Len fires a blast from his Cold Gun at the metahuman as he bobs and weaves through the mass of cars in the parking garage. He misses by a narrow margin, instead catching a silver sedan in its wing mirror. The hunk of frozen glass, metal, and polyurethane clatters to the ground and shatters on impact.
The familiar voice catches Len’s attention immediately, and he turns to look over at man in the bright red suit.
“We’re not trying to kill him,” Barry chastises. Len can’t see under the cowl, but he’s sure the younger man’s forehead is wrinkled in a frown.
“ You’re not trying to kill him,” Len corrects, his voice a slow, lazy drawl. “Personally, I’m not all that concerned with whether or not the force I use to take out a serial rapist is lethal.”
When Barry first approached Len at Saints and Sinners earlier that evening, the older man wasn’t sure what to expect. Since returning from his mission through time, he hasn’t made many waves in Central City. There’s a lot he’s still trying to figure out. His relationship with Mick. His relationship with himself. Is he a hero or is he a villain? Can he exist somewhere in the space between, or is that just a pipe dream?
Still, Len has to admit, if only to himself, that seeing Barry after so many months away caused an unexpected warmth to spread through his chest. He missed the hero. His earnest eyes. His bright, unapologetic smile. His faith in Len’s humanity.
So, when Barry asked for Len’s help taking down a dangerous metahuman, he immediately accepted. Internally, of course. Externally, he played it cool, let the younger man do a little begging first. Until Barry explained the meta’s m.o.
Len’s a thief by trade, but the one thing he’s never been tempted to steal is another person’s body. There’s something so vile, so reprehensible, about the notion, that a person could ever be conflated with an object in such a way, that it makes his stomach turn. Barry’s grovelling ended there, Len quickly accepting the younger man’s bid to work together. Initially, Barry seemed surprised by Len’s abrupt shift in position, but then his entire face broke into a wide, dare Len say proud , smile.
“What?” Len bristled, scowling at the younger man from across the booth they shared.
Barry’s dopey smile remained firmly in place. “You really care about this,” the speedster replied.
Len didn’t bother to explain that even criminals could have consciences, codes of ethics. Barry knew, he could tell, and anyway, it would have played a little too much into the younger man’s philosophy of there’s good in you, Snart .
“I’m going to try to head him off before he gets to the exit,” Barry calls, pulling Len from his thoughts.
“Be careful he--” Len begins, but before he can finish, Barry disappears in a streak of warm yellow lightning. “Doesn't touch you,” the older man finishes uselessly.
Sighing, Len returns the Cold Gun to the holster on his thigh and takes off at a jog to catch up with Barry and the metahuman. He finds them near the parkade exit just in time to see the meta drive his hand into Barry’s face. The kid’s barely got any flesh exposed in that second skin of a suit, but of course he’d still find a way to let the guy touch him.
As soon as the open palm presses down on Barry’s face, the speedster stops struggling to restrain the metahuman in his arms. Instead, his let’s the man go, stepping back, motions eerily robotic.
“Flash,” Len calls out, voice strained, trying to hide the concern welling up in his chest. The sound immediately draws Barry’s attention and suddenly, the younger man has his blank, expressionless eyes tuned on Len. The thief scarcely has time to feel a wave of fear, raw and powerful, settle in his gut like ice before Barry’s charging across the parkade at him.
Len’s whole world spins off kilter, breath knocking from his lungs. The dizzying rush of traveling at super speed is still preferable to a time jump on the Waverider, but just barely. When the pair finally come to a stop, Len struggles to regain his bearings as quickly as he can, the intense feeling of being in danger prickling at the back of his neck.
They’re in an apartment, that much Len can tell. It’s dark, all the lights off, the soft glow of the waxing gibbous moon the only source of illumination. Len can see the outline of a sofa to his right, and that of a table set to his left. The front door is a scant few feet away. Making an escape would be easy.
If it weren’t for the mind-controlled speedster still gripping his hips, standing between Len and his only exit.
“Barry,” Len pants, trying to conceal the tremor in his voice. Barry’s still looking at him with that same blank, vacant stare, and it terrifies him.
Instead of saying anything in response, Barry zips forward and pins Len to a nearby wall. He forces his lips onto the older man’s, and Len can feel against his nose and cheeks that his cowl’s been pulled back.
Len struggles against the tight cage of Barry’s body, bringing his arms up to push against Barry’s shoulders, but the speedster is inhumanly strong. It takes all of Len’s weight to wrestle his lips free.
“Barry, stop,” Len snaps, hands still shoving fruitlessly at his shoulders as Barry’s lips move to suck demandingly at Len’s neck, like he doesn’t even hear the older man’s dissent.
Len, panic quickly mounting, does the only thing he can think to. He lurches off the wall with all of his weight, sending both men toppling to the floor. They hit hard, a sharp shock of pain shooting up Len’s left arm, but the speedster hardly seems affected. Len feels the air whoosh tellingly with Barry’s super speed as the younger man scrambles to his feet.
This is Len’s only window to save himself, he knows, so he reaches for the Cold Gun on his thigh and brings his finger to the trigger, gun whirring to life. He aims it up at Barry, ready to fire, but pauses as soon as his eyes catch sight of the younger man.
Barry stands above him, upper body pulled out of his bright red suit, the discarded fabric hanging loosely around his hips. The Cold Gun is still set to absolute zero, and it makes Len nauseous. He pictures the speedster’s torso freezing solid like ice, turning a sickening blue colour, then shattering into a million pieces across the floor like a macabre jigsaw puzzle.
That one second of hesitation is all it takes for Barry to regain the upper hand. He grabs Len by the coat, Cold Gun clattering to the floor, and pins his legs against the back of the sofa. His hands travel under the sleeves of Len’s parka to push is off his shoulders, all the while trying to reclaim the older man’s mouth. Len turns his head quickly away, Barry lips and tongue catching him in the chin instead.
“Barry, stop, please,” Len chokes out, the sound scarcely a whisper, throat closing over in fear. He tries to think, tries to breathe, tries to pull himself together, but all he can do is writhe under Barry’s overbearing grasp. “Barry, no! Barry!”
Len finally wrenches his head back far enough to meet Barry’s eyes. What he sees hits him like a physical punch to the gut. While Barry’s hands still pull carelessly at Len’s clothes, his eyes are wet and frantic, tears streaming in harsh rivulets down his flushed cheeks. They’re so filled with pain and distress, Len feels all the fight leave his body at once.
Barry doesn’t want this, either. He’s obviously trying so hard to fight against it. But he can’t. Just like each of the other metahuman’s victim’s, he’s trapped in his own body, mind fully conscious of what he’s doing yet unable to control any of it. The thought makes Len even more nauseous than before. Because he knows what kind of person Barry is. Knows that Barry will blame himself for what he’s about to do. That every time Len struggles, every time he pleads with Barry to stop, it must cut the younger man to his core.
And Len can’t stand it.
“Okay, Barry,” he whispers, holding the younger man’s eyes. “It’s okay.”
And Len knows Barry must hear him, must understand, because he’s suddenly crying harder than before. “I’m not gonna fight you, okay?” he continues, voice as soft and reassuring as he can manage. “This isn’t your fault. I know it isn’t your fault.”
Barry lets out a heartbreaking whine at Len’s words. He’s obviously still struggling against the metahuman’s influence, but when he leans forward to capture Len’s lips in another demanding kiss, the older man kisses him back. He allows his mouth to open under Barry’s insistent probing, lets the younger man’s tongue plunder relentlessly. He lets Barry consume him, dominate him, as he begins to fully strip him of his parka.
It’s better this way, Len thinks. Better he let himself become the object of Barry’s unbridled lust than somebody else. Because even if Len escapes, the younger man will still be stuck under this merciless compulsion to fuck, to claim, and the next unlucky person he comes across won’t understand. They won’t know that Barry would never try to hurt them of his own free will, that he doesn’t have malicious bone in his body. Not like that, anyway. And that wouldn’t just hurt Barry. It would kill him.
“It’s okay, Barry,” Len whispers again as the younger man draws away to pull Len’s shirt over his head. Len helps him, raises his arms, maneuvers the sharp points of his elbows around the restrictive channels of the fabric.
In a flash, Barry’s zipped them into what Len’s assuming is his bedroom. He knows the speedster’s moved out of the West house and into his own apartment since Len’s been gone, but he’s never actually seen inside the place. A few times, since getting back, Len’s stood outside the five story building, late at night while he knows The Flash is out on patrol, staring up at a particular window on the third floor. He’s never been quite sure why. Thinking about it now only hurts.
It doesn’t take long for Barry to start pulling at Len’s belt buckle, working the clasp undone. He yanks it out of the loops of Len’s jeans, the sound of taut leather whipping through the air sending a shock of sickening terror through Len’s body. He tries to regain his composure quickly, to hide his body’s visceral reaction from Barry, but he knows the younger man sees it anyway.
“It’s okay,” Len repeats, but he’s no longer sure if he’s saying it for Barry’s sake or for his own.
Barry shucks Len’s pants and underwear in one go, pushing both layers of fabric to his ankles. Len stumbles as he tries to kick off his boots, but finally manages to rid himself of both his footwear and his socks. Standing completely naked in front of Barry like this feels sick. It feels wrong. And yet, a part of Len still thinks it feels right. Maybe that’s the sickest part of all.
As Barry moves on to removing the rest of his suit, Len’s cock, which has remained soft up to this point, twitches in interest. It makes the older man feel sick and ashamed. This isn’t what Barry wants. The hard planes of his abs, the thick muscles in his thighs, the gorgeous length of his erection flushed red and leaking precome, shouldn’t make Len’s body ache with want.
But it does.
When Barry swoops forward to kiss Len again, their naked bodies press together from head to toe and Len lets out a deep, desperate moan. Barry whines into his mouth in reply, but Len can’t tell if it’s a positive sound or a negative one.
“Barry,” Len pants into the younger man’s mouth, unsure if he’s apologizing or offering him reassurances.
Barry’s hands grope along Len’s body, fingers digging into his supple flesh. It’s edging on the wrong side of too painful, but it keeps Len grounded in reality, something the older man is grateful for. Barry’s panic seems to be mounting though, fresh tears filling his eyes once again. Len leans forward to whisper in his ear, hands tracing gentle circles along his shivering back.
“Shh,” the thief rasps, lips trailing across the younger man’s skin. “You’re okay, Barry. You’re not doing anything wrong.”
Barry whimpers as he begins trailing wet, hot kisses up the side of Len’s neck. He sucks greedily at the corner of his jaw, and Len knows the mark is going to bruise. He doesn’t care.
“This isn’t your fault,” Len continues, fingers massaging the tight knot from Barry’s shoulders. Barry’s mouth comes back up to kiss him, and Len kisses tenderly back.
“Shh,” the older man whispers again, wiping the tears from Barry’s left cheek with a firm stroke of his thumb. “It’s gonna be okay.”
For one long, suspended moment, Barry looks back at Len with something other than self-loathing and grief. The thick current of emotion running between them is hard to define, and Len doesn’t dare hope, but it feels soft, and gentle, and good .
As quickly as it appears, the moment is gone, cast aside in favor of more fervent kisses and rough, groping hands. Barry’s touches are forceful and unchecked, the superhuman strength in his limbs becoming well and truly painful the longer things go on. His desperate need to claim Len’s body, to dominate the older man, is clear in the impatience behind his every move.
Panic starts to flare up, unbidden, in Len’s chest. “Wait, Barry,” he pants. “You need to slow down.”
But Len’s words do nothing to dull the other man’s urgency. All they manage to do is bring tears to Barry’s eyes once more. Len can see him coming apart at the seams, body trembling, breath coming in short, hysteric gasps. And all Len wants is to make him feel better, to calm him back down, but that means calming himself down first, and he’s not sure he can do that anymore.
For all the blows they exchange as Captain Cold and The Flash, Len knows Barry would never hurt him, not like this. Still, all the positive affirmations in the world can’t change the fact that this isn’t Barry, and that, if Len doesn’t get their encounter under control, he might seriously end up hurt.
“Fuck, okay,” Len grits out, drawing a deep, steadying breath in through his nose. “It’s okay, Barry.”
The older man’s face pinches as he scrambles desperately to come up with some kind of plan. Barry can’t hurt him. The younger man would never forgive himself, and Len can’t be the reason he loses himself, loses his light.
Knowing time is far from on his side, especially with Barry’s super speed threatening to come into play at any moment, Len does the only thing he can think to prolong the inevitable. He drops to his knees on the cold laminate of Barry’s bedroom floor and takes the younger man into his mouth.
Immediately, Barry moans, the sound long and drawn out. It makes Len’s heart stutter in his chest, a harsh wave of desire crashing through his body. Barry rocks his hips forward, none to gently, hands gripping onto Len’s shoulders. Len forces his throat to relax, taking Barry as deep as he can manage and trying not to gag. His eyes water against his will and he can’t help but look up through his eyelashes, needing to see the speedster’s face.
What Len isn’t expecting is for Barry to be looking back down at him. Their eyes meet, gazes hot and heavy, and Len groans, a shock of pleasure pulsing through his gut. The vibrations from Len’s throat make Barry shiver and moan in reply. He licks at his lips, obscene and heady, and Len can barely keep his mind from going completely numb with lust at the sight.
Finally, Len manages to break their compelling eye contact. He looks straight ahead at the trail of hair leading from Barry’s naval and tries to figure out their next move. He remembers what Snow and Detective West told him at S.T.A.R. Labs, that it took more than simply achieving orgasm to break free of the metahuman’s influence. Each of his victims had only regained control of their bodies once they’d engaged in penetrative sex.
Relying on memory from the brief looks he’d managed to take around the dark room, Len reaches back until his hand brushes against the knob of Barry’s bedside drawer. He pulls it open and dips his hand blindly inside, hoping Barry keeps a tube of lube, of hand lotion, anything stashed there. His hand wraps around a small bottle and he quickly pulls it back to examine it.
It is a bottle of lube, thankfully, and Len immediately sets to work uncapping it, slicking up his fingers to begin stretching himself open. When Barry notices Len reaching back to prep himself, he lets out a pitiful, broken moan. It’s the most turned on Len’s ever heard anyone sound, and he’s not sure if it’s genuine or not, but it makes his whole body burn like it’s on fire.
Len continues sucking Barry off, head bobbing rhythmically, tongue tracing along his length, until he feels like he’s sufficiently stretched. He’s been with other men in the past, but the idea of bottoming has never appealed to him before. Not that it appeals to him much now, but it does seem like the better alternative. The thought of taking Barry against his will, whammied out of his mind by some serial rapist metahuman, makes his stomach turn.
He could never do that to Barry. But he could do this for him.
Len pulls his mouth from Barry’s cock, lips red and swollen, trail of saliva stretching from the tip until it breaks, running pornographically down Len’s chin. He wipes it away with the back of his free hand then pulls his other from behind himself, fingers still slick with lube.
Barry grabs Len by the shoulders and hauls him up, their mouths forcefully crashing together. Barry moans at the taste of himself on Len’s tongue. He wraps his hand around Len’s cock and tugs, causing the older man to let out a low, obscene groan.
Barry shoves Len roughly back onto his bed, the sound from the older man spurring him on. Len’s body’s barely finished bouncing from impact before Barry’s lips are on him again. The speedster has their bodies pressed flush together, erections brushing with every slide of his hips, and Len moans again.
“Fuck, Barry,” the thief pants, breath hot against Barry’s lips.
Len dips his head to kiss at Barry’s neck, and the younger man practically mewls. He can’t stop the sound from going to his cock, can’t separate fabrication from reality, not anymore. Not with Barry pressed so close. Not when he’s so close to getting everything he’s been telling himself he doesn’t want for years. When he first saw Barry in that stupidly tight suit. When he got his first look at Barry’s stupidly beautiful face under the mask. When Barry sat across from him at Saints and Sinners with his stupidly earnest eyes and offered to help him. When he stared at him through a pane of shatterproof glass at Iron Heights and stupidly declared there was good in him.
Len has ached for Barry for longer than he cares to admit. Through every mission across history, ever near miss with the timeline, every time Gideon’s calm, unchanging voice promised Central City, 2016 was safe and sound, just as they left it, Len ached for him. He just didn’t want to admit it. Because Barry is a hero, stalwart and true, filled with goodness, and light, and nothing that Len deserves.
When Barry’s cock presses against Len’s entrance, the older man draws in a ragged, broken gasp. Barry whimpers, the sound hollow and broken, and Len feel a wet, hot tear land against his cheek. He looks up to meet the younger man’s sad, tortured eyes and can’t stop himself from cradling Barry’s face between his hands.
“It’s okay, Barry,” Len whispers, his own eyes filling with tears he fights tooth and nail not to shed, but to no avail. He runs his fingers gently through Barry’s hair, strokes his thumbs across his jaw, and tries desperately to find a way to make the younger man believe him. “Fuck me. I want you to, please. Just fuck me.”
Barry lets out another heart-wrenching sob and swoops down to capture Len’s lips in a fierce, devastated kiss. When he pushes in, it’s in one long, sharp thrust, and the burn is unpleasant, but Len doesn’t care. He moans into Barry’s mouth, loud and wrecked. Barry’s answering moan is shaky, his voice trembling just as hard as his body. He pulls halfway out and thrusts back in again, and the friction feels amazing. Len’s toes curl with pleasure, legs coming up to wrap around Barry’s hips, feet pressing into the backs of his thighs.
“So good, Barry,” Len says, teeth scraping against Barry’s neck.
Barry’s thrusts pick up speed, one hand grasping around Len’s thigh for leverage. The older man feels like he’s coming apart, every slide of Barry’s body against his own fulfilling a need he didn’t even know he had. He wants to feel like this forever, and it makes his heart shatter in his chest as he realizes he won’t.
Because this isn’t real. None of it is real. Barry doesn’t want this. It isn’t some sort of magical wish fulfillment for the younger man. It’s rape.
Immediately, a wave of nausea roils Len’s stomach. “Barry,” he keens, face pinched up in pain.
Barry’s hips snap forward abruptly at the sound, and his cock hits Len’s prostate. The older man’s toes curl and his back arches upward, head thrown back in pleasure.
“Oh, God,” Len pants, rocketing dangerously close to completion. “I’m gonna come.”
Barry’s head drops to lick a stripe up Len’s neck from the base of his throat. He nips at Len’s chin before tilting the man’s head down with his left hand to kiss him, propping himself up on his elbow. Barry’s right hand falls to Len’s cock, stroking in time with his thrusts.
“Barry, please,” Len groans desperately, so, so close. And suddenly, Barry’s cock is literally vibrating against his prostate. It knocks all the wind out of Len’s lungs and he can’t get it back before he’s coming, every muscle going rigid as his body shakes.
Barry’s right behind him, thrusting forward once, twice, three times more before he’s coming too, moaning obscenely, teeth clamping down on Len’s shoulder. He comes inside the older man, whole body vibrating uncontrollably with super speed. Len runs a comforting hand along Barry’s back until he finally stops shaking, body going limp and flopping to the side, cock slipping uncomfortably from Len’s ass.
Len can tell the second Barry gets his faculties back. The younger man’s whole body goes rigid and his face turns sickeningly pale, almost grey. In a flash, he’s disappeared from the bed, and Len can hear a terrible retching sound from coming from the room next door.
Sighing, Len rubs the heels of his hands forcefully into his eyes, trying to pull himself together. He slides from the bed and grabs his boxers from the floor, hauling them up his legs and over his hips. He spots a fuzzy blanket folded across the foot of Barry’s bed and picks it up, taking it with him as he follows after the younger man.
When Len arrives in the threshold, he stops dead in his tracks and leans heavily against the doorframe. Barry is hunched over the toilet, hands clutching the bowl, his whole body still shaking and heaving. A thick sheen of sweat covers his back, leaving gooseflesh across his skin as it dries. Len’s heart clenches painfully for him, wishing there was something he could do.
The thief clears his throat gently and flicks on the bathroom light. “Are you okay?” he asks softly, afraid of startling the younger man.
“Shouldn’t I be asking you that?” Barry replies, head still bowed over the toilet. He lets out a strained, almost manic chuckle, and Len swallows thickly.
“It wasn’t your fault, Barry,” he says.
“Can you please not?” Barry snaps, head finally lifting as he glances over at Len. “I don’t think I can handle you trying to comfort me right now, or whatever it is you’re doing.”
Barry glances back down into the toilet, body shivering, as his voice takes on a desperate, trembling quality. “I hurt you,” he whispers, head shaking.
“That wasn’t you,” Len argues, arms crossed stiffly at the wrists, blanket still clenched in his hands.
“Like that matters,” Barry scoffs. His voice has turned hollow, muted, like all the fight’s gone out of him, and it makes Len’s skin crawl.
Barry moves robotically to his feet, seemingly on autopilot, pulling down on the handle of the toilet to flush the vomit away. His eyes are dark and vacant, different than when he was under the metahuman’s control, yet as equally terrifying. Len hold out the blanket for him in offering and, absently, Barry takes it. He drapes it around his shoulders, the outer end of his clavicle and the jut of his acromion process sticking out starkly against his taut skin.
When Barry makes no move to do anything but stand, unresponsive, in the middle of the bathroom floor, Len quickly begins rummaging through his cupboards for some mouthwash. He finds it in the medicine cabinet and pours a capful, handing it over to the speedster. Barry takes it reflexively and rinses out his mouth, spitting the bright green liquid down the drain when he’s through, small chunks of undigested food catching along the side of the basin.
Len turns on the faucet, rinsing the leftover particles from the pristine white ceramic, then looks back over at Barry. “Again?” he asks.
Len passes him another capful of mouthwash and lets Barry swish and spit again.
As the older man busies himself with putting the bottle away, Barry beings to speak numbly. “I thought I could be different for you,” he whispers.
Len turns to him and frowns. “What?” he asks, equally as quiet.
“I thought I could be different,” Barry repeats. His tone is still flat and mechanical, but his eyes start to well with tears. “After everything you” - the speedster cuts off with a short aborted whine - “After everything. I never wanted to touch you like that. To hurt you. I wanted to show you that it could be good. I thought I could be different.”
Len’s heart thunders painfully against his ribcage, lump building in his throat. He pinches his eyes shut, trying to clear his head. The younger man is becoming more and more distraught by the second, numb detachment replacing itself with acute, devastating pain. Len knows how tactile Barry is, wants to do something to comfort him, so he raises a hand to place it reassuringly on the speedster’s shoulder.
Hand halfway to its destination, however, Len thinks better of the action. Barry’s just had his body taken over and violated. No matter how tactile the young man usually is, maybe being touched isn’t what he wants right now. Especially not by Len.
Unfortunately, Barry must take the aborted motion as a negative sign, that Len doesn’t want to - can’t stand to - touch him . He lets out a heart-wrenching sob, face screwing up pitifully, tears slipping from the corners of his eyes.
Len can barely stand it. “Barry,” he sighs, voice tight and shaky. “It’s okay.”
Barry begins shaking his head furiously at Len’s gentle reassurance, and the older man struggles to choke back a pained groan. “Can I touch you?” he asks, even more unsteady than before.
“Please,” Barry wails, lithe body shuddering uncontrollably, a combination of grief and trauma finally getting the better of him. Len steps forward and warps a gentle hand around the base of Barry’s neck, pulling the younger man into a tender hug. Len’s other arm runs comfortingly up and down Barry’s back as the younger man buries his head in the curve of Len’s shoulder. He sobs hysterically against Len’s neck, tears landing hot against Len’s skin, and it makes the thief’s own eyes prickle with tears.
“I know, Barry,” Len whispers again and again into the younger man’s hair. “None of this is your fault.”
Len places a gentle, featherlight kiss to Barry’s temple and continues holding him, caressing him, soothing him, until Barry’s powerful sobs turn into quick, staccato whimpers.
“Come on,” Len says, pulling Barry gently toward the bathroom door. He finds the lightswitch for the main room by the front door and quickly flicks it on, chasing away the night’s shadows.
Len leads Barry to the couch at sits him down at the far end against the armrest. He crouches down in front of the speedster, pulling the blanket more securely around his shoulders and running a hand through his hair.
“Wait here, okay?” the older man says.
Barry nods mutely, so Len rises to his feet and wanders into the kitchen area against the apartment's far wall. The open concept lets him keep an eye on Barry as fills the electric kettle on the counter with water and flicks it on to boil. He rummages through the cupboards until he finds a carton of lemon balm tea and takes out a bag, tossing into a large blue mug he found in one of the other cupboards.
When the water finishes boiling, Len pours the mug three-quarters full and brings it over to the speedster.
“Careful, it’s hot,” Len warns as Barry reaches out to grab it. He wraps his palm around the scalding porcelain to pass it over by the handle instead. When Barry takes it, he brings it up to his mouth and blows gently, then takes a small, hesitant sip.
“Do you have a spare set of sheets?” Len asks, keeping his voice quiet and level.
“In my bedroom closet,” Barry replies, gaze fixed on the steam rising from his tea.
Len nods. “I’ll be right back,” he says.
Returning to Barry’s bedroom, Len flicks on the light, getting a good look at the space for the first time. It’s small but quaint, dresser and nightstand cluttered with pictures of family and friends. The biggest one is of Barry and Iris, laughing together, like neither knows their picture is being taken, perched on the center of his dresser. Another is of the team from S.T.A.R. Labs, out at some bar, huddled together for a weirdly off-center group selfie. There’s a picture of Barry, too, with Oliver Queen and his finacée, or should he say Green Arrow and Overwatch. Len can hardly believe any of them manage to keep their identities secret. He could have put two and two together even without the unfair advantage of time travel.
After taking a moment to look around, Len opens the sliding door to Barry’s closet and roots around until he finds the extra set of sheets. He drops them on Barry’s dresser and moves onto stripping the bed, peeling the fitted sheet from around the corners of Barry’s mattress. He changes out the pillowcases, too, piling all the dirty laundry into a ball and placing it in the hamper by the bedroom door. He picks up the Flash suit from the floor and drapes it over a hanger, moving it to the closet and sliding the doors closed once more.
Next, Len moves to the bathroom. He takes a washcloth from under the sink and wets it with warm water. He soaps it up and slides down his boxers, scrubbing away the come still stuck to his skin. Some is still wet and sticky while smaller patches along the periphery have begun to flake. When he finally gets himself cleaned off, he grabs another washcloth and wets it too, lathering one corner with soap and leaving the rest with just water.
Len returns to the living room and crouches down in front of Barry once again. The younger man has most of his tea finished, which Len takes as a good sign. Gently, he removes the mug from Barry’s hands and places it on the end table to his left.
“Here,” Len whispers, bringing the damp cloth up to Barry’s face. He wipes the tear tracks from his cheeks before taking both the speedster’s hands in his own, washing them off on the soapy side, then clean with the other.
Ever so carefully, Len pushes the blanket from around Barry’s shoulders to expose his chest and stomach. He watches Barry’s face carefully for signs of distress but, seeing none, he presses forward, wiping patches of dried come off his skin.
“Hunter made sure to give us all extensive physicals before letting us come home,” Len says quietly, still wiping the cloth against Barry’s skin. “And I haven’t been with anyone since, so you don’t have to worry.”
Barry frowns miserably at Len’s words. “Oh, fuck,” he breathes, hand coming up to scrub anxiously through his hair. “I didn’t even-- Fuck!”
“It’s okay, Barry,” Len assures him, fingers of his free hand tracing circles against Barry’s knee. “There’s nothing you could have done.”
“I’m clean, too,” Barry says quickly, teeth clenched, hand dropping from his hair. “I just feel like shit. I’m sorry.”
Len shakes his head. “It’s not your fault,” he replies. Then, he takes hold of Barry’s hand and rises to his feet. “Come get some rest, okay?”
Slowly, Barry nods. He comes to a stand, free hand holding the blanket shut around himself, and follows behind Len as the older man leads him back to his bedroom. Approaching his dresser, Barry pulls the top drawer open and grabs a pair of boxers, slipping them quickly on and letting the blanket fall to the floor. He crawls into bed but stays sitting up, looking over at Len with wide, sad eyes.
“Do you need anything else?” Len wonders, lingering uncertainty by the threshold.
Barry’s whole body shakes. “Please don’t leave,” the speedster says in a rush, panic edging into his voice.
“Okay,” Len replies instantly, nodding. “It’s okay, Barry. I won’t go anywhere. I can stay on the couch.”
“Can you,” Barry beings, but he cuts himself off abruptly. Len tilts his head, waiting for the younger man to go on, and, eventually, he draws in a long, steady breath and does. “Can you stay here, with me? Just until I fall asleep.”
Barry glances pointedly down at the empty space beside him and then back up and Len nervously.
The older man nods. “Yeah, Barry,” he says. “I can do that.”
Flicking off the light, Len crosses the room to sit on the end of Barry’s bed, and the speedster visibly relaxes. He’s about to swing his legs over the side when the noise of Barry’s cell phone ringing on his nightstand cuts through the silence of the night. Len leans over to pick it up and reads the name on the display carefully. He turns back to Barry, who’s watching him expectantly, and the thief tries to keep his expression neutral.
“It’s Detective West,” he says.
At the mention of his foster father’s name, Barry’s fragilely assembled composure shatters. He begins sobbing again, knees drawing up to hide his face, arms wrapped around his head. Len knows he can’t leave the phone to ring. The detective was with the others at S.T.A.R. Labs when the speedster was overcome by the metahuman’s ability. They must all be worried sick for the younger man.
“Hello,” Len says softly as he presses the phone to his ear, accepting the call.
“Snart?” Detective West asks, voice clearly tinged with surprise.
“Speaking,” Len replies. He doesn’t mean to give the other man a hard time, but it’s second nature for the thief.
“Where’s Barry?” West snaps, displaying even less patience than usual. “Is he alright?”
Len shoulders tense, and he’s glad the other man can’t see. “Peachy,” he drawls. “But the metahuman got away.”
“No, he didn’t,” the detective says. “When we lost contact with the two of you, Rory and your sister went out after him.”
“Are they okay?” Len asks quickly, worry bubbling up in his chest at the thought of either Mick or Lisa being on the receiving end of the same assault Barry was.
“They’re fine,” West replies. “Not that I can say the same for the metahuman after what your sister did to him. Hit him in the leg with her Gold Gun while he was running away. Damn thing might have to be amputated.”
“Pity,” Len says, flat and completely insincere.
“Listen, Snart,” the detective sighs. “Would you just put my son on the phone.”
Again, Len tenses. “No can do, Detective,” he says, trying to keep his tone light.
“Snart,” the other man rumbles, voice thick with ill-contained fury. “If there’s something wrong with Barry--”
“He’s just a little indisposed at the moment,” Len interrupts. Barry’s sobbing has quieted to mild sniffles in the background, and he isn’t about to risk upsetting him again.
“Snart, I know when I’m being lied to,” the detective says. “Now, put my son on the phone.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” Len insists.
“Snart!” West bellows.
“It’s fine, Len.”
The quiet noise startles Len, and he turns abruptly to look over his shoulder. Barry’s raised his head from his knees, though they’re still pulled tight against his chest. He has a hand reached out, waiting for the older man to pass him the phone.
“I can talk to him,” Barry says.
Len isn’t convinced, but the detective yelling into his ear doesn’t give him much choice in the matter. He hands the phone over and watches anxiously as the speedster raises it to speak. His free hand clenches and unclenches nervously in the sheets, and Len can’t stop his own hand from sliding forward, twining their fingers together. Barry looks up at him with a small, hesitant smile, a it makes Len’s heart clench.
“Hey, Joe,” Barry says softly, voice shaking. “No, I’m okay. I promise.”
He doesn’t sound okay, and Len knows, even without hearing the other end of the conversation, that his foster father isn’t buying it.
“Joe, please,” Barry chokes out, legs drawing up to press even tighter against his chest. “I can’t do this right now. Can you just let it go for tonight? I promise, I’ll come into S.T.A.R. Labs first thing in the morning.”
There’s a moment as Barry listens to whatever the detective has to say that his gaze remains firmly on his knees. Then, his fingers clench abruptly around Len’s, and the younger man looks up. Their eyes meet like colliding of hydrogen atoms, an intense shock of energy jolting through Len’s entire body.
“He didn’t hurt me,” the speedster whispers, the magnetic stare holding steady between them. “He protected me. I promise.”
Finally, Barry swallows thickly and looks down. “I know, Joe,” he says, voice barely audible and thick with emotion. “I love you, too. Goodnight.”
Barry pulls the phone from his ear and ends the call, tossing the device down onto the mattress carelessly to run a hand through his hair instead. Len pulls his hand from the younger man’s to collect the discarded cell and return it to the bedside table.
Both men are quiet for a moment, silence heavy in the air.
“Are you okay?” Len asks eventually, full of concern.
Barry just shrugs. “I just feel so guilty,” the younger man admits. “About everything I did to you. I’m so sorry, Len.”
Barry eyes are wide and heartbroken when they meet the thief’s, and the speedster wipes at them firmly. “And I know you’re just trying to make me feel better,” he continues. “But the fact that you’re the one comforting me , after what I did. It makes me feel worse, you know?”
Shaking his head aggressively, Barry lets out a quiet, broken laugh. “ I should be the one making sure you’re okay.”
Len wants to argue, wants to tell Barry he’s wrong, but he knows the younger man won’t listen. Guilt is the hero’s constant companion. He won’t be able to soothe Barry with words.
“So, hold me,” Len says.
Barry’s head tilts left, brow furrowing. “What?” he asks.
“Hold me,” Len repeats. He grabs Barry’s right hand and wraps it around his waist as he shifts to lie on his side. “Make me feel okay.”
Slowly, Barry shifts to lie down as well, curling tentatively around Len’s back. When the older man doesn’t tense up or pull away, he becomes more certain, nestling his head in the side of Len’s neck and tracing his fingers along Len’s stomach.
They stay that way for a long, quiet moment, breathing in synch, listening to one another's heartbeats. Barry’s lips brush against Len’s shoulder as he shuffles even closer.
“You know this happened to you just as much as it happened to me, right?” Len whispers after a few minutes of lying peacefully together. His fingers stroke reassuringly along the younger man’s arm where it’s wrapped around his chest. “You’re allowed to be upset.”
“But what if it didn’t?” Barry whispers back, his voice so quiet Len can barely hear him. It’s thick with guilt, cracky and trembling. “What if I didn’t fight hard enough? What if, deep down, a part of me just wanted this so badly for so long that I didn’t care how I got it?”
Abruptly, Len turns over to face the younger man. Barry refuses to look up at him, his eyes fixed at a point on Len’s left peck. The thief’s hand comes up to run gently across Barry’s side, trying to ease the tension in his body.
“Hey,” Len says, soft and sympathetic. “You think you’re the only one who’s worried they didn’t fight hard enough?”
The crack in the older man’s voice finally gets Barry to look up at him, and when their eyes meet, Len’s stomach feels like it’s turning to ice in his gut. “Maybe I could have done something more to stop you, too, okay?” he admits. “And then you wouldn’t have had to go through any of this. But it was killing you to watch me struggle, and I couldn't stand seeing you like that. I just wanted to give you some peace of mind, Barry. Not all this guilt.”
As Len speaks, they inch closer and closer into the comforting warmth of one another’s arms until their foreheads are pressed together. Barry lets out a low, gentle whine and an errant tear slips, unbidden, down Len’s cheek.
“I just wanted to keep you from getting hurt,” the thief whispers brokenly.
Slowly, so slowly it’s almost painful, Len tilts his head forward, closing the distance between his and Barry’s lips. It’s a feather-light press, the barest brush of skin against skin, but Len can feel Barry’s mouth moving against his own, and it sends a shock of heat down to his toes, thawing the glacier that’s taken up residence low in his belly.
“Oh, God,” Barry sobs, the sound a desperate hiccup, hands clutching possessively onto Len’s shoulders as their lips part. “I didn’t ruin this?”
The relief flooding Barry’s tone makes Len’s chest ache. “ You didn’t do anything, Barry,” the older man assures him, noses brushing together. “And it’s not ruined.”
Len brings a hand up to cradle Barry’s face, thumb stroking the tears from his cheek. “It’s not gonna be like it never happened,” he admits. “But you and I are two of the most stubborn sons of bitches I know, okay. We’ll work it out. I promise.”
“Yeah?” Barry croaks.
“Yeah,” Len affirms.
Finally, Barry starts to relax, letting out a long, shaky sigh. His hands ease up on Len’s shoulders, but they don’t let go. So, Len leans forward to kiss Barry again, this time more firmly, until he can feel the crease of worry disappear from the younger man’s forehead.
“Get some sleep, Barry,” Len says, brushing his fingers through the speedsters hair. Barry’s eyes droop heavily, exhaustion, physical, mental, and emotional, catching up with him.
“And you’ll be here when I wake up?” the younger man asks, words slurring together as he begins to drift off.
“I’ll be here as long as you want me, Kid,” Len whispers.
Leaning up, Len presses a gentle kiss to Barry’s forehead, arm moving to drape across the younger man’s side. It isn’t long before both of their breathing levels out into the deep, familiar rhythm of sleep.