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The sleeping bag rustles as Dick pulls himself forward to rest on his elbows. He’s inches from Wally’s face when he whispers, “Psst, hey Wally, are you still up?”

There’s no response except for the slightest pause in breathing, proving that Wally is in fact awake.

Dick pokes at Wally’s cheek. He whines, “Waaally.”

“Shh, cut that out, I’m sleeping.” He rolls his head away to protect it from Dick’s finger. “Not all of us are training to be part-time vampires.”

Dick puts his hand back down and debates about how he should handle the situation. Usually, Dick can sleep whenever—even if he’s in a different time zone or if he would normally be awake and patrolling; attribute that to a mix of growing up in a traveling circus or his current “sleep when you can or else you won’t get your eight hours” vigilante lifestyle—but everyone talking about their pre-hero lives brought up some unpleasant memories. Some disturbing anti-sleep memories.

He decides to be selfish. Wally can sleep later, plus, the guy kind of owes him for all of the ass-saving over the years.

“C’mon,” Dick says, letting a pleading tone enter his voice. “I can’t sleep. Walk around with me for a bit?”

Wally sighs, taking the bait. “Okay, fine. But I was serious about the not-training-to-be-a-vampire thing—besides, the weekend is when I catch up on my sleep.”

The rustling gets louder as the two of them crawl out of their sacks. “You know that’s a myth, right? You can’t actually catch up on your sleep. Besides, it’s summer.”

“Whatever. Do you want to go or not?” The tent unzips and they climb out.

Dick starts walking in the opposite direction of the cave, careful not to step on any branches and wake the others—wake Supey—and Wally follows suit. He doesn’t know exactly where he’s headed, but he’s familiar enough with the area that he’s not nervous about getting lost.

They walk silently for a long time before Wally comments, “It’s nice out here.”

“Hmm,” Dick agrees. It was hot earlier in the day, and even though it still feels kind of humid, now that the sun has gone down, it’s a comfortable instead of overbearing warmth. He looks up, notices the stars poking through some of the less-crowded branches. “Look, you can see the stars.”

Wally looks up, stops to examine what Dick is staring at. “Wow, they’re really bright out here. By my house, you can usually see the stars, but not like this.”

“You can barely see anything in Gotham. Too many lights. The manor is better, but in the city—eh.” Dick tilts his hand side to side.

“We should find a clearing,” Wally suggests. “Man, I haven’t stargazed since I was a kid.”

Dick snorts. “Your fifteen-year-old status probably means you’re still a kid.”

Wally sticks his hand in Dick’s face, making him laugh. “Shh, you know what I meant. Follow me!” Wally picks up his pace and Dick matches it with ease. He lets Wally lead them to who-knows-where, more focused on breathing in the fresh night air and listening to the chirping crickets than where they’re going. Something about it makes him relax.

They find a relatively clear area closer to the beach than the woods and sit down, side by side and shoulder to shoulder as they look up into the sky with a sense of awe. For a precious minute, that’s all they do.

“So, do you wanna tell me why you can’t sleep?” Wally asks softly, bumping Dick’s shoulder a little without looking away from the sky. “You were quiet at the fire.”

He thought he’d want to talk to Wally about it; he’s done it plenty of times before. But right now, it feels raw and ugly, and he doesn’t want it to ruin the mood that the night’s atmosphere—Wally—put him in.

So instead of answering, he shrugs and falls down onto the soft grass. “Show me some constellations?”

He hears Wally sigh again, but less forced than earlier. This one almost sounds defeated. “Okay.” Wally lies down next to him, and after a few seconds, he lifts his arm and points at a patch of stars. “That one’s the big dipper.”

“Always a classic,” Dick comments as he spots it himself, a hint of teasing in his voice. “Ooh, show me the little dipper next.”

“I would hit you if I didn’t like you so much,” Wally warns him.

Dick snickers.

“Hasn’t Bats already made you learn a ton of these in case a star-themed villain shows up in Gotham?”

“A few, yeah.”

“Then you show me some,” Wally huffs. “I was into constellations when I was like eight; it’s been a while.”

“Please?” Dick asks. “I don’t want to think.”

Wally turns his head to look at Dick, frowning. “Is everything okay?”

“I’m fine. I just need a distraction, you know?”

“Say no more. Alright, I know there’s a dog out here somewhere.” Dick waits for a couple of seconds while Wally scans the sky. “Got it.” He lifts his arm, pointing toward the constellation. “See that really bright star?”

“That’s Sirius, right?”

“Uh-huh, and if you follow it like this,” Wally traces the sky with his finger, “you’ll see Canis Major. It means the greater dog in Latin.”

Dick smiles, thinking about a tiny Wally with a giant book, reading about this constellation for the first time. Learning the proper name and meaning, probably the myth that went with it. “What’s its story?”

“Umm,” Wally starts as he thinks, eyes presumably looking up and back as he scans his mind for information he hasn’t accessed in years. “So I’m pretty sure in Greek mythology that this was one of the dogs who followed Orion, who was this great hunter. It’s chasing a hare, AKA the Lepus constellation over there,” Wally puts his hand up in the air again. Now that his mind is primed, the constellations seem to be coming to him faster. “See it?”

“Yeah.” Dick tilts his head. “I guess that kind of looks like a hare if you know it’s supposed to be one.”

Wally huffs a short laugh. “Back to Canis Major. It’s associated with Laelaps, the fastest dog in the world who was supposed to be able to catch anything it pursued. One day it was sent after this uncatchable fox, right? But here we have a paradoxical situation because, supposedly, this dog can catch anything and this fox can’t be caught, so they’re just stuck in this never-ending race. Zeus eventually has enough and turns them both to stone. He puts the dog in the sky and—boom—constellation.”

Wally shows him all of the constellations he can remember and find which, honestly, aren’t that many. But it’s fun and eases the tightness in Dick’s chest. Wally’s still-sleepy voice is soothing, and the stories that go with the constellations pull Dick in even farther. For about fifteen minutes, Dick is just a kid looking at stars. For a while, Dick feels like there’s nothing in the world except for Wally, Dick, and the stars.

“I’m running out of content here, so I think this will be the last one,” Wally warns, and Dick hums in understanding. Wally raises his hand, “That one over there is the Apus constellation, AKA the bird of paradise. Apus means footless in Latin, and people used to think that birds—or maybe just birds of paradise? I can’t remember—didn’t have feet.”

When Wally lowers his arm without continuing, Dick asks, “No myth with this one either?”

“I don’t think so, no. But, it’s a bird like you, so maybe it was a hero? Let’s say that as a thank-you from the universe, he got to fly forever in the night sky when he was too tired to keep fighting.”

“I like that.”

It’s quiet for a moment; Wally lost in the stars, Dick lost in his thoughts pretending to be lost in the stars. He used to do this with his cousin a lot—or maybe just a few times. It’s hard to remember. It’s been . . . it’s been a while. He was little.

His thoughts bubble up in his chest again, making his eyes water. “Thanks for coming out with me.”

Wally turns his head, the smile he was sporting when he was talking about the constellations has slipped into a sad expression (again), telling Dick his own sadness leaked into his voice (again). Amateur. “You can talk to me. About anything.”

“I know,” Dick says, and he does. Wally’s always been easy to talk to. Had been?

“So, what’s got the Boy Wonder down?” Wally asks, propping himself up on one elbow to look at Dick better. Wally has a soft, trusting smile on his lips and his eyes are scanning Dick’s face for something he doesn’t (can’t) find.

Dick doesn’t move, but he does say, “I used to stargaze with my cousin sometimes.”

Wally’s face falls. He says, “Oh,” in the same way someone would say “oh shit.”

“No, no. This was a good idea; I’ve been thinking about him—them—all night.”

“Oh.” This one is more sympathetic and understanding than anything else.

“We used to climb on top of the trailers and stargaze. We didn’t really know any constellations, so we’d make up our own.” Just like with clouds. “Never with stories, though. John was more into telling ghost stories. I think he made them up; custom-made to scare me.”

Wally laughs at that; it makes Dick smile. “That sounds fun. You guys got along and everything, then?”

“Most of the time, and we were close, too.” Raised more like typical siblings than cousins, what with the close living quarters, hand-me-downs, and dumb squabbles. But there was also teasing and inside jokes and pictures of them in matching outfits and an unbreakable bond they wouldn’t appreciate until they were older (or one of them died).  “I never thought about it, but he was really nice to hang out with me so much. There weren’t a ton of kids at the circus, but there were a couple who were around his age.”

“How much older was he?”

“About four years.” He was thirteen when he died, the same age as Dick was now. “I remember I was really jealous of him for a while because he got to do the routine without the net. But now.” Now, not so much. He became jealous again during the funeral, and that stuck around for about a month. He switched from feeling left behind to guilty and then left behind again.

He’s over it now. Most nights.

“Hey, why don’t we get out of here?” Wally interjects, getting to his feet. “I’m starving, and I bet we can find something that’s still open if we try hard enough.”

“I don’t know . . .”

“Come on.” This time, Wally is the one who gets Dick up. Wally grabs both of Dick’s hands and starts tugging. Dick puts up a show of resisting, but he’s already given in. “I’ll give you a ride.”

“Ugh, fine.” Dick pulls his shades out of his pants pocket and slips them on. “But wherever we’re going, we better be getting fries too.”

“I am offended that you would ever think that I wouldn’t do that.”

Dick rolls his eyes, climbs onto Wally’s back, and then they’re off.

oOo

 

“Alrighty, here we are, two milkshakes and an order of fries,” their waitress—who hadn’t even so much as blinked when two pajama-wearing teenagers walked into the diner at three in the morning—says, moving the items from her tray to the table.

“Thank you,” Dick and Wally say in unison, each pulling their own milkshake closer to themselves.

“Can I get you boys anything else?”

“I think we’re good for now,” Wally says.

She smiles, says, “Enjoy your food,” and then she’s gone again.

Dick picks up his cherry and pulls it free from its stem with his teeth. He’s still chewing when Wally’s lands in his glass. “Since when don’t you like cherries?”

Wally shrugs and grabs the bottle of ketchup, squeezing it next to the pile of fries. “It just looks like you’re having a two-cherry kind of night.”

Dick accepts the gesture and pops the gifted cherry into his mouth, then he starts on the fries before Wally can eat them all.

“What time do you have to be back tomorrow?” Wally asks.

“Sometime before dinner. I might just head back after training, though.” Dick mixes in some of the whipped cream with his straw, then takes a sip. “What about you?”

“Just by curfew. It’ll depend on what the others are doing, I guess.” Wally finishes his milkshake with a loud slurp before licking the last of the whipped cream off of his straw. “Hey, do you know what we’re doing for breakfast?”

“Why are you thinking about breakfast? You’re literally eating.”

“We should all always be thinking about breakfast; it’s the most important meal of the day,” Wally says, pointing his now-clean straw at Dick seriously. “And I was just thinking that the food is pretty good. I bet their pancakes are good too.”

“Then order pancakes now,” Dick suggests. “I kind of doubt we’ll go out. Saturday mornings are usually kind of crowded, and I'm not sure how many of us will even be awake before morning is over.”

“Fair point.” Wally thinks for a second. “Maybe we should find a 24-hour store. Buy some cereal and pancake mix. I kind of wiped out most of the kitchen and I have no idea what M’gann keeps in the pantry. Or how much. How much do Martians eat anyway? Do you think she’d take it the wrong way if I asked?”

“Wow, I can’t believe she hasn’t shown interest in you yet.” There’s a giant and completely un-hidden grin on Dick’s face.

“Hey! First of all, she hasn’t said she doesn’t have interest. And taking it slow is all part of the Wall-man’s plan.”

Dick raises an eyebrow. “Alright, Wall-man. Wasn’t this camping trip supposed to just be you and M’gann?”

“Again: it was supposed to be a private camp-fire, which I’m still blaming you for crashing.” Wally punctuates his accusation by throwing a fry at Dick, who catches it in his mouth.

Again: M’gann invited everyone.” Dick throws a fry into Wally’s mouth.

“Maybe she asked to be nice and you guys were supposed to politely decline?” Wally suggests.

“Hmm, that doesn’t sound right. Besides, I think she wanted to hang out with Supey.”

“Like I said earlier, I would hit you if I didn’t like you so much,” Wally warns, but there’s no real threat. “But I guess the outdoor-camping thing turned out to be better than I thought it would be, and it was probably more fun going as a group because it took some of the pressure off.”

Dick would never say this to Wally’s face, but he gets why M’gann isn’t interested in him. At least that loud, flirting version of him. The real Wally, the one across from him right now, is different. He’s sweet and smart and funny and understanding and the best friend a guy could have. He’d make a great boyfriend.

“Do I have something on my face? Hello, earth to Rob.” Wally’s hand is waving in front of his eyes.

He drops the hand that had been propping up his chin. “Sorry. Just thinking.” He diverts his gaze, drums his fingers on the table for something to do.

Wally seems to hesitate on something, but then he brings his hand up and rests it on top of Dick’s. It rests there and Dick looks at it for a little too long, the back of his neck feeling warmer than it should. And he has no idea why he would have that kind of response; he and Wally are both very openly tactile. He’s just trying to comfort Dick, why does Dick have to read into it like that? Why can’t anything feel normal between them anymore?

(It’s because he’s crushing—hard. Refusing to acknowledge it is making it worse, making the feelings build up until they bubble out in forms of jealousy or frustration or or or. But doing something about it could ruin everything, so Dick’s planning to tough it out until he gets over it. Because, at the end of the day, they’re friends. Just friends, oh dear confused and hormonal teen-brain, friends.)

“Here’s your bill,” the waitress says, causing Dick and Wally to quickly pull their hands apart. “Are you all set with these?”

“Uh-huh,” Dick says, voice cracking a little. He pulls out some cash while the waitress takes their dishes away.

oOo

Fuck puberty. So far, all it’s given him is acne, a voice that cracks, and these new, confusing feelings that could potentially destroy his friendship with Wally like it’s a tower at the end of Jenga. He honestly doubts being able to grow facial hair will be worth it.

oOo

As Dick and Wally walk back through the woods, side by side, Dick realizes that he has never wanted to reach out and hold Wally’s hand more. He pulls his shades out of his pocket, fiddling with them to keep his hands occupied.

“We should do this again,” Wally says.

Dick scoffs. “What? Invite everyone camping and then ditch?”

“No—hang out! Obviously,” Wally clarifies. “Not necessarily the camping thing, but we should definitely do that diner again, it was fantastic. And stargazing was fun, but I’ll have to brush up on some more constellations first. Maybe next time you’ll share some of your ghost stories?”

“Deal.” Dick is smiling, looking up at the stars. It would be nice to make some new memories of things he used to do with his family. “Should I anticipate third-wheeling on you and M’gann? I could get the fourth and fifth wheels on board, make a whole thing of it.”

“Nah, just the two of us.” Wally throws his arm around Dick’s shoulder, a familiar weight. “Not counting tonight, I don’t think we’ve done that in, like, at least a month. I know you don’t have a lot of free time these days, but I kind of miss you, dude. And don’t get me wrong, the other guys are great, but. I don’t know, it’s different.”

“Yeah.” Not bad, just different. And new. But alone with Wally—it’s everything Dick wants and needs desperately to avoid. Ugh, he hates this. Feelings. No wonder Bruce has chosen to boycott them.

oOo

“Hey Wally?”

“Yeah?”

“. . . night.”

“Night. Let me know if you can’t sleep again; we’ll go in—" Wally cuts off with a yawn, “—inside and play video games or something.”

Dick hums and settles down. Wally’s breathing sounds like he’s already asleep again, but Dick . . . Dick has a lot to figure out.