"Of course, there's no shame in asking for help. That's why the League exists. Because there's some problems even we can't handle individually." Batman
Wally stared at the steaming mug of hot chocolate Alfred had put in front of him and managed to flash the butler a wan smile. When he was twelve and had first started coming by the manor, all long colt legs and freckles, Alfred had made him a mug of hot chocolate and had been surprised out of his usually serious demeanor to hear Wally exclaim he'd never had the treat before. Ever since, it had been part of the ritual of visiting Robin in Gotham – whichever room they ended up in, Alfred would bring him a mug of cocoa.
"They can't really put you back with your dad. How will they even know who he is? You haven't been exposed, have you?" Robin was talking quickly, swinging his feet on the chair as if all he wanted to do was get up and pace. Wally remembered that feeling as if it was felt by another boy in another lifetime. He was so tired and sore from running all the way to the manor that he didn't know if he could ever get up again. His arm twinged, even though it shouldn't be broken anymore, and he thought, unwillingly, of Flash's face during that battle against Captain Cold – so disappointed. He studied the hot chocolate like it was the most interesting thing in the world.
"Wally?" Robin stopped kicking his legs and a small hand like a cool cloth was pressed against the inside of Wally's arm. He looked up, surprised at being addressed, and Robin's face, full of so much concern, lifted into a tentative smile. "You okay?"
"You haven't been exposed, right?" It was one of the worst fears of any superhero. If Batman were ever exposed as Bruce Wayne, who happened to have an adopted orphan son, it put Robin (and Alfred and Commissioner Gordon and anyone at Wayne Industries) in danger. It also interrupted any sense of normalcy the hero had managed to create for themselves. It would ruin the ex-sidekicks for life.
Wally shrugged, "I don't really know how they plan on doing it, but I went out with Flash this evening, just to patrol, just to try to get back to normal, and cops pulled up. I thought they were going to ask us for help so we stopped. They got a hold of Flash so fast – but he told me to run. CPS was there, too. It was all to get me away from him."
"But they still wouldn't have known who you are."
"The cops in Central City know Flash is Uncle Barry. It's not all that difficult to trace it over to my dad. They'll check out Aunt Iris's immediate family members first. They'll see that Flash's nephew looks astoundingly like Kid Flash."
Robin shook his head, "but they can't. Your dad -"
"I know what my dad is, Rob. Believe me, I don't want to go back to him either."
Wally looked angry for a split second, and then his green eyes just turned sad. Robin ducked his head. He'd spent nine years with parents who loved him unquestioningly, with an extended circus family who treated him as something small and precious. And then he'd been lucky enough to be adopted by Bruce Wayne, and many things could be said about Bruce's unconventional parenting style, but he had never once been overly harsh with Robin, never once been brutal with his punishments or biting with his words.
(until clone batman, who had scared robin so badly he still couldn't sleep, not really. who had scared robin so badly he still got skittish when alone in the room with bruce, and he knew it hurt his adoptive father – robin was probably the only one who would notice batman's stoic demeanor fall – but he couldn't help it. something wearing batman's face had tried very hard to kill him.)
And then Batman was there, and Wally nearly fell out of his chair at the sudden entrance. Robin just looked up at his guardian, "What's going on? Are they going to take Wally?"
Batman shook his head and all the tension left Wally at once so he leaned against the table, boneless with relief. "We're not in the clear yet. I sent some Wayne lawyers to help Flash talk his way around this. If he'd taken my advice and adopted you years ago…"
"I told him not to," Wally said, his voice muffled by the whipped cream he'd just stuffed into his mouth. Now that he wasn't being taken away from his uncle he was suddenly hungry. "I didn't want the attention. I didn't even let him take me to the hospital. I didn't want any pictures. I wanted it to be over."
Batman nodded, "It would have made the process easier. Technically, you still belong with your father."
"He doesn't want me."
"According to the law…"
"I'll be eighteen in two years. I'll take off. If there's one thing I'm really good at, it's running."
Robin looked at Wally, who looked determined and frustrated and sad, who'd finished his hot chocolate and was looking around in a daze, like he was looking for something, like he really, really needed a hug, and Robin got up from the table and walked away, letting Wally stare after him.
Flash got there an hour later, looking worn and weary. "Your aunt's worried about you," he said as soon as he saw Wally, "Please call her." Wally nodded, started to get up, and Flash put a hand on his shoulder, a hand on each shoulder, looking at him at arm's length. "Hey Kid, this is all going to work out. You okay?"
"No worse than I was."
"You eat something?"
Wally averted his eyes and Flash sighed, pulling his protégé to his chest in a rough approximation of a hug. "You gotta keep eating, Kid. It's the only way you're going to heal up right."
The red head disentangled himself from his uncle and nodded, moving past him towards the phone. Batman cleared his throat and Flash looked up, "the lawyers get there?"
"Oh yeah, they're filing all the paperwork now," Flash rubbed the back of his neck, "I don't know though. He didn't want me to adopt him four years ago, and that was before all this happened…and if Rudolph doesn't want to give up his rights this can be a long process. That's the last thing he needs."
"They all deserve time off," Batman said, looking over his shoulder and then turning in a complete circle, looking puzzled. "Where's Robin?"
Robin walked into the kitchen just as Wally hung up the phone, "Dude, you need to eat."
Wally shrugged, "Not hungry."
"You're always hungry."
Wally shrugged again, shoving his hands in his pockets, "Where'd you run off to?"
"Planning another press conference. Batman will really have to ground me this time, but it's totally worth it."
He should probably ask what the press conference was about, but somehow Wally found that he didn't really care. "How do you even go about setting something like that up?"
"What can I say? The Commissioner thinks I'm adorable," Robin smiled widely, "I think he just feels responsible. He's one of the only people who knows about Bruce, and he doesn't think he's very nice. Bruce is really just a big teddy bear."
"I am not," Batman said, coming into the kitchen to watch Flash buzz around, creating a stack of food in his wake, "I am very dangerous."
"Please," Robin said, rolling his eyes, "You don't scare me." He looked over at the blur that was Flash, "So the biggest problem we have is that no one knows what a scumbag Wally's dad is?"
The blur wavered into a shape that almost resembled Flash, "Basically, yes."
"Okay," Robin patted Wally on the back, "Chill dude. We'll get this sorted out. Eat something. Sleep it off. It'll look better in the morning."
"Where are you going?" Wally asked around a mouthful of one of Flash's sandwiches. They were famously dry, and no one but the speedsters could stomach them, but the taste comforted Wally. Made him feel at home.
Robin just waved a hand, not turning around. "Go to sleep Wally. I'm just tying up some loose ends."
And because Flash was there, looking so anxious, and because he wanted to call his aunt, who was like a mom to him, and because Batman looked like he wouldn't let him out of the manor anyway, Wally just took another bite of sandwich and tried not to feel abandoned as Robin walked out the door.
Things, even big things like being kidnapped by Lex Luthor, attacked by clones, attacked by more clones, being beaten by someone you loved, are often resolved quietly, without much fanfare. Most of the media didn't want to focus on the heroes, didn't want to drag their names through mud. Reporters like to get close to the action, and any newscaster worth their salt had been pulled away from the fray by a hero.
So when the ex-sidekicks swore up and down that their mentors had been cloned, when they insisted on living with Flash and Batman and Aquaman again, when they tried their hardest on television to appear like everything was hunky-dory, the story lost momentum. Few writers wanted to write about an evil superhero, and readers were already starting to cancel subscriptions.
Which is why one last news conference put it all to rest, put everything in perspective. Wally didn't talk to Robin for most of the day after it happened – didn't talk to Artemis or Superboy or Aqualad or Miss Martian either. They'd all betrayed him in the same way.
But what they did was brilliant – it brought the problem back home. When Batman saw the newscast, he woke up the whole house as he chewed out Robin, who was trailed back to the manor by the rest of the Team.
"While Robin's actions were founded on lies," Kaldur said, his level voice breaking through Batman's rages like a hot knife through butter, "his reasons were admirable. It is why we all agreed to participate in the deception."
"And anyway," Connor growled, looking at Wally who was leaning against the counter, looking embarrassed and annoyed, "it's not like he doesn't deserve it. Even if we didn't see Wally's dad hurt him, it definitely happened. Right Wally?"
"Is there any way for me to get out of this without losing all my man-points?" Wally asked, avoiding looking at Artemis.
"This helps though, right?" M'gann asked anxiously, "I mean, we didn't reveal Wally's identity, or his father's, but if five of us say that his dad was hurting him, and it's reported on all those networks…no one's going to force Wally to leave…will they?"
"Not after they see the pictures," Artemis said. Her voice was low and hard, just like Superboy's. Wally turned red and looked away.
"Hey," there was a hand on his shoulder, and Robin's voice in his ear, "You know we should have done this a long time ago. We have much bigger things to worry about than your father."
When Wally did look up, he was furiously blinking away tears of absolute rage. "You had no right. You put pictures of me on the news? You don't even tell me? You had no right, Dick."
"Wally!" Flash snapped, as Robin pulled away like he'd been burned.
Wally was too upset to care that his best friend – his younger brother – was staring at him with huge, hurt eyes. He didn't even care that Batman had put a hand on Robin's shoulder and was glaring at Wally like the red head hadn't been glared at in a long time.
He could do it – spill all of Robin's secrets, which he'd hoarded over four years of friendship like gems. There had been days, hanging in the manor, in police stations waiting for their guardians, in Central City, where they'd start talking about their time before they were sidekicks. Wally had told Robin everything, had tried to explain the sensation of starvation, and in turn Robin had given him a circus life with a backdrop of Romania, a family of performers and a loving embrace that was taken away by something as stupid and simple as gravity.
And now Robin had told all of those secrets to the national media, so why not do the same in front of the Team?
The words were there, on the tip of Wally's tongue. Every insecurity Robin had shared with him about his time with Batman, every morning mourning his parents, almost came out in a rush, and how would he have been able to cross that chasm when he wanted Dick back?
Artemis saved him. That was the easiest way to explain everything about Wally in those years after the Team – Artemis saved him, and he didn't deserve her. "We're sorry, Wally. I don't regret doing it, and I'd do it again to make sure you never had to go back to your father, but I'm sorry we kept it from you."
"And I am sorry you had to live with that man as long as you did," Kaldur added, "And while I am happy you confided in Robin, I only hope that, if you had needed to, you would have been able to confide in the team as well."
"All for one and one for all," Superboy grunted, then shrugged and rubbed his neck when everyone looked at him. "Superman and I have been trying to catch up on pop culture. We got stuck on The Three Musketeers."
Wally laughed at that, even though he didn't want to, and everyone looked relieved. Wally looked at Kaldur, "No worries Fearless Leader. My dad was a couple of years ago, and Rob was my only friend at the time. If he tried to pull that now, you'd be the first to know." There was a cough behind him and Wally smiled, "After Flash, of course."
"So it's all over?" Miss Martian asked, "Everything? No more clones. No one wanting to take Robin or Wally away? Is everything back to normal?"
"This is a pretty rough approximation of normal," Robin said, looking up at Batman and holding his gaze for the first time in weeks, "But yeah, I think we're getting there."
"Some of us even ended up better off," Wally said, looking at Superboy who flashed something that might be a smile. "How's living with the Man of Steel?"
"It's…different," Conner admitted, thinking about Superman alternating between calling him brother and son, as if he couldn't figure out which of the words fit their relationship better, which of the words the moody teenager would prefer. But he also thought about how Clark had made him an omelet with all the fixings and how the Kents had given him a horse to ride and how Clark had sat next to him after watching Buck Rogers (they were getting into science fiction together) and apologized about the bruises and the clones until Conner thought he meant it, until Conner smiled and forgave him. "It's different. But nice."
"And Wally," Flash said, so quickly that none of the others in the room could really keep up, "I know you'll be eighteen in a couple of years and you've outgrown being Kid Flash. But I would really like to adopt you. Legally."
The words were such a blur that the only thing the onlookers got out of the exchange was Wally looking up at Flash with wet eyes. "I'd like that a lot." Flash had always been his hero – it's why he tried to replicate the experiment in the first place. To live with him after everything that happened with his biological father had been a dream come true. If eight-year-old Wally knew that Flash would one day be asking him to be his own son…
"Look at that," Artemis said, nudging Wally in the ribs, "A happy ending."
Wally nodded, smiling like an idiot, smiling like he hadn't since the debacle at Mount Justice, "yeah, I guess it is."
it's been a hell of a run guys, but it looks like yj is on the outs. (and what an end! poor wally)
thanks to all who reviewed. it kept this thing going. peace and prosperity guys.