Everyone’s fine now.
The West-Allen family stumbled into their home and ate, enough for two healing speedsters, one regular speedster, two babies and a worried reporter/mother/wife.
Or, mostly enough for all that.
Bart couldn’t eat much, for him anyway, guilt churning in his stomach and making everything hard to swallow. He knew he needed to eat more, that he’d wake up in the morning just on the wrong side of skinny with how his metabolism worked, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Instead, he helped Grandma Iris feed his dad, the baby version of the man he knew sitting in his lap, cooing happily and giggling around spoonfuls of mashed carrots.
Still, he saw everytime Wally flinched from having twisted just the wrong way, saw Grandpa Barry pause to rub his temple every few minutes, and he held his dad closer in his arms. He managed to eat just enough to avoid suspicion, though he wasn’t sure if he’d keep it down with the way his gut was tying itself in knots. He slipped away with Grandma, helping get the twins ready for bed. His dad was being fussy, possibly sensing his own distress, and he offered to stay behind to settle him. Grandma pressed a kiss to his forehead in thanks, squeezing his shoulder in lieu of a hug with the baby in his arms, and left the room.
Finally alone (his dad and his aunty wouldn’t remember this) Bart felt tears fill his eyes, the stress of the day washing over him.
“I wish you were older, dad.” He whispered, hugging the baby close and pacing the room. “I’m trying so hard here, but I don’t know if I’m doing anything right. You understood the mission better than anyone else. But all this is really making me feel the mode right now.” His voice cracked despite the low volume, and his dads tiny hand started patting his cheek, as if trying to make him feel better even through the reaches of time travel.
He let out a teary laugh, pressing a kiss to his dads head before rocking him slowly, gently pushing him off to sleep and placing him in his crib. He cleaned up his face and drank some water out of the bathroom tap to hide the fact that he’d started crying, before joining the rest of the family in the living room. They were spread out on the couch, Grandpa Barry in the middle, Wally and Grandma Iris leaning against either side of him. The sight sent another sharp pang through his chest, that he once again ignored, and sat separately from everyone else on the love seat.
He didn’t deserve to join the cuddle pile anyway.
There was some show playing, Bart couldn’t even pay attention to it, switching between wallowing in his own guilty thoughts and staring at his family as he tried to convince himself that they were okay now. That his mistake hadn’t… that they hadn’t…
“Well, today's been totally mode, you feel? I know I do! I’m gonna hit that hay and see you fellas in the morning. You need anything before I go? Water? More food? Ice packs? Speedster pain killers? What abo-“
“We’re okay, Bart.” Wally answered, cutting him off with a soft smile, eyes sparkling with fondness. Bart didn’t deserve that smile. “What about you?”
“Me?!” He half yelped, only just remembering the babies they’d just gotten to sleep. “You guys are the ones who got hurt today, nothing even happened to me, I just wanna make sure you guys are okay.”
Wally let out a soft sigh through his nose, holding out an arm for a hug. Conflicted, Bart stared for a second too long before caving in, deciding that even if he didn’t deserve it, Wally was hurt so Wally got whatever he wanted.
“It’s okay to not be so crash all the time, you know that right?” He murmured, making Bart suck in a deep breath.
“But I am totally crash. Well, not, like, totally crash but I’m not super moded you know? I’m fine, Wally, I’m fine.”
Grandpa Barry pulled him forward and kissed his forehead.
“Okay. Head on up to bed if you want. Love you.” Grandpa smiled, Bart’s breath catching in his throat for half a second.
“I love you too.” He whispered, before running out of the room, for once not using his abilities. Alone in his bedroom, the tears came again, the young teen sobbing quietly into his pillow as he clutched it to his chest.
It was all his fault. He didn’t pay attention, he didn’t listen, he couldn’t keep his fucking mouth shut, and his family got hurt because of it. Wally got blasted, a gaping hole in his side, and Barry got shot with some newly developed poison. Both of them slipping in and out of consciousness laying on cots in the watchtower, the situation considered dire enough that they let Iris up, prepared her to… to say…
His stomach churned again, but years of forcing himself to keep what little food in had in despite what the Powers In Charge put him through kept him from throwing up. But it was a close thing. He sobbed harder still, guilt and stress and pain and the berating stupid - worthless - mistake of his mind swirling through him, but still he stayed silent. Making noise was a death sentence where he had grown up, and old habits died hard, especially when he was feeling even more terrible than he ever had back there.
Eventually, long after he heard Wally, then Barry and Iris head to bed, his sobs left him passed out on top of his covers, still dressed and clutching his pillow.
Cold. It was cold. They were back in the Arctic, running and running to save the world. They were all there, Grandpa Barry and Grandma Iris, Wally, Dad and Aunty Dawn, even Mum. All of them running for their lives, trying to save the world.
Wally started fading, no matter how hard Bart tried to reach for him, no matter how fast he ran to try and get him out of the way, he couldn’t. Wally faded away, vanished into the speedforce, dead. He cried out, horrified that he’d failed his cousin again. This wasn’t how it was meant to be. He was supposed to protect his family.
To his horror, everyone else around him started fading too. All of them disappearing into the speedforce and dying, no matter what Bart did to try and stop it. He screamed helplessly, continuing to scream as the scene around him changed, trapped in a room with one of the most vicious bounty hunters of his time. They laughed mercilessly, toying with a knife before pressing it against his skin.
“You failed your only mission. You failed to protect your family. Now you will suffer.”
The knife pressed into his skin and -
Bart woke up.
He gasped quietly, trying not to let his captor know he was awake, frowning at the softness he was lying on. He looked around, now even more confused. What kind of trick was this? Why would they make this prison look like a bedroom? What was going on? Even more confusing was that he wasn’t restrained. There was a creak, and Bart panicked, vibrating so hard he fell through the bed and floor into the room downstairs.
It was some kind of office, vaguely familiar but he couldn’t focus on it. He just wanted to get out, but all he could see was walls and walls of books. There was a door, but it would be locked, of course. They wouldn’t let him out. They wanted to punish him for thinking he could save the world. For thinking he could save his family. Panicking even more now, he started banging on the walls, pulling the books off their shelves, not caring that he’d probably be punished more for this behaviour. The door opened, and Bart took his chance, speeding out the door, out of this place, out into the world to escape.
He just had to keep running. If he got far enough away then they wouldn’t be able to catch him again. He could do it. But someone grabbed his arm, and Bart screamed. The person stopped them, gathering Bart into their arms and rocking him. He struggled for a few minutes, until he recognised the voice murmuring to him.
“It’s okay, it’s okay, sweetie, I’m right here, you don’t have to be scared, I’ve got you, I’ve got you, hon.”
“Grandpa?” He whimpered softly, risking a look up.
“Yeah baby, it’s me, I got you.” Barry answered, running a hand through his hair.
Bart broke, sobbing into his grandfather's chest in the middle of god knows where, the sounds loud and heaving for the first time in his life. Barry ran them back home, and soon a soft blanket was getting wrapped around him. Wally, Iris, his dad and aunty there in the living room with him, all of them squeezing onto the couch together. He felt stupid, he wasn’t even the one who got hurt today, he was the one that had fucked up, gotten his cousin shot and his grandpa poisoned and why were they still being so good to him when he kept failing-
Wally shushed him gently, running a soft hand up and down his arm.
“Because you’re family, baby Bart. Doesn’t matter if you mess up now and again, we stick by you. Always.” He promised gently, and Bart hadn’t even realised he’d been speaking aloud. Wally’s arm left, and a sense of dread filled him until he handed him a baby, Don, his dad, settling him into his arms. Gasping softly as he tried to stop himself from sobbing, he pulled the baby closer, loving the comforting weight and warmth of the little kid.
Bart settled down, his sobs gone even if tears still fell on occasion. It helped, having his whole family around him. He’d never had this before, never all at once, never with all the attention on him. His head fell against his grandpas chest, his eyes soft even if he didn’t smile as his dad held his fingers in his tiny hands and waved them up and down in play.
“I’m sorry.” He whispered, looking up as he was cuddled even tighter.
“You don’t need to apologise, sweetie. Just tell us what’s going on in that big beautiful brain of yours so we can help you. That’s what we’re here for.” Barry answered, his hand carding through his hair, the movement soft and so, so comforting. Bart gasped around another half sob, before his stubborn streak broke and everything came pouring out of his mouth.
“I- I got you guys hurt today, hurt bad. They thought you were gonna die! And I d- I didn’t listen! I could’ve stopped this but I was too busy trying to tease the people we were fighting to actually help you. If- if I had just done what you had told me to you wouldn’t have been hurt! Th- tha- that’s the only reason I’m here! I’m meant to protect you! To keep my family safe! B- b- but I’m the one who got you hurt, l- like I had any chance of- of actually being any help when I’m just some dumb rebel slave kid-“ Bart cut himself off abruptly, hiccuping as he held back sobs. Wally, Barry and Iris had stiffened around him at his last few words, sharing glances while Bart took his hands back from his dad and buried his face in his hands, shaking with fear and guilt.
Don started to cry on his lap, upset that the person who was playing with him had stopped, feeding off Bart’s own distressed energy. Wally offered the baby one of his own hands, making small noises to try and settle him before Dawn started up as well.
“Slave?” Barry asked quietly, holding his grandson closer. Bart shook his head, not wanting to talk about it, not wanting to go to that place.
“Bart, please. We love you, baby. You can talk to us, we want to help you, we’re your family.” Iris spoke up, reaching around Barry to cup his cheek gently, her thumb making small strokes over the hand still held up to his face.
He lowered them slowly, wide teary eyes staring up at his family. His family. Something he’d been wanting for his whole life, denied to him by time and death but they were here now, just for him. For him.
“Okay.” He whispered, his hands shaking. “Y- you know I came back to- to save your life, Grandpa, but I- I never-... The future is bad, which is why I came back. Like, lots of people have lived without their grandfather but you- you- you dying had such adverse effects on the world. A- and I- and I guess the version of me who’s gonna exist in this timeline is gonna have a- have a great life but- but my timeline has to co-exist w- wi- with this one, ot- otherwise I have… I have no reason to… to come back.” Tears were running down his face freely, pooling in his shirt but he didn’t care about that.
“The majority of humanity was enslaved, the heroes were- they were gone. The Powers In Charge were terrible- horrible- just… just the worst. There was a small rebel faction, and I- of course I- I joined. My grandfather was the Flash, my dad was a Tornado Twin, my cousin was Kid Flash. I had- had- had- I had to join the rebels, it was what- what was right, and I had- I had this advantage. But we- we were always getting tracked down by the- these… bounty hunters. People that the Powers In Charge gave weapons to, told them to fi- find rebels, pun- punish- punish them fo- for dis- diso- dis-“ Bart broke into sobs again, unable to keep going at this point. Shaking, he felt Wally slip an arm around his waist and squeeze, Iris rubbing and squeezing his legs where they were laying across her lap, Barry tucking his head into his chest and stroking his hair.
All the times he’d broken down into tears as a child, wasting away in a labour camp and wishing for a better life, he didn’t know comfort could be like this. That it could be so… comforting. After what felt like hours, but was probably only a few minutes, his sobbing died down, and he just lay exhausted in the arms of his family.
“They tortured us for disobeying, for rebelling.” He continued suddenly, exhausted enough to just want it all out of the way.
“I was caught more than once. Way more. I lost track of how many times. When I wasn’t rebelling or being tortured, I was working, desperate to earn rations. Though working wasn’t much different than torture. They- they didn’t like me because the signs of my punishment always healed over, so they were extra hard on me. I… I had actually given up on the cause. I w- I was so tired of being punished. But when they pinpointed the cause… the beginning of everything going mode… they explained it to me and I- I had to. They put me out to the ruins of Mount Justice, sending me parts over months and months. I eventually got the machine working, but it would only work once. Just enough juice to get me where I needed to go, but I’d never be able to go back. Now, though, I don’t think I’d really want to. Except… maybe to see my dad as my dad again. But I- then I wouldn’t be able to come back here and- and- and-“ More tears filled Bart’s eyes, though he wasn’t sure how he had anymore left. “I don’t wanna go! I want to stay here with you guys! Please, please don’t make me go back, I can’t- I can’t- please.” His lips trembled, but the cries didn’t turn into sobs, too exhausted to be able to.
“No ones sending you back, Bart, you’re staying right here with us, where you belong.” Barry promised, rubbing an arm up and down the boys back. It didn’t take as long for him to settle this time, wiping his face with his hands.
“I’m really proud of you.” Wally said, making Bart look up in surprise. Wally smiled softly and nodded. “You went through so much, had so much going against you, but you still came out on top. Still came through when you were called. Most people wouldn’t. You’re so brave, I can’t imagine being in your position, and being able to tell us what you’ve gone through takes a lot of guts too. I’ve been through some stuff of my own, and telling people has always been terribly fucking hard. Like you’re reliving everything all over again. You’ve pulled through everything life has thrown at you and survived, and I’m so, so proud of you, Bart. I know Aunt I and Uncle B are too. I love you so much, kid, and I hope you know we’re not just cousins, we’re brothers.”
Bart sniffled, then flung his arms around Wally, clinging onto him as tight as he could.
“Please don’t die in the speedforce again.” He whimpered, closing his eyes as the redhead started making gentle shushing noises.
“You have a nightmare?” Wally asked, not surprised that getting hurt again would’ve triggered something like this in the boy. Bart nodded against his shoulder, his words technically in the realm of ‘speedster talk’ but still slow for him.
“Everyone was there running in the arctic and you died again and then everyone else did too and then one of the bounty hunters got me and when I woke up I thought I was back there I thought I was being punished again and I didn’t know what to do.”
Wally gestured to Barry to grab the baby from Bart’s lap, then pulled the boy in closer, hugging him tightly.
“I’m right here, I’m right here, kiddo. I’m not gonna go anywhere. I promise.” He murmured. He kept murmuring comforts into the boy’s ear until he felt him relax in his arms, his breathing evening out as he fell asleep. Not having to worry about upsetting Bart anymore, Wally let the tears well up in his eyes and spill over, his heart aching for his little brother. He felt a soft hand wipe them away, and gave Aunt I a shaky smile. She led them both up to her and Uncle B’s room, while Barry took the twins back to bed, the three of them squishing together with Bart in the middle.
Uncle Barry slid in once the twins were asleep, laying beside Wally, his arm reaching out over the two boys to hold Iris’ hand. Tomorrow they’d wake up and have Bart’s favourite breakfast, Wally would take him to the batcave to see Tim, and invite Jaime over too, staying close by for Bart to lean on if he needed it. Tomorrow they’d start trying to help Bart in a way he’d never let them before.
But tonight, they held onto one another.