The first time they went on a date, it was not at all aster. He spilled his spaghetti all over her white blouse and made frequent visits to the men's room to flush out all of the cola he drank during the empty, awkward silences between them. One top of all that, he brought too little money to buy the many buckets of popcorn and drinks while they watched the new Ashton Kutcher romantic comedy. He kept catching this look in her eye, some combination of vexation, amusement and judgment that worried him to no end. She kept that face on until he brought her to the zeta tube of Central City and he leaned in to kiss her and she leaned away; their goodbye was an quick and awkward hug because he sped away as soon as she let go. He didn't expect it to hurt him that much, seeing how disgusted and confused and utterly mortified she was. He was even more hurt by how she didn't even want to kiss him, but he kind of understood; he wouldn't want to kiss him either.

He ran home, silently yelling at himself for being such an idiot and losing his only chance with a girl of her caliber: beautiful, charming, witty, snarky, intelligent, powerful, cunning, strong, and just plain perfect.

His front door shut loudly. He heard his mother calling and asking how his date went and it he wanted some freshly baked cookies, but he didn't care. He just ran up the stairs, skipping steps at a time and slamming and locking his door behind him. He paced, working around the many pieces of empty cartons, boxes and cups he had yet to clean up. He grabbed a pillow off the mighty stack his mother put on his bed to make it look more classy and less like a pig's sty and released the scream he'd been holding in his throat into it. How could he have been so stupid? How did he ruin their first date? He had thought he'd at least make it to the third date before messing it up. She's so resplendent and he was just the most average looking, freckle-faced, ginger nerd who acted too cocky but actually wanted to stick his head in the mud


"Go away, Mom." And she didn't reply.

He drifted off on his bed some time within the next few minutes after replaying the worst scenes of that night; he woke up when loud raps and taps hit his door.

"Hey, Kid, open up or I'm gonna kick the door down."

He screamed at his uncle to leave but he heard a jingle and a muttered "Thanks, Mary," and his door swung open and shut behind Uncle Barry.

"So, what's the problem? Your mom said you shut yourself in your room right after your date with a babe." His uncle sat down on his desk chair, leaning his chest against where most people lean their back.

He really considered not telling his uncle, but remembering all the favors he pulled for him, all the nights his uncle told his mom he was sleeping at their house while he went out to parties he regretting going to the night after; he ended up sitting up and beginning the story of his night and how horrific and like an awful cliché 80's movie it seemed like. His uncle just sat there, occasionally wincing and nodding and stifling a laugh, and he couldn't help but feel more embarrassed and feel his blood rushing to his face.

"And the worst part is that I feel like we could've been something amazing and I just shot myself in the foot and she's this graceful, amazing, beautiful piece of art and I feel like I'm taking these giant scissors and ripping it up! But at other times, I just wanna circle around her and take all her oxygen away in a wormhole so she can stop being such she-devil and harassing me for the littlest thing!" He raised his hands up, unable to understand himself. "Why am I so caught up in this? Why am I so caught up in her?"

"I don't know, Kid, but lemme ask you this." His uncle pointed a finger at him, dramatically. "Do you like her?"

"That's just it! I don't know!" He could hear himself breathing, his chest moving up and down heavily like he himself was struggling to get oxygen. His eyebrows somehow found their way toward each other, and his shaking and callused hands formed fists at his sides. He grunted, pulling at his hair until he was sure it was going to be ripped from his skull. "Uncle Barry, how was your first date with Aunt Iris?"

His uncle rubbed his chin, trying to rack his brain for that day. "Oh yeah! I met her at a crime scene she was covering and I was doing police work at. Using the signature speedster charm, I got her to go with me to that night's carnival. We ate a lot, cotton candy, funnel cakes, popcorn, corndogs, pretzels, and the part that made me the happiest is that she barely complained and ate all the food I got for her. We played carnival games and by the time I walked her home, she had a few new stuffed toys. I kissed her outside her door and it was amazing." His uncle had this glint in his eye, like his whole life began at that point when their lips touched and their fingers laced together. His infatuation with Artemis seemed like such a pathetic excuse for love in comparison to what his uncle and his aunt felt for each other. With their constant bickering and adding insult to injury with a well-timed blow to their bloated egos, he and she were obviously not meant to be like his aunt and uncle were; their relationship had stars crossed for it, and it really didn't seem to be working out. But this ringing in his head just told him that he could never imagine never holding her callused hand again, never seeing her eyes squint when she smiled at him, never pressing those satiny lips against his chapped ones. It seemed like a life without colour, without sight, without living, and he wasn't sure he could give that up. But would he really rather spend his time pining over a girl who was way out of his league than look for a girl who would settle for him?

"Okay, Uncle Barry," he said halfheartedly. The words held no meaning, no vivacity, but his uncle, forever aloof and unconnected with his emotions, stood up, brushed his pants off and asked if he was up for a late night patrol of Central City. He said no, of course. He would much rather stay in his bed, eat some take-out (Chinese, not Italian) and sulk about how much he lost and how much he'd kill to get it back. But, as of that moment, he just slept until his dreams turned into blackness and he didn't remember anything.