AN: All right, let's be honest, who wasn't thinking of a one shot after Failsafe? Especially after Wally's reaction to Artemis' death. For those of you reading Who We Are, I promise the next chapter is coming, please just be patient a little longer. I've got a fairly epic twist coming up and I can't wait to read your reactions (I'm really just hoping you won't hate me for it…) Anyway, please enjoy this quick oneshot and please, please review! :)
Disclaimer: Nuh-uh, don't own Young Justice.
It hadn't taken long to debrief the team after the mental exercise fiasco; even Batman had seemed reluctant to draw things out longer than necessary. As soon as they were finished, the team had been told to stay put; they would be staying in the Cave for a few days to make sure they were all okay. Mentors had been called as soon as possible and each teenager had been led away by their respective heroing guardians.
The Flash had been the first to show up, obviously. When he had been told what had happened to his sidekick, Barry Allen had pushed himself to get to Happy Harbor Rhode Island as fast as he could run; forgetting about the Zeta-tube system completely in his haste to make sure his nephew was all right. Needless to say, he was unnerved to find Wally sitting on the table, completely still, his expression blank and his eyes distant. It was next to impossible for a speedster to be that still, unnatural even; their abilities made them feel the need to be in constant motion.
"Hey Kid," Barry greeted, kneeling down to look into his nephew's downcast eyes. "Want to tell me what happened?"
Wally looked up to look into his uncle's face, his own expression slipping momentarily from blank to hauntingly anguished. "No," he whispered. "No Uncle Barry, I don't want to remember."
His voice was so full of pain that Barry couldn't, and wouldn't, stop himself from pulling his nephew into a tight hug. When Wally didn't so much as twitch, Barry let go and rocked back on his heels. "Kid?" he asked. "Wally, come on. Talk to me, please," he added when the boy didn't answer.
Wally looked up and shook his head. "I'm tired," he mumbled. "I'll see you later, Uncle Barry." He stood up and ambled off to his room, not looking back once.
The Flash watched him go, his own eyes pained. "What happened in there?"
"Something that was unforeseen," Batman answered, before proceeding to explain.
"Oh man," Barry groaned. "The poor kid, all of them. What am I going to tell Iris? She's going to demand to see him you know."
"Then don't tell her anything," Batman answered as if it were obvious.
"Clearly you've never been married, or had to deal with over protective mothers," Barry replied. "Ever since the kid's accident happened and everything happened with his parents, well, Iris has taken it on herself to be his mother instead."
"You'll come up with something," Batman said as he walked away. "She can't come here and he can't leave until we know they're all right."
"Easy for you to say," Barry said to himself. "You don't have to go home and deal with an overprotective mother."
None of the other mentors had much luck with their protégés either. M'Gann seemed to be unable to little more than cry; first with Captain Marvel, then with her Uncle J'onn and finally on Superboy's shirt as the cloned Kryptonian led her away. Kaldur left as soon as he could, for the first time not sticking around to be the coolheaded leader. Robin disappeared in stereotypical ninja style as soon as Batman dismissed the team. Artemis hadn't even waited for Green Arrow to show. Instead, she stalked out of the room and into the living quarters without a word.
Wally couldn't sleep. He had known he wasn't going to that night, or any night for a while, but he had still tried in a vain hope that maybe, just maybe, the haunting images would keep at bay. Growling in frustration as yet another fresh wave of rage and anguish ripped threw him, Wally shot up from bed and stalked his way into the gym. He was surprised to see the lights already on and heavy thumps emitting from the open doorway. He stopped just outside the pool of light and looked in to find Artemis pounding the shit out of one of the punching bags. Her hair was up in a messy ponytail and all the make-up had been cleared from her face. The sweat she had built up made her skin shine beneath the lights and Wally watched as she swung a particularly vicious kick to the bag before dropping to the floor. She was breathing heavily and glaring at the swaying, hanging mat as though it had personally wronged her. Suddenly, she let out a furious yell and stood up to throw a punch at the bag before toppling back over onto her back. She rolled to her side then, her back to Wally, and curled close into herself, her shoulders shaking.
For a moment, Wally just stood there. He hadn't so much as looked at her since the team had woken up and for the time being, the rage he felt momentarily disappeared. Unfortunately, flashes of her death, and the deaths of everyone he loved, paraded in front of his eyes once more and he found himself striding forward to tear into the bag himself.
Artemis looked up when she heard someone else in the room, pulling herself from her dark musings long enough to see Wally ripping into the punching bag, his face a mask of rage. She shuddered at the look in his eyes; it was akin to a murderous anger that had no place in the normally friendly vibrant green eyes. Pulling herself to her feet when she noticed Wally's punches and kicks were only succeeding in making the hanging object swing wildly about, further frustrating him, she moved behind the bag and held it in place without a word.
For the next hour they traded turns, spotting for each other while one of them went after the punching bag for all they were worth. When they had finally exhausted themselves they collapsed on the floor, side by side, and panting heavily.
"What are you doing up?" Artemis finally asked when she could breathe normally again.
"What do you think?" Wally asked dryly. "I spent the whole day lying on a slab so I figured I'd get my workout in now."
Artemis rolled her eyes and turned her head to look at him head on. "Don't start with me," she hissed. "Besides, you're a damn poor liar and you know it."
"Yeah, whatever Blondie," Wally growled. "Like you have any room to talk about being up late anyway."
"Wally!" Artemis yelled. She found the strength to pull herself up and roll on top of Wally, pinning the boy down. "Don't. You. Dare," she barked at him. "I was there, I know what happened, so don't you dare try and play this off!"
"No you weren't!" Wally yelled back. "You weren't there, you were the first to die!"
"I know!" Artemis screamed before rolling off of him and shrinking back into herself. "I know I was the first to die, and I'm sorry," she whispered. "I'm so, so sorry. It's my fault, it's all my fault."
Wally was quiet for a moment, just watching her. Waves of pain crashed back over him as he sat up as well. "No, it's not your fault," Wally sighed. "I'm sorry, I just…I'm just sorry, all right? I…I watched people die. People I care about. I watched my aunt and uncle die on the monitor, and I didn't feel anything. I know it wasn't real, but looking back it feels like it was real and I didn't even feel sad. They're basically my parents, Artemis, and I didn't feel anything!"
Artemis slid closer and laid a hesitant hand on Wally's shoulder. "I'm sorry," she whispered again.
"And then you died," Wally continued as though he hadn't heard her. He looked up at her then, his eyes haunted by a deep pain. "I watched that beam reduce you to nothing and it felt like I was torn in two; like something vital was ripped out of me, something I needed to live. I wanted to kill them then, all the aliens. I wanted to hunt down every last one of them and make them pay. And then something happened that made me think you might still have been alive. That thing I thought I was missing? It came back for a minute. I was so ready to take on those aliens, just to get you back. But then I found out you really were gone, everyone was gone, and nothing mattered to me anymore." Wally stopped and bit back a sob, even as a tear rolled down his face. "Then we woke up and we were told none of it was real. But it felt real, Artemis. It feels real. I still see the people I care about dying every time I close my eyes. I feel the pain of having you ripped away from me, twice. I see my last moments over and over again. How am I supposed to just shrug that all off and pretend it wasn't real when it's there every time I close my eyes? How am I supposed to go back to being okay when I realize I could lose you, lose everyone I love, at any moment, especially doing what we do? How, Artemis, how?" By the end of Wally's tirade the tears he had been keeping at bay the whole night were falling freely.
"I don't know, Wally," Artemis replied, surprising herself when she felt a wetness on her cheeks as well. She surprised the speedster, and herself further, when she reached out and pulled him into a hug. He tensed for a moment and then his arms came around her, holding onto her as though she was his lifeline; Artemis clinging to him just as tightly. "I don't know," she whispered again.
"I can't do this," Wally choked out. "I can't see the people I care about die, not for real, not again."
"You can't give up," Artemis berated him, though her voice came out gently. "The team needs you. I need you. Please, don't leave."
"Then make it stop," Wally begged. "Make it all go away."
"I can't," Artemis sobbed. "I can't. I want the memories gone just as much as you do. I don't want to see everyone dying. I don't want to feel like you're all going to die. I don't want to feel what it feels like to die," she shuddered and fresh tears spilled down her face. "I don't want to remember either, but we can't make it go away, no matter how much we want to."
"Then what do we do?" Wally asked as he finally pulled away. "How do we live with this?"
"We keep going," Artemis told him. "And we make sure this nightmare never happens in real life."
"I can't lose you," Wally said again, reaching out a hand to cup her face and gently wipe her tears away. "I can't watch you die."
"The keep me safe Wally," Artemis replied as she tilted her head into his touch. "Keep me safe. You watch my back, and I'll watch yours. We'll keep each other alive, and we'll make damn sure this never happens again."
"Can we?" Wally asked. "Is that even possible?"
"We'll have to try," Artemis replied. "Please Wally; I can't do this without you either. When…when I died all I thought about was getting you out. I was worried about the rest of the team, but I didn't want you to die. When that beam came for me, all I could think was that you were safe, alive, at least for a little while longer. So please, stay. Keep me safe and I'll keep you safe. We'll watch over each other and this won't happen again, I promise."
"You can't promise that," Wally told her hollowly. "But I'll stay. I'll keep you alive, I promise. I won't let you die on me, not again."
"Good," Artemis said and leaned into his hand once more. "Good," she whispered.
No other words were spoken between the pair as they clung together once more, needing to feel the warmth of the other person and their hearts beating steadily against their chests. Their tears fell freely down their faces once more as they finally allowed themselves to mourn for the people they had lost, the friends they had seen die, even if none of it turned out to be real. They cried together over the scars on their hearts and silently promised each other never again.
AN2: So, just to clarify a few things. 1) If Artemis seems to bounce back a little better from this than Wally, it's because I imagine that she's had to deal with situations similar to this in her past, what with her father being Sportsmaster and having a fairly obvious connection to the League of Shadows. Wally, on the other hand, probably hasn't had to watch the people he care most about die; that's got to shake him to his core. 2) The reason I didn't have Wally open up to his uncle (other than the fact that I ship Spitfire) is because I figured Wally would still be in shock after something like that, or possibly in the first stages of grieving. Either way, both areas tend to be characterized by either catatonia or an unwillingness to talk to others (sorry, I'm a psychology major and I tend to let my nerdage show). 3) I left Wally's parents out of this because, correct me if I'm wrong, in comicverse his father isn't exactly…around, let's say. I realize that his parents are around in the show, but I kinda get the impression Wally is still closer to his aunt and uncle than to his parents. It just seemed to work better to write his parents out and make Barry and Iris his parental figures. 4) I didn't include any declarations of love or kissing in this because I highly doubt either of them would be in the state of mind to even think about that. They watched their friends and families die and then woke up to find out that none of it was real, but it still felt real. At that point in time, they'd be more concerned with trying to reconcile that and, in my opinion, grieve for their losses, even if they didn't actually happen. The fact still remains that it felt real, and honestly, that's all the fodder the brain needs to make you think something is real (and tear you apart trying to get over the fact that it's not, but you still watched it happen). It's like having a particularly vivid nightmare. While you're in it, you can't tell dream from reality and even after you wake up, you're still very shaken by it. I imagine that was the team's experience, only at least ten times worse. Anyway, I'm going to stop now before any more of my psychology nerdage shows. Please leave a review!