"I thought our arrangement was perfect. You go on your little missions while Doctor Kazmer has a chance to perfect the inhibitor, all while your friends don't know where you are," Lex said, pacing in front of Bart's cage.
Bart was on the floor once again, muscles still twitching from the last jolt.
"Then you go and let yourself be seen!" Lex yelled, pressing the button. Bart cried out in spite of himself, the pain building till he thought he'd burst.
A guard rushed into the room. "Sir, there's a disturbance at the west gate," he said.
"Great!" Lex snapped. "If this is a rescue squad, I'll pump you full of enough electricity to stop your heart before they even know you're here!"
Lex left the room, followed by the guard. Bart raised himself upright, watching the doctor who was wringing his hands nervously, glancing at the door.
"I didn't sign up for this you know," he said, looking at Bart. "I just wanted to create something so amazing, the scientific community would never doubt my credentials again."
"Yah, Lex has a way of twisting people's dreams," Bart said. He was tired, body barely functioning through the pain and exhaustion.
The doctor watched Bart place his hands against the glass of the cage, checking for steel reinforcements. When he saw there were none, Bart used what little energy he had left to crash through the glass and land on the ground. He staggered to his feet, brushing the shards off.
"Not as elegant as I had hoped," he said, smiling for the first time in ages. The doctor just stared in amazement.
"You should probably get out of here," Bart said. The doctor nodded, beginning to agree, when suddenly the loud gunshot rang through the air. Bart watched as the doctor crumpled to the ground, a red stain blossoming on his chest. His eyes stared upward, blank. Bart looked up in time to see a guard fire at him, and even though he knew he was faster than the bullet, his legs didn't seem able to move. His mind was blank, body uncomprehending as the bullet tore into his side.
The pain kick-started everything, and before he knew what he was doing, Bart was racing away. But things were weird. The world around felt like molasses, clinging to him and making speeding away difficult.
He tripped a few times, and when he did finally fall, it took twice as much effort as normal to get back to his feet. Bart looked around, surprised to find himself at Clark's, standing in the barn. The stairs to the loft were right in front of him, and he shuffled forward, exhaustion setting in. He just wanted to lie down and sleep forever. But something drove him on. He didn't stop till he had forced his leaden legs to lift him up the last step.
Everything tilted and he found himself on his hands and knees, staring hard at the floor. He crawled forward, the world around him blurry. Finally he couldn't go anymore and laid down, rolling onto his back.
Bart couldn't tell what was real or not in his fevered brain. Things kept sliding in and out of focus as he drifted between unconsciousness and awake, his heavy eyelids struggling to stay open. At one point he thought Lex stood over him, then a pillar of fire that reached out and scorched his side. Black dots danced on his vision, and slowly he relaxed, allowing the pain and darkness to pull him under.
"He could be anywhere!" Chloe said, panicking. She paced back and forth, wearing a hole in the floor of Watchtower.
"Split up, teams of two. Chloe, you coordinate. Cover everywhere we know Bart might go," Oliver ordered. He turned to Clark. "Let's go check your place."
The two hurried to Oliver's car. It would be faster to split up and have everyone go their own way, but since Bart had disappeared team safety was a much bigger concern.
"He'd go to the barn first," Clark said as they roared down the road, cutting off cars and swerving around traffic. He was slightly amazed at Oliver's driving skills and how quickly he was getting them out of Metropolis.
The trip took much less time than it should, thanks to Oliver's mad racing and incessant need to cut others off. He'd barely thrown the car into park before he and Clark were racing into the barn and up the steps to the loft, both going into overprotective mode when they spotted the unconscious teen on the floor in front of them.
"Bart, hey can you hear me?" Clark asked, kneeling beside the speedster. Bart mumbled something, but his eyes stayed close.
"Come on, you need to wake up," Oliver said, kneeling on Bart's other side. The kid was a mess; dried blood caked on the side of his head, his clothes torn and dirty, blood coming from a wound on his side.
"M'wake," Bart slurred, blinking slowly up at them.
"We need to get you to the hospital, think you can stand?" Clark asked even though he already knew the answer. There was no way Bart was leaving the barn under his own power.
"Bart mumbled something, then his eyes slid closed. "No, you have to stay awake," Clark said, lightly tapping his cheek.
"Tired," Bart whined. He sounded so young and vulnerable.
"Alright, come on buddy," Oliver said, gently scooping Bart up in his arms. The movement jostled the wound on his side and he whimpered. "It's okay, I got you," Oliver soothed.
"You sure?" Clark asked, ready to help in case the archer's strength failed.
"Yah, he's a lightweight," Oliver replied. Clark followed him down the steps and opened the side door so Oliver could get Bart positioned as comfortably as possible in the back seat. They were soon racing back down the road to Metropolis and the nearest hospital.
Clark grabbed his cell phone. "Chloe, we found him. Tell AC and Victor and meet us at General," he explained.
"Oh god, is he okay?" Chloe asked.
"Just meet us there," Clark replied before hanging up. He closed his phone and looked back at Bart, who's eyes were closed.
"Hurry," he said to Oliver.
"How is he?" Chloe demanded, rushing into the waiting room and right for Clark and Oliver.
"Surgery," Oliver replied. He stood with his arms crossed, body tense and rigid. To anyone else it would appear he was angry. But Chloe saw that the anger masked his true emotion: terror.
"He was shot, and had lost a lot of blood," Clark said. Chloe nodded, numb.
"AC and Victor are on their way," she said, feeling herself deflate. Now that Bart had been found, a knot in her chest loosened its hold. She felt like she could breathe for the first time since he had left. But in its place a sheer panic gripped her. The possibility of Bart being seriously injured made her knees shake and stomach clench.
"He'll be alright," Clark said, seeing the look on her face. She sat down beside him, grabbing his hand like it was a lifeline.
AC and Victor soon arrived, both shocked to hear about Bart's condition and joining the group waiting for word on their favorite speedster.
The doctor walked out into the waiting room, making a beeline for Oliver who was technically Bart's legal guardian.
"Is Bart okay?" Clark asked, standing up.
"He's going to be fine," the doctor replied. "I was able to remove the bullet and repair the damage. On top of that injury, he has a few minor bruises and a concussion, but with rest he'll be back to normal in no time."
"Can we go see him?" Chloe asked.
"Yes, if you all promise not to excite him," the doctor replied before walking away.
The group headed down the hall in silence, and when Clark pushed open the door everyone froze for a second, suddenly unsure of how to proceed. Clark led the way inside, but it was Chloe who got to Bart first.
"Hey Bart," she whispered, sitting on the edge of his bed. She could see the bandage around his chest peeking past the blankets that covered him, hiding the brunt of his injuries.
"Hey beautiful," he mumbled, smiling at her.
"It's good to see you mate," AC said.
"Yah, the gang was boring without you," Victor added.
Bart smiled. "Sorry I'm so popular."
"How are you feeling?" Clark asked.
"Tired, and sore," Bart replied. "My metabolism burns off the drugs faster than normal, but I didn't want to disclose too much to the good doctor."
"We'll get you set up at home," Oliver said, visibly more relaxed than he had been in weeks.
"Only if Victor promises to make his amazing pancakes," Bart said.
"Deal," Victor promised.
Bart paused, suddenly looking serious. "Look, guys, I'm sorry for what I put you through. Running off like that wasn't a smart idea, and just made it easier for Lex to catch up with me."
"All we care about is your safety," Chloe said, taking his hand in hers. "We've all been so worried about you, but now that you're back everything's going to be alright. I promise."
"Let's get you out of here," Oliver said, glad they were all together once again. They could face anything, as long as they had each other.