Chapter I: Break Up, Queso Fights, IHOP, Friends
The last of Artemis's things had been packed up in several boxes that horded the living room, all precisely stacked and labeled in red Sharpie. Brucely, the dumb dog he was, nosed them into an amicable fort while his owners made sure everything was separated. They hadn't divided things in a literal sense (half the couch, half the pillows sitting on the bed—far be it, half the dog), but agreed that any minor thing that Artemis had forgotten, she would come by for later.
The apartment she would be renting with Zatanna didn't allow pets, which meant their dog would be staying where it was until Wally could find a new place. His scholarship money wasn't going to cover everything. If worse came to worse, he would go back to living in a dorm room or make the zeta trips back and forth from Central City. (The latter thought simply made him grimace—zeta-beaming could be a nightmare.)
At the moment, all Wally could do was watch as Megan stacked the last stack of boxes and Artemis make sure everything was there. She'd taken down frames and photos that Wally did not mind leaving the house and tucked them in photo albums for safe keeping.
He kept a safe distance from the bedroom door, dressed only in pajama pants and a crumpled night shirt that didn't seem to matter, and watched her spare glances at other photos. One from when we got Brucely as a puppy. When we first got the house. Central City High Prom picture. Artemis stopped, scrutinizing the picture gingerly on the kitchen counter. She picked it up, lacing fingers around the edges, and made eye contact with him.
Wally took it as his cue to push off the doorframe and met his girlfr—ex-girlfriend at the other end of the room as her lips contorted into a solemn frown. "You could always stay," he murmured quietly once he met her.
They were happy in the picture. Artemis had punched him in the nose after he placed the corsage on her wrist. She'd curled her hair for the occasion, and the first thought that came to mind, for some godforsaken reason, was the fact she looked like Miss Piggy. Thusly, Wally went to his Senior Prom with a bloody nose and a guilty conscience, and an amused Artemis as his gorgeous prom date. The quirk of her lip let him know she was thinking the same exact thing.
"You know I can't do that," she said finally, then set the picture frame in his hand. The blonde took a sharp breath and looked her ex somberly in the eye. "You want to live this life. I…don't. Don't think I ever did."
Wally bit his lip and looked down to the picture frame fondly. Tan fingers wrapped around his own, curling his hands until they were tight.
"Keep it." Then, a kiss on the cheek. "Just because we're broken up now doesn't mean it wasn't good while it lasted."
"Yeah." Wally let out the breath he was holding, feeling the air escape from his lips.
"Ekat eht sexob ot ym tnemtrapa." The boxes strewn around the room glowed, illuminating in a soft blue light before disappearing and leaving both the house and Wally empty. Zatanna smiled hesitantly and looked to the ex couple. "Everything should be over there. We can unpack later."
Artemis nodded, muttering a quiet thank you under her breath. She stepped backward from the redhead, and out of instinct, Wally grabbed her by the arm. Brown eyes looked to green, suddenly flickering with a disapproving glint, and forced him to let go.
I still love you, Wally didn't say. Instead, he looked to Artemis warily, and the sadness was returned.
"Bye," she said. He waited an extra beat, in hope there was more to the sentiment, and got nothing back.
M'gann and Zatanna were both locked in conversation, awkwardly trying to keep from hearing in on the converstion. From the distance he stood, Wally could see them eyeballing the situation in concern. When Artemis finally met them in the middle, they let go of heavy breaths.
"Bye, Wally," M'gann said softly. He shrugged back jerkily, unsure of what to say.
"See you later. Okay?" Zatanna spared him a look and was met with silence. What else was there to put in the air when the situation was clearly, hey-stealing-your-girlfriend-since-she-wants-to-be-in-a-mask-again-permanently, see-you-at-the-next-bloc-party? She took in a deep breath, chest rising, and waved a hand. "Ekat su kcab ot ym tnemtrapa."
The next flash of light forced Wally to shut his eyes and look away. Beneath closed eyelids, he could still see the bright specks and hear the hum of absolute power until suddenly—nothing. Zilch. Brucely stood to his paws and barked loudly at the empty space.
And when Wally looked up, he was alone. Save for one dog.
At first, Wally thought it would be a good idea to take note of all the annoying things he wouldn't have to deal with now that Artemis no longer lived with him. She used to trim her toe nails while they were watching Doctor Who and get them all over the floor. There was this one time she decided they would be having pho for dinner and then Brucely tipped the pot over. It would always be her blond hair that clogged the shower.
(Then he realized—no, as disgusting as it was to find blond hairs everywhere, it was also very nice to comb his fingers through it like warm pudding. Then, that it was the stupid dog's fault their dinner had been disrupted. Then—well, no. The toe nails thing was still disgusting, but DVR saved him when Arty had to study or sleep.)
As he searched his mind for reasons why being in a relationship with Artemis made wasn't worth it, the guilt gnawed at his chest and made him feel worse. Artemis and he had been in a relationship for five years—she wasn't just some girl he met a day or a week or a month ago. They were practically married. Practically.
The engagement ring and box were still tucked beneath his mattress, waiting for Christmas Day when Paula Crock and Artemis would attend one of the Flash Family Christmases to be held at the West Residence this year, where Artemis would find it at the bottom of a large red and green bag.
Or—well. Was going to.
After that, he pulled out a text book, set it on the coffee table, and flipped to a random page before turning on the TV and letting News At 3 play as background noise. If he went back to the task on hand, then Wally could pretend it was just an ordinary day. He just…didn't want it to be over. Didn't want to wait for the clock to turn nine and not hear the door open as his not-girlfriend didn't go through.
He had the day off from his internship, so there was no point in arriving and asking if he could kill time.
Wally wasn't even in the mood to eat. Which—wow. That was a new low, even for him.
Five years. They'd dated on and off, starting exactly on January 1st, all those years ago—a month when both admitted they wanted to be exclusive. Artemis and he had shared a lot of firsts together, including the big awkward first, then settled down. Wally had needed to leave the team for quite some time right before college. It had taken a lot of arguing, and much begging on his part to get Artemis to follow his lead, and for three following years, they had been taken off the roster.
Then Dick—Nightwing called. Really—Maybe, Wally shouldn't have blamed him as the source of all his problems. After all, Nightwing barely got all the words out before Artemis wholeheartedly agreed for the deep undercover mission. When the phone cut off, she'd looked to him as though she'd done something unforgivable. Trapped. In a small apartment in Palo Alto, with a dog that wasn't completely housebroken and having nothing to look forward to than going to school.
After seeing that look, he didn't have the heart to tell her no. He was frustrated at his best friend for ever suggesting putting the love of his life in danger, but maybe even angrier that he reignited the blonde's interest to return—bow, arrow, and all.
The last thing Wally ever wanted to do was have Artemis feel like a caged bird in their home. The other last thing he ever wanted was for her to return without him. So, even after childish fights and begging that she didn't return—not after the whole Tigress thing—Artemis was right. She wanted right, he wanted left.
It was better to stop hurting each other now, than let it ache for the rest of eternity.
So despite trying to come up with all the negative things he associated with Artemis, pretending their breakup didn't happen, and nagging himself on the inside that if he'd just shown the ring to her sooner—he knew they were better off without each other.
Too bad life was still a bitch and decided to make it hurt.
Wally sat at the couch, with Brucely curled against his leg and slobbering on his knee. He pretended to listen to the news about a goldfish saving a cat from the tree, and thought of ways he could move on with his life. Come April, he would graduate college and start a job with STAR Labs. There were girls (and some guys) in his class interested in dating him. Starting tomorrow, he could force himself to take the plunge and ask one of them out. If they were still single. Hell—plenty of the girls (and again, some guys) were already married and pregnant in class.
The once-Fastest Teen Alive was just too slow to make his move.
Don't think that way, West. He stopped himself, bowing his head back to the couch behind him before changing the channel. ABC Family flickered on, playing a scene from Pretty Woman. Stepping toward marriage would have just made both of them feel worse. And he already did, trying to forget about her.
Thankfully, the door rang before he thought again. (Yeah. Thinking. What a pain.)
Dick stood at the other end, a hardy smile across his lips and arms tucked firmly behind his back like a gentleman greeting a girl.
Well now, don't sell yourself short, West. He was at least a lady. Green eyes narrowed to the teen standing outside the door, hand firm on the knob and teeth biting the inside of his mouth. Somehow, seeing the guy that provoked his girlfriend to break up with him didn't make him any better.
He saw the teen's gaze dim slightly, lips wilting along with it. Dick's hand ran through ebony hair and his stature stiffened. "You…gonna say something?"
Wally shrugged. He opened the door wider, mostly by obligation, and made room for the hero to enter. Dick's eyes followed the movement, the reluctance still showed on his face. Sigh. "Relax. I don't have the energy to yell at you right now."
The words must have sounded wrong aloud. Somehow it only made his best friend look like a kicked puppy—which, at the moment, only left a nasty taste in Wally's mouth. Dick slowly came in, which was when Wally noticed the duffel bag hung over the teen's shoulder.
Um. "You…staying over or something?"
"No," was the short reply from Dick. He set the bag next to the couch and bent over to pat Brucely over the head.
"You should have called before you came." Wally shut the door behind him, sporting a stern look to the teen's shoulder blades.
"But if I did that," Dick replied slowly, and he looked over his shoulder, a glint in his eye, "you would have said 'no.'"
"You used to just come over anyway."
"I stopped when both Artemis and you rightfully accused me of cockblocking. Or—well. Dickblocking." A soft, crooning laughter tingled at the back of Dick's throat, goading Wally from frustration to tiny laughter. It was warm, spreading in the redhead's chest like a nice breath.
This was the first civil conversation they'd had with each other in ages. Nothing in regard to missions, about putting Arty and he back on the roster, or even the elephant in the room where Dick forced himself not to talk about it and Wally pretended it wasn't an issue.
Ah, jeez. Wally heaved a sigh, letting out an infuriating breath he hadn't realized he was holding, and slowly worked his way over to his old friend. The nervousness was evident in the teen's face, but he'd elected to ignore it when they greeted each other. Someone who called Dick Grayson stupid either didn't know him well enough, or knew him too well.
"Sorry," the redhead said finally. His demeanor broke, and he fell to his seat on the sofa. Looking up to Dick evenly, he was met with a curious eyebrow. "You're welcomed here. I don't blame you. Not…entirely, anyway." He patted the couch cushion next to him lamely.
"Wanna talk about it?" Dick sat down.
"My girlfriend of five years realized she never wanted to leave the hero life behind and left because I did." Green eyes looked to the ceiling forlornly, head tilting back. "I begged her to stay and knew I was losing the argument as I went along. I…never should have asked her to stay. Not if she wanted to. It's…" Wally took a breath. "It's different from just trying to get her back. I get her back, then she has to give up the heroing."
"Dude." Wally shook his head, the guilt on his face morphing into a frown. "Don't go there. Seriously."
Dick wasn't a little kid anymore. That particular thought crossed Wally's mind when suddenly the teen next to him crossed his arms, and along with it came flexed muscles. Legs extended to the fullest length, crossing at the ankles and disappearing under the coffee table. Then, Dick looked at him warily. Of course he did. This was the guy that rarely ever let Wally get away with anything whenever they were kids. "There are plenty of heroes who keep a relationship with a civilian, Wally."
"Hah. Please. I don't want her back in the hero world. Especially not after all the shit you put us through." Wally's jaw tightened and he tossed a glare in the teen's direction. Yet when he did so, he saw he was met with the same demeanor.
"I didn't come here to pick a fight with you."
"You mention the uniform, that means you should expect a fight."
Right. The redhead snapped to attention, realizing that both his stature and face and twisted unfavorably in the light of his supposed best friend. He shut his eyes, pressed a hand to his face and let out a breath. So much for not being mad.
"Sorry." And then he slid off the couch, landed on the floor with a huge bang and causing the table to scrape away against the floor.
Silence. At this point, Wally wasn't quite sure which one he would have favored more. So,
"Sorry," he said again and he raised his head to Dick's stoic look. Man. When was the last time they smiled at each other?
He made room when Dick also slid to the ground, thighs touching in the small crevasse between the table and the couch. Dick leaned over, carefully placing a palm against the redhead's knee, and forced Wally to look back at him.
"I know you're mad at me," the teen muttered. "And I know that you're going to be mad at me. For a long time, until you can get over Artemis. But. I'm still your best friend and I'm going to keep tabs on you. Even if you're not in the suit anymore."
The redhead looked to him carefully, unconvinced. Another apology was at the tip of his tongue, really.
Dick dragged his forgotten duffel bag next to his lap and pulled out four family packs of Tostitos tortilla chips, eight jars of queso, and three video games that Wally recognized very clearly. Dick offered him a wry look, a smirk curled at his lips, and tossed a bag onto the redhead's lap. "I brought bribery."
Wally blinked. "Seriously?"
"Bros are supposed to help bros after a bad breakup." There was a break in the usual sternness in Dick's face, a wary smile accumulating across his lips. "We're still bros. Right?"
Yeah. He'd mentioned earlier that his separation from Artemis was not entirely Dick's fault. Plus, they'd gone far too long without seeing each other. Dick's decisions managed to drive Wally up a wall on occasion but—truth be told, having someone around made him feel less alone. Especially for tonight.
"Yeah." Wally tore open the bag of chips and smiled. He could just barely hear a sigh of relief from Dick's end. "We're bros."
They played games for six straight hours—or at least, Wally had watched Dick twitch and fidget like a little kid as he went through Skyrim. As the evening progressed, everything prior to Dick visiting seemed to disappear. They fell into an old pattern the redhead couldn't remember quite well—("Dude—shoot it, shoot it!" "No shit, you idiot, I'm shooting it!")—to the point Wally wrestled for the controller. (Of course—Dick and is freaky bat training got the better end of him, and the said redhead was pinned to the ground, looking up to a smug face.)
Following that was a tortilla chip and queso fight, which left the wooden floors splattered in Monteray Jack Queso and a bag of chips were shoved down the front of Dick's shirt.
They decided to leave the mess for Brucely to clean up (to which the dumb dog looked very happy about, given the squeaky sounds he made) and go to the IHOP not too far from Wally's apartment. Well—after changing, at least. As it turned out, a spare change of clothes was probably the only thing Dick hadn't packed in his neat duffel bag. Once Wally asked if he needed clothes, the teen's response was, "Unless you want Nightwing walking around the streets of Palo Alto for no real reason."
Wally lent him a spare change—which, as it turned out, was a perfect fit on his best friend. Sometimes it was hard to place the big-eared kid and the tall, somewhat-adult in the same category. He tried not to look at Dick's face when he took the teen downstairs to the garage, where his decent-looking Honda was nested amongst things. The stray cat that Artemis had taken under her wing meowed and slunk away into the night.
"Get in," he instructed, just knowing Dick was surprised.
"Sorry," the teen said, as if reading his thoughts. "I uh. I just always thought this was Artemis's car."
Wally shrugged. "I asked for it as a graduation present."
"Do you run at all? In the morning? Jogs?"
"Depends." Not really.
He flashed the teen a look, hoping it didn't come off too angry or annoyed. Just—please, he wanted Dick to drop the subject. Fortunately realizing Wally's lack of enthusiasm, Dick obediently stopped. The drive to IHOP was quiet until Wally felt uncomfortable enough to turn the radio onto whatever Artemis had left it the last time they went out together.
Going to the restaurant, the hostess, Sam, greeted Wally with a pleasant smile, and then Dick with an even sweeter one before escorting them to their seats.
"I take it you come here often?" His best friend mused.
"Open all night with pancakes. What do you think?" Wally snorted, eyes narrowing pleasantly. "So, uh. How's the team doing?"
"Pretty well. It'll be Artemis's first mission soon. Being back on the team and stuff, I mean." Dick's face contorted hesitantly. He leaned over the table, tensely clasping his hands on arms and face twisting uncomfortably. "And, uh. Bart's good, too."
"Good. Robin…doing well?" Wally's hand wrapped around his drink. He pressed cup to his lips, watching the teen's expression morph tentatively until a smile spread across his lips.
"Yeah. He's good."
Good. "I'm glad. You were pretty nervous about him, right?"
"Just that I'd end up doing something stupid," Dick agreed. He bit the inside of his mouth, stirring the straw in his Coke speculatively. It was hard to miss the proud gleam as it glowed in the guy's eyes. "It was a learning experience for me. For all of us. Tim's good now, though."
"Good," Wally echoed in agreement. He withdrew the breath he hadn't realized he was holding, hand still tight over his drink. A smile of his own pressed against his lips, mimicking Dick's sentiment. "You know, despite all the crap I've given you this past year, you…are a good big brother."
Dick blinked, staring at the redhead as though he'd grown a third eyeball.
"Hard to believe." Said redhead shrugged. "Given what a little shit you were when we were kids."
"I was cute, wasn't I?"
"Heh…heh. Only partially."
They both laughed, soft and crinkly beneath their breaths. When Wally looked up again, Dick looked less like a fish out of water and more like the best friend Wally'd had since he was thirteen. The smile was boyish across his lips, gaze firm an warmer than it had been.
Or, well. Just as warm. Wally had just been more preoccupied perusing the situation cautiously than it needed to be.
"Thanks," said the teen in front of him.
"Yeah—well." Wally ran his free hand through his hair. "You're paying for this meal then. For all the times you one-upped me."
"Hahaha. I'm okay with that."
Fortunately that seemed to be enough of an ice breaker that they were able to carry on with the conversation (again.) Wally hoped that eventually they would permanently slink back into their old personalities, where he could rag on his best friend of eight years and Dick could do the same, packing twice the punch. They discussed the team—Mal and Karen would be getting married next February. Conner and M'gann were starting up their relationship again. Dick's biggest concern was re-integrating both Kaldur and Artemis back on the team after so many months of deception.
"They'll manage," Wally assured him. The breakup between Artemis and he was messy, but that didn't mean he didn't have the utmost respect for her. Kaldur, too.
After that, the subject was dropped. A wrinkle had appeared between Dick's brow, frustrated and clearly troubled. Younger members of the team were at the age where rebellion was a given, if what happened with Arsenal (information Wally only getting right now) was any consolation. For the most part, they were apparently obedient. Now that the six leaguers were back, the covert team was working at the Watchtower until their own permanent base could be established. They were, Dick explained, trying to keep it separated, and let the team operate on the original members' shoulders.
Well—other than Wally himself. He decided not to mention that part.
Aside from that, they discussed social lives. Wally and Artemis both would be graduating from Stanford in the springtime. He'd taken an internship with STAR Labs at the start of the semester, and if all went well, he would also be working for them once he graduated in the Keystone City division. When he finished his update, he pretended not to notice the look Dick gave him and urged the teen to carry on.
The guy had taken a year off college to focus on the team. He'd been in that mindset for years now, since Kaldur had stepped down permanently as leader, but his dedication often at times surprised Wally. That wasn't his idea of what "social life" meant.
He wasn't stupid—since coming into the IHOP, girls had been eying their table—mostly Dick than Wally himself. (Anyone who knew him or Artemis basically thought they were connected by the hip.) Dick was handsome. He'd always been cute—Wally had called it a long time ago back when they first met. But now, most of the boyishness had disappeared from the acrobat's face in favor of a more structured jaw line. Dick finally grew into his ears, Wally couldn't help but muse as he watched the guy eat his scrambled eggs.
Dick was fit and more athletic than most guys his age, with a build most people would die for. His fingers were long—callused, from years of handling batarangs. He let his hair grow out (though, Wally inputted that to Dick focusing more on his work than cleaning himself up) so that it rested on his neck. It wouldn't be too long before he could draw it back into some charming ponytail. All of that stacked together, along with that stupid effervescent flicker in cerulean blue eyes made him a knockout.
Wally made the occasional comment of how much of a dog his best friend was. Which—seriously, was definitely not a lie. Yet here, right now, Dick seemed more content enthralled in conversation with Wally himself than returning looks the girls in the next booth over were giving him.
"What? Uh—yeah." Wally was met with an ebony eyebrow peaked high in the air. Out of reflex, he sat back in his seat, free hand curling at his neck. "Why?"
"You…haven't let go of your drink since the waitress gave it to you," Dick pointed out. He moved to pour maple syrup on his pancakes, then looked up with amusement. "And you've been staring at me funny ever since she slipped me her number on the napkins I didn't ask for."
Right. "What do you expect? You've got the attention of every girl in the room and you decide to pay attention to little ol' me." Wally placed his free hand on his chest, a smile curling at one side of his face, and wiggled his eyebrows. "I'm flattered. I may even let you get in bed with me tonight."
"Right," Dick replied wryly. "I told you. I'm not looking for anyone." He pushed the napkins to the side as if to prove his point—then shoved it in his pocket as though to be nice. "Last girl I dated was Babs. That didn't last long."
"How come?" Actually, it had to be brief enough if this was the first time Wally heard about it.
Shrug. "There was a lot of chasing. And. It was nice. We wanted different things." He looked up to the redhead thoughtfully, head tilted slightly as he went into his own ministrations. Then, "Trust me. It was better that way."
Suddenly there was a way that Dick looked at him that unnerved Wally. He blinked back, taking in the information, the nodded slowly. Raising his glass, Wally forced Dick to do the same. "To single life. Life's a bitch."
A grin cracked upon Dick's lips. The teen laughed softly beneath his breath (a sound that Wally didn't realize he missed so much) and mimicked the gesture. "To single life."
After that, they pigged out on more pancakes. If it weren't for the fact Dick was so used to Wally's eating habits (and had a billionaire playboy father as his personal bank), the redhead probably would have eaten less. Dick discussed a movie he'd seen with the new Robin and raved on how charming Timmy was, happily geeking out at both inappropriate and appropriate times. Apparently every one of their stakeouts was accompanied by donuts, Arbys' or some other of fast food. Wally raved that because of Bart, he had to increase his grocery shopping by the tenfold.
Then eventually, Dick had to leave. He tsked, checking his phone idly about an hour later. "Bats wants me back in Gotham to help him out on a case. He won't be happy if I'm late."
"You want me to drive you?" Okay. That sounded even lamer aloud than it did in his head. And that was saying something.
Dick shook his head. "The zeta tube's only about a block away. Might as well work off all that food before I get there."
"Hey—not my fault you were trying to get into an eating contest with me of all people." Smirking, Wally raised his head victoriously. "Um—" He reached out the moment Dick stood up from the table, snickering, and placed a hand on the teen's forearm. All of that happened before Wally could even realize what he was doing.
Blue eyes stared back—less bewildered than earlier, more confused.
Shit. Wally hadn't even known what he planned to say. He swallowed hard, fingers padding the guy's arm carefully. His tone dropped, and suddenly looking Dick in the eye was hard. "Thank you. For coming, I mean. This was nice."
Blink. Dick's mouth opened slightly, the surprise clearly there. Then, he nodded, a warm smile falling at his lips. "Yeah." He moved to leave—and Wally's grip only tightened. "Yeah, dude?"
"Come back later. If you're up for it." Wally swallowed again, eyebrow quirked and the corner of his lip raising. "I'll leave my window unlocked just in case I fall asleep."
I don't want to be alone, he didn't say. "Yeah. Really."
Dick took one look at him and seemed to guess the problem immediately. Wally's heart fluttered as his best friend smiled back, eyebrows pinched together and eyes seeming to gain a glitter or two. "I'll see what I can do."
"Cool." Yeah. Cool.
Once Dick left, Wally was by himself again. Dick slipped out of his grip with surprising ease, given it was the redhead's bad hand. He stared at it carefully—the hand that had been wrapped around his drink dutifully throughout the night. Unless Dick had pointed it out, Wally doubted he would have noticed. Getting it to unfurl from a fist was a task that could have taken hours.
. He could hardly feel it. Not in months.
Sighing, Wally used his good hand to uncoil the fist, then rummaged for his keys. He drove home in painful silence, obeyed every stoplight, and parked in his garage without any trouble. All completely, absolutely normal.
"I'm telling you, dude. It'll work this time!"
"I'm surprised you have enough blood left running through you to even talk."
"Hahaha. Very funny. Just. Stand there, and prepare to be amazed. I make it through that wall and you owe me a year's supply of hotdogs." Kid Flash broke into a grin, crouched at the ground with his fingers pressed across the gravel. Twelve yards away, tiny Robin stood tall, his arms crossed and this little smirk on his face that read—'You are such an idiot.'
Oh, cool. He finally got the dude to smile. Robin had to be the toughest cookie Wally's had to deal with.
Beneath his cowl and the goggles, Kid Flash wiggled his eyebrows enthusiastically, hoping that would translate into, 'Wish Me Luck.' He pulled out the tissues that had been crammed into his bloody nose only an hour ago, inhaled the scent of caked red crumbs and grimy oxygen into his nostrils, and curled his hands into the gravel.
Energy knotted in his stomach. Kid Flash sucked in air until his lungs tightened, and felt the bristle of static as it grazed the lycra and padding above his suit. He viewed Robin through red lenses—that tiny stature, even tinier smirk, and bit the inside of his mouth. Okay, okay, okay.
Kid Flash broke into a sprint, accelerating as he did so. His pulse tightened, the wind billowing at the wing-tips of his ears, and feet hit the ground for traction. He was going to do it. He was going to do it. Hewasgoingtodoithewasgoingto doi—
…when Wally woke up, his back was to the floor with—owowow—a rock digging into his back. He reached beneath him and grabbed a giant chunk of asphalt that was definitely too big to be a bother in his shoe and threw it aside. Flash's face stared down at him, lips stretched crookedly and eyebrows pinched beneath the cowl. He looked like a giant, fussy speedster…golden retriever with a Flash mask.
"Hi Uncle Flash," he said, voice wobbly. His face twitched then—ow. "Ow, ow, ow." Wally reached to touch his nose—and was promptly stopped by his mentor.
"Don't touch it. I think you broke your nose."
"What makes you say that?" OwowowowowowowOWOWowOw.
"Because the last time I checked, it didn't have a bigger arch than the one in St. Louis." Flash sighed in exasperation, and suddenly the boy was ready to bury himself in a hole. Or find a bigger rock to hit himself over the head with.
"Sorry," Wally mumbled, then cringed. Kid Flash only for a few months and he was already screwing up.
Flash scratched his head thoughtfully, the frown still obvious across his lips. It softened just slightly; enough to let Wally know he wasn't in deep trouble. "We'll have to tell your aunt about this, Kid."
"I figured." Wally reached out for his uncle's extended hand to get up—
Only to be forced back onto the ground. "Dude!"
Robin grinned at him from above, having the speedster pinned easily to the ground. The Boy Wonder mounted his friend, eyes wide beneath his mask and arms crossed dutifully. "That was sick. You made a mini-tornado out of the alleyway and slammed into the wall!"
Wait. "Seriously? You thought that was cool?" Man, it was a good thing Robin was so tiny—otherwise the dude would be crushing Wally's diaphragm right about now. He stared at the boy in surprise, and was met with a playful grin.
"You're an idiot," Robin announced. "But at least your nose didn't bleed. A lot, anyway."
Oh. Cool. "Cool!" Wally broke into a grin, sitting straight up with glee. Then—"Ow—ow, ow, owowowowOW—" He clutched his nose—which, yeah, okay. Hurt.
Definitely worth it though. Ow.
October nights in Palo Alto were brisk. Leaves had lost their youth, fading into crisp orange remnants that found comfort in corners and beneath skeletal trees. They swept across the ground, allowing wind to pluck and whisk them away they pleased, until landing on a new home, and waited to be cast away yet again. It was three in the morning when Nightwing returned to the town, zeta-beaming from a cavern hidden by a strategically placed cardboard box. Streets were barren aside from happy college students who found new ways to entertain themselves in the night.
Taking a breath, Dick rolled the painful ache out of his shoulder from when Clayface had slammed him into the wall. Nothing that couldn't be fixed in the morning. Alfred had doted, Babs scolded, and Tim had given him a pleasant grin that was met with quiet snickers behind the Dark Knight's back. Yeah. Definitely something that could be fixed in the morning.
He felt a symphony of cracks as he twisted himself and made the short walk back to Artemis and Wa—Wally's house. He'd figured, anyone who stopped him in the dead of the night would either be too drunk to recognize him or sober enough to acknowledge who he was. Thirsty Thursdays, was what Artemis called it one night when it was just she and him. Back when Wally had stormed off in frustration.
Biting the inside of his mouth, the teen decided—no, probably not a good idea to mention Artemis for a while. Not until Wally could accept the fact his girlfriend was on the superhero roster again. He sucked in another breath, suddenly feeling the air passage in his lungs constrict, and climbed up the stairs to Wally's apartment door.
Then, propped himself onto the rooftop, ignoring the pain in his shoulder. His feet touched the roof tiles, careful and without the smallest creek (a technique he'd learned after years of practice.) Crawling his way to the front, the window was unlocked just as Wally promised.
There were two ways he perceived what was going to happen next: Wally would be asleep, after dying of boredom without the (forced) lack of human contact, or he would be awake in the living room, feigning studying, and calling Brucely a pig for eating everything in his doggy bowl.
No matter what age Dick was, scaring the shit out of one Wally West was never a bad greeting.
However at the mention of the former thought, Dick bit the inside of his mouth. He'd heard from Zatanna how hard Wally had taken the breakup. How solemn he was. She was consoling Artemis with what she called the 100% "Girl-Proof" Method (which meant kicking butts and making every thug in a twenty-mile radius cowered in fear), and he took it upon himself to comfort Wally. Even if doing so meant forcing Wally to take the bull by the horns.
Wally barely interacted with any of his old friends anymore unless they came to him. He hadn't dropped by headquarters or attended any of the unofficial parties their (Dick's) teammates enjoyed throwing. Even Dick, who saw more of Wally and Artemis on a daily basis than most, hadn't seen him since July.
Since the Reach disappeared.
Dick wanted his best friend back.
Nightwing wanted his best friend back on the team.
He…wanted his best frie—
Wally was asleep.
Staring obliquely through the blurry window, Dick could make out the dip in the queen sized bed, with a form sprawled diagonally over the mattress. He pushed the window open and promptly landed on his feet at the edge of the room.
A freckled hand twisted the pillow beneath the man tightly between his fingers. Red hair fell, meshing together on the surface of the soft cushion, and an arm wrapped stiffly over the case. Wally's face was buried securely in the cloth, his breath muffled as his chest rose and fell in slumber.
The rest of him curled around the pillow like a fitful child holding his favorite toy to carry him throughout the night. Artemis's pillow.
Watching his best friend made Dick's heart drop to his stomach. He swallowed hard, looking at his best friend of eight years tense in his sleep. There was an ache in his chest—one more painful than the knick he had gotten in his shoulder from Clayface. The woeful chirps of crickets echoed from the window, melding with the soft pat-pat of Brucely's feet outside of the room.
The silence Dick felt was positively deafening.
He slunk his gauntlets carefully off his hands, placing them complacently on the nightstand. Bare fingers unbuckled the various straps of belts, memorized from years of wearing the uniform, with eyes that never left the dork curled so tightly on his bed. That dork was probably drooling.
Unzipping his boots, Dick toed them away ever so carefully and treaded the length of the room. The bed dipped beneath his weight, and he crawled toward the center, shoving at Wally's back as he did so.
"Move your ass," he muttered under his breath.
Like wildfire, a jolt of energy shot through the speedster. Wally pushed himself off the bed, gasping for the air and wriggled across the bed before freezing. Emerald green eyes squinted at blue, bleary and jaded by sleep. The left side of Wally's face twitched.
Biting back a smirk and a chuckle to accompany that, Dick pressed a hand to the redhead's chest. He pushed the speedster against the bed, and watched his best friend's hair fall into those eyes. Those breathtaking eyes. "Sleep."
"Sleep," Wally slurred, voice low and barely a form of the English language. He raised his hand, making a lazy gesture toward the door. "Queso."
Queso…? Dick rolled his eyes. "You're an idiot."
Snort. "Says you." The man turned his head, burying his face back into Artemis'spillow before roughly hitting the space next to him. "Sleep."
Dick's lips twitched. He supposed Kid Coherency would now be added to his mental list of Nicknames for Wally West's Innate Stupidity. God knows, Wally probably thought he was Artemis of all people, crawling into bed with her ex-boyfriend. He pushed the thought aside in his head, laying down gingerly next to his best friend.
The scent of Old Spice, mixed in with maple syrup and pancakes hit him immediately. Dick buried his face into Wally's back, stifling another laugh and another retort. Wally made a disjointed noise—something that probably meant, Shut Up, Boy Wonder, or I'll Punch You, but didn't push him off.
In fact, sleepy-Wally didn't seem to mind or care.
Taking in the whiff of his best friend once more, Dick closed his eyes and pressed his forehead into the man's shoulder blade. His fingers played with the edge of Wally's shirt, curling and rubbing against the material gently.
Right before he fell asleep, he felt Wally move and place the comforter over the both of them.
I wasn't going to post this until I was done with it, but given the finale, I thought someone may want some Birdflash feels. I'll try to get an update iin each Saturday; but we'll see how it goes. (: