The kid in the photo looks young. Exceptionally young – early twenties at best, with ruffled hair and a certain curve to his lips that makes him look ever so innocent in a way that he hasn’t seen for a while.
“His name is Barry Allen,” Eddie informs him, spreading the portfolio across his desk with pride – a justified amount of pride, perhaps. His partner has worked damn hard to bring all this to light, “twenty four, born in Central City and never left. His father murdered his mother in front of him when he was eleven years old, and after that we’ve no record of him until-“
Until three days ago. When Barry Allen, he of the ruffled hair and red lips, walked into a bank and walked out again with about a million in cash before the guards on the building could do more than give a confused yell.
“Good work,” he says gruffly, and watches Eddie beam. He’s a nice guy, is Eddie – he sometimes feels a tiny bit guilty that he was paired with him, instead of anybody actually encouraging, “do we have any leads? Any known associates or habits?”
“As I said, we’ve got no record of him,” Eddie offers, beam immediately falling off his face. Sometimes, just sometimes, it’s like working with a puppy – a shame, considering that he’s always been a cat kind of person, “but we think we may have found something. See photograph number five?”
He shifts through several shots of the crime scene, blurry security tapes taken firmly from the bank, pauses when he finds what Eddie means. A security camera shot of a coffee shop, full of bustling and bleary eyed people. In the corner a girl, smirking and of much the same age as Barry, leans covertly over a hooded figure. The figure’s face is almost entirely covered, but the quirk of those lips…
“Where was this taken?” He asks, examining them for perhaps longer than necessary. He’s always been thorough; Mick calls it a curse.
“Jitters, a coffee shop downtown,” Eddie pauses for a second, as if debating the virtues of a sales pitch on cut price coffee, mercifully shakes his head and carries on before he has to clear his throat, “what’s more important is who he’s with.”
He studies the photograph for another minute, carefully. Drags his eyes away from Barry’s lips – ever so red and fresh, now he pays attention to them – and examines the girl. Her smirk, her long hair, the odd familiarity of her face…
“That’s Iris West,” Eddie offers, a second before he comes up with the answer. When he looks up, the guy is looking dreamy in a way that he barely manages to hide a smirk at, “daughter of Joe West, the man we’ve been trying to catch for years. And I’m thinking that if we catch Allen, we also catch…”
“West,” he says thoughtfully, and returns his gaze to the photograph – to Barry’s lips, bitten and red in the centre of his vision “…Good work, Thawne.”
“We think he’s a meta.”
He pauses for a second, in the middle of pulling his parka on, gives Cisco a long look. They’ve worked together for months now, often with high success rates, but he has the feeling that they’re never really going to understand each other, “the mayor of Central City, or…?”
“Barry Allen,” Caitlin, far more sensible and thus far easier to actually understand, takes over – giving him a sympathetic glance as she trots into the room, “your bank robbery suspect. The one you told us about yesterday?”
Ah, yesterday - when he had to face down a man with playing cards for skin. You can say a lot of things about this job, but sensible is not one of them, “I remember. Why do you think he’s a meta?”
“Because it’d be impossible for an average human to do what he did,” Cisco, ever enthusiastic Cisco, blurts – waves his arms, with the usual cheery joy that only he seems able to summon over ridiculous supervillains with absurd powers, “One, nobody normal could carry a million dollars out by themselves at once. Two, nobody non-powered could get past that many guards without sustaining at least a little damage. Three, only somebody insane or with superpowers would dare to rob Pieria bank. And four-“
“We caught him on camera,” Wells, and damn did he hope to avoid that guy and the ever disapproving purse of his lips, interrupts – wheeling into the room with a cold arch of his eyebrow, “one moment he was innocently standing near the doors like any other street gawper, the next he was blurred. Almost as if-“
“He has super speed,” he offers thoughtfully, and watches Wells’ face curdle – thinks of Barry’s red, metahuman lips as an antidote, “interesting.”
“Hey, bro. Catch any freaks today?”
Lisa discovered that he’d gained superpowers before he did, technically. She’d blagged her way into the lab to see him, when he was still unconscious and lightning burnt, and had then allowed her natural instincts to take over. She’s always been nosy, has his little sister – always fond of poking her nose in where it doesn’t belong. It’s almost endearing, most of the time – when she’s not constantly asking him to cool down her sodas.
“You let her in again?” He asks Mick, sprawled out on the sofa in his usual post-work position, as he dumps his coat, “haven’t we talked about this, multiple times?”
“She offered to bake me a pie, man,” Mick, his best friend for reasons that he still has trouble grasping, grunts. His eyes remain fixed on the generic cooking programme on the television, his face doesn’t twitch otherwise. Mick is addicted to cooking programmes. He’s always thought that somewhat disturbing – considering his work in the forensics department, and his speciality in arson – but the apartment hasn’t burnt down yet and so he’s willing to give it a pass, “what could I do?”
“Remember that my little sister can’t bake, would be a start,” he murmurs, but lets it go for now. Lisa is staring at him expectantly, that’s never a good sign, “no, Lisa, no metas today.”
“Not even one?”
“Not even one who could make his ears go green.”
Lisa pouts, in that same way that she always does when an openly ridiculous thing is denied to her. It’s ridiculous, it’s deliberately ridiculous and he has to bite back laughter whenever he sees her use it on anybody else, But… Well.
Somehow it still gets to him. A side effect of them being the only reliable people in each other’s lives for so long, he thinks. He sighs, offers up a single titbit that hopefully won’t cost him too much, “we have identified a new meta, though. He has super speed, used it to rob a bank downtown.”
“Which bank?” Mick asks, attention still fixed – at least nominally – on salmon being grilled over an open fire.
…The twin wide-eyed stares he gets, Mick actually bothering to turn around, are almost satisfying. He smiles, just a little, shrugs one shoulder as he toes off his shoes and heads for the kitchen.
“Is he nuts?” Mick explodes, angry and puzzled as he’s almost reached the threshold.
“Maybe,” he yawns, teetering on the edge.
“Is he cute?” Lisa demands, eyeing him with a certain look in her eyes that convinces him, above all else, that her plans to set him up with somebody as ‘weird and freaky’ as him haven’t yet taken the natural course of fading away.
“…Yes,” he gives, smirks at Mick’s baffled gawp and heads ceaselessly for the cold beer calling his name.
Lisa, generally among the most sensible of people, has one fatal weakness: she thinks that he’s lonely. For years, as long as he can remember, she’s been trying to set him up with whatever strays crossed her path. The girl in middle school who he briefly worked with on a science project, his locker mate in high school with the long hair and the annoying habit of popping her gum, even one of his instructors at the police academy who seemed to make it her mission to glare at him every time he crossed her path. Had she a heartbeat, Lisa was there.
He expected things to slow down, at least a little, when he finally got around to informing her that women weren’t exactly his area - but, no, if anything her efforts only intensified. She whispered so loudly about the cute bartender at his favourite coffee shop that he had to stop going there out of sheer kindness, she kept staring so intensely at his last partner – before Eddie – that he’s pretty sure that the poor man jumped in front of a bullet mainly because of her, she once physically shoved him into a fireman that he briefly glanced at one day. Be he visibly alive, Lisa was visibly determined.
…He’s pretty sure she was only so enthusiastic about him moving in with Mick, due to cheap rent and the need to have somebody who wouldn’t mind him tramping in at all hours of the night, because she was already planning their wedding for some point at the future.
And, you know, it’s usually annoying. He’s a grown man, ten years older than his precocious little sister. He’s perfectly capable of conducting his own romantic relationships. He can do what he wants, go where he wants, pick up whoever he wants. He needs no help, no interference and certainly no set-ups from anybody. Let alone a pest who insists on him keeping her ice tray filled at all times.
But now, as he lies in his lumpy bed and allows himself to call up the image of Barry Allen - red lipped and laughing – in his mind…
Well, he supposes that he wouldn’t really mind being set-up. Just this once.
“I’ve been looking up similar robberies in the past few months,” Eddie greets him a few days later. Bright eyed and bushy tailed, bouncy in a way that he never really thought possible at this time.
Generally he’s fairly, if not cheerful, alert in the morning – but last night he had to stop a robbery by a bullet proof man, “Mister Element!” As Cisco had so cheerfully termed him, and so he’s not at his best. He frowns for a moment, until he realizes what Eddie’s saying – then sighs, and shakes his head. He really should’ve let Lisa load him up with more coffee, “and?”
Eddie looks concerned – but, thankfully, knows better than to poke his head in where it doesn’t belong. It’s a good thing, that he hasn’t met Lisa yet. He’s pretty sure that the two would destroy each other within seconds, “there are three robberies that match the MO of our current one perfectly, two that have certain striking similarities.”
“All were committed in the middle of the day, all of heavily guarded properties. All reported vast amounts of money, or valuables, stolen but no viable way they could’ve been carried from the scene. And all were of the elite of Central City, or the places where the elite frequent,” Eddie stares at him expectantly, he has to offer up a small smile – this cuts down the amount of work that he has to do considerably, “and all but the first two, the suspect ones, reported no injuries.”
He blinks for a second, still catching up.
He chuckles to himself, because a meta who doesn’t kill people is a rarity so sweet that it just has to be savoured… Coughs and carries on, before he looks too odd chuckling away like a madman in the middle of the station, “were the injuries at the first two severe, done with malicious intent?”
“Uh,” Eddie looks puzzled for a second, but checks his notes anyway – an obedient boy, is Eddie, he has the feeling that he’s going to go far, “a guard from the first robbery is still in a coma, but from the report – which says that he tripped and slammed his head into a doorframe – it sounds like that was mainly an accident. The only other injuries reported were a few sprains and one broken ankle, and all of those sound pretty… Well, incidental.”
“Not brutal?” He asks, thoughtfully.
“The opposite, if anything.”
“Hm,” he says, and allows himself to smile – just slowly, just a little smugly – yet again, “how very interesting. Keep up the good work, Thawne.”
“You want to talk to him,” Wells says flatly, staring at him in that very specific way that says he’s an idiot so clearly that he might as well have yelled it in his face.
“Yes,” he responds levelly, and gives a small smile. He thinks Wells is a control-freak dick, anyway, so the man’s opinion matters very little to him – just another shot fired in the ever intensifying polite war that’s been going on since they met, “look, the information that my partner has given me is clear – he’s not aggressive, he’s not murderous and he doesn’t seem to want the end of humanity itself. I think he can be reasoned with.”
“He has stolen several million, possibly billion, dollars,” Wells continues, just as flatly. His lip, already arched in a subconscious sneer, has started to twitch in something like rage, “he has ruined people’s lives.”
“I agree with Len,” Caitlin offers, somewhat unexpectedly. She stands behind the command station, arms crossed over her chest and lips pursed in that specific way that means she’s not backing down – he likes her best, when she’s like this, “he’s not vicious, or brutal, or anything like some of the people we’ve faced. We might be able to convince him to stop ‘ruining people’s lives’, if we actually try.”
“And he’s hasn’t been ruining anybody,” Cisco pitches in, completely unexpectedly. He keeps his head down – but he can see, with the benefit of long years of reading people, the stubborn tension in his shoulders, “look at the list of people and places he’s robbed. Pieria Bank, Heather Charlton, Benjamin Lyle – what do they all have in common?”
Wells’ mouth sets into a mulish line, Wells seems determined to look anywhere but at him. That, to his mind, seems like a good sign.
“…Benjamin Lyle was in the papers a few years ago,” such a good sign that he feels compelled to offer himself up, use his detective skills just to rub that salt in a tiny bit more, “linked to several high profile cases of human trafficking. He was cleared of all charges, of course, but it’s always been rumoured that he bribed the jury.”
“And Heather Charlton…” Caitlin follows just after him, bites her lip in deep thought, “wasn’t she married to that same judge? And I’ve heard a lot of whispers that she’s the reason nobody was convicted of embezzlement in Central City for five years.”
“Yeah,” Cisco says triumphantly, looking like he wants to pump his fist. At present moment, with Wells looking on the edge of an explosion, he can’t really blame him, “and Pieria bank-“
“Is where both of those people store most of their ill-gotten gains,” Wells interrupts, in a tone that suggests that somebody is trying to pull his teeth, “and has, itself, attracted several rumours of less than legal practices in the past few years.”
“All of the victims are linked,” Caitlin breathes, then beams like she’s just been handed the very juiciest of prizes, “and all of the victims are corrupt. He’s not doing this for selfish reasons, he’s doing this because he wants to make the world better.”
“And doesn’t want to let anybody else get hurt along the way,” he offers wryly, and receives a bouncing nod of joy in response. This is why Caitlin is his favourite, she’s supportive in a way that doesn’t make him want to jump out of a window, “it might be wishful thinking, but it’s worth a try. If we can appeal to his morals, convince him that he doesn’t have to keep doing this-“
“Offer him our help!” Cisco nods fiercely, looks so cheerful that he just has to quirk a smile in response, “make him feel that he’s not alone!”
“-Then we could gain a powerful ally, as opposed to another prisoner or a dead body in the morgue,” he finishes triumphantly, makes sure to stare Wells down. The man, he notes with pleasure, is starting to look somewhat like a prune, “unless you want another corpse, of course…”
“My sensors tell me that an intruder has just entered Frederica Donner’s apartment,” is his only reply, his wheelchair squeaking as he yanks violently away, “I suggest you try your theory there, if you must.”
“Okay,” Cisco complains from the speaker, “how come she gets to drive you and I’m stuck here listening?”
“Because I was in the area,” Lisa yells brightly, and takes a turn so sharp that he briefly starts composing his will in his head, “and I’m a far, far better driver than you’ll ever be, Cisco Ramon.”
“Because she was spying on us,” he corrects gently, and braces himself for another corner – hissing air through his teeth as the car briefly teeters on two wheels, “And she has no respect of the Highway Code to slow her down. Useful, when we’re trying to find a meta with super speed.”
“Indeed, Mr Snart,” Wells, tone so dry that it calls to mind a desert, agrees softly – Lisa makes a face as she spins the wheel again, he mirrors it as he grips the edges of his seat, “thankfully you’re almost at your location, and the sensors show that the intruder is still present if moving.”
“That would make sense,” he nods, carefully leans sideways as Lisa slams her fist into the wheel and swears violently at a passing bus, “he’s taking the loot to a safe location, presumably. Methodical, neat. Is there anything I should know, before I go blundering into any private guards or painful security precautions?”
Wells, it seems, has a penchant for sending him into such situations. It’s lucky that his powers make him very hard to injure, few things can touch him with the help of the ice, or he’d probably be laid up for life.
“I’ve diverted the alert here, and shut off all potentially dangerous reactions. You don’t have to worry, mr Snart,” Still, Caitlin and Cisco are currently watching and even Wells seems a little scared of his little sister. He’s going to take that assurance on faith, this time, “Frederica Donner is the current heir to a prominent jewellery business, and is one of those who escaped embezzlement charges several years ago thanks to Ms Charlton’s ex-husband. She’s also a longstanding client of Pieria bank, I imagine Mr Allen must’ve picked up her details when he visited.”
“That, or he already knew her from the gossip rags,” Cisco interrupts, still sounding somewhat sulky, “she’s a regular feature, invited to all the high flying parties and galas… Despite the fact that she’s been accused of corruption several times, and her business has been accused of some seriously shady practices.”
“Bribery, gun running, rumours of slavery…” Caitlin makes a tiny, disgusted sound down the phone. He can sympathise with that, “are we sure that we shouldn’t let him rob her?”
“Alas, that goes against our carefully guarded set of morals,” he offers wryly, and twitches his head to the side just before it impacts the window and gives him a concussion that’ll last for… Hours, probably, given his body’s general approach to things after the lightning strike, “are we close, Lisa? We wouldn’t want to lose him by-“
“I don’t have accidents,” Lisa smirks, fiercely, and stamps so hard on the breaks that he almost goes soaring forwards anyway – bless his little sister, her regard for his physical safety has always been slim at best, “we’re here, try not to die!”
Frederica Donner lives in the penthouse, right at the top of a very high apartment building. Before his powers, before he even knew that superpowers existed, he would’ve had to waste time very slowly marching up the stairs and very laboriously knocking at the door and requesting entrance. Now, with mask and parka firmly in place, it’s simply a matter of climbing out of the car and edging around the building – squinting upwards until he determines the optimal position.
He was never one of those kids who dreamed of flying. He feels kind of guilty about that, now. What he has isn’t quite flight, but is close enough to be functionally identical at times. He simply has to tense his legs, jump up… And the ice takes care of the rest, gliding him up the side of the building until he can catch the rail of Donner’s balcony, pull himself over as smoothly as that.
“I’m in,” he says into the earpiece. Examining the posh patio furniture, the casually opened door, with a certain amount of scorn.
“He’s in the kitchen, to the left when you enter,” Wells gives him, sounding begrudging. Wells never likes any of his tricks. He’d be disappointed, but he’s never been the type of person who needed breathless adoration, “if he’s smart he’ll be wondering why the cops haven’t responded yet. I suggest caution.”
“I don’t think he’ll hurt me.”
“We can only hope.”
Ah, as charming as ever. He cuts off the connection with a quick flick of his fingers, allows the ice to roll over his hands and ready itself. Despite what Wells thinks, he’s not an idiot. He can be careful, he can be patient, he can think for himself.
He enters the apartment gently, with the tread that he used as a child when sneaking past his drunken father. Turns carefully to the left, keeping his eyes open.
At first he doesn’t see anything, apart from an empty kitchen with several surfaces that have obviously never been used. But he waits, and he holds his breath, and he keeps his eyes open… And there, a blur of red out of the corner of his eye. A vibration that he just, if he squints, can make out the shape of a man in.
“Barry Allen, I presume?” He asks softly, and raises his hands. He looks naturally threatening, he knows that better than anybody, but he tries to turn it down. Just for now, just for Barry zipping so quickly around him, “don’t worry, I’m not here to hurt you. I just want to talk.”
There’s a long pause, he continues to hold his breath. Until… “Talk?”
The voice is young, bright even through the suspicion. If he looks, ever so closely, he can see the lines of Barry’s face through the blur – prettier than it looked in the photograph, somehow wider eyed, “about what you’re doing, the robberies. We’ve figured out a pattern, you see. We think we know why you’re doing this.”
There’s a long pause. Barry doesn’t confirm or deny, only keeps staring at him. And, god, that face could be such a distraction if he let it, “we?”
“My… Colleagues, and I,” Sorry, Caitlin and Cisco, but while he works with Doctor Wells colleagues it is and nothing more, “we know that your targets are corrupt, and deserve punishment. We know that they’ve all done things, Barry. We just don’t think that this is the way to go about stopping them.”
An even longer pause, an even more dragging stretch of time. He might be imagining it, just might, but Barry’s blur seems to have grown slower. He can see messy hair now, a burst of freckles across his nose. Pretty, definitely pretty. Pretty in a way that could probably distract a saint.
But he’s never claimed to be a saint. Only a cop, with an obsessive love for his job, “we could help you, if you let us. Do this properly. Think about things, instead of just… Running in.”
And the blur stops for a moment, the blur pauses, the thoughtful way that Barry bites his lip becomes briefly visible in a way that can only be described as breathtaking…
“I’ll think about it.”
And then he’s gone, just as quickly as that.
He reflects on the experience later, as Lisa’s driving him home. Reflects on Barry’s eyes, Barry’s hair, the way Barry’s lip looked bitten between his teeth. The way Barry vibrated, the way Barry ran, the way Barry looked at him like he could see all the way through. The way Barry was Barry - and how he felt immediately comfortable, in a way that he’d never experienced before.
Yes, talking was definitely the best option.
“You know,” Eddie says the next day, seemingly of his own volition, “I’m starting to think that maybe we shouldn’t be looking to arrest this guy.”
His only response yet again, because leaping up buildings would take it out of anyone, is a slow blink.
But, then, he hasn’t survived this long by allowing shock to cloud his judgement. He forces himself to take a long sip of his coffee, props his hip up against Eddie’s desk in the most understanding way he can muster, “and what’s caused this drastic change in opinion, may I ask?”
“Look at the people he’s robbed,” Eddie argues, sending papers scattering across his desk in such a display of chaos that it’s actually an effort to hide his wince, “the places. Pieria Bank, Heather Charlton, Jason Lunn… We shouldn’t be trying to arrest him, we should be trying to arrest them. They’re all, if you’ll excuse my language, dicks.”
Considering the hidden wince, he doesn’t bother to hide his small smile. Only raises his coffee cup to his lips, sips slowly as he formulates an answer “…He’s a thief.”
“They’re thieves!” Eddie rages. And, bless him, he doesn’t think that he’s ever seen his little partner so passionate before, “and they don’t even do it for a reason! They just take, and take, and take. And the only people that profit at the end of it are them, and their greedily gaping pockets.”
“Poetic,” he offers, and holds back a chuckle at the flush that covers Eddie’s face – he might be sarcastic, but he tries his very best about being cruel, “but Allen isn’t doing it for a reason either, remember. He’s just as much of a criminal as they are, he’s just slightly more open about it.”
There’s a long pause. So long, in fact, that he starts to toy with the idea that Eddie’s given up and he’s allowed to get more coffee “…I’m not so sure about that.”
…Coffee can wait, this sounds interesting. He frowns, sets his mostly empty cup down on the desk and leans in. Eddie, ever conscientious Eddie, sounds like he has something, “what do you mean?”
“I’ve been tracing the money,” he lowers his voice, eyes darting quickly around the office. Probably for the best, his romantic streak could get him into serious trouble around a bunch of hardened cops, “or, well, trying to. I’m not that good at it yet… But even so, I’ve noticed a few things. A few discrepancies that don’t entirely fit in with the whole ‘selfish criminal’ theory.”
He frowns a little, tilts his head. More and more interesting, by the second, “what things?”
“There have been certain donations, certain movements of money that nobody has paid attention to but that are way out of the ordinary. A thousand donated to Danville high school, for instance. Ten thousand donated to the Gedde Natural History Museum, just down the road. And have you ever heard of New Brighton Hospital?”
He thinks for a moment, but only a moment. The memories of his childhood, hungry and painful, are never far behind, “it’s the second hospital in the city, isn’t it? Small, barely getting enough money to stay afloat.”
“Not anymore,” Eddie offers, with justifiable smugness. His grin is so big that he’s pretty sure that it actually lights up the room by itself, “fifty thousand was donated just last night. By an anonymous source, apparently, but I have my suspicions that the staff involved are lying.”
“And can you blame them?” He asks wryly, taps his fingers firmly on the desk. Barry, Barry Allen of the red lips and good vibrations, is getting more and more interesting by the second, “it’s almost as if…”
“He’s taking from the rich and giving to the poor,” Eddie finishes his thought for him, sounding less fascinated and more blindly enthusiastic – bright, in the way that only he seems able to manage, “almost like a modern sort of Robin Hood. My grandmother was from Nottingham, she told me all the stories. If this is true…”
He keeps tapping, thinks for a long few moments.
“If,” his sense, as ever, overrides his enthusiasm. He’s never been able to get overly excited about such things, it’s both a weakness and a strength. He pushes away from the desk, and goes in search of another coffee, “keep looking into it. Maybe, if we try hard enough, we’ll actually get to the bottom of things.”
“A modern Robin Hood,” Wells says, very flatly.
“My partner’s words, not mine,” he offers – although, really, he’s rather stuck on why exactly he should bother. As ever with Wells, the urge to throw his hands up in the air and be as rude as humanly possible is strong within him, “but, if it’s true, this just supports my theory. He’s not dangerous, he can be reasoned with.”
“So you say,” Wells snaps, mouth twisting in that very particular way that it does when he’s absolutely livid but considers it below himself to show it, “but I know a few things about men with missions, Mr Snart. They can be even more dangerous than men who do it for the hell of it, more passionate, more focused in the pursuit of their goals.”
“I know that,” he says very, very patiently – and narrowly resists the urge to inform Wells that treating him like a particularly stupid child will not, in fact, make him any more pliable, “but Allen doesn’t fit the pattern. He’s not even a murderer, he’s certainly not a monster.”
“A modern Robin Hood,” Cisco interrupts, with ill-disguised enthusiasm. Caitlin gives a low sigh of relief, Wells draws back with a pinch of his nose and even he takes a deep breath. For now, “that’s pretty damn cool. Stealing from the rich, giving to the poor – all that good stuff!”
“I remember having a picture book, when I was a little girl. It told the whole story,” Caitlin offers, slightly dreamily, and then shakes herself. A scientist to the last, he can appreciate that, “and, uh, that awful film with Alan Rickman in it – but we don’t talk about that. Or shouldn’t talk about that. Ick.”
“If it’s true, though…”
“If it’s true it’s definitely a good sign,” Caitlin nods firmly, fully back to business – turns to the still sour looking Wells with an expression of pure hope upon her face, “imagine how many more people we could save, imagine what we could do with an ally who has super speed.”
“Imagine not having to rely on me all the time,” he throws in wryly, somewhat pleased by all the enthusiasm going on around him, “imagine somebody who didn’t have to rely on my sister driving him places, who could take down villains by other ways than just shooting ice in their general direction and hoping for the best.”
“We could stop so much crime!”
“We could change so many lives!”
“We could help people.”
Wells, decidedly unimpressed and glaring from behind his glasses, very slowly pinches his nose and opens his mouth again…
“Or,” a bright voice interrupts him, at the very last moment. He’s already spinning, ice flowing over his hands and feet carrying him in front of Cisco and Caitlin, but he just can’t help feeling pleased about that, “you could just sit around and talk about it all day. You know, your choice.”
He’s only seen Iris West once, in that blurry photograph, but he has a good memory for faces and a long-built habit of trusting his gut. Long, dark hair – a bright smile and a certain glint in her eye like she knows everything. She sits in one of their cushiest chairs, long legs crossed over each other like she belongs there, and behind her …
“Barry,” he smiles, and doesn’t miss the way that Iris’ smirk grows even more mischievous in the face of it, “nice to see you, glad that you took up my offer.”
“Uh,” it’s a pity, of course, that Cisco’s face just grows even more confused – but, then, you can’t have everything in life, “how did you get in? We have safeguards in place, well tested safeguards. How did you get in?”
“More importantly,” Wells’ face, after all, just grows more and more pissed off – so he’s certainly willing to give it a by, “why are you here? Was my colleague, Mr Snart here-“
He smiles, charmingly. Watches the way that Barry’s eyes, gleaming with the same kind of amusement as Iris’, seem drawn to it.
“-actually unwise enough to invite you?”
“One, my brother has super speed and so all your little safeguards weren’t really an issue,” Iris offers brightly, also – and he has the horrible feeling that her and Lisa would get along like a house on fire – seeming rather more fascinated by Barry’s reactions than anything else going on around them, “and two… I’d say he was more wise, than foolish. We need to talk.”
"Do we?" Caitlin asks calmly, arching a slow eyebrow and looking nonplussed. He appreciates that unflappability, that desire to get straight to the point. It enables him to stare at Barry - staring at him - just that little bit longer, "may I ask what about?"
"What you've already been discussing," Iris purrs, and seems unable to hold back a chuckle at Cisco's jump and Wells' clenched fists "...I'll get straight to the point, we know that you've been investigating us."
"In both a professional and personal capability, yes," he offers casually. They've already seen his face, there's little point in pretending and Barry's eyes do sparkle so prettily at his daring, "it seemed the right thing to do, after... Well."
"Indeed. We have no problem with you doing your job, detective," Iris offers cheerfully, also looking pleased. Put together, it's more than enough to ward off the clench of Wells' jaw, "but... We have also recently become aware of certain conclusions that you've been drawing, regarding this information."
"Such as?" Wells snaps, looking more pissed off by the moment.
"That we're a pair of Robin Hood brigands, doing all we do for virtuous reasons," Iris seems to hesitate for a moment on that, shakes her head and draws up her cheer yet again, "we're here to tell you that-"
"You don't need our help," he summarises softly, and is pleased to note that Barry looks as cute surprised as he does amused, "and, as a result, you don't feel right offering your help to us. I assume it's just the two of you, and this is an independent decision?"
"I-" Iris blinks, turns to offer Barry a slow glance. When she looks back, her mask is almost back in place. She’s good, anybody else would be entirely fooled, "my brother told me you were cute, he didn't tell me that you were smart too. Yes, we work together. Alone together. There's nobody else."
A distraction technique – still good, but obvious. He allows himself a second of wallowing in Barry's blush, swiftly pushes himself onwards with an eye on success, "not even your father?"
"N-no," Barry finally blurts, when Iris can do no more than blink at him in surprise. He has a nice voice, a light one. He thinks he'd like to hear it saying his name, "she's the brains, I'm the... Uh, brawn."
He watches both of them for a long few seconds thoughtfully, lets them squirm. When Cisco opens his mouth again, looking confused, he throws up a hand and carries on, "I think you're lying to me."
"Lying?" Barry asks, sounding slightly high pitched.
"I've been where you have," he nods, carries on before Iris can do more than slap her brother's leg and look somewhat peeved, "where you father has, I think, and so I understand. I found it hard to trust the law for years. For most of my life, in fact."
"My father was a cop who killed my mother and beat me and my little sister for years," he says, almost casually, and watches Iris' mouth slowly close, "but one day, in my late teens, an ordinary cop saved my life. changed our lives. And I realized that the law didn't have to be like that. That the law could help, not harm."
Silence greets his proclamation. Complete and utter silence. Iris is staring at him flatly, as if she's trying to figure him out. Barry, behind her, is just... Watching him. His heart in his eyes.
"And I think that you have to realize that too," bewitching, but he can't lose his head right now. He can only breath, carry smoothly on, "we can help you, but only if you let us. We can stop these people, but only if we do it properly. We can end this..."
He trails off into more silence. Iris is starting to look speculative, Barry is starting to look - somewhat distractingly - like he just wants to reach out and touch.
"...Or not," he takes in a deep breath, draws upon every inch of his composure to offer up a casual shrug, "it's your choice."
There's a long, so long that Cisco starts to bounce on his heels behind them, pause.
"...We'll think about it," Iris says slowly. And looks at him with eyes that are less mischievous, and more thoughtful in a way that he can't help but respect, "we'll have to now, I think."
Barry, behind her, keeps his eyes fixed upon him. And there's an expression, deep and warm, in them that could make him lose his mind pretty much entirely. You know, if he actually let it.
“And then they just ran off?” Mick asks, sounding incredulous, and takes a long sip of his beer, “dude.”
“I’m not entirely sure what else they were supposed to do,” he points out wryly, simply wrapping his fingers around his glass of lemonade and waiting. He doesn’t think that alcohol can affect him anymore, not since the lightning bolt effectively scrambled his body chemistry. It’s not too bad, he was never that big a fan of drinking anyway, “they’d said their piece, I’d said mine, there was little more to discuss. And, besides, Wells-“
“-Was staring at the poor kid like he wanted to eat him, or something,” he sighs, tightens his fingers a little further. Mick, bless him, has far less patience than him – it’s one of the reasons he’s not allowed to help out that much, for fear that he’d end up punching Wells in the face and starting an outright war, “I don’t blame them for running off. In their shoes… Well.”
“You wouldn’t have shown your face anyway,” Mick, who knows him almost as well as Lisa does after all these years, points out sensibly.
“I’m not stupid,” he snorts – and then pauses, sighs, finally bows to inevitability and throws back half of his lemonade in one gulp, “I mean… Not that I think that those kids are stupid, of course.”
Mick gives him a long look, he ignores it as best he can.
“Just a little reckless, perhaps. A little too confident in their own abilities. A little too passionate about this goal that they’ve convinced themselves to chase,” he tilts his head, sighs a little – allows the ice in his drink, recently formed and beautiful in its own way, to bob up and down in time with his thoughts, “oh, what it is to be young.”
“Says you, from your lofty height of senility,” Mick snorts, and takes another slow sip of his beer. Yet again, he’s reminded of why he keeps the guy around. It’s always good, to have somebody to burst your bubble when it gets too swollen, “go on then, I know what you’re thinking.”
“And what am I thinking?”
“You’re thinking that they need your expertise,” Mick takes another sip, another gulp, and eyes him for a moment – when he doesn’t bother to deny it, resigning himself to take the bubble popping with dignity, he snorts and shakes his head, “that they need the benefit of your experience, before they do something stupid and stumble across somebody more dangerous than you.”
He thinks for a moment, toying with the rim of his glass.
…He smiles, ever so slowly. Resists the urge to burst into laughter, loud and free, as Mick groans at his side, “you’re right, of course. I need to talk to him again. Thanks for the insight, Mick, I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
The only answer he receives is a middle finger, a low grumble meant to puncture his bubble even more. He only smiles in response, settles back sunnily and takes another slow drag from his glass.
Okay, so maybe the reason he’s so keen on this plan of action isn’t entirely professional. Maybe, just maybe, he’s pretty keen on seeing Barry again. Seeing Barry’s lips, his ruffled hair, that playful look in his eyes. On actually being able to talk to the kid, with no distractions such as Wells or crime or saving the world to get in the way.
But he’s so rarely foolish, so rarely able to allow himself the indulges. Isn’t he allowed this one, just this once?
Just this once.
And if he can get some work done around it, some scoping out and some annoying of Wells with his ever pursed lips, then all the better for it.
“I still can’t believe these people,” Eddie grumbles, shuffling through papers with a venom that he’s never seen from – never thought possible of – him before, “the more I find, the less I like. You know the Silver Club, the third place that was robbed? So many shady members that it’d take me days to list them, possibly even weeks-“
“It’s horrible,” he offers, as sympathetically as he can manage, and tactically leans his hip against Eddie’s desk again. The fresh cup of coffee in his hand is, he knows, brewed perfectly. It’s simply a matter of playing the waiting game, keeping his cool, “have you discovered any more links to the first two cases? The dubious ones?”
“I’ve been focusing on the definite, definitely corrupt ones, for now,” Eddie says, wrinkling his nose in disgust, but takes the cup anyway. It’s progress, certainly, “but… Ugh, those two were just as dubious as the others. Sheldon Cameron, the most corrupt judge in the state, and the Osborne Foundation, which exists only to line its own pockets with absurd amounts of cash. Sickening, the both of them.”
“Oh, terrible,” he agrees, with a firm nod – and is even happier to see Eddie favour him with a fierce smile. It’s always easier, when he seems – or, in this case, broadly is - to be on side, “the guards at Cameron’s place checked out as dubious too, didn’t they?”
“Ex-Mercenaries, the lot of them. Several of them should be in jail for life, by my reckoning.”
He nods, smiles again. It’s also easier when they’re carried away by their own passions. He likes that, respects it in his own cool way, “even the guard who was injured? Put into a coma?”
“Especially the guard who was injured,” Eddie snorts, pauses, looks a bit bashful. He only smiles encouragingly, honestly amused “…Uh, well, he’s on the level of several of the other ones but- yeah. I could give you his rap sheet, if you want? You’ll probably be able to get more from that.”
“That would be useful,” he nods, not entirely lying – it may well be useful, he always likes things to prop his drinks up on, “I also might see if I can get anything out of him, in his own words. I know he’s still in a coma, but…”
“Hope springs eternal. I’ll give you his address, they should let you in if you tell them it’s on police business,” Eddie agrees, always helpful. He breathes an internal sigh of relief, smiles hopefully as his partner starts to dig industriously through his papers yet again, “do you think he might be related to our guy, might have let him in or know stuff about him or something?”
“Anything is possible,” he offers mildly, still smiling, and accepts the address – printed ever so neatly, ever so perfectly – like the gift it is.
“We should’ve held him,” Wells is still raging, when he deigns to briefly pop into the lab to actually tell them – in person, like he’s actually capable of being polite for more than a few seconds at a time – that he’s not going to be around for the whole crime-stopping business tonight, “you should’ve held him. I can’t believe you let such a valuable asset go!”
He sighs, lowly. Caitlin and Cisco watch them both in the background, concern flickering across their faces. He can sympathise, with that – he’s never had a hero, but he knows that seeing their true colours is meant to be somewhat traumatic, “and how was I supposed to do that? He can move at super speed, that’s rather hard to stop.”
“You have powers relating to ice,” Wells informs him coldly, again looking at him like he’s an idiot. His loss, he’s not going to feel bad about not being the pawn that his darling megalomaniac of a boss expected, “to cold, to absolute zero. You could’ve frozen him, or threatened his sister! Anything other than what you actually did.”
“And to what end?” He asks flatly, crossing his arms over his chest. Cisco is staring at Wells like he’s never seen him before, Caitlin’s face has gone pale, “he’d said all that he wanted to say, she’d said all that she wanted to say. What else were we supposed to do with them?”
“Besides,” he interrupts coldly, with a quick glance over to where Cisco is starting to look sick and Caitlin is starting to shake, “I thought we didn’t harm civilians. I thought, and correct me if I’m wrong here, that we were actually the good guys.”
Wells’ jaw clenches, Wells’ hands fist on the arms of his chair. If he could stand, he knows that the man would probably stride across the room and punch him in the face “…Being good takes many forms in my experience, mr Snart.”
“Not that many,” he nods, as calmly as possible, and turns away before he gives in to his own urges – takes refuge in patience, in cool calm, yet again, “and I’d wager that I’m more experienced than you.”
“I’ll be out late tonight,” he informs Mick as he heads out – dressed, for once, in a dark jumper and comfortable trousers as opposed to the usual parka. He likes the parka, despite Lisa’s endless giggles whenever she sees it, but he has to admit that it’s nice to go out at night and know that he’s not going to be forced to stop several ridiculous kinds of crime at once, “don’t wait up.”
“You’re always out late,” Mick offers wearily, from where – as ever – he’s sprawled in front of the TV watching yet another cooking programme with minute focus, “and I never wait up.”
He sighs, grins wryly and shakes his head. Good old Mick, grumpy as ever. If he wanted concern… Well. He’s not sure who he’d go to. He really needs more sympathetic people, ones who are likely to respond to his little crimefighting habit with shock as opposed to complete disinterest.
“…Unless something is different tonight?”
He really needs more unobservant people, ones who don’t immediately figure out that something is up within five seconds of him opening his mouth.
“Now that you mention it…” Still, best not to look a gift horse in the mouth and all that. He backtracks, leans against the back of the sofa and briefly watches the cooking programme – really, that amount of fire has got to be unhealthy, “if anybody calls I’d appreciate it if you told them that I was getting an early night, and can’t answer the phone due to reasons of exhaustion.”
“Huh,” Mick doesn’t twist to stare at him, but it’s a near thing. He supposes that he should feel flattered by that, really, “even your little lab friends?”
“Even Caitlin and Cisco, yes.”
“Even your creepy lab boss?”
“Even the ever pleasant Doctor Wells, yes.”
“Especially Lisa,” he drums his fingers on the back of the sofa, gives a small smile. Mick still doesn’t look around, but he knows the man well enough by now to know that he’s paying complete attention, “I don’t want to be interrupted tonight, Mick, it’s important. I need to get this done and all of those people, despite their numerous virtues, would just be a distraction.”
“Wells has virtues?” Mick asks, but doesn’t protest – only keeps his eyes fixed on the screen, on the rather disturbing fireball that seems to have consumed a good portion of the kitchen “…I’ll keep your secret. Just tell me one thing – is it that kid, that you’re seeing?”
He debates, for a long second as he pushes off the couch, lying or even leaving without an answer. But Mick is a good friend, and an acceptable flatmate, and deserves better. Probably. Even if he does live in fear that he’s going to come home to find their kitchen consumed in a firey inferno one of these days, “perhaps.”
Mick seems to think for a long second, tilting his head at the charred disaster on screen. It takes a moment, but eventually a slow and steady smirk starts to spread, “can I gossip about this with Lisa afterwards?”
“Again, perhaps,” he repeats, knowing that he’s safe, and heads for the door with a grin, “if she doesn’t kill you first.”
He’s been waiting for roughly two hours, two hours and ten minutes to be precise, when Barry finally makes his appearance. Any lesser man, and a lot of better men to be perfectly honest, would’ve given it up as a bad job long ago – would’ve left the guard, pale and silent in his bed, and gone off to do something more edifying. A bar, perhaps. Or a nice night at home, coiled up in the warmth like a sane person.
But he’s never been one for bars, particularly, or warmth. He’s always been one for patience, the slow waiting game that most bow out of in the first few seconds. There’s a pleasure in it, sitting here and watching for the flash of red, a certain joy that very few can grasp.
…The joy when Barry darts into the room in a blur of light, stops by the bed and bends over before he even realizes that he’s there is much more satisfying, of course. He likes to think that he isn’t a complete freak, after all.
“I’m not here to hurt you,” he says soothingly - raising his hands until Barry’s shoulders ease just a little, until Barry stops looking like a deer caught in the headlights, “or capture you, or do anything to you particularly. I just want to talk. Properly talk, without any unfortunate distractions like the last time we were face to face.”
Barry stares at him for a second, and then slowly glances at the figure in the bed. When he speaks, his voice is low and nervous and ever so beautiful, “I didn’t mean to hurt him.”
“I didn’t think you did,” he says gently, and watches Barry’s head nod jerkily. Yet again, he feels the distance between himself and Wells growing. How anybody could want to use this boy, this beautiful man with his eyes so wide, is beyond him, “what happened?”
“It was the first job we did. We thought- well, I thought that I had enough control over my powers to manage it,” Barry gulps, shoots another glance at him and then slowly crouches down by the bed. He notes the display of trust – feels pleased at it, for some reason that he chooses not to examine too closely right now, “I’d ran before of course, I’ve always loved running, but… This was the first time I did it for more than fun. I must’ve tripped him, made him like- like this.”
And he could be cruel, he could be exceptionally cruel and use every manipulative skill he has in his arsenal, but… Well. He’s not Wells. And Barry, sweet Barry with that expression of concern clearly writ across his face, deserves far better than that, “the reports say that he tripped himself, landed badly by chance. It wasn’t your fault.”
Barry remains silent for a long moment, shakes his head. He feels his heart ease in his chest, melt a little for the first time in years, “if I hadn’t been there…”
“If you hadn’t been there, this man might well have tripped and put himself into a coma anyway,” he says firmly, waits until Barry looks at him again. He could say a lot more there, about the value of guilt and pain and torturing yourself over things that can’t be changed, but instead he settles for the simple, “why are you doing this, Barry?”
“Sheldon Cameron is a corrupt man who has ruined hundreds of lives.”
“No,” he says, patiently – watches Barry’s eyes flicker, Barry’s lips curve, “I don’t mean that. I mean-“
“My father murdered my mother when I was eleven,” as Barry’s mouth opens, and that falls out. Silence reigns between them for a moment, a long and shocked moment, and then – before he can do more than blink – Barry takes in a deep breath and rushes on, “or, at least, that’s what most of the cops said. The only one who would believe me was Joe, Joe West, and nobody would ever listen to him.”
“Joe…” He starts, in surprise, allows Barry to see it. It’s odd, he rarely allows anybody to see his tells, but somehow he can’t help it around this kid, “Joe West used to be a cop?”
“Little known fact, he covered his tracks well,” Barry smiles again, almost proud – he gets the impression that the kid doesn’t really like showing his tells either, feels appropriately honoured as a result, “after that night he adopted me, quit the force and went underground. He taught me, taught us, that sometimes the law can’t do everything. That sometimes the law should be challenged, that sometimes the law isn’t right. And we’ve been living by that ever since.”
He stares for a second, thoughtfully, “you and Iris?”
“Hm,” he taps his fingers on his lap, slowly tilts his head. Across the bed, Barry mimics him – it’s cute, in a way that he finds very few things to be anymore, “you can’t have been doing this forever, though, I would’ve noticed. So, why…?”
“Why now?” Barry reads his mind, and grins at his nod. He upgrades his estimate of cute to adorable, it’s a word that he’s never used before but that fits in the most perfect of ways, “we always wanted to, of course, but… We couldn’t. Iris was smart, but you need more than smarts to take down these guys and we just didn’t have the tools. Until nine months ago, when the lightning bolt struck.”
“And you gained superpowers,” he whistles, and takes Barry’s bright smile as conformation – pretty, distracting conformation that may well lead him down a dangerous path if he isn’t careful, “I must say, you’re probably the cutest person I’ve met who was changed by that day.”
“I-“ Barry coughs, splutters, turns bright red. He hides a smile behind his hand, clears his throat to cover his laugh, “uh, thanks, you’re not so bad yourself?”
“…I was out, for a bit,” Barry, emboldened by this sign, continues as if compelled. He gets the impression that he’s the first person who’s heard this story in full, it charms him in a way that he can’t quite pin down, “but, uh, when I woke up and discovered what I could do it went pretty quickly from there. Iris came up with most of the plans, I did most of the running. It’s as simple as that, really.”
He nods, frowns, thinks a little. The opening, clear and shining, is impossible to resist, “and you think that this is the only way to get anything done?”
Barry freezes for a second. Nods, very slowly. The hesitation, clear as it is, is impossible to miss, “Joe- Joe taught me that sometimes we have to go around the law, to get anything done. Joe taught me that this was the only way possible.”
“But it isn’t,” he says, very carefully, “I know this may be hard for you to hear – but have you ever considered that your father-“
“-Adoptive father may be wrong?”
There’s a long pause. Barry takes a deep breath, rocks back on his heels. His face, frozen and slow, is the most perfect picture of thought that he can imagine, “I-“
Time to bring out the big guns. As much as he’d love to hesitate forever, with Barry’s face to guide him, there’s little point in lingering here, “why do you think that I became a cop, Barry? Why do you think that I didn’t become like you, or follow in my father’s shoes?”
An even longer pause. Barry takes a deep breath, allows his confusion to show on his face, “because some cop…?”
“Because a cop saved my life, and saved my sister’s life,” he says softly. And watches Barry bite his lip, look down at the cold hospital floor like it’ll provide all the answers, “and made me realize some things. That people do care, and those people deserve to be honoured. That life may be hard, but there’s always a light at the end. That we have to keep trying, no matter how hard it gets, or else what is the point otherwise?”
Barry remains silent, still. When he lifts his head again, his eyes are open – watching, in a way that he’s never been watched before.
“That we have to keep trying,” he repeats softly, half to Barry and half to himself, and allows his lips to ever so slowly curve, “or who knows where we’ll end up?”
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Mick asks carefully about a week later, keeping his voice down as to not alert the press. Probably a good idea – he likes the press generally, Linda Park in particular is a lady who you can always have a good conversation with, but you never want to give them too much, “you’ll be getting yourself into a lot of shit here, even if everything goes right. So you better be damn sure, Len, or else-”
He glances at Eddie, standing by the podium with an expression of vibrating determination spread across his face. Watches Wells’ angry eyes, standing out from the crowd. Remembers Barry, Barry with his bitten lip and bright smile and voice filled with such hope-
“It’s too late to go back now,” he points out, covering the spreading warmth in his chest as much as he’s able, and steps forwards – onwards and upwards, as firm as he can possibly be, “getting on with it seems to be the only option.”
He’s never liked giving press conferences, has never thought that he was quite personable enough, but he’s certainly not bad at them and he supposes that’s what matters. He stands in front of the crowd of reporters calmly, offers up his most detached – least terrifying – smile. Linda, standing in the front row, looks amused, “Hello, and thank you for attending today. We’re here to give you an update on the Pieria Bank case.”
There’s a flutter of clicks, as several enterprising cameras go off. A vast selection of hands raise, stretching towards the sky like that’ll somehow win better answers.
“The update is this,” he ignores them, largely. It’ll do them a world of good, to learn a little more patience, “we have stopped investigating the alleged robbery of Pieria Bank, and are now investigating several fraud allegations that have been levelled at the ‘victims’ of these so-called crimes. We have several very promising leads, and look forward to many of our questions being answered in short order.”
There’s a long pause, almost like the world has been frozen. It’s a second before one enterprising journalist realizes what’s going on, and shoots to her feet. And it’s another second before the rest catch up, and follow her as if pulled by strings.
“I now hand over to my colleague, Mick Rory, who will discuss the evidence that we’ve acquired so far,” he offers dispassionately, and can’t help the very smallest of grins as he steps back from the podium and looks sunnily over the chaotic crowd. Harrison Wells’ face, flat with rage, hovering beautifully right at the centre, “no further questions, please.”
“It was terrifying,” Cisco murmurs later, clutching his cup of tea firmly in hand like it’ll provide a barrier against the harsh privations of the world, “I’ve never seen him like that before. I mean, I always knew he was intense – but this…”
“The way he talked about Barry – Mr Allen,” Caitlin agrees, toying with her cup in much the same way. He can’t really blame her – she’s strong, is Caitlin, but this kind of shock to the system is always going to take a lot to recover from, “it was like he was a thing, not a person. Like he deserved to be dissected, instead of treated reasonably.”
They’re sat in Jitters, out of – he will admit – a vague urge to see if he can catch the slightest glimpse of the ever speedy Mr Allen. He takes a slow sip of his coffee, considers a second before answering – he has to tread carefully here, foolishness will only set him back to step one “…I got the impression that he was actually thinking of that.”
“He-“ Cisco blanches, glances down at his cup. The poor boy, he notes with some sympathy, is shaking just slightly. A pity that he’s not more empathic, or he could offer up more than the very slightest smile, “I… Can’t even say that he wouldn’t, anymore.”
“He’s not a terrible man,” Caitlin hurries to say, but fails to look entirely convinced as she keeps turning her cup – around and around, around and around like if she moves it fast enough she can undo the new knowledge that she holds, “I don’t think… He’s definitely not a terrible man. It’s just-“
Trust has been broken, and that broken trust needs to be taken advantage of. He nods, takes another sip. Careful and patient, careful and patient. He can feel himself getting close, “sometimes you get the impression that he’s not as dedicated to the good of humanity as he says he is.”
There’s a long silence, he waits it out as the seconds tick by…
“Maybe,” Cisco murmurs, lowering his head even further – until his head is almost dipping into his lukewarm tea.
“Yes,” Caitlin goes even further, slumps back in her chair with her cheeks pale and her hands shaking. She’s stopped turning the cup, he notices absently. It’s a small sign of acceptance, but a vital one “…I don’t know, is that a horrible thing to say? Am I wrong here? Does literally nobody else see it?”
“You’re not wrong,” he offers gently, and goes so far as to reach out – gently pat her hand until she eases a little and stops almost shuddering off her chair, “I see it too. Wells may be a great man, certainly a brilliant man… But that doesn’t mean that he’s a good one, or one who is good for others.”
Another pause. He watches them both carefully, takes in the signs – Cisco’s pallor, Caitlin’s shake, the resigned set of both of their shoulders as if they’re finally listening to him.
“I think,” he says slowly, and leans back – rests his hands on the table and keeps watching the both of them, taking the both of them in, “that maybe we should try to keep a closer eye on Doctor Wells from now on, just in case.”
The seconds stretch out, yet again. He holds his breath…. But then Caitlin nods, ever so slowly. And Cisco follows her, unsteady but determined.
Barry hasn’t turned up - but, then, he didn’t entirely expect him to. And this, in its own quiet way, is victory enough for him.
When he gets back to the apartment Lisa is waiting for him, with her arms crossed over her chest and her mouth pursed so hard that it looks like she’s sucking on a lemon.
“Pie again?” He calls to Mick – who is, for a change, leaning against the kitchen doorway and watching his cooking programme with great interest, “look, Lisa. I know, I’m sorry but I don’t have the time to yell about it right now.”
“You never yell,” Lisa says scornfully, and truthfully, but steps aside – allows him to hurry past before following him to his bedroom, “or, indeed, talk about things. At this rate you’re practically mute, really.”
“We both know that’s not true,” he points out fondly, and shuts the door in her face. Opens it again only when he’s found his best shirt, and firmly stared at himself in his small mirror for a few minutes, “I just don’t feel the need to discuss my every life decision with you. Which is, and I think Mick would agree here, normal.”
“Don’t get me into this!” Mick calls from the kitchen, eyes still fixed firmly upon the screen.
…Lisa only crosses her arms over her chest, frowns at him all the harder like that’s going to make him feel guilty for any of his actions, “this is a big decision, though.”
“You’re investigating some powerful people for corruption, big bro. That could be dangerous,” Lisa sighs, shakes her head – when he goes to step past her this time, she very firmly slides into his path, “why are you doing it? Is it because of that Allen kid, and what he said to you last night?”
“…Should’ve known that Mick wouldn’t hold onto that for long,” he sighs – but does, at least, stop his attempts to get around her. Stands and looks her in the eye, like any good big brother would, “I’m surprised that he managed this long, really. Yes, it is partially because of Allen.”
Lisa smiles a little, at his honesty, allows him a step back. He remembers just why he loves his little sister, in moments like these, “but…?”
“But you know my overdeveloped sense of completionism, sis,” he grins at her, in return – takes in her slow chuckle with something like pleasure. It’s only been the two of them, for so long. It’s good to know that she approves of this, in her own special way, “these people have got away with too many things for too long. I think it’s only right that they be taken down a peg.”
She nods a little, looking somewhat pleased. When she looks up at him properly again her lips are curved up in a smile and her eyes are mischievous, “and you’re going to tear them down with your own two hands, I’m guessing?”
“In time,” he offers, with a soft laugh – and actually beams when she finally steps aside, allows him to hurry past as fast as he possibly can, “but now… Well, let’s just say that I have slightly more personal matters to attend to.”
He isn’t quite sure what he was expecting, coming to sit in the coffee shop across from Pieria bank and watch the journalists mass outside, but he knows that it certainly wasn’t to look up at a gentle throat clearing and see the cop who saved his life so long ago. Staring down at him with a certain, secret smirk curving his lips.
“Uh,” he says, caught off guard for the first time in years, and half-scrambles to his feet – only stops when the cop, ex-cop?, raises his hand and gives a gentle smile, “I, uh, wasn’t expecting to see you again. Sir. Uh. I’ve been searching for you for years, and- I, um, sir.”
His saviour, the one that finally saw his bruises and put his father away for good, chuckles a little – drops himself gently into a chair. He doesn’t look much different, from that fateful night. A few more wrinkles, perhaps, a little more grey in the hair – but still that same old cop, that one light in the darkness that turned his life around, “Mr Snart, isn’t it? I have to say, when my son told me your name I didn’t think it could be you. But I suppose miracles do happen. How have you been holding up?”
“Detective Snart, now,” he says automatically, and that briefly proud glint in his saviour’s eye is everything he hoped it’d be. For the best, really – he doubts that he can provide anything more sensible than that, “and, uh, I’m good. I’m fine. Happy, generally. Your son…?”
His saviour smiles at him, almost fondly, and he manages a slow blink – casts his mind quickly back. He has the feeling that he’s missed something, but… “You never got my name all those years ago, did you?”
“A lot was going on, it… Sort of slipped my mind,” he admits, and watches his saviour chuckle with an odd sense of familiarity. He’s almost there, he can taste it on his tongue, but, “but I get the impression that your son isn’t one of the people I’m currently investigating. Care to confirm that hypothesis?”
“Very good,” close enough, he supposes. His saviour’s smile is just as warm as he remembers it, just as kind. It was one of the few things that could get Lisa to stop crying, in those early days. Oddly enough, he finds that he’s just as grateful for it now as he was then, “it might help if I say that your case was my second to last case on the force, and that the case that came after that – involving another little boy, who the authorities also refused to listen to…”
“Put you off policing, and the law in general, for good,” he tries, and watches his saviour’s – Joe’s – head slowly nod, Joe’s eyes light up with pride yet again, “how is Barry? Is he alright? Did he see what we’re doing-?”
“Yes,” Joe gives shortly, and nods to the counter… Where Barry, red lipped and beaming ever so brightly, is waiting – eyes fixed on the both of them, eyes fixed on him with a certain light that he just can’t resist, “and he approves, just like I approve. I thought the law was broken, full of people who didn’t care and never would. I thought that the only way to get anything done was to turn away, to do things by myself. But now…”
He waits, slightly breathless and with half of his attention still on Barry.
“…Now, I’m starting to think that maybe that can be changed,” Joe, obviously still a cop at heart, chuckles at his obvious distraction. Claps him on the shoulder, one brief contact just like that one that changed his life so many years ago, and climbs to his feet, “Iris is waiting in the car, so we can’t take long, but I’ll give the two of you a moment to say goodbye. We’ll see you around, detective Snart. I’m sure you won’t disappoint.”
And then he’s gone.
…But the warmth he leaves behind, the sudden rush of Barry almost tripping over his table, is more than enough to make up for that, “hey.”
“Hello,” he breathes in for a long moment, composes himself. Barry, despite his obvious need for speed, lets him – he appreciates that, in more ways than he can name, “it’s odd, that I never realized that my own personal saviour was Joe West. I guess I’ll have to stop boasting about how observant I am.”
“You don’t seem the type to boast,” Barry offers – and, when he looks up, the kid’s face is split with the brightest smile that he’s ever seen. Sunlight and starlight and all shining things wrapped up in a beautiful red bow, “I want to say thank you, for what you’re doing. I know it doesn’t have anything to do with me, but… It’s the right thing to do. And I appreciate it.”
He nods, slowly. Manages to maintain a thoughtful expression right up to the point where Barry’s face starts to drop “…It has a bit to do with you.”
And Barry freezes, Barry vibrates a little, Barry starts to smile again in that certain way that could make birds forget how to sing, “oh?”
“Just a little. Don’t tell your father – I’m still broadly devoted to the law and only the law, I swear,” he pauses for a long second, drums his fingers on the table. The way that Barry’s looking at him now, amusement in the curve of his lips, it’s hard to keep his mind focused “…What are you going to do now, then? Continue your modern Robin Hood antics, or-?”
“I’m thinking of retiring from the bank robbing business,” Barry gives casually, and laughs when he can’t quite help a smile – he can’t quite help a lot of things around Barry, it’s starting to become clear, “but you’ll see me around. I’ve got a lot of speed to use, after all. It’d be a shame to waste it.”
“Can’t argue with that.”
There’s a long pause, a stretching one. He’s not a reckless man, nowhere near an impatient one, but he finds it hard to help himself yet again. There’s something in him, drawing him ever closer to Barry. By the look in the kid’s eyes, wide and waiting, he thinks that there might be something much the same in him too, “look-“
“Would it be alright if I checked in on you sometime?” Barry finishes his thought at a blurt, grinds to a halt and turns burning - so adorable that his eyes are fixed to it – red before he can do more than blink, “I mean… Just to see how you’re getting on. How the corruption is going. How your ice powers are hanging, and all that jazz.”
“And all that jazz,” he repeats softly, and hides a smile as Barry – somehow – goes even redder, “of course. We could go out for coffee, or something.”
“Or a movie.”
“Or back to your place…” Barry coughs, splutters, looks at his feet. It occurs to him, quite suddenly, that he’s never seen a human being look this adorable before. And never wants to ever again, “sorry, probably getting a bit ahead of myself there.”
“I don’t think so,” he offers, softly. And then, as Barry raises his head and offers the shyest of grins: “your dad is waiting for you, kid.”
“Oh, yeah, of course,” Barry offers, but fails to move an inch, “see you around, then, Len.”
The kiss, when it comes, is a surprise so big that he almost falls out of his chair. It’s slightly awkward, and very bumpy, and their noses clash a few times before they properly catch the rhythm of it. It’s clunky, and inexperienced, and Barry’s lips are actually shaking against his like he can’t quite help himself… And it’s the best kiss that he’s ever had, bar none.
When Barry draws back he’s blushing again, but smiling so hard that he can’t quite help but smile back. Suddenly, he has the feeling that everything is alright with the world “…See you around, Len.”
And, he thinks as Barry jogs out of the coffee shop with a cheery whistle, right now it just might be.