Chapter 1: Not Today
Lovebites, frantic phone-calls, and continued home invasion.
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.
Puns, internal home movies, and negotiations.
Aaaah thank you everyone for the wonderful comments, kudos, and bookmarks! I'm completely blown away by how receptive readers have been, and I'll continue to try and live up to expectations.
As before: a great, big hero's thanks goes to Keppiehed for editing. We both worked hard to whip this chapter into shape, but if you notice any wayward mistakes then my message box and comments continue to be open.
The mirror shone an ominous red, layering the expanse in shadows that resembled blood. The origin of the light stemmed from shapes – runes, perhaps, or a dead language Wally couldn't identify – blazing on the flimsy, wooden frame encasing the glass.
A bright cord shot from the foot of the mirror. The line that wound along the floor was akin to a snake coiling around his legs. Wally fought his captivity, but the constraints seared his hands. It didn't stop until it reached his torso. He lost his balance and toppled over as Teekl, followed by Klarion, padded out of the mirror.
Should've had a sleepover with Rob, he lamented, calculating his odds of escape faster than some super computers and dreading the results.
Black Canary had sworn to teach them escape techniques during the upcoming weeks, but such promises were moot in his predicament. If he’d known even one method of escape, the application was dubious given the 'rope' didn't resemble any Wally'd encountered. Reaching to fend it off, his hands smoked on contact, yet the rest of his body went unharmed. The more Wally fidgeted, the more unyielding the cable became until it threatened to cut off all circulation in his extremities.
"The helmet isn't here," Wally said in a wheeze. "You'll never reach it, not where it's hidden."
"Pft, you think this is about that rust-bucket relic?"
Inexplicably, Wally took notice of the mass of blue lightning marring the other boy's face. Sinister burns were intermittent amongst the cracks, and although he didn't recall Klarion possessing the scars before, it was as if Wally was getting another closer inspection of them.
Klarion's voice was tinged with amusement as he bent to one knee and said, "The Helmet of Fate? That's old news."
The death of Kent Nelson still haunted Wally, a bitter reminder that being a hero had its risks. That such an event can be so callously dismissed... Wally's powers fluctuated, and he started vibrating in place.
"Then what do you want?" he asked.
"I'm sort of in a bind," Klarion said, grinning as he studied the length of Wally's form. "And since you've apprehended my last cohort, you'll be his replacement."
"Hah! That's rich. What makes you think I'd help an egotistical brat like you?"
A change came over the witch-boy's face at the response. His features angled and drew the skin across Klarion's cheekbones, eyes flashing red.
"Nobody says no to me. Nobody. You don't get a choice!"
"Oh yeah? Well, my answer is no times infinity plus one!"
The binding grew hot again, but unlike previously it caused him to break out in a sweat everywhere. Teekl mewled in its master's direction, and the heat dissipated.
"Tch, it's just my misfortune that I get stuck with a skeptic like you," Klarion muttered to himself. Then louder, to Wally, "I'm not excited about this anymore than you are, but I’m out of options and so are you. Either you work with me, or you'll be sorry."
"I'd rate your threats one out of ten for lack of originality."
"That was a warning," Klarion said.
His feet floated off the ground and he sat on Wally's dresser as Teekl leaped into his lap. Wally watched the spectacle, wondering about propulsions and magnetism.
"The Horigal is coming and it's going to pass Judgment on your pathetic little corner of the universe. I can guarantee it won't get a passing grade, which will result in an arcane explosion of mass proportions."
"And our utter destruction bothers you why?"
He shot Wally a dirty look, as if he were a primordial lump too dumb to understand the obvious.
"Because I'm not the one doing the destroying. Duh! If I don't get to do it, then no one does."
Wally let his head slump to the floor. His neck felt tired from the angle he was forced to hold.
"Are you going to make sense or what? I don't even recognize what a Hor-whatsit is. Some kind of advanced meta-human? A biological weapon? Your upset babysitter?"
"The Horigal is an accumulation of my village's submissionaries and their familiars. They're stuffy and don't like me very much."
"I can't imagine why."
The comment earned Wally a flare of heat.
"All right, all right! So let me get this straight: you want me to help you and your mangy cat to stop this mystical and most-likely-made-up fusion of your dignitaries because they're coming to destroy the planet?"
"Close enough," Klarion relented, though Teekl made a growl of protest at the word 'mangy'.
"Okay, sure, let me drop everything to accommodate you, your lordship," Wally bit off.
"I've tortured people for less than sarcasm, Wallace West," he said conversationally.
At hearing his full name, Wally flinched and wished, for once, that Uncle Barry enforced secret identities.
Klarion motioned a picture frame off a shelf across the room, Wally's name emblazoned the bottom of a portrait of him attending a science fair. He waved the object at his captive and tossed it aside without a care.
"Enough chit-chat," Klarion said. He rested his feet back on the carpet. Teekl leapt first, landing on its paws. "State your terms. The sooner we get this pain in the caboose done and over with, the sooner we can part ways."
"What part of 'no' was confusing to you?"
"How selfish! Do you want your friends to suffer? Because they will, alongside your family and everyone else if the Horigal has their way. Only Ipossess the secrets to defeat them."
"How do I know there's a catastrophe coming? You can't believe I trust you not to lie."
Without warning, Klarion reached out and grasped both sides of Wally's head. His fingernails, which were sharp to begin with, elongated and threatened to pierce his scalp. Their foreheads pressed together, and Wally gasped as their eyes locked. Like a movie, a scene played out in the recesses of the other boy's eyes-
The world is dark, like where he vaguely recalls meeting the sorcerer – or did that actually happen? Was it a nightmare? Brick and dirt rush past as he runs. But it isn't him; it just feels as if Wally is experiencing this event.
The scenery redirects, giving a view of the rear. A monster with too many heads and limbs, covered in scales and protrusions like bat wings, gives off the impression of a zoologist's worst nightmare. And it's giving chase.
"YOU WILL BE PUNISHED - "
"FOR YOUR DISSSOBEDIENCE!"
"TRAITOR! TRAITOR! TRAITOR!"
The monster thunders closer, all pointed teeth and claws, as more than one mouth interrupts or mingles together, a cacophony that promises to burst eardrums.
There is no place left to retreat, so he switches to the offensive. Swords formed of pure energy, red like heated steel, create a half-circle over his head. At his command they shoot forward to attack. Twelve blades pierce the thick hide, severing a humanoid head clean off. An animalistic roar sounds in its death throes.
He laughs and resumes the assault. The earth splits apart at his will, ripping in half as effortlessly as paper. The ground opens until it swallows the monster whole, and the Horigal scrabbles for purchase. A cheeky, five-fingered wave is offered in farewell.
"A CURSSSE UPON YOU - "
Words, garbled and wicked in tone, fill the air. A burning sensation spreads, starting at the left side of his face. He hurries over to the ledge, tossing a fireball to silence the monster. The flames connect, but it is too late. Some of the damage is already done.
"I don't underestimate twice," Klarion said in a voice laced with so much venom that it's a wonder his words don't take formanddrip down to eat through the floorboards. "Those old geezers never should have crossed me."
Witnessing such a serious change overcome the witch-kid was disconcerting. Wally never predicted he'd miss the blithe attitude.
"Now get this through your thick skull: either you're with me, or the Horigal is going to be your problem next."
Wally nodded jerkily. Klarion released him, his nails trailing through his hair as they retracted. The binding constricting him burst into ashes, and he rubbed his arms to get the circulation going.
"I guess I'll help. I mean… Yeah. Whatever that thing really is, I don't…" Wally huffed and stared Klarion straight in the eyes. "But in exchange, you can't harm anyone: civilians, my friends and family, other superheroes – no one, unless it's purely in self defense."
"Aw, no way!"
"Tough. You want my help so badly? Then that's the catch."
Klarion sulked – actually pouted at him – and seemed intent on debating the issue. His pet headbutted his ankle and gazed up at him intently.
The cat snarled, its back arching and fur rising.
"Ngh, this is so unfair. Insufferable, both of you!" he said. "I will not harm those you've deemed necessary, but you can't tell a soul of this bargain. Your involvement is excruciating as it is. Are we agreed?"
"Wait, isn't my helping you and not telling people two things? This deal is awfully lopsi-"
"Are we agreed?"
He paused to give the deal serious thought, not wanting to rush into a situation weighed this heavily because there were many factors that could go wrong. Taking into account his track record of bad luck, for example, it was a question of whether or not the risks offset the preferable outcome. Saving the world did rank pretty high on the list of 'pros', but the cost of cooperating with Klarion, of all individuals, had him second-guessing the decision.
"Well?" Klarion curtly asked.
"All right," Wally said, his tongue heavy in his mouth. "I want reassurance that you won't go back on your word, though."
Klarion reached for his hand, taking it even when Wally recoiled. Their palms shimmered upon contact, the soft hue reminding him of a flashlight shining through fingers. Except the luminosity generated from inside their hands. The radiance spread past their wrists, up the length of their arms and to the rest of them, like thick oil getting into every pore. The sensation tapered off as soon as it reached his toes, leaving Wally almost lethargic from the ordeal.
He was reminded of how long he'd been awake and how much he'd experienced, and wondered if he'd ever catch some sleep at this rate.
The sorcerer dropped his hand immediately after the exchange. Wally was half tempted to wipe it on his night clothes to rid it of the tactile remembrance of the other boy's skin or whatever had happened. The five digits continued to tingle and he lost to the urge, hastily rubbing his palm over the fabric of his shorts to return them to normal.
He looked up to demand an explanation, but paused at spotting how harried Klarion appeared. The witch-boy hid it well, aside from the lines of his face that made him seem ancient. Wally didn't feel pity or sympathy for the guy, but Klarion's own discomfort made the situation a little more bearable. A tiny amount of vindication wasn't out of the question for them.
"A pact. Since I can't trust you and you can't trust me, as you rightly shouldn't," Klarion explained-but-not-explained.
"No matching tattoos? No skull-splitting agony? Just unexplained glowing?"
"You were expecting something a little less subtle?"
"Kind of," Wally admitted, unable to believe he spoke the truth. The fact he meant it worried him more than a lot had that morning, and that's when he decided it was time for bed.
Diabolical teachers, best friends being too good at being best friends, and research.
This chapter is a bit of a slow one, but the filler is necessary to setup some facts for the rest of the story. The one following this will return to your regularly scheduled snark and drama, I promise!
Thanks again to everyone for reading and leaving their mark on this story. The feedback of comments, kudos and bookmarks go a long way in cheering me on! A personal thanks goes to Keppiehed for continuing to be the Black Canary that works my story into shape. There's still quite a bit of road ahead of us, but in the mean time enjoy.
Monday morning arrived too soon for Wally’s liking. School days always came early, especially after strenuous missions or long nights, and this weekend had involved both. He woke groggily to his alarm clock radio blaring ten decibels too high and blindly reached to throw the obnoxious contraption across his room to gain a few extra minutes of shuteye. Circumstances being what they were, it wasn’t as if Wally needed a lot of preparation time.
When his wild groping didn’t yield results, he cracked open a single green eye to behold the situation. Wally was lying on the floor, nestled in his children's sized Flash sleeping bag; it was two lengths too small by this point. That explained why he couldn't access his bedside table and the alarm clock residing on top of it.
That’s when he recalled the events of last night and the resulting argument of who got to occupy his bed. Klarion won because Wally was outnumbered two to one – if he didn’t own that demented cat, there'd be no room for debate. Instead, he’d resorted to digging out his old sleeping bag from storage and tried to compensate the flat, makeshift bed with spare blankets. Regardless of how many sheets and pillows he'd piled around him, his back hurt and there was a crick in his neck.
He crawled out from under the covers and approached the clock to shut it off with a heavy fist. Wally glowered at his impromptu ‘guest’, who apparently couldn’t be bothered to switch off the radio himself despite the fact that it was within easy reach. Case and point, it didn’t seem that Klarion had shifted once since the song had come on the alarm clock. All he could decipher of the sorcerer were some wisps of his spiky hair; Wally wasn’t sure he was even breathing.
“You alive?” he asked, reaching to pull the blanket aside.
Teekl growled at him without budging an inch from its owner’s side. Wally paused, and when he resumed motion the feline’s displeasure grew in volume the closer he became. He backed off, only to try again with the same results. Dropping his hand, Wally sighed and shook his head in disbelief. “Okay, fine, rot there for all I care.”
Wally grabbed a change of clothes on his way to the bathroom, intent on preparing for high school as he would any regular day. He brushed his teeth and hair while grinning and giving his reflection a thumbs up in the mirror afterward. At the end of his routine, Wally left a note taped beside his bed warning Klarion to be discreet, you creep if he heard any commotion while he was away, and that he’d be gone for most the day doing amazing heroics that don’t concern you, so don’t make a nuisance of yourself.
Not bothering to be quiet as he left, he closed his bedroom door firmly behind him. The sounds of his mom or dad puttering anywhere in the house were absent as Wally descended the stairs, so in the kitchen he made a second attempt at breakfast using an entire bag of pancake mix and the last of the maple syrup. During school hours, it was a struggle to stave off his hunger pangs until lunch; to regulate, Wally ate his fill whenever the chance presented itself. This morning he found himself even hungrier than usual, which he chalked up to lack of sleep. His body must not have been provided the chance to replenish its energy and he intended to make it up with carbohydrates.
When he ran out of food, Wally sped through cleaning the dishes, grabbing his overstuffed book bag, and rushing past the front door to catch the bus. He hoped that nothing detrimental would occur in his absence.
Except, as it turned out, Wally should've been more concerned with the outcome of his day. School, he had determined for the umpteenth time, was out to get him. In a world where evil geniuses plotted a coup once a month and aliens invaded on a regular basis, he’d perceived that the true villains were his teachers.
Teachers and their secret weapon recognized the country over as the detention.
Granted, he should have known better than to text during class, but he’d received a notice originating from Mount Justice that training with Black Canary remained scheduled later that afternoon. No sooner had Wally forwarded his confirmation then his history teacher’s patented ‘delinquent sense’ went off in his direction.
Busted, Wally was trapped in a stuffy classroom, missing valuable combat simulation practice. Not to mention he was tired from his restless night dealing with crime and jerks with feline menaces.
Also, he was starving. He’d long since finished his homework and resorted to drumming his fingers on the desk as a distraction, but so far all he'd achieved were glares from his fellow inmates. Wally's body was accustomed to running on days with little to no sleep, but it had never affected his stomach to this degree. The double lunch hadn’t satisfied; it felt oddly empty despite the heavy meal. Wally was always a tad hungry, unless he could eat his fill in the privacy of his own home or at HQ, but this instance resembled his insides attempting to turn themselves inside out like when he'd first gained his powers.
There was no resorting to Kid-Flashing a snack because Uncle Barry had made him promise not to abuse his powers at school, and Wally was nothing if not true to his word. That and security cameras were everywhere. The odds of high school technology capturing footage of him were slim, but even Wally had limits to what he'd challenge.
He rested his eyes, shifting so his chin was on one arm while the other trailed down to cradle his midsection. Wally wished he could eat or text or move, but knew it was unwise to hazard the former and the latter was what landed him in trouble to begin with. Sleep did not come and serve as a distraction from examining the clock. Neither hand seemed to move whenever he glanced in its direction.
Then, at last:
“All right boys and girls, you may-”
And Wally was gone, jogging out the door, through the hallway, past the front entrance, and making it a block away to the nearest Zeta Beam. In his condition, there was no possibility of running the entire distance to the hidden base. Wally resorted to such transport now more than ever.
He did have enough pep to dash to the kitchen upon his arrival, bypassing Superboy and Artemis on the way and nearly wiping out Robin toward the end. His friend was preparing a protein shake when Wally entered, the contents of which were narrowly saved. “Geez, I know you love your food, but it’s not going anywhere,” Robin said. He set his drink down where the beverage was less likely to spill – namely, far away from Wally.
“Sorry,” he apologized, his mouth full of the five-foot long sandwich he’d made using three toppings and enough condiments that each threatened to overspill. Wally swallowed, barely tasting the food. “I can’t help it, Rob. When my gut says eat, I eat! I’ve been starving all freaking day.”
Robin effortlessly hopped up onto the counter to join Wally; chairs were overrated for types like them.
“Dude, at this level? Yeah. I started envisioning objects as something edible. I gnawed on my pencils because they resembled pretzels. My mechanical pencils! I almost broke my front teeth.”
“Speaking of seeing things, has Klarion the Witch Boy resurfaced?”
Wally choked on the bite of his sandwich, and Robin hastily patted him on the back as he recovered. This is bad, Wally thought. Lying to his friend was not in his skill set. Robin might be younger than him, but he was the savviest detective on the squad and could detect a lie with all five senses. Maybe with even a sixth or seventh sense of which Wally wasn’t aware.
“Hey, chew and then swallow!” Robin said, checking that he was breathing before stopping his helpful ministrations.
“Oops? Sometimes I miss a step when consuming food this fast.” He tried eating in hopes of avoiding the question, except he had no such luck.
“So, have you?”
“Have I what?”
The white lenses of Robin’s mask narrowed, and he set his drink aside as he said, “Seen Klarion, or his cat for that matter. Come on! You were spazzing out about this not too long ago. There's no way you could've forgotten.”
“Oh, right. Of course I haven’t forgotten,” Wally evaded, and started in on his second sandwich. “He’s just one of the many problems on my mind at the moment. I gotta prioritize, man.”
“How did he become an issue, though? Last night we weren’t really in the position to discuss how he found you or infiltrated your room. If you’ve been compromised, maybe we should set up some precautions or a perimeter around your house,” Robin, ever the strategist, advised.
Wally despaired at his one-track mind. This conversation was barreling into dangerous territory, fast.
Applying the breaks came in the form of Kaldur ducking into the kitchen on his way to meet Black Canary. Their leader announced that they should hurry or risk being late for practice. Now that everyone was on-site, training could commence. Robin and Wally finished their meals and joined the other members of their team, knowing all too well what misfortune befell latecomers.
For the time being, Wally had a reprieve on the topic of home invasion and pompous witches.
At the end of the session, Wally dug into his deepest reserves to maintain pace. Regardless, he was yawning every few minutes as he observed from the sidelines. Normally Wally was excited to learn new kick-butt moves, but his concentration was shot. Black Canary noticed his drop in performance and showed him no mercy.
“Teach sure knows how to beat a guy when he’s already down,” Wally groused to M’gann afterward when most of their squad had gone their separate ways. He rubbed his tender backside, which had met with the floor and their trainer’s boots multiple times.
“In a real case scenario, an opponent wouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of your lowered guard,” she pointed out. But M’gann wasn’t wholly unsympathetic. She placed a hand on his forehead, most likely picking up on Wally's headache. “Maybe…you were pushed a little too hard, though. Or are you sick? I can offer blankets, and I believe a teaspoon of sugar with medicine is prescribed in times of illness. Oh! And there's leftover soup you could take home. Is that okay?”
“That’s more than okay, beautiful! I'm famished and could go for that soup right about now, actually,” he said. The prospect of food overrode everything else and brightened his mood considerably. Besides, there hadn’t been any frantic phone calls from home concerning his parents discovering strangers in his bed or the house mysteriously exploding. So there wasn’t anything too pressing to attend to in the face of free eats. Thinking about Klarion did remind Wally of an important matter and stalled his trek to the kitchen as the idea formed. “Uh, Megan? I just remembered that I need to check something on one of the computers. Can I meet you in the kitchen in a sec?”
“Of course. I think I've finally mastered the microwave, so it shouldn't take long to warm up – by the time you’re ready it might be finished,” M’gann said, and floated off in the direction of the communal cooking area.
In the meantime, Wally split off toward the data room to access a large computer stationed there. The machine was already booted up when he arrived. He took a seat on the cushy, rotating chair and cracked his knuckles, then entered ‘Klarion the Witch Boy’ into the search bar. This was an endeavor he should have taken on awhile ago; Wally had been under the impression he’d already theorized everything into the ground, but he would be awful League material if he didn't double check the facts.
The JL personal file on Klarion filled the jumbo screen, it was equipped with a three-hundred and sixty degree, full body image of Klarion. A smaller, scaled version of Teekl occupied the lower, right-hand corner. If he wanted, Wally could rotate, zoom in, or breakdown the three-dimensional figures into a grid formation or into heat signatures at the click of a button. Klarion's face in the diagram distinctly lacked the bizarre scarring, confirming without a doubt that it wasn't there during their last meeting.
Besides the images were detailed specifications and documentation: observed abilities, appraised figures, and additional notes such as threat level and previous encounters. It wasn’t a whole lot for Wally to go on, considering there was no recorded back history. Still, he concentrated on what tactical information was offered. He was mildly surprised that someone he'd never heard of until their chance meeting ranked so high a priority on the Justice League list of known criminals.
On a diagram a couple pages in, Klarion's estimated power level was an infinity symbol. Wally stared, almost uncomprehending the detail. He’d read reports with ‘UN’ for unknown or numbers ranging off the charts – like Superman or Green Lantern with his ring – but infinite? Klarion didn’t look as if his stature could support that amount of unlimited power. It had to be a typo.
Except it wasn’t as if he or his team had come close to defeating Klarion when facing him head on. They had even struggled with his lackey, Abra Kadabra. If it hadn’t been for Mr. Nelson, then the probability of loss ranged rather high. Those kinds of odds made Wally shiver to his bones, never having realized how close to disaster they’d come.
'Wally, the soup is done!' M’gann telepathically called him, breaking Wally out of his revere.
He jumped in his seat, causing it to roll and spin in place. He hurried to exit out of Klarion’s profile and remove traces of his actions, wanting to leave the workstation in the exact state in which he’d found it.
'Coming,' he thought in reply, and raced to the kitchens to retrieve his meal.
Sugar highs, regulations, and finally some explanations.
Probably my favorite chapter to have written, but it also took the most reworking. What can I say? Dialogue is a weakness of mine and Keppiehed had their work cut out for them, hah hah. Hopefully our combined efforts have polished this chapter into something enjoyable. I'm feeling a tad under the weather, so not much else to say besides thank you to all my readers, commenters, and kudo-button clickers!
Klarion was unconscious for two days.
To say Wally was getting a little alarmed would be the understatement of the millennium. He’d witnessed how comas affected a person, and Teekl made it impossible for him to do more than nudge the end of the bed with his foot each morning. No matter the fuss he made, nothing roused Klarion from his suspended animation. Wally reasoned that he wasn’t dead under the covers since there was no awful smell and his parents remained none the wiser concerning his roommates, but that didn’t rule out the possibility of complications.
He conducted his daily life as routinely as possible: attending school, fighting crime, and arranging to be home by dinner. Despite Wally's misgivings about the sorcerer, he stowed food away to his bedroom. The meals had yet to be consumed. That’s really when he got worried; no one could resist his mom’s cooking, which meant Klarion must be taking a turn for the worse.
After classes on the third day, Wally was determined to do something. Whatever the issue, Klarion needed to be dealt with properly. Furthermore, Wally wasn’t sure he was equipped to handle this, as loathe as he was to consider the alternative. His uncle would be disappointed to find Wally harboring a felon, and his teammates might never trust him again after keeping a secret of this magnitude from them, and his parents could ground him anywhere between thirty to life, but…
On second thought, Wally was resolute on conducting this mission by himself.
Approaching his room, he heard voices and music coming from under the crack of the door. Wally frowned and tentatively pushed it open, his backpack thumping to the carpet as he beheld Klarion lounging in his bed as if he owned it. He was surrounded by desserts of all kinds, and he was watching cartoons on television. The witch-boy appeared lively, as if he hadn’t spent days lifeless to the world.
“About time you showed your face,” Klarion greeted him.
Eyes narrowing, Wally approached the bed and took a closer look at the stacks of candy and their wrappers littering his sheets. How has the situation deteriorated so quickly?
“Did you raid my stash?” Wally demanded, although he noticed vast quantities more than he recalled hiding. Also, there were brands he didn’t particularly enjoy. There wasn’t any way Wally could have kept half a dozen cupcakes, and the large bags of M&Ms were new. “Where did you get all this?”
“Teekl found those,” he said, indicating the latter delights, “in your parents’ room. The rest you don’t want to know.”
“You…!” Wally fumed, coming to the conclusion that the cat sifted through both his mother’s and his underwear drawers to find the majority of this cache. The only other solution was that the rest of the goods were stolen.
He didn’t bother finishing his statement and instead transferred his attention to Teekl. The feline was nestled in a pile of once-clean shirts and pants, now shredded into a nest. It was situated amongst the books, action figures, and pictures that were dislodged from Wally's desk and shelves. Teekl peeked open one eye before rolling over to snuggle deeper into his clothes.
Gritting his teeth, Wally sped through his room and cleaned the space into a semblance of what it had been. Fallen items were replaced, the floor swept of his ruined attire, and Teekl tossed onto Klarion’s lap.
“We need to set some ground rules,” Wally said, blocking the view of the TV.
“Not interested,” Nonplussed by the looming figure Wally made, Klarion popped a piece of food in his mouth.
“Rule number one,” he continued, and raised a single finger. “Don’t trash my place!”
“In my defense, it smelled awful before I stayed here.”
“Rule number two,” Wally said, ignoring the other boy’s comment, and extended a second digit. “My parents’ room is off limits. The hallway is off limits. The entire property is off limits!”
“Are there a ton of these ‘ground rules’? Because I don’t do well under tight restrictions.”
Taking into account that he was never going to be taken seriously, Wally wrapped up his list. “Rule number three: you have to share,” he said and snatched a packet of jelly beans. He had no qualms dumping the whole thing in his mouth and chewing loudly.
Wally next collapsed on his cat-hair covered sleeping bag on the floor. “You going to explain what the Sleeping Beauty act was about, huh?”
“Would you believe me if I told you?” Klarion inquired. The witch-kid was hoarding the Little Debbies, breaking off a small piece of one to offer Teekl.
“Does your explanation involve the words ‘hocus pocus?’”
Klarion made a so-so gesture.
“Yeah, no, don’t waste your breath,” Wally said, releasing a long suffering sigh. “Can you at least go into detail on what we’re supposed to be facing? Some horse girl-”
“That’s what I said. When should we expect its…whatever you said it was going to do?”
“Judgment. Final judgment,” Klarion said and covered his eyes as he rested the back of his head against the wall. “Ugh, Teekl, this is why I dislike conversing with squibs. Someone spare me.”
Without offering an apology, nor lifting his head as he addressed Wally, he clarified, “Our play date decreased the submissionaries' power by a third, and they will need longer than I to recover from such a detrimental blow – especially when it comes to crossing dimensions. They are in no condition to escape the trap I set, and that will buy us time.”
“O-kay,” Wally said. Unsure if he followed along, he tried to categorize the information like he would a sci-fi or fantasy movie to process it more easily. “What’s it – they? – want with you, or Earth, for that matter? I mean, I’m not surprised you’re incapable of making friends, but what did you do to deserve their wrath?”
The sorcerer sneered and snatched a bag of Skittles, wrenching the package open and sending the colorful pieces flying – literally. Klarion picked the candies out of the air one-by-one to flick them into his mouth as he talked. Such a weird parlor trick.
“Why does it have to be my fault?” he asked.
Wally gave him a pointed look, and he swore Teekl did as well, but that was silly. Cats didn't possess the level of coherent thought to do that.
“Fine! But so what if I did? It wasn’t intentional,” Klarion snappishly said. “Not everyone is satisfied with your world and would rather see it eradicated altogether. Clichéd, I know. I’m ashamed to be lumped with unimaginative geezers like them.
“I’d hoped to reason with the elders, to reconsider their stance, but some old fogies just won’t listen to sense. Obviously, they didn’t take kindly to my opposition. Or me in general, come to think of it. They wanted to use me as an example.” Laughter finished off the statement, that alone signifying how well things had gone for the Horigal.
“Is that when they gave you the…?” Wally tapered off, motioning toward his own face – along the same side where the blue scarring marred Klarion’s right half. The wounds had faded and thinned somewhat, resembling a cluster of prominent veins.
Klarion looked askance at the pockmarks and scowled at the reminder. “Yes. A parting cheap shot.”
“I thought you were supposed to be some Lord of Chaos. If you’re so all-powerful, than how come you’re affected by this biological attack?”
For the remark, Klarion’s fingers wriggled and the Skittles that remained airborne pelted Wally in the arm. He considered it a victory because he got the food without having to move from his spot, even if Wally wasn’t certain how Klarion accomplished the feat.
“It’s a curse that’s designed to drain the mystical power of a user with every application, sucking the afflicted dry until the draw overcomes and kills them. If a lesser caster were even grazed by this enchantment they’d be dead. I’m way more resilient than those old farts can fathom.”
“Uh-huh, I know cockroaches like that,” he said. Wally quickly carried on before Klarion responded. “So where to go from here? You claimed you knew how to defeat it. What’s needed for when the Horigal returns?”
“Nothing.” With some relief, Klarion appeared no less excited about the prospect, or Wally would've been suspicious.
All the same, he asked, “What do you mean ‘nothing’? Don’t you want to, I don’t know, research or prepare? You said yourself that the Horigal is coming. We can’t sit around and wait.”
Klarion wrenched open a container of Gummi Bears. The admission that followed was told in utmost reluctance. “I'm not defenseless, but my magic is limited and I must rejuvenate. It is a lengthier procedure on your plane of existence. There's not much else to do except re-gather my energy.”
That’s when the purpose behind the extensive sleep and increased sugar intake dawned on Wally: Whatever fueled Klarion must act similarly to Wally’s own powers. In his head, he compared the witch-boy to a battery in need of recharge.
“You should have told me you would be hungry. My metabolism is-” he decided to skip the technicalities. The enemy didn’t need to know that amount of detail. “Demanding. Meaning, the house is always fully stocked. Mention something next time, all right? I’ll bring you stuff so you don’t have to sneak around.”
He hurried to add, "Provided it’s reasonable! I won’t do virgin sacrifices, no matter how much you ask.”
Klarion snorted. “Nobody save amateurs perform those.”
Wally gave him a distinct glare…
“What? It’s true. The rituals are way too messy and don’t have nearly the power return worth the effort of finding the right candidate in this day and age.”
…that went directly over Klarion’s head. Then again, with how Klarion grinned at him around a mouthful of candy, maybe not.
“Whatever. We build our strength until what, exactly?”
“The Horigal will be after two things: me and this world, to destroy us both,” Klarion started. “The submissionaries are wise and blahdie, blah, blah, nobody cares. Thing is they’re actually slower in this form because of their combined personas. The smallest conflict or indecision causes them to lose focus. They must reduce their points of thought to singular notions, rendering them predictable in their patterns. When they can, they will come to us. My abilities will return, so you just better be ready to fight.”
“Fine,” Wally said, feeling anything but agreeable. He dropped what was left of his food in his lap. Even though he was hungry, Wally could no longer bring himself to eat. He blamed the lousy and unhelpful company.
Familial ties, hugs, and manifest destiny in the bedroom.
If there's one thing (and it's not just one thing) I love seeing in stories then it's team or family dynamics, especially amongst the Flash clan. Through all the incarnations of them it's what keeps roping me back in. They're rather unique in the DC universe and there was no way I couldn't explore a little bit of that concept here. And then a Rogue decided to sneak in as well. I guess you can't have one without the other when it comes to the people of Central City, amirite?
Though perils were abound, Keppiehed managed to rise above and edit this chapter for me! My hero. :) My personal thanks also go out to you readers for sticking around and bookmarking, commenting or leaving kudos. The feedback is always adored!
The last thing Wally wanted to do that night was fight crime. Within itself, the notion was horrifying to admit. Wally’s affinity for unleashing his powers coupled with defeating evil villains alongside his topmost hero, the Flash, was the highlight of his life.
Granted, he enjoyed working with the gang from the cave, too, since there were certain freedoms admitted to them, but it wasn’t the same thing. Robin, M’gann, Kaldur, Superboy – and maybe, sort of Artemis – were friends. Together, they'd faced foes that would have challenged the Justice League and survived terrors that no one their age should have had to, but their spin-off league was still experimental.
Hanging out with his Uncle Barry was too awesome to pass up. Wally had trained and fought with the Flash far longer. He loathed the term sidekick, but there was a distinct charm to backing up his family. Grudgingly, he respected Spee- Red Arrow’s resolution to strike it out on his lonesome, but it wasn’t for him. Not in a million years could Wally say no when his uncle asked if he wanted to ‘join him for a jog’ around Central City.
Which explained their shared predicament: their cold, wet, and dreary predicament.
Weather Wizard was going meteorologist-crazy on the town. At the start of this confrontation, his mentor had sent a message requesting Wally to combine forces. In a matter of seconds he went through the Zeta Beam right from training to meet up with him in downtown Central City. Since Wally was already suited up from his time spent at the mountain base it was a no-brainer to return to his home turf, and he arrived as the fight turned soggy.
A thick fog clogged the air and made it difficult to see. Water droplets covered his goggles as the rain changed intensity.
“Sorry Flash and Flash Boy, but I’m predicting a one-hundred-percent chance of cloudy skies and my quick getaway!” the criminal boasted, carrying his stolen item under one arm and waving his weather altering wand with the other.
He’d filched what resembled a fancy fire iron. It was worn, but in that way handcrafted tools often were.
Must be on another antique exhibit or museum kick again, Wally mused.
“Come on! I defend this city; there’s no way you don’t know my name,” Wally protested.
“Yeah Kid, I know, but you make it too easy to rile you up.”
Wally attempted to circle around the back at the same instant the Flash aimed for the front, but an onslaught of lightning had them both darting away to safety.
“Oops! I forget to mention the thunderstorms moving in.”
“You picked the wrong city to steal from tonight, Weather Wizard,” Barry said, and turning to his partner he whispered, “Think you can handle the mist while I get his wand?”
“You got it.”
Mock-saluting, he broke off course, leaving his uncle’s side and running a wider berth. The fog was so thick a part of the problem was keeping track of their opponent, making it dangerous to chase Weather Wizard at high speeds. Good thing Wally had Central City's layout memorized, allowing him to calculate the enemy’s last known location in conjunction with his estimated speed of travel, so he could hazard a guess of where he'd go.
Using the curb as a guide, Wally took sharp turns at nearby intersections. The more laps around the block he took, the greater breeze he generated. A cyclone created an opening that revealed Weather Wizard's exact position. Flash dove in, snatching the thief's device and stolen goods. Unarmed, the Rogue posed no challenge to Wally as he slid on the wet concrete and used the momentum to punch him to the ground.
“What was that for?” Weather Wizard asked. His voice was muffled; he clutched his hurting nose where Kid Flash's fist had connected squarely with it.
“For not cancelling school with snow tomorrow, and because if I get a cold from standing in this rain it’ll be your fault,” Wally told him matter-of-factly.
The mock storm pattered off and proved his point. Wally's advanced costume protected him for the most part, but it wasn’t impenetrable and his face was half exposed. His cheeks felt frozen.
“Fair enough,” Weather Wizard said as authority figures approached at the Flash’s all-clear.
For once, Wally hung back. He posed a little for the cameras, but once the reporters were finished (and he subtly wished his Aunt Iris a goodnight, seeing as she was amongst the news crowd) he let Barry handle matters. Even the Flashes, notorious as they were for their zeal, could be held in check as countless questions were addressed, the criminal readied for transport and a stolen artifact was returned. Procedures had to be followed.
Wally yawned into the back of his hand. He mourned the lack of evildoers committing misdeeds nine-to-five as opposed to conducting them at all hours. His wistful thinking was fleeting. Who knew how much school he’d miss, or more likely how much defending Central City and the planet at large he’d be ordered to avoid, if that were the case? His ponderings retreated when the Flash broke away from officials.
“Hey, how you holding up?” Barry asked, free at last from checking in with League HQ and the police.
“Tired,” he answered in earnest. “We good here, or…?”
“Mm, hold up a sec. You sure you’re all right?”
His mouth opening to answer, Wally stalled at a new line of thought. His gaze narrowed, the effect mildly ruined because of his goggles, and he crossed his arms. “Why?”
“No reason,” his uncle said, too fast, even for a speedster.
The Flash wasn’t so easy to crack as, say, Green Arrow. However, provided his duty wasn’t on the line or lives weren't at stake he could be lenient, as demonstrated: “I was just hearing rumors. That’s the gist of it.”
“…What kind of rumors?” Wally hedged.
“Oh, you know,” he said, but no, Wally didn’t know. Flash, seeming to sense this, scratched under one ear as he elaborated. “Nothing bad, per se. I want to make sure you’re doing well. I worry about you.”
“Aw, come on!” Wally whined, but he dropped his stance. There was no accusing Uncle Barry – not for long.
He reflected on what those ‘rumors’ could entail, and his paranoia kindly detailed his number one secret hiding out in his bedroom. Ultimately, Wally dismissed the notion. If anyone knew he was harboring a fugitive, for the greater good or not, his house would already be swarmed by every member of the JL, including his uncle.
Wally bit the left side of his lip as he regarded the Flash. He wanted to maybe hint at something, but all that was produced was a constricted squeak and then, “Lately, I feel sleepy. Like, really sleepy. I’ve tried consuming more to supplement my energy, but…” In the end he shrugged and gazed over his mentor's shoulder, awaiting his verdict. What that was, exactly, Wally couldn't discern, but he relaxed when Uncle Barry rubbed his chin.
“I was older than you when I gained my powers. You might be experiencing unprecedented side effects because of physical imbalances,” he suggested. “Do you only get fatigue?”
“Mm-hm. Some days it’s hazy, but not detrimentally. I can participate in my extracurricular activities, promise,” Wally said. “Seriously, it’s more annoying than distracting.”
The Flash frowned, and before he could protest his uncle enveloped him in a hug. Wally returned it, not realizing how badly he needed comfort.
“Okay. I trust your judgment, but if it continues I want you to tell me. Symptoms could worsen if we don’t keep a close eye on it, but it doesn't sound like we need to panic. Every once in awhile I'll experience a drain from overexerting myself. You’ve been putting in a lot of 'extra credit' these days. It could be catching up to you.”
You have no idea, Wally thought. He smiled in thanks and promised to keep his uncle informed, and only then was he permitted to return home.
Arriving at his house, Wally didn’t do more than change clothes and head straight for his bedroom.
Both his parents were in bed by this late hour. As he passed their room, he gave the ajar door two soft taps to let them know he was alive. The tradition had been started after his dad took him aside, confiding that his mother worried herself into a state when he was gone. If either Wally's mom or dad managed to get sleep – which they were at last wont to do these days since nothing untoward had become of him besides a few bruises, cuts, or sprains – then the noise wouldn’t disturb them. Nonetheless, if they were awake then they could relax.
He trekked all the way to his bed; it wasn’t until he collapsed facedown on the mattress that he was reminded of his visitors. By then, Wally was too comfortable to care. His elbow accidentally landed on Teekl’s tail, sending the cat clawing at him in defiance and bounding to the security of the opposite end.
A drowsy Klarion jerked awake at the upheaval, and Wally had enough awareness to question how the other boy’s hair went unruffled despite days and nights of bed rest.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
“Reclaiming my bed. I think,” he garbled into his pillow.
“I’m not moving! I was here first.”
Wally snuggled deeper into the comforter. “Will you quiet down? And this is my bed, so my call.”
“Don’t hog all the covers,” Klarion said, breaking the tense silence.
“I make no promises.”
“Your funeral,” he warned, rolling over and ending the debate.
Wally sensed Teekl readjusting across the mattress and settling against Klarion’s chest. He wasn’t positive if either of them were able to go back to sleep, but he sure was. He’d worry about the implications of falling asleep this close to the witch-boy and his pet at a later date. Maybe when he got a solid night’s rest, or never – whichever came first.
Lethargically, Wally rolled toward the window. The spot next to him was vacant, the sheets rumpled and a pillow laying half on the floor. His room wasn’t without occupants, though. Klarion had relocated to the window, back facing him. Curtains were drawn and the shades pulled up to reveal the dawn. Teekl sat on Wally's desk, grooming.
“Tonight, we venture out.”
“Wah?” Wally managed intelligibly.
The striped feline stopped licking its paw and laid down, giving Wally its patented endless stare. He decided then and there that he was dreaming to prevent his freaking out over Teekl's behavior. Animals should have to blink at some point.
“Tonight. You’re taking me around your city,” Klarion said, enunciating each word.
“If I’m confined here a single night longer with your dirty laundry and nothing except reruns for company, then I’m liable to melt the heads off your collectables.”
Were the speedster properly focused, he would have been indignant on the behalf of his figurines and refused the order – even if Klarion’s tone was off. Instead, Wally was steadfast that this was his imagination and agreed.
Dream-vision fluttering, Teekl won the staring contest as Wally dozed back to sleep. He felt no vindication at the fact; this was a fake victory and the cat didn’t deserve a point.
Meeting the parents, wardrobe intervention, and vanishing acts.
First order of business: the kindly HarukaChan143 did fanart for this story and I still can't believe it! Please check it out and give them praises for their hard work. This is the first that I know of and if I've missed any others feel welcome to send them my way because everyone's inspired talented should be shared (with your permission and with credit, of course).
Further thanks goes to Keppiehed because despite some technical glitches and having to edit this chapter not only once, but TWICE, they managed to overcome the perils of wacky computers to help bring this next installment to you. I've appreciated everyone's kudos, comments, and bookmarks these past several weeks since they've really helped me to get through this writing process. So I hope the wait was worth it!
Wally returned home to a commotion in the kitchen. People were conversing amongst plates clattering, and he assumed both his parents had arrived early from their jobs.
“Hey, Ma, what’s cooking?” he called, toeing off his shoes and tossing his supplies by the front entrance.
His mother called back, announcing that she’d cooked pizza. "Oh, you’ve got a visitor!"
He faltered, wondering who'd stop over for him at this hour. He’d left his friends at school and rarely did anyone from the Leagues pay a visit. Walking into the dining room, Wally got his answer; Klarion was sitting properly at the table. Has he wandered into a parallel universe?
No, definitely residing in the correct dimension.
“What are you doing?” Wally demanded in a hushed voice to avoid alerting his mom in the adjoining room. He’d run over to the other boy’s chair and planted one hand on the back of it, glowering at him. Klarion wasn’t given the chance to reply as Wally’s mother bustled in with an extra large pizza that she placed centrally on the table.
“Sweetie, you should have warned me that you’d invited company. I would have made something sooner,” Mrs. West said, ruffling his hair.
Embarrassed beyond comprehension, Wally styled his bangs until he realized the agitated state he was in and took a seat.
“Yes, Wally,” Klarion said, hamming it up. “You didn’t forget that you’re showing me around Central City tonight, did you?”
“It’s so nice of you to make friends with exchange students, honey.”
“Er, right,” Wally said.
Still in shock, he struggled to catch up and play along. He bumped Klarion's shoulder in a semblance of amity. The action was jerky despite his best efforts.
“That’s me, the nicest dude in school. Hahah…hah.”
“Where did you say you were from again?” His mother addressed Klarion, who was sitting across from them and making an attempt at dinner conversation. Thankfully, the tension was lost on her.
“It's a secluded little village, Miss. Not many people come or go these days.”
His mom, enamored at the polite address, offered him the first slice. Klarion cut the pizza into delicate, bite-sized pieces with a knife and fork. Puke, Wally thought and attempted the same, but had to stop using his utensils because he'd sawed away at his plate for the past minute and a half. He reverted to his hands, earning him a disapproving glare from his mother; the look clearly stated ‘manners, young man!’
“You certainly don't dress the part,” she said, returning her attention to Klarion. “Is that Hugo Boss?”
“Custom fitted,” he corrected her. “The industry is experiencing a Renaissance revival. Very chic.”
“I’ll say. I love it here, but Central can be behind on the trends. Maybe you can talk Wally into giving up his jeans and flannel pullovers? He takes after his father in that regard.”
“Mmph!” Wally protested, except his mouth was full.
“I’ll see what magic I can do,” Klarion said, failing to conceal his glee.
“Splendid! Well, you boys have fun.” She rose to her feet and pecked Wally on the cheek as she made to leave. “Your father and I are going out, too, but that’s no excuse to stay up late. ”
When they were alone, Wally turned to Klarion and said with absolute conviction, “You’re pure evil.”
The witch-kid considered it to be a compliment.
As far as major hubs went, Central City was relatively passive; compared to Metropolis and Gotham City it was almost tame. Not to imply that it was an uninteresting place – it possessed its fair share of bizarre happenstances and supervillains. The Flash, and in turn he as Kid Flash, didn't have to search long for crimes and their perpetrators. All the same, it was a laidback, family town filled with theatrical sites to rival Broadway and museums dedicated to the Flash. Wally loved it here and was hard-pressed to consider living elsewhere.
But Klarion, it turned out, was less than enthused at the homey vibe the town had to offer.
“How can you stand being confined to…this?” he asked, lacking adjectives and substituting an all-encompassing gesture at the strip of shops. His nose turned up at the happy couples toting Jitters coffee, flocks of teenagers texting en masse, and families heading to the sweet shops or movies.
Wally shrugged and said, “When your life is as busy as mine, it’s not so bad. These people, this city, is as fast-paced as I am.”
He appreciated the hustle and bustle, but the activity wasn't stressful. There was a relief in the fact that no matter how advanced the technology became or how vast Central grew, humanity moved at a steady rate. When life got tough, Wally could rely on this place to adhere to a system that the rest of the nation never quite matched in tempo.
Growing up, it used to bother Wally how steady and conventional it could be. He wanted to leave and travel to even bigger and more progressive locations. After he concocted his powers, Wally learned it was him that wasn't keeping pace. Never mind his favorite superhero and relative resided here, along with his alter-ego. He couldn't abandon his mentor or the people that relied on him for safety.
The incredulous look Klarion sent him kept Wally from voicing these thoughts. Someone so unlike him couldn’t possibly understand, much less a Lord of Chaos.
“Your concept of perception must be broken if you can't conceive how dull this is,” Klarion persisted. “You possess the means to go anywhere, anytime, and you squander it here?”
“Hey! I travel. I mean, have you tried the paninis in Italy? Because I have. Or France's desserts? And Japan has these cafes…” Wally trailed off, noticing the blank stare Klarion directed at him. “What?”
“You are the biggest waste of potential.”
“Well, what do you suggest we do?”
Klarion had a quip ready, as indicated by him pointing to a secluded corner off the main street. Neon lights lit up the alley, and the beat of bass music could be felt as far as where they stood. Wally recognized the night club as a newer addition to Central City.
“That place looks like it might be fun!”
“Uh-huh. Two problems with that: you have to be at least eighteen to gain admission, and we have no money.”
“Your theories in deduction are astounding, like your problem solving skills,” Klarion deadpanned.
His wrists twirled and out flicked a pair of items from his sleeves; in Klarion’s right hand were a wad of crisp, ten dollar bills and in the left were a set of I.D.s. Wally choked on his next breath as he beheld the trick, snatching both laminated cards to examine them closer. Each were perfect forgeries.
“How did you just…? I didn’t even see… When could you have…?”
“Any other protests?” he asked, avoiding Wally’s questions.
Hundreds, such as his parents lecturing him with extensive PowerPoint presentations for considering illegally stepping near such a hotspot if they were to be found out. Not so implausible, when his 'hobbies' involved collaborating with some of the top investigators on the planet. Wally didn’t know how the discovery would be made, only that he swore some JL members were more than just psychic.
On the spot, he tried arguing. “I’m not dressed to party.”
Which was the truth, but the wrong thing to say because Klarion took that as an invitation to snatch the bottom of his shirt and wrench it down to his shoes, somehow taking his pants and socks with the motion. No warning or explanation was provided as Wally was changed into a tube top and miniskirt made of flimsy material. In a matter of one-sixth of a second faster than a normal individual, he registered the new outfit and screamed. Simultaneously, he tugged the form-fitting skirt to cover his essentials upfront, but jeopardized revealing his backside.
Klarion cackled – there was no other word for it – as Wally's face rapidly changed shades of red. Aghast at his sparse apparel, Wally grabbed him by the shirt collar.
“I don’t care how you accomplished this, but you’d best be returning my clothes!”
“Aw, don't be like that! You have the legs to pull off the look,” Klarion reasoned.
His howling laughter attracted the attention of passersby that Wally’s protesting hadn’t already gathered.
Hunching in reverent hope of disappearing, Wally shifted and the bottom half of his garb rode up in a provocative fashion. He adjusted it, noticing his freckled legs left nothing to the imagination and, oh, he also sported a pair of matching purple pumps to complete the whole ensemble. Wally wriggled his toes to be sure those really belonged to him. They did.
“Get rid of these or so help me, I’m slapping you sixty times in the span of fifteen seconds!”
“Your negotiation skills need a little refinement,” Klarion said. “I didn’t hear a single ‘please’ in that entire threat.”
Wally had a lot of choice phrases on where the sorcerer could stick his etiquette, but as he adjusted his stance – or tried to, since his knees kept buckling in the footwear – he noted long sleeves trailing up his arms. Attached were a still-revealing shirt and pants. Gone were the high-heels, his calves singing praises. Otherwise, the attire wasn’t much of an improvement; somehow he didn’t think it was possible to find civvies that made him feel more naked than his normal choice of clothes, but he wore the set now.
“Let’s go before the line gets too long,” Klarion urged and dragged him to the opening of the club. He showed the bouncer their fake identification.
“Neither of you look older than thirteen,” the attendee said.
How he could tell in the dark was a mystery. He was kind of insulted; Wally personally knew a thirteen-year-old and he looked nothing like Robin, who was compact and could bend this guy in half with two fingers if he wanted.
Klarion stood in the lead, with Wally unable to see his face. The bouncer certainly could, and as soon as he spoke something must have crossed it because suddenly the man went pale. Stepping forward to witness what could make a six-foot tall meathead cower, there wasn’t anything he detected as menacing from the witch-boy – only the cocky grin he was used to by this point.
“We’re old enough,” Klarion reassured him, tucking one-hundred bucks worth of money into his jacket pocket and passing by. The guard didn’t voice a protest again.
“What was that?” he asked.
Trailing after him, his inquiry became lost in the dissonance generated by partygoers. An assailment of bright lights, exotic smells, and music promised to rattle the senses of anyone in the vicinity. Wally was whelmed – and then he was further whelmed at using ‘whelmed’ in place of Robin doing so.
“Now this is more like it!” Klarion said, spreading his hands out and above as they approached a nearby railing. “Can’t you just sense the energy?”
“No, thanks.” The loud cheering and singing muffled the witch-kid's words. 'Feasting on’ was what small margin Wally thought he interpreted and had no interest in what posed as edible here. He was hungry, but he’d thwarted enough of humanity’s underworld to know better than to chance it, despite Central City's low standing in drug trafficking.
They stood on the second level, overlooking the DJ, dance floor, and bar. Wally tolerated a few minutes of large crowds covered in glitter and paint, carting around drinks and chatting loudly enough to contend with the music before making the executive decision that it was time to leave.
“I think we’ve had our fill of excitement, wouldn’t you say?” Wally didn't get an answer. “Klarion, we need to go-”
He was missing.
Frantically, Wally turned in circles, but Klarion was gone without a trace. He hated it when people did that.
Inspector Gadget references, muggings, and dramatic entrances.
Long time no see everyone! I really struggled with this chapter because I'd originally written it in a switched POV and wanted to revert it. After re-writing the entire chapter nothing about it felt right no matter what I did, so I returned to my first draft. Chapter 7 is kind of special anyway since it marks the halfway point of the story, so please enjoy this inside peek at Klarion!
Gracious thanks go out to Keppiehed for really wrangling this section together for me. After staring at and working so long on this chapter I almost lost my way quite a few times, but it's really come together after their assistance.
Klarion lounged in a secluded corner of the ground floor, away from the dancers and cynics attached to the bar. From this vantage point he maintained full range of the establishment. Back against the wall, his legs stretched to take up his entire side of the booth.
No one noticed the dark-dressed boy lift a finger and wave it while bodies tripped or drinks turned sour. He chuckled to himself at the results of his minor mischief. Wally proved to be a temporarily suitable distraction, but people as a whole were such exciting playthings.
As relaxing as it was to practice his talents after such a long intermittence, this outing also served as a diversion. During the morning hours he’d gotten a strong precognition. Klarion assumed the reading meant the Horigal was close to resurfacing, and they sought the largest density of negativity. Thus far his plan to intercept them hadn’t been successful, and he was forced to resort to other means to keep himself occupied.
A mewl close to his ear had his sights shift to the backrest of the seat where Teekl perched. She was soft-spoken in her reprimand, and it was borne of concern.
“You didn’t find the old windbags, either?” he asked, reaching to pet her behind the ear. “Don't tell me you came all this way to lecture me. I’m barely expanding my magic. Cut me some slack.”
An encroaching ruckus drew his focus back to his surroundings. Wally made his reappearance, fighting the crowds. He sighed at the end of his fun, but Klarion's despondence was brief. The stop to one form of entertainment would revert to another: namely, picking on the goody-two-shoes. It was almost too simple, but Wally's quick-witted mouth made up for it.
“Excuse me. Coming through. Sorry, pardon- Hello good looking. Oh, that’s your boyfriend? Just moving along.”
Wally stumbled the last few feet to his table, fixing his top as he straightened and glared. With his fingers twined behind his head, Klarion acted merrily unaware of the scrutiny. The other boy’s fists went to his hips as he glowered harder. “I've searched everywhere for you! Have you been lazing here the entire time?”
“That would be telling,” Klarion said.
Wally scoffed and sat on the opposite side of the booth, planting his chin into his palm. During the interval of double-checking the dance floor and back to his company, Klarion had materialized a martini glass containing an ethereally green substance.
“Thirsty?” He offered him the drink and enjoyed the dubious expression on Wally’s face. In a way, Klarion oftentimes mulled over what sorts of excuses the human used to dismiss his magic. His brand of enforced denial was borderline psychotic.
“Ick, no! And is that your scruffy cat? How did it get here?”
“She,” Klarion corrected on Teekl’s behalf, earning him a peculiar stare.
“Teekl’s a girl?” Wally peered at the cat, as if he’d spot some kind of gender-specific identifier that he’d missed. He gave up after a moment and slumped into his seat. “Whatever. It’s still weird how she turns up wherever you're present. Are you Dr. Claw or something?”
“Don’t be juvenile. I’m ten times more diabolical than that hack. Besides which, that'd make you Inspector Gadget.”
Recovering, Wally retorted, “As if! I have way cooler archenemies than you. You don’t even rank my top five.”
Klarion’s gaze sharpened. “Which are?”
“I’m sure you haven’t heard of them,” he said to the quick. “They’re mega-super-ultra villainous, but they tend to keep… Uh, to the underground? Yeah! None of them are big names, like Poison Ivy. They are way too crafty for that. Which is why they’re my real opposition.”
He rambled on, not giving Klarion the option to strangle the answers from him.
“Can we leave? Remember, I have explicit instructions not to be home late.”
Teekl made a feline sound of agreement. Calling it a night so soon grated on Klarion's nerves, but he had gathered as much as he could from this place. His magical reserves stayed depleted more than he’d favor. Even if ripping out his eyeballs was preferable to house arrest at the West's residence. Backstabber, he projected to Teekl.
He wasn't dissuaded from letting his familiar pad onto his shoulders and curl around them like a shawl. Their group took the rear exit, the door leading to a damp alleyway. Wally strolled in front as he seemed to recognize the route.
Klarion allowed it. He wanted to concentrate on searching for signs out of the ordinary: tremors, rips in the space time continuum, that sort of thing. Not as if he thought they'd be so lucky. The night had proven itself a bust, since the submissionaries had not been foolish enough to emerge. Their vulnerable state would have evenly pitted them. A pity when those around him didn’t act according to his whims.
Reciting a soft spell, Klarion's eyes morphed to resemble a cat’s as he scoped out their whereabouts. Most everything was dark, save pulsing blobs of light, each a unique color. The brightest was Wally, a yellow so vivid as to be gold with a concentrated spot of red. No magical affinity within him in the slightest – save for Klarion’s brand. He smirked as the boy remained oblivious.
Other beings milled around, their essence like beacons. Klarion was still able to see through walls, whether or not there were lead or iron obstructions. Those elements tended to weaken or stop the supernatural, but even in his disadvantaged state he retained the knack. A speck of sky blue was positioned two stories up; a humble pixie resided there, but still nothing worth investigating. Certainly no Horigal.
A blood curdling scream stopped Wally in his tracks, his aura trembling as he refocused toward the source of the noise. Klarion blinked. The spell was broken and his eyes returned to normal. He’d pinpointed a light green presence surrounded by several other dyed forms past the corner. As they rounded it, the three of them beheld a woman cornered by a gang of four men. One ruffian brandished a crude weapon in the form of a metal chain. The man in the center snatched her purse and made promises of violence.
Klarion was content to ignore the scene, but his suspicions about Wally were proven correct when he stepped forward to interfere. “Hey! What do you guys think you’re doing? Leave the lady alone!”
The group of thugs turned to regard them; each member looked charged for a fight at the interruption. If the jeers Wally and he received was any indication, none of them were intimidated. Klarion's lips curled at the corners.
“You punks want some of this, too?” a tattooed man asked.
Wally held up both hands, his voice lowering as he said, “We just want you to return her things and leave peacefully. This doesn’t have to get ugly.”
“What do you mean ‘we?’” Klarion asked, and Wally spared him a nasty glare.
The plebeians did not agree to his demands. Two men, the one with the chain and the other with tattoos, advanced on Wally, most likely because he’d challenged the crew. A third, twice his size and consisting of pure muscle and rage, confronted Klarion.
He yawned into a hand and with the right Klarion waved over several discarded boxes full of junk, sending his assailant sprawling. It was a waste to use even an ounce of magic on such an unworthy opponent, Klarion not intending to take the fight seriously. While the man struggled to escape his confines of rubbish, Klarion watched Wally’s altercation. For some inexplicable reason he refrained from using his superior reflexes to his advantage, instead resorting to taunts and dodging both attackers. This resulted in one mugger unleashing on themselves or the other by mistake.
Klarion regretted the lack of popcorn to enjoy the spectacle, just as Teekl leapt off his shoulders with a threatening yowl. His foe from before had risen and made a second attempt at his life, but his familiar would have none of that. He needn’t pay attention, so Klarion didn’t and continued to savor Wally’s struggles.
“You could help, you know,” he said, ducking a punch aimed at his head.
“Because that’s the proper thing to-” Wally caught himself, seeming to recall to whom he spoke. “Because.”
And for a change of pace, Klarion asked, “Why?”
“You are the laziest and most useless wizard I know!”
“The name is 'Witch' Boy, and you're the one responsible for insisting that I use my talents in defense,” he pointed out, spitting out the last word and throwing it in Wally's face.
“I remember specifying innocents in that agreement,” he said.
Wally missed getting narrowly nabbed by his shirts, though Klarion was certain it was for show.
“Enough chatter, Shrimps! We’re serious here,” the ringleader bellowed. His face turned purple the longer this farce continued and he seemed ready to participate himself.
Then everything happened at once: Klarion felt a Presence, the same kind that’d instigated the entire point of this trip. All skirmishes halted. The world exploded – in noise, light and rubble.
The disorder elicited Klarion’s attention to the front of the alley, where an immense force manifested. Teekl perked up when Klarion did, her fangs releasing her prey's ear. The bulky man crawled away unnoticed on all fours, his clothes ripped and scratches on every part of him. Those fighting Wally also stopped. The three of them stared with eyes wide and mouths agape. The woman had fled long ago, her purse forgotten or left behind in a conscious effort of survival instinct. Each member of the gang was next, leaving Klarion, Teekl and Wally to welcome the newcomer.
The ground opened up, concrete splitting apart like so much glass. Mist and blue illumination spread from within the large crack in the earth. Anyone unfortunate enough to hear had their eardrums bombarded by the repetition of “Repent, repent.” A giant appendage with curled claws reached out and left gouges in the hard cement as it pulled the rest of its body free, revealing a mish-mashed creation of masters and their monsters.
The Horigal had come, and in the bedlam that ensued Klarion smiled.
Nasty first impressions, arguments, and city-wide fisticuffs.
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! With 2015 here and the holiday madness past us I thought it high time to finally post the next chapter. It's a bit of a cliffhanger though...in more ways than one, I suppose. AO3 user Feawenn also reminded me that I never got around to mentioning that parts of this story (such as the villain) are borrowed from Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers run, starring Klarion and a few others. I had to dig up my copies from my mom's personal collection, but if anyone is lucky to find and enjoy the series it's very worth it!
Editing services are owed to Keppiehed, who has stuck with me another year to bring all of us a much smoother read! AND THANK YOU GUYS for sticking with me, too!
The image Klarion had shown didn’t prepare Wally in the slightest. He’d seen many a disgusting travesty in his lifetime, but as far as mug shots went none could be held to the same standard as the Horigal. It was to the degree of redefining the intensity of the term ‘ugly’.
The creature possessed four heads: two black-haired men, a lizard, and a bat. On its elongated body, the features were demonic in their hacksaw combination. The Horigal loomed much like the nearby buildings. And the noise. Artemis would be hard pressed to rival its volume. There was also a rancid stench that permeated the air like so much sewage. He’d met talking gorillas, arrived to scenes of genetic experiments gone wrong, and seen R-rated movies, but tonight trumped all those in creating nightmare fuel.
“YOU WILL PAY! YOU WILL PAY!”
Much, much louder than Artemis. Maybe even louder than Black Canary going supersonic.
“Yes, that would be the Horigal,” Klarion confirmed. He twined his fingers together and bent them outwards, cracking the joints.
“I figured as much. You totally forgot to mention the B.O.”
“No reason to spoil all the surprises.”
Wally examined his outfit, noting the fragile and sparse condition of it. His movements had been hindered not only by his self-appointed limitations; fighting the thugs in the club gear had been discomfiting. Popping a seam or five was certifiably real.
“Before things go down, do you think you can pull my uniform out of a hat?”
“You’ll owe me.”
“I’ve fed you, let you stay at my house, and sleep in my bed!”
“Definitely not a favor of equal worth. Hats cost extra,” Klarion said. He didn't appear to be paying Wally his full attention. His gaze was on the mouth of the alleyway as the Horigal's bulk manifested more. Fiery swirls and angles lined the ground on which the witch-boy stood. The designs intersected and a circle formed at the outermost point, with Klarion and Teekl in the middle.
“Klarion!” he yelled at the same instant as their enemy, save Wally’s was due to exasperation rather than murderous intent. Mostly.
The sorcerer grabbed both tops on the pass and wrenched them over Wally's head, where they caught on his ears. When he could see, his yellow Kid Flash disguise was in place. He pressed the logo emblazoned on his chest to revert the costume to night camouflage.
“Now get a move on! Teekl and I need room to conduct ourselves.” Klarion dismissed him.
He rolled his eyes but did as he was requested. Dashing to the side saved Wally from the beast's long, purple tail as it whipped around to crash into the spot where he’d previously stood just seconds ago. The Horigal, finally free and fed up with being ignored, lashed out in any way possible.
Klarion and his cat were unharmed; now at a distance, Wally could see that the red shapes created a pentagram that formed the base of a translucent force field. Next, he spoke in what resembled pig Latin. Anything not bolted down floated into the air and slammed into the monster.
“SSSUCH PETTY ATTEMPTSSS WON’T SSSAVE YOU!”
Wally might have been upset by Klarion's disregard for private property if it weren’t for the enemy trying to smite them with its thrashing. He winced at the destruction; on this side of town many buildings were occupied. Already he could identify the screams of panicked residents as the Horigal tried to squeeze its one ton bulk between two structures. It broke off chunks of brick and metal as its many arms tore at whatever it touched.
“Hey, guys, think we can migrate somewhere a little less urban?” Wally asked. The resulting suggestion from the seminaries was a resounding roar, which he took to mean no.
Breathing through his nose, Wally took the next opening he was presented. He grabbed a discarded pipe, the one dropped by the gang member, and made a running leap at the wall where the Horigal had torn a huge chunk out of it. There were bricks floating in the air toward the enemy, and Wally aimed to jump on them like stepping stones. The breach served as a foothold and, bounding off the surface, he had enough height to run along the bits of stone like stairs. The tactic worked until Wally ran out of materials. He hadn’t accounted for the velocity of Klarion’s attack versus his personal speed.
He fell short. Reaching wildly in midair, Wally grabbed onto one of the Horigal’s ears. The appendage was leathery like the fin of a reptile. Screeching in pain, the multitude of other heads protested in a barrage of threats.
“WHO DARESSS?” a humanoid head, the smaller of the two and sporting sharp incisors, demanded. “DESTROY THE SHARLETONS! DESTROY THEM ALL!”
Wally promptly shut up the closest culprit by wedging the metal pipe lengthwise in their mouth. The head thrashed, trying to dislodge the obstruction. Wally clung harder to avoid getting bucked off.
There was enough leeway to twist in Klarion’s direction. Wally readied to demand for his assistance, and instead came up short as he picked up on chanting. A hand was held stationary in front of the witch-boy's face, as if presenting a gang insignia, while the other hand signaled in a flurry of fingers bending and twirling. His voice was hard to decipher over the Horigal’s dissent, but the language might have been foreign. Finished, Klarion thrust out both hands.
"Nice puppet show, Klarion, now can you actually- Whoa!"
Spikes sprouted forth. They originated from every angle: the buildings, the ground, and more from those spikes. The protrusions were shades of ebony and looked to have qualities of metal. Several pierced through the Horigal’s body like spears. One shot straight into their stomach and broke out of the throat of the head Wally still clung to. Unfortunately, that seemed to upset rather than defer the Horigal.
Claws swatted Wally away; unable to compensate mid-drop, he landed on a pile of garbage outside the range of Klarion’s skewers. The trash cushioned his fall, but he’d smell like rotten eggs for weeks. Wally emerged sputtering and picking moldy fruit and used Kleenex off his person in time to witness the Horigal fighting free of their bonds. Although wounded, the spikes were knocked off with ease – the protrusions snapped clear out of the ground – as they charged toward Klarion, who wasn't trying to avoid the assault.
Wally put on the speed and snatched Klarion and Teekl clear of danger. Appreciative of the rescue, Klarion demonstrated his gratitude with heavy resistance.
“You oaf! I was resurrecting my protective enchantment! Now my cast circle is ruined. I needed that to channel my-”
“You can play pretend in a minute,” Wally said, needing clarity to charge up the fire escape, located in the back of the alley, in one piece. He couldn’t take to the roads because civilians were still present. The confrontation had generated enough possible attention that a panic was stirring.
Wally needed to transfer this elsewhere, and the rooftops were the best solution. Landing on the fourth story, Wally kept running. The Horigal gave chase. He’d be happier with his plan succeeding if impending pain weren’t a serious contender.
"NONE SHALL ESSSCAPE!"
Klarion shifted in his arms and almost overbalanced them. Wally scrambled to compensate for his leaning over the speedster's shoulder. Balancing a hand on Wally's neck for support, Klarion somehow managed to adjust his grip so Teekl was secured between them..
“Will you quit squirming?”
The witch-boy's response was to spew fire on the Horigal, slowing its ascent and allowing them more distance to maneuver. At least until Wally lost his stamina and ran out to traverse the roof. Skidding to a halt, their options were a sheer drop or the path from which they'd come. He set Klarion and Teekl down, wanting to face their opponents if they were stuck in a corner.
"Latem sdraw, niatnoc eht tsaeb!" Klarion chanted, his hands presented as if holding a flood at bay. The rusted chain-link fences framing the edge of the roof trembled, then unraveled to coil around the Horigal.
“Here’s your chance!”
“Um, to do what?” Wally asked.
“To destroy the head, idiot. Aim for the injured head!”
With nothing in the way of weapons, Wally resorted to some beat up crates stacked by the rooftop access doors. Running at full-tilt provided the momentum to propel the containers toward the monster when he went down on both hands and kicked with his feet. His trajectory was true, and the wooden boxes collided with the worst off of the two heads, stunning the rest of the beast.
“Now destroy it, you dolt!” Klarion said, seeming irritated despite his attempts.
“How is that obligatory?” he asked. The repercussions of a deceased, trans-dimensional mutant in his city, on his watch, was headache inducing without the aid of aforementioned creature resuming its demented sermons.
“WE HAVE FOUND YOU GUILTY! SURRENDER TO YOUR FATE!"
“Shut up!” Wally and Klarion uttered together.
The sorcerer made a fist and the fencing constricting the Horigal clamped tighter, the meshing encompassing half of the monster. Wally sent the last crate hurtling at them. Combining the pressure generated by the twisted fencing and the force of impact from the boxes knocked the damaged head clean off. At the spectacle Wally froze in place; his insides roiled where as his feet had stilled.
Except, that wasn’t enough to stop the Horigal. It writhed all over and blindly slashed the air, roaring in agony and garbled preaching. Wally made a mad dash to escape, unsure if there was even the clearance. A step backwards had him intercept Klarion instead. He didn't know they were that close in proximity.
“We need an exit strategy, stat,” Wally said. "If we stay here any longer we'll be mincemeat!"
Klarion took him a bit too literally, winding his arms around Wally and jumping off the side.
Now they're thinking with portals, cleanliness, and well-deserved rest.
W O W, this delay in updating was not expected. There were quite a few hiccups in my life that prevented me from getting to this sooner, but rejoice! The end to the cliffhanger of my last chapter is finally here! I can only hope that the wait was well worth it for some of you. For those who have commented I should also be replying to you very soon! Again, I apologize for keeping everyone hanging.
Keppiehed was kind enough to find time in their own hectic schedule to squeeze this chapter in and edit it for me! I was a bit frantic in posting this right after I received it back, so if you find any stragglers let me know so I can fix them.
From behind, Klarion's arms latched around Wally's torso and waist. He gave a tug, and they were freefalling past two stories and counting. Wally screamed. The wail was borne of helplessness that grew in intensity as soon as the Horigal mimicked their plunge over the ledge.
Plummeting in increments, Wally's life passed before his eyes more than once. He reminisced and regretted his too-short years of life: the crimes not solved, the dates not gone on, the experiments not conducted, the food not eaten. Wally held fast to the arm across his front with both hands, clinging to the closest and sole available purchase as their demise drew near. Though that wasn't quick enough to keep the panic mounting inside him from wanting to explode. He was witness to each aspect in that moment; his senses heightened and his brain catalogued every sensation with painstaking facets that made the situation twice as detrimental.
This was not how he had envisioned the end. Wally had figured a heroic death, maybe battling alongside his teammates or defending a worthy cause. Instead, Wally's options seemed to revolve around either going splat on the pavement or digested by a freak against evolution. If there was an afterlife, Wally had no issue spending eternity beating the crap out of Klarion in revenge for his fatality.
Except a black and red portal hailed at their backs. Their bodies dived into the swirling rip in reality instead of connecting to the sidewalk with their vertebrae. The monster followed them right over, jaws with rows and rows of gnashing teeth threatening to rip them to shreds.
Together, Klarion and Wally collapsed on a springy surface: a bed. After his yelling was cut off he noticed that they had ended up in his bedroom at his mom and dad’s house. Teekl descended next and landed smack dab on Wally’s spleen. The sharp jab was the least of his worries as the enemy loomed beyond the spinning vortex in his ceiling.
Klarion released his grip on Wally's hips. He lifted his arm and snapped his fingers, the black hole closing on the Horigal threatening to invade the sanctity of his residence. Sudden, deafening silence filled his room. Contrasting the calm, Wally’s heart was going haywire. In his terror-addled state he whirled in place to confront Klarion on what was that just now, you crazy jerkface? but the words stuck in his throat at the sight of the other boy's condition.
The dark, blue scarring was bleeding. Equally opaque goo oozed from the marks, which he also noted were throbbing grotesquely. Recognizing the extreme pallor to Klarion's skin, in no time at all Wally had him sitting up off the bed and had a trash can handy. His intuition proved correct when Klarion hacked up a mess that resembled motor oil but smelled twice as rancid.
Wally rushed to the bathroom and retrieved a cool, damp washcloth and the emergency health kit that was always fully stocked. He was witness to Teekl curled up against Klarion’s side upon his return, a lone paw reaching out to touch him as if in reassurance. Shaking his head to clear it, he didn’t comment on the scene at his approach. Wally set the med-kit aside and offered the compress; Klarion pulled away in annoyance at the touch. The witch-kid relented when he saw what it was and replaced Wally’s hand with his own to hold it in place.
“I really, really think we can’t avoid this topic anymore. That fight went badly, if you didn’t notice.”
“I was there. Of course I noticed!”
“Then talk to me,” Wally said. If ever there was a chance to put his stubbornness to good use, this was it. “I have to know what we’ve gotten ourselves into. I…should maybe call in my friends-”
“No,” Klarion said with vehemence. “It’s bad enough you’re involved – no more. You swore that this was to be between only us three! This is just a minor setback.”
“I know that! I might not comprehend this mumbo-jumbo crap you spout, but this-” he took Klarion by the hand to tug it away from his face, revealing the dirty washrag, “does not look like a minor ‘setback’ to me. This is way serious.”
“I’ll recover, given time. This is-”
“If you say ‘merely a flesh wound’ I will hurt you.”
“Spoilsport.” Klarion grinned, or tried to, the gesture alternating into a grimace when his lips pulled too hard on his cheek muscles. He replaced the cold washcloth.
Wally let him apply pressure for a moment longer and rose to his feet, retrieving some pajamas from the clean pile at the bottom of his closet. “Come on, let’s get you to the bathroom. Can you support yourself?” he asked. “It’d suck if you passed out in the shower because I am not going in there to save you.”
“Yeah, yeah, don’t do me any favors,” Klarion grumbled and held both arms out like a little kid expecting to be catered to.
Rolling his eyes, Wally tucked the clothes under one arm and wrapped the other around the witch-boy’s back. He hefted Klarion up and supported him during the entire trip to the washroom. Teekl trailed under foot, skirting in and out of their shuffling feet. The cat leapt onto a linen cabinet – the farthest point from the bathtub without leaving the room– and stared at them as they maneuvered awkwardly through the tiny space.
“No, move that way-”
“Where? I’m squished against the wall!”
“Right here!” Wally instructed, nudging him toward the lip of the tub after tripping amongst their feet and depositing him there. “Towels, soap, and clothes.” He indicated each item as he ticked them off, tossing the spare attire on the rack attached to the wall.
“Try not to drown while I’m not here to hold your hand. Keep a close eye on him for me, Teekl.”
Klarion kicked him out, exhibiting a lot of energy for someone who appeared half dead. While Wally stared at the door that had snapped shut in his face, it opened wide enough for the other boy’s black, dirtied outfit to be shoved in his face with the instructions, “I trust you know how to wash delicates?”
It was about that time Wally wondered when he’d been reduced in life to doing his enemy’s laundry – on top of all the other crap he had to deal with in his miserable existence.
Weak on his feet, Wally meandered the kitchen as he waited for either Klarion to finish hogging the bathroom or the drying cycle to be completed. At the rate Klarion was primping, his money was on the clothes. Resisting a yawn, he gathered the easiest meals to cook, which resulted in his raiding the freezer for whatever was microwavable.
The process of even that much activity exhausted him. He got through five family-sized dinners when the timer went off on the drier. Tilting his head, he heard the water upstairs still running, indicating that the clothes had definitely finished befor his selfish house guest. He’d be rich right then if he’d had a running bet going with someone.
Maintaining his painstaking speed, he unloaded the dryer and examined their clothes. It was apparent whose was whose – his stark and neon uniform clashed with Klarion’s all-black attire. Even his silk socks matched. Shaking his head in continued disbelief, he started folding, the action taking him longer than usual.
His hand paused when he noticed that Klarion’s clothes were more than just spotless. There was a lack of holes in the cloth, despite the fact that the shoulder should have a ragged tear. He rubbed the material on both sides, testing, but his eyes weren’t deceiving him; there really wasn’t a cut in the fabric.
Frowning, he hastened the chore as much as he could and returned upstairs to set both sets of uniforms aside, then immediately ran down the hall to the bathroom. “Dude, come on! There are people here who would like some hot water when it’s their turn!”
“I thought goody-goods such as yourself were supposed to be virtuous?” Klarion called through the door.
“Then exhibit some patience!” The shower shut off and Wally tapped his foot as he waited his turn. Klarion continued to take his sweet time and Wally could have run a couple hundred laps around the house in the time it took him to finish. The door finally opened, steam billowing out and engulfing Wally in the face.
Teekl sulked out first, her fur wet and sticking up in weird angles. Without her normal fluffiness and the bulk of her appearance in such disarray she appeared twice as small. What excess water was stuck to her coat was shaken off on Wally’s leg.
Her master exited next, toweling off his hair and looking so bizarre wearing Wally’s clothes. Klarion appeared skeletal. His limbs were long and the attire hung on his wirier frame. Wally felt a moment’s satisfaction that he was more toned. The neon green of the Hal Jordan shirt and matching shorts clashed with Klarion’s too pale skin. Oddly, he noticed that Klarion’s toenails were as sharp and long as his fingernails – painted black, too – and Wally sorely hoped that he wouldn’t get kicked in his sleep later.
“All right, you can-”
Wally rushed inside, returning the earlier favor and shutting the door on him. His time spent showering was far less in comparison, clocking in at a minimum of ten minutes. It could have measured in the seconds, but the warm water on his muscles was relaxing. He only stopped because if he stayed any longer he would have fallen asleep standing up.
On his return visit to his room he toweled off and vibrated in place to finish himself the rest dry. Inside Klarion was already lying on the bed, his towel strewn across the floor. His feline companion pawed at it in a threatening manner.
“Don’t you even,” Wally directed at Teekl. She glanced at him, blasé, but refrained from clawing the fabric to shreds and returned to sitting near Klarion. He held the washcloth from earlier against his cheek again, the flow of dark muck having only thinned.
Grabbing the medical supply kit, Wally approached and said, “Okay, let’s have a looksie,” and guided Klarion’s hand aside. The wounds were obviously sensitive, but the liquid had stemmed for the most part. He opened one of the pouches containing a cleansing wipe and brushed the skin to sterilize, but Klarion hissed and flinched back.
“Hold still!” Wally instructed, and moved toward his cheek again.
“But that hurts!”
“Duh, that means it’s working. The alcohol is killing the germs.”
The act of cleansing the wound was a struggle, but Wally got his way in the end and proceeded to rub Neosporin across the worst of it.
“Aren’t you done yet?”
“Don’t be such a baby,” Wally said, then started awhile later, “So. What’s our plan B?”
“We damaged the second seminary, but it’s only a minor blow to the Horigal. The remaining figure in control has a third of the strength and intellect of the three, but he is the cruelest and still joined with his familiar. Wounded though the Horigal is, it will not be easy to defeat even in this state.
“And we don’t have the element of surprise. The seminary knows you’re in cahoots with me and has witnessed some of your power. There will be no underestimating the next time.”
“That’s a confidence booster,” he muttered under his breath, though it was a good idea to outline where they stood. “Does his animal friend work like yours, too?”
Klarion shrugged, almost disappearing into the borrowed clothes.
“In theory, but such a target isn’t as vulnerable. His familiar is that of a lizard, and those scales on his body are enhanced. Penetrating his hide is a waste in the long run; it’s best to aim for the head.”
Wally said nothing for a long time, and then asked, “Where is the Horigal now?”
“I trapped them in a pocket dimension. The trick is only temporary, but by the time they gather their strength we'll have had our chance to regroup.” Wally couldn't help it: he faltered in his ministrations and gaped. Klarion's face scrunched up in response. "You’ve got to be kidding me. Even you must know what one of those are!”
“I do!” he peevishly said. “It has to do with the inflationary theory. I’m just wondering how you accomplished it. You’re not ripping holes in the space time continuum while you’re at it, are you?”
Klarion shrugged again. “Not tonight.”
“I’ll pretend I didn’t just hear that.”
The repetitive motions seemed to lull Klarion, at least; Wally realized he was losing him to sleep, and fast. His eyes drooped and he slumped closer towards the pillow. Until they'd rested the conversation would have to be postponed.
“There ya go,” he announced, rubbing his thumb along the last scar and slathering it with ointment.
“About time.” Klarion grouched, but his tired tone of voice and a yawn lessened the complaint.
Wally guided him down because he was asleep before his head hit the pillow. Afterwards, he picked up Teekl from where she’d passed out on the floor and placed her next to Klarion. Barely lasting much longer, Wally took up his side of the bed and passed out himself.
Illness, parenting done right, and constant interruptions.
SO for anyone who follows me on tumblr they might have seen a post about a little snafu I had and yeah, it concerned chapter 10 of this story. Turns out I was accidentally re-writing chapter 9 after I'd already sent it off to be edited and posted. When I remembered I'd finished with it I then went on to start chapter 11 by mistake. You can just imagine my frustration and staring off into space for several months at my own stupidity. That said, uh, the next chapter is hopefully going to come much faster? I can't believe there's only four left...
Beta-read by Keppiehed, who thankfully has their act put together vastly better than I. And thank you everyone for your understanding and patience! Your comments, kudos and bookmarks are what sustain me.
With a consistent beep, his alarm clock announced the hour to rise. Wally floundered for the device and swatted it clean off the table, unplugging the clock in the process. He groaned and buried himself deeper under the covers, and fell almost instantly back to sleep.
“Honey, are you ready?”
“Not now, Mom,” he mumbled, but his mother couldn’t hear him. She persisted in calling up the stairs.
“Wally! At this rate you're going to be late for school.”
Sliding out from inside the blankets, Wally managed to respond. Too lethargic to bother with his powers, each step involved what felt like eons of effort to accomplish. Half dressed, he went downstairs. At the sight of her son, Mrs. West nearly dropped the plate of heaping waffles she held. “Wally, what…?”
“I dun feel so good,” he said, swaying in place.
She ushered Wally over to a chair and pressed cool fingers to his forehead to test for a temperature. He didn't object to the treatment and collapsed into the seat. Wally eyed the waffles with a mixture of starvation and nausea. Hunger won in the end, and he picked at the food while his mom hovered.
“You look dreadful. I’m calling you in sick.” Retrieving two full cartons of orange juice, she offered him both containers to gulp down without tasting. “Once you’re full I want you to go to your room and straight to bed. Understand?”
Wally forced another dozen waffles down his throat; all of them tasted of cardboard with a matching consistency. He didn’t remember making it upstairs or subsequently passing out. One second his mom was fussing over him and the next his eyes were cracking open, bloodshot, to the sounds of knocking on his bedroom door.
“Son-” his father said through the solid wood.
At super speed Wally glanced to his immediate right, where Klarion and his cat were plain to see.
He leapt out of bed and yanked the bed sheets with him, sending both feline and witch-boy sprawling to the floor. Wally tossed the blankets on top of them for good measure.
Wally appeared at the door, catching it in his best attempt at a firm grip. In his current state it never would have stopped someone as out of shape as his dad, but he caught him off guard. It allowed him to lean his whole weight on the door and prevent his father entrance, much less a clear view.
“-okay?” he gasped.
“Yo, Pops. Yeah, I'm hunky-dory. Just overexerted myself, I think.”
His dad frowned, his mustache making the gesture less severe. “I thought you were just out with friends?”
“I was!” Wally backpedaled. “I’m just not used to…being social. I’d almost forgotten what it was like.”
It was meant as a joke, but Mr. West wasn’t amused. “Son, if you ever need a break from – well, you know – I can have a word with your uncle. He would understand. Someone your age deserves a break once and awhile, to be a-”
“I get it.”
The entire family had gone over the subject of his double life. Wally wasn’t above normalcy; he even needed it on occasion to remind him what he fought for and why. That didn't mean he was normal.Wally could never go back to that awkward stage of his life when it was just him and his tiny, little world. He knew his parents listened, even if they didn’t always understand. Wally was okay with making the sacrifices needed, so long as it meant he could save and protect them and humanity.
Wally's dad sighed. The sound was another natural progression to the argument they seemed to need once a month or so. While it caused Wally to wilt in guilt each time, at least it indicated his father was relenting and the conversation was over.
“At any rate, Mr. Jones called to inform us that your after school activities will be brief tonight, but I told him you won’t be in attendance.”
Wally startled at the memory that he had training tonight, which he couldn’t miss. School was bad enough, but he’d have to be comatose to fall behind as Kid Flash. More was at stake than his grades on that front. He shut the door to begin hurrying to get ready, before remembering his dad on the opposite side. Opening it, he found him still standing there, arms crossed over his burly chest.
Shoulders hunched and smiling all teeth, Wally said, “Sorry. You were saying?”
Squinting, Mr. West seemed to think better of what he was going to say before asking, “Are you sure you're feeling better? Your mother voiced her concern earlier, and it sounded like you were really sick.”
A groan, not from Wally, had him paling and hastening through excuses. “Yep! Never felt more fit in my life. Sleep was just what I needed. Gotta get ready now!”
“Maybe it would be best if you saw a certain doctor-”
“Nope! It’s like I’m a new person. Love you, bye.”
“Wally,” his father said.
“Dad,” he whined and squirmed in place.
“All right, fine.” Mr. West relented, always the one to act tough when in actuality he was all marshmallow center. He let his arms fall to his sides. “Just…be careful. You know how your mother worries. Come right home afterwards.”
“Got it,” Wally promised, and only then was he able to escape.
He rested palms flat and back against the door; his knees threatened to give out otherwise. Across from him a hand reached from the far side of the bed. Dark nails gripped the mattress and pulled the rest of Klarion into view. The scarring on his face wasn’t the sole reason the expression he directed at Wally could freeze molten lava.
“You okay over there?”
“I’m going to replace your intestines with earth worms,” Klarion informed him.
“Great, good to know you’re feeling better.”
Wally started to gather his spare uniform, goggles, a full supply of snacks, and a rucksack of gadgets. One of these days he would ask Robin about getting a utility belt of his own to store his less-resorted, but equally important, superhero tools. Until then his middle school backpack would suffice.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Klarion asked. Teekl joined him back into bed. She yawned halfway through the process thereof and collapsed mid-stretch.
“Going out. I'll return later for continued happy-fun-times,” he said, directing a narrowed stare as Klarion prepared to pester him with more questions. “You are so not off the hook after last night. We have a lot more to discuss.”
“Don’t be a sod. You can’t-”
He left in a rush, not in the mood.
Every man for himself, old arguments, and nightlights.
I am so beyond exhausted with this chapter. After editing parts of this story out of order by mistake and then computer problems deleting what I had done I've managed to recover enough to chuck this thing onto the web. I don't want to look at chapter 11 again for a long time so I apologize if the quality seems a bit off from me usual writing. I just really, really, really want to be finished. :(
So thank you everyone for your understanding and patience (and kudos and comments and favs)! And thanks to Keppiehed for helping me during this trying process. They got this chapter and a bunch of my other works back in such a timely fashion it puts me to shame.
The last to assemble on the beach, Wally joined the rest of his team in a neat row stationed in front of Martian Manhunter. It was a curious sight to see the Justice League member there in place of their usual teacher. Everyone in attendance tried for a tighter posture; Wally rubbed his eyes to hide his hand-shaking fatigue. He didn't want to seem rude or unprepared. Then again, M'gann gave her uncle a small finger wave, which he returned with a smile in acknowledgement.
The gesture vanished when he spoke to the group at large. "Black Canary wished me to express her apologies that she couldn't be here today, but duty calls. I have volunteered my services in her stead.
"It has come to my attention that a brief study in stealth is in order. Your exercise will not be to fight, but to survive. In certain times of crisis, escape is a wiser course of action. There is no shame in realizing that sacrifice is not the answer."
Kaldur raised a hand, only speaking when Martian Manhunter nodded permission. "Who will be our pursuer?"
"An excellent inquiry. It shall be me," he said, and disappeared.
Everyone stood stock still until Robin grabbed a handful of something from the pouch on his hip and threw it to the ground. In the cloud cover he generated, his laughter registered from the forest at their backs. The others left behind caught on and scattered.
'You will have five minutes to evade capture.' Their instructor's thoughts infiltrated their minds, and then cut off all contact.
Dashing from tree-to-tree, Wally stopped on the twentieth or so trunk to flatten his body against the wood. There were few animals left on the island, nor a breeze, so his surroundings were silent. His heartbeat and breathing were incredibly loud in the quiet. He closed his eyes to concentrate his other senses, but from all outward signs he was alone.
Five minutes? Piece of cake, Wally mused, and made himself salivate for a second at the mention of dessert. Returning to himself wasn't easy; his focus was more easily dissuaded than normal.
He'd stayed in place for too long, so he made for the opposite edge of the woods. Obvious hiding places, such as caves or clearings, needed to be avoided. Those would be the first place someone would look, or his defenses could be compromised out in the open. The safest tactic would be a few laps around the island and end up back where they'd started. Who would be crazy enough to return to that spot? Wally decided, wondering if he could nap and work on his tan.
With that plan in mind, he finished his first lap and took a higher route to keep out of sight. He might have caught Superboy stomping around on his second pass, but Wally didn't dwell on it as he made a third round of the island. Some scraggly bushes that he attempted to leap over weren't unoccupied, but on the jump his boot caught on something equally green.
Both Artemis and Wally stumbled out of hiding. He landed on his face, sputtering, and spat out dirt, some leaves, and even part of twig. Artemis pushed herself into a sitting position, her hair in disarray. Arrows littered the ground all around her, a few poking straight up.
"Watch where you're going!" she stage-whispered.
Wally adjusted his mask from its skewed position and glared. At times their bantering wouldn't faze him, but Wally's exhaustion – coupled with sand in places it had no business being – had his temper out of check. "Get off it, Artemis! You're the one who got in my way."
"Got in the… It's not my fault you trip over your own two feet, nevermind lose your focus at the very chance—"
Someone cleared their throat, and all arguing ceased as a shadow materialized. Martian Manhunter stared down at them from his floating position nearby as the entire team minus Robin trailed behind him. Turning on her, Wally said, "Thanks a lot, Artemis!"
"Don't you dare pin this one on me!"
"Indeed," Martian Manhunter said, dispelling another squabble. "Kid Flash made no attempts to conceal his presence. He left a clear trail for me to follow – a grave mistake, were the enemy inclined to pursue him to a secure location."
Wally glowered at his shoes, and in doing so noticed the mud and other forest residue clogging the rubber soles. Sloppy, he agreed, refusing to admit it aloud because Artemis was already smirking. Although, not for long.
Martian Manhunter turned on her next. "And Artemis, while your ingenuity hid you from sight, that is not the only sense you must deter. As soon as you were taken by surprise I could sense your emotions clearly. I mean you no harm, but an enemy telepath may not be so lenient."
"Why are you gloating? We both messed up!" Artemis shouted.
"You two… My uncle told us that maybe if we'd stuck together we would have stood a better chance? So we all need room for improvement." M'gann tried to intervene, her hands raised in a placating wave.
Her statement came across more as a question than an answer, her attempt at diffusing the situation failing. Artemis kept going, using their friend's words as a bouncing board. "And some of us just need to grow up."
"Well, at least I'm being honest!"
Lips thinning, Artemis didn't let him finish. "Is that what they call foot-in-mouth syndrome? Because you can keep your stupid honesty!"
"Man, Speedy never gave us this much flack. He was actually fun to be around and why can't you just be more like—" and he stopped his outburst right there, but it was too late. His teeth dug into the corner of his mouth, watching as Artemis' expression steeled itself. Finally, he said, "That didn't come out right."
"Now who's not being truthful?" she asked, coldly.
"Ergh, I just… Whatever!"
Robin appeared, leaping down from a tree branch and landing between Kaldur and Superboy. He looked around at the scene and said, "Hey, it's been over five minutes. Does this mean I win?"
Wally zoomed off, rustling his friend's black and yellow cape. He could have run home, but what waited for him at his house was no better. In his state of mind there was nowhere worth visiting. With a headache swelling, Wally forewent the island's exterior, the teleporter, and everywhere else that wasn't his private quarters at Mt. Justice.
All YJ members had a room to call their own, even if the secret base wasn't their mainstay. Kaldur alternated with the wade pool to the submarine access to the ocean from the mountain base. Superboy claimed a closet that once belonged to Superman, and M'gann took her uncle's old abode. Artemis, Robin, and Wally didn't have much reason to stay, so took the closest rooms to the main hub for practical reasons.
He wouldn't have opposed his mentor's personal quarters, but the Flash's room was the farthest since he could travel the distance. So Wally opted for Wonder Woman's. Hers came with the addition of an built-in bookshelf covering the entire far wall, which he'd obviously put to use with his adored 'souvenirs'. Normally he would admire the showcase of weapons and trinkets when staying overnight, but in his tired state he opted to forgo the tradition.
Closing and locking the door, Wally knew it wouldn't deter a superhero that really wanted to confront him. It'd serve a good enough warning to be left alone, however, and buy him time to wake up. Wally collapsed into bed. It was far larger and comfier than his own, and he wrapped himself in the covers like it was a cocoon. The material smelled like commercial cleaner instead of wet cat and felt a little scratchy, but Wally was already drifting off. Yawning, he rolled himself into a tighter ball and faced the center of the room. He'd also turned off the lights to sleep easier, but as his eyes grew heavy he could swear there was something… golden… glowing… nearby…
Dreamscapes, life lessons, and moonlit strolls through the cemetery.
I'm ecstatic to present this chapter to all my readers way, waaay earlier than anticipated! When I sent off section twelve to be edited it was with the understanding I may not see the results until July, but Keppiehed continues to be amazing at everything they do and surprised me, too, with how fast I received it back! So a lot of gratitude and thanks goes to my beta reader for this update.
And thanks to everyone for commenting, leaving kudos, bookmarking and promoting my story! The feedback and support means a lot – more so than I can ever express. I don't want to jinx it, but in a show of gratitude I'm hoping that for the next update I'll have another awesome surprise when posting for Not Today, so stay tuned!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
In Wally's grade school there was an incident involving youth theater and a musical production of the Itsy Bitsy Spider, the extent of which manifested itself in the form of a reoccurring nightmare every couple of years. A spotlight shined on Wally, and him alone, while the rest of the stage and its audience was shrouded in darkness. During this rendition there were no children chanting, cluing Wally in to the fact that something wasn't right. Glancing down revealed he was still in possession of his pants, more evidence to support he wasn't dreaming. In a soft voice he called out, "Mr. Nelson…?"
"Son, try behind you."
Turning around so fast he almost knocked himself off kilter, Wally beheld Kent Nelson sitting under another shaft of light. His metal folding chair looked to be right out of a school assembly. A tiered board game of some variation was situated on the floor in front of him. It resembled Chinese checkers, but only in the sense the different platforms had multiple points and groupings of colored pieces in each corner. Opposite of him was a floating, golden helmet: Nabu.
"Mr. Nelson?" Wally asked again.
"Hey, kid." The older man greeted him, offering a smile like he wasn't supposed to be dead. Instead, he should be at a park playing chess against the pigeons.
"Maybe you should have a seat," Mr. Nelson suggested. He motioned to a third chair placed to his right. Wally hadn't noticed its presence before. Walking over, he placed a hand on the back of the chair and eased into the seat. In that time a round dial with a star chiseled on its surface slid diagonally across the bottom three spaces of the board and stacked on top of a blue piece that sported a half moon. Wally didn't stare at the spectacle long. His eyes soon darted between the helmet and Mr. Nelson, and his fingers tapped a rhythm on his knees.
"You seem to have something on your mind. Anything you want to discuss?" Mr. Nelson asked.
"Besides my being here?" Wally's tone raised in pitch near the end of his question. "I mean, I did not put the helmet on! I'm not… You can't… Am I…?"
"You're right. This isn't because you donned the Helmet of Fate," he said, reaching to pick up an orange dial with a sun. He flipped it to reveal a blank side and placed it in the west quadrant of the second tier.
"Then how come I'm here?"
"This would not be an issue, child, if you had found me a new host," Nabu answered crossly in Mr. Nelson's stead.
"Hey!" Making a fist, Wally pounded it once on his thigh. "I'm trying, all right? Do you know how many candidates there are lining up to be the next Doctor Fate? Nobody! Nevermind there are way more people who shouldn't be trusted with your kind of power. It's a delicate and time-consuming process, and I'm still in high school, you know."
"You may reconsider your own standing, Wallace West," Nabu reasoned. Hearing his full name come from the helmet sent a shiver down his spine. The sensation was familiar and unwanted. "Within you is much untapped potential, despite the taint of disorder coursing through you."
"Let it go, Nabu," Mr. Nelson said with a note of warning. Nabu demonstrated no outward sign of contempt at the reprimand, but another half-moon piece took the spot of a star and removed it from play. It vanished into thin air.
Licking his bottom lip, Wally inquired, "Can I ask you something since I am here?"
"I was hoping you would."
The words he wanted to say didn't come. Each one caught in his throat. No matter how badly Wally wanted to confess to working with Klarion, he was unable to tell Mr. Nelson directly. "I have a…friend."
"Oh?" The corner of Mr. Nelson's mouth twitched, as if he were trying to hide a smile.
"A very close friend! And he's got a problem with some pests," Wally said.
"It is," he said and gripped his knees tight. "This friend, he doesn't know what to make of these nuisances. One minute they're into everything and making a mess, but sometimes… Do you ever feel like there's something way bigger than you at work? As if a humongous picture is right in front of you, but you're standing too close, so all you can focus on is what's directly in your line of sight?"
"Wally, how old do you think I was?"
Frowning at the non sequitur, Wally hesitated before deciding to humor him. "I don't remember. Maybe seventy?"
"More like one-hundred and six."
"What? Nuh-uh!" He eyed Mr. Nelson up and down. "You didn't fight like you were that old. Although, I guess I shouldn't judge. Mr. Garrick can't do everything he used to, but if you mention peanut brittle he beats me to it every time."
"Indeed," he said, side-eyeing Nabu. "The thing is, that's a lot of opportunity for me to learn a few tricks. My wife, my beautiful Inza, she died twelve years ago. That may not sound like a lot, but I was angry for most of that time. It felt unfair that we had to be separated."
"Balance," Nabu intoned. One of Mr. Nelson's pieces was removed from play again. Only seven pieces of each type were left on all levels of the game.
Mr. Nelson wagged a finger toward him and nodded. "You see, everything happens for a reason, Wally. We may never realize what that purpose is, but in the grand scheme of the universe, there's no black and white. Just a reaction for every action, a push and then a pull."
That sounded a little farfetched to Wally. Sensing his skepticism, Mr. Nelson turned away from the game to face him completely and went so far as to place a hand on Wally's shoulder. "I know it doesn't make much sense, and a weak consolation at best, but trust me. Losing the love of my life was even more difficult than all the years spent serving as Doctor Fate. Seeing her again will be all the sweeter when we're reunited. I was not much longer for the world, Wally, and I realize that now."
"I really am looking," Wally said. "I… I promise, you'll meet her soon."
"I know you are, and I know I will." Giving Wally's shoulder a gentle squeeze, he let him go. "In any event, tell your 'friend' that these things have a way of working themselves out. If not, they'll be a grand ol' adventure to tell later!"
"Uh, right," Wally agreed. Their surroundings hazed as a fog-like substance rolled in.
"Oh, and one more thing," Mr. Nelson's voice echoed.
"Don't forget what I told you about holding out for your spitfire! You never know how close they really are." The advice followed Wally into waking. His eyelids fluttered as he met with the sight of pale white. Sitting up, he wrenched off the sheaf of paper taped to his face to read Robin's lazy scrawl.
We need to talk!
He groaned and tossed the note to the floor. The door to his room was closed, although Wally doubted it'd been tampered with. His teammate had no doubt found a secret passage through the floorboards or something equally sneaky to break into his room undetected.
Collapsing back onto the bed, Wally startled as he fell on something hard, something…a lot like the Helmet of Fate. The covers wrenched aside to better reveal the headgear and it rolled to bump against his hip. A glance at the wall of shelves revealed that its designated spot was empty. Did Rob move it when he came in? Wally had no idea why he would, but his friend had a strange sense of humor.
At the reminder of the incident from earlier, he sighed and rose to his feet to put the helmet in its proper place. Wally couldn't avoid Robin and the team forever, but despite his – five hour nap, according to the clock – he stayed drained of energy. There was a zero chance that he felt up to speaking with any of them; he couldn't avoid the confrontation, so he'd prolong the inevitable. Just until Wally was stuffed with a smörgåsbord inside him and could recuperate for real.
At the notion, his stomach kindly twisted itself into knots with hunger pangs to the point of being almost vomit-inducing. Knowing of a little sushi restaurant that didn't mind serving caped crusaders, he ran out of his room and transported to the east side of Central City. A little girl adorned with a tight bun, Aiko, perked up when she noticed Wally at the counter. Her accent was very slight when she spoke. "Kid Flash, welcome! Your usual?"
"Yeah, and make it a double, please." Eying the hand-written menu stationed above, he added as an afterthought, "And an order of today's seafood special." Hopefully Klarion, or more accurately his feline accomplice, would appreciate the extra protein in their sugar-coma-inducing diet. If not, more for Wally.
"You and Flash hard at work?" She made small talk and wrote the order on some notebook paper. She handed off the slip to her grandfather at the kitchen window. He was already hard at work making half the request, having started as soon as Wally entered the restaurant.
"Something like that," Wally said, accessing the compartment in his wrist opposite to where he stored his emergency rations. On top of carrying small caches of food, he kept money for vending machines or urgent snack runs. When it came to his metabolism Wally could never be too careful.
The size of his order notwithstanding, Wally's meal was finished shortly. Aiko's twin brother brought the bags around and both children recited, "Thank you for all your hard service!" He thanked them again for the dinner and left a generous tip for their caretaker.
On the trek home he grew impatient and, while fighting open the lid of some noodles, had to slow down or risk dropping the entire container. It was the sole reason Wally noticed, beyond the iron black gates of the cemetery, some movement. It was beginning to get dark; what part of the sun hadn't dipped past the horizon was hidden behind distant buildings. It was late enough that honest visitors were unlikely.
The trespasser's clothes blended them into their surroundings, but also made it easier for Wally to narrow down suspects. Rushing to the front gate, he traversed the whole graveyard and to the spot visible from his previous location. "Klarion?" Wally asked, "What do you think you're doing here?"
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Dinner dates, downtown heroics, and someone's in troooubleee.
This update I hope to prove that everyone's waiting was worth it! This is the longest chapter to date: almost twice the length of my previous posts. I couldn't split this bad boy if I tried, there's just no good break in the action and so I made the executive decision to keep it as-is and share all the content at once.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Wally asked, "Klarion, what do you think you're doing here?"
If the witch-boy were as surprised to see him as Wally was, then he adapted well. Klarion stayed on course and made his way along the well-tended path. Teekl had the decency to acknowledge him and slunk over to sniff at Wally's takeout bags. Over his shoulder Klarion said, "Can't someone take a stroll without having ulterior motives?"
Scoffing, Wally hurried to meet the other boy's pace. Now that he got a closer look at him, Klarion seemed to be in recovery. The thick ooze his scars secreted earlier had ebbed, but that entire side of his face appeared tender. Already pale to start with, the only other indication that an altercation had taken place was the tautness of his features. Normally, he carried himself rather loose, almost fluidly, but his movements were now stiff.
Catching him staring, Klarion smirked and said, "How touching."
"I'm not concerned or anything," he snapped. "And don't evade the question! Why are you skulking…here, exactly?"
"Your place smells like a locker room. I needed some fresh air." Wally waited for the punch-line and was rewarded. "I might also be looking for a little boost."
"Of course you are." Scenarios involving drug dealers or mad scientists or drug dealing mad scientists hiding in family crypts sprung to mind. What he got was Klarion settling somewhere in the back-forty where members of Central City's founders and oldest settlers must be buried. There were several gravesites, their tombstones dating long ago. Not as much care was taken to maintain the plots, nor were any showcasing flower stakes or mementos.
Klarion had picked one of the more undertended sections and proceeded to meditate. Watching him to see if he intended to play tricks, Wally found a spot not already belonging to the deceased and partook of his dinner. The cat joined him, so he shared Klarion's portion with Teekl. She scarfed it down seemingly without tasting. Wally didn't judge since he did much the same thing; it was the best Japanese cuisine in the state and he was starving.
"So," Wally started.
Klarion interrupted him without opening his eyes. "Shut up, I don't care."
"But we still need to—"
He stuffed two whole servings into his mouth, and Wally forced himself into silence. His butt was going numb by the second helping, and he was freezing as he finished his meal. At some point Teekl resorted to grooming.
By the time a nearby church bell tolled the late hour, Wally was lying on his front, legs crossed at the ankles and chin resting on his arms. Klarion's cat had grown bored enough to fall asleep on the small of his back. Again, he asked, "Why are we even here?"
"We don't need to be. You can leave because I'm the one conducting—"
"Forget I asked," Wally groused, tugging on a few blades of grass. Although, not a moment later he inquired, "Can't you just do this back at the house?"
Facial features twisting, Klarion peeked open an eye to glare at him askance. "This would be going faster if you'd stop distracting me! Can't you be quiet for ten minutes?"
"Five minutes is my max allowance," Wally said. He wriggled to dislodge Teekl and sat up. The orange cat growled deep in her throat before leaping onto a gravestone to glower at him. "I just don't understand what you've accomplished here in the dark that can't be done somewhere less weird."
"The last seminary is planning their escape as you blather on, and I intend on being prepared for their inevitable return. After how draining the fiasco that was our last encounter was, I need to refocus."
"How soon can they really get here?" he asked. "Dude was in worse shape than we were. It can't be that easy to pop open a portal through time and space; I doubt they're going to fall out of the sky any minute."
The ripping of reality at Wally's back dictated otherwise.
Wally jumped at the disturbance, resumed his footing and looked toward the main hub of Central City. A portal identical to the one Klarion had summoned was torn open over the downtown district. From this distance it was difficult to spot the Horigal, but Wally could hear them. They had nothing decent to say about Klarion, his cat, or the "masked menace" that'd aided them. Wincing, Wally glanced toward his companions and caught two sets of glares.
Klarion spat, "You just had to invoke the Horigal, didn't you?"
"Maybe the JL can handle the situation?" Wally suggested, but the sounds of shattering glass and terrified screams were his answer. To the witch-boy's protests, he picked them up in his arms and made headway to Main Street. Wally wasn't certain if the claws digging into his back were Teekl gripping his suit to keep from falling off or Klarion himself. Maybe both.
When he breaked , thick clouds of concrete kicked up. All of downtown was in havoc. There weren't as many people out tonight as there had been during the day, but it was the entertainment hour when adults and some teens came out to start having fun. They were running and yelling, and cars were abandoned or swerved to avoid pedestrians and the rampaging, purple hellbeast that took up a good chunk of the road.
"We need to— Oof!" In trying to warn the populace, said populace tried to flatten him. Wally darted into an alley that was too narrow for a crowd to cram through. "There's too many citizens congesting the street. Someone's going to get hurt!"
"That's your main concern?" Klarion asked, shoving at his chest to dislodge him. Teekl transferred shoulders. "Really?"
"Really," he deadpanned.
"Look, just distract the Horigal with some fireworks or card tricks while I get as many people to safety. Can't be that hard for you, can it?" Klarion pulled a face like sucking on a lemon, which was how Wally left him as he rushed to the nearest denizens. It was a family of three – the mother clutched a baby, and presumably her husband guarded over them as they all huddled behind an overturned pickup truck.
"Flash, Flash, Flash!" the kid chanted at his appearance as his hands wriggled towards Wally.
"Close enough," he said and ushered them to a café overstuffed with patrons. It'd been closed, but the windows and doors were busted, allowing refuges under tables. "Nothing to see here, folks, just your average nuclear experiment."
"Mutation, nothing. Godzilla wasn't even that ugly," a teenage girl said with her head peeking through the window. He recognized her half-inch gauge pierced ears from his pre-calc class during his attempt to migrate gawkers toward the back of the establishment.
"Come on, come on! Everyone, please form a queue and exit in the rear. Everything is under control." Somehow, Wally didn't think he had the crowd convinced, but a roar and several explosions managed to send the entire restaurant scrambling in the opposite direction.
Returning to the sidewalk, he spotted a few stragglers. Wally also got an eyeful of what was causing the reverberations and fires: Klarion was levitating cars, motorcycles, even a semi with a trailer, and chucking everything at the Horigal. One such vehicle had been the hiding place of two women who were now struggling to cross the road. Racing over, he knelt between them and the fight. Wally might dislike having his back to the action, but he disliked risking their welfare even more.
"You can't stay here!"
"W-we're trying," the blonder of the two ladies stuttered. "But she can't walk! That goth kid over there pulled the car off her, but it— I think her leg is…"
"Grab her other arm," Wally ordered, shifting to one side and roping her friend's elbow around his neck. Together they hefted her up and tried for the end of the block.
"It hurts! It hurts," she cried.
Wally gritted his teeth and craned his neck to see, but stopping wasn't an option. The Horigal swatted a convertible into a news stand and flattened it, the heap of metal sliding several feet to knock through the brick siding of a building. "Hold it together, sweetheart, you can do it. I know it's painful, but we're…almost…there!"
They swung around the corner. A guy that could be someone's grandfather spotted the trio and took Wally's place. He didn't wait to provide further instructions, trusting that they would be able stay out of harm's way. Returning the way he came, Wally dodged a lamppost as it landed so hard it bounced. Bending at the knees, he played a risky game of limbo to reach Klarion's side.
"I think we're in the clear. I've clocked the cops at six minutes to a scene, ten if traffic is heavy. How we doin'?" The Horigal screeched loud enough that what windows remained intact burst into pieces and car alarms went off. When Teekl yowled and flattened her ears, Wally wished he could do the same. "Okay, maybe—"
"We're fine!" Klarion hissed—actually hissed—at him and sent him a sharp look. Wally blinked and swore he must have lost focus because, for a second, it was as if Klarion's face morphed. "We're not losing again."
"Then what do you suggest? I think you're just making them angry."
"DO NOT IGNORE US, PESTILENCE!" The enemy descended on them, nearly biting into Wally's side. He rolled to avoid getting eaten. Klarion leapt on top of an overturned bench and the roof of one, two, three cars to crouch above Wally's stopping point. His cat slunk off, probably to stay out of the line of attack. Thankfully, the Horigal wasn't as agile and struggled to twist in the narrow roads. "SHOW YOURSELVES, WORMS! REPENT, AND YOUR SENTENCE WILL BE MERCILESS."
Not surprisingly, Wally and Klarion ignored their offer.
"We can't keep this up. How much juice you got left?" Wally asked. He'd never admit it aloud, but a pang much like worry struck him at Klarion's hesitation. "Um, hey, my team—"
"Can mind their own business!"
"No, hear me out! This one time we were all watching an episode of The Flaming C, during season two, episode seven, I think."
"Are you seriously comparing our situation to the arc where he fought a wig monster?"
Wally paused. "You've seen it?"
"That, and only the entire series. Twice."
Realizing he was staring, Wally shook his head. "Then you know how he—?"
Klarion's eyes gleamed. "To trigger—"
"And then he—"
"That might just work."
"Ready on three?" he asked.
"One, two…" On three, Wally put on the speed. State law dictated the need for a fire hydrant on every major corner after Central City's fire of '73. He opened all of them with a wrench borrowed from Ted's Tools on Sixth Avenue. Too fast for the Horigal to follow, they never noticed as the streets flooded with water. The pressure from the released pipes was faster than the drains could keep up, and the water reached past the monster's clawed toes. Spray from the closest hydrants rained down and coated the remaining body.
Klarion reached forward, his fingers curling. Every power pole had its wires ripped clean off, coiling around the Horigal in an angry mess. As soon as they made contact, amplified sparks and white hot currents spread through its body. They collapsed with little fanfare, twitching with aftershocks.
The hydrants tapered off and the power grid must have blown as electricity stopped feeding through the power lines. Wally still waited; his suit was upgraded with improved insulation, but he hadn't had a chance to test its newfound durability. There was no use risking it now.
Char marks that were still smoking covered the fallen mass of purple and black with blisters and bleeding lines where the wires had touched. Klarion didn't comment as he stopped at the head of the monster. One of the eyes, humanoid black matching Klarion's, looked up at him. Wally couldn't believe the Horigal was alive, much less conscious after experiencing that much unchecked voltage.
"Any last words?" Klarion asked, bringing up a hand. It was glowing red, the nails crooked and longer than knives. "Preferably that spell we talked about earlier."
Spell? Wally wondered, not recalling that ever being a conversation. He let it go, subtly sliding a leg back and saying instead, "Klarion, knock it off. I think the guy's gotten the hint."
"Tell me!" Klarion demanded, ignoring Wally entirely. "How were you able to conjoin—"
Wally charged, full-body tackling the witch-boy. His momentum carried them a good distance. The blacktop left rashes and cut any uncovered skin. Klarion flipped them in time to raise both hands and form a red-tinged force field that protected them from getting smashed by the same wing that'd threatened to crush Klarion seconds prior.
"Tch." Klarion grunted as the Horigal put more pressure on the barrier. It replaced the wing with a fist. The barricade shrunk with each pounding. Wally and Klarion's personal space became nonexistent.
"This sucks. I totally blame you." Staring up at the beast, he was feeling lightheaded, all of a sudden. Out of anything left to say, Wally reiterated, "I blame you so hard."
There was no mistaking Klarion's altering face, the skin tinged blue and features contorting under the black stream covering half the side of his face. His scars had burst completely. The barrier wavered; Wally had no choice but to squeeze into Klarion's side and chest.
Klarion's face was blitzing in and out of focus and the edges grew soft. He was passing out, but Wally could still hear, "I want you to know I hate you," and as far as confessions went he wasn't disappointed.
"Yeah, buddy, I hate you, too."
The force field shimmered, then burst like a bubble at last. Rearing back, the Horigal's front feet came down and—
A red embezzled 'S' rushed overhead, plowing into the Horigal and knocking it into a row of buildings. Forcing himself past his dizziness, Wally sat up and got a rush that provided even him a headache. The blue of M'gann's cape blocked his view of Superboy turning the Horigal into a punching bag. Teekl trotted from under M'gann's costume and rubbed her head on Klarion's knee. Rubbing behind a furry ear, Klarion fondly told her, "Treacherous snake."
Artemis and Kaldur joined the fray. Her arrows made contact, and more water burst from the hydrants on the street. Robin landed beside him, and the lanyard retracted. His friend said, "We need to have that talk now, Kid Flash."
"Busted?" Wally asked.
"You have no idea," the voice of his uncle, dressed in his Flash persona, informed him as he materialized in his namesake.
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Chapter 14: But Tomorrow
Consequences, hugging it out, and...the end???
Yep, readers who have been keeping up with my glacial updates, you're not misreading that label up above! With the reveal of chapter fourteen Not Today is truly and completely finished. It's been a ridiculous two+ years editing and posting this story, with a prior three years worth of writing time. That's half a decade to bring forth one of my greatest continuation stories!
As a thank you to everyone old and new who have enjoyed this fanfic, I didn't want to push it off any longer. So Keppiehed and I worked extra hard to present the last two chapters of Not Today together. Without their beta reading prowess and all the people who commented, bookmarked, kudoed, and shared this story I'm not sure if I would have been able to keep my drive. Additional notes are at the end, but I didn't want to leave off without a last show of my eternal gratitude. Please enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Please stare into the light." Wally felt stupid looking into the bright end of a wand, but both his uncle's and Black Canary's intense scrutiny forced him to obey Zatara's request. He followed the glowing movement with his eyes until the magician made a noncommittal noise as he retracted the tool; the light at the top blinked out, then it returned to its original size of a cane.
"Well?" Barry asked as he shifted from heel-to-heel and elevated his tone.
Zatara rubbed his chin and evaded answering by posing questions to Wally instead. "Kid Flash, please recount events as they happened. Are there any gaps in your memory? Do you recall something as out of place?"
Swinging his legs to and fro, Wally reported exactly what'd happened. Again. Batman had headed his interrogation, for as long as he could fend off the Flash and a thorough medical examination. By that point, Wally would have admitted to what underwear he was wearing.
"That's when you guys arrived. I passed out after I saw the Flash, but I swear Klarion was right there! I don't know how he disappeared without anyone noticing, and I'd tell you if I did," he said in closing. Until a particular point occurred to him. "Hey, whatever happened to the Horigal, anyway?"
There was a tense silence, then Black Canary said, "Not a problem for you to deal with anymore, Kid. Don't worry about it."
"Why didn't you tell me— Tell us about all of this?" Barry asked, unable to withhold his concern any longer. "Harboring a known fugitive? Combating mystical entities without backup? This is reckless behavior, even for you."
Wally flinched at the hurt wrapped in that tirade, although the accusation did some damage, too. He scratched the base of his neck and tried to distinguish the wall from the ceiling in the far corner. "I …"
Placing a hand on his upper arm, Zatara addressed his uncle in Wally's stead. "Do not blame him. What is past, is past. You can come clean to us at last, isn't that right, Kid Flash?"
He nodded. It was strange how impossible it'd seemed for him to be able to confess all this while it was happening, considering how easy the information was forthcoming now. His apology didn't even sting. Much. "I'm sorry for not coming forward. I promise it won't happen again."
"I'm assured that it won't," Zatara said, releasing him. "With that behind us, that only leaves the matter of Chaotic residue."
"The what now?" Wally asked, at the same time his uncle mirrored his blank stare and Black Canary straightened into a fighting stance. The way he'd said 'chaotic' sounded oddly foreboding.
"I'm afraid Klarion is up to his old tricks," Zatara explained. "You've felt tired, perhaps drained, even though you are not overstraining yourself. Am I correct?"
"Yeah, I guess. But what does that have to do with anything?"
"Are you aware of his need for an anchor?" Wally's expression never changed, and the magician cleared his throat. "His familiar, the orange cat? Normally that is his sole means of access to our world, but he has formed another connection that permits him more than just passage to our dimension."
"As in, me?" he asked, his voice never raising in pitch.
"Is he in danger?" Barry asked, letting fly a bunch of other questions that were becoming distinguishable only by his protégé.
"Essentially, Kid Flash is—" He stopped there, already reconsidering how he was going to phrase his next statement to this particular audience. "If Klarion is, or was, truly so hurt, then his familiar would not be enough to support him. Think of the pact as…a black hole siphoning energy to allow him some measure of control again.
"It's rather dangerous of him to form a link of this caliber, but not outside the realm of possibility. His shrewdness is renowned. That said, the more powerful the spell, the more negative its cost. I'm not sure even he could have predicted what would ultimately form."
"What needs to be done?" Black Canary asked, her gaze steely and on target.
"Spells are omnipotent, and I may be able to dismantle his handiwork. Please, give us some room," Zatara requested. Barry looked as if he were going to do the opposite, but he kept in line with Black Canary. The sorcerer raised both hands and chanted, “Eb enog, tniat fo eht citoach redro!”
His hair and cape fluttered in an unseen wind. The overhead lights went berserk, flickering and buzzing. Cabinets rattled on their hinges and …
Then his cane wilted.
"Ah," he said, shaking it once to straighten it. "Allow me to try again." The next attempt sprouted flowers from the top, then flashes like a Fourth of July sparkler.
"Is that supposed to happen?" Wally asked, suspecting that he already knew the answer.
"I'm afraid not," Zatara said. Uncle Barry sounded as if he were seconds from having a full-blown conniption fit. The magician remained calm in his explanation. "This magic is old – much older than I anticipated. I must research my ancient texts and try to uncover its hold on you. I promise, this is not permanent. I will find a way to remove his hold on you. In the mean time, you may continue to feel tired."
"Perhaps he should be given leave?" Black Canary suggested.
"No way! Come on, I feel great – physically," he clarified. "Seriously, I haven't felt this pumped in days, maybe even weeks. All I needed was some real sleep."
Barry said, "I don't know… I think you'll be pretty grounded."
"And you owe your friends an apology," she said, crossing her arms. "Until we know how you'll be affected by these circumstances and you make it up to your teammates, being out of commission might be the wisest course of action. Your health is a very serious concern right now. Consider yourself under review."
Wally ducked his head. He could tell she wasn't just talking about hiding secrets from the others; reports on his performance on the beach must have reached her. He wanted to ask if this meant he was officially kicked off the team, but Black Canary hadn't outright said so and he was afraid to ask.
"It's getting late," his uncle said, breaking the quiet. "I should be getting him home before his parents worry. We'll pick this up in the morning."
Zatara nodded. "Perhaps that is the best. We have done all we can, and I know it will be difficult, but matters of the universe have a way of working out as they may, Kid Flash. Do not lose hope."
"So I've been told." Sliding off the medical bed, Barry led him to the Zeta Beaming station. Fortunately, no one was present to witness his walk of shame.
"You realize we're just worried about you, right?" his uncle asked, after they'd teleported outside his neighborhood.
Wally nodded tersely. "Y-yeah. But it's… Everything's messed up."
The Flash stayed on the sidewalk. When Wally realized he was alone, he stopped and turned around. His uncle said, "I won't tell your mom and dad, unless this worsens. And … maybe I can convince Bats and Canary into shortening your 'sentence', if you'll work on mending things with your team."
"Uncle Barry—" For a flash, the distance was nothing to cross and his uncle enveloped him good and tight. Wally sunk into his arms as if it were the sole thing keeping him upright. Returning the hug, Wally agreed without hesitation. "Okay. Cross my heart and hope to eat a pie."
"That'a slugger," Barry said, and pushed him to arms length. "Get some sleep. Actual REM, none of this comatose-on-your-feet nonsense. We'll face whatever's left tomorrow, after you get back from school."
"School? How can you think about sending me to school at a time like this? When I'm at my weakest and most vulnerable?"
"That's funny, I thought you had us convinced how energized you are." Trapped, Wally whined the whole way to his house. He and Uncle Barry parted ways at the fence line of his parent's backyard, and his mentor refused to leave until he closed the gate behind him.
Once alone, Wally permitted himself the chance to lean against the wooden boards and breathe. Cross-examination by Batman and the third degree by the Flash and Black Canary were stressful enough, but coupled with events from the past several days, and things might be catching up with him. He hadn't lied about his physical status, but mentally Wally was already upstairs, in bed, and out cold.
Barry was right, though. Everything—apologizing to his friends (and maybe Artemis), fixing his mistakes, undoing whatever Klarion had done to him—could wait for later. If he were going to put forth the effort of confronting them he wanted to mean it. To do that he'd need to be at his best.
Opening his eyes, he pushed off the wooden frame and headed up the deck leading to the house. His mother and father had left the exterior lights on for him. Under that old, metal sconce, centered in front of the door, was a cat.
Teekl licked her paw, cleaning the top of her head and seeming vastly more fascinated with primping than Wally's presence. Wally stared dumbly at her until Teekl flicked her tail once, then walked down the steps and to the fence. In a single leap she landed on the top of a post, pausing to incline her head in his direction. For once she blinked her big, red eyes first before disappearing on the opposite side.
Wally aborted reaching for the gate with a pointed, "Nope" and made his way up the same steps Teekl had sauntered down. Opening the door, he switched off the outside light and slammed the door. Tomorrow was another day, and Klarion could be his problem then.
That's a wrap! It was always my intention to leave this story open-ended because...originally a sequel (or two) were planned! Unfortunately, that's the only good news. Due to waning interest in the fandom and multiple, multiple computer failures over the years I lost the majority of my notes pertaining to anything after Not Today. I've decided to keep the story the way it is in case of a YJ re-watch or the off chance I can recover my work, so for now I leave you with the potential 'for more'.
Again, a thank you to the loyal and future readers of this story. It's been a pleasure and a joy, as well as a learning experience. If you enjoy my writing I've been linking to my writing blog over on Tumblr, where I will continue to post updates and corrections to other stories if you're interested!