"
Maggie let out an overjoyed shriek of, "Zatanna!"
Wally whooped at the sight of Dick's partner, ebony-haired and blue-eyed and dressed in black and silver, her dark eyebrows thick and raised. She swooped forward and grabbed his face at either side, planting a kiss on each of his cheeks (dramatic ones, ones that went "mwah!", just like always). When she moved onto Maggie, the two girls hugged and jumped and giggled.
"She was sitting there, eating peanuts," Dick sighed happily. "Like there was nothing unusual. Look at her legs. Actually, don't. I'll do that."
Wally scoffed and grabbed Dick in a headlock, rubbing his knuckles into the top of his head until he managed to squirm free.
"Hi, Zatanna," Conner was saying with a vaguely pleased smile that blatantly showcased his absolute joy. "Nice dress."
"Oh, thanks, it was Mom's," Zatanna replied breezily. "So, come on, Grayson, before the song finishes!"
"Duty calls," Dick pretended to lament, striding over to join her, taking one of her hands in his and putting the other on her hip before expertly leading her away as she clicked her heels.
Raquel was reaching the end of the song, her jewelry glittering in the light as she threw her arms out for the finale.
"Thank you, kind sir, I won't mind, sir—ain't we got FUN?" she trilled, her eyes closing tightly over the passionate smile that accompanied the last note.
The crowd applauded tumultuously. Raquel's cheeks were flushed with pride, and Cal reached over and squeezed her hand once, which only made her grin more widely.
"How about a slow one?" she suggested, and everyone clapped enthusiastically. "Slow one it is, then!"
She tapped her foot in three-quarter time, bowing her head in concentration, and the drummer set down his sticks, no longer needed. He and the pianist both slipped off the stage to join the rest of their band at the bar.
Cal played out a sleepy, weepy melody that swayed in the quiet. Conner took Maggie by the hand and gently guided her to his chest, and they oscillated in time together, eyes locked.
Wally glanced over. Zatanna's head was on Dick's shoulder and Dick was gazing down at her with tenderness.
"Welp," Wally sighed, throwing his arms out and making his way off of the dance floor.
"I'll be loving you always," Raquel sang, such a softer tone than the audacious one she'd used for the last number. "With a love that's true, always. When the things you've planned need a helping hand, I will understand always…"
Wally let out another breath, surveying the occupants of the room. Most of them were making doe-eyes at each other, swaying in unison with gentle faces; there were a few watching the scene from the bar, but most of them looked about as depressed as he felt or as spifflicated as he didn't want to be.
Raquel's voice was lovely, though, and Cal's playing was impeccable. They made a good duo up there, in tune with each other's every note and sound. Wally wondered when Raquel had drawn up the gumption to kiss him on the lips, instead of on the cheek as she'd been doing every New Year's since they were teenagers.
He finally strayed his eyes from the dancing, running them slowly over the panorama, not really expecting anything to hook them. He pushed down the sad little feeling in his chest and turned around to the bar.
He froze mid-step almost immediately. The rest of the room seemed to blur out as though it had been smeared, like wet paint.
There was a girl standing there, facing out at the crowd but resting against the wood on her elbows. And it wasn't just any girl, because Wally, contrary to whatever Dick may have said, did not stop in his tracks for Just Any Girl.
She was perhaps as tall as he was, but that was in black high heels. Her legs were shapely, and they werelong, and he really couldn't help himself – he ran his eyes up the length of them, past the slit in her straight pine-green skirt, up over the swell of her shoulders, covered by the long sleeves of her dress. There was a certain tilt to her eyes and olive tone to her skin that he had never seen before, anywhere, and her blonde hair was cut in a wavy bob, curled at her cheeks under the black cloche. She was surveying the dancers with disinterest.
He was standing next to her before he could even register moving.
"Well, hello," he greeted her, his voice popping out of its own accord. "And who are you?"
She didn't move, but her eyes shifted to the left and her lips pursed a bit.
"Leaving?" she offered promptly, which made his stomach sag.
"Erm," he replied. She raised an eyebrow, sighed, and turned her attention back to the throng.
Raquel was still singing, slow and romantic.
"Well, I'm Wally," he offered.
She snorted. "Really?"
He frowned, puzzled. "Yes?"
"Nice name, kid," she told him, unconvincingly.
He didn't let it deter him. If there was anything Wally was, it was tenacious. Unless he was told not to be, of course.
"So tell me," he said, leaning against the mahogany surface of the bar and waggling his eyebrows, "What's a doll like you doing in a dirty old speak like this?"
She glanced over with a defensive spark in her gray eyes (they were gray, he noticed a bit giddily). Her bob swung a little when she moved, and her folded arms clenched.
"Scoping," she replied curtly before glaring away again at the tables filled with inebriated patrons. "Not that it's any of your business, four-eyes."
Wally scowled at her and immediately yanked his glasses off, stuffing them into the pocket of his roomy slacks and trying to ignore the heat in his cheeks.
"Scoping for who?" he inquired, keeping a watchful eye on Dick and Zatanna to ensure that there was no funny business.
"Oh, you really wanna know?" she bit back a bit hotly.
"Well – yes, I'd love to," he replied, straightening.
"All right," she muttered, and her lips curled into what had to be the most dangerous-looking smirk he had ever seen. "Just remember. Curiosity killed the cat."
"Satisfaction brought it back," he riposted, and she seemed to consider this before reaching for the hem of her beaded pine-green dress, slowly pulling it up to her hip.
Wally's eyes went wide, and not at the gams. "That's a gun."
"Mm-hmm," she hummed, dropping the fabric again and turning her head away. The back of her neck was smooth in the gold light from the lamps over the bar. He gulped. "I'm just an extra pair of eyes. You should see the big'un."
"Big'un?" he repeated weakly, now a bit too bewildered for wit.
"The Browning," she whispered. "In the back. See?"
She nodded subtly to a young man situated against the opposite wall, fine white-blond hair and blue eyes and a sallow, angular face. Wally's eyes went protuberant, because even without his glasses, he could see the silhouette of a machine gun in his hands.
"Holy smokes, you're a gangster," he squeaked out in one breath, his hand flying instinctively to his forehead.
She laughed, a purring sort of sound, and languidly straightened from the bar.
"I'd advise you duck, sweets," she murmured to him, and before he could react, before he could even think of ducking anyway, she had reared her head back and smirked and shouted, "Stick 'em up, Cam."
Wally wasn't quite clear on what happened next. He never would be. He heard a few shots fire from the Browning, and heard glass shatter, and several women screamed.
He searched the crowd with frantic eyes and found the others. Raquel was holding the microphone with a bewildered expression. Cal had stood to stand just slightly in front of her. Conner was holding Maggie to him tightly, his visage hardened, and Dick and Zatanna's hands were clasped together.
All of them were looking at him. He glanced over and nearly jumped. The blonde's pistol was pointed at his chest
"Everyone keep quiet!" she commanded, so calmly that it made Wally shake. "No trouble, folks; this'll be no trouble. We're just looking for an old friend. Now nobody move, or my friend here's going to be aiming at more than just that nice mirror. Understood?"
A few people nodded. That seemed to satisfy the blonde, but her companion spoke up.
"Understood?" he roared, lifting the gun. A woman fainted. A few screamed. This time, nearly everyone bobbed their heads, cowering.
The boy's grin was wicked and sharp. "That's more like it."
"Easy, trigger-happy," the blonde ordered. "No messes." She turned back to the others, all business. "Now. Which of you clever folks can find me a Mr. Richard Grayson?"
Wally's every rib clenched in on him and he shook his head mutely at her, desperate.
"He's not here," he whispered. "Please, just—"
"Pipe down, Freckles, or your brains'll be wall paint," the boy sneered, jerking his gun in Wally's direction.
The blonde shot him a warning look that made him balk. Wally didn't know whether to be grateful or just slightly less sure that he was about to faint.
"I'm here." Dick's voice. Wally closed his eyes and clenched his teeth.
"Atta boy," the blonde said, pleased. "Don't just stand there, Dickie; we need your help with something."
Wally managed to wrench his eyes back open again to see Dick walking slowly toward them with a solemn but calculating expression. It took Zatanna a moment too long to let go of his hand.
"Help's what I do best," he answered slowly. "When people aren't pointing guns at my friends."
"Situation's beyond our control," the blonde said with a false sigh. She finally turned her gun deliberately onto Dick, who put his hands up. Wally's heart was hammering. "Where's Malone?"
"I'm not sure who you mean," Dick said innocently.
"Malone; where is he?" the blonde reiterated with heat that only made Wally feel more sick. "Don't play dumb, you shit; we know he's here."
Dick shrugged silently, shaking his head. "I don't know any Malones, lady."
"Take us to him or you're a dead man, little fish," the boy hissed, raising the Browning sharply. Dick flinched just slightly. "We're not fooling around here."
"Put that down," Wally shouted before he could stop himself. The barrel of the blonde's gun was at his throat in an instant.
"I'll put you down if you don't keep your mouth shut," she snarled lowly. "Four-eyes."
"I have two eyes, thank you," Wally retorted.
"Shut him up," the boy – Cam, yes, that was right – yelped furiously. "We don't have much time."
"Who are you?!" Wally half-shouted to the blonde. She didn't reply.
"Listen, I'm afraid someone must have given you bad directions, because there's no Malone here," Dick said coolly. "But, if you'd like, I'd be thrilled to buy you a couple of dri—"
Cam swung the gun back to him and fired.
Wally's heart shuddered to a stop, and Dick fell. He heard Zatanna scream.
"Dick!" he roared, his voice breaking, surging down toward Dick's splayed-out form, toward the blood pooling on the floor.
He fell beside him on all fours, his arms shaking to hold him up, his eyes wet. Something welling up inside of him dissolved when he saw that Dick was only clutching his arm, his teeth gritted.
"Cameron!" the blonde shrieked in a rage that cut the whole room back into silence. "You idiot, you—I'll kill you if you fouled this up, you worthless piece of—we need him to tell us where Malone is!"
"He was running his mouth!" Cam barked back. "We don't need him; let me just—"
"No!" Wally looked up to see that the girl had suddenly placed herself in front of them, her arms spread wide. Protecting them. "Put that god damn gun down before I shoot you myself."
Wally turned his attention back to Dick, grabbing his head at either side to steady him.
"Dick—" he choked out wetly. "Are you okay, are you okay?"
"Peachy," Dick replied in a ragged voice, wincing with each syllable. "Won't be – pitching any curveballs for a while, though."
The blonde suddenly appeared opposite Wally, hunkered down with her pistol still in hand, surveying the wound on Dick's arm with something that closely resembled guilt.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, just barely, so that Wally wasn't even sure that he'd heard her. Her voice was back to its normal abrasive volume in a heartbeat. "Kid. Where is Malone?"
"He is in the back room," Cal called out abruptly, in tight tones that sounded on the brink of a much greater emotion.
The blonde girl and Cam looked to him in unison, and Wally did, too. He was standing on the bandstand, his fists at his sides, his gaze practically pulsing with rage.
"Do not hurt anyone else," he murmured. "Please. Do us this kindness."
"Funny!" Cam cackled. "But, I guess you just did usa kindness. So it's only fair."
"Get up," the blonde said under her breath to Dick, hooking her hand under his arm until he groaned. Again, in a bare little whisper, "I am so sorry. Get up. Take us to him."
"A girl like you, sorry?" Dick jibed weakly, his smirk uneven. "I don't buy it."
Wally and the blonde both grasped his arms at the same time before carefully hoisting him to his feet. Wally started to offer his shoulders as support, but Dick shoved him away, clutching the open wound on his left arm with one bloodied hand.
"Right this way, lady and gent," he said in a low and bitter voice that chilled the very air.
He stepped forward and Wally started to follow, just on instinct, but the blonde halted him, pushing him back with one hand and looking him dangerously in the eye.
"Stay here," she growled, pointing her gun at all of them once more before striding after Dick, pushing him forward.
Cam stayed behind, his machine gun aimed at the crowd. Zatanna was crying and Raquel's hyperventilating was halfway audible due to the microphone.
Wally kept his hands at either side of his head, his face twisted with hatred as he locked eyes with Cam. Cam's sneer was venomous, but it did nothing to quell the broiling in Wally's blood.
Barely sixty seconds passed, and then they heard a gunshot.
Wally felt sick.
"No," Maggie whispered, brokenly.
Just then, the blonde came striding rapidly back from the hallway. Dick was not with her. Without looking at any of them, without even looking at Cam, she ran for the door and Cam followed her, his back to her as he kept the gun trained on the crowd, and just like that, they were gone, the door slamming closed behind them. No one dared move.
He sprinted clumsily down the hall, past the instruments and the framed photographs and the impeccable wallpaper, his hands slamming against the walls when he would stumble. He lurched to a stop at the last doorway, the one to Bruce's office. It was pitch-black inside. He felt bile rising in his throat.
"Di—" His voice cracked before he could finish, but it was only coming out as a useless rasp anyway. "Di…Di…"
"I'm all right." Dick's voice came out of the darkness. "So's Bruce."
A grunt of affirmation. Bruce.
"Oh—" Wally coughed out, doubling over. "Oh… Christ—"
He threw up, right there, his stomach spasming. He felt a hand patting his shoulder, no doubt Dick's, and he heard Bruce mutter something about the carpet, but he vomited once more through his tears and his shaking, his hands on his knees.
"How?" he managed to get out after he caught his breath and his stomach calmed. He raised his head to see Bruce striking a match and lighting a candle on the desk. "How… did you…?"
It illuminated the room just enough for him to see that one of the lights had been shattered, and there was glass all over the floor.
Dick breathed out shakily.
"She shot the lamp," he explained. "I thought Bruce was a goner, but at the last second she just lifted her arm and… oh, applesauce."
He swayed, slumping against the doorway, and Wally managed to catch him by his good arm, steadying him. Dick's face was drawn and pale and the hand trying to stem the blood flow was utterly useless.
"Get a doctor," Wally blurted out, but Bruce was already picking up the phone. "Dick, Dick, it's fine; you're going to be fine. You're going to be just fine."
It was an order, not a promise.
"I'd be a lot finer if you'd quit yammering," Dick muttered. He was unconscious by the time the doctor arrived, and there was an ambulance and a stretcher and a lot of girls crying.
Wally just blacked it out after a while.
Wally, Artemis, and Cameron are all 20.
Dick is 18; Zatanna is 19.
Conner, M'gann, and Raquel are 21.
Kaldur is 22.
Roy and Jade are 23.
The legal drinking age during the Prohibition was nonexistent, due to the fact that alcohol was outlawed in the first place. However, prior to this, there was no established legal drinking age anyway; it was considered the responsibility of the parents to ensure that their kids didn't get sloshed. The legal drinking age we know today was established in 1933 and was generally 21, except in select states, where you could buy beer or wine at the age of 18, but nothing harder until you were 21. Anyway, technically, there's no underage drinking in here. Heh.
Dick (sarcastically) calls Wally "Bojangles" as a reference to Bill Robinson, who was most famously known by that nickname, as well as for being one of the greatest tap-dancers of all time. He rose to popularity in the early 1920s and that lasted until the mid-1930s.