Disclaimer: These characters aren't mine.
What are you supposed to feel when someone you thought was dead, someone you actually had had a funeral for, was kneeling in front of you? Surprise? Joy? Fear? Wally West, aka the Flash, knew he should have been an expert by now in this kind of situation. Oliver Queen, Hal Jordan, Donna Troy… All of them had died. He had attended each of their funerals. And all of them were so very much alive today. But he didn't feel like an expert. Instead, he felt extremely confused and wary.
Because now…in front of him… was Barry? The logical, rational part of his brain screamed that it couldn't be. Who cared about Ollie and Hal and Donna? There were reasons they were alive again. Twisted reasons to be sure, but still reasons. Ones he could accept. There was no reason for Barry to be alive. But the voice. Wally couldn't deny that voice. It had been Barry's voice, a voice he hadn't heard for years… And the costume…it was Barry's costume, down to the wingtips on the boots.
Yes, in his dreams, he had always hoped that the person kneeling in front of him would be Barry Allen, his uncle, his former mentor, the first scarlet speedster. But those had always been just that…dreams. Barry had died. He had died saving the universe. No one had questioned whether Barry had died. Then again, no one had questioned whether Ollie, Hal or Donna had died. But in Barry's case…Wally had found Barry's empty costume. There had been no body. His uncle had become part of the Speed Force. Accepting Barry's death had been hard. Truth be told, Wally had never completely accepted it. Maybe that's where the dreams came in…because if others could die and come back to life, why couldn't Barry? But if he hadn't accepted it, why couldn't he believe what his eyes were telling him?
A hallucination. That had to be the answer. He was hallucinating. It was the only logical answer because there was no way his uncle was kneeling in front of him. Yes, strange things were occurring. J'onn was dead. Orion had been killed. Hal was accused of murder. The red skies, the anti-life equation… Having a hallucination didn't seem that farfetched.
But Jay…Jay had been with him. Jay had recognized the vibrations. Jay hadn't said it was Barry. There hadn't been time. They had been told to run and run they had. Somewhere along the way Jay had fallen behind. It was only Wally and…this person in front of him now. While Jay may not have spoken the name, the implication had been clear. Barry.
Wally had to know. He had to know if this was real or if he was losing his mind. Tentatively he took a step forward. "Barry? Uncle Barry? Oh my god." Even just a step closer and his memories started to tumble as recognition suddenly came. It was as if a veil had suddenly been lifted. How many times had he seen his uncle kneeling at a crime scene, just like the man in front of him now? This was…unreal. No, it had to be real. Please, let it be real. "Is it really you? I think we ran a few weeks into the future. Talk to me, Barry." Wally added his uncle's name as a test. If it wasn't Barry, maybe the person would tell Wally their identity.
The person started to talk, but Wally could barely focus. He heard his name mentioned, but everything else was just gibberish. The voice…it had to be Barry, but it had been so many years – long years – since he had last heard his uncle. Then the man moved. Wally felt the breath sucked out of his lungs and all doubt left him. His uncle – his dead uncle – was standing before him. Talking about something or other. Wally couldn't focus. "Barry. Barry. Listen, you have to…Barry… You were dead. We never got over it. Have you any idea how I'm feeling right now?"
More words that were just gibberish. But then Barry smiled. "My god, it's good to see you, Wally."
Wally felt tears in his eyes as his uncle pulled him into a hug. This was real. This wasn't a dream. It wasn't a hallucination. With the world still falling apart around them, Wally felt a glimmer of hope.
Jay Garrick, the original Flash, had told a story of how three generations of the Flash had run together again. Jay had assured her that her husband was alive, that he had seen Barry. Iris Allen had desperately wanted to believe him. Something had always felt wrong about Barry having died. Something had been missing. It wasn't that there hadn't been a body. It was something more, something she just couldn't quite ever place. As a result, there was a part of her heart that had just refused to believe her husband, the love of her life, was dead, even when all the evidence pointed to the contrary.
When she had returned to the present with her grandson, she had seen the glimmer of hope in Wally's eyes. If his aunt were still alive, then maybe his uncle was, too. Maybe his uncle had somehow escaped to the future, too. As much as it had pained her, for her nephew's sake, she had outwardly accepted her husband was dead. Besides, history stated Barry had died saving the world fighting the Anti-Monitor. A thousand years hadn't altered those facts. Yet, even with those facts, a part of her had continued to dream, to hope.
Those hopes were only strengthened whenever she heard or saw Clark, Oliver or Hal. If they could be alive, then why couldn't Barry be alive, too? Maybe not here. Maybe not now. But somewhere, somewhere more than just life after death. She had been involved with the spandex crowd long enough to know that reality was never quite what it seemed to be, that there were other realities and whatnot. Why couldn't that be the case with Barry?
Jay's words had given her newfound hope. His words had led her to believe the thunder she had heard was actually sonic booms caused by Barry running. She had so desperately wanted to believe Jay. But then time had passed and the crisis had grown. Wally had gone missing. No one had known where he was, what had happened. They hadn't listed him as dead…at least not yet. There had also been no word about Barry, no additional sightings. Had Jay been wrong? Or had her husband and now her nephew sacrificed their lives?
Then everything had become a blur. That was the world of the anti-life. It was better she couldn't remember. She didn't want to recall what she had become, what she may or may not have done while she was under Darkseid's spell.
The next thing she knew, Barry was kissing her, holding her. How? Why? When? It didn't matter. She threw her arms around him and held tight. She recognized the familiar scent of his costume. The polymer blend always retained its synthetic smell. The familiar feel of static electricity clung to him. This was real. She felt his hand against the back of her head. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted Wally, a smile on his face. Her husband and her nephew.
"Hey, you. Sorry I was late."
Tears coursed down her cheeks. Jay had been right. Her husband was alive. The reality of that statement hit her hard and her tears increased in intensity. Looking up, she saw his blue eyes twinkling, a smile on his face. It had been too many years since she had last seen that smile. "Barry? It's going to be alright, isn't it?" She didn't want him to let go. She wanted to stay in the sanctuary of his arms for a long, long time. Yet, she knew she must let him go. He, and Wally, needed to save the world again. She didn't doubt their ability. They would do it. As she enjoyed the feeling of security those arms provided for a few more seconds, she answered her own question. "Everything's going to be all right now." She felt a glimmer of hope.
The cleanup was nearing completion. Gather together almost two thousand Green Lanterns, toss in Earth's superheroes, and it was amazing what could be done in a short amount of time. The death and destruction were almost unimaginable…except he had seen it – could still see it – with his own eyes. Hal Jordan, aka Green Lantern 2814.1, shook his head and tried to push the thoughts and pictures from his mind. Earth seemed to be at the center of crisis after crisis, yet it always came through, seemingly stronger than before. Earth definitely didn't lack willpower.
What had exactly taken place was still somewhat unclear. So far, Hal had only been able to catch snippets. None of it made sense. Then again, a lot of the things he was involved with as a Green Lantern never seemed to make sense. The one piece of news that had worked its way through the hero network was that Batman – Bruce Wayne – was dead, killed by Darkseid. Hal had had his share of differences with Bruce over the years. Bruce had been less than thrilled when Hal had returned. But recently they had finally seemed to reach a mutual understanding of one another. They may never have become friends, but at least they had seemed to be on the path to becoming a bit more than just colleagues. Now that opportunity was gone.
As he watched the repairs continue, Hal counted down the hours until he could take some well-earned R&R time. He didn't care what the Guardians had in mind for him, he planned on relaxing. First, he'd stop by Coast City and spend some time with his brother and his brother's family. Thankfully, they had survived this latest disaster. Then he might go-
"Hal? You out there?"
Hal sighed. Okay, maybe the R&R wouldn't be starting as soon as he had hoped. "What's up, Flash?"
"Can you stop by Central City?" Wally asked.
"Is it an emergency? I can be there in-"
"No, no emergency," Wally said quickly. "I just need to see you about something."
Hal frowned. There was something about Wally's voice that didn't seem quite right. The kid seemed to be trying to hide something. Not that that was overly surprising. Wally may have grown up physically, but he was still a kid at heart and enjoyed his pranks. Yet, their current situation – the rebuilding of Earth – wasn't exactly a time for lighthearted pranks. Hal knew Wally understood that, so what was the kid up to?
Kid…he needed to stop thinking of Wally as a kid. The kid had grown up. The kid was a husband and a father. The kid had been through his fair share of tragedy, emerging stronger each time. Hal wished Barry could see his nephew and former sidekick. He knew his best friend would be extremely proud of Wally. Initially, Hal had had his doubts about Wally taking over the mantle of the Flash. He didn't think Wally was mature enough to handle the increased responsibilities. At first Wally had made a few missteps. Any lingering doubts Hal may have had had been eliminated when Wally had confronted Professor Zoom. During that instance, Wally had proven he was more than capable of filling Barry's boots. Over the years, Wally had done things – could do things – Barry never had. Wally had exceeded his uncle and Hal knew Barry would have been bursting with pride. "Give me an hour."
"Sounds good." Wally provided a location and signed off.
The time passed quickly. As Hal navigated his way through Central City, he realized the address Wally had provided was to Iris Allen's home. Had something happened to Iris? He frowned, searching his memory to recall if Iris' name had been mentioned at any point. When it came to the heroes' families, news generally spread quickly. Nothing came to mind. Besides, if something had happened to Iris, Wally would have been beside himself. Wally's voice hadn't displayed any sort of anxiety. Instead, Hal had heard hints of excitement in Wally's voice.
Landing in Iris' backyard, he knocked on the door and glanced around the yard. The house and property appeared undamaged. Wally opened the door. "Hey, Hal," the younger man greeted with a smile, "come in." Wally stepped aside.
Hal noted Wally was wearing the costume, but had the cowl pulled back. "Wally, is everything alright? Is Iris okay?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah, Aunt Iris is fine."
"Hi, Hal," Iris Allen greeted as if on cue.
"Iris." Hal forced a smile as he felt his patience slip a notch. What was so important that he had to stop here? He looked around and spotted Jay Garrick, aka the original Flash, also present. Like Wally, Jay, too, was in costume. Hal nodded toward the elder speedster, before turning his attention back to Wally. "Wally, what was so important that-"
"For some reason, they think I'm that important. Hi, Hal."
A voice he hadn't heard in years. Slowly, Hal turned around to look at the man standing in the hallway. He wore a red costume like Wally, even though the belt and boots were slightly different. Like Wally, the cowl was pulled back. It was the blond hair in a crewcut and the sparkling blue eyes that made Hal take a small step forward. After everything that had just happened, it didn't seem possible. J'onn was dead. Bruce was dead. But… "Barry?"
The man smiled. "In the flesh."
A multitude of emotions ran through him. Hundreds of memories threatened to overwhelm him. When he had died, Barry had already been dead for a couple years. As the Spectre, Hal had managed to see his friend on a handful of occasions. However, when Hal had returned to life, he had assumed his days of seeing his friend – one of his best friends – were over. Now, that man stood in front of him, a smile on his lips. Hal strode across the room and tightly hugged his best friend. He felt Barry do the same. "I…I…how?"
"I'm not quite sure," Barry admitted, "but then again, I don't really care. I'm back. That's all the matters."
The crisis may have been over, but the deaths of J'onn and Bruce had created a pall. J'onn had been the heart of the Justice League; Bruce had been the…well, he'd been a lot of things, but the League always seemed to need him. With both of them gone, it was hard to look ahead and think everything would be alright. Now, with his best friend standing before him, Hal felt a glimmer of hope.
A/N: The dialogue between Wally and Barry and Iris and Barry is quoted from Final Crisis 4.