Reed tilted his head to the side and looked at the man sitting across the narrow table from him. "Fred Flintstone was your childhood hero?" That was not an expected answer.
The guy--a nice looking man who appeared to be just over thirty and not obviously insane--shook his head and grinned. "That's not what you asked," he pointed out. "You asked me who I wanted to be when I was a kid."
Reed nodded absently. It was true; he had asked the question that way. That was how it was written on the index card, and he'd taken the question from the list of suggestions. He'd just interpreted it differently, he supposed, but so had the other people he'd asked. Most of the answers had been actual comic book superheroes or heroic figures from movies or books. Reed hadn't thought that speed dating would have nuances, but there he was. Nuanced. "So, Fred Flintstone."
"Uh-huh." The grin was back, flashing straight, white teeth at him. It was a pretty fantastic smile; Reed couldn't deny that at all. His current date for five minutes was toned and fit and completely fine in all the ways Reed liked. He seemed to be a few year older than Reed, but not too old, and he looked healthy and happy, his brown hair short and his eyes bright. The last guy had been half drunk, and Reed had willed that five minutes to be over like he hadn't wished for anything in a long, long time.
"You know," Reed said thoughtfully, "I think I've heard that one before, Jack." He had. He knew he had; there was a little tickle of deja vu going on at the back of his mind. Something to do with laughing a lot, so hard it hurt his sides.
"Nah. I've been saying it for years and no one's ever heard it before." He winked at Reed, which was usually something Reed loathed because it often came off as smarmy, but from Jack it merely seemed self-deprecating, like he was letting Reed know that Fred Flintstone wasn't terribly original at all and he knew it, too. "I used to come home from school at lunchtime and there he'd be, on my TV while I ate a tuna sandwich or soup or macaroni and cheese."
Something to do with boys--a lot of boys. High school? Close. Not right, though. Reed remembered sun in his eyes and his hair long enough to be in his mouth when the wind blew it. That had been years and years ago.
"Every single day, Fred would be messing up and lying to cover his butt, and every single day his pet dinosaur still loved him so much he bowled Fred over at the door. His wife still let him think he was in charge, even though we all knew Wilma was way too smart for Freddy, and he still got those scary big ribs for dinner."
Summertime. Summer job? The summer he had worked packing groceries at the market. No. Reed studied Jack's face. He didn't look overly familiar, and he didn't sound it, either. His face was nice enough, but didn't have any scars or anything that Reed would have remembered, and his voice was normal and average.
Reed had been younger. A lot younger. Besides, he'd ditched the long hair for that job, specifically, so he had to have met Jack before then.
"He was leading a charmed life, and even getting himself into messes by lying, by being a misogynistic jerk, by trying to take the easy way through life didn't slow him down or inflict a lasting trauma. So, I wanted to be Fred." Jack finished up with a satisfied smile and sat back, one hand flat on the table next to his drink.
"Have we met before?" Reed blurted. "I know I've heard that whole story, front to back."
Jack stopped grinning and peered across the table at him, his head cocked to one side, mirroring the way Reed had looked at him. "I don't think so," he said slowly. The grin came back. "And I'm very sure I'd remember you if we hooked up."
Reed smiled back at him, acknowledging the compliment. "It was summer and we were young. I thought maybe a summer job?"
"I was usually at camp in the summers during high school, and I want to college out of state--" Jack's eyes went a little wide. "Camp Silver Pines?"