Disclaimer: Characters and premise are the property of DC, I'm just borrowing them for a little non-profit fun.
The notion for this story comes from the following YJ_Anon_Meme prompt:
There's a theme that I've seen in some Japanese anime that I rarely see in western works that I actually really love. The idea that self sacrifice? Not always such a good thing. I love Self sacrifice fics, and while sometimes there really is no other choice, and it can be incredibly heroic, you shouldn't throw your life away when there might be another way. You cannot move forward or help anyone if you are dead. To use one quote, "Self sacrifice is nothing more than self satisfaction."
So, living in a culture where heroic sacrifices are almost praised, I'd like to see a fic where someone tries to sacrifice themself and survives, and the team get upset at him/her. They make it clear that they aren't going to let anyone die for them if they can help it. Because while they have to accept that death is a possibility in their jobs, they also need to try their damned hardest to keep themselves alive along with everyone else. Martyrdom is a dangerous thing to fall into in the superhero job.
It's an easy choice. He barely even pauses to think about it. He's a weapon and that's what is called for: a weapon to counter the Light's weapons. He drops back, allows the rest of his team to bypass him and when they're through the hatch he slams it shut and forces a heavy bar through the wheel to jam it.
Then he turns to face the on coming horde. The Light didn't stop with him. They fixed the 'flaws' in his design. Their new creations have his powers but they're mindless automatons. They breathe, walk, and fight solely at The Light's command. Once The Light was satisfied with their obedience they made more, a lot more.
Superboy grins viciously. They don't have his experience. They haven't been taught by Canary or Batman, they haven't sparred with his teammates. But most importantly they don't have any reason to fight. He's standing between them and the people who mean everything to him. He's out-numbered one to a hundred, but he's not going down. Not until his team is clear, every second he buys is another few steps toward safety for his friends.
Robin spins around at the sound of the hatch slamming shut. He knows what Superboy plans the instant he sees the shut door and the empty hall. He's still not fast enough. The door is locked before he can get back to it and it's an old fashion lock, nothing to hack, brute strength is the only way back. He slams his fist against the door angrily.
Aqualad grabs Robin by the shoulder and spins him back around. "Keep going. We can't fight them. KF go ahead, don't stop for anything. Get clear of the base, get reinforcements. His only chance is the JLA getting here fast."
Artemis tosses Kid Flash one of her arrows. "Smoke screen, if you run into trouble it might help."
"Thanks" and Kid Flash is gone, pushing himself as hard as he's ever done. Aqualad, Robin and Artemis move on more cautiously. Someone has to get out and let the League know what they've learned about The Light. M'Gann hesitates. She looks back at the sealed door, "I could use my telekinesis to open it, maybe."
"We've already wasted too much of our lead," Aqualad states. "You can hear the fighting, they're already on him. We open that door now the only thing we'll accomplish is dying with him."
M'Gann doesn't turn from the door. They can see the concentration on her face as she reaches blindly for the thing holding it closed. "M'Gann," Robin holds out his hand to her, his voice full of empathy. Then he snaps the capsule concealed in his glove and a moment later she collapses, unconscious. "Let's go, before it's for nothing."
The original plan; stick together and run; had the best chance for getting all of them out alive. Superboy's plan increases the rest of the team's odds considerably, but at the cost of dooming himself. Sending Kid Flash ahead provides a Superboy with a slim chance for survival, but not without significant risk to Wally. There's some additional risk to the rest of them as well, their resources are being spread thin.
Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash are the first to respond to Kid Flash's desperate SOS. Wally looks up at them, in his eyes Barry can see how young he still is, he needs them to make this right. "The team's behind me. Superboy is buying time; he's going to get killed."
They find Aqualad, Robin and Artemis eight levels down, ambushed and pinned by a group of guards with high tech armaments. Miss Martian is only just beginning to stir. Flash disarms their attackers before they're even aware that a new player has entered the game.
Miss Martian fills their rescuers in on the situation in a quick telepathic burst: The Light's plans. The new clones and the horrible echoing emptiness of their minds. Superboy's decision to buy time for the rest of the team with his life.
Together again, backed up by the three League members, they're finally free to do the one thing they've been aching to do. They turn back toward the last place they saw Superboy. It's been twenty minutes since he locked the door between himself and escape.
They're only a stairwell and a few corners short when they hear the sound of metal tearing like paper. A moment later they see the other clones, identical to Superboy, dressed in the same white solar suit that he was found in, but their eyes are empty voids. Despite the color, they're as dull and flat as shark's eyes; the perfect, soulless weapons that Superboy never was.
Superman's heat vision clears the hallway in seconds. The others stare at him in horror. "The door was open. Our Superboy was down," Superman explains tersely.
Flash and Kid Flash race ahead, through the shattered doorway. The bodies on the other side of the door aren't burned and the numbers are sickening. They pick through the fallen, looking for the one boy in a black tee-shirt rather than a white solar suit. When they find him the tee-shirt is long gone, it's the jeans that differentiate him from the Light's new clones. His rib cage is crushed and there's bloody foam on his lips.
Superman punches through to the surface rather than wasting time on retracing their steps through the maze of hallways and stairs. Miss Martian follows behind him, using her telekinesis to float Superboy to the surface.
The trip back to Mount Justice is made in a tense silence broken only by the bubbling sound of Superboy fighting to breath with a punctured lung. Kaldur cradles Superboy, holding him upright to allow gravity to help them keep him from drowning in his own blood. Seven minutes out from the base Superboy stops breathing.
The team waits in the hallway outside of the infirmary. Their mentors come and go. They talk to them briefly then leave them to their vigil. No one knows what to say or think, not now, not while their all holding their breath and waiting for the outcome.
M'Gann is curled up in a ball, her face buried against her knees. Kaldur wants to wash the blood off him but he can't bear to leave. Wally is just a blur, pacing back and forth across the hall. Artemis' face is carefully blank as she picks apart the fletching on one of her arrows. Robin's hand is wrapped in bandages and he knows how uncertain Superboy's situation is because Batman didn't say anything about how sloppy he'd been to break his knuckles punching a wall.
The mentors and other Justice League member congregate around the corner from the younger team. Uncomfortable questions are being asked. They've allowed the teens to work with them for years now, but this is could become the first time that they've lost one of the kids. Superboy's only sixteen, or less than a year depending on how they count it. Was he really old enough to be put in the position of having to make that sort of decision?
It seems like forever before Red Tornado leaves the infirmary. As if summoned the JLA join their younger counterparts to here the outcome. "He will live," the android assures them. "J'onn has examined him: We were able to restore oxygenation before brain damage occurred."
Kaldur's knees go weak with relief then a moment later his blood is boiling.
"Is he awake?" Batman asks.
"He is," Red Tornado said.
"Respectfully, Superboy is a part of my team," Kaldur states firmly. "I will speak to him about his actions. He will understand me better."
With the rest of the team's shouts of "Not fair!", "I wanna see him too!" echoing behind him, Kaldur makes his way into the infirmary.
The right side of Superboy's face is horribly bruised; the colors look particularly lurid given his otherwise pallid complexion. There is an IV in his arm, like a crimson ribbon running across the sheets up to the bottle of Superman's blood. His leg is in suspension. There is a small tube poking out from the bandages around his chest to allow the blood to drain out of his lungs and a cannula leading to his nose to supply extra oxygen.
"I am so very glad to see that you are alive," Kaldur begins, "despite your best efforts to become otherwise."
"I couldn't let you be hurt," Superboy's voice is raspy and weak but the conviction is clear, "especially not by them."
"We had a plan!" Kaldur growls
"It wasn't good enough."
"And yours was better?" Kaldur demands.
"It only hurt me."
"Only hurt you?" Kaldur's voice is thick with disbelief. "Robin broke his hand because he couldn't go back for you. We had to knock M'Gann out to prevent her from going to fight and die beside you. Wally went on ahead, alone, to summon aid. If you chose to treat you life recklessly, you will force us to take unnecessary risks to protect you from yourself."
Kaldur paused and took a deep breath. "When you shut that door you forced me to support your bid for martyrdom. If you'd succeeded I never would have forgiven you. And I never would have forgiven myself for not stopping you."