Barry hears Len's monologuing well before he's able to see him, his voice echoing through the stone hallways of the Keystone Iron Works, and Barry quickly turns off his comms before the team back at S.T.A.R. Labs can hear enough to recognize his voice.
"–wonder how many times," Len is saying as Barry gets close enough to hear clearly, "we can alternate our guns on you before you shatter into a few thousand pieces."
Barry pokes his head into the room Len's voice is coming from, and he really wishes he could be surprised to find Len and Mick standing over the bound and gagged form of Tony Woodward, but, well, he isn't. Mick had let him know, the day after Len had made off with the stupid diamond, that he hadn't gone far, so he'd known the asshole was in Keystone City, and he knew he'd been in contact with Mick. He hadn't known that Mick had forgiven him already for the fire incident, and he really hopes he hasn't forgiven him for the sole purpose of letting Len know about Barry breaking his hand on Tony's face, so he would come up with a way to take Barry's childhood bully down.
Here's the thing that Barry has been 'conveniently forgetting' to tell anyone in his life, save Iris, who had caught him out early on, but doesn't actually know exactly who everyone is: He's been sleeping with Leonard Snart and Mick Rory since he was eighteen, off and on.
It had happened the same way most things happened when it came to Barry or Iris and breaking rules: Joe had sat the pair of them down for another one of his 'I know what's best for you, now do as I say' speeches about a week after Barry's eighteenth birthday. (What they'd done that time, Barry has long since forgotten, though he's fairly certain it hadn't been particularly related to his following misdeeds.)
Barry, in a fit of teenaged anger and really shitty life choices, decided he needed to punish Joe for being the ever heartless parent by getting arrested. So he took a little walk after school to the worst part of Central City and spent a little too long loitering in the first convenience store he found, debating what he should steal (and probably trying to find some measure of his wilting courage, though he’s fairly certain he wouldn't have admitted to that at the time).
Turned out the store was owned by a branch of one of the Families, and the owner and his 'cousins' came out with guns in hand, spewing threats in Barry's general direction.
Barry, of course, booked it. Hadn't realized he was holding a candy bar until one of the 'cousins' fired a shot that sparked against the pavement next to him. Screaming and dropping the candy bar seemed like the best course of action, but it hadn't appeased the 'cousins', based on the next shot, which nicked Barry's right leg.
He hadn't noticed there was anyone else in view until he'd stumbled and fallen into warm, muscled arms, which caught him with a gentleness that few would equate with Mick. A lilting, smug voice started speaking almost as soon as Barry was caught by Mick, and while Barry never quite knew what Len had said, it was clearly enough to get the 'cousins' to pick up the abused candy bar and walk away without any further violence.
Mick and Len took him to a little bar close to where they'd saved him. Len took care of the bullet wound with clinical efficiency, while Mick got him a drink from the bar that burned the whole way down and left Barry coughing so hard, his eyes started watering. (Or, honestly, that may have been the shock finally wearing off a bit, because Barry started sobbing after that first swallow, terrified and full of so much regret. Len and Mick's silence seemed polite, at the time, but he would later learn that neither of them actually knew how to respond to someone breaking out into tears, and had just hoped he would sort himself out. Which he had, eventually.)
Once he stopped crying, Len spoke to him in a voice pitched low and warm in a way that – again, Barry would only learn much later – he usually reserved for his sister, Lisa, and got Barry to tell them...pretty much everything. About Joe's stupid overprotectiveness, his little speeches, Barry's poorly considered idea to punish him by committing a crime, his indecision when actually in the moment, and running scared when he saw the guns.
"Stealing," Len said once Barry fell silent, nervously rubbing his fingers against the glass Mick had brought him, uncertain if he was willing to drink any more, "will do far more to punish you than it will punish your foster father. He might be ashamed of you for a bit, but you'll be the one with the black mark on your name. And, kid, let me tell you: Once you get one black mark, that's all anyone will ever see of you."
"Listen t’yer dad," Mick added with a grunt, before taking the glass from Barry's hands and swallowing down the whole thing without flinching.
(Barry maybe, possibly, felt just a little bit hot under the collar at the sight.)
"At least about this," Len added with a roll of his eyes. Mick flashed him a wide, mean smile in response, and that was about the moment Barry realized he didn't know their names and asked. They traded quick looks that Barry wouldn't understand the significance of for months, then introduced themselves as Len and Mick, no last names. And Barry, who had still been way too innocent then – and maybe suffering from a minor case of hero worship, though he'd quickly learnt never to mention that where the pair of them or Lisa could hear – hadn't thought to question it, any more than he'd thought to question Len's rather wise answer about not committing crimes, or why the pair of them seemed so comfortable in Central's seedy side.
They accompanied him out of Family territory not long after that, early enough that Barry made it home before Joe, even with the wound on his leg. He got cornered by Iris and ended up telling her everything – she has always been his favorite audience, even when he knows she's only humoring his babbling about science and unexplained events, and he seriously misses being able to tell her everything – and they made a pact to never let Joe find out.
They all – Barry, Iris, Len, and Mick – thought that would have been the end of things. Except, well, Barry started having...dreams. The first one, in all fairness, was a terrifyingly vivid nightmare about his close call, and what would have happened if Len and Mick hadn't been there. Waking up and reminding himself that he was safe, that he had been saved, had helped him get back to sleep, but had also resulted in the sort of dreams that Barry occasionally had about Iris, or a couple of other girls in their grade who he maybe, possibly, had had tiny crushes on in years previous.
It was the first time he'd had one of those dreams about a male, never mind two of them, and while he'd been super embarrassed about it the first couple of times, he'd mostly accepted that he maybe wasn't as straight as he'd first thought by the end of the week. Enough that he went looking for more specific information about the mechanics, which Iris, of course, caught him at. (Because that had been, and is still, to a large degree, just how his life goes.)
Iris was the one to push him to go looking for Len or Mick again and fulfil a fantasy or two (because that was, apparently, what one was supposed to do when one turned eighteen, especially when one was male), so he went out the next Saturday Joe had to work, armed with a can of pepper spray – his idea – in one pocket, and an embarrassing number of condoms and a small thing of lube – both Iris' idea – in the other. He gave himself an hour to look before he would give it up as impossible, half hoping he wouldn't find either of them, and was promptly found by Mick after not even fifteen minutes, when he saved Barry from some crazy-eyed man who wasn't scared off by the pepper spray.
"Yer shittin' me," Mick said after Barry's attacker was laid out on the dirty street at their feet, apparently only just then recognizing Barry. "The fuck're ya doin' back here, kid?"
Barry honestly couldn't say how intelligible his response was, between the fear from suffering yet another attack on that side of Central, and the rush of embarrassed nerves that had hit him upon recognizing Mick.
Mick let out an annoyed grunt, then curled a warm, strong hand around Barry's nape – which, holy shit, still one of Barry's turn-ons – and used that touch to steer him into a bar a couple blocks further along, where Len had clearly been waiting for him. His response to seeing Barry was remarkably similar to Mick's, but he wasn't quite so forgiving of whatever response Barry managed to stutter out, cutting him off with a cross, "Short and sweet, kid, before I knock you out and have Mick dump you out back."
Barry wasn't certain if it was the idea of failing his objective after coming so close, or the thought of being left unconscious in an alley that had him blurting out, "I want to sleep with you."
After a brief silence, during which Barry very probably turned the same shade as a ripe tomato, Len scoffed and Mick made a joke about Len's pretty face, earning him a glare from Len. Clarifying that he'd meant both (or either, he wasn’t picky) of them shut Mick right up, leaving him blinking, while Len pinned Barry with a narrow-eyed look, which turned into a slow crawl down his body, then back up.
Barry felt inexplicably naked, uncertain if he was more turned on or embarrassed, and starting to wonder, a bit inanely, if it was possible for the floor to just swallow him up and save him from himself.
And then Len looked at Mick, raising one eyebrow, and there'd been a beat of silence before Mick said, "Yeah, alright."
"What?" Barry said. (Len swears he squeaked, like a terrified little mouse, but Barry refuses to accept that. If only because them arguing about it always has Lisa in stitches and results in Mick shoving their faces together until they're too busy kissing to talk.)
Long story short, Barry totally lost his virginity at a ratty little pay-by-the-hour motel a few blocks over, didn't regret it a bit, and became one of the very few people who knew that Mick and Len had been in a relationship for years.
Iris was, inexplicably, over the moon, and somehow managed to talk Barry into going back for a second time. (Something about him sighing like a love-sick fool? At least whatever gave away his distraction to her seemed to be too subtle for Joe to spot, because he never cornered Barry with probing questions about it.)
The second time wasn't any less embarrassing, but he had managed to avoid getting attacked on his way to the bar, and Len hadn't threatened him when he struggled to explain why he had a death wish that day. Had, instead, let out an amused snort after about five words, then pulled Barry down into the booth next to him. He was made to eat a lunch of greasy pub food with him and Mick, then they all retired to the same pay-by-the-hour motel.
Times three, four, and five went about the same, with his being made to join them for a meal being dependent on what time it was when Barry made it to that side of town. And always, he managed to make it home before Joe got off work, leaving Iris plenty of time to pester him for details. (He was fairly certain she learnt more about gay sex than Joe would ever approve of, which had seemed like it was as much fun as it was embarrassing, at the time.)
The sixth time, however, Barry was shown to the flat that he would think of as their home for quite some time. Len and Mick had been pretty clearly comfortable there, at least, enough so that they all ended up falling asleep on the bed, after they cleaned up the worst of the mess. By the time Barry woke back up, Len and Mick were insistent that it was way too late to be out on the streets, especially with Barry's luck getting attacked, so he'd stayed for a dinner made by Mick – watching him cook in nothing but an apron is still one of Barry's favorite things, as is watching Len call stage directions while Mick shoots him flat looks, and Barry uses the distraction to try and sneak a bit of food for both him and Len – then ended up falling asleep between the pair of them on the couch while some nature documentary or another played on the tv.
When Barry got home the next morning, wearing the day before's clothing and smelling like Len and Mick's shower gel, he found Joe waiting for him, bruises under his slightly wild eyes. Barry had about half a minute to feel like a complete heel, before Joe started in on him and it quickly became clear that Iris had told him that Barry was seeing someone. Two someones, even, because neither of them could hold out against Joe's particular brand of parental questioning, and Barry hadn't held that against her, even as he was being read the riot act by her father and she was suspiciously absent.
When Joe eventually said he would end up in a cell right next to his murderer father, too far gone in his anger to censor himself, Barry shouted, "Fuck you!" and rushed up to his room to pack a bag, then ran all the way back to the flat he'd spent the night in.
When Len opened the door to him, his expression was twisted with disgust and anger, and Barry burst into tears, honestly thinking he was about to be kicked out of the only other place he could think of to go. If not for Mick shoving Len out of the way and tugging Barry into the flat, he might well have returned to Joe's house and suffered his judgement, probably not tried to see Len and Mick again.
Mick didn't hug him, like Iris would have, and he looked distinctly uncomfortable in a way that Joe never had, but he kept a warm hand on Barry's shoulder while Len closed the door and stood next to it, radiating displeasure.
Once he calmed down enough to string a coherent sentence together, Barry quietly told his feet about Joe's blow up, about him using his dad against him, and him not wanting to go home.
Len brushed roughly past him and Mick while he was talking about Joe's bringing his dad up, vanishing into the kitchen without a word. If not for Mick squeezing his shoulder, Barry suspected he might have started crying again.
When he finished – had fallen silent, expecting to be told to go home – Mick let out a long breath of air, glanced back towards where Len was banging stuff in the kitchen, then turned back to Barry and said, "Let's clean out a drawer for yer stuff."
Mick got him back into the bedroom while Barry was crying in relief, and they'd only just started opening the drawers of the dresser, trying to figure out which would be the easiest to clean out, when Len walked in with a mug, which he handed to Barry a bit stiffly. "Hot chocolate," he explained in a halting voice as Barry took it, crossing his arms tight over his chest. "With little marshmallows."
The mug was so very warm in Barry's hands, the familiar scent of Swiss Miss filling his nose, though it was nearly impossible to see the drink under the mass of mini marshmallows floating on top, and it was that mug full of marshmallows that made him realize Len wasn't going to kick him out. (It was also the moment he started to figure out that Len, at least, didn't know how to deal with crying. Lisa, who he wouldn't meet for almost seven months, would be the one to verify that Len struggled with a large number of emotions, and eventually give Barry an idea of why the siblings were as broken as they were. Mick, he figured out far sooner, because living with the two meant he quickly became acquainted with his fire obsession, and Len had filled him in about Mick's family just so he knew how easily his distraction could become a hazard.) He thanked him, hugging the mug close, and Len gave a quick, slightly stiff nod, then took over making room for Barry's things.
While Barry kept seeing Iris at school, and received Joe's apology through her, he didn't go back to Joe's house or even see his foster father again until graduation weekend. And, even then, if it hadn't been for Len and Mick being unable to attend his graduation – and the subsequent explanation of exactly who they were and how much shit Barry would be in if anyone ever found out he was dating them – and Barry needing space from them to figure out how he felt about being in love with two of Central's most notorious thieves, he probably wouldn't have gone back to Joe's until he needed to pack whatever he was taking with him to college.
Being back at Joe's had been...awkward at first, both of them dancing around the proverbial elephant in the room. The day after graduation, Iris insisted they take a holiday to the beach, and something about being well out of Central City made it easier for them to sort things out. Joe wasn't happy when Barry refused to tell him anything about his boyfriends – he'd taken to calling them Micky and Lenny, desperately hoping Joe didn't think to equate the two childish names with the thieves on the CCPD's wanted list – but he eventually agreed to let it go when Barry managed to spin a lie about their families being way less forgiving of homosexuality than Joe was. (Because, of course it hadn't been that part that had set Joe on the warpath, but the polyamory aspect. Which he still seemed to be struggling with a bit, almost eight years on, and Barry didn't guess that refusing to introduce him to his boyfriends was helping, but he was trying. Barry could settle into that circumstance.)
The beach had also helped Barry settle his own heart and mind in regard to Mick and Len's night job. Which, really, he'd already known that they were criminals – neither of them had ever hidden Mick's being an arsonist, and they were both plenty willing to resort to violence, especially if Barry was in trouble – and he'd been halfway assuming they were members of one of the Families, though he'd never actually asked. (Hadn't really wanted to know, honestly.) Knowing that Joe would have to arrest them on sight if he ever met them didn't change how much he loved them both, and neither did the thought of that black spot on his record that Len had warned him about the day they'd met.
However, when they got back to Central City, the flat Barry had been living in had been abandoned, all of Len and Mick's belongings cleared out, and there had been no note left telling him where they'd gone. Heart sore, Barry had made the decision to attend Sun City University, instead of Keystone College, like he'd originally intended. And, as much as Joe and Iris had been sad to see him go so far away – as much as he hated to leave his father behind – they'd all agreed that he could use a few years away from Central City, especially after how stressful the spring had been.
Barry finally met Lisa Snart his second month in Sun City, huddling in the back of a bar that reminded him of Len and Mick's usual haunt (as much due to the bartender never carding him, as because of the general atmosphere and the area of town). She strolled through the door like she owned the place, an impressive amount of gold jewelry sparkling in the dim lights of the bar, and her smirk promising danger in the same way Len's always did. He'd seen a picture of her once, something that Len had always kept carefully slipped in a ratty pair of socks, where no one would likely think to snoop for it, and he recognized her from that as much as from her familiar smirk.
When he said her name – Lise instead of Lisa, because Len always referred to her by the former, when he mentioned her by name – she shot him a sharp look that was so much Len it ached, then flashed him a pretty smile that was nothing like her brother at all and slipped into the dark booth across from him. "Hello there, cutie," she said, sounding perfectly friendly, but there was a tightness around her eyes that Barry had seen a few too many times when Len had been thrown off his game.
"I'm Barry," he offered and, when that didn't get any sort of reaction, added, "I know Len and Mick."
She tilted her head to one side, expression thoughtful for a brief moment before her eyes widened and she gave him a narrow-eyed look-over. "Well, well. Never known Lenny to go for jailbait."
"I'm eighteen," Barry grumbled; he was already plenty familiar with exactly how great the age gap was between him and his boyfriends. (Ex-boyfriends, he'd thought at the time, and that had just made him slump a little lower in his seat, rubbing his thumbs over the edge of his beer's label.)
Lisa snorted, then left him to collect a drink from the bartender, before sliding right back into the bench across from him. She hadn't made any more jokes about his age, had instead asked what he was doing in Sun City, got him to start talking about his classes so that, by the time the greasy food he hadn't even realized she'd ordered arrived, he was sitting up in his bench again and gesturing with his hands in a way that – he would realize later that night, after he and Lisa had parted ways – he hadn't really done since he'd opened the door to the flat he'd started to think of as home and had found it empty. They ended up eating together, her telling him all about the local museums and jewelry shops when he'd run out of things to talk about. He huffed a bit and rolled his eyes, made a show of shoving his fingers in his ears when she started to tell him which shop she'd got one of her necklaces in.
(Her honest laughter, it turned out, was just as rewarding to earn as Len or Mick's.)
She started meeting him there every evening, both of them nursing drinks in the dark booth and picking at the greasy food that Lisa would order. It was during the second week that he learnt about Lewis, and he cried when she didn't, stoic in a way that broke his heart. Broke it even more when he realized how long he'd been ignoring the signs of Len's abuse, how Mick had some similar signs; how could he possibly profess to love them when he hadn't ever realized how much they were hurting?
When he asked Lisa that the next evening, already way too far into his drink by the time she got there, she sort of stared at him for a long moment, before sliding out of her side and stepping around to drag him out, then half carried him back to his dorm.
That following weekend, she dragged him to what she'd called her favorite of the local museums, going on about some recent jewelry exhibit or another, and dragging him straight upstairs to see it. Barry covering his ears and complaining about plausible deniability had already become a familiar joke between them by then, and she was letting out a delighted little laugh as they stepped into the slightly crowded room with the jewelry in question.
"Lise?" a familiar voice called, sounding confused, and then the crowd parted and Barry found himself meeting Len's familiar blue eyes, which were widening in surprise.
Lisa leant in and kissed Barry's cheek, whispering, "Have a good date," then shoved him at Len.
Len caught him when he stumbled and almost fell, his hold familiar and comfortable, and Barry gave in to the urge to wrap his arms around his neck and lean in for a kiss. (Given how Len overthought everything when given half a chance and Barry's own habit of stuttering and bumbling once his nerves kicked in, Lisa's little show and Barry's own compulsive action had probably saved them all manner of grief. Especially since Mick was nowhere in sight – was actually back at the flat he and Len were staying in, Barry later found out – and Lisa had made a quick escape.)
They ended up having a sort of date, touring a good half of the museum while they somewhat uncertainly caught up, both of them dancing around the topic they really needed to breech.
It was only over lunch that Barry finally found the courage to ask, "Why did you leave?"
Len went very, very still, head down so Barry couldn't quite make out his expression. Eventually, he blandly stated, "We couldn't continue to stay in that flat."
"You really thought I'd turn you in to Joe?" Barry somehow managed to ask, hurt.
Len looked up, then, surprise in his expression. "What? No!" Then he paused, took a sip of his drink. "I don't know," he admitted, and as much as that hurt, Barry was glad he wasn't being lied to. Len sighed, then, something pained about the twist of his lips. "Staying in one place is never safe, Barry. We've got enemies among the Families as well as trying to avoid the gents in blue. That flat...we were overdue to change."
Barry frowned and looked down at his food. "You could have left a note."
"How?" Len returned, the word just sharp enough that Barry flinched. Len didn't apologize, just clarified, "The only place we could reliably expect you to be was at West's house, and going to a badge's place... Better to just go straight to Iron Heights."
"And anything we left for you at the flat could have been found by someone else; if you want us to keep you updated about moving around, you need to leave us a secure way to reach you."
Barry was already pulling out his mobile before he really realized what he was about to do, but he didn't falter, instead opening the option where his mobile had its number displayed, then slid it across the table to Len. "Joe got it for me as a graduation gift," he explained as Len picked it up. Then he huffed a bit. "I think he was tired of not having a way to get in contact with me."
Len cast him a considering look. "We use burners, switch them out when things get too hot."
Barry swallowed; same way they didn't stay in the same flat for long. "So," he said, "you memorize my number and whenever you change it, you let me know. And Mick can do the same, right? Then I don't have to hope I run into your sister again to find out where you've got to."
Len huffed at that. "I can't believe you talked Lisa into dragging me here to help her get those ugly bracelets."
Len shot him a flat look.
"I was as surprised as you were! The only reason I came with her today was because she won a bet."
Len sighed a bit and slid Barry's mobile back to him, then pulled out a low-tech mobile and started typing on it. After a moment, Barry's mobile dinged with a new text from an unfamiliar number, which said, 'She played us both.'
Barry snorted at that, because it was both true and completely Len's own fault. Then he sent back, 'Wanna play Mick?'
Len's wide grin in response – as well as Mick giving them both hell for going on a date without him – eased something in Barry's chest that he hadn't even realized was strained. Barry unofficially moving in with them by the end of the month – only bringing the essentials, with most of his things remaining in his dorm room – soothed the last of the uncertainty between them, and when they moved to a new flat less than a month after, he helped them pack up and move the three suitcases of belongings that were too important (read: had sentimental value) to leave behind.
With Len and Mick no longer hiding parts of themselves from Barry, he quickly became way too familiar with their criminal habits, to the point that covering his ears when he'd catch lunch with Lisa during the times she was in town just seemed ridiculous. (Not that it hadn't been ridiculous before that, but at least before he'd been able to claim he didn't regularly find building blueprints or guard schedules spread over various flat surfaces in his home, with notes written in Len's careful penmanship as to the best time or direction to sneak in wherever.)
That said, there were some benefits to living with a couple of criminals. Like, Barry got very good at reading blueprints, as well as understanding the various codes Len would write and speak in when communicating with his crew of the month; he was taught how to pick locks and drive and hotwire a car by Len, because those were apparently super important skills for everyone to have; and Mick ensured he knew enough dirty fighting to keep himself alive the next time someone tried to mug him, since he had no interest in carrying a gun with him. (Len and Mick had also ensured Barry knew how to shoot, which he was kind of glad to say he'd been taught by Joe when he was sixteen, because he didn't really want to know what his boyfriends had in mind to teach him.)
On the flip side, both of his boyfriends seemed to get something out of Barry's studies. Len liked to steal his reading for his criminology classes, and occasionally helped him with his homework. (Which Barry didn't really need, but appreciated anyway, even if he knew part of Len's 'helping' was him trying to find new ways to stump the law.) Mick, meanwhile, had shown a great deal of interest in chemistry after the first time Barry mentioned he knew a formula for a chemical explosion. He'd asked for the specifics, somehow procured the necessary chemicals – Barry never asked how, was pretty sure he was better off not knowing – and then dragged Barry out to one of the abandoned warehouses that lingered on the edges of the city, where they could safely blow chemicals up whenever one of them felt like they needed to. (Such as, near the end of Barry's final year, exploding his thesis, which had been even more cathartic than turning it in to his advisor.)
Len, Mick, and Lisa – well disguised and taking pains to avoid Joe and Iris – all attended his college graduation, and Lisa somehow talked Len and Mick into posing with Barry for a couple of pictures, one of which was Barry's mobile background for a while. (It was eventually replaced by a picture of the three of them and Lisa all wearing plastic disguise glasses and moustaches with fedoras. Which had come about by Barry finally winning a bet with Lisa, and the pair of them cajoling and threatening Mick and Len into playing along. His lock screen, however, has always been photo of him, Joe, and Iris, because that's a far safer photo for random people to see when the power button gets pressed.)
When he returned to Central City after college, Len and Mick weren't far behind. And while they only stayed long enough to ensure Barry knew where all their safehouses were and to pull a job, they didn't stay away for long. And, honestly, by that point, Barry had settled into having a couple of thieves who moved around a lot as boyfriends. He'd also, as soon as he got the job at Joe's precinct, become extremely good at wiping down whatever safehouse he'd been staying in when he moved, so there was no trace that he'd ever been there. Len and Mick, sure – anyone who dug deep enough would eventually find one of their names attached to the lease to the place – but if Barry was discovered consorting with wanted criminals, he would suffer far worse than losing his job.
So he practiced his skills as a crime scene investigator by trying to find traces of his living in whatever safehouse he'd just vacated, and probably taught Len and Mick (and Lisa, to a lesser extent) a little too much about what, exactly, he was trained to look for in terms of evidence, as well as the many ways to both dispose of said evidence, and keep anyone from realizing any evidence had been disposed of.
All of that, of course, changed when he got stuck by lightning. According to Mick – who had been the only one of his criminals he'd been able to get back in contact with when he'd woken up, because Len had stopped updating his turned off mobile with his and Lisa's new numbers shortly after the fire incident that'd had him breaking from Mick – him and Len had been able to sneak into the hospital, but they hadn't figured out how to safely sneak into S.T.A.R. Labs after Barry'd been moved there. Not having access to him, they'd packed up his things and left them in the break room of Jitters for Iris to take home – which Iris had been quick to verify, as well as asking why he'd had so few belongings with him, despite having been living with his boyfriends for at least three years, by her count – then skipped town to go steal enough stuff to have a healthy little nest egg in case Joe hadn't been able to cover whatever costs S.T.A.R. Labs had tried to cite.
Except Barry hadn't woken up, and the money got spent, and they pulled a few more jobs, getting more and more distracted and on edge every day there was no news, until a fire had completely torn them apart.
"Not yer fault," Mick was quick to tell him, before Barry could fully start to blame himself for everything falling apart. "Lenny and me fall apart sometimes, it happens. He'll come back eventually with some sorta gift, grovel a bit, and I'll fuck 'im 'til he's seein' stars."
Barry snorted at that, because that absolutely sounded like the pair of them. His idiots.
"But, Barry," Mick added, pinning him with the sort of sharply-intelligent look that few had ever been on the receiving end of, because he got way too much pleasure out of playing the idiot to Len's genius, "don't ya go makin' it easy fer 'im. He went back on his word t'you, same as he left me high 'n dry. Make 'im work fer it."
Despite Mick's words, Barry'd been half thinking to go easy on Len anyway. And then his idiot boyfriend had shot ice at him. Multiple times.
(Not that he'd known it was Barry behind the mask, especially since he'd started vibrating his voice and face as soon as he'd recognized Len at the armored car. But still.)
With Mick’s suggestion to make Len work for it in mind, Barry announces himself just as Len is raising his gun to point at Tony by saying, "If this is your way of trying to impress me, news flash: I'm not."
Len spins to face Barry with none of the affected flair that he usually adopts when he isn't in one of the safehouses. "Ba– Scarlet!" he calls, and Barry had to give him points for coming up with a name other than 'the streak' to keep his identity a secret in front of Tony.
Mick grunts and waves a gun that vaguely recalls Len's stolen cold gun, with red highlights instead of blue. "Flamethrower," he says by way of explanation. Which, Christ, no wonder it hadn't taken Len long to get back in Mick's good graces.
Barry huffs a bit and steps properly into the room, then leans back against the wall and stares at Len. "Tell me you're not killing Tony Woodward as some sort of gift."
Len tilts his head to the side ever so slightly, clearly considering that. "Actually," he announces, a slight drawl dragging at each word, "I was going to kill him for breaking your hand."
Barry sighs, remembering with distressing clarity one point early on in their relationship when a druggie had pulled a knife on Barry and Len, nearly nicked Barry, and Len had responded by snapping the guy's neck. "And what's your punishment for icing me?" he has to ask.
"Public grovelin'," Mick is quick to say, and Len's face twitches, like he wants to shoot Mick a betrayed look, but is holding back for whatever reason. (Admitting Mick is right, if only to himself, or trying to save face in front of Tony or Barry, for whatever ridiculous reason, most likely.)
"Tempting," Barry admits.
"I could hunt down all your childhood bullies," Len suggests, the words rushed just enough that it's clear he doesn't want to do any groveling in public.
(To be fair, Barry doesn't really want him to do that, either. Too much chance of the cops nabbing him, not to mention the questions he'll get – either as the Flash or as Barry – about why Leonard Snart is apologizing to him.)
"Len," Barry returns, flat and unimpressed, because why.
(Okay, he knows why: Stealing shiny objects and protection disguised as violence against wrong-doers are the two ways Len has for showing he cares. Having one of Barry's childhood bullies tied up behind him is clearly tilting the scales towards the latter.)
"Would you rather have the Kahndaq Dynasty Diamond?" Len asks, then flashes Barry a wide, slightly mean smirk, because Barry has a long history of refusing gifts he knows are stolen. (If he doesn't find out they're stolen until after accepting them, he usually just keeps them, because it's too much effort at that point to make Len take it back.)
Barry opens his mouth to reply with something more rude than unimpressed, before it occurs to him what he can make Len do. "No," he says, and something in his voice or what little of his face can be seen has Len stiffening, "but I would like you giving it back to the museum. Sneak it back in undetected, even. Without help."
Mick chortles and flashes Barry a wide, approving grin.
Len huffs and scowls and makes a show of picking at the fake fur of his frankly ridiculous parka. (Barry has half a mind to make him wear it the next time they have sex, which should really feel more wrong than it does. But, then, he knows Len well enough to expect he's already got a few ideas of ways to have sex with Barry while he's wearing his suit; Mick certainly did. Which Cisco is never finding out, especially after his reaction to Bette blowing the suit up.)
"Fine," Len says at last, after Barry's had ample time to change his mind and hasn't. And then, before Barry can borrow his smirk for more than a heartbeat, he waves his gun at Tony (who's been watching everything with wide eyes, instead of doing the smart thing of running like hell; not that Tony was ever smart) and says, "We're still turning this little bastard into a science experiment."
Barry wants to argue, he really does, but Len's employed 'The Science Excuse' – coined as such by Lisa, because she and Len decided that the phenomenon deserved a proper title, and she’d won the naming challenge on account of Len always letting her win – which means that, if he can make a reasonable argument for turning a crime into a science experiment, Barry will let him do it without complaint. And Barry's already heard enough of his pitch to know he's going to win this one.
(His team is going to have so many questions. On the other hand, maybe he won't have to keep punching that stupid steel dummy if there's no Tony to fight.)
So he sighs and tugs his mask back so he can rub at his face – Tony's not going to be alive long enough to tell anyone who he is, and the choked noise he lets out is strangely satisfying – then agrees, "Fine. If you could at least try to keep his head in one piece, so I can use it as proof of death, I'd appreciate that." And, yes, he's just uttered that sentence; he supposes having a couple of violent criminals as lovers had to ruin his morals eventually.
"No promises," Mick rumbles before Len can start making any, and Tony makes a terrified noise behind his gag.
Rather than staying to watch, Barry pulls his cowl back on and speeds back out of the room and down the empty halls to just inside the building's doors, where the sounds of Len and Mick torturing Tony are distant enough that the mic shouldn't pick them up. Then he turns back on his comms, makes a couple of excuses about interference – Cisco starts muttering about fixes he can make to the part in his suit – then describes the room he'd found his boyfriends and Tony in as best he can, leaving the people out. He trades a couple of ideas with Cisco, Caitlin shooting down one that even Barry can admit is careless, then says he'll poke around the area a bit more, hopefully get another idea of where Tony might be.
"I promise I won't engage with him right now," he promises at last.
There's a brief silence, then Caitlin says, "I guess that means you've calmed down a little bit?"
Barry clears his throat and is really glad neither of them can see his nervous shifting; he's well aware that he has no poker face when he's lying on the spot. (Keeping a lie going once he had is sorted out, sure, he can usually manage that – Len had made certain of that, especially given how Barry calls a cop his foster dad – but he isn't so good at flying by the seat of his pants.) "I ran off my anger?" he tries, though it's less than he's run it off, and more that he knows Tony won't be threatening Iris again, not once Len and Mick are done with him.
Caitlin just hums in response and suggests Barry not stay in Keystone too much longer, so they can call in the local police to check the place out and collect whatever evidence there might be. (Barry barely manages to bite back a mad little giggle.) Cisco chimes in with a promise of a better idea than the steel dummy when Barry gets back – at least his grimace puts in an end to the urge to giggle – and Barry promises he'll be back soon, then turns his comms back off.
The torture sounds seem to have stopped, so Barry races back to the room his boyfriends are in. Tony is clearly dead, little shards of metal scattered across the floor, while his skeleton and innards are in the process of being charred by Mick, his expression that same level of intent he gets when he's helping Barry mix another chemical explosion. They did manage to leave a little more than half his head in one piece, the showing skull a little charred, and Barry grimaces even as he makes a mental note to find something to wrap it in so he can safely take it back with him.
Len is leaning against the wall in the spot Barry had taken before, and before Barry can decide if he'd rather walk around him and lean on the wall beside him, or retreat to the wall on the other side of the doorway, Len catches him around the waist and tugs him against his chest. His goggles are down around his neck, so there's nothing hiding the way he can't quite meet Barry's eyes as he quietly says, "I'm sorry. For the ice. I never intended to hurt you."
Barry huffs, but doesn't try to get away, just replies, "You fully intended to hurt the Flash."
The wince is there-and-gone so fast, Barry isn't certain he'd have noticed it if not for his speed. But then Len is flashing him a smirk that's about nine tenths chaos and he says, "The Flash, is it? Are you intending to run around without the suit, then?"
It takes a moment, but Barry does get the implication. And while his first reaction is to race out of Len's grasp and tell him off, time dilates just enough to rethink that, and he flashes Len a bright grin and says, "Are you saying you're willing to share me?"
And then he speeds out of Len's arms and over to Mick's side, delighting in the half-strangled, half-enraged, "Barry!" Len sends after him.
Mick looks up from his fire at the sound, blinks at Len's grasping hands and strained expression, then at where Barry is standing next to him, smug, and snorts, then turns off his gun. "Still in the doghouse, Snart," he tells Len, before grabbing the back of Barry's neck – heat shudders down his spine – and tugging him into a kiss.
"So," Mick says, voice pitched low so Len won't be able to hear, "if I bring 'im home, you gonna stay the night at yer dad's?"
Barry takes a (very long, to him) second to consider that, before deciding, "He's on the couch until the diamond's back at the museum."
Mick's grin is manic and approving, and Barry's glad to know that Mick might have forgiven Len easily enough, but he's not going to get in the way of Barry's own revenge. Which, well, given Mick had been the one to tell Barry not to make it easy for Len, he hadn't thought there'd be a problem, but it's always nice to have proof.
When Barry finally leaves them with the remains of Tony's head – kindly wrapped in a plastic sheet Len had unearthed – Len is definitely pouting, while Mick's expression is so smug, Barry half expects him to have a bruise from Len punching him by the time they all make it back to the flat of the week in Central.
(In the end, it takes Len a little over a week, but he does manage to replace the diamond without being caught or needing anyone's help. The police and museum curator are utterly stumped, Len is finally allowed back into the bedroom, and Barry absolutely gets his sex while Len's wearing the parka.)