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This day was one of the worst and yet one of the best to the red haired boy. The rain poured down hard and cold. His poncho old and worn kept his upper torso dry, but not really warm. His jeans, up to his knees, and worn out shoes were completely soaked. He slowly trudged up the steps, beneath the overhang that would keep the water from pounding onto him, leading to the house that gave him shelter. He grabbed the handle. Locked. He turned to try the backdoor only to notice boxes on the porch. His hands shook and his mouth was dry despite the humidity. His mind could not quite accept the knowledge of what he now knew. Mixed feelings swelled within him. Mostly dread, despair, disbelief, hurt, and shock. Then there was that tiny little emotion. A spark of joy. Joy at the knowing. Knowing that he would not have to see them again. Knowing he did not have to endure the insults directly from them any more.
Then there were questions. Where would he sleep? What would he eat? How would he wash his clothes? How would he get money? He still had his flash plushie in the top of the box he saw. He had emptied some of the stuffing and put a plastic sandwich bag in there full of cash. Every dollar he had received since he was seven. Every coin. Every scrap worth of savings. He had traded coins for dollars, ones for fives, fives for tens, and so on. He had scoured playgrounds, alley ways, parking lots, anywhere he could think of for coins. He had worked odd jobs, baby sat pets, mowed lawns, even sold some of his science notes over the years ( he had gotten into trouble for that one, but now it was worth it). He always kept an eye out for floor money as a hero. Pocketed it in empty food compartments that were built into his suit. He knew he would need a good amount of cash when he started out on his own. He just didn’t know it would be this soon. He only had about $2,148.32 in that Flash plushie. Not nearly enough for him to live somewhere for a while without steady income according to his calculations. Rent at a one room apartment was $800.00 a month not including food bills. His meals cost $90.00 on the cheap side. That was only one meal! Wally sighed. He decided to sit there until the rain stopped before he would head to Mount Justice to think. Wally took out a notebook and pen from his backpack underneath the poncho. He began to list ideas and things he needed to do.

Food (the most important)
Sometimes buy. Would have to get job for best options.
Check grocery store dumpsters
Restaurant dumpsters
Sometimes at Mount Justice ( will have to make sure it is kept to normal levels)
Try to make deals with local and non local farmers
Money
Still keep lookout for coins
Find a job
Sell meaningless things
Place to stay
Mount Justice (sometimes, will have to keep minimal)
Uncle B’s ( only when he invites, or after a grueling patrol)
Jay and Joan’s? ( unlikely option, only to be used in emergencies)
Dick’s ( for sleep overs, try to suggest some subtly)
Roy’s (one night over, every 3-6 months)
Check homeless shelters in other states ( study other places the homeless sleep)
The last option caused Wally to pause. He had always been homeless, just with a roof over his head. Now he was without a place to stay and it fit better as a description. He laughed softly. He had much to plan, much to do. First he had to get his stuff up to the mountain so he could sort it all….or he could log it into his notebook since it was still raining.

Wally worked steadily through the boxes listing every item and then putting them back. It was only three boxes. One, the biggest box about 2x2x2 feet held all of his school clothing, underwear, and socks. His four pairs of speedster resistant sneakers were on top. Next was the box of games and his xbox and controllers. He could sell those. Except for the two Robin gave him. That was maybe $100-$150 dollar right there. He then saw his computer laptop. He needed it for school, but it could be sold in a pinch. There were library computers he could use. He’d have to think on that. Next were his phone and charger gifted to him by Robin and paid in full. He could never sell that. The last box was his sheets and pillowcase, fleece Flash blanket, toothbrush, deodorant, his wrist watch, alarm clock, and his three souvenirs from childhood. The toy green lantern ring, the Flash plushie with cash in it, and a batarang. He’d have to put these in his room at Mount Justice. When finished he only had a small sum that would most likely be used on snacks. Wally put his notebook away and sighed. He fit as much as he could into two boxes and in his bookbag. Then he waited.

When the rain finally stopped around ten thirty that night, Wally got up and stretched. He decided to take the most expensive items to the mountain first. He went to the zeta tube and looked around for a place to stash the stuff so he could do it all in one trip. There was a park with a large old oak tree about three hundred feet away. Wally stashed his box in the upper most branches, made sure it was secure and dashed off to get the box of clothes. He then set the clothes right next to the zeta tube and quickly retrieved his box from the tree. Taking a deep breath he then was transported to Mount Justice with his things. He dashed to his room with his box of clothing as soon as it was best to move. He put the stuff in and before the door could shut he had grabbed the other box, shoved it under the bed along with his backpack and was back out in time to make a sandwich in the kitchen to restock on some much needed calories.

When he went to watch a bit of television, he was startled to find Connor already there watching static. ‘Stupid!’ Wally thought to himself. ‘Of course Superboy is here! He lives here! I have to make up a story quick!’ Wally never broke his stride as he went to sit next to the clone. “Hey, Supey! What’s up?” He said giving his best grin.

Connor looked at him. “I am watching T.V.” he stated a matter of factly. “It’s late.”
Wally nodded. “Yep, sure is! I didn’t want to wake my folks so I decided to crash here tonight. That okay?”
“It’s the team’s Mountain.”
“Yeah, but you live in it the most! So would I be disturbing you?” Wally felt his heart skip a beat in fear.
Connor looked oddly at him for he had heard it. “I like it when you’re here.” He finally stated.
Wally grinned and curled up on the couch. He was exhausted. He didn’t even mind the fact that there was only static on the tv. He relaxed and fell into the blissful abyss of sleep. Temporarily escaping the cruel reality that had been set upon him in the real world. He would have plenty of time tomorrow to think on it. He was lucky, for tomorrow was Saturday.

Chapter Text

Wally awoke on the couch around five in the morning. It looked like Supey had gone off to bed but had left the TV on for him. ‘Such a thoughtful guy.’ Wally grinned. His grin faltered after remembering the previous night’s events. Wally bit back a sigh and stretched before standing up. He had a bit of time to make some breakfast for himself and considered making some for Connor but then thought better of it believing that Megan would much prefer to be making breakfast for him. Wally decided to make twenty omelettes, eight servings of grits, and fifteen strawberry, banana, and blueberry protein shakes. He would leave five in the fridge for some of the team to try. They might like it. He then cleaned up his mess and brought the food to his room. He had so much planning to do today.

First on the list to do was his homework so he could get that out of the way. Next he would have to find a place to sell the xbox and games. Ebay sounded good, but then he had to pay for shipping and he wouldn’t be able to get a paypal account without opening a bank account which would end up costing him more money than he could make. He decided to use a selling and buying app, the yard sale groups on Facebook, and then craigslist. It was the best he could do on short notice and he could meet pretty much anywhere, so it wasn’t much hassle.
Next would be finding a flexible job that would not mind him being away for a week or two for mission. Yeah, he was coming up blank on that one. Maybe he could make and sell something? He was pretty smart. It wouldn’t be right to sell homework notes or science projects. He’d need a degree for accounting he was pretty sure. Maybe he could just post a few ads on craigslist for odd jobs? He was pretty handy since he was always made to fix up things around the house when he lives with them. Wally shook the dark strand of thought from his head. There was no need nor time to sink into dark thoughts. Maybe once he knew what he could do he could set up his own website. Then he could use word of mouth to spread word of his job. There was always that other option that made money, but he would never do that. It wouldn’t be right as a hero. He again shook thoughts from his mind. There was so little time.
The first and foremost would be finding places to live. He needed to find multiple homeless shelters from different states. He would have to study them and make a list of the best ones and the ones closest to the zeta tubes. He could also go to soup kitchens! That would help a small amount with food. He’d need a few places to shower and do laundry because he couldn’t use Mount Justice forever. That was another thing that he would need money for. He should probably invest in some more clothing so he would not have to wash too often. Then it’d be less of a problem to launder at the mountain. Wally became increasingly stressed and frustrated as he scribbled down notes and plans. He was tempted to start banging his head against the desk. He rubbed his eyes. As he brought down his hands he was astonished to find that he had only eaten three omelettes. He ate the rest of the omelettes and the grits to distract himself for a bit. The redhead returned to work while sipping on one of the shakes/smoothies he had made.
The next obstacle was food. He would have to make an extensive list of restaurants and grocery stores and soup kitchens with maps to find them. He would have to get familiar with the area in each state. Cities would probably be the best. Of course he would have to avoid the territories of the homes of heros. There was so much planning to do. The first and foremost of them were finding a place to sleep and food to eat. He should probably have an excuse for his time here. What would be a good one? Spending his vacation time here? Nah. He wasn’t near any scheduled vacation time. His parents were going on vacation? No, Rudolph would never do that unless it was free. They are redecorating the house and I can’t get any sleep? Maybe. That was the most plausible since Rudolph always likes to have some upgrades done around the house. Wally continued to try to think of an excuse as he brought his dirty dishes to the kitchen to clean. He cleaned them slowly thinking hard on what to do.
If he went to a fast food restaurant with free wifi he could look it up there. He put the laptop in a hard briefcase he normally used for his science chemicals. He had to take the organization ‘shelf’ out. He then went to the zeta tube and ‘went home’ to keep up appearances. Then he went to a fast food place he and his Uncle Barry once went to in Georgia. It had free wifi and few would look for him here. He spent the day making lists of homeless shelters in the states near him, the soup kitchens, and finally the fast food places in cities in multiple states. He found enough for a day or two of rest at least. He had at least five states with lists of each place that he needed. Wally glanced at his watch. It was almost 3:00pm! He only had a few hours before it got dark. He needed to find a place tonight. So he started with the nearest state to his home state.
Before he went to the shelter he stopped once more at the mountain to drop off his stuff. He grabbed a few energy bars for the trip, just in case. He didn’t want to carry anything that could be stolen. His communicator was mandatory as was the cell phone Robin had given him. Robin would know something was up if he didn’t have it on him. He put it in an ankle wallet he had gotten from Artemis as a joke that he could carry even more snacks, but now he was grateful he had it. Now he could do his search without worrying about stolen property.
As he got to the soup kitchen he found people who looked worn and almost hollow. With the wind and dust blown look he had acquired he almost fit in. Except for his shiny hair, bright eyes, and healthy skin. He might have to move around homeless shelters frequently in order to not be subjected to ridicule. Heck with his red hair it was like a neon sign. He thought quickly. He would need a few brands of hair paint or a few wigs. Or both. Black and brown were probably the best options. A hand on his shoulder startled him out of his thoughts.

“New to the street, kiddo?” A soft yet kind voice asked him.

“Y-yeah.” came his intelligent reply as he turned to see a young woman in what seemed to be her forties. She had light brown-blonde hair, green-blue eyes and a warm smile.

“Well, I can help you through the first few days. I can spot you new types from a mile away. I’ll show you a few shelters and food places you can go. I can teach you how to build a shelter of cardboard boxes, and tell you how to find the best shelter in emergencies.”

“Why would you do that?” he blurted out before he could think about it.

The lady chuckled. “I’m a social butterfly type of person, and I do this often. You can ask half the people in here. Your chance is fifty-fifty that I’ve done this for someone else. Names Crissa by the way.” she said extending her hand,

“Oh. My name is-”

“Shhhhhhh!!!!”

“Huh-”

“Shh! We use aliases on this street. Don’t want people from our pasts to know at first, There’s your first lesson, kiddo. Now what would you like to be called here? Take your time. I know you might not get it, but other kids your age who are homeless will expect it. Also you seem like the type who doesn’t want anyone to know.”

“How-”

“Gut instinct. I’ll let you think about your name while you eat, and another rule is tell as little about yourself as possible. Trust no one. Not even me dearie. We have much to discus and not much time with listening ears trying to pry whatever information you have off of you for their own benefit. Eat and think.” Crissa said as she shoved a heaping pile of food at him. “I know you haven’t been here long, but it’s best to eat all of your food whenever you find it.”

Wally wanted to laugh, because what she had in front of him was a mere snack, but it looked like it would help. Letting her lead him to a table in the far back corner with their backs to the wall, he noticed that one could see the entire dining area and had clear paths to the exits. A good defensive place to be in. Raising the spoon full of soup to his mouth he thought about his name carefully. What should it be? He didn’t want anything too fancy. Could it be minorly silly?

“How would Neon be?” He asked.

“It’s your decision, but make a list and think hard on it because you will be using it for a while. Now please don’t talk while eating, child. I personally like a quiet meal.”

He nodded. That was perfectly reasonable. He thought some more. He liked Neon, because it could be a joke about his hair, maybe something less flashy? He silently chuckled at the accidental pun. (It actually was accidental lol) Bryce was a nice name. Reid like his school friends favorite character from that FBI show. He might think on it for a day. Bringing the milk carton to his lips he made his decision to make a list like Crissa had said and think on it later.

“My, oh my, boy you were hungry, huh? “ Canissa said breaking into his thoughts.

“I didn’t get to eat all that I needed since I ended up in this situation. I usually eat a lot.”

“Well, you’ll have to check out the dumpster restaurants if you want any more. At least it shows you still got spirit, kiddo. So you thought of your name yet?” She asked as she began to clear away her tray.
“I’ve compiled a list. I want to think about it some more.” Wally replied while following her actions.
“Good idea, kiddo. I’ll just be using kiddo, boy, and others like that until you decide.” She grinned at him as she lead him outside. “Now to the dumpsters!”

Garbage had never sounded so appetizing as when she put it enthusiastically. He was actually looking forward to it. As they came to the alleyway of what looked like the back way of a subway, the stench washed over him. His stomach flip flopped in retaliation. Trying not to scrunch his nose he went to stand by Crissa as she lifted the top of the green metal container.

“For this particular dumpster the most food is always in the big black bags which are the ones the customers throw their trash away in and the chefs throw their scraps from cooking in. White ones are the ones they usually use in the bathrooms. Clear are recycling but sometimes lazy people throw them in the dumpster. You can look for cans and aluminum to make money there.” She said as she slid open a side panel type door and rifled through the garbage. “Oh and garbage pick up is around six AM on Thursdays, lad.”

He made the mental note to put into his other notes. He would have to find out the schedules of other places he knew, but tonight he just wanted food and a place to rest. Crissa pulled out about three and a half sandwiches worth of scraps. His stomach rumbled audibly. He was glad for the darkness of night hiding the fact that his face matched his hair now. It had to be near eight pm now.

“You are a growing boy. How long has it been since you got kicked to the curb?”

 

“Um...well...not that long really. Maybe a day.”

“Thought so. You have a tough mind though. You’re not like some of the kids who sob themselves silly for a few days and wasting energy before getting it together and figuring out how to live. These are grown adults mind you. Kids I understand. Adults, if they haven’t learned that life isn’t fair by the time they find themselves in this situation, then they’ll definitely learn now. Whether they like it or not.”

Wally hummed in agreement. He had come to find that Crissa, true to her word was quite social and talkative. It made him feel a little less alone. He hadn’t even noticed that he had been feeling alone until now. He had forced back the emotions he was feeling into a bottle and the put a layer of numbing over it. As Crissa said, it was wasted energy. Also he had not had time to really wallow in his feelings. He had had to figure out how he was going to continue his life. It was not good to bottle up the emotions though. He would have to take some time at Mount Justice or somewhere to help relieve the tension. He munched on the sandwiches Crissa had handed him, as he planned yet again what he would do.

“Kid, don’t overthink it. You also need to rest a bit too.”

“I realize that, I just have one more day to find a places before school on Monday. I want to keep going if I can.”

“That’s good! That’s good! Smart thing to do. You don’t want to tell people I see.”

“That’s right. I can’t depend on those I care about anymore than I am now. I’m sort of the one who is the only person without problems, and I’d like to keep it that way. They don’t need to be burdened by me.” he let slip the way he had been feeling. His eyes widened a the realization. He didn’t mean to tell anyone that.

“Relax, kiddo. It’s how many feel when they come to the streets. And you need to keep hold of your emotions a bit more.” she chuckled. “Lot of people open up to me for some reason, but I’m not a yapper.”

His shoulders dropped in relief that he had not known he needed. It was lucky that she had approached him today. He had almost been unable to go through with getting food there. This was the start of a new hard life. The good side of it being that he would never have to go back to that house again. Never hear the voices of those people again. He just had to learn how to live on the street.

“-id. -ido! Kid!”

“What?!” he asked as his mind was brought back from the dark side of his mind back to his dumpster meal.

“I’m trying to tell you what we will be doing tomorrow! You’ve got to get some supplies. I know some guys at the dump. Might be best to have a name by then. We need to get you a backpack, a blanket, and if we’re lucky a tent or tarp. You look like a traveler.”

This woman had sharp eyes and good observation skills. She knew what he was planning somehow. He had to make this as quick as possible. Two weeks tops. He couldn’t get comfortable and develope too much of a pattern. With a best friend whose mentor was the greatest detective in the world he would have to be careful with every move he made. He would have to shower often and get a strong deodorant. He would have to ease into it as to not arouse suspicion. Wally’s mind spiraled with the amount of planning he had to do. Closing his eyes he shook his head to get rid of the dizziness. Only when after he focused back out of his thoughts did he realize that Crissa had been leading him somewhere once again. The shelter was the most likely. She pulled him down into a subway station that was blocked off with just enough space to duck under. He followed. As he went down into the dark stairwell he found it was cool compared to the summer heat that had come two months early. It felt good.

“Put that watch in your underwear or around your ankle if you can fit it, quickly.” Crissa whispered.

He did as he was told slipping it into his underwear on his right. He also checked the ankle wallet with his foot. He definitely didn’t want to have anything stolen from him. He pushed his hand through his hair near his ear, double checking the communicator. He had all that he had brought. His nerves tried to surface as he pushed them down. He didn’t know if he would be able to sleep here easily. He would have to get used to that. It was hard for a speedster when they didn’t rest as much, they needed more food if that happened. Their needed calorie intake almost doubled. He would have to collect more food and use the breakfast program to the fullest at school. Sighing he turned the corner. He was surprised at the amount of people, even though he knew the statistics. Knew the general numbers. Though seeing it took his breath away.

“Come on, kiddo. I have my own personal spot over here. You can sleep next to me for a bit.”

“Mama Crissa! How are ya? This your new ward? She’s teaching you the ropes is she? Good! Good! Nice to see a new face around here, though people more or less always think it’s an unfortunate thing to happen. Pleased to meetcha! I’m called, Loose. As in most people usually think I have a screw loose! Har har har!” Loose laughed. If Wally had not been a speedster he would probably have been overwhelmed at the speedy talk.

“As he said, this is Loose. He is good at finding things that you need and we will be accompanying him to the dump tomorrow. He finds stuff quickly. He’s also able to show you how to pick a pocket and knows some dirty moves to use on people if you get caught for something.” Crissa introduced stoically.

“Ya picked yer name yet? That’s alright if you haven’t! I got a few goodies for ya! How about Rufus for your red hair? Or Russell? Or Rusty? Rochan’s a good one. I always liked Gatik, but everyone seems to hate it. It means fast. Ooops! Enough of this chit chat we need to get some sleep if we’re ever going to get to the dump as soon as it opens! G’night!” Loose chattered as he shuffled away.

Crissa was already laying down. She had her back to the wall and looked to already be asleep. Wally scooted over and lay down with his back to the wall and a his feet to the corner. That way he would hear someone coming since he slept lightly in unfamiliar places when he slept at all. He stretched and yawned. Crissa’s voice made him jump.

“Try your best to get some rest, kid. It takes a while to get used to.”

“Thanks. Goodnight.”

“Night, kiddo.” she smiled.
Although he knew it would be hard and trying and it made him a bit nervous, Wally couldn’t help but be excited. It was like a type of adventure. One without them. Out of that house. It felt much safer. So much better. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe it’d be better than before.

Chapter Text

Wally awoke to Crissa gently shaking his shoulder. He opened his eyes slowly for him. His night had not been restful, but he had been prepared for that. Crissa put a finger to her lips and pointed to the stairway they had entered the night before. He nodded to her so she would know that he understood. She smiled and began to walk stealthily to the stairway. Wally followed close behind her, footstep for footstep. He didn’t even show this much stealth on missions sometimes. ‘I should probably amend that.’ he thought to himself. He watched Crissa’s foot placement even as they went up the steps. He was certain cement stairs would not make sound themselves, but a heavy footfall would echo all the way back. A soft,barely there golden light peeked from the small boarded opening of the stairway. He smiled at the warmth it gave. When they exited he saw that the sun was just beginning to peek over the skyscrapers. It was beautiful.

“We got a bit of time to stop for breakfast. I know you’re a big eater just from yesterday so we’re gonna have to make multiple dumpster pitstops. I’ll carry the collected food in my pack, you can munch as we travel. I’ve had a few cases of people with fast metabolisms. Not many like yours, but there was one similar.” she glanced at him following her. “We’re going to be moving quickly as to get as much as we can before headed to the dump. When we get your pack, blanket, and maybe a tarp or tent you’ll be able to carry your own food. Loose is meeting us there in an hour.”

“I think my name should be Neon.”

“Well, it’s a good one. Your hair does seem to scream it.” Crissa chuckled as they went into a dumpster filled alleyway.
The thick stench of grease filled his nostrils. It was as nauseating as it was appetizing. Already guessing that it was a fast food place he tried to think of the most nourishing options he could get. He needed as much healthy food as he could get here. Empty calories would have to be avoided as much as possible, but he would also need to eat any time he could. This was going to take a lot of planning. He looked into the nearest dumpster. There were a lot of burger patties, onions, tomatoes, and surprisingly little fries. He grabbed as much as he could. He turned to find Crissa putting food into a half full garbage bag. Walking over he was going to ask if he could put his findings in too, before she glanced at him.

“Eat whatever you find for now, Neon. I’m packing your lunch so to speak. Also avoid fries if you can, the stuff they usually throw away is hard as a rock. We’ll be going to the grocery store after this for any fruit and veggies we can find. They throw away and restock in the mornings around six. That’s when the best stuff is there. I have a friend who collects there before anyone else, she takes aluminum cans for trade. Here.” she handed him a fresh empty black bag. “It’s best to have a few of these on you if you can help it. Good for carrying items that might soil your bag and it’s a good weapon if you need it. I’ll teach you more about weapons later. Put any aluminum cans you can find in there. Also tin ones. We’ll check a few recycling bins on the way over.”

Wally did as he was told. He ate the freshest food he could find, which was actually alot. He opened each bag quickly, ate the freshest food, retied and moved to the next bag. It took him only fifteen minutes to get through the first two dumpsters. He would glance up to see if Crissa was watching every few seconds, but she was busy filling the ‘lunch bag’ for later. It was half way full by the time he got through the third dumpster. She was beginning to turn around when it reached that point so he slowed his pace to a normal human’s speed. He felt almost full with the third dumpster’s findings. Relishing the feeling that he had not allowed himself at Mount Justice and was never allowed at home, he smiled at Crissa. He hadn’t felt this close to full since the last time he had eaten at Uncle Barry’s, which had been a month ago. Light meals that were just a bit more than enough to calm his growling stomach had become a normal part of his life. Now here on the streets where the redhead had feared that he would not be able to find enough food for even a light meal, he found enough to satisfy him. Sure the tomatoes were a bit rancid and slimy, and raw onions were never his favorite, but he had food! Hope was beginning to spark. Maybe this would be pretty awesome.

“Don’t celebrate yet, kid. It’s a lucky day, and not always this full. Some days you might have to go without. Keep that in mind. This life is going to be hard. Now let’s move to the grocery store, you got a good amount of cans there.” the woman stated as she pointed to his half full bag. “If we can get it full from the recycling bins, and maybe another bag we can get enough for a two meal lunch and have a down payment for a hold tomorrow.”

“Sounds like your friend has made a type of business out of this.” Wally said lightly.

“She has. She works at the grocery store, cleaning and such. Then she’ll collect the best thrown away stuff and exchange it for cans. One full bag of cans gets you a full bag of pickings. Two full bags gets you a full bag of pickings, some sweets, and a hold for the next day. It’s basically half price for us. She only does that for three people and it’s a secret, okay?” the brown-blond informed him, narrowing her eyes.

“Sure thing.” the speedster answered cheerily. He’d never give a secret away. Keeping trust where you could get it was going to be key. “Why is it only a select few, though?”

“We were together as a group the four of us. We have a bond. I’m only letting you in on this because I can see that there is something special about you, a good heart. My gut has never steered me wrong before, and it won’t now. If she likes you she might even put you on the list.”

Wally nodded as she explained. He would have to make a good first impression. Maybe collect three bags of cans? He could do it. Deciding that it was worth a shot for a place to find food he thought about all the places he could find them. He could save the soda cans from Mount Justice too! It was maybe half a bag a week, but still it was something to think about! Also wasn’t copper valuable? He could keep an eye out for that too. Caught up in his thoughts he found himself tripping over the edge of a sidewalk. Crissa was quick enough to catch him although he had seen it in slow motion as his molecules had sped up. He hadn’t reacted so he could keep his cover, but his body would instinctually speed up. Forcing himself to slow and calm down, he focused on Crissa’s words.

“Try not to get too lost in your mind, kiddo. This ain’t the place to have your head in the clouds. Now we’re going to pass three recycling bins. You check the one at the corner first. I’ll grab these two.” as she headed in their direction.

He found thirteen empty soda cans. That was good. Now they had almost a full bag. He began to head over to Crissa when he saw someone coming up behind her. He ran over quickly. He didn’t want her to get hurt, but he also didn’t know what this person was aiming to do. Then he saw them trying to unzip the bag. Anger burned in him. How dare anyone try to steal from this sweet woman! It quickly faded as he realized that people stole from others every day out here, that they were going through just as hard a time. It was just the way it was out here, even though it wasn’t right. He was about to say something when Crissa moved quickly snatching the hand that had been on the zipper. She had the arm pinned behind the man and had him against the wall by the time he came to her side.

“Now I know you didn’t think I was easy pickings, right young man? No one sneaks up on me by dragging their feet. Next time pick those feet up and put them down softly! If you’re going to pickpocket someone at least have the decency to sharpen your skills and think about how to do it. Honestly, it’s an art, not a game.” Crissa scolded him sharply.

“I-I just thought I could get a snack. I didn’t want to go to the dumpsters aga-”

“Where do you think we came from?! And I know that was not what you’re after, boy. Your eyes and the needle pricks in your arms tell me everything. There’s no money in my pack, and I don’t join in that type of activity. Now go find yourself something else to do!” the riled up woman let him go.

The twenty something year old man scurried off frightened. Wally was impressed by the woman’s fierceness. As the man ran away she calmly turned back to the recycling bin. The second one. He followed her keeping an eye out and his ears pricked. She silently took cans out. They now had a bag and a half. They almost had two bags. Maybe one or two more bins and they would have two!

“Are there more bins on the way? We’re almost there.” he started.

“It’s okay, kiddo. I gave her three bags yesterday. It should cover the cost. Also thanks for trying to come to my rescue.” she winked at him.

“Wha-”

“I got good ears. I heard you jog over. I already heard the idiot coming up behind me. Wasn’t even trying to be stealthy! The fool!” she huffed. “I can teach you how to pickpocket sometime, you may need it sometime. You never know. It’s all about speed and deception. Let’s head over to the store.”

Amazing how the two things he had become good at could be used for something he would never wish to do. It would be a good skill to learn though. He might use it on missions when he needed to get something from the villains. It would be fun to use one of their tricks against them. If he got real good at it he might even try it on Robin! That’d be a fun prank. Boy Wonder getting pick pocketed. Wally chuckled at the thought.

“We’re here, kid. The back door is our entrance. There’s a secret knock just for the four of us.” she raised her hand to the door. Three quick sharp raps. Pause. One rap. Pause. One rap. Pause. Two quick raps. Footsteps were heard on the other side. The slide of a lock. Crissa pulled him back just as the door burst open.

“Crissa! It’s been a whole day! So glad to see you again! Oh, who is this fine young lad?” the curly black haired hispanic looking woman chattered turning to him.

“This is Neon. Neon, this is Onyx. She’s one of the most friendly and tricky bargain hunters you will ever meet. My best friend since college. Neon here is a young lad just starting out on the street life.” Crissa introduced him.

“Oh, well you must have something special about you if Mama Crissa brought you here! She never brings me visitors to the back room! This is such a pleasure! If I may ask what happened that brought you here? If you don’t want to answer that’s fine, I’m just a nosy Rosie when it comes to new people!” Onyx chattered as she grabbed his arm and hauled him to the back room with Crissa following. It had about nine open box crates with fruit and veggies that looked a bit withered but still edible. There were even dented cans of veggies and soups! He was not expecting such a spread.

“I got kicked out of my house. I’m not the kind of kid my parents wanted. Too smart, too clumsy, not into sports, too- mmmph!” He stated to explain as he found himself engulfed in a pair of olive tan arms.

“Now, sweetie, you can just take everything they’ve ever said to you and just throw it away and stomp it on the ground, then pick it up and bury it! ‘Cause Mama Crissa and Auntie Onyx are here now! Come show me your gift of smarts, sweetie. What’s your specialty? I’ve been good at art and such like it, and simple math, but let me see what you got!” Onyx said giving him a pencil and a notebook.
“Um. What would you like me to do?” he asked shyly. When he was Kid Flash he could be outgoing, but this felt sort of like bragging. “I’m good at math and science.”

“Hmmm, how abouts you calculate how many bags of cans today if sell one bag of food for two bags of cans.”

“You would get forty-two bags of cans. There’s enough food here to fill twenty-one bags. Including the cans of soup and vegetables.” he said automatically.

“You didn’t even have to write it down! So cool! Hey here’s a couple of old blueberry muffins! A mind that sharp needs a treat! How about science this time? What do you like to do?” The ebony haired woman squealed beginning to get excited.

“Well, I can tell you what type of metal the pipes are and how it reacts to different things, chemistry is my favorite. I could tell you what chemicals are in the pesticides they spray on these plants. There’s so many different types of pesticide too!” he was beginning to enjoy this woman’s enthusiasm.

“Maybe that can wait another time as we have an appointment at the dump, kiddo.” Crissa interrupted, standing with a full bag of food.

Onyx and Wally turned towards the forgotten third person. They sheepishly grinned at each other.

“See you next time, sweetie! I’ll save some sweets for you! You need to bulk up!”

“Bye, Onyx! I’ll try to bring more cans!” he said waving goodbye.

They headed out in what Wally assumed was the direction to the dump. Crissa was moving at double her normal pace. He had forgotten that they had such little time. He jogged at human pace behind her. This was an event that he couldn’t have hoped for to happen. It was very lucky that he had met her. He didn’t want to cause her trouble. He just had to make this work for as long as he could. He spotted a gate with a barbed wire fence. Looked more like a junk yard. It had skeletons of cars, tires, dishwashers, and other junk. This seemed to be a great place to look for stuff.

“Bout time ya got here! Keepin me waitin. If it weren’t you Mama Crissa, I wouldn’t have waited. Wha-” Loose ranted.

“We had a chat with Onyx.”

“Oh...I’m surprised you’re not even later then. That woman’s a chatter box.” Loose calmed down at the explanation.

Loose led them through the piles of junk stacked almost as tall as a house. Each twist and turn made him feel like they were headed into a crazy maze. It was about twenty twists and turns later that he found himself in a cave like room built out of one of the junk piles! It had book bags, shoes, pots, pans, hats, and so much more hanging in sections on the walls. It was like a kind of store! He looked around in amazement. It was the front half of one of those u-haul trucks. The cargo box. It was quite impressive. He walked around staring in awe at the amount of things they had been able to stock in there.

“Welcome.” a gruff voice called. Although it was spoke at a normal volume, it seemed to rumble and fill the ‘store’.

Wally turned to see a large ebony skinned man, he was toned with an army crew cut on his head. His face was stoic like Superboys. He was staring hard at Wally with his chestnut brown eyes. Wally smiled his best smile at him. The man’s face softened and his the corners of his lips twitched upwards. ‘A smile is usually the best way to go when meeting people’, Wally truly believed.

“Hey, there, Mech. I got a newbie here. Whatcha got for him?” Crissa greeted the man. Loose seemed to have disappeared all together.

“Hmmmm.”

Wally waited as the man studied him and then began to search in boxes. He made piles on the counter. He moved to the backpack section. He grabbed four of them and moved them to the counter. He then moved back behind the counter and pointed.
“Your choice.”he said standing over the objects.

Wally shuffled over and inspected what was lain out. There were eight blankets. Five fleece and three wool. One was a dark green army brand. He also liked the solid black fleece blanket. The army one would keep him warm better in the cold though. There were four bookbags. Two were brightly colored and immediately dismissed. His hair was bright enough. The other two looked sturdy, a bit worn, and dull. One was a charcoal grey color and the other a tan. The charcoal grey had more pockets and looked a bit bigger. Next were three tarps. Two were brown with silver grey underneath, the biggest and smallest. The second was all blue of medium size and flimsier than the previous two. The smallest was ten by ten feet. That would be enough for him. He picked out the three items looking warily at Mech. He felt like it was a test.

“Take a fleece blanket too.” Mech huffed.

“O-ok.” Wally said startled. He picked up the black fleece blanket.

“Good head on this one, Crissa.” Mech said as he walked behind a curtain which was hung behind the counter.

“Wow, Neon. You got the big guy to compliment ya! How’d you do that so easily? He always seems to get annoyed with me, no matter what I do.” came Loose from the entrance.

“I, um, don’t know.” Wally shrugged. He was usually good with people.

“Well, kiddo, since you got three out of four, maybe you can also meet Stitch later.” Crissa commented.

“Stitch?! That strange guy who mumbles to himself all the time? Ugh you’ll give the poor kid nightmares with that one! Why do ya like that gob anyways? He doesn’t do nothing useful, why every time I see him h-*gulp*” Loose ranted.

“Talking bad about my friends, Loose.” Mech growled with his large hand over the top of the man’s head.

“S-sorry! I’ll, um, I’ll just restock! See ya!” Loose groveled as he bounded out the door.

“Useful for business, but annoying.” Mech said fondly of the man while grinning at Wally. “Come sit with me in the back. I have tea and some cookies.”

Crissa started towards the back as Wally nodded. It was turning out to be a great day. He found a small table enough for three people and four chairs in the back. Along with a bookshelf filled with auto parts books, engineering books, and the like. The man must like building things. He seemed level headed. A small futon in the corner. There was also a china tea set, a small toaster oven and a camp stove, both of which were plugged into a small generator. Looked to be hand made, with a battery and...were those solar panels?! This guy was so cool!

Mech pointed to one of the two empty seats. Crissa had already taken hers at her look out point. He took the one with its back to the wall. It was cozy and nice in here with the nice emerald green of the curtain. There were also beautiful pictures of tigers, wolves, dogs, cats, horses, and other animals that looked to be cut from calendars. It felt lived in. Wally saw the small dresser with a picture frame of four teenagers. One with curly black hair and olive skin, Onyx. One white with brown-blonde hair in a ponytail, Crissa. One a black male with a crew cut, Mech. Then there was a skinny pale teen with white hair and an eye patch. Probably Stitch. These four had been friends for a long time then. He thought on that for a while. How long had they been homeless?

“I have chocolate chip and oatmeal.” Mech said startling Wally out of his thoughts. People had been doing that a lot lately.

“I’ll take either, thank you.” Wally accepted.

Mech put five of each on his plate and four oatmeal on Crissa’s. Then he took four of each for himself. Wally was puzzled as to why he had the most, but shrugged it off. He took a bite of the chocolate chip cookie and hummed his appreciation for the soft gooey treat. He liked them hard if there was milk to be had with it, but without milk he prefered them to be soft. Though he couldn’t be picky with his metabolism he could appreciate good food. These were heavenly! Almost as good as Aunt Iris’s or Alfred’s. He went as slowly as he could really to savor them, but they were so good! Before he knew it his plate was empty. He frowned a bit at the accusing plate, before reaching for the cold iced tea that was provided for him. It was cool and refreshing! Sweet, but not too sweet. It felt great going down his throat. He hadn’t realized how thirsty he was. It felt like a perfectly satisfying snack despite the small amount.

“Have some more cookies and tea.” Mech said putting eight more cookies onto his plate. “You are growing. Come visit once or twice a week.”

“Um, sure thing.” Wally replied, puzzled.

Crissa burst out laughing and slapping her knee. Both males turned to her bewildered as to what was so funny. When she finally caught her breath she just stared at them fondly shaking her head for a full two minutes.

“Mech, you are a sucker for anyone who likes your cookies and tea. I haven’t seen you get so excited in a while.” Crissa finally explained.

“He’s a good eater. Welcome any time.” said Mech sounding a little embarrassed.

“Well, they are good cookies and the tea is super refreshing. You’re awesome a baking!” Wally beamed at Mech.

Mech sat there with a small smile of pleasure on his lips. This was definitely a great day in Wally’s books. They sat and ate the lunch they had packed with mostly Crissa and Wally chatting. Mech would give a word here or there. They continued to do so until the room started to get very bright. Then Crissa announced that it was time to meet Stitch. Wally stacked the dishes neatly. Mech took them to a bin filled with soapy water.

“What is your name?” asked Mech.

“My name is Neon.” Wally replied. “Pleased to meet you!”

“You can come visit with me when you have free time if you wish.” Mech stated.

“I will! You’re a fun guy! Plus you make awesome cookies!”

Crissa and Wally left Mech with a big smile on his face. The sun was high above, it was almost noon. They were headed roughly the same way that they had come. He was looking forward to meeting this Stitch person if his friends were like this. Wally smiled once again.

Chapter Text

They had walked about forty minutes. It was a nice day and they had stopped at a few dumpsters for snacks. Then Crissa stopped for a bathroom break at a public restroom hidden from view. Wally relieved himself and dug through one of the nearby dumpsters. He found a whole bunch of expired hot dog buns! He quickly ate three bags and put the remaining four in his pack. He then took a long drink from the water fountains outside the restrooms. Crissa emerged shortly after. Wally stared at her for a second. Her hair was neater, her face was washed, and there was even a sheen of lipgloss. She must like Stitch he assumed.

After they left the restrooms, it was a short ten minute walk to an abandoned building. They climbed the stairs up to the top floor. She turned into a long hallway taking the longest route to a room with large windows and a hatch in the ceiling open. She calmly pulled down a ladder and climbed upwards. Wally followed suite. They came to the roof to find a white haired man who looked to be in his thirties, yet he had to be the same age as Crissa and the others, doing yoga. Crissa sat down about ten feet away and began to read a book she had in her pack. Wally didn’t know what to do. He walked over to her about to ask if she had some pen and paper, but she shushed him with a finger to her lips and motioned with her hands. He mimed writing on paper and she pulled out a notebook and pen. He took them and mouthed ‘Thank you’. He had much to plan for. He went to the shed type structure on top of the roof and began to write.
He had just remembered the meals on wheels program that went across the country. A church near him had it on Mondays. People could eat there. He’d have to see if there were different ones on different days. There probably were. He could also try to learn how to trap and cook his own food. He never really wanted to learn how to do that, but things might get desperate enough to need the knowledge. He thought of winter. He’d have to ask Crissa how to prepare for that. Or he could go to a warmer state. He would probably check in on these guys though. He smiled. He didn’t really have friends in school, but he now had friends on the street. It was nice to know he could be liked outside of his hero persona. A frown tugged at his lips. How long would that last though? Pushing that thought aside he continued to write down supplies and started a rotation schedule. He would most likely revisit this place as he felt a sense of home and family as he hadn’t felt in a long time. Almost as good as when he was with the team.

“Red hair, freckles, and green eyes. A rare bright color as well. Runner’s form. You run in track, young man?”

Wally turned to see Stitch hovered over him. This man was as stealthy as Robin! And that was an impressive feat. Wally’s mind went back to the question he was asked.

“No, but I do race a lot with friends.” ‘More like villains.’ he thought.

“ Interesting. Would you let me run some tests on you?”

“What kind of tests?” Wally became nervous.

“I have these written tests to test your knowledge against mine. You look like an intelligent lad.”

“Is there an ultimatum?”

“Nope! It’s a pastime I enjoy! Crissa would not have brought you here if you were boring. So please?”

“Okay. Where do I start?”

“Oh goodie!” said the man with the eyepatch as he handed a medium sized stack of papers at him. He filled them all out within in an hour. It was mostly easy. He knew all of the chemicals and science terms. The math was fun though, because it was challenging. He looked through his work again from end to start to see if he had missed any of the questions. He then stacked them neatly and handed them back to Stitch. The white haired man smiled and turned to study his answers. There were also opinionated questions. He did his best in answering them. He hoped Stitch wouldn’t hold his opinions against him.

“Crissa.” The white haired man called and paused.
She looked up from her book.

“I don’t like this kid.” he said solemnly.

Wally felt his shoulders in a small amount of disappointment. He had hoped that all of Crissa’s friends would like him. Stitch turned to him with a frown and started to walk towards him. The redhead stiffened ready to run.

“I love this genius! Now I can finally challenge myself with someone! Welcome, lad! What’s your name?” Stitch asked holding out a hand.

“Neon, sir.” answered Wally as he firmly shook the man’s hand.

Crissa smiled. Four out of four. The kid had managed to befriend them all within less than twenty-four hours. Maybe he would brighten their lives. They had needed someone full of energy. Full of life. Their lives had been dull since they had graduated and had the piles of debt. They had been renting a two bedroom apartment. Then one by one they lost their jobs and they couldn’t stay in the apartment. They had sold their things. Stitch only had his surgical tools left from studying to be a neurosurgeon. He had graduated too, though no had been able to hire him. Even after his apprenticeship. Crissa had been a teacher, but cuts had been made. Onyx had been a wonderful hair artist when the place had burned down. Mech had been a mechanic before his boss was found to be transporting illegal drugs. They had run into one problem after another. Their lives had been hard on the streets but they had managed to survive. Onyx had finally found a job about six months ago. Crissa had eight interviews lined up. Mech was a security guard at the dump during the night in exchange for his ‘housing’. Stitch didn’t seem to be looking anymore. Now they had a bright young mind who had entered into their lives. Things could only get better, right?

Wally and Stitch talked and talked that afternoon about everything Crissa did not understand. She didn’t try to. They were having fun without her. Stitch didn’t get along with many people. In fact, he had only had Onyx, Mech, and herself as friends for the past thirteen years since they had become homeless. All their other supposed friends had abandoned them. Stitch had been heartbroken when his girlfriend had dumped him. Crissa had helped him through it, but had secretly been partially glad that the hag was gone. She was ready to tear the witch’s hair out for her treachery to Stitch. That was all in the past now. Mech had been the one to first find shelter for them under a bridge. It had been windy and cold those first few weeks, but through observation, much thinking, and teamwork they had managed. Now they knew the streets well. Now it was their lives.

“-er want to spend some time with me so we can continue to discus our similar hobbies you may feel free to any weekend. Weekdays aren’t good for me as I am usually doing experiments.” Stitch told Wally cheerfully.

“Well if I can ever help or observe I’d be glad to.” Wally grinned.

Stitch smiled at his statement and nodded. Crissa got up and packed her book. Wally jogged over to her and grinned broadly. He had enjoyed the visit as much as Stitch had. Now they would return to the abandoned subway station for sleep. It made Wally a bit curious as to where the other’s slept, but he would ask later. Tonight he would rest and try to get through tomorrow as well. This was going to be quite the adventure.

“Neon.”

“Yes?”

“What time do you have to get up tomorrow?” Crissa asked.
Wally looked at her in puzzlement. He felt like he was missing something. What was it about tomorrow? He thought about it. This was the weekend. Tomorrow was Monday. Monday meant school. School! He had to get up, eat a good breakfast, grab his homework from the mountain, and get to school before the breakfast program was over! He had almost forgotten.

“I should probably be up by five so I can get to school by six thirty. I’ll need to grab some breakfast before hand and pack some lunch, but otherwise I should be fine.” Wally answered finally.

“Well I can get you around to the dumpsters fairly quick, and we can visit Onyx at five thirty. I’ll take some portions for myself out of the bag and you will take the rest as your lunch. We can find a water bottle or something for you to take if we visit Mech really quickly.”

“That’s okay. I usually just drink from the fountains. Also I can’t take all of your food from you, it wouldn’t be rig-”

“I said I would take some from the bag, didn’t I? You’re not taking it all and you need a bit more with your metabolism, young man! I see how much you eat and I’ll say I only knew of three people who eat as much as you do. You need it with how thin you are! Now no more arguing!” Crissa huffed.

“Okay. I’ll come back around six every day, okay? Unless I have club activities or tutoring to do. If it’s tutoring I just stay at the person’s house. It happens unexpectedly sometimes so don’t worry if I’m gone for a few days.” Wally said remembering his Young Justice duties. He really didn’t want her to worry if he had a mission. “Of course I can’t stay there forever, but if I could have I wouldn’t have met you, Onyx, Mech, and Stitch!”

Crissa narrowed her eyes a bit before nodding. She didn’t feel like his excuse was truthful, but she did sense the fact he couldn’t stay was the truth. Crissa had some experience in secrecy. It had been a part of her life before she had become homeless. Her three friends were the only ones who knew her secrets. She knew theirs as well. It had been an accident that day. This boy seemed to be carrying a similar secret. One that was more important than himself. She understood. It was okay.

“Kiddo. I can tell when someone’s lying.” she held up a hand to stop his protests. “I don’t care what your secret is. You can keep it. Just visit when you can if you go away for a while. What’s the longest I should look for?”

“The longest I’ve ever been away was about two weeks, but it’s never certain.” Wally blurted out.

“Okay. I’ll start to worry after a month okay? I won’t pry. My advice though is if it’s prostitution or drug dealing you want to get away from that as quick as possible if you can. People die that way.” she stated calmly. She knew it wasn’t that for the kid would have already had a place to stay and a bunch of bruises if it was a power hungry boss.

“It’s nothing like that!” Wally squeaked. Shocked that someone would think that, but shuddering at the fact that he had been considering the former.

Crissa feigned drooping shoulders in order to act relieved. She smiled and turned away then. If he saw her trying to hold back giggles he might think his secret wasn’t safe, but boy was the kid’s outraged face hilarious! She quickly regained composure and remained facing away from him. They walked in silence for a while,

“Neon.”

“Yes?”

“Whatever it is, just please be safe and try to come visit. We’ve grown to like you in the span of a day.”

“I should be a bit more free in the summer.”

“...”

“...”

“Thanks for caring.”

“I’m Mama Crissa for a reason.”

They had reached the station where they slept. Quickly descending before the sun had even set, they curled up for sleep. Crissa reached over and ruffled the kid’s hair. He stared at her in surprise for a moment. She smiled and he reflected it. He covered himself with the fleece blanket and used his sack for a pillow. He was in the land of dreams before his third breath. One with the team, Uncle Barry, and his new homeless friends all together.

***

Crissa watched the kid. She felt bad about using her powers on him, but he looked like he needed a good night’s rest. Also, it would help his mind focused to put his planning together. He would find it easier when he awoke. That was part of her ability. That was why she helped kids who were homeless. She couldn’t do much, but she would help who she found. This kid was special. She felt her intuition telling her that this kid was important. She had felt it when she first saw him. It only grew stronger as she spent more time with him. Her eyelids grew heavy as she too fell asleep into a dream that would stay in her subconscious and her soul forever.

**”Comforter.”
“Comforter, come.”
“I am listening” Crissa answered.
A golden helmet appeared in her dream.
“Comforter, you have come onto a responsibility that will likely save the world if you succeed. The child whom you have come in contact with has more power than the world would know. He is the key to saving the world in subtle ways that he will not even know saves the world. He has already saved it by befriending one who was created and stopping it’s anger before it grew. His nature of being friendly, realistic, and optimistic will calm many furies, fears, and stop wars even before they start. Him and a group of others which he holds together. They are this world’s near future. This will only happen if you use your power throughout his life with you in difficult times. He has a hard journey. It will shape him for the future. You and your companions must train him and help him. You are the guardians to the heart of the future. You are the guardians to a hero.”
“I will do my best.”
“That will be enough.”

Chrissa awoke the next day with a warm feeling in her gut when she looked upon the child. She wanted to protect him. She would do her darnedest too. Unknowing of the message she had received. Unknowing of the messages her companions had received. Unknowing of the fate of the child except for the feeling in her gut that he was important. Unknowing of the fact that that was not the first message. It didn’t matter that she did not know. It did not matter that she had just met him. All that mattered was that she would be there for him no matter what.

***

Wally awoke the next day refreshed, clear headed, and not worried about his situation. He felt as if he could run forever or even just sit still and watch the sun rise. He looked to Crissa who was packing her stuff together. He smiled and quickly folded and rolled up his blanket, stuffing it into his pack. He would leave it at Mount Justice when he went to collect his homework. This day felt as though nothing could go wrong. Crissa turned to him and pointed to the stairs. They once again made their way silently up the stairs. It was still dark out. Quiet and peaceful. Not a bit of traffic on the streets. It was nice.

They made their way to the dumpsters near the outside of the city. He packed as much food as he could find into a trash bag. There was enough to fill the bag and fill him halfway. He stretched out his body and legs contently. Crissa watched him. They then set to collecting two bags of cans. Wally checked his watch and showed it to Crissa. It was five fifteen. She smiled and headed towards Onyx. The woman had a good bag ready for them when they arrived. Wally put the majority of it in his pack as Crissa took some for herself. She also had a box full of day old donuts that she had gotten for fifty cents. Mech was also there, he gave Wally a smooth metal box with a handle. Wally stared at the gift in puzzlement.

“A lunch box. It expands. You can store a lot of food in there.” he stated and smiled. “It has some in it now.”

Wally opened it to find it stuffed with cookies and one thermos of what he guessed to be iced tea. Smiling at Mech he thanked him. Apparently Crissa had told them of his school somehow, Wally shrugged of his curiosity for the moment. He had to get going if he was going to make it to the mountain and to school before the breakfast program ended. He waved and exited Onyx’s food bargain barn. Crissa did not follow. As he turned the corner of the next building he raced at half speed to the mountain. He didn’t want his possessions to burn up. He was just fast enough that all people saw was a blur and the wind whiplash that he left behind as he pushed his solid mass through air and took up the space it had once occupied.

He entered the zeta tube that he normally would if he was still living in their house. He once again shook of the dark thoughts and memories that tried to surface at the thought of his biological parents. Everytime he felt pain he would stuff it away. He knew it was bad, but he couldn’t talk to anyone about his home life. Not Robin, not Canary, not Uncle Barry or Aunt Iris. He had to be strong to remain as Kid Flash. If they found out he knew that they would be furious, but he couldn’t face the thought of them pitying them. His presence being announced by the computerized voice shook him out of his thoughts that had spiraled despite his efforts. He put on his happy mask.

There was no one there to acknowledge his arrival. He zipped to his room and stuffed his homework into the pack. He had a large locker at school and would be able to put it all away. He packed a bar of soap, shampoo; antiperspirant, his toothbrush and paste, and his deodorant. He also grabbed a few changes of school clothes for the week while changing into some for the day. He was ready for the day at school in this new part of his life. He then left the mountain without eating anything there.

He made it just before the doors were about to close out the students looking for breakfast. He put the maximum amount of food allowed onto his tray. He shuffled slowly through the line and typed in the pin numbers on the little pad next to the register. One for his student ID and account. One for his verification that he was on the program. He went to the back corner and ate his food in silence in the company of empty seats. Another day of school starting out on a good note. No bullies yet.

Wally ate his food on the tray and then rushed to the gym bathroom. Students who ate breakfast had to get there before the buses. It was a stupid rule, but it helped him avoid the crowds in this case. He washed himself quickly along with his hair. He dried himself and shook out his hair using speed. He put on deodorant and put his clothing back on. He sprayed the antiperspirant on them so it would at least partially cover any smell if there was any. He looked into the mirror and pushed a hand through his hair. He examined his features for gauntness and looked for under eye circles. Signs of an imperfect life. He hated his face, but he knew what it should look like. Satisfied at his result of inspection he left the bathroom to face another day at school.

Chapter Text

Slam! The cold metal against his back was familiar. He was glad he had managed to stuff his bag into the locker before they had come and tried to empty it. They made his life at school miserable. Without them it would be bearable. Just a boring place to learn that felt like a week instead of a day. Maybe even peaceful compared to the rest of his life before. It would be so darn peaceful if they would just leave him alone. Alas, they would not. He couldn’t fight them or fight back really because of the risks. The stupid risks! He was a fool to hope they had forgotten him.

“Hey, Wimpy Wally. Sorry we’ve been neglecting you this past week, but we were suspentioned. Some stupid crap about talking back to the bald guy.” said a voice Wally knew well. He knew if he looked that all three of them would be there. Like they couldn’t separate. After a time of OSS they got even rowdier than normal.

“Principle Verm?” Wally asked stupidly. Sometimes if he could distract them he’d make a day without a beating.

“Somethin’ like that. He thinks he’s so cool just because he was in the army. They don’t do squat!” The muddy-brown haired pig faced boy spat, Klaud. His saliva sprayed on Wally’s ear. Wally held back the urge to gag. Then he felt anger boil in him. He knew people in the army. The way they trained, fought, and even died. This idiot had no right, but he couldn’t defend them. As much as he wanted to, the risk of him slipping up and talking about a secret mission was too great. Hold it in. He just had to hold it in.

“We should go pay him a visit!” the other pudgy boy suggested nastily. He had greasy blonde curls and a pile of dandruff, Vick.

“Yeah!” said the smallest. A ebony haired kid with glasses, Diodatti. He was two heads shorter than Wally, but he riled the other two up. He had been bullied by his two buddies before he had gotten them to focus their anger on him. It had been easy of course. He used their jealousy of him to assure his protection. It had been that way ever since middle school. A few years after the day he became Kid Flash.

Now, Wally had had bullies before them. Many in fact, but those bullies had bullied everyone and had never picked him as their number one target. Until, these three. He had asked them to stop, tried to reason with them, avoid them, even become friends with them. To no avail. Outsmarting them was easy, but meant he would receive harsher beatings which he could not afford with his hero work and at home. It was just too tiring. So a bit of a rough up, some insults thrown at him and he could move ahead with his day. He had gotten used to it. It was natural. He watched them move to once again try to harass the principle. Such short attention spans. Moving as quickly as he could without suspicion he went to class.

(TimePassesToEndOfDayBecauseICan’tFigureOutHowToWriteBoringSchoolClassesSceneWithoutFallingAsleepBecauseIHaen’tBeenInSchoolForever)

Wally returned to his locker, grabbed his homework and went to the library for the end of the day homework workshop they did each day. He could get all his homework done at school and then stash it in the case Mech had given him. It was a 10x12x4 inch box. It had held four dozen cookies which he had eaten on his bathroom run during the beginning of fourth block. He had enough leftover to eat before he went back to see Crissa, but if the team called then he’d have to hurry. Wally unknowingly picked up his pace to the library. Once there he took a seat at a computer and pressed the power button, waiting for it to load. He then set his homework in a pile. First to fourth block. He started with his English which was his first class. The woman was obsessed with Shakespeare. He could appreciate him as he had contributed much to the English language, but still, he could only take so many homework assignments telling him to find the meaning in his works. People died in every one that he had read. Wally saw enough death as a hero to be satisfied, he didn’t want to read about it too.

He quickly wrote the four page essay to the best of his ability. It was due Thursday, but it was best to get this stuff done when you could. He moved on to math and science. It was simple and easy so it took less than ten minutes to do. If he had privacy it would have taken only two. So he moved on to the most challenging task. His history. He had to interview someone who had lived through the Great Depression. Though he couldn’t understand why they called a depression great. Why not the Horrible Depression? Or the Grievous Depression? Those would have been better. He decided to hold off for a while.

Wally packed his stuff and headed to his locker. He had just put his homework away and grabbed his soap and deodorant. He wanted to shower again before going to the mountain. He would need to be as hygienic as possible if he was to hide his predicament. It was all he could do for now using the schools until he found one on the streets. The next turn of the corner caused him to trip and fall as he was so lost in his thoughts. He managed to get up halfway while going into a defensive mode when he froze, realizing who his attackers were. No wonder it had been quiet before.

Standing around him with mean eyes were the three who had slammed him into the locker that morning. He smiled trying to think of a way out without revealing who he was. The two stronger boys grabbed him and dragged his form into the boys gym locker room. The teacher was gone for the day and it was left open so the football players could retrieve their stuff after practice. Wally’s heart began to hammer in his chest. A private beating was always worse than the rest, be it with bullies or villains. He struggled harder, but to no avail. A crack sounded and his head snapped to the side as a fist connected to his jaw. He grunted as a kick was delivered to his ribs. Closing his eyes he covered his head and curled into a ball. He couldn’t fight back without risks. He would never risk the ones he cared about. The team. Uncle Barry. Aunt Iris. Alfred. Even Batman. He knew his responsibility. Silence was key.

“There you go. A parting gift. We got expelled whatever that means. We’ll see you soon.” said Klaud.

“But expelled means we’re not coming back to the school.” said Diodatti in puzzlement.

“Oh.” came the soft reply from the two bigger teens. “Then we’ve got an even more special present that’s been awaiting. We were going to save it for graduation, but now seems like a good time. Diodatti, go home. We’ve been planning this for a while.”

“What are you going to do?” the smallest asked uncertainly.

“Unless you want to get some too I suggest you leave!” huffed Vick with an evil look in his eyes.

Diodatti ran out the door faster than Wally thought a human should be able to. He shuddered to think of what they would do now if they sent him out of the room. An escape plan should be his priority, but his mind was fogged from the beatings. Lifting a hand he felt a wave of dizziness. Gritting his teeth he felt for broken bones. None were broken. A minor concussion probably. He hated those. He heard the shuffling of feet.

“Now we get to show you who’s boss. We’re gonna show you that we’re better than you once and for all.” The boys grinned evilly at him.

Wally wanted to blacked out that moment in his mind. He couldn’t comprehend what happened. The only memory and proof of what happened was the rawness in his throat and his blood on the floor from the beatings. Now dry. He knows that logically it could have been worse. They could have gone below the belt, but even just that much. He had been helpless. Someone who was supposed to be a hero. Helpless. He cleaned away the evidence. He showered. The hot water and tears trickled down the drain as he built up his mask again.

The rest of that day was a blur. His pack was on his back so he must have grabbed it. He was going to head straight to Crissa when he heard a beeping in his ear. What was that supposed to be again? His hand automatically knowing to reach up and press the ear piece.

“Yeah?”

“Get to the base for training. The League is preparing for a mission so training is early. Get here within the hour.” Robin said sounding irritated.

“On my way.” the speedster replied automatically. He didn’t feel up to it, but that didn’t matter. He had to keep up appearances. Turning towards the normal zeta tube he began to put on his mask and then his costume.

***

“Oi, Baywatch! You’re la-...Wait a minute you’re on time, no you’re early! What’s the occasion?” said a disgruntled archer narrowing her eyes at him.

“No occasion. Just was on my way already.” He lied flashing his signature smile.

The archer looked annoyed that she didn’t have anything to pin him with so she just huffed and walked away. Robin was on the computer and Supey was watching the television with the usual static. Meghan wasn’t back from her mental training with her Uncle. She would be here soon. Wally took the chance to go to his room and mentally compartmentalize everything he was dealing with. It helped him to keep up his mask. The goggles helped too, but showing his face made it seem as though he had nothing to hide. They didn’t need to know.

Today he had been violated and couldn’t do anything. His hero training didn’t tell him what to do about it in his civilian life. How to handle it or how to stop it. No way out of it was offered. His stomach gurgled and he held still so as not to puke at the mere thought of what had happened. When he had been ten he had come to terms with the fact that he was bi. Knowing that his parents would never approve he kept it secret from everyone. Heroes and civilians alike. Friends and family. He had even fallen in love with a boy. Now he wouldn’t be able to look him or his friends in the eyes without the guilt of what had happened to him. The guilt of being filthy. The guilt of being unable to defend himself. Some hero. He didn’t deserve to be called that, but he loved being one. Even if it was just for pretend.

Wally found himself with his head between his legs and breathing deeply. An instinctive thing to do now. After all of the panic attacks he had had to go through alone he had found that this position was his best. Sometimes it wouldn’t work and he would cuddle a pillow and cry in his bed, but he had always been alone when it had happened. That was okay, because no one needed to know. No one needed to know how weak he really was. So Wally took a few more calming and deep breaths before shakily getting to his feet and doing stretches. It was sort of like yoga, but he could never really sit still in the classes so he had sped it up to his speed. It helped him slow down to human levels and focus after an attack. He just needed to remain happy.
Wally walked out of his room calm and collected. Meghan was in the kitchen so he zoomed to flirt with her. He ignored the taste of bile at the back of his throat. Ignored too the feelings that were clawing to escape the tight box he had put them in. Kid Flash didn’t let things get to him. Wally grinned and ate the food Meghan had cooked. Five sandwiches were all he could eat before the nausea got to him and he had to stop. Luckily Dick was not there yet, but would he even notice? He was the protege of the world’s greatest detective so of course he would. Wally would have to make sure he acted normal around him. Everyone really, but especially his best friend. He’d have to act like never before.

The announcement of Black Canary’s arrival made Wally’s stomach droop to his feet. He really wasn’t up for training. Heck he wasn’t up for eating if that was anything to go by. His body was still sore from the beating that the two boys had done. And the other thing. Zipping to the bathroom he just barely made it to the toilet as the bile rose up. He rinsed his mouth five times and zipped back carrying chips as if that’s all he had gone for. Chips were the last thing he wanted. Just a night alone at Mount Justice to cry would be nice. A fantasy when two teammates normally stayed there. He munched the chips absently as Black Canary called their pairings. Him versus Artemis. He could do that. Really he could.

Arrows rained upon him. They were safety arrows but they still hurt when they hit. She was mad today for some reason and he was slow for how little he had eaten after purging what he had. Every arrow that hit hurt and would leave a bruise shortly, but it felt good too. He deserved to be punished for not being better. For not being able to stop his bullies. For being useless. He was useless. Worthless. Trash. His parents hadn’t even wanted him. They had thrown him out. Isn’t that what people do to trash? How long before the team would too? How long until they knew he was worthless? How long? How long? Howlonghowlonghowlonghowlonghowlong?

“-id!”

“KF!”

“-ally!”

“-watch!”

“Kid Flash!” Canary yelled.

“Wha?” Wally smacked into the wall as he found himself running aimlessly around the combat floor.

“Wally, if that were a real fight you would have either endangered your teammates, gotten injured, or died. You are not focusing.” Canary reprimanded him.

“He’s never focused on-” Artemis was cut off by the other blonde’s glare.

“You should sit this out if you are not feeling up to training.” Canary said gently.

Wally nodded and raced to his room. The emotions were coming up and ready to burst. He grabbed his bag and zoomed to the zeta tube. Only one place he could go now to let it out. As soon as he could safely move he ran. He ran to the Chihuahuan desert as it was the closest and largest he could get to. Once there he found a cave and quickly looked for any signs of life. Upon seeing none he laid out his army blanket and threw himself on top of it. Arms wrapped around his fleece blanket he began to shake. He felt the thoughts of despair coming upon him, The stinging in his eyes. The air in his pained chest pushing to com out. Sob. A shaky inhale. Sob. Again and again they came until he was a sobbing, shivering, snot-faced mess. This lasted for what felt like two hours, but in reality was only ten minutes. It finally slowed so hiccuping and sniffling. Then to an exhausted sleep.

Wally awoke startled to find pains emitting from his stomach. He grabbed his bag which mercifully still held a withered cabbage head, two apples, and a stale loaf of bread. Enough to tide him over. He looked at his watch to find that it was three in the morning. He groaned and decided to run to Crissa’s. Even though there were many homeless he called it Crissa’s in his mind. That’s where she was. Now he just wanted to find solace on the street with his new found friends. Where he didn’t have to be a hero or Wally. He could be a whole new person. He might be able to make himself worth something there. Someone who didn’t have to be a coward. He would become Neon.

Chapter Text

He had managed to reach the ‘store’. His breath was coming in short pants as he staggered to the door. He knocked the code and heard the quick footsteps of the friendly woman. There was the slide of a clasp and the click of a lock as she slowly cracked open the door. When her eye focused upon the tired boy before her she flung open the door to grab him and pull him through.

 

This act caused him to stumble and nearly fall. Onyx locked the door behind him and scooped him into a bear hug just after he had regained his balance. He patted her back awkwardly in return and then relaxed a bit into the embrace. It felt so good. Like she actually cared about him. A silly thought as they had only known each other for three short days, but still it was a nice one. She let go slowly and looked into his bright green eyes with her dark ones. Her grip on his shoulders tightened just a bit, not to hurt, but to reassure.

 

“I missed ya , sweetie, it’s been a whole day! Feels like a week to me as my mind is always moving a million miles per hour. I’m a social person by nature and need constant people. Crissa’s here with me eaten some of yesterday’s donuts if you’d like a few. Also got some eggs and milk that went past the sell by date today. Bring half to Mech and you’ll have a real great breakfast, but here’s a snack before you go. A dozen muffins! Their stale, but still edible! I also have some bagels!” Onyx began as she pulled food from her various places. “They’re blueberry! There’s cream cheese next to Crissa. It was also past the sell by date. It doesn’t happen often, but I grab it when I can. It’s a treat and there were two! Bring that one to Mech too, dear if you would.”

 

They rounded the corner to the back where Crissa was eating a muffin calmly. She smiled at Wally as he entered. No glare or disapproval or blank stare. She smiled at him and meant it. It was almost surreal to him. The friendly way she greeted him was almost like that of the cave. He smiled shakily back. Here he wasn’t worthless. He could become someone great in his civies. Someone likeable.

 

“So, kiddo, your back. I’m glad. Onyx was so disappointed when I came alone, it was like I had brought a storm with me or something. You’ve grown on us quite a bit haven’t you?”

 

Wally’s mouth hung agape for a moment lost for words. He had felt the same fondness for them. In some strange way he felt like he had met his family. His real one. Not the one he was born to, but one that cared. He closed his mouth and breathed a deep breath. He held it. Closed his eyes. One long exhale. Opening his eyes he marveled at how quickly he could feel better from the school events. He felt safe here.

 

“Well don’t just stand there, dearie! EAT! You need it! Look at those bones!” Onyx clucked her tongue. “I’m going to have to fatten you up. Mech will help me too! I know it! You come every morning that you can, you hear? I know you can’t be here every day, but try. I have a new mission to make you gain at least ten pounds!”

 

At the woman’s declaration he found himself filled with a warm feeling in his gut. This woman who had known him for less than a week was concerned about his health. He smiled again and hugged her. This caused the woman to smile and return with a bear hug that was gentle, but secure.

 

“Sweetie, you never need to be scared here. You got Mama Crissa, Auntie Onyx, Mech, and even Stitch watchin out for ya. You don’t ever need to worry with us at your back.”

 

Those words caused something. A reaction he hadn’t expected. A crack in his safe. Then a swell of emotion burst forth. His lip tugged downwards as he fought to keep it still. Panicking at the sudden onslaught he tried to pull back. His breath was beginning to quicken as was his heart which pounded in his ears. His worthlessness overwhelming him. The woman then tightened her arms, and somehow managed to scoop him up, sit down, and sit him in her lap. She pulled him close ignoring the awkward position as she held him.

 

“Sweetie, it’s okay. Let it out. Let it go. We’re here for you. It’s okay. It’s okay to cry.”

 

Crissa scooted her crate closer and put her hands on him. That was when he really lost all control. He cried and cried. Letting the thoughts and emotions and memories wash over him in a rush. Why did his parents not love him after he had tried so hard? Why couldn’t he defend himself against stupid bullies? Why couldn’t he be better for the team? How could he be so stupid? Why was he so stupid? So selfish? Why couldn’t people love him? Why couldn’t he be better? Stupid. Idiot. Worthless. STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! Stupid! Stupid! Stupidstupidstupidstupidstupidstupidstupid…

 

“upidstupidstupidstupidstu-”
“Shhhhh. Hush now. It’s okay. You’re okay.”

 

Wally whimpered into her arms a while longer feeling the still raw pain of his parents’ hate for him. Her hand rubbing up and down his back was soothing. Something he hadn’t felt since he was in kindergarten. The motion seemed to drain away the tension as he relaxed. His head slumping forward onto her shoulder. Forehead in the crook of her neck. Cool olive skin against his fevered pale. His whimpers became softer, the pauses between them longer. Breathing became mostly even with a slight hitch or hiccup. Soon snores could be heard. Onyx looked at Crissa and mouthed a name. She nodded and left.

 

***
Wally awoke slowly. His eyes were gritty and his throat was sore. Stretching slowly he looked around him. His eyes first fell upon a bookshelf filled with automobile books and engineering books. Then his eyes scanned the rest of the room to affirm the rest. There was the table with four chairs, the toaster oven, camp stove. Everything was here. He was at Mech’s. Only question was, how did he get here? He got up out of the futon and yawned. Grimacing at the cottony feeling in his mouth. Stretching his legs straight in front of him he then started towards the curtain that separated this room from the shop. As he ducked through he found himself behind the counter and nose to mid back with Mech. He was about to move back to the other room when the man spoke.

 

“There is iced tea in the mini fridge there.” he announced pointing to a black fridge with freezer that was up to Wally’s waist. “Also I will be making breakfast soon. Drink some tea and relax in the bed.”

 

Wally did as he was told. He was tired and drained. A lot of the things that he had been holding back had been let go. They were still there and they still hurt, but it felt better now. It felt so much better after he had cried. Hadn’t changed his situation, but he felt he could bear it better now that he had cried. Like a bit of the weight he had carried had been lifted off. Wally smiled. Life didn’t seem so bad.

 

On the futon he sat sipping the cold tea. He didn’t really think about anything. Didn’t need to. That didn’t happen often. Almost never. He sat drinking in the peaceful air. There was no mission right now. No need to rush home to clean the house and make dinner. Not even a need to worry about school. He could just be now. Here in this ‘store’. He wasn’t Wally. Wasn’t Kid Flash. Wasn’t trash as his parent’s had deemed him.

 

Here he was Neon.

 

Movement of the curtains startled him out of his daze. Smile spreading as he saw Mech pass through, he waved. Mech nodded at him bringing eggs and milk and cream cheese with him, which Wally assumed Onyx had given him when they brought him here. He watched in interest as Mech lit the stove and placed the large skillet upon it. He then brought a hidden can of cooking spray and sprayed the pan in a clockwise position, then counter clockwise. He grabbed a wooden spoon and placed it on the table near the stove. Then he took the cream cheese out of the box and wrapper. He smelled it, nodded and placed it into the pan. Then he added a splash of milk and began to stir. He stirred as the cream cheese softened, added milk in splashes until a smooth texture was created. Then he reached for the eggs. There were two containers of eighteen. He cracked them one by one still stirring. He added more and more until every egg had been used. He kept stirring until there was a slight brown golden colour on each of the masses of egg. He then piled a large portion onto one plate and half of that onto the other. He placed both plates onto the table. One side held a full glass of tea. The other did not.

 

When Mech held out a hand towards Wally, the redhead stared dumbly at the hand. With a jolt he realized what the ebony skinned man was waiting for and handed him his glass sheepishly. He then stood heading towards the seat that had no drink next to it. It also had the larger portion. Wally sat and waited for Mech. The large man set his now full glass next to the plate. He sat in the other available seat, folded his hands, and bowed his head. Wally did the same not wanting to offend the man. Then apparently done with his prayer Mech unclasped his hands and reached for the silverware.

 

“If it is not your religion or preference you do not have to pray with me, Neon. I will not get mad.”

 

“O-oh. I never had a religion so I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”

 

“I’m not scolding you, I am informing you. I do appreciate that you gave respect to me by doing that. Thank you. Now let’s eat.”

 

Wally nodded eagerly. He was starving and this small amount of food probably wouldn’t be enough, but it would take the edge off. He dug in to find that the eggs were actually quite sweet. They were good, but he was confused. They were also creamy. Did eggs usually taste sweet? Had he never noticed this before? He always added salt, but now he didn’t have any.

 

“What’s the matter, Neon?”

 

“Oh, er...nothing really. Um, do eggs always taste sweet?”

 

“It’s their natural flavor after cooking without any additives, but yes.”

 

“Oh. Tastes great.”

 

“I’m glad.”

 

They ate and drank in silence. Mech had a second plate, but then gave the rest to Wally despite protest. Wally finished off the eggs gratefully. Noting that he’d need to scour the dumps despite the good start today. He reflected on how he was probably not going to school today. He would have to forge a note. Sighing at the thought of doing something a hero definitely should not be doing, he began to clear his dishes. He drained the last of his tea as he stood. Mech pointed to a bin with dirty dishes and he put his in as well.

 

“I will go inside the junkyard main office to wash them. They let me live here as long as I keep watch at night.”

 

“Not even a dollar an hour?”

 

“I get two dollars an hour. They say nine dollars a day can be my rent. I clock in at eight pm and clock out at six am every day. I am their cheapest worker.”

 

“So what do you use the money for? Are you saving it?”

 

“Yes. Sometimes when it is one of the groups birthdays and I don’t have an ingredient for cake I will buy it. Other than that there is very little need to spend it. We are saving for the future. Maybe we can get a house together someday.”

 

“How long have you guys been saving? And what kind of house are you looking for?”

 

“I have stayed and worked here for about eleven years working every night. I have a checking account and about one hundred thousand saved up. It’s only a small portion of what we need for a house. We’d also have to get one or two cars. Our goal is eight hundred thousand at the least.”

 

Wally let out a low whistle. That was a lot of money and they were only a tenth of the way there. They would need another fifty years going at this rate. Such a long time to pass. He really felt like it was hopeless for them. For himself as well.

 

“Wouldn’t it be easier to get an apartment? For now? I mean, it would be a place to live. Or a house for rent?”

 

“We have tried that and it did not work well. It took half the money we had in the beginning and then consumed all of it by the time we thought we were okay. We have a steady way of life here and want to feel secure when we move into a house. Pay it off and have money for future bills. Also the money for a car. Onyx has been working at the store for about ten years. She has about one hundred sixty-three thousand. We are a fourth of the way there with that. Crissa has been babysitting different children and tutoring where she can. She has about fifty thousand. Stitch works odd jobs here and there. He has about ninety thousand. So we are halfway there. We will make it. If we plan carefully. Also I have been selling machines that I have fixed up. They work well and I sell them for cheap.”

 

Wally found himself speechless. They were almost there. It would probably take another decade, but they could do it. This was also the most Mech had said to him in one conversation. His mind was still reeling from that thought alone. If they could do it, then maybe he could too. It wasn’t entirely impossible. That thought made him smile.

 

They sat comfortably in silence until Mech stood suddenly. He rushed through the curtain as Wally stood and followed. A tall lanky man was digging in the cupboard underneath the trading counter. Mech tiptoed behind him. The man was unaware. Mech waited as he watched the man to see what he was looking for. The figure pulled out various objects seeming to become frustrated.

 

“Where the heck is the money at?! There’s at least gotta be something of value.” the man grumbled.

 

“Perhaps you should try a place that uses money.” Mech stated calmly.

 

The man whirled around at his rumbling voice. His hand reaching under his shirt quickly. It came out holding a revolver. Mech stiffened and shuffled in front of Wally. Wally was tensed to dash in front if he had to, but that would jeopardize his identity. It would be worth it to help Mech though.

 

“Don’t move! Just tell me where the money is and you won’t get hurt.” He aimed his gun at Mech’s chest.

 

“Now, young man, I do not deal in money. So you will not find it here, please lea-” Mech began to explain.

 

“Liar! You’ve got to have some somewhere! Nobody gives stuff for free!” he interrupted.

 

“You’re right I do not give things away for free. I trade for cans and workers and food. No money.” Mech continued to explain calmly. He then moved his arm behind him and took hold of Wally’s arm as if sensing what the boy planned.

 

“Lies! Lies! Lies!” the man was becoming frantic, he tilted the gun and pulled the trigger.

 

Wally stood frozen watching. He couldn’t move for Mech’s arm held him immobile. Trailing the bullet with emerald eyes he saw it hit Mech’s arm and deflect. It was now coming toward him! Some part of him told him to move yet he watched as it headed for his chest. It was an inch away. A centimeter. He still watched as it collided with his shirt and skin crumpling in on itself. Then as it dropped to the floor. Mouth dropping open he stared at the now half crumpled bullet lying on the metal floor of the store. He had somehow become bullet proof, but...Mech had also been bullet proof. Was this some kind of trick bullet?

 

He then noticed five more crumpled bullets at Mech’s feet. The man with the revolver stood there shaking. He was still pulling the trigger, only he was shooting blanks. This gun seemed to have the safety removed. It was black with a dull shine to it. Old type. Wally was no expert on guns, but Robin would have known probably. Boy Wonder knew everything.

 

“Now, sir, I believe it is best for you to leave, as you see you cannot gain anything here. Please, never return.” Mech said sternly to the man.

 

The gun dropped to the floor as the man jerked into action. He ran as fast as he could stumbling all the while. Not even a pause to scoop up the weapon. Not even a moment to spare thought for his most used protection. His flapping jacket like the startled wings of black crow. He was gone in the next instant. Lost to the maze of junkyardom.

 

Mech looked at the gun in disinterest before slowly bending to pick it up and then proceeded to walk to a small grey safe. He turned the dial right, left, right. The smooth opening of the door spoke volumes of it’s care. He place the gun in a box of what looked to be filled with other guns. Another filled with crushed bullets. Wally scooped up five of the bullets, but kept the one that bounced off of him for a souvenir. He had questions. His mind so filled with them that they were like a fog. Those would have to wait for later.
After Mech cleaned up the mess and Wally felt he could think through the haze of questions. (It was only a few minutes really.) They decided food was needed, so Mech started making large sandwiches. Wally didn’t even question where the three sesame seed two footlong sandwiches came from along with the fillings. He just ate his two and Mech ate his one. They were quite delicious. Meat, lettuce, canned olives, cucumber, some tomato, and even some avocado. The sandwiches were washed down with some fresh brewed iced tea. All in silence. It was not uncomfortable, nor was it comfortable. It was just there.

 

“Mech.” Wally started.

 

“Not yet, Neon. We are waiting for Crissa, Stitch, and Onyx.”

 

“Thank you.” Wally finished.

 

“What?”

 

“Thank you for saving my life.”

 

“Of course.”

 

Mech got out another batch of hidden cookies which he had upped production in since Wally had come. They munched them quietly and enjoyed the silence. It wasn’t long until Onyx, Crissa, and Stitch appeared.

Chapter Text

The three shuffled in silently. The girls carrying three foldable beanbag chairs and Stitch holding beanbags. They set up near the bed. Two of the chairs near the head of the bead facing toward the chair at the foot of the bed. Wally assumed that the chair at the foot of the bed. He looked up to see all four of them standing and looking at him. Mech gave a gesture with his hand towards the area.
Wally dipped his head and headed towards the chair at the foot of the bed. The one closest to escape if he needed it, though it was highly doubtful. He sat with his knees angled slightly away from the wall, towards the exit. Never hurts to be prepared. Mech and Stitch took the remaining beanbag chairs whilst Crissa and Onyx used the pillows on the futon to get comfortable. They all exaggerated the time it took to get comfortable, tension beginning to grow thick in the air. Finally, they settled and sat in silence. Mech with his feet placed shoulder length apart, elbows placed upon his knees, hands clasped with his chin resting upon them.
Stitch, one foot on the floor, the other with its heel resting on the frame near the beanbag cushion, arms spread in a position much like that of an arm chair. The back of his head resting against the wall.
Crissa was snug against the wall and pillows, tucked nicely in the corner. Onyx next to her cuddling one of the pillows in comfort. Their arms flush together. All of them avoiding the gaze of the red haired teen.
A deep sigh escaped Mech’s lips. Stitch then took a breath.
“Well, let's start off with Mech since you found out about him first.” Breathed Stitch, still looking at the ceiling.
Wally hummed in affirmation. He also wondered how they had known to come without a phone call and how Mech knew they were coming.
“So you saw him deflect bullets and one deflected off of you in an attempted robbery.” Stitch stated sitting up and looking him directly in the eyes.
Wally nodded.
“Well as you can assume and probably have, Mech is no ordinary human. He is metahuman as are we three. We feel we can trust you not to inform anyone of this. Do you promise to withhold this information from those who would do us harm?”
“As long as you do not break the law, yes.” Wally stated.
The four nodded in agreement.
“Then I shall tell you something we four have never told another person before.”
“...”
“...”
“...”
“...”
“... Mech has the ability to withstand a blow or puncture from anything up to an eighteen wheeler thrown at him without receiving so much as a scratch or bruise. He can also extend this protection upon anyone he has physical contact with and those that they have contact with. Up to four people as we know of so far. He can lift up to one ton with a lot of effort. Onyx has the ability to slow down, stop, and sometimes reverse time on objects and even animals. She has even been able to reverse wounds on some of us with much concentration and need for rest and nourishment after for a broken bone and such. This is why much of the produce that goes past the all by date stays fresh for an extra day or two. Crissa is an empath with telepathic abilities. She is able to sense emotion and creates a link in the mind with those she bonds with. It can withstand the distance of the whole continent as far as we know, and we all speak with her when needed as it does tire her if it is used too much. She is also able to sometimes influence emotions if needed, such as suicide risks.” Stitch explained coming to a stop.
“And yourself?” Neon prodded.
“Well, I'm able to manipulate living tissue to promote healing and know the best natural remedies for anything. I can even add limbs to bodies if I take a while.”

“What have you done that to?” The curiosity forcing the question from Neon’s mouth.
“I regrew my arm which had been cut off and a few of Crissa’s fingers. Also the docked tail of a sweet little corgi.” Stitch listed.
“Did it tire you out?”
“Very much so. Though it was intriguing to watch as the bones would begi-”
“Ahem.” Crissa interrupted.
“R-right, back to where we were. Neon, with this new knowledge do you still wish to be our friend?”
Wally blinked and then grinned. “Of course!”
Relief filled the faces of the other four as tension leaked out of their shoulders and dissipated from the air.
Neon grinned. He zipped over to the table and sat in one of the chairs. Onyx, Stitch, and Mech all had open mouths of surprise.
Mech blurted “I had not expected you to show us your powers so soon after we told you.”
“Why not? Kid knew we had an idea already with all the food we gave him.” Crissa stated.
Stitch chortled which caused them all to begin laughing.
“So…” Started Wally. “What do you want to do now?”
“Oh ooh! I have an idea! Two actually!” Stitch shouted waving his hands enthusiastically. “What if Onyx used her powers on the kid while he used his powers?”
“Cool! I want to see which would trump the other!” Neon agreed.
“It would be useful to know how it affected you.” Mech observed.
“I’m game.” Onyx said gleefully.
“What's your other idea?” Asked Chrissa.
“Well, we can't do it until he gets hurt. I'd like to study his healing speed. Then see if Onyx could slow it down in case he ever needed surgery or something.” Stitch stated.
Neon nodded. It sounded like a logical plan and a good thing to do after missions. This could also be used to strengthen their powers. All of them. Neon thought more about the opportunities opened by this new type of training.

“Well, we can put that to practice with the weapons training.” Chrissa stated, breaking him out of his thoughts. “With this new knowledge and training ideas we won't have much time for RDTT. Random defense tools and techniques. We've got to get you caught up in the many uses of trash.”
“Sounds like fun.” Neon grinned. “Though I need to go to another training in about fifteen minutes. Let’s make a few meeting days or set an hour a day aside for that purpose. I can’t wait to learn new some new moves! Also fighting against Onyx’s power seems awesome!”

“Agreed. I too look forward to seeing the outcome.” Mech stated with a twinkle in his eye.

“We’ll talk about it later.” Chrissa stated smiling fondly.

At that, Neon ran towards the cave.