Note: Written for YJ_anon_meme on LJ; post is close to exactly like it. 'Cause I'd feel like I'd be cheating if I beta'd it. C':
Everything has a certain smell or a certain taste. Sometimes our garage would smell like scaly fish, and sometimes whenever Aunt Iris washed the dishes they still smelled had the residue from leftovers last night. Megan was still trying to understand the Earth need for hygiene, so the kitchen at Mount Justice always smelled like some sort of food—burnt or not.
Blood just smelled like blood.
It tasted like rusted iron, and it took ages to leave your mouth. There are about five quarts of blood in the human body. But I'm pretty sure I'd just witnessed four of them ooze from his body, at first deceitful because it was also the same shade of his uniform. He laid there in a sea of blood, every molecule no longer buzzing and whiter than the platform of Zoom's base. I think I hugged him. I body was limp, bones shattered into a billion pieces and I saw his heart. I saw it the size of my fist, saw it squeezed and pinched like a water balloon in a chokehold before it burst.
I still hugged him. I blood seeped between my lips into my mouth after I buried my face into the crook of his neck, and it blinded my eyes. From head-to-toe I was soaked in his blood. You could hardly tell the difference now. It was caked in my hair, smeared in my face, and blotched across the yellow of my uniform and it was all I could smell.
Tears didn't leave my face. I didn't sob, didn't talk—didn't think. All I did was fall to my knees and hug his body. Then it hit me. If I had gotten there just a second faster…if I was fast enough—
Barry's blood. Barry's blood. Uncle Barry's blood. Oh…oh my god.
Before I knew it, searing pain trampled both of us. The burn of his body against mine boiled my skin and I held on tighter. It smelled like lightning, soot, and burned against my skin. I could feel epidermis scraping off my flesh, scalding and deafening to the ears, but…nothing.
I screamed Uncle Barry. I screamed for Flash; the guy who was everywhere every time, who used to hug me. The one years ago that Aunt Iris told me she was marrying and…and I rolled with it. He was kinda boring, kinda stiff. But he was my hero. All he did was pat me on the head, smile, and asked this eleven-year-old kid to catch all his slip-ups if he was ever a horrible husband to his new wife. That was what he did: he patted me on the head whether I did something right, did something wrong, and took care of it for me.
Then the real thought kicks in. Uncle Barry is dead.
My forearms had second degree burns. I knew they'd heal, so that wasn't the problem. My arms were light without a body and under the tips of my fingers are drenched with left over red liquid.
Uncle Barry is dead and now his body's missing.
I can't remember what happened first. I think Robin and Aqualad found me; moved my body for me. They dragged me to a corner, mumbling something so miniscule, so incoherent that I didn't care anymore. At first they started talking, tried hard to get the details out of me. Then, they tried to get a conversation going; about food—comfort food, or anything they can find. After that everyone fell silent.
Robin wouldn't let go of my hand. Aqualad watched me like a hawk, Artemis studied me. Megan was the only one who tried to stir up a conversation every five minutes, but no one answered. Not now.
An hour later, the founding members of the league came. Superboy stood parallel to his father, expression grim and I almost laughed at how he demanded what they were going to do to me. I didn't. I hadn't even blinked in the past hour.
After everyone calmed Superboy down, Superman noticed I was holding the ripped Flash cowl between my fingers. Batman doesn't extract it.
They took one look at me, drenched in blood, and no one demanded I be interrogated that night.
Mom tried to pry the cowl from my fingers—told me that it was the only thing left over; that there was no body. It was what they were going to put in the coffin. I snapped at her. You have no right to touch the cowl, I'd yelled. You weren't here, you were never there and you always hatedhim because I liked him better.
Dad only stared at me. He was the silent type, and every time you looked at him he had the same expression. My mother slapped me. A few hours before the wedding, Aunt Iris had driven by, her makeup running. She had a suitcase in the back of her car. We stuffed it with some clothes, raided the fridge, and drove to the cemetery in silence. She asked me one question:
"How long do you want to stay over?"
Forever, I didn't say. Forever, and ever—until Uncle Barry comes back, smile on his face and pats me on the head like he used to. Then I want to stay at the Allen Household forever and a day. Instead, I said, "I don't know."
She knows what I mean, though. Aunt Iris pulled me into a hug the moment we got out of the car. My heart tingled with the serendipitous feeling in my chest, bubbling and glowing from her touch; from the two people who understood who I really was. When she patted me on the head, it just didn't feel the same.
The funeral was long, boring, and dull.
Nothing like Uncle Barry. Everyone who knew him says their regards, saving Aunt Iris for last, who smiled gently and got into the story of how they met, how he proposed, and what happened at the wedding. Before she went up to the stage, Jay filed down and stood parallel to me. We stared at each other for a moment.
A small, sad smile, tugged on his lips, and he held three fingers in the air. Three generations of the Flash.
I did the same. Three fingers in the air—then two. One generation gone. The one who was gone before his time.
Jay nodded softly, but he wasn't like anyone else who came to the funeral; the ones who came up to 'Barry Allen's nephew' and sent me their condolences. He sidestepped anyone moving through the crowd, and so fast he was almost a blur, pulled me to his chest. My nose was crushed in his chest, strong and hard that I would have broken if he didn't have a gut, and I hugged him back.
He was the Flash. So for twenty whole minutes, I pretended he was the Flash that was my uncle.
When Aunt Iris finished her story about how Uncle Barry stepped on her feet during the wedding reception, a smile on her face, everyone laughed. They laughed wholesomely, some people muttering, "Typical Barry", and then they stop. They realized it was too soon, and that Uncle Barry wasn't there. They couldn't rag on him for being silly.
That only made me hug Jay tighter. I hugged him, eyes closed and pretending I'm hugging Uncle Barry, and hope for forever and a day.
Jay was a retired speedster, and no one took him seriously as the Flash. But he gave me this look. It was a look I'd see him giving Uncle Barry once in a while—proud, but stern. Through that look he expected something from me. I still had that cowl, tucked safely in my souvenir shelf, and it hasn't moved. One time I ran up to Mount Justice, and found someone had moved around my entire room—my shelf on another wall. Megan had done it to cheer me up. Feng shui. Superboy helped.
I screamed at the both of them and they only stood there, stunned, before I realized ten minutes later what I was doing. My uncle is dead, I'd yelled. That was the only thing that could have gotten me through, and everyone—even the villains expect me to step up because I'm the next generation. I'm scared, and I need organization. I need to know where my things are, I need to know that when I look over my shoulder, I can be assured that it's still there. That it's not missing.How can you be so stupid?
Artemis pinned me to a wall and threatened to shove a sedative arrow down my throat. I looked over my shoulder and saw Megan crying.
I never make Megan cry.
After that, I high-tailed it. Went solo for three weeks. There were only two options when it came to costumes: my Kid Flash costume, which was still caked and stained in blood, or the Flash costume. The one that he kept in differing rings and always had it with him.
I went with the blood.
Just like Jay, everyone gave me looks. For every cat I saved, the little girl stared at me oddly, ready to say something before her mother cut her off and dragged her away. For every burning building I escorted victims out of, firefighters would give me that look—that expectant, confused look that they thought I wouldn't be able to decipher when they gave their thank you's. Then the villains gave me looks. Captain Cold, Captain Boomerang, Mirror Master—they looked at me each time I foiled their plans.
It hit me. I foiled their plans. Without Uncle Barry. Without the Flash.
The villains in Central City weren't exactly as maniacal as the villains in Gotham. Once I spent an entire afternoon arguing with Robin who had it worse: Batman or the Flash. Zoom or Joker?
Zoom killed my uncle. I think we know who won.
Still, they pitied me. It had been what left a sour taste in my mouth every time I managed to foil their plans. They pitied me because Flash wasn't around—because I lost his side-punch to my sidekick.
And they expected me to step up as the Flash.
"You're what," Captain Boomerang drawled, "Eighteen?" Sixteen."Stop lying to yourself. You're not the Flash. He would have foiled our plans three seconds sooner."
It was typical banter on the battlefield. I smirked at him, loose and hollow and eyes narrowed, and said, "What makes you think I'm not the Fla—" Then I froze. Because I wasn't the Flash. I never expected to be the Flash, and I never expected to be the one carrying on the legend. It was a fool's dream, to expect that Uncle Barry would live on forever-and-ever-and-ever. The mortality rate of a typical man in the US was 77. I just…I just didn't expect people to expect things from me.
I ran. Superman or Superboy—I didn't care, whoever was there—picked up the slack for me. They'd appeared out of nowhere, kicked his butt, and the next day Captain Boomerang was on the news and declared under arrest.
Wearing that costume made me feel dirty. Even after getting it cleaned—getting it dry-cleaned, shined, and have each coat of Barry's blood wringed out, I still felt dirty. Putting on that costume, I could still smell his blood, taste it on my tongue and feel it moving in my mouth. I could feel the burns on my arms again, and it made me scared. Extremely scared.
I was Kid Flash. That's how I saw myself. But to everyone else, that apparently wasn't enough.
Batman took me off Young Justice's roster for six days. I wasn't called for any missions.
Six. Six days, and through those six days I hadn't gone to school. I think he specified six days deliberately—one day less than a full week, and one day for every single person who was 'passing through' and decided to drop by to give me their condolences. I hadn't gone to school. Everyone in Central City was still grieving the loss of their scarlet speedster, and once Aunt Iris explained to the school about the coincidental death of my uncle, they stopped snapping. Those six days kept us in a small system: I woke up and sat on the bed for an hour. I'd mow the lawn, do the dishes, and picked up all of the chores Uncle Barry would normally do.
Being a reporter, Aunt Iris already worked on a different clock than Uncle Barry had. They were always at the house at different times and rarely ever saw each other. She left food on the dining table that was always a little bit too much, and when she got home, I'd already be asleep, half the food left so she didn't have t cook. I'd pretend to be asleep around three in the morning when she came into the room, eyes never leaving my form as she stood at the doorframe, just checking up on me.
It wasn't like how Flash would come in every two seconds and check—not like how any time I'd get injured as Kid Flash , and although it healed about five minutes later no matter how horrible the accident, how Flash would still check up on me. He and Aunt Iris both, if their schedule allowed, and they'd kiss me on my cheeks and pat me on the head, awake or not.
I think she knew I was awake. I'm pretty sure of it, actually.
Still, Aunt Iris would only stand there, hopeful glint in her eyes. The one that I can't help but hate because everyonegave me that look.
The first day I was relieved from duties as Kid Flash, it was Superboy who came to look after me. Genomes were able to educate him up to his seventeenth year—as much as a junior in high school—so he didn't go to school. He picked up on the slack Kid Flash was supposed to pick up for the deceased Flash, and never said anything about it.
A duvet covered me like a human burrito, and he stared at me from the window, expression both blank and unreadable. He wanted to say something—say something badly, but didn't know how to form words. Supey was just like that though. He spoke with actions better than his own mouth.
I made it easy for him, opening the only lock on the window, hugged him, and for the first time I had to joke in my head how Iwas supposed to be getting sympathy points. Not the other way around.
Superboy hugged me back—hard, once his encyclopedic brain pinpointed what I was doing and the meaning behind it. He was stiff, harsh, and brutally hugged me until my lungs whined for air. I never complained.
Megan came the second day. I wasn't sure what to think about it, considering the last time I saw her I'd made her cry. All I did was apologize.
She cried too. Harder. I hugged her, just like I did Superboy, but it was as different as it was the same. Megan was soft, dainty, and delicate. She was attuned to her emotions and wore her heart on her sleeve because she wasn't quite sure how else to react. Death was a foreign concept.
So when I hugged her, I wasn't quite sure who it was for.
Kaldur was next.
It was a Thursday, and rather than confronting me specifically, he'd gone into the kitchen on one of the rare days Aunt Iris was home, and made me dinner. Bad, icky dinner that tasted too much like sushi without wasabi, but he smiled, thinking he had a breakthrough.
He spent the entire time talking Aunt Iris up, telling all the stories I'd done for Young Justice and then some. When it finally came time for him to leave, the mood had only lightened a little. Kaldur gave me one look, a specific look—thelook, and when he said goodbye, I pretended not to hear him.
Artemis on Friday.
She bitch slapped me. Her hand struck my face so quickly that she earned a speedster's respect, and threatened to assassinate me if I didn't get my act together. After her declaration, she softened. Artemis looked at me, demeanor unreadable as Superboy's but emotional as Megan's, and hugged me. She clung tightly, called me a bastard, then exited the house without so much a goodbye.
Then it was Rob.
Robin, who had been watching me carefully from the bushes. Robin, who gave me a blank stare, wasn't afraid to speak his mind like in Artemis's manner. Robin, who made fun of me if I had any stupid slip-ups.
The same one who stood parallel to me when I answered the front door to the West-Allen household, decked out in his shades, but said no word. He only stared, hand curled into a fist ready to knock at the door before I'd intercepted him.
Robin opened his mouth to speak, like he had this entire speech planned out as his chest broadened. I pattern of breathing skipped a beat, and suddenly his mouth closed. Nothing was said. Aunt Iris wasn't due to be home for six more hours, so I invited him in and we watched tv in silence.
The first time he spoke was an hour later when Batman called him through his omm..-link to report to Mount Justice. He seemed hesitant, even though we'd been sitting in a dead silence for what felt like eternity, then nodded.
"You don't have to be like him, you know." I voice snapped me out of my thoughts as he pulled out a red remote designed just like his R-Cycle.
I stared at him.
Robin continued. "You don't have to be what everyone expects you to be. Be who you expect yourself to be."
The hum of his R-Cycle could be heard in the West-Allen backyard. He made no gesture to move, instead standing parallel to me and awaiting an answer. When I didn't give him one, he punched me in the shoulder, awkwardly and playfully like we were meeting up for the first time at Mount Justice since the last mission.
After that, he left. No laughs, no jokes—but no dread. He did what he did best: made things disappear.
Roy was the last one. I woke up the next morning after Robin left, finding him at the kitchen counter staring in the direction I'd come from. He pushed the food my way, expression unreadable under Red Arrow's guise and watched as I ate it little-by-little. I couldn't tell if it was going to be as silent and polite as Robin's visit, or hazardous and abusive like Artemis's. Because it was Roy of all people, I wasn't surprised if it would go either way.
He left the room when I was on the last mouthful of scrambled eggs. I sat, watching the hallway he disappeared into. Ten minutes later after waiting too long, Roy reappeared with a bag in his hand.
"Are you ready?" he asked.
"Ready for what?" I asked back.
"To get over yourself," he said like it was the easiest thing in the world. Before I had the chance to rebuttal, he yanked me by the arm and dragged me out front. Roy hoisted me in the air like a sack of potatoes before sticking me at the end of his bike.
I readily fended for myself, but he kept a firm claw in my shirt. I may have been faster, but Roy was bigger. After all, the team and I weren't the only ones who'd received training from Black Canary. "Let me go."
He shoved my bag of things in front of him and let the ignition burn.
"If I let go," Roy said simply, pushing his foot on the kickstand, "your skull is going to shatter into a million pieces and hit a mailbox. Sit. It's a long drive."
My mouth opened again to demand exactly where we were going, but it closed again under the roar of the engine. The wind spliced past my hair as we zoomed through the neighborhood, my hands digging into the stiffness of Roy's armor. Everything moved like a blur—combining, separating, meshing together until all you could see was the road upfront. Everything moved by fast.
For any normal person, it was such a ridiculous velocity that a bug flying by would go through someone's skull. For the Fastest Boy Alive, it was just ridiculously, agonizingly, and pointlessly slow.
I'd fallen asleep about twenty minutes into the ride. Roy wasn't one who cared for conversation, and as secure as it made me felt—being able to hear my own voice and know that I wasn't dead, I didn't want to hear it. He jerked me awake at our destination forty-five minutes later. It'd felt like forty-five years.
"Wake up," he said. It wasn't loud, but it wasn't soft. Red Arrow must have decided a long time ago that even with Uncle Barry gone I didn't get the duty of moping.
I did what I was told, too tired to snap at him. I didn't care anymore. I would have traded all the food in the world, all of my speedjust to be back with my uncle. Too bad I was too smart to actually begin starving myself. Roy had parked us at an intersection on the highway, near the woods where it was littered with dirt, trash, and dead animals. I bow pierced my back and we trudged forward through marsh and grass until all it was doing is scraping against my legs and making them itchy.
We stopped at a cave. It wasn't inconspicuous, but because it's so deep into the woods I doubt anyone ever noticed. Roy still had the duffel bag strapped on his shoulder. Before he trudged into the cave, he pulled a Twinkie from a compartment and handed it to me.
I wasn't too low on fuel. When I didn't have to run across Central City and save some old lady's purse, my metabolism didn't rush through the energy as fast. I could still feel the lastof the eggs in the pit of my stomach, but instead of saying something, I took it from his hand and stuffed it in my mouth. Either way Roy wouldn't have left that spot until I finished it. He tended to be a stubborn ass that way.
It took longer than usual to swallow it down my throat. It felt wrong—too big, like trying to fit an elephant into a sippy cup or a dinosaur in a straw. It just didn't happen. It traveled down my esophagus, but as it hit my stomach it was just like a tiny pebble scaling down the Grand Canyon.
Then we walked forward. Red Arrow didn't bother pushing me forward like a hostage. I didn't have anywhere else to go—not now. What was the point in being able to run if you didn't know where you were going?
What I didn't realize as we entered the cave was that it wasn't a typical cage. Roy hadn't taken me out of the West-Allen household to beat me into submission; to yell at me, demand I get my act together. Roy was the one person who I suspected to tell me to get over myself; suck it up and take up the mantle. He wasn't passive. He was aggressive—demanding. Knew exactly what he wanted, skipped the technicalities and always went for it.
He…was the only one whom I suspected would have told me to pick up the mantle and become the Flash.
"Recognized: B06 – Red Arrow."
"What?" I whispered, and suddenly felt every single one of my molecules tingle against their will. What didn't occur to me was the fact the League had zeta tubes scattered all over the nation—all to get to the Hall of Justice, all to get to the Watchtower.
And to Mount Justice.
My molecules jumped all over the place—I—I didn' t like it. The burn returned from the first time, and I could feel the falter in my breath, and the scalding stains of his blood. My fingers dug into Red Arrow's bicep—but that didn't help. It was fucking red like blood; red like the fucking uniform, and redlike all of it. Red like the Flash Legacy.
"Recognized: B03 – Kid Flash""
I wanted to scream and yell. I was ready to kick Roy—demand he take me back home because I was too scared to sprint across the nation. I wasn't ready. He didn't understand this.
Instead of doing anything, Miss Martian's arms were already around my neck, squeezing my neck as Roy roughly pushed me through the entrance until I was on the platform. I…I wanted to kill him.
Megan's scent was different from the stench of blood that wreaked the West-Allen Household. She didn't permeate with despair—or depression, or—or death. Suddenly she pulled away, and the look across her face was just too bright. "What are you doing here?"
I opened my mouth and nothing came out. Red Arrow answered for me. "He's here for your next mission."
"And if I refuse?" I whirled around—super speed or not, I didn't care. The fact remained that I was incrediblypissed off at him. "You think just because you pull me out of bed—force me on this mission; that I'm just going to go along with it?"
Red Arrow punched me. He punched me so hard that the next five minutes were spent waiting for my nose to heal. He only looked at me, expression grim and leery before taking one step back toward the portal. "Yeah."
Then he left. Batman spared no time hesitating, instead getting on with the mission. I…I didn't want to run back—not all the way back home-did I even have one of those anymore?—and everyone was staring at me. Kaldur was probably debating in his head how this was working out, Robin always forced himself to look me in the eye even though he didn't want to, and Superboy and Miss M looked lost. They weren't used to this.
I snapped out of my thoughts when a hand tangled through my own. Artemis. Megan took hold of the other.
"You don't have to go on the mission if you don't want to." Robin looked to me, expression grim to the extent of his mentor's. Kaldur easily agreed.
"You've gotta have time to get over the death of your uncle." Artemis squeezed my hand tightly, lips struggling an inch up, and she nudged my arm lightly. "Don't stress yourself out."
"It is not a team without you." Kaldur nodded firmly, eyes leering my way and waiting for a reaction. I thought back to when he was in my kitchen—when he spoke a quiet conversation with Aunt Iris, but thatlook wasn't there. "We will wait for you always, Kid Flash."
Kid Flash. No one's called me that since my break. I swallowed the lump in my throat, hands tightening around the girls' with nervous disarray, and skimmed the ground with my eyes. I'd heard of their last mission. Kaldur told our-theirlast assignment to Aunt Iris, reiterating the details. It was a simulation. A simple, simple simulation if they ever carried out a mission and found themselves face-to-face with the Joker.
Don't let his mind games get to you, Batman had apparently said to them. Get the hostage if there was one, alert the league and-run.
They failed. Had it been a real mission one of them would have died and the hostage would have been dead within the first two minutes. They weren't, Kaldur had said simply to Aunt Iris, fast enough.
Being fast was my job. Being quick on my feet, checking our surroundings, and making sure on a subjective level that if the villain was fast—that I was faster. I'd, I reasoned in my head, become Kid Flash for a reason. Not only because it was the coolest job in the world, or the fact that the one person who I grew up thinking as my father figure would be with me all the time, but because I really loved it.
Just like how Uncle Barry loved being the Flash.
"Okay," I said softly. I met the eyes of Batman and wasn't sure what I was seeing. Did he expect it? Did he expect what everyone else seemed to expect out of me? Or did he not expect anything from me—nothing at all, to begin with? "I'll be Kid Flash."
Somehow—having someone expect me to do nothing after the death hurt more than the end of Flash himself.
Batman got a word from an inside source that drugdrealers had gotten a hold—or at least, the chemical makeup of the Joker gas and planned to mix it with lethal heroine before leaking into Gotham's water plant. He needed someone who could infiltrate the warehouse on Gotham's harbor and leave no tracks. He wanted to studythe fluid; see if he could create an antidote because the chemical makeup was enough to kill someone. It was, of course, to be a covert mission. We were supposed to be sneaky.
Robin was too young. Dick was good at espionage and undercover missions, but this was too dangerous. Aqualad and Superboy were too bulky; too easily spottable. Artemis was meant for long-range and Gotham was too dangerous for Miss Martian to simply camouflage herself.
Ultimately, Batman needed a speedsteron this mission.
I don't think he understood that I wasn't as fast as Uncle Barry. The last time we tested how fast I could run—nearly two months ago when Aunt Iris decided we should have a barbecue and we ended up playing through the sprinklers in the backyard of their apartment complex—I could only come as close to the speed of sound. I still couldn't figure out why whenever I vibrated through something, it exploded, and my boots thud whenever I hit the ground. There had been extra weight installed to the soles of my boots—initially as a counterbalance, so that my center of gravity allowed me to land mostly on my feet and would help strengthen my leg muscles while I ran—but now it just felt like a nuisance.
The costume felt small. It felt thick, hard and heavy, digging into my skin and becoming uncomfortable. Wearing the suit—calling myself Kid Flash—felt wrong. Each time I turned my head, nostrils grazing my sleeve or hand at the side of my face, I could smell the blood. The metallic, rusted iron stain that felt as if ti would never go away.
"Are you ready?" Robin stood next to me, voice down to a whisper as we stood on the top of Warehouse 45.
Never. "Always." I pulled the goggles over my face, feeling the binding scrape against my scowl as I mounted like a track runner. The friction would carry me off the building—almost make me float, and all I had to do was whiz through the building, steal a sample that would go unnoticed, and the mission would be over. I could go home, find Aunt Iris's dinner on the counter, and then go to bed.
"On my mark, Kid," Kaldur murmured through our mental link. I hated it. "Go."
Sprint. Left foot, then right foot. I suddenly felt as slow as Roy's bike, air roaring in my ears as Robin quickly hacked Warehouse 42's lights—shut them off like a technical failure just from his perch on 45, and ran faster. Goggles offered nightvision.
I looked around twenty times, counting the seconds in my head that Rob would be able to keep his interception, but I couldn't find it. The fucking syringes, like all the diagrams showed, or the fucking tank of Joker Gas—none of it. Seventy-five, seventy-four, seventy-three…
All the doubt kept pounding in my head. I could hear Captain Boomerang—I could hear Batman, and the rest of the founding members of the Justice League: Flash would have been there three seconds sooner. Flash would be able to vibrate through the building undetected rather than make it explode. Flash would have figured out by now where the fucking syringe was. If you, Wally, had been the one being brutally tortured by Zoom, the Flash would have found you, before it was too la—
"Come on, Wally!" "
Three. Two. One.
The mission failed.
Lights flickered back on as a chaotic symphony, electricity crackling violently with each passing light. I looked around, caught redhanded in the middle of their operations with an empty syringe in my hand and surrounded by thugs three times my size.
Aqualad's voice screamed in my head. "Kid Flash, get out of there!"
Not only had I waited too long before finding the fucking evidence, I'd found an empty container.
I couldn't move.
"Well, well, well," one of the larger guys said with a sickening smirk across his face. I fist was larger than my head and mass put both Superboy and Aqualad to shame. I faltered, stepping back and found myself knock over their table of needles. The large man plucked me from the ground, yellow-and-brown teeth hazing in my eyes. "Look at what we've got here, boys."
"Oh? Ya didn't know, punk?" Another man shorter than even me stepped forward, Brooklyn accent thick in his throat. He smirked, arrogance narrowing to my form as he pretended to blow on his manicure. "Business hours are closed."
"I was just leaving," I said as calmly as possible. No one had said a word. The link between Miss Martian and the rest of us had gone blank, and I tried three times to get in contact with them. The grip on my hand hurt, nails digging through the skin and penetrating dermis.
"What's this?" I caught my breath. The shorter man jabbed at the lightning bolt dead center on my chest. "I've seen this before."
"Me too!" gasped one of the other, taller thugs. "Ey, at Central City or something?"
"Could it be?" No. Nononono—The smaller man grinned. "Could this be the Flash's sidekick?"
I didn't say anything. He still hit a sore spot.
"No, that ain't right, is it?" That grin coiled into a vehement smirk, and he jabbed a finger rudely into my chest. "From what I hear…you work alone these days, don't you—Flash Boy?"
Where were my team mates? I looked around—anywhere but their face. Anywhere. And…they were taunting me. Horribly. I thought back to what Uncle Barry once taught me—the lesson after learning more about Robin, the first sidekick ever, and how a speedster was able to throw out any chance for a mind reader to take control of my head. It hadn't worked—the training, at least, considering there was no one to practice it on.
And that just got me thinking about all of the other lessons I never got to complete with Flash as my mentor.
I couldn't go past the speed of light.
I couldn't vibrate without exploding things.
I couldn't enter relative time and figure out how to get out of it without Jay or Barry helping me.
I couldn't—enter the speed force by myself becauseI couldn't go past the speed of light.
I can't go Mach 10.
I can't be Uncle Barry.
"The Flash…your father died, didn't h—"
An arrow shot him square in the face. It wasn't a trick arrow—not one of Roy's arrows loaded with a boxing glove, or a substance that would contain them, but an actual arrow that pierced the man's jaw. He dropped me, and as he roared with pain, I rolled away, scurrying to my feet and felt like all the tissues in my lungs suddenly disappeared.
My team was there. To fucking bail me out.
Superboy's eyes were suddenly against mine—he took one look at me with his bright blue orbs, and it was like he lostit. I pupils dilated and he went to the first man that held me hostage. He roared, battle cry monstrous and deep as he rammed his fist into the man's bleeding jaw, and no one apparently felt the need to calm him down.
Artemis certainly didn't. Her hands were stiff on her crossbow, and every single one of the guns were out in the blink of an eye. Miss Martian was next, levitating three of the thugs away from her face with a confident smile. She flashed me one sympathetic look, cheerful, reassuring demeanor and returned to being giggly.
Because she could. Megan could still be herself on the battlefield. Megan could smile without feeling hollow inside. Megan didn't need—didn't careto have guidance. Megan…Megan still had her uncle.
A hand was on my shoulder and a handkerchief was shoved in my face before I realized my vision had blurred. Two blobby figures sat in front of me. Blinking only made things worse; allowing the fat tears to streak down my face and drip on the floor.
"It's okay," Robin said sympathetically. Fucking Robin. "I'd…wipe your face, but these gloves are kinda booby trapped. Are you hurt?"
I shook my head. Slow, for once, and it still felt too fast. Aqualad had a hand on my shoulder.
"Clearly we misjudged," Aqualad murmured softly. "It is okay if you're still getting over the death of the Flash. You are not ready to be back on the battlefield. Not this soon."
Misjudged. They didn't think I was ready. They didn't see me fit-oh god.
I ran. Pivoting my foot and allowing it to slap the ground, I ran out of the building, goggles forgotten and dust getting into my eye. It stung-badly—and the faster I ran, the harder it became to breathe. I'd fucked up the mission. I screwed it up—because I wasn't fast enough, because I was so busy trying to seek approval, because I didn't get it—as—
My arms were burning, I realized. I choked on dirt and debris that stirred while I ran, and the prickling sensation returned to my body. The husky scent of blood filled my nose, mixing with the salt of tears and as metallic as the throbbing in my chest. The skin on my knees felt as though it was about to burn off and—
I didn't know how to stop.
The searing heat scraped my skin, peeling away at it until it felt like my arms had burnt away into nothingness. The static heated up in my eyes between each blink-fasterthan each blink, and running fast just didn't seem fast enough. My body keeled away to the atmosphere's opposing forces, every molecule spliced by air as I moved.
I passed Kansas. I passed Ohio, Arizona—Hawaii, Japan, China-went through Happy Harbor and still kept running. The strain on my body felt strenuous—horribly sickening, and fresh tears seemed to go through my skin. Anyone who saw me would have noticed this yellow blur that was—was going toofast. I wouldn't stop. Couldn't.
My feet pounded the ground so hard that it felt with each impact that my ankles would give way and explode from the pressure I forced upon it. The seams on my uniform—however many lacking there felt—began to unravel, scraping way in the wind, and—
[Kid] Flash Fact: Only 93% of the time I could actually stop abruptly without having to create some resistance.
[Kid] Flash Fact: 7 wasn't a lucky number for me. It was how many teeth were first knocked out the first time I took a jog, raw with the energy of chemistry burning through my veins before I collided with a brick wall. It was how many times I went up to Megan, told her she was beautiful and then realized she wasn't interested in me. It was the number of times I'd crashed into the mountain before I learned how to control vibrating, and I still had a falling-out with that one.
[Kid] Flash Fact: I…these days I was having a hard time believing I was a Kid anymore.
[Kid] Flash Fact: As much as it scares me that people give me that look and expect me to step up…it scares me more that I just might.
My body was beginning to deconstruct.
Every molecule in my body was begging for release—begging to explode and rip away from the one object that contained them: me. And they still couldn't. No matter how badly I mentally begged myself to stop running, there was still that blade—terse and sharp that cut every thought. It was like my molecules and every fiber of my being was begging that I reach culmination—that I proved myself.
[Kid] Flash Fact: …there was always a small part of me—vitally small, that wished for once, I could be faster than Uncle Barry.
The earth ripped between my feet, flesh tearing apart as the molecules nibbled at my face, and by now I had been blinded by everything that wasn't behind me. My destination wasn't clear, and I could hear the buzzing in my omm..-link, voices that told me one thing: Slow down.
Maybe I yelled at them.
Maybe I told them, I didn't need to slow down; I didn't want to slow down, and they had nothing to do with it. Because I was slow in the first place I wasn't able to save Uncle Barry and every time I closed my eyes, all I could see was his blood. I saw his blood, could taste it in my mouth, and it felt as though the reason why I was always so slow was because I was running through it. I'd be moving through Uncle Barry's blood, going slow as molasses, and each time I inch faster—I end up going slower.
Lightning singed my ears. I breathed in the smoke and engulfed the crackles that beamed high in the air and ripped through the vortex of red and golden yellow. I remembered once when Uncle Barry tried to tell me about the speed force. He told me it was amazing; and it was vital. The speed force was the power source for all speedsters, and it'd chosen him—dorky, plain Uncle Barry to be its wielder.
Not me. Never me.
Did I want it?
Maybe…if I never had super speed, then I'd never have to worry about it. Uncle Barry could have been alive—right here and right now—if I never met him. If I never made that stupid experiment.
Without even realizing it I began to choke on my own sob. Tears drowned the rest of me, face burning from salt and I—I stopped. I stood still, dead still with tears running down my face and realized before today, I hadn't cried over Uncle Barry.
The adrenaline finally caught up with me, and I didn't notice where I'd landed. Whether it was Tibet or Keystone or Central City—I didn't care.
But I passed out. The last thing I saw, really, was the dark gleaming crimson of some other superhero's outfit. It could have been anyone. Captain Marvel, Superman—but I passed out just secretly hoping that it was Uncle Barry returning from the grave.
Well. I dunno what reaction will be. But I hope you like it? :D; Updates on Friday.