Wally did a double-take. More precisely, his brain registered something odd about that one group of guys headed for the Keystone City beach (an artificially-created plane of sand dumped at the shore of the river as part of the mayor’s “Let’s prettify our city, and don’t forget to vote for me” campaign) as he was already two blocks away. He ran back to where he had just seen the group.
What had raised his attention was the ridiculously huge umbrella that one of the men was carrying. There was nothing wrong with it – Keystone was the wrong turf for the dangerous-umbrella-schtick anyway – but it was blue with yellow stripes. Add to that sight a blond, tanned guy with a wide smile and a pair of swimming trunks that just screamed “I got run over by a circus tent”, and Wally was concerned. It could, of course, be nothing more than just a funny coincidence, but this was Keystone City after all. He took a closer look at the group: a bald man wearing Bermuda shorts with a flame pattern, a guy in a green Speedo, another man in an ice-hockey tricot nursing a beer and... oh crap, it really was the Rogues! And they were headed for the beach! They were probably going to...swim?
Wally thought about the situation. He was torn between alarming his uncle and observing the situation himself. Yes, he ought to tell Uncle Barry, but... they didn’t look dangerous. Okay, the Rogues rarely looked dangerous even in their colorful costumes when they were about to commit crimes, but what harm could they cause armed with an umbrella, beach towels and what appeared to be a few boxes of food? They were not to be underestimated, but then neither was he. He was a superhero after all, he could handle this. Whatever ‘this’ would turn out to be.
Despite his inner Jiminy Cricket chanting “Tell the Flash, tell the Flash!”, Wally decided to investigate it himself. If the Rogues wanted to cause any trouble, they would be facing the legendary Kid Flash!
In a matter of seconds he changed into his casual clothes and arrived at the beach before the Rogues did. He bought himself a milkshake – just for camouflage, of course, and not because the sun was burning and the milkshake utterly delicious – and waited.
Soon the alleged Rogues arrived. Maybe!Mirror Master and probably!Heat Wave set down the bags they were carrying and set up a little camp for themselves. A person who couldn’t be anything but Captain Boomerang dumped a bunch of straw mats and beach towels to the ground and lay down in the sand with a satisfied grunt. “You could at least roll them out,” one of them – it had to be the Pied Piper – pointed out. He looked weird...weirder than usual. On his head was an enormous straw hat, on his face almost comically large sun glasses and he appeared to be wearing a tent-poncho-tunic thing. Either Halloween had come early or he was determined not to let any bit of sunlight touch him. Wally shoved the sudden thought about vampires, supernatural supervillains and what the world would be like if his villains were vampires deep inside his brain, locked it in the “repress now”-box and threw away the key.
He had to concentrate; this whole spying thing was a lot harder than he had anticipated.
“Bite me, Pipes,” Digger said and rolled into a more comfortable position. “I don’t need stupid mats anyway. I’m comfortable right here.”
“Suit yourself,” Piper replied. He took one of the mats, rolled it out, carefully brushed the grains of sand off it, sat down and began to generously cover every inch of his skin that was not hidden by his clothes with sun lotion.
“Dude, it’s just sun,” James said.
Piper gave him a glare over the rim of his sunglasses that only people with fair complexion, red hair and bad experiences with sunbathing could give.
“Tricks, do you remember what happened last time we were at the beach?”
“We buried Boomer in the sand and sorta forgot about him?” Mark asked.
“Tricksy won the sandcastle contest!” Sam intervened and clapped James on the shoulder.
“No, we ran out of sun lotion and at the end of the day, my skin was so red it frightened lobsters!”
“Oh yeah, that had been fun,” Len said with a fond smile.
Piper sighed and rummaged through his bag, looking for a book, and muttered phrases that sounded like “Why do I even bother? Minds like twelve-year-olds, so what if I burn easily, bunch of jerks”.
Mark had finished laying out the mats and towels. Predictably the towels sported very creative patterns, including a smiling snowman, green and yellow spirals, and one -- stolen from the Flash museum -- had a life-sized portrait of the Flash on it. It had been “improved” by textile markers and the effects of the weather wand.
James opened his umbrella, stuck it into the ground and secured it by a strange green goo he called the “Adhesive Superlative”.
With a whoop of joy he dashed towards the river and vanished in the waves.
Piper looked after James’ shrinking form in the distance, shook his head and moved into the shade of the umbrella, continuing to read “Advanced Hardware Engineering – Sonic Devices and Sound Modulation”.
Meanwhile, Sam put together their barbecue grill – no Rogues outing without hot dogs, steaks and beer in large quantities – and Len fished another beer out of his self-made portable refrigerator.
“If you’re going to keep that up, we won’t have any left for the evening,” Mick said.
Len shrugged. “We can always send Sam to get more.”
“Or you could just not try to replace your blood with beer and I’ll stay here on this nice beach,” Sam interjected.
Snoring could be heard from the heap that was Digger.
“Should we wake him up? He’s going to be pissed if he gets sunburned,” Mark asked.
“I have a far better idea,” mischief glinted in Piper’s eyes and his lips spread into his Rogues -“You’re screwed”- grin. He fetched his wallet and poured coins into his hand. Slowly, he tip-toed over to Digger and started to place the coins carefully onto his chest. Mark snickered and went over to help him. Soon Digger’s chest declared “I *heart* U”. Mick rolled his eyes, put on his sunglasses and lay down directly under the blazing sun. Piper gave Mark a high-five and went back to the shade and his book.
His mood had improved considerably, and apparently his maturity had left the beach long ago.
A few feet away, Wally was still spying on them. He had watched as they had set up their camp, and it was so perfectly harmless that it was boring. He couldn’t hear all of their conversations, but all the parts he had heard had been so normal. No planning, no secrets, not even supervillain gossip. From a safe distance he saw the Trickster dive headfirst into the river, saw the Mirror Master put on an apron that read “Kiss the cook”, and soon he had started to work on the grill.
Then, finally, something happened. The Weather Wizard had stood up, clutching something in his fist and started to walk towards a group of very beautiful women in very colorful bikinis. Wally’s fears of a possible threat and hostage situation dissolved quickly into disappointment as the thing in the wizard’s fist turned out to be a bottle of tan lotion, and his ‘threats’ to the women were tacky come-ons. The Rogues really made a lot of terrible puns even when they were not on the job. Wally focused on the camp again. So far, nothing sinister had happened. Heat Wave was delivering an Oscar-worthy performance of “Man imitates steak”, Captain Koala seemed to pretend to be a snoring starfish and the Piper was sitting quietly in the shade. It was positively boring!
Nevertheless, Wally chastised himself, he couldn’t let his guard down. They were still dangerous criminals. Dangerous criminals who apparently laughed a lot, liked to grill, and whose villainous team-up today was to solve the crossword puzzle together. Almost disappointed, Wally decided to treat himself to some ice cream. Crime fighting was a hard job.
While he was queuing up for a double scoop of chocolate ice cream, a couple walked over to the camp. She was a gorgeous woman who almost dragged a man by the hand.
“Can’t we go anywhere else, sweetheart? We could go see a play, take a stroll in the park...we could go shopping,” Roscoe tried to tempt his girlfriend.
“Darling, be civil,” she whispered.
“I’ll be civil if he’s civil,” her boyfriend said petulantly. His perfect day on the beach included only one Snart and definitely not the one with a Y-chromosome. He was a jerk!
“You made it,” Sam observed, “and only an hour late.”
“We were...busy,” Roscoe said which made Lisa giggle. Len looked like he wanted to strangle him, but then he looked like that most of the time.
“Your stuff’s here somewhere,” Mick offered and gestured blindly to the collection of bags and rucksacks in the sand.
“Thank you, boys,” she said smilingly. Who said that only supervillains had the ability to come up with devious villainous plans? She had made the boys carry her stuff, had delayed Roscoe, then they’d made good use of the empty apartment and now they were just in time for hot dogs and steak. Perfect! She settled down on her towel. “Roscoe,” she said with a beautiful smile that was her usual precursor to demands, “be a dear and get me some ice cream, will you?”
“Of course, my love,” he replied.
“When you’re going to the vendor anyway, get me some, too,” Len demanded. Roscoe was torn between a sarcastic come-back, flat smug refusal or a joke about Len’s pathetic psychosomatic reaction to ice cream that Freud would have just loved, but he decided to go with something petty today. Sand icing – it was almost poetic...well, at least it was punny.
James emerged from the water eventually. He walked over to his friend, flopped down on his towel and panted for a while. He was exhausted, but stupidly happy.
“I don’t get it, how can you go to the beach and not even go for a swim?” he asked unbelievingly. “Seriously, we’ve been here for a few hours and I’m the only one who has been in the water yet.”
“Water is wet,” Piper said in his best talking-to-children voice. “It’s cold, conducts solar rays extremely well and frankly speaking, the water in the river is so polluted, you couldn’t pay me to go in there voluntarily.”
“Thanks for the lecture, spoilsport,” James said, pouting.
“No fighting,” Sam commanded, “get your plates, next wave of food’s ready.”
“You’re a god among men,” Digger said and wrestled himself into a sitting position. He had long discovered the coin-prank and had retaliated by flicking the coins at the culprits. You just don’t give Captain Boomerang something he could throw and not expect him to use that against you.
It was getting late, so Wally had zipped home, got himself a jacket and was back on the beach in a matter of 2.3 seconds. Nothing had changed. The Rogues and the woman were eating hot dogs, sipping from cans and chatting. Wally thought it utterly boring. Apparently even villains took days off. And they were just boring adults; adults with questionable taste in clothes, atrocious puns, and the tendency to prank each other. Just like everybody else on the beach, they had gone swimming and lain in the sun; they’d talked, relaxed and joked, eaten junk food and drank beer and lemonade. Nothing villainous, nothing dangerous, no sinister schemes. What was wrong with his supervillains? Or rather, what was wrong with all the other supervillains? Wally had a hard time imagining anyone from Gotham taking a day off (partially because he suspected most villains to be vampires or other creatures of the night) or Speedy’s enemies playing a quiet round of Scrabble.
He sighed. Apparently he had wasted a perfectly good summer day watching his villains be non-threatening, harmless and quite boring.
The sun was slowly setting and the temperature was dropping. The Rogues started to pack up and put on warmer clothes. They joked as they zipped up jackets, wriggled into jeans and shouldered the bags and rucksacks. James sprinted to the last ice cream vendor and purchased all the remaining cones. As he walked back to his friends, he spotted a crying little girl whose ice cream lay in the sand at her feet. James crouched down and gave her one of his own, smiling at her. She beamed and started to run after her parents. James pressed an ice cream cone into the hand of each of his friends. Len and Lisa were smiling, and it was both a little disturbing and incredibly adorable how similar their faces looked when they lit up in laughter. The Rogues left the beach after a wonderful, simply fantastic day.
Wally was about to head home himself, pondering whether he should tell Uncle Barry. As he turned around a corner, he looked into a familiar face. Well, at least half of a familiar face, as the Piper was still wearing those ridiculous glasses.
“Hello, kiddo,” he said, lips twisting into an enigmatic smile. Oh god, he should have told Barry, he shouldn’t have let his guard down, he should have-
Piper offered him an ice cream cone. “We had a spare. You like chocolate?” Completely baffled, Wally gripped the cone as the Piper pressed it into his hand.
“Uh...thanks?” Wally said, not sure what to expect, think or say.
The Piper laughed a little. “It’s not poisoned or anything. We just thought you’d appreciate a little token of our gratitude, since you watched over us all day.”
“Oh, kiddo, we knew after you almost ran poor Jam- the Trickster over. So, thanks for not ratting us out. We had a very nice day, so we figured-“ he pulled something out of the pocket of his shorts. Wally tensed, braced himself, but it was just a slip of paper. He turned it around and read. With a blue glitter pen, someone had written “One crime-free day in Keystone. Signed, the Rogues”.
Wally smiled. “You know, for a bunch of supervillains, you guys are alright, I guess,” he said.
The Piper smiled. “Until next time, kiddo.”
“Looking forward to it,” Wally replied, clutching the slip of paper in his hand. He watched as the Piper turned around and ran after the other Rogues, calling “Wait for me, guys!” His flip-flops slapped against his feet and he had to hold his straw hat down with both hands. In the fading light, Wally could just make out the silhouettes of the other Rogues. They were all facing the Piper, waiting for him. As he joined them, one of them – Wally couldn’t distinguish between the silhouettes, he didn’t know which one – clapped a hand on his shoulder and another stole his hat, placing it on his own frame. Soft, faint laughter could be heard and then they vanished into the evening.