John Stewart was the coolest Green Lantern ever. Hands down, accept no substitutes. He was maybe even the coolest superhero ever, but Wally was never going say that out loud, especially not in front of Barry.
Nobody could compare to John Stewart, and Wally would fight over that fact. Had, actually, two years back, when Dick, haughty and eleven, had declared Hal Jordan to be the greatest GL and then the next thing Wally knew they were rolling around on the ground throwing punches.
Batman had not been amused.
The point was: John Stewart was the best. Wally kind of wanted to be him. Or maybe marry him. Or both.
The only problem with his white picket fence and a dog (a Labrador Retriever or maybe a dachshund) dreams? Wally couldn’t actually get within three feet of John without having to turn around and run a couple states over.
It had happened when Barry had first tried to introduce him to the League. He’d started to say, “Kid Flash, meet Green –” and then Wally had been gone. And it turned out he was going say “Arrow”, so really the whole thing had been a disaster all around.
It wasn’t like John knew he existed, anyway, so Wally just collected posters and action figures and t-shirts and cufflinks, even though he didn’t own any shirts you could use cufflinks with, and, okay, so he owned Green Lantern bedsheets. So did a lot of other guys his age. It didn’t mean anything special.
Except it did, because Wally was in love.
He pasted his favorite poster -- the big one that wasn’t too shiny, without the green holographic accents the newer ones all sported, just John Stewart, relatively unairbrushed but still larger than life – on the wall next to his bed, so at night he could curl up on his side and just look at it and think about the kind of hero he wanted to be when he grew up.
And maybe sigh a little. But only a little.
Aliens invaded on a Wednesday, which was a little weird because Saturday was the typical outerspace invasion day. Wednesday had more of a nanotechnology gone wrong feel.
It was one of those battles, the ones where it didn’t matter if you were fifteen or fifty, Justice Leaguer or sidekick, freelance agent or retired hero who only wanted to putter around in the old rose garden.
It was the kind of battle where it didn’t matter who you were – you fought. Because that’s what heroes did.
Wally was fighting on the spaceships, large disc-like platforms, high off the ground. Was being the operative word. One of the aliens got a lucky shot in and Wally found himself going over the edge, unable to grab hold. Then he was falling.
The ground felt like it was coming up to meet him faster than Wally had ever gone in his life. He squeezed his eyes shut and bit his lip and thought, well, now I’m feeling the aster,, which was, as last thoughts went, incredibly stupid.
There was a jolt, and Wally stopped falling.
He kept his eyes shut and wondered when the pain would set in. It didn’t, and after a moment Wally cracked one eye open.
Everything around him was green.
“Hang on,” a deep voice said. “I’ve got you!”
Wally looked out through the green and saw John Stewart.
John pulled him in and wrapped an arm around Wally’s waist, keeping him suspended against him in midair while he aimed a ring blast at an approaching alien. His chest was very firm and strong and Wally scrabbled at his (also very firm and strong) shoulders for support.
Wally felt like he was falling all over again.
Then a ray gun hit John in the shoulder, and Wally really was falling all over again.
Wally had this daydream. It wasn’t serious or anything, just something he went back to sometimes when class was boring or car trips were long, his feet tapping absently against the nearest surface and his chin propped up on his hands.
It went down something like this: there was a big catastrophic battle (check), in which Wally fought valiantly (check). Something went terribly wrong (check) and John Stewart rescued him heroically (check). Or sometimes he rescued John Stewart (no check, because everything sucked).
It was harmless. He never thought it would ever actually happen. But that’s a career in superheroics for you.
Wally and John tumbled together towards the ground. Wally shut his eyes against the wind and clenched his jaw and clung to John for all he was worth. He was half thinking about how much he didn’t want this to be it, how much he was going to miss Uncle Barry and Aunt Iris and his team and even Batman, and half thinking I am touching John Stewart!, feeling entirely too giddy for someone in a freefall.
They stopped with a jerk, and Wally looked up into Wonder Woman’s eyes. She looked, if anything, amused, which was kind of weird given the giant space battle taking place over their heads.
“Careful, you two,” she said, setting them both gently down on the ground. Then she was off.
John gave Wally a cursory glance over, probably to make sure he wasn’t bleeding or missing anything vital, and then he nodded, said watch yourself and took off, leaving Wally to stand on the ground.
As first meetings went, it wasn’t exactly how he’d always pictured it. He’d gotten to touch John Stewart, though. In midair. Which was pretty cool.
Three weeks later, Wally found himself in an air vent. It wasn’t particularly comfy.
It would just figure that the day half the League went evil would be a school night. He guessed he could probably go ahead and write off any chance of passing English this year. He’d ask Robin to tutor him, but last he’d seen him Robin had lunged for his neck – so not happening.
He waited another couple of minutes, willing himself still with everything he had, before temptation won over. He pried the grate loose and dropped to the floor, boots echoing entirely too loud. His team had headed right; he headed left, around the corner, and smacked straight into someone’s chest.
John Stewart’s chest, to be precise.
Under normal circumstances, Wally would have been equal parts thrilled and mortified. Seeing as how most of the League was out for blood, Wally had to settle for terrified instead. His hands flew up to shield his face.
“Please don’t eat me!” he yelped, hunching his shoulders and waiting for impact.
None came. Slowly, Wally lowered his hands.
John was staring at him with one eyebrow arched.
“Oh,” Wally said. “Uh. You’re not evil, huh?”
“No,” John said dryly.
Wally shifted his weight from one leg to the other.
“Oh,” he said again. John rolled his eyes briefly skyward. He grabbed Wally by the upper arms and pulled him around the corner, then settled a hand between his shoulderblades and started marching.
Wally was one of the fastest people on Earth, but John made him feel like he had to jog to keep up.
“Do you know what’s wrong?” he asked after a beat, biting his lip and glancing up at John. His face was serious, the harsh lighting throwing his furrowed brow into sharp relief. “With everyone?”
“Magic,” John said, and the look on his face told Wally exactly what he thought about that. A few months ago Wally might’ve rolled his eyes and, crush or no crush, explained to John that there was no such thing as magic, but that had been before the Helmet of Fate and Weirdo the Witch Boy, let alone the time a week ago with Artemis and the ghost of old Mrs. Jacobson, who had only wanted a) to curse those who had betrayed her in life, and b) to pass down her cookie recipe to her great granddaughter.
Bottomline was: Wally was beginning to develop a healthy respect for magic. Which mostly meant he just wanted to stay out of its way.
“Batman’s got Zatara working on it,” John said.
“So Batman’s…?” Wally trailed off, shuddering. He’d been there when Superman had gone bad, and that’d been scary enough (let alone the look on Superboy’s face), but the thought of it taking over Batman was worse.
There was the faintest rustle of cloth and Batman landed in front of them. Wally jumped and somehow ended up latching onto John, who seemed spectacularly unimpressed with the situation on a whole.
Batman pulled himself up and got his loom on.
“Batman is unaffected,” he intoned, staring down at Wally. He pulled an empty chip bag out of his cape. “Kid Flash, for future reference – never leave evidence behind on stealth missions.”
Wally felt his face heat up. He reached out and snagged the bag, crinkling into a ball. John bit down on a laugh and Wally wanted to just vibrate through the floor and go find a cave to live in for the rest of his life.
He wondered if Batman embarrassed Robin in front of his crushes, too.
A week after Zatara broke the spell, the aliens came back for round two.
The team was on a roof, watching the aliens shoot laser beams at Superman and waiting for Batman’s signal. Wally propped his elbows up on the ledge and his chin up on his palms and reflected about how, for a special ops team, they never got to do anything cool. Well, okay, there had been the thing with the island. And the time they trashed Robin’s school. And, okay, yeah, the thing the other day with the mole people. But still, any day now, Batman was going to make them start helping little old ladies across the road in the name of justice. Wally could just see it.
A flash of green caught his eye. Green Lantern – John – flew by, weaving between ray gun blasts, and Wally just about melted on the spot. He was just so cool.
“Haven’t gotten over that crush, huh?” Robin stage whispered, grinning. Wally blushed and hunched his shoulders.
“Shut up,” he said. Robin patted him on the elbow.
“It’s okay, Batman told me all about it,” he said. Wally grimaced; now he was picturing Batman and Robin down in their Batcave, drinking tea and exchanging team gossip. It was profoundly frightening.
“At least I’ve talked to him,” Wally bit out. “At this rate you’re never going to have Hal Jordan’s babies. His manbabies.”
Robin’s smirk melted right off his face.
“You – I do not -- not whelmed!” he hissed. He tossed his cape over his shoulder, all Batman-esque, and stalked away from the ledge.
Wally went back to watching John. Robin was probably going to try and throw him over the ledge in a few minutes, but at least until then he could enjoy the view.
Getting inside John’s apartment was number 7 on Wally’s list of overly detailed daydreams – putting it, on the scale of likelihood, above getting stuck in a spaceship together, but below anything involving swooning.
He had just never thought it would be like this.
Wally sat out on John’s balcony, knees hugged to his chest. He searched the cracking grey sky for Superman, which was stupid, he knew, because last anyone had heard Superman had been spotted over Australia. And then he hadn’t been spotted anywhere at all.
Wally felt spectacularly helpless. He wondered how Superboy felt, but Superboy was with Black Canary somewhere, like Robin was with Batman in Gotham, and Artemis with Green Arrow and, yeah, Red Arrow in Star City. Guess it took the world ending to bring people back together.
Communications were down. Everyone was split into little factions, just playing the waiting game, and Wally had never been good at that.
A hand settled on his shoulder and he looked up into John’s eyes.
Wally swallowed hard. He opened his mouth, then realized he couldn’t think of anything to say, so he shut it again.
“Mind if I sit here?” John asked. Wally nodded and shrugged.
“Dude, it’s your fire escape,” he said. John snorted; the fire escape was small, and when he sat down their thighs brushed and Wally’s shoulder knocked into his upper arm.
“It’s my kitchen, too, but the Flash still kicked me out of it,” he said. “Apparently if the world’s going to end, we’re not going to do it on an empty stomach.”
Wally wanted to laugh, but his throat felt too tight. Before, having John this close would have made him blush all the way up to his ears. Now he didn’t feel anything but this strange, leaden dread that sat in the pit of stomach.
“Hey,” John said. Wally didn’t look at him. “It’s going to be okay.”
Wally swallowed hard again.
“But what if it’s not?” he asked, feeling very small. “What if this time we don’t save the day? I mean, half of us don’t have our powers, and the sky is literally falling and the timestream and – and Wonder Woman…”
Wally had been in the same room as Wonder Woman a handful of times, but it’d felt like someone ripped open his chest when he saw her fall.
“She’ll be fine,” John said. Wally did look at him then. John was staring at the sky, and Wally took the opportunity to take in the strong lines of his profile. “We’ll all be fine.”
“Okay,” Wally said, and edged a little closer to John.
If the world was going to end, he might as well enjoy the moment, right?
The world didn’t end. Everyone was a little iffy on the details – communication with superheroes was exactly like a bad game of telephone – but Wally was assured it involved truth, justice and the American way.
He wasn’t totally sure about the pie thing, but then again neither was Robin and he had actually been there.
After it was all over, watching the sky and the timestream knit each other back together, Wally reached up and touched his shoulder. It tingled where it had been pressed up against John’s arm.
He was never going to wash it again.
A villain calling himself The Sprinkler took care of that a full week later.
It was probably for the best, Wally reflected, water dripping into his eyes. It was getting kind of awkward, trying to keep one shoulder out of the shower’s spray.
It was Sunday, and Wally was almost crushed by a building. Almost because he didn’t have superspeed for nothing; still, standing outside, covered in grit and dust, he couldn’t help but feel a little cheated.
“There goes my souvenir,” he muttered.
“Souvenir?” a familiar voice repeated. Wally spun on his heel and came face to face with John.
In the last couple of weeks, Wally had stopped wanting to run away whenever he found himself in vaguely the same place as John. Now he wanted to run towards him, which was sort of problematic, though not quite as bad as the time with the Canadian border control.
(Trevor the border guard had only lightened up when Wally promised to get him the Flash’s autograph. After that they’d got to talking, and he’d seemed very sympathetic about the whole Green Lantern thing. Turned out Trevor had a thing for Green Arrow, which was kind of weird, but Wally supposed if you liked facial hair…)
He opened his mouth to say something suave and charming, but only came out with a slightly lovesick, “Hey.”
“We seem to be running into each other a lot,” John commented. He was even smiling a little. Wally was seized in the sudden panic of oh man he is actually talking to me, like, a real conversation? WhatdoIsaywhatdoIsaywhatdoIsay?
“Which is funny!” his mouth supplied helpfully, not even pausing to ask his mind for input. “Because, you know, I, uh… run?”
Scratch what he’d said: Wally totally wanted to run to Canada again. He barely resisted the urge to slap a hand to his burning face.
John took a step forward, eyes trained on the rubble.
“So what was that about a souvenir?”
“It’s dumb,” he admitted, shifting from one foot to the other. “I just like to take stuff from battles – y’know, souvenirs – to, uh, commemorate them? Or something?”
That really shouldn’t have come out like a question.
John hmmed under his breath.
“Does it have to be anything in particular?” he asked. Wally shrugged, scuffing the heel of his shoe against the ground.
“Not really,” he said, because, well – robot eyeball. Arrow. Helmet of Fate. Wasn’t exactly much a themed collection.
John started to move; Wally halfway expected him to pull out the ring, but instead he reached into his pocket (and how did that costume even have pockets? It was way too fitted for them. Not that Wally was looking. Okay, he was, but c’mon, he was right there.) and pulled out a coin.
It wasn’t an Earth coin. For one, it was half the size of John’s palm. For another, it shone iridescent, green and purple swirling across its surface in the sunlight. There was a face etched on it, alien and gentle.
It was one of the most beautiful things Wally had ever seen.
“I know it’s not from the fight,” John said, “but what about this?”
Wally’s jaw dropped.
“I can’t,” he said, waving his hands around fast enough to blur. “It’s yours, and it looks important, and --!”
John somehow managed to press it into his hands. Wally stilled. John’s hand closed around his, trapping the coin in Wally’s fist; the touch sent fireworks shooting through Wally’s chest.
“Keep it,” John said with an unspoken and that’s final. “It’s a souvenir.”
Later, Wally almost put it with the other souvenirs. Almost. But holding it gave him the same tingly feeling he’d gotten when John had touched his shoulder, so he pocketed it instead. Like a good luck charm, he told himself, even though he had never really believed in those before.
Everything went back to normal and Wally didn’t see John again until the day the robots attacked.
People, Wally reflected, really needed to stop building robots.
The League had sent them out with warnings about not getting too close, about danger, but getting to fight with the League was always so exciting that Wally hadn’t cared.
At least, he hadn’t cared until he saw John directly in the path of one of the robots (with the deadly lasers, his mind supplied helpfully). John’s back was turned, his attention elsewhere, and he wasn’t going to see it coming.
For one terrifying second, Wally went still. Then he ran -- without thinking, without a plan. He just ran at John as fast as he could.
He hit him like a hurricane – John was stronger and sturdier, but Wally had speed and surprise on his side, and they went tumbling head over heels together.
“What?” John bit out as they rolled to a stop. His hands came up to hold Wally still.
“Hi,” Wally said breathlessly, suddenly and acutely aware that he had somehow ended up on top of John. The lasers shot right over their heads before he could get a chance to really enjoy it.
John brought his ring up and threw up a shield. Wally disentangled himself as much as he could.
“Thanks for the save,” John said.
No problem, he wanted to say, but when he opened his mouth what came out was, “Wait until Trevor hears about this!”
“What?” John said.
“Nothing,” Wally said quickly. John shook his head and aimed a ring blast for the robot’s head.
“You’re a weird kid,” he said, but he said it fondly; Wally beamed.
Ridiculous daydream list – sometimes Wally saved John Stewart. Check.