They called 11th floor and its rooftop the Cave. Dick had suggested it because it was the name of his hangout back in Gotham but, being the man of logic that he was, Wally had implied that caves implied darkness and "we have a freaking skyline!" Dick dropped the remark, as did Wally when Megan decided that it was a nice way to give Dick some part of home, and if Megan wanted it, Wally would gladly give in.
Most of the time, he would sit at the wooden dinning table that was pressed against the wall. His books would be open and highlighted with notes on the corners with ripped papers put in between the pages.
"You do know this place is for food, right, Baywatch?"
"I'm perfectly fine eating here. Thank you for your concern, Farty." He smiled and especially enjoyed how her forehead creased when she frowned at him.
"You know you can take breaks too. I'm in your honors bio class; Mr. Nelson doesn't give that much work." She takes a few Doritos from the near-empty bag on the table and
"At least I'm working," he muttered to himself as he flipped to the next page of the biology textbook with its too-many highlighted phrases, side notes and folded corners for his extra credit research for his teacher.
"You could do that in your room."
He turned toward her, eyebrow shooting up higher than necessary to prove the point. "You don't have an obnoxiously yellow room. Who the hell thought of making them rainbow colours anyway?"
"It's your fault that you were last to arrive and claim a spot."
"But yellow's such a girl colour."
Her hands cradled her hips and left little dents and shadows in her jeans. (She looked pretty muscular.) "Is being a girl a bad thing?"
"Even if we've only known each other a few weeks, I know you well enough to know not to answer that." He gulped half the can of Barq's.
"You're not as dumb as you seem, Baywatch," she rolled her eyes and pivoted around.
"I'm not doing all this extra credit because I'm stupid!"
"I never said you were." She sashayed, wide hips swinging lazily, back to her room where the door shut with a reverberating thud, leaving Wally with the silent ringing of what sounded like a too-loud "Pink" by AC/DC leaking from his earphones.
"We'll discuss the third chapter on Monday. Class dismissed." Mr. Nelson smiled and bent down in front of his laptop, eyes squinting to see the small font on his desktop.
"Mr. Nelson? Here's the extra credit I owe you," Wally said as he maneuvered past the students exiting the class.
"Ah, Mr. West! Nice to see you're getting so into my class. Just put it on my desk." He gestured to an empty space beside his computer. His desk was covered in paper with neat but slanted print all over them. Pens were also scattered across, some with their caps on and others bleeding multi-coloured ink on the nearest sheets of paper. He seemed happy enough to have a student who was actually trying, but Wally couldn't really tell; Mr. Nelson always had this complacent smirk that he thought resembled his own.
"Okay. Have a good weekend, Mr. Nelson!"
"Hold on, kid. I wanna talk to you."
"Okay, sir. What's up?"
"Have I ever told you about how I got into biology?"
He stuck his hand into his pocket and dug around, face contorting and eyes rolling up. "Ah. Here it is." He motioned for Wally's hand and dropped something into it. It was brass and intricately designed with billows and small flowers.
Mr. Nelson nodded. "Open it."
He did so and saw and old-fashioned clock with lines to indicate each hour. Above it was a picture of a woman with dark and deep-set eyes and thin eyebrows. Her cheekbones were high and nose narrow and teeth stark-white against her red lips. A necklace of pearls encompassed her neck. Her collarbones stuck out from her pale skin and were framed by a ruffled dress.
"Who's this? She's hot!"
"That is my Inza. She was a firecracker, that one. Met her when I was about your age. God was she unparalleled- brave- resilient- the most amazing woman I had- and have- ever met. Brilliant and bold and terrifyingly beautiful- I was lucky to get someone as magnificent as her," he laughed to himself as her took the locket back from him and staring intently at it, eyes glossed over and jaw tensed.
"Sir, not that I don't love hearing about your wife- she is your wife right?-"
Mr. Nelson nodded. "Late wife."
Wally's eyes shot open and his breath hitched in his chest. "Oh. I'm- my condolences."
"It's alright. It's been a few decades. I still miss her, though. Every day." He sighed. "The point I'm trying to make is that Inza was my flame. Everything I did was for her. She was the one who made me get up in the morning and want to go bring the money home and keep the lights on." He paused and pinched the bridge of his nose. "One day, the doctor tells us she has a growth in her breast." He shook his head. "Kiddo, I swear that I have never felt so scared in my life. It was then that my love for science really kicked in. I spent hours and days stuck in my lab just trying to find something to make her better. I wanted to drive her to dinner, not chemotherapy. Sometimes she'd go into remission, but it would never last. Then about twenty two years ago the nurse said she was gone and that was that."
He didn't know what to say. He just twiddled his fingers and tried to use his shoe to scrape off the dirt that covered the toes of his other sneaker, which, in hindsight, had not been the best idea, since the goal and method contradicted each other.
"I spent the rest of my time trying to find that cure so nobody else had to get a call from a hospital or a flatline like I did. About ten years ago, though, I realized that I was getting old and I needed to pass on what I knew, so I got into teaching."
"I'm glad you did. You're an awesome teacher, seriously!"
He chuckled dryly. "Thanks, kid. You know you kind of remind me of me when I was younger and didn't know Inza. I was wild, fun, carefree, but also empty as a shell. What do you want to do with your life, Wally?"
"I'm majoring in forensic biology, if that's what you're asking."
"Is that it?" He looked baffled.
"What do you mean?"
"Let me ask you this: why do you want to go into forensic biology?"
"My uncle does it for the police back in Central City. It seems cool."
"So you don't love it?"
"You say that like anybody in college knows what it is," he joked; Mr. Nelson's face stayed the same: mouth a straight line that differed from his usual smirk.
"So you chose it out of admiration?"
"I guess you could say that."
It was quiet; the quiet rang and left him sticking his finger into his ears to try to clear out whatever seemed to be blocking it and making everything sound magnified and bigger and louder and audible even at the lowest of decibels.
"If there's any advice I could give you, I'd tell you this: find yourself your own Inza, your own spitfire. You'll need someone to tell you when you're being a complete blockhead. It's college. You're bound to find somebody. For examp-"
"Wally, Megan called. She wanted to have lunch and I said we'd be there in five minutes about four minutes ago. C'mon." She turned toward Mr. Nelson and smiled from the corner of her lip. "Hello, Sir."
"Ms. Crock," he greeted her as he bowed his head. "Well, Mr. West, you best get going; you don't want to keep your friend waiting. Remember what I said, alright?"
He hesitated before hiking his backpack higher on his shoulder. "I will. Nice talking to you, Mr. Nelson." He waved and turned as his professor pat his back hard and continued to set up his next class.
"What was that about?"
"Nothing that concerns you, that's what," he said as they walked. But his mind just kept replaying everything Mr. Nelson said like a broken record or a song stuck in his head and replaying even if he tried to shut it off.
"Whatever. Let's just go to lunch." And they walked.
Author's Note: Hey again, guys! I'm sorry I'm updating again so late. I've been busy with college choosing for my sister, having ups and downs, visiting family (and colleges!) and shopping. I've also had this really bad writer's block because I had no idea how to begin the chapter, but I was on an airplane and unable to sleep and this just came to me WOOHOO. I also have the half of the following chapter and have outlined a few more chapters after this. I'm really excited to get this story going and I hope you bear with me (and our lovely team!) as we try our best to maneuver this college-verse. :) Thank you for your continued support!