WELCOME TO THE NEW AGE
|SEPTEMBER 3, 00:17 PDT
The blonde took the binoculars in front of her eyes. The drug dealers were almost all here, and then she, and the rest of the squad that came with her, will able to take all of them down. Someone wriggled next to her, and Artemis looked at the little hyperactive ginger speedster. The wind delicately touched his red hair. Red like fire. Red like Wally's.
"Artemis?" Bart whispered to her. "Are they all here now? I'm getting bored!"
Tigress chuckled a little at the eagerness of the young Allen. It reminded here so much of Wally. Like the way he didn't like to wait for the action or how he hated staying put for even a few seconds. Always needing to move, to actually doing something. And those eyes…Those emerald green eyes, so hypnotizing. So similar to Wally's. Coming from the awesome Iris West-Allen, greatest reporter at Central City and best Aunt in the world, as Wally used to say. Artemis never contradicted him.
"Patience, Bart. Patience," she murmured, smiling slightly at him. Like she used to, but at the same time, very differently. "They're almost here."
"We've been here for two hours!" He whined desperately.
"I almost missed the complaint of a speedster." Karen joked suddenly in their ears. "Almost."
"What would a mission be without a speedster complaining?" The voice of Malcolm filled the air.
The lovely laugh of Cassie joined them and even Bart couldn't help but smile. They always liked to tease Bart about his impatience when they were on mission. Luckily, he never seemed to care.
"Well, Unc…I mean, Flash would have my head if I came back at three in the morning."
Right. Since Wally's death, Bart had been living with his grandparents. They had insisted on being closer to him, and the young speedster had been thrilled about the idea of knowing them like he always wanted. Besides, the presence of Bart helped Barry to get through it. On the other hand, Artemis hadn't spoken to the Flash since the death of his nephew. She blamed him for the death of the love of her life, and she didn't know if she would be able to forgive him one day. Or face him, looking him in the eyes. And he knew that and dealt with it.
"He understands, Impulse." The blond archer mumbled. "He's a hero to. He comes home late too."
"He hates knowing that I'm out at night."
"That's the job."
Artemis hated doing that. Becoming this cold and heartless girl again. With the outside so emotionless, but with so much pain inside of her. However, it had been Wally who essentially helped her to show her emotions, finally feeling something real that was not pain and sadness. Without him, she was completely lost. Like she used to be.
|SEPTEMBER 3, 09:45 CDT
Barry Allen was not the kind of person who became depressed easily. In fact, he was one of those few people who, even in your darkest day, could make you smile, simply and easily. He always made Iris laughed. He and…Wally. They were the light in her life. But since Wally's death, her husband was not the same. He smiled rarely even if this was one of the best moments of his life with their unborn twins on the way. The man who sat in the living room right now was not the Barry she fell in love with years ago.
"Barry? Can I talk to you for a minute?" The pregnant woman asked as she entered the room.
"Are you okay honey?" Barry looked at her, worry in his shining blue eyes. "Is it the babies? Are they coming?"
He tried not to sound too loud as the excitement at the thought passed through his mind. Bart was still sleeping after a long mission that had only ended at two in the morning. The poor boy must be exhausted.
"Not so soon, sweetie!" Iris smiled softly at him as her husband blush slightly. "Are you alright, Barry?" She asked, looking straight into his eyes.
"Uh…Yes. Yes I am." He answered almost immediately.
"Are you sure, sweetie?" The young woman pressed and the fastest man alive looked at her weirdly.
"Yes. I mean," he cleared his throat, "I know I haven't been the same since Wally's…death, but I'm good. I know you are worried, hon, but I…I'm good. I'm handling it."
Barry has never been a good liar. At least, not to Iris. She's known him for so long – so long that both of them couldn't remember when they first met - and she always knew exactly when he was lying, or hiding stuff. That was how she found out about him being the famous Flash, protector of Central City. And now, he was lying straight to her face to reassure her. But she didn't buy it.
"By your face, I assumed you know I was lying, right?" The blond man sighed.
"I know you too well to buy your pathetic lies, Allen." She growled and this time, Barry got up from the comfortable sofa and walked towards her. He tried to smile at her.
"Iris, I know you are worried about me, but… I can tell you I'm fine. Stop worrying about me and how I feel and focus on yourself." He placed his right hand to her soft skin in a tender gesture and Iris closed her eyes at his touch. "What I am worried about right now is you."
He could felt her hot breathe against his skin and instantly, he felt safe. It was always like that when his wife was around him. She was his home. Since Wally's death, he would have lost hope and the will to live if it wasn't for his Iris to keep him sane. He could have run away a thousand times for the past few weeks, but he couldn't live without her. Barry had just lost one of the people who means the most to him, and now Iris and the twins she was carrying were the only things he had.
"I'm sad too, Barry," she said softly as she opened her green eyes and the scientist couldn't help but think that Wally had the same eyes. "He was my nephew. I was his Aunt and couldn't do anything to save him. I wasn't here. But I try; I try so hard since his death to…to live. For the sake of our children. For you. But I can't do everything alone."
A lonely tear dripped down her white skin, and Barry bit the inside of his cheek. He always hated seen her crying. It was worst when he was the cause of her pain. It softly trickled across his hand.
"I can't do this without you, Barry." She murmured.
"I promise you Iris, that I will do anything, anything in my power, to get better, pull myself together and help you with our children."
And Barry Allen always honoured his promises.
|SEPTEMBER 3, 11:56 EDT
M'Gann observed all this souvenirs collected. The first were those Wally found, the rest were those Garfield took. There were fewer souvenirs than usual, because, when the Cave had blown up, a part was destroyed. For example, there was no big eye, which was the first souvenir that Wally found on their first real mission. She smiled sadly at the memory. Those were the good old times, when they were so young and innocent. Now, they were back in the Cave, but it was not the same. Everything was the same and at the same time not the same. It was a weird sensation. Like it feels like home, but not really. Everything seemed so old suddenly.
"M'Gann? Are you okay?"
She turned around to see Conner at the door. She smiled cheerfully at him.
"Yeah, yeah. I'm good." She reassured him. "I'm just…you know, looking at all these souvenirs and thinking about how we were at that time."
"Those were the good old times, weren't it?" He smiled, coming closer to her. "And we all changed a lot since. Everything's changed since."
"You more than the others." M'Gann affirmed without looking him into the eyes.
They stood like this, in a comfortable silence for a few minutes, looking at the souvenirs and remembering the missions and all the others stories. And their story. When Conner looked at the first souvenir that Garfield found, he asked:
"And Garfield? Is he OK?"
"He still young but he understands what's going on. And I think he took things very well. Well, for someone who just lost a teammate and a person he admired." Megan sighed.
"Do you need help with him?" Conner asked. "I mean, you know, maybe a little chat man to man is better. Maybe he will be more open."
"You'll do that?"
M'Gann was surprised. Since their break-up, Conner and she didn't talk very much to each other, but since Wally's death, he was at her side more often. Like the good old times. He smiled at her with the smile that always makes her heart beat faster and makes her blush.
"Of course, I'm your friend, remember?" He responded. "I'm here for you."
"My friend. You are right."
Even after their almost-kiss right after the mission in the North Pole, they hadn't tried again. They were okay that it was for the best that they were still just friends. For the moment. They wanted to know more about each other after all these months without really speaking. Plus, M'Gann had just broken up with Lagaa'n, and she didn't feel that beginning a new relationship was a good idea. And then, when they think they are ready, they will be together again. Naturally. Because they loved each other, and nobody and nothing could make that disappear.
"Are you sure you're okay?" He asked again.
"Mm? Yes. Why?" She was surprised by this question.
"You were lost in thought and stopped talking. That's not a thing you do often." Conner explained with a slight smile tugging at his lips.
"I was just thinking about the team, the situation… us." M'Gann responded without looking at him.
"And what is your answer about it?" The half-kryptonian asked.
"That I'm pretty happy about it."
"Me too, M'Gann. Me too."
They smiled at each other like they used to.
|SEPTEMBER 3, 17:08 EDT
Tim looked at the redhead. Barbara was on the giant computer of the Bat Cave while Bruce was on a mission with the Justice League. He sighed when he saw her take another cup of coffee. Since Wally's death, she hadn't stop going after criminal, and last week, she was almost killed because she was too tired to protect herself. What she was doing was dangerous, and Tim couldn't let her do that and let herself be killed. She yawned and stood up, her Batgirl suit in her arms, ready to wear.
"Barb." He started. She turned around, surprised to see him.
"Tim! I didn't know that you were here." She smiled at him and he knew her well enough to know that it was a fake smile.
"You going out tonight?" Again.
"Yeah. You know: the usual. Get some villains, clean up the town." Barbara answered without looking him in the eyes.
"You going alone?"
"Aren't you supposed to be on a date with Cassie tonight?" She avoided his question.
"Cancelled. She's not feeling well. You didn't answer my question." Barbara walked to her bike.
"It was intentional. Did you see my helmet?"
He shook his head to answer. She stalked back into the Cave while Tim observed her. He heard her sniffle, and he began to get worried. He has never seen her cry since Wally's funeral. It was she who held Dick, reassured Artemis, hugged M'Gann, and slept besides Tim when he had nightmares. She never allowed a tear to fall, and Tim was sure that one day, she would break down and he promised himself that he would be there for her. Like every time she was there for him.
"Barb, are you sure everything is okay?" He asked her carefully.
"Yeah. I just…I just need some fresh air. Are you sure you haven't seen my helmet?"
"I'm sure. Maybe Alfred took it so that you could actually sleep a whole night?"
She didn't respond and came closer to him. He saw her suit shaking in her hands. Tim took a deep breath and took her hands in his. Barbara looked at him, surprised. Without a word, he took away her suit.
"I think you need a break." He said softly.
"No. What I need is my helmet and my suit." Barbara retorted in a stern voice. "Give it back."
"Stop. You need a break. And I'm not giving you your suit until you sleep a few hours."
"Stop acting like him!" She screamed suddenly. "You're not him. You're not supposed to take care of me. I'm supposed to take care of you! That's my job!"
"Barbara," he smiled a little and pressed her hand, "I'm not a child anymore. You don't need to take care of everyone all the time. Let me take care of you for one night. Please."
She looked at him. The little Tim she met years ago was not there anymore. He was a handsome teenager who was almost taller than the man he had replaced. She smiled weakly.
"You grew up, Tim."
"That's what teenagers do, Barb." He laughed.
"I forgot what it is like." She sighed. "To be a teenager. To feel like the whole word is within my reach… to be happy. I mean, really happy."
One second later she was crushed by his arms in a huge hug. Her arms wrapped around his waist and she felt safe and calm for a moment. That was Tim's super power, making people calm. She pulled away and sniffed again.
"You can break down if you want. It's okay to cry. It's okay to let people you trust see your weakness."
"No. I'm…I'm supposed to be strong. I was supposed to learn how to handle this, how to face this kind of situation and stay calm and not show emotions, but…" He saw her lips shaking and he prepared himself for the worst. "But…I can't keep doing this, Tim! I can't constantly keep a lid on my emotions. For once in my life, I don't have control of my feelings and even if I want to hide it, I just can't! Wally is dead. He gave up his life for the planet and he will never come back. Dick has gone - god knows where - without even saying goodbye while I'm stuck here because he can't handle the situation and I hate him so much for that! I hate him so, so much for not being here with me. Us. Artemis continues to avoid everybody including me and I don't know how to help her, but I want to. And Kaldur is too sad and lost to lead the team properly, so I have to lead them alone!"
"And I'm so exhausted right now!"
Tim has never seen her like this, so…weak and openly showing her feelings. There were so many tears and her eyes were red. He pulled her against him in another hug.
"I can't believe this is happening…" She cried in his neck while her tears made his T-Shirt wet.
"Everything's gonna be okay, Barbara." He whispered. "Everything's gonna be okay."
"I can't believe it…I can't believe they're gone…"
"I will never leave you, Barbara. I promise you. I will always be here, at your side."
|SEPTEMBER 3, 17:16 EST
Dick placed an empty beer on the table with the others and took another. He hadn't left his apartment since Wally's funeral or spoke to anyone. Barbara tried the first few days, bringing him some food and tried to make conversation. He never responded and his bitterness made her run away, back to Gotham. After seeing that her efforts were in vain, she didn't come back or called. Dick didn't try to text her even though he wanted to. He didn't hear news from Gotham since.
He will always remember what the words he told about his best friend were. He was such a good person. He was my best friend and everybody will miss him.
"You could have said so many other things, Grayson!" He muttered to himself angrily. "And you choose those words? You are so stupid. So, so, so stupid!"
"You could say that." A deep voice came from behind him. "But, personally, I would prefer to say that you are a complete dick."
"You know, doors exist." Dick retorted before finishing his beer.
"I knew you wouldn't answer me if I called."
Dick turned around and looked at his foster father in his Batman suit with a stern expression on his face. He smiled mockingly at Bruce.
"You didn't have to come. I can take care of myself."
"You're drunk. It's not the right thing to do."
Dick took a new beer and twisted the cap off, but a big hand took it before he could take a sip. Bruce broke the beer into his hand, looking straight into his son's eyes.
"Okay, why are you here?" Dick sighed, placing his feet on the table and crossing his arms over his chest.
"I'm checking up on you." Bruce answered simply.
"You didn't have to." The younger retorted.
"You are my son, even if it's not biologically. A father checks up on his son." Wayne explained, not moving.
"You've never acted like a father since I became Nightwing, Bruce!" Dick stood up suddenly, glaring at his foster father with an unbridled fury. "Stop lying and tell me what's going on. Or get out of my place."
"You can't keep doing this, Dick! You are destroying yourself, just like Roy used to do."
"Maybe Roy and I are not so different. Maybe it's the best thing to do. Destroy myself and forget what I did to everyone I ever met. How I've hurt everyone who loves me."
Bruce didn't know how to answer. Dick, his son - his little bird - was broken. It was as if he didn't care about his life anymore because he was shattered on the inside. And it was, in a part, because of him. It was Bruce who had allowed the little kid that Dick once was to become a hero and become this guy.
"You're wrong. You are not like Roy."
"How can you know?" Dick asked, his voice shaking.
"Because I know you and I know Roy. You are two different people and you are nothing like him!"
"Well, then that's the problem, Bruce! You don't know anything about me!" Dick yelled. If Bruce wasn't the freaking Batman, he would have been surprised and maybe shaking a little. "You used to. But not anymore."
"Maybe you are right," he conceded. "But I know at least one thing about you. You do not hurt everyone you care about."
Dick started to laugh, and Bruce thought that his son looked like the Joker when he laughed right then whilst being tired and sad and angry. A lonely tear dropped down his cheek, and he didn't know if it was because his son was sad or because he's laughing bordered on something hysterical.
"I do not hurt the people I care about? Is that what you said?" He tried to calm himself but a smile that scared Bruce slightly was still on Dick's face. "Well, let's check. Tula, a good friend of mine, is killed on my first mission as a leader because I didn't think the plan through thoroughly. A few months later, my little brother dies because I wasn't on the mission to protect him like I should have been! And then, I bring my two best friends back into the business because I was incapable of succeeding without them. The result? My best friend had to live away from his soul mate for months, and when they are finally reunited, he dies 'cause I couldn't stop that damn alien invasion in time!"
"Dick… stop blaming yourself. It wasn't your fault."
Bruce has never been the best father. Usually, it was Alfred who comforted him when he was sad. Bruce never knew which words to say. And now, it wasn't an exception and all the words that escaped his mouth were things that everybody had already told him so many times. But is there truly anything anyone could say to him that would stop this guilt from consuming him?
"Not my fault? Not my fault?! Are you kidding me? You think I don't know what's going on in Gotham? I can't even take care of my own family! I saw Tim before I left. He was devastated.
"I'm pretty sure he's lost with the girl he loves because the person, his supposed big brother, is not there to help him. And Babs? I know how Kaldur is. He can't lead the team to the best of his ability because he's still grieving, so she has to do it on her own. I don't know what else she has to do alone, but it's a miracle she hasn't broken down already. And why does she have to do all of the stuff alone? Because I haven't gone back. And I won't go back. "
"If you know that already, why won't you come back with me?" Bruce asked and Dick looked at him with dark eyes before turning around.
"Maybe because I'm a coward who can't face his friends and family after what he did. Maybe because he doesn't want to see the looks on their faces when they look at the failure that caused so much death. I'm also a selfish bastard who can't face his responsibilities and the pain he caused because he didn't want to suffer anymore. And I don't think I will ever be able to go there again. Now, please, get out of here. I want to be alone."
When he turned around, Bruce was gone and his window was open.
|SEPTEMBER 3, 17:16 EST
Cassie hung up and put her cellphone on the table. She had just told to Tim that she was not feeling well. It was a lie. She merely didn't want to go out, even with him. But she knew that if she told him the truth, he would be hurt, and she didn't want to hurt her boyfriend. She hated lying. But if bending the truth meant she could avoid offending her boyfriend, she would do it again. She was too empathic. She looked at her TV, and sighed as she saw the horrible reality show.
And then, a few minutes later just as she was about to fall asleep, someone knocked on her door. Since her parents weren't there, she stood up with a sigh and went to open the door.
"Jaime!" She exclaimed, surprised. "What are you doing here?"
She couldn't help but blush. One of her friends - a boy - was at her door, and she wore a simple T-shirt without a bra and a jogging short. There was probably crumbs over her T-shirt and her hair… don't get her started on the possible state of her hair.
However, Jaime smiled cheerfully at her and her heartbeat faster. It made her feel guilty. Why did she feel like this when he was around?
He took of his sunglasses. "Well, Tim called me and said that you weren't feeling well, and because he was with Barbara, he asked me if I could check up on you." He told her before asking in a softer tone. "So…Are you okay?"
"Yes, of course." She responded before quickly adding, "I mean, not so well, because of…because of…" She tried to find an excuse, but when she was with Jaime, she couldn't lie and she didn't know why. He raised an eyebrow, a smirk on his face.
"You are such a terrible liar Cassie!" He laughed and she blushed more. "Maybe Tim can't tell when you lie, but I can. So, what's wrong?"
"I told you, I am not feeling well." She repeated, because it was the truth. Well, in part.
"Well, I thing you are not sick, so it must be emotional or mental distress." Blue Beetle suggested and then winced slightly as if his own word choice stung him. But it was quickly masked by an even bigger smile. "I know how to make you feel better!"
"I am not sure if I would like that…" She mumbled, pulling at the edges of her T-shirt.
"I promise you, you would have to do nothing! Just appreciate!" He guaranteed. "So, what do you think? Let your good friend distract you, and maybe that beautiful smile of yours will appear again so that the world can bask in its beauty."
Why couldn't she stop blushing? And why couldn't her heart stop beating so fast? She didn't want to feel like this. Tim was the one who was supposed to make her feel like this. Not Jaime. Jaime was just a good friend, that's all. Nothing more. So, why did she feel like this? She preferred not thinking about the answer.
"Give me a second. I need to change into something more appropriate first."
"Why? Isn't jogging shorts made for going out in?" He asked, looking at her shorts.
Cassie laughed suddenly, expecting him to grin or wink but he didn't. He looked at her completely serious. He really thought that she could go out with him like this. In skin=tight shorts, a T-shirt and with her looking like something might be building a nest in between the tangles.
"Wait, you are serious?" She asked, astonished.
"Yes, why? Did I say something stupid?"
"Mm…Yes." But when she saw his face, she added quickly, "I mean, not really. But a girl can't go out like this."
"Like this?" He repeated, trying to understand.
"Like a mess."
"Well, personally, I think you look beautiful as always." She blushed and he continued. "But if you think you have to wear something more 'appropriate', I'll wait here."
Cassie has never laughed like this throughout her entire life. Jaime took her for ice cream, and like a gentleman he paid for it. Then, they walked together for two hours, or maybe more, she didn't know, and they told each other all their fears concerning the future. And the Scarab never said anything. Well, Jaime didn't give any indication that it might have made a comment.
And now they were at her door again. Saying goodbye.
"Thank you again, Jaime." She said, trying to catch her breath. Her ribs were aching from laughing so hard. "I've never had so much fun."
"It's nothing, Cass." He said with a smile and she tried not to blush when she heard her new nickname. "That's what friends are supposed to do."
"I'll see you tomorrow then?" She asked. "At the team meeting."
"Of course. Bye."
And then he did something unpredictable. He kissed her on the cheek. Nobody kissed her on the cheek. Ever. Not even Tim. She blushed and he laughed more. She closed the door and he didn't stopped smiling.
"Jaime Reyes, I suggest you stop seeing this girl. She triggers bio-chemical changes to your system."