The alien mothership canted to port as it rocked with the first explosion in its core. The deck shuddered beneath Dick, and his grapple slipped and skittered across the pipes above. A main burst when it slid by, and steam poured into the the room, hot and wet. The claw finally found purchase by a joint in the wall, wrapping its slim fingers tight around the thrumming tube.
Eerie light painted the acrobat's features purple and dyed the grappling wire red.
Dick tried not to count the regrets, the things he never got to do, as he mentally restarted a timer to estimate the seconds it would take for the fire to engulf him, to engulf Wally. How far had they run? Four minutes must have put them on the outer edge of the blasts.
So twenty seconds, maybe sooner.
Of all the places he hadn't been, he most wanted to visit the Great Barrier Reef. Oh, he'd been to Australia, but never in the ocean. He'd never been eye to eye with a dwarf minke whale or swum among the 1500 species of fish.
Yet. Stay in the moment, stay in the moment, never surrender.
Behind him, his best friend took down one more alien drone, but the robots never let up, they flooded the tiny alcove, overwhelmed them. The boys had to get away, get to higher ground, take down more. They had to cling to the hope they'd escape the inevitable.
Don't give up, don't give up, it's not over yet.
He's never seen the soft lights of a red Aurora Borealis.
Yet. Yet. Yet.
“Wally,” Dick yelled over the clamor. The speedster turned to him, confused, as the drone lunged for him once more. “Come on!”
He held out his hand. Wally headed toward him but hesitated, and one long silver claw rent his shirt down the back.
“Don't stop, don't stop,” begged Dick. We have to get out of here.
He'd never graduated high school; he'd never taken the SATs; he'd never been to prom.
Stay in the moment. 8 seconds more.
Wally picked up speed until he was at Dick's side, one arm wrapping around his shoulder, the other encircling his waist, and Dick engaged the grapple. The pull of the wire - they soared, and hot gusts of air flowed over, around them.
The inferno rolled toward them, a roaring, frothing leviathan.
He'd never had a Mai Tai on a Caribbean beach, his toes pressed into the white sand.
Don't surrender; only here and now count.
Wally's grip around Dick tightened as they swung; vertigo threatened to drown them. An ankle snuck behind the acrobat's knee for better leverage; fingers dug into Dick's hips hard enough to bruise as he arched into to his friend to keep him from tumbling away. One glove fell away, and the acrobat's bare fingers slid just beneath the tear in Wally's uniform. His back was slick: his muscles winding and unwinding beneath the pressure of his palms.
The brunet wondered whether or not he was hallucinating the smell of charred circus peanuts.
He'd never gone on a date.
Maybe only five more seconds. Stay in the moment.
“I've never been ...” Dick heard himself shout above the din, and he wasn't sure how much of his list he'd been calling aloud, or if this was the first thing he'd said. But he couldn't wonder long, because a soft pair of lips cut off the rest of his sentence.
Moist with steam and sweat, they pressed gently against his.
Time shuddered to a stop.
Five. Five. Five. Five.
A pink tongue slipped past Robin's lips, past his teeth, and it tasted like burnt salted caramel, warm – hot – and delicious.
Four. Four. Four. Four.
When Wally pulled back, the vacuum between them filled with a cool breeze, refreshing like peppermint. Shadows and fire danced over the speedster's freckles, and he pressed his cheek to Dick's.
“I – I have.” The whisper, soft and stuttering, ghosted across Dick's ear, followed by a hot, crimson blush.
Three. Three. Three. Three.
Dick's breath hitched as he slid his free hand to the redhead's jaw – he'd never counted Wally's freckles –
– to bring him back for a kiss so deep that it burned; it seared.
Sparks rained from the sky, the grind of metal against metal as the ship – reality – shattered to pieces around them.
Two. Two. Two. Two.
And in that moment all was heat and light and sound -
- and surrender.