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Collision Of Fire And Ice

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The following weeks are a whirlwind for Barry. After the scare he’s given Joe, his foster father almost overlooks the fact that Barry hasn’t even tried to conceal the truth from Iris. Well, that is not true: Joe doesn’t forgive him immediately but he doesn’t hold a grudge, and that is as much as forgiveness in Joe West’s books.

Iris, on her part, after the lecture about being cautious and how dangerous it is for him to withhold the truth, seems the more enthusiastic about his speed, even more so than Cisco, and Barry fears the insanity that has become his life when Iris asks him to go to a day trip to Metropolis and then Starling City, passing via Coast City. Barry complains he’s not a car or an airplane, but underneath it all, he’s relieved that she’s taken it so well.

Not that she’s letting him off the hook: when Sandburg tells them Barry’s sight has gotten stronger and that they should test his senses regularly, just like S.T.A.R. Labs is monitoring his increasing speed, Iris is the one who makes sure he go to the Center and actually accompanies him. It should be embarrassing to be treated almost like a child but Barry knows there is nothing but worry and care from Iris’ part and Barry tries not to mind. He feels loved, like he matters, and a buried, needy, part of him from childhood cherishes it.

Iris’ presence is the only thing that keeps him steady when Sandburg tells them his senses are indeed getting stronger by the week and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Three weeks after the whole Stagg affair, his sight has gotten almost to ten and all the other senses are above level eight. Sandburg’s heart is as steady as ever when he tells them the news, but his eyes betray his concern.

The search for Barry’s Guide is still inconclusive, and they have ruled out the whole North America, Europe and Oceania. Sandburg frankly tells them the search will be harder in the rest of the world: as much as the over all conditions of Sentinels and Guides have gotten better in the past fifty years, many countries guard jealously the status of their Guides and in others registration is neither encouraged or even existing at all.

Sandburg doesn’t say it, but Barry starts to feel as if running to the speed of sound is not the most impossible thing he has to accomplish.

Iris is his anchor through it all. When Wells suggests that maybe Barry should cut down the heroing, the risks too high for his control on his senses, and Joe backs the man, Iris is the one to point out that Barry is not just a person with impossible powers, but a Sentinel. The drive to protect is quintessential to him and they can’t stop him.

Barry is grateful for her support and it feels like Iris is the only person completely, one hundred percent in his corner. Even when they find a meta-human who can become poisonous gas and Barry can see her wavering in her worry for him, she never tells him he should back down.

In the end, even Joe seems to come around, but Barry knows the man won’t ever be completely supportive until they find Barry’s Guide, and who can blame him? Joe is not the only one worried Barry won’t ever come back from a zone-out.

So things are not completely resolved but they are good. They are all settling in a good routine when Barry is exercising his multitasking and Cisco warns him of an armed robbery taking place and Barry’s life changes once again.

***

Barry speeds through Central City and sees the van that’s been robbed. When he’s a few hundred meters away, the most tantalizing scent hits him, that reminds him achingly of warm apple pie in the fall. He runs faster towards the van, trying to pinpoint the origin of it, but he shakes his head. The robbers first of all. He hits them one by one, throwing them off from what they are doing, and one of them, one of them is the origin of that scent. The bluest eyes Barry has-

One of the robbers shoots one of the security guards and the smell of blood is at once overwhelming, but not enough to overpower the scent of crisp and buttery apples. For a moment Barry is frozen but the sound of gurgling breath is enough to shake him out of it and he runs to the guard, applying pressure and asking through the comms for the nearest hospital. In the background he hears the robbers get on their vehicles and drive away, one of them taking away all the control Barry has carefully built these past weeks. Barry, heart in his throat, asks for someone to call Sandburg while he whisks the injured man away.

When Barry goes back to the crime scene, his senses are once again under his control, thanks to Sandburg’s calm and soothing instructions, but that is not so for his mind. Barry is shaken and restless, something is calling to him, and the last thing he wants to do is play nice for Joe and the other cops and do his job. The scent of apples is now faint, mixed with another dozen smells. It puts Barry on edge, making him feel as if he should go and look for he doesn’t know what. When Joe asks him if he’s seen something to help the police identify them, Barry’s heart plummets and in a moment of panicked tension he outright lies, telling his foster father the robbers were all masked.

When Joe walks away to talk to Eddie and Barry wonders what the hell is happening to him, suddenly something goes alight in his mind, but he shakes his head. No, the thought is too frightening and tantalizing all at once, like that scent, but it can’t be-

Barry runs to the precinct and looks through the mugshots of the professional robbers they have on record and there, there he finds the owner of those blue eyes. Leonard Snart’s eyes are duller on photo, but he’s the man Barry has seen. Heart in his throat, Barry looks for the man in the police database.

Status: mundane.

Disappointment and relief war against each other in Barry’s mind and he still doesn’t know what to settle on after a while when a sudden voice almost makes him jump, demonstrating once again that it doesn’t matter how strong your senses are, when you are somewhere else, you are somewhere else.

“And how is my favorite CSI doing?”

Barry quickly shuts down the monitor of his computer and turns. Felicity is edging into the room and Barry can’t help but smile at her, heart lighter for a moment.

“Felicity!” he says, getting up

Felicity hugs him tightly, then looks him over.

“So you are a Sentinel.”

Barry winces, but nods.

“Oliver failed to mention that.” she offers, huffing, and Barry grins.

“Does he know you came over here?”

Felicity looks at him outraged.

“He’s not the boss of me.” she replies, then winces. “Actually he is, in a sense, but not really?”

Barry laughs.

“It’s good to see you again, Felicity.” and it really is. Barry hasn’t realized how much he’s missed Felicity’s playful aura until now.

Felicity smiles brightly and takes his arm in hers, leading him out of the lab.

“I don’t know if I should be grateful or not that you are not my Sentinel, Barry.” she mutters. “Lightning, really?”

***

Felicity is enthusiastic to see Barry’s speed, excited almost like a child, more than Iris if possible, and she claps in excitement when Barry comes back to her from the top of a skyscraper. They walk aimlessly in the park, talking of everything and nothing, when Felicity stops on a little bridge and looks at the water flowing under them.

“Do you want to talk about what is bothering you?”

Barry exhales in surprise and shakes his head, fond and exasperated.

“How did you know?”

Felicity smiles.

“I haven’t known you for long, but you have a not-so subtle tell here, on your nose-” she says, pointing and barely containing her laugh.

“I do not!” Barry replies indignant, but he laughs as well when she tickles his nose. Her scent is spicy and sweet, nice but not so, never as-

Barry shakes his head to focus back on the woman in front of him. So many things would be much easier if she was the Guide for him, but she’s not. She’s a dear friend, even if not an old one, and maybe that’s exactly what he needs right now.

So Barry starts talking.

***

“And you think he’s your Guide.” Felicity concludes and Barry nods.

“Yes...” he admits. “I’m not sure but I can’t stop to think about his scent, it’s still in my nostrils and...” he trails off, because he has no words to describe the sudden emptiness he’s been feeling since meeting Snart’s eyes, this overpowering yearning for something he can’t name, but needs.

“It’s different for Guides, but what you told me fits with what Sentinels usually describe when meeting their own Guides.”

Barry looks at her curiously.

“Did you meet your Sentinel?”

For the first time since meeting her, Felicity’s expression closes off, and Barry is instantly sorry that he’s asked.

“Not my business.” he says conciliatory. “And at the moment the fact that my Guide is a professional criminal fully occupies my mind.”

Felicity’s smile almost trembles but she takes the opening.

“Professional thief. At least he doesn’t hurt people.” she points out.

Barry sighs.

“For some reason that doesn’t comfort me.”

***

That night, at Jitters, when Eddie tells them someone has spotted their suspected perp, saying Snart’s name, Barry pales, heart suddenly racing, and shares a look with Felicity. He barely hears Eddie asking him if he could give him a ‘ride’. Barry nods, like in a trance, and ignores Iris’ look of concern. By the way his sister is looking at Felicity, he’s pretty sure Iris will know something by the end of the night. It’s not that he doesn’t trust Felicity, but the woman has the annoying tendency to blurt out clues she doesn’t want to give when cornered and Iris corners like it’s no one business.

He and Eddie rushes out of Trivia night and thank God that he leaves Eddie outside the theater where Snart has been spotted, because whatever weapon the man has hit him with, he’s pretty sure it would have killed Eddie. The pain is excruciating and widespread on his body. The Flash suit just sharpens the pain when Barry tries to move and through it all, the most horrible thing is that that sweet scent is back, more mesmerizing than ever (God, his olfactory memory didn’t give it justice at all) and there are three heartbeats he recognizes, of which Snart’s is the loudest.

The man is his Guide, now Barry knows it, deep in his soul.

What the hell is he going to do?

He looks around the corner and Snart is quick to shoot him again and Barry feels-

Barry doesn’t know what he feels. Confusion, fear. A touch of anger, because there are innocent people here, his foster father, his future brother-in-law and Snart is his Guide, what the hell is he doing?

He tries to get closer, to stop Snart, but the man is too quick to anticipate where Barry is going to be next, and it’s frightening and exhilarating at the same time and-

“Time for a test run.” Snart says to Barry or to himself, Barry doesn’t know, but Snart’s voice is deep and low and everything Barry wants to hear, beside his regular and calm heartbeat, but he doesn’t have the time, because Snart is relentless, and then, “Let’s see how fast you are.”

Snart points his gun against people and nothing is exhilarating anymore, because everything is just wrong.

Barry has no time to think. He barely has time to take people out of the way until-

Until he’s too late and he doesn’t reach the security guard in time and Snart kills the man.

“No.” Barry exhales, kneeling beside the man’s body. “No.”

Barry doesn’t know what he’s denying… that he wasn’t fast enough to save the man? That he doesn’t understand what he ever did to have a man like Snart as his Guide? That there is no way a Guide could have done this? That-that-

The shock, the pain is so overwhelming that he doesn’t even realize that he’s giving his unprotected back to Snart. He doesn’t hear when Snart starts walking away or when the man takes all the hope Barry has left with him.

***

At the labs, Barry barely hears Cisco’s explanation about the gun, why he thought to build it or why he never told him anything. Barry doesn’t hear Wells’ icy tone or Felicity trying to diffuse the situation. He barely hears anything at all.

Barry’s Guide has killed someone tonight, in front of him, to test him. And Barry failed. Everything matters so little beside that.

“We’ve worked together for weeks, I’m a Sentinel,” he hears himself say, but it seems so far away, like there’s another person talking in his place, “and yet you didn’t trust me. You didn’t tell me so I could be prepared. I don’t-” he exhales, shaking his head. “I can’t deal with this right now.” he ends, barely looking at any of them.

He walks out of the lab in a daze. He doesn’t know what he’s going to do, what he could ever do, but one thing he is sure of. He has a Guide to find.

***

Felicity finds him on the bridge where they’d been that morning. The night is comfortably cool and the park is quiet. It doesn’t seem possible that just a few hours have passed since the last time they’ve been here.

Barry doesn’t bother to ask her how she’s found him. He has his phone with him and she’s the most gifted hacker of their generation.

“Couldn’t sleep?” she asks lightly.

Barry shakes his head and looks away, at the bay opening up in front of them. In a few hours dawn will be here and so will a new day. Barry hates it.

“Every time I close my eyes, I see that man’s face.” he confesses. “I can’t-” he trails off, because he has no words, no coherent thoughts. His mind is a mess, his emotions a maelstrom of chaos and his instincts are warring between find his Guide and protect him and find his Guide and make him pay.

“Snart is your Guide, isn’t he?”

Felicity’s voice is calm, comforting, with just a touch of her Guide’s gift to sooth him, if only for a blissful moment. Barry nods.

Felicity leans against him and her weight against him is nice. Once again he wonders why the fates haven’t given him her as a Guide.

"What are you going to do?"

“I don’t know.” he says, and it’s the truth.

***

At least the whole fiasco with Cisco has given him the excuse to shut off his comms without the need to give them other explanations when they get the news that Snart has been spotted.

Barry rushes to the train station, running past Joe and Eddie, thankfully safe and sound, and gets to the train, where Snart is mildly surprised to see him but ready to point his gun at him. Barry feels agony tear through him because he can’t hurt this man. He can’t stop him but he can’t let him get away either.

“There’s nowhere to run.”

Snart gives him a look, but Barry can’t see his eyes, hidden behind goggles.

“I didn’t see you before.” his Guide says, calm and collected, and it’s so unfair that Barry is shaking inside, that he’s the only one affected. “Your mom knows you’re out past your bedtime?”

Barry winces at the jab, because Snart has masterfully hit him twofold. The man doesn’t know about his mother, obviously, but Barry’s Sentinel can’t make the difference right now. And implying he’s not competent because he’s not old enough… Snart is trying to upset him and it’s working beautifully, Barry realizes.

“If you have wanted to get away you should’ve taken something faster than a train.” Barry says with a bravado he doesn’t feel. He doesn’t know why, but he knows he’s at a disadvantage here. Snart is smart, he is on this train for a reason and the man is playing to win their tête-à-tête.

Snart smirks and Barry tries to brace himself for it.

“Oh, but I will get away.” the man replies, confident. “I’ve seen your weakness at the armored car, then at the theater. You’re predictable like any other Sentinel. While you’re busy saving everyone else, I will be saving myself. You won’t ever find me again.”

Barry’s brain freezes.

“What-?”

Snart cocks his head.

“Don’t play dumb with me. You know my scent by now.”

The train keeps running, people keep on watching them frightened and wary, but Barry feels like they are on a frozen tableau.

“I don’t understand.”

Snart snorts.

“You are a Sentinel. Sentinels don’t give us a choice.” he says coldly and suddenly it dawns on Barry what Snart is saying and he feels sick.

“I’m not just a Sentinel.” Barry almost snarls. “I’m a person, and I don’t force people-”

“Please.” Snart interrupts him. “Spare me the spiel, I ain’t interested. I don’t believe whatever comes out of your mouth.”

Barry shakes his head, mind in overdrive, facts suddenly adding up in a twisted kind of scheme.

“Did you threaten all those people and kill that man, just to see what you had to do to get away from Central City and me?”

Snart dips his head and Barry feels sick. He swallows, heart painfully beating in his chest.

“You don’t have to threaten all these people to get away.”

Snart scoffs.

“As I told you, Scarlet, I don’t believe you.”

And with that, Snart ices the floor and the train lurches and breaks.

***

When all the people are safe and Snart is long gone (Barry could have tried to follow his scent, but he hasn’t even tried, it was one of the hardest things he’s ever done, but he hasn’t tried), Felicity, Cisco and Caitlin catch up with him. Barry is looking at the wreckage left behind by his Guide (no, Snart isn’t his Guide, he doesn’t want to be and he never will), sure that what he’s looking at is actually a bad metaphor for the state of his life. Like the train, he will soon ‘die’ in a way, after all. His only option has gone to drastic measure to make sure he won’t ever be an option and Barry is not the kind of person to force a person to do something they don’t want to do, not even a killer or a criminal.

“Dude, did you let Snart get away?” Cisco asks him bewildered.

Barry nods. It’s not like Barry has ever had any choice in the matter.

***

Life goes on. Felicity goes back to Starling City, to her Sentinel who doesn’t want her or their bond. Joe is pissed that Snart got away. Iris is worried for Barry and Cisco has done everything he can think of to make Barry forgive him.

Barry lets him do it. He understands that what Cisco is doing is more about Cisco himself than him. Cisco feels guilty and the guilt of having caused a man’s death is no easy task to accept or move forward from.

As for Barry… Barry keeps living, keeps going to S.T.A.R. Labs to do his tests, to the center and Sandburg to do his other tests and goes on living, always with the worry that one of his senses will suddenly spike and that that would be it for him.

He goes to the train wreckage almost every night, until the cleaning crew has taken away all the debris and not even a speck of apples can be smelled.

He doesn’t tell anyone Snart is his Guide. Felicity, somehow, has taken his secret back to Starling City and Barry is extremely grateful for it.

Then they meet Bette Sans Souci and for a while Barry is too busy with her and how to solve the problem of her powers, finally glad to have found a meta-human not hell bent to wreck havoc everywhere and a fellow Sentinel to boot, to think about Snart and his own problems.

Then Bette dies in his arms and he has to run far away from the city to avoid blowing up all of Central City.

He has to run faster than the wave caused by the explosion, and for a moment he thinks he will be able to do it, but none of them have considered the awfully loud blast of the explosion. Barry is not ready for it, and the sound blasts his hearing and before he can do anything, he’s lost in the white noise.

***

Cisco looks at Barry, lying in his by-now-usual cot, and wonders how things could have gotten so bad so fast. They should have thought about the strength of the blast, not just about what would happen if Barry got hit, but also the effect on his senses.

They had been so stupid, and now Barry is out of their reach.

The only saving grace was that when their comm link to Barry had been cut off, Cisco had been ready to call Sandburg. When they had reached the bay, General Eiling had fished Barry out of the water and had been ready to cart him off to whereabouts unknown. If Sandburg hadn’t been there with Ellison, they probably would have lost Barry forever.

Now that Sandburg has done all he could for Barry (after hours with him, Sandburg has shaken his head and told them all they could do now was finding Barry’s Guide), the man is on a warpath against Eiling and his 'misuse’ of Sentinels. Sandburg isn’t happy about what has happened to Bette and he and his Sentinel are on a plane to Washington to speak to the President herself.

God, Sandburg is one scary dude when pissed off.

All Cisco’s worries about Barry go out of the window when he hears the faint clicking of heels coming towards the cortex. Wells is somewhere in the building and Caitlin is ensconced in one of the labs now that Barry’s burns are completely healed. Cisco is the only person guarding Barry and he is sure no one with heels should be walking down towards them. Neither Caitlin or Iris make that kind of noise with their shoes.

And in fact it isn’t either Caitlin or Iris who walks in the room, but the most beautiful woman Cisco has ever seen. Their eyes meet and Cisco’s heart does a somersault. The woman grins at him.

“Well, cutie,” Cisco’s gorgeous Sentinel purrs, deadly as a panther, “we have much to talk about, but first I need to find my stupid brother’s Sentinel.”

Cisco’s brain isn’t working. It has broken when he’s realized life has chosen this bombshell for him (wow, he’s never going to complain about the unfairness of life ever, ever again, he swears).

“What-?” he not so smartly asks, but excuse him, his IQ is zero at the moment.

“My brother’s Sentinel. Sandburg told me he’s here. Where is he?”

There is only one Sentinel at S.T.A.R. Labs and Cisco’s eyes goes automatically to Barry even if the only thing Cisco wants to do right now is drink in every particular of his Sentinel.

The woman’s eyes follow his gaze and widen.

“What happened to him?”

Cisco swallows and just like that every problem, every worry about Barry is again at the forefront of his mind.

“Zone-out. We can’t bring him back.”

“But that means-” the woman’s eyes narrow and she goes rigid, before taking out his phone. “That foolish man,” she says, before looking at him and smiling, “wait right here, sweetie. I’m going to drag my brother here and then you and I will go somewhere and get to know each other.”

The last words are full of innuendo and Cisco flushes. He’s always thought he isn’t the kind of Guide who jumps in bed and in a bond with their Sentinel right after meeting, but his brain, his libido and his empathy are now in sync and thinking very differently. He swallows and salutes.

“Not going anywhere.” he reassures her, then frowns when the woman turns and walks away, probably to get a bit of privacy for her call, and Cisco realizes something, despite the tantalizing view of his Sentinel’s backside.

“Wait, who are you? And who’s your brother?”

“Lisa Snart, dearie.” she says back to him before going around the corner.

Lisa Sn-wait.

“Snart?” Cisco asks, panicked. “Snart as in Leonard Snart? As in Captain Cold’s sister?” he goes on, but just a tinkling laugh answers him.

Cisco is so doomed. And Barry… Barry has a lot of explaining to do!

***

Barry is warm and peaceful. He feels so good. He’s surrounded by the most amazing scent, that reminds him of when he was young and his mother baked apple pies every Sunday morning. Barry would wake up and only that scent would be enough to get him out of bed and down in the kitchen, to have breakfast with his parents.

It’s a sweet memory and Barry wants to bask in it.

But there’s something tugging him and Barry tries to ignore it, he doesn’t want to leave this new-found memory, his mother is there and smiling and-

“Wake up.” he hears and Barry does.

He blinks his eyes, because his sight is blurry, unfocused. His head is turned and someone’s face is in front of him. It’s familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, who-

“Like this, come on, focus on me, kid.”

The voice is deep and familiar, but the tone… Barry has never heard it quite like this.

And apples! Apples everywhere-

“’M not a kid,” he mumbles and shakes his head to clear it.

The man chuckles.

“Of course not.” he replies, amused disbelief coloring his voice.

Barry’s sight finally focuses and his eyes meet the bluest ones. Barry’s heart skips a beat, then starts racing. A monitor in the background starts beeping faintly and Leonard Snart turns his head for a moment, before focusing back on him.

Barry is speechless, but Snart just looks back at him, calm and collected. It’s a lie, because Snart’s heart is beating as fast as Barry’s and the man’s body metabolism is average, not like Barry’s.

“What are you doing here?” he asks, and he coughs, because his throat is sore. How long has he been lying down this time?

Snart sighs faintly and looks away, as if unable to meet his eyes now.

“Heard you were in a pickle.”

“And you came back to help, after everything you’ve done to escape from me?” Barry asks and it’s bitter and hurt. Barry has tried to go on, to make peace about his Guide not wanting him, but he hasn’t been successful, not at all. And now seeing Snart once again in front of him, tempting him with everything Barry has ever wanted and couldn’t have? This is just cruel. Barry almost snorts. Well, cruel fits Snart, after all.

Snart’s face muscles twitch and that is all Barry’s given to understand that his bitterness has hit Snart as well, that the man is not as cool and as unaffected as he wants Barry to believe.

Barry sighs and leans back on his cot.

“You can go now. I won’t follow you. I know you don’t believe me, but I will not.” he concedes, and this again… this is the hardest thing Barry has ever had to do.

“But I do. Believe you, I mean.” Snart replies, surprising Barry, who looks at him fully and carefully. Snart doesn’t move though. He doesn’t get up, or walk away, he doesn’t move a muscle at all. When a few full minutes pass and Snart just stares back at him, his heart racing as fast as ever, a new, painful kind of hope starts to blossom into Barry’s chest and he can’t help but break the silence because he needs to know and-

“Are you here to stay?”

Snart’s cool expression softens a fraction, and his eyes twinkle for a moment under the light of the cortex. Barry has never seen something more beautiful.

“I’m here to stay, Scarlet. I’m here to stay.”