FOR MY FRIEND
By C.W. Blaine (firstname.lastname@example.org)
My name is Wally West and I'm the Fastest Man Alive. I'm also called the Flash.
One of the great things about being me isn't just the ability to move faster than thought is I get to hang out with the coolest guys in the universe. As a member of the JLA, I get to work beside Superman, probably the greatest hero of all. I've worked with Hal Jordan, the greatest Green Lantern and the most honorable man of all, Barry Allen, my uncle and the second Flash, trained me.
But, the best part is I have a best friend that I wouldn't trade for anything. He's my bro, if you know what I mean. We've been friends since we were teenagers, back when we formed the Teen Titans. He's the greatest, always got a joke or advice, ready to watch my back no matter what.
His name is Dick Grayson, but he's also called Nightwing.
Wally walked into the apartment of Dick Grayson, following the dark-haired young man into the small kitchen. "Wanna Coke?"
Wally nodded and Dick threw him a cold one, getting bottled water for himself. They went into the living room and sat down, just two friends wasting an afternoon by shooting the bull. Wally was incognito, out of costume, and even though he was a world-renown celebrity, he didn't think anyone in this section of Bludhaven was going to recognize him. It was difficult trying to have cordial relations with his friends, especially Dick. Wally had revealed his identity to the world, Dick had not. The danger was more in where knowing Dick's alter ego would lead, straight to the Batman.
Dick had been working out, as he normally did in his free time, and sweat was pouring off his muscular form. Wally envied the physique. Being a runner and not a gymnast, Wally was much leaner, lacking the bulk that Dick had. It had always been that way, even when Wally was Kid Flash and Dick had been Robin, the Teen Wonder. Dick got the supermodels, Wally got the skinny chicks.
"How's Linda?" Dick asked, toweling his hair.
"Fine and dandy," Wally remarked, thinking back to his beautiful wife and how she had looked that morning. He secretly couldn't wait to get home to be with her, but he also wanted to catch up on how his friend was doing. "Still a cop?"
Dick smiled and nodded to the pressed police uniform hanging by the window. Wally saw that the leather gun belt was highly polished. "What does Bruce think?" Wally asked, referring to Dicks adoptive father, Bruce Wayne.
Dick shrugged. "He hasn't given me the order to stop, so he must approve."
Approve. That was the best anyone could hope for from the Batman. "Meet any nice girls?"
"Busted a few hookers last night."
Wally pursed his lips and nodded slowly. "As a cop or as Nightwing?"
"Actually, I was dressed up as Batman," Dick snickered.
Wally laughed, imagining the Batman shoving hookers into a police paddy wagon and looked around the room. There were several pictures on a table, and Wally recognized them all. There was an old photo of Dick, as a child, with his parents. He looked so happy. Wally had problems with his parents growing up and he couldn't remember being that happy with them. Being with his Uncle Barry and Aunt Iris was different though.
He saw some other photos, one of Dick and Kory Anders, the alien supermodel and former Titan named Starfire. Dick had almost married her, but events had prevented it. Wally was always surprised that Dick had handled it as well as he had. Wally couldn't imagine being left at the altar; had Linda done that to him, he didn't even want to think what would happen. He had briefly seen, in an alternate reality, what his life could have been like without Linda. It wasn't the life for him.
"What are you looking at?" Dick asked, getting up. He moved so he could view what Wally was appraising. "Oh, my collection of memories! It's a shame I can't put pictures of you and Donna up, but people would get suspicious. The world knows that playboy Dick Grayson almost married the supermodel, but I think some eyebrows would go up at a picture of me with the infamous Flash."
"'Infamous'? I'll have you know I'm a respected member of upper society, above reproach. In fact, I ooze culture and refinement," Wally said in a semi-English accent.
"Quit avoiding the question."
Wally tried to keep from laughing as Dick tried his best Batman stare, but such things had long ago lost their power over him. As a youth, the Batman had seemed frightening, even if he was considered a super-hero. Wally's uncle, Barry Allen, had always said that the Batman was a man to be reckoned with. As Wally had gotten closer to Dick, so he had naturally gained some acceptance by the Dark Knight.
The man also known as the Flash looked over the rest of the photos at super speed, so not to annoy his friend. There was several of Dick with a red haired woman. The photos were taken over a period of several years, as Wally noted how Dick aged in each photograph. Some had been taken in winter, some fall, and some on a sunny beach somewhere that Dick's personal fortune allowed him to visit on a whim. In each photo, Dick and the red-haired woman were arm in arm, sometimes hugging, even kissing in one.
The two continued to talk and Wally managed to steer the conversation away from the photos and concentrate on a camping trip the two were planning with fellow super-hero pals Timothy Drake (a.k.a. Robin) and Roy Harper (a.k.a. Arsenal). All during the conversation, Wally's eyes would occasionally dart over to the photos.
He couldn't get the thought of his friend's smile out of his head.
"Hold it!" Wally said putting his hands in the air.
Dick gave him a What-The-Hell look, but remained quiet. Wally got up and walked over to the photos and grabbed one.
"My God, you were so happy, I can see it, man! Anyone with an I.Q. over 12 could see how in love you were! Why don't you ever talk about it?"
Dick shrugged. "Nothing to say. It hasn't worked out the way I would have liked it to."
Wally thought for a moment. "Is it because of her condition?" It was a hard question to ask; Wally knew it would cut deep into his friend.
If it affected Dick, he did not show it. His voice and composure remained the same. "I don't know. I think so. Hell, I don't know anything when it comes to her."
Wally set the photo down. "I'm sorry, buddy; I didn't mean to…"
Dick waved it off and got up. "The only thing I'm sure of is that if she had not been paralyzed by the Joker, we may have had a real chance."
Wally West's thoughts raced even faster than his body as he made a leisurely 10-second trip home to Keystone City. He was upset and he didn't like to be upset.
Dick Grayson was his best friend. More than that, he was his partner, his right hand, his brother and his confessor. Through the years, as tragedy befell Wally from the deaths of his Uncle Barry and Johnny Quick, as well as the heartbreak of ruin relationships, his friend had been there. He knew Dick had given something of himself up when he took the Robin mantle. Being Batman's partner meant not having a normal life. There were no proms, no Saturday nights with his pals, only night after night of confronting the crap on the bottom of the shoe of society.
He remembered the years they spent on the Teen Titans, as Dick tried to have a normal relationship with Kory. He knew that in the back of Dick's mind, it would never work. They were too different. While Dick was not as stoic as his mentor, he was still rigid in his own way. Beautiful women had literally thrown themselves at him, and being human, Dick had entertained the lustful side of his nature once or twice, but he never made a commitment. He was never happy.
When was the last time Wally had seen Dick truly smile? He couldn't remember. His friend was always there for him with advice and a shoulder to cry on, but what had he done for him? Whenever Dick was in trouble, did Wally race to Gotham City or Bludhaven to help him, even though Dick had never once hesitated to come to Wally's aid? As a friend, did he try and talk Dick out of marrying a woman that both he and Wally knew he didn't love?
What kind of friend was he?
By the time Wally had reached Keystone City, he was in a true huff about how he had treated his friend. Was there something he could do? "If only I could turn back time," Wally said as he reached his front door.
As he walked into his living room, the weight of his statement settled on him.
He was the Flash, the fastest man alive.
He could move faster than light.
He could travel through time.
He did not bother to tell his wife, Linda, what he was planning on doing. He drank a glass of orange juice in silence, trying to find justification for what he was about to do. Time travel was not something to be taken lightly, as his uncle had told him many times. To go to the future is one thing, but to try and change the past is another. There were always unforeseen results.
But, people had traveled through time, to the past, and everything worked out okay. How many times had Wally faced off with villains from the future that had traveled to the past? Didn't they know that they would be defeated? Wasn't it in the history books?
Hadn't his own aunt traveled back in the past to save his uncle?
Wally drained the glass and looked at the empty kitchen. His plan was simple; to travel back to the moment the Joker fired the bullet at Barbara Gordon and use his own abilities to remove some of the kinetic energy from the bullet. If he tried to stop the Joker entirely, there was always the chance he would fail, and that could mean his death. If he totally stopped the bullet, the Joker would just fire again.
If he slowed it down, she would be wounded, but she would not be paralyzed.
Wally walked out into the back yard and started running, vibrating his molecules so that he could pass through solid objects. He quickly approached light speed and beyond and the whole world vanished and was replaced by a multi-colored void. Wally knew this place well, the time stream, and one wrong step could send him plunging into an alternate reality. If he didn't watch himself as he sped up, he could plunge right into the Speed Force, the dimension that he drew his powers from.
Luckily, traveling through time was old hat for him, and he could tell exactly when to slow down, to reach the most specific of times, down to the second. When he judged he was at the right time, he broke out of the time stream and headed immediately for Gotham City.
It took him two seconds to get his bearings and another three to get to his destination. Outside the Gordon home, he saw the Joker, clad in safari gear with henchmen. They were being quiet as the front door opened.
Wally saw the bullet leave the barrel of the pistol the Joker wielded, and he knew he would be done before he would ever hear the sound. Barbara Gordon stood there, unaware of the small projectile that was streaking at her at hundreds of feet per second.
Feet per second mattered very little to a man who could break the time barrier.
Wally passed in front of the bullet and absorbed some kinetic energy. As he streaked off, he saw the bullet enter the stomach of the young woman. A part of him screamed to go back and help her out, to give aid to the innocent as his uncle had taught him. Wally knew he couldn't though. If even by chance the Joker were able to stop him, even kill him, then events that followed would be drastically altered. Wally would, in the years to come, save the Earth several times.
He reasoned that even of he did die here, in the past, it was still possible that someone else would perform the tasks he would. There was no shortage of speedsters now or in the future: Jay Garrick, Jesse Quick, Max Mercury and even his nephew, Bart Allen. It would be foolish for him to lay such a heavy burden on them.
As he re-entered the time stream, he couldn't help but smile to himself. His friend was about to get his chance at happiness. He had finally done something to pay Dick Grayson back for the friendship they had shared for over a decade.
Wally West was very proud of himself.
When he had returned to the present, he immediately roused his wife from her slumber, full of happiness that he wanted to share with her in the way married people do. Late into the morning, the West/Park household was filled with the sounds of two people very much in love and enjoying the company of each other. As Wally lay there afterwards, the sun just starting to creep over the horizon, he hoped that his friend was a satisfied and wore out as he was.
Wally immediately, after sleeping in well past noon, ran to Bludhaven to visit his friend. However, when he went to the apartment building, he found it was not there. No sign of the building was present, save for a few scattered bricks and stones. He stopped a passing police car and questioned the officers about the building. Though Wally knew that the Bludhaven police force was full of corrupt officers, the two in the squad car seemed to want to be helpful to the world famous Flash.
"No, Mr. West, that building was torn down about a year ago. I hear they plan on putting in an office building of all things," the driver said.
Wally asked some more questions, which the other officer answered between bites of doughnut. "Grayson? Naw, never heard of him, but he could be in another precinct. I could radio dispatch if you like."
Wally thanked the officers and said he would search for Officer Grayson himself. A half hour later, after inquiring at every precinct in Bludhaven, Wally came to the conclusion that not only was there no Dick Grayson employed as a police officer, but that the "vigilante" known as Nightwing had disappeared about a year before.
Wally next decided to go to Gotham City. He could have gone to the JLA Watchtower on the moon, but he wanted the answers for his questions now and he knew he could move faster than any transmission from space.
Wayne Manor, the spacious mansion owned by Bruce Wayne, was empty. Wally searched the whole house and found that the furniture was covered and a layer of dust had settled on everything. It worried him to be snooping around Batman's home; he half expected the Dark Knight to reach out from the shadows and grab him, even though he was barely visible as he moved.
He went to the grandfather clock that he knew led to the Batcave and tried to move it. Wally was one of the few people in the world that was entrusted with the most precious secrets of the Batman, so he was very surprised to find that the clock would not budge. He assumed that it was possible that Batman had moved the entrance, but he doubted it. The Batman hated to remodel.
Wally vibrated through the door and found himself passing through a concrete slab. After six feet, he found himself on darkened stairs leading down. He reached for a light switch and finally found one. Slowly, Wally walked down the steps, calling out to the Batman and Alfred, Bruce Wayne's faithful manservant. He didn't get a reply.
When he reached the bottom, he found himself in an immense cavern, completely devoid of anything except bat droppings. There were clear areas on the floor, indicating where computers and machinery had been, but that was all that was left to indicate that humans had once been here.
Wally pulled out his JLA signal device as he sat on a rock outside Wayne Manor. He had to adjust the frequency, which he thought was odd, but soon forgot about it. Superman answered him. "What is it, Wally?"
"Superman! Hey, I'm a little confused right now. I'm in Gotham down by Wayne Manor, and the place is all boarded up."
"Yes?" came the reply.
Wally got the distinct impression he was stating the obvious. "Uh, do you know where Batman is at?"
"The Batman is operating out of Wayne Towers now, try there."
Wally thanked the Man of Steel and raced off towards downtown Gotham. When he got there, he noticed that the air seemed to be cleaner than usual and there were more people milling about on the streets. The recent reconstruction efforts, after the devastating earthquake that had leveled the city, seemed to be paying off. Wally was a little embarrassed that he hadn't visited the city since it was reopened. A man of his abilities could have done a lot to help the people here.
Wally stopped in front of Wayne Towers and willed his suit to change to civilian attire. It was true that Wally West was famous, but he doubted that anyone in Gotham would pay him any mind. He walked into the front lobby and was immediately stopped by two burly security guards. "Excuse me, sir," one of them began, "but you have to go through the weapons detector." The guard indicated a walkway to the left. Wally smiled and complied, satisfying the guards so that they turned their attentions elsewhere.
Wally went to a directory window and looked for what floor Bruce Wayne's office was on.
There was no listing.
Wally went over to the information desk and found a young woman, very pretty, chewing gum loudly with a telephone headset one. "Hi, I was wondering how I could get in touch with Mr. Wayne."
The girl looked at him, a blank expression passing over her face. "You mean Bruce Wayne? He's not here."
Wally nodded. "Is there some way I can reach him?"
The girl blew a bubble. "Is this a joke, sir?"
Wally felt his temper flaring. He was getting sick of being the dumbest man on Earth. "No, it's not a joke. I'm Wally West…"
Her eyes brightened and she jumped up and down in her chair. "The super hero?"
"Yes, the super hero. I'm here to talk to Bruce Wayne about some investments, can you tell me where I can find him?"
The girl was about to answer when Wally felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to see a middle-aged African American man in a well-tailored business suit. "I'll take care of this, Penny."
A look of rejection crossed the girl's face as she acknowledged the man. "Yes, Mr. Fox."
The man held out his hand. "Lucious Fox, Mr. West, CEO of WayneTech."
Wally took the hand. "Glad to meet you Mr. Fox, but I'm looking for Bruce Wayne."
"Mr. Wayne no longer involves himself in the dealings of his companies; he's retired to the Middle East."
Wally's head snapped back. "When did that happen?"
"Oh, about a year or so ago. He got married recently, a young woman named Talia," Lucious answered.
Wally was astonished. He, of course, knew who Talia was, the daughter of the terrorist Ra's Al Ghul. Dick had told him many times of the offbeat love affair Talia and Batman had. But, he thought to himself, he had talked with Batman not just a few days ago. "Well, do you know where Dick Grayson is?"
Lucious smiled. "Yes, he's in his office."
"Yes, Mr. Grayson is our Vice-President of New Acquisitions."
Lucious Fox led Wally to a set of elevators situated around the corner from the main lobby. "If I might be so bold, what is your business with Dick? It isn't everyday that someone of your celebrity visits."
Wally shook himself from his thoughts. "What? Oh, I know Dick from back when he was dating Kory Anders and I wanted his advice on some investments."
As the elevator doors closed behind them, Lucious pushed the 16th floor button. "Yes, I thought as much. However, I was informed that you had lost your considerable wealth years ago."
Wally was not enjoying the third degree, but then again, Lucious might have felt slighted that a "celebrity" such as Wally was more intent on meeting with an underling than with him. "Yes, well I've come into some more money recently."
The elevator stopped with the familiar ding and the doors slid open. Armed security guards stood on either side of the doorway, but Wally knew that WayneTech had always been big on physical security, especially for its employees. Neither Wally nor Lucious spoke another word as the moved through the halls until they reached a door marked "Richard Grayson". Without knocking, the two entered. "Gayle, would you let Dick know Mr. West is here to see him?"
The attractive woman with Asian features nodded and picked up a telephone. Lucious shook Wally's hand and excused himself. "Mr. Grayson will see you now."
Seated behind a massive oak desk was Richard Grayson, his best friend. He was busy talking on a phone when Wally walked in and waved him to a chair. "Yes, honey, I know. I'll tell him you said hello," he said.
Wally took the cue as he sat down. "Tell her I said 'hi'," he said, a smile widening on his face.
"Yes, Wally said hi, now I have to go. Yes, I love you, too." Richard said, before hanging up the phone. Wally saw the ring on his friend's finger. He hadn't expected that at all.
"You're married? When did that happen?" Wally asked.
Richard looked at him strangely. "About six months ago. You were the best man."
"No you didn't. I was just in your apartment yesterday in Bludhaven, which, by the way, seems to have been torn down."
Richard sat back, studying Wally. "I've never lived in Bludhaven. Why would I get an apartment in that Hellhole?"
Wally wiped his face with his hand. Could he have traveled through Hypertime? Was he in an alternate reality? "Humor me for a minute, would you buddy? Tell me who Barry Allen is."
"Was. He was your uncle, the second person to be called the Flash. He died battling the Anti-Monitor several years ago."
Wally nodded. "And who is Bruce Wayne?"
Richard smiled. "My adoptive father and founder of WayneTech."
"That's the official corporate answer," Wally began, edging forward in his chair. "Who is the Batman?"
That clinched it. Wally reasoned that he had traveled through Hypertime on his way back from the past and had ended up in this mirror world where Bruce Wayne never became Batman. "Sorry, bro, about the questions."
"You're acting strange, Wally; you been hitting the Speed Force a little too hard? It isn't like you to come visit me as Richard Grayson, you're usually a little more careful."
"I'm just tired," he said getting up. He needed to get out of here before he ran into this reality's Flash caught up with him and he'd have a lot of explaining to do. "I'm going to go."
"Wait, Wally, I'm just about done and Jesse wanted to know if you and Linda wanted to go out to dinner tonight?"
"'Jesse'? You mean Jesse Chambers? You're married to Jesse Chambers?" Wally said, his face turning ashen.
"Yes…. you introduced us when you and I decided to reform the Titans. It was love at first sight."
"What about Barbara?"
The look on Richard's face changed, becoming something between rage and fury. "Get out my office, you bastard!"
Wally held up his hands in defense. "Rich, I'm sorry, what did I say?"
Richard was across the desk on him before he could move, demonstrating skills that very few people possessed. He grabbed Wally's arm and applied pressure to a nerve in his bicep. "Get the hell out, West, and don't ever come back."
Richard shoved Wally out of the door and slammed it behind him. He heard the distinct sound of something being thrown against the wall and the secretary looked at him, shaking her head. She had no answers for him.
When he returned home, he found his wife sitting nervously on their couch. He had taken the long way home, racing to France for coffee, then to China to pace the Great Wall. He had no expected her to be there, but she was a welcome sight.
Even if she was only an alternate version.
"Hi," he said glumly.
"Wally, what have you done? I just got a call from Jessie and she's in tears? Dick won't go home, he left work early and nobody's heard from him." Her eyes pleaded with him for an explanation.
He pushed his cowl back and shook his head slowly. "I've messed up bad; I don't think I belong here." He then told her the story, of how he had tried to alter an event ever so slightly, to give his best friend a chance at the happiness he so wanted.
She had a blank look on her face. "My God, Wally; you've always preached the dangers of trying to change the past."
"That's it, I didn't change the past. I'm not your Wally, I'm from an alternate reality."
"How? Didn't you always say I was your anchor, that I was the one who always led you back to where you belong?"
The realization dawned on him. He had actually changed the past, much more drastically than he had wanted. "I've got to go back…."
"No!" Linda cried, standing up. Tears began to form and fall from her eyes. "You've done enough, Wally! You can't tell anyone what you've done…it's too horrible!"
He stood up and took her into his arms. She cried into his shoulder and he wondered just how much damage he had caused.
"Treat me like I don't know anything, honey," Wally said an hour later. It had taken that long for Linda to calm down. The very idea that her entire world had only come into being a few hours before, that reality as she knew it was not what it was supposed to be, hit her very hard.
She took in a deep breath. "Well, I guess it all started when the Joker shot Barbara Gordon. The bullet did a lot of damage and it nicked her spinal cord, but not enough to cause paralysis. She was laid up in the hospital for a long time though, a very long time. Dick once said that she didn't have nearly the ability to withstand pain that you might have thought she would. While she was recovering, Dick left the Titans, his relationship with Starfire completely destroyed. He spent as much time as he could with her. He was so in love…."
Wally nodded. "I assume that after she got out of the hospital, things didn't work out between them?"
Her disbelieving look made him feel small. "What we didn't know at the time was that she had become addicted to her pain medication. Addiction seems to run in her family; her parents were alcoholics and Commissioner Gordon smoked for years. She hid her addiction for a few months, but the Batman eventually caught on and confronted her."
She stood up and walked over to their personal computer and turned it on. She hit the button for the automatic internet connection and continued speaking. "That started a big rift between Dick and the Batman because Dick took Barbara's side. He believed he could help her, and maybe he could have if he hadn't been blinded by his feelings for her. She used him and his money to get drugs. Her addiction grew out of control."
Wally couldn't believe the story he was hearing, it was like Roy Harper all over again. Roy had been a fellow Teen Titan, going by the name of Speedy. Roy had been the Green Arrow's partner, and had worked hard to try and gain the respect of Oliver Queen, the man behind the Green Arrow's mask. Eventually, a despondent Roy turned to drugs to make up for what Queen couldn't or wouldn't give him. The Green Arrow got caught up in his own personal campaign for the liberal cause and never even noticed that his ward had become an addict.
When he eventually found out, Queen gave up on Roy, leaving him to fend for himself. Luckily, in the end, Roy overcame his addiction and became a hero once again, currently operating on the Titans as Arsenal.
Once again, the ugly specter of drugs had cloaked itself around another young hero. Only this time, it was Wally's fault.
"Dick tried everything in the world to help Barbara and he eventually became just a mess. It took you, Donna and the Batman to make him see that Barbara was slowly going off the deep end as she craved more and more drugs. When Dick finally stopped giving her money, she turned to…. other methods to secure cash."
The silence was palatable, a force as strong as any Wally had ever encountered. Linda simply moved away from computer, waving her hand to the screen. "It's not pretty."
Wally walked over to the computer desk and sat down. The page had a picture of Batgirl.
Well, sort of.
The heading at the top of the web page stated: HOTTEST SUPER-HERO SLUT WAITING FOR YOU!!
There were the assorted animated pictures of young women nude or in a state of ecstasy with the words "Click here" in bold letters, as well as offers for free pornographic material to be sent discreetly to your e-mail address. Skimming past the fluff, Wally saw that the page was sponsored by Cobblepot Enterprises; he felt he should know that name, but it was escaping him the more he thought about it. As he scrolled down the page, he saw a banner with a semi-nude Batgirl with the words "Get Caught In The Bat-Trap" flashing. Further down the screen was a small biography that erroneously stated that Batgirl had just turned 18.
Linda narrated from behind him. "She started out with simple prostitution, rumor was that the Catwoman introduced her to the lifestyle, though Batman said that was untrue. When she was eventually arrested: it devastated her father to the point he actually retired from the force to try and help her with her problem. It took all of the Titans to keep Dick from trying to help; everyone knew that she had to get through this without him because he just couldn't be strong enough when it came to her.
"She fooled her father, she fooled Dick and she even fooled Batman. They all thought she was clean after several weeks in a drug treatment program that Bruce Wayne paid for. Most of it was kept out of the papers, since it would have been truly a scandal for a former U.S. congresswoman to be mixed up in something so seedy.
"She never really recovered, she was lying to everyone, using her skills as a computer hacker to steal funds from WayneTech. The Batman caught her, but refused to turn her in. They tried the rehab thing one more time, but Jim Gordon couldn't handle it and he had a heart attack while she was in. She left the program after a few weeks and disappeared. Dick was becoming unhinged and you finally convinced him it was time for a vacation. You, me, Dick and Jessie, whom you invited to introduce to Dick, all took a trip to Greece. It turned out to be exactly what he needed."
Wally nodded and continued to scroll down the page, where there were thumbnailed pictures of a woman in a Batgirl costume engaged in sexual acts with other people. Some were dressed as super-heroes (one even of him) and some were dressed as villains. There was even a link to download a video file of the "rape of Batgirl by the Joker". Wally felt the acid rise in his stomach.
Then there was the series of photos where the girl removed her costume piece by piece. He looked at the final photo.
It was Barbara Gordon.
"When we got back, we found out that Barbara had resurfaced, posing nude for Rustler magazine and revealing her identity. There was a time Dick was really worried about her revealing his and Batman's identity, but she never did. I think she was more afraid of what Dick would do than what the Batman would…. Dick took it very hard. Batman took it worse. He felt as if he had failed both Barbara and Jim Gordon and just quit. Up and left one day, leaving everything for Dick to control."
"This is ridiculous?! A porn star? You're telling me that she became a porn star because she was addicted to pain killers?"
Linda wiped a tear away. "You don't even know how it tore Dick up; he was near insanity. If it wasn't for Jessie, I think he would have. She became his anchor, especially after Barbara started doing the soft-core stuff for the Play Man Channel. It was just a matter of time before she moved on to the hard stuff. That Cobblepot guy has made millions, maybe billions marketing her as the only super-hero who screws her enemies into submission."
Wally punched the computer screen, vibrating his hand so that it would interfere with the monitor's molecules and cause it to explode. He raced about catching every shard and threw them on the floor. He pounded the desk, screaming at it, at himself. "I have to go back!"
Linda wrapped her arms around him. "No, Wally! What if you do something worse? You shouldn't have gone back in the first place, but going back now won't solve anything."
He turned, the tears literally pouring from his eyes. He wiped them away angrily. "How could it be worse? Tell me, Linda? How the Hell could I possibly ruin my best friend's life anymore?" He broke out of her embrace and pulled his mask back on. He started for the front door. "Don't wait up for me."
He was reaching for the doorknob when Linda cried out. "Jessie's pregnant!"
Wally slumped to his knees, his whole world crashing in around him.
It had been over fifty years since that day, when his beloved Linda had revealed to him that his best friend was to be a father and he knew that there was nothing he could do. It would have been a greater sin to deny Dick Grayson's child life because of his own guilt. So, Wally West had simply removed himself from the super-hero scene and the world was without a Flash for five years, until young Bart Allen, the grandson of Barry Allen, had taken the mantle of the Scarlet Speedster as his own.
Dick and Wally eventually reconciled, though Wally, nor Linda, ever revealed the awful truth that they only knew. When asked, Wally would only state that being the Flash had become to heavy a burden to bear, and it was left at that. As the years went on, Wally watched Dick's children grow and become super-heroes, jealous that he and Linda had never been able to conceive.
In their 31st year of marriage, Wally and Linda were separated forever as breast cancer took her away from him. Ten years later, Dick and Jessie were killed while battling the super-villain known only as Orn. The next year, during the Crossing Wars, their children died.
Barbara Gordon had died of a syphilis related illness two years after Wally had discovered the truth of his actions that fateful night so long ago. She had been five months pregnant when she died. The father was never identified.
Now Wally West, once the Fastest Man Alive, sat alone in a house that was too quiet. He had lost everything in a vain attempt to prove he was stronger than destiny. Who the hell was he to say that his friend had not been happy the way things had been? Maybe Dick didn't smile around him, but did he smile around Barbara?
He had sat back for five decades, letting his mistake run its course. He had no longer interfered. He had cut off his connection to the Speed Force and never looked back, to ensure that he never abused his powers again. Things happened for a reason, his uncle had always told him, and you have to accept it. What is might seem unfair to you, might be everything to someone else.
He had been arrogant in his youth, comparing Dick's happiness to his own, and found it wanting. Had Linda been the one in the wheelchair, Wally wasn't sure he could have been as strong as his friend. It was jealousy over Dick's willingness to face any situation, any obstacle, which had prompted Wally to race to the past and put things on even terms between them.
"Well," he rasped, spittle flying from his wrinkled lips. "I can fix it now."
He closed his eyes and for the first time in half a century, opened himself up to the Speed Force. Instantly, his thin muscles were charged with the energy that gave him his powers in his youth. He knew that he only had minutes before the sudden surge caused him to have a heart attack.
He was the Flash. A few minutes and he could do anything.
He got up from the chair and started running, enjoying the feeling of moving faster than thought this one last time. At the end of this journey, he would merge with the Speed Force and be reunited with old friends. He almost couldn't wait.
Wally West stepped out into his backyard, preparing for the leap into the past. Seconds before he was sucker punched in the jaw, he registered something amiss in the Speed Force. He hit the ground, more surprised than damaged. He rubbed his jaw and looked up to see a thin, wrinkled old man with a few wisps of gray hair on a freckled head. He couldn't place it, but he felt as if he should know this man. "What the Hell are you doing, old man?"
The old man looked at him with the sternness of a Sunday school teacher. "Don't. Go to bed, Wally. Leave it be."
Wally stood up. "How do you know…." Wally saw the ring on the old man's finger. The Flash ring his uncle had worn.
The old man smiled a toothless grin and then turned and disappeared into the void of time.
He ran, racing towards the edge of the Speed Force, wondering if his message had gotten through. His heart had stopped seconds before, but he had plenty of time before he actually died. He looked down at his ring, and noticed that his hand was fading away.
Before he could comment to himself on how fascinating the entire paradox was, he was gone.
And he had never been there.