A/N: This story is based off a fanfiction I read on here last year. I deliberately forgot the name back then because the story unsettled me so much (there should have been a character death warning or something in there), but the basic premise of it had Robin missing and Kid Flash spending years looking for him. The story ends with him still looking. On the back of a dark couple of months, that story has come back to haunt me… along with this little bunny which wouldn't stop prodding until I wrote it. I needed an ending, a happy one. So dark as this fic may seem, it is NOT a death fic. It's my way of working the poison of that other story out of my system.
As always, thank you to my wonderful beta, HaleyKim, for all your help and feedback.
"Knowing someone isn't coming back doesn't mean you ever stop waiting." Toby Barlow.
October 27, 20:41 EDT
"Robin is missing."
Wally stares, pretty sure he's misheard Batman. Either that or Batman has been body-snatched and this is just a bad joke, because Robin isn't missing. He can't be. Wally tilts his head and waits for the punchline.
But Batman neither speaks nor laughs, and Wally feels his stomach crumble in on itself. How can Robin be missing?
"What do you mean he's missing?" Artemis demands, and Wally can hear the same disbelief in her voice.
"There was an incident involving Joker in Gotham two nights ago. He blew up some warehouses in the industrial district and several night watchmen were hurt. Robin disappeared in the aftermath."
Batman's expression is blank and it makes Wally want to shake some emotion into him. Only he doesn't, because, duh, Batman.
"What can we do?" Kaldur's calm voice asks from behind Wally, and the speedster whips around to glare at him because the answer is obvious. They're going to get out there and find Robin.
"You will scout the area and see if there is anything that I missed."
The words make Wally's insides shrivel completely, because Batman is the World's Greatest Detective, he doesn't just miss stuff. If he's sending the team to Gotham then… Wally doesn't even know what, but he knows it can't be good.
Wally chews anxiously on his lip while his team mates exchange troubled looks.
October 27, 22:17 EDT
Wally's never really liked Gotham. The city is cold, dark and suffocating, and he always feels like it might swallow him whole.
Like it seems to have swallowed Robin.
Wally shakes himself furiously to dislodge that thought before it can cling. Robin is the Boy Wonder, trained by Batman to save Gotham from itself. He's the last person the city is going to swallow.
But it's kind of hard to believe that when they're standing by the smouldering ruin of what used to be several warehouses, while the wind wraps itself around them, making their clothes flap and biting their cheeks.
Gotham has a way of getting under your skin and making it crawl.
"No sign of anything," Artemis reports, returning from the section she was searching. Her voice is low and tight. She doesn't mention Robin's name. She can't yet.
Wally knows how that feels. Admitting aloud who they're looking for is the same as admitting that he's actually missing. The kind of missing that results in being gone, and Wally doesn't feel ready for that.
"Do you think he really is hurt?" M'gann asks waveringly, and for the first time ever, Wally kind of hates her. He doesn't want to be reminded of what Batman told them – that a second explosion had catapulted Robin fifteen feet into the air. He doesn't want to think about the dislocated elbow or possible concussion. Injuries make people vulnerable and that's not something he's going to attribute to his best friend right now.
No one answers M'gann's question because they have no answer. Not one that anyone wants to hear anyway.
October 31, 19:25 EDT
Roy is pissed. Really pissed. Wally can't exactly blame him. He'd have been furious too if they'd forgotten to call him and tell him that Robin was missing.
Wally stands beside Kaldur while Roy yells at them. He tries not to think about the irony of Roy yelling at them on Halloween because, if things had been normal, that's exactly what he would have been doing anyway. They had come up with their best prank yet for Roy this year.
Okay. Robin had come up with it.
Wally looks at his feet and feels something twist in his stomach. It's been five days and he doesn't want to admit that he's scared because that makes this real. And Wally would much rather maintain the nice, numb, surreal sensation that's carried him through the last few days.
Roy stops yelling. "Where did Batman last see him?" he demands, voice rough with frustration and something else.
Wally's head jerks up. "We already–"
"Where?" Roy snarls, and Wally closes his mouth.
He remains silent as Kaldur activates a holomap to show Roy where Robin's last known location was. Wally knows there's no point trying to stop him, no point reminding him that Batman, the Team and the League have already pulled that area apart. Roy is going to search anyway.
Had their roles been reversed, Wally would have done the same.
November 20, 09:12 EDT
Wally pretends not to notice the subtle changes in the team dynamics. Kaldur is no longer as decisive as he once was. He hesitates a lot now, and he's reluctant to let the team split up on missions. M'gann has practically deflated as a person, her bubbly personality gone. She walks like she's carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders and Wally can't remember the last time he heard her say the words "hello, Megan!"
He never thought he'd miss that expression and is kind of surprised to find that he does.
Artemis has mellowed. A lot. She's surprisingly nice to Wally most of the time, even when he deserves to be yelled at (not that he'd ever admit to that of course). Wally kind of likes it. But it troubles him too, because deep down he knows why Artemis is being like that. She's started referring to Robin in the past tense.
He tries not to think about how much that hurts.
Conner, never what anyone would call verbose, has become the master of one word answers. He keeps to himself most of the time, his anger usually bubbling somewhere just beneath the surface. He hasn't smiled since before…
Robin had always been the best at making him smile.
Is. Is the best.
As for himself, Wally likes to think that he's relatively unchanged…even if he does spend most of his free time running across the country. Looking. Because Robin is out there somewhere and Wally's not giving up until he finds him.
December 22, 15:34 EDT
Wally listens to his classmates yelling at each other to have a merry Christmas and pulls his coat around himself. He's never felt less festive in his life.
He and his family are going to Vermont for Christmas. Skiing, of all things. Normally, Wally would jump at the idea of spending Christmas at some ski lodge, surrounded by hot Ski Bunnies while toasting marshmallows, but not this year. This year he has too much to do. Despite spending every spare minute searching, he still hasn't covered all of the United States.
Wally's as patriotic as the next guy, but why does this country have to be so damn big?
Skiing. Wally sighs. It's been fifty-seven days and seventeen hours; he doesn't have time for a vacation. But his parents are insisting he go. They're worried about him.
Wally doesn't know why. He's eating. He's sleeping. His grades are good. Wally is fine.
July 08, 16:34 EDT
Wally can pinpoint the exact moment when Kaldur stopped believing that Robin would come back.
They were at the beach in Happy Harbour, having a picnic. Wally was alternating between flirting with M'gann and annoying Artemis, because even though she's nice to him now, that's still sort of fun to do. Eventually, she had chucked a soda can at him in annoyance and Wally, naturally, had used his speed to zoom out of the way. The can had smacked Kaldur across the back of the head instead.
Artemis has a hell of an arm after all, archer and all that.
The Atlantian had given that long-suffering sigh Wally has heard a thousand times before, and turned. "Why must you two–" He froze mid-sentence, and some sort of spasm that Wally couldn't even identify rippled across his face. Without another word, he hurried back across the sand towards Mount Justice, silence trailing in his wake.
Wally knows why he reacted like that. Kaldur was– is used to reprimanding Wally and Robin for their behaviour. But in that moment, when he turned and remembered that Robin wasn't there, Kaldur had realized that he wasn't ever going to be there again.
But he's wrong. Robin is coming back.
Wally is aware that Kaldur isn't the only one who doesn't believe that Robin will return; Artemis only held out hope for a couple of weeks before letting go. Wally doesn't blame her for that. It's in her nature to be pessimistic. He's not sure when Conner stopped believing, but it's been at least a couple of months. M'gann still has hope, but Wally knows it's only a matter of time before she decides that Robin isn't coming back.
They're all wrong.
He doesn't hold it against them though; none of them know Robin like he does. Robin is the most resourceful person Wally has ever met and whatever jam he's in, he will get out of it. Robin doesn't quit.
So Wally won't either.
May 23, 14:24 EDT
It's another year before Roy gives up. Wally is kind of surprised that he lasted so long; Roy equals Artemis in the pessimistic realist stakes.
But even though he's surprised, Roy's giving up hurts Wally the most. After all, he's known Robin for almost as long as Wally, how can he even think that Robin is no longer out there?
Wally is mad at Roy in a way that he wasn't mad at the others, but he's not entirely sure why that is. All he knows is that Roy has suddenly become another one of those faces that looks at him with pity. It's frustrating, patronizing and sad all at the same time.
Robin is going to rip them all a new one for their lack of faith.
October 13, 12:15 EDT
College changes things for Wally. Life is busier and classes are harder. He's moved in with Artemis because they've been dating for over two years now, and it's one of those things that everyone keeps saying is the next step.
Wally thinks it's sort of dumb to measure your relationship in steps, but he likes living with Artemis and she's okay with him running around the world: he graduated to global running once he finished searching all of North and South America.
Artemis is the only person who doesn't comment on his searching, – Wally didn't speak to Conner for a month when he asked why he was still looking – Artemis just lets him run.
Wally loves her for that. He loves her for other things too, but that's the thing that means the most to him because it shows how much she really understands him. But it also means he needs to pick up the pace now, because in a couple of years, he and Artemis might be heading for another 'step'.
And Wally wants his best pal beside him when he says his vows.
August 23, 17:42 EDT
Batman has a new partner. A new Robin, to be precise.
For the first time ever, Wally yells at Batman. Really yells at him, because what the hell?! That's Robin's name, his superhero ID! How can Batman just give it away like that?
Batman says that it's been almost five years and he needs help keeping Gotham at bay. Wally understands that, he does. But what's Robin going to do when he comes back and discovers that someone else is using his name?
When he points this out to Batman, the Dark Knight looks at him with something like pity on his face. Pity mixed with pain.
Wally's tired of being looked at like that.
He glares at the new kid as he storms out and okay, maybe that wasn't fair since it isn't exactly the kid's fault that Batman has done this, but couldn't he have just used another name? Why did he have to use Robin's?
Wally makes a mental note to find out the kid's real name because he knows he's never in a million years going to call him Robin.
November 11, 23:19 EDT
Wally celebrates his twenty-first birthday in the grand old tradition of getting smashed. All of his friends show up to help him celebrate. It's a heck of a party with Wally as the star.
He hates every minute of it.
Being surrounded by all these people who care about him only draws attention to the one person who isn't here. For the first time in a long time, Wally is mad at his best friend. Why isn't Robin here? He's supposed to be here, it's his job as a best pal to hold Wally's head when he's puking into the toilet later!
Roy hands him another drink and toasts his coming of age. Wally tosses back the drink and squints, trying to imagine a small, dark head in the corner. When that doesn't work, he grabs the nearest shot and downs that one too.
When Wally wakes up the next morning, it's to a spinning room and utter silence. And that's the point where it starts to hit him: Robin's not here. Wally is dying from his first hangover and Robin's not here.
Drawing his knees to his chest and looping his arms around them, Wally stares at the opposite wall and feels his eyes start to burn. Robin had promised to hire a twenty-piece marching band for Wally's benefit when he had his first hangover.* There is no way that Robin would be missing out on the ultimate opportunity to troll Wally, not unless he couldn't help it.
Wally can feel himself tremble as the shell around him starts to crack, and somewhere, somewhere deep inside, a traitorous little voice suggests that maybe everyone else is right.
Maybe Robin really isn't coming back.
March 21, 12:34 EDT
Wally is in a bad mood. Even though they have essays and exams coming up, Artemis has dragged him to the cave to visit M'gann, Kaldur and Conner, only to find that the entire team is having a barbecue. M'gann insists they join them.
Wally strongly suspects that Artemis planned this.
He supposes he can hardly blame her. Things haven't been the same since his twenty-first birthday, since doubt started to creep in at the edges. Wally's been skipping classes, spending more time running and less time living. He's tired, and part of him thinks it might just be easier to give up.
But another part of him doesn't want to give up. The part that misses Robin terribly and just wants his best friend back. The loneliness is like a cancer that gnaws at his soul, and some days are worse than others.
Today is one of those days. Robin would have been nineteen today.
It hurts Wally to realize that he is now referring to Robin in the past tense. He wonders how long he's been doing it for, and the fact that he's not even sure when it started makes him feel like he's betrayed his best friend.
July 04, 13:10 EDT
Wally's friends drag him to the Independence Day Carnival. He appreciates the distraction because he's trying really hard not to remember that it was six years ago today that he, Robin and Aqualad rescued Superboy from Cadmus.
But memories have a way of sneaking up on people.
Wally watches his friends cheer while Artemis conquers the ring toss, and feels a biting sense of loss: Robin told him a long time ago that those things are usually rigged, but Artemis has the best aim of anyone he's ever seen and she's about to beat the system.
He wishes Robin were here to see it.
Wally turns to go, but M'gann is beside him before he can leave. "Want to get some cotton candy?" she asks carefully, smiling her sweet smile. Her hair is shorter now and her clothes are different, but that smile hasn't changed.
Wally's mouth stretches into a grin he doesn't feel. "You know me, Babe, I never say no to food."
They're almost to the cotton candy stall when they're accosted by an old Romani woman.
"Tell your fortune?" she inquires, pushing herself between them in a way that suggests she won't take no for an answer.
Before Wally can refuse, M'gann is squealing with delight and the woman is tugging them into the nearest tent. He catches sight of a sign saying 'Madame Rosa' and his expectations hit the ground.
It's stifling inside and Wally wants to turn around and walk straight back out, but the old woman is looking at them with an intense expression, and Wally feels a chill wash over him.
"What?" he snaps, trying to ignore the prickling at the back of his neck. He doesn't believe in this stuff, after all. "You want us to cross your palm with silver first?"
"No silver," she tells him. Her eyes keep shooting to Wally's left, right by his elbow, and it's a little unnerving. "Your friend say no more running."
Wally's breath catches in his throat and his heart almost shudders to a halt. "Friend?"
She nods. "He say you are idiot. Stop running."
Beside Wally, M'gann gasps.
"This is bullshit!" Wally grinds out. His hands are trembling. "We're leaving. C'mon, M'gann!"
"NO!" the woman shouts, and grabs his sleeve. "You listen, is important." She squints to Wally's left again. "He say…he say…" She frowns and shakes her head. "I not understand…Robin?"
Blood is rushing in his ears and Wally doesn't know whether he's angry or scared. How dare she use Robin like this?
"Slow, leetle one, slow," the woman says to no one, her voice soft. She keeps her eyes glued to Wally's left, by his elbow. It's the exact height Robin had been…
No. It's not true. Wally refuses to believe it.
He jerks his sleeve out of her hand. "I said we're leaving!" His voice is hoarse and shaking.
"I tell truth!" she insists, peering up at him. "He say go back to where it start. Clown was not only bad man, there was other."
"Robin doesn't talk like that!" Wally hisses, before he can stop himself.
The woman looks back to the spot by Wally's elbow, her expression sad. "He not able to talk. Bad man hurt him. He tell me through feeling and…picture. Is not always clear."
A cold, sick feeling settles in Wally's stomach. He stares at the woman.
"Go back to start," she repeats. "Look for man with blue uniform."
July 04, 18:34 EDT
The house isn't what Wally was expecting. It's small and neat.
Glancing at the League members beside him, Wally feels something shiver down his back. Cold rage is radiating from them and they're all silent, waiting for Superman to finish his scan of the house. Wally hadn't expected them to be so calm, but in a weird way, this calmness feels more dangerous than any outburst ever could.
A second shiver ripples down his spine, and Flash puts a hand on his shoulder and squeezes.
"Only one person inside," Superman reports in a low voice.
It's all they need to hear. As one, they surge up the garden path towards the front door.
Wonder Woman reaches it first and forces it open with one graceful, forward shove. Before Wally can blink, they're in an old-fashioned living room, surrounding its lone occupant where he's seated in front of the TV.
"Where. Is he?" Batman growls, looming over the man.
To Wally's surprise, the man doesn't seem scared. Or surprised. Instead he appears tired and resigned, as though he's been waiting for them. He looks a lot older than the forty-three his file had claimed.
The man gets to his feet. "He's out back."
He leads them into the back garden, and Wally half expects to see Robin tossing a football around. Instead, the man stops beside a large tree and looks down.
"Shovel?" Flash barks at him, and Wally is shocked to hear such hate in his voice. It's not a natural emotion in his easy-going uncle.
"In the garage," comes the reply.
Flash is back inside of two seconds with a shovel. He quickly begins to dig and in less than a minute there's a six-foot hole staring them in the face. A six-foot hole containing a sheet that was possibly once white, but is now so immersed in filth that it's impossible to tell.
Something is wrapped in the sheet.
"I knew you'd find me," the man tells them in a low voice. "That's why I kept him close. Always knew you'd come."
Wally stares at him and feels something explode in his chest. It hurts. Really hurts. Wally thinks he might cry because this is all wrong. That's not Robin and this man has no idea what he's talking about.
Without a word, Batman climbs down into the grave and carefully unwraps the sheet.
The world drops out from under Wally's feet. Inside is a small skeleton. The clothes are pretty tattered, but it's hard to miss that stylized 'R' on its chest.
Oh God. Wally gulps. It's really him. Somehow, in his six years of searching, he never thought it would end like this. He drops to his knees and stares at Robin.
Except it doesn't look anything like Robin. It's a freaking skeleton for crying out loud! It's all white and bony and empty and…God, was Robin really that small?
"I haven't slept in six years," the man, the murderer, tells them suddenly. They all look at him. He's staring at Robin with an expression of regret. "Always knew you'd find me. I shouldn't have done it. But he was so pretty and he was just…there. I couldn't help it."
Wally doesn't remember reacting. All he knows is that suddenly, he's hammering this monster into the ground while his uncle pulls him back.
"Kid, no! Stop!"
Wally ignores him. He's sobbing as he pummels the monster, small cries breaking out between clenched teeth.
Two sets of hands drag him away. Wally looks up in between angry gasps at Flash and Superman, holding tightly to each of his arms.
"Not like this, Kiddo," Flash tells him quietly. "That bastard isn't worth it."
But even he looks like he doesn't believe that as Batman gathers up the little skeleton and cradles it to him.
July 09, 01:15 EDT
In the days that follow, Wally's grief nearly swallows him whole. It feels like pain and despair have cloaked themselves around him, trapping him in darkness.
He spent six years looking for Robin, and now the part of him that's howling out in pain wishes they'd never found him. Wally doesn't want this to be real because even though they've found Robin, he's never coming back. And that hurts worse than anything Wally has ever imagined.
The League and Team don't seem to be struggling with the same grief that he is, and Wally is angry at them until he realizes – they all grieved for Robin a long time ago. He was the only one still holding on.
But their anger outstrips Wally's, mostly because they know things he doesn't. Robin's murderer recorded things, kept diaries of what he'd done.
Wally knows he strangled Robin over and over so he couldn't scream, but that's where his knowledge ends. As soon as he heard about the strangling, he left. He doesn't want to know the rest.
But he can't help hearing things, whispers from his team mates and innuendos in the press: Gotham PD scoured the house after the League turned over Robin's killer. Turns out that John Denton – Wally has trouble believing a murderer's name could be so ordinary – has a thing for young boys, and Robin wasn't his first victim.
But he was certainly his last.
July 11, 11:13 EDT
It's at Robin's funeral that Wally decides not to accept this. His best friend was a hero. He didn't deserve to die like that, alone and scared and hurt and…
Wally's not going to think about that bit.
All he knows is that Robin shouldn't have died at the hands of some pervert with a name as stupidly ordinary as John Denton, so he's going to do something about it.
Wally's going to change it all.
September 19, 04:30 EDT
His obsession is costing him Artemis. Wally knows this and it hurts him, but he can't seem to stop.
He has to save Robin.
Instead of running, Wally works. Never-ending, all-consuming work. He's working on harnessing the speed force to go back in time, to stop Robin from ever disappearing.
But it's a difficult task. Sending someone back in time using the speed force is like trying to slingshot an elephant through a basketball hoop. From fifty miles away.
He's being ambitious, he knows this, but he has time to work on time. It's not like when he was running, searching. Time was precious then, because no matter how fast he ran, deep down Wally always knew he was running out of time.
But it's different now, and not just because he's working on changing time. Time itself has slowed down. In the years of searching, it had only been there in snatches and brief glimpses of moments. But ever since…that day, time has stretched out ahead of him. Wally has all the time in the world to accomplish his task.
And he'll do it even if it kills him.
February 15, 21:52 EDT
Joker killed Jason last month. Wally feels bad that he kept good on his promise never to call the kid Robin.
The death of a second Robin has changed Batman. Wally didn't think it was possible for the man to get any more grim or scary, but he has. Never the easiest person to work with, he's downright impossible now. Only Superman and Wonder Woman seem able to accomplish it.
Wally wants to tell Batman that it's okay, that he's going to fix things. Because he's close now. So close. He thinks he might be able to manipulate the speed force in another month or two.
But his calculations are still a little off, and he doesn't want anyone to know what he's doing in case they try to stop him. Messing with the speed force is dangerous. Changing the timeline is dangerous. But Wally doesn't care. He needs to do this. Saving Robin will fix everything; Batman, Artemis…him.
Because Wally knows he hasn't been whole for a very long time.
April 19, 23:47 EDT
Wally has finally figured it out. A way to harness the speed force so that he can go back in time. But there's a small problem.
To break down the time barrier, he needs to recreate the energy within the speed force that touches every part of reality, allowing him to phase through the wall between the present and the past. Which means Wally needs to vibrate at exactly the right frequency to match the temporal vibrations of that energy – an insanely precise task.
He knows he can use a computer to run diagnostics, measure the vibrations and calculate the right frequency, a perfect solution…except for the fact that he's going to be the one vibrating.
Kind of hard to monitor those calculations when you're moving at the speed of sound.
He needs help. But there aren't a whole lot of people he trusts who would be willing to mess with the timeline like this, even if it means saving Robin.
In fact, he can only think of one person who will even consider helping him do it.
April 22, 07:59 EDT
Batman agrees immediately.
Wally is surprised. He'd expected to have to work at convincing him. Instead, all Batman insists upon is making a few changes to the machine Wally developed to harness the energy of the speed force.
"This is not going to be as easy as you think," Batman tells him, as Wally steps onto the platform. "Once you're in the speed force, you can't just pick the exact date you want to travel to. You're going to be hit with sights and sounds from the past. It will be confusing and disorienting, and you will have just milliseconds to react."
"React to what?" Wally is surprised that Batman knows so much about time travel until he remembers, duh, Batman.
"Something to anchor you out from the speed force. Stop vibrating the instant you see or hear something that brings you within the date of Robin's abduction."
"Wait!" Wally is confused. "The whole point of going back is to prevent his being taken."
Batman shakes his head and moves over to the computer. "Preventing it also means revealing the events leading up to it in Gotham, thereby changing the timeline. Robin's abduction has to happen to prevent further disruption to the timeline."
Wally stares. "You must be insane if you think I'm letting that sicko get his hands on him! Besides, what if I come out at the wrong point and he's already killed him?"
"Denton kept Robin alive for over a week," Batman tells him, without looking up from where he is imputting data. "He waited almost three days before–" He breaks off abruptly and stabs savagely at a button.
Wally feels sick. He doesn't want to hear this.
"Aim for within that three-day window," Batman finishes.
Wally doesn't say anything, but he knows he's going to aim for day one.
"Begin," Batman commands, switching on the machine.
Wally starts to vibrate, and the molecules in the air around him begin to hum. As the vibrations increase, he can feel a prickling on the back of his neck. Wind whips his hair back and forth while lighting crawls out from nowhere and flashes in forks before his eyes.
"Kid Flash! Maintain that frequency!" he hears Batman yell suddenly, and Wally stops increasing his speed.
Without warning, reality explodes, and Wally finds himself in a vortex that positively thrums in a cacophony of light and sound around him.
The pressure of the speed force pulls at him, making him feel like he weighs about a thousand pounds. His lips pull back across his teeth, baring them in a snarl. It hurts, and okay, this is waaaay harder than he thought it would be. Sights, sounds, even memories, assault him and Wally is finding it hard just to think, much less maintain this frequency.
A million voices thunder out from the walls of reality and a billion images almost smash him in the face. Wally closes his eyes. He can feel the speed force trying to tear him apart, and a small, frightened part of him thinks he won't be able to do this.
Until he hears Batman scream at him. Really scream at him.
Wally stops vibrating and throws himself at the sound, because there was only one time in his life that Batman yelled at him like that. And it was right after Robin disappeared.
The noise around him falls away as Wally smashes into something hard. Groaning, he opens his eyes and finds himself on the ground, with Batman standing over him. Batman and what looks like a fifteen-year-old Kid Flash.
"Ten forty-seven!" he squeaks at Batman quickly, sitting up. And okay, whoa! The world is not supposed to spin like that.
Wally doesn't even see him move, but somehow Batman is on the ground beside him. "Who told you to say that?" he demands, voice low and threatening.
"Uh…you did," Wally confesses, holding one hand to his head in an effort to stop the room from spinning. "You told me to say that to you when I came out here. You said it was important."
Batman narrows his eyes at him, but says nothing.
"What date is it?" Wally demands urgently, remembering why he's here.
"October twenty-eighth," Kid Flash answers, gawping at him. And it's seriously disconcerting to have your fifteen-year-old self staring you in the face. "Dude. Are you…me?"
Wally ignores him, scrambling to his feet, because crap, crap, crap! Its day three and he needs to move. But the world rocks again and Wally is horrified to realize that he's too weak after travelling through the speed force to run. He can't do this by himself. "We need to get to Gotham! Now!"
Batman seizes his arm. "Not until you answer some questions."
"No time!" Wally bats at his hand. "Robin was taken by one of the security guards from the warehouses that Joker blew up and–"
"Not possible," Batman interrupts.
"Yes, possible!" Wally spits. "He took advantage of the fact that Robin was injured, and while you were rescuing the other security guards from the fire, he knocked him out and put him in the trunk of his car. Took him right out of there when the cops were done questioning him and no one even looked twice at him."
"How do you know this?"
"Does it matter?" Wally yells. He's panicking now. They need to go before Denton has the chance to do anything.
"It matters if you're coming back here to change the timeline."
Batman's face is devoid of emotion and it infuriates Wally, so he does something he will forever question his sanity for.
He hits him.
"I came back here for Robin!" he hisses. "And you helped me. So you need to ask yourself, why would you do that?"
"I would never allow the timeline to be changed," Batman responds in a deadly voice, squaring up to Wally.
Wally stands his ground. "Oh, yes you would. Because you don't want him to die like that!"
"Wait! DIE?" Kid Flash screeches from somewhere to his left. "Batman, we can't let that happen!"
Batman ignores him. "We can't change the timeline. It's too dangerous."
Wally wants to hit him again. "We're not changing the timeline! We're saving Rob's life."
"That requires changing the timeline."
"It's only changing one thing!" Wally snaps. "One thing isn't going to make a difference to the rest of the world!"
"You don't know that. It could make things worse–"
"Worse?!" The word is practically a scream, but Wally doesn't care. "Believe me, nothing is worse than what he did to him; Robin didn't deserve to die like that!"
Batman is silent. His mouth twitches and Wally knows he has him. He just needs to twist the screw a little more. He lowers his voice. "You know, Robin probably spent the whole time thinking you would save him. This is your chance to not let him down."
And okay. That one hurts Wally because it's closer to the bone than he would like.
But it's also enough to push Batman over the edge because he clenches his fists and hisses, "Fine! We'll take the batplane. But we need to establish some ground rules first."
October 28, 19:03 EDT
It's a long journey into Gotham. Batman refuses to let Wally and Kid Flash speak to each other in case Wally lets something slip about the future. Wally can tell that his fifteen-year-old self is itching to ask questions, but he won't disobey Batman.
Denton's house looks the same as it did the last time Wally was here. He shivers and reminds himself that this visit isn't going to end with him staring at a skeleton.
Batman picks the lock on the door and they enter quietly. Wally leads them towards the basement because he knows that's where he kept Robin. That's where everything happened.
They descend into the freezing hole, and Wally's heart starts to hammer its way out of his chest. He finds it weird that over the course of the last few hours, reality has sharpened around him. The world feels more concrete than it has in years.
A single fluorescent bulb lights the dingy basement. At the furthest end, a closed door leads into what could possibly be a small storage or boiler room. Wally doesn't really care about those details; he's more concerned with the muffled grunts echoing out from there.
It takes him less than a second to cross to the door and fling it open.
And finally, finally, he's found Robin.
For a moment, Wally freezes. His friend is flat on his stomach, struggling beneath Denton. The man has a rope around his neck, twisting it and choking him with it. He jerks up as the door crashes into the wall, the rope slipping from his fingers, and Robin retches out a gasp.
The broken sound is all it takes to galvanize Wally into action. He springs forward and seizes Denton, dragging him to his feet. Something like fear sparks in the man's eyes, but Wally barely sees it. He's only aware of something dangerous igniting inside him. He leverages Denton into the wall where he starts to pound him, hard, because there's no one here to stop him this time.
A hand seizes his wrist.
Okay. Maybe he'd forgotten about Batman.
Wally faces the Dark Knight, silently begging him to let him do this. He wants this man to hurt as much as he hurt Robin, as much as he hurt him, but Batman only shakes his head, and carefully eases Wally's other hand from where it's clutching Denton's shirt in a tight bunch. The man immediately slumps to the ground, whimpering and sobbing and clutching his nose.
Wally stares at him until a noise from behind him brings him back to the moment. He's found Robin.
Turning, he sees Kid Flash unwinding the rope from Robin's neck. The younger boy is coughing and choking, trying to catch his breath, while the teenage speedster babbles at him with incomprehensible speed.
Slowly, Wally kneels beside them. Kid Flash is struggling to untie the ropes around Robin's wrists, his hands shaking. Wally can see why – Robin's elbow is dislocated and being pushed horribly out of joint by the ropes binding his hands behind his back. He gently pushes Kid Flash's groping fingers out of the way and begins to unpick the knotted ropes, his own hands trembling as he does so.
The knots fall away and suddenly, Batman is there, pushing past both speedsters and lifting Robin to a sitting position. Wally has to resist the urge to paw at Robin, to check that it really is him, because his best friend is shaking and still trying to suck in a full breath. There's dried blood down the side of his face that's pressed against Batman's chest and somehow it just doesn't seem right to reassure himself when Robin is like that.
Wally shuffles backwards because Kid Flash and Batman are crowding Robin, talking anxiously to him and scanning his injuries. Wally tries not to be angry or resentful, because they're just concerned, same as him.
Except he's been waiting so much longer for this.
The enormity of the moment staggers Wally. He's done it. All those years of running, of searching, of missing moments and broken time, have finally been worth it. The tight wall that's been building in his chest for almost seven years crumbles, and a whole host of emotions tumble out; joy, frustration, disbelief, sorrow, hopelessness, relief… Wally doesn't even know where they're all coming from.
He's shocked to find that he's both laughing and sobbing because, jeez! Only girls do stuff like that! He buries his head in his hands and shakes it, trying to get a grip on himself.
The voice is barely a whisper, and even though Wally hasn't heard it in years, he would know it anywhere. He looks up to find Robin staring at him from where's he's propped against Batman.
Wally wants to say something, but all those years of searching and he never once thought about what he was going to say. What the heck do you say to the friend who's come back from the dead?
And then it hits him. He doesn't need to say anything. He never has with Robin. Wally's mouth quirks in a smile and he holds his fist out towards Robin. His best friend doesn't miss a beat; he holds up his uninjured arm and bumps his fist against Wally's.
"See, Dude," Kid Flash interjects suddenly, "I'm so awesome I came back from the future to save your butt!"
Robin manages a small laugh and his eyes meet Wally's. "Thank you," he mouths.
Wally smiles. "Anytime." Because that's what best friends do.
October 29, 07:17 EDT
Wally's head is exploding. Something is happening to his memories. They're shuffling and changing. Growing. He's remembering things he didn't before; Roy screaming at him and Robin for putting Nair in his shampoo, Robin pulling his ass out of a burning building on a mission, Kaldur lecturing them both about the dangers of pranks after one involving a firework resulted in Artemis losing an eyebrow, Artemis chasing them down as a result of her missing eyebrow, Robin presenting him with a ridiculously expensive microscope for his eighteenth birthday, sneaking out to a club with Robin and getting busted by Superman, an exhilarating joyride in the batmobile for Robin's sixteenth birthday and the resulting punishment, Robin teaching Superboy how to ice-skate as a surprise for M'gann at Christmas while he laughs from the sidelines, he and Robin trying to convince Roy to buy them beer for Robin's eighteenth birthday, Robin's graduation to Nightwing, the twenty-piece marching band that showed up in Wally's bedroom the morning after his twenty-first birthday, Dick conducting them with a wicked smile on his face…
The memories are crowding his head, making it hurt, but Wally doesn't care because he's watching Robin grow up. No, not watching, remembering. The cold, lonely memories of nothing but running are slowly drifting away, and the painful image of the little skeleton is fading. Wally's whole world is turning on its axis and he welcomes it, because it's life. Real, actual life as opposed to the static existence he'd endured before.
He has to force himself to focus on what Batman is saying about sending him back – the Dark Knight was very careful to quiz Wally thoroughly on the machine he developed before his memories could change completely, and several League members worked all night to reconstruct it. Batman wants Wally out of the past as quickly as possible. He won't risk any more changes to the timeline.
Wally doesn't care. He's achieved what he came back to do – save Robin.
His best friend is back in Gotham, dead to the world thanks to a potent cocktail of painkillers: he needed surgery to repair the nerve damage to his elbow. Wally won't see him before returning to the future, and is surprised to find he's okay with that. He supposes it's because this isn't goodbye. His best pal is back in the future, waiting for him.
Martian Manhunter is imputting data into the computer and Batman joins Wally as he steps onto the platform. "Kid Flash."
Wally turns to look at him and tries not to let his jaw drop when he sees that Batman, the freaking Dark Knight himself, is holding out a hand towards him. Wally takes the proffered hand and shakes it, pretty sure that somewhere, pigs are flying.
"Thank you," says Batman in a low voice. "For coming back and saving him... For not giving up."
"Giving up was never an option," Wally replies quietly.
Batman nods and lets go of his hand. He joins Manhunter by the computer and they both look at Wally. "Whenever you're ready," Batman tells him.
Wally begins to vibrate, and once again, the molecules in the air around him begin to hum. This time, Wally is ready for the crawling sensation on the back of his neck and the wind whipping around him. When lighting starts to flash in forks before his eyes, he feels completely calm.
"Kid Flash, maintain that frequency," Batman calls, and Wally does.
When reality explodes, pulling him into the swirling vortex, Wally closes his eyes and prepares himself for the pressure of the speed force. As it starts to pull at him and make him feel like he weighs a ton, Wally is surprised to find that it doesn't hurt as much this time, it isn't as hard. Even the sights and sounds that thunder out at him from the walls of reality are more bearable.
Wally wonders if it's because this time he's prepared, this time he's not scared. Or is it because he's done what he set out to do?
And then Nightwing is yelling at him. "Wally! WALLY! Dude, get your freaking ass back here!"
Wally stops vibrating, throwing himself forward. The noise around him vanishes in an instant and he smacks into something hard.
"Ow," he manages, opening his eyes.
He's on the ground with Nightwing standing over him, smirking. "Nice. Real smooth landing, KF."
Wally scrambles to his feet and seizes his friend in a tight hug.
"Ooof! Wally, what the heck's the matter with you? ...Wally… Dude, do I look like Artemis to you?" Nightwing's voice is amused rather than annoyed.
Wally releases him. "Sorry, Man, I just…really missed you."
"You were only gone a few minutes!"
"Felt like a lifetime." Wally shrugs. "Must be the time travel."
Nightwing rolls his eyes and turns back to the computer, and Wally can't help but grin at the familiar you're-an-idiot expression on his face. He's not sure why he's so happy to see that expression, or why he thinks they should totally have a video-games marathon later. He only knows that he's really, really happy to see his best friend.
Somewhere in the corner of his mind, the image of a small, white skeleton tucks itself away and vanishes.
*Refers to Breaking the Bat Rules.
A/N: I know that Robin's birthday in Young Justice is December 1st, but since that was a season 2 reveal and I already ignore everything to do with season 2, I'm ignoring it and going with the comics where Dick's birthday is March 21st. I like the symbolism of Robin having a spring birthday.