Title: Movie Night at the Watchtower
Series:  Comrades in Arms
Author: Lacey McBain
Rating: G.  Pre-slash.
Summary: Wally's been asking Bruce to come to movie night for months.
Notes:  This is for shemchadash who requested something like On the Couch, but while I was going for funny, the angst kind of took over.

Movie Night at the Watchtower

“Do you mind if I sit here?”

Wally looks up to see Batman looming over him. He hadn’t even heard him come in, but that’s nothing new, and the room around them is pretty noisy anyway.

“Sure, Batman. Take a load off,” Flash says, and for a moment he wonders why Batman wants to sit beside him when there are half a dozen empty seats in the very back of the room. In the shadows. That’s always been more Bats’ style.

Batman folds his cape around him as he sits, settling silently into the padded theatre-style chair. He braces his gloved hands on the armrests as if he expects the seat to launch him into orbit at any moment. Wally’s never seen anyone look less at ease in his life, including that guy he held upside-down over the roof of the Central City Bank. Bruce gives him a sideways glance that might be considered friendly—or at least non-threatening, if Wally squints and gives Bruce the benefit of the doubt.

“So, what made you decide to come to movie night?” Wally finally asks, unable to manage another second of silence. The room’s slowly filling with costumed crime-fighters and superheroes, people who just need a night away from the streets where they work. Movie night is quickly becoming a popular tradition on the Watchtower, and Wally hasn’t missed one yet. He knows Batman has never shown up at one until tonight. Even though he paid for this room and everything in it.

Bruce Wayne anonymously shelled out thousands of dollars so they’d have a place to kick back sometimes as a group. Of course, Batman maintains it’s because having a screening room of this size is valuable for showing training films or disseminating information to the whole league, especially since it’s been growing by leaps and bounds. But Wally knows that’s not all it’s about. He’d bet money Clark took him aside one day and suggested a movie night might not be a bad idea. Kind of like on those reruns of M*A*S*H where the doctors break the tension by watching old movies together, sharing popcorn, and generally pretending the war going on outside doesn’t exist. It’s not that different for them. Sometimes they need to forget about what they do, if only for a few hours.

Bruce looks at him oddly for a moment before answering. Wally’s often wished he could see behind the cowl. Even though he knows Bruce’s face, has known him for years, he’s still a mystery in some ways.

Bruce replies, “You asked me to come,” and Wally feels a tiny shiver cresting down his spine. It’s entirely possible he has a crush on Batman. More than possible. And maybe Bruce is starting to get a clue.

“I’ve been asking for months,” Wally says as casually as he can, and it’s true. He’s asked Bruce every single time they’ve had one of these nights, and each time Bruce has given him one of two excuses: I have to be in Gotham or I don’t really like movies. Wally’s never made a big deal out of, always kept it casual and fun, as if he were asking anyone else—Supes or Green Lantern or anyone but Batman—but Wally knows it isn’t casual. Not really. At least not for him.

Wally keeps asking even though he doesn’t think the answer will ever change, but he’s a hopeful kind of guy and the fact that Batman makes his heart beat a little faster means he won’t stop asking unless Bruce tells him to go to hell. Maybe not even then if there’s the slightest chance maybe one of these days Bruce will see him as something more than a goofy grin and a fast pair of legs in an emergency.

“I had a free evening.” Bruce is still looking at him through the cowl, and Wally fidgets under the scrutiny. Bruce never has a free evening. Or even if Bruce does, Batman never does, and Wally wonders if maybe he should be asking Superman to scan him for mind-controlling parasites or behaviour-altering alien nanotechnologies.

“I can leave if it’s a problem,” Bruce says, and starts to stand up.

“No!” Wally has a hand on his arm—well, a handful of cape, but there’s an arm under there somewhere—and it takes Wally a second to realize he’s squeezing Batman’s arm and pushing him back into his seat. This could possibly get him killed. Bruce looks mildly amused, and Wally lets go of him. “I mean, I’m just surprised to see you. You never come to movie night.”

“It was suggested that I make an effort to be more … sociable.”

Wally follows Bruce’s eyeline across the room to a smirking Superman who gives a tiny wave before turning around and talking to J’onn. Of course. Bruce isn’t here because of him, but because Superman guilted him into it. Well, it makes sense. Clark’s one of the few people who can get Bruce to do stuff he doesn’t want to. Everybody knows it. Wally figures it doesn’t hurt to be pretty much invulnerable if you’re going to argue with Batman.

“Supes made you come, huh? Well, you won’t regret it. Lantern’s brought Old Yeller. Makes that big tough marine cry every time. Hawkgirl and Vixen’ll be all over him, I’m sure. And the new kid’s brought something too. That’s first up, but I don’t know what it is.”

“Captain Marvel?” Bruce sounds surprised, and maybe it’s because Billy Batson’s really only ten-years-old and still new to the Justice League, but the kid’s been wowing everyone with his charm and manners. Wally thinks he’s probably going to be more popular than even the Big Blue Boy Scout.

“Yeah, I think Supes has some competition in the Mr. Nice department.”

Bruce makes a thoughtful “hm” sound, and goes back to scanning the room. Wally has a sneaking suspicion he’s mapping out escape routes and strategies because although it’s unlikely someone would attack them in the middle of movie night, it’s not impossible. Batman likes to be prepared for anything.

Wally wonders what Bruce would do if he asked him for a real date. Maybe he’ll have to try it sometime. Just the thought of it makes him shiver inside, as if someone’s run an ice-cube down his spine. He blushes when he realizes Bruce is looking at him—looking as if he can read his mind. Wally really hopes the telepaths are sticking to their agreement to stay out of people’s thoughts unless invited. Otherwise his life could get a lot more embarrassing in the future. He files away his thoughts of Bruce and ice-cubes for another time, and tries to find a topic of conversation that’s neutral.

“I love the movies,” Wally says finally. He does. It’s always been an escape for him, one that even running can’t match. Movies made him believe there were heroes long before he thought he could be one. “I can get lost in a good film. Flash Gordon. The Lone Ranger. Any old science fiction show or Western, you know?”

Bruce is looking at him as if he’s grown two heads, and it’s obvious that, no, Bruce doesn’t know what he means. Wally sighs and wonders if he’s an idiot for wanting something more with Bruce when even friendship is a challenge.

The silence between them stretches. Wally knows from the sympathetic glances he’s getting that people think he’s gotten stuck with Batman and doesn’t know how to get rid of him. He doesn’t know how to explain, hard as it is sometimes, there’s nowhere he’d rather be.

“I thought you didn’t like movies,” Wally says finally. At the front of the room, someone’s complaining about setting the VCR to show on the big screen, and Flash thinks he can hear Hawkgirl threatening to use her mace if they don’t get started.

“I don’t.”

How can anyone not like the movies, Wally thinks. He remembers when he was a kid, when going to the show was a special treat. The Kensington Theatre had red plush seats and a balcony that seemed so high he felt like he could reach the stars.

And Wally knows Dick loves the movies. The Boy Wonder snuck out of the manor more than once to catch a late show or a drive-in feature when they were growing up. Sometimes, the two of them would spend Saturday nights with the Titans, holed up with movies and an endless supply of microwave popcorn. Less often they’d do it at the manor, and Alfred would keep Wally supplied with cocoa and cookies and give him extra butter on the air-popped popcorn. Occasionally they’d fall asleep in the middle of the movies, and Wally never knew if it was Bruce or Alfred who came in and turned off the television and wrapped blankets around them while they slept. He’d always assumed it was Alfred. Some day he’s going to work up the courage to ask him.

“But if you really don’t like movies, why come? Movie night means movies, you know.”

There’s a carefully measured look directed back at him. “You asked me to come,” Batman says again, and Wally wishes he could think of something to say that won’t get him in trouble. He doesn’t know exactly what Bruce means by that, and he’s afraid of reading too much into it. Even though he’s known him a long time, there’s still too much he can’t assume.

Half the Justice League’s here: talking, arguing, waiting for things to get going. Nobody likes waiting around for something to happen, and Flash has a bad feeling the crowd’s going to get ugly if they don’t see some opening credits rolling within a minute.

The lights start to dim and there’s an enthusiastic cheer. Wally reaches for the bucket of popcorn beside him and props it in his lap. The studio logo is rolling across the screen in black-and-white and Flash doesn’t know what film it is, but he really doesn’t care. He’s sitting in a dark theatre with Batman, and it doesn’t matter that it’s not even anything close to a date because at least Bats is here, and that’s a start. Wally can work with that.

“Popcorn?” he asks, and he’s surprised when Batman actually pulls off a gauntlet and lays it on his lap. Wally watches in fascination as Bruce’s long pale fingers emerge from beneath the leather, and carefully extract a single perfect kernel from the top of the pile. Bruce seems to examine it for a moment before putting it to his lips. There’s the slightest flicker of a tongue as Bruce takes the single piece of popcorn into his mouth and chews. Wally swallows his own mouthful, and sucks in a deep gulp of cola. It doesn’t help to cool him off.

It’s going to be a long evening.

Suddenly he feels Bruce stiffen beside him. There’s something in the line of his shoulders that’s not quite right, a shift in posture as if he’s about to run, and Wally lays a hand on his arm without thinking about it. He hasn’t glanced at the screen since Bruce pulled off his glove.

“Batman?” he whispers, squeezing just a little to get his attention. Bruce’s lips are pressed tight together, and Wally thinks he hears the grinding of teeth. The room is filled with the sound of classical music slightly warped by an old tape, and Wally glances up in time to see a giant “Z” slashed across the screen.

Oh shit.

Wally knows without a doubt this is the movie. The one that was playing the night Bruce’s parents were killed. He’s heard the story from Dick, never from Bruce, and he didn’t know the name of the film until this very moment. The Mark of Zorro. Bruce’s body language is telling him everything he needs to know about a young boy and a dark alley and parents who weren’t there to take him to the movies ever again.

Wally doesn’t know what to do, but he knows Bruce doesn’t need to be here, doesn’t need to see this, to remember what happened, even though it doesn’t take a genius to figure out Bruce can’t forget the details of that night. They’ve never talked about it, but that doesn’t change that Wally knows Bruce carries his demons with him night and day. They follow him like shadows.

“Bruce,” Wally whispers, and he knows it’s a huge risk. Real names are discouraged on the Watchtower, especially Batman’s and especially in a room full of meta-humans and aliens. “You don’t have to stay.” Wally lays a hand on the cool flesh of Bruce’s hand and squeezes gently. He wants to do more, but he doesn’t know what.

“I can’t leave.” Bruce’s voice is barely audible, and Wally wants to pull Bruce’s stony face away from the screen, make him stop looking, stop remembering.

“Why not?”

Someone goes “Sh!” and Wally thinks maybe that’s the trick, get themselves kicked out of the film for being loud and no one will care they’re gone. Nobody’d be surprised if Flash misbehaved, but he’s not Batman, and Bruce is really the one who needs to get out of this room. Now. The sound of gunshots pours from the speakers, and Wally feels Bruce flinch beside him.

“Just leave,” Wally says, wondering if picking Batman up and carrying him into the hall would create too much of a stir. He supposes Bruce would pay for a nice funeral, at the very least.

“Too obvious,” Bruce murmurs. Wally understands. The worlds they travel are just small enough that most of the people in this room would likely know the story of Bruce Wayne’s tragic past, even those who don’t know the man behind the mask. And for those that care about such things, who pay attention, it might be too easy to make a connection if Batman were to suddenly get up and walk out of a movie like this. Wally doesn’t know why Bats can’t just do his usual impression of someone too busy to be bothered with such trivialities, and slip out the back. Except he seems transfixed by the images on the screen, pulled back through time, and Wally isn’t sure Bruce is capable of leaving even if everything inside him is screaming to run. Wally knows exactly what that feels like.

Clark glances back at them, an expression of worry clear on his face. Wally tries to get Clark’s attention, but it’s hard with the mask on and the lights down. Wally doesn’t know if his facial contortions are sending an S.O.S. or just making Clark think he’s got a severe case of indigestion.

Wally gets an answer when there’s a sharp hiss and the screen goes dark for a moment, followed by a groan from the crowd. Someone boos loudly and Wally can see popcorn being tossed at the screen. And people think he’s immature. Beside him, Batman breathes in sharply, and Wally wonders if he’s been holding his breath all this time. He notices he still has his hand on Bruce’s, and Batman hasn’t pushed him away. Wally wishes he could consider it a good sign, or any kind of a sign, but he has a bad feeling Bruce’s mind is stuck in a blood-stained alley, gunshots ringing in his ears.

“Somebody get up here and fix this thing,” Green Lantern grumbles, stepping to the front of the room, and flicking on the lights. He reaches for the VCR, but jerks his hand back from the controls as if they’re hot. Wally takes a moment to consider the many uses for Superman’s heat vision. Clark’s looking at Batman as if he wants to do something to help, but he looks almost as lost as Wally feels.

Suddenly, Wally knows what he has to do. He leaps to his feet and brushes past Bruce, his right hand giving his a quick squeeze as he blurs towards the front of the room, his left hand still wrapped around his super-size cola. He comes to a stop just in front of the machine, plastering a grin on his face, and lets his momentum carry him forward a step more than he should. The brown fizzy cola sloshes over the VCR and there’s a flurry of blue sparks and popping sounds.

“Flash!” Lantern barks out, backing away as the VCR sputters and dies. “Now look what you’ve done.”

“Sorry, GL. Just thought I could help get the show on the road.” Wally goes for a sheepish grin, knowing Lantern has a hard time staying mad at him. “Guess I misjudged that last step.”

“Guess you did,” Green Lantern grumbles, and Wally thinks he hears a chuckle from Superman who’s consoling Captain Marvel about the apparent loss of his favourite movie.

Lantern pulls a soggy melted tape out of the VCR and holds it up to the room. “Looks like movie night’s cancelled.” He tosses the tape into the trash can, then dumps the dripping VCR on top of it.

“Total loss,” Lantern mumbles. “And I really wanted to see Old Yeller.”

Flash starts to head back to his seat when a firm hand on his shoulder stops him. He looks up into Superman’s clear blue eyes.

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” he says. “No one was hurt, and that’s the important thing.” He gives Wally a knowing smile and a nod, and Wally stands a little taller as he makes his way towards the back. He knows he shouldn’t be surprised to find Batman gone, but he can’t help but feel disappointed. The sounds of easy chatter and good-natured complaining fade as he heads into the hallway.

Wally has no idea where Batman’s rooms actually are on the Watchtower. He’s never been to them, isn’t even sure Bruce uses them for anything in particular. Spending time on the Watchtower has never been one of Bats’ things. Wally thinks maybe he should just head for the hangar, figuring Batman’s probably already leaving the station. He’s about to turn around when a flutter of black cape stops him.

“Bats?” he calls, rounding the next corner, almost colliding with the figure in the shadows.


Wally stares at him and doesn’t know what to say. He wants to ask if Bruce is all right, if there’s anything Wally can do, but he remembers this is Batman he’s talking to and suddenly he feels foolish.

“Um, I just wanted to—I mean, I thought you might be—um—”

“I’m fine, Flash,” Batman says, but there’s still something in his voice that tells Wally otherwise. It probably wouldn’t be prudent to point out he thinks Bruce is lying his ass off, but Wally figures he’ll take that chance. There have to be some advantages to having known Bruce so long.

“No, you’re not,” Wally says, and Bruce looks at him with surprise. “You’re not a complete mystery to everyone up here, you know? You’re upset, and I—I’d like to help.”

“There’s nothing you can do.”

It’s more of a concession than Wally expected, and he reaches out to grab Bruce’s arm as he turns away.


“It’s not your fault. I should’ve recognized--” Bruce thinks for a moment. “--my own limitations.”

He pulls away and disappears down the hall, boots making soft sounds against the tile floor. Wally watches him go, and wishes he could tell him not to be so hard on himself. But he knows deep down, Bats isn’t ready to let anyone in.

Wally turns in the opposite direction and starts to run.

He runs until he’s damp with sweat and all thoughts of Bruce have leaked out of his pores. He falls into bed exhausted and doesn’t dream.


Wally spends the night on the Watchtower. He doesn’t do it very often because he never sleeps as well here. He wakes up with a sore neck and a craving for pancakes.

He carries his tray across the cafeteria and finds a seat with the new kid, Captain Marvel, who’s grinning up at him with the kind of exuberance only a ten-year-old can have.

“Hey, Marvel, what’s up?” Flash asks. “You smile any bigger and you’re going to crack your face.”

“I really wanted to see the movie last night.” Wally feels a momentary pang of guilt, but the kid’s smile doesn’t slip one bit. He pushes a cardboard box towards Wally. “It wasn’t your fault, Flash. J’onn said I had a package delivered by courier, and look …”

Wally slides open the top of the box and sees brand new video and DVD editions of The Mark of Zorro, starring Douglas Fairbanks.

“That’s really nice,” Flash says, pushing the box back across the table. He wonders what Amazon charges to deliver to the moon overnight. Bruce must’ve figured it was worth it, and judging from the smile on Captain Marvel’s face, Wally has to agree.

The kid’s looking at him, and then be blurts out, “Was it you? I mean, you didn’t have to, if it was you. The thing with the tape was an accident, but it was really nice—”

“I can’t take the credit,” Flash says grinning. He’d like to tell him exactly who to thank, if only for the experience of seeing this grinning ten-year-old-in-a-man’s-body try to hug Batman, but Flash decides to let this one slide. “Just consider it your lucky day,” Wally says, and listens to Captain Marvel launch into an excited summary of the movie they didn’t get to see.

He smiles and listens while he eats his pancakes, and wonders if Batman’s still on the Watchtower.


Wally checks the monitor room, the gym, and all the hangars. He talks to Wonder Woman, J’onn, and Green Lantern—none of them has seen Batman all morning. Wally’s pretty sure they don’t even remember he was at the ill-fated movie night.

Superman doesn’t complain when Wally wakes him up to see if he knows where Bats has disappeared to. Nightwing gives him an odd look on the video interface, but says he hasn’t seen Batman for a few days, and immediately wants to know what’s wrong. Wally’s known Dick too long to lie about it, but he tells him just enough to reassure him he doesn’t think Bruce is in danger or injured. Emotionally bruised isn’t something either of them seems to be able to help him with, so Wally doesn’t quite see the point in bringing it up. He decides against calling Alfred, knowing he’ll just cause him to worry.

Wally makes one more quick jog around the station without finding Bruce, and decides maybe it’s time to give up and head back to Central City. He stops in front of his door when he notices a small package sitting there.

The corridor is empty except for Flash and the package. He picks it up carefully and puts it to his ear. It doesn’t appear to be ticking, and he can hear the Styrofoam slide of packing peanuts inside. The box looks like it was hastily, but precisely, cut open and resealed. Wally shrugs and carries it inside his room with him. He tugs off the mask and tosses it onto the table among the stacks of books and candy wrappers. It catches on the top of the green Battle-Bot and stays there, hanging limp as a flag on a calm day.

The bed creaks as Wally flops down and tears into the box. There’s a copy of Flash Gordon on DVD and a note. Wally grins, and shakes his head. Sometimes he forgets Bruce pays attention to everything, all the time. The man’s a genius with a photographic memory, and Wally’s been in awe of him since he was a kid. He opens the pale blue stationery and reads:

“Thank you. – B.”

“You’re a man of few words, Bats,” Wally says to the empty room, and tucks the note inside the DVD case. Maybe he’ll be able to convince Bruce to watch Flash Gordon with him. Sometime when there’s no Justice League, no international crisis, no need for masks.

Maybe he’ll even get Bruce to sit close to him in the dark and share his popcorn.

Stranger things have happened.


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