Actions

Work Header

But Nobody’s Counting

Work Text:

Apparently, rebuilding your orbiting space station after using it to end an alien invasion takes time. It’s been months since the Thanagarians packed up their planet-destroying toys and flew away, but the new Watchtower is still a work in progress. Wally really thought the construction would go faster now that it’s in orbit, but they’re still swarming with techs, and original League members, and increasing numbers of heroes who are soon to be League members, bringing in their own specialist skills. They’ve got the gravity and oxygen working at least, which is a plus for those members who find those things necessary to get around.

Having a wider variety of powers helps. Wally supposes it would have taken even longer to get this thing flying without the help of more flight-capable heroes. Though Wally will admit that it’s strange; the old Watchtower only ever had the seven of them up here – six now, he guesses - and now even with more room, they’re still ducking around each other to get by.

He’s not sure what his official role is here today – right now he’s apparently supposed to be ‘monitoring’ which is code for use your powers to run around the whole site fast enough to keep the rest of us updated. He’s not sure if he’s checking that no one on the ground has managed to smuggle bugs into a component, or that everyone up here is where they’re supposed to be. So he does a bit of everything. He’s used to that.

It does mean that he notices Diana taking a break in one of the lounges. She’s rubbing at her temples, eyes closed.

Wally takes a quick trip to the ground and back again. He lets his next round of checks start with the common areas.

As he’s leaving he hears, “I know that was you, Flash,” and slows down. Wally cycles back around to the table and stops beside Diana.

She nods down at the macchiato. “What’s with the gift?”

“No reason.”

She raises one elegant eyebrow. “Oh yes?”

He shrugs. “I was in the neighbourhood.”

She points at the side of the cup. “The neighbourhood of France?”

Briefly, yes. After he had spotted Diana, made a decision to dash back to earth, took a quick run through Paris, and back up to the Watchtower. Wally nods. “You looked like you could use one.”

She sighs. “It has been a long...” She doesn’t fill in the period of time.

“Yeah,” he agrees.

She smiles at him. “Why don’t you join me?”

That sounds good, up until the point someone Wally’s not even sure he recognises (red costume, blue trim) walks over and sighs out, “Oh, God, real coffee.”

She looks around for a non-existent coffee dispenser, and Wally does not want to start an Original/Expanded League incident. He doesn’t want anyone saying he’s giving special treatment to the Founder members only. (Though honestly, who planned a works order schedule that put archive installation before coffee machines?)

He offers, “Yeah, I’m going out for more, want one?”

She nods like he’s made her day, so Wally does another run, picking up a few more orders on the way (GL, Supes, Zatanna) and by the time he’s back there are more people waiting. He thinks about pointing out that he is not in fact a waiter, but rebuilding is thirsty work and it’s not like this job is hard for him.

Although.

“Uh. Going to run into a cash flow problem pretty soon.” Nobody is close enough to respond to that.

Wally turns around and yelps. He steps backwards, so he's not staring right at Batman's chest armour. “I didn't think you were here.”

“Supervising.”

“Okay.”

Batman hands Wally a sleek black credit card. “For your cash flow problem.”

Given free rein on a League card, Wally starts to get creative with the coffee runs. Sure the League has members who can actually use their powers to find out their teammates’ ideal orders, but Wally's guesswork isn't half-bad.

He gets back for what he thinks is nearly the last time, and only has to circle the Tower five times before he spots Batman. “Hey.”

“Flash.”

“So, last orders. One coffee, black?”

“I'm fine.”

“Seriously? You’re funding everyone else’s caffeine habit, you don’t want one of your own?”

“I have work to do.”

Wally looks over his shoulder to ask Diana, “And he can’t do that with a cup of coffee in his hand?” When he looks back, Batman has disappeared again.

Diana shakes her head. “Go and get your own, and come back up here and drink it with me. I would appreciate the company.”

Wally squeezes her arm. “I’ll be right back.”

 

*

“I’m here under protest,” Wally informs John.

John blinks at him slowly. “Okay.” He’s standing in the doorway of his apartment, looking confused about what Wally is doing there. Which is fair. Wally didn’t tell John he was planning a visit. Sometimes it’s best not to give him time to plan. John’s a marine – planning time gives him an advantage which Wally needs for himself right now. John’s sort of been avoiding him lately, outside of missions.

“I don’t even need your freaky fitness regime.” Wally taps his chest. “I’m fit as a fiddle. Healthy as a horse.”

“I saw you eat three buckets of fried chicken yesterday.”

“And I worked it off!” It had been between taking down Metallo and then taking down Giganta and Bizarro – he had needed the calories.

“Sure,” John says.

Wally bounces up and down on the balls of his feet. “Okay, are we getting in a workout or not? You want to come jogging with me?”

John stares.

“I’ll go easy on you.”

Wally’s not even in costume right now, figuring that in regular running clothes he would be less tempted to speed off. Though he had still brought a suit just in case. They’ve been surprised often enough now that he’s not taking risks.

John shakes his head. “I’m not sure you even know what jogging means.” But he says, “Give me a minute,” and leaves the door open for Wally to come inside. He heads into the bedroom and comes back in running gear. “Okay?”

John starts out on a steady pace. Wally scoots back and forth beside him, trying not to run off. “So.”

“So,” John agrees.

“You want to talk about it?”

“What?”

“Shayera, Mari, any of that.” Before John can answer, Wally adds, “Because you know you need to talk to someone. But it’s okay if that’s not me. If you want to, you and me, you want to just run for a while, we can do that. Or I can tell you about the latest developments in ‘As the Forensics Lab Turns’.”

“Margie still got her eye on the police officer?”

“She’s plotting ways to catch her eye, yeah. I think it’s working – there’s no way Officer Lau needed to be in the lab checking up that often.”

Wally wonders belatedly if workplace romance was a bad choice of conversational distractions, but John snorts in amusement and waits for Wally to keep going.

Wally’s happy to do that. “Plus, everybody knows I’m the best on blood spatter, and she goes straight to Margie every time. That’s gotta be the reason, right?”

“Oh, I’m sure it is, pal.”

“Exactly- hey!” John grins at him, and Wally elbows him back. “I’m great at my job.”

“I know,” John says, no joke this time. Then he wraps his arm around Wally’s shoulder and knuckles his hair. Wally fends him off and gets his hair back to its former glory. Still: he’ll take this.

 

*

Wally kind of wishes his criminals would stop using their one phone call calling him.

“Cody, I warned you those guys were trouble.” He tries to maintain a stern tone, more difficult with the way Cody sounds so freaked out.

“I know, I know, but the score was so-”

Wally says, “And now you're arrested in Gotham, so that worked out well.”

“You've gotta help me. Please, Flash.”

“I don't know what I can-”

“These guys are serious, okay? The prisons here? I won't-”

Wally sighs. “Let me make a call.”

He hangs up the phone and gives it a minute to muster up his argument. Wally can be persuasive, he knows that. He’s talked himself through to the other side of way trickier situations than this.

Wally guesses Batman probably wishes he wasn't so frequently Wally's first call. “Flash.”

“Hi.”

Batman says, “One of your guys turned up in my city.”

“It's a funny story, really.”

“I'm not laughing.”

“Can you just help him out?”

“Why?” Batman asks. Wally has known him long enough to recognise the sound of genuine curiosity. It’s subtle but it’s there.

“Because maybe if I do this kid a favour, he turns himself around. And he is a kid: he fell in with the wrong people. He's not all bad.”

“You never think they're all bad.”

“I don't really think anyone's all bad...Maybe Grodd.” He considers this. “Nah, probably not even Grodd.”

There is a long silence on the other end of the line before Batman says, “I’ll get his custody transferred. You can take him back to Central City. He’ll be your problem if he gets out.”

“He won’t be a problem,” Wally assures him.

Another long silence. Then: “You never think they’ll be a problem, either.”

“And sometimes I’m right!” Wally tells him.

Batman hangs up on him, but soon enough Wally gets the notification that there’s an incoming transfer into Central City Prison, and they were told he’d want to be informed. “Thanks,” Wally says. “Tell Cody I’ll be in to check on him as soon as I can.”

 

*

Shayera still looks hunched over – small – behind a console in the new Watchtower. “Wally.”

“Hi. You called me, are you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“We don’t see you up here much.”

“I’m working on that. But I don’t want- I know there are some people who would rather not see me up here. I don’t want to make things more difficult for them.”

There were a lot of non-specifics in those two sentences. Wally mentally fills in ‘John’ and ‘Diana’ into the gaps. Maybe Mari too. “Well, some people are happy you’re here.” He taps her arm. “One of them is me, if you couldn't tell.”

She smiles at him. “I can, thank you.”

“So. What’s up?”

Shayera looks back at the screen. “There are archives here.”

“Sure? I mean, I know Bats keeps track of things, and J’onn, and there are all the computer logs.” They transferred a lot of information up here, so League members could share files on each other’s fights and study up if they needed to.

“The Invasion,” Shayera says. “There’s more information here than I had at the time. And more of the aftermath, when I was... away.”

Wally looks over her shoulder at the screen. There were some ugly scenes after the Thanagarians left.

He says, “This isn’t- you’re back now, back with us, helping the earth. I don’t think looking through all of this is going to do anybody any good.”

“Some of it is important,” she says.

“And some of it’s people burning you in effigy.”

Shayera looks down at the keyboard, though that image is open in front of her. “I know.”

“So-”

“Can you help?”

“I-?” He’s confused, but that’s not important right now. “What do you need?”

She shrugs. “You read faster than I do. Do you think you could maybe skim through and pull out the pieces I need to see?” She's looking down again.

“Sure I can, yeah.”

“Don’t- I don’t want you to pull punches. If it’s important, I want to read it, even if it’s... I just keep reading the same things over again and I can’t-”

“Of course, Shayera. Just give me a minute.” It won't take that long to read, but deciding what she has to see takes longer.

 

*

Wally walks into the middle of what looks like a pretty serious argument between Superman and Batman. He wants no part of that, but Superman fixes his gaze on him. “Flash.”

“Um. Yeah? All good in here?”

“Settle an argument for us.”

He makes that sound so calm and reasonable. Wally knows better. “That doesn't seem like something that's gonna end well for me, so I'll just be-”

Batman interjects, “Flash.”

He thinks fast. He can totally end this argument right now. “I was actually looking for help, but I'll just go ask Diana, okay?”

Superman stops him. “What is it?”

“There's a bit of a situation up there. Spaceships, historic dispute, J'onn answered the call, but he needs some back-up. I thought maybe one of you two could jump in, but GL’s probably around somewhere, if you're busy with this.”

Superman shakes his head. “This sounds more important.” He looks at Batman. “I can take this, if you-”

“I'll finish up here. We can table the capacity question until-”

“Yeah.” Superman nods. “Good luck.”

“Be careful,” Batman replies.

Superman heads past Wally towards the deck.

Batman looks at Wally. ”You were never looking for one of us.”

“There really is a situation.”

“Yes,” Batman agrees. “But you were looking for Diana or Green Lantern.”

“Hey, maybe I thought one of you two really was the first call for an intergalactic diplomatic question.”

Batman ‘hmm’s at him.

“And now no one’s fighting," Wally says. "Except possibly the two fleets trying to get parked outside our front door. Plus, you can probably do whatever you wanted to do with whatever you were arguing about. Win-win.”

Batman hmms again.

Wally backs out of the room. They could almost certainly still do with Diana up there. This has nothing to do with avoiding Batman’s scowly face. Nothing at all.

When he gets up there with Diana, Superman raises an eyebrow at him. “I know when I’m being played, you know.”

Wally tries to look innocent. Superman’s good but he can’t read minds.

Superman shakes his head, smiling. “We probably needed the break, anyway.”

 

*

Wally isn’t afraid to ask for help when he needs it. Sure, there have been the occasional times where stubbornness has got away from him, but if he gets into serious hot water he always knows who he can call.

At the moment, Wally’s working the relief effort on a rockslide in San Baquero, with Red Tornado and Stargirl. And he’s running late.

Wally punches his communicator. “Pick up, pick up, Watchtower.”

“Flash?” Batman asks.

“Awesome, just who I was looking for.”

“Do you need more people down there?”

“No, we’re good.” He pauses. “Well, I mean, if someone’s nearby and not busy, sure, but we’ve got it, right?” Stargirl nods in the affirmative between zapping rocks out of the way.

“Flash,” Batman prompts him.

“It’s already twelve-thirty.”

“Yes.”

“I’m supposed to be somewhere. And, obviously, I’m not. Can you maybe give them a call and explain the situation? It’ll sound better coming from you. Maybe. At least, you have time to explain. I mostly have falling rocks right now.”

“You’re talking now.”

“Bats-”

“I’ll take care of it,” Batman says, and hangs up on him without asking where Wally was supposed to be or who he should call. Wally really wants to know what he means by that. But he also really does have a falling rock problem right now.

That takes another hour to resolve, and an hour after that before they can actually leave. Wally heads over to the Children’s Hospital when he gets back to the city anyway – even if he can’t do the tour around like he promised, at least he can apologise in person.

It turns out that he doesn’t have to, because when Batman said he would take care of it, apparently what he meant was that he would come down here himself.

Kids tend not to be scared of Batman. Wally’s not really sure why that is. He, for example, has a healthy respect for Batman’s ability to inspire fear. And it’s not like he thinks Batman would go out of his way to frighten children - Wally knows it’s the opposite and has seen that in action - he just doesn’t know how the kids know that.

He can see a skinny teenager in spandex hanging upside-down from the doorframe, so he guesses Robin might have been an influence on the room today. Still, Annabella’s sitting at a little table right by Bats, demonstrating how her Legos work, and Wally doesn't think it’s got anything to do with anyone but Batman. Wally supposes these kids have enough scary things in their dreams already - Batman is the thing that scares even the monsters.

Wally shakes his head, and goes to check in with the nurses before saying hi to some of the kids. All in all, it’s another hour before they’re nearly ready to leave and he can get Batman alone.

Wally raises both eyebrows expectantly but Batman gets in first: “Why did you ask me?”

Wally blinks and considers that. There are a couple of answers to that question. Batman hadn't currently been fighting a rockslide. There had been a good chance he was in the Watchtower. But mostly: “I figured you would do something. I mean, not that I expected you to do...” He pauses. "You know, maybe I did expect you to do exactly what you did. Wow. Apparently I'm the high-maintenance Leaguer. I always thought that was-”

“Me?” Batman suggests.

Wally shakes his head. “Nah. You're a lot of things, Bats, but you're not exactly a demanding guy to be around.”

A smile flickers at the corner of Batman's mouth, below the mask. “There are people who would disagree with that.”

They probably would, but Wally has never found it that way. Bats is self-sufficient to the point of isolation, some days. The things he asks for run to huge and terrifying ‘I’m placing the world or my life in your hands because I have no other choice right now’ but very little of the ‘come pick me up at the airport’ type favours. (Possibly because he has his own jet. And a butler.)

Wally shrugs. “Pretty sure the favours awarded count runs me, maybe two, you, hundred or so the opposite direction.”

Batman says, “I've never kept score.”

“I know you don't.”

“Neither do you.” He makes a small gesture with one hand. “For any of...”

Wally shrugs again. “I've been lucky. A lot. Seems kind of crummy not to spread that around.” He grins. “I like being able to do something nice for somebody. Even if you never let me make somebody you.”

“You do-” Batman says. “You offer. It comes to the same thing.”

Wally doesn’t know if that’s true, exactly, but he thinks he knows what Batman means. It’s about knowing that someone will be there, the times you need the assist, and in the in-between times when you just know you might need one someday. Wally can get behind that philosophy.