Disclaimer: I don't own Young Justice.
Quick warning, temporary character death at the beginning.
He failed. He came back to fix everything but he couldn't and now Blue Beetle's on mode and the Reach are winning and he failed, failed, failed.
"Bart!" a voice yells, snapping him back to the battle at hand. They're losing, losing so much and there's no possible way to turn this around. All he can do is keep fighting with them and stammer apologies for failing at super speed because he couldn't do it and now the Earth is doomed and it's all his fault.
Just before the explosion, all he can think is that at least he managed to go down like a hero.
High above the battle, a single body contains the two extreme reactions to the loss of the battle, two minds stuck together. One of them is in control, a cruel smirk smeared on the face of the body the two are stuck sharing, the other is trapped and unable to do anything but watch, a scream that were it not mental would be deafening and bloodcurdling exploding, then the anger fading, fading but not going, not completely, and guilt, guilt, guilt crushing down for not being able to stop it.
The Reach has won, and the future that Bart Allen came back to prevent, that Jaime Reyes was prepared to die to stop, is happening.
They don't know it – the scarab itself doesn't know it – but he can still influence its decisions to a certain degree, even if he isn't in control. This is the only thing giving him hope, stopping him from simply giving up and letting them win. He keeps himself hidden from the scarab, keeps his emotions carefully suppressed so that they aren't felt by it, lets it – and by extension them – believe that he is gone, that his consciousness has faded away. He manages to stop some of the destruction, but not enough of it. He has to bide his time, because he knows that what he plans will be possible once and once only. He saw to it that Iris West-Allen didn't die. He's going to see to it that her children survive. It's vital that they survive.
He's trapped in his own mind, watching the world spiral into despair and destruction around him, unwillingly the vanguard of that, he has more reason than anybody else on the planet to simply give up, but even through all of this, Jaime Reyes is a hero and if he has a chance to save his home, then he's going to take it.
As the twins grow up, he makes sure that they live. When Don finds the girl he loves, he makes sure the Reach don't separate them, and when the day comes that their child is born, hope soars through him because he knows that this is it it's going to work he's going to see to it that everybody doesn't die and the world is saved. Then that hope is quickly hidden, and kept with all the other emotions that have been growing slowly but surely in power over the past twenty-seven years. Thirteen years left, and then the world is saved.
Those thirteen years are the hardest yet, because from the moment Bart is able to walk, to understand the world around him, he's terrified. Even though he knows that it's the armour, the scarab, not himself, that terrifies him there's nothing quite as gut-wrenching as having to watch your best friend grow up in utter terror of you. That feeling is added to the growing pile.
And then, after forty years of waiting, the day finally comes.
The inhibitor collar had broken, Bart had been free for almost a month, the time machine was built and he had just enough time to do what he needed to do.
He tells the scarab where to go, giving the suggestion lightly, making it think that the thought is its own. It lands behind Bart loudly; he jumps and scrambles away; even now, after thirteen years, seeing pure, unadulterated fear of him in Bart's eyes is painful.
He doesn't squash it down, doesn't hide it, not this time.
This time, he lets it all loose.
All the anger, at himself for not being strong enough to stop them, at the Reach for everything they've done, at the scarab for taking over.
All the guilt, for not managing to fix things while he could, for just being there trapped in his mind while every single other human being on the planet suffered, and for indirectly being the reason for all that suffering.
All the sadness, the pain, the horrible feeling of someone being afraid of you and the hope that slowly grew.
Forty years worth of emotions, bottled up and kept under careful lock and key. Forty years of emotions that have festered and boiled to the point that they are almost consuming. Forty years worth of emotions that have been clamouring to get out, to let themselves be known.
He lets all of it out, at once. The scarab is caught completely off guard. He'd hidden himself well over forty years, and it had almost forgetting he had ever existed.
He feels it slipping away under the tidal wave, and slowly the feeling of having a body begins to come back to him.
The thud is unexpected, and Bart jumped before turning around. Then he saw what had made the sound and his heart beat increased tenfold, his breathing hitched, blind fear and panic nearly took over his mind as he scrambled backwards because this couldn't be happening, all the work couldn't be for nothing, Blue Beetle couldn't have found him no, no, nonononono.
It stayed that way for about a minute, Bart terrified out of his mind, the thing of his nightmares standing in front of him. But that was it. Blue Beetle was just standing there.
And then Blue Beetle groans, hands flying up to his head. His eyes shut and he stumbles. Bart tries to swallow the lump in his throat that he is sure is his heart having jumped there from the sheer fear he is feeling. Blue Beetle drops, just drops, to his knees, the incredibly bulky armour somehow not as threatening. There is another groan, and Bart wonders if this is the real Blue Beetle because it seems that he's in pain and it isn't possible to hurt Blue Beetle is it?
The last thing he expected is what happens next.
The armour begins to fall away.
It starts with the glowing blue lines fading away, followed by large chunks of blue and grey falling clean off. The armour is no longer a huge, hulking monster, but rather seems to be a single layer covering over a distinctly human body. That then goes too, retreating from the body until it cultivates in a small scarab on their back.
The figure now free of the armour is shaking, and stories begin to come back to him; stories of a person inside Blue Beetle, of the Reach scarabs needing 'host bodies' to do anything.
Was this Blue Beetle? The one under the armour?
The person looks up, meets Bart's eyes. He pushes himself up until he is standing, and even then he wobbles slightly. Suddenly, Bart doesn't feel as afraid, but the knowledge that mere moments before Blue Beetle had been there causes him to still feel it.
"I don't have long," the person says, still looking him in the eye.
"He'll recover soon, but I need to you to listen to me, please, just listen to me,"
The tone and the voice itself in fact, aren't what he's heard from Blue Beetle before. They're genuinely pleading to just be heard, and he finds himself nodding.
"You're going to go to the past, try to fix things. I'm not going to stop you, there's just a warning I need to give you. It won't make much sense now, but you'll understand when the time comes. You know you have to stop me going on mode. Don't trust Green- aagh!"
He cuts himself off with a cry of pain before he can finish. The armour begins to extend again.
The person's eyes turn panicked and worried.
"Run!" he shouts.
"I can't hold him off long, run!"
Bart runs. Jaime doubles over on the ground, trying to force the armour back. It starts to creep forwards against his efforts, but before it has a chance to retake control, the world around him begins to shift and change.
Jaime looks up to the sky, where the polluted, cloudy grey is slowly giving way to the clear blue he grew up with. A single ray of sunlight breaks through and a smile breaks out on his face despite everything.
"Well done, hermano," he whispers before, along with the timeline, he too begins to change.
In the past, Bart wonders about the small part of the warning that he got before it was cut off. Don't trust green what?
It remains in the back of his mind, even as he is swept up with the Team and missions and the sheer joy of being in the past and free.
It isn't until they meet Green Beetle that he starts to think that he might know what it means. When M'gann's eyes stop glowing and she turns to them, saying "Green Beetle is on our side," he suddenly just knows. He just knows that she's wrong. He doesn't know how he just does.
His head erupts into pain, and he clutches his head in pain. Beside him, he can hear Jaime do the same. Images flash past, memories that are his, but not.
Jumping out of the time machine.
"Impulse? That's so crash! Catchy, dramatic, one word. Like Nightwing, or Robin, or Beast Boy. Except, that's two words. Blue Beetle's two words! Is he here too? Never mind, Impulse can find that out for himself!"
In a fight, in the Cave."Hah! Ice on the floor so the speedster can't gain traction, right? Wrong!"
Worrying about a friend, getting them away from the Reach. They're talking "No...I would never..." cutting them off "Except you do,"
A bite into an apple, a disapproving look. "What? I'm maintaining cover,"
Friend excited, looking so happy. "I'm free! Permanently free!"
Despair. Despair and sadness and guilt and failure. Didn't save him. Couldn't save him.
At least he got to go down like a hero.
His eyes flash open again, he breaths heavily. He can see the Team, looking at him worriedly. Huh, he's on the floor. When did he get on the floor? Bart pushes himself up to his knees.
He hears Jaime groan, and then scuffles as he pushes himself up into a sitting position rapidly. When Bart looks over, he's staring at his hands in disbelief.
"I'm...I'm in control?" Jaime asks, his tone disbelieving yet hopeful.
"You remember?" Bart asks, the sudden influx starting to settle into its place in his mind. Memories of the first time he came back, right up to the last moment. For some reason, the realisation that his previous trip had ended in his death didn't bother him quite as much as he thought something like that would.
"Y...yeah, I think," Jaime says "I remember trusting Green Beetle to fix the scarab...then losing control. He...he put me on mode?" the last part is phrased as a question, and Bart realises that Jaime's memories haven't allocated them as fast as Bart's did. He nods, to confirm that Jaime was right.
"Then..." Jaime's eyes widen and fill with guilt "Then I...and you...and everyone else..."
"Jaime, it wasn't your fault," Bart interrupts. Jaime tries to calm himself, but Bart can tell that he still feels guilty.
"I remember all those years, waiting, waiting for the chance to retake control from the scarab...so that I could...so I could," his forehead scrunches, and he shuts his eyes, trying to grasp the reason, which was for some reason floating just out of reach.
"So you could warn me," Bart supplies, his own memories providing the answer. It was slightly odd, having two sets of memories, but he supposes that he'll learn to live with it.
The two of them make eye contact again and in unison they repeat the one thing that, had they known the first time around, would have stopped Bart's future from happening.
"Don't trust Green Beetle,"
They know that the Team is watching them, worried, confused. Faintly, they both register the sound of an explosion, and yells of 'Don't let him get away' and Bart wonders why Green Beetle blew a hole in the wall when he could've just density shifted.
Both are feeling groggy, and slightly out of it; but then, gaining the memories of an entirely different life would do that to a person, wouldn't it?
"Hey, Jaime?" Bart asks, blinking back some blurs in his vision.
"If you have the memories of last time, which was about fifty-six years, and this time which is sixteen, does that mean that technically you're mentally seventy-two now?"
"I...don't know. Does that mean you're mentally twenty-six?"
And then they just laugh, not just because their brains are practically rearranging themselves to accommodate two sets of life's memories but because everything is fixing itself and for once they can stop worrying about timelines and the safety of the Earth long enough to do things like ask about each other's mental ages.
What is this why is it so long it wasn't meant to be this long!
And now that that is out of the way, honestly this was supposed to be a short and sweet one-shot (without the sweet part 'cause, y'know it isn't exactly fluff) but once I started writing it...mutated.
So, 'Runaways' left me with so many feels. Just...so many feels! And then the writer portion of my brain kicked in and went 'Why are you surprised? I told you this was gonna happen!' and I just went 'But I tried to convince myself it wouldn't!'. I actually find it almost creepy at how well the scarab was able to imitate Jaime at the beginning. It wasn't until the whole 'Don't stereotype!' moment that it really kicked in that it wasn't Jaime. At first, I tried to think the scarab just had a slight bit more control, hence the 'First things, first' because I just really, really didn't want it to have happened. And somehow I am convinced that 'Complications' is going to be the episode where he's revealed because of the summary.
Wow...that turned into a bit of a rant...or me babbling. Either or.
So, anybody enjoy this?