Oneweekoneweekoneweek 'till Young Justice!
Unless you read this after January 5th I guess. I suppose this is the beginning of my OT3 of Bart/Jaime/The Scarab. Bluepulsab, or something.
Rated for mentions of torture.
Jaime screamed. He didn't have words, couldn't process the fear rushing through him. The Reach had Bart. They knew who he was. They knew where, and when, he came from and why he was there.
He must be terrified. Jaime thought, hot tears streaming down his cheeks. Bart still woke up with nightmares, drenched in sweet at the mere thought of being back in a future where he was nothing more than a slave to be beaten. He'd told Jaime about the weight in his chest whenever he thought about those days, the phantom pain from bruises long since healed. Jaime'd seen the long thin scars himself all over Bart's arms and legs. The inhibitor collar froze his speed, robbing Bart of his only real defense.
He must be so scared. And it was Jaime's fault. All Jaime's fault. If he'd been strong enough to protect him, Bart wouldn't be in there right now, alone with his worst nightmare.
"Jaime Reyes." The scarab spoke inside his head. "Give me control."
"There is no time to debate!" It snarled. "We may be able to help Impulse but you must relinquish control."
"Why?" Jaime demanded. "What difference will it make? We can't armor up!"
"If I can convince The Reach I am On Mode, that I have over powered you; then they will release us."
"I'm not going On Mode!" Jaime said. Going On Mode was not an option. Bart had traveled back forty years to stop him going On Mode. It would all be useless.
"We will not go On Mode, Jaime Reyes." The Scarab said. "It is necessary for The Reach to believe we are On Mode if we are to help Impulse.
Impulse. Not The Impulse but just Impulse, and something new in the scarab's voice, a wish to protect; to save.
Jaime couldn't decide if this was good or frightening.
"You won't-" Jaime hesitated, trying to push down his nerves, "You'll let me go right? After we save Bart, you'll give me back control?"
"Yes, Jaime Reyes." The scarab said after a short pause. "I am of The Reach… but I am not like them."
Jaime swallowed. The scarab was right. They needed to save Bart and with the team's rescue uncertain, the only way to do that was to play into The Reach's hands. It was the only way to convince them to release Blue Beetle and gain any hope of helping Bart.
But letting the scarab take over, letting it control his body might be the start of the bad future Bart had come back to prevent; Blue Beetle becoming the biggest big bad in all of history. Bart had come back to stop him.
A scream broke Jaime's train of thought; Bart's scream of pain. Jaime felt his blood run cold. Inside his head, the scarab clicked impatiently.
"There is no time for deliberation! They are torturing him! They will torture him until he gives up every secret tied to enslaving this planet and then they will kill him!"
"Bart would never-"
"Then he will die in agony!" The scarab shouted. "Please, Jaime Reyes, grant me control…" its voice was soft, pleading, "Grant me this chance."
Another scream broke the silence. "Do it." Jaime whispered, willing to brave whatever consequences came afterwards.
Bart wasn't sure when he passed out but he knew it wasn't for every long. The Reach didn't allow their victims the luxury of unconsciousness. They made sure you felt every poke and prod. They weren't even asking any questions.
Yet, when he opened his eyes, the pain had stopped. Bart's vision was hazy. He couldn't quite tell what the source of his relief had been. The Team? Blue, somehow? Intergalactic Invaders need coffee breaks too?
As his eyes cleared from the pain, Bart's stomach dropped. Blue was there. He stood next to Black Beetle, observing Bart through cold yellow eyes. Not Blue.
Not Jaime. Bart sucked in a haggard breath. His mind was swimming, it wasn't possible, it couldn't be, he'd come back to stop it!
Yet, there he was; The Blue Beetle of Bart's past and Jaime's future, On Mode and terrifying. Bart hung his head, unable to look at Jaime's corrupted body.
I'm sorry, he thought, I'm so sorry,
He wasn't sure who he was apologizing to. Jaime, who could no longer hear him? The world he'd stupidly thought he could save? His mother who'd tried so hard to prepare him for the journey back in time, teaching him the history of The Flash even though the mere mention of his name was punishable by death under The Reach dictatorship; who'd sacrificed herself to keep him alive just so he could die over forty years before he was born? Himself?
Everyone, Bart decided, everyone he'd doomed by not stopping Jaime from going On Mode, I'm so sorry, everyone.
He was dimly aware of the beetles talking outside his containment pod but he couldn't understand them. They appeared to arguing about something, probably Bart.
He looked up suddenly. The Reach didn't argue. Going On Mode meant rejoining the hive mind, every individual was just an extension of the one Reach. The Blue Beetle arguing with The Black Beetle would be as logical as Bart arguing with his finger.
Yet, they were arguing. Blue Beetle was gesturing at Bart, glaring into Black Beetle. His arm morphed into a plasma canon, firing before his opponent could react. Without missing a beat, Blue Beetle punched in the key code and Bart lurched forward into his arms. He stared up at the metal mask, hoping he'd been wrong.
"No," it spoke without emotion, like Jaime was possessed by a computer, "There is no time."
It was right. Bart could hear more guards racing through the corridor. He couldn't much bring himself to care. The Blue Beetle took him up in its arms, wrapping Bart in hard metallic strength. It didn't grip him as tightly as it might. Bart remembered a time those arms nearly squeezed the life out of him, crushing lungs and bruising ribs. That incident wouldn't occur for another few decades but now that Blue Beetle was On Mode, it would occur for certain.
The Blue Beetle carried him to an escape pod, killing any Reach operative that tried to stop them. He shoved Bart inside, letting him fall hard on the floor as it went to the controls and flew them up out of the water. Bart could hardly move, exhausted from the torture and the inhibitor collar. He leaned up against the passenger seat, watching The Blue Beetle work the controls.
Jaime… Bart felt a cold tear sliding down his cheek. He couldn't feel any shame or emotion attached to it but let it fall without trying to hold back. More would come, he felt certain, as he remembered the last time Jaime had his arms around him, when he was Jaime, the heat of his embrace, soft muscles moving against Bart's skin. He'd never feel that way again.
They broke the ocean surface. The Blue Beetle left the controls and powered up its plasma canon. Bart closed his eyes, waiting for the inevitable blast. At least his death would be quick. At least he wouldn't have to watch as The Blue Beetle enslaved mankind.
He heard the energy blast, smelled the burning metal but felt no pain. Instead The Blue Beetle picked him up again and Bart felt ocean air rushing against his face, almost as if he were running. He opened his eyes. The Blue Beetle carried him toward the mainland, toward home. Bart looked up into those cold, metallic eyes, only just daring to hope he'd been wrong.
The Blue Beetle looked down at him. "No, Impulse," it said, "I am not Jaime Reyes."
"You're the scarab," Bart said.
"My name is Khaji Da," it said, "I have only just begun to remember it, and my purpose on Earth."
"Why haven't you killed me?" Bart asked.
"I do not wish to see you dead," Khaji Da said, after a short pause, "I am not On Mode."
Bart blinked, at an utter loss for how to respond. It was the scarab, Khaji Da, The Reach operative sent to earth to wear down the planet for conquest. It had admitted as much, but it was not On Mode. It could be lying but Jaime said the scarab had never lied to him.
"Jaime Reyes is undamaged," Khaji Da said, "He remains, unconscious, inside this body. I needed full control to convince The Reach that I was On Mode. I wished to spare him the distress of watching you tortured."
"So you let him go? Give back control?" Bart asked, entirely confused. Khaji Da was not The Blue Beetle from his memory. That creature would have never taken its host's feelings into account before acting.
"I said I would," Khaji Da said, musing slightly, "When I asked him to trust me."
"You asked?" The Blue Beetle of the future would never ask, "He let you?!"
"He gave me permission to save your life," Khaji said, "using whatever deceit necessary. I have done so."
"Why?" Bart demanded.
"I told you," it said, "I do not wish to see you dead."
"That doesn't tell me anything," Bart said, "You're of The Reach! Why would you want me alive? Why would you care about me- about people at all?! We're just meat to you!"
The Scarab sighed, "Do you know how long I have been on your world, Bart Allen?" it asked, "Millennia, far longer than I have ever lived on my home planet. I have waited, all that time, for humanity to reach a level of civilization that The Reach could conquer.
Bart shivered. So there was the even plan, straight from the horse's mouth. The Reach waited for planets to show up on the intergalactic radar, then activated their sleeper agents to help take it over. How many more beetles were scattered across the world?
"In that time," Khaji Da continued, "There have been three, only three individuals with the strength necessary to serve as my host. Jaime Reyes is one of them."
"He's just a normal kid!" Bart argued hotly. Jaime prided himself on being normal, no superpowers beyond what the scarab gave him. He was human, he wanted to stay human.
"He is not!" Khaji said, "I think you know that, Bart Allen."
Bart was silent. Jaime always said he'd been in the wrong place at the wrong time the night the scarab came to him. He said he didn't want his powers, that they weren't even his. He became even more against it when Bart told him about the future, swearing that he would never let The Blue Beetle do that, as if it were some enemy he was fighting, rather than a part of him. Still, Jaime had never seen himself flying, the way his face lit up when the tide of battle turned their way. He loved it and he could handle it. Most people would have gone insane, used the powers for evil or personal gain. Jaime still managed to live a fairly normal life. That in itself made him amazing.
"There was an explosion the night I bonded with Jaime," Khaji Da continued, "I was damaged. I forgot what I was, what I had seen. Only feelings remained; the urge to survive and kill, and the urge to protect."
"Protect?" Bart repeated.
"You, Bart Allen, principally," it sounded annoyed, "Jaime Reyes has… infected me, with his feelings for you. In a broader respect, for his family, this planet, and your team… all of these things I do not wish to kill. More than that, I wish to protect them, even at the cost of my own survival."
"You sound really happy about it," Bart said, caught between the urge to laugh and scream. When Khaji Da admitted he didn't want Bart dead, it felt tantamount to a declaration of love. Bart panicked, his heart was pounding so hard he felt it would vibrate out of his chest. He had to remind himself, this was The Blue Beetle, The Reach operative who had literally created the hell on Earth that Bart called his childhood. He'd spent his life hating this creature that had just saved him.
"It is a sign of damage," Khaji Da said darkly, "I should not be this way; I should not have those emotions for any being, much less two feeble human males. I have been corrupted by this place."
"Two of us? Me and Jaime?" Bart asked.
"Watching you together, through Jaime's eyes," if Bart didn't know better, he would have thought it sounded embarrassed, "feeling Jaime's emotions, especially in regard to you; it brings to mind emotions I have not felt for millions of years… They are pleasant."
Maybe Bart didn't know any better.
Khaji Da was silent, touching down on a hillside. It released Bart, holding the boy's shoulder until he found his feet. Blue metal clad fingers cracked through the inhibitor collar, letting it fall broken on the grass. Bart stared at Khaji Da, resisting the urge to run. Jaime was still in there somewhere and Khaji Da had promised to relinquish control. Bart wasn't leaving until that happened.
It stared up into the night sky, lost in the stars. Bart couldn't pretend to read its face. Maybe Khaji Da wasn't The Blue Beetle from Bart's past but it wasn't Jaime. Bart wasn't sure what Khaji was exactly, friend or foe, but he wanted Jaime. He needed Jaime and whether he trusted the scarab or not, depended entirely on whether Khaji was willing to let Jaime go.
"What are you waiting for?" He demanded. It looked at him, tilting its head to the side. Bart glared, impatient.
"I'll warn you," it said. "This had been an ordeal for him. He will be exhausted."
"I don't care," Bart insisted, "Bring him back. Now!"
"Bart Allen," Khaji watched him, "… you do not trust me." It said it without accusation or hurt, a simple statement of fact.
"No," Bart said, "I don't."
"Why?" It asked.
"You listen to everything I say to Jaime," a shiver ran through him as he thought of every whispered declaration, every murmured endearment he'd shared with the other boy, "You know why."
"Yes," it nodded, "your future. Blue Beetle becomes the biggest bad in history."
Bart nodded, "Now, let Jaime go."
"When you told Jaime about the future," Khaji said, staring at him through unblinking eye, "you told him that it wasn't him, in your future. The creature who hurt you was not Jaime Reyes, but it wasn't me either."
Bart was silent. Going On Mode meant joining the hive mind of The Reach. The Blue Beetle he'd feared in his childhood was an extension of The Reach. Khaji Da, whatever it was, was not just an extension of The Reach. It had saved him, saved Jaime on countless occasions when it didn't have to. Maybe it had been corrupted, maybe it hated that it felt that way but it did. It saved them; it wanted them safe.
"Okay," he nodded, after a long silence, "Okay, Khaji Da, it wasn't you,"
Khaji Da nodded. He looked up to the sky again. "My home planet has a much thicker atmosphere. We cannot see the stars."
"Let Jaime go," Bart said.
He paused, lying down on the grass. "He will be unconscious for some time." Khaji Da said, "You should stay with him,"
Bart nodded, "I will. I'll stay with him,"
"Tell him what I told you," Khaji Da instructed him, "that he doesn't have to fear me."
"Tell him yourself," Bart stared, "You're the one in his head."
"He doesn't believe me," it starred up at the stars, "ever since you told him about the future. I don't know if he ever really trusted me but that cemented it. He trusts you."
"Fine, I'll tell him," Bart said, "Bring him back now." He tried to make it sound less like a demand, though he was desperate to see Jaime again. Khaji Da watched him, something akin to jealousy crossing over his metallic eyes. No, that couldn't be right. Operatives of The Reach, Scarabs didn't have emotions. It couldn't feel jealousy or friendship or any of the things Bart felt for Jaime. Even if it said it did, even if it hated that it did.
"I'll tell him," Bart promised again. He didn't understand what Khaji Da was exactly, neither did it. It watched him carefully through golden eyes.
"Thank you, Bart Allen," it murmured, closing them at last.
Bart sat down beside the body, waiting for Jaime to wake up. The night was still and his bruises were already nearly healed. By the time he ran back to Central City, they'd be gone. Bart heard his stomach growl over the sound of crickets. The night was calm around them but as long as Jaime was unconscious, Bart could find no peace.
It felt like eons before Jaime woke up again. Bart still hadn't got the practice of telling between how long it felt like he waited and how much time actually passed. Jaime woke with a start, the armor shifting away into his skin. His face was covered in sweat and panic.
"Bart!" He scrambled up to a sitting position, glancing wildly around, "Are you okay?! I'm sorry, I had to let it-"
"I'm fine," Bart rested a comforting hand on his shoulder, "It's okay, Jaime, we're fine."
Jaime inhaled slowly trying to calm himself. "Okay," he said, nodding, "Okay. It told me I had to... Bart, I'm so sorry!"
"No worries, ese!" Bart smiled weakly, "It's fine, I promise. I was freaked out at first but Khaji was fine,"
"Khaji?" Jaime stared at him.
"Khaji Da," Bart nodded, "that's its name. The scarab."
"It… it talked to you?" Jaime said.
"Yeah, it was weird," Bart wondered how much he should really say about Khaji Da's feeling of protectiveness and corruption, of enjoying the emotions between Bart and Jaime. He knew Khaji would be listening inside Jaime's head. "I think we can trust it."
"Seriously?" Jaime's jaw dropped. "You trust it? Bart, that thing-"
"I know, I know!" Bart shivered, "Believe me, I know." He revisited those days in every nightmare he ever had, "But… it didn't have to give you back control and it didn't have to save me. It knows it's of The Reach now, but Khaji Da still acted on our side. We can trust it."
"If you say so, Ese," Jaime said uncertainly. He pulled Bart closer, hugging him close against his chest. Bart melted into him, enjoying the warmth, the humanity of Jaime's gentle embrace. He clutched him tightly, thinking of the other arms that had held him that night, the hard metal against his body, assuring Bart's safety. He remembered that passing flash across Khaji Da's eyes, what he'd mistaken for jealousy. Bart wondered if he hadn't been right after all.
"You really saved him," Bart heard Jaime whisper as he stroked his hair gently. Somehow he knew Jaime wasn't talking to him, "Thank you."
"Thanks, Khaji," Bart murmured into Jaime's chest, echoing his boyfriend's gratitude. His hand lifted to the embedded scarab on Jaime's back, patting it gently through his t-shirt. Bart could have sworn he heard it click.
Reviews are very appreciated.