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Better Get In Character

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With acting, every movement has to be planned and planned quickly. At least, that was the case with Impulse, or rather, Bart Allen. Bart felt like every move he would make in the past would be practiced, and perfected in no time. As he continued acting in character he felt like his life began an auto-pilot mode. That was not a mode he liked to be in.

but; it was necessary .

Even after the world had been saved he continued on like this. Playing the part of his well-loved character. It wasn't like anyone knew what he was actually like. He never felt confident outside of his act. It was so hard to keep up the act. It was starting to wear on Barts mind.

He had lost himself. The Bart Allen he pretended to be was not that different than the one he wished he was. The one he could had been if the future hadn't been moded. He needed someone to know the real him. Bart was sick of hiding behind the character he had portrayed himself as. Wearing a mask, even outside of costume. Even after all the things he'd been through he still didn't know how to let go of his act. He had never planned this far. He felt like a fraud. After becoming the new Kid Flash the feeling got worse. How was Bart to act when he had to take on the mantle of Kid Flash. He couldn't be like Wally.

He would never measure up to the hero that Wally West had been. His personality was fading. Impulse was fading. Bart was worried. The autopilot had broken. Paranoia crawled through Barts thoughts. What if his teammates left him. What if his act was all he was good for, and once his charm had faded his friends wouldn't want him anymore. 

What am I doing. I don't have to worry about the future anymore. I can stop anytime. 

I can stop anytime. 


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“Hey hermano- think you could come over? That’d be totally crash,” Bart hung said as he clicked his screen off. He had hoped to get Jaime, but he supposed voicemail worked. As long as Jaime checks it, Bart thought bitterly. He had run all the way to El Paso hoping to crash into the boy, but after vibrating through his window and finding a messy empty room he realized the boy wasn’t home. Bart looked at the phone that he had been given. He didn’t use it that often, but he knew Jaime used his phone almost constantly outside of uniform. Is he ignoring me?

When Bart had first appeared in the past he expected to become close to Barry and other Flashes. He assumed he'd make fast friends with the Supers and the Bats; even now he was still surprised that the one person he felt closest to was Jaime Reyes. The host of the Reach parasite. The monster that would have enslaved mankind. He thought he would hate Blue Beetle of the past. Somehow after meeting Jaime those feelings faded. At first, he was scared but Jaime really grew on Bart. He realized that the meat inside the Blue Beetle wasn't bad. Jaime was kind and strong physically as well as mentally. From the late nights where conversations got too deep Bart had learned how hard it was for Jaime to adjust to Kalja Ra. To the voices in his head. To a constant fight going on withing his mind. 

Moments of openness between the two boys were surprisingly rare. There were too many things that Bart held too close. Too many secrets that Bart wasn't ready to reveal. He wasn't ready to show the Bart Allen that wasn't a quirky kid with a smile on his face. The one who had always lifted the mood. The one who was not always happy. While the past was paradise for Bart he still had the scars formed in his years of slavery under the Reach. He was lucky to escape. He would have been killed eventually. He would have lived out his short life only for it to be ended in some cruel way. That thought had been a constant theme of his dreams, or rather, nightmares. 

But he was free now. He had never truly  run until his escape. His dreams haunted him with thoughts of his friends leaving him for the reach to destroy. What if his time was not fixed. Bart held all those thoughts with him. He couldn't escape his mind. Nathaniel wasn't here to help him anymore. Nathaniel was saved. Bart liked to think of that. How much happier his future accomplice was in a future that didn't include smog-filled skies and masters from the reach plucking away disobedient man-meat from their groups. Nathaniel's life had been rough after he killed the Flash, Bart's grandfather. I'm so glad I saved Barry. I'm glad I get to be part of his life. He's so kind. 

A light buzzing sound snapped Bart from his thoughts. The Boy quickly snatched the device from his pocket, thrilled to see it was Jaime. The time on his phone had surprised him. Almost 40 minutes after he had called. What had the older boy been doing?

"Oh hey-o herma--"

"Where are you?" Bart was cut off quickly before he dived into his extended hello. Jaime knew better than anyone else how long Bart could draw out his hellos on the phone. The younger boy took the phone away from his head for a moment, wondering why the boy would be asking where he was. He was just sitting on his bed...

Whoops. Bart   laughed at himself realizing that he had been sitting on Jaime's bed not his own. And for a while, he had been seated, sorting his thoughts. Bart heard noise from the phone and instead of asking Jaime to repeat himself he just spoke quickly into the phone, "uhh give me five minutes and I'll be where you are. You're at the Garricks' home right?" Bart still had a hard time calling the sweet couple's home his own. He did live there. Joan and Jay Garrick had done a wonderful job helping Bart settle into their home, but the boy had never felt truly at home. The feelings came from constantly being moved from place to place while in the hands of the reach. Slaves went where they were needed. 

"Yeah, Mr. Garrick told me that you were looking for me hermano. What's going on ese? Something I need to know about?" Jaime sounded concerned but Bart knew he'd react like that. Blue was so caring towards his friends. 

"I'll be sure to tell you exactly what is up when I see you.. Don'tmove," Bart sped through the words as he hung up and vibrated through the walls to begin his lengthy run. Wrong house. It was much funnier the first few times this happened Bart thought as he sprinted. 

thoughts invaded his mind as he traveled. 

I think too much. 

I should stop. 


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It had been forever since Jaime and Tye had actually hung out. Jaime was so nervous when he went to Tye's house, unsure if his long-time friend had even come back to his family home. After a short conversation with Tye's quiet mother Shelly, he found out that his friend was staying at his grandfather's house. It seemed like a good idea. Tye had a bad habit of running away due to Maurice, his mother's current boyfriend. 

 

Holling Longshadow did not live too far away from Tyes family's home. Jaime felt nervous as he approached another door that his friend could be behind. After three knocks the door opened, and Jaime could finally see the signature orange headband Tye had always worn. It was a welcoming sight of Tye never changing. Blue's body was tense as he hoped for forgiveness. He needed Tye to forgive him for the way he had acted when his friend had run from STAR. Jaime was ashamed of his actions that weren't his. It was the Reach. 

Being on-mode had been the most horrifying thing to ever happen to Jaime since he had become the Blue Beetle. He had once thought the experience of Khaji Da attaching to him as the most terrifying experience of his life. Now he had weeks upon weeks of his body moving without his consent and being trapped with no way to save himself to top that list. He wanted his friend to know that that wasn't him. That he was here as himself and was done avoiding his best friend. It had been so long since the Reach invasion had ended. Jaime decided it was time to see his friend again. A few seconds of the boys simply looking at each other in silence was all it took for the long-haired boy to forgive his friends actions. After all, Jaime and Tye had been friends since they were kids. Nothing could get between them. 

"Get your board and let's go," Tye turned away from Jaime getting his longboard that was set by the door. The board had been broken in from years of use, and constant fixes. The wheels were all different colors and in relatively the same state of wear. The design on the board was new. It had a long blue body stretched far above a silhouette of Tye. Seeing the detail work his best friend had added to his trusty board only served to further Jaimes excitement of hanging with his amigo again. 

Jaimes phone beeped with an obnoxious ding that was ignored as he skated with Tye at the old skatepark. Tyes skill had increased while Jaime had remained the same. He much preferred flying now and hadn't actually used his skateboard in months. After an hour of skating and reconnecting Jaime's default ringtone went off again annoying Tye, "Might want to answer it dude. could be important hero buis, " Tye commented as he started doing tricks on his board, fully prepared to keep himself occupied as Jaime finally grabbed his noisy phone. At first glance, it just looked like a couple messages from a girl from Jaime's Algebra class. Nothing important. 

Jaime Reyes, that is not all the messages on your device. 

"I know I'm checking it," Tye gave Jaime a look but didn't say anything as the boy spoke softly to himself; seeming to have an argument with whatever voice he was talking to. Something about an impulse and his friend. Jaime put the phone to his ear and listened to Barts surprisingly short message. 

That was odd. Usually ,it's hard to get Bart to shut up. Why would he leave such a short message?

The Impulse was very direct in what he wanted from you, Jaime Reyes. A long message would not be practical considering his request. 

"He isn't Impulse anymore," He's Kid Flash now.. It was such a hard thing for Jaime to used to. When Bart had changed his colors from red and white to yellow and red Jaime couldn't help but find it heartbreaking. Yes, Bart was honoring Wallys sacrifice, but he wasn't quite himself after that day. Jaime couldn't place his finger on it, but Bart had been.. odd since then. He still was as close to the boy as the day they met, but he did notice a change in his mood after the loss of Wally. It had been almost a two years since Wally.. had vanished. It was still hard to call his sacrifice death as he had faded before the team's eyes. Since that day he could find Bart lost in thought more often than not. He wasn't quite as chatty as he had been when he appeared. What Jaime wouldn't do to get inside his friends head. It was so dangerous for Bart to be so disconnected from reality, especially on missions. There had been too many close calls on the missions Jaime led. 

Go to the impulse. Sate your curiosity of his mind by interrogating the Impulse. 

"Okay, I guess I'll go then," Jaime got up and was about to reply to Tye's unspoken question before Tye put his hand up, silently telling Jaime to follow his example of verbal stillness. 

"It's okay man. You have somewhere to be. Just know that I'll be here okay?" Jaime smiled and nodded at his friend as a blue exoskeleton covered his body. He waved his friend goodbye as he flew towards the closest known Zeta-tube. He was beamed to Central City, and quickly shed his armor as he turned the corner on his way to the Garrick home. He had been there so many times int the past couple months that the Mr and Mrs would just let him in calling down the hall to tell Bart that Jaime was there. 

"Why hello Jaime, I thought Bart was at your house?" Mr. Garrick walked over to the Hispanic boy and put a hand on his shoulder as he gave Jaime a confused look. You've got to be kidding. He isn't here.

Jaime laughed as he replied to the retired man, "He called me asking me to come over, I assumed he meant that he'd be home." The speedster could be literally anywhere on earth right now. Jaime ran his fingers through his thick hair as he waited for the boy to answer the phone. When the phone clicked signaling Barts answer Jaime didn't waste time on Barts lengthy hello as he interrupted the boy. 


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 Whenever Bart ran he could only feel the wind. The brisk breeze and the sandy heat all brushed his face and hair as he sped down the roads. The buzz of conversations touched his ears as he passed by, but mostly the wind was the music to his trip. He let the noise distract him as he kept heading towards the Garrick's home. My thoughts make me sick. Bart had very little focus lately. It was a problem. Bart vibrated through the door, pausing for a moment to greet the Garricks before rushing up the stairs to his room. The door was already open, which saved time Bart would have lost by vibrating through. Not that it's a race. Jaime jumped at the speedsters entrance, "You weren't running around like that were you? Bart, you need to protect your identity, now more than ever since you're Kid Flash." 

Bart flinched at that. Jaime's concern had no limits, and while Bart found the idea of secret identities a total pain, he had to respect what Jaime had said. He wasn't running around as himself. Some people didn't even know that the identity of Kid flash was new. Many saw Kid Flash thinking it was still Wally. Jaime's eyes softened when the younger boy flinched and patted the bed next to him inviting Bart to sit. He could use a rest after dashing across the country. Bart sighed quietly, "Uh yeah, I always forget about that. I'm still getting used to the secret identity.. thing.. and the new name."

Sweaty fingers racked though Barts hair as he gave himself a moment to cool down. Bart was torn. He wanted to be cheery and happy for Jaime, but he also felt like he was going to break down. He had put a lot of thought into this moment, but now his feet were growing cold. Bart got up to close the door and stood there for a moment, his back turned to Jaime. The older boy sat silently waiting for Bart to speak. His friend clearly wanted to finally unload what had been on his mind. 

"Jaime," A pause. A sigh. Fingers tapped quickly and quietly on the door. Jaime waited, "I can't.. I can't do this anymore." Jaime's stomach lurched as he waited for Bart to continue. His heart beat as hard as it had the day Bart had first told him of his true mission. When Bart had revealed the future if Jaime was put on-mode. Is there more to that horrible future? Is Bart going to tell me there's a chance I'll go on-mode again?  The fabric of Jaime's jeans bunched up where his hands had started to squeeze his knees. He wasn't sure he could handle news like that again. 

"When I came to the past I had to change a lot about myself. I had to hide all of my.." flaws? Scars? Secrets? Bart wasn't even sure what to say as he slumped against the door. The fifteen-year-old held so much grief and sadness in himself. He placed a hand over his heart to feel its rapid beating. He felt so bare in this moment, and he had just gotten started. "I'm not sure.. if I can keep this up. This.. Person I had to become."

Jaime watched the boy bear his thoughts in stunned silence. Bart could be going to anyone with this information and yet he chose Jaime. It would have been smarter to go to Nightwing or Black Canary. Bart chose Jaime over anyone else. He continued speaking slowly, trying not to let his speeding heartbeat affect his words, "It's just that.. I'm.. not always happy hermano." Barts usually failed attempts at Spanish were always filled with laughter and smiles. It gave Jaime goosebumps to hear Bart speak his language so softly. So sadly. 

Barts shoulders flexed as he pushed on the door, holding himself more upright as he turned towards Jaime, avoiding eye contact with the older boy. "I can't force that personality anymore. I'm so tired of it. That isn't me."

Brown eyes fluttered as Jaime took everything in. An act? He had to hide.. himself. But if that wasn't Bart then who was that? How could that possibly be just an act. Jaime looked up suddenly when he heard Barts shaken gasps as the boy tried to catch his breath. He was never like this. 

Jaime, I want you to help me. But I don't know how. 

The Impulse sheds water due to frustration. Easy method to stop this; eliminate the impulse. 

Shut up. Jaime thought as he stood softly so as not to startle the upset teen, "Bart, I'm not sure what you're trying to tell me."

"This is me." Bart choked out between quiet sobs and gasps of breath. He was on the edge of panicking. He couldn't do this. He covered his face with both hands as he wept. He was terrified. 

"Of course this is you. Who else would you be?" Jaime stood up and stepped towards the teen, making sure not to invade the boys' space. 

"No." Bart cried out behind his hands. He lifted his hands away, flinching when he noticed how much closer Jaime was. Those brown eyes were filled with concern. Those eyes were beautiful and Bart closed his own green eyes as he whispered, "I'm not who you think I am. I'm not always a joker, and I'm not always happy. I had to.. be that way to make so that no one.." a gasp interrupted Barts sentence as Jaime took the boys smaller hands into his own, pulling them away from his face. Bart looked at Jaime for a moment before continuing, "no one knows.. How bad the future was for me. I was a slave. To.. Blue Beetle and the Reach." Jaime immediately released Barts hands and took a step back. No. Not this. 

Bart continued, "Do you know what that does to a person? Anyone who has lived through what I have would not be as happy as I led people to believe I am. I can't. I can't do it anymore Jaime. But," Bart shook, "I can't let anyone know how bad the future is. How much it hurt me. How much a wreck I've become because of it."

Barts voice cracked and that marked the end of him speaking as he gave into his hHysterics. His whole body vibrated as he held onto his arms and sobbed. Jaime had never seen anyone so upset and longed to reach out for Bart. To hold him close and whisper that he wasn’t a wreck and tell him how strong he is for holding out this long.

But I did this to him. In the future.  Jaime reached out slowly with his hand to comfort Bart but the smaller boy beat him to the punch. He suddenly latched himself to Jaime as he dissolved into nothing but panicked sobs and gasps, and Jaime could do nothing but hold the small boy close and stroke his hair until his breath evened out. Jaime wasn't sure what to say, but he knew if nothing else it was a start to Barts recovery.

I'm such a wreck. Don't leave me Jaime.  Bart shivered as his mind started racing again. 

I don't even know how to be myself. 

Right now I'm just sad.

Don't leave me. I need you. 

 


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