Author's Note: PLEASE READ! PLEASE READ! PLEASE READ! Welcome to the actual final installment of this series! So, here's how this is going to go: every chapter will be dedicated to whomever suggested the idea for the chapter. It will be pretty much chronological (anything that people want to see from the past will be represented as a flashback). I will continue to add chapters for as long as people keep suggesting ideas. In so far, I've got 28 suggestions that I'm making into one-shots here. Please keep the ideas coming! The updates for this will be way more sporadic than the weekly ones I've had for my past stories. I'm going to be focusing more on updating my Merlin series that have been left to the wayside. I think that's pretty much it! THIS CHAPTER IS DEDICATED TO GUESTZ WHO THOUGHT UP THIS ONE-SHOT! Read, review, and enjoy!
Prompt: Effects of Wally's 'death' on the people in the DCU
Wally laid on his beanbag with Artemis curled up against his side, asleep. Brucely was resting his head on Wally's feet, his tail lazily thumping the ground. He was home, wrapped up in a blanket with two people he loved surrounding him, taking comfort in the room he'd grown up in – also finding joy in being able to see it. The redheaded speedster had come into the mansion to find it deserted. The Bat Clan was still at Antarctica, respecting his usual want of alone time with the one he loved after a particularly hard mission. Alfred had left a note in the kitchen saying that he had gone out to stock up on groceries in preparation for whenever their wayward speedster would come home. The old butler would probably be home soon and Wally couldn't wait. Well, maybe he could wait a little bit if he got to stay right where he was.
With one hand, he carded his fingers through his love's hair. With the other, Wally held a collection of letters. There was one for every month that he was gone. Apparently Artemis had started the little habit at the behest of Linda, who'd recommended it as a coping technique. Artemis had been planning on writing a letter every month he was gone for the first year, and then every other month until she learned to deal with his death. As it was, there were only seven letters – she'd learned that he was alive before getting a chance to write the eighth letter. Smiling down at his beautiful girl, Wally opened the first letter and started speed reading (he knew that he wouldn't have long-term retention of what he read, but he'd have plenty of time to read it again later).
It's been a month since the day you… Even in writing I can't say the word. It still hurts too much. I can't imagine that it will ever stop hurting this much, no matter what people say about time healing all wounds. The people who say that kind of stupid stuff haven't ever lost someone like I lost you. Anyways, I figure I should bring you up to speed (hehe, get it? Speed? Cuz you're a speedster? God, I'm turning into you) on what's going on. The Team got moved to the Watch Tower because Mount Justice was… well, you know. You were there for that. Dick gave control of the Team back to Kaldur and left the Team altogether. He said that he needed to take some time off to get himself back together. Kaldur tried to convince him to stay – we all did, but it didn't work. The whole Bat Clan split. Cass went to Hong Kong, Tim and Stephanie to Jump City, Damian and Colin to Bludhaven, Batman stayed in Gotham of course, Jason to cities all over the country, Dick to who knows where. He's just missing right now. He went to ground so completely that no one really knew where he was. He makes sure to send messages to Bruce so people would know he was okay, though.
I joined the Team again. Suddenly college didn't seem so important when you weren't there. I'm not Artemis, though. I joined the Team as Tigress. Artemis was your partner. She was completely yours and with you gone, I couldn't be her. I know that there are a lot of people who are disappointed with that decision – Mom, Jade, Barry, Kaldur, who knows who else – but I wasn't going to change my mind. With you gone… there are a lot of things that aren't the same with you gone.
Anyways, back to telling you about what's going on. I found the ring. The one you were going to use to propose to me. Dick told me that that's what it was. I mean, I figured, but still. It's nice to know for sure. That was one of the last things we talked about before he went off-grid. God, I'm going all over the place with this letter, aren't I? That lit teacher from my first year at college would be so disappointed. You remember her don't you? She was vicious. That one could just glare at villains and they'd stop their crimes right then and there and pack up and go home and call their mothers. That's what you always used to say about her. It always made me laugh so hard. Even just thinking about it now brings a smile to my lips. I think this is the first time I've smiled since you… yeah. I know you'd be disappointed. You'd have that silly little grin eyebrow raise mixture thing you did when you were trying to convey your disappointment to someone without making them offended. You'd roll your eyes and tell me that I should move on and find someone new, but I don't want to. You were the love of my life. You are the love of my life. I can't just give you up! I won't!
Curses! I'm crying again. I'd have thought that I'd be out of tears by this point. I've done nothing but cry. No one has. Barry and Iris have moved into the Garricks' place because you had stuff at their house. Bart moved to the Watch Tower. He's dating Jinx now, actually. He said that you were the one who convinced him to finally make a move on his feelings. That's just like you, too. Anyways, I'm living back with Mom because I can't stand to be in that house for very long. Every once in a while, I'll go back in there and pack up some of your stuff. I guess… I don't know. Packing it up just feels like I'm giving up on you. That's stupid, right? I mean, you're… you're… you aren't coming back, so there's no reason for me to keep your stuff out and reminding me of everything I've lost, but still… it's so hard! It's so much harder than I'd ever imagined. I mean, I know that we talked about this eventuality when we started dating because, even though we were stupid teenagers (or maybe because we were), we still knew that there was a good chance that this job would kill us and we needed to be prepared.
Being prepared doesn't help.
It just… it just makes me feel callous. It makes me feel like I don't care about you. I do! I do care about you! I could never tell you how much I care about you! Wow, I'm really bad at this whole staying on track thing. You should have seen how many people came for your funeral, Wally. Well, first of all, the media stayed away which was pretty impressive. You know how that group of vultures is. But there were so many people! Linda and John showed up and Linda gave a speech about how you were when you were a kid and people sounded so shocked about how she described you because, well, you don't talk about your past a lot. Every hero that your civilian identity knew their civilian identity showed up, standing in little clumps all over the graveyard. The church we had to hold the ceremony in was huge to keep everyone. There were representatives from the League of Assassins – Talia al Ghul was out of her mind with anger and actually had to get escorted off the premises. Cat Woman was there and the whole family was there too of course. It was unbelievable to watch. And the epitaph was perfect. It fit you like a glove. It said, "For this man, nothing's so sacred as honor and nothing's so loyal as love*. Tandem Felix**." Look at you, all fancy with your Latin gravestone. I'm not actually sure who picked it out. I think it was Bruce. They made sure to check with me and they made sure that I liked it before they used it. You should have seen how much I cried at that. Actually, you shouldn't. I know you wouldn't want me crying so much. I also know that you would have cried as much as I am if our situations were reversed.
There I am, crying again. I'm gonna let this letter stop here. This is a lot harder than it seemed when Linda recommended it to me. She's actually helping pack up the house in Palo Alto. She's sweet like that. Anyways, I'll tell you more next month. Bye!
Wally's own eyes were filled with tears as he moved onto the next letter. He'd hurt so many people by being transported to another dimension. He knew, instinctually, that there was no way that this was his fault, but he couldn't help but feel like it was. The next letter was open and he started reading through it.
Here we go again. Hopefully I can stay a little bit more on track than I did last time. Alright, so I moved back into the house at Palo Alto. Brucely is still devastated. He sleeps on your side of the bed and always sits and waits at the door on Thursday nights because you always came home later than me on Thursdays. He sniffs at places where your stuff used to be and looks up at me with great big, sad eyes. You never had to deal with Brucely's puppy dog face, but it was killer. Almost as bad as yours. M'gann sleeps over a lot and when she can't, Zatanna or Raquel try to. Sometimes it's Cass or Jinx or Stephanie or Barbara over at the house with me. They all try so hard to help me feel better. It's really sweet of them. I'm still not over you, but I'm definitely living a little more. But just a little. I'm, according to all the rest, not as nice or open or happy as I used to be. M'gann and I got into a fight and she even said I've turned into a cold monster. I don't know if she's right. She probably is. I just feel numb now.
Actually, most people are back to living in their houses. Bart permanently moved in with Jaime because they're best buds and because he really didn't want to deal with living in the same house as his dad and aunt whenever they were born. I mean, that's understandable, right? No one wants to be the older kid mentor to your own father. Harper (that's the original Roy, the one that goes by Arsenal; he officially got his name changed so things wouldn't be so confusing) moved in with Ollie who's ecstatic about it. You should have seen the cleaning spree he put all us archers through to get his house ready. Jade and Roy are even thinking about letting Ollie get to know Lian a bit more. You'd love Lian by the way. She's such a sweet heart even if she's going to grow up crazy with those two as her parents. It's cute the way Roy just melts around her though. Lian and Jade have got that man wrapped around their fingers. Roy's got a bunch of pictures of you up on his fridge, actually. It hurts a little when I see those when I go over to babysit, but I'm getting better at dealing.
I think they're the only things that stopped Roy from pulling a Dick and disappearing. Speaking of that, Dick still isn't back. People are starting to get a little worried. I mean, there's been a few news casts of a mysterious caped figure saving lives all across the world and, from the way he fights, a lot of us are pretty sure that it's Dick, but we don't know for sure. He still sends messages to Bruce letting us know he's okay. I guess that's just his way of mourning. I don't know. I don't think you realize how many people had you as their way of mourning. When people were sad, they went to you. It was just a thing. But now people are sad because you're gone, so their normal coping method doesn't work. So we're all having to figure out new coping methods. I don't think many of us are doing a very good job at it. I know I'm not.
Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne are dating again which is weird for everyone. Who knows if it'll last? Scratch that, we all know it won't last. They're kind of cute together, though. I understand now what you always saw in them. Seeing other people date is kind of upsetting for me though. And there are certainly a lot of people dating. Cassie and Virgil started dating which is as weird as it gets. I mean, did they even know each other? Sure, they're on the same Team, but they usually get split up into different groups. Cassie is on Beta because she's kind of new, but still experienced and Virgil is on Omega because he's brand new. He's doing great, though. His mentor is really helping him out and he just gets better each day. Neither of them have told their parents/guardians yet. I can't wait to see Diana's reaction. That will make my day. I'm getting better at that too – finding little things that make me happy for a moment. I'm getting a lot better. Anyways, those two are dating and they're soooo awkward around each other. I'm pretty sure neither of them have dated people before by the way they're acting. Cute, but awkward.
Then there's Bart and Jinx. I think. They were dating last time I checked, but with their ups and downs, who even knows? You remember how Steph and Tim were? They're worse. It's ridiculous! I think everyone needs a relationship like Damian and Colin. They were together since they were, what? Ten? And they never needed someone else. You were the first person I'd ever dated and I remember you telling me that I was the first person you'd dated too. We were kind of like Damian and Colin. I'd tell you how the whole Bat Clan are dealing with your, um, death (look, I said it! I couldn't even say the word last letter), but I'm not sure. Like I said last time, they scattered. No one really has good contact with any of them and any of the contact we do have is limited and stilted. I wish I could help them, but there's not really much I can do.
What else was I planning on telling you about? School's fine. There's not anything special going on there. They'd held a memorial for you and you've even got your own little shrine there. I didn't ever tell you how you 'died', did I? Falcon had just been announced as dead after saving the world from the last MFD and the whole world cried. It was awful. Vlatava even declared the day you died a national holiday. You forgot to tell me that you were royalty there. Sir Falcon. God, that sounds stupid. It fits you perfectly though. Anyways, Bruce Wayne finally sent in an official missing person's report to the Gotham PD, saying that you'd been staying with him and then had just up and disappeared. Bruce said that he'd looked everywhere for you, but hadn't filed the report until the customary 24 hours missing deadline thing or whatever. Jim Gordon reported on finding your body the next day. You were apparently found all torn to pieces on the side of a road. The story was that someone had called you and you were going to meet them, but that person (still unknown) ended up attacking you and killing you during that meeting. You were then further desecrated by wild animals. Awful, right? They had to have a reason for the funeral to be closed casket, though. Because, I mean, there wasn't a body to bury.
Anyways, so, yeah… it's good to be back on the Team even if it isn't as Artemis. Tigress is pretty awesome, though, and we've taken down a good number of villains in the past month. The first month, it was almost like even the villains were mourning you. Certainly the Rogues were. They were devastated. They actually hunted Barry down and screamed at him about letting you die and then he screamed back about if it could have been him then he'd have taken your spot in a heartbeat. Barry and Rogues went out for a drink after that and gave each other a nice, month long chance to mourn before getting back into their fighting even if it wasn't as enthusiastic as before. Joker though. Joker went crazy. He burned down a ton of his warehouses and kidnapped people to get Batman's attention and, when he was inevitably caught, he just sat there rocking and saying Joker Junior to himself. It was terrifying.
You probably didn't want to hear about that, huh? God, I hadn't meant to talk so much about your being gone. I guess I really didn't have a choice, though. Everyone is still hung up on it. I'll just, I don't know. I tell you more next month. I don't think I can keep going today. Bye.
The next letter was open almost before he'd finished reading the second.
It's been three months to the day since you died. There's not really much that's changed since last month. Oh, Dick visited me. That came as a shock. It's been three months since I've seen him, you know? He looked awful. As bad as this sounds, it made me feel a little better about how I've been coping. At least I didn't leave everyone else and go underground for months. That's not really fair, is it? I guess I'm still mad about our conversation. It was the stupidest thing for us to argue about, too.
I'm sitting there with Brucely and I'm working on my homework, right? There's this light knocking on the door and I just assumed it was one of the girls coming to keep me company like they do. But then I look through that extra little hole you put in the door so we could look out the door without letting the people at the door know right where our heads were or whatever you said about it. Bat paranoia, I still say. Anyways, I looked through that extra little hole and I was like, that's Dick out there! So I pull open the door right away and he's just standing there soaked to the bone and dripping blood on the front porch. Obviously, this isn't as unusual a scene as it should be. Being heroes gets you used to friends dropping by your house dripping blood on the porch. So I pull him into the room and sit him on the kitchen counter. I had to go lock Brucely in our room because you know how he is about blood. I still swear he's part vampire. I also maintain that that's why Damian got him for us. I wouldn't put it past him to give us a vampire dog.
Anyways, I get Dick up on the kitchen counter and I start treating his wounds right away. He had some cuts on his arms and a particularly bad one on the back of his calf. Then he just says, nonchalantly, "Long time no see."
I just kind of stop what I'm doing and am like, "I'm sorry, what?" And he repeats what he said! His nerve! So I go back to tending to his wounds and bite out, "I wonder why."
He just shrugs and says, "I've just been sight-seeing."
So I'm starting to get mad now, "Sight-seeing? Uh huh, sure." I get a little control of my temper and am like, "How are you holding up?"
He just shrugs again and is like, "I'm fine. It's not like sight-seeing can get very upsetting."
Can you believe he said that? I mean, yeah, he's a Bat which means that he's emotionally stunted – no offence to you, of course. But still! Denial much? So I finally snap out, "Cut the bull, Dick. You went so far underground that none of us had any idea where you were. Everyone just wants to make sure you're okay after Wally's death."
And that finally broke his cool and collected little mask he had on. He said, "Don't say his name."
I responded, "I'm sorry. I didn't know I couldn't say the name of the love of my life. You're not the only one mourning in case you hadn't figured that out."
And he goes, "I get that other people are mourning, but think about how much worse it is for me, Artemis! I've known him since he was nine years old! We did everything together!"
So I shouted back, "It shouldn't matter how long I've known him! He was the love of my life and I his! I can mourn him just as deeply as you! And did you ever stop to think that Roy knew him just as long as you did? Huh? Did that ever occur to you? That didn't stop him from staying with his family and making sure that his friends were getting through this! That didn't stop him from letting his friends help him!"
And it just devolved from there. I won't tell you everything we said because it all got pretty hurtful as the argument went on. Then I punched him. Real adult of me, right? I couldn't help it. He just looked at me all shocked and stuff and then he leapt off the counter and stalked out of the house and I couldn't help but think good riddance. I know that's awful, but I don't care. He was being stupid.
And I'm getting worked up. I'll write to you again in a month, okay? Bye.
Wally was caught between laughing at the fact that Artemis actually punched him and frowning at the fact that this rift between his brother and his girlfriend (fiancé now!) was his fault. He tore open the next letter.
Four months now. I don't really have a lot of time to write, but I'll put in as much as I can. We're on the bioship right now patrolling down in Bialya. Beast Boy is trying to hold himself together which sucks to see because this is all bringing back a lot of painful memories for him. Anyways (I say that a lot, don't I), you know how, in my second letter, I said that Cassie and Virgil dating was as weird as it gets? Well, apparently I lied. Barbara and La'gaan just started dating a couple of days ago. I'm scarred! And Barbara decided that she would introduce her boyfriend to her dad through a party because she wasn't sure if she could do it if she wasn't surrounded by friends. I mean, she doesn't even live in the house anymore and she's a grown woman, but she still worries about what her dad will say. So all of us are here at this party and Jim Gordon walks in and is like, hey, what's up? Everyone doing alright? You know how he is.
So then Babs rolls up to him with her and La'gaan holding hands and is like, "Yeah, we're fine dad. By the way, I'd like you to meet my boyfriend, La'gaan." I think his eyes were about to pop right out of his head. It was the funniest thing! Honestly made my day. I mean, it was definitely a legitimate reaction because that would be weird as all get out, but Gordon calmed down pretty quickly and just clears his throat, shakes La'gaan's hand and says nice to meet you before leaving the room as fast as he could. La'gaan was so confused – he couldn't figure out if that meant that her dad liked him or not. So funny!
Shoot! We're disembarking soon. Who doesn't love a trip into Bialya to deal with gorillas? Actually, there's only one gorilla. But he can talk. With a German accent. Because he's a Nazi. And a vampire. He calls himself Pyremaul and he is a talking, Nazi, vampire gorilla. Because that's just how our life goes. Anyways, I gotta go! Love you, bye!
Wally still couldn't help the confused expression that overtook his face when Babs and La'gaan were mentioned. That was just so wrong. So, so very wrong. He wasn't even going to think about the vampire gorilla. He had one telekinetic gorilla in his city and that was enough for him. He went to the next letter and immediately saw how short it was.
Why am I even still doing this after five freaking months? What even is the point of sitting here, wasting my time writing to you? You can't hear me! You can't see these! I'm just wasting my time! Why am I even still sitting here writing? God, I'm so pathetic! I'm so drunk too. This is… I can't… why did you have to go and die?! Huh?! Why Wally? Why? Answer me! What's the point of sitting here asking you these stupid questions and writing these stupid letters if you don't even care enough to give me a stupid answer?! Whatever. I don't care.
Wally's heart clenched at that one and his fingers carded through Artemis's hair with a bit more urgency. He'd driven her to this. This was his fault. He didn't open the next letter with as much enthusiasm as the last.
Haha, sorry about that last one. I wrote that on November 20th. Five months since the day you died. Nine days since the day you would have turned 19. That's why I drank. And why I was so mad. There are all these scumbags out there that we fight day in and day out that get to live until their old age – Vandal stupid Savage is over 50,000 years old! And you didn't even make it until 19. It was just a little hard to deal with. This month is a little hard to deal with too. It's been exactly six months since you died. Half a year since I saw you last. It doesn't feel real sometimes. For some reason, I still wake up and imagine that you're going to be sitting there next to me in bed, dead asleep after spending all night last-minute working on some assignment or another. But I'm getting better. Everyone is, actually. We're all slowly working our way back to some semblance of normalcy.
Everyone I mentioned dating other people are still dating those people and Dick is back on the Team, finally. He's not leading, but we're all just glad he's back. It was actually a little rocky at first when he came back because people weren't quite sure how to deal with that. The original group were happy to have their leader back and we easily fell into the habit of having Kaldur lead us, but the new kids weren't quite as easy to work with. I mean, think about it: this person was someone who they were always told was a villain. All of them fought against Kaldur at some point. And sure, now they know that he was a double agent the whole time, but it still can't be easy. And then Dick, the leader they'd worked under, shows up and says that he's not going to go back to be a leader. He works great under Kaldur's leadership as well and they were just so confused.
It wasn't that big of a deal until Kaldur and Dick disagreed on something in the field. The whole Team split down the middle for a little bit because they weren't sure who to follow. The old ones went with Kaldur and the new with Dick with a couple of people unexpectedly switching sides. You know how it is. But it was all smoothed over and everything worked out fine. Oh, Dick and I are better now, too. We talked it out and smoothed over that argument I told you about in my third letter. Wow, I've only written six letters. It feels like a lot more. And it's getting easier too.
Everything is getting easier. I still feel numb and I still miss you like there's no tomorrow, but I'm not as bad as I was. Everyone is really good at helping each other through it. I guess it helps to know that you're not the only one hurting about something. It makes it easier to ask for help if you know that they need help too.
Anyways, M'gann, Conner, Kaldur, Dick, and I are hanging out tonight. This is a sad kind of anniversary and we figured it would be better if we were together for this. I'll talk to you in a month. Bye!
Wally was glad that it hadn't been all horrible for Artemis in the time he was gone. He easily moved onto the next, and final, letter.
I miss you. In all this letters, I don't think I ever once said that, but it's true. I miss you so much! I'm sure you could have figured it out on your own because I was never all that vocal about my love (I should have been) and you learned to read between the lines and understand what I was trying to say without me having to say it outright. You were great like that.
Anyways, what to tell you about the last month? It's been pretty uneventful. Conner and M'gann's anniversary went by a week or so ago and they were so cute during that. M'gann's growing her hair out again! I'm excited about that. I always liked it better longer. It's always great having another girl's hair to practice putting up. Me, Jinx, Babs, and Karen went all out on getting M'gann ready for her and Conner's anniversary. They were going out for a date at this place that was alien friendly. I can't remember the name at the moment. I did M'gann's hair with Jinx holding the pieces that I couldn't. It helps to have more than one pair of hands. Babs picked out the dress and jewelry and shoes and Karen did M'gann's makeup. It was amazing!
It's kind of amazing how much has changed since you've gone away. We've all learned to live with your loss. It still hurts us and there are still days where we'll find members of the Justice League wiping away tears as they stand in front of your hologram in the hall of the fallen. So we haven't forgotten you, but we've… I don't know how to word it. You know what I mean, though. You always do. Bye.
Wally smiled as near silent tears fell down his face. He only started wiping them away when one fell onto Artemis's cheek, causing her to stir into awareness. She blinked beautiful eyes up at Wally and he cupped her face with one hand, kissing her. She pulled back after a moment and smiled happily, "Wally, what…" Her voice cut off as she saw the letters on the ground and her smile turned a little wistful, "I really did miss you Wally. Every day I thought of new things to write about when the 20th of the month came around and I'd write that letter."
"I know. I love you so much, baby." Wally said.
"I love you too, Wally." Artemis responded. That was where Alfred found the two of them twenty minutes later when he finally made it home.
Author's Note: Kudos to the first person who can figure out which famous person the epitaph denoted with the * belongs to and kudos to the first person who can figure out which famous person the epitaph denoted with the ** belongs to! I really hope you guys liked this chapter and that you'll continue to support this story the way you've all supported the rest! Thank you for reading and please keep sending me suggestions!