Bart didn't understand the sensation filling his nose and eyes, and why he felt as if he were drowning on land and burning all at once. Crying was abnormal for earthlings in the future; you got over that need as a baby if you survived that long. His body was fighting itself in its attempt to convey sorrow, as if it wasn't apparent enough with quivering shoulders and shuddering breath. Gasping for air, he looked to his cousin, surprised to see Wally motioning a filmy piece of paper toward him. Bart accepted the strange gift and stared at it for signs of significance, like it would hold all of life's answers. Wally gently took Bart's tissue-laden hand and pressed it over his nose.

"Just blow" Wally said. Bart listened and felt a brief sense of freedom before he remembered why his body started attacking in the first place and the sensation began anew. Sniffling into his tissue and a few others to come, Bart apologized over and over for ruining the future. It was now well known that the reason for the dark present he lived in forty years later was the result of his meddling in the past. The paradoxical [1] state he had created was taking a serious toll on the cheerful hero. Bart had caused so much death, so much grief, and all for what- to save family that would eventually fall by his own doing. There was nothing more he could try to solve it, he'd just wind up hurting everyone else, right?

"I'm no hero. I'm a monster." Bart declared clenching a grimy tissue, streaks of salt running down his face. Wally pulled the youth into a hug.

"Hey, that's not true. Every speedster trips up sometimes, you just have to learn to get back up."

They stayed in that position for a good 30 minutes or so, with Bart crying into Wally's embrace, until Bart drifted off to sleep. Wally stayed up a bit, listening to the torrential downpour outside his apartment and watched the streaks of lightning cross Palo Alto's stormy sky. Smiling down at the younger speedster's state of peace, he gave into slumber of his own. Outside, the rain was already starting to lighten up.

[1] Yes, this is an actual word.

Oh my gosh guys, "Before the Dawn" is on iTunes! Try to grab it before CN takes it back, like the rest of our happiness.-KF13