A/N: GRAAAAAAAAHHHHH, I hate listening to Taylor Swift music while in an angsty mood. So this came out of the line "Because the last time, you saw me is still burned in the back of your mind. You gave me roses, and I left them there to die." The opening part inspired the title and the rest of it just kind of fit in with my initial train of thought. If you don't like Taylor Swift, just completely forget about all of what I just said and read because it has absolutely nothing to do with her or the song.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything.
Warning: Contains bits of both Spitfire and Supermartian. Also, language. Not much, but enough.
The Last Time I Saw You
A weak voice was coming in. It was timid, afraid, trying hard not to break.
The voice was recognizable to anyone who had ever known him and his sweet little smile and those big baby blue eyes. Anyone would know that voice. That was how all of the messages started out. From that first sentence, they were personalized.
Sapphire eyes widened as the comm in his ear fizzled and crackled, the weak voice coming through. "It's me." The only reason he had his comm was to keep tabs on the hero world. He never expected anyone to find him.
He knew he'd recognize it anywhere. Not that tone though. That didn't sound like him. There was no pep, no cheer. No... nothing. Absolutely no emotion other than pure fear and a shaking sadness.
"I know you're off on your own in the desert. I know Miss M's been visiting you when she can. The zeta-beam doesn't work too well from Mars, civil war and all." A cough and a pause. "And I know the last time I saw you, you were leaving over that Superman issue. I get it, I do."
Superboy's fists clenched, knuckles turning white as snow and eyes blazing with deep blue infernos. The clone's anger management issues hadn't gotten any better over the years. Now twenty-one and struggling to get a grip on what kept him sane, he found that his only solace was in this self-induced exile. The only issue in staying alone was M'gann's ability to track him down. She was the only one to ever take any care of him now.
How he knew all this, Conner had no idea. He'd left those days behind four years ago. Tracking him down must've been near impossible, the clone figured.
"I'm sorry for everything that's happened to you."
How did he know anything? His life had gone on like normal. He was the only one trying to hold everything together. Superboy had fallen and crumbled just like the government and the world and every other shitty thing in the damn world.
"But I need you now."
This finally grabbed blue-eyed man's interest. A reason for calling. Just like him. Always needing help, always wanting a little assistance or a little this or a little that. The team had been left behind four years ago, but he'd never truly broken off friendships until the Superman issue had risen and proved itself too much of a challenge for someone with enough already on their plate.
No, the Man of Steel didn't have any control over what his clone did. Not after he turned eighteen. Finally, the fucking Boy Scout wanted to take some responsibility. No. Superboy wouldn't let him have it. He was going to be Conner now, no last name necessary. No Kent, no nothing. Living out in the desert, a life of solitude where he couldn't hurt anyone, where he couldn't cause any more damage to the people he only wanted to protect.
"Can you help me?"
A recording, that's what it was. There was a long pause as Conner listened a bit more closely for the kid's breathing on the other end of the line. Then the instructions came.
"Hell no." She almost hung up the phone. Until she remembered it was just her voicemail. Either way, the kid had her number. Might as well listen to what he had to say. Not like she really had anything against the little guy. He wasn't bad or anything. Everything she remembered about him was generally positive stuff that made her smile at the memories. Sometimes annoying and a complete bastard, but she couldn't help but smile at some of the aster things he did.
"I figured it'd be hard to get a message to you. It was. A lot of tracking. I had your number saved in my phone for emergencies like this." A tiny pause and a quick intake of air as if wincing in pain. "I'm glad I committed it to memory." She thought she detected a smirk in his voice.
She had to take this piece-by-piece. So... was he saying he was stalking her? It was just a voicemail. It was a bit creepy, but she had more messages from Wally about apologies back when they'd broken up and then all the other crap had happened. Her life had a moment when the shit hit the fan. And for some reason, it had led her to this.
She was back to living in her dad's banged up apartment, the one he used to hide hostages. She could hear the kicking on the other side of the wall of the most recent one. A congressman or someone important like that. A governor, maybe? Not the President, but someone up the chain. They were always set on different missions for the fact that they couldn't be paired up together and not feel the need to kill each other. Just being under the same roof was strain enough.
A cough. A pause. "The last time I saw you, you broke up with Wally. And I sympathized with you because I was sorry that he was such a jerk. He is. It's something you learn through the years, something you have to put up with."
She kept the phone pressed to her ear, but she couldn't help but feel those memories piercing her mind like vicious daggers. Wally. Her broken heart. And then leaving them all behind. Twenty years old and her feisty temper still hadn't dulled. Not yet. Wally. The ass. She physically winced before listening to that scared, soft voice continue.
"And I know you're back with the Shadows now."
"That fucking little bastard."
The message continued, her profanities wasted on ears that couldn't hear them.
"The Justice League has your updated files and everything, but don't worry, they don't have this number. I know exactly where you are almost all the time, but I would never give it away. You're still a friend." Pause. Slight rustling of clothing. "At least on this end, anyways."
Artemis had nothing against him. He wasn't a bad kid. A bastard and annoying to the point of making her want to rip her hair out, but he wasn't a bad kid. She never could bring herself to hate him the way she had hated Wally.
"And I know you killed him."
She figured one of them had to have known. Or even seen it. Of course, it had to be him. But for some reason, he hadn't confessed to being a witness to murder until after she'd taken her leave and vanished into the real world once more to wreak havoc on the innocent and do her job like she'd been initially trained. Artemis paced a little bit.
Had he been… protecting her?
"And I forgive you."
None of them had said that yet. He was the first. She shivered and sighed, a little bit of relief settling into her heart and mind. Of course, she'd only been getting messages from Wally since leaving. Even he had stopped after learning her dirty little secret. None of them wanted her back after that.
"But I need you now."
A quest. She figured there had to be a reason to call. He was never one to waste words. Not like Wally always did. The girl was willing to at least listen. She leaned against the wall and stared out at the city streets where car alarms were wailing and sirens screeched.
"Can you help?"
She paused and slid the comm she'd kept from her time on the team, the comm she wasn't supposed to have, into her ear to receive the message she'd been beeped about earlier. No one knew she was still keeping in touch with Superboy after the split. She'd always been going off to see him whenever she got a spare moment alone or any chance she could zeta-beam herself without the other White Martians noticing.
She almost squealed when she heard him. She had been keeping track of how he was doing through her Uncle J'onn, but she hadn't seen him since the final nerves had been tapped and the team had been drained of members. Or at least the first team.
"How've you been?"
She knew it was only a recording, but she still smiled. So like him. Kind, considerate, sweet, annoying in a subtle and cute way. It was just the way he always was. Maybe that was why she'd always felt the need to pinch his cheeks. But that would've been unprofessional. It was an impulse that she had suppressed for the longest time.
"I've been good. Been busy. Lots to do with taking care of the team and all." Talking about simple things. Stupidly simple things. She just liked hearing his voice. Knowing that there was someone on Earth who missed her presence.
Just like everyone else, Miss Martian had gone her own way. The civil war on Mars had bloomed into something fierce between the Green and White Martians. She'd decided that she was needed back on her home world than she was on Earth. The team was good enough without her. Superboy had been managing just fine with being on and off with the team at his will. Artemis had left and Wally had been moping more than flirting, but things had gone well. She left when she was nineteen. Leaving for two years had suddenly made Superboy head off on his own after a run in with his "father" and everything had fallen apart.
She was still sorting her life out, taking care of her twelve sisters and being used as a weapon on the side of the White Martians. J'onn was green and doing the best he could to help the White Martians to fight for freedom at least, but things were growing gruesome and no one was sure if the war would end. There was always the possibility that one of the two races could be completely wiped out by the storm of furious fighting.
For some reason, hearing his voice gave her a good sense of what home and peace used to feel like. What friends were. On Mars, all her friends were either dead or fighting in the frontlines; even they were surely going to be killed.
"Hope you're doing alright. Civil war probably can't be good for your economy up there or anything. I really hope you're not dead." A sharp, shallow intake of air. "Haven't heard from you in a few months. I think the last time I saw you was when you left for Mars. Or at least last time I really saw you. All that video chatting isn't the same."
Calling in was a bit harder. She could only visit Superboy once every two weeks and that was if she was lucky. On a good week when there was an attempt at a peace treaty, she could spend a few days with him out in the barren wasteland he called home. M'gann would've called in had she gotten the opportunity. She always loved checking in with him and seeing who all the new recruits were and how they were coming along. It was fun for her. A little slice of joy in her chaotic life.
"And I just wanted to ask a favor from you."
Listening as she sit locked away in a room to check the messages on the comm, she cocked her head, wondering what this was about. So it wasn't just a call to check in. Her brow furrowed slightly, lines creasing her forehead. Megan didn't mind this being a call for a favor; helping him was more like a game than a chore. With him, she never knew what she was up against.
"Can you come help me?"
She immediately slipped her comm back in her pocket before phasing through the closet's door and towards the zeta-beam teleporter. She had to get to Earth.
The message started off with some coughing. But he could even recognize that. "Is that you?" asked Wally as he stared incredulously at the computer as the video message came through. No video feed was there; on the screen was the snowy static of what Superboy used to watch night and day.
"Oh, dude, whe-"
More coughing and the rustling of clothing. He thought he heard the clicking of typing in the background, but it was hard to decipher. "I know everything that happened."
"No, you have no id-"
"I know what happened with Artemis, what happened with-" A cough. "-Artemis. I'm not stupid. I get it."
It hit Wally like a ton of bricks. A recording. He should've known and nearly growled at himself for not picking up on it sooner.
"And I know that you wanted to go solo. Wanted to be like Superboy and like Red Arrow and like everyone else who left. And I know you wanted to put the past behind you."
Losing Artemis over dumb shit… It'd been the biggest mistake of his life. He vowed never to make it again. Twenty years old and sick and tired of the speed gig, he was trying to live normally again. He had repaired what little was left of his old life and rekindle lost friendships. Everything with the team had been lost. He'd tried to reach out to Artemis, but once he found out what she'd done, he held no more interest in the archer. No room for traitors on his watch. And then seeing Superboy leave over his mentor problems and watching everyone else barely holding it together… He knew he wasn't going to last much longer.
Wally had decided long ago that leaving was his best bet.
He had his own apartment now. No rules, lots of booze. It was all he needed. Of course, he wasn't allowed to drink yet, but what was the difference? He had friends. He had a life. He had all the girls he could ask for as long as he got 'em drunk enough. Sure, it wasn't his ideal life. He had always wanted to follow in his uncle's footsteps, but after seeing what real freedom could be with that team… He hadn't wanted to lose that.
Freedom. Peace of mind. His own little slice of Heaven. That was what he had. He wasn't going back to any damn team, and he wasn't going back to being a sidekick anymore. He spat on the word sidekick. It was as spit on as the name Artemis.
"And I need you to put it behind you again now. Because I need your help. Last time I saw you, you were storming out the same way Red Arrow did. Back when he was Speedy. Remember that?"
He did. He'd felt terrified of losing one of his closest friends. And something suddenly clicked inside of him. "Damn." He'd left the kid in the exact same position they'd been in five years ago. Watching him stray from his hero life, run off on his own, go rogue. Leaving him without a friend to turn to. Because Wally was the last one to go.
"And I need you back."
A snort. Of course. Back to the damn team that he didn't even want to be on in the first place. It was Superboy's idea. It wasn't his. It was Kaldur's idea, not his. It wasn't his idea. Sure, freedom and knocking aside the term "sidekick" sounded great and all, but he wasn't stupid. He knew this wouldn't go over well.
And look at where they all ended up.
"Can you come help me?"
He snorted. No way in Hell was he going back on that damn team. No way. Wasn't going to happen. Not in a million years.
He'd been sitting there and had been able to get the call in time if he'd wanted to hear it, but he didn't need to. He had the kind of caller ID that said who was calling out loud before all the ringing stuff kicked in.
He recognized the voice. How could he not?
"I know you're probably pissed at me right now. I know you hate people really fast. But I didn't mean what I said."
A snort. Like that was the truth…
"You're not just a sidekick. None of us are, got that? We're older, stronger, faster, wiser. This is who we are. I made a mistake, I know. I do that sometimes. We both do. You know the saying."
"Only human," he spat from his chair as he glared at the answering machine as it sputtered out the caller's words in an almost static sound.
"And I need your help now."
Of course. That damn kid was calling for help. He was half tempted to smash the answering machine.
"I know you hate me." There was a cough. "You can hate me all you want. I need your help now. Hate me, but I need you more than you know.
"And this isn't about you rejoining the team."
The anger seemed to fade to elevator music in his mind. And he listened to the instructions.
"I'm in some trouble. I know the team split a long time ago. I know no one wants to come back, and I know most of you are pissed at me. But I'm all alone in the field right now.
"We hit a snag in a rescue mission.
"The goal was to get in and capture the Prime Minister before Captain Cold could execute him and gain the signed right to have supreme control over the United Kingdom. For some reason, the government over there… I don't know, something happened.
"Point is, we didn't expect the whole place to be on ice."
There was a cough and some typing before the voice continued.
"If you don't know, the current team over here is Beast Boy, Batgirl, Wonder Girl, Aqualass and myself. I planned it so that Beast Boy could get in through a pipe and tap my wires to the main frame to get to the security systems. I tapped in, but we lost connection to BB. I don't know where he is or what happened. He's just dropped off the grid.
"Aqualass was supposed to be taking care of whatever ice problems we ran into, but I was busy with Beast Boy when we lost communication with her. I figured there was a guard or something, but I don't know what's going on. Everything just… it fell apart, okay? Shit hit the fan. My fault. Didn't look over the 'what-ifs' this week.
"Batgirl's still got communication right now. She's trapped up in some rafters. Her leg's pinned by an icicle that dropped. She's too weak to get out of on her own and I can't get there. I'm barely managing myself.
"And I don't know what happened, but Batgirl says she can see Wonder Girl. She's on ice. Frozen solid. Can't get out."
There was more typing. A sharp intake of breath.
"I'm trapped. I've got at least three bullets in me and can't stand up for more than a few seconds. I fucked up my arm and can't get out of here. It's getting too cold to do much and I'm not sure how much longer Batgirl and I can hold out or if Aqualass is even alive or… I just don't know…
"We've been holed up here for three days. No food, no water. No one's shooting at us, but no one can get in to help. They know they have the upper hand. Five of us around here. League can't get in without losing us. But I know you guys can.
"I know what happened with everyone. I know why you all left. The only reason I stuck around instead of going off on my own was because I was needed.
"And I need you now. You were the best team I ever had. Five years later, I'm pretty sure we could pull it off again. But we just need-" A sharp breath. A cuss was uttered. A whimper was released. "-I need help." There was a little gasp and a groan of pain. "You don't have to come. I can't make you. Never could, never would.
"But I really, really don't want to die today."
And Robin relayed his coordinates, praying that maybe someone out there would hear him. He pressed his fingers into the wounds that stained his chest bloody red before sending out his five desperate messages. He'd wasted the last of his computer's lifespan on calling them instead of whispering his final goodbyes to anyone who would miss him. The blue screen went dead the second everything went through.
A/N: I've decided this would be a three-shot. Maybe two-shot, but I think it'll be three. Wow, that was… really long… I love it. Set five years in the future, if you couldn't tell. I tried to sprinkle in ages here and there. Reviews will make me get the next one up faster. Thanks for reading!