In three minutes, Central City's time zone will enter midnight. Wally runs the last leg to his residence, feeling too exhausted to sprint any faster. The two-day-long assignment the team was allotted had pushed everyone to their limits, and although he's eaten and showered, he's glad to sleep in his own bed tonight.
Except he spots a red-eyed, brown and black striped cat sitting on its haunches outside the front door, and he forgets all about his fatigue.
It's dark, but he doesn't lose sight of the animal as it dashes through the street. The creature appears injured, its fur matted in places, but proves itself still dangerous by scratching him across the face when he grabs it by the scruff of its neck.
Losing his grip, Wally follows the sounds of the cat's spitting and hissing right into a trap that he later reasons involves advanced teleportation technology. Probably.
The air is rank and humid, like a sewer. He is disorientated, but Wally recovers enough to open his eyes.
Wally wishes he hadn't bothered.
That witch-kid, Klarion, hovers over him. Wally recognizes the stylized hair, suit and psychotic glint in his eyes – the same from when they first met. He couldn't forget someone so simultaneously uncanny and childish.
"Seriously, Teekl? He was the best you could find?" Wally hears him ask the same stupid cat that's led him into this mess. "Yes, I get that it's short notice, but… Fine. Whatever!"
Then his attention is on Wally, revealing the entire left side of his face. There's scarring, which is new. The veins stand out in a blue so deep it is almost black, and charred specks litter his skin.
Wally jolts in retaliation, ramming into the sorcerer by accident because he misinterprets Klarion's intentions. Nails dig into his upper arms and keep him in place.
"Not so fast," he says into the redhead's neck, causing Wally to grit his teeth and squirm. "I have a special task that even a magic-less halfwit like you can accomplish."
Then the jerk bites him.
With his breath hitching in his throat, Wally awoke tangled in his bed sheets in a dimly lit room. He experienced a second of relief as he recovered from the nightmare. No more trips to China for takeout before going to sleep, he vowed. Additionally, he made a mental note not to mention this incident to Kaldur, who'd been correct to lecture him that it wasn't healthy.
He relaxed against his bed, letting his eyes close and pressing his face against the blankets. A frown crossed his features as Wally lifted his head in search of his pillow, but no amount of shifting pinpointed its whereabouts.
What he did notice was that he had company.
Something heavy resided on his back, and twisting to see what it was revealed Klarion the Witch Boy half-splayed on top of him. His legs touched the end of Wally's spine, while the front of him was at the head of the bed. One of Klarion's arms dangled off the side. Wally spotted the sorcerer's cat spread along his pillow, getting evil, feline cooties stuck to the case.
At a record breaking speed Wally rolled off the bed and onto the floor. Little maneuvering was involved since he'd been positioned horizontally at the bottom of the mattress. He didn't stop until his back was flat against the closet door. The handle dug into his hip as Wally pressed as close to the surface as he could without becoming a part of its molecular structure.
Neither enemy stirred at his reaction, but Wally didn't release a sigh until he'd raced outside to the back porch while whipping out his communicator.
"Please answer, please answer, pleaseanswerpleaseanswer-" Wally chanted as he speed-dialed Robin.
His friend had an annoying tendency to turn off his many contact devices when he wasn't spending time with the team. Most likely, it had something to do with his mentor, Batman, ordering him to cutoff anything that'd be considered distracting.
Static met his first attempt, meaning his call hadn't gone through.
"You've reached the Batcave's automated voice messaging system. Please state your emergency," intoned a cultured, male voice. Wally hung up before the beep.
Determined, although growing more frantic the longer he went without moving, Wally called until he resorted to a number he'd promised to use strictly for dire situations (or to hang out Friday nights), and finally got a response.
"Talk to me, this is- Wally? What is it?"
"Rob, I need your ninja-self at my house, like, yesterday!"
"It's four AM in Gotham City. You realize that, right?" Robin asked – grouched, really.
Point of fact, Wally hadn't noticed the shift in time. Their territories were only one zone apart, further confounding how he'd lost track of so many hours.
He brushed aside the concern to say, "This is urgent. You have to back me up!"
The creaking noise of bedsprings protesting accompanied Robin's yawn, and he asked, "With?"
"Remember that report me and the team had to write about a mission to save Dr. Fate that you totally missed out on?"
"Dude, it's been months since then! Let it go so I can get some sleep already."
"The twerp that nearly turned me into a crisp is sleeping in my bed, right this second."
All the rustling on his friend's end of the line ceased, and Wally feared Robin had disconnected. Right as he was ready to check the screen on his cell phone, the shifting on the opposite mouthpiece resumed at a harried pace.
"You're absolutely certain, without a doubt, one-hundred percent, that it's Klarion the Witch Boy?"
"And his flea-bitten cat, too," Wally confirmed, shifting his mobile device to the other ear as he scanned the property. "Come on, this is serious! They've infiltrated my house and-"
He broke into a scream as Robin hung upside from the edge of the roof and directly into Wally's field of vision. Belatedly, he tried to stifle the cry, clutching his cellular device in a death grip.
"Hey," Robin greeted him.
"Why…do you have to do that?"
His friend didn't reply further than a grin. "You can hang up now."
Doing so without glancing at his phone, Wally asked, "How're going to do this, huh? Last I saw him, Klarion was unconscious, but I don't trust him. It could've been an act, or by now he's woken up. Oh, and his pet might have rabies."
In a single, fluid motion Robin landed in a crouch on the deck.
"You want me to handle him while you take on the cat?"
"Yeah, right. You're the bird, you worry about his cat!"
They proceeded to scheme, tossing in sarcastic quips when an opening presented itself, but otherwise devised a plan that involved kicking in his bedroom door and deploying smoke bombs. The wood splintered under the strength of Wally's foot connecting with it. Robin shrouded the expanse in smoke, but the theatrics proved unnecessary when it became obvious the space was empty.
Wally coughed and waved a hand in front of his nose to clear the air. There were no traces of Klarion or his animal cohort. Robin shot him a cranky glance that was unhindered by the mask he wore.
"Where is he?"
"I swear, the guy was laying right there!" Wally said, flailing his hand in the direction of the rumpled blankets. "I wouldn't just make this up. You know me better than that."
Robin snorted to signify his opinion on the matter, but the abstinence of a comment signified he understood that Wally believed what he said. His friend scoured the room: checking the window for tampering, any presence in the closet, or clues under the bed. No one was clinging to the ceiling in the corners of his room. There was zero evidence to support Wally's claims.
Deciding to split up, each of them inspected every room of the house and the crannies within. Wally went so far as to search the exterior. Nothing appeared disturbed or missing. At the end of the investigation, Wally collapsed on his bed and slumped his chin into his palm as he regarded his teammate, who hadn't caught anyone resembling a well-dressed lunatic toting an orange cat, either.
"I was so sure he was here."
Robin leaned against the far wall, shrugging as he said, "What little we do have on him doesn't dismiss the fact you might have encountered him tonight, KF. Maybe he abandoned this place as soon as he regained his bearings? Not likely you could concentrate on all the egresses at once."
"Yeah…" Wally said, trailing off in thought.
In the conflict he was witness to – and he supposedly participated in, given his body was used to retaliation against the sorcerer – the enemy was crafty. Escape wasn't improbable.
"Sorry for dragging you out to C.C. for nothing. Reconvene later?"
"Hmph. Sure," Robin said. "Just remember you owe me big for this. I have training in an hour and Batman hates when my performance drops. I'll be lucky if I don't fall asleep mid-judo practice."
"Wah, wah, wah, I'm Boy Wonder and I can't handle one late night of crime fighting."
Wally mimicked rubbing under his eyes to stem the flow of tears, earning him a cuff from Robin for the teasing. He didn't dodge the assault, though Wally easily could have, his own fatigue aside. His friend deserved to exact revenge due to the unforeseen sweep throughout the house he shared with his parents. The matter settled, his teammate vanished the same way he'd arrived, the open window the sole remainder to his presence. Shaking his head, Wally went to shut it and pull down the blinds; the sun wouldn't rise for a couple hours yet, but he refused to be slighted by a single ray of sunshine.
The building was desolate now. His mother and father were visiting family during the long weekend, and Wally couldn't say he was sorry to be left out. They were gone to see his distant grandmother, who was sweet to a fault, but liable to pinch cheeks until they were reddened and bound to fall off. Sometimes vigilantism provided the best excuses.
Wally's mom was great at keeping the fridge and cabinets stocked in case he returned early, however, and he took advantage of the free reign in the kitchen. Being morning, he partook of breakfast. He snacked on a couple boxes of cereal and drank a gallon of milk straight from the jug, wiping the excess off on his yellow sleeve.
Clothes were already tossed in the laundry room to be washed, and he gladly added his uniform to the pile. He'd do a load tomorrow…later, Wally amended, as he recalled that Monday had sneaked up on him.
He entered his room with mild trepidation, taking note of where everything was. Satisfied that his bedroom was in order, he walked in and grabbed his comfiest pajama shirt from a pile by his desk to pull over his head.
As he passed the body-length mirror tacked to the wall on his way to bed, Wally saw in his peripheral vision that his reflection was wrong. Where red hair and brightly colored PJs should have reflected, black layered on black showed instead. He jumped and scrambled backwards, watching as Klarion stood in the reflective glass. The witch-boy released a high-pitched and grating laugh, emerging from the confines of the mirror to attack.