Silence and slow time
by Te
July 31, 2003

Disclaimers: Not mine. I just *heart* them.

Spoilers: Vague ones through season one.

Summary: For Flash, life is changing.

Ratings Note: PG-13.

Author's Note: The Spike asked for plotty Flashfic.
Livia asked for Flashfic, then gave me a bunny. Title
from Keats.

12/4/2003 note: This was written before Hearts and
Minds aired. I've decided *not* to alter it to reflect
new canon. No, I'm not sure why.

Acknowledgments: To Livia, Branwyn, and House
Draven for audiencing, especially B, who had to put up
with me losing my *freaking* mind.

Feedback: Always.


Wally didn't notice it at first.

And yeah, there were all kinds of jokes that could be made
about that -- most of which he'd already heard -- but...

He couldn't remember a time when he wasn't hungry,
beyond the vague image of pushing a plate away from
himself when he was a kid, and even then there had
probably just been vegetables involved.

He'd been a teenager, and everyone said they were
always hungry, and then there'd been the accident and,
God, the *power*.

He wasn't GL, and certainly wasn't Batman -- it wasn't
like he'd been in the tights-and-mask set for all that
long, but the people of Center City knew who he was.
Right now, there were kids playing and getting into
trouble for whom the Flash was a constant. Something
that had always been there.

He'd paid his dues.

So, when things started seeming slower, slower than
usual even, it hadn't really registered.

After all, he spent time with Martian Manhunter in that
big space tower thingy. *Lots* of time.

Everything seemed slow after that, right? Right.

So he ran up the League's food budget a little more,
and trained a little faster, a little harder.

Started training with Superman, and yeah, that was
just stupid, because the man was *fast*, and when he
*did* catch Flash, the pain was most sincerely painful.
Though still way better than the inevitable apologies.

"God, sorry, Flash -- Was that crack your jaw?"

"I'll let you know when I can talk again."

"You're talking now."

"Yeah, but it hurts."

But after a while Superman stopped catching him, and
that should've been his first clue, but it was way too
easy to imagine that the man was just *letting* him
stay out of his grasp, because, well, it was *Superman*.

The guy apologized to supervillains. Like, regularly.

No, it really didn't register until he stopped sleeping. And
even then, it didn't really *hit* him until they had gotten
back from a mission and everyone with a handy dandy
secret identity was either heading back to Earth or
crashing where they stopped.

And Flash... didn't.

"You coming?" GL had his ring ready to take them down
safely, and was obviously up to it, but... he yawned.

And Wally realized that even though he was sore, even
though he'd gotten thrown *through* several walls, he
wasn't tired.

Wasn't looking forward to his bed or even his apartment,
beyond the undying hope that the chick across the street
wouldn't pull her blinds down tonight.

And it occurred to him that he hadn't *been* tired in...
really kind of while.

"Flash? You look like someone smacked you in the head
with a two-by four."

Which was GL-ese for "are you okay and do I need to
hit something," and Wally could only nod.

He'd heard about this, after all. Sometimes you were too
tired to even know you were tired.

And really, if he *really* hadn't slept in over three days,
then he was probably just that tired. Hallucinating,

He'd stumbled into the range of the ring and let GL take
him and Batman down, and man, Batman *really* had
to be tired if he wasn't taking one of his uber-spacejet
thingies and he'd waved bye from one of the Central City
towers and... thought.

And then, okay, he'd given up on thinking pretty quickly,
because even after a shower and the judicious application
of liniment, he still wasn't tired. Smelly, but not tired.

And the utter crapfulness of late-night television had
almost been enough to make him start thinking again, but
then he'd heard sirens, and he got to save three surly old
women and one really cute four year old from a burning
building, so that was okay.

And after that, the firemen had bought him a meal, and
coffee, and you weren't supposed to be tired after that,

And then there was drinking, and dancing -- in uniform,
which got him just as many funny looks and phone
numbers as he'd hoped -- and then it was morning.
Which was sunny and bright and beautiful and
everything a Central City morning should be, and you
definitely weren't supposed to be tired for that.

The next week was pretty normal. He heard sirens,
or screams, or that awful crumpling sound that meant
something solid was becoming distinctly un-solid, and
he ran to the rescue.

People took his picture sometimes, and if it was all a
little... mind-numbingly *slow*, then hey, it was also
the people. *His* people.

There was TV, and some restaurants really *meant*
it when they said "all you can eat," and sometimes he
even got stuff for free.

Though it made him feel a little guilty when it was
just a little place in the middle of nowhere that you
could tell was a family restaurant with family-sized
bills, but some of those people looked at him like
his Mom used to when he was a kid and she'd spent
all day cooking something wonderful and Wally just
ate and ate.

And really, people who were *that* happy about
Wally eating were people he needed to have in
his life.

It *was* weird not to sleep, but the city was kind
of cool at night, all quiet and shadowy like he
thought maybe Batman saw the world all the time.

And so much *energy*... it was like being some
kind of god, and that thought was *just* scary
enough to make Wally spend quality time repressing
it to *death*. He hoped. Because that way lied
weird take-over-the-world-plans and funny hats and
weird accents and general villainy.

Wally was *not* a villain.

Though sometimes he got a little bored and started
doing the rescue thing in the suburbs, and the
farmland, and up the coast, and finally, *finally*, his
communicator went off.

He found a likely tower and waved to GL when he
came to pick Wally up.

"So what's the deal? Evil aliens? Evil robots? Evil
people doing evil things?"

GL grunted. "Civil War on a planet on the edge of the

"Ouch. So we're peacekeepers? And hey, isn't this
usually yours or Superman's gig?"

"It's an Earth-class planet." And there was just the
hint of a smile -- a facial tic if you didn't know GL. "And
something told me you were bored."

"You got my calls?"

"All thirty-seven of them. You need a hobby."

Wally leaned back against the faintly curved edge of the
green sphere and grinned. "Yeah, I'll take up knitting.
You look like a man in need of a toque."

"What did I tell you about you and sharp objects?"

"I'm a *great* juggler!"

"You nearly stabbed Diana."

Wally waved it off. "Yeah, yeah. She could take it."

Another twitch of a smile and GL picked up speed.
"We're meeting the rest of the League in the Tower.
Pretend you're a professional."

Wally breathed on his gloved hands and dusted them
off on his suit. "Best at what I do."


And there they all were, sitting around the table. Or
standing, like Hawkgirl, who already had her mace
powered up and was slapping it rhythmically against
her palm -- and didn't that hurt? Or Batman up in
Superman's face like the guy couldn't crush him like
a bug, arguing about interfering in other people's
politics and blah blah too much power blah.

Diana looked concerned, J'onn looked... really J'onnish,
in that I'm-so-zen-it-hurts way. GL slapped the table so
hard it made everyone jump. Or, well, it would've made
Wally jump if he hadn't been able to see the move
coming in the twitch and flex of the man's shoulders.

"They need us," was all he said, and that was his Green
Lantern face, all stone-cold and hard like there was
nothing to him but the uniform and power.

"Thanks, GL. That's really the point here. The Finarans
called and *asked* for our help. They're worried about
their world, their whole society --"

"They're worried about the *rebels*." Batman wasn't
looking at anyone but Superman.

Superman just looked pained. "We're not going in there
to do anything but try to put a stop to the fighting."

"And if they don't *want* to stop fighting?"

Superman grinned. "I don't know, Batman. You're pretty

Batman narrowed his eyes. "This is a bad idea."

"Noted. Let's go."

Wally watched them head for Javelin One, and he
*did* think about saying something, but it really
didn't seem like the time to be all, "by the way, do
you think it's weird that I'm not sleeping anymore?
Like, at all? And is there any more food up here?"

J'onn gave him one of those deep-eyed looks over
his shoulder that Wally never knew what to do with.
He waved. People to perform, missions to save.

And really, it started out fine. Cool, even, with GL
pointing out solar systems he'd saved. Diana pushed
her face right up to the viewscreen, like she was
maybe six instead of however many thousands of
years old.

Wally wondered if he'd bagged any hot alien babes.
GL had been out here for *years*. Mostly, he just
tried to keep his mouth shut, because Batman was
*there*, yeah, but Batman was doing that thing
where he was like "I'm glaring at you with my
whole body" and Superman was doing that thing
where *he* was like "I know I'm right but I'm
way too nice to say so," and it was a lot like being
in the back of the station wagon when your parents
have been bickering for three states and you had to

Only he didn't have to pee, and it wasn't a station
wagon, and, okay, Flash Has Two Daddies? Not so

He snickered to himself and GL gave him a suspicious

He waved.

Maybe he was getting delirious. Wasn't that what
happened when you weren't sleeping and -- no. He
really wasn't going to think about that.

He *felt* fine. Energized, even, if a little hungry, and
he was going to do his job and everyone would stop
glaring. Yeah.

And when did the Javelin get so slow?

He thought he should get one of those space suits,
maybe he could just *run* there and... okay, there
were probably a lot of laws of physics that would break,
but he hung out with people who could *fly*.

And being as how none of them crunched when they
hit the ground, they probably didn't have hollow bones.

Hollow bones. *Christ*, he was bored. Maybe he could
get some kind of scooter... thing.

But no, that would be just as slow (if not slower). What
he really needed was a way to create friction in a
friction-less environment. Something he could *run* on,
like those treadmills on the Jetsons.

Or something. Man, he wished he'd paid more attention
in physics class. Maybe GL would know something. Maybe
he could magic something up with that ring. Maybe...
maybe he really needed to pay attention, because there
were *things* rushing at the viewscreen in the way that
stars and normal space stuff really just didn't.


"I've got it." And suddenly there wasn't much room to be
bored, because Batman was making the Javelin move like
a basketball player on crack.

He looked around just in time to see GL and Diana
bouncing off the walls -- heh, no seatbelts -- and then
Batman made a sound. Not really a very
important-sounding sound, but he had just enough time
to remember that Batman didn't make very many sounds
at all beyond snarking at all of them before there was a
flash of light and a *very* important noise, and they were
all --

In one of GL's sphere things, which was much less cool
and much more disturbing when none of the stars looked
familiar, and also when there were still *things*. Shooting
at them.

"Head for the surface!"

And then they all got slammed to the back of the sphere --
which bent pretty damned alarmingly -- as GL *booked*
down to the planet.

And Wally thought: I could do this faster. Shook it off
and watched Superman pry at the energy sphere.

"You don't have a suit!" Wally grabbed his shoulder.

"I'll hold my breath." And then he was out and they all
got sucked toward the hole before --


-- GL sealed it up again and paused mid-flight before
setting the sphere loose and flying after Superman.

"We are *so* gonna die."

"Shut up, Flash." But Hawkgirl was watching them go,
and then there were two very *large* explosions that
weren't nearly as terrifying as feeling the sphere shudder
and *shimmer* around them.

"Green Lantern has been hit."

"THANK you, J'onn, we *noticed* --"

But the sphere solidified again and just at the edges of
his vision he could see a tiny green speck connected by
some weird kind of energy cord to what was probably
an alien ship...

And then the ship went *flying*, leaving the green speck
on its own. A jerk and Wally looked over his shoulder to
find Superman pushing them down toward the planet
that Wally very much didn't want to visit.

GL met them just beyond what was probably the
atmosphere and put a larger sphere around all of them,
dragging them down the rest of the way. There wasn't a
mark on the suit, but he looked sincerely pissed off.

"I told you this was a bad idea."

Hawkgirl snarled. "I will *hit* you, Batman."

But then someone shot a surface to air *something* at
GL and he went flying, and they all hit the ground *hard*,
and Wally was really starting to hate these people.

Of course, it probably didn't help that they seemed to
have landed in the middle of a battlefield, big bear-like
things in neat uniforms on one side, big bear-like things
in rags on the other. Finarans, right.

He got his hands up in what he dearly hoped was the
universal gesture of surrender, but Hawkgirl was already
swinging that mace of hers, sending Finarans flying
right and left. Batman was grappling with something,
Diana was making some really inspiring war cries,
Superman was burning things with his friggin' *eyes*,
and J'onn had that look on his face like he was trying
to have deep, soul to soul communication with God
only knew what and didn't they have a plan?

Wasn't that what they did?

And then someone shot off one of his lightning bolts.

He really, *really* hated it when people shot at his head,
and it didn't take a minute to snatch their weapons and
get a way-too-groggy GL out of the line of fire.

And kick a few people.


Finally, it was quiet, and yeah, it was a little weird to
see everyone just kind of *stopped* in mid-punch, kick,
fold, spindle, and mutilate, but...

No, okay, it was a lot weird.

Wally looked down at himself and realized he was...
vibrating. Like... really a lot. More than usual, even, and
that included those times when Starbucks was just too
tempting to ignore.

And things got really weird.

A... door opened next to him, only there wasn't even a
*building* next to him, just a big stack of those laser
rifles that apparently got sold by the bushel and he
*knew* he wasn't thinking clearly, but... dude.


He looked over the battlefield, but everything seemed
basically okay. Well... he zipped over and detached one
of the bear people from around J'onn's neck. Stood him

Moved his hands until they were in a better fighting

Got seriously, *seriously* weirded out.


The door talked to him. On the battlefield, nothing
moved. "Uh...?"

"Wally, come to us..."

"Hey, I've seen more horror movies than I can count.
The first rule is: *ignore* the creepy voice. Or run away.
I'll have you know I'm capable of doing both."

The voice chuckled. "The source of your power, Wally..."

"Freak accident. Lightning, chemicals -- it was in all the

"We are the source, Wally... the true source..."

"Um. Okay. You seem to have a really inflated idea of
yourself, whatever you are, and that's fine, really, but
why don't we talk *after* you've made everything go
back to normal." There. That was reasonable, right?
Superman would be proud.

Another chuckle. "The only thing that's changed is

"Hunh? But you... *froze* everyone. Everything." But
the door just kept laughing, and the people just kept
being frozen, and Wally just kept... moving.

He was 'standing' in one of many brand new craters, all
marked with his boots. Like he was running in place. Like
he was...

"Oh my God."

"Come to us, Wally. Be in us..."


But he didn't finish the sentence, and didn't know what he
was going to say, anyway. He wanted... he wanted sleep,
and food, and to not be walking through the door like it
was something other than intensely creepy, he wanted...

And then there was light, and a lot of it. Heat. Like
walking into the sun, or maybe like walking into the sun
if you were Superman, and could *do* that sort of thing.
And then his vision cleared and he stumbled into...

It wasn't any one thing. He'd seen grass that green before,
smelled air that sweet. He'd seen skies that color on one
world or another, and there were beautiful people all over
the universe.

It was just... the whole of it. Everything.

Or maybe it was the feeling, deep in his bones, that
everything was just fine and if it wasn't, it would be fine,
because he was... where?

"Is this... am I dead? Is this heaven?"

"You have passed through the Speed Force, and into
beyond. Here are all the people we have touched. You
have joined us. You are *in* us. Welcome..."

And, okay, that was friendly and all, but still...

He jogged up to one of the people passing by, a vaguely
blue-ish woman who didn't seem to be doing anything in
particular and... felt it.

It felt like he was running full out, something that he
*never* felt unless he was, well, running full out. But
this wasn't even a *fraction* of his top speed. He shook
it off and stopped in front of the woman, who immediately
smiled at him like he was the greatest thing since no-rip
nylons or something.

She was cute, if you could get past the fact that she didn't
seem to have a nose.

"Uh... could you... do you speak English?"

"We are all one here, Wally."

"Uh... okay, but how did you --" Know my name, he didn't
say, because he knew her name. Tish'a'lalu, complete with
all the accents and he thought... he thought he could
maybe pronounce it, even. "I mean..."

She laughed, a giggle that trilled all the way up into a
scale that he didn't have a name for.

He thought it should probably hurt his ears, but it just
felt... right. He *was* funny. Life was funny. Life was...

"You are new here, Wally, but you'll understand soon..."

And then she waved at him and walked away. And then it

She *walked*. One foot in the front of the another, in no
obvious hurry, but it didn't seem slow. *Nothing* seemed
slow. Kites moved across the sky like the wind was pushing
them just enough, people walked and talked and their
mouths moved... normally.

"What... did I lose my powers?"

The sky answered him, or maybe just the entire universe.
"All here are touched by the Speed Force, as you were,

"Everyone... everyone has superspeed?"

"You are Beyond, and we exist beyond speed, beyond time

And that was. He had to sit down. So he did. And the grass
was so soft that he decided to *lie* down, and he thought...
he could almost feel the curve of the world. He thought if
he looked up at the sky he could *learn* something. See it.
Understand. (Be one)

And maybe this wasn't heaven, per se, but... it was really
nice. No one was fighting, or even glaring. There were
people of species he didn't think even J'onn had heard of,
and... he wasn't hungry.

He was... he put his hand on his belly and felt nothing but
the suit and muscle beneath. Nothing. Not the faintest
grumble, and the barest hint of vibration. It felt... it felt
like he'd just eaten his way through a five star restaurant
and downed a wine cellar, and it was too soon to be full,
or even drunk.

Just... satisfied.


Like... like maybe he'd done everything right for once and
everything was okay and... yes...

He closed his eyes and pushed his head back against the
grass, needing to feel, needing to just (be one) give himself
up to it, and he heard himself humming, or maybe moaning,
but it felt so *good*.

He pulled off his gloves and moved his fingers through the
grass, as fast as he wanted, and nothing was yanked out
of the earth. It just... it was ticklish, and it was sweet, and
it was like being a kid.


"One of us..."

"Yeah, just..." And he didn't know what he wanted to say,
but he wanted to see the sky again, see if it curved like the
ground. He opened his eyes and found himself looking up
into a circle of smiling faces. Or... even when the faces
didn't have mouths he could identify, he could *feel* the

Something in the postures, or maybe just the place.

"Uh... hi?"

"Wally..." they said, all of them, some of them in his mind,
but even that was --

"Hey!" They were picking him up and carrying him,
bouncing him as they went, and he started to struggle, but
there was more laughter, more


"New one... he's..."

"One of us..."

And they were bouncing him, and cradling him, and tickling
him, and they didn't seem to be *going* anywhere.

"Just wanted to touch you..."

"... new one..."

"... always ours..."

And it was like... well, it was *exactly* like being loved on
by a bunch of strangers of various species, and Wally gave
up and laughed until they put him down again.

A woman... what *might* have been a woman, it was hard
to tell with all the tentacles, touched his face in a dozen
different places and told him he tasted like wind.

A man kissed his forehead like something out of an old
movie and something whispered in his head like J'onn,
whispered love and acceptance and *joy*, but it was nothing
like J'onn.

It wasn't like being invaded by an alien presence, or even
like being spied on, it was just... being one.

Later, they played tag, but no one really tried to hide.

Later than that, he found himself in a random puppy pile,
stroking a strangely lobster-esque claw while a ball of pink
light told him solemnly that his hair was sunshine.

Between explaining the concept of 'blond' and, well, cuddling,
it was a long time before he remembered. The battle! GL...
God, was he okay?

He pulled himself out of the tangle of people and started to
walk back in the direction he thought he'd come from, but
there was no door in sight.

"Hey, um... sky?"

"Yes, Wally?"

Not going to get used to *that* anytime soon, no way. "How
do I get out of here? I kind of left everyone hanging. Heh. I
bet whole *minutes* have passed while I was here."

Something laughed beside him, and the sky said, "we are
Beyond. There is no time."

"Um... that's nice and everything, *this* is nice and
everything, but I have to get back. My friends need me." Or,
well, they'd probably miss him. Eventually.

"... not leave..."

"... one we are..."

"... just got here!"

He turned to find the whole crowd of people around him,
reaching out and looking/thinking/*being* concerned at
him. "Really, thanks, I'll come back, I promise, I just have
to get back to everyone. Else. Uh... sky?"

"There is no back. There is only Beyond."

"Okay, see, that would only make sense if I hadn't just
come from... er. Back. No, actually, that doesn't make any
sense at all."

"Once you come Beyond, you can never go back to where
you were. *Who* you were."

He knew he should've just gone with 'creepy, avoid.' "Uh...
has anyone tried?" He looked back at the people, who
were all just *beaming* 'the nice blond man just lost his
mind' at him with various gestures and expressions.

He didn't bother to ask if any of *them* tried.

"Listen, what if I just... go really fast again? Like how I was
before. Would that work?"

The sky didn't answer him, and there were hands on his
shoulders, tugging. Gently, but still.

"Hey, I need to get home!"

"But it's all so slow!"

"... hungry so much..."

"... all the time..."

"... time..."

"... stay..."

"Be one with us..."

And that was just... too much. Omniscient sky... thing was
no help and the people didn't look like *people* so much
as *pod* people and maybe that wasn't really fair, because
it felt *good* here, everything right down to the ground.
Felt normal and at the right speed and...

Wally shook it off and ran. Ran fast and hard and *kept*
running, and the world just went by him like he was
*walking* or something, so he ran harder. And there was
pressure, pain in his side like a cramp, and his legs were
getting tired and every few moments he passed the crowd
of people reaching, always reaching, and his lungs were
burning and he thought he would pass out but -- there.

A shimmer. Not a door, or anything like it, just something
like a heat haze where nothing should be.

Wally ran full-tilt and the voice *boomed* in his head --

"You can never come back, Wally, we won't be able to see
you touch you be you --"

Wally heard himself yell and *jumped* for the shimmer,
slamming against something like a wall and he sobbed in
frustration but then the light flared, whiting out everything,
whiting out his *mind* and he was...

Crouched in the dirt. Panting.

No grass. No sun. Stink of blood and metal and *death*
and the war was going on around him just like he'd never

A few of the Finarans -- a *relative* few - had gotten to the
weapons and couldn't seem to decide whether they wanted
to kill each other or the rest of the League. One of them
came running at him, brandishing a rifle like a club, and he
had just enough time to start to duck before Hawkgirl
swooped down out of nowhere and lifted him up into the air.

"Are you all right?"

"What... I... yeah, I'm fine --"

"Good, Batman needs backup."

And then she dropped him right next to the guy, which
meant she dropped him into the middle of a bunch of
extremely angry-looking bears, and there was no time for
anything but fighting.

He got clawed, he got punched, he got shot at least once
in the leg, but in the end he and Batman were back to
back, surrounded by unconscious and/or just out of it

He looked around and saw a similar mess, GL up in the air
holding a wall of green between the remains of the battle
and some seriously pissed off Finarans, Superman blowing
more Finarans back and away, Hawkgirl and Diana obliviously
beating the crap out of still more Finarans, and J'onn...
standing there.

No, he had one hand to his head, which meant he was
probably doing something deeply important, like explaining
the concept of cease-fire to the generals.

Wally blew out a breath and waited.

Sure enough, there were orders being given and people
standing down and it looked like it was all over but the
shouting and spandex-repair. Which was good, because
he really needed... a break. Time to think. Something.

It took a few hours, but the Finarans lent them a ship to
go home in, save for Superman, Diana, and J'onn, who
would stay and help calm things down.

Probably start up a United Nations or something.

Wally spent quality time figuring out how to belt himself
into the ship and then just focused on his team-mates,
trying to be unobtrusive about checking to make sure
no one was really injured. Hawkgirl was tinkering with
her mace, and Batman had growled when GL had offered
to fly the alien ship, so they were fine.

GL was leaning back in his own chair and had his eyes
closed before they even lifted off. That didn't necessarily
mean anything. He'd seen the man sleep through bombing

Apparently, it was a military thing.

Wally shrugged internally and forced himself to look at
*himself*. He was going to need bandages when he got
home, and maybe a hot bath, but it was really no worse
than usual. He was... he wasn't tired. He was *ravenously*

There was... something like a hole in his mind. Like a missing
tooth he couldn't help but prod for with his tongue. He was...
alone. Fuck.

He sighed and closed his own eyes. It couldn't *hurt*.

When they got back to the tower, Hawkgirl immediately
wandered off to her own rooms with a generalized nod for
them all. GL stretched, spine cracking audibly, and yawned.
"There's only enough power in the ring for me to get one
of you home tonight. Which of you is it gonna be?"

Batman was already heading toward the computers, grunting
a response.

"Right, I guess it's you and me, Flash. Come on."

"You can just drop me off wherever, I can run back to
Central City once we touch down."

GL gave him a look and then didn't say a word until they
landed just outside of Detroit. And then he gave Wally
*another* look and folded his arms over his chest.

"Uh... I'll just be going. Back to Central City. While you

"What the hell is your problem, Flash?"

And in GL-ese, that translated to... pretty much exactly
that, with a side of 'am I going to have to hit you?'

"Don't 'what' me. You didn't say one word on the way
back to the Tower *or* on the way here. Are you hurt?
Don't tell me you're hurt and didn't get some medical
attention --"

Wally threw up his hands. "Easy, easy, man. I'm fine. No
more banged up than usual, I promise."

The green eyes flared. "Flash..."

"I'm serious. Nothing's wrong. I just... something
happened out there."

GL blinked, and eased off a fraction. "During the fighting?"

"I... yeah." Wally scrubbed a hand over his head and
wished he could take the mask off. "Look, can we go
somewhere? I think I need to sit down while I talk about

GL nodded slowly and took off into the air again. Wally
followed on foot, but they didn't seem to be going
anywhere, really. Well, they were *somewhere*, but
somewhere was burned out and really kind of terrifying.
GL walked into one of the crumbling buildings and
jumped down through a hole in the floor, leading Wally
into the darkest, dirtiest, smelliest basement he'd ever
been in.

Dark, that was, except for the faint green glow of the
Lantern, which GL revealed in full by moving aside some

"You keep the Lantern *here*? Aren't you supposed to
keep it safe?"

GL snorted humorlessly. "No one in *this* neighborhood
would touch it."

"Yeah, but..."

Steady look and the fraction of a smile. "Think about it,
hotshot. Can you see Lex Luthor walking through here
with his goons?"

"I... point." He watched GL recharge and wondered what
it felt like. If there was a missing tooth-feeling in the man's
head when he was low on power. If --

"Ready to go?"

Wally nodded and GL grabbed him around the waist and
lifted him up and out of the wreckage, deeper into the city.
There still wasn't much green, but the buildings were
solid, and people waved as they went by. They landed on
an apartment building roof like any other and GL pulled keys
out of God only knew where and let them in.

As penthouse apartments went, GL's was pretty... stark. A
spotlessly clean leather couch and chair, a glass coffee
table. A few pictures of people on the walls, but no art,
or even a poster.

The kitchen didn't look as if anyone had used it since a
team of fanatical maids had gone over it, and from what
he could see of the back... well, he couldn't see anything.
The doors were all closed. "You don't spend much time
here, do you?"

GL looked at him like he was crazy. "You think?" He
shook his head. "Grab a seat, I'll get us a couple of
beers. Are you hungry -- wait, no, forget I asked."

Wally sat down, happy the couch was big and solid.
Smaller ones tended to vibrate across the room with
him, and he felt like... a lot like a struck tuning fork.
Was he really going to talk about this? Hell, did it
really happen?

He put his face in his hands and waited.

It didn't take all that long for GL to come back with the
beer and a plate full of deli meat and crackers, but it
still... felt like a long time. Damn. Wally shook it off
and dug in, only remembering halfway through that
he wasn't the only one there. "Uh..."

GL waved him off. "Go on and eat. I'll order a pizza

Wally tried to picture GL paying for a pizza in uniform.
Where did he keep his wallet? Same place he kept his
keys, probably. When he was done, he sucked down
half his beer and belched comfortably. "God, that's
great. I feel like I haven't eaten in --"

"Minutes? Seconds?"

"Yeah, laugh it up. Let's see you be polite with a
metabolism like mine."

GL just shook his head and leaned back, throwing his
feet up on the coffee table. "You gonna tell me what

"Yeah... uh. Yeah. Fuck. I don't even know how to
talk about it, man."

"Are you *sure* you didn't get hurt? I see you're
missing a lightning bolt. Did you take a blow to the

God, he'd forgotten his lightning bolt. He pulled off
his mask and shook out his hair and... yeah. No bolt.
Dammit. "No, no, I'm sure. Although you're gonna
think I did after I tell you this."

Mouth twitch. "Someone once reminded me that we
have a Martian's number on speed-dial."

"Christ, what kind of idiot... what kind... fuck." He put
the plate on the table and tried to focus on breathing.
Because he'd been... he'd been *normal*, and now he
wasn't, and. Christ.

Hand on his shoulder and GL had halved the distance
between them. "Flash... Wally. What is it?"

Wally squeezed his eyes shut and breathed. Breathed.
"Did you ever... when you were on the Grand Green
Lantern Universe Tour, did you ever find yourself on a
planet that was just... perfect?"

GL squeezed his shoulder. "Well, I... Wally, we didn't
get called anywhere that was particularly *happy*."

"Heh. I guess not. But... after the trouble was over and
you'd saved the day. Was there anyplace you wanted
to stay?"

GL took his hand away and Wally chanced looking up.
The man was staring out the windows at the night and
very obviously *thinking*.

"Hey, you don't have to tell me... I mean..."

"No, it's not you, I just... I had a wife once."

"You were *married*? Uh... I mean... what?"

Another one of those tiny smiles, but GL still wasn't
looking at him. "It was... several years ago. We weren't
married for very long. Katma Tui was from a planet out
on the Eastern arm. Just barely earth-class. I couldn't
stay there for long if I wasn't powered up. She was..."
John blinked and looked up at the ceiling. "Her skin was
the color of a sunset, just before it gets dark. She was
so smart we didn't even need translators -- she learned
English... God, like *that*."

"What... what happened?"

"Well, she was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen in my
life. I would take detours to visit her planet anytime I
could. She was a shapeshifter, and a teacher, and. She's
dead now. She's been dead a long time. It wasn't
anything... it was a freak accident. A bad storm, floods all
over the capital. They didn't find her body for weeks. They
didn't *call* me for... longer than that."

"Jesus, GL, I'm sorry."

"It wasn't a Green Lantern-worthy emergency."

"But... I mean..."

"There's a reason I'm not as involved with the Corps as I
used to be, Wally. And not all of it has to do with that
damned trial."

And... Wally guessed he could get that. Christ. He nodded
and reached out. GL was stiff and utterly still for a long,
long moment, before he relaxed. Patted Wally's hand with
his own.

"I would've stayed on her world."

Wally nodded and tried to think of something to say. And
then he just opened his mouth and let words fall out. "I.
Something happened."

Another smile, and GL finally looked at him again. "You
said that already."

"Yeah, I... well. Fuck. Okay, let me start from the
beginning. You remember all those phone calls?"

A snort. "I think my answering machine is broken. Some
of those calls were in the middle of the night. Don't you

"Well, see, that's the thing. I don't. I haven't... in about
two weeks."

And GL started to laugh, and Wally wished he *was*
joking, because GL laughing was a freaking *event*, but
Wally just looked at him and GL's face fell. "You're not
joking, are you? Jesus, Wally, what the fuck happened?"

"I'm still not really sure. Only I'm faster, and hungrier,
and I can't sleep, and something fucking *weird*
happened on Finara."

"Are you... how the hell can you not have slept for two
weeks and still be *sane*? That's on the fucking
Geneva Convention as part of the list of things we're
not allowed to do to POWs, Wally!"

"I don't know, all right? God, it was just... I took the
guns, and I stacked them up, and when I looked up
there was this weird... portal thing. And all of you --
everyone, even the Finarans, were just completely still.

"Wait, are you telling me something stopped *time*?"

"That's just it. This voice -- this voice came out of the
door and told me that nothing had really happened.
That I was just... moving too fast. And when I looked
down at my feet I saw I was basically... running in
place. So much that I was leaving *craters*."

"Jesus... what... was there some kind of accident? Are
you --"

"God, GL, I love you, man, but if you ask me if I'm
all right again, I'm gonna have to murder you."

"I... hell, Wally, just tell me what happened? Who was
the voice? What does this have to do with your power?"

"It was something... apparently there's some universal
speed force -- only the way the voice said it, it had
capital letters. Apparently, when people move fast enough,
one way or another, it can touch you, and give you
super speed forever."

"Wait, let me get this straight. If you're *already*
moving at superspeed, it can *give* you super speed?"

Which was... pretty much exactly what he'd gotten from
the weird voice in the sky and the (happy) pod people.
"It made sense at the time? God, GL, you don't know...
it was like I'd walked through a portal and fell into
*heaven*. Everything moved at the right speed, and
everyone was happy to see me, and. I wasn't hungry.
For anything."

GL leaned back against the arm of the couch and looked
at him, and didn't say anything, and didn't say anything,
and didn't say anything so thoroughly that Wally
wondered if he could've possibly gotten his point across.
What it was like. How it made him *feel*. And Jesus, how
was anyone supposed to talk about that stuff anyway?

"I. I know it doesn't --"

"Why did you come back?"


GL folded his hands over his chest and just kept staring at
him. "It sounds like paradise. For you, at least. Why did
you come back?"

And that was really the question, wasn't it? Because... he
remembered really *needing* to leave, to get back to
everyone, jumping into that wall or door or whatever like
hell was after him, but it had been really... it had been
*good*, and now his head was telling him he was alone,
all alone and a freak among freaks, no matter that GL
was right there. "I had to get back," he said, and it was
lame, but it was true.

"And now you're wondering if you made the right

"Hey, I couldn't just leave you guys in the middle of a

GL raised an eyebrow at him.

"Christ, *what*? You think I'd just... just *leave* you
guys like that?"

"No, but you do."

"Oh, Jesus, not this psychoanalytic *bullshit*, GL. I
expect that from J'onn, or even Superman, but not from

"Wally. Would you be this worked up if you were absolutely
sure you did the right thing for the right reasons?"

He jumped off the couch. "Look, maybe I'm not you, maybe
I'm not fucking *ordained* protector of the universe or
anything, but I do my job, and I'm -- I'm not... fuck." He
headed for the door, but GL was up and caught his arm.

"I'm not saying you aren't, Wally. I'm not. Really. I'm just..."
A squeeze to his bicep. "Every one of us makes a choice,
sooner or later. You were... you were *ridiculously* young
when you made yours. You think it's not normal to be a little
fucked up about it now?"

A little fucked up. Yeah. That was... that was pretty much it,
wasn't it? He felt himself sag with all the exhaustion he
wasn't feeling at all. "It was so. God, GL, it was so fucking

"And you came back here. To us."


"Do you regret it?" And it wasn't the GL voice anymore, it
was *John* voice, John who never wore a mask and never
needed one anyway.

You couldn't respond to that voice with anything but the
truth. "I don't know," he said, and John nodded and pulled
him into a hug that was all muscle and heat and I'm-tough-

Wally fell into it a little helplessly and clung and pretended
he was sweating and God, he wanted to sleep so *badly*.
Wanted to just lie down and have it all go away, just for
once, one more time and he'd never take it for granted

And John held him and didn't let go, even when Wally balled
the fabric of his suit in his fists.

When he could breathe again, he let go and pulled back,
but John didn't stop holding him for another long moment
that, for once, didn't feel that long at all.

"I'm gonna order a pizza."

"Yeah, okay. I'll --"

"You're going to sit over there and drink until you're

I tried that, he didn't say, and he had to smile anyway.

Wally grabbed the six-pack out of the fridge and sat down,
well through it by the time John got back from the hall-
phone. John looked at the empty bottles, sighed, and put
another two six-packs in the fridge.

"Remind me to never play any drinking games with you."

"Hey, you can be on my team."

John shook his head, grinning a little and sat down next to
him. They sat in silence for a while, John stealing back one
of his own beers, no sound but a clock ticking somewhere
Wally couldn't see and the traffic moving beyond what was
probably a really expensive grade of glass.

Classy and understated. Right.

No, fuck it, the place was a barracks waiting for the Marines
to show up and salute something. He grinned to himself.

"You know, you *could* have talked to me about this. Christ,
we should have had you in the medlab *last* week."

"Hey, I tried to call you --"

"You were talking about *baseball*. I don't even *like*
baseball --"

"It's America's sport!"

"*Golf* is more exciting than baseball. *Soccer* is more
exciting than baseball --"

"That's it, I'm taking you to a game. You've clearly led a
woefully uneducated and underprivileged existence."

And John laughed, a real laugh this time, and even though
Wally knew it had more to do with getting rid of the tension
than anything else, it was still a laugh, and it was... his.

"They could talk in my mind," he blurted, and wondered
what crack his tongue was smoking without him. John
stopped laughing and Wally winced. "Uh. I didn't mean to
say that."

"Was it like with J'onn? I thought you didn't like the psychic

Wally sighed and shook his head. Baseball, they were
talking about *baseball*, not this. "No, it wasn't... it was.
It was gentler. Like. They talked about 'becoming one' and
that's what it was really like. Like I was part of something
bigger and happier and just *better*. Like I wasn't just
Wally anymore."

"You know..."

"Yeah?" He looked up again and John was looking at him,
steady and serious, and it looked like he was about to say
something, but he just shook his head.

"It's not important."

Wally nodded and finished his beer. Thought about opening
another one. Thought about just... reaching out. Over.
Because God, it had been so *good*. All those hands and
one singular feeling of welcome, and it was good to be here
with John, and John, for however little it made sense *always*
tried to make Wally feel welcome, but. Hell.

He'd already practically cried on the man, there just wasn't
that much else he *could* do without having to go out and
shoot himself. And make an effort *not* to outrun the bullet.

"You're welcome to stay here tonight. There's... there's an
extra bedroom."

"What if I need to get up in the middle of the night and
crawl in with you?"

John laughed, lips parted and head not-quite thrown back. "I
kick in my sleep. And punch."

"John --" No, no, and *no*. Not tonight. Not... like this.

But John was already looking at him again, the searching
look that made his eyes match the rest of his body. "What
is it?"

They touched me. They wanted me. I could have. "Do you
ever think about doing something really stupid?"

"You actually think first?"

And the smile stopped him, but only for a moment. It wasn't
as important as leaning in and kissing John as slow as he
could manage, which was still so fast the man didn't have
time to react. "Not as such, no."

And there was one of those eternal moments of *empty*
that his mind knew was barely the length of a normal human
heartbeat, but his body counted in years, and then John's
hand was on his face, rubbing against the grain of his light

Thumb on his lip, still and serious as the kiss that followed.
And this was *actually* slow, but it didn't feel that way,
because it just... it went from moment to moment. Here, the
shocking softness of John's mouth, there the slick of his tongue,
there the brush of that callused thumb along his cheekbone
and Wally shuddered and sighed and forced himself to pull back.

"That, too," John said, and it made perfect sense in the way
that everything else did. Like a voice from the sky and warmth
on his back.

He smiled, and John smiled back, and they pulled away from
each other by some unspoken mutual agreement. Turned back
to the window.

Wally got another beer and settled in to watch the city go by
with John, knowing that the man would go to sleep sooner or
later, even if Wally had to threaten him with bodily harm to
get him into bed.

Knowing that he wouldn't sleep at all.

It was all right. He'd never seen Detroit at night, anyway.