The crackle and pop of kindling burning against the sand. The smell of woodsmoke permeating the salty breeze around them. The ebb and flow of waves crashing gently against the shore.
It’s a beautiful night - almost too nice to really be fair when he knows they’ll be leaving tomorrow.
Dick takes a deep breath and lets the wall of heat coming off the bonfire sear against his bare legs, the ache almost comforting in it’s contrast to the cool breeze. Beside him, Donna is trying to roast the perfect marshmallow, her last attempt bubbling in the embers after she’d whipped it across the fire at Roy - for what reason, Dick doesn’t know, he wasn’t paying attention. Garth is sitting in the shallows, looking pensive and content all at once, and Dick’s heart goes out to him when he remembers that Garth will miss this place more than the rest of them combined when they go. And Wally…
Dick sighs, glaring into the flames so his gaze doesn’t follow the magnetic pull it can never seem to ignore when it comes to Wally. Without letting himself look, Dick knows that his best friend is out for a run along the shoreline, looking tousled and freckled and gorgeous in the starlight. Dick almost wants to hit him for the unfairness of it all.
Two weeks in Orange Beach, Alabama. Two weeks of nothing but a beach house, the ocean, and a small tourist city to keep the five of them occupied, and boy had they needed those two weeks to ease their tension. It had taken all four of them to drag Dick along, to get him to loosen up and enjoy the time they had together to just… be young. To be kids who really weren’t kids anymore and hadn’t been in a long time. To laugh and sing and yell with reckless abandon because for two weeks, the world wasn’t on their shoulders, and they needed to let themselves believe that for once. Somehow, a vacation had soothed fresh wounds and smoothed old scars, and he’s never been more grateful.
For two weeks, Dick has spent the best time of his life with his best friends. But not once, in the entire time they’d been here, had he mustered up the courage to take a chance and admit to Wally how he really feels about him.
They’d had easy days, hiking up the trails and wandering through the fishing museum. They’d had full, rambunctious days of wakeboarding and sandcastle competitions and taking turns jumping over the high flames of the fire, because they’re idiot kids and maybe they want to act like it for once. And they’d had quiet days too, spread out over beach towels and getting a little sunburnt and flipping hot dogs on the grill. So many opportunities for Dick to say the words, to say aloud the things he’s been feeling for years and just get… what, closure? Confirmation? He’s not sure what he wanted out of it. He just needed to know.
But it’s too late for that, now. It’s their last night together, all five of them, and he doesn’t want to ruin that with stumbled words and an awkward moment. So he stays quiet and wallows in his regret.
And the thing is… it would have been perfect, too. Because Wally is going to college, and so is Dick, and there’s so much uncertainty around all of them that even if Wally didn’t feel the same way, Dick could brush it off and take the time and miles of distance to heal before he’d ever need to see him again.
Not that that fact doesn’t hurt. That it’ll be a while until he’s able to see Wally, regardless of his feelings for him. But never knowing hurts even more, and now he’s lost his chance to find out.
“Why the long face, Shortpants?” Roy pelts him with a piece of graham cracker, aim impeccable and undeterred by Dick’s glare as it hits him square on the nose.
“You’re one to talk about faces, asshole, you still haven’t shaved that shit off your chin.” Donna retorts before Dick has the chance to, and now he’s laughing too hard to back her up.
Roy scowls, redirecting his attention and apparently forgetting that he’s meant to be antagonizing Dick. “You know, if I had something to say about your physical appearance I’d get a black eye.”
“Yes?” Donna quirks an eyebrow. “And?”
“I’m just sayin’, I don’t think it’s fair of you to mock my beard when I-”
“You still callin’ that thing a beard, Speedy?” It’s Wally’s voice that interrupts him, loud and lilted in humor when he jogs up behind Roy.
“Fuck off, Flash Boy, at least I can grow facial hair.”
“Can you though?”
Wally hops out of Roy’s reach when he takes a swipe at him. His boardshorts hang low on his hips, the rest of him bare and glistening in the firelight from the sweat of his late-night run and Dick is so glad that clearing his throat can be drowned out by Roy’s outraged grumbling. Because Wally looks fucking ethereal in the pale light of the moon, the warmth of the fire, and his laughter is infectious and clear as a bell and it’s so goddamn unfair.
Because Wally is so… Wally. And Dick loves him so much it might just kill him and he’s too much of a coward to say it.
Looking back out at the water, he finds that Garth has made his way out into the waves and he has half a mind to join him, but Garth would never let him drown his sorrows. Besides, if Garth wanted company right now he’d be up here with them, probably not as close to the fire as they could be, but still. Dick decides not to disturb him. Instead, he pushes himself to his feet and mutters something about clearing his head before turning away from the light. He feels Donna’s fingers brush against his wrist, but she doesn’t try to stop him. It’s meant to be a comfort and it is, so he squeezes her shoulder in return as he passes.
The sand is cold and damp under his feet the further he gets from the fire, untouched for hours after sundown and settling in shallow dunes, to be undisturbed until the next day. The stark difference in temperature is a shock but he appreciates it, goosebumps rising on his skin with every step he takes towards the shore.
Dick can barely make out the line where sky meets water, the darkness of night mirrored against the waves, the only difference between above and below shown in how brightly the stars shine overhead. It’s so different to the smog and clouds he’s used to seeing. So much light in the night sky almost feels like culture shock to a Gothamite, and even after two weeks here, he’s still in awe of it. It makes him think of train rides through country sides, hanging out of a window at age nine and feeling so alive under a polka-dotted sky. The ache it brings to his chest is familiar, but not unwelcome anymore. Just present in a way he can deal with.
When his toes dip into the water, he doesn’t hiss in surprise like he expects to. It’s almost like bathwater, in contrast to the cool air, so he sits at the edge in the damp sand and lets the tide wash over his ankles. It’s comforting in a way he’s never really attached to water, but after a fortnight here he thinks that now beaches might hold more meaning to him than they had before.
“Is this seat taken?”
He turns sharply, finding Wally standing a few feet behind him and gesturing to a place in the sand at Dick’s side. He’s wearing an unbuttoned and completely gaudy Hawaiian shirt now, somehow managing to still look inviting, his smile earnest and disarming in a way only Wally can be.
Dick swallows and shakes his head, turning back to the waves. He doesn’t trust his voice. Not anymore.
Wally settles next to him easily, their shoulders brushing, and Dick fights back a shiver that has nothing to do with the breeze. Wally radiates so much heat, particularly after a run, that Dick can feel himself leaning into that warmth without even meaning to. Damn speedster.
“Roy and Donna’s argument got a little… heated, after you left.” Wally clears his throat and Dick smiles despite himself at the implication. “Didn’t really want to, uh… get in the way of that. Y’know.”
Wally’s laughing at his deadpan, and Dick’s a little surprised that he managed to keep his tone so level but he’s grateful nonetheless. He glances over Wally’s shoulder to see Roy and Donna now seated on the same piece of driftwood by the fire, faces a little too close for a usual argument. He turns away before he sees anything he shouldn’t.
“I’m really gonna miss this.” Wally murmurs, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees.
“Me too.” Dick says. Taking in a breath so deep it hurts, he gives himself a minute before he speaks again. “Maybe we could come back again next year.”
There’s silence for a smidgen too long, and when Dick lets himself glance at Wally, there’s a sad smile on his lips that makes him wonder if Wally wasn’t really talking about the beach either.
Dick shoves his toes into the sand, wiggling through the smooth surface to until there’s a watery crater beneath his feet, aided by the waves. There’s been sand in every crevice of his body since the day they got here. He’s kind of used to being covered in the stuff at this point, so it doesn’t matter that it’s sticky and mucky and clinging to his ankles.
“Gonna miss you too.”
And there it is.
Wally’s voice doesn’t waver, isn’t strangled by withheld emotion like Dick’s would be. He’s just honest, the words soft but confident in a way that Wally so often is. It’s comforting, knowing that Wally never has an issue being straightforward with him.
“Dunno if I can say the same.” Dick replies, because if anything comes easily to him, it’s lying.
Luckily, Wally knows that and shoves him playfully, his touch electric against Dick’s bicep. “Fuck off, you know you love me.”
Oh. Doesn’t he just.
Dick doesn’t say anything, his voice still a little untrustworthy right now, so instead he just shoves Wally back. It seems to be enough, Wally knowing that for Dick actions speak louder than words. He’s grateful for that. But Wally’s leaning into him now, his shoulder burning against Dick’s. He has to fight the urge to curl his arm around Wally’s side, because he knows if he did he wouldn’t be able to resist trailing his fingers down Wally’s spine in a way that is definitely not platonic.
So he just leans into Wally in return, focusing on the waves and blatantly ignoring the ache in his chest.
They’re quiet for a while, enjoying each other’s company, and Dick is almost comfortable again. But then Wally jostles him not so gently as he gets to his feet. Dick glances up and- well, he’s not exactly prepared for the sight of Wally dropping his unbuttoned shirt to the ground, bare-chested, the edges of his silhouette glowing in the moonlight and turning to look at Dick with dark, lidded eyes.
“I’m going for a swim, you comin’?”
Dick blinks. “Wha- now?”
“If not now, when?” Wally laughs, throaty and deep, and then he’s stepping backward into the water. “Might as well. It’s our last night. Last chance to do it.”
And doesn’t that just twist the knife.
Dick considers it, warily eyeing the waves at Wally’s feet, which proves to be solid intuition since Wally grins and showers Dick in saltwater with a well-aimed kick from the shallows.
It’s not long after he’s torn off his dripping wet t-shirt and dropped it on the sand that he’s chasing Wally across the shore, tackling him into deeper water when they get far enough out.
And this? This is easy. This is normal for them, the banter and childish antics. They might be adults now, technically, but he doesn’t think he’ll ever want this to be over. He wonders if things would change, if he said anything about how Wally makes his heart race and his pulse pound. If they would still be best friends like this - like he wants to be forever.
Wally’s laughing as he treads water next to him, and when he flicks the wet hair from his face the spray it sends Dick’s way almost instigates another war. But it doesn’t. Dick is too helpless in the face of Wally’s smile for the effort that would take.
Silently making a truce, they wade over to the sandbar together and lay side by side beneath the stars, the waves and their gasping breaths the only sounds around them. The sand is sticking to his back and he can feel it in his hair and god knows he’ll need a shower before they leave tomorrow, but he really can’t care about Roy stealing all the hot water when he’s got Wally wet and panting beside him. That’s a picture from his most daring daydreams, and heat rises to his cheeks at the thought.
“This doesn’t change anything.”
And for one heart-pounding moment, Dick is afraid he said those thoughts aloud, but a quick glance at Wally dissuades that idea. He’s got one arm tucked behind his head, the picture of ease, eyes focused on the clear, midnight-blue sky above them. He looks… a little unreal, to be honest. But not like Dick had just said something world-tilting for the both of them.
Dick makes a questioning noise, because he’s still recovering a bit, and now Wally’s turning to meet his gaze.
“College, moving away,” Wally explains, “it doesn’t change anything, right? Like. Our friendship has always been long distance. So. It’s not like anything will be any different.”
How can they promise that when everything about the way they’ve lived the past seven years no longer applies?
“And,” Wally starts again, a little breathless now, his Adam’s apple bobbing when he swallows, “there’s still weekends. And with the League, and Barry, and Bats, we’ll still be able to see each other. Right?”
Maybe Dick has been so focused - a little too focused - on how he feels about this whole thing that he hadn’t noticed just how panicked Wally seems. He knows Wally isn’t a fan of change. Never has been. So now, looking into Wally’s too-wide green eyes and feeling his too-quick breath on Dick’s skin has him cursing himself for not seeing how hard Wally is taking this.
“Walls,” Dick turns on his side and lays a hand on his Wally’s heavily freckled shoulder. It’s a little winding, how quickly the tension fades from his muscles just at Dick’s touch. “You’re always gonna be my best friend, no matter where we are. Okay?”
And then he’s flat on his back with an armful of Wally, who’s got his face buried against the side of Dick’s neck and there’s sand everywhere but fuck, who cares . Wally is here and upset and clinging to his best friend and dammit, if Dick is good at one thing it’s being a decent friend. So Dick tightens his grip and presses his nose into Wally’s hair and just. Holds him. And maybe he’s a little selfish, because this feels good and right and it’s not the moment for that, but he lets himself have it just this once. Because soon Wally will be gone, and they might not get to have moments like this as often as he’s used to.
When they get back to the shore, soaking wet again but blissfully sand free in all of the… important areas, Wally is smiling again. It’s a little bittersweet, but it does eventually meet his eyes, and that’s all Dick had wanted. That’s all Dick ever wants: Wally, happy and smiling and carefree.
He picks up his t-shirt, not bothering to put it back on, and tosses Wally’s at him before leading them both up the beach.
Going back to the house feels like eerily like marching to the gallows. Like these are the last few bits of sand falling through the hourglass, Dick is running out of time. Because he is. After this, they go their separate ways. And sure, they will always be best friends. But life - adult life, life away from the childhood they’ve spent together - it changes you. Dick knows that. He’s seen it happen. And he knows they’ll never have a chance to start things right if he doesn’t do this now.
Roy and Donna have disappeared, and Dick really doesn’t want to think about where to. At least they had the presence of mind to put out the fire, smoke rising from the blackened embers in the sand and making his eyes water. Garth is, similarly, nowhere to be found, but between the sea and the house, Dick knows he doesn’t have to worry about that.
The stairs creak as they quietly make their way to the deck, draping their soaked clothing over the railing and slipping through the sliding glass door into the house that had been their home for the better part of a fortnight. They’d picked rooms across the hall from each other, because of course they did, and Dick has never felt more final a moment as he does when coming to a halt in front of his door. He pauses, feeling Wally doing the same behind him, and turns.
Wally has his hand on the doorknob, his position mirroring Dick’s. He looks like he wants to say something, teetering on the edge of a revelation, and Dick doesn’t know whether he should speak or not.
“See you in the morning.”
And that’s- hm. He should’ve been expecting that.
It’s not what he wanted to say. It’s not what he wanted to say at all.
I love you. I want you. Please stay with me.
He could’ve said any of those things and gotten an answer, any answer, to the uncertainty bouncing around in his skull. But he doesn’t. He didn’t.
Dick closes the door behind him and leans against it heavily.
Well. At least it’s over. At least now he can just. Accept it. That he’s never going to know if Wally has ever felt the same. Maybe moving on is possible without closure.
Dick spends a while puttering around in the darkness. Packing up his clothing and setting an outfit for the next day on top of his suitcase. Tucks away his nonessential toiletries and leaves his toothbrush out for the morning. He changes into his pajamas; just a pair of soft, old sweatpants. And then, before he can help it, he’s pacing.
Alfred has always remarked that Dick’s pacing would one day wear a hole in the hardwood floors. He’s got a route mapped around every room of Wayne Manor, knows which floorboards creak and which table corners to avoid. His hair has never thinned, thank god, from how often he runs his hands through it while doing laps around his room, and he’s doing it now as he overthinks.
He has a lot of regrets. A lot moments when he didn’t take the leap, didn’t fire the gauntlet, didn’t catch the fallen. There are some things he will never let himself forget. Dick has a lot of memories stocked up in the back of his mind to beat himself up over when things get real fucking dire.
Dick doesn’t want Wally to be one of those regrets.
Finally coming to a halt in the middle of his bedroom, Dick whirls around, reaching for the handle before he talks himself out of it, and when he rips open his door he almost walks directly into Wally’s chest.
Because Wally... He’s- he’s there .
His fist is raised, about to knock, and his lips part in shock when he registers that Dick has, apparently, had the same idea. They stare at each other for a moment, both a little unsure, until Wally drops his hand and braces it against the doorframe. He licks his lips, the flash of pink tongue drawing Dick’s attention to his mouth and sending a zing down his spine.
“Hi.” Dick says, because he’s really not sure what else to say. “What’s up?”
“Um.” Wally starts, breath a little shaky. “Can I-... I mean, would you-...” Another breath, still shaky, a little deeper this time. “Would it be alright if I... stayed with you tonight?”
“Uh.” Because that’s eloquent. “Why?”
Wally winces, and Dick does too because that’s really not what he meant to say, but Wally is speaking again before he can backpedal.
“Because I want to.”
Dick can’t help it. He gasps a little.
Wally would have said anything else if he had meant that platonically. He would’ve rambled, hell, he probably wouldn’t have said anything at all, he would’ve barged in with an extra pillow and mumbled for Dick to shove over. It would’ve been a sleepover like any other that they’ve had before.
But Wally is asking permission, and Dick is feeling a little lightheaded.
Because Wally wants to stay . With him.
And then, because that realization has him feeling braver than he ever has with Wally before, Dick is taking the front Wally’s sleep shirt delicately in his fingers and tugging him inside without a word. Wally doesn’t resist, goes along without hesitation, his eyes never leaving Dick’s. His lips are still parted so deliciously, and he shuts the door behind him when Dick’s pulled him far enough inside the room, the click of the latch loud and definite in the silence between them.
“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’?” Wally murmurs, his breath warm and minty as it brushes across Dick’s cheek.
And he just. He just does it, because it’s their last night.
It’s his last chance to do this.
If not now, when?
Dick takes Wally’s face in both hands, his thumbs brushing gently over darkly freckled cheekbones, and kisses him.
He closes the distance slowly, to give Wally the chance to pull away if he wants to, but he doesn’t. Wally meets him halfway, trembling hands finding Dick’s hips and just holding on, his lips soft and plush and perfect. They move together like they’ve done this a million times, and it’s surreal in a way that Wally always seems to be. Always taking Dick’s breath away. Except this time, it’s a little more literal than any time before.
When they part, Wally is looking at him like a man left in the dark and Dick is the sun and moon and stars combined. And Dick knows exactly how he feels. Wally has always been the light to his darkness and having that much emotion turned back on him is a little overwhelming, but he can’t look away. He never wants to look away from Wally ever again.
And now he’s got his back pressed to the door and Wally’s mouth is on his again and- oh , there’s a thigh between his own and-
Well, it’s all a bit of a blur after that.
Later, when they’re sweaty and sated and panting side by side beneath the sheets in an all too familiar fashion, Dick wonders if this is real. If that happened- if this is happening , or if he’d gone to sleep after thinking himself into a migraine and dreamed what could have been.
But Wally’s fingers are curled around his wrist, tracing absent-minded patterns on the inside of his forearm, and it’s grounding and breathtaking all at once. Wally is beside him in bed, and Dick is allowed to touch him- is being touched by him. And it’s like the world had been slightly out of focus until now, and everything is suddenly clear.
Dick rolls onto his side to face him, making sure not to move his arm so Wally can continue his gentle administrations. His hair is a mess (Dick is sure his own looks the same), and there’s a lovely flush trailing from his cheeks all the way down his chest. Streaks of moonlight falling through the curtains are painted across his body, his freckles stark against the paleness of his skin and Dick has never seen him more gorgeous than he is right now.
Wally opens his eyes just a bit, his eyelids heavy and tired after their bit of fun, and Dick has a moment of pure panic at the thought that maybe that’s all this was - a bit of fun. But then Wally is turning on his side and trailing a gentle finger across Dick’s kiss-swollen lower lip, and something settles easily in his chest.
No. This is more than that.
Dick smiles, and shifts his arm to clasp Wally’s hand in his own. Tangling their fingers together is comfortable and familiar, Wally’s palm warm and a little damp but Dick couldn’t care less. He’s drifting and his muscles ache a little from exertion and all he wants is to curl up against Wally’s side and go to sleep.
But… he has to know.
“Is this… Are we…?” The words catch in his throat, and he finds himself sighing in frustration because even after all that , he still can’t get this out right. Deep breaths. “Is this what you wanted?”
Wally purses his lips, his gaze flitting back and forth between Dick’s eye like he’s searching for something. “I mean. No.” Dick’s expression must change drastically because Wally’s reaching out quickly to cup his cheek, his eyes wide as he backpedals. “No! Not that this wasn’t-! Um… amazing? But. I just… I wanted to be with you. Whatever that meant.”
Dick lips his lips. “To be with me.”
“And what…” Wally looks down at Dick’s mouth, then back up to his eyes, and there’s something sweet and hopeful swimming in the green of his irises. “What did you want?”
Dick swallows. Clears his throat. Because this is something he’s going to say right .
“I wanted you.”
And Dick doesn’t think he’s ever seen Wally smile this brightly before.
When they finally fall asleep in each others arms, legs tangled and skin too warm to be pressed so close together but both ignoring that fact entirely, Dick is content. And when they wake up in the morning, he’ll be happy. And when they leave this place behind, starting new lives and scared shitless of what’s to come, he’ll be okay. He’s got Wally, and Wally’s got him, and now he knows that for sure. It’s all going to be okay.
Because this isn’t their last night anymore.
It’s the first of many.