Dick

It was past midnight at the Watchtower, and Dick saw only a few Leaguers wandering the halls as he passed. Almost everyone was back home on Earth for the night with their family and friends; Dick was in the Watchtower for the same reason.

In the days since the League thwarted the Reach's attempts to destroy the planet and Wally'sā€¦ "ceasing," the young man had slept all of five hours (though not through lack of trying on Bruce's and Bab's parts). It was not the first time that Dick had lost family or friend, and he knew it was not the last, but he was completely unprepared for the emotional backlash from his best friend's death.

Despite Wally's retirement from the team a few years previous when he and Artemis had headed off to Stanford, the inseparable duo had continued their close-knit relationship. It had not been as difficult as some might have thought, considering the easy access of the zeta tubes allowed them quick transportation between Palo Alto and Bludhaven. Even though the topic of the undercover mission had become a point of contention and a stressor on their relationship, their friendship had remained solid. Dick, at some difficult points, had dared to consider the possibility that one day their friendship would be broken, whether through anger or misunderstanding, or maybe even due to "irreconcilable differences" (because, any Leaguer knew, the diffusion of the Wally-Dick alliance is comparable to divorce).

Never had he ever thought that the cause of their broken friendship would be death.

Dick shook his head. Such thoughts were the reason he had such dark circles under his eyes, why his skin had a sickly pallor. Because when Wally died, Dick became a ghost, and anyone who glanced his way could tell. He had haunted the corridors of Wayne Manor, drifting in and out of awareness, until Alfred convinced (ordered) him to face his numbing feelings head-on.

And so, it was past midnight at the Watchtower, and the Dick stood, frozen, before the doors of the Memorial Hall.

He drew a deep breath. He released it.

He drew another.

Dick opened the door before he froze once more and strode into the dark atrium. He let his eyes adjust to the change in lighting, and he heard the mechanical door hiss closed behind him.

The chamber would have seemed like an empty, black void if not for the eerie light cast from the hologram projectors. He gathered himself and pressed forward, eager to face the shattered pieces of his best friend that he had hoarded away into some dark cavity in his soul. Dick approached where he knew Wally's memorial to be before he jerked to a sudden stop as he took in the sight before him.

He felt his heart shatter further.

Dick had no idea how long she had been there, but Artemis had at some point curled herself into a ball at the foot of the memorial. She was not dressed in her uniform ā€“ her identity among Leaguers was more or less an open secret ā€“ but he recognized the civvies she wore to be one of the sets of clothes kept in Kid Flash's locker on the Watchtower. She seemed to be drowning in the oversized red and yellow hoody she had wrapped herself in.

Artemis.

How could he have forgotten about Artemis?!

Dick clenched his hands, and he absently noted the tears of frustration biting against his lashes. Wally was his friend. Wally was his best friend. And Dick did not even have the courtesy ā€“ no, decency to look in on the love of his best friend's life?! He had abandoned her to her own consuming misery, and where was she now?

Curled, alone, in a room empty of everything but the holographic ghosts of friends, lovers.

He did not have to steel himself before looking up at the face of his best friend.

I'll do better, Wally. She won't be alone. I'll take care of her.

Dick pressed forward, pushing past the lump in his throat as he pulled Artemis' prone figure into his arms. This close, he could count the salt lines that had dried on the blonde's cheeks. He held her close to his chest and made his way to the zeta tubes, to Earth. To family and friends.

I'll do better.

It was past midnight at the Watchtower, and Dick took Artemis home.