Can't Go Back
Inspired by the comic canon of Wally's mysterious speedster ailment and the events of "Crisis on Infinite Earths" that dealt with it.
Basically, I took the knowledge I gathered of it and warped it for the Young Justice universe, allowing a little bit of room for interpretation. It is not required to read anything up on it. I made sure to cover all the bases of information I could. I do, however, have a couple, optional footnotes at the bottom of the page for tidbits and for your convenience. This is one of my largest oneshots, but don't be intimidated by its size! It has plenty of sections broken up. Also, this is not a shipping fic. I tease a little with Wally and Roy, but this is bromance if anything at all.
Here are the warnings: Loads of emotion whumpage, mentions of domestic abuse, some minor graphic content like blood, and some swearing and physical fighting.
So, I started this around February and didn't finish until August. Haha. Needless to say, she is my baby. And I really, really hope you enjoy reading her. =3
I need to thank both of spur-of-the-moment beta readers rj-lunatic and Vladbride for handling my baby with vigilance and discipline and I apologize to them for making them cry. I need to thank my baby's daddy shadowinthedark13 for being so amazing to me through the different stages of forming this and reminding me "…oh, that's right… Roy exists… Heeeello, Megann~!" I need to thank Zeraphie for answering my questions on Iris (and she doesn't even know it was for this, ahaha). I need to thank itswallie for listening to me rant and being all the encouragement I needed sometimes. I need to thank my parents for being so impossible to deal with for the past few weeks because I wouldn't have locked myself up for many, many hours in my room to escape reality and worked on this so fiercely. I need to thank my some of my followers on Tumblr because they were mega supportive. I need to thank midnight snacks for keeping me awake until four am. I need to thank YOU for putting up with me.
Disclaimer: YJ cartoon, DC comics, Lays and Doritos, Doctor Who, and Coronas are not mine... I definitely could go for some Captain Morgan right now though.
Hitting the wall. It was a concept Wally had been unavoidably familiar with since his recreation of Flash's accident.
The jerking shudders in his muscles mostly concentrated in the areas of his forearms, biceps, triceps, deltoids, and rhomboids. The draining of his energy needed to keep up his superspeed or to even stand up straight. And finally, to mesh all sensations together: the raging body aches—the unabsolved amount of red-hot pain, enough to take his breath from him, enough to cause a blackout if Wally worked himself too hard. Some doctors might even classify them as "non-epileptic seizures"… if he had gone to any doctors in the first place.
Wally experienced them on a daily basis in small doses during early training with Barry, but never let it show during that time. Lucky enough for him, the worst of the fits would progress when he was home by himself upstairs, where a blackout could close over him, and he wouldn't care because no one would have to worry about him. No one needed to worry. They were never that bad.
After that first summer of gaining Flash's powers, any and all fits nearly disappeared. After a mission now, maybe, Wally's fingers would spasm uncontrollably for two hours he could handle away from the other members of his team and, certainly, the cooling sensation of numbness was only a temporary side effect. (The last two fingers in Wally's left hand never did regain feeling.)
But that had been months ago… …so WHY would they come back…?
"Hello, space cadet." Artemis elbowed him in the gut at the kitchen island, fully cowled and disgruntled. "Megan is asking you something. What's so interesting about your hand?"
Wally flexed his fingers carefully into his palm and outwards, shielding the panic from his expression as he glanced at her and then a mildly confused M'gann. The rest of his teammates watched with similar confusion from their different places in the kitchen and front room as he pushed out of his stool, muttering, "…bathroom," and jogged out normal pace, further unnerving them.
"His heart rate is picking up," Superboy pointed out. His blue eyes focused intently on the back of Wally's florescent, padded costume.
But Wally missed it—as well as the meaningful exchange of looks between everyone. By the time Wally made it inside the bathroom, locking the door behind him, both of his arms trembled violently as he grasped the lip of the sink, red-gloved fingers splayed. No. No. Wally took in a few deep breathes, letting his head dangle forward, and the next breath came in as a hiss of surprise as his entire left side pierced with a forgotten pain. No.
He gritted his teeth, moaning and clutching where it formed with his opposite arm.
"Wally…" Two or three rapping knocks on the bathroom door. "Wally," Kaldur's voice repeated calmly, "can you open the door?" Wally stifled a heaving cry into another hand, releasing his hold on the sink and his body caved into a kneeling position on the bathroom floor. "Wally?" When he didn't answer, the sounds of multiple, softer whispers rose behind the door.
The whole team…?
He bit down into his middle finger, hard enough to draw blood underneath the leather material of his glove, as the dulling pain in his left side flourished in full renewal, conquering the muscles of his legs and in the base of his neck. Wally moaned loudly, curling down onto the shaggy bathmat. Never this bad. What was happening to him…?
"Wally, I need you to stand away from the door. We're coming in to help."
The screeching grind of steel hinges smashed together and then ripped apart from the doorframe. Superboy opened a path. Kaldur took one step in and froze in place at the sight.
Wally rolled onto his back as everything seared with agony, a tempest of wrenching ferocity—inside his skull, inside his veins, inside his lungs—and Wally's costumed chest shook with gasps edging on hyperventilation. No. Through the blur of tears flowing out from the corners of his eyes, M'gann and Robin's apprehensive faces appeared over him.
Robin shoved back Wally's goggles and the headgear from his face as M'gann reached out to grab both of Wally's spasming hands into her own. "It'll pass…" he whimpered out with M'gann echoing the whimper, lips quivering, and Robin's gauntlets cradled his head cautiously, gently setting it into Robin's lap before the blackout took him, and Wally wished with all his might that he believed his own words,"—it'llpassit'llpassit'llpassit'llpassit'llpass… …"
Heavy eyelids. Wally opened them bit by bit, shifting his head a little on a pillow. Pillow. His flattened, Doritos-smelling pillow. His charcoal gray bedroom ceiling above him in Mount Justice.
Arghhh, he smelled nasty. How long had he been out? Had someone carried him in? Couldn't have changed him though. Too much of a hassle. Apparently. Head spinning momentarily, Wally tilted his head downwards to catch a glimpse of Kaldur disappearing into the corridor from his lookout position in his bedroom doorway, addressing someone out of view.
Had… yeah, it had. The fit had been that bad. The memory came back to him in shambles. Running to the bathroom. Collapsing. Supes broke the door. Couldn't breathe. Hands holding his tightly.
And… hold up… was someone snoring in here? Wally sat up, looking towards the other side of the sunlit room (damn, he must have been out all night) and to his mattress. Fast asleep, a masked and wrinkly costumed Robin had his arms cushioned to the mattress edge, folded right under his head. A wrinkle in the center of his forehead. The corners of Robin's mouth all scrunched down.
Wally's already crushing guilt increased eightfold when Flash entered from the corridor, exposed mouth thinned worryingly. His mentor gestured for him to get up and follow.
Wally's eyes bugged out as Batman appeared behind Flash, glaring at the teenager through his cowl's lenses—only it felt more intimidating this time around for what he was probably in trouble for—, and Wally hastily pushed away his blanket to stand. Robin lifted his head from the circle of his limbs when he got a face full of musky, old blanket.
"KF?" he asked groggily.
He pivoted into a half turn and forced a rather convincing smile at his best friend.
"I'll—I'll be back soon, okay? I gotta go."
"You shouldn't be moving around right now, dude," Robin said offhandedly, shaking his grogginess off and stretching his arms over the mattress.
Batman's tone was much sterner than what Robin could manage.
"Kid Flash has some personal business to discuss with Flash and myself. He will return to base tomorrow."
When Robin stared between the three of them doubtfully, Wally reassured him, smile fading, "Promise I'll come back."
It was more of an "I'll try"—they both understood this—but Robin nodded anyway. He warned him with a hesitant smirk, "…You better mean it, KF."
The zeta beam system that connected the Watchtower from its designated zones on Earth took only a matter of seconds.
The feeling of being teleported never bothered Wally. Hell, getting shot-put through a bulletproof glass window or even getting a split leg that bled all over wasn't so bad as the damn syringes everyone felt the need to stick in him. Wally continued purposely staring at the med-lab wall, away from his right arm getting test samples of blood drawn. Batman's hand eventually let up from pinning his wrist down, and when he moved around with the full test samples, Wally paused from tossing out his apple core to subtly flinch his left arm away.
Batman mimicked a pause, examining him in wary silence. He set down the samples onto a metal tray, ordering, "Left hand."
Wally's heart pounded nervously. He wanted to refuse but… who refused Batman?
He extended out his ungloved hand, letting the man take it to spread and arch his freckled fingers. A scrutinizing frown. Batman began with the thumb and squeezed along to each finger, applying steady and uncomfortable pressure. "Ow." Wally uttered complaints until his ring finger was reached. When pressure was applied, Wally didn't say anything. Batman stopped.
"Hhm. Last finger as well?"
"…yes," Wally said. Should have just faked it.
"Has it spread anywhere else?"
He replied lowly, green eyes returning to stare impassively at the wall, "Part of my forearm since I woke up."
"How long has this been happening to you, Wally?" Flash asked with a hint of genuinely awestruck horror, allowing the other JLA member to step away to dispose of the blood samples. Wally kept his mouth shut, leaving Batman to speak up over the whir of the computer results with an "I think it's safe to assume this has been going on since his powers manifested."
"It's never…" The teen licked his dry lips, faintly sour and tasting of Red Delicious, looking into his lap instead of facing his mentor. He couldn't look at Barry. "I didn't want anyone to worry."
"That's a child's way of thinking."
Wally's nostrils flared and his lip curled slightly at Batman's skepticism. The man continued touching and flipping through various holographic screens of files, facing away from the speedsters. Flash shook his head slowly, face and blond hair out in the open and his headgear down towards the nape of his neck. "So it's because you are physically too young." His bright blue eyes so tired. More tired than what Wally could ever be feeling. "Your body isn't fully developed so your metabolism and your powers are out of control."
"They're not—" Wally argued softly, immediately cut off by Batman bearing down in front of the boy seated on the medical bench.
"This can't go on." He growled, "At the rate your body is deteriorating, you will die."
"…Bats—!" Flash gaped.
Wally slammed a fist on the bench. "What am I supposed to do? Quit the team?" he yelled.
And did not appreciate the chilling silence descending over the med-lab.
Batman broke it thoughtfully, "It's an option open to you."
"No!" A cruel bark of laughter. Wally grinned ridiculously wide in disbelief and ignored his mentor's noticeable cringe at his behavior. "This is…!"
"This is your only option at this point, Kid Flash."
The miserable grin remained. Wally looked down into his lap again, scrubbing his good hand over his face.
"I can't go back to being normal," he admitted, shakily pressing the heel of his palm to his forehead. "I-…Don't make me do this."
Even Batman sounded a little sorry for him. Or maybe it was just wishful thinking.
"A means to suppress your powers will be investigated and prepared until there can be a cure for your ailment."
One simple order was made for Wally: "Clear out and go home until further orders"— when it really meant… leaving… for…
He couldn't admit it out loud, let alone privately in his head. So then… how could he tell his teammates?
Wally arrived back into Happy Harbor and into Mount Justice, fortunately, when they were busy putting together movie night. The zeta tunnel scanned him through, reciting his identification code into the empty space of monitor room, and a part of Wally wanted them to notice his return. But the monitor room remained empty save him, the incessant hum of the tunnel cooling down behind him. Through the passageway to the elevators, he could hear M'gann clapping gaily about something that must have just happened and some mixed laughter and the rich diction of Kaldur. Wally's chest ached in the elevator lift, and maybe the fits themselves weren't as scary as he was feeling now.
Scared to be found, but scared to be forgotten.
The package boxes from the move-in were deemed passable as Wally retrieved them from his bedroom closet, opening their flaps to fold and lay extra shirts and pants from the messy stack on top of his dresser. An attentive and lively knock on Wally's open door. Could only be one person in the entire mountain with that kind of rhythm. "Good, you're here," Robin said with an expectant smirk, ruining the effect somewhat with the long, floppy end of a blue licorice stick dangling from his lips. He flung a rolled up bag of candy in the air.
Wally caught it with ease, unsmiling, and left the bag untouched on the dresser top. "Said I would be," a collected response as he turned away and Robin dropped into a handspring before righting.
"We've got popcorn and other cheap junk food Miss M and Supey picked up, you feeling up for…—?" Robin's voice trailed off into slight accusing, "…—going somewhere in a hurry?"
"I'm pretty much useless to everyone now. No point in staying, right?" Wally gave a weak, unpleasant chuckle.
Approaching footsteps. Wally's hand hovering over another plaid shirt stilled in place as Robin snatched his wrist. "What's that even mean?" The younger boy peered over the dark rims of his civvies sunglasses, abandoning the last piece of his candy, and Wally thought he caught a glimpse of clear, turquoise eyes before Robin said quietly, "KF, what's wrong?"
It hurt. It hurt more than the fits.
"I can't be here anymore. I'm not allowed to." There was a tremor working to escape as Wally spoke and he refused it from surfacing.
"That's not an explanation."
The self control and blockade of negative emotions building up since leaving Watchtower deteriorated. "I'm dying, man! The whole thing in the bathroom you saw," Wally's face reddened with the ugly way he was snapping at his best friend taking it without expression and stiffening his grip on Wally's wrist, "yeah, Batman and my uncle told me that the whole 'Kid Flash' thing is gonna kill me and no one knows when. It could be a year, two months, maybe even five minutes from now." Wally yanked out of it, adding hoarsely, "Is that what you really needed to hear from me?"
"Batman will find a solution. He's not going to give up on you. He'll try to…"
"The Justice League is trying to find a way to strip me of my powers so I can stay alive long enough to graduate high school." Wally threw down a full packing box onto his mattress, and several clothes spilled onto the duvet as the box bounced sideways. "I can't be around Barry because I'm an energy collector. I'll just feed off him." The walls of his throat lumped. "And I'm a liability if I stay."
Robin shook his head, frowning grimly. "You not being on the team doesn't change anything. You're still my best friend."
Wally scowled a little—god, why did he make it sound so easy…
"What's even the point of living when I can't be the person I'm meant to be? When I should be a part of—?" A solid impact of skin to skin. Robin's fist collided into Wally's jaw, not hard enough to shatter but hard enough to bruise the hell out of it. The speedster uttered a pained groan, heaving over his dresser and grasping onto it to keep from sinking to the wiry bedroom carpet.
"Don't ever say that!"
Wally glanced over his shoulder, eyes slightly watering more out of indignation than the actual injury, as Robin panted and covered his beet red knuckles with his other hand and still looked beyond all reasonable doubt pissed off. Without either being aware of it, the yellow-brown bruising healed before fully forming on Wally's face. And then all hell broke loose. A missed axe kick. Backtuck. Flip. Heavy breathing. Robin's hands came forward ferociously, thrusting into the material of Wally's striped jersey and yanking him off-balance. Block. Hit. Hit.
The side of Robin's arm dug into Wally's windpipe—unforgiving, unrelenting—as the younger boy shoved him thrashing and flat to the floor. "You're an idiot!" Robin growled down on him. "You're an absolute idiot if you think for a second that your life is meaningless without your powers! What's –less would be losing you like I lost the people I loved!" Wally's green eyes widened in dismay. Robin—no, Dick—had told him once. Just once. Told him the day he revealed his real identity as Dick Grayson. But they never talked about what that was like… to watch your own family be murdered before your eyes.
Wally choked, sucking in a wheezing breath as Robin removed his arm. His hand did not relax around the collar of Wally's jersey, and Robin sounded— "I can't do it again, Wally…" —like it was happening all over. "And it's awful and it's selfish to say something like that, but I can't…" he repeated, gritting his teeth through what sounded like a dry, strangled sob.
"I don't want to die…" Wally let his own hands press into his face, shielding the reluctant tears. The grasp on his collar loosened benevolently.
"But I don't want to leave…"
Batman held a meeting with everyone about Kid Flash no longer operating with Young Justice, for the good and safety of his health, after a few days. Or so he heard. Well… Not everyone heard.
No one told Roy. No one was probably gonna. Maybe Kaldur. Maybe Black Canary. Definitely not Green Arrow because Roy still refused to be on speaking terms with his once partner.
But someone had to. Might as well face to face.
Wally lifted a red-leather finger to buzz for Unit 7 and backed up a step. The rust-eaten apartment door flung inward. From the other side of the doorway, Roy gripped one of his trick arrows between his teeth, arranging another three into the dark gray quiver strapped to his back. He opened his mouth to extract the arrow, asking, "Kinda late for a visit, isn't it?"
"Dude, it's summer." The speedster dismissed the lack of enthusiasm in Roy's tone, taking another crunch into the pear in his hand. "I don't have to wake up early for school. Figured I'd stop by."
Roy cocked an eyebrow over the black arch of his domino mask, snorting. "What about the Junior Justice League? They gotta be wrangling you kiddies for more co-op missions with your free time."
Wally never let the stab of anguish reveal itself in his show of unfaltering confidence towards his friend.
"Patrol?" He nodded to the black and red uniform. Roy finished strapping up.
"Join me?" the older teenager countered, waving briefly to the Kid Flash costume and smirking. "Should be a good time… what with chances of knocking a few skulls by the end of the night."
This was not what Wally came here for. But any reason to put off disappointing, worrying Roy over what was his own fault was pretty much worth it. He didn't get messed up on the way into Star City, California and probably wouldn't on the way out. The opportunity to comp one last night of crimefighting before they ran out for good seemed promising.
Wally lowered his infrared goggles over his eyes, giving a friendly, vigor slap to Roy's shoulder.
The downtown area of Elgin was a novice for the drug and gang-related runs at best. But they got lucky, and then, it qualified for a separate definition by the end of the night.
As Wally sped through the procession of dealers, seizing their automated guns and disassembling them within milliseconds, Roy crouched under the shadow of the closest alleyway. He shot another one of the hired muscle sprinting for the get-away car down the street, this time his arrow suctioning itself to the man's back and exploding into a spark and dense smoke. "Seven!"
Wally snickered, delivering an effortless roundhouse kick to the brittle nose of a lowlife aiming to grab him from behind. "I've got ten knocked out! Still beating you, Red!" he called back wittily to the older teenager who scowled deeply. A bulkier scarlet arrow twanged releasing from Roy's bow, flying inches over the heads of nine or so dealers they had chased down, and the arrow opened in midair to douse them with…water? The dealers swore aloud, shaking themselves off, looking as baffled as Wally sort of was.
Another arrow embedded at their feet, into the collective puddle they stood in, and every single one of them cried out and dropped unconscious as a high voltage of electricity hammered into their systems.
"You get that idea from Aqualad?" Wally shouted with obvious approval, resisting the urge to clap.
Squealing car tires.
"Look out, dumbass!"
A pop of machine gunfire.
Wally's thigh felt slick and warm and it collapsed under his weight. The get-away car passed him, a tinted black rear window rolling up, and Roy lunged in front of his fallen companion. He aimed straight for one of the tail lights and waited for the gratifying, distant thunk! of impact. "I'll be able to track it even if the scumbags manage to get out the arrow shaft," Roy muttered, gazing down at the speedster leaning over his gunshot wound and making indistinct, breathy noises. "…jesus, Kid. Are you in shock?"
"I'm fine," Wally insisted dully, nodding. "I'm coming out of it and leg's already healing."
"What did I tell you about getting yourself killed on my watch?"
Green eyes peered hardened through goggle lenses. "If I'm going to die, then it's by my own terms," Wally snarled heatedly. It didn't shake.
He groaned in protest when Roy hoisted him up from sitting without a fair warning, shifting Wally's weight onto his uninjured leg and wrapping a muscular arm around him securely.
"Then I'd better get you somewhere where you can bandage up before that can happen… and that was, what, sixteen for me?" Wally's paling face peaked into a small smile.
"… …I'll buy you lunch, jackass." ¹
The twenty-four hour gas station across the street had an unlimited supply, or so Roy claimed, of Lays chips and antiseptic wipes. Considering Wally had already gone through half of the brown hydrogen peroxide bottle from the first aid kit, it was probably a better idea that Roy headed out of the apartment to get more supplies for the cleanup. And food.
Oh sweet lord… Food.
Wally's stomach gurgled even as he performed clumsy self-surgery on his leg. Scraps of his costume gashed and torn from the wound. He held away a delicate fold of skin from where a bullet was lodged in muscle, to keep it from healing over. With a pair of blood-soaked tweezers, Wally plucked the bullet out. He dropped it into a plastic baggie on the rectangular coffee table and sealed it. Wally smoothed the fold of skin back to his thigh with a latex-gloved hand, watching for a moment as the lacerated flesh knit itself together.
It may have been high on the gross out factor at first, he guessed, but by now Wally was just so used to the dangers of his occupation and the peculiars of his hyper-acculated abilities that this was ordinary. (Though not for long, Wally thought bitterly.)
He undressed the sterile gloves, clenching them in his jaw before spitting them out into a nearby trash can by the sofa. Everything but Roy's sofa had his blood on it, surprisingly—would have to rub some spots out on the wood panel tiles before they congealed—and Wally laid his sickly rubber-smelling, powdery palm on his forehead. He felt terrible. Not only because he messed everything up tonight, but especially physically. Suppose the wound was mostly to blame… Wally's hand not resting on his face trembled visibly on the roll of compression bandages on the suede, camouflage green couch.
He let go of the roll as his muscles began spasming harder. No nono.
Wally curled his legs up, hugging himself, and retched loudly. Spittle coated his chin as that red-hot pain coursed from the bullet wound up into his abdomen and through his left leg.
"—I got a few flavors," Roy called out, unlocking the apartment door and bumping it open with his hip, "since you barely taste anything… I can't freaking believe they ran out of barbe…—"
Another meaty retch from Wally's mouth, bringing up nothing but another round of saliva mingled with the dark shine of red fluid on the floor by Wally's dirtied boots. The set of keys and an unmarked sack of chips fell unimportant, crushed under Roy's stomping feet, as this time Wally's name passed his lips, as Roy caught the fainting boy from landing face-first into the coffee table.
"…ly." Soft patter of slippers. Sandalwood perfume. (And…something citrusy? Orange?)
The voice cleared from fuzz in his eardrums, "Wally, are you awake?"
He shifted up on his elbows, Barry's oversized pajama shirt slipping to expose the tops of freckled shoulders. Iris West set down the breakfast tray she had carried in, placidly arranging the few cups of cool water and mixed fruit juice against the plate of syruped waffles. "…Good. You're up. It's noon. And I expect you to eat all of this whether or not you want to," she emphasized with her infamous 'no-nonsense-from-you-do-you-hear-me-young-man' tone. Wally frowned at his surroundings… the guest bed in his aunt and uncle's house?
"How did I get to Central?"
"Your friend…Roy?…contacted us. He wasn't sure who else to call." Iris tucked her thick, straight brown hair behind an ear. "…Your uncle came and got you. He explained everything to your friend."
Wally shut his eyes. Damn it.
"Where's Uncle Barry?"
Her arranged expression did not disclose anything more than sharp, maternal consideration. "Out. He will be until your parents come and pick you up." Wally felt something in his chest wring—guilt, shame, dissatisfaction—because Barry couldn't be around him, couldn't do anything but… regardless couldn't let his partner suffer across the country. Some "partner" Wally turned out to be.
"Now eat before the food gets cold."
He scooted towards the wicker tray on the nightstand and found his left leg immobile. Wally examined it, pushing up the material of the pajama pant leg to find the skin healed where he had been shot, but when his fingers touched skin… nothing. Just… numbness from his ankle to his thigh. His breathing quickened as mild, building panic set in.
To not be able to run with superspeed again was one thing, but to never walk…
Iris studied him when he struggled, concern flashing in her brown-gold eyes. "Stay here," she instructed firmly, and disappeared into the hallway, coming back with what looked like an adjustable crutch. "I never found the time to donate it." Iris handed it to him, her long, feminine hand closing over his. Wally met her eyes as she explained, "On a vacation last spring, your uncle and I went biking through some woods… I managed to fall off and sprain my ankle and couldn't get off my bed without this for nearly three weeks."
"But…you can't ride a bike." Wally blinked. "You told me you never learned."
A slow nod. "But I didn't want to disappoint your uncle so I agreed to it. The trails were the moderate level of difficulty and he was so worried for me when I fell and hurt myself…" Her mouth quivered. "And I felt… so awful for putting him through it. I should have thought of my limits instead of trying to hide that secret from him."
"Wally, why are you doing this? You are hurting yourself." Her brown-gold eyes misted. Iris's hand squeezed over his rigidly. "You were throwing up blood for god's sake! When Barry carried you inside the house… I thought you were…" she stopped herself from acknowledging her fear, clapping her free hand over her mouth to stifle oncoming sobs.
He laced his fingers through hers. "Don't cry, Aunt Iris," Wally consoled her, and her fingers clinged. "I'll go home and take it easy, I promise. I'll do whatever I have to to get better, okay?" And… hell, if he didn't feel like crying a little himself right then. He had never seen her so upset. Yelling and upset. Yelling and upset at him.
His aunt moved away her hand from her mouth, wiping her face with the inside of her wrist, and her wedding ring glinting under lamplight.
"I want you to do it for yourself, Wally. Not for me. Not for anyone else. Just do it for yourself."
The screen of the miniature television fuzzed out to static before clearing out to blacks and whites. Mary West banged her palm over it before the static blared a split second, and the screen displayed its original color. A frustrated sound through her nose. She muttered over the twin kitchen pots steaming over the oven, "Damn thing needs fixin'."
"I can take a look at it later, Mom," Wally assured, smiling and glancing up from peeling another large red-skinned potato from the pile on the countertop. On the television screen, the city of Metropolis cheered and protested down one of its avenues where Superman and a variety of other superheroes escorted some foreign dictators through crowds of onlookers.
Mary hummed, reaching out to fluff Wally's hair. "Such a helpful boy. I never get it from your father since he's so busy." A pity-me sigh. "How are those vegetables looking?"
His green eyes tore away from staring wistfully at the beaming, red-cowled individual being panned and then zoomed into by the news camera (—how many weeks now since he had been banned from a life of being Kid Flash…?) and his smile deadened with a simple reply of, "Fine," before he started skinning the remaining one-quarter of potato in his left hand.
"We understand that it seems a bit strange to be making the long trip to moving back to Blue Valley, but both your father and I are very happy that you are home." Mary's stubbier fingers lingered, combing away her son's growing bangs falling over his forehead. Wally wanted to stop what he was doing and laugh uproariously at the risk of getting a smack to the face.
Of course they were happy. They wanted to move back to Blue Valley. This was just the perfect opportunity. For them.
His mother gasped alarmed when the tip of Wally's knife sliced open a straight, dripping line down Wally's forearm and he just sat there like he was perfectly unaware of what he had done to himself. "Oh goodness gracious, what have you done—?" She clutched that arm, going for a damp washcloth to clean him. "Doesn't it hurt, Wally?"
His eyebrows furrowed.
"…No," he confessed, his shoulders slumping downwards.
Mary gave him the washcloth to hold.
"Well, you're no help like this. I can take care of the rest of dinner. I'll need to be alone to concentrate anyway." She suggested, "Why don't you go help your father in the driveway? He's been fighting with that beat-down truck all morning, swearing up a storm." Mary chuckled spitefully at her own words, taking the peeled potatoes from the counter and discarding them into one of the pots. He took that as his cue to leave, reaching for the metal crutch propped up by his seat and hobbling up to steady himself with it tucked under his armpit.
Wally pushed open the loosened, front screen door and cautiously walked down the gravel walkway to where Rudy West had his head hidden under the truck's hood. The older man slammed it down, patting his oil-greased hands together. "Get behind the wheel and see if this piece of shit will start," he ordered gruffly to Wally who hesitated before obeying dutifully. Wally threw the crutch in the cramped backseat and scooted into the driver's seat, stepping on the gas lightly and twisting the key to the ignition. Key wouldn't budge. Wally tried again with no avail, irritated.
"Turn the steering wheel!" His father shouted over to him and Wally cranked it to the right before the key turned smoothly. A weak sputter of the engine. More sputtering. Rudy punched a fist in the air victoriously as the pick-up truck roared to life, shaking the footrest beneath Wally's sneakers. Through the passenger's window, Rudy gestured for the washcloth bunched in Wally's already healed (but still partly numb, always numb) hand and wiped his hands with exaggerated pride. "Let's take this old girl out on a test run."
Wally started to slide out from the driver's seat, stopping when a meaty arm blocked him.
"What…?" He asked, astonished and gazing unsure between his father and the lit dashboard, "…Me drive it?"
"You've got your drivers' permit, don't ya, boy?" Rudy grinned with amusement through his prickly moustache, and lowered his voice, "…I ain't gonna tell your Momma if you won't." ²
The back roads of Nebraska skid tannish clouds of dirt underneath the tires of the West's burgundy, antique truck.
Across the barren stretch of horizon between road and the fire-orange sun beginning to dip out of view, some abandoned farmhouses with vacant, black windows flew by as Wally pressed the foot pedal for more gas (he needed to go fastfastfast somehow). In the passenger seat, Rudy croaked out a yawn and unbuckled his seatbelt, making himself cozier. "So what's in the pot for dinner? I thought I was smellin' something good cooking."
"It looked like corned beef brisket." Oh, crap, just wildly missed a raccoon. Needed to let up on the gas. Wally tentatively went for the brake pedal as he included, "There's carrots and potatoes, too."
"You still need to eat five plates though you ain't a hero no more?"
His father's question wasn't exactly harsh but Wally's knuckles whitened anyway. "Uncle Barry said that it will get worse since I'm…suppressing my powers." Wally concentrated back on the road, eyeing another empty patch of prairie grass. "There's a family reunion coming up next month." A vague grumble from the other side of the truck.
"…Dad, do you remember the family reunion we had here when I was eight?"
"Can't say I recall it."
Wally flinched. "You yelled at me for accidentally spilling some soda on the outdoor tablecloth."
"What about it?"
His father's brown eyes, surrounded by weathered skin and so disparaging, narrowed.
Wally licked his lips. Oh boy.
"Someone talked to me that day when I was upstairs by myself. Someone who told me that one day everything would change. That I would be a hero like Flash."
"Sure you weren't imaginin' it?"
"I thought I was for awhile." Wally freckled countenance perked up. Even with his father's reserved attitude. "But… it was me. A future me. I wasn't wearing a costume or anything but I realized eventually that I would time-travel to that moment when I was eight and tell myself not to give up, even if people told me I was being stupid. I just…" Wally thumbed the vinyl of the steering wheel, letting out a heavy, doleful breath, "I didn't think my future would change so quickly, and that I would have to lose my friends."
"Life throws your curveballs. You gotta suck it up."
Wally bit his lip, grinding it between his teeth. "Dad… I'm sorry. I'm sorry that all of this is being a big hassle of switching schools."
"It happened and that's all that matters." Rudy clapped his back heartily. "You'll make your Momma and I proud one day soon, boy." A stern tone. "Speaking of your education, I need to take a drive for your registration papers. You game for a few more hours of practice behind the wheel?" Wally smiled, giving him a gleeful sideways look.
"As long as it's not in this car," he joked, "We won't make it out of town let alone make it home for dinner tonight at the rate it's going."
A rumbling laugh. Home. ³
The peace didn't last. It never did in the late hours of evening—until the bodily sounds of fighting and items shattering against walls and full-bodied screaming calmed. Wally locked the bedroom door just in case. Downstairs, glass clinked with purposeful intent (Mom would probably fall asleep drunk in front of the television in the kitchen) and the front door boomed shut. Wally's bedroom window—curtains drawn open and the pane raised a few inches for a breeze to pass through—lit with flood lights (…Dad taking the car).
Wally uncoiled slightly, rubbing his eyelids into his wrist. A quiet, thick sniff. While rolling on his bed to his opposite side, he carefully maneuvered his bad leg to lie on top of his right one.
By appearance, no one would be able to tell anything was wrong with it—unmarred, unscarred, but lifeless. His left foot tingled for most hours of the day, like it was permanently asleep. Wally glanced away from it to the comm.-link resting in his hands. Robin had snuck him it before Wally left with his things. Something about an untraceable transmission Robin been working on for a while blahblah secret from Batman blaaaaah but the really important part was that Wally could be able to talk to everyone else through the link… in theory.
Turned out it was more a one-way feed than a two-way. Maybe a couple times through the static, Wally could make out some voiced instructions from one of their missions or a noncommittal, throaty grunt from Superboy. Were they… okay without him? Did they even need him? Wally turned the communicator in both of his hands, tweaking a switch on the side when it lit in dull yellow.
"..ArteZzzzz-…" Green eyes widened as the static fluxed. His heart skipped in anticipation. Robin spoke clearly through the transmission, "—hey, guys, say your goodnights before I sever the link."
"How do we even know this is reaching Kid Dork?"
"If you doubt it then why do you participate every night," came a smug remark. Artemis huffed.
Wally's hand brought the comm.-link up to his ear, daring to believe that his luck would continue, as Kaldur's voice joined them, "If this should reach you, Wally… I would like to extend my sincerest wishes for a good evening's rest and to assure you that your absence has left a great deal of sadness. Though you may not be able to return to us, you are missed."
"That was beautifully spoke, Kaldur!" M'gann piped up optimistically. A Robin giggle.
"Don't do anything stupid out there, Baywatch."
Kaldur spoke up again, this time with more wariness, "Red Arrow expresses a matching sentiment and hopes that your health has improved."
"Wally, sleep well and dream of your happiest memories! I would like to see you again soon; I even saved some cookies!"
"Meg, those cookies are stale by now," Artemis said, dryly.
"He'll still eat them," Robin maintained, cheekily, "Trust me. I've seen him go through a six pack of yogurt three months past the expiration date."
An exaggerated gag from the archer.
"Good night… I guess," Superboy did not sound nasty in his uncertainty but more curious and genuine in his own Superboy way.
"You going to say something to your other half, pipsqueak?"
"That's cute, Arty."
Kaldur interrupted them, resolutely, "Please be respectful of each other."
Robin snorted but not without amusement.
"I'm cutting off the link. Good night."
Murmuring. Silence. Further static.
Wally lowered the comm.-link but the yellow transmission light remained strong.
"Wally…" The younger boy whispered into it, "I know the two-way is still faulty but I'm working on it." Rustling on the other end. Wally could imagine it now: Robin perched down the end of his bed, cross-legged and fiddling with his own comm.-link, and brushing aside his two-tone cape getting in the way of the tools Robin was probably using. "I don't know if you've been talking to Batman or Flash or anyone but some JLA files I cracked were talking about a gene bomb. Something that I'm sure they'll talk to you about later."
No idea what it was.
Wally shivered. "Listen, don't worry about it, no one on the team is going to let anything happen to you that you don't want." Robin said, seriously, "I won't let anyone." He heard his best friend let out an exhausted sigh after a moment. "…It's late. You are probably zonked out already."
A tip-tap-tap of Robin's wrist console.
"…Kaldur was right. It's not the same at all here anymore." Robin's voice grew softer with restrained emotion, "When we were fighting… I- you scared me, dude. The way you were talking. I couldn't let you just give up on living. Even if you are changed back into a human, it wouldn't negate everything you've achieved as Kid Flash."
Wally smiled slowly, tapping his forehead to the communicator in his hand.
"I don't even know if this is reaching you… but it should one day." Robin laughed over the transmission— actually laughed, not cackling like when he didn't take someone the least bit seriously, not giggling like when a situation was dismissible— and the other boy found it heartening. "I'll find out more on the files tomorrow, alright? Good night, Wally."
But he knew his voice wouldn't reach his best friend, even before the last few seconds of the link went out from yellow light to darkness.
And it didn't even matter.
Wally's smile broadened. They missed him.
If that had to be enough… then it was good enough for him.
Iris greeted them at the front door, kissing her brother's cheek who took the gesture in mannishly apathetic silence, and she hugged an equally silent Mary who wore a thin smile.
"Long trip?" she asked with a sympathetic look. "Family reunion's already gotten started. I'm sure I told you when I called that Barry was going to be out this weekend—" Iris jumped out of the way as a fluffy white cat streaked out from between her legs and one of the smaller children from the party inside chased after it, screeching with joy. "Molly! Molly, oh lord, not the street!"
Progressively making his way up the sidewalk, Wally leaned off to the side to catch the freckled, pig-tailed girl with the crook of his arm, hoisting her backwards and still screeching up. He let her short, stocking-legs flail out in front. "Heeey… where do you think you're going, Mol-Mol? Aren't you gonna say hi to me?" he teased as her chubby, sunburned face peeked up at him.
"…hi, Wally," she murmured with sudden and uncharacteristic shyness.
Iris ran up to the pair near the lawn, breathing hard and cradling in her scratched-up arms a very disgruntled, pudgy cat. "Molly, get inside right now and take Mister Nibbles or I'm talking to your Momma about no cake for dessert tonight," she scolded as Wally let the little girl down. Molly's face dropped at the prospects of having no dessert and she army-marched up the grass, cat in her arms. Iris made an exasperated face at her grinning nephew, blowing a strand of her hair from her nose, and starting to grin as well. "It's been a while, hasn't it, Wally? How are you?"
"Pretty okay. This helps," Wally tapped an index finger to the cushioned hand clutch of his crutch. "Thanks, Aunt Iris."
She beamed at him, leaning in to kiss the top of his red hair. "Go eat. I've got chips and salsa and pretzels out in the dining room. There should be enough for the cousins and you."
Wally snickered, hobbling up the rest of the sidewalk and driveway with her.
The inside of his aunt and uncle's house seemed like chaos. The adults were getting louder as the Coronas and wine coolers were passed around, and the kids—well, kids were kids, after all. With their ability to belt out long and drawn out war-cries in their lung power when running up and down stairs. Wally knew if he had acted like that in a social setting with his parents around, it would have been time for a proper beating with the belt. Wally grabbed a fistful of bite-sized, salty pretzels to stuff in his mouth and another and one more for thirds to hold onto, waving to several of the more friendly relatives like his Grandpa Ira, chewing, and almost crashing into two people coming out from the hallway.
Charlotte West eyed him in blatant disdain, stiffly clutching the hand of her daughter. "Shouldn't you be more careful?" the woman snapped, eyeing him and then his crutch suspiciously.
"…Sorry I'm such a safety hazard," Wally muttered.
He swallowed his mouthful of pretzel and she stormed off. Inez Rhodes threw him a semi-pleading stare over her shoulder as her mother dragged her along towards the family room. Poor kid.
He backtracked towards the hallway.
Wally hesitated when a person standing by the front door waved at him, sheepishly. Someone with Iris's hair. With very big, gold eyes.
Someone who in some way appeared familiar to him but Wally knew he had not seen previously—at least not in his urgent memory. Someone from the half cousin side? He glanced behind him to see if anyone was standing behind him, also greeting the boy. No one in the dining room. Wally turned back, preparing to raise his hand to wave back and… the gold-eyed boy had vanished. Weird.
The television from the family room flipped on. A reverberation of gasps from the room. On screen, a television crew scrambled to get out of a path of debris and swarm of runners—wait, was that a Hornets cheerleading uniform? Wally squint his eyes at the TV, frowning. Suddenly, one of the reporters was hit with a show of electric blue light, leaving nothing behind but a blackened, scotched mark on the street. The camera tilted up to a crosswalk sign and over to a mall that Wally was absolutely sure he knew. Happy Harbor's only mall in the center of town.
What the hell was something like an anti-matter ray doing in Happy Harbor? Was it… the Light? How did they know…?
An airborne streak of black and red in the distance, dropping down fast and tackling several crooks around the gigantic annihilation machine; water whips strangled around another man as a tall, African-American boy controlled the pressure with bearers. Two more figures in the distance, one with a bigger built who angrily pummeled their enemies with an incredible amount of strength, and the smaller engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Wally balled up a fist, grimacing as the alien girl hovering over everyone narrowly missed the ray's line of trajectory as she herded away civilians.
They couldn't stop it. They needed help.
Inez approached him alone from the other room, looking from between the television screen and her paling cousin. "It's horrible, isn't it? That one with the mask… he fell on his arm…"
"Bathroom," he interrupted her. She stuffed her hands in her skirt pockets, watching after him in brief confusion before staring back at the screaming television program. ¹¹
There was a zeta beam somewhere in this house. Barry and Iris would, without a doubt, hide it from the open and from any nosy guests staying over. But it would be somewhere with easy access to it for them. Wally disappeared further into the house, further away from the thriving party, and reached for their bedroom door knob. Barred out with a key lock. Of course. Wally checked the closet opposite the door to find a toolkit tucked away in a corner. Inside a third drawer of the kit, Wally unearthed some older pick locks among some screws and bolts.
He returned to the bedroom door to slip the tension wrench and pick into the key slot, fumbling with the items when Wally realized he couldn't use both hands while on the crutch.
"Need some help?" Wally's head jerked around at the new voice. Oh crap. "I'm not going to tell anyone what you're doing."
The boy with gold eyes—from earlier—said directly, "…I'd like to help if I can."
Wally examined him from the yellow, bulky goggles in his fluffy, brown hair to his white sneakers with a red blotchy, jagged-looking design to the shoes' tongues. Hmm.
"Sure," Wally agreed guardedly, handing him his tools.
The boy plopped down on his bottom in front of the lock, sticking out the tip of his pink tongue between his lips as he worked. A click from the rear tumblers already. Impressive.
"I never thought I'd get to meet you like this."
"Like what?" Wally asked, leaning over his crutch for support, "Is your parents from the West or Allen side?"
A smooth fidget-motion from the pick.
"Yep," the boy announced, proudly.
"How do you know me? I don't think you ever met you at a reunion."
"Because I wasn't born here. Oh," the boy stopped what he was doing, extending a hand out, gold eyes gleaming with selfless warm. "I'm Bart." Wally shook it, replying with his name. Bart didn't seem to hear him, easing and sliding another set of key tumblers to release and click. "You know," an arrogant smirk, "You could just dissemble this by vibrating the mass than just picking the lock."
"I don't really practice—" Wally straightened up from leaning, feeling his jaw drop, "…—wait, what did you just say?"
At the accusation, Bart gave him a glance from the side, calmly. "But you're not there yet, are you?" He tilted his head to Wally's crutch. "This is nothing." Bart knocked his kneecap to the wood door and it sounded hollow. "See? It's artificial. You never really can get back something blown off completely. But we all get back up again in the end." A dismal sort of emphasis. "..We just have to."
Wally's mouth felt dry.
"You didn't say how you knew me."
Bart rolled his eyes at no one particular. "Different universal time-dimension cousin, but not like your cousins on the street… it's a bit fuzzy." Wally's freckled face did not change from shock and Bart began gesturing, posing the tools between the index and middle fingers of each hand. "People assume that time is a strict progression from cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear—"
"…Are you quoting Doctor Who?"
A fierce, inching grin.
"I hate that show," Bart declared, clicking the remaining tumblers until the lock twisted open. He instructed, handing Wally back the metal pick and wrench, "Enter the coordinates on the code pad. Don't wait." Bart stood on his feet, pushing down his yellow lens goggles. "It's lonely where I am. I'm waiting and it's boring. I'm glad I got to meet you like this, Wally West. You're very nice here."
Wally lowered his eyebrows. "…thanks?"
Bart shoved him through the doorway with little regard to finesse.
"Hey, what the hel—?—!"
And when Wally looked around, there was no one there to yell at. ¹²
He found the beam in his uncle's closet. Wally punched in the coordinates, and unfortunately, his little finger went for the '2' instead of the '5' to the code pad on the interior wall.
An accidental miscalculation on his part—no, a mistake he didn't have the time for, more like. Instead of the tunnel in Mount Justice, Wally found himself standing in an empty woman's bathroom stall, nostrils faintly taking in the odor of scented disinfectant. The customers of the diner paid no mind to him exiting the bathroom as they scrambled and shoved each other outside into the road, as jolts of blue lights flashed right against the decorative windows. Wally followed the small crowd at his own pace, padded crutch tapping mutedly along with him.
Variously sized cars and SUVS and even the afternoon bicyclists fought to get out of the intersections, honking and screaming and crushing into the ends of bumpers. Running pedestrians trampled the slower ones in their path. The occasional scorch mark where people and buildings once stood now smoking ominously. Wally moved around a fresh one on the concrete sidewalk in respectful sobriety.
A purple dragon stuffed animal laid on its side beside it, glassy, orange-glittering eyes unblinking on him.
His throat clenched hard.
Not more than five yards (to about Wally's nine), his ex-teammates were still fighting the crooks responsible for the antimatter ray, and the antimatter ray itself on an inevitable path towards the closer members—Robin, clutching his right arm to his chest, bent over to a bleeding but still angered-looking Artemis and tried hooking his free arm around her. Seconds. There was seconds at the most to act.
There was a choice to be made… to either destroy the ray from killing more people and by consequence allow the surge of it to hit Artemis and Robin… or to save them and die by his own terms.
No costume. No consent to do this by anyone he knew, and he'd probably botch this whole plan to hell without balance.
Wally's lips twitched up as he tossed aside his crutch, preparing himself for a run.
No contest, at all.
His molecules shrieked, liberated and blissfully awaken. He blurred away to a streak as his superspeed overtook him and bundled around him, like a protective cocoon, and it was the best feeling he could have asked for. Even if it had to be a last. The electric blue light struck him blindingly at the moment he stood in front of his friends… and then… …
Artemis shielded her eyes from the burning intensity of light. As it faded down, she gawked up at someone she had not expected to see with his arms spread out from his sides.
"What are you…—?" she whispered, sickened as the events of what happened sank in. Wally sank to his knees, dazed eyes closing. "…IDIOT! WHAT WER—?"
"—Artemis, shut up," Robin demanded under his breath and he crawled over to the other boy.
"Wally? Wally, can you hear me?"
"How is he even still alive? That should have…" she rambled, cowled eyes honing in on the ray and widening in incredulity at the concaved, smooth crater where it had been previously on the street.
"Wally?" Robin repeated, this time more gently, masked skin between his eyebrows wrinkling.
"Can't… feel… … hands hurt." Wally's hands clenched over his V-neck shirt, over the space of his heart. "So fast. Soffff…" His lips puffed over his teeth.
The younger boy let go of his own injured arm and dug with one hand into his utility belt. "Keep breathing. I've got an oxygen mask. Let me put it on you."
"S-stupid…" Wally exhaled shakily, blinking rapidly when Robin pressed the clear device over his nose and mouth, his words muffling, "but I couldn't let…"
"Help is on the way, alright? Flash is coming. You're gonna be fine, man… you're gonna be fine…"
Gauntlet-fingers squeezed harshly on his last two fingers.
"Ow…!" Wally yelped, making a failed attempt to yank his hand back from the scrupulous examination. Batman's cowl-eyelets thinned.
"…You felt that?"
Wally muttered ruefully, cradling his left hand when given back, "Yeah, I got the feeling back in my leg, too."
He didn't look up as Batman moved around him in the med-bay.
"..I can't tell if that's good or bad yet."
"When the antimatter ray couldn't destroy you, the energy backfired and instead wiped out its own existence. Whatever matter that had been erased returned to its rightful place. People included."
Wally's chest lightened from its previous heaviness. The scorch marks. The reporter. The owner of the burned dinosaur stuffed animal.
"So… everyone is okay?"
A stiff nod. Batman's thundering voice had always been a scary thing to hear, but, Wally couldn't find a reason to flinch now. "You acted recklessly. You broke rules. That alone should be punishable."
Wally frowned deliberately up at him from the med table, probably looking kinda stupid in a crinkly, papery hospital gown and trying to argue with THE Dark Knight of Gotham City, but… feeling much braver than he could have ever been before. "I don't think even you could have just stood there and let your friends be killed," he said coldly.
The thin eye-lines of Batman's cowl nearly vanished.
Okay. There was that scared feeling he was going on about.
After a moment, the man grunted out, "…I suppose that wouldn't have been an option."
A wash of astonishment and embarrassment compelled Wally to stare openly before catching himself and toying with the end of his gown, silently. Batman checked over the medical files. "The next couple of days you may feel numbness in various parts of your body, but it is indicating a shift in your molecular biology."
Oh, god, he was really pushing it by sounding so snarky…
"You're cured." Wally's fingers halted, twisted around the hem. "There will be further testing done to confirm this one hundred percent, but the working hypothesis is that the ailment you have been experiencing from the beginning of your powers manifestation has been successfully wiped clean from your system. With the anti-matter blast you took for your teammates. Your powers will be weak for now but they'll strengthen over time and you should be able to reach the speed of light sometime in the future." Batman… no, he wasn't starting to smirk. It just wasn't possible. It was about as likely as witnessing polar bears roaming around up in Blue Valley. "The penalization period is still in effect. Once it lifts… you are expected on duty for The Team again."
Batman ignored the confused noise as well as the fishy look on the teen. "I've already checked you out of the bay," he told him sternly, his massive and caped back to Wally. The vibrantly glowing, blue files of the medical computer stacked themselves together vertically. "You should probably visit your aunt and uncle as soon as possible."
Waitwaitwait—were they going through the zeta beam? Was Batman escorting him—? What was—?
"Now, Kid Flash."
Wally grinned, letting his hyperacceleration take care of the quick process of throwing on his clothes and discarding the hospital gown. Heck yeah. ¹³
Barry waited outside on the porch steps for him, though the temperature around three pm was easily a solid ninety-something, his long dress shirt-cuffed hands dangling between his knees. For how long, he never told Wally later on. His uncle could sense him approaching into his neighborhood of Central City about fifty miles. Speedsters could sense speedsters. It was a speedster thing.
"You've learned to decelerate without going into a collision course." Barry nodded at the outline of his nephew sharpening into view. The older man said, more or less appearing impressed, "Which is a good thing because your aunt likes those petunias." Wally stopped himself in time from stepping into the fenced flower garden and joined his uncle's side when Barry patted the empty space of porch, chuckling. "B-Man let me in on you getting discharged." Wally simpered a little, plopping down on the cement step and rubbing the back of his neck.
"Haha… he let me leave early, I guess."
Barry slung an arm around Wally's neck, cheerfully. "Everyone's just glad you're safe. How are you feeling, kiddo?"
Wally shrugged him off.
"I…screwed up. I screwed up a lot."
"Do you think I'm mad at you for keeping your condition a secret?"
A self-conscious look on freckled features.
"I'm not mad." Barry shook his head. "However, I am disappointed that you thought you couldn't trust me enough to let me know about the fits."
Disappointed was just as bad. Wally said bitterly, curling his knees up to himself and dropping his chin, "I didn't want to stop being Kid Flash. Being your partner was the only thing I thought I had going for me." When his uncle snorted, like what he was owning up to was a steaming sack of BS cooking under the sun other than them right then, the teen made an offended noise.
"Wally, you're a brilliant kid. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise." Barry smiled patiently. "You could have been anything you wanted."
"…So you're not mad."
Barry opened his mouth. A female's voice behind them interrupted with a heated "—HE may not be but someone in this household sure as HELL is." Wally and Barry turned in place to Iris glaring.
She looked about ready to slap anyone who crossed her with an insane amount of righteous fury. And Wally probably would deserve—correction—Wally KNEW he deserved it for breaking their promise. Resigning himself to his soon-to-be-stinging-and-quite-painful-for-a-good-f ive-minutes fate, he stood up to face her completely.
Wally fell back a step, out of shock than the force, on the flat surface of the porch as Iris rushed in, sobbing, and hugged her arms around his neck fiercely.
His arms hung loosely at his sides, unsure, and then he hugged her back, hiding his face into her perfumed, floral-smocked blouse.
"I said I was coming already, jackas—!" Roy threw open his apartment door being repeatedly thumped on, and cocked his head to the side.
"… …Hey… man, um," said the colorfully orange and red and yellow bouquet with legs attached below to it.
Wally peeked out from behind the flowers, sheepishly. He looked a little more than casually dressed. Probably should have just gone with the usual blue and white shirt. And probably shouldn't have knocked so hard. Or knocked so early. Time difference. Right. Roy looked barely awake. Crud. "… I'mreallysorry-aboutlasttime-andwakingyouupnow-but youwannagoeat-I'llpay?"
Roy's eyebrows burrowed as he tried to mentally decipher the rushed sentence, rubbing the side of his unshaven cheek.
"You what now?"
Wally let out a breath. "I'm… sorry. About not taking care of myself and not letting you know what was going on before another fit could happen." Roy crossed his bare arms with a 'Duh' look. "And… I saw this shop that had these Peruvian lilies—dude, okay, just take them—" The speedster thrust the bouquet at Roy's slightly reddening face. "—and I saw that there's a Greek place down the road with an early special. I lost the bet from last time so… I can pay. And junk," Wally finished, crossing his fingers behind his back. He wasn't a superstitious kind of person. Didn't deserve any luck at this point either.
Roy commented with a straight face, eyeing the flowers with some caution before handing them back, "This is less of an apology and more of a proposition for a date."
Wally's cheeks heated and he tossed the flowers promptly over his shoulder.
"…Forget you ever saw them." The speedster hung his head.
Roy snorted, softly, threading his fingers through his disheveled red hair. "Give me a few minutes to change out of the sweats." He smirked when the other teen brightened.
Roy pointed to him, asserting, "Just because you are paying and showed up on my doormat with a bunch of flowers doesn't make this a date I agreed to, West. Got it?"
"Pffft— it's totally not a date." Wally shook his head, making a face. "Totally."
"It's not," Roy repeated, severely, and the smirk inched up further as he began shutting the apartment door.
Wally rolled his eyes good-naturedly, letting himself lean back against the outside banister.
"Heard you the first time, Roy."
"Recognized: Kid Flash… B-ZERO-THREE…" Wally fully materialized into Mount Justice's monitor room through the security system and then found himself buried in silky, red hair as a pair of skinny, green arms pinned his arms to his sides and squeezed him warmly. He gladly accepted the hug and laughed as M'gann squealed and babbled and lifted him a couple feet off the ground.
Wally grinned excited at his other teammates—friends—when he was released. "Hi guys… sorry I'm late, I was with Red Arrow," he said, glancing around for a missing domino mask. "Where's…?"
"Robin has been called away to patrol several hours ago." One finned hand grasped Wally's shoulder and Kaldur bestowed the younger teen with a kind smile. "It's good to see you again, my friend."
Artemis groaned in protest, stumbling forward. Superboy stood behind her, partially inquisitive and partially blank in expression but positively looking innocent. Or not. The blonde girl fixed an annoyed look over her shoulder at him before begrudgingly approaching the rest of the group. "…Good to have you back… I guess," she mumbled, avoiding eye contact and holding out her right hand for Wally to take.
With an equal amount of discretion, Wally touched their palms together and shook her hand once.
Artemis' eyes met his, and suddenly, the emotional walls broke. Still keeping their hands linked, Artemis pulled him into a secure hug. Wally's cheeks flushed a little. "O…oh-kaaay…" His hand slowly came up to pat her back, awkwardly. "Uuh… Arty…—?" Wally's face darkened as more pressure was added to the hug and further body heat when Superboy joined them, the red S-Shield shirt obscuring Wally's vision. M'gann's face contently tucked itself near the left side of his face the same moment Kaldur's arms embraced around the others. So many beating hearts racing as one.
It felt really good to home.
His toes skimmed the cool ocean water as Wally kicked out his feet over the private dock floating buoyant and steady out over shallow waters. The welcome back party long cleared out from the beach. And Wally was sure that—if his superspeed healing would allow it—a nice and deep sunburn would spawn over his arms and face and ears. Wally rubbed a plaid sleeve. Not likely though.
Wood planks creaking. Even without very much lighting from the sunset, Wally could make out a familiar set of civvies and that shock of straight, dark hair.
"Is that M'gann's cake?" Robin squinted over the tinted lenses of his aviator sunglasses.
Wally glanced down at the remaining slice on his paper plate. "Yeah, um…" He offered it up. "Want any?"
A dismissive hand wave. "I put out the kitchen fire. I'll pass."
Fair point. The black texture was definitely not icing. Wally dug a forkful into his mouth, chewing musingly as Robin plopped down on the other end of the dock, tucking a leg underneath himself.
"I'm surprised you could get across the beach let alone see what I'm eating." The speedster shot him a withering look. "Come on, dude, it's me…"
Robin sighed wearily. The sunglasses folded neatly between them. A pair of very turquoise blue eyes peered out towards the ocean with mild appreciation, taking in the roll of the surf and of the rhythmic tides that the other boy was sure he didn't get much time to just watch. No one really had the time to just watch how the world breathed and moved and lived, when being a crime fighter or even being ordinary. When you're dying, you finally realize how much of it all you were missing. As someone that would constantly never slow down, it hit Wally so much harder.
Wally kept his eyes on the disappearing crumbs instead of his best friend.
This reunion of how many weeks apart wasn't… awkward. Not really.
It was in a way strange since he and Robin were close and near inseparable. Always had been since the beginning of their friendship.
They had shared everything with each other— from snacks yoinked from the kitchen to borrowing pajamas for a week to secrets told in the dead of night and even a badly contagious case of alien chicken pox from one mission in Nevada. They could always somehow find a way to meet up if the other needed to vent or to goof off with a person they trusted. With everything that had been going on with Wally getting banned from their team… they couldn't. Wally bit on his lip, head still lowered.
"They ever figure out who was responsible for the antimatter ray?"
"Something Corps related. GL is investigating it further."
"Oh." Wally replied dully, "Cool."
He jerked a little when a balled up fist gently tapped his cheek exposed to Robin. A cackle. Wally looked up at the other boy who grinned mischievously, and just like that, the spell was broken. An arm slung around Robin's shoulders as the acrobat automatically scooted closer to him, shoving away the sunglasses behind them and leaning his head lazily on Wally's shoulder.
Robin interrupted him, "You've said it enough times to everyone else. It has to be getting old by now…"
"No, seriously, dude. About saying I wanted to die." Wally frowned. "I wasn't telling the truth and… it wasn't right to say something like that."
A thoughtful, smiling noise.
"Now that you're better, I'll just have kick your ass harder next time you do it."
Wally muttered derisively, "At least there's a warning this time." He settled his chin weighed on top of Robin's head.
A voice from below, snickering, "…So what's this heard about a date you had with RA?"
"…I hate you so much right now, dude."
¹ = Elgin is a comic canon neighborhood located in Star City.
² = Rudy had an interest in cars since he was a young boy. And this is set in the years before Mary and Rudy's divorce where tension is starting to boil over.
³= Wally meeting his future self is revealed in The Flash vol. 2 #0.
¹¹= Charlotte West and Ira West and Inez Rhodes are comic canon characters. Molly is an OC.
¹² = Everyone else gets to be in this story… why not Bart? EVERYONE LOVES BART. The timeline of this Bart I decided to be in this portion of the story is definitely after Deathstroke put a shotgun through his knee and then Bart leaves his Impulse persona behind. I imagined him as Between!DCReboot!Bart.
¹³ = Wally is cured by with an energy blast from taking a hit from antimatter ray in "Crisis on Infinite Earths" and Barry Allen dies while trying to destroy it along with the supervillian Anti-Monitor who was responsible for a lot of the crisis.