“Could you please just talk to her?” Wally groaned into the phone.
“I did. She said she will be busy that day,” Roy replied.
Wally let out a scream in frustration. “ARGH!! We haven’t even picked a date! How can she be busy?!”
Silence was the only response. He could easily imagine Roy giving Wally a look, although what look he wasn’t sure.
“Ugh, Roy, please talk to your wife. Because I may not have a wife if she doesn’t cooperate.”
“Artemis is that upset about it?”
Wally barely refrained from letting out another annoyed yell. “Jade’s her sister. Of course, she’s upset about it! You’d be upset too!”
“Oh, I’m plenty upset.” Roy’s tone was flat, and Wally had no idea what that was about.
Pause. “Wait. Why are you upset? It’s not like you would be a bridesmaid. Oh. OH. Of course, you’re going to be a groomsman, dude. Sorry, I thought I asked.”
“You still haven’t.”
Wally rolled his eyes, even though Roy couldn’t see him. He filled his voice with saccharine. “Roy dearest, would you please consider making me the happiest person by agreeing to be a groomsman on the day of my wedding?”
“Don’t overdo it.”
“So, that’s a yes?”
“It’s a yes, idiot.”
“And you’ll talk to Jade.”
“I’ll talk to Jade.”
The redhead sighed with relief and thanked his friend before ending the conversation. Truthfully, he didn’t understand Jade on a good day, nor did he understand how Roy and Jade ended up married with a kid. Whatever. Roy made his own life choices, and normally, Wally didn’t care. Except now Jade refused to come to their wedding, let alone be a bridesmaid. He had no idea what Jade’s problem was, and he usually didn’t care, but now, it was a monstrous problem for him.
Artemis was hurt, and when Artemis was hurt, she channeled the pain into a fierce energy to improve. Wally blamed her jerkface of a father who withheld his love and demanded perfection from his daughters. The speedster had hardly seen his fiancée after she had been cleared to return to training, which took far longer than Artemis wanted. Still, Harley’s mallet had given Artemis a concussion, and unlike what superhero movies portrayed, concussions needed time to heal.
The moment Artemis had received the clearance to begin training again, she had all but disappeared from their apartment. She still attended classes, so Wally saw her in their shared Vietnamese Lit class. Outside of class though, she spent her free time in one of the training rooms at the Watch Tower working on her awareness training. At first, Wally had given her space, but it had been a solid two weeks of this, and he was tired of having to be the Flash just to see the woman he wanted to marry. Enough was enough.
Knowing that Artemis would be training at the Tower late into the night, Wally had volunteered for the graveyard shift of monitor duty. Once the majority of occupants left, he’d try to convince Tigress to call it quits.
“Hey Flash,” Hal greeted him as he walked onto the bridge.
Wally raced over and gave him a hug. Next to Uncle Barry, Hal was the absolute best.
“How much longer are you covering for him?” The older man asked after letting go from the hug.
Refraining from the groan his overdramatic teenage self would have used, Wally offered a fake grin. “Probably tell the end of the year.”
Hal offered a low whistle. “I thought it was just a couple of months.”
Wally rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah well… he needs the time.” Wally only had to babysit once to understand that Uncle Barry would not be up to Flash speed for a while. Honestly, he was hoping that Barry would take the mantle back at the start of the new year, but he wasn’t even sure the man would be ready by then. Babies were exhausting. Twins doubly so. Speedforce affected twin babies were triply exhausting.
There were only two good things that came from Wally’s babysitting punishment. One, he was able to force Bart to see what his grandparents were dealing with and convince the sulking teenager that the best way to get Uncle Barry to change his mind about the benching was to function as a healthy individual and help out. When Aunt Iris had called him with tears in her voice to thank him for whatever he said to Bart, Wally couldn’t believe it. – That was the other good thing. The Allens were so exhausted from raising twins and dealing with Bart that Uncle Barry had completely forgotten about forcing Wally to talk to someone about his time in the speedforce.
Sure, the speedforce was Wally’s own personal hell, but he had put the whole thing far out of his mind. He had plenty to focus on here like his upcoming wedding…and getting his fiancée out of the Watch Tower training rooms.
“…Flash?” Hal was giving him that I’m an actual adult look that he saved for when he was worried.
“I’m fine,” Wally replied on autopilot. Belatedly, realizing that he had no idea what the question had been.
Hal snorted. “Yes, the college student that is trying to leave the superhero game volunteering for the graveyard shift screams fine.”
He really didn’t have the energy for a convincing lie, so he said, “Since Tigress was cleared for duty, she spends all her free time here. She thinks what happened was her fault.”
There was a small exhale beside him. “Don’t we all?” Hal shook his head. “None of us are infallible.”
“I know,” Wally quickly agreed. “She doesn’t.”
“I thought it was just the Bats with the god complexes.”
It was Wally’s turn to snort. “I think it’s a Gotham thing.”
The Green Lantern gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “Well, if anyone can convince her to relax, it’s you.” There was a brief pause and then, “You know if you ever need to talk about anything, I’m here.”
Wally playfully pushed the man in response. “Yes, I know. Now, knock the mature adult routine off. It’s bizarre.”
Hal grinned in response, but the worry still shone in his eyes. Wally didn’t think he could deal with the worry of someone else. He was fine. It was all the other people in his life that needed the support, which reminded him after he convinced Artemis to take a break, he’d need to check on Dick.
Flash and Green Lantern exchanged good-byes, and Wally grabbed a chair to watch the monitor screens. Several late-night comedians gave commentary on President Katz’s new goal of shutting down Young Justice and all underage superheroes. There wasn’t a chance that the bill would go through before her term in office ended, so he wasn’t worried about it. But interestingly enough the public seemed evenly split over the idea. Wally had missed the first presidential candidate debate, so he had no idea who was on what side – but given how toxic the whole political atmosphere was, he knew the candidates were on opposing sides.
The whole thing was monumentally stupid in Wally’s mind. Of course, the government wouldn’t shut down Young Justice. Even if America did, the team’s home base was in a satellite protected by the top technology and Superman. No one was going to quick being a superhero because a few mothers worried over children.
“53% of you would choose to hide behind teenagers. Do you also ask your kids to check your closet for the bogeyman?” One of the late-night hosts asked.
Wally rolled his eyes skyward. No, but typically, you allowed the people with the skills and training to deal with disasters. Age was a number, not a predictor of skill, strength, or maturity. This whole thing would blow over after next month’s election, and Wally would be glad for it.
Scanning the rest of the monitors, he knew there were no current disasters, and he’d rather not stay here and listen to these hosts undermine the strength of his former teammates. He raised his hands over his head and stretched deeply. Then he darted off to find Tigress.
He found her in the third simulation room. Undoubtedly, she was improving her situational awareness, so no one would be able to sneak up on her again. If he wasn’t careful, he would end up with a gut fool of arrows. Rather than risking that, he called out as soon as he entered the room.
“Hey Tigress, are you here?”
The room was close to pitch black, and Wally could just make out the simulated rooftops. He saw the yellow of the Tigress uniform on the fire side of the room. She turned when she heard his voice, and even though he couldn’t see it, he knew she was glaring at him.
Tigress flipped over to Flash’s position and hissed at him, “What are you doing here?”
“Looking for you,” Wally yelled right back. “You’ve been at this for over a week.”
“I need to get better,” she argued.
Wally groaned. “You need to remember you have a life outside of Tigress.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Have I not been spending enough time with you?” Artemis sneered. “I’m trying to make sure I or someone on my team does not wind up dead because of my carelessness.”
“You need a break!”
Tigress didn’t respond. Instead, she drew her sword and spun around. The blade rested at the edge of the second Robin’s neck. He wore that same stupid motorcycle jacket, but he had ditched the stupid red helmet on his face and just wore a domino mask. He smirked as he eyed the blade at his neck.
“Well done, Blondie. I didn’t think you’d notice me once lover boy got here.”
“What is he doing here?” Wally cried, petulant. He did not need someone else in his life falling for Jason’s ploys.
Sheathing her sword, Artemis responded curtly, “I needed help. The Bats are the best, and he was available.”
“You couldn’t have asked Batgirl.” Wally didn’t care if he was being unreasonable. Jason Todd was trouble, and he was the only one who seemed to realize it.
“She’s busy,” Tigress hissed.
“Not to interrupt this fun lover’s spat, but to save my eardrums,” Jason interjected. His arms were crossed over his chest, and he still wore that stupid smirk. “Batgirl’s benched for the time being for that communications stunt, and I happened to be free. You would think that you would be grateful West. After all, I’m helping your fiancée.”
Wally wanted to tell Jason where he could stick his help. “I thought Batgirl was leading Young Justice?”
Beneath her mask, Wally knew Artemis was rolling her eyes. “In name only. Aqualad comes back next week. It’s not worth finding a new leader for such a short transition.”
“Well, this has been fun,” Jason said, pushing himself off the wall he had been leaning on. “But I have some intel I promised Barbie. See you kids later.”
“We’re older than you,” Wally sputtered indignantly.
At the same time, Artemis asked, “Do you know if she’s had any luck?”
Jason shook his head. “Not as far as I can tell. Whoever this chemist is. She’s good. Damn good. We may have prevented smash from going into Gotham, but it still has a trace in Bludhaven. Hopefully, we’ll be able to track down the suppliers soon.”
“Good luck,” Artemis replied as the other teen left the room.
“When did you become all buddy buddy with Jason?” Wally hissed.
Artemis flipped her mask to the top of her head and glared at her fiancé. “When he offered to help me train. What is your problem?”
“What is my problem?! I’m sorry I care about you,” Wally yelled back.
Artemis sighed. “I’m fine, Wally. Just tired.”
Noticing her sagged shoulders, Wally’s tone lightened. “When’s the last time you got a full night’s sleep?”
She barked a laugh. “Too long.”
“Go home and get some rest.” Wally put his hands up in a defeated gesture before Artemis could argue. “You’ve done a great job here. You even caught Jason sneaking up on you in a middle of our verbal spar. I think you’ve passed, sweetheart.”
Artemis nodded reluctantly. “Did you talk to Roy?” She whispered.
“Yeah, he’s gonna talk to Jade.”
She nodded once decisively. “Okay, I’ll shower and head home.”
Wally placed a kiss on her forehead. “Sounds good. I’ll join you as soon as my shift ends.”
Artemis grinned. “You do that.”
Arriving in Bludhaven in the midafternoon was always disappointing. The city had a smell that never dissipated, and the smog was worse than Gotham. Wally had no idea how Dick could love such a terrible place. And Bludhaven was terrible. The crime rate was higher than Gotham’s. The only plus side was that Bludhaven had less crazies. Wally suppressed the smog-induced cough that threatened to escape. Bludhaven was the worse.
He gave up trying to figure out how the appeal of Bludhaven and sped off to Dick’s apartment. Dick didn’t answer Wally’s knock. His arrival wasn’t a surprise, so unless Dick was avoiding him, there was a problem. Cursing under his breath, Wally speed through the door. The apartment was dark. Not even a computer screen offered a light source. Racing through the darkened room. He found Dick sitting on his bed with his forearms resting on his thighs, just staring blankly at the phone in his heads.
“Dick?” Wally called.
The man in question didn’t move. Wally moved to open the curtains, and daylight trickled into the room. Dick blinked slowly and looked up.
“Wally?” He asked, voice hesitant.
Unsure of what else to do, Wally fell back onto his usual demeanor. “Yeah! Dude, did you forget we had a man date scheduled for today?”
“Sorry,” Dick spoke and stood up. “Sorry. What time is it?”
“About 3 o’clock. How long have you been sitting there?”
Dick shrugged but the maneuver was sluggish.
“Well, never mind then,” Wally offered with a fake grin in place. “What do you want to do?”
“I don’t care,” Dick said and slowly looked at his friend. “Wally, I’m not. I’m not. I’m not sure I want to be alive.” Tears welled in Dick’s eyes, and he ducked his head. “I’m sorry.”
Wally pulled his best friend into a tight hug and refused to let him go. “Hey, it’s okay. It’s okay. I love you. You’re amazing. You know that,” Wally rambled as he tried to comfort him.
Dick sobbed into his shoulder. “Wally, why? I’m not worth this.”
“Yes. You. Are. You’re my best friend, and I’ll help you remember who you are.”
Dick didn’t respond other than to clutch Wally harder and dig his hands into his sweatshirt. Wally held him, and they both fell to the floor. Dick sobbed until his tears soaked through Wally’s sweatshirt and into his shirt. Wally held him until the tears subsided, wishing and hoping there was anything he could do to stop this to show Dick just how awesome he was.
“Thank you,” Dick gasped after he finished.
Wally had no idea what he was thanking him for. He hadn’t done anything. “No problem.”
Dick shook his head with a shaky smile on his face. “You have no idea why I’m thanking you, do you?”
Shaking his head, Wally gave a small grin in reply.
“Never change, Wals,” Dick replied. He stood up. “Well, should we watch a movie?”
Confused as to Dick’s change in demeanor, Wally slowly stood up after him. “Um, sure. Also, I wanted to ask you. Would you be my best man?”
Dick looked like a goldfish staring out of his fishbowl. “What?”
“Do you want to be my best man?” Wally repeated.
“Are you sure you want me?”
“Um. Duh. You’re my best friend.”
Another shaky grin met him. “Okay.”
Voices woke Wally up. Years of superhero training prevented him from groaning aloud, but when he recognized one of the voices as Jade’s, he considered whining. Why was that woman in his bedroom talking to her sister now? Apparently, he had made a noise aloud because Jade turned to him with a glare.
“How is this idiot supposed to protect you?”
Artemis glared right back at Jade. A dagger at her sister’s throat. “I don’t need his protection.”
Oh, hell no. Wally sped between them, pushing Artemis away from her sister. “If you are going to spar, take it to the living room.”
A knife pressed into his gut. Jade smirked dangerously at him.
“Try it,” Artemis goaded. She had picked up the mini crossbow that she kept under the mattress, aiming it directly at Jade’s head.
Wally phased through the knife and raced back to his side of the bed. “Living room,” he cried.
Jade pocked her knife and leapt towards the window. “We good, little Sis?”
“Yeah, we’re good,” Artemis replied.
Her sister disappeared out the window.
Falling dramatically onto the bed, Wally groaned, “What was that about?”
Artemis gave him a look of fond exasperation. “Jade’s going to make sure our dad’s not at the wedding.”
“Really,” she replied with a smile. She leaned down to give him another good night kiss as she curled back under the blankets.
He was about to fall back asleep when his eyes sprang wide open. Aw, crap. Now he owed Cheshire a favor.