A/N: This was written as part of a gift exchange with Sidekickheroisms and HaleyKim. I wrote this for Sidekickheroisms using the following prompt:
"While Bruce is on a business trip, Dick gets held hostage along with a few other kids from his school. The people responsible have brought a camera and the event is aired live on television, and Wally rushes to the rescue and forces himself into the situation. He goes as Kid Flash, so for the sake of the cameras, he has to play the part, just like Dick has to play the role of helpless rich kid. This means Wally has to pretend he doesn't know and care for Dick personally, which may become a problem as things progress."
Incidentally, Sidekickheroisms wrote a wonderfully dark story for me called Priorities. Daddybats fans should totally check it out. :)
"I'm intrigued by fanatics – people who are seduced by the promise, or the illusion, of the absolute." Jon Krakauer.
Wally flicked idly through the television channels. "Boring. Boring. Seen it. Hate it. Chick flick. Snoresville. Lame. Boring. Boring. Wait– Definitely not!"
He sighed. Saturday afternoon and he was bored? There was something so wrong with this picture. But it wasn't like it was his fault that he was stuck in the house waiting for his best pal to get here from his stupid mathlete's thingy, or that there was nothing to do. There wasn't even anything good on TV!
Wally sighed again. This wouldn't have been a problem if Bruce had just let him meet Dick in the city. But nooooooooooo! His whole keeping-identities-secret thing meant lots of sneaking around so people wouldn't see Dick Grayson with some random Central City teenager, thereby connecting them to Robin and Kid Flash.
Wally snorted. Like anyone even paid that much attention to these things! Bruce was just being paranoid.
A thought struck him. Bruce was also in Japan. Kind of hard to know what someone was up to when you were halfway around the world. He'd never know if Wally–
Who was he kidding? This was Bruce Wayne, freaking Batman! Of course he'd know.
He slumped back against the armchair and rested his head in his hand as he continued to flick through the channels. He was really looking forward to having Dick spend the night – Bruce rarely allowed that to happen – but it bugged him that the billionaire wanted Dick in Robin civvies before they went anywhere together, because Bruce also insisted that Dick change at Wally's house, which meant that Wally had to wait here.
The teenager thought it was pretty pointless. Once Dick changed out of his school uniform and into regular clothes, all he would have to do was muss his hair up and throw on a pair of shades. He didn't have to come here to do that. But Bruce refused to allow Dick to change at the venue because what if someone saw?
Wally rolled his eyes. Right. Because a teenager messing up his hair and putting on sunglasses equals Robin the Boy Wonder. Talk about par-a-noia!
While surfing the channels, his aunt appeared on screen, but his speed had him flicking past before he even realized she was on, and he had to back-flick furiously before finding her again.
"…attempting to set up a line of communication," Iris was saying. "Police have confirmed that gunfire was heard when the men first forced their way into the theatre, but have been unable to confirm if anyone was injured."
The camera zoomed in on a familiar building somewhere behind Iris and Wally frowned. Was that the Merrill Theatre? His heart began to beat faster. Wasn't that where Dick's math thing was being held?
He sat up straighter and stared at the screen. There was a blockade around the building where several police officers were forcefully keeping bystanders back. Snipers were visible on the roofs of the buildings beside the theatre. Wally swallowed. Okay, crap. What was going on?
The camera panned back to Iris, who had her hand to her ear, obviously listening to someone relaying information. "We have just received word that two schools, Merrymont Preparatory and Gotham Academy, were participating in a mathematics tournament at the time the men entered the building. The students are still unaccounted for, leading police to believe they are among the hostages."
Wally felt his heart plummet as he sat, frozen, with the remote in his hand. Who in the heck would hijack a theatre with a bunch of mathletes inside it?
Iris was looking grim. "We return now to studio where broadcasters have received footage from inside the theatre."
Wally's heart started to thump as the screen cut to what looked like the inside of a large, communal dressing room. A camera panned around the room to reveal several people sitting on the floor, their backs to the wall and their hands bound behind them. The hostages consisted of a few adults and several teenagers in school uniforms: Wally recognized the blue blazers of Gotham Academy and assumed the red ones were Merrymont Prep. Five masked gunmen stood at various points around the room, keeping watch over their cowering hostages.
Wally's eyes searched anxiously for Dick, but could see no sign of his friend. He gulped when he remembered there had been reports of gunfire, and prayed that his friend had used his skills to slip away.
A tall, thin man stepped out from behind the camera and into the centre of the room. The camera immediately focused on him. His face was also hidden behind a mask, but Wally could see his eyes. They were stone-cold grey.
"Now that I have your attention," the man began, speaking slowly in a voice that had the vaguest hint of an accent. "I will not keep you in suspense as to our purpose."
He started to circle the room, looking at various hostages as he did so. None of them were able to meet his eyes. "We live in a world where most of its people reside in direst poverty, while the world's wealth is distributed amongst a privileged few. This is a grave injustice that my disciples and I have sworn to rectify. And while the world may at first view us as fanatics or terrorists, they will believe in our cause once they understand the Utopia we are trying to achieve."
Wally scowled. Great. Zealots. They were up there with psychopaths on the unreasonable scale!
The man onscreen stopped circling the room and faced the camera again. "You may wonder why we are here in some random little theatre. After all, what could it possibly hold that would help further our cause?" He paused before answering his own question. "It holds that which is most precious to some of those privileged few."
The camera swung away to focus on the students while he continued to speak. "Gotham Academy and Merrymont Preparatory are two of the most exclusive schools in North America. Among their students are the children of some of the wealthiest men in the country. Take this little lady for example…" The masked man appeared in the frame again as he walked over to a dark-haired girl in a red blazer, where he placed his hand on her head. The girl was crying as she cringed away from him. "Meet Amelia Ortega, daughter of Carlos Ortega, CEO of the Iridex Group." The man turned to the blond boy on the other side of Amelia. "And this is Owen Ellison, son of Jonathan Ellison, owner of the Bevco Corporation."
The boy stiffened when the man patted him on the shoulder, and Wally watched with baited breath as the man moved over to the Gotham Academy students. "And here we have Joseph Kane," the man continued, gesturing towards a heavyset, red-haired boy who was pale and sweating. "Joseph is the son of Victor Kane, co-owner of Kotech Industries. Incidentally, at sixteen, Joseph is also the oldest student here."
Wally knew what the man was doing; playing up the students' ages so that SWAT would be reluctant to rush in. But he needn't have bothered. The students he had just mentioned were from some of the most powerful and privileged families in America, and Wally had no doubt that phones were already ringing somewhere to make sure that no risks were taken with their lives.
He refocused on the television, where the man was once more looking directly into the camera. "And that brings us to our youngest student, who is thirteen."
An icy chill of foreboding seized hold of Wally as the masked man walked behind the camera while the lens followed him slowly. Behind the camera was yet another gunman, and Wally let out a small moan when he saw who he was holding.
The man had one beefy arm wrapped around Dick, while his other hand clutched a handgun. A handgun that had been shoved all the way into Dick's mouth and down his throat. Wally cringed in horrified sympathy because that looked like it hurt. Dick's eyes were scrunched shut and he was gagging slightly around the barrel of the gun.
The man who had been doing all the talking gestured to the dark-haired boy. "This is Richard Grayson, the only child of Bruce Wayne, Owner and CEO of Wayne Enterprises. Mr. Wayne," the man literally spat his name, "is one of the richest men in the world with an estimated net worth of forty-four billion dollars."
Wally felt a little like he'd been sucker-punched. He knew Bruce was rich but…forty-four billion?! Jeez, no wonder Batman provided the Justice League with most of its equipment.
"I have given you the names of only four children. But that does not mean that the other students do not have important or powerful parents, because they do. And I speak now to the parents of all the children here." The man paused for a moment, his eyes boring into the camera. "We have here the only thing that your money cannot replace – your children. But your money can buy their lives."
He paused and smiled before continuing. "You will be the innovators whose actions pave the way for a new future by liquidating every single asset that you have. You will then use the entire proceeds to start changing the unfair balance of wealth and power that this world so pathetically propagates. And the first way in which you will do this is by clearing all Latin American countries and the poorest African countries of their external debt."
The man paused, probably to let his demands sink in, and Wally took the moment to gawp as he tried to reflect on what had just been said. He was no economist, but he had a feeling that liquidating some of the world's most powerful corporations like that would cripple the global economy! Not to mention that the sheer ambitiousness of the plan was mind-boggling. Did this guy even realize the length of time something like that would take to accomplish? Was he planning on staying in that room with his hostages the entire time?
Wally wanted to tear his hair out. This guy sounded like he knew what he was talking about, but Wally was willing to bet that he didn't have a clue! He was just some guy who thought he could fix the world's problems by playing Robin Hood.
A zealot and an idealist. There would be no negotiating with someone like that.
He watched as the man reached up and curled his fingers into Dick's hair. "I want to see evidence of our demands being met within the next hour, or we will start executing hostages. And because I am fairly certain that one person does not need forty-four billion dollars and as an extra incentive to Mr. Wayne to do the right thing, Richard here will be the first person that we shoot."
The man holding Dick rammed the barrel of the gun further back into the boy's throat to emphasize the point, and Wally jumped to his feet at the choking noise that Dick made, his fists clenching angrily.
"That is all for now," the man finished, and the screen went black before cutting to a reporter in studio.
Wally barely heard what the woman was saying about attempted police negotiations. His mind was going a million miles an hour as he thought about what he'd just seen. The Flash hadn't arrived yet which meant he was occupied elsewhere, and if it was a Justice League thing, it could be hours before his uncle was even aware of what was happening in Central. And it wasn't like Batman could just show up in Central City. Besides, Bruce was in Japan so there was no way he could get back–
Wally sucked in a breath as it hit him; Japan was fourteen hours ahead! It was the middle of the night over there so Bruce was probably asleep – because Batman couldn't exactly be seen running around Tokyo – which meant that he might not even know what was happening!
Alfred will call him, Wally reminded himself, and then groaned when he remembered that Alfred had gone to the mathlete thing with Dick because he was supposed to drop Dick off here afterwards! The butler was more than likely among the hostages, and Wally hadn't spotted him because he'd been too busy looking for Dick.
Wally jittered on the spot, debating what to do. He had no number to contact Bruce – heck, he didn't even know what hotel he was staying at! And it wasn't like there was time to track him down. Dick only had an hour.
Less, Wally realized with a jolt of horror. The footage may have just aired, but there was no telling when it had been filmed.
Wally's panic rose to a frenzy. Screw this! He wasn't waiting for Batman or the League – he was Kid Flash and this was his city! He could totally rescue his best friend.
Decision made, Wally zoomed upstairs to change into his uniform.
Wally was downtown at the Merrill Theatre five minutes later, where he was greeted with scenes of utter chaos. Several streets had been closed off, and there were hoards of people trying to get to the theatre. Some of them were obviously frantic parents or loved ones of the hostages, but others were a mixture of voyeuristic idiots and end-of-days type lunatics.
The crazies always bring the crazy.
Wally zipped around them, trying to spot his aunt in the pandemonium, because if anyone could give him more information, it would be her. He spotted the GBS-van up ahead and looped around a large crowd of idiots who had brought banners proclaiming things like "earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed" and "equal division of wealth."
Wally sighed. Seriously. People were buying this shtick?
He skidded to a halt beside the van where Iris was talking with her cameraman. They both jumped as Wally appeared suddenly.
"Um, sorry to bother you Mrs. Allen," said Wally awkwardly, because, boy, did he hate having to address his aunt like she was a stranger. "I saw the footage on TV – can you tell me anything more about what's going on inside?"
She shook her head. "All I know is that they're holed up in a room behind the stage. The room has no windows and there are men watching the door."
"Meaning SWAT can't enter without serious risk to the hostages." Wally exhaled in worried frustration. "Have those guys said anything since their clip was aired?" He cringed as the image flashed in his brain. The very thought of the gun in Dick's mouth left a sour taste in his.
"They're refusing to talk to the police. But they have announced that they will be delivering a live feed soon."
Cold horror flooded his veins. "A live feed! For what?"
"They didn't say." Iris' expression was full of sympathy, making Wally wonder if his uncle had told her who Batman and Robin really were. "Kid Flash, where's Flash?"
"League business. I think."
"You're not planning on going in there alone, are you?" she demanded, and Wally could see worry in her eyes.
"I have to. There's no one else and they're going to kill that kid…what's his name?" Wally played dumb for appearances.
"Richard Grayson," Iris supplied, and there was a definite flash of something on her face.
"Right." Wally bit his lip and stared towards the building.
"Iris," the cameraman spoke up suddenly, his hand to his ear, "the studio says a broadcast is coming out from inside – they're streaming live to some website."
"Bring it up, Denny," she ordered quickly, moving after him to the back of the van and climbing in.
Wally followed, peering into the back of the news van. He watched the cameraman tap in a few keystrokes before an image from the room inside the theatre opened on one of the van's monitors.
"What are they saying?" Wally demanded, scrambling in for a closer look.
"They're not saying anything," Denny replied, his eyes glued to the screen. "They're just standing there."
Wally was chilled by the image. Everyone was in almost the same position as before; the hostages sitting with their backs to the walls and the gunmen standing over them. The only difference was that the man who had done all the talking was now sitting in a chair in the centre of the room, staring calmly into the camera. Beside him stood one of the gunmen – probably the same guy as before – holding Dick tightly, his gun still rammed into the boy's mouth.
Dick's jaw was trembling from the strain and Wally felt sick. Were they going to leave him like that the whole time?
"News channels all over the country are picking this up," Denny told them, checking one of the other monitors. "It's going out live pretty much everywhere."
"Everywhere?!" Wally squeaked. Great! Like he needed more pressure.
"Do you really think you should do this by yourself?" Iris asked, concern colouring her tone.
"Not a lot of choice," he whispered, the enormity of such responsibility weighing heavily on him. He looked back at Dick's face on the screen; the younger boy's eyes were still scrunched shut and Wally could see his throat moving continually as he tried desperately not to choke on the barrel of the gun.
He tightened his mouth and shook himself. Snap out of it, West! Your best friend is counting on you and he doesn't have a whole lot of time!
Wally looked at his aunt. "I'd better get in there. Thanks for your help, Mrs. Allen."
"You're welcome." She stared at him intently. "Be careful, Kid Flash."
Wally could see that her hands were itching to hug him. He gave her what he hoped was a reassuring grin, before jumping out of the van and racing away. His superspeed got him past the police and their blockade without anyone even seeing him; he just hoped he'd be as lucky once he was inside the building.
The front door of the theatre was open and Wally zoomed right in. His luck held out; there was no one in the lobby to see his entry. Knowing the hostages were being held behind the stage, he headed straight for the main auditorium where he was greeted with his first hurdle; gunmen were standing watch inside there – one was on the stage while another patrolled the aisles, forcing Wally to duck down amongst the rows closest to the back.
Crap. What now?
He didn't exactly have a plan. He was just charging in and hoping that he'd figure it out as he went along. Really stellar rescue plan. He could practically hear Robin laughing at him.
Wally chewed on his lip as he thought about what to do. He knew from the television footage that there were eight men in the room with the hostages. That plus the two out here made ten, but he didn't know if there were more. Until he found out otherwise, he would have to assume there were. But for now, his first task would be to get rid of the guys in here without alerting the others behind the stage.
Here goes nothing.
Peeking quickly over the back of a chair to check exactly where each man was standing, Wally crossed his fingers and zoomed out. Heading for the man patrolling the aisle first, Wally snatched his gun from him and smashed him across the head with it. The man crumpled to the floor without ever knowing he was there.
The man on stage turned towards the source of the noise and Wally put on an extra burst of speed, reaching him as comprehension rolled across his face. Still clutching the gun of the first man, Wally leveraged it as hard as he could into this man's face and he stumbled back with a slight, "Urgh!"
Wally quickly clubbed the butt of the gun against his skull, watching somewhat shocked as the man fell face-first onto the stage. That had been easier than expected.
Don't get cocky! he reminded himself.
He removed the men's weapons and zipped back out to the foyer where he quickly stashed the guns in the cloakroom. It was a terrible hiding place, but he didn't exactly have time to come up with a better one.
Heart pounding, he raced back into the auditorium and up onto the stage. Moving as quietly as he could into the wings, he had to be very careful not to trip over the many props littering the area – he was known for being slightly klutzy at the best of times. Peeking around what looked like a sarcophagus, he spied two men standing guard outside a door.
Shoot! He bit his lip in frustration. There was absolutely no way he could take out those guys without making noise, and that would alert the men in the room beyond that he was here. And even if he could take them out without making noise, what then? There was no way he was making it into that room, not without revealing himself.
Wally bit his lip. Dude, you so didn't think this out. This has to be the worst rescue in the history of ever!
But he couldn't exactly back out now; his best friend, along with every other hostage in that room, was counting on him. Taking a deep breath, Wally ran at the two men on guard and smashed their heads together, quickly relieving them of their guns as they toppled to the floor.
Zipping over to the sarcophagus, he hurriedly pulled it open and dropped the guns inside, before darting back to the door just as a voice called out, "What's going on out there?"
Wally swallowed. He recognised that voice from the TV – it was the guy who'd been doing all the talking. The one who seemed to be in charge.
"Whoever is out there, I'm giving you three seconds to answer or I'll kill a hostage. One. Two–"
"NO!" Wally shrieked.
"Who are you and where are my men?" the man demanded at once.
"I'm Kid Flash. And your men are…um, sleeping on the job."
The man took a moment to respond. "Kid Flash. You are one of Central City's heroes, correct?"
"Um…yeah," said Wally hesitantly, wondering where he was going with this.
"Then we are on the same side. We both fight for justice. We serve the people."
Wally goggled at the door, because was this guy for real?! He was holding a room full of innocent people hostage!
"Do you not agree, Kid Flash?" the man called, when Wally didn't answer.
Ah, no. But something told him that disagreeing with this man would be a bad idea. "I'm just a little bit confused. You're holding a lot of people hostage in there."
"All to serve the greater good, I assure you. We cannot achieve our aim of an equal world without making some sacrifices."
Wally jerked. No! No sacrifices! "I'm not sure if sacrificing innocent people is the best way to gain support for your cause."
"Who said we would be sacrificing innocent people?"
Okay. Wally really didn't like how that sounded. "You did. On the news. You said you were going to shoot one of the hostages."
"I did. I said I would shoot Richard Grayson."
"But," Wally swallowed, "isn't he an innocent person?"
"You think he is innocent?"
Wally had to slap his hands over his mouth to hide the strangled noise that escaped because it sounded like this man considered Dick to be anything but. "Well, sure. He's just a kid," he managed to get out.
Dick was so going to rip him a new one for that comment later.
"Aren't you just a child?" the man countered. "Yet, here you are, trying to save lives."
"Yeah, but I have super powers."
"True," the man conceded. "But aren't there other child heroes who do not have powers? Robin the Boy Wonder, for example."
Wally's eyes widened. They were on dangerous ground here and this was going out live. He would need to tread very carefully. "Yeah. But I don't see what that has to do with Dick Grayson."
The words were no sooner out of his mouth when Wally wanted to smack himself. It was Dick to his friends and Richard to the public! He would have to watch that.
Fortunately, the man didn't seem to have noticed. "It proves that childhood is not necessarily a prerequisite for innocence if children can put themselves at risk for others."
Wally had no answer to that.
"So, do you still think Richard Grayson is innocent?"
Wally didn't hesitate. "Yes! He hasn't done anything wrong."
"He hasn't done anything wrong yet," the man corrected. "But that does not mean that he won't. The boy is learning nothing but gluttony and excess from his guardian, a man who fills his life with women and fast cars, who does nothing but party while people around the world starve!"
"Doesn't Mr. Wayne give millions to charity each year?" asked Wally, trying to keep the anger out of his voice. Remember the camera.
The man snorted derisively. "Small change to a man like him. Donating millions is enough to make him look like a philanthropist, but not enough to make a real difference. And this boy will end up being just as useless as Wayne. Actually, he already is; all that money and he still does nothing to improve the lives of others."
There was a choking noise behind the door that sounded suspiciously like Dick. Wally guessed they had jammed the gun into his throat again, and he had to really fight to keep his temper under control.
Camera. Camera. Cameracameracamera, he chanted to himself, because they were hurting his friend and saying things about him to the world that were just not true! Dick was so far from useless… He was a hero for crying out loud!
Wally clenched his jaw and forced himself to calm down. He couldn't flip out. He couldn't afford to let them know that he cared about Dick as anything other than a hostage. Doing something that marked Dick as special might reveal his secret identity. And outing him as Robin on national television would be the same as signing his death sentence.
Wally bit his lip. He had to let this guy believe that Dick was just a helpless rich kid, while Dick had no choice but to play the helpless rich kid. He wouldn't be able to do anything even remotely Robin-ish to help Wally if he entered that room. This rescue would be entirely on Wally.
And that thought didn't terrify him at all.
"You've gone very quiet, Kid Flash," the man said, an annoyed edge to his voice. "I hope you're not considering doing something stupid?"
Wally gritted his teeth. This guy wasn't one to talk about stupid. Biting back the sarcastic retort that rose to the tip of his tongue, Wally forced friendliness into his tone. "I'm just thinking about what you've said."
"Good! I want people to think. I want people to understand how twisted it is that we allow such a disgusting proliferation of the world's wealth amongst a privileged few."
He sounded angry, and Wally had to wonder at that. Of all the causes that this loon could have taken up, why this? But he didn't dare ask that question. Not when there was a semi-automatic handgun shoved down his best friend's throat.
"You know, you never told me what you were doing here, Kid Flash."
Wally started at the sudden change in topic. "I…uh…"
"I hope you aren't here to try and stop me, not when we're getting along so well."
Getting along so well? Was he freaking kidding him?! This guy wanted to put a bullet down his best friend's throat! "I just want to make sure that no one gets hurt," Wally replied finally. Unless it's you. I'm totally okay with that.
"No one will get hurt as long as my demands are met."
"But you've only given a deadline of one hour. I don't think that's enough time for the parents of those kids to do what you want them to do."
"Wealthy people have the power to do anything."
But nobody has the power to do anything, not even Superman, Wally wanted to protest. He bit his lip again. This man was deranged. It just wasn't possible to do what he wanted within the time frame he had given.
He stared at the closed door feeling utterly helpless. He didn't know what to do. He knew he was fast enough to get in there and disarm the men without any of the hostages being shot, but could he do that and disarm the man shoving a gun down Dick's throat? Dick would pay with his life if he couldn't. And if he rescued Dick first, one or more of the hostages could get shot!
He glanced at his watch and felt the blood in his veins turn to ice. The hour was almost up!
Agonized, he put the palms of both his hands flat against the door and leaned his head against it. What do I do? WhatdoIdo?
"It looks like time is almost up," Wally heard the man announce. "Let us see if the wealthy have done what needs to be done."
Silence fell in the room beyond, but Wally could hear the faint tap tap of a keyboard. His heart began to pound. These men were going to kill Dick once they discovered that their demands hadn't been met!
"Please don't shoot him!" he begged through the door before he could stop himself. "You haven't given them enough time to do anything!"
"How disappointing, Kid Flash," the man's voice came back at him. "It almost sounds as if you feel sorry for this boy."
"I just don't want to see anyone get hurt," Wally ground out slowly. I'm lying. I want to see Superman smash your stupid face in.
"So you keep saying, but you don't seem to be doing an awful lot to stop anyone from being hurt, do you?"
"What can I do?" Man, did it hurt Wally to admit that. "You hold all the cards."
"I do, don't I? Which makes me wonder why none of these children's parents have bothered to comply with my demands. Even Mr. Wayne has done nothing, and you would think that a gun down his only child's throat would be incentive enough for him to do anything."
Wally caught himself before he blurted out that Bruce was in Japan, because Kid Flash wasn't supposed to know stuff like that. "It's like I said already, you just haven't given them enough time to do what you want. If you would just give them a bit more–"
"There will be no more time!" the man snapped. "We gave them a deadline and if we want to prove to the world that we are serious than we must stick to it! The hour is up and our demands haven't been met, therefore Richard Grayson must die."
"NO!" Wally yelled, flinging open the door and darting into the room in his panic. "DON'T SHOOT HIM!"
Inside, he was greeted by the horrific scene of Dick, hands bound behind him, still in the clutches of the man forcing a gun down his throat. The reality was even worse than the image on TV, and it was compounded by the fact that the leader also had a gun pressed to Dick's forehead.
Wally had a feeling that the only reason his friend wasn't dead was because he had startled the men by bursting into the room. "Don't shoot him!" he begged again.
The leader looked furious. "Kid Flash, I have nothing against heroes, but I suggest you leave before you make things worse than they need to be." He clicked off the safety on his gun to emphasize his point.
"If you shoot him, you remove any incentive for Bruce Wayne to do what you want!" Panic made the words tumble out in a rush.
But it seemed to have the desired effect. The man blinked and lowered his weapon slightly. He looked as if such a thought had never even occurred to him, making Wally sick with nerves. If something so obvious had eluded him, then this man had absolutely no clue about the true workings of human nature, making him even more dangerous. After all, how do you negotiate with someone who understands nothing but his own viewpoint?
"Think about it," Wally continued urgently. "You said yourself that Bruce Wayne is one of the richest men in the world. Don't you need his money to help clear all that external debt you're talking about?"
Wally tried to keep his eyes focused on the man while he talked. But it was hard not to keep glancing at Dick; his best friend's eyes had remained closed throughout the whole exchange, and he was gagging around the barrel of the gun, saliva and blood dribbling at the corners of his mouth. He was also shaking, and Wally wondered just how much of that was an act for the cameras.
He swallowed, forcing his eyes back to the leader. He couldn't let his fear for Dick show on his face because of that stupid camera!
"You make a good point, Kid Flash," the man conceded finally. "Maybe I should just shoot one of the other children instead?"
"You'll still end up with the same problem," Wally replied quickly, every nerve in his body stretched to the point of snapping from the effort of keeping calm. "The parents of that child will refuse to help you with your cause. And if you want to achieve your goal of an equal Utopia, then you need everyone on board."
Wally prayed that playing to his cause would prevent him from taking any lives.
Behind the balaclava, he could see the man frown. "There is logic in your argument. But if the parents think I won't kill their children, then what incentive do they have to comply with my demands? None. Therefore, I must provide some motivation."
Before Wally could work out what he meant, the man pressed his gun at a downwards angle against Dick's right shoulder, and fired.
The scream that ripped from Dick's throat sent cold knives of horror through Wally. He moved towards him, but was immediately waved back by the leader.
He watched in helpless anguish as red seeped through the blue of Dick's Gotham Academy blazer. The younger boy gasped and choked around the barrel of the gun, while jerking convulsively in the gunman's grip. And Wally had the nauseating feeling that none of it was an act for the cameras.
"Why did you do that?!" Wally yelled before he could stop himself. "You SHOT him!"
Breathe. Don't flip out. Remember the camera.
"Yes," the man replied calmly. "The parents of these children needed a motivation that would still allow them to comply with our demands and I've just provided them with one."
He looked directly into the camera. "Pay attention, parents. New parameters have been set; for every thirty minutes that our demands are not met, I will deliver a non-fatal gunshot wound to a child. After three hours, I will execute one child at random."
Wally had to bite down hard on his lip to stop himself from screaming at him. The man was ridiculous and unreasonable, and he needed to get Dick out of here! His best friend's eyes were now open and watering at the edges, as he choked out ragged breaths around the gun.
"Kid, don't do anything stupid," the Flash's voice cautioned suddenly, causing Wally to jerk and look around.
There was no one there and Wally's eyes widened. Was the stress of all this causing him to lose his mind? How was he hearing the Flash?
"It's your communicator!" his uncle's voice hissed. "I'm almost there, okay?"
Oh. He'd forgotten about the communicator in his ear. Wally almost went limp with relief when it sank in that his uncle was finally on his way, but straightened hurriedly when he spotted the leader looking at him with narrowed eyes.
"Problem, Kid Flash?"
"W-well…yeah," Wally managed to stutter out. "You've just shot a kid! He needs a hospital."
"He'll see a hospital when Bruce Wayne and the other parents have done what they're told," the leader replied in a cold voice.
Wally's heart thumped harder; that would take far too long and Dick didn't look good. Already his blazer and shirt were stained heavily with blood, and he was sagging in the gunman's grip. His eyes when they met Wally's were dazed and unfocused.
The speedster started to panic again. Dick needed a hospital fast! Wally wasn't sure if he could afford to wait for his uncle.
He was seriously debating throwing caution to the wind and just going for it when the Flash's voice sounded in his ear again. "Kid, I'm here. I'm going to vibrate into the room and take down the men standing guard over the hostages. When I give the signal, I want you to get Dick out of there. Don't worry about me, I have help. Just nod if you understand me."
Wally nodded, feeling weak at the knees.
The leader smiled, misreading Wally's nod. "I'm glad to see that you agree with me, Kid Flash, but I'm afraid I'm still going to have to ask you to leave. I've allowed you far too much liberty as it is."
"This isn't up for debate. Leave now or I will put a bullet in Richard's kneecap."
Oh, crap! Now, Uncle Barry! Please, now.
The Flash's calm voice floated in over the comm-link. "On three, Kid. One. Two. Three!"
Wally had never moved faster in his life. He surged forwards and yanked the gun out of Dick's mouth before smashing his fist into the gunman's jaw. Then he grabbed his half-conscious friend and ran for the exit, all within a three-second window.
The noise of the crowd outside hit him as he tore out of the theatre, but Wally ignored them because Dick was struggling weakly and muttering something that Wally had to strain to hear.
"Dude, relax. The hostages will be fine. Flash and the League are handling it." Wally wasn't sure about the League, but Barry did say he had help.
The next thing Wally knew, Dick had passed out, his head against Wally's chest.
Wally's heart was pounding as he zoomed across Central City. He arrived at County General in under twenty-five seconds, yelling for help as he tore through the doors of the ER.
Several medical staff darted towards him. "What do we have?" asked one of them, guiding Wally towards the nearest trauma room.
"He's been shot and I think the bullet hit something serious! He's bleeding a lot."
They entered the trauma room and one of the doctors gestured for Wally to put Dick on a gurney.
The speedster quickly complied. "Will he be alright?" he demanded, as one of the nurses cut the ropes binding Dick's wrists.
"We won't know anything until–" The doctor stopped speaking and squinted at Wally. "You're Kid Flash! Weren't you involved with the hostage situation at the Merrill?"
Wally blinked. He'd almost forgotten that the whole hostage thing had been going out live. He nodded at the doctor.
"Wait! Does that mean this is Richard Grayson?" one of the female doctors interjected sharply.
Wally nodded again.
With a speed that left him breathless, the doctors switched into high gear, swarming around Dick and shoving Wally out of the way. Shouting things at each other that the teenager barely understood, they worked quickly and efficiently.
Almost chewing a hole through his bottom lip, Wally tried to peer between the bodies surrounding the gurney. He managed to catch a glimpse of Dick on the bed, inhaling quickly when he realized the younger boy was conscious again; his blue eyes were squinting in confusion at the people around him and his mouth was moving soundlessly as he tried to talk.
And then suddenly, Dick was gritting his teeth and arching on the bed, some sort of shrill whine that Wally had never heard him make before rattling out from between his clenched teeth. The monitors started to beep frantically, almost making the older teenager's heart stop.
"Get Dr. Troy," the doctor who had recognized Dick ordered, and one of the nurses scuttled out.
"Is he okay? What's going on?" Wally demanded anxiously, taking a step towards the bed.
Another nurse turned and shunted him back towards the door. "I'm afraid we're going to need you to wait outside, Sir."
"Why? What's going on? Is he alright?"
"I'm sorry, Sir, but you'll have to wait outside," the nurse insisted, giving Wally a gentle push.
Wally opened his mouth to argue, but it was pointless. He was forced into the corridor until the door to the trauma room was closed in his face, leaving him staring at it in helpless fear.
It was an hour before Flash showed up.
"Where were you?" demanded Wally irritably, his nerves totally shattered.
"You mean back at the theatre or now?"
"A bomb went off at a shopping mall in Kansas City and I was helping some other Leaguers with the rescue efforts. I high-tailed it back to Central as soon as I got word of what was happening. Martian Manhunter came with me."
"So he was your help back at the theatre?"
Flash nodded. "After we got the situation back under control and freed the hostages, we helped the police with a little crowd control. That's why it took so long to get here."
"Was anyone else hurt?"
"A security guard was killed when the men first entered the theatre, but there were no other casualties or injuries except for…"
"Dick," Wally finished and sighed. He should have been able to stop this!
His uncle seemed to guess what was bothering him. "It would have been a lot worse if you hadn't shown up when you did. I was watching the feed; you saved his life."
"I still couldn't save him from being shot."
"That doesn't make you responsible. Kid, it's all over the news what you did – the whole of Central City is calling you a hero."
"Yay. Lucky me."
Flash sighed. "How's Dick?"
"I don't know. They took him up to surgery just after I brought him in and I haven't heard anything since."
His uncle glanced around before speaking in a low voice. "Dick's a fighter, Kid. He's going to be just fine."
"I hope so."
"What about you? Are you okay?" asked Flash, putting a hand on Wally's shoulder and eyeing him in concern.
Wally shrugged. He'd be fine once he knew Dick was okay.
"Pardon me," a very proper, English voice interrupted them, "but aren't you the boy who rescued Master Dick?"
Both speedsters turned to find Alfred Pennyworth standing there. Playing along with the charade of pretending to not know each other, Wally nodded.
"I am Alfred Pennyworth, the Wayne family butler. Do you know how Master Dick is? I've only just arrived at the hospital, but I'm afraid nobody can tell me anything on his condition."
"He's in surgery. I don't know anything other than that. Sorry."
"Do not apologize, dear boy. After everything you have done today, that is the last thing you should be doing. Master Bruce and I owe you quite a debt of gratitude for saving Master Dick's life."
Alfred's expression told Wally that wasn't just a line for the sake of anyone listening. "Were you there?" he asked, cringing slightly. He'd been so worried about Dick that he'd completely forgotten about Alfred!
The butler shook his head. "I had stepped out briefly when those men entered the theatre. I watched events unfold on the television with everyone else."
It was clear that the normally unflappable gentleman had been rattled by the day's events: his eyes were tight with worry and his jaw was clenched tightly. Wally placed what he hoped was a comforting hand on his arm.
Alfred smiled and patted the hand. "You must be exhausted after the day's events, young sir. Perhaps you should go home and get some rest?"
"That's a great idea," Flash chimed in. "You need to change out of that uniform, Kiddo."
Wally glanced down at his blood-smeared uniform, and then back up at the two adults. He wasn't stupid: he knew they were trying to get him to leave because they didn't want anyone to look too closely at why he was still here.
But this was one time that Wally wasn't giving into the whole stupid secret identities thing. "I watched Dick get shot right in front of me. I had to carry him here. And this is his blood all over me, so I'm not leaving until I know he's alright!"
Jaw set determinedly and arms folded tight across his chest, Wally sat into the nearest chair and stared at both adults, silently daring them to make him leave.
The two men exchanged a quick look before Flash sighed. "Alright, Kid. We can stay until the doctors have news."
It was almost three hours before a surgeon appeared in the waiting room and called "Richard Grayson," by which time Wally was pretty sure he'd cracked several teeth from the constant nervous clenching of his jaw. All three of them were on their feet the instant they heard Dick's name.
"I'm Dr. Troy," the surgeon introduced himself. He frowned at Alfred. "You aren't Mr. Wayne."
"No, Sir. I am Alfred Pennyworth, the family butler. Master Wayne was in Japan when this travesty occurred. He left Japan as soon as I contacted him, but it will still be several hours before he arrives. However, he would be quite happy for you to release any details pertaining to Master Dick's condition to me."
The surgeon nodded as if satisfied. "Richard is going to be fine. He's in recovery now and we'll move him to a room shortly."
"Oh, thank heavens!" Alfred exclaimed, putting one hand to his heart, while Wally released an audible sigh of relief. "How much damage did he sustain?"
"It was a close contact wound so quite a bit," the surgeon replied. "The bullet shattered his clavicle on the way in and tore a large rip in the subclavian vein. He was very lucky that he was brought in here so quickly because he was hemorrhaging badly. We repaired the damage to the vein, and inserted pins to hold the clavicle in place while it heals. At the moment he's still receiving blood and fluids to counter the blood loss."
"Were you able to retrieve the bullet?" Alfred asked anxiously.
The surgeon nodded. "We were able to remove it while we were repairing the vein."
"Will there be any long-term damage?"
"He'll be tired for a few days, and he'll need to wear a sling for several weeks until his shoulder heals. He may need some physical therapy but other than that, I don't foresee any long-term difficulties."
"Can we see him?" Wally interrupted without thinking.
The surgeon frowned at him. "Aren't you Kid Flash?"
"Yes, he is," Alfred interjected smoothly. "Kid Flash was there when Master Dick was shot, and he was the one who was responsible for getting him here so quickly. As he was rather shaken by what he witnessed, I suggested he stay until we could ascertain that Master Dick would be alright. I imagine trauma is something that even superheroes encounter. Am I correct, Kid Flash?"
"Um, yeah. Absolutely." Wally was mortified at almost outing them. Thank God for Alfred's quick thinking. "I just want to make sure the kid is okay. I'll…you know, sleep better."
"Right." The surgeon stared at Wally for a moment before returning his attention to Alfred. "Well, Mr. Pennyworth, if you have no objections to Kid Flash here seeing Richard, then I have no problem with it."
"I have no objection. Master Wayne and I are both very grateful to Kid Flash for saving Master Dick's life."
"Fair enough." Dr. Troy turned to Kid Flash. "I'll ring up to recovery and let them know that you're coming. You can have three minutes, but no more."
"Yes, Doc. Thank you, Doc!" Without waiting to hear anymore, Wally shot off towards recovery.
When he got upstairs, a very cute nurse was on the phone, nodding as she spoke. "Yes, Sir, I will….Of course….He's here now, Dr. Troy," she added, catching sight of Wally.
Wally was relieved that the surgeon had been so quick to keep his word. It meant he would get to see Dick faster.
"Yes, Dr. Troy. Goodbye." She hung up the phone and smiled at Wally. "Kid Flash, you're here to see Richard Grayson?"
Wally nodded. "I just want to make sure he's okay before I go home."
"Of course. This way, Sir," she cooed, batting her eyelashes at him before moving down the hall.
Uh, what just happened? Wally stared after her. Had she just been…flirting with him? He blinked, and then shook his head before following her. She was older. Of course she wasn't flirting with him.
The nurse stopped outside a darkened room. "This is Mr. Grayson's room. He's just coming out of the sedation so he's a little out of it. See if you can get him to drink some water. The inside of his mouth and throat are cut up pretty badly, and the fluids might help to relieve the discomfort a little."
Wally nodded. "Sure, okay."
"I'll be at the nurses' station if he needs anything." She smiled again and started to walk away, pausing and turning back for a moment. "By the way, I think what you did today was really brave."
Huh?! Wally gawped after her. Was he dreaming or did she really just say that?
Halfway up the corridor, she glanced back over her shoulder and smiled at him, her walk becoming a sashay.
Wally's jaw literally hit his chest. Oh man! WHY is no one here to see this?
He continued to stare after her until she rounded the corner and disappeared, at which point he ducked into the small room. Inside, the blinds were shut and the room was in darkness except for a small light over the bed. Wally moved to stand beside the bed and stared down at his best friend.
Dick was horribly pale. There were cracks at the corners of his mouth and his eyes were closed. A drip was attached to each of his arms; one was delivering blood while the other was obviously some sort of pain medication. A bandage was peeking just above the neck of his hospital gown and Wally shuddered. This one really had been too close.
"Dick?" he ventured softly. He wasn't really expecting a response, so when Dick opened his eyes, he started in surprise before leaning down a little. "Dude, how are you feeling?"
"'m…good," Dick slurred, closing and opening his eyes in one long, slow blink. "Heyyyyy…you're Wall-ly, m'best…bud."
Wally couldn't help but snicker. "Dude, you are so high right now."
"You'rrrre…higher. Alllllll the way up…there." Dick pointed one finger at the speedster.
"Uh. Right." Wally shook his head. He wasn't going to even try getting Dick to drink some water while he was like this. He'd probably choke on it or something. "So, I'm guessing actual conversation is out of the question?"
"The queeeeestion…is in…the question."
Wally snickered. "It totally is." The tension drained from his body in a long sigh when Dick gave him a lopsided smile. Dick was going to be okay. He was really going to be okay. Wally curled one hand loosely around Dick's left hand. "Dude, get some sleep. I'll come back and check on you tomorrow when you're lucid."
Wally chuckled. "You and your words."
Dick's eyelids were drooping. "Wrrrsss…"
Wally squeezed his hand. "I'm really glad you're okay, Man," he whispered, before leaving the room.
Alfred was waiting outside in the hall. "How is he?"
"Pretty out of it," Wally replied. "He's just gone back to sleep."
"That is infinitely better than the alternative." Alfred declared, shaking his head. "Kid Flash, I must thank you again for everything that you did today."
"Just doing my job," said Wally quietly. And he wasn't talking about being a hero; he was talking about looking out for his best friend.
Alfred smiled as if he knew exactly what Wally meant. "Well, Sir, if I may say, you are outstanding at your job."
Wally blinked in surprise. That was serious praise from Alfred. "Uh…thanks." He scratched his head awkwardly. "Guess I'd better be going." Wally would have liked to stay, but he knew way too many questions would be asked. Besides, he could probably spend as much time as he wanted with Dick once he was allowed home. He had a feeling neither Bruce nor Alfred would object.
Alfred nodded his agreement. "I imagine it has been a rather exhausting day. The Flash asked me to tell you that he would be waiting in the hospital lobby."
"Great. Thanks, Mr. Pennyworth. Um…bye?" It was a little awkward for Wally saying goodbye like this. He really hated pretending not to know someone for the sake of a secret identity: Wally had never been good at pretending to be something he wasn't.
"Goodbye, young sir."
Alfred smiled as Wally waved and ran down the corridor. The teenager was starting to feel pretty worn out after the day's events and he was looking forward to just crashing in front of the TV, which was weird since he had started the day by not wanting to watch TV at all.
In the lobby, he spotted his uncle immediately, talking to a security guard. The red of his Flash uniform was like a homing beacon.
Wally zipped over and the Flash smiled at him. "Ready to go, Kid?"
Wally nodded. Was he ever.
"You know, this might take a while," the Flash commented, as they walked towards the door.
"Going home." The Flash pointed through the glass of the front doors to where a mass of news reporters were gathered outside. Barricades had been constructed to keep them out of the hospital and police were manning them to make sure they weren't crossed. Cameras started flashing crazily as the speedsters approached.
Wally groaned. "Aw, man! I don't have to wait for you, do I?"
His uncle smiled. "Oh, you're not the one who's going to be hanging around waiting."
"They're not here for me."
A wall of noise hit them as they walked through the door, and Wally could hear his name being screamed at him by dozens of voices.
"Kid Flash, what does it feel like to be Central's biggest hero right now?"
"What were you thinking while you were negotiating with that man?"
"Was it your idea to delay them until help could arrive?"
"How did you get into the theatre?"
"Can you tell us how you felt after saving Richard Grayson?"
Openmouthed, Wally turned to stare at his uncle.
"You're a hero, Kid," his uncle told him quietly, clapping him on the shoulder. "The whole world saw what you did today. I'm proud–"
A gaggle of screams drowned out the rest of his words and Wally looked over to where hoards of teenage girls were gathered. Some of them were waving banners with things like "I heart Kid Flash" and "Marry me, Kid Flash" on them.
"Looks like quite a fan club, Kiddo!" Flash yelled over the excited screams of the girls.
Yes, it did. A slow smile stretched across Wally's face and he moved towards the reporters. This was going to be awesome!