This is it guys...this is the end. Before you read this chapter, please just read what I have to say.
I love you guys. I really, really do. We have all been through so much together just with this story. If you guys don't remember, this is my first fanfiction ever and I have gotten so much positive feedback from everyone. It has been a long journey, almost two years. I think it is poetic justice that this is being completed a few days before I posted the first chapter two years ago. A lot has changed since then but you guys have stuck with this and believed in me the entire time, even when I left you at major cliffhangers for over a year. It hurt to me write this because posting it meant that it is actually over. All of this came from my heart and it means so much that you guys don't judge me or hate what I put out there. It means the world to me.
So yes, I am actually crying now. But here it is. The actual final chapter of What He Left Behind.
Wally was officially allowed to walk around the med bay the next day, though the three witnesses never told the doctor about the day before when he decided he was fine and could run and hug people. The doctors didn't need to know.
Wally was recovering faster than the usual hero, as each speedster did when given regular food again, and he spent much of his time walking around with different people in the Watchtower. His legs always seemed to be shaking when he walked but he never let on that he was tired or feeling weak. He had his own cross to bear and that was the pain and weakness he got from being in the Speedforce for too long and getting pulled out. He couldn't complain though, he was back and alive and that was more than anyone could say about him a week ago.
His pain was lessening day by day and the bruises would start to fade, the wounds closing up and becoming scars. He still looked like he was sick though, and when he thought no one was looking, one could say that there was a hollowness in his usually lively green eyes. But someone was always keeping an eye on him, whether he knew it or not. He did have a best friend who was a ninja and a girlfriend who was raised as an assassin. It was like he was haunted by the events of the last week. He wouldn't open up about it though, he couldn't. He couldn't let them know what he went through while he was in the Speedforce, even he had trouble believing it and believing that he got out alive. Maybe one day he would be able to share what happened to him while others were mourning. Maybe one day he would be able to let it all out to Artemis or even Barry, since he would understand best. But not any time soon. He was healing physically and emotionally, but the psychological aspect would take longer. He wasn't used to healing slowly, but maybe it was time to take it slow. With this he would take it slow for once.
The next night he tried to ask Artemis about how she took his supposed death. They were laying on his hospital bed with the sun sinking low over the edge of the earth. The others finally decided to return home, much to Wally's insistence since he had to reassure them time and time again that he was alright. It's like they found it hard to get back to their normal lives now that he was back. Well, as "normal" as a hero's life could be, but now they could start.
Artemis turned her head to look up at him, her blond hair falling away from his chest where she had laid her head. Her stormy gray eyes searched his, as if he could find the answers there. And he could, or at least the beginnings of them, but he wanted to hear it. He had to, in order to take that pain from her.
She shook her head. "It doesn't matter anymore. You can stop trying to do that." She said.
Wally looked confused and he frowned. "Do what?"
"Quit trying to put everything on yourself like it was your fault. It wasn't." She said, propping herself up on her elbows and looked at him again.
"I don't know what you are talking about." He said, playing the conversation off as a light joke and she rolled her eyes.
"Sure thing, Baywatch." She said and laid her head back on his chest, her hand resting lightly on top of the fresh scar across his chest. Her fingers lightly brushed across it, tracing the long scar up from his shoulder and down to his hip, across the length of his chest. "It's like the one on your suit." She said softly.
Wally looked down, his arm around his girlfriend as she traced his scar. He felt a small smile creep to his lips. "You think so?" He asked, seeing the jagged scar across his torso. Usually when he got hurt, the wounds would scar over then fade, but he doubted this one would. Something was different about this one. He healed faster than the rest of his injuries but he could still feel like part of the Speedforce was connected to him there, imbedded in that scar.
Artemis nodded. "Like the lightning bolt on your chest, but just permanent and larger."
Wally nodded. He had been thinking about his decision to retire year ago for the last few days now. He did enjoy his time away from all of it, focusing on school and spending time with Artemis. But maybe this was the push to show him that he really couldn't escape it. He asked for the hero life and he got it. He was speed just as much as he was a hero, and walking away from one didn't mean that he could get rid of the other. He would always be fast. He would always be the speed of light, or even faster in some cases. He would always be Kid Flash, in some form or shape, just like the scar would always be a part of him. It was a testament to what he almost lost and how easy the line between life and death was blurred. Being fast was who he was by choice, just as he could choose to be a hero.
"Ever think about getting back in the gig?" He asks the archer softly, staring up at the ceiling in the dark.
"Often, but only if I get to be your partner." She said, her voice getting slower as she closed her eyes.
Wally chuckled and nodded his head. "Yeah, we make a good team. Maybe that will work out then." He said and looked down at her. "Plus I hear that you have a certain affinity for orange."
He felt Artemis smile against his chest and he had to smile about that too. "Yeah, I think I could handle orange maybe. Or better yet red." He said and she looked back up at him, an eyebrow raised. He chuckled and tucked her hair behind her ear. "Hey, Uncle Barry won't be able to forever. Plus he's going to have a family to take care of soon." He pointed out and she smiled softly and nodded as she fell asleep. He knew that if he was with her, then they would be able to handle things. They always did. He decided then that he would give it a shot again. For her, one day he would.
The next day he was released from the bay of the Watchtower. Artemis told him how she had moved into a room there after the funeral and he felt unsettled about that. They both decided to return back to their old apartment in Palo Alto, thinking that it was time to return to their lives before all of this happened. As soon as he stepped into the room, Nelson raced up to him, rivaling his own speed, and jumped up on the red head. He laughed and affectionately patted his dog, happy to see him as well.
They packed up quickly, since Artemis didn't bring much over at the time when she moved in, and returned to their apartment. As he opened the door, Wally was not expecting to find the whole League, his old team, and his family there jumping and shouting "Surprise!" at him when he flipped on the lights. He laughed, the last time this happened it was for his birthday five years earlier and not for him returning from the grave.
He smiled as his parents rushed forward, both in tears and hugged him tightly. It didn't hurt to be squeezed anymore since his broken ribs were mostly healed, and that was needed because of how long his mother clung to him, telling him how much she missed him and scolding him for "being reckless". Wally's dad embraced him tightly too and Wally couldn't remember the last time he had seen his father cry. This was the first time many of these people got to see him, either because they weren't allowed in the Watchtower or Batman hadn't told them about their plan to get him back in case it failed. Wally found out later that night that many of the Leaguers were less than thrilled at Batman for leaving them out of the loop. He was glad for the millionth time in his life that he wasn't in the Dark Knights shoes. But in the end it was worth it. They would understand one day.
His Aunt Iris was next, beaming brightly. She was just beginning to show her little baby bump and Wally hugged her back. "No more running off, okay? I'll need someone to babysit these twins." She said with a playful smile and kind eyes. He always had and always would love that woman. Barry came up beside her, a piece of cake in hand and she took it, kissing him on the cheek. Barry looked down sadly at his empty hand.
"That was for me…" He pouted and Wally laughed, nudging him in the side.
"She's eating for three, Uncle B. Soon enough she'll be eating more than you." He joked.
"I heard that!" Iris called from the other room and Barry smirked before the two speedsters went over to get their own large pieces of cake.
Many of the other Leaguers came up to him throughout the night, hugging him, smiling and joking with him, and overall just happy that he was alive and well again.
Artemis noticed an air about everyone that she hadn't seen since her boyfriend's disappearance. The mood was lighter, more carefree, as if these heroes weren't always fighting crime and seeing the worst in the world every day without rest. For once, something good happened amidst all the pain and turmoil the world goes through every day. For once the heroes could be happy and smile genuinely, at least for one night.
As the night winded down, people started to leave, heading out to go on patrol or take up their shift on watch in the tower. The younger heroes stayed longer, mingling with each other and laughing in groups. Wally noticed Zatanna heading out after giving him another hug and then going up to Dick, exchanging a few words and kissing him on the cheek. Barbara Gordon was the next to leave and Wally watched to see what she would do. After saying her goodbyes to Wally and Artemis, she strolled over to Dick, just as the former female hero did, but instead of kissing him, she punched him in the arm, pretty solidly too. Dick just chuckled and smirked at her, rubbing his arm. The young acrobat looked over and Wally caught his eye, raising an eyebrow. Dick just blushed a bit and shook his head, laughing from across the room. Yeah, it felt good to be bros again.
The old members of the original Young Justice team stayed the longest. They found themselves getting caught up in old memories. Conner watching static tv, Megan burning cookies, Dick swinging from the rafters, Kaldur trying to understand land dwelling jokes, Wally flirting around as much as he ran around, and Artemis punching and antagonizing him. Each member laughed until tears filled their eyes and until their stomachs hurt. Dick could tell that Megan and Conner would exchange glances with each other, just like back in the day. It didn't take a detective to figure out that something was going on between them. Wally would joke and then say over used pick-up lines to Artemis in a playful manner, only to get her to laugh, roll her eyes, and shove him by his shoulder. Kaldur still spoke politely to everyone as he told them what the plans for the new team included and Dick still wore his sunglasses, though they came off soon after.
Some things never changed.
Yes they were all different now than they were five years earlier. They were older, taller, and more mature. Some cut their hair, some cut their jobs as being heroes. Some became leaders, while others backed down from that position. They had been through a lot in the last five years, losing trust, losing friendships, losing teammates. But they grew from it, as depicted in their tightened smiles and their haunted eyes. But they still found a reason to live. Each of them did.
When she lost herself to her powers.
When he lost himself to his rage.
When he lost himself to the pain of losing his love.
When he lost a brother, teammate, and friend.
When she lost herself to an orange and black costume.
When he lost himself in the Speedforce.
They had broken apart long ago, choosing to take on their own problems instead of trusting the others, their friends and teammates, to help them through. It was obvious that is where the mistakes were made. Each of them had things happen to them that were out of their control, but they tried to handle it themselves. It only proved to be detrimental in the end and they saw that now. Sitting in the circle, acting like a bunch of teenagers again with young love and blind trust to each other, they saw that now.
When the hours turned late and eyes started to droop, the group of friends decided to call it a night, thinking that they had had enough excitement for one week. They began to file out of the apartment, Conner and Megan first, the Martian hugging Wally tightly before then going to hug Artemis. Conner shook hands with Wally.
"We need to do this again sometime." Megan stated as she pulled away from Artemis. "I miss spending time with my Earth sister. And it felt nice to all be together again, even if we aren't a team anymore."
Artemis smiled and agreed. "It's not much here but everyone is always welcome back if you want. I know this apartment is no Mount Justice, but I think we grew out of secret hideouts anyway."
Conner smiled and agreed before leading Megan out before she tried to hug Wally again.
Kaldur was the next to leave. He clapped a hand on Wally's shoulder and looked at the younger man. "It is good to have you back, my friend." He said them quirked a smile on his lips. "Please, don't be so hasty to leave again."
Wally laughed. "I don't plan on it." He said and slipped his hand into Artemis's and squeezed it lightly.
Dick approached the couple and crossed his arms. "Too early to ask if either one of you would be coming back to the gig again?" He asked with that signature smirk on his face.
Wally shrugged. "You never know man. I hear Bludhaven needs some help with it's vigilante." He joked.
Dick cracked a smile. "Yeah he's a mess. Can't get reliable help anywhere these days, can you?"
Artemis laughed. "And will we be seeing more of you around Dick?" She asked.
He gave a little shrug. "Perhaps. Don't know if you heard Wally, but I stepped down from leading the team after the arctic. I couldn't lead a team that was without one of the originals." He said. "So I'm going to be focusing on Bludhaven, and maybe go patrolling around Gotham too. Who knows? Batman and I have might have some catching up to do now that we are on talking terms again."
Wally smiled at that and extended his hand, which Dick shook. "It's good to have you back too, Dick." He said.
The younger hero laugh and then hugged Artemis. "Don't be a stranger anymore." She said and let him go. He gave one final salute before exiting the apartment, leaving the archer and the speedster together.
They stayed there for a bit, thoughts running through their minds with pleasant smiles on their lips. Things just felt right now. People were still recovering, whether it was physically or emotionally, or even on a psychological level, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Each hero lived by that but it was more defined now. You become strong when you fall and get back up again. You become strong by facing each morning as a new day after tragedy strikes. You become strong when you come back to comfort loved ones to ease their suffering. You become strong when you take one step after the other and keep moving forward, whether you are on your knees crawling or on your feet running.
The couple didn't need to say anything to each other when they went to bed. They now had the rest of their lives together, whether that was a few days, until next year, or until they turned old and gray. They had another day together and that in itself was a blessing.
Wrapped up in each other's arms, laying in their bed together, their dog at the foot of the bed sleeping soundly, they knew that they became stronger. They were the couple that endured. They were the couple that made it through the worst things that their messed up lives threw at them. Through the constant fighting when they first met, through the secrets and broken trust, through countless missions and stress, through the early years together, losing friends and teammates, through pasts that seemed too dark to get away from, and now through death and depression. They had each other. They would endure again.
In the early morning hours, while Artemis slept soundly in Wally's arms as he watched her, he had to smile. It felt like the beginning again. The beginning of another, amazing journey. And this time he wasn't running the race alone.
Anybody else still crying? Because I know that I am. But as one story ends, another is allowed to start. Please be on the lookout for new fanfictions from me. I am thinking about heading in the Frozen direction. Maybe one between Elsa and Hans? Or a crossover between Jack Frost from Rise of the Guardians and Elsa? I might try my hand at some one-shots. Who knows!? The possibilities are endless guys! I still promised some of you guys a story of how Nightwing took it when Jason Todd died. Please be on the lookout my faithful followers!
And lastly, thank you for going through this journey with me. All of you are amazing people and have a special place in my heart. I hope that I didn't cause you too much angst/frustration/tears/pain/happiness throughout these 23 chapters. I hope to be hearing from you soon.
Now, for the last time; please review.