A/N: The final chapter. Hope you guys enjoy. This song, I figured, was the best way to end this. Go ahead and read. Then be sad because this fic has ended.
Although I will say, if NJATA comes out with another album, expect more to this story. I follow the rumors and there's nothing in the works right now, sadly…
Disclaimer: Characters owned by DC, song by NJATA.
They're all around me, lying there, motionless, not breathing, not speaking, bathing in pools of crimson blood, dead.
I only know to grab for them, to cling to them.
Conner is closest. I pull at his shirt, push on his chest, hope for those blue eyes to flutter open and for him to heave a gasping breath... He doesn't do any of that. He lies there quietly, the ocean of red growing around him, pooling along with those of the others. I shake him harder, tears pricking the corners of my eyes.
A vague memory presses into my mind. Him being thrown against a wall, a shaft of metal impaling him. Him trying to pull himself off of that. Then dragging himself back into the fight, a massive hole ripped through his chest, the emblem on that shirt completely shredded.
He doesn't look so super anymore... Not now that he's dead.
Kaldur's a few feet over. I crawl on my hands and knees over to him, air rasping down my throat as I try to swallow this sick feeling. I run my fingers over his raw gills, his still-warm body, that dark skin, those closed silver eyes. Damn him for dying. Damn fires. Damn fires everywhere. They're on the edge of my vision, blurry reds and oranges and yellows everywhere around me. The glow of the fire is everywhere.
The fire is what stole his life.
His hands are charred, ash clinging to his fingertips, soot beneath his nails. His whole body smells like smoke; his skin is darker than usual, died black like the night that swells around us- me. I'm the only one still here.
He's so warm... I feel like his pulse should be beating beneath my fingers as I feel his neck for any signs of life. There are none. He's dead. He's completely and utterly dead.
My body's going numb, but I carry on. I push towards M'gann. Her red hair is matted and stained with the crimson blood all around her. Her body is broken and mangled, one arm broken in the wrong direction, her head twisted at an awkward angle, her right leg clearly shattered, destroyed beyond recognition, just blown to bits, a dirty green and red mess, the colors of Christmas.
Only it's not Christmas. There's fire around us, her skin withering away, peeling off like the skin of a snake. She's lying there, hopeless, defenseless, lost, dead, soul already carried away by the Reaper himself. She's gone.
She's probably the reason Conner suffered his own demise so soon. I can't help but glance back over at him, see that hole in his chest, and cringe away from the sight of that ripped shirt, red torn from black, black torn from red, everything dyed that heavy scarlet color, that shade of blood. He used to be so strong... Now to see his corpse lying there, surrounded by orange and yellow flames that threaten to lick closer and closer and closer...
I have to move on. It's all just... It's all so painful. This growing hole in my chest, much like the one in Conner's, wide, open, empty, deadly.
The pain is eating at my heart. It's killing me slowly, from the inside out. I wish I could be numb, but I feel my breath hot all around me, this air burning my skin, the pain eating away at my flesh and bones and heart and lungs...
They're all... They're all just... just dead...
Hauling myself over to Robin feels like it takes a lifetime. I can see that his cape's already been bitten and nipped at by hungry flames, edges singed and hot like burned paper. His little body is curled up in the fetal position, head tucked to his chest and knees, one hand pressed into the bullet wound that scored his side, the one that has pooled all this red around him, a lake of death. Death everywhere around him, sticking to his clothes, to his black hair, to his pale skin, to the corners of that mask... He's lying in his own death, air no longer passing his tender lips as he sleeps eternally now. He can't be held down by the human limitations now... Humanity isn't part of the baby bird's essence anymore.
I don't know how I notice these things. I don't know why it all seems so crystal clear, but it feels so surreal, like everything's coming into the sharpest focus, like those moments before death are going to pass me by before I can even properly feel life itself. Surreal as the world burns around me.
These people who changed me, those who shaped me into who I am...
The final body is holding onto his best friend, comforting the young acrobat. God, I want to cry. Tears sting my eyes, but they just won't fall. I feel so alone, surrounded by fire, surrounded by pain, being eaten alive by all this dark hurt... All this death...
Wally is clinging to Robin with a pitiful hand. His jade eyes are glazed over with a milky white film. His fingers are wrapped around his little friend's hand, trying to help, trying to comfort, trying to save his soul... His fiery hair holds particles of black soot in it, obsidian soot. His face is scarred with black lines, the marks where poison took its hold and didn't let go. Claw marks score his costume, the bright yellow torn to reveal bloodied skin, bruised skin, beaten skin, scarred skin.
I wish it were paint instead of blood. God, I wish it were paint... Painted red like a Native American warrior, a man going into battle, his goal to come out alive, back home to his friends and family...
I can't help but touch him. I run my fingers over the poisoned wounds, over the lightning bolt on his costume, through his spiky red hair, over his glassy eyes to shut them one last time, the emerald orbs disappearing forever beneath thin, pale lids.
I jolt upright, arms immediately at his neck and clenching tight, threatening to tear the life right out of him. I feel my heart pounding, that pain still eating at my chest, raw and fierce, a starving tiger ready to shred my entire being.
Wally's looking down at me and already trying to pull my hands away from his throat. "Okay, this is what I get for helping," he notes, taking a quick look over at Robin who's just sitting there with his laptop, fingers paused over the keyboard. Wally pulls my hands away as I relinquish control of my fingers and give into the reality of the world around me.
There's no more fire, no more bodies, just teammates around me and the hustle and bustle of a normal day as the encompassing sound instead of the crackling blaze that eats away at buildings and corpses. There's the rustling of cookie trays in the kitchen and the grunts of fighting boys over by the training area. Another normal day. It's all around me, real and true.
"I told you she was having a nightmare," says Robin pointedly, his eyes quickly flickering back to his work behind the sunglasses. His fingers proceed with their keyboard tapping.
After sticking his tongue out at Robin in that kid-like fashion they both used with each other, Wally looks back to me with a little worry in those green eyes. The ones that had been glassy less than a minute ago, those that had held the look of Death... "Are you okay?"
I swallow hard, swallow down the pain, swallow the longing. "Yeah." I sit up and pull my legs up, hands going over my knees, body slouching forward, head going between my legs so I can focus without getting nauseous. This reality is easier. The air is cool. Other hearts are beating. I am not alone. I never fully appreciated having friends until now. Friends who wake you up from nightmares, friends who genuinely care. "I'm just really glad I have you guys."
Wally smirked a little smirk. "We love you too, Artemis."
A/N: It's over, at last. Another thing to check off my list. Anyways, review and thanks for reading, everyone!