"Yes, yes – I know I look like the imposter. I sound like the imposter. I probably smell and taste just like the imposter, too." Harry ground out, his annoyance flaring into anger. He was just sick and tired of being compared to that paragon of evil, Eobard Thawne.
Barry – the target of his ire, and the only other person in the Cortex at this hour – froze. He'd only mentioned the comparison to Thawne in passing, but it had been enough to set off Harry's temper. The expression on his face was unreadable, and that was troubling. Barry Allen's face usually was like a billboard in Times Square, every emotion perfectly readable from a mile away. But not now. He was as closed off as a cell in the Pipeline, and Harry couldn't help but feel that he'd just stepped over a line. Not that he'd apologize.
"What? What's the matter?"
Barry stood up and it was pretty clear that he was about to take off. But before he whooshed away, Barry gave him a level stare – the kind he hadn't seen since he'd last led soldiers into battle – and said, "No, Harry. You don't smell like the other Wells. And I doubt you taste like him, too."
His face might have been blank, but there was a terrible grief in those words. Grief and shame and regret. And instead of whooshing out, Barry just walked away, his footsteps echoing as he disappeared down a dark, curving corridor.
Harry shrugged and turned back to his calculations. He should have been relieved that he'd been left alone – he worked best by himself. But as he looked at the numbers and the formulae spread out across the board, all he could see was Barry's blank face.
He was a man who prided himself on his ability to quickly and correctly read a situation, to see what others kept hidden. He'd crossed dimensions without any clue about his destination or his reception, and it took less than a day to get the lay of the land. Before his first meeting with the Flash, he had a general picture of what had happened, if not the actual details. Those came in quick succession, filling in the blanks.
But he'd been here for months and he hadn't seen what had been staring him in the face. He hadn't seen beyond the collective pain of this little group's anger at the betrayal of their trust. Yes, he'd confronted Ramon that first night – his pain had seemed extra sharp – but Barry? He'd been the one to bring him here, to advocate for him, to urge the others to trust him. To listen to him.
On the other hand, Barry hadn't been so quick to step between him and that ineffectual coward, Garrick – letting the man get a few hard punches in. He hadn't given it much thought at the time, but now, the delayed reaction seemed far too telling. Barry wanted to see him hurt – not badly, not permanently. Just a little bit.
Harry capped the marker he'd been holding and carefully placed it in the tray. His hand ached; he'd been clutching the damn thing like a lifeline while he had this terrible epiphany.
And he couldn't help but wonder if there was any way to prove this new knowledge, if there was any objective evidence. Unlikely – Thawne had been a master at covering his tracks, revealing only what he needed to, even when he'd been cornered. But he hadn't shunned the limelight either, and maybe it was time to see just what the face of the imposter could reveal.
It didn't take much work to hack into the main server. It was locked with two-factor biometric security – his retinal scan and his thumbprint – but to his disappointment, most of the footage in the security files had been wiped. It would take more effort than he wanted to expend to access the data, so he started from a different – and probably more relevant – angle.
Barry Allen's early training sessions. There were hundreds of hours of video of Barry as he started discovering his power – both here in the lab and out on some abandoned runway at the edge of the city. It was easy enough to program a search algorithm to just display video of his face – the imposter's face.
There wasn't a lot of footage of the imposter – a few seconds here and there – and all of it outdoors. There were drone-mounted cameras that struggled to keep up with Barry, a few stationary ones at the start and end points of the training runs, and the one that Ramon was holding. That one was the only camera to capture the fake Harrison Wells, mostly in fleeting frames, but there were a few extended moments that told a story he'd rather have never seen.
Lust, possessiveness, pride were so clearly apparent to him – he'd seen those expressions on his own face from time to time.
And yet, there was one video that made him doubt everything he knew about the impostor, everything he'd been told. Ramon had dropped his hand, forgetting that he was filming, and the lens was pointed at the base of Thawne's chair. Harry could follow the action from the other cameras – Barry had been thrown to his feet by a drone-launched missile and as he had struggled to get up, another missile was racing towards him. Harry could hear Snow and Ramon frantically urging Barry to get to his feet.
Thawne wasn't saying anything, but it was clear, even from the upside-down camera angle, that he was getting ready to launch himself out of his chair, to cast off his masquerade as a cripple, to save Barry.
Harry was surprised that no one else had seen this. Or maybe if they had, they hadn't realized what they were looking at.
He programmed in another search algorithm, this time looking for footage of the fake Wells and Barry. There was even less – a second or two as the Flash ran back to the starting point, Thawne in the background, certainly conscious of the camera and wearing an avuncular smile that mostly masked his feelings.
Frustrated, Harry tried digging a little deeper, reconsidering his decision not to reconstruct the deleted security footage, when the tinny computer voice asked if he would like to access his personal files.
Harry smiled, of course he would. And then he regretted that choice. The imposter kept a very thorough catalogue of video footage of Barry. Not just training, but dozens of hours of casual conversations and encounters between him and his prey, and in each frame, Harry could see the lust blazing from his eyes, dripping in every word. Possessiveness – and for more than just Barry's potential as a speedster – he wanted Barry Allen in every possible way. Emotionally and physically.
Watching the footage, hour after hour, Harry could pinpoint the moment when wanting became having. When Barry looked at his fake doppelganger with equal amounts of desire and need and possessiveness.
And love. It seemed that Barry Allen never looked at Harrison Wells – that murderous pretender – with anything less than love.
It made him ill, but Harry forced himself to keep going. He changed his search parameters, now looking only at footage with timestamps after hours – files created between midnight and dawn. Hours when men were too likely to do evil.
And he finally found what he was looking for - encounters in Wells' office that would put professional porn actors to shame. After one particularly intimate moment, when all was done and Barry was resting his head on the imposter's naked thigh, semen staining his lips, Thawne – wearing his face – looked directly at the camera and smiled.
Harry wanted to scream, to tear the monitor from the desk and throw it across the room. To burn his way through plastic and silicone and steel and destroy the very electrons that stored this data. To turn back time and prevent this abomination.
He'd done many terrible things in his life, and he would do worse before he died, but he'd never done this.
Yes, he needed these people. He needed to find a way to steal Barry's speed and give it to Zoom. He needed to get his daughter back, and so he told himself that anything he could say to Barry would be counterproductive. Barry was, after all, still his fiercest advocate, still the one who managed to awe him on a daily basis.
The truth festered in him, almost worse than his bargain with Zoom.
He wished he could unsee what he'd seen, unlearn that knowledge, but he couldn't. So he buckled down and concentrated on what he could fix. He pushed aside the image of that gloating face. replacing it with his daughter's terrified one. He had no choice - he had to save her.
In the still, quiet hours of the night; however, he couldn't stop remembering – Barry's shuttered expression when he'd inadvertently exposed the truth, the love he saw in Thawne's covert videos, and his own face wearing that look of terrible triumph.
Thirty-odd years ago, when he'd still had some ideals, he'd made it very clear to the troops under his command that rape was one thing he wouldn't tolerate from anyone. Anyone caught forcing themselves on another – whether it was an enemy combatant, a civilian, or even a fellow soldier – would get a bullet in the back of the head. And he'd followed through on that –more than once.
Caught among the silence, deep in this prison of concrete and technology, in a world not quite his own, Harry remember the disgust he'd felt seeing one of his favorite sergeants battering away at a captured soldier like a dog. He hadn't hesitated when he pulled the man off the weeping boy and put his service revolver to the base of his skull and pulled the trigger.
He now felt like he wanted to do that to himself. That he owed Barry Allen that recompense even though he wasn't the perpetrator of that desecration.
Which was foolish and stupid and far too melodramatic. He wasn't the guilty party, after all. But as many times as he told himself that, he couldn’t quite bring himself to believe it.
Unable to sleep, he went back to the workroom he'd co-opted from Ramon and tried to figure out a way to steal Barry's speed without harming him. Turtle's brain cells were a goldmine; they were going to be critical in the final application, but he couldn't afford to waste them, so he was running a dozen different simulations – all under the imposter's still-secret account. If his timing was right, three of them should be done now.
To his dismay, the workroom wasn't empty. Barry was there, in civilian clothes, holding out a Big Belly Burger bag. "Thought you might be hungry."
He took it with a curt, "Thanks."
But Barry wasn't here just to feed him, he seemed intent on examining his psychological well-being. "You doing okay?"
Harry glared at him. "Why do you ask?"
"You seem a little … off."
"I don't think you know me well enough to know when I'm 'off'."
"You mean you're normally this closed-off and obnoxious?" The words were joking, but Barry wasn't smiling. "I know you're worried about your daughter, about Zoom. But you seem grimmer than usual."
Harry bit into the burger and shrugged.
"It's been like this since the last time we talked. Or should I say, since the last time you blew up at me for comparing you to the other Wells. Who wasn't really Wells."
Harry put the burger down, regretting the few bites he'd already taken. He swallowed and wiped his mouth – more of a delaying tactic than anything.
And of course, Barry had to wipe the floor with him yet again. "I shouldn't have said anything. I'm sorry about that. You didn't need to know."
He shook his head. "I should have seen it."
"No one else has. Not even Cisco or Caitlin. No one. Why should you – when you weren't even here?"
"Your friends must be blind, because they certainly aren't stupid."
"I was mooning over Iris, Harry. They couldn't see past that. And Harrison – excuse me, Eobard Thawne – was very careful not to let anything show. He had a lot of practice hiding the truth. What seems obvious now was carefully concealed back then."
Harry couldn't help but think of those video files. That terrible, gloating smile. "I'm sorry."
"For everything." For what that bastard took from you.
Barry gave him a sad smile. "You didn't do a damn thing to be sorry about, Harry. And the more I get to know you, the more I realize you're not like him at all."
"Because I'm closed-off and obnoxious?" Harry couldn't help but ask.
"No, because you feel too much, too deeply. You don't want to care about us – but you can't help it. Thawne only cared about getting back what he'd lost; we were all walking corpses to him. Well, everyone but me – I had a special place in his pantheon of hate. But Cisco and Caitlin, the real Wells and his wife, they were dead meat to him, as disposable as an empty Big Belly Burger bag."
Harry took a deep breath and tried not – of all things – to cry. He didn't deserve this man's faith. Not when he was doing his best to betray him. The words came out of his mouth without conscious thought. "Is there anything I can do make it better?"
"Make what better?"
"What he did to you."
"He didn't do anything to me that I wasn't a willing party to. That I didn't ask for." Barry's voice was soft, but steady. As if he'd spent a lot of time trying to convince himself of just that.
Harry wished he could just shut up, but he couldn't. "But you weren't willing, Barry. He took something terrible from you. Not by force, but by deception." At least he couldn't bring himself to use the word – to let that genie out of the bottle.
"You can't fix it, Harry. You can't fix this."
"I want to try." He clenched his fists, wishing there was something he could do. Or something or someone he could hit.
Barry stood before him, but unlike the other night – his face and all his emotions were clearly on display. There was a wry sort of affection there, and a wariness, too. "I don't know if it will make things better or worse, but there's one thing you can do."
"For scientist, you're far too rash – anyone ever tell you that?"
Harry had to laugh, "You're the first."
"The other night, I said you don't smell the same. You smell … bitter."
Harry didn't know if he should be offended.
"And that wasn't a comment on your hygiene. The other one – he always smelled like lemons and sandalwood. Probably his soap and shampoo. It was nice, but it wasn't real. You smell … well, real. You smell like your emotions. Bitter and dark and desperate."
Harry understood. "What do you want from me?"
"I want to know if you taste different, too."
Harry remembered too many videos, the ones of Barry with his head buried in Thawne's crotch, sucking him off. He hoped that wasn't where Barry was going. He couldn't handle that intimacy – not now, not yet.
"Just a kiss, Harry. One kiss. That's all I want."
Harry nodded, relieved – but perhaps a little disappointed, too. He reached out and ghosted his fingers across Barry's cheek, along his jawline, his thumb resting on his lower lip. "That, I can give you."
Barry smiled before leaning in. The kiss was almost too chaste, at least until Barry's tongue flicked out, parting his lips and delving deep. Harry wondered what he tasted like – probably stale coffee and the onions from the burger he'd started.
The kiss deepened and he stopped caring about anything else. It had been too long since anyone he'd allowed anyone to be this intimate with him. Without thinking, he wrapped one arm around Barry's waist, settling him between his thighs, his other hand cupping the back of his head, burying itself in his thick hair.
It would have been so easy to take this to its natural conclusion. A push and a tug and he'd have Barry flat on his back, legs in the air, or on his hands and knees, or up against a wall. But that was wrong – wrong – wrong and he pulled away, even though it felt like he was tearing himself in half.
Barry stepped back, too. He looked a little wrecked, but also at peace.
"Well?" Harry had to ask.
Barry smiled and touched his lips, then his own. "I was right, you don't taste the same. You taste better."