I'm really sorry about the delay; I've had no inspiration at all for months. I really hope you enjoy this though.
On a side note, the DC Reboot is the most idiotic thing I have ever heard of. They're completely erasing the Justice Society, including the original Flash and green Lantern! So stupid! And all the other characters like Dick Grayson as Batman… It's such a waste. Sorry about the rant, but I'm really not happy about this. Anyway, I hope you like this chapter.
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to DC. There would be no Reboot if I owned anything.
Twenty minutes later, Pieter and Jay joined Alan and Michael in the Steel Eagle. Pieter was leaning heavily on Jay's arm, but the expression on his face warned his teammates not to comment. Still, it was with a sigh of relief that the doctor collapsed into the first seat he came to. Jay shot a concerned glance at Michael as he sat next to him.
"Are you sure about this, son?" he asked. "You look terrible."
Pieter grimaced. "Thanks."
Michael smiled at him. "It's just the truth, Piet."
The speedster sighed. "I really don't think it's a good idea."
Michael snorted. "That's because it's not," he remarked as he went to join Alan in the cockpit.
Pieter massaged his temples wearily. "What am I supposed to do, let him die?"
Jay glanced up in surprise at the vehemence in his quiet voice. "Pieter, he's just worried about you," he said gently. "We all are."
Pieter let out a long sigh. "I know. Sorry. I'm a little on edge."
Jay rolled his eyes. "I think you've got a right to be. We do understand you know," he said after a moment. "We may not agree, but we understand."
Pieter gave him a slight smile. "Thank you."
The two men sat in silence as the plane took off. Jay could sense that something was bothering his friend, and it wasn't just the poison circulating in his bloodstream, but he knew from experience how difficult it was to get Pieter to open up. The doctor was always more than willing to help other people, but he hated being looked after himself, no matter how much he might need it.
"Pieter, what's wrong?" he asked gently. Pieter glanced up sharply, but Jay continued before he could protest. "Don't try to deny it Piet, I know you too well. Is it about the operation?"
The doctor raised an eyebrow. "How did you guess?"
Jay ignored the sarcasm. At least his friend was talking to him. "Pieter, just tell me. It's not good for you to keep everything to yourself." He had to resist the urge to roll his eyes in frustration as Pieter looked away without answering. If Pieter didn't want to talk about it then pressing him wouldn't do either of them any good. Scowling, Jay turned to glare out the window.
"He took my sight."
Jay's head whipped round and he stared at Pieter in shock. "What did you say?"
Pieter sighed. "It was the Terrible Trio who wanted me killed," he explained quietly. "They gave me a massive dose of A39. It kicked in while I was driving home and I crossed the median." His voice dropped to a whisper. "I killed someone." He glanced up, and even through the green lenses, Jay could see the distress in his eyes. "Because of Volper and his colleagues I lost everything. And now I have to risk my life to save his, because I seem to be incapable of letting anyone, even someone like him, die without trying to help!" His voice had risen during his rant, and Jay could hear the mingled pain and anger all too clearly in his words. Michael was looking back at them, his face a mask of concern, but Jay motioned for him to stay where he was. He knew how much Pieter hated losing control.
Gently, Jay placed a hand on his friend's shoulder.
"It's all right to be angry, Pieter," he said quietly. "After everything that's happened I'd be more worried if you weren't."
Pieter glanced up. "But I shouldn't be. I'm supposed to forgive him for what he did."
"And yet you're still willing to do the operation," Jay pointed out quietly. Pieter said nothing, so he continued. "Pieter, despite everything this man has done, despite all the suffering he's caused, you're still risking your life. You didn't have to; Michael told you it would be your choice, but you're doing it anyway. What does that tell you?"
Pieter shook his head. "I couldn't just let him die."
Jay smiled at him. "Exactly. You may be angry with him, and you have a right to be, but actions speak louder than words." Pieter didn't say anything, but his expression was thoughtful rather than frustrated.
Jay sensed that he wasn't likely to get any further and went back to looking out the window. He wasn't surprised by Pieter's words. The doctor was one of the most forgiving people he had ever met, but Volper's actions had resulted in the death of an innocent woman. Having had a similar experience with the Spirit King and the original Mr. Terrific, Jay could completely understand his dilemma. There was no way Pieter would let a patient die, but he certainly had a good reason to resent the man.
A sudden gasp of pain interrupted Jay's musings and he spun back to his friend. His eyes widened in dismay.
The doctor's skin was ashen, and he was hunched over in his seat, his face contorted into a mask of pain as agonising spasms wracked his body. Jay was dimly aware of Michael running to join them, but his main focus was on Pieter as he let out another gasp.
"Pieter, what's wrong?"
Pieter spoke around clenched teeth. "Don't know. Muscle spasms." His head jerked back and he let out a low cry.
Michael was rummaging around in a medical kit. "Where is it?" His eyes gleamed and he pulled out a small silver object. He placed it against the doctor's neck and pressed a button. For a few seconds, nothing happened, but then Pieter let out a long sigh of relief and some of the tension left his shoulders.
"That helped." Despite his words, his voice was still hoarse with discomfort.
Michael shook his head in dismay. "That's it, I'm taking you home."
Pieter's head snapped up in alarm. "No!" His face paled further, but his glare remained fixed in his friend. "I am going to complete that operation."
"Pieter, how are you supposed to operate when you can barely move?"
"It's not always that bad."
"And when it is?"
Pieter's scowl deepened. "I am not going back. Not after all this."
"Pieter," Jay interrupted, "I want to help Volper as much as you do, but you have to be reasonable. You're in no fit state to be doing this procedure."
Pieter switched his stare to him. "And how are we supposed to find the Joker if Volper dies without regaining consciousness?"
"Batman will find him. He always does."
Pieter shook his head. "You know as well as I do that Batman has been looking for days and hasn't found a trace. By the time he catches him, who knows how many that monster will have killed?"
"There are other doctors," Michael began, but Pieter cut him off.
"Michael, we've been over this. No-one else can get there in time, so if I don't do this, Volper will die, the Joker will go free and innocent people will die. Is that what you want?"
"Of course not."
"Then let me do my job."
Michael held the doctor's gaze for several long seconds then let out a long sigh. "Damn it." He rubbed a hand over his face in frustration and looked away.
Jay frowned at Pieter. "Pieter-"
"I know the risks, Jay. I've known them all along." His usually gentle voice burned with conviction. "This is my decision to make." He gave a small smile. "This is what we do, isn't it?"
Jay dropped his gaze. "It is." He sighed. "Fine."
Pieter's smile widened a fraction and he glanced at Michael. The chairman grimaced. "It's your decision." He turned abruptly and returned to his seat.
Pieter looked after him sadly. "He doesn't think I'm going to make it, does he?"
Jay stiffened. "Michael knows you're an excellent surgeon."
Pieter shook his head slowly. "That wasn't what I meant."
Jay had to swallow rather hard. "I know." He shook his head. "You should get some rest."
Pieter studied him a moment longer then nodded. "Very well." He leaned back against the seat rather carefully and closed his eyes. Jay's jaw tightened and he turned to watch the clouds roll past as they drew closer to their destination. He refused to think about what might happen when they got there.
Sometime later, Alan checked the monitor beside him and stood up.
"We're nearly there. I'll go and wake Pieter." Michael grunted. He still wasn't happy about the doctor's decision. Alan sighed and moved down the plane towards his friends. Jay glanced up at his approach and motioned for him to be quiet. Pieter was dozing fitfully, but his skin was still very pale, and even in sleep he was shivering. Green flames flickered in Alan's eyes as he looked down at him, before turning to Jay.
"We'll be landing in a few minutes."
Jay nodded and leaned over to wake the sleeping doctor.
Pieter woke with a start as Jay touched his arm, and he couldn't suppress a sharp hiss as his cramped muscles protested.
Jay frowned. "Are you all right?"
Pieter stifled another groan and nodded. "I'll be fine."
Jay looked at him, unconvinced, but decided to let it pass. "We're nearly there," he said instead. As he spoke, Jay felt his stomach lurch and realised that they had started their descent. Next to him, Pieter tightened his grip on the arm rests. He never normally got airsick, but this time the motion was aggravating his dizziness and the sensation was thoroughly unpleasant. He breathed a sigh of relief as the plane touched down then opened his eyes and forced himself to his feet. His head spun as he rose, causing him to sway unsteadily. Immediately, he felt a supportive hand at his elbow, and shot Jay a grateful glance.
Slowly, the Flash guided him to the exit, where they were soon joined by Terrific and Green Lantern. Terrific's jaw tightened as he saw them.
"Are you ready?" Mid-Nite nodded and he sighed. "Let's go then."
A young woman was waiting for them by the edge of the runway. As the group approached, she stepped forwards and gave a brief smile.
"Dr. Mid-Nite? I'm Dr. Klyburn."
Mid-Nite inclined his head politely. "A pleasure, Doctor. How is the patient doing?"
Her smile faded and she shook her head. "It's not looking good. I'd estimate he's only got a few hours at best now." She hesitated a moment, and then continued. "I just wanted to thank you for agreeing to do this. I know it won't be easy."
"I'll do my best, though his chances aren't as good as I'd hoped."
"That's all I can ask." She gestured towards the building. "Shall we?"
Mid-Nite fell into step beside her as they made their way back. Just as they reached the door, the doctor paused, an expression of alarm flitting across his face. A second later he staggered, alarm giving way to pure pain. It seemed that the attack on the plane had not been a unique incident. The Flash was at his side before he could even cry out, supporting him through the attack until he regained a measure of control. The entire episode lasted barely a minute, but it was even longer before Mid-Nite was able to force his burning muscles to respond.
Jay's answering smile lacked its usual reassurance. "You're welcome."
Terrific moved to his side, dark eyes searching his friend's face. "I'd ask if you still wanted to do this, but I already know what your answer would be."
The corner of Mid-Nite's mouth twitched upwards. "Then neither of us has to say it." He turned to Dr. Klyburn, who was staring at him in horror, and took a deep breath. "Where's Volper? We haven't got much time."
Please let me know what you thought.