Waking, part 21
Disclaimers in "part 0"
The words were echoing through a strange feeling of detachment, but something told Wally he should focus on them.
"... time of crisis ... great bond ... mobilized several divisions ..."
The voice was familiar. Who-?
"... worked with the UN ... global leaders have agreed ... including members of the Justice League and ..."
Lex! Wally stiffened, suddenly realizing who was speaking. What was going on? Where was he? And why was Lex Luthor-?
Linda? What - he felt her take up his hand.
"Wally, can you hear me?"
"... all non-essential industries have been asked to ..."
Wally swallowed. "Linda?" he croaked through a dry throat. "What's -"
"Oh, Wally, thank god!" Linda interrupted, and he finally forced his eyes open in confusion. It took him a moment to focus, and when he did, he saw only his wife's face, her eyes red-rimmed and blood shot, her skin blotchy. "Doctor!" she was calling. "Doctor!"
"Linda," he tried again. "What's going on? Why-"
"Shhh," she cut him off. "It's okay now. Everything's going to be okay."
"What's going to be okay? What-?"
"Ah, Mr. West. You've decided to rejoin us," a not unkindly voice remarked, and Wally turned to see a familiar lab-coated physician on the side of the bed opposite Linda.
"STAR Labs?" he asked, recognizing the place he had seen the woman more than he was able to put a name to her face. "Why am I at -?"
"Hold your horses for a moment, young man," the doctor directed sternly as she lifted his arm to take his pulse. "I'm sure your wife will be happy to explain once I give her permission to take you home. Which I won't do unless you promise to take it easy and not immediately start running off to help the recovery efforts."
"Recovery efforts? What happened?"
"It's a long story, Wally," Linda said with a sigh. "How is he, doctor?"
"Eh, a little worse for wear, but certainly better for the rest. Although I'd imagine you're feeling pretty hungry."
Wally paused, aware suddenly of his stomach. "Uh, yeah, now that you mention it-"
"Good, good. So here's what we're going to do. Linda here will be witness to this. Your solemn word, Mr. West - no heroics for at least 72 hours."
"Seventy-two hours? But -" he gestured toward the TV screen from which Lex Luthor's voice still projected, "they need me. There's-"
"Oh, Wally," Linda protested, but there was happiness in her tone.
"Mr. West, you were brought here almost 30 hours ago suffering from severe exhaustion complicated by dehydration and malnutrition. You have numerous muscle tears and other assorted tissue damage which will undoubtedly make itself felt when I allow you to get off this bed and accompany your lovely wife to the cafeteria. As our esteemed President is explaining to the public, the weird alien mood control which has been affecting the planet has - for reasons not yet determined - abated. Any 'bad guys' your sort would normally go after have apparently been neutralized already, and quite frankly, even if they hadn't been, I would refuse to allow you to go out and fight, no matter what your hero code demands. Leave the recovery effort in the hands of the healers, Mr. West, and give me cause to sleep easier at night knowing that you will be going into whatever the next battle is fully recovered."
Wally blinked at the serious expression on the doctor's face, then turned to Linda. "30 hours?"
Linda nodded, squeezing his hand again. "You thought it was the Speed Force, but it wasn't. Just this alien thing."
Wally's eyes widened in sudden memory. "Max? Jesse?" he asked urgently.
"We sent Ms. Quick home with the rest of the Titans about an hour ago. Mr. Mercury is presently attending the bedside of his young charge, who I suspect will also be waking soon."
"He went down, too, honey. All the speedsters did. And then the Atom - that's when we realized what was going on wasn't the Speed Force."
"They'll be okay, right?" Wally asked anxiously.
"I imagine Mr. Garrick will have a slightly longer recovery time, which will hopefully serve to remind him not to ignore his teammate's medical advice," the doctor remarked dryly, "but yes, it looks as if you all can expect full and relatively speedy recoveries. Now, your word, Mr. West, so we can unhook this IV and get you fed and on the way home?"
Wally looked at Linda's tired face and saw the pleading in her eyes. 30 hours! And an entire mission completely missed, by the sounds of things. But ... the doctor had a point. And Linda - he felt a pang of guilt for the worry lines that marred her face. Sleep would ease them, but he'd give her cause to worry again. He squeezed her hand and answered the doctor without releasing Linda's eyes. "I promise."
"Very good, then," the doctor pronounced efficiently, busying herself with extracting the IV and applying a bandaid to his arm. "There. Now take it slow," she advised. "Holler for a nurse if you need help."
"We will, doctor," Linda promised, already helping Wally to sit up.
"Whoa - headrush," he complained as his feet swung free of the bed. "Hold up a second."
Linda stopped, letting her arm supporting his shoulders shift into a more embracing move and pressing her lips high on his cheek. "I was so worried, Wally," she confessed in a whisper.
"I know," he acknowledged, running a hand through her hair. "I'm going to need to sit here a minute," he stated, suddenly aware of how very heavy his limbs felt. He almost resented the accuracy of the doctor's prediction.
She nodded and scooted up onto the bed beside him. They leaned together for a moment, and Wally breathed in the scent of her, faintly grubby and musky and travel-stained. Thirty hours and she probably had been here the whole time. He pulled her still closer, remembering again how much he loved her. "So it was aliens?" he asked.
She nodded. "They think so. Something telepathic from what Pieter was telling me."
"Doctor Mid-Nite," she clarified.
"Breaking down the mind-body connection. All of us were feeling it, ignoring our health in favor of our passions, our work, whatever. It got you faster because, well-"
"I live faster," he finished for her, unable to keep a hint of regret out of his voice.
"No, don't get sad about it," she admonished, offering him another kiss on the cheek. "I love your crazy speed, even when it drives me nuts."
He smiled faintly and met her lips. When they separated, she breathed, "But I do like it when you kiss me slowly."
He chuckled and gave her shoulders a squeeze. "So something got inside our heads," he prompted.
"Yeah. You missed a rough time of it," she noted. "There was this sudden moment when everyone just crashed - all the stress of weeks suddenly caught up. And when we woke up -" She paused, her eyes glassy and distant. "It was so horrible."
They were silent a moment. Then Wally blurted out, "J'onn!"
Linda's expression grew wary. "What about J'onn?"
"He was trying to tell us - I remember, right before I collapsed. He figured it out, didn't he?"
"We think so."
"Wait. Think so?"
She lowered her voice. "He's gone. So is Batman. I don't think I'm supposed to know, but I overheard -"
Wally surged to his feet. "Then they-" he began, then found himself gripping the bed for balance.
Linda was up at his side, tucking herself under his arm. "No heroics," she scolded. "You promised."
"But if they're missing -" Wally protested weakly.
"There's nothing you can do about it."
Wally straightened up and stared at her for a moment. In the background, a reporter had replaced Lex Luthor on the television. "... three day global cease fire as the UN declared this a period of recovery. Volunteers from Themyscira are coordinating military medical personnel around the planet to..."
"I know," Wally finally said, taking up Linda's hand. He grimaced faintly. "I'm going to count myself lucky if I make it to the lunch wagon before I start digesting myself."
Linda smiled at the joke. "C'mon, Flash," she ordered, moving ahead of him and tugging on his hand. "Let's get you refueled. Then maybe I'll race you home?"
He snorted. "You'd win." But he followed her pull, settling in beside her, and the couple walked slowly out of the room and down the hall as the television droned on.
"Again, the President assures us that the danger is past, and it is now our task to band together and support one another as we weather the days ahead..."