Wally threw a cheese puff up into the air and caught it with his mouth. He was sitting upside down on the couch with his feet against the wall and his head flopping against the edge of the seat cushion. He had been trying to get life out of the rock next to him for the last five hours.
Hunched in a tight ball on the floor next to his couch with fingers wound way too tight against the Xbox controller sat his best friend. Well rather, Dick was trying to be a ball. His most recent growth spurt had the normally graceful acrobat confused on how to best conceal his legs. One was tight against his chest, his arms wrapped protectively around it as if that were the only thing holding him together. The other was stuck out as a tripping hazard, but he doubted Dick noticed.
Dick had also been playing the same field of Call of Duty for the last four hours. Wally had stepped out of the game a couple of hours ago, but Dick clung to the controller. Normally, the speedster would wait it out for Dick to come to him because Dick was chatty. His friend never shut up, which had always worked well for them. Wally loved to talk, and Wally was convinced that given enough time Dick would explode about the most recent injustice regarding being a teenager in Batman’s house. But ever since arriving, Dick had offered no more than one-word answers.
The longer this dragged on, the bigger the uncomfortable weight in Wally’s gut grew. More and more, this situation reminded him of last summer on the Brooklyn Bridge. Dick had sworn up and down that nothing like that had ever happened before and would never happen again. But seeing his friend this upset was setting off warning bells in Wally’s head.
Flipping around so that he was sitting on the couch properly, Wally slipped onto the floor next to his friend. He nudged lightly with his shoulder.
“So are we going to talk about it?”
“No.” Dick’s voice sounded like a warning.
Wally sighed. “Are we at least going to discuss that?” He asked, pointing at Dick’s phone which had been dismantled and scattered across the coffee table.
“You know why I did that,” Dick responded tersely, keeping his attention focused on his game.
Well, at least that was more than one word.
“Dude, come on. My hands hurt just watching you hold that controller,” Wally pestered.
Dick gripped the controller impossibly harder. “I’m fine, Walls.”
Wally placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder, which was harder than a rock. “Come on, Rob.” He said, slipping into the old nickname without conscience thought. “You’re worrying me.”
Dick tensed further, coiling like a spring, and then exploded. His limbs shot out so quickly that it was only Wally’s enhanced speed that prevented him from getting smacked. The controller was thrown across the room and thudded against the wall. Pacing, Dick ranted, “I don’t know where he gets off treating me like I’m still a kid. I’ve been a vigilante since I was 9. I know what I’m doing, but no. He still treats me like I’m five. I’m over it.”
Raising his hands in a calming gesture, Wally asked, “What happened?”
“The same thing that always happens.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Running a hand through his ebony hair, Dick looked to where the controller dented the wall. “I really really don’t,” he said as he picked up the equipment.
“Okay,” Wally agreed. He didn’t need specifics. Dick and Bruce had been arguing for the last year and a half over every little thing.
“I’m sorry about the wall.”
Wally grinned. “I figure you’re rich enough to pay for it.”
Dick nodded and changed the subject. “Where’s Artemis?”
“She still working at that café?”
“God no,” Wally snorted. That had been a disaster. He loved his archer with all of his heart, but she was possibly the worst waitress in the history of waitressing. She had only even tried that job because she could bring home free food, and it was hard to keep Wally full on a college student’s budget, and Artemis was too proud to accept Oliver’s help. “She’s working at the movie theater in the mall.”
Dick nodded again. He shifted his weight on his feet. It was clear that he didn’t know what to do with himself, which was too much for Wally. This was Dick Grayson, performing since he was four years old Dick Grayson, first and youngest superhero partner, ward of billionaire Bruce Wayne, and impossibly, both a mathlete and homecoming king Dick Grayson. Dick didn’t do unsure. Or he hadn’t.
At least Wally had never noticed it until eight months ago, and he pulled him of a bridge. No. Don’t think about. Dick’s okay. Dick promised it would never happen again. It was never going to happen again.
“Dick,” the speedster began, worry coloring his voice. “I-“
His friend straightened and interrupted, “I’m fine, Wally. I promise.”
Wally sighed. “Okay, I’m here if you need to talk.”
Rubbing his hand through his short spiky hair, Dick gave a half smile. “I know, thanks.”
The pair stood awkwardly for a minute. Neither knowing the correct path forward. Wally was about to offer a round of Mario Kart when his phone buzzed in his pocket. Pulling it out and checking the caller, Wally showed it to Dick: Wayne Manor. His friend shook his head. Sighing, Wally answered the phone turning as he did to pick up a few cheese puffs that missed his mouth over the last few hours.
“Mister West, I’m sorry to bother you, but is Richard with you?” Alfred asked. There was something off in the normally stoic man’s tone, but Wally couldn’t place it.
Turning around to hand over his phone, Wally started to answer in the affirmative when he noticed he was now the sole occupant of the room.
“Sorry Alfred,” Wally spoke slowly. “You just missed him.”
There was a short pause. “I see. Should you hear from him tell Richard that I must speak with him urgently.”
“Sure thing,” he replied, hoping Dick would return home before he needed to deliver the message.
After he hung up the phone, Wally collapsed onto his sofa. Dick would be fine. He reassured himself. Then he noticed the taken-apart cell phone on his table.
Please don’t do anything stupid, Dick.
When Wally woke up the next morning, he found a small piece of paper where Dick’s phone had been last night.
Sorry I bailed, just need some space to think. I’m okay. – N.
Wally glared at Brucely asleep on the couch. “You are a lousy, watch-dog.”
Frustrated, Wally stared at the blank page before him. Well okay, it wasn’t completely blank. It had his name on it as well as a title: A Historical Analysis of the Thuc Dynasty. But that was all. Wally West didn’t do history. He didn’t care about the dates and dead dudes. This was a stupid general education requirement that he had taken with Artemis. Vietnamese history was supposed to be an easy A. Artemis had written her paper weeks ago, but try as he might he just couldn’t come up with an argument regarding An Duong Vong.
He shoved a piece of meat lover’s pizza into his mouth. He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth and then licked the pizza sauce off it. Deciding that he would think better if he wasn’t ravenous, he devoured the entire pizza quickly. When still nothing came to his mind, he opened up Galaga on his computer. A few rounds of mind-numbing gaming should allow ideas to percolate in the back of his brain.
Four games later, Wally still had no idea what to write about. A phone call from Artemis provided a welcome distraction.
“Hey babe,” Wally greeted, tilting his head to grasp the phone between his shoulder and ear. His free hands shot more aliens out of space.
Artemis’s voice was fringed with worry. “Have you seen Dick?”
Wally’s brain dropped to his feet. The phone clattered to the floor. He scooped it up in a rush.
“Not since last Tuesday,” he answered.
There was a heavy pause.
Don’t be dead, you idiot. You promised me.
Artemis faltered for a moment longer, and Wally knew something was terribly wrong.
I should have told someone. Oh god, Dick’s dead, and it’s all my fault. What do I do? He didn’t notice he was circling his living room at superspeed until he heard his girlfriend speak again.
Wally came to an abrupt stop. The words didn’t register at first. He had expected someone to be dead but it was the wrong bird.
“What? How?” The words tumbled out of his mouth. It didn’t make sense.
Artemis’s voice was calm when she spoke. “There was an explosion in Ethiopia.” A pause. “It was the Joker.”
“We don’t know. That’s why I called you,” she replied exasperatedly. “Barbara said no one has seen him since the news broke.”
“When was that?” Wally asked in a rush. Dick was dead. Too much time had passed. Dick hadn’t contacted him, which meant he had probably done something incredibly stupid. You promised.
Wally blinked and double checked the calendar. It was Monday, which meant Dick had been missing for four days. Dread settled heavily in his stomach.
“Do you have any idea where he might be? Barbara’s worried,” Artemis asked.
Fear grabbed a hold of Wally, and he took off. He had to get to Dick. “I’ll find him,” he replied, hanging up the phone before his beautiful girlfriend could argue about helping. He needed to do this.
He arrived at the Brooklyn Bridge before he even realized that was where he was heading. The sound of cars rushing across, the subway train, all added to the roar in his own head. He has no idea why he came here. He hadn’t been here since August, can’t stand the sight of this place. When Dick had called him and told him that he wanted to kill himself, Wally’s world had come to an abrupt halt.
The speedster stumbled on the sidewalk. This was a bad plan. The memory rushed at him. He clutched at the railing, stumbling further. Bent over with hands clenched along the railing, he tried to catch his breath.
“Hey, are you alright?” Someone asked him.
He waved them away. The motion of his hand caught his eye. He was shaking. Oh. Whoops.
Blinking black spots out of his eyes, Wally grabbed a nutrition-dense protein bar out of his pocket. He swallowed the whole thing in one bite.
Then he noticed that the stranger was still staring at him worriedly. He forced himself to stand and ignored his lightheadedness. He hadn’t done a run like that sense quitting Young Justice. His body obviously rebelled at his lack of consideration.
“I’m okay,” Wally told the man. “Just low blood sugar. I’m feeling better all ready.” Wally offered him a big grin, which probably looked somewhat manic, but he didn’t have time to be distracted by a concerned citizen.
The man nodded hesitantly and walked into the crowd of tourists taking photos on the bridge. Collecting himself, Wally wondered why he came here. There was little to no chance Dick was here. And if… if Dick had jumped, his body would be long gone.
The truth was he hadn’t been thinking, which had gotten him into more trouble than he could count over the years. He heard Dick was missing, and then he panicked. Digging out his phone, he dialed his friend’s number. Hoping against hope that Dick would actually answer. Even though, he knew Dick had most likely demolished the thing to prevent being tracked again. When Dick wanted to disappear, he knew how.
Still the speedster bit back his disappoint when he heard Dick’s voice mail message.
“Dick,” Wally began, voice wrecked. “Dick. Dude, please answer your phone. I need to know you’re alive. Please. I need to know if you’re okay. I mean I know you’re not okay. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I know what Jason means – what he meant to you. Dick, please. I just. Just call me back, please.”
Hanging up the phone, Wally West wondered what to do next. He had no clue where Dick disappeared to when he didn’t want to be found. Wally had no idea where to even begin looking. He wasn’t a detective, locating people had never been his job. Unless, of course, it was finding someone once Dick or Connor had pointed out the right building.
Without a better plan in mind, the speedster headed for Bludhaven. Dick had some weird attachment to the grimy city, which seriously made no sense. Bludhaven was worse than Gotham and that was saying something.
After hours of running around Bludhaven with no success, Wally grabbed several burgers from a Belly Burger to replenish his waning strength. He was slouched on a park bench - if twenty feet of grass and a single swing could constitute a park – when his phone finally buzzed with a message from Dick.
Immediately he dialed Dick’s number. Pick up. Pick up.
The line connected but he was greeted with silence.
“Dick, buddy, where are you?” He forced himself to sound calmer than he felt.
There was silence and then half a sob. “Roy’s.”
Wally took off like a bolt of lightning. “I’ll be right there.”
By the time he arrived at Roy’s apartment, it was dark on the west coast. Wally’s body ached with the thousands of miles he ran today, but none of that mattered, because alone, huddled in the dark was his best friend.
Knees bent up to his chest and arms crossed over his knees, Dick’s huddled in a ball that made Wally’s heart break. He never got along with Jason, but Dick had loved that little twerp. Dick barely raised his head to greet Wally. His eyes were red and his face was splotched. Tear tracks stained his tanned face.
In an instant, the redheaded speedster rushed to his friend’s side. He pulled him into an embrace, and Dick collapsed anew, sobbing, the force of his cries shaking them both. Wally held him. He murmured reassuring nonsense and rubbed Dick’s back in smooth circles, trying to offer a comfort that didn’t exist.
“It was,” Dick chocked on the words. “It was my fault.”
Wally tightened his grip on his friend. “No, it wasn’t”
“It was.” Dick hiccoughed. “He left me several voicemails asking me for help. I didn’t get them because I was hiding from Bruce.” Dick shook and folded further into himself. The sobs were louder now.
Wally didn’t have a clue what to say. He didn’t know how to comfort Dick, didn’t know what had actually happened to able to refute Dick’s self-castration, so he just held Dick why he cried, wishing he could do anything to make this better.
After what felt like hours but was probably wasn’t even thirty minutes, Dick pulled himself out of their embrace. Using the shoulder of his oversized black hoodie, he wiped his nose. Then he used one of his sleeves to wipe his bloodshot eyes.
“I should shower,” Dick stated.
“I mean…I wasn’t going to say anything, but you do reek, man. When’s the last time you bothered to shower,” Wally teased.
Dick sent him a small broken grateful smile at the normalcy Wally tried to interject.
Turning to the kitchen, Wally started looking for some food. The cool breeze of the refrigerator hit his face and he blinked as his eyes adjusted to the bright light. There was nothing in the refrigerator. Well, not nothing. There was a case of beer, milk long past its expiration date, and a container of mustard. Shutting the fridge door, Wally searched the freezer, which had ice cubes and one TV dinner. Wally groaned at Roy’s life choices and threw the thing in the microwave.
Wally stared at the food as it rotated in the microwave. He forced his body to relax. Dick was okay. Well, no he wasn’t. Dick was a mess, but he was alive. An alive mess Wally could deal with. The topic of Wally’s anxiety walked into the room wearing sweats that were too loose on his body.
“Are you wearing Roy’s clothes?”
Dick shrugged. “He’s not using them.”
The question Wally wasn’t allowing himself to ask bubbled to the surface. “Is that why you came here?”
Dick hopped up onto the island in the kitchen, kicking his feet absently in the air. “Yeah, been using his place to get away for months.”
The microwave beeped and Wally pulled the plastic tray out. He slid the food towards his friend. “Eat.”
His friend pushed it right back. “I know you’ve been running around like a crazy person today. You need it more than I do.”
“When’s the last time you ate?”
Dick didn’t answer, which was answer enough. Wally pushed the food over again and barely refrained from snapping, “Eat.”
The acrobat eyed the food like it would become sentient. Then he pulled at the hairs at the back of his neck. “I should call Bruce.”
“Yes, you should,” Bruce said as he emerged from the shadows.
Wally absolutely did not jump several feet in the air or squawk. He didn’t. Dick just sighed. He didn’t offer any quip about Bruce’s dramatic entrance, didn’t flinch, didn’t move, just mumbled, “Sorry.”
Bruce nodded once. “Let’s go home.”
Lethargically, Dick hopped off the counter and headed for the door. Bruce grabbed his shoulder and squeezed. Once he had Dick’s attention, he pointed towards the roof.
“I brought Batwing.”
There was a glimmer of hope or something in Dick’s eyes, but he didn’t respond. Just nodded and headed for the window. Bruce turned to look at Wally before following his ward out the window, which caused Wally to notice how absolutely wrecked the man looked. He just lost his son. Oh god. He just lost his son and another one went missing. Dick, you idiot.
Of course, Dick wasn’t actually Bruce’s son, which was part of the problem. How could you adopt Jason and not him?! Wally wanted to scream, but seeing Batman unable to hide his anguish kept Wally quiet.
When the man spoke, his voice was gruff and filled with more emotion than the retired hero had ever heard. “Thank you.”
Wally nodded and Batman disappeared.
By the time Wally arrived back at his place, he was starving. He rushed straight into the apartment kitchen, only to freeze when he saw Artemis. She was sitting on the couch in the dark. Their only throw blanket covered over her lap as she rigidly sat. The glow from some muted late-night talk show host television program was the only light in the apartment.
“I called you six times today,” Artemis said without turning around to face him.
Searching his pockets, Wally realized he didn’t know where his phone was. He approached Artemis and leaned against the arm of the couch furthest from where she was sitting. “I’m sorry, Babe. I think I lost my phone.”
She gestured to the coffee table where his phone was, but she still wouldn’t look at him. “We found it in Bludhaven.”
Wally sat on the couch, still maintaining his distance. “I really am sorry, Babe.”
Artemis finally looked at him, and the look on his face stopped his heart for a moment. There was worry in her eyes, and he could see the tears that threatened to spill over, but she held back.
“Jason died,” she explained, which didn’t explain anything. Artemis had never even met Dick’s younger brother, which was mostly Wally’s fault because he had never been able to be in the same room as Jason without nearly causing a third world war. There was no reason for her to be this upset over the kid’s death.
At his confusion, she explained further in an angry huff, “Jason died, and you and Dick went off the grid.”
“I’m okay,” Wally scooted over to her and pulled her against his chest so she could hear his heartbeat. Artemis collapsed against him. “I promise I’m okay.”
There was a large sigh of relief and she dug her fingers into his shirt. “Don’t do that to me again.”
“I’m sorry, but I’m here now. I’m here.”
Artemis clung tighter to him and Wally held her until they both fell asleep.
“I don’t want you at the funeral.”
“Dick, come on. I want to be there for you.”
“No. I won’t sully Jason’s memory like that.”
“Like what? What are you talking about.”
“…you two hated each other.”
“I did not hate him.”
“The answer is no, Wally. Please don’t make this harder than it is.”
“…Okay. But I’m here if you need anything.”
“I know, Walls. …Thanks.”
Wally West did not go to Jason Peter Todd’s funeral, and it killed him. He disliked the twerp Dick had adopted, but he didn’t hate him. He just thought Dick could have picked a much better brother… Despite Dick’s reassurances, he did not believe that his friend was okay. His only consolation was that Alfred had apparently ripped Dick a new one about disappearing right after Jason passed. As a result, Dick promised not to go off the grid again. It was a small consolation, but still a consolation.
The funeral was held on the last Sunday before Wally’s finals ended. He was supposed to be finishing his stupid history paper, but he hadn’t written anything since Jason died. He didn’t even completely understand how to make a historical argument. It wasn’t as clear cut as science where you formed a hypothesis, tested it, and formed conclusions based on that information. No, he was supposed to guess at what had caused certain events or whatever. This was stupid, but he needed this stupid paper done, so he could go to Gotham, where he was needed.
Giving up on discovering an argument that actually made any sense, Wally decided to BS his fifteen-page paper at superspeed and call it a day. He didn’t check it for typos. He didn’t reread it for coherency. He just sent it to his professor as an email attachment and called it a day. He had officially finished his first year of college. Funny, he had always thought it would come as more of an accomplishment. But mostly he didn’t care.
He checked the time on his phone. The funeral and wake would still be a few more hours. Ugh.
He heard a knock at the door. Wally turned to see Artemis dressed in a black tank top and green cargo pants.
A soft smile tugged at her lips. “Let’s go celebrate.”
Wally looked at his phone again.
Artemis sighed and walked over to him. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and leaned in to give him a kiss on the cheek. “He’s going to be okay. Let him spend the day with his family. You can check on him tomorrow.”
The speedster bit the inside of his lip. What Artemis was saying made sense, but.
“Come on.” She unraveled herself and pulled on him to leave. He followed her only slightly reluctantly. “He’s got three of the JL power hitters with him and Alfred. He’ll be fine.”
Wally really really wanted to believe Artemis, so he swallowed the lump in his throat and nodded. Dick would be okay.
The next day, Wally zipped to his house in Central City to pick up a casserole his mother had made for the Waynes. It felt weird to bring food to Alfred’s house, but his mother assured him that the polite thing after a death was to bring food to limit the stress on the family. It still felt wrong, but then again, it also felt wrong to show up to Wayne Manor empty-handed after…everything.
After grabbing his mother’s casserole and refueling, Wally headed for Gotham. He ran slightly slower than normal because he realized he had no idea what he was supposed to say or do once he got there. He wanted to be there for his best friend, but how. Wally had never lost anyone that mattered to him, and Dick cared about everyone so damn much, and Dick had loved Jason. Jason was Dick’s favorite person. As much as that thought annoyed Wally, it was still true? How do you comfort someone through that kind of lost?
Before Wally found a satisfactory answer, he was at the gates of Wayne Manor. Alfred buzzed him in, and Wally sped to the door. Alfred opened the door and Wally wished he hadn’t come. Wally had known Alfred for over half a decade, and he had never seen the man look so much as rumpled, no matter what he was dealing with, but now. Now, the man looked like Wally after a week-long mission with no sleep. His face was covered in stubble. His eyes were bloodshot, and his suit hadn’t been ironed. Wally swallowed. He was not prepared for this.
“Mister West, please come in,” Alfred greeted. His voice sounded like it had been run through a garbage disposal. There was no way Wally was prepared to deal with this.
“Um, yeah.” He swallowed as he entered through the front door. “My mom made you a casserole.” He held up the dish, hoping it could magically make this terrible situation better.
“How very thoughtful of Mrs. West. Please bring it into the kitchen,” Alfred replied.
Wally followed him into the kitchen, where he blinked in surprise at the massive amount of food covering the kitchen counters and islands. There were casseroles, cakes, breads, salads, and more. This was more food than a speedster Thanksgiving.
Alfred caught him gaping and offered a small fond smile. “I’m afraid my church may have overreacted to the news.”
“Nonsense Al. You are very loved,” a man in khakis and a button-down shirt with a white collar around his neck interrupted, which confused Wally even more.
“You go to church?” He stammered. He wasn’t aware Alfred had a life outside of the Bats.
Alfred sighed and his shoulders fell in a way that made Wally feel as if he placed a horrible burden on the elderly man. “Yes, Mister West, I go to church. This is Father Brian. Father Brian, this is Wallace West, Richard’s best friend.”
The man seated at Alfred’s tea table had a somber look about him that did not feel natural. He had a potbelly and naturally rosy cheeks that reminded Wally of Santa Claus – only a super somber Santa that didn’t compute in Wally’s brain.
“It’s a pleasure to meet a friend of Richard’s,” Father Brian replied as he stood up to shake Wally’s hand.
Wally returned the handshake, brain too backlogged to form a satisfactory reply. He thought he mumbled something, but wasn’t sure.
The priest turned from Wally to Alfred. “How is Richard?”
Alfred’s face broke for a moment before returning to the stoic face that Wally knew. “Not well,” he replied, and Wally’s stomach fell to his feet. He was afraid of that.
The man nodded gravely and brought a hand up to squeeze Alfred’s shoulder. “It’s to be expected. This isn’t an easy time for any of you, but please remember Al, if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of them.”
“Of course,” Alfred returned the nod. “Thank you for the food.”
“If you need anything else, don’t hesitate to call. We all love you and are praying for you.”
“Thank you,” the British butler sounded truly grateful and Wally struggled with the idea of Alfred as a person in his own right.
“I meant what I said. You are very loved, Al. Now, I’ll see myself out,” Father Brian told him before walking out of the kitchen. Wally had never seen Alfred allow anyone to let themselves out. He wondered briefly if this was the real Alfred or if he had been replaced with a clone who had nefarious purposes. He pushed he thought aside. He could not deal with another problem, and his brain was creating problems that didn’t exist.
“I presume you’re here for Richard,” Alfred said after his priest had left.
Wally scratched the back of his neck. “Um. Yeah. Is he around?”
Alfred sighed. “I’m afraid Masters Bruce and Richard have decided the best way to fight their grief is to ignore it and pretend it doesn’t exist. As such, Richard is currently at Mount Justice.”
“But, but, what?” Wally sputtered. “The funeral was yesterday!”
“I’m aware. However, I have been told in no uncertain times that getting back on the horse is more important than grieving.”
“That’s bullshit! What is wrong with them?”
Alfred squeezed the bridge of his nose as if warding off a headache, and Wally regretted his outburst.
“I’m sorry, Alfred.” The speedster stared at his feet. His emotions had no reason to be out of control. He didn’t lose anyone.
“I can’t disagree with you, but if you wish to check on Master Richard, you’ll have to go to Mount Justice.” Alfred paused and the look on his face was grief and uncertainty. “Please let me know if there’s any assistance I can provide.”
Wally doubted there was anything that he’d asked Alfred to do in his current state. The old man was crumbling, and it was too much for Wally’s brain to handle. Bruce’s British butler was the strongest person anyone knew to see him struggling… Wally wanted to give him space.
Rather than voicing any of these concerns, Wally nodded. “Sure thing, Alfred.”
“Nightwing and Miss Martian are not here.”
“Where are they?”
“You are no longer an active member of Young Justice, Kid Flash.”
“I don’t care, Kaldur. Why on earth would you send Nightwing out right after Robin’s funeral?”
“He asked for a distraction. They are on a simple surveillance mission.”
“Because those never end up disastrous.”
“M’gann will look after Nightwing. Trust your friend to know his limits.”
Wally bit his lip and reminded himself that Dick’s secrets where not his to share.
Where was Dick? Was he okay? Why wouldn’t Kaldur give him any information? He wasn’t stupid enough to rush in and blow their cover. He knew how to do basic surveillance, and he wasn’t just some civilian. He helped found Young Justice. For crying out loud!
Wally was jolted out of his musings because Artemis threw a book at him. “Ow,” he said, rubbing where the book landed.
“I called your name three times. You’re going to make us lose our security deposit if you put any more wear on the carpet,” She replied with her arms crossed and a distinct look of displeasure on her face. Wally did not want to deal with that.
“Sorry,” Wally mumbled as he collapsed into the living room chair. He hadn’t even noticed he was speed pacing.
“Want to tell me what’s going on in that big brain of yours,” Artemis asked, only it wasn’t a question.
Wally slouched in the chair. “I’m worried about Dick.”
“It’s only been a week, Walls. He’s going to be hurting for a long time.”
“I know. I know. It’s just- why was he allowed back in the field so quickly?” Wally kicked the book Artemis had thrown at him, crossing his ankles in the process.
His girlfriend bent low to wrap her arms around his shoulders. Artemis gave him a peck on the cheek. “We all process grief differently. Sometimes a distraction can be beneficial.”
“But what if he’s distracted and makes a fatal mistake?”
Artemis squeezed tighter. “Give Kaldur and M’gann some credit. There’s no way they have Dick in any danger.”
Wally stiffened and turned away. “You know as well as I do that any mission can turn dangerous.”
Pulling away from him, Artemis responded, “Yes, and some missions are easy. Please stop worrying.”
A buzz noise filled the room as Wally’s phone vibrated across the coffee table. Wally scooped up his phone to read a text from Dick.
Heard you were worried about me. Dude, chill. I’m fine.
Without stopping to reply, the speedster sped off to Mount Justice. He didn’t stop until he was in Dick’s room, phasing right through the door. He ran into Dick who was in the middle of changing. Luckily, Dick had already put his sweat pants on, but he was still topless. He was holding his shirt over his stomach in a form of modesty that Wally had never seen the teen engage in before.
“Dude, don’t you knock,” Dick snapped as he pulled his shirt on overhead, giving Wally a clear view of a black and bruised torso.
Rolling his eyes, Dick said, “I took a boot to the chest. It happens.”
“Not to you.”
“I’m flattered that you think I’m immune to mistakes, but even I get hit sometimes. Why are you being so ridiculous?”
Wally’s frayed nerves erupted. “Because you wouldn’t let me come to the funeral, and then I show up in Gotham the next day, and you’re off on some mission!”
“What do you want from me? To sit at home and cry?” Dick yelled. His voice reaching a fever pitch. “Because that won’t bring Jason back!” A cut of sob brought his voice to a near whisper. “Nothing will.”
The way Dick hunched in on himself softened Wally’s temper. “I just need to know that you’re not trying to kill yourself.”
Dick stiffened. His voice turned low and angry, reminiscent of Batman. “I told you I’d never do that again.”
Wally swallowed. “I know, and I haven’t told anyone, but grief can make us do stupid things.”
“What would you know about grief? Who the hell have you lost, Wally?”
Wally swallowed again. He couldn’t answer that question.
“No one. That’s right. You haven’t lost anybody, so forgive me for not taking your advice. If I decide that the best way to cope with my loss is Nightwing, then you stay the hell out of it,” Dick’s anger was palpable in the room.
“Forgive me for caring about you!”
Dick whirled on him, voice dripping with disdain. “Next time, try caring about my family.”
“Dick, that’s not fair.”
Wally left the room. Taking out his emergency snack bar, he devoured it before running back home. He wanted to circumnavigate the globe a few times, but he knew better than to try that on such depleted reserves. Instead, he zig-zagged his way home, desperately trying to clear his head and calm his nerves.
By the time he returned to his shared apartment, Artemis was asleep. Wally sighed. He probably shouldn’t have run off without saying anything. Hopefully, Artemis wasn’t too mad…. Well, he figured if she was pissed, she’d be waiting with her bow. He snuck into their bed and tried to turn his mind off and sleep. Sleep didn’t come.
“What do you want?”
“Have you talked to Dick?”
“Roy, Jason’s dead.”
“A week ago.”
“So that’s why he didn’t show.”
“I’m worried about him.”
“Dick knows how to take care of himself. He’s tough.”
“He’ll be fine, Walls. He’s tough. Now, I’ve got a lead to follow. Bye.”
Straining to keep his eyes open, Wally tried to focus on the chemical mixture in front of him. He blinked at his notes and realized he couldn’t read half of what he recorded in the last hour. That was problematic. Science required accurate measurements. He and Artemis couldn’t afford for Wally to lose his summer researcher position. He would have to start the whole process again. Groaning, he stood up and headed to the sink to wash the beakers and other equipment.
The suds made the glass slippery, and Wally dropped one of the graduated cylinders. Exhaustion delayed his reactions, and the glass shattered on the floor before he moved to save it. He swore, turned off the water, and grabbed a broom.
“You’re supposed to be wearing gloves and googles, West,” the senior research assistant commented as took the broom from Wally. Tom Irwin, clothed in the proper safety equipment, swept up the glass
“Is it 3 o’clock already?”
“Yes, and you look terrible. Look, I know parties are fun, but you have to actually sleep enough to function,” Tom explained with a sigh, although Wally wasn’t sure Tom had partied a day in his life. He wore khakis and polo shirts every day. Plus, he was a straight A student, who worked as a TA in several of the science departments.
“I, uh wasn’t.” The protest died on Wally’s lips. It was a better excuse for his lack of sleep than he currently had.
“Get some rest, West. I can’t have you breaking all the lab equipment.”
“Are you going to tell me what’s going on with you?”
“Nothing’s going on with me.”
“Wally, I want to help you, but I can’t if you won’t talk to me.”
“If it were nothing, you wouldn’t be taking 3am speed runs every night.”
“I, uh, didn’t think you noticed.”
“We share a bed, Kid Idiot.”
“…I’m just still worried about Dick.”
“Dick’s fine. Why are you so worried?”
“….just a feeling.”
“Fine. If you can’t be honest with me, then don’t talk to me.
Sunbathing on the beautiful San Diego beaches, Wally tried to relax with his girlfriend and his aunt and uncle. Tried being the operative word. He was definitely not relaxing. Guess, Yoda was right. You either did something or you didn’t.
Artemis and Aunt Iris had complained about the heat and had taken to surfing to cool off. Artemis was a natural at it and was teaching Iris better balance. Wally half-watched them as his brain pulsed with anxiety.
Wet from his own swim, Uncle Barry sat next to him, dripping water onto the sand. “Want to tell me what’s bothering you?”
“Nothing’s bothering me,” Wally snapped.
Uncle Barry gave him a very unimpressed look. “Kid, you haven’t moved in 20 minutes.”
“Maybe I’ve finally learned to slow down and relax.”
“Uh huh,” his uncle replied. “And Artemis has been shooting you worried glances since we got here. Want to tell me the truth?”
Wally sighed. There wasn’t a point in hiding from Uncle Barry. “I’m worried about Dick.”
Unlike every other person he had admitted his fear to, his uncle did not brush it off. Uncle Barry gave a deep sigh. “Yeah, and I’m worried about Bruce.”
“Wait, what?” Sure, Wally had seen the Dark Knight briefly after Jason’s death, but nothing rattled Batman.
“It’s only been a month, Wally. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” mused Barry. “They’re both trying to distract their grief to death.”
“I don’t get it. You know, Batman’s lectured me about being distracted during missions,” Wally exclaimed.
Barry snorted. “Oh yeah, I’ve gotten that same lecture. Bruce doesn’t always people well, but he cares.” He nudged his nephew’s shoulder with his own. “I’ll let you in on a little secret. The League is watching out for Batman and Nightwing.”
“What do you mean?”
“Give us a little credit. We know they’re both grieving. Clark and I have both visited Bruce a few times. We also loosely monitor Gotham to make sure Batman isn’t doing anything too foolish. Diana calls Alfred a few times a week.”
Wally scrunched up his face in confusion. “Diana doesn’t seem like the gossiping type.”
“They’re grieving together,” Barry explained. “I guess you didn’t know that Jason’s favorite superhero was Wonder Woman.”
Something in Wally’s throat caught at that. “No, no I didn’t.”
His uncle offered him a soft expression. “Nightwing isn’t on any solo missions, nor is he being assigned anything above level 3.”
“Something could still happen.”
“Yes, it could. But have you ever tried to prevent Bruce or Dick from doing something. Better to at least know where they are.” Barry stood up and extended a hand to his nephew. “Now, can you please try to enjoy yourself just a little bit, and go make-up with that girlfriend of yours.”
“Artemis and I are not fighting.”
Barry laughed. “Kid, you still have a few things to learn.”
For the rest of the afternoon, Wally let Artemis teach him how to surf. He playfully splashed her a few times and purposefully crashed more than once, so she would help him up. By the evening, a tension he failed to notice in Artemis’s shoulders softened. His uncle was right. He needed to be a better boyfriend. Dick had the entire Justice League looking after him. He’d be okay.
Dick was not okay. At least, Wally didn’t think he was. Artemis, Wally, and Dick had gathered at their place to watch stupid movies and hang out. Artemis had put the whole thing together to reassure Wally that his friend was alright and the two could reconcile.
The evening had been enjoyable so far. They had watched the Mission Impossible movies with Dick and Artemis’s critique of what a person without superpowers could believably do and what would have left Ethan Hunt injured or dead.
Artemis sat on the couch and Wally had his head pillowed in her lap. Dick sat in the chair beside the couch with his legs crossed at the ankle on top of their black Ikea coffee table. As the credits rolled for Mission Impossible II, Artemis pushed Wally’s head off her, so she could use the bathroom as Wally shifted he accidentally bumped Dick’s leg as he jokingly flailed in protest. He didn’t miss Dick’s wince.
“What happened?” Wally asked, trying to sound casual.
“Nothing.” Dick’s voice was tight, laced with that drop it attitude of the Bats.
Wally didn’t. “I saw you wince.”
“I twisted my knee on my last mission. It isn’t a big deal.”
Wally eyed the leg suspiciously. “Why aren’t you wearing a brace?”
“Don’t need one. It’ll heal in a couple of days.”
Yeah if Dick were a speedster. “Did you report it?”
“Of course, despite what you seem to think, I’m not an idiot. It’s fine.”
“What’s fine?” Artemis asked as she came back into the room.
“Wally was arguing that we should switch to Zombie Apocalypse. I told him it was fine either way.” Dick grinned.
Artemis smacked Wally upside the head.
“Ow, what was that for?”
“You know I hate those movies.”
“But I didn’t. That’s not.”
“Shut up and give me a kiss.”
Wally knew better than to argue with that.
“You too are absolutely adorable, you know.”
Artemis settled back on the couch. This time leaning back against Wally’s chest. “It’s okay to be jealous.”
Dick laughed at her and queued up the next movie.
After watching the fourth Mission Impossible, everyone was lagging. Artemis and Dick’s colorful commentary had slowed during the last forty-five minutes.
“Should we make up the couch?” Artemis offered.
“Nah, I’m just gonna head home.”
“Are you sure you’re okay to drive?”
Dick gave her a teasing smile. “Now, you’re getting as bad as Wally. Thought you were better than that, Mis.” Artemis looked like she was going to argue, so Dick pulled her in for a hug. “I’m fine. I promise.”
But the reassurance backfired, Artemis pulled back from the hug with a confused look on her face. “Have you lost weight?”
Giving her a flirty smile, Dick replied, “You checking me out? If I had known you were looking…”
Wally gave his friend a playful shove. “Hand’s off.”
Dick hid his wince rather well, but he still stumbled. “If you ever want to leave this jerk, let me know.” Straightening up, Dick continued, “I should go.” Dick walked out before giving Wally a good-bye hug, which was rare, but not unheard of.
Artemis stared at their front door for a long minute. Her brow furrowed and her lips pursed. She turned to Wally. “I think you’re right. Something’s wrong with him. You don’t think he’s starving himself, do you?”
He took a deep breath before replying. “I don’t know. He might be. He injured his knee and lied about it.”
“So that’s what you two were arguing about.”
Rubbing the back of his neck, Wally replied, “Yeah.” He paused for a moment and then ripped off the band-aid. “I think he’s depressed.”
“You don’t think he’s a danger to himself, do you?”
Wally didn’t answer.
“WALLY!” Artemis cried. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I told you I was worried about him! Besides that’s like outing someone, I can’t just tell other people he may have a mental illness,” Wally argued.
“You can when they are hurting themselves.” Artemis looked pained. Wally had forgotten a girl in her Gotham Academy class had to be hospitalized for anorexia a few months before graduation. “Please tell me you have at least told Bruce.”
When Wally didn’t offer an answer, Artemis argued, “You need to tell Bruce. Dick’s his son. He needs to know.”
“Dick is Bruce’s ward, not his son,” Wally retorted with anger coloring his tone.
“Fine. Bruce is Dick’s guardian. He still needs to know.”
Wally collapsed on the couch, too tired to continue arguing. Despite how angry he was with Bruce, Artemis was right. He needed to know. If anyone could get Dick to listen, it was Batman.
“I’m afraid, Master Bruce isn’t here.”
“Do you know when he’ll be back?”
“My apologies, Mister West, but I do not. Would you like me to take a message?”
“Can you just- just tell him I need to speak with him. It’s about Dick.”
“You’ve spoken with Richard?”
“Is he okay?”
“I see. I shall inform, Master Bruce of your visit. Please let me know if I can be of service.”
“Yeah, sure thing, Alfred.
Nightwing left for a two-week mission in Asia before Wally saw him again. The speedster did his best to refrain from raging at Kaldur. Wally failed to mention why he was so worried about Nightwing. It wasn’t Kaldur’s fault. Although acknowledging that, did little to quench Wally’s frustration and anger at the whole situation in general. Surely, YJ noticed he had lost weight, or at the very least, his damn limp with the knee he supposedly reported.
Wally was frustrated, and Artemis was frustrated with him. Artemis kept arguing that Wally should tell Alfred since Wally still couldn’t get a hold of Bruce, but Wally disagreed. Alfred had enough on his plate. Plus, as amazing as Alfred was, he didn’t have the security clearance to get Nightwing pulled from active duty. They needed Batman.
The sound of Wally’s phone caused him to pause. It was Kaldur. Swallowing a stab of fear regarding why Kaldur would call him, Wally answered.
“Wally, it’s Dick. He’s…injured.”
“I’ll be right there,” Wally hung up before Kaldur could explain further. He made it to Mount Justice in record time.
“Where is he?”
Kaldur, M’gann, and Conner stood in the waiting room of medical. Kaldur looked up at Wally’s question. M’gann was openly crying, and Conner had an arm wrapped around her.
“Martian Manhunter is giving him stitches. It was a bullet wound, a deep graze across his left arm, nothing life-threatening.” Kaldur paused. His expression softened. “However, it appears I was wrong to ignore your concerns. Nightwing has lost a significant amount of weight. It does not appear he’s been sleeping adequately either.”
Wally swallowed. This wasn’t too bad. This was fixable. A bullet graze wasn’t fun, but Dick would still heal easy enough, maybe some physical therapy, and everyone would be watching him from now on.
“Has Batman been informed?” Wally asked.
Kaldur nodded. “A message has been left for him, but he’s currently unreachable. He should return by the end of the week.”
“He’s benched, right?” Please say he’s benched.
“For the foreseeable future.”
Wally nodded and collapsed in a chair and joined his team in waiting to be cleared to visit. When Martian Manhunter returned to the waiting area, he informed them that due to Dick’s exhaustion, he had been sedated. Nightwing wouldn’t receive visitors for a few days.
Annoyed, the speedster kicked the wall, but at least, Dick would get help now. His friend was going to be fine. He pulled out his phone and updated Artemis who was at work. Dick was going to be okay.
Two days later, Nightwing had snuck out of the medical suite at Mount Justice. No one knew where he was. Not even Batman. Wally stopped sleeping. He only ate when Artemis reminded him. Satellites searched for Nightwing with no success. M’gann, trying to find Dick telepathically, circled the globe in the bioship. Uncle Barry and Wally searched cities at superspeed, but it was no use. No one found so much as a fingerprint of Nightwing’s.
Kid Flash was helping Aqualad and Superboy brainstorm locations they hadn’t searched yet when a message from Batman came through on Aqualad’s communicator.
“Nightwing’s in the Amazon rainforest. Exact location unknown.”
Wally was through the Mount Justice zeta tubes before Batman finished speaking. Racing through the streets of Rio de Janeiro, he headed towards the rainforest. As soon as he arrived, he began a systematic sweep of the area at superspeed. He tapped his communicator, trying to reach Nightwing to no avail.
Keeping all thoughts out of his head and focusing on finding his friend, Wally paid no attention to his surroundings. He kept from tripping through sheer desperation and force of will. He had to find Dick. Dick had to be alive. He had to find him.
Wally crashed to the ground with a loud thud. A groan of pain caused Wally to turn his head before running. There was his friend, covered in mud and leaves and barely conscience.
“Dick!” Wally cried.
Nightwing moaned again. Wally tapped his comm. “I found him,” he said with a quiet gasp. The voices sounded like static in his comm because Wally couldn’t hear anything but a strange white noise when he looked at Dick more closely. He wasn’t just covered in mud and leaves. He was covered in blood. There was so, so much blood.
Wally fell to his knees besides his friend. Shaking hands searched desperately for a pulse. He found it, but it was racing. This was not good.
“Dick,” Wally whispered, praying to a god he didn’t believe in for help. “Come on, Dick. I kept my promise. I didn’t tell anyone, so now you need to keep yours. Come on, dude. You’re not allowed to die. You promised.”
Dick didn’t even groan this time. His face was whiter than a sheet. What did he do? Wally’s head spun, and he tried to remember basic first aid. He knew what to do. He did. This wasn’t his first injury. But his brain blanked. He couldn’t move Dick. He had to do something first. What was it?
Desperately, Wally searched his friend’s body to find the source of all the blood. There were multiple injuries and his hands slipped as he tried to find purchase to remove the suit out of the way. His hands shook too much to do anything. Nightwing was going to die, and it was Wally’s fault. Oh, god. What did he do?
A hand rested on his shoulder, and Wally jumped a mile. His uncle’s blurry face came into view. “Hey, hey, Kid? You with me?”
“Dick’s hurt,” Wally replied.
“I know,” Uncle Barry said, and his face looked like when he had to tell someone their loved one wasn’t coming home. “Superman’s got him. He’s taking him to the Watch Tower. Are you okay?”
“Is Dick going to be okay?”
Uncle Barry looked at him with sad eyes, and Wally didn’t want to hear the answer. Dick was going to die, and it was his fault. Tears flowed uncontrollably down his face. His body shook and he sobbed. He should have told someone.
Barry’s arms wrapped around him. “Shhh, Kid. It’s not your fault. You found him.”
Flash stopped murmuring reassuring words and listened to a world Wally could no longer hear. “Kid, we gotta go.”
Wally tried to pull himself back to the present, but he couldn’t. All he could see were the stains of Dick’s blood on the forest floor. This was his fault. He knew this would happen.
There was a sharp prick at his neck and a “sorry, kid,” and Wally knew no more.
When Wally woke up, he didn’t know where he was. Only his eyes protested the bright lights. He scrunched his face in protest.
“Hey kid, time to get up,” a familiar voice called.
Wally didn’t want to. A hand gently shook his shoulder. Blinking blearily, Wally opened his eyes to the concerned eyes of his uncle.
“What happened?” He asked.
Barry looked away from him. “You went into shock I think. I had to sedate you to get you back to the Watchtower.”
A wave of thunder crashed into Wally. “Dick!” He cried. “Is he okay?”
Turning to face him, Wally saw how pained Barry looked. This wasn’t good.
“It doesn’t look good, Kid,” Barry said slowly. “He’s on the operating table still. He’s flatlined once already.”
Oh god. Oh god. No. No. Dick couldn’t die. He couldn’t. He promised. Wally cut off a sob as the reality of his situation hit him hard.
“This is all my fault,” Wally cried, bringing his knees up to his chest.
Uncle Barry grabbed both shoulders and forced his nephew to look at him. “This was not your fault. There was an entire League watching Nightwing. We screwed up.”
Wally shook his head, tears still flowing. “But you didn’t know. You couldn’t have known,” he babbled uncontrollably.
“Known what?” Barry asked gently. Always gently.
“Dick tried to kill himself!” Wally sobbed. “I stopped him. Oh god, it was the most terrifying moment of my life. I pulled him off the Brooklyn Bridge, and he kept talking about how no one loved him, and there wasn’t a point, and I was so scared. He made me promise not to tell anyone, and I agreed because he promised not to do it again. He promised.” Wally’s voice cut off with a sob.
Barry withdrew his hands from Wally, and Wally knew it was because of his failure. He lost Dick and now he was going to lose kind caring Uncle Barry.
“Let me get this straight,” Barry replied, his voice low. “Dick attempted suicide, and you didn’t tell anyone.”
Staring at his hands that were crusted with dried blood, Wally nodded as tears kept spilling from his eyes. Barry was silent for a long time.
“That was stupid, Wally.” Uncle Barry sounded so disappointed. “And we are going to have a long talk later about what secrets we can’t keep. But it doesn’t make what happened your fault.”
Wally slowly turned to look at his uncle.
“There were multiple factors to consider. You played a part in it, but it doesn’t make it your fault,” Barry reassured him. “However, if Dick survives, he has to get help, and Bruce needs to be informed.
Dick surviving had never been an if before. Wally nodded miserably.
“Go shower. Then grab something to eat. Don’t argue with me. Then you can join your team in the waiting area,” Barry instructed.
“Is Artemis there?”
“Yeah, I asked her to give me a minute to talk to you.”
Wally nodded and headed for the shower, where he examined himself in the mirror. He looked like a corpse from a low budget slasher film. He was covered in blood. Dick’s blood. He’s shaking hands found the zipper of his Kid Flash uniform that had a few flecks of dried blood on it. He unzipped himself and threw the uniform in the garbage can. He never wanted to see it again.
He stepped into the shower and watched the clear water turn rust-colored at his feet. He stood in the shower until the water turned clear. Only then did he scrub the blood out of his hands and underneath his fingernails. He was rubbed raw by the time he got out of the shower.
After dressing, Wally grabbed a few tasteless items his uncle left in the room, and he ate them without noticing taste or texture. He took a deep breath and joined his team.
The waiting room felt like a funeral service had already begun. Batman stood silent and imposing, facing the door of the operating room, as if his sheer willpower alone could make Dick survive this. Clark stood next to him a silent guard and support. M’gann leaned against Conner’s chest as they sat next to each other. She wasn’t crying, but Wally could see the evidence of her earlier tears. Conner looked lost. It reminded Wally of when he first arrived at Mount Justice. Kaldur sat alone, face cast to the floor. His forearms rested on his thighs and his hands hung between his legs. Artemis was curled up in one of the waiting room chairs, legs bent and her feet up in the seat of the chair with her. Wally walked towards her.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. Her voice was horse from crying.
“It’s not your fault.”
The two fell into silence after that, joining the room that was suffocating with stillness. Dick would have hated it. He would have made a joke that made everyone laugh, but Dick wasn’t here. Dick may never be here again.
Silent tears flowed down Wally’s face as they sat in this tomb waiting to hear if their friend survived. He stared at the bland linoleum floor, counted tiles until he lost count and tried to count again. Time wasn’t moving. His phone told him it was 6:04 for the last ten minutes. How long would they sit here waiting to hear if Dick would live? Too long. It was already too long.
Despite what reassurances his uncle had tried to give, Wally knew this was his fault. Barry walked into the room and sat next to Wally. He joined these shattered souls in their silent vigil. Didn’t Dick understand how much he meant to people? Why didn’t he get it?
Time ticked slowly forward. Each minute of no news was an extra minute of life for their friend, but it was also an extra minute of the torture of the unknown. Wally hated this place of half death and half life. No one ever thought about how Schrodinger’s cat must have felt, clinging to life and waiting for death. This was probably the worst torture Wally had ever endured. He wanted to leave but couldn’t bear the thought of rising from this chair. He would stay here, miserable, until the final word of Dick’s departure from this earth was confirmed.
Finally, after hours and hours of slow minutes ticking by, Martian Manhunter appeared. Wally didn’t want to hear confirmation of his friend’s death but forced himself to pay attention. This was his fault. The least he could do was face it.
“Nightwing is in recovery.” Wally didn’t even hear the next words out of Manhunter’s mouth. Dick was alive. Dick was alive. He couldn’t believe it.
“Due to the extreme stress placed on his body, he won’t be ready to receive visitors for some time. Batman, of course, you are welcome to sit with him in recovery.”
Batman nodded and stormed through the doors preventing him from seeing his charge.
“As for the rest of you,” Manhunter continued. “I suggest getting some rest. This has been a trying day for all of us.”
The room’s occupants offered brief good-byes to one another before going their own separate ways. When Artemis and Wally collapsed into their bed back at home, Wally felt like strings keeping him wired and taut had finally snapped. He slept for seventeen hours, dead to the world.
It took several weeks before Wally and the rest of Young Justice were allowed to visit Dick at the manor. When Wally was finally allowed in the manor, there was a nervousness and anxiety in his gut. Barry was right. He had to tell Bruce about the Brooklyn Bridge, even though he’d rather never have that conversation with Batman. But first he was here to see Dick.
Dick’s bedroom had been transformed into a mini-hospital room. His ridiculously huge bed had been traded for a hospital bed, and the whole room had been sterilized. An IV pole stood next to the wounded bird’s bedside undoubtedly pumping in fluids Dick had denied himself for so long. On a table by his bedside were various pill bottles, a crumpled-up napkin, and an empty bowl of some kind. Dick had elevated the bed so he could sit up, but he looked as if even that small exertion had been too much. He was pale, deathly pale. His skin stretched over bones like butter scraped over too much bread.
Despite everything they had been through together, Wally had never seen Dick so broken. He swallowed the lump in his throat.
“Hey,” he croaked, his voice cracking.
“Hey.” Dick managed a weak grin. “I hear I have you to thank for saving my life…again.”
Wally nodded and sat in the armchair next to Dick’s bed. Silence fell onto the room. Wally wasn’t sure what to say. Unsurprisingly, Dick broke the silence first.
The redhead pulled his tired eyes up to look at his friend. Wally couldn’t place the expression on Dick’s face.
“I’m really sorry, Wally. I messed up. I wasn’t thinking.” Dick’s voice sounded shattered. “God, Wally. I’m so sorry.”
Wally nodded once. Truth be told, his insides were a ball of confused emotions since Dick survived. Some days, he wanted to murder him for being so stupid. Other days, he just wanted to help his friend. But looking at Dick Grayson right now, all Wally felt was exhausted.
“I have to tell Bruce.”
Dick offered a humorless laugh. “Bruce knows, Wally. I’ve got the lecture memorized to prove it.”
Shaking his head, Wally said, “No, about the bridge.”
Dick went unnaturally still. “No”
“This is the second time you’ve attempted suicide!”
“This wasn’t an attempt.” Dick floundered. He looked more scared than Wally had ever seen him. “Grief blinded me. Wally, please don’t. Look, I know you were worried, and I know I should have listened to you, but you can’t tell Bruce. Not now. It’ll kill him. He’s already found me a therapist, and I’m taking a leave of absence from Nightwing. Please don’t.”
Staring at Dick’s wide eyes and listening to his desperate pleas, Wally couldn’t hold his resolve. Dick looked more afraid now than he did when he had been dosed with fear toxin. Dick was going to get help. That was the important thing.
“Okay, okay,” Wally conceded. “But you have to talk to your therapist about this.”
Dick fell asleep shortly after his firm declaration. His body was too exhausted to handle the extreme emotions. Wally stayed there for hours afterwards, thinking about promises and how he almost lost Dick a second time. He should tell Bruce, but Bruce knew about the Amazon. Bruce got Dick a therapist. Dick was getting help now. Dick was going to be okay.
Please don’t make me regret this.