A/N: From pleasepromptme's Angsty Dialogue Prompts on tumblr: haunt-the-stars requested #29: "I'm not going to sit and watch you destroy yourself." for birdflash.
Thanks so much for the prompt, I've been looking for an excuse to write some YJ season two angst, and this fit the bill nicely. Basically, everything is the same except birdflash instead of spitfire and Wally isn't filled in on the Secrets. And because I'm not that creative, the fic's title is from the song Chemicals by Dean Lewis. Hope you enjoy the fic :)
The alarm went off minutes ago, but aside from Wally's fumbling hand to turn off his phone's alarm, no one has moved.
Wally finally finds the energy to roll over, wrapping his arms around Dick the second he does. He's awake and stiff beneath Wally's hold, and he can so easily picture Dick's expression: wide, tired eyes staring blankly at the wall, jaw clenched as if that alone will hold him together.
He kisses his temple. "We should probably get moving if we don't want to be late."
Dick brings the pillow closer to him and curls around it slightly. Wally can barely hear the whispered, "I don't want to go."
Artemis's funeral is today. They had gone to the visitation yesterday for almost an hour—which Dick hadn't wanted to go to either. It had been hard, almost annoying, to convince him to come. But. Wally is trying to be patient; Dick was right there when it happened, after all.
"I know. No one wants to. But we have to go for Artemis and her mom," Wally tells him, rubbing between his shoulder blades.
In response, Dick rolls away from Wally and onto his stomach to hide his face in the mattress, almost as if that is the exact reason why Dick doesn't want to go. Wally follows him, placing his forearms on either side of Dick's back, hovering just a few centimeters above him.
"It's going to be hard, but I don't want you to regret missing it later," Wally tries to persuade. When he gets no response, he sighs and says, "Please? I don't think I can go alone."
Dick carefully shifts onto his back to look up at him. His eyes are red and puffy, face pale with dry tear tracks on his cheeks. Nightmares.
"It wasn't your fault," Wally whispers, letting his head drop down to touch foreheads.
"Right," Dick agrees, voice shaky yet sincere.
"You're warm," Wally murmurs.
"Because I've been sleeping next to a human space heater," Dick half-heartedly quips back.
Wally pushes himself up into a sitting position. "You can get in the shower first. I'll find some breakfast."
Dick nods and, thankfully, gets out of bed.
An hour later and they're walking into the funeral home about fifteen minutes before the service is scheduled to begin. Dick is practically glued to his side the whole time, talking as little as possible whenever someone approaches them. It's weird when Dick gets like this, but Wally's seen it before. It's not unexpected at all, really.
Everyone who was close with Artemis as a civilian is there: a few friends from Gotham Academy that Dick knows, a few from Stanford that Wally knows, and then the original Team members (along with a few newer members like Tim), her mentors, and the small family Artemis had. It's a short, emotionally-difficult service, with the hardest parts being the eulogies and the actual burial. When it's over, Wally has dried tears on his face that match the ones Dick had this morning and the question of how he's supposed to do this all over again in a few days for the Justice League's memorial service racing through his mind.
They offer their condolences to Artemis's mother after the burial is finished, and Wally doesn't miss how hard it is for Dick. She hugs Dick and he apologizes through her cries, his face wearing a blend of guilt, shock, and grief as it happens. He looks like he's on the verge of shattering, and Wally knows that Dick not only (unfairly) blames himself for Artemis's death, but that the funeral also made Artemis's death real. He needs time process—away from everything and everyone.
So when Dick asks to skip the luncheon after the burial, Wally lets him. He drives Dick back home where Dick shuts himself in the bathroom as soon as they arrive. Wally hears him puking and then the shower turns on. It's so hot Wally can see steam coming out from underneath the door, and if he had super hearing, he's positive he would hear the quiet sounds of Dick breaking down. But if he can't hear Dick, that means Dick can't hear him. So maybe he breaks down a little bit, too.
Since quitting the Team, Wally has only used his speed a handful of times. There have been a few times were Kid Flash has been brought back in as a "one-time thing" in emergencies, most recently emergencies involving Bart. But, outside of vigilante use, Wally has only used his speed three times since hanging up the yellow boots. The first time was when he and Dick were on a date and it started to rain so hard that he decided to pick Dick up and run them to his car, the second was because of a school project that he'd pushed off way too close to its deadline, and the third is now: running to get to the Hall of Justice's hospital wing because Tim just called to tell him that 1) the Cave had been blown up and 2) Dick had been there when it happened.
He doesn't stop until he's in the room, staring at Dick half sitting up in a hospital bed.
"Babe, thank god," Wally breathes, leaning against the doorway for support.
Tim is sitting cross-legged on the end of the bed with his head turned towards the door to look at Wally. The room feels a little tense, and Wally's is 93% sure that he just interrupted an argument between the two. Over what, he has no idea, but he also doesn't find himself caring. All he cares about is getting to Dick
He forces himself to walk over to the bed, paying no mind to Tim as he reaches out to hold Dick's face with both of his hands. "Are you okay?"
Dick places both of his hands over Wally's and smiles. "Course I am. Just swallowed a little water and freaked Connor and Mal out a little."
"And by 'swallowed a little water' he means near-drowned." Wally takes his hands off of Dick's face and turns towards Tim when he pipes up. "He needs to be observed for a few more hours here, and then he can be monitored at home for the next forty-eight."
"Any other injuries from the explosion?" Wally asks Tim, taking a seat in the chair next to Dick's bed as he does.
"We just got caught in the debris field, not the actual explosion," Dick says, but they continue as if they hadn't heard him.
"A few bruised ribs, but luckily no concussion like Mal originally thought when he brought him in," Tim says.
Wally nods, grabbing Dick's hand and giving it a tight squeeze that doesn't let up for a few seconds. "That's good. I'm guessing we're on pneumonia watch then?"
"Look, I'm fine, and now that you're here, you can sign me out, right?" Dick asks, and he sounds… eager? Yeah, definitely eager, and a little jumpy.
"I'll sign you out as soon as you're cleared," Wally promises, anxious eyes glancing from the nasal cannula to the pulse oximeter still on his finger. "How did all of this happen? The cave is really gone?"
"Kaldur and his new friends raided the Cave. No idea why or how yet, but he took Bart, Gar, and Jaime with him," Dick says darkly. Wally curls his free hand into a fist. "I really need to get out of here and start working on this before we lose his trail."
That explains the eager-jumpiness Wally picked up on earlier, and maybe the reason for Dick and Tim's earlier argument. But there's something else going on that Dick's not telling him. It's something in Dick's voice that Wally can't quite pick out. He runs a hand through his own hair and lets out a breath. "Wow, okay. Listen, this isn't on you. Understand? I'm sure you did everything you could."
Dick's eyes water a little and Wally swears his lip almost trembles. "Please, just—"
Wally holds his hand up. "But you're no good to anyone if you make your condition worse. And I'm sure the others are already working on getting them back. Right, Tim?"
Tim nods once, fast and sharp. "Conner and Mal are on it, and I think they already sent a squad out."
"Conner was in the explosion, too. So if it's okay for him to be working, I don't see why—"
Wally's eyes tighten. "Dick, he's half Kryptonian. And he didn't near-drown."
Dick sighs and shifts to lean back against the bed. "Fine. I'll stay here. What's the plan for Gotham patrol tonight?"
"Babs is out right now. I'll join her if she's still out when we get back home."
"You're going to the manor?" Wally asks.
Dick's lips quirk upward at the corners. "Alfred insisted."
Tim scoffs, but it's teasing. "More like Alfred yelled at him for being reckless and now Dick's grounded for the unforeseeable future."
"That is not what happened!" Dick defends, but he's smiling too. That real, Dick Grayson, happy smile that Wally hasn't seen in weeks. He turns back to Wally, smile already fading. "He worries. Besides, I have to fill in for a Wayne Enterprises meeting tomorrow morning anyway, seeing as Bruce Wayne is on vacation and all."
Wally gives him a confused look. "I didn't realize you were taking over for Bruce too."
Dick shrugs. "The trial isn't as straightforward as he initially thought. There are several projects at WE that he can't push off any longer, so he asked if I could step in. And you know how Bruce is: if he asks he's really ordering."
"What about your day job?" And the night job, and the Team, and the other night job, and random JLA consults, and, you know, his ever-dissolving sleep schedule.
"I can still keep it. I'm not going to be working at WE full-time or anything, just a few meetings here and there that Bruce would normally have to attend."
Wally doesn't say anything, because he doesn't know how to say that this is too much without causing Dick to get defensive.
Wally shakes his head. "Nothing. Just worried about you."
That's what you keep telling me. "I know."
They talk until Wally catches Dick's eyes slide shut and his breathing slows down. He guesses the evening's events have finally caught up with him, and the painkillers definitely weren't helping him stay awake. Wally and Tim sit in a comfortable silence, just watching Dick in this now all-too-rare moment of peace.
"He can't keep this up much longer," Tim says.
"Yeah," Wally agrees. He doesn't have to say anything else; Tim knows Dick is struggling. It's been one thing after the other lately, with everything coming down around them at once. Dick's workload (some of which he can't get out of, some he tells himself he can't get out of) is strenuous enough, but then you add on the emotional toll of Artemis and Kaldur and it's all . . . too much.
"I don't know what to do," Tim admits, absently picking at Dick's blanket. "He keeps telling me he's okay and pretending that everything's fine, and then he buries himself in work to hide the fact that he's not fine."
"You're doing everything right, Tim. We just have to be there for him and try to help where we can, where he'll let us," Wally advises. Tim doesn't say anything, merely nods slowly. Because, really, that's what they've been doing. The thing is, it's not working, it never was working.
Dick won't talk to him about it, either, and Wally can't shake the feeling that Dick is hiding something from him. There have been signs—sneaking out to who knows where under the guise of patrol, most casework coincidently being finished as soon as Wally walks into the room, Dick constantly seeming off and not himself—but no clues as to the specifics of what that something is. Whatever it is, one thing is certain: it's killing Dick.
Dick is woken up and discharged about an hour later, and Wally decides to ride back with him and Tim. The second they're in the Batmobile, Dick turns the autopilot on and starts working on his holo-computer. He inserts a USB that he pulled from one of his glove compartments, probably to pick up where he left off before the raid and explosion took place. He wants to say something, tell Dick that it can wait or even ask what he's working on in general, but the look on Dick's face convinces him otherwise. It's a look Wally has been seeing a lot of these days.
They come across some luck and are able to rescue the Team members—along with some other teenage civilians—who had been abducted by the Reach. Other than that, however, things stick to their typical pattern and continue to get worse. M'gann has been kidnapped by Tigress, Conner is angry (at Dick, Wally thinks), the information they're gathering on the Reach only grows more concerning (and that's only the stuff Wally knows about), and to top it off, the trial still isn't going in the JLA's favor. Dick was being stretched thin before, and now with all of this extra pressure stacked on top, he can't hide it anymore. He's making more mistakes, sleeping less, and after interacting with him for even a few minutes, it's clear that he's going to snap any day now. He needs a break, he needs sleep.
So of course, he has plans to single-handedly stop Riddler's latest scheme. Well, Wally's not letting him go without a fight.
"Dick, please. Just look at you."
Dick turns to face him, looking away from the live video feed on his laptop for the first time since Wally confronted him. "What? What about me?"
Dick has dark bags under his eyes that are so dark they almost look like bruises. His eyes are bloodshot in the corners from a combination of sleep deprivation and staring at screens too long and too often. Despite his tense muscles, he sways where he stands at the counter. His skin's lost its natural tan, he's in desperate need of a shower, and his body appears to be permanently stuck in a defensive position. He could go on, but all in all, it's blatantly clear that he looks terrible and needed an intervention yesterday.
(But to be fair, this is the first time Wally has really seen Dick—and not just evidence of Dick being at the apartment or briefly passing by him like ships in the night once or twice a day—in days.)
"You need sleep." Wally forces his voice to remain calm and even. His eyes flicker down to the stain on Dick's red shirt that keeps growing, the one Wally is pretty sure is the result of a reopened stomach wound and not "spilled water". "You're hurt, you're stressed. You need to take a few days."
"Take a few days? Do you not get that there's an alien invasion going on? God, I know you've decided to quit being a hero, but some of us still care about stuff like that." His voice is cold, and the words sting. Wally thinks that was their intention, though.
He closes his eyes and exhales to calm himself; he can't get angry right now. He's about to say something, try to shift the conversation back to something calmer and more productive, but Dick continues his rant before he can.
"And I don't know if you've noticed, but Bruce is still on a trial that he might never come back from. I've been working my ass off covering his Gotham and League responsibilities, and that's on top of the Team and Nightwing work I was already doing. Don't you think it would be weird if I wasn't stressed?" He exits the video feed and closes his laptop a little harder than necessary before pushing away from the counter and towards their bedroom. "But Gotham isn't accepting personal days, so I need to get over there and make sure the Riddler doesn't destroy half of the city."
"Tim and Babs can handle it," Wally reasons without missing a beat as he follows him. He knows that they're supposed to be leaving on a mission within the hour, but this takes precedence. Someone can cover for them.
"It's my fault Riddler wasn't obtained two weeks ago. I don't need to get anyone else involved."
See, Dick says things like that and it just confirms Wally's suspicion that he's been punishing himself. Wally has seen Dick stressed and overworked before, and he's sure he'll see it again in the future, but this time feels different. This time there's this undertone of blame and guilt and secrecy that Wally isn't used to. And he doesn't think it's just self-blame in response to grief or not fixing everything fast enough. No, this has been going on for too long and started too soon for that to be the case.
"What's been going on with you lately?" Wally asks, the only thing he's been wanting to ask. "Why won't you let anyone help you?"
"If you really wanted to help me, you wouldn't add to my so-called stress by arguing with me over things out of my control," Dick says (lies), not even bothering to look at Wally as he tries to find a uniform without bloodstains.
Wally grabs Dick by the shoulder and turns him around before he can succeed. "Look, you can yell at me and be angry all you want, but I'm not going to sit and watch you destroy yourself."
Dick's eyes tighten into a glare. "Then go." Dick pushes him off with strength Wally didn't know he still had and makes for the door.
"Dick," Wally tries again, using all of his will-power to not follow. "Just talk to me. You've been keeping something from me—for a while now."
Dick stops in his tracks but doesn't turn around, just curls his hands into fists. "Did Conner say something to you?"
"No. Nobody said anything—no one had to." Wally walks closer to Dick. "We've known each other for so long, how could you think that I wouldn't notice when something is bothering you so much? I want to help, but you have to tell me what's wrong."
Wally can see Dick shaking where he stands. "I can't."
"Yes, you can," Wally encourages, finally reaching Dick and stepping in front of him. He gives him a brief smile. "How bad can it be?"
Dick's lip trembles and he puts one foot behind him, likes he's going to run away, but he doesn't. He just stands there, frozen.
"Let's just take a night off. One night." Wally pushes Dick's bangs out of his face, leaving his hand to rest against the back of his head by his ear. "You can get some sleep, something to eat, and we can talk. How does that sound?"
Dick wipes a hand across his eyes. "This is all my fault—all of it."
Wally pulls Dick against his chest and runs his hand up and down his spine. "What are you talking about, Babe? What happened?"
Dick presses his face into Wally's shoulder. "It was such a stupid plan."
"Okay," Wally doesn't know where Dick is going with this, but it's something. "Then let's come up with a new one, yeah? You just have to tell me what it's for first. Does it have something to do with the trial?"
It's hard to tell when this really started. It's difficult to differentiate the stress of Artemis's death and Dick taking on the role of Batman so shortly after from the . . . well, whatever this is.
Dick shakes his head, hopefully saying no to the trial and not no to talking to Wally. Then he says quietly, but with little to no emotion as if he were merely stating a fact, "You'll hate me."
"I could never hate you, I promise." It's scary seeing Dick like this, the only thing scarier being the thing that caused it.
Dick takes a shaky breath, exhaling slowly, and then, "Okay, okay." He pulls away from Wally so they can see each other's faces again. "You're going to be mad. Hell, I would be mad if the situation was reversed. But you can't tell anyone else. Not yet. Okay?"
Wally hesitates, but after a few seconds, he nods. He needs to figure out what they're dealing with and then how to get Dick out of it, but to do that, he needs Dick to trust him. If he has to break this promise later, so be it. "All right, I promise."
Dick nods once too. "I'll start with the most important thing: Artemis is alive."
A/N: And then Dick proceeds to tell Wally all of the season two Secrets™. Thanks for reading, and if you liked it, I would really appreciate it if you added this to your favorites list and/or left a review down below. Find me on tumblr under the-imaginative-fox if you want to check it out, say hi, or even leave a prompt request of your own. Have a nice day!