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in the dark (you are not alone)

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Len was afraid of the dark – it was that simple. He knew it was childish, that nothing hurts you except people, but he’d spent hours closed in a small cupboard, his sister cuddled into him, small hands clenching spasmodically in his sweatshirt every time his father raged against them, drunk out of his mind. He’d had his sister there but it had felt like he’d been alone facing the danger, because Lisa had been a child and his to protect. And he’d been scared, scared that at any moment, his father would notice the small door or their frantic beating hearts and light would fall upon them, as a first strike of many.

But now, now he knew his father wasn’t there, but the dark was the same, like his pounding heart. He closed his eyes, because even if in the dark it didn’t matter, he could delude himself that he was anywhere but here. He wasn’t in the cupboard. His sister wasn’t with him, she was safe and sound, enjoying a trip to the Caribbeans, and his father was dead, his father was dead-

A shoulder brushed against his and Len’s eyes snapped open. He barely managed to hold the gasp in.

“Are you okay?” a voice whispered, but sounded like a shout in the emptiness of the cave.

Len almost snorted, but it felt wrong, not like him.

“Yes.” he said, but it wasn’t true. Barry must have known it as well, because he settled more firmly against him, entire length of his arm against Len’s.

It should have felt comforting, but it just made Len feel even more hollowed out, empty. His father was dead and he was still fucking up his life. He should feel angry, he should be disappointed in himself, instead he just felt stuck, ruined beyond chance to change.

Suddenly he felt soft hair brushing against his cheek and a head settling on his shoulder, as if it were its proper, fitting space to occupy. Barry’s side was plastered against his and Len must have started hallucinating because he felt warmer at the contact. But Barry was a meta-human, a living, science miracle, so who could say he wasn’t a walking heater as well as fast as lightening? Len certainly wasn’t going to ask.

“I feel like I should apologize.” Barry muttered.

Len snorted, amused despite himself.

“Oh yes, you should.” he drawled. “I can’t believe that I’m stuck in a collapsed cave! A cave, Scarlet! After the pool, the circus and this, I ought not to answer your calls ever again.”

He felt Barry shake beside him, barely containing his laughter, Len was sure, probably recalling the incident at the circus where a meta-human who could talk to animals had lost control and sent a pack of lions after her soon-to-be ex husband. Barry had asked his help because the cold gun had seemed the safest option to contain the animals. Let’s just say that it hadn’t gone exactly as planned, and Len had almost been pinned to the floor by an enamored lion when its tamer had fallen for Len's frosty and handsome looks (her words) at first sight. Really, life as a good guy wasn't worth the hassle some days.

“Mh, you could, but you won’t.” Barry playfully replied and Len quietly sighed because it was true. By now he could admit to himself that he had a soft spot for the kid.

Silence fell between them, then, easy and comfortable. Len would say warm, if they weren’t stuck in a damp and cavernous space. At least his anxiety seemed to have lessened. It was diminished enough to make him realize something.

“While haven’t you phased out of here?”

Because Barry could have left at any moment, to help Cisco and the police to get them out of here.

“I can’t carry you with me. Phasing two people requires too energy at the moment.”

Len frowned. Barry seemed to be fidgeting against him.

“But you could go.” he pointed out, confused.

Barry shrugged, then Len felt a whisper of breath against his cheek and froze.

“I could. But I don’t want to leave you here alone.” Barry confessed against his skin.

It felt like the most valuable secret Len had ever possessed.