Chapter 11: Pain, Secrets, Six Months, Cupcakes
The first priority was to get the twins.
Rage filled every step Wally took as he sped into city limits. Blood flew from his nose, smudging and splattering behind him as he torpedoed through the streets and other cars. He could barely see the yellow speedster that whizzed past shrieking civilians.
Which meant Zoom was going slow enough to play a game with Wally.
His feet crushed the ground, body splicing through the air and pivoting through the throng of civilians as Zoom made sharp lefts and sharper rights—
Wait a minute. Duh. As Zoom zig-zagged through another row of buildings, Wally spun to the left side of the building.
He charged forward, slamming straight into Zoom.
"What the—" BOOM.
Zoom went flying backwards while Wally swooped the twins by the baby carriers. The redhead charged past the speedster, ignoring the angered shriek in the background. He ran the street signs through his head as he past them and darted down the road into the suburbs.
The door to the Garricks' Residence was flung open, baby carriers settled onto the couch before Wally made a U-turn.
Slamming the door behind him, Wally's eyes darted in all directions. Empty. School was still in session, and most adults were at work. He thanked the world that Jay and Joan were retired and would take care of the babies. Better care than he could now.
Wally panted, his lungs singeing in pain. He fought the urge to clutch his chest and ignored the burning sensation in his legs. It wouldn't be long until Zoom got here. If he got here.
Gritting his teeth, he rushed in the direction he came from and—
"Found you." Zoom shot toward him and slammed Wally into the ground. He chortled, voice hissing into the air.
Electricity bled in Wally's ears. He choked, knuckles stabbing into his throat as the other man swept him off his feet. Green eyes darted in several directions, with the air slapping Wally against his back. Zoom only laughed. Harshly.
The bigger speedster swung Wally by the leg and dragged him across the ground. Wally shouted, head ramming into asphalt. He twisted his body, bare palms dragging against rocks. Jaw tightening, he swiveled his body and dug nails into a building.
Zoom staggered back for just one moment. Good. Biting his lip, Wally hooked his ankle around the other speedster's—causing Zoom to actually trip over the ground. He hit dirt with the edge of his jaw and tasted both blood and grass in his mouth. Wally rolled against the ground and hit his ribs into a fire hydrant.
Before the pain could settle in, Zoom plucked the other speedster off the ground. He raised Wally off the ground and inspected him. The bound redhead waved his legs over the ground, clutched the grip Zoom had over his shirt, and curled his other hand into a—
He couldn't. "What the—"
Wally's eyes darted to his bloodied hand—his dead hand that was covered in black-and-red slits, swollen, with fingers that were stiff as a long piece of wood. Dammit. Wally curled his hand experimentally; writhing against the grip Zoom had on him, and muffled a shout of pain. His ribs were searing.
Yet at that moment, Zoom was focused on the hand that couldn't fold at Wally's will; the one that threatened to dangle at his side. His face twisted in eerie amusement, eyes burning holes into Wally's skull. He shook Wally like an instrument.
"Let. Me. Go," Wally snarled. He tried to kick, feeling a foot dangle limply in the air. The formula was already working in his head. Too much stress, added onto running at an abnormal speed. His body cocooned itself, refusing to allow Wally to inch further and be stronger than the lunatic above him.
He was burnt out.
His dead arm lay limply to the side, and Wally saw black spots at the corner of his vision.
Zoom threw him against the ground and yanked the young man by his dead and bloody arm. He squinted at it, and smirked. "Jay Garrick is significant because he is the first Flash. Barry Allen is the Fastest Man Alive." Wait a minute— "His twins and his grandson—they all are genetic offspring due to breeding. And what are you?"
"The first Kid Flash," Wally glared. He pulled back—and was yanked forward. Zoom kneed him in the stomach. "Ah—!"
"A failed copy who can't use test tubes." Zoom broke into another run, stringing Wally along against the asphalt. He looked over his shoulder, maniacal grin settled across his lips, and narrowed his eyes at the grimace across Wally's face.
Green eyes were planted to his feet, where the soles of his shoes dragged across the ground. Wally cringed—and he felt the knife stabbing his tendon. The pain carved a path up his calves with dangerous nails, and his entire body faltered over the ground. He tossed a scowl in Zoom's direction, with his vision collecting with black stars.
"Not an Allen, not a Thawne," Zoom murmured demurely. He yanked Wally closer, so his other hand could pierce the other speedster's ribcage. "Just a piece of trash we purebreds kick on the road on our way to something better, you half-breed West."
The pain climbed up the rest of Wally's body, noise bleeding in his ears. He choked on one breath, two, three, and felt the energy that once worked for him slap him in the face and deny him any relief. Wally shouted, debris embedding into his eyes.
Every step Zoom took only made the pain come faster.
The speedster took steps that embedded into the ground, with electricity that surrounded the both of them. Zoom hummed to it, Wally shouted and wriggled against it. The yellow speedster hauled the redhead over his shoulder.
Looking at their intended pathway, Wally's eyes bulged out of his sockets and his teeth shattered against his tongue. They went faster, so the pain surrounding him came faster. Zoom rocketed forward, his flesh and heinous yellow suit blinking white. Electricity surrounded them like storm clouds and took every chance to fire at Wally.
Just like in Antarctica.
The overall pain struck Wally to the core, until his insides were incinerated beneath the hollow shell of skin. Wally'd shut his eyes a long time ago. He let the pain of his own numbness consume him, shouting and spasming against everything else.
When he opened his eyes again, Wally was in a crater.
Asphalt dented around him, with the lowest point where his body was. Wally saw nothing more than the ripped rise and fall of his chest, and a leg that was bent at a crooked angle. He could feel the blood panicking in his chest to his stomach, and from one shoulder to his elbow. Screams echoed, people coming in and out of the colored points of his vision.
Through a black spot, he could faintly hear boots mount into the brim of the crater.
Through a faintly colored edge, Wally made out the combat boots of one of his oldest friends. He moved his head an inch, and felt bile edging out of his mouth. Green eyes narrowed to the sound in question. Sure enough—he could vaguely make out the sign for Melody's.
"What just happened to y-?" Superboy collapsed to his knees, ear pressed against Wally's chest. Too-blue eyes stared at him in disbelief, mouth agape. He turned his head back to the café—then back to Wally.
"Did you see me inside?" Wally asked, voice gravelly. He could hear sirens sounding in the distance.
Conner twitched, clearly not trusting of him. "Yes."
That explained what took so long. Wally reached out, his palm covered in blood, cuts, and stinging swat, and curled it against Conner's jeans. "W-We need to get out of here. Far away. The m-me in there is going to be fine, so are the twins."
That made Conner less doubtful. He straightened. "We can go to—"
"N-Not Central. No where need the fam." Wally's hand trembled. "Don't tell the team. Not yet."
"What happened? Why were you screaming on the ground?"
He saw that too? Eyes squeezing shut, Wally did the best he could to sit up. He couldn't. "You'll need to carry me."
"Why?' Conner demanded. His hand squeezed the speedster's shoulder tightly, helping the rest of the redhead to stand up.
Wally shuddered, looking at the feet that touched the ground. "Because I can't feel my legs."
The armor was form-fitting and nearly pitch black. Nightwing traded in his thick ninja tabis in favor of thicker boots. It looked less like a uniform he would have taken to the gym, and fit the anxiety that was obvious across his face. He remained on the platform even two hours after the last mission, breaking into the new uniform. His hands fell to the escrima sticks more than once, using them in a defensive maneuver that looked awkward if it were still Robin, the Boy Wonder.
But it was still Dick Grayson. Wally's Dick Grayson.
He must have watched at the end of the corridor for a good twenty minutes, how his best friend filled in the uniform a lot better than Robin ever did.
Wally observed every aspect of his best friend, who filled out nicely in his sixteen years of existence. He looked bolder—better, with a somberness to him. Curling his fingers into the juncture of his other forearm, Wally bit the inside of his mouth and moved to rub his fingers. They were numb, like when they'd fall asleep on him for sitting on his hand too long. (Not that he did that. Because. Well, that was weird.)
It was just a good thing that he didn't have an attack while out on the field today.
"No cape?" Wally called out.
His voice echoed off cave walls, no doubt heard by the teen. Dick froze in battle stance. He cocked his head, and a smile spread across his lips. Blue eyes suddenly popped out, fingers brushing against a hidden button against his mask. "No cape."
"Shame," the other teen muttered halfheartedly. He walked into their Main-Ops room and waltzed onto the platform goofy enough for Dick to laugh. "How's Jason doing?"
"No secret-IDs at the cave," was the instant reply. Dick folded his arms over his chest, a good-natured smile curling on his lip. "But—if you have to ask. Yeah, he's doing well."
"Good. And," Wally's tone dropped, his eyebrows furrowing sheepishly. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and rocked between his heels. "You doing well?"
The smile on Dick's face was penchant, but Wally knew asking that question was stupid. He knew how to read Dick better than anyone; better than any of the girlfriends that sought him out. That fact alone made Wally smut; superior to anyone who ever thought they were good enough for his best bro.
"My best friend and his girlfriend—my two best friends just finished their last mission on the team successfully and I was promoted leader because Kaldur needed to cope with his personal life." Dick picked up his eskrima sticks from the ground, rubbed them between the palms of his hands, and restrapped them onto his thigh. He paused, inspecting his new gloves before turning his head to his best friend.
"Too much to handle at once?" Wally guessed, when there was a lapse in their conversation.
Dick snorted. "I can handle everything just fine."
"Wow." Wally's gaze narrowed pointedly, mirth curling in his smile. "A bit of an ego on that Dick, isn't there?"
"Ha. Ha." For a moment, the smile on Nightwing's face seemed more honest. He slid a glove off his hand, making it seem like the sexiest thing in the world, and did the same with the other. Dick ran bare fingers through his hair and moved to get off the platform. "I guess I should make sure Jason hasn't destroyed the Batcave just yet."
Wally sped in front of him, blocking the sixteen-year-old's pathway to the hall. He held his arms out, expression doubtful, but smile full. "Let's spar."
It goaded another snort. Dick's face twisted, looking more childish than before, with a crooked smile that couldn't maintain a serious demeanor. "I'd kick your ass."
"You don't know that for—"
"Yeah—" Nightwing hooked an ankle behind Wally's leg and tripped him.
"Oof! Dude!" Wally landed on his back, a groan spiraling out of his mouth, his head slamming into the ground. He looked up, nothing the impractical laugh that fluttered out of Dick's mouth.
"—I do." Dick clutched his stomach, his high laughter turning into low chortles. He stood at the redhead's feet, his expression twisted smugly, and crossed his arms over his chest. "Anything else?"
"Yeah." The elder teen glared playfully at his best friend and rolled to his feet. Pulling the sleeve to his shirt to his elbows, Wally assumed is usually battle stance. "I let you have that one."
This time, the smile faded. Dick's stature tightened. He took long steps behind him toward the middle of the platform and put the gloves back on. "You sure you want to do that?"
Rocking between his feet, Wally nodded. "Definitely."
"Okay." The younger teen nodded stiffly and assumed a battle stance. The smile disappeared from his face, stature even more tense than when they began. They rotated around each other, noting the movements of their opponent. Wally forced the smile across his face.
After a tense silence, Wally asked, "So what's with the name change, anyway? Robin's basically your thing." Calling him Nighty just didn't have the same effect. He wiggled his eyebrows, provoking a small smile from the other teen. Lunging forward, Wally threw a punch at his best friend.
Nightwing ducked his head and blocked with his forearm. He pushed Wally back with his knee. "I had to step up as leader since Kaldur's absence. You know that. Robin just wasn't—"
"He's my best friend." Wally caught a blow, gripping his hand over Dick's ankle as the other teen delivered a high kick. He stepped back, then looked up curiously to the hollow white lenses. The corner of his lip curled into a smile. For a moment, they paused—only staring at each other. "I've known the guy since he was like, yay big." He gestured with his other hand, causing that dashing smile to spread.
"Robin is just a stage name." Dick twirled his body—and suddenly, he kicked Wally back with his free leg. "Just the second part of Batman and Robin. Bats needs one, but I don't need to be it."
"Oof!" Wally fell to the floor, jaw throbbing and elbows pressed against the ground. He looked up to the hand offered out at him and pushed to his feet. "Again."
"Again?" The younger teen blinked.
Wally nodded. "Again."
Once more, they took opposing sides of the arena, battle stances placed. Wally raised his head, scrutinizing his best friend's demeanor. They spun axels with their feet, waiting for one to provoke the other. Nightwing stepped forward, leg between Wally's feet. They were close enough, so Wally could feel puffs of hot air against his skin. Close enough to be at eye-level. When did little Dickie turn into such a babe?
Biting the inside of his mouth, Wally swept down for a low kick. Dick leaped up, dodging with incredible graze before treading four steps back. He kicked Wally's fist away when the redhead punched the air, and flung Wally against the ground.
Again, Wally hit the platform with his back and cringed in pain. He seethed. Then—"Again."
"You really want to get your ass kicked again?" Before anything, Dick addressed him. He reached out, helping the speedster off the ground. There was a mixture of amusement and irritation in his voice—but mostly a condemning tone. One that was waiting for Wally to leave.
Taking in a sharp breath, Wally rubbed his aching jaw and raised his head. He curled his hand against Dick's palm and tilted his head to inspect the other boy further. "Until you're not angry at me anymore."
He watched Dick freeze, the younger teen's jaw tightening at the claim. Dick pulled his hand back, observing Wally observe him, and his lips curled into a frown. A minute passed, where neither said a word. Dick shook his head and turned away, pinching the bridge of his nose. "What makes you think I'm mad at you?"
"Because you're my best pal. I'd be mad if you weren't angry at me." Wally twisted his footing, blocking Dick's path to get away. He grabbed Dick by the arm, biting his lip when his numb fingers brushed on the underside of Dick's wrist. "Dick, talk to me. Please."
"Uh, yeah." Grip tightening, Wally used his other hand to grab Dick's attention. He tilted his head curiously, red eyebrows furrowing together, then searched for the hidden button on Nightwing's mask.
In a matter of seconds, cool blue eyes locked onto him, glistening with the hidden hesitation Wally'd anticipated. They were the same orbs that always made him lose his voice and make his heart skip a beat. Dick raised his head, almost in defiance, and shook off the speedster's grip. He took in one long breath, then let it out with reluctance. "This needs to work."
"Kaldur is going to do fine. He's the best agent we've got." Voice dropping, Wally moved in closer. His lips curled into a frown and he crossed his arms. "He'll get up there, find out who the Light is. And when they least expect it, we'll infiltrate."
It was a risky plan—but by now, after three years into its creation, no one doubted Kaldur. It required strategic execution—something they were all beginning to learn as they got older. Got missions that were on par with the League's.
"C'mon, you and Kaldur made it foolproof," he murmured. Wally's gaze narrowed to those blue eyes, searching for an ounce of hope. "I trust you."
For another moment, Dick was silent. He allowed himself to turn away from Wally's expression, arms crossed over his chest. Dick shut his eyes, replacing the opaque lenses over his face. "And when it all blows over, you'll still be in retirement."
"Yeah." Though Wally couldn't conjure a different answer for that. He combed a hand through his hair. "I'll still be in retirement."
To his surprise, Dick's shoulders hunched closer to his ears. He looked away, foot tapping against the ground and mouth still in a firm line. A twinge of guilt flickered in Wally's stomach, and he ignored every instinct that demanded he told the truth.
Why he was forcing himself to go into retirement.
"I'll miss you." Wally brushed a hand over his best friend's shoulder. They stood parallel to each other, the tips of their toes touching, and his gaze took in Dick's eyes. Red hair fell into his gaze as he pleaded Dick to look at him.
His heart skipped four beats until Dick relented, his hands falling to his sides. Beneath the thin mask, ebony eyebrows furrowed and the younger teen looked up.
"Call me." Wally gripped Nightwing by both shoulders. "If it gets rough. When it gets rough. I'm always here to call you out and tell you when you're stupid. You're my partner."
"Thanks." A quiet sigh left Dick's mouth—maybe relief. The resident acrobat lowered his head, and they bumped noses. "I think I'm going to take you up on that offer."
"Yeah you will."
Silence. Wally noted every worry crease in the younger teen's face, and felt the guilt consume his chest. Watching up close, he could see the ebony locks that wrinkled from Dick's anxiety, and the lips that'd forgotten how to smile. His heart skipped a beat.
Starting tomorrow, he would go off to Stanford University, and he'd no longer be Kid Flash.
He'd never greet his best friend again as his partner.
It'd only take a few days, he was sure, for Dick to be acquainted with someone else. For him to find someone who met his requirements for the team and to become his partner. Raquel was already sweet on him while girls in every continent swooned for that Dick Grayson charm. Wally had gotten used to watching from the sidelines, seeing that Disney-Prince-like smile that Dick flashed to every boy and girl that looked at him.
And now—instead of making fun of every girl that checked Dick out, Wally would probably only hear about it over the phone. He would rot and singe in his own jealousy.
"I should get out of this uniform," Dick murmured. He swung out of Wally's grip, picking apart both utility belts and his gloves. He looked over his shoulder when he stood four feet away, and tilted his head. "Unless you want to spar again."
It was the first time all evening that Dick jested. The last that Wally would hear as Kid Flash, too. He shoved his hands in his pockets and shrugged, a soft smile curling across his face. "No. I. Trust me, my ass has been thoroughly kicked."
They smiled at each other for what felt like ages, with only the echoes of Conner, M'gann, and Gar down the hall in the other room. Dick shifted his footing and touched a hand against the wall. He cleared his throat and cocked his head to the floor. "Ahem. You and Artemis…keep the plan in mind."
His girlfriend of three years, who was waiting for him in the souvenir room. Wally nodded gently. "Um. Yeah. Artemis."
"Bye, KF—Wally." Dick's nose wrinkled. "Yeah. Bye, Wally."
He waited until his best friend turned around—and watched Dick leave.
Smallville was the last minute decision in order to leave the situation quickly without too much debate. With Flash living in the next city over, giant craters with strange people sitting at the bottom of them was not above the norm. Cows mooed, chickens clucked, and pigs snorted with enthusiasm when they heard their favorite Boy of Steel arrived on the property. Wally visited the Kent Farm once, back when he was still on the team and Conner begged for a buddy to sit in a Kent Family dinner with him. He recalled distant relatives he had in Oklahoma, who did the whole barn thing in a small town that consisted of a mini-mart and a gas station.
Once Mrs. Kent took in the sight of him, she scurried for the first-aid kit while Conner placed Wally gently on the bed.
The next hour was spent dutifully applying ointment on burn marks, Wally protesting about cotton balls soaked with disinfectant, and Mrs. Kent calmly ordering him to shut up more than once. (The very last problem, Mrs. Kent said in prettier, scarier words.)
By the end of it, Wally remained on a bed, staring at a baby blue ceiling painted with clouds and stars. The bed was an extra long twin, like the one at Wally's dorm room when he still lived on campus. Judging by the collection of books on a bookshelf and the few memorabilia (baseball, football, model airplanes), the room was definitely met for a colossal teenager.
Or, more correctly, the colossal teenager.
His inner fanboy, even after all of these years, wanted to high-five himself for being in Superman's house. The other part of him—the parts of him that hurt, burned, and were swollen, forgot to be flattered. Wally had bandages coiled over both hands, and an arm that rested in a sling. One ankle was lifted over a stack of books, and a pattern of bandages adorned his face like freckles.
Eventually he stirred awake, feeling like he'd run straight into a wall. Or five. The heavy steps of the person who brought him here was undeniable against the stairs. He looked up, gaze in slits at the door as it slowly opened, and pushed up against the headboard.
Conner entered the room, a wary expression on his face and a glass of water in his hand. His demeanor broke, worry lines in every crease of his face, and he placed the glass on the nightstand. A hand brushed against Wally's back, guiding him into a sitting position.
"Morning," Wally muttered groggily. He rubbed the sand out of his eyes—then winced, realizing his flesh was replaced with medical tape.
"Close," Conner responded. He fluffed a pillow (looking almost maternal, Wally mused wearily), then handed the glass of water to his old teammate. "It's three AM. You've been eight hours."
"I didn't contact the team. Not yet," Conner added, voice harsh. He stared at the other man sternly. "I wasn't sure how to explain things to him. Flash knows we got sidetracked by superhero matters. He's trusted me to make sure you're okay."
"He's preoccupied with the twins," Wally corrected. He winced, then pressed the heel of his palm against his pounding jaw. "Speaking of which—"
"They're alright." Conner nudged the cold glass against Wally's face, eyebrows furrowing. "Ma says you need to keep hydrated. If you're going to explain everything that's happened thus far to me, I'd rather it was all in one breath."
Gaze narrowing to the clear glass, Wally bit the inside of his mouth. His eyes squeezed shut, debating his options, and he shook his head.
All the while, his friend stared at him expectantly, impatiently with a growl. Supey never did have the best time coping with the situation if any of his teammates were compromised. Well—ex-teammate. Wally corrected himself behind his pounding headache.
"Wally," Conner growled. "I want you to tell me what happened to bring us from that café to here. If you don't take this glass of water—"
"I can't hold it." The redhead cut him off. Expression hardening, Wally pressed his free, dead arm against his lap and struggled to move his fingers. They wouldn't budge. Looking back up, he took in Supey's questioning look. "I, uh. I lost the feeling in my hand a while back, Supey. I can't move it."
"It's…like that for the rest of me too. I'm slowly losing feeling in every part of my body. The doctor says my body will decay, until it seems like I'm living through rigor mortis."
"My speed." Wally's eyes squeezed shut and he shivered, the ache from Zoom's hits returning to mind. He knew better than to accuse the rat for his own problems. "My speed's been killing me since I was eighteen."
The entire story came out, tumbling from Wally's mouth through short sips of water. The rush came coming back, the feeling of someone stabbing his calves up to his entire body, until his heart felt like it was vibrating so fast that it could coming out of his chest. Since the fight with Zoom, the numbness in his dead arm had spread up his shoulder, making it hard to twist. Conner remained silent, nodding through the story and expression souring with every word.
He explained what happened when he was eighteen, up to the past year what he'd felt. By the end of it, Wally wasn't surprised by the scowl he received.
"I've been keeping this secret for far too long," Wally tested carefully. His eyebrows furrowed, gaze narrowing at the other man. "You can't tell anyone."
Conner's hands clenched into fists. He set the empty glass aside after feeding the fallen speedster, and pointed accusingly to him. "Wrong. You have to tell everyone."
"What, you're just going to force me to go up to the team, of whom I haven't stood on equal grounds with since June, and tell them that I've been hiding this secret since I was eighteen? That's not going to cut it, Con." Wally inched off the mattress—
And to his surprise, his bare feet stood solid against the cold ground. Wally stumbled at first, like he did every morning as his body reminded himself he was losing function of his legs. He leaned into the nightstand with his hip, unable to curl his dead hand near the alarm clock. Wally blinked.
"My legs are working again."
It was painfully obvious as Conner watched the entire display, jaw tight. He reached forward, gingerly helping his old teammate stand straight up on his feet. Then, the frustration on his face finally changed into concern. Partially. "Why would you keep this a secret?"
Eyes squeezing shut, Wally inhaled sharply and felt his ears turn pink. It was awkward discussing the situation with someone other than Bart. The sensation in his stomach was neither relief nor panic. Opening his eyes again, the voice that came out of his mouth felt dimmer. "What was I supposed to say?" he asked weakly. Wally's lip twitched, gaze falling to the ground. "Kaldur left so that we could fulfill the undercover mission. Artemis and I left the team, and Dick got promoted to leader. The Flash was losing Kid Flash as his partner, but how the hell do you tell him he's losing his nephew, too?"
"That's not how you handle things, Wally." Conner glared in aggravation, fist rising in anger. He ceased, remarking his own actions, and seethed. "How do you dupe your own girlfriend for five years about what's been really happening to you?"
Even from where Wally was standing, he could tell that Supey was trying to find a medium between anger and fear from him. Wally's shoulders tensed and his brow furrowed. "So long as I stopped running, I didn't accelerate the problem. I was able to hide it, and tell when I would have an attack. Not only that, but for over eight months, my girlfriend was prepping for an undercover mission to reveal who the Light really was."
"And yet you were only a zeta-beam tube away from coming to the Cave—"
"I was scared, alright, genius? Fine. If that's what you really want me to say, I'll tell you that." Wally took one tentative step forward, scowling at the other man. It certainly caught his attention. His heart beat painfully in his chest, throbbing from defeat against Zoom, and from what he was finally confessing. "I didn't even know what was happening to me at the time; and if this turned out to be some weird speedster cancer, I didn't want you to act differently around me, or dote on me while I was Kid Flash. Or—or look at me like that, Supey."
"How do you expect me to react—"
"I expect you to keep your voice down so all of Kansas doesn't hear you screaming at me." Wally limped forward and stood at an arch with Conner. His back was hunched in an obtuse angle, dead hand melted onto the nightstand. His breath hastened, and he gritted his teeth.
It all deteriorated into a standoff, with Wally scowling and Supey ready to punch him. Neither looked eager to give in to the other's claim. Conner broke his stance—then shoved Wally back onto the mattress.
"Who else knows?"
Wally fidgeted. "Just Bart. He called me out on it. You weren't even supposed to find out." Conner just caught him at the worst possible moment, and from there, he couldn't jump back on his feet. Staring at his swollen ankle—Wally only winced.
He didn't know if he could jump back on his feet. Not if he ran again.
"You've got two choices, Wally. Either we go down there, right now, and you tell them, or I drag you, and I tell them." Conner's lips broke into a grimace. He loomed over the other man, arms folded against his chest. "And it's going to be told. Understood?"
"Hey. No one ever fucking outed you when you found out Lex Luthor was your weird baby daddy."
"That was different. You didn't know about—"
"And you weren't supposed to know about this. Con. It's my secret!" Wally crawled across the small twin bed to stand to his feet again—but Conner blocked his way. The Boy of Steel's eyes were suddenly fixated on his friend's legs, and Wally bit back his need to groan. The frustration helped. "You weren't supposed to know about it, and you practiced your dumb hobby with patches."
"Conner." Wally struggled to cross his legs. His heart throbbed painfully in his chest and he hissed.
"The sooner we tell the team, the sooner you get better." Conner sidestepped Wally once more, forcing the redhead to look at hi. His hands dropped to his sides, coiling into fists, and his eyebrows furrowed together. Big blue eyes flickered worriedly. Oh, god. The puppy dog look. "You need to get better."
Once the statement reached Wally's ears, his resolve softened. His expression twisted, eyebrows pinching together and gaze locked on the other boy.
It just…really hurt, seeing how Conner stared at him.
"I will, Con. I've…got a team of medics," Wally lied. He leaned back against the wall and winced at the arm resting in his sling. "I'll get better."
Every bit of Supey twitched. They stared at each other once more with less animosity, and Conner's lips contorted into a small straight line. He leaned over to the bed and—gingerly—looped an arm around Wally.
One of the infamous, patented Boy of Steel hugs that broke your bones and turned your heart into goo. Wally hitched a breath—struggled—and managed to loop his dead arm around the big guy.
"So what happens now?" Conner murmured. For such a man-boy, his chest rumbling shook every bit of Wally.
The redhead shrugged with one shouldr and wiggled out of Conner's grip. He bit the inside of his mouth.
"Now I visit STAR Labs, and hope they won't kill me."
Sure enough, Attar, Cheung, and Shriver were ready to strangle him once he arrived back in Palo Alto the next day. Wally'd switched the sling over to his dead arm and manhandled a bike to the town's division of STAR Labs. (Falling off his bike and onto the sidewalk was less dangerous than losing function of his legs while pressing the accelerator on the road.) The swelling on his head wound had gone down enough after he iced it, along with his twisted ankle. He applied the aloe vera Mrs. Kent gave him and tucked both hands in gloves before taking off.
When he got there (late), semi-battered up and legs stiff, they flashed him looks and ordered him to dress in a patient gown. They took scans of his body, as always, tests of his reaction time and reflexes, and drew blood. Dr. Attar had frowned—mumbling to himself before drawing blood a second time. Dizzy, Wally was given a bottle of water to drink dry before he was instructed to run.
One step. Two tentative steps. Everything from the knee down felt numb—a forewarning, just like the loss of function of his left hand. The run was awkward, wind slapping against the sling as he trudged forward. Eventually, Wally found a comfortable speed to carry forward and leaned forward.
It wasn't like running against Zoom. Relief stuttered from his mouth instead of panic, and each step matched his heartbeat. Wally twisted, running in circles—and ignored the impassive looks given by the doctors. If he looked close enough during his run, he would have noticed the pity in their eyes.
Eventually, Wally wheezed. He came to a steady halt when he felt the sharp pain in his stomach. Cheung passed him a bottle of water—another, that he swallowed until it was empty, while Attar passed him a towel.
Then, more scans, more tests, more blood drawn.
Out of exhaustion, Wally waited the following hour in the scientists' cafeteria and ordered a gray colored hotdog. He ignored the anxiety culminated in his stomach, instead slobbing both mustard and ketchup over his lunch before eating it whole. His phone vibrated against his pocket when Conner texted him.
Wally placed his orange juice on his tray and licked the residue off his upper lip. He fiddled with the phone, onehanded. 'At STAR now. You can stop worrying now. '
Two seconds later, Conner responded. 'You're my friend. I'll never stop worrklmg.'
A smile quirked across Wally's face. He dragged a foot against his chair and typed his idle reply. 'I think your thumbs are too big for the keys there, Supey.' Once he was done, Wally chucked the phone across the table and stared at it. Two more seconds passed, and Conner responded again.
Before he had the chance to look it over, another intern appeared—one of the girls meant to follow Attar. She was a petite Korean woman in the same major as Wally; one of the girls he often saw in the same building, but never seen in the same class. Once she appeared, Wally hauled himself out of the seat and reached for his sling. He struggled until she came over and reworked it over his shoulder.
"Thanks," he murmured with relief. Wally scanned her nametag. "Uh. Linda."
"You're welcome." She nodded her head. Her eyebrows meshed together, perplexed, then she nodded her head in the direction of Shriver's lab. "They're ready to see you now."
Whether or not she actually recognized him, Wally wasn't sure. He pretended not to be familiar since in a few short months, Wally'd gone from a fellow intern to a test subject. As Attar's intern, she definitely knew, even if nothing was said.
He carried himself into the room, where all three doctors turned their heads to him, and shut the door behind him. Wally took the nearest chair and rolled toward the doctors. "So? What's the verdict?"
"We've isolated the problem."
"That's what you did last time, Doc. Too much energy accumulated in my body, the not enough when I run. Get your facts right." Wally spun around in his chair and blew the hair out of his eyes. He slouched, then looked over to see that no one in the trio was laughing. Which—was normal. But. None got on his case for jesting, either. Wally scooted closer on his seat and sat straighter against the chair. His eyebrows furrowed. "Alright. What's going to happen to me?"
They gave him a clipboard that monitored all of his test results in the past year since he arrived. Everything else from his tests an hour ago was pinned on a wall so he could see.
Dr. Shriver gestured to his blood tests, where Wally frowned. "Your red blood cell count has dropped significantly since your battle with Zoom yesterday. It has deceased gradually over the past eight months, hinting toward anemia. However, blood drawn from what you call your 'dead' arm versus your other arm, shows a red blood cell count closer to average."
Wally flexed his good arm and looked at the other pressed against his chest. "So…what? Iron supplements?"
"Because of the experiment that gave you your powers, you have hyper accelerated cell regeneration when you are hit. The head-wound you described would take the normal human at least a week to heal, along with the probability of concussion." Dr. Shriver gestured to the X-Ray of Wally's arm and she frowned. "Along with the Flash, the regeneration of your skin cells would suggest that you will still have the physique of a healthy twenty-five-year-old man by the time you're fifty."
"But my physiology isn't like the Flash's." Wally's grip tightened over the clipboard and he bit the inside of his mouth. Looking at the results, they were right—his red blood cell count faced a significant drop because of his fight with Zoom. "I screwed up."
"Yes. We…factored that into the equation when drawing test results." Dr. Shriver's eyes flickered painfully beneath the stoic mask.
"It appears that your somatosensory system foreshadows where you will lose function in your body." Attar gestured to the neuroimaging of imaging of his brain. "When you are touched, the message should be sent to the sensory cortex in your parietal lobe. It is not. Your brain is tricked into believing those numb body parts do not need the proper amount of oxygen, thusly decreasing the flow of blood in those said appendages until it is reduced to nothing. Your next attack would suggest amputating your hand."
His entire body drew cold. Wally cocked his head, staring at the trio with a frown. He massaged his dead hand. "You're saying to cut off everything that's lost sensation."
"How does that factor into my spasms? You told me my body was releasing stored energy when I don't run and locks me up before I can actually run." His eyebrows pinched together.
"Without the proper blood flow, the tissue death should appear numb and painful. Your hyper-accelerated healing acts as a sedative, throwing off the latter. But combined with your metabolism, it increases the rate red blood cells are created and tries to revive those dead tissues." Dr. Cheung grimaced. "That is Problem A. Where the red blood cells accumulate and try to compensate for what it has lost. It cannot flow through numb areas. That results in your painful spasms. Those numb limbs thusly have even less oxygen flow than before."
"For Problem B, your body is running on that short level of oxygen." Shriver shook her head.
"Like Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes," Wally translated. He set the clipboard on a table and looked up. His heart pumped in his ears. "Where insulin cannot be produced in the body, or is rejected when made. Just…replace insulin with my red blood cells."
His doctors nodded solemnly, and Wally's heart sunk in his chest.
He folded both hands together, stirring his feet against the ground, and shut his eyes. The information ran through his head like a marquee. "What's going to happen to me?"
Without his sight, Wally only heard their hesitation. Papers shuffled, and Shriver spoke again. "I'm afraid you will lose the feeling throughout your body. Your blood flow will be redirected, body attacked, and numbness growing. The blood flow will soon decrease until you lose function or vital organs."
"You have six months to live, Mr. West…Wallace." Shriver placed her paperwork on a desk and stared at the ground. "And that is only if you no longer use your powers. We are adamant about it."
The next few days were spent in solitude, where Wally did his school work and reported to the intern-type tasks. He debated on dropping out of his senior year to move to Keystone early. There was no point in living in a large house by himself with his dog—just like there was no point in going to school. He would be dead before he could graduate, and wouldn't be able to pursue his job as a scientist at STAR Labs.
The day after Wally was informed, he mapped out the rest of his six months, going as far as the apartment he found in Keystone and a job he could receive. Auto-mechanics were always needed, especially in the twin cities of Central City and Keystone City. He was speedy, even without his speed, and spent enough time beneath his family's cars. The money that he made could go into savings account and after he passed away, could pay off a number of his parents' debts.
Even if he wanted to put up a fight, the doctors were against it. Any reckless move could end up accelerating Wally's death.
He didn't get back to his house until after midnight. The sky was dark, with the faintest amount of purplish blue that faded away beneath clouds. Wally greeted his neighbors with a tired smile, waving, and climbed the stairs. Bart texted him three times, asking if he wanted company. It was only a matter of time until he came barging through the door, demanding why Wally kept saying no.
There wasn't an easy way to tell his baby cousin he was dying.
Wally was dying.
His hand curled against the doorknob and squeezed tightly. It was a matter of time, he knew, before it happened. But he never wanted to live it.
There was no cure. Opening the door, Wally seethed beneath his breath and shuffled inside. He'd never answered Conner back about his results. By the looks of things, it was time to tell everyone.
Time to watch them all burst into tears since the Great Wall-Man was dying. Scratching the back of his head, Wally groaned to himself. He would have to find a way to tell the—
A small puff of fire stood out in the darkness before he turned the lights on. It rested on the kitchen counter, illuminating nearby cabinets and the textbooks he'd been meaning to sell back at the student union. Wally stared wide-eyed, and his heart hammered in his chest. He even smiled.
"You know," the redhead said aloud, then took tentative steps forward, "eventually I'm going to put security alarms on that window."He ignored the light switch, instead walking forward toward the kitchen counter. Brucely panted in the darkness, evidently happy with whoever else was in the room.
"That's not as fun." Dick switched on the kitchen light, and the small cupcake appeared. Red velvet with vanilla icing, rainbow sprinkles, and a plastic lightning bolt that stuck out to the candle. He pushed it toward the other man, a smile quirked on his face. "Happy Birthday."
Wally blinked. He'd been lost at the nice blue shirt and the pin-stripe vest over his best friend's chest. Dick's hair was combed back, parted neatly so gorgeous cerulean blue eyes were in plain sight. Once the words reached his ears, he pulled out his phone. Forty-five minutes past midnight, November 10th. The day before his birthday.
Dick snorted. "Don't tell me you forgot."
Yes. "Yeah—says Mister Workaholic, who'd rather do missions than celebrate like a normal person." Wally ignored Conner's recent text message and shoved the phone back in his pocket. He leaned over the counter, inhaling the scent of red velvet—then looked at the tiny fire that reflected in Dick's eyes. His chest tightened, ears warm, and a smile spread across his lips. "Thanks for remembering for me."
"What I do best," Dick murmured. The shadows of his smile darkened against the tiny light and he rested his head against his hand. "Why don't you make a wish, Fastest Teen Alive?"
"Not a teen anymore." Lips quirking into a wider smile, Wally laughed. He stared at the candle, debating his options—then closed his eyes to blow it out.
The candle relit. Dick threw his head back and cackled.
"You bought a trick candle? What are you, five?"
"Apparently you're not any older if you actually fell for that." The old Boy Wonder snickered and plucked the candle out of the cupcake. He ran water over it until the fire faded. "Sorry I haven't been around. Bats requested me on a lot of missions lately."
"Is that the truth?"
The faucet turned off with a squeak. Dick turned his head, no ill intentions seen, and smiled amiably. His eyes flickered mischievously. "I just got back, man. Headed straight here as soon as I could. My resume's pretty impressive."
"I bet." Wally swallowed hard, eyes running down the backside of his amicable friend. He spun the plastic lightning bolt in his hand and placed the spoke in his mouth. Sanguine bloomed in his cheeks and he curled his fingers. "Thanks. For the cupcake, I mean."
Silence. From the corner of his eye, he could see cerulean blue eyes settled on his form. There was no hostility, or even regard for what happened the last time they saw each other. Dick's smile was perfectly fine as he turned around, trying hard to reach his eyes. "What'd you wish for?"
Silence. Dick's face scrunched, mirth glittering in his eyes. Wally bit the inside of his mouth. Slowly, the younger man walked around the kitchen counter to meet him.
They stood eye to eye, and Dick's gaze narrowed, voice hesitant. "That's…not going to come true if you say it aloud, doofus."
Demeanor softening, Wally reached up and pushed a lock of hair behind the other boy's ear. He leaned forward, pushing away from the counter and stuffed both hands in his pockets. Emerald green eyes stared at cerulean blue, with a touch of fear in both of them. "And if I don't, am I guaranteed that I'd get you?"
"Wishing is only half the success." Dick's demeanor flickered with reluctance again, and he looked uncomfortable. Wally stepped forward until they were touching, and cupped Dick's face. "Wally."
He needed to tell.
In six months, he'd no longer be alive, or able to stroke his thumb across Dick's cheek like this. He'd been hiding the secret for three years now, and he needed to tell. Swallowing hard, Wally snapped out of his daze, eyebrows furrowing together, and scanned Dick's face.
The man swooped out of his grip instantly, putting three feet of distance between them and stuffed his hands in his pockets. Red was evident across his cheeks, but Dick looked disgusted with himself. He frowned and looked at his phone. "Sorry, Wally. Gotta cut it short."
"But you just got here."
In that instant, the other man flashed a guilty look and shook his head. He brushed the hair out of his face and pushed the cupcake toward the redhead. "Alpha is going on a three-day mission. I wanted to see you at least once before I had to leave. Since…I've missed most of your other birthdays."
"Not your fault." Everything he was about to say disappeared from his mind. His mom insisted every year to throw a party, but they ranged from full to empty based on what missions his friends received. Dick, being the leader in the past few years, was someone he never got to see.
Wally bit the inside of his mouth, his mind returning to his dead hand. He'd been safe in the past few days without experiencing Spasm B, but it was coming. What was going to happen when he told his friends, anyway? They had lives. He was retired, and they wouldn't simply drop everything to help him. Dick was going to be gone for three days.
"Um." To his surprise, Dick moved forward and kissed him on the cheek. Cerulean blue eyes opened, staring at him with a heated look. Wally's mind halted once again. A nervous smile curled against the teen's lips and he crossed his arms. "Happy Birthday, Wally."
"Wait." Wally grabbed the other man. His heart throbbed in his chest, and he leaned forward. "Take me with you."
Dick blinked, looking as though his brain suddenly broke. His face flickered with concern and he matched the redhead's grip with his own. "You're kidding."
"No. I." He ran his own words through his head, realizing they'd come out on his own accord. Nodding firmly, Wally looked to his best friend again. "I'm serious. I want to go on this mission with you."