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Soulmate Identifying Marks, and Other Hazards of the Job

Chapter Text

Before we embark on this absolutely bonkers journey together, please allow me a brief explanation, and some ground rules before we jump right into the fray. I will try to write these in such a way that you do not fall asleep, but you don't actually have to read this chapter at all unless you plan on making a request.

I. I am a sucker for Soulmate Identifying Marks (or SIMfic), and I am trying to accept that me liking something doesn't mean there's something wrong with it.

II. I like writing, but I am dreadful about sticking with projects.

III. There's a fantastic little series of SIMfics for The Mortal Instruments, Shadowhunter Soulmate Squadron by meraculas, in which each chapter is a new one shot with a new pairing, and I was inspired to do the same.

IV. Like meraculas, I will accept requests,but there are a few brief, simple ground rules before hand:

•Character choices. I have actually technically only watched season one, so I shouldn't even try to write most characters from season two onwards. There are exceptions to this, in that I have a broster who has seen later seasons and who loves me deeply, so I am quite familiar with Julian Alberts, as well as basically every version of Harrison Wells, because Tom Cavanagh gets my heart started in the morning. So those boys are available, as is anyone from the first season of The Flash, the first season of The Arrow, and the first episode of Legends of Tomorrow (because that's how far I made it through Legends of Tomorrow, and I sort of apologize).

•Ship choices. I will write nearly any ship you ask for BUT there are exceptions to that rule as well! They are:
*No dubcon or noncon other than what's implied by you-don't-get-a-fucking-say-in-this-soulmate-business.
*No descendant incest (Joe/Iris, for example, though if you ask for Snart sibs, I will probably oblige).
*No crossovers (please don't confuse me).
*Absolutely NO CANON SHIPS! No Westallen, no Iris and Eddie. I can, however, write things like Snow Barry or what's the cute girl that Barry dated for like ten seconds, because it's not like we thought those would last.

•Mark types. There are so bloody many ways to write SIMfic, and I am totally down to try ALL OF THEM. These include, but are by no means limited to:
*Name - in which your soulmate's first name is on your body somewhere.
*Age - in which you are marked with the age your soulmate will be when you meet.
*Quote - in which you are marked with your soulmate's first words to you.
*First touch - in which your mark forms when you and your soulmate first make physical contact.
*Shared marks - in which the scars, birthmarks, and tattoos of one soulmate are share by both.
*Chalkboard - in which ALL marks on the skin of one soulmate appear on both, even temporary ones.
*Anything else you can think of. If you make a request,please tell me the kind of mark you want, as well as the ship.

•Redundancy. I want very much to say that I will only write each of these once. HOWEVER, I must add the caveat that with, as I have already bored you with, such an extensive list of character and mark options, I might write the same pairing twice, or seem to. Not only is Barry Allen/Harrison Wells totally different from Barry Allen/Earth-19 HR Wells, but name!Coldflash is not at all the same as first touch!Coldflash... Which is all to say that if you want something that I already did but I didn't do the kind you wanted, you can, of course, ask.

•Longevity. My GOAL is to keep each of these one shots between 150 and 1,500 words. Clearly, I'm off to a terrible start.

All else is fair in love and war.

Chapter Text

It was a really pretty ordinary night for Cisco; which was to say that he was showering at two in the morning to remove the smells of burnt rubber and electrical wire and something viscous that might or might not be chemical in origin, but which was trying to mold his beautiful flowing hair into a single indivisible lump, which was a fate Cisco valued above untimely death or the loss of his rare vintage video game collection, but rather below being compared to his brother or eating carrot sticks for every meal for a year.

He was running raisin-textured fingertips through his fourth course of shampoo when it happened. Something was... happening... to the top of his left butt cheek. He turned in a full circle, but there was nobody and nothing in the shower with him. He tried to peer around, over his shoulder or under his arm, but only succeeded in getting shampoo in his eyes as it diluted and ran down his face. As he swore and rinsed the grey foam from his eyes, Cisco opted to use logic to solve the Mystery of the Left Ass without looking. Had it felt like an outside force, like being perhaps poked in the butt by an invisible pervert, or raked with badly aimed psychic energy? No, not particularly. It had felt like it came from inside, blossoming under the skin. More like a bruise, then; only sharper and a little itchy.

He combed his memory for any past bruise that had felt the same, but the only remotely similar experience had been that time in the middle of summer camp that a nasty mark appeared on his shin, and he had promptly blamed Jake Puckett, who thought he was a smart bully because the scars that swirlies leave are purely psychological. Jake had been the only other person around, and thus had gotten into a world of hard-earned trouble, and Cisco had, grudgingly, felt vaguely obligated to go to confession with his great-aunt Ruby. There, the priest had tried with varying degrees of success not to laugh, and told Cisco to pray for his soulmate, whose injury he had used to his own benefit. Cisco had always carried ambivalent feelings about his soulmate, who was presumably out there somewhere, but whose life didn't affect him at all, but this experience had warmed those feelings greatly. Though it wasn't what Father Sanders or Great-Aunt Ruby or certainly Jake would have wanted, in some way, he had come to think of his nameless, faceless soulmate as the avenging angel who had exacted glorious retribution on Jake Puckett. It was a bond at least as strong as the soul mark, since apart from that occasion, Cisco's soul mate had done an excellent job of avoiding any injury that might leave a permanent mark.

Until now.

Foregoing conditioner for the first time since college, Cisco stepped out of the shower, haphazardly toweling his once more multi-strand hair, wiped down the mirror, and twisted to see what new scar his soulmate had shared with him. It was hard to make out in the foggy mirror, but it quickly became apparent that the mark, such as it was, was not a wound or bruise or scar, but a very fresh tattoo, scrawling a single word in delicate, well-formed loops.

This did a good deal to cool Cisco's warm feelings towards his soulmate, as he hadn't chosen to get a tattoo. In fact, he had rarely even considered getting a tattoo of any kind, and alright, maybe once or twice, he had considered it, but this didn't look remotely like a rubix cube, a tardis, the Millenium Falcon, a dinosaur, or the first hundred digits of pi (all of which he had, admittedly, considered at one time or other). He was also willing to bet it wasn't a clever joke in binary, which he had also considered. Which begged the question of what the small, neat, fancy-looking word on Cisco's butt actually said.

And he had no idea. He tried every possible calisthenic activity in front of the mirror in an attempt to read the tattoo. By about three o'clock, he gave up and went to bed, determined to see how many days, weeks, or years he could ignore the soul mark before he went crazy.

***

"Caitlin, can you, maybe, do me the weirdest favor probably ever?"

He had made it seven hours, only by sleeping through six of them. It was now around ten in the morning, and Cisco was in the lab with a bagel, a slushy, and a feeling of eternal gratitude that his best friend was married to her work.

"That sentence implies that it is the strangest favor you have ever asked me," Caitlin glanced up from a test tube, pushing an errant strand of hair behind her ear, "which would make it... pretty odd."

"Think weirder." Cisco gestured widely with his half-eaten bagel to encompass the vast scope of unplumbed oddity that should be taken into account.

Caitlin put the test tube down, very carefully, and stepped away from the array of breakables before replying. "How weird are we talking?"

"Okay." He took a deep breath and made what was meant to be a calming, placating gesture, but which nearly spilled purple slush on several hundred dollars worth of equipment. "I need you to tell me what the tattoo on my butt says."

"Really?" Caitlin gaped at him. "Cisco, this is why we made a pact never to drink alone."

"It's not mine..." He growled, ducking his head to encourage her to lower her voice. There was no-one else in the lab. Probably. Almost certainly. It seemed wise in STAR labs to never assume. Anyway, it was the kind of thing best discussed calmly, rationally, and without raised voices or any form of laughter. "It's a tattoo. Or, apparently, it's my soulmate asserting probably accidental dominance over my squishy helpless body, and Caitlin, I can't read what it says!" The last words came out in a hiss, and Caitlin had the good grace to look alarmed.

"Okay, well, that's simple enough, let's just..." Caitlin's shoulders rose as she took a deep no-big-deal-let's-get-this-done breath.

Which would have been more reassuring if she hadn't been pulling rubber gloves on.

"Whoah whoah whoah..." Cisco waved a finger (and, coincidentally, half a bagel) at her hands. "What do you need those for, Caitlin, it is just a tattoo."

"It's protocol, and it's hygienic." She blinked at him. "I thought we'd both feel more comfortable if we kept this as professional as possible." She pointed to the exam table, and Cisco, rolling his eyes nervously, put down his breakfast and leaned on the exam table with his back turned to the good doctor.

By the time Caitlin had extraordinarily clinically lowered his pants the absolute minimum amount possible for the necessary view, Cisco had his eyes scrunched shut, and was reconsidering soulmates as a concept. It wasn't like she (or he) had really meant to save him from Jake Puckett. And that was years ago. There was really nothing that could justify going around tattooing somebody else's body with the word,

"Eddie." Caitlin's voice was decisive as she straightened up, and Cisco tripped over himself to get his pants back where they belonged.

"Eddie?" Cisco turned to look where Caitlin had her face set in a yes-I'm-afraid-it's-for-your-own-good kind of look while throwing away her gloves.

"Eddie." She nodded firmly and raised her eyebrows innocently. "Know anyone who would want to get the name 'Eddie' tattooed on her butt?"

"Oh man." Cisco groaned, reaching weakly for his life-giving slushy. "Barry's gonna kill me."

Chapter Text

Barry Allen truly thought he knew what betrayal felt like; everyone thinks that until they've experienced it. But now, standing across from the killer who taught him how to be a hero, he understood that deep, hollow pain like never before. It felt like losing a loved one; Barry supposed that's what it was. Losing the person you thought you knew, and everything they could ever have done, or become, or been to you.

The worst part of it all was wanting to tell Doctor Wells, because some part of him still thought that Harrison Wells could make all this better.

But Wells was dead. This man; this serene, sardonic man sitting peaceably in front of him; had never, ever been Harrison Wells. The man who still looked the same, and smiled the same, and sat in a wheelchair he didn't need the same way he had ever since Barry first met him was-

"Eobard Thawne." The man who was not Wells nodded his head in a polite bow the same way Barry had seen a hundred times before. "Your soulmate, I believe."

"What? N-no." Barry stammered slightly, gesturing at the pale scar just showing under the hem of the doctor's sleeve. "That's your soulmark, and it says Tessa; I've seen it!"

"Tattoo. White ink." Wells - Thawne - shrugged. "When I took this body, this face, all of Harrison Wells's DNA - all of his freckles, scars, wrinkles - everything was printed on my body. On my face." He tugged at his right sleeve so that the tattoo was visible. "Except this." He shook his head. "You can't trick a soul, Flash."

"You seem to be doing well so far." Barry's voice was cold, but he was trying so hard not to cry.

"Skin is simple. Skin can be lied to. All it takes is ink and a needle to convince skin. But the soul..." He pushed the other sleeve up until Barry could finally see it, just above the elbow. Tiny, gawky handwriting. Bartholomew.

"No." Barry shook his head. "No, I don't believe you."

"You can't fool your soul, Barry."

"But you can fool skin." Barry's eyes challenged him. "Just takes a little ink. Isn't that right, Doctor?"

"It's true, I falsified my mark." Wells-who-was-not-Wells shook his head. "But you didn't, Barry. And I think we both know that the side of your left foot says 'Eobard'. Do you know any other Eobard, Barry?"

"No." Barry's gaze was level and unflinching. "But you've known that's what it said for months. And I've only got your word for it that Eobard is even your real name." He lowered his voice, bending down until their faces almost touched. "And you have given me absolutely no reason to trust you."

"Debatable." Wells tilted his head non-committally. "And irrelevant. Because whether I have given you reason or not, Barry, you do trust me. You have always trusted me. And I have always come through for you."

Barry hesitated, his mouth already slightly open, his next retort stillborn. Eobard Thawne was the Man in Yellow. Eobard Thawne was Harrison Wells. Eobard Thawne had hurt nearly everyone and everything that mattered to Barry. Eobard Thawne was Eobard, whose name had been sketched meticulously onto Barry's foot for as long as he remembered. Eobard.

Barry straightened, turned his back on his mentor, and for once in his life, Barry Allen didn't run away. He walked.

Chapter Text

When Barry woke up (already late for breakfast with Iris) with a bite mark on his neck, he sighed, showered, and swept through his closet for an unseasonable scarf. Barry had nothing against love bites, but once, just once, he would like to earn them. It was true that he wasn't sleeping much at nights, but his regular date with the criminal underworld was anything but steamy (except, of course, for the incident last week that had involved a great deal of steam, and yes, it had been very hot, but Barry hoped it didn't fit anyone's definition of sexy).

He rushed down the stairs and opened the door as Iris pushed the doorbell.

"Heeey..." Barry skidded slightly.

"Barry!" Iris smiled in surprise, slightly breathless. "You're all ready. I admit, I thought you'd forget."

"Noooope." Barry managed a big, bright, totally fake smile. Iris was also wearing a scarf. It was sixty degrees out. If Barry Allen couldn't tell Iris that she was his soulmate, at least they could be hipster twinkies.

Barry had always hoped that Iris was his soulmate, ever since childhood; and yet for every scraped up knee, every black eye, every scratch and bruise and scar on Barry's body, he never saw a single mark on Iris that she hadn't earned herself. He'd never seen any of her marks on himself, either, but Barry's childhood had contained so many bruises that it was impossible to say for sure if he'd really earned them all. He'd never given up hope though: some times it took years for a soul bond to connect fully. Decades, even.

When he came home from college, Iris was still his best friend, but they had so little in common, and finally, slowly, Barry began to let go of that dream. He loved Iris; he would always love Iris; but sometimes, when he was very, very honest with himself, the relationship they actually had, and who they really were to each other... It was good. And important. But in his heart, Barry knew it wasn't a soul bond.

Until it was.

When Barry Allen woke up from a coma after the STAR Labs explosion, it wasn't an exaggeration to say that a lot had changed. Like, basically everything. He had super powers, for one thing. New friends. New enemies (a lot of new enemies, because Barry had never really had enemies before, any more than pudding has enemies). And Iris had a new boyfriend. She hadn't told him at first; but then, she really hadn't needed to. When Iris's perfect new boyfriend, Detective Eddie "Pretty Boy" Thawne left marks on her body, they showed up on Barry. Iris might wear a jacket, but Barry still knew about the delicate scratch marks on her back. He'd felt them. When her lips were bruised, so were his. And when Iris wore a scarf to cover the bites on her neck, well... Hipster twinkies.

Barry barely had to cover them, they healed so fast. It wasn't actually a comfort. And now, even if he wanted to tell Iris, to show her, to prove it to her, he couldn't. By the time he could show her, the marks were already too faint, and how exactly was he supposed to explain a soul mark that fades too fast? Already, he could feel how faint the bruises under his scarf must have faded (and wow, Iris must have had a fun morning; thanks for that).

So he didn't tell her. It wasn't safe anyway: Iris wasn't a cop like Joe, and she certainly wasn't a super hero. He might have confused feelings about his belated soulmate, but he wouldn't endanger her. Besides, she and Eddie were happy. Barry rolled his eyes, spotting a tiny bruise peaking out around Iris's scarf. Really, really happy. Wow. He didn't even remember that one. Unconsciously, his hand flew to the same spot, on a pulse point behind his ear. Nothing. It must have already faded.

They sat down at Jitters with their usual coffees as Iris launched into a story about the article she was writing. She neglected to ask Barry about his week. Barry opted not to ask her about her morning. The day seemed to be going to par when he heard a voice that had become all-too familiar.

"Hey, guys!" The worst thing, to Barry's mind, about his soulmate dating someone else, was that Eddie was so cheerful, and so friendly, and so freaking nice that try as he might (and he had tried), Barry just couldn't hate him. It would be like hating a yellow lab puppy for peeing on your favorite shoes. Yes, he's made a mess, and yes, that was something you loved, and maybe, just maybe, it's all been ruined beyond repair; but then he looks at you with those just-slightly-apologetic eyes and that big happy awkward grin and shifts his gum in his mouth to talk to you, and admittedly, at some point, Barry stopped thinking about a puppy, but it was very telling that he wasn't sure when.

"Hey, Eddie!" Iris was trying to look like they hadn't had sex half an hour ago. Barry wasn't sure why, but it was probably for his benefit, and while he was grateful, he also found it a little irritating. It wasn't as if he couldn't tell, even if he hadn't had the marks to show for it.

"Hey!" Eddie was standing next to their table, and Barry was avoiding looking at him so he could resent him a little longer, because once he looked up he would remember that Eddie was probably the nicest, sweetest guy in the city, possibly the planet, and soul mark or no soul mark, Iris was the luckiest woman on earth. And once he remembered all that (or was reminded by Eddie and his freaking nice guy face), he wouldn't resent Eddie Thawne for getting the girl, because Eddie deserved the girl... but knowing that he wouldn't hate Eddie later made Barry hate him more now. "How's it going, Barr'?" Eddie clapped a hand on Barry's shoulder, apparently immune the distinctly negative vibes Barry was throwing him.

"Greeeat, Eddie, thanks." Barry took a deep breath and plastered a smile on his face; the tired, friendly smile that made his face look younger, and his eyes look about eighty. "How are youuuhhhh uhuh...."

Eddie's excessively friendly face looked as unhateable as ever. His skin was still freckled and prematurely smile-wrinkled; his eyes were still blue and candid; and his mouth was still set in a cheerful, unphased smile. Or it had been. Admittedly, his expression was slowly changing to one of confusion and concern as Barry stared blankly at him; but Barry was not looking at his smile wrinkles or his puppy dog grin or his confusion. Barry was looking at his neck.

Eddie hadn't bothered with a scarf in early september, and most of the tiny bite marks on his neck were covered by his usual button down. But not all. Three small marks (well, two very small marks and one that wasn't actually small at all) showed over his tidy collar, and Barry knew those marks so, so well. He stared at Eddie, and Eddie's neck, and briefly, with newfound respect, at Iris, and then back to Eddie.

"Barry?" Eddie looked worried, and Barry couldn't help noticing Eddie's hand hovering near Barry's shoulder, probably in case he tipped over. "Hey, you okay, buddy?"

"Uh, yeah, great, thanks, I just have to um," Barry stood quickly, tripping slightly and standing closer to Eddie than he intended. Much closer, because Eddie apparently thought that Barry was falling, and had tried to catch him. Barry stared, briefly completely speechless, at Eddie's hand on his heart, and felt something between desire and blind panic stirring. Eddie's expression was made of concern and goodwill, but more; there was that confidence in his eyes. Not self confidence, but that fully confident look he gave Barry that always seemed to say Hey. You've got this. I believe in you. That was the look that kept Barry from ever hating him. He always assumed that it was just what happened if you made eye contact with Eddie Thawne; but now, obliquely, he tried to remember if he'd ever seen it before, when Eddie was talking to Joe or Iris or anyone else... or was that just how he looked at Barry? And in that brief moment, looking down at the man standing much too close, feeling the warmth of his hand, Barry wondered in all the times he had seen Eddie and Iris together, had he really been jealous of Eddie?

"Um," Barry shook his head and grabbed his jacket. "I just remembered... something. Really important." The sad, funny thing was, neither of his friends even looked surprised to see Barry Allen stammering an excuse to leave. Again.

With a last glance at Eddie, he turned and ran as slowly as he could out of the coffee shop. Eddie Thawne was his soulmate. Eddie was the nicest guy in the western hemisphere. Eddie was a strong, smart, well-armed guy who might, just might, be able to protect himself in the Flash's world. Eddie believed in him.

And Iris West was Barry's best friend.

Chapter Text

Barry Allen and Joe West walked through the police station in the wake of the morning's truck robbery. Barry was eager to be of use after crushing ping pong and operation, but losing astronomically at chess. Joe was eager to have another cup of coffee.

"So," Joe held out an all-too-thick binder of police photos to Barry, "look through these mug shots of Central City's most wanted, and see if you can find our guy."

Barry looked. It took barely a second to find the face he was looking for; in a line of hardened faces that quickly began to look alike, this particular criminal stood out sharply.

That, and Barry had super powers. That helped.

"That's him." He handed the folder back.

"Damn." Joe looked impressed. He read the label under the photograph. "Leonard Snart."

In all the years that Barry had lived in the West house, he'd never told Joe what the thin, scratchy handwriting inside his right ankle said. Joe had probably assumed that some part of Barry's anatomy had succumbed to childhood hopes and dreams and politely formed a pretty mark that said "Iris" in neat, round script. But it hadn't. It said:

"Leonard?" Barry hadn't meant to say it aloud. It just happened. Excellent brain-to-mouth filter was not a super power, and there was no helping that. Covering-saying-something-stupid-that-was-supposed-to-be-a-secret was also not a super power, but Barry had still put in enough practice hours that it should at least count as a well-honed skill. He pulled a face that he hoped looked neither sheepish, emotional, or wildly panicked, and said, "That's almost as bad as Bartholomew."

"Snart ain't sexy, either." Joe looked like he thought Barry was crazy, which might mean he was unconvinced, or might just be a natural state of being for his face. Either way, maybe it was the icy eyes glaring out of the mugshot, or maybe it was the quiet background burning of his ankle, but Barry was inclined to disagree with Joe on this one.

***
To say Barry had mixed feelings when Cisco gave up his identity to Snart would be an extreme understatement. Fear was one. Anger. Betrayal. But also a cold, numb relief. Because since the first day he saw Leonard Snart's face, Barry had been forced to wonder if there was some part of Snart's body - somewhere under the extraordinary number of layers - marked with awkward, hurried handwriting that said "Bartholomew". Now that Cold knew his secret identity, maybe Barry could finally find out the truth. Which he honestly wasn't sure he wanted to know.

Now Captain Cold and his thieves gone rogue were burning rubber on two motorcycles and an honest-to-God sidecar, which some part of Barry's mind found a bit sexist. Motorcycles are fast. The Flash was faster. Barry plucked Cold off his bike and raced into the woods, followed briefly by sounds of chaos. Seconds later and miles away, he skidded to a halt, pushing the cold criminal against a tree, searching his face for some sign.

"Good to see you... Barry." Snart drawled smugly. Well. At least he doesn't have to wonder any more. Barry took a steadying breath

"We have to talk." If this very very very bad thing was going to be his fate, then they would have to reach an understanding. "I know Cisco told you who I am."

"Can't really blame the kid for giving you up." Cold tilted his head on a shrug, his smirk only deepening. He knew, he knew, he definitely knew. Barry focused on the facts: Leonard Smart was his soul mate, though he might not actually have a soul. He was smug and sarcastic and stone cold. He was smooth and criminal and strangely honourable. He was also, and Barry recognized that this was his own fault, he was also standing very, very close. And Barry didn't want that fact to be working for him, but it kind of was, and maybe it was just Snart's face, but Barry kind of thought he could tell. "You or his brother? Come on! I put him in a tight spot." He tilted his head, giving Barry the single most smug, knowing look in recorded history. "Same kind I got you in right now." Cold's eyes raked him up and down, and Barry couldn't actually tell where the innuendo in this conversation began and ended. "Can't really stop me now that I know who you are." Barry wasn't sure if he meant his identity as a superhero or as Snart's soul mate. He chose to believe the former.

"I could speed you to my own private prison where you'll never see the light of day." It was meant to be a threat, but it felt like a challenge.

"You could," Snart purred, "but then I won't be around to stop my own private uplink that'll broadcast your identity to the world." Challenge accepted. "So, the million dollar question." He leaned close until Barry could feel Cold's breath on his face. It was warm, and that was a bit surprising. "What to do with me now, Barry Allen?"

Barry glared at Cold, whose smug smile never slipped. Barry made a call. It wasn't really even a good idea, but it would probably get rid of that smirk for a second. He grabbed the fluffy parka and kissed his improbable soul mate. Snart kissed him back, which he shouldn't have found surprising. Barry deepened the kiss, because this was his soul mate, and he tasted good, and this was a contest now, and Barry didn't plan on losing. He had one hand buried in the fur hood and one braced on the tree behind Snart, and he had super powers; for all of that, when he pulled away he was shocked and exhilarated at the un-smug expression on Cold's face.

"I won't let you keep stealing whatever you want, whenever you feel like it." Barry leaned his forehead against his soulmate's. "It needs to end."

"Can't do that." Cold leaned his head back against the tree, looking at Barry through half closed eyes. "It's what I do."

Barry sighed in frustration, his hands balling into fists. "Then find a new line of work!"

"Don't want to." Cold's voice was thick, his eyes flicking between Barry's mouth and eyes and back.

"Why is that?" Barry groaned, resisting the urge to throttle the other half of his soul.

"The same reason you keep running after guys like me." Snart smirked. He leaned close until his mouth was centimeters from Barry's ear. "The adrenaline." He purred, nipping Barry's jawline. His gloved hand had come to rest on Barry's hip, and his fingers bit into the leather of his suit. "The thrill of the chase." Slowly, insidiously, he was walking forward, pressing Barry ahead of him, until Barry's back was against a tree, and Cold was pressed tight against him. "I love this game." Leonard looked his soul mate up and down. "And I'm very good at it."

Barry pushed him off, shoved too hard and sent him flying. Snart shook it off like nothing and Barry bit out, "Then go play it somewhere else." He bit his tongue sharply and continued as if it didn't hurt. "Leave Central City."

"Can't do that either." Cold tilted his head to the side, looking at Barry with curious intensity. "I love it here. This city is my home."

Barry's breath caught in his chest, but he straightened and looked Cold in the eyes.

"You've seen what I can do." Barry gave a nod. "You know that I can stop you. You want to keep pushing your luck, go for it." He stepped closer, lowering his voice as he bridged the gap between them. "But from here on out, no one else dies." His mouth curled and he met Captain Cold's gaze in challenge. "If you're as good as you say you are, you don't have to kill anyone to get what you want." He grinned and Cold smirked agreement.

"That's true."

"And," Barry leaned in until his lips almost grazed Leonard's ear, "if you, or anyone in your Rogues' gallery goes near any of my friends or family again," His voice was quiet and deadly serious, "I don't care who you tell my identity to. I'm putting you away."

Snart's head pulled back sharply, and he looked impressed and aroused and untrusting.

"I guess your secret's safe..." Snart bowed his head in acquiescence. "Flash." Flash. The name, the identity, that mattered more than the name written somewhere on Leonard Snart's skin. "For now."

As if to counter this uneasy truce, he grabbed Barry by the throat and kissed him hard enough to be disorienting, then shoved him backwards. Barry actually stumbled a little before rallying, grabbing Cold by his coat and pressing him against a tree and kissing him aggressively.

There was a very polite cough in Barry's ear, and oh no no no, just how much had Harrison Wells overheard?

Too much. Far too much. He stepped away quickly, dropping Cold like a hot coal. For a moment, Snart almost looked hurt. The mock disappointment he used to cover it was irritating and a little bit attractive. Barry pointed frantically to the earpiece

"Oh." He could see Leonard Snart reevaluating the last half hour, and the moment when he realized that, for now at least, the fun was well and truly over. He rolled his eyes. "I don't suppose you'd give me a ride back to town, would you?"

Barry gave him a huge grin that he knew was too open and too heartfelt, and without hesitation, he sped away, leaving his soul mate in the middle of nowhere. He suspected that he'd pay for it later.

Something to look forward to.

Chapter Text

Barry was tryyyyyying to explain to Iris why she shouldn't have a blog about The Streak, but, obviously, without telling her why she should definitely not have a blog about The Streak.

"Take it from someone who's been investigating the impossible since they were 11." That seemed like good ethos. "Blogging about this is only gonna bring the crazies to your front door." This was as good reason as any that wasn't, for example, "Hey, Iris, I'm The Streak, please don't write about me."

"My blog is anonymous." Iris's face said that she couldn't see why he was pushing this, a warning that Barry's fictional house of cards might soon collapse. Barry completely ignored this warning.

"All right, well, anonymous or not, it's not safe." Barry's eyes were wide with sincerity and suppressed panic as they walked into his office. "You never know what kind of weirdos are out there trolling on the internet."

"I can vouch for that." Felicity Smoak looked pretty in pink, cheerful, and was in his office. Of these, only cheerful was a familiar sight. "The internet is full of weirdos and nerd rage... Lots and lots of nerd rage." She chuckled and hurried to introduce herself to Iris. "Hi. Felicity Smoak."

Iris smiled, holding out her hand. "Iris West..." She trailed off, tilting her head in an unasked question.

"Barry Allen." Barry looked between the two girls in rising confusion. "But you already knew that."

Before he could explain that Felicity was his friend the tech wizard from Central City; or, in fact, take a breath, Felicity had launched herself forward, grabbing Iris by the shoulders, and kissing her full on the mouth.

This seemed fast, even by Streak standards. Felicity pulled back, searching Iris's face. Iris didn't look angry, but she did seem... Surprised? Shocked? Excited? Breathless, certainly. Barry felt obligated to say something, though what was unsure.

"Felicity is..." he waved a hand in befuddlement

"So sorry," Felicity cut in quickly, "I always promised myself I'd do that. When I met my soulmate. You know, make the first move; I didn't mean to be so abrupt or awkward and oh no. I am your soulmate, right? I mean, I think so. That's right, isn't it? I mean, your mark does say 'Felicity', right?"

"It does, yes," Iris smiled a little breathlessly, "And yours says 'Iris'?"

"Yes!" Felicity spoke quickly, waving her hands to dispel any confusion, "Yes, it says Iris, clear and clean and very legible; nice handwriting, my left breast thanks you very much for your penmanship." Too late, she seemed to recognize the social awkwardness of what she'd said. Iris's eyes widened, but Barry also thought she was trying not to smile.

"Thank you," Iris nodded, eyebrows raised, "I was definitely not thinking of your, um, of your breast when I learned to sign my name, but I'm glad it's... I mean... I'm glad you like it." She looked oddly sincere, and the reality of the situation finally started to truly dawn on Barry. His best friend and school crush had found her soulmate, who was also his friend, and they seemed happy and Barry was really, really happy for them both and trying not to think about the fact that he had flirted with both of the women he had just seen kissing.

"I do!" Felicity assured her, words spilling out all in a rush. "I mean, I love... Your name..." She shrugged, biting her lip nervously. "It's, um... It's really nice to finally meet you."

"Yeah..." a big, real grin has spread across Iris's face. "Yeah, it's really nice to meet you, too." And slowly, shyly, she leaned forward and kissed Felicity.

Felicity kissed her back, and then they were running their hands over each other's arms, faces, and sides. Fingers tangled in clothing and curled in hair. Barry rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly and looked around just as Joe walked in.

"Uh," Barry gestures to his friends by way of explanation, "they're soulmates."

And they were.

Chapter Text

It was a fast, busy Monday. Barry Allen had grabbed breakfast on the run before stopping a corner store robbery, returning a snatched purse, catching a runaway chihuahua, helping an old lady across the street, and breaking up two metahumans whose otherwise impotent scuffle had taken up the turf in a large chunk of Central City Park. Barry had broken his phone in a fight last night, so he checked the time and weather on a nearby cell phone (in the hand of a teenager who never saw him). 7:45 and sunny. He was making very good time, even by Flash standards. He changed into his mild mannered plaid and jeans and bolted to work before Singh could shout at him.

"ALLEN!" Singh shouted, slamming the phone down as soon as he saw Barry. "Where the hell have you been?"

"Coffee, sir." Barry held up the Jitters cup for evidence.

"Damn it, I've been trying to reach you." Singh looked tired, as if Barry's incompetence was more than he should have to deal with today. Barry sighed inwardly and reflected on how the Chief's mood never seemed to brighten with the weather.

"Sorry, Sir." Barry grimaced apologetically. "Broke my phone. I'll fix it, I just haven't... What do you need?"

"There was a car accident this morning. Joe West is in the hospital."

Time stood still. Singh was still talking, Barry could see that, but he couldn't hear it. Blood rushed in his ears as he tried to process, but his mind felt slow and sluggish.

How did this happen?

In every standoff or shoot out, every fight, every robbery, his new speed had allowed Barry to protect the man who had protected him growing up. Every crime that was committed, every bullet that was fired, every scared, angry metahuman that rose up; Barry knew about it.

A car crash hadn't even been on his radar.

Was Joe alright? If he was in the hospital, at least he was alive. What had Singh said about his condition? Barry couldn't remember.

"Where is he?" Barry managed, his voice hoarse.

"Central City hospital's ICU." Singh repeated with only the slightest impatience before offering, "Iris is with him." He had probably said that before as well.

Barry just nodded numbly and walked out of the CCPD as slowly as he could manage. His body burned with the need to run, and he did, as soon as he was out of sight of the police department. He ran, and he didn't slow down until he was in the ICU, not caring if anyone noticed that nobody had seen him walk in. A surprised nurse directed him to Joe's room, and Barry remembered to thank her over his shoulder as he walked toward it.

Joe looked up when he walked in, and Barry's chest hurt with relief. The detective looked a little groggy, but awake. Iris was in the chair next to his bed with her knees pulled up to her chest, her head tilted, exhaustion etched on her face. It was a strange sight: he knew the last time Iris had sat in this ICU, she and Joe were sitting with Barry. Before he woke up. Before he had become the Flash. This floor of this hospital was where Iris had first agreed to coffee with her soulmate, Eddie. If this seemed strange to Barry, he could only imagine how it felt to Iris. She gave Barry a weak smile and a little wave.

"Hey Barry..." Her brows furrowed in confusion. "I was just on the phone with Captain Singh. I thought he had just seen you when he hung up. How did you get here so fast?"

"Um," Barry was trying to wake up his brain to find a plausible lie when Joe interrupted him.

"Took you long enough." Joe turned his head to look wanly at Barry. "Tried to call."

"Broke my phone." Barry managed on autopilot. "Sorry."

"You didn't miss much." Joe smiled faintly, then turned to his daughter. "Iris, baby, go get some breakfast. I know you haven't eaten. Barry'll let you know if anything happens; right, Barry?"

"Yeah." Barry said numbly, still feeling a bit as if he was flatly reading a script rather than actually making conversation. "Yeah, I'll..." He trailed off before saying 'call' and finished lamely, "Run right down."

Iris, though very hungry, wasn't at all convinced, and it took Joe begging her to sneak him a cup of coffee that the nurses weren't allowing him for her to agree. Barry smiled weakly, knowing that about the time she reached the cafeteria, Iris would remember that she sided with the nurses. Hopefully by then, the smell of overcooked foods without enough salt would remind her of the breakfast she hadn't eaten.

Barry sat in Iris's vacated chair and looked at Joe, trying to formulate any sentence that would convey a scrap of what he felt.

"I'm in a hospital bed, and I still have to save your ass..." Joe shook his head wryly. "You, Barry Allen, are the single worst liar I have encountered in my long career."

"You think that was bad?" Barry grinned. "When the nurse asked who was, I said you were my dad."

Joe laughed until tears sparkled in his eyes and held out his hand, palm up, to Barry. "I thought we were talking about lying."

Barry laughed quietly, taking his hand, and was just opening his mouth to speak when something caught his eye. Just inside Joe's arm, visible under the short sleeves of the hospital gown, was a name.

Barry's name.

"Hang on," Too surprised for tact, Barry turned Joe's arm so he could see the mark clearly.

Allen.

Barry stared in mute shock.

"Barry..." Joe looked uncomfortable, but Barry didn't give him a chance to finish.

"You... You knew about this." He shook his head and repeated it in disbelief. "You knew about this?" Joe shook his head, but Barry went on. "All these years... All the times I was wondering how Iris could have a different mark when..." Barry trailed off, breathing heavily, and stared hopelessly at his erstwhile father figure. "Why didn't you tell me?"

Joe looked at him levelly for what felt like an eternity before speaking. When he did, he looked sad and very tired.

"I thought it was your dad."

For a moment, the words seemed almost nonsensical, but then they made all too much sense. Barry remembered as a child watching his father and Joe laughing, sharing jokes and beers, and the way Joe always seemed a little uncomfortable when Barry's parents talked to him together. He remembered how hard Joe worked to be able to take care of Barry, not only to get custody, but every day as a single father of two. He remembered the sadness in Joe's face when he couldn't bring himself to believe that Henry Allen hadn't killed his own wife. He remembered how Joe fought to prove Henry's innocence the moment there was any hope. He remembered the two old friends bantering on either side of a glass wall. And he wondered if Joe was in love with Henry, the same way he wondered if he himself had ever been in love with Iris.

It went without saying at this point, but that didn't mean that it shouldn't be said. Barry sat back and pulled his shirt up a little and his jeans down a little more until the mark on his hip bone was visible.

West

"It wasn't my dad." He said quietly, unsure if this would be a positive revelation. Joe looked at the mark for a while and then nodded.

"Guess it wasn't." Joe reached for Barry's hand again and squeezed reassuringly. After a moment, he started laughing.

"What..." Barry glanced around so self-consciously. "What are you laughing about?"

"You just told that nurse I'm your father." tears pooled in the creases around Joe's eyes. "I guess you're a better liar than I thought."

They were still laughing a minute later when Iris walked in, indignant.

"Dad, you are not allowed to have coffee! Look, I have brought you a cup of tea, and that is my final offer-" She broke off, looking at Joe; then Barry; the clasped hands; the tears. "Oh thank God. You found them."

Chapter Text

"I'm sorry?" Cisco stared at HR as if the words he had just said were complete gibberish... Not an uncommon interaction for them. HR pulled a face, and it was funny how Cisco was still not used to seeing very different people with the same face.
He remembered when he'd first met Wells - Thawne - Wells: he'd been breathless, his heart beating in his ears. Harrison Wells was a genius, and Cisco revered him. It was an honour to meet him in person, let alone work for him. With him. That first day, Cisco could barely breathe, his heart in his throat, talking to his hero. A hero whose first name matched the mark on the back of Cisco's knee (and that had taken a few solo games of twister to decipher. It wasn't exactly an uncommon name, but it was... Well, it was hard to say if Cisco was hopeful or afraid, meeting Harrison Wells. Either way, the emotion had changed to a coordinating shade of relief and disappointment when he saw the worn, thin mark on the scientist's wrist when they shook hands.

Tessa

The first time that Cisco dreamed about Dr. Wells confessing to be someone else right before killing him, he thought it was Freudian at best. But the dreams kept coming. He was almost relieved when Barry told him it wasn't a dream.

Cisco was the one to find the body of the real Harrison Wells. He was dedicated to solving the mystery; to finding the truth about "Dr. Wells"; to helping Barry. But there was a part of him that noticed that with the advanced decomposition of the body, it was impossible to know what Harrison Wells's soul mark had said. A part of him needed to know. A part of him badly needed not to.

When he met the Wells of Earth-2, Harry cared about nothing and nobody but getting his daughter home. He had a mark, and it most definitely was not Cisco's name.

Cisco had just gotten used to having him around when he left.

It took time for him to even begin to trust HR. It was baffling how many physically identical men could screw up Cisco's heart, and he wasn't inclined to do it again.

But the lovable dork was winning him over, with his easy smiles and his stupid haircut and his meditation and constant drumstick tapping. Even if HR could never really fill the same role that Wells - Thawne, dammit - had filled in Cisco's life; at the very least, they were in real danger of starting a band together.

He'd never asked HR about his mark. He'd never really thought about it.

And then.

And then one day, HR had come in radiating good will to all men while Cisco was up to his elbows in wires and on his second lollipop of the project. The "Hello, Francisco!" had jarred Cisco so much that he dropped a spanner and swore pretty creatively if he said so himself, and rounded on the man with a, "Cisco, man! It... It's Cisco. Why-" He broke off, clenching his fists beside his head in misplaced frustration. "Whyyyyy is that so hard for you?"

"I dunno." HR shrugged, more sheepish than truly apologetic (though there was a little of that, too). "I just like it. It sounds... Right." He tilted his head, playing with the name like he was imitating a bird call. "Fraaan... Cisco...."

"Dude." Cisco shook his head.

"I'm just saying," HR leaned on the desk, folding his arms and gesturing with the drumsticks, "that's your name, isn't it? Isn't that what 'Cisco' is short for? That's the name that would be on your soulmate's hip, for instance?"

"I'm sorry?" Cisco stared at HR as if the words he had just said were complete gibberish... Not an uncommon interaction for them.

HR pulled a face with a dismissive wave of the drumsticks. "Well, never mind where, but if it's your name, why wouldn't you want to answer to it?"

"Dude." Cisco tilted his head forward, raising his eyebrows at his... Friend. "You go by HR."

"Utterly fair," HR nodded after the briefest thought. "What are we working on?"

Cisco was too distracted to say that we weren't working on anything, but Cisco was working on a portable power source that would help give the world clean energy and more importantly allow a person to play video games in a black out. HR leaned in close to see the wires and lights as if proximity was what kept them from making sense to him, and Cisco explained each part and it didn't make any difference, but it was kind of nice, having someone interested in the process of him making something, instead of just the flashy finished result.

Every now and then, he'd catch HR glancing at him sideways. Then again, almost as often, he caught himself looking sideways at HR. He knew he ought to ask, but for now, he was happy to watch HR pointing an inquisitive drumstick at various wires while making bomb jokes. He swore to himself that he was going to find an excuse to steal a glance at HR's hip.

Later.

Not today.

Chapter Text

Barry Allen was a late bloomer. The very first time he scraped his knee, his mom chuckled ruefully and said that his soulmate would be surprised. When he started school, his dad gave him a wink and told him to see if anyone cute had gotten her appendix out, too. Barry had been shy about asking, but then one day at school, Iris West had a split lip. He'd asked her what happened, and she just shrugged.

"I dunno." She stuck her lower lip out, trying to get a look at it. "I guess my soulmate musta' fallen down. Or gotten punched!" This idea seemed to cheer her, and she spent the rest of recess trying to guess what her soulmate might have gotten in a fight about.

Barry curled up on the couch that night and asked his mother why Iris's soulmate had given her a split lip. After a moment of confusion, she had explained that somewhere there was someone whose soul was like the other half of Barry's, "Like me and your dad."

She'd gone on to tell him how that soul connection reflected on your skin, mirroring their injuries, bruises, tattoos, and scars onto their soulmate. Laughing, she'd told him to keep a sharp eye out and "You might see the scar on your dad's tummy from when you were born." And Barry wasn't sure if that sounded like fun, but he also was a bit worried.

"But I don't have any bruises." He had looked up at his mother with the sinking feeling all children have when they start to suspect that they aren't like the other kids. "Or cuts, or anything. Just the ones I got..."

"Well..." Nora had shaken her head, smiling and unconcerned. "It doesn't happen at first. Maybe your soulmate just hasn't gotten hurt. Or maybe you're just a late bloomer." She'd stroked his head and given him a warm, reassuring smile. "Nothing for you to worry about, my sweet boy."

But Barry did worry, just a little bit. He wasn't sure he wanted someone else's pain or marks, but he also wasn't at all sure he was alright with not having that if everyone else did. So he worried a tiny bit (a very tiny bit, so small you'd never notice it), and then a little tiny bit more each day as it became more and more apparent that Barry Allen was a late bloomer.

The funny thing was that when he finally did get his marks, he didn't care. He almost didn't know. The day he moved in with Joe and Iris West, the scratch appeared. It was small and insignificant, and he might not have even noticed, if it weren't for how terribly, awfully numb he had felt for the past few days. After his mother's murder, and through his father's arrest, and Joe taking him in, and the funeral, Barry had passed through crying, screaming, panic, and hysteria; and he arrived, faster than he could have imagined, in a place where there was simply no room for any more pain. He wasn't happy. He wasn't alright. But his heart had reached a threshold, and simply couldn't process more pain. His body, as much as possible, had followed suit, and so Barry had been surprised when, as he was carrying a cardboard box of toys up to his new room, he felt a quick, sharp, niggling pain that whipped across one fingertip and stung his eyes with tears. He made a small startled sound, and Joe ran to his side.

"Barry?" A shadow fell over the toy box as the tall man knelt next to him. "Hey, what's wrong?" Barry showed him, and Joe seemed relieved, but still sympathetic. "Ah, a paper cut, huh? Yeah, those are the worst. Nasty little things."

"It's not mine." Barry looked up at him. "I didn't hurt my finger."

"Oh." Joe frowned a little, but nodded. "I guess your soulmate did, then."

Joe looked tired and sad, the same way Barry felt; and Barry didn't tell him that he didn't have a soulmate; maybe he did now.

The paper cut was the first, but by no means the last. As Barry grew, hurt, and healed, they kept showing up. Mostly small, though not all. Bruises on his legs; scorch marks on his fingertips, as well as several other paper cuts: never a skinned knee or a black eye, though Iris had plenty of both.

One day, Joe asked if Barry had tried to use his razor. Barry was quick to say no, afraid of getting in trouble (because he was still afraid, in this new house, of making Joe angry and getting in trouble; before he learned that this was like being afraid that his teddy bear might growl and bite him). Joe showed Barry the small razor cut on his jaw; five tiny, delicate parallel lines that could hardly be anything else. Barry had squinted at the mirror and Joe had muttered that Barry's soulmate must be playing with his dad's shaving tackle.

Joe tried never to use pronouns when he talked about the children's soulmates, but when he did, he had tended to call Barry's "she". This was he first time he had said "he", and he looked none too pleased. It was years before Barry realized that it was the age of his soulmate, and not the gender, that was concerning the detective.

By then he had grown up; tall, skinny, healthy, and surprisingly functional given his unusual childhood. Time had not warmed Joe West's feelings towards Barry's soulmate, and it was an increasingly contentious topic to bring up in conversation. Eventually, Barry lost most of his interest in his absent soulmate, who, at this rate, might die of old age before Barry found... Him.

Besides, there was always Iris; and even with the ever-present reminders of her soulmate (who did, eventually, stop getting his or her ass kicked quite so regularly), it was just so easy to love her. So much easier to fall in love with Iris, and her eyes, and her hair, and her laugh, and her smile, which Barry could see all the time, than with some unseen soulmate who literally had given Barry nothing but pain.

Which wasn't to say that Barry didn't steal furtive glances for bruises or paper cuts whenever he met an interesting man ten or more years his senior; because he might have done that once or thrice, though he wasn't inclined to admit it. The only person he trusted enough to share that with was Iris, who he had never told about the shaving incident, and who he definitely did not need matching him up with older men.

So it was that the night that the particle accelerator went live, Iris was assuring him instead that he should feel totally comfortable talking to her about girls; a conversation which, as it turned out, wasn't any more pleasant for containing the wrong gender.

He knew he should really tell her. But he never got the chance.

When Barry woke up after nine months - nine months? - only to meet Doctor Harrison Wells - Harrison. Wells! - there was no denying that he might have checked literally every chance he got for any of Barry's scratches or bruises on the doctor's skin. No easy feat, as Barry quickly learned that he could hardly keep a paper cut long enough to check, but it was sort of a hobby, and it offered some mild distraction from the fact that Iris had found her soul mate in those nine months.

Barry was just getting into his new routine as The Flash when it happened. Finally, finally, he met the Man in Yellow, face to face. The Reverse Flash. They fought, as Barry had known they must, for so long, and when Barry finally landed a hit, it hurt.

The shock, the wrongness of it was overwhelming. How could your soulmate be your enemy? But they were, and though they were never lovers, they were fighters.

When he learned that Wells was Thawne, and Thawne was Wells, that hurt too. Like he was losing Harrison Wells. But deep down he was also relieved, even exhilarated; because some part of him had always been sure that Wells, not Thawne, was his soulmate. And he'd been half right.

They fought, and Barry hated Thawne, and he loved him, and he feared him; and perhaps those feelings should have been mutually exclusive, but it all seemed like part of this game that Thawne had taught him to play: parrying, feinting, always trying to stay one step ahead. Truth be told, it became a routine that Barry could live with. Even, secretly, enjoy... This was as intimate as they could ever be. No lies, only lightning. Vengeful, painful, and strangely beautiful.

And then it was over, faster than he thought possible; and in one simple choice, Barry and Iris each lost their soulmate.

He tried to be relieved - even happy. They... Won.

It was Caitlin who told him to grieve.

"If you don't mourn the loss of your soulmate, you lose some of your humanity." she said without looking at him, biting her lip and pushing her hair behind her ear. "And that's not what he would want for you."

He knew she was thinking of herself and Ronnie, but he couldn't help but think, even now, that Wells - Thawne - wouldn't want Barry to lose himself.
So he ran. Down the street where Nora was murdered; across the beach where Barry first turned back time; through the football field where he first fought the Reverse Flash; over the bridge where Eddie proposed... And he knew, and he let himself know, that Thawne was dead. That the man who killed Barry's mother was gone. But it didn't make him any less alone: he had just lost them both.

His heart hurt. And it was so strange to think that, for the first time in fifteen years, he was hurting alone.

Chapter Text

Soul marks didn't mean a damn thing. Mick Rory had known that ever since the first time he met Leonard Snart. Snart was a skinny kid in a world of trouble, and Mick took it on himself to remind the less skinny kid that had a knife on him that there is always a bigger, badder bully, and Mick Rory was going to be that bully for the rest of his life, so back off. He got the skinny kid with the creepy eyes well away, because Snart had the look of someone who's going to cry when he's alone. But he didn't cry. He just stared at Mick with those uncanny eyes and said in a quiet, level tone, "I guess I owe you one."

"Guess you do." Mick had grunted back. But he never called in that favor, and before Mick knew it, he owed Leonard (what kind of person names their kid Leonard?) ...the debts and favors stacked up, and before long they'd both lost count. They were never really even. But then, they were never really in debt either.

The kid had a soul mark on his left arm; who didn't? Mick had seen it, though not many people ever did, thanks to Leonard's propensity for really long sleeves. Mick didn't know if the sleeves were to hide the mark, or just coincidence. He wouldn't judge either way. He didn't have room to judge anyone for anything, especially hiding a mark. Mick made wrist bands out of bandages; stolen watches; torn-off T shirt hems. Anything. He didn't look at the name on his arm, didn't whisper it to himself. He didn't dream about it. If he could help it, he didn't think about it at all.

Rory's first love was fire, and she was a fickle bitch, but he'd take her over some human who happened to have a name that happened to be on his skin. If it was going to be anyone... well there was only one person who had ever made his soul feel whole; hell, there'd only been one person that made him feel like he had a soul. He was skinny, with creepy eyes, and his name was mostly definitely not on Mick Rory's left arm. That honour belonged to somebody who Mick had never met, and whose name he liked to pretend he didn't even remember any more.

And then there was that one job, and a plan that went too far off the rails for even Leonard Snart to save. Mick Rory danced too close to his first love, and the game got very real very quickly. That day he lost his partner, for a while: Leonard had no patience for hotheads who couldn't stick to a plan. But he lost his other, unwilling partner as well. The fire, fickle and beautiful as ever, didn't much care for sharing. She'd burned the mark right off of his arm. It tried to grow back - they always do - but the scarring was so extensive that the letters were barely more than a dark, misshapen blur. Some days, if he squinted, it looked like new letters.

L
E
N

Fickle, but beautiful. Fire always had understood him best. It burned away everything else and showed his true self. His true mark.

Soul marks didn't mean a damn thing. But Mick Rory thought his was fucking beautiful.

Chapter Text

Barry Allen had a love/hate relationship with the words "super cool". He wanted to love them, because his soulmate would say those words to him some day, and that thought gave him a thrill of excitement and hope. But it was an extremely common expression (admittedly, less with time), and it gave Barry a jolt every time he spoke or read or heard it. The desire to hear those words made him say those words, which in turn made him hear them all the more often. A self-fulfilling prophecy, if anyone ever said them right. He'd been let down by the innocuous words several times; hearing them all the time, everywhere, but never quite right.

Finally he realized that optimistically calling everything "super cool" was not bringing him his soulmate any faster, but it was making him come across as an exceptionally enthusiastic dweeb. Besides which, Iris West's first words to him had been a long time ago, and he didn't need reminding that none of them were "cool". So, Barry stopped saying it intentionally, and only said it out of habit when he was
1. Excited, and
2. Not paying attention to what he was saying.

As a result, when Barry Allen met his soulmate, he almost completely missed it.

He was on the train home from his brief adventure in Starling City, re-reading the biography of Harrison Wells. This was the day that after years of research, Dr. Wells and his team would at last turn on the particle accelerator, and Barry knew deep in his gut that it would change the shape of the future. Looking out the train window, he could see the sleek outline of S.T.A.R. Labs cut out starkly against the blue sky, and his heart raced a little with adrenaline. New discoveries waited in every field, and that enormous machine would herald a new age of scientific understanding; which was, yes,

"Super cool, isn't it?" Barry asked, unthinking, of the closest person in the train. He pointed out the window. "Uh, S.T.A.R. Labs, I mean."

"Mm, yes," The gentleman across from him said in moderate surprise; he'd been staring out the window in the general direction of the lab, but it was difficult to say if he'd been intentionally looking at it. He had white hair and a kind face, and he wore a relaxed, educated air, a professorial jacket and glasses, and the attitude of one trying to remember 'what the kids are saying nowadays'. "It's...". He waved his hands, "Super cool." No sentence had ever sounded more out of character for anyone. The professor (because Barry would bet actual money, or at least several cups of coffee, that the gentleman was a university professor) sighed, and continued, "Trust Harrison Wells to build a particle accelerator with a bit of style. Most scientists don't have an appreciation for the value of aesthetics."

Barry grinned out the window at S.T.A.R. Labs. Something was niggling at the edge of his brain, but he couldn't quite put a finger on it, so he said jauntily, "Albert Einstein said, once you can accept the universe as being something expanding into an infinite nothing which is actually something..."

"Wearing stripes with plaid becomes easy." The professor finished, and Barry could tell that he was reevaluating his opinion of the young man seated opposite him. "I thought people your age didn't read actual books anymore."

"Oh," Barry assured him with false gravitas, "I'm the only one."

"Ohhh.". The professor grinned, a youthful expression that lit up his face. "Physics." He waved a hand, graciously introducing the new topic. "Hobby or endeavor?"

"Both, actually." He shrugged by way of explanation. "I'm a CSI. I work for the Central City Police Department."

"Really?" The professor's expression betrayed surprise but, to Barry's relieved appreciation, not actual disbelief. "You look too young for that."

"That is what they tell me." Barry sighed. Something - somethiiiing - at the edge of his mind was really starting to bother her m, but he couldn't figure out what, and he really didn't want to stop talking to the pleasant, educated, interesting man across from him to do battle with his brain over what was probably nothing. He was almost to his exit anyway, and there would be plenty of time to plumb the depths of his subconscious on the walk home from the station. So he returned to his favorite subject. "Are you gonna watch the accelerator turn on tonight?"

"I wouldn't miss it.". The professor's voice was calm and certain, and some part of Barry's mind thought that this man's children or spouse must live in a constant state of quiet assurance and well-being. A part of hm didn't actually feel happy with that thought so much as almost envious, and that niggling feeling was turning into more of a jangling, but...

"They say it's going to change the world." Barry confided. He talked about the accelerator casually, constantly; but speaking to the professor felt more serious, as if he would understand the full magnitude of the event.

"I hope so." There was something magical and delightful about talking to the man; he responded with gravity and solemn hope where other (well meaning) people (who Barry loved) responded with teasing and confusion. It felt nice; sort of still and right, like some part of him had been waiting a very, very long time...

Two things happened at almost the same moment.

The first was that the front of Barry's mind, a frontier which been expanding outward,and the edges of his mind, which had been creeping stubbornly inwards, finally met and merged into one single thought.

It felt nice. Sort of still. And right. Like he'd been waiting a very long time...

"Yes, it's super cool."

Holy...

Had those been the words? How had he not noticed? Really, how could he have not noticed? Of course, the answer was that the words had looked youthful and natural written down, whereas in life they had been so awkward and stilted that he had made no connection between the spoken sentence and the words printed so neatly on his skin.

Those had been the words, hadn't they? But then, wouldn't that mean that the professor would have heard Barry say his words as well? What had Barry said? Oh no. But the professor had been very calm. Had he not noticed? Had Barry imagined the whole thing? The professor was older, placid, seemed successful; maybe he didn't want a nerdy young soulmate disrupting his lifestyle. Maybe he didn't like men. He couldn't not like men, could he? Barry had always liked girls, but he'd always known that his Soulmate might just as easily be a man, and he was fine with that, but the professor was a product of an older generation, and what if he wasn't okay with it? Which, come to think of it, was a pretty heteronormative thing to think, and for all Barry knew the man didn't like women, he couldn't know, and of course he shouldn't assume but it was just a lot to take in.

The second thing that happened, almost concurrently, was that the train arrived at Barry's stop, and the conductor processed down the aisle calling, "Carson Station. Carson Station."

"Oh, this is my stop." Barry grabbed his bag with numb, clumsy fingers. "Uh, it was nice talking to you."

"You too." The professor's smile was polite, but warm and genuine.

"Maybe I will see you there tonight?" Barry was forced to look away from the man who might be his Soulmate when he tripped on another passenger. "Excuse me." He tried to move towards the doors without further incident while still talking. "I'm taking a girlfriend. Not my girlfriend," he hurried to correct, "she's just, uh... Sorry..." He added as another passenger suffered the effects of Barry's distraction. "She's just a female friend. Who I'm not dating." He added quickly, which,, really, wasn't smooth.

The professor looked deeply amused, and so knowing that Barry was certain that he must, Then indeed, know. He almost delayed longer... they had so much to talk about: science and soul marks being just the beginning; he felt sure he could talk with the man for hours, days, years without getting bored or running out of things to say. But ask he was just beginning to hesitate, the professor bemusedly gestured the way Barry was going and murmured, "The doors are about to close."

"Yeah." Barry felt foolish and hurried out the door, his feet barely settled on the concrete of Carson Station before the train was gone again. He felt disoriented, but also excited; disappointed, but optimistic. He had just met his Soulmate after what felt like a long time (and how much longer had the professor waited), and though the meeting had been brief, they could meet back up when they both attended the most important scientific advance of their lives. But he was bringing Iris. He could introduce them! Iris was almost more eager for Barry to find his Soulmate than he was. And maybe afterwards they could get coffee and talk. Talking seemed... Really good.

But he didn't see the professor at the particle accelerator, and when he did finally re-meet Martin Stein, he didn't recognize him. So Barry Allen actually missed meeting his Soulmate twice, which Martin thought made a terribly funny punchline at Christmas parties; and this, to Barry's mind, proved that a person could be wonderful and brilliant and kind and make your life perfect in every way and still have no sense of humour.

Chapter Text

Mick Rory is easily bored. It's a problem, especially for a pyromaniac with psychopathic leanings.

Well, it's not a problem for Mick. But it does seem to be an issue for most everyone else.

So, he and Snart are holding a hostage; talking to her seems the thing to do. Apply a little pressure, see what she does. Does she crack, does she cry, does she fight back? If she does fight, is it all false bravado and shaking lips, or is it rage and fire and hatred, oooh. If you're not allowed to light someone on fire, then leaning on them, just enough, is the next best thing to show you who you're really dealing with. What you're up against.

At the very least, it's more fun than watching Snart pine for the speedster to come rescue his girlfriend. He's obsessed with the skinny red streak, and Mick isn't sure why... Granted, he's only seen the Flash briefly, but that's sort of the nature of the thing, isn't it? He's not even sold about how the pretty girl tied to the chair managed to catch him long enough to get a date. Blurry son of a bitch probably rescued her from someone like Rory. Well, he can do it again today.

"You're a friend of his, huh?" He leans too close to the hostage, showing his teeth. "He's fast... Like fire. Fire, it's undefinable. Heat, light, energy." The most intimidating thing he can say is his own mind. "It's an evolution when things burn."

She doesn't cry, doesn't really flinch. She just drums up her courage and spits out,

"You're sick."

Which isn't really much of an insult, and it's almost cute that it's the best she can come up with when he has her tied up in a warehouse; that's not an insult, sweetheart, that's a diagnosis. But in this case, it definitely gives Mick Rory pause, because he's been waiting to hear those words since his soulmark first appeared. It hadn't been a pleasant surprise. He'd been ten (early bloomer), and he'd gotten pretty well beat up for it. He'd had to learn to fight real fast, and he had, so maybe he owed her for that. Either way, he'd prepared what he would say ever since, and now it just comes out. Muscle memory, that's what that's called.

"Maybe you're the sick ones." This sounded more impressive when he was a kid, but he says it with conviction. "You ever think about that?"

"Not really." The pretty hostage grits out primly. Well, it's not fair to expect her to be eloquent. She just met her Soulmate.

He hums absentmindedly (habit he picked up from Snart), but his brain is somewhere else. It's finally dawning on Mick that if she said his words (and she did say his words: plenty of people have told Rory that he's sick, but not as an introduction; and Mick is as surprised by that as anyone else), then he must have said hers, and now he's thinking back to see what the fuck he said to this kid.

Fire. He talked about fire, a lot, kind of honestly. Poor damn kid, going through her preppy suburban life with a pyro anthology on her skin. What he fucking gets for talking about his feelings.

He almost feels bad for her. But some part of this fresh, pretty, angel faced kid's body says "it's an evolution when things burn", and nothing has ever turned Mick Rory on quite like that.

"You've got third-degree burns." The girl interrupts a train of thought that badly needed derailing. Her voice is soft; kind of polite. "Why didn't you get skin grafts?"

Mick makes a little show of looking down at his arms like he hasn't noticed them before, and well lookie there, third degree burns.

"The fire revealed my true self, showed me who I really am." He growls softly, like a very large cat with a very pretty mouse. "I wonder what your Flash will reveal when I burn his suit and skin off."

"Do whatever you want to me, but leave him alone." And there it is, because that's what heroic people say in these situations, and sure enough she's trembling and defiant, and it pisses Mick off, but he likes it.

"Oh, okay." He purrs, smiling almost-politely. "You and this Flash must be really close if you're willing to die for him, hmm?" He's starting to hate the scrawny red blur. She's so loyal to him; God knows why. If someone stole a girlfriend from under Rory's nose, he'd have them burning by tea time, and his only super power is stubbornness. This son of a bitch has inhuman speed and where is he? "You want me to show you who you really are? That'd be fun." He picks up the heat gun, tracing a line from her toes to her head. She's afraid. He's flirting. It's not a good combination, but then what do you expect of a man whose soulmark says 'you're sick'? "Show you who you... Really are."

"Mick." Snart appears, effectively cooling the moment, and Mick wonders if he's protecting the girl. "Time to go."

Mick pulls the gag back over her mouth. He's supposed to put a bomb under her chair; he's been playing with the trip wire all evening, and he knows, he knows that it is very, very stupid to risk her getting away with her blurry sweetheart. Lots of people have thought that Mick Rory is stupid; plenty. He never thought they were right. But if she blows up, he'll never know where that mark was. As he tightens the gag, his hand touches her hair; and for a moment, he can imagine how it would feel, if she was his girl.

"You better pray the next people that come through this door is us," he growls; and then he leaves, because he's in town to kill the Flash, and he's feeling inspired.

Chapter Text

I
Mick Rory was born with one soulmark. Nothing odd about that; he was born with one soul, wasn't he? There was actually some debate about that, but theoretically, Mick had a soul and so, like everyone else, was born with one mark. A teardrop, his grandmother had said. A bad omen.

Well, she'd been half right.

By the time he could could talk, three things were clear. The first: that the teardrop shape had split into wicked flickering points. A flame.

The second: a faint, thin, six pointed star beside it. Mick's Soulmate was only three years his junior.

The third was that Mick Rory was probably spawned by the devil, and six-pointed-star was in for the ride of her poor sweet life.

 

II
Leonard Snart was born with two soulmarks. That was common enough. Roughly fifty percent of the population was: it only meant that his Soulmate was older than he was. The little flame had burned next to the snowflake mark nestled into his collarbone for as long as he remembered. In his own sardonic opinion, it looked like a six year old girl put a winter sticker on a cave painting.

Sometimes people born with both marks took some time to figure out which mark was their own. Some even had identity crises if they couldn't find their Soulmates, wondering which mark represented their own soul.

Len never questioned it. The thin, sharp, angular, and altogether too delicate star was his. Cold, pretty, and unforgiving. The other, then, was his Soulmate. On nights when his father drank, and raged, and hurt, Len learned to bite his lip and keep his face calm and cool. Deep inside, he hummed silently knowing somewhere in the world his other half burned and raged, and the bit of him that still felt hope would pray that the caveman fire was bigger and scarier and meaner than Lewis Snart had ever been.

 

III
Barry Allen was born with three soulmarks. And that wasn't common at all. It was a while before he knew that it was unusual, and longer before he realized it was strange. When he asked his mother why he'd had a cluster of three marks when she and his father had only two, Nora Allen had only said, "It's just one more way you're special, my beautiful boy. It means there are two people in the world who will love you as much as your dad and I do."

By the time he was old enough to understand those words, she was gone; but he always loved her for it. When he looked at the triune markings on his ribs, they reminded him that his mother had accepted him without question.

Henry Allen liked to tease his son about the three sides of his personality. Even when Barry took biology classes and learned that wasn't how the marks worked, Henry still liked to say "get him, slugger - that's your flame!" or "run fast, like your lightning!"

When Cisco showed him his suit, Barry could hear it in his head. That's it. That's my lightning. And for the first time in a long time, he wondered about those other two marks.

 

IV
Mick and Leonard had been partners for five or six years before the third mark appeared. Partners in crime, at least, and sometimes in love. Neither of them cared to admit it aloud, even with the marks on their skin; but that they were a perfect team? Inarguable.

Then the third mark etched into their skin; so quietly and unexpectedly that they didn't notice it until it was almost fully formed. Mick never really looked at his marks. Let thought the tiny lightning bolt on his collarbone was a scratch or a scar. Then one early morning, he found the same mark on Mick.

By an unspoken agreement, they never spoke of it, even to each other. Eventually Rory's marks were obscured, by massive scarring. Snart just pulled his coat a little closer around him. But through the highs and lows of their partnership, they never talked about that third mark.

Until the day Snart tracked down Mick Rory in a grimy motel room.

"I know I said we were finished," Snart's voice hummed in the dark, "but things have changed."

 

V
It's tempestuous, to say the least. It would be a childlike simplification to say that they're happy. But there's a fierce joy in the clashing of these titans, and a deep, unwavering, and often unspoken love.

Three marks. Three elements. Fire, ice, and lightning: a perfect storm.