Hang on to me.
Disclaimer: I do not own Young Justice, or any of its characters.
Warnings: Its not a kids stuff. Seriously. There is blood, serious injury and some swearing. Its rated 'T' for a reason. And NOT SLASH. Some Spitfire, and hints of SuperMartian.
Author's notes: Unfortunately my wonderful beta sherry57couldn't help me with this fic – so all blame for mistakes lands squarely on me. Also first story in this fandom - i hope i got everything right.
Chasm between his "real" and "secret" identity never felt so small before.
Wally West was always safe. He led almost normal life, right? School, home, friends, ocassional party, frequent visits to his (totally awesome) uncle and aunt. Sure, sometimes he got into troubles - but which teenager didn't? It never get worse than being grounded, or banned from watching TV, or getting stern talking from his parents, teacher, or even principal when he got carried a bit too far during one of prank wars in school. But that was it. Wally was too easy going and good natured to ever get into 'real' trouble.
Kid Flash of course was a totally different kind of animal. Kid Flash was supposed to 'get' into any kind of troubles he encountered. Run headfirst in, smack bad guys around, get civillians to safety, make sure situation is under control, then bug out and report to the Flash (if he already wasn't on site). Or Batman if it was Young Justice stuff. Or Canary. Or anyone of senior League members.
Wally could get queasy over papercut. And whine because of a stubbed toe.
Kid Flash was used and trained to provide first aid to crime or disaster victims. He was not allowed to faint at the sight of blood, broken bones, burns...or dead bodies. Even if it were children. Or young people his age.
So far, somehow it worked. Mask on. Mask off. Life of danger. Life of safety.
Line never blurred. Until now. Today was the day two worlds collided.
"Rob?" He whispered desperately. No response from the younger boy came.
"Come on Robbie. Answer me dude." Still nothing. Just another weak, hitching breath. Another wince. Small, throaty whimper.
Wally swallowed thickly, squeezing his eyes shut so hard his eyeballs stung. No, not Wally. He was in costume. Kid Flash was here. Kid Flash was supposed to be tough, brave and in control. Not tonight. Now he was only a Wally, quivering in his fancy, bright colored outfit. Holding his best friends body against his chest. Listening to a wet gurgle of Robin's breathing. He could feel unsteady beat of Bird Boy's heart on his own sternum.
"Dick...please." Real name. A big no-no when raven haired, thirteen years old Gothamite was in his black-and-red 'working clothes'. Or when shades were on. Normally Wally would never let it slip. He respected his best friend's wishes. And was too scared to ever cross Batman's rule on this. Screw this. He needed something to hang on to. Sliver of hope. One word. Long rant, or sharp elbow to the ribs would be preferable - but one word from Dick would be enough.
He wanted...No, he needed to run. Get Robin to the hospital. Get him fixed. Call uncle Barry and hear that he did good. Movemovemovegetoutrunrunrun! Muscles in his legs twitched, burned, throbbed like overcharged engines. He forced himself to remain still.
He felt Robin moving in his embrace. No, not moving, spasming. Chest constricting, fingers digging into his own flesh with surprising strenght. He knew what that meant.
"Rob! No dude, dont. Please just...breathe. Hang on. Dont..." Too late.
Robin coughed. It was not pretty, little cough you could see in one of crime TV shows. It was a rattling, wet explosion of air and liquid being expelled from injured lungs trying to unclog themselves. Paying no attention to the broken cry torn out of they owner's throat.
Wally's teeth were gritted so hard, he was surprised nothing cracked yet. He ignored it. Ignored writhing. Ignored pitiful sobs and torrent of heavy, hot liquid flowing down his neck, shoulder blade and back. He locked his arms around Dick's thin body so hard his muscles hurt. Robin tried to curl into fetal position, and he fought back to keep him from moving - hard.
Finally coughing and writhing stopped, returning to the old routine of labored breaths and trembling. Wally allowed himself to take his own shuddering breath.
"Wa...Wall...y" Jesus. Robin's head was nestled between his shoulder and neck, his mouth inches from Wally's ear, and he barely could hear the whisper. Be careful what you wish for, KF - he thought dimly. He wished for one word from his friend, and he got it - and realization how weak Rob was drove an icy dagger of fear into his heart. Ooops, bad mental image.
"Im here bro. I got you."
"I know. I know. Help is coming, so just hang on. You hear me, dude?" Wally's eyes remained glued to the object filling a good chunk of his field of view. Dark wood, with shining metal wire intricately weaved around it. Everything seamlessly connected to the bluish, high-quality steel. Almost like a piece of art – elegant in its deadly beauty. Bright redness of the blood seemed almost out of place, soiling its perfection.
And it was moving. Not only with every inhale and exhale of the body it was stuck in. It vibrated. God Almighty. Blade of the long Sai dagger was plunged so deep into Robin's back, it had to almost be touching his still beating heart to vibrate like this. Another shaky inhale, another moan. Robin tried to shift, and Wally's arms stiffened again keeping his friend's torso from moving.
"Please, Robbie. Dont move...please." God. He was so desperate to run it almost hurt. It was what he did: run, move around, dodge, weave, hop, circle. Speed was how he always dealt with danger and problems. It was an ultimate irony and Universe's sick joke forcing him to remain still to keep his best friend alive.
"Yes you can. Just...just keep it slow. Ok? Slow steady breaths. In. Out. Slowly." Wally was crying now, and cursed himself for being weak. He had no excuse to cry. Dick was NOT dying. No excuse.
God, why it has to be him to go with Robin on the patrol tonight? Superboy wouldn't be dazed by a blow from freakishly tall, but still fully human dude from the League of Shadows. Tall-and-ugly wouldn't be able to grab him by the throat and keep suspended in the air, feet kicking uselessly, back exposed to the second assassin like a target for the knife throwing practice. And even if, Robin could've just ignored a blade flying at Kryptonian's invulnerable back, jump at the knife-chucking Shadow and kick the crap out of the bastard.
But noooo, it had to be good ole' Wally West about to be skewered. And so Bird Boy pulled his best, insane aerial moves to get across the alley with speed that would made uncle Barry proud. Just in time to get half foot, or more of sharp steel in his own back.
Wally could hear that. That...freaky, wet 'thunk' sound. Supposedly bullet-proof fabric making a way for the blade. Something happened to him then. His right foot shoot forward without a command from the brain, colliding with thug's chest with a force of the cannonball. Bad guy just disappeared then: out of sight, out of mind. Kid Flash was on the ground, and turning around in the next fraction of a second. Just in time to step straight into cloud of red mist spraying from Robin's mouth, along with the air forced from his lungs by the force of the impact. After this...it was just snapshots. Shock on Dick's face. His slender body colliding with Wally's chest. His brain finally catching up with his eyes, and telling him what was the thing sticking out of Robin...and how truly screwed they were. He didn't even knew what happened to both assassins. He didn't care.
"Damnit, Dick! Why did you do that, dude? Im older, i have a freakin' powers! I was the one supposed to take care of you!" Dick's right arm moved like he was trying to lift it, but flopped right back on the ground. Kid didn't even had the strenght to raise his freakin' hand.
"D...d-ont have fr'endss t-to loose." Whisper was a bit louder than before, but slurred almost beyond recognision. And Wally felt another rivulet of warm wetness dripping down his back. He wanted to scream.
"Great. Thanks dude. Now Batman is going to kill me. Bye bye world. No one's gonna find and bury my body. Way to go, Bird Brain." No answer. And no pained breath tickling his cheek and neck.
"Robin!" Nothing. Just small, still body in his arms. Growing heavier?
"Dick?" Wally lifted his hand to Dick's neck and felt for the pulse. Nothing. His fingers were numb. He just lost feeling in them. There had to be a pulse. He was just too numb to feel it. Numb.
He had a tornado in his head. Help. Run. Fast. Now. No time. Get help.Think. Do something. NOW!
Kid Flash's head snapped back so fast his vertebrae almost cracked.
Wally stared numbly at his hands. His red gloves were now almost black. And stiff. His sleeves, up to the elbows were coated in dried blood too. There was more blood smeared on his chest, and face. And his entire back. Too much blood. Its heavy, coppery smell surrounded him like poisonous cloud. He wanted to throw up, but his supercharged metabolism already emptied his stomach of everything.
He raised his eyes and stared in the mirror. His reflection stared back, unblinking. Empty, dull eyes. Pale face. Dirt. Blood. Two white smudges left on his cheeks by tears. He didn't care about shame, or keeping appearances. Too tired and numb for that crap.
Door to the bathroom swished open, and he caught flash of green in the mirror.
"KF? Wally? Are you...?" Artemis. Figures.
Megan was crushed. Too distraught to move from the seat she slumped into. Wally knew she was pushing her psychic powers to the maximum to get...something from the Hall's of Justice infirmary. And she couldn't find anything. It was tearing her apart, and Superboy was doing everything to keep her together. Even if 'everything' in this case meant kneeling by her side, holding her hand and just...being there.
Wow. Just...wow. No explosion. No fit of rage. Not even wall punching or roaring. Only concern for Megan. Dude had it bad, seriously. But Wally didn't miss the pain, the grief, and the fear in Conner's eyes. Dick...no, Robin was an integral part of Superboy's world since the clone awakened. Losing him would mean tearing large portion of this world away.
Kaldur hadn't took the news any better. When Wally had seen him last time, their team leader was rooted to the floor in front of infirmary's entrance. Unseeing eyes glued to the white surface. Wally was ready to bet his entire stash of Snickers bars that Aqualad's mind was drowning in the 'whatifs', 'shoulda, coulda, woulda's' and guilt. Robin could be...pain in the ass to anyone responsible for him. Youngest, smallest, no powers. Too smart and waaaaay too brave for his own good sometimes. Always eager to strike out on his own. Too often last to get in line.
"Wally? Please...say something." Impassively Kid Flash watched his teammate raising her hand toward his shoulder, only to falter mid-way when she realised there was no blood-free spot she could touch.
"Weird, huh?" His voice was surprisingly steady and composed. "Who woulda think pipsqueak like Rob would have so much blood inside?" Get a hint Crock. And get lost.
Archer's eyes darkened, but she didn't left. Instead she moved forward, turning around and leaning on the wall next to the mirror. Now they were face to face, staring in each other's eyes.
"He's going to be ok." Where did she found so much conviction? Or was it faith? Or denial?
"Really? And who told you that?" Finally he started to feel something again. Not hope. He couldn't find any in his heart. It was an ire.
"I know him. Robin will not give up. And we will not give up on him. Never." Talk about the kick to the head. He knew Dick for years now, called himself his best friend. But it took a newcomer to the team...almost a stranger, to state the obvious.
Anger left Wally's body along with a huge portion of his remaining strenght, forcing him to lean heavily on the sink.
"You...you're right. And sorry. I...dont feel so good." This time she touched his shoulder without hesitation.
"Yeah. I think none of us feels any better now." Wally looked up, into her eyes shining warmly with sympathy. "You should clean yourself a bit, though. It should help a bit. And i dont think Doc Midnight will let you inside the infirmary with all that dirt and grime."
"Wow, Arty. Since when you started to make so much sense?" Somehow he managed to smile at her, and she smiled back.
"I always did, Kid Loudmouth. You just never thought about what i was saying before." Wally chuckled at that, and with a wince straightened.
"If you say so, Miss Miss-a-lot. Now scram, im not getting into shower with you staring." Artemis smirked and peeled herself off the wall.
"Right. Like you have anything worth staring at, Flashy Butt." Then she sobered, and concern was back in her eyes. "Do you have any spare clothes here? If not i can ask someone..."
"No, no – its ok. I have a locker in the training area. There is some sweats inside. And, uh...underwear." Hearing that Arty sniggered, rubbing her hands with exaggerated glee.
"Cool. Now i will know what is it for you: briefs or boxers. Any pictures on your unmentionables i should prepare myself mentally? Teddy bears? Red hearts? Little Bat symbols?" Wally managed to produce another pale smile.
"Arty...i'm ok. I really am. You dont have to work so hard to raise my spirit." Her face softened, and with a reassuring nod she turned to the exit.
"Yeah, Wally?" Another weak smile.
"Could you bring me something to eat, too? I have a feeling its gonna be a long wait, and i dont even have the fumes to run on." So true. He was empty. Like a dried shell, ready to collapse under its own weight. Food was not enough to fill the black hole, but it would give him some strenght to fight it back.
Something shimmered in her eyes, and with a curt nod archer fled out of the room. Not fast enough though – Wally still could hear a wet sniffle before doors closed. Damn. Arty was good at hiding her pain, but she was hurting inside as much as any of Robin's friends.
Feeling like heel Wally tiredly peeled his soiled costume off. Artemis's absence did something strange to him. Suddenly he was sick of hiding in the bathroom. He wanted to be outside. With his friends – sharing pain and fear...but also hope and strenght.
He was hurriedly rinsing his hair when another thought struck him, almost making his knees buckle.
Oh God. I have to find Roy, and tell him about Dick!.
Wally stood in his room, staring thoughtfully at the glass case containing the Sai pulled from his best friend's back. It took Doctor Midnight almost seven hellish hours to remove the blade without letting Robin haemorrhage to death on the table. By the time exhausted surgeon of the superhero community delivered the good news, almost entire Justice League trickled slowly into the waiting area. Wally missed this. Missed all murmured reassurances and sympathetic touches, or food and drinks pushed into his hands. He remembered only Roy's arrival. Red Arrow's face was gray, and so tight it looked ready to fall to pieces. And he didn't say a word – just crossed the distance between him and the team in few long strides, and collapsed into seat next to Wally's. And that was it – last missing piece clicking back into their little circle of despair. After this they could only wait. And wait. And wait some more – until finally Midnight came out and gave them tired, but nonetheless genuine smile.
Wally took a deep breath, and slowly released the air with a long 'whoooosh'. It was close. Really, uncomfortably, scary close. Weeks passed, and he was still waking up drenched in sweat, chocking on his own scream. His arms frantically trying to close around Robin's body – to keep him still. And alive. And he would bolt out of the bed, and run full-tilt to the communicator, or later to Dick's own room, to check if kid was still there. Alive and breathing. And the fact that usually there would be someone else already, or would arrive soon, was a clear indicator that other members of the Young Justice weren't faring any better.
But it finally did got better. Probably Bird Boy's loud protests that they were smothering him, were a huge factor in reassuring his friends he was on the road to the full recovery – Wally thought with a smirk. Like, who he was trying to fool? Grayson loved attention, and happily soaked in all the fawning and mothering coming at him from all directions. And who could blame him, anyway? Being an orphan sucked big time – even if he lived in billionaire's home and had a butler at his every beck and call.
Wally absently scratched his cheek, and moved the case an inch to the right.
It was not easy to get this...thing where he wanted it to be. Only when Dick's health improved enough to allow him back to Mount Justice complex, Wally gathered courage to ask Batman for a favour. It was...interesting, lets say, to see The Dark Knight almost do a double take at his request. It took all his willpower and determination to not flinch under intense scrutiny that followed. Or not to run at Mach 10 out of the Batcave to hide under his bed. But, finally...after twenty endless seconds of tense silence Batman gave him a sharp nod, and without a word retrieved the dagger from the safe. And it was already in the very same case he just moved on his bookshelf. Should he be scared, or rather proud that his thoughts ran in the same way as Batman's?
"New souvenir, Fleetfeet?" Wally smiled inwardly, but shook his head without turning around.
"No. Its...for me. A memento." Artemis walked to his side and stared at the dagger. She acted nonchalantly, but Wally didn't miss the goosebumps forming on her bare arms.
"A memento...ooh, sounds serious."
"Contrary to the popular opinion, i can do serious...from time to time." He answered dryly. Her eyes jumped from the dagger to him.
"It's supposed to be a memento of what? Robin being just as weak and squishy as any other human without powers?" Her question was just as dry, but there was something else creeping into her voice. Anger? Hurt?
"No. I want a reminder that it's okay to love my friends. All of them. And its okay to show how much i really care for them." Her eyes softened, but Wally still had more to say.
"As a speedster...well...sometimes i forget. I move around so much...and so fast...i'm getting impatient with you, guys. I start to think i can do other things in the meantime...something important or interesting. That i always have the time to...get back to you, and pick things up just like i've left them." He moved forward and gently tapped the glass.
"This...every time i'll look at this...i will remember what is really important and interesting in my life. And what is worth slowing down to pay some attention...and enjoy things in real time." He was so deep in the thoughts at this moment, he barely noticed warm breath tickling his face. But brush of the lips on his cheek was like a jolt of the electricity, snapping him back to the here and now.
"A-Arty?" Wally stammered staring in her laughing eyes like a deer caught in the headlights.
"I like the way you think now, Motormouth." Artemis gave him a lopsided grin, then grew serious again. "I really do, Wally. That's very deep, and... Yeah, after all this...we all kinda should think hard about our priorities."
"This thing..." She raised her chin at the dagger in the case. "Honestly, it scares the crap out of me. I would gladly break it in half and toss into the sea. But...i guess i need to remember some things too."
"And Aqualad would kick you ass for littering 'his' sea." Wally interrupted her seamlessly. It was not like he was callous, or unsympathetic. He felt for her, and hoped that his sincere smile was conveying as much. But...he waded deep enough into emotional stuff already. Any more, and he would start to act like some messed up emo wimp wallowing in the angst. And no one needed that.
And Arty got that – bless her heart. Just like he hoped she would. Though she did not have to punch his arm to show that. Ow! Seriously, all this bow-slinging gave the blondie waaaay too much upper body strenght.
"Feel free to stop this arm-punching stuff anytime now, Arrow-temis." Redheaded speedster muttered darkly, rubbing at the sore spot. His teammate turned to the exit and sent him a smug smirk above her shoulder.
"Come on, Kid Talk-a-lot. Lets check on M'gann and Robster. I'm afraid we'll have to dig poor kid from under the mound of cookies she keeps baking for him."
"Cookies? Cool." Wally perked up, and followed blonde archer eagerly. "Wanna help me bug Bird Boy about getting better body armor, before he's allowed to go back in the field?"