Most people forgot that Wally was a detective.
Well, not a detective. Technically speaking, a forensic scientist. And it was easy to be overlooked when you were in the same room as Batman, Sandman, Oracle, and the Question. In a game of wits with any of those four, Wally didn’t stand a chance.
But he was still damn good at his job. Which was why he noticed when things between Batman and Superman started getting…odd.
The first time it happened, they’d just come back from a mission on some distant and godforsaken desert planet on the other side of the galaxy, where the seven of them had fought an army of robot invaders. They were all cut up and bruised and exhausted, but Batman had taken a nasty hit in that last climatic battle and as they exited the Javelin, Wally was pretty sure he could hear broken ribs crackling with each breath. Not that Batman would ever admit to pain—he’d practically growled at Wonder Woman when she held out a hand to help him off the ground.
Everyone knew to stay well out of the way of an injured, angry Batman. Even Superman kept his distance.
Or so Wally had thought.
Hawkgirl and Green Lantern exited the ship first (doubtlessly to find somewhere private and tear each other’s clothes off). Then Wally, Wonder Woman, and J’onzz. Wally turned around to ask Wonder Woman if she wanted an iced mocha—it never hurt to try—and then he saw Batman appear at the top of the stairs, half-leaning against the plane’s door. That wasn’t the weird bit. The weird bit was when Superman leaned towards him and brushed a streak of baked sand off Batman’s cowl.
It was such a small movement. Tiny, thoughtless. Intimate. Wally expected Batman to whirl around and growl something about how he preferred to be left alone. But Batman just looked at Superman and then looked away, like it hadn’t even happened.
“They are friends, you know,” Diana said later, when he tried to explain the scene to her. They were drinking iced mochas in the Watchtower cafeteria with a freshly showered Shayera and Green Lantern. Batman and Superman were nowhere to be seen.
“I don’t see how you can be friends with someone without knowing their name,” Wally said. Shayera nodded in agreement. This was a sore point among the original seven leaguers. Batman knew all of their names, and none of them knew his. None of them were suicidal enough to try and uncover his secret identity either.
Diana silently sipped her coffee. “You’re friends with Nightwing.”
“That’s different. He’d tell me his name if he didn’t have Bats breathing down his neck. And he isn’t such a ghoul.”
“We’re all exhausted,” John said. “I think you’re overthinking this. What do you imagine is going on?”
“I don’t know.” Wally sighed. “It was just odd.”
“If you’re bored, you can take my monitor duty shift,” Shayera offered. She poked him with a talon-sharp nail.
“I have a life too,” Wally protested. Shayera laughed, and then they were caught up in teasing each other and he forgot all about what he’d seen.
The next time he noticed anything was off was on his next monitor duty shift. Monitor duty was excruciating when your mind ran at a thousand miles an hour. This shift was especially bad. Not even a hurricane to stop.
He flipped through the Watchtower security feeds one by one, scrolling through the last fifteen minutes of footage. It was the middle of the night, Eastern Standard Time. Most Leaguers were home asleep or patrolling their cities.
Then, on one camera, movement. Wally paused.
Batman and Superman, walking down the dormitory hall together. There was no audio on these cameras—even Batman drew the line at that invasion of privacy. Superman said something to Batman. Whatever it was, Batman paused.
Wally leaned in, interested.
Batman said something back and Superman laughed, his shoulders shaking. Had Batman made a joke? Was that even possible? They walked further down the hall, out of the camera’s range.
Wally switched to the next camera.
The hallway was empty.
He switched back, but there was nowhere else for them to have gone—no branches off, not so much as a supply closet between one camera field and the next. Batman wouldn’t have allowed so obvious a weakness in the security. No telltale blue flash from a teleporter beam either. A mystery.
Thankfully, he had nothing better to do. He clicked through the frames one by one. There was the heel of Batman’s trailing boot, disappearing. And on the next feed, not so much as a shadow. Wally scrolled backwards and forwards in time on the second camera. Over and over at superspeed and regular time.
And then he saw it.
Oh, it was almost perfect. But Wally had the ability to watch the footage a dozen times backwards and forwards, and he could see the seam where someone had razored out the real footage and inserted a picture of an empty hallway. The stock footage was just a millimeter to the left off from how the camera was oriented. And the footage stuttered for only a second between the two.
He went back to the first camera, replayed the last few seconds featuring Batman and Superman. He watched them walk down the hall. If there was an intruder on the Watchtower messing with the security system, the alarms would be blaring. Still, he watched the other feeds with half of his attention.
Then he saw Batman’s hand twitch towards his utility belt. Wally leaned in so close that his forehead was nearly resting on the monitor and watched the few seconds over again. Batman had clicked a button in a pouch on his belt. Batman had a device that could automatically override the Watchtower’s security feeds.
Of course he does, Wally thought. But why use it now?
He raced down to the dormitory and ran up and down the hall, but there was no sign of Batman or Superman or any hint about where they’d gone.
“You’ve been staring at those fries for ten minutes.”
Wally looked up to see GL looming over him. He’d been mulling over the mystery of Batman and Superman for a day—he probably was a little distracted. He picked up a fry and let it drop back onto the plate. Cold.
GL took the seat across from him and set down his tray. The cafeteria bustled around them. “You sick or something? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you ignore food.”
“Batman can override the Watchtower’s camera feeds.”
“Did you expect anything less?” GL munched on apple slices. “He designed this place. And if he uses his tricks against us, we’re probably dead anyway.”
“It’s just—” Wally gave him a brief rundown of last night’s monitor duty shift.
GL picked up another apple slice and chewed on it while he thought Wally’s story over. Finally he sipped his water and sighed. “Wally, what are you getting at? You think Batman and Superman have some sort of conspiracy to—what, exactly?”
“Don’t you think its odd?”
“I think you’d better not poke the bear that is Batman.”
“Why?” Wally threw up his hands and accidentally knocked his plate of stale fries across the table. No one paused—Flash being hyperactive was nothing new. “He’s such a jerk. Walking around holding our identities over us when he won’t tell us his own. What a hypocrite. And I can’t believe that Supes likes the guy. He should be the one who’s got the biggest problem with this, being Mister Truth-and-Justice.”
“Hmm.” GL swept the fries back onto the plate. “Superman and Batman have been working together for what—fifteen years now? Way longer than there’s even been a Justice League.”
“So I think Clark probably already knows Batman’s secret identity. And if he’s decided not to push our resident paranoiac into identifying himself, I’m inclined to believe there’s a good reason.”
A hush swept over the cafeteria. Wally looked up and saw Batman sweep into the room, steel-toed boots going thunk thunk thunk against the Watchtower’s metal-sheet flooring. Wally secretly wondered how much of the man’s bulk was armor rather than actual muscle—there was just no way any human had biceps like that, and it smacked of more than a bit of vanity to sculpt your costume to look like you did.
Superman and Wonder Woman sat together at a table at the far side of the room. Diana turned towards Batman like she was actually going to invite him to lunch, but the man didn’t look at her. A black-gauntleted hand snatched an apple out of the bowl perched on the end of the cafeteria line, and then Batman turned on a heel and swept back out the doors. Everyone in the room sighed and conversation picked up back up.
“I just don’t get it,” Wally moaned. “Does Supes just have bad taste in friends?”
“Leave well enough alone, Wally,” GL said. “Doesn’t your day job give you enough mysteries to solve?”
Wally tried to let it go. He really, really did. He probably would’ve forgotten all about it if Batman hadn’t gone out of his way to be a major asshole over the next two weeks. First, he barged into the gym while Wally was sparring with a simulation of Mirror Master and took it upon himself to snap “advice” from the doorway with his arms crossed. Then the teleporter was taken offline for a week for one of his arcane and unnoticeable “improvements” so it took forty-five minutes to get from the Watchtower to home and the same on the way back. And it didn’t help when Wally found himself stuck on a last-minute monitor duty shift when Batman dropped it to go on some secret mission.
Wally snapped after the League fought the Secret Society of Supervillians in New York. Between T.O. Morrow’s army of superpowered androids, Star Sapphire’s constructs, and Cheetah, Copperhead, and Shade’s bags of tricks, they’d just barely scraped out a victory with a minimum of damage. Diana was covered in ash and soot from carrying people out of a burning skyscraper. Batman was bleeding from a nasty-looking gash that ran down his left arm from shoulder to elbow, and at least to Wally’s eye he was moving slower. Blue Beetle was unconscious. Wally himself had taken a hit to the chest when he’d run in between Copperhead’s tail and a group of civilians.
Finally, it was over. The police carted the villains off to Blackgate and the League picked themselves up off the ground. Wally’s chest ached when he breathed in. He’d probably have a nasty bruise tomorrow, but the adrenaline rush and the thrill of victory were pretty effective painkillers.
Or they were, until Batman stalked across the battlefield and jabbed a finger into his solar plexus.
“That,” Batman growled, “was stupid.”
Luckily, superspeed engendered a quick recovery time. “Excuse me?”
“You’re lucky Copperhead was too stupid to bite you. At your metabolism, his venom would’ve killed you in minutes. Then he would have killed the civilians behind you. It was dumb to get within arm’s reach of him. Don’t do it again.”
“I saved them!”
“Barely,” Batman said. “Learn to fight smart.”
Then he turned and vanished in a teleporter beam, leaving Wally sputtering with anger. It was just plain rudeness, that’s what. You didn’t just walk up to your teammate like a personified frown and tear them a new one like that. It just wasn’t done.
“Geez,” Blue Beetle appeared at Wally’s shoulder, apparently having shaken off the concussion. “What an ass, huh? That guy’s wound so tight I bet he has to unscrew the cowl. Well—better hit the showers.”
Wally beamed up to the Watchtower in a fury. He felt his blood pressure rise while he scrubbed off the dirt and dried blood in the locker room showers. By the time he’d gotten into a clean uniform, his heart was banging in his chest.
According to the computer, Batman was in a service corridor on the top floor of the Watchtower. It was a secluded area. All that was up there was Batman’s lab and some storage closets. Good. Wally didn’t need an audience.
Green Lantern would be calling him an idiot about now, but John had more self-restraint than was necessarily healthy.
Wally dropped his comlink in his room so that Batman wouldn’t know he was coming, and zoomed up the twenty stories to the top floor. Carefully he deadened his footfalls and crept down the hall.
Batman’s shadow loomed from around the corner. Wally was about to dart around it when he heard voice’s. Batman’s—and Superman’s.
“B—” Superman said, and then sighed. “You’re hurt.”
“It’s nothing.” Wally wondered if Batman had any tone other than growl and shout. He pressed himself against the wall and peered around the corner.
Batman and Superman stood in the hall in front of Batman’s laboratory. Batman held a grey, half-melted chunk of one of Morrow’s androids. He hadn’t bothered changing yet—blood stained the left side of his uniform. As Wally watched, Batman turned away from Superman and towards the lab.
Superman caught his arm. “That can wait.”
“Unless it gets up and walks away. Wouldn’t be the first time.”
Superman smiled, which seemed to Wally a completely nonsensical reaction. “Careful. You’re starting to act as paranoid as Wally thinks you are.”
Wally panicked and ducked back behind the wall, but apparently it was just coincidence that he came up in conversation.
“Flash should work on his own shortcomings.”
“Don’t you think you’re a bit hard on the kid?” Wally dared to look back around the corner. Superman was leaning against the wall, arms crossed, like chatting with Batman was a normal thing to do. “He’s been in the Teen Titans for years. He’s kept himself—and Nightwing—together this long.
Superman chuckled. “Oh yes, the League is a level up, good isn’t good enough—I know all your lines. Still wouldn’t kill you to throw him a compliment sometime.”
Batman scoffed like it was an absurd idea and then hefted the chunk of android. “I have work to do.”
Superman shook his head. “I know. I’ll leave you be, I guess.” He put just a hint of kicked-puppy tone in that last sentence and Wally was about to roll his eyes when Batman sighed, shifted the piece of metal into one arm, wrapped the other around Superman’s neck, and kissed him.
Wally felt his eyes bug out of his head. He blinked six times just to make sure this was really real.
Batman dropped his arm and the two stepped apart. The lab doors opened and Batman swept away inside without another word. Wally dashed away before Superman could find him.
There were a lot of memories that haunted Wally—the alternate universe where he was dead and the League had turned into power-hungry madmen, watching Barry disintegrate in the speedforce, Terra dying—but none quite approached the level of earth-shattering surreal unbelievability of learning that Batman and Superman were…dating. It was like learning that the Easter Bunny was real and enjoyed eating small children.
He wondered if Nightwing knew. They’d been friends since they were kids. Surely the subject of “Oh, my dad is dating Superman” would’ve come up if he had known. Then again, the Batfamily kept their own counsel most of the time.
Wally liked to run when he had a problem to work over. So he hit the Watchtower gyms and set the VR projector to run a simulation of a track approximately the length of the US from coast to coast. He ran at what was a comfortable jog for him, and the speed of a small aircraft for normal people.
A lot of things made sense, once he factored in the relationship. The way Superman called Batman B when no one else was allowed to. How whenever someone got a real hit in on Superman, Batman was the first one there.
It was sweet actually, in a totally fucked up sort of way.
He wondered how long it had been going on. Years, probably. Especially since they’d let their guard down enough to kiss in the Watchtower. If it were a new thing, Wally couldn’t imagine Batman allowing that to happen. In fact, they probably predated the League, now that he was really thinking about it. Whenever the League had a battle, they fell in next to each other so easily, like gears in a clock. It seemed obvious, actually. He didn’t know how the rest of them had missed it. Did Wonder Woman know? The three of them liked to keep their own counsel.
“You look preoccupied.” Wally skipped a step and skidded to a stop in front of Wonder Woman and Shayera. He felt his face turn pink. Amazons weren’t telepathic, but Diana was superhumanly intuitive.
“We were hoping to steal the gym from you,” Shayera continued. “The others are taken, and well…don’t you ever get sick of running?”
“Go ahead.” He felt like a cold shower anyway. Maybe that would clear his head. He still felt dazed.
Diana squinted at him. “Are you all right?”
“Why shouldn’t I be?” Should he tell them? No, that seemed like crossing a line. Superman was his friend and Batman was, well, not a person you wanted for an enemy. And really, did it matter if they were banging each other?
(Now there was a mental image he didn’t need in his head. How did a guy who could crush a human skull with his pinky finger have sex, anyhow? Was that even safe? Had Batman put that massive brain of his to use to develop superhuman-resistant condoms?)
“Seriously, Wally,” Shayera broke into his high speed wreck of a train of thought. “You’re bright red.”
“I—” Another image popped into his head, this one of Batman on his knees. Disturbingly, he was even scarier in that position. He groaned and shook his head to chase the image away. “I’m just distracted.”
Shayera peered at him, but he muttered his excuses and escaped.
He tried over the next week to get it out of his mind and failed. He’d always thought of Superman as an incredibly level-headed person (hell, he’d idolized the man as a kid) but this made him seriously question the man’s judgment. When you could have any person you wanted, why pick Batman? Wally knew Superman in his Clark Kent identity too, and he’d seemed a Kansas farmboy through and through. Wally didn’t know who Batman was under the cowl, but he couldn’t imagine it was somebody Clark could bring home to the farm.
That Saturday, Wally found himself in Gotham, fighting Clayface and Trickster alongside Nightwing.
“I hate it when they team up,” Nightwing said as he dodged a giant clay arm. He tossed a batarang. Clayface swallowed it laughing, but then he coughed and white smoke poured from his mouth. When it cleared, ice crystals covered his lumpy form and his eyes darted back and forth from Flash to Nightwing, furious. Nightwing leapt from a bit of rubble down to the street and dusted off his hands. “That should hold him.”
Wally already had Trickster in handcuffs. A police cruiser pulled up, lights flashing, and Wally was more than happy to leave the criminal transport to them.
“I’m starving.” Nightwing stared longingly towards the bright lights of a 24-hour diner. “Wanna get some burgers?”
Wally was always up for a burger. Nightwing apparently knew the cook (“Saved his life once, no big deal, it was just Killer Croc”) because he stuck his head through the back door, handed the guy a twenty, and fifteen minutes later they were sitting on a rooftop digging into bags full of piping hot fries.
“Mind if I ask you an awkward question?” Wally said, when Nightwing had half a cheeseburger stuffed in his mouth.
Nightwing swallowed. “Don’t you know pretty much everything awkward about me, Wally? We went through puberty together.”
“Its not really about you.”
Nightwing raised an eyebrow.
Wally thought about how to phrase this. Did you know your dad has a thing with Superman seemed way too forward. “What’s up with Batman?”
“What’s up with Batman how?”
“Is he dating anyone?”
Nightwing choked on a fry. “Man, I know that having a crush on Batman is practically a rite of passage for teenage superheroes, but aren’t you a little old for that?”
“I didn’t mean—” Wally felt himself blush. “It’s totally not that.”
Nightwing’s eyes narrowed. He looked uncannily like Batman when he did that. “Is there something you know that I don’t?”
Wally gulped. “Well it’s just—”
“It’s Wonder Woman, isn’t it? I knew it! He probably spends the most amount of time with her, after Superman.”
Wally waved his hands. “I don’t know anything you don’t! I was just curious. There’s a League betting pool on it.”
“On Batman’s dating life? Good luck with that. When hell freezes over maybe.”
Wally had no idea what to do with this information. It was slowly driving him crazy. Normally if he had juicy gossip, he’d call Nightwing. Obviously, that was a bad idea in this circumstance. Or he’d talk to GL, but he couldn’t do that either, because it was both unethical and would probably result in his death if Batman found out.
He knew he was losing his mind because he was starting to find it cute. Now that he knew what was going on, he saw it everywhere. Batman and Superman timed their arrivals to League meetings so they always came five minutes apart (Wally thought this was a little sloppy—the consistency was pretty suspicious, if anyone cared to notice). Whenever they had a late-night emergency to handle, Batman brought Superman coffee. Sometimes they talked to each other in what Wally imagined was Kryptonian, and since they were the only two people on Earth who knew it, he liked to think these conversations were flirting. The idea of Batman learning a dead language just to talk to his boyfriend was actually really sweet. It made Wally not want to kill him all the time.
Or it was cute, until things blew up.
Wally only got part of the story later. He’d been on monitor duty with a couple dozen doughnuts and his feet kicked up on the desk when it all went down. Bizarro, Luthor, Plastique, and the Ultra-Humanite had teamed up to loot STAR Labs. Superman, Batman, Shayera and Green Lantern had gone down to stop them. Shayera and John had their back turned when it happened, but John said there was a bang and then Superman had a chunk of kryptonite the size of a Sharpie in his arm and Batman had jumped between him and Luthor.
Luckily John got a shot off and knocked out Luthor’s jetpack before things went south, and Batman got the kryptonite out of Superman’s arm with what Shayera said looked like a red kryptonite-tipped scalpel.
“—if you weren’t such an idiot.” Wally jumped when the transporter pad sparked blue and Batman’s voice thundered across the Watchtower. Steel-toed boots stomped down the steps.
“How is this my fault?” Superman touched the healing puncture on his arm and Wally saw his jaw clench. “How about you trust me to handle myself?”
Wally didn’t have to see Batman’s eyes to know he was rolling them. “Yes. You were doing an excellent job. That’s why I’ve got your blood all over my gloves.”
“Well, if we’re going by that metric—”
“Don’t start. This isn’t about me.”
Shayera and John looked at each other and apparently decided it would be a good idea to exit stage left. Immediately.
Superman grabbed Batman’s arm. “Don’t start? You want to talk about stupid moves! What the hell did you think you were going to do back there!”
“It was a calculated risk.” Batman’s voice went icy, the sort of cold that usually preceded a supervillain getting their jaw broken. Wally shivered and wondered if it was worth it to abandon his post. “Because I actually—Wally, how many times have I told you not to put your feet on the equipment.”
Too late. Wally was about to stammer an apology when Superman stepped in front of him. He’d actually gone a bit red in the face, which was as much outward anger as anyone was going to get out of the universe’s boy scout.
“Don’t yell at him when you’re angry at me.” Superman crossed his arms and Batman looked distinctly unimpressed. “You know, B, this is why no one likes you.”
“I don’t particularly care.” Batman turned on his heel. “And if we’re resorting to childish insults, I suppose this conversation is over. Call me when you’re done throwing a tantrum.”
“You don’t get to just—” Superman protested at his back. “Don’t think I’m going to come after you.”
Batman snorted and the doors slid shut behind him.
Superman looked at the ceiling and shook his head at whatever he was thinking. Then he sighed and walked over to the monitor bay.
“Don’t let him get to you,” he said, even though his tone said Batman had clearly gotten to him. “He never bothered to learn any social skills.”
Clearly there’s something you like about him, Wally thought, but he managed to stamp that down before it came out of his mouth and just nodded.
Superman sighed and patted his shoulder. He paused for a moment, considered the door Batman had stormed out of, and then walked back up the transporter pad and told the computer to send him to Metropolis.
A week later, Wally drew monitor duty again. And with Batman this time. This was such a short straw that Kyle Rayner actually looked guilty when Wally came to take over for him. Minutes ticked by with him sitting alone at the bank of computers, and then he glanced at the other chair and Batman was sitting there like he’d been there the whole time.
“Jeez Bats, give a guy a warning, would you?”
Batman tilted his head a fraction of a centimeter to the side, which Wally chose to interpret as skepticism.
This was going to be a fun four hours. The monitors switched randomly between Leaguers on active duty. Wally watched a couple minutes of Starman fighting a mutated octopus horde on Virginia Beach, Aquaman at a UN assembly, and Wonder Woman negotiating the release of hostages with terrorists in Sudan. He thought about getting up for a stretch, but that’d probably get him a lecture about paying attention from Batman.
Batman had a stack of mission logs he was going through one by one. Wally felt his brain liquefying just thinking about that boring task. Even Batman seemed bored by it. He kept glancing up at the monitors.
One monitor in particular. Carefully, Wally adjusted his chair to see what Bats was looking at in the reflection on his own screens.
The monitor that had captured Batman’s attention showed Metropolis, smoking. A giant robot (green, so it was most likely Luthor’s) lurched back as Superman delivered a punch to its chestplate. The robot recovered quickly and grabbed Superman with its massive metal hand. He disappeared behind silver fingers. Wally saw Batman’s shoulders tense ever so slightly.
Was this…wistfulness? The thought was inconceivable. Batman did not display wistfulness. Batman certainly didn’t pine. Wally was inclined to think that Batman didn’t even possess ninety-nine percent of the range of human emotions.
Then again. Who knows what he did when the mask was off, given that he and Superman had a thing. Wally couldn’t imagine Superman dating someone whose only two emotions were disapproval and brooding.
“Hey, Bats,” he said, before his common sense caught up to him.
Batman’s hand moved and hit a button on the computer, and the screen showing Superman flipped back to the regular rotation. “What.”
“Can I ask you a weird question?”
“I’m going to do it anyway.”
Wally debated with himself whether he wanted to reveal what he’d seen in the hallway, and decided it was best not to take his life in his hands at this moment. So he settled on, “Are you and Supes still not talking?”
Batman looked at him, but Wally didn’t get a full glare yet. “He signed off on the new Javelin schematics this morning.”
“That’s not—oh, you know what I mean.”
Batman paused, and Wally thought he wasn’t going to get an answer. The moment stretched on, and then Batman said, “I don’t see how my personal relationship with Superman has anything to do with the functioning of the League.”
Was that an extra edge in his voice? Wally tried to suss out the tone, but it was useless with Batman. He realized he was probably too invested in this relationship. “Didn’t say it did. I just like my friends being friends, I guess.”
Batman did that little skeptical head-tilt thing again, but apparently decided he was done with the conversation and turned back to his own computer bank. Wally counted himself lucky he was still breathing and decided to let it go.
An hour later, he glanced at Batman’s screens again and saw that the one on the bottom left was still trained on Superman.
Three days later, Wally was filling out his vacation schedule when Supergirl leaned over his shoulder, glanced across the room at Superman and Batman, who were still not speaking, and whispered, “Are Mommy and Daddy fighting again?”
Wally jerked up from the form he was filling out, and for a second he wondered if she was in on it, but then she laughed at her own joke. “Yeah. You missed the blow-up?”
“I’ve been off-world for a couple of weeks.” She hopped onto one of the chairs and floated a few inches above it. “Came home and Kal was in Smallville grumbling about how Gotham breeds a bunch of misanthropes, so I figured something happened.”
“This…happens often?” Wally asked. He hadn’t been on the Justice League long enough to know. Teen Titans had too much drama of their own to worry about the adults’.
“Oh, sure.” Kara laughed. “Conner and I made a bingo sheet for it once. Well. I gotta go turn in a science project, but here’s what I really wanted to talk to you about.” She handed him a sheet of papers. Central City crime reports. “You work for the police, right? I think these might actually be metahuman crimes. Kal’s working on a string of robberies that might be related in Metropolis.”
“I’ll look into it,” Wally promised. She’d already sped off somewhere else.
The robberies were metahuman, and were related to Superman’s investigation, and that was how Wally ended up at the Daily Planet offices on a Monday. The secretary at the front desk was a bored brunette with heels sharp enough to cut someone’s throat with (Wally’d seen it happen once. Bloodiest crime scene he’d ever been to). “I’m here to see Clark Kent?”
The brunette looked up from her computer but didn’t stop typing. “You the forensics guy he’s using for that article about the DNA thing?”
“Yeah.” Their cover story was that Wally was a source for a piece about false convictions. Clearly, they hadn’t needed to put that much thought into it. “Want to see my ID?”
“Nah. Go on up.”
Well. Some security. He swung open the frosted glass doors that led to the main office and saw Clark in back, talking to a dark-haired guy in a suit that probably cost more than Wally’s yearly rent. Clark said something and the dark-haired guy laughed and leaned against the copier like it was his personal chaise lounge. His face rang a bell in the back of Wally’s head, but it took him a minute to realize he was looking at Bruce-freaking-Wayne, billionaire playboy.
Someone sighed behind him and he turned to find Lois Lane with her arms full of file folders. They’d met without masks only once before, at a League Christmas party, when he was still a Teen Titan and she’d was briefly Clark’s girlfriend.
“Hey, Wally. Do me a favor and help me out?” she said. Wally took half the folders and checked the clock. He was supposed to meet Linda for lunch in twenty minutes—this was pushing it, even with superspeed. He carried the folders to Lois’s desk, where she chucked them in a pile. He saw what looked like campaign finance reports poking out of one. “If you’re looking for Clark, he’s hanging out with our corporate overlord.”
“So I see. Clark knows Bruce Wayne?”
“He does puff pieces on Wayne’s companies sometimes. I think Wayne just likes anyone who’ll stand still and laugh at his dumb jokes.” Lois pushed her hair back with one hand. “Meanwhile, I’ll just sit over here and win the paper’s Pulitzers. Speaking off—got any inside scoops from your ‘side business’ that I can use?”
“Nothing interesting right now.” Wally watched Wayne lean over and say something that made Clark chuckle. Then they walked off together down a hallway with a sign marked INTERVIEW ROOMS. “To tell you the truth, I’m kind of in a hurry.”
“Go interrupt them then,” Lois said. “I’m sure Clark would like an excuse to get out of hearing a rendition of Wayne Industries quarterly reports from a man who can’t count to ten.”
Wally mulled over just waiting at Clark’s desk, but Linda would kill him if he was late for another lunch, and he did want to be able to say he’d met Bruce Wayne. So he popped down the hallway.
Problem was, Clark and Wayne had vanished. There were only three doors on the whole hall—two grey, windowless boxes with recording equipment for interviews and a storage closet. Both interview rooms were dark and empty.
Something went thunk in the supply closet.
A tiny voice in Wally’s head said he should probably just go wait at Clark’s desk now, but Wally wasn’t very good at listening to that voice.
He was about to open the door when he heard Clark breathe Bruce in a distinctly un-Supermanly voice. His hand froze.
“If you knock that bottle of bleach off the shelf,” said a silky voice. Wayne’s, Wally guessed. “it’s going to ruin this very expensive suit and that’ll be a tragedy. Your suit, on the other hand—“
“Oh, do tell me what’s wrong with my suit,” Clark said, low and husky.
This is totally not what it sounds like, said the reasonable part of Wally’s brain.
“For starters,” Wayne said, “you’re still wearing it.”
That was when Wally fast-walked back to Clark’s desk at as close to a normal-human speed as he could manage. He sat in the uncomfortable folding chair trying to process this latest revelation. Clark, shining beacon of middle American virtue, was screwing Bruce-freaking-Wayne in a supply closet. Worse: he was cheating on Batman with Bruce-freaking-Wayne.
Invulnerable or not, the man had a death wish. The only times Wally had heard Batman talk about Gotham’s playboy prince, it was with utter derision. Batman had once caught Stargirl and Natasha Irons drooling over a People Magazine spread of Wayne while on monitor duty and had gone on a five-minute rant about the man.
Maybe, Wally considered, it was a way of Clark getting back at Batman over their spat. He didn’t think they’d said a word to each other in over a week. Revenge sex wasn’t the healthiest breakup coping strategy, but Clark would hardly be the first person to try it. He was mulling over whether or not his hero-worshipping brain could handle thinking of Superman as a flawed mortal when someone cleared their throat behind him. He jumped up and found Clark and Bruce Wayne standing behind him. Clark’s suit was rumpled, but Wally couldn’t decide if it was just his Kent-ish disguise or a side effect of a supply closet rendezvous.
“Hi, Wally,” Clark said, like he’d just been at a normal business meeting. “Sorry to keep you waiting. Have you met our owner, Mr. Wayne?”
“Oh, please,” Wayne said. “Mr. Wayne was my father.”
“Uh,” Wally said. Now that he had a close look, he had to admit—Batman was probably not this handsome under that cowl. Wayne had the flawless appeal of a purebred show dog. “Yes. Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too!” Wayne trilled, in a cheery voice that said he didn’t spend much time thinking about anything too strenuous. “I always appreciate meeting cute redheads!”
“Uhhhh,” Wally said, because his brain had gone on the fritz.
Clark pinched the bridge of his nose and muttered something that Wally didn’t catch, but that had the tenor of profanity. Clearly, the attraction there was purely physical. “Bruce. I have work to do, so—“
“I’ll just see myself out.” Wayne swept a black cashmere coat over his shoulder and winked at Clark as he did so. “See ya soon, Kent. Oh, and nice to meet you, Wendall.”
“It’s actually Wally—“ Wally began, but Wayne was already gone.
“Ignore him,” Clark sighed. “Here, let me take you to the records room and you can see what I’ve pulled up so far.”
Having discovered Clark's secret betrayal, Wally can't let it go.
Through the entire meeting, while Clark showed him surveillance footage and reports of stolen lab equipment, Wally tried to think up a way to discuss what he’d overheard in the supply closet. On the one hand, Clark was an adult who could clearly make his own choices, and if his choice was screwing Bruce Wayne, then who was Wally to judge? On the other hand, cheating on Batman was a bad idea on so many levels that Wally’s brain couldn’t even contend with the enormity of it.
Especially since Bats apparently loved the guy.
Now there was a thought. Wally didn’t even realize it was true until he to the restaurant where he was supposed to meet Linda and thought back over that day in the monitor bay when Batman had kept one camera trained on Superman. That had to be love, right? If it were anyone else, Wally would’ve chalked it up to Batman’s natural distrust of everything and everyone, but they all knew he trusted Clark. And the whole stupid reason they were fighting was they’d both tried to save each other. If that wasn’t adorable puppy love, Wally didn’t know what was.
Linda flicked a balled-up straw wrapper at him and Wally realized he’d been totally ignoring her. “Earth to Wally. You’ve been staring at your ravioli for fifteen minutes.”
“Sorry,” he said, and shoved a stack of four ravioli in his mouth because he was perpetually hungry. “A bit distracted.”
Linda peeked out the window behind their table. “We’re not going to have a giant robot rampaging through here in a minute, are we?”
“Not that sort of distraction.” Wally bit his thumbnail, thinking. “A friend of mine made a stupid decision and I’m not sure if I should say something.”
“One of your—“ she put her hands around her eyes like a domino mask “—friends?”
He nodded. “I mean, maybe I shouldn’t get involved. It’s really none of my business and I shouldn’t know anything about it anyway. But it’s such a stupid decision.”
Linda carefully twirled a long strand of spaghetti around her fork and popped it in her mouth while she thought this over. Finally, she said, “Wally, if there’s one thing I know about you, it’s that you’re really terrible at minding your own business.”
“Are you giving me permission to meddle?”
She shrugged. “I’m saying you probably can’t stop yourself.”
She was right. Wally couldn’t stop thinking about the inevitable fallout if Batman found out Clark was sneaking around with Bruce Wayne. An angry Batman was bad enough, but he suspected a genuinely hurt one would be apocalyptic.
He burned a hole in his living room carpet by pacing around at superspeed before he finally worked up the nerve to go up to the Watchtower. So long, security deposit. Some days he wished he had less of a moral compass.
Superman was showing a group of reporters from South Korea around the Watchtower. One of the League’s regular PR activities. Everybody liked the opportunity to go to space, especially when it involved meeting some of the world’s most elusive interview subjects. Wally had heard that the Associated Press had a six-figure prize waiting for the first person to snag an interview with Batman. Somehow, he thought that pot would be waiting a long time.
He cornered Superman just as the reporters disappeared in the teleporter beam. “Hey, you got a minute? We need to talk.”
“Of course.” Clark flashed him one of those reassuring Superman smiles and Wally just felt irritated at the honest-farmboy persona. “What’s on your mind?”
“Maybe somewhere more private,” Wally said, and Clark frowned, but a second later they were in his quarters.
“Would you like some coffee?” Clark asked. He’d dropped his cape on the counter and started warming up a mug of coffee with his heat vision.
“No, thank you.” Wally stood over the table in the kitchenette, because he was too worked up to sit down. Clark sipped his coffee and watched him over the rim of the mug.
“I don’t see you this serious very often.”
Wally didn’t know where to start. “You know, Supes, when I was a kid I had articles about you tacked on my bedroom walls. I know you hear this all the time, but you were my biggest hero. When I learned that Barry was Flash, the first thing—well, okay, second thing—I asked him was if I could meet you. I just really, really can’t believe you’d do this.”
Clark set his mug down on the counter very carefully. “Wally, I’m sorry for whatever I’ve done to break your trust. But I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Wally pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes, because he was getting a headache. “I know about you and Bats.”
When he looked up again, Clark was flushed. “Well. I see. I didn’t think you the type to have a problem with our relationship, Wally, but—”
“I don't have a problem with the idea that you're both guys!” Wally sighed and leaned on the table. “I know about you and Bruce Wayne, too.”
Clark went very still.
“I might have overheard more than I was meant to when I came to your office.” Wally found himself pacing again. “And look, maybe this isn’t my place. Maybe you and Bats have some sort of arrangement, though he doesn’t seem like the sharing type to me.”
Clark continued to get redder.
Wally barreled on. “And I get that Bruce Wayne has his charms—I’m sure Bats doesn’t look that good in a suit, and I know he isn’t the type for midday supply closet quickies. But dude, Wayne is like the human equivalent of a golden retriever. Cute and super dumb and probably comes with a ton of inbred genetic problems. And Bats is completely in love with you! Seriously! He brings you coffee—not even Diana gets that treatment. And you guys were fighting over saving each other too much, which seems like a pretty good problem to have. If you love him too, you have to tell him what happened. You know he’ll find out anyway, and then you’ll really torpedo things.”
Clark looked like all the blood in his body had gone to his face. He took several long, slow breaths, during which Wally wondered if it was possible for Kryptonians to have aneurysms. Finally, Clark pinched the bridge of his nose. “Wally—I—this really isn’t any of your business."
“Yeah, but you’re always saying that personal business can affect the League.” Actually, Batman was the one that said that. “And trust me, it’s bad enough when you guys fight over stupid stuff like monitor duty schedules.”
Clark smiled. “Half of that’s made up for appearances, you know.”
“See! You guys can’t break up. It’d be terrible.”
Clark rubbed the bridge of his nose again and sighed. “Come with me.”
“Come on. You want me to apologize to him, right?”
“You don’t have to do it in front of me,” Wally said, but he followed Clark out of the dormitory wing anyway, down the lift, and into the secluded wing where Batman had his lab among the cargo bays and storage. He had vision of this all going very badly and someone (him, probably) winding up with a batarang in a body part that wasn’t supposed to have a batarang in it, but he still couldn’t say no to Superman.
Batman had the pieces of an alien device laid out across two tables when Clark let them into the lab. Wally thought it might be a weapon of mass destruction they’d confiscated from the wreckage of a Gordanian warship, but he didn’t actually want to know the details. And he was reeling a bit from the revelation that Clark apparently had Batman’s access codes.
Batman didn’t look up, or turn around. “Something you want?”
“Put that down,” Clark said, and Batman huffed but dropped the bit of silver in his hand onto the table. “There’s something I need to tell you.”
When he turned around, Batman did not seem at all surprised to see Wally there. Wally would not have been surprised to discover that Batman really did have eyes in the back of his head, or literal echolocation.
“Wally knows about us,” Clark said.
Batman’s features changed slightly—Wally thought he might be raising an eyebrow under the mask—but he gave nothing away.
“He also discovered—“ Clark let that syllable linger, like he was trying to hint at something, “—that I’ve been seeing Bruce Wayne as well. And he thinks I should tell you that, and apologize.”
What a weird way to phrase that, Wally thought. Clearly Clark really was awkward, and it wasn’t just part of his secret identity persona.
There was a long moment of silence.
“I see.” Batman drummed his fingers on the table. Wally had never found that a threatening motion until now, but somehow Batman made it clear that he was debating murder. “Well. I’m very disappointed, Clark. I’ll have to think about whether to continue our relationship.”
Clark’s eyes went wide. Then he ran a hand through his hair and said, “Oh, for fuck’s sake.”
Wally thought this was a pretty rude reaction. Batman was being quite magnanimous, considering.
“B—” Clark said. “I know you find this hilarious, but I don’t.”
Batman, stone-faced and still, did not appear to think this was hilarious.
Wally had the distinct impression he was missing something.
Clark pointed at Wally. “You can’t let him think—oh, come on. This isn’t a joke.”
“Of course it isn’t,” Batman said, in the same expressionless tone of voice. “I’m incredibly hurt.”
Clark put his head in his hands and sighed.
“Okaaaaaay…” Wally inched towards the door. “You guys probably want to talk, so I’m just going to see myself out. I hope you…sort out…whatever this is.”
Clark put himself between Wally and the door, and looked at Batman.
Batman closed his eyes for just a second. “Fine. Fine. Wally—I am about to give you a piece of information. Keep in mind that I know all of your darkest secrets, and will use them if you even think about revealing this to anyone. Understand?”
Wally nodded, because he was sure he was a dead man otherwise.
Batman reached up and pulled off his cowl, and Wally’s brain broke.
“Oh. Ohmygod.” He smacked his hands over his mouth. “I am so sorry about the golden retriever thing.”
Batman—Bruce Wayne—blinked. “The what?”
“You don’t want to know,” Clark said.
“Wait.” Wally pressed his thumbs to his temples, because he suddenly had a headache. “That whole conversation in the Daily Planet. You were just fucking with me.”
“He was raised by an actor,” Clark said. “He can’t help being dramatic. I mean, look at the costume.”
“Hey,” Batman said, offended, in something like Bruce Wayne’s voice.
“How has no one ever figured this out?” Wally asked. “It seems so obvious now. The gear costs a lot of money. You have a million black-haired kids to be Robins. Tragic backstory. It’s just so…clear.”
Batman had narrowed his eyes at the tragic backstory mention but now he made them go wide and dull and in Bruce Wayne’s high, dumb voice said, “Batman is a menace to society. And that costume is garish.”
It was the creepiest thing Wally had ever seen in his life, and he blinked stupidly at Batman while his brain tried to process the cognitive dissonance.
“That was just mean,” Clark said. “You’re going to break the kid. Now, Wally, are you sufficiently convinced I’m not a cheater?”
“Good.” Batman turned away from them both and yanked the cowl back over his face. “Now get out of my lab, both of you. Some of us actually do work around here.”
“I can’t believe neither of us noticed,” Clark said. “Twice.”
He was laying on his bed, propped up on the new pillows that Bruce had bought when he declared Clark’s old ones useless pancakes, copyediting one of Lois’s articles. The woman was brilliant, but she was never going to learn the difference between its and it’s. Bruce was laying next to him, legs crossed, reading a newspaper in Mandarin.
“I noticed.” Bruce flipped to the next page. The article he was engrossed in appeared to be a financial report. Clark didn’t even know Mandarin and he was bored by it.
“What do you mean, you noticed?”
“The first time, I saw his shadow around the corner. The second time, I guessed he’d be impatient. You should really work on being less distracted when we’re together.”
Clark set down his red pen. “You guessed he’d come looking for me in the Planet offices?”
“I suppose he could have exercised some patience, but this is Wally. He doesn’t know the meaning of the word.” Bruce finally noticed Clark staring at him, sighed, and folded up the paper.
“You said you wanted to tell our friends, and I disagreed. So I thought we’d compromise on telling one. And now you’ve gotten to tell Wally.”
“There’s literally a million easier ways we could’ve done this.”
Bruce gave him a deadpan look. “I’ve been told I have a flair for the dramatic. Also—it was hilarious.”
Clark picked Lois’s article back up, but he couldn’t help smiling to himself. “I knew you liked the kid.”
“I don’t—oh, fine.” Bruce pointed the paper at Clark. “Don’t you dare tell him.”
“I know better than to wreck your image.” Clark made a zipping motion across his lips. “Your soft and gooey center is safe with me.”
This time, Bruce swatted him with the newspaper.