Chapter 1: Finding His Speedster
"Tell me you saw that," Mick growled, gun already flaming to life at his sides as he lowered his other hand where it'd been shielding him from the bright flash of light that had exploded a few streets down from them. Len grunted in acknowledgement before taking off, not waiting to see if Mick was following.
Luckily they were near the edge of the city after just having evaded the cops from their latest heist, so they didn't have to worry about hiding in the shadows- this was Cold's territory after all.
Honestly, he was kind of expecting to see the Trickster fluttering about and throwing his bombs, or Mardon getting pissy and calling up a storm. What he did not expect to see, was a giant blue portal flickering out of existence and a very naked Barry Allen sitting where it disappeared. He sputtered to a stop, Mick making a questionable noise behind him because after a team up a year or so ago with some Aliens, he knew the kid's superhero persona just as well as Len did. They drew closer slowly and Mick had put his gun away by now, but the kid didn't seem to have noticed them.
He was hunched over the dirt, fingers drawing and twisting designs that they couldn't see, muttering lowly to himself.
"Scarlet?" Len said quietly, kneeling in front of the other man, about a foot away. Mick stayed standing beside them, eyes ever searching the darkness for any sign that there were others around, that it was a trap. "You with me, Scarlet?" He tried again, but the boy just shook his head and kept drawing.
"They're so loud, singing like Nora did," he was muttering, one hand drawing while the other waved at the sky as if it explained what he was talking about.
Mick looked at Len when he stood back up and frowned. "Think we should take 'im to the labs?"
That seemed to mean something to the kid because before they could even think to blink, Barry was grabbing at Len's coat, wide eyes frantic. The rogue could hear Mick's gun charge up at the sudden movement, but his words put a stop to it. "No!" He shook his head, his too-long and shaggy brown hair flapping about his head as he looked up at Len. "No, the labs will find the stars, they'll pluck them out of the sky, they can't! They can't!"
Confusion settled on both of the men's faces as they looked down at the speedster. They couldn't make heads or tails of what he was saying, but it was obvious he didn't want to go back to the labs which was... interesting.
"Alright kid, no labs, got it." He tilted his head when Barry's shoulders slumped and pried the younger man's fingers off his jacket. After a second of contemplation, he shifted so he could pull the parka off and onto the speedster's shoulders. It took some maneuvering- as he had to put the kid's arms through the holes himself- but they got him zipped up in it so it covered his bits and pieces. As soon as they let go, Barry was back on his knees, drawing the strange designs into the ground again, muttering about stars. "We can take him back to base," Len considered, glancing up at his partner for confirmation. "Have Baez look at him. Not as good as the brain doctor they've got at the labs, but she might be able to figure out what's wrong."
Mick thought about it to, tapping his finger on the edge of his gun before shrugging. "Team's goin' t' ask questions."
"Not if I tell them not to," Len said, dipping down again to pull Barry off the ground. "Come on, red, let's get you some clothes, yeah?"
"It's gonna change the laws of physics like we know it," Barry told him animatedly, eyes bright and a smile on his face as they started leading him back towards the safe house they'd secured, "then maybe he'll let me get a pool."
Something familiar tugged at Len's stomach, like when he'd seen Mick after the time bastards got their hands on him, or like when he'd first gotten back from the Oculus event and could barely function on his own with the sensory overload. Seeing men like Mick, men like Barry completely broken like this never sat well with him and he was sure it didn't sit well with Mick either judging by the deep frown that settled on his partner's face.
It was almost a full house by the time they led Barry into the safe house. Mardon and Trickster were arguing back and forth over something or other with Lisa watching in amusement, Rathaway was fidgeting with some experiment on the table and Bivolo was flicking through channels on the tv, though all heads shot in their direction once the door had opened.
"Boss?" Rathaway questioned, because he was the only one in the group who knew who exactly it was that they had brought with them, but the rest of his question died on his tongue as Barry grinned at him.
The speedster rushed forward- at normal speed, thank god- towards the scientist, who flinched away. But Barry only reached out and snatched a marker from the table next to Hartley's project. "There's a pool," Barry said again, this time to Hartley as he turned and started scribbling symbols onto the blank wall near the tv. "The water is cold, like ice cream, leaking, leaking, leaking. We just filled it up but there's a hole in it." His smile fell into a frown as he started a new symbol, oblivious to the gawking eyes that were settled onto him. "Nora shouldn't be here... you said she was safe but- she poked a hole in the pool. I can hear the stars through it, they're screaming, melting like ice cream... like ice cream."
"Boss," Hartley tried again when Barry's muttering got quiet enough that they couldn't hear him. "Where'd you find him?"
The question was meant to sound frustrated, but Len knew better. They'd all known the Flash had gone missing six months ago, and Hartley had been helping the Labs- quietly- with trying to get him back. Len could hear the surprise in his words and could only shrug. "Picked him up on our way back, near the old mattress factory. He'll be staying here until we can figure out what's wrong with him." He nodded to Hartley and said, "call Baez, see if she can stop by and take a look at him."
"He's bonkers," Axel commented, making a face at the kid as he continued to scribble on the wall and no one stopped him.
"He's a friend," Mick responded in a growling voice, a warning. "Can't take him home like this."
Len took a position against the wall, watching Barry from a few feet away with curiosity and worry. "Bivolo, any ideas?"
The rogue frowned and stepped up towards the speedster, grabbing his shoulders and turning him. Barry stopped his writing, staring up at him with wide eyes- innocent. The meta took his glasses off and looked at Barry with a light blue gaze in an attempt to calm him, but Barry only smiled and raised his hand to brush against Bivolo's cheekbone, causing the other boy to start in surprise. "I've got a friend with eyes like ice. So blue you can see the ocean in them. He's lost though, gone in a boom." Barry fluttered his hands as if giving them a visual might help and he turned back to the wall to continue his art work. "Boom... boom... pulled with strings they shouldn't have. Lost a friend I shouldn't have... shouldn't have been there. Nora shouldn't be here."
Len raised an eyebrow in confusion. He knew the rogue's powers worked on Barry, he'd seen it before, but this time they didn't.
Bivolo only shrugged in response. "My powers work with the emotional, not the psychological. I can affect his mood just fine, but it's not that part of the brain that's the problem I think."
That was not what Len wanted to hear, but it wasn't Bivolo's fault, so he just grunted. "Alright. Kid's staying here until we figure out what's wrong," he reiterated. "No questions asked, no looking into who he is or you'll have to answer to me. I doubt he'd hurt himself, but try and make sure he doesn't." He ordered the others, waiting for them all to nod- though he could see the questions in their eyes- before running a hand over his head. "If you happen to see something you don't think you should have, you keep it to yourself," he said darkly. He wasn't sure what was going on with the speedster, and he wasn't sure if he still had his powers or would use them in front of the rogues, but he had to cover his bases just in case. His tone left for no argument and the others just nodded mutely.
Good enough, he thought.
"Rathaway, with me," he ordered once the younger scientist had gotten off the phone. He led him and Mick into the kitchen, far enough away that the others couldn't overhear them, but with a clear line of sight to the speedster. "He popped out of some big blue portal," Len told Hartley. "Know what that means?"
"Probably the speedforce," he answered immediately. "Ramon and I have been working on a way to get him out of it. He went in right before you got back, which you know, but it was that or destroy the entire planet. Ramon must have figured out a way to get him out."
Len hummed as he took in the words. He didn't know shit about the speedforce, and he didn't like that. "He doesn't want to go back to the labs, though honestly in his condition, I can't be positive what he actually wants or doesn't want. He's not making much sense."
"You want me to call Ramon?"
He shook his head though. "Not yet. Let's see what Baez knows, if we can fix this first. He seemed like he really didn't want to go to the labs..."
"Thinks they're goin' to take away the stars," Mick said with a roll of the eyes, but Len could hear the worry in the man's voice. "I'm goin' to grab some food." He paused, looking at Hartley for a moment. "Kid's gotta eat a shit ton right? Does he need as much if he's not runnin'? Think we can even get him to eat?"
The scientist frowned in contemplation, looking back towards Barry with a calculative eye. "He burns through energy a lot faster than normal people, even without running. Ramon said once that he needed to eat 10,000 calories a day just to be... you know who. So that's just to start off running. Meaning he probably needs about that a day to function normally or he'll pass out- hypoglycemia. If he doesn't eat, we'll definitely have to make him." He turned back just in time to see Mick nod and head out the door, but he turned his question on Len instead. "What if he uses his powers while he's here? They're not stupid, they'll know who he is."
"We'll deal with that when we get to it," he answered quietly, eyes never leaving Barry. "I'll deal with it. I need you on this, Hartley," he said just as quietly. The rogue's head shot up to stare at his boss in surprise, not used to hearing his first name come from Cold's mouth which proved just how serious he was. "You, me, and Mick are the only ones who know who he is. I know you're not a fan, but I need you to keep an eye on him, and the others. I don't trust easily and I haven't decided which of them are trustworthy enough to have his identity."
"Definitely not Mardon," Hartley chimed in, earning a shake of the head from Len. "Will you tell Shawna? If you're not going to call Snow and Ramon, you might have to tell her so she knows. She's our only one with medical knowledge."
He hummed and nodded. "I'd feel better contacting Snow..."
"Maybe we can do it indirectly?" Hartley questioned, shifting his glasses as a thoughtful look came over his face. "He doesn't want to go to the labs right?" Len nodded and he continued. "Well that doesn't mean he doesn't want help. Maybe... Maybe we get Shawna to look over him with Snow listening in. Tell the good doctor what's going on, let her talk Shawna through it. They both have medical knowledge so Shawna would understand the technical talk enough to explain to Snow what's happening."
It was a good idea, and it was at least a semblance of a plan which made Len feel better. He liked having a plan, having something to think ahead to.
"Alright, but we'll let Baez look him over first, then decide."
Chapter 2: Word Association
Shawna takes a look at Barry and the Rogues come to some not so helpful conclusions.
There is some HEAVY COMIC BOOK SCIENCE in this chapter. Just so you know. Don't get mad at me because none of the science/psychology/medical stuff is accurate please. Warning here!! Right here. ^^^^^^ !!!!! I'm making shit up out of my ass. Enjoy :)
Also thanks for all the wonderful comments guys! You're the best.
"You guys do know I'm just a nurse right?" Shawna questioned when she looked at the brunette, but still she took a step towards Barry and touched his shoulder. He turned slowly, his eyes glazed over like he could see her but wasn't necessarily registering that she was there. "Hello Barry, my name is Shawna. Do you mind if I take a look at you?"
A sunshine smile spread across the speedster's face as he let the girl pluck the marker out of his hand. "It's an aerosol," he told her, fingers twitching towards where she was holding the marker but she kept it out of reach. "An aerosol compromising a visible mass, mass... of minute liquid droplets and crystals... particles floating in the sky..."
Shawna and the others frowned but she ignored his words and moved the young man to sit on the couch. "I'm going to ask you some questions, Barry and look you over a bit." He didn't argue and she rose a small light to look in his eyes but he didn't keep them still enough and she sighed. "Barry, do you know where you are?"
"Lenny said so," he answered instead, that smile still on his face as he took Shawna's hand in his. If Len didn't know better, he would have thought there was a desperation behind that smile, behind those beautiful green eyes. Like he was pleading with Shawna. "She was in trouble, but the shadow, he wouldn't let her go. She smiles like gold, you know. So shiny and pretty and he loves her so much."
"Okay, Lenny said what, Barry? Who are you talking about?"
Barry shook his head and squeezed her hand. "It was hidden behind it, locked away, so shiny, like the stars. So many... the shadow wanted them... wanted them... it's my jam. But... but Nora shouldn't be here..." His smile fell and his eyebrows furrowed, shaking his head slightly. "She shouldn't be here."
"Nora isn't here, Barry, it's me, Lenny and my rogues," Len said quietly, pulling the speedster's gaze towards him. "Do you know who I am? Do you recognize me?"
Shawna felt around the speedster's skull, looking for bruises or bumps, anywhere it might feel swollen where it shouldn't while Len distracted him. "Boom," Barry breathed, eyes finding Len's with a sudden clarity that had the rogue reeling. He shot to his feet and away from Shawna, away from Len. His eyes went suddenly wild and his fingers gripped his hair as the rest of the rogues rose slowly, ready to pounce if Barry attacked. "You said the city would be safe!" Barry cried out, tugging so hard on his hair that even Mick winced. "You said you'd be back but they cut the strings, boom... boom... the ice melted, turned into a puddle that slipped through the hole... Take care of yourself, Snart," he hissed, pacing the room before snatching the marker from Shawna's fingers. Before anyone could stop him, he was at the wall again, scribbling the strange circular symbols he had earlier. "Sentimental, he called me sentimental but I'm not... I'm falling, he's falling. The stars," he turned to Shawna again but didn't move towards her, only pointed towards the ceiling. "Can you hear them? Can you hear them screaming? Singing?"
"Is it shock?" Len asked her quietly.
"No, that's a result of a sudden drop in blood pressure... this is something different. I think this is something deeper in his mind."
"A Cloud." All eyes- including Barry's- fell on Hartley who had said the word so quietly that they almost missed it. "The Aerosol he was talking about, a visible mass of liquid droplets and crystals- it's a cloud."
Something visibly shifted in Barry, his anger melting away to excitement and he grinned this dopey looking grin.
They all frowned, Mick looking at Hartley in confusion. "What does that mean?"
He shook his head though. "I don't know."
Len wanted to yell at the kid, scold him for giving them useless information but the look on Barry's face had him pausing. The speedster waved his arms around him, taking a few steps towards the rogue. "They were hidden inside it, glittering and sparkling," he said again, as if trying to put emphasis on his words, on the importance of them and Hartley's eyebrows pulled down in contemplation. "Cracks like an egg, tick tick tick, five to the left, four to the right, twenty seven."
"A safe," Mick grunts from behind Lenny. "It's the code to a safe, jewels inside it."
"That's what he said when you asked if he knew where he was," Lisa commented.
Shawna hummed and tapped her chin. "I think... I wonder if it's word association." The others raised eyebrows and she shook her head a bit. "Sometimes when someone has brain damage and they can't figure out how to say one thing, they say other words or phrases related to that thing. So maybe when he says that it means he is safe, or he knows he's in a safe house."
"And the cloud?"
As if wanting to answer himself, Barry stalked towards Shawna and grabbed her hand, squeezing it. "Me?" she asked, earning a smile from Barry. "I'm the cloud?"
"You do leave behind a little cloud of black when you poof," Mardon suggested.
"Okay, we can work with this," Shawna said, letting Barry take the marker and head back to the wall. "If that's what he's actually doing, I might be able to ask him actual questions and get a response."
Len nodded and shared a look with Hartley. "Good, you do that. All of the rest of you, make yourself scarce somewhere that's not here," he ordered. "Rathaway, Mick and Lisa can stay." Mardon opened his mouth to argue but a quick glare quickly shut him up. They waited until the others left before Len grabbed Barry's elbow and locked eyes with him. "Barry, if you can understand what we're saying... If you don't want to go back to the labs, then I need to tell Shawna and Lisa so we can help you. It'll break our deal though. I can't do that without your permission."
Barry seemed to ignore him, muttering about stars under his breath as he drew on the wall. He dipped down to sit cross legged so he could reach the bottom of the wall.
"He's got good in him, I know it," Barry said a bit louder, clenching his fist around the marker. "Farris Air was different, this is different... he's got good in him, Joe."
Len groaned and ran a hand over his head, kneeling down to Barry's level. "Is that you saying you trust me? Barry? I need you to tell me somehow that this is okay."
The rogue blinked and sputtered as Barry disappeared in a flicker of lightning, reappearing next to Lisa where she leaned on one of the walls. He ignored her squeak of surprise and started drawing on the wall beside her. "I'm going to take that as a yes," Len grumbled, rolling his eyes at the surprised look on Shawna and Lisa's faces. "Guess the Flash is out of the bag. You tell anyone and you'll be dealing with me," he warned, though he doubted he needed to.
"Well this explains so much," Lisa grinned, ignoring the glare that her brother sent her. "Also, does this explain where he's been?"
"He's been trapped in the speed force," Hartley explained. "It's kind of another dimension where he gets his powers from. We don't know much about it, but that big freak storm we had six months ago? Apparently there's a prison inside this dimension that has to be filled. The man who was in it escaped, leaving a crack I guess is the best way to explain it. Either way it needed filled and the Flash thought it best that he fill it. He's been trapped in there ever since. Ramon and the nerd crew at the labs have been trying to figure out how to break him out for the past few months. We think they finally managed it, but he came back... wrong."
Shawna hummed, her surprise melting away to a doctorly concern. "That doesn't help a whole lot... there are so many different reasons that his brain could be reacting the way it is, and I'm not an expert in meta-physiology. My guess, judging by what I'm seeing? It's some sort of psychosis. It's like if someone put you in a completely empty room, nothing on the walls, no people to talk to, only the sound of a clock ticking... it'd drive you insane after so long. The lack of contact with the outside world makes your brain start interacting with itself."
"Can that be fixed?" Len questioned.
"I don't know. Usually a lot of drugs and therapy can get them back to functioning, that is if they aren't just thrown in the mad house first," she said honestly, eyes never leaving the speedster. "But Barry's different. His body heals itself at a faster rate, but I'm not sure if that includes his mind as well. And even if he is there enough for word association, it's not necessarily going to stay that way. Most people have episodes of clarity, but not everything he says is going to mean something else." A sadness came over her face and she sighed, running a hand over her hair. "I'm not a brain doctor, Snart. I'm no expert in this and I definitely am not a psychologist... I mean it's possible he'll come back- familiar environments, familiar people, that could help. Talk to him about things he should remember and that might help. But it's also possible that... well that he's just gone."
"Time works different in the speed force," Hartley said quietly. "We have no idea how long he was in there. For us it was only six months, but there's no possible way to know how long he was there for or what he saw."
The nursing student nodded in agreement and crossed her arms over her chest. The Flash might have been all of their enemies, might have locked her in a pipeline for weeks, but she'd never wish something like this on anyone. "We just don't have enough information to even know how he's going to react. A person's brain is wired completely different from their neighbors. He's going to react differently than you would in his situation. He may recover, he may not. He may babble on and draw for the rest of his life, he may try and get messages to you. Some days he may even seem like the same old Barry, others he'll still think he's locked in that prison. I just... there's no way to tell, I'm sorry. This is way out of my depth."
"So do we contact Snow?" Hartley asked Len now.
"The stars, Len," Barry said louder, though he didn't turn away from a new symbol he was drawing. "The stars are singing in the rain... so loud and they won't stop."
"I don't know what that means, Scarlet," he said truthfully, his own sadness seeping through his normally porcelain mask. His shoulders slumped and Lisa seemed to notice something in that movement because she quickly ushered everyone else out of the room but Mick, leaving just the three of them. "She has a better chance at making you better. I don't see how there's any other option here. Unless you can tell me why you don't want her or your friends to help... Barry I don't know what else to do."
The speedster didn't even seem to register what he was saying, just muttered on about the stars like it was all he knew how to say, and for all they knew it was.
"Was I this bad?" Len whispered, knowing Mick would hear him.
His partner put a hand on his lower back, comforting and warm and the thief leaned into it slightly. "You were bad. Took me and Lise almost a month to put you back together... but this bad? I dunno, Len. Pika said people react differently."
"But it's the same thing. I was trapped in a the time stream, nothing but myself and possibilities. Shouldn't I be the best one to help him? Or you since you brought me back? Could Snow even help at all?"
"Don't know till we try," Mick reasoned with a shrug. "We won't let them kick us out, Len." Because in the end that's what he knew his partner was afraid of. He knew that if they brought the speedster to the Labs like this they'd be blamed, or if not, they'd still not be allowed to help. No one would think they had any expertise on how to help even though they'd both been through such similar situations. "We can wait," he suggested, "if you want. See if there's any signs of him gettin' better before takin' him down to them."
"And if he doesn't? Then they'll just blame us or accuse us or god knows what else. No..." Len sighed and shook his head, scrubbing his hands over his face. "No, we need to tell them. I'd rather him have more help than not enough. But we can't take him to the Labs, he seemed pretty sure about that... We'll call the Doc and Lisa's nerd, see what they think first."
A sinister grin spread over Mick's face again and there was a small twinkle in his eye as an idea came to mind.
"That mean I can kidnap 'em again?"
Sigh. "Yes Mick, you can kidnap them again. But don't hurt them. We need to make friends."
Chapter 3: A Kidnapping and an Agreement
Len and Mick get some outside help and come to an agreement with Barry.
Not super happy with this chapter, but it'll start moving along better soon :)
"You're bleeding," Len deadpanned when Mick stumbled back into the living room area of the safe house. His nose was obviously broken and there was blood smudged across his chin, staining his teeth when he grinned.
"Little frosty broke my nose!" Normally Mick might have been angry at that, but the fact that Caitlin did it seemed to just make him proud if the look in his eyes was anything to go by. "Got them up in one of the extra rooms, but they're definitely pissed. I grabbed what Pika told me to," he told his partner, holding up a big leather bag of doctor supplies he's pilfered from the labs. "Didn't put the cuffs on the princess though, so she might be frosty when we get in there."
Len nodded and followed the pyro down the hall. Sure enough he could feel the chill coming from the room, see the crystals beginning to form on the doorknob. He briefly considered that after all this was through, he might just teach both nerds how to pick locks if they were going to keep getting kidnapped. He knocked on the door and smirked at the string of spanish curses that replied. "Cool it with the ice, Doc, I'm just going to come in and talk."
When he opened the door, Caitlin and Cisco were already standing and staring at him, the former holding up her hands in a warning though her eyes were flickering back and forth between white and brown. "Cold..." Cisco gapped, glaring at him. "You son of a- Barry's going to be so pissed, you are supposed to leave us alone! That was the deal!"
"Technically, there was nothing in the deal about kidnapping you," Len said, leaning against the door frame and shoving his hands in his pockets. "Besides, you're here on friendly terms, I just needed to make it look like you were kidnapped," he told them. At their confused faces, he shrugged. "I got a problem, you might have the means to an answer, but that problem isn't ready to... go public yet," he said carefully, sharing a meaningful look with Mick. The pyro stepped forward and held out the bag he'd been carrying to the doctor. She eyed it with suspicion and Len sighed. "It's your own things. Shawna Baez told us what you might need to help so Mick kindly picked it up for you."
"Pika-boo is here too?" Cisco asked slowly, glaring at the two rogues.
"No, but she will be later today. Right now its just the five of us," Len told them, turning on his heal to walk away, knowing they were too curious not to follow. Normally he wouldn't turn his back on a meta like Caitlin, but Mick was there to watch it so he wasn't too worried.
"What makes you think we'd help you?" Cisco demanded.
Len didn't answer until they stopped at another extra room in the warehouse. It was a much bigger one that they'd stuck a bed in for Barry and it gave him extra room for the strange drawings he wouldn't stop doing. When they stopped, he turned to look at Cisco with a blank stare and said, "because we have a common interest." Before the engineer could reply, to rogue peeked his head into the room to make sure Barry was decent, finding him standing on top of a dresser to reach a higher part of the wall and wearing only a pair of baggy sweatpants that Hartley had provided (since anything Len and Mick owned would be way too big on him). "Scarlet? We brought some friends for you."
"Scarlet?" Caitlin breathed quietly, pushing past the rogues and into the room where both her and Cisco froze. "Barry? Oh my god, Cisco it worked! You pulled him out!" The speedster barely registered the new members of the room, even as a smile spread over his face. "Barry, why didn't you come back to the labs? We didn't think you were back!"
"Red's not really right just yet," Mick grunted from his spot in the doorway.
Cisco jumped at the voice, having promptly forgotten that the rogues were even there. Len explained as Barry continued drawing. "Baez thinks it's some sort of psychosis or dementia. We found him just on the outskirts of the city like this, but his head is somewhere else. When we mentioned taking him to the labs, he was very animate about not going."
The two friends shared a look, but Caitlin was the first one to make a move towards Barry, looking up at him like he was a scared rabbit that might flee from her. "Barry? Barry it's Caitlin, can you hear me? Do you know who I am?" Brown hair flopped around when he tilted his head, a sign that he heard her at least. He turned slowly, looking down at Caitlin like he was still waking up, like he was looking at her through a fog. She smiled and held out her hand, letting Barry use her to get down from the dresser. "Barry, do you recognize me? Do you know who we are?"
Emotions flitted across his face almost so fast that Len barely caught them, and Barry's hands grabbed at Caitlin's shoulders so tight he wouldn't be surprised if she had bruises the next day. "Your honor, I'm innocent," he told her desperately, green eyes wide and pleading. "I didn't kill anybody, this is all a big mistake, I'm innocent."
"Barry, we don't think you killed anyone," Cisco tried, but Barry continued anyway.
"You said the city would be safe!" He accused the engineer, turning on him now. "You said there would be no residual damage. But there was! There was damage because it's leaking! There's a hole in the pool, she broke it and now it's leaking and I can't get it to close, I can't." Cisco opened his mouth, but didn't know what to say so it just hung open helplessly. "Now the stars are melting, seeping, dripping, dreaming. They're screaming so loud, can you hear them?" he questioned, pointing once again at the ceiling like he'd done with the rogues earlier. "They're singing, so loud, rhyming, chiming, gleaming, dreaming." A groan escaped from the speedster as he rubbed the side of his head, closing his eyes for a moment before shoving between the two to stalk up towards Mick and Len.
Something in the way the speedster moved made a shock of hurt go through Len's chest, but he kept it carefully hidden.
"Tick, tick, tick," Barry said, grabbing Mick's arm. The pyro tensed under him but didn't pull away, which said something probably about how little the two had their guards up around Barry. Len wondered briefly when they'd gotten to trust the brunette so easily. The marker pulled across the back of Mick's hand, then up his arm despite the scars in the way, as he drew strange designs on his skin. "Five to the left, four to the right, twenty seven."
"What does that mean?" Caitlin asked.
"We think it means 'safe'," Len replied. "Baez thinks he's using word association, that he's trying to tell us he's safe. But we can't be sure. She's only a nurse, and a student, hence why you're here," he said, pointing at Caitlin. "You're the brain doctor. Not everything he says seems to have a meaning and even Piper hasn't managed to figure out what the symbols mean." He gestured to the walls where strange symbols were marked down, most circular in some way, grouped together to make bigger swirling images, but none of them made any sense to him. Honestly, they looked like transformers speak or some alien language.
Cisco hummed as he took out his phone, sending Len a wary look. "Can I take pictures? I've got some friends who might know what they're saying."
"Sure, they're all over the living room too, Mick can show you," Len said. The two heroes shared a look, Cisco apparently not wanting to leave Caitlin alone, but she just gave him a reassuring smile and waved him away. When the other two left, Len watched Caitlin rummage through the bag that Mick had brought, pulling out a tablet and two little monitor pads which she quickly stuck on Barry's temples. "Baez wasn't sure if this is permanent or not."
Caitlin nodded in agreement as she tapped away at her tablet. "It depends on why it's happening. The fact that he's using word association can be good news, if that's even what he's doing. If it is, that means he's still in there, just assigning the wrong meanings to the wrong words, not able to say what he actually wants to say. But out of everything he's been saying? I don't know what he could have meant by thinking we were a judge or about a leaking pool?"
She shared a look with the rogue and he shrugged. "We don't know either. He's mentioned the pool leaking before, earlier last night, and the stars screaming. Those are a constant, but we don't know what they mean. Baez did say not everything would mean something though."
"She's right. Barry, Barry can you look at me?" The speedster didn't, but his head tilted again and Len was getting the idea that it meant he was listening to them, even if he wasn't responding. "Barry, I need to take you back to the labs so we can run some tests, you'll be safe there."
"Five to the left, four to the right, twenty seven," he mumbled in response, shaking his head. "He's got good in him, Joe. I know it."
"That's me," Len answered her questionable look. "We think he means me when he says that. He likes to try and tell me I've got good in me I just ignore it."
The younger man's head bobs dramatically and he grins all dopey again. "Never one for non-profit work. You're doing a lousy job of being a villain this week."
Something tugged at Len's memory, familiar words from a time before the Legends. He knew what Barry was talking about, knew what he was repeating. "Christmas," he mumbled in response. "He told me that at Christmas when I told him about Mardon and the Trickster trying to kill him. That was before my Rogues." He looked up at Caitlin with a barely concealed hope. "That's a good thing right? He has memories, he's remembering things, that's good right?"
But the hope wasn't reflected on the doctor, she just frowned that kind of frown that smart people do when they're thinking too hard about possibilities. "Maybe, but this isn't amnesia, it's a different part of the brain that's being affected. His memories could all be there, he just doesn't really know how to unjumble them. But... It'd really help if I could get him back to the labs. I have equipment there already calibrated for Barry."
"Five to the left, four to the right, twenty seven," Barry repeated, hitting the marker on the wall a little harder as he worked on the next symbol. He held onto the utensil so tight that his knuckles were white. "He's got good in him... good in him... I know it. I know it."
"It's the same thing again," Caitlin frowned. "Barry what about Snart are you trying to say?"
"Five to the left, four to the right, twenty seven."
Len's head ticked to the side and he frowned. He had a suspicion what the speedster was trying to say, but why? "I think... Barry, are you trying to tell her you're safe with me?" The tension melted from Barry's shoulders and a flutter went through Len's chest at the implications. He trusted him, felt safe with him. Honestly he wasn't sure how that made him feel. Mick was the only one so far that knew about the rogue's feelings towards his enemy and just how deep they went. The fact that Barry trusted being with him rather than his friends was a bit worrisome but flattering at least. "Scarlet, the doc can help you more than we can."
"She'll take the stars away," Barry replied, shaking his head. "They're screaming but she'll take them away."
"Do you need the stars, Barry?" Caitlin asked, earning a nod from him. "Then I won't take them away from you. And... and if you want, Snart can come with us. Would that be okay? Will you come back to the labs with me if Snart comes with? We'll all stay on our best behavior and he can come with you. Is that okay?"
He was surprised for sure that the doctor would even consider letting the rogues come by. Even if they had worked together during the alien debacle (or at least Mick had), and both were part of a time-traveling bunch of heroes, not all of Team Flash trusted them now, especially the two that they'd kidnapped and almost blown up. (True, the bomb wasn't actually going to go off. Mick hadn't planned on blowing them up for real, but they didn't know that.)
At Barry's nod, they both heave sighs of relief.
"I wonder if... if there's something he knows," the doc murmured as she zipped up her bag and hoisted it on her shoulder. "I wonder if there's something he's figured out, or maybe he's trying to figure out and that's why he doesn't want us to fix him yet. It'd make sense right?" She looked at Len for confirmation, only earning a confused raise of the eyebrow. "Like, if you had found a safe that you knew something valuable was stuck behind, you'd want to get into right?" He nodded, following along if a bit still lost. "So maybe Barry found a safe and he's trying to crack it but he can't do that if we fix him... Is that- I don't know, that sounds kind of crazy."
Len hummed and nodded. "We've dealt with a lot of crazy lately. Honestly, that's the most that's made sense to me since we found him. We just need to figure out what he's found out."
Chapter 4: Speed Stealing
Len and Mick try to get Barry to eat, and Len contemplates their relationship.
I am just LOVING writing this story and I'm so glad everyone is loving reading it! I'm hoping to get deeper into Len and Mick's issues soon, so get ready for that!
Other than that, enjoy!
"Scarlet, I need you to eat something or Doctor Snow is going to have to put you under to forcibly feed you through a tube, and I know you don't want that," Len said, trying desperately to keep the growl out of his voice. They'd been at Star Labs for a day now- with Caitlin, Cisco and a not dead Harrison Wells the only one's who knew- and the speedster hadn't eaten a thing since they'd gotten there. He was currently sectioned off in what used to be Harrison Well's secret room-turned bedroom that they'd covered in see through whiteboards so he could still draw his weird symbols, as well as a desk, bed, and two cots (in case Mick and Len wanted to stay.)
The plan had originally been to put him in the pipeline as the nerds weren't sure how his powers would react to his mental problems, but Mick had quickly shot that idea down.
"Rory, he could get angry and speed off or something, reveal his identity to anyone before we could stop him-"
"No." There was little room for argument in the pyro's tone as he spoke to Cisco, massive arms crossed over his chest as he glared at the cell. His fists were clenched at his sides and Len could see he was struggling to keep control of himself. "You're not puttin' him in there. It's final."
Cisco bristled and clenched his fists at his side. "Um excuse me, who gave you the right to- I'm his best friend! I think I know what's best for him. You've tried to kill him! How does your word trump mine?"
"Because," Mick says slowly, turning burning eyes on the engineer who shrunk back a bit, "I know what it's like. You're. not. putting. him. in. there."
And they hadn't.
Len knew why Mick didn't want Barry trapped in a cell for something he couldn't control, especially if he couldn't say whether he was okay with it or not. Being locked away when your mind wasn't right was something Mick knew all too well, and it usually meant making it worse. If Mick was getting too out of control, too much like his old self and not enough like Chronos, the time masters would lock him away, subject him to all kinds of tests and brainwashing, until he was back to the way they wanted him. So putting Barry in the pipeline wasn't something he was okay with, and if we were being honest, Len wasn't really okay with it either.
They'd just gotten the speedster out of one prison, it didn't seem right to put him in another.
Problem was, as much as they didn't want to put him in the pipeline or knock him out to do tests, it didn't look like they were going to have much say in the latter. Barry was much too focused on writing on every surface he could to even eat and he wouldn't stand still long enough for any scans. Not to mention the fact that once they got him to the labs, he kind of completely shut down. He still mumbled on, still let Len maneuver him when he could, but he wasn't answering any questions or listening to them when they spoke, which wasn't good.
"Mick," Len growled, glaring up at his partner from where he sat on the ground next to Barry, headache pulsing behind his eyes, "how did you get me to eat? I know I wouldn't, so how'd you do it?"
Len and Mick had reacted differently to their trauma. While neither would eat, Len was more intentional than Mick was. Mick just forgot to eat, got focused too much on other things- like his fire- or he'd space out for too long. He was easy enough to fix, just put a plate in front of him, just make sure he has food near him and he'll eat for himself. Len though, Len could have an entire feast in front of him and wouldn't touch any of it. How could you eat when you were seeing that chicken's entire life and death before your eyes? When you touch an apple and watch the tree grow and live for decades before that particular apple dropped into someone's basket? It was too much information in his head and the sensory and visionary input often put him out of commission so he just chose not to eat.
"We blindfolded you," Mick replied, not looking up from the cookbook he was currently reading like a text book. "Lisa figured that your powers worked through your eyes, so if you couldn't see the stuff, we figured you would eat it. She figured right."
Well that plan wouldn't work with the speedster.
Sighing, Len unwrapped the burger he'd been waving at Barry for the past twenty minutes and glared at it. Lisa would throw a fit at him eating it, something about eating right in his old age- the trainwreck- but right now he didn't care. Mick had gotten enough for all of them, so damn his sister, he was going to eat the burger. He carefully picked off the onions and tomatoes first before taking a bite and sighing.
Damn, Big Belly Burger is good.
"Well we need to figure something out," he grumbled at Mick after swallowing the first, juicy bite. When Mick didn't respond, Len took another bite before tossing a french fry at his partner. "Mick, I'm talking to you. The doc said if he doesn't eat enough he can pass out."
Mick leveled a glare at Len before shoving the offending fry in his mouth. There was a contemplative look on his face as he watched Barry, like if he watched long enough the boy might just spill all the answers. After Len took is third bite of his burger, ready to yell a his partner again for not paying attention, a knowing smirk spread across the pyro's face and he huffed. Apparently he wasn't going to share though because he looked right back down at his book.
"Mick-" Len said in warning.
"Don't worry, boss, you've already figured it out."
"What the hell do you mean I've-" he turned to gesture at the speedster, to prove to Mick that he hadn't moved an inch since they'd entered the room, only to find his cheeks puffed out like a chipmunks and chewing away. "I..." the rogue's mouth snapped shut and he glanced down at his burger which was now over halfway gone despite him only taking a few bites. The fact that the speedster had been speed stealing his food brought a surprised laugh from Len's chest and and rolled his eyes, holding the burger towards Barry. "You want the rest?" Barry took the burger in his free hand, but didn't look at Len, nor did he continue eating it. "Barry?"
The brunette didn't reply and Len grunted, finding himself right back at square one. "So much for figuring it out."
Mick frowned, finally moving off of his place on the cot and towards the other two. There was a look on his face that Len recognized, one that was there when Mick was trying to solve some complicated puzzle, when he was working on figuring something out without wanting to ask. He crouched down in front of Len, close enough that Barry should be able to see him in his peripheral vision. He reached for one of Len's fries, drawing a grunt of complaint from the sitting man, but he took a bite of it anyway, watching Barry intently. Sure enough, the second Mick grabbed a fry and started eating it, Barry tilted his head and took another bite of his burger.
"What does that mean?" Len questioned with a frown. "He'll only eat if he sees someone else eating? But why?"
"Could be plenty of reasons... but if I understand what Piper's been sayin' about the speed force, it's not actually a person... it can make itself look like one, but it ain't," Mick told him.
Pieces of a puzzle began slotting into place as Len watched Barry finish the burger quickly, taking a second when it was handed to him. "You think the speed force didn't have to eat?"
Mick nodded and not for the first time, Len was proud of how smart Mick actually was. A lot of people underestimated him, thought he was the dumbest bunch of muscle... it pissed Len off like crazy when the Legends treated his partner like his opinions and plans didn't matter. But they forget that Mick had been stuck with the time masters for decades, maybe even longer than a century. He'd learned so much from that time, and he'd never been an idiot to begin with. He put puzzles together as well as Len did, he just didn't really keep information that he thought to be useless. "Maybe seein' us eat reminds him that he's not still in there," Mick said thoughtfully, sitting fully now in front of Len and munching on the big pile of food they had. "Maybe the speed force didn't even bother pretendin' so he knows now that he has to actually eat."
"Makes sense," Len replied, a small- almost nonexistent- smile coming to his face as he watches Barry. He wanted nothing more than to help the kid through this, but damn if it wasn't hard. It'd only been a few days since they'd found him and while they'd managed to somewhat communicate with him and finally get him to eat, Barry was by no means closer to being healed. Len even wondered a lot whether Barry would be okay after he solved whatever it was he needed to solve. Would he be all hunky dory again? Speeding off to save bad guys and forgetting about them? Or would he be like Len and Mick, fine most of the time with seemingly random episodes or triggers. Or would he even get better at all?
"What'ch'ya thinkin' about, boss?" Mick asked, fingers brushing lightly against Len's knee. They'd never been overly affectionate people when in the company of others, keeping to brief contact and small bumps. Mick was always hesitant to touch Len at all sometimes because he feared triggering some sort of memory either from Len's childhood or his time in the time stream.
Len let out a slow breath as a rush of comfort flooded him at the touch. It settled up right beside the exhaustion that seemed to weight him down. Neither of them had gotten a whole lot of sleep lately and Barry hadn't slept a wink as far as they could tell since they found him.
"Just wondering how we managed to get here," Len said softly, quiet enough that the cameras couldn't hear him, but Mick could. "Us, broken like we are, protecting Scarlet like this... Never thought it'd come to this."
Mick snorted, pulling a raised brow from his younger partner. "Come on boss," he chuckled. "You've been in love with the kid since he made that deal with you. Lisa an' me had a bet going to see how long it took ya to finally admit it. It was always headin' here, maybe not with me in the picture, but you at least. Red's got a spot in that frozen heart of yours whether you're aware of it or not."
He thought about that for a while, munching on a fry for a while while Barry went through another three burgers in the silence. "You're my partner, Mick."
"Sure," Mick grunted, shrugging his massive shoulders as if he didn't care about the implications of the words, "An' I always will be. We been together too long, been through too much, for that to change now. Doesn't mean there's not room for another."
Room for another, Len mulled, rolling the words around in his brain like whiskey in a glass. He'd never thought that Mick would be up for Sharing. He's usually possessive, protective and Len sure wasn't one to let anyone else have Mick either- not completely at least. But Barry was different. They wouldn't be sharing each other, they'd just... be.
Sure, Snart, he growled at himself. Keep thinking the speedster is even remotely interested in you. In your dreams.
Chapter 5: A Hero's Pain
Barry is stuck in his memories, locked behind his insanity, and the rogues have to pull him back. Also, Joe and Iris make a discovery.
woah, two chapters in one day? woohoo. I actually wrote this chapter before ch 4 but only because the idea wouldn't get out of my head. :) enjoy!
Oh and another note, Iris and Barry are NOT engaged or anything like that in my story. They tried dating a while ago and it didn't work out. Now they're just siblings, so forget the whole proposal and such. Because I am not a WestAllen fan much. :P
Len and Mick were just walking into the Labs after giving Baez and Rathaway a rundown of what's been happening the past few days when a shock of lightning pulled them off their feet and pushing them both up against the wall of the entry room. Len's stomach lurched but before he could even think of hurling, they were still again, Barry in front of them with his body positioned like he was shielding them from something.
"What's goin' on Red?" Mick grunted, the expression on his face showing he wasn't happy with being picked up so easily, but it was obvious he knew something was happening.
Barry made a hushing noise and took a second to peek around the corner before flashing back over to them. There was a clarity in his face they hadn't seen since he'd shown back up, but something in the way his eyes never really left Len or the way he kept a hand clenched in his jacket while near him, warned him that the speedster may not be right again yet. "They're here," Barry whispered quietly. "If we hide, if we ignore them, they won't find us."
"Who won't find us, Red?"
"Them," Barry said again, though with more emphasis. "The speed force... they're keeping me trapped here, I can't find my way back. How did you get here?"
Len frowned, sharing a look with Mick in confusion. "We came in from the elevator," he answered slowly. "We went to tell Rathaway what was going on. Scarlet, are you with us right now?"
"Hartley's here too?" Barry asked, his eyebrows shooting up, "I would have thought you got here with the Legends. That's great, but we shouldn't leave him alone, not here." Barry peeked around the corner again so quickly that they almost missed it, then sped to the elevator to press the call button. "We can go get him before they find him. Get out the way you came in... I can't take you both though," Barry said with a frown, glancing at Mick. "You're too heavy."
"Flattering," Mick snarked with a roll of his eyes, but there was a concerned frown on his face as he crossed his arms over his chest.
Barry shook his head. "It's okay, Hartley should be safe for now, they're just looking for me. They shouldn't even notice you're here as long as he lays low." He was fidgeting now, shuffling on his feet as one hand gripped Len's jacket and the other gripped Mick's sleeve. The pyro seemed confused, but content, to let the kid hold on, maybe afraid that Barry would run off without them and get himself into trouble. Before anyone could say anything, the elevator dinged and the doors slid open to reveal Joe and Iris.
"Shit," Len breathed. They'd been doing so well keeping Barry away from his family until they could figure out what was wrong. It wasn't too difficult as the Wests- other than Wally- had stayed away from Star Labs for the most part. Iris was still around a lot, but only ever in the cortex. She didn't wander, didn't run the chance of running into Barry on accident or Len and Mick as long as they stayed where they were supposed to.
There was a brief moment where the shocked Wests stepped off the elevator, wary and watching. Tears were springing to both of their eyes and the rogues behind Barry were tense, waiting to see what might happen.
"Barry?" Iris choked out.
The speedster frowned at her, crouching just slightly in a defensive position in front of the rogues. "Leave them out of this," he told his foster-sister. "You're here for me, not them. Just let them go home, let them leave in peace. You don't have to do this, okay?" He held out a placating hand, but one still held onto Len's jacket. "Please," he begged quietly, "they don't need to be punished, they didn't know."
"Bear, what are you talking about?" Detective West asked, holding up both hands to show he wasn't carrying his weapon- which only slightly relaxed Len and Mick. "Barry, we aren't going to... punish anyone. When did you- how did you get back?" He stepped forward, arms outstretched and ready to hug him when Len pulled Barry back a step.
"Wouldn't do that detective," he warned, sidestepping around the speedster to get in his view. "Scarlet? Can you see me?" He asked, drawing those beautiful green eyes down to his blue ones. "Why don't we go back to your room, yeah? We can talk to Cop and daughter later, okay? We'll go back in there, maybe get you some food and let the doc take a look at you." A choked sound came from behind him and he could only imagine that Iris was full out crying now, but his focus was on the speedster in front of him, watching that wary look melt to one of confusion and suspicion. "Scarlet, what's going on right now? You gotta talk to me."
But Barry shook his head and pulled away, stumbling away from the rogues and Wests, breathing getting erratic and hands shaking at his sides. If they looked close enough, they could see tears springing up in Barry's eyes as well.
"N-no... you're with them," he gasped out, clenching his fists at his sides. "Y-you promised! You promised you wouldn't do that!"
"Do what, Barry?" Len pushed, holding his hands out but not daring to move any closer. He'd dealt with this kind of thing with Mick. He could only imagine what Barry was seeing right now, he just needed to prove to him that Len was real, that they were really there and he wasn't stuck wherever he thought he was. "What did I promise?"
Shaky hands tugged at brown hair and green eyes squeezed shut as Barry struggled with his own head. "You promised you wouldn't wear his face anymore. You promised you'd stop torturing me with him! Is this my punishment?" Barry yelled voice echoing through the halls of the labs and he curled in on himself, anguish and pain twisting on his beautiful face. "I know what I did, I know it's my fault he died, do you have to remind me so much? I don't... it kills me, hurts me. I-I... god, you promised!"
Len's heart snapped at Barry's words, putting them together in his head like a picture. The speed force had used Len's face to torture Barry? Had told him it was his fault that Len died? What kind of fucked up shit was that?
"Snart, what's going on," Joe demanded as Caitlin and Cisco rushed into the room, probably from the commotion they'd been making.
Mick stepped in front of them though, a solid wall between the outside world and Barry. Len spoke quietly and ignored the others, approaching Barry with a cautious step, like he was advancing on a skittish cat. "Barry, look at me, you know me. I'm not with them, I'm not wearing anyone's face, this is all me. I don't know what they told you, but it is not your fault that I blew myself up, okay? That's not something you get to carry, that's not your burden to bear, do you hear me? Scarlet? Scarlet, look at me." He'd gotten close enough now to reach out a hand and lift Barry's chin a bit. The speedster flinched, but didn't pull away and his eyes locked with the rogue's easily. "Barry, I promise you, you're home now. You're not trapped in the speed force anymore, you're not being punished. How can I prove it to you, hmm? Tell me how to help you."
He was silent for a long while, the only sound being Iris' sniffles and a low murmuring between Joe and Caitlin.
Finally Barry's eyes flitted between Len and Mick and he whispered, "rogues... t-they were never here... there."
"Okay," Len nodded, pulling a phone from his pocket and showing it to Barry for a minute. "I'll call them, stay with me Scarlet." Barry nodded, but his head lowered slightly as he stepped a tiny bit closer to Len. The phone rang for two rings before Lisa's voice chimed through the speaker.
"Lenny! Hows our little cinnamon roll, hmm?"
"Lisa," he greeted, "We're having a little trouble here and Barry needs your help. I need Shawna to bring you and Hartley to the labs please." He knew his sister would hear the urgency in his tone, even if the others couldn't. Just the fact that he'd said please and used first names was an important distinction because Len usually didn't. He could hear the Wests arguing behind him but ignored them as he moved the hand on Barry's chin to the back of his neck, squeezing gently to calm him. "Now."
"Alright," was all she said before hanging up.
Len slid the phone back in his pocket as he faced Barry fully again, using his body to block the others from the speedster's view. "Scarlet, still with me?"
"It was my fault," he said in a small voice, not daring to look up. "It was my fault, I'm guilty... I killed him, I know that. P-please stop... stop making him see me, making me see him."
Fury built up in the older man's chest, burning as hot as Mick's gun yet still as cold as ice. How dare they- whoever they were- use Len's death to torture Barry, how dare they lay that blame on him. It wasn't Barry's fault, if anything it was Mick that made Len do it. He couldn't stand there and watch his partner- in more than the platonic sense- blow himself up. "Barry, you are not to blame for what happened at the Oculus. You didn't make me do it, didn't force me into it."
"B-but I made him think he was a hero... if I would have just- if he was just a bad guy... He'd never have joined the legends, never have b-blown himself up for them. He... he died a hero because of me."
A loud gasp from Iris behind him told him that at least someone was there already and he turned his head just slightly to see Lisa there, perfect as ever despite the teleportation. A second later Hartley and Shawna appeared beside her, worried looks in their eyes but annoyance on their faces- like masks put in place anytime they were around the Flash's team.
"Snart-" Joe warned, but Len ignored him, waving at his sister and holding out a hand towards her.
She took it slowly, making sure all of her movement were exaggerated and careful so Barry could see what she was doing. "Barry, sweetie," she drawled, a smile like gold on her face. "How are you? We've been worried about you since Lenny didn't think we should be here just yet." She kept her words playful, even as she reached out to take the boy's hand. "Have you been eating? You know Mick gets all mother hen when we don't eat."
Barry stared down at their connected hands like he was shocked that she would bother touching him. Len wondered how the speed force worked, if Barry could feel things in it or not. Perhaps physical contact could be an anchor for the boy. "Scarlet, would it be alright for my rogues to take you to the kitchen to get some food? I think I need to stay here and have a conversation with the Detective." A low whine came from Barry's chest but he nodded, letting Lisa take his hands and lead him off, Mick, Hartley and Shawna following. He grabbed Hartley's arm and whispered low to him as he passed, "he'll only eat if someone else is eating too. He has to see someone eating or he'll just sit there."
"Got it boss," Hartley nodded, moving quickly to follow the others.
Leaving Len alone with Team Flash and co.
Well here goes nothing.
"What the HELL is going on, Snart?" Joe demanded as soon as Barry was out of hearing range, reaching back to grab the gun at his waist.
He might have pulled it to if it wasn't for Caitlin and Cisco stepping between them, hands held out.
"Joe, wait," Caitlin pleaded, shaking her head. "Snart's been helping us with Barry. He and Mick found Barry a few days ago when we opened a portal to the speed force. We... we didn't think it worked because he didn't come back, but it turns out that the rogues had found him and were helping him, but..." She shared a look with Len before her shoulders slumped a bit. "But hes not all back yet. We still aren't completely sure what's wrong because I haven't been able to get many tests done with him like this but... the speed force caused some sort of psychosis or dementia and we're working through putting him back together. Snart and Rory have been really helpful in that."
"Helpful?" the detective yelled, waving a hand towards where the rogues had taken Barry away. "How do we know they didn't do that to him? He didn't even- he didn't even see us."
"Yeah, that was new, actually," Cisco chimed in, handing Caitlin a tablet to make notes on about what had just happened.
Iris frowned, wiping the tears off her cheeks and looking towards Len. "What does that mean? He's not always like that?"
Len had always liked Iris West. She was strong, didn't let people walk all over her and she was one hell of a reporter. So he faced her fully and told her the truth, no nonsense, no sugarcoating, just the truth. "That's the first time that's happened, and it's the most lucid he's been as far as we can tell but... I think he thought he was still in the speed force. We think whatever beings were in there with him took the forms of his friends and family to... punish him."
"Since he's been out, he's not been making much sense," Caitlin continued for him. "We've managed to communicate a little bit with word association when he's... closer to us than, not so lost, but that's touch and go. It seems he can always hear us, but whether he's listening or understanding is up in the air. I haven't managed to figure out what exactly is wrong with his brain in general, and we don't really think he wants to be fixed yet."
"Why the hell not?" Joe asked.
"He's cracking a safe," Len replied with a smirk, riling the man up more but he couldn't really find it in himself to care. This at least was familiar, the detective hating him and Iris barely trusting him. This was what he knew, where he felt comfortable with them.
Cisco rolled his eyes at the vague explanation. "Not literally. We think he figured something out in the speed force, learned something or knows something and now he's trying to solve it. But Barry thinks if we fix his head, bring him back completely, that it won't let him fix whatever it is he thinks he needs to fix, or solve whatever it is he needs to solve."
"And they have to be here for that?"
Iris sighed and glared at her father. "Dad, if Barry needs them, then they need to be here." The woman raised her chin, her pain still evident on her face but a determination set fully in her eyes as she walked up to Len and held out a hand. "If you can help my brother, then I'll trust you. Barry was right, you're a good man, Snart, even if you don't always choose to be." She shook his hand when he took it and squeezed. "But if you hurt him or I find out it was you who did this... I will kill you, Leonard."
"Understood, Miss West."
Chapter 6: Part of the Fam
Lisa and Hartley have a short heart to heart with a semi-lucid Barry. Some new comers show up and shine a light on the situation.
I'm actually kind of super proud of this whole fic! I have a plan for a full on plot, I'm writing like crazy (mostly procrastinating my NaNoWriMo work, but whatever) and everyone is liking it! Woohoo! :)
It wasn't until Shawna took Mick out to get some beers and snacks that Barry actually seemed to react to anything. Lisa had sat him down between her and Hartley, both of them scooting close to him, though Hartley was clicking away at his phone in that way he does when he doesn't want to seem like he's hovering too much. The first sign of Barry actually listening to whatever Lisa was chattering on about was a small squeeze of the hand that he hadn't let go of, pulling Lisa out of her conversation to look down at him.
"Barry? What is it, darling?"
He didn't look at her, only down at their joined hands and he squeezed again, like he couldn't really believe that she was there. It took a few moments for him to answer, and his voice was so quiet that even Hartley had a hard time hearing it. "I'm broken," he whispered, and it was like those two simple words pulled at Lisa's heart strings until they were tight. "Cracked and broken.."
"Oh honey," Lisa cooed, squeezing his hand back. "We're all a little broken, that's nothing to be ashamed of. You know... Lenny usually took the beatings from dad when we were younger, but that doesn't mean there's no damage in me. There are still days where I have to hide food because I'm afraid he'll take it away, or times when I'm expecting a punch when someone is angry at me." Lisa said it quietly, and she was glad that Hart was acting like he wasn't listening. The Snarts- really most of the rogues actually- weren't overly emotional people, they didn't share often, but like Barry said, they were broken. Most of the Rogues were who they were because of something terrible. Lisa liked to think that's why they were the little family that they were. Len and Mick liked to adopt broken kids, treat them like they should be treated. It's why Hart got a new pair of implants and why every Rogue was required to know sign language to help him out when the noise got to be too much. It's why Trickster sr. was NOT a rogue because Axel needed to be far away from his father for his own sanity. It's why when Lisa spent hours and hours, sometimes days, on the ice until her feet were bleeding, someone was there with a bucket of ice and bandages to help her out after. "Barry, it's okay to be broken because you have people to help keep you together."
The speedster frowned, tilting his head slightly ."There's something there," he muttered, using his free hand to trace circles into the back of her hand. "Something I need to see, need to solve... the stars-" he shook his head, like he was trying to stay with them, trying to get back on track. "I have something to do, to see... but after- I'm not sure if I'll be back again."
"Trauma changes a person," Hartley chimed in, his eyes soft when he looks up at them. "There's no getting around that, Barry. You're literally the Flash because of your mother's death. We can't go back and change those things without even worse consequences..." the younger rogue reached out a hand, hovering it above Barry's shoulder like he couldn't decide if he should touch or not. Eventually he just smiled and pulled away again. "But that doesn't mean you're completely broken. We've all got cracks and chips missing. You'll have to learn to cope, but you have people to help."
"But what if I deserve it?"
It was said so quietly that Lisa almost thought she imagined it, but she squeezed his hands so tight that the boy looked up at her. "Barry Allen, don't you dare say that, you hear me?"
He was already shaking his head, trying to pull his hands away but she wouldn't let him. "I've killed so many people," he breathed, tears springing to his eyes. "Too many are dead because of me. M-maybe my punishment wasn't enough, m-maybe I deserve to be broken, to be broken... broken... Eddie, HR, Harrison Wells- the real one!" The speedster yanked his hands away and stood, fingers twitching at his temples as he fought the fog in his head. "My mom... my mom.. Nora shouldn't be here."
Lisa knew then that they'd lost him again, especially with the pen that suddenly manifested in his hand after a flicker of lightning. Before they could stop him, he was at the wall of the kitchen, starting a new set of symbols. "Nora shouldn't be here... you said the city was safe... there would be no residual damage... Nora shouldn't be here..."
The rogues shared a look before Lisa dropped her head in her hands. "Damnit..."
"It's not your fault," Hartley told her, patting her on the back a few times before pulling away again. "I'm honestly surprised that he managed to stay lucid that long. It's progress, even if it's slow. He's not going to be glued back together all at once, especially if he doesn't want to be," he said quietly.
Lisa sighed and nodded, leaning on one hand as she watched the boy. "I know... it's just, I don't know. There's something about the kid. He's gone through so much, like the rest of us. He needs to be reminded that he doesn't have to carry the whole world on his shoulders."
"That's the thing with capes, they always do."
Any words Lisa might have wanted to reply with died on her tongue as the air shifted and condensed. Hartley and Lisa were on their feet in an instant, turning towards the far wall just as a shimmering blue portal opened up against it. By the time Lisa had her gun raised and Hartley had his gauntlets on, the portal was gone and two people were in it's place. No one moved for a few seconds, the rogues sizing up the new members of the room and the blonde girl who'd just shown up raising her hands in defense.
"Uh, hi? We're here to help Barry?"
Lisa tilted her head to the side and narrowed her eyes.
They didn't seem like much of a threat. The girl was small, blonde hair and pretty blue eyes, but there was something in the way she carried herself, in the way that she didn't look scared enough at the gun to her face, that had Lisa telling herself not to underestimate the woman. The other person was a man, tall and black, with narrowed eyes that looked like they could bore into her soul. He stood like military, dressed like it too, and the brunette didn't miss the gun strapped to his leg, nor did she miss the fact that he too didn't seem bothered by her own weapon. Not good.
"Oh yeah? And how do we know we can trust you?" Hartley asked.
A flicker of lightning put Barry in front of Lisa, her gun pressed against his chest, but even if he was looking at her, he wasn't seeing her. She knew that. "Barry?"
The speedster grabbed the arm that was holding the gun and much like he'd done with Mick a few days ago, started doodling on her arm. "Five to the left, four to the right, twenty seven," he said quietly, finishing his scribble before flashing back to the wall. The symbols meant nothing to Lisa of course, but she lowered her gun anyway and holstered it. "Five to the left, four to the right, twenty seven."
"Hmm, lucky for you that means you're safe," Lisa said, nodding to the rogue beside her.
"Fine, but I still don't trust them," Hartley grumbled, lowering his arms and dropping back into his seat. "If you're here for Barry, then how come we've never seen you before?"
Lisa crossed her arms in front of her and leaned her but against the table, not willing to turn her back on strangers she'd never met. The blonde was the first to speak up though, an honest smile spreading across her face. "Uh, Barry and I are friends, we've worked together a few times. I'm from another Earth though. Cisco sent us a message, asked that we come down and help. My name is Kara and this is J'onn. Are you... friends of Barrys?"
"You could say that," Lisa hummed. "How are you supposed to help?"
"Skirt!" Mick's loud voice sounded from behind. Lisa jumped a bit, scolding herself for not hearing him coming, and turned her head just enough to see the large man lumber into the room, bags of food and drinks in his arms and Shawna right behind him. A big grin spread across his face as he looked at the blonde. "Long time, blondie!"
The girl- Kara- grinned even wider if it were possible and took a step forward to hug the pyro, surprising both Lisa and Mick. "Mick! It's been a while! Glad to see you're still alive. I didn't know you were going to be here."
He nodded a bit, smile turning a bit grim as he gestured over to Barry. "Yeah well, we found the kid." He looked up at Lisa, taking in her confused look and the demand in her eye that he explain why he didn't mention the girl. "This is the alien chick I told'ya 'bout," he told her. "Helped out with the invasion last year."
The extra rogues made collective 'ah' sounds as Kara introduced her friend J'onn to Mick and Shawna before turning a sad look towards Barry. "What's wrong with him?"
"He was trapped in a speed prison in another universe," Hartley said. Being the one who knew the most about the speed force in the room, he explained briefly to her what was going on. Ending with a sure, "we think he's trying to solve something."
"The nerds called you for translation," Mick grumbled, waving at the symbols at the wall, then holding out his arm where the faded permanent marker could barely be seen. Lisa stuck out her own arm as well to show them. "Thinks it could be alien, though they ain't sure."
J'onn hummed in the back of his throat and reached out for Lisa's arm, pausing slightly when he got close enough. "May I?" After a second of contemplation, trying to decide if she could trust the man or not, she set her hand in his. He leaned in close, tracing the air above the symbols with his other hand and frowned. "It's an ancient language, one I've seen before but not for a long time." They waited a few minutes and J'onn studied both Lisa and Mick's arms- both bearing the same design across them. "There is no direct translation for this word," he says quietly, letting Kara take a look as well with wide, interested eyes. "But I believe in English the closest translation would be 'I am real'. Does that mean anything to either of you?"
Mick shared a knowing look with Lisa, seeing his own heartache reflected in her eyes. "Yeah... he's been having trouble determining what's real and what's from the prison. Flash backs sort of."
"You think it's his way of reminding himself who he thinks is real? Who he knows isn't speed force replicas?" Hartley asked. "If that's true, then why just the two of you? Why not his friends? Why not Snart?"
Mick frowned and shook his head. "They used his friends against him in there, used Snart against him too. Me and Lise? We're probably familiar faces that they never showed him."
"Five to the left, four to the right, twenty seven."
"Oh Barry..." Kara whispered, staring out at her friend. "I... J'onn, would it help if you got in there with him?" She wondered, watching him draw out various designs. She could read them too, studied them on Krypton a long time ago. "I can try and work on translating the walls while you do that? Do you think it'd be safe, would it help?"
The darker skinned man- Lisa wondered if he too was an alien by the way they were talking- frowned and tilted his head in Barry's direction. "It would depend on how deep he is, how lost. The deeper he is, the more dangerous it is for me to try and pull him out. I would need to bring someone with me, someone he would trust. That is if he is even stuck. It is much more difficult to pull someone out of something like this if they are unwilling. And if it is... more psychological than it is an after effect... I may not be able to do anything at all."
"What are you talking about?" Hartley questioned with a frown. "What do you mean, go in there with him?"
"I am a martian," J'onn told them calmly. "My people have psychic abilities. We can go into someone's mind, read their thoughts, project our own thoughts to them, among other things. Depending on what has him trapped, I could theoretically go into his mind and pull him back out. Or at the very least, I might be able to have a conversation with him about what is happening. Being inside his mind, I might be able to better understand what he's trying to say. I could-"
Chapter 7: Listen...
The teams discuss options for getting into Barry's head. Mick has a panic attack. Barry quotes Doctor Who.
The big speech at the end of this chapter is from Doctor Who, so slight spoilers if you're not caught up on 12, but not really because it doesn't actually give anything away. Also this chapter is a lot longer than the others because of the speech, so sorry? Or your welcome? Whichever you prefer. XD YAY for more chapters though! I've been getting a lot of comments and I just wanted to take a second and thank everyone for taking their time to leave me such positive messages! I'm glad everyone is liking it!
Also I maybe should leave a TW: Panic Attacks here, but I don't go into a huge amount of detail into the panic attack.
"It's actually a really good idea," Caitlin said, though she sounded unsure. "Is it safe?"
They'd all migrated to the Cortex when Len came to fetch them, just catching Mick's loud and sure 'no'. He hadn't been sure of what they were talking about at the time, but by the way Mick migrated towards him immediately, tense and twitchy, he could make an educated guess. To be honest, once the martian explained things, Len wasn't too thrilled with the idea either- especially not with their history of mind control- but he also couldn't get rid of the little voice in the back of his head telling him that it could get them some answers.
"You're talkin' about goin' inside his head," Mick growled, clenching his fingers so tight that his knuckles turned white. "Without him sayin' it's okay. We don't know him, he could make it worse."
Len frowned and watched the speedster across the room. They'd put him near the medbay where he could draw on the mirror. Ignoring the argument going on around him, the rogue crossed the room and leaned against the wall beside the brunette boy. "Barry, can you hear me?" A small tilt of the head told him yes and Len nodded. "The aliens over there say they have a way of talking to you in your head, say they can get in there and see what you're seeing." The conversation around them died, all eyes on them now and Len tried to ignore the nerves that flared to life at being the center of all their attention. "Listen Scarlet, it's a good plan if you trust this J'onn, but I need to know that you're okay with it. Just like with Lisa, remember? I can't let this happen if I don't know you know what's going on."
"Hello Barry," the speedster replied, "how was your trip?"
"I don't know what that means, Scarlet. You gotta help me out here," Len said.
He waited a few minutes, watching the speedster twitch about, watched the confused and frustrated expressions flitter across his face. Len wondered briefly if he was frustrated because Len didn't understand or if it's because he couldn't seem to get the right words out. Or maybe neither, it could just be frustration in general. He couldn't be sure.
"I finally figured out your secret," Barry whispered, leaning towards Len but still not looking away from the new symbol- though he'd actually paused in writing it. Before the rogue could ask which secret, he continued. "Lisa was safe... why did you do that?"
The memory Barry was talking about sent a shock of cold pain through Len's chest, but he covered it up easily. Lisa however took a slow step forward and frowned. "What's he talking about, Lenny?"
"He broke my sisters heart," Len replied to Barry, the words repeated like a lead weight on his tongue. "Scarlet, what does that have to do with this? I can't see how this connects, help me see it."
"Things are complicated with family," Barry told him, turning away from the window now. His eyes still had this far away look in them as he paced the room, walking towards Cisco only to pause, shake his head and back away again. He did it to Caitlin and Joe and Iris too before stopping at Kara. "I finally figured out your secret," he said again, taking Kara's arm and pushing up her sleeve. The girl didn't fight back or argue as he drew 'I am real' on her arm in the strange alien language. "Five to the left, four to the right, twenty seven." He moved towards Hartley as well, paused and tilted his head. "Things are complicated," he said again before moving towards J'onn to draw the design again on his arm as well.
They'd debriefed the rest of the team quickly on what the symbol meant- or at least what they thought it meant- when they'd first gathered in the cortex, and Len couldn't help but feel a burning anger in his chest at the fact that Barry didn't give him a symbol. It wasn't jealousy, it wasn't the fact that he was being grouped with Team Flash instead of his Rogues that got him pissed. It was the fact that these beings, whoever they were, had used his face to torture Barry and now the boy couldn't tell if he could be trusted or not. True, Len was a criminal. It's probably always best to have the benefit of the doubt and assume he will betray you, but this is Barry they're talking about. Len made a deal with him, Len trusted him... he liked him. There are very few reasons he'd ever actually betray Barry now, two in fact and they were both in that room. Still, he didn't like that someone had twisted Barry's mind so much that he couldn't even register that Len was real.
"Okay," Len muttered once Barry came back to the window.
"Okay? What do you mean? That made sense to you?" Kara questioned, her face pinched up in confusion.
Len shrugged. "As much as it could have, I suppose. If he didn't like the idea, he would have said something else, but he trusts you two, that much is clear." He gestured towards their arms before crossing his own. "He feels safe with you. The rest? Well it's possible he's trying to say that he'll do what he has to to keep those he loves safe. But I can't really be sure."
"What he was saying, about keeping Lisa safe," Kara pushed, eyes finding Lisa's quickly, "and things being complicated with family, what did that mean?"
"That he's probably doing what he's doing because he has to," Len drawled now, dipping back into his Cold persona. He didn't like people prying. Lisa and Barry were really the only two who knew what truly happened that day and why. Mick knew the basics and could infer the rest on his own, but Len had never really wanted to talk about it. He turned towards J'onn with an equally serious look in his eye. "You said you can take someone in there with you, that it'd be easier to find him and pull him out, or at least understand what's happening."
"No," Mick interrupted before the Martian could answer.
"No." His voice was tight and his fists clenched over his chest. Len could see the tension in his muscles, the veins in his neck and head popping out. He was losing control fast and fighting hard against it. "You're not going in there. I'm not letting some little green guy get in your head. It's not happening."
Len rolled his eyes, more for show than because he was actually annoyed. He knew why Mick was so mad, so adamant on Len not doing this, but it needed to be done. "Mick, it's our best option right now. Besides, I think I have the right to decide what I do with my own head." It was a low blow, both of them knew it, and Len almost regretted it the second it escaped his mouth because he could see the walls slamming shut behind Mick's eyes. See the hidden panic in the lines of his face. The tension in the room almost became insufferable and suffocating, and in the back of his mind, Len registered Cisco and Caitlin ushering the others out of the room so they could talk without prying ears. Barry however remained unmoved- though he had started on anew section of the window now. "I'd rather it be me going in there, figuring out what's going on than one of them."
"Why? They're his friends, Lenny, not ours," Mick argued, pushing himself against the wall and raising his hands to rub at his temples. "I don't care about them, not like I do you. I can't let them get their grubby fingers in your head, boss, not like they did mine."
It was rare that Mick had panic attacks, and when he did they were so subtle that most people didn't notice them. The hitch in his breath, the way he pressed his hands so hard against his eyes that he saw stars, the way he'd dig his blunt fingernails into the bald skin on his head, as if he could dig in there and pull the time masters out... His panic attacks were more subdued than Len or Lisa's, but no less scary.
"Mick, Mick listen to me," Len said quietly, walking towards his partner with slow and exaggerated movements. "This isn't the time masters, this isn't some group of universal bad guys. Scarlet trusts this guy and we'll have an entire group of heroes and rogues around us in case anything starts to look fishy. Mick it's not them." His partner didn't reply and Len doubted he could even if he wanted to right now with the way his breathing was growing heavier and heavier. "Mick, let me help you. What do you need right now? Tell me what you need."
"Just talk to me," the pyro requested quietly, fingers digging into his forehead. "Just talk..."
Len opened his mouth to say something, anything. He'd done this often enough to know that it didn't matter what he said as long as he said something. The Time Masters had fucked with Mick's head so much that hearing someone actually talking instead of just putting images in his head usually helped. Usually it resulted in talking about stupid heists they'd done in the past or stories about Lisa and her ice skating- Mick loved to watch Lisa skate, so impressed and proud at the moves she could do. But before Len could say anything, Barry was beside Mick and talking. He didn't seem to really register either of them, hand still moving across the wall, marking strange alien symbols into a blank spot next to Mick's shoulder, but he started talking.
"Listen," he said, quietly at first and Len wondered if the kid was actually trying to say anything this time or not. "Listen... this is just a dream. But very clever people- very clever people..." he frowns, tilting his head to draw another symbol. "Very clever people can hear dreams, so please, just listen. I know you're afraid, but being afraid- I know you're afraid, but being afraid is alright." Something prickled at the back of Len's head, the words familiar to him, but not enough for him to recall where he'd heard them. He wondered briefly if he should stop the kid, talk himself instead, but Barry continued anyway and Mick's breathing had slowed somewhat, even if his fingers were still digging into his skull. "Because didn't anyone ever tell you? Fear is a superpower-" as if to prove it, Barry flashed to the other side of Mick, leaving a small trail of lightning behind him and the taste of ozone in the air. "Fear can make you faster and cleverer and stronger. And one day, you're gonna come back to this barn. And on that day, you're going to be very afraid indeed."
Taking a chance, Len reached out and began pulling Mick's fingers away, letting him cling to Len's hands instead. His grip was tight and his eyes were squeezed shut but he dropped his head back against the wall and listened to Barry babble away.
"And that's okay. Because if you're very wise, and very strong, fear doesn't have to make you cruel or cowardly. Fear can make you kind. It doesn't matter if there's nothing under the bed... monsters under the bed... doesn't matter if there's nothing under the bed or- or in the dark, so long as you know it's okay to be afraid of it. So listen. If you listen to nothing else, listen to this. You're always going to be afraid. Even if you learn to hide it. Fear is like a companion. A constant companion, always there, but that's okay."
Barry paused, hand hovering above the wall and head ticking to the side.
Len wasn't quite sure if Barry even knew what he was saying, if he meant it or if he had subconsciously picked out a memory of something that fit the scenario... maybe he hadn't even done that. He might not even be aware of the panic attack Mick was going through and it was just a coincidence. But for some reason Len doubted that.
Barry turned towards Mick slowly, eyebrows pulled down in concentration and fingers twitching towards the man, like he couldn't quite decide if he wanted to touch him or continue drawing. He nibbled at his lip before continuing his speech. "Because fear can bring us together," he said quietly. "Fear can bring us home. I'm going to leave you something, just so you remember. Fear makes companions of us all."
A second later, Mick was breathing easier and blinking open his eyes to stare at the ceiling. "Thanks Red... I'm good now." He squeezed Len's fingers to prove it and dropped his hands.
Before either man could do anything though, the speedster was between them, arms wrapping around Mick's waist and head leaning on the older man's massive chest. His face was scrunched up tight and he was breathing heavy as well now, but his arms squeezed Mick tight as he could. As if on instinct, Mick's arm wrapped around Barry's shoulders, even if his eyes found Len's wide ones. They only stayed like that for a few seconds more before Barry was wiggling out of the embrace, his face back to it's far away look. He took his place back at the far side of the room, mumbling to himself- a mixture of his normal babbling and the speech he'd given Mick.
"What he said," Len started, still trying to wrack his brain for the quote.
"Doctor Who," Mick supplied with a small- still slightly pained- smile. "From the new doctor, you haven't seen him yet."
Made sense. Mick liked to watch the time-travel show while Len was sucked into his blueprints and plans, knowing he was never paying enough attention to get spoilers. No doubt that's where Len had heard the speech from before.
"You don't have to be there," Len says quietly to his partner when they've migrated towards one of the desks. He makes sure to keep his body lined up with Mick's, knowing the contact helps him after an attack, even a small one like that. "I can have the martian explain it to me, you can stick with Kara and Ramon, deal with the translations," he suggested, waving towards the walls and Barry. "You don't have to go through that, don't have to see it."
Mick hummed but didn't answer just yet and Len let the silence wash over him like a calming blanket.
Chapter 8: Into the Looking Glass
Len and J'onn go into Barry's head and start their trek through the speedster's memories and fantasies.
Yay, the boys are delving in. Thank you EVERYONE for all of your amazing comments. They've really encouraged me to keep going in this! If all goes to planned, the next chapter is going to be pretty long so look forward to that. :)
"Has he slept at all since he came back?" Kara asked once the drugs settled into Barry's system. As much as they didn't like it, drugging him was the only way to keep him still enough for J'onn and Len to go into his head.
Joe had argued for nearly an hour on why Len was NOT a good idea- and why were they even trusting him again? He wanted to send Iris or Cisco, even Kara or himself. Problem was that Cisco and Kara had to work on the translations, Iris agreed that Len should go, and so did J'onn. Their logic being the fact that Barry trusted Len if he'd wanted to originally stay with the rogues instead of team Flash, there might have been a knowing look that Iris sent him and Mick at one point in the conversation, but no one brought that little detail up. Len argued that he was the one who best understood what Barry was saying in the first place, the kid trusted him, and he'd been through this kind of thing before, both with himself and with Mick- though he refused to get into details about that. While he'd never actually gone into anyone's head before, he'd managed to pull someone out of their own head many times, multiple someones in fact seeing as most of his Rogues had issues that needed helping with, himself included.
"Once," Catilin answered as she checked on his vitals and started hooking Len up to his own set of sensors and machines. One of the conditions to allowing this in the first place was that the doc would be monitoring both of their brainwaves and vitals during the entire ceremony, standing by with an Adrenalin shot to wake them up if needed. "He was running on three days without sleep and I didn't want him to drop so we drugged him and let him sleep for a full day. Hopefully this works and we won't need to do it again," she said quietly.
Len was seated in a chair next to J'onn and Barry, trying his best to keep his mask up and his nerves from showing. Mick had spoken to him shortly before heading off with Cisco to decide where they wanted to start on the whole translation front. While Mick didn't know the language, thanks to the whole Chronos thing, his head was like glue. He could remember things extremely well if he wanted to or needed to, especially languages.
"Alright, walk me through this again. What are the rules, what am I going to see in there? I don't like going anywhere without a plan," the rogue said to the martian.
Lisa took a position beside him, hand resting on his shoulder and worry etched across her face. "Is it safe?"
"It is," J'onn promised. "And if you or I feel at any point that it is getting unsafe, I will be able to pull us out. Going into Barry's mind is the easy part, I have done it many times to others. The hard part is finding him and convincing him to come back out with us. A person's mind has layers, like an onion. We will need to travel through those layers to the part of his mind that he is hiding in. Since Barry doesn't know you're real yet, you will have to convince him of that while in there. He may see you as another hallucination or trick that his mind is trying to play on him. This is why you are best suited, rather than me going alone, as I don't know him well enough to convince him." The others in the room all nodded and Lisa's fingers tightened their grip a bit, but the martian kept talking. "At a certain layer, he'll no doubt know that we're coming and if he doesn't want us in there, he'll put up walls to keep us out. He will try to distract you or convince you to turn around. He may even try and trick you into thinking you've gotten to the center of the onion when in reality you're not. Again, this is where you will come in handy. I can get us in there, but you will have to be the one to determine whether what he is showing us is of importance or not. Do you feel confident that you know enough about him for this?"
Len shared a look with Iris on the other side of the room, a strange feeling churning in his stomach, but he nodded. "Sounds ominous and easy enough. Anything I need to know on my end?"
"Getting distracted can be surprisingly easy in there, so you'll need to pay attention and keep on track. He may even try and pull at your own memories to use against you if he's particularly strong, but I have defenses set up against that so it shouldn't be a problem," the martian told him. Len didn't like the sound of that, but sure, why not?
"And will I be aware of my surroundings?" he questioned, waving a hand at the room around them.
"I will be, but you will not. Due to my abilities being innate, it is easier for me to control and to differentiate the psychic connection. You however have no basis for this, so you'll not be able to."
He definitely didn't like the sound of that. And neither did Lisa by the feel of it. "And how long is this going to take?"
"That all depends on Barry."
"Well alright," Len grumbled, giving Lisa's hand a quick squeeze before fully facing J'onn. "Let's get this show on the ice."
Going into someone's head isn't as strange as someone would think; there's no temporal aphasia like on the waverider and no lurching of the stomach like Barry's powers. Len just closed his eyes and when he opened them again he was there. Simple as that. Only he opened his eyes to see himself exactly where he'd closed them: Star Labs. It was slightly different, the colours were a bit faded and it was empty, the mannequin in the cortex was bare and all the computer screens had nothing but static across them. J'onn was beside him, but hung back just a bit, letting Len lead them around as he knew better what was where.
"This is where Barry is?"
"Part of him," J'onn says. "Remember the onion? The outer layers are what he lets you see, what he wants other people to see him as. The deeper we get, the more we'll see into Barry's soul as you will."
There was a lump in Len's stomach that suddenly appeared at his words. Taking a look into someone's head was one thing, but into their soul? True, Barry did sort of tell him it was alright, that he was okay with this, and it was their best chance to help him with whatever problem he needed to solve to get out of his own head... but it still didn't sit well with Len to be peaking into the speedster's secrets like that.
Barry was nowhere in the cortex or med bay, so he decided to look in the one place he could imagine Barry being if he wanted others to find him. Again, like blinking, they were there, standing in the center of the speed lab and watching a long gold and red shock of lightning circling the track. Over and over and over again. He tried to call out to the man, but his voice didn't carry any further than the a few feet and Len frowned.
"In the outer layers, we're merely observers," J'onn provided. "With the way his mind is occupied right now, most of his energy is being pushed into the center of the onion, leaving just the basics out here. The closer we get to our target, the more we will be able to interact with him, and the harder it will get to focus. Shall we move on?" Len wanted to ask how, but when he turned to face the martian, there was a door in the center of the room that hadn't been there before. He raised an eyebrow in question and J'onn smirked. "The door is unnecessary, but I find it easier for humans to follow me through the layers if they have a physical barrier they need to cross."
Not one to question alien psychic methodology, Len just shrugged and followed him through the door. The next few layers went much quicker than Len anticipated- though he didn't know how long by now that he'd been inside the speedsters head. They made a quick trip to an empty West house, then to an empty CCPD where they saw Barry's 'murder board' for his mother. As J'onn said, the layers were pretty basic, all things that Barry kept on the outside for all to see. It was no secret to anyone that Barry held the Flash, his family, and his job before anything else. But as promised, the deeper they got, the more secrets started coming to light.
Len might have been glad for the fresh air the next layer brought if he could actually feel it, but it felt the same as all the other layers, stagnant and cool with all the colours just a bit dimmer. They were outside though, staring down a long strip of tarmac at Farris Air.
"Familiar?" J'onn questioned, a knowing look being shot Len's way and he wondered if being hooked up to both of them meant that the alien could sense the tension in Len's stomach as well.
"Yeah," he answered, but said little else as Barry and his friend in green- Oliver Queen, the Green arrow- started walking towards them. It was obvious that the two intruders were invisible to the heroes, but Len tensed anyway the closer he came. This part of the memory was new to Len as he'd made himself scarce after the Farris Air incident.
Oliver was talking, his voice ringing clear through the air as they drew closer. "This is why you don't trust your enemies, Barr. How many times do I have to tell you that?"
"This is different, Ollie," Barry mumbled, looking back towards the building with conflicted eyes, his pretty lips turned down into a pout. "I think... I kind of was hoping Snart would betray me, you know?" Both the rogue and the green hero's eyes widened and the speedster kept going. "Not that those meta's don't deserve to be locked up... it's just, trapped on an uninhabited island underground? Without any sort of trial or anything? Snart was right, Oliver... that's not okay. And neither is keeping them in the pipeline. Baez doesn't deserve that, neither does Hartley, though he kind of tried to kill me. That's not the point though, it's just... It seemed wrong."
Oliver hummed. "I've got people locked up there, Barry, and they deserve to be there."
"Yeah well... I just don't think I'm like you, Oliver."
"You seem surprised by this conversation," J'onn said when the heroes walked off and a new door appeared. Len didn't bother replying, but he was a bit surprised. He'd always assumed that Barry was mad at him for what he did, that he thought of it as a betrayal. It was strange seeing the speedster proving him wrong. "Ah," J'onn mumbled as Len was watching Barry walk away, "it would seem we're getting closer. Mr. Allen has put up his first wall."
Len turned to face the door completely to see a big red door before them, a small section of wall coming off of each side and a Draycon lock keypad on the side of the door. "I thought you said the doors were for my benefit."
"They are, however even for me, the closer we get to the center, the more walls come up. We will have to play Barry's game if we want to get closer. I assume you are able to break this?"
A familiar smirk fell onto Len's lips as he stepped up to the lock. It was easy enough to crack, very similar to the one he'd done for Barry during their King Shark stint in ARGUS. Arguably it took him a little longer than it might have normally, but he blamed it on the fact that Barry didn't want him barging in in the first place. When the little green light blinked at him he let out a breath and tried the knob, smirking when it turned easily and the door pushed open.
"This is where it gets harder," J'onn warned before crossing the threshhold. They couldn't see past the doorway, but Len could feel the pressure before them. "Remember, we must play his game, but we cannot get sucked into the memories or the fantasies. You must remember our goal and don't get lost in whatever he might show you."
"Yeah yeah, I got it." Len grumbled. I mean how hard could it be to not get distracted?
Chapter 9: Blast from the Past
Len and J'onn delve deeper and deeper into Barry's psyche.
This chapter ended up being a lot longer than the others, but I wanted to make sure it flowed and it wouldn't have if I chopped it up. Hope you guys like it!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Where is this?"
Len frowned up at the house. It was a big victorian, a pale blue with white shutters and a big wrap around porch. It sat on a huge stretch of land that had no neighbors for miles to see, though Len could just barely see the city skyline on the horizon. There was another house, smaller than the first, on a plot a few dozen feet away but there were no cars or people around to see. Len surely didn't recognize the house from his own memories.
"I don't know," he said honestly, trudging up towards the front door and pulling it open easily. The inside was immaculate, perfectly clean with vases and paintings all over the walls and tables. It looked like just the kind of place that Len might have robbed. "I've never been here... must be something from Barry's memories."
They didn't have to search too long before finding Barry. The speedster was in the kitchen speeding around, flour powdering his chestnut hair and baking supplies strewn about the very, very large kitchen. Plates were sitting on the stove, stacked high with cookies and cupcakes and when Barry turned to face them, Len almost choked on his own spit.
A stretchy pale blue scarf was wrapped around the man's torso, a small bundle hidden inside making small coo-ing noises. Barry paused in his tracks at the two new commers and a smile spread across his face. "Lenny!" he chimed, his little flour covered nose scrunching up and his dimples growing deeper with his big smile. "You're early!"
"Well you know me," the rogue drawled, his eyebrows pulled down in confusion. This wasn't a memory then, it must have been a fantasy like J'onn warned him about. A slap of jealousy filled him at the thought of Barry having children with some pretty girl and he found himself wondering if it was the lovely Iris West who managed to catch him. "I'm full of surprises."
Barry giggled, giggled like it was the funniest thing in the world, and circled around the island, spoon in hand and held it out to him. Chocolate brownie mix dripped down the handle and over the speedster's fingers and Len found himself wanting to lick the sweets off of him. "Taste?" the speedster asked, holding the spoon out towards him. Len did as he was asked and flicked his tongue out, eyes never leaving Barry's and loving the flush of red that covered the hero's face when he hummed. "Good?"
"Delicious," Len confirmed. "Mind telling me what's going on in here, Scarlet?" he questioned. J'onn had told him to play along, and Len kind of imagined it was a lock he was trying to break into. He had to find the right tumbler in each layer to trigger before they were able to delve further into Barry's subconscious. There had to be a reason Barry had chosen this as one of his 'walls' and Len just had to figure out why. "Decide to host the Central City Baking Extravaganza in your kitchen?"
"Very funny, Lenny," Barry said with a roll of the eyes. "I told you last week that we were providing a lot of the food for Nora's bake sale on Friday."
Sharing a look with the martian, Len tilted his head slightly. "You did."
It was more of a question, but Barry didn't seem to notice as he set his spoon down and started fishing the child out of it's carrier. "I'm glad you're home actually. Here, hold Michael for a second," he said, handing the child over to a shocked Len. "I need to get the brownies out of the oven and he doesn't like leaning over."
The weight in Len's arms was an unfamiliar one as he hadn't held a baby since Lisa... well except for that one time he held himself when he was with the waverider crew. The face that stared up at him though was familiar, so familiar in fact that Len's heart started pounding even faster. Big blue eyes blinked up at him and little dimples appeared when the child- Michael- smiled and cooed, a little bubble of spit coming out of his lips. He looked just like Lisa did when she was a baby, which was impossible because as much as he loved his sister, he would have never let her get together with Barry, or vice versa. Not to mention Barry had said 'home' like it was both of theirs. He wondered if he was staying in the extra building they'd seen and why Barry would be fantasizing about him living so close by. Still, he found himself settling the baby into the crook of his arm and bouncing slightly as he swayed side to side.
"Is Mick home too?" Barry questioned as he started pulling trays and trays out of the oven. "He's usually the one who bakes so I wanted to surprise him. I figured you guys would have come back together."
Ah, so he and Mick were in the spare house, that made more sense. "Ah, no. He's still... out."
The speedster rolled his eyes again and shook his head. "You don't have to act all weird about it, Len. I know you guys were pulling a heist. I told you once and I tell you a million, I don't care what you do as long as I'm kept out of it and it's not in Central City while I have the kids. I can't be mom, Flash and baker all at the same time." After he set the trays down, the speedster walked back over to them but he didn't take the baby from Len's arms, only leaned forward to tickle at Michael's belly. "We're just glad you're home, aren't we Mickey? Papa has been gone for too long and we were starting to miss him, weren't we?"
Something like panic mixed with hope lodged itself in Len's throat and his grip had to tighten a bit on the baby or he might have dropped him at Barry's words. Papa? He didn't want to believe the hope building in his chest, didn't want to see what his mind was trying to show him because the chance of having this with Barry- and Mick if his suspicions were correct- was too good to believe. He wasn't sure if he could handle that being handed to him and then ripped away again if Iris West walked through that door.
A heavy hand landed on Len's shoulder, making his tense a bit and turn to see J'onn staring at him. There was no judgement in his gaze, no sadness, only understanding. "This isn't real, Mr. Snart. We need to be on our way before you get stuck here."
"Right... Barry," the speedster looked up at him, seemingly not hearing a word from the martian, and beamed. Len shifted a bit and handed the child, his child? to the brunette. "We were just passing through. Sorry, but we've got to go now."
"But you just got home," Barry pouted, sliding Michael back into the carrier on his chest.
Len hummed and nodded, taking a careful step away from Barry. He hadn't been expecting to get pulled in so easily, hadn't expected himself to want this imaginary life so much that he'd be willing to stay there with them. "I know," he said as he started turning, "but I've got to go pick up Mick. We'll be back, don't worry Scarlet."
Fingers wrapped around Len's wrist, stopping him from going any further and the rogue looked down at the pouting speedster. "Fine, but bring home dinner, alright? And will you pick up Nora on your way?" Len nodded absently and Barry's face split into a grin as he raised up and pressed a soft kiss to Len's lips, pulling away with a face the colour of his name-sake. "Be careful, love you."
Len didn't get a chance to react before the scene was gone and another door stood in front of him and J'onn. He found himself hesitating to open the it. He didn't know what lay beyond it. Would it be better or worse than this fantasy? And how true, he wondered, were the things he was seeing. Were they just possibilities like Len had been shown during his stint in the time stream? Or were they actual fantasies that Barry wanted to happen but was too afraid to admit or try? A not so subtle clear of the throat behind him had Len steeling himself and taking a big step forward-
And right into the light.
Alright, it wasn't that dramatic, but the room they entered was a good deal brighter than the others and unlike their last layer, this one was actually relatively familiar to him. Though it was missing the scribbling on the walls and the furniture they'd piled into the room, the bubbles on the pure white walls were obvious. Harrison Wells'- or Eobard Thawne to be exact- secret room. It was empty now except for what Len recognized as Gideon's matrix on the far side of the room. She was displaying a big article against the wall, one that Barry was staring at blankly, his head tilted the way he did when he was trying to see behind Len's many masks.
Barry didn't move, but his shoulders tensed a bit when the rogue took a step closer to him. "You shouldn't be here, Leonard," the speedster mumbled. "It'll only happen to you too."
"What'll happen, Barry?" Len asked, eyes drifting towards the newspaper when the younger man pointed to it. The picture changed every few seconds, switching between 'Flash Missing' to 'Pianist Dies in Car Accident' to 'CCPD Detective's Mysterious Disappearance'. It flickered between too many more articles, including Len's own obituary before starting over, the speedster never once looking away. It wasn't hard to see what Barry was doing, torturing himself for all the deaths that had happened since he'd become the Flash. The boy had a heart as soft as a pillow and carried the entire world on his shoulders, it was no doubt he blamed himself for too many deaths. Len already knew he somehow blamed himself for the Oculus even if it wasn't in any way his fault. "Scarlet, none of these were your fault."
"Might as well turn around now," he replied, shaking his head. The video started over again and he frowned. "I don't deserve the help, Leonard. Just let me fade away into insanity. Maybe the speedforce was right with punishing me the way they did. You keep going and I'll only get you killed too... again."
"We're here to help, Barry," Len tried again, stepping between the brunette and Gideon. "You're working on something right? Let us in, let us help you. You've got friends out there, red, you don't have to do this all alone."
But he shook his head, eyes downcast now to stare at their feet. "You don't get it... This is too dangerous, way too dangerous. I can't involve anyone else. I can't let anyone else die because of mistakes I've made. You go any further than this and my poison will just get to you too."
Poison. Len wanted to smack whoever put that nasty bug in Barry's head- no doubt the Reverse Flash with his grubby little yellow fingers, putting all the blame on Barry. He raised his hands to Barry's shoulders and held on tight. "Barry, you're not poison. If anything I would be, or Mick. You're just a big ball of sunshine. You're a hero, you always have been. And you know just as well as I do that I can take care of myself."
Barry snorted, raising his eyes to meet Len's with a too sad expression. God, Len hated that look in those pretty green eyes.
"You only have a few walls left," the speedster told him, raising his hands to pull Len's from his shoulders. "I'm not going to stop you now, but... but it's going to get you killed Len... you, Mick, Lisa, even Hartley. I can hear you guys in here," he tapped his head and frowned. "I know you've all been taking care of me, I know that and I'm grateful. But you should have left me on the street or in the speed force. I can't watch you all die again. I won't do it."
The door of the secret room slid open, drawing Len and J'onn's attention.
"Go, but know that I can't let you die again."
The lump in Len's stomach was only getting bigger as he took heavy steps towards the door where the martian waited. Barry had gone back to sadly staring at death and he desperately didn't want to leave the speedster there to suffer, but he also knew they really needed to move on. Only a few more, the man had said. God, Len wasn't sure how much more he could take.
He should really have knocked on wood on that one because the second he stepped through the door, that lump in his throat turned into a stage four panic. The big open room was way too familiar, the dull blue glow, the stuffy space air. He could see Mick's body on the floor a few feet away and the tall, skinny figure where he should have been standing.
"Mr. Snart?" J'onn pressed, a concern in his tone that Len didn't much care for.
"Just give me a second," he snapped, forcing himself to breath, to focus on his body and the stale air he was breathing into his lungs. He clenched both fists, digging blunt nails into his palms and focusing on the pain it shot up his arms. Even with Gideon regenerating his hand- twice now- he'd forget they were there or look down and not believe they were really his hands. And truth be told, they weren't. He'd lost one of them to Mick and another to those time bastards. Even though they had nerves and ligaments, feelings and texture, sometimes they just felt... wrong and he'd find himself blown straight back to this room in a panic attack only Mick could pull him out of. If he could be pulled out at all. Most of the time his Oculus flashbacks came with visions he shouldn't be having, seeing possibilities across time that were none of his business seeing. More often than not, Len just had to ride those attacks out, wait for them to finish themselves.
This was different though because it wasn't a flashback and it wasn't a panic attack.
After a few breaths, Len nodded and they both continued, his heart jack hammering in his chest and a cold sweat dripping down his spine like a ghostly finger. The closer they drew to the machine, the more he noticed something wrong. Because it wasn't Len standing there over Mick, finger on the trigger if it were. It was Barry.
Not the Flash in his fancy suit. Not Mr. Allen in his CCPD appropriate attire. This was Barry, disheveled hair, scuffed up sneakers and a STAR LABS sweater three sizes too big on him, and his arm shoved inside a machine it had no business being shoved into. Len was at his side in an instant, panic rising as he turned the speedster towards him. Tear tracks glistened on Barry's cheeks, though he'd stopped crying a while ago, and those green eyes were too content for Len's liking. "Barry, what the hell do you think you're doing?"
"I told you," he said with a little broken smile that tugged too hard at Len's heart strings. "I can't watch you die again, Lenny. I can change it, I can change everything. I hold time in the palm of my hand," he had no idea how true that statement was in that moment, "I can save you."
"Not like this," Len argued, anger mixing with his fear. "Scarlet, you can't change the past. It's done with, over. And you sure as hell can't sacrifice yourself for me. I'm not worth it."
Distantly in the back of his mind, he could hear J'onn calling out to him, reminding him that this was't real. But damnit it felt real, as real as Barry's hand when it raised to cup Len's cheek and as real as that sad smile he bestowed upon him. It felt too real, too much like he was really back there in that moment and Barry was going get himself blown across the time stream like Len had and he couldn't let him go through that. While he couldn't say it was worse than the speed force prison as he'd never been in there, he'd never wish his own experience in the time stream on his worst enemy. (Okay, well his father was probably an exception, but that was beside the point.) "Len," Barry was saying, thumb tracing across his cheekbone though his other arm was still too far into that glowing blue that had left Len with nightmares. "Let me do this for you. Just go, turn around and let me save you, please. Let me make up for at least one death I caused."
"Damnit Barry, you're not the reason I died," Len all but growled, hands clamping on the boy's shoulder as he tried to pull him away but the speedster wouldn't budge. "I died for Mick, for my team."
"Because I pushed you into being a hero," Barry argued, though it was weak and broken. Len could tell by the look in those green eyes that Barry had already decided his fate. "I can't save Eddie, I can't save my mom, I can't save Dante... but you, you were out of time, you were in the temporal zone where time doesn't exist. I can save you, I can stop it from happening and save you without the repercussions. Just go back to Lisa and Mick, go back to the Legends. If I'm such a hero, let me do this for you."
"You're not doing anything for me," Len spat, glaring at him. "You're killing yourself for me. You think that's going to save me? Hell Scarlet that'll probably kill me faster than this damn blast. Mick and me... we can get away with a little sacrifice because we only have Lisa who's going to miss us. But you, you've got a whole family at home. You have friends and loved ones, you have an entire city who needs you and would mourn your loss. There's no way in hell you're dying instead of me." For some reason the fact that Len had already live through this event didn't come to mind. There was something pressing against the back of his mind, like when you've forgotten something and it's just on the tip of your tongue, but still too far away. But he didn't care. He didn't care if he knew he had already survived, he didn't care if he knew he was sitting in a chair next to Barry's sleeping body right now because the speedster in front of him was all too real and no matter what form of him he was, Len couldn't stand by and watch him die. And to think Barry wanted him to just walk away. How could he think Len would even do that-
Just walk away...
Just walk away...
Of course, god he was an idiot. The walls Barry was building were intended to keep Len and J'onn out by pushing them away or distracting them. Barry was trying to push Len away, convince him that his best option was to go home. No doubt if Len turned around and walked away right now, he and J'onn would wake back up in Star Labs where they started.
Len wasn't sure if he should be proud that Barry was thinking it through so much or angry/hurt that he thought Len was selfish enough to just walk away, to just let him die for Len.
"I'm not walking away from you, Scarlet," Len said, voice dipping and drawling like it always did when he was Cold vs the Flash. He pushed closer to the speedster, so close that their chests were flush against each other and he had to glance down to look at him. Without waiting for Barry to argue, Len shoved his hand right inside the machine and put it on top of Barry's. He could feel his stomach churning at the reminder of something that had already caused him so much pain and there was a part of his brain screaming at him to pull away and run for it, screaming at him that he couldn't do this again. But there was no way in hell he was leaving Barry to suffer and die for him. "Not now and not ever. I'm going to help you whether you want me to or not."
"This isn't real, Mr. Snart," J'onn reminded him, his voice finally clear in Len's ears.
"Oh I know," the rogue replied, reaching out one hand to grab onto the martian's shoulder. "I'm just cracking the safe."
He didn't dare blink, didn't dare look away from those green forests behind Barry's eyes, as the Oculus timed down.
HAHA get it? BLAST from the Past? Man, I should not be that proud of a pun, but I am. *high fives self while crying because sad pun*
Chapter 10: Someone's Killing Them
Someone new shows up at the cortex and Len and J'onn finally figure out what's going on.
Sorry it took a few days to get this chapter out! But I'm super happy with it! Enjoy!
"What the hell is going on here?"
Mick glanced up from the copy of Dracula he'd been reading to see Oliver Queen storming into the cortex. After dealing with two hours of nerd speak over the alien language translations, Mick had come to relieve Lisa of watching over Len. Turns out knowing his partner was being brain fucked and not seeing it happen made him more anxious than he thought. He felt better being close enough to pull him out of it if needed, though it'd been nearly three hours now and neither him, Barry or the martian had moved an inch. (There were a few questionable seconds where Len's heart rate spiked, but the doc promised it was natural and since it evened out relatively quickly there was nothing to worry about.)
The pyro stood quickly and stepped into the doorway of the med room, blocking the entire entrance before the vigilante could get any closer. "Not so fast, pretty boy," he growled, crossing his arms over his chest. "Can't be interruptin' now, might fuck up the whole plan."
"What plan?" Queen demanded, glaring at Mick with one of those looks that might kill if they could. "I get some SOS about Barry being 'unavailable' only to show up and find him knocked out with two of his worst criminals and... and who is that?"
Mick glanced at the martian nonchalantly and shrugged. "Dunno, say's he's from mars," he said. He'd only met Queen the once when they were fighting the dominators, then very briefly again when Nate woke them all up, but he'd always gotten the impression he was a lot like Detective West: shoot first, ask questions later, lots of cussing and accusations in between. Mick didn't like accusations- blame he could handle if it was true, but not accusations. "Sides, we worked together, can't say we're his worst criminals anymore, just maybe his most constant."
"Yeah, well I heard you retired from the hero business to start up crime again, which means you shouldn't be here," Oliver spat back, trying to step around Mick.
The criminal didn't budge, instead putting a hand on Oliver's shoulder to push him back again. "Listen, Robin Hood, the kid is in a lot of trouble right now and my partner there is tryin' to get him out of it. E.T. here is workin' on getting through to your little Flash, but he can't do that if you're screamin' around and wakin' them all up. Capishe?"
Mick had barely gotten the words out before the archer had his bow off his back and an arrow notched in his direction. Apparently pretty boy didn't like being touched. "And just what makes you think I'd sit around and let Snart of all people tramp around in Barry's head?"
"Oliver Jonas Queen if you don't put that bow down right now I'm going to get Felicity on the screen and let me tell you she's already frustrated from helping with the translations," Iris scowled from the entryway of the cortex, arms crossed over her chest and glare leveled at the archer. "And if you wake them up after three hours of work I promise you'll not only have Felicity to worry about, but me and Caitlin too."
The bow was lowered immediately, though Queen looked a bit reluctant to put it back over his shoulder.
Honestly Mick was a bit surprised at how quickly he reacted to the threat, but if he remembered the archer's spit-fire girlfriend from when he met her, he could see why. He turned to face Iris, his face pinched up like he'd just sucked on a lemon and frowned. "Miss West, are you honestly telling me that the two people we're trusting with Barry's psyche and his memories are an unknown alien and a dead criminal?"
Iris huffed and rolled her eyes, walking towards them to stand beside Mick. "Well he's not dead anymore, now is he," she questioned. "Besides, Supergirl stands by this alien and he's very nice. And Barry told us himself that he trusted Snart and his rogues and that's good enough for me."
"Barry always trusts them too easily and it always bites him in the ass," Queen argued, but Mick could tell he was giving in by the way his shoulders slumped slightly under her stare. "Farris Air was a disaster in it's own right. And what are they getting out of it? Snart never does anything for free."
Mick couldn't argue with that, but a smirk spread across his lips as Iris blushed. "Don't worry about that, Robin Hood," the pyro replied for her, "we've got a vested interest in the speedster."
He didn't get to finish though as a scream from behind them cut him off.
J'onn and Len didn't so much step through a door like they previously, as much as they did fall through it. Len took a few seconds to get up, trying to compose himself a bit better and prepare for whatever else was to come. He could feel his nerves being set on fire, feel his powers wanting to come out and play, but he fought them back. He would not let them get control again. Reliving the Oculus was painful enough, he didn't need to see it over and over and over again.
When he finally managed to stand, refusing J'onn's offered hand, he was surprised to see them somewhere that looked frighteningly familiar, though at the same time not at all. Like they'd been thrust into the Wizard of Oz movie, the two outsiders stood in what appeared to be a giant, blue and black tornado. The wind crashed around them, pushing and pulling at them until they both had their feet firmly planted. The sound was almost deafening and if they looked closely enough, lightning crashed behind the clouds and thunder echoed around them.
"This is what they called the speed force," J'onn told him, and though he didn't raise his voice at all, Len could still hear him perfectly. "We are close. This is the last wall."
So they trudged forward, despite the wind pushing them away and despite the cold sweat building up on Len's skin. His heart was beating too fast and his breath came in uneven puffs because the speed force apparently took on an appearance eerily similar to the time stream he had been stuck in for almost a year. But he forced himself to focus, forced his memories away and clenched his fists. He could freak out later when he knew Barry was safe. Right now he had a speedster to rescue.
It felt like hours that they walked and though it was hard and painful, Len didn't feel as tired as he probably should have. By the looks of it, J'onn wasn't either, though his head did tick to the side a bit like he was listening to something. When Len asked what it was, he only said, "someone new has arrived in the cortex. We should hurry."
Still, even when they'd managed to build up to a brisk 'momma on a mission' speed, it felt like another two hours before they finally broke into the eye of the storm.
And though it probably shouldn't have, it surprised Len to find that they'd stumbled right back into where they started.
It wasn't as they'd left it, the ceiling collapsing in on itself, the walls burnt and crumbling, screens flickering with static. It smelt too heavily of smoke and a heavy layer of ash rested on every surface. After searching the entire building however, Barry was no where to be found.
Instead, they found him standing in the massive parking lot just outside, his flash suit on but the cowl pulled down, and his eyes staring at a ruined city scape before him. From the looks of it, most of the fires had been put out, but plumes of smoke still rose high into the night sky and they could hear the screams and cries for help from where they stood. And Barry... Barry just looked so lost. His shoulders slumped downward and his eyes were distant, like he was trying hard not to cry.
"Scarlet," Len whispered, stepping up beside him to stare at the city. "The city is safe. This isn't real."
"This is what would have happened," Barry replied quietly, "if I hadn't left, if I hadn't gone into the speed force. This is what would have happened to the city, to the world. I did the right thing. It had to be done, I didn't have a choice."
That confused the rogue, because it sounded like the speedster was regretting his decisions. "Barry, the city is safe now because of what you did. The damage has already been fixed, no one died, and the people who were hurt have all been healed up." He placed a hand on the speedsters' shoulder and squeezed softly. "Barry, you're a hero, don't go questioning that now. The city has you to thank for what you did, but you can't hide yourself away in your head like this. There are people out there who still need you. Whatever you're trying to do, we can help you."
Those beautiful green eyes turned to Len and his brows pulled down in confusion. "Hiding? I'm not hiding," he argued, shaking his head frantically. "There's something wrong, and I can't come back until I fix it."
"We can't fix it together?"
"This is what the speed force showed me before I was pulled out," Barry told him, spreading his arms out to gesture at the scene. "This is what they're trying to tell me, to show me, but I don't understand what it is that's wrong. The stars are melting and I see these symbols in my head but I don't know what to make of them, I don't know what they mean." For a second Len thought Barry had reverted back to his babbling, but he followed the kid's gaze up and... well sure enough, it kind of looked like the stars were melting. But upon closer inspection, it was more like... more like they were tiny little holes in the sky, rips in the black where light was shining through. And if he stared at it long enough, he also could see the strange symbols Barry had been drawing the past few days behind his eyes. Well that explained that. "I have to figure out what it means. I can't leave until I do."
Len glanced back at J'onn to see that the alien was also studying the 'stars' with narrowed red eyes, but the rogue couldn't get a read on the man's expressions to see if he understood what was happening or not. "Well let us help," he pushed when he looked back at Barry. "Your friend Kara is here and she's working with Ramon to translate your symbols, apparently they're alien. Let us help."
But the speedster was already shaking his head before Len had finished. "I can't. Too many people have already died trying to help me, I can't let anyone else die."
"That's what a team is for, Scarlet. Besides, you've got three or four different teams at work now, the rogues, team flash, and your alien pals. We're going to help whether you want us to or not," he said matter-of-factly.
Barry was silent for a long time, too long, before he sighed. "Something is killing them," he whispered to Len.
"The speed force. The beings who control it, who run it. They're in pain and they're dying."
Len frowned and glanced around, searching for any sign of whatever beings Barry was talking about, but he doubted he'd find any. They weren't actually in the speed force right now, just an after image of what Barry remembered. "So what? Barry, they imprisoned you for six months. Your little West told me what happened to her brother when he was in here. This is a prison Barry, the inmates aren't supposed to care if the guards are dying."
"No, that's not true," Barry said. "It's my fault, that's all my fault. The speed force was never meant as a prison," he turned to Len now, his eyes wide and sure, like he was trying to make Len understand. "I create the prison in the future, to trap someone inside. IT wasn't something that was already there, I made it. And it's meant to keep the prisoner inside, so when he escaped... well something had to fill it's place. I'm the one who made it to torture, I'm the one who did that, Len. What Wally went through, what I went through, was all my fault, not the speed force's. Mine. And now... because Cisco ripped it back open- even if he replaced the energy inside- someone else saw it happen. Someone else knows about the speed force and they're taking it. They're killing it. We have to help, I have to stop it, I have to save them-"
"Okay, okay," the thief said quickly, grabbing Barry's arm to calm him down. "Deep breaths, Scarlet. We'll tell your nerds all you told me. We'll save your... weird friends. But you don't have to stay stuck in here to do that, you can come back out. You can-"
His words were cut off however when Barry was suddenly facing him, hands on his shoulders and face too intense. "You have to leave," he said quickly, frantically. "You have to get out now before they see you, before they know you're onto them!"
Len was screaming, he knew that much. He could feel the fire licking across his skin and he knew if he opened his eyes, the flames would be a bright blue, just like the Oculus.
Oh wait... his eyes were open.
Mick was in front of him, hands reaching out like he wanted to touch. He did touch. He might touch. He will touch. The possibilities flickered around in Len's head too fast and he knew he was losing control. He couldn't tell what was happening and what was just possibilities. Mick was yelling, Mick was crying, Mick was smiling. Mick got up to leave but he stayed where he was. He yelled for help and he sang a lullaby.
Sometimes J'onn stayed behind Mick, trying to use his martian psychic abilities to calm Len. Sometimes he turned into some tall green thing and glared at him with burning red eyes. Sometimes he just walked away in disgust.
All the while, Len screamed and screamed until his throat ached and his lungs were gasping for air.
Lisa was there too, pleading with him and yelling at him and whispering to him. She was sometimes a little girl and sometimes a beautiful woman, though her eyes were always the same and the scars were always there. Doctor Snow would give him some sedatives, sometimes they would work and sometimes they wouldn't. He might fight back, might argue if he could stop the screaming.
And then his eyes were closed. Only one possibility. Darkness.
"Len, can you hear me?"
He nodded, fingers reaching out until big, burning hands gripped at his. "Good," the pyro continued, his voice slicing through Len's jumbled thoughts like they were butter. "Need you t' calm down now. Deep breaths, yeah just like that. Doc says she can give you something if you want." He shakes his head, no drugs. He hates drugs. "Alright, that's fine. Then you need t' breathe with Lisa then, got it?"
She was behind him now, he could feel her chest pressed up against his back and her arms wrapped over his shoulders like a cape. His little sister, protecting him now even though that was his job. Her chest rose and fell evenly and the rogue struggled to follow the movements. Mick's hands gave him something to ground himself with, to remind him he wasn't locked away in the time stream, split into a million little pieces and seeing a million different things. That was the problem with the way Len came back. Not only did he have these new powers- powers he couldn't understand or even begin to control- but they almost always triggered a panic attack or a flashback. It was beyond frustrating.
"The fire's gone," Mick told him after a while and he could feel Lisa's long nails dragging softly along the skin of his arms. "Feel good to take off the scarf or you need a minute?"
"Just... give me a minute," Len whispered, finally letting his body relax back into his sister's.
"Take your time, big brother. We've got you."
Chapter 11: As Bright As the Sun
Len wakes up after his panic attack to a happy surprise.
This chapter is a bit shorter than the last two, and mostly fluffy, but I've been lazy the past few days so I wanted to throw some more chapters at you guys. Enjoy!
Len groaned as he peeked open his eyes, staring at the dark ceiling of Wells' secret room. He wasn't really surprised that he'd passed out after that attack, it happened with particularly bad ones, especially when his powers were involved. And what also happened were painful, eye splitting headaches.
"Can you sit up?"
The rogue rolled his head slowly towards the voice to see Mick in a chair beside the bed, glass of water and three aspirin in hand. He handed both over when Len managed to push himself into a sitting position, squinting through the darkness at his partner. "How long was I out?"
"Bout three hours," Mick replied, leaning his elbows on his knees. "It was a bad one... I didn't wanna send you in there."
Since they were alone, Len reached forward and pulled Mick towards him. Once the older man was close enough, he pressed his lips gently to Mick's chapped ones, a sigh of relief escaping him at the familiar gesture. His nerves were still tingling from his episode, but Mick had always been his constant, always been his anchor. The pyro kissed back slowly, one hot hand resting on the back of Len's neck in comfort. It was unusually sweet for the both of them, but neither seemed to mind. Len needed the comfort as much as Mick needed the reassurance. Sending him in there was no doubt hell for Mick, and being in there, reliving what he did, was hell for Len. He wanted nothing more than to pull Mick into bed with him and lose himself in the man, but they had important matters to attend to, things that couldn't go unspoken for too long.
He took a deep breath and when they finally pulled apart, Len downed the meds and water. "It wasn't that bad..." a look from Mick had him rolling his eyes and he backpedaled. "Alright, it was pretty bad. And I'll explain what happened later, but we need to talk to the nerds. I think we've figured out exactly what's going on. Did J'onn explain anything?"
"I was pretty focused on getting you out of there," Mick confessed, but he shrugged. "Might have got distracted too because you're not the only one who woke up."
That pulled Len's attention immediately and he sat up straight, eyes zeroing in on his partner. He should be furious that he hadn't opened with that, but he was mostly curious. "The kid woke up?"
Mick nodded. "He's in the speed lab with the geeks, figured you'd want to see him when you woke up but- Len!"
He didn't give the man a chance to finish before he was dropping the glass of water on the bedside table and rushing out the door. His headache still pulsed behind his eyes, but it'd be gone soon enough. He had to know if Barry was back or not, if they'd managed to succeed in pulling him out or not. The way he'd been acting before he shoved Len out of his head made it seem like he didn't want to leave, but still... he had to know.
Sure enough, all geeks were accounted for- Cisco, Caitlin, Not-Dead-Harry, Kara, Hartley and the alien. And a woman he didn't recognize was on the tv screen. Daughter West was sitting in one of the corners with her brother and Oliver Queen- when did he get here?- was frowning disapprovingly at Hartley and Lisa, the former of which who was helping Cisco with something on a computer. It was strange to see them all in one room together not arguing, but it was the speedster pacing in front of a busy whiteboard that pulled Len's attention.
"Lenny! You're awake!" Lisa gasped as she looked up, drawing all eyes towards him, including a pair of green ones that had him taking a few steps forward like he couldn't control himself.
"Scarlet," he said cautiously, searching those eyes for any sign of clarity or sanity. From the distance he couldn't really tell, but he wasn't mumbling about things they didn't understand so that was a good sign. "You with us?"
The entire room was quiet, probably understanding that while they could also answer his question, it'd be best to hear it from the source. The silence lasted long enough that Len's stomach started to flutter and worry was flooding his veins- even if he'd felt Mick take up a spot behind him, he didn't calm. But then... then Barry smiled and it was like the fucking sun beaming through the room. His head tilted sideways and he gave a goofy sounding laugh as he rubbed the back of his head, shrugging a bit. "For now," he answered, a little unsure. "I uh... have moments where it's... foggy, but I'm back. Not 100% just yet, more like 62%? But I'm here. Thanks uh... for you know, pulling me out."
He had the urge to rush forward and pull the speedster into his arms and hold him close so that nothing could steal him away again, but with all eyes on them, he steeled his expression and nodded. Hands in his pockets, his Captain Cold persona fell back into place like it'd never left. "Good to hear it. The city was missing you."
Lisa snorted behind her hand and Len leveled her with a glare that she just batted away. "Oh please, Lenny. We all know you were missing having someone worthy to fight."
"Hey! I'm worthy!" Wally cried from his spot in the room, offended.
His sister's comment seemed to launch the room back into action and it was filled again with geeky murmurings and Queens' glowering. Len could only guess what had the archer so upset, but he ignored him and strode up to Barry so he might have an actual conversation with the speedster without too much eavesdropping. Barry watched him and Mick walking towards him with a contemplative look, a bit nervous and a bit excited all at once. His smile never waned, but he shifted on his feet a little when they got close enough.
"I uh... don't remember much," Barry blurted when the rogues stopped within arms reach. His face was almost as red as his suit and he rubbed at the back of his head again, a nervous tick that Len couldn't be more happy to see was back. "From my head I mean, what you saw. J'onn explained that while my mind was making up all these... 'walls' for you to see, most of me was stuck in the middle, the spot you broke me out of. So I don't- I'm not really sure what 'walls' I made you go through."
Len shrugged like it wasn't a big deal. "Not your fault, kid. You wanted me to stay out. I wouldn't blame you." He glanced at the whiteboard and observed the drawings he was making. "You tell the geek squad what you told me?"
"Yeah," the speedster nodded, turning to follow his gaze. "They're trying to work on translating while I try and write down all I remember. That's where the other 48% comes from. If I get too lost in it, I get sucked back into my own head. I seem to remember the symbols easier that way, but it's harder to come out of."
Mick nodded beside Len, they both understood how that felt. Kid needed an anchor like they had, and with any luck, they could both be that for him. But- baby steps.
"Oh I... well, I wanted to thank you guys for... you know, helping me out," he stuttered on, that blush across his cheeks again. "You didn't have to, and you definitely didn't have to take me to your safe house with all the rogues there. But still, thanks for that. I'm glad it was you guys who found me and not... well anyone else really."
"Rogues understand broken people," Mick grunted out with a shrug. "You got a place there when you need it."
Len blinked in surprise, as did Barry. While yes, he most definitely had a place with them if he wanted or needed it, Mick wasn't usually the one offering such deals. He tended to stay out of the mushy feeling type stuff and let Len talk it out with someone. Like Hartley for example. Even after the Farris Air thing, the genius was reluctant to work with them. Till one day they just so happened to see him at Saints and Sinners with some guy who had his hands all over the kid. Guy was obviously drunk, trying to get something from Hartley and when denied started beating on him instead, spouting insults and 'fag' over and over again. Well Mick was the hot head, but Len didn't need any convincing to step into that one. He'd pulled the guy off of the kid and tossed him right into Mick who wasted no time breaking a cheekbone and nose, then maybe a few ribs for good measure. BUT the point was, Mick was all action. While he beat a lesson into the guy, Len helped Hartley up, took him into the back of the bar and got him cleaned up. The kid tried to say he didn't need the help, didn't want it, but in the end allowed it. Len had given him the same offer that Mick just gave Barry. A place- a home- when he needed it, people to back him up and help him when he needed it. A family, though he didn't dare say the actual word.
That dopey grin was on Barry's face again, pulling Len from the memory. "Thanks, really. And you guys are welcome here too, don't let tall dark and brooding over there tell you otherwise," he said, nodding to Queen. "He has a very strict 'no fraternizing with your supervillains' rule. I mean befriending!" he quickly corrected, eyes bulging out of his head and hands fluttering about in front of him. "No befriending your supervillains."
Len just chuckled and shook his head. "We're flattered, Scarlet. You eat yet?"
The question must have surprised the speedster because his head tilted to the side just slightly and his eyebrows pulled together. "I uh, yeah, Cisco gave me some calorie bars, but nothing other than that."
Len nodded, turning slightly. "Speedster number two, front and center." Wally's head shot up in acknowledgment and he sped over to the trio, curious and a bit cautious. Smart kid. Len pulled a hundred from his wallet- ignoring the scandalized look from Barry- and handed it over. "Go grab enough pizzas for both speedsters and crew. Looks like we'll be here all night and we don't need anyone passing out from hypoglycemia."
The kid's face lit up in excitement at the mention of food and he gave a little two finger salute. "Aye aye, captain," he said before speeding off.
Len groaned as Mick laughed, shaking his head slightly. "Eventually that's going to get old."
Chapter 12: Restless Nights
Len and Mick head home. Barry has trouble sleeping on his first night back to the West house.
Warning: there is some smut in this chapter. :)
A day passed before Len and Mick finally made it back to the Rogue's current safe house, finding that they couldn't really help much now that Barry was awake. And as much as he liked staying to spite his archer friend, he was also getting increasingly annoyed by all the glares and snide comments they got, so they decided to just come back and check on the speedster later. He did notice that Mick slipped the lady West their phone number though just in case they needed either of them, and she informed them that Barry would be staying at her dad's house instead of his own apartment for a while in case they needed him.
By the time they'd made it back, Axel was already asleep on the couch and a quick check around the house showed that Bivolo, Lisa, and Mardon were all in their respective beds. Hartley had decided to stay with Cisco during the recent events with the excuse they they needed both genius minds together to figure it out. And while it was a new development that they were staying with each other, neither Len nor Mick were surprised at the relationship.
Len was just peeling off his shirt in their shared room when he felt a pair of strong arms wrap around him, pinning him to the chest of the equally shirtless man behind him. Soft kisses pressed to his shoulder and up his neck until Len had to lean his head slightly to the side. "Sure you're okay, boss?" Mick grunted quietly, fingers brushing up and down his sides as Len sighed.
Again, it was unusually soft for both of them, but they were exhausted and have had to deal with way too many panic attacks and triggers recently. They needed a bit of soft.
Len turned in Mick's arms and dropped his shirt to the floor before putting a hand on the back of the older man's neck. "I'm fine, Mick. If that changes, I'll let you know."
That was all his partner seemed to need because the next moment their lips were connected and he was pulling their bodies flush together. By the time they made it to the bed, Len was all soft moans and arching back, eyes rolling back in his head as Mick found every spot he knew would drive the thief mad. His fingers gripped Mick's scarred shoulders and Mick gripped his hips, holding him down even as he tried to buck up, but even as tired as they were, Mick was taking his time. He pressed kisses to every scar he could reach and every tattoo he could see, running his tongue across his nipples as he passed them. By the time Len was all prepared and ready to go, his heart was beating too fast and his breaths were coming in short pants.
He pulled Mick as close as he could, finding the pyro's mouth with his own to muffle the loud moan that escaped him when his partner finally pushed inside. Len arched into the feeling, letting Mick settle in, one arm wrapped under the small of the thief's back and the other placed by his head to hold himself up.
With them being so busy the past week or so with Team Flash, they'd barely had time for each other- which wasn't necessarily uncommon for them, but still unwelcome. Feeling Mick over him, inside him, had a calming effect on the thief that he would never give up.
"Move, Mick," he finally gasped out, blunt nails scratching across the older man's back in demand and legs spreading even wider to allow more access. Mick didn't need told twice before starting a gentle rocking motion, slow and shallow at first. It was always like this when they were being sweet- when they were making love. Too tired to go their normal hard and heavy, but neither one the romantic type to acknowledge that that's what they were doing. They'd been together long enough not to need the words anyway.
Mick's lips found a particularly sensitive spot on Len's throat, right between his collarbone and Adam's apple, that had him practically writhing under him, little mewls and gasps coming from his throat. It drove Mick a bit harder against him, not any faster, but harder at least.
They were both getting close, and they knew it by the way Mick was grunting and Len was clawing at his back like a kitten to a scratch pole.
"Beautiful," Mick whispered in Len's skin as he brought the hand around from his back to squeeze between them and wrap around Len's own throbbing member. It only took a few more minutes after that before Len was falling apart in Mick's hand and the pyro was stilling inside him, hovering over Len and desperately drawing in the scent of him as he finished. Neither wanted to move, but once Mick finally rolled over onto his side of the bed, Len got up to clean them up and put some boxers on.
"Think the kid will be alright?" Mick mumbled sleepily when Len came back to bed, pulling the younger man's back against his chest.
Len thought about it for a moment before shrugging, letting his own eyes drift shut slowly. "He's a strong kid."
Mick slept like the dead. Len knew that from experience, usually having to physically shove the man out of the bed to get him up. Or wave a plate of bacon in front of his face. Len however had been trained early on, since the first time his father raised a hand to him or his sister, to sleep with one eye open- figuratively that is. But either way he was a light sleeper, always bordering the line between awake and asleep, always listening for any sound that shouldn't be there.
Which is why he was immediately aware when there was a soft "shit" and the sound of wood shifting across the floor. He was sitting up in bed in the next second, the gun from under his pillow in hand and pointed at the shadow a few feet away- it wasn't his cold gun, as that was way too clunky and safely stashed under the bed, but it would do in a pinch.
"Ah, don't shoot! It's just me!" a familiar voice stage-whispered from across the room, one hand held up in defense and the other... the other covering his eyes.
"Barry?" Len lowered the gun and clicked the safety back on, eyes following the speedster as he took a few careful steps forward. Sure enough, he had his eyes squeezed firmly shut and his hand covering them for good measure. Len couldn't help but smirk, drawing his legs up so he could lean on them. "What are you doing, Scarlet?"
He peeked between two fingers before quickly shutting his eyes again. Len was sure if the lights were turned on he'd be able to see the blush spreading over his face. Upon closer inspection though, he could see Barry was only wearing a pair of sweats and a t-shirt, no shoes or coat, and was soaked to the bone. "I-I didn't mean to uh... interrupt or anything. I didn't know you guys were- I mean I knew- well I suspected... I mean Lisa hinted towards... I'm sorry, I can go. This was a bad idea." Barry dropped his hand and started to turn, but Len was already standing when he gripped the boy's wrist to stop him. Those green eyes were a bit regretful and had a hint of fear behind them when the speedster looked at him, and Len's heart gave a little lurch when he felt the boy trembling under his hand.
"Barry, you didn't interrupt anything," he reassured him. "What's wrong?"
The speedster didn't respond right away, fidgeting in his spot a bit and tugging at the hem of his wet shirt. "I uh... It's hard to sleep in that house," he said quietly, face pinched up a bit in embarrassment. "Not that Joe isn't uh... great, he is. He's been really supportive and stuff and Ollie is there too but... It's just- I don't know. It reminds me of when I was trapped because I was back there with my- with Nora. I just... I couldn't sleep and when I could-" he shrugged and looked down at his feet, wiggling his bare toes on the cement. "It's always nightmares when I close my eyes. And you said- well Mick said I could come over if I needed help but... I mean if you don't want me to, I can-"
"Scarlet, hey, breathe for a second," Len said quietly, putting his hands on the boy's shaking shoulders. "Mick was right, you're always welcome here. Don't apologize. You can stay if you need to." He waved towards one of the doors in the room and gave a small, gentle smile. "Bathroom is through there. Why don't you take a hot shower while I find you some clothes to wear that aren't soaked."
Barry blinked, glancing down at his wet shirt with a blush, like he'd forgotten it was even there. "Oh... yeah it started raining on my way over. I forgot. A-are you sure?"
Len nodded and pushed the speedster towards the door. It wasn't until he was gone and the shower sputtered to life that Len heaved a sigh. He circled the bed and flicked Mick in the forehead, earning a grunt in response. "Mick, where's your CCFD sweatshirt?" he questioned, picking up the man's boxers from the ground, suddenly glad he'd decided to put his own back on earlier. He heard his partner mumble something unintelligible and sighed. "Mick," he pushed again. "Barry's here and he needs your sweatshirt. Where is it?"
That seemed to do the trick because green eyes blinked sleepily up at him. "Red?"
"Yeah, having trouble sleeping in the West house. Your shirt?"
A big hand waved behind them towards the dresser and Mick grunted. "Bottom drawer, in the back... got a gun wrapped in it though," he said softly before closing his eyes again, only to grunt when the boxers landed in his face. "What..."
"Put on some clothes, kid's already scarred enough," Len muttered. He grabbed the said shirt and a pair of his own sweats- though he wasn't sure if they'd actually fit- and set them just on the inside of the bathroom door. "Clothes are right here for you, Scarlet, take your time."
By the time the water shut off and Barry opened the door again, Len was sitting up in bed, book in hand and glasses perched on his nose. It was a cute look on him and Barry found himself stifling a giggle at the sight. Len raised an eyebrow at him in question, eyes raking up and down the speedster's body. His hair was still dripping a bit, but it looked like he'd stopped shaking at least. He'd also decided against the pants that had been left for him, only wearing his boxers and Mick's sweater that was way too big on him. The sleeves were rolled up at least three times and the hem fell just past Barry's mid thigh, and the collar hung off his shoulder a bit... it really made Len want to ravish him right then and there. He was kind of glad Mick wasn't awake to see the kid in his clothes or he might have.
"I uh... I can take the couch," Barry said quietly, motioning towards the door, eyes flickering between the two men on the bed.
"Axel is on the couch," Len replied, closing his book and setting it, with his glasses, on the bedside table. "You can sleep in here if you feel comfortable."
That blush dusted across the boy's cheeks again and Len was ecstatic to see that it traveled down his neck and chest as well. "O-oh... okay, sure." He looked around the room, then at the floor, the look of a dejected puppy on his face. It clicked for Len a little too late that Barry thought he was offering the speedster the floor. Honestly, what kind of a host would he be-
"Get in the bed, kid," Mick grumbled from where his face was half shoved into his pillow. He scooched aside just enough so there was a gap between him and his partner, though he didn't open his eyes or show any other sign that he was really awake. He probably didn't have to open his eyes to know that Barry's face was a bright red and he was a stuttering mess.
"I-I... I mean you- you don't have to. I don't want to make it weird- not that it'd be that weird I just... you guys are like- I don't want to intrude and-"
Len's sigh stopped the speedster in his tracks and he pulled the blanket back, an expectant look in his eyes. "Scarlet, get in bed and go to sleep. We're not going to make you sleep on the cold floor when you came in here soaking wet. I'd rather not have a speedster with the flu on my hands."
The said speedster contemplated his options for what seemed like an eternity before seemingly giving in. He crawled into the bed between the two rogues and lay on his side, curling in a bit to make himself as small as possible. Which of course didn't last long. The second the light was turned off and Len was on his back- close enough to feel the kid's heat- there was a soft squeak from next to him. He glanced over to see Barry pulled up against Mick's chest, one burnt arm around the speedster's stomach and his eyes so wide Len was sure he was having some sort of stroke. The rogue just chuckled and sent Barry a smirk, scooting a bit closer so the hero knew they weren't going anywhere.
Just as he was drifting back off to sleep, a shy hand found his under the covers, fingers twisting together, a bit unsure. Len couldn't help the smile that tugged at his lips and he squeezed back gently in reassurance.
Seemed like they were breaking through to the man faster than he expected.
Len grunted in acknowledgement and turned his body to face Barry so he was sandwiched between two chests, though he didn't open his eyes.
Barry squeezed his hand again and ducked his head so it was under Len's chin before muttering a quiet, "I can't get sick... just so you know."
Mick's snort was what Len ended up falling asleep to.
Chapter 13: Domestic Breakfast
Len contemplates the new addition to their little misfit family. Iris freaks out. Barry looks adorable when sleepy.
Note: I'm using some comic book background for Roy Bivolo in this chapter, so he is colour blind and wanted to be a painter when he was a kid.
Also, THANK YOU THANK YOU everyone for your incredibly encouraging comments! I'm so glad everyone is enjoying this project! This chapter is mostly contemplation and fluff, but I wanted to even out all the heavy stuff with some cute domestic bliss. :) Enjoy!
"Your phone won't shut up and your children are being annoying," Mick grunted when Len finally came out of the bedroom, wearing a pair of tight pants and a henley. His bare feet shuffled across the floor and with a quick glance around to make sure no one was looking, Len gave his partner a kiss before heading towards the coffee maker.
He picked up his phone after pouring himself a cup and groaned at the screen. Six missed calls and almost twenty messages from Iris West. "Seems our bedfellow didn't tell anyone he was leaving last night," Len replied to Mick's raised eyebrow, clicking on the girl's name and raising the phone to his ear. Honestly, he shouldn't be surprised that Barry didn't wake anyone.
"Snart!" The said man recoiled at the loud voice and even Mick flinched from his spot at the stove where he was busy making breakfast.
"Barry is missing! We can't find him anywhere," she rushed on, ignoring the fact that she'd just interrupted him. "He wasn't at the house this morning when we woke up, and he's not at Cisco's or Caitlin's and we just got to the labs and he's not here either! Harry said he would check Earth-2 but we can't find him and I really hope he's not in the speed force again or wandering around lost or-"
"Miss West," Len tried again, rolling his eyes when she finally shut up. "No need to worry your pretty little head about it. Barry is here. He came in last night and stayed with us."
There was a long silence and Len took the opportunity to munch on a stolen piece of bacon and down half of his coffee. He really should have waited until the caffeine set in before calling Team Flash, it was too early in the morning to deal with the reporter's loud voice. "He's with you?" She clarified slowly.
Len hummed around his mug and nodded, though she couldn't see him. "He is. Mentioned he was having trouble sleeping at the West house because of his- trip," Len said, carefully changing his word last minute when Bivolo and Lisa wandered into the kitchen. He could see Mardon and Axel hovering by the door, their eyes wide and curious- but luckily watching Mick instead of him. "I wrongly assumed he informed you he was visiting us," Len continued. "Would you like me to wake him?"
"No!" Iris gasped. "I mean, no. Let him sleep in. He's barely gotten any sleep at all since he's been back. As long as he's safe there- I'll uh... I'll let everyone else know. Oliver isn't going to be happy, but I'll have Felicity talk to him. And uh... thanks Snart, for helping him like this. You don't have to." Len just hummed in reply and glared at Bivolo as he tried to steal some food behind Mick's back. "And thank Rory for me to. I'll text you if we find anything."
"Sure." He hung up before she could say anything else and turned his glare to his sister who was also trying to grab some food. "Now now, children, you know the rules, we all wait until breakfast is finished and on the table before we eat."
Lisa pouted, but upon seeing it wasn't going to work, she huffed at him. "Jerk."
After everyone was ushered out of the kitchen, Len told Mick, "the princess says thanks, and she'll let everyone know to call off the search party."
Mick snorted and rolled his eyes. "Red didn't tell anyone he was leaving?"
"It would seem not. We'll need to talk to him about that. Can't have them calling in the national guard every time he decides to come here." Trying to push back the headache he could feel slowly coming on, he downed the rest of his coffee and went for another cup. "Nice to know he feels safe coming here though."
Mick grunted in agreement.
There was a comfortable silence as Mick finished up breakfast and Lisa strutted back into the room about twenty minutes later.
"Was that Iris on the phone? She and Cisco have been trying to call me all morning." Len nodded but didn't elaborate so Lisa crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes at them. Both men ignored her looks, Len pulling open a paper and Mick stacking food on a plate. But nothing got by his sister, she was smarter than she looked and would dig until she got answers she wanted. "So am I right in guessing that you're not making all this food out of the goodness of your heart and love for your rogues? And that if I went into your room right now I'd find a certain leather-clad speedster curled up in your bed?"
Mick snorted, but it was Len who replied, not bothering to look up from the paper. "I can tell you with absolute honesty, little sister, that there is no leather clad speedster in our bed. And I have it on good authority that it's not leather, it's tri-polymer."
"Oh? He sleeps naked then?" She asked, a little teasing smirk on her pretty lips and the sound of winning in her voice.
"Please," Mick grunted, shoving a plate of food he'd made up at her. "You would have heard it last night if he were." Lisa made a disgusted face and Mick shooed her away with a spatula. "Take him some food and tell him there's more out here when he's ready. And tell the other children to get the living room cleaned up. We don't want the Flash seeing all our plans for the next job."
Lisa stuck her tongue out at him and turned to saunter towards the door. "Yes mom."
Another five minutes and the living room was crowded with people. The table in the center had been cleared off and covered with platters and bowls of all kinds of breakfast food- because when Mick cooked, he pulled out all the stops. Most of them already had their plates made up and forks shoved in their mouths by the time Lisa came back out with a barely awake speedster behind her. He was still wearing Mick's sweatshirt, but had a pair of what looked like Hartley's jeans on, or maybe Lisa's, he couldn't be sure. He let Lisa lead him towards the table, plopping him on the floor right in front of Mick. He didn't seem to mind though, or was too tired to actually argue. The plate in his hands was practically licked clean and Len smirked at his partner.
"Eat up, Barry, there's plenty to go around," the thief told him.
Barry nodded and started shoving food onto the plate. The other rogues didn't seem to be bothered that they had a new comer, but Bivolo did raise an eyebrow behind his glasses.
"Feeling better now, kid?" He asked.
Barry tensed, green eyes blinking up at the rogue in confusion for a few seconds before clearing the sleep away. Len could practically see the moment he realized he'd been sitting at the table, eating breakfast with a bunch of criminals who didn't know who he was. He swallowed the eggs in his mouth and nodded. "Y-yes, much. Thanks. I uh... not one hundred percent yet, but I'm getting there." He paused, tilting his head a bit in contemplation. "I- umm... thanks, for you know- trying to help with your powers, even if they didn't work."
Surprised at the gratitude, Roy pulled back just a bit before a small, unsure smile tugged at his lips. The rogues weren't very used to praise, especially from outsiders, so it was obvious the boy didn't quite know how to react to it, but he nodded a bit and said, "No problem, kid. A rogue of Snart's is a rogue of mine."
They all sat in a comfortable mumble of noise for a while, everyone else talking about their own stuff and Barry happily munching on his food and leaning back against Mick's legs. Len watched him discretely, making sure he was okay and actually eating. And he was, though a bit slowly. The speedster would make sure to sneak glances at someone near him about every five or ten minutes, watching them scoop food from their plate and lift it to their mouths, and only when they swallowed it would he actually take a bite of his own. Len made sure to wait on eating anything until it looked like the rogues were mostly done. He Knew Barry would need more, so he piled up his own plate and ate it much slower than normal, pretending not to notice when Barry watched him.
It was all rather domestic really, much more than they were used to.
While it was true that Len and Mick had kind of become the parents of the rogues- making sure they were okay, keeping them mostly fed, keeping them sane and in check- they were still the leaders. Their affections weren't so obvious and most of them preferred it that way. If it looked like Hartley was having a hard time hearing, Len would offer to fix his implants for him- even if they weren't broken- and the whole house would be on ASL mode for the day. But they never asked Hartley if or why he was hurting, just went with it. If Roy was getting into one of his moods- usually determined on how often he was found with his nose in his sketchbook- Len would make sure to steal a new piece of black and white artwork for him, to remind the kid that he didn't need to see colours in order to be an artist. But again, they didn't coddle and they didn't talk. It was kind of an- ironically- unspoken rule in the Rogue house, which suited Len just fine.
They'd never grown up talking about their feelings and Len preferred not to. In fact, if he was having a particularly hard day himself, he'd often find little cups of hot cocoa piled high with marshmallows sitting next to him when he focused again. They were always left by whoever just happened to be at the house at the time, usually Mick or Lisa, but the others did it too sometimes. Mardon liked to spike it with some sort of alcohol sometimes if it looked like Len needed it. Hartley would sprinkle cinnamon on it to add some flavor. And when Axel made it, he liked to get itty bitty marshmallows and try to make funny shapes or faces with them if he could.
Point is, they didn't usually sit around a table and talk over food like... well like a family. It was all kind of strange, but not entirely unpleasant. While they could be spending the time working or planning, it was actually kind of nice and Len found himself enjoying the relaxation that came with no expectations or jobs.
Lisa's voice cut Len out of his own thoughts and he tuned into the conversation with a not so subtle shifting of the eyes and tilting of the head. "Oh please, he's not a lost puppy. And you better get used to him, because it looks like he's going to be around for a while."
"I didn't say he was a lost puppy," Axel argued in an equally hushed whisper, eyes darting over to Barry- who, when Len followed the look, had his head leaned back between Mick's legs and his eyes closed. His breathing was even so it was obvious he was asleep, but what amused Len the most was his partner. Mick had a book in one hand- Dracula it looked like- and his other was combing through Barry's tuft of brown hair gently. Len couldn't help but wonder what it felt like. Neither of them had enough hair to card through. "I said he looked like one. Did you see those big sad eyes? And his pout when Mick took the last piece of bacon? It's sinful! Like, how can you say no to that face?"
Len found himself snorting at the conversation and rolling his eyes at the youngest member of their team. "I tell him no all the time. It's really not that difficult."
"Oh do you," Lisa chimed, raising a perfectly trimmed eyebrow at him. Oh he loved his sister, but she was a damn pain in the ass sometimes. "Because I can recall so many times when he's asked you to do something for him, and you just smile and nod like he's your scarlet king." Len shot his sister a warning look, but she just grinned like a cat and continued. "Please Lenny, you and Mick are tied around his little fingers."
"Lisa, my darling sister, light of my life, blood in my veins," he cooed sweetly but his voice went cold a second later, "I will ice you."
There was a soft grunt from across the table that had all eyes shifting to their resident speedster and Barry sat up a bit, blinking bleary eyes open. "Oh... I didn't mean to fall asleep, I- there was something..." he muttered, rubbing at one of his eyes like the most adorable child he was. Len was cursing up a storm in his head at how just absolutely fucking adorable the kid had to be because if he said one damn thing... well Lisa would be proven right and Len nor Mick would dare to say no to those pretty green eyes he blinked at them. Those eyes though had a look in them that had Len straightening in his chair in a second though, alerting Mick as well. "I need... I need a pen," Barry mumbled.
Len didn't have to continue before the meta was rummaging through a bag and producing a pen and his sketchbook. Barry had it in his hands so fast he was almost afraid the kid used his speed, but since there were no shocked looks on the others or any lightning trails his fears faded away to curiosity. The kid flipped to a blank page, now fully awake and narrowing his gaze at the tiny little doodles he was drawing out. Mick was leaning over his shoulder, like a giant shadow cast to protect the speedster from the rest of the world. Len knew his partner was trying to read what Barry was writing. He'd studied enough of the translations to be able to do most of it on his own now as long as it wasn't too complicated. (A lot of people forgot that Mick was working for the time masters and had been trained and trained on all kinds of different tasks. He was fluent in like six different languages by the time Len met back up with him as Kronos.)
"Is he okay?" Mardon asked quietly. He didn't say it condescendingly, but Len knew he was asking if Barry was reverting back to how they'd first seen him.
The younger man waved a hand at him and grunted. "I'm fine. I'm- I just gotta get this down," he told them, though his voice was a bit unsure. "I'm still here... still here- just need to-"
"Alright," Mick nodded, pulling back again to get back to his book, though it was obvious he wasn't reading it. The others seemed to get the picture though, leaving Barry alone to do what he needed to do. Lisa and Axel went back to talking about whatever they'd been talking about before Barry came into the conversation. Mardon was texting someone on his phone, and Bivolo had his head leaned back against the couch, eyes closed behind his glasses and fingers tapping on his knees. Len knew it was because Barry had his sketchbook. The meta rarely even let anyone look at it, much less draw in it, but they still hadn't cleaned all the marks off the walls from last time Barry had been there, and it was saying something that he was letting him use it now.
Len kept an eye on Barry for the rest of the morning, making sure he wasn't going too far down the rabbit hole with short questions every ten or so minutes to make sure he could still answer them. Or Mick would lean down and point something out in his book and ask the speedster to explain it to him- though he knew that book backwards and forwards by now.
The thief wondered if Barry would stop his scribbling once they solved whatever it was he was trying to solve, or if this was like when Lisa had to go skating or when Len had to throw himself into planning or when Mick couldn't look away from a flame.
Just how broken was his speedster?
Chapter 14: Not Your Fault
Barry has some trouble seeing Oliver. Mick gets some attention.
I feel like Mick wasn't getting enough attention, so I gave him some extra loving :) Enjoy!
"Alright Scarlet, Mick's going to take you inside and help with the new translations. Meanwhile I've got some things to take care of," Len said when the speedster climbed off the motorcycle and handed his helmet back. Mick had parked his own bike in a parking spot, where as Len had just pulled right up to the door. "If you need me though, send Ramon to find me, or give me a call, yeah?"
Barry nodded, twiddling his fingers in front of him nervously. "You'll be back though?"
Len tried to smirk at the speedster and give him some witty retort, but it turned into more of a smile instead. He reached out and tapped his finger to the bottom of Barry's chin, making the speedster look up at him. He leaned in close enough that their noses touched and Barry's face lit up almost as red as his suit, but Len didn't move any closer. "I'll be back, Scarlet. Give me three hours and I'll be here. Alright?"
Barry swallowed, lips parting slightly and the rogue could feel the meta's breath on his face but tried to ignore it. He wanted nothing more than to surge forward and kiss the shock off of Barry's face, but he didn't want to rush things, wanted to make sure his and Mick's intentions were clear before going too far.
"I- yeah... alright," Barry finally stuttered, a goofy smile spreading over his face. "I'll be fine. Mick is here so-"
"Yeah, right here," Mick interrupted gruffly, but there was a smirk on his lips when Barry jerked away from Len's grip. He nodded to Len a bit more seriously, a silent 'be careful' to send him off. "Kid'll be fine. Go or you'll be late." He could see the reluctance in Len's eyes but his partner nodded and slid a helmet over his head, flipping the front down to cover his face and speeding off. Mick waited patiently as Len sped away, letting the kid watch him as well before dropping a heavy hand on Barry's shoulder. "Ready kid?"
Barry jumped slightly and for a second Mick thought he was scared of him, but green eyes turned up at him and lips spread into a smile to ebb away his worries. He could see the fog in Barry's eyes though, see the struggle in his face and had no doubt that Red was trying to keep himself grounded and remind himself that he was home now. Mick knew the look on his face all too well.
"Let's get inside before your geek squad sends out a search party," Mick said, throwing an arm over the younger man's shoulders and leading him into the massive building. He could feel the tension in Barry's shoulders, but the way he was slightly leaning into Mick's massive build had the pyro melting a bit and smiling. Maybe he and Len had a chance after all.
Most of the SkwadTM was in the speed lab arguing back and forth over one of the screens they'd moved in there on day three. The lab was the biggest room in the sub-levels so they'd turned it into their current work area as it seemed to fit most of them and it gave Ramon the chance to line up the many, many whiteboards of symbols along the track in whatever order they'd decided it needed to be in. Skirt was sitting crosslegged in front of a computer, floating a few feet off the ground in lieu of a chair. Ramon, Wells, Rathaway, and Felicity- on the tv screen- were arguing over one of the boards. Daughter and Son West were off to the side doing their own thing- the youngest of the two looked to be working on some sort of mechanical thing. And Queen... Queen was heading straight for them, annoyance all over his face.
Barry had frozen in the entrance of the room before the archer had even seen them, a confused smile on his face as Queen stopped just a few feet from him. "Ollie? What are you doing here?"
The archer frowned. "What do you mean, Barry? I've been here all morning, unlike you. You can't just disappear like that after you've been missing for six months without letting anyone else know," the archer scolded, his arms crossed over his chest and he glared down his nose at Mick even though the pyro was taller. "You could have woken one of us up instead of running to-"
"Stop," Mick growled when a hand reached up and gripped at his wrist. Barry was staring at Oliver with his eyebrows pinched low and a fog in his eyes, like he couldn't recognize him. Like he didn't- oh. "Red, what's going on?" Queen opened his mouth to interrupt, but Mick's glare shut him up and he turned Barry towards him carefully. "Barry? It's just Queen, he's your friend."
Barry swallowed and squeezed his eyes shut tight. He was struggling, that much was obvious, but Mick wasn't sure just how to help yet because he wasn't sure what was wrong. "I-I'm... I don't remember him coming- I..." the speedster shook his head to clear his thoughts but the hand around Mick's wrist tightened- and damn that kid was stronger than he looked. The room around them had gone quiet, all eyes on them, but Barry didn't seem to notice and the others had enough sense in them not to intervene just yet. "I'm just not sure I'm like you, Oliver," Barry whispered, though his voice was pained and forced.
"What? Barry I know-"
Another glare from Mick shut the archer up, though he definitely wasn't happy about it. "Red, take a deep breath," Mick ordered, watching his chest rise and fall. His words had confirmed what Mick was suspecting and he had to do this carefully so as not to send him into a full out attack. Hopefully he could approach it the same way he did with Len. "He's here, kid. It's really him. What do you need to prove it?"
The archer must have caught up because his face fell blank and his arms dropped to his sides, like he was fighting with himself not to hug the kid. Mick was glad he wasn't because who knew what that would do to him. Barry was silent, but his eyes opened enough to look at Oliver, then around the room at the others. Hartley was the only one who wasn't part of Team Flash, and Barry's eyes hovered on his the longest, as if confirming in his head that the genius was real. His breathing didn't calm down any though and he squeezed his eyes shut. "I-I... I need to leave- I can't be here."
"Alright, then we'll leave," Mick said, making it sound like no big deal. He glanced at Iris and she gave him a quick nod before he took Barry's shoulders in hand and turned him, steering him out of the room and through the halls. They didn't stop until the secret room he'd been staying in sealed off and they were alone. "Just us now, Red."
The speedster was in his arms in a nano-second, his thin arms wrapped around Mick's waist and his head buried in his shoulder. It was a similar position to when Barry was helping calm the rogue down from his own panic attack, so Mick bundled the kid up in his arms and pulled him close, tucking his head under Mick's chin. He could hear the quiet, muffled sniffs and sobs as Barry tried controlling his breathing, and his fingers clenched and unclenched on the back of Mick's shirt.
They stayed there for a long time. There was no clock in the room, so Mick wasn't exactly sure- he didn't have the internal clock that Len had- but it was a while. They stayed silent, Mick making sure to keep his breathing even until the speedster could match it.
"I'm sorry," Barry muttered, words muffled by Mick's shirt but he was close enough for the pyro to make the words out anyway.
"For what, kid? You didn't do nothin' wrong."
He shook his head, fingers tightening Mick's shirt into fists. "I-I can barely stand to look at them with-without freaking out. It's hurting them. I-I can see it. Ollie will be mad..."
Mick wanted to tell him the archer didn't matter, but decided against it. He'd have a talk with Robin Hood later about the speedster. "Listen here, Red," Mick demanded, "you have done nothin' wrong. People who go through shit come back with damage. You gotta learn to live with that, to deal with it, but it ain't goin' to be right away. It's goin' to take a while. Your friends out there know that. Might hurt them to see you like this, but they know it ain't your fault, even Queen knows that."
"B-but I can't tell! What kind of a friend can't tell when... when the people they love are real?" Barry hiccoughed.
"The kind that's been tortured by people using their faces for who knows how long. It's going to be hard and you'll find ways to get better, ways to know- like you did with the marks on our arms. We'll figure it out." Barry was shaking his head again, but Mick put a stop to it, leaning back just enough to take the kid's chin between his fingers and lift it so their eyes met. Mick tried to keep his voice soft but firm as he spoke, hoping he could drill his words into Barry's head. "This is not your fault, Red, you hear? You went through somethin' shitty, but you got out of it. You're strong, you'll get better, and you got people here who want to help. You're not alone in this."
Barry blinked up at Mick with eyes so clear he was a bit worried the kid was looking right through him and with no warning, he surged up towards Mick. Their lips met a bit shyly, like Barry was still a bit unsure, and he pulled away too fast for Mick to even consider reciprocating. His face was a bright, bright red and he took a few stumbling steps back, hands held up as if in defense. "I-I... I did not mean to do that! I'm sorry!"
Once Mick regained his thoughts, he raised an eyebrow at the kid and chuckled. "No complaints here, kid. You can do that whenever you want."
"But you're with Len!" he argued.
"I am," Mick confirmed with a smirk. "And he's going to be pissed that I got the first kiss. He was hopin' for it to be him, no doubt. He's been eyeing you for as long as he knew who was behind that mask." Barry blinked at him in surprise again and Mick rolled his eyes. "I gotta spell it out for you, Red? We like ya- both of us. Len just wanted to wait till you were better before bridgin' the subject."
Barry blushed again and stuttered a bit, head tilting sideways in that cute way it did when he was trying to wrap his brain around something. "I... you like me." It wasn't a question, so the rogue didn't bother answering, just crossed his arms and leaned against the wall and let the meta roll the idea around in his head. He knew it'd be a shock that either of them liked the speedster- okay, maybe not a shock that Len did, that was kind of blatantly obvious,- much less both of them. He had no doubt that Lisa knew, probably Iris as well, but Barry was oblivious to too many things. "Even..." he gestured to his head and frowned a bit. "Even with how messed up I am?"
Mick snorted and rolled his eyes. "Kid, you're talkin' to a pyromaniac, former time-traveling assassin and bounty hunter, who's probably almost a hundred years old by now and got tortured for half of that time. And Len? A kleptomaniac who was abused as a kid, blew himself up and spent god knows how long in a river of time, where he received powers that show him the endless possibilities any one situation can possess. I think you'll fit right in."
"Oh," a small smile tugged at Barry's lips and he ducked his head a bit. "Does... does that mean I can kiss you again?"
This time Mick laughed, but he took a few big steps towards Barry, not stopping until the kid was forced to look up at him and their noses were just barely touching. "You can kiss me anytime you want, Red. On one condition." Barry looked surprised to have conditions, but swallowed loudly and nodded, waiting. "You actually give me a chance to kiss back this time." He didn't wait for an answer, just closed the distance between them and pressed his lips hard against the speedster's.
Kissing the kid was interesting to say the least.
When he kissed Len it was- pun intended- like fire an ice. Mick was hot and burning, pulsing against the force that was his partner. Ice sucked the heat out of the air, and Len sucked Mick in like he was the only heat left on the planet, pulling him closer and closer. They fit well together, both dominant and commanding, tongues battling it out and neither giving in, but it worked. The kid though, he was a bit shy when kissing, like the ocean just barely brushing up against a cliff- the potential for crashing waves, but not the confidence yet. Like a storm cloud, soft and cool, but with so much energy humming inside him, waiting to be released. He even had a bit of a spark to his lips when he finally pushed back, tongue darting in to taste Mick's lips. His hands hesitantly rested on Mick's shoulders and in return, the rogue grabbed at the meta's hips, pulling them flush together and loving the little gasp and mewl that was released from Barry's throat at the motion.
Oh yeah. Len was going to be pissed.
Chapter 15: A Compromise
Robin Hood and the Rogues come to a compromise. Barry gets more kisses.
Don't worry, we'll be getting back into the plot again soon. I just really love all the fluff, so I wanted more.
By the time they got back to the speed lab, Barry was much calmer, if a bit disheveled, but no one seemed to notice. He shuffled up to Oliver, who was muttering quietly to the laptop Felicity was video chatting on, with Mick right behind him just in case.
The archer no doubt knew Barry was there the instant they entered the room, but didn't look up until the speedster was within arms reach. He smiled, though the wrinkles near his eyes showed his worries. Again, Mick could tell by the way he crossed his arms and swayed back a bit that he wanted to pull the kid into a hug, but was resisting. Probably wasn't much of a hugger in the first place if he had to guess. Barry gave him a shy kind of smile and rubbed the bag of his neck nervously.
"Hey, Ollie. I just uh... wanted to say sorry for earlier."
"Barry stop," the archer interrupted, holding up a hand. "I've told you before, this job is hard. Things are going to happen and you're going to have some scars, whether they be physical or mental. You never have to apologize for that, especially not with me," he promised, smiling softly when Barry's shoulders slumped a bit. "I've can't say I understand what you're going through, Barry, but we've both had to deal with trauma. So all I need from you is to let me know how I can help. Let me know if I'm being too... much. Alright?" The speedster nodded, his relief evident on his face. "Good. Then tell me how I can prove to you that I'm real."
"Oh, well I'm not too far gone yet," Barry observed, biting his lip in thought. "It's like, I know you're real, but when I look at you I can't recognize that fact... I don't know, it's hard to explain. It's like I'm dreaming, but conscious enough to know that I'm dreaming you know?" Though Oliver's face twisted a bit in confusion he nodded. Barry's face however lit up and turned red for a moment. "I uh... I have an idea, but it's a little weird. Can I... can I count your fingers?" Oliver raised an eyebrow, as did Mick and Barry chuckled awkwardly in response, even as Oliver held out his hands. "They say you can't read or count in dreams, that if you can count all 10 fingers on your hands, then you'll wake up."
He took Oliver's hands in his own, brushing a finger over each knuckle and counting softly before hitting ten. A breath of relief escaped him and he nodded. "Better?" The archer asked.
Barry nodded, pulling a marker from his pocket and moving to draw his little array of symbols across Oliver's arm. "Better."
"Don't worry about me Barry," Felicity smiled from her computer screen, holding up her fingers and wiggling them. "Ten little piggys all safe and sound here."
"Oh you're fine, Felicity," Barry replied with a laugh. "You were always here in person. Seeing you on a screen is enough to know."
As the nerds started badgering on with each other, Mick gave Robin Hood a look and a jolt of the head before turning and walking off.
He didn't stop until they were alone in the cortex, and Mick turned to lean against the table. "You care about the kid." It wasn't a question, but Queen rolled his eyes and nodded. "Then I'll tell you now and it'll be the only time. Len and me? We ain't goin' to ever hurt him. You need to know that because we're goin' to be here as long as he needs us to be." Mick crossed his arms over his chest, rattling his head for what to say. It was usually Len who made the speeches, but Queen needed to know now that the rogues were going to be there for Barry no matter what. "He's broke, and we know a lot about bein' broke. You do too if I gather right," and the look on the archer's face told him he did. "We're goin' to do what's best for the kid. If that means leavin' him in your capable hands, then that's what we'll do, but that is for him to decide not you. We don't need you makin' things worse by trying to tell him that he can't have what might make him better. Got that?"
"I don't get what you're getting out of this," Queen said instead, narrowing his eyes as Mick and mimicking his stance. "The rogues, especially you and Snart, you don't do things for no reason. You don't do things out of the goodness of your heart. Even traipsing around time and saving the world was so you could steal and do crime along the way."
Mick gave him that, but- "We ain't bad people, but we ain't good people either. We like money and we don't like to work, simple as that. I like watchin' things burn, doesn't mean I like killin' people. Len, he's gotten his rogues in place, set rules up and makes sure they follow them. They don't hurt people, and most of us don't want to anyway. We may be bad guys, but we ain't evil. None of us would hurt Red."
"You've hurt people before. And how can I trust Barry with Snart when he left you- his supposed partner- lost in time? To be tortured from what I heard."
From what he heard? Mick wanted to know who had told him that, but figured his best bet was to stay as calm as he could under the archer's gaze. "Things between me and Len are different. We have our moments, our arguments. We been together too long not to, besides it was either he leave me where he might be able to come back and find me, or I died. There was no other option. The crew couldn't trust me anymore and he was supposed to kill me- he decided differently. He didn't know I'd be picked up and tortured. That wasn't on him." It had taken him a long time to realize that, and sometimes he still lost his head about it, but he knew it wasn't Len's fault what happened to him, he knew that. Even if his partner still blamed himself for the fire, even if he still blamed himself for the Time Masters, Mick knew it wasn't on him.
"You just admitted you betrayed your team," Queen continued a bit desperately. "That doesn't reassure me!"
"He betrayed people he didn't trust yet." The two men turned towards the new voice, both surprised at themselves for not noticing Len walking into the room or leaning against the doorway. He'd ditched his parka for his leather jacket, but the cold gun was still strapped tight to his thigh and his hands were shoved in his pockets. Though his face was passive and cool as usual, Mick could see the anger behind those beautiful blue eyes, could see the tension in his shoulders. Len didn't like people insulting or blaming Mick, especially for things that he'd already apologized for. Well... in his own way. "He betrayed people who have constantly belittled him and underestimated him; who even today treat him like he's an idiot with no actual opinions. They barely listen to him when he speaks, never thinks he has anything intelligent to say. They weren't his friends, they weren't trusted. Not really a terrible thing to do in my opinion."
"And Barry is different?"
"Of course Barry is different," Len growled, his cool tone dipping low for just a moment, but returning quickly as he schooled his features. "Scarlet is a little ray of sunshine, and we are but shadows in the darkness."
Mick rolled his eyes and snorted. "Quit waxin' poems, boss. We trust the kid. I didn't trust them. That should be enough."
Queen frowned, his eyes narrowed and lips pursed. The rogues could see he was struggling with his decision, that he wanted to do what was best for his friend, his pupil, but also didn't want to trust a bunch of criminals. "I don't trust you."
"And we don't trust you," Len replied with a roll of his eyes. "We're not asking for your trust. We're telling you to stay out of our way, and out of Barry's way of recovery. Like Mick said, if we end up not being good for him, we'll leave. But that isn't your decision to make. You just need to trust Scarlet in there. Don't make this any harder on him."
Oliver was quiet for a while, staring between the two before grunting. "Fine, but only because I've actually seen you help Barry since I've been here. But the second I see that you're no longer benefiting him... you're gone." The archer didn't wait for a reply, just stomped out of the room, leaving the two rogues smirking at each other, Len with an eyebrow raised.
"Did I miss something?"
Mick's smirk grew wider, almost into a full blown grin and he chuckled. "Oh you wouldn't believe it."
Sauntering forward, hands still in his pockets but hips swaying in just the right way to make Mick's stomach clench. "Oh? Don't tell me I'm going to have to beg for it," he drawled, raising a hand to pick at some invisible lint on Mick's shoulder. He was close enough now for their breath's to mingle, but neither man moved. "You know how I loathe begging."
"Oh, trust me," Mick grunted, voice low and heavy- and dammit, Len knew exactly what he was doing to him. "I'm going to love telling-"
Mick reeled back, but Len- drama queen as he was- twirled on his heel and smirked at the speedster in the doorway. His hair was still mussed up from when Mick had his hands in it and his sweater was wrinkled a bit, but his eyes were clear and there was a beautiful smile on his face that both rogues wanted nothing more than to kiss away. "Scarlet," Len greeted with a raised eyebrow, "you seem better." They stared at each other, each waiting for the other to do something before Len chuckled. "What? No kiss hello?"
Barry shared a look with Mick for a split second, barely long enough for the pyro to recognize what exactly was happening before he sped forward and into Len's space. Mick was still pressed up against his partner's back, and he could feel the thief tense at the sudden movement, jolting back just a bit when Barry practically ran into him and knocked him back a step, right into Mick who managed to hold them both up. A soft noise of surprise escaped Len's throat when Barry grabbed his face and pulled him down, their lips connecting with a flicker of lightning. Len's eyes were wide, Barry's fluttering shut, and it took a good three seconds- Mick counted- before Len's hands found Barry's hips and he started slowly responding.
And damn... Mick could get used to watching them do that. It didn't take long for his partner to take over, pushing forward with his tongue licking across Barry's lips. Unfortunately, if he didn't stop them now, Mick might not be able to recover before some member of the Superflarrow squad came looking.
"Aw, Red," Mick fake whined, pouting from over Len's shoulder when the speedster pulled away. "You didn't let me tell him first!"
Barry's face was as red as his suit, his eyes wide with wonder- like he hadn't known a kiss could feel that good- and he stuttered at Len. "S-sorry! Mick said it- he said you'd be okay with it! That you wanted..."
Len recovered a few moments later, humming contently before the words fully sank in and his eyebrows shot up to his hairline. "Oh, Mick said, did he? And when did you two have this conversation?"
He turned on Mick who raised his hands in defense, but the goofy grin that spread across his face betrayed him. "Hey boss, you can't blame me! The kid kissed me first."
"Kissed you first," Len drawled, eyes narrowing dangerously. "You're telling me, that I, Leonard Snart, robber of ATMS, famed super villain Captain Cold, who has been flirting with the Flash since day one, who literally pulled him from perdition with my own mind, who gave him his lovely nickname Scarlet," he said slowly and dramatically, finger poking into Mick's chest, "the best thief in the country, who swore to steal the Flash's heart, got beaten to the punch?"
"Oh yeah," Mick teased, wiggling his eyebrows a bit. "First time for everything, boss."
"Uh... I mean technically I kissed Len first?"
Both rogues raised their eyebrows and Mick's grin fell into a pout almost immediately. "What?"
The speedster's face only darkened and he rubbed the back of his head a bit. "I uh... I mean it all really depends on what you classify as a first kiss. Like a real, physical first kiss? Or just the first one you remember? I mean really it's all up for grabs but-" he blinked at the two and ducked his head, "right. I uh, in my head, when Len was trying to pull me out?" they both nodded and he could see the gears clicking into place in Len's eyes. "One of the walls he ran into was more of a fantasy, a possibility. I uh... you know, the details aren't really important. The point is before Len passed onto the next layer of my mind, I might have kissed him goodbye."
"On the lips?" Mick clarified, the whine back in his voice.
The smirk on Len's face told him his answer, but the thief nodded anyway. "On the lips. Oh I remember. It was quite the fantasy, didn't think you remembered that, Scarlet."
Barry shrugged. "I don't remember everything, but it seems I can remember details from right before you moved on, at least in the later layers. I don't know anything up until you got there, that's the first one I remember." He gave Mick an apologetic smile. "Sorry, Mick, but if it makes you feel better I wasn't aware at the time that it was a fantasy?"
The pyro frowned but shrugged, pretending like it didn't bother him- which really it didn't, he just liked the idea of having a one up on the thief. "Well, I got the first real kiss. I deserve that much."
Len hummed and patted the man's shoulder with a nod. "Sure Mick, I'll give that to you." They all froze when they heard a loud 'eureka!' from down the hall and the rogue rolled his eyes. "Seems like Ramon has solved something." He pointed at Barry with a stern look and said, "we'll talk about this later. We're not going to jump straight into this-" he motioned to the three of them,"-without you knowing exactly what it is you're getting into, and vice versa. Got it? Some guidelines and conditions need to be set, and we'll need to talk shop as well."
Barry swallowed past the excited lump in his throat and nodded. "Fair enough... uh, but-" he sent a quick look at Mick again, his face lighting up pink. "Does this mean I can kiss you both whenever I want?"
"Let's keep it private for now, Red," Mick answered instead, turning the speedster towards the hallway and steering him in that direction. "We ain't exactly public affectionists." He ignored Barry's quick mumbled argument of that not being a real word and continued. "Just enjoy the view, instead."
Chapter 16: Lost in a Forest
Cisco and Felicity are genius'. Roy doesn't understand feelings. Barry is a stuttering mess.
Oh my gosh! I know it's been a hot sec since I updated this, but once I decided to get back into the plot instead of the fluff, I got all kinds of stuck. So plot is progressing slowly but surely! Thank you all for your support!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"It's a ship!"
Barry jumped a bit at the suddenness of Cisco's claim when the trio marched back into the lab. Cisco's fingers were flying across a keyboard and Felicity looked to be doing the same on the other side of the screen. Everyone else was just kind of... waiting.
"A ship?" Barry questioned, waiting for more information.
"Yeah! The messages you were picking up in your head? The ones the speedforce sent you?" his friend waved an absentminded hand towards the board full of symbols. They'd eventually picked up on patterns to his doodling, symbols he'd drawn over and over again, some he always drew bigger or smaller, and had tried determining which was the most important information. So far they hadn't gotten very far, only minor translations that Kara and J'onn were able to explain but from what they gathered, most of the symbols weren't words at all, but more... math, if they understood it right. "The one set of symbols you draw the most, they're numbers. So I thought maybe, just maybe, they were coordinates to something."
The engineer paused as a radar map of the earth popped up on another computer screen, a small blinking red dot hovering in the space around the planet. Cisco pointed to it frantically. "There! That's a ship!"
The others stared, gobsmacked at the new information, but it was Len who was the first to recover. "Why hasn't anyone noticed but us? Doesn't NASA have radar?"
"Well we knew exactly where it was, so that helped," Felicity answered. "And technically I am piggy-backing off of NASA's systems right now to even see this, but from what I can tell they're heavily shielded so most radars can't pick them up. I just happened to know where they were and exactly what to look for because J'onn explained to me what their ships and such are usually made of."
"You hacked NASA?" Len questioned, receiving a smirk from the blonde. "Sure, when I do something illegal, I get chastised, but the pretty blonde does it and she's rewarded." There was no malice in his voice and the smirk on his lips told everyone he was joking, but Oliver and Joe scowled anyway, especially when Len and Felicity shared a wink.
Harry cleared his throat and rolled his eyes before gesturing back towards the screens. "Am I right to assume that they are staying level with Central City?"
"Oh! Yeah! Dude, I'd bet if we drew a straight line down, they'd be level with the exact spot that Barry came out of the speedforce," the engineer replied. "What we still don't get is why they're taking the speed-beings out of the force. The symbols you've been drawing don't tell us much on that account. What we think we're seeing is the coding for whatever device they're using to pull the beings out and up. Like their own personal beam me up Scotty."
"Can we like, hail them or something?" Wally asked with a tilted head.
Harry and Cisco snorted at the same time and Hartley rolled his eyes so hard his head lolled back. "If we had their phone number, we could call them, West. But we don't. And we don't even know how their ship works enough to hack into it."
"J'onn and I could go up there and try and talk to them. Be all diplomatic about it," Kara suggested, running a hand through her hair. "We know the language well enough and J'onn could talk to them telepathically. Maybe we can find out what they're doing and why? So far they haven't attacked any humans or anything, maybe they aren't actually here to conquer or whatever. Maybe they have some other reason to be here?"
Barry was already shaking his head. "We don't know what they're capable of. If they're even able to pull the speed-beings or whatever they are out of the speedforce, then they've got some powerful tech. I don't want to send you guys up there without knowing who they are or what they can do. But-" he paused and frowned, tilting his head in thought. His brows pinched together and he bit his lip in a way that had both Len and Mick struggling a bit. "The hailing isn't really a bad idea. What if we like... record a message or something and send it up there on a few different frequencies. They're bound to get it if we shoot it right where their ship is. We might even be able to get a rough translation into their language and send it up to them. If we can get a line of communication going that's not direct, it might be a safer route while still figuring out what's going on."
"And that wouldn't lead them straight towards us?" West the Sr. questioned.
"If I ping the signal between different towers on earth, and then a few different satellites in space before getting to the ship, then they might not be able to trace it back to us. I can make it pretty difficult," Felicity said, the sound of fingers over keys proof that she'd already begun figuring out something to help. "If you guys can get the message done, I should be able to get it to them."
So they did. For hours they debated with each other one what to send, what might sound the least threatening while still wanting show that they meant business. Then they spent another few hours recording and translating the message. It was boring for Mick and Len once it got to that point, and though he should have felt bad about it, Len was grateful when he saw Barry start to sway on his feet and his eyes droop a bit. While the kid had slept really well the night before as far as he could tell, he hadn't gotten to the safe house until 2am and they woke up at like 7. He definitely wasn't running on a full night's rest. So he shared a quick glance with Mick who had no doubt noticed as well and without much ceremony, said their goodbyes and dragged the speedster out.
The second they were outside, Barry slumped and ran a hand over his face. "Thanks, guys... I can only handle staring at those symbols for so long before my eyes start to hurt."
It was meant as a joke, but Len hummed. "You didn't sleep enough," he said instead, mounting the bike in front of him and handing the extra helmet to Barry. He could have ridden with Mick, but the bigger man took up most of his bike and it didn't have an extra seat like Len's did- as he'd bought it to take Lisa around as well. "Let's get you some food and get you back to the Wests."
The helmet was heavy in Barry's hands as the words settled in, washing around his ears like he had too much water in after going swimming. There's a hole in the pool... she broke it... Nora shouldn't- He couldn't help the disappointment bubbling up in his chest, though Barry knew he shouldn't have expected anything from the two. Just because they'd let him stay the night before didn't mean they would again. He was a the Flash, and a CSI... did they really want him around in their safe houses, able to see their plans if he wanted- not that he did- and interacting with their rogues? Two kisses- okay three if you include the fantasy- hadn't changed anything. They were still criminals and Barry was still... broken.
Barry blinked at the snapping fingers in front of his face and frowned, staring at the thin fingers as they lowered and tilted his chin up, then there was blue- such a pretty blue. "I had a friend with eyes as blue as ice," he breathed quietly. His hand twitched, like he wanted to raise it and brush it across Len's cheekbone but he shook himself out of it. He needed to focus, needed to stay grounded. He couldn't break down again... He couldn't show Len and Mick that he was weak. "I- I'm sorry... what were you saying?"
Len's lips turned down into a frown and his eyes narrowed, suspicious and searching, but he didn't ask. He did nod, as if he had confirmed that Barry was back with them and let his hands drop to his sides again.
It was Mick who answered though, stepping up next to Len and dwarfing him in his shadow. "Rule one, kid, no hiding stuff."
Barry blinked in confusion, tilting his head slightly. "What?"
"In whatever this is going to be," the arsonist continued, waving towards the three of them. "You can't hide stuff- important stuff- from us and we can't do the same. Secrets tear things apart, we all know that. Work don't count." Barry opened his mouth to argue that he wasn't hiding anything important, but the look Mick sent him shut him up. "If it makes you get lost then it's important, Red. What's goin' on in your head?"
He didn't know what to say. Barry hated being too... lost as Mick put it. And really it was the perfect way to put it. It's like he was taking a road through the forest that had too many forks in it. Like he knew the way to where he was going, but sometimes he'd take a wrong turn and be going down a different path, lost in the woods until he could find his way back. He swallowed and his fingers tightened around the helmet in his hands. "I uh... it's nothing really. Nothing important." Both rogues glared at him- though there was a fondness in the look- and he bit his lip. "Well I... I thought we- I mean I thought I could... it's nothing, it's stupid."
There was a heavy sigh as Barry looked down at his shoes, but he wasn't sure who made it. It was Len's long fingers though that found his chin again and lifted it- so gently and comforting. His thumb stroked Barry's jawline with such fondness that the younger man was finding it hard to focus on anything but that sensation. "Scarlet, if you want to stay with us, you only have to ask. We wouldn't turn you away. Besides, you need the rest. If you think you'll get it better with us, then we're all the more happy to have you."
"I-" he cut himself off, flicking his tongue out to lick his lips. His heart was beating fast with their closeness and Barry swallowed hard around a sudden lump in his throat. "I... don't want to go back to Joe's," he said, though it was barely above a whisper. "I keep having nightmares and- and waking him up... And Cecile, she needs the sleep for the baby and I-"
A thumb pressing to Barry's bottom lip and a hand settling on the back of his neck stopped him before he could ramble on, the tension almost immediately leaking out of his body from just the feeling of both men touching him.
"You just have to ask, Red, we don't need explanations," Mick said again.
Len nodded in agreement and Barry found himself wanting to smile, or cry, or kiss them. He didn't do any of those, but he nodded and turned the helmet over in his hands so he could put it on. "I'd like to... if you're sure it's okay. But can we uh... can we stop somewhere first? On the way? Or after food, whichever, it doesn't matter."
The trip back to the safe house was a relatively lazy one. They weren't in any hurry and both drivers seemed to have some sort of silent conversation between them where they decided to take the long, empty roads around the city instead of through it. It was nice, calming. Barry loved motorcycles. It wasn't nearly as fast as his speed, but there was something about the feeling of the wind caressing his face- usually when he's running to fast, he can't really even feel the wind at all- and the feeling of being pressed up against Len's body. He wondered if he'd be able to convince them to let him ride with Mick at some point in the future... wondered what it would feel like up against his hot back, feel the big muscles as compared to Len's smaller but no less toned ones.
They stopped by a small store downtown as requested and Barry made a quick trip in and out without the rogues even needing to demount their bikes, then another stop by Big Belly Burger where they bought enough food to feed the Rogues and Barry. ("Having a party tonight?" the server joked "Oh yeah, just some friends over." Len in his hipster get up replied.)
By the time they made it back to the warehouse turned temporary home, Barry was all smiles and his stomach was growling from the promise of food.
The rogues were already there- minus Hartley- and scattered about the living room deemed area. A Foosball table had been added to the far side of the room, next to a pool table that Barry hadn't realized was there either, and he couldn't help but wonder if this wasn't just a safe house, but the safe house. They all looked up when he came in, but their gazes didn't linger and Barry was grateful for it. They were starting to act like he was a natural occurrence, though he knew they still shot questioning glances in his direction when he wasn't looking and that they still had no idea why he was even there.
He left Mick and Len to start unpacking the food onto the big coffee table once Mardon had cleared it off, taking his plastic bag in an unsure hand. Steeling his courage, and knowing Mick and Len's eyes were still watching him just in case anything happened, Barry walked over to the man sitting in an armchair, reading a book on art history. He waited patiently in front of him until Roy closed the book and looked up at Barry with a raised eyebrow behind his glasses. He didn't ask what Barry wanted, just stared.
"I uh- wanted to say thanks, for letting me use your sketchbook..." he mumbled, twisting the bag's handles around his fingers and cutting off their circulation before untwisting them again. God he was a mess... he didn't used to be so shy and awkward around people- not since high school anyway. With a deep breath, he shoved the bag forward and under Roy's nose before he could chicken out. "I know a lot of artists hate letting people touch their stuff, so I'm really grateful and all. But I totally used all the rest of the pages and I felt really bad and I couldn't find the same one but I tried to get one with the right kind of paper in it and this was the best one the art store had in stock- the lady at the counter assured me. I hope it's okay because I really know nothing about art or art supplies so-" He cut himself off before he could make an even bigger fool of himself with his babbling, rubbing a hand through his hair was Roy reached an unsure hand into the bag and pulled out it's contents.
It was a simple sketchbook, nice black leather cover with an embossed design etched into the front. The pages inside were the same as the one from his old sketchbook, slightly textured and deckled on the edges, thick and perfect for watercolors or charcoal. It was much thicker than the book he'd borrowed, at least double the amount of pages, but Barry didn't think he'd mind. It even came with a little strap to wrap about the book and a pen slid into the hoop just on the inside bottom cover.
"A sketchbook?" Roy asked and Barry couldn't tell what his expression meant with his glasses on. His hands were tight around the leather and the speedster had a sudden realization that maybe he'd done something wrong.
Stupid, he scolded himself. He probably shouldn't have even bothered. He hated when Iris and Joe tried buying him lab equipment- he was grateful for the effort and always accepted, don't get him wrong, but it was always the wrong equipment and or couldn't be used for one reason or another, not for what he'd needed. He had started just asking for money or gift cards for gifts... Artists were probably the same, preferring to get their own supplies. "I... sorry, I guess I should have asked first. I just thought- I mean you don't have to use it. I just felt bad that I used all of yours up and wanted to return the favor I guess..."
The entire room was silent, all members of the gallery watching and waiting for some kind of response. Barry could feel his nerves singing under his skin at all the eyes on them, could feel the urge to run boiling inside of him. But slowly, very slowly, Roy stood, book still gripped in his hands...
And he smiled.
Just smiled. He didn't say thanks, didn't offer up any show of outward emotion other than a smiled, but it was the fact that it didn't look forced that had Barry smiling back.
Roy nodded at him, took his books, and left to his own room. And that was that.
"Wow," Trickster- for the love of- call me Axel- whistled from behind Barry, causing the speedster to jump slightly and turn. He blushed at the onslaught of attention and at the fond looks Mick and Len were sending him. "I've never seen him so... emotional. Get the kid a sucker, he's a natural."
Barry sputtered and shook his head. "That was emotional? He barely looked at me! I didn't think he liked it."
"Oh he liked it, sweetheart," Lisa grinned, walking up to wrap her arms over his shoulders in a hug. "Don't you worry about that. He's just not used to getting gifts so he doesn't know how to receive them. He'll say thank you in his own way. Now, sit! Let's eat! I don't know about you guys, but I am starving!"
Barry sat on the floor again between Len and Mick's chairs, shoveling food into his mouth like his life depended on it- though at a human speed of course.
And for once, he didn't look to see if anyone else was eating.
Maybe he wasn't so broken after all.
I really imagine Barry being the kind of guy who would be all,
"Hey, Roy, I made you a friendship bracelet."
"I'm not really a jewelry guy."
"Oh... well you don't have to wear it."
"No! I'm gonna wear it forever, back off!"
Or really Barry being the little fluff ball he is and having every one of these hardened rogues wrapped around his little fingers.
Chapter 17: Triggers and Kisses
Len, Mick, and Barry have that talk.
woowoo another chapter! So I know I said we were getting back to plot and lessening up on the fluff, but I couldn't help myself and they needed to talk about this stuff!
It wasn't until Barry was in Len and Mick's room that night- freshly showered and draped once again in Mick's too-large sweater- that he could feel his nerves scraping over his skin like nails. Len had already slipped into a light shirt and his boxers, Mick into a pair of sleep pants but his chest bare, and both were staring at him a bit expectantly.
Len crossed his arms and leaned against the dresser, a contemplative look in his eyes. "Scarlet?"
"I'm okay," he rushed to assure them. And he was, he wasn't... lost or anything like that, just nervous. He could see the confusion on the men's faces and his cheeks heated up with the attention and the knowledge that he needed to tell them. "I uh... are you sure it's okay? I mean I really don't mind sleeping on the couch or like the floor or something-"
"You slept in here last night," Mick grunted, narrowing his eyes.
Barry's head bobbed in agreement and he bunched the hem of the sweater in his hands, staring at the worn fabric and wondering if the black stain at the bottom was from ash or gun oil. "Yeah but I didn't- I mean we hadn't- I didn't kiss you last night..."
Len made a little 'ah' sound and Mick remained silent. "Then I guess we should have that talk then," the thief said, gesturing towards the bed with a long fingered hand. None of them said anything as Barry took a seat at the end of the bed, legs crossed under him and hands folded tight in his lap. Len and Mick took up the other side of the bed, the pyro leaning against the wall and Len leaning his elbows on his knees. "First thing's first, Barry. Do you want this? We're not about to get into a relationship just because you think we're expecting it or because you think you owe us. You have to want this as much as we do for this to work."
Green eyes looked up into blue, then into Mick's light green, and he gnawed on his lip a bit. "Y-you want me? Both of you?"
Mick snorted, rolling his eyes up to the ceiling like it was the stupidest question in the world, but Len gave the speedster an amused smirk. "I think that much is obvious, Barry. My sister and Wells had a bet going on how long it would take us to get together. I haven't really been subtle about it. Now Mick was the unknown, but it's not a shocker." Mick snorted again, but the fond smile on his lips had Barry relaxing slightly. "The question is, do you want us? It's a package deal here, Scarlet. I come with Mick and Mick comes with me. We don't do flings."
Barry's face lit up as red as a tomato but he nodded, Adam's apple bobbing enticingly when he swallowed. "I- yeah. I mean yes, I l-like you both. It's not a... it's not like payback for helping me or anything like that. I just... that just helped me realize maybe I guess that you liked me too. Or at least that you didn't hate me."
Len nodded, satisfied, and moved on. "Next line of business. What is this, Barry? Or rather, what do you want it to be? Like I said, Mick and I don't do flings, we don't do casual. But, that being said, what are you comfortable with?"
The speedster took a few moments to think about that. As much as he wanted to blurt out that he didn't care as long as he was with them, he knew they both wanted an actual answer. And judging by the look in Len's eyes, the rogue appreciated that Barry was taking his time to answer the question. "I don't want a fling either," he said slowly but surely. "But... I don't want to tell Joe and everyone right away, if that's okay? I don't know how they'll react and I don't want him trying to say you're taking advantage of me because of my-" he gestured to his head vaguely but didn't elaborate. "I- I'd like to tell Iris if you're okay with it, and really I don't care if you guys tell the rogues and stuff... but just... not Joe, not yet." Both men nodded their agreement and he continued. "I'm not really picky about labels," Barry said a bit shyly. Both rogues were much older than him, so it felt weird to call them boyfriends, but he definitely wanted the exclusive aspect that came with that particular label.
"We can work on that later," Len assured him. "Mick and I are partners, never really went by any other kind of label."
Barry nodded. "Can I ask you a question?" He'd blurted it out before the question had even fully formed in his head and Len raised an eyebrow but made a 'go on' gesture with his hand. "I uh-" well now that the attention was on him, he wasn't quite sure how to phrase it. "I really don't want to screw this up or anything," he admitted, rubbing the back of his neck. "And I know it's not really a big deal with most people, but given our pasts and the fact that we're-" he drifted off a moment before shrugging, "broken... I just- well I wanted to know if there's anything I shouldn't do. Not like- I don't mean like limits or anything like that," his voice squeaked a bit at the word and the sudden intense look in both rogues' eyes, but continued. "Though I guess that needs discussed too... I just mean like, normal stuff. I know Lisa isn't big on touch. I don't- I mean I don't want to trigger panic attacks by doing things wrong or something like that."
The question actually surprised the older men. Neither one was really used to anyone caring about their triggers and it'd taken a while for both of them to own up to any of them in the first place. While it was a question Len had planned on asking Barry- he'd already started cataloging things in his head that seemed to trigger the speedster- he hadn't expected the question turned on himself yet, and before he could even ask it.
Their silence had the speedster fidgeting and rubbing his neck again. "You don't have to tell me! That wasn't- I mean, it's not really my business, I just don't want to-"
"Red," Mick grunted, shaking his head. "Stop thinkin' your messin' up all the time. We were just surprised is all. Not many people care about triggerin' us." The speedster made a little 'oh' with his mouth and Mick shifted on the bed, scratching a hand on his chin. "As for triggers? Not much you'd need to worry 'bout messin' up with me. Mostly brain stuff- like when your martian messed with Len. Talkin' usually helps me out when I get lost in my head." He paused to think for a moment, head tilting a bit and he frowned. "And no smokin' cigarettes."
He didn't elaborate, but Barry didn't smoke so he didn't think that'd be a problem, nor would it ever become one.
It was more Len who he was sure would have thing he'd need to be aware of. He'd read both he and Lisa's files, read Lewis' and even met the man. There was no doubt there was damage left over from him. And Len had literally died so there had to be something with that too.
Len spoke like he was reciting a text book, like it pained him to admit his flaws so he had to do it as unemotionally as possible, but Barry paid rapt attention to every word. "Don't touch me from behind," he began. "Come up from the front or side, sleeping is an exception. Don't ask questions about my scars because I won't answer them." He paused for a moment, fists clenching and unclenching before he continued, ticking each trigger off on his fingers as he did. "No drinking Keystone Beer, no hands on my throat, and no one drinks the last of the milk in the fridge. Throw it away when it gets to two fingers left." Barry wanted to ask about the last one, wanted to know why such a strange trigger unsettled his stomach and why Len was so animate about it. But he didn't. "And if I am having a... moment," he drawled, refusing to call it a panic attack, "you can touch my hands, but that's it."
Mick frowned, shaking his head. "Depends on the kind of attack he has though. If it's 'cause of his powers, you gotta cover his eyes, usually with a blindfold or somethin'. Can turn off the lights if needed. The hands though, still the only thing you can touch."
"Can I ask why?" Barry muttered.
Len shrugged. "Help's ground me."
The speedster nodded and something else prodded at the edge of his brain. "Your powers- someone mentioned them at the Labs after I woke up. I didn't know you had any. Are they because of the Oculus?"
The thief nodded, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning back against the wall in a pose that mirrored Mick's. "I didn't really die. Got stuck in the timestream, and apparently it causes lasting side effects when you finally manage to pry your way out of it. Now I have these nifty little powers that let me see all possibilities." Barry could tell he didn't want to go into any more detail than that, so he didn't ask for more information, but Len gave a bit more anyway, tapping his fingers against his arm. "I can see hundreds of things that could happen. You get up to walk towards the door?" He said in example, "you could trip and hit your head on the bed, or hit it on the dresser. You could bleed out before an ambulance gets here or heal because of your powers. You could catch yourself before you fall. You could do a somersault and strike a pose. There's hundreds of possibilities to it. And when I'm using my powers I can see them all, but it's all at once. I can't control it."
"Too much information in your head at once," Barry said surely. "It's like Low Latent Inhibition. Your brain is trying to process too much new information at once, trying to categorize it and it overloads your senses."
"Exactly," Len said, shoulders relaxing just a touch at the fact that the speedster seemed to understand. There was a short silence before Len cleared his throat and turned the questions back on Barry. "What about you? Figuring out what is left over from the speedforce will take time, and we'll deal with that when we come to it. What about before that? We're not the only ones with triggers, Scarlet."
"Oh," the boy flushed again and he shrugged. "I uh... really there's not much. Just one but- I mean it's not a big deal and it's kind of embarrassing and-" he paused and shrank back at the intense looks he received from Len and Mick. He knew if he really didn't want to tell them then they wouldn't make him, but still... they told him theirs, it's only fair he told them- "I'm afraid of thunderstorms..."
"Thunderstorms?" Len questioned with a raised eyebrow, no doubt trying to determine if it was a joke or not.
Barry nodded. "Yeah, ever since my mom-" the words choked off and he glanced away for a moment. "It's really just storms with lightning, which is kind of ironic I guess. Started when I was a kid, when my mom died and all I saw was the lightning in the house. Then when the particle accelerator went off and I got struck by that lightning... well it got worse after that, though Iris and Joe are the only ones who know that. I uh... honestly I'm not sure what it'll be like now since the speedforce storm last year was- well there was so much lightning and... I don't know, it's stupid I know but... I don't deal very well with it."
"Not stupid, Red," Mick grunted with a shake of the head. "Everyone's got their things."
He nodded but the nerves still rumbled in his chest. "Are- are you going to tell the rogues? About us I mean? Does this mean that there is an us?"
"Do you want us to?"
Barry bit his lip and shrugged. "I don't mind if they know. I don't think I want to tell them I'm the Flash... but- I mean you guys have a little family here and I don't want you having to keep secrets if you don't want to. Plus... I'm sure they already know," he said, giving an awkward little grin.
Len nodded, but didn't share the grin, and something in Barry's mind told him what was about to come out of the man's mouth before it did. "We need to talk career choices as well, kid. I don't technically have a record anymore and Mick has been medal'd so I doubt you'd get in trouble if your work ever found out, but our... extra curricular activities are going to have to be discussed."
Barry frowned and tilted his head a bit. "Oh, I figured that'd be the easiest part." At the surprised eyebrows he received, Barry shrugged. "I mean- I don't expect you to stop thieving as much as you don't expect me to stop heroing. I figure the Flash and the Rogues are different- separate- from Barry and Leonard and Mick. We keep work out of home or however the saying goes. Our deal will stand, I won't throw you in Iron Heights, but if you guys get caught, I'm not involved in breaking you out. Nobody gets hurt that isn't guilty. I'm sure there's moment where we'll clash, things might get messy, but I mean... that always happens with couples who work together right?"
Len couldn't seem to help the smirk on his lips and Mick was outright grinning now. "You seem to have thought a lot about this lately, Red."
"I- I mean not a lot. I just... I mean I- oh shut up," he pouted, rolling his eyes at the laugh he received. "I just figured it'd be easiest that way. I know there's good in both of you, I've seen it. But I also know you enjoy what you do and you're good at it. I don't have to like what you do, but as long as you're not including me in plans, as long as I don't know about them and I can claim plausible deniability if it gets out that we're all together, then I can ignore that part. Oh! And no stealing for me." Len frowned at that and Barry pointed an accusing finger directly at him. "I mean it, Len. You want to get me stuff, you buy it like a normal person. No stealing me some prized diamond for our three year aniversary or something like that. Got it?"
A dopey grin- or as dopey as a grin could be on a man like Leonard Snart- spread across his face and his eyes almost sparkled. "Three years, Scarlet? Already thinkin' about the future, hmm?"
That lovely, lovely, blush covered Barry's cheeks again and Len decided then and there that he loved the colour red on Barry more than anything else. "I- shut up! You guys are so mean."
"Well, we're criminals, love," Mick chuckled, leaning forward to capture Barry's lips in his own. "Stick around long enough and you can see us play dirty."
Chapter 18: Planning a Feast
Barry and Iris talk... Dinner plans are made.
Okay okay okay I know!
I am sooooo sorry that it took me so long to update this! I wasn't too happy with the last chapter and that sent me into a sort of downward spiral of writers block, then I got a new job and I've been soooo busy. And I've started editing on a book I'm writing. So please forgive me! I haven't abandoned anything, just might be a slow go from here one out. Forgive me and be patient please!
Thank you everyone!
Also, due to the writers block, this chapter is a bit short and fluffy, but I wanted to get you guys SOMETHING until I can get myself back into the groove of the plot.
Thanks for being so patient with me!
Iris' scream bounced off the walls of the empty West like a banshee, sending Barry into action immediately. It was a struggle trying to decide if he should cover his ears or her mouth, but in the end he found himself in front of his sister with his hand pressed hard against her lips and his eyes narrowed in warning. Her big brown eyes stared back with excitement and he could practically feel her vibrating under him.
"If I let go, will you promise not to scream again?"
She nodded quickly and Barry slowly eased away from her. "Oh my god," Iris gasped out instead, bouncing on her feet and fluttering her hands around her. "You got laid!"
"I-I did not!" Barry sputtered, his face going as red as his suit and his jaw dropping quickly. "W-what?"
"Well maybe you didn't, but you slept over there again, you're wearing Mick's shirt and you're actually well rested!" Iris deduced, tugging at the sleeve of Mick's over sized sweater with utter glee in her eyes. "Bartholomew Henry Allen, you dog! You didn't tell me you liked Mick! I thought you liked Cold!" Barry's blush deepened even further and he brought his hand up to rub at the back of his neck. That must have told Iris all she needed to know because a second later she was smacking his chest too fast for him to dodge it. (Well he could. But that's besides the point.) "Barry! You little tease! You could have told me, you- I- Barry!"
He sputtered again and held up his hands in defense, but he couldn't hold back the smile on his lips. This was nice, normal. It warmed some dark corner of his broken heart to be back home having a normal, sibling fight with Iris. It reminded him that he was in fact home. That this was real.
"Hey, it's not my fault! It kind of just... happened. We kissed a few days ago and-"
"A FEW DAYS AGO?!" Iris interrupted, going to smack him again only for the speedster to disappear in a flicker of lightning and reappear on the other side of the living room. "Barry you get back here right now so I can hit you! You waited days to tell me? How could you?!"
He gave the woman an apologetic shrug. "We hadn't really figured out what all this was yet. I wanted to be sure before telling you and-" his smile turned a bit dopey and Iris' faux anger melted immediately. "Well I'm sure now, I mean, we're sure. But you can't tell anyone else yet. I'm not ready for Joe or Oliver to know. The Rogues all know- not that they know about me- but I don't want the others finding out just yet, not with everything else going on."
"Dad would think they're taking advantage," Iris said, voicing the concerns she knew were fluttering about in Barry's head. He nodded and Iris took a moment to step around the couch and back into her brother's space, taking his hands in her own. "Hey, we'll figure dad out together, don't worry about him. And I want you to know that I support whatever decisions you make because I know you're smart enough to go through all the options, all the pros and cons, on your own. But," Barry's shoulders tensed a bit and she squeezed his fingers in reassurance. "Just promise me that you know what you're doing alright? Promise me that they won't hurt you, that you're doing this because you like them and they like you. They are criminals, Barry."
"They are," Barry agreed with a nod. "And we've talked about that already. I don't support what they do, but I'm not going to stop them. But we're keeping the Flash and Rogues out of our personal relationship, it's separate. And..." The speedster paused for a moment, looking down into Iris' eyes with a small smile. "And I'm sure, Iris. I know they won't hurt me, I know they aren't taking advantage of me. They're criminals, but they aren't bad guys. They're kind and supportive, they just... I don't know. I don't want to say they get me because it's too cheesy, but it's true. And the rogues? They're actually really great when you get past their personas." His eyes lit up a bit at that and he chuckled, letting go of one of her hands to rub at his neck. "I mean, they've got this neat little family set up going on. Like Len and Mick are the parents that adopted all these lost kids and gave them somewhere they belong."
Iris smiled sweetly and nodded. "Yeah, I can kind of see that. I mean, Hartley is still an asshole, but Cisco seems to be softening him up. I overhear them talking a lot about the Rogues. They all live together right?"
Not wanting to give her too much information on the hideout, Barry nodded and continued about the people instead. "Yeah, for the most part. They're actually really great. Axel is really funny and great to play video games with. Bivolo- Roy- let me borrow his sketch book when I needed to jot down some of the alien stuff. And Mick, he's a great cook! Wow, you'll have to come over for dinner sometime because he can cook a mean pasta-"
Barry stuttered to a stop and frowned at her. Excitement was lit up on her face again and he tried going back over his rant to figure out what she meant. "Huh?"
"Dinner, you just invited me to dinner with the rogues," Iris clarified.
The speedster's eyes widened like saucers and his mouth formed a small 'O' as he realized what he'd done. And he knew he couldn't take it back because Iris was not one to allow something like that. "I-I didn't. I mean you- I... you want to have dinner with the Rogues?"
"No," his sister said slowly with a roll of the eyes. "I want to have dinner with your boyfriends and their family. Besides, it'll be a nice way to ease them into meeting the family. I mean technically they already know me, but it'd be easier than dinner with dad. And we can bring Wally! You know he'd be fine with it, but that's up to you," she said quickly upon seeing his frightened expression. "Maybe second dinner we can bring Wally. But I'd love to have dinner, I'm free this Friday."
The discussion was clearly not up for debate, and Barry really wasn't even sure if he wanted it to be. Honestly he'd love for Iris and Len and Mick to get along. It was clear that she already liked them enough since she'd stood up for them with Oliver and her dad, but getting to know them outside of work was different and he desperately wanted her approval, even if he wouldn't say it. Having Iris at his back when he went to tell everyone else would make it that much easier too. So he smiled softly and nodded, pulling her into a hug. "Okay, I'll talk to everyone. Thanks Iris..."
"Of course, Barry."
"She wants to what?" Mick asked again after Barry pulled them aside at Star Labs. There was still no word from the aliens in the sky, and Kara and J'onn were on their way up to get a personal look at the ship- though staying a good distance away as to not be detected per orders. So they had time to kill and it was already Tuesday... Barry knew Mick would want a few days to get things ready for dinner and Len would need time to make up some sort of contingency plan.
"Uh... dinner, Iris wants to have dinner with you guys... and the rogues... if that's alright I mean," he stuttered, rubbing a hand on the back of his neck. "I mean, I know we only just started dating and it's a little early for the whole meeting the family thing, though you already technically know the family- I mean... well I said it as a joke because I was talking about Mick's cooking and Iris doesn't back down once she's decided something so now she's determined and-"
"Scarlet, breathe," Len ordered, interrupting the speedster for long enough that he drew in a deep breath. "She wants to have dinner with all the rogues?"
Barry nodded, knowing Len was asking about everyone, not just him, Mick and his sister. "Yeah, she uh... well I was telling her how they're all different when we're at the safe house and she said she wants to meet them, not their persona's, just... them you know? And she knows how to keep it cool, she hasn't told Joe yet or anything either."
The rogues looked at the speedster with curious eyes. He was too easy to read and both Len and Mick could tell how much this dinner would mean to him. Not to mention they both liked the reporter well enough. She had a strong head on her shoulders and would be able to hold her own against all the rogues no doubt. The main problem would be Mardon with his grudge against the Wests...
"I'll send Mardon off on a job," Len said, reading Mick's mind about the younger rogue. "He won't care either way and it's safer if we don't have him and a West in the same household. His temper is... touchy."
"Y-You mean you'll do it?" Barry asked, eyes widening and shoulders slumping a bit in shock.
The thief rolled his eyes and smirked. "Of course, Scarlet. My rogues will behave themselves. Besides, the more of your friends we have on our side when it comes time to tell your little detective and Robin Hood, the better." Barry flinched at the thought of telling Ollie, but Len just tapped his chin, making the speedster look up just in time for a quick kiss. "We'll come to it when we come to it, Barry. Stop your worrying."
Chapter 19: What if I'm no Hero?
Len and Mick try to defuse a bomb... so to speak.
So this chapter is still a bit shorter than most of my chapters in this story, but I'm trying to ease back into the plot and after the fluff of last chapter, why not start with a bang, yeah? So enjoy!
Len and Mick got the call when they were on a supply run turned heist. Because honestly, having a jewelry store right next to a grocery store was just begging Len to do something. He was halfway through the security when Mick's phone rang and the pyro answered.
Len could barely make out Rathaway's voice on the other end, too focused on the wires he was readjusting, but he managed to pick up something about Shawna and hacking the cameras. When he turned to ask Mick what was going on however, all he was met with was a puff of smoke and Mick's phone laying on the ground.
"Piper," Len snapped as he pressed the cell to his ear. "What the hell is going on?"
"I'm sending Shawna to get you both," was all Hartley replied. "Don't move, I've got you in a camera across the street."
Before Len could even contemplate that a camera could see him, Shawna was in front of him and wrapping her arms around him.
The screams were the first thing he noticed when they reappeared. They were excruciating and filled with so much pain that Len felt his stomach clenching with it. The second thing he noticed was the mess. The living room in the rogue house was destroyed. Chairs were over turned, the couch was thrown against a wall, the tv shattered on the floor. Books that were once neatly stacked on shelves were strewn about the room. His rogues- Lisa, Shawna, Hartley, Mick and Axel- were circled around the living room, most of them pressed against the wall as if unsure how to react, but Mick had his hands up in a placating gesture, making his way towards the lone figure in the center.
The kid was a mess, brown hair crazed from the fingers currently tearing at it, eyes bloodshot and rimmed red from crying. They were wide and crazed, looking around but not seeing, and his breathing was borderline hyperventilating. Len didn't have to listen to know he wasn't all there. Mick was muttering quietly to him, but he was out of his comfort zone when taking care of crazed kids, he could barely manage with Len and that was only because they'd known each other for so long. Len was quick to take his side, hand on his shoulder as they watched Barry pace back and forth, tugging at his hair. "What's going on?"
"It just started out of no where," Lisa answered, worry etched in her voice. "He just started screaming and anytime someone got close to him he threw something."
"Red? Red, can you hear me?" Mick questioned as he and Len took a slow step forward. Barry froze, head ticking to the side like he was listening but a low whine came from his throat instead of an answer. "Barry, you've gotta talk to us, kid. We can't help if we don't know what's happening."
Barry's breathing picked up and he doubled over, clenching at his head. Both rogues shot forward to help, but the speedster only backed away. "T-they're dying! I can feel it, see it, hear it. I didn't do it, your honor. I didn't kill anybody." The pain on Barry's face morphed into a small smile and he stood, taking a step towards Mick and Len. The emotions would have given Len whiplash if he weren't already used to the madness from before, but seeing it still wrenched at his heart a little. The speedster smiled at Mick like he was apologizing, raising a hand to brush his fingers against the pyro's jaw. "Dad and I are both okay. We're both happy."
Mick took the opportunity to raise a hand and rest it on the back of Barry's neck while Len carded his fingers through Barry's hair. "Kid, focus on us, okay? You have to focus."
Barry's fingers trailed down Mick's throat, tracing the burns there. "They're really great, Iris. They won't hurt me, they aren't taking advantage of me." Len's heart clenched even more as he realized Barry was talking about them, but there was something else behind the speedster's eyes that had him tensing, something not right. Barry's fingers twitched around Mick's throat, hand moving to just the right position where-
But the speedster wasn't listening, or couldn't stop himself. He had his fingers digging into the sides of Mick's throat before either rogue could stop him. The pyro grunted, hands raising up to pull the speedster off, but Barry only shifted, turning with a flicker of lightning before shoving Mick into a wall. It shocked Len, freezing him in his spot because Mick's feet weren't even touching the ground. Mick was no where near lightweight, he was heavy and the fact that Barry could lift him was quite frankly terrifying. "I finally get it now," the kid laughed, shaking his head with a crazed look in his eyes. "You're a little bit jealous of me, aren't you? For a guy like you- handsome, rich, can have any girl he wants- jealous's probably a new emotion for you." Mick's eyebrows were pulled down in confusion and the rogues were frozen in place, not knowing what to do. "You might be a little slow to get what it is that you're feeling."
"Barry," Len tried again, finally kicking himself in the ass enough to step towards the speedster. "You have to let him go. Focus on me, focus on my voice, can you do that?"
The speedster's head ticked to the side, fingers twitching a bit. "The Arrow gets results," he mumbled.
"Focus Barry. The beings you're trying to protect, they're giving you these visions remember? You have to focus, figure out what they're trying to tell you." Len wasn't sure if that was exactly what was happening, it was just an idea they'd been throwing around since Barry's little head trip, but he was desperate and Mick's face was turning too red for his comfort. "What are they telling you?"
The distraction of Len's questions had the speedster lowering Mick back to his feet, his fingers loosening just enough that Mick gulped in as much air as he could. "I'm not Ronnie," Barry argued, shaking his head. "You gotta stop treating me like I am." He turned though, so he was facing both of them and the second his eyes met Len's his hand went limp, though not leaving Mick's throat just yet. "W-we call him Captain Cold."
"That's right," Len said, latching onto that and stepping forward an inch. Barry flinched at the movement, but didn't move away. "That's me, Barry. Focus on me, come back to me. Don't get lost again."
He shook his head, his breathing once again hitching and speeding up. "Expect the plan to go off the rails," he gasped, snatching his hand away from Mick like his skin was burning. His eyes found the red finger marks he'd left on the other man's skin, widening and filling with a fear Len hadn't seen on the speedster in a long time. "Why are you working with Lewis?" Barry whispered, taking shaky steps away from both men, eyes never leaving what would be bruises soon around Mick's throat. Len could see the hatred behind the speedster's eyes, the self-loathing threatening to build up past the madness because he'd hurt them. "Lisa was safe, why did you do that? Why did you do that?" Hands tore through brown hair again and Barry was practically vibrating as he backed away. "Why did you do that? Why did you- No... no no, Nora should be here. You told me the city was safe- you said-"
"Kid, it's alright," Mick croaked, rubbing at his skin and covering the marks from him. "You didn't hurt me, it's okay."
He vibrated again and Len's hand found the cold gun on his leg. The fact that he might have to use it ate away inside him, but there were too many people around them right now to let Barry go nuclear. "If you don't help me, she's going to die," Barry groaned, clutching at his head. "Lisa was safe! The stars are screaming, can you hear them? Melting and crying and begging and-" he flinched, dropping to his knees in a heap and Len and Mick rushed towards him again. This time the younger man didn't bother pulling away. "They're dying. I'm too slow, I can't help, I can't-"
"Barry, who's dying?"
"they are!" he growled, fingers reaching out to grip at Len's leather jacket. He could hear seams ripping and the leather creaking as Barry pulled himself closer to the man. "Too many, too fast- I can't stop it. I'm too slow and they're angry. So angry. It's my fault, it's all my fault and they're dying because of me."
"Len," Lisa warned softly, fear etched into her beautiful face and she raised a hand to touch the top of her lip. When the rogue turned back to Barry, sure enough, there was blood dripping from his nose and down those beautiful lips.
It almost hurt to touch the hero with how hard he was vibrating, but the thief reached out and put both hands on the sides of Barry's face, stilling him just enough that he could see those lovely hazel eyes. "Barry, listen to me. We're going to figure this out, okay? Remember, you've got a whole team working to figure this out. We're going to save them, we're going to be the big goddamn heroes you want us to be, okay? But you have to get back to us. You have to focus."
"What if I'm no hero?" Barry asked in a broken whisper, his eyes clearing a bit, but Len could still tell the words weren't spoken with clarity. "What if I'm just a guy who was hit by lightning?"
Before either of them could answer, Barry disappeared in a flicker of lightning, leaving the rogues in a destroyed room and the air smelling like ozone.
"Barry!" Len called out, letting out a string of curses as he and Mick followed, Hartley and Shawna close behind them. Lisa had the good sense to stay where she was, but she pulled out her phone to text Cisco.
And Axel? He did the only thing he could do.
He laughed- though the situation was in no way funny. He couldn't get over the fact that-
"Cold is dating the Flash! Man I should have seen that coming."
Chapter 20: Good For Him
Mick and Len find Barry and talk to him. Len and Iris have a heart to heart.
So most of this chapter was written on my phone, so if there are any mistakes that I might have missed while editing, sorry about that! Again, thanks everyone for all the encouraging comments! I love you all!
"Len! Mick! What the he'll is going on?"
The rogues stormed out of the elevator and straight into star labs as Iris set toward them, worry in her face, but her eyes angry.
"Where is he?" Len asked instead of answering
Iris stopped in front of the rogues, crossing her arms over her chest and stopping them from going further. "Hes locked himself in the pipeline and overrode the system so we can't get him out. Oliver is pissed, Felicity is trying to hack the system but there's not much she can do from so far away, Cisco is trying... We're all worried. What happened?"
Barry locked himself in the pipeline... Len shared a knowing look with Mick, who's neck had started turning a deep blue and purple colour. No doubt the kid did it because of his guilt. The idea of anyone in those damn cells made Len angry, but having Barry in them? "He was having an episode," Len started, shoving his hands in his pockets. "Throwing things, babbling. Rath away called us in and we tried to pull him back. He attacked Mick and now he's being an idiot and blaming himself for it."
Iris stepped up to them with more confidence than she used to around the rogues and pushed Micks chin up to get a good look at the bruises. The Pyro tensed but allowed the action. "He must have been really out of it," She whispered sadly when she backed up. "He'd never hurt you guys on purpose. I can go get Caitlin to-"
"Don't bother," Mick interrupted, shaking his head. His voice was still a bit rough, but honestly Len was probably the only one to really notice since he knew it so well. "It'll heal. I need to talk to the kid."
Iris nodded and hurriedly led both men down the winding halls of the labs and towards the pipeline where Barry had holed himself up.
"Yell if you need me," Len told Mick as they came up to the door. He knew his partner would want to speak to the speedster alone, knew this wasn't something he could help with as well. So he took up position just outside and gave the Pyro the smallest of encouraging smiles. "Just bring him back."
Mick nodded, determination in his hard eyes and without further encouragement, stalked into the small entryway of the pipeline.
Barry's cell was front and center, no doubt to keep him in view for the team and so they could try to get him out. The lights overhead were bright, flickering softly as lightning sparked off the kids skin like a damn key on a kite. Barry himself had curled up beside the cot inside the cell, backed into a corner as small as he could make himself. He had his hands wrapped around his legs and his face buried in his knees and his ragged breaths were like knives to Micks old and scarred heart. The speedster flinched as he took a step forward and sat on the opposite side of the glass, leaning his back up against it and facing away from Barry. Normally he didn't like turning his back on metas, but Barry was different. Barry he trusted.
"You can't beat yourself up for this kid," he said knowingly. "It'll just eat you up till there's nothing left."
Barry didn't reply at first, the only sound being the keypad to the right of the cell as it beeped, no doubt kicking out the nerds as they tried to hack it. When he did reply, his voice was soft and childlike, so quiet that the Pyro had to strain his ears to hear it. "I hurt you... I promised I wouldn't and- and I did..."
"Not your fault red," Mick told him easily, shrugging his massive shoulders and leaning his head against the glass. "Can't be blamed for shit you couldn't control. I did a lotta stupid shit when I was chronos, killed a lot of people, even threatened Lisa," he said honestly. He turned his head slightly so he could see the speedster out of the corner of his eye. Barry's eyes were wide and staring, just barely peeking over his arms. "Len lost a hand because of me... he doesn't hold it against me. So this?" Mick gestured to his throat with one hand, noting the way Barry flinched. "This ain't nothin, Red. You weren't in control."
He could hear the lightning zing off the walls of the cell, hear the kid's breathing and Len's on the other side of the open door.
"W-what if I do it again?"
Mick shrugged. "Then we deal with it. We've betrayed you plenty of times Scarlet, you've always forgiven us. There's been plenty of times we'v hurt you just for the fun of doing it so if anything we should be the ones begging forgiveness. Your head still ain't fixed," he said surely, turning back to look at the door where he could just barely see the edge of Len standing. "You've got yourself all messed up inside and you're still trying to glue yourself back together. More cracks are gonna appear, just how it goes. But we'll still be here to help. You gotta let us though. You can't lock yourself in this cell for the rest of your life. Besides, we've got a dinner date tomorrow with Iris, yeah?"
There was another long silence and Mick jolted when the wall behind him shifted and opened. He had just stood when he got an arm full of speedster and his arms automatically wrapped around the kid. He could see Len watching from the doorway, a small but proud smile on his lips as he watched the two. Barry's face was dug in Micks shoulder and he could feel the tears soaking into his shirt and he raised a hand to card through the brown hair. "Now stop that kid. There's nothin to cry about. I'm okay, Lens okay, you're okay."
Barry sniffled, jumping a bit when Len wandered into the room and settled a hand across the back of his neck. "We all got baggage kid, we've all done shitty stuff. It's not always your fault, got it?"
The younger man nodded but didn't pull away until Mick forced him back, lifting Barry's chin with one hand. Beautiful hazel eyes settled on his and he used his other hand to bring Barry's up to his throat. The heroes eyes widened slightly when he realized what he was doing, and he tried to tug away, but Mick held on until Barry's palm was resting against the bruised skin. Len wrapped his arms around the speedster from behind, knowing the others might be watching but not finding it in him to care just now. Barry twitched when Mick's pulse beat against his fingers. "I'm okay, red. I forgive you if that's what you need to hear."
"Don't push us away because of one slip up," Len all but pleaded in Barry's ear, hugging him tighter from behind. "You're scared, let us help, but don't push us away."
Barry sniffled, hiccuping slightly, but he nodded and let his fingers trace the bruises he'd left. "I-i am sorry..."
"Any idea what triggered it?" Mick asked quietly, but Barry shook his head.
"I dont... I don't think it was me that was triggered. I-" he frowned, not daring to look away from where his and Micks hands were joined. "I think it was the speedforce. I just felt so... so angry and I couldn't control it. I think-" his fingers shook a bit and Mick tightened his grip on them. "I think they're mad at me because we haven't saved them yet and more are still dying. I think they want us to move faster. I don't know... they were just so angry at me."
"You're doing your best, scarlet. We've made progress with what little information we have," Len argued, his own anger building up inside him. How dare these beings get mad at Barry for not saving them fast enough. He was already going through he'll to get to them at all. He was doing his best. How dare they- "Don't push yourself, kid. We follow the plan ."
"And if the plan goes off the rails?" Barry questioned in a barely-there whisper.
The thief smirked, lowering his head slightly to press a kiss to the back of Barry's neck. "Then we throw away the plan."
When the trio finally made it out of the pipeline and back into the cortex, Caitlin immediately seized Barry and dragged him into the medical room. The fact that his nose had started bleeding apparently had really worried her and she wanted to not only run tests, but also clean him up a bit. Lucky for them, Iris and Caitlin were the only ones who'd actually seen the camera footage of Mick and Len being all touchy with Barry, and they both knew to keep quiet about the information until the group was ready to be out with it. They did however invite Caitlin to dinner the next day with Iris if she was so inclined.
"Thank you," Iris said quietly as she leaned against one of the tables beside Len. Mick had opted to stick with Barry in the med room, but Len figured the boy's sister would want to talk, he just had to wait for it. "For helping him so much," she said at his raised eyebrow. "I know it's for alternative reasons now that you guys are... together, but still. Thank you."
Len hummed in reply, tilting his head slightly as he watched Mick wipe blood off Barry's upper lip. "And you approve?"
"Honestly?" she asked, earning a nod from the thief. "I don't know what to think yet. One the one hand, you guys are thieves, criminals. You've killed before and I've no doubt you'd kill again if you really had to. I know you have your deal with Barry, but if it really came down to it- if Lisa or Barry were in trouble- I know you'd kill to get to them. So I'm not sure I completely approve just yet, but it's clear that you guys care for him. You're... you're good for him and I think he's good for you." The reporter shrugged a shoulder and gave an absent smile towards her brother. "I don't expect either of you to give up your criminal life styles, and Barry's already told me he's not going to ask you to, but I also know that you aren't really that bad of a guy- neither is Rory. So... I approve on a case by case basis," she joked, sending the thief a smirk and he returned it. "I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt. But-"
"Is this the part where you tell me if we hurt him you'll hide our bodies where we'll never be found?"
Iris giggled and shrugged. "If that's what you want, sure. I was thinking of finding some sort of alternate dimension where there is no crime or money doesn't exist or something so you have to live miserable, boring lives, but if you want me to kill you for hurting him," she grinned up at Len, "I could do that too."
"You are an evil woman, Miss West."
"so I've been told."
Chapter 21: A Rogue Interview
The Rogues have Iris and Caitlin over for dinner.
hey everyone! Thanks for being so patient with me lately. I know for a while I was uploading this story like crazy and it's slowed down a lot recently, but it's still going don't worry! I'm just working full time, writing a novel, and working on a bunch of other stories on here too. So thanks for being patient!
"Are you sure we're dressed okay, Barry? This isn't like... I feel like we should have dressed up a bit more," Caitlin frowned, tugging a bit at the sundress she wore and adjusting her black leather jacket that iris had forced her into.
They had decided that it'd be best to dress nicely, as if you were indeed meeting the family for the first time, but not overly nice as they wanted to be prepared for something bad to happen- not at the dinner, but more like being called out on Flash business if needed.
Caitlin was dressed in a tasteful and fluttery pink sundress, black leather jacket hanging over her shoulders like it belonged there. Her feet were covered in flats that wrapped up her calves like ballet slippers and she had a little purse hanging over one shoulder, though Barry knew her cash and card were actually in her bra so the resident thieves wouldn't get too handsy.
Iris had decided upon a pair of tight black pants and a ruffled purple top that showed just the right amount of cleavage. She too wore flats that could be easy running in and had decided to leave her personal items with Barry for safe keeping.
Barry was the one who they'd spent the most time on- mostly because he didn't actually own anything nice enough for what both women wanted, so they'd spent most of the day out shopping, much to Barry's dismay. They'd dressed him in a pair of tight black jeans as well, ones that Iris assures makes his ass look absolutely perfect, and he was wearing his signature converse as anything else with the outfit looked too fancy or not enough. It was the shirt though that had Iris squeeling when she'd first seen him in it. It was the same shade red as his Flash suit and hugged his body in just the right places. It wasn't too tight to be constricting, but not too loose to not fit. Iris had said she was determined to get Barry more than just a few kisses tonight.
They'd tried to do something with his hair, but Barry was so nervous that he'd already messed it up in the five minute drive it'd taken to get to the safe house.
"It's fine, Cait," Barry assured her, waving a hand. "We aren't going out anywhere, Mick is cooking. You look beautiful."
"Okay, if you're sure," she replied.
Once they'd reached the side door of the warehouse, well in the shadows so no one might see them, Barry cleared his throat of nerves and raised a hand to knock. It was a good six seconds before they heard anything- the sounds of arguments if they were hearing right- and a moment later, a slightly flustered Trickster opened the door, beaming from ear to ear with a snarling Hartley behind him.
Both were dressed rather nicely surprisingly, though Axel's button up was about ten different colours and covered in flowers. It fit him though. "Honored guests!" He cried out, bowing dramatically before jumping forward to take Iris' hand in his own. "Welcome to Casa de Rogue." He placed a kiss on Iris' knuckles as she giggled and moved to do the same for Caitlin. The doctor flinched a bit, but allowed it, her own sweet smile spreading across her face at the teen. "Please do come in, dinner is almost ready and everyone is here."
Caitlin let the annoyed Hartley take her jacket, as Axel led the other three through the halls and into the living room Barry had spent so much time in.
His stomach churned a bit as he noticed the new couch, knowing he'd ruined the last one, but other than that the room was pristine, like he hadn't completely demolished it the day before. Lisa was relaxing on the couch, feet propped up on a new coffee table and Shawna sat next to her, both with glasses of wine in their fingers. Roy was in the corner, doodling in his new sketchbook as usual and Mardon had decided to skip the dinner since Len threatened him with death if he ruined Iris' visit. Neither of Barry's partners however were in the room and he blinked in surprise. "I uh... are Len and Mick in the kitchen?"
The speedster jumped a bit as a hand settled on his back and a kiss was pressed to the side of his head. "Len is right here. Mick is just finishing up. You look lovely, scarlet." Barry blushed as he turned to the thief. Len was dressed in a tight black turtle neck and tight black jeans, a usual outfit for him but it looked so much... yummier now that Barry knew he could have the rogue. The rogue winked at him before nodding respectfully to Iris and Caitlin. "Doc, Miss West, glad to see you both could make it. Barry here informed me no one is allergic to anything, yes?" Both women shook their heads, Caitlin with a small polite smile and Iris practically beaming. "Good, Mick has made an arrangement of seafood and pasta. There is wine on the table if you feel so inclined. If you'll excuse us," he said politely before leading Barry away from the woman.
He was a bit reluctant to leave the girls, but judging by Lisa and Shawnas voices kicking up, he figured they'd be just fine.
"They already know you, len," Barry giggled, taking the man's hand in his now that they were out of sight. "You don't have to be so formal."
"I'm not," he argued with a smirk. "I'm being polite. There is a difference, Barry. Mick, you owe me $20," he said as they walked into the kitchen.
Barry couldn't stop the grin that spread across his face at the sight. Mick cleaned up real well with a tight black button up, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, and a pair of nice pants. His suspenders were still pulled over his shoulders, the red almost matching Barry's shirt. He had a "kiss the cook" apron on and a smudge of pasta sauce on his chin that Barry found himself wanting to lick off. The Pyro turned to them and raised an eyebrow at the speedster. "Do I?"
"Yes, you do. Barry here is exactly two minutes early."
The younger man's face flared to like and he sputtered at the thief. "You bet on whether or not I'd be late?"
A chuckle pulled out of Len's throat and Mick reluctantly handed over the bill owed. "You're always late," the Pyro explained with an unsatisfied frown. "Had to change that this time? When I had money on the line?"
"Well I would have been if it weren't for Iris and Caitlin. We were ready to go an hour early because they knew I'd make us late if it were left up to me."
The two men smirked and Mick left his pasta sauce for long enough to pull Barry into a searing kiss. He tasted like spices and the speedster couldn't help the little moan that escaped him, or the blush that covered his cheeks when Mick chuckled. "You'll just have to make it up to me later, red."
Barry let out a small breath. "Yeah, okay, I can do that," he said with a dazed grin that had both men snorting in amusememt.
By the time dinner was ready and sat up in what appeared to be a dinning room, or turned into one at least, Lisa and the girls had become fast friends and they chattered on happily as they all took their seats. Len had taken the head of the table-naturally- with Mick and Barry to one side and Lisa on the orther. Iris had no qualms taking a seat by Lisa and Shawna and Caitlin sat by Barry and Hartley. Roy and Axel at the other end. It was all rather domestic and Barry caught Iris grinning at him more than once.
He could see how interested Iris was in the other side of the rogues as she watched them interact. Len and Mick were a lot more open than normal, though not as much as they were when they were alone with Barry. Hartley and Caitlin almost immediately jumped into fond memories or common scientific interests they'd both been keeping up with, while Axel tried to feign innocence after shooting a piece of shrimp at Roy's head. All in all, it was rather similar to their own family dinners, despite this family being entirely compromised of criminals.
"Okay," Iris chimed loudly once dinner was about halfway through, all heads turned to her and Barry felt a bit unsettled by the familiar look in her eyes. "So, being the sister, I have every right to grill you all on yourselves. No personal details, don't worry, just... think of it as twenty questions."
"Iris-" Barry warned, knowing where she was going with this.
"Hush now," she batted him away, grinning a bit wolfish at Len and Mick. "I'm sure the boys don't mind. We can do tit for tat if you like. And everyone can answer. If Barry is sticking with you all, I want to know who he's getting... familiar with," she practically purred. Barry groaned and dropped his head in his hands, only looking up to glare at his laughing boyfriends. Len shrugged and seemed to be allowing the 'game'. "Great! Okay, easy one- what's the most expensive thing you've ever stolen?"
Caitlin snorted a bit into her drink, coughing as it went down the wrong pipe.
"Easy," Hartley answered first. "A Dega, one of his smaller but just as expensive ones of course."
Lisa giggled in response and rolled her eyes. "Please, childs play darling. And it doesn't count when you steal from your own rich parents. I stole a Van Gough from Paris once."
"The Louvre?" Hartley grilled, earning him a sad pout from Lisa which was all the answer he needed. "Exactly. Van Gogh is barely more expensive and it depends on the piece, the frame, the time."
The girl sat up haughtily and glared at Hartley. "Lenny has stolen from the Louvre before, haven't you Lenny?"
The thief merely smirked, a bit smug if Barry had to say so himself, and took a sip of his wine. Shawna easily mentioned that she hadn't really stolen anything worth much, Roy mentioned attempting to steal Van Gogh's painting set once but was unsuccessful. Axel had very proudly, with a puff of his chest and a grin, told everyone he managed to steal one of those giant, $500 teddy bears once, and it now serves as his bed. Caitlin and Iris were a bit surprised at that, because it had to be huge and how did he even get out with it? But Barry nodded a bit with a smile because he'd seen it.
"And you two?" his sister grilled, turning back to the head of the table.
Mick frowned, ticking his head to the side as he tried to think about it. "Probably my time ship. Technically the Time Masters gave it to me, but I nicked it after I left."
Well Barry hadn't known that.
Len still had a smirk on his face when he answered, but Barry could hear the change in his tone from playful to a bit serious when he answered. "The Maximillion Emerald." He waited a pause before turning a raised eyebrow to Iris. "And you Miss West?"
"I once stole a pair of Coco Chanel sunglasses from a street vendor in Gotham."
Barry straightened up at that and glared at Iris from across the table. "You did what? Why didn't you ever tell me that?"
The girl giggled and shrugged. "They ended up being fake, and you didn't tell me about stealing the entire Game of Thrones series from the library," she replied.
"I did not! I just didn't return them and forgot to pay the fee!"
"Thus, is stealing, my good brother," Iris teased before turning back to the rogues. "Okay, okay, next question. Umm, what was your favorite thing to steal?"
"My gun," Mick and Len said together, smirking at each other. The others gave random little answers, Axel's once again being his teddy bear. Though as sappy as it sounded, Iris saw Len's eyes slide over to Barry at the question and couldn't help but smile at that.
"Okay, and how did you two meet?"
"My, my, Miss West," Len drawled, chuckling at her wide innocent eyes. "Dare I ask- are you interviewing us?" She blinked at him but didn't answer, only grinned wider and Len rolled his eyes towards his partner. "Look at that Mick, we're going to be in the paper." Barry scoffed at his dramatics and leaned back in his chair. He'd known from the beginning what she was doing, seen that reporter look in her eyes when she suggested the game in the first place. He knew it all too well. "You want a real interview, you'll get one," Len promised, earning him an actual surprised looked from Iris, but he continued before she could thank him. "As for your question though, we met in juvie. Mick took a shiv to the arm to stop it from going into my gut."
Iris and Caitlin sighed out soft awe's- which, who said awe for a story of someone getting stabbed?
How is this my life? Barry questioned the ceiling.
The random questions went on and on all the way through desert, but it wasn't just about Len and Mick. Barry actually learned just as much as Iris and Caitlin did. Like how Roy had been accepted into Cooper Union, one of the most famous and well known art schools in New York. Or how Hartley did actually know how to play a real flute, as well as the grand piano, the violin, the cello and something called an erhu. He learned that Shawna wanted to be a pediatrics doctor but had a lot of schooling left to get there- and that Len and Mick were actually paying for her school. He learned that Lisa had almost gone into Olympics for ice skating if it weren't for a broken arm at the wrong time, and that Axel was actually a pretty good singer if he wanted to be.
"Barry can sing too!" Caitlin piped in quickly, drawing all eyes towards the Scarlet Speedster and his bright red face.
"Caitlin!" he bawked.
She just grinned back and nodded. "He took me out once to drink away my pain and be my DD- because he can't get drunk-" a series of boo's sounded around the table and Barry blushed even deeper. "And I made him go up to sing karaoke with me and he was a total show off. It was absolutely not fair."
Len raised an eyebrow at the young hero. He didn't know the speedster could sing. Barry just shrugged and sunk a bit into his chair. "I was uh... in glee club in high school."
"Barry's got the voice of an angel," Iris confirmed. "Just listen to him in the shower one day, he can't stop himself."
"Iris... Aren't you supposed to be shovel talking? Not embarrassing?"
"Oh brother-mine, you underestimate my ability to multitask."
Barry has a nightmare and Len has an episode.
OH MY GOSH I'M BACK!
Thank you everyone for all the kind comments! I'm SO SORRY that this chapter has taken so long to put out. I was really struggling with it and I'm still not super happy with it but I've rewritten it about nine times already so I'm just going to go with it. Anyway, lots of panic attacks and such in this chapter. So you know, be warned and stuff. We're starting to get back into the plot so yay!
The ship was cold, chilling to the bone. Barry could hear his teeth chattering and he'd long ago lost the sensations in his fingers and toes. How long had it been since they'd found him? Since they'd strapped him into that cold metal capsule? He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen one of their ugly faces, or the last time he'd gotten any sort of substance... Food, it was called food. God even his brain was running slowly. It was just too cold.
They must have known somehow... known that his powers don't work in the cold and that's why they were freezing him. How long would it be before he'd stop shivering? How long before his fingers were black with frostbite and all he could do was close his eyes like the rest of them? He supposed dying by cold couldn't be the worst way to go. He'd heard it was peaceful to freeze to death and it wasn't painful at all. He couldn't stand any more of their poking and prodding. He was tired of watching them kill off his brothers and sisters, his family, when there was nothing for him to do but writhe there and share their pain. No matter how hard he screamed though, no matter how hard he fought...
He was just too cold.
At least they were kind enough to give him a view of something. When the ship came around in just the right direction he could see the Earth below him. It was beautiful, that massive ball of life floating in the blackness of space. So many people had lived and died there, remembered and forgotten.... He remembered them all of course. He'd watched them grow and learn, watched their civilizations advance and tower closer and closer towards the skies. They made their mistakes and created disasters, but they learned and remembered their histories. They grew and grew. Little boys who watched their mothers die would fight and push for her murderer's conviction. Young men who were struck by lightning would turn themselves into heroes and protect those who couldn't do so for themselves. Broken children would try to save those who only tore them apart in the first place.
Perhaps if he stopped screaming that broken child might have a chance at being stitched back together again.
But if he stopped screaming, he'd die. They all would.
Down the hall he could hear the alien voices chittering away, their words foreign to his ears and yet the meanings clear to his mind. They spoke of his brothers and sisters, how they hadn't helped and it'd been so long. They spoke of hope lost and families that'd never be reunited.
How could they stand there, he wondered, clucking away about never getting home when they had ripped him away from his own home? How could they beg and plead and torture and cut when all Barry wanted was to be let go, just like them?
The Earth spun away from him, the edges fading from view as his little window to the stars passed by. Wouldn't be long now, he was sure. The voices were getting closer, the cold was getting colder. Soon Barry would have no heat left in him to recover. He'd have nothing left but the hope that maybe someone would find him.
And even then the hope was dwindling.
He started counting the seconds until the Earth would come back around. How long would it take again? Damn... he used to be so good at time... But all he could see now was blackness and little speckles of light in the distance. And...
Len was wide awake with his hand wrapped around his gun fast enough to put the Flash to shame. Mick was on the other side of the bed, already fumbling with the bundle of covers between them. It was writhing and whimpering, back arching and eyes screwing tight together.
"No, Kara run! Get out!"
"Barry wake up," Mick grunted, big hands barely managing to hold the speedster down. Normally he knew better do do that after last time he held Len down, but judging by the way the kid was vibrating, the thief could understand why he was taking the risk. Len dropped his gun onto the bedside table and maneuvered with Mick so that he was in front of Barry and the pyro behind him. The kid was still twisting and turning, not yet awake, but Mick managed to sit him up anyway and wrap his bare arms around him. "Barry, it's just a nightmare. You gotta wake up."
The sound the boy released broke Len's heart and he wanted nothing more than to reach into the boy's mind and pull him back to consciousness. Instead he took one of Barry's hands and pressed it hard against his chest, fingers twisting with the speedsters but keeping the palm flat so he could feel his heartbeat. "Focus, Barry. Come back to us."
It took almost four minutes of Mick holding him down so he didn't speed off or hurt someone, and Len whispering soft encouragements to him before those pretty hazel eyes blinked open and his breathing evened out. No one said anything while the now conscious hero regained his bearings, fingers clutching at Len's night shirt with one hand and squeezing one of Mick's arms with the other. "I'm okay," he said finally, though it was barely over a whisper and he leaned heavily on the mass of muscle behind him. "I'm okay, I promise."
"You wanna talk about it?" Mick asked, chin resting on the top of Barry's floof of hair. The speedster shook his head and Mick let his arms loosen a bit until they were wrapped around boy's belly instead.
"What do you need, Scarlet?" Len asked.
Hazel eyes met blue in an instant and Barry's fingers tightened in Len's grip, pulling him closer until they were a breath apart. "Kiss me?" he breathed, looking a bit unsure but more at the question than the intention.
Len frowned, raising his free hand to take Barry's chin between his fingers. "I don't think that's a good idea, Scarlet. I don't want you doing anything you'll regret later because of a nightmare."
Barry was already shaking his head, both of his hands raising now to wrap around the back of Len's neck. "I'm not, I promise I'm not. I just- I want this, I want this so bad, Len." He tried to pull the rogue closer, but Len didn't budge, blue eyes scrutinizing and lips turned down in a frown. "Please, I need something real. I need to know- I have to know I'm here, it's all real. I need something... good. I promise this isn't some spur of the moment thing that I'll question later. You're not taking advantage of anything if that's what you're afraid of. I just- God, Len, please."
Maybe it was the broken pleading that made him give in, but a Len gave those hazel eyes one last glance before closing the distance between them.
He kept the kiss soft and gentle, no matter how hard Barry tried to rush it. He could still feel the speedster's hands vibrating slightly against his neck, feel his heart beating like a rabbit in a cage. So he took it slow, kissing him until his body went pliant and loose, until his heart rate lowered and his breathing evened out from it's panicked gasping. At some point Mick had moved to the side and Len was able to slowly lower Barry down onto his back, the thief hovering over him when he finally pulled away.
"Real enough for you, Scarlet?"
Barry's eyes were heavy lidded, his face red and splotchy from blushing and crying. His hands were heavy on Len's shoulders as he nodded, humming contentedly. "Real enough," he replied, voice a bit slurred with exhaustion.
"Good, now get back to sleep, we'll talk about it in the morning okay?" Len took to the speedster's other side, him and Mick wrapping around the younger man easily.
It was sickly sweet, almost too domestic and Len could feel a bit of unrest in his stomach as he glanced down at the speedster, his face dug into Len's night shirt. It was weird for him, having someone so pure and good to hold onto. Mick was his first love, his other half, but he was all hard edges and rough glass, a bonfire encased in a burning inferno. Barry was... different. He was soft corners and smooth skin, sunshine smiles and a heart that loved too much. The fact that he wanted someone like Len and Mick, hardened criminals, killers and thieves... it was confusing to say the least, unbelievable to say the most. He had no idea how Barry could even contemplate wanting to be with either of them...
And yet here they all were, cuddling and placating after a nightmare. Images flickered behind the thief's eyes, possibilities he didn't want to see.
Barry vibrating himself back into the speedforce. Barry rushing off in his state of panic. Barry back in the pipeline, back in the medbay, screaming and crying or laughing and smiling. Hazel eyes looked at him with love and disgust and pity and adoration. Hazel eyes looked away, never looked at all, had seen, hadn't seen. Soft hands turned into gentle caresses, turned into grasping claws, turned into hands around throats.
Barry would leave, he would stay, he would never look back.
Too many possibilities.
"Len," a soft voice whispered. A hand rested over his eyes, a kiss was pressed against his jaw.
"Keep your eyes closed," Barry whispered again before pulling his hand away. He brought both hands up to cradle Len's face, and the thief could feel Mick's hot fingers burning into his hip, before Barry pulled him in more. Soft lips pressed against his own, just as gentle and caring as he'd done only minutes ago... hours? years? How long was he lost? Barry let out a soft breath when he finally pulled away, thumbs tracing Len's jawline as he leaned their foreheads together. "Real enough for you, Cold?"