Summary: Remember that time in The Ultimates when Quicksilver was trying to stop the Scarlet Witch from being shot by a bullet locked onto her DNA? Now it's Speed's turn to try and save Wiccan from a similar fate.
Faster Than A Speeding Bullet
The glint of a sniper scope was the only warning Tommy got, and even that was only dumb luck. He, Billy, and the rest of the Young Avengers were all just hanging out, in civilian get up. Just hanging out. Not stopping crime, or saving the world, or any of that. Just trying to be normal kids for a change, grabbing a few slices of pizza, on their way to catch a movie, after classes let for those of them who went to school on a Friday afternoon.
Tommy instinctively called on his powers, changing his relative time so that everyone and everything else slowed to a crawl. There was no crack of fire as the gunshot went off, which meant the gunman was using a silencer, but that didn't necessarily mean the guy was any good. But Tommy didn't see any reason to leave it to chance, no matter who the bastard was aiming at. He kept hold of his powers and turned toward the shooter, waiting, and waiting, and waiting, as patiently as a speedster could, until finally the bullet creeped into view.
He didn't move to intercept it immediately. Tommy wanted to see who the target was. So he watched a little longer with narrowed eyes, that narrowed even more as he realized by the bullet's trajectory that the target was a member of his team.
"Bastard," he muttered as the offending piece of metal continued on course. Then he jogged so he could walk underneath it, and beat it to its target.
It soon became apparent just which of his teammates was the target, and the realization made Tommy's blood start to boil. It was Billy. The bastard sniper was aiming at his brother.
"Oh no you didn't," Tommy growled, hurrying forward and pulling Billy out of the bullet's path, then moving a few of his other teammates as well, just to make sure no one got grazed.
Then he started to let go of his powers, slowing himself down so that time seemed to speed up, since by his calculations, not even a full second had passed since the gun was fired yet. As much as Tommy wanted to go after that sniper, making sure that the bullet didn't hit any bystanders had to take priority. He'd never hear the end of it from Eli if some unlucky sap ended up getting hurt while he ran off to crack open the sniper's skull.
It was a good thing he stayed too, because as Tommy's relative time started getting closer to how time seemed to move for everyone else, he realized something crucial. The bullet had altered its course.
"What the hell?" said Tommy as he dashed forward, struggling to beat the bullet not, and shoved Billy out of its way.
Billy's expression as he hit the ground was the same one that had been on his face before the whole incident had started. Time was moving normally for his poor deprived brother, who didn't have superspeed, and had no idea how close he was to getting ventilated.
"That should take care of it," Tommy said to himself, but then, right before his eyes, the bullet's course started shifting again, angling right toward Billy who was helplessly sprawled on the ground. "No!"
Tommy reached out and tried to catch the bullet. He'd realize later how stupid a move that had been, but he was acting on instinct, and all his instincts were screaming at him to do something, and not let Billy get hurt! He felt his flesh being split open, felt the bullet tearing through the tendons and bones and leaving a freaking hole in his goddamn hand as it continued on its deadly course, right toward his brother.
"NO!" Tommy reached out with his uninjured hand, but not to catch the bullet this time. His hand moved quicksilver fast, sending hyperkinetic waves toward the bullet, destabilizing it and blowing it up scant inches from Billy.
And just like that, time seemed to return to normal, because Tommy didn't have enough control over his hyperkinetic explosive powers to keep his speed up at the same time.
"What? Whoa!" Billy shielded his face from the miniature explosion. "What the –? Tommy? Tommy, what did you do!"
Tommy glowered at him, not appreciating his tone one bit.
Objectively, yeah, he knew it looked like he was the one to blame. To the others it all seemed like one second everything was fine, then the next Tommy had shoved Billy to the ground and blown something up in his face.
But Tommy wasn't in the mood to be objective or understanding because he'd just saved Billy's life and now, rather than giving him the benefit of the doubt, Billy was yelling at him, and Tommy's hand was hurting, and oh look, now Teddy was grabbing onto Tommy, manhandling him and shoving him away from Billy.
"I saved you from getting shot you ungrateful little moron," snapped Tommy.
"I – You what?" Billy blinked.
"If that's what you were doing, why didn't you just move him out of the way like a normal speedster would have?" asked Eli.
Tommy half wanted to demand that Eli define just what a normal speedster was, because half the things he'd heard about other speedsters led him to believe that acting irrationally at least thirty percent of the time came with the speed. The other half of him wanted to smash Eli's ugly bald head against the closest wall.
Instead, he said angrily to them, "I tried! Twice! The bullet, it kept changing directions, like it was locked onto Billy or something."
"Tommy, your hand!" said Cassie, spotting his war wound. "You're hurt!"
"I'm fine," said Tommy.
"You – you have a hole in your hand," said Kate, looking horrified as she reached for him.
"I said I'm fine!" snapped Tommy. Then he glanced up at the rooftop where he'd seen the glint of the scope. "But that gunman won't be when I get my hands on him."
Then he was off, racing across the distance, up twenty flights of stairs, searching for the rooftop exit, and score! He reached the rooftop door right as the gunman was barreling through it, not having even taken the time to break down his rifle, after realizing he'd missed his mark and would soon have the Young Avengers on his tail. If he'd known he had a speedster on his trail, maybe he wouldn't have even bothered getting up. Tommy was still fairly new, so not everyone knew that the Young Avengers team had a speedster now. And even fewer knew the extent of Tommy's powers, and all that he could do.
He raised his hand, ready to vaporize the bastard who'd taken a shot at his maybe brother, then paused, remembering the condition he'd agreed to when the other Young Avengers freed him. No killing.
Tommy gritted his teeth and kept his hand raised. He could get rid of all the evidence no problem. No one would ever know. He could tell the others . . . he could tell the others that he didn't catch the guy . . . that the guy had made it off the roof, left his gun behind, and it was impossible to pick out who the gunman was after he'd left his gun behind. Or . . . or something. Anything. He had plenty of time to come up with a cover story.
He could have done it. He wanted to. Tommy wanted to kill the bastard so badly that it hurt. But as he held his hand up to disintegrate the sniper, he realized that he couldn't. Physically, yeah he could have, but something was mentally blocking him. Something like his conscience, except he was pretty sure he didn't have one of those anymore. Or maybe that something was the realization that the look on Billy's face when he'd thought Tommy had shoved him to the ground and caused an explosion in his face for no reason would be nothing compared to the look he'd be wearing if he found out that Tommy had gone and killed someone behind his back. Even if said someone had been trying to kill Billy.
"Damn me," Tommy muttered and dropped his hand. "Think, Sheperd, think. I can't let him just get away with this, scot free. So what to do . . ."
His gaze fell to the floor. Then to the would be assassin's shoes. The gunman wasn't dressed like one of the hitmen from movies or videogames, in a suit, or black body armor. He was dressed to blend in a crowd, in a T shirt, worn jeans, and athletic shoes. Athletic shoes that had kangaroos on them. The brand logo, or something, Tommy knew, but it sparked an idea in his mind.
"So you like kangaroos, huh mister?" he asked, even though the man was pretty much a statue at the speed Tommy was moving at, thinking at, and making decisions at.
He tore the gun out of the bastard's hands and tossed it aside. Then he flung the would be assassin over his shoulder in a fireman's carry and began sprinting, back down the stairs, out of the city, across the country, then across the Pacific Ocean, setting a course southwest. In no time at all, he was in Australia, in the middle of what the people there called the bush. Tommy himself called it the middle of nowhere. The only things around for miles and miles were trees, tall grass and kangaroos. The perfect place to ditch trash.
Tommy threw the gunman to the ground and pulled off the bastard's shoes, then left him there and sprinted back to New York. He arrived back at the top of that building in time to catch the gun before it hit the floor, and dismantled it and shoved it into its duffle bag before dashing back down to where the other Young Avengers hadn't even helped Billy off the ground yet, the slowpokes.
"You guys are still here?" demanded Tommy. "Oh, and I got the sniper's gun and shoes, and took him down under."
"Tommy . . . you didn't . . ."
"I said I took him down under," repeated Tommy. "I think he'll like walking eighty miles through the Australian bush barefoot."
Teddy choked on a laugh as he scooped Billy up off the ground. Finally. But even if he was slow, at least he seemed to have a good sense of humor, unlike some people on the team.
"You did what with him?" demanded Eli.
"It was leave him stranded or vaporize him," said Tommy. "And you guys did tell me not to kill anyone. If you're rescinding the order . . ."
"What you should have done was turned him over to the police!" said Eli.
"Why? So they could lock him up, feed him three times a day, and let him watch cable TV on the taxpayers' dime?"
"So that he could be brought to justice!"
"Since when does justice include cable TV?"
"What are you doing bringing up TV?" demanded Eli. "What does that have to do with anything?"
"That's what your idea of justice entails," said Tommy. "We take him to the police and it's fifty-fifty whether or not his case even gets to trial. Say it does and he's tried for attempted murder. He'll get ten years, which'll get cut down to five for good behavior. Five years of eating better than most of the world's population, and getting to watch cable TV every night, for trying to kill Billy. Then he'll be right back out, and no wiser or warier of us for it. Call me crazy, but I'm not alright with that."
"It's not up to you to decide!"
"Oh, but it is. I mean, isn't that the point of being a vigilante?" asked Tommy. "Deciding to do something when the system's not working?"
"No one said the system's not working!" shouted Eli.
"Then where was the system when that bastard tried to shoot Billy?" demanded Tommy. "Huh?"
"That's not the point!"
"You can take your point and screw it!"
"This is why you don't belong –"
"Hey, maybe everyone else here is okay with the fact that Tommy's got a gunshot wound that goes straight through his hand that we're all ignoring, but I'm really not," spoke up Teddy. "And somehow I don't think his brother is either. So if we could maybe get our act together and act like the heroes we're trying to be . . . ?"
Billy nodded grimly and stepped forward. "Please give me your hand, Tommy."
Tommy regarded him warily.
"I'm going to heal you," said Billy. "That's all. I swear."
Reluctantly, Tommy held his injured hand out to Billy.
"IWantHimToHeal. IWantHimToHeal. IWantHimToHeal."
The pain in Tommy's hand drained away almost immediately, and Tommy watched, bemused, as the hole in his hand mended right before his eyes.
"Thanks," said Tommy, pulling his hand back as soon as Billy was finished.
"You saved my life," said Billy. "It was the least I could do."
Tommy clenched his teeth and looked away. "I didn't mean to throw you on the ground and blow the bullet up in your face. For the record. I tried moving you out of the way normally first, but the damn bullet kept changing directions."
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have yelled at you. It just took me by surprise," said Billy.
Tommy shrugged. He wasn't good at dealing with people trying to be nice to him. He'd almost prefer Billy being all pissy again. Almost. Not quite though. "Yeah, well . . . We're going to be late to that movie. Not that I wanted to see it anyway because it looks like crap. Come to think about it, I didn't want to hang out with you guys tonight, with or without the crappy movie. I think I'm just going to take off –"
He stopped talking as Billy grabbed onto his hand again before he could make a break for it.
And Tommy swore Billy must have put some of his reality altering magic into that request because the next thing he knew, he was agreeing to stay, then they were all on their way to the stupid movie that turned out to be just as cheesy as Tommy predicted it would be.
Of course that didn't explain why Tommy spent the next few weeks stalking Billy and keeping an eye out for snipers or other assassins, but whatever.