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A Feeling of Unease

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“Don't forget the chicken!” his uncle calls from the kitchen, head popping out of the doorway. Wally rolls his eyes. As if he would. Surely his uncle knew him better by now.

“Oh, oh! And the tortilla shells! Soft ones!” Uncle Barry continues, head sticking out every which way.

Obviously not.

“Oh my gosh, Barry!” Aunt Iris huffs, irritated from the kitchen as well. “Let the boy go to the store already! He knows what he needs to get. I gave him a list.”

“But Iris-”

“No 'but's! Now, get back here and help me with these cookies or you won't get a single crumb!” his aunt commands, and with a yelp his uncle ducks back into the kitchen. Wally shakes his head with amusement. He's pretty sure Uncle Oliver called his uncle 'whipped' a few times.

Wally hears pans clatter as he closes the door with a wince. At least there'd be fresh cookies for dinner. He just needed to run out and get a few things for chicken tacos and they'd be all set.

With a hum, he walked down the sidewalk. The nearest grocery store was relatively close by, so he'd just grab the things from there. Sometimes it was nice not to hurry everywhere. He seemed to notice a lot more than normal when he was trying to be as slow as the average human. Wally supposed it was his mind taking in things quicker despite his body's slow pace.

'I should do a study on that someday. See if I can't figure out the average human's mental speed…' he thought with curiosity, already trying to figure out what the best way to measure neurotransmitters. He'd have to get a test subject, but surely Roy wouldn't mind.

At least, he wouldn't mind with the blackmail he had on him. Roy should really delete his browsing history next time Wally visits. There's not doubt that Roy didn't want anyone to know that he was secretly a fan of the show Octonauts.

He chuckled to himself as he thought about it.

“Hello there, Wally boy!” a voice called, startling him from his thoughts and bringing him crashing back to reality.

Wally turned, plastering a smile onto his face with effort, spying one of his aunt and uncle's neighbors. “Hello there, Mr. Mackle,” he politely greeted despite the fact that his mood had done almost a complete 180. His muscles tensed and his senses sharpened in a way that he hadn't quite been able to figure out the reason behind.

“Nice weather today, isn't it?” Mr. Mackle questioned. “And haven't I told you to call me Jeff, Wally boy?”

Apologetically, Wally replied, “Sorry, Jeff. It really is nice out.” He wasn't sure why his stomach clenched when it was just a name. A name belonging to a man in his late 50's with graying hair that towered over him, a man that looked so average…

Mr. Mackle- Jeff shrugged, smiling. “Going shopping?”

Wally nodded. “Yeah, we need a few things for dinner.”

“What'cha having?” Jeff inquired, rubbing his hands on a towel that was stained with dirt. The man seemed to have stopped working on his flowerbed when Wally had come by. He was always out there. Wally would have thought he'd pass by without seeing the man, but more often than not, there he was – working in his flowerbed. It was a running joke with his aunt and uncle that the man lived in it.

Wally wasn't quite sure why he couldn't laugh like they did.

“Chicken tacos,” he dutifully answered.

“Sounds like a good meal. I'm going to fix some rib-eyes myself. Perhaps you'd like to join me sometime? Maybe I could pick your brain about what natural pesticides I could use on my roses,” Jeff offered.

Wally cringed internally, making himself stay put when all he wanted to do was take a few steps back. “Perhaps sometime. I get pretty busy with homework and have a few clubs I've joined in Keystone.” It wasn't exactly a lie. Maybe a fib, but not a lie.

Jeff nods, understandingly. “Clubs are important. I'm sure you have lots of friends. Great thing, friends. They take care of you, and you take care of them.”

Nervous energy makes his fingertips fidget leading him to sink his hands into his pockets. “Mhm!” Wally responds, rocking on his heels.

“Well, you should probably get going,” Jeff tells him, grinning and patting him on the shoulder. “You be good now, you hear?”

“Yes, sir,” Wally says, a shiver running up his spine.

Jeff squeezes his shoulder before stepping away. “Off with you now,” he says, and Wally mutters a quick 'bye' and tries not to look like he's fleeing from a psycho robot bent on destroying him.

'Why?' - is the question that kept repeating in his head. The man looked so normal, so average, seemed so nice, but he just made Wally's skin crawl. He hadn't heard anyone hating the man, but… something just seemed… off.

Wally bought the things from the store with an anxious fidget as nervous energy kept being pushed down. He quickly hurried back home, taking a bit of a shortcut through one abandoned house's lawn (which his aunt and uncle told him to avoid). He didn't have to pass Jeff's house this way. An abandoned house was much friendlier, somehow. He wasn't sure how, but somehow.

He didn't say anything again at dinner. Wally stuck to stuffing his mouth with chicken tacos and cookies. He felt better focusing on the food.

Saying 'goodnight' to his aunt and uncle, Wally went to sleep, something tight inside of him that just wouldn't unwind…


“Wally!”

Wally groaned, rolling over in bed, feeling exhausted. It's not like he hadn't run on less sleep before, but those had been missions. Tossing and turning with trying to determine the reason for his feeling of discomfort around Mr. Mackle, however, was nothing like the kind of exhaustion of taking down bad guys. There was no feeling of victory from winning. It was simply… something else.

“We have to leave the house to run some errands,” Aunt Iris said from in front of his door. “I need you to be up when Jeff comes to borrow some sugar.”

That made him sit up, a frown marring his freckled face. “Sugar?” he croaked as he pulled the crinkled bedsheets away and stood up, stretching.

“He has a guest coming for lunch and realized he was out of sugar to cook,” his aunt replies. “There's a container on the counter with sugar for him.”

“Honey, we need to get going,” he heard his uncle call.

“We're fine, Barry,” his aunt said with a sigh. “We'll be back later, Wally,” she told him.

“Okay! Be safe!”

“Iris~” his uncle whined from the bottom of the stairs.

“Barry, we're just running errands. It's not like we're going to be late to save the world,” he heard his aunt chide, her voice receding as she padded down the steps.

Wally chuckled. Sometimes his uncle reminded him of a puppy, always eager to run and play, never wanting to sit still… 'I'm just going to ignore the fact that that could be used to describe me too,' he thought to himself as he began to get ready. After all, he didn't consider himself like a puppy. Maybe a dolphin? 'Ehhh…' He wasn't sure actually, but he felt adult enough to not be puppy-like.

Finally ready, he heaved a sigh and exited his room, walking down the steps with heavy thuds and a growling stomach. Wally would hear the doorbell when it rang, so he decided to head to the kitchen and fix himself a couple of bowls of cereal.

'Cheerios… Trix… Ah-ha! Frosted Flakes!' He grinned. “Score!”

He set about fixing his cereal, leaving the milk and cereal box out. They'd get more while they were out. It was a habit to always get more food. (It was lucky that they had extra income from a certain billionaire to afford to satisfy their metabolisms – and those super high protein-calorie bars he had managed to get help working on.)

'-Cough- Bats -cough-'

He was liking his lips of lightly sugary milk when the floor creaked and he noticed someone enter the kitchen. Wally jumped with a yelp, heart racing in his chest.

It was only due to the training that Uncle Barry had ingrained in him that he resisted from using his super speed when he realized it was Mr. Mackle – 'Jeff' – he wanted him to call him Jeff.

Taking a few deep breaths, he got himself under control and laughed a little exaggeratedly. “Jeff, I didn't hear the doorbell!”

Jeff tilted his head with a soft smile on his face, brows revealing his amusement. “I didn't ring the doorbell.” The man stepped a bit closer to Wally, reminding him about how tall the man was compared to him.

“You didn't? Was the door left open?” Wally questioned, leaning away from the man.

“No.”

'No?' What kind of an answer was that? For the first thing – what the fuck? Secondly – who picked a lock and walked inside someone else's house?

This wasn't normal. Wally knew that much, for someone who lived the impossible away from the public's prying eyes. It wasn't normal.

“What's going on, Jeff? If you want the sugar,” Wally turned and grabbed the container from the counter and held it up for Jeff to see, “it's right here.”

“Thank you, Wally boy,” Jeff said with an odd smile, completely ignoring the container of sugar and placing his hands on Wally's shoulders.

“Um…?” Wally shifted, nervously as the fingers massaged his shoulders. He was definitely a little more than creeped out. There was something really really wrong about all this, and Wally was starting to get a sinking suspicion that Jeff was just like his former teacher…

When the fingers slipped on his collar bone, Wally jerked back, container falling from his hands and breaking open on the floor. He was too distracted to care about the granules of sugar covering the kitchen floor. “I think you need to leave,” Wally said, jaw clenched and eyes flashing. His speed buzzed just under his skin.

“Wally boy, is something wrong?” Jeff questioned, as if he didn't know what was wrong.

“You need to leave,” Wally repeated, slowly. “Get out or I'll call the cops.”

The man was frowning now and he took a step forward, shoes crunching on the sugar. “Wally boy?”

“Leave,” Wally said, stepping back. “You need to leave.”

Mr. Mackle looked him over, making his flesh crawl. “Okay, Wally boy,” he said softly. “I'll see you later then.”

Wally didn't move until the man was gone. His senses were on high alert as he listened to the man's footsteps fade and the door shut behind him.

Ears ringing, he realized he hadn't actually taken even a breath of air until then. Wally forced himself to take a few deep breaths. A thousand thoughts were rushing through his head, but the one thought he had most? 'I should ask Hartley to see what he can find…'

It was one thing to accuse Jeff Mackle of something he couldn't prove, but there was no doubt in Wally's mind that Hartley would be able to dig something up.

He pulled his phone from his pocket and sent out a quick text. The response he got was seconds later and was a simple 'Will do.' No 'what's wrong' or 'do you need us', but 'will do'. If there was one thing Wally knew after becoming friends with the Rogues, it was that they didn't question it when Wally needed them – they acted.

Wally locked the front door and checked the windows, speeding to the windows when he could get away with it without fear that he'd be seen by any neighbors. Once he was sure everything was locked up, he went back and cleaned up the sugar.

As he threw the dirty sugar in the trash, he realized something he needed to do. Figure out an excuse to tell his aunt and uncle to change the locks.

'...Maybe I can tell them I accidentally broke them?'

That wouldn't work. Maybe he could just blame James. He wouldn't mind being Wally's excuses. He had done it when Wally accidentally broke his phone running into a wall when he was late to school.

It could work?

Chapter Text

“And then Rainbow Dash swoops into action!” James excitedly squeals, regaling the whole living room with the fabulous adventure of how Rainbow Dash defeated him in his dream.

Digger and Sam seem to be the most attentive of the group, Hartley notes. Mick and Len are nodding, but seem more intent on seeing who can finish their beer first rather than listening to James' tale. He doesn't really blame them. It's the sixth “MLP defeats me” dream this week that they're being regaled with.

While he has a slight inclination to Rainbow Dash above the others, it doesn't stop him from typing on his computer and scrolling through the news sites. He's also careful to pay attention to an anonymous chat that he's pretty sure is nothing but criminals. Well, he's gotta keep track of the crimes so they don't intersect somehow.

(He might also love toying with them by pretending to be an undercover cop sometimes. Sue him, he likes watching them freak out and scatter like insects.)

Hartley skims through the news, reading about an opinion article on how Central City's heroes are the best. -Ding!-

Pulling his phone out, he takes his eyes away from the skin and unlocks it. 'A new message from Baby Flash?' He hadn't expected to hear from Wally this early, but sometimes hero business got you up at the drop of a hat, not that he had seen anything in the news… Curious, he opened the message and read it.

His body tensed and James' words faded from his ears. 'Jeff Mackle, huh?' It was an odd request, usually something that came from Len, but Hartley wasn't going to question it. If Baby Flash needed his help, he was going to shut up and help.

'Will do,' he typed back and then exited all the tabs he had up. “Let's get to it,” he said to himself out-loud, not noticing how eyes slid to him with interest.

While his fingers flew over the keys, he hacked. Hartley was no one's idiot. He could be extremely vengeful using his hacking to get even more often than not. No one hid things from him (except Batman, but he didn't really want a visit from that night creeper).

Facebook, MySpace, Tumblr… The guy's bank account, his history. Hartley wasn't going to let one thing slip by him. He was too careful for that, too determined.

'Born in Coast City,' he read, eyes skimming the information. 'Age: 41. Blood Type: A. Hair: Brown. Eye color: Blue. Height: 6'3”. Weight: 240lb. Parents: Arlene & Trevor Mackle… Hmm…' Hartley leaned closer, curious as he read Arlene's status as 'Deceased'. He wanted to know how that happened.

It hadn't taken much to find out that she'd died when Jeff was 17 years old in a tragic accident. Hartley felt his insides twist at the article on the wreck. She'd been a childcare worker, helping children cross the streets when a bus had hit her and several children, killing them on impact. Jeff had been there to witness.

He felt sorry for the man, but only for a split second. Wally's request had a reason behind it, and Hartley suspected that there was more to this man than just a sad back-story, so he continued searching.

The more he looked into Jeff growing, the deeper the suspicion grew. It wasn't that the man got into any trouble with the law. He seemed almost as straight and narrow as the average Joe. He was on the football team in high school, was an honors student, volunteered at thrift stores, collected money for donations…

Even in college the man seemed squeaky clean, but… 'Too clean,' Hartley couldn't help but crinkle his nose in frustration. He growled aloud in aggravation. He wasn't getting anywhere. Who blogged about stamps?

“What've you got there?”

Hartley startled as Mick's voice grumbled in his ear. Blinking, he looked around to see that everyone was gone, practically. James was watching cartoons with Sam and Digger, and Len was no where to be seen.

“Well?” Mick questioned, raising an eyebrow.

Clearing his throat, he realized more time had passed than he thought, because his throat was really dry. He swiped Mick's tea, ignoring the man's swear, before he sipped it and answered. “Favor from Wally. Thanks for the tea, by the way.”

Mick glared at him, half-heartedly. “You're not welcome.”

Shrugging, he turned his attention back to the computer screen. “He wants some information on a man. Jeff Mackle,” Hartley explained, rubbing his eyes.

“Hmm...” Mick seemed interested, concerned as he settled on the couch beside Hartley. “Got any dirt on the man?”

“No,” Hartley bit out, bitter. “The guy's squeaky clean! Honors crap and model citizen and all that stupid shit.”

“Hartley said a wordy-durd!” James buzzed in the background, eyes glued to the screen.

“Sssh!” Sam hushed the trickster.

Ignoring James, Hartley ran a hand through his hair. “I just don't get it. The facts say he's clean, but something just doesn't feel right. Baby Flash doesn't ask for information on anyone if he doesn't think there's something there.”

Mick nodded, eyes narrowing as he leaned over, scanning Hartley's screen for information. “Punk looks like someone I've robbed before,” he gruffly huffed.

“We've robbed a lot of people, Mick, and you can't remember half of them,” Len drawled from the doorway.

“They all look alike,” Mick retorted.

Hartley couldn't help but be amused when the two bantered. Although Len was clearly the leader, Mick always seemed to someone important. He wasn't a leader, but he had reach, and Hartley was afraid to find out how much he'd do if anything happened to Len.

Rolling his eyes, Len sauntered over to them, body tense. “What's going on, Hartley?” he questioned, but Hartley knew it was more of a demand than a simple question.

“Baby Flash asked for some information on a guy,” Mick replied. “Jeff Mackle.”

Len looked at Mick and bluntly said, “Thanks Hartley.” Shaking his head, he looked at Hartley this time. “What's the story on this guy?”

Hartley shrugged, feeling useless. “Straight arrow, Boss-man. No signs he's twisted, but something just doesn't feel right.”

Resting his arms on the back of the couch, Len leaned over and read the information Hartley had gathered. He was patient as Hartley scrolled through his compilation.

Finally, with a sigh, Len stood up. “You're right. Something doesn't add up. Guy seems to clean to to have a do-gooder like Wally question him.”

“What do we do?” Hartley asked.

Len looked at him, thoughtfully, before he turned to the rest of the Rogues. “Sam,” he spoke, waiting for the man to flip the TV off (“Awww, Sammy~” James whined.) before continuing. “I need you to do something for me.”

Sam stood, curious as they all watched their leader's lips curve in a smirk that usually had them discussing their jailbreak plans for the millionth time.

“I need you to plant some cameras and listening devices...”

Chapter Text

The last thing Iris West expected to see coming out of the coffee shop was Hartley Rathaway. The teen was wearing a hoodie with bulky earphones underneath, and his eyes were trained on her. She wasn't sure if she should walk back into the coffee shop and call Barry or not.

It's not like he was there to cause trouble though. She could tell by the way he fidgeted with his sleeves, eyes sliding around the crowd, alert. He seemed anxious, not plotting. He was nothing like the Rogue known as the Pied Piper and a lot more like the teen she'd heard about from Wally.

Still, she furrowed her brows, curious as to why Hartley Rathaway was here, and – 'Is he calling for me?'

The instant his eyes met hers, his face had slid into determination and something akin to urgency that made Iris' stomach roll uneasily. His lips parted as he mouthed her name several times, hand darting out to beckon her.

'Why?' was ultimately the question, but it didn't make her desire to know what a Rogue was doing in broad daylight, in the middle of the street, on her lunch break, calling her to his side dissipate. In fact, her reporter's instinct was blaring at her to just go. Something told her that this was important, that she needed to stop staring and get moving.

Her eyes scanned the streets before she darted across the road in the middle of a traffic lull. “Pretty daring, Mrs.,” Hartley hummed as he pulled his headphones off, draping them on his shoulders.

Iris shrugged, joking back, “You don't get to be a reporter by not taking a chance.”

Hartley nodded, a small smile revealing his agreement.

“What's going on?”

And with that question, his smile faded, brows pinched together with importance. “We need to talk with you,” Hartley told her, turning slightly and walking closer to an alley.

Iris blinked, confused. “Talk? About what?” she questioned, following him.

“It's about the kid,” a gruff voice spoke, startling her from inside the alley.

Whirling about, she saw Leonard Snart and Mick Rory step out from the alley's shadows, just visible enough to be seen by her, but hidden from the public's prying eyes. “What do mean?” she demanded, half wondering whether she should've called Barry before walking over here. It's not like she thought they'd hurt her. The Rogues were careful about who they targeted and Iris wasn't on their list. If she were to be seen with them, it would cause panic and questions. She may report the news, but she sure as heck didn't want to be the news.

“You've got an… unusual neighbor,” Snart drawled, stressing 'unusual' as if it would somehow click in her head. She didn't have a clue what he was talking about, however.

“Unusual – who?”

“Jeff Mackle,” Hartley piped up, clinical.

Her brows furrowed. “Jeff? What's wrong with him? What makes him 'unusual', as you called him?”

Hartley looked nervous, meeting Snart's gaze. Snart gave Hartley a gentle nod, assuming control. “I think you'd better call your husband, Mrs. West,” Snart asserted.

“Why do I need to call him?” she asked. Iris knew she was asking a lot of questions, though she could barely hear herself over her own uptick in her heartbeat. It couldn't be helped. Reporter's habit – ask questions. Always keep asking until you find the bone. “And don't you have his number?”

Snart's shoulders tensed a bit in a way that made her uneasy. “We know Red s'not planetside,” Rory replied. “Call from us wouldn't draw the roadrunner back, but a call from you, however?”

Her eyes fell shut with realization. “He'd come back in a heartbeat.”

“Technically, he is faster than a heartbeat normally,” Hartley pointed out.

Iris snorted, vaguely amused and impressed with Hartley's ability to make some of the tension lift. She looked into Snart's eyes and gave him a look. “I'll call him. Where do you want to meet?” Obviously, the Flash and Rogues casually chatting in an alley would be more than weird.

Snart stepped forward and slipped a piece of paper with an address into her hand that she recognized as that of an abandoned warehouse. “Meet us there in 15.”

She eyed the piece of paper, curious. “But how will you-?” Looking up from the address, she realized she was there alone. “What?” Something glinted, catching her eyes, and Iris realized it was an old mirror. 'Clever. Dramatic, but clever.' She sighed as the mirror rippled once, taking out her phone.

“Barry? I'm going to need you back on solid ground shortly,” she spoke as soon as he picked up.


~


“Yes, Bats,” Barry recited. “I'm 100% focused.” Not.

They had these talks on the Watchtower every week, reviewing how that week's missions went, what they can improve on, everything he broke. Well, it was technically, everything that the League broke during their missions to save people, but somehow Bats always gave him the impression that he should've avoided certain things.

...Although, he could've probably caught that pole before it fell on the car, whooshed it away, but give him a break. He needed a breather. (Plus it was some cop that Barry knew had ties to the mafia.) Everyone deserves a break, just not that guy.

He sighed, leaning back and pretending to listen to Superman try to quell Batman's lecturing. It felt like every time Barry did something a little original, Batman would pounce, making him listen to each and every possibility of things that could have gone wrong. He didn't need Bats to tell him. He knew. With his Speedster mind, it was impossible to not have gone over every single horrible thing that could go wrong. He knew, but sometimes he would rather not know.

“Come on, Bruce,” Superman tried. The Man of Steel was the only one who was crazy enough to step up and stand against Batman. (I mean, Barry was crazy himself, but he would never truly be against any of them.)

As he was ignoring the conversation, a faint ringing sound caught his attention. It was low, dulled, but he still heard it. Amongst heroes who were constantly on alert, it wasn't something any of them could miss. They all turned towards him the moment he realized it was coming from one of his suit pockets.

Barry flushed beneath their gazes and cleared his throat. “Well, wouldn't you know it, I forgot to turn my phone off.” He dug it from his pocket and stood. “Excuse me,” he zipped out of the doors and into the hall, answering his phone.

“Barry here, what's the scene?” he joked.

Barry?” his wife's voice came, a crackle across the speakers. “I think you need to come back now.”

Frowning, he questioned. “How come? Is everything okay?Areyouguyshurt?”

Cold and a few of his Rogues just stopped me to say they need to see us in about fifteen minutes,” Iris relayed to him. “I have the address...”

“Us?”

I think something's wrong.”

Barry straightened up, mind racing through the possibilities of what could be wrong. Was it Wally? Was there trouble? Were they hurt? “I'll be there in in a flash.”

Exchanging hurried words, they hung up. Barry stepped back inside the conference room. “Hey guys, Iris needs me for something, so I'll be back in a little bit. Sorry!Gottarun!” And he was gone before they had a chance to open their mouths.

Chapter Text

Leonard Snart was a patient man, but for once he couldn't stop himself from pacing. It wasn't like him to be so fidgety, to be so tense. He'd found easier places to bury secrets that his Rogues just happened to spill in front of him than baring this tension.

He'd ignored James when he told the young Rogue he couldn't be a part of this. The trickster had whined and threatened to egg his motorcycle, but luckily Digger had pulled James aside and offered to watch MLP with him. Honestly, it was either that or Len would've iced his Spike plush.

“Fuck,” he groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose as a headache began to build like a growing storm.

A throat cleared, and Len looked up to find Hartley standing there with his laptop under the dull lights of the abandoned building. “I've got everything ready for whenever they get here.” He looked tired, yet his eyes gleamed with determination. Len couldn't help but be proud of him.

“Thanks, kid. Take a seat before you fall down. We can't start without those two anyways,” Len commanded, happy to see Hartley give him a grateful smile and follow his instruction.

Not two minutes later the door squeaked open in a way that made Len wince. He was going to have to talk to Digger about that. Supposedly, the man was supposed to take some WD-40 to that door, but apparently it'd slipped his mind. 'Later.'

He put on a small smirk as Iris stepped in, wind rustling about her like the force of nature she was. He hair was a bit messy, but it didn't stop her from looking like she was ready to take on the entire world if needs be. Maybe one day he'd have to talk to her about joining the Rogues, but for now…

“Mrs. West,” Len nodded as her heels clacked on the hard flooring, coming towards him.

Iris looked around, eyes scanning the room. “I couldn't wait for Flash, so I took a taxi,” she explained, sitting down on a rolly chair and crossing her ankles.

Her insistence on using Allen's hero name amused him, because he knew that she knew their identities. It was hard not to after having become so close to them, but Len would pretend if it's what she wanted. They weren't really friends anyways; actually, they were enemies, so pretending was for the best.

Len looked at his watch. It was a few minutes passed the time he'd told them to be here, which means Scarlet was late. Again. “He'll be here soon.”

Iris raised an eyebrow at him, giving him a small, frustrated smile. “Give it another five minutes.”

And boy, did he want to laugh when five minutes later, Flash came racing into the room with a loud bang as the door flew open. “I'mhere!I'mhere!DidImissanything?What'sgoingon?” the Speedster spoke fast.

“Sit down and slow down,” Iris huffed with a glare. Flash looked meek as he plopped down on an old couch.

“Sorry.”

Continuing as if she hadn't just put the hero of Central City in place, Iris met Len's eyes and asked, “What is this about, Mr. Snart? You mentioned Jeff, but what does he have to do with anything?”

Len swears he can hear Mick in the background chuckle over the “Mr. Snart” bit. It makes his eye twitch a little to be called so formerly, but he ignores it. “First off, what do you know about him?” he inquires, leaning forward.

Flash pipes up, “He moved to his current house a few years ago after he lost his wife in an accident. Everyone found out she was pregnant after an autopsy.”

“Jeff moved out of his old home and into the neighborhood. He was very upset at the time, distraught over having lost both his wife and unborn child,” Iris continues, looking thoughtful. “He didn't have the heart to keep up his garden. I think the inside of his house was enough as it was.”

She paused, hesitating for a reason that she didn't appear clear on. “When Wally first started coming over, he would help Jeff with his garden, plant things, weed, keep up with appearances. Jeff seemed to come out of his shell. His face would light up and before too long, he seemed to be enjoying gardening. He even bought tools that he could share with Wally.”

Flash nods in agreement. “It was an incredible transformation.”

Hartley looks at Len, nervousness apparent on his face. Len nods to him, gritting his teeth and leaning back. “When something seems too good to be true, Scarlet, sometimes it is,” he told them, watching as they narrowed their eyes and sat up, focusing on him.

“What do you mean?” Flash demanded.

“Wally sent me a message earlier, asking me to check up on a 'Jeff Mackle',” Hartley explained. “Obviously, I didn't question it, but as I began searching, I realized that something seemed a bit...off.” He shrugged. “The accident was tragic, that much is sure, but the man is too clean.”

“So?”

“So everyone has something to hide, and sometimes people have dark secrets hidden behind their masks,” Len remarked. “Not all of us can be so straight and narrow underneath.”

“You're saying there's something Jeff's hiding?” Iris questioned, doggedly.

“We are,” Hartley affirmed. Mick nodded behind them, a silent presence.

Iris and Flash exchanged a look before both looking at Len, intent. “Show us.”

So Len did. He had Hartley pull everything up on the computer, explaining how he'd gone about collecting the information, what he'd found… What Jeff Mackle was really hiding beneath his smile.

It didn't make him feel any better to watch as Flash and Iris looked on him, their faces becoming tight with what they were being told. Honestly, Len felt the same. His skin crawled when he'd found out too, blood turning to ice. Suddenly, the picture of Jeff Mackle looked a lot darker than it originally was when he'd first seen it.

Dark picture for a man with a dark obsession.

He waits to see what they'll do, because this time, it's their decision. It's what nobody noticed, nobody except Wally. Len knows what he'd do, but this needs to be their decision, because it's about someone important to them. It's about someone they all know.

Chapter Text

By the end of listening to Len and Hartley's explanations, Barry is officially feeling ice in his veins. It feels he's been hit with the cold gun, except it feels so much colder. Barry feels so much colder, but inside a fire has been lit, and he wants to rush off to release its powers on the very subject of this meeting – Jeff Mackle.

The name makes him want to growl with a desire to destroy. No, this time, he doesn't want to be a hero. “Hero” is a term that he'd rather bury deep down inside him as something more powerful and dark bubbles up. It's fierce with claws, wanting to rip apart its chosen victim.

Destroying feels so right. It feel so right, because letting this go feels so wrong. Barry's failed his nephew too many times already. He's failed to see the pain in the ginger's eyes, the hurt he hides deep inside, to see those who hurt him, and worst of all? He's been helpless to stop it more times than not.

He's tries to remind himself that this is the life that Wally's chosen for himself, tries not to think about how Flash is the one who inspired Wally to join the hero life. Inside, he still feels guilty though. He can't help but think about how much happier, more innocent his nephew would be if he were going to school and hanging out with friends, worrying about his grades and whether or not he's got a crush on someone.

Instead of all those simple concerns, Wally's got lives depending on him. He's fighting people that sometimes Barry can't handle, seeing so many lives destroyed, worrying if one day he might not come home. Barry's never wanted that life for Wally.

But sometimes… times like these, he's reminded that danger lurks even among those that don't go out and try to take over the world. He's reminded that people, who look so normal, are capable of such darkness. Barry's seen it before with Wally's past teachers, but Jeff Mackle?

It's somehow different when Barry's helped the man with a garage sale, with the loss of his wife. It's different from because he'd had the man over for dinner in his very home.

It's different, because he should've seen it. He's The Flash. He should've known.

...But he hadn't.


Half an hour later, Barry stands there with sparks flickering over his body in the house of Jeff Mackle – his neighbor, and soon to be the recipient of his wrath.

The house is average. It reveals a lot of a single man's life with a couple of beer bottles on the table, bills piled up in a corner to be dealt with later. Pictures of his late wife hang on the walls. She's lovely. He looks very happy, his arms around her as they both smile for the camera.

It's surreal to think that despite this plain, dull interior, something lays that Barry hadn't been able to see. He knows he shouldn't blame himself, because things slip by, but… It's hard not to. He's a CSI! He should've known better. How Jeff always inquired about Wally and his wellbeing. It should've been more apparent.

Barry sighed, standing there clenching and unclenching his fists in the middle of the living room. He didn't bother to follow the directions up to the room. It would be too much, and he would become unable to control himself if he saw it in person.

Watching it with Iris at his side had been bad enough.

He closes his eyes, hearing Snart's voice in his head. “We found something… Hartley's camera… listening devices..” But the loudest of all? “There's a kid's room.”

A kid's room.

Jeff hadn't had any kids. He almost did, but he'd lost it along with his wife. Yet there was a kid's room in his house. The house he'd gotten after his wife had passed.

It's.. disturbing,” Hartley's voice echoes in his ears still.

And it was. It wasn't the kind of disturbing that he'd seen at work, the murders he'd failed to stop, the bodies that he searched for evidence… It was there. It left his skin feeling slimy and dirty, made him want to burn the house down.

He might let Mick do it later. Maybe add some gasoline or something.

All he can see at the moment, however, is pictures and video footage of that room. Pictures of a boy with ginger hair and a bright smile, newspaper clippings of his accomplishments, and… clothes. Clothes that he knows. Clothes that he's seen on that very boy.

It's not a room. It's some sick, twisted shrine, because it's supposed to be Wally's room.

Today, my Wally boy looks happy. He's smiling, and seems to love that puppy from next door.”

I saw my boy again today. His hair looks so soft. I wonder why it's always so wind swept? My boy should comb his hair more often.”

...More straight A's. I'm so proud!”

Saw him win the science award at his school today. What a smart boy!”

Spent the day watching him play with his friends in the park. That blonde girl hit him. I want to throttle her for hitting my boy.”

His shoulders feel heavy as he tilts his head back and looks at the ceiling. The pure whiteness of it makes his mind go numb, and he reveals in that feeling. Barry wishes he hadn't let Wally get so close to Jeff. He wishes they'd known that it'd come to this.

Do you think Mr. Mackle would like some cookies?” a young Wally's voice lights up in his ears. “He always looks so sad….”

Barry should've said 'no'. There are so many things he should've said, should've done, but right now….

The door creaks open and footsteps reverberate through the hallway.

...This is what matters.

He's here now.

Chapter Text

Jeff worked from home for the most part. He designed web pages and was responsible for the finances at a local law office. It fit his needs. He needed to work from home for the majority of the time, so that he could make his own hours, use them as he pleased.

His son was proud of him, he imagined. Proud of his garden that they'd worked so hard on together, how it was blooming. Jeff always enjoyed taking time to watch his son play with his friends in the park, to see him rewarded for his brilliance. His son, Wally boy – the genius.

The day he first saw him, it was like the entire world lit up. Grays faded to colors, and Wally boy's ginger hair stood out as a shining beacon to him. He could hardly believe his eyes when he smiled at him. To Jeff, it was a miracle.

He tried not to overwhelm those who would listen to him as he talked about what award his son had won recently, about his accomplishments. It was hard not to with a son as amazing as his.

Jeff always made sure to give his son a toy when he'd done something wonderful, taking a picture and proudly displaying it among all the other toys and pictures in his son's room. Because of his amazing son, the room was filled with pictures and presents.

'Maybe I should convert the desk to another room for Wally boy. He deserves it after acing his exams,' Jeff thought to himself as he turned onto a familiar road home. 'My boy really is incredible.'

It was hard at first to believe that anything could ever return his happiness after he lost his wife. It was like losing a part of him. There was a gaping hole in his world where she used to be. He hadn't thought that there would be anything to ease the ache, fill the gap.

But there'd been Wally boy. Smart, talented. His smile was just as brilliant as his wife's had been. He had her gift for gardening too. That's how he knew – he was theirs, and that he'd be the perfect father.

Jeff hummed as he continued on down the street, thinking about the many pictures he had of his boy. It was just about time for more, in fact. He'd have to get in touch with his contact in Keystone and request them. For someone working at a law office, it wasn't surprising to find someone willing to bend the rules, to follow his boy, take pictures, and send them to him.

Jacob was a stalker that had gotten out of being convicted to due to the evidence being tampered. The man was an unscrupulous sort, but had was weak to pressure and money. It hadn't taken much convincing at all. All he really had to do was wave the money under his nose and presto! Jeff's own personal rat.

He made a mental note to get in contact with his rat as soon as he got home. After the kind of day he'd been having, he deserved something to look forward to, a promise that tomorrow would be better.

As he pulled into his driveway, he couldn't help but think of his Wally boy's smile. The way his eyes crinkled when he smiled was just too cute. He can't help but dread the day when a pretty girl figures out just how adorable he is. Or guy. Either way, he's going to have his eye on them. Anyone who makes his boy cry is going to get it.

'Got to make sure my boy stays safe,' Jeff thought to himself as he turned the car off. He grabbed his briefcase and got out, shutting the door and locking it behind him. He couldn't wait to get back inside for some coffee. Maybe he'd order in tonight? He did have a long day at work after all.

Smiling, he opened the door and stepped in, setting his briefcase aside and flipping on the hall light. There was something… different tonight. A feeling of weirdness that wasn't quite right. It was unusual, but perhaps it was just his imagination. 'Eh, whatever.'

Jeff kept walking into the living room, trying to shake off that feeling of unease. It wasn't until he went to sling his jacket onto the couch, however, that he noticed a figure.

“Holy shit!” Jeff yelped, jumping back, too shocked to care that his jacket fell onto the floor with a plop.

Narrowing his eyes to see better, he realized it was his neighbor – Barry Allen. “What the fuck, man,” he let out a strangled laugh as he flipped on the light. “You scared me half to death.”

His neighbor was oddly quiet, but Jeff kept on rambling. “After such a long day, though, anything would probably scare me, you know?” He picked up his jacket and laid it on the back of the couch. “I swear. People these days. They're all after something, and some people will just do whatever they want.”

“Oh, really?” Barry's voice sounded a bit tight, restrained.

Jeff thought it was just from having seen so much as a CSI. “Yeah. It's just such a crazy world. Even the most average of people can be hiding a dark secret.”

“You'd know all about that, wouldn't you, Jeff?” Barry bit out, drawing Jeff's eyes to him.

He frowned at his neighbor. 'Is he… upset for some reason? Did he have a fight with his wife?' Another thought made his heart constrict. Surely, Wally boy hadn't been hurt, had he? He'd have known if his boy were hurt, wouldn't he?

“Everything okay, Barry? Is someone hurt?” Jeff asked, digging for the truth. He needed to know, but it was very undignified to get straight to the issue. Is Wally boy okay?

Something...flashed in his neighbor's eyes that set him ill at ease, and before he could prepare himself, Barry was standing right in front of him, glaring. “You don't get to ask that!” he screamed at Jeff.

Jeff stumbled back, feet falling over themselves before he hit the wall with a clank. The picture of his wife and himself fell, shattering to the ground, but he couldn't look away from the almost glowing eyes of his neighbor. “W-what? I don't understand..”

“Don't you dare play dumb! He's not yours and he'll never be your son!”

His breath caught in his throat. Somehow, Barry knew. Somehow, he'd found out. How? He couldn't figure it out, but he wasn't about to let himself be bullied. Wally was his and no one was going to keep him from believing that. “He is my son! I knew it from the moment I saw him, that he was made to be mine!” Jeff's throat burned as he yelled back.

“You have no blood relation to him whatsoever,” Barry's cold voice broke through with a hiss. “He has a father and it's not you!”

“Well, it's not you either,” Jeff growled out, anger building inside him as something akin to fear tried to grab his attention. He felt proud with Barry flinched away. It was good to see the asshole pay for implying Wally wasn't his. Maybe they weren't related by blood, but he was his.

Barry seemed to shake himself clear of the emotional blow and pressed his arm against Jeff's throat. It was scary to be lifted as he tried to breathe through the hold on him, legs kicking as the ground and his body separated. “He may not be my son by blood but he's just as well. I don't give a damn where you go after this,” Jeff's head swam from the lack of oxygen, “but if you ever looked at him or even think of my son, I will destroy you.”

His throat burned, lungs crying out for air as Barry continued, “Do you understand?” He couldn't bring himself to reply, but as Barry repeated it he found himself nodding as best as he could, tears streaming down his cheeks.

Barry backed off and he collapsed onto the ground, wheezing and coughing. “I may feel bad for your loss, but it doesn't excuse anything you've done.” Sirens echoed in the background, getting steadily closer. “Confess what you've done to the police, all of it, and you won't have another visit from me again.” He leaned down and grabbed Jeff's shirt, hoisting him up so he could look him in the eye.

For the first time since he'd gotten that phone call from the hospital, he felt afraid as he looked into his neighbor's eyes that flashed with light and power. He truly understood just how close he was to danger amidst Barry Allen's rage. 'This man's dangerous!'

“Fail to confess, and you won't have to worry about just me,” Barry smiled, darkness playing upon his face. “You'll face every single one of us who loves Wally, and believe me, it's not a short list. Understand?”

Jeff nodded again, body feeling weak as his heart pounded in his chest. Sweat dripping down his face made him grimace. “Good.” And then he was sailing through the air, shoulder hitting the wall with such force that he must've blacked out.

...When he awake, Barry Allen was gone, and he opened his eyes to several police officers standing above him with unforgiving glares.



Riding in the police car to the station with handcuffs cold against his skin, he couldn't help but wonder, 'Maybe Wally's more special than I thought…' Jeff's lips curled in a thoughtful, evil smile. He might just have to find out.