Disclaimer: These characters aren't mine.
A/N: This story is AU. See Chapter 1 for details.
Wally paused to take a moment to process everything that had just happened. Events had been proceeding too quickly – even for a speedster – to fully comprehend what was occurring. An explosion had rocked Iron Heights Correctional Facility. It would take days to identify all the casualties as well as determine the cause of the explosion. The immediate concern had been rounding up the prisoners, particularly the Rogues. Wally had studied the Flash's Rogues. He knew what they were capable of doing. Nothing had quite prepared him for what could happen when facing multiple Rogues at the same time. At least their attacks hadn't been coordinated. If they had… Wally pushed the thought from his mind. The outcome would not have been pretty.
This wasn't how he had expected his debut to occur. Actually, he wasn't quite sure what he had expected. Heroes just seemed to appear. Maybe he had thought he would appear in a much less spectacular fashion. Sort of shadow Barry for a while, rather than jumping into the deep end. In the end, Barry had needed help. No more needed to be said.
So much had changed over the past year. He could not only walk, he could run. The physical therapy had been grueling. He had lost track of the number of times he was ready to give up. Metabolism may have healed the wounds quickly, but it was useless when it came to reclaiming his muscle tone and stamina. He had cursed each of his physical therapists. They would only smile and tell him that they'd see him tomorrow. It had been annoying. Even Dick, the man who had become his best friend, had annoyed the hell out of him when it came to the therapy and exercises. One did not whine or complain with Dick. It had only made Dick drill him even harder. Without Dick, Wally doubted he would have recovered as quickly as he had.
Full use of his body wasn't the only change. Wally had also added three letters after his name – PhD. The dissertation had been completed and defended. He had earned his doctorate degree. Now he just needed to decide what to do with the rest of his life. Teaching remained an option, but if he wanted to pursue this hero thing, he needed a job with flexible hours and little direct supervision. Wayne Enterprises continued to court him. Dick – or rather Bruce – had come through with a temporary position in research and development. It had provided everything Wally had needed for a dissertation. With his graduation, the temporary position had ended, but Wayne Enterprises had offered him a full-time position. The salary had left him dumbfounded, though, upon further research, he had realized it was competitive compared to those with similar qualifications. More importantly, the position would provide the flexibility he sought and get him out of Gotham City. Gotham was great to visit, but Wally still hadn't figured out why anyone in their right mind would want to live there permanently. By the end of his third week in Gotham, he had been longing to return to the Midwest. This position gave him that option. It would also provide a better cover for the warehouse Wayne Enterprises owned in Keystone City, though, as far as Wally knew, he would be the only employee. Overall, the position description seemed almost too perfect and left him wondering how much influence Dick or Bruce had had.
The final big change had been Iris. Iris West Allen. Within two months of Wally's move to Gotham, Iris had reached the end of her patience and taken her future into her own hands. She had asked Barry to marry her. The wedding had occurred soon afterwards. Wally had had one goal – to walk without assistance at their wedding. Iris had ignored the traditional bridesmaid. Instead, the wedding had had two best men – Wally and Hal. As a surprise to everyone except his grandpa and Dick, Wally had conspired with Ira to walk Iris partway down the aisle. Ira would handle the entrance. Halfway down the aisle, he would pass Iris to Wally and Wally would escort her to the altar. Miracle of miracles, Ira had managed to keep the secret. Wally knew he would always remember the tears in Iris' eyes when she realized he was standing and walking unassisted. No leg braces. No crutches. No cane or walker. At least not for the ceremony.
Wally blinked and turned to see Barry standing next to him. "Yeah." How long had his mind been wandering?
Barry seemed to read his thoughts. "Speedster time. Maybe two ticks."
Wally smiled. "Good. Don't want everyone to think I'm spacing out."
"I highly doubt they'll think that. Thanks for your help. If you hadn't been here, I don't know if I could have handled it all on my own."
Hal, Barry's obvious choice, was off-world at the moment. It was strange how little the heroes seemed to help each other out. It happened, but not as often as one might think. Barry and Hal were the obvious exceptions. During Wally's entire stay in Gotham, the Bat family had never asked for outside help. No matter the situation, they managed to handle everything on their own. Each night Dick had donned the Nightwing costume, Wally had worried whether Dick would return. Worse, nothing seemed to keep Dick from wearing the costume. Viruses, broken bones, gunshot wounds…no matter his health, Dick didn't hesitate to go out. Yes, Dick was very, very good at what he did. But it was Gotham. Sadistic and psychopathic seemed to be the general rule. Once toward the end of his stay, Wally had ventured out to patrol with Dick. The night hadn't gone well. Just thinking about it gave him the shivers. Thankfully, the Flash's Rogues paled considerably in the amount of blood spilled compared to Batman's Rogues.
"Kid Flash still here?" Before leaving to help Barry, Wally had sent a quick text message to Kid Flash requesting his assistance. Wally had expected the message to go unacknowledged, and had been surprised when Kid Flash had appeared.
"No. He took off already."
Wally heard the relief in Barry's voice. Barry and Kid Flash did not mix well. Given Barry's laid back nature, that said a lot. Wally still hadn't figured out exactly why Barry didn't trust Kid Flash. That lack of a relationship was the reason Wally had expected Kid Flash to stay away. "He's not a bad kid."
"I know, but you seem to have a way with him. He respects you."
That comment said a lot, too. If only Barry knew the full truth. Kid Flash. Bart Allen. The man who had crushed his legs. Meeting Bart the first time had been a shock. It had been Bart's eyes. They had been the same shape and color as the man who had crushed his legs. Wally had managed to control his initial surprise and as soon as he could, he had age-enhanced a photo of Bart. Making Bart about ten years older had been the key. At least he now knew who the man had been. If only he could also know why.
Showing an interest in Bart had been easy. To his surprise, Wally had discovered he enjoyed spending time with Bart. The teenager was quick witted and had a good sense of humor. Yet, despite the hours they had spent together, Wally was still no closer to understanding why an older Bart had traveled from the future to the past to change Wally's life. Bart – the older Bart – had said it was to prevent some sort of catastrophe. That still seemed highly unlikely. Wally had resigned himself to the possibility that he might never know the truth. But maybe getting to know Bart would help him understand some of the things that were both to come and that had already happened.
"Still think this is something you want to do? Most days aren't like this. They're much easier. But every now and then, something happens that makes you long for days like today."
There was no hesitation in his answer. "Doesn't matter. I'm in." The feeling of satisfaction from saving lives – it was a natural high.
"Good. I think I'm going to like having a partner."
"Partner?" He failed to keep the surprise out of his voice. The term suggested equality. That didn't seem right. Barry had years of experience acting as the Flash. Wally couldn't – shouldn't – be his partner. He was too old to be a sidekick. Perhaps an apprentice. Or maybe a speedster in training. Those seemed more logical titles. Surely there must be some sort of apprenticeship or probationary period. "You mean I'll be your trainee."
"No, you're my partner." Barry clapped him on the shoulder. "We complement each other. You can do a few things I can't do and I can do a few things you can't do." Wally hid a smile. No matter how hard he tried, Barry still hadn't figured out how to steal or lend speed. For that matter, neither had Bart. And no matter how hard Wally tried, he couldn't vibrate through solid objects without causing them to explode." Barry glanced over his shoulder. "Besides, being partners will make it easier to face the press."
Wally turned to see to two reporters approaching from opposite directions, both ignoring the police orders to stop.
"Flash! Iris Allen, Central City Citizen, care to give a comment?"
"Flash! Linda Park, Channel 4 WKEY News, would you mind telling our viewers what happened?"
"How about if I take Iris and you take the television reporter?" suggested Barry, a smile tugging at his lips. He left before Wally could answer.
Wally found he couldn't take his eyes off the television reporter. She must be new because he didn't recall seeing her previously, not that he watched the television news that often. That was something he needed to immediately change. Even from a distance she took his breath away. His heart skipped a beat when he didn't see either a wedding ring or engagement ring.
The reporter frowned slightly when he stopped in front of her. "Who are you? I want to talk to the Flash." She deliberately looked him over from head to toe.
His costume was similar to Barry's, but not identical. He had made a few changes. The most obvious was how he carried the costume, though, the reporter wouldn't know that. Unlike Barry, he didn't need a ring. During his recuperation, he had uncovered another trick of the speed force. He could create his own costume, seemingly out of thin air. It was one more thing Barry couldn't do, at least not yet. Despite the slight changes he had made to the costume, there was no doubt he was connected to the Flash. His costume was mostly red. He had yellow boots. He had incorporated the lightning bolt symbol. His next words removed any doubts that may have remained. "I'm the Flash. I'm one of the fastest men alive."
A/N: Thanks to everyone who stuck with this story to the very end. Special thanks to those who submitted reviews. The comments were insightful and several revealed I should probably use the services of a beta.
I typically write one-shots. From the start, I knew this story would be more than a one-shot and I questioned whether I would/could finish it. I decided to risk it. The story proved longer than I had originally envisioned. Worse, it took some unexpected turns. Originally, I had thought Kyle Rayner would have a role, one that complemented Dick's role. Likewise, I had pictured the person from the future being Eobard Thawne, not Bart. For various reasons, neither occurred. Worse, increasing work pressures and a waning interest made finishing this story a challenge. The end is a bit more abrupt than I thought it would be, but it's time had arrived. I hope you enjoyed the journey.