It wasn't supposed to happen like this. He and Flash were supposed to go out and stop the Rogues, foil their robbery, and take them off to jail, where they would escape and the whole game would start again. That was the way it always worked, with only very few changes. The heroes won, the villains were defeated, and in the end, no serious harm was done.
But right now he wasn't a hero who had just defeated a villain; he was a teenager watching, terrified, while medics performed CPR on the man who he called uncle.
The fight had started normally enough. Captain Cold, Heatwave, Weather Wizard, and Trickster were pulling a heist on a museum. Some new exhibit had arrived, a collection of ancient artefacts that no one yet knew the purpose of. Naturally, this made them very desirable for those scientists interested in less than legal researches. Flash and Kid Flash heard about the heist over the police scanners and came to stop them.
As soon as they arrived, the fight began, with Flash taking on Captain Cold and Heatwave, while Kid Flash headed straight for Trickster and Weather Wizard.
It was all pretty usual up to that point, almost routine. Even the emergency services who had arrived on the scene were just standing to the side, cheering, once they had gotten the civilians to safety.
That was when it all went wrong.
One of the Weather Wizard's bolts of lightning hit a funny shaped metal statue and bounced, almost too fast even for Wally's eyes to see, straight towards Captain Cold.
The bright colours of one of Trickster's flash bombs distracted Wally, and he sped off to deal with it, confident that Cold would be fine. They'd been doing this dance for a long time, and nothing too bad had happened so far.
Only seconds later he had disabled the bomb, and grabbed hold of the Trickster. "Caught you! You're going to jail, Trickster."
The Trickster grinned slyly. "But can you–" The grin dropped from his face as his gaze caught on something behind Wally. "Cold?"
Wally scowled. He hadn't fallen for that one in years. "Give it up, Trickster. I caught you."
The Trickster started to struggle, eyes still focused on whatever was behind Wally. "No! Let go of me! Len!"
It was still probably a ploy, but now Wally was starting to get a little worried. This wasn't how things usually went. Using his speed, he turned around to take a look at the scene behind him, still holding on tightly to the struggling Trickster.
It wasn't a ploy.
Cold was lying on the ground, eyes closed, completely still. The medics were rushing forward, no longer cheering. Their faces were drawn tight with concern. Wally swallowed harshly. He recognised some of that equipment, and none of it was something he'd want used on his uncle in everything but blood.
"Len!" Axel's scream brought Wally's attention back to him. Instinctively, his arms tightened. Right now, it felt like his world was turning upside down, and without the solid feeling of Axel in his arms, there would be nothing to anchor him in place.
Axel's screaming had also attracted the attention of the other three combatants, who were now turning to see what had caused it. In a flash, Barry was at Len's side, hovering worriedly around the medics as they continued chest compressions. "Whathappened?Willhebeokay?IsthereanythingIcando?"
"Keep the kids back," Mick ordered, voice tense, and in a rush of speed Wally found himself behind the barriers, standing in the middle of a crowd of emergency services, still clutching Axel.
In those few seconds, he saw Mick had taken Barry's place at Len's side. Behind him, an officer was slowly approaching, obviously planning on taking advantage of his distraction.
Wally made to cry out, but then froze. Absurdly, he had no idea what to say. Warn Uncle Mick that the police were behind him? Should he even call him Uncle Mick when they were out in public like this? What kind of hero warned one of his villains about the police anyway? Sure, things were different in Central, but were they that different?
He shook his head, breaking free of his thoughts. Right now, heroes and villains didn't matter. This was about family, and Uncle Mick needed to be with Uncle Len right now, not locked up in a cell.
He opened his mouth to cry out, but was too late. The officer pounced on Mick, wrestling one hand into the handcuffs and reaching for the other.
Mick turned to him with a fearsome glare. "Get this off me, and I won't kill you right now."
"You're a criminal," the officer stated with foolhardy bravery. "I'm taking you in."
Mick began to struggle, and other officers leapt forward to help. Wally knew that police looked out for each other, but couldn't they see they were just making things worse?
"I'm not leaving him!" Mick roared, fighting off the police officers trying to cuff him.
"Wait!" Barry zipped over to the detective in charge, talking to him too quietly for Wally to hear. The detective considered for a moment, glancing between Flash, the furious Heatwave, and a Weather Wizard who looked seconds away from coming to his fellow Rogue's aid, then nodded for the officers to let Mick go. He immediately returned to Len's side, watching the medics anxiously.
Now that Wally had noticed Uncle Mark, he couldn't stop watching him. It was easier to watch him than watch Uncle Len and Uncle Mick, and wonder if he was going to lose a family member today. He shuddered away from that thought.
Mark was just standing there, almost exactly where he had been when Axel had screamed and distracted all of them. He'd looked alive for a few moments when Mick had been in danger of being arrested, but now he was back to pale-faced blankness. Even the police were ignoring him, all their attention diverted to Heatwave and the Flash, as well as the still immobile Captain Cold.
Wally determinedly did not think about what the statistics said about CPR performed outside of a hospital, and flashed over to Mark. Axel, who was no longer struggling against him but holding on to him like his life depended on it, came with him. Wally could understand that attitude. His own fingers were still so tightly clenched in Axel's costume that they were losing circulation, but he couldn't bear to let go.
"Uncle Mark?" he whispered, careful to keep in mind the media that were still hanging around, even if they weren't really paying him any attention. "Uncle Mark, are you okay?"
Mark blinked slowly, seeming to come back to himself. He turned to Wally. "Hey, Kid. Yeah, I'm fine." He sounded hazy, distracted, and a moment later his attention had drifted, and he was back to watching the commotion at the other side of the museum with a strange kind of intensity.
Wally turned and watched with him. Something must have changed, because now Mick was climbing into an ambulance beside a stretcher, and Barry was having a rapid but quiet conversation with the police detective from before.
Suddenly, Wally felt ill. Everything seemed too real, and it was terrifying. His costume was damp where Axel had been crying on it, and he just wanted to take it off, get away from the reminder that he was a hero and just be a kid for a while.
Mark flinched, but turned back to Wally. "Yeah, kid?"
"Can we go home?"
Mark visibly pulled himself together, lips pulling into a pained smile. "Sure, Kid. Want me to tell your uncle?"
Wally shook his head slowly. It felt like all his speed had been drained right out of him. "He'll know where to find me."
"Alright. Then let me just call up Sam, we'll have you back at your house in no time."
Wally must have made some kind of instinctive flinch, because Mark looked uncertain, smile dropping. "Unless you don't want to go home...?" His expression turned thunderous. "Is someone hurting you?"
"No, nothing like that!" Wally said hastily. "I just..." He couldn't think how to explain that home, with Aunt Iris trying and failing to understand, and articles and trophies reminding him of his role as a hero, the one who saves people, was the last place he wanted to be right now. His shoulders slumped. "I'll just go home."
"No." Axel finally involved himself in the conversation, voice raw from crying. "You're coming home with us."
For a moment it looked like Mark might protest, but then he sighed and pulled out his phone. "Sam. You need to come pick up me and the kids – Yes, I know you're sick. ... Turn on the TV. ... Yeah, exactly. ... Alright." He shut off his phone. "He'll be here in a few minutes."
They stood awkwardly for a long moment, waiting for Sam to arrive. Now that the battle was over, the crowd was dispersing, a worried, unsettled air hanging over them. This was not how things were supposed to go.
Sam stepped out of a mirrored display nearby, nose red and hair disordered, looking like he'd just woken up. Considering what Wally had heard of that phone call, maybe he had.
"Any word on Len?" he asked Mark.
Mark shook his head. "Nothing yet." In a very obvious change of subject, he continued, "We should get home before they try arresting one of us again. And Baby's coming home with us."
Despite the lack of subtlety, the distraction worked. Sam turned to Wally, frown appearing. "Something wrong with home, Kid? You know you don't have to come with us."
"Yes, he does!" Axel insisted. His arms were still wrapped around Wally, and it was starting to get painful. He didn't mind that much. Right now, he felt about ready to fall over, and Axel's arms were an excellent reminder not to do that. The floor didn't look that comfortable anyway, all fancy marble and gold detailing. With a few scorch marks now from the Rogues, which really just gave it some character in his opinion.
"Fine. Somethin's wrong, we'll deal with it tomorrow." Sam fished a tissue from his pocket, blowing his nose. "Just hold on, we're going home before I start sneezing again." Sam grabbed Wally, slinging an arm around his shoulders while Axel just clutched even tighter. Mark's hand hovered over Wally's shoulder for a second before finally landing, so gently Wally barely noticed.
The mirror dimension was disorienting as always, but even sick, Sam was in control. In seconds, they were walking into the Rogues' hideout through the full-length mirror kept in the front hall for just such an occasion. As soon as they were through, Sam started sneezing again, letting go of Wally and stumbling towards the kitchen.
"You know where your room is," Mark grunted in Wally's direction, before storming off toward his own room.
Wally did know where his room was – well, more of a study with a foldout couch that he slept on when he stayed over – but he didn't want to go there. He didn't want to be alone right now. Not yet.
Axel seemed to have the same idea. "Mario Kart?" he asked. His eyes were still red from crying, and his costume wrinkled where he had been pressed against Wally's suit.
Wally considered, then shook his head. Mario Kart was too happy. He didn't want to be happy right now. It didn't feel right, not when he still didn't know if Uncle Len was going to be alright.
"A movie?" he suggested instead. He wouldn't mind escaping into someone else's story for a while.
Axel nodded, and headed towards the living room, leaving Wally alone in the hallway. He felt cold without Axel's body heat beside him, like there was an empty space where a person should be.
Axel came back down the hallway, grabbing Wally by the wrist and pulling him towards the living room, then pushing him onto the couch. "Movie was your idea," Axel mumbled, squirming around until his head was pressed right up against Wally's side.
Despite it being his idea, he still couldn't pay attention. His mind just kept going back to the museum, seeing the lightning bounce off the statue, turning away – he couldn't shake the thought that if only he hadn't turned away, hadn't gotten distracted, maybe things would be different.
Music blared from the screen, and he startled. The credits were rolling, and he couldn't even remember what movie he'd watched. Time seemed to be going much faster than it should, when normally it was so slow.
He looked down at Axel, still curled against his side, and saw that his eyes were closed. Maybe he should feel tired too, but he didn't. He didn't really feel anything, only a kind of numbness that he just knew would turn into worry if he thought about it for a moment too long.
He looked up, attention caught by the use of his name. Sure, he knew that the Rogues knew who he was, but they generally only ever called him kid or Baby Flash, or some other nickname. He could count on one hand the number of times anyone in this house had ever actually used his real name.
"Got some soup for you." Mark was standing in the doorway to the kitchen, holding a bowl, looking uncharacteristically hesitant. "You know...none of this was your fault."
"I know," he said numbly. He did know. He hadn't made it happen. He just might have been able to stop it, if only he'd been faster, paid more attention, done anything else.
"I know you hero types like to think everything's your fault, but this wasn't on you." His gaze turned to the floor, scowling. "You weren't the one who electrocuted the boss."
"But I could have stopped it."
Mark's gaze returned to him. "That's what you've been brooding about? Kid, superspeed doesn't mean you can see the future." He came into the room, resting against the arm of the couch next to Wally. He pushed the bowl of soup into Wally's hands. "Eat that. Speedsters need food. And stop thinking about what you could have done."
Wally took the bowl, feeling the heat of it against his hands. It smelled like chicken. "Will you?"
Mark's mouth quirked in a wry grin that was more of a grimace, but he didn't answer. "Just eat your soup, Wally." He stood up and left, leaving Wally alone with the bowl of soup in his hands and Axel still asleep against his side.
Wally ate the soup. It wasn't anything like as good as Aunt Iris's, but it wasn't too bad for all that. Besides, Mark had a point. Whether he felt like it or not, speedsters had to eat.
He put the empty bowl down on the floor, wincing at the noise of the spoon clanging against the bowl. It wasn't even that loud. It just felt like in this moment, in the Rogues hideout with no Rogues in sight but for Axel still asleep beside him, too much sound would just be wrong.
As soon as the bowl was on the ground, he resettled himself, moving Axel's head out of his lap, where it had shifted as he moved, and back up to his shoulder. Axel's body heat, and the slight tickle of Axel's hair against his cheek, enough to remind him that this was real, calmed him down, and he felt his eyelids begin to slide closed.
It seemed like only minutes later he was being woken up by someone shaking his shoulder. "C'mon, kid," Sam muttered, voice loud in the quiet of the now-full night. "Wake up a bit, I'm not carrying you." His voice still sounded stuffed and nasal, but he was no longer sneezing every other breath.
"Where's Uncle Mark?" Wally mumbled, rubbing at his eyes. His side felt strangely cold for some reason.
"He's getting Axel to bed," Sam told him. "Get up now." He heaved Wally to his feet.
Wally let himself be lifted, leaning against Sam once he was fully upright. His brow furrowed. There was a reason he was here, and not at home, if only he could remember it.
Then it came to him. "Uncle Len!"
Sam grabbed him, then immediately let go, shaking his hands and wincing. "Kid, calm down! Len's gonna be fine!"
Wally could feel his heart slowing back down. "He is?"
"Yes, he is. Mick called when you were asleep. They don't know exactly what happened, but Len's alright now. Now stop with the blasted vibrating!"
He blinked, then concentrated for a moment, forcing his atoms back to their regular speed. He hadn't even realised he'd been moving.
Sam watched him cautiously for a moment, then lay a hand in his shoulder. "Get upstairs to bed," he said, not unkindly. "You know which one's yours."
Wally nodded, covering a yawn with one hand. Now that the spike of adrenaline from remembering what had happened was past, tiredness was falling back down on him. "Night, Uncle Sam."
Sam sneezed, then raised one hand to wave at Wally. "Night, Kid. Sleep well."
Wally stumbled up the stairs, collapsing onto the sofa-bed. Whoever had made it up earlier in the day, he was grateful, because he was definitely too tired to be doing it now. He let his eyes close, falling back into the welcome embrace of sleep.
Wally woke up for the second time to footsteps outside the door. He blinked, taking a fraction of a second to stretch before speeding over to the door. Somehow, in the brightness of the new day, knowing that Uncle Len had survived and would be alright, everything seemed okay. His speed didn't feel like a burden anymore, but like the gift it had always been to him before. Maybe it wasn't quite perfect – those feelings from yesterday hadn't faded so easily – but it felt better. Brighter.
He stepped out in front through the doorway, surprising Mark. "Morning," he said softly. He tried a smile, but it didn't quite feel right yet.
"Morning, kid," Mark said, equally softly. "Going to get some food. You wanna come?"
Wally only took a millisecond to consider. The soup last night had been nice, but speedsters needed lots of food, and the only other food he had were the power bars in his suit. He definitely wouldn't be eating those if there was another option. "I'll come. How else will you know what kind of cereal to get?"
Mark shook his head disbelievingly. “With the rate you eat, we could just get every kind.”
Wally turned and looked seriously at him. “Uncle Mark, there is never an excuse for getting Sultana Bran. Never.”
“So you wouldn’t eat it?”
“Never!” Wally declared. “Well, unless there was nothing else. And I was really hungry, too hungry to get something better. But other than that, never!”
The whole time they’d been bickering, they had been walking through the safe house. Just as they were about to walk into the living room, Mark put a hand on Wally’s shoulder. "Hold up, kid. Don't wake Mick and Len," he whispered. "They got back late last night."
Wally stopped in his tracks. Uncle Mick and Uncle Len were home?
He peered into the living room, and there they were, on the couch, asleep. Mick had one arm over Len's shoulders, and Len was curled into Mick's side. They both looked tired, a bit paler than usual, but peaceful.
Wally blinked back tears. After yesterday, he'd thought he might never have this again, and now they were here, right in front of him. Even though he'd already been told that Uncle Len was fine, he hadn't truly believed it until right now.
"Come over here or go back to bed," Mick said lowly, voice rough with sleep. His eyes cracked open just enough to glare at Wally. "It's too early for feelings."
Still asleep, Len reacted to Mick's voice by frowning slightly, curling further towards Mick.
"We're still here, Len," Mick quietly reassured him. "Nothing's happened." He used the arm tucked around Len to draw him closer, gesturing Wally towards in with the other.
Wally came, and at Mick's gestured order, sat on Mick's other side, curling his legs up onto the couch. "I didn't know if you would come home," he whispered once he was safely settled, sitting too close to Mick to be able to see his face.
He felt the gruff grunt that Mick gave rumble through him. "Told you, kid. Too early for feelings." Still, Mick wrapped his arm around him, leaving it there as a warm weight. Wally settled in further, feeling warm and comfortable, almost like being a kid again, if child-him could even have imagined something this good. Grocery shopping could wait. Right now, all he wanted was to stay here, safe with his family.