Rae: Well, here's a piece from when I was totally and utterly bored during a triple free on Tuesday. Enjoy, guys, and tell me what you think! :D
Flash had been missing for nearly four months now. He'd been sent on a small-time mission to spy on a man known to have connections to many high-up underground mobsters, but he never returned. No one knew anything, and though Batman searched high and low, asked (well, tortured until he was sure they were telling the truth) all the criminals he'd been able to track down, but none of them could help. Even the man Flash had been spying on, Damien Crowe, seemed to have vanished into thin air.
Frustrated and angry, Batman punched the console keypad with enough force that it cracked several times. Diana laid a gentle hand on his arm, but he tossed it off angrily.
"Batman," she began, but the billionaire didn't want to hear it.
"I'm going after Howell," he growled. He turned to make his way swiftly off the bridge.
"Howell? You found him?" Superman stepped in front of the Dark Knight, eyeing him. "Where is he?"
Batman glared at the Man of Steel for several seconds, but when it became apparent he wouldn't move unless told what he wanted to hear Bruce found himself with little choice. "A small abandoned office block two miles outside Fremont, Ohio."
"Yes." Batman pushed past Superman, who did nothing to stop him. Instead, he watched the man on the security feed as he climbed into the Javelin and took off. Something hung heavy in his heart, but he forced it to the side. This was no time to think about Flash and his fate.
It was easier than Bruce had anticipated to get inside the building; the security, while excellent against a normal invasion, clearly hadn't been prepared for any member of the League to come after them. Indeed, Batman wondered why he was chasing this guy at all. Maybe to take his mind of Flash. Maybe an over-sensitized sense of justice for human traffickers. Whatever the reason, Bruce was not going to let Howell get away with any of his 'business'. He would free those girls and put him behind bars.
Finding the girls was his first and foremost priority, so he began to meticulously sweep the lower levels of the building. When they yielded nothing, he began to move up to the top floors, searching each and every one of the 21 floors thoroughly. He growled in frustration as he got to the last office in the 21st floor and still had nothing. Standing still for a minute in the office, cape draped rather solemnly over his shoulders, he mulled the facts over. This was Howell's hideout, of that he was sure, but where was everything?
The only answer he could come up with was that he'd missed something on the lower floors. A secret door, or another ground floor, or something along those lines. That decided, he turned swiftly and headed downstairs to the first floor.
The bust took less than 10 minutes. Howell was now in custody, and Batman was currently helping to herd several scared and battered girls out from the underground holding cells he'd stumbled across. The Dark Knight couldn't help a rise in eyebrows as a few boys came out as well, obviously victims rather than offenders. They all looked to be late teens or early twenties, but it was the last boy to exit, helped by a couple of paramedics, that caught Bruce's eye. Emerald green eyes shone out from a dirt-covered face, a face that even it its exhausted state could still manage a smile. He couldn't have been more than 19, 20 at the most. His hair could barely be made out to be a rustic orangey-red; unusual but it must have looked nice. Now, though, it was matted and dirty, uneven in places where Batman assumed it was growing back. For some reason, he felt a surge of protectiveness towards the boy. Almost as much as he did with Flash.
When the last girls were released and safely out, he found the boy sat on the back of an ambulance, drinking something steaming out of a mug. He looked up as Batman approached, and gave a quick grin. A grin that was so familiar and yet so foreign.
"Thanks for the save," he said lightly, albeit hoarsely.
"What did they do to you?" Batman accepted the gratitude with a slight incline of the head, but nothing else.
"Take your best guess." The red-head blew on his drink and sipped some more. It was then that Bruce noticed the state of his legs, and a cold feeling settled in his gut.
"What did they do to your legs?" he asked, slightly more sharply than he intended, but the boy didn't seem much fazed. Instead, his face crumpled and he looked near to tears.
"They...busted them, did something to them. The paramedics say I may never walk again, and I won't ever run again. Running was my life." He hiccoughed, hands starting to shake. "It's my life, I love running. They took it away from me."
Batman sat next to the boy. "What's your name?"
"Bruce." Wally looked startled at Batman, who was internally screaming at himself 'what the hell are you doing?!'.
"Bruce? That's…your real name?" He realized he was staring, and dropped his green eyes to his drink.
"Yes." He eyed the boy, sizing him up. He looked like he'd been exceptionally fit and healthy, but apparently living in the squalor of the brothel he'd been freed from had taken its toll. Slim to the point of near anorexia, long legs and arms, and a gaunt face that had probably been so full of life pulled too tautly over what would normally be perfect cheekbones. "You can come with me, you know."
"Eh?" That pulled Wally away from looking into his mug.
"To the Watchtower. I have medical training, and our equipment's more advanced than the hospital's. There's a greater chance you'll run again."
"Seriously?" Wally's eyes lit up, and they became so full of hope that Batman found all resistance to the boy came crashing down around him.
"No promises, but there's a better chance."
"How is he?" J'onn's deep but slightly comforting bass of a voice sounded as Batman closed the medbay door behind him.
"I meant his legs." The martian raised an eyebrow.
"I know." Bruce was silent for a minute. "I think they'll be alright, at least for walking. It'll take a lot more to get him running again, though." There was a silence as the two Leaguers walked to the bridge. "Hey J'onn?"
"Is it just me that feels something familiar about this boy, or is it you too?"
"It is strangely nostalgic, yes." J'onn hesitated. "I...do have a theory."
"Go on." The two men stopped, and J'onn lowered his voice.
"Wally said he loved to run, that it was his life, yes?"
A nod. "I assumed he was part of a track team or something."
"What if he's Flash? That would explain so much, so quickly."
Batman concealed a momentary flash of shock, and considered. "The Flash? It's plausible, I suppose. It would certainly explain his disappearance." He couldn't hide the worried look. "But even if he is the man under the hood of the Flash, then unless I can heal his legs so he can run once more he'll never again take up the mantle that Barry left him."
J'onn sighed. "I know."
Left with those rather disturbing thought trains that began to rattle off to goodness knows where, both Leaguers went silently into the bridge room.
When Bruce went back into the medlab to check on Wally, the red-head was sat up and watching the small flat-screen TV on the opposite wall. He turned at the sound of the door opening and smiled when he saw Batman.
"Yo Bats," he said cheerfully.
The Dark Knight was silent for a minute. "Hello, Flash." That simple statement made the boy start and a horrified look cross his features.
"How...how did you know?"
"I'm Batman." Bruce shrugged. "It doesn't matter. I'm just glad we found you. We'd nearly given up hope of finding you alive."
Wally's expression went from horrified to confused, to happy and then to miserable in the space of just a couple of seconds. "You nearly didn't," he said quietly. "I put up one hell of a fight, more than they were comfortable with, so they were going to get rid of me at the end of this month. If they hadn't sold me by then."
Batman laid a hand on Wally's shoulder. "Well, they're behind bars now. And I'm going to get you running again, you'll see."
"I know." The green eyes glowed with life and trust. "You always pull through."
Over the course of the next few months, Wally's legs healed far better and faster than anyone had anticipated. His face became full and boyish once again, showing every bit of his young 19 years. The green eyes had got their dance steps to life back, and his cocky grin and awful yet still highly amusing one-liners were back in full force. The orangey-red hair had grown completely back, and hung wild and loose about his face and neck. Arms were getting their muscle back, he was putting on weight and he'd already taken a few steps on his own without aid.
Of course, Bruce and Wally had gotten to know each other quite well over the months as well, and the former, though he'd never admit it aloud, always looked forwards to their physiotherapy sessions. Wally was much brighter than anyone in the League gave him credit for, Batman included, and they spent a lot of time just relaxing and chatting about anything and everything. Bruce had given up his secret identity to the red-head, and Wally in turn had told him his full name and his job. Their conversations ranged from the latest case Wally was working on to the more philosophical questions of what was in their immediate future and so forth.
Bruce found himself enjoying Wally's company more and more, and that feeling of protectiveness he'd previously had over Flash increased dramatically the more time he spent with him.
A hot sunny day in the middle of August found Wally wanting to do some more walking, and Bruce decided that letting him use the pool would be a good way of getting him back on form and in rhythm. So, with swimming shorts and the leg braces, they headed outside to the pool. Bruce eased himself in first, letting the water cool off his over-heated body, before turning around and helping Wally in from the side. The red-head accepted his help and slid in gracefully. His feet tapped lightly on the pool bottom, and Bruce smiled.
"Oh yeah, let's do this." The determined look on Wally's face made Bruce laugh.
"Come on then, hot-shot." Taking the speedster's hands, Bruce started walking slowly backwards. The boy followed gingerly, stumbling slightly every few steps but staying upright. They made progress as the day wore on; Wally's walking became more confident, and he did it by himself more than once when he hadn't realized Bruce had let go of his hands. They were so immersed in what they were doing that they never realized how much time had passed. It was getting on for about 6 in the evening when Wally suddenly commented on the turning on of the garden lights.
"Didn't realize it was that late," said Bruce, surprised. "You hungry?"
"Am I ever." The red-head looked sheepish. "My body seems to be taking in more than usual."
"You muscles are requiring a lot of energy to get themselves moving after so long of not being able too. I'd say you're still healing too."
"True that." Wally hoisted himself onto the poolside with his arms, and waited patiently for Bruce to swim to the side and get out to help him up. They dried off as best they could, but before Bruce could take up his role of 'physical support' Wally was already walking to the door very unsteadily and slowly. "Look, Bruce!" He yelled happily. "I'll be running in no time, you'll see!"
"Careful, you idiot!" Bruce made a mad dash as Wally tripped over a flagstone, and caught the red-head just before he toppled to the floor. "You've got to pay attention."
Wally looked surprised as he lay motionless in Bruce's arms, still wrapped around his waist where they'd caught him. "Sorry," he said eventually. "Impulsive and irrational. I know."
"And impressive." The billionaire gave Wally a smile. "We've made progress today. A lot of good progress."
"I know. I'm getting stronger. I know I am 'cause I feel stronger." The speedster got awkwardly up with Bruce's help, and they made their way inside for some dinner.
Later that evening, Bruce had suggested a movie night. Wally had readily agreed, but apparently the day's session had taken its toll on his energy. He could barely keep his eyes open about halfway through Iron Man, and rested his head on Bruce's shoulder. He was soon nodding off, falling into light dozes that were broken when a particularly loud exclamation or explosion sounded from the TV.
"Come on," sighed Bruce. "You look dead beat. Let's get you to bed."
" 'm sorry," mumbled Wally into his shoulder as Batman picked him up. "Tired."
"Would never have guessed." Bruce grinned at the half-hearted look of annoyance the red-head sent him. "It's fine. You need all the strength you can get."
The billionaire climbed the stairs, Wally half-asleep in his arms. He decided he couldn't be bothered to put him in his usual room, so Bruce took him into his room. He deposited Wally very gently onto the bed, and the boy scrambled under the covers to escape the cooler air of the room in favor of the warm environment under the duvet. To see nothing but a few tufts of red hair sticking out the top of the duvet made Bruce snicker, and he disappeared into the en-suite bathroom to get ready for bed.
The next morning brought Bruce into wakefulness, only to find that a certain superhero had somehow managed to drape himself over Bruce's middle at some point in the night and showed no signs of moving or waking up. Deciding Wally needed his sleep, the Dark Knight began to run his fingers gently through surprisingly soft hair, despite its unruly look, and let his thoughts wander.
He'd become attached to the red-head, he'd readily admit that. But there felt like there was something missing, something not quite there, and he couldn't think for the life of him what it was. Regardless, he decided, looking down at Wally, he'd work it out sooner or later. Right now, the thing he most wanted to do was keep that expression of total peace and serenity which currently made up Wally's features.
A few weeks later, Wally and Bruce were outside in the garden. The speedster's leg strength had improved greatly over a sudden, short time period. The red-head was currently walking straight and tall, albeit a little slower than normal walking speed, around the garden path, Bruce next to him the entire time for support should he need it. They were talking about what Wayne Industries was currently up to, and discussing the pros and cons of the economic and financial actions the company was considering.
They'd been outside for about two hours when Wally tripped and fell over a small plant pot that had been misplaced by the gardener, but Bruce was waiting there to catch him. What the billionaire hadn't accounted for was the force at which the speedster had fallen, and they both toppled over to the floor. They ended up with Bruce on his elbows and butt and Wally flat on top of him. Neither of them dared to move while breathing slowed, and then the red-head started giggling. Bruce raised an eyebrow.
"What's so funny?"
"Me. I'm such a klutz, that's what."
"Oh. Well, I could have told you that." Bruce got a tongue pointed in his direction for the comment, and he chuckled. Wally began to snicker again, and soon they were both laughing about the ridiculousness of it all.
Eventually the laughter died, though, and Wally started to get up off of Bruce. He made the mistake of taking a glance into the billionaire's eyes, however, and stopped at the intense blue color. He'd never noticed how dark and yet so brightly intelligent those eyes were.
They stayed like that for a good couple of minutes, before Bruce decided 'what the heck' and closed the gap between them. As soon as his lips touched Wally's he realized what he was missing.
He'd fallen in love with the hyperactive, determined, energetic and impulsive speedster.
Bruce felt something akin to a thrill when Wally didn't resist, and nearly gasped when he started to tentatively kiss back, as though it might not be real and Bruce was just stringing him along. An arm snaked around Wally's waist, and he grew bold enough to place two smaller hands on the billionaire's chest. The kiss stayed chaste for only so long before Bruce nibbled delicately on Wally's bottom lip and attempted to deepen it. The speedster straddling him was only too ready to respond, and Bruce took the chance to slip his tongue in and explore the warm cavern of Wally's mouth, eliciting a moan from the young man. The Dark Knight pulled the slender form into him even more, tracing fingers up his back with feather light touches, making Wally shudder. The small hands resting on Bruce's chest moved up to tangle themselves in dark, dark hair.
The younger wasn't willing to give up dominance without a fight, though, so when they finally pulled apart they were both panting hungrily for air, neither taking their eyes off the other's. Wally gave a lop-sided grin through his rapid breathing, and Bruce smiled.
"Can I take that as a 'you're annoying but I like you anyway'?" He asked, moving his hands to rest on the billionaire's stomach.
"No, you can take that as a 'you're annoying but I love you anyway, and wouldn't have you any other way'," replied the Dark Knight, settling back onto his elbows. Wally's eyes widened and his grin grew before he threw his arms around Bruce's neck.
"You don't know how much I wished for you to say something like that to me," he whispered.
Bruce put his arms gently around Wally and just held him there until he pulled away. "I should've said it sooner."
Wally looked him in the eyes, apparently searching for something, then leaned in and pressed his lips briefly to Bruce's again. "I never really did thank you properly for rescuing me from Howell's prison."
"If there's one thing I can't stand, it's human traffickers. Howell's operation was one of the largest in the area, and I was going to take it down no matter what." He traced a finger across a perfect cheekbone. "And I'm damn glad I did." There was a pause, and then he added, "So, how did you get caught by Howell anyway?"
Wally's breath hitched slightly before he answered. "Well, I was staking out Crowe's place and it was pretty quiet. Like, nothing was happening. So I dropped my guard a bit. And I got hit."
"Tanquilizer dart. Nasty little bugger. It would take longer on a normal human, but because my blood runs faster through my body so does the tranquilizer. I had barely enough time to see it was Crowe who'd shot me from behind before blanko. Nothing. Anyway, when I woke up I was in this...cell, I suppose. No other way to describe it. My hands were chained above me, like so," he demonstrated, "and it was really dark. I felt woozy and ill, but when I tried to move my legs they just screamed at me. I remember nearly being sick from just trying to move them.
"Well, I dunno how long it was before my cell door opened, and a man walked in ahead of Crowe and another man. The first one introduced himself as Naduk Howell, and the third man was apparently called Stark. No clue why.
"But anyway, they took me to...well, they called it an interrogation room, but it was really a torture chamber, to try and find out why I was spying on them. Never told them anything apart from 'I wasn't'. They decided they weren't going to get anything more outta me so they threw me back in the cell. My next visitor was ages after that decision, and it was Stark." Wally stopped and shrugged helplessly. "I couldn't do anything to stop him. My energy was sapped, my strength gone, I hurt all over and my legs were broken and battered."
Bruce didn't say anything, just drew the red-head in with a hug. Inside he was seething at the man who'd put his Flash through all this, but he didn't show anything outside. Apparently it was all Wally needed, because he gripped the back of Bruce's shirt with tightly clenched fists in a fierce hug back.
"They never broke you," said the billionaire finally. "You won, Wally. You're still here, healthy, happy, and your spirits are still very much alive." He stroked the back of the young man's red hair soothingly. "And I love you."
"Love you too." The mumble came from somewhere in Bruce's shoulder, but it was choked with raging emotions. All he needed was some time to sort them out, and Bruce would be there every step of the way.
(6 months later)
Flash zoomed to the bridge of the Watchtower, laughing at John who was trying to catch him in vain. "C'mon GL," he teased. "You're getting slow in your old age!"
"Oh that's it kid, you're really in for it now!" The tremor of amusement lying underneath John's words belied the serious expression and tone, and Wally picked up on it instantaneously.
"You gotta catch me first!" He zipped out the way of a giant clamp that Green Lantern created before dashing to the other side of the bridge and out towards the Javelin bay. Where he bumped, quite literally, into Batman just emerging from said bay. The Dark Knight merely raised an eyebrow.
"IkindastoleJohn'slaptoptoplayagameandnowhe'sonmyheels," the speedster said. Bruce shook his head.
"It's just like you to get up to pranks as soon as you're back on your feet," he said dryly.
"Yeah well." Wally shrugged and grinned. "What can I say? It's who I am." He raced off again, but not before Batman felt a small tingle on his cheek where Flash had decided to place a quick reminder. But Bruce didn't need a reminder. The reminder was currently running around the Javelin bay trying to avoid John Stewart's feared green ring. Succeeding too, apparently, if Green Lantern's frustrated noises were anything to go by.
Wallace West was one-of-a-kind, and Bruce had found something in him that he thought he'd lost long ago. Love. Just goes to show that even the most iron of hearts has a weakness, thought Batman with amusement as he meandered his way to the monitor room.
Rae: Review, guys! Hope you enjoyed it! ^^