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Being time is never wasted time

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“Mom!”

            Barry cried as the red lighting whipped around his living room, his mother trapped in the center. She shouted for him to run, but his eyes caught a form in the lightning—a man in a yellow suit. Suddenly, his dad was grabbing him by the shoulders and telling him to go.

            Then, somehow, he was miles from his house. He spun in a circle, confused. How did he get this far away? What happened to his mom and dad? A whooshing sound behind him drew his attention, followed by the sound of heavy bootsteps. He turned in time to see an armored man stepping out of…something? It reminded him of when people stepped out of cloaked spaceships in movies—he could see inside wherever the man had been, but there was no ship around him. The door shut behind him, and whatever it was completely invisible again.

            Barry frowned. He couldn’t see the man’s face through the black helmet on his head. He was like Darth Vader or Boba Fett. The man raised his arm.

            “Ginny.” An almost robotic voice said. “There’s no sign of the Waverider. Whatever anomaly at this point in the timeline isn’t them.”

“Apologies, Chronos.” Another voice replied. Barry realized that the man’s armor was talking back to him. Cool. “Rescanning the timeline. This should take twenty minutes.”

            Barry chose this moment to make himself known. After all, he wasn’t sure where his house was, or what was happening. Maybe this man—Chronos—could help him?

            Chronos startled, like he hadn’t realized Barry was there. He raised a large, futuristic rifle at him. Barry jumped back a little. “State your business.”

Barry fidgeted. The man was terrifying, but at this point, he didn’t have many options. “Um...I don’t know where I am.” He explained. “My mom…she was attacked in my house and suddenly I was here and I don’t know where ‘here’ is…can you help me?”

The man just stared at him, silently. Maybe this was a bad idea. He didn’t know this man, and he wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers. He could be working with the yellow man, for all Barry knew. After a few minutes though, Chronos lowered his weapon.

He raised his arm again. “Ginny, scan the kid and see who he is and where he lives.”

“Scan complete. Name: Bartholomew Henry Allen. Address: 5262 Blossom Road.”

Chronos tensed a little. “You’re shitting me.” He shook his head. “Ginny, can you tell me how to get there?”

“Certainly, Chronos.”

The man sighed. “Come on, kid. Let’s get this over with.”

Barry held out a hand to the man, which he took with a groan. They walked down the streets together, Barry blabbering about this and that to calm his nerves. He didn’t want to think about what was waiting for him when he got home. What did the man in yellow want? What if he was still there?

Chronos remained silently the whole way, only grunting or humming in reply every now and then. Eventually, they reached the end of Blossom Road and stopped.

“Can you find your way from here?”

Barry nodded, and, before he could think better of it, threw his arms around the metal man’s waist.  “Thank you.”

            Chronos seemed tenser than ever. Barry pulled away and ran back towards his house, desperate to see what happened to his parents and to tell them about Chronos. But all thoughts of the man blew away when he saw the police cars parked outside his house.

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            Chronos stood in the shadows across the street from Barry Allen’s house. The Flash. The damn Flash. He couldn’t believe it. The miniscule part of Mick Rory that lingered inside him growled. This was his enemy. This was a man who, in the future, would arrest him.

            Chronos pushed down the fire that started building inside him. Barry Allen was Mick Rory’s enemy. To Chronos, he was merely a fixed figure in the timeline. No matter how many time travelers became involved in his timeline, Barry Allen would become the Flash, be Central City’s hero, co-found the Justice League. The Time Masters would make sure of it.

            He continued to observe quietly as the little boy was escorted out of the house by a cop, watching helplessly as his mother’s body was wheeled into a coroner’s van and his father forced into a police car. This was enough to mess any kid up. There was a lot more that kid was going to have to endure before he grew strong enough to be a hero.

            Chronos turned to head back to his timeship. It wasn’t his problem. Barry Allen wasn’t his problem. They wouldn’t meet for nearly fifteen years, and even then, he would meet Mick Rory.

            No, the Waverider and the Legends were his problem. His fingers twitched at the thought of hunting them all down and tearing them from time. 

Chapter Text

He was in pursuit of the Waverider through the timestream. They’d recently left the 1980’s, where he remembered the crew had stopped the Soviets from getting Firestorm. He fired at them, reveling in the direct hit that knocked them straight into Star City, 2046.

            The beginning of the end, he thought. Suddenly, Ginny set off the alarms.

            “Chronos, I’m afraid we’ve suffered damages as well. We have enough engine power to make a safe landing, but we cannot remain in the time stream.”

            “Find a time period and place we can land and lay low until repairs are finished.” He ordered. Ginny complied, the year “2004” appearing on the destination screen. The first thing he noticed upon exiting the time stream was the he was hovering over the Starling City Nature Preserve. He landed in a clearing in the center of the preserve, away from the city and prying eyes. Even with the ship cloaked, it was best to avoid civilians.

            “Ginny,” He called, raising his restraint to head for the engine room. “How much damage is there?”

            “The fuel canisters have been compromised.” Ginny explained. “And the time drive has been knocked off-line.”

            Chronos stopped suddenly outside the engine room door. The time drive. That could be dangerous.

            Great.

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            When Barry passed by the same tree for the ninth time, he could no longer lie to himself. He was lost. The scout leader warned him about running too far from the troop—it was his first campout with the scout troop that Joe had talked him into joining.

            “You need to make friends, Bare.” He’d explained. “Get out of the house a bit. You love science—that’s what nature is about!”

            There was no science. Just a bunch of kids from his grade that ignored him while he was at school and tormented him the entire camping trip. They put a spider in his sleeping bag, dirt in his hiking boots, and now, they said that they were all going for a hike, only to ditch him halfway through and leave him to find his own way back.

He could’ve been at home watching Star Wars or visiting his dad at Iron Heights.

            Barry sighed. It’d been three years, and people still thought he was just the freaky kid whose dad murdered his mom and lied about living lightning to cover it up. Iris threatened to beat up most of the kids, to Joe’s dismay, but he was still the loser kid.

            A loud boom echoed around him, shaking the ground and making Barry skid to a stop. He glanced up to see smoke rising over the trees overhead, and he realized that something exploded. Something close by.

            He turned away to run back. Maybe he could find his troop, and then they could call for help…But then, he heard a crash, followed by hacking coughs. Someone was in the explosion. What if they needed help right now?

            Without thinking, he immediately ran towards the smoke.

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            Chronos tore off his helmet as he tripped out of his ship. Apparently, the engines were more damaged than Ginny had previously anticipated. He doubled over and coughed. There was a time when Mick Rory could handle being around fires twice that big without worrying about choking on the smoke.

            “Hey!” A shout came from the tree line. “Hey! Sir, are you okay?”

            If he hadn’t been hacking out a lung, he would have raised his rifle defensively. A pre-teen boy was running towards him, all knees and elbows dressed in a ridiculous scout uniform.

            “Do you need hel—oh my god.” The boy froze a few feet away from him, his eyes darting between the armor on Chronos’ body, the helmet on the ground, and the open cargo door of his cloaked ship. “It’s you!”

            Eyes no longer fuzzy from the smoke, Chronos focused on the boy. His jaw dropped. There was no way in hell he was this unlucky. No way Barry-fucking-Allen found him again.

            “No fucking way.”

            Barry’s eyes widened, his hands flying to his mouth. Chronos almost laughed—whether the kid’s reaction was from the word ‘fuck’ or the fact that he was staring at a strange time traveler again, Chronos couldn’t say, but either way, the kid was too pure for his own good.

            “I can’t believe it’s you.” Barry’s hands fell from his face, revealing a megawatt smile. “I thought…I mean, after seeing a man in yellow surrounded by lightning kill my mom, I thought maybe you’d been some kind of shock-induced hallucination. But you’re real, and you’re here!”

            Chronos rolled his eyes. “Yeah, kid. I’m here. And you better not be in the next twenty seconds unless you want me to shoot you.”

            He expected the kid to turn tail and run. After all, scary bounty hunter with a giant rifle threatens you with said giant rifle, the smart thing to do is to hightail it back where you came from. Instead, though, the kid’s attention went away from Chronos and over to his ship.

            “Whoa, is that a spaceship? Is it like Star Trek? Are you an alien? What planet are you from? Are you like a scientist or a warrior? Stupid question—you’re wearing armor and carry a rifle. Clearly, you are in a soldier-like job. Who’s Ginny? I heard you talking to her that night. Is she your pilot?”

            Chronos stared, amazed, at the kid. Did he ever shut up? He wasn’t even fazed that Chronos could shoot him and leave his body in the woods. What a nerd.

            He grabbed Barry by the neck and pulled him away from the ship. “It’s a timeship. I’m a bounty hunter. You need to go away and leave me alone. I’ve gotta lot of work to do.”

            Barry’s excitement seemed to grow. “Timeship? Are you from the future? Are you stuck here? Is that why there so much smoke?”

            Where was this kid’s parents? Oh, right. Tough subject. Where was whoever the hell that was supposed to be watching him?

            “Kid!” Barry’s mouth snapped shut with a click. “Don’t you have someone out here who’s probably looking for you?”

            Almost immediately, the kid deflated. The little bit of human left in him twanged guiltily. “I’m out here with my scout troop.” He explained. “They led me out in the woods and left me.”

            Ouch.

            “Well, your leader’s gonna be looking for you. It’s getting dark.”

            Barry shook his head. “We were taken out here by Tony Woodward’s even jerkier older brother. Last night, they duct taped me to a tree in my sleeping bag. It took me four hours to get free.”

            A little tear dripped out of Barry’s eye. Not that Chronos cared. Hunters cared about one thing—the mission. Hunt down the Legends. Kill any who resist and bring the others back to the Vanishing Point. That was his sole purpose. That was what he wanted.

            Except, another kid popped into his mind’s eye. A runt that was too smart for his own good, that always got himself into trouble, especially in juvie. Except that kid had someone watching his back, 24/7. Who did this kid have? 

            “Gotta stand up for yourself, kid.” He grumbled. He plopped onto the ground and rested his back against the cloaked ship. Frowning, Barry did the same. “Deck those little assholes one good time, and they’ll leave you alone.”

            Barry’s brow crinkled in thought. “Joe told me that, if I didn’t think I could win, that I should run away. And there’s more of them than there are of me.”

            Chronos raised an eyebrow with a snort. “Look, I don’t know this Joe, but he sounds like a putz to me. Here’s what you do, anytime there’s a group of people that want to kick your ass: don’t worry about the others. Go straight to the ringleader, ball up your fist, and knock ‘em so hard in the nose, it bleeds. If they look like they ain’t gonna give up after that, go for the knees, take ‘em to the ground, and don’t let ‘em up until they’re crying for their mamas.”

            Barry was staring wide-eyed at him. Yeah, this kid would never survive juvie, much less Hunter training in the Vanishing Point. “That’s really violent.”

            Chronos shrugged. “Would you rather it be at you or at them?”

            A thoughtful expression crossed the kid’s face, and he nodded. “Can you teach me how to punch?”

            That was unexpected. It must have shown, because Barry quickly backtracked. “I mean, Joe put Iris and me in boxing lessons, but I never really got the hang of it like Iris did, and I can’t punch really well, and…”

            Chronos rolled his eyes and climbed to his feet, pulling Barry up with him. “Give me your hand.”

Tentatively, Barry held his hand out to the bounty hunter. “When you make a fist, make sure your thumb is outside of it. You can break your thumb if it’s tucked in.” He formed Barry’s hand into a fist, thumb out. “Bring your index and middle fingers forward,” Barry complied. “If you want to knock someone out, go for the throat. If you want to make a point, go for the nose. Never aim for it—aim behind it. You’ll put more power in it that way, and always keep your wrist straight.”

            Chronos removed his glove and held out a hand. “Punch it.”

            He nearly busted out laughing when the kid threw himself off balance, landing a pitiful punch on Chronos’ arm instead of his hand. They tried again, and again, until he actually hit the hand. Then, after about thirty tries, Barry Allen landed a punch so hard (for a fourteen-year-old) in Chronos’ hand, he could suddenly see the Flash in him.

            Barry jumped for joy. Chronos shook his head, but smirked proudly all the same. The kid was adorable—even a Hunter could admit that. The sun was low in the sky as they finished, and Chronos knew there was no way Barry would make it back to camp alone at night. Reluctantly, he went inside and pulled out his emergency previsions—a tent, a sleeping bag, things to make a fire with (fire), and food.

            He sat with Barry the rest of the night, hearing the kid ramble on and on about science this and school that. He talked about Joe, his foster father, and Iris, his long-time crush and foster sister, and his father’s innocence and what really happened (he’d seemed shocked at Chronos’ nonchalance over a man in lightning, but really. He’d seen things as a Hunter and as Mick Rory that little Barry Allen would never believe). He continued on until his eyelids drooped, and finally, he keeled over in exhaustion.

            Chronos would never tell anyone that he tucked the one-day Flash into a sleeping bag and laid him in the tent. Nor would anyone ever know that he stayed awake through the night, keeping watch with his rifle.

Chapter Text

            Morning came with zero incidents, and when Barry finally woke up, he was better rested and happier than he’d felt the entire trip. He sat up and stretched until his joints popped, before crawling out of the tent Chronos had set up for him.

            The time traveler was nowhere to be found. He glanced around the clearing, not wanting to wander off, until he realized the door to the ship was halfway shut. With a grin, Barry hurried over, squeezing inside through the skinny opening. Chronos might get upset with him, but how could he resist going on a spaceship?

            He was creeping through the darkened, metal halls when a voice made him jump.

            “Good morning, Mr. Allen. I trust you rested well under the stars last night. If you would like some breakfast, I can lead you to the galley.”

            He turned, trying to find the voice. “Who are you?”

            “I am called Ginny. I am the ship’s operating system and AI.”

            Barry’s jaw dropped. The ship was talking to him. With a Southern accent. The ship had an artificial intelligence that was talking to him. This was the coolest day of his life. “Ummm…” He stammered, because what do you say to a machine? “Uh, is Chronos here?”

            There was a pause. “Chronos is in the engine room, making repairs to both the engine and the time drive. It is a delicate process which requires his full concentration. If you wish to eat something, Chronos will meet you in the galley once he is finished.”

            Barry nodded. Suddenly, the lights in the hall flickered off, only to have one in front of him blinked back on. Once Barry passed it, the next one came back on, then the next. This continued through the halls, directing Barry to a small, futuristic room with a kitchen island in the center. He pulled a stool out from underneath it and sat down.

            “What would you like for breakfast, Mr. Allen? I can make you waffles, pancakes, eggs, bacon, French toast, any kind of cereal…”

            Barry’s stomach growled. “Can you make some French toast and a scrambled egg, please?” He asked.

            “Absolutely. Would you like any milk or juice?”

            Barry pursed his lips. “Do you have apple juice?”

            As if to answer, a light flashed under the countertop and, within seconds, the section of tabletop in front of him slid open, and a tray of French toast, with an egg and a glass of apple juice, rose to sit in front of him. Barry grinned widely. “Thank you, Ginny!”

                  He liked this ship.

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            Luckily, the rest of the repairs went off with little to no incident. There was no radiation leak with the time drive, he still had plenty of fuel, the engines suffered light damages. All in all, it could’ve been a lot worse. He headed for the galley, where Barry Allen was supposed to be waiting for him. All he had to do now was fly the kid back to his troop, drop him off, and then return to the time stream.

            When he made it to the galley, however, it was empty.

            “Ginny!” He called. “Where’s the kid?”

            “Apologies, Chronos.” Ginny replied, not sounding the least bit apologetic. “Mr. Allen was growing bored waiting for you and decided to wander the ship. I have locked any rooms which would be…inappropriate for a child.” So, he couldn’t go into Chronos’ room, the armory, or the medbay.

            “Where is he now?”

            “I believe he is in the fabrication room, dressing up like a cowboy.”

            Chronos rolled his eyes. Typical. Sounded like something Haircut would’ve…. He cut that thought of at the knees. Ray Palmer-Target. Not easy acquaintance who annoyed him on a regular basis. Chronos headed for the fabrication room, freezing in place when he saw that the kid was dressed in a blue unitard with a red cape.

            Barry blushed when he noticed Chronos in the doorway. “I was bored.”

            Honestly, the only comment that could come to Chronos’ mind was, “What the hell are you supposed to be?”

            “I’m…. uh…. I’m one of the Super Friends. From the cartoon. He’s a superhero.”

            God, there was irony in this. Instead of mentioning it, however, he just shook his head. “Fun’s over, kid. I need to get you back to your camp before they send Smokey the Bear and the rest of the forest rangers after you.”

            Barry frowned. “Smokey is about forest fires, not lost kids.”

            “Or, I could just leave you in this clearing to find your own way back.” Chronos reminded him, walking out of the fabrication room. He smirked a little when Barry came running out after him, superhero costume completely off, pulling on his uniform.

Once they reached the control room, Barry was so entranced by everything, he was actually silent for once. Chronos plotted in a course for the campsites in the preserve, and took his seat in the pilot’s chair. Barry hovered over his shoulder, watching in amazement.

                “What does that do?” He asked, pointing to the lever on the console.

                “Starts the time drive.”

                 He pointed to a button. “What about that?”

                 “That’s the cloaking device.”

                 They repeated this a few more times, until they were hovering over the campsites. “Alright, kid. We’re here. Can you find your way back from there?”

                  Barry examined the view screen and nodded. “Yeah, it looks familiar.”

            Chronos hummed. “Good. See ya around, kid.” Without warning, he pushed the transport button on the console, and Barry disappeared in a wave of green light.

            “Barry Allen has made it safely to the ground.” Ginny announced. Good. He was a good kid, not to mention important to the timeline. This would probably be the last time he saw the kid. His bit of humanity drooped sorrowfully.

            Chronos didn’t focus on it though. He couldn’t. He had a job to finish—Rip Hunter and the Legends needed to pay.

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            Even though he couldn’t see it, Barry could feel Chronos’ ship fly away from the ground below. When he was sure the ship was gone, he unclenched his fist and guiltily examined what he’d hidden.

            It was a tiny device, almost resembling a shock plug. At the end was a small, red button. Ginny told him about it when he discovered it in the communications room of the ship. She’d called it an emergency beacon. If Barry were to push it, Chronos’ ship would immediately come to whatever location the beacon was in. He smiled sadly.

            Chronos was lonely. He was lonely. Chronos was the only person who accepted what he said about his dad.

            What if the man in the lightning came back one day? Chronos could take him. He could take on anyone.

             “Allen!” He heard Tony Woodward yelling from a couple dozen yards off. “Come on, don’t be a pussy! Come out!”

              He shoved the beacon in his pocket. He couldn’t wait to show Tony what Chronos had taught him.

 

(If Woodward came back from the trip with a crooked nose and new respect towards Barry, well, he had Chronos to thank for that)

Chapter Text

             Barry sat silently on the front steps of Joe’s house, head hung low, staring down at the corsage in his hands. He’d bought it for Becky Cooper. They were supposed to go to prom together, dance together, share a first kiss…

            But instead, she’d stood him up for James Rice, the new guy in school who writes poetry and is admittedly dreamy. In a burst of anger, he pulled his bowtie off and threw it in the grass. Prom was stupid anyway. High school was stupid.

            He used the back of his tuxedo sleeve to wipe away the tears falling down his cheeks. Iris had offered to dump her date and either take him instead or stay home, but Barry had declined. She deserved to have a nice night, even if he didn’t. Besides, how hypocritical would it have been if he’d asked her to stand up her date for him?

            He rose to his feet, deciding to go inside, change into his pajamas, and mourn his love and social life in the privacy of his own room. He froze, halfway to the door, when he heard a rustling in the bushes of the side yard. He frowned. Joe was inside, making hot chocolate for them. Iris was at prom. No one lived in the house on that side. No one should have been over there.

            “Hello?” He called, stepping downstairs cautiously. “Is there anyone over there?”

            He crept over to the hedges, praying that it was just Fatcoon, the overweight raccoon that lived in the neighborhood and always tried to get into Joe’s garbage. When he turned the corner of the house, however, his prayers were ignored as a gun was shoved in his face.

            “Don’t move.” A mechanical voice commanded. Not that Barry could. He wasn’t completely sure that he hadn’t peed himself. Barry focused on the man behind the gun and startled. The gun wasn’t in his hand—it was his hand. The man’s entire arm was metal up to his elbow, along with the top half of his head, his throat, and his other shoulder. His eyes were also robotic—focusing in and out like the shutters on a camera.

            Oh my god, he was getting threatened by a cyborg! That would be so cool if it wasn’t going to hurt him.

            “I…I don’t have anything worth stealing.” He gulped. “Unless you want my date’s corsage.” He held the flower out. A confused expression crossed the cyborg’s face, and he knocked the flower out of Barry’s hands.

            “I don’t want your damn flower!” He growled. “I want you to shut up before—” He stiffened, his attention focused behind Barry.

            “Let the kid go, Moldoff.”

            Barry almost jumped for joy at Chronos’ voice. The cyborg—Moldoff—however grabbed Barry and pulled his back against his chest. He tensed when the arm-gun was pressed against his head.

            “I’ll kill him!” The cyborg warned. “No way in hell I’m letting you drag me back to the Vanishing Point to stand trial. I’d rather die!”

            Chronos’ mask was still on, but Barry could tell he was rolling his eyes. Without a word, he raised his arm, and a small dart shot from his wrist. Barry jerked when the cyborg’s grip on him tightened, before going deathly limp. He crumbled at the seventeen-year-old’s feet, dart in the little bit of skin left on his neck.

            He turned to Chronos, who was removing his helmet. “You okay, kid?”

            Barry nodded shakily, though his legs disagreed. Chronos dropped his helmet to the ground as he lunged forward, barely getting to Barry in time to keep him from hitting the ground.

He chuckled. “Yeah, sure seems like it.”

Barry decided that he really liked Chronos’ chuckle. He wished that he could hear him laugh, just once, so he knew what that would sound like. Maybe that was the shock talking, though.

Somehow, he ended up in the backyard on the double swing with Chronos beside him, watching worriedly. “You back, kid?”

Barry nodded, blowing out a deep breath. “That was scary. What was that?”

“Moldoff.” Chronos answered. “Time Pirate. Thought he could hide in Central in this time period. He was wrong.”

Barry swallowed hard. “So, that’s what you do? Hunt down people through time?”

He shrugged. “Told ya I was a bounty hunter. I don’t usually hunt down pirates, but my usual prey is in a…delicate situation at the moment that I can’t interfere with.” He leaned back a bit and stared at Barry, confusedly taking in his attire. “What the hell are you wearing?”

“Oh.” Barry ran a hand over his jacket. With all the excitement, he’d almost forgotten about prom and Becky Cooper. “It was, uh, prom tonight. My date cancelled on me last minute.”

“She get sick?”

Barry snorted. “Sick of me, apparently. She found a new date.”

Chronos’ lips pulled thinly in disapproval. “That’s shit. Sorry, kid. You deserve better than that.”

The anger and sadness from earlier gone, Barry just shrugged. “It’s fine. She’s happier with James Rice. That’s what’s important.”

Chronos laughed—actually laughed, like deep belly laugh—and Barry felt lighter hearing it. “Kid, you are the most understanding damn person and the biggest sap I have met in my life! And I’ve met reincarnated soulmates.”

Suddenly, he sobered a bit. His demeanor grew serious. It had been nice while it lasted.

“It’s not all good, though.” Barry continued, trying to lighten things up again. “I had plans for tonight.”

Chronos’ lips ticked up. “I’m sure you did.” He quirked an eyebrow, and Barry blushed.

“Not that!” Chronos started laughing again, though, which he counted as a win. “I mean like, prom stuff. Taking her to dinner, dancing together, I even rented a limo. I was planning on getting my first kiss from her tonight.”

            He sighed and dropped back against the back of the swing. At least Iris had been able to take the limo and dinner reservations.

            “You’re old enough to go to prom, and you haven’t been kissed yet?”

            Chronos sounded honestly curious, not even a hint of teasing. Barry shrugged. “Becky is…was my first girlfriend. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m kind of a giant nerd.”

            Apparently, the bounty hunter couldn’t argue that. “It’ll be okay, kid.” He assured instead. “I used to know this nerd—and let me tell you, he was a bigger nerd than you—and he ended up okay. You’ll be fine. Just gotta find the right person.”

            Barry stared at Chronos in amazement. He hadn’t expected that from him. Sure, he heard Joe and Iris tell him that he had to wait for someone that accepted him, but to hear it from someone like Chronos, someone he’d looked up to and even, at times, fantasized about for the past six years…

            Honestly, with all that had happened in the past two hours, Barry couldn’t be held accountable for what he did next.

            Chronos tensed up when Barry jerked forward, connecting their lips. Barry didn’t know how to kiss—it was chaste and quick, more a peck to the lips than anything—and as quick as he leaned forward, he pulled back even faster. Chronos’ eyes were bulging, shock all over his face, and Barry could feel his face turn completely red.

            He opened his mouth to say something, but he couldn’t find the right words. So, instead, he jumped to his feet and ran to the back door, practically throwing himself into the house. Joe nearly dropped the mug he was getting out of the cabinet when he barreled into the kitchen, but when he tried to question Barry, he refused to talk about it, shrugging it off as heartbreak.

            He’d never told anyone about Chronos—not his therapist, his father, Joe, Iris—and now, he definitely didn’t want to talk about him. He was so embarrassed, he wanted to die.

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            Chronos sat on the porch swing long after Barry Allen ran back into his house. He wasn’t sure how his simple pirate bounty had turned into what was possibly the most confusing night of his life—and that was coming from a time traveler. 

            Barry Allen—future superhero to his supervillain—kissed him. He was Barry Allen’s first kiss.

            He had been kissed by a seventeen-year-old.

            He shuddered. There was something wrong about that. But the kid hadn’t meant anything by it. They’d just been talking, and he probably just wanted to get it over with. Right? There was no way that the Flash had somehow imprinted on him and grown a crush. Was there?

            An alarm on his gauntlet broke him out of his stupor. “If you’re done entertaining the locals, Chronos, Time Master Druce would like to know your progress on Moldoff.”

            Chronos shook himself free and stood up, stomping to the body still on the West’s lawn. “Tell him the target wouldn’t be taken and was terminated accordingly. Transport two back to the ship.”

            Ginny complied, and soon he was back on the bridge of his ship.

            “May I speak freely, Chronos?” Ginny asked, meaning she was going to do it anyway. Chronos grunted. “Barry Allen is a pleasant boy, who is going to grow up to be a magnificent man.”

            Chronos rolled his eyes. “What’s your point?”

            “He’s too good for you.”

            Leave it to the computer. “Shut up and get a lock on the Waverider.” He ordered, pulling his helmet back on. Once it was over his face, he could pretend that his encounters with Barry Allen were just passing occurrences on missions.

            “As you wish.”

Chapter Text

Keystone University was the best college in the country for forensics. Joe worked extra shifts and even got a part time job working security at the arena to pay for Barry to attend. Iris had decided to stay in town and go to University of Central (she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, and argued that there was no point in going to a private college like Keystone U when she could get the same general education cheaper and in town).

            Barry was at the end of his junior year when his roommate invited him to a party at a frat house. At first, he’d refused—he had studying to do, and parties weren’t really his thing. But then, he found out that Freddy Webb was going to be there.

            Freddy Webb was a senior studying to be a medical examiner. He’d taken almost every class Barry had since the start of junior year, and once, when Barry ran into chemistry class late and tripped, spilling his books all over the floor, Freddy was the only person who, instead of laughing, actually helped him pick everything up. Sometimes, he would catch Freddy looking at him in class, and the senior would give him a charming smile that made the tops of his ears burn.

            One good thing came from that embarrassing kiss with Chronos—Barry had discovered that gender was not a big deal to him. Whether he was pan or bi or demi, he wasn’t sure. All he knew was that sometimes, when he needed to get off, he would think about large, rough hands on him (and if, at times, he imagined a husky, rough voice in his ear that sounded a lot like Chronos…well, no one else ever had to find out).

            So, there he was in a frat house, pressed against dancing people he didn’t know who were offering him unknown pills and drinks that smelled like an entire liquor store condensed into a red solo cup. His roommate had run off with his girlfriend an hour ago, leaving Barry awkward and alone. He groaned. He should’ve stayed in his room. He had a criminology final in three days. He needed to study.

            He was jerked out of his thoughts when two warm hands grabbed his hips from behind. “You seem like a man too deep in thought to be at a frat party.”

            Barry’s heart jumped. He turned his head to see Freddy Webb and that dazzling smile that made him weak kneed.

 “Hey, Freddy.” He smiled back, turning to face him. They were standing practically chest to chest, and Freddy hadn’t moved his hands from Barry’s hips, but if it didn’t bother Freddy, it didn’t bother him. “You look great.”

Of course he did. Freddy always looked great, with his sparkling blue eyes and his perfectly thick black hair he wanted to dig his hands into, not to mention that toned body he could think of all kinds of things to do with…

Off that thought train when your pressed this close to him, Bare.

“You look seriously stressed.” Freddy responded. Barry shivered when he brought up a hand to brush his fingers over his cheek.

“You know—finals are a killer.” Barry shrugged.

Freddy nodded in agreement. “Do you know what you need? You need to get drunk. Get your mind off of things.”

“Oh, no I can’t…” Barry tried to argue, but Freddy ignored him, instead grabbing him by the hand and pulling him towards the kitchen where the drinks were. He grabbed the first solo cup he saw and pressed it to Barry’s lips.

“Come on, Barry.” He urged. “It’ll make you feel better.”

Barry didn’t want to drink, but he did want Freddy to like him. If drinking was what it took to keep his attention… Barry chugged almost the entire cup.

It was awful. It tasted like the nail polish remover Iris used. He tried to pull his head away, but Freddy forced more of it into his mouth.

His vision started swimming after the second drink Freddy gave him. After the fifth, Barry couldn’t even walk in a straight line. He knew he was going to have one hell of a hangover, but the way Freddy smiled at him made it worth it.

“How about I take you back to your room, Bare?” He asked kindly, wrapping his arm around Barry’s waist. “You look a little tipsy.”

He must have been more than that, because somehow, a few seconds later, they were in Freddy’s car. Barry stared out the window, laughing at the streetlights as they passed. They reminded him of the lights on Chronos’ ship…

Chronos! He should’ve come to the party. He would’ve had a great time. Maybe the alcohol would’ve loosened him up. His fingers edged towards the pocket of his coat, where he always kept the emergency beacon he’d stolen when he was fourteen. Maybe he should’ve called Chronos and invited him?

“Barry!”

“Hmmm?” Barry turned his head towards Freddy, who was laughing.

“Who’s Chronos?”

“What?”

Freddy glanced over at him quickly. “You just said, ‘Maybe I should’ve called Chronos and invited him’.”

Oops. Barry stuck his tongue through his teeth and smiled. “I can’t tell you. It’s a secret.”

Freddy laughed harder, but didn’t push it, so Barry turned his attention back outside. Except…this wasn’t the way to the dorms.

“Freddy…” Barry nudged him. “I think you took a wrong turn.”

Freddy didn’t reply though. He took another turn away from the college, and another, and Barry was getting more and more confused. “Freddy.” He giggled. “I live in the dorms on campus. I think you’re lost.”

Freddy shook his head. “No, Barry. I know exactly where I’m going.” His voice was solemn and sober, and Barry realized that he hadn’t seen Freddy take one sip of alcohol the entire party, even when he was getting Barry drunk.

Freddy pulled off in a parking lot on the docks of the river. This couldn’t be good. Barry tried to jump out of the car, but Freddy quickly locked the doors. In his drunken state, Barry couldn’t grab the notch to force the lock up. When he turned to Freddy, there was a dark look in his eye that terrified him. He wanted out. He wanted out NOW.

An oily grin stretched across Freddy’s face. “C’mon, Bare.” He coaxed, reaching across the console to grab his knee. “I’ve seen the way you look at me. I know you want this.”

Barry shook his head and pushed the hand away. “No, I want to go home.”

Freddy tilted his head like Barry was some misbehaving child. “You can go home, Barry.” He said, climbing over the console to cage Barry against the seat with his body. “After I get what I want.”

Barry wanted to leave. But he was drunk. He couldn’t even think about how to open the door. All he knew was that he wanted Freddy off of him and to be safe.

Safe like when Chronos saved him from the time pirate.

He reached his hand into his pocket and pressed the beacon, before Freddy grabbed him by both wrists and shoved his arms over his head.

“No…” He begged, trying to turn away when Freddy’s horrible mouth was brought down on his, but the other man just took both of his wrists in one hand and used the other to hold his head still. “Please don’t…”

But Freddy forced and fought his way into Barry’s mouth, assaulting it and attacking it and claiming it in a way that wasn’t his to do. Barry tried to kick him off, tried to free his hands, but his limbs were too heavy, and his mind was too clouded.

He nor Freddy had heard the wind kick up outside the car. Nor did they hear the approaching bootsteps. But they did hear the door of the car being ripped off the vehicle. Freddy screamed as he was yanked out of the car and thrown to the ground.

“Barry.” Barry’s heart rate slowed down at the sound of Chronos’ voice. He focused as well as he could on the helmeted face of the bounty hunter, poked into the car. He came, was all he could think. “Barry, are you alright?”

Barry nodded.

“Don’t move.” He ordered. “I’ll be back in a second.”

Barry wasn’t sure where he would’ve gone, but he obeyed Chronos’ orders, even when he heard the sound of metal impacting flesh and the pained shouts of someone getting their ass kicked. He jumped when he heard Chronos’ futuristic rifle discharge.

Then, Chronos returned. Cautiously, he reached down to touch Barry’s arm, like he was afraid Barry would flinch away. But he knew Chronos wasn’t going to hurt him. Chronos was there to save him. He was like…was like…a knight in dull, black, slightly damaged armor. When he was sure Barry was okay with contact, he scooped him into his arms and carried him out of the car. Barry buried his face as well as he could in Chronos’ armored chest, allowing his eyes to grow heavy.

0000000

He had been tracking the Waverider when Ginny announced they were being called back to 2010. He was confused—who could have possibly called him to 2010?

“The source is an emergency beacon that is in the possession of Barry Allen.” Ginny explained.

Chronos growled. If he was getting called away from catching the Legends for something stupid like a girl breaking his heart again or some bully not backing away…

But when he landed, he realized something was up. The beacon led them to a near empty parking lot by the docks of Keystone. A few feet away from where the ship landed, there was a parked car. He could see two figures through the windshield—one, clearly Barry, was sitting in the passenger seat, while the other straddled him. He couldn’t see exactly what they were doing, but he could see enough to get the gist of what was happening in the car.

Seriously, if the kid butt-dialled him while getting lucky…

But then Chronos saw it. The way Barry kicked and tried to turn his head away; the way he begged; the way he pulled to free his hands.

Chronos’ vision turned red. He didn’t even remember ripping off the car door and throwing the little rapist out. He did remember checking Barry, and he would never forget the way he taught the piece of filth a lesson. He even shot the douche in the dick, so he’d never do it again. He ran off scared the best he could, Chronos watching with sick glee.

Then, his attention went back to Barry. He remembered the time one of the other Hunters tried to force himself on a young Time Master recruit. Chronos thought about the way she’d flinched from anyone’s touch, the way she refused anyone’s company except her roommate’s.

Another memory of an abuse victim popped into his head—one who hated being touched, because usually that was a sign of ownership or impending pain.

Barry showed none of those signs, however. He relaxed at Chronos’ touch. Fell asleep as he was carried back to Chronos’ ship. He laid him carefully in the medbay, allowing Ginny to scan his body and mind for any damage. When she found none, he let out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding.

If he’d been a minute later, that frat boy would’ve been dead. The second he violated Barry, he would’ve been living on borrowed time. As it was, Chronos wanted to track him back down and kill him just for trying. But Barry needed him to be there when he woke up. He needed to see Barry when he woke up. That’s the moment he realized:

Barry Allen was a dangerous person.

Even without his superpowers.

Because it took a lot for Chronos to feel this much compassion for someone, and, at this point, he would’ve done anything to see Barry Allen safe.

Chapter Text

He jerked awake suddenly. All he could focus on were flashes of memory—hands on him, his mouth being invaded, his own voice begging to stop.

            “Mr. Allen, you are safe.” A southern voice said. Ginny. He sat up quickly, relaxing when he saw that he was in a futuristic, metal room. “Welcome back to the Aeon. Chronos tried to stay with you until you awoke, but I threatened to remove all fatty foods from the replicators if he didn’t try to get some sleep himself.”

            A small smile twitched at Barry’s lips. He decided that he liked Ginny. His smile melted away, though, when he realized he wasn’t sure how he’d gotten back on Chronos’ ship. “What happened last night? How did I get here?”

            “Chronos didn’t disclose that to me. However, I know that last night, you used your emergency beacon. Exactly thirty-five seconds after we arrived, Chronos rushed off the ship, returning eight minutes and sixteen seconds later with you in his arms. He immediately brought you to the medbay, where you are currently residing, and ordered me to do a full medical exam. Other than some bruises on your wrists and scratches down your arms, you were physically well. I also took the liberty of injecting you with a serum to alleviate your hangover.”

            “Hangover?”

            “Your blood alcohol level was at .16 when Chronos brought you onboard.”

            Barry fell back against the chair. Aside from the memory flashes, he honestly couldn’t remember what happened. Why would he have needed medical attention? The only thing he could really remember was his roommate inviting him to the frat party…

            “Chronos is on his way down.” Ginny announced. “He is in a bit of a mood.”

            “Shut up.” He heard Chronos growl from outside the medbay door. “Don’t you have something better to do?”

            “No.”

            Chronos rolled his eyes as he stepped inside. He looked…different. His armor was gone, replaced by a long sleeved, high collared, black jumpsuit. His feet were bare, something Barry had never seen. Finally, there was a gleam in his eye. It wasn’t dangerous, or angry, or happy. It was worrying, almost panicky. When his attention landed on Barry, the stiffness he’d been holding in his shoulders melted away.

            “Hey, kid.” He greeted, obviously trying for casual, but Barry could hear the relief. What had happened that could’ve had Chronos of all people worried?

            “Hey.” He tried for a reassuring grin. Chronos moved to sit in a chair beside the bed-thing Barry was laying on.

            Chronos cleared his throat. “What all do you remember?”

            The way he said it, like he didn’t want to be the one to tell him, made Barry’s stomach churn. He furrowed his brow, concentrating on the flashes he remembered. “I…I was at a party? No…I got into a car. Freddy, this guy in my class, was going to drive me home.”

            He remembered riding in the car, his head light and buzzing. “Freddy…he drove past the college…We ended up in a parking lot, and…”

            Fighting. Kicking. Begging. There had even been a tear or two.

            Barry felt nauseous. “Oh my god.” He couldn’t believe… “Oh god, he was going to…he would have…”

            If Chronos hadn’t been there, he would have. Barry would’ve woken up stripped and covered in another man’s spunk after being violated. He was going to be sick.

            “Kid,” a hand fell on his, and Barry subconsciously flinched away. Chronos pulled back. “Barry, he didn’t get that far. I don’t know how much you remember, but he didn’t…”

            Not even Chronos could say it. A fire ignited behind the bounty hunter’s eyes. He was angry, but he didn’t want Barry to know. All he did know was that Chronos came and saved him. Without warning, he practically threw himself at Chronos, wrapping his arms around his neck and digging his face into his shoulder.

            “Thank you.” He whispered. “Thank you for coming.”

            Chronos deflated in his embrace. Barry blushed when he felt arms wrap around his torso as Chronos hugged him back.

            “Anytime, kid.” He replied quietly.

0000000

            The thought of Barry going back to the college where that scumbag attended, back to the dorm where his piece of shit roommate that abandoned him lived, made Chronos want to burn something.

At the moment, Barry was sitting in the galley, a bowl of his favorite cereal and fresh coffee in front of him. It’d been so long since Chronos had felt so strongly about someone. The need to protect Barry Allen overpowered everything. It was terrifying.

“Would you like something as well, Chronos?” Ginny spoke up, purposely giving away that he was lurking in the doorway. Barry’s head shot up, but instead of looking freaked out, he smiled.

“Hey, do you want some Smorz?” He asked, motioning to the box in front of him. “They’re the best.”

Feeling there was nothing else to do, he strolled into the galley and plopped down across from Barry. “How’re you feeling?” He grunted, grabbing the box and snatching out a handful. He needed to focus on something that wasn’t the way his stomach twisted and turned when he was in the same room as Barry.

Barry’s smile faltered. “Better, I guess.” His eyes dropped back to his cereal. “I just…I don’t think I can face him again.” He dropped his head onto the edge of the table. “Oh god. I have to see him every time I go into class, now. I have to see him, knowing what he was going to do.”

Chronos snorted. “I wouldn’t worry about that too much, kid.”

He chuckled as Barry raised his head slowly, a suspicious gleam in his eye. “What do you mean? You didn’t kill him, did you?”

He smirked deviously. “Ginny.”

“Two days from now, Fredrick Webb, after being discharged from the hospital, transfers from Keystone, back to Blüdhaven. Two months later, he will be arrested for the rape a young man on January 1st, 2008. The judge makes an example of him, and Fredrick Webb sees the inside of a jail cell for the next ten years.”

Something in Chronos’ chest preened. No one messed with his Barry Allen and got away with it. He grabbed another handful of cereal before he started having a crisis over when Barry Allen became ‘his’.

Barry shoveled a spoonful of his own into his mouth. “So, last time I saw you—”

“You mean after you got attacked by a time pirate because your prom date stood you up?”

A spoonful of Smorz flew towards his head, missing by inches. “Thanks for reminding me, asshole.” Barry shot back, absolutely no bite in his voice. “Anyway, you said that you don’t usually hunt down pirates. What kind of people do you usually hunt?”

It was like every organ in Chronos’ body hardened. He should’ve known the question was coming—Barry was a smart kid, it was only a matter of time before he started asking real questions—but he still hadn’t expected to be reminded so soon of his prey.

Figuring out he said something wrong, the kid started to backtrack. “I mean, you don’t have to tell me or anything. I just was trying to make conversation. We could talk about something else. Or nothing at all. Or…”

“Barry, it’s fine.” Chronos interrupted. And it, surprisingly, was. The mention of the Legends didn’t make his blood boil like before. He didn’t feel the need to kill something when he pictured Leonard Snart abandoning him in the woods. When he thought of Rip Hunter, he didn’t think about torturing him horrendously before killing him. He felt something akin to…peace. What effect was Barry Allen having on him? “The question just took me by surprise.”

He leaned back in his chair. “I am a Hunter for a group of pretentious time travelers called the Time Masters. For three lifetimes, I have been trained for the soul purpose of hunting down a rogue member of their organization and the team of time criminals that follow him.”

Barry’s eyes widened. “Whoa. What did they do?”

“Stole a time ship.” Chronos answered. “Broke the laws of time.”

“Why did the Time Masters recruit you, specifically?”

Chronos sighed, turning his eyes away from Barry’s adoring gaze. “I was one of those criminals. The rogue Time Master came to us with promises that we would be Legends, that we were important and he needed us to help him change the world.” He huffed. “I went because my partner wanted to go. Then, it was like my partner started changing, becoming something he wasn’t. No one saw it but me. When I spoke out, everything went wrong.

“I turned on him, siding with time pirates to get away and go home, but the team all sided with him. My partner sided with him. They made him drag me out in the middle of nowhere to kill me, but he didn’t have the guts to finish the job. It was months before the Time Masters found me, and by that point, I’d almost completely lost my mind.”

When he turned back to Barry, he was watching him sympathetically, but not piteously. His eyes still held that bit of wonder they always did when Chronos talked about time travel or his lifestyle, but they also had a heaviness to them. Like he knew that it wasn’t all fun and games travelling through time.

“I’m sorry you had to go through that.” The kid finally said. “But at least things seem to be looking up now. After all, if you hadn’t become Chronos, you never would’ve met me.”

Chronos stretched his lips into a thin smile. He had no idea how wrong he was.

0000000

Chronos didn’t drop Barry off at Keystone University. Instead, he dropped him off at the West House, telling Barry that he needed to talk to his family about what happened, and think about transferring to Central, where it was safer.

Barry rolled his eyes. That wasn’t going to happen, but he let Chronos believe it would. He wasn’t going to let scum like Freddy Webb run him away. If anything, the event pushed him harder to get his forensics degree. Then, he could help put douchebag rapists like him away for good, so no one would be hurt by them again.

The ship flew away, cloaked once again, and Barry sighed. He hoped he would see Chronos again, but there were no reassurances, especially with those rogue ‘Legends’ running through time. But if the emergency beacon he still had stashed in his pocket had anything to say, Chronos would be there when Barry needed him.

Chapter Text

 

            “Allen!”

            Barry jumped nearly a foot in the air. The rest of the officers and CSIs in the briefing turned to stare at him, some stifling their giggles, others downright glaring at him. At the front of the room, Joe was facepalming.

            Barry’s attention snapped to Captain Singh. “Yes, sir?” He asked, tucking his tablet under the file he was supposed to be focusing on. But when one of the followers of his blog emailed him an article about a man with impossible strength in Starling City, he couldn’t help but take a peek.

            Curiosity killed the cat. Or at least got it fired.

            “Anything you’d like to share with the rest of the class?”

            A low chuckle emanated across the room, and Barry felt himself flush. “No, sir.”

            Singh nodded. “Good. You can go on Facebook on your own time. Now, back to the robbery…”

            The captain continued with the briefing, but Barry’s mind went elsewhere. Everyone at the station—even Joe, to a certain degree—thought Barry’s fascination with strange cases and impossible phenomenon was weird and immature. Grow up, he always been told. See things for what they really are, Allen!

            But he’d seen more than any of them. How could he ignore the impossible when it killed his mother? How could he, when Chronos was as real as anyone? Time travel was real. Didn’t that mean that anything could be possible?

            But, of course, he could never tell anyone. Before Chronos dropped him off at Joe’s house that fateful night three years before, he’d sat Barry down and explained that no one could ever know about him.

            “But, Freddy saw you.” Barry had pointed out. “And I know about you.”

            “No one will ever believe that dick.” Chronos explained. “As for you…you’re a special case. I’m breaking the rules letting you remember me.”

            Barry frowned. “So, I can’t tell Joe or Iris that you saved me, or that time travel is real, or that you even exist?”

            “You never told them before.” Chronos shrugged. “It’s for your sake and theirs. If the Time Masters knew about this, there would be consequences for both of us.”  

 

            So, as promised, Barry continued to keep his mouth shut. Sometimes, when people called him crazy or a freak, it was really hard. But then, he thought of the Time Masters punishing Chronos for being his friend, and he pushed down the urge. Chronos was more important than other people’s opinions.

            He ran out of the room once the briefing ended, not wanting to run into Joe or Singh and get another scolding. He headed up the stairs two at a time, tablet in hand. From what he was reading, the case sounded legit. A human with extra-human abilities. If he could prove that, maybe people would start listening about the man in lightning.

When Barry walked into his lab, the hairs on his neck stood on end. The lights were off, so only light in the room was the setting sun peeking between the buildings outside the window. But he knew that, before leaving for the briefing, he’d left them on. He stepped cautiously inside, pausing when he heard what sounded like someone breathing. He lifted his tablet like a weapon.

“Who’s in here?”

There was a shuffling from the back corner of the room, and Barry spun around to face it. He nearly jumped out of his skin when he found himself face to face with Chronos.

“Nnah!” He startled, stumbling back. “God, you almost gave me a heart attack.”

He froze when he saw he was shaking. Barry grabbed his trembling hands and led him to the chair behind his desk. “Chronos, what’s wrong?”

The bounty hunter swallowed hard. He was wearing his armor, but his helmet was gone; in the fading sunlight, he could see anxiety all over his face. “I…I needed to see you.”

Barry fell to his knees in front of him with a frown. “What’s going on? What do you need?”

Chronos let out a shaky breath. “I…I don’t know what I’m doing anymore. It’s like I can’t…I can’t focus anymore. Can’t tell if what I’m doing is what I really want.”

He could see the indecision and self-doubt in Chronos’ eyes, and it made his heart clench.

“I needed to see you,” the bounty hunter repeated, “because you’re the only thing that cuts through it right now.”

He seemed so much smaller than Barry remembered, so much more human. Barry wished he knew what to say, that he could find the perfect words to settle Chronos’ mind, but all he could think to do was take the bounty hunter’s hands in his and say, “I’m here. Whenever, wherever. Whatever you need.”

Another shuddering breath escaped Chronos’ lips. They sat in silence for a few minutes, Barry stroking the backs of his hands, Chronos taking deep, steady breaths.

“This is the last time I’ma be able to visit you.”

Barry’s jaw dropped at the sudden statement. “What happened? Are you in trouble? Did the Time Masters find out about me?”

Chronos shook his head. “Nah, kid. Always knew this would happen. There’s something important I gotta tell you.”

He motioned for Barry to grab the chair beside the window and drag it over. When he was seated, Barry bit his lip nervously. If the Time Masters weren’t the reason Chronos was leaving, what was?

“Really soon, something’s gonna happen.” Chronos started, vaguely. “I can’t tell you what, but things are going to be crazy around here for a while. The point, though…” Chronos took a deep breath, then let it out. “The point is that, a little over a year from now, you’re going to meet me for the first time.”

His heart stopped. The room spun a little. Meet Chronos for the first time? But that would mean… “You already knew me before we met?”

Chronos sighed. “Let me explain before you get upset. This is important.”

Barry nodded, forcing himself to relax and listen.

“I told you that, before I became a Hunter, I had a partner. He dragged me into something big, and you were there. I didn’t find out your name or who you were until the Time Masters…anyway, I’m not a nice guy, Barry, but I was a worse guy then. I hurt a lot of people, including you.

“I’m telling you this,” he finished, “because I need you to understand that he’s not me. The Time Masters…they changed me. I have lived lifetimes since then. I wouldn’t hurt you, but he will. Don’t let him hurt you just because he has my ugly mug.”

Barry didn’t know what to say. He wanted to be mad—Chronos never mentioned that he’d known Barry from before. He felt manipulated and lied to. But when he saw the honestly and openness on Chronos’ face, he knew he’d already forgiven him.

He coughed away the fullness he felt in his throat. His eyes prickled with tears, knowing that the next time he saw Chronos, he would be someone different—someone dangerous that wanted to hurt him. Knowing that this was the last time he’d ever see the man he’d fawned over for the past thirteen years.

“So, I’m never going to see you again?” He managed to say.

Chronos nodded. “I can’t interfere with history past this point for you. Today is it.”

            Barry rose to his feet, Chronos following. He knew he had to accept it. Chronos wouldn’t stay just because he asked. He wouldn’t come back because he begged him to. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the beacon.

            “This is yours, then.” He said, holding it out to the bounty hunter. “If you can’t come back, I don’t need it anymore.”

            But Chronos just shook his head. “Kid, keep it. It’s a souvenir. You’ll always know now that you met the best bounty hunter the Time Masters had to offer, and proceeded to turn him into the biggest softee who lived.”

            He hadn’t noticed before, but Chronos was tearing up a bit as well. Somehow, it made Barry feel better that he’d made such a strong impression on him. He licked his lips as a wicked idea formed in his head. If this was the last time he was ever going to see Chronos…

            He lunged forward, bringing their lips together. It wasn’t like prom night, where he was nervous and embarrassed. He’d gotten some experience since then, and he wanted Chronos to know it.

            At first, the bounty hunter was frozen in place, and Barry feared he’d overstepped or something. What if it just made Chronos uncomfortable, to the point where his last memory of Barry was ruined?

            But then, the lips under his moved, and Barry pushed himself closer to Chronos’ body. He relaxed when gloved hands touched his neck, stroking slowly up the skin until they brushed against his face. Barry grabbed the edges of Chronos’ armor, half-afraid that he would disappear if he so much as loosened his grip. When they finally pulled away, Chronos hummed happily.

            Barry opened his eyes—he didn’t even remember closing them—and felt his cheeks darken. “I…I just wanted to do that, since…you know.”

            Chronos chuckled breathily and took a step back from him. “Kid, you can do so much better. And you will, someday.”

            Barry opened his mouth to reply, but footsteps outside the lab door drew his attention. “I think someone’s coming. You need to—” But when he turned back, Chronos was already gone.

0000000

            “Hello, Chronos. I see you didn’t bring Mr. Allen with you this time.”

            Chronos rolled his eyes as he stomped onto the bridge. “It’s over, Ginny. He’s not coming back.” He plopped into the captain’s chair.

            “That’s too bad. I liked him. He never told me to ‘shut up’ or threatened to upload Internet Explorer into my computer system.”

            Despite himself, Chronos smiled.

            “I think I have something to cheer you up. That is, if the lip lock you had with Mr. Allen didn’t do that already.”

            That bitch of a computer was monitoring them through his gauntlet. He rolled his eyes. “What do you have, Ginny?”

            “I’ve tracked Rip Hunter and his team to 1958. Vandal Savage was masquerading as a doctor during that time, which is most likely their mission. They won’t be expecting you. You will be able to take the revenge you want.”

            Chronos’ hands tightened on the controls. He didn’t know what he wanted anymore. Before, he’d been so sure that he wanted the Legends. He wanted them to pay for what they did to him. He wanted to take them back to the Vanishing Point and face the Time Masters. But after being around Barry, it was like his humanity—like Mick Rory—was fighting to be free. Sure, he still wanted revenge—it burned at his core. But now, he felt the anger behind the betrayal, the abandonment and loneliness when Snart chose the team over him, the righteous fury. Mick Rory was closer than ever.

            “Take us to 1958, Ginny.” He ordered. Barry Allen wasn’t around anymore. Just like their association, the feelings would disappear. Mick Rory would disappear.

            Mick Rory is dead, he told himself. I am Chronos.

            He repeated it as he set the Aeon to hover nearby the Waverider. Mick Rory is dead. I am Chronos.

            Again as he strode towards the cloaked ship. Mick Rory is dead. I am Chronos.

            He open fired at the starboard hatch. Mick Rory is dead. I am Chronos.

            The hatch opened, and, for the first time in so many lifetimes, he stepped onboard the Waverider. Mick Rory is dead. I am Chronos.

            He moved into the corridor, weapon raised, ready to fire on any Legend he encountered. It didn’t take long for someone to come running around the corner. Without seeing who it was, he fired on them.

            The crew member tried to dodge the blast, moving faster than most of the crew, but not fast enough. The discharge struck his shoulder, concussing him against the wall and knocking him to the ground. Mick Rory is DEAD. I am CHRONOS.

            He stepped forward to see who his prey was that he’d taken down, only to have all of the blood in his veins freeze. It wasn’t Haircut, or Rip, or Snart. It was someone who shouldn’t have even been on the ship.

            Barry Allen was laid out on the ground, unconscious and bleeding from his head and shoulder.

Chapter Text

  CENTRAL CITY, 2023

         

               Barry missed his superspeed. True, he could still access the Speed Force in spurts, but ever since General Eiling kidnapped and experimented on him, any use of his powers for longer than a few seconds nearly killed him. He pulled his hoodie low over his face as he walked through the streets. The people around him took no notice, but he knew the minute his face was seen, it would all be over.

            “Barry.” Cisco’s voice said in his ear. “Two Justice League members are patrolling on the next street over—looks like Vixen and Spartan.”

            Barry hummed an affirmative, quickly cutting down an alley to avoid running into the heroes. Halfway down, however, he was cut off by an exploding arrow at his feet. No.

            “Stand down, Flash.”

            Barry turned to face his once partner, once friend. Oliver remained steady, aiming an arrow directly at Barry’s heart. He could see the blank look behind the archer’s eyes, and his heart sank. He’d long given up on trying to reason with his friends. The memory of when he’d once broken through to Laurel, only to have her mind destroyed by her master for disobedience was still too fresh in his mind.

            He held his hands up in surrender. “Please…” He begged, his eyes darting around for a way out. “Please don’t kill me.”

            “The king has demanded your capture, Flash.” Oliver growled. “Fall to your knees with your hands behind your head.”

            Barry obeyed, hoping Oliver didn’t notice his fingers twitch down towards his backpack. When Oliver was sure he was giving up, he lowered his bow to reach for meta cuffs on his belt. Barry smirked.

            Using a burst of his speed, he grabbed a flash grenade from the top pocket of his bag and threw it.

            “Cisco, I need a breach now!” He yelled into his comm as it exploded at Oliver’s feet, sending a blast of light into the dark alley. A familiar whooshing sounded behind him, and, without even looking, Barry jumped backwards into the breach.

0000000

            The world was getting more and more difficult to navigate. Ever since Grodd took over, the world was his kingdom, and, using mind control, the Justice League were his own personal police. It’d been mere days after Barry’s rescue from Eiling when Grodd had decided to mount his attack, knowing that his greatest enemy would be powerless to stop him. As a speedster, Barry had been immune to Grodd’s mind control, but the rest of the League—Green Arrow, Black Canary, Spartan, Overwatch, Mr. Terrific, Wild Dog, Vixen, Frost, even the Martian Manhunter and Supergirl, who were visiting from their Earth—were taken almost instantly. Wally had barely been able to flash Barry out in time.

            Luckily, Cisco had been at S.T.A.R Labs with Harry, Iris, and Joe, and developed halos to keep Grodd out of their heads. They all went underground, knowing that, even if Barry still had his powers, their odds of defeating the entire League and Grodd was slim. Over time, they’d picked up some help—Thea and Roy, Ragman, Mark Mardon, Lisa Snart, Hartley Rathaway, Shawna Baez. They started rebelling, planning, using Cisco’s power to spy and find weaknesses.

            Two years later, and they’d made almost no progress. Barry landed on the other side of the breach Cisco opened with a defeated sigh. His best friend frowned worriedly. “Dude, you okay?”

            Barry dug the heels of his hands into his eyes. “Yeah, it was just…this time, it was Oliver…”

            Cisco nodded, understandingly. “It’s hard. I know. Remember when I went out and Caitlin was the one that caught me?”

            Barry did remember. It had been brutal. “Those flash grenades come in handy. We should make some more.”

            He removed his backpack and moved to throw it on a nearby table, when he noticed something. A tiny, flashing, red light. He and Cisco both stared at the device hooked to his bag, knowing what it meant.

            “We’ve gotta get everyone out.” Cisco said, right before a breach opened behind them.

Cynthia Reynolds. Recent ‘recruit’ of Grodd’s.

Barry took Cisco by the hand. “Run!” He screamed, pulling his friend towards the exit. They heard footsteps coming through the breach, but neither dared look back as they ran to the main ‘cortex’ of their lair.

“Everyone get out!” Cisco announced, drawing everyone’s attention. Roy and Thea stopped training, Shawna and Mark stopped making goo-goo eyes at each other, Hartley turned away from where he, Iris, and Joe had been discussing security with Lisa, and Wally and Ragman stopped testing their abilities on each other.

“They found us!” Barry explained. “We need to evacuate now!”

The room was thrown into a flurry. Everyone moved to grab their weapons and head for the nearest evacuation point. They’d made plans for this.

Then, more breaches opened around them.

The Justice League leapt through the breaches, surrounding them. They were all going to get captured. The speedsters would be killed, and the rest of them enslaved in their own minds. Barry swallowed hard, looking over at Wally, who was watching him resignedly.

Suddenly, the air was punched out of Barry’s lungs. He felt himself moving at superspeeds away…except his legs weren’t moving. When he came to a stop, he realized he was being held by Wally in the Safe Room.

The Safe Room was built into their first hideout in the early days of the rebellion. The idea was that, if Grodd’s forces ever found them, everyone would lock the metas away to prevent Grodd from adding their abilities to their army. Then, if the metas could, they would mount a rescue.

The Safe Room became obsolete when everyone realized that only a couple of the metas would be willing to hide instead of fight, and those who would were unlikely to mount any kind of rescue.

Now, Wally was pushing Barry inside. “I’m sorry.” He said, not sounding sorry at all. “But we know Grodd kills speedsters. We already lost Jay and Jesse. Harry died trying to help them. I’m not letting him kill you, too.”

Barry shook his head. “No, Wally, don’t!” But the young speedster was already closing the door behind him. The door would remain sealed for twelve hours.

Barry had lost. He’d lost everything. He fell to the floor, knees tucked against his chest, and fell into his own despair. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out Chronos’ emergency beacon. In the early days, he’d taken it out every day and considered using it, damn the consequences of time. He hadn’t thought about using it in over a year.

At what point did one consider throwing out all the rules? When all hope was lost? When there was nothing left?

Years ago, it’d become damaged by a fight with, funnily enough, Captain Cold and Heatwave. He tried to fix it, but he was no Cisco Ramon. He didn’t even know what part of the device had been damaged. Keeping his promise, he hadn’t gone to Cisco and tried to repair it himself.

He pushed the button. Then, he pushed it again. He held down the button as he held the device close to his heart, praying that Chronos came.

It was hours later when he heard talking outside the door. His heart seized. Had Grodd’s minions found him? He moved beside the door, pressing his ear against the wall.

“The signal’s coming from the other side of this wall.” He heard someone say. The voice was too muffled to tell who it was.

They’d found him because of the beacon, he reasoned. Was it the Time Masters? Had Chronos brought back-up? Had Time Pirates found him instead?

            “The door is electronically sealed.” Another voice said. “It won’t open on its own for another eight hours.”

            “Can you open it, or not?” Yet another voice drawled.

            There was a clanging, like the electric panel outside the door hitting the ground. Less than a minute later, the door clicked open. Barry searched the ground quickly for something he could use as a weapon, but all he could find was a wooden stool. He grabbed it and held it high over his head, ready to brain the first person to walk through the door.

            “See?” A cheerful voice said as the door was pulled open. “Told ya I could do it.”

            “Yes, well done, Dr. Palmer. You opened a door.” An older, snootier voice said. “Now, let’s shut off this signal so we can take off.”

            A figure stepped into the doorway, and Barry’s hands tightened around the stool. “I have a question.” The drawling voice spoke up from outside the door. “Why would an emergency signal made specifically by Time Masters be in a panic room in a gorilla run Central City in 2023?”

            The figure took a step inside, and Barry brought the stool down hard on his head. When the man crumbled to the floor, Barry took his chance and ran for it, hoping the others were too far away and would be too surprised to stop him.

            He was wrong.

            A hand grabbed the back of his shirt the minute he made it past the door and threw him against the wall. He froze—almost literally—when he recognized the weapon being shoved into his face.

            “Snart?”

            Leonard Snart’s eyes widened in shock. He imagined he looked much worse for wear than he had the last time Snart had seen him. The Christmas Eve in Joe’s living room seemed ages away now.

            The villain lowered his gun. “Barry? What the hell—?”

            Their attention turned to Professor Martin Stein, groaning as he tried to sit up from where Barry knocked him to the floor. Ray Palmer stood nearby, staring at Barry like he was a ghost.

            Barry looked between them—Rip Hunter’s Legends—and did something he hadn’t done in a very long time. He laughed. He laughed hard and long. Because he finally had hope. He had found a way to fix things. He could save everyone.

            He could change his fate.

Chapter Text

           “No. Absolutely not.”

            Barry rolled his eyes as Rip Hunter stalked away with a sense finality. After Leonard, Ray, and Professor Stein found him, they escorted him back to the Waverider. Ray and Stein because Barry said he’d explain where the signal came from, Leonard because he knew it would make that twitch under Rip’s eye start acting up.

            Apparently, the Legends were known for bringing home strays.

            He followed Rip into his study. “You don’t even know why I’m here.”

            “You want to use time travel to change the future.” Rip replied, his back still to Barry. “I’m afraid that we cannot interfere with the timeline in such a way.”

            “Because we haven’t been interfering with it already?” Leonard asked from the bridge, where he and the rest of the crew were loitering, not even trying to pretend they weren’t listening.

            Rip sighed. “What we have been doing is different, Mr. Snart. I am a Time Master. I know what events we can interfere with and which we cannot.”

            “And what I’m telling you,” Barry interrupted, “is that I have seen the future myself, and it never looked like what I’ve been living in for the past two years. Something has changed it, and I think it’s your mission.”

            The rest of the team perked up at that. Maybe they hadn’t considered the effects their travels through time made for the rest of the universe, but Chronos had told him enough to know that little things could cause monumental quakes in the timeline. Rip opened his mouth to argue, but Barry cut him off again.

            “Ginny.” He called out.

            “Ginny is a counterpart of mine, Mr. Allen.” A British voice said overhead. “I am Gideon, named in honor of the first A.I invented by you, which all of the Time Masters’ A.Is are built from.”

            Barry nodded. Good to know. “Gideon, could you scan the timeline and find any anomalies that could have created the present we’re in?”

            The ship went quiet for a moment. “If my analysis and calculations are correct, there are at least five different scenarios our mission could cause, which would result in your current situation. The most likely of the five being that the crew of the Waverider fail in their mission, perish, and do not return to their current time.”

            Barry raised an eyebrow at Rip, who was staring, flabbergasted, at him. “How did you even know…?”

            “There’s a lot you don’t know, Captain Hunter.” Was all the explanation Barry gave. “The important thing is that you all succeed in your mission and return home. If not,” he turned to the rest of the crew, “everyone you love will either die or become the telepathic slave to a psychotic ape.”

            Ray raised his hand. “I have a question. If it’s so important that the past is changed, why have you never tried it? Speedsters can time travel, can’t they?”

            Barry hung his head. He should’ve know someone would ask about his powers. “Yes, they can. But something…something happened a few years ago. General Eiling,” he shared a meaningful look with Professor Stein, “captured me. For months, he tortured and experimented on me, seeing if he could tap into the Speed Force himself and weaponize it. The Speed Force doesn’t work like that, though…”

            He swallowed hard. He could still feel the needle, the paralysis they’d forced on him, the fingers violating his skin. It made Freddy Webb seem like a picnic date. “Technically, I’m still a speedster. My mind still thinks fast, I can read fast, I have to eat thousands of calories a day…but my healing doesn’t work anymore, and my speed…I can’t run fast enough to time travel anymore. I wouldn’t have come here if I thought I had any other choice. But Grodd has won, and I can’t abandon the human race like that.”

            Sara crossed her arms over her chest. “What do you mean ‘he’s won’? I thought the Flash always had hope.”

            “That was always my observation.” Leonard added.

            Barry shook his head. He knew they needed to know, but saying it made it all so real. “When Grodd first took over, I was the only member of the Justice League besides Cisco Ramon not to be enslaved.”

            “What’s the ‘Justice League’?” Jax asked, but Rip waved him away.

            “Nothing you need to know about yet.”

            “Anyway,” Barry continued, “he took all of them. Oliver, Dig, Felicity, Caitlin, Laurel,” he shot a meaningful look to Sara and Ray, both horrified at the fate of their loved ones. “He couldn’t take me, though, because it doesn’t work on speedsters. Wally, my foster brother, got me out. We, along with Cisco and the rest of my family, went into hiding. We found some help along the way and formed a rebellion. Together, we trained and prepared for the day we’d have enough manpower to take down Grodd. But he recruited more and more metas, and finally, he found one with Cisco’s powers. They found us.”

            He let out a shuddered breath. What happened to his team? To Wally? Did anyone get away? “Wally saved me again and locked me up to protect me, but Grodd got most, if not all, of my team. Iris, Joe, Cisco,” Kendra gasped, “Hartley Rathaway, Mark Mardon, Shawna Baez, Rory Regan, Thea Queen, Roy Harper…and Lisa Snart.”

            A fury burned behind Leonard’s eyes. Barry knew he deserved to know about his sister’s fate. They all deserved to know what their actions could cause. “Lisa is a good warrior, Snart. She and Thea taught everyone else how to fight and how to defend themselves. You would be so proud of her.”

            “Too late for that, Scarlet.” He drawled, his Captain Cold voice returning. Barry knew it was to cover the emotions he knew he was feeling. “I say we take a vote—all in favor of the Scarlet Not-so-much-a-Speedster joining, raise your hands.”

            Sara, Ray, Leonard, Kendra, and Jax all raised their hands, leaving Rip and Stein outnumbered. “This is not a democracy!” Rip exclaimed. “Votes don’t count because Mr. Allen is not staying. That’s final. Besides, without his abilities, what use would he be on the team?”

            Barry resisted the urge to flinch. “Well, I know almost as much about time travel as you.” Barry answered smugly. “I know how to repair Gideon if something were to happen.” Thank you, Ginny, for explaining how you work. “I can still use spurts of speed when needed. As I said before, I was taught to fight by Golden Glider and Speedy, not to mention Arsenal. I know more about forensics than any of you. And I can throw one hell of a punch.”

            Rip still didn’t seem convinced, so Barry pulled out the last tool in his belt. He reached into his coat pocket to show off the emergency beacon. “Besides, I fixed this pretty well by myself.”

            The team shared confused looks, but Rip’s eyes widened. Barry smirked, knowing the value of what he was holding. “Where…?” Rip stammered. “Where did you get that? How did you get it?”

            Hook and line. “Can’t tell you.” He shoved the beacon back in his pocket. “But isn’t it worth at least giving me a chance?”

            Rip still seemed to be fighting with himself, so Barry drew one last card—one he swore he wouldn’t. “They’re my family, Rip.” The Time Master’s eyes darted up to his, and Barry saw the broken man inside, the one fighting desperately to save his family. “Wouldn’t you do anything to save your family?”

0000000

             Their first mission with Barry was to 1958. A recent string of murders, a couple of disappearances, and an immortal supervillain pretending to be a caring doctor.

            Barry almost felt like the Flash again.

            While Ray and Kendra played house, Jax played Marty McFly, and Sara and Stein played doctor, Barry and Leonard were sent to the police station to get information on the murders. Rip had originally planned to go with Leonard, but the thief just declined with a sneer.

            They rode into town silently, Leonard lost in thought, Barry staring at his once villain. It’d been so long since he’d last seen Captain Cold—seven years, even if it did feel like decades sometimes. He’d almost forgotten what the man looked like, the way he talked. Not that Barry had been focused on it so much before, but when he and Lisa would sit down on quiet nights and wonder what happened to the Legends…

            Honestly, he thought that maybe Chronos just killed them. He never told Lisa that, but he knew how capable and determined Chronos was. After finding out about Chronos’ real name, he couldn’t bring himself to tell Lisa that her brother’s partner, a man who helped raise her, may have been the one to kill him.

            “What are you staring at?” Leonard snapped suddenly, breaking the silence.

            Barry cleared his throat. “How long…how long has it been for all of you? Since you left 2016?”

            His grip on the steering wheel slackened, his posture relaxing. “Four months. It’s hard to keep track, though. Time travel and all.”

            Barry nodded. “How long since Mick left?”

            His posture stiffened again, and Barry realized it must have been very recent. He still remembered the story Chronos told him, about his partner turning against him and marooning him. Now that he knew it was Snart, though, and that Mick was the one left, he was starting to get the whole picture of what happened.

            “You don’t have to talk about.” Barry backtracked. “It’s just… I noticed he wasn’t here, and that no one’s mentioned him. And they all keep giving you these looks, like you’re going to turn your cold gun on them at any second. I know that’s why you wanted me to come—because I’m the only one who wasn’t there, who doesn’t remind you of whatever happened.”

            “Shut up, Barry.” Leonard hissed. “You have no idea what went down. You don’t know anything about me or Mick, so stop pretending you care.”

            He did, though. He probably knew more about Mick Rory than Leonard did at that point, and he cared. Damn, did he care. But he couldn’t tell Leonard that. So, he just nodded. “I’m sorry.” He said, pouring every ounce of sincerity into his voice. “Really. I am.”

            Leonard’s eyes darted over to him, and he let out a deep sigh. “You know what? I believe that, Scarlet. And thank you.”

            Barry raised an eyebrow. “For what?”

            “Taking care of my sister. Watching her back when I wasn’t there. I shouldn’t have left her.”

            “Lisa takes care of herself just fine.” Barry corrected with a snort. “In fact, when she joined our team, she saved me and Cisco. She had been building her own team, with Mark Mardon, Shawna Baez, and Rosalind Dillion. Rosalind didn’t make it back to our base, but Lisa made sure that everyone else made it back. She’s so brave and strong. I wouldn’t have survived without her.”

            Leonard nodded, like he expected nothing less from his little sister. “We picked you up in 2023. How old are you now?” He asked, pulling into the parking lot for the police station.

            “Thirty-five.”

            Leonard hit the brakes so hard, Barry slid forward in his seat. He stared at the speedster in disbelief. “There’s no way in hell. You barely look like you’re past twenty-five.”

            Barry huffed. “I was twenty-seven in 2016. You had to have known that.”

            “You haven’t even aged, Barry.”

            He shrugged. “Speedster DNA. At least the Speed Force is still doing something for me.” Without another word, he put on his fedora and climbed out of the car.

0000000

            Barry took a deep breath. It’d been a long time since he felt like a hero. Helping save Jax and all those kids from being hawk monsters for the rest of their lives, stalling Savage’s plans. It’d given him a rush that he thought he’d never feel again.

            “Barry.” He raised his head as Jax approached where he was leaned against the wall of the bridge. “You okay?”

            He smiled so wide, it hurt his cheeks. “I’m actually…good. Really, really good.”

            Jax smiled back and slapped his shoulder. “I’m glad. I just about to go talk to Snart, but I wanted to come and thank you. For saving my life.”

            Saving my life. He actually made a difference. “Anytime, man.” He pushed off the wall. “I told Rip that I’d let Ray, Sara, and Kendra in when they got here, so I probably need to head for the cargo bay.”

            Jax nodded, patting Barry on the shoulder one more time before stepping back. “Hey, Bare?” Jax called as he started walking away. “It’s great having you on the team. I’m glad you decided to come along.”

            Barry nodded before making his way out of the room. He thought back to the moment he, Leonard, and Stein came across Jax, mutated into one of Savage’s hawk monsters. His first thought had been that he’d been too late. He’d failed again, and another teammate was the slave to a psychopath.

            He used small spurts of speed to avoid hits from Jax, trying to wear him out, until Leonard shot a pipe above them, which burst, letting steam pour out into their teammate’s face. When Sara finally showed up to knock Jax out, Barry was worn down and invigorated all at the same time.

            He was just glad the antidote he and Stein helped Gideon produce worked.

            He was turning the corner towards the cargo bay, when the entire ship jerked. “Gideon, what happened?”

            “The ship is being fired on, and the starboard hatchway has been forced open.”

            Damn it. “Tell everyone I’m moving to intercept.” He called, running as fast as he could without his powers. “I need back u—”

            He froze when he rounded the corner, only to come face-to-face with his childhood crush, his imaginary friend, the man he was never supposed to see again. Stupid Barry. His job was hunting the Legends. You are a Legend now.

            Chronos didn’t seem to notice who he was firing at as his weapon discharged. Barry tried to flash to the side, but he was too weak from his fight with Jax. Chronos fired again, this time hitting him directly. Barry’s shoulder and neck burned as he flew back against the wall, cracking his head against it. His vision blurred as he hit the ground, and the last thing he remembered seeing before he blacked out was Chronos standing over him.

                       

Chapter Text

Chronos stared down at the still form at his feet in horror and shock.

            Barry.

            How could he be here? He was supposed to be back in Central City. He was supposed to be safe. A small groan escaped Barry’s lips, and Chronos noticed it—he wasn’t healing. The burn that stretched from his shoulder to the side of his neck was still bleeding and nasty.

            Almost on instinct, he bent down to scoop Barry gently into his arms. As if sensing who was holding him, Barry relaxed. It reminded Chronos way too much of that night he pulled him from that parked car in Keystone. Only this time, Chronos was the monster who hurt him, not some smarmy college student who couldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

            He reverently carried him towards medbay, laying him gently on the cot inside. He took a second to look over the sleeping speedster, before typing a code into his gauntlet. The ship lurched, the virus he had Ginny program into Gideon initiating take off.

            “Ginny, you still in the Waverider’s systems?”

            “Yes, Chronos. Administering medical treatment now.”

            Satisfied that Barry was in Ginny’s care, he turned on his heel and strode out, rifle raised, to deal with the Legends. The minute he turned the next corner, however, Rip Hunter was waiting, pistol raised and ready to fire. Chronos fired a blast at the captain, who dove aside in the nick of time. Then, a blast of cold knocked him down from behind.

            Chronos fell to his knees. Get up, he heard Time Master Druce saying in his head. Get up Chronos, and finish your mission. Kill the Legends.

            Do what you want to do, Chronos. Another voice—one that sounded just like Barry Allen, cut over it. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do. Be the person Barry Allen thinks you are.

            He shook the voices free from his head. He needed to—he needed—but before he could pull himself to his feet, Snart was standing over him, swinging the cold gun down on his head. His helmet was dislodged, clanking loudly as it hit the floor beside him.

The hall went silent. Neither Legend standing over him even reacted when both halves of Firestorm came running around the corner, only to freeze in place.

“What the hell?” The kid gasped, eyes locked on Chronos’ face.

“My God…” Hunter whispered. Chronos’ eyes darted up to him.

“There is no God.” He growled, lunging quickly for his weapon. Snart knew him, though, almost too well. The minute Chronos moved for it, his ex-partner delivered a swift kick to his face. Chronos blacked out, unsure of his feelings towards his failure.

0000000

Leonard stood silently outside of Mick’s cell in the brig. He was still unconscious from the hit he’d given him, a huge lump forming on his head. He crossed his arms over his chest. What had the Time Masters done to him? What had he done to him? He was supposed to be safely hidden in the future.

The sound of someone approaching the brig snapped him out of his thoughts. Jax came in warily, quickly glancing over to make sure that Mick was still out.

“Just wanted to tell you that we’re heading to pick up Kendra and Ray. Apparently, Gideon received a signal like what Barry used; probably something Ray cooked up.”

Leonard hummed. It seemed like everyone had a way to flag down time ships. Rip may have let it go that Barry had contacted the Waverider with futuristic tech, but it still nagged at Leonard’s mind. Barry was smart, but he was no engineer. And the way Hunter looked at the device in his hand…

There was something more going on.

“Speaking of Barry,” Jax continued, “Gray and I went looking for him while you and Rip were dragging him,” none of them could bring themselves to say his name out loud, “back here. We figured he probably shot Barry somewhere near the starboard hatch and left him for dead.”

That thought didn’t sit well with Leonard. The Flash may have been their enemy, once upon a time, but the kid didn’t deserve to die like that. Not after everything. “And?”

“We found him in the medbay.”

Leonard finally turned to stare at Jax, eyebrow raised. “He was in medbay when he was shot?”

Jax shook his head. “He was in one of the chairs getting healed by Gideon. In fact, she said that if he’d been brought in later, he may have bled out. The wound was pretty bad.”

Brought in? So, he didn’t drag himself in?” Leonard tried to process it. “Who brought him in?”

Jax shrugged. “It wasn’t me or Gray. We were as shocked as you.”

They fell quiet, both considering what that meant. Whether or not either of them wanted to admit it, there was only one person who could have carried Barry to the medbay. The only question was why Mick—or Chronos or whoever—cared so much about Barry Allen?

0000000

Barry was getting really tired of waking up in strange labs. When he first opened his eyes, he’d panicked—it was like he was back with General Eiling, waiting for the next serum to be forced into his body.

“Mr. Allen! I can assure you, you’re safe.” He calmed at the sound of Ginny’s voice. Wait—Ginny?

He sat up quickly. Probably a little too quickly, if the pain in his shoulder meant anything. He glanced around at his surroundings and was a bit surprised by what he saw. He was…on the Waverider still?

But Chronos had been there, and now Ginny…?

“Mr. Allen, Chronos programmed me to override Gideon to take control of certain sections of her programming. After bringing you here, I was ordered to monitor your healing.”

He frowned. “Where is Chronos? Is the rest of the crew okay?”

“Other than yourself, all crew members currently onboard are unharmed. They have Chronos locked in the brig. I’m afraid they have discovered his true identity.”

Barry swallowed hard. “Do they know about…?”

“It doesn’t seem as though they know about yours and Chronos’ past relations.”

He breathed out a sigh of relief. He wasn’t sure why he cared if the Legends knew, but for some reason, he felt the need to keep it a secret.

“Rip Hunter has been alerted you’re awake by Gideon.” Ginny announced suddenly. “He is on his way down with Ray Palmer and Kendra Saunders to see you. They don’t seem very happy with him.”

Barry laughed quietly. Rip messed up—what else was new?

Apparently, he messed up big time. Like, stranding-three-of-your-teammates-in-a-foreign-time-period-for-two-years big time. It was almost funny.

Okay, it was really funny. But the heartbroken puppy eyes on Ray made him feel guilty about laughing. Maybe living in the future he had seriously screwed up his sense of humor.

Kendra sat beside him on the chair and ran her fingers through his hair like he was a child. “How are you, Bare?”

Barry smiled. “I’m alright. Just a bit burned.”

 “Bet you’re wishing you could still heal, aren’t you?” Ray asked, pulling up a chair to sit beside him. Barry chuckled.

“You have no idea. My metabolism burns through any pain meds, but the healing is just as slow as everyone else’s. It sucks.”

Kendra and Ray joined him laughing.

“So, where did Sara go?” He asked, leaning back to rest his muscles.

Kendra and Ray glanced back at Rip, who was leaned against the wall across the room quietly.

“We’ve tracked her back to Nanda Parbat.” The captain explained. “She has rejoined the League of Assassins.”

Barry let out a low whistle. “We’re going back to Nanda Parbat?” He asked Ray. “I thought you said you never wanted to step foot in there again.”

Ray shrugged nonchalantly, even though his eyes showed just how terrified he was by the thought.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Allen,” Gideon spoke up, “you will not be going anywhere. Your treatments for your injury are not complete.”

Barry glared at the ship as best he could. He’d once led a mission with Ragman and Arsenal with a broken ankle that set wrong, and he’d be forced to have Roy break it again so they could set it right. He could handle a blast from whatever Chronos hit him with.

Freddy Webb lived, and Chronos shot a whole appendage off of him.

“I’m afraid Gideon is correct, Mr. Allen.” Rip said, interrupting his thoughts. “You need to stay here until your treatment is complete. You will be our back-up if something goes wrong. Besides, someone has to stay behind on the ship to guard Chronos.”

Barry wanted to argue—he was more than capable of fighting off some League members without his powers. He’d held his own against Martian Manhunter once without powers. He’d be fine.

But then, he thought about Chronos being locked up on the ship…

“Fine.” He sighed, crossing his arms. “I’ll stay.”

He tried not to seem too excited when everyone left the ship.

0000000

Chronos awoke to the feeling of eyes on him. He raised his head, which hurt like a son of a bitch, and tried to focus on where he was. His eyes adjusted, and he realized he was locked in the brig.

Great.

He groaned as he fought to sit up.

“Don’t rush.” A voice outside the glass. “Take your time. You got a bad blow to your head.”

He cradled his head, feeling the shape of a knot above his eye. “Wha—?” His eyes focused on the figure watching him, gradually clearing until he could see every small detail, every curve, every color, every highlight.

Barry smiled small, in a way that didn’t really reach his eyes. “Hi, Chronos.”

 

Chapter Text

            “Hi, Chronos.”

            He hadn’t known what he was going to say at first. He wanted to rage, to yell, to vent his frustration. The fire he’d held for Chronos since Grodd’s takeover—no, before that; since he woke up with General Eiling smirking over him, surrounded by scientists—flared up for a moment.

            He’d been so angry for so long. Angry that, in all the years they’d known each other, Chronos hadn’t thought to warn him what was ahead for him. Not Eiling or Grodd. Not losing everyone he’d ever loved. No, the only thing he’d thought to warn him about was Mick Rory, who was a blip on his radar compared to the others.

            If he were honest with himself, he was also angry that Chronos didn’t save him. Logically, he knew he’d been warned that Chronos wouldn’t come back, but that didn’t stop him from hoping each moment he was poked, prodded, and electrocuted by Eiling, or the nights he laid awake waiting for Grodd to find them, that Chronos would come down like his knight in black, dented, time armor and rescue him.

            When Chronos stared into his eyes though, Barry’s fire died down. He seemed so lost, so alone.

            Just like Barry.

            He smiled sadly. “How are you feeling?”

            “Like hell.” Chronos huffed, holding his head. “My head is banging like a cheap hooker.”

            Barry snorted. Oh, yeah. Chronos and Mick Rory were definitely the same person. He pressed his hand to the door lock and let himself in, shutting the door quickly behind him. Chronos watched him questioningly until he pulled a sticky pad Ginny had made for him out of his pocket.

            “Ginny told me this would help with your head.” He explained, kneeling down to place it over Chronos’ injury. “Don’t worry—she’s also taking care of the cameras in here. As far as anyone knows, I’m still in medbay, and you’re still asleep.”

            At the mention of medbay, Chronos’ eyes darted to his shoulder. Barry knew that part of his injury was visible above the neckline of his shirt, even if the worst of it was covered. Chronos seemed to be focused on it.

            “How’s…?”

            “It’s fine.” Barry answered, wishing he could cover the wound better. “They say that it’s almost completely healed. It’ll leave a mark, but hey, I’ll have a bad-ass looking scar, so that’s something.”

            Chronos’ face practically screamed guilt. Barry sighed. “If you hadn’t carried me to medbay, I would’ve died. You saved my life.”

            “I almost ended your life.” Chronos growled, tearing his eyes away from Barry. “If it hadn’t been for me, your life wouldn’t have been in danger.”

            Barry shook his head. “No. I knew you were hunting the Legends. I chose to join. Dying is an occupational hazard.”

            When Chronos’ head snapped back face Barry, he saw an inferno behind them. He saw Mick Rory. “What the hell are you even doing onboard?” He snarled. “You know the Time Masters want everyone on the Waverider gone. Why would you leave your life in Central behind for them?”

            Barry remained calm under Mick’s—because this was definitely Mick coming through, not the cold bounty hunter the Time Masters had tried to force him to be—fury. He was scared for Barry. Fear makes people angry, he reminded himself. He rose quietly from the floor and walked over to the bench at the back of the cell, sitting quietly.

            “I’m not the Barry you left behind, Chronos.” He explained solemnly. “I’m not even the Barry who’s the Flash. I just look like him. There is no ‘life in Central’ anymore. I’m from 2023.” He waited for a reaction, but Chronos—Mick? —stared back blankly. “Two years after Gorilla Grodd conquered most of the world, including Central?”

            That earned a reaction, but not the sudden remembrance he thought it would. Instead, Chronos’ eyes lit up in terror and confusion. “What? What do you mean Grodd conquered the world? He was supposed to be locked away on Earth-2 by you and your little team years before that.”

            Barry shook his head. “Grodd attacked Central in 2017, but he got away when he realized he was going to lose. He had four years to come up with a plan to destroy us, and it worked. I…as far as I know, I’m the last survivor of the resistance. I came on this mission to prevent my present from ever happening.”

            Chronos frowned. “You’re the Flash. Why didn’t you stop him with your speed?”

            He let out a humorless laugh. No wonder Chronos never came. He never knew any of it happened, because it wasn’t supposed to happen. His torture, his pain, his horror, all of it was because of Vandal Savage murdering Rip’s family, and Rip seeking revenge.

            “I don’t have my speed anymore.” He said quietly. “Not like I used to. It was stolen by an evil man who wanted to take what made me special and weaponize it. Now, I’m nothing.”

            He heard Chronos drag himself up. They’d removed his armor, so now he stood in his black jumpsuit he’d worn the morning after he saved him from Freddy Webb, making it easier for him to pull himself up and take a seat beside Barry.

            “You’re something to me.” He whispered. He carefully place an arm around Barry’s shoulders and tugged him over so Barry’s head fell to his shoulder. Other than the kiss, it was the first time Barry had felt the warmth of Chronos against his skin. A kiss was pressed in his hair, and Barry’s cheeks warmed up. It’d been forever since anyone had held him like he was something precious. “I wouldn’t be me without you.”

            Barry raised his head and looked Chronos in the eye. He was smiling, small but genuinely, at him, and it nearly shattered Barry’s heart. He slowly moved forward, giving Chronos enough time to turn away, before pressing their lips together.

            Chronos inhaled sharply, but didn’t pull away. Neither deepened the kiss, keeping it as a chaste touch of lips, but Barry’s entire body lit up. He thought he’d gotten over his crush on Chronos. That was dumb.

            When they pulled away, Chronos rested his forehead against Barry’s and sighed. “I’m sorry, Barry. I’m sorry I didn’t protect you.” He pressed another kiss to Barry’s lips, this time as a clear apology. “I won’t let anyone hurt you. I swear.”

            Barry believed him. Damn him, but Barry believed him.

            “Sorry to interrupt.” Ginny interrupted, not really sounding all that sorry. “But Gideon is receiving a distress signal from Captain Hunter. Something is wrong in Nanda Parbat.”

            Barry nearly launched himself off the bench, and Chronos let out a groan. “Of course it is.”

            This wasn’t good. This was really not good. An assassin or two, he could take down. But the entire League? Without his speed, he couldn’t stop them. He couldn’t save the team. Not by himself, anyway.

Chapter Text

            “Are you sure about this?”

            Chronos was suited up in full gear, his rifle raised, standing outside the back gate of Nanda Parbat. Barry was beside him, shaking with anticipation.

            The speedster nodded. “They definitely won’t be expecting it.”

            He couldn’t argue that. Not many people would expect a Time Master Hunter in full gear armed with a phaser rifle to come barging into their house. Much less anyone from 1960.

            “For the record,” He said under his breath, “I’m only doing this cuz you threatened to go in alone. Not because I care about if any of them live or die.”

            A grin pulled at the edge of Barry’s lips. “Whatever you say.” He whispered back, before hurrying to the gate. It was unguarded, just like Ginny told them it’d be after scanning the complex. Chronos followed close at his heels, ready to shoot anything that attacked.

            He didn’t have to wait long.

            When they walked inside, there were three guards standing at the end of the corridor. To Chronos’ dismay, Barry used his powers to flash forward, taking two of them down with one hit. The third drew an arrow from his quiver and aimed it at Barry’s back, but before Chronos could shoot him, Barry did a jumping roundhouse kick like fucking Chuck Norris, kicking the weapon out of the assassin’s hands. The assassin tried to strike back out at him, but Barry blocked the punch expertly, using his distraction to deliver a strong punch—just like Chronos taught him—to the throat.

            The assassin dropped to the ground, unconscious.

            Chronos was more than a little turned on.

            Barry doubled over for a moment, the surge of speed he’d used draining him. Chronos rushed to his side. “You okay?”

            Barry nodded, grabbing the assassin’s sword off of him. “Yeah. We need to keep moving. The temple isn’t too far from here, and that’s where Ginny said they’re being kept.” He stood up, barely hiding the way he was swaying.

            They continued through Nanda Parbat, Chronos keeping a close eye on Barry, until they came to a set of fancy, engraved double doors, guarded by two League members.

            Barry raised his sword. “I’ll take them. You save the Legends.”

            Before Chronos could argue that ‘I’m not here for the Legends; I’m here to protect you!’, Barry was running, at normal speed this time, towards the doors. The guards drew their swords the second they saw Barry coming at them. With a skill Chronos hadn’t seen from him before, Barry dropped to his knees and slid across the floor. He brought his sword around in a sweeping motion, slicing through one of the assassin’s ankles. Then, he brought it up quickly to block a blow from the other.

            “Go!” He yelled to Chronos, grabbing the sword from the assassin he sliced and swinging it at the other. Chronos rolled his eyes and ran for the door, blasting it open.

            He’d better get to kill some assassins.

0000000

            Once they were back in the Waverider, Barry knew that Rip wasn’t happy with him. In fact, he practically had smoke coming out of his ears.

            “You let Chronos out?!” He shouted once the entire crew were on the bridge. Sara, for her part, was still reeling from finding out that Mick Rory was Chronos. The others were standing around, eyeing Barry with suspicion and concern. All except for Leonard, who was staring at him like he was a puzzle that was one piece away from being able to tell what the picture was.

            They’d locked Chronos away almost immediately after they’d gotten back to the ship. Barry had argued in his favor, but he was ignored.

            “I needed back up.” He sighed, throwing himself into one of the chairs. “I couldn’t take on the entire League by myself. And he helped save your lives, remember?”

            But his argument fell on deaf ears. “He’s been hunting us for months!” Rip continued.

            “He killed my son, Barry.” Kendra spoke up. “I know that you weren’t there for that, but…”

            Barry resisted the urge to roll his eyes. None of them understood. How could they? “I trust him.” Barry found himself saying.

            The rest of the crew went silent. “Barry,” Ray said sympathetically, “I know you try to see the good in everyone. I do, too. Mick saved me from a Russian gulag. But, after all he’s done, I don’t know if there’s enough Mick in him that can be saved.”

            This time Barry did roll his eyes.

            “You know what I want to know?” The room turned their attention to Leonard, speaking for the first time since they’d left Nanda Parbat. His eyes were still fixed on Barry. “Why is it so important to you, Barry? Why are you defending someone who used to try and turn you into a boiling puddle? What’s so special about Mick?”

            Barry stiffened. Leonard was getting really close. “He’s not important.” He lied. “But he was a member of this team that was taken by the Time Masters and brainwashed. You never leave a member of your team behind.”

            Leonard tilted his head, like he didn’t believe Barry, but he didn’t push it. Sara’s eyes widened, though.

            “Oh my god, you’re lying.” She gasped. “You’re lying to us. I can tell, you do the same thing Laurel does when she lies. You dance around the answer.”

            Barry felt the urge to run. He didn’t know where he would go, but the air suddenly became thick with tension. Before he could move, though, Jax and Sara were moving to each side of him, and the rest of the team surrounded them.

            “Barry…” Ray said again with his calming tone. It didn’t work. “Why are you lying to us? What are you hiding?”

            He tightened his lips. He didn’t know if Chronos wanted them to know how they knew each other, but he sure as hell wasn’t going to give them the best memories of his life because he felt threatened. He shook his head.

            Rip sighed. “Unfortunately, Mr. Allen, if you don’t tell us about your connection with Chronos, you will be confined to your room for the rest of our voyage.”

            Barry’s jaw dropped. “What? You can’t do that!”

           

            Apparently, he thought as he threw himself against the force field over the doorway to his room. They can.

            The other Legends all stood on the other side, watching him piteously. After a few minutes, they all started meandering away, ignoring his yells to let him out.

Chapter Text

            His first visitor was Rip Hunter.

            He came to Chronos with pretty worded apologies and requests. It disgusted him that the Time Master could shout abuse to his face before, but now that he was a direct threat—a Hunter for the Time Masters—he treated him like an equal. 

            The conversation ended with Chronos threatening to kill both him and Snart.

            “Ginny.” He called once he was alone again.

            “Yes, Chronos?”

            “Where’s the ship heading?”

            “2147. The Kasnian Conglomerate. According to Gideon, their plan is to stop the Armageddon Virus and put a halt to Vandal Savage’s takeover.”

            Chronos nodded. Sounded like a Rip Hunter plan. “How’s progress on getting me outta here?”

            “Slow, I’m afraid. Since your last release, Captain Hunter has rewritten security protocols. It will take me another few hours before I can override Gideon and take control.”

            Chronos frowned. Why would Hunter redo his security? “Why the hell did he do that?”

            “I’m afraid he’s locked Barry Allen out of all systems.”

0000000

            His first visitor was Sara. She pulled up a chair in front of his open door, the force field still holding him inside, and sighed.

            “Hey, Bare.”

            Barry sat across from the door on his bed, H.G Wells’ ‘The Time Machine’ in his lap, pretending like he was reading. Honestly, he didn’t want to talk to any of them. They were a team. They were supposed to be able to trust one another. They should have known that if it was something they needed to know, he would have told them.

            “I know you’re not really reading.” Sara called him out. “You’re just ignoring me because you feel betrayed. Think about how we feel, Barry. Mick…he’s our friend, our teammate. We care about him. But that doesn’t mean we can trust him. He betrayed us, and now we know he hunted us down to kill us. Now, finding out that you’re keeping secrets about him…”

            “It’s not bad.” Barry growled, still not looking up from his book. “And it doesn’t put the team in danger. But the problem isn’t you trusting him. It’s that none of you trust me. I would never keep something from any of you that would hurt people. Especially my team. That’s something you stick by when you lead a rebellion at the end of the world.”

             With that, he fell silent. Sara sat, watching him solemnly, for a few more minutes, before hanging her head.

“Fine. You don’t want to talk. I get it.” She stood up. “I’ve got to go, Bare. We have to go find some guy named Per Degaton and stop Vandal Savage. But I’ll be back to see you after the mission, okay? I’ll try to talk to Rip, though, about getting you out of here.”

            Barry rolled his eyes. He wouldn’t hold his breath.

0000000

            Sara came next.

            “Finally sent somewhere here that’ll finish the job?” Chronos asked. He was lying back on the bench, staring up at the ceiling. If they were going to kill him, he wanted them to get it over with. The waiting was boring.

            “That’s not why I’m here.” Sara replied, taking a seat beside the cell. “I came to talk to you, actually.”

            Chronos groaned. “I’d rather you just kill me.”

            She chuckled humorlessly. “Sorry. So, I visited Barry earlier. Had a talk with him.”

            Chronos turned his head to her with a frown. “Whadda ya mean ‘visited’? Thought his treatments in medbay were done?”

            “They are.” Sara agreed. “After we got back from Nanda Parbat, he was confined to his room for letting you out and refusing to tell us why.”

            Chronos jumped off the bench. “You can’t do that!” He roared. “None of you have the right! He saved your lives!”

            “We know that, Mick.” Sara said calmly. “And we know that you helped. But he lied to our faces. I don’t know Barry outside of our past mission—I don’t know how well I can trust him. Lying doesn’t make me feel better. But,” She continued before he could interrupt, “this mission we’re on has got me thinking. Everybody's out there arguing about whether or not we should kill this kid, 'cause no one thinks he can change. It made me think about you, and how no one thinks you can change. No one except Barry.”

            Mick snorted. Barry didn’t think he could change. Barry didn’t think there was anything that should be changed. If only he knew how much he’d changed him…

            “That’s why you’ve locked us both up. You think that, when I get out of here, I’m gonna get some sweet payback, starting with Snart.”

            Sara shrugged. “Y’gotta admit—it’s a valid concern.”

            “Lemme tell ya something.” He sat up on the bench. “The only reason any of you are still breathing is because of Barry Allen. My plan was to invade the Waverider, grab Snart, kill his sister in front of him, and send this ship so far into the time stream that it fell apart at the seams. The minute I saw Barry Allen on this ship, my plans changed. You should be falling at his feet, thanking him for me sparing your asses.”

            It was a lie. Seeing Barry on the Waverider wasn’t what changed his mind. Meeting Barry Allen that night in 2000 was what changed him. Barry Allen influenced him in so many ways. He just hadn’t seen it until now. The kid was special—he was a light that brightened everything and everyone he touched. Chronos was just one of the people lucky enough to bask in the light, even for a minute.

            Sara raised a skeptical eyebrow, but Mick could see the wheels spinning behind her eyes. Instead of saying anything, she stood up to leave.

            “By the way,” he shouted after her. “Killing a kid? Not very ‘hero’-like.”

            She glanced back at him one more time before leaving.

0000000

            Leonard was the next person to visit him.

            If he was being perfectly honest, Barry had expected him to drop by at some point with more questions to fill in the blanks. When his door slid open as he was sparring with one of the dummies Gideon had created for him, the criminal was leaned against the doorway, eyes assessing.

            “You’re in love with him.”

            Barry missed his mark, knocking him off balance and sending him tumbling to the floor. That was something he hadn’t been expecting. “What?” he groaned, pushing himself into sitting position.

            Leonard chuckled. “Barry, there are two people on this ship I know like the back of my hand. Mick, after working with him for over thirty years, although that may have changed a bit with the lobotomy the Time Masters gave him; and you, after doing extensive homework on you to the point of borderline stalking. You may be nine years older, but your tells are all the same, Flash.”

            Barry jumped to his feet, barely pushing down the blush threatening to darken his cheeks. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

            “And you’re still a terrible liar.” Leonard was enjoying this a lot more than Barry liked. “I won’t tell anyone, if that’s what you’re worried about. I’m just curious when you had the time to develop feelings for him. I doubt it was in Central before 2016, unless you two met before he was Heatwave.”

            Damn. Snart was getting way too close to the truth. “Why don’t you ask him?”

            Leonard sucked his teeth. “We aren’t exactly on the best of terms right now. You see, there was this whole incident where I left him in the woods to get later and clearly never did. Mick isn’t too happy right now.”

            Barry scoffed. “The way I heard it, you knocked him out with your cold gun and abandoned him until he lost his mind.”

            He didn’t realize he’d said too much until Leonard’s eyes lit up with shock. “And where did you hear that?”

            Barry flinched. He just couldn’t keep his fat mouth shut. “You’ll need to talk to Chronos about that. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

            He turned back to his training dummy, hoping Leonard took the hint and would leave.

            “He’s in love with you, too, you know.”

            He didn’t turn to face Leonard. He was frozen in place, too stunned to move.

            “He doesn’t know it, but he is. I thought you should know.”

            Leonard’s bootsteps were fading around the corner by the time Barry forced himself to move.

0000000

            Chronos was taking a nap when the whole ship lurched, jarring him from his dream. “Ginny, what’s happening?”

            “The ship is under attack by Vandal Savage.”

            He leapt to his feet. He needed to find a way out. If Savage found a way onto the ship…

            Suddenly, the door to the brig slid open, and Sara came running in, Haircut hot on her heels carrying his gear. “Gideon, open the cell door!”

            The glass moved away. He quirked an eyebrow as Raymond dropped his armor to his feet. “Long story short,” he said, “we took a vote. Barry was right. Rip ran off with Per Degaton to kill him, Savage is here to get him back and kill us, and we need your help.”

            “Firestorm and Kendra are letting Barry out now.” Sara explained. “Now, are you going to gear up and help, or was Barry wrong?”

Chapter Text

            The smile that Barry gave him as they ran out to face Savage’s forces…Chronos would run to hell if it made him smile like that all the time. The speedster had kept the swords he’d stolen in 1960, apparently; he had one clutched in each hand. Those suckers didn’t know what was about to hit them.

            Armed with both his phaser rifle and his heat gun, which damn he missed, he charged ahead behind Barry, firing manically. After Haircut was blown out of the sky by robots from the future (because why not?), he and his birdie girlfriend took off to shut down their main power control, or something. Whatever, he was focused on Barry.

            He’d only seen Barry fight without his powers once, back at Nanda Parbat, but watching him take down a dozen armed guys with no superspeed was something to behold. When Barry ran for Savage and his right-hand men, one of the soldiers took advantage of Chrono’s distraction and tried to shoot him down. He didn’t expect Chronos to be made of stronger stuff. He burnt him and four of his buddies in one sweep of his heat gun. When the robots fell from the sky, Chronos knew they had the advantage.

            “We got ‘im now!” Leonard called out. It almost made Chronos smile.

            “Do you?” They all turned at Savage’s voice, only to freeze when they saw Barry pulled against his chest, both swords in Savage’s hands and crossed under his throat. If Barry were to twitch, even at superspeed, his jugular would be sliced open. Chronos’ heart stopped.

            “What do you want?” He demanded, his weapons still raised. From the look in Savage’s eyes, though, he knew Chronos was bluffing.

            “I want your captain, Rip Hunter, in exchange for his life.”

            He could have Rip Hunter. He could have every damn one of the Legends, if it meant saving Barry. When had he started caring this much? When was it that the very thought of Barry Allen getting hurt started igniting a flame inside of him he thought the Time Masters had extinguished? He didn’t care. It didn’t matter. Barry mattered.

            “I have a better idea.” And, damn, Chronos had never been happy to hear that fucking Englishman’s voice before, but now he could almost kiss him. Hunter approached behind them, some red-headed twerp that Chronos assumed was Per Degaton in front of him. “How about a trade? His life for my crewman’s?”

            “Don’t do it.” The little sociopath said. “They’ll only return for us in the future if you let them live.”

            The man to Savage’s right, Per Degaton’s father apparently, glanced between them all, balancing his options.

            “Your son is right.” Savage agreed, of course. “We should kill them now.” His grip on Barry’s swords tightened.

Chronos quickly turned his heat gun to Per Degaton. “You don’t let him go,” he growled, “I will burn your son alive. How will it feel, hearing your son screaming in agony as the flames eat at his flesh, knowing you could’ve stopped it?”

The kid’s dad now looked horrified. Good. He should stop raising bratty future dictators. “Give our man back, or I will. I’ve done it a thousand times. One kid won’t do squat.”

The kid glared back at him, but his words struck something in the father. He grabbed Savage’s wrist and forced him to lower the swords. “Lower your weapons!” He ordered his troops.

Per Degaton snarled. “No, father!”

His dad ignored him, though. “Release my son, and you can have your man and go in peace. You have my word.”

There was a pause, and the kid stared at the ground like he was too ashamed to even look at his father. Creepy kid. But Hunter pushed him forward, and Savage did the same for Barry. The latter turned to Savage, and for a minute, Chronos thought he might hit him, but instead, he continued towards their side of the battlefield.

“Better find yourself a new mentor, kid.” Snart drawled as he passed. Chronos didn’t care though. Once they were back in the ship and flying away from 2147, he threw his helmet to the ground and started checking Barry over.

“Are you okay?” He asked. “ARE YOU OKAY?”

Barry just laughed, though, like it was the funniest thing he’d ever seen. “I’m fine, really. The douchebag caught me off guard and disarmed me. I didn’t even get a scratch.”

He didn’t know why he did it, and he didn’t even care that the entire crew, including Hunter, were standing around watching. He just knew that he was worried as hell about Barry and almost lost him. He pulled him into a bone-crushing hug.

Barry immediately returned it, shushing Chronos when he dug his face into his shoulder. He let out a shaky breath. He was screwed. He was so screwed. Standing on the bridge of the Waverider in Barry Allen’s arms, practically having a panic attack while the kid comforted him…there was no going back from that. He was one-hundred-percent Barry Allen’s. And now, all of the Legends knew it.

0000000

            They all sat in various places in Rip’s study—Ray in one of the chairs, Kendra perched on his lap, Stein leaned against one of the book shelves, Jax half sitting half leaning in one of the windows, Rip standing stoically at the table in the center of the room, Sara right beside him, and Chronos and Barry right across from them, the former standing while the latter was perched on the edge of the table.

            “We trusted you.” Sara announced. “Both of you. And neither of you let us down. Now, all we ask is for some trust in return. We aren’t asking for anything you aren’t willing to tell. Just…a truthful explanation.”

            Barry glanced over at Chronos. He was back down to his black jumpsuit with all of his attention on Barry. He seemed to say, “Tell them anything you want and nothing you don’t.”

            “Are you sure?” Barry tried to communicate back.

            Chronos nodded.

            He turned back to the team. “Fine. I’ll tell you. I didn’t want to before because…well, I guess I’ve just kept it a secret for so long, it became natural for me to protect it, to protect Chronos. It all started the night the Reverse-Flash murdered my mother…”

            And he told them. For the first time in his life, Barry told the greatest secret he’d ever kept. He told them about Chronos walking him home that night, about him crashing near his campsite three years later, about getting attacked on prom night, even about Freddy Webb and what Chronos did for him. He left out certain things—Becky Cooper standing him up (for dignity’s sake), his mountain sized crush on Chronos, the few kisses they’d shared. By the way they were glancing between the two of them, it seemed the crew already had an inkling of his underlying feelings, but that didn’t mean he needed to rent out a billboard and announce it.

            When he finally finished telling them about the day before he went to Central and met the Arrow, Chronos’ last visit, all of them were nodding in understanding. Even Rip seemed to accept it all.

            “So, Chronos was pretty much your imaginary friend.” Jax summed up, fascination clear on his face. Barry nodded in agreement.

            “More or less.”

            Ray’s brows pinched thoughtfully. “So, that’s how you contacted the ship in 2023. You used the emergency beacon.”

            “Which you stole from Chronos’ ship.” Rip added, probably thinking back to when Barry showed it to him.

            “Yeah. It was broken a few years before that, and I tried to fix it myself. I guess I didn’t do it right, because when I tried calling Chronos, it brought the Waverider instead.”

            “You probably just called the closest timeship.” Chronos spoke up for the first time since they gathered. “You lucked out that it was these idiots who showed up instead of someone like the Pilgrim or one of the other Time Masters. They would’ve either killed you or, more likely, taken you back to the Vanishing Point for questioning.”

            To the others, he probably sounded harsh, but Barry could hear the real concern behind his voice. Like he was picturing what would’ve happened if the Time Masters had found out about them. Without thinking, he laid his hand on Chronos’. “But they didn’t.”

            Chronos swallowed hard, his expression hardening in a way Barry had never seen. “They might soon enough. I received a message from Ginny earlier. Because I failed to bring in the Legends, the Time Masters want to bring me in. Knowing my track record, they aren’t taking any chances. They’re sending out the Hunters.”

            Barry frowned. “I thought you were a Hunter.”

            “Not like these guys. Unlike me, there isn’t a shred of humanity left in them. There’s no negotiating or mercy. They carry out their orders swiftly and without hesitation.”

            “So, they want to lock us up in the Vanishing Point?” Ray asked, optimistically.

            Chronos shook his head. “Hunters do one thing—kill. They don’t care who gets in their way or why. They won’t stop until we’re all wiped from the face of history.”

            “And how do you suggest we outsmart them, Mr. Rory?” Rip asked. Chronos’ eyes darted back to Barry, and he could see the bounty hunter’s determination to protect him.

            “We run. We hide. We don’t let them catch us.”

Chapter Text

Barry was so relieved that, as a speedster, he was immune to the feel side effects of time travel. Leonard was talking screwy, Jax couldn’t feel his face, and Ray couldn’t his junk. Beside him, Chronos was chuckling at their antics, also unaffected.      

            “Where are we?” Barry asked, raising his harness.

            “The town of Salvation, the Dakota territory, 1871.” Rip answered.

            Ray’s face lit up like a child’s. “I can't believe it... the Old West.”

            Barry smiled back. He remembered the old black and white Westerns he and Joe used to stay up watching—Maverick, Have Gun Will Travel, Cheyenne, Gunsmoke. He and Iris used to have arguments over if pirates or cowboys were cooler.

            Chronos rose from his seat, his previously cheerful mood gone. “This isn’t going to work, Hunter.”

            The captain rolled his eyes. “It will buy us some time to think of a new plan.”

            Barry frowned. “What isn’t going to work?” he asked.

            Chronos sighed and crossed his arms. “Fragmentations. There are points in time that are always moving around, changing. Moments of your life that could’ve gone differently. The Time Masters can’t see ‘em. The captain here thinks we can hide inside of them from the Hunters.”

            “I don’t see you coming up with any better plans, Mr. Rory.”

            Ray clapped his hands together. “Well, I’m excited. I’ve always wanted a chance to ‘punch a few doggies’ or ‘bust a bronco’ or two. Not that I condone animal cruelty. I really like Westerns when I was a kid.”

            “Actually,” Barry spoke up, “neither of those actually involving hurting animals. ‘Punch a doggy’ means cattle driving, and ‘bust a bronco’ means taming a horse. Which, now that I think about it, could involve hurting animals.”

            Leonard snorted. “Great. Two cowboy nerds.”

            “You act so shocked.” Barry shot back with a grin. “I thought you knew me ‘like the back of your hand’?”

            Chronos’ seriousness melted away as he let out a bark of laughter, which Barry took as a win.

            “Regardless of your ‘nerdiness’, I’m afraid you’ll all have to enjoy the West from inside the Waverider.”

            Barry and Ray both scoffed. “What? C’mon, Rip.” Barry groaned.

            “Really, Rip.” Sara agreed. “What’s the harm in taking a look around?”

            Stein snorted. “With this group? Obviously, you haven’t been paying attention.”

            “If I don’t see the old West, I will literally kick myself.” Ray interjected.

            Leonard raised a hand. “I can help with that.”

            Barry felt Chronos side-eyeing him, before the bounty hunter—ex-bounty hunter now, he guessed—sighed. “I’ll go with ‘em.” He volunteered. “Make sure they stay out of trouble.”

            Ray whooped with glee, running towards the fabrication room with Sara and Jax not far behind. Kendra laughed as she followed, Martin right behind her.

            “Don’t worry.” Chronos assured Rip. “I’ll be a good boy.”

            He, Barry, and Leonard left the bridge, Barry pulling Chronos to a stop when they were away from Rip.

            “Thank you.” He said, pressing a quick kiss to his cheek. Chronos’ face tinted red, and a twinge of satisfaction shot through him. Maybe Leonard wasn’t so far off about Chronos’ feelings.

0000000

            The minute they stepped into the saloon, Chronos made a beeline for the bar. He needed some alcohol. Sara and Kendra followed, while the professor walked over to the poker tables. The bartender laid drinks in front of the three of them, and they each threw it back.

            Kendra winced. “Ugh, it tastes like gasoline.”

            Chronos nodded. “Pretty much. Hit me with another.” His eyes were on Barry, across the room, hanging around with Snart and Palmer. He frowned when Barry laughed at Snart and nudged his shoulder, the thief rolling his eyes good naturedly. His fist clenched on the table. Something curled in his stomach, making him nauseous as he threw back the liquor in front of him.

            “Another.”

            Beside him, Sara chuckled. “I saw that.”

            He turned to the blonde, only then noticing that Kendra had wandered off, drinking her own drink with a smirk. “Dunno what you’re talking about.”

            Sara pursed her lips and glanced back where he’d been watching. Snart was wandering over to where Stein was playing cards, leaving Barry and Palmer to talk animatedly about whatever nerd thing they were discussing. “Sure you don’t. Y’know you don’t have anything to be jealous of, right?”

            Chronos’ eyes widened, and he snorted. “I ain’t jealous of nuthin.”

            Sara nodded, unconvincingly. “Whatever you say, Rory. All I’m saying is that Barry Allen is head-over-heels crazy about you. He let himself get locked up to protect you. He stares at you like you’re the most important thing in the world to him.”

            Chronos shrugged. “I invaded his childhood. Had to have had some kind of damage there.”

            Sara shook her head. “Nah. I think you’ve done him some good. And he’s done some for you. You’re different than before.”

            Chronos stared down into his empty glass and sighed. “This is the first time I’ve seen the bottom of a glass in a long time. Time passes different in the Vanishing Point. I dunno how long I was Chronos. I know that they reset me a few different times, restarted my life. Trained me until I died, only to bring me back and repeat the process. The Time Masters are sociopaths. They tried to make me into something I didn’t want to become—something not human. I was almost there, when I met some lost, naïve little kid in the street, trying to find his way home to his mom.”

            “Barry kept you human.” Sara concluded. Chronos shrugged.

            “Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe my hunger for revenge would’ve been enough to keep Mick Rory alive. But he didn’t just keep Mick Rory from fading. He…Barry made Chronos human. He made me care. I should’ve killed him the minute he saw me, but…I didn’t.”

            He continued staring into the glass, contemplating everything.

            Sara nudged him. “Well, you look like you could use a drink. I bet you I can drink you under the table.”

            He smiled, turning to the ex-assassin. “You’re on blondie.” But before they could request another round, a shot rang out across the room. Both jumped up from their stools. Snart and Stein were facing off against a gang what looked like outlaws. Apparently, one of them drew their gun on Stein and Snart killed him.

            Great.

            Then, Barry decided to jump between them all.

            Crap.

            “Hey, does this really have to end in a fight?” He asked, a convincing grin on his face. “I mean, your guy was going to shoot our guy, one of our guys protected him. It’s an uneasy situation. How about my friends and I buy all of you drinks, and we just put this whole incident behind us?”

            Chronos’ hand dropped to his six-shooter. This wasn’t going to end as happily as Barry was hoping.

            “I got a better way of puttin’ this behind us.” The leader said, pulling his gun and pointing it at Barry’s forehead. Barry rolled his eyes, like there wasn’t a deadly weapon between his eyes.

            “Trust me, this is going to go better for all of you if you just walk away.”

            He wasn’t. He wouldn’t. But when the outlaw pulled the trigger, he did. If Chronos hadn’t known what to expect, he wouldn’t have caught how quickly Barry darted to the side and grabbed the man’s wrist. Snart must have caught on to what Barry was doing, too, because he immediately threw a punch at the outlaw closest to him. Barry disarmed the leader, using the gun to knock him to the ground.

            That’s when a full-on bar brawl started.

            Before, he would have jumped into center of the fight, shooting and throwing punches and laughing at the violence of it all. Now, though, he hung around the edges, taking out anyone that came at him, but also watching the backs of his—dare he say—teammates. Kendra and Jax had somehow gotten dragged into it, using furniture as weapons and flipping their attackers into tables. Palmer held his own well, avoiding hits as well as he dished them. Sara was having a grand time, knocking down men twice her size with little effort and much glee. Barry and Leonard were taking on the main guys with Stein cowering behind an overturned table behind them.

            Suddenly, a shot rang out.

            The entire room froze. A man who’d been sitting in the shadows stepped forward, gun at his side. “All right, playtime's over. Anybody's got a problem with that, they answer to me.” When he turned his face, the whole right side was scarred up. Burns, the pyro in his head took note. Serious burns.

            The gang of outlaws dispersed, leaving the crew of the Waverider with the stranger. Stein stood and dusted off his jacket. “Thank you, Mr…”

            “Hex. Jonah Hex.” The man growled. His eyes were fixed on Barry, and Chronos moved to closer, so that Barry was slightly behind him. “You're not from around here, are you?”

            “What’s it to ya?” Chronos grumbled.

            “We’re from out of town.” Stein explained. Hex finally glanced away from Barry and nodded.

            “Yeah, way out of town.” He pushed past them towards the door, and the Legends followed him outside. “All right. Why don't you folks tell me where you're really from?” He more demanded than asked.

            “None of your beeswax.” Chronos snarled. He didn’t like the way this ‘Jonah Hex’ kept glancing at Barry.

            Hex grimaced. “Why don’t I rephrase that? How about I say ‘when’ are y’all from? Cuz I ain’t never seen a man in 1871—or any year for that matter—move as fast as I saw your friend there avoid that bullet.”

            Barry’s cheeks darkened.

            “What? Y’all think you’re the first time travelers I’ve ever come across?”

            Stein nodded his head, face full of amazement. “Well, yes.”

            Hex scoffed. “Where is he? I got some words that need saying.”

            “Where’s who?” Barry asked, sharing looks with the rest of the team.

            “Rip Hunter.”

Chapter Text

From the moment they brought Jonah Hex on the Waverider, Rip had been acting nervously. Barry saw the strange look in his eye when Jonah mentioned not being able to see the ship ‘last time round’.

            “Last time?” Ray asked, curiously.

            “A long story.” Rip snapped. “One we will not be telling.”

            Jonah shrugged, checking out the console of the ship. He glanced back at Rip with a grin. “My coat looks good on you.”

            If Barry didn’t know better, he would’ve thought that Rip Hunter actually blushed. Barry covered his mouth to smother a laugh, but Rip caught him, sending a glare his way. “What are you doing here, Jonah?” He asked, quickly changing the subject.

             “Collecting on a bounty, wetting my whistle, when your friends here got in a lot of trouble.”

            Ray was the only one who looked even a little ashamed. “We may have started a barroom brawl back in town.”

            Rip rolled his eyes. “Well, that was entirely predictable.”

            “One of ‘em poured lead into one of the members of the Stillwater gang.” Jonah explained.

            Rip scoffed. “Mr. Rory?”

            “Snart, actually.” Ray interjected.

            “That was going to be my next guess.”

            Barry was about to jump to their defense, when Jax stepped forward. “The man was going to kill Gray. Snart saved his life.”

            “And brought this town a whole lotta hell in the bargain.” That’s when Jonah broke it down to them about the Stillwater gang, and how they’d been terrorizing Salvation for months.

            “Well, they’ll have to go through us.” Ray announced.

            Rip shook his head. “No, they won’t. No doubt your... your little ruckus has already placed the timeline at risk, to say nothing of potentially alerting the Hunters to our presence here.”

            Across the bridge, Chronos shook his head. “Not necessarily. Bar fights in the Old West aren’t exactly history-changing events. Unless that guy Snart killed was Charlie Chaplin’s ancestor, I think we’re good for now.”

            Rip stared at Chronos like he had just betrayed them all over again.

            “If I didn’t know any better, Rip,” Barry spoke up, “I’d say that you were keeping secrets from us. But we know you wouldn’t, because that would mean we couldn’t trust you.” It was a low jab, but one Barry felt was necessary. Something more was connecting Rip to this timeline. He wanted to know what it was.

            Rip fumed. “It’s not a secret. It’s just a factoid of my past I wish to keep to myself—do not give me that look, Mr. Allen.”

            Barry sighed. “Whatever.” He strode out of the bridge, barely hearing Ray’s speech about saving the town because it’s what heroes would do. Leonard followed him.

            “Scarlet. Barry!” He slowed to a stop until he caught up. “You good?”

            He shrugged. “I’m fine. Annoyed with Rip, more than anything, but what else is new?”

            Leonard hummed in agreement. “Yeah, he’s a douchebag. And a hypocrite. I wouldn’t let him bother me, if I were you. He’s an idiot.”

            Barry laughed. “I’ll remember that, Snart.”

            They quieted when they heard bootsteps coming up behind them, and Jonah Hex came down the hall. Once he passed, Barry smirked. “Do you think he and Hunter…?”

            Leonard snorted. “Fucked? Definitely.”

            More footsteps echoed down the hall, and Ray, Chronos, and Jax came up behind them.

            “What’re we doing?” Barry asked as they passed.

            “Haircut’s decided to pick a fight with the Stillwaters.” Chronos answered. “We’re going to make sure he doesn’t die. You two in?”

            His focus was on Barry, even if the question was pointed at both of them. Barry smiled. “In for a standoff between Ray and some outlaws? Yeah I’m in.”

0000000

            The fight Chronos had been expecting was, unfortunately, uneventful. After the sheriff of the town ran, making Haircut the new sheriff, they decided to square off in the center of town. Hex, Jax, Barry, and Chronos all stood to the side as ‘Sheriff Palmer’ waited for the Stillwater gang to come riding in. Haircut did some threatening, Jeb Stillwater made better threats, and then, Snart—hiding up in one of the buildings—fired a shot, knocking the gun Stillwater had pointed at Palmer out of his hand.

            It scared them off—for now.

            When they got back to the ship, instead of celebrating, Hunter scolded them.

            “Ray saved the town.” Barry defended.

            “Today, maybe.” Jonah argued. “For a bunch of people from the future, you sure as hell don’t think about it much. One day, all y’all are going to leave, and then Salvation,” his eyes darted over to Hunter, “will end up just like Calvert.”

            Barry frowned. “What’s Calvert?”

            “A closed matter.” Hunter interrupted before Jonah could explain. Chronos crossed his arms. Hell no was he keeping secrets after locking Barry up for the same thing.

            “Ginny.” He called, drawing the entire bridge’s attention to him. “What’s Calvert?”

            “Calvert,” Ginny’s southern accent echoed over the bridge. “was a town in Oklahoma, circa 1868. It was burnt to the ground by Quinten Turnbull and his gang of outlaws. Records show that the entire town was gathered in the church, where it was then burnt to the ground.”

            Pictures appeared over the console of the remains of a scorched town, and burnt up bodies on the ground.

            Across the bridge, Hex touched the scars on his face. Hunter’s jaw dropped. “How did you override…? Gideon…whoever…that’s enough!”

            The pictures disappeared. Visibly shaken, Hunter stormed out of the room. Barry, bleeding heart that he was, sighed, sent Chronos a grateful smile, and followed Hunter out of the room.

0000000

            Barry knew why Chronos did what he did—hell, he thought about it for a moment—but seeing the horrified and broken look in Rip’s eyes twisted guilt in his stomach. When he found him, Rip was sitting in the floor of the galley, staring at the back wall like he was a thousand miles away.

            “Rip?”

            The captain barely twitched. He took a seat behind him and grabbed him by the hand. “Do you want to talk about it?”

            Rip shook his head slowly. “No.” He swallowed hard and turned his head towards Barry. “But I feel I owe you, of all people, the truth. I came to Calvert not long after I finished my training as a Time Master. I had a mission to complete, and on this mission, I met Jonah.

            “It was before I was married, before the birth of my son, Jonas. I was young, reckless, and, like Mr. Palmer, found the opportunity for heroism this era offers enticing.”

            Barry frowned. “Jonas? Did you name your son after Jonah?”

            Rip nodded. “I loved this era so much, eventually I had to force myself to leave, out of fear I never would. You remember the time drift Mr. Palmer and Ms. Saunders felt in 1958? I was experiencing the same thing. My closeness with Jonah and the rest of Calvert made it almost impossible for me to leave. But I finally did, even knowing what would happen to all of those people I’d come to care for.”

            Tears were forming in Rip’s eyes. “Turnbull attacked the day after I left.”

            That’s when Rip broke down. Barry’s heart felt heavy as Rip’s head fell to his shoulder. “I’m sorry, Rip.” He said, squeezing his hand. “I’m sorry that happened.”

            They sat there for about ten minutes, Rip sniffling and Barry silently comforting him. When Jax came, asking if they wanted to go with them to round up the Stillwater gang, Rip urged him to go.

            “I’ll be fine, Mr. Allen.” He assured. “You go on. Make sure that Mr. Rory and the others are okay.”

            He gave Barry a smile that implied more than he was saying, but Barry just brushed it up. He had an old western round-up to go to.

Chapter Text

            It wasn’t supposed to end like this. Chronos punched the wall of the cargo hold so hard, the metal dented. It never should’ve gone down the way it did. The plan had been so simple—ride into the Stillwater gang’s camp, grab the leader, and give him to Hex.

            For the first few minutes, the plan worked perfectly. Chronos got to set shit on fire, Barry and Jax kicked some ass, Hex and Snart blew some outlaws away while Ray apprehended Jeb Stillwater. It was when they started riding off that everything went wrong. Barry and Jax were at the rear of the group when a lasso swung from one of the gang members.

            There was a yelp as someone was pulled from their horse, but Chronos couldn’t see who until they came to a stop half a mile away. An empty horse rode forward, with Jax and his horse beside it.

            “Where’s Barry?” He asked.

            Jax looked back at the camp. Chronos’ hands tightened on the reins of his horse, but before he could gallop back in for a rescue, Hex moved his horse to block the way. “You go back, you’ll be in the same predicament as your friend.”

            “We’re not leaving Barry behind!” Snart growled. “He wouldn’t leave us!”

            “We’ve got Stillwater. We got leverage. Live to fight another day or die tonight... your choice.”

            Chronos was ready to ride in, guns blazing, but Leonard grabbed his jacket. “Wait, Mick…” He sighed. “He’s right. We charge in, they kill Barry and us. We can trade Stillwater for him tomorrow.”

            He knew Snart was right, but damn it, it didn’t make him feel any better about turning his horse away and leaving Barry at the mercy of a group of outlaws.

0000000

            Barry’s hands were chained around a pole in front of him. Stillwater’s gang had just started to settle after their attack—all of Chronos’ fires were out, the surviving tents were hitched back up, and now all of the men were just sitting around. Some of them played cards, some were drinking, others cleaning their weapons.

            One man, the one in charge of guarding him, was an older man, who kept hacking wet coughs into his shirt sleeve. Poor guy. “Hey,” Barry called to him. The man turned, eyebrow raised. “Do you know what you have?”

            The man scoffed, turning away.

            Barry rolled his eyes. “Y’know, if it’s a disease caused by bacteria, your best chance is to eat a piece of moldy bread.”

            The man turned back again, this time staring at Barry like he was nuts. One of the card players turned as well. “What the hell are you talking about over there?”

            “I’m a scientist.” Barry explained. “Bread and citruses sometimes grow a mold on them called ‘penicillin mold’. If you take the mold, drop it in warm broth, mix it well, and drink it, it cures a lot of bacterial diseases.”

            The card table man turned all the way around to face him. “What’s ‘bacteria’?”

            “Well,” Barry bit his lip, trying to think of how to explain, “they’re these tiny…not really animals, but they are alive. Anyway, they’re invisible unless you use special equipment, but certain kinds create sicknesses in our bodies. Usually, the cells in our body can fight them off, but other times they need help, which is why we take certain medicines. They can battle the bad bacteria and make us feel better.”

            The man’s eyes widened. “You’re telling me there are things that are alive that I can’t see, but can kill me?”

            Barry nodded. “There’s all kinds of tiny things in the world that kill you. There are certain animals that can kill you just by touch.”

            That caught the rest of the camp’s attention. One of the ones cleaning their gun leaned forward. “Like what?”

            “Like Poison Dart Frogs.”

            He frowned. “Frogs?”

            Barry nodded again. “Yeah. They live in South Amer—let’s just say they live past Mexico. They eat things like ants, centipedes, and mites, but the organic chemicals inside of their prey creates a reaction, so they secrete an extremely deadly poison from their skin.”

            A sound of awe erupted from the group. “What else is south of Mexico?”

            Barry swallowed. “Well, there is a snake called an anaconda. The females can grow to be fifteen feet long, but the longest one ever recorded was twenty-eight feet.”

            “Are they poisonous?” Someone shouted.

            Barry shook his head. “Big snakes don’t tend to be venomous. Remember, they’re only poisonous if you die from biting them, venomous if they bite you and you die. Big snakes like anacondas are typically constrictors. They wrap around their prey and squeeze them until all the bones in their bodies break and they suffocate. Then, they swallow them whole.”

            Another sound of awe.

            “Tell us more!” Another outlaw yelled. Barry settled back and started a lecture about animals in the Galapagos, cultures of other countries, and anything else that kept him alive.

0000000

            “They could be torturing him right now!” Chronos argued. He couldn’t believe that Ray Palmer of all people was against saving Barry. “We’re trading Stillwater for him!”

            “Then we’ll be back to square one, Mick!” He argued back. “I care about Barry as much as you do, but—” He didn’t get to finish that sentence, because in the next second, Chronos had him by the neck of his shirt, pinned off his feet against the wall.

            “Don’t you ever even consider that anyone on this ship cares about Barry Allen as much as I do.” He snarled.

            Shockingly, Jonah Hex was the one to come over and pry Chronos’ hand off of Ray. “I have a notion that could save your boy and get Stillwater off our backs. If you’re interested.”

            Chronos turned to the bounty hunter, who tipped his hat. “Quick draw at high noon. You win, get your guy back. You lose, you set Stillwater free.”

            “And by lose, you mean get shot?” Chronos asked. He was willing to die to save Barry, if that’s what it took. He’d made a promise to himself the minute he saw the kid lying on the floor of the Waverider that, if he could prevent it, he would never get hurt.

            Hex shrugged. “You could always go after the gang with your future gadgets, but I doubt your captain would like that.”

            “He ain’t really my captain.” Chronos grumbled. He considered the possibility of charging into the camp, full Chronos gear, and gunning down every outlaw in sight. The thought of the Hunters stilled his hand. That was something that could draw their attention. Then, Barry would be dead for sure.

            “So, who will stand on Main Street?”

            Ray stepped forward. “I will.”

            Chronos shook his head. “I should do it.”

            Hunter scoffed. “You two are going to get yourselves killed.” He turned to Hex. “And I can’t believe you’re encouraging this.”

            “I think you forfeited your opinion when you refused to leave this ship the entire time we’ve been here.” Ray argued.

            All of Rip’s bravado disappeared, revealing the broken man underneath it all. Then, he told them all about Calvert—about not being able leave, about the need to be a hero, about returning to being a Time Master because he had to. How he knew that Calvert would be destroyed if he did.

            Hex punched him in the face. Chronos laughed.

Rip cradled his red cheek. “I deserve that.”

“You deserve a lot worse.” Hex snarled. “You knew, and you still left?”

“Of course I knew.” Rip hissed. “I was a Time Master. And therein lay the problem. Likemy crew, I felt the pull of heroism, of this era's penchant for being rife with opportunities to make a difference. That's one of the things that called to me, and that is why I had to leave. Because had I stayed... I could no longer have remained a Time Master.”

He hung his head and sighed. “But I'm no longer a Time Master... which is why I'll face Stillwater.”

Chronos startled. “What are you—?”

“You are not the only one who feels responsible for Mr. Allen, Mr. Rory.” Rip explained. “He is my charge, my crewman, and, as captain, my responsibility. Now, send word to the Stillwater gang. High noon is in three hours.”

0000000

They waited in Main Street, Hunter standing in the center while the rest of the crew hung around the edges. Chronos and Snart were put in charge of watching Jeb Stillwater, who Chronos was tempted to shoot right then and there. But they needed him. Barry needed him.

“Don’t worry, Mick.” Snart assured. “Barry’s a tough kid. He can handle a bunch of outlaws.”

When the rest of the Stillwater gang came riding into town, Chronos couldn’t believe how right Snart was. Sure, Barry’s hands were tied to his horse’s saddle, but without that, no one would be able to tell he was being held against his will.

He was smiling—smiling—as he talked animatedly to the outlaw riding beside him. Suddenly, all of the outlaws started laughing and patting Barry on the back. What the hell was going on?

When they climbed off their horses, the outlaw next to him helped Barry down and politely walked him over to where Chronos and Snart were waiting.

“Thanks, Bill.” Barry grinned. The man laughed.

“Anytime, Bare.” He turned to the others. “This kid’s great. I see why y’all keep ‘im round.”

Chronos and Snart stared, shocked, at Barry, who shrugged. “They really like science.”

There had to have been more to it than that, but Chronos decided that some things are better left alone. Snart dragged Stillwater into the street and untied him.

“I’ll be drawing for Sheriff Palmer.” Hunter announced.

Stillwater raised an eyebrow. “How do me and my boys know you’ll keep your word?”

Snart handed him a revolver. “Sheriff Palmer is a straight shooter.”

            “Then he should be the one in the street.”

            But still, they faced off. And when guns were drawn, Rip Hunter proved he was the quickest gun in Salvation. Big whoop.

            ‘Bill’ untied Barry, and the Stillwater gang rode off. Chronos grabbed Barry and started checking him over.

            “Did they do anything to you?”

            Barry laughed and shook his head. “Nah. They cuffed me, but that was all. I’m fine, Chronos. Really.”

            And damn, that softness in Barry’s eye, that curled up grin…Chronos wanted so badly to take him in his arms and kiss away all his worries. But a shout down the street stopped him.

            “We’re not done here yet.”

            He pushed Barry behind him as three armored men—The Hunters—came striding up Main Street. “Ah, friends!” He shouted, drawing his six-shooter and firing at the Time Master’s watchdogs. “Welcome!”

            Behind them, Hunter was handing out tech and weapons to Hex and the team—sans the heat and cold guns. Chronos didn’t need it though.

            One of the Hunters attacked him, and Chronos laughed as he beat him into one of the railings.

            “Traitor!”

            “Not possible.” Chronos argued. “I was never on your side. I was on my side.”

            While the Hunter was distracted, Barry—armed with a rope and nothing else—jumped on the Hunter’s back, pulling his weapon tight against his throat. Chronos used the opportunity to punch the Hunter in the face, dislodging his mask.

            “You’ll never win!”

            A quick glance around said otherwise. One Hunter was already dead, the other getting beaten down by the rest of the team.

            Barry laughed. “We already did.”

            Before either could react, the Hunter bent down, flipping Barry over his back and into Chronos. He caught the speedster, but their opponent used the distraction to slam a fist into Chronos’ face. Barry vibrated against him, and the next thing Chronos knew, the speedster was behind the Hunter, pulling a sword from the back of his armor, and bringing it down into his shoulder.

            “You fools.” The Hunter choked. “You think you’ve won, but you’re all already dead. The Time Masters have initiated Omega Protocols. The Pilgrim is coming. For all of you, death is only a matter of time…”

            With those final words, the Hunter collapsed to the ground. The crew all cheered, but Chronos knew better. The Pilgrim was coming after them.

            They were already dead.

Chapter Text

            Time Masters were terrifying. That fact was indisputable, as far as Barry was concerned.

            The Pilgrim. A time traveling assassin who killed your unsuspecting past self before your current self could piss the Time Masters off.

            That’s what Omega Protocols were.

            That’s what they were up against.

            Her first stop was the childhood home of one Michael Rory. A house that was now up in flames, thanks to a young boy’s fascination with fire.

            Barry knew the story. He’d read Mick Rory’s file over and over once he found out he would one day be Chronos. Mick was playing with fire, it got out of control, he left without waking anyone up, and his parents died.

            But to see it with his own eyes…

            He took Chronos’ hand as the team came rushing out of the fire, finding his parents’ bodies, but not his younger self. He was starting to worry. What if the Pilgrim already had young Mick? How long would it take for the effects of killing him to kick in? Would Barry forget him?

            “I found young Rory.” Ray said over the comms. Barry let out a breath, his nerves settling. “Pilgrim is down, for now. Taking the kid back to the Waverider now.”

            Barry leaned his head against the back of the firetruck they’d highjacked. That was too close.

0000000

            “Ginny,” Chronos called as he walked onto the bridge. “Have there been any communications from the Vanishing Point about where the Pilgrim is heading next?”

            “Negative, Chronos. But Gideon may have found something in the timeline.”

            He almost laughed at the irritated look on Rip’s face. He had not been happy when he found out that Chronos uploaded his A.I into the Waverider, and he was even less happy that her and Gideon had become BFFs.

            Palmer stepped up beside Chronos. “Hey, how’s little you?”

            Chronos shrugged. “Barry’s watchin’ him in the cargo bay.”

            Palmer chuckled. “That’s a reverse. Him looking out for younger you.”

            Chronos snorted. Younger him was a punk that was too concerned with staring into flames than saving his family. Barry was a kid that was served a bad hand in life and suffered for it with everyone thinking he was nuts. It wasn’t even close to being the same.

            Hunter was finishing explaining the laws of time, and why the Pilgrim couldn’t attack his younger self a week earlier now that they took him, when Gideon spoke up.

            “I have news. Based on the temporal wake generated by the Pilgrim's time ship, I calculate a 96% likelihood that she is heading to Starling City circa 2007.”

            The entire bridge turned to Sara.

            Rip swallowed hard. “She’s going after Ms. Lance.”

0000000

            Barry stared at this younger version of Mick Rory. Honestly, he couldn’t see either man he knew in him, Chronos or Mick. There was no rage. No real fire behind his eyes. If anything, he seemed sad. Which, seeing the situation they’d pulled him from, was understandable.

            “How are you feeling?” Barry asked, moving to sit next to him on one of the cargo crates.

            “Like shit.” The kid grumbled. “What does it matter?”

            Barry shrugged. “It matters to me. You matter.”

            “I killed my family.” The kid said it so quietly, Barry barely heard him. “My parents are both dead. And it’s my fault.”

            Barry bit his lip. “I know.” Was all he could respond. “I know what happened. I’m sorry. I know how you feel.”

            Little Mick scoffed. “How? How could you possibly know what I’m going through? I burned my own family alive!”

            There was that Mick Rory rage. The kid probably didn’t let it out as much as he would when he grew up, but it was clear that when he did, people usually left him alone. He seemed shocked when Barry didn’t even flinch.

            Instead, he nodded. “My whole family is dead, too.”

            The kid tensed up beside him.

            “When I was eleven, my mother was murdered because of something I hadn’t even done yet—something I was supposed to do, one day in the future. My dad was arrested for it, even though he was innocent. When I finally proved his innocence, I was twenty-seven. It wasn’t even a year later when another man murdered my dad in front of me, because he thought that he could drive me to be like him.”

            Barry shuddered. It didn’t matter how many years passed, it all felt like an open wound. “The foster family that took me in after my mom’s death…they loved me like I was their family. Something happened, and they were all taken from me, too. I know my foster brother is dead, but I don’t think I’ll ever know what happened to his sister and father.”

            He turned to face young Mick, who was staring wide-eyed at him. “Sometimes, shit happens. And no matter how much it feels like all the blame is on you, Mick, it isn’t. You are not a bad person. You need to forgive yourself.”

            The kid’s eyes were wet as he laid his head on Barry’s shoulder and wrapped his arms around his waist. Barry was shocked at the sudden show of affection, but didn’t pull away.

            “Did you forgive yourself?” He heard young Mick whisper.

            Barry sighed. “I’m trying. Sometimes, that’s all we can do.”

            The moment was broken seconds later by the sound of people heading down into the cargo bay. True to character, little Mick jumped to his feet and was away from Barry before anyone saw him crying on his shoulder.

            It was Chronos and Sara who entered, the former glaring at his younger self while the latter smirked, eyes flickered between Barry and little Mick.

            “What’s going on?” Barry asked.

            “Sara’s about to get killed in 2007.” Chronos explained.

            Barry smiled at him. “Ah, 2007. That's one of the years you didn't invade my life, right?”

            He winked, and a smile twitched at Chronos’ lips before he opened the door and hurried out, Sara shaking her head as she followed.

            They came back not twenty minutes later with a younger Sara Lance, pre-Queen’s Gambit, in tow.

            Barry jumped to his feet. “The Pilgrim?”

            “Pissed, but not following us.” Sara answered. “C’mon. These two can stay put and behave while we all plan our next move. Can’t you?” She gave the two teenagers stern looks. Both shrugged.

            “That was very convincing.” Barry muttered following Sara and Chronos out. “Oh!” He paused. “If you need anything, call for Ginny.”

            With that, he headed for the bridge.

0000000

            They lost her. Chronos couldn’t believe they fucking LOST her.

            How could there be no trace of a woman skipping through time, murdering people?

            It didn’t help his frustration that Snart and Rip were arguing over Rip’s mysterious past (who cared?) and how they were going to find her. He focused his attention on the screen they set up in the corner of the bridge, showing what little Sara and his stupid, younger self were up to. Barry was on his way down there to bring them food, since Ginny told him they were complaining about being hungry.

            He watched as his younger self said something to young Sara, right before she slapped him across the face. He laughed.

            “Did I just slap you?” Sara asked, walking over to stand beside him. He nodded.

            “Twerp probably deserved it.”

            He smiled when Barry walked into the room, scolding both of them as he handed them each a sandwich and a bag of whatever passed for chips in the future, with a bottle of water. The two moved to separate sides of the cargo bay to eat their lunch.

            When Barry turned to leave, though, he froze in place. Chronos tensed, sensing something wrong. The two kids did the same, right before Barry collapsed to the floor.

            Without a word to the rest of the team, Chronos leapt to his feet and ran straight for the cargo bay. He vaguely heard Sara shout something and the others running behind him, but his mind was on Barry.

            When they arrived, Barry’s head was in young Sara’s lap, and other Mick was giving him water. His eyes were still open, thankfully, but his brow was furrowed, and he was gasping for breath.

            “Guys,” he whispered, “I think there’s something wrong…”

Chapter Text

            He was getting real tired of waking up in the medbay of timeships. When he opened his eyes, Chronos, Rip, Sara, and Jax were all standing over him. Snart was standing in the corner of the room, arms crossed and glaring at the floor.

            “Hey.” He smiled weakly. Then he noticed the worried looks on everyone’s faces. “What happened? What’s wrong?”

            They all turned their attention to Rip. So, bad news.

            The captain hung his head. “Do you remember that burst of speed you used, back in Salvation? To take down that Hunter?”

            Barry nodded, not sure where this was going.

            “Gideon gave you a scan after you collapsed. It seems that whatever General Eiling did to you in 2021 didn’t weaken your connection to the Speed Force. It killed you, Mr. Allen.”

            A chill ran through Barry’s body. His nearly stopped breathing. It was impossible. It couldn’t…then how…?

            “The Speed Force saved your life.” Rip continued. “For the past two years, it’s been your life force. That’s why you can’t run like you used to, and why you get weak each time you try. You’re dipping into your life force.”

            Barry shifted his gaze to Chronos, who looked like he wanted to scream and burn something. He saw Mick Rory. He swallowed hard.

            “What does that mean?”

            “You can’t use your speed anymore, Barry.” Sara explained, taking his hand. “If you do, you could die.”

            “You will die.” Chronos growled. “That son of a bitch. If I ever see him, I’ll kill him myself.”

            Barry reached over and grabbed his hand with the one Sara wasn’t squeezing. He wanted to reassure Chronos, but he couldn’t find the words. Honestly, he was probably the one that needed the comforting.

            “We’re going to figure this out, man.” Jax assured. “Just…use your kick-ass fighting crap you learned in the Groddpocalypse instead of your speed until we do, alright?”

            Barry nodded, pushing himself into a sitting position. “So, the Pilgrim. Where are we with her?”

            “We know she won’t go after Ms. Saunders, because she’ll just be reincarnated.” Rip explained. “My younger self is safe, as is yours, I believe, for now—the Flash being an important, historical figure. She nearly killed Mr. Palmer’s 2014 self, but luckily, we saved him in time.”

            Barry let out a sigh of relief. “That’s good. What about everyone else?”

            “We’re kidnapping their newborn selves. Ms. Saunders and Professor Stein are currently procuring Mr. Snart’s infant self.”

            He nodded. “What’s the plan now?”

0000000

            Chronos lingered in the doorway, keeping an eye on Barry sitting quietly and alone in the corner of the fancy den. He was worried. Barry hadn’t shown any more signs of the Speed Force draining him, but seeing him collapse like that, feeling so helpless as his heart stopped and Ginny resuscitated him…

            He never wanted to see that again.

            Hunter brought them to some kind of safe harbor he called The Refuge to keep their past selves in, a place where they raised young Time Masters. It was safe though, apparently, because the Mary Poppins wannabe that ran the place, Mother, cared more about the kids than the Time Masters. Chronos could respect that.

            Speaking of which, Mother chose that time to enter the room with a cup of tea (though he was almost positive she spiked it with whiskey or something), which she sat on the small table beside Barry’s chair. Chronos slipped further out of the room, enough where they couldn’t see him, but where he could still eavesdrop and spy.

            “How are you feeling, love?” Mother asked, taking a seat on the arm of the chair.

            Barry nodded with a forced smile. “Much better. Nothing like finding out you’re actually dead.”

            She tutted and stroked her fingers through his hair in a motherly gesture. “I don’t know how much comfort this will be to you, dear, but the moment you chose to change your destiny, your life ended.”

             Chronos furrowed his brow. What the hell was that woman talking about? In the room, Barry frowned. “What do you mean?”

            “What did you think would happen if you went back in time to change your present?” She popped the back of his head. “You’re a speedster. You should know as well as any Time Master the ramifications of time travel. Why do you think the Pilgrim hasn’t gone after your younger self?”

            He shrugged. “Rip said that it was because I’m a historical figure.”

            Mother clicked her tongue. “Of course he did. Michael always was one to lie to protect the well-being of those in his charge.

            “The moment you left your time period and began travelling through time, you changed history. The Pilgrim doesn’t need kill your younger self. You’ve already erased your current self from existence. The moment all of your teammates are gone, you will disappear. The same will happen once you finish your mission.”

            The blood in Chronos’ veins froze. If they made it back to 2016, Barry was going to die. Not even that, he would cease to exist entirely.

            Not Barry Allen, Scarlet Speedster of Central City. He was back home, fighting crime, taking on the Zoom guy that broke his back. His Barry, the one that welcomed him, who didn’t have a destiny with Iris West, who looked at him like he was the light of his life instead of the criminal 2016 Barry had been constantly reminded he was.

            Chronos moved away from the doorway, unable to hear the rest of the conversation. That’s when he noticed his younger self at the staircase, a lit match in his hand. The anger already in his stomach flared.

            “Hey!” The kid startled. “Where’d you find that match?”

            Settling, the kid shrugged. “I can always find them.” His attention locked on the flame dancing at the end of the match.

            “Beautiful, isn’t it?” Chronos scoffed, disgusted by the way his younger self stared, slack-jawed, at it. Disgusted at himself for wanting to do the same. “Not as beautiful as a whole house going up in flames though.”

            Young Mick blew the flame out. “It was an accident.”

            “Sure, it was.”

            “You don’t know me!” Mick snarled. “You think I wanted to kill my family?”

            “I think you fell in love with your dad's lighter fluid.” Chronos replied, crowding Mick against the stair rail. “I think you fell in love with the flames dancing around. But then you realized you couldn't control them, and you ran without waking your family. The only thing you were concerned about was your own skin.”

            He grabbed him by the collar. “There’s a lot riding on this, do you understand me? Now, while I'm gone, there better not be any accidents. If there is, I'm gonna come looking for you. I'm gonna kill you.”

            The kid looked scared out of his mind, but he still managed to sneer. “You sound just like my dad.”

            Chronos ripped his hand away like he’d been burnt. He thought back to his dad, to the way he screamed at him, made him feel worthless and stupid. He stomped away, pretending he didn’t see the tears forming in Mick’s eyes. He pretended they weren’t forming in his, as well.

            It wasn’t long after that they climbed aboard the Waverider that Ginny and Gideon called them all to the bridge. Halfway there, Chronos was pulled to a stop by a hand on his sleeve. Barry was frowning worriedly at him.

            “Are you okay? You’ve seemed upset ever since we left the Refuge.”

            He thought about confronting him about what he overheard. Telling him that he would do whatever it took to keep him from dying. To protect him. But Barry would never let him do that, if he knew. Barry, ever the hero, wouldn’t sacrifice the future for himself.

            So, he shrugged. “Just…just weird seeing the kid. It’s like seeing every mistake I ever made, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it, ya know?”

            Barry nodded, but his worry didn’t fade. “Okay. If you want to talk, I’m here.”

            Chronos forced a smile, and Barry took him by the hand.

            “Guys!” Sara shouted from the bridge. “You might want to hurry up and see this!”

            They ran for towards her shout, skidding to a stop when they saw what was playing on the screen. It was the Pilgrim, glaring into the camera. He’d met the woman once before, when he still worked for the Time Masters. She was sadistic, focused solely on her work, and was determined to be the best. She was one only two Hunters who had a perfect record for never failing, and, as the other, he was always in the Pilgrim’s sights, as either an asset or a rival.  

            After he failed to bring in the Legends, it was clear the thought of failing herself was taking it’s toll.

            “This message is for Rip Hunter.” She hissed. “I'm going to make this very quick and very simple. If I can't find you, I can find those you love.”

            A picture of Palmer’s dead fiancé appeared.

            “All of them will suffer and die because of you.”

            Then, Sara’s dad.

            “Your family, friends, anyone you've ever cared about.”

            Jax’s father.

            “Unless you surrender your younger selves to me.”

            Stein’s wife.

            Rip scoffed. “So that she can erase you all from history.”

            “If it's of any comfort, you won't feel a thing.”

            Snart looked ready to jump through the screen when Lisa’s picture appeared.

            “As for your loved ones, I can’t promise the same.”

            Chronos felt Snart’s pain when a picture of Barry—not 2023 Barry, not even 2016 Barry, but a young, maybe fifteen-year-old Barry Allen—appeared.

0000000

            “She’s crazy!” Chronos hollered for the third time. “She can’t do that. She can’t destroy the timeline like that. There are rules even Hunters can’t break!”

            Barry sighed. He knew that Chronos was protective of him, but there was more at stake than his life. What was left of his life…

            They couldn’t turn themselves in. They needed to stop Vandal Savage and save the world. They needed to change the future.

            Rip’s voice cut through his thoughts. “Gideon, I take it that the Pilgrim's transmission included a carrier frequency through which she can be contacted?”

             “Yes, Captain.”

              “Hail her, please.”

              Barry stepped up beside him. “Rip, what are you planning to do?”

             Rip opened his mouth to answer, but the Pilgrim—live this time—appeared. She was sitting on the bridge of a ship similar to the Aeon. Her eyes bored into Rip. “Captain Hunter.”

               Rip squared off proudly. “Look, I'm gonna make this easy.”

               “I already have.” The Pilgrim interrupted. “The lives of your team's nearest and dearest for their younger selves.”

               “And I'm gonna counter that demand with an offer of my own. I will surrender myself if you spare the lives of my crew and their loved ones.”

              The entire crew froze at Rip’s offer.

              The Pilgrim huffed. “A noble gesture. But worthless. My directive is to eliminate your entire team, not just you.”

              “Yes, well, I'm not talking about me now. I'm offering you me in the past.” By the gleam in the Pilgrim’s eye, Rip’s offer was an enticing one, one she didn’t expect.

              Rip smiled smugly. “Rip Hunter before he became a Time Master. Eliminate him, and this team will never have been.”

             The Pilgrim hesitated. “If this is some kind of trick...”

              Rip shook his head, though. “It's no trick. Enough people have died at my expense. Gideon will send you the location.”

              He turned off the transmission and turned to the team. “I can’t let the rest of you pay for my choices. I’m sorry.”

 

Chapter Text

            They all gathered in what looked like a hanger, but what Rip had explained was an old, Time Master outpost. Barry was hanging around the edges of the room with Sara and Snart, while Kendra hid on the other side.

            Chronos, Jax, Stein, and Rip were standing in the center of the hanger with Mother and one of the kids he’d seen at the Refuge—young Rip Hunter, Michael. When the Pilgrim approached, Mother hurried away, telling Rip to “give her hell”.

            She emerged from the shadows. It was the first real look Barry had gotten of her. She had a wicked demeanor about her, entering the room like an evil queen from a fairy tale. The moment she was in the room, her eyes immediately latched onto Chronos, dressed like Mick Rory for the first time since he rejoined the team. A smirk pulled at her lips.

            “Chronos. I’d like to say it’s a pleasure to see you again.”

            Barry’s grip tightened on the hilt of his swords. The coo in her voice, the way her eyes traced down Chronos’ body, made him want to stab her in the face.  

            Chronos snorted. “Let’s just get this over with. Where’re the hostages?”

            “On my ship, in perfect condition. As long as your captain honors my bargain, that is.”

            “Not my captain…” He heard Chronos say under his breath.

            “You’ll really kill an innocent child?” Stein spoke up, clearly outraged. The Pilgrim nodded.

            “I would kill a thousand children to complete my task. Chronos understands, don’t you?” Her smirk grew. “Think of all the people you’ve killed to complete a mission, Chronos. All of the children, the widows, the criminals begging for mercy.”

            Chronos rested his hand on his heat gun like a lifeline. “You should know the rules of time better.” He growled. “You can’t kill a Time Master, and you can’t kill the Flash without screwing up history.”

            She sneered. “You forget. I am sanctioned by the Time Masters to clean up your mess however I see fit. Speaking of which,” her gaze danced over each of them, “where is the rest of the crew?”

            “They’re around.” Rip answered. “Let’s get to business.”

            The Pilgrim nodded, holding out a hand. “I’ll be taking the boy.”

            Rip moved to lead the boy forward, but Chronos held an arm out to stop him. “Before you do that, we don't believe for a second our loved ones are on your ship.”

            She clenched her fist. “A show of good faith then.” She pressed a button on a device in her hand, and another person transported in front of her. Barry’s eyes widened at the familiar face, searching the room in confusion.

            Chronos tensed when young Barry’s eyes fell on him. “Chronos! What’s happening?”

            From the look on the Pilgrim’s face, she knew exactly how young Barry’s presence was effecting Chronos. Leonard grabbed Barry’s arm to stop him from running out.

            “She’s trying to bait us.” He whispered. “Patience. She’ll get hers.”

            “He’s a cutie, Chronos.” The Pilgrim taunted. “I see why you took a shine to him.”

            “Give him here.” Chronos snarled.

            “The boy first.” Pilgrim snarled back.

            Rip pushed his younger self forward, and the Pilgrim did the same with Barry. Barry more or less ran to Chronos, darting behind him. “Chronos,” he asked, “what’s going on? Who is that woman?”

            “Everything’s going to be fine, kid.” Chronos reassured, turning to the fifteen-year-old. “I need you to run over there,” he pointed to the giant canisters across the room Kendra was ducked behind, “and hide until this is all over, okay?”

            Younger Barry nodded and obeyed, shooting a glare at the Pilgrim as he did. “As soon as I’m in the clear,” Barry whispered over the comm, “let’s get the bitch.”

            “Wait for Ray’s cue.” Sara reminded them.

            He could barely see the little blue light of Ray’s shrunken suit flying for the Pilgrim. Not long now…

            “You wanted to see me?” Little Rip—Michael—asked, stopping in front of the Pilgrim. “Have I done something wrong, Miss?”

            “Not. Yet.” She grinned.

            Suddenly, the tiny, blue light shot behind her. “NOW!”

            Ray grew quickly and fired, but the Pilgrim raised a hand, freezing him in time. That was their cue.  

            Stein and Jax merged. The Pilgrim shot at Barry and Sara as they charged, weapons raised, but Leonard covered them, firing his cold gun while Chronos fired the heat gun. The Pilgrim stopped them both with her temporal micro-manipulation, and reversed their blasts back onto themselves. Both fell back stunned, but unhurt.

            Kendra appeared then, full hawk, and both Barry and Sara ran for the Pilgrim again. Firestorm threw a fireball at her. Barry threw one of his swords. Leonard and Chronos fired their weapons. Kendra flew at her. Rip shot his laser revolver. Sara charged, staff raised.

            The Pilgrim held out her hands, and they all froze in time. Barry couldn’t move. He couldn’t even twitch. The Pilgrim spun, keeping them all frozen and in her sights. She couldn’t hold it forever, though. She’d have to give up eventually.

            “I was willing to proceed in good faith.” She announced. “Now you'll watch those closest to you die.”

            She didn’t see Michael coming, but Barry did. The little boy crawled forward, a knife clutched in his hand, and, before the Pilgrim could stop him, he drove it into her leg.

            She screamed in pain, and little Michael grinned like a Cheshire cat.

            “Thought you could snuff me out? You don’t know me at all, Miss.”

            He stabbed her once more, and the Pilgrim doubled over in pain, her power over the team cutting out. Sara grabbed Michael in time to pull him away as the combined might of the team hit the Pilgrim all at once. In seconds, she was a pile of ashes in the floor, Barry’s sword sticking out from the top.

0000000

            “I was a cutpurse from the age of five. Starved more than I ate. I knew what I'd do if she tried to harm me.”

            Hunter’s words echoed through Chronos’ head.

            He watched his younger self, still hanging out around the stairwell, still staring into the flame of a match. They’d stopped at the Refuge to drop Mother and little Hunter off, but they couldn’t return their younger selves yet. The Omega Protocol was still active. They were safer away from the Time Masters, for the time being.

            Little Mick held his hand over the flame. “Here to give me another "don't burn down the house" speech?” He said when he noticed Chronos lingering.

For lifetimes, Chronos was ashamed of being Mick Rory—crazy pyro who murdered his family and destroyed everything he touched. He’d tried to forget he was ever that man by hiding behind Chronos. But after seeing the Pilgrim, he realized he could never be Chronos again. He couldn’t do the things the Time Masters forced him to do. He couldn’t obey orders unquestioningly. He couldn’t put his head through that again.

“You think by hurting yourself, it's gonna make you feel better about the fire?” He asked his younger self.

The kid rolled his eyes. “You don’t know anything about me, man.”

He laughed, because, on some level, the kid was right. “Guess again, kid. I'm you.”

The kid’s jaw dropped, and he nodded. “That's right. You're too young to understand. But understand this. It wasn't your fault.”

Little Mick shook his head. “No, you were right. I let that flame get out of control, like you said. I ran out without waking anybody, like you said. I was just so afraid.” There was a tear dripping down the kid’s face, and he felt the heaviness of his own guilty words.

“You’re just a kid.” He answered honestly. “I spent my whole life blaming you, hating you. Spent lifetimes pretending I wasn’t you. All for something we didn’t mean to do.”

The kid frowned. “Why are you telling me all this?”

“You can't change the things you did. But you can change what you become.” Mick Rory stepped away from his younger self and sighed. “Don't be like me. Be better.”

0000000

Barry watched as Chronos said ‘good-bye’ to fifteen-year-old him. He could see the affection in both of their eyes, and he envied the other Barry for all the adventures he’d yet to have. This was his final adventure. There, with the Legends. He’d accepted his fate a lot quicker than he expected. It was probably because, on some level, he’d been dead for a long time.

There was nothing left in 2023 for him. Just pain and grief. Even if it was still there, he wouldn’t want to go back. If his last act of life was to stop an evil man from destroying lives, he could be at peace with it.       

Chronos gave younger Barry an amnesia pill, which he took without question. Even then, he’d loved Chronos. He just hadn’t known it yet.

He wouldn’t tell the others about fading from existence. He wasn’t sure how the rest of the team would react, but he knew how protective Chronos was. What if he refused to help change the future?

Once they dropped off their loved ones, Barry took a seat beside Chronos with a sigh. “Well, that was tedious.”

The ex-bounty hunter snickered. “That’s one way to put it.”

Gingerly, he reached over to take Chronos’ hand. “Are you going to be okay?”

He turned his head to stare into Barry’s eyes. There was so much behind Chronos’ eyes—anger, sorrow, hope, happiness, love… A small, but extremely genuine, smile tilted his lips. “You know what? I think I might be.”

He relaxed and leaned his head against Chronos’ shoulder. “Did you hear that Kendra agreed to marry Ray after he proposed while dying?”

The shoulder his head was on shook as Chronos chuckled. “That’ll never last.”

“Alright.” Rip’s voice broke the spell of peace that had fallen over the pair. Barry raised his head. “With most of your past selves at the Refuge, we don’t have much time before time cements, as Professor Stein discovered earlier with his wife’s memory.”

“How long until it’s permanent?” Barry asked.

“I have no idea.” Rip answered. “Which is why we need to move swiftly to locate Vandal Savage if any of your lives are to be restored to normal.”

“It’ll take longer than we have to find an exact location.” Chronos pointed out. Rip nodded.

“Yes. Fortunately, there is one place in time that we know Savage to be.”

Barry’s eyes widened. There was only one place they knew, for an absolute fact, Vandal Savage would be.

  1. They were going to try to take down Savage at the height of his power.

Chapter Text

            2166.

            It sucked. Almost as bad as 2023.

            As Barry walked through the resistance camp, he had flashbacks. There were cowering people, poor and dirty; crying children, their parents’ faces without hope. He thought about the helpless people he and his resistance tried to protect from Grodd.

            Vandal Savage was a monster, just like Grodd. He’d conquered these people, declared himself the absolute leader, and for what? What was worth so much death and pain and sadness?

            The rest of the team were back on the ship—Ray and Stein trying to figure out how to stop Vandal Savages ultimate weapon, which the rebels said was capable of destroying everything in its path, even though no one was sure what it was; Kendra was trying to figure out how to turn a bracelet from her first life, which was in the hands of Savage’s lieutenant into a weapon to kill him; and Leonard, Chronos, Sara, and Rip were all planning a way to get said bracelet from Savage’s lieutenant .

            Barry knew they were short on time. Not only were most of the crew in danger of not existing, as their past selves were hidden in the Refuge, but in only three days, Miranda and Jonas, Rip’s wife and son, were going to be murdered by Vandal Savage. He would do anything to make sure that didn’t happen.  

            When Rip had first taken him, Ray, Stein, and Jax to meet the resistance, he thought he could be impartial. But the first starving child he saw, he nearly shattered. Jax and Stein asked if he wanted to return to the ship for provisions with them, but he couldn’t bring himself to say yes.       

            “Are you alright?” Ray asked.

            Barry sighed. “Just…bad memories.”  

            Ray nodded. “You don’t have to be here. You know that right? You can go back to the ship.”

            But Barry shook his head. “I can’t. I…I abandoned people just like this. There were refugee camps in 2023, people my team protected. Grodd didn’t bother brainwashing the entire population, just the powerful ones. Believe it or not, there are people who refused to let their lives be run by a psychic gorilla. They went underground, and depended on us for food and provisions. I didn’t even think about them before I…all I thought about was that my team was gone, and everyone I loved was probably gone. But those people lost everything, just like these people. I was selfish and abandoned them.”

            “Barry, you joined the crew to prevent that future.” Ray reminded him, laying a hand on his shoulder. “Those people, if they knew what you were doing, would be grateful. The people you love would be grateful. Stop beating yourself up about a future that won’t exist once we stop Savage.”

            I won’t exist once we stop Savage, he told himself. Everything will be put right.

            They continued through the camp until they found Rip discussing his wife and son’s location with the resistance leader. When they approached, the leader walked away, leaving them to talk.

            Barry smiled weakly. “How you holding up?”

            Rip nodded. “I am…doing as well as can be expected, Mr. Allen.”

            They moved around a fire pit, Ray’s eyes darting worriedly over to Rip. “I can’t help but think about how we’re in London, not far from where your family is. They die in three days…why aren’t you trying to get them to safety?”

            Rip hung his head. “After my first attempt on Savage in Ancient Egypt,” Barry remembered Kendra telling him about Rip’s trying to kill Savage before he became immortal, only to fail, “my very next stop was here in 2166. I found Miranda and Jonas exactly where I'd left them, and we... we raced towards the Waverider.”

He let out a shaky breath. “But we had a run-in with Savage's shocktroopers. Miranda and Jonas were cut down. So, I jumped even further back, and the outcome was exactly the same. I watched my family die countless times at the hands of Savage and his forces before I realized that...

“Time wants to happen.” Barry finished, his heart hurting for Rip. To have your family killed in front of you over and over, and be unable to stop it…

Rip turned back to the fire. “Funny feeling knowing that the universe itself doesn't want you to save your family.”

The resistance leader interrupted, charging over to them. “All right, what are you all playing at? I retina-scanned the five of you. There's no record of you” she pointed to Rip, “anywhere, and the rest of you disappeared 150 years ago.”

“Technically, I disappeared 143 years ago.” Barry corrected.

“Believe me when I tell you it would take about that much time for us to tell the whole story.” Rip explained. “But the most important thing is that we get as close to Vandal Savage as possible.”

            She started going on about how impossible it was to get close to Savage, due to an attempt on his life earlier in the night. Barry tried not to laugh, remembering how ticked Rip had been when he came back in with Leonard, Sara, and Chronos from their failed attempt to capture Savage. Suddenly, a voice came over the radio.

            “Delta Camp is under attack. Taking heavy fire. We need air support.”

0000000

            When Barry climbed back onboard the Waverider, Mick could tell almost instantly that something was wrong.

            Without a word, he took Barry by the hand and pulled him away from the bridge and the rest of the team.

            “What…?” Barry stammered, but he kept going until he was dragging Barry into his room and closing the door behind them.

            “What happened out there?” He asked as gently as he could. Barry was only a foot or two away, but his mind was miles from where they were. He raised a hand slowly, pausing to make sure Barry wouldn’t flinch away, and rested his fingers on his cheek. He touched him like he was something precious and delicate…god, he was. He was the most precious thing in the entire universe.

            “I…” Barry was shaking, his breath catching in his throat. “Savage…he attacked one of the refugee camps. There was…there was nothing left. It was…it was all gone. Every man, woman, and child was dead. He killed them all.”

            Barry fell forward, his face pressing into Mick’s shoulder. A year ago—hell, even a few months ago—he would’ve tensed at the contact, cringed from the emotional display. Now, though, in the privacy of his own room, he wrapped Barry in his arms and kissed his temple.

            “We’re gonna make him pay.” He promised. “I’ll burn him myself, if I have to.”

            All of the tension seeped out of Barry’s body as his fingers twisted into the material of Mick’s shirt. “I’m not going to let him hurt more people. I won’t abandon anyone else.”

            Mick had no idea what he meant, but he nodded anyway.

0000000

            Barry stayed in the ship when Chronos and Leonard went to get the bracelet from Savage’s lieutenant. He couldn’t stand the thought of leaving the ship again, seeing the horrors of Savage’s ‘brave, new world’. He didn’t expect to see them coming back with Savage’s lieutenant.

            He followed them and Rip into the brig, internally agreeing when he groaned, “There I was, thinking we could go a whole week without kidnapping anyone.”

            The girl hummed. “I think you'll find it would have been better to simply kill me.”

“I agree.” Chronos agreed, almost subconsciously putting himself between the cell and Barry. Almost.

Leonard crossed his arms. “It's a little more complicated than that. She knew who I was.”

“I know who all of you are.” Her eyes darted to Barry, but he was pretty sure it was because of the way Chronos was blocking him. Then, it moved to Rip, and she smirked. “It's a pleasure to meet you, Gareeb.”

Gareeb. Savage’s name for Rip after his first attempt to kill him. Barry’s eyes narrowed. Savage was very open with this girl if she knew about that. There was no way she was a lieutenant. He pushed in front of Chronos. “Who are you?”

 Her smirk grew. “My name is Cassandra Savage, Flash.” His throat tightened at his once-alias. “I’m Vandal Savage’s daughter.”

Chapter Text

            So, Vandal Savage had a daughter. An unexpected, yet not unrealistic, development. Chronos got the bracelet off of her, at least, and he and Kendra were off melting it to over Carter’s mace. Leonard decided to hang around little Savage in an attempt to get information about the immortal’s defenses. The way her eyes had lingered on him, Barry knew he actually had a shot.

            It still messed with his head that Vandal Savage remembered he was the Flash after all those years—he had one encounter with Savage outside of the Legends mission, when Team Flash and Team Arrow helped stop him from killing Kendra and Carter in 2015. How could he remember that so well?

            Barry’s worries about Savage were pushed back quickly, though, when the whole Waverider shook. There was a pause before it shook again. He rose from his seat in the cargo bay. What the—?

            Stein and Ray came running into the room before he finished that thought. “What’s going on?”

            Ray skidded to a stop. “Savage’s weapon—it’s a giant robot that’s coming this way! We need to get the refugees to safety!”

            That’s all Barry needed to hear.

0000000

            When they made it to the camp, the refugees were running scared. Barry watched, horrified at the hopelessness in their eyes. “We need to help them.”

            “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Mr. Allen,” Stein said, fearfully. “But we are a little short on weapons.”

            “We can fight them off.” Ray suggested.

            Stein nodded in agreement. “We can. But what about them?”

            There were screams and cries coming from the running refugees, and Barry clenched his fists. “We’re taking them back to the Waverider. They’ll be better protected there.”

            Stein and Ray both stared, wide-eyed, at him. “Rip is not going to like that.” Ray pointed out.

            Barry scoffed. There were children and mothers with babies and the elderly and sick. Rip could suck it. If bringing helpless people on the ship upset him, he could get over it.

            Ray and Stein led the parade of people away while Barry helped the stragglers pack their belongings and hurry after them.

            “Nina!” He heard a broken shout. “Nina, where are you?!”

            He followed the sound to an elder woman searching frantically through the camp. He ran to her side. “Ma’am, do you need help?”

            It was scary how fast he could drop into superhero mode after all his years in hiding.

            The woman grabbed his arm. “I can’t find Nina! She’s…she’s sixteen-years-old. I sent her to get some supplies. She should’ve been back by now, but I can’t find her!”

            Another boom echoed through the air, shaking the ground under them. He had to get this woman to safety, but if there was another innocent person out there… “Follow the rest of the refugees.” He told her. “I’ll find Nina. I promise.”

            The woman looked like she was going to argue, but Barry laid a hand on her arm. “Please.”

            She paused, before nodding. She took off after Ray and Stein, leaving Barry alone in the emptied refugee camp.

0000000

            Mick was walking back from the engine room, where Kendra was finishing her Savage Killer, when he saw a group of raggedy, scared people, running for the cargo bay. He held out an arm to stop Haircut as he went by. “What the hell is happening?”

            “Savage’s weapon is on its way.” The ship lurched from another quake. “These are the refugees. Barry, Stein, and I decided to keep them in the cargo bay and try to fight it off using the Waverider’s weapons.”

            Mick nodded. Sounded like a plan the two sunbeams of the Waverider would be a part of. Speaking of which… He glanced around the hall. “Where is Barry?”

            Suddenly, Ray seemed all kinds of guilty. Mick pushed down the urge to grab him by the neck and slam him against the wall. “Palmer—where is Barry?”

            Ray swallowed hard. “One of the older refugees told me that she couldn’t find her granddaughter, so Barry stayed behind to find her.”

            Mick’s hesitance dropped away as he slammed Ray against the wall. “You left him behind? In a place a giant fucking robot is about to destroy?”

            “He wouldn’t leave.” Ray argued. “You know Barry, how he feels about all this. He wouldn’t go until he found the girl, no matter how dangerous it was.”

            Unfortunately, Mick did know Barry. And Ray was right. He would never abandon even one refugee if he thought he could save them. He dropped the scientist to the floor with a huff. As he turned to leave, Ray struggled back to his feet.

            “Where are you going?”

            “To find Barry.” Mick growled. “That idiot’s going to get himself kill—”

             He was interrupted by the feeling of the ship lifting off the ground, followed by a sudden jerk to the left. He fell to the floor, Palmer taking a tumble on top of him.

            “Ginny, what the hell is going on?” He demanded, pushing Ray off.

            “We are firing on Vandal Savage’s weapon, but our attacks have made little to no impact.”

            The ship lurched again.

            “Hang on to something. We are about to go down.”

            She said it so calmly, Mick didn’t even register her words until everything started falling around. There was nothing to hold on to, nothing to stop him from tumbling, he fell against every wall, finally hitting the floor so hard, everything went black.

0000000

            The refugee camp was gone. Blown to smithereens. Not a mile away, though, hidden in the demolition of Delta Camp, Barry and Nina survived.

            They watched as the robot—The Leviathan—destroyed the other camp, before facing off against the Waverider. They could only watch helplessly as it snatched the ship right out of the air and threw it out of sight. His heart nearly stopped.

            That didn’t look like something they could walk off.

            “Grandma.” Nina gasped, gripping his arm. “She was on that ship, wasn’t she?”

            Barry nodded, unable to form any words. Innocent refugees were on there. His friends were on there. Chronos was...he could be…

            He couldn’t think that way. He had to get to the ship. He had to see if they were okay.

            He could. He could do it in seconds. They would be so pissed. But…

            He scooped Nina into his arms. “Hold on.” He warned, before flashing towards the Waverider.

Chapter Text

            “miCK….”

            “mICK…”

            “MICK!”

            He jerked awake when a slap cracked across his face. Sara was leaned over him, staring worriedly down at him.

            “Wha’ happened…?” He managed to ask, forcing himself to sit up. They were still in the hallway, but Haircut was gone, and the lights were out.

            “We got tossed like a baby’s rattle.” She replied, bluntly.

            He groaned, his head throbbing like a bitch. Yeah, it felt like it. “The camp…?”

            Sara just shook her head. His heart fell to his stomach. Ignoring his pained head, he leapt to his feet.

            “Hey, where are you going?” Sara called, running up behind him. He rounded the corner at full speed, pushing past Snart and Savage’s kid, who were coming up the hall towards the cargo bay. They followed, watching Mick and Sara with matching interest.

            Sara snagged his arm before he made it to the cargo bay. “Mick!”

            “I’m going to find him!” He screamed. “He’s not dead! He can’t be!”

            Sara actually took a step back, like he was an animal that would lash out. She wasn’t completely wrong. He waved a hand over the pad that opened the door, still facing Sara.

            “Nothing is more important than him, do you hear me? If that robot got him, I swear to God, I will burn everything in this godforsaken future that hasn’t already turned to ashes.”

            Snart took a step forward. “Mick…”

            “No! I’m going out there, and none of you assholes are gonna stop me.”

            When he turned, however, all of his murderous fury melted away. Barry was knelt down in front of an older woman, who was hugging a young girl. She’d probably been in the middle of thanking him before the door opened, but now all three of the hold’s inhabitants had their attention on him.

            His jaw dropped. “Barr—” but the rest of the word was cut off when Barry ran at him and threw himself into his arms, their lips meeting in a kiss more desperate and more passionate than any they’d shared before. Mick didn’t even think about it—he wrapped his arms around Barry and pulled him close. His slipped his fingers into Barry’s hair, making him gasp. Mick took the opportunity to snake his tongue in deepening the kiss and making Barry moan.

            Every hair on Mick’s body stood on end. It was like they were the only two in the room.

            Until he heard Snart clear his throat, and both were reminded that they had an audience.

            They pulled apart, Mick’s arms still holding Barry against him, and looked back at Sara, Snart, and little Savage. Sara smirked. “Don’t mind us. I was enjoying the show.”

            Even Cassandra Savage looked amused. “If you are quite through with your display, I assume you still want to take down my father?”

            Barry looked between them all, confused. Mick didn’t blame him—last he heard, little Savage was in big Savage’s pocket.

            “Cassie and I came to an understanding.” Snart explained. “I told her the truth about her father, showed her the proof about the Armageddon Virus and that her father let it out, and she’s agreed he’s a monster that needs putting down.”

            Mick was almost certain there was more to it than that, but he decided to let it hang. “So, what’s the plan?”

0000000

            There was no real plan. That was the plan.

            Cassandra was able to lead them past the outer guards, into Savage’s private bunker, and act as bait to lure him out while they hid and waited. Meanwhile, Ray was going to try to grow instead of shrink and take on the Leviathan coming for the Waverider again.

            On top of all that, Barry didn’t feel so hot. He wasn’t going to pass out—at least, he didn’t think he was—but he could feel the absence of the energy he used to save Nina and get back to the ship. His grip on his swords tightened.

            After Kendra brained Savage with Carter’s mace, he wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore. Savage would be dead, the mission would be complete, and his future would be changed. He would disappear forever.

            He glanced to his right at Chronos, heat gun raised and ready for a fight. He wished they had more time. Well, he supposed that Chronos—that Mick Rory—had more time. There was a Barry sitting back in 2016 that would love to see him again. That wasn’t meant for him, though. Chronos wasn’t meant for him.

            “Hey.” He whispered. Chronos turned his head. “I…I just wanted to tell you…just in case anything happens…all those things you said, back on the Waverider? I feel the same. You’re important to me, too.”

            Chronos reached down to hold his wrist, his hand still clutching the hilt of his sword, and he smiled. “Yeah?”

            Barry smiled back like an idiot and nodded. “Yeah.”

            “If you two are done having a moment,” Rip whispered behind him, “I believe it is time for us to make ourselves known.”

            When they finally stepped out, Savage didn’t look surprised at all. “Oh, I admire your command of irony, Gareeb. Using my own child against me.”

            Leonard raised his weapon. “Sorry to say it didn’t take much.”

            “None at all, you ass.” Chronos added, pointing the heat gun at him. Kendra was ahead, waiting in secret, but Barry, Rip, and Sara all raised their weapons as well. They needed to hold off the guards and convince him they were the ace in the hole.

            “They showed me the truth of what you've done.” Cassandra snarled. “The innocent...”

            “Do not speak as if you know anything about ruling a people.” He growled back. Barry stepped forward, ready to attack if he laid a hand on her. “Do you really want to align your fate with these... pretenders? They're nothing but grains of sand in the desert of time.” His eyes darted to Barry, and that’s when he realized…

            Savage knew. He knew Barry was a time aberration. He knew all about it. But how…?

            “You are a monster.” Cassandra spat. Savage actually seemed slightly upset by his daughter’s rejection…for half a second. Then, they shocktroopers or stormtroopers or whatever he was calling them came running out.

            Savage turned to walk away, but stopped. He sensed Kendra.

            That’s when all hell broke loose.

            Kendra swung down from the sky and grabbed Savage, throwing him out of sight, while the guards charged. They didn’t give much of a chance for Rip, Leonard, and Chronos to use their guns, but that meant they couldn’t use theirs either. Barry took down trooper after trooper, using swords, fists, kicks. At one point, he actually used an unconscious trooper against one of his own men.

            After a few minutes, though, Barry knew something was wrong. Rip ran after Kendra, and he could hear talk of Carter, and how she couldn’t kill Savage.

            “Whatever you’re going to do, Kendra, do it now!” Chronos shouted. Reinforcements started piling in, and Barry knew they were about to be seriously outnumbered. When he saw Rip and Kendra dragging out two unconscious bodies—one Savage and one Carter Hall, the supposed to be dead soulmate of Kendra, dressed like a guard—he was filled with both relief and annoyance.

            He wanted Savage dead. It was the only way to save his future. But for the mission to end so soon…

            “Barry, let’s get out of here!” Leonard grabbed his arm and pulled him away, Chronos laying literal cover fire for them all to escape. He had more time.

            His heart leapt for joy. He had more time.

Chapter Text

            Carter was locked in the cargo hold. Savage was locked in the brig. And no one knew what to do.

            Barry walked down to the medbay while Rip and Mick locked Savage away, and Sara and Leonard did the same to Carter. Kendra ran off to her and Ray’s room in tears the moment they stepped onboard. Barry knew what was coming for them; everyone did except Ray.

            When he stepped inside, Stein was unconscious in one of the medchairs. According to Rip, he’d been injured during the Leviathan attack. Barry glanced around quickly, making sure no one was lingering around to eavesdrop.

            “Ginny.”

            “Yes, Mr. Allen?”

            “I…I need you to do another scan of me. Tell me how much longer I have.”

            “Because you disobeyed my recommendations and decided to use your abilities anyway?”

            He’d almost forgotten how blunt the AI was. “Yes. Just…please. I need to know if I’m going to make it to the end of this mission.”

            If he didn’t know better, he’d say Ginny sighed. “Please lay in the other medchair. The scan will only take 9.23 seconds.”

            He obeyed, shivering when a light slid down his body. “Scan complete. It seems that, due to your recent use of the Speed Force, you have approximately a week left to live. Two, maybe, if you restrict your use of power.”

            Barry let out a shuddered breath. A week. He only had a week before his life force was gone. No one could know. Chronos definitely couldn’t know. “Ginny, can you keep this between us?”

            “Yes, Mr. Allen. But I’m afraid that Gideon has already made Captain Hunter aware of your situation, and he is heading for medbay right now.”

            He dropped his head into his hands. This was not good.

            The moment the captain walked inside, he paused, a sad expression on his face. Barry gave him a small smile. “Gideon told you?”

            Rip nodded. He approached Barry’s chair slowly, placing a gentle hand on the speedster’s shoulder. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Allen.”

            Barry sighed and shrugged. “I accepted a long time ago that I wasn’t going to make it to an old age. Thirty-five is pretty good, right? I can be at peace with that.”

            The medbay fell into a heavy silence. Barry knew how much this weighed on Rip—despite his flaws, Rip was a good man, who loved and cared for everyone in his charge. He would carry Barry’s death and find a way to place all of the blame on his own shoulders.

            “Please don’t tell anyone.” He heard himself whisper.

            Rip nodded wordlessly.

            Barry swallowed, his throat going dry. “If…if you knew that you only had a week left to live, what would you do?”

            Rip’s lips thinned out as he contemplated the question. “I would probably time jump back to Miranda and Jonas, spend my last days with the people who love me.”

            Barry nodded. That was a good answer. Except, the people who loved him were gone. Their past selves were there, but with another Barry Allen—one who was happy and unmarred by the future. There was only one person he wanted to spend his last days with.

            The hand on his shoulder slid down to his hand, and Rip squeezed his fingers. “My advice? Go to him. Our mission is almost over. There’s no harm in doing something for yourself.”

            He felt a tear dripping down his cheek as Rip moved to Stein’s bed to check his progress.

0000000

            They left 2166 behind. She-Savage stayed with the resistance, helping them retake their world. Most of the crew hung around the bridge, moping about the immortal, psychopathic elephant in the room. Barry had been distant since they left, avoiding him and most of the crew. The only person he’d seen him talking to was Hunter, and the minute they spotted Mick watching, he hurried away. It made him want punch Hunter in the face. Not that that took much.

            Mick stole a bottle of scotch from the captain’s shelf. “Mission…almost…accomplished.” He took a long drink from the bottle.

            “That bottle of Scotch was given to me by Rob Roy MacGregor in 1689.” He scoffed indignantly. Mick shrugged.

            “Not half bad.” He handed the bottle off to Sara, who took a sip of her own.

            “We should be toasting Savage’s death.” She shot, passing the bottle to Snart.

            Across the bridge, Stein look scandalized. “Apart from celebrating murder, Savage still has Carter brainwashed.”

            Like anyone but Kendra really gave a shit. Snart narrowed his eyes. “I don't know if you've been paying attention, Professor, but murdering Savage was always the plan.”

            “Besides,” Mick added, “Carter reincarnates, which is more than I can say about us.”

            Snart nodded. “As long as he's on board and breathing, Savage is a threat to everyone on this ship.”

            “So what, we just kill Savage and leave Carter a brainless drone?” Kendra practically snarled.

            Mick nodded. “Yes.”

            Her furious eyes fell on him. “And would you have that attitude if it were Barry Savage brainwashed?”

            Mick’s hand immediately went to his heat gun. “Say that again, birdie. I don’t think I heard you right.”

            Her fists clenched, and Mick readied himself to take her down.

            The door opening broke the tension on the bridge, and Jax and Ray came running in. He held his breath, hoping Barry would run in next, but the door slide closed. He sighed.

            “Sorry we're late, but we found something.” Haircut explained excitedly.

            Jax nodded. “We've been running diagnostics on Ray's suit after his battle with Savage's Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot.”

            “The telemetry data included a comparative scan of the robot's tech.”

            Kendra, Hunter, Stein, Jax, and Ray hovered around the console screen. Stein’s face lit up. “Amazing. This neuromorphic profile is astonishingly futuristic.”

            “Yeah, it’s from 2166.” Kendra reminded them.

            “Well, that’s the thing.” Jax interjected. “It’s not.”

            Ray nodded. “This technology's light years more advanced than anything from 2166.”

            “Who cares?” Snart asked, rolling his eyes, but Mick knew what they were thinking. If there was proof that Savage was using futuristic tech, the Time Masters would have to intervene. But something gnawed at him—how did Savage even get his hands on future tech? He was immortal, not a time traveler.

            “Last time I checked,” he spoke up as everyone started planning to turn Savage in to the Time Masters, “the Time Council was at the edge of the timeline, and this bucket of bolts can barely hold it together as it is. There’s no way we’re making it to the Vanishing Point in this condition.”

            “Gideon,” Hunter called, snatching the scotch away from them, “what's the status of the Time Drive?”

            “Stable, Captain.”

             He gave a nod. “Plot a course for the Vanishing Point. Tonight, Vandal Savage faces justice for his crimes.”

             Mick rolled his eyes. If Hunter wasn’t going to listen to him, there was no point in him being on the bridge. He headed out, head held down, thinking about what could’ve happened in between that kiss and 2166 that could’ve upset Barry so badly.

             “Ginny.” He called out.

             “Yes, Chronos?”

              He flinched. He knew that Ginny worked for him as Chronos, but hearing the name out of anyone’s lips but Barry’s reminded him of the Vanishing Point, of his training and missions and the horrors he saw and committed. Even for a career criminal, it was almost too much.

             “Do you know what’s up with Barry?”

            The AI didn’t respond. That was a ‘yes’.

             “Can you tell me?”

             Another silence. No.

            He exhaled heavily. “Can you at least tell me where he is, so I can talk to him?”

            “He’s in your room, waiting for you.”

             Mick raised an eyebrow. “He’s what?”

            “He told me to tell you the moment you were away from the rest of the crew.”

             Even as hope flowed through him, a frown marred his face. He thought about what Haircut told him about Kendra’s private conversation with him when they left 2166. This could either be really good, or really bad.

             He approached the room cautiously, not knowing what he was going to find.

            Worst case- Barry tells him to leave him alone and that the kiss was a mistake.

            Best case- …well, Mick couldn’t bring himself to hope for that.

            Summoning his courage, Mick waved a hand over the door pad and let himself in, preparing himself for what was waiting inside.

Chapter Text

            Barry raised his head when the door opened. Perched on the edge of Chronos’ bed, questioning and second-guessing for the last hour if he should just go. All they’d shared were a few kisses, after all. Granted that last one was…Barry sighed, thinking about the way Chronos had held him.

            It meant something to him. It meant everything to him.

            He held his breath as Chronos walked in, a curious gleam in his eyes. Barry jumped to his feet.

            “H…hey.”

            Chronos ran a hand over his shaved head. “Ginny…she said you were waiting for me?”

            Barry nodded. He needed to tell him the truth. “Chronos, I love you. I’ve loved you since before I even really knew what love was. You are beautiful and amazing, and one of the best things I’ve ever had in my life. And I need you to know this because I’m going to either die or be erased in less than two weeks, and that’s if I’m lucky.”

            He opened his mouth, ready to pour out all of his heart, when everything in his body just said, “Fuck it.”

            He rushed Chronos, taking the ex-bounty hunter by surprise as he grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and forced him backwards until he hit the wall.

            “What...?” Chronos tried to ask, but Barry cut him off with his lips. It was more desperate than their last kiss, more intense than any Barry had had before. Chronos was obviously shocked—he froze in place the moment their lips met—but it didn’t take long for one arm to wrap around Barry’s waist, pulling him closer, while the other hand settled on the back of his neck.

            Barry moaned deeply as the kiss deepened. He dragged his hand down Chronos’ chest, slipping his fingers under the hem of his shirt. When they slipped against bare skin, his nails skating across his abs, Chronos’ breath hitched. The ex-bounty hunter pulled back suddenly, not far enough that their lips didn’t brush together with every panted breath they took, but enough to make Barry groan in disappointment.

            “What’s this about?” Chronos asked breathlessly. “Not that I’m complainin’ or nothin’.”

            To emphasize his point, the arm around Barry’s waist slipped down, and Chronos’ squeezed his ass. Barry bucked his hips involuntarily. “It’s just…” Barry whispered, running his fingers up to Chronos’ chest and back down. “When the Waverider went down…I thought maybe you…” he took a deep breath, “I thought that I might have lost you, and I realized there was so much we hadn’t…”

            He pressed another hard kiss to Chronos’ lips. “If anything were to happen, to either of us, I don’t want regrets. So, if you don’t want to do this, just…just say so.”

            Chronos pulled his head further away, enough where he could give Barry an “are you crazy?” look, before lunging back in to continue their heated kiss. Barry gasped when the hand at his neck slipped down to his ass, and he was lifted into the air.

            In seconds, he was being carried across the room and thrown onto the bed. He swallowed hard as Chronos ripped off his shirt and crawled over him. He placed a quick kiss on Barry’s lips before moving his mouth down his jaw.

            It was like Barry’s body was on fire. Every touch and sensation was magnified. Chronos’ fingers worked on his button up, until he got impatient and ripped it open. Then, his mouth moved down Barry’s neck, down to his torso, and the speedster grabbed the sheets.

            It didn’t matter how weak his connection to the Speed Force was—ever since the lightning strike, every intimate touch was like a wave of ecstasy. “Chronos…” He gasped. “M…Mick…please…”

            Chronos stopped teasing his pecs with bites and raised himself up to stare down at Barry in amazement. “Say it again.”

            Barry had to think hard about what he meant. His mind was so foggy, he could’ve said a lot of things. When it finally occurred to him, a small smile pulled at his lips. “Mick.”

            In that moment, it was like Chronos—like Mick Rory—was the speedster. Barry’s pants were gone and thrown across the room, his own not far behind, in what felt like a split second. Then, their lips were crushed together again.

            A rough hand ran down the soft skin of his inner thigh—up, right to the crease of his groin, and then back down halfway. Barry’s own hands shot up to grab at his partner’s back, reveling at the moan he received when his fingers dragged up his spine.

            Barry pulled back again. “Mick.” He repeated. An almost feral blaze lit behind Mick Rory’s eyes.

            “Ginny!” He growled.

            “Check under your pillow, Chronos.”

            Mick seemed confused as he reached under the pillow and pulled out a tube of lube. Barry frowned. “How did she—?”

            Mick just shrugged and squeezed some on his fingers. Barry’s grip tightened as a finger entered him. Then the second, then, by the third, Barry was a writhing, begging mess. “Please…please, Mick…” He clawed at his back. “Please just do it.”

            And Mick did. And it was everything Barry had ever dreamed of, sitting in his room, quietly trying to imagine this moment while he stroked and fingered himself. Now, though, Mick thrusting into him was real. Their sweat mixing as their naked skin slid together, the stars exploding behind Barry’s eyes, the array of curses slipping out of Mick’s mouth as he fucked deeper into Barry.

            Barry was so close. He could feel his orgasm looming over him. Just a bit more…

            Chronos moved his hands from where they’d been gripping bruises into Barry’s hips and pulled Barry’s arms off of him. When he twined their fingers together and rested their hands on either side of Barry’s head, it was like he was saying, “You and me. Always.”

            It was enough to push Barry over the edge.

            He was so floaty, he didn’t even notice Mick coming until he collapsed on top of him, laughing breathlessly into Barry’s neck. “You okay?” He asked.

            Unable to speak, Barry nodded. Mick pushed himself up and, noticing that he’d never actually taken Barry’s shirt off, just unbuttoned it, he helped remove it, before using it to clean them both off. Barry pouted. “Hey. I liked that shirt.”

            Mick just chuckled and collapsed beside him on the bed. “Go to sleep, Barry.” He pressed a kiss to his cheek.

            He would’ve argued that he wasn’t tired, if his eyes weren’t slipping closed before he’d even finished his sentence.

0000000

            Someone was watching him sleep.

            He could feel it. Had someone broken into his room? Had someone found their hideout? Was it Grodd and the Justice League?

            “Barry. Barry! You’re having a nightmare.”

            His eyes flew open, his body ready for a fight, until he saw Chronos—Mick—leaned up on one elbow, staring down at him. Naked. Right.

            He put on a smile. “What time is it?”

            “Only about three hours after you fell asleep. You looked like you needed it.”

            Barry shrugged. He was probably right, but after living in the world he had, sleep wasn’t always a luxury they could afford. His sleep pattern was all out of whack.

            “If that’s how I can start getting more sleep, I would be okay with that.” He smirked, leaning up to kiss Mick’s lips. Then, it came crashing for him. He probably wouldn’t get this again. This was it for him, the secret rendezvous in Mick Rory’s bed.

            “Hey, doll.” His mind snapped back to Mick’s worried expression. His bedmate reached across to cup his cheek. “You look like you have the weight of the world.” He slid his hand down towards Barry’s chest. “You can talk to me, you know? You don’t just have Hunter to share things with.”

            Barry cringed. “You saw that?”

He nodded, his fingers tracing swirls across Barry’s bare torso. “Remember when you first met me? The real me—Mick Rory?”

Barry huffed a laugh. “You mean, when you tried to set me on fire in front of the police department?”

Mick’s lips ticked up in a small, but genuinely content, smile. “Yeah, well, Snart was getting pissy that you wouldn’t come out and play with him.”

Barry laughed again, this time louder, and Mick joined in. He liked it when Mick laughed. For some reason, it made him seem so much younger—like all those years the Time Masters threw on him disappeared. Their eyes met, and the laughter faded into something warm. “I thought, at the time, maybe Len had a thing for ya. Thought it was funny, back then. Now, it kinda bugs me. Anytime you trust one of them over me…”

Barry smiled up at his lover. Wow, that felt good to think. Lover. “You know you’ve never had anything to worry about since the day I met you, right?” He raised a hand to stroke Mick’s cheek. “It’s not about trust. I didn’t want to tell Rip, either. Gideon ran her mouth. I promise, the minute you need to know, I will tell you.” He kissed Mick’s forehead, squashing the guilt in his stomach.

“Y’know,” He admitted, “there was a time I thought about moving forward with the feelings I used to hold for Iris, but it didn’t feel…right. It wasn’t fair to her, when I was in love with someone else.”

Mick’s eyes widened, and Barry leaned up to kiss the surprise off his face. “You seem shocked. Everyone else realized it. I wouldn’t be here if that wasn’t how I felt.”

            The ex-bounty hunter stared down at him, and Barry, in that moment, felt more like a god than he ever had running at superspeeds. If anyone could make this man—this beautiful, strong, warrior—look at them the way he was looking down at Barry in that moment…

            Barry felt powerful. Like he could kill Vandal Savage without Kendra, and maybe take Grodd down while he was at it. Mick bent back down slowly, moving so he straddled Barry, and rested their foreheads together.

            “I love you.” He whispered against his lips. “I love you more than I ever thought I could love someone. I would do anything you ever asked me to, just to make you happy. I don’t know when it started, but I’ve known since I carried you to the medbay that day.”

            Barry hummed. “Which time? I’ve been to medbay way too many times for you to be that vague.”

            He jumped when Mick pinched his side. “Never mind. I’m done. I’m sending you back to 2023.” Mick joked, rolling off of Barry. The speedster grabbed him before he could roll of the bed, however, and switched their positions so that he was sitting across Mick.

            “No. I think I’ll keep you here.”

            Mick raised an eyebrow. “Think you can?”

            With a devilish smirk, Barry leaned down, his hands dancing down Chronos’ chest. “I’m sure I can think of a way.”

            He leaned down to kiss Mick again, only to have a loud knock interrupt.

            “Mick?” They heard Leonard yell through the door. “Mick, I need to talk to you. It’s about Alexa.”

            Barry didn’t know what Leonard was talking about, but, from the expression on Mick’s face, it wasn’t good.

Chapter Text

             Mick barely zipped his pants up when Snart came striding in. Barry was wearing only in his boxer shorts and one of Mick’s shirts, his cheeks darkening when Snart leveled a smirk at him.

            “Didn’t realize I was interrupting.”

            “Well, you are.” Mick growled, crossing his arms over his chest. “What’s this about Alexa?”

            Snart plopped down in the chair near the door and swung one leg over the other. “Do you remember that job? How I just had a feeling about that one, a sixth sense things would end badly?”

            Mick fell back on the bed, reaching up to take Barry by the arm and pull him into his lap, and nodded. “Sure. We would’ve been made if you hadn’t gotten us out when you did.”

            A solemn expression fell over Snart’s face. “I’m having that same feeling right now.”

            He tightened his grip on Barry. If Snart had a bad feeling, that usually meant something was going down. “Meaning we need to get gone.”

            Snart nodded, and Mick moved to stand up.

            “Whoa, whoa, whoa.” Barry said, turning in Mick’s lap. “You can’t just leave. If you think something’s wrong, we have to tell the team. AN IMMORTAL PSYCHOPATH IS IN OUR BRIG. Maybe your bad feeling is telling us he’s going to get out and murder everyone!”

            Mick sighed as he pulled Barry closer. “Bare…doll…if Snart has a bad feeling, it means something’s really wrong. In the state Hunter is in, do you think he’s going to listen to intuition over the chance of saving his family?”

            Barry shook his head, but he still didn’t seem convinced. “Then…then you two go.”

            Mick furrowed his brow, not understanding what the kid meant.

            “Take the jumpship and go.” Barry explained. “Go back to 2016. Save yourself, Mick.”

            He couldn’t be implying…but of course Barry would. “Like hell I’m leaving you here.”

            “Mick…” Barry sighed. “I can’t go to 2016. I’m already there, fighting Zoom. The minute I stepped foot there, I would either cease to exist or cause a paradox. And I think the Flash has opened enough singularities over Central City for one timeline.”

            “Then, I’m not going.” Mick argued. A sadness rained behind Barry’s eyes. “I’m not going to leave you here when Savage could break out.”

            Barry rolled his eyes and jumped to his feet. “Leonard, reason with him.”

            Mick’s ex-partner, who’d been watching their exchange amusedly, shook his head. “Sorry, Barry. I’m not one to get in the middle of a lover’s spat.”

            Mick stood up and grabbed Barry by the arm. “Look, this ship is going nowhere anytime soon. It’s the perfect opportunity for Savage to break free.”

            “Excuse me, Chronos.” Ginny interrupted. Mick huffed.

            “What?”

            “I wanted to inform you that you may be needed on the bridge. The time drive has gone offline.”

            Mick rolled his eyes. Of fucking course. “I’ll be up there in a minute.” He grabbed a shirt off the floor—he was always behind on laundry—and shot Barry a look. “We’ll talk about this when I get back. Neither of you do anything stupid until then.”

            With that, he stomped out of his room.

0000000

            Barry sighed. And it all had started so marvelously.

            “So, what are you hiding?”

            He jumped at Leonard’s question. How was it that he always read everyone like open books?

            “What do you mean?” He tried denying, but Leonard just gave him an amused side-eye.

            “Come on, Barry. You, of all people, wanting someone to turn and run instead of sticking around for heroics. Clearly, you know something’s going to happen, and you’re trying to protect Mick from it. So, what is it?”

            He didn’t even seem angry. Just insanely curious. After a few silenced seconds, Leonard rolled his eyes. “Look, kid. I know you and Hunter both know something. The whole crew does. I’m not gonna go running my mouth—I just want to know so I can prepare for the worst.

            Barry hung his head. “I…Mick can’t know, Leonard. He can’t.”

            The sound of feet hitting the floor signaled Leonard standing up from his perch. “Like I said, he won’t hear it from me. But I need to know, Barry, so I can help protect him.”

            He was right. Barry knew he was right. Of the partners, Mick was the most impulsive, the one who acted on his emotions. Leonard would care if Barry died, but he wouldn’t let his feelings stand in the way of protecting the person they both cared about.

            “I’m dying.” Barry said, finally saying it all out loud. “Like, soon. At best, I have a week or two to live.”

            He glanced up at Leonard, who’s curiosity was gone, replaced by grief. He never thought he’d see Leonard Snart be so sad over the thought of the Flash dying. “Oh, Barry…”

            He shook his head. “I can’t tell Mick, Leonard. He can’t know. We need to finish the mission before that point. If we finish the mission…”

            “…you disappear from existence. We all know that.” Leonard revealed. “It only makes sense that, if the future changes so much that your timeline blinks from existence, that you would, too.”

            It was hard to argue with that logic. Especially since it was true. Leonard rested a comforting hand on Barry’s shoulder. “I’ll try to get him to leave. But it’s not going to be easy convincing him to leave you behind.”

            “I know.” Barry sighed. “Thank you…for helping me.”

            The ex-criminal nodded. “Anything for my partner’s arm candy.” He winked at Barry, who sent a glare with zero heat behind it back.

0000000

            Hunter and Stein were standing around the console when Mick stomped inside, ready to offer his reluctant help. “Whatcha lookin’ at?” He asked, approaching the console.

            Jax was on the screen, working in the engine room on the time drive.

            “Why the hell did you send the kid in?” He demanded. “I’ve fixed the time drive on the Aeon a thousand times, and you sent some kid that was a car mechanic by himself in a room that could be flooding with radiation?”

            “As difficult as I find it to say,” Stein spoke up, “Mr. Rory is correct. We have to get him out of there.”

            Hunter waved them off. “Don't worry. He should be able to finish before the radiation has any adverse effect.”

            Then, something happened. The time drive went online, and Jax’s face lit up. Then, pure time radiation exploded from it, throwing the kid backwards.

            Without even thinking about it, all three men ran for the engine room.

Chapter Text

            Vandal Savage’s eyes met Barry’s as they stared through the glass door of the brig. The rest of the crew were either on the bridge or in the medbay with Jax. Jax, who had been hit with time radiation and was now aging at an accelerated rate, because Rip was so desperate to get his family back, he was willing to sacrifice team members to do it.

            On some level, Barry understood. There were so many things he would give to see Wally again, to hear Iris laugh, to feel Joe’s hugs…but not put someone that trusted him in imminent danger. At least, he hoped he wasn’t that far gone.

            Barry had been sent to make sure Savage wasn’t taking advantage of their distraction. But the way he was watching him…it was like Savage knew that Barry would be coming.

            At least he was wearing his own clothes.

            “They sent you to check up on me?” Savage asked, his voice as oily and sickening as the first day Barry heard it. “That’s so kind of your crewmates.”

            He didn’t really want to talk to Savage, but the awkwardness of ignoring him was too much. “Well, you know we all care about your comfort and well-being on this ship.” Barry snarked back, crossing his arms and leaning back against one of the walls.

            Savage grinned. “How considerate. Of course, the Flash always was one of the kinder heroes of the Golden Age. A symbol of hope for all.” He frowned mockingly. “It doesn’t seem like you have much more of that anymore.”

            “Maybe.” Barry refused to let Savage get to him, though. He faced off against the man who murdered his mother and the man who murdered his father. He could deal with one asshole who hadn’t technically done a thing to him.

            “Well, maybe there is one glimmer of hope for you.” Savage continued, leaning forward so his face almost touched the glass. “After all, Chronos has always been there for you, bringing you hope when you felt it flutter away.”

            Barry knew his face gave away all he was feeling—shock that Savage knew about Chronos, fury he would dare even say his name, fear for what it meant for the man he loved. He clenched his fists. “How do you know about him?”

            Savage’s laugh was greasy and dirty. Just the sound made Barry feel like he needed to take a shower. “I know everything about you and your crew, Mr. Allen. I’ve had 191 years to research you all.”

            Barry practically threw himself at the glass. “I never told anyone about Chronos. How did you know?”

            Savage shrugged. “Fredrick Webb…such a chatterbox about being attacked by aliens who kidnapped his date and injured him.”

            But Barry saw in his eyes that there was more. There was something underneath what Savage was telling him, something he couldn’t see yet. “No. That’s not how you knew. You’re hiding something.”

            The immortal’s smile grew. “You are as clever as they say, Mr. Allen. I wonder if that’s what drew Chronos to you, or if it was the way your eyes sparkled when you looked up at him like a god. I know that feeling, to love someone from afar, to see all their greatness while the rest of these disgusting people treat them like filth.

            “There’s nothing quite like love.” Savage continued. “You are lucky yours was requited. Quite fiercely, if the way you limped in here meant anything.”

            Barry blushed, embarrassed. Savage seemed to revel in his reaction. “Like you, I observe people. He would do anything for you—fight, kill, die. Tell me, Mr. Allen, what do you think he will do when your timeline finally catches up with you?”

            He continued talking, but no sound left the cell. Barry frowned—it was like Savage was a TV on mute.

            “I believe that’s quite enough from that man, wouldn’t you say, Mr. Allen?”

            He breathed out a sigh of relief at Ginny’s voice. “Can’t disagree with you there.”

            “I’ll continue monitoring him, Mr. Allen. You go join the rest of the team. The less time spent with this monster, the better.”

            He nodded. “Thanks, Ginny.” He called, leaving the room.

0000000

            To say Mick was pissed was an understatement. Snart was right—Jax deserved better than being rapidly aged. Hell, they all deserved better than what Hunter was putting them through.

            The two criminals marched their way into the captain’s study, both of like mind. “We need to talk.” Mick growled.

            “We saw what you did to Jax.” Snart drawled.

“And we're worried it's just the beginning.”

            Hunter stared at them like he couldn’t fathom what they were talking about. It made Mick want to slam his head into the table. Mick was vaguely aware of Sara walking in behind them.

            Snart rolled his eyes. “It's like I said, Rip. As long as Savage is alive and on this ship, he is dangerous.”

            “The Time Drive is rebooting.” Hunter explained with a wave of his hand. “We will soon be on our way. I'm asking for a little faith, gentlemen.”

            Snart’s scowl deepened. “Sorry. Fresh out.”

            That got Hunter’s attention. He turned to Mick. “I take it you and Mr. Snart are of the same mind?”

             “Hell, yeah.” Mick scoffed.

            Hunter nodded. “And what of you, Miss Lance?”

            Mick and Snart both turned to the assassin, who shrugged. “You're the one who said you'd sell us out for your family.”

            At that, Hunter deflated a bit. “Well, if that's how you all feel, none of you is obliged to continue on this voyage with me. As I told Martin, the Jumpship can make a one-time voyage back to 2016.”

            Mick raised an eyebrow. “You saying it’s ours?”

            “I'm saying that this mission has always been a voluntary enterprise.”

            “And the mission was to kill Savage.” Snart pointed out.

            “Which doesn't seem to be on the table anymore.” Mick agreed.

            “Very well.” Hunter hung his head. “Leave, if that's what you...”

“It's been a blast, Rip.” Snart cut him off, turning to leave. “Good luck getting to the Vanishing Point.”

 Mick turned to follow. “Tell your pals Chronos says, ‘Kiss my ass.’”

“Speaking of your alter-ego,” Hunter shouted after them. “What are you plans for Barry in your retreat?”

Both criminals stopped—Mick in confusion, and Snart…well, Snart seemed to be cursing Hunter under his breath.

“Barry’s coming with us.” Mick called over his shoulder.

“To 2016?” Hunter asked. “Where he’s the Flash?”

“We’ll figure it out.” Mick answered, rounding back on the captain. “Him and me…we’ll go somewhere else. Somewhere his past self would never go. We’ll lay low and live our lives quietly. Together.”

Hunter almost looked heartbroken. “I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, Mr. Rory, but you cannot have a future with the Barry Allen onboard this ship.”

“Rip.” Snart snarled, a definite warning in his voice.

“Because he’s a time aberration? There are ways around that, Hunter. Things that the Time Masters teach the Hunters, and you know it.”

Hunter just shook his head, though. “No, Mr. Rory. You can’t have a future, because 2023 Barry Allen has no future. He found out after leaving 2166. He’s dying, and soon. There are days left.”

“You son of a BITCH!” Snart shouted, stomping towards Hunter, weapon raised.

The captain seemed unfazed though. “He deserved to know before making any rash decisions, Mr. Snart.”

“Not from YOU he didn’t!”

Any other time, Mick would be ready to shove his fist down Hunter’s throat. Now, he left the bridge, silently steaming. He needed to find Barry.

0000000

Barry was standing in the medbay where he’d been standing with Stein and Jax not five minutes before. Stein had carried Jax off, explaining that the jumpship could save him, and that’d been the last he’d heard from Firestorm. His mind, though, was on what Savage said about Mick.

He thought back to 2016, to the first moment he’d laid eyes on the real Mick Rory. His heart had nearly stopped when, back at S.T.A.R labs, they’d been discussing Captain Cold’s partner, Mick Rory, only to have Chronos—the man of his dreams and fantasies—pop up in a mugshot. During the ordeal, his heart had been everywhere, torn between his loyalty to his friends, and his love for Chronos.

In the fight between him and the two supervillains, Chronos’ words about not worrying about hurting Heatwave bounced through his head. The encounters after that were easier, but that first one…it was like the sting of a band-aid ripping free.

That’s what his life felt like right now.

He was in too deep with Mick. He hadn’t planned on moving their relationship forward like he had. It just sort of…happened. He should’ve told Mick the truth right then. He deserved to know Barry was dying.

Next encounter, he promised himself, next encounter I’ll do it.

But when Mick walked into the medbay, he knew it was too late. His face held a sadness and a fury Barry had seen on a handful of people in his life. It was the look of someone who just received bad news that upended their lives.

He opened his mouth to say something, when Mick grabbed him by the front of his shirt and slammed him against the wall.

“You lied to me!”

Barry swallowed hard. He knew he wouldn’t be able to keep it a secret much longer. He just wished he’d been the one to tell Mick. “Technically, I just didn’t tell you. But…that’s a lie of omission, so I guess you’re right.”

He wasn’t afraid. Mick would never hurt him, no matter what position they were in right now.

“Why?” Mick demanded, his hands clenching and unclenching around the fabric of Barry’s shirt. “Why did you lie? Why didn’t you tell me?”

There were so many answers to that question. So many things he could tell Mick, but one answer remained true in his heart. “I couldn’t.” He choked out. Seeing angry tears forming in Mick’s eyes broke him down. “I couldn’t tell you because I’m selfish. I didn’t want you to be hurt and angry at the world in my last days. I wanted us to be happy, like we were earlier. I wanted memories like that to carry with me, not the horrors I’ve been drowning in. I wanted you to know that I love you…”

Mick pushed away. “Don’t you say that. Don’t you dare say that after this.” His hurt was all over his face, and it shattered Barry’s heart.

“Mick, I’m so sorry. I was going to tell you before, but you were happy. I want you to be happy.”

He took a step forwards, but Mick stepped away. “You did it because you wanted to be happy. You didn’t think about how I would feel once you were gone. How lost and confused I would be when you collapsed and died in my arms.”

“Mick…”

But he just shook his head. “I should’ve stayed away. I knew I was better off alone.”

Barry’s breath caught on a sob as Mick turned to walk away, only for Ray to come running, full sprint, past the door. He skidded to a stop when he saw them inside.

“Guys,” He said. “We have big problems. Savage escaped.”

Chapter Text

            Barry, Mick, and Ray ran for the bridge, Barry’s heart still pounding from his and Mick’s confrontation. He messed up. He’d really messed up.

            He stopped short of the bridge, letting Ray and Mick run ahead. The latter paused. “What the hell are you doing?”

            “I need to get my swords.” He explained. “If Savage is loose on the ship and I can’t use my powers, I need to be able to defend myself.”

            Without another word, he ran for his room, leaving a cursing Mick behind him. Luckily, he kept his swords on the table by his door, and it took no time to grab them and start heading back to the bridge. He stopped when he heard footsteps running behind him.

            “Barry!”

            He turned to see Kendra and Leonard, both armed to fight, coming up the hall. “Savage let Carter out.” Kendra explained. “He’s still brainwashed as one of Savage’s troopers. He’s trying to kill us.”

            Barry’s hands tightened on his weapons. They needed to stop Savage and Carter before…

            The lights flickered off, and emergency power kicked on. That. Before that. “Ginny, what’s happening?” He called out.

            “Savage has disengaged Gideon's entire operational matrix. As I am not part of the ship, I cannot take her place. Captain Hunter is being forced to fly the Waverider into the Vanishing Point manually.”

            He rolled his eyes. “Great. Where’s Savage and Carter?”

            “Vandal Savage and Carter Hall are in the corridors on the other side of the galley. Both are armed.”

            They all ran for the galley, Barry yelling for Ginny to tell the others where they were.

0000000

            The second Ginny told Mick that Barry ran off to take on Savage, he saw red. Just because he was mad, didn’t mean that he didn’t still love Barry, and it sure as hell didn’t mean that he wouldn’t burn anyone who dared lay a finger on him.

            When he and Haircut caught up with them, Barry, Snart, and Kendra pressed against the wall, Savage firing at them from around the corner. Every time there was a hesitation, Snart would fire back a stream of ice.

            “Come to join the party?” His partner asked as he stepped up beside him.

            “You should have left me in 2166!” Savage shouted, firing again.

Mick rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, we know that, mullethead.”  

Barry glanced behind them. “Where’s Sara and Firestorm?”

“Sara and Stein are helping Rip fly the ship.” Ray answered for him. “Stein sent Jax back to 2016 in the jumpship. Apparently, the jump has enough time energy to reverse the effects of the radiation.”

“But I thought it was only a one way trip!”

Mick nodded. “It is. Now, can we focus on taking this son of a bitch down?”

Said son of a bitch decided to use that moment to yell dramatically again. “Who are you to stand up against me, Vandal Savage, destroyer of empires?”

 “Leonard Snart,” their resident drama queen replied, “robber of ATMs!” He fired another stream of cold. Approaching footsteps drew their attention to the corridor behind them. Carter stood in the entryway, Kendra’s Savage-killing mace in his hand.

“It’s still two against five!” Mick announced. Barry, Kendra, and Palmer all turned to face off with Carter, while Snart and Mick decided to take Savage head on. Palmer joined them after a few minutes, and Mick chanced a took back.

Barry and Kendra were double teaming on Carter, but the hawkman was effectively blocking every blow—deflecting Barry’s swords with his mace while, at the same time, using his other arm to fend off Kendra’s hand to hand.

Unfortunately, Savage took advantage of his distraction. Somehow, he’d gotten the upper hand on Ray, and he fired one of his weapons at both Mick and Snart.

Snart saw it coming before Mick did, throwing himself in front of his partner to take most of the blast. Both were blown off their feet and onto the ground. Mick coughed, the air knocked right out of him.

Both Palmer and Snart were unconscious. Savage approached him calmly.

“Well, well, well. It’s been quite some time since we’ve had such one-on-one time, Mr. Rory. It was a different life…for both of us.”

Mick remembered—before being left by Snart, before the Time Masters blended his brain and made him Chronos—when he, Snart, and Palmer broke into Savage’s house to steal a dagger to kill him with. He remembered getting caught, knife against his throat, by the immortal, and being used against the team. He still owed him a burn for that.

Savage knelt at Mick’s side, his eyes flickering to the fight between Carter, Kendra, and Barry. Carter had already disarmed Barry and had him pinned down with his boot, and his hand was twisted in Kendra’s hair, mace raised to finish them both. “How terrible it is, to be unable to save your love. I’ve spent thousands of years trying to spare Chay-ara from her fate, but in each life, she fights me.”

“Couldn’t be because you’re a sadistic stalker who keeps murdering her.” Mick managed to choke out. “You and me…we’re nothing alike.”

Savage clicked his tongue. “You are right. I am an immortal god, and you are nothing but a disgraced criminal, who will die with the rest of his crew.” He rose and delivered a kick to Mick’s face, not quite knocking him out, but knocking him screwy.

Savage was striding towards Carter and his victims, both fighting against their former friend’s hold on them. Suddenly, Carter was tackled out of the way, and Rip Hunter was there, helping Barry to his feet and checking Kendra.

“Gareeb,” He heard Savage snarl. “I was wondering where you were hiding.”

The immortal shot the captain in the torso, throwing him back into the wall. Barry let out a shout, and Carter jumped up to grab Kendra. Barry grabbed one of his swords off the floor and charged to save her, but Carter was quicker and stronger. He grabbed Barry by the wrist and twisted his arm behind his back. He cried out in pain, making Mick want nothing more than to jump up and stab both Carter and Savage with Barry’s swords. But his vision was dancing, and he could barely concentrate on what was going on at the end of the hall.

At Savage’s word, Carter dragged Kendra and Barry to him, pushing the former into his arms. The hawkman used his now free arm to take Barry’s sword from his twisted back hand and press it against his throat.

“No...” He couldn’t let Barry die, thinking that he hated him. He wanted those final, happy memories Barry promised him, to spend their last few days holding him in his arms, showering him with kisses and love. He wanted that.

He clawed at the floor, using the strength he had left to crawl towards Savage. Barry’s other sword was behind the immortal, whose focus was on choking the life out of Kendra. “Carter…” He heard Kendra begging.

Carter’s head twitched. Mick recognized the look on his face—he seen it on a couple of Hunters when their conditioning started to fail. The call of his soulmate triggered Carter—the real Carter Hall—to fight back against Savage’s control.

C’mon, he urged silently, fight it, birdboy. FIGHT IT.

His grip on Barry loosened, and, without warning, Carter threw Barry behind him and charged Savage, full hawk wings out. Kendra fell back, crawling over to check on Barry.

Savage and Carter fought viciously, Carter’s eyes feral like an animal’s while Savage’s remained cool and calculated. Suddenly, Savage drew a dagger from his belt. Before Carter could block it, Savage stabbed Carter in the stomach.

It was like déjà vu. Carter glanced at his soulmate, whispering her name one more time, before falling by Hunter.

Kendra let out a scream and flew—not literally this time—at Savage, the same savagery in her eyes as Carter’s. Mick grabbed Barry’s sword. Like hell she was going to get all the fun.

When it seemed like Savage might get the upper hand, Mick brought the sword down into the meat Savage’s leg. The immortal threw back his head to scream, and Kendra used the opening to drive her fist into his face, knocking him down to the floor, unconscious. He wasn’t sure all of what happened after that. It all went in and out.

He heard Hunter say Carter was alive.

He was aware of everyone moving around—Snart waking up, Palmer waking up, the team moving Savage back to the brig.

The only thing that stuck with him, though, was Barry leaned over him, pressing kisses to his forehead, whispering, “You did it. You saved me again.”

That really made it worth it.

0000000

Barry was sitting at Mick’s bedside when he woke up. Leonard and Ray helped carry him back to Barry’s room after he’d fallen unconscious after the fight. That’d been half an hour ago. He ran his fingers over Mick’s shaved head as his eyes fluttered open.

God, he loved this man so much, it hurt everywhere. But the good kind of hurt.

He smiled when Mick’s eyes met his. “Hi.”

A smile pulled at Mick’s lips. “Hi.” He tried to push himself up, but Barry held out a hand.

“You pushed yourself pretty far back there. Leonard may have taken the brunt of the blast, but you hit the wall hard and had Leonard land on you with his full weight. Your ribs are bruised—I was worried they’d broken, but Ginny told me you were safe, and that with some rest, you’ll be fine.”

Mick took the hand Barry had out and pulled it to rest on his heart. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for reacting the way I did. I get why you did what you did now.”

Barry sighed. “I should’ve told you though. I was just so scared. I didn’t want you to be scared, too.”

Mick moved to sit up again, but this time, Barry leaned down to meet him in the middle, kissing him deeply with every ounce of love he felt in his body.

“I love you.” Barry whispered when they finally pulled apart.

Mick chuckled. “I love you, too.”

Barry jumped when Mick’s hand sneaked behind him and pinched his backside. He tried to give Mick a disapproving glare, but from the grin on his face, he wasn’t successful.

“Hey, Ginny,” Mick called out. “How long until we make it to the Vanishing Point?”

“We arrived five minutes ago, Chronos.” Ginny answered. “Captain Hunter has already taken Vandal Savage to face the Time Council. Mr. Snart and Ms. Lance are playing cards in Mr. Snart’s room, Professor Stein is on the bridge, and the rest of the crew are in the medbay with Mr. Hall.”

A diabolical smirk appeared as Mick pulled Barry forward, so he was sprawled over his body. “So. It looks like everyone else is busy. What do you say we start making those happy memories you want?”

Barry’s insides warmed up like hearth. The desire in Mick’s eyes, the love behind it all, was all he’d ever dreamed of. He leaned down to kiss the breath out of him.

“How about,” he whispered against his lover’s lips, “I go and get us some beer, and then we can have a party in here?”

A shuddered breath escaped Mick’s lips. “Damn. What did I do to deserve you, doll?”

Barry answered with a laugh and another kiss, before rolling back to the floor. “I’ll be right back.” He promised, backing towards the door. He blew him a kiss before scurrying out of the room. He headed for the galley to grab the beers, when he heard something.

Bootsteps.

“Ginny.” He whispered. “Is there anyone on the ship?”

“I’m afraid that the Time Master guards have boarded the ship and already arrested Professor Stein, Mr. Hall, Ms. Saunders, and Dr. Palmer.”

No, this couldn’t be happening. “What about Vandal Savage?”

“It seems that the Time Masters are working with Vandal Savage.”

Of course. Barry fell back against the wall. That’s how he knew about Chronos, about every event of his life. The fucking Time Masters were behind all of it. And now, they had most of the crew.

“Ginny, where are they now?”

“They are heading up the far corridors behind you. If you go to the bridge and take the long way back around, you can avoid them.”

He obeyed, running for the bridge. “Tell Mick to meet me there.”

“Mr. Allen,” Ginny responded, “I regret to inform you that the Time Masters have already found Chronos in your room. He is being taken away now.”

Barry slowed to a stop once he entered the bridge. They had Mick. They had Mick.

“Pssst, Barry!” He turned to see Leonard peeking out of a section of the floor. A secret crawlspace. “There’s room for you. C’mon.”

He was tempted. But then….

“Hey, you!” He turned to see a group of guards at the end of the hall. He hung around too long. “Stop right there!”

He glanced back at Leonard out of the corner of his eye. It was too late for him. They’d already spotted him. But it wasn’t too late for Leonard and, hopefully, Sara if she was in there with him. He gave a tiny head shake and settled into a fight stance.

He couldn’t get away. But he could distract them from finding his friends.

Chapter Text

They were all dragged into the Time Master equivalent of a dungeon. There were five cells lined up against the wall. Mick was thrown into the one on the far left first, followed by Barry and Stein in the next one. The one after that was left empty—probably for Hunter—and the last two were taken by Ray and Kendra.

            Mick could hear Stein hacking, and Barry comforting him. “Martin, are you okay?” Kendra called out. He shook his head. They were all going to die. All of them. Even Barry, who he swore he was going to protect.

            At least he wouldn’t have to see Mick become a monster again.

            “I'm required to merge with Jefferson...” He heard Stein explaining, “periodically in order to maintain nuclear cohesion.”

            “Sending him on the jumpship alone probably wasn’t the best idea, then.” Mick pointed out. “Shoulda gone with him.”

            “Why are they letting us live?” Barry asked. “They’ve made it clear they want us all dead.”

            Mick sighed, walking over to the wall between his and Barry’s cells. He imagined Barry standing on the other side and rested his head on the cool surface. “They still do. They just want to make sure they have us all. Then, they’ll kill all of you, and put me back through the induction process.”

            “They want to make you a bounty hunter again.” Barry whispered. There was a soft ‘thump’ on the other side of the wall, like Barry leaning his head opposite of Mick’s. “What’s going to happen to you?”

He took a deep breath. Barry didn’t say ‘make you Chronos again’, because Chronos meant something different to him than it did to Mick. Chronos was a savior and idol to Barry Allen. To Mick, it was every bit of darkness in his soul unleashed on the timeline. Mick wasn’t a good guy, but he didn’t wish that on anyone.

Except maybe the Time Masters.

“Brainwashing.” Mick answered quietly. “They hook your mind to a machine, and it does…it does things to you. Most people die, but the unlucky ones, like me, are turned into mindless goats and used as lap dogs for the Time Masters.”

“Oh, God.”

“Yeah.” He whispered back. “I’m sorry, doll. I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you from all of this.”

Barry laughed humorlessly. “Shut up. I volunteered to come. None of this is on you.”

“I have a question.” Haircut interjected, ruining the moment. “You weren’t mindless. What saved you?”

Mick opened his mouth to respond with the answer he’d told himself for the past few months—vengeance on the Waverider crew. It kept him as Mick Rory. But somewhere, deep inside, he knew that wasn’t true. “I don’t know.” He replied honestly. “I don’t remember much from the first time, but what I do doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense.”

“What is it?” Kendra asked.

He shook his head. “Singing. I remember hearing a woman singing the lullaby my mother used to sing to me when I was a little kid. I hadn’t thought about it in years, but it was always there, grounding me. Hell if I know why, but I doubt that happens this time.”

“Why not?” He could hear the frown in Barry’s voice.

“Because you’re going to die.” Mick said. “And when they find Snart, he’s going to die. And then, everyone I’ve ever given a shit about will be gone, and there will be nothing for Mick Rory to stick around for.”

Barry huffed. “That’s not true, and you know it. Do you honestly think that the Barry Allen in 2016 would turn you away? Because let me tell you, he loves you just as much as I do, even if he doesn’t know it yet. I always have. When I’m gone, he’ll still be there.

“Just…promise that you won’t give up, Mick? Please.” Barry begged. “I can be at peace with dying if I know that you’re going to fight these bastards tooth and nail the whole way. Promise me.”

Mick nodded, even if Barry couldn’t see him. “I promise, doll. I promise.”

“Good.” Barry breathed. “Good.”

The doors to the cellblock opened, and Mick expected a couple of guards to walk in. Instead, one of the Time Masters—Declan, the one in charge of the Hunters—walked in, flanked by a squad of guards.

He made no other move, though, except to stare at them with a blank expression. Mick clenched his fists—he knew what was coming. They were going to make him Chronos again. Only this time, all of his humanity would be gone.

            Declan stepped forward, but to Mick’s surprise, he stopped at the cell beside his. He motioned for two of the guards to come over. The cell doors opened, and Mick’s first instinct was to run out of the cell and stop them. Four armed guards put a stop to that fast.

“Leave him alone!” Mick shouted, forced to the floor with his arms pinned behind him. He couldn’t see what was going on from the angle he was at, but he heard a struggle between Barry and the guards. Druce motioned for another to come over.

“What are you doing? I demand you leave him alone!”

“Barry!”

“No, Barry!”

He could hear the rest of the team shouting as he beat and slammed against the door of his cell, but it didn’t so much as budge. After another few seconds, there was a thud and the struggle stopped. The first two guards dragged an unconscious Barry out of his cell. Declan shook his head. “Barry Allen. The ‘fastest man alive’. How the mighty fall.”

            “Leave him alone!” Mick growled, punching the wall of his cell. “He’s done nothing to any of you.”

            “I can’t do that, Chronos.” He said calmly as the guards dragged Barry out of the room. “I’m afraid that Barry Allen has become quite the thorn in our sides for far too long. It’s time to burn the thorn.”

            He motioned for two more guards to approach Kendra’s cell, but Mick ignored it. “What the hell did he do to you? What are you going to DO TO HIM?!”

            Declan laid a hand on Mick’s head, like he wouldn’t burn the hand off, given half a chance. “It doesn’t matter. Soon, we’ll have our best bounty hunter back. And time will be as it should.”

            He was dragged off then, towards the induction wing, his mind focused completely on Barry. They didn’t bother with knocking him out. They knew that, with Barry’s life in their hands, he wouldn’t try to escape.

            When they brought him to the room, his stomach churned at the sight of the surgical style chair in the center of the room. The guards forced him into the seat and strapped him in across his torso, wrists, and ankles.

            The last time he’d done this, he’d been…not willing, but he had been too weak to fight back and too stupid to know what was going on. They didn’t even have to strap him in. Now, though, he thrashed in the seat.

            “You should be familiar with this procedure, Chronos.” Declan droned.

            Mick sneered. “The name is Mick Rory.”

            Declan ignored him. “Though we've made some refinements. Clearly, your conditioning was not as thorough as it should have been.”

            Suddenly, a scream cut through the halls outside. Mick thrashed against his bonds, recognizing Barry’s voice.

            “Where’s Barry?” He demanded through gritted teeth. “What the hell are you doing to him?”

            Declan dropped a hand to his shoulder, like Mick was some tantruming child. “Calm yourself. Soon, the name ‘Barry Allen’ will be meaningless to you. Even with only a partial induction, you were the greatest of our hunters, Chronos. After we're finished, temporal criminals and time pirates alike will quake at the sound of your bootsteps.”

            Mick turned his head in an attempt to bite him, but the Time Master stepped away. “You better hope your plan works.” Mick growled. “Cuz if it doesn’t, that boot’s gonna crush your skull!”

            Declan didn’t seem too worried, but more fool him. If Mick ever broke free again, he’d kill them all. The Time Master reached for the switch at the head of the chair, and Mick closed his eyes and steeled himself, ready for the pain.

            It was just as terrible as he remembered.

            As suddenly as it came, though, the pain disappeared. When he opened his eyes, he wasn’t strapped to a chair. In fact, he wasn’t in the Vanishing Point at all.

 He was in a lab of some kind. There was a rounded desk covered in computers and papers. TV screens were set up around them, with a logo that said ‘S.T.A.R Labs’. He frowned. How did he end up in S.T.A.R labs?

            “We brought you here.”

            He spun around defensively, only to freeze, stock still. Barry was standing behind the desk, dressed in that stupid, blue sweater he’d been wearing back in 2013. His eyes, though…they weren’t right. The way they looked over him, it was less joyful and twinkling like they usually were, and more assessing and amused. Like, Mick was a cute dog, and he was trying to figure out how to teach him an interesting trick.

            “Hello, Mick Rory.”

Chapter Text

            Barry blinked awake slowly. He was laid out, shirtless, on what looked like the medchair on the Waverider, except his arms were out beside him. He tried to turn his head to look, but a metal restraint across his forehead stopped him. His breathing quickened.

            He didn’t like being restrained. Especially in medical settings. Too many bad memories of Eiling and his experiments. “Hey!” He called out. “Hey, what’s going on? Let me out!”

            He fought against his restraint fruitlessly. His legs and torso had similar restraints across them. There was no way out. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying go to a happier place.

            He remembered only hours ago, laying happily on top of Mick, kissing him deeply. Now, Mick was getting tortured and reconditioned. Nausea hit him hard.

            A section of wall slid back, and a female Time Master walked in, flanked by three guards. “Hello, Mr. Allen. I am Time Master Phoebe. I am in charge of…well, I’m sure you can infer. You’re a smart man, after all.”

            Her black ponytail whipped around as she turned towards a small procedure tray. She pushed it to his right, out of his eyeline, but he’d caught a good enough glimpse to know get a clear idea of what they were about to do.

            A single tear dripped from his eye as Phoebe ran a finger down his arm. Searching for a vein, his mind provided.

            “I know you’re probably very confused right now, Mr. Allen.” Phoebe continued. Barry flinched when he felt a pinch in the crook of his elbow, followed by a burning sensation. She stuck a needle your arm His mind whispered. “I understand your superhero abilities come from an entity known as ‘The Speed Force’. I’m under orders by Time Master Druce to try and extract every ounce of this force from your body.”

            “Why?” Barry whispered so quietly, he wasn’t sure if Phoebe heard him.

            “Something about Druce wanting to combine it with the Oculus to prevent interference of some kind. It’s nothing for you to worry about.”

            “No.” Barry turned his head as far as he could to look at her. “Why are you doing this?”

            Phoebe shrugged. “I told you. I’m under orders.”

            “It’ll kill me.”

            “This isn’t personal, Mr. Allen.” Phoebe replied, sharply. “I’m doing my duty for the Time Masters.”

            She moved back towards the procedure tray, and Barry’s heart rate picked up when she approached with what looked like a short microphone with a flat end. He tried to move away, pressing his body as far into the chair as he could. Phoebe kept coming though, pressing it against his sternum once she was close enough. He screamed when he felt something sharp stab into his skin from the end. Phoebe didn’t even react.

            It stayed stuck against his skin when the Time Master let go and walked behind the chair. When Eiling tortured him, he’d tried for so long to stay strong, to pretend he wasn’t scared or that it didn’t hurt. He was too tired to do that now.

            “Please.” He begged. “You don’t have to do this. Please. Please.” His cries went ignored though, and he squeezed his eyes shut, preparing for the pain. He pictured Mick’s face—the first time they met as Barry and Chronos, the time he found Barry in the woods, the Freddy Webb incident, standing in his lab the day before his life changed forever.

            “I love you, Mick.” He whispered to himself. Then, his body lit up with pain.

0000000

            “Hello, Mick Rory.”

            Mick took a step back. “You’re not Barry.”

            “No.” Not-Barry replied, walking around the desk. “We’re not. We’re just using his form because we thought it would make you feel more comfortable, more at ease.”

             Mick frowned. “Yeah, not working. Who the hell are you?”

            He—they, whatever—tilted his (their?) head and smiled. “We’re the ones who have been protecting you and Barry. Making sure you were there at the right times. Helping Barry grow into the hero he is. Giving him his abilities. Keeping him alive after General Eiling tried to steal us from him.”

            “You…” Mick’s jaw dropped. “You’re the Speed Force.”

            The Speed Force nodded, stopping in front of him. “Yes. We’ve been fighting against the Time Masters for some time.”

             He’d never heard about that from the Time Masters. Apparently, his confusion was all over his face, because the Speed Force laughed. “Surprised? There is more to being the Speed Force than making people run fast. We are the original protector of time. We made sure that it ran as it should, only to be interfered with when necessary. We chose speedsters to carry our mission, granting them the power to change time.

            “But the Time Masters have perverted the timeline, using something called the ‘Oculus’ to control things as they want them.”

            “What does this have to do with me?” Mick asked. The Speed Force’s smile softened, becoming something strangely kind. They reached out a hand to touch his face, and Mick shuddered at the contact.

            “Oh, my dear. You are so special. We chose Barry, out of all of our speedsters, to stop the Time Masters and save the timeline. He’s the only one who can. But you…you, you’re Barry’s champion.”

            Mick shook his head. “I don’t understand.”

            The Speed Force stroked their thumb over his cheek. “Why do you think you turned up whenever Barry needed you? We’ve been manipulating your timelines since Barry was young. Making sure you were both together at the right times. Protecting Barry from the Time Masters’ influence.

            “They know that we’ve been grooming him to stop them.” They explained. “We thought that him being a hero, a historical figure, would be enough to protect him from them. We underestimated the Time Masters’ gall.”

            “What do you mean?” Mick asked. The Speed Force brushed their fingers lovingly over his skin.

            “What do you think would’ve happened if you hadn’t saved Barry from Fredrick Webb? Maybe he would’ve stopped after taking what he wanted, but more likely, he would lost control of the situation and used the knife he carried in his pocket. The Time Masters have used the Oculus many times to put an end to Barry Allen. It’s how General Eiling was able to capture him. It’s how Grodd was able to take over. None of those things were meant to happen.

             “You, though, Mick Rory,” The Speed Force smiled fondly. “We’ve watched you long before the Time Masters found you. Your loyalty to the ones you care about, your fighting spirit, the potential radiating off of you that no one else seems to see. You were the perfect choice. It’s why the Time Masters made sure you left the Waverider and came crawling to them. They wanted to break you and rebuild you the way they want you.”

             Mick scoffed. “But you made sure that didn’t happen.”

             The Speed Force shrugged. “We kept you from becoming a mindless drone, like the other Hunters. Distracting your mind with other, happier memories. But you were the one who refused to break to their will, Mick. We didn’t do a thing after induction. You are the one who held onto your humanity. If you’re worried, everything between you and Barry, that was all you. Barry Allen truly loves you. And you truly love him. Which is why you need to do exactly as we say.”

              Mick’s knees felt weak. In an instant, a chair appeared behind him to fall into. He rested his elbows on his knees and swallowed hard. “What can I do?”

              The Speed Force dropped to their knees at Mick’s feet. “Stop fighting.”

              His jaw dropped. How could he give up? How would that help Barry?

              The Speed Force sighed, taking his hand in theirs. “You have been fighting a war within yourself. You fight against Chronos, but you won’t accept Mick Rory. Not really.

              “You need to understand—these are not different people. Mick Rory and Chronos are who you are, and you need both to save Barry from the Time Masters. Instead of fighting the Time Masters’ influence, give in. Focus on something that keeps Mick Rory, but accept Chronos. We will do the rest.”

              The lights around them flickered.

               “We’re out of time.” They rose from the floor, pulling Mick up with them. “You need to stay strong, Mick. When you get out, let them believe you are their puppet until the time is right.”

               “How will I know?”

               The Speed Force smiled. “You will.” With that, the Speed Force leaned forward and pressed their lips against his. Power coursed over his body, and he wondered if this was how Barry felt when he tapped into his power. The world around Mick lit up brighter and brighter until he had to close his eyes.

                When he opened them, he was back in the induction room with Declan standing over him.  

                 “I apologize for how painful the induction process was.” He heard the Time Master saying. All he could think about, though, was the feeling of Barry Allen’s lips against his, and his mission to protect him. For once in his life, he felt like he had a purpose. “Many of your memories were rooted deep. It took effort to pull them out. Tell me... what is your name?”

            He was still focused on his encounter when Declan shocked him again. “What is your name?”

            He was shocked again. “Your name!”

            “Chronos.” Mick answered. He didn’t lie—he was Chronos. And he was Mick Rory. And he knew how to free his crew.

 

Chapter Text

Declan was right. The sound of his boots as he marched through the halls sent trembles through every Time Master they passed.

“There is much hunting to be done.” The Time Master had said as he was helped into his armor. “Let us begin with Sara Lance and Leonard Snart.”

He didn’t have to hunt. He knew Leonard Snart better than he knew himself. He knew that he and Sara were both holed up on the Waverider somewhere, Snart planning to get out and save himself, Sara trying to convince him to play hero. Ultimately, she would win, and one or both of them would head for the cell block to get the rest of the team. According to Declan, Savage took off with the hawks, and Druce sent Hunter back to the cells, so it would just be him, Haircut, and the professor.

All they had to do was be patient.

He knew Barry was being held in one of the other rooms, but the rational side of his mind—the Chronos side—told him to wait. An opportunity would present itself soon enough. Let them believe you are their puppet until the time is right.

An alarm sounded, signaling the Vanishing Point was under attack.

“Leonard Snart and Sara Lance are using the Waverider to break out their friends.” Declan growled. “They won’t succeed.”

Chronos shook his head. “No. That’s what they want you to think they’re doing.” Without waiting to see if Declan followed, he strode towards the cellblock. Snart was standing inside, weapon raised as he spun on them.

            There was a flash of horror on Snart’s face for a split second. “Mick.”

            He raised his rifle, and Snart’s grip on the cold gun tightened. He wouldn’t shoot. Everyone in the room knew it.

            “Put the gun down, Mick.” He warned anyway.

            Beside him, Declan sneered arrogantly. “Chronos, fire.”

            Oh, he would. A spark went off in his head. “Sure thing.” Damn, that Time Dick was real surprised when he turned to shoot him instead.

            He tore his helmet off and approached the injured Time Master. “I’m gonna give you one chance to tell me where Barry is.” He put his boot on Declan’s chest and applied pressure. “If you don’t tell me, I’m gonna make sure you die choking on your own blood.”

            Declan coughed and gasped for breath. “The med-wing.” He answered. “He was brought to Time Master Phoebe for extraction.”

            Mick felt sick. Phoebe was infamous for her cold demeanor and inhumane experiments. If Barry was with her, he might be too late.

            He picked up his foot. “If I recall, I made you a promise.” He snarled, moving it above Declan’s face. The Time Master’s eyes widened.

            “No. No, I beg you…” But he wasn’t interested in hearing his pleas for mercy. Declan’s skull split under his boot with a satisfying crack.

            A hand fell on his shoulder—Rip Hunter’s hand. Snart must have opened the cells while he was dealing with Declan. “It’s over, Mr. Rory.” He reassured. “We need to get out of here.”

            Mick shook his head. “Not without Barry.” He headed out the door towards the med-wing.

            Behind him, Hunter sighed. “Mr. Snart, Dr. Palmer, please carry Martin back to the Waverider. I’m going to make sure Mr. Rory doesn’t get himself killed.”

            Hurried footsteps echoed behind him, but his vision was red. It took less than a minute for him to make it to the med-wing, cutting down every Time Master in his way. When he and Hunter made it, he froze in the doorway.

            A dark-haired woman was standing beside a prone, pale figure, laying wide-eyed on the chair in the center of the room. Barry’s eyes were blank, staring into nothing. Time Master Phoebe raised her head from the results she was looking at.

            From her shock, it was clear that she’d been expecting one of the Time Masters. She didn’t even have time to scream before Mick shot her dead.

            He and Hunter both ran to Barry’s side. For a split second, he thought the speedster was dead. Then, he saw Barry’s chest rise and fall. He dropped his head and breathed a sigh of relief.

            “Mr. Rory.” Hunter said, unstrapping Barry from the table. “I understand your emotional state, but we need to get Mr. Allen out of here now.”

            As soon as Barry was free, he scooped him into his arms, and the two ran for the Waverider without looking back.

0000000

            “Mr. Allen’s brain functions have been restored. However, his body is very weak. The Time Master attempted to drain the Speed Force from him. Another few moments, and they may have succeeded.”

            Barry moaned. Someone needed to turn the volume on Ginny down. He was trying to sleep.

            “Barry?” A warm hand brushed across his face. “Barry.”

            He smiled.

            Mick.

             He nuzzled his face into the hand. “Five more minutes, Mick.”

             “Barry, you gotta open your eyes.” Mick urged. Reluctant and disappointed, Barry complied. When he realized they was in the medbay and not in his or Mick’s room, he panicked.

            “Shhhh…” Mick stroked Barry’s cheek calmingly. “You’re okay. You’re safe. We saved you.”

            Barry grabbed his hand like a lifeline. “The Speed Force?”

            The small smile on Mick’s face quelled his worries. Mick wasn’t one to sugar coat or beat around the bush. “If Hunter and I had come a minute later, they would’ve had what they wanted.”

            Barry sat up quickly, throwing himself into Mick’s arms. “I love you. I love you so much. I thought I was going to lose you. I was so worried.” He panted into his neck.

Mick squeezed him back just as tightly, like he thought Barry would disappear any minute. “Those sons of bitches are gonna pay for all this.” He swore, kissing the top of Barry’s head. “They’re gonna burn.”

Despite himself, Barry laughed. “That’s the Mick Rory everyone loves.”

“Can you two keep it down?”

They broke apart and turned to the chair beside Barry’s, where Professor Stein was not looking too good. “Sorry.” Barry whispered back.

“We need to get you to the bridge.” Mick decided, helping Barry to his feet. “There are some things you need to hear about.”

He allowed himself to be led away, safe in the arms of the man he loved.

His champion.

0000000

The Oculus.

A device that allowed the Time Masters to control time itself.

Their mission was to blow it up. But the idea that their lives had been altered so much by the Time Masters left them all shaken, wondering what decisions had been theirs and which had been the Time Masters’.

A knock on Barry’s door broke him from his stewing. “Come in.” he beckoned, drawing his feet up on the bed. Mick walked in, unsurprisingly, with two cupcakes. Barry grinned.

“You’ve finally caught on.” Barry teased holding his hand out for the treat. “Sweets will get you everywhere with me.”

Mick clicked his tongue and fell back on the bed. “Wish I’d known back when I was fighting the Flash that all it took to bring him down was a cupcake.”

Barry responded by licking half of the icing off the top of cake. Mick laughed.

“You’re clearly feeling better.”

Barry shrugged. “I don’t really remember much. I think that I suppressed a lot of what happened. The last thing I remember for certain is you talking about them trying to make you one of their bounty hunters again.”

He picked at the paper around his cake nervously. There was something he wanted to ask, but he wasn’t sure how to ask, or if the answer was something he would like.

Mick rolled his eyes. “Spill the question, kid. What’s been eating you about it?”

“What kept you from being brainwashed this time?”

Mick’s eyes went distant, like he was reliving a memory. “Would you believe me if I said it was you?”

Barry shook his head. “No. The Time Masters would’ve planned for that after last time.”

Mick sighed. He was hiding something, Barry could tell. But he didn’t want to force him to share. “Mick, if you don’t want to talk about it…”

Mick waved him off, though. “If you want to know, I’ll tell you. But I don’t know how much sense it’s going to make.”

Barry settled back against his pillows, cupcake still in hand, and nodded.

“The Speed Force came to me.” That wasn’t near as surprising to Barry as Mick probably thought it would be. What was surprising was that he’d never heard of the Speed Force visiting a non-speedster before.

“What did they want?”

Mick shrugged. “To protect me. So that I can protect you. Something about you being chosen by them specifically to protect time or some shit. They’re the ones who have been making sure we came together at the right times. Apparently, the Time Lords have been trying to get rid of you through time. Explains all of your near-death experiences.”

So many questions were shooting through Barry’s head. What did the Speed Force want him to do? How did they interfere with his life? Did that mean that whatever was between him and Mick was manufactured by them?

“Hey,” Mick sat his half-eaten cupcake down and crawled across the bed to him, straddling Barry’s legs to keep him from moving. “Look at me, doll.”

Barry complied, nearly melting at the open love pouring out of his lover’s eyes. “I love you. The Speed Force didn’t do that. The Time Masters didn’t do that. You did that.” He pressed a quick, sugary kiss to Barry’s lips. “We did it. Don’t let them ruin something like this.”

He was right. Of course he was. Barry leaned up and kissed away his own doubts, setting his cupcake aside to wrap his arms around Mick. They would defeat the Time Masters and save the world from Vandal Savage. But right now, they had each other, and that was more important.

Chapter Text

“So, blowing up the Oculus?” Barry concluded. “That’s our play?”

            Rip and the rest of the crew nodded.  They all stood around the console, Mick standing almost on top of him. If Barry thought he’d been protective before, it was nothing compared to now. Mick almost carried him out of medbay.

            Rip just explained their situation—Time Master Druce showed him a glimpse of the future—one that included Ray getting blown up—using the Oculus to prove that the Time Masters could engineer it however they liked. They ordered Vandal Savage to murder Rip’s family because they knew it was the perfect way to get him to go rogue and put the entire smorgasbord of a mission into effect. They’d all played right into the Time Masters’ hands. 

            “But how are we supposed to do that if the Time Masters are controlling our every move?” He asked. “How do we know they don’t want us there so they can trap us? Or that it even can be blown up?”

            Rip cleared his throat. “Well, Druce told me that the Oculus' ability to control our actions doesn't work in the Vanishing Point, most likely because the Vanishing Point itself exists outside of time.”

            “Which is how we were able to get away.” Mick finished.

            “And the reason we aren’t going to save Kendra and Carter from Savage, or popping back to 2016 to get Jax is because…?”

            “We could be playing right into their hands.” Sara answered.

            “We have to cut our strings.” Leonard chimed in. “Do what they don’t want us to do.”

            It made sense. There’s no way they’d want the Legends to destroy the Oculus, but that didn’t mean they weren’t expecting it. But what choice was there really?

            “I’m in.” He said.

            “I like blowing stuff up.” Mick added, sliding his arm around Barry’s waist.

            We set out on this mission to stop Savage and save the world.” Ray grinned. “To become legends and change our fates. That mission hasn't changed.”

            Leonard rolled his eyes. “This is madness. I like it.”

            They were all in agreement. Next stop, the Oculus Wellspring. It was time to take control of their destinies back.

0000000

            After their briefing, the team all split up around the ship, settling their grudges and affairs, preparing mentally for the task ahead. Mick had retreated to his room to think. It wasn’t something he did often—too many bad memories to plague him—but since the Vanishing Point, he’d had a lot to think about.

            “We chose Barry, out of all of our speedsters, to stop the Time Masters and save the timeline. He’s the only one who can. But you…you, you’re Barry’s champion.”

            Chose him for what? The Speed Force obviously wasn’t that worried about Savage, meaning that, whatever the Speed Force intended for Barry, was at the wellspring. It was his destiny to stop the Time Masters.

            Had the Speed Force always intended for them to pick up this version of Barry? Was there something about him that was different from 2016 Barry Allen?

            If it was Mick’s job to get him to the Oculus Wellspring, what would that mean for them after?

            Mick knew Barry didn’t have a lot of time. But after everything with the Oculus was finished, he was going to order Hunter to drop the two of them off somewhere nice to spend his final days—maybe Aruba. He’d always wanted to go there, and Barry would love it.

            It would be hard on him, watching Barry die, but the least he could do is make sure that he was comfortable and happy when it happened.

            A knock on the wall by Mick’s open door jarred him from his planning. Barry was leaned in the doorway, smiling fondly.

            “You look like a man with a lot on his mind.”

            Mick chuckled, leaning back on his bed. “Was thinking ahead.”

            “Oh?” Barry raised an eyebrow and slowly walked towards him. “Anything I should know about?”

            Mick shrugged. “Just what you and me are going to do for the next week or so. Thinking about that party in bed you promised me.”

            Barry laughed, falling to his knees on the bed and crawling towards him. “You still up for it?” He asked, collapsing beside him.

            Mick threw an arm around Barry’s shoulders. “Look, I may not be a genius, but do I seem dumb enough to pass up an offer like that?”

            He leaned down and took Barry’s lips, moaning a bit when the speedster’s arms snuck around his waist. When he pulled away, Barry was staring up at him with more love than anyone had ever given him. It was tainted with a sadness, though, like his fate was lurking over him.

            “Hey,” He whispered, dropping a kiss to Barry’s forehead. “Everything’s going to be fine. You’ll see.”

            Barry nodded, unconvincingly. “I know.” He sighed, reaching up to touch Mick’s face. “The Oculus will blow, Savage will be stopped, and the world will be righted. I just…I worry about you, when I’m gone.”

            Mick sighed. Of course he would. If anyone else had said that, he would assume they meant that he would burn the world. That’s probably something the crew was genuinely afraid of.

            But when Barry said it, he knew the real meaning. I worry about you, because I know you’ll self-destruct. You’ll close up, forget there are people who care about you. You’ll drink until you can’t think, and then drink some more. You’ll throw yourself into danger without a second thought.

            “Doll…”

            “I’m serious, Mick.” Barry cut him off. “I want you to promise me something, okay? And I want you to keep it.”

            He sounded so intensely serious, Mick had to nod in agreement.

            “I want you to promise that, after I die, you’ll go see me. Your me. 2016 Barry Allen.”

Mick frowned, confused.

“You’ll need a Barry Allen, to remind you that none of what’s going to happen is your fault.” Barry explained. “And he needs a Mick Rory—a Chronos—to remind him that what’s going to happen and what has already happened can’t be avoided. Promise me you’ll do that.”

How could Mick deny a request like that? He took Barry’s hand off his cheek and kissed the palm. “Anything for you, doll. Anything.”

Barry relaxed into his arms, resting his head against Mick’s shoulder. They stayed like that, Barry in Mick’s arms, until Gideon came over the intercom to let them know that they’d arrived at the wellspring. Something nasty twisted in Mick’s stomach when Barry forced himself out of his arms. A sense of foreboding, which he forced down.

0000000

It was a trap.

Of course it was a trap.

Barry even told them it was probably going to be a trap.

Now all of them—Barry, Hunter, Sara, Snart, Mick, Stein, Palmer—were surrounded by armed guards, only feet from the wellspring complex

Mick’s hand twitched on his heat gun. He wanted to fry Time Master Druce more than anything. The guards around them all practically vibrated with excitement.

He wanted to fry them, too.

“I think we walked into a trap.” Ray stupidly pointed out.

No shit.

Druce smirked at them like a kid who’d already peeked at his presents before Christmas and knew he had everything he’d asked for. “No, it’s destiny.”

“This isn’t destiny.” Barry shot back. “This is you and your lackeys playing with things you don’t understand.”

Druce raised an eyebrow. “Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, Mr. Allen. I seem to remember a few times throughout history where you’ve tried changing the timeline.”

He didn’t like the hateful way Druce was staring at Barry. His hand twitched again.

“All your posturing.” Hunter sneered, pulling attention away from Barry. “All your claims about doing what's best for the timeline, about protecting history, and it all comes down to cold blooded murder.”

            Druce tilted his head. “The difference between murder and execution is only a matter of authority. I have it. You don't.” He nodded to the guards. “Kill them.”

            The guards charged their weapons, and Mick instinctively moved to cover Barry. Stupid—if they would gun Barry down even if he survived the first wave of fire, but no one ever accused Mick of thinking things through.

            Before he could, however, laser fire shot down from the sky near Time Master Druce. He almost laughed as the jumpship appeared overhead, firing down guards left and right, until the only ones left standing were the Legends. Druce wasn’t amongst the bodies, but they’d deal with him later.

            When Jax came off the ship, Stein nearly ran over to merge with him. Guess the kid knew more about time travel than any of them thought.

            Now that they were armed with Firestorm, the team headed for the Oculus Wellspring without fear.

            The inside of the complex was a long hallway, almost like a military hanger. In the very center of the room was giant hole in the floor. A greenish energy poured down from the edges, and, set across it was a machine. It was like four, large cylinders set two by two on top of each other. It wasn’t like anything Mick or Chronos had seen before.

            Ray headed up one of the ramps leading over the hole and up to the machine, and opened the end of one of the cylinders. “It’s gonna take me like two minutes to figure out how to self-destruct this thing.”

            Hunter nodded. “You four,” he motioned to Sara, Firestorm, Barry, and Leonard, “guard the entrance. Mr. Rory, you’re with me.”

            He wasn’t comfortable with Barry being sent away. Everything in his body was shouting that it was a bad idea, but the speedster sent a reassuring smile. “It’s going to be okay, Mick. I promise.”

            And god, Mick believed him. He ran up the ramp to join Hunter and Palmer.

            “Hurry up, Haircut.” He urged after two minutes passed.

            “How much longer?” Hunter asked.

            “Well,” Ray answered, “just about to reverse the polarity matrix. Once I do that, I say we have about two minutes before this whole place goes boom.”

            Mick liked the sound of that. “How big of a boom?”

“On a scale from one to ten... a googolplex.” He stepped back for a second and tore his helmet and gloves off. Hunter’s eyes widened.

“What are you doing?”

“I can't work with all this gear on.”

Hunter shook his head. “You can't.”

“A programmer needs his hands.”

“Ray, this is what I saw.” Hunter explained hurriedly. “This is what Druce showed me. This is how you die.”

Haircut froze in place for a second, before sighing. “It's okay. All my life I've wanted to make a difference. Creating a future for you guys without the Time Masters influence, that counts.”

Damn, Mick couldn’t get over how Ray reminded him of Barry sometimes. The stupid, self-sacrificing, hero complex they shared was amazing.

Guards came rushing in, firing freely, from the doors on the other end of the wellspring. Ray’s eyes widened. “That said, I'm in no rush to die, so keep 'em off me, okay?

Mick fired back. “We got you.”

Druce was with them, and Mick wanted so badly to burn the smug grin off his face. One of the laser blasts came close, nearly knocking Hunter back into the spring. Mick grabbed him just in time, brushing it off with an “I'm not doing this 'cause I like you.”

All in all, though, he and Hunter were doing a damn good job. Then, they heard the uh-oh.

They both turned to Ray, who was pale. “There seems to be a failsafe to prevent tampering, which probably includes trying to blow this thing up.”

Oh. That kind of ‘uh-oh’. Maybe he meant something else than Mick thought. “English, Haircut.”

Ray nodded to a small notch in the center of the system that refused to stay done without Ray holding it. “I have to maintain contact with the failsafe it order to destroy the Oculus.”

Nope. That’s what he’d thought. “Not that much English.”

He knew what was coming. Ray was going to stay. He was going to let himself get blown to pieces to protect their crew of misfits. “You've already seen the future.” He heard Ray say, “I'm dead already.”

Dead already. Barry didn’t deserve to die. He was good, heroic, loving, kind-hearted. He was one of the few good things in the world, someone willing to give anything to make the world a better place. But Barry was going to die. A light was going to disappear. That didn’t mean Palmer’s had to.

Without warning, Mick snuck up behind Ray and pistol whipped him with his gun. Hunter jumped back in shock. “Mick…”

He put his hand on the fail-safe. “I got this. Get him out of here. I need revenge of these bastards.”

Hunter and he shared a moment of understanding. Then, the captain hit a button on Ray’s suit, shrinking him down and hiding him in his pocket.

“Hey!” He called before Hunter ran off. The captain paused. “Make sure Barry has happy memories, before…y’know. And tell 2016 him what happened.”

He could’ve sworn there were tears in Hunter’s eyes when he nodded, turning to run out.

According to Palmer, they only had two minutes to get away.

0000000

When Rip ran out of the complex, alone, Barry knew something was wrong. Leonard finished dispatching the last guard when the captain announced they were leaving.

“Where’s Raymond and Mick?” Leonard demanded.

“Ray is in my pocket and Mick has elected to stay.” Rip answered quickly.

Barry’s heart slammed to a stop.

“Why?”

“Someone needs to be present to destroy the Oculus. Mick has elected himself.”

Barry didn’t even wait to hear the rest of the sentence before dropping his swords and running inside. Mick could be so stupid. He didn’t have to die. He wasn’t supposed to die.

He heard footsteps behind him and glanced back to see Leonard and Sara on his heels. Mick was getting heavy fire from guards on the other side of the Oculus, so he was too distracted to notice them approach until they were already up the ramp.

He swung the heat gun on them, stopping when he recognized them. Leonard started laying some cover fire.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Mick shouted. “You’re supposed to be safe on the Waverider.”

“So are you!” Barry shot back. “What are you doing?”

His face turned earnest. “I’m being the hero you deserve. Your champion. The Speed Force told me that it’s my job to protect you, and if this is how I can save you, and every version of you, from them, then I’ll die happy.”

Barry felt heavy. He shook his head. “Mick, I don’t want that. I want you to live. You have a life ahead of you, with a destiny all your own. It isn’t to die here.”

Mick turned back to stare at his hand on the fail-safe. “You don’t know that, doll.”

Barry sighed, stepping up so he was pressed against Mick’s side. There was only one way this was going to end. He laid a hand on Mick’s inside the Oculus. “Then, I’m going with you.”

Mick’s head whipped over to him, eyes wide with shock.

“I love you so much. I told you that I want my last moments happy. I want to feel loved when I die. If this is how it’s going to happen, I can be at peace with that.”

Before Mick could argue, Barry surged forward and kissed him deeply. He tried to remember everything about the kiss—the warmth, the texture, the feeling, the tenderness. He loved kissing Mick, and it was the memory he wanted to take with him.

When he pulled away, Mick seemed content, like he was okay with them both going out together. It made what Barry had to do that much harder.

Using one final burst of speed, Barry grabbed Mick’s head and slammed it against the side of the Oculus. Mick fell to the floor, unconscious, at his feet. Leonard and Sara both stared at him, shocked and maybe a bit scared.

“Grab him and get out of here!” Barry ordered. He pressed his hand against the fail-safe, securing it. “It’s gonna blow any minute. GO!”

The pair snapped out of their daze and grabbed Mick by his arms and legs. “Thank you.” Leonard told him, before carrying Mick away as quickly as they could. Barry swallowed hard. He’d accepted a long time ago that he was going to die. He was on borrowed time as it was. Everything was going to be okay.

A hand fell on his. His mother’s smiling face appeared next to him.

“My beautiful boy.” She whispered.

Henry Allen appeared behind her. “Hey, Slugger.”

He felt someone touch his shoulder, and Joe was there—no longer the worn down, hopeless Joe from 2023, but the Joe he remembered from his childhood.

“I’m proud of you, son.” He said. Iris stepped up to his right.

“You’re coming home, Bare.” She grinned. “It’s time for you to let go.”

He didn’t even notice when Druce and the rest of the Time Master guards appeared. He didn’t even notice when the machine in front of him blew. He just closed his eyes and let his family take him away. All of the pain, the horrors, the heartbreak...all of it disappeared as with the Oculus.

He was at peace.

 

Chapter Text

            “Mick. Mick, wake up.”

            He shook his head. No way was he moving. Warm sunlight was blanketing his bare skin, a familiar weight was pressed against his side, and, for the first time in a while, Mick was glad to be alive.

            “C’mon, Mick.” A kiss was pressed to his lips, and Mick hummed. He could get used to that. When the kiss left his lips, he tried to follow, only to hear a joyful laugh. “Mick!”

            He blinked open his eyes, and there was an angel staring down at him. Barry shook his head, good naturedly. “Come on. I have sand in places there shouldn’t be sand. We should go back inside the house.”

            His lover was lazily laid out over the sand, not a stitch on him. Mick chuckled. They weren’t in Aruba—no, using some of the money he’d earned from heists over the years, Mick rented them an island all their own, where they could skinny dip, have sex on the beach, and have huge bonfires without anyone saying something.

            It’d been the best week Mick ever had. He sighed, settling back on the sand. “Just five more minutes.”

            He tugged Barry closer and kissed him slow. He didn’t want the moment to end. Everything was perfect.

 

            Except it wasn’t. Because, when he really came to, he wasn’t on a beach with Barry. He was in medbay, Snart, Hunter, and Ray standing around him, pitiful and grieving expressions on their faces, and he knew.

            They’d succeeded. The Oculus was destroyed. And they’d paid for it with Barry’s life. He couldn’t breathe. He wanted to scream and rage, the burn everything, to fight and destroy. But he was too numb for that. Instead, he laid back, silently, on the medchair.

0000000

            When the ship came to a stop, Hunter ushered them all outside. Mick froze when he realized where they were—Star City, 2016.

            What are we doing back here?

Hunter looked as bad off as Mick. For once, he felt for the captain. According to Ginny, Savage already killed his wife and son, cementing their deaths into the timeline. And, without the Oculus, there was no way to track down Savage. There was nothing else they could do. “Savage has a timeship, courtesy of the Time Masters. The timeline is unclear, due to our destruction of the Oculus, meaning Savage is lost to history. Which is why I brought you all home.”

Jax shook his head. “Mission's not over, man.”

“What about Savage?” Snart drawled.

“Yeah.” Ray agreed. “We've lost Savage before. We'll find him again.”

Hunter hung his head, defeated. “And then what? We have no way of killing Savage, particularly now that Kendra and Carter are in his possession, assuming that they're still alive, which is highly unlikely. I'm on my way to the refuge to retrieve our younger selves and return them to the timeline. It will be as if you never left.”        

“So we’re just giving up?” Snart demanded. “After all of our sacrifices and losses, you expect us to just to just, what? Go back to our lives? Pretend everything’s just peachy?”

Hunter cleared his throat. “Well, not exactly, considering I’ve had to return you to May 2016 instead of January 2016, where I retrieved you from.”

Something was fishy about that. Gideon could’ve taken them to minutes after they left, but instead, they waited almost six months. Hunter was hiding something.

Mick shrugged it off, though. It probably didn’t affect him, and there were other things weighing on his mind.

“We’ve all got a stake in this, Rip.” Snart growled. “If you're getting back on that ship, we’re all get back on that ship.”

“Actually,” They all jumped when Hunter flickered like a recording. “I’m already onboard.” Behind them, the Waverider lifted off the ground. “I wish you all well.”

With that, Rip Hunter flickered away. The rest of the team watched, heartbroken, but Mick just stomped off. He was going to find a car to hotwire, drive to the nearest bar, and drink until everything went away.

0000000

He considered robbing someone—it was who Mick Rory was, after all. A thief, an arsonist, a thug. But really, he just couldn’t bring himself to plan anything. All of his contacts outside of the Rogues were idiots, and Snart would find out if he brought one of his metas out for a heist.

With the hero bullshit they’d both been sniffing the past few months, he wasn’t sure if Snart would be pleased or try to stop him.

So, he sat in a crap bar in Star City, nursing his third beer, pretending that it didn’t feel like his feelings were eating him alive. A few people had approached him—a woman looking for a hook-up, a kid who was obviously a prostitute trying to make some cash, a thug he’d worked with on a job over ten years ago trying to catch up—but he glared them all away. He wanted to be alone. It was for the best.

When the stool next to him was pulled out, his hand tightened around his beer bottle. “What part of, ‘I want to be left alone’ are none of you getting?”

“The part where you mean it.” Mick nearly fell out of his chair as he turned to see Ray Palmer smiling back at him.

“Haircut. What the hell are you doing here?”

Ray waved down the bartender. “I thought you could use a friend.”

Mick rolled his eyes as Ray ordered a water. “All I need is to get drunk.” He finished off his beer and raised a hand to order another.

“I get it.” Ray whispered, staring into the water glass in front of him. “When Anna died, I thought my life was over. I’d never loved any like I loved her. She was my first love. And Deathstroke’s goons murdered her in front of me while I was helpless to stop them. But I know that she wouldn’t have wanted me to give up because of her. I wanted to be someone she wouldn’t be ashamed of. It’s why I became the A.T.O.M.”

Something twinged in Mick’s soul. Something he wished would go away. “Riveting.” He grumbled. “What does that have to do with me?”

Ray sighed. “Ginny told me about your promise to Barry.”

Traitorous bitch of a computer. He brought his fresh bottle of beer to his lips, but Ray grabbed his wrist to stop him. “I’m making sure you honor Barry’s dying wish.” Ray stated firmly. “You love him. When someone you love dies, you don’t use them as an excuse to give up. You use their memory as a reason to keep going. So,” he took out his wallet and slammed a handful of bills on the table, “you and I are getting in my car, and I’m driving you 600 miles to Central City to see Barry Allen. And I may or may not have Rip’s flashy thing to knock you out with if I have to.”

As much as Mick hated to say it, Ray was right.

Chapter Text

            When they pulled up outside of the West House, it was obvious that they couldn’t have chosen a worse time to come. Through the large window in the living room, Mick could see people sitting around, talking cheerfully.

            Iris West was chatting with Caitlin Snow, both sipping wine. Cisco Ramon was laughing at something another kid—Wally West, he was assuming, even if he’d never laid eyes on the kid—said. Detective West was bringing a glass of wine to an older woman sitting on the couch, while a young girl Mick didn’t recognize set the dinner table.

            Movement on the sidewalk drew his attention, and his breath caught in his throat. Barry was walking up to the house with a man he’d only seen once, when Joe West was escorting him out of the Allen house in handcuffs. Given that he was a man that spent fourteen years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Mick thought Henry Allen looked pretty good.

            And Barry…Barry was so happy. His smile went to his eyes, his body was free from the tension his 2023 counterpart always carried. Sure, 2016 Barry had his issues and traumas, but to see him so free from the horrors of Grodd and Eiling…

            All at once, every ounce of pain he’d suppressed hit him like a truck. Barry was alive and less than thirty feet away from him. It hurt that none of his memories mattered—the love he felt for Barry was no longer returned. This Barry wasn’t in love with Mick, even if he still had affections for him memory of Chronos.

            He didn’t want to be here. He wanted to go back to the bar and drink all of this away. Ray was in the driver’s seat though, and he was at that stage of determination that even Mick’s threats wouldn’t sway him. Whether Mick liked it or not, he was going in that house.

0000000

            “I hope you don’t mind.” Iris said as she and Barry walked around the dinner table, helping Jesse set things up. “I invited Dr. McGee.”

            Barry glanced back in the living room, where his dad and Dr. McGee were sitting on the couch, flirting and making eyes at one another. It probably should have bothered him—his mom was the love of his father’s life—but seeing him happy and smiling after all those years…his happiness made Barry happy too.

            It made him think about his life, his relationships. Patty, who had left because Barry couldn’t bring himself to be honest with her about his life. Linda, who had been a ‘moving on’ girlfriend, which hadn’t been fair to either of them. Iris, who was in front of him, ready for the word that they could be together…

            Chronos, who he’d be determined to get over for years. The man he was never supposed to see again except as one of his nemeses. Mick Rory.

He turned back to Iris. She was watching him with a small smile, like this moment meant everything to her because he was happy. He didn’t deserve Iris West. No man did.

She nudged him playfully. “So, I guess you are invincible.”

He smiled widely back. “Told ya. The Speed Force is with us.” He took a deep breath. He had to ask now, before he lost all nerve. “Since I'm feeling extra invincible lately…”

But a knock on the door interrupted him. He groaned internally. He hoped this wasn’t a sign of some kind.

“I’ll get it!” Wally exclaimed, running for the door.

Iris, though, was frowning. “I didn’t invite anyone else.”

A bad feeling settled in Barry’s stomach. Maybe they missed an Earth-2 meta. Maybe someone had followed them home for revenge. What if it was Zoom, messing with them again?

Before he could yell out a warning, Jesse opened the door. He couldn’t see who was on the other side, but she wasn’t screaming or trying to slam it in their guest’s face, so how bad could it be?

“Hey, we’re friends of Barry’s.” Ray Palmer’s voice drifted in. Barry’s anxiety lessened. The Legends made it home. Their mission was a success.

What did that mean for Chronos though? It wasn’t until Oliver came to Barry about Ray joining a time traveling Legends team, which included Mick Rory and Leonard Snart, he realized what it meant for Chronos.

On one hand, he wanted the Legends to succeed and come home safe.

On the other, he wanted the same for Chronos.

Now, his heart fell a bit. What had happened to Chronos?

“Oh, come on in.” Jesse ushered their guests inside. Barry turned away for a moment, needing to compose himself. Being told you’d never see someone again was one thing, but knowing and having it paraded in your face was something completely different.

He blew out a breath. He’d be courteous to Ray and whichever Legends he brought with him for a few minutes, then excuse himself to his room.

There was a collective intake of breath as heavy bootsteps entered the room, so he figured Leonard Snart decided to tag along to get a reaction. Drama queen.

He turned back around with a plastered-on grin to greet them, only to freeze in place. His heart stopped, his fingers went numb, and his jaw dropped. Glass shattered at his feet as his glass of wine slipped out of his fingers.

Mick Rory was standing in the entryway, focus directly on Barry. Everyone else in the room disappeared. It wasn’t just Mick Rory. It was his Mick Rory. His Chronos. He wanted to walk up and…and what?

Before he could answer that question for himself, Joe’s voice cut through his daze.

“You got a lot of nerve coming here, Rory!”

“Hey!” Ray defended. “Mick helped save all of time! He’s as much a hero as anyone else!”

Mick didn’t respond to any of it. Instead, he stared at Barry like he was a ghost. “Hey.” The word sounded punched out of his chest, and Barry wondered what had happened on that trip.

His mind was reeling. He felt like he’d been blindsided by Atom Smasher. The only thing he could think to say back was, “Hey.”

Silence dropped over the room again. Everyone was in a different state of confusion except for Ray, who was almost vibrating with anticipation. So, the Legends knew. Great.

Mick cleared his throat, finally breaking eye contact as he shifted nervously. “Can we...is there a place we can—?”

Barry broke free of his paralysis. “Yeah…ummm…” He quickly tried to think of a place they could talk privately. The kitchen? No, Caitlin was in there with the food. The living room obviously wasn’t very private. His bedroom was definitely off-limits. Then, it hit him. “C’mon.” He nodded towards the kitchen.

The house stayed silent as Mick followed, Barry giving Caitlin a quick head shake as the man who once kidnapped and threatened her walked past. When they came to the back door, a smile tugged on the corners of Mick’s lips.

He remembered.

They walked down the back steps towards the old double swing still sitting in the backyard. In his mind, Barry always referred to it as his and Chronos’ spot, even though they sat on it once together for less than fifteen minutes. The memory was burned in his brain though—his first kiss.

He took a seat, and, with a grunt, Mick did the same. “So,” he said quietly, taking his old friend by the hand. “What do you need from me?”

Chapter Text

            “What do you need?”

            It was such a loaded question, asked so sweetly, so freely, like Barry Allen really would give him anything to ask for.

Mick didn’t know where to start. He wanted a lot of things from Barry. To hold him close, to push him away. To yell out his anger, to beg for forgiveness. Mostly, though, he really wanted to sit there with him—pretend that the Oculus and traveling with the Legends never happened.

            But he couldn’t. He squeezed Barry’s hand like a lifeline.

            “I just…I need you. I need you here beside me…remember, way back when, when I told you that—”

            “I was ‘the only thing that cut through it’?” Barry finished with a smirk. “Yeah, I remember. Every experience with you is kind of ingrained to my brain.”

            Mick darted his eyes down to the ground. He couldn’t bear to see that smirk right now. “We didn’t complete the mission yet. Savage is still alive.”

            He expected an exclamation of some kind, but Barry stayed silent instead.

            “Hunter dumped us all back here because…because we lost someone.”

            “Oh my god.” Barry gasped. “Was it Snart? Sara? Jax?”

            Mick shook his head. “You don’t…you don’t really know him. He was a newer teammate. But he died protecting us from the Time Masters. They were using us all as their time puppets, and he died blowing up the device they used.

            “That’s not the worse part though.” Mick hadn’t noticed he was crying until he choked on the words. “I knew he was already dying. I’d…we’d already accepted it. But I was going…I was supposed to be the one to blow up. And the idiot went and took my place.”

            “Oh, god.” He could hear the horror in Barry’s voice. “I’m…I’m sorry. I’m so, so, sorry.” A soft, warm hand touched his cheek and turned his head so they were staring into each other’s eyes. “But I’m glad that ‘idiot’ did what he did. Because, if he hadn’t, you would be dead. And that would be a shame.”

            Mick couldn’t help himself. He and Barry were only inches away, Barry’s fingers against his skin, his eyes so open and honest. And he missed Barry. It’d been less than two days, and he felt the loss so strongly…

            He lunged forward, pressing his lips against Barry’s in a desperate and needy kiss. For a moment, he forgot that, for this Barry, they’d only kissed twice, both initiated by Barry. He’d never been kissed by Chronos, by Mick.

            At first, Barry tensed in surprise. Mick’s heart beat sped up like a rabbit’s, wondering if he was going to be rejected. This was the Barry Allen who was supposed to marry Iris West, make a family, have a grandson speedster named after him. This wasn’t the 2023 Barry who lost everything except for the object of his childhood affections.

            But, after a second, Barry slid closer, tilting his head to deepen the kiss. When Mick pushed forward, licking his way into his mouth, Barry moaned wantonly, and that just encouraged him. Hands gripped at the front of his shirt, twisting into the fabric. He grasped at soft tufts of hair.

            Suddenly, Barry pulled away, conflict and confusion on his face. “Chrono—Mick…what was that?”

            Mick forced his eyes shut and took a deep breath. This wasn’t his Barry, he reminded himself. “Sorry.” He slid a few inches away. “I’m just…I’m so confused and muddled. I don’t know what to do…Haircut in there wants us to all band together, get Hunter back, and finish the mission. I don’t know if I can, though…”

            Barry relaxed, the flush of his face disappearing, and gave an understanding nod. “It’s okay. You’ve done a lot for the Legends, for the timeline. If you think you’ve done enough, don’t let any of them try and convince you that you haven’t. As far as I’m concerned, you’re as much a hero as any of them, even if you didn’t stop Savage.”

            He hurt. His entire body throbbed with pain because this was his Barry. Maybe not with the weight of the future on him, but with the wise mind and kind heart, with the way he believed that Mick would do the right thing.

            “Barry…” He started, but a clatter from inside the house drew both of their attention. Through the small kitchen window, they could see blue lightning cutting through the house. Barry jumped to his feet, terror on his face.

            “Zoom. He came back…” Mick moved to jump up, but Barry grabbed him by the shoulders to stop him. “No! If he sees you, if he figures out what you mean to me…”

            He paused, his face paling like he was picturing Mick being ripped to pieces by a psycho speedster. Mick grabbed his hands. “Doll, I can help.”

            But Barry ignored him, shooting off inside the house instead. Mick cursed and ran after him, only to find that he was too late. Everyone was staring at an empty spot in the floor, slack jawed and frozen with absolute fear. Zoom was gone, along with Barry and Henry Allen.

            His stomach fell. There was no way that was tonight. There’s no way that he actually showed up on the night Henry Allen was murdered by Zoom.

            The looks on everyone’s face said otherwise, though, said otherwise. Without a word, Mick headed for the door, only to be stopped by Ray. “Outta my way, Haircut!” He snarled.

            But Ray didn’t move. “You’re going to get yourself killed going after Zoom on your own.”

            “Better me than Barry!” He practically roared. Ray’s eyes flickered to their audience, and Mick lowered his voice. “I can’t lose him again, Haircut. Get out of my way.”

            Ray sighed and stepped to the side. “Fine. But not alone.” There was the sound of a gun hammer being pulled back, and Detective West stepped up beside him.

            “I don’t know what the hell is going on, but if you think I’m letting you go after my son without me, you’re crazier than your file says you are.”

            That was fair. He knew where Zoom was going to lead Barry, and they were running out of time. He, West, and Ray climbed into his car and sped for 5262 Blossom Road.

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            The second Mick barged into the house, he heard a heartbreaking scream, and he knew they were too late for Henry Allen.

            He ran in just in time to see Barry fall onto his knees by his father’s body, begging him not to die as Zoom looked on amusedly. “I told you family was a weakness.”

            Just the idea of the psychopath speaking to Barry was enough for Mick Rory to feel that fire in his gut again. He drew his heat gun and fired at Zoom, knocking him back. “Stay away from him, you son of a bitch!”

            West and Ray ran in behind him, the latter armed with a fucking tire iron because he hadn’t brought his suit to Barry’s house and should’ve stayed in the car, the former pointing a gun at the black speedster.

            When West saw Barry, his gun lowered. “Oh god, son…”

            Zoom used the distraction to push himself up and flash over, knocking Ray and West off their feet and grabbing Mick by the throat. He grunted when his back collided with the wall, Zoom’s claws biting into his skin. His gun clattered to the floor.

            “NO!” Barry screamed. “Please…please don’t. Please, Jay…Hunter…kill me instead. Don’t…”

            A confused expression appeared on Zoom’s face. He looked between Barry and Mick, his head cocked to the side like they were a geometry problem or some shit. Then, a grin twisted on his lips. “Oh, I see. This is why you haven’t made a move on Miss West yet.” His grip tightened, and, against his will, a choking sound fell out of Mick’s lips. “Barry Allen has a thing for the bad boys. Who knew?”

            “Please…” Barry whimpered, and fuck, if that didn’t hurt. Barry was broken, vulnerable at some murderer’s feet, begging for Mick’s life. “Please, I’ll do anything if you don’t kill him. Anything. “You feel the anger, don't you, Flash? I thought murdering your father in front of you would make you realize we’re the same. Even our attraction to the darkness.”

            Zoom’s eyes flickered back to Mick for a second. “Maybe, though, I need to kill him, kill ‘Heatwave’ to make you really see how alike we are.”

            Barry shook his head frantically. “No…no you don’t need to do that. You don’t need to do that.”

            “Really?” Zoom pursed his lips. “I think I may have to.”

            He was toying with Barry, screwing with his emotions, exposing his weaknesses. And, what was worse, he was using Mick to do it.

            More tears were flowing down Barry’s cheeks. “No, you don’t! Please don’t! I’ll give you my speed again. I’ll be your trophy on Earth-2. Anything you want…just please!”

            “Barry, no…” West grumbled, fighting to push himself up, but Zoom ignored him, a sick smile on his face.

            “I want you to be me, Flash. Use your anger, just like I did.” His claws twitched around Mick’s neck. “Catch me if you can.”

            And, with that, Mick was moving at superspeeds away from the Allen House, tight in Zoom’s grip.

 

Chapter Text

            Barry didn’t even think about it—he ran after Zoom. He chased him through the streets of Central, desperate to stay on the speedster’s heels. When he saw where Zoom was heading, his heart nearly stopped.

            They both skidded to a halt on the rooftop of Jitters, Zoom holding Mick over the edge. He smirked. “There it is, Barry. You haven’t quite embraced that anger, the need to kill me, but I’m confident that you will.”

            Barry trembled. He was furious. His whole body trembled with the anger. Zoom murdered his dad, right in front of him, in the exact same place Thawne murdered his mother. Now, he was threatening the life of someone else he cared about. Someone no one was supposed to know about, but leave it to Zolomon to read him like a book. No, he wasn’t going to take Mick from him, too.

            “Yeah,” Zoom nodded. “You’re almost ready. I’ll stay in touch.” And, with that, he released his grip on Mick’s neck, and the pyro dropped off the edge of the building.

            “No!” Barry shouted, flashing past Zoom and down the side of the building. The speedster didn’t stop him—probably too entertained by Barry’s mad dash. Barry could catch Mick—he’d caught plenty of people falling off buildings before. He ran past Mick and took a loop back up, catching him in his arms and dragging him back up to the roof.

            Zoom was gone, but Barry didn’t care.

            “Are you okay?” Mick nodded, panting for breath. Barry took his face in both of his hands. “ARE YOU OKAY?” He needed to hear the words.

            “Yes.” Mick choked out. Barry relaxed, drawing Mick forward into his arms. He’d almost lost him. Mick had almost died right in front of him.

            The person he loved almost died in front of him.

            How had he not noticed after all these years?

            The sound of his cellphone ringing drew his attention. He quickly pulled it out and answered. “Hello?”

            “Bare! Bare, are you okay?” Joe’s voice came through the speaker. Barry sighed. He and Ray were okay.

            “Yeah. Mick and I both are fine. We’re on the rooftop at Jitters. Zoom is gone.”

            There was a long exhale on the other end of the phone. “Good. That’s good. I’m…I’m still at your old house, son. I’m gonna have to call this in as a Zoom homicide.”

            Barry’s stomach fell. His dad as a homicide victim. Just like his mom. “What do you need me to do?”

            “Find somewhere safe to go. I’ll…son, Il understand if you don’t want to go home and be with everyone right now. Just find somewhere safe to stay the night, and meet me at the station in the morning.”

            He nodded, before remembering he was on the phone. “Yeah, Joe. Mick and I’ll head over to S.T.A.R labs. There’s a couple of couches in fake Wells’ old office we can crash on.”

            Joe hummed on the other end. “Alright, Bare. I love you. Oh!” He exclaimed suddenly, “and tell Rory ‘thank you’ for me.” He said it grudgingly, which made Barry snort.

            The line went dead after that, and Barry took Mick by the hand. “Are you good for me to use speed, or do you need a moment?”

            Mick, who strangely didn’t seem shaken in the slightest, shrugged. “I’m good.”

            With one last gaze over Central, Barry flashed them away to S.T.A.R labs.

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            They skidded to a stop in the main lab of S.T.A.R labs—the one the Speed Force had appeared to him in. Barry stepped past his and practically collapsed in one of the rolling chairs. He had a familiar thousand-mile stare—the same one he’d worn not forty-eight hours ago.

            Mick couldn’t blame him for his state of shock. His father had just been murdered in front of him. He had almost been killed in front of him.

            “Barry…” He stepped closer to the chair, and Barry’s head fell to his stomach. Mick blew out a breath, resting his hand on the back of the speedster’s head.

            “He killed him, Mick.” His voice didn’t crack, the words weren’t choked out. It was just...empty. “He murdered my dad right in front of me. He…” His head raised to stare at Mick. His eyes showed all the raw emotion his voice hid. “He was going to kill you. Mick, if he’d killed you, too…”

            Mick shushed him. It reminded him of one time, back when he was about eighteen and Snart was fifteen, and he found him curled up outside of Mick’s apartment, beaten within an inch of his life by Lewis. Neither ever mentioned the way Mick had held him and comforted him like a scared child all night.

            “I’m fine, Doll.” He reassured, running his fingers through Barry’s hair. “You saved me, and Zoom’s going to pay for what he did.”

            Something passed over Barry’s face, and he slowly rose to his feet, the chair rolling back away from them. He brought his hands to Mick’s face, touching him like he was something magical in front of him. He inched forward, his eyes darting, wide-eyed, over Mick’s face.

            Mick was frozen, staring back in shock as Barry leaned all the way in and brought their lips together. His eyes widened when Barry’s lips moved, his fingers slipping up the lapels of his coat.

            Mick jerked his head back. “Doll…” He breathed. “What the hell are you doing?”

            Barry swallowed hard and shook his head. “I…I don’t know. I just…I need…” His eyes darted back to Mick’s lips, before going back in for another kiss. This time, he pushed Mick back until he hit the desk, his hands snaking behind him and around his waist.

            This is wrong, Mick thought, He’s grieving…his dad died…he’s not in his right mind…

            Then again, neither was Mick, and god, he missed this with Barry. Against his better judgement, he kissed Barry back. He lifted himself onto the desk, pulling Barry closer between his legs as the speedster deepened the kiss.

            Barry yanked Mick’s coat from his shoulders, and Mick threw it the rest of the way off with a groan.

            The minute his hands were free, Mick grabbed for Barry, frantically groping and pulling on fabric while Barry’s hands did the same. Suddenly, the hands on Mick tightened. Without warning, there was a pull at his gut, and he and Barry were in an office, Mick splayed out on a couch, stripped out of his shirt, Barry straddling his waist, stripped down to his boxers.

            There was a desperation in Barry’s eyes, a frenzied need in his movements that Mick mirrored.

            It was a bad idea. They both knew it. But damn, if neither could say no once Barry ground his hips down into Mick’s. They couldn’t argue when all of their clothes were thrown across the office, hands grabbing at any skin they could find. They couldn’t fight it when Barry sank down on Mick’s arousal and rode him until they were both screaming each other’s names.

            Afterwards, when Barry’s naked body was curled against Mick’s, his head resting on his shoulder, they let themselves feel the grief. But they didn’t move, and both slept peacefully in one another’s arms.

          

Chapter Text

            Some things about Barry Allen never changed, no matter what timeline he was from. Like being the last to wake in the morning.

            Not that Mick could bring himself to complain. He liked watching Barry sleep, pulled close to his chest, relaxed in a way that would evaporate once he woke up. Mick dragged the pad of his finger gently down Barry’s cheek.

            He loved Barry Allen. Every version in every timeline in every reality. He was Barry Allen’s.

            There was a knock on the door, and Mick drew his hand back quickly. The door cracked open slowly, Ray’s face poking through. His eyes widened as he took in the scene in front of them. At least Mick had thought of covering their lower halves with the blanket draped over the back of the couch before they fell asleep.

            Haircut nodded towards the hall, and Mick nodded back. After the door closed, he pressed a kiss to Barry’s forehead before carefully untangling their bodies, careful not to wake Barry up. He picked his jeans up off the floor and pulled them on, sparing one glance back to make sure Barry was still resting, before joining Ray in the hall.

            “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” Ray asked as Mick quietly closed the door behind him.

No. Mick just leveled a glare at him.

Ray threw his hands up in surrender. “Look, Jax texted me. He and the professor want are meeting at the spot where Rip dumped us. They want me to bring the beacon I made—the one I based off of the one other Barry had—to call the Waverider back. I wanted to know if you were in, but I think I might know your answer.”

His eyes darted towards the door, and Mick’s indecision returned.

            If you think you’ve done enough, don’t let any of them try and convince you that you haven’t. That’s what Barry told him. They didn’t need Mick Rory to stop Savage. They already had Leonard Snart if they needed a criminal to take him down. Barry needed him worse. Savage was a threat to a bunch of strangers in the future. Zoom was a threat to Barry right now.

            “I know it isn’t my business.” Ray continued. “But Henry Allen was murdered because Barry cares about him. After what I saw last night, you already have a target on your back. Zoom knows about Barry’s feelings for you, and don’t—” He held up a finger, “try to tell me that he doesn’t have them after what I’ve seen. He loves you just as much as the other Barry did, even if he doesn’t realize it yet.”

            “Your point, Haircut?” Mick grumbled.

            Ray sighed. “I just…I don’t think you need to get involved in this. With Zoom and the Flash…Barry has a team here that can take care of him. That continuously takes care of him.” He shook his head. “Look, I’m not saying you have to come with us to take down Savage if you don’t want to, but this thing between you and him cannot be healthy. Barry—Legend Barry—died less than forty-eight hours ago, saving your life. This Barry’s father was literally murdered in front of him last night. You’re both going to break if you don’t take some time to grieve.”

            He laid a hand on Mick’s arm, but the pyro pulled away with a snarl. “Mind your own business, Palmer.” He growled, grabbing Ray by the neck of his shirt and slamming him back against the wall. “What Barry and I do is between me and Barry. You keep your nose out of it if you don’t want it burned off your face.”

            Ray stared back with fright, but stayed steadfast. “I’m saying it because you’re my friends—both you and Barry. I don’t want to see either of you get hurt, and I sure as hell don’t want to see you get murdered by Zoom.”

            It jarred Mick, how sincere Ray seemed, and he let go of his shirt. Ray cleared his throat. “We’re meeting at 9am tomorrow morning. We’re trying to get ahold of Sara and Snart to let them know. If you change your mind, meet us then.”

            With that, Ray turned and walked away.

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            As heavy a sleeper as Barry Allen was, the loss of his pillow slowly roused him from his sleep. Through squinted eyes, Barry watched Mick move through the room and pull on some pants. The smile he pointed towards what he thought was a still sleeping Barry melted his heart.

            No one had ever looked at Barry with that much love. At least, not that kind of love. He couldn’t believe the changes hours made to his life.

He was an orphan.

He’d finally gotten together with the man he dreamed of.

His feelings were everywhere. So, he focused on his good feelings. The bad could wait for when he needed to face them. He traded the image of Zoom shoving a hand through his father’s chest for an image of Mick, head thrown back beautifully as he came.

He sat up and stretched. Maybe he could convince Mick to go for another round before they had to face everyone. A loud bang on the other side of the door made him jump.

Wrapped in a blanket, he tiptoed to the door. “What Barry and I do is between me and Barry. You keep your nose out of it if you don’t want it burned off your face.” He heard Mick saying.

 “I’m saying it,Ray answered, “because you’re my friends—both you and Barry. I don’t want to see either of you get hurt, and I sure as hell don’t want to see you get murdered by Zoom.”

A lead weight dropped in Barry’s stomach. Zoom…he already knew how much Barry cared about Mick. If they were to start a relationship, if he were to admit his feelings, Zoom would have yet another person to hold over him, someone he would kill just to break him.

            Barry leaned his back against the wall and covered his mouth to smother a sob. Mick couldn’t know. He had to go with the Legends. It was the only place he would be safe.

             He flashed into his clothes, knowing what he had to do once Mick stepped inside. Maybe he couldn’t save his dad. Maybe he wouldn’t be able to save Joe, or Iris, or Wally, Caitlin, Cisco, Harry, or Jesse. But, dammit, he could save Mick.

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            “Hey, Doll.” Mick greeted cheerfully as he stepped inside. He frowned when he noticed that Barry was already dressed and folding the blanket to drape back over the couch. “You didn’t have to get up. I was just talking to Haircut.”

            Barry nodded, but stayed silent.

            Mick reached out to lay a hand on Barry’s shoulder, but the speedster flinched away. His worry festered. “Doll, what’s wrong? Is everything alright?”

            “Yes. I just need to get down to the police station. Singh will want to tell me the bad news about my dad in person.” His tone was short and snappish, with an undertone of sadness.

            Mick tried again. “Did you want to go to lunch afterwards? I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I had a Triple Big Belly Burger with double fries. Lifetimes, kid. Lifetimes.”

            Barry sighed, finally looking up to meet Mick’s eyes. They were filled with guilt and regret. “Mick, I’m sorry. I’m sorry about last night, how I threw myself at you. I was…I was upset about my dad’s death, and I needed a way to feel in control. I used you, and it was wrong.”

            Mick chuckled humorlessly. “It’s not like I didn’t enjoy it, Doll. Or that I wasn’t practically begging for it myself.”

            But Barry shook his head. “No, it was, Mick. This was a mistake. It never should have happened. I love you, but as my imaginary friend—the one who protected me and cared for me in my loneliest moments. But I’m in love with Iris. I’m destined to be with her.”

            For the second time in two days, Mick’s heart shattered. All of the hope he’d felt minutes ago crumbled. His imaginings of a new life—one where he and Barry could live together, and he could cook for him, like his grandmother started teaching him before she died; where they could have a bonfire every night and curl up under the stars, maybe find the Aeon and travel through time to their favorite periods together—they all burned away.

            If it’d been anyone else, Mick would’ve burned them, then and there. But how could he be mad at Barry for his feelings? Mick knew that Iris was destined to become Iris West-Allen. One peek at the timeline could tell him that. It was Mick’s fault for thinking the universe would reward him with a lifetime of Barry Allen. He didn’t deserve it—he didn’t deserve him.

            So, he squared his shoulders and nodded. “’s alright, kid. No harm done. Besides, I need to meet the team in Star tomorrow. Haircut was telling me that they’re calling the Waverider back in the morning to get the band back together and kill Savage. I just thought you’d be hungry.”

            He shrugged. “Your loss, I guess.” He turned to leave.

            “Mick!” Barry called after him. Mick paused, his hand hovering over the door handle. “I really am sorry…you know, if I led you on.”

            Mick swallowed down a sob. Instead of responding, he slipped out the door, ready to head to Saints & Sinners for a farewell hangover.

He didn’t hear the wrecked sobs coming from the inside of Wells’ office as Barry fell back onto the couch, drowning in the pain of losing two people he loved in less than twenty-four hours because of Zoom.

Chapter Text

            Palmer seemed surprised when Mick was already waiting at the lot in Star City come 9am. He was half drunk and still throwing back a beer. He approached slowly, like Mick was going to throw him against another wall, and frowned.

            “Mick…buddy…are you okay?”

            Mick wanted to roll his eyes. He knew he looked like shit. He hadn’t slept all night and smelled like the floor of a bar. Instead, he took another drink from his beer. “Fine. Where’re the rest of the eggheads?”

            “I resent that comment.” A familiar drawl said. Mick turned to see Snart walking up with Stein and Jax. “Lisa says ‘Hi’ by the way.”

His brow furrowed when he saw the beer bottle in Mick’s hand. Damn. Of all of them, Snart knew best what it meant when Mick went on a drinking binge.

            Luckily, Sara’s arrival saved him from any questions. She looked almost as bad off as Mick did. Something was wrong.

            Stein noticed, too. “Ms. Lance, are you alright?”

            “How are we going to get the Waverider?” She snapped, crossing her arms over her chest. Oh, yeah—something was real wrong.

            It took the geeks a few minutes—they argued over subspace frequencies and mechanics, all without asking the man standing two feet away from them that was trained by the Time Masters, but Mick couldn’t bring himself to care—but the Waverider appeared overhead and landed nearby.

            Hunter strode out dramatically, cleaned up better than he’d been before. “I thought I made my intentions perfectly clear.”

            “And we wish to be equally clear about ours.” Stein shot back.

            Out of nowhere, Snart punched Hunter in the arm. “Just making sure you weren’t trying to rabbit out on us again.” He explained, resting his hand on the cold gun.

            “You're not ditching us again.” Jax announced. “When the mission's over, then we can all go our separate ways.”

“And this mission is not over.” Stein added.

Ray crossed his arms. “Yeah, just curious how much headway you've had tracking Savage without all of us.”

 “None.” The captain admitted, glaring at the team. “But neither have I got myself into bar fights in 1975 and the Old West, put dwarf star technology into the hands of terrorists, befriended deadly bounty hunters, or got myself turned into a scary bird monster.”

Mick’s fists clenched. He’d heard enough. “We get your point.” He snarled, rushing forward and snatching Hunter by his lapels. “Now get ours. That ship's not taking off without us. You got that?”

Hunter, to his credit, only seemed slightly scared by the implied threat. Probably thought there was nothing else to lose, no matter what Mick did to him. But, after a moment, the Time Master nodded.

0000000

“So, what happened with Barry?”

Snart had cornered him in the cargo bay while he was cleaning his heat gun. Since they’d gotten onboard, Sara had held a weapon on Hunter—something about her sister being killed, which is why they were dropped off six months after they left—and they’d found a location for Kendra and Carter through an Ally helmet that Kendra left a note in that happened to end up on the bridge of the Waverider.

They’d tried saving the hawks, but only ended up with Carter.

Mick got to fry some Nazis, though, which to him, was a victory. The pyro in him was fighting to break free. He wanted to burn something satisfying.

“What makes you think I went to see ‘im?” Mick responded, not looking up from his gun.

“Well,” Snart drawled, “aside from the fact that Raymond told me, you have a look on your face I’ve only seen a handful of times. Like when you talk about your parents. The only person that could give you that is Barry Allen.”

Mick snorted. “You think you’re so damn smart. Did you use that brain to consider if I want to talk about it or not?”

Snart sighed, crossing the room to take a seat on one of the cargo bins. “Look…I know that we haven’t been close since the whole ‘Chronos’ thing. And I know we aren’t exactly touchy-feely people. But what you felt for Barry was real—I could see that—and he felt the same. And I have no doubt that present Barry Allen’s feelings are any different. So, what happened?”

That was enough. He slammed his hand down and rounded on his best friend. “You shut up about him, alright? You don’t know anything. You think because you can plan and you can read a mark that you understand emotions? You don’t know ANYTHING, Snart! You cold-hearted bastard!”

Snart didn’t even flinch. After thirty years, he was used to Mick’s outbursts. The pyro took a deep breath. He was shaking. He felt tears forming in his eyes. He’d never cried in front of Snart, but tears kept dripping down his cheeks. “He loves someone else, okay?” He choked out. “After everything, he’s in love with Iris fucking West, like he should be.”

Snart didn’t hug him. He didn’t pat him on the back. He didn’t even say anything. He just nodded, stood up, and left the cargo bay. Once the door closed behind him, Mick finally let himself break down.

0000000

It was a pleasure to burn Savage.

His plan was batshit crazy—return the Earth to Ancient Egypt using the energy from the meteors that gave him his immortality. He triggered them in three times—1944, 1958, and 2021. Mick’s stomach lurched—for a second, he let himself wonder about the Barry Allen of 2021. Was Grodd starting his conquest of the world, or was Barry safe at home with his beautiful wife and twins?

He volunteered for 1944 with Haircut. Leonard decided to take 2021 with Carter and Hunter, and Sara and Firestorm took 1958.

Watching the so called ‘immortal’ wither under his fire once the meteorites made him vulnerable felt like a drug. This is for Barry, he thought to himself, You and your Time Master chumps can all burn.

Ray had to shrink the meteorite to keep it from blowing up and taking 1944 with it, and Gideon swung by to bring them to 2021 to pick up Hunter, Snart, and the Hawks.

“Damn it.” He growled, cross the roof where Savage’s body was laid out. “I wanted to be the one to kill him. Again, I mean.” He wanted to watch Savage burn a thousand times. If it weren’t for him, none of the pain he was feeling would ever exist.

“Sorry to disappoint.” Snart smirked. “If it makes you feel better, I haven’t even gotten to kill him once.”

Shit hit the fan after that. Hunter decided to use the Waverider to transport the meteorite, which was about to blow, into the sun—which, why hadn’t he tried that with Savage? Even if he survived the Sun, he wouldn’t have gotten back to Earth.

“This isn’t going to fix everything, Rip!” Snart argued through the comms.

Mick sighed. “It won’t bring your family back, and it’s not gonna keep our Barry from being dead. I don’t wanna lose someone else I care about, Hunter.”

It was probably the most honest Mick had been, because he did care about the Legends. In the months they’d worked together, no matter the betrayals and the squabbles, they’d become his family. A weird, dysfunctional, sometimes hurtful family, but a family.

Hunter let out a shuddered breath. “I appreciate that, Mr. Rory. I must say, it’s been an honor to serve as your cap—”

Mick’s heart fell when the line went out. He was in dangerous range of the sun.

Then, the Waverider appeared above them. That son of a bitch time traveler, with his son of a bitch time machine.

0000000

Mick sat in his car—well, not his car, but a car that someone had mistakenly parked near where the Waverider was going to land and left unattended—across the street and down a ways from the West house.

Zoom was gone. The Speed Force made sure of that. There was a small get together happening inside the house to celebrate and mourn. This time, though, Mick intended to stay in the car. He only had twenty minutes until he had to meet Rip and the others back at the Waverider.

But there was something important he’d needed to see to.

That someone came walking out of the house, shoulders sagged and face heavy with grief. Barry plopped down on the steps of the porch, probably getting some air or alone time. The kid was hurting. He deserved all the time he needed.

Something caught Barry’s eye. With a frown, he pulled something taped to the underside of the stair rail off. Mick smiled sadly as Barry unwrapped the small device he’d left for him—a Ginny interface with a distress beacon. They didn’t really need Ginny anymore on the Waverider, and Mick felt more comfortable with her watching out for him than he did just having her stuck on the Aeon, wherever they’d left that, alone. There was a note that Barry’s eyes darted over, but Mick knew what it said:

 

          Ginny missed you, so I decided that you need her worse than me. I had to disable her knowledge of the timestream, outside of the past. You should never know too much about your own future. But, she’s a loyal confidant and friend, and, if you ever need me, she’ll call me.

           I’ve been yours since I walked you home that night your life changed, Barry. And I’ll always be yours, no matter who you love or what life you choose for yourself.

           Be safe.

                Chronos

 

Barry’s grip on the device tightened, and, Mick couldn’t tell, but it looked like he was crying. He was so close to climbing out to talk to him—it hurt him when Barry hurt—but then, the front door opened, and Iris West came down the stairs to sit beside him, and Mick knew he wouldn’t be welcome. He pulled away from the curb, comforted by the knowledge that Barry was taken of, and that there was someone in his time worthy of his love.

The Hawks didn’t stay. Kendra, for all her proclamations against destiny, decided that she wanted to give a relationship with Carter a shot.

“Every time they do that,” Mick whispered to Sara as the two flew away, “I get hungry for chicken.”

It earned him an eyeroll, but it was worth it. They were all about to climb on the Waverider again—Hunter, Jax, Stein, Sara, Snart, Ray, and Mick—when another Waverider fell from the sky and crashed in front of them.

Ugh. Time Travel.

A man with a hood stepped out. “Is this 2016? Is this May, 2016?”

They all shared confused looks. “Yeah…” Jax answered.

The man nodded. “You're exactly where you said you'd be. Do not get on that ship. If you do, you're all dead.”

“Says who?” Mick asked, eyeing him suspiciously.

“Says you, Mr. Rory. You sent me”

That was news to Mick, but, once again, time travel. Snart’s hand fell to his gun as he stepped forward. “And just who the hell are you?”

The man pulled down his hood. “My name is Rex Tyler. And I’m with the Justice Society of America.”

Then, Rex Tyler left them with a message, a warning. What they didn’t notice was that, around them, time was being changed by a grieving speedster trying to fix the world.

Chapter Text

            “Hey, Bare.” Barry shoved Mick’s gift and note into his jacket pocket as Iris took a seat on the steps beside him. Down the street, a car drove away. Iris laid a hand on his knee. “What’s wrong?”

            “Can’t stop thinking about my dad’s doppleganger.” He lied. Sure, his dad being the Flash on another Earth hit him like a sledgehammer, but his mind was on the future, the past, wherever the Waverider took Mick. God, he felt like gunk on the bottom of someone’s boot.

The words from Mick’s letter played back in his head. “Seeing him, knowing that he's out there, that should've made it easier. It doesn't. It just made me miss him even more.”

Iris nodded in understanding. “I can’t imagine how hard that must have been.”

Barry shook his head. “We just won. We just beat Zoom. Why does it feel like I just lost?”

Because you did, a voice in his head whispered. You lost your Eddie, Ronnie, now your father. You even pushed away the man you loved. It’s your fault you lost everything.

“Barry?”

His attention snapped back to Iris, who was watching him expectantly. “What?”

Iris breathed out a laughed. “I was saying, maybe you and me seeing where this thing goes, maybe that can give you something for a change.”

God, a couple of years ago—hell, even a few weeks ago—his heart would have somersaulted. It was everything he’d wanted to hear, but now he knew it wasn’t in the cards for him. Not anymore. He couldn’t love Iris, not the way she deserved, now that Mick Rory had his heart.

He swallowed hard. “Iris…I always thought that, if I ever heard you say that, nothing would stop me from saying yes. But, a lot has changed in the past few days. I thought that moving forward with you was what I wanted, but now…Iris, I’m so conflicted and broken right now. My emotions are everywhere. I’ve never been this confused in my entire life. I feel like I’m going to burst. If I'm ever gonna be worth anything to anyone, I need to fix what's wrong with me. I need to find some...some peace.”

Iris—wonderful, beautiful, understanding Iris—smiled knowingly. “That’s how I felt when I lost Eddie. Barry, I could never fault you for how you feel. If time is what you need, then take it. I’ll be waiting right here when you’re ready, however you need me. Friend, girlfriend, foster sister—I’m here.”

She pressed a kiss to his forehead. “I love you, Barry.”

Barry closed his eyes against the tears forming. “I love you, too.”

Iris rose quietly and walked back inside, leaving Barry alone with his thoughts. He needed peace. Chronos was in his head, in his heart, but they couldn’t be together. It couldn’t work. He wished he could run back in time and stop himself from ever meeting the bounty hunter. Life would be easier if all he’d ever known was Mick Rory.

He stood up, knowing what he had to do. He ran.

0000000

After saving his mom, Barry thought that living with his parents would be a dream come true. Both were still alive and happy. He was still a CSI. There was a particle accelerator explosion, but it was caused by normal scientist incompetence rather than malicious intent from the future (which he knew, because he had Eobard Thawne locked away in a warehouse).

The captain of the precinct stayed off his back. There were even two superheroes in Central (well, technically, one stayed in Keystone and moved between the two cities, while Kid Flash hung solely around Central, but Barry still couldn’t get over the fact that Leonard Snart became Citizen Cold, an ice meta hero).

Along with the good, however, came the bad. Joe was a stone throw away from getting fired, due to poor work ethic and tardiness. Barry tried to help, but the detective didn’t understand why he cared so much. Then, he’d looked up Star City, only to find that Oliver Queen died on the Queen’s Gambit, and a blonde woman was serving a serious kind of justice as the Arrow (he was pretty sure it was Sara Lance, which made him wonder if Oliver ended up in Nanda Parbat).

He’d spoken to Iris quite a few times. She was still a reporter, still frequenting Jitters, and still a really good listener. She remembered him…kind of…from when they were kids, and they hit it off almost instantly. She knew about Wally, but neither had a strong relationship with Joe, which explained his lack of interest in everything. Barry tried fixing it a few times, but all it resorted in was the West family glare, which he knew meant that he needed to back off.

The one person he’d kept an ear out for was Mick. Every time an arson case crossed his desk, he’d search for any sign it was his pyro. It never was, though, after the first month and a half he’d spent in ‘Flashpoint’, as Thawne called it, he was starting to lose faith he’d ever find Mick.

What if he’d died?

What if he was living in another city?

What if, despite everything, the Time Masters still turned him into Chronos, but he didn’t have Barry or the Legends to help?

The scenarios kept him up at night.

Then, something miraculous happened. His parents went out of town for a week—his dad had a convention in Hub to go to, and his mom decided to tag along for a spa weekend in the hotel. Barry stayed at home, knowing that, as much as he loved and missed them, he couldn’t shadow his parents forever.

Iris called not long after, asking if Barry would go to a seedy bar in on the edge of town with her for a story. It was a bad idea—even with his powers, a lot could happen at biker bars and supervillain bars—but he knew Iris would just go without him if he said no.

Saints & Sinners was, unfortunately, a familiar sight. Too often he’d walked in, begging Snart for some kind of information or help. He’d thought that, in Flashpoint, those days were behind him.

When they stepped foot inside, the bar went silent. All eyes fell on them, but Iris walked confidently towards the bar. With a sigh, Barry scurried after her.

“Iris,” he said for the fiftieth time, “this is a bad idea. We need to go, now.”

Iris waved down the bartender. “Barry, if you’re so worried, wait outside. I’m here for information on the Rival.”

The Rival. He was a speedster that wanted to prove he was the fastest man alive—which, c’mon; totally Zoom’s thing that he ripped off—by beating Kid Flash. Iris was certain someone at Saints knew the Rival’s identity, and she may have been right, but he knew that, without Leonard Snart running the show, the people who frequented the bar were more likely to just kill them both.

In fact, he could see the Mardon Brothers in the corner—because Clyde Mardon was very much alive in Flashpoint—watching them suspiciously. That could not be good.

He tried one more time. “Iris, I think it’s time to go.” He grabbed her arm, but she jerked it away.

“Just one second, Barry. I haven’t even asked any—”

But her sentence was cut off when a shotgun was slammed against the counter. One of the bikers who’d been hanging around the pool tables sneered down at them, his hand dancing over the weapon.

“I think you should listen to your boyfriend, pretty.” He rumbled. “This isn’t the kind of place to be asking questions.”

Barry jumped up, pulling Iris off the stool. “Thank you. We’ll take your advice and leave now.” He yanked her towards the exit, not caring how pissed she be at him later, because at least she’d be alive, when Mark Mardon blocked the door.

“Wait, I know these two.” He laughed. “He’s a CSI at the CCPD, and she’s that reporter…the one who uncovered the Santini crime ring.”

Hands fell to their shoulders as Clyde Mardon stepped up behind them. “I remember. Didn’t this guy testify at one of our trials?”

Shit. Barry wished he remembered all of this, so he would’ve known to avoid them. He clenched his fists, not wanting to reveal his powers, but willing to if it got them out alive. Iris, though, thought fast, kicking Mark in the shin. The weather meta doubled over, and Barry used everyone’s surprise to elbow Clyde in the face. They both ran for the door, but biker guy’s friends got in the way.

One came up behind him and grabbed him while Iris pepper sprayed one of the ones attacking her. They were outnumbered and probably going to either die or get hurt very badly. It was now or never with his powers. Barry vibrated free of his captor and charged forward to Iris, knocking down her biker opponents. The way now clear, he moved to grab Iris and run when pain shot through his body. A familiar pain—lightning.

Mardons.

Barry collapsed to the floor. He heard Iris yell, but when he tried to stand again, Mark struck him again. Then, again.

            This is it. He thought. My perfect world is going to end the same way my reality was going to. With a meta getting the best of me.

            He waited for the next blow, tensed up and ready for the pain, when a booming voice cut through the noise. “Hey!”

            Everything was kind of blurry and foggy, but he was almost certain he heard yelling and the sound of someone being punched. Then, he was pulled into someone’s arms—someone who smelled like lighter fluid and ash. For some strange reason, Barry felt safe.

            He let unconsciousness take him, not knowing where the stranger was carrying him off to, nor what happened to the Mardons or Iris.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Barry woke up slowly, his head swimming and his muscles aching. If he weren’t a speedster, he knew he would probably be dead. Soft fingers brushed against his forehead.

            “Barry? Barry, are you awake?”

            He blinked his eyes open. “Iris?”

            His friend frowned worriedly down at him, heavy concern in her eyes. “I’m sorry I put you in danger like that. You could’ve been killed.”

            Barry rubbed his head, pushing himself upright. “What happened?” His eyes darted around the room. They weren’t at his house or Iris’ apartment. Instead, they were in a small bedroom. It was kept and clean, but Barry could tell that, wherever they were, wasn’t a good quality place. “Where are we?”

            “We’re above Saints & Sinners.” She answered. “The owner came down when he heard the commotion and stepped in. He punched Mark Mardon in the nose and started yelling about not needing anyone killed on his property, no matter what their job was. Then, he carried you up here. You’re lucky you’re a meta—which, by the way, how long were you going to keep that a secret?”

            Barry breathed out a laugh. “Honestly, I haven’t told anyone.” At least, he didn’t think he had. His parents didn’t seem to know, and he didn’t have any friends outside of work besides Iris, which was sad. “I didn’t really think about it.”

            Iris huffed, but accepted the answer. “Well, I’m just glad super healing is one of your abilities. The resident doctor of Saints came in said that you may have died without them.”

            Barry frowned, a strange feeling coming over him. “Doctor…?”

            Iris nodded. “Dr. Snow. You know—Killer Frost? From the Rogues? Don’t you know who runs Saints & Sinners, Barry?”

            Before she could say, though, bootsteps approached the door, and a loud knock echoed through the wood. Barry’s fists clenched—with Leonard Snart as a hero, his mind flickered through the possibilities of who was smart and strong enough to run the Rogues. Lisa? Sam Scudder, maybe? His stomach twisted—what if it was Lewis Snart?

            The door swung open, and Barry’s heart nearly stopped. Standing in the doorway, dressed in a suit of all things, was the last person he’d expected to see.

            “Mick?”

Barry’s throat went dry. Damn, Mick looked good. The first two buttons on his shirt were open, showing off a glimpse of his chest. He had more facial hair than he had in Barry’s reality, but it definitely suited him. He didn’t have a gun, which Barry found odd, but he brushed that off in favor of admiring how well tailored the suit was on Mick.

He was just…wow.

Mick raised an eyebrow. “Heatwave. Only friends call me ‘Mick’. Not kids poking their noses where they shouldn’t, causing fights in my bar. You’re lucky I didn’t let Mardon zap you. We don’t need that kind of heat here, though. Cops poking their noses around in dangerous.”

Barry couldn’t speak. How had it never occurred to him that Mick would run the Rogues?

Iris, though, stood up to face the mobster. “It’s my fault he’s here. I’m trying to get information for Picture News about the Rival. I thought maybe he was a Rogue, but Barry didn’t know who ran the bar when he agreed to come.”

Mick scoffed. “Then you’re both idiots. No one here knows nothin’ about any speedsters except your friend. They don’t tend to be team players, and I don’t keep around metas around who don’t follow the code.”

Iris frowned, clearly caught up in reporter mode. “Has there been any kind of talk about the Rival from anyone? Maybe places he frequents?”

Mick rolled his eyes. “Look, kid. I kept your friend from getting electrocuted. That’s my good deed for the next decade. You want info on the Rival? Track down Cold or Kid Flash. Frost says your friend is good enough to leave, so I want you both out the back door by the time I get back, understand?”

He stormed out without another word, but Barry knew that, now that he knew where Mick was, there was no way he could leave him alone.

0000000

Barry visited Thawne the next day with a bag of Big Belly Burgers and the interface/beacon Chronos left him.

He more or less threw the bag at Thawne without a word, his attention on the A.I in his pocket. Not caring if Thawne heard, he called Ginny. A blue figure appeared in front of him.

“Pleasure to see you again, Mr. Allen.”

He smiled at the familiar Southern accent. “Hi, Ginny. I was wondering…do you have knowledge of this timeline?”

The A.I nodded. “Of course. As a Time Master AI, it’s my duty to keep track of every timeline contingency, including one where you save your mother’s life from Eobard Thawne.”

From his cage, Thawne scoffed. Barry ignored him.

“What do you know about Heatwave and the Rogues here?”

“Heatwave—also known as Mick Rory—is a metahuman, whose abilities including fire manipulation, thermal manipulation, and fire absorption.”

That sounded like Mick’s dream powers.

“He gained his powers from the particle accelerator explosion and quickly earned the codename ‘Heatwave’ after setting fire to the houses of every Family don and taking over the criminal underground of Central. His Rogues are metahumans who follow him: Mark and Clyde Mardon aka the Weather Wizards; Dr. Caitlin Snow aka Killer Frost; Linda Park aka Doctor Light; Frankie Kane aka Magenta; Sam Scudder aka Mirror Master; Axel Walker aka the Trickster; Kendra Saunders aka Hawkgirl.” Barry startled at that one, “and Hartley Rathaway aka Pied Piper. An unofficial member of the Rogues is Pied Piper’s non-metahuman husband, David Singh-Rathaway.”

That one almost made him laugh. “Is their code like the deal I made with Snart in my reality?”

“Yes, with modifications. They are never to kill anyone unless given no other choice. This includes police, guards, and civilians.”

“What are the modifications?”

“It seems that Mr. Rory donates portions of their stolen wages to abuse shelters.”

Barry did laugh at that. Leave it to Mick Rory to protect those who couldn’t protect themselves, even as a mob boss. He was still the man Barry loved. And, in Flashpoint, there was no one to take him from Barry.

“Why the sudden interest in Snart’s pyro thug?” Thawne suddenly asked. Barry startled—he’d forgotten where he was for a minute. He shut down Ginny.

“None of your business.” He snapped.

He realized his mistake when Thawne stood up with an interested grin. “I was just asking out of boredom, but it seems I’ve hit a nerve. Now, I have to know why. Why, in a perfect world where he has everything he wants, is Barry Allen interested in Mick Rory of all people? It can’t be because he’s the leader of the Rogues—after all, that’s not really your business now that you aren’t Central City’s hero. What is it about Rory…?”

Barry tried to keep his face neutral, but he knew it wouldn’t work. No one knew him like Eobard Thawne. He knew each of Barry’s gestures, expressions, tells. His smile widened. “No. No. Don’t tell me that Barry Allen wants Mick Rory? You actually have feelings for that mindless oaf?”

“Shut up.” Barry growled. He wanted to punch the other speedster in the mouth just for saying Mick’s name.

“It’ll never work out, Barry.” Thawne continued smugly. “Especially not here. What happens when your memories of the real timeline start disappearing? It’ll happen, if you don’t fix this. You’ll forget you ever had feelings for that pyro. What’ll you do then?”

Barry shoved his interface back in his pocket and sneered at his mother’s would-be murderer. “I guess I’ll just have make sure we fall in love before that happens.”

He turned away without another word, already planning how to woo Mick Rory.

0000000

He showed up at Saints & Sinners after work every day the next week, dressed as nice as he could. He ordered a drink and stayed for almost two hours each day, hoping to get a glimpse of Mick. He’d only lucked out once, when Mick came walking in from the back to check on business. When he saw Barry, he rolled his eyes and went back in the backroom.

That weekend, when he didn’t have to get up the next morning for work, he stayed longer. Mick came out longer this time. His only reaction this time was to shake his head and sit at the other end of the bar.

Barry repeated his habit the next week, and the next week. Soon, he befriended half of the regulars, including the bikers that threatened him and Iris on their first visit and most of the Rogues. Hartley found his crush on Mick ‘adorable’, while Caitlin tried to talk him out of it.

“Ever since his last partner left him…” She explained with a sigh, “he’s just…he’s not as open to with his feelings as he used to be. And he wasn’t that open before.”

But it didn’t deter Barry. He still showed up every night for two hours, and stayed all night Fridays and Saturdays.

Until, one day, Mick finally took the seat at the bar beside him with a scowl. “What’s your game, badge?” He asked, eyeing Barry suspiciously.

Barry just smiled warmly, throwing back the shot in front of him. “No game. I…I want to get to know you. You intrigue me.”

Shock crossed Mick’s face, like he hadn’t expected to be the reason Barry hung around. Before the mob boss could say anything else, Barry got the courage to pull a pen out of his pocket and jot his number down on a napkin.

“Here.” He slid it in front of Mick. “I don’t want to make you uncomfortable or come on too strong, but, like I said, I would like to get to know you. So, maybe call me if you want to get lunch or dinner…?”

“Or breakfast.” Hartley suggested from down the bar, making Axel laugh.

Barry licked his lips nervously, blushing when he noticed Mick’s eyes fixed on the movement. At least he knew he was somewhat attracted.

He rose up from his seat. “Just…just think about it?” he asked, before heading for the door, his night at Saints over.

Chapter Text

            Barry got a phone call three days later from an unknown number. When he answered, he heard shouting in the background.

            “Hello?”

            “Hey, Barry.” Kendra’s voice came cheerily through the phone, despite the yelling around her.

            “Give it back, Feathers!” He could hear Mick growling, followed by grunts that sounded a lot like Hartley and Axel.

            “This is good for you!” Linda shouted, closer to the phone. Barry could almost picture the Rogues holding Mick back to keep him away from Kendra and his phone.

            “Everything okay over there?” He couldn’t help but ask, resisting the urge to laugh.

            “Oh, yeah. Definitely. I actually was calling to see if you were busy tonight.”

            Barry raised an eyebrow. “Not unless you count paperwork.”

            “Great! Mick would like to take you out to dinner.”

            “I’m going to fry you!” Mick shouted again.

            “It’s for your own good!” Kendra shouted away from the phone. “You need a break!”

            Barry couldn’t help but laugh at the commotion on the other side of the phone. “Would he?”

            “Yeah. He’s over the moon at the thought.”

            There was a howl, followed by the whooshing sound of someone flying. If Barry had to guess, he’d say Mick broke free and Kendra hawked out to continue their game of keep away. “So, what do you think?”

            Barry bit his lips, both excited and nervous. “Yeah…I mean, if Mick is up for it.”

            The shouting died down, like Barry’s answer shocked them into silence. “Of course he is.” He could hear the devious smile behind her voice. “Meet him at Saints around 5?”

            “Sounds like a plan.” He answered, before hanging up. A smile stretched across his face. He had a date—an actual date—with Mick Rory. He glanced down at the old sweater he was wearing and scowled. He needed to change.

0000000

            When Barry showed up at Saints in his button up and blazer, all of the Rogues were hanging at the bar. Their faces lit up as he stepped inside. He’d thought about bringing a flower, but it didn’t seem like something Mick would appreciate.

            “Wow.” Caitlin raised an eyebrow. “You clean up well.”

            “Mick will be down in a minute.” Linda announced. “He’s really nervous. He’s come down in about five different outfits, asking for our opinions.”

            That was, shockingly, a comfort. Mick was nervous about going on a date with Barry.

            “Don’t listen to them.” He turned to see Mick leaving the back room, dressed in a clean, white button up, the sleeves rolled up past his elbows. Once again, his collar was open. The whole look made Barry’s mouth water.

            He heard someone—Mark Mardon, it sounded like—clear their throat and realized he was staring, mouth hanging open. It snapped shut with a click, and Barry cleared his throat.

            “Are you…uh…ready to go?”

            Mick, leader of the dangerous Rogues, master criminal, shifted nervously. “Yeah.” He rumbled, stepping up beside Barry. He awkwardly held his arm out to Barry, which the speedster took with a blush.

            “We won’t wait up!” Axel shouted as they exited the bar. Using the hand not resting on Barry’s lower back, Mick flicked him off.

0000000

            “This isn’t working for me.” Barry declared. “Nope. No way.”

            When Kendra told him ‘dinner’, Barry had pictured a restaurant. Maybe not anywhere fancy, probably a Big Belly Burger or a bar that served burgers and beer on tap, if he knew anything about Mick Rory.

            But, damn, did Mick surprise him. Instead of heading into downtown, like Barry expected, he drove them further out of town, across the river and into the outskirts of Keystone. Barry started getting worried, when Mick finally pulled to a stop.

            They were in a small clearing on the edge of the river separating the two cities. Mick climbed out without a word, before hurrying around to open the passenger side. Barry raised an eyebrow, but stepped out, only to have his breath taken away.

            The sun had already gone down, giving them the most beautiful view of Central City, lit up and sparkling against the river. He didn’t even notice Mick getting something out of the trunk until he stepped up beside him with a bag and a blanket.

            A packed dinner under the stars, with a perfect view of the city Barry loved.

            Mick laughed at his declaration. “What?”

            “I was going to woo you.” He explained, grinning as he took a sip of the beer Mick packed. “You stole my thunder with all this—the stars, this view, the food…did you cook all of this by yourself?” He nodded towards the empty Tupperware between them, which had been filled only an hour before with fried chicken, roasted potatoes, green beans, and a small cheesecake that was half gone.

            Mick shrugged. “After my parents died, my grandma took me in for a few years until she passed. She taught me how to cook.”

            Barry leaned back on his elbows with a frown. “I didn’t know that.”

            Mick laid beside him, stealing a chunk from the cheesecake. “Not many people do. I only lived with her for two and a half years before she died, and I was thrown into foster care.”

            He watched Mick in amazement. All of that had to have been before he changed time. Was it the same for his Mick? “You’re an enigma, Mick Rory.” He grinned. Mick snorted. “No, really. This is all…who would’ve known how much of a romantic you are?”

            An embarrassed expression crossed Mick’s face. “The cityscape was Hartley’s idea. I was going to cook you something in the apartment at Saints.”

            He couldn’t help it—Barry laughed, hard. “That sounds more like Mick Rory.” He said once he calmed down. “And I would’ve loved it just as much as I love this. Although, inviting me back to your place on a first date?”

            “You act like I haven’t brought you up there before.” Mick reminded him. “I even carried you to my bed last time. It’ll be hard to top that.”

            This time, they both burst into belly laughs.

            “Seriously, though,” Barry said, catching his breath. “This has been one of the best dates I’ve ever been on.”

            Mick smiled so warm and openly at him, it made Barry’s toes curl. “Me too. I wasn’t sure of you at first—thought you were spying, and I was gonna have to burn ya if you didn’t stop hanging around Saints—but I’m glad that the Rogues forced us on this date. I…”

            In a move that seemed slightly awkward for him, Mick reached across the blanket to grab Barry’s hand. “I feel like I know you. Like you’re something special to me. I…I’ve never felt like this before.”

            “I know what you mean.” Barry replied, sliding closer. “Everything just fits.”

            All of the tension melted out of Mick’s body as he moved even closer, so there was only an inch between their bodies. “Yeah.”

            Barry wasn’t sure who leaned forward first, or if they came together simultaneously, but suddenly, their lips were pressed together. The kiss wasn’t awkward or testing. It didn’t even feel like a first kiss. It was a kiss of familiarity, like they’d kissed a million times and knew exactly what the other liked.

            They stayed on that blanket on the riverbank for hours, until the moon was starting to move to the west, and Barry knew that they needed to head back. Something started that night, though. Something that Barry knew actually started over fifteen years earlier, on a night that didn’t happen, even if Mick didn’t.

            This time, he was going to take what fate gave him and enjoy it.

Chapter Text

4 months later…

           

            Flashpoint was like a dream. Everything was looking up.

            Joe got fired, but he and Iris apparently started talking again. According to her, he was thinking about pursuing his childhood dream of being a lounge singer, like on Earth-2.

            Barry moved out of his parents’ house, but they were alive and happy, using their time to travel together. He was happy for them.

            The Rival was still loose in Central, but Kid Flash and Citizen Cold teamed up to stop him, so really, it was only a matter of time.

            And Mick…well, Mick and Barry’s relationship only grew. He moved in with Mick—not above Saints, in Mick’s actual house; the one that, in his reality, belonged to the Santini’s before Cold kicked them out. He hadn't told anyone outside of the Rogues about their relationship on Mick's request--the significant other of Heatwave could be a dangerous thing for Barry, and he could probably get fired. Barry didn't care, though. For the first time in a long time, he was genuinely happy. There was no sense of impending doom, no weight on his shoulders of those he’d lost.

            It was like Barry was being rewarded for once.

            Then, it all came crashing down around him on the walk home from work, when he accidentally stumbled across the Rival facing off against Kid Flash and Citizen Cold. He should’ve run—he knew that he shouldn’t get involved. He wasn’t the Flash anymore. It wasn’t his job.

            But he couldn’t resist standing by and watching.

            The Rival was fast. He zipped around Kid Flash like he was nothing, knocking him to the ground and throwing him against nearby cars every chance he got. Barry cringed—it reminded him way too much of his fights with Reverse Flash.

            The Rival ran for Kid Flash once again, only to have Citizen Cold send a burst of cold from his hands, freezing the speedster’s feet to the asphalt. The Rival vibrated his feet just as Cold ran to help Kid Flash to his feet. The ice shattered, and Barry could see that they weren’t going to be able to move out of the way in time. The Rival was going to get them.

            Without thinking, he flashed towards the heroes, pushing them out of the way just in time to take the impact of the Rival’s attack himself.

            Barry felt himself fly backwards through the air, unable to stop himself as he crashed, hard, into the windshield of a car parked on the side of the street.

            He groaned—that hurt. A lot. Then, a wave of memories washed over him: using his powers for the first time; racing Zoom; learning to throw lightning; running through time itself. It all blew through his mind like paper caught in the wind, and Barry knew he was losing something special. Thawne was right—he was losing his memories from his former life.

            He tried to pry himself out of the shattered glass, but a sharp pain shot through his body. When he looked down, he cringed—there was a huge piece of glass sticking out of his stomach. Great.

            Voices echoed around him as the blood loss started to get to him. A light blue shape and a yellow shape were standing over him, and he heard the words, “Iris’ friend” and “the lab”, but everything else felt like it was happening underwater.

            He was barely aware of being picked up and moved.

0000000

            Barry was getting really sick of waking up in places he didn’t fall asleep.

He eased slowly into consciousness, aware first that his wound had healed, second that he couldn’t raise his right arm past a certain point. That’s when he knew something was up.

He shot up. He was on a hospital bed—the one in S.T.A.R labs, only…everything was slightly off. The equipment was more advanced, and instead of the labs logo, the words “Ramon Industries” was flashing across the screen in the corner.

So, Cisco owned S.T.A.R labs. Good for him.

“Don’t even think about phasing through those.”

Barry did not shriek at the sudden, drawling voice. He’d been so caught up with where he was, he hadn’t even noticed Citizen Cold standing in the corner of the room, watching him with suspicion. Before he could ask what the hell he was talking about, Cold’s eyes flickered down to Barry’s right wrist.

He was cuffed to the bed railing by Cisco’s meta cuffs.

“What...” he tried to swallow, but his mouth was dry, “what am I doing here?”

“You passed out from blood loss after you stupidly tried to take on the Rival. It was Kid Flash’s idea to bring you here and get you stitched up. The cuffs were mine.”

Barry frowned. “Why?”

“I don’t trust other metas.” Cold snapped. “Especially not metas dating my arch-nemesis.”

Oh. Oh. The fact that Snart knew about their relationship wasn't even what surprised him. After all, Snart was incredibly resourceful, no matter what timeline he was in. What shocked him was that he hadn’t even considered what Mick and Snart’s relationship was in Flashpoint. It made sense, though—fire and ice. The Rogues were centered in Central, but a lot of their business carried to Keystone, Mick’s hometown. And Barry knew from experience that Snart hated people moving in on his town.

“You’re lucky that Kid Flash has as friend willing to vouch for you.” Cold continued, “Otherwise, I might not be treating you as pleasantly as I am.”

He was probably going for intimidating, but Barry had literally been shot more times than he could count by Leonard Snart. It took a lot for the former Rogue to scare him. Barry smirked. “No need to lose your cool, Cold.”

Snart’s fists clenched, but a laugh from outside the med room stopped him from snarking back. “I like him.” Kid Flash said, stepping inside.

“Yeah, Cold.” A new—well, not new,  but definitely different—voice called out. Cisco Ramon stepped into the med room, long hair pulled back and dressed like the businessman that he was. “You’d think that you of all people would appreciate his stupid pun.”

Now that he got a better look at Kid Flash, Barry recognized the speedster almost immediately. “Wally?!”

Wally stiffened. “Uh…I don’t know what you mean.”

“He’s seen pictures of you in my apartment, Wally.” Iris stepped inside next, arms crossed over her chest. “And you’ve been by the precinct before. I told you that suit was a terrible identity concealer.”

“Hey, don’t hate on the suit.” Cisco shot back.

Iris rolled her eyes and stepped up beside Barry’s bed. “How are you feeling?”

“Like I got my ass kicked.” He answered honesty. Just because the wounds healed quickly, didn’t mean the pain always went with it. “But I think I’ll live.”

“Shawna—she’s the resident superhero doctor—says that you weren’t a speedster, you’d be dead right now.” Without warning, she slapped his arm. “So, don’t do something stupid like that again. You don’t have back-up like we do.”

“Sure, he does.” Snart cut in. “He’s so close with the Rogues, after all.”

Barry blushed. At least one thing about Snart hadn’t changed—he was still a stalker. He wondered how often he watched Barry, how in depth his research went, if he’d thought about using him against Mick. How different was Citizen Cold from Captain Cold?

“I don’t think he needs the cuffs, Cold.” Iris shot back. “Just because he’s dating a Rogue, doesn’t mean he is one. Or do I have to remind you about Sam Scudder?”

Behind the visor covering his eyes, Barry could swear he saw Snart’s eyes widen. “How did you—?”

Iris raised an eyebrow. “You think your sister and I just sit here while you and Wally patrol and we don’t talk about you? I also know the real reason you and Heatwave are ‘arch-nemeses’.”

Barry was suddenly reminded of all the reasons he loved Iris West. God, she was like a force of nature.

Clearing his throat, Cisco stepped up and released the cuff around Barry’s wrist. Iris and Wally grinned, even if Snart was still watching him menacingly.

“Do you want to see how we kick ass and save the world?” Wally asked excitedly, and really, how was Barry supposed to say no to that?

Chapter Text

            Ramon Industries was bizarre. In some ways, it was just like the S.T.A.R labs he remembered. In others…

            Well, he wished that S.T.A.R had some of the toys that Ramon Industries had.

            “I used to intern with Harrison Wells.” Cisco explained as he led Barry through the halls, Iris and Wally leading the way. “Then, he and his wife had a baby, and he decided that he wanted to be a stay at home dad—break the stereotype, y’know? Anyway, Tess kept the lab running for a while, but, after the particle accelerator blew, they decided they wanted to raise their daughter somewhere there weren’t superpowered whackjobs—no offense to our resident metas…”

            “Some taken.” Snart scoffed from behind them.

            “So, Tess groomed me to take over and left me the entire company.”

            “Cisco is being modest.” They all stopped as someone stepped out of one of the doorways ahead of them. Barry raised an eyebrow. Lisa Snart looked…different. Her hair was cut short, for one. She was dressed in business clothes, for another, carrying files in her arms. Mischief still lingered in her eyes, though, telling Barry maybe she wasn’t as different as she appeared.

            “Since the Wells-Morgan Family left him the labs and we rebranded it ‘Ramon Industries’, stocks have shot up, as has funding for our R&D department. And we have contracts with the CCPD, KCPD, and SCPD for meta-protection technology. Cisco has almost single handedly lifted this company to new heights.”

            Cisco smiled proudly at Lisa’s praise, and all Barry could think was they were definitely together in Flashpoint. Especially if the way Snart growled behind him said anything.

            Lisa’s focus stayed on Barry though, her eyes darting over him like she was assessing every weakness he had. “You’re Mick’s new arm candy, aren’t you?” She smirked. “I can see why ‘Citizen Cold’ isn’t too fond of you.” Her eyes flashed behind his for a second to her brother, before returning to Barry. Her smirk softened into a smile. “How is he doing? Is he taking care of himself?”

            “Lisa…” Snart warned, but as usual, the younger Snart brushed it off.

            “Just because you cut all ties with Mick, doesn’t mean we all did.” She shot back. “Besides, I miss that crazy pyro.”

            She seemed so genuine, Barry laughed. It was nice to hear someone outside of the Rogues talk about Mick with so much affection. “He’s doing really good.” Barry answered honestly. “He’s so happy, and he hasn’t lost control of his powers in a little over two months.”

            With Mick, control was a serious concern. He was a really passionate person, and his fire came from that. Barry remembered the first time they slept together, and Mick burned holes straight into the mattress and almost set the sheets on fire. But, at Barry’s suggestion, he tried something that really helped him center himself—yoga.

            Now, every morning, the Rogues all met in the backroom of Saints for early morning yoga, which no one was ever to find out about.

            Lisa nodded. “I’m glad. We may be on opposite sides of the law now, but Mick deserves happiness.”

            “Enough with the pleasantries and the catching up.” Snart suddenly interjected. “Tell the kid what you wanted to tell him.”

            Cisco shared a look with Wally and Iris. “Fine. Follow me.” Lisa fell in beside her brother as Cisco took the lead, taking them to a part of the complex Barry didn’t recognize.

            “Welcome to the Speed Lab.” Cisco announced. It was fancy—an enclosed track, the classic treadmill, equipment to measure speed and vitals.

            “This is where Shawna and Cisco measure my speed and help me get faster.” Wally explained. “Except that we’ve found out that there’s no way I can beat the Rival at the speeds I’m at, and I’m not getting any faster.”

            Barry nodded. He understood that pain. “What does that have to do with me?”

            “Barry…” Iris took his hand. “Everyone in this room knows about your powers, that you’re a speedster, too.”

            “We clocked how fast you moved to save West and I from the Rival.” Snart spoke up.

            “Dude, you’re fast!” Cisco exclaimed. “Way too fast not to have trained and figured out how to go faster.”

            Barry frowned, still not understanding where they were all going with this.

            “We want you to train Kid Flash.” Lisa concluded. “Use your speed and help him get faster.”

            The explanation hit him. Train Wally. Be the Dr. Wells to his Flash. Teach Wally go move faster, fight smarter, be a better hero.

            What happens when your memories of the real timeline start disappearing? Thawne’s voice echoed in his head. It’ll happen, if you don’t fix this. You’ll forget you ever had feelings for that pyro.

            Using his powers made his memories slip away faster. If his fight with the Rival told him anything, it was that. He could help Wally without his powers, but something told him that wasn’t really what they had in mind.

            He inhaled deeply. “No.”

0000000

            Mick was cooking dinner when Barry got home. He lingered in the kitchen doorway, watching his boyfriend moving his hips to some tune in his head, something he always did while cooking. It brought a smile to Barry’s lips.

            He loved Mick. He loved him so much that his heart hurt.

            He knew, right then and there, that he made the right decision. Quietly as he could, he crept up behind Mick and wrapped his arms around his waist.

            “Surprise.” He whispered, planting a kiss on his cheek. Mick chuckled as he turned his head to give Barry a proper kiss.

            “Hey, doll. You’re home late. I was getting worried. Thought I’d have to send Caitlin and Linda after you.”

            Barry cringed. “Not after last time. It was hard convincing that barista at Jitters not to press charges.”

            Mick laughed again, turning the stove top down so the sauce he was stirring to a simmer. Barry took a deep breath.

Spaghetti.

His stomach growled, and Mick turned in his arms, resting his hands on Barry’s hips.

            “Someone hasn’t eaten today.” He observed. “With your metabolism, you should know better.”

            “It’s been…a long day.” Barry sighed, leaning his head against Mick’s shoulder. It almost felt like they were dancing. All of the tension in his body bled out. “I’ll tell you about it later. Right now, I just want to be with you.”

            Mick rumbled. “Well, I was going to wait until after dinner…” he stepped back enough to look Barry in the eye, “but I think I’d rather do it now.”

            He reached into his back pocket, and Barry’s heart jumped into his throat when Mick dropped down on one knee. He held out a tiny, silver band with a ruby.

            “Barry Allen, will you marry me?”

Chapter Text

            He wanted to say ‘yes’. God, did he want to say yes.

            Instead, though, Barry fell to his knees in front of Mick, tears blurring his vision of the man he loved. “I want to.” He answered. “But, I have to tell you something else first. And you may not want to marry me after that.”

            Mick’s brow furrowed, and his body stiffened. He probably thought Barry was going to say he’d been investigating the Rogues or something. He wished it was that simple. Instead of standing, Barry plopped onto the floor, pulled his knees to his chest, and told Mick a story.

            He told him about Chronos, the hero of his childhood, who appeared to him the night of Nora Allen’s murder.

            He recounted all of his visits after—the camping trip, the prom, Freddy Webb, the lab. Then, his shock when he found out who Chronos really was—an arsonist named Mick Rory, working with the Flash’s (no, not Kid Flash, just The Flash) arch-nemesis, Captain Cold aka Leonard Snart.

            Then, there was Rip Hunter, and Zoom, and Henry Allen’s death, and the threat to Mick Rory’s life. He tearfully described the painful morning after, where he broke Mick’s heart. Finally, he explained how he changed it all by saving his mother’s life and rearranging everyone’s fates. 

            Barry didn’t look at Mick the whole time he recounted his story. He couldn’t see the betrayal, the disappointment, the anger he knew would be lingering in his love’s eyes. His eyes were squeezed shut as he waited for yelling, or the sound of Mick leaving the room.

            What he didn’t expect was to be pulled across the floor, and against Mick’s chest in a tight embrace. “It’s alright, Doll.” He cooed, pressing a kiss to his hair. “It’s all going to be alright.”

            “You…” Barry sniffled. “You…aren’t angry at me?”

            He felt Mick shake his head. “How can I be? I love you, and you were doing the most Barry Allen thing you could do—saving an innocent life from a terrible fate. It’s okay to do the selfish thing sometimes, Barry. Take it from a world-renowned criminal—always doing the noble thing is boring and unsatisfying. Do you think we’d be here if I were noble? That I would have acted on my feelings and let myself fall in love with you?”

            “But…but I knew you before, in another life. I changed your life.”

            A hand gently moved Barry’s head so that he was staring up at Mick. “Yeah, you did.” His boyfriend smiled warmly. “Do you love me, Barry?”

            He nodded frantically. Of course he did. Was Mick really questioning that?

            “Then it doesn’t matter why we’re together. What I’m hearing is, no matter what timeline, we’re supposed to be together, just like I’ve thought from our first date.” He held the ring up for Barry to see. “Even if you say no, it won’t change that.”

            Barry’s heart swelled up, and he lunged forward to take Mick’s lips with his own. “I love you.” He whispered between kisses. “I love you…yes…a million times yes…”

            He turned to straddle Mick’s lap, pulling away just enough to pluck the ring from his fingers and slide it on his left ring finger. Mick just stared at him in loving awe.

            When they finally pulled themselves off the floor and settled in for dinner, Barry remembered there was something he’d left out.

            “I met Citizen Cold and Kid Flash today.”

            Mick paused mid bite. “He didn’t hurt you, did he? Cuz I’ll fry that frosty bastard—”

            Barry chuckled, reaching across the table to grab Mick’s hand. “I’m fine, hon. Actually, they saved me. I kind of got thrown around by the Rival.”

            Mick’s eyes widened, and Barry backtracked. “I have super healing. I’m fine. But…they brought me back to their home base and…they asked me to train Kid Flash.”

            Mick raised an eyebrow. “Did you say ‘yes’?”

            Barry drew his hand back with a headshake.

            “Why not?” Mick frowned. “Sounds like something you’d be into. It’s not because of me or the Rogues, is it? Because we can take that yellow-clad amateur no matter how fast he is.”

            He sighed. Mick needed to know the whole truth. “It’s…it’s my powers. When I use them, I…I forget things about my previous life.”

            “I thought the point of Flashpoint was to get rid of your previous life.”

            “It is.” Barry answered. “But what if I forget about the you from that life? What if I forget all of the good times we had together? I don’t know who I’d be without them.”

            “You’d still have me.” Mick reminded him. “I’d still be right here with you, no matter what.”

            He knew that. But forgetting…that was a terrifying thought. He took a deep breath. “I’ll…I’ll think about it.”

            There was a moment of silence. “I know the other Rogues told you about the partner I used to have.” Mick said, staring down into his plate. “I’m guessing you’ve already figured out who that was, since it was the same in your time.”

            Barry nodded. “Leonard Snart.”

            “I don’t know how close we were in your time, but we were almost inseparable here. Broke in places, stole shit, grifted some snooty rich people. It was the greatest part of my life.”

            Barry licked his lips. “Were you two…together?

            Mick’s lips thinned. “Nah, not really. Everyone thought we were, but I wasn’t interested in him that way. Thought he was too good for me. Then, Alexa happened.”

            “Who’s Alexa?”

            Mick shook his head. “District Attorney Alexa Davis of Keystone. We’d been casing her place for weeks. She had this rare painting Lenny wanted, I don’t remember what the hell it was. But Lenny wanted it, and we broke in to get it. We split up in the house—I went to see if there was anything upstairs worth taking, Lenny went for the painting. We didn’t know she’d changed the alarm system until the police started showing up.

            “They nabbed Lenny. But I made it out an upstairs balcony and got away. I should’ve gone back for him…I regret not going back…but his record was clean, except juvie. If I got busted, I was doing twenty-five in Iron Heights. So, I abandoned my best friend. The particle accelerator blew a week after Len got out, giving him his ice powers. I was burning shit when it happened.”

            Mick raised his hand, letting flames dance over his fingers. “Fire and ice. Guess that proved it wasn’t meant to work out. Len went straight after his sister started at Ramon Industries. I started a crew—people like me who wanted to be the baddest sons of bitches in Keystone and Central.”

            “You mean you adopted your little Lost boys and girls?” Barry joked. Mick cracked a smile.

            “Yeah, I guess so. Len’s been trying to bring us down ever since. I swore, though, after that day, I would never leave anyone behind again.”

            Barry bit his lip. “Why are you telling me this?”

            Mick sighed. “It’s the most shameful thing I’ve ever done—my biggest regret. You told me about what you did.” He shrugged. “I thought you deserved to know what I’ve done, what kind of person you’re marrying.”

            A damn good one, he though as he shoveled a forkful of noodles into his mouth. “I love you, no matter what, Mick. In fact, I should call my parents and tell them about our engagement. Also, Iris needs to know, and the Rogues…”

0000000

            Barry had a spring in his step when he walked into work the next morning. Captain Mendez was in the lobby when he stepped out of the elevator, a grin on his face. “Barry. I have a new assignment for you.” He announced, throwing an arm over the CSI’s shoulder.

            Barry forced on a smile—even for the usually cheerful Captain Mendez, this was odd—but went along with it. “What’s up, Captain?”

            “You’ve seen all these meta criminals on the news, right?” He asked, leading Barry for his office. “The Rival, Heatwave and his little Rogues, even Citizen Cold has been known to freeze a criminal or two to death.”

            Barry did not know that, but it certainly didn’t shock him. He nodded.

            “Well, we’ve decided to form a meta human task force. And I’d like for you to be on it.” Barry raised an eyebrow. If only the captain knew.

            “Is Ramon Industries assisting?” He asked as they stopped outside the captain’s door. “I know they make a lot of meta proof equipment for the CCPD.”

            Mendez’s smile twitched. “Not this time. Ramon Industries is just…too meta friendly. Everyone knows that Kid Flash works out of there, and with him working with Citizen Cold, we’re all finding ourselves questioning whose side he’s really on—ours or the metas?”

            Barry frowned. “I didn’t realize this was an ‘us vs. them’ situation.”

            Mendez chuckled. “People with superpowers running around, wreaking havoc on my city. Damn straight, it’s us vs. them. And we’re going to win. We have powerful friends on our side.”

            He opened the door, and Barry’s heart nearly stopped. Sitting in one of the chairs in front of the captain’s desk, grinning smugly, was General Wade Eiling.

0000000

            He’d never run faster without his speed than when he ran into Saints during his lunch break. No matter what universe, Eiling was apparently a despicable human being. His plan was more or less a war on the metas of Central, using his ‘secret’ weapon. Like Barry didn’t know exactly what his weapon was—there was a reason he couldn’t find them when he searched for their records after the accelerator explosion.

            Axel, Linda, Frankie, Mark, and Clyde all jumped when the door slammed behind him. “Where’s Mick?!” He called, frantic and out of breath.

            “What’s going on?” Clyde demanded. “Is someone after you?”

            “Are you okay?” Linda asked, rushing to his side.

            “Do we need to kick someone’s ass?” Frankie interjected. Barry would’ve laughed if the situation wasn’t so grave.

            “Where is Mick?” He repeated. As if hearing his name, Mick chose that time to come down the stairs from the apartment, Kendra, Hartley, Singh, Sam, and Caitlin on his heels.

            When he saw Barry in the bar, he froze. “What’s happened?”

            Barry swallowed hard. “We’ve got big problems.”

            They all calmed and gathered in the conference style backroom, Mick dragging a stool up for Barry to sit on. “What’s wrong, Doll?” He cooed, taking his fiancé’s hand. “Is it Cold?”

            Barry shook his head. “No, but after this, I’m heading over there, too. It’s worse—so much worse. The CCPD is declaring war on metas.”

            There was a sharp, collective inhale. “Not just the criminals, either.” He continued. “All metas. Anyone who shows their powers in public, including Kid Flash and Citizen Cold. There’s going to be a massive witch hunt, and we’re all the targets.”

            The room erupted into overlapping conversations—speculations, plans, fears, strategies. Mick shot a fire ball into the overhead lamp—scorched terribly from the amount of times he’d done it during Rogue meetings—effectively silencing the room.

            He turned back to Barry. “What’s their game plan?”

            Barry licked his lips. “There’s a man named General Eiling. I knew him…before.” There was a twinkle of understanding in Mick’s eye. “He’s not a nice man. He weaponizes metas for his own use, and those he can’t, he labels menaces to society and gets rid of. He always has a plan, and is always three steps ahead of everyone else.”

            The Rogues nodded. “Do you know how he plans on taking us down?” Hartley asked, clinging tightly to his husband’s hand.

            “There’s a meta—a very powerful, very dangerous meta. I knew him…them…it, from before as well. Two people merged together by something called the Firestorm Matrix when the particle accelerator blew. Ronnie Raymond and Martin Stein.”

            Ice crept over part of the table at the mention of Ronnie. Barry knew that, in this timeline, Caitlin and Ronnie had dated, but he eventually broke up with her when she stayed with the Rogues instead of defecting to Team Kid Flash. He also knew she still loved him.

            “Eiling hunted them down and made them his mindless slaves.” Barry continued. “There are other metas he mentioned during the meeting—an ex-soldier of his called Plastique, who blows stuff up by touching it; a man named Nate Heywood, who can turn to steel; the ex-district attorney of Star City, Laurel Lance, who screams at high frequencies. And, what’s worse, there’s a list.”

            Mick frowned. “A list?”

            “A list of potential metas. People suspected of being metas, or being associated with them.”

            He grabbed Barry’s hands. “Are you on it?”

            Barry shook his head. “No. But you are. All of you. Along with Leonard and Lisa Snart, Cisco Ramon, Wally and Iris West, Shawna Baez…everyone is going to be hunted down.”

            “How does the brainwashing work?” Hartley spoke up again. “Is it a torture, Guantanamo thing, or some kind of technology?”

            Barry crinkled his brow. “Eiling says that there’s this chip they inject into your brainstem. It makes you susceptible to suggestion. Essentially, when Eiling says jump, you’ll jump without even asking how high, because it will tell you.”

            “I can probably put a virus in it, then.” Hartley suggested. “If we do that, it’ll put them back enough that we can come up with a better plan, and it will free the other metas.”

            “It’s not a bad plan.” Kendra nodded. “If we stop their technology and their meta soldiers, we have the advantage.”

            The unease Barry had been feeling unfurled in his stomach. A plan…they had a plan. Everything was going to be alright.

            Then, the front door blew in, in a great ball of fire.

Chapter Text

            Everything happened so fast. One second, Barry and the Rogues were in the backroom of Saints, making a game plan; the next, they were all being thrown to the ground in an explosion.

            There was a weight on Barry’s back, pinning him to the floor, and when he glanced over his shoulder, he could see it was Mick, his back covered in flames.

            “You okay?” His fiancé asked. Barry nodded quickly, moving so they both could climb to their feet. Around them, the other Rogues were prying themselves off the floor.

            “David?” He heard Hartley shouting. “David! David, wake up!”

            Barry’s heart fell to his stomach—Singh had been the closest to the door. He was about to move to help when a barrage of bootsteps marched into the bar. Through the smoke and the now non-existent wall between the backroom and the bar area, he spotted a familiar silhouette.

            “Everybody run!” He warned just as a fireball launched itself towards him and Mick. The pyro jumped in the way, absorbing the attack, but another attack came right behind it. This time, it was a purple, glowing tennis ball.

            “Get down!” Barry grabbed his fiancé and sped him to the other side of the room just as the bomb blew. Pain burned through his head.

            Joe making him mac & cheese, telling him that it was okay to be sad about his parents; boxing lessons with Iris; the intense ‘study-off’ they’d had when they prepared for their SATs and ACTs.

            A chuckle broke him from his lost memories, and Barry felt a hatred he only saved for people like Thawne and Zolomon. “Eiling.”

            The smoke cleared, revealing the general with his small group of metas and about two dozen armed soldiers. “I knew you were one of them.” He growled. “Just like I knew you would lead us to more of your friends if I followed you. Got to say though, didn’t expect you to lead me right to the headquarters of the Rogues.”

            Hartley ran at the general, expression raw with emotion, but one of the metas—Nate Heywood, Barry thought—grabbed him before he could reach Eiling and jammed something in the back of his neck.

            Hartley’s eyes glazed over, and Barry knew he was under Eiling’s control. The other Rogues stepped back from the open wall, subconsciously surrounding Mick and Barry.

            Barry clenched his fists. He wasn’t going to let Eiling get away with this. Laurel—Black Siren, he was electing to call her—stepped up beside the general. Nate Heywood—Steel—dropped Hartley to the floor and flexed his arms, his entire body turning to steel. Plastique reached into a pouch attached to her belt and pulled out another tennis ball, which lit up purple.

            On their side, the Rogues all powered up, ready to fight their way out.

“I want them all captured.” Eiling ordered. “Attack!”

That’s when shit hit the fan.

Plastique threw her ball, which Kendra deflected with one of her wings, sending it to Firestorm’s feet, knocking him to the ground when it detonated.

Caitlin fired as much ice as she could at Firestorm, icing him to the ground, before Black Siren blasted her back. Linda tried to blind her, but one of the soldiers fired a net of some kind at her, wrapping around her torso and shocking her into unconsciousness. Steel went after the Mardon Brothers, who tried to use their lightning against him. Axel was under one of the tables, using his powers—blowing things up, like Plastique—to knock soldiers down and scare them back.

            Barry went straight for Eiling. It was time to end his reign of terror on Barry’s life. He ran right for the general, not caring what memories he lost if it meant taking him down, when Eiling threw a device where he knew Barry would have to step.

            He couldn’t stop. His foot fell in the trap, and suddenly, every muscle in his body seized. He hit the floor hard, unable to move to catch his fall.

            “You’ve lost a lot in your life, Barry. More than most.”; “Who’s Chronos?” “I can’t tell you. It’s a secret.”; “I don’t think you were struck by that lightning. I think it chose you.”

When he opened his eyes, Eiling was knelt in front of him. “I was saving that for Kid Flash.” He explained with a smug grin. “But I’m sure as hell glad to see it works. Now, I’ll have a speedster to nab him for me.”

He drew out a syringe, only to get knocked back by a stream of fire. “Stay the fuck away from him!” Mick roared. Barry felt himself being gently lifted off the floor. He couldn’t turn his head; he couldn’t move his mouth or any of his body. All he could do was stay stiff in Mick’s arms as he was rushed away from the fight.

“Scudder!” He heard running footsteps, and then he was moved to someone else’s arms. He could see Mick’s face now, marred by fear and worry. “Take him, grab as many Rogues as you can, and get to Ramon Industries. I’ll hold Eiling and them off.”

No…he couldn’t. He’d lose.

“…ick…” He was able to sound, but Mick shushed him.

“I love you.” He said, like it was the most important thing he had ever said. “I won’t leave anyone behind. I’ll find you again. I promise.”

He kissed Barry as fully as he could before urging Sam to get away. Barry couldn’t see what was happening—he heard fighting and blasts. A few footsteps joined Sam’s.

Then, the world went silent, and everything was reflected around them.

“Where are we going?” He heard Kendra ask. He was shifted again, this time out of Sam’s arms and into hers.

“This way.” Sam answered. “Ramon Industries.” Everything was moving strangely around him. He was forced to look to his left, and all he could see was fun house mirror images of Central and Caitlin’s boots walking beside him.

“What do you think happened to the others?” Axel’s voice spoke up, shakily.

Caitlin shushed him.

After about five minutes, they all stopped. “We’re here.” Sam announced, and the reflections melted away. A scream almost made him jump…if he could. 

“It’s okay, Shawna.” Caitlin reassured. “We were attacked. Barry’s hurt, and we need your help.”

0000000

A couple of shocks to Barry’s system and the stiffness melted away. At least that problem was gone.

“What do you mean the army’s coming after us?” Snart asked for the fifth time.

“Everyone needs to evacuate.” Caitlin replied. “They have metas that are going to attack. A man named General Eiling is controlling their minds and making them his own personal attack dogs. If everyone doesn’t leave, either they’ll be next, or they’ll be casualties.”

Barry shook his head. This was taking too long. “Look, Snart.” The hero jerked at his real name, but Barry couldn’t spare the time to explain how he knew. “The CCPD is working with Eiling. I know, because my police captain told me. He also told me that Eiling is allowed to operate in the city as he deems necessary. If you don’t think that means putting non-metas like Lisa, Cisco, and Iris in the crosshairs, you don’t understand him at all.”

“I believe him.” They all turned to Lisa, who was sitting with Cisco behind the computers. “And not just because there’s a convoy of army vehicles heading this way.”

“What?” Barry and Snart both ran to look at the screen she was watching, which, sure enough, showed military vehicles approaching.

“We’re out of time.” Barry announced. “We can’t get anyone out now. He’s got us cornered.”

“Then we go out fighting.” Kendra replied. “Just like the others. The five of us are the only Rogues left, as far as we know.”

 “I’m not letting them take over my mind.” Axel added.

“I’m in, too.” Wally stepped into the doorway of the cortex, Kid Flash suit on. “If it means protecting the people in this building from a mad man, I’m willing to go out fighting.”

“What about you, Len?” Sam asked, raising an eyebrow at Citizen Cold. “You gonna hide like a coward, or are you gonna get your hands dirty?”

Snart sneered at Sam, his hands icing up. “I’m up to ice anyone, Scudder.”

That relationship must not have ended well at all. Barry thought. They powered and suited up as best as they could before heading outside the building. Eiling and his metas would never make it in. They would make sure of that.

When they stepped out in front of the gates to the complex, the convoy was coming to a halt. Eiling climbed out, alone, hands on his hips.

“I wouldn’t suppose this is you surrendering?” He joked, a slick smirk on his face. It made Barry feel dirty just looking at it.

“No.” Wally responded. “This is us fighting back. You’re not getting our loved ones, and you’re not getting any more metas.”

Eiling raised an eyebrow. “You should’ve called more of your friends, then.” He brought his fingers to his lips and whistled.

The truck behind his started to shake, and people began jumping from the back. Barry almost choked when he saw who was marching towards them—Frankie, the Mardons, Linda, Hartley, Firestorm, Plastique, Steel, Black Siren, and, taking the lead, was Mick.

A hand wrapped around Barry’s wrist. “I’m sorry.” Snart, of all people, whispered to him.

But Barry wasn’t sad. He was angry. Lightning coursed through his body.

Eiling was going down.

Chapter Text

            It didn’t surprise him when Snart charged for Mick. He knew that there was probably some unresolved anger between the two. But that didn’t make Barry feel any better when an explosion of ice and fire knocked the two back on the ground.

            They both pushed themselves up quickly, though, so Barry forced his attention to everyone else. Caitlin was fighting Firestorm. Axel was fighting off Hartley and Steel. Kendra and Sam were taking on Plastique and Frankie. Wally was taking on Black Siren, which left…

            A bolt of lightning struck in front of Barry. The Mardon’s. Great.

            Unlike the rest of the group, Barry had an advantage of having had fought his opponents before while they were trying to kill him, so when the brothers started a tornado, it took him no time at all to unravel it and flash in close enough to knock them both out.

            Dr. Harrison Wells rolled up to him as he woke up from his coma; “I am not the thing you hate…”; Barry ran on the treadmill at S.T.A.R labs, his speed siphoning away.

            He shook his head. He’d worry about those later. His attention turned to Eiling. He needed to be stopped. Before he could move, though, someone shouted his name.

            “Barry, look out!”

            He fell, face first, to the ground, his entire body suddenly very hot as someone pressed him into the asphalt. He rolled over onto his back to kick his attacker off, but froze when he saw it was Mick, glaring down at him blankly.

            His hesitation gave Mick time to bring his fist down on Barry’s face, again and again. Barry choked, blood dripping out of his mouth.

            “Mick…” He croaked between hits. “Mick…please stop…”

            But his fiancé’s fist lit up with flame and impacted his face yet again. Summoning all of his strength and speed, Barry knocked Mick off of him.

            “Um...I don’t know where I am. My mom…she was attacked in my house and suddenly I was here and I don’t know where ‘here’ is…can you help me?”

             No. Not those.

            “If you want to knock someone out, go for the throat. If you want to make a point, go for the nose. Never aim for it—aim behind it. You’ll put more power in it that way, and always keep your wrist straight.”

             Not Chronos.

             Moldoff fell to the ground, dead at Barry’s feet; Barry leaned in and stole his first kiss from his bounty hunter. His Chronos.

             Barry felt like screaming. He couldn’t lose his memories of Chronos. Suddenly, he was being tackled again, only this time, he was up against the wall of the guardhouse, and Mick’s hand was wrapped around his throat.

             “Mick…” He begged. “Don’t do this…I…I love you…”

             But there was no recognition behind Mick’s eyes, nothing that said he understood what Barry was saying, what they meant to each other. He was going to die. Mick was going to kill him.

             Then, the pyro jerked. His grip on Barry slackened, and the speedster fell to the ground. At first, he thought that maybe, just maybe, Mick remembered. Until he saw the icicle sticking out of his chest.

Snart was behind Mick, horrified by what he’d just done, but resolute in his actions. But all Barry could do is scream.

“NO!” Mick fell to the ground in front of him, and Barry frantically crawled over. Maybe he could save him…maybe…

Mick was still alive when Barry stroked his fingers down his fiancé’s face. “Mick…” He sniffled. “Mick, you’re going to be alright. I’m going to save you. I’m going to find a way.”

Mick stared up at him, the blankness gone, replaced by the man he knew and loved. “Flash…point.” He gasped. “Reverse…save yourself…doll.”

Barry frowned. He couldn’t be suggesting…but Mick’s hand darted up to take Barry’s in a final death grip. “Run, Barry. Run.” The light faded from his eyes, and something in Barry broke. The man he loved died in front of him. He had the perfect life, and it was taken from him.

He looked around him. Kendra, Axel, and Sam were down. Caitlin was losing. Wally and Cold were backed into a corner. There was only one way Barry could stop all of this. Only one way he could save Mick.

With one final glare at Eiling, he ran for the old warehouse on the other side of town.

0000000

The moment Eobard Thawne saw Barry, his face lit up like Christmas.

“Having a bad day, Bare?” He asked, mockingly. “You look like shit. Something real bad must have gone down.” His eyes darted down to Barry’s left hand. “Maybe something to do with your fire-happy fiancé?”

“I need your help.” Barry answered.

If it were possible, Thawne’s Cheshire cat grin would’ve grown. “All you need to do is ask, Barry.”

Barry sighed. “We need to go back in time. To that night.”

Thawne raised an eyebrow. “To do what?”

Barry didn’t have the time or energy to play games with Thawne. If he wanted to hear Barry say it— “I want you to go back to my house in 2000, and I want you to stab my mother in the heart, you sadistic piece of shit!”

Thawne actually jumped back at his outburst, but Barry was tired. He’d lost so much in the span of a few hours, when just the day before he’d been planning his wedding. He’d been planning a life, away from the darkness Thawne had forced on him.

“Do we have a deal or not?”

Speechless, Thawne nodded. Barry opened his cage, and the Reverse Flash sped out. “You know, I could kill you right now.” He pointed out. “But, for some reason, I don’t think that would bother you. What happened—did your precious pyro finally go up in flames?”

Barry clenched his fists. “I hate you.” He growled.

Eobard stepped up and grabbed him by the back of his shirt. “I hate you, too. And sometimes, I wonder which of us is right.”

Without another word, Thawne zoomed into the past, Barry tight in his clutches, eager to murder Nora Allen once again.

0000000

Once it was done, Thawne practically threw Barry onto the West front porch. “There.” He said. “It’s done. Things are back to how they should be. Well, for me, anyway. For you...” He chuckled. “Well, I guess you'll just have to wait and find out.”

Barry’s eyes widened. “What does that mean, Thawne?”

But the other speedster just winked. “See you sometime soon, Flash.” Then, he disappeared in a stream of red lightning.

Subconsciously, Barry reached into his jacket pocket. The device Mick left him was still there. He would ask Ginny what Thawne meant when he had more time. He considered calling the Waverider, calling Mick.

God, he was an idiot. He shouldn’t have broken up with Mick. He should have stayed on that couch, ate breakfast with him, expressed his feelings. Now, it felt too late.

Worries for tomorrow. He told himself, heading for the door. For now, it was time to see what changes he’d made to his present.

 

Chapter Text

The coming months in a post-Flashpoint world were head-spinning, to say the least. He hadn’t considered the changes he made changing his present, but the more time passed, the more obvious the changes became.

            He had a partner named Julian at the CCPD, who apparently didn’t like him.

            Cisco was barely talking to him. Later, he found out that it was because of Dante. At first, he thought Dante died, but according to Caitlin, he was a meta human who discovered his powers after his hands healed from Captain Cold’s attack. He got in bed with some bad people that used him to steal some stuff, and someone died. He was serving time in Iron Heights because Barry wouldn’t look the other way.

            Iris and Joe weren’t getting along. Apparently, she hadn’t taken him lying about Francine as well as she had in the original timeline. She was off living with Linda, and Wally was staying in her room.

            Caitlin had ice powers, which…she may have had before? She’d been keeping them a secret for months, so it was almost impossible to tell if she’d been doing the same in the original timeline. To make matters worse, her powers came with an extra personality, “Killer Frost”. But it wasn’t the same Killer Frost he knew from Flashpoint. She was vicious, like on Earth-2.

            They had a new Wells from Earth-19 called HR, who they thought was a genius like Harry, but really was a writer, idea guy, and slight goofus. In a good way. Mostly. He was trying to get S.T.A.R labs turned into a museum, which was sort of helpful. Sort of.

            To top it all off, there was a man named Dr. Alchemy using something called the Philosopher’s stone—which, Harry Potter, much? —to turn people into their meta counterparts from Flashpoint. He’d already had to take on Frankie, who was living in an abusive foster home instead of with Kendra and Linda, like she was in Flashpoint, and was using her powers and alter ego as a defense mechanism. In Flashpoint, Frankie and Magenta had coexisted. In the new timeline, Frankie didn’t even know about her.

            After Wally was trapped by the stone to regain his powers, Barry counted his blessings that Snart and Mick were off on the Waverider, far from Alchemy’s reach.

Especially when Barry and the CCPD set a trap for him, and his master revealed himself: Savitar, a speedster faster than anything Barry had seen.

Everything was finally starting to settle now, though. Iris and Joe decided to work on their relationship; Caitlin, after attacking Julian as Killer Frost and going on a one-woman manhunt for Alchemy, started wearing Cisco’s meta cuffs; Barry, as the Flash, arranged for Cisco to have private visits with Dante in prison—with good behavior, there was talk about early release; Wally emerged from the stone with superspeed, relatively unharmed. Things were looking up.

Barry laid back on Joe’s couch, sadly staring at the ring he’d so expertly hid from everyone—Mick’s engagement ring. It hadn’t disappeared after Thawne changed back time. It stayed, a constant reminder of what Barry lost—his Rogue friends, many his enemies once again; a domestic, Flash free life (he knew now why Oliver had been so reluctant to leave Ivy Town and return to Star City)—and of what he could gain—a strong, happy, loving relationship with Mick.

The ruby sparkled in the light as he turned it in his fingers. He remembered Mick saying it was the only thing he’d been able to take when his grandma died. A final reminder that someone out there had loved him.

The interface was heavy in Barry’s pocket. Again and again, he’d considered using it, calling the Waverider for help he didn’t really need, or just to see how Mick was doing. But, every time, he chickened out. He broke Mick’s heart—why would he want to talk to Barry?

“I’ve been yours since I walked you home that night your life changed, Barry. And I’ll always be yours, no matter who you love or what life you choose for yourself.”

Those words constantly echoed in his head. Barry wondered what had driven him to write them. What happened on the Waverider that made Mick Rory become so devoted to him? He wasn’t worth it. He didn’t deserve it.

The buzzing of his phone broke him out of his pity party. “Yeah?” He answered, slipping the ring back in his pocket.

“There’s a meteor headed straight for downtown.” Cisco replied sharply. He was still upset about Barry changing the timeline, but Barry wasn’t really sure how to make it up to him.

“Got it.” With a sigh, he flashed into his suit and out of the house. The meteor wasn’t hard to miss—a ball of fire hurdling through the night sky tended to stick out. He chased it, praying it wouldn’t land on a civilian or crash into a building. His prayers were answered when it impacted in the park, empty after sunset, and he slid to a stop.

Only, it wasn’t a meteor. Less than ten feet away from him was what looked like…a spaceship?

“Ba….ry.” Cisco’s voice cut out on the comms. “Ca…yo…ear me?”

Something was jamming their signal. He stepped closer to the ship, both excited and terrified by the ship in front of him. Suddenly, a shock threw him back from the ship. He landed hard on the cement, not injured, but definitely in pain.

A door opened on the side, and, to his shock, strange, lanky creatures with giant foreheads started running out. One paused to roar at him, but to the others, he may as well have not been there. They scattered, all running in separate directions, as Barry stared, flabbergasted.

“Oh, come on!” He shouted, pushing himself to his feet after the last creature disappeared. “ALIENS?!”

0000000

Dominators. That’s what Lyla called them. Which wasn’t ominous at all. He recruited Team Arrow—Oliver, Dig, Felicity, and Thea, for now—but he knew it was bigger than them. They were going to have to call in reinforcements.

He stepped out on the balcony of Felicity’s loft, the interface/beacon in his hand, and sighed. It wasn’t how he’d wanted to see Mick again, but there was really no choice. Cisco suggested they cross over to Earth-Supergirl and pick up Kara, but Barry knew even she wouldn’t be enough. They needed everyone.

“Ginny.” A blue, holographic face appeared over the device.

“Yes, Mr. Allen?”

“Call the Waverider. Tell them that we need help in 2016.”

“Any other messages you would like sent?” She asked knowingly.

Barry thought about it, before shaking his head. Anything he needed to say to Mick, he could say to his face. He hoped. “No. Just…just let me know when they arrive in our time period.”

“Of course, Mr. Allen.” The AI disappeared, and Barry sighed again, deeper and heavier than before. The weight of his decisions, of this timeline, was crushing him.

“You look like a man with a lot on his mind.”

Barry almost jumped out of his skin, turning to see Felicity leaning in the doorway, a guilty grimace on her face. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to scare you. I thought you heard me walk up.”

She stepped up to the railing beside him and leaned her back against it, arms crossed over her chest. “You wanna talk about it?”

Barry laughed humorlessly. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

Felicity raised an eyebrow, a playful smirk on her lips. “C’mon. Give me some credit, Barry. I’ve seen some weird things—resurrected assassins, immortal psychopaths, magic, reincarnated bird people, Mirakuru, Oliver smiling…”

That forced a chuckle out of Barry. Felicity smiled proudly. “See? Weird. So, spill.”

If there was one person he knew for a fact wouldn’t judge him, it was Felicity. He swallowed hard. “I’m in love with a time-traveling bounty hunter from the future, who also happens to be Mick Rory aka Heatwave.”

When he glanced over at her, Felicity’s jaw was hanging open. “Okay, I didn’t expect that.”

His lips pulled thinly, and he nodded. “Yep. It’s a long story involving him dropping in on my childhood constantly and becoming this…idol for me. Then, he dropped in when the Legends came back a few months ago, the night my dad died. We kind of…”

He trailed off, but Felicity’s eyes widened. “Oh my god, you had sex with Mick Rory? I mean, I’ve seen pictures, and wow. Good choice. So, what happened?”

Barry hung his head. “I told him it was a mistake so that he’d go with the Legends.”

“Barry!” Felicity gasped, swatting his arm.

“Ow! I didn’t do it to hurt him!” Barry defended, cradling his arm. “Zoom would’ve killed him! I was…I thought I was, anyway. Now, though…” His hand subconsciously fell to the pocket where the ring was.

Felicity cooed. “Awww, Barry.” She threw her arms around him, pulling him into a hug. “You are such an adorable idiot. You don’t have to protect everyone. I’m very sure that someone who used to fight superheroes and now flies through time, saving the world, can handle himself. If you love him, just go and be honest. Fall on your knees and beg forgiveness!”

They shared a laugh as she took a step back. “Also, flowers usually help. Though, I’m not sure how well it works on pyromaniac criminals.”

“Yeah, maybe a lighter.”

“Ooo, or a blowtorch.” She suggested back.

Barry snorted. “I think Snart and Cisco got him one of those.”

“True. Very true.”

They fell quiet after that, knowing that this was the calm before the storm. Barry’s mind, however, refused to stay quiet, focused instead on running every scenario of reuniting with Mick.

Chapter Text

            Traveling thorough time should have been the perfect distraction to get Mick’s mind off of 2016. And, for a while, it was.

            Now that the Time Pigs were gone, Hunter and the crew had taken it upon themselves to be the caretakers of time—and if that meant stealing some things along the way, only Mick and Snart needed to know.

            The warning Rex Tyler gave them hung over their heads like a sword—don’t go to 1942 or everyone would die. The betting pool was open for how long it would take for them to completely ignore him and go anyway.

            Six months later, Snart won, and the Waverider was hit with a torpedo, trapping it at the bottom of the ocean.

            Fortunately, the Waverider had been able to zap most of the crew away in time to different periods to save them. Unfortunately, Mick wasn’t one of them. Being injured from their mission, he was put in stasis in the medbay to save him.

            He couldn’t remember all of the details, but that’s where he was found seventy-four years later, by Oliver-fucking-Queen and some history geek named Nate Heywood, who apparently found them in some books or something, put two and two together, and recruited the Green Arrow to save him.

            Mick knew about Oliver Queen—Barry Allen’s hero and superhero partner. If Barry trusted him, Mick decided he could trust him. To an extent. As long as Barry didn’t show up randomly and start making googly eyes at him.

            Queen fucked off, and Mick and Heywood teamed up to track down the rest of the team—Haircut in Jurassic Park; Firestorm in some medieval child-king’s castle; Sara in puritan times, accused of being a witch; and finally, Snart, who was being worshipped as a god after appearing in the middle of some sacred circle in, get this, pre-sunken Atlantis.

Mick didn’t even want to know.

They couldn’t find Hunter. Apparently, after saving all of them, used the time drive for cheap, dirty time travel and shot himself to some unknown time they couldn’t track.

Then, they tried to find Hunter, only to get caught by the Justice Society of America in 1942. That’s where they picked up Amaya Jiwe aka Vixen.

After Heywood nearly got himself blown up and Ray saved him with formula some new psycho was helping the Nazi’s with, Amaya snuck onboard the ship, knocked everyone but Mick and Snart out, and tried to kill them.

Some other time traveler had killed Tyler, who was also her boyfriend, and she assumed it was one or both of them, since they were criminals.

“That’s profiling.” Snart pointed out, still with the jokes, even with a knife to his throat. Humiliatingly, Heywood had to save them with his new powers—turning his entire body into steel. But Amaya refused to leave the ship, even after Sara explained that they had been with the rest of the crew the entire time, adamant on getting revenge.

Mick could stand by that.

He liked Amaya. She was smart and fiery, while also being sweet and understanding.

Through Shogun Japan, where Ray and Nate’s bromance almost changed the fate of Japan—luckily, Snart had been able to freeze enough of the ATOM suit that they defeated the shogun who stole it without having to destroying it—to the Civil War, where Mick turned to a zombie and Ray had to save him (also, he may have tried to kiss Stein? Mick was still unclear on those details), into the eighties, where Ray and Mick disarmed a bomb in the White House and Snart had to talk Sara out of murdering her sister’s killer, and finally the Old West again, where they were reunited with Jonah Hex and Amaya was put in charge of babysitting Mick, she stuck around and proved that she saw Mick as more than a crazy pyro. To her, he was a valued member of the team.

It was nice having someone around that didn’t wear their kid gloves with him. Then, one night, she came across Mick drinking in the galley.

He’d been drinking more often, since Barry died, since he left other Barry in 2016, but he’d tried hiding it from the others. He didn’t need their pity, and he didn’t want their sympathy. He just wanted to forget his broken heart and move on with his life.

            He didn’t know how long Amaya had been watching him throw back beers, but he knew it had to have been longer than ten minutes. “What did Hex mean?”

            He nearly jumped out of his skin as she stepped inside, grabbing one of the beers from his six pack and taking the seat across from him.

            “I don’t know what you mean.” Mick grunted, feigning ignorance. He’d forgotten, when they got there, the impact Barry made on people. That Hex would’ve remembered their speedster friend who mouthed off to Hunter, tried to compromise in a barfight, befriended the Stillwater gang, and generally kicked ass.

            “When Hex asked about Alan. Who was he talking about?”

            “Allen. Barry Allen.” He drained half his bottle. “He’s no one. Someone long gone now.”

            Amaya frowned. “You…you were in love with him.” The grip on his bottle tightened. He didn’t need reminding. He wanted to forget. “I know that emptiness in your eyes. I feel it every day when I think about Rex. Was he a member of the team?”

            He inhaled sharply. That was a loaded question. He knew that, if he didn’t answer, she’d probably ask another crew member and they’d tell her the whole sob story, then she’d feel bad for him like they did.

            “He was a crew member for a while.” He decided to answer. “He was from the future, and he was dying. He used his last bit of life to blow up the Time Douches and save us all.”

            He left out some important details, like Barry still being alive in his present and all that happened there. He’d also left out Barry being a speedster, since they’d only just found out that the time traveler that killed Rex Tyler was also a speedster.

            Instead of sympathy or pity, Amaya gave him something else. A nod of understanding. “I was wondering why you were here. I’d heard some things around the ship, about you having some bad experiences on the last mission, and I kept asking myself why you would hang around. But it’s for him, isn’t it? It’s to keep going.”

            Something inside of him settled. Maybe that’s what validation felt like. Someone fully understanding.

            Suddenly, the ship gave a jerk, and he nearly slid out of his chair. “Gideon, what the hell was that?”

            “Apologies, Chronos.” A familiar, Southern accent came over the intercom instead of Gideon’s sharp, British voice.

            “Ginny?”

            “The Waverider is being redirected to 2016. According to the Flash, they are in desperate need of your help.”

            Just when he thought he got out, Barry Allen had to pull him right back in.

           

           

Chapter Text

            “How awkward is this going to be for the two of you?” Sara asked as she, Snart, Ray, Stein, Jax, and Mick all stepped out of the jumpship. They’d decided to leave Amaya and Nate on the Waverider, up in orbit. They were the fish. They had to work their way up to alien invasions.

            Snart, though no one but Mick noticed, was shaking with excitement at the thought of facing off against aliens. Mick snorted—nerd.

            “Is what going to be awkward?” He shot back to their captain, playing dumb. Everyone knew what she meant.

            “You and Barry, seeing each other.” She clarified. “I mean, you haven’t seen Barry in months—and, not to sound insensitive, but he did die—and he hasn’t seen you since, what, 2013? Are there going to be any problems, or do you think you can both handle it?”

            Beside him, Ray gave him a nervous side eye, and he could hear Snart chuckling behind him, but Sara, leading them in, didn’t notice either.

            “Can all of you?” He asked instead of answering. “You were all there. You were his friends. You and Snart carried my unconscious body away, knowing he was gonna blow up. You sure that any of you can look him in the eye?”

            One glance around told him he struck a nerve. Jax had paled a bit; Stein had a distance in his eyes, like he was picturing the little Flash he first met; Snart shifted uncomfortably, trying to hide that, despite everything, he really did care about Barry, and his death hit him hard; even Ray hung his head, despite having actually seen Barry since other Barry died.

            He rolled his eyes. “I’ll be fine. I’m over that part.”

            Suddenly, Sara stopped short, just inside of the hanger door. She spun on her heel, her eyes narrowing. “Oh my god.” She gasped. “You visited him last time we were in 2016, didn’t you?” How she possibly could’ve figured that out, Mick didn’t know, but the burst of laughter from Snart cemented it.

            “It’s not a big deal.” He grunted, continuing past her. The rest of the team hurried after him, gathering beside another group of people he somewhat recognized—Oliver Queen’s sister, Tia or something like that—there was a time when he couldn’t look at a magazine in line at the grocery store without seeing her face on it; Oliver Queen himself, of course—he was still prepared to throw another punch at that pretty face at the first sign of Barry Allen googly eyes; he didn’t recognize the last guy, but his stance read military. A cutesy blonde was buzzing about, saying hi to Haircut and Blondie as she counted them all. She stopped beside Harrison Wells, of all people, which Mick had to assume held a very interesting story.

            Caitlin Snow was behind a computer monitor, watching him warily out of the corner of her eye, which he probably deserved. Behind a monitor opposite of hers was a beautiful, young black girl, who he knew could only be the love of Barry’s life, Iris West.

            Before he could focus on her too much, a portal opened in the corner, and Cisco Ramon jumped through with a young blonde in a red mini skirt and Barry.

            The second the portal closed, Barry’s eyes flitted over to the Legends side of the room. When they landed on Mick, his whole body tensed, and Mick could see something new behind them. The same thing Barry probably saw in his when he and Haircut stepped into the West house the night Henry Allen died.

            Hope. Relief. Joy. Love. The look when you find out that someone you were so sure was dead isn’t.

            Why would Barry have thought he was dead? Had he found out about the Waverider crash somehow?

            He realized he was staring, his breath stuck in his throat, when he heard a sharp inhale. “No!” Sara hissed, a wicked grin on her face. “You two slept together?!”

            “What?” Snart joined in. “I didn’t know that part.”

            “I did.” Ray grumbled, obviously flashing back to walking in on their morning after.

            “I did not need that picture in my head.” Jax whisper yelled. “Can you all talk about this later?”

            “Or never again.” Stein added. “That would suffice as well.”

            “I agree with the professor.” Mick growled. “Shut it, before I decide to set all of your mattresses on fire.”

            None of them seemed scared, but they did shut up, which Mick took as a win. During this, Barry had already snapped out of his own trance and started introducing their new visitor—Supergirl, an alien from another Earth.

            “What makes her so super?” Jax asked. She answered by hovering off the fucking ground and shooting lasers out of her eyes. If he hadn’t already met Barry, Mick would’ve fallen in love right then and there. From the looks on Sara and Snart’s faces, they were both halfway there themselves.

            After they had a role call with Supergirl—military guy’s name was Dig, apparently, and it was Thea, plus cutesy blonde was called Felicity—Barry gave them the rundown.

            Aliens were invading. They were called Dominators, and, according to Supergirl, were super strong and liked experimenting on people.

            “Well, they're not the only ones with superhuman strength, I hear.” Thea told her. “Barry says that you're more powerful than a locomotive.”

            Queen nodded. “We should use Kara as a stand-in for training.”

            Mick watched the way Barry turned to the archer, looked to him for the answer, his eyes wide and worshipping and googly…

            “Since when is Robin Hood calling the shots?” He snarled, fists clenched. Sara coughed to cover a laugh. Snart smirked knowingly. Barry darted his attention away from Queen quickly, a curious furrow in his brow.

            “I think what Mick is trying to say,” Jax interjected in an attempt to defuse the tension, “is that it would be nice if we knew who was in charge around here.”

            Mick shook his head. “That’s not what I said.”

            “Maybe we should take a vote?” Ray suggested. “Choose a leader. Someone we can all trust.”

            “I think we know who Mick will be voting for.” Snart snorted. Mick sent him a glare.

            “Well, I trust Oliver.” Ramon spoke up. “He's got my vote.” It was an obvious jab at Barry—the engineer had been pointedly looking anywhere but at him since they got there. In fact, Barry’s entire team was acting weird around him.

            Queen, noticing the same, shook his head. “Appreciate that, Cisco, but Barry put us all together. It should be him.”

            He disagreed—if anyone should’ve been team leader, it was either Sara or Snart. They were two of the best strategists he’d ever met, including his time with the Time Masters. But he knew that Queen said something to defend Barry. So, he nodded in agreement.

            “I can stand behind the Flash.”

            “Shocker.” He was going to punch Snart. Really, he was. Right in the goddamn mouth the next time one of his smart-ass remarks slipped out. Knock his teeth right down his throat.

            Barry—well, Oliver telling Barry what to say, because he loved Barry, but damn, the kid was not a leader—decided that they would train with Supergirl. Before they headed to suit up, Barry grabbed Mick by the arm.

            “Hey…” He whispered. “Can…can we talk?”

            He wanted to say yes. He wanted to say yes to anything and everything Barry ever asked him. But a glance behind the speedster, towards the computers where Iris was sitting, watching them with interest stopped him. Barry wasn’t his anymore. This Barry never was.

            He swallowed hard. “Can’t now.” He grunted. “Maybe later.” Before Barry could stop him—did he even try to stop him? —Mick pulled his arm free and rushed over to where Sara and Snart were talking. Months later, and he still felt the pull. He still loved him.

            And, in some masochistic part of his head, he could’ve sworn that Barry looked at him the same way.

0000000

            The ring was so heavy in Barry’s pocket. He needed to fix this, to fix them. He’d already screwed up so much—Cisco, Caitlin, in some ways Iris…

            If he could fix him and Mick, it would almost feel like maybe everything else could be fixed, too.

            “That looked like it went well.” Felicity stepped up beside him, watching Mick’s retreating form.

            Barry sighed. “He won’t talk to me. He can barely look at me, Felicity. I really screwed things up.”

            The hacker pursed her lips and shrugged. “Maybe. But maybe it’s not what you think.”

            He frowned. “What are you talking about?”

            “You didn’t notice, because you were only staring at Mick.” She explained. “But all of the Legends were watching you strangely. Like, guilty strange. Maybe they know something we don’t.”

            Barry’s frown deepened. What could the Legends possibly be keeping from him?

Chapter Text

            He found part of his answer while everyone was still suiting up, when Jax and Stein approached him with something they found—a message from Barry’s future self.

            “A war is coming, Captain Hunter, and at some point you're gonna be called back to Central City to fight it. So, you need to know that, before you and your team entered the temporal zone, I made a choice that affected the timeline. As you know, whenever you alter the past, those changes affect the present and get compounded in the future. When you return, you will be in the new timeline I created, where everyone's past and everyone's future has been affected, including yours. When you come back, don't trust anything or anyone. Not even me.”

            “Barry, what the hell does this mean?” Oliver asked, crossing his arms over his chest.

            Barry sighed. He didn’t want anyone else, especially any of the Legends, to find out about Flashpoint. But, it looked like fate insisted on punishing him.

            “It means I screwed things up when I changed the past.”

Oliver, Jax, and Stein all stared at him in shock. “What did you do?”

He sighed. Time to be truthful. “I went back in time, and I saved my mom.” He explained. “I created a timeline where she's alive. It's called Flashpoint. I lived in it for six months, until everything…everything went horribly wrong. I tried to reset the timeline, put things back to how they were supposed to be, but...”

“But it didn't work.” Jax finished.

He hung his head. “No.”

“Wow.” Oliver interjected. “Barry, that's...

“So what's changed since you did this?” Stein asked.

He shrugged. “Cisco's brother is a meta and locked up in Iron Heights. Caitlin has powers. Diggle has twins instead of just a daughter. I don't know about any changes to the Legends.”

Oliver held up a hand. “What? John Jr wasn’t around before?”

Barry shook his head. “No, just Sara. Man, I didn't just screw around with my life. I screwed around with everybody's lives and, apparently, everybody's lives in the future. It felt like, when these aliens got here, that finally something had happened I didn't cause, and maybe I could make up for everything I'd done to everybody, but I...”

He messed everything up. Everything Barry Allen touches breaks. It was a proven fact. His family, his friends, his love life…it all blows away in the wind. Absently, he could hear Jax suggesting they tell everyone, and Oliver arguing they should wait until after the invasion, but all Barry could do was picture the bodies of around him outside of Ramon Industries. Only this time, it was Team Arrow, the Legends, Team Flash…and Eobard Thawne was standing where Eiling had been, saying, “Who’s the villain now, Flash? Who’s the villain now?”

There was a reason he didn’t want Wally facing off against the Dominators. If he didn’t think he’d lose without them, he wouldn’t have called the rest of them in. He couldn’t lose the people he loved again. He couldn’t do it. Without waiting for everyone to finish, he flashed out of the trailer and out of the hanger. He fell to his knees a few yards away from the door.

He couldn’t breathe…he couldn’t breathe. His chest felt like there was a weight on it. His eyes were tearing up. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t catch his breath.

“Kid. Kid. Barry!” Arms threw themselves around him, and he was pulled against someone’s chest. “Listen to my heartbeat, Barry.” A familiar, calming voice commanded. Fingers stroked down his back. “Slow your breathing. You’re safe. Everyone around you is safe. Clear your mind and go to your happy place.”

His mind immediately went to the swing in the West backyard, when he’d sit there for hours, waiting for Chronos to appear. Even after he found out it was Mick Rory, he still sat on that swing and let the breeze rock it back and forth, dreaming of where and when Chronos was, and if he was thinking of Barry at all.

“You’re okay, Barry.” Leonard Snart reassured him again. “Keep slow breaths. That’s it. You’re gonna be okay.”

Barry hadn’t noticed closing his eyes, but when he opened them, he realized he was practically curled up in Snart’s lap, his head against the criminal’s shoulder.

“Are you feeling better now?”

Barry tried to talk, but his throat was still tight, so he nodded instead. He expected Snart to push him out of his lap and leave, but Snart didn’t even try. If anything, he settled Barry into his lap better, and continued stroking his back.

“Lisa used to get panic attacks when she was a kid.” Snart explained. “So did Mick, when we were in juvie. They’re more common than people like to think. I’d hold both of them like this whenever it happened, help them through it. I learned there’s nothing scarier than a panic attack. I’ve seen Mick Rory face off the toughest sons of bitches in over ten states, walk straight into fires, stare down guns, but the first time I ever saw him afraid was in the middle of a panic attack.”

Strangely enough, listening to Leonard—because after someone coaxes you through a panic attack, you are officially on first name terms—talk settled his heartrate, and soon, he was calm.

“Thank you.” He croaked, prying himself out of Leonard’s grip. He sat on the concrete in front of him and crossed his legs. “I didn’t realize I was even having a panic attack. I used to get them a lot after my mom died, but since I became the Flash, I thought maybe…”

“Super speed doesn’t cure anxiety.” Leonard drawled. “Nothing does, except talking about it and letting it go.”

Barry raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, because you seem like the ‘talking about it’ kind of person.”

Leonard smirked and shrugged. “I’m more of a listener. As in, I won’t tell anyone if you want to talk about it. Everyone else is getting their asses kicked by your friend, Kara, inside, so it should take them a while to realize we’re gone, if you need to get anything off your chest.”

He took a deep breath, his hand drifting down to his pocket. “I did something…something really selfish…”

0000000

When Leonard told Barry to open up, he hadn’t realized what the kid had been holding inside. He told Len everything—lying to Mick about not loving him to save his life, creating ‘Flashpoint’, his life with his parents, finding Mick, befriending the Rogues, falling in love all over again, Ramon Industries, Eiling…right up until Mick died in front of him.

And, wow, wasn’t that ironic.

He stared, speechless, at the young speedster, so weighed down by all he’d seen and done. He wanted to know more about the timeline changes, about what changed in his life, but he knew now wasn't the time. Barry had seen some shit. It was no wonder the kid had a panic attack. He was more surprised that he hadn’t had a mental break yet.

“So, you and Mick were engaged in this other timeline?” He asked, eyebrow raised. Barry glanced around quickly, before pulling something small out of his pocket—a silver ring with a tiny ruby.

Mick’s grandmother’s ring. He hadn’t seen it in years—since he lost it in a raid back in 2004.

“Damn, Scarlet.” He whistled, taking the ring and looking it over. “You must have had something special.” Did have something special, he reminded himself. Barry didn’t know about any of that, though. The Legends made a pact—a stupid one—where they weren’t allowed to talk about other Barry to anyone outside of the crew. Especially Barry himself.

He smiled to himself, thinking about the other Barry. He never before would’ve considered Barry Allen a friend—an asset? Sure. An ally? Maybe. But never a friend. –until 2023 Barry came on the Waverider.  

He remembered the talks and jokes the two of them had shared on the Waverider. As much as he missed him—there was an emptiness that everyone sensed—he knew that it was even harder on Mick, facing this Barry, who had no idea what they’d had.

Or, at least, he’d thought so, before now.

Barry and Mick had both been through Hell, losing each other, having their future pulled out from under them. If he were being honest, Leonard was rooting for them to be together. He saw the pure love they’d had on the Waverider. He’d seen how powerful and deeply Barry Allen could love. Mick needed that. Damn, did Mick need that.

“Leonard?” His attention snapped back to the Barry in front of him, watching him suspiciously. “Is everything okay?”

His eyes sparkled, like he knew something was being kept from him, and he was dying to know what. Len was saved Ramon’s voice from the doorway.

 “Barry! I need to ask you about something.”

Len glanced back over his shoulder to see Ramon holding up a silver iPod. When he turned back to Barry, the speedster was pale as a sheet again, and Len knew shit was about to go down.

Chapter Text

            Ramon did not look happy when he came back inside, Barry running to catch up with him. Mick stopped fighting Supergirl to watch.

            “Cisco, wait!” Barry called after him. Ramon did, glaring back at his best friend coldly. “I was gonna tell everyone when this is finished.”

“When this is finished?!” Cisco yelled. Now, everyone was stopping, their attention on the two. “Even though you're about to lead them through an alien war? Even after Flashpoint? After everything you've messed up, all the lives you've changed? You still don't think you should tell them?”

“Tell us what?” Sara asked, stepping forward. Snart, who was walking in behind Barry, scowled.

“It’s not important at the moment.” He defended, stepping up beside Barry. “It can wait.”

But Cisco was having none of that. “No, you don’t get to decide what everyone does or doesn’t know, Cold! Everyone in this room deserves to know the truth.”

Snart looked ready to turn the kid into a popsicle, but Barry sighed, deep and heavy, and shook his head. “He’s right, Leonard. They all deserve to know what I did.”

Everyone gathered around, eager to hear what had caused so much distress, but Mick only had eyes for Barry, whose head was hung, and his shoulders slouched. There was something broken inside of him, and all Mick wanted to do was pick up the pieces and carry him away. Then, he remembered that wasn’t his place—he wasn’t this Barry’s love.

“Jax and Professor Stein found a recording of me from the future.” Barry started. “In it, I warned that I can’t be trusted.”

Across the room, Mick could see Queen shaking his head. Whatever was going on, he knew.

Sara frowned. “Why would your future self say that?”

Barry licked his lips, his eyes darting over to Queen, then Snart, before answering. “I think because I went back in time and changed the timeline, and now things here are different than before I left, including some of your lives.”

Oh, Barry. Mick squeezed his eyes shut and took a deep breath.

“Like who?” Supergirl asked innocently, not sensing the mob that was about to form against the speedster.

“Caitlin. Cisco. Wally. Dig. I don’t know about anyone else.”

Diggle startled. “Me? Why, what happened?”

Queen stepped beside him. “John Jr didn’t exist in the original universe. Sara was an only child.”

“So, it’s not all bad.” Iris spoke up in Barry’s defense. Diggle nodded, accepting this, but Sara stepped up again.

“It doesn’t matter. You can’t just go around changing things, Barry.” She scolded. “Do you know how hard it is for me to not alter events? To bring my sister back? But I don't, because I know the implications.”

            That was it for Mick. He could see Snart ready to jump to Barry’s defense again, but he’d had enough. “You mean like you did two missions ago, Blondie?”

            Sara whipped around to shoot him a glare, but, unlike most of the crew, Mick wasn’t afraid of her.

            “You know,” he continued, “when you almost messed up our mission in the 80’s to kill Darhk and stop him from killing your sister? Or did you mean our mission in 1942, when Haircut had to stop you from doing the same thing?”

            Sara narrowed her eyes. “Shut up, Mick. That was different.”

            “No ‘Legend’ has a leg to stand on in this.” He pointed to Sara. “Told Darhk about his failure in the future, which he can now prevent.” He pointed to Ray. “Shogun.” He pointed to Stein. “How many times have we met your younger self?” He pointed to Snart. “King of Atlantis.”

            Snart crinkled his nose. “Technically, I was a god. The king was something else.”

            Sara scoffed. “You didn’t seem to be complaining about ‘interfering with time’ when we came back from 2023 with—”

            “Sara!” Jax hissed. Her mouth closed with a click, the guilt on her face saying she knew she’d taken it all too far. They weren’t supposed to talk about Barry. Anger boiled in his stomach that she was about to throw him back in his face—which was an entirely different matter, unlike the Darhk incidents—but he knew how to push it down. None of the others needed to see that damage.

            Except Barry was now frowning in confusion and suspicion.

            They were saved by a loud buzz. “Guys!” Felicity called. “It’s Lyla—the president’s been taken by the Dominators. She needs us, now.”

            It was obvious this wasn’t over—not by a long shot—but, despite his tampering with the timeline, Barry was smart. He hung his head and kept his questions. “Okay, you guys go.” He decided. “I... I’m gonna sit this one out. Obviously, you have Supergirl. She's just as fast as I am.”

            Mick was torn—on one hand, he wanted Barry to know that he had his back and trusted him to lead them against aliens. On the other, he wanted Barry as far away from anything called the ‘Dominators’. So, he kept quiet.

            Queen and Snart, however, didn’t. “This is crazy!” Queen exclaimed. “Everybody is going—including Barry.”

            When no one jumped to the speedster’s defense, Queen shook his head. “I’m not going without him.”

            “I hate to say it.” Snart drawled. “But I’m with rich boy. You all call yourselves ‘heroes’, but you turn your back on the one person who would throw himself in the line of fire to save your asses. Most of you,” he glared pointedly at the Legends, “seem to have forgotten that.”

            They at least had the decency to look guilty. Mick almost stayed—almost—but then Iris stood up from her seat and walked over to comfort Barry, and he felt nauseous. He clutched his heatgun tightly as he turned to leave with the others.

0000000

            “Hey, Mick!”

            He rolled his eyes as Haircut ran to catch up with him. They were approaching the building where the President’s tracker last gave a signal.

            “I just wanted to say sorry…y’know, about what happened back there.”

            He didn’t turn to look at Ray, but he could hear the cheery grin on his face. “Just drop it, Haircut. You had nothing to do with it. Stop making apologies for people who ain’t sorry.”

            This time, he glanced over just in time to see his grin fall. “Look,” Ray continued, “Sara…she didn’t mean to bring up Barry. I know he’s a rough subject for you. I know she’s sorry, she just doesn’t want to admit it right now because she’s mad.”

            “I really don’t care.”

            “I don’t want this to ruin our team dynamic, though.” He kept on. “We’re still a family.”

            Mick rolled his eyes again. He was going to sprain something if Ray kept this up. “If aliens try and get ya, I won’t let ‘em get ya just because you’re all being dumbasses. Feel better?”

            Without waiting for an answer, Mick pushed ahead. That’s when Supergirl landed and explained that the president was inside—he thought about teasing her about her x-ray vision, but he just wasn’t in the mood—and they marched inside.

            It was a trap. He should’ve known it was a trap. Every nerve in his body that had been prodded and zapped by Time Master and Hunter training told him it was a trap. But his mind was elsewhere, and before he knew it, the president was dead and the Dominators flipped on a machine that burned his brain.

            The Speed Force wasn’t there this time to save him. He could feel himself slipping away. He focused his mind as best he could…

            Barry’s laugh…

            Barry’s smile…

            The gleam he got in his eye when he was about to get in a good fight…

            Siting on the West porch swing, only now, they were both older, and Barry’s head was rested on his shoulder…

            The two of them, together on the Aeon, travelling wherever they wanted through time…

            But even his future fantasies weren’t enough to save his mind this time. His last thought before Mick Rory slipped away was, ‘I wish I’d stayed with him’.

Chapter Text

            When Barry and Oliver walked back into the Speed Lab from the time vault, Leonard was on his phone. Barry could tell that Oliver’s head was reeling slightly from what they’d just read—if all that had changed in the paper was Iris’ name, he probably would’ve brushed it off. But something about the story, the paper, really disturbed Oliver, even if the archer didn’t want to show it.

“Alright…” he heard Leonard finishing up his call. “Well, if anything happens, you know where to take him…okay, love you, trainwreck.”

            The ex-criminal hung up and walked back over to where Barry and Oliver were settling in behind the computer desks. The rest of Team Flash were in the cortex, but it was pretty obvious they were avoiding him. He didn’t blame them.

Barry frowned as Leonard slipped his phone in his jacket pocket. “Who was that?”

“Lisa.” He answered, which made sense, but there was something else… “She’s been watching Michael while I’ve been on the Waverider, and I wanted to make sure they weren’t in the middle of all this. Luckily, she took him to Hub City for the week for…business. They should be safe, for now.”

His frown deepened. “Who’s Michael?”

Confusion passed over Leonard’s face, followed by annoyed realization. “Damn it, Barry.” He whispered to himself, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Michael is my ten-year-old son, which you should know, because you’ve met. But you don’t because I didn’t have him before you changed time, did I?”

Barry shook his head. “If you did, I didn’t know about it.”

Leonard huffed. “Well, I can’t exactly be mad about having a son, can I?” He popped up on the corner of the desk dramatically.

For the first time since the invasion, Barry smiled warmly. “At least someone isn’t mad at me. And I’d love to meet him again, after this is all over.”

Strangely enough, Leonard smiled back. Then, something that looked strangely like guilt—but that couldn’t be it, this was Captain Cold—passed over his face.

“Scarlet,” Barry’s smile twitched because when had Leonard started calling him that, “there’s something you probably need to know. The Legends made a pact not to tell anyone, but I think you deserve to know. Especially with everyone getting so pissy about keeping secrets around here in the most hypocritical way.”

“You mean what Sara almost let slip earlier?” Oliver clarified, stepping closer to them. Leonard nodded.

“She was the one who made us swear before we came down here not to mention it, but Barry deserves to know the truth. In the year 2023…”

But neither Barry nor Oliver got to hear the rest of the story. The building rumbled around them, and all three froze.

“What was that?” Leonard asked. They all headed outside, only to find the front lawn on fire, and their teammates sauntering towards them, empty expressions on their faces.

“Guys?” Barry asked. “Can we talk about this?”

Thea let an arrow fly at Leonard, which Barry caught without effort. “Guess not.” Oliver sighed.

The rest of them raised their weapons, and Leonard and Oliver did the same. Suddenly, Sara threw her knives at Leonard, Mick fired at Barry, and Ray flew at Oliver. Thinking fast, Barry flashed Oliver and Leonard behind a S.T.A.R labs van.

“What the hell is wrong with all of them?” Leonard demanded, firing around the van at them.

“I don’t know.” Oliver answered, “but we need to find out.”

Suddenly, they were blown off their feet by a combination of Kara’s heat vision, Ray’s phaser blasts, and Firestorm’s fire. Barry ran them behind the sign this time for cover, fighting to catch his breath.

“You’ve really done it this time, Barry!” Oliver yelled. They all jumped when a laser shot through the sign, missing Leonard’s head by a centimeter.

Leonard’s eyes widened. “What was that?”

Barry smiled sheepishly. “Ugh…heat vision.” They all stepped, cautiously, out from behind the sign.

Barry focused on Mick across from him. He couldn’t fight Mick…he wouldn’t be able to hurt him. Like he was reading his mind, Leonard stepped up and fired at his partner.

Mick barely tuck and rolled away in time.

“Barry, you go after the fliers!” He ordered. “Queen and I have the ground people covered.”

He hated leaving them, but he knew that Leonard was right. He had a better chance against Ray, Firestorm, and Kara. He sped up the side of the labs, hoping they would follow. Then, it was easy to shoot Firestorm and Ray out of the sky with lightning. Kara, on the other hand, proved a tougher challenge.

She fired bolts of heat vision, knocking Barry clean off the roof. He crashed painfully to the ground, knowing something was broken, but not having the time to check when Thea, Sara, and Dig stepped up, weapons raised to take him down.

He was saved by flames of ice, knocking them all down. Leonard rushed to his side. “Barry, are you okay?” He asked, helping him to his feet.

“Yeah…I think so.” When he put weight on his foot, though, a pain shot through his leg. “No…I think I hurt my leg.”

Fear—genuine fear—crossed Leonard’s face. In a fight like they were in, a hurt leg was something they couldn’t afford to have.

Then, a flash of yellow lightning stopped beside him. Wally grinned. “What do we need to do?”

Leonard frowned. “Who’s the kid?”

“Kid Flash.” Wally answered, his grin widening, and Barry started having Flashpoint flashbacks of Kid Flash and Citizen Cold. Oliver jumped down beside them, arrows raised in defense. They weren’t gone, after all.

“Let’s get an ETA on the mind control device.” He suggested.

“There's a weird signal coming from the salt mines.” Cisco answered over the comms.

“Let me guess.” Leonard sighed. “You can’t jam it from here.”

“Wow, pessimist much?” Cisco shot back. “But, no. We can’t.”

They fell into a short silence. If Barry could lead Supergirl to the mind control device, he could probably get her to destroy it. But what if that didn’t work? What if it blew up half the city or didn’t stop the mind control?

“Leonard,” he decided, “if you got close enough, do you think you could disarm the device?”

Captain Cold raised an eyebrow. “I’m not Palmer or Stein, but a security system is a security system. I could figure it out.”

Barry pursed his lips. “Okay. Oliver, you go down towards the bunkers below the labs. Try and hold off as many as you can. Wally, you help him.”

Kid Flash nodded.

“I’m going to take Leonard to the salt mines and protect him while—” but before Barry could finish, he was knocked to the side by flames. Leonard raised his gun to fire at Mick, but heat vision knocked the cold gun from his hands.

Supergirl was descending on them, Mick was firing at them…they needed to get Leonard to the device now.

“Wally!” Barry called. “Take Leonard and head for the salt mines!”

The level of trust Wally showed him lifted Barry’s heart. Without question, Wally wrapped his arms around Leonard and ran for the device. Supergirl zoomed after them, but Barry couldn’t worry about that. He probably wouldn’t have been able to make it on his leg anyway.

The rest of their teammates—the ones still conscious—started to move in. Sara, Dig, and Thea all went after Oliver, while Mick focused all of his attention on Barry. He tried to push himself to his feet, but his leg gave out from under him.

Mick came closer, gun raised, seeing that Barry couldn’t go anywhere. Barry froze, waiting for him to get just close enough, and…

When he was in reaching distance, Barry kicked Mick in the side of his knee. The pyro, not expecting the attack, fell to a kneel, giving Barry the chance to kick his heat gun out of his hands. He aimed another kick, this time at Mick’s face, but he caught it, using the momentum to drag Barry forward.

Barry lashed out, using the methods Chronos taught him to punch his opponent in the face, but Mick ducked out of the way, delivering a hard punch of his own to Barry’s nose.

He saw stars for a second, before Mick hit him with another punch, this one to his cheek. Barry summoned some speed and tried to push Mick off, but he just used the momentum to roll them a few times over the grass until he was over Barry again, this time straddling his waist with his hands around the speedster’s neck.

Wow, this was familiar.

“Mick…” He heard himself begging again. “Please…Mick, don’t…”

This time, he reached into the pocket of his suit and pulled out his ring—their ring. He held it in front of Mick’s eyes. “Mick…I love you…please…”

His throat was starting to close, his eyes water. His vision was growing black. Mick was actually going to kill him this time.

Then, he saw a glimmer. Mick’s eyes focused away from Barry and onto the ring between his fingers. His grip around Barry’s throat started to loosen, and Barry started sucking in air greedily. Mick’s forehead was still glowing pink, just like the rest of their brainwashed teammates, but now he wore a mask of confusion and concern.

“Where did you get—?” When his eyes flickered back to Barry again, he did something Barry didn’t expect.

He leaned down and kissed him.

Barry’s hold on the ring tightened as he returned the kiss with fervor. This wasn’t Flashpoint, and he wasn’t losing Mick this time. They continued to kiss until a shiver moved through Mick’s body, and the pyro pulled away.

The pink glow disappeared, but the confused expression didn’t go away. “You…” Mick swallowed hard, clearly fighting back his emotions. “You love me? But what about…?”

Barry shook his head. “I lied, Mick. I lied because I wanted to protect you, but it was a stupid, stupid idea, because all I want to do is shout it from the rooftops.” He leaned up to press another kiss to Mick’s lips. “Chronos, Mick Rory, whoever. I love you.”  

Rain started to fall over them, but neither of them cared as Mick leaned down to kiss Barry again, and again.

0000000

Wally and Leonard flashed back not much later. They’d all picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and gathered in front of the main entrance of S.T.A.R labs. The rain picked up slightly, but everyone was just happy that they were free from alien mind control.

Barry was holding Mick’s hand, probably smiling like an idiot. Everyone was staring at the two of them, the non-Legends like they’d missed something, the Legends like they were thinking of something really sad. It had to be the big secret that Leonard was going to tell them about.

“So, what was it like?” Felicity asked from under her umbrella. She’d offered to share with Mick, but he’d declined, which Barry couldn’t help but silently celebrate. He didn’t need Mick finding out how cute and irresistible Felicity Smoak could be. “Being all mind-controlled and stuff?”

The Legends’ faces lit up, like they each had thought of a joke to tell, but Mick cut them off. “No different than the last time it happened.” He grumbled, his hand tightening around Barry’s. “They forced their way in, Barry Allen forced me back out.”

Barry frowned. Mick had been brainwashed before? Was he talking about Flashpoint? Did he remember Flashpoint somewhat?

“Barry, about before.” Ray spoke up, breaking him from his thoughts. “Message or no message, we're with you.”

Barry forced on a smile. “Thank you. That means there shouldn’t be any more secrets between all of us. Especially ones that directly affect members of the team, that a large portion of the team is in on, but made a pact to keep it from everyone else.”

He said it as innocently as he could, reveling in the guilty and slightly horrified expressions on the Legends’ faces. Leonard started cracking up, like Barry calling them out was the funniest thing he’d ever seen, but Barry’s focus was on Sara, their captain.

She sighed. “Barry, there’s things we’ve seen travelling through time that you shouldn’t know. We aren’t keeping things from you to hurt you—we’re trying to protect you.”

“Lying to protect people is moronic.” Leonard growled. “And if you aren’t willing to tell him, I will.”

He and Sara squared off, glaring coldly at one another.

“When we were hunting down Vandal Savage, we picked up an alternate version of you from the year 2023.”

Everyone turned to Ray in shock, but the billionaire only focused on Barry. “The other you, he became a member of our crew. He was our friend, our family. We all loved him…he and Mick started a relationship.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Barry saw Mick cringe, and something gross settled in his stomach. Did Mick only love him because of this other him? They started a relationship—how serious was it? It had to be enough so that Ray thought to mention it. Were any of his relationships with the Legends since they returned—his love for Mick, his friendship with Leonard—real? Or were they just remnants of feelings they had for 2023 Barry?”

“He was dying, though,” Ray finished, “and he ended up sacrificing himself to save the team. He destroyed the Time Masters, and he’s the only reason we’re all here right now.”

            The other Legends hung their heads, but Barry’s head was spinning. He needed to get away from all of them for a minute.

            “I can’t do this right now.” He pulled away from Mick, stepping towards the front door of S.T.A.R labs.

            “Barry!” Mick called after him. “Barry, it wasn’t…”

            But whatever he was going to say was cut off by a loud zap. When Barry turned around, Sara was gone.

            “Sara!” Oliver shouted to the sky, but then, Thea and Dig were taken by the same light. Wally thought faster than anyone else, grabbing the closest person to him—Leonard—and flashing him under the overhang of the building.

            “Everyone inside, NOW!” Leonard shouted, but no one had to hear it twice. Ray was taken next, just as Felicity and Firestorm made it into the building. Oliver was next, still standing in the same spot. Mick was about to step under the overhang—he was literally so close, Barry could’ve touched him, when his body lit up gold, like the others.

            Then, he was gone, right before Barry’s eyes.

Chapter Text

            Mick Rory was a thief, and a damned good one. The best in the world, really. He could walk in anywhere, disarm the security, steal to his heart’s content, and then burn something right there, and still never get caught.

            Of course, that’s not to say that he worked alone. He had partners after all. There was his dumb muscle, Leonard Snart, for example. He was loyal and good to keep around, but no one questioned that he was just a hired thug that Mick had a taken a shining to.

            His real partner, though…now he was the real brains. Smart, gorgeous, quick, bold, charming…Mick’s partner had it all. And Mick wouldn’t trade him for anything. That’s probably why they were married.

            He sat in one of the chairs at the Oliver and Laurel Queen Wedding and smirked. Lots of rich people with their jewelry just hanging on display. He watched his husband work, sliding effortlessly through the crowd, picking pockets and stealing from purses so smoothly, Mick knew he probably missed a few snatches. When he came back to Mick, Barry held out a hand.

            “C’mon.” He beckoned. “We’re dancing.”

            Mick lifted an eyebrow, but Barry’s grin was enough to convince him. He took his husband’s hand and let himself be pulled out among the other guests on the dancefloor. Barry pressed up against Mick, wrapping his arms around his neck.

            “This is nice.” Barry smiled as they swayed. “You, me. Dancing with a bunch of snooty, rich people with no idea they’re going to be robbed blind. Why wasn’t our wedding like this?”

            A smirk pulled on Mick’s lips. Their ‘wedding’ had been a quick trip to the clerk of the court, who performed the ceremony at gunpoint, since Mick was technically a felon on the run. “Feeling deprived, Doll?”

            With a smug grin, Barry darted up to take his husband’s lips in a deep, almost wicked kiss. “Never.” He whispered, their lips still brushing together. “Although, I wouldn’t be against a make out session in the coat closet, if you’re offering.”

            He was close to accepting that suggestion, when someone crashed into his back. He spun to see a tall, yet broad man with a boyband haircut stumbling to catch his balance. His date—a cutesy blonde—quickly caught his arm to stop him from falling.

            “Sorry!” The man apologized. “Sorry about that…sometimes, I just have two…”

            But he stopped when his eyes met Mick’s.

            The two of them were strung up, a Russian soldier preparing to beat Mick with a hammer, when…

“Hey. Can I get some water in here? Something to drink? I'm a little thirsty. A sandwich would be nice... A little turkey and mayo. They have mayo in Russia? No. At least in America, you get a last meal. This Communism really sucks.”

Mick turned to Haircut with a frown. “What are you doing, Boy Scout?”

           

            Reality rushed back to him. That’d never happened to him before. Hell, he’d never even been to Russia.

            “Mick? Babe?” Barry’s voice caught his attention. His husband was frowning with concern. “Are you okay?”

            He glanced back at where the man and his date had been, but they were already gone, moving towards the bride and groom. He frowned. What the hell was going on? Hands cupped Mick’s cheeks and turned his face back to Barry.

            “Babe, are you okay?” He asked. Mick stared into his husband’s eyes—his perfect husband—and everything felt right again.

            He smiled. “Yeah, Doll. I’m good. What do you say we rob some more of these rich douches, then maybe sneak upstairs for some private time?”

            He was answered by a deep kiss.

0000000

            Something was wrong. Barry wandered off not long after their dance to pick some more pockets, when a blonde in a bridesmaid’s dress walked up.

            “If you’re looking for a drunk hook-up, Blondie, keep walking.” He warned with a huff. “I’m spoken for.”

            The blonde raised an amused eyebrow, but didn’t leave. “You’re not my type, anyway.” She told him matter-of-factly. Her good-natured smile slipped away, and she tilted her head. “Have we met before? You seem really familiar.”

            He felt his mind pull away again. He and Blondie were in an old west saloon. “Y’know you don’t have anything to be jealous of, right?”

            “I ain’t jealous of nuthin.”

            Blondie nodded. “Whatever you say, Rory. All I’m saying is that Barry Allen is head-over-heels crazy about you. He let himself get locked up to protect you. He stares at you like you’re the most important thing in the world to him.”

            He wasn’t convinced. “I invaded his childhood. Had to have had some kind of damage there.”

            She just shook her head. “Nah. I think you’ve done him some good. And he’s done some for you. You’re different than before.”

            When reality came back to him, he could see that Blondie had been remembering the same thing. Blondie…Sara…Ray Palmer…Dominators.

            Maybe it was his experience with people fucking up his head. Maybe it had something to do with the Hunter training. Or maybe the Dominators seriously underestimated his resolve. Either way, he knew, right then, that they were living in a sham.

            He smiled. “We haven’t. Have a nice night.” He pushed past Sara and headed out of the ballroom, towards an empty hall, where he collapsed onto the floor. He didn’t want it all to be fake. He could remember everything about his and Barry’s life—how they met (Barry fingerprinted him after he was arrested for arson; Mick flirted, he blushed; He tracked down the cute CSI’s number after breaking out), their first date (sitting on the hood of a beat up truck, eating Big Belly Burgers and lighting a bonfire), the day he proposed to Barry (he had been taking a perp walk when he overpowered a cop and stole his gun; Barry had been standing in the bullpen, and, when one of the other cops tried to rush Mick, he knocked him down without thinking and stole his gun; he proposed to Barry right there, in front of the entire CCPD, and even gave him his grandmother’s ring once they made it back to the safehouse).

            It was all so real to him. They’d even discussed taking in unwanted children that ran from their foster homes and raising them—Barry always wanted a big family with lots of kids, and who was Mick to argue with that?

            But reality was vivid, too. Chronos, 2023 Barry, the Oculus, Zoom, the lies…

            He didn’t want that. He wanted the fake, happy life. He wanted to be happy.

            “We don’t always get what we want, Mick.”

            He startled. Sitting across from him was Barry, dressed exactly how he’d been the night Zoom murdered his father. Or at least, it looked like Barry. But Mick knew that gleam behind the eyes.

            “What the hell are you doing here?” He asked the Speed Force. “I did what you wanted. I protected him long enough for him to blow himself up and save time. Why can’t you just leave me alone?”

            The Speed Force sighed. “Because, Mick, it seems we did our job of entwining yours and Barry’s lives too well. Barry Allen still needs you. He made that perfectly clear during his actions in Flashpoint.”

            Mick furrowed his brow. “What does saving his parents have to do with me?”

            “Not that part.” They corrected. “Although, we understand your confusion. You see, Barry spent almost six months in Flashpoint. He had Nora and Henry Allen, Joe and Iris West, his abilities, his mother’s killer locked up. But, he still wasn’t happy. Until he came across your Flashpoint counterpart.

            “Suddenly, it was like Barry’s life had meaning. The two of you were engaged, you ran the Rogues while Leonard Snart played superhero. Barry didn’t know it, but you’d started looking at adoption and foster parenting brochures, because you wanted him to be happy. You had the perfect life. It actually,” they waved around them, “wasn’t too far off of this one. If it weren’t for time manipulating events to force Barry’s hand, things would’ve been very different. But time wants to happen, and it took you being murdered in front of him to give him that final push.”

            That jarred Mick. Barry had spent months with him, living with and loving him. They were engaged. But only Barry remembered. And then, he had to suffer through losing that, having it harshly ripped away…

            “Barry Allen needs you.” The Speed Force continued. “The real Barry Allen. Or did you think that this invasion had nothing to with him?” Their lips thinned. “You need to break free, Mick.”

            Mick rubbed a hand down his face. “Why me? Why did you choose me?”

            The Speed Force moved closer, so they could take Mick’s hands in their own. “Because you are the right choice. You are the one who will always save Barry Allen. Even if it’s from himself.”

0000000

            When he came striding into the ballroom, Queen, Diggle, Haircut, and Sara were already gathered. Sara’s eyes widened when she spotted him. “Mick—”

            “This is all in our heads, and we need to get out.” He finished for her. “I know. Now let’s leave, before I change my mind. Where’s the little arrow?”

            Oliver sighed. “Thea wants to stay. I’m not going to make her leave. But the rest of us need to go, now. The Dominators know we’re fighting back, and they’re going to try anything to keep us all here.”

 They all made for the door, but Mick was stopped when Barry stepped in his way, a devilish grin on his face.

            “Hey, babe.” He greeted. “We going somewhere?”

            He steeled himself. “Not ‘we’. Just me.”

            Barry swallowed hard, grabbing at the lapels of Mick’s jacket. “Why? Why are you leaving?”

            He clenched his teeth, needing to be strong. “You’re not real, Doll. None of this is. I need to get back to the real Barry.”

            There were tears forming in Barry’s eyes as his hands nervously pulled at his jacket. “I can be.” He choked. “It’ll all seem real, even if it’s only for a little while. It will feel like a lifetime. We can get those kids we talked about, find a big house, raise them together. Grow old in each other’s arms.”

            He brought one hand to Mick’s cheek. “Aren’t you tired of fighting? Of losing everything? Maybe this is your reward, Mick. No more pain. No more fear. Just love and happiness. A chance to finally have everything you’ve wanted.”

            He wanted to say yes, to bend over and give in, wrap Barry in his arms and never let him go. But it wasn’t real. Barry leaned forward to bring their lips together, but Mick turned away.

“This ‘happiness’ is crap.” Mick growled. “I’ll take the pain, and the heartbreak, and the loss, and the fear of the real world over this It’s a Wonderful Life shit any day.”

            Pushing past Barry was the hardest thing he’d done, but he knew it’d be worth it when he saw the real thing.

The rest of the group were waiting outside, just on the edge of the lawn. When he stepped up beside them, he saw what made them stop. He’d read some stuff about the shit that went on in Starling City over the years—Dark Archer, Deathstroke and his soldiers, Damian Darhk and his ghosts. He’d never come face-to-face with all of them, though.

            Yet there they were, standing on the lawn, ready to fight to keep them in the fantasy. Then, Mick noticed the figure standing at the end. Chronos, in full armor, rifle drawn. He’d always known his worst enemy was himself.

            “They’re not real!” Queen reminded them. No, shit.

            “They certainly look real.” Thea stepped up beside Mick, shooting her brother a look. “Let's not get into that right now.”

Queen frowned. “Speedy?”

“Yeah. I had a change of heart, ok? Like I said, I can't lose my family again.”

            “We can finish the family drama later.” Mick growled. “Let’s kick some ass so we can go home.”

            “You aren’t going anywhere, traitor.” Chronos boomed. “You’re a disgrace. And you’ll die like one.”

            Mick’s most maniac grin formed on his face. “Well, don’t keep me waiting. It’s a great day to die!”

            All hell broke loose. Thea went for Dark Archer. Sara and Diggle went for Darhk and his ghosts. Queen and Ray went for Deathstroke and his soldiers.

            Mick faced off against himself. The thing about these projections was that they were created from memories, but didn’t have the strategy a real Hunter would have. So, while Chronos knew what moves to hit Mick with, he didn’t expect the pyro to go for his legs, steal his rifle, and start beating him in the head with it. It was unsatisfying, and the Hunter was dead in minutes, but Mick didn’t care. He only cared about making it to the portal.

            The other projections went down almost as easily as Chronos. It was a disappointment, really.

            “Now what?” Mick asked, dropping Chronos’ rifle to the ground.

            “We head for Smoak Industries.” Queen ordered. “The portal home should be there.”

            About damn time.

0000000

            They were on the aliens’ spaceship. Of course they were, because things were never easy. Also, they were in different clothes, which was weird and disturbing.

            He hoped they enjoyed the show.

            They found the escape pods after running into a group of Dominators Robin Hood had to take out. When they finally blasted away, the Dominators came after them. Mick frowned when he noticed a pattern in their attacks.

            They weren’t trying to kill them—they were trying to catch them. Why were they so important to fucking aliens? He knew they were done for—they had no idea how to fly the escape pod, and the aliens were gaining—when a beautiful sight appeared, knocking the ships away like they were nothing.

            He’d never been so happy to see the Waverider in his entire life. He could almost kiss Nate and Amaya for getting to them in time—there was no way he was letting himself get taken alive by Dominators again.

            Once they were safe and onboard, Sara took an injured Diggle to the medbay while Nate led Mick, Thea, Ray, and Queen to the bridge.

            “We have a problem.” Ray announced. “After we woke up, I got a look at the tech the Dominators were using to keep us under. They're using a neuromorphic interface similar to how I manipulate the atom suit.”

            “It means the dreams were to keep our minds distracted.” They all turned to Mick, their faces in various states of shock except for Ray’s. Whatever. He wasn’t in the mood to play stupid, especially when the Dominators were digging through their brains. “They were digging through our brains for information and didn’t want us resisting.”

            “Maybe they didn’t choose us at random.” Ray suggested. “They chose us because none of us have the power to fight back.”

            “Because none of you are metas!” Nate finished his thought.

            Mick nodded, agreeing with the logic. “Speedsters have a natural capability to resist mind control or telepathy. The Dominators had to know that.”

            Ray snapped his fingers and ran for the console. “Gideon, translate—” He said something that sounded like clicking and gargling.

            Oliver frowned. “What the hell?”

            “It’s something I heard the Dominators saying.” Ray explained. “It may tell us what they wanted from our heads.”

            “The phrase loosely translates to ‘We are nearing completion of the weapon.’” Gideon answered.

            That got Mick’s attention. “What weapon?”

            “I'm afraid I have no idea, Mr. Rory,” Gideon replied, “but I'm tracking the Dominator mothership you escaped from, and it appears to be on a direct course for Earth.

            Of course, nothing could be easy. All he wanted was to go to S.T.A.R labs, take Barry in his arms, apologize for keeping secrets, and love him. The minute he touched the Earth, that’s where he was headed, no matter what.

           

Chapter Text

            Barry was pacing a rut into the floor of the hanger. He’d received word from Ginny that Gideon and the remaining Legends had mounted a rescue mission, and that Team Arrow, Sara, Ray, and Mick were all safe. He and Supergirl had gone to help out the new Team Arrow for a bit, but Barry couldn’t keep his head in the game.

            What if Mick had died? What if the aliens had killed him, and the last thing Barry had done was get mad at him and the Legends? Why was it important, that Mick fell in love with a future version of him? He’d fallen in love with an alternate version of Mick. The important thing was that they were in love, and Barry might have ruined everything.

            “They’re going to be fine.” Leonard reminded him from where he’d been sitting beside Wally. Since the fight against their teammates, Wally had been practically inseparable from Leonard. Barry wasn’t sure, but he thought that maybe Wally had developed a crush. The way he blushed whenever Leonard talked to him didn’t exactly deter the thought.

            “Yeah, Bare.” Wally agreed. “Your AI thing already said they’re on their way, so just chill.”

            Chill. He wished he could chill. His entire body was a cocktail of a million different anxieties and stressors. He was starting to consider a run around the city to work it all off.

            “I can't believe that you guys escaped an alien spaceship.” He paused his pacing when he heard Cisco’s voice in the doorway of the hanger. “Key words: alien spaceship. I have questions.”

            “They can wait.” Oliver snapped. But if Oliver was there…

            Barry spun around to see Oliver, Dig, Ray, Sara, and Mick following Cisco inside with Nate Heywood. But he only had eyes on Mick.

            He didn’t care that Team Arrow was there, or Cisco, or Kara, or Wally, or Professor Stein and Leonard, even though they both already knew. Barry ran at superspeeds into Mick’s arms, grabbing his face and crashing their lips together in a desperate kiss. His heart raced when Mick returned it with just as much, if not more, passion and fire. His arms wrapped around him like steel bands, and Barry pulled his lips away only for a second.

            “I’m sorry.” He whispered, before kissing him again.

            He expected a chuckle from Mick, but instead, his grip around Barry tightened, like he thought Barry would just disappear.

            A throat clearing broke them out of their love daze. Sara, Ray, and even Professor Stein were smiling happily at them, and Barry realized it was because they were emotionally invested. Oliver didn’t seem fazed at all, but Dig, Nate, and Kara all were staring like they’d appeared in an alternate universe.

            “Okay…” Kara grinned, the first to break out of their shock. “I didn’t see that coming, but yay! Happiness and love!”

            Barry chuckled. Leave it to Kara to be the supportive friend, even when a friend is dating a crazy pyro. My crazy pyro, he thought, resisting the urge to kiss Mick again.

            “And here I though aliens were the weirdest thing I’d see this week.” Dig joked, jaw still hanging slightly. “Always proving me wrong, Barry.”

            Nate, on the other hand, was still staring, speechless, between the two of them. “You…dude, you’re dating the Flash?” He threw his arms in the air. “How is it that none of that has ever come up?”

            Barry shrugged. “It’s a recent development.”

            “For him, anyway.” Sara added.

            “Yeah,” Ray corrected, “for Mick, they dated for what, a few months before this?”

            Mick nodded in agreement, not even offering an explanation for the clearly confused historian.

            Barry took pity on him. “It’s best if you don’t overthink it.” He offered, pressing one last kiss on Mick’s lips before taking a small step away. “So, what the hell happened?”

0000000

            Metahumans. The Dominators wanted to know all about humans with special powers.

            In retaliation, Leonard, Cisco, Felicity, Nate, and Amaya took the Waverider back to 1951—the last time the Dominators attacked—to kidnap an alien and interrogate it about their plans. Meanwhile, Barry, Ray, Sara, Oliver, and Mick all went to meet with the new president to discuss the situation.

            “You know you didn’t have to come.” Barry pointed out, though he most definitely wasn’t against his…boyfriend? ...being there.

            Mick’s grip on the heat gun tightened. “Yeah, I did. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s never trust government.”

            Barry opened his mouth to argue, when a motorcade of black SUVs appeared. Mick tensed when they circled them, and Barry couldn’t argue it being suspicious. When some old man in a suit climbed out of one of the cars instead of the president, Barry knew that Mick was right.

            Right as one of the armed agents around them fired, he flashed around, taking out most of the squad and the sniper on a nearby rooftop. When he looked down on the rest of the group, they were taking the rest of the agents on with relative ease. Mick even got to fry a few. It probably shouldn’t have made him smile like it did.

            When they questioned the lead agent—Agent Smith, he called him in his head—the old man revealed that the aliens and the government saw metas as a threat that needed to be contained. Because of Flashpoint—because the Dominators somehow knew—an uneasy truce between Earth and the Dominators was broken, which is why they were attacking.

            But Agent Smith made a deal. If Barry surrendered himself, they would leave the Earth alone. They wouldn’t wipe out the planet.

            “Like hell you’re doing this!” Mick roared. The rest of the team were in the hanger, discussing the situation in private while Barry considered the situation himself in the trailer, but he knew they’d sent Mick to talk him out of surrendering himself. “I know you’re already considering it, and I sure as hell ain’t letting you go through with it.”

            “What if it’s the only way, Mick?” he asked quietly. He wasn’t angry or emotional like Mick. If anything, the thought of giving his life, after all he’d put the timeline through, for the people he loved gave him peace. “What if it saves every metahuman on Earth? If it saves millions of innocent people?”

            He rested a hand on Mick’s cheek, a sad smile on his lips. “What if it saves you?”

            If anything, Mick seemed angrier. He grabbed Barry’s hand so tight, it almost hurt and pushed him back so he was pinned against the wall. “No. You don’t get to make that decision again. You don’t get to open me up, fill me with light and love and goodness, and then rip it all out. Not again. I won’t let you give your life for mine.”

            His face was raw with emotion, the heartbreak and anguish clear. Barry wanted to save Mick from that pain, but mostly, he wanted Mick to survive. He sighed and shook his head. “You can’t stop me.”

            Anger flooded Mick’s face. Before Barry could react, Mick lunged forward and attacked his lips. The speedster arched up almost immediately against Mick, groaning when the pyro’s hands fell down to squeeze his hips. One hand slipped down to grab Barry’s thigh.

            Getting the idea, Barry wrapped his leg around Mick’s waist, pulling him closer so their bodies were tight against each other.

            Barry gripped at the back of Mick’s neck, clawing at the skin when Mick ground their hips together. He gasped, his toes curling at the shot of pleasure through his body. Barry reached down to grab at the zipper of his suit, desperate to free his aching erection. The hand Mick wasn’t using to clutch Barry’s thigh moved from his hip to his own pants, pulling out his own cock and stroking it roughly.

            Barry batted Mick’s hand away, taking both of their cocks in one gloved hand and vibrating. Mick turned his head away from the kiss, panting and moaning at the sensations.

            “Doll…Barry…oh god…” He mouthed at Barry’s neck, thrusting into the speedster’s hand wantonly. It didn’t take much more for him to come, practically screaming Barry’s name. It was enough to push Barry over the edge himself. They fell against each other, the wall being the only thing keeping them standing.

            Something warm settled in Barry’s stomach as he stared at the content, satisfied expression on Mick’s face. He really loved Mick. He wanted him to be happy, for them to get married, get some kids, live a life away from horrors.

            That wasn’t in the cards for Barry, though. No matter what he did, someone he loved got hurt as a consequence of his actions. “I love you.” He whispered, pressing a kiss to Mick’s forehead. The pyro hummed in agreement, the hand still on Barry’s thigh stroking it lovingly.

            Barry knew what he had to do. There was no other choice.

            He was going to surrender.

Chapter Text

            Barry left the trailer first, straightening his suit so that the others wouldn’t know what they’d been up to. Mick didn’t care—if anything, he wanted to parade that they’d had sex, that Barry Allen was his—but the deep blush Barry gave when he told him forced him to agree.

            “I love you.” The speedster repeated, before walking out into the hanger. Usually, the way he said it set off alarms in Mick’s head, but his mind was fogged by post orgasmic bliss. He fixed his shirt and pants and two minutes later, as agreed, he stepped out.

            The rest of the group were still debating when he stepped into the main hanger, and he frowned. They were a speedster short. “Where’s Barry?”

            They all stopped, turning to him with confused and questioning expressions. “He was with you.” Ramon reminded him. “Remember? You were going to talk him out of surrendering?”

            “Yeah, and I did.” Mick told them. “He said he was going to come out and tell everyone.”

            Felicity shook her head. “Barry didn’t come talk to us. Unless I missed something.”

            Realization hit him like a truck. The ‘I love you’. It was a good-bye. Barry was still going to turn himself in. Son of a bitch.

            He clenched his fists, the urge to hit something welling up inside of him.

            Felicity typed something into the computer. “The Dominator ships above Central City are still there, but the others have retreated back into orbit. It’s like someone called them off.”

            Mick’s anger overwhelmed him. “Damn it, Barry!” He punched one of the crates nearby, knocking it to the ground with a clatter. “Son of a bitch! He’s fucking turning himself in! He’s pulling the same shit all over again!”

            “Mick!”

            A soft but firm hand grabbed his arm, and when he turned, Amaya was standing behind him, a sympathetic but firm look on her face. “Mick, if this is your Barry—and I have no idea how it can be since you told me he died…”

            “Time travel.” Nate supplied unhelpfully.

            “…we’re going to save him. I promise. I won’t let you lose him again.” He was reminded why he liked Amaya so much. She wasn’t pitying. She was understanding and took action. If he weren’t so lost on Barry, he could see himself falling for her.

            “She’s right.” Ramon said. “Barry is our friend, no matter what he’s done. There’s no way we’re standing by and letting those aliens do whatever they want with him.”

            Mick remembered what the Time Masters did to Barry, what he’d told them Eiling did in the alternate timeline. If they laid one finger on him…

            “We need a plan.” Robin Hood spoke up. “The ship over Central has to be where Barry is either meeting them or being kept, so that’s our target.”

            “What if he’s already on the ship?” Diggle asked.

            “We could use the Waverider?” Nate suggested, but Haircut shook his head.

            “They’d see the Waverider coming a mile away. Now that they know we have it, they’re probably watching it.”

            Then, something occurred to Mick. They’d be looking for the Waverider, but they wouldn’t be looking for a smaller, more high-tech timeship with transport capabilities. A wild grin stretched on his face, and he could see the moment the rest of the Legends got scared.

            “I’ve got an idea.”

0000000

            Finding Chronos’ original beacon was child’s play, once they convinced West to let Mick, Snart, Ray, Ramon, and Felicity into Barry’s room. He kept it under his pillow, in reaching distance, and Mick could picture Barry having a nightmare about some Flash related horror, and reaching out for the familiar, cold metal to remind him that someone out there would always watch out for him.

            He wasn’t breaking that promise now.

            Sitting down on the bed, Ray took the beacon and looked it over. “Okay, so it definitely has some ice and burn damage. He must not have fixed it yet.”

            “He’s been busy.” Felicity reminded him, falling down beside him to get a better look. Ramon sat eagerly on his other side.

            “Damn, this is some high-tech stuff.” He whistled.

            Mick rolled his eyes. “Can you fix it or not?”

            “…I’m gonna go with ‘probably’.” Ramon answered. “But, if you worked with the Time Masters, why can’t you fix it?”

            “I was a bounty hunter, not a technician.” Mick growled. “Just because I can fix and fly a timeship, doesn’t mean that I know everything about Time Master tech. They kept some things to themselves.”

            Ramon accepted the answer, reaching into the backpack he’d brought to pull out some tools. If this worked, they’d have the ultimate secret weapon to save Barry. While the nerds worked, Snart nudged his arm and nodded towards the hall.

            They both stepped out, Snart’s arms crossed over his chest. “You okay?”

            Ugh. They never talked about feelings. Why was Snart starting now? “I’m fine.” He grunted. “Ready to burn some aliens.”

            Snart shook his head. “No. I meant, are you okay with what you’re about to do? What you’re going to become again to save him?”

            No. The thought terrified Mick. What if his plan failed, or what if he wasn’t able to pull himself back? What if Time Master programming was stronger than they’d all thought? What if Barry was already dead?

            “I’ll be fine.” He assured. “If there’s one thing I can honestly say about him and me, it’s that we both care about Barry and will kill anyone trying to hurt him. I can trust him that much.

            “But…” He averted his eyes so Snart couldn’t see his worry. “If I don’t come back…I need you to take that gun,” he motioned to the cold gun, “and freeze the heart out of me.”

            When he glanced at his partner’s face, his cold, emotionless demeanor was gone, replaced by fear and concern. “Mick…”

            “You couldn’t do it before.” Mick interrupted. “But if the worst happens, you’re gonna have to. Please, Leonard.” He was so close to begging. “I want to be Mick.”

            Snart let out a shuddered breath, his hands clenching and unclenching. Finally, he nodded. “I promise.”

            He’d keep that promise, Mick knew. Leonard Snart was a man of his word. He opened his mouth to say something else—probably something emotional about their partnership or some shit, but they were both saved from the awkwardness by a shout from Barry’s room.

            “We got it!” Felicity cheered when they stepped back inside.

            “At least, we think so.” Ray corrected, his finger on the button. There was only one way to find out. Mick ran for the window, staring out into the street outside of the West house.

            A smile stretched across his mouth. The Aeon was right on the sidewalk, a sight for sore eyes if he’d ever seen one. They had an ace in the hole.

Chapter Text

            He knew that they would’ve tried to stop him. Just like when he was going to race Zoom, his loved ones would fight and argue and, once they knew they wouldn’t change his mind, would lock him up until they found another solution.

            This time, everything was different. It wasn’t an alternate Earth at stake, or even just Joe. The entire world was threatened, and, if surrendering saved millions of innocents, there was no debate or discussion that was going to change his mind, and no amount of force was going to stop him.

            He met the Dominators on top of one of the buildings under the ship hovering above the city. Five aliens transported down in front of him, three of them holding strange, rifle-like weapons on him, one holding a green device, and the other, the leader, crossing his arms behind his back.

            “You called us?”

            Barry nodded, pulling down his cowl. “My name is Barry Allen. I surrender myself to the Dominators as part of the deal you made with our government.”

            The leader turned to the Dominator with the device and nodded. It scurried over to Barry’s side. “You’ll understand if we don’t completely trust your word, Barry Allen. With powers such as yours, it would be all too easy to double cross us.”

            Without warning, the Dominator grabbed him and shoved the device into the side of his neck. Barry jerked as a shock ran through his body. His vision began growing hazy, and he was barely aware of one of the other aliens stepping up to grab his other arm.

            Then, everything around him changed. Instead of standing on a rooftop in Central, he was in a round, green-lit room with strange ovals in the walls. The Dominators dragged him through the spaceship, his feet dead weight behind them. They stopped one of the ovals, a larger one than the others, and the green glass over it slid away. The Dominators shoved him inside, locking his arms and legs in restraints.

            Barry’s head swam, barely aware of any of it. Then, another Dominator approached.

            “The weapon is ready to be released.” It informed their leader.

“Good.” The Dominator replied. “Prepare to drop the bomb.”

Barry’s mind focused on those words, and his stomach filled with panic. “But…you…” He slurred. “You said…everyone else…would be spared.”

            The leader turned his attention back to Barry. He couldn’t really tell, but he almost seemed amused. “We will not risk other humans with meta powers taking over this planet, waging intergalactic war, changing history. We know about the other speedsters, the other time travelers, metas like Cisco Ramon. They all pose a threat, and they must all be eliminated.”

            Barry struggled weakly against his cuffs. “No…you can’t…”

            But the Dominators ignored him, and the glass slid shut in front of him. His last thought before his cell filled with some kind of knock-out gas was what have I done?

0000000

            Mick stared at the blank faced helmet in front of him, remembering the last time he’d worn it. He remembered every time he’d worn it—hunting the Legends, killing time pirates, doing things for the Time Masters even he found horrific. But he also remembered walking eleven-year-old Barry home, teaching him how to punch, kicking Freddy Webb’s ass, kissing him in his lab…

            Barry Allen was worth becoming Chronos. He was sure of that.

            He heard footsteps approach behind him. “Still okay with this?” Snart asked. He was about to disembark the Aeon, while Supergirl (aka Skirt), Felicity, and Ramon stayed to help Mick’s mission. Snart volunteered to go, but Queen vetoed it.

            “We need tough fighters on the ground for the distraction.” He’d explained. “Since Kara is going with Mick, we need you here.”

            Reluctantly, he’d agreed. If Mick were being honest, he was glad that none of the Legends were going on the mission. All they needed was for some leftover brainwashing to kick in and him to shoot one of them. With Skirt, Felicity, and Ramon, there was no residual animosity.

            “Yeah.” He grunted. He was already dressed in full armor. All he needed was to put on the helmet. But he was scared. He was terrified about what he would become. “Just…preparing myself.”

            Snart nodded. “I’ll keep my promise. I know I haven’t been the most honest I’ve ever been with you since joining the Legends, but I swear on Lisa’s life, I will put Chronos down.”

            Relief spread through Mick’s body, and a hand fell to his shoulder. “I’m sorry, by the way.” Snart continued. “I’ve been a piss-poor partner, and a horrible friend. You deserve better. And I promise, if it comes down to me icing you, I will take care of Barry.”

            Mick whipped around to pin Snart with a glare, pausing when he saw the shit eating grin on his face. He chuckled. “Get your own speedster, Snart.”

            Snart laughed, but Mick shook his head. “Seriously. That little one has been eying you since this invasion shit started.”

            Snart’s smile fell to something more thoughtful. “I’ll think about it. Be careful, and try not to become a bloodthirsty maniac up there.”

            With one last pat on his shoulder, Snart swaggered out. Mick sighed, left alone with Chronos once again.

            “Hunt. Kill.” A voice whispered as he slid the helmet on over his head. “Kill the Legends.”

            “No.” Mick argued. “Barry is in danger. Hunt and kill the Dominators.”

            Chronos fell silent, but Mick could feel the hum of agreement. Chronos loved Barry, too. He’d always known that. He flashed back to a conversation too long ago, in the Vanishing Point.

            “Stop fighting. You have been fighting a war within yourself…Mick Rory and Chronos are who you are, and you need both to save Barry.”

            He thought, at the time, the Speed Force meant he needed Chronos just to defeat the Time Masters, but he could feel in his bones that it stretched much farther than that. Chronos would never leave. The Time Masters hadn’t put him that.

            Chronos was a darker side of Mick, one that had lurked inside of him since he burnt his family alive. He’d suppressed him for so long, pretending that it wasn’t there, but, loath as he was to say it, the Speed Force was right. He couldn’t save Barry on his own. He couldn’t protect Barry on his own.

            He needed Chronos. And Chronos needed Mick Rory.

            He took a deep breath and strode towards the bridge, where the rest of the crew were awaiting his orders.

            “Ginny.” He growled, taking a seat in the pilot’s chair. “Activate cloaking device and prepare for take off.”

            “Of course, Chronos.” The AI replied. “And, might I say, I’ve missed the armor.”

            He smiled under his helmet, typing the coordinates for the Dominator ship. “You all remember the plan?”

            “You, me, and Kara all transport on the ship.” Ramon answered. “I vibe Barry’s location, you and Kara take down any Dominators in the way, Felicity keeps the Aeon close by and comes in for back up, if needed.”

            Mick nodded. It was a solid plan. One that could work. With the rest of the team distracting the Dominators, there couldn’t be more than a skeleton crew onboard. They had a shot.

            “Chronos, I have some dire news to report.” Damn. He knew it was too good to be true.

            “What?”

            “The Dominators have dropped the metahuman bomb.”

Chapter Text

            When Felicity passed Ginny’s message on to the ground team, Chronos knew they could handle it. They had to. He needed everyone on their ship for the mission—save Barry Allen. Protect Barry Allen.

            He, Ramon, and Skirt geared up—Skirt less so, considering her Kryptonian abilities—in the armory once they were hovering below the ship. Ramon’s weapon shook in his hands. Had he never killed anyone? Never had to really fight for his life, and the lives of those he cared about? Chronos wasn’t sure, but the kid was uneasy and wracked with nerves.

            Sighing, Chronos pulled a grenade belt out of one of the weapons compartments and handed it to him. “Sometimes it’s easier when you don’t have to see them.” He advised. “Push the button on the side, throw it, then run like hell.”

            Ramon frowned, but threw the belt over his arm with a nod. “You act different in that armor. Less dickish and crazy.”

            “I’m Chronos.” He told him, securing his rifle. “Not Mick Rory. I need to know that everyone can complete this mission effectively. I need to know that Barry is alive and safe.”

            Ramon snorted, raising a doubtful eyebrow. “Whatever you say, dude. Putting on armor doesn’t make you a different person. Whatever this,” he motioned to Chronos’ whole body, “is, it’s all you. Mick Rory, Chronos, whatever.”

            He didn’t have a response to that. Ramon didn’t understand. He hadn’t endured what Mick Rory and Chronos had endured. Mick Rory became Chronos to survive. He gave himself up to protect the sanity he had left. They weren’t different people, but they weren’t the same either.

            They weren’t sure if they even understood it.

            Skirt walked up to him with a grin, hands on her hips. “Ready to go kick some Dominator butt?”

            He grabbed another knife and shoved it into his boot. “Ginny.” He called. “Prepare transport on the Dominator ship.”

            “Ready, Chronos.”

            Without giving his teammates warning, he pushed a button on his gauntlet, transporting them into the cargo bay of the Dominator ship.

0000000

            Whatever the aliens were expecting, it obviously wasn’t a Time Master bounty hunter, a Kryptonian, and a meta human bursting into one of their communications rooms and blasting them. Skirt knocked some out, Chronos shot a few, and Ramon kept watch as they shoved the aliens into a closet.

            “Do you read Dominator?” Chronos asked Skirt. She nodded, heading for the control panel. After a few minutes, she motioned them over.

            “According to this, Barry is being kept in a stasis chamber for reprogramming.”

            Chronos and Ramon frowned. “I thought they wanted Barry dead.”

            Chronos shook his head. “It makes sense that they’d want the powers of speedster, but Barry’s mind can’t be read or controlled. They wouldn’t be able to use their machine on him.”

            Skirt nodded. “That’s why they’re not trying to control his mind. They’re going to go inside his mind and rewrite everything.”

            Chronos’ heart stopped. They were going to do to Barry what the Time Masters did to Mick Rory. They were going to break him, rip him apart, pull out everything that was pure and good, then rebuild him in their own, sick image.

            “Where’s the stasis chamber?” He growled. Skirt typed some stuff into the computer.

            “Three corridors away from here, near the bridge.” She let out a whistle. “There’s a lot of security.”

            Chronos nodded, not caring what he had to do to save Barry. “Is there a self-destruct that can be triggered from here?”

            She typed again, before shaking her head. “No. It has to be accessed from the bridge by the captain and two senior officers.”

            Ramon rushed forward. “Can you bring up a map of the ship?”

            Skirt nodded, and soon they were staring at the ship’s layout. “Okay, I can use my powers to set off grenades here,” he pointed at the lower levels of the ship, “here,” he pointed towards the front of the ship, “here and here.” He pointed to two other sections. Two other weak points. “Using my powers, I can transport around the ship, set off the grenades, then transport myself back to the Aeon. How long would I have before they went off?”

            “About ten seconds.” Chronos answered.

            “But,” Skirt interrupted, “what about the city? You blow up the ship, it’ll crash into the city and still kill a lot of people.”

            Ramon’s hopeful expression fell, but Chronos chuckled. “Not with those grenades.” He answered. “They don’t explode. They implode. A small blackhole opens up for twenty seconds, sucks in anything around it, then disappears.”

            “And that won’t endanger Central at all?” Ramon asked, skeptically.

            Chronos shook his head. “Time Masters didn’t like leaving evidence behind. No mess. Dominators gone.”

            “So, new plan.” Skirt announced. “Mick…Chronos and I will head over to save Barry. Cisco, you start setting off the grenades as far from us as possible, without getting sucked into a blackhole. We get Ginny to transport us off the ship, then we’re all in the clear.”

            They split off, Ramon heading for the back of the ship first. He would count to a hundred before setting off the first grenade—hopefully giving them enough time to get to Barry. Skirt flew through the halls first, knocking down as many Dominators as she could and clearing the way for Chronos to run behind her, his mind completely focused on saving Barry.

            When they came to the stasis chamber, Chronos was glad they were going to kill every Dominator onboard. Barry was behind green glass, his arms and legs strapped down, with wires attached to his head. A deep frown marred his usually peaceful, cheerful face.

            Suddenly, the ship lurched.

            “We gotta go!” Skirt announced, and Chronos agreed.

            He pushed the button beside the door, and Barry was released, practically falling into Chronos’ arms. He was unconscious, but safe. Well, as safe as could be on an exploding ship. He was maneuvering Barry so he could press the transport button on his gauntlet when a blast hit him from down the hall.

            Without hesitation, he threw one of his knives at the Dominator, killing it instantly. But the damage was done—his gauntlet was fried. He couldn’t transport them back to the Aeon.

            “Supergirl.” Skirt turned from the end of the hall to face him. “Can you fly him off this ship and back to the Aeon? Or even back to S.T.A.R labs?”

            Skirt nodded, and Chronos handed Barry over. He risked one last look, brushing his hair back with his fingers, before stepping away. “Go now!” He growled, raising his rifle. “I’ll find the transporter here and try to get back on my own.”

            Skirt looked like she wanted to argue, but sighed instead. “Good luck, Mick. I’ll make sure Barry makes it and try to get back in time for you.”

            He didn’t hold his breath as she shot out through one of the walls, Barry thrown over her shoulder, and the ship shook again.

            Barry was alive. He was safe. Chronos and Mick kept their promise.

Chapter Text

            Leonard was fighting on the ground when Gideon transmitted through the comms. “Unfortunately, the Dominators have gone back on their deal with Barry Allen and are preparing to drop the metahuman bomb.”

            “Firestorm!” Sara ordered. “Get rid of the bomb!”

            The meta gave a nod and flew straight up. There was one problem taken care of. He rounded on another Dominator, icing him in the chest before bringing the cold gun down on his head. One look around told him that they weren’t making much of a difference, though. It was him, the Arrow, John Diggle, and the Legends sans Mick and Firestorm.

            There were only two people with superpowers, and only so many bullets and arrows between them all. They weren’t going to win. Without warning, he was tackled from behind, his cold gun falling out of his grip as he hit the cement hard. He rolled over in time to see a Dominator looming over him, screeching as it raised its weapon to kill him.

            Damn it, this is not how he wanted to go out.

            Suddenly, a flash of yellow lightning threw the alien down and took out at least ten more around Leonard, before skidding to a stop in front of him. Wally West grinned brightly, holding out a hand to help him up.

            “Thought maybe you all could use some back-up.” Double damn. Mick may have been right—maybe he did need a speedster of his own.

            “No offense, kid.” Leonard drawled, accepting the helping hand. “But one speedster isn’t going to change the tides here.”

            If anything, Wally’s grin grew. “How about some government agents and some old friends of yours?”

            A Dominator ran up behind Wally, only to be covered completely in gold. No. Leonard spun around to see Lisa, gun raised and flanked by Mark Mardon, Shawna Baez, Kyle Nimbus, Kendra Saunders, Carter Hall, Thea Queen, a man covered in rags with two other men—one in a hockey mask and the other with a stupid looking black ‘T’ over his face—Leonard assumed were with Team Arrow, and an entire squad of A.R.G.U.S agents, led by Director Lyla Michaels.

            “Hope you didn’t think we were going to let you have all the fun, Lenny.” Lisa pouted mockingly. “After all, we’d like to fight some aliens, too.” 

            Leonard stared, slack jawed and speechless, at the rag-tag group in front of him. “How…?”

            Wally shrugged. “Iris and my dad helped me track down Lisa, who gathered your meta friends. Then, I got in touch with Lyla, Dig’s wife, and asked her to pull some strings with Iron Heights and get the others some community service. Kendra and Thea were both on S.T.A.R lab speed dial, so Iris called them.”

            He looked so pleased with himself, and rightly so. Leonard was really starting to see the appeal of the kid. A surge of empowerment shot through him as he picked up his cold gun. “You did good, kid. Now, let’s kick some ass!”

0000000

            By the time Chronos made it to the transport, the entire section of ship was gone. Ramon was working faster than he thought. With his transporter shot, theirs gone, and all of the escape pods blown away with the first grenade, Chronos was out of options.

            He drew his rifle, ready to take down as many Dominators as he could before they were all sucked away. He let himself be carried away in the violence, cutting down every Dominator he encountered, not letting his thoughts be clouded by Mick Rory’s sorrow that he’d never see Barry Allen again. There was a reason Chronos existed, after all.

            The ship tilted sharply as he stormed the bridge, firing at the remaining Dominators. Then, he saw the grenade in the corner, blinking. The Dominators didn’t seem to notice though, using his momentary distraction to open fire.

            Chronos barely dove out of the way in time. The Dominators continued firing, though, until part of the ship’s hull was blown off, leaving a gaping hole. Chronos’ eyes flickered over to the grenade. Death by implosion was not how he wanted to go out. He’d much prefer a nice plummet to his death. He moved to roll for the opening, when he felt a hard impact to his armor. Then another. The Dominators continued firing mercilessly at him, damaging his armor and burning his skin, until finally, the grenade blew. Chronos fell, helplessly, out of the hold in the hull as the bridge was sucked into a mini blackhole, his eyes feeling heavy and his body weak.

            “You can’t give up.” A voice that sounded suspiciously like Barry whispered. “Mick…Chronos…please. You have to open your eyes.”

            Everything was so weightless, though. It was kind of nice, free falling. He was staring up at an empty, peaceful sky…well, there was an imploding alien ship, too, but that just added to his good mood. His eyes drifted closed, and he felt lips press against his.

That was impossible, though. His helmet was still on.

When he opened his eyes, though, he was laying out on a double porch swing, on the wrap-around porch what looked like a farmhouse. He was in normal clothes, for a farm—a ratty, plaid shirt with ripped up, dirty jeans.

He became aware of fingers stroking his forehead. He jerked up, knocking his head against the armrest of the swing. A familiar laugh calmed him down.

Barry was crouched at the end of the swing, his arm slung over the rest near where Mick’s head had been.

“You okay, babe?” he asked, standing up to check his head. Once he was satisfied that Mick didn’t have brain damage, he kissed his forehead.

A shuddered breath fell out of Mick’s lips. It was a dream. It had to be a dream.

“Of course this is a dream, Mick.” Barry answered, taking a seat beside him. “This is your dream.”

His first thought was that the Speed Force was messing with him, again. But one look into Barry’s eyes killed that. It was Barry. There was no faking that light, that goodness. Barry turned away, looking out on the farmland around them instead.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” He smiled. “We’re miles from any nosy neighbors. There’s plenty of space for the kids to run around, for those with powers to practice without being afraid someone will see them.”

Kids? Powers?

“Oh, yeah.” Barry nodded. “We’ve adopted six—Angelina, Kerry, Brian, Marcus, Ember, and Leota—fostered four—Lara, Aubrey, Steven, and James—and Iris surrogated a pair of twins for us. We thought about calling them ‘Dawn and Don’ but we decided to name them Henry and Lenora instead.

 “Seven of them have powers, including our little twin tornadoes. No one wants meta kids, so we take in every single one we can find. We have the room, and, thanks to S.T.A.R labs and your nice little nest egg, we have the money.”

Barry’s left hand caught the light, and Mick spotted his grandma’s ring on his finger. He never questioned how Barry got it, but he couldn’t care less in that moment.

“We don’t farm much.” Barry continued. “You taught the kids how to grow things, but you were too big of a softie to make do any real hard work. Every Halloween, though, you let the cornfields grow up and we cut a maze for the kids and their friends to run around in. One year, you set a scarecrow on fire and nearly gave them all heart attacks.”

He laughed again, warm and genuine, and Mick’s heart skipped. “And at Christmas, it snows. We all run around having snowball fights, then gather around the tree—a real tree, one that smells like evergreen—and we just fall into such peace as the kids open their millions of presents. And you fix Christmas dinner, and, when they were all little, you used to dress up like Santa, even though you complained it was stupid, but the kids loved it, and I could see in your eyes how happy it made you that they still had that childlike wonder in their hearts.”

Mick’s eyes watered as Barry recounted their life together, the life he’d wanted that he never thought he deserved. “This isn’t real.”

            He saw a tear drip down Barry’s cheek, too. “You really can dream, Mick.” He sniffled. “No. It’s not real. You’re currently falling out of a spaceship to your death with a couple dozen laser blasts in your chest.”

            He reached over to take one of Mick’s hands in his. “I’ve been waiting here for you. They told me that I’d have one more chance to see you before I had to…” he swallowed hard. Mick frowned, not quite understanding. “I’m glad, you know. That you kept your promise to me.”

            With those words, Mick’s heart shattered. His Barry…

            2023 Barry nodded. “Yeah. It’s your Barry.”

            “That’s not possible.” He whispered. “You aren’t even supposed to exist.”

            Barry nodded again. “And, after this, I won’t. But the Speed Force gave me a gift, and this is it. Giving us a proper good-bye. I’m glad you’ve moved on with past me. But, Mick,” the grip on his hand tightened, “you need to let me go. You can’t move on with 2016 Barry if you’re still haunted by what happened to me. I made my choice, and I haven’t regretted it for a second.

“I love you, Chronos.” He leaned forward and pressed a chaste kiss to his lips. “But you aren’t mine to love. You’re his. And he’s yours.”

He cast a glance around at their surroundings again. “Maybe, one day, you can have this. I can’t see the future, but I know it’s possible. You both dream of it—your perfect world, Barry’s Flashpoint. You both want a future, but the only way either of you will get it is if you fight for it.”

Mick considered his words, wringing his hands the same way his dad used to when he had a hard decision to make. “But…I’m about to die.” He pointed out. “There is no future. If my wounds don’t kill me, pancaking the ground will.”

Barry shook his head, brushing his fingers against Mick’s cheek. “I love you, but I hate that you actually believe your friends would ever allow that.”

He felt his body jerk, and he knew their time was up. A sad smile grew on Barry’s lips as he realized the same thing. “Good-bye, Mick Rory.” He whispered, pressing another kiss to his lips. Mick felt his unshed tears finally release, wetting his cheeks as he kissed the man he loved back. Then, everything began fading away.

0000000

“….do yOU GOT HIM?”

“I think so! Firestorm, we need some assistance!”

Arms cradled his back, and Mick was absently aware of being lowered to the ground. When he opened his eyes, it was like two angels were carrying him, along with Firestorm. The hawks, his mind supplied.

“We need to get him to Caitlin.” He heard Jax saying. “His injuries are bad.”

“Is he still breathing?” Carter asked from near his feet.

Kendra answered near his head. “Yes. And his eyes are opening. Is that good?”

“I don’t know.”

He grunted. He was fine. But what about… “Barry…” He moaned. “Where’s…how’s…?”

“Bare’s fine.” Firestorm assured him. “Supergirl got him to the Aeon and they expect the knock out gas to wear off any minute. You hang in there. I don’t think he’ll make it to S.T.A.R labs.” The last statement was directed at the hawks.

“We need to get him to Gideon, then.” Kendra ordered. “The Waverider is close by. We can make it.”

His mind started growing heavy again, but this time, he knew he wasn’t going to die. He had a future to fight for. He just had to live long enough to see it.

Chapter Text

            “Mr. Rory?” A British voice entered his mind. “Mr. Rory? I believe you are fully healed, whenever you are ready to awaken.”

            That was weird. His mind started to sharpen as feeling crept back in to his limbs. Metal grating on stone was the next thing he was aware of. When he pried his eyes open, he realized he was in the medbay on the Waverider, lying shirtless in one of the medchairs.

            He groaned. Everything hurt.

            “Oh my god, Mick.” He turned his head in time to see Sara jump up from the seat beside him, throwing down the knife she’d been sharpening, and hurry to his side. “How are you feeling, big guy?”

            He grunted. “Like shit. Did we win?”

            The captain nodded. “It took some help, but yeah. The ship was destroyed, we gave the survivors back to the rest of the aliens—who are now terrified to show their ugly faces again—and we didn’t lose anyone on our side.”

            He perked up at that. “Not even…?”

            She shook her with a grin. “Barry’s fine. He’s back at home. He actually sat here for a while, reading to you,” she nodded towards a book on the table next to her, “but then I sent him out to get some rest.”

He snorted at the title of the book. Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie. He’d half expected War of the Worlds.

“How long have I been out?”

“About a day and a half.” Sara shrugged. “Barry sat beside you the entire time. He read through at least three books and got zero sleep until about an hour ago.”

Sounded like Barry. He pushed himself up. He needed to see him, to touch him again, to remind himself that Barry was alive and safe.

“Whoa, where are you going?” Sara demanded as he stood up and started searching for his shirt. “You just woke up!”

“I need to see him.” He stated, finding his jacket on the other medchair, but not his shirt. He threw it on anyway. He didn’t need his shirt. “I have to tell him.”

Sara frowned. “Tell him what?” she asked, but Mick was already running out of the medbay towards the cargo bay, hoping they weren’t too far from the West house.

0000000

Mick was either very lucky, or very unlucky. The Waverider was parked less than three blocks from the West house, so while it took him less than twenty minutes to walk there, it didn’t give him much time to think about what to say.

I almost died, and your dead future self showed me a perfect future where we were married with a dozen kids and a farmhouse and doesn’t that sound amazing? Let’s do it.

That wouldn’t scare him off at all.

Before he knew it, he was standing at the door of the West house, hand raised to knock. There was no car in the driveway, so he hoped that West wasn’t home. From what he’d heard, Iris didn’t live with the family anymore, and the little West was probably banging Snart or something.

Taking a deep breath, he knocked on the door.

            There was a loud fumble on the other side, the sound of something hitting the floor, and then a bright flash of light lit up the window at the top of the door. He held his breath when the door swung open, and Barry was standing on the other side, his hair disheveled and his eyes puffy. His face lit up when he registered who was on the other side of the door.

            “Mick.” He smiled. His eyes darted over his face, down his body, fixing on his bare chest. He could see the wheels in Barry’s head turning, the memories flashing past his eyes of burns and holes in the now healed skin. His hand rose slowly, like he wanted to touch him, just to make sure he was actually there, but wasn’t sure if he was allowed. With a grin, Mick gently took the hand and rested it on his chest.

            “I’m fine, Doll.” He assured. Barry swallowed hard, but his distress seemed to melt a bit.

            He pulled away, motioning Mick inside. He glanced around for any sign of the good detective.

            “Joe’s at work.” Barry confirmed, closing the door behind them. “Iris is at her apartment. Wally is out with some of others who decided to go get drinks to celebrate. It’s just me, tonight.”

            He stepped around Mick towards the couch, where a blanket was hanging half off beside some fallen pillows. Mick could just picture Barry, asleep on the couch, being woken up by his knock and accidentally throwing himself onto the floor.

            The speedster grinned as he picked up the pillows and tossed the blanket over the back of the couch. Mick took a seat at the end, letting Barry choose how close he wanted to sit. Barry took the middle cushion, close enough to touch, but still too far for Mick.

            “So,” Barry started. “You almost died saving me from aliens.” Mick stiffened in shock as a pillow popped him in the face. “You idiot. I’m not worth you risking your life for. I’m not worth it, Mick.”

            You are to me. Mick thought. You’re worth everything to me.

            “I was just following your lead.” Mick shot back quietly. “Sacrificing myself for my whole world.”

            Barry blew out a breath, almost a laugh, and shook his head. “You’re a crazy man, Mick Rory. You see my life—a future version of me dies in front of you, you get kidnapped by a psychotic speedster and thrown off a building, you get mind controlled by aliens and then have to fight them…that’s not even mentioning alternate universes—yet, you refuse to run away. In fact, I think if anything, it’s all hardened your resolve to be here.

            “I just…I need to know something.” He finished, flooring him with a serious stare. “What do you want from me?”

            His first thought was wow, what a stupid question. But then, he considered Barry’s point of view: his childhood hero/crush comes to his doorstep, confessing romantic feelings for him, refusing to abandon him at any cost.

            He reached over to grasp Barry’s hand. “I want a big house, full of laughing, carefree kids. I want Christmas mornings, and first days of school, and the chance to threaten prom dates. I want to wake up every morning to you, smiling and happy in my arms. I want anniversaries, Valentine’s Days, sneaking quickies after the kids are all out of the house. I want to think about the future and see you there, waiting for me.”

            Another weak breath escaped Barry’s lips. Mick could tell he was hanging on every word, hope and disbelief warring inside of him. He wanted to take those lips with his, to feel Barry against him again, but he was leaving it to him. It was his choice to make.

            Barry stared silently at him, examining him closely like he was trying to find some sign of a lie. Then, his hand edged slowly for his pocket.

            “I had that.” He finally said. “Well, I mean, I almost had that. I wanted that. We were together, and you proposed, and I had so many plans for us.” He pulled out Mick’s grandmother’s ring. “That was taken from me. My perfect life—this entire time, I’ve been grieving that life, not realizing that I could have a better one here, a real one.”

            He switched the grip Mick had on his hand so that their palms were facing up, before laying the simple band in his hand. “I want a future. I want to be loved and happy. I want all of those things you described. I want Joe to glare at you as he walks me down the aisle towards you. I want Iris and Leonard to be the godparents of our small army of children. I want you to cook for me whenever you get in the mood. I want sitting on rocking chairs on our porch when we’re old. I want to find peace in your arms. Most importantly, though, Mick Rory, I want to be yours. Every day, for the rest of my life, however long that will end up being.”

            This time, Mick couldn’t help himself. He lunged forward, smashing their lips together. Barry fell back on the couch, hands clutching at the back of Mick’s jacket, moaning and thrusting up into the sensation.

            “Is that a yes?” Mick gasped between kisses, pulling open Barry’s shirt to get at skin.

            “I…” Barry paused to kiss Mick deeply again. “I…don’t remember there being a question.”

            Mick moved his lips to the speedster’s neck, kissing and sucking bruises that would disappear in an hour, but not caring. “You know what I’m asking, Doll.”

            Barry threw his head back wantonly as Mick bit the skin between his neck and shoulder hard. He peppered it with kisses to soothe the sting. “I want to hear you say it.” Barry managed to gasp. “I n—I need to hear you say it.”

            Mick snaked his arms under Barry’s thighs and pulled them up, dragging Barry lower and resting his legs on Mick’s hips. The pyro hovered over him, holding the ring up between their faces, and smiled kindly. “Wanna get hitched?”

            Barry laughed, hard and long, as he accepted the ring, slipping it on his left ring finger. “Yes.” He surged upwards to kiss Mick again, who wrapped his arms around his torso to sit him up in his lap. “I will.”

            With Barry’s legs wrapped around him and a new shot of strength in his body, Mick carried the joyful speedster up the stairs towards his room, the world, for the first time, feeling right.

Chapter Text

For the first time, Mick was the last to wake up. He was sprawled, facedown, on Barry’s bed, bare as the day he was born, one arm hanging off the bed while the other was curled around Barry’s waist.

            Barry was sitting up, blanket pulled up to his stomach, reading a book. A smile pulled at Mick’s lips when he saw that he was still wearing his engagement ring. They were engaged. Mick Rory and Barry Allen were engaged.

            No. The Flash and Heatwave were engaged.

He chuckled, picturing those words on the wedding announcement. The sound pulled Barry out of whatever land his book had dropped him in, his attention sliding over to his fiancé.

            Wow. That was never going to get old.

            “Good morning.” He grinned, closing his book and sitting it in his lap.

            Mick rose up on his elbows and smirked. “Mornin’. Whatcha reading?”

            Barry held up his book so Mick could see the cover. The Hobbit. He vaguely remembered the book—he had to read it in school, but he only made it to chapter two before giving up. Tolkien was a hard read.

            “I didn’t want to wake you up.” Barry explained. “You looked so peaceful. So, I decided to wait for you.”

            “By reading Tolkien?” Mick raised an eyebrow. “You couldn’t just go on your phone like a normal twenty-something year old?”

            Barry blushed. “My phone’s downstairs, and I’m not sure how well my legs will carry me after last night. The book was on the bedside table, so…”

            A swell of pride filled Mick at the thought of Barry walking funny all day because of him, before he shook the thought free. “What about the detective?”

            “What about him?”

            “He’s probably home.” Mick explained. “How’re you gonna explain me coming from your room?”

            Barry sat the book on the nightstand and slid down so he could kiss him, long and near filthily. “I’m going to tell him that I got engaged last night, and my fiancé spent the night.” He continued kissing Mick, who turned so he was pressed against Barry’s body. “You’re not my dirty secret. You’re the man I love, and Joe will accept that, or he won’t. It doesn’t matter. I love you.”

            Mick sighed. It was all too good, like a fantasy. But he’d lived fantasies—the Dominators’ hallucination, his death induced dream, even Flashpoint, though he didn’t remember it—and this was real. Barry was real and in front of him, and Mick could touch him and kiss him and love him to his heart’s content.

            He couldn’t stop smiling.

            Barry’s eyes widened. “We have to plan a wedding.” He stated. “We have to get tuxes, and a venue, and…oh my god, I have to tell Iris. She’s going to be insufferable. And Felicity and Oliver!”

            Mick chuckled, pressing a kiss to his forehead. “Don’t worry about it, Doll. Just…enjoy this.” He rested their foreheads together, closing his eyes so he could just…take in everything. All of the tension blew out of Barry’s body. They laid there, quietly, for almost an hour, while an idea formed in Mick’s head.

0000000

            To say Joe was surprised when Barry walked down for breakfast with Mick would’ve been an understatement. His jaw almost hit the ground when they both walked in the kitchen, Mick only in jeans and Barry in an oversized t-shirt and boxers. Barry knew there was no hiding what the two of them had been up to, and when Joe’s eyes landed on Barry’s ring, he thought his foster father was going to have an aneurism.

            “Mick, could you give us a minute?” Barry asked. His fiancé nodded, filling a plate with bacon, eggs, and pancakes before striding out into the dining room.

            Joe rounded on Barry, eyes wide and smoke practically pouring out of his ears. He held his hands up in surrender. “Joe…I can explain.”

            “Yeah, you better.” He hissed, crossing his arms over his chest. “Like when the hell this…whatever…between you and Heatwave started, why you’re wearing an engagement ring, and why you thought it was a good idea to bring him in my house?”

            Barry cleared his throat. “Well, the answer to that first question is complicated—for him, about a year ago; for me, about sixteen years ago.” A smidge of Joe’s anger turned to confusion, and Barry shook his head. “Time travel, don’t ask. Anyway, we sort of hooked up the night my dad died. I was upset, and he lost someone too, so we kind of fell together. Then, I met him again in Flashpoint.

“Joe, we fell in love there.” He sighed. “We were happy and engaged. Then, something terrible happened, and Mick died in front of me, so I changed everything back. But it stuck with me, how much I love him, Joe. How much I love this version of him he’s become since joining the Legends. And he loves me, too.”

Barry dared a glance back into the dining room, where Mick was drowning his pancakes in syrup. A dopey grin appeared on his face. “He makes me happy.”

When he turned back, Joe’s anger was almost gone. There was still confusion, some hurt, and a bit of disgust at Mick’s eating habits in the dining room, but there was also understanding. “Look, Bare. I know you have a loving heart. You see the best in everyone. But I need to know—how sure are you that Rory is worthy of that love?”

Barry smiled. “He saved me from the aliens, Joe. He was going to die so that I could escape. And that’s only the most recent time he’s saved my life. He’s a good man.”

Joe narrowed his eyes, lips pursed as he looked over Barry, before letting out a heavy sigh. “Look, if I’ve learned anything since that particle accelerator blew, it’s that anything at this point is possible. Rory did help stop an alien invasion and has been helping save time or something, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. If he makes you happy, I’m happy. But don’t think that doesn’t mean I won’t cuff his ass and drag him down to the precinct if he ever so much as disrespects you.”

Barry breathed out a laugh. The conversation was going better than he thought. “I’m almost positive he’d probably let you.”

Joe smiled back. “Now, I want to meet this fiancé of yours and get a better measure of him.” Grabbing the platters of food, he walked into the dining room, leaving a relieved Barry standing in the kitchen to catch his breath.

0000000

“Many responsibilities have fallen to me since the president's passing at the beginning of this crisis. Sobering, sad responsibilities. This is not one of them.”

Mick glanced down the line at the new president. Barry stood to her left next to Supergirl, Pretty, Firestorm, and Haircut, staring straight forward as the president sung their praises. He couldn’t see through the gloves, but he knew that his speedster was still wearing the ring, even as the Flash, and that though warmed him.

“Today, it is my distinct honor to bestow upon you a small acknowledgement of the great debt that the world owes to you all.”

Mick tilted his head towards Sara. “Is it just me, or is she really hot?”

She glanced down at the president, giving the woman an appraising nod. “She’s hot.”

Kid Flash nudged him with his elbow. “Eyes front. You’re engaged to my brother now, remember?”

On the other side of Sara, Leonard snorted.

“Speaking of which…”

“Everything’s ready for later, don’t worry.” Amaya assured from beside Leonard. “Barry’s team and Felicity are getting everything ready right now. It’s going to be perfect.”

 “Although your brave efforts must remain a secret, know that, meta-human or not, masked or not, each and every one of you is a hero.” The president’s speech was celebrated by a round of applause.

“Does that mean we get a presidential pardon?” Leonard whispered down to Mick. That…was a really good question.

“I wouldn’t push it, if I were you.” Sara whispered back, a smile pulling at her lips. Oliver shushed them from the president’s left

Mick glanced down the line again to see Barry watching him with a grin. He may not have been a real hero—he enjoyed killing, burning, and stealing way too much for that—but he was Barry Allen’s hero, and that was the important part.

Once the assembly cleared, Wally flashed over to Barry’s side, he and Kara grabbing him by the arms and dragging him away. Barry cast a confused look back at Mick, but followed them out anyway. That’s when Team Flash ran in, everything they needed in their arms and dressed for the occasion. He let himself be led away by Leonard and Sara, excitement and nervousness coursing through him.  

0000000

Barry didn’t know what to think when he was pushed into the trailer by Kara and Wally. There was a wine-colored vest with matching dress pants, a dark red tie, and a crisp, white dress shirt. He frowned, but flashed out of his suit and into the new clothes.

Nice. He thought to himself, looking down at the fitted suit. There was a knock on the door, and Iris poked her head in. She whistled when she saw him.

“Wow. Looks like Gideon is a really good seamstress.” She stepped inside, and Barry’s jaw dropped. He knew from the many episodes of Say Yes to the Dress he’d sat through with her that Iris was wearing a chiffon dress with a gold sparkle halter. She was stunning.

“You look…beautiful, Iris. What’s going on?”

A secret smirk grew on her lips. “You’ll see. By the way, I’m a bit upset that you told my dad about you and Mick before you told me.”

He opened his mouth to defend himself, but Iris waved it off. “I already knew. You two aren’t subtle, with those looks you always send each other.” She took his left hand and examined the ring. “It’s beautiful, Barry. Simple, but beautiful.”

She raised her head to meet his eyes. “I’m so happy for you, Barry. Both of you.”

He threw his arms around her. He needed to hear that. He needed to hear her approval. “Thank you. And I promise, you will be my best person. Though, you may have to fight Cisco.”

Iris laughed, returning the hug. “Oh, trust me. I know where I’ll be at your wedding.”

After a minute, she pulled back. “They need me outside to help with everything. Stay here for a few minutes, until someone comes to get you.”

He frowned, but nodded. He thought they were going to have a party to celebrate the defeat of the Dominators. What was happening?

Iris exited the trailer, leaving Barry alone with his thoughts. He twisted the ring on his finger. He wanted to announce their engagement at the party. He wanted to show Mick that he wasn’t ashamed to love him. He would shout it from the rooftops, if he could.

Another knock pulled him out of his thoughts. “Come in.” He called back. This time, Joe was stepping inside. He was dressed in a gray suit with a dark red vest, matching Barry’s tie, and a gray hat. When he saw Barry, his eyes grew misty.

“Is everything okay?” Barry asked. “Are we still having the party?”

Joe nodded, wiping his eyes with the back of his sleeve. “Yeah. Yeah.” He took a deep breath and smiled. “Actually, I’d like to take a walk with you, if that’s okay.”

Barry’s frown deepened. “Of course. Are you alright?”

Joe smiled slowly, opening the trailer door. “I don’t think any parent is on a day like this, but I’m happy.”

He held out a hand to help Barry out of the trailer, which he took tentatively. When they were both standing in the hanger, Joe winded his arm under Barry’s, giving his hand a reassuring pat. He expected Joe to lead him towards the door, but instead, they walked around the trailer towards the center of the hanger.

When he saw why, his heart sped up. There were chairs set up in rows, all of their friends—Lisa, the Hawks, and Lyla included—were standing in front of them, dressed elegantly and looking his way. Well, most of his friends. The computers and crates had all been moved away to the corners, replaced by an archway Professor Stein was standing under. Iris, Kara, and Felicity stood on one side of the archway, wearing the same dress he’d seen on Iris. Cisco stood with them, dressed in a white, button up with a gold tie and light gray suit, his hair tied back.

On the other side of the archway was Leonard, Ray, Sara, and Amaya, all dressed the same as the others. Standing at the altar—because now, Barry had no doubt what was happening—was Mick, dressed so similarly to how he’d dressed in Flashpoint, with a black suit and an open collared, black dress shirt. When Mick turned to see him, it was like they were the only two people in the hanger.

Joe’s grip on Barry’s arm tightened, and Elvis, of all things, started to play.

‘Wise men say, only fools rush it. But I can’t help falling in love with you…’

Barry bit his lip as Joe led him towards the altar, knowing that Iris had to have told someone that this was his favorite song, if she hadn’t picked it herself. It was both the shortest and longest walk that Barry had ever taken. When Stein asked who was giving him away, Joe stiffened beside him.

“I am.” He choked out. He pulled Barry into a hug, squeezing him so tight that Barry couldn’t breathe. When he finally took his seat, Mick took Barry by the hand and pulled him to the altar.

“This is okay, right?” He whispered worriedly. “You were worrying this morning about planning, and we just…we don’t know what’s gonna happen with all the shitstorms we get caught up in. I just thought…”

Barry smiled, leaning forward to kiss away Mick’s concerns. He really had the most considerate fiancé—husband—ever. “I do.” He whispered against his lips.

A collective chuckle emanated over the crowd. “That’s nice, Mr. Allen,” Stein spoke up, “but I haven’t asked anything yet. Now, to begin. Love…”

They only got about halfway through Stein’s speech before both he and Mick were declaring ‘I dos’.

Chapter Text

            He was married. Mick could hardly believe it. He’d married the Flash.

            The celebration after their wedding was a lot calmer than he’d pictured wedding receptions being, but there was champagne, and Sara was passing around a flask, so it wasn’t too bad. A few hours in, Skirt had to leave, giving them both hugs and wishing them well.

            The Legends, sans Leonard and Sara, excused themselves not long after. They weren’t taking off until the next morning, so that Mick could have a ‘wedding night done right’, according to Jax.

            Leonard and little West disappeared sometime later. Mick wasn’t sure where—wasn’t sure if he wanted to know where—but they showed back up an hour or so later, Leonard the picture of dignity without so much as a wrinkle in his suit, while Wally stumbled in with his shirt buttons closed crooked and his pants unzipped.

            Iris got a good laugh out of that one. Joe, not so much.

            Barry returned to his arms halfway through the night, sitting in his lap in one of the rolling chairs, his head falling back on Mick’s shoulder. The battle between Mick and Chronos was over. Both had what they wanted—Barry Allen, safe and loved in their arms, forever.

            The speedster stroked the back of his hands, humming along with the music Ramon had set up. Mick wasn’t much of a dancer, or he would’ve given Barry the first dance he deserved. Instead, he swayed the chair back and forth slightly, whispering the song into Barry’s ear whenever a song came on that he knew.

            Barry closed his eyes and smiled contently, and Mick suddenly felt like the luckiest man in the multiverse.

            Their calm was interrupted by Snow, Iris, and Felicity walking over. At first, Mick thought something had happened. The smiles on Iris and Felicity’s faces calmed his nerves, though. “We haven’t given you our wedding gift yet.” Felicity announced.

            “It’s from all of us.” Snow continued.

            “But, we have to take you to it.” Iris finished. “And it’s a surprise, so we have to blindfold you both.”

            Snow held up two blindfolds with a sheepish grin.

Mick sighed. At least he knew that Team Flash was the least shady of all the hero teams he’d met. If it were the Legends, he would’ve laughed in their faces.

            He and Barry tied the blindfolds and were led, hand in hand, out of the hanger and into a vehicle. He felt a head rest on his shoulder, felt Barry’s soft hair brush his cheek, and he smiled.

            “Awww, that little grin.” He heard Felicity coo. “Sorry! I know you’re Mr. Macho, and probably don’t want people knowing how cutely you smile whenever Barry does things…oh my god, you two are so in love, it’s adorable. Sorry.”

            Barry started chuckling near his ear, and Mick shook his head. “Is she always like this?”

            He felt Barry nod. “Yeah, pretty much.”

            They fell into a comfortable silence for about an hour, until the car slowed to a stop. His door opened, and a cold hand grabbed his arm to help him out.

            “Snart?”

            “Surprise, Mick.” He could hear the smirk in Leonard’s voice. “Me, Detective West, Queen, and Cisco had to drive ahead to make sure everything was ready for you two lovebirds.”

            Someone untied his blindfold, and what was in front of him stopped his heart.

            It was a farmhouse. Not as big or as grand as the one from his fantasy, but there was a porch large enough for a swing, and, from what he could see, miles of open land around them, with the exception of some stables. It was…perfect.

            “The farmhouse we hid out from Savage in …” He heard Barry gasp. His grip on Mick’s hand tightened.

            “I bought it.” Queen announced, his hand on Barry’s shoulder. “Snart told us all about how Mick used to live on a farm and missed the privacy of it, and I know that Joe doesn’t want the two of you living in your room at his house…”

            West snorted in agreement.

            “…so, Thea suggested we get you a house. John actually suggested this one, specifically. So, this is Team Arrow’s gift.”

            “Wow…” Barry exhaled. “This is…amazing.”

            “This isn’t even the best part.” Ramon grinned, stepping in front of them. “This way, please.”

            He led them up to the door, which, instead of a lock, had a glowing, blue pad. “Ginny,” Ramon said, his grin growing, “show them their house.”

            All of the lights flickered on, and the door opened slowly, Barry and Mick’s jaws dropping. “Welcome, Misters Rory.” Ginny greeted them.

Barry pursed his lips. “Hmmm…Barry Rory. Not sure how I like that. How about Mick Allen?”

            Mick chuckled. “We’ll talk about it later.”

            They walked into the house, already furnished with most of their belongings inside. He spied a picture of eleven-year-old Barry and Iris with Joe beside an even older picture of twenty-nine-year-old Mick, with a twenty-seven-year-old Leonard and a nine-year-old Lisa at one of her skating competitions she used to have, before Lewis broke her ankle and ruined her chances of going into the Olympics.

            “The entire house is completely automated and run by Ginny.” Ramon explained, leading them through the house to the large kitchen. “I set it up myself, with some help from Ginny herself.”

            “I talked him through all of it.”

            Ramon glared at the ceiling. “That’s enough out of you. Anyway, everything has been stocked and decorated thanks to your family and Caitlin. You’ll be able to check out the upstairs levels later for the rest of Team Flash’s gift.” He winked at them, and Leonard stepped up to take over.

            “Alright. We’re going back to the stables for the Legends’ wedding present. Really, it’s a bit shabby compared to the house, but Raymond came up with a pretty good gift.”

            They followed him out the kitchen door, giving Mick a better view of the backyard. It was a wide, open field. He didn’t know how many acres, but he could tell that it used to hold livestock. It had to stretch back pretty far. He pictured his dream—metahuman children running around, using their powers freely; corn mazes at Halloween; snowy Christmases.

            His heart warmed, and when he glanced over to his husband—husband, that was so much better than fiancé—there were happy tears tracking down his cheeks.

            “You can admire the view later.” Leonard called behind him. “This way, this way.”

            Mick rolled his eyes, but followed with the rest to the stable. He was not expecting what he found inside.

            “You put the Aeon in here?” His jaw dropped, looking over his ship. Leonard crossed his arms smugly.

            “Not only that, but we made the other stable a mechanic shed for you. You’ll have all the tools you’d need to fix the Aeon or your motorcycle or any vehicles you might…collect.”

            “Don’t even think about stealing a car, Rory.” West warned quickly.

            “Anyway, we all thought that you and Barry needed the ultimate honeymoon. So, Kid Flash is going to cover Central, you’re getting some shore leave, and you two get to go wherever and whenever you want. Mazel-tov.”

            Leonard did a half-hearted motion at the ship. Mick didn’t know what to say. Well, he wanted to tell them to all get lost so he could ravage his new husband in their new house before going on their fucking awesome honeymoon.

            Queen seemed to be the first to get this. “So,” he cleared his throat. “We hope you two liked all of your gifts.” He gave Barry a one-armed hug. “Congratulations. Thank you for helping with the aliens. Felicity and I need to head back to Star.”

            “What do you—?” Felicity started, before Queen gave her a meaningful nod. “OH! Yeah. We need to get going.” She pecked them both on the cheek. “Bye, Barry. Bye, Mick. Have fun on your honeymoon!”

            Queen pulled her out, leaving Barry and Mick with Joe and Iris West, Snow, and Ramon. The latter two each gave Barry hugs with whispered congratulations before following their friends. He hadn’t been expecting a hug from them, but Snow did give him a kind smile, which he returned as best he could.

            Iris came to him first, laying a hand on his shoulder. “Take good care of him, alright? He may not look like it, but he’s a handful.”

            “Iris!”

            Mick laughed. “I’ll watch out for him, don’t worry.”

            She nodded and moved on to her best friend, while Joe eyed him curiously. “I still don’t know what my son sees in you, or why, but…” he pulled a book out of his jacket, “Barry says you like to cook. So, here are our West family recipes you can make for him, or any of the small hoard of kids Barry wants to get one day.”

            If West was expecting Mick to react badly to the thought of kids, he was sorely disappointed. Mick’s smile grew, thinking of the future 2023 Barry told him they could have. He took the book with a nod.

            West stepped over to Barry next, pulling his son into his arms. “I love you, son.”

            “I love you too, Dad.” He heard Barry whisper back. When they finally pulled away, Barry had more tears down his cheeks. “Tell Wally I’ll bring him back something from whatever period we decide to visit.”

            West nodded. “I will. Have fun.”

            They left the stable to head for their car, each looking back with a smile only once.

            “So…” Mick smirked, stepping into his husband’s—god, he loved the sound of that—space. “What do you want to do now?”

            He wrapped his arms around Barry’s waist, pulling them flush together. “Well,” Barry wrapped his arms around Mick’s neck, “correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t there certain traditions we need to uphold?”

            Mick brought their lips together, passionately, but slow and deep. Barry moaned into his mouth, a small whimper escaping when Mick pulled away. “I can think of one we need to do now.”

            Without warning, he scooped Barry into a bridal carry. “Mick!” Barry laughed as his husband carried him across the field, towards the kitchen door.

            Mick just laughed along with him. First, he’d carry him over the threshold. Then, they’d spend the rest of the night christening every surface of their new house. Finally, the next morning, they would get on the Aeon and go whenever Barry wanted.

            The rest of their lives were theirs, and they were starting now.

Chapter Text

            Wally had been playing protector of Central City for less than a week when everything took a turn for the worst. Alchemy’s metas were popping up left and right, and they still had no idea who Alchemy was. At least Jay Garrick stopped by to advise and help him out in since Barry was still on his honeymoon.

            With Jay distracting Savitar, Wally was able to take the stone that gave the metas—that gave him —powers and knock out Savitar’s acolyte.

            When they found out it was Julian Albert, Barry’s lab mate that made him quit his job to protect Caitlin, they’d all been shocked. Though, not as shocked as he had been. Especially when they told him Barry was the Flash.

            Anyway, this happened and that happened, and they found out Julian’s stone—the Philosopher’s Stone—was how Savitar was able to show up the way he did.

Iris suggested they call Barry back from his honeymoon to help, but Wally refused. Barry was busy having fun and getting time off. He and Jay could handle things.

Jay suggested they open a portal and throw the stone into the Speed Force. That was where everything for Wally went wrong.

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He panted for breath as he dropped out of the Speed Force portal. Jay stood over him, a hand on his back, trying to comfort the young speedster.

            “What was that?” He demanded. “What the hell just happened?”

            Jay sighed, glancing back at where the portal had been. “The future. You ran into the future.”

            Wally swallowed hard. “I’ve never time-traveled before. I didn’t think I was fast enough.” His entire body was trembling, the scene he’d been forced to watch burned into his brain. “Jay…what I saw…is that going to happen?”

            The older speedster stared sorrowfully down at him. “I…I don’t know.”

            Wally closed his eyes, trying to relax, but all he could see was the future.

            He was in an alleyway, five months in the future. The Philosopher’s Stone was gone, and so was Jay. The sound of fighting and laserfire coaxed him out of the alley. Something was going down on Infantino Street.

            There was a news report going off at the bus stop a few feet away from him, but his attention was on the cries of pain, the screams, and the general fighting noises down the block.

            “No!” He heard someone howl. “For god’s sake, let him go! Kill me instead!”

 When he stepped out into the city square, he felt like he was going to be sick.

            Ray Palmer was sprawled out in front of him, a gaping hole in his chest where his heart used to be. Nate Heywood was a few feet away, an entire light pole shoved through his torso. A little bit away from them was Amaya Jiwe. Wally couldn’t tell how she’d died, only that her eyes were staring blankly at the night sky.

            Sara was on the other side of the square, her neck snapped at a sickening angle. A man, one who Wally didn’t recognize, wearing a long coat and a gun holster, was lying beside her, his throat slashed open. His hand was reached out for Sara, like in his last moments, he wanted her there with him.

            Professor Stein and Jax were both thrown on opposite sides of the square. Wally couldn’t tell if they were dead or unconscious—he wasn’t sure if he wanted to know. Standing at the end of all of the carnage was Savitar, holding another familiar figure in the air by his collar, taunting someone sprawled out on the ground in front of him.

            He could tell that both of Mick’s legs were broken. His heat gun was in pieces at Savitar’s feet. There was no getting away, no fighting. Savitar’s grip tightened.

            “Please…I’m beggin’ you…”

            But Savitar didn’t. His victim gave a weak smile. “Hey…I love you. Remember that. Remember that I love you so much.”

            He shook his head. “Dammit, don’t say that. You’re going to be alright. I’m not letting you die.”

            “After tonight,” Savitar growled, raising his blade, “my revenge on the Flash will be complete.”

            Then, ignoring his observer’s pleading, Savitar drove the blade through his victim’s chest. Mick screamed as Barry choked, his eyes not leaving his husband as the life slowly left his body.

Savitar dropped Barry’s body to the ground like he was nothing, before sauntering leisurely to Mick, still yelling for Barry to get up, to be alright, fighting to army crawl to his husband’s body.

            Savitar knelt down, his metal hand grabbing Mick’s face, forcing him to stare up into the blank, blue eyes of the helmet. “In time, you will forget. You will be better. You will be…beautiful.” Then, Savitar and Mick were both gone in a flash of white lightning.

            “I watched Barry die.” He gasped, on the verge of a panic attack. “And the Legends…Savitar massacred them. How? How is it that, in five months, Savitar can do all of that if the stone is gone?”

            “I don’t know.” Jay answered honestly. “But what you saw was only one of many possible futures. The choices we make shape the future. Going back to that time, or dwelling on what you saw isn’t going to help.”

            Wally collapsed to the floor, his head in his hands. It’d been so real. He’d watched Savitar murder Barry and take Mick. He’d seen all of the Legends—well, most of the Legends—slaughtered on the ground. How could he not dwell on that?

            Worse, how could he face Barry once he got back from his honeymoon, knowing in five months, he would be dead?

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EIGHT YEARS OF HEROISM

By Iris West                May 16, 2024

 

            What is a hero? For many cities, a hero is a local firefighter, a policeman, a teacher. Since the S.T.A.R labs particle accelerator explosion in 2014, Central City redefined the parameters of ‘hero’. An ordinary citizen, gifted extraordinary powers, who decided, instead of using them for personal gain, to protect this city as a guardian angel. The Flash was born.

            Bartholomew ‘Barry’ Allen was a hero to many. For three years, he sacrificed everything in his life to protect, not only Central, not even just our own Earth, but every Earth in the multiverse. It was known by all that Barry Allen never refused a cry for help, whether as a crime scene investigator of the Central City Police Department (CCPD) or as our city’s Scarlet Speedster.

            When, in 2017, the Flash fought his final battle, the multiverse lost a shining star. The entire city mourned, including the Rogues, who so famously fought him themselves. But, from the ashes, a new hero rose to take Barry Allen’s place. A new Scarlet Speedster took up the cowl, and, for the past eight years, has fought in Barry Allen’s honor for the city and the world.

            On this day, we thank The Flash for his brave fight, for taking on a mantle the city thought was lost forever, and we remember the hero we lost.