In D a r k n e s s dwells
Summary: "There are no monsters underneath the bed," she told him. But there were so many of them, and they were everywhere, Wally knew.
Warning: Will feature a boyxboy romance. Will feature some blood and gore. Nothing in this chapter yet though (proper warnings will be given by each chapter from now on.)
Chapter One: After midnight
The door to the Central City Orphanage opened to the sound of cars outside and clicking of high heels.
(They're was always so much noise, but he always recognised the heels. He could tell who was coming in by the sound of the footsteps. He had time to think about such things anyway.)
Wally West, currently playing a game of checker with a nine-year old blonde, Allison, glanced up and gave a distracted wave to the person who just walked in. A tall, brown haired woman waved back, a shimmer in her hazel eyes. Her skin was pale, almost the same white as freshly fallen snow, a great contrast with her dark hair. Long legs were covered in a dark blue denim skirt, reaching a little longer than halfway her thighs, kept in place on her slim hips by a D&G belt. She wore a light purple, bordering pink designer top, from an expensive brand Wally didn't even want to recognize. Women and their brands.
(Even Shay loved wearing brands. Diana too. Both different ones, of course, Shayera wore all the sport brands. Told him they lasted the longest, she wrecked her clothing during work-outs. Fragile human textile. Nothing like Thanagar. She should've brought a whole life supply of clothing. And Diana wears girlish brands when she's not wearing anything Themyscara-ish, Amazon stuff. She loves pink and glared at him when he told her that was a girl colour. What is that supposed to mean?)
"Hiya, Nessa!" he smiled, as he moved his checker piece, glanced back down and smiled: "your turn, Ally."
She placed down her Gucci bag and walked over to the table where Wally was playing. She smiled at the child, but she seemed unaware of her presence. Her smile faltered at being ignored, but she waited patiently.
"Looks like you're given Wally a run for his money, aren't you, Allison?" she smiled.
The girl blinked, ignored her still. Her eyes were focused on the game, oblivious to all around her. She held her rag doll, woollen hair dirty and soiled, squeezed her stuffed arm. Wally shrugged and gave her an apologetic look, then focused back on the game.
(It wasn't personal, never was. She hadn't spoken to anyone when she arrived. They never did when they just came in and she had only been there for a month. Her father and mother had run a small grocery shop. One day, a punk with a gun decided it would be a great idea to rob the place. Shot her parents in the process, leaving her alone to weep behind the counter. When the police arrived, she didn't talk, didn't move, just let herself be brought away.)
"We're doing best out of three," he said conversationally, "this is the deciding game."
"Ah, well, in that case, I'll let you concentrate," she laughed, getting ready to leave.
Wally gestured at the corner of the room, where two girls were fussing over a doll, as he said: "Molly and Rachel have been waiting for you since noon, they'll be happy to see you're here."
She nodded with a grateful "thanks," and stalked off. She walked normally, but her heels made it look like a runaway walk. Wally flipped a red lock out of his green eyes and absently skimmed the room as Ally contemplated her next move, playing with a braid he made this morning. Molly and Rachel were telling a story to Nessa, gesticulating the way children do, showing off their doll, their faces all seriousness. At the large table in the middle of the room, most children were drawing or playing games. Outside, the boys were playing soccer. He could hear the occasional cheers when a goal was made. He loved the noise, loved the constant changing of moods, of words, of pace. He could keep up with it easily. But it kept him busy.
"Your turn," Allison said, her voice barely a whisper and she glanced up at him, fleetingly. Wally pretended not to notice, knowing that acknowledging her eye contact would make her close herself off all over again. It had taken him weeks to even get those two words out of her. She pressed her rag doll closer to her chest, as if speaking had been a huge risk.
"Lemme see," he muttered thoughtfully as he calculated his next moves in super speed, then counted to twenty in his mind. He smiled as he moved his piece. "Seems like you're winning to me."
Her lips slightly twitched, the closest thing anyone had gotten to a smile. She stared at her rag doll as she answered: "you're letting me win."
"What? Me!" Wally laughed, then made a dismissive movement with his hands. "Nu-uh, Ally, you're beating me fair and square." He paused a second, then, as if he changed his mind added with mock seriousness: "I mean. Of course, I'm letting you win."
She smiled again, this time an actual one and Wally smiled back warmly. From the corner of his eyes, he saw Nathan running up to him, black hair ruffled, eyes panicked. He didn't react until he was right next to him, tried not to be too fast. Allison pulled her rag doll closer to her chest, stroking her woollen hair.
"Wally! Wally!" Nathan started, wailing wildly with his arms and gesturing behind him. "Lynn's crying again!"
Wally shot Allison an apologetic look, but she simply shrugged, an almost invisible movement.
"Be her hero," she said softly, still caressing her doll.
Wally smiled, the comment full of an irony she would never understand. He pushed away his chair and let Nathan pull him to the crying girl, huddled into a corner. By her side sat her best friend, Anna, trying to comfort her. She looked up to the sound of quick footsteps and Nathan's rambling.
"Look, Lynn, Wally's here now," she said in hushed voice, as if the words belonged to a lullaby.
Wally dropped to his knees, brushing the hair out of her tear-stained eyes as Lynn slowly looked up.
"What's wrong, sweetie?" he said as he allowed her to stand up and wrap her little arms around him. He picked her up and slowly paced through the room. Despite being almost ten years old, she was still easily soothed by the more childish way of treating her.
In his ear she sniffled: "it's almost time to go to sleep."
Almost as if on cue, the boys who had been playing inside started slowly coming inside, ushered by Nessa. A quick look outside told him twilight was already setting in. He patted her on the back softly
"The monster won't come, Lynn, I checked everywhere," he said in the most convincing voice he could muster. Anna and Nathan both visibly relaxed. Lynn, however, didn't.
"The monster hides. It won't come out until I'm all alone," she told him softly, her young, high-pitched voice laced with fear. "Can't you stay and protect me from the monster?"
In a blink, Wally went over all the things he had to do that day. Monitor duty. He grimaced inwardly. He already had Shayera take over his shift twice this week and he was pretty sure if he asked again she would stuff her mace in a place he'd rather not have one. In particular because he had to protect a child from bad dreams. As much as he loved the league, there were things they just didn't get. Like how real the fear is for the monsters in your head.
"I can't, sweetie." In response she grabbed him tighter, digging her tiny nails into his shoulder. How he wished he could make it all alright again. Tell her that the monster was nothing she couldn't defeat, that monsters never are indestructible. But he remembered when he was a child and he pulled the covers over his head every night, hoping the monsters wouldn't find him.
"But Nathan can!" he added optimistically. At the mention of his name, the boy lit up and smiled proudly, nodding. "He's the bravest boy I know! He'll beat that monster in a second, no sweat."
Lynn seemed to think about the possibility, then slowly nodded and leaned back to look at Wally. She was a petite girl, almost to the point of being fragile, like a porcelain doll. Her skin was just as white, wearing a light pink dress, only making her look more like a doll.
(He picked it, he loved that. Playing dress up with real children. He got them to put on ten different outfits a day. Try this, try that, could you put that on? They laughed, they thought it was hilarious, thought it was grand. You look so cute, can I do your hair? He would've given the world if only his mother would've played dress up with him once. He would have whined, he would have complained. He would have loved it.)
She had huge blue eyes, staring back at him, still rimmed with tears. He whipped them off with the corner of his sleeve and smiled at her.
She softly smiled back.
(He can put a smile on faces that should be stained with tears.)
. . .
He watched Lynn sleep, curled up around her teddy bear. He closed the door behind him softly, leaving it open slightly so the light would come in still.
Nessa was leaning against the wall, observing him and he smiled brightly. A soon as he came out, she gestured her head towards the central room the kids played in and started walking.
"They're so cute when they sleep," he said, opening conversation, his voice dropped to a whisper as he left followed Nessa.
"They sure are," she smiled back. She gestured for Wally to sit down at the grand table and he did, following her with her eyes as she disappeared into the room that was the kitchen.
(Several years ago, Central City decided to make only one, huge orphanage. He liked the decision as well as he disliked it. The rooms were all too big, it seemed, it didn't seem natural. In particular now, when everyone was gone to sleep, it just felt incredibly awkward to sit at a huge table all by himself. But it was easier too, now both The Flash and Wally West had only one orphanage to visit.)
"You want some tea," she called over he shoulder.
"Tea is lovely," he answered.
He heard the noise of a kettle being put on a fire, water pouring, teabag ripping, as he glanced at his watch. An hour before monitor duty. All the time in the world.
She came back and put a tea mug in front of him. She poured the tea, silently, her bright red lips pressed together.
She sat down and sipped slowly.
(Everything is slow.)
"So," she said then, as if deciding to go through with something she didn't want. She flipped her hair out of her face. "You went to the police yesterday."
It was a statement, but he still answered it as if it had been a question. "Yeah. The bastards aren't even going to investigate."
He knew that was hardly fair. They were busy. They were doing something else. He worked in a crime lab himself, he knew he wouldn't spend any time on a case as vague as this one. But he also simply didn't care about logic.
"Because they're orphans, huh?" Nessa wrinkled her nose in disgust and placed her hand under her chin, leaning on her palm. Her fingers traced the edge of her cup. He stared at the flowers.
"Yeah. Like every child who experienced pain has to go off the rails and run away."
"Well, maybe they're right, Wally. Maybe we're just too close to this whole thing."
Wally fixed her with a slight glare, looking annoyed and angry enough to make her unconsciously lean back, but not enough to make her defensive.
"Look. I've been visiting here for at least ten years now. Yes, sometimes children ran away, it did happen. But not like this. Not… so many, so often," he shook his head, leaving the red locks that obscured his eyes right there. He suppressed the sigh.
Nessa laid her hand upon his and gave a soft squeeze. Wally looked back up and smiled back, wryly.
"I know you're worried, Wally. I don't think I've ever seen anyone who cares about these kids as much as you do," she pulled her hand back and used it to adjust her (probably fake) golden necklace.
Wally smiled. "Thank you."
Nessa shook her head, then quickly gulped down of her tea. She shoved back her chair and stood up.
"Don't worry, Wally, everything will be fine. It's been a week, right, and they're still here, all of them," she swung her bag over her shoulder while talking and leaned over to give him a quick kiss on the cheek. "I'm off, see you tomorrow."
"Bye," he answered, watching her retreat on her black heels.
At the door she paused, resting her hand on the doorframe. She looked over her shoulder and gave him another smile.
"There are no monsters underneath the bed, Wally."
He laughed and shook his head.
(But there were. So many and they were everywhere. He had seen them. He had fought them.)
. . .
Shayera Hol ignored the way her wings were ruffled by a sudden gush of wind. A feather was held before her face in only a fraction of a second after she had lost it. She stared at it, but didn't grab it.
"How many times do I have to tell you I don't collect feathers?" she said, pretending to be annoyed.
"You should, though, make pillows out of it. Special Hawkgirl-Feathered Pillows," Wally said in mock seriouness, "big bucks!"
I'm not Hawkgirl anymore, she wanted to reply, but she didn't because she knew the slip-up had gone unnoticed by him. To him, things hadn't really changed that much. She was still Hawkgirl, despite not wearing the helmet. She was still Hawkgirl, despite the fact she never had been. Instead she replies: "Absolutely."
Wally opened his mouth, but she interrupted him: "enough stupid questions about the wings. And what's with the goofy grin. Had a talk with your newest crush again? Is that why you're not wearing the costume?"
Wally blushed crimson and she couldn't help but smirk evilly. She wondered if he realised how easy it was, teasing him, making him blush and squirm. She realised she didn't want to know (know how badly she hurt him, but no. None of that.)
"She's not my crush," he defended himself, rather meekly. "She's just a friend. And it's just monitor duty, anyway."
"Of course she is," she made sure to look straight ahead to the monitor screens, looking at Wally only through the corner at her eye. She swallowed her laughter at his pained expression.
"Well… she is really beautiful," a little shimmer in his eyes, "but then again, I'm so used to being surrounded by beautiful women…"
She did laugh this time and mocked-punched him on the shoulder. "Flatterer. You're absolutely adorable when you're trying to deny your crushes."
She used the word just to see him try something slightly resemble glaring at her. He crossed his arms over his chest and stuck out his tongue. He had crushes all the time, varying from girls he saw in the supermarket, to celebrities and people he actually talked with. He got over them just as quickly as he got them, but they usually lasted long enough to use it against him and they were never serious enough to actually hurt him.
"You're mean," he said in a childish voice.
"It's my duty as a big sister," she told him seriously, nodding.
He was smiling now, brightly. It was so awfully easy to send him through a spiral of emotions, it sometimes made her feel uneasy, still. She looked ahead at the monitor screens again, studying landscapes. Wally turned his chair a few more times, a slightly troubled expression on his face. At this, Shayera couldn't help but frown and open her mouth to ask: "what's with the look?"
Wally whirled in her direction as if he had been caught doing something absolutely illegal. She suppressed her smile, but only barely. He flicked his eyes down to the ground, the up again, as if in thought then shook his head, smiling.
She raised an eyebrow. "You look troubled."
"Monitor duty is boring," he supplied in his usual up-beat voice.
"Monitor duty is always boring and you don't always look troubled."
"Nah, it's just…" he paused for a whole second, then whirled his chair back in the direction of the monitor screen and looked straight ahead as he said: "Lynn, a girl at the orphanage asked me to stay, but I couldn't. I just feel kind of bad about it."
"We all have bad dreams, Wally," she replied, hoping she didn't sound all to bitter.
"And we all want someone who can make them go away." His voice hushed. Green eyes dimmed. She tightened the grip on her mace.
"She'll be fine," she offered as comfort. She still wasn't that good in it.
He beamed at her, (vaguely she realised that was more for her benefit than his actual feelings, but that was okay) and nodded, shrugging.
"Yeah, sure, she's a big kid. I'm just a little worried, that's all."
You're too good for the world, she wanted to say, but that would've just sounded incredibly corny, so she didn't. It didn't make it any less true.
Sometimes she still found it hard to believe, that there was someone like Wally who cared so much about anything. She felt a wave of sickness washing over her as she thought back of what made her see that. Better worlds and invasions.
Wally shrugged one more time, dismissing his own words, then started a story about his day at the orphanage. Shayera listened only partly, tuning most of his rambling out. Trying to keep up with one of Wally's story could easily cost you your sanity. She wasn't about to give hers away. Not after she just got it back.
Somewhere along the story, four cups of iced mocha (for both of them, she was ashamed to admit) and hours of staring at a monitor screen, Wally stopped mid-sentence at a buzzing sound.
"That would be your mobile phone," Shayera said in answer to his surprised look. "Perhaps your little crush."
"Do they even work here? Since we're in space?" Wally ignored her comment.
"Batman made sure they did," she shrugged, explaining something really obvious.
"Duh," Wally replied and took the cell phone out of his pocket, pressing it to his ear, smiling. "Hello?"
Shayera watched his expression falter and a horrid look spreading in green eyes. She suppressed a shiver. He clenched his hand and stared right past her, into the darkness between the stars.
"I'll be there in a second," he said and put the phone down. He stood up without looking at her.
"I'll take care of monitor duty," she said, her voice a little off at the sudden change of behaviour. She wanted to ask what was wrong, but she knew that would require time he obviously didn't want to waste. She'd ask him about him. Later. Like a big sister would.
(She loved that title so much more than she should.)
There was another gush of wind and she knew he was gone before another loose feather hit the ground.
. . .
"Molly!" he screamed at the top of his lungs, his flashlight lighting the alley in an eerie way. "Molly! Can you hear me? Molly! Where are you?"
God. Where was she? He felt sick. He felt nervous. He felt guilty.
He shouldn't have left them. He should've stayed. Shay could've dealt with monitor duty. He should've stayed.
He screamed. He walked. He screamed some more. Molly, Molly, Molly. Molly, ten-year old Molly. Molly, who lost her parents in a traffic accident. Pretty, lively Molly. Molly, who wanted to be a dancer when she grew up.
Molly, Molly, Molly. She wouldn't run. She wouldn't run away. She loved her friends, she loved everything.
"Molly! Where are you?"
The only answer he got was his own desperate echo.
. . .
Since I'm too lazy to ask and too impatient to wait (even a few days, yes, I'm that bad.) I'm sorry if the end seemed a little rushed, but I was really getting tired of having this on my pc all the time without getting finished. I wanted at least ONE chapter out before the exams start.
So, uhm, yes. This is the first chapter of what will be a whole series dedicated to BatFlash! Yeah, I know Bruce didn't get any story time (it can't be screen time since it's a story) in this chapter, but worry not, he will soon enough.
I really love Shayera, so she'll be getting a lot of story time too! She's one of Wally's best friends after all. And yes, Nessa is of course an OC, but don't worry, she won't be stealing the show.
I hope you liked it! Please review! Comments, questions, suggestions, all is welcome!