“I trust that the shipment of military goods has reached its destination without alarm?” Kaldur asked, looking over his notes. He’d reached the bottom of his list, now it was just the smaller matters that needed addressing.
“More or less,” Captain Marvel answered. “There were a few distractions.”
“But the end result remains the same,” Martian Manhunter assured. “The shipment is settled and on route to those who need it.”
“Excellent,” Wonder Woman announced. “Is there anything else, Aquaman?”
Kaldur glanced down his list again. In his pocket, his phone continued to vibrate. It had been going off without pause since the start of the meeting. He knew it wasn’t urgent, for if it was, an alert would have sounded off at the Watchtower. Curiosity was starting to get the better of him, however.
The remainder of the list could wait for another time.
“No, we have covered everything. Meeting adjourned,” he declared, nodding to Wonder Woman’s hologram. She nodded back, then vanished. He stayed behind, taking the time to say goodbye to each and every leaguer. Kaldur always made sure that he was the last person in the room after these meetings. It gave him a sense of peace, knowing everyone was headed off to other things. Only once the room had cleared did he bother to fish out his phone.
Sixteen new messages lit up Kaldur’s screen. The vast majority of them were the same, wishing him a happy Valentine’s Day. He hummed to himself, reading each one. Some even contained pictures. His favorite was of Lian and Will, faces pressed close to the camera, both covered in frosting. Kaldur smiled, almost wanting to call Will and find out the whole story, but a quick glance at the time told him that Will would be at Bowhunter for the next few hours; the conversation would have to wait.
In all truth, Kaldur had forgotten that it was Valentine’s day. Between managing the League and continuing to maintain his secrets, he did not have much time to devote to personal matters. Twirling his phone in his hands, his mind began to wander to someone who did. Someone who had far too much time on her hands, especially today. He unlocked his phone for the second time and found her number, dialing and pressing the speaker to his ear.
“Tell me you are not where I think you are.”
A sigh. “No such luck. ”
Kaldur frowned. “Is this going to become a yearly occurrence?”
“Did you call to check in, or lecture me? ”
“The former, admittedly. Are you alright?”
“Never better.” Her voice said otherwise. Kaldur gripped the phone tight in his hand, debating on whether or not to say something. On one hand, it wasn’t his place. It was absolutely none of his business what she did with her time. On the other hand, she was his friend, and she was hurting.
“Do you wish for company?”
“You don’t have to. ”
Kaldur almost smiled. If she had said no, it would have meant she wanted to be alone. But she hadn’t said no. “Two minutes, Tigress.”
Artemis said goodbye and hung up the call, putting the phone back in her pocket. Letting out a deep breath, she stared back up at Wally’s hologram.
“Will and I were up half the night baking cupcakes for Lian’s Valentine’s day party. A bunch of toddlers hyped up on sugar sounds like a terrible idea to me, but I’m not the one dealing with the repercussions,” she said, setting a cupcake down at the foot of the hologram. “Double chocolate with heart-shaped sprinkles. You can tell that I made this one, because it looks like shit.”
Artemis hadn’t meant to make coming to the Grotto a yearly thing. Her first Valentine’s day without Wally, she’d been lonely and needed to see his face. She hadn’t wanted anyone to see her pore over pictures or videos, so she sought the private intimacy of the Grotto. Admittedly, she’d felt better after talking to his hologram. Artemis had promised herself that she didn’t need to do it this year, that she had plenty going on in her life and she didn’t need to come.
Yet here she was.
It was increasingly pathetic, but the moment Lian was at daycare, Will was at work and Halo was at school, she’d felt the loneliness tugging at her heart. Ten minutes hadn’t passed before Artemis had put on her shoes and headed for the nearest Zeta. Pathetic, but it helped. Nobody would have known if she’d just kept her big mouth shut the previous year and hadn’t admitted the truth to Kaldur. But now he knew, and now he was on his way.
Artemis felt his presence before she saw him. It was amazing how connected they both were after working so closely undercover. She turned, cocking her head to the side in a hello. “You rang?”
Kaldur nodded, resting a hand on her shoulder. “Do I get a cupcake?”
“No, I just brought one. But we have more at home.”
“I know,” Kaldur said, lifting his eyes to stare at the hologram of his fallen friend. He wasn’t able to look for more than a couple seconds before he had to glance away. “Will told me I could come over.”
Artemis nodded and then crossed her arms. “I’m fine, Kal. Really.”
“And I should get going. I’m going to be late for work,” Artemis groaned, gently shrugging away from Kaldur’s hand and fixing her ponytail. “Some Valentine’s Day, huh?”
“Indeed. If you need me-”
“I know,” Artemis finished for him, shooting him a grin. “I promise I’m okay. Walk me out?”
“I think I will take a few more minutes.” Kaldur’s feet moved of their own accord until he found himself in front of Tula’s hologram.
Artemis watched him and thought it best not to get into it; if she did, she really would be late to work. She left the Grotto, pulling out her phone again. Speaking of Valentine’s day, there was a certain bat she needed to check on.
If ur late 2 training again and leave me w/the lovebirds, you’ll be missing ur namesake by nightfall
Dick couldn’t help but laugh as he read Artemis’ text. “Think I should take that challenge?” he asked his girlfriend, showing her the text. Barbara’s eyes glanced across the screen before she shook her head.
“Too risky. Your namesake is far too useful,” she growled, pulling him closer. Dick smirked, leaning down to kiss his girlfriend. Their first Valentine’s day together was off to an excellent start. He had snuck into her apartment late the previous night, but Barbara was happy to have him. From the moment his eyes had opened she was all over him, and for once Dick had nowhere to be for a few hours, so he was more than happy to oblige.
Dick pulled back from the kiss, leaning against Barbara’s chest. “Happy Valentine’s day.”
“So the Boy Wonder remembered this year.”
“Hey, technically we weren’t together last year,” Dick reminded, pushing his bangs away from his face.
Barbara pushed herself up against her pillows, raising her brow. “Didn’t stop you from coming over.”
“I love it when you banter with me,” he mused, tucking some hair behind his girlfriend’s ear. “It’s the best kind of foreplay.”
“Round two already? You’ve got a lot of energy this morning,” Barbara teased, pulling him down for another kiss.
Dick kissed her back, nipping at her bottom lip. “Well, what can I say? It’s not the holiday of love every morning.” He backed up, cracking his neck with a satisfying pop. Barbara watched as he clambered off the bed, looking for his discarded jeans.
“If you pull out a jewelry box from your pants pocket, I may actually kill you.”
“Not even ten am and my life has been threatened twice. Business as usual,” Dick sighed as he indeed slid a black rectangle out of his jeans pocket. “Just let me be a good boyfriend.”
“A cliche boyfriend,” Barbara groaned, trying to get comfortable against the pillows. But even she couldn’t hide the interest in her voice. Try as she might to deny it, she wanted the present.
Just as Dick was about to hand it over, he held it out of reach. “I mean if you don’t want it.”
“You already bought it.”
“I could return it.”
“Grayson, give me the box,” Barbara demanded. “Is it ugly?”
“Yes, Bruce picked it out.” Barbara rolled her eyes and snatched the box from him. Dick got dressed as she opened the clasp; he tried not to smirk when her face lit up. “Did I do good?”
“Oh Grayson, you did good ,” Barbara said, snapping the sapphire bracelet closed on her wrist. “I’m not a jewelry girl, but this… this I can do.”
“Good,” Dick grinned, pecking her lips before he put his shirt on. “I have to get going, but how do you feel about dinner tonight? We can hit the town, somewhere nice.”
Barbara nodded, picking up her phone. She smiled as she engaged with the plethora of Valentine’s day messages, her heart melting when she saw a picture of Karen and Mal’s infant daughter dressed up in a onesie covered with hearts. “Eight PM?”
“It’s a date.” Dick waved before he darted out of the room. “Say hi to Karen for me!” he called back.
Karen and Mal had been awake since four that morning, but nobody would have been able to guess. Little Lydia had woken them up for her breakfast, and since then they’d been constantly on the move. Karen did her research while her daughter ate, and Mal started on the laundry. Laundry tumbled into the dishes, which tumbled into vacuuming the living room and cleaning up the cat’s litter box, so it was easy to see why they were still awake.
After Lydia’s second feeding, Karen had the brilliant idea to do a little bit of a photoshoot with their new daughter. Mal had been all for it and immediately got out his camera, and that’s when the real fun began.
“Oh, she is so going to hate us for this when she’s older,” Karen said as she looked through the photos they’d taken. “I can’t believe you talked me into dressing her up like Cupid.”
“She looks adorable, though.” Mal looked to Lydia, who sucked contently on her pacifier in Karen’s arms. “We’re her parents, we’re allowed to embarrass her like this.”
“I’ll agree to that,” Karen agreed, standing up. “I’m getting hungry, you want something?”
“I could eat. Let me take the baby, I’ll make pancakes.”
Karen raised a brow but then smiled in relief. “I would appreciate it. Dr. Fischer really needs this report by six tomorrow and I’ve fallen behind.” Mal took Lydia in his arms and gave her soft head a kiss before placed her in the baby carrier on his chest. Will had given it to him as a present, and admittedly Mal thought he would never use it. Now he wore the thing pretty much all day.
“Let’s make your Mama some breakfast so she can work. Sound good?” Mal cooed to their daughter as he walked into the kitchen. Pancakes sounded like the perfect easy breakfast to make for the both of them. It was Valentine’s day, he could make them heart-shaped. Between baby and work, he hadn’t had much time to prepare anything special for Karen, so letting her work and making her breakfast was the least he could do.
Lydia fell asleep somewhere between mixing the batter and pouring hearts out on the griddle. Mal was glad for that, because these rare moments of peace and quiet were ones to be savored. Their daughter had a pair of lungs on her, and more often than not, their house was a place of natural chaos. “Pancakes will be ready in a minute. You want blueberries or chocolate chips?”
“Be crazy, do both,” Karen called back.
Mal laughed before doing as she asked. Their ideas of crazy had certainly changed since becoming parents, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. When Karen could smell the pancakes, she left her work and started to set the table for breakfast.
“I have a question,” Mal announced.
“Should we be getting married?”
Karen snorted, pouring herself and Mal some coffee. “Do you want to get married?”
“I’m not in a rush,” Mal admitted, flipping the last pancake on a plate before turning off the stove. “I just thought it might be weird, both of us parents and not married.”
“It’s 2019, Mal. We don’t need to be married to have a baby. Besides, our lives are so busy right now, why get married?”
“You’re right,” Mal admitted. “You always are.”
Karen pecked his cheek as he joined her at the table. “And don’t you forget it. Leave the wedding stuff to Conner and M’gann.”
“Sounds good to me. Oh, and Karen?”
Mal pulled her in for a deeper kiss. “Happy Valentine’s day.”
“You know, when you said you had a fun idea for Valentine’s day, this isn’t exactly what I had in mind,” Conner admitted over their mind link. In front of him were a plethora of different wedding pamphlets and brochures, detailing everything from tablecloths to DJs. Figures that on the one day they both had free, they had to spend it planning the wedding. M’gann shot him a sympathetic look, taking his hand.
“I know, but if you want to get married this summer, then we have to do the boring stuff.” She pecked him quickly on the cheek. “We have to pick a venue, that’s most important. .”
“What’s wrong with here?”
“We live here.”
Conner chuckled before shrugging. “So? It’s beautiful here. Picture it, we could get married among the apple trees.” M’gann did picture it, and it was beautiful. It wasn’t what she’d originally imagined, but it would definitely save them money on a venue. And they didn’t have to worry about secrecy or a cap on wedding guests.
“I like it.” M’gann crossed off an item from her very long to-do list. “We’ll have the wedding here, great idea, Conner.”
“I have those from time to time,” he tried to joke, picking up another pamphlet. “Do tablecloth colors really matter?”
“In theory they don’t,” M’gann said, feeling a little mind-boggled herself. They’d been at this for the better part of the morning, and it was edging closer and closer to lunch. “Hey, I think I’m starting to have a good idea too.”
“Let’s stop and go out for lunch. We can go to that Chinese place you like,” M’gann suggested. “It’s Valentine’s day, let’s go out and have some fun.”
Conner smiled but gestured to the table. “What about all this?”
“It’ll still be here when we come back,” M’gann said, standing up and tugging on his hand. “It’ll be the perfect excuse to skip out on training the Outsiders,” she added with a bit of a wicked glint in her eyes. “Dick can’t say anything if we have to make decisions today.”
“You’re amazing. Let me get my jacket and we can go.”
“I’ll be by the door,” M’gann said, sliding into her boots before grabbing her phone. If she remembered correctly, the team had gone out last night. Argentina, or something. Bart and Jaime had managed to convince everyone to go salsa dancing for a ‘pre-Valentine’s day bash’. M’gann loved her team, and she was willing to turn a blind eye at some of the pictures they’d accidentally sent to the group chat she was a part of. Back in the good old days, her team had gotten up to some trouble, and she wasn’t about to start acting pious now.
In the interest of worrying for your well-beings, I’m going to suggest plenty of Advil and orange juice today. And fried foods. That helps too. Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day <3
“Oh God,” Virgil groaned, rubbing his temple as he tossed his phone to the side. “Which one of you idiots sent the pictures to the wrong group chat?”
“That might of been me,” Traci admitted, chugging back some Cola. “I had way too much to drink last night.”
“Whose idea was it to go salsa dancing in a country where we’re legal to drink?” Cassie asked, laying on the couch. “Because whoever's idea it was, I have a bone to pick with them.”
Bart raised his hand from the floor. “That would be me. And Jaime.”
“Right. Well, fuck you guys.”
“Second that,” Virgil muttered.
Jaime rolled his eyes, shooting a look to his boyfriend. A very annoyed look that read ‘can you believe this?’. “No one made you guys drink. That is all on you all.”
“Fair point,” Traci muttered. “But being that it was your idea, I suggest y’all be the ones to get us food and Advil.”
Bart rolled his eyes but pushed himself up the floor, extending a hand to Jaime. “Fine. I think there’s some make-at-home Chicken Whizzees in the freezer,” he said.
“Gross,” Cassie sneered. “Nothing vegetarian?”
“Great,” she sighed before standing up herself. “I’ll head home then.”
“Suit yourself,” Jaime called before following Bart into his kitchen. No sooner were the Chicken Whizzees in the oven was Bart pressed against the wall. He grinned, throwing his head back.
“So, fun Valentine’s day?”
“The best,” Jaime said, nibbling at his neck. “I think everyone else is just bitter because they’re single.”
“Would you consider Cassie single?”
Jaime shrugged. “Tim didn’t send her anything today, so I think the message is kinda clear,” he admitted.
“Ouch. Well, I’m not bitter.”
“Neither am I.” Jaime bent forward, pressing a kiss to his boyfriend’s mouth. Bart responded eagerly, wrapping his arms around his neck. After a few minutes of slow, supple kissing, Bart pulled away, cheeks flushed. They’d only started dating recently, and this was still new to him. They hadn’t even come out as a couple to the team yet. Though, given how close they were dancing last night, it was safe to assume that they probably knew.
“I had fun last night,” Bart admitted. “Even though I don’t remember half of it.”
“It’s okay, I remember enough. You’re cute when you’re drunk, Cariño,” Jaime purred, nuzzling against Bart’s nose. “It’s a Valentine’s day I’ll never forget.”
Bart kissed him again before a cough came from the doorway. They immediately broke apart, turning red as Traci watched with utter amusement. “Y’all are such dorks,” she muttered. “Food ready yet? It’s past lunchtime and I’m starving.”
Jaime and Bart had gotten one thing right, though; Cassie was indeed bitter. Who could blame her, though? Tim and her were still on the rocks, and to make matters worse, he hadn’t even wished her a happy Valentine’s day.
By the time she got home, it was late in the afternoon and she was in no mood for conversation. She was hungry, exhausted, hungover and just wanting a nap. More than anything, she was hurt. Cassie loved her boyfriend, and before he’d left the team they’d been incredibly close. They had gone out on a handful of dates since then, but every time they ended in some kind of argument.
She finally reached her room and flopped on her bed, covering her face. Maybe it was time to finally call it quits. What was the point in even dragging it on any longer? Cassie pulled her hands away from her face and checked her phone, but nothing was there. Frowning, she let out a loud huff and flopped over to her stomach. She’d sleep on it and then decide what to do when she was a bit less grumpy.
Something caught her gaze in her peripheral vision. Cassie turned her head, only for her jaw to drop open. A card sat on her nightstand. On top of a very large box of chocolates and leaning on a hot pink teddy bear. She immediately sat up, regretting it when her head throbbed angrily in protest. Massaging her temple, she opened the card and felt all her annoyance just melt away. A picture of her and Tim, grinning at the camera, sat inside the card. Cassie peeled the picture away to observe what he wrote.
I know you’re still mad at me, and you have every right to be. Right now, I can’t explain. I wish I could. And I understand if you never want to talk to me again, or if you want to end this. But I love you, and even though we’re fighting, you still deserve the world for Valentine’s day. I promise everything will make sense soon.
Tim watched Cassie read the card from the opposite rooftop, keeping in the shadows so she wouldn’t see him. It was better to leave it silent and undetected; if she saw him, it would leave room for another argument. When he saw her smile, he took that as his cue to depart, feeling like he finally did something right. He pulled out his phone, finding Dick’s number and ringing it with a satisfied little grin.
“I think she liked it.”
Tim could almost feel Dick smirking over the line. “Told you that she would. She’s definitely going to feel the aster now .”
The younger bat rolled his eyes. “Can you not use your unwords with me? They make no sense.”
“Stay whelmed, Timothy. One day, my skills will rub onto you.”
“Fat chance. ”
Dick was about to respond, but he looked at the time and grimaced. Six thirty and he was still in uniform; Barbara was going to kill him. “Good luck with that. Right now, I have a team training to finish up,” he said before hanging up the call. He looked to Brion, Forager and Halo who were finishing up one of their drills. “Good work, team!”
Brion was panting hard as he walked up to Dick. “How would you know? You were just on your phone.”
“The power of multitasking is one of my secret abilities, Hot Lava,” Dick said, igniting a snort from Artemis.
“I was watching,” the blonde said, crossing her arms. “You guys did good. And I think it’s about time we called it a night.”
“I’ll second that. I’m running late to my dinner with Barbara.”
“Then you should have ended training thirty minutes ago,” Artemis pointed out. “Go, I’ll wrap up here,” she said, waving him off. Dick gave her a salute and didn’t so much as utter a goodbye before leaving his team behind. Artemis rolled her eyes, watching him go before turning her attention back at the team. “You guys are dismissed. Good work today.”
“But... it is early,” Violet said, landing on the ground and stopping to glow. Usually their practices didn’t end until eight, or nine if Dick was in a particular mood.“What will we do?”
“Lucas Carr has promised Forager a thrilling nature documentary,” the bug said, clicking happily. “Violet Harper and Brion Markov are more than welcome to join.”
“Actually,” Brion said, cutting in. “I was hoping that you might wish to do something together,” he directed to Violet. “Just us.”
“That could be fun. Did you have something in mind?”
“I could pick you up from your house. We could… go to dinner. Like, a date. For Valentine’s day,” he explained.
Violet hummed, looking to Artemis for confirmation. When she nodded, the younger girl grinned. “I do not know what a date or a Valentine’s day is, but I accept.”
“Excellent. I will make sure it is a date you will never forget,” Brion said, clearing his throat when he realized how eager he sounded.
Violet giggled. “I will go home and change. Will you meet me in half an hour?”
“Yes, it is a date.”
True to his word, Brion picked up Violet at seven on the dot. Violet met him outside, where she was presented with a bouquet of expensive flowers. Will and Artemis watched from the window, both wary but unable to do anything to stop it; the two teens were dating after all.
“It’s weird though, right? I feel like she’s my kid,” Will muttered, crossing his arms.
“Super weird. But it’s out of our hands,” Artemis sighed, turning away when Brion leaned down to kiss Violet. The blonde threw herself on the couch, looking up at Will. “So, got any plans tonight?”
“As a matter of fact, I do,” Will said, heading to the kitchen so he could put the last of the dishes away.
Artemis perked at his answer; she definitely would have thought that her brother-in-law would be joining her for a lazy night of Netflix and pizza. “Does Will Harper have a hot date tonight?”
“Something like that.”
“Um, spill,” Artemis demanded. “Is it a cute mom from Lian’s daycare? Someone from the league? Jade calling for a quick hookup?”
Will sighed. “No, no, and unfortunately, no. What makes you think I’d say yes to Jade, anyway?” he asked, turning to glance at his roommate. Artemis shot him a deadpan look, and he faltered. They both knew him better than that. “Right. But no, you’re wrong on all those counts.”
“Then who is it?”
The former archer put the last bowl in the cupboard before grabbing his keys. “Someone special. That’s all I’ll say.”
Artemis sighed in annoyance; sometimes he could be such a pain. “Fine. Do you need me to pick up Lian from Lynn’s and watch her?”
“No, she’s covered.” Will slid into his jacket and gave her a wink. “See you later, Sis.”
“Do not call me that!”
Will paid her no mind as he got into his car and drove to the nearest Zeta. It was a short trip to Metropolis, and before much time had passed he was on Lynn Jefferson’s doorstep, hands in his pockets as he waited for the woman to answer.
“Will!” she greeted when she opened the door. “You’re early. I wasn’t expecting you for another half hour, at least.”
“Didn’t want to keep her waiting long,” he admitted. “Is she ready to go?”
“Just about. Lian, your Daddy is here!” Lynn called back. “Do you want to come inside?”
Will shook his head. “Thanks for the offer, but we should get going. I have some plans tonight.”
“Oh?” Lynn asked, waggling her eyebrows. “Hot date?”
Will grinned. “Something to that extent.” No sooner had he said the words did an auburn blur come flying at him. He didn’t have but a second to react, but he knew his daughter well enough to instantly scoop her up. “And hello, little squeaker!” he greeted, kissing her cheeks. “Did you have a good day?”
“Yeah!” Lian chirped, wrapping her arms around his neck.
Will bid goodbye to Lynn before carrying Lian off. She continued to prattle on about her day, and he listened as if his life depended on it. She gushed about the party, the cupcakes, and all about the new computer games Anissa and Jennifer had shown her. By the end of her story, she was nearly out of breath.
“Hey Princess, I had an idea,” Will said when he was sure she was finished.
“An idea?” Lian asked, still holding tight to his neck.
“I thought we could go see a movie. Just you and me,” he suggested. “Popcorn, nachos, ice cream. Anything you want.”
Lian’s face instantly lit up at her father’s suggestion. “Any movie?”
“Yay!” she cheered, bouncing up and down. Will watched her, unable to help but laugh at her determined expression. He’d never really given much thought to Valentine’s day before. Jade certainly hadn’t made a big deal about it. Not that they were ever a normal couple, but they definitely hadn’t done much when Valentine’s day was concerned. All that had changed three years prior. On February 14th, he’d finally met his little girl, and his life had been changed forever. For that, he’d celebrate Valentine’s day as long as he lived.
“Yes, Baby girl?” Will asked, looking down at her.
Lian grinned mischievously before peppering his face with kisses. “I love you lots and lots!”
Will’s face hurt from how hard he was smiling, and he had to stop walking lest Lian distract him enough to walk into a pole. He tickled her to stop, and in the end they both wound up laughing so hard their sides hurt. When they finally calmed, Will pressed a soft kiss to her hair, knowing that she’d be asleep before the movie was out but wanting to do it anyway. “Daddy loves you too. More than anything. Happy Valentine’s day, Lian.”