Warning: deathfic. Break out the Kleenix box before reading.
Author's Note: Based on characters and situations from DC Comics, Pet Fly Productions, Warner Bros., and a whole batch of other people, none of whom are me. This was written for the recycling 'zine A Small of Friends from Neon RainBow Press -- the goal of Small Circle was to take the plot from one TV show, and retell it with the characters and situations from another show. This story started life as a Birds of Prey episode, but is retold here as a Flash story. Oh, and I borrowed one character from KF: TLC, who lived and worked in Central City before moving to Sloanville.
When the Bough Breaks
Based on the Birds of Prey episode "Three Birds and a Baby"
Rewritten by Susan M. M. for A Small Circle of Friends
Rock a bye baby, in the treetop,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock.
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall.
Down will come baby, cradle and all.
November 5, 1990, Central City
Barry Allen, aka the Flash, ran through the streets of Central City at 70 mph. No one saw him in the dark except one old wino. The wino watched the scarlet-clad speedster run past, then looked at the half-finished bottle with respect.
"Darn, that stuff's stronger than I thought." Enthusiastically, he took another swig.
Barry continued his patrol. He was just about to quit for the night and go home for a pizza or two when he heard screams in the distance. He changed direction, heading toward them. As he got closer, he could hear the sounds of a scuffle and followed the noise until he saw a woman on a fire escape over an alley. Two men were tussling with her.
"Call 911," Barry yelled, hoping one of the neighbors would obey. He was about to hurry up the fire escape when something white fell. Looking up, he was shocked to see a baby falling. Instinctively, he caught it.
Two more men rushed out of the shadows to attack him. Cradling the baby in one arm, he kicked one, knocking him against a dumpster. He slammed his left arm out straight, flattening the second man. Barry set the baby down on the lowest platform of the fire escape. He grabbed the first man and threw him into the dumpster. He headed toward the second man, who took one look at him, scrambled to his feet, and ran away. Barry picked the baby up again and went up the fire escape, only slightly faster than a normal human, out of consideration for the infant nestled against his chest.
He heard footsteps running as he went up, and guessed that the other assailants were escaping out the apartment door. He didn't worry. He knew it would be easy to catch up with them.
"Ma'am, I've got your baby." Barry looked down at the woman lying on the fire escape platform. A knife protruded from her chest. He swore quietly. "Sorry, kid, guess I shouldn't say that in front of you."
Dr. Tina McGee pulled on her bathrobe and hurried to her condo door. "This had better be good. It's two o'clock in the morning." She opened her door, and saw the Flash standing there. "Couldn't this wait until morning?"
"Nope." Barry held out the baby to her.
"What? What's this? Where did it come from?" The brunette scientist stepped back so Barry and the baby could come inside.
"It's a baby. You've heard of 'em, right? Little critters, cry a lot? And you being a scientist and all, I figured you already know where they come from," Barry said.
"I know about the birds and the bees," Tina retorted. "But where did this one come from? It's not yours, is it?"
"Of course not! I found it."
"So you mistook my place for the lost and found department?"
"I didn't know what else to do. The mother was murdered. I wasn't in time to stop them." Barry pushed the baby at her. "I didn't know what else to do with it."
Reluctantly, awkwardly, Tina took the squirming bundle. "You could have taken to Social Services, or a hospital, or something."
Barry shook his head. "Someone killed its mother. Somebody sent four men after her. That wasn't a robbery gone bad, that was a deliberate murder. Until we know who she was, and why she was killed, the baby might be in danger, too."
"Barry, it's hardly a witness at its age."
"What if whoever killed the mother was after the baby? I couldn't take the chance."
The baby began to cry. Tina sniffed. "I think you'd better go out for some diapers."
Barry stood in the aisle and stared in dismay. Pampers. Huggies. Luvs. Always Save. Newborn. 8-14 pounds. 16-28 pounds. 22-37 pounds. Pull-ups. Just for boys. Just for girls. He hadn't even checked to see if the baby was a boy or a girl. In desperation, he grabbed four different sorts and threw them in the cart.
"There, there, please don't cry," Tina begged the wailing infant. She began to sing softly, hoping to calm the child. "Rock a bye baby, in the treetop, when the wind blows, the cradle will rock. When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall. Down will come baby, cradle and all. Ugh," she muttered to herself, "what a morbid thing to sing to a child." She racked her brain to think of a more cheerful lullaby.
The cashier rolled her eyes and tsked at the depth of male ineptitude. "Four packages of diapers, different sizes, a six-pack of plastic bottles, one can of formula, two frozen pizzas, and a candy bar. Either you're opening a daycare, or you got stuck babysitting and you forgot to ask how old the kid is," she guessed.
"My cousin's kid," Barry lied.
"Save the receipts," the cashier advised. "As long as you don't open 'em, you can bring back the ones that are the wrong size."
"I'm back," Barry announced, as he let himself into Tina's condo.
"Shhh. Guy's sleeping," Tina whispered.
"Guy?" He carried the grocery bags to the kitchen.
Tina followed him. "Well, I couldn't keep calling him 'it.' It's November fifth, so I named him Guy."
"I hate the name Guy." Barry glanced at the microwave directions on the side of the pizza box.
"It's a perfectly good name," Tina replied. She sorted through the packages of diapers. "This one, I think."
"You named him after a terrorist?"
One delicate brown eyebrow rose. "A terrorist?"
"Guy Fawkes tried to blow up Parliament, didn't he? And Guy of Gisbourne was the bad guy," Barry winced at the unintentional pun, "in the Robin Hood stories. And, and, Guy Gardner," he added
"Went to junior high with him. He was a real jerk." Barry opened the microwave, put the pizza inside, and set the controls.
Tina glimpsed something out of the corner of her eye. She turned to see what it was. Her jaw dropped. She stared. Very lightly, she touched Barry's arm to get his attention.
"What?" Barry turned around. "Oh, my –"
He stared wide-eyed at the toddler before him. Naked except for a blanket, the child stood shivering in the doorway. The blanket was the one Guy had been wrapped in, and he had Guy's blond curls and blue eyes. But he appeared to be about three years old.
"I'm cold, Auntie Tina. And hungry," the child whimpered.
"Auntie Tina?" Barry whispered.
"It's how I was referring to myself when I rocked him to sleep," she whispered back. In a normal voice, she said matter of factly, "Of course you are, darling. You've outgrown your clothes. Sit down and Auntie Tina will get you a glass of milk and a slice of pizza. Then you can have a nice warm bath whilst Uncle Barry runs out to get you some new clothes.
Barry nodded, taking the hint.