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Tumbling Together

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The Bible tells us to love our neighbors and also to love our enemies, probably because they are generally the same people. – G.K. Chesterton

 


********

 

Barry hated the dentist. That was probably why he’d accidentally missed his first appointment the day before, which wasn’t helping him make a good first impression. It was his first time at this new dentist. Since he’d moved in to a new apartment a month ago, he was trying to shift his appointments and everything to his new neighborhood, and he’d hated his old dentist anyway. This office had been nice enough to let him reschedule after missing yesterday, which was good. He tended to run late and miss things thanks to Flash business, which had been the case the day before (or so he liked to tell himself, and not that it was because he hated the dentist). So now it was quarter to ten am and he was early, determined not to miss it twice in a row.

His leg was practically bouncing as he sat in the waiting room, the only one there, bored and impatient. This was the worst part, the waiting. Well, the waiting and the lectures at the end of the appointment, which he got from having too many years of cavities as a kid—he mostly blamed that on Iris’ baking habits though.

The bell over the door to the office jingled as another patient came in and he looked up eagerly, excited for the distraction of people-watching and maybe idle conversation when—what?

Leonard Snart had walked into the dental office.

They both stared at one another, Snart hesitating in the doorway for a second. Barry’s eyes were wide and his leg had stopped its restless shaking. Then, eyes still on Barry, Snart walked slowly over to the reception desk, leaning against the tall counter in a way that put him half facing Barry and half the receptionist, not showing his back.

“Appointment for Leonard Smith,” he said, eyes leaving Barry long enough to glance at the receptionist.

“Excellent, Mr. Smith. Please have a seat and the hygienist will be with you in a moment.”

Smith. Classic. Barry was sitting ramrod straight now, eyes still on Snart. Was it possible he was actually here just for a dentist appointment? It didn’t seem likely, especially when Snart nodded and gave what was probably supposed to be a charming smile to the receptionist before walking over and sitting right next to Barry.

“What the hell are you up to, Snart?” he hissed under his breath, shifting in his seat enough to make sure they wouldn’t knock knees.

Snart was purposely not looking at him anymore, just picked up a generic magazine and opened it, flipping idly through it. “I take that to mean you aren’t following me, Red?”

“Following you? You mean you’re not following me?”

Although now that he thought about it, it would be supremely creepy if Snart knew where his dentist was, or that he’d rescheduled an appointment for this morning. That would be Eobard Thawne-levels of stalking.

“Mr. Allen?”

His head snapped up, the dental hygienist having popped out of the back. “That’s me.”

“Right this way,” she was an Asian woman with a warm smile and it helped calm his nerves a bit. As Barry followed her to the back, he turned to cast a last suspicious glance at Snart. The other was smirking at him, eyes calculating like the whole situation was funny somehow. It wasn’t.

Sitting in the chair with metal tools poking his teeth, Barry contemplated what the statistical odds were that they would actually have the same dentist by coincidence, based on the number of people in Central City and an approximate number of dentists to serve the population needs, add in a term to the equation for dentist quality, which could be measured by reviews and ratings, and then factor in geogr—

“Is that too painful, Mr. Allen?”

“Ah, uh, uh uh,” he tried to respond, mouth full of a long sharp metal implement prodding around as he tried to shake his head. He wondered why they always asked questions when they had mirrors and tools in his mouth.

After that he was too distracted to finish the equation, answering questions until he heard Snart’s voice again. He was being seated in the room adjacent to Barry’s. Which really, there were no solid doors around here, the whole back of the dental office being open so the dentist could walk between patients and the dental assistants could step freely around, meaning if Barry listened he could hear—“I see it’s been a year since your last x-rays, Mr. Smith? We’ll be taking those today.”

It really was a routine dentist appointment? And shit, Barry’s own hygienist was looking at him like he’d missed something.

“Sorry, can you repeat that?” he asked when her fingers retreated from checking his gums for recession.

“I asked if you’ve been flossing regularly?”

He winced. “Umm… not that regularly?”

She asked him questions until he admitted that he hadn’t flossed in a few weeks. If he brushed twice a day, what was the need?

“Do I have any cavities?” He was still nervous about that—did his healing extend to his teeth? Could he be so lucky?

“It looks fine from here, but the dentist should be able to let you know.”

With that, she set about flossing his teeth while he winced, and he could hear Snart’s hygienist asking him similar questions in the other room. Of course Snart would floss daily. Barry bet it was a lie.

After getting fluoride, the dentist did her rounds, looked at Barry’s x-rays from his last dentist, which  he’d had sent over, and announced that Barry was, in fact, cavity free.

“But that doesn’t mean you should let yourself slip up. It says here you’ve had a bad history with cavities—bit of a sweet tooth, I’m guessing? Your last filling was just two years ago so you’ll want to keep brushing and flossing, especially around those back molars.”

He nodded, a bit chagrined but also pleased. Success, no cavities. He was waiting for his hygienist to finish up the paper work and book his next appointment, when he heard the dentist walk to the next room over and start talking to Snart.

“Mr. Smith, looks like you’re cavity-free as ever—a little demineralization around the back molars to watch out for, especially on the left side. Still wearing your retainer each night?”

Snart had a retainer?

“Of course.”

“Excellent—hate to lose any of that lovely alignment after all that work. Are you experiencing any sensitivity, to temperatures or—”

Barry’s hygienist interrupted his eavesdropping to schedule his next appointment and he picked the first date she mentioned and hurried out of there as quick as he could. It was too surreal to listen to Leonard Snart talk about retainers and teeth and flossing. Barry needed a new dentist, stat.

 

********

 

The oddness didn’t stop there.

Three days after the uncomfortable dentist appointment—something Barry had refrained from mentioning to Cisco and Caitlin and even Joe, mostly because he had no idea what he would say—it happened again. Not the dentist, he was never going back there, but running into Snart. At a bank.

Barry had just switched branches and needed to drop off a form for some new cheques, having used up the last of them on giving post-dated ones to his new landlord for rent. He was on a one-year lease, happy to be out of Joe’s house again, needing space. Sure, it was more expensive than living with Joe, but living with his father-figure was only so convenient before it was just awkward.

But maybe there was an ill omen to him moving out because ahead of him in line was Leonard Snart. In a suit.

“I swear to God, Snart, if you’re here to rob this place, I will—”

Relax, Barry,” Snart hissed back, voice just as quiet as Barry’s own whisper. “Believe it or not, even criminals need accounts. I’m here for an appointment.”

“Appointment? Are you casing the place?” It would make sense, this was one of the bigger and nicer branches but it wasn’t in the downtown core.

Snart gave him a look that clearly indicated he thought Barry was an idiot. “I have investments, kid. Those are something you might care about when you grow up.”

Barry bristled—“Investments? Is that what they’re calling it these—”

“Next please!”

Snart shot Barry a warning glance and stepped forward. “Leonard Pzynski, I have an appointment.”

Pzynski? Really?

“Mr. Pzynski, delighted to meet you. I hope your day is going well?”

Again, Snart gave the receptionist—this time a handsome man with dark skin and a low, rich voice—that charming smile he apparently reserved for all of the receptionists of the world. The receptionist smiled back and Barry was sure he saw the man’s eyes slide over Snart in a way that was more than friendly.

And to Barry’s surprise, he heard Snart’s voice turn to velvet, “It’s been interesting so far...” his eyes flicked to the name on the receptionist’s lapel, “Raymond. Could always get better though.”

The receptionist’s responding smile was definitely tinged with a bit of mischief and Barry’s jaw almost dropped. Leonard Snart was flirting with a man right in front of him and this had to be a setup for a heist of some sort. Was the receptionist the mark?

“Well, hopefully we can provide something to make your day that much better.”

Okay, this was bordering on unprofessional—

“And Mr. Caufield will be with you in just a moment. Would you like some coffee or tea while you wait?”

Thank god. At least receptionist Raymond had recalled his sense of propriety. Snart sighed and declined the drink then waited off to the side while the receptionist motioned Barry forward.

Barry had a hard time peeling his eyes off Snart as he walked up, trying to decipher what he’d just witnessed. What did the receptionist see in him? Sure, Snart looked okay in a suit—it was fitted, definitely tailored and pulling in the right places, a deep charcoal color with a blue tie that brought out his eyes—but he was a criminal! Not that the handsome receptionist would know that, but the fact remained. At least the man hadn’t seen Snart in his leather jacket.

“Uhm, I’m Barry Allen. I have this form it said to fill out on your website?” The receptionist—Raymond, apparently—took it and asked for his card, decidedly less inviting to Barry than he was to Snart. What did he know, anyway? Barry knew he was decent looking, and at least he wasn’t an insane thief who would rob this place given half a chance. He glanced to the side and could see Snart smirking out of the corner of his eye.

“Seems in order, Mr. Allen. Will that be all?”

He could see an old white man in an expensive suit come and out and greet Snart, walking him back to an office. “Wh—oh yes, that’s all thanks.”

When he glanced back at the receptionist, Raymond’s expression looked amused. “He’s handsome, isn’t he? Do you know him?”

“What, him? You mean S—I mean, Pzynski? Handsome? Ha, I uh, hadn’t noticed. I mean, yes, I know him, just casually—we’ve worked together, once, not close—“ he was babbling and Raymond was giving him some version of a ‘knowing’ look and probably coming to his own conclusions. Barry could feel his face heating up.

“Well, you’re a lucky man to have… worked with him. Have a great day, Mr. Allen.”

Barry was pretty sure his ears were red as he left the bank, too embarrassed to correct the other man.

 

********

 

Finally, the weekend put him back on solid ground again. Barry was out running the city, keeping an eye open for petty crime and an ear open for Caitlin and Cisco, letting him know about 911 and distress calls around the city when a new call came in.

“Armored transport, on its way to set up an exhibit at the Rathaway Conservatory—wait do Hartley’s parents own everything in this city—”

“Not the time, Cisco,” Barry replied.

Caitlin was the one to respond. “The transport is moving a Stardivarius viola—one of ten left in the world. It is worth a lot of money, Barry.”

“We’re talking many millions, here,” Cisco added.

“What’s the quickest way to the transport’s location?”

They were in his ear and he sped off, at the scene in a handful of seconds and—

“Snart?!”

Barry skidded to a stop, taking in the scene. Snart—Lisa Snart, that was—was on top of a transport truck with its back doors blown up. There were three other unmarked SUVs, all stopped with their doors open and no passengers. Leonard Snart was inside the truck, icing a lock on a cage that was in between him and access of the viola case. Mick Rory had all the security—he counted eight men—tied up next to the truck, flame gun trained on them and their weapons in a pile by one of the SUVs. Barry was fifteen feet from Heatwave, on the road where he could see the back of the truck and Snart inside.

“Oooh, Flash, nice of you to show.”

He glared up at Lisa. “Glider.” His eyes turned to Rory next. “Heatwave.”

The man grunted in response and tightened his grip on the gun. Had they ever told him they called him that?

“Flash—I thought we had a deal about things like this?” Snart—Leonard Snart—called from inside the truck, cage door opening. He didn’t even turn toward Barry.

“I thought I told you I wouldn’t just let you steal whatever you wanted!”

Snart laughed and hauled out the viola case, coming to stand on the back of the truck. “So stop us! You do realize it’s three against one, don’t you, kid?” Snart glanced around the truck at Rory and Barry’s eyes followed, tense. “Though if try to haul us off to any prisons, don’t expect us to hold up our end of the bargain, Scarlet.”

Barry ran—whipping to  Heatwave first, pulling him away from the guards, slamming him back against the transport truck. No one was hurt yet but he didn’t trust any of the Rogues. He could hear sirens in the distance, but his first priority was safety and he sped back to the guards and untied them, narrowly avoiding being turned into a golden splotch as he did, dodging at the last second. The guards were free and ran in the direction of the sirens while Barry narrowly avoided a burn from Rory’s gun, something he never enjoyed being on the receiving end of.

Barry went for Lisa next, dodging a cold gun blast from Snart as he tracked her movements, down off the truck as she jumped while shooting. He dodged her gun as he got close and—shit! Mick’s blast caught him in the side, tossing him a few feet onto the ground, gritting his teeth.

“Ready to turn up the heat, Flash?!” he yelled, and Barry aimed for him next. He realized it was a distraction at the last second though, because Lisa and Snart were loading up the viola into a car. The cops were getting closer and he whipped around Rory, spinning him and turning back to the Snarts.

“I’m not letting you get away with that viola, Cold!”

“This coming from the kid who can’t even floss his teeth once a day? You’re playing with actual adults here, Flash, not the other way around.”

He—what the—how dare he bring Barry’s flossing habits into this?! “I’m not the one with a retainer, Snart!” he yelled back, not really thinking. Lisa gave them both a confused look and he took advantage of the second of confusion—ran forward and—

Barry sped right into a blast of ice. Snart shot cold gun at the ground as soon as he’d moved to run then swung his arm into making an arch of ice over his head. Barry slipped the second he hit the ice, momentum carrying him up like a ski jump, over the Snarts and and then down in a long fall back down to asphalt. His body was heaved against the ground, spinning and skidding across it, battered, tasting blood. His ankle was twisted. Fuck.

“Let’s go! Cops’ll be here any second!” That was Snart’s voice and Barry groaned, tried to push himself into a sitting position on his hands and knees. His ankle was throbbing.

Distantly, he heard “Maybe next time, kid!” as the Snarts and Rory sped off. He spat blood on the ground. It was time for him to go too.

 

********

 

It took him a day to heal, after that. His bruises were fine within a few hours and he was gentle on his ankle the next day, though it was fine by evening. He’d had to explain the dentist trip to Cisco and Caitlin, who were more than curious about why he and Snart had been exchanging barbs about dental habits. When he told them, he was surprised they looked so relieved, until Cisco said—

“Thank goodness, man. We were worried you and Snart were making out on the sly or something.”

Barry choked on the water he was sipping. “Making ou—Cisco are you crazy? Why would I make out with Captain Cold? With Leonard Snart?!”

“I don’t know! He’s got those steely blue eyes and that dangerous thing!”

“Are you sure you don’t want to make out with him?” Barry’s voice was probably more shrill than it needed to be. He was glad he was sitting down for this, ankle on ice.

“For one, I don’t make out with arch enemies. For two, if I did, that is not the Snart I would be first in line to—”

“O-kay, Cisco!” Caitlin cut in. “What he means to say, Barry, is that we wouldn’t blame you if you had a perfectly reasonable attraction to Leonard Snart. You did tell us you were bisexual, and when you wanted him to help us with the meta-human transport a while ago, we couldn’t really make sense of why you went to him except that you, maybe…”

“I maybe…?”

“Had a crush, dude,” Cisco finished for her. “It made more sense than you asking Cold for help just ‘cause.”

“I asked him for help because he was the only option!”

“Well, in either case, we’re glad that you and him aren’t having any dangerous rendezvous. And that you’re okay. That ankle should be fine by tomorrow.”

Barry nodded, glad for the change of subject. Why did people keep making assumptions about him and Cold? Even his friends! He was never telling them about Raymond the receptionist.

********

 

Unfortunately, the knowing-where-he-stood with Snart didn’t last too long, barely a week.

Barry liked to do his grocery shopping as late in the evening before closing time as he could, hating it when he had to go before work because he preferred to sleep in, even if he didn't need as much sleep as he used to so long as he was eating enough. He liked to go late in the evening because the store was mostly empty and he could stroll around leisurely, filling his basket with all manner of carbs and proteins. He normally went two to three times a week now, since he went through a lot of food and didn’t have Joe to drive him now, carting the full bags of groceries the few blocks to his apartment on foot instead.

It was a Saturday evening and he was there a little earlier than usual. The store was busier than it was most nights, full of late and harried shoppers. His neighborhood seemed to be filled with a relatively eclectic and progressive sort of crowd, which was part of the reason he’d selected it. The suburban feel of Joe’s residential neighborhood could be stifling, and this was a much different pace, a better blend of lifestyles, old and young, single and families, affluent and struggling. The pace of life was quicker too, more to his own speed.

Barry was thinking about that as he finished up in the produce section, dodging around other shoppers going for the fresh strawberries as he reached for an avocado that looked ripe. Another hand got reached out at the same time as his and they both stilled.

Barry looked up, ready to offer the avocado to whomever it was but—“Snart?”

“Barry?” This time, Snart actually, finally, looked a bit ruffled. He narrowed his eyes at Barry. “You sure you’re not stalking me, kid?”

Me? You’re the one who—” he glanced around furtively and lowered his voice “—who tried to turn me into roadkill, Snart. Why the hell would I be following you around on my days off?”

Cold shrugged and grabbed the avocado.

“Hey, that was mine!”

“Too slow, kid,” he smirked and Barry glared. Then he was turning and starting off, away from Barry.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

“To finish shopping. I don’t know why you’re following me but until you decide to let me in on it, kid, I have better things to do.”

Barry gaped and then caught up with him, “I am not the one following you, here!”

“You just did,” he arched an eyebrow.

“I mean in general, not this second. And I’m going in this direction too, in case you hadn’t noticed, I am also just doing my grocery shopping.”

Snart peered over in his basket. “You really need that many frozen pizza pockets?”

Barry’s eyes might pop out of his head in aggravation. “For real, you’re critiquing my food choices now?”

Snart just gave him a withering look that could have bordered on teasing if he were anyone else. Then the man turned down an aisle and Barry didn’t follow, just finished his shopping with an eye out for Snart, avoiding whatever aisles he saw with the other man. First the dentist, then the bank, and now this—he definitely needed to get back to making that equation. There was probably something close to a .005% chance of them meeting like this unless Snart was up to something.

His suspicions got stronger when he finished checking out with the cashier, only to see Snart two lines away also finishing. What coincidental timing. He narrowed his eyes and caught up with Snart on his way out of the store. “Whatever game you’re playing, give it up, seriously.”

The man shot him a glare, eyes narrowed and face tight. “What exactly do you think my angle is, Red? My hands are full and my cold gun isn’t exactly within reach right now.”

Which… was definitely true. Both of them had arms full of groceries, and Snart was wearing jeans and a sweater, looking altogether too casual for a supervillain. Did he count as a supervillain? Barry wasn’t sure where the line was drawn on that sort of thing.

“How should I know what you’re up to? All I know is that there’s no way we’ve met this many times by chance.”

Barry wasn’t really paying attention to where they were headed, but he looked up when they reached a crosswalk and noticed it was in the direction of his apartment. Snart was looking ahead, eyebrows down and lips pursed like he was thinking. When he finally glanced over at Barry, both of them on the other side of the intersection now, he titled his head and nodded once.

“Say it isn’t chance but… something else. I’m not stalking you, you’re not stalking me, but it’s not random we’ve run into each other.”

“Then what it is?”

“Perhaps, not several smaller coincidences, but just one very unfortunate coincidence.”

Barry stopped at the corner and turned to the other man.

“Look, Snart, if this is all some grand ‘coincidence’ then fine—so be it. But I don’t exactly want you following me home so could you just head on your way?”

Snart gave him a long, considering look, like he knew something Barry didn’t. “My place is this way too, Barry.”

He met the cold gaze and ground out, “Fine.” Whatever. He was at least halfway confident Snart wasn’t doing all this just to find out where he lived because there were definitely easier ways to go about it, so he turned and kept walking.

They kept pace with one another, turning at the same streets, awkward silence becoming increasingly tense as they approached Barry’s apartment. He couldn't wait to get in there and away from this weird afternoon-evening. His agreement with Snart about prisons and his secret identity was never supposed to extend to dentists and bank appointments and grocery stores; he’d never considered that they would run into one another outside of being the Flash and Captain Cold, not unless they were seeking each other out for something deliberate, like the meta-human transport.

Finally, after what felt like forever but was really only about a ten minute walk, they were at his four-storey walk up. Barry stopped out front with a sigh of relief.

“Well, this has been sufficiently awkward, but—” he started, then saw that Snart was shifting bags in his hand and reaching for keys. “Umm, what are you doing?”

Snart’s back was to Barry and he unlocked the door to his apartment and held it open for Barry to walk through. He did, feet moving before his brain caught-up. It had clicked offline for the time being, because… there was no way.

“I started to wonder, after the bank, and then today, you know.” Snart stepped ahead of Barry and started up the stairs, the reality of the situation slowly dawning on him even as the other man kept talking, “but I didn’t really think it was possible that we would actually live so close to one another. At least, not until you started walking in this direction.”

They were passing the second floor and Barry kept following, silent and dumbfounded. The carpet dulled the sounds of their steps but the floor creaked just a bit. He focused on that.

“And then I remembered, as we got closer to home,” Snart continued when they reached the next floor up, and Barry was still a pace behind him. He flicked his eyes up from the carpet to stare at Snart’s shoulders as he followed the other man up the steps, heart rate slowly increasing. “That someone new moved in at the start of the month, into Unit 4C. And wouldn’t you know, Scarlet, we’re at the fourth floor.”

Unit 4C—his apartment. Snart knew his apartment number. Snart lived in his building. “This can’t be happening,” he finally said, voice stronger than he felt. They were walking down the hall, hands full of grocery bags, and then Snart stopped at the door right beyond Barry’s own. He pulled out his keys and put them in the lock.

Right. Next. Door.

“Can’t? Looks to me like it is… neighbor.”