Part 2: Unnatural Disaster
Chapter Rating: PG-13
Summary: Wally West struggles through his recovery but what happens when he gets an offer he can't refuse? What will it mean for him, for the world and for his future with the League?
Disclaimer: The DC characters are not mine. I'm just playing with them. They'll be returned eventually, not in good condition but that can hardly be blamed on me!
Author's Note: Wooohooo! Last Chapter! (for this part) But still…LAST CHAPTER (for this part)!
Epilogue -Vita Non Est Vivere Sed Valere Vita Est
"Aren't you going?" Dick asked, his black suit perfectly tailored to his lean form and hair combed neatly into place
"Aren't you?" Bruce responded.
Dick looked into the darkness of the Batcave. "Yeah," he intoned softly, sadly, "I'm going." He didn't wait for Bruce to say anything. He didn't really care for his response or, more likely, his excuse. This wasn't about Bruce Wayne, or Dick Grayson, or the complicated relationship between them. This was about goodbye.
Dick took the stairs out of the Batman's lair to Bruce Wayne's House. He joined Tim and Alfred and they began their trip to the depressing event.
Bruce didn't acknowledge their departure. He rewound and replayed the footage captured by a stupid or courageous TV crew. It was the last battle, the last moments, Wally's last moments. In the shaky image the tragedy unfolded before his eyes, each subsequent vieweing burning unwanted details into his memory. The gunshot and Wally's bewilderment were first. Then the human-looking alien at his side. Wally's eyes looked up towards the approaching figure in black. He began to move, to stand. Bright white filled the screen.
Bruce rewound the footage. He pressed play and tortured himself with the image of his failure; failure despite all his brilliance.
"The most precious treasures are formed under the greatest pressure. The strongest shields are forged in the hottest fires. In the most difficult of times, he proved he was both."
"…but he wasn't invincible. He was only a man, meta-human or not…"
"Lex Luthor was the one who actually brought him down. Just a plain, human man and he brought down a hero with a simple gun. It makes you wonder who is more dangerous. Them or us…"
"Not only has the death of the Flash come as a stinging blow, but I think it's made evident that there is no us and them. There's only the people who try to do good and put their lives on the line to keep the peace and safety that we take for granted, and the people who are set on taking it away, whatever their reason."
"The legacy of the life of Wally West, more widely known as the Flash, will always be the people he saved, the laughs he brought, the courage and selflessness he embodied. The legacy of his death will, hopefully, be that all residents of this planet can co-exist in peace."
"I think those are both legacies worthy of a great man."
Such kind words too late.
Dove clicked off the TV.
After much debate, the grave of Wallace West was chosen to be located in the Arlington Cemetery, where numerous American military heroes had been laid for their final rest. Iris West didn't care either way. The casket cloaked in the bold colours of their flag held no body. Vapourized, that's what the experts believed happened to her nephew's body. She couldn't help but shudder at the word, the description of his last moments, no matter how painless they told her it was.
At her left was Barry Allen and to his left was their daughter Dawn. Their son, Don, sat at his mother's right, his small hand grasping hers trying to give her comfort that he also needed to get from her. He only let her go when Commander Lorelli handed her the flag after it had been ceremoniously folded the traditional thirteen times. She nodded at whatever Lorelli said but didn't actually hear it.
The weight of the folded fabric in her hand brought her out of whatever numb state she'd been in since she witnessed on television, along with millions of others, the death of the Flash. She closed her eyes and bowed her head, hoping to hold the tears her oldest boy so rightfully deserved. The small bereaved family held onto each other.
None of the Allen family noticed the roar of fighter jets as the soared over head in a perfect V-formation. The formation broke when one of the planes turned skyward, leaving its counterparts to go on without it.
Wallace Rudolph West was buried with full military honours and a posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. It didn't mean as much as it probably would have for someone else. After being coerced into the service, tortured, and experimented on, these late accolades couldn't possibly be more than an afterthought to save face. Even John Stewart had trouble holding his tongue and holding back his disgust.
At least now it was over. That thought came as no comfort.
As the mourners began to disperse Captain Lorelli in his crisp uniform went to the Green Lantern and the other Justice League members that had been allowed to attend the small service.
"I thought you should have this," Lorelli stated.
John looked at the golden emblem, the proud symbol of the Navy SEALs. "I think you should give that to his family," John stated, voice tinged with bitterness and blame.
Lorelli remained stoic though he'd lost a brother-in-arms as well. "I think it would mean more to you. And you are his family."
Reluctantly John accepted. He really did want it, a small piece of what had brought his good friend to his end. The military had taken many things from him, his ignorance, his innocence, his adolescence; but all things that he's willingly given up, until now.
"Let's go, John." Shayera waited a few seconds until with a sickening finality, John had finished his good-bye and turned away from the hole in the ground and the plain piece of stone that poorly summarised the man it commemorated.
In many elsewhere's public ceremonies commemorated the life of the Flash. None was bigger or more attended than the one in Central City. Superman, the Green Lantern, Shayera, J'onn and Wonder Woman had intended to stop by and catch the last portion of the event but after the funeral at Arlington they couldn't bring themselves to go. They went to the places that felt like home to lick the wounds that would never fully heal.
"Clark? I thought you were going to Central," Mrs. Kent stated as she saw her son walk in the front door. She and her husband had been watching the Central City Ceremony expecting to glimpse their son on the screen at some point.
"I…I couldn't. I just needed to come home."
"Well there's room on the couch for a third," Clark's father said with forced cheerfulness. Leaden steps brought Clark over to fill the space between the two elder Kents. They made no comment as he stared morosely at the images on the screen. They remained quiet when the blue eyes closed and tears slipped down his cheeks. Martha Kent pulled her son to her just as she'd done when he was a child. The silence continued while they let him pour out the anguish that Superman didn't allow himself to show I public.
"Hello Mother," Diana greeted as she stepped from her craft and onto her home soil.
The Queen of the Amazons smiled softly at her child. She held out her arms. Diana stepped forward and allowed herself to be ensconced in the loving embrace.
"I'm so sorry, my little sun and stars."
Shayera hated the fact that she had nowhere to go, except back to the Watch Tower. She forewent the sterile walls, the tasteful artwork, the political correctness and neutrality that would have made the rampage she felt like going on very unacceptable. John's apartment was much more inviting. And though he hadn't invited her to come along to his home, he didn't close the door on her as she followed him in.
John tossed the gold-plated SEALs emblem onto his coffee table. He stood in the center of the living room. Perhaps he was waiting for enlightenment, for a sense that though things had ended badly it was all for the better.
Such enlightenment never came.
"I knew this was coming. I saw it a mile away…but I didn't do anything."
"There's nothing you could have done." Shayera played her part, unsure whether she meant what she was saying, because John's words were the ones playing in her mind as well. Had they not all known this situation would end badly?
"When…when we went to the Narr homeworld –where we set up that shield generator –I spoke to their leader. He knew I was worried. I told him why, sort of. He told me…he said that Wally would be the first to go because he was an anomaly, because his…end," John swallowed back some nausea "…would be more entertaining for the rest of the universe." His humourless laugh was nearly a sob. "I didn't want to believe him."
"This isn't your fault."
The situation had spiralled out of their control so quickly that they never recovered. They'd been cornered on too many sides, world peace and the Allen family held hostage by malicious forces. They never had a real plan to get Wally back, maybe they had abandoned him to the fate they'd all feared since the encounter with the Justice Lords.
"This time is wasn't Batman that had a tip that the Flash was in danger and didn't take proper action, but instead acted for the 'greater good'. This time it was us. We're the ones who…that…shit, we didn't do anything!"
"We thought he'd pull through, the way he always did," Shayera admitted.
"But he didn't."
John pressed his fingers over his eyes, trying for no good reason to hold back his emotions. As fierce a warrior as she was Shayera still felt no such need. Her tears slipped unhindered down her face. She stepped close to John and wrapped her arms around him. Almost of its own accord his free arm enclosed around her, careful of her wings from memories that seemed eons ago when they'd shared many embraces and more. Now as she lay her head against his chest there was no subtext, no hesitation. They had only each other for comfort. Fittingly, both were as sad and dejected as someone who'd just lost their best friend.
"It seems our efforts are no longer required there."
"That's good…I guess…I mean--"
"It's alright, I know what you mean," J'onn intoned neutrally to the small team. They had been on assignment to Northern Europe to provide assistance to the country when a previously inactive fault had burst for with a destructive earthquake. The small ensemble had been all they could spare as the Justice League had been gearing up to confront Vril and Luthor. The activity had subsided and the group had sighed in relief until, moments later, they received word about the death of a colleague and had returned to the Watch Tower. They had planned to go back to, expecting aftershocks to rock the region, but there had been none. The fault was quiet once again.
"Go home, see friends and loved ones. Come back when you're ready."
The masked faces nodded and departed in silence. J'onn waited until they were all gone before looking around and then turning translucent to slip through the ceiling.
He would have liked to go see his loved ones. Unfortunately he couldn't. There were no arms to comfort him, no words to ease his unrest or cool his impotent rage that boiled just beneath his calm exterior. Work had been a good distraction but now that he had no more to do, he found himself looking for comfort in familiarity.
He retrieved a gift-wrapped box from his room on his way to his destination, Flash's room. Flash had only stayed there briefly after the battle in New York. It held his items from the old Watch Tower, and was set up the way J'onn thought Wally would have liked. At some point when he'd begun to miss his friend, decorating Flash's room had become his pet project. It was nearly complete, except for the small gift in J'onn's hands.
Sitting on the bed cloaked in the juvenile Superman comforter that Wally was so fond of for some reason, J'onn unwrapped the gift. Brawlin' Bots, one of his friend's favourite games. The original one had been smashed in the battle on the old Tower. J'onn had bought this one several weeks ago, hoping to give it to Wally for his Twenty-first birthday. It wasn't for months still, but J'onn could think of nothing more fitting. Sadly, he'd never again be able to argue with Wally over who got the red guy.
"What's going on? What is it?"
"Stay here!" Bruce ordered. Dick clenched his jaw to keep from saying something that would only anger his already agitated foster father. He'd known something was up when he answered the door and saw a serene version of Bruce Wayne standing at the door.
"It was such a lovely day I thought I'd walk. Is Bruce in?"
Sure Dick knew of the alternate universe and all their counterparts but seeing this copy of Bruce standing there, commenting on what a nice day it was when only three days ago his friend had been blasted away, it almost had him throwing a punch.
And now even this universe's Bruce was getting on his nerves. Stay here? Was he a child? Did he look like Tim? Those two words though were the most Bruce had said in three days. Dick almost wanted the silence back if Bruce was going to be so infuriating.
"So what is going on?" Bruce asked once they were out of earshot of Dick.
"I think I should show you."
The billionaire playboy was hard at work. He didn't look up when door to his large office was opened. The stocky woman didn't move that fast giving his secretary time to warn him of her arrival.
"Miss Waller, is there something I can do for you?" Bruce said standing and meeting her half-way into the tastefully furnished room.
Her dark eyes glanced around, silently comparing his décor to the standard government issue décor in her much smaller office. "No just thought I'd see how you're business was doing."
She smirked and walked past him to gaze out over the expansive view of Gotham from the floor to ceiling windows. It certainly was nice on the top floor.
"It's a shame about Mister West."
"I believe he died Seaman West," Wayne corrected neutrally. She might know his identity but he wasn't going to drop the façade just for her.
"He died saving the world, the way I presume all heroes want to go."
"I don't imagine you would know anything about that." He couldn't resist the dig and was mildly pleased when her shoulders stiffened for a moment.
"He might have saved the world in more ways than one. The human-meta-human conflict was ready to fracture the world down too many lines to count. I suppose I should give some thanks to Luthor. If he hadn't so blatantly displayed the fragility of meta-humans to the world all the anti-metahuman rhetoric would still be gaining momentum."
"You really think we gained something from this young man's death?"
Amanda Waller pivoted and found Wayne directly behind her. She hadn't heard him move.
"I think in death the Flash will do more for peace on this planet than he ever could have done in life."
"You don't know that."
"We'll never find out will we?"
"I think it's time for you to go, Miss Waller. Send my regards to the President."
Waller ignored the dismissal. "There is a reason I came here. There's a new contract up for grabs. I figured you might be interested."
"I don't make weapons."
"Of course you don't. But this isn't weaponry, at least not in the conventional sense. Admiral Ross and General Eiling aren't pleased, but they had their shot. The President's not enjoying the blowback we're still getting from the public because of their attempt." She held out a small disk that she pulled from her pocket. Wayne glared at her and made no move to take it. She shook her head at his stubbornness and tossed the disk to his desk. "It's called the Sunset Project. I think he'd be proud."
"You didn't know him."
"I felt like I did. His life story has been on the news for months. It's what has made him such a fantastic martyr."
A thin, regretful smile pulled her lips. "Think about the project. I think Seaman West would prefer you getting the contract over, say…Lexcorp." Though the company was no longer under Luthor's control and hadn't been for some time, the idea of it getting the contract for the Sunset project left a bitter taste in Waller's mouth as she was sure it would leave in Wayne's.
"I hope to see you again, Mister Wayne." She took her leave.
Bruce picked up the disk Waller had left. He flexed his hand around it, feeling the plastic bend, but held back from breaking it. He dropped it into a drawer and locked it in. He cleared the documents from his desk and left the proper instructions with his secretary. His work day was done. He needed to get home.
Bruce didn't greet Dick as he walked into the formerly empty guest room. Dick didn't greet Bruce either. He sat watching the television mounted on the wall, his back to the window next to the bed.
"Don't you find it strange? They're naming the new park between Central and Keystone in his honour. His family is…Christ, I don't want to imagine how hard this must be for them."
Dick turned his conflicted, angry eyes to Bruce. "They're crying over him, hurting over him. They think he's dead…but he's right here." Dick looked down to the form resting in the bed.
The red hair had been shaved for the emergency brain surgery he'd undergone. Half his body was in casts. Both his eyes had black bruises around them and numerous cuts and contusions and surgery scars were hidden behind bandages. He was a mess, internally and externally. It was a miracle he was alive at all. But he was.
Wally West was alive! And only five people knew it. Bruce made them all swear that only five people would ever know it.
"He's barely here," Bruce amended coldly
"So what if he's comatose! He's still alive and they deserve to know!"
Waller's words came unbidden to his mind. Bruce closed his eyes against them, hating that she might be right. "They can't know." His tone brooked no argument. "It's better that the Flash is dead. It's better that he's free from all the responsibility and stress the Flash would have to face." It was clear from Dick's expression that he was opposed but it wasn't his decision to make. Technically it wasn't Bruce's either. "If he wakes up, he's going to have a lot of healing to do –a lot that he didn't have the chance to do before. He may not be as dead as they think he is," Bruce nodded his head to the television, "but he'll wake up feeling as if he is, and probably wishing that he was."
Dick didn't want to agree. He wanted to tell everyone, especially the Allens, that Wally was alive. He imagined the media circus that would follow and he felt tired already. There was no way the Wally should he wake would be able to deal with it. He was the ultimate survivor but even the strongest people needed breaks.
"We should just be glad he's here at all and leave it at that."
Looking over the discoloured face of his friend, Dick put his protest to the back of his mind. Bruce was right about one thing. They should be glad that Wally was here.
"How did he survive?" Dick finally asked. When Bruce had disappeared with his alternate self and returned with a comatose Wally, they all had been too shocked to listen to the answers to the deluge of questions that had spilled forth from them. Alfred, Dick and Tim had gotten the guest room in the wing with the other family member bedrooms rearranged as quickly as possible.
"I told the other Bruce to be ready. I augmented his portal technology so that he could observe remotely from his universe what was going on in ours. I told him I had a bad feeling about the whole Vril-Brainiac trap."
"A bad feeling? That was it?"
"That was enough." Barely, his internal critic screamed. "He didn't do anything other than get Wally to help before the smoke cleared and before J'onn had a chance to search for him mentally. Wally apparently saved himself."
"How? I was there. I saw Wally getting up but the light overtook him before he could."
"We just didn't see it. He must have run and kept ahead of the blast. According to Bruce, the way he found Wally it looked like the blast threw him into a number of trees. But he was still breathing when he found him."
"So Bruce took him to his dimension where he wouldn't be recognized for medical attention." Dick didn't need Bruce's nod to know he was right. There was nowhere on this earth with the facilities to help Wally that he wouldn't be recognized. "He's one lucky son of a bitch," Dick said fondly, hardly able to grasp what this survival took.
Bruce took the final step to stand at Wally's side. He reached out his right hand and ghosted it over the younger man's face and chest, as though afraid to touch him. His fingers traced over the tubes that breathed for him, the electrodes that monitored his heart rhythm, the intravenous lines that hydrated, the feeding tubes that provided nourishment and the catheter hidden by the sheets taking away waste.
"He's strong," Bruce intoned, resting his hand on the guard rail at the side of the bed. He wouldn't reach for Wally's hand, not while in Dick's presence. "Lucky however?" Bruce shook his head at that hypothesis. After having to relive the torment of his troubled youth, after being assaulted by a friend and then kidnapped and raped by an enemy, after having his secrets exposed and after returning home having to serve with and for people who despised meta-humans or at best treated them with suspicion, after all that the reward for his suffering was his "death" as he once again saved the day. Bruce shook his head. "I wouldn't want his luck."
Still Wally was alive. Perhaps that was his reward perhaps that was his reward. Everyone who knew the Flash, knew he loved life. Even when things were down Wall bounced back. Being alive had always been enough, because Wally turned life into his own luck.
End Epilogue – Life is More Than Merely Staying Alive
End Part 2: Unnatural Disaster
Okay I'm happy with how this turned out. :) I'm very unhappy with how long it took. :(
Only Part 3 to go. It'll be short. It'll answer some questions and conclude the series. I'm sorry this keeps going but this was the way I planned out this way back when, and I can't seem to find a way to conclude it earlier than the original idea called for. Hope you've enjoyed the story so far and many thanks for the feedback!