A Handy Man To Have Around
Everything in the world was wrong. The monitors knew about the problems, but they were going about fixing them the wrong way. It wasn't the people who were there who weren't supposed to be – it was the people who weren't there that were supposed to be.
He had finally figured out how to fix it all. Unfortunately, he needed Bart's help. Bart Allen was alive.
Barry Allen wasn't.
So, trying not to think about what he was doing (because that invariably worked against him when he tried to ride the Lightning) Barry brought Bart over. He wished he could have warned his grandson, but once started, there was nothing he could do to alter the path.
Restarting the path, however…that they could do. Together.
When Bart Allen opened his eyes, a surprising sight met his gaze. "G-Grandpa?" he said, and started at the sound of his own voice – his much younger voice, from the days when he'd been Impulse. Looking down at himself, he found that he was once more the boy with big hair and bigger feet. He was also was back in his Impulse uniform.
For the first time in much too long, Bart felt like he fit it.
Barry Allen smiled down at his grandson, the third Flash, a boy he was so proud that had followed in his fleet footsteps. But he'd been forced to follow too quickly, and he deserved to have his second chance, along with giving his friends theirs. The boy had grown up too soon, and Barry had used the Lightning to give him back those years he'd lost.
It was the least he could do, and about the most he could manage on his own.
"Yes, my boy. It's me," he said, and stopped holding back the urge to hug his grandson.
"Why am I here?" Bart asked, once they parted momentarily.
"You and I are going to make things right," Barry said.
His plans had to wait to be told, however; Bart was once again hugging him too tight for him to get out the words.
Truthfully, Barry was more than a little misty-eyed himself.
"Where do we start first?" Bart asked, gazing out through the crackling gold portal of the Speed Force into the real world.
Having given this a lot of thought while he waited for Bart to join him, Barry said, "At the top."
Batman's psycho satellite was dismantled, and the OMACs were cured. Interpol and the United Nations were tipped off to the location of the island full of supervillains, successfully nipping their plans to create the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the proverbial bud. Dr. Sivana was arrested before he could bombard Mr. Mind with suspendium particles. In the ensuing chaos of fleeing villains, Mind was trampled to death, the threat of him becoming the Hyperfly becoming no longer extant. Solomon Grundy was killed by not-so-friendly fire, his heightened intelligence lost in his new 'mind', and with it, his plans for Red Tornando's former android body. The truth about Luthor's Everyman Project was leaked to the press, who had a field day with the headlines.
At least until Black Adam's wedding.
"Are you sure we shouldn't do anything about him?" Bart asked worriedly, as they watched the festivities in Khandaq.
Barry let out a long, gusty sigh. "Teth was a good man once," he said thoughtfully, thinking back to better days gone by. "And he's a better man for having her in his life. However…"
Amanda Waller had grown even colder and more ruthless over the years, and her plans for the Suicide Squad just didn't wash with Bartholomew Allen the first.
Captain Boomerang's son was directed away from them, towards the Outsiders. They ran into each other in Africa, where Batman and his sons were currently on vacation, and between them, they somehow managed to clear the Outsiders' names, get Nightwing and Arsenal's friendship back on track, and secure a place among the heroes for Boomer.
The Pied Piper and the Trickster had both rejoined the Keystone Rogues, feeling adrift in the world with no family or friends. At Bart's suggestion, they had Dana Winters-Drake moved into the same sanitarium/recovery clinic as Jerri Rathaway.
Once Robin ran into Piper while visiting his stepmother, plans were set in motion. Barely a week later, Hartley Rathaway had a freelance contract conducting experiments with sound waves to help treat and possibly cure mental illnesses at the nearest STAR Labs.
Robin also helped one Valerie Perez get her job back. And Nightwing, after an entreaty from Boomer, got Trickster a place in Haley's Circus as an acrobat and part-time magician.
The once-more-reformed Rogues back on track, Barry and Bart moved onto the heroes who had been even more lost. The Speed Force wasn't exactly Heaven, or even limbo, but Barry could tell when people he'd been close to had moved on. Barry was sad to say that nothing could be done for Ralph and Sue; at least they were together.
Checkmate, however, was involved in some very interesting cloning/resurrection projects. They already had plans for Ice, and Barry saw no reason not to add her former teammates Blue Beetle, Gold Star and Rocket Red to their list. None of their souls had moved on, so it would be possible for the real person to come back.
"What about Kon?" Bart blurted out as they watched the Checkmate scientists go about their business. "Or…or even that female Robin?"
Sharply reminded that this wasn't just about him and his long-ago left-behind friends, Barry sent out his awareness. Using his tie to Bart, and Bart's tie to his friends, he was able to locate the younger heroes outside the Speed Force. As near as he could tell, the fourth Robin had moved on. She seemed to be spending her stint in Eternity watching over her daughter.
The second Robin, however…for some reason, even though Jason Todd's body was alive, part of his soul wasn't. That part was quickly rounded up and sent to Earth to catch up with the rest of him, while Barry pondered what to do about Bart's friend Kon-El.
The solution was simpler than he'd thought – mostly because Bart was the one who thought of it. Occam's Razor had nothing on his boy, Barry thought proudly.
All that was needed was for Bart to funnel enough of the Speed Force into Kon-El's corpse so that his Kryptonian genes would start the process of resurrecting him. It was similar to what had happened to his progenitor, only without the excess of solar radiation helping him along. Kon-El's body moved to the abandoned cave beneath Titans Tower via the Speed Force, it would only be a matter of days before he was alive once more.
Superboy's human genes were what made him less susceptible to a Kryptonian's weaknesses, but they also made him more vulnerable to a human's weakness. And humans tended to have a hard time coming back from the dead without outside influence. As the Spectre, Hal Jordan had done just that, but he was once again back among the living – as a regular human, albeit with his ring.
Barry didn't think it was anyone's place to decide who lived and who died, but hurrying things along was a different matter – and a Flash trait. "Who do you think next?" Barry asked Bart.
Bart, who had gone from watching Robin's reunion with his predecessor and successor, to watching Robin and the other Titans' reunion with Superboy, turned to him, his wide smile relaxing only slightly. "What about Inertia?" he suggested after five nanoseconds of thought, golden eyes blinking up at him guilelessly.
Barry blinked. Bart was such a good boy; he'd obviously forgiven Thaddeus Thawne for the wrongs done him much easier than even Barry himself felt himself capable of. Barry, in actually fact, had completely forgotten about his other 'grandson'.
That just wouldn't do.
Away from Slade Wilson's realm of influence – running through Keystone, in fact, probably searching for his nemesis in Bart – Barry used the speed Force to redirect Thad to Helen Claiborne's residence – when Jay and Joan were there to restrain the boy.
It took hours of talking, but finally Thad agreed to let them help him. Of course, he added a proviso – he wanted his girlfriend Sungirl to get the same help.
Barry wasn't too hopeful for the girl, but Bart had confidence. Barry was quickly coming to find that his grandson's confidence was almost never misplaced. The boy saw quicker to the true heart of a person than even a Flash should be able to do.
Even Bart didn't think much of Deathstroke's chances of regaining his sanity, but then, like the child he'd so recently been, the younger speedster still held a grudge for the loss of his knee.
Barry could understand that. And Bart could understand that Deathstroke needed to be locked up, and the teen metas under his dubious care also needed help. Which was why it was easy to persuade him to help focus Jay's attention on what little Inertia said about the erstwhile Titans East. Jay quickly came to the conclusion there it wasn't just Inertia and Sungirl in need of aid, and got the JSA on the case.
After that, Jimmy Olsen was directed to the people who could help him; CADMUS and the Newsboy Legion had ample preparation to deal with his powers going amuck. Mary Marvel was directed to Freddy Freeman and Eclipso was sent to and stranded on Apokalips; the resulting mêlée put the kibosh on Granny Goodness' plan to act as Athena and collect new Female Furies from Earth. Rip Hunter was directed to Booster Gold, helping the wayward hero be where he needed to be at the proper times; the untangling multiverse was now slowly but surely getting knitted back together into something approaching 'good as new'.
The last thing to be done was to find Wally in the Speed Force. Wally, Linda, their twins… With Bart's help Barry was able to send them all back, keeping them at their proper ages.
"I wouldn't change my life for anything," Bart said softly as he watched Jai and Iris materialize in their mother's arms as toddlers. "But I do wish I'd had more time to be a kid."
So did Barry – and now he had a chance to give it back to his grandson. Along with a bit of a surprise…one he'd had 'waiting in the wings' so to speak, since before he'd brought Bart to the Speed Force, when he'd decided he needed to.
Barry Allen surveyed the world below him, and smiled. Their project was complete. Earth, for the moment, was set back on its proper course.
They'd done it, him and his grandson.
Sighing with regret, Barry clapped Bart on the back. He left the hand clinging to Bart's shoulder in a half-hug, and turned to look down – not so very far – at his second successor.
"We've done it, my boy. The Earth is saved. And…" Barry let another sigh escape him, giving Bart his brightest smile to dispel the worry on the boy's face, "I'm afraid it's time for you to go back to it."
Bart didn't argue. He was smart, and knew it wasn't his time to Ride the Lightning. "I know. But I'm gonna miss you…Grandpa."
At that, Barry gave up on being macho and pulled his grandson into a bone-crushing hug. "I'm going to miss you too, sport," he whispered into Bart's flyaway hair. So like his Iris', only without the curl.
Pulling back a bit, Barry looked down into the face that was so like his own – and Wally's, back when his nephew had been more innocent and playful, before he'd let the serious task of being the Flash influence how he lived his life. Barry hoped that this second time, far down the road, when Bart took up the mantle, he'd remember those mistakes, and learn from them. "There're people down there waiting for you, Bart," Barry said, voice gruff with the tears he was holding back.
Bart thought about Val, and almost nodded, then stopped. He thought about Val, and why he'd latched onto Val – because she reminded him so much of Carol.
Bart thought about Carol, and his friends in the Titans…and then he nodded. "Yes, there are."
With a last hug goodbye, Bart sped up until he was Riding the Lighting back to Earth, out of the Speed Force.
His name was Bart Allen. He was once again the super-speedster known as Impulse. He ran fast, and he helped people.
And right now, there were a few people he hadn't seen in way too long. Including one Max Mercury, that he wasn't even expecting.
Barry Allen watched his grandson go, faster than he himself had ever been, and smiled as he wiped a tear from his eye. "That's my boy."