It starts simply enough, with Wally flopping backwards onto the floor, legs and arms stuck out at all angles. Dick pulls his legs up so Wally doesn’t crush them, tongue poking out from between his teeth because he’s almost, almost got this level beat, victory is in his reach –
“I need help,” he says.
“I need to beat this game,” Dick replies in the hopes that maybe just once Wally will shut up for five minutes. Wally does not take the hint. Instead, he turns his head, staring at Dick with impossibly green eyes.
“I need serious help,” he says. “C’mon, buddy. You’re not going to break the code, are you?”
Dick stares mournfully at his screen, momentarily torn. He can’t break the code. He’d helped write it, he and Wally e-mailing bits and pieces back and forth for a week until they’d come up with a list that was three hundred rules long with numerous sub clauses and exactly ten loopholes.
Batman had been really proud.
Dick pauses his game.
“Okay,” he says, glowering at Wally over the top of his sunglasses. “But we can’t do 17 again. Alfred was really mad.”
Wally crosses his arms behind his head and gave the ceiling a particularly thoughtful look.
“I was thinking more along the lines of 185,” he says, and Dick’s eyebrows shoot up of their own accord.
“185,” he repeats. “Okay, wow. That’s whelming. I’m officially whelmed. Dare I ask what brought this on?”
“A girl,” Wally sighs, pouting slightly. Dick rolls his eyes.
“If we’re going to be invoking Rule 185, I really need to know a little more than that,” he says. Then he stops, blinks, and says, “This is about Miss M, isn’t it.”
Wally heaves another lovelorn sigh.
“I can’t help it!” he says. “She’s just so! Green! And her hair’s even redder than mine! And have you heard her laugh? It’s like – really pretty bells! I just want her to notice me!”
“I think she noticed you just fine when you ran into that wall yesterday,” Dick says. Wally glares. Dick holds up his hands. “Alright, alright. Rule 185. Are we mixing anything else in this?”
“I don’t know,” Wally says. “I was thinking maybe a little of 207, but, well.”
Dick makes a face.
“Better not,” he says. “We’re just lucky Speedy’s eyebrows grew back last time.”
Rule 185 doesn’t even last a day. They get to the cave the next morning and find Miss Martian and Superboy. In the kitchen. Together. Baking.
Wally grabs Dick by the arm and pulls him into the pantry. The door swings shut behind them.
“Dude!” he exclaims, his voice squeaking.
“Calm down,” Dick says automatically. “Maybe it’s not that bad.”
“Not that bad? Not that bad?” Wally says. He grabs Dick by the shoulders and shakes him. “They’re baking! Cupcakes! Why don’t they just move into the white picket house and buy the dog already? I mean, Superboy! How can I compete with that? He’s got muscles the size of my head!”
“Look, you’re getting ahead of yourself –” Dick says, and then the pantry door flies open. M’gann and Superboy stand in the light of the kitchen, staring at them, and it takes Dick a second to realize how this must look: him and Wally in a dark, enclosed space, very close, with Wally’s hands on his shoulders and panic-stricken looks on both their faces.
M’gann gasps, her hands flying to her mouth. Superboy looks vaguely like he wants to break something, but then he always kind of looks like that.
“I’m sorry!” M’gann says, clearly flustered. “I just, ah, wanted sprinkles, and I’ll – I’ll leave you guys alone!”
She slams the pantry door closed again.
Wally looks at Dick. His eyes gleam in the darkness.
“No,” Dick says.
“C’mon!” Wally says. “I’ll be your best friend!”
“You are my best friend,” Dick says, “but this is not part of the code.”
“Please?” Wally says. He clasps his hands together and stares at Dick with the biggest, saddest eyes. “You know I’d do it for you!”
Dick somewhat doubts. He finds himself wavering anyway.
“If this works, I will be your personal slave,” Wally says. “I will do anything you want. Your homework! Your chores! I will put on a tux and bring you your lunch on a silver tray, dude, please.”
“I hate you,” he says. “I want you to know that.”
Wally pumps a fist in the air.
Wally’s hands are kind of sweaty. Dick knows because he’s pretty much been holding them nonstop for the past two days.
Pretending to date Wally doesn’t change their relationship much. They still eat pizza and play videogames and watch bad movies, but now they do it while sitting a lot closer together. That’s not to say it isn’t awkward – Wally keeps trying the ‘stretch and yawn’ whenever M’gann comes into the room and once he called Dick “baby.” Dick responded by stepping on his foot.
Then there’s Kaldur’ahm. He keeps looking at them like he knows something is up, but can’t quite figure out what, and it makes Dick shift uncomfortably, tugging his cape or his jacket closer around him.
And, the cherry on the metaphorical fake relationship sundae, there’s the fact that it’s not even working. M’gann doesn’t even appear a little bit jealous. Mostly she seems concerned with Superboy. The other day Dick had caught them in the hall – Superboy said something, and M’gann giggled, and Superboy sort of – smiled. And blushed.
It had been very disturbing.
“I think we should put an end to our fake relationship,” Dick tells Wally. They’re at the movie theatre on their second pretend date, and Wally doesn’t even have the good graces to pay for Dick’s popcorn. Some fake boyfriend he was turning out to be.
“Yeah,” Wally says, slumping down in his seat. “I know. It’s not working. I guess I should just be happy for her and Supey.”
Dick lays a sympathetic hand on Wally’s shoulder because, well, he is still his best friend.
“We’ll break up tomorrow,” Wally says. “What do you think – are you cheating on me or am I just not ready for commitment?”
“Neither,” Dick grumbles around a mouthful of popcorn. He’s glad, though. At least now things can go back to some semblance of normal.
That’s when Batman gets involved.
“Dick,” Bruce says, standing in the doorway. “I think we need to have a talk.”
“Uh,” Dick says, blinking. He lowers the controller and pauses the game; he’s never going to get to beat this level. “Sure, okay?”
Bruce comes into the room and sits down on the edge of Dick’s bed. Dick, crosslegged on the floor, stares apprehensively as Bruce knits his fingers together, leaning forward with his elbows resting on his knees.
“Am I in trouble?” Dick asks and Bruce’s face actually softens, which really makes Dick nervous.
This is it, he thinks to himself. This is him saying he doesn’t need a sidekick anymore. Him not needing me anymore. This is me turning in the Robin suit and being shipped off to some Swiss boarding school and never coming back.
He swallows hard.
“Barry and I had a long talk last night,” Bruce says. “About you, and Wally. And your relationship.”
“What?” he says.
Bruce arches one dark eyebrow.
“Did you honestly think we wouldn’t find out about you two?” he says and Dick almost laughs, except it’s not funny.
“It’s not like that –” he starts, but Bruce holds up a hand and gives him a Look. Dick shuts his mouth with a click of teeth.
“You don’t have to explain anything to me,” Bruce says, and he gives Dick a rare, small smile. “I know what you and Wally mean to each other. It’s important, to have people you can rely on. People you care about. I know I haven’t set the best examples in that department.”
Dick opens his mouth, but no words come out. His mind is a total blank. Bruce is talking to him about his “relationship”, and he’s approving. Something is very wrong with the universe.
“That’s not to say I don’t wish you had come to me about this sooner,” Bruce continues on sternly, “and it’s not to say that I don’t have some concerns…”
“And then he asked if you were pressuring me into anything and told me I had to come to him right away if anything happened that I was uncomfortable with!” Dick says, falling backwards onto the couch. He pulls a pillow over his head.
“You think that’s bad?” Wally retorts. “Barry’s practically planning our wedding! He kept talking about how proud he was that I found the strength to be true to myself! And then he gave me pamphlets! He wants to talk to my parents! We have to break up right now.”
“We can’t,” Dick says, pulling the pillow down. “What will I tell Batman?”
“Don’t tell him I cheated,” Wally says quickly. “Or that I pressured you into anything or touched you inappropriately or. Or. Tell him it was your fault!”
“This was your stupid plan,” Dick points out. “Your stupid plan that didn’t even work! You find a way out of this!”
Wally takes a deep breath.
“Okay,” he says, holding his hands out. “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to fake my death.”
Dick throws the pillow at him.
This has got to be the most awkward situation Dick has ever been in: sitting in a booth with Wally across from Bruce and Barry, contemplating whether or not he can drown himself with his shake.
Bruce scowls at him.
Barry says, “Maybe we should have gotten the lovebirds their own table,” and that’s the point where Dick can’t take it anymore. He throws his hands up.
“He’s not my boyfriend!” he exclaims. “He’s my best friend! We are not involved! There has been no kissing or hugging or romantic conduct of any kind! All he did is hold my hand, and to be honest, it wasn’t that great!”
“Hey!” Wally protests.
Bruce raises one eyebrow sharply.
“Explain,” he says, and Wally shrinks back against the red vinyl seat. “Now.”
Dick takes a deep breath.
“He,” he points at Wally, “was trying to get M’gann’s attention by dating me, except she’s dating SB, and we were going to break up but then you two got involved and turned my life into a soap opera. I am done now, okay? Done.”
There’s a moment of ringing silence, during which Dick drinks half of his shake in one go.
“Please don’t kill me,” Wally says to Bruce. To Barry, he adds, “And please don’t tell my parents, either.”
Bruce and Barry exchange a look.
“I think we need to have another one of those talks,” Bruce says.
M’gann corners him in the kitchen two days later. She’s holding a cupcake with something blobby drawn on it in purple frosting.
“Superboy made this one,” she says, placing it in front of him. “I think it’s supposed to be a robot. Or a butterfly.”
Dick turns his head to the side and squints. He can kind of see it.
M’gann sits down next to him and looks at him with the doe eyes, pretty face set in a frown.
“Did you and Wally break up?” she asks softly. She quickly adds, “You don’t have to tell me about it if you don’t want to! But, if you want to talk… well, I’d be happy to listen.”
Dick rolls his eyes. He takes a big bite out of the cupcake – it’s orange and green on the inside, but it tastes okay, so whatever – and licks frosting from his lips.
This is completely breaking Rule 2, but the hell with the code. M’gann had brought him a cupcake; Dick knows where his priorities are.
“Wally and I weren’t dating,” he says. “He was just trying to make you jealous.”
“Me?” M’gann says, blinking. Dick nods.
“You know, ‘cause you’re with Superboy,” he says, and M’gann starts giggling so hard she ducks her head.
“Superboy and I aren’t together!” she says, and Dick stops licking the icing off the cupcake. “I was just helping him – I don’t know if I should say.”
“M’gann,” Dick says, turning to face her. He gives her his best Batman stare through the sunglasses. “I really think we’ve had enough schemes for this week.”
M’gann fidgets for a minute, then leans in, cupping a hand to her mouth.
“I was just helping him get your attention,” she whispers, and Dick blinks.
Batman isn’t going to like that.