Star Sapphire landed on the steps of the JSA Brownstone and punched her security code into the keypad hidden behind a piece of oak molding next to the front door. A click indicated that the code was correct, and the door was now unlocked. As she pushed it open she thought, as usual, that she was the first to arrive.
“Maybe Ma fixed us some brownies,” she said as she headed for the kitchen. Stepping through the doorway, she saw something that both brought tears to her eyes and made her blood boil.
Grant Emerson Pratt looked up and saw who it was, then back at the can of beer sitting on the table in front of him, which he knew was a sore point with her after the last time beer was involved. (*) Seeing that his friend was speechless, he took advantage of what he knew would be his only chance to talk.
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Fear the Dark, Chapter 12: Opening Doors and DC Universe: Fear the Dark, Chapter 13: Superb Squad Away.]
“It’s not what you think, Amanda,” the boy said as he picked up the can and turned it over. “See, it’s not even open.”
This calmed, if not confused, the girl somewhat. “Then why do you have it?” asked Amanda Martin.
“It was in the fridge,” Grant said. “I think it’s Wildcat’s.”
“You didn’t answer my question,” Amanda told him.
“I’ve been looking at it.”
Now, the girl was really becoming confused.
“I won’t lie; I was going to drink it. I thought it might calm my nerves and give me the courage to do something.”
Grant looked at the upside-down can and then back at Amanda. “But, I realized that courage doesn’t come in a can, especially not that can. There’s nothing in there but stupidity.”
Amanda was no longer mad, but the tears were still there. She was so proud of her friend at this moment that she expressed it the only way she knew how; she rounded the table and gave Grant a big hug.
Pulling up a chair, she sat down beside him. “So, tell me,” she said, “what do you need courage for?”
Grant looked at Amanda, a hint of red coloring his cheeks. “Remember the girl from New Year’s Eve that we told you about?” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Air Wave: New Year’s Scream.]
“The girl calling herself Air Wave? Yes. What about her?”
Grant lowered his voice, even though they were the only two in the building, “Well, I’ve been thinking about her… a lot.”
“And…?” Amanda was pretty sure she knew where this was going.
“And… I want to ask her out.”
“Ask who out?” both Whiz Kid and Superboy asked as the after-images of their super-speed race began to fade.
Grant groaned and put his head down on the table.
Amanda glanced at John Garrick, then at the beer can. He got the hint and put it back in the refrigerator. “Air Wave,” she said in response to the two boys’ question.
“Oh, that’s the girl we met New Year’s Eve,” Mina Curry said as she entered the kitchen. “Are we going to ask her to join?”
“That’s one of the things we were going to discuss,” Batwing said, coming in behind Mina, “but, judging from Grant’s expression, I’d say that Air Wave is being mentioned for other reasons.”
“Aw, man,” Grant said as he looked at the growing number of costumed teens. “Who else is going to show up?” He groaned again and put his head back down on the table.
Amanda patted him on the back and began to explain his situation to his friends.
“So, what are you waiting for?” Cal Kent asked. “Call her.”
“Does he have her phone number?” Mina asked.
“He sure does,” John said. “I saw her slip it to him after the Scream incident.”
“Man, that was over a month ago,” Jason Todd said. “She’s probably wondering why you haven’t called.”
Amanda gave Grant a wink as he looked up. “You know, Valentine’s Day is next week, and that would make a romantic first date.”
“And you realize, of course,” Jason said with a grin, “that we aren’t going to start the meeting until you make the call.”
John started the chant “Call her,” and immediately the rest joined in.
“OK, OK.” Grant tried to sound annoyed with his friends, but his smile gave him away.
Everyone fell silent as he walked over to the phone on the wall, picked it up, and began to dial. When he heard the ringing, he turned around and found himself to be the center of attention.
“Geez. How about some privacy?”
In no time, he was alone.
“Hello?” It was Ilyssa.
“Who is this?” she asked.
“Dam… no, I mean Damage. Grant. Grant Emer… no, Pratt. It’s Grant Pratt.”
“Grant Pratt. Hmm. That name does sound familiar,” Ilyssa Jordan said. “Oh, wait. I gave my number to a really cute boy over a month ago. I think his name was Grant.”
“I’m sorry for bothering you,” Grant said as he started to hang up.
Ilyssa sensed what he was about to do, so she figured he had suffered enough. At least for now. “Don’t you dare hang up on me.”
“But, I thought you didn’t want to talk to me,” Grant said.
“Are you kidding?” she asked. “I’ve been waiting for you to call ever since I gave you my number. What took you so long?”
“So, what did you want?”
Grant swallowed. This was the big moment, and he was sure he was going to blow it. “I, uh, was wondering… well, there’s this Valentine’s Day dance at school, and, uh…”
“Are you asking me out on a date?” Ilyssa asked, trying to keep her own excitement under control.
“Uh, yeah. Yes, yes I am.”
“Hang on a second.”
In Portland, Maine, Ilyssa Jordan put the phone down and ran into the room where her grandfather was watching television. “Grandpa! It’s him! He’s finally called!”
Larry Jordan didn’t have to ask who he was. Every day since their trip to New York City for the New Year’s Eve party, he was all she talked about. How his granddaughter found out so much about the boy in such a short time was beyond him. “Oh, you mean that Pratt boy? What does he want?”
“He’s wants me to go to a Valentine’s Day dance with him!” Ilyssa squealed. “Can I? Please? Pretty please?” She threw her arms around the old man and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
Larry knew that this day was coming. He didn’t know when, but he knew soon. Larry had worked with Grant’s father, Al Pratt, back during the war and knew the Atom to be a fine man. He had even gone so far as to talk to Superman about the boy, and the young man had received a good recommendation from the Man of Steel.
“I guess, but I want to meet him first.”
Ilyssa went wild. Between the kisses and the many “thank yous,” Larry told her to tell the boy that he would be in touch with him in the next day or so.
The girl ran back to the phone and tried to regain her composure.
“Grant? Are you still there?”
“Yes,” Grant said, his heart racing.
“I guess so,” Ilyssa told him. “Call me later, and we’ll make the arrangements.”
Grant was so excited, that it wouldn’t be until later that his mind registered the rest of what Ilyssa said.
They told each other goodbye and hung up.
“She said yes!” echoed through the brownstone, causing Grant’s friends to share a round of high-fives.
“Geez,” Grant said as he tried to find the socks that matched his suit. “You’d think we’re getting married instead of just going on a date.”
Cal was stretched out on Grant’s bed reading a comic, while John kept moving Grant’s missing socks at super-speed. It was their way of showing their support.
“You’re a JSA kid,” John said as he put the socks back in the first place Grant had looked. “That means everything you do is a big deal.”
“We are kind of clannish, aren’t we?” Al Pratt said as he pushed the door open and stuck his head in. “Hello, boys.”
“Hello, sir,” Cal said.
“Hey, come on,” Al said, smiling. “You know you don’t have to call me sir. Al is fine, or Uncle Al, if you want.”
“OK, I’ll remember that,” Cal said.
“Hey, boy o’ mine. I just wanted to let you know that Ilyssa and Larry are here.”
“Thanks, Dad,” Grant said. “I’ll be down in a second.”
Al closed the door and went back downstairs.
“That was pretty cool of Dick Grayson sending one of the Wayne Foundation private jets to Maine to pick them up,” John said.
“That’s nothing,” Grant said. “Diana Trevor showed up earlier with a package under her arm and offered to help Mom do Ilyssa’s hair.”
“Man,” Cal said as he stood up. “I see what you mean. When one of us really does get married, I bet it’ll be a shindig and a half.”
As the boys started toward the door, the room suddenly went black, despite the fact that it was only 3:00 P.M., and fog seemed to seep from the walls. A booming voice that came from everywhere and nowhere filled the room.
“There is a great injustice here.”
Slowly, the three boys turned around to find the Spectre floating in the middle of the room.
“Oh, crap,” Grant whimpered.
The Spectre’s face showed no emotion as he reached into the shadowy folds of his cloak and withdrew a box. “Open it,” he said as he handed it to Grant.
There were very few people in the world who would tell the Spectre no, but none of them were currently in this room. Grant did as he was told.
He wasn’t sure what he would find, but he wasn’t expecting what he found. Grant looked at the box’s contents, then back at the Spectre.
“Wow,” was all he could say.
“I assume it is still customary for a young gentleman to present a corsage to the young lady he is attempting to… woo,” the Spectre said.
Cal clamped his hand over his mouth, hoping the Spectre didn’t notice he was trying to stifle his laughter.
“Yes, sir,” Grant said, “but this is incredible.”
“It comes from a world where all plant life is crystalline. Feel free to touch it.”
The boy lifted the corsage from the box to show his friends. It did, indeed, feel like the orchid it so much resembled. The Spectre moved just enough for a shaft of sunlight to strike the flower; the result was nothing short of amazing. Colors began to dance across the petals like a liquid rainbow.
When the boys looked up, the Spectre was gone.
Grant called his name a couple of times. “Spectre? Spectre? Thank you.”
After a moment of silence with no answer, Cal began to laugh. “Guys, I can’t believe I heard the Spectre use the word ‘woo.'”
John spoke up. “I guess he really is starting to get back in touch with his human side.”
By the time the boys got downstairs, Mary Pratt and Diana Trevor had already whisked Ilyssa Jordan away to the Pratts’ bedroom.
“You just wouldn’t believe how many times Grant has stopped and just stared at the telephone,” Mary Pratt was saying as she led Ilyssa Jordan and Diana Trevor into her and Al’s bedroom. “His father thought he had gone off the deep end, but I suspected it might have something to do with a girl.”
“And for Grant to find one of such beauty,” added Diana, alias Wonder Woman. “It’s a shame he waited so long to call you.”
“Thank you,” Ilyssa said, hoping her cheeks were as red as they felt. “Would you believe he almost hung up on me when he finally did call?”
Both women laughed.
“Thank you so much for offering to help me get ready,” Ilyssa told Mary and Diana.
“Think nothing of it, dear,” Mary replied. “I just couldn’t picture your grandfather being of much help to you.”
“No, I guess not.”
“Let’s see your dress,” Diana spoke up.
The girl retrieved a garment bag from the bed and unzipped it. Removing her dress, she held it up for the two women to see. Black and strapless, the full-length dress had a pattern of black, sequin roses climbing from the hem up her left side; it was split up to her thigh on the right side.
“Very elegant,” both women agreed.
“Before you change into that,” Diana said, “may I show you something?”
“Of course,” Ilyssa told her.
Diana began to unwrap the package she had brought with her. As she lifted the lid, both Mary’s and Ilyssa’s mouths dropped open.
“It… it’s gorgeous,” Ilyssa stammered. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“I would be surprised if you had,” Diana said, smiling. “This was made by Aphrodite herself.”
Ilyssa was speechless.
Diana continued. “Every so often, the goddess will look down from Olympus and take a special interest in young lovers. She is especially fond of the custom of first dates, when everything is fresh and new.”
Ilyssa wasn’t sure if she completely believed what she was being told or not, but who cared? Wonder Woman was offering her the most beautiful gown in the world.
“And this is for me?” she asked.
“Of course it is.”
“Oh, wow. Thank you,” the girl said as she threw her arms around the Amazon and gave her a hug. Then she turned to Mary and gave her a hug as well. “Thank you both.”
“Now, into the bathroom, and let’s get that hair washed so we can start getting you ready,” Mary said. “We’ve only got a couple of hours until the dance.”