Remember when Jason Spisak recorded Romeo and Juliet in-character as Wally? Who doesn't. Anyway, that's where this mess comes from.
I swear to god any irony about Wally dying is completely unintentional, as I wrote this like two weeks before the finale.
"So you're—" Artemis splutters, clearly fighting a losing battle to keep a straight face. "You're telling me that you – you – are going to be—"
"Romeo, babe!" Wally finishes for her, throwing his arms out grandly and grinning with enough enthusiasm to probably kill a horse. "In Billy Shakespeare's Broadway smash, Romeo and Juliet."
"You are?" Artemis asks. She lifts her fist to her mouth and makes a muffled choking noise into it, her eyes starting to water from effort.
"Yep," Wally confirms.
"You are," Artemis repeats, pointing at him.
He bobs his head once, his arms akimbo and his smile unfaltering. "I doth at, uh, thine service, milady."
That's when she loses it.
Apparently, her laughter is so loud and unrestrained that it draws in the rest of the Team from their assorted locations throughout the Cave, and by the time Kaldur enters and has the good sense to try to help her sit down, she's practically on the floor, clutching her stomach.
"What?" Wally demands, sounding bewildered. "What did I say? Does she need a doctor?"
"What the heck is so funny?" Zatanna inquires, grinning.
Her expression doesn't even begin to match Dick's.
"You should probably tell us, before Artemis has to be taken to the emergency room," he adds with a snigger.
Conner and Raquel exchange perplexed looks, standing off to the side and surveying the scene with tentativeness. Artemis topples down onto one of the green chairs, still giggling, wiping a couple of tears away as Kaldur awkwardly pats her shoulder and M'gann hovers behind her with uncertain concern.
"T-Tell 'em," Artemis wheezes, chuckling. "Tell 'em about—pffffft—oh, no, I can't do it."
She breaks out in another peal of laughter that makes Conner cover his ears, looking annoyed.
Wally shrugs hugely. "Uh, I got cast as Romeo in my school's production of Romeo and Juliet, so what?"
Artemis is, presently, laughing with such force that she is making little sound at all. Her shoulders shake violently.
Dick and Zatanna both practically spit out chortles at exactly the same time, doubling over in unison. Conner, M'gann, and Kaldur all stare at them blankly (and a bit worriedly), but even Raquel has to clap a hand over her mouth to keep from contributing.
"Yeah, yeah, laugh it up!" Wally yells over them, his ears reddening. "I'm gonna be a star."
"Wally, stop, please," Artemis sobs through her gasps. "You might literally kill me."
"I don't get what's so funny!" Wally exclaims. "This is a big deal, you guys! I'm gonna be an understudy!"
Immediately, everyone goes silent.
"A what?" Kaldur has the decency to ask. Wally fidgets under the attention.
"Uh, an, um, understudy," he repeats. "Jeez, okay, this is even worse than you guys laughing."
"Well, I mean, now there's nothing to laugh about, since you're not gonna be going on a stage," Raquel says, as though it's obvious. Wally frowns at her, ruffled.
"So?" he argues. "This is still super huge. I have lines to memorize. If the guy who actually got casted gets hit by a car or something, I get to kiss a girl!"
"Whoa, dream big!" Artemis says, waving her hands in the air.
Wally cringes. "I keep forgetting that wasn't a dream."
Artemis sputters out another bout of laughter and shakes her head.
"No, but seriously," Wally says. "This is my chance to shine, you guys!"
"Says the guy who saves the world, like, every other day," Zatanna inserts pointedly.
"Okay, that's Kid Flash." Wally huffs. "This is Wally West's chance to shine. At, uh, something that isn't the target practice for dodgeball."
"Wow, good luck," Raquel practically deadpans, throwing her hands in the air and pivoting around. "I'm out."
"Wait," Kaldur speaks up, and Raquel stops in her tracks. "Wally is right. We should support him fully in this endeavor." He smiles. "We ought to shower him with pride."
"Yeah, a pride shower!" Wally agrees. "Give it."
"Man, whatever; he's got enough pride to shower himself," Raquel jibes. "Later."
"I have no idea what's going on, so I'm going to leave, too," Conner says meekly. M'gann shrugs, beams at Wally, and floats off after him and Raquel.
Kaldur huffs out a sigh, putting his hands on his hips. Artemis is still shaking with intermittent bursts of laughter, snorting into her palms. Dick isn't much better off, doubled over with his hands on his knees and his patented cackle coming out in unstoppable streams.
"You're gonna have to wear tights," Zatanna says, with a touch too much enthusiasm.
Wally blanches. "Gonna have to wear what-now?"
"Monkey suits!" Dick exclaims enthusiastically.
Conner lets out a scream of rage from down the hallway.
"I still don't know why you're taking this so seriously," Artemis comments, rummaging through the kitchen cabinets for a cereal bowl. "You're anunderstudy. That means you aren't supposed to do anything because there is no conceivable chance you're going onstage."
"Uh, that isn't what it means at all, actually?" Wally retorts, frowning discerningly up at her over the top of his dog-eared copy of Romeo and Juliet. "It means that if Tyler Burress gets trampled by cows or, I don't know, gets a cold, then I have to take over for him."
"Tyler Burress," Artemis says flatly. "Is everyone from Keystone City a total nerd?"
"Ouch, and no, but yes, Tyler Burress is a nerd," Wally replies. "Man, I could go for a pizza right now. A big one. With pepperoni. And cake."
"All right, Romeo, shouldn't you be practicing if you care so much?" Artemis cuts him off pointedly, kicking the fridge shut and setting the milk down on the counter.
Wally sighs. "Yeeeeeaaahh, I guess." He sits atop the back of the couch and leans back, flopping upside-down onto the cushions and crossing his feet. He holds the book over his face with one hand. "Okay, let's see."
Artemis, having successfully procured her cereal, puts the milk back and walks into the living room, taking a seat on one of the green chairs and tucking her feet under her. It smells like nachos.
"Okay—" Wally clears his throat professionally, which almost makes her spit out her spoonful of Cap'n Crunch. "But soft! What light from yonder window breaks? It is the east—" He looks away from the pages, pointedly, and winks at her, waggling his eyebrows. "And Artemis is the sun."
"Give me a break," Artemis scoffs, expertly concealing her smile as she pretends to wipe her nose.
"Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon!" Wally continues, thrusting a fist in the air. "Who is already sick and pale with grief anyway—"
"Wally, come on!"
"—that thou, her maid, art far more fair than she." He grins at her, clearly pleased with himself, and she forces her eyes to roll. "Be not her maid, since she is envious!" He points at her, and she huffs. "Her vestal livery is but sick and green and none but fools do wear it, ooh, burn, Artemis."
"Cast it off!" he exclaims, looking even more lascivious when he actually has the sense to pay attention to what he's saying. The smile gets a lot goofier, though, and Artemis has to physically wrestle seriousness onto her face. "It is my babe, o, it is my love. O, that she knew she were! She speaks, yet she says nothing!"
He shrugs comically, tilting his mouth. "What's up with that?"
"Okay, you're fired," Artemis laughs, standing.
"Aw, come on, at least let me finish!" Wally protests insistently, and Artemis, to her credit, takes a good few seconds to sit back down. "There we go. Okay. Ahem. Her eye discourses – I will answer it! Ah, man, I am too bold; 'tis not to me she speaks. Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven, having some business, do entreat her eyes to twinkle in their spheres till they return."
He lowers his voice to a whisper. "I have no idea what that means but it sounds super hot."
Artemis pinches the bridge of her nose and does not reply.
"What if her eyes were there, they in her head?" Artemis has to muffle a laugh, because he's actually really getting into it now. "The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars, as daylight doth a lamp. Her eye in heaven would through the airy region stream so bright that birds would sing and think it were not night."
He grins at her. "Be honest, on a scale of one to ten, how hard are you falling for me right now?"
"Negative sixteen," she answers, and he squints pettishly at her.
"We'll see about that." He shifts around momentarily. "See how she leans her cheek upon her hand? Lean your cheek upon your hand, Artemis. O, that I were a glove upon that hand! That I might touch that cheek, babe."
He claps the book closed, swinging his legs over until he's sitting up again. His ebullient grin only lasts for a second before he grimaces, his hand flying to his temple.
"Oh, ow, okay, blood rushing back—" He hisses through his teeth. "Why did I think that was a good idea? Why didn't you tell me that was a dumb idea?"
"I figured I'd give you a break," Artemis replies, draining her bowl of the last of the milk. "But you did fine. Minus, you know, the parts where you totally deviated from the script and got Juliet's name wrong, but, whatever; details."
"You wanna help me out and read Juliet's lines for me?" he suggests when the pain apparently subsides.
She snorts. "You only have one book."
He feigns a defeated sigh, slumping back on the couch and shrugging helplessly.
"Wow, I guess you'll just have to sit super close to me and read over my shoulder," he says, staring at the ceiling. "Sucks."
Artemis shakes her head at him and sets her bowl on the kitchen counter before dropping onto the couch beside him.
"Don't get any ideas," she orders.
He shakes his head fervently.
"I'm getting so many ideas," he tells her, but he looks too happy for her to whack the back of his head. "So, uh, where's the part where they make out?"
Okay, that's excuse enough.
"Ow!" he whines, rubbing his head.
Artemis plucks the book out of his hands and thumbs through the pages. "You were asking for it, Montague."
"Haha!" Wally laughs, and then frowns. "Who is that?"
When Wally starts unironically using lines from the play on her, Artemis doesn't initially have the heart to tell him the truth about the ending, because he hasn't gotten there yet (somehow) and she doesn't want to have to be the one to rip off that Band-Aid.
But there's a final straw for everything.
"I told Rob you and I were star-crossed lovers today," he says, sounding proud when he comes to a standing halt in front of her and Zatanna, who Artemis had been attempting to have a round of "how-stupid-are-our-boys" with.
She spits out her Coke. It dribbles down her chin and Zatanna giggles without shame.
"What?" Wally asks, frowning between the two of them – Zatanna on the couch, Artemis seated on the armrest of one of the chairs. "What did I dothis time?"
"Wally," Artemis says as gently as she can. "It's not romantic; they both die." She pauses, quieting her voice. "You die."
Wally's face immediately falls, halfway between crestfallen and indignant.
"What!" he exclaims, whipping his book out from who knows where and rifling toward the last pages. "No way!"
"Yeah, the moral of Romeo and Juliet is that they're stupid and hormonal so everyone dies," Zatanna adds with much less discretion than Artemis had afforded. She snickers. "Oh, man, Wally, I cannot wait to see your death scene."
Wally's eyes dash across the open pages, growing increasingly wide by the second. He eventually snaps it closed and Zatanna jumps.
"That's the worst," he laments. "I thought this was gonna be fun."
"It will be!" Artemis insists encouragingly. "You just... die. At the end. No big deal."
"Thanks, babe," he deadpans, slumping down into the chair she's perched on.
"Okay, well, we clearly just ruined Wally's life, so I'll leave the damage control up to you," Zatanna declares. She breezes out a sigh and hoists herself up, sighing briskly. "Bonne chance!"
She vanishes down the hallway with speed that, Artemis suspects, could give Wally a run for his money. Pun intended.
Artemis pats Wally's head consolingly, downing the last of her Coke.
"So – we're not star-crossed lovers," he finally says, sounding forlorn.
"I really hope not," Artemis replies.
Wally sighs, scratching the back of his head and frowning up at her. "But there's still kissing."
Artemis rolls her eyes. "Yes, Wally, there is still kissing."
Wally promptly reaches up and grasps her elbow, tugging it firmly and catching her off-balance. She scrambles at the air, but still flops back with a cry of indignation, landing in his lap.
She glares up at him to find him trying to stifle a smile.
"I should probably practice," he suggests, bouncing his eyebrows up and down.
Artemis pretends to huff in exasperation, linking her hands up at the back of his neck.
"Probably," she agrees sagely, and pulls him down.
"I don't wanna be Mercutio!" Dick protests, trying to bound away to hide in one of the air vents in Wally's room at the Cave.
"Nice try, buddy; I screwed them all shut!" Wally says. "Dude, come on, just for, like, two scenes."
"Why not ask Conner to do it?" Dick asks mulishly, folding his arms and scowling by the door. "Or Kaldur? Or, I don't know, Batman?"
"Hilarious," Wally retorts. "And wow, maybe because Mercutio is Romeo's best pal and you're my best pal and I want to imagine you dressed up as a fairy. Does it matter?"
Dick groans, slamming both of his hands onto his face and slowly dragging them down.
"You know, you really aren't making this sound dignified," he grumbles. "Or, like, appealing on any basic level. Plus, wasn't the whole fairy thing just in that movie? Have you even read this?"
Wally doesn't respond. Dick sighs, already defeated. "What's in it for me?"
"Quality time with your most favorite friend ever?"
"Tell that to Zatanna."
"Dude." Wally pretends to look stricken. "Dude. Too far."
Dick cackles. "All right, deal. Me going too far? That was what was in it for me. So when do I die?"
For a science aficionado, Wally West can certainly knuckle down when it comes to the word walls of William Shakespeare. He manages to finagle nearly everyone on the Team into reading lines with him, including Red Tornado, plus Captain Marvel, who says that he totally doesn't get it, but that it's funny to hear Wally talk like a snob.
All of them have to admit that he's pretty good at it once he gets committed, but that only makes the knowledge that he's only an understudy that much more painful. A week before opening night, Dick is already planning untraceable methods of murder. Zatanna doesn't want to stop him, but Kaldur insists.
"We must leave Wally's destiny in the hands of fate," he says wisely. "Or something to that effect."
"Wow, even Kal's lost for words," Dick giggles. "Look, it'll be fine! I even figured out a way to do it without killing him."
"Why don't we just knock him out and throw him off a cliff?" Conner suggests as though it's the most glaringly obvious suggestion possible.
M'gann laughs and pats his elbow.
"We must commit no bodily harm unto Tyler Burress," Kaldur orders them. "Even if Wally is unable to perform—"
Zatanna brays out a laugh that makes Artemis drop her face into her hands.
"—It is important," Kaldur continues over her, "that he has been able to pursue this dream at all."
"But it's not fair," M'gann insists, drawing out the last word in something dangerously close to a whine. She blinks imploringly at Kaldur. "Wally's worked so hard and he's had so much fun; we have to figure out a way to let him play Romeo!"
Dick raises his hand. "All in favor of making it look like involuntary manslaughter!"
"Nah, I see where M'gann's coming from," Raquel chimes in, the first thing she's said since they'd all gathered in the training room. "So like, can we figure this out quick? I want dibs on the bench press."
Dick bounces again with alacrity, brandishing his skinny arm in the air.
Kaldur sighs shortly, clearly trying to keep a firm grip on his patience.
"Yes, Robin," he says tetchily.
"What if," Dick suggests, picking the words out with care, "we stole the Batmobile, ran him over with it, and then blamed Batman."
"It is moments like this," Kaldur murmurs over the disturbing shouts of approval, "that make me question the very purpose of friendship."
"Lighten up, Kal; this is friendship!" Dick laughs. "Running your competition over while dressed like a fairy: the Dick Grayson method."
"Remind me never to be your friend," Conner grunts.
"Too late, buddy," Dick sighs, springing forward and patting his shoulder forlornly. "Too late."
Opening night comes rolling around and it's a bigger deal than Wally had ever actually wanted it to be. Batman had insisted – fiercely, he might add – that they not utilize the bioship to travel to Keystone City, which would have ordinarily been fine, except for the fact that the closest zeta tube to Wally's high school was two miles away, downtown.
"Minivan!" Zatanna yells as soon as the words leave Batman's mouth, and she starts pointing at each member of the Team in turn. "Minivan? Minivan?Mi-ni-vannn?"
Batman, for his part, does not understand why he has to treat transportation to a Team member's high school play like a mission briefing.
"I'll arrange for a vehicle to be made available near the zeta tube," he grunts, which is about the nicest thing he can do for them without appearing like a total sap. He tosses a ring of car keys into Kaldur's hands. "Choose a driver amongst yourselves."
With that, he strides out, his cape swooping behind him as always.
Artemis has already leaped onto Kaldur and wrestled the key out of his hands.
"Me!" she yells. "I just got my license; I can totally do it!"
"Uh-oh," Conner deadpans.
Wally frowns at his reflection, poking dubiously at the ostentatious plum-colored hat on his head. Dick has his fist stuffed over his mouth, but his laughter isn't so muffled that it's inaudible. It never is.
"So, wait, let me get this straight," Wally says, squinting at the feather. "Tyler was perfectly fine until literally ten minutes ago, when he suddenly disappeared from the dressing room. And he left a note that said 'Sorry, I cheated on you with The Merchant of Venice.'"
"Yes," Dick squeaks out. "Such a tragedy. We all cried. But now we get to cry twice as much because we get to see you flirt with another girl and then die, all while wearing tights."
It's too much for him. He throws his head back, cackling maniacally.
"I've been waiting for this moment," he shouts.
Rosaline, currently pinning her hair up one mirror over, shushes him violently. He throws his hands up defenselessly, still giggling.
"Yeah, just be glad you lived to see it," Wally mutters, rummaging around the drawers. "Which one of you morons decided that letting Artemis drive was a good idea?"
"Oh, yeah, I forgot we almost died," Dick muses pensively, and then waves his hands in the air. "So, so, so! Do you get a cape?"
"I do not get a cape."
"Wow, what kind of lame Shakespeare is this?" Dick exclaims. "You wanna borrow mine? I always carry one in my utility belt."
"That's not poss—okay, listen," Wally huffs, whirling on him and grabbing his shoulders. "You know how at weddings you're not supposed to see the bride before you get married or it means seven years of bad luck and probably divorce? That is what this is. Go away."
"Go away is my middle name!" Dick says, slipping out of his grasp and beaming, sharklike. Wally shoves him away and turns back to the drawers.
"No it's not!" he shouts after him when he starts to leave, but after a second, he glances over his shoulder. "Hey, Dick, wait."
Dick freezes mid-step, one spindly leg raised.
"Thanks," Wally says sincerely, despite how ridiculous he feels in the absurd brocade vest and puffed-out trouser shorts. "Hope I don't suck."
"Oh, you totally will," Dick assures him. "But we're here for you."
Batman had apparently pulled strings – at a high school – to get them front-row seats.
Artemis almost gets them kicked out of the auditorium once she starts crying with laughter over Wally's tights, which match his cap. He doesn't miss the opportunity to send several dirty, blaming looks in the audience's general direction, but they finally quiet her down when Zatanna intervenes, covering Artemis's mouth with one hand for the entirety of the play.
Kaldur, Conner, and M'gann, seated at the end of the row, grow increasingly invested in the story, to the point where M'gann has to telekinetically pin Conner's arms down when Mercutio dies. At one point, Wally actually does say Artemis's name instead of Juliet's, but they can tell by his expression of sheer panic that it was not, bewilderingly, on purpose. He manages to work in some line about mythology that seems to save him, but still, Artemis starts to sound like she has some form of laugh-asthma.
Dick pretends that he is not affronted that, in fact, someone who is not him is able to play the role of Wally's Shakespearean best pal and dress up as a fairy. The pleased smirk on his face when the Mercutio who is not him meets his end does not go unnoticed by Kaldur, who frowns with extreme concern.
Raquel falls asleep, her face planted into the shoulder of Kaldur's sleeve. The only time during which Artemis manages to get ahold of herself is at the end, when Wally gives a surprisingly convincing performance that makes Kaldur's and M'gann's eyes start to look moist. Artemis just snorts into her fist, but it's quiet.
Conner, due to his super-strength, manages to make his applause sound like a thunderstorm and turn several heads, but Artemis whoops and whistles and Dick throws a bouquet of roses that Wally kicks aside, trying to keep a straight face.
The curtain closes and the cast slips behind it, save for Wally, who hunkers down on the edge of the stage and hops down.
"Nice codpiece," Artemis sniggers, pointing.
"It's historically accurate, okay?" he grumbles.
"Right, because the most accurate part of history was the one where two teenagers accidentally killed themselves because of poor communication," Zatanna quips, which elicits a friendly scoff from Wally.
"Please don't tell me we have to do a group hug," Conner growls, still bitter about the loss of Mercutio.
"An excellent idea, Conner." Kaldur beams. "I believe a group hug is in order."
"No, I don't think that's—" Wally starts to say, but they all converge on him at once in a pile of arms. He nearly topples over.
"Sometimes I forget we're superheroes," Artemis whispers into the center of the circle.
Wally shoots a pointed glance at the feather in his hat. "Yeah, me too."
"But this is nice," M'gann says, her smile effervescent. "Just – all of us. It's nice."
"Nice and suffocating," Conner grumbles, and they all laugh.
"No, seriously; I can't breathe."
Artemis drops Wally off first, which he profusely thanks the universe for after she makes the van go airborne over a speed bump. He's just finished writing out his will in his head when she lurches the vehicle to a halt in front of his house, the force of which causes his seatbelt to lock into his place.
She walks him up to the front door, her hands in the pockets of her ratty Gotham North hoodie, and doesn't say anything, folding her lips in (obviously to refrain from laughing).
"Look, babe, just get it all out," he sighs when they reach the steps. "You might as well."
Artemis laughs, but it's the nice kind of laugh, quieter and more fond. She shrugs loosely.
"Nah, I was just gonna say parting's such sweet sorrow, and stuff," she says with bluffed nonchalance. "So... good night."
"Yeah, g'night," he murmurs. She grabs him at the sweatshirt strings and plants a kiss on him.
"You did pretty good tonight, Romeo," she tells him when she draws away, twisting the strings between her fingers and still smiling. "Even in the codpiece."
"Even in the codpiece," he agrees.
"No, but seriously," she says. The gold light from the streetlamps makes her hair look ethereal. "If the whole superhero-slash-science prodigy thing doesn't work out... you could always shoot for Broadway. Or the Globe."
"Wow, and to think I was sure you didn't have a sense of humor when I met you," Wally retorts, which makes her quirk an eyebrow. "Uh, in a... nice way."
She shakes her head and rolls her eyes, releasing him and striding on her way back to the minivan. He watches her go about five steps before he can bring himself to talk again.
"Artemis!" he blurts out.
She turns expectantly. "Yeah?"
He nods, though he doesn't know why. "Uh, thanks. Tell everyone thanks. For being cool about me wearing tights and – tell Dick he can dress up as a fairy next time. Promise."
She shoots her eyes skyward again and scrunches up her shoulders. "Yeah, whatever, Wally. Never was there a tale of more woe than this of Romeo and his Romebro."
"Hysterical." Wally waves his hands at her in exasperation. "Go home, Juliet."
"Dude, don't say that; I might die." Artemis laughs and salutes him in farewell.
Wally glances at the van to see the Team's noses all pressed against their respective windows. He sputters out a chuckle at the lot of them.
"What, you?" he calls. She looks back and he grins in spite of himself. "Never."
He continues to smile and watches her go, and the van rolls off into the night, and the horn honks five times, and – not stepping o'er the bounds of modesty, Wally West feels pretty good about the world right then.