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A Better Cage

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{?????}
{?????}

 

Every inch of his skin was prickling, buzzing , as if his molecules were flying apart. He tried to focus on slowing down, even though he was lying still.

 

“--time travel? I know you can do that.”

 

The voice was familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it. Sounds were coming into his ears distorted.

 

“No, I can’t. I can’t go fast enough. Uncle Barry could, but--”

 

That was familiar, too, but wrong, somehow…

 

“--look at him. He’s not a kid, he’s an adult, same as you.”

 

He could feel his heartrate slowing to a regular two hundred beats or so a minute. He was also hungrier than he could ever remember feeling in his entire life.

 

Wally groaned as his stomach growled loudly.

 

“He certainly sounds like you,” a familiar voice said wryly.

 

“D… N’twing?” Wally mumbled, remembering himself just enough to realize that he didn’t know where he was or who he was with, but he could feel his goggles on his forehead and could tell he was wearing his slightly-too-small-now Kid Flash uniform, so codenames were probably a safe bet. Bats could be scary about their IDs. He opened his eyes--the room he was in was bright, but nothing compared to the sheer light of--

 

“Hello?” a voice said. Dick moved into his field of vision, unmasked and wearing his--no, that wasn’t his Nightwing costume. The blue insignia was missing from the black armour, replaced by a slimmer red design, and the armour itself was bulkier.

 

“Dude, what’s with the new costume?” Wally asked bluntly. “How long have I been out ?”

 

Dick raised an eyebrow. “You know me?” he asked.

 

“Um, duh?” Wally said, frowning. “We’ve been best friends for years . Of course I know you. My brains haven’t been scrambled that badly, you Dick .”

 

Somebody laughed behind him. It sounded familiar, but he couldn’t place it at all . He tried to sit up, but he realized that his hands and legs were shackled. “Dude, what the hell ?” he demanded. “Why am I chained up?”

 

“We need to know who and what you are before we let you go,” Dick said, as if that explained anything. “What’s your name? Your real name.”

 

“What? Dude, it’s me, Wally West,” Wally said, frown deepening. Dick hadn’t smiled once throughout the entire conversation and it was getting kind of creepy. “I’m not some kind of Reach drone or anything. Get M’gann to check if you want. In the meantime, what happened? Did we get the last chrysalis? Where’s Artemis? Are Bart and Uncle Barry okay?”

 

Dick’s eyes widened, freezing as he looked over Wally’s head. Behind them, there was a sharp intake of breath. Dick looked back down at Wally, face settling into the intimidating glower he often used when interrogating criminals. It was a look that often reminded Wally very vividly just who had trained his best friend. “How old are you?” Dick asked. His tone had gone flat.

 

“Twenty-one, third year at Stanford University, majoring in Physics and minoring in Vietnamese Lit,” Wally rattled off. “Now will you stop being a cryptic bat and tell me what this is about?”

 

Dick actually flinched . “A what ,” he asked flatly.

 

“A cryptic fucking bat !” Wally yelled, starting to get angry. He was tired, he was starving , and dammit, he was only supposed to be back in the costume for one crisis! “I thought we were done with you hiding shit after what happened to Mount Justice! So is there a reason you’re not telling me what’s going on here, aside from you continuing to turn into fucking Batman?”

 

Dick’s eyes narrowed coldly on him, before looking over his head again. Wally heard footsteps as somebody walked around the table that he was strapped to.

 

“Uncle Barry!” he exclaimed as The Flash walked into view. “You’re okay! How’s Bart? What’s going on? Why the hell is Dick being such a--”

 

“I’m not Uncle Barry,” The Flash said, pulling down his cowl.

 

Wally felt the world spin and blur.

 

It was him under the cowl.



{Arctic Circle}

{July 25, 22:12 UTC}

 

The Batplane was well-sealed against the frozen winds of the Arctic tundra, but if he ran the heating all the time, he wouldn’t have the fuel to get home. So Dick Grayson, Nightwing, hunched down into the layers of coats and blankets he had wrapped around him, insulating himself against the chill as he focused on the fuzzy image of his brother’s face on the screen.

 

...no new data, anyway, ” Tim was saying, his voice cutting in and out as the signal wavered. “ You can analyse the da… re at the Batcave.

 

“The energy’s fluctuating completely at random,” Dick said, rubbing his eyes. He was damn tired--he’d gotten some sleep, but he couldn't keep a schedule or sleep for long periods before an energy spike would sound an alarm, waking him. He could turn off the alarm, but he wouldn't. “There isn’t a pattern to analyse. You know that as well as I do, I’ve been sending you all the data. Whatever it is that Wally vanished into is coming and going too erratically.” And sporadically. The spikes are getting further and further apart... “I’m not going to miss anything.”

 

At least…fuel and resupply,” Tim insisted. “It’s been three weeks, and Al….ce are worried about you. So’s ever...the Team. Conner and M’ga... asking about you. Artemis says--

 

Dick cut the connection. He knew that he shouldn’t be mad at Artemis. She’d signed up to risk her life; Wally hadn’t. She’d come home; Wally hadn’t. She’d told his parents, informed his University, and thrown herself into being Tigress. She was hurting deeply, she was grieving, she was trying to deal with Wally being dead.


Dick couldn’t. Because until he saw a corpse, he couldn’t accept that his best friend was dead. Even if everybody else had given up, even Artemis , he wasn’t going anywhere until he’d found out what had happened to Wally West.