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These Violent Delights

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“CSIs aren’t supposed to have ‘hunches’ Barry. Leave it for the detectives, please.”

Joe had been so exasperated when Barry wouldn’t stop badgering him over it. He’d promised to look into it but not until after he finished interviewing all his other leads and Barry was sure he was right. He had to be.

A chemical under the nails of the latest victim (this time being one of Barry’s crime scenes) had been traced back to an out of state refinery and Joe was waiting on information the firm promised to send them, but Barry had discovered that another person who died just over a decade back now had worked at this development and manufacturing facility, which used to manufacture the chemical before the company had gone belly up under mysterious circumstances shortly after she died and Luthor Industries purchased it.

Joe thought the only reason Barry was interested was because he’d investigated the company before for his blog, because when it had gone under there were allegations on the internet of the company experimenting with chemicals on gene splicing and the internet ran with it and made it seem like they were trying to create a chimera or something. But so what if Barry thought there was something off about the company in general? Just because Barry believed in the impossible didn’t mean that the very plausible couldn’t also have happened here, and recently.

Barry was sure there was a connection to Joe’s case. And all he had to do was head to the abandoned building, poke around, and see if he could find any sources of the chemical still around, see if it was in the dust or dirt around the facility. That should be enough to get the ball rolling, anyway, and hopefully bring some justice to the victims.

The taxi driver who drove him here clearly thought Barry was nuts for getting out of a car in such a creepy place, but he just smiled and tipped well and hoisted his CSI kit higher on his shoulder before heading to a side door. Bingo. He saw the rusty old chain and lock were cut smooth, clearly by bolt cutters. He snapped a photo and slipped his work camera back into his bag before heading inside.

The door creaked loud and heavy on its hinges in the dark space and a sense of foreboding finally started to creep up on Barry. He pulled out his flashlight and clicked it on, walking in. It opened up to a warehouse as the main chamber, with tall aisles full of old equipment and boxes, all in disuse. He cast the flashlight around, catching on windows of old offices in the distance on the far side of the warehouse a floor up that could overlook the space, thinking to head in that direction and get a better look at the facility. His footsteps reverberated off the metal grated catwalk he’d walked in on, just a few feet above the floor of the warehouse, the sounds echoing around the space.

Once he got about halfway in the hairs on the back of his neck started to raise. He swallowed, feeling like he was being watched. He told himself it was his imagination, or bats. A place like this was bound to have bats, and probably mice and other rodents. As if on cue, a scurrying noise shot his heartbeat into overdrive and he flashed his light onto an angry looking rat that sped away from the light, hissing.

Barry let out a breath and clutched the railing, almost giggled nervously, trying to calm himself down, thinking about solving the case with rodents. What a silly –

A heavy sound and echoing metal sound landed right behind him and he didn’t even get a chance to turn before he heard the telltale click of a gun’s hammer and a “don’t move, kiddo. If you know what’s good for you.”

 

[ … ]

 

Len was giving a rundown of the plan to Rutenberg, Calis, and Mick when they all heard it – the door to the warehouse creaked open with a squeal on its rusted hinges, a loud bang as it hit the opposing wall and a quiet, surprised swear at the sound. The voice sounded young and a second later there was a flashlight waving around in the distance.

Len tensed. His men caught his eye and he raised a finger to his lips, sliding his feet slow and careful on the platform they were on near the center of the east wall, more or less overlooking the warehouse on a raised dais. They were around a wall with shelving and equipment that blocked their little camp-style lights from view of this intruder. A glance around told him it was just the one guy, carrying some bag, getting closer. Len and his guys were a story above him still and it was too dark to get a great view, but if he had to guess, he’d say the kid was too young to be a cop.

Which meant he was a total mystery, really. Len didn’t like mysteries, not until he’d solved them.

He nodded to Rutenberg, who had a question in his eyes and dragged a finger across his throat. Len shook his head and pointed at their little table. Bring him here, don’t kill him yet.

The man nodded, got it, and slipped down between the rails on the catwalk, moving like a spider. The kid freaked himself out with a rat – what an amateur – and it was all the opportunity Rutenberg needed to get him.

Len had to admit some surprise when the kid, when faced with a gun at the back of his head, actually tried to run. Wow. That took guts. Or stupidity. Len could almost appreciate it. But Rutenberg clocked him on the head and he dropped, groaning, and Calis went to help. They grabbed the kid’s bag and hauled him up. Len watched him struggle, curiosity mounting, but they twisted his arm and dragged him up the stairs all the same.

“Little shit – calm the fuck down, would’ya?” Rutenberg was complaining, trying to keep the kid’s feet on the ground

Calis was laughing at him even as he helped, voice deep. “He’s got spirit, this one.”

“Well well,” Len said, voice carrying. “What have we here?” 

They threw the kid down in the empty space of their makeshift ‘workshop’ and he caught himself on his hands and his knees, breathing heavy, probably terrified. He oughtta be. Mick was at Len’s side and the other two opposite, blocking the stairs. There was no exit. Len pulled out his gun and tapped it idly against his own thigh, stepping forward.

“And just who might you be?” he drawled.

The kid looked up at him and caught sight of the gun, level with his eye. He yelped and tumbled back, landing on his ass and elbows with his arms behind him and Len stepped hard on his ankle, twisting it down. The other man hissed in pain and glanced behind him, realizing he was trapped. Calis kicked the kid’s bag over and he watched it slide up to Len’s feet, looking halfway sick.

“What’s in here?”

“You’re the ones responsible for the midtown murders,” the kid said as a complete nonsequitur. Len had… no idea what he was talking about, but it made him suspicious nonetheless.

“Who are you?” he snapped.

The kid trembled, glancing behind him again. Rutenberg made sure he was standing right in front of the stairwell, not that their captive was going anywhere with Len’s gun ready, boot still on his ankle.

“I’m not leaving, am I?”

“You catch on quick,” Len didn’t bother sugarcoating it. 

“Why am I even still alive?”

“Because I’m curious what got you here in the first place.”

He nodded, and Len had to hand it to the kid, he had a stiff upper lip. He looked like he was fighting back the panic, it was all over his face, but the fact that he was succeeding at fighting it back, that was better than most. He was young, pretty, brown-haired and doe-eyed, probably had a whole great life to look forward to. Yet here he was, staring down Len’s gun with more gusto than half Len’s men had ever shown.

“If I tell you…” 

There it was. Len prepared to put on a less frightening smile and make some believable promise about letting him go. Turns out, he didn’t need to.

“If I tell you, will you promise to dump my body somewhere else?”

That got his attention. His eyebrows drew together and he tilted his head, waiting.

“I’m – my foster father’s a detective on this case.” Behind Len, Mick whistled and the kid spared him a glance before looking back at Len. “He’s the only one who knows I’m here. If he doesn’t hear back from me or if I don’t show up at work tomorrow… he’s the one who’s going to come looking and I don’t –” his voice cracked, finally, and he held up his arm to his mouth, taking a second to gather himself before wiping his tears on his sleeve. “I don’t want him to be the one who has to find my body.”

Well. That almost pulled on Len’s non-existent heartstrings. It would make his life more difficult, but already he was getting more information than he’d bargained for. “That’s… fair,” he drawled, stepping off the guy’s ankle. “I’ll leave you in the river.”

He choked out a laugh, the type of skewed sense of humor Len could appreciate. “Thanks, I guess.”

Len’s crew chuckled too, already relaxing a little. It was a strange encounter. Killing the kid was gonna be annoying at this rate. The kid who was sitting up better now, off his elbows, knees drawn in closer though he was still on his ass. He was still trying to keep some measure of calm, so Len kneeled down to a squat, gun loosely cradled in his hand.

“What’s your name, kid?”

“Barry. Allen.”

“Well, Barry, why don’t you tell me what got you here?” He was curious about that.

“I was following a lead.” Len nodded for him to continue and he took another breath, getting calmer with something to focus on. “There’s been a series of murders, sex workers mostly, and a few days ago we found a victim with a chemical under her nails. It’s not that uncommon but in its pure form… it’s only traced to a place out of state or to here. No one was in a rush to follow this lead with how tough it would be to get a warrant so… I did.”

There were pieces missing here. Len narrowed his eyes. “And why are you investigating? Senior project? Wanna follow in your dear old dad’s footsteps?”

“What – you mean – oh Joe? No that’s – I’m a CSI, not a college student.”

He tensed and could feel Mick do the same behind him. This kid was CCPD?

“How old are you?”

It wasn’t pertinent, but it somehow felt pertinent.

“24?” He moved suddenly, hand reaching up and Len had the gun in his face in an instant and he stopped even breathing for a second. “I was just –” he croaked out, “just reaching for my laminate.”

Len used the gun to knock his hand aside and shifted till he was on one knee, right in the other’s space so he could reach for where he saw the string of a lanyard at the kid (the man’s) neck with his other hand. He brushed aside the collar of his shirt, exposing his long neck. The guy, Barry, stayed stock still, like a properly spooked animal, fight flight and freeze. Len’s fingers and thumb grazed the skin of his neck when he reached to tug at it and his skin was warm and smooth, the touch enough to stir something deep inside him. 

His lips twitched into an almost-smirk, unconsciously indulging the train of thought for a half second. Whatever ancient instincts of predators still lurked in human DNA, he couldn’t help some dark imaginings with a lean neck arched and on display like that, prey in his grasp when Len was already so close, right between his knees. A racing heartbeat beneath his fingers. It would be easy, too easy, to take Barry by that neck and press him down against the floor here, take him and mark him up and make him beg 

Barry flinched and Len pulled wrenched himself out of the sudden fantasy fast and hard, tensing his jaw, shoving aside the (not) unwelcome mental imagery. 

The laminate had all the right credentials – Assistant CSI, downtown precinct, not an easy job to wrangle – and a photo of Barry’s grinning face, even younger than he was now. The contrast between the old photo and his current state helped him look closer to the 24 he actually was. Some people would always have a bit of a baby face, but around the eyes, Barry didn’t look all that young after all. 

Len flicked the plastic back against his chest and shifted his weight to stand, knees popping.

“So tell me, Barry,” he drawled, looking down at the man again, “the lead that brought you here – this chemical – what are the chances your hunch was right?”

Barry swallowed and Len willed his eyes not to track his Adam’s apple, collar of his shirt still askew. Except the look he gave Len was a little disbelieving. “I’d say… 100 percent?” He chanced a look behind him at Len’s crew then back at Len. 

He pursed his lips. “Boys, any of you kill a working gal recently?”

They shook their heads, Calis the most evenly. “More class than that, Snart. Even this one,” he pointed his thumb to Rutenberg, an inside joke and Len’s lips quirked. He glanced at Mick, who shrugged.

“Hookers never done me wrong, boss.”

Len nodded. He knew it wouldn’t be Mick (not unless all the victims were burnt to a crisp, anyway), and he tended to know what his men were up to. Even so, none of them looked nervous enough to be lying, no tells, no sudden shifts. A good liar could get away with it, but he’d be surprised if this apparent serial killer was one of his guys anyway. Which left the question.

“Who’s been here besides us?” Len mused. Barry’s attention snapped back to him. 

“If it’s really not you…” He stopped talking and looked down.

“What is it?”

He seemed to be debating with himself and it was enough for Len to step closer to him again, enough to make him tilt his gun under the man’s chin, and he told himself he wasn’t doing it out of misplaced spite just to see Barry’s eyes widen like saucers. To see him shudder. To see his resolve harden despite the weapon.

Had to hand it to him, he was a tough son of bitch, whoever he was.

“You’re in trouble,” Barry rasped.

“’N how’s that?” 

He swallowed again and Len relaxed the gun, refusing to let himself feel a little disappointed at the loss of an excuse to touch Barry, if only with his weapon. 

“Well?” he prompted, expecting an answer.

“The chemical – if it’s residual in the dirt here, which I think it might be, it’s on your boots, might be in your clothes. If anyone knows you’ve been around here, you’re going to be the prime suspects.”

“Fucking perfect,” Mick muttered, crossing his arms, heading toward the table to grab his lighter. Len glanced at him then the other two shifting uneasily. 

“Keep your cool, boys. Barry – these murders, how many’ve there been?”

He looked mulish, frowning a little, glancing at the gun at Len’s side then back up at him with a set jaw now. “Does it even matter? You’re going to kill me.”

“And dump your body in the river, yes.”

His glare hardened. Len tried not to be intrigued.

“I’ve already told you enough.”

Len’s eyes narrowed. “I intend for you to tell me everything.”

Barry was silent. Len considered revoking his agreement to play nice with the corpse, debating if he was crass enough to promise to leave it ugly for the detective who might come looking.

“Hey Snart?” Mick broke the staring contest they devolved into and Len’s eyes snapped to him, angry. He’d almost been enjoying that stalemate.

What?”

Mick was standing with Rutenberg and Calis now at the stairs, playing with his lighter, which meant he really was getting antsy.

“Kid said a detective was gonna come looking, right? Tonight sometime?”

Right. Mick had had the same train of thought but it went to a different station. They might not want to hang around for long.

“Why don’t you boys pack the place up? I’m gonna take Barry here for a walk by the riverside.”

Mick grunted and Rutenberg looked relieved, muttering his thanks and moving to pack of their gear. Calis looked calculating.

“He’s seen all our faces, Snart.”

Len tensed. He’d already moved to Barry’s side, ready to haul him up, but Calis’s words stopped him short and darkened his expression. Mick watched, as he was wont to.

“You wanna kill him, be my guest.” He waved a hand at Barry, who flinched again, but Calis didn’t move. “Didn’t think so. I’ll decide what we do with our little CSI problem. Now –”

He shifted his attention back onto Barry, tempted to dig his fingers into all that hair and use it to haul him to his feet. Instead, he grabbed his arm and pulled him up, threw him against a cabinet. Barry caught himself against it and Len didn’t give him a chance to turn.

“Hands behind your back.”

With a shudder, Barry complied. He was tall, Len hadn’t realized quite how tall, long limbs, lean and built for running. Len stowed his gun away and accepted the zip ties Mick handed him off the table without needing to be asked. He made sure to move up Barry’s sleeves to zip tie his wrists without them in the way, feeling the warm skin again, thumbing his pulse point. It was going a mile a minute under his skin.

He should probably be concerned about how tempted to was to find any excuse to touch this man, even if it was to hurt him, but it had been a long time since anyone as interesting as him walked into Len’s world. It was a shame that he should kill the kid, and probably would.

“C’mon.” He dragged Barry forward by the arm. “Let’s go for a stroll, Barry.”

 

[ … ]

 

Barry let the man drag him down the stairs, heart in his throat.

Moving helped him stay calm, helped him focus again. He was so sure he was dead, so sure there was no way out. Now there was. It was almost more nauseating – hoping he might make it out of this alive. Now he couldn’t resign himself, had to keep fighting. But first he had to stay calm, keep his head clear, wait for an opening.

Getting away from the rest of the crew had to be a good thing. It would be so much easier to run from one guy than four.

But whatever was coming next… he had to keep the conversation going. Couldn’t give away everything. Had to make himself seem useful.

He wished the man – Snart? – didn’t have his arm in a vice grip. His phone was in his pocket and maybe when he wasn’t looking, Barry could call Joe, mute the phone, and Joe would understand and find him.

The night air was cooler when it hit him the second they got out of the warehouse, not much light here on the other side where Snart had parked his… motorcyle?

“Uhhh…” Barry started, the first of them to break the silence, startled into stopping when Snart made a beeline for the only vehicle in sight. He wondered for a second where the other guys had parked.

Snart stopped and glanced at him. It wasn’t much lighter out here than in the warehouse even with the ambient city light and Barry couldn’t make out the details of his expression all that well, but he was pretty sure it was either impatient, amused, or pissed. Hard to say.

“Don’t even think of trying anything.”

Right, he should be – Barry tensed, ready to bolt but the man had him up against a wall in a second, one hand flat on his chest, the other hovering over his holstered gun.

“I just said –”

“I didn’t!”

“You were going to.”

Barry swallowed thick. Negotiating with the man who was going to kill him anyway. He opened his mouth to say – he didn’t know what, something, but –

In his back pocket, his phone started to ring and vibrate.

Both of their eyes widened as one. Barry almost forgot to breathe, heart hammering in his chest. Snart moved and Barry whipped into action, throwing his bodyweight against the man and getting all of four steps away before Snart was on him with a snarl and Barry’s face was against the wall this time, stucco digging into his cheek and he swore. The phone was still ringing. Snart grabbed and twisted his arm to get his wrist away from his back pocket where he was reaching for his phone. The sudden shock of pain lanced up his arms and he gasped, arching away from it, giving up on trying to answer the call.

A few heavy breaths later, the ringing stopped. Snart pulled it out for him. He waited, body taught. 

“Looks like it went to voicemail.”

Barry didn’t dare pull his face off the stucco. “Who…”

Somewhere behind him, his captor snorted. “Does it matter?”

It did to him. “Please?”

There was silence for a moment, before he heard, “someone named Iris, according to your contacts.”

Barry felt his body sag, not even sure if it was in relief or disappointment. It wasn’t Joe. But fuck, it was Iris. His best friend. Who was probably worried about the fight he’d had with Joe.

He heard a rustle and then he was being hauled off the wall. Snart pulled the gun out for compliance as he dragged him over to the bike. He was tempted to fight but was sure it wasn’t the right time. Snart had his arm hard enough to bruise and even if he could pull off some badass manoeuvre and run, Snart seemed plenty fast on his own. Barry doubted the man would hesitate to pull the trigger either.

“What’s your name?” Barry asked.

“Trying to build a case?” he seemed grim and Barry winced. The answer was yes, but –

“No! Just – just want something to call you.” Everyone told him he looked innocent.

The man arched an eyebrow at him. “I know you heard it. Playing dumb won’t get you anywhere. In fact, let me make something clear before you get any more ideas, Barry. You run, you fight, you call for help – you don’t live to tomorrow.”

He shivered at the ice in the man’s voice, dread filling him despite the counterfactual here. “Does that mean there’s some version of this where I do live to tomorrow?”

Snart went from cool to amused, tilting his head to the side. “Let’s see how the chips fall, hm?”

He got Barry on the bike ahead of him. It was dangerous and uncomfortable, hands still tied behind his back. He tensed his thighs hard around the body of the machine under him and clutched the fabric of Snart’s shirt to hold on. Snart had him boxed in by his arms but he felt far from secure, and was unspeakably relieved that the man didn’t go fast, or far.

He really did take them down to the riverside.

Barry shuddered when the bike purred to a stop but they didn’t get off immediately. They were looking out at the water. The bodies of two of the three confirmed victims had been dumped in this river.

Snart was right behind him. “Ready to talk?”

Barry let out a half-gargled laugh, his anxiety seeping into it, suddenly fighting back tears. “Jesus, what’d you even want from me?”

The man finally moved off the bike but had his gun out again in a second, trained on Barry. “Off, c’mon.”

Barry obliged.

He walked them to an alley not far from the water, in between a closed cafe and a spare parts shop. 

“What I want,” he said finally, when he had Barry up against a wall, hand plastered to the wall over his shoulder to box him in and Barry’s anxiety was reaching a peak, “is an assurance. That no one else is going to come poking around that warehouse, or that your little murder investigation doesn’t get traced back to me and my pals.”

Barry wanted to cry. “I can’t– I can’t do that. I don’t have the power to–”

“The chemical you traced to the warehouse, how do we assure ourselves it’s not on us, forensics-wise?”

“Just throw out your clothes, shower, it’s not that complicated.” His own voice sounded so strained.

“And your detective?”

“He’ll follow up with the warehouse eventually but I don’t – I can’t tell if he’ll find anything of yours!”

“You’ll process the scene?”

“Not if there’s no scene to process!”

He glanced away, down the alley, wrestling back the tears. Joe’s voice was in his head, years of warnings to be careful, to not go off on his own, to not run away. He’d been so stupid trying to crack open a case on a serial killer all on his own.

And now that serial killer was probably right in front of him, demanding all the information he’d need to cover his tracks.

“Tell me, Barry, how many murders’ve there been?”

Barry should be lying. He could feed him false-information and make it easier for the cops to find him, not harder. He had no idea what to say though, panic intruding his brain too much to come up with a good story, to find out how sneak in lies. Because with a man like Snart, there was no dodging the question. But this information, telling him how close or far the cops might be…

Was he ready to betray the investigation for the man most likely responsible for the murders?

“Barry?”

Did it even matter?

He closed his eyes and forcibly willed down the fear with a deep inhale before he kept talking. “Three prostitutes. One of them one was male. One of the women had the chemical under her nails. She turned up a few days ago in a field outside of town. The detectives weren’t sure to connect the cases but the evidence…” he glanced down. “The killer is mutilating the bodies. Taking trophies.”

Everything he’d said was going to come out in the press in a day or two anyway, other than the chemical part which he’d already spilled the beans on. Except that he wasn’t given the whole truth. There was a fourth victim. Not that Joe was willing to count the one Barry thought was part of the case yet. It was a circumstantial link at best, no mutilation, no trophies taken. It was the director of the facility they’d just been in, back when it was still in operation, believed to be a murder for personal gain, someone who worked there maybe. Except it went unsolved, went cold, and she’d been strangled, the same cause of death as the recent sex workers. With her, unlike the others, it was a crime of passion. Maybe the killer’s first.

“A real psycho,” Snart stepped back, jarring him out of his thoughts with a scathing note to his voice. Barry didn’t know a lot about the inner workings of a serial killer’s brain, but the derision with which he said it… he didn’t know what to think. 

He swallowed. “Untie my hands.”

“Excuse me?”

“You asked me to give you information that could lose me my entire career, I want some assurance I might not die.”

He had a pocket knife out in a blink, lips twitching up. “Cute.”

Barry tensed, wondering how bad it would hurt to be stabbed, but the knife went behind him and Snart didn’t need to see his binds to cut through them, apparently. He did get awful close, though, and Barry was starting to suspect he was doing it on purpose. The hand on his chest before, the way he’d touched Barry’s neck and wrists, earlier – just like he was right now, fuck. A caress against his pulse point. He shivered and Snart withdrew, stepped back.

Barry swallowed and brought his hands forward, cradling them, rubbing circulation back into his fingers. “Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it.” Snart was staring at his hands and Barry looked away. “Tell me, how long apart were the deaths?”

He couldn’t stand it anymore. “Why do you care so much, Snart?”

“So you do know my name.”

Barry rolled his eyes heavenward. Like they were playing a game. The man with the gun and knife and who the hell knew how many other weapons who’d crowded Barry into a creepy alley by the river to murder him was acting like they were playing a game.

“If you killed them all, you already know how far apart the victims died and the only reason you even care is so you can cover your tracks and I’m not gonna make it easier on –”

“I didn’t,” he snapped, angry, finger up like he was admonishing. “Murdering call girls isn’t my style, Barry. I’m a thief, and not a good man, but not a serial killer.”

He desperately wanted to believe that was true, if only for his own wellbeing. But, “Why should I believe that?”

“Why would I lie if I were just going to kill you? Wouldn’t I reveal my grand plan and watch you suffer?”

Barry tensed, for some godforsaken reason. If Snart really wasn’t behind any of this… “Then why am I even here? Unless… unless you just don’t want to kill me?”

He had to have a little hope, right?

Snart’s eyes narrowed and he took a step forward. “Make no mistake, Barry, I’m capable of it. But you could prove… useful.” His eyes flicked down Barry’s frame and he felt like a piece of meat. 

“Because I’m with the CCPD? I’m not about to be some mole.”

He tilted his head, voice cold. “You sure about that?”

“I didn’t do it to help you, I did it so Joe wouldn’t find my body. Because I won’t compromise an investigation for you. You’re not getting that kind of favor out of me.”

“Consider your bargaining chips here.”

“I was useful enough letting you know to clear out the warehouse and cover your tracks if you’re not the guy. Isn’t that why I’m alive?”

“You’re alive because there’s heat involved with killing a badge, especially one who’s dad’s a detective. A detective who’s already going to be looking for clues in the right places.” His voice dropped low a moment later, less sardonic and cruel. “If you give me a reason to keep you around, I just might take it.”

Could it really be as simple as that? Barry tried to study Snart, but he was so close, keeping Barry boxed in again, too close for him to run unless he wanted to tussle again but he was still tempted. He swallowed. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe he wouldn’t have to compromise his work.

“What’d’you want from me, Snart?”

He tilted his head, meeting Barry’s gaze. “Keep the heat off me.”

He let out a half-laugh and on instinct, moved a hand up to drag through his hair. Snart tensed at his sudden move and Barry half-expected the knife in his gut but it never came. Snart was looking at him too intensely.

As if he even could. As if he had that power.

“If I say no, you’ll kill me?”

“Unless you have something else to offer me. It has to be worth the risk of keeping you alive and able to squeal. Otherwise, you’re as good as dead.” He was deadly serious and then, a second later, a smirk pulled at his lips. “Which would be a shame, really.” His eyes were on Barry’s lips again and he swallowed.

Bargaining chips.

Snart was his space, had been standing so close, so insinuating, and Barry had to decide, fast and sudden, if he thought sleeping with Snart might help him get through this, and if he was willing to do it if it would.

It turned out that the answer to both of those things was a very easy ‘yes’.

He leaned forward and closed the barely-extant gap between them, inhaling sharp and deep when their lips connected. For a horrible, dizzying second, he thought he was wrong, that he read Snart wrong. But he wasn’t. Snart kissed Barry back. 

In a second he had Barry back against the wall harder, brick grinding into his back as the man cupped his face and slotted their bodies together and Barry took it. He kissed Snart and opened his mouth to let his tongue inside, responding in kind. He felt like he was drowning, not enough air, but kept kissing, tilting his head. He didn’t even know where the knife or gun had gone, only that Snart’s hands were bare and far too close to his trachea, so he didn’t consider stopping, gasped instead when Snart raked his teeth over his lower lip, let him get a thigh between Barry’s legs and made an appropriately needy sound.

He also started to shake, limbs trembling. It got so bad after a minute that his hands fisted Snart’s sweater over his biceps, desperate for anything to hold onto to suppress it, willing himself to just do whatever Snart asked of him.

After breathless moments of being kissed, Snart pulled back first. One of his hands had made its way to Barry’s hair and his throat constricted to quell the rising tide of nerves.

“You’re shaking.”

He made some noise and then managed to push words out. “That’s what people do when they’re scared.”

Snart thumbed his cheek. “What a shame.” His voice sounded different somehow, but maybe that was just because he was so close. Still, Barry opened his eyes.

“What?”

Snart’s gaze flicked to his lips and back to his eyes. “You’re only doing this because it’s life and death then, I take it?”

Did Snart need him to pretend to want it? Could he? He swallowed, fingers tightening in Snart’s sleeves. “If you need me to – I can pretend I –”

Snart put his thumb over Barry’s lips and stepped back, the heat of his body leaving a sudden cool in its wake in all the spots they suddenly weren’t connected. He shivered.

“Some people get off on the thrill – danger, adrenaline. Figured you might be there with me.”

Barry didn’t want to poke the man with the gun, but he couldn’t help but indignantly snap back, “why the hell would I want to sleep with the guy who keeps promising to kill me?”

He was fully out of Barry’s space now, hands entirely to himself, and he seemed to actually concede the point, nodding halfway to the side, gaze flicking around like he was… less angry, more entertained. The rejection didn’t seem to faze him all that much.

Fair,” his voice was so nasal, “but you can’t pretend you don’t have a fear-boner, Barry.”

He glanced down. Shit. That was… awkward. And embarrassing. And new. But Snart kept talking before Barry could start to have an existential crisis about his body’s betrayal.

“We’re at a crossroads again then.”

He glanced up. Snart was back to cold and calculating, just as flat as he’d been in the warehouse, all the heat and humor of a moment ago gone in an instant.

“You don’t have to kill me.”

“You’ve seen my face, you know my name.” He paused. “Isn’t this the part where you promise not to tell?”

“Is it? Would you believe me?”

“… no.”

“You’re not the Midtown Murderer.”

“I’m not.”

Barry nodded, glancing at his hands, hoping against hope that it was true. “Then… I don’t care. Who you are. What you are. You won’t use that warehouse again and unless another victim gets linked back to you, there’s no reason why…”

“Why?”

He felt a little sick, wrong and right suddenly twisting up inside him. “Why I would need to even tell anyone about tonight. Just a private citizen who ran into a man with a gun and didn’t report it. Happens all the time.”

“And your detective dad?”

Barry’s eyebrows drew together. “My real dad’s an innocent man in prison. I don’t tell everything to Joe.”

There was a low whistle. “Now that… I almost do believe you, Barry.”

He met Snart’s gaze. “I won’t tell anyone I found you there. You won’t kill me and dump me in the river. And if… if something happens with this case that implicates you…”

“You’ll what?”

His resolve hardened. There were still some things he couldn’t do. “I’ll bring you in.”

The man laughed. Actually laughed. “I’d almost like to see you try. But know this.” His voice lost any mirth and he was in Barry’s space but there was nothing sexual, or even sensual about it. It was pure threat. “I know your name. Your friend Iris. Your foster father detective. If I have any reason to, Barry – I won’t start with you. I’ll start with them.”

He stayed stock still. When Snart finally left his space, his jaw was so tense it hurt.

“Do we have a deal?”

“Yeah,” he rasped, thinking of Iris, of Joe. “We do.”

Chapter Text

He wasn’t hard to find in the system, Snart. Just looking up his last name had turned up a list though. The mugshot under “Snart, Lewis” definitely didn’t look a thing like the man Barry had met last night though. A glance at the other names “Snart, Leonard,” and “Snart, Lisa” showed Barry that they were all related. That was… something.

He frowned at the screen and hit print on the file on ‘Leonard’. His mugshot was years old now, hair darker, face younger, no more handsome or less cruel though. Barry was trying not to think about the kiss from the night before, his trembling limbs, caught between life and death.

He’d seriously considered phoning in sick today. A near-death-experience had to be grounds for it, right? Some people went to counselling after getting mugged. Barry was sure he qualified. Snart still had his phone, after all, so it wasn’t like he hadn’t been mugged.

But much as he hadn’t slept a wink the entire night and jumped at every noise outside his apartment, he still didn’t take the day off work. He didn’t want to make anyone suspicious. He didn’t know if Snart was going to follow him or keep tabs on him or anything (he tried to tell himself it was the lack of sleep making him paranoid, tried to convince himself he was being silly) and he didn’t want to break routine.

He also didn’t want Joe to start asking questions.

Joe, who was standing at the door of his lab, walking in, mouth already open to say something. Barry started and did a double take, rubbing his eyes to make sure he hadn’t slipped into a dream or something as Joe asked,

“So why aren’t you answering your—you okay Barr?” He was already giving Barry a weird look for the jumpy reaction.

“Wh—me? Yeah, awesome. Why uh, why d’you ask?”

“Barry…”

Right. Barry couldn’t lie worth shit. Except when he could, but with Joe it had never been easy.

“Didn’t sleep last night,” he said honestly, shaking his cup of coffee at Joe as evidence. It was empty. Dammit. Joe snorted and grabbed it up for him, walking over to the half-full maker on the opposite wall.

“How come?”

“Mm? No reason. Just, y’know, one of those nights.” Barry exaggerated his shrug a little too much but he doubted Joe would press it. Enough years of Barry’s nightmares later and he wouldn’t doubt Barry having a sleepless night.

“That because you were out poking around?”

He started again. Fuck. “Poking around? Who said anything about poking around?”

“You did.”

“When?” his voice was a little high. “I lost my phone.” Snart hadn’t texted Joe, had he?

“Here at the precinct? Before you left? I told you not to? What’s this about your phone?”

Oh. Ohhh. Barry accepted the cup of coffee to dodge Joe’s increasingly worried expression, sipping at it to buy himself time. His heartbeat calmed down a bit.

“My phone—gone. Left it on the bus on my way home last night.” He was clumsy enough to pull that one off and Joe looked appropriately annoyed by the statement.

“’N the rest of that?”

“I took your advice.” He shifted guilty in his seat and crossed one leg over the other to disguise the movement at the last second. “I didn’t go poking around.”

“You didn’t?”

“Sticking my neck out hunting down a serial killer alone at night didn’t seem like the… best idea.”

Joe looked relieved. Barry felt worse and sipped his coffee.

“Knew if I kept repeating myself for enough years, you might start to listen.”

He half-laughed into the mug of coffee to hide his guilt. Right. “You do give good advice sometimes, Joe.”

“Well, you’ll be happy to know that Eddie wants to follow-up with your lead. Found a person at Luthor Industries who’s willing to take us for a look around without a warrant.”

Really?” That was news; Luthor Industries were pretty notorious for dealing with things in-house and keeping the cops out of it.

“Yeah that’s what I thought. Turns out the second victim—Tommy Marone?—had a sister who works for Luthor Industries, and no one there wants the press involved. They’re looking for us to clear the connection or keep it under wraps. Well that and,” he looked a little entertained now, “once they found out Eddie’s girlfriend works for the Picture News, they started to play nicer with us.”

He giggled and headed toward the door but Barry’s head was still stuck on not wanting Joe and Eddie there, on what if they found something to poke at, on the fact that his bag might still be there and how stupid could he be and—

“I don’t—uh—” His heart hammered into his chest, halfway to standing.

“Barry?” Joe stopped next to the printer and a stack of reports.

He started to sweat. What the hell was he supposed to say? “Don’t forget about that other victim—the case I think you should consider.”

Joe nodded, still looking dubiously at Barry. “The Morgan case, I remember. You sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah, just—” he waved vaguely, “overworked.”

“Uh huh.” Joe glanced at his stack of reports, and then his eyes caught on something. “Leonard Snart?”

The squeak that came out of Barry would be frankly embarrassing were it not for the fact that he was worried about other things right about then. He glanced at the file Joe was picking up from the printer and cleared his throat, trying to be chill for once in his life.

“Yeah—uhm, you ever heard of him?”

Joe nodded, eyes still on the file. “Yeah I heard’a him. Mean sunnova bitch. Big time thief, hits something once or twice a year with a crew, hard as hell to catch. Been around the block on that one once before.”

Barry nodded. “Right. Uh. I was just checking his file—some evidence from Ramirez came in and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a match for this guy.”

Joe dropped the report on Barry’s desk and Leonard’s Snart mugshot stared up at him from the front page of it. “Good luck if it’s a match. His cases all go cold. Either no evidence or no luck tracking him down.”

Barry laughed a little, trying to verge away from hysteria. Snart wasn’t that hard to track. All you had to have was terrible luck. “Right. Well. I’m gonna power nap then pound through the rest of this coffee. Let me know what you ‘n Eddie find at the warehouse?”

Joe nodded, face softer now. “Take care of yourself, Barry. And call Iris when you get a new phone, she’s worried about you.”

 

[ … ]

 

He didn’t hear anything from Joe about the facility and tried not to sweat it too badly. No news was good news? On his way home from work, he bought a burner phone near the station. It didn’t hurt to have one anyway, some prepaid minutes on it.

You giving my phone back or making me buy a new one? – Barry

He shot off the text, not really expecting anything in return. Snart could only text him back if he’d hacked Barry’s phone anyway. It was worth a shot though. That phone was expensive and for all Barry was a klutz, he still never got the device care plan that covered theft.

He was halfway home when the burner vibrated in his pocket.                      

Little dangerous to contact me like this, don’t you think?

He glared at the phone. I have a lot of photos on there. That sounded less pathetic than his frugality. He had student loans but Snart didn’t need to know about that.

Your girlfriend’s cute.

That felt invasive. At least he didn’t have any nudes or really embarrassing stuff on that phone. Still, he had a lot of private information—all cellphones did, really. He felt tense again, couldn’t help but glance around him on the bus before glaring back at the screen and finally typing, she’s my best friend, not my girlfriend.

He tried not to think about the kiss from the night before, about the thigh between his legs and how strong it felt, about his body’s reaction, caught up in the moment between fear and something else. He’d really expected Snart to rape him. Not that he wasn’t offering, but consent wasn’t really a thing when you thought you were about to die if you didn’t follow through. For him to have turned out to be a bit of… ‘gentleman’ seemed like an overstatement—‘half-decent’ was probably more accurate. Still, it had been almost…

Barry frowned at himself.

Maybe it was too dangerous to badger this guy for his phone back. He dragged a hand through his hair, thinking about how relieved Joe looked when Barry told him that for once, he hadn’t rushed in without thinking. His stomach twisted and his lips turned down to the side. He could be such an asshole sometimes, letting people worry about him when he ran off like he did.

All the more reason to keep it. Consider it insurance.

Barry sighed. Great. He got out a stop shy of his apartment and gave in to buying a new one at the mall nearby. At least then Snart wouldn’t be able to text any of his friends or family, not once he transferred his number over to a new, proper device. He turned the burner off, useless now, and made sure to text Iris as soon as his new phone was up and running.

His phone was buzzing a minute later and he gave in to answer it, to hearing her soothing voice even as she berated him about not answering until he said he’d lost his phone. For a few minutes, getting into his apartment and listening to Iris’s voice over the line, the troubles of the night before started to slip away and normalcy came back instead, and he finally crashed hard to sleep, forgetting to even eat dinner.

 

[ … ]

 

“You know Barry, you’d make a great detective.”

“Thanks…?” He glanced at Eddie in confusion as the man came into the break room. Barry didn’t normally venture to the break room the detectives used but he’d heard the words ‘free pizza’ and his stomach had made the decision for him.

“Your hunch, I mean, about the Mercer-Morgan Facility?”

Barry coughed on his bite of pizza. Eddie smacked him on the back affectionately and unnecessarily.

“You uh,” he cleared his throat, “you and Joe actually found something there?”

Shit shit shit shit –

“You wouldn’t believe it,” Eddie leaned in conspiratorially, despite them being the only two in the break room. “Someone’s definitely been there recently. We found locks to the place cut clean off and signs someone’s been there recently, not just squatters either.”

Barry nodded, trying desperately to look normal. He shouldn’t be surprised but still. “What signs?”

“Tire tracks, cigarette butts. We might call you down to gather evidence.”

That was a conundrum he did not want. It was also one he couldn’t pass off. Still, he wanted to hedge, “it’s probably nothing, you know. Most of the time that stuff doesn’t have useable DNA left or really tell us anything.”

Eddie gave him a weird look, “it’s our best lead right now.”

Right. “Right. I just… don’t want anyone getting their hopes up if it leads to a dead end.”

Eddie’s face softened. “You don’t have to downplay your ideas, y’know. You’re too humble sometimes.”

“Right. Uh, thanks Eddie. And you uh,” he coughed, “you really think it’s the killer?”

“Who else could it be?”

Barry took a bite of pizza. It was cold.

“Yeah we can head over whenever you want, just let me know and I’ll grab my…” Bag. Shit. He knew he’d been forgetting something.

Eddie glanced at him as he trailed off, just finished pouring himself a coffee and smiled at Barry. “I’ll swing by your lab later?”

“Yep.”

 

[ … ]  

 

He was able to put off collection for a day because he’d ‘misplaced’ his bag (but of course ‘not on a case, no evidence went missing’ so at least he looked innocent, still). He also got reamed out by both Singh and the head CSI, Julian, over that one. The cost of the equipment was going to come out of his next paycheck and he wished he could bill it to the bastard who put him in this position to begin with. At least Eddie had only frowned in his direction over it as Barry promised to head over the following day with him.

The news had picked up the story of their being a serial killer, finally. The press release was bound to have that effect and it was important to get the word out to keep sex workers safe, but he still hated how they sensationalized everything. Iris’s boss had let her take the first crack at it and hers was the only piece of writing or news on the topic that wasn’t overwrought and fear-mongering.

It didn’t help that a new body turned up the next day.

Barry got called to the scene, which was where he really excelled, with a puzzle in front of him and facts to put together and analyze. He enjoyed the lab work, but crime scenes were the meat of the job. The first two victims hadn’t really had crime scenes to speak of. The bodies had turned up in the river, floating, bloated, disgusting and foul as only a water-logged body could be. It was only by grace of the coroner’s report noting certain abnormalities on both bodies that the cases were ever connected, considering the victims’ different demographics. Male and female, different ethnicities, both young sex workers in their twenties but otherwise dissimilar.

And then there was the previous victim. Barry had processed the evidence on her, the woman who turned up in a field and made this a serial killer case. Like the bodies before her, she’d been mutilated. Like the bodies in the river, her eyeteeth were taken out, both upper canines. It had stood out on them as something that fish or decomposition wouldn’t do. But unlike those bodies, she wasn’t so decomposed as to provide no additional evidence.

He wondered what story this one would tell him.

When he arrived on the scene in another CSI’s (Patty’s) car, it was with a sense of foreboding. He hiked through the tall grass over to where the first responders had set up a perimeter, where he’d have to tell people to get out of the way and not trample any evidence. This was just a dumping ground, though, and they weren’t likely to find any DNA. Still.

The cops on scene gave him and Patty a wide berth. They set up and got to work and Barry tried to not think about Leonard Snart as moved about the scene. Snart used a gun, their killer didn’t. Snart let him go. Barry didn’t think the same could be said about their killer. Snart’s file suggested he had a history of violence. Barry pushed that aside and snapped photos of the naked corpse, Patty’s gloved fingers folding back her lips to get a look at the empty sockets where her top two canines should be, bloody and empty now, dried blood over her lips and chin.

“We shouldn’t move her yet, but we’ll have to snap some photos of her back, after,” he commented, standing up and setting aside the camera for a moment while Patty changed up her latex gloves.

“Oh yeah?”

“The scars that Joe thinks are this guy’s mark are on the back. Well, they were on the last victim. The first victims were too decomposed to notice anything like that.”

Patty was running a q-tip under the victim’s nails. “What scars?” She hadn’t been at the last scene.

“Like a Lichtenberg figure.”

“A what?”

He flexed his jaw a little to the side, “a lightning flower.”

It was a sore spot. Her eyes widened a little bit.

“Oh—like…”

“Like I had, yeah.”

The one on Barry’s body had been huge; he spent nine days in a coma for it and an embarrassing amount of time in recovery after, lucky to be alive. He never even got to see it before it faded, only photos of it later, up his neck, all across his chest and down his arm. Patty hadn’t worked at the CCPD yet, got the job while he was in recovery, but it wasn’t a secret around the department that Barry was struck by lightning in his lab one night.  

Thankfully, before Patty had to come up with a response, Joe and Eddie came up then to ask about their preliminary findings. The body wasn’t staged, just dumped. The killer was wearing what were probably oversized rain boots for traipsing through the field, at least a size 13 but they were going to try to track down the tread.

“Cause of death?” Eddie asked first.

“Dr. Snow will have to confirm it, but the bruising on the neck means likely strangulation.” No one was surprised, it was the same as the last woman.

“The teeth?” Joe asked.

“Missing again.”

“Just our luck, we got assigned to the real serial killer case, didn’t we?” Eddie lamented, glancing at the victim. Flies were starting to gather on the corpse. Joe just gave Eddie a look and turned back to Barry and Patty.

“And word on time of death?”

Patty responded, “best we can say is last night, at least eight hours ago. The medical examiner’s report will be able to give you more details.”

“Anything else?” Eddie asked.

Barry moved toward the body, taking out a pen to indicate and point. “Struggle, probably. Her wrists have that ligature bruising pattern that looks like it’s from a rope or a similar binding, same as the last victim.” He was seized by a sudden self-consciousness of his own wrists, one of which was sporting a bruise from struggling in the zip ties from the other night. “She was beaten around the face and has minor injuries throughout, we catalogued all of them on her frontside.”

“DNA?”

Barry winced. “Nothing showed up under the blacklight, no other outward signs. I doubt he’d get sloppy enough to not use a condom now, since there was no semen in the last victim. The last victim wasn’t raped as far as we know either…”

“The last victim was also missing for over a month before she turned up, it’s hard to say what happened in that time.” Eddie looked uncomfortable with the prospect.

“And the scars?” Joe switched tracks, looking at the body.

Barry was already moving. “If we’re ready to turn her, we can find out.”

They did turn her, two more CSIs helping with holding her in place while Barry snapped the necessary photographs. Grass stuck to her back and blood had pooled like it always does, bloating the skin on the underside of her body, but the marks were unmistakable. The killer carved it in, a jagged line that cut across her back with littler lines that flowed from it, smaller and smaller, scabbed over with time to heal but still red and recent. If Barry hadn’t had one himself, he’d have guessed the killer was aiming for a design like capillaries or veins, but he knew exactly what it was supposed to look like.

They finished processing the scene. Patty was taking most of the evidence back, but Barry stuck around to get Joe’s take on things.

“He’s escalating.”

Barry glanced over at the scene, now in the distance as they kept out the way to chat. “You think?”

“Mm. Last victim was just over a week ago and he kept her for a month. Victim before that was found eight months ago. The one before that was almost year before that, even.”

“Do we know that he’s escalating, though?” Eddie asked, “or is it just more obvious now that he switched to dumping bodies in fields instead of rivers? How many people might be down there, or out in the bay, thanks to this guy? Girls go missing all the time.”

“That’s dark.” Joe looked tired.

“Why’s he switching it up though?” Barry asked, glancing over at the scene. “He’s leaving so much more evidence.”

“Maybe he wants to get noticed.”

“Maybe he thinks he can cover his tracks,” Eddie added with a frown.

“Detectives!” one of the rookies came loping toward them. “We got an ID!”

Joe took the tablet from the man with the file open. It was definitely their girl, her black hair looking wild in the mugshot from when she was last booked for solicitation. She looked beautiful though, in a kind of worn-down too-much-second-day-eyeliner way, something wild and dangerous around her eyes. Beautiful and young.

“Maria Korsukova.”

Barry blinked. Why did he know that name?

“Another streetwalker?” Eddie asked, glancing at the screen.

“Says here she mostly does calls, has a website.”

“Our data team can crack that for sure,” Barry commented on autopilot. “See which appointments she’s missed, help figure out when she went missing. See who her regulars were, maybe.”

Regulars. That was it.

“Get it to Cisco,” Joe nodded, directed more like an order but Barry’s chest felt like ice.

Snart. Maria Korsukova was listed on his file as a known ‘associate’. He was a regular.

 

[ … ]

 

He didn’t know what to do with the information. He didn’t even have a way to contact Snart, not that he thought he wanted to at this rate.

“Allen—how did things out there?” Julian checked in with him as soon as he got back to his lab.

“Go? Uh,” he was flipping through reports sitting on his desk, trying to find where he’d put the file on Snart. “It was a crime scene. Why?”

“Patty said you stayed behind, wanted to know if you got anything else before coming back.”

Barry glanced up, baffled. “This isn’t even your case, Julian.”

“I don’t need for it to be my case, Allen. As the Senior CSI in the department, I’m your direct supervisor, in case you’ve forgotten. Again.”

Barry wanted to mimic his accent just to piss him off, mumbling to himself as he found the file and promptly shoved reports on top of it since Julian was coming over.

“But I’m not asking just to check the quality of your work, as it actually is my case now.”

His head snapped up. “What?”

“All hands on deck, Allen. Haven’t you heard? This victim confirms Detective West’s theory about the river victims being linked to the Reyes case from last week. That’s a fourth victim. The Captain is creating a task force.”

That was a good thing. Barry told himself it was a good thing. Even if it meant working with Julian. Wait… “I’m still on the case, right?”

Julian shot him a scathing look. “Of course you are.” He didn’t seem especially pleased about it. “You, me, Spivot. We take lead on all the evidence for this one. I believe your friend Mr. Ramon is going to be heading up the cyber side of this. Even, ah, Caitlin is giving this her full priority.”

“You’re on a first name basis with medical examiner?” That was enough to distract Barry for a moment, that and the faint blush on Julian’s cheeks when he asked. He almost broke out into a grin. “Do you like her?”

“It’s none of your concern, Allen. No need for workplace gossip. And try,” he stepped up to Barry’s desk to tap the folders on it, “to get your work done on time for once. I had to process that warehouse facility for you while you were replacing your kit.”

His heart stopped. “You did what?”

Julian was already heading for the door and turned to glare at him, nonplussed. “Mind your tone, Allen. I was doing you a favor. Nothing exciting except some tire tracks and cigarette butts. The DNA from those should give us a direction to head in, at least, and maybe find our man. Should have those results in the morning. Detective Thawne made a good call in bringing me over there without delay yesterday.”

Barry wanted to shout. He wanted to scream Julian and his meddling right out of his lab and his life. He wanted to throw everything off his desk and break down because those cigarette butts didn’t belong to the killer but that didn’t matter to anyone but him and he couldn’t tell anyone.

He didn’t do any of those things though, because Julian was already gone.

 

[ … ]

 

Another body had turned up. No word on the ID yet, just a fourth victim, basically cementing this guy had a pattern. Len’s little CSI friend hadn’t mentioned that the trophies this prick was taking were teeth. Thank you Channel 52 News for leaking that fucked up little detail. Len was following it on the news now.

He told the bartender to turn it up and took a bite of his burger.

“… police commissioner said that they do not have any suspects in custody, but are following multiple leads. The first precinct downtown is establishing a task force to take on this case, headed by senior detective Joseph West. Meanwhile, Governor Queen has confirmed in a statement to the press earlier today that her office will be providing any necessary resources to ensure that this perpetrator be found swiftly and brought to justice. As part of the governor’s electoral platform involved a crackdown on violent crime, this comes at a difficult time for her, and polls indicate…”

Len tuned it out as it turned to garbage he didn’t care about.

“You’re ignoring me for the news?” his sister asked across the booth, looking unimpressed.

“Bodies turn up in my city, I care.”

“Think it’s the Families?”

“No, not this one. Keep your head down anyway though, would’you?”

She gave him a Look. “I’m not a whore, Lenny.”

He pursed his lips, not a fan of that word but not about to correct her. “Who knows when he’ll branch out.”

“I can handle myself.”

He sipped his beer and eyed her over it. “Can’t even pretend to listen to me? For old time’s sake?”

She laughed, catching on to his smirk. “You wish.”

“Every day.”

“Stop worrying and tell me about our next job.”

 

[ … ]

 

“Are you okay, Barr?”

His head shot up off his desk—“M awake! I’m…” he scrubbed a hand over his face the second he realized it wasn’t the Captain or Julian at the door. “I’m awake. Iris. Hi.”

She came in and dropped her purse on one of the tables. “Jesus, Barry, you look like you haven’t slept in days.”

He hadn’t, not really, too stressed to sleep. He’d busied himself with this work, clearing old files so he could focus, staring at the report marked ‘Leonard Snart’ and trying not to think about how he’d said he’d drop Barry in the river. Trying not to feel concerned about his connection to the latest victim, about his threats to Joe and Iris, about the rising probability of him being connected to all of this and the chances of him making good on those threats if he got drawn into the investigation.

“Barr?”

“Sorry—sorry, still waking up. I’m fine.”

“Did you… Barry you didn’t sleep here last night?” Her eyes went wide and she looked around as if for clues to tell her if he’d slept at his desk (he had) or not. “Are those the same clothes from yesterday?”

“I had a lot of evidence to process. Everyone’s been working overtime…”

“You should not be running yourself into the ground like this, Barr.”

“I didn’t mean to; I just sort of crashed.”

She frowned, looking worried. “You’ve been weird all week, are you okay?”

Without warning, his throat stuck. It was her earnestness, her deep brown eyes full of genuine concern—that and the lack of sleep and caffeine. He should tell her. He should’ve told Joe. This was so ridiculous and he was stressing himself out when they could be helping him figure this out. Snart wasn’t the Midtown Murderer. And if he was, they ought to be investigating him. Barry ought to tell them—

“Allen! Ah, Miss West, sorry to burst in.”

Iris went from looking worriedly at Barry to turning abruptly at Julian’s entrance. Barry cleared his throat and tried to look like he—

“Did you sleep here, Allen?”

“Sleep? Of course not—that’s—why would you even think—” he shut himself up with an eye roll from Julian.

“Well, whatever gets you to work on time, keep it up.”

Iris scowled at him but Barry almost laughed for once. “What’d you need, Julian?”

“Just coming by to drop off a copy of that warehouse report. We have an official person of interest in this case.”

His back was ramrod straight. Fuck. “Who?”

“A man named Mick Rory.”

 

Chapter Text

“Your keg’s not very cold,” Len eyed the bartender who’d asked him if he wanted another round. The man just grunted.

“So order somethin’ else.”

He jutted his jaw, unamused, but ordered two bottles and dropped one in front of Mick back at their pool table.

“Hn? Fancy.”

“Cold,” Len corrected and his friend snorted.

“Picky.”

Whatever. Len sucked back some of his drink and grabbed up a cue. It was his turn to break, Mick having set the game back up.

He lined up his shot and forgot to move. His eyes had caught on a face. A face that really didn’t belong in Saints ‘n Sinners, looking around the bar in an obvious way before his eyes landed on Len.

“Stay here.” He moved without thinking.

A moment later, he had a tight hold on Barry's arm, forcibly dragging the man from the bar, totally in step with him and close to his side. Everyone gave them a wide berth and after a startle at Len’s grip, Barry didn’t fight, proving he wasn’t a complete idiot at least. Len got him outside and away from the smokers, down the back of the building and lit dimly by buzzing red and blue neon lights not far off, casting a dim haze over the alley. He threw the other up against the wall, about to start in on him but he was already snapping indignantly at Len.

“What the hell, Snart?”

Len wasted no time, pulled his gun from the waist of his pants along his back and Barry—who’d been pushing off the wall with an angry look—back-pedalled fast, hands up and holding himself against the wall.

“Whoa whoa whoa—I came to you—”

“So you did,” he quipped with a quick nod, “doesn’t mean I trust you worth a damn.”

Barry swallowed since Len had put the gun up under his chin. He really should check himself around this brat because watching his Adam’s apple bob really ought not do that him, make him want to get all tight and close in his space and mess up all that perfect hair.

“Besides, figured you oughtta be used to it after last time.” For some reason, Barry’s cheeks flushed a little at that. “Still, I’ll put on the safety. I can be reasonable.”

He clicked it on and Barry kept his eyes on the gun as best as he could. “You’re such an asshole.”

“And yet you came back.”

Barry glared at him in the red light. The sign was defunct and flickered every now and then, dropping the red and shifting so a blue glow remained, switching up the shadows on Barry's face. “You said you’d go after my best friend and foster father if I didn’t, remember?”

He recalled, yes. Which meant that Barry was here with information or something useful. Len really ought to stop antagonizing him. “So start spilling, Barry.”

“Gonna get rid of the gun?”

Len lightened the press of it against his skin, noticing the indent he’d left. Barry let out a shaky breath and Len’s eyes snapped to his.

“My my, I might almost have thought you were enjoying that.”

He made a constrained noise, eyes wide—“I didn’t develop some kind of Pavlovian condition after one time of you threatening me, Snart.”

“So you did enjoy the kiss?” He leaned forward, tapping the muzzle of his gun against Barry’s cheek, almost unable to resist. “Or was it actually the gun?”

Barry spluttered at him, looking scandalized. “I don’t—it was a bodily reaction, that’s it.”

He tilted his head, refusing to feel guilty but withdrawing the gun all the same, keeping it handy by his side. Barry’s eyes were still on it.

“So what’re you here for?”

“Can we talk somewhere that isn’t a dingy alleyway? You seem to have an issue with me and hard surfaces.”

He took a step back, giving Barry his space, and arched an eyebrow. “You don’t want to talk to me inside that place. You stick out like a sore thumb, 'n I thought you wanted to keep your job.”

Barry scratched the back of his neck, wincing. “Right. I guess this is fine, just…”

“I won’t assault you, Barry," he was dead serious about that, at least. Still, he followed it with a little tease. "Scout’s honor. But I do intend to have you answer some questions, now that you’re here.”

“Right, yeah, that’s why I’m here.”

“Before that, I have to know—how did you find me?” The cops were generally terrible at it, and it didn’t sit well with him. But Barry just pulled out a phone from his pocket. Len tensed for a second, wondering if this was being recorded, if he should worry, but—

“Find My Phone app. My old phone’s off now but it was last in this neighborhood. I figured I’d try all the bars around here. Your file, too, with the CCPD? It listed one of the other bars—Roxy’s?—so I started there but this is only my third bar of the night.”

Len wasn’t sure what to make of that. If that app really worked then Barry had the address of his workshop with Mick. He should’ve turned that phone off before bringing it there. Curiosity killed the goddamn cat.

“You didn’t head straight to your phone?”

The look he got in return was sour but sardonic all the same. “Me and abandoned warehouses don’t have a great track record this month.”

Len almost laughed. “Now who’s fault is that?”

“Pretty sure the guy who keeps throwing me into walls might have some of the blame.”

“And here I thought that was your complaint with alleyways.”

Barry rolled his eyes and Len was endeared at how he seemed to be playing along. He stepped a little off the wall, more into the red-again glow, into Len’s space, indicating the gun at his side. “Walls, alleyways, the fact that you seem to like waving your gun around in my face.”

“This old thing?” Len tapped it against the outside of Barry’s thigh and watched his eyes go wide, lips part just a little. “Or did you mean another kind of gun?”

“That’s the one,” he rasped, not moving back. Fuck, the look in his eyes shot Len's self-control to hell. 

"Sure you don't like that, Barry?"

His heart started to beat heavier in his chest and he dragged the muzzle along and upward, pressing it to the outside of Barry’s jeans. He halfway couldn't believe himself, but he didn't stop until his knuckles met the waistline of Barry's pants, under his jacket and pushing up his shirt, just a little, so that he could graze the skin there with the pad of his thumb.

"Hmm?" he prompted, painfully tempted.

“Sure you know what to do with it?” Barry swallowed hard, voice breathy and oh, Len smirked.

“Think I know one or two things you might want me to get up to with it.”

He slid the weapon forward along his jeans until it was rubbing the increasingly obvious bulge in Barry’s pants, muzzle facing down, barrel pressing flat along his crotch. Barry’s hips tilted forward with a gasp, a sort of choked-off sound that Len wanted to hear again and again, eyes fluttering closed, mouth dropping open. Maybe it wasn’t just his own self-control that was shot. Maybe he'd want it now, like Len did, like how he wanted to reach forward and kiss him, pull him in and press his own tongue deep inside that—

“That you Snart?” Mick’s voice called from a distance. Len started and stepped a foot back from Barry, Barry lurched back against the wall himself with a gasp, both pulled out of their reverie.

“Mick?” Len bit off a little too angry, squinting over at Mick coming toward them from the mouth of the alley, entering their neon glow.

“What the hell is taking your frosty ass so long? Had to finish both our beers.”

He was lighting a smoke, joining them in the glowing light. Len shot him a look. “Taking care of something.”

“Thought you offed this one?” Mick puffed on his cigarette and Barry edged a little farther away from them both, looking shaken again, all that delicious insinuation from a moment before long gone.

“I said I’d deal with him.”

“Looks mighty dealt.”

Len wasn’t amused, but Mick was. Len didn’t comment, just put his gun away and turned to look back at Barry. In the low light, Barry was staring at his partner, specifically at his lips. Len frowned.

“Got a smoke kink to go with your gun fetish, Barry?”

He didn’t need to say it, not really, not so bitterly, and Barry turned to glare at him, indignant all over again. “I don’t have a gun fetish, or a—just, no, that’s not—look, those smokes are half the reason I’m here.”

That got his attention. Mick shot him a look and Len let himself frost back over, getting colder, remembering what side of the law Barry was on and why he was actually here. It wasn’t to flirt with Len.

“Start talking.”

Barry hesitated then nodded. “I told you some detectives might go check out the warehouse? Well, they did. And they found something. And they took that something to my supervisor for processing and that something was cigarette butts with the DNA of one Mick Rory on them.”

Mick growled, “you saying you think I’m killing call girls, beanpole?”

“I’m saying you’re a person of interest in the case. And while I know you were at the warehouse for totally different illegal reasons, I’m pretty sure you’re not about to kindly tell the CCPD exactly what those reasons were or who else was there to vouch for you, are you?”

Len knew Mick’s tells. Before his partner could get up in Barry’s space and accost him, just as soon as he made a move to pick the kid up by the lapels of his bomber jacket, Len threw out an arm to hold him back. “Mick.” He paused, making sure Mick wasn’t about to press through the barrier Len represented, then relaxed slightly. “Kid’s doing us a favor, remember. Not that he would have to if he was the one to process the evidence like I told him to.”

“You—I told you I don’t have that kind of power, Snart!”

“Also said you weren’t gonna be my mole, Barry,” he tutted.

“And you said you’d go after Joe and Iris if I didn’t come here and warn you about shit like this!”

“Keep it down, would you?”

Barry took a few calming breaths. Mick had snorted and moved back, flicking his cigarette on the ground and claiming this was all bullshit. Len had gears turning in his head.

“Mick’s got other warrants out.”

“Doesn’t matter—those are cold, this is hot. The governor’s commenting on it. We’re getting a bunch of extra resources to deal with it. Four bodies over two years from one killer? It’s a big deal.”

“I saw the news.”

Barry nodded, then glanced down the alley. Len could tell he was fighting with himself over something, but waited. Patience paid off sometimes. “If we don’t get a solid lead by the end of the week, the FBI are coming down.”

Mick swore. Len whistled. “The big boys. Bet you love that.”

Barry scowled. “What I’d love is some justice, however it happens.”

“Justice won’t mean tagging Mick for this.”

“I know that. I… look, I came here to say what I said so hopefully you can find some way to deal with this that doesn’t lead my investigation down a useless rabbit hole.”

He glanced at his friend, “Mick?”

“I’ll rustle up my alibi for the other murders in case they ask around,” he shrugged. “Piggys aren’t gonna catch me anyway.”

Len nodded, satisfied. “Give us a sec?”

Mick gave him a look, altogether too smug, and waggled his eyebrows. “You kids have fun.”

Len watched Mick head back toward the mouth of the alley and the other smokers. When he finally looked back at Barry, the man was standing a little taller now that Mick wasn’t hovering around projecting an aura of violence. He was just a smidge taller than Len, an observation that vexed him.

“Ballsy, snapping at Mick like that.”

Barry shrugged while Len watched him. “I’ve met enough guys like him.”

Len doubted that was entirely true, knowing Mick was altogether unique, but got the general point. He titled his head to the side. “You went out on a real limb coming here.”

Barry scoffed. “Right, ‘cause I had a number to call you or any other way to get in touch.”

“Not what I meant.”

“I didn’t do it for you, if that’s what you wanna hear, Snart.”

“Glad to know my threats carry the appropriate sort of weight, then.”

“I…” Barry hesitated then dragged his hand over the top of his head, through his hair. The red light cast shadows on his face from his arm for a moment but his eyes glittered in the dark, staring off toward the street and the smokers there. “My dad.”

“Doctor Allen?”

“You looked him up?”

“I googled you.” Len inclined his head.

“That’s—you are so invasive.”

“You read my file, didn’t you?”

He blinked. “That’s different.”

“I beg to differ, Barry. I can only guess how much personal information is in your little system about me.”

He was sure it was a lot more than he would like. Not just his photo, DNA and finger prints. There were his associates, his family members, a life history painted in arrests and prison time and evidence.

“You have my phone.”

“And other than your photos and your contacts, there wasn’t much worthwhile for me on there. And then you used it to stalk me.”

Barry looked mulish. “Fine, whatever, just—”

“So what about your dear old dad, hm?”

He drew in a breath. “The other night? I told you, he’s innocent. And he’s in prison.” For killing Barry’s mother. With all the evidence pointing to him. Len had to wonder… “And I hate to see the wrong guy get charged as the Midtown Murderer just because he was in the wrong place at the right time.”

He shrugged like it was that simple and Len had no idea what to do with him. He’d thought he had this man figured out and then he’d done a 180 on Len. And then another. And then another. He hadn’t expected to see him again after sending him packing the other night, but here he was, not just holding up his end of their little deal as best he could, but doing it out of some genuine moral reason, twisting Len’s hold over him into something noble.

“You’re full of surprises, aren’t you?” It came out softer than he intended, too pensive but he couldn’t take his eyes off Barry. Barry, who’s eyes snapped back to him, looking nervous again. That wasn’t quite it. Not nervous. Apprehensive.

“So’re you.” Barry cleared his throat then, giving himself a little shake as if to remind himself who he was talking to, gathering his jacket tighter around himself. A pity. “So, uh—can you give me a number for the next time we have to do this? And is there any chance of me getting my bag back? That kit’s coming out of my paycheck.”

 

[ … ]

 

“Does Barry seem off to you?”

Iris glanced at him over her bowl of pho. “Barry?”

“I mean, I know with him it’s like when is he not kinda off, but has he been weirder than usual recently?”

Iris rolled her eyes. “He’s not weird but… he hasn’t been sleeping right.”

“That’s a side effect of getting struck by lightning, right?”

She frowned. It definitely was. “I think it’s this case. Something about it’s getting to him.”

“Something in particular?”

“I don’t know. It’s a tough case. How are you handling it?”

Eddie sighed and put down his chopsticks. “You’re right… it’s getting to all of us. Y’know we finally tracked down some friends of the third victim and they said she was missing for over a month? No one followed up because she was a prostitute and that bastard had her for a month.”

Iris’s nose curled, trying not to think about it. “That’s awful. I hope the rest of them weren’t that bad.”

“Well the latest one wasn’t. A few days, at most. Must’ve been a fighter.”

“Do you think he jumps from victim to victim, picks up a new one as soon as he’s done with the last?” She was glad she was mostly done her food because the conversation’s turn was putting her off eating.

“I don’t know. We hope not. There was a year between the two bodies in the river, but we don’t know if that’s all of them, or why he switched dumping grounds.”

“And you’re sure it’s the same guy?”

“Positive.”

She narrowed her eyes, “because of the teeth?”

Not that she was supposed to know that, or anyone else. Channel 52 had got the scoop somehow, which was bad for the cops even if it was good for business. That type of leak could leave to copycat killers.

He shifted guiltily in his seat. Got’ya.

“What aren’t you telling me?”

“Iris I don’t know if I should be discussing the case…”

“That’s my dad’s voice. Don’t let him convince you that I can’t handle hearing about this stuff.”

He sighed and propped his elbows up on the table while their bill arrived. “It’s not just Joe. It’s… okay. There’s this scar the killer leaves on his victims for some reason.”

“Scar?”

“Yeah it’s, well, the team’s convinced it’s supposed to look like a Lichtenberg figure.”

She blinked and sat up straighter in her seat, her head jumping through the hoops in what he wasn’t saying.

“That’s what’s getting to Barry.” She set aside her food, feeling too worried now to eat.

But Eddie frowned and muttered to himself. She leaned forward, not able to catch what he said.

“Babe?”

“It’s—look he’s been weird ever since we started actually getting any leads on the case. He was so gung-ho about this warehouse then backed right off as soon as it looked like it was gonna lead anywhere and…”

“And what?”

“And he’s being—I don’t, Iris. It’s not like him. He’s doing as good of work as ever—on time, even—but it’s like he keeps trying… misdirect? Like the warehouse, or this lead we got from it, this arsonist: Barry’s first question to me about it was “what if it’s not him”?”

“So?”

“So why would he even care? Why would he plant this idea of going to the warehouse then ‘misplace’ his kit right before we go and act like the warehouse isn’t going to lead anywhere? Why get almost visibly upset about us having a new lead?”

The gears ground in her head, not only because Eddie wasn’t making any sense, but because there was only one way to read between the lines of what he was saying. “Edward Thawne, you are not saying what I think you’re saying.”

“I’m not—just, look—he’s acting fishy, okay?”

“So?”

“So I wanna know why! Do you know how many criminals end up in law enforcement, Iris?”

“Eddie!”

“I’m not saying he’s the killer, I’m just saying—”

“That he’s a dirty cop?”

“What—no—wait do you think that’s what’s going on?”

“You tell me!”

“I’m just saying if he’s dangerous—”

“He’s my best friend!”

“And his father was a respected doctor until he murdered his mom and he still visits the man!”

Oh no, just no. She stood up and left the table, Eddie hurrying after her after dropping bills on the table. Damn him for carrying cash and catching up fast. She was out of there and already starting down the block.

“Iris, wait, please!”

“I cannot believe you just accused my best friend of being a serial killer, Eddie! What the hell?!” She rounded on him and he stopped, hand pressing to his forehead and back.

“Look, Iris—I’m sorry. I told you this case is getting to all of us. I’ve been reading too much about serial killers and working overtime every day and Barry’s been acting so skittish—”

“Maybe he’s skittish because he’s triggered? Maybe this reminds him of watching his mom die?” she snapped fast and Eddie winced.

“Maybe. I don’t know. And that’s the thing Iris—I don’t know him like you do. I barely met him before he got hit and went on recovery and I don’t honestly want to imagine how being traumatized like he was as a kid could’ve affected him.” He paused and calmed down, looking at her imploringly. “I’m sorry, Iris. I just find it sketchy as hell that he lost his kit bag the day I was invited him to collect evidence at that warehouse and the fact that the killer is leaving scars on his victims just like the marks that were all over Barry’s chest after he got struck by lightning.”

Iris was fighting back tears of frustration on the open street. “Goddammit, Eddie. Barry is not some killer. You know that! You helped save his life that night—do you really think he could turn around and kill someone?”

“I don’t know how lightning can affect someone—if there’s some kind of lightning psychosis.”

“You think being struck by lightning made him a murderer?”

“I think that Singh and Joe are too close to Barry to even consider the possibility so someone had to.”

She sighed, curling her fingers. “Unbelievable. Honestly babe. I can’t even—just…” she made a scathing noise. Fine, she got it. Barry acted a little crazy sometimes. He rushed off and lost his phone and his kit bag and told some pretty transparent lies about it, and that’s when he wasn’t running a blog on cryptids or whatever. Sure, he barely had any friends outside of Iris and that Cisco guy from the cybercrimes division he got a drink with sometimes. Sure, he’d been traumatized and witnessed a gory murder as a child. Sure, he was in a perfect position to cover up evidence if he needed to.

Goddammit. She shook her head.

“I’m sorry, Iris. You’re right. It’s crazy.”

“Yeah, it is. And for the record, Barry’s dad is innocent. He’s always believed that and that’s why he visits.”

Eddie frowned like he wasn’t so sure and honestly, Iris had never been sure either. Her dad sure thought Henry Allen was guilty. But Iris refused to believe that Barry was going to become a killer even if his father was.

“He’s family to me, Eddie. He’s not a suspect. I thought you were kinda becoming friends with him.”

“I am! Well, I’m trying. I’m not saying he’s not a good guy, Iris—” her eyebrows shot up and he amended, “—I mean I’m not saying he doesn’t care about you and do good work. I’m just saying… something’s going on with him. You’re right about that. And until he tells someone what it is… I don’t want to rule out any possibilities.”

She pursed her lips. “I can’t believe you think Barry would be dumb enough to leave lightning scars on his victims to be found by a precinct full of cops who know he was struck by lightning. Or any evidence at all, babe. If Barry was a serial killer, you’d never find the bodies.”

He laughed a little and she let the little half-smile pull at her own lips. She was mostly teasing, but it was also true. Kind of unsettlingly true. With his training, Barry wouldn’t leave a single trace.

“You’re probably right. I’m sorry I even thought it. Can we just… keep this between us? I don’t want to hurt Barry with it. And I definitely don’t want Joe to find out I suspected his kid.”

Iris laughed, finally, relaxing for real. “Oh now that would make for a nice Sunday dinner conversation.”

“Iris…”

“Don’t worry,” she batted him gently on the arm before looping her hand in his, resolving to put this aside, at least for now. “Now come on, I only get an hour for my lunch break and the CCPN is still six blocks from here. I can’t walk that fast in these heels.”

 

[ … ]

 

Barry’s apartment was a modest one-bedroom. It was seldom clean, with sweaters lying around, empty coffee mugs and bags of corn chips that he was too lazy to tidy after zoning out in front of Netflix until some godforsaken hour some nights and remembering he had to get up in only a few hours so it was well past time to sleep. Then there was his workbench tucked away in a corner of the living room with files and folders for personal interest sitting next to his laptop, and a Perplexus toy that was just collecting dust as a paperweight at this point. The kitchen fared a lot better thanks to the grace of having an actual dishwasher and him subsisting off a lot of prepared food (half the reason Joe instituted a policy on Sunday night family dinner was probably because he doubted in Barry’s ability to get nutrients otherwise) but his bedroom was a consistent disaster.

His bedroom was where he was now, staring at the ceiling, trying to convince himself he hadn’t made all the wrong choices.

What if Leonard Snart was the killer? What if his pal Mick Rory helped him? What if all those guys were…

He knew, logically, it didn’t check out. If Barry had stumbled upon a haven of serial killers (which he was pretty sure wasn’t a thing, serial killers didn’t move in packs or crews, not like that), they would’ve taken him apart piece by piece. Those guys seemed skittish, or at least one of them had, and mostly were all concerned with covering their tracks. Not with the lamb that walked right up to the slaughter.

All of them except Snart. Who cuffed him and manhandled him and kept total control over the situation at all times, kissed him and sucked his lip and then when Barry was dumb enough to track him down, looked altogether too ready to go for a round two.

He thought about it, knowing he shouldn’t. About what might’ve happened if Mick Rory hadn’t joined them in the alleyway, tracked his friend down. If Snart had kept that gun out, the way he tapped it against Barry’s cheek, teased him… The way his own body had started to get hot when it dragged up his thigh, something warm spreading down from his lips to his neck to his chest, all the way to his cock. He’d been so frustrated and relieved at once when Snart had stepped back, barely managed to quell his rising arousal so Rory wouldn’t notice it. So Barry wouldn’t do anything he could regret.

A gun fetish. Who knew. Barry hadn’t been at gunpoint before that and didn’t expect to respond the way he did, hadn’t expected for his cock to ache inside his jeans, hadn’t planned for the thrill up his spine. It only took effect after he was pretty sure he wasn’t going to die—after Snart started to tease him, after he put the safety on. After he looked Barry up and down and the world tilted on its axis.

Barry had wanted to drag him forward and rut right there in the alleyway, indecent. Wanted Snart to drag him back to whatever he used the nearby warehouse for so they could have some privacy, so they could take it to the next level, so that Snart could—

Snart… Barry scrubbed his hands down his face, trying to push down the heat rising him in, the throb in his neglected erection reminding him just how bad he’d wanted it. Snart might be the Midtown Murderer. He really shouldn’t be fantasizing about a man who might’ve mutilated at least four people. Who probably had.

He told Snart about Rory being suspected because he was sure it wasn’t Rory. The man had the history of violence down to a T, that was for sure, his file was riddled with allegations and cases. But this killer had planning and patience and didn’t use anything halfway related to fire.

What he didn’t tell Snart was about Maria Korsukova. He should’ve, if he was only there for the safety of Iris and Joe. Had actually gone there thinking he would. None of the victims’ names had been released to the news. He wanted to measure Snart’s reaction to it. Would he be surprised? Would he threaten Barry again? Would he decide this little game of cat and mouse was too dangerous now and off him for good this time?

He wasn’t quite sure why he’d kept it to himself after all. He didn’t get his kit bag back, so there was that. But there was still a strong chance this was going to bite Snart in the ass and the man would have to know Barry could’ve prevented it, could’ve warned him. Maybe it was just some good old revenge. Maybe that was it.

He hoped that was it. He wasn’t sure if he could handle it being something else.

He swallowed back the anxiety creeping up his throat, worried about discovering the truth, worried that he was wrong, worried that he was right. Worried he was going to sleep with Snart before he was brave enough to figure out the answer.

Barry rolled onto his side, eyebrows drawn together as he forcibly pushed aside the thoughts of Snart and all the incumbent arousal. He needed to sleep, to get one night of rest this week that wasn’t full of fitful tossing and turning, of lightning and screams.

 

 

Chapter Text

“Hey Eddie,” Barry opened, sipping his coffee after finishing up saying good morning to Joe on his way in.

Eddie glanced up from his desk, “Allen, hey.”

“Any luck with bringing in Rory?” It had been two days since he’d gone to find and warn the man. Eddie seemed to relax at the question for whatever reason, leaning back in his chair and slinging an arm over the back.

“Not yet. There’s some missing links. Turns out he was in holding around the time the second victim went missing.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah—didn’t take, one of his little pals busted him out on his way to a court hearing.”

Barry winced. “Well, might not be your guy after all that.”

Eddie’s eyes met his. “No… maybe not.” He stood up then, abruptly, and Barry took a half step back to give him room to do it. “But I’m going to keep digging. Whatever he was doing at that warehouse—maybe he wasn’t alone. Or maybe our killer doesn’t work alone.”

“You on about that again?” Joe glanced over at them from his nearby desk and Barry turned inquisitively. “He’s got this idea that Rory might’ve done this with a partner.”

“You mean like… two Midtown Murderers?”

“Mhmm.”

“He’s worked with a partner before. We’ve got him tagged with some guy by the name of Snart for a job two years back, they’d done jobs on and off for years according to Rory’s file.”

Joe sat up straighter. Barry sipped his coffee, white knuckled. “Leonard Snart?”

“You know him?”

“Yeah—thief. Weren’t you just asking me about him the other day, Barr?”

“Who, me? I—oh yeah right, the uh, the case for…” who who who who— “Ramirez!” he snapped, then caught his coffee that he almost toppled by leaning into the gesture too much. “Right—yeah but that was a dead end.”

Eddie was giving him a weird look. He glanced back at Joe, who seemed pensive. “Might be worth looking into… Snart’s got the brains to pull something like this off. If he’n Rory’re working together…”

“Is that common, though? Serial killer teams? I mean, wouldn’t you know if it was a team? The evidence…” so far didn’t say much on the matter with no prints or DNA.

Eddie was frowning at him. “The FBI should be here in two days. We’ll see what their profile says about it. In the meantime… Joe, you wanna come with, see if we can rustle up some of these last known associates or locations for Snart, since we hit a wall with Rory?”

Barry was very glad his coffee mug was a sturdy tumbler or else he’d probably have crumpled it beyond recognition with how hard his hand tightened around it.

 

[ … ]

 

“Who’d you piss off?”

“Who haven’t I?” Len replied to the abrupt voice on the other end of the phone. “And hello to you too, Shawna.”

“Well, whoever it was, you’ve got the 5-0 sniffing around, boss.”

Oh?”

“These jackasses still got my address on file, looks like.”

“Time to move, looks like.”

She made a scathing noise on the other end of the line and Len’s lips twitched up.

“Tell me, what did the boys in blue want this time?”

“The hell should I know?”

“You didn’t answer the door.”

“All they wanted to know was if I saw you, and where. I told them no.”

He hummed.

“You do something stupid?”

“No more than usual.” He tapped his fingers against his thigh. “Thanks for the call, Beaz.”

“Yeah well, anything for Lisa’s brother.”

He actually did smile, then. “You’re a keeper.”

There was a laugh on the other end of the line. “Gee, thanks. Talk soon.”

“Yeah.”

He disconnected the call, frowning at the phone after.

“Lisa’s girl?” Mick asked, looking up from the bench press where he’d been lifting.

“Shawna, yeah.”

“Pigs?”

“Seems you’re not the only one they’re looking for.”

Mick grunted, laying back again. “Gonna go meet your piece?”

“He’s not my piece.”

“Not yet.”

Len rolled his eyes but it wasn’t like Mick was paying attention. It didn’t matter anyway, because the man was right. Len was going to go and track him down and have a little conversation with him. Whatever that amounted to… who could say. All he knew for certain at this point was that he’d met Barry Allen all of ten days ago and already his life had become uncomfortably complicated despite promises to the contrary.

 

[ … ]

 

The public was calling for the department or the government to dredge the river and banks for the bay for more bodies. Barry rubbed his temples watching that tidbit on the news when Julian had burst into his office with words like “preposterous!” and made him watch the clip.

Julian was thinking about the extra work it would take, the waste of resources, the time he was going to have to spend as the lead CSI in drafting an explanation for what evidence that was likely to garner if there were additional bodies (the answer was very, very little, unless they were somehow recent and fresh still) and why. The medical examiner probably wouldn’t even have much left except bones if they did find old bodies, what with the climate and size of the river.

But it wasn’t that preposterous, really, when you looked at it from another point of view.

“You’ll probably be able to tell if the teeth are missing, if we turn up any recent enough bodies.”

Julian glared at him, “you can’t really think this is a good use of resources?”

Barry shrugged. “People want answers. People deserve answers.”

“And the answers we’ll give them will come from physical evidence, not washed away and mostly-decomposed bodies if we find anymore.”

“The bodies we have won’t tell them if their missing friends—missing family, parents, children, whoever—might be one of our killer’s victims.”

Julian opened his mouth then closed it. He cleared his throat. “Right. Well. I just don’t see—”

“Think of it this way, Julian: at least you’ll get to work closely with Dr. Snow?”

 

[ … ]

 

Barry was exhausted by the time he made it home. His shift always started late in the morning and went until the evening so he stopped for some take out nearby before heading up to his apartment, reading to veg in front of the TV and maybe update his blog.

He wasn’t expecting a knock at the door ten minutes after getting in. Especially because no one rang the buzzer. With a glance around his mostly-dark apartment (just the kitchen light off, the closest to the door as he browsed take-out menus) and a little hesitation, he checked the eyehole.

“For real?” he demanded, pulling the door wide with a glare. Snart was leaning there looking completely at ease. “My apartment?”

“Could’ve let myself in, figured this would be more polite.”

“How do you even know where I live?”

“I know where you work, it’s not that hard to figure it out from there.”

“You stalked me.”

He glanced at his nails, nonchalant. “Like you did to me, remember?” His eyes glanced up at Barry, sharp and too pleased to deliver that line. Barry felt the anger rising up in throat despite the hypocrisy.

“I found my stolen phone. You, on the other hand, tracked me to my apartment like some kind of—”

What? Criminal?”

“You sure you’re not the serial killer?”

“Would I tell you if I was?”

Barry jutted his jaw. “What’d you even want?”

Snart motioned toward the interior. “May I?”

Barry blocked him. “Why would I invite a potential killer into my apartment?”

He glanced up and down the hall. “And see, here I thought you didn’t want to be seen having conversations with criminals outside your door.”

Barry swore under his breath and stepped back to let the man in. He also stuck his head out to glance both ways and make sure no one was coming up the stairs to catch any of that before retreating inside and closing the door behind him. Snart was already halfway into the living room, navigating by the dim kitchen light, glancing around in open curiosity.

“I thought we exchanged numbers. No need for house calls, remember?”

“And deny you the pleasure of my company?”

Barry rolled his eyes, relaxing ever so slightly. He wasn’t quite sure why Snart’s droll nature helped set him at ease, but somehow it did. He leaned against the wall between his kitchen and living room, crossing his arms and watching Snart. He was in a jacket as always, a sweater since the nights were pretty cool, and seemed so at ease and casually curious of Barry’s space. He flicked on this desk light, tilted his head and picked up Barry’s Perplexus toy, twirling it around, the marble inside rolling this way and that against the inner workings.

“This looks fun.”

“That’s the hard version. It’s a nightmare.”

“Mm.” He stared at it, seemingly trying to decide if it was worth it to try.

“What uh... what’re you doing here?”

His hands stilled on the transparent plastic sphere, glancing at Barry over it. “Friend of mine got a visit from your pals at the precinct.”

Oh. Barry glanced to the side. “Joe and Eddie, yeah.”

“Eddie?”

“Detective Thawne. He’s uh… he’s the blond in my phone’s photos? He’s dating Iris.”

“That seems… complicated.”

Barry cleared his throat. “They make it work.”

He put the toy aside. “And why are they asking after me, Barry?”

“Don’t blame me.”

“I’m not.” He came a few steps closer, a little more threatening. “You’d know if I did.”

Barry scoffed, standing up straighter, “can you drop it already with the threats, Snart? Third time’s the charm, or something? Think I’ll finally cave and start tampering with evidence for you?” He leaned forward a little, voice getting lower. “Or were you just hoping that if you had an excuse to pull out your gun I might give in this time?”

Snart arched an eyebrow. “I was just here for business, but if you’re so eager to fraternize, you know I won’t say no.”

“That wasn’t an invitation.”

“You sure about that?”

“You’re a criminal.”

“So it really is just my gun you get hot for.”

Barry glared, completely unable to answer that, halfway ready to pull his hair out, wishing he wasn’t already thinking about it. Wishing he didn’t already know exactly what he was going to do.

“Barry, Barry, Barry…” Snart came a step closer, looking coy, and Barry didn’t even think to step away.

“How do I know you won’t kill me after you’ve had your fill?”

He tilted his head, “give yourself some credit—you think I’ll get bored of you so fast?”

“So you will kill me?”

“Only if you double-cross me, Barry. Not because you want me—or even if you don’t.”

He was serious and Barry didn’t even know why he asked. He wouldn’t have let Snart in if he really thought the man was going to hurt him. The threat to his friends and family was real, but not over this. And this—

“Look, Snart, you are the most infuriating person I’ve met in the past decade and that’s including my lab manager and he is a piece of work—but!” He paused for a breath. “But for some insane reason that probably has to do with the fact that I haven’t gotten laid in way too long—” he didn’t need to admit that “—I’m actually considering doing this so can we stop with the threats and talk and maybe get that out of our systems and move on already—”

A slow grin teased across his face. “I thought you’d never ask.”

Barry couldn’t stand the snark anymore—he reached forward, hands taught in Snart’s jacket, and pulled him in hard, lips slamming together. It wasn’t sexy, not to start. Their teeth clacked in a way that made him wince but he fixed his eyes shut and held on, scared and desperate in a way that made him want this more.

Mercifully, Snart didn’t seem to mind. He oriented himself in a second, hands latching on to Barry’s jaw and face, cupping it but with more intent, pulling him closer, titling his head so he could deepen the kiss. Barry complied, grateful, letting Snart’s tongue slide between his lips, calming down then tensing up in a different way, relaxing into it but feeling heat pool inside him.

Snart kissed like he didn’t need air. Like he was afraid Barry was going to pull back any second. It was the last thing he wanted to do though. He pushed Snart’s jacket off his shoulders, ignoring all the voices in his head screaming about bad ideas and consequences, and when Snart shimmied out of it and got his hands back on Barry, around his waist, they finally came up for air. Snart kissed his jaw and down his neck and Barry swallowed down breaths and tilted it, let Snart lick and suck and moaned when he hit the right spot, fingers digging into the man’s shoulders in response.

“Fuck—don’t—god, don’t leave any marks where people can see.”

“Mm—what about where they can’t?”

Barry choked out a laugh, feeling Snart’s hands making work of the buttons on his overshirt, fast and skilled. He was out of it in seconds, one of those same hands pushing up his shirt against his skin, the other going to his hair while Snart raked his teeth against his ear lobe. “Well?”

His voice was incredibly hot near his ear.

“Don’t care,” Barry rasped in return.

The man hummed against his throat, seemingly pleased. Barry brought his hands around him and moved them down but the man caught his hand.

“Going for my gun so soon?”

Fuck, he hadn’t even thought of that, he’d just been trying to get Snart to take off his shirt. That didn’t stop heat from pooling in him at the prospect, didn’t stop his cock from starting to ache in his jeans. “I swear to god I didn’t have a gun kink until you walked into my life.”

“I’m flattered.” He kept Barry’s wrist in his hand and moved him so he was back up against the wall, hand trapped against it, even if his hold was gentle. His thumb skimmed over the pulse point.

“You’ve really got a thing for walls,” Barry offered, stealing another kiss.

“We’ve all got our things.” He used his other hand to thumb at Barry’s lip once he broke the kiss. “Should I get the gun out?”

A shiver ran up his spine and his cock throbbed inside his jeans. Shit. “Yeah.”

“Gimme a safeword and I’ll give you what you’re gagging for.”

Barry let out another half-strangled laugh. A safeword. Jesus. “Just don’t assume that no means yes.”

“I won’t. Still.”

Barry swallowed, flexing his hand in Snart’s grip. This was a lot of self-discovery in one night, but he was flushed down to his navel and couldn’t deny he liked the hold. “How about ‘thunder’?”

“Thunder.” Snart tilted his head to the side. “Sure. Now,” he kissed Barry again and moved both hands, pulling out a gun from the seat of his pants. “Is this what you need, Barry?”

He was hard as a rock, panting a little, and let out a pitiful sound that he wasn’t proud of. He’d be embarrassed if Snart didn’t seem completely into it.

“God, the things I wanna do to you.” Snart’s voice was low and raspy and Barry’s hand still wrapped around him dug into the material of his sweater.

“The feeling’s mutual.”

Snart kissed him again, pressing his tongue in deep. The man dragged the muzzle of his gun up Barry’s thigh but their hips were too aligned, too tight for there to be any space between them. Instead he felt it slide up against his shirt, catching on the fabric, tugging it up. Barry got with the program, pulling back and dragging the shirt up over his head.

“My my, that’s quite the tattoo.”

Right. He hadn’t even thought. He tilted his head back. “Long story, another time.”

Snart hummed, stepping back to look at it. He slid his hand down Barry’s chest, tracing over the lines. It started at his shoulder, a line tattoo, a black lightning bolt that went down, forked first over his chest then again just under his ribs, bottom branches catching on his opposite hip. It wasn’t a lot of ink but it was big in that it stretched long and thin across his whole torso, technically, and it had too much history for him to drag into an already charged interaction. (1, 2, 3, 4)

So Barry caught Snart by the neck and pulled him in for another kiss, rolled his hips against the other man’s and felt how hard they both were. The gun was back on him, cool metal against his skin and it shouldn’t, god it shouldn’t feel good but it did. Snart cradled it against his neck and he tilted it, gasped out of the kiss and arched. He felt the muzzle hard under his jaw, dizzying and intoxicating.

God.”

Snart chuckled, thigh pressing between Barry’s again, deliberate and hard against his groin. He moved the gun up and against Barry’s cheek and he knew—he knew exactly what was about to happen but still couldn’t believe himself when his lips dropped open.

When had he become so shameless? Was it some proximity-effect from Snart?

He didn’t spare much time to contemplate it, a metal tang filling his senses as his tongue slid along the underside of the barrel. The muzzle was bigger in his mouth than it looked, stretching his jaw wide.

Jesus, Barry.”

His eyes flew open, caught on Snart’s, then fell half-lidded again. He pressed his shoulders against the wall so that he could arch his hips against the other man, his thigh. The gun didn’t taste good, not really, but the bitter, metal flavor wasn’t doing anything to inhibit him. The front sight caught along the roof of his mouth and he closed his eyes and pulled off with a pop, heaving in a breath.

“Should consider filing down that sight.”

“Harder to aim.”

“Hard to suck.”

Snart caught his jaw in his free hand, thumb persuading it to open so he could slip it in, caressing his tongue. He tilted the gun to the side like an action-movie hero who wanted to look badass but actually looked like an idiot to anyone who’d ever aimed a gun, but either way it did the trick. He pressed the gun in deeper until it hit the back of Barry’s throat and teased his gag reflex and he stopped, Barry’s mouth wet with saliva ready to dribble out the edges, and Snart finally pulled his thumb out.

Barry was pretty sure if Snart didn’t stop soon he was going to cum in his jeans.

The man pulled the gun back and pressed it in, a mockery of a blow job and Barry moaned around the barrel. His tongue swirled around the muzzle, hating the flavor at the tip but loving that he could catch on Snart’s finger pressed safely along the barrel. A thrill went up his spine, knowing the safety was on but considering the danger.

He should probably be concerned about how his body was responding to that. But Snart pressed in a little too deep again and he stopped caring, swallowing around it and finally pulling back, panting.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck—”

Snart was on him again, lips hard on his, tongue deep like he couldn’t hold back. Barry didn’t complain, arms wrapping tight around him, letting Snart pull away and rake his teeth against his neck then over his collarbone, sucking hard enough to bruise where no one ought to see. The gun was on the shelf, his hands were making fast work of Barry’s belt and Barry started working in on his.

“Blow me?”

It was a question and Barry was honestly surprised by that. “Yeah.”

Snart dropped his belt and put one hand on Barry’s shoulder to press him down at the affirmation. He went willingly, dropping to his knees, hands still sliding down Snart’s zipper on the way. Snart got one hand in his hair then, just to card his fingers through it.

He didn’t waste time getting his mouth around Snart’s cock.

“Jesus, Barry.”

The same thing he said when Barry took his gun in. He decided he liked that and hummed around the thick cock inside his mouth, his tongue sliding along the underside. He was out of practice but not expecting it to take long, eager because he was too turned on to function. The taste of flesh was a lot less foreign than the gun and the rhythm more natural. He didn’t mind gagging a little when he took too much because Snart groaned each time he did, taking the opportunity to press in even deeper, unkind but exactly how Barry wanted it.

“You’re fucking gorgeous.” Snart rasped after minutes filled with only quiet groans and wet sounds.

His hand was cradling Barry’s head, keeping him in place and he preened a little, flushing at the attention. His swallowed around the member and his own cock throbbed in sympathy, aching to be touched.

“Bit of a slut, aren’t you?” Snart asked and Barry’s eyes flew open. Snart looked as turned on as Barry felt, more maybe, eyes dark and lidded, lips parted just a little, strained but he couldn’t take his eyes off Barry and Barry suddenly felt warm all over. Well, warmer. “Like that, me calling you a slut?”

He shouldn’t. He should not. He moaned anyway. Snart groaned, eyes closing, hips thrusting just a little.

“’M close.”

Barry pulled off to stroke, to pull in air, to lick the tip. “Just yours,” he rasped.

“Just mine?” Snart cracked an eye open, a bit of confusion on his face.

“Not a slut,” Barry turned his wrist in a way that earned a quiet groan for his trouble. “Just a slut for you.”

Fuck.”

Barry hummed, lips back on Snart, pulling him in deep and going for broke. It didn’t take long, Snart tangling his hands in Barry’s hair, keeping his hips still so Barry could take it and he did, ignoring Snart’s warning that he was there, letting it hit the back of his throat and swallowing, ears full of the sound of Snart’s quiet, irreverent swearing.

He pulled off, catching his breath, undoing his pants. He needed to cum now. He had a hand around himself in a second, face pressed to Snart’s thigh, gasping. He wrapped his free hand around Snart’s hip to hold himself up, felt the man’s fingers gentle through his hair.

“Good boy, Barry. That’s it. Cum for me.”

He groaned, just shy of digging his teeth into Snart’s leg, spilling in waves, shuddering. The feeling of those fingers against his scalp had him shivering in pleasure, the orgasm washing through his whole body until he was spent.

He felt a little loopy when he came down. Warm and easy. His hand was a mess and he smiled down at it, sated, forehead still pressed against Snart’s thigh while the man did up his pants.

“That was…” he wasn’t quite sure what to say. Snart was still petting his hair.

“Exceptional.”

Barry hummed and closed his eyes, smiling a little. He could worry about how terrible of an idea this had been later.

“Let’s get you cleaned up.”

He groaned, knees popping when he stood and stretched. He looked down at himself, limp cock still hanging and then at his hand again, this time in distaste.

“I assume you have a washcloth in this place?”

“Yeah?”

Snart turned and moved through his apartment. Barry shivered, feeling like an idiot already, reality trying to swoop in, but Snart was back a minute later, and with him the bubble of surreality that let him pretend this wasn’t a horrible idea. He took Barry’s hand in a warm and wet cloth, wiping each digit thoroughly before handing it to him to clean himself up and Barry wasn’t about to complain. He tucked himself away with a quiet sigh, feeling lighter and more at ease than he had since starting this case.

“Just gonna… laundry.”

Snart nodded, “by all means.”

He was being nicer. Way nicer. Maybe he’d just needed to get laid? Barry moved through his apartment in the mostly-dark, dropping the cloth on a pile of dirty laundry in his room. When he came back out, Snart was staring at him, head cocked a little, eyes narrowed.

“What?” Barry asked.

“How’re you feeling?” he drawled, slow and giving nothing away.

“…fine?”

“Hazy?”

“How did you…?” He shook his head, “it was a good orgasm.”

Snart hummed. “I appreciate your enthusiasm, Barry, but given how I react around you, it might be best to lay down some ground rules.”

Barry blinked. “For… sex?”

“For scenes.”

Scenes?” As in BDSM scenes? This was just—

“You really don’t know?”

What?” he snapped.

“Your kinks, Barry,” Snart frowned. “They’re a neon sign that screams ‘submissive’.”

He opened his mouth and closed it, making a noise in his throat. “I can be dominant.”

“Not what I’m saying.”

“What are you saying, Snart? We fucked, we got it out of our systems.”

“I’m not saying you’re weak, Barry,” he moved closer, colder and harder again. “I’m saying something about you makes me want to press you over every surface in this shitty little apartment and make you forget anyone exists but me.”

Oh. He would… maybe go for that. He shivered. “This why you made me pick a safeword?”

“I made you pick a safeword because you wanted to fellate a loaded gun.”

It was loaded. He shuddered again, not entirely in pleasure this time, now that he was post-orgasm. How self-destructive was he?

He moved a few feet away from Snart, leaning against his desk and crossing his arms. “Fine, you got me. I’ve got messed up kinks—I own that. But from what I know about BSDM, you’re not exactly the right guy to pick as a dom, Snart.”

“Ever had one?”

“What? No—not…”

“Not?” his eyes narrowed again and it was none of his damn business.

“Unless you wanna spill your whole sex history we don’t need to go there.” It wasn’t a big deal, really. Just his ex, Linda, and some exploration, some leather cuffs and other toys, a dynamic where she’d tell him what to do and he liked—

“I have experience with scenes. Do you?”

Jesus. Barry dragged a hand through his hair. “You’re not my dom, Snart.”

“Maybe not, Barry,” he inclined his head. “And I won’t push it. But I could be, if you want that.”

“For real?” He couldn’t help but take a half-step forward at that, animated again already. “Most of what you’ve done is stalk and threaten me!”

Snart’s eyes flicked away and Barry was pretty sure he’d just scored a point in their game of volleys. He pressed his advantage.

“Whatever this is, it’s a mistake. We both know it.”

Snart turned his gaze back to Barry. He nodded slowly. “Agreed.”

Barry let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. He felt a pang in his chest at that, one he forcibly pushed aside. “Is there anything else you wanted from this house-call?”

Snart was still eyeing him carefully. “You don’t know why your detective friends are asking around about me?”

“No.” It was a lie. “Nothing substantial.”

The other tensed, something shifting in his face.

“Anything unsubstantial?”

He swallowed, glad he had an excuse for the sweat on his skin as the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. “They know you’re friends with Rory. His alibi checks out, now they’re looking into you.”

“Should I be concerned?”

He thought of Joe dropping by his lab before he went home that night telling him he’d spent the whole day trying to track leads on Snart, that he might pull a double shift searching. That the man was a client of their most recent victim, a solid lead for the first time. He’d clapped Barry on the back and told him not to work too hard since one of them ought to get some sleep tonight.

His stomach turned. “No. It’s fine.”

The man nodded slowly, eyes not leaving Barry’s. “I’ll be out of your hair then.”

It wasn’t until he was gone that Barry fully realized he still didn’t have his shirt on, his lightning tattoo on display the entire time.

 

Chapter Text

“Penny for your thoughts, Lenny?” Rosa slid into the booth across from him, scoop neck of her shirt cut low.

“Rosa. To what do I owe this pleasure?”

She leaned forward, one hand holding up her chin, the other snaking across the table to pick up the tattered remains of his beer label. “You looked kinda lonely, Lenny.”

He leaned back in his booth, lips pursed. “I’m not having another threesome with you and Sam.”

“Did I say threesome? I don’t remember saying threesome.” She rolled her eyes and he was tempted to do the same. Her smile turned wicked a moment later. “You do look lonely though. And you know me’n Sam are open, no need to give him a call.”

“Scram, Rosa. I don’t need you to warm my bed,” he drawled.

“So cold, Lenny. So much for friendship.” She flicked the label his way. “You really do look pissed ‘bout something.”

He paused, narrowed his eyes. If she could tell he was in a mood, that was embarrassing. “Rosa, you know what I do to people who lie to me?”

She sat back abruptly at the low threat in his face. “I didn’t lie about shit, Snart.”

“Not you,” he did roll his eyes to the side this time.

“Oh. Oh. One of your little birds go’n do something stupid?”

“It remains to be seen.”

She was leaning forward again, knowing. She drew patterns in the condensation on the table with her finger as she talked. “And you’re such a white knight, you don’t wanna bust up a pretty face for doing you wrong.”

“I’m not—”

“Oh you don’t have to tell me, Lenny. Any girl dumb enough to cross you deserves it though, ‘specially if she’s a working girl.”

She always had such a pleasant way with words.

“If it turns out she did, I’ll take care of it.”

“You always do, boss.” She titled her head, blond hair fanning down her shoulder. “You sure you don’t want some company for tonight?”

He opened his mouth, unsure yet how he was even going to answer—sleeping with Rosa was always a terrible idea for a thousand reasons (not the least of which was that Rosa was Lisa’s ex)—but he didn’t have to come up with anything to say.

“Dillon, what’re you doing here?”

Micky!”

“Don’t ‘Micky’ me ‘n get outta my spot.”

She looked back at Len. He glanced at Mick, amused, and titled his head. “See ya ‘round, Rosa.”

She made a scathing noise and sauntered off with some choice words about cockblocking arsonists that had him smirking.

“See you’ve made a fan.”

“You planning on putting your dick in crazy again?” Mick passed a beer across the table.

“Me? Wouldn’t dream of it.”

Mick snorted, which was… warranted.

“Any news?”

“Something you might care about.”

“Oh?” Len leaned forward since Mick did.

“Some kid went missing.”

“Woman?”

“Boy.”

“Pro?”

Mick grunted in the affirmative.

“That’s an awfully quick turn-around for a serial killer. You think it’s him?”

“Dunno. Got it off Bivolo, who got it from the girls this kid works with. They say he’s not the type to just cut ‘n run. Hasn’t shown up since yesterday.”

Len drummed his fingers on the table. Then stopped, eyes flashing to Mick. “’N why’re you telling me this, Mick?”

“Like you don’t wanna know.” He took a long pull of his beer.

“Knowing the killer has another victim doesn’t bring me any closer to getting this heat off my back.”

“’M not dumb, Snart.” His friend put the hard on the table and looked right through him.

Len’s smile wasn’t pleasant. “Cute. You think I’m caught up on the CSI.”

“Not my business.”

“Then drop it.”

Mick shook his head, pulled out his lighter and flicked it. It was a minute before he spoke again. “You’re in a mood, buddy.”

“Someone lied to me.”

Mick whistled, eyes catching Len’s over his flame. “Not smart.”

“No.”

“What’d he lie about?”

Part of him was relieved he didn’t have to explain to Mick who it was. Part of him was annoyed he was always going to be this transparent.

“I don’t know,” he drawled, fingers tapping the table again. “I just know he did.”

Thankfully, Mick didn’t ask him what he was waiting for, or what he was going to do about it. He just picked up where their former thread had dropped.

“Kid’s name’s Griffin Grey. Grif, to his friends.”

Len nodded. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do with the name, the information. A missing sex worker. Unreported, no doubt. Maybe someone would call it in, considering there was a serial killer on the loose. Or maybe they wouldn’t.

Something wicked had wormed its way into his town. He didn’t like it. The bottom of his beer didn’t hold any answers so he stopped after the one, knowing he wanted something he wasn’t going to get from it. Finally, he stood.

“I’ll see you around, Mick. The job’s still on for the exchange, our timeline’s just a little tight. I’ll keep you posted.”

“See you around, buddy.”

 

[ … ]

 

“Any news?” Barry asked Eddie, actually on time to work for once.

Eddie glanced at him. “No bead on Snart yet. FBI briefing is at 11.”

“They’re already here?” Barry glanced around almost tripping over himself when he did, eager to catch a glimpse of them. Eager and maybe a little anxious.

“Since last night. They’re in with Joe and Singh right now while I follow up on some stuff before the briefing.” He tapped his pen against a pad of paper.

“Cool, awesome.” Barry sipped his coffee. “They’ll have a profile, right?”

“That’s the idea.”

“And you told them about Snart being a suspect? And Rory?”

Eddie’s eyes narrowed at him. Was he being weird? “Yeah, Barr. We told them.”

He swallowed. He should probably say something normal. “Good. Well. I’ll see you in the briefing. Lots of evidence to file.”

“See you later.”

His stomach was tight by the time he made it up to his lab, taking the stairs two at a time.

There was no way Snart wasn’t going to hear about the FBI on his tail. That they wouldn’t manage to find him if they were looking. That—and anyway Barry should be the one to tell—

He swallowed, phone in his hand, staring down at Snart’s contact info, thumb hovering over the keyboard on the screen. His blood pounded in his ears. He didn’t need to tell Snart. Snart was going to know soon anyway, no doubt. Barry was becoming slowly certain that the man wouldn’t do anything to Iris, certainly not to Joe, not unless Barry did something insane like targeted him directly, pointed the finger his way.

He wasn’t doing this for them. He was doing this for him. For Leonard.

Two days since the man showed up at his doorstep, put his gun down Barry’s throat, and asked for more. Two days since he’d had to crush the thrill deep inside him at realizing Snart wanted him, him uniquely, that he wanted to keep seeing Barry and sleeping with him and telling him what to do in bed and—

Two days since the man showed up at his doorstep because he stalked Barry home. But Barry read his file. Tit for tat. The line between ‘business’ and ‘pleasure’ with them was so fucked up already. He shouldn’t do this.

He swallowed and hit the call button instead of pressing the keys to text, heading toward the window at the far side of the room where he could have a quiet conversation and still keep an eye on the door.

Snart answered on the second ring. “Calling during work hours, not very professional.”

Frustration snapped to the surface, covering his heart in his throat. “Shut up, I don’t have time for your mind games right now.” There was a beat of silence and Barry was halfway surprised at the urgency in his own voice. “The FBI is here and Joe ‘n Eddie passed on your name. And Rory’s. I have no idea if they’ll follow up or think you’re a lead or a suspect but if you want this to blow over you might—” he swallowed “—you might wanna leave town for a while.”

More silence. Barry breathed a little heavier than the speech warranted, eyes trained on the door. Finally, the other man’s voice carried over the line, cold but droll.

“You want me to what—pack up, leave town, head to warmer climates? Central City is my home, Barry. No one makes me leave. Not the CCPD and definitely not the Feds.”

He was not going to examine how his chest relaxed at those words, the relief that flooded him enough to have him relaxing back against the window. “Okay. Watch your back, Leonard. I have a feeling this is going to get ugly.”

 

[ … ]

 

The briefing room wasn’t as full as Barry had expected, maybe because he kept thinking that the FBI would be here with a huge task force, that Singh would call in the whole department or that people would want to hear about the serial killer. What it really was instead was just the current task force members and someone from the mayor’s office he recognized vaguely. Singh was at the front, talking to newcomers who must be the agents. Barry slipped in the back, barely on time, and squeezed next to Patty and Cisco, earning a frown from Julian for being tardy. Joe and Eddie were at a table up at the front with a uniformed sergeant and a detective from vice, both probably here because they had to be, since it was really Joe and Eddie’s case.

Once Singh noticed they were all there, he thanked them for coming and stepped aside for the FBI Agent who looked like she was in charge. She had high cheekbones and long dark hair clipped back professionally but despite her beauty, she looked like she meant business.

“Good morning. For those of you who don’t know me yet, my name is Cynthia Reynolds and I’m the agent in charge of leading this investigation. I’m here with my colleagues, Agent Jefferson Jackson, and Special Agent Dr. Tracy Brand.” They each stepped forward and nodded to the crowd. “Dr. Brand is a criminal psychologist who works with the FBI and she’s helped us put together a comprehensive psychological profile based on the evidence provided by your team. Dr. Brand?”

The woman stepped up.

“Thank you, Cindy. So, well. So far, preliminary examinations of the victims and crime scenes suggests that we’re looking for is a white male, most likely in his late 30’s to 50’s. This is because most serial killers start in their late 20’s to 30’s, and we believe this man has been doing this for a while, killing that is, honing his methods overtime. We expect this man to be physically capable, though there is the possibility of him having a visible scar or deformation, maybe similar to how he cuts his victims. Don’t rule out unscarred offenders just yet though! And um, any questions, so far?”

She kind of had a happy, nervous energy about her, frazzled hair, glancing around the room like a teacher at a college lecture.

“Does he work alone?” Eddie asked and Agent Jackson stepped forward. Barry didn’t think the man could be much older than him, so how he was already a qualified agent was beyond him.

“We’re pretty sure he’s a loner, yeah.” He cleared his throat at a look from Agent Reynolds, standing a little straighter. “Odds are he has no family or children. He’s arrogant, but he can be charming. It’s likely that he sets his victims at ease in some way, so they don’t feel nervous when he approaches them.”

“Like Bundy?” asked the detective from vice. Barry tried to remember her name.

The young agent gave a little smile to her. “Right—exactly like Bundy. He might be using something to make himself seem weak or incapable, or he might just disarm them with charm. It’s possible he drugs them. We’re just saying, what with how he kidnaps his victims and kills them later, somewhere aside from his ‘hunting ground’, he’s probably using some method to get close to them.”

Barry’s mouth turned down. Late 30’s, loner, practiced with violence, no wife, no kids… he tried not to think of Leonard. He checked most of the boxes except the skin color, and no profile was 100% right. Except he really couldn’t imagine Snart being disarming. The man basically screamed danger in every step.

“And the teeth?” Captain Singh asked, arms crossed and at the side of the room. “His ‘trophy’?”

“Plays into the fantasy,” Dr. Brand was the one to answer again. “We believe he’s ‘de-fanging’ his victims, neutering them, rendering them harmless against him. That’s how he sees it.”

“What about his pattern?” Barry asked, speaking up from the back. “You said he’s been doing this for a while?” He wasn’t a detective, but he wanted to know.

Agent Jackson and Dr. Brand swapped a glance, but it was the doctor who answered again. “That’s where the profile gets… difficult. Although we aren’t prepared to rule anything out quite yet, based on this pattern of acceleration, I believe that the killer has been active for maybe up to a decade now.”

A ruffle went through the room as people murmured to each other but she quelled them. “No no, I don’t mean he’s been killing at this rate for that long. Most serial killers are either organized or disorganized, and sometimes neither. The disorganized ones are easier to catch—they kill their victims with whatever is handy and leave them at the scene. Lots of physical evidence, not a lot of planning. I believe this suspect started in this manner, either for personal gain or some hedonistic purpose.

However, he quickly found out he likes it.” She was definitely like a college professor, talking like it was a class. “That it gives him control. There is this pattern of increasing organization over time. While we can’t be certain how long he had the first two victims before they died, we are certain neither of them was his first.”

“Can you… elaborate?” Joe asked.

“Well, take the first two victims. He took both of their teeth, suggesting an ingrained ritual already. Now either he fantasized about the first victim and the kill in great detail and his pattern began there, or else he started before that, and the teeth became part of his ritual. If that was his first victim, for the degree of fantasy he would’ve put into building up to it, it’s likely there is still a trail of violence behind him somehow.

And! We know there’s an escalation. He went from dropping bodies in the river—a safe way to wash away evidence—to leaving them for you to find. For whatever reason, the river isn’t enough for him, anymore. And it’s impossible now to say whether he scarred the original victims, but if he didn’t, there is an increasing ritual around the kill as well.”

“What this means—” Agent Reynolds picked up immediately once she finished, “—is that the killer is confident in his ability to clear away evidence. That he’s learned and practiced. Given that gaining this level of confidence would be a slow process, this suggests more prior victims.”

Everyone in the room shifted uncomfortably. None of that was a pretty picture. Barry thought again about the death of Tess Morgan, the victim he believed was connected to this case from all those years ago, if only because of the warehouse.

“What about the chemical traces we found on the third and fourth victims?”

Agent Reyonds’ dark eyes bored into Barry and he swallowed before she answered. “Detective West has discussed that with our team, and the possibility that the killer may have a connection to the warehouse in which it was found. We’re looking into it.”

“Which is why,” Agent Jackson added, “we don’t want it to leave this room. The last thing we want is for the killer to get wind that we’re on to him and change his patterns.”

Barry’s stomach tight. Agent Reynolds nodded at him and turned back to Dr. Brand. “Anything more to add?”

“Hmm—oh! Well, I know Detective Thawne noted that he had a significant cool down period before, right now it’s hard to say if that’s changed or if the time he keeps his victims varies, and depends on how many more victims we turn up. Acceleration is not uncommon, though, as be becomes more practiced and driven by need. More comfortable.”

Eddie cleared his throat. “The nature of the victims’ work has made us wonder if there’s a sexual component to these crimes?”

She shook her head. “Not in any straightforward way that we can tell. Serial killers often target vulnerable populations, sometimes for sexual reasons but also for religious ones, or simple convenience. Given that we believe he started killing in a more disorganized manner without raping his victims, the current evidence seems to point to this being non-sexual in nature, even if he may have sex with his victims to lure them through their work. Instead, it’s control over his victims he craves.”

Barry shivered. The taste of metal was like a ghost in his mouth, a phantom scrape against the back of his throat.

“That’s why he keeps them alive?” Cisco asked from beside Barry, another person who wasn’t supposed to ask questions. It was Agent Reynolds who answered, eyes on Cisco, looking less intimidating somehow than when she looked at Barry earlier.

“That’s correct. Since he began killing for control instead of gain or thrill, what he gets out of it involves keeping his victims alive while he tortures or dominates them. The satisfaction a serial killer gets from this provides them with a sense of relief. It’s only when he can’t control a victim, when he acknowledges that their submission is not absolute, that he takes it too far and exerts his final control over them.”

Cisco whistled. “Almost regret that I asked.”

Mercifully, Joe finally asked the important question: “so what about Snart—associates with a man we can place at the warehouse with the chemical on the victims, client of another victim. What are the chances of him being our guy?”

Dr. Brand hesitated. Barry sat ramrod straight in his chair. Agent Jackson took the question. “We’re not ruling anyone out yet. He’s a good lead—fits a lot of the profile on paper, but we’d need to have a sit down with him to really see what’s what. And physical evidence to convict him.”

Joe nodded. “Then I guess I’ve got my marching orders.”

Captain Singh took that as his cue. “A copy of the profile will be circulated to everyone on the task force. In the meantime, do your jobs, work with our friends here from the FBI while we have them on deck, and let’s catch this son of a bitch.”

 

[ … ]

 

Barry felt a little queasy all day after the briefing. He read over the FBI’s report and profile, highlighting sections. He tried not to see Snart in every line.

“You about done here?”

His head shot up. “Eddie?”

“Dinner at Joe’s, remember? He asked me to give you a ride since we’d finish at the same time today.”

“Right! Right—sorry, just reading. I’ll meet you ‘round back in a sec.”

He packed up the folder, heavy in his bag as the lead weight in his stomach.

The drive was quiet. Barry’s fingers kept tapping beats against his leg, staccato and tuneless.

“Thanks for the ride.”

“Don’t mention it.”

“How’s uh, how’s Iris?”

Eddie seemed to relax a little and Barry did too. Common ground. Things could be weird between him and Eddie, they didn’t know each other well and Barry’s head was a million other places but Iris was always easy to talk about. He could use the distraction.

“She’s good, Barr. Worried about you.”

Me?”

“Says you haven’t been sleeping.”

“Oh. Yeah.” He scratched the hair on his jaw, glancing out the window. One more thing to feel guilty about, worrying her. “I get like that sometimes.”

It was quiet again. He was relieved when they pulled in.

And then, blessedly, for a little while there was happy chaos. It was often like, rolling into Joe’s. Joe’s girlfriend Cecile—who Barry had never felt more keenly aware was a district attorney—was already there and greeted them with hugs, Iris coming over with a smile, wrapping Eddie up in a kiss and Barry moved through the house to go find and greet Joe. He helped with the finishing touches on the food and Wally got there a little later. He helped carry the food out, Barry asking him out his semester was going.

Everything was easy. Was family, and laughter, and the warm wood and cozy feel of Joe’s house, always inviting. It was comfortable and easy, enough to make his tension melt away like a forgotten dream, like the house was a bubble and the world out there didn’t have to matter for a few minutes. He ate and felt full, relaxed, away from life’s troubles.

Wally asked about the case.

His calm warped a little at the edges, reality pushing at the boundaries of the bubble. He was relieved when Joe didn’t answer, just offered a little chuckle and a glance at Cecile.

“No way, uh uh, you’re not gonna catch me sharing details with a reporter and the district attorney in the house.”

Cecile smiled like a shark and Iris grinned like a wolf.

“C’mon Dad, I won’t tell. I’m sure Wally can keep a secret too.”

“I can.” He nodded, smiling too eager. Barry had to laugh.

“Nuh uh.”

“Oh come on. Barry?”

He held up his hands. “Don’t look at me, I’m just the guy who processes evidence.”

“You went to all the crime scenes though, right?”

Eddie nudged Wally with an easy smile, “why the interest anyway?”

“It’s the only thing anyone will talk about on campus. Central City hasn’t had a serial killer since the Trickster.”

Reality threatened to encroach on the evening.

“Don’t remind me ‘o him,” Joe glowered, “you wanna see a real nut job.”

“Like the gun stealing teeth from his victims is any less crazy,” Eddie frowned.

“It’s not though,” Barry started then stopped when he realized he spoke, eyes swiveling to him. The bubble had popped, and he was the one holding the pin. And shit, now he had to explain. He leaned forward so his elbows were on the table.

“I just mean—you heard what the profilers said, that he’s doing it to ‘de-fang’ his victims, right? I know it’s crazy, just, there’s an explanation for it?” Yeah they were still looking at him. A glance at Iris and Wally confirmed he was still being Weird. “I guess I’m just saying he’s not as crazy at the Trickster was. He’s practiced and organized, you know?”

“And thinks human teeth are fangs,” Eddie deadpanned, giving him a hard look. Barry shrugged.

“Tooth ablation has been carried out in different time periods and cultures for different reasons.”

Joe sighed, seeming put upon. “You read a lot about tooth ablation, son?”

“A little, since the case started?”

Iris bit her lip and looked a little worried. “Is the case getting to you, Barr?”

The bubble hadn’t just popped, it had caved in and brought his anxieties with it.

“Because I’ve been reading about teeth? I always learn about things for cases.” Defensive, that sounded defensive.

“I just mean—you’ve had trouble sleeping, lost your phone, your kit, you keep acting jumpy, looking at your phone all the time…” Iris glanced at Eddie then back at Barry. “And now you’re getting, I dunno… into the case, a little?”

“I—what? I haven’t been acting weird. Have I been acting weird?”

He looked around. Wally snorted when he caught his gaze. “Don’t look at me, man. You’re always weird to me.”

Small favors, really. Cecile was just looking at Joe with a ‘hashtag awkward’ kind of expression and Joe was kind of nodding in that ‘I wasn’t gonna be the one to say it’ sort of way. He glanced back at Iris, still looking all sorts of worried, and Eddie, tense beside her. They probably thought he was overworked, or on the edge of some breakdown.

He leaned forward toward Iris, heart hammering in his chest.

“I’m not… I haven’t been totally honest about something, Iris.” He wasn’t sure what he was going to say, but her wide-eyed, worried glance told him he had to say something and make it believable. “But none of it has to do with the case. Losing my phone, the not-sleeping, checking my phone, being weird—it’s all umm—”

He glanced at Joe and Cecile. He couldn’t mention Len. Not here, not like this, with this audience. He couldn’t explain, couldn’t ask them to understand.

“—I’ve been seeing someone.”

A collective breath relaxed out of everyone at once. Joe sighed, Iris gasped, then laughed, clapped her hands together with a quiet squeal and Eddie actually leaned back in his chair, looking like he’d just been told he was cured from something.

Just how weird had he been acting?

“Well come on, Barr—what’s the lucky girl’s name?” Joe was grinning, Cecile laughing by his side, nudging his arm.

“Let him have his secrets, Joe.”

“Oh hell nah, he had me thinking he was losing sleep over a case and he was losing it over…”

Barry buried his face in his arms. “We don’t need to go there.”

Iris started cackling and he could hear Wally laughing at his misfortune too. Beneath his arms though, Barry was grinning. His heart was still hammering but this he could handle. This he even enjoyed, really.

“So’m I gonna get that name or do we have to wait until you bring her around for dinner?”

Barry sat back up to look at Joe, cheeks definitely red, and cleared his throat. “Actually, uh… his name.”

Wide eyes all around, though Iris and Joe recovered first.

“Is that why you didn’t want to say anything about it?” Eddie asked, eyebrows in his hairline. “The secrecy, the jumpiness?”

Barry ducked his head a little. “It can be weird around the precinct. I know we have Singh but that place still isn’t always so… and anyway everything’s still pretty new. No real labels yet so no family dinners until I know if it’s going to work out.”

Iris had melted into a fond look, sitting across from him. Cecile happy for him, Wally shooting him a thumb’s up, but Joe was a little dubious.

“He another bad boy like that fella you ran off to Starling with that one time?”

“What—no, come on, he’s nothing like Oliver.” He was… a lot like Oliver. Barry sat back. “And anyway I’m definitely not giving you his name if you’re just gonna use it to run a background check.”

Joe snorted. “First name at least, son.”

“…Ben.”

Iris beamed, sitting across from him. “What does Ben do for a living?”

Great question.

“And who’s Oliver?” Wally waggled his eyebrows. Barry almost forgot some days that Wally was still a newer addition to their family unit, that he wasn’t around a few years ago, the last time Barry had dated another man.

That, little brother,” Iris saved Barry from explaining, “is a long story. A long story about a beautiful man who happens to be our fair Governor’s son. And you get to help me with dishes, so I get to help tell it.”

She stood up with an assertive look in Barry’s direction. “But don’t think for a moment I’ve forgotten, B. I’m gonna ask you so many questions about your Mr. Ben. As soon as grumpy-face over there can’t overhear.”

“Love you too, baby,” Joe shook his head, smiling fondly. She patted his shoulder on the way to the kitchen with the dishes and Barry headed to the living room with Eddie to pick a board game for the night. Eddie was smiling at him, patted him on the back, maybe even just shy of a hug and Barry felt like he should come out as bi every day if that’s what it took for Eddie to warm up to him so much.

 

[ … ]

 

Dr. Brand went back to Quantico the next day, most of her work on the case done. Agents Reynolds and Jackson (“call me Jax”) stuck around, and no one had any leads on how to find Snart and Rory, neither turning up at any of their past known addresses. Eddie and Joe talked to Snart’s sister since she had a legitimate job as a driver, and a legitimate address. She claimed she hadn’t seen her brother in months, didn’t even think he was in the city. Barry almost laughed when he heard.

He made a study date with Wally to go over a term project for him and a coffee date with Iris to let her ask all the questions she was no-doubt dying to know about ‘Ben’. He might have to come up with something to say for that.

He thought about it on his way home from the store the next night. The evening air was cool, wind nipping at him as Barry turned onto his block, bag of groceries in hand. His phone started to vibrate in his pocket and he did the awkward juggle and hop to shift bags and try to catch it in time.

He succeeded, by the skin of his teeth, not even glancing at the number. “Hello?”

“Evening, Barry.”

Oh. Not Iris confirming the details for their coffee date.

“Leonard.”

“How goes the investigation?”

He closed his eyes and counted to three. “You know I’ll let you know if anything important to you comes up.”

“I do know that, now.”

Great. Barry wanted to roll his eyes at the phone. “So why’re you calling?”

He shifted until the phone was cradled against his shoulder, getting out the keys for his building.

Snart’s voice was low and smooth, full of insinuation when he said, “wondered if you’d be interested in a reward for your good behavior.”

The air went out of Barry’s lungs. He dropped his keys on the steps.

“Hmm?”

“… what kind of reward?”

“Why don’t you come by my workshop and find out?” There was definitely a smirk in his voice.

“I—well I wouldn’t—fuck this is so unprofessional,” he whispered mostly to himself, earning a chuckle from the other end of the line. He put down the groceries so he could hold his phone, dragging his other hand through his hair. The night didn’t feel so chilly anymore.

“I take it you’re interested?”

Offering information to Snart based on his conscience was one thing. Doing it for sexual favors… “You can’t pay me for tips in sex.” His voice was raspy but he meant it.

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”

“I told you,” he swallowed, “I said you’re not gonna be my—” he made sure no one was in earshot—

“I’m not your dom, Barry. Should I take it you’d prefer to spend your evening alone?”

Not even a little. He hated himself for how easily he was going to cave. “Your workshop, you said?”

“You may remember it as the address you got from your old phone.”

The warehouse he hadn't been crazy enough to go to directly, right. “I’ll see you soon.”

 

Chapter Text

He got the uber to stop two blocks away and walked the last bit. It was a sketchy neighborhood but he was fast anyway, and a lifetime of getting himself into spots he shouldn’t be had taught Barry that most people didn’t actually want a fight. Who the hell had the energy for that anyway?

He shivered a little, texting Snart when he was outside a side door, metal, flaking red paint.

“Barry.”

Part of him still couldn’t believe he’d actually come, almost talked himself out of it a few times, a million reasons to turn around. His whole body was tense the entire ride, caught between excitement and a deep, horrified sense of self-awareness and guilt. When he saw the other man, casual sweater, confident smirk, smart eyes, he already felt the anticipatory regret, tasted it like copper on his tongue.

Leaving was the last thing on his mind.

“Leonard.”

The man looked like the cat that got the cream. He stepped aside for Barry to enter, hand casually falling on the back of Barry’s neck as they walked down the hall. He shivered but Leonard didn’t move it, and he wasn’t about to complain.

“Glad you decided to come by.”

He leaned a little into Snart’s side, soaking up what little comfort there was to be had. “I’ve never made good life choices.”

The other man snorted as they entered what looked not unlike a small apartment. He actually did a double-take, expecting an emptier space, devoid of personality. This had a couch and carpet and a fridge and workbenches and more. Barry stepped around the room, glancing this way and that in earnest curiosity, shrugging off his jacket as he did, draping it on the couch. There was what looked like the makings of a kitchen in one direction, a hall in another.

“Wired?” he read the name off the top magazine resting on a stack by the couch.

“I read.”

Barry glanced back at Snart, who seemed happy to watch Barry from a few paces away, head tilted at him. Barry found himself smiling.

“You’re an enigma.”

“Wrapped in a mystery. Not unlike you,” he pointed at Barry. “I suppose that’s what got us here.”

He nodded, glancing around one final time before focusing on the other man. “Speaking of…”

Snart took his cue, coming closer. Barry held his ground, tensing at the approach but in a way filled with anticipation. There was the little edge to this he couldn’t help, but it made it better, how dangerous Leonard was, how Barry knew that but came here anyway.

His knuckles gently grazed Barry’s neck and he titled it to give him access, eyes not leaving Snart’s.

“Safeword?”

Back to that? “Thunder.”

Snart’s thumb caught on his bottom lip. “Good boy.”

He had to close his eyes for a second at the shiver that went up his spine. And then Leonard was kissing him. He drank it in like sweet poison, kissing back, arms on Leonard’s waist, pulling him closer by his sweater. Barry let him dominate the kiss, leaned into it, made a desperate noise when his teeth caught on Barry’s bottom lip.

“How do you want it?” Leonard’s voice was soft and cold by his ear and Barry swallowed, shivered. He tried to suppress all the reasons why this was a terrible idea.

“Merciless.”

Leonard chuckled and his teeth raked Barry’s jaw. His fingers were making quick work of the buttons on Barry’s outer shirt, pushing it off his shoulders. He dragged Barry’s tee up and pulled it off, and Barry stole another kiss from Leonard as soon as he got the chance, desperate not to think. He would drown himself in kisses if he could. Leonard had him by the hips, then, moved him back until he felt his thighs and ass hit up against the back of the couch. Snart got a leg between his thighs and he broke off the kiss to breathe, pushing his own fingers up the hem of the man’s sweater, searching for skin.

Snart caught both of his wrists, fast and sudden. Barry’s hands were flat against his stomach, still.

“This stays on.”

Barry leaned back against the couch far enough to catch Leonard’s eye. “I don’t care about your scars.”

The man’s eyes were cold and flat, narrowed at that. “That in my file too?”

The profile, he thought but didn’t say.

“Not in so many words,” Barry pushed his hands a little higher, “but I’m not an idiot.”

Snart hummed and Barry stood to his full height, nosing along Leonard’s cheek to his jaw, hands sliding down but not out of his shirt, fanning just above his hips, pulling them in closer to Barry’s own. Snart let his wrists go.

“Wanna see you,” he mouthed the skin under Leonard’s ear, “wanna feel your skin.”

“Barry…” his voice carried a warning and Barry swallowed. He liked the warning. He shouldn’t, but he was done being dishonest with himself about wanting Leonard.

He pulled back a little to look Snart in the eye again, feeling a little drunk on it. His hands hadn’t moved. They should, but they were glued to Leonard’s skin. A moment later, Snart took Barry’s chin in his hand, tilting his head down a little, something crossing his face before it settled into a knowing look.

“’N here I wanted to give you a reward, when what you’re looking for is punishment.”

Barry’s cock throbbed inside his jeans, suddenly aching. He swallowed. Fuck. “Leonard…”

“Undress for me, Barry.”

He did, hands suddenly back to himself, sliding off his pants. Snart barely gave him the space, stepped back all of a half pace but Barry shimmied out of them and his underwear, got himself naked and felt goosebumps all over his skin in the chill room.

Snart’s fingers traced his tattoo, the dark lines of lightning. “You push people, don’t you?”

Yeah,” he admitted like it was a confession, hands behaving again, gripping the back of the couch now, letting Snart do whatever he wanted.

“D’you need to be pushed, Barry?”

He let out a shaky breath. How did Snart know every single button to press? His thumb was circling Barry’s nipples slowly, first one than the other and his hands clenched tighter on the upholstery behind him.

“Well?”

Yes.” His voice was raw, shot, the admission torn from him.

Snart was in his space again then, all fabric, fully dressed because he was a bastard. His hands slid down Barry’s sides, teasing, his lips moved to Barry’s throat and he bared it. Teeth raked his skin and made him gasp, aching for more.

“Shame I can’t leave marks.”

“Do. Leave some.”

“Mm,” Leonard hummed against his neck, right where it met his shoulder and he shuddered in the man’s hands. “Not going to tell me it’s a terrible idea?”

He couldn’t explain ‘Ben’ and his own terrible ideas right then so he just tilted his head back. “S’okay, promise, I—it’s good. Mark me up.”

It was met with a growl and a hard sucking pressure that had him moaning, eyes rolling back it felt so good, his skin so intensively sensitive on his neck. His cock was leaking, rutting against Leonard’s hips, dragging against his sweater.

God—”

Leonard moved to the other side, gentler here, licking and nipping but Barry shivered anyway. His hands were kneading the flesh of Barry’s ass, so close but not close enough to what he suddenly was craving. “Turn around.”

He whined, wanted to see Leonard.

“I’ll make it worth your while.”

“Yeah—yeah, okay.”

Leonard stepped back to let him and Barry turned. He expected Snart to bend him at the waist, push his ass high in the air but instead he was directed to keep his hands on the hard back of the couch and step back, only partially bent, legs spread. He felt himself flush down to his chest, throat clenched tight with arousal and shame.

Smooth fingers trailed down his spine. “Tell me, Barry, do you like having your ass played with?”

He really didn’t feel like having a conversation right now. “Would I be standing like this if I didn’t?”

There was a swot hard against his asscheek and he almost jumped, eyes wide. It was smoothed a second later by a gentle palm.

“Are you familiar with green, yellow, red?”

“Yeah,” he rasped. “Neon green.”

Snart chuckled somewhere behind him and Barry felt warm. “Do you want to be punished, Barry, or do you want your reward?”

He swallowed thick. Fuck. Could he live with being rewarded for selling out his own investigation?

He didn’t want to think of that right now.

“Both.”

The noise Snart made was pleased. “Then count for me.”

The hand returned his ass harder this time and he gasped out “one.”

Fuck.

It was followed by two and three to his other cheek, and he counted each, cock throbbing, hands gripping the couch tighter. Four and five came in rapid succession and had him up on his toes, gasping. Six and seven had him groaning and bending deeper, wanting to hold his breath but it came out in a rush for eight, which had him red all over, too hot. Nine had him bite around the pain, ass on fire. The hard, solid smack of ten had him loud and desperate.

Snart cupped his ass in one hand then slid down, rolled his balls in his hand. Barry choked out a gasp, eyes closed.

“Need more?”

He shook his head. He could handle it but he was impatient now, gasping again at the gentle squeeze from Snart’s hand.

“Spread a little wider for me, Barry.”

He did. He felt both of Snart’s hands on him then, spreading his cheeks. “This is mine.”

He shivered. “Yours.”

“Good.” He hummed and Barry heard a soft thud. Before he could identify it, he felt—

Oh fuuuck—”

Leonard’s tongue. He moaned, felt it tease his hole in a circle before retreating, sliding down against his perineum, rubbing in strokes and Barry was a mess of sensation, on the edge of begging it felt so good. Snart didn’t seem to mind the noise, careful and methodical, tongue sliding back up, hands keeping Barry spread wide to lap in circles at his entrance. It was warm and slick and each sensation was almost too much to handle, too hedonistic with his cheeks still stinging pleasantly.

He was very glad he’d showered before coming over, embarrassed and beyond aroused. He couldn’t remember the last time someone rimmed him.

Please—”

Leonard hummed behind him, one of his hands retreating for a light (but not that light) warning spank without stopping and Barry moaned and spread his legs wider for the man, arched himself more. Leonard knew what he was doing, wet circles getting more and more targeted, pressure against his hole, fluttering under the teasing movements. He was aching to be filled. Leonard’s fingers started to massage his asscheeks, hot and sore and Barry clenched the fabric of the couch, face planted almost into it.

“Leonard—”

That got him an appreciative movement, one hand snaked down and forward to cup his balls again.

Fuck—Leonard!” He shuddered, world distilled to just this, just a tongue pressing against him, pushing in enough to stretch his hole and make it clench, just enough to penetrate him and he was melting under it. And that hand, sliding up keenly to his weeping cock, working him over. Leonard stroked slowly, too goddamn slowly, gathering the precum at the tip and Barry was almost crying, completely on edge.

God—more—please—ah!—Leonard—”

The man’s other hand dropped from his asscheek then and moved to stroke his perineum. It was was probably hard to aim with both arms right there but goddamn he was doing it, milking Barry’s prostate from the outside. He was moaning louder than he knew he could, whole body too hot, hole clenching tight around the slick, sure tongue pressing into him, cock pulsing in Leonard’s hand as he gripped just tight enough and Barry was cumming, eyes rolling back, shouting. God he was shaking.

Leonard stroked him through it and didn’t pull back until he’d drained every drop of cum Barry had to offer. He could barely catch his breath as his brain came back online, other sensations creeping back in. Sometimes, when he had a really good orgasm, the kind that had his mouth open wide in a perfect o with breaths coming as shallow, hungry gasps, then his lips would tingle. It was such a strange thought in his mostly blank mind, body still quivering everywhere.

He groaned and forced his jello legs to hold him up, using his hands on the couch to anchor him, standing up and forward so that the fronts of his legs were almost flush with the back of the couch.

“That was… quite the reward.”

“Mm.”

Leonard stood up again behind him, kissing his shoulder gently. Barry leaned back into the touch. The bastard was still fully clothed. He was going to give Barry a new kink (again) at this rate.

“How…” he cleared his throat to fix the rasp, “how d’you wanna get off?”

Leonard kissed his neck gently. “Like this okay?”

He heard a rustled of clothes, felt the man’s pants slide down and shivered. Then came the sound of skin on skin, Leonard stroking his own cock, knuckles brushing Barry’s asscheeks on each stroke.

“Yeah.” He leaned forward slightly, hands splayed flat on the back of the couch, bending just a little over it. “Gonna cum on my back?”

A soft grunt, “that’s the plan.”

Barry hummed out a happy note, refraining from making the comment on the tip of his tongue about territorial marking. He already had the hickeys to prove Leonard enjoyed that. He dropped his head between his shoulders and anchored his hips against the couch so that he could take his hands off and move them behind himself, spreading his cheeks. They were hot to the touch still, no doubt red, and Leonard let out a moan that warmed Barry through his chest. He slotted himself closer to Barry’s skin, rubbed himself on it.

“I wanna fuck you so bad.” There was gravel in his voice, low and rumbly.

“Yeah?”

“Bend you over and take you, make you mine.”

Fuck, he was gonna make Barry hard again if he kept talking like that. “Next time I earn a reward?”

“Cheeky,” Leonard said in a pleased way, warm, rocking his hips forward in mimed little thrusts.

One of his hands landed on Barry’s back, pressing ever so slightly on it. His cock got more targeted, sliding along the top of Barry’s crack. He bit his lip, desperately wanting it, wanting Leonard to press it against his hole and push it home, stretch him out. He could almost taste it.

But the man didn’t, just swore, sped up, urgent, and Barry whispered encouragement, hips rolling a little as his own cock gave an interested twitch. Leonard groaned, pressed Barry down hard and pressed his cock against the top of his crack, cumming in hot spurts over the small of his back. It was so close to his ass that he clenched around nothing, instinctive.

“Fuck, yeah—” Leonard’s breathing was strained, a final warm ribbon hitting Barry’s skin and he swallowed around his own residual desire.

Then Leonard was leaning over him, dropping his head to Barry’s shoulder. The stayed like that for a minute, a quiet tableau. The hand on his back circling around to hold him tight, almost like an embrace. Barry stood a little, and then a lot, so that they were standing fully again and he was leaning back into the other man. He got one arm up and behind him, gripping onto the fabric of Leonard’s sweater behind the man’s shoulder, his other arm sneaking back around to the small of Leonard’s back. A facsimile of a hug when they were facing the same direction still, some attempt at contact.

For a moment they just existed.

“That was… very good, Barry.”

He chuckled, tilting his head into Leonard’s neck, “yeah.”

Leonard’s hand stroked the skin of his stomach, the sticky lines of Barry’s cum there, quiet.

“Don’t suppose my reward comes with post-coital cuddling this time?”

“You’re the one who cut short the bliss last time.”

Was he? Probably. He felt a little boneless. Leonard’s free hand had gone to his forehead, hair really, brushing it back out of his face, carding through it.

“You really get off on this dom stuff, huh?” His ass didn’t hurt but it did feel hot.

“Seems to me you need it.”

“I don’t need it,” he moved to push off but the hands on him tightened by just a fraction and he stilled, relaxed again. “You just bring out the worst in me,” he landed on.

“Then why come here?”

He let out a breath. Finally, he turned. He didn’t let Snart retreat though, instead getting his hands fisted into his sweater by his waist, putting his head on the man’s shoulder. His back and front were sticky and uncomfortable, the back of the couch was digging into his ass, Snart’s dick was still out. It wasn’t elegant. Nothing about this was.

His voice was a whisper when he got out the words, “have you ever killed anyone?”

Whatever Snart was expecting, it wasn’t that. Barry’s hands were tight and hard on his shirt, keeping him in place, even if the man didn’t try to pull back. He was ramrod tense though, hands too still where they were draped around Barry’s body.

“I think you know the answer to that.” His voice was cold again, smooth and soft and without any hint of their teasing familiarity.

Were they familiar? Or did Barry make that up in his head?

“Tell me.”

“Why?”

“Because I have to understand.”

“I’ve killed, Barry.”

He nodded against Leonard’s shoulder. “Innocent people?”

“I’ve never met an innocent person in my life.” Now he sounded angrier. Defensive. Barry smoothed his hands out along Leonard’s sides.

“You were going to kill me.”

Yes.”

It was answer enough. “Don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“Kill people. People who aren’t trying to kill you. Don’t.”

Leonard snorted and stepped away from him, put himself away. Barry sighed, cum on his skin flaking as he bent to retrieve his clothes. Snart’s sweater had plenty of it strained down the front too.

“You said you don’t kill for pleasure.”

“I think you need another lesson on pushing, Barry.”

It wasn’t funny. He starting pulling on his pants. “So you’ve never killed a sex worker?”

Leonard’s eyes snapped to his. He looked angry. “That’s what this is about? You still think I’m your serial killer?” His voice dripped venom.

Barry didn’t have it in him to feel remorse for suspecting Snart. He wished his insides didn’t curl at the response though. Men like Snart would never admit that words could hurt, but that had, he knew. No one was immune to emotions.

But it also told him something. The man they were after, the profile, the arrogance of him—he wouldn’t be hurt. He wouldn’t be curling his lip at the assertion.

Barry felt something cut loose inside him. He dropped his shirt back to the ground and leaned against the couch, mostly standing, dragging his hands through his hair.

“No. Not… anymore.” As of a half-second ago. “But you fit the profile. Almost to a T, Leonard. You’re the lead suspect. Everyone thinks it’s you.”

“’N why is that, anyway? Because I’m pals with Mick? Or are you finally gonna tell me what you felt like keeping quiet about last time I dropped by?”

Barry’s eyes widened. “You knew?”

“You’re not a very good liar.”

This week was proving that but, “you don’t even know me, Snart. Statistically, people are terrible at spotting lies.”

The man hummed, looking faintly amused. “That so?... You know what you crave, when you drop to your knees for me? When you bend over?”

Barry blinked. That wasn’t what he was expecting. “…sex?”

“You wanna forget the weight on your shoulders, hm?” He was calm again, a little droll, tilting his head, more kinetic as he paced a little closer. Barry felt suspicious now instead. “Cases, guilt, work, all those things you don’t share with the people you love. You let it go for a few minutes.”

“… I suppose so.”

Snart nodded, sharper again. “’N you think after seeing you weightless I couldn’t see you shut down. Couldn’t see the moment I lost the thread, lost you to your guilt again?” He took a step closer, lips pursing a little, voice softer but no less cold. “You’re not an honest man, but you are a good one. You might know how to lie, but guilt writes itself on your face.”

Barry looked down; crusted white cum covered up parts of his tattoo, the black lines down his stomach, smeared around. Some nebulous feeling dragged itself around his stomach. He didn’t know when he’d become so easy to read. He pulled a hand down his face, suddenly exhausted.

“Why do they think it’s me?”

He looked up at Snart without moving his head. Nothing for it now. “Does the name Maria Korsukova mean anything to you?”

There was a moment before the lightbulb went on. “You mean Ruby?” he said dubiously, then more certain, “I haven’t seen her in… ah. I see.”

Barry winced. “Sorry.”

“Is that your condolences? I don’t need them. I hardly knew her.” He crossed his arms, imposing, but not in a frightening way. Barry gave him a tired smile and shook his head.

“I’m sorry I thought it was you.”

“Seems like it’s just common sense, Barry.”

“Not really. For the cops, maybe. But I—I mean I don’t know you, but I’ve met you. I’ve talked to you. You fit parts of the profile, I know, but…” he wished he could explain. Telling Snart that he trusted him and couldn’t believe he’d trust a serial killer like that, like this, wasn’t something he wanted to express.

“What do your instincts say?”

His lips twisted, looking to the side. “That the Midtown Murderer would never ask permission if he wanted to fuck.”

“So why lie about Maria?”

“I thought I was being stupid. Everyone…” he looked at his hands, curling his fingers into fists. “For the past fifteen years, everyone in my life has told me I’m wrong about my father, that he can’t be innocent. So I couldn’t afford to be wrong about you. Because if I was…”

“If your faith in me was misplaced, you’d take it to mean maybe you were wrong about him?”

Barry nodded at him, then had to look away again because he knew he was close to tears and Leonard didn’t need that. He could tell the expression on his face surprised the other man and he sniffed, tightened his hands into fists and blinked hard.

“Barry…”

“I’m fine.”

Snart cleared his throat. “That’s a lot more faith in me than most people have ever put.”

He let out a laugh. “You knew I was lying and you didn’t push me. You let me go even though I could point the finger at you any second. You let me come here—still use this place at all—knowing that there’s an investigation targeting you and I have the address. You’re putting the same faith in me.”

“That why you called with the hot tip to lay low? Or was that about your dear old dad too?”

He sighed, stretched, finally stood up and scooped his shirt back off the ground.

“Little of column A. Little of…”—poor life choices?—“I wasn’t ready for you to get pulled in yet. If you were innocent. If you weren’t. I think I… wanted to learn for myself, before anyone else did.”

Leonard nodded and Barry pulled on his shoes.

“I’ll get out of your hair.”

Snart stepped back to let him by. “Any chance this’ll become a regular thing?”

His chest tightened. “No.”

“’N why not?”

“I can’t afford for it to be.”

“Seems to me you just listed the reasons you can. Détente, remember?”

He stopped in the hallway. “I don’t think you really get what you’re asking of me, Leonard. Sleeping with you—I lose my job the second someone finds out. Sharing information on a case where you’re a suspect? Obstruction of justice, a criminal offense. Jail time.”

“Who’s gonna tell?” Leonard smirked. Barry shook his head, looked at the door.

“There’s more to it than that.”

“Such as?”

“I don’t fuck just anyone.”

“Could’ve fooled me,” he was aiming at droll but it stung anyway. Barry headed toward the door. The hand on his arm stopped him. “Let me try that again. Since you want me, why not be mine?”

Barry breathed out through his nose. “I like you.” He paused. There was no immediate reply so he kept going, turned to look at Snart. “You’re an asshole, and terrifying sometimes, but I’ve already started to care anyway. I can’t do friends with benefits. I can’t do fuckbuddies. I’ve tried it, I just get hurt. You want a submissive to warm your bed and I want a boyfriend. I want this, and the longer it goes, the more likely it is to ruin my life.”

“I… see.”

God he was such an idiot for hoping for anything else. Barry shook his arm loose and headed for the door. “I’ll call you if anything comes up with the case.”

 

[ … ]

 

Len’s emotions took a while to settle after Barry left. He was sated but restless, pleased but frustrated, affirmed but pissed.

Barry was his in every sense that it mattered. Information, trust, attraction. The man had a goddamn crush by the sound of it. But Len had no intentions of using any of it, got no pleasure out of twisting people around his finger just to watch them squirm and that’s all he could do for Barry if the brat was dumb enough to catch feelings.

And then Maria… Ruby, as Len knew her. This killer was encroaching on his life on more than one front now. Len had no intentions of going down for the other man’s handiwork, but going after one of Len’s favorites was making it personal.

“Everything okay?” His sister voice was the other end of the line. He glanced at the clock. The hour wasn’t outrageous, at least not for her schedule. Still, he rarely called so it was a valid enough way for her to answer the phone.

“Peachy,” he supplied, going for honest.

“Lenny?”

“I’m fine, Lise. But I might be the lead suspect in this serial killer investigation.”

“… that’s why two detectives tracked down my work. They went through a week and four addresses to find me.”

He pinched the bridge of his nose. “The bastard killed one of my girls. Guess I match the profile.”

Shit.”

“You’re telling me.”

“D’you have an alibi for the murder? Do they have anything on you?”

“Nothing… substantial. Not like that’ll stop them. They’ve got an indirect link to me another way anyway.”

“… how do you know all this?” She was too quick at the draw.

He frowned into the line. “A little birdie told me.”

That’s new.”

He hummed, shifting gears. “I need you to ask around. Same with Shawna.”

“For what?”

“Anything girls won’t tell the cops. Anything out of the ordinary. Mick said some hustler is missing, a kid named Griffin Grey.”

“Male?”

“He goes for both, remember.”

“That’s not working in your favor either.”

She was starting to give him a headache. “I’m aware, Lise.”

“Say, do you have a description?”

“The kid? Ask around—”

“I mean the killer. What’re they calling him on the news—the Midtown Murderer? They really need a better name than that. The man is taking teeth. Anyway—he’s ruining your life, got anything on him we can use?”

He paused. It wasn’t the worse idea. “I might be able to get my hands on whatever the cops have as far as a description goes.”

“… you really do have new friend, don’t you?”

He wanted to smirk but recalling Barry’s parting look was getting in the way. “Let’s not exaggerate.”

“Is there anything else I can do for you, brother?”

“Keep this quiet in the meantime. There’s a lot of heat on it already.”

She laughed. “I know you think my style is gaudy, but I do know how to be discreet.”

“Mm. Look out for yourself, Lise.”

“You too.”

 

[ … ]

 

Barry woke up to a text on his phone.

He’d gone home the night before and showered all the evidence of his bad decisions away, feeling hollow. He hadn’t slept well again, tossing and turning all night, trying to decide if trusting Snart was a good idea because he definitely wasn’t the killer and shouldn’t go down for it, or was a horrible idea because it could cost him everything he’d worked for and the man was a killer anyway, besides.

If nothing else, at least the hickey on his neck would make for a bold excuse as to why he hadn’t slept, even if it was mostly covered by his shirt collar. He worked with detectives and his best friend was a reporter, all of them would notice.

Rolling over in the dawn to turn off his alarm after too few hours of sleep, he groaned at the number on his screen. Snart. Really. After all that?

He opened it, then sat up ramrod straight in bed.

In the interest of honesty – there’s a missing kid. Hustler, Griffin Grey. Disappeared a few nights ago, and he’s not the type to leave without saying goodbye, according to his friends.

 

Chapter Text

Barry’s headache was constant all morning.

As soon as he’d gotten in to work in the morning, his eyes strayed to the leather-bound notebook in his drawer, the one that kept all his at-work insights into his father’s file. His priority. Except not now. Because someone’s life might be in his hands now—someone else’s, other than this father’s. Because this could be urgent: if the Midtown Murderer had Griffin Grey, his days were numbered, and finding him fast was the priority.

The only problem was that Barry had no idea how to do that. No one had reported Griffin Grey missing, and no one on the taskforce outside of Barry had any idea who he was or that he was missing. There was nothing in the system on him. No arrests, just a missing person’s report from three years ago when he ran away that had cleared up as ‘resolved’ not long after when he returned home, but Barry had no doubt that wasn’t the last of it. How teens ended up on the street and selling sex was never a clean and easy story.

He looked over the files of the victims they knew about so far. The two original bodies from the river, old cases now from back before he was even struck by lightning. The first, Bette Sans Souci, a bit older than the other victims at her time of disappearance, the type of sex worker to make house calls, have an appointment schedule, richer clients. Then there was Tony Woodward, pretty much Barry’s age, and someone who was big enough that he wouldn’t have been easy to overpower. Barry was pretty sure that him being on the list had provided the FBI a lot toward their profile, even if he hadn’t even been connected to Bette’s death when it first came up because both of them were so different in terms of victimology. But then Eliza Harmon’s body had turned up in a field with two missing canine teeth and scars like lightning on her back and the pattern of teeth became impossible to ignore. Of all the victims, Eliza was the only one to work the streets, at least until Griffin came long.

Then there was Maria Korsukova, the woman associated with Leonard.

Barry tried not to think about that now. Not because he thought Leonard did it (he was, finally, convinced he hadn’t) but because it wasn’t his business who else Leonard decided to sleep with in his spare time. It really wasn’t.

It was weird though, looking over the photos for the victims. They only had two things in common as far as he could tell: they were all white, and they were all sex workers. The FBI had said it was an issue of vulnerable populations being targeted, the way the killer sought out his victims, but there had to be other, easier ways to pick off random targets, right? If the killings weren’t sexually motivated, why go after sex workers? But if they were sexually motivated, the killer didn’t have much of a set type. Differences in body, build, gender, background, age.

God, Griffin was just seventeen. It made Barry a little sick, looking at his Facebook profile—so did not knowing how he was going to help this kid.

It would be so much easier if he could just want up to Joe and say “here’s a hot tip about the Midtown Murderer’s next victim but there’s no report so don’t ask me how I got it.” He almost snorted at the thought. Maybe he should phone it in from a payphone, disguise his voice. It might confuse the investigation, thinking he was the killer phoning to taunt them now, a new degree of escalation. He might be better off getting a woman to phone, but didn’t know any he could trust with the information. Iris was the obvious choice but she would ask a million questions.

Maybe he ought to talk to Grey’s friends and convince one of them to file a report? He had no idea yet how to track them down, but Grey’s life had to be worth it to them, right? No one was going to slap them with a solicitation charge—no one on the task force at least. It was nothing next to what Barry would get if anyone unraveled the web he’d started to weave despite himself, and he didn’t know what else to do. The right thing, if it came to it, but he was hoping he’d have other options.

He didn’t have too much time to figure it out, busy with case work, processing evidence, lab meetings where Julian pontificated at them, lunch with Iris.

Shit, lunch with Iris. He was so late, so so la—

“Iris!”

“Hey, Barr.” She was standing in the doorway and he almost ran into her on his haste toward the stairs to head to lunch. She quirked an eyebrow, looking amused. “Forgot?”

“No I—no. Just uh, on my way.”

She waved a bag of take-out—Big Belly Burger, hallelujah—and his stomach growled. He grinned sheepishly.

“D’you wanna eat here or—?”

“You are a disaster, Barry Allen. But yes, we can eat here, so long as—”

“Yo B! You got the—oh hey Iris.”

“Cisco,” she smiled.

“Is that B-3?”

“Don’t even think about it, Cisco,” Barry said, already moving toward the food.

“Chill dude, some of us pack a lunch. Gimme a sec, I’mma grab mine.”

Iris and Barry exchanged a look.

“You’re making friends, I see?” she teased him, putting the food down.

“Cisco? Yeah, he comes and has lunch about once a week now.”

They grabbed out their food, starting in.

“Does he know about you?”

Barry tensed halfway through a fry, eyes flashing to her. “Know about me what?”

“That you’re bi?”

Right. “Oh! Uh, yeah. He is too? Shit, maybe I wasn’t supposed to say that. Um.”

“I’m out, it’s cool,” Cisco said from the door way, sipping at a Coke. “Is the lovely lady of a likeminded persuasion?”

Iris blinked and smiled a little sheepishly. “I… haven’t fully figured that out, really.”

“Never any rush.”

She grinned and Barry relaxed, finally biting into his burger, halfway moaning around it. He’d completely forgotten to eat breakfast.

“Damn, B. You trying to seduce that burger?”

He tried not to laugh with food in his mouth.

“He’s probably just practicing for ~Ben~,” Iris smirked, a little singsong. Barry almost choked on his next bite.

“Who’s Ben?”

His face felt hot. Shit, he’d halfway forgot he agreed to give Iris details. He sucked down some of his drink, trying to clear his airway and fight his blush at the same time. Iris was cackling. She was evil.

“Ben is his boyfriend.”

“Not—I mean—we haven’t really labelled it, yet.”

“Still no?” Iris asked, munching a fry, eyes like lasers.

“I said we’re not really that serious. We kinda had a fight last night anyway.”

“A fight? About what?”

He shrugged, sipping his drink again. “Just… lifestyle differences.” He finished his burger under her concerned gaze, coming up with an answer as he chewed. “He travels a lot, works in… finances. Investments. So I’m not sure if he really wants a relationship.”

She frowned. “Does he treat you right?”

He tried hard not to think about Leonard’s tongue in places that turned him into a puddle of overstimulated nerve endings.

“Yep!”

“And he values you?”

His memories flashed to the first night they met, about Leonard sparing his life because of what he could offer.

“Yeah,” he rasped, forcing aside the sudden churn in his stomach. At least he was done eating. “I think so.” For all the wrong reasons, but Iris seemed encouraged.

“And you’re into him?”

Barry couldn’t help but think about Leonard’s hands, his teasing voice, the way he admitted to having the makings of a crush, the desire for something more. He cleared his throat. “Do we have to talk about this?”

“Think that hickey speaks for itself.” Cisco grinned slyly and Barry could kill him, eyes bugging out of his head. His hand clapped to his neck to cover it.

“Hickey?” Iris gasped, leaning into Cisco’s space to catch a glimpse. The whole point of letting Leonard mark him was for it be noticed but now he was regretting that choice. “Barry Allen—are you dating a teenager?”

He actually snorted. “He’s like fifteen years older than me.”

“He’s what?!”

Shit. “I mean—”

Cisco couldn’t stop laughing.

“Barr, is he your—” Iris’s voice dropped to a whisper, “is he your sugar daddy?”

“What? No! No—he’s just a guy. He’s not—he doesn’t buy me things. Not like that.” He thought about Leonard’s gun, about what they’d done just the night before, about Leonard wanting to be his dom. His ears were red.

“No wonder you didn’t want to tell Dad about him!”

“You have no idea,” he muttered. Cisco’s eyebrows went up.

“Joe don’t know?”

“Joe knows. Just—no details. Don’t give Joe any details.”

“My lips are sealed. Joe asks me anything and I’ll just go on a tangent about how hard I’m falling for Agent Reynolds.”

Barry blinked. Iris did a double take. “Who’s Agent Reynolds?”

“And why are you into her?” Barry added. “She’s terrifying.”

“Terrifyingly beautiful. She’s the lead FBI agent on this case and I think she’s into me. She stared at me for a full ten seconds and asked what my name was when I tried to shake her hand. Since then we’ve made eye contact five times across the precinct.”

Iris shot him a skeptical look. Barry wasn’t commenting on that.

“Is she sticking around?”

“At least until the case is over,” Cisco commented. Barry started to wonder how long that was going to be, and whether he should try to keep himself out of her orbit and awareness. How to get Cisco not to mention him to her without being weird about it?

“Excuse me,” a voice came from the door. They all looked up as one. There was a blond man standing there, tall. He had a little smile on and was vaguely familiar to Barry. “Barry Allen?”

He hopped up. “That’s me, yeah.” He wiped his hands on his jeans to get rid of residual grease from the fries and burger. He placed the face in his memory. “You’re from the mayor’s office, right? Something with a… z?”

“Zoloman,” the man smiled amicably, clearly not worried Barry couldn’t remember his name, extending his hand to shake. “Hunter Zoloman.”

Barry shook it, almost taken aback by the firmness of the grip, though he responded in kind a little belatedly. “What can I do for you, Mr. Zoloman?”

“Please, Hunter is fine. I hate to bother you, but of course they sent me by to get an update, appease the public.” He laughed again in a way that made Barry think maybe this man was as awkward as himself. “I was told you were the man to talk to about our best lead on the case.”

“I’m not really a detective. Maybe Joe or Eddie could help you out a bit better?”

“Were you not the one who cracked the warehouse that had the victims’ blood in it?”

“Victims’ blood? Which ones?”

“You don’t know yet? Just came in, must’ve been from that other one—what’s her name? Spivel?—I’ve got some files here—” he started to juggle the folders in his arms and Barry glanced back at Iris and Cisco. Before he got a word out, the man kept talking.

“Ah but I can see you’re busy with your lunch right now—”

There was the scrape of a chair and Cisco hopped up too. “Nah dude, official business always beats out gossip.” He came over, hand extended, grin in place. “I’m Cisco.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Cisco. Didn’t I see you in the taskforce meeting too?”

“Yeah dude. I’m down in cybercrimes. For the taskforce though? I’m in charge of the toys.”

Hunter looked politely curious and Barry glanced back at Iris. She looked bored.

“Toys?”

“Tech, my man—software, hardware, stun guns—any and everything the department might need to help track this sucker.”

“Now that… that is very interesting, Cisco.”

Barry cleared his throat, “so uh, should we talk here or?”

“If it’s not too much trouble, Mr. Allen,” Hunter’s attention was back on him, rapt.

“Not at all.”

Iris made him promise for a coffee date another time to make up for their aborted lunch date, heading off to see Eddie on her way out. Barry pushed aside other files on his desk and sat down to look at the report Patty had written on the warehouse. He smiled at the man from the mayor’s office, forcing aside all thoughts about Leonard Snart and Griffin Grey for a few minutes.

 

[ … ]

 

Len got a text from Barry that evening and frowned as soon as he saw it.

There’s no missing persons report.

Not my problem.

I wanna talk to his friends, get one of them to say something.

Isn’t it your pals’ job to investigate?

There’s nothing for them TO investigate, not unless I phone it in anonymously. I can’t just tell them I know about a missing kid

So call it in. I’m not your messenger boy

His phone started to ring. Len answered with a snap in his voice. “I thought you said we weren’t gonna do this.”

“We could’ve done it just fine if you’d told me about this in person last night.”

“I’m doing you a favour—”

“If I phone it in as myself right now, I have nothing but a name. Not where he works, lives, any indication he’s working the streets like you told me. And that involves buying a burner phone or finding a payphone that doesn’t have any security cameras on it because they check that shit, Leonard.”

This was turning into a major pain in his ass. “Alright alright, calm down.”

“I just need one of his friends to file a report—anything at all—then I can get the ball rolling.”

“How many streetwalkers’ve you met, Barry?”

“…why does that matter?”

He rolled his eyes. “Not a single one of them trusts cops as far as they can throw’em.”

“They won’t get charged—”

“Doesn’t matter. They look after their own, the older ones anyway. Don’t trust cops to do it.” He didn’t want to say it, hoped he didn’t need to, that cops were more danger than help, most days. Were just as likely to take advantage and expect it for free, to take favors for their help and their blind eye and some of those men were the least savory type of customer.

Someone has to call it in, Snart. Unless you want me to file the report myself and get asked how I know it.”

It sounded almost like blackmail. Len was a little impressed. He smirked, not about to tell Barry that, and put some gravel into his voice. “Careful, Barry.”

“Just tell me where to look.”

He almost sighed, frustrated more with himself than Barry, and agreed to take the CSI for a walk.

 

[ … ]

 

Barry shoved his hands into his pockets, feeling completely out of his element. Leonard had picked him up, in a car this time (thank god), and now they were walking down a part of town he normally wouldn’t find himself after dark. His precinct didn’t cover this area at least, so hopefully no one from any of the other precincts was hanging around on this block tonight and recognized him.

“Who do we talk to?”

“My source said he knows some girls who work around here. We start with them.”

Barry wondered for a second what sort of detective Leonard would make. In another life, maybe, he could see him being good at it. His partner grimaced at him when Barry pulled out the profile picture of Griffin that he’d printed off his Facebook page, and it didn’t seem to do much good for the first while. Forty minutes and a few blocks later, it paid off when one girl actually blinked at them, stopped halfway through a scathing dismissal when she found out they weren’t buying to glance at the portrait.

“…you’re looking for Grif?” her heavily lined eyes snapped up to Barry’s.

He felt a thrill in his chest. “You know him?”

She looked dubious, glancing between them. “You’re not cops, are you?”

Snart stepped on his foot and drawled, “do I look like a cop to you, kiddo?”

She frowned. “Then why’d you even care?”

“This is my city. I don’t like mysteries in my town.”

Barry shot him a glare, his foot smarting. He cleared his throat. “How long has Griffin been missing?”

She pursed her lips, glancing behind her. They were standing in the dim yellow light of a convenience store parking lot, her ripped jeans and thin sweater so clearly not warm enough for the night. He wished he could do more to help.

“A few days.”

“When was the last time you saw him?”

She scratched her arm, “when we split up for the night. All of us. He went off to find some tricks over on Sheffield ave? That’s where the men go.”

Barry made a mental note to check it out in the daytime. “So you didn’t see him go off with anyone?”

“No he just—just never came back.”

“Can you tell us—”

“What’s with all the questions? ‘Cuz look I don’t know anything, okay? I barely know Grif and this is—”

He felt Leonard move beside him but Barry was faster. He softened his expression, put a hand on her arm. “Hey, it’s okay,” he said quietly. She was looking at him dubiously. “I just wanna help him. What’s your name?”

“Frankie….”

“Frankie. I’m Barry. And I’m not here to bug you, or to do anything to Griffin. We just wanna make sure he’s okay.”

“…what happened to him?”

He winced. “We think someone might have him.”

Her breath rushed out as he stepped back, out of his reach. “You mean that guy on the news? The one taking teeth?” His expression must’ve been too honest because her eyes went round as saucers. “Well I don’t know anything about that, okay? I told you what I know so just—”

“You could help him.”

She was looking frightened and Barry winced at his choice of words. She was going to think he was the Midtown Murderer at this rate.

“Just leave me alone, weirdo!”

He took a step back, arms up. Jesus, he did not need anyone calling the cops if she started to scream. She was already turning to go.

“I just want to help him!”

She wheeled on her heel, snapping and angry. “Why’d you even care? Who are you anyway?”

He heard Leonard sigh beside him and he pushed Barry aside unceremoniously. His eyebrows shot up, staring incredulously at the other man.

“What my bleeding-heart friend here is trying to say is that if you take this,” he produced a roll of cash from his pocket, “and use your cell to call in a hot tip to the police’s anonymous little line saying your friend’s missing, you’ll never have to see us again.”

She stared at the cash, then between them. Even Barry was surprised. “Why?”

“Because he’s got a heart and I’ve got a headache.”

She took a careful step forward, then another, snatching the cash out of his hand. She turned it over in her hand. Barry watched it, watched her.

“So what number do I call?”

 

[ … ]

 

Len drove Barry home after, wondering what the hell he’d gotten himself into. This wasn’t like him. Keeping an eye on the pulse of the city, sure. Bribery? Why not. But ferrying around a cop and helping him investigate? Taking him around, keeping an eye on him, helping and then watching him guide a barely-legal streetwalker through a report, waiting patiently for him to finish up?

Even if it was off the books and a not-actually-a-cop cop. The titles weren’t the issue. Len wasn’t the hero type. Good deeds weren’t in his nature.

Barry was becoming a problem.

He pulled up outside of the man’s building, stretching toward midnight. They’d spent the whole drive in silence. Beside him, Barry exhaled slowly once he set it in idle.

“You coming up?”

Len glanced sidelong at him. “Thought you didn’t want to catch feelings.”

Barry swallowed, and to his surprise, had a hand on Len’s thigh a moment later. It was hot and weighty and sent a jolt up his spine, an immediate rush of blood to his cock.

“How much did you give her?”

Barry was impossible to predict or decipher sometimes. Len turned slightly toward him, the hand on his thigh sliding higher with the movement. Barry’s wrist pressed to the muzzle of the gun on Len’s hip, hidden by his jacket.

“Does it matter?”

“I mean—how much do I owe you?”

His eyebrow quirked up. There was no way. “My my, Barry—didn’t think you’d be one to act so cheap.”

The sharp breath out of Barry made Len’s instincts flair to life, the urge to lean across the seat and capture his lips was almost painful. To sooth the sting by taking his teeth to Barry’s skin and razing it softly, deftly, like he’d seemed to crave not twenty-four hours ago. To remind Barry who’s he was without money changing hands.

Except he wasn’t Len’s, not by a mile. So held himself in check, saw the frustration marring the other man’s features. Barry pulled his hand back to himself and Len missed the warmth.

“Fuck you, Snart,” he said carefully, eyes narrowing to a glare. Then he moved to leave.

Len got his hand on the collar of Barry’s shirt before he could escape the vehicle, pulled him back into his spot.

“You want me to make you pay up? Want me to play the bad guy that bad?” his voice was low and Barry’s shiver was delicious.

"You about done?"

"Almost, but only if you want me to be." Len moved his hand, pushing the collar of Barry’s shirt out of the way so that his knuckles were grazing against the mark he’d left on Barry’s neck the night before. His thumb drifted across Barry’s jaw and the man stared straight ahead but Len didn’t miss how he balled his hands into fists on his thighs.

“Why did you help me?”

“I’m no saint, Barry. Why do you think I helped you?”

Maybe he’d have a good answer. Len was still wondering himself, after all.

“Wasn’t it to sleep with me?”

Not actually, though he couldn’t pretend he wasn’t hard now. The fact that Barry had offered, had expected Len to take it as payment, or repayment. The fact that he was willing to go along with that, along with whatever excuse he had so they could fuck—

“I’m not the in the habit of turning down offers like that, but I don’t need you getting any ideas about what this isn’t.”

Because whatever excuses they came up with, Barry was going to get ideas, wasn’t he? And feelings.

Barry cleared his throat, finally turning to face him. “If it’s nothing, why did you help me? If not for sex?”

Len’s eyes narrowed. He pulled back finally, fingers flexing. “Now you owe me. Don’t think I won’t cash in.”

“I’ll see you around, Snart.”

He hummed and let Barry leave this time.

 

[ … ]

 

He’d had this dream before. Too many times to count.

The stairs scaled high outside of sight but he ran anyway, higher and higher, each step falling away behind him. Something was chasing him, and if he turned his head, he might catch a glance but he couldn’t—wouldn’t. There was certainty in dreams, and this he always knew: if he looked back he would die. To each side of the spiral stairs, above and below—everything surrounding him was black. It had infinite depth in every direction and his lungs started to burn. The stairs started to spread out, the leap to each one getting harder, and he was gasping, jumping to the next stair, then the next, then the next, too slow, too far—

Something snaked around his foot when he was just off the top, just one more to go and his front slammed down onto the platform, upper body just on it, but the grip on his legs sucked him down—down—down

He screamed, fingers dragging for purchase, tips barely holding on the edge of the platform jutting out in the dark. Behind him, the stairs were gone, there was nothing. Just black, below and above, and whatever was pulling him down.

He let go.

The placid surface of water broke under him, the many arms dragging him deeper below the surface, into an undertow. He couldn’t breathe but he knew it didn’t matter. Things swam through the water in every direction, out of sight, with deadly teeth, white and pearly sharp. And there, as his breath finally started to falter, as he forgot what air tasted like, red tendrils seeping out from somewhere, staining everything. Reaching down through the dark ocean: a face, a voice.

“Run, Barry, run.”

 

[ … ]

 

He bolted up in bed. Sweat poured down his back, air burned his lungs.

He slipped out of bed, legs shaky, tripping through his apartment to the bathroom, splashing water on his face. He stayed there a minute, gasping and calming himself down. When he felt like he could distinguish reality from fiction, he swapped out his tee for a dry one, ran a towel over the back of his neck.

He hadn’t been sleeping well (much) at all recently, but that dream… he hadn’t had it in a long time. He used to, all the time for years after his mother’s death. Always something—someone—chasing him. Always him running. Always crashing down, and her reaching into the water, blood pouring out around her red hair. Her last words haunted him.

He traipsed into the living room, went to the balcony and spent a few minutes outside before the cold became too much. Awake and unable to change it now, he wandered back in, got some water, and went to his board.

The board hid behind some art on his wall, a huge hollow canvas that popped off easily. He slipped it out of place, and there it was. The research he’d done on his mother’s murder. He used to keep it at the precinct on one of the boards there instead of just his journal, but after the lightning and more CSIs being hired, working closer with Julian and Patty, Cisco swinging by, he’d finally moved it home. Julian had never directly accused him of anything for keeping it at work, never mentioned it at all, but Barry knew he was relieved when it had up and disappeared one day. It was how everyone tended to be about what had happened.

He surveyed the board, wished had notes to write on it, more to add. He stuck on a post-it note with the question “serial killer?”, considering a new thread. If he was being honest though, there wasn’t much progress, not recently. Not with everything else going on. And not for a while before that. It had been fourteen years and still—almost nothing solid.

He pulled at his face and stepped back. Then he pulled out his notes Midtown Murderer, trying to think this case through instead. Something he could actually help with, had evidence and information he could use to help solve it.  

He considered the warehouse where they’d traced that chemical to, where he’d met Leonard. Then he thought about what he learned in his meeting with Hunter Zoloman that afternoon, reading Patty’s and Julian’s reports. A few days ago the investigation had brought more cops back through the place, turned over every nook and cranny, but the reports just came in earlier that day finally. They’d found some evidence, a room that had been obviously cleared but still had traces—blood of the two most recent victims, no doubt from when the killer scarred them because they all died from strangulation.

Hunter had called him a genius for putting it together, for turning the investigation onto the warehouse, had asked him how he’d figured it out. Barry still almost couldn’t believe he was right, if he was being honest. It felt more like luck than anything, that the chemical found on the victims was actually still latent around this defunct warehouse and not from somewhere else, that the Tess Morgan murder from a decade ago might actually be connected.

“There’s no such thing as luck—only preparation, and being smart enough to separate the signal from the noise, Barry.” That’s what Hunter had said, and Barry had actually smiled a little under the praise, let himself feel pleased with the help he’d provided to the case instead of worrying how he’d screwed it up.

He scrubbed a hand through his hair, thinking about that. He hoped it was a proper lead. They had physical evidence now—the place the killer actually did the killing, or at least the scarring, even if he’d cleaned it out since then. That was huge. Barry wished he’d been the one to process the scene but Julian and Patty had gone over it on his day off. He itched to go have a look, but he knew what happened last time he tried that.

And… part of him also wondered if he’d compromised the whole damn investigation by going there in the first place. What if he’d somehow tipped off the killer to stop using the space? The room was obviously cleared, and recently too from what the report said. Had the killer been there that night when Barry showed up, eavesdropping? Or maybe he was one of Leonard’s accomplices?

“How did you know we were there?” he wondered aloud, making a note on his board for the case. “And what drew you there in the first place...?”

Was it because he’d worked there once, like Barry suspected? Tess Morgan had been strangled to death, like the other victims, almost eleven years ago now in that facility. The FBI thought it was a lead, at least. But what if it just a convenient space? Another dead end?

What if every road kept leading to Len?

“Where are you?” he whispered to the silent room. “And where are you holding Griffin now?”

He stayed there for an hour, until his eyes felt red and sore from staring. And then he collapsed back in bed, emotionally preparing himself for a morning of briefings on the new evidence, the new direction the case was going to go from here. If only he could sleep. He couldn’t, though. Again. And now, after enough weeks of sleepless nights, he finally managed to place why. Ever since going to the warehouse that first night, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was being watched.

 

Chapter Text

 

“Did I hear you dropped a job?”

Len arched an eyebrow at his sister, falling in step with him on his way in from a coffee run.

“I cancelled a terrible idea to explore other prospects.”

Her eyebrows were raised and he knew why. It had been almost a decade since he cancelled a job, and back then it was for a damn good reason. Thinking of that reason—

“It had nothing to do with Dad, Lise.”

“I didn’t think it did.” And yet her shoulders relaxed. “He’s dead after all. But do tell.”

“You know the heat’s on.”

“I’ve never seen you back down from a job before.”

“Yeah well—Rutenberg’s an idiot and Mick’s a loose cannon on his best days. Not a good combination this month.”

“And that’s all it is?”

He kept walking, mostly ignoring her gaze burning into the side of his face.

“Anything on the Midtown front? Get a description off your birdie yet?”

He’d thought about asking Barry for the profile. He owed Len again now, after all. He was letting him stew in that for a day or three though. No need to give Barry the satisfaction of having something Len wanted.

“I’ll let you know where the chips fall. Anything else?”

“I’m getting bored, Lenny. And Shawna’s getting better at picking locks.”

His lips almost twitched up. “I’ll keep it in mind.”

 

[ … ]

 

Days went by, and with each one, the nerves in Barry ebbed to nothing and flowed right back in, worse than before.

The missing persons report on Griffin Grey pinged onto the taskforce’s radar when it came in and that was one thing, at least, he managed to feel good for. Except every day that passed was another day the kid was missing.

It didn’t help when he went downstairs to visit Eddie at his desk, sitting there with someone he was clearly booking for something, and had to do a double-take at the face of the man sitting across from him. He knew that face. Why did he know that face?

And why was the man looking at him with equal recognition?

“Barry?”

He snapped out of it. “Eddie, hey! The Ferber trial is later today, right? Just wanted to get you the report for it before you have to take the stand.” He handed it over, glancing back at the man sitting there glaring daggers at him. Seeing him out of the corner of his eye instead of straight on, it clicked.

He worked with Snart. He was there—that night.

Barry’s stomach fell through the floor.

“Thanks Barr.” Eddie was flipping through the report, distracted. “And thanks for that soil analysis last week. Helped us pull in this guy.” He nodded his head in the man’s direction.

“Oh?” Barry’s voice wavered and Eddie looked up at him sharply. He cleared his throat. “Who’s this?”

“You are looking at one Jerome Calis, fresh from booking. He’s a person of interest in that Keystone Credit Union robbery from last winter.”

“I didn’t do it,” the man—Calis, right—had a deep voice and a look that screamed murder. “And I want my phone call.”

“I’m sure you didn’t, Jerome. Hey guess who else we picked up?”

“Who?”

Joe’s voice piped up from behind the opposite desk. “Clyde Mardon.”

“Clyde—the guy who killed Chyre?”

“The one and same!” Joe actually clapped his hands, grinning wide. It was amazing. He’d been looking for his older partner’s killer for a year now. “We’re celebrating this weekend.”

“Yeah that’s—yeah. Wow, that’s awesome.” Joe’s joy was infectious but he glanced back at Calis and the man’s perilous expression.

“I said I want my phone call.” He didn’t look away from Barry.

“Yeah yeah, I’m on it.” Joe waved Eddie away. “Let’s go, Mr. Phone Call.”

He stood up and Barry stepped back, feeling small. Calis was the tall one, who helped the squirrelly one drag Barry up those steps and throw him down on the ground at Snart’s feet. The man’s eyes didn’t leave Barry until he had to turn and follow Joe.

“You okay, Barr?”

“Yeah—uh, just don’t think that guy likes me very much.”

Eddie snorted, “I wouldn’t either if I were him. He was totally in the wind until the soil analysis you did for the Midtown taskforce brought us out to a farm where he was laying low with a few buddies.”

He blinked. That analysis was from the recent victim, Maria—a chemical composition indicating nearby livestock that didn’t match the grassy field she was found in, or the sorghum field nearby.

“So wait—could he be the Midtown Murderer?”

If Calis was at the warehouse and now this farm—

Eddie waved it away. “Solid alibi for half the victims—he was in the Heights when all but the most recent ones went missing. We’re going through the other guys we brought in with him, seeing if anything sticks.”

“Right. Well. Keep me posted.”

“You okay? I thought you’d be happier about Joe finding Mardon.”

Which might be awkward for Eddie, considering that’s how they became partners.

“Just—just thinking about Ben.” Barry glanced at the door, scratching the back of his neck. Should he tell Len? Would he even need to or would the man already have heard?

“Everything okay?” Eddie’s concern morphed into something softer.

“Yeah just—we kinda left on a tense note on our last date and I—I think I wanna call him tonight, smooth things over.”

“You know what I always do whenever I upset Iris?”

Barry really didn’t want to know. “You’re about to tell me, right?” He put on his best grin and tried not to wince. Eddie was so earnest.

“I make her a big meal—dinner, breakfast, whatever—and really set the table, make it nice, so that we can talk it out together over her favorite food.”

That was… “that’s really sweet, Eddie. I’ll uh, I’ll consider it.”

“You do that.” He honest to god winked. Barry laughed awkwardly and made a beeline for the stairs.

 

[ … ]

 

It wasn’t easy to catch Len by surprise—a lifetime of hypervigilance made sure of it. And this time… simply put, his hubris got the better of him. He didn’t think Rutenberg had the guts.

The man dropped had into the seat across from him and Len just shot him a droll look. “Hello to you too, Ru—”

“Shut yer face, Snart.” Len’s eyebrows shot up, tensing, already had a snarl forming before the last word was out but he continued, too fast, nervous and frenetic. “Cal’s in lockup ‘n we’re both next.”

He paused, growl dying in his throat. He took a sip of his beer, spared a second to wonder how Rutenberg found him, and leaned back in his seat.

“Talk.”

The other man licked his lips nervously, leaning forward with his elbows on the table. “Talk? Your boy, Snart, the one you let get away? Little badge you wanted so bad to fuck—don’t gimme that look Snart I ain’t fuckin’ dumb—”

“The kid didn’t arrest Calis, Rudy. Not like Cal’s a talker anyway. I don’t see why the hell you expect me to care.”

Care—Snart we. Are. Next. That kid did the fuckin’ forensic shitpile or whatever it takes to arrest someone—led his cop buddies straight to Clyde’s farm where Cal was—”

“Hold up.” Len lifted a hand. “Clyde Mardon?”

“Look Snart—we need that brat of yours taken care of.”

“I’ll handle it.”

“Like you handled this job you just cancelled on us? Birdie got you going soft, Snart?”

His shoulders tightened, voice dropping low. “Say that again, Rudy.”

“Just call him up, would’ya? Then we can get this over with.”

Len leaned forward, gearings turning as he honed his focus in on the man sweating nervously across from him. “’N how d’you know all this anyway?”

“Calis—how the fuck else?”

“Who else knows?”

“Are you gonna give us that brat or not?”

He narrowed his eyes. “Us?”

A hand landed hard on his shoulder. Ah.

“Hey Snart.”

He hated underestimating people. Rutenberg knew Mark Mardon.

“Mark.” He tilted his head, casually drawling, “take your hand off of me.”

“Fancy a walk?”

He bit out a sigh, didn’t even have to feign the annoyance. “Let’s get this over with.”

And then he shot up out of his seat, reaching for his gun at the same time as Mark’s arm out to grab block it. It was a feint anyway, Len’s right hand wrapped around the knife aimed straight for the tidy space between two particularly pivotal ribs but Mark was faster than that, moving with it, following through on the wrench to his left arm. Rutenberg was faster too, on Len’s back with no more warning than the scrape of his chair against the floor and—

Mark had a gun between his eyes. Len stilled, sucked in a breath. He glanced to the side. Half the bar had a gun out. He glanced over toward Bivolo, a definitely ally, and—fucking Simmons. Jake Simmons had a gun to Bivolo’s forehead. Roy always had been slow on the draw. Everyone else was aiming at the person aiming at them.

“Well?” the gun tapped him over the bridge of his nose, drawing his attention. “Couldn’t’a done this the easy way?”

“Easy? You’re gonna wish you killed me, Mark.”

“You still owe me for that job down in Tampa, or did you forget who got you out?”

Len wanted to spit in his arrogant face, wipe that smarmy smirk off it. But the man had a point. He tilted his head to acknowledge it, ignoring Rutenberg’s presence at his back altogether. “You sure you wanna cash in like this?” He made sure to glance back at the terse, silent bar for good measure.

“Like I said—let’s take a walk.”

 

[ … ]

 

What the fuck did you just say?”

“Mardon, Simmons, and Rutenberg have Snart—”

“I heard you Roy but what?”

This was not how Shawna wanted to wake up. She had work in an hour—night shift—and Roy Bivolo calling up to say her girlfriend’s brother got kidnapped by her ex?

“I don’t know why okay? Some beef went down and fucking Rutenberg was there ‘n something about Cal ‘n Clyde getting picked up? All I know for sure is that I can’t get a hold of Mick and someone’s gotta tell Lisa.”

“No shit. God Mark gets stupid mad sometimes.” Hence the ‘ex’ element of that equation.

“His brother got arrested—”

“His brother’s a murderer.” She’d never liked Clyde.

“Like Mardon cares.”

Shawna made a scathing note in her throat. The motherfucking Mardon brothers, ladies and gents. “I’ll tell Lisa. You know where they were headed?”

“No clue. Peeled out of there. If they do plan to kill anyone, they won’t want any witnesses.”

“Like a bar full?”

“No one ever called Mardon a criminal mastermind. He’s still never shot anyone in public.”

Shawna pinched the bridge of her nose, counting to three. Mark was such an idiot. “If he’s got a plan for killing Snart—and look, he’d be dumb as bricks not to if he’s pissing the man off—it means he’s gonna wanna dump the body. That means out of town, since they doubled river patrols with this serial killer thing. Can’t use Clyde’s farm I guess.”

“What about the airfield?”

“The what?”

“Mardon bros use planes to move their product, right? There’s that closed off airfield north of the city. They moved out there after cops got wise to their last farm with the dust cropper—Clyde got shot, pig died?”

“Right, yeah, I know that place from back when—alright, I’ve gotta go tell Lisa.”

She hung up, swore a bluestreak at the mess that was all these men in her life. Lisa was worth it. Lisa was definitely worth it. She would just keep telling herself that until her blood pressure calmed down.

 

[ … ]

 

“So you gonna call him or what?” Mark held out Len’s phone to him. Not that he could take it, with his hands tied behind him, attached to the chair. Not his finest moment. Neither was the drive out here, trussed up in Simmons’s car.

Len snorted. “I’ll pass.”

“Thought you paid your debts, Snart.”

“Not by giving up my best mole to you lot for no reason.”

“Don’t play funny, Snart, we got a reason,” Rutenberg started to snarl but Mark shot him a look and held up a finger.

“C’mon, Rudy. Play nice. Snart’s our pal, remember.”

“Some pal,” he muttered. “Calis’s is—”

“In lockup, I heard you the first five times,” Len drawled. “Still don’t know what you think our little birdie c’n do about it.”

“Get him out or get one between the—”

Alright, Rudy.” Mark clapped him on the shoulder.

“I think you gentlemen are forgetting,” Simmons cut in. Fucking Simmons. Len was going to enjoy killing him. “This little birdie has to actually make an appearance, or at least do his part, and it’s in all of our best interest if he can and does help our escapade. So maybe we should realign our strategy?”

Len eyed him. He’d like to think Simmons was suggesting something reasonable here, but Jake Simmons was a smiling psychopath if Len ever met one. The man had the audacity to murder people and still be vegan.

“You do know how to place nice, right Snart? When there’s some stakes in it for you?”

“If you think I respond to bribes any better than this pathetic intimidation, guess again.” Len actually went to the trouble of rolling his eyes. He almost had his third hidden knife free (Mark having been smart enough to find numbers one and two when patting him down and nothing was reachable with how they’d trussed him up before). Then he could start to work on which of them to kill first.

“Oh I wasn’t thinking about bribing you. Mark—hand me his phone.”

Mardon was going through his contacts. Not likely to find Barry—Len was smarter than to leave a call or text history with his number in there. He’d memorized it and deleted their conversations as soon as they were done talking each time.

“Take it—nothing on Allen’s in here anyway.”

“Still think we should’a gone direct to the source,” Rutenberg muttered. Len considered that. Them going straight for Barry had other risks, but was less likely to get their throats slit. Or… equally likely, actually, because Len was liable to kill anyone who touched what was his without permission.

“I was hoping,” Mark glared at Len, “that Snart would cooperate so he’d be easier to control.”

Simmons cleared his throat, holding the phone up to his ear, calling someone. Len tensed.

“Hi! Lisa? Great—this is Jake…. Simmons, yeah… Oh so you’ve heard! Even better! What—ransom? No haha, not even a little.”

Simmons,” Len seethed quietly. The man held up a single finger to shush him. First. He was going to kill Simmons first.

“We’re looking for your brother’s boytoy. The CSI?... You mean you haven’t heard? Lisa, Lisa, Lisa.”

Slowly.

“Barry Allen. Find him, tell him to call this number and tell no one else. We’ll be waiting.”

Preferably painfully.

 

[ … ]

 

Barry finally decided that he was going to call Snart.

It had actually been an ongoing debate. On the one hand, he knew Snart would want to know. On the other, he couldn’t help but remember… “My my, Barry—didn’t think you’d be one to act so cheap.”

Ultimately, Snart’s condescension wasn’t going to get Barry killed, but Snart thinking he was covering up Calis’s arrest could. Or if not Barry, someone else. He’d probably hear about it through the grapevine anyway, and Calis being arrested had nothing to do with the Midtown Murderer case anyway, or anything else related to Snart.

Having decided, now all he had to do was… actually call. He frowned at nothing, walking up the stairs in his building. Snart could wait an hour at least. After dinner he’d pick up the phone.

He pulled out his keys, sighing, unlocking his apartment. He also owed Snart for helping him with Griffin Grey. Maybe he should just call him now and get it over with so they could call it even-steven. He closed the door with a kick of his foot behind him.

The click of the gun had him stop, instinctual. It was next to his head.

“Stay very still, Barry Allen.” It was a woman’s voice. He swallowed and didn’t dare to turn, felt sweat break out on his skin. Then there was movement from his peripheral vision and—

“Mick?” he croaked, still unmoving. The man moved into his line of vision.

“Hands out.” Mick didn’t sound (or look) pleased. Barry moved slowly to set his bag down without bending to do it, glancing only out of the corner of his eye at the woman holding the gun to his head.

“Mick what’s going on?”

The man grunted and grabbed his arm, jerked him forward and started to wrap a thin cord around it. Barry struggled for all of a half second until Mick wrenched on his arm and he gasped, stilled.

“Mick where’s Leonard?”

The rope was coarse and too tight when Mick finished binding his wrists, abrading his skin.

“Don’t worry, Birdie,” the woman said, finally coming into his field of vision, gun tapping her thigh. “We’re on our way to find him.”

Barry stared. She was beautiful, brown curls cascading down her shoulders, a sharpness around the eyes and a false smile. Dressed in leather, heels like murder, all he could think was that she was a killer queen, gunpowder, gelatine, dynamite with a lazer beam, guaranteed to—

“I think I finally understand Freddie Mercury.”

“What?”

Even Mick looked at him strange, and her face was screwed up in confusion.

“You must be Lisa Snart.”

“So you know me.”

“You’re in his file.”

She arched an eyebrow and he suddenly saw the resemblance.

“What do you want with me?”

“For starters, for you shut up. Get the gag out, Mick.”

“Gag—hey!—mffff!

Mick had him spun around, almost losing his footing but then it was in his mouth and biting at it was useless. It pulled at his cheeks and Barry struggled but his wrists were at a weird angle, too tight to move and Lisa was in front of him then, gun in hand still. It didn’t have the same allure as when her brother was holding one. He breathed heavy through his nose, still for a second.

“Let’s go, CSI.”

“Mmm—hnnn!—mff—rrr!”

Mick pushed him toward the door and Barry couldn’t help but fight, throwing his weight to the side. Mick grabbed him around the waist and Barry threw his legs up, got both his feet against the wall before Lisa could step in front and open the door, throwing them both back with all the strength his quads and calves could push into it. They hit the ground, Mick absorbing the impact and Barry slithered out as best as he could on instinct.  Why did he let the man tie him up? He rushed for his bedroom door but Mick grabbed his ankle and he was on the ground again, tried to kick his head but Mick dodged at the last second and Lisa was over him then, stiletto heel on his neck. He choked, stayed down.

There was a few seconds of heavy breathing where he tried to calm the rabbit-fast heartbeat pounding out of his chest.

mmiffaa—” There, it almost sounded like her name.

Mick grumbled and stood. “Didn’t put up that much fight in the warehouse.”

Barry glared ineffectually at Lisa. Above him, the sunset light of his apartment cast sinister shadows over her face; she tilted her head.

“You are his type, aren’t you?”

God she was worse than her brother. He huffed in a few breaths, flushed with anger. She kneeled down, his neck free but her knee was on his chest, pressing on his lungs. She pulled the gag aside.

“You get one chance to say what you wanna say. Piss me off and we’ll knock you out for the ride.”

“I. Am. On. Your. Side.”

“Is that so? Then why’s Jerome Calis in lockup?”

He swore, head dropping to the ground, eyes closing for a half-second before his instinctual panic forced them open.

“Barry?”

“I swear I didn’t plan it.”

“I don’t care. You’re going to help fix it.”

How?”

“You’re coming with us.”

He tried to choke out a laugh but it came out as a wheeze. His neck hurt from her heel, his wrists were agitated from the rope, his lungs couldn’t get in the right amount of air.

“Like this? You want people to see Mick dragging me out on his shoulder? My foster dad—”

“Is a cop,” she dug her knee in, leaning the bulk of her weight on his chest. “Mick mentioned.”

He gasped until she let up, sucked in a breath. “Let me help you.”

“And why do you think for a second I would trust you?”

He glanced at Mick over her shoulder. He was pretty sure his eyes were watering because the other man was out of focus.

“Because—”

There was a knock at the door. Barry’s heart stopped. They all stopped breathing for a second. Lisa shot an alarmed look at Mick and then looked back down at him, eyes wide.

“Who—”

“I don’t know,” he hissed quietly between his teeth, not-quite shaking his head in disbelief.

“Don’t answer it,” she hissed to Mick in turn.

Barry’s phone rang. The three of them shared a collective half-second of desperate exasperation. Barry recovered first.

“I’ll bluff Lisa I swear to god just let me—”

She pulled out the phone and the name on it—Zoloman? Even Barry was confused. He’d exchanged numbers with him but didn’t expect the man to call.

“It’s work—let me—”

She pressed send and pressed it to his ear with one hand, the other holding her gun between his eyes. At least she wasn’t kneeling on his chest anymore.

“Hello?” He cleared his throat. “Hunter?”

“Barry! Hi—hope it’s not a bad time?”

“I actually, uh—”

“It’s just that I’m outside your door right now—”

You’re the one at my door?”

He saw Mick’s eyes go wide and the man was already moving toward the door. Lisa shot him an abortive gesture.

“You heard me knock? I thought I heard you in there. I’m sorry, I really should have called first. It’s just that I called the station to see if you were still in and Cisco said you live in this area and it turns out I was right around the corner anyway. I wanted to pick your brain about the soil analysis report you did, had something I was wondering if you could look at sometime and figured I would drop it off now instead of heading back to the precinct tomorrow.”

Barry was never doing another damn soil analysis in his life after this.

“Yeah I was just, uh, in the washroom, sorry I haven’t answered the door yet.”

There was a beat of silence and Lisa shot him a ‘what the fuck’ look that he answered with a ‘well what did you want me to say’ shrug and wide-eyed glare.

“D’you mind opening up?”

“Right!” That’s why Lisa was giving him those murder eyes. “Right, just a sec—I uh, have to change out of my pajamas.” He laughed a little strangled. “Sorry I’ll just—just one sec.”

He shot Lisa a look and she ended the call.

“What the fuck, Allen?” she shot at him under her breath.

“I don’t freaking know,” he whispered right back. “Just—untie me okay? He’s from the mayor’s office and people will care if he goes missing.”

“You fuck this up—”

“I won’t. I care about your brother. I won’t.”

She narrowed her eyes, not in anger but like she didn’t quite understand, but stood up anyway. His ropes were cut a second later. He scrambled toward the door, wiping his face from any residual sweat and sorting out his clothes.

His heart was still hammering out of his chest.

“Hunter!”

And there he was, standing in the hall, checking his phone casually. He smiled when Barry opened the door, a little wincing.

“I’m sorry, Barry. After I called I realized how incredibly inappropriate it is for me to chase you down at home like this. Cisco said you wouldn’t mind if I dropped off the file but now I realize you were just enjoying your night off—”

“It’s fine, better than getting called in, y’know? Can I, uh—why don’t you hand me the file and I’ll read it over tonight, get it back to you in the morning?”

“No need to do it before you get to work tomorrow.” He pulled out a file from his satchel. “I really appreciate this. Actually—if you haven’t eaten yet—can I take you to dinner? We can talk about the case and I won’t feel like such a heel for taking up your time if you get a free meal out of it.”

Barry blinked. Hunter was such a nice guy. A little shitty for taking up Barry’s night, but it’s not like that didn’t happen on a weekly basis with his work anyway, and Cisco had definitely barged in once or twice without calling, or else dragged him to the precinct just for company on a work-related all-nighter so the offer really did feel touching.

“I actually… have plans already.”

“Ah, I didn’t realize, with the pajamas and all.” He could tell Hunter was teasing, but his ears burned anyway at being called on the lie. “I really wouldn’t mind—”

“My boyfriend’s on his way over.”

It was like magic, that word. Just like Eddie, his demeanor immediately shifted, surprise on his features. Except Eddie had broken out into all smiles after, and Hunter was looking a little tense.

“Boyfriend? I’m sorry I didn’t realize.”

“Yeah. He uh—we’re having a movie night with his sister, so.”

“Well. Have a good night with them, then. Here’s the file.”

“Thanks, I’ll get it back to you tomorrow.”

“I appreciate it. And hey,” he relaxed again, warming back up, “I still owe you a meal for this. Let me take you to lunch next week?”

Maybe he wasn’t a homophobe after all? Just surprised? Barry nodded. “Yeah, sure. I’ll hold you to it.”

He smiled and Barry slipped the door closed, leaned his entire weight on it the second it clicked shut. He took a second to swallow, compose himself, the folder slipping from his shaking fingers to the ground, papers askew.

“So… what’s going with Leonard?” he finally rasped, not at all missing the long and considering look Lisa gave him.

 

[ … ]

 

Sweat slid down the back of his neck as he pressed send. Someone answered on the second ring.

“Evening.”

“H-hi. I’m uh—this is Barry. Allen.”

“Well hello Barry Allen. Looks like Lisa found you after all.”

“Is this—you’re Mark? Or…”

“That doesn’t matter. What does matter, Allen, is that if you or Lisa ever wanna see Snart again, you’re gonna do exactly as I say.”

Barry was getting enormously tired of being threatened. Especially this time, by this particular douchebag. He started to shift his posture, felt anger bubbling up in his stomach.

“Where are you?”

Next to Barry, Mick snorted at him for bothering to ask. Which was fair, considering.

Mark’s voice was plenty condescending too. “That’s not how this goes, Allen.”

“Let me guess how you think it does. You threaten me, and I find a way to spring your buddy Calis?”

“And Clyde.”

“As in Clyde Mardon? The man who killed a cop last year? You know I knew him, right? You really think I’m gonna help bust his killer out of prison?”

“You will if you know what’s good for you.”

“And how exactly do you think I’m gonna pull it off, anyway? I’m one man.”

Keep them talking. That was all he had to do. Even if he had to keep his own voice down, which he started to do as they got closer, creeping forward slower now.

“I don’t expect you to pick the locks, Allen. I need the date and time of transport for when they’re heading to the Heights, how many drivers and follow cars, security, gun sepcs, how many prisoners—you know the drill.”

Barry almost rolled his eyes. He definitely did not know this particular drill.

“You’re seriously gonna kill Leonard if I don’t?” Just keep them talking.

“Y’know what, why don’t you put Lisa on?”

Fuck. Barry glanced at her, ten paces ahead, just coming on the location of Mardon and his buddies now, gun drawn. She really didn’t have time to talk, and Barry had to hang back now anyway or they’d hear him.

“I want to talk to Leonard.”

“Ah isn’t that sweet, the little piggy’s got a crush.”

He gritted his teeth, able to hear Mardon a little ways off now even without the phone, voice reverberating in the hangar. “I just wanna know he’s alive,” he hissed back.

“Oh he’s alive. You’ll see him alive and well after my brother’s free. And don’t worry, Allen—you do this right and you’ll definitely be safe too. Someone like you could be valuable.”

He breathed out of his nose, shoulders tight at the implication.

“You know what Mark?” He locked eyes with Mick standing a ways beyond him, nodded. “Go fuck yourself.”

 

[ … ]

 

Len sat tense watching Mark on the phone with Barry. Of course Lisa tracked the kid down. There’s nothing they wouldn’t do for each other. Len hated it anyway.

He had bigger fish to fry right now though. His hands were free, waiting for his chance, for one of them to get too close and stupid. Mark’s distraction might provide that opportunity. If he took down Rutenberg first, got his gun—

Wait. Where the fuck was Simmons—

CRACK!

It went off like a gunshot. As a gunshot—loud, sharp—

Everyone sprang into action. Len was out of his seat on instinct, launched himself at Rutenberg—whose gun was already aiming straight at him. Another shot went off and Rutenberg’s head had a new hole in it. Mick was standing tall, arm out, gun smoking. Len’s ears were pounding with his heartbeat, too loud and heavy, ringing with the echo of the shot in the hangar and—he spun on his heel, saw Lisa and Mark, guns out and in a standoff, his own phone on the ground. Behind them, looking stricken, was Barry. His eyes were wide on Rutenberg’s corpse.

Where the fuck was—

Simmons jumped out from behind a shipping container right behind Barry. He shouted at the sudden chokehold, stilled when Simmons got a gun against his temple. By then every eye turned to them and Len’s heart didn’t slow but he sucked in a breath, eyes narrow, and forced himself toward calm.

Mark spoke first. “Well well—how did you find us.”

Lisa tilted her head, halfway purring. “You forget who I’m dating, and how much she knows about you.”

Mark swore and Len almost smirked, still too focused on Simmons’s gun to properly enjoy Mark’s frustration.

“What’s it gonna be Snart?” Simmons asked, not missing that attention. “We can still settle this like gentlemen.”

Len knew Mark wasn’t dumb enough to shoot his sister. So he drew himself up to his full height, cracked his neck without taking his eyes off Simmons, and stepped closer. “Put the gun down before you embarrass yourself, Jake.”

 “Now now, think about your next move here. All we want is some information and a little help from this one.”

Simmons looked spooked, tensed and edged back with Barry in tow when Len got too close and he stilled, calculating. Barry was tense when Len met his gaze. Tense but not panicked, not lost in it. Len tilted his head to the side, nodding that way slightly.

“What was in it for you, anyway? You’re not friends with Calis, no love lost for Mark.” His muscles started to ready themselves, moving slightly off his heels, coiling. He was pleased to see Barry’s eyes widen, to see him edge ever so slightly to the left, tilting his head too.

“What’s in it for any of us, Snart? Money.”

“Speaking of which…” Len leaned forward just slightly, watched Simmons and Barry both inhale, Barry brace himself. “You owe me some.”

He threw himself forward. Simmons’s instincts kicked in, shifting his gun from Barry to Len but it was too late, Len was too close and not in the path of it, heard the gun go off as a deafening crack too close to his ear but his knife was already in Simmons’ throat by the time the sound even registered.

 

[ … ]

 

Barry felt like he wasn’t seeing. Like he was just staring. His hands were shaking. He was dimly aware of that much. His hands were shaking and he was clammy and his shoulder was soaked in blood, a corpse dropping to his feet with a gargled sound that stopped before impact.

Run Barry—run!

His mother's voice screamed inside his head. He sucked in a breath, closed his eyes. This wasn’t the time for that. He cleared his throat. The smell was already reaching his nose. Someone was talking but he couldn’t hear, cotton in his ears, ringing. Fingers touched his face and his eyes slammed open.

Leonard.

“I’m fine. I’m fine. Deal with—I’m fine.”

He didn’t think the other man believed him, barely heard his own voice but Leonard turned to address Mardon anyway. Barry didn’t move.

“Anything to add, Mardon?” He sounded like he was talking through water.

“Your pig really worth all this?”

Leonard shrugged his shoulders. “Simmons owed me money.”

Mardon half-laughed and Barry hated him in that moment. His companions lay dead at their feet and he was smiling. “And me?”

“I’m letting you live for now. Consider us square. For Tampa.”

“And Clyde?”

“Can rot for all I care. Deal with it yourself.”

Barry’s hearing came back, the pressure equalized in his drums. Things sounded too loud all the sudden, too much. He glanced at Simmons’s body. The knife was still in his neck. The arterial bleeding was profuse, blood soaking the concrete, Barry’s shoes. The spray had hit him and Leonard both, a find dusting of it on the man’s jacket, a few darker patches. He considered the trajectory, the spatter pattern. The presence of two assailants in the situation was written all over the scene.

A door closed behind Mardon. Just like that, he was walking away from all this, scot free. Barry’s stomach roiled at that because what—did he think he was going to arrest anyone here? That this had anything to do with justice?

“What now, boss?” Mick asked.

Leonard glanced around. “Let’s head back to the city. I’ve got to take care of this.”

He indicated Barry and his brain rebooted slightly. He could almost feel himself come back online, life flaring in his chest. He shook himself and stepped away from Simmons’s corpse, toward the others.

“You need to take care of the bodies. Mick said a bar full of people saw you leave with Rutenberg.”

Leonard was looking at him strangely. They all were.

“Burying them here is out of the question. There’s way too much evidence already in this spot, and moving the bodies always makes it harder. There’s probably cleaning supplies around here, some bleach should—”

“Barry.”

He snapped his eyes to Leonard’s. “Do you have a thing you do for this?”

“We’re going to leave them here Barry.”

He curled his nose, shaking his head. “Not an option. They’ll be identified in a second, the whole thing’ll get linked back—”

“I don’t care—”

“Well I do!” he snapped. Shouted. He took a breath, his chest was heaving. Fuck. His knuckles were white and his hands hurt from squeezing them. His sleeve stuck to his arm, wet and sticky with red, clinging even at his wrist, hiding the angry red marks from the ropes.

“Look, Leonard. You stabbed a man in the throat right behind me and now his DNA is all over me. I’m connected to this. There’s a whole bar of witnesses connecting all of us to this. That’s unacceptable. So we’re getting rid of any evidence, or else I’m reporting this.”

There was a terse silence. Leonard’s expression was impossible to read. His jaw was set.

Lisa looked appraising, eyebrow up. “So what would you suggest, CSI?”

“Burning?” Mick added hopefully.

He dragged a hand through his hair then winced, feeling sticky blood cling to it. “Burning’s only good if you pull out the teeth, has to be hot enough to incinerate or else we can get DNA from bone marrow. We could do it though, take out the teeth, the bullet, get some plastic and transport them to somewhere you could build a hot enough fire. The smell though…” he wrinkled his nose. “And smoke. And we’d still have to come back here and scrub this place down with bleach, and our clothes. Torch the cars too, anything our blood touches.”

“You’re really something, aren’t you,” Lisa said, tilting her head at him like they were discussing weekend plans.

“Well what do you suggest?”

“Oh no, mutilating corpses and burning the evidence sounds like a lovely plan to me.”

Leonard snorted at her response and Barry felt his stomach twist up. What was he even thinking? “What the hell else do you want me to do—show up here tomorrow with Joe and have to pretend I don’t know exactly what happened? Have to lie and pretend I can’t do my job right and I accidentally contaminated something if my footprint or DNA or anything of mine gets found next to two corpses?”

She just stared at him, half-challenge and half-amusement.

“Well, since it’s all that much to you.” Leonard cut in, finally. He picked up his discarded phone from the ground, started dialing and came over. He cradled it in his shoulder while it rang and placed a hand gently on the side of Barry’s neck, aiming to soothe.

He didn’t expect to be so floored by the sensation. He inhaled slow and Leonard picked up on it, arched an eyebrow at him. He couldn’t help that his eyes closed when Leonard stroked the skin with his thumb. At least it was on the side of his body that didn’t have blood cooling all over it. It almost felt nice, grounding. He swallowed.

“Axel?” Leonard’s voice cut into his moment of reverie. “You still running that landscaping business?” Barry’s eyes snapped open and Leonard’s face morphed into something a little smug. “Good. I’ve got a yard that needs raking and two trees that need pruning. Real nice, too. I want to make this place look spotless… Mhmm. Lisa will send you the details, organize payment. And it’s a rush job.”

He clicked the phone and tapped Barry’s cheek. “Satisfied?”

“Okay,” he croaked.

“Good. Let’s get you home.”

 

Chapter Text

Leonard drove Lisa’s car back to the city, she and Mick were gonna take care of the one Simmons drove out there and wait for Axel. Barry kept his window rolled down the entire drive, focusing and refocusing on everything that just transpired. It went so much slower in his mind’s eye, every little detail unfolded like an accordion, full of discordant noises.

He was glad it was pitch by the time they rolled up to his apartment, his clothes were crusted in black blood. There was no discussion about whether Leonard was coming upstairs he followed Barry into the apartment.

He stripped the second he got into the door, threw everything in a bucket except his watch, wallet. He didn’t let Leonard get a word out, just made a beeline for the bathroom after that, naked, and finally lost his stomach in the toilet.

“Was wondering if you were gonna—” Leonard started when Barry’s dry heaving finally stopped.

“Shut up.”

They were silent for a moment. Barry’s vision cleared and he glanced up at Leonard’s face. They both flinched.

“You’ve got blood on your face.”

“You’ve got it…”

Everywhere. Barry shuddered. “Shower. You first.”

Leonard tensed. “Barry…”

“You wanna go, go. You wanna stay, you’re not tracking evidence around my apartment.”

The man opened his mouth then seemed to decide better of it. Instead he started to strip. “Don’t throw my clothes out with yours.”

Barry nodded, drinking in the lines of Leonard’s body, finally bared for him. The scars weren’t a surprise in concept, but the mangled shape to some, the sheer number…

He moved aside to let him shower, finding him a big enough shirt and pants for when he’d be out, glad they were a similar size. He dropped his boots in a bag and his clothes in another, leaving all the weapons that made themselves apparent where the other man had put them.

“Can I get you anything?” Leonard asked, stepping out of his shower. Barry was sitting on the bathroom floor.

“A drink. After I shower.”

He didn’t wait for an answer, moving past the other man. The water hit his skin and woke him up, shocking tears out of his eyes. He lost time in the shower, scrubbing his skin until no more copper filtered down his drain, gasping through sobs. Not for Simmons. By the time he stopped hearing his mother’s screams on a loop in his ears, he was shivering under the spray.

He found some pajamas and spared a bitter laugh for himself. He was in pajamas because his boyfriend was coming over. Perfect.

Leonard was on his couch, wearing the clothes Barry had got for him, playing with Perplexus Epic.

“This thing is trickier than it looks.”

He’d found the rum. There were two tumblers there, each with ice. Barry took a swig from the bottle. He snorted at the judgmental eyebrow raise he got for it.

“We agreed you’d stop killing people except in self-defense.”

“Mmm. And wasn’t that defense?”

He felt the phantom of Simmons’s gun at his temple and dropped the rum back on the table hard. “I…”

“No one was supposed to die. I didn’t agree to that.”

They were supposed to get the drop on them and that was it. They’d promised not to drop bodies unless the others shot first, to not aim to kill. So much for that. He was naïve to think otherwise, he knew. To trust professional liars.

“There’s no reasoning with men like Jake Simmons. He signed on to kidnap me for some petty cash and was more than willing to kill you, Barry. I let Mardon walk and he’s almost as dangerous. If Calis isn’t a threat, this won’t be an issue.”

Defense. Barry didn’t know how to argue with it. If Len hadn’t done what he did… or Mick, for that matter? That other guy had a gun aimed at Leonard, about to shoot. It wasn’t like they could’ve called the cops if they wanted. And if the cops were there? Joe would’ve shot in that situation. Had, in the similar one that happened a year ago, left a bullet in Clyde Mardon’s stomach. How could he judge Mick and Leonard for what Joe would do, had done?

“Plans always go off the rails.” Len was still eyeing him.

“Okay… Okay.” Barry could work with that—with defense. “About Calis. What happens now?” His stomach felt tight thinking about it. About what would happen if he pointed the finger at Barry in any way.

“Now he makes bail. Lisa will take care of it.”

“He robbed a bank.”

“Allegedly.”

“Bail will be—”

“Expensive, but he has no other outstanding warrants and their link to him has to be tenuous at best. We can afford it. If he wasn’t in on what Rutenberg hatched with Mark, he’s welcome back on my team to pay off that debt.”

“And otherwise…”

Leonard arched an eyebrow at him. “Suppose it would be on your conscience if I killed him, hm? Even if he could ruin you?”

Barry nodded, choppy and short. His job wasn’t worth a life.

“Fine. If he pisses me off I’ll make sure he makes his court date. Some time in the Heights would help him reconsider his loyalties, I’m sure. Satisfied?”

He stared. Leonard stared back. After a second, a minute, he finally exhaled. “I used to follow the rules.”

“They’re overrated. Seems to me you’re following your instincts.”

He poured the rum in a glass this time and finally sat on the couch. There was a foot between him and Leonard.

“My instincts shouldn’t be how to cover up crimes.” The reality of that was stilling chewing its way around his stomach—the fact that he was going to do nothing. He could still taste bile but he’d brushed his teeth so he was sure it was just the flavor of his conscience.

“I was impressed, Barry.” His voice was warmer now, reaching for his own glass. “You kept your cool back there.”

“I ranted like a lunatic.”

“You didn’t panic.”

“Not my first rodeo.”

Leonard snorted, sipping his drink. “I suppose you do look at corpses for a living.”

“Not… what I meant.” He sucked back the amber liquid, reveling in it for the half second it took to swallow. “Those are normally cold by the time I see them.”

“So you’ve aided and abetted murder before then? And here I thought I was special.”

Run, Barry

“My mom was murdered in front of me when I was eleven.”

There was a beat of heavy silence. The mood and Leonard both shifted palpably. He felt eyes on him but stared into his glass, the amber liquid swirling around. “You saw…”

“I guess you didn’t google that hard when you looked me up.”

“She was stabbed, that’s all it said.”

Barry swallowed. His eyes stung and he closed them, almost wished he didn’t. Behind his lids he saw Leonard launching himself at him with a knife, shocked into paralytic fear, knew it wasn’t aimed at him but it was about to happen anyway, just like before and he felt

“There was a storm that night.” He poured more rum and stared back out over the room, dark except for the lamplight Leonard had turned on. “I couldn’t sleep. I used to get scared of the dark and my dad wasn’t home yet, late shift at the hospital, stuck in surgery.

“There was thunder and I heard a noise downstairs, a crash. Something felt… off. I thought I heard my mom’s voice, heard her say something but she didn’t answer when I called. I ran downstairs just in time to see him…” He took another swallow of his drink.

“I didn’t get a good look. Lightning struck the tree right outside. It was so loud—so close the thunder was over us at the same time as the light and it shook my entire body, I swear. I caught their silhouette and he was over her and I only saw the back of his yellow shirt. That’s all I can see when I try to picture him now, the yellow. They were struggling, I think she was fighting him but they heard me shout. I tried to rush over but he stood up she screamed at me to run. That’s when I saw the knife. I couldn’t take my eyes off it.”

Leonard made a quiet noise and Barry let out a breath. “He didn’t come after you?”

“He did. He was about to gut me and I couldn’t move—god I couldn’t move—but my mom grabbed him by the legs and he turned and—and then it—she made it up onto her knees before he put the knife in her stomach. She screamed, was screaming the whole time I guess but then it—it gargled. She gasped at me to run that one last time to run and I couldn’t—I couldn’t move until her voice got quiet. Until I saw the blood. And then—”

His eyes burned and he bit off a bitter, quiet laugh and finished his drink. “And then I was fifteen blocks away before I stopped running and just turned on the spot in the middle of the street, crying and running back. I was soaked to the bone. And they were already taking my dad away. He got home right after it happened. And no one ever believed me, that he wasn’t the one who did it, that it was the man in the yellow shirt. The man in the lightning.”

They were quiet for a minute, just breathing. Barry waited for it—whatever it was going to be. People always asked prying questions, or gave their condolences, or suggested their new and unique insight that maybe he was wrong and maybe it was his father holding that knife, gee thanks.

“If you don’t mind me saying so, Barry—your safeword is a little macabre.”

It took a second, the shift in gear and then Barry laughed, loud and shocked. Leonard was teasing him. He sighed and melted into the couch, muscles relaxing finally as his knee knocked alongside Leonard’s.

“Y’know I’ve heard of kinkshaming, but safeword-shaming? That’s cold.”

Leonard sipped his drink but Barry could see him trying to hide a smile. “Figured it was that or your tattoo, and people get touchy about their ink.”

“Hmm? Oh! Oh you don’t—you don’t know. That’s not really about that storm, it’s actually because of my coma.”

“Your what?”

Barry laughed again, actually starting to feel at ease. “Coma. I’ve got some photos, just a sec.” He stood up, heading around the coffee table toward the shelf as he talked. “I guess a lot of people say lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice? Except it does, scientifically speaking. It’s way more likely to. And obviously I’m not a place and I wasn’t technically hit by the bolt the night my mother died, but it always sort of felt like it, so when it happened the second time I figured it was fate.”

“…what?”

“I got hit by lightning. About a year ago. I was in a coma for nine days.” He glanced over his shoulder at Leonard and reveled for a moment in his dumbfounded expression. “Here, I found the photos.”

Leonard stood up to meet him at the shelf where he pulled out a stack he had tucked away under an album. Iris had taken his camera while he was in the hospital, apparently, and coped with some photo journaling.

“So that’s my lab and what it looked like after. Chemicals everywhere. That’s my hospital room. So many flowers, I don’t know half the people who sent them. And that’s… me.”

“This mark…” Leonard landed on the ones where the covers were down to Barry’s waist and he wasn’t in a gown. Iris had apologized after in case he’d thought it was invasive but he was glad, ultimately, that she’d snapped the shots for him.

“It’s a Lichtenberg figure. It was gone before I woke up from my coma, so this is all I’ve seen of it too. But it was huge, I guess they normally don’t get that big.” It spread across his chest from the point of impact, out and down. “You can see where it goes up my neck and arm a bit? It looks like it would go down my back when I had the gown on, but it stops there. I guess that’s just the way it fanned out?”

“It’s… amazing.”

“I can show you how I…” At a glance from Leonard, Barry stripped off his shirt, indicating the black lines of ink. “You can see where I traced it to kind of follow the same pattern. I didn’t want it to look like the Lichtenberg figure exactly, I wanted it to still be lightning, but that’s the, uh, inspiration.”

Leonard was staring at him, that intense gaze and careful concentration and Barry felt silly, for a second, for letting himself ramble. But Leonard didn’t tease him, or chide. He looked back at the photo in his hand and then placed his hand on Barry’s chest, then just the tips of his fingers, tracing the lines.

“You’re beautiful.”

Barry swallowed.

“To think—you’d already been through so much when you stumbled into my meeting. No wonder.”

He let out a dry, quiet laugh. “I may have a more unhealthy relationship with danger than I realized.”

“Bully for me, I suppose.”

He chuckled again but it turned into a sharp inhale, at least half because Leonard moved his hand to cup Barry’s neck again, thumb stroking the fine hairs at the back of his neck.

“Leonard…”

The thumb stilled and Leonard leaned back to tilt his head at Barry, their eyes level. “Do you still need a commitment?”

He couldn’t be serious. “Leonard you—you killed a man a man to protect me.” He moved his hands forward and around Leonard, gripping the sweater Barry had found for him. “I think we’re past pretending this is just a bad choice in kinks, even if you can’t say it out loud.”

That got him an expression that was probably designed to intimidate but more closely resembled a pout at the moment. Barry shook his head a little, leaned in and kissed his jaw, raked his teeth across it and kissed his earlobe, sucked on it and made him gasp. “All I need right now is to let go of everything, all of it. At least for the next hour. I want to relax. I want you.”

“That’s all I needed to know.” Leonard leaned into his space and nuzzled his neck when he said it. He titled his head back, lost in the sensation of the gentle scrape of stubble along his skin. “I’ll take care of you.”

Barry shivered. The man kissed his neck.

“You were so good today.”

And kissed it again, mouthing over the spots that were too sensitive.

“So good,” he pressed, hands on Barry’s waist now and he wound his own forward around Leonard. “Earning Mick ‘n Lisa’s respect. Focused and precise. You kept your cool, Barry, ‘n it made me look good.”

“I…” He shouldn’t be proud of that. Shouldn’t feel so warm in his chest.

“You came for me. You keep surprising me.” He kissed Barry and Barry inhaled and melted into him. If he was weak in the knees it was the fault of the rum and his empty stomach. Even so, he was grateful when Leonard turned them and got his back up against the shelf. “You’re so different. Special.”

Barry actually whined, somewhere in the back of his throat. Leonard ran his hands down his arms and caught his wrists, pulled them over his head. His brain, his insides, everything was fuzzy and hot.

“So good, Barry. One day I’m gonna tie you up.” He nipped at Barry’s lips gently. “Help you hand over control.”

“Leonard—”

“Not today,” he stroked his thumbs over Barry’s wrists, the pulse, the friction burns. “I’ll make it soft for you.” He feathered his fingers down Barry’s arms, not quite ticklish, and used one to take Barry’s jaw in hand. “Today I’ll take you apart just like this.”

He gasped into the sudden kiss that followed the words, the way it claimed. Leonard was everywhere, tongue deep in his mouth, stroking, hands on his skin, around him, holding his jaw, his waist, sliding up his back, down his chest. He lost himself in the sensation, rocked his own hips forward, pressing himself to Leonard. His fingers gripped the shelf above his head to quell the need to touch the other man, wanting whatever he was about to get.

He whined when Leonard pulled back. When his eyes opened and the other man was staring at him, looking indelibly pleased, dark around the eyes, as hot as Barry felt.

“Bed?”

He swallowed. “Please.”

Leonard kissed him again and coaxed him away from the shelf. Barry latched his hands to the other man, around him, pulling them both back toward his room, leading the way for Leonard without letting go. They didn’t turn on the light, letting it filter in from the hall, from the yellow of the city lights outside, casting everything in amber.

And Leonard took him apart.

He kissed Barry everywhere, just like was craving. He kissed hard when Barry started to think too much, powerful and hungry, holding him down, pressing him down until the springs under the mattress started to creak. He kissed his wrists and tongued over his pulse in a way that made his eyes roll back, arching his hips against the open air. He teased his nipples until he was gasping, whining, clutching at the sheets, at Leonard’s back, rutting. His pajamas pants, underwear had long since gone by the wayside, flushing with pleasure when Leonard complimented his body, his nakedness.

Barry’s eyes drank him in when he finally took off his shirts again, stripped down entirely. His scars caught the warm shallow light, deep and faded, and here in the halfway dark they seemed to suit him. Leonard wasted no time kissing him again, pressing their chests together, raking his teeth against Barry’s neck, getting his hands under Barry to lift him where he wanted him to go. He wrapped his legs around the man, gasped when slick fingers found him, pressed in hard and sure, not stopping to drive him mad because he already was. He ached for more, digging his fingers into Leonard’s back against the burn.

Please—”

Leonard pulled back, pressed his free hand to Barry’s chest to push him against the mattress, keep him down with his hips titled up. He stretched him out as Barry stretched his arms above his own head, gasping in each breath.

“So good for me, Barry,” Leonard susurrated, voice so low and soft. “So open for me.”

He moaned Leonard’s name, rocking back onto this fingers. The man teased his nipple and his eyes fluttered closed, having to gasp. He felt Leonard lean over him, kiss him, and he kissed back blindly, lost to it. The fingers pulled out of him and he wrapped his legs around Leonard’s waist, heard the tear of the condom package, the slick sound of Leonard getting himself ready.

He grit his teeth at the first press against his entrance.

Shh, relax for me.” Leonard ran his nose up the side of Barry’s face, kissed his forehead and held him open as he pressed in deeper. “Let me in.”

F-uck, Leonard—” Barry arched his neck back, his body up, his hips deeper onto it, gasping. He felt speared open, on display and desperate for more, desperate to edge away from the burn and to sink himself entirely onto it and let it fill him completely.

Leonard kissed him and he moaned into it, into him, holding tight until the man was impaling him, seated fully inside. He’d never felt so entirely claimed, not any time he’d done this, not with anyone else. He felt his legs shake with the tension of the stretch, how tight he was holding on to the other man, how good it felt when he finally started to move.

“So beautiful Barry. So mine.”

He gasped with each shallow roll of Leonard’s hips, whispered prayers dropping from his lips. “More. Please. Yes. Leonard.” Over and over like exaltations and Leonard swallowed each one from him and answered it with more.

He could pretend it lasted hours, but it was minutes—desperate and fast once they finally started to move together, holding back for so long until it broke free once Leonard was thrusting hard and sure inside him. They were sweating and gasping with exertion, chasing each sensation, building without slowing now that it started. It ached in the best way and Leonard wasn’t gentle when Barry started to beg. He held hard and tight to his waist, and when he pulled back to change the angle, couldn’t kiss Barry once he got his calves up over his shoulders—and god, how it stretched, his muscles inside and out strained and he moaned—Leonard put a hand on his neck.

It didn’t squeeze, it didn’t need to. Just rested there possessively and Barry’s eyes rolled back, felt that cursed thumb over his pulse and it was so much, too much. He barely needed Leonard’s other hand to wrap around his cock and stroke he was so close already, but that set him to his edge and he and cried out, arching up, into Leonard’s hands and onto him, fully impaled and claimed and suffused with Leonard as everything went white.

His body convulsed everywhere, cock quivering, insides clenching around Leonard. He gasped with each aftershock, high on it and it was almost too much, pleasurable to the edge of pain when Leonard slammed into him over and over, holding onto his hips, hands slick with cum and sweat as he chased his finish. Barry opened his bleary eyes in time to see it, see his lips parted, eyebrows scrunched together, eyes dark and shadows dancing with the ochre-tinted light on his skin. They locked eyes for all of a second and then Leonard’s rolled back and he growled, titled his head back and his hips stuttered. Barry clenched tight around his cock, instinctual and sympathetic as Leonard came inside of him.

 

[ … ]

 

Len took care of clean up. Barry was fuzzy, happily spread out on his bed without a care and Len almost smiled at the sight. He cleaned himself and slipped back into Barry’s room with a warm cloth and a dry towel, helped wipe off the cum, the lube, Barry totally pliant as Len moved his body around. He dropped the towels and laid back down, his own underwear back on but not complaining about Barry’s nudity. And the man played his part perfectly, curling into Leonard’s side, letting Leonard wrap him up tight.

This wasn’t in the plan, the urge to protect him like this, but Len could worry about that another time. There was too much to enjoy about the moment to ruin it.

“Good?”

“Better than good.”

He chuckled, stroking his fingers down Barry’s back, feeling the skin cool. He was quiet again, waited for Barry to speak this time.

“Is that a thing for you… the praise?”

Len hummed and tucked his chin over Barry’s head. At least when they were laying down side by side he could pretend he was taller. “With the right person. I don’t praise unless I mean it.”

That got him a little laugh and Barry relaxed deeper against him, wrapped an arm around him. “You’re just… such a bad idea.”

“Likewise.”

“Every time I turn around, I get deeper and deeper into this. Some days I don’t know up from down anymore.”

“You’ve only done what you needed to do, Barry.”

“I didn’t need to sleep with you.” There was something approaching a pout in his voice, for all he meant it. Leonard’s lips twitched up at the edges.

“If you’re looking for absolution, not sure I’m the right one to ask.”

“You don’t say.”

There it was, Leonard was laughing. Barry did too, after a moment, quieter but no less exhausted and wry, genuine. He shook his head and pulled back a little, stretched out to stare at the ceiling.

“I keep trying to picture where this is all gonna lead, you know. That’s the scary part.”

Len titled his head. “What d’you predict?”

“My captain finds out I’m associated with you, I become a person of interest in several cases, lose my job. Joe never looks at me again, my dad pretends he’s okay with it but it secretly crushes him. Iris and Eddie distance themselves from me.”

“My my, Barry. That is something. You die alone and unloved too, I take it?”

Barry looked at him sharply. “You’re seriously making fun of me right now?”

Len leaned up on his side, hand going to Barry’s tattoo before he could do something dramatic and counterproductive like turn away from him. He considered his words carefully. “No, Barry. Not making fun. But that’s not going to happen.”

Barry made a noise for him to continue and Len caught his eye for a moment before looking back at his chest, tracing the jagged, spindly lines. The false scar he’d made for himself.

“These people love you, hm? West, your innocent father, your friend Iris? They’re your people?”

“Yeah…” Barry’s voice was a little shaky.

“If they’re anything close to as loyal to you as you are to them, you’ll be just fine.”

“I’m betraying them.”

Len looked at him sharply, then mollified his gaze. Barry was hurting. “So let’s say they find out. You’re investigated at work. They find out I’ve had a gun to your head all this time.”

“You don’t—”

“I do. I dragged you in by your precocious little moral compass, threatened your family. Say they find out—they’re shocked. Horrified. Your captain fires you for not coming clean sooner about the tight spot I put you in. Your Wests are sympathetic. You lost everything to protect them. They hate me, but hold you in closer. They’re worried and afraid of what I’ve done to you, all these ways I’ve corrupted you. They help you move on, and I become this bad dream in your rearview mirror. In time, West even finds the serial killer. My name is cleared on that list and they know you didn’t compromise the case. You find work, and figure out who killed your mother. Life goes on.”

He stopped tracing the lines at Barry’s navel. This was why he never thought about the future.

“Leonard…”

“Hm?”

“I don’t want that either.”

He sighed. “Let’s enjoy it while it lasts, Barry.” Until Barry’s work or conscience or Len’s sense of self-preservation tipped the scales, whichever came first.

“You gonna stay the night?”

When was the last time he’d shared someone’s bed? But then, when was the last time he’d taken it upon himself to comfort someone at all?

“That depends…”

Barry quirked an eyebrow at him.

“How likely is round two in the morning?”

Barry hit him with a pillow, laughing lightly, and Len agreed to stay.

 

[ … ]

 

Joe got the call first thing in the morning. A jogger had found it, out with her dog. Poor woman screamed to high heaven, apparently.

He called Eddie to meet him there on his way to the crime scene. “We got something.” Then he called Barry. “Up and at’em. There’s a new body, probably our guy.”

“Mm? It’s—”

“5:30am, I know. We’ve got a body," he reiterated. "I’ll be at your place in three minutes.”

Shit—I’m up. I’m up.”

“See you in two.”

Barry slid into the passenger side five minutes later looking like hell but Joe couldn’t blame him. He just handed him the coffee he’d picked up for them on the way.

“You’re a life saver.”

“Julian said he’d bring your kit from the precinct since he’s got to grab his anyway, so we’re heading right out.”

“Field again?”

“Running trail outside of town.”

“Are we sure it’s the Midtown Murderer?”

“Best guess."

“So he’s changing the location again?  Why?”

“Got me. Guess we’ll have to see what’s what when we get out there.”

“You think it’s Griffin?”

Joe’s mouth turned down. Barry had got so invested in finding this potential victim after the missing persons report came in. He was really throwing himself into this case, but things were always harder the younger a victim was, and Barry had a lot of empathy. “I think it might be.”

He glanced over and Barry was staring into his coffee lid. He looked sleepy still, hair haphazardly combed, sweater askew. And was that…

“More hickeys, Barry?”

He clapped his hand to his neck, flushing. Well now he looked awake.

“Sure you’re not dating a vampire?”

“Sorry I—” He hiked his shirt collar up to hide the marks better. “I know it’s unprofessional.”

“Uh huh.” He was a little surprised Julian hadn’t reamed Barry out, but maybe he hadn’t seen them yet. These ones did look pretty fresh. “Seems like you two sorted things out?”

“Kinda.”

“Do I get to meet this guy soon?”

Barry gulped his coffee. Joe almost wanted to laugh. It was obvious that Barry thought he’d disapprove, which almost certainly meant he would, but it was a still a little fun watching his son sweat anyway.

“That bad, huh?”

“Ben is—he’s great. I just… don’t think you’d get along.”

“Can’t hide him forever.”

“I know.”

Joe couldn’t explain the expression that came over Barry’s face then, disproportionately distressed. He frowned, trying to figure out the enigma Barry had been recently. Stressed and overworked, dating and shy about it but not about walking into work with his neck bruised up like a high schooler who just figured out how the whole kissing thing worked. Joe knew he was missing something, he just didn’t know what.

“So, uh,” Barry cleared his throat. “This new body. It’s fast, right? He’s accelerating?”

“Seems that way,” Joe sighed, turning off onto a smaller road that would take them close. “Maybe the media and taskforce has him stressed, or spooked.”

“That’s good, right? He’s more likely to make a mistake.”

“Good if he does, bad for the victims though. ‘N that’s if he’s stressed, and not if he’s just escalating his behavior, getting off on us chasing him around.”

“You’re gonna catch him, Joe. If anyone can do it, it’s you.”

He glanced over again, appreciating Barry’s fire, his determined gaze. This was the son he raised—eye on a goal, everything else in the world be damned. Some days, Joe thought he should’a been a detective instead of in the lab. Not that he’d ever run the beat well enough to work his way up, but he had the mind for it, the instincts. And sometimes a little too much insight into the minds of the guys they would track down, like it was a little too easy for him to slip inside their skin and see the world from their point of view. But Joe wasn’t much different on his better (or worse) days, and Barry managed to do it and still see all the good in people, something Joe wasn’t sure he had in him anymore.

“With your help, son. We’re gonna catch him.”

“Yeah.”

They pulled up and got out. Barry collected his kit and Joe went ahead, off the trail and under the yellow tape, into the copse of trees.

“What’ve we go…t.” The question died on his lips. There was Griffin Grey, naked and spread out, dumped on his back the same as the last two. This time though—this time was different. Not just because of the bruises on his wrists or the bloody gag in his mouth, soaked from losing his teeth.

It was different because of the lightning flower. It wasn’t on his back. It was on his chest, circling up his neck, down his arm, and spreading down in swirls across his torso, more lovingly carved than any of the others.

“Hey, Barr,” he said, hearing his son come up beside him, the shocked inhale. “We need to talk.”

 

Chapter Text

There was something intensely claustrophobic about this crime scene. Barry felt it as soon as they pulled up. The overhanging trees on the jogging path, the humidity in the air, cold with a storm on the horizon, clamping down on everything. The trees cast dull shadows in their wake, the grey mud in need of careful sidestepping so as not to ruin any potential boot prints.

He catalogued the details as he made his way into the opening in the trees that harbored the body, sheltering it tight.

“Hey Barr,” Joe said as Barry stepped up next to him. “We need to talk.”

He stopped breathing as soon as his eyes landed on the body. His kit almost fell from his shoulder, the muscle going slack with shock. He couldn’t peel his eyes away.

Griffin was laid out like an offering. His body was posed more particularly, not just discarded haphazardly. He was bruised like the previous victims, about the face and on his neck, no doubt from extensive strangulation. His wrists had the telltale marks of binding and struggle, deeper and darker bruising than the prior ones. He had a ragged piece of fabric in his mouth as a gag, wrapped around his head and tied off at the back, blood soaking it from his lost teeth.

But it was the lightning flower—his lightning flower—the caught Barry’s eye. His own mark, line for line.

“He rushed this one,” Agent Reynold’s voice filtered in like it was coming through cotton, Barry’s blood pounding in his ears. She was talking to Eddie peripherally. “The last two victims had their scars scabbed over, this looks like it was still bleeding when he died.”

Fresh. New. Last night.

“It’s deeper too,” Patty was leaning next to the body and she looked a million miles away. “He used more pressure.”

“Maybe he was angry?” Eddie suggested. “What about this gag? That’s new, right?”

Barry’s heart wouldn’t stop racing and he knew he was starting to shake, breathing shallow. Joe was watching him. He couldn’t look away from the body.

“It’s a change, yeah. We might have to consider if this guy is a copycat—different scar pattern, gagging the victim. It’s a departure.”

It wasn’t a different guy. He just had more information. Could make it perfect, this time. Could make it…

Barry turned and bolted. He moved as fast as he could without disturbing evidence, felt Joe on his heels.

“Barr—”

“’m gonna be sick.”

“Barry?”

He made it all the way to the back of Joe’s SUV, holding on to the bumper as he emptied his morning coffee on the gravel there, nothing else in him to lose. He couldn’t stop shaking.

“Son are you—”

“It’s mine—it’s mine, it’s—me. It’s me Joe, it’s me it’s me it’s—oh fuck it’s me—”

“Barry?” Eddie’s voice rang out, on the other side of the vehicle looking at him and Joe with an alarmed expression and Barry scrunched up his nose, put his face in his elbow to stop himself from dry heaving more, blinking past the tears.

“Just give us a minute, Eddie. He’s having a panic attack.” Joe had a hand on Barry’s back and he was eternally grateful for the comfort, just for the moment. Eddie hesitated, looking at him and Barry felt sick all over again but then he nodded and said “of course” and disappeared back toward the crime scene.

“What did you mean, Barr—that it’s you?”

“You know it, Joe—the scar! It’s—” he shuddered. “That body is me. He’s—his fantasy, the killer he wants—it’s me. All of it, it’s him killing me every time—that’s why they’re all white and almost all of them are brunettes, the only one who wasn’t was—”

He stopped cold, then twisted down and threw up again, nothing left but acrid bile but it came out and burned his esophagus on the way. Bette had red hair. His mother—

He spit on the ground, shuddering, leaning back against the car with tears tracking down his cheeks, clutching his stomach. “He’s killing us. Again, and again. Bette Sans Souci—she looked just like…”

“Barry,” Joe breathed, voice hushed and full of denial, “you don’t think…”

Fresh tears sprang out of his eyes and he nodded. “I do.”

“You’re overworked, son. I’m taking you home.”

He didn’t argue, limbs too shaky to do anything here. He wanted to survey the scene, to get a good look, to get into the killer’s head but there were too many people here, too many strange glances cast his way already and he crawled back into the passenger seat and spent the next ten minutes just trying to breathe.

“You okay?”

“Mhmm. I will be, yeah.” His fingers dug into the seat, holding his muscles tight to keep himself under control.

“I’m not gonna pretend that the scars aren’t something, Barr—but you need to think about this rationally.”

“I am, Joe!” he snapped, no energy to suppress the knee-jerk anger. No one ever believed him.

“Okay, okay, just calm down then and walk me through it.”

He watched scenery flow by for a second and slowed his heartbeat finally, focusing on the timeline, the details, switching his headspace to something more clinical.

“The first killing, Bette—he wanted to kill my mother again. That was the fantasy, the fixation. He stopped himself for a long time but it became too tempting, the need and he found a sex worker that looked like her, someone who wouldn’t be missed. He… he did it right, this time,” Barry rasped. He could see it, see the man with the yellow shirt over his mother’s body, wearing Bette Sans Souci’s face. “I interrupted him the first time. He was trying to strangle her that night but I shouted and he had to use his backup plan—the knife. But not with Bette, not when he planned it out.”

“What then?” Joe asked, humoring him. It smarted, the denial, but he couldn’t focus on that. He knew—he knew. He felt it deep in his bones and didn’t know how he’d been so blind until now.

“Then it wasn’t enough. He killed her and dumped her and got what he thought he wanted but the fantasy didn’t die. And he decided…” he swallowed. “He had to kill me too. Not the real me, not yet. But he found another sex worker to practice on, fulfilling the dream. Tony Woodward… god he was the same age as me, same height—we had the same shoe size. He was bigger but it all fits.”

“Does it, Barr? Or does it just fit your narrative?”

He shuddered out a breath and shook his head. “Think about it, Joe. After he killed them, I got struck by lightning. And that changed… it changed everything. He must’ve been angry that I was stolen from him like that. I bet he lashed out. But I woke up and he… got a second chance. So he started picking up victims again. He got Eliza, then Maria. Brunettes, deep set eyes, good enough for the fantasy and easy to pick up since he was just honing his craft. He knew I had a Lichtenberg figure but he hadn’t seen it, didn’t know where it was he just—” he realized, inhaled, “he saw it from my hospital gown. He saw me. He came to visit, Joe—”

When, Barr? We were by your side night and day.”

“That’s why he couldn’t see more. He probably stayed at the door while you were sleeping, posed as a flower delivery guy—”

“You sound crazy, son—like you’re having a mental break.”

“I don’t care how it sounds—I’m right! Why else would he change where he was dumping bodies, Joe? He started carving Lichtenberg figures on them, down their backs because that’s what he saw outside my gown, it looked like it would go down my back but he was wrong. He wanted me to see, to understand but he got it wrong.”

Joe was shaking his head, worry etched all over his face and Barry wished it was for the right reason. “Okay, say I agree—say this killer waited a decade to play out this fantasy of his and your timeline lines up this neat and tidy, Barry. Why’s he suddenly got your scar right?”

Barry went cold. “And the gag.”

“The gag?”

“I—” he brought his hand to his mouth. He saw. He saw Mick and Lisa tie Barry up and gag him. He didn’t know if Barry would figure it out with just the mark—how could he not—but there was a deeper message in all of this, so much more sinister. Barry felt like choking.

“My house, Joe—my apartment he’s watching me. Oh my god he’s been watching me—

“Son?”

“We have to go there—we have to go right now Joe!”

He turned off onto the street that would take them to Barry’s instead of to Joe’s, speeding a little at the urgency in Barry’s voice.

“Please tell me what is going on—”

Barry hopped out the SUV, Joe on his heels the second they pulled up. He took the stairs three at a time, bursting into his apartment, straight for that shelf. He shoved aside his album, started pulling books off—

“Barry? Son? Barry what the hell—”

Here!” He shouted, snapped it up—a fucking camera, small and hidden right in the corner of a picture frame, nestled right next to a microphone—and snarled right into the lens “whoever you are, you are gonna pay for this—

He pulled the mic out of the shelf and threw it on the ground, crushing it under his heel, the lens following. His chest was heaving, too much of everything flooding through his veins, bursting out of his skin—

He looked up. Joe’s face was ashen and sick. “Barr was that a…”

“He’s been watching me, Joe,” tears streamed down his face and Joe was by his side in an instant, wrapping him up in a hug and Barry fell to his knees, unable to support himself, a sob clawing its way out of his throat. Months of stress, of lying and hiding and being stalked

He needed this.

“I’m so sorry, son. I’m sorry I didn’t believe you.”

He choked out another sob, then another, shaking his head, taking a few minutes to put his tears away and get his breathing under control. He wanted to hide in Joe’s hug for the day, the year, the comfort of someone who loved you keeping you safe from the world. He couldn’t though, there was too much to be done. And whoever was watching him—who was to say there weren’t more bugs?

“This whole place…” he pulled himself away and back from Joe, letting go, still sitting on his knees, starting to ache.

“We’ll do a sweep, Barr, I promise.” Joe still looked shaken, standing with a pop to his knees. “How’d you even figure out it was there?”

“I…” He shuddered. Shit. “I showed Ben the photos of me in the hospital last night. We were standing right there. There was just… no way it was a coincidence, for me to pull that photo out one day and have my scar on a dead body the next.”

He moved to stand and almost dropped again.

“Barry?”

He caught himself on the coffee table, blinking through the spots in his vision. His body broke out into a sweat. Or was he just still sweating? “Just lightheaded. Didn’t eat dinner, or breakfast.”

“Didn’t eat dinner?”

Barry winced, realizing how shaky his limbs were from low blood sugar, trying to think of the last time he ate anything. A light lunch the day before? And he’d barely slept that night, it was still shy of 7am even now.

He managed to stand up. “Forgot.”

“Lemme get something out of your fridge. Then we gotta head to the precinct ‘n write this down. And I know you don’t want me to meet him, but it’s well past time I talk to this Ben of yours.”

His stomach cramped. That couldn’t happen. “Joe…”

Joe moved toward his kitchen, near the entry. “No buts, Barry. You show him a photo of your scar and camera or no camera—if the next morning a body turns up with it? How long has this guy been in your life anyway?”

“Wh—Joe. Ben is not the Midtown Murderer. He’s not even a person of interest here. He’s a—he’s a victim. He was on camera last night too!”

His own words stopped him up short. Leonard was on camera. Leonard and him—when they—were there cameras in his bedroom? Did it matter? The last time Leonard had been here Barry fellated his gun (not to mention him) in full view of the camera. The killer had already seen, but if it pissed him off then why…

“I’m not saying he isn’t a victim, but I still need his statement, still need to—what on earth is—”

“Sshh!” Barry held up a finger, mind going a mile a minute, pushing his hair back from his face, not seeing. “Leonard,” he whispered. In his peripheral vision he saw Joe’s head shoot up from whatever he was staring at to look at him but it didn’t matter. His heart was going to beat out of his chest and it almost hurt, spending so much of the last twelve hours afraid but this was different.

“Did you just say—”

“He—he knows. The murderer’s been watching since—since before. That’s why he took Grif—he’s young and he looks—god he looks so much like me. The day after me and Ben—after me and Leonard, when we came back here,” Barry glanced around the room, dates swirling in his head, “the next day was the day Griffin Grey disappeared, that’s what Frankie said: that was the date. The killer was angry, he had to be. He escalated as a warning and I didn’t heed it. I knew he had Griffin but I didn’t realize—killing him last night, he’s not just saying something about Mick and Lisa being here he’s saying he doesn’t want me with…”

Was Leonard in danger? Did the killer know where he was? Did he follow him out of Barry’s apartment? He could’ve. He could’ve tracked him and—Barry fumbled his phone out of his pocket.

“Barry—what the hell are you talking about?” Joe’s voice was scared but Barry listened to—

Leonard picked up on the second ring. “Well that was fa—”

“Oh thank god—”

“Barry?”

“You’re in danger. Or—you might be. There’s a chance you’re being followed,” he licked his dry lips, limbs shaky, heard the sharp, quick inhale of breath that told him Len was listening. “The Midtown Murderer, I just found a—there’s a camera in my apartment, and a mic with it. The new victim had my scar—my scar, the one in the photo I showed you last night and he knows who you are—he doesn’t want me seeing you.”

There was silence for a moment. Joe was staring at him with wide, horrified eyes.

“…you’re sure about this.”

“I’m listening to my instincts,” Barry rasped. “And the evidence.”

“I’ll take your instincts over that. And I’ll take your word for it. Do I need to be worried about this camera?”

“Yes. I’ll—” he swallowed, “I’ll take care of it.”

“D’you have any more details for me?”

“Not—” he glanced at Joe. “I have to go.”

“Barry?”

“I’m gonna be in so much trouble Leonard but I swear—I’ll protect you. Okay? But if you don’t hear from me again just—be safe. Watch your back.”

“Barry!”

He clicked the off button, let it slide down to the coffee table with a clatter. The rum was still sitting there. At least he’d shoved Leonard out of his apartment at the same time as he had left after checking that the coast was clear, not ready to let him stick around in Barry’s apartment unsupervised. He could almost laugh, picturing bringing Joe back here and that confrontation.

But looking around, all he could feel was tight and wrong, like his skin didn’t fit his frame. His home wasn’t his home, it was the site of an invasion, a perversion, a twisted way to watch him. The people he cared about were being threatened in every direction and he was the center of it—all of it.

“Barry… was that Leonard Snart?”

“I have so—” his voice cracked, “so much I need to tell you, Joe.”

“I hope,” Joe started very carefully, “that somewhere in the story you’re about to tell, you explain why there’s a bucket of bloody clothes in your kitchen.”

He did laugh then, hysterical. It was a long few minutes before it stopped.

 

[ … ]

 

Barry felt like he was in a daze. They swept his apartment for cameras and other bugs, finding three. They showed them to him and where they found them, taking him through each step of their thorough process so that he could feel ‘safe’ after this.

There was no chance that was ever going to happen. Even with the locks changed and new bolts added to it and the windows. He was never going to feel safe in this apartment again, not truly. At least not until the Midtown Murderer was dead.

The Midtown Murderer, or as the press had already switched to calling him—The Lightning Killer.

Barry tasted bile every time he heard the name. They didn’t know who’d leaked it to the press again but it was all over the 5 o’clock news, the scars their guy left on his victims. Between that and the teeth as two easy hallmarks, the chance of copycats skyrocketed. Barry hated whoever was careless enough to leak details for glory or payment. At least they’d kept his name out of it.

Agent Reynolds questioned him. Joe was there, quiet, a sure and helpful presence. He relayed his theory about it being the same man who killed his mother, slow and methodically, filling in the details more cleanly this time, watching them all slot into place in his mind’s eye. No mention of his ‘boyfriend’ was made, a detail he’d checked with Cisco to assure he hadn’t shared with Reynolds. No mention of any bloody evidence at his apartment, Joe having seen to it all before taking him back to the precinct, going so far as to clean the glasses on his coffee table to wipe away Leonard’s DNA, to put the rum away.

Barry felt sick letting Joe do that for him.

He didn’t tell Reynolds that the killer’s timeline lined up with his sex life, only that he’d pulled out the photos last night on a whim.

“Doing alright, Allen?” Singh checked in as soon as his statements were given and signed.

He knew the taskforce wasn’t sold on his theory about it being his mother’s killer, at least not yet. His mother’s killer was in jail, after all, at least according to them. But they heard him out, and that was more than most people did these days, at least on this topic. Even if they didn’t use that as a lead though, they were still using him—his scars, the camera, the timeline of him pulling out the photo. T hat was more than enough.

“Yeah, I’m… yeah.” He didn’t have much else to say and Singh clapped him on the arm.

“We’re gonna catch this bastard.”

He nodded and Singh let him go. Eddie was close by, taking Singh’s place.

“Hey.”

“Hey,” Barry felt the exhaustion seeping in.

 “Crazy day, huh?”

Barry scrubbed a hand down his face, letting himself deflate finally, leaning against a nearby wall. “Yeah.”

“You staying at Joe’s tonight? Or… Ben’s?”

His mouth turned down. He shook his head. “Home, probably.”

“Joe said he talked to Ben off the record, that we aren’t bringing him in for questioning?”

Barry’s eyes sought out Eddie’s and he almost flinched. His friend’s face was closed off, harder than usual. Barry didn’t have the energy to deal with Eddie being suspicious of Ben, not right now. “He didn’t need to come in. He was with me last night—the whole night—so he’s not a suspect. This has nothing to do with him.”

Eddie’s eyebrows raised, “sorry, Barr—I didn’t mean…”

He shook his head and pushed himself off the wall. “I just don’t want him to get dragged into this. It’s a lot, y’know?”

“Right.”

“Barry!” Iris’s voice interrupted them and a moment later Barry had his arms full of her, a bone crushing hug.

“Iris—hey,” he tried to free his arms so he could at least hug back and after a moment succeeded. She pulled away before he even managed to hug her properly, leaning back with wide worried eyes.

“I just got off work and heard—why did no one tell me till now? I would’ve been here this afternoon! Your apartment was bugged? Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Iris,” he immediately felt himself relax and got to hug her properly this time.

“I can’t believe this.”

“That makes two of us.”

They finally separated and she moved a step closer to her boyfriend. “My dad was vague on the phone—what happened?”

He explained the sparks’ notes version from his statement, about the body with his scar and the photo, how he put it together.

“Why you?” she breathed.

He winced at that, looking to the side, lips pulling into a hard line. “I think… he has old, unfinished business with me.”

She gasped, putting it together, asking to be sure and he nodded. She believed him, at least, without question. That was something.

“Does that mean… if you catch this guy, your dad might go free?”

Barry swallowed, something flaring to life in his chest. “I hope so.”

“Barr…” she took his hands in hers, pulling his arms forward, “that’s amazing.”

“Yeah.” He looked down at their joined hands. What had Leonard said? That these were ‘his people’? He was starting to feel like today proved that more than ever before.

“Barr…” Iris dropped one of his hands and pulled at his sleeve, “what happened to your wrist? Or, wrists?”

He didn’t tug his arm back in time and she was already snatching the other one’s sleeve, tugging it up. Her eyebrows shot up and he pulled back and covered them quick, glancing around. Only Eddie had seen other than her, his own expression dubious.

Barry felt himself flush. “That wasn’t… that has nothing to do with this.”

“Barry… oh my god.”

“Don’t,” he looked at the ceiling, cradling his wrists close to this body.

“Is that a hickey too?” she whispered too loud and he clapped his hand to his throat, wishing he hadn’t tilted his head back.

“Like I said, nothing to do with this.”

“I have got to meet this man if you’re—wow, Barr. This is, uh, serious.”

It wasn’t, not really. He and Len weren’t really… anything. “Actually with all this, I think I might take a… break from him? I just don’t want him involved in any of this.”

Her expression was crestfallen and he knew she was about to say something but Joe came out of his meeting with Singh at that exact moment and Barry caught his eye, eyebrows raised and Joe nodded toward the door.

“Hey look uh, I’ve gotta go talk to your dad. I’ll catch up with you guys later?”

“Yeah,” Iris hugged him. “Talk soon.”

Eddie waved a little stiffly. “See you, Barry.”

 

[ … ]

 

“You coming home with me?”

“I—” Barry’s throat stuck around the words.

“We can pick up some clothes for you on the way.”

“Joe, I can’t… I can’t ask that,” he whispered. They were standing outside Joe’s SUV, the man insisting on giving him a ride home until this killer was caught (or until Barry bought a car of his own).

“C’mon,” was all he said and Barry followed him into the vehicle—Joe’s territory, the higher ground.

They were silent for several minutes. Barry watched the lights go by, shocks of yellow against the night, dark outside now. It painted the inside of the car yellow in flashes and he remembered he’d still barely eaten all day.

“You heard back from Leonard since this morning?”

Barry glanced at his phone, shaking his head. “No… we don’t usually talk unless there’s a reason.”

Joe snorted and Barry curled into his seat a little deeper. “You gonna see him again?”

“I don’t… know. It was never supposed to get like this.”

Joe nodded carefully, turning onto Barry’s street. “You’re still coming over.”

“I can’t, Joe, I—after everything I did, everything you did for me, I can’t ask that.”

“You ain’t asking, I’m telling. Everything you did doesn’t change the fact that you’re my son. And yes, I am pissed, and disappointed you didn’t come to me sooner. But more than any ‘o that, I am scared for you Barry. There is a killer on the loose and I’m still not convinced it isn’t Leonard Snart, but whoever it is, he’s got his eye on you. I’ll sleep a whole lot better knowing you’re not home alone right now.”

Barry swallowed and nodded, grabbed a fresh few sets of clothes and toiletries and dragged a hand down his face, popping the major frame in his living room off the wall to reveal his father’s case board with the notes about the Midtown Murderer on it.

“Well that ain’t any prettier than the last time I saw it up in your lab,” Joe quipped. Barry’s lips almost curled up at the corners.

“You think they saw it when they swept my place?”

“Probably. Eddie helped sweep the place but he didn’t mention it. But I’m not worried about that—even Julian knew you used to have it in your lab. Little more worried about the camera that was facing it.”

“Yeah…”

“Let’s go, son.”

Barry scooped up the board and put it in the back seat. He gnawed at the inside of his lip, something twisting its way up around his stomach and through his chest on the drive, something different than the sheer fear that had him alert and raw despite running on fumes all day.

“I’ll understand if…” he closed his eyes, feeling tears sting them but he’d done enough of that for one day (week, month). He took a breath and forged ahead. “… you don’t want to talk to me. After all the lying I made you do for me today. After all the sneaking around I did, and how it could be what compromises the investigation. I get it.”

They pulled up in Joe’s driveway. “Son, everything you’ve done, you did with a gun to your head.”

He laughed bitterly, feeling boxed in. “I can’t even start to pretend that’s true anymore, Joe.”

“You can’t? Giving them intel at the warehouse in the first place, not coming clean on that—he told you what would happen if you did, right?”

“Okay, yes, that part was—”

“And you believed he’d do it?”

“Yeah—he wasn’t lying with that threat.”

“So then when you gave Snart information ‘bout us looking into Mick.”

Barry sighed out his nose, irrationally frustrated. “Yeah, okay, I did that because I thought he might find out and come after you or Iris to retaliate, but—Maria Korsukova. Victim three. For all I knew he was the killer and I still warned him the FBI had his name.”

“You didn’t think he’d hurt you for lying?”

Barry swallowed. Snart damn near had, hadn’t he? He’d admitted as much. If Barry hadn’t told him about the profile, hadn’t volunteered that information then gone to his warehouse willingly for a ‘reward’ and slept with him with eyes wide open about what he was doing there. If he hadn’t done any of that… “Maybe,” he admitted. “But that’s not why I did it.”

It was dark inside the vehicle.

“And if you hadn’t, we’d never have found out about Griffin Grey.”

“Griffin died!” Barry spat out too loud, too angry, slamming a hand down on the dashboard as he turned in his seat to face Joe.

“Yes, he did. We did the best we could, Barry.”

Barry sucked in a breath, then another. He felt so tired. “They killed—they killed two people and I did nothing.”

“They did. Are you blaming yourself for that? Or do you think I’m blaming you?”

Barry balled his fingers into fists. Joe would’ve pulled the trigger at the airfield too. He knew that.

“I shouldn’t have ever suggested covering up the bodies.”

“Uh huh. What were you supposed to do, report them? You just watched them murder two people for pissing them off. If Snart found out you did that—honestly Barr, do you really think he’d have let it go?”

Barry swallowed. How fucked was it if he said… “No. No if betrayed him then, went behind his back… it would’ve proved I was just a cop and nothing else, and that would make me a liability. But—” he shook his head, refocusing, “but that’s not an excuse, Joe! I still should’ve done something.”

“Hell yeah! You should’ve told me from the start. But that doesn’t mean I don’t understand why you did what you did. ‘N by the sounds of it, at each step you were trying to help the investigation and keep us from booking the wrong guy.”

“I fucked up.”

“Well you shouldn’a started sleeping with him, that’s for sure.”

Barry groaned and pulled at his hair. “I know. I know. I can’t believe I—”

“But sex ain’t a crime, Barr. At least not when there’s consent.”

He nodded. “He’s just so—he’s different, Joe. He’s special. And he’s always been a bad idea but one I couldn’t step away from.”

“For what it’s worth, Barr… you’re not the only cop on the force to fuck up. To make a bad decision, call the wrong shot. Remember Dibny?”

Barry let out a hollow laugh. “Remember that I helped get Dibny fired for tampering with evidence?”

“Look. I won’t sugarcoat it. You gave out privileged information, it’s true. There’s some obstruction in here. But don’t act like you’re the only one. Someone else on the force somewhere gave the media information about the Midtown Murderer—the Lightning Killer—remember? That could hurt us more’n anything you did. And plenty of the boys have CIs—I have CIs. Criminals we let slide because they’re helping us take in the worse ones. We make deals all the time and choose what we can live with.”

“It’s not the same.”

“You’re not a crooked cop, Barry.”

“We have to—we have to be better, Joe. I can’t just hang out with violent criminals just because I don’t think they’re evil.”

“So be better.”

Barry dropped his head into his hands, forearms hitting against the dash. “I can’t stop thinking about him.”

Joe sighed. “C’mon in the house, Barr. Nothing’s getting solved sitting out here in the dark.”

 

[ … ]

 

Eddie didn’t realize just how stressed he was until Iris came up behind him and rubbed that spot between his shoulders.

“You almost done, Babe?”

He glanced at her then set down the report he’d read over twice already, closing the cover on it and leaning back into her hand with a soft sigh.

“You’re really tense.”

“Yeah,” he agreed, quietly groaning when her hand moved to the muscles in the back of his neck. She was holding a mug of herbal tea in her other hand, he could smell the floral notes.

“What’s up?”

“I’m just… Barry didn’t put Ben in his statement.”

Her hand stopped moving. He glanced up at her confused face. “What?”

“Barry, he didn’t… he told me he was with Ben last night, the whole night? By the looks of it, having some pretty rough sex?”

She swatted his shoulder but made a noise of agreement, sitting down next to him. “Okay, and?”

“And his report says he was alone in his apartment, looking at old photos.”

“Maybe he doesn’t want the department to know about his… admittedly-kinkier-than-I-would-have-expected sex life?”

Eddie frowned, glancing back down at the cover of the report. “He wouldn’t have to go into detail, Iris. He lied on a sworn statement.”

“Honey, what’re you getting at?” She set down her tea, sounding annoyed. “It’s obvious he was with Ben so whatever reason he lied for, does it even matter?”

It did matter—a lot. “I know he wants to keep his boyfriend out of this but that’s the problem, Iris. This is a murder investigation—Ben shouldn’t be out of this. What if Ben is the Lightning Killer?”

Her eyebrows raised. “You think Barry’s boyfriend had time to sneak away from bed and drop a body in a field last night and come back without him noticing?”

No, he didn’t think that at all.

“You know what—just, forget I said anything. You’re right, I’m too close to this report and I guess I’m just worried about Barry.”

She sighed, looking mollified and leaning into his space to take his hand. “I am too. I’m so worried. But he’s gonna be okay, right?”

“Right. He’s with your dad and he’s safe.”

“Okay. Let’s head to bed?”

Eddie followed her up, going through the motions of prepping for sleep, laying his head back on the pillow in the dark, momentarily comforted by the soft sounds of her breathing. Except comfort didn’t stay for long, as soon as he closed his eyes, his worries resurfaced, clutching at him.

He didn’t think Ben snuck out to drop Griffin Grey’s body alone and then returned to fall asleep beside Barry, none-the-wiser. No—he was pretty damn sure Barry did that all by himself. And if Ben was real, he was right there beside Barry the whole time, helping him.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Len waited until late that night and still no more word from Barry. He walked to Saints, knowing he was stalling, and two hours later there was still nothing.

“Want me to take care of it, boss?” Mick asked when he made it back to their shop, put the little burner phone down on the table and stared too long at it.

He snapped his eyes toward the other man. “Don’t.”

Mick snorted, grabbing up his jacket. “Not like that. Y’know even your sister likes him.”

“He’s a liability.”

“Pretty one.”

Len sighed, standing to his full height. He pushed the thought around in his mouth, tasting it. “Pretty means nothing if he’s done with this little game.”

And if he was out

Sharp and sudden he brought a hammer down on the phone, snapping it into shards of crumbled metal. He pulled in a full-chest breath, relishing the feeling.

Mick was in the doorway. “Feel better?”

“Not even a little.”

 

[ … ]

 

Eddie hadn’t slept a wink.

His brain wouldn’t stop cycling back to Barry. Barry was a victim here. Barry was a friend—was family.

And yet.

No matter what he did, Eddie kept coming back to one certain, solid conclusion: Barry was lying—a lot. The inconsistencies, the lack of sleep, the lost phone and other misplaced items at convenient and suspicious times, the hunches and then backtracking on himself. And Ben. Ben who he didn’t want anyone to meet but was apparently the reason for all of these lies, who he lied about in his statement under oath and yet was responsible for bruises on his wrists from the same night.

He wanted to meet Ben. He’d demanded to meet Ben that morning, but all Joe had to say on the matter was:

“I talked to him. I cleared him. He checks out, ‘n he’s not our guy.”

“Joe we need to bring him in—”

“Eddie, I’m gonna need you to trust me, as your partner, that Ben is not our guy, and let it go.”

“Can you at least give me a last name so I can do my own due diligence?”

And he’d got a pat on the shoulder and a tense, slightly too imploring look. It was that, more than anything, that had unsettled Eddie. Eddie trusted Joe, easily and handily, with his own life more than once. But he also knew the man would do almost anything to protect his kids. Joe was covering up something for Barry, but the question was, would he cover… What, exactly?

Because the problem was: it didn’t add up. There was simply no way the puzzle pieces all fit together. Not if Nora Allen and Tess Morgan’s cases were linked to this, anyway, because Nora was his mother and Barry was way too young to kill even Tess. Too young for the profile in general, though some of the other pieces hit a little too close to home. Could he have planted the cameras in his own apartment to throw off suspicion? But why bother, if no one had been suspecting him? And why scar up his victims identical to himself? Barry was smarter than that, unless he was so twisted around by compulsion he couldn’t help it.

“It’s mine, it’s mine, it’s me

Not for the first time, Eddie wondered if he could be the killer and not know it. Could be so torn up by what happened to his mother and witnessing it that he’d become… divided. The Wikipedia page on dissociative identity disorder certainly hadn’t dissuaded him from thinking so, what with how it would explain the not sleeping, the losing things, the panic attacks. But Agent Reynolds had resoundly put a nail in that coffin.

“Couldn’t be, it’s way too far out from the profile.”

“What if only one identity is the profile?”

“People with DID are far more likely to be victims, but even in a rare instance where one alter might commit a violent crime, those never involve this particular type of serial violence or this level of organization and premeditation. The level of planning and organization The Lightning Killer demonstrates wouldn’t arise in someone mentally unwell or losing time. There’s a clear indication in how he hunts in one place, kills in another, and drops the bodies in yet another, that points to very careful thought and effort in the service of his compulsion to kill.”

He’d sighed and nodded and gone for his second cup of coffee around then.

Because if Barry wasn’t the killer… who was? And who was Ben? If he was real, and if the marks on Barry’s neck and wrists weren’t just the result of alibi-creation or something more sinister, why didn’t Barry or Joe want him in the picture? Joe wouldn’t let Ben roam free if he was the Lightning Killer, so what else could he possibly be missing?

Was Ben just some average boyfriend? Was Eddie looking at this all wrong? Was Barry lying under oath to protect him because of how the bruises might look or—… it occurred him, suddenly, that maybe Barry hadn’t lied on his statement about Ben being there. Maybe Barry had lied to him. Him and Iris, about Ben being the one to give him those bruises. But if that was the case…

Eddie scrubbed his hand over his face, wishing he had at least some answers to the million questions swirling around in his brain.

“You alright?” Joe asked across their desks. Eddie’s chest felt tight for a moment. He wished it was a week ago, even 48 hours ago, when he could have just asked Joe and expected to get an honest answer about what was going on.

“Fine. Burning the candle at both ends, y’know?”

“Do I ever.”

If one thing was certain, Eddie knew Joe wanted to catch the real killer as much or more than he did. There was no way the man suspected his kid, or no way he’d knowingly help shelter Ben if he thought the man was the killer. What that said about this situation only led to more questions though.

“Any leads on Snart?” he asked his partner, for want of a better angle to pursue.

“Snart?” his head snapped up, a little too fast, face stiff.

“…our primary suspect? Before our most recent vic was found, anyway. I wanna see if we can track down where me might’ve been during that time, even if we can’t find the man himself. And you were the last one to try and find him.”

“Right, yeah,” Joe shook his head, relaxing. “I’ve been focused on the recent scene and Barry’s angle.”

Eddie rolled his neck, feeling stiff. “I’m trying to think it through. Snart could be the person in Barry’s angle. His mom died about 15 years ago? Snart would’ve been… twenties? Early twenties? That’s when most killers get their start.”

“Agent Reynolds said if this theory’s right, the first victim, maybe the first few—those were most likely personal. Nora wasn’t just a random kill if he based his pattern after her.”

He tapped his pen against the desk, thinking. “Any chance Snart could’ve known the Allens?”

“I doubt it. Henry Allen was a surgeon before he went to prison. Nora was a chemical engineer at Mercury Labs. No reason to have contact with someone like Leonard Snart.” There was a twist to his lips when he said it.

“Joe?”

“I think we’re barking up the wrong tree with Snart.”

There it was. Whatever he knew. Eddie’s eyebrows drew together, but he leaned forward, voice lowering just a little, wanting to trust. “Do you have anyone else in mind?”

Joe just shook his head though. “Not yet. I’m gonna follow up with Griffin Grey’s friends, see if I can find anything out that we don’t know already.”

It was as good a place as any to start, really.

“Want me to come with?”

“Nah, I got this. Your prettyboy looks scare off the girls.”

Eddie almost laughed, and for a moment it was almost like normal.

“Alright. I’m gonna follow up with Cisco then. The FBI pressure helped get a warrant for more digital records on Tess Morgan, and I wanna cross reference it with everything we can find out about the other victims. It’s all on the cloud these days, y’know? Especially with teenagers like Grey. There might be something we’ve missed.”

“Lemme know if anything turns up.”

Eddie almost said something then. He wanted to, suddenly, desperately. His throat tightened as the words threatened to tumble out of his mouth, begging to be said. I know Barry’s lying. I need you to tell me what’s going on. Why can’t you trust me with this?

But it wasn’t the time. So he cleared his throat and went to find Cisco.

 

[ … ]

 

“I can’t believe they took you off the case, man.”

Barry sighed, glancing up at Cisco coming to eat lunch. “I can.”

“Okay fair—but if anyone wants to catch this guy, it’s gotta be you.”

He nodded, biting into a sandwich. “I do. I don’t think I’m gonna sleep again until we find him.”

“I believe it. You look rough.”

He knew it. Julian had even expressed some concern. Julian.

“Yesterday was… a lot. Singh told me I could take the day off but I don’t want to let it get to me.”

“Hear hear. Speaking of work, did Hunter Z ever track you down? He swung by here looking for you.”

“Oh! Right. I’m supposed to look over a soil report for him, right? It wasn’t really a priority yesterday; I’ve got it over on… that table.” He found and pointed to the right one. “Does he seem a little… homophobic to you?”

“Hunter?” Cisco’s eyebrows shot up.

“I just… he came by at an inopportune time, I guess. I mentioned my boyfriend and he got a little weird.”

Cisco’s eye-waggle at ‘inopportune’ dropped into a dark frown. “Shit.”

“I dunno, maybe I’m reading too much into it.”

“No reason not to be a bit jumpy when someone put up cameras in your place, man.”

Barry tensed. Hunter had his address—could Hunter have… but no, Hunter thought he was going to be home all night in with his boyfriend, he wouldn’t have waited for Barry to leave to setup cameras. And either way, Barry was pretty sure those cameras had been there a lot longer than he could sanely consider.

He scowled at his food, appetite evaporating. Jumpy, indeed.

 “Never mind. I probably just surprised him with the boyfriend comment. Don’t tell him I said anything, okay?”

“Don’t tell who you said what?” Eddie asked from the doorway, strained smile in place.

“Eddie! Not you—we’re talking about Hunter Zoloman. You met him?”

Eddie seemed to relax by a fraction, coming over. “Yeah—mayor’s office, right?”

“Yeah—I’m late on this soil analysis thing for him, that’s all.”

Eddie nodded and glanced at Cisco. “Hey, Cisco—can I borrow you? We got a warrant to go through a bunch of old files from the Mercer-Morgan facility on Tess Morgan. She’s the only potential victim we don’t have much to go off of so far.”

Barry perked up even as Cisco started packing up his lunch to go. “We’re still pursuing the Tess Morgan angle for the Midtown Murderer?”

We’re not doing anything, B. Best thing for you is to stay far away from this case.”

Barry frowned at him. Joe would just give him all the details after work anyway, but it rankled, being left out. Grade school stings always came back to haunt.

“I just wanna help, Eddie.”

“I know. But just focus on… getting some sleep. Okay?”

“Yeah, fine. I guess I’ll get started on that report for Hunter.” He turned his back and dismissed Eddie, ignoring the worried glance from Cisco. He knew three minutes ago he was saying it was for the best but knowing they had leads, knowing Tess Morgan’s death might really be related, that she might be the missing link in finding out who this guy was… He’d just have to convince Cisco to let him have a look at those files sometime.

 

 [ … ]

 

Dinner at Joe’s was quiet. Barry had done most of the prep in the morning and tossed it in a slow-cooker at Joe’s request, the easiest way to eat at a reasonable time with the hours they kept, and by the end of the day they were both beyond exhausted. Barry cleaned up and they melted into the couch to watch the evening news.

“Coffee?” Barry asked, glancing toward the kitchen.

“Don’t even think about it. You need to sleep tonight. Make some decaf.”

He sighed and settled back onto the couch. Joe was right, of course. “I’m tired of dreaming.”

 “Well if it makes you feel any better, I was able to get ahead of something for you.”

“Oh?”

Joe nodded and put the TV on mute. “Agent Reynolds and Jefferson both suggested going and talking to the friends of Griffin Grey, now that his body turned up. See if there’s anything they can remember about when he was taken. I made sure to volunteer, met that Frankie girl you mentioned.”

Barry’s stomach did an interesting series of backflips at that. He hated that Joe had to lie for him but was more than intensely relieved that Joe was on his side, even in this.

“Is she okay?”

“Oh she’s doing alright. Turns out she’s even got a day job at Big Belly ‘n she’s got a good head on her shoulders. Came right out and told me about you and Snart though.”

“Yeah that… makes sense. Did she say anything else?”

“Nothing out of the ordinary. Usual folks hanging around, she said. Guess there's a few junkies who hang around that spot I might try to find, some guy who sits on the corner in a wheelchair she said collects change and stays pretty sober. Which got me thinking... I don't think our guy poses as a client.”

“Oh?”

“Think about it—Bette Sans Souci had client lists and we’ve been through all of them. Nothing. Same with Korsukova—the only lead we got from that was Snart. Grey and his pals were like a pack, y’know? Keeping an eye out for each other. Someone would’ve seen something. His friends say he finished up at the same time as they did and turned toward home the night he went missing.”

“So you think the killer is…”

“Luring them. Like prey. Just doing it by posing as something other than a client.”

“Like a junkie, or a man in a wheelchair? Would that be convincing enough?”

"Got me. But it's a step away from laying the blame at Snart's feet just 'cause he was on a client list."

Barry winced, moving on. “Speaking of lists, Eddie said you guys are going through Mercer-Morgan’s old files?”

“Uh huh. See you’ve really been keeping your nose out of it.”

Barry’s gut twisted up into knots. “I just… I need to, Joe. He came into my home and he—if he's the man in the lightning, if he's the one who... I can't stop thinking about my mom. The coroner's report indicated bruising on her neck from before she was stabbed…”

“I know.” Joe leaned forward, staring into his hands. Barry knew he retreated this argument, fighting about his dad’s innocence, but it had never felt closer, more real. “And that… could help establish the start of his pattern. Interrupted the first time, so he’s particular about strangulation every time after. Follows through with Morgan, probably others in the time between her and our recent victims. It really might all be the same man.”

Barry’s heart thudded in his chest.

“But Barry I don’t want to give you any false hope. Even if we catch this guy, there’s no guarantee we’re right. And even if we are—overturning a conviction would require a confession or some serious new evidence, not just a new person to pin it on.”

It took him a moment to figure out why he felt almost short of breath. “Are you… are you saying you believe me? About my dad—about the man in the lightning?”

He watched the side of Joe’s face, how he closed his eyes for a second and looked weary. “I’m saying… that I’m startin’ to. And if—” he swallowed, “if you’re right, if you’ve been right all along, then I owe it to your father to help get him out of jail and I honestly don’t know if I can deliver on that, Barr.”

He threw his arms around Joe, wrapped up tight and felt Joe relax after a moment, hugging him back.

“I’m sorry, son.”

“Don’t—you just—” he pulled back, teary-eyed but feeling good, determined. “You did your job. And you’re the best detective I know, Joe. The best man I know. If you’re on my side, we can do this. I know we can.”

Joe was teary-eyed too then, a little watery in his smile. “Oh hell. Let’s do it then.”

 

[ … ]

 

Barry sat in his bed in his old room, feeling almost like a teenager again. It was dark, the middle of the night, and he still couldn’t sleep. He rolled up into a sitting position, pulled out his phone and glared at the accusatory numbers blinking up at him. So he was only gonna get a few hours of sleep. Not like laying down on his back had been accomplishing much.

He scrolled through his contacts, blue light bright in the dark, illuminating his little circle and not anything beyond it, keeping the shadows at bay. His thumb landed on Leonard’s number.

It was a bad idea. It didn't matter anyway. It went straight to voicemail, again. A simple automated voice at the other end of the line. Barry sighed and closed his eyes. His chest ached and felt hollow at the same time but he closed his throat against it, and promised himself he’d try again the next day, like he had the night before.

 

[ … ]

 

“I’m gonna diieeeeee.”

“You had a fresh coffee twenty minutes ago, Cisco.”

The man groaned. “How do you do it? How do you read through this much boring paperwork, man? All the time? Without search algorithms?”

Eddie’s eyes skimmed the page. “Can’t ctrl+f if you don’t know what you’re looking for, Cisco.”

Exactly. Can’t you guys give me a keyword at least?”

Eddie sighed, rubbing his eyes. It was Agent Jackson who answered, not looking up from the file he was reading.

“The words used to describe deviant behavior by the population are often non-clinical. If anything in these personnel files from Mercer-Morgan’s gonna help us find our guy, we’ve gotta go over each one.”

“And hey,” Eddie added. “At least we cleaned out anyone who’s left the city since then, that was more than a quarter of the stack. And we’re starting with the ones who were written up for something.”

“Which might’ve been a bad idea, actually.” Agent Reynolds said from the door, interrupting them. Cisco’s feel were abruptly off the table and on the ground, sitting up straight. Eddie tried to hide his smile. “Since the profile suggests the killer is highly intelligent and most likely had learned to hide his deviant behavior by that point. It’s unlikely he would’ve been written up for anything passed his college years, if not high school.”

Cisco groaned again but Reynolds actually spared him a little smile and Eddie tucked his face back into the report he was reading. No way he was getting tangled up in any way in an office romance (even if, in his own private opinion, Cisco very much deserved her affection, and even if the man’s taste in partners often proved to be… terrifying).

“Who’s going over Tess Morgan’s file?”

“We’ve glanced at it,” Jackson pointed between himself and Eddie while Reynolds went over to flip it open.

“Hard worker, accolades at work, beautiful… long hair. Do all the female victims have long hair? Nora Allen did.”

“Seems that way,” Eddie said, putting down his folder.

“And all the males have at least a few inches of hair too.”

He nodded and she hummed, glancing back at the file.

“WashU in St. Louis… has Joe West seen this?”

Eddie blinked, “Joe? Not yet—I’m working the digital cross-reference angle and he’s doing interviews. Why?”

“Isn’t that the school Nora Allen went to?”

Behind her, Eddie could see Cisco’s eyebrows climb into his hairline. For his own part, his own must’ve been the same, jaw a little dropped.

How had they missed that?

“It—I dunno, lemme just—”

She held up her hand, “it’s fine. I’m sure it is but we’ll double check.”

“Do we think,” Jackson was leaning forward on his elbows, intent, “that the Lightning Killer knew them both from college?”

“An organized killer won’t often go after people he knows unless it’s specifically part of his profile, but if he was disorganized to start as we suspect…” she snapped the file closed. “It’s risky and he would’ve known it. But if he needed the control that badly, she might’ve felt like an appropriate surrogate for Nora Allen—if they were friends, killing Morgan would’ve been another way to symbolically kill Nora again. He was unpracticed still based on Morgan’s victimology, how she was left at the scene, the lack of ritual and teeth loss.”

“Meaning…that it wasn’t someone she worked with?” Eddie glanced around the files.

“It’s impossible to say. He might’ve managed to hide in plain sight and felt he could get away with it. But for right now, focus on anyone who would’ve overlapped with her at WashU.”

Cisco jumped up. “Finally! Something I can program the computer to do for us.”

There it was again, the ghost of a smile on Reynolds’s face. Eddie glanced out into the bullpen.

“I’ll go talk to Joe about this.”

 

[ … ]

 

“You know for a second, I thought it was Barry coming to visit. He’s already been by this week, but it would’ve been better odds than this.”

The man was escorted into the room in cuffs, shuffling to their table. Joe had a seat after he did. He felt his eyes attempt to strain toward something like a smile but it failed and he wasn’t here to smile anyway.

“Neither of us are betting men anyway, Henry.”

“No, not really," the man agreed with a nod.

“It’s been a while.”

“That it has, Joe. Barry says you’ve been keeping busy these days, some long hours and hard cases.”

Not for the first time, Joe wondered just how much Barry shared with his father about his work. He doubted whatever he said extended to sharing the fact that he was being stalked by a serial killer. Henry's plight when Barry had been struck by lightning had been hard to watch, the worry, the inability to even see his son. He knew Barry would do anything not to worry him like that again.

Eddie shifted, sitting next to him, and took the opening for what it was. “That’s actually why we’re here.”

They were seated in an open visiting area, the one families got to go to once a month to see their incarcerated loved ones or friends. Except it was empty now except for them, a private interrogation easier done without a telephone and a piece of glass in the way. His eyes strayed to the cuffs on Henry’s wrists, something threatening to twist around his stomach so he clamped up on it and glanced at his face again.

“We’re looking into some old cases. There’s a connection with think you might be able to help us make.”

There was a drawn out moment for a second, a bit of a tightening around Henry's mouth as he glanced from Eddie to Joe. “Barry doesn’t know you’re here, does he?”

Joe tightened, then made himself relax. “You’re not suspected of anything, I promise. This is something else. And Barry… we don’t want to get his hopes up.”

He made a ‘huh’ sound before nodding, placid as ever. “What can I do?”

Beside Joe, Eddie pulled out a photo of Tess from an envelope. “Have you ever met this woman, Dr. Allen?”

He took it and glanced at it down the length of his arm, squinting a little. Bi-focals, Joe thought. They couldn’t be easy to come by in prison and the man clearly needed them.

“Is that Tess Morgan? Or did she ever change her name to Wells? Too young to be her now though…”

Joe’s stomach did something funny then, a sort of flip-flop. Eddie leaned forward on his elbows. “You remember her?”

He handed the photo back. “From college. She was definitely friends with Nora. Her, Tess, and Tina McGee. The three of them were thick as thieves, though Tina was a little older, as I recall—grad school. They all met at a ‘Women in STEM’ event, kept in touch off and on, even after Nora left work when Barry was born.”

Eddie caught his eye, his own wide.

“What’s this about then?” Henry was as sharp as ever.

Joe opened his mouth. How much news would he have got in here, how much would he have heard about the destinies of old friends. Joe didn’t have to say it though, a moment later, the shadow shuttered over Henry’s eyes.

“Oh. It’s that case, isn’t it… the one on the news. So Tess is…”

“It happened a lot time ago. Eleven years.”

Henry nodded, looking tired. “My condolences to Harrison. They were married, right? Have you met with him yet?”

“Dr. Wells? No, not since the case was first opened. He moved to Switzerland shortly after his wife died, got a job with in some fancy science place. We were hoping to interview him but he’s not exactly that easy to get on the phone.”

“That’s why you came to see me,” his eyes crinkled just a little, like there was a private joke in there. “Not hard to make an appointment these days.”

“Thanks for your time, Dr. Allen.” Eddie got up to go. Joe sighed, following more slowly.

“Henry.”

“Joe.” He moved his hand to wave just a little, the chain rattling while he did.

As he left the prison, one thing was certain in his gut. He’d put that man there, and he was going to get him out.

 

[ … ]

 

Pining.

He was pretty sure that was still the word for it, though it had been a while since he’d felt it so earnestly. The last time he had was his ill-fated crush on Iris, doomed from the start. At least he could rationalize that one though, could make sense of it. She was his best friend, and beautiful, and kind. Leonard Snart was just an asshole. Barry had no reason to be pining about him. And yet.

It wasn’t that going without talking to him for a few days was the problem, that was almost par for the course. It was that he couldn’t talk to him if he wanted to. Couldn’t get a call to go through. Couldn’t just up and go see him, not if he was potentially being stalked.

The worst part was thinking about how he’d left it. How he had no way to explain any of this. And no desire to put Leonard in danger, to see his body displayed with bruised wrists and missing teeth, blood dried down his chin and neck. Tossed out like garbage. Barry closed his eyes against the mental images, the ring of flowers that circled it in his mind’s eye equally unwelcome.

He needed a distraction. It was first thing in the morning and his brain was already going haywire. He snapped open his phone.

“Good morning,” Hunter answered on the second ring.

“Hunter, hi. It’s Barry.”

“I see that,” he sounded amused. “I’m glad you called. Are you doing okay?”

“Wh—oh, with… Yeah. I’m fine.”

“You’re sure?”

“Totally. Cisco thinks I’m being jumpy but I’m not gonna let this get under my skin.” Brave words from the man who hadn’t slept more than an hour at a time in days. “Anyway I was just calling about that lunch date you promised.”

“You’re still up for that?”

“Yeah. I got most of that analysis done yesterday, had to distract myself with something. I can finish up before lunch and meet you somewhere if you’d like. Maybe a late-ish lunch?”

“Barry… I would love that.”

 

Chapter Text

Eddie and Joe wandered into the basement office at the CCPD, knick-knacks and piles of paper strewn everywhere on desk and between filing cabinets where the taskforce had set up shop for the files and storage. It was pretty much empty right now, none of them actually working in the small room full time except Cisco, who’d emailed Eddie to say he had something for him and Joe to look at.

“Cisco?” he called, glancing around.

There was a little yelp from somewhere behind a filing cabinet and the man materialized, stumbling back and—oh. Eddie glanced away, trying to look anywhere but at Agent Reynolds appearing next to him, righting the buttons on her shirt.

“Detectives.”

“Agent,” Joe acknowledged next to him. Eddie was staring dutifully at the ceiling.

“That extra coffee for him?” she paused to ask Eddie, nodding at the cup in his hand even as she made a hasty beat toward the exit.

“Yeah?”

“Thanks.” She snagged it out of his hand and kept walking. Eddie actually had to laugh, shaking his head.

“She’s trouble,” Joe admonished in her wake, but there was a little bit of pride in his voice.

Instead of rebuffing it, a dopey smile split Cisco’s face, staring at the doorway behind them. “Yeah,” he sighed happily.

Eddie cleared his throat. “The case, Cisco?”

“Right! Right. Got something—well, probably nothing, but something you might wanna look at anyway?”

“We’re all ears.”

He slipped into a chair at a nearby computer and pulled up a list of names. “So. No one at Mercer-Morgan overlapped with Tess Morgan at WashU but I got to thinking: if Nora Allen’s case is actually connected to this thing, and she worked at Mercury labs, maybe the guy who took out Tess Morgan wasn’t at Mercer-Morgan but with Nora at Mercury.”

Eddie raised his eyebrows, glancing at Joe who looked more alert. It was a good angle. “You got access to their files?”

“Their founder—Dr. McGee? Was happy enough to send over a list of employees who worked for the company at that point in time.”

“Henry Allen said Dr. McGee was friends with both Nora and Tess.”

Cisco nodded. “She’s one of the only two people who overlapped with them at WashU in any capacity. There was her and another PhD student who worked in the same lab as McGee at the time. He graduated a year after McGee and got a job at Mercury,” he clicked something on the screen and a name was highlighted. “A dude named Eobard Thawne.”

Eddie’s eyebrows crinkled together. “Thawne?”

“Yeah. Any relation?”

He wracked his brain. “His name is…” he glanced at the screen, no photo to go off of. “Eo-bard? I don’t recall any relatives with that dumb of a name. Maybe a cousin I haven’t met…”

Cisco nodded. “Well, it might be nothing. But he only worked there until shortly after Tess’s death ‘n I thought that was weird enough to flag it. I couldn’t find almost anything on the guy on though, his internet history is basically crickets—no Facebook, LinkedIn, you name it. There’s an old news article from the Star City Tribune that lists him and a few other leading scientists taking jobs there.”

Eddie frowned. He left town? But if he was in Star City still, it wasn’t much of a lead. “Nothing more recent? Any photos?”

“Nah, just a really grainy group photo from university from the WashU’s newspaper but as you can see,” he pulled up the pixelated black and white image, “no bones.”

Joe nodded, writing details on his pad. “Do we have his personnel file?”

“Not yet. McGee only gave us a list. I don’t know how cooperative she’ll be handing out this guy’s resume or contact details”

“Let’s see if we can’t sweet talk her, huh? I’d rather not have to wait on a warrant to track this guy down.”

Eddie nodded, gears turning in his head as he followed Joe out into the corridor. “Joe can I ask you something—about Ben?”

“We should get going to Mercury labs.”

He grabbed his partner’s sleeve as he tried to hurry down the hall, stopping them before the elevator. “I’m serious.”

Joe sighed, “I know. N I’m telling you—”

“He’s no-one, right? Just some older guy Barry is dating?”

“How d’you know he’s older?” his voice was a little too sharp.

“Because Barry told Iris—he’s a lot older. And he travels out of town a lot.”

“What’s your point?”

“My point is this Eobard’s from Star City—out of town? He’s older? You won’t let me interrogate Ben and won’t give me a last name and I’m starting to wonder if he’s not somehow connected. If Ben is Eobard then—”

Joe’s eyebrows shot up. “That’s what you – no. Ben is definitely not Eobard Thawne.”

“Then who is he?”

Joe sighed. “I told you to trust me.”

“And I’m asking you to trust me.”

Joe looked his way, then toward the door. After a minute, he seemed to deflate a little. “Tell you what: we follow this lead, work the case. You come by for a drink tonight and you ‘n Barry can chat about Ben. Fair?”

He wished it was. He wished it didn’t feel like a dismissal. He wished he had some way of just finding the man himself instead of worrying that Barry was going to walk circles around the truth again. He’d believe a straight answer from Joe, but…

“We’ll work the case. Should we visit Henry Allen again too? He might know if this guy and Nora knew each other.”

Joe hesitated, “split up?”

“You should take Henry?”

“I’d rather you did. I know he’s polite, but there’s no love lost between me ‘n Henry Allen, not after I put him where he is.” Joe didn’t quite meet his eyes when he said it, and Eddie felt his own stomach twist. Eddie wasn’t entirely convinced Henry Allen hadn’t killed his wife, but just the thought of putting an innocent man behind bars for life, it was enough to take his breath away.

“Yeah. You see about getting a few minutes into McGee’s schedule, I’ll head to Iron Heights.” He patted himself down for his phone to call ahead and realized it wasn’t in his pocket. “Left my cell back in the office. I’ll catch you later?”

“Sure thing.”

They split and the doubt worming around in his insides was still finding its way up and down his gut as he paced back into the office.

“Phone?” Cisco was already passing it his way, off the desk he’d left it on.

“Thanks,” Eddie was still distracted thinking about Ben as he checked it automatically for texts, seeing he missed a call from Iris and got an email forward from her instead, hotel options for the vacation they were planning in a few months. He blinked. “Hey Cisco…”

“Yeah?”

“You’ve got Agent Reynolds in your contacts, right?”

He cleared his throat. “I mean uh, me and her are just—”

“I don’t care about workplace romance, I just mean, when you’re dating someone, you have their number.”

Cisco looked like him like he’d grown a second head.

“And their email.”

“D’you think I should have Cindy’s email? I only have her work one. Wait do you really think we’re dating official-styles? I wonder how she…”

Eddie wasn’t listening, his head was upstairs, in Barry’s lab, at his computer terminal, which would be automatically logged in to his email.

“You don’t happen to know Barry’s password, do you?”

“—but she’s kind of standoffish so I don’t… what?”

“Barry. His phone, or even his email—he’s got to have his partner’s info in there, right?”

“Ben?”

Eddie blinked. “You know him?”

Cisco shifted in his seat, clearly uncomfortable. “Not yeeeeet. Why’re you looking for Ben?”

Eddie pulled over a chair and sat down next to Cisco, heart racing. “Because I’m worried about Barry. Really worried, Cisco. In a way I can’t get Joe to understand. I think Ben is… he’s bad news.”

“I dunno, man…”

“Have you seen the bruises?”

There it was—shock, concern, a wide and tight cast to his eyes. Eddie swallowed and pressed on.

“He won’t let any of us meet him, won’t even give us a last name. Joe says he met him but he… Barry omitted Ben from his statements about the cameras and the photos and in cases like this…”

“It’s always the boyfriend.” Cisco’s face was pinched. “He asked me if I… if I told Cynthia about Ben,” he whispered like a confession. As far as Eddie was concerned, it was.

“Barry wasn’t sleeping even before we found the cameras. Something has been up with him and I just…”

“You’re worried.”

He nodded carefully. “Very.”

“Like any good friend would be.”

Eddie’s throat felt thick but he nodded again.

“I—I can’t hack his phone,” Cisco hedged.

“I just want to find and chat with Ben, that’s all. I just have to see this guy for myself.”

Cisco chewed his lip. “He’s going for lunch with Hunter today. He should be out leaving right about now. It’s not really hacking if his email’s still open on his terminal…”

His heart slammed up to his chest. “Upstairs?”

“Upstairs.”

He felt like a kid with his hands in the cookie jar, both of them acting like they had a secret to share, a bit of mischief and Eddie leaned into it because the alternative was thinking too long about what they were about to do. They were both eager and tense as they crowded into the elevator but no one gave them a second glance as they made their way up and then down the hall into Barry’s empty lab.

“Before we do this, I want it on the record that I have misgivings.”

Eddie opened his mouth to reassure him, but Cisco was already slipping into the vacant seat. He shook the mouse and the screen came online. It hadn’t been off for the 10 minutes required to auto-log out. Barry really ought to be more careful.

“His email?”

Cisco pulled up the browser and there it was. His work and personal accounts, both signed in and open in pinned tabs. Cisco’s fingers flew over the keys, searching for senders under the name “Ben” in both accounts. Other than Ben Johnston who worked the front desk, no hits turned up at work, and nothing in his personal account. No autocomplete account names, no Benjamin, no Bernard, nothing. Eddie was starting to deflate.

“Must have a different name for his account.” Cisco linked his fingers behind his head, leaning back. “Or they just text. Just as well, man, we really shouldn’t be snooping… what are you doing?”

Eddie had grabbed the mouse, scrolling down his inbox for any personal emails. “Spam, spam, take-out, Joe, Uber, Uber, Uber.”

“We all know Barry needs a car.”

Eddie’s eyes narrowed on the screen. “Most of these are evening trips.”

“So? Dude’s got a social life. Or did, before Joe basically put him under surveillance.”

He clicked one, and then another, and then another, going through. “Most of these recently are to the same place. Ben’s, maybe?” He opened a tab for google maps.

“Meatpacking district…” He scratched the address down on his notepad.

“C’mon, man, maybe we should…”

Eddie opened another Uber receipt. His heart stopped.

“This is…” the warehouse. The one where they found the chemical linking the entire case to Tess Morgan’s death, and Mick Rory’s cigarette butts. And the date—he checked it hastily, along with the time. The night before Eddie asked him to visit, the night he lost his kit and phone.

“Eddie?”

His hands were trembling on the keys and mouse, eyes glued to the screen.

“Barry is in serious danger.”

 

[ … ]

 

“Sorry I’m late.” Barry slipped into the booth across from Hunter, sliding his bag in before him.

“Not at all. Though I tried to insist you let me pick you up at the precinct.”

Barry waved him away with a smile. “I don’t mind taking the subway. It’s way easier than getting you to come across town from the mayor’s office just for a ride.”

“Well, at least let me give you a ride back after lunch.”

Barry caved, happy it made Hunter relax when he agreed. He handed over the soil analysis and went over the details until their food arrived. The man made good conversation over lunch, going so far as to tell him about some of the dishes on the menu, even down to details about agricultural practices.

“You know a lot about food.”

“Trivia, mostly. To be honest, I’m mostly a Big Belly Burger fan myself,” Hunter laughed and it crinkled up around his eyes. “Nothing beats a good burger, and we ought to eat as many as we can before cattle farming becomes globally unsustainable. But I couldn’t thank you for putting in extra work by taking you for fast food.”

“I promise, you could’ve.”

“I’ll keep it in mind. I feel like… we’re a lot alike, Barry.”

“Oh yeah?”

He nodded carefully. “I get that impression, some days. You remind me of myself when I was a little younger. Determined, curious, always asking for more from the world around you.”

Barry wasn’t sure what to say to that, so he shrug-smiled and took another bite of his food.

“How have you been doing, by the way? Really?”

“I’m fine,” Barry replied on autopilot.

“Even though they kicked you off the taskforce, despite being their best lead?”

The expression on his face must’ve said enough because Hunter laughed.

“They’re fools. If I was in charge, I would’ve kept you on board.”

“Really?”

“You’re smart, Barry. You put a lot together by yourself.”

He rubbed the back of his head. “Not fast enough. Not really.”

“Some people will always be one step ahead. Just a little faster. But I feel like… you’re on to him—The Lightning Killer. I feel like you’re so close to having it solved.”

His chest felt tight. “I hope so. I really… really need this to be over.”

Hunter opened his mouth, but whatever he was going to say was lost to the sound of Barry’s ringtone. He glanced down at it.

“It’s Cisco, must be work. Just a sec?”

“Of course.”

Barry answered it, feeling sheepish. “Hey man, I’m just out for lunch, everything alright?”

“Maybe? No? I don’t know. I did something I regret doing and I might regret telling you and just so you know, I have it on record that I had misgivings about it—”

“Cisco, slow down, what’s up?” He caught Hunter’s slightly concerned gaze. “Is it the taskforce?”

“No it’s—kinda. Look, Eddie was super worried about you, about some bruises he says Ben left ‘n I…”

Barry sighed and closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Can we talk about this when I get back to the precinct?”

“It’s just—he ran out the door, dude. About fifteen minutes ago. And I wasn’t gonna say anything but I can’t man, I feel really terrible.”

Barry stood up, holding up a finger to Hunter’s curious expression and moving toward a bit more privacy.

“Ran out where, Cisco? What did you do? Give my address out again?” He wasn’t gonna pretend he wasn’t a little annoyed about that.

“When did I give it out the first time?”

“With Hunter?”

“What? No I—look, me and Eddie just went up to your lab and—it was open, your email was right there, and we were looking for Ben’s contact deets but Eddie opened up your Uber receipts and got all weird and went off to—look I don’t know what you’re into. And it’s pretty obvious Ben doesn’t live in some warehouse in the meatpacking district but….”

Barry forgot to breathe. Leonard.

“So now I’m telling and you and I hope—”

“I gotta go.”

He hung up before Cisco could finish protesting, hurrying back to his table. “Hey I’m sorry there’s an emergency and I’ve gotta go.”

Hunter was already moving out of his seat, “just let me pay up and—”

“No! I mean, no, it’s not at work—”

“I can still drive.”

Barry dragged his hand through his hair. “It’s personal. I’m sorry, I’ve really gotta run. I’ll buy next time!”

And then he was already heading out the door, not looking back.

 

[ … ]

 

Eddie’s stomach was still roiling as he pulled up to the address Barry had listed. It was a nondescript building and he stepped out to look around. Chains on all the doors and windows barred, a glance with his flashlight through the nearest one telling him it was empty and abandoned. He almost thought it was the wrong place, headed back to his car to check his GPS when he saw—

Mick Rory. He was coming down the street from somewhere up the way. Eddie shuffled lower in his seat as he watched the man get into an old jalopy, rusting at the wheel-wells. He took down the plate number, heart hammering.

Mick Rory’s cigarette butts found in the same location Barry had been the night before. Was the arsonist the Lightning Killer? But there wasn’t a single burn on the victims and anyway, Rory always worked with a partner.

A second of hesitation and his decision was made. He called in an APB on the license plate and slipped back out of his car and to the spot he saw Rory emerge from. There was an empty lot between two old buildings that looked like they’d once been used as offices. One of them was barred up, the other…

He pulled out his gun and eased toward the side door.

It creaked open and he winced, sliding it as quietly closed behind him as he could but it was still too loud. He moved forward fast, light on his feet—

“Back so soon, Mick?” a voice called out. “Forget your lighter again?”

Eddie glanced around the corner into the room and had to do a double-take. It was a full workshop, tables and lights and carpets and a TV, fridge, workout gear and welding tools and just—

He zeroed in on a pair of boots sticking up over the back of the couch and caught sight of the man they were attached too, magazine open in front of him, lounging and not looking yet in Eddie’s direction.

He moved fast around the wall and into the room, gun leading, caught the exact moment the man glanced up at the noise and motion in his peripheral vision and caught sight of him and—

“Don’t move! Not a muscle, Snart. I will shoot you.”

He meant it, probably more than he ever had, knowing just how dangerous the man in front of him was. Leonard Snart, the Lightning Killer. It really was that easy, wasn’t it? And that convoluted.

“You sure about that?”

Very. I’m not about to take a single chance here so you even think about reaching for a weapon and I will put a bullet in you. Get your hands on your head.”

Cold eyes stared into his and Eddie inched forward, too tense to waver. The man pursed his lips and the magazine dropped on his chest, hands open and toward the sky.

“I take it I get to stand up at some point?”

“On your head Snart. And slowly.”

He moved carefully, nothing sudden. Eddie kept waiting for him to lunge, to shift, but he didn’t. He stood, clad in black jeans and boots and a sweater, potentially with any number of weapons concealed.

“How’d you find me, Detective Thawne?”

He blinked. “You know my name?”

The man tensed and Eddie pushed on, not about to let himself be distracted.

“Get on the ground.”

He stepped forward, along the aisle between the couch and coffee table. Eddie moved back to let him until he could step away from the furniture.

“The ground, Snart!”

“Still curious what brings you to my humble abode.” He started to kneel.

Eddie slipped one hand down for his cuffs, eyes not leaving the criminal in front of him. “I know what you’re up to. You and Barry.”

The man’s eyes got even sharper, somehow, narrower. “Do you, now? He tell you where to find me?”

He moved behind the man and got a cuff on his wrist, wishing he’d had the foresight to call or wait for backup. This would be so much easier with Joe watching his back.

“Leonard Snart, you’re under arrest. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be—”

The door to the workshop slammed open, the creak and smash deafening in the quiet room, disturbing the still air. Eddie’s hand contracted around Snart’s wrist, gun up as—

Eddie WAIT—

 

[ … ]

 

“Thanks for seeing me on such short notice, Dr. McGee.”

“I’ll admit, I was hoping that if I had my assistant send over files, I wouldn’t have to spare any time for whatever it is you’re investigating. But the CCPD have always been good to me, and I don’t mind repaying the courtesy.”

Joe cleared his throat, “well, we appreciate it. My questions aren’t ones that can really be answered too easily by a peek at your files. I’m curious about a man who used to work here, a bit of a recluse, we’re guessing. Name’s Eobard Thawne.”

The scientist had moved to her desk after greeting him and now settled into her chair, looking faintly surprised. “Eobard? I haven’t spoken with him in… well close to ten years.”

“Bad blood?”

“Not so much as all that. We had a quiet falling out, as friends tend to. He was… challenging, at times, and wanted more power at Mercury Labs but had a vision I didn’t agree with. So he moved on.”

“To Starling City, right?”

She hummed in agreement. “He spent a few years at Palmer Industries before leaving, which is about when we lost touch completely.”

“So he didn’t stick around there too long either?”

“I don’t believe so. He butted heads a lot with the young CEO, I gather. Eobard has always had a bit of a stubborn personality. The arrogance said to go with all great minds,” she leaned forward a little conspiratorially, “an affliction that I’ve noticed happens far more to men.”

He didn’t laugh at the harmless dig, focused on: “so Eobard was a control-freak ‘n a loner?”

She sat back, a little colder. “I suppose you could say that.”

“No wife, no kids?”

“Not when I knew him—what is this about, Detective West?”

“Standard procedure.”

She arched an eyebrow and he sighed, knowing he’d have to give her a little more than that.

“We’re looking into an old case, one you’ll know about. Tess Morgan.”

Her body language morphed again, suddenly more open. “Tess. Such a tragedy. She had so much to give to the world. Her and Harrison both. But you can’t think that Eobard…”

She let it hang and he didn’t correct her. “We’re looking for overlap between her case and that of Nora Allen.”

Dr. McGee blinked. “But her husband…” Her eyebrows drew together. “I had always wondered why Henry would do such a thing, would insist upon his innocence, if…”

Joe shifted uncomfortably. “Did Thawne know Tess or Nora? Or have any connection to their husbands?”

She pursed her lips, tight and falling deeper into thought. “Eobard and I were both a few years older than Tess and Nora. Doing our PhDs, they started out as research assistants for our lab after a recruitment event at small convention we were hosting. We all knew each other, of course, but there was nothing…”

“Doctor?”

“For a while there, Eobard was a little… taken, with Nora, if I recall. I don’t think it ever amounted to anything though, and he was focused on his work—our work, I should say.”

“Was Thawne jealous? Of Henry?”

“Maybe to start,” she brushed it off with a wave of her hand. “But what we’re talking about is decades-old. Nora and Henry were the perfect match, much the same as Tess and Harrison were, really. And Nora didn’t spend long working after graduation, what with having a child and all. I don’t think they had much contact.”

Joe wondered what Henry Allen was saying to Eddie right about then, and wondered if that was true or if Dr. McGee just hoped it was.

“D’you have any contact details of Thawne? Forwarding address? Email? Even an old resume. Our cyber guys haven’t found anything on the cloud for him, not even an old photo.”

She pressed a button on her desk phone and ask her assistant to rattle up the most recent contact information they had on file for the man, then tapped her lip.

“You know, I think…” she stood and moved to a photo frame taking out the back to reveal a pile of older photos underneath. “Somewhere in here… yes, there’s this one. He was famously camera-shy in those days, but this was us accepting an award for one of his patents.”

Joe took it and the air left his lungs. “This man—this is Eobard Thawne?”

The tone of his voice was too strangled and she looked at him in bemusement. “That’s what I said, Detective.”

He looked back down at the photo, into the smiling face of a young Hunter Zoloman.

 

Chapter Text

Eddie WAIT—”

Len’s head snapped up, eyes wide on Barry as he skidded into the room, halfway tripping over himself and flailing to a stop, shock all over his face.

Len didn’t hesitate.

He snatched the detective’s wrist from where he’d stalled on cuffing Len and brought it up and out, stiff and he used the tension in it, throwing his own body into the movement and pulling, hauling the detective right over his shoulder. He followed through as the man hit the ground hard, not letting his grip on his wrist go, twisting it behind his back until he shouted, keeping him on the ground, knee in his back.

Leonard – !” Barry started from somewhere nearby even as Len grabbed up the detective’s gun where it was knocked free and the man was grappling for it. He had it pointed at the back of Thawne’s head—

“Len DON’T!”

He inhaled, eyes flashing to Barry. The blood drained from the other man’s face. Len stilled, kneeling over the detective, gun cocked, eyes hard on Barry.

“Don’t hurt him.” His hands were out in front of him, face twisted up in some kind of despair. Len felt something twist inside of him, on his face, furious.

“Give me a reason, Barry.”

Barry swallowed and edged a half-step forward, “I know you think I did this but I didn’t, Leonard.”

His lip curled. However Barry had betrayed him, he should at least admit it. 

“That’s not a reason.” He was wrapped in ice, slipping the handcuff from his wrist, practiced movements, and it was on the detective’s instead a second later. Len kneeled on his arm, relishing making the man grunt as he got his other hand up and cuffed him with his own cuffs, a sluice of satisfaction at the sight, at the way the man swore under his breath.

Barry seemed to take that as an excuse to get closer and Len stood sharply, snapping the cop up onto his knees with a hand in his hair, gun trained on his head.

“Don’t, Barry,” it was halfway snarled.

The other man swallowed, eyes on his friend, expression wrought. Len fought down the surge of anger in his chest before Barry’s attention was back on him.

“I made a mistake, Leonard,” he whispered, voice strained. “I made a dumb mistake and shoot me if you want but Eddie’s just doing his job. Don’t hurt him.”

The man twitched under Len’s hand. Barry edged closer and Len swung the gun up to train it on him instead, daring him. It was too satisfying to watch his whole body constrict, the whites of his eyes showing.

“I trust you.” He didn’t exactly sound like he believed it and Len almost snorted, but then Barry was stepping forward again. Daring. “I still trust you.”

“You shouldn’t.” Len’s eyes narrowed as he said it.

But Barry still stepped forward until he was pressing the muzzle of Len’s gun against his forehead, right between the eyes.

“I’m still me, Leonard. Nothing’s changed in the past three days—”

EVERYTHING changed.”

Barry flinched but didn’t step back. Len’s heart was hammering so hard in his chest it was almost painful and he hadn’t noticed until right then.

“I know you’re mad. I know you think I did this. Just let me calm you down so you can listen to reason.”

He shouldn’t be entertaining this bullshit. Before he could decide on a course of action, the cop shifted beside him.

“Barry,” Thawne whispered, moved to stand and Len—

CRACK!

Barry’s back when ramrod straight at the sound, eyes wide but Len wasn’t careless. The smoking hole was in the carpet next to the cop and not through the man’s head. Barry’s eyes landed on it. Len reminded himself to breathe evenly, every muscle wound like he had a key in his back, twisted up tight.

“Don’t. Move. Cop.”

The man had fallen onto his ass at the sound, away from the shot with his back against the couch and legs akimbo; he looked up at Len with eyes like saucers, breathing ragged.

“Leonard,” Barry whispered, something different to his voice. He stepped forward, past the burnt hole in the carpet and into Len’s space. Len tensed again but Barry’s hands were on the sides of his neck, thumbs soothing on his jaw and his brain stilled in shock. “Hey no no no—” his voice was soft, sure. “I get it, you’re freaking out, Eddie’s here and I’m here and you—” Len wanted to protest he wasn’t some spooked fucking animal but his shoulders were so tight it was painful and Barry’s voice got even lower before he found a single word. “Just focus on me. This has nothing to do with him just focus on me, Leonard. Just me ‘n you. And I’m still me, I’m still your Barry.”

“Why should I believe you?” his voice was raw this time. Part of him wanted to be convinced.

The gun was at Len’s side at Barry moved a hand down and gripped Len’s arm to pull it forward, pull it flush against his crotch. Len inhaled slow, measured, tried to push through the static taking up his brain to figure out Barry’s angle. Barry pressed himself into the weapon. “It’s okay.”

Len swallowed, gears trying hard to shift in his head. Barry was so close, smelling like sweat and adrenaline, if adrenaline had a smell. Sharp like fear. Cologne under it, and his deodorant. It was overwhelming.

Barry nuzzled his neck and he pulled in air at the feel of lips against his neck. Before he could process the sensation, Barry pulled back, giving Len’s wrist a squeeze before letting go, leaving the gun where it was against himself. Slowly, tentatively, he brought his hands up to his button-down overshirt and undid them one by one. Len watched it slip from his shoulders, leaving him in a thin tee. His neck was still littered in healing bruises. He couldn’t look away.

“See?” Still whispering, but Barry’s voice had curled into something almost devious, catching his eye for a second. “The marks you left are still here. I’m still yours.”

Barry reached up again and—“Careful, Barry.” Len stopped him, free hand cupping his neck, thumb over his rabbit-fast pulse. Barry stilled and exhaled. Len could feel him getting hard against the gun. Barry rocked his hips into it.

“You know I don’t know how to be.”

Len felt something let go in his chest then, untwisting. It was replaced almost instantly by something warm and possessive, dangerous in a different way. Barry was playing with fire. He slipped his hand up into the man’s hair and tugged, saw Barry’s lips part, wet from where he licked them a second before. His eyes were looking lidded, dark underneath now and Len wanted to—

He pulled Barry down to his knees. If Barry was going to play, he’d call his bluff. But the man went willingly, looking up at Len too pretty, straining against the grip on his hair, making it tighter. His pupils were dilated, his hands reaching for Len’s belt. Len titled the gun to his cheek, fingers tight around it to the point of almost shaking.

“Buying your friend’s life?”

Barry’s eyes flashed to him, something almost like anger darkening his features. “Stop calling me a whore.”

He dragged the gun over Barry’s lips.

“You would too, wouldn’t you?” he mused. “Suck me off? Right in front of him.”

Barry trembled under his hands for a second, shame finally surfacing. His hands clenched on Len’s belt buckle, his throat clicked. They both knew he would. That knowledge was almost enough. “You shouldn’t give me so much power, Barry. Someone might get the wrong idea.”

“He’s already got the wrong idea,” Barry pulled his hands back and pressed them to his own thighs, on his knees. Len couldn’t help but want to praise him for the action.

“N’ what’s the right idea?”

Barry held his gaze. “That I’m yours.”

Barry had him and he knew it. It almost pissed him off, how easily Barry could slip under his defenses and take control. How easily manipulated he was. But he couldn’t deny how that made him feel. How Barry was his and Len wasn’t about to shoot his friend if it cost him that. Len wasn’t about to do almost anything that cost him that.

Just the realization was almost too much. He tried to crush it but it was there, steady, honest.

Len slipped the gun between Barry’s lips, not sure any more if he meant to punish or reward, to distract himself or to give in to it. But Barry moaned. Len almost moaned with him, watching his eyes flutter closed as his lips wrapped around it. He pressed it down hard against Barry’s tongue. It was still hot, still loaded, safety still off. It was dizzying levels of reckless. He couldn’t help how it made him feel though, cock suddenly aching, as if he’d never been more turned on.

His, and there was no one else like him. No one half so crazy or beautiful.

“What the fuck,” came the whisper from too near them and Len almost laughed. He could feel the edge of hysteria tinting everything just a little lopsided.

Barry’s eyes snapped open, flashed to his friend and his cheeks flushed. Len curled his fingers into the hair at the base of Barry’s neck and he screwed his eyes shut again. Len felt mean, suddenly, holding the back of his neck hard, holding him tight in place, pressing the gun in deeper to his mouth.

Don’t, Thawne,” he warned casually, dismissively.

Barry’s hands curled tight overtop his thighs, just taking it, even now. He swallowed around the gun, started to gag when Len didn’t let up, thrusting in deep with it. It had to taste like gunpowder. Barry just shivered, sucking, saliva slipping out at the corner of his mouth. He looked like every fantasy Len had never been creative enough to have, come to life.

And deep, tight and dark inside him, Len wanted to destroy him. He slid his hand to the side of Barry’s face, tips of his fingers lacing into his hair and palm cupping his cheek, contemplating all the ways he wanted to unmake him. How he wanted to drag Barry up by his hair and throw him over this couch and take him apart until he screamed and begged for release. Wanted to see how that throat felt constricting around his cock as Barry gagged and lost control, to see if Barry would look as pretty with his mouth gagged by a ring or ball instead, wanted to see him tied him up to his bed and wanted to fuck him for hours and wanted—

Wanted him, all of it. And so much more than sex. Fuck it—Len wanted to protect him.

Mine,” he rasped. Barry’s eyes snapped up to him, dark and heavy lids. Len brushed his thumb over Barry’s cheek. “You’re fucking crazy. But you’re mine.”

He pulled the gun from his mouth—saliva trailing, Barry’s eyes dazed and hazy—and took a deep, calming breath. The chaos was caged in his chest, aching to get out again, but he had no time to unleash hell like a natural disaster and he knew it. After a beat, Barry stumbled to his feet, chasing Len’s lips and he kissed him deep. Len returned it, surprised and pleased, realizing he’d missed it. It didn’t last long, just enough to make them breathless. Just enough to taste metal on Barry’s tongue.

They both pulled back for air when the detective shuffled near them, edging further back. Barry stepped away, gasping for air, back of his hand to his mouth to wipe away evidence of his shame. Len noticed his wrist was still faintly bruised. Thawne stopped moving again, eyes darting between them. Barry swallowed and looked to Len.

“Say I believe you didn’t sell me out. How did this happen, then?” Len’s voice was softer but no less cold. The gun was at his side and he clicked the safety on finally.

And just like that, they were back on an even keel. Barry relaxed visibly, scratching the back of his neck and looking consternated. “He hacked my email and traced my… Uber receipts to this place.”

“You… gotta be kidding me. Uber.

“I don’t drive.”

“Are you that stupid?” he snapped.

Barry rolled his eyes heavenward. “Apparently.”

It was too dumb a lie to be one. Fuck. “Does anyone else know?”

“I don’t—I don’t know. A tech guy but it won’t matter as soon as Eddie makes it back to the precinct, there’s no way any of this stays under wraps.” He looked at Thawne.

“What the fuck is wrong with you, Barry?” the man’s nose was curled, disgust for both of them obvious. Len couldn’t care, but Barry flinched.

“Eddie, please, I know how this looks but—”

“Do you? Do you have any idea how it looks, Barry, that I just watched you suck face with Lightning Killer?”

That again?

Barry dragged a hand down over his face. “He’s not the Midtown—the Lightning Killer. I swear.”

“Because you’re oh so objective here.”

“Serial killing’s not my style,” Len added helpfully, feeling gracious.

Thawne looked at the gun in his hand pointedly. Len rolled his eyes. A phone went off and all three of them tensed. It was vibrating in Thawne’s pocket.

“Every fucking time,” Len muttered. Barry actually barked out a quiet laugh and Len’s lips quirked up, glad he remembered their first meeting just as fondly.

“I’m just gonna…” Barry moved over to Thawne and kneeled down to slip it from his pocket. Thawne pointedly didn’t look at him.

“I’m really sorry about all of this Eddie. I swear I’ll explain it all.” He pulled the phone out and stood back up. “It’s… Joe.”

His sigh was heavy.

“Does he know?” Thawne asked, something almost petulant around his features. Barry looked guilty and Len wondered how he’d ever managed to lie his way through anything, really.

“Not… all of it.”

West knew? Len narrowed his eyes. “Does he know about me, Barry?”

He glanced at Len and winced. The phone in his hand stopped buzzing. Len wanted to punch something.

“Since when?”

“I wouldn’t mind an answer to that either,” Thawne muttered.

“Look can we just focus on—Len, you should get out of here while I take Eddie back to the precinct.” He turned fully to face the other man, back to Len. He tried not to feel insulted.

“Aiding and abetting,” Thawne muttered.

“It’s called obstruction,” Barry countered and Len almost snorted.

“You’re right—Accessory.”

Barry shook his head. “Just—I’ll explain on the way back and you can decide what you want to charge me with after, okay?”

“Plan to keep me in cuffs the whole time?”

“You plan to arrest me?”

“You’re the Lightning Killer. You and Snart. If you’re not gonna kill me—”

I’m the Lightning Killer?” Barry took a step back from Thawne, shaking his head and even Len was surprised. “Eddie—the man is stalking me. He killed my mother!”

“You’re the one fucking him!”

“Leonard is not the man who killed my mom.”

“Then who the hell is, Barry? Eobard Thawne is bound to be a dead end because every single road leads to you and Snart—”

“Eobard what? Who the hell is Eobard?”

“That,” a voice came from surprisingly close to Len, and he felt the muzzle of a gun hit the back of his neck, “would be me.”

 

[ … ]

 

Joe took the stairs up to Barry’s lab two at a time.

“Hey Barr I—where’s Barry?”

Cisco was pacing back and forth and stilled as soon as Joe looked up from his phone—

“Joe? Oh shit uhh—Barry’s um, out to lunch.”

The man looked haggard, hair a mess like he’d run his fingers through and it—there it was, he dragged both hands through it again.

“Cisco?”

“I can’t even—he’s gonna be so pissed and never talk to me if I tell you too—”

“Tell me what?”

“Has Eddie talked to you?”

Eddie? “He’s not picking up his phone, figure it’s in a bin at Iron Heights right about now—”

Cisco winced. “About that... the thing is—well maybe we should just wait till he and Barry get back…”

“Barry’s at lunch with Eddie?”

“No, Barry was at lunch with Hunter, but—”

Joe’s phone clattered to the floor. No. Cisco stared at him in confusion.

“Joe?”

“Tell me—tell me you did not just say Barry’s with Hunter Zoloman.”

“He was with Hunter, but now he’s with Eddie? Maybe. At some warehouse and why are you looking at me like that?”

“Cisco—Hunter is Eobard Thawne. He is the Lightning Killer.”

There was a beat of silence. Cisco’s eyes had never been wider. He swallowed audibly.

“Oh. Well. In that case—I think I know where to find them.”

 

[ … ]

 

Barry’s breath stopped.

Standing behind Leonard with a gun pointed right at his head was—

Hunter—?” he whispered, mouth moving faster than his brain, which was nothing but white noise.

“Your gun, Snart. You’re enough of a thorn without twisting Barry with your salacious armaments.” It was in Len’s hand still, up in the air and he breathed slowly.

Barry shook his head, still not—no.

No.

This couldn’t be what he—

Leonard arched an eyebrow, hand opening. Hunter took his gun—Eddie’s gun really—and slid it into the seat of his pants without taking his own weapon off Leonard.

You?” Barry found himself whispering, feeling like cotton was filling his brain.

“You’ll regret this,” Leonard’s voice was low with threat.

“I sincerely doubt that, Mr. Snart.”

Eddie had struggled to his feet beside Barry and stepped forward “Whatever game you’re playing at, Hunter, you need t—”

“Keep it up, Edward,” the man behind Leonard chastised, voice so much colder than Barry had ever heard it. “It’s Eobard.”

Eddie inhaled sharply. Barry’s throat unstuck. “Eobard. Just—let Len go. You and I can talk about whatever this is.”

The man laughed. Ice trickled down Barry’s spine.

“Okay Barry. I’ll let him go. Thawne too. So long as you behave. Now take Edward’s extra pair of cuffs, would you? I can’t have you making any sudden moves. And drop that phone.”

Barry’s fist was still clenched around Eddie’s phone. He didn’t know what to do, didn’t know how to process—

“You followed me here.” It needed to be said. “Because you’ve been stalking me.” His address, showing up right when—

“I said drop the phone, Barry.”

He swallowed, something sliding into his veins, his muscles—his voice. “You put cameras in my apartment. You killed my—”

The gun cocked. Barry exhaled. He dropped the phone.

“Now the cuffs.”

His eyebrows drew together, every muscle pulled taught. “You killed my mother.”

The man’s lips quirked up, as much of his face as Barry could see anyway, behind Leonard. “I have so much to share with you, Barry. But for right now, I need you to be a good boy and put those cuffs on.”

Eddie stepped to the side, away from Barry. The man’s eyes snapped to him.

“Don’t try to be a hero, Edward.”

Eddie’s own hands were still cuffed behind his back.

“We’re not gonna play your twisted little games.”

“No? Well then I guess… you can be the first to die.”

Time distilled. Every hair on Barry’s body stood on end, stomach flipped, breath caught in his throat as Eobard stepped back and away from Leonard, pushing him to the ground and out of the way as he turned the gun from Leonard’s head to Eddie, as Eddie’s eyes widened in realization, as he started to stumble back in anticipation as the shot lined up in the space of a half second—as Leonard was faster than Eobard, faster than Barry, than Eddie, anticipating the shove, diving into it, forward to—

NO

The gun cracked simultaneous with Leonard tackling Eddie, in front of him, between him and the—

NO!”

Barry dove to his side, suddenly hyperventilating and on his knees against the cold concrete. Leonard was curled on top of Eddie and—still breathing. He was still breathing. Still—there was a pulse, Barry’s hand almost slippery on his neck. He forced himself to breathe. There was blood soaking through Leonard’s shirt but he was clutching his—stomach?

“Leonard—”

“Motherfucker—” Leonard inhaled and Barry felt his eyes wet, either in relief or horror he didn’t know. “Fucking went right through.” He tilted back on his knees and Barry steadied him, hands on both arms. Len’s hand was over a wound in his gut’s side, bloody. Eddie’s eyes were wide as saucers, shirt bloody but—

“It went through the couch,” he rasped, following Barry’s worry.

“And the next one is through your head if you don’t smarten up,” Eobard said form somewhere behind him and Barry felt the press of a muzzle to his own hair at the back of his head.

You—” it was all he could get out, tears stinging his eyes, closing them and hissing in air through his teeth. Leonard’s breathing was labored, next to him.

“I didn’t want it to happen this way,” Eobard sounded like he was having a casual conversation. “Actually, once I heard my name and realized how close this bumbling fool of a detective was to finding me, I wanted to kill Snart with Edward’s gun, and kill Edward with this one of Snart’s I picked up on my way in here. But now I’ll have to do them both with—”

“NO!” Barry turned his head, eyes wide as the gun was suddenly between his brows. “No, please—do whatever you want to me—” He stared up the barrel at the man who—the man who—“It’s me you want. Do whatever you want to me. Just don’t hurt them.”

“I can play nice Barry, so long as you do. Now—take Edward’s extra cuffs.”

Barry didn’t hesitate this time. He moved toward Eddie and Leonard moved himself to sitting with his back against the couch, hand over his exit wound and eyes pinched closed.

“Put pressure on it,” Barry murmured, hands slippery with sweat on the cuffs he pulled from Eddie’s belt. Leonard cracked an eye in his direction. His face was starting to sweat, paler than Barry had ever seen him.

“You don’t say.”

Barry swallowed, pitched his voice to the man behind him. “He needs an ambulance.”

“Oh gee, let me get right on that.”

He closed his eyes, the cold metal of the cuffs unforgiving against one of his bruised wrists. “Please.”

“Pause that.” Barry stilled the cuff around the other wrist. “You know what, why doesn’t Edward come with us? Cuff yourself to his cuffs. You’re so much more cooperative when one of your pals is in danger.”

“Don’t

“So you’d rather I shoot him?”

Barry felt rage—impotent rage. His hands shook as he linked his own cuffs around Eddie’s already linked wrists.

“Let’s go. You too, Edward.”

Eddie cast a concerned look to him and followed Barry up. Barry stared forlornly at Leonard. The shot was low and to the side—no danger to his liver or spleen, no arterial bleeding. His immediate danger was bleeding out or shock, and knowing Leonard, mostly the former, which shouldn’t kill him for at least 30 minutes, maybe even hours. Hopefully.

“Come on.” Eobard yanked his arm, dragging him forward.

“He needs an—”

Eobard paused, considering Barry like he was a strange little nuisance. His eyes were just… devoid. Of love, of empathy. They were lacking in anything but cruelty. Slowly, carefully, he put his hand into Barry’s pocket and pulled out his phone. He tried not to squirm, feeling uncomfortable at even this much contact from the man. But then it was free and Eobard tossed it to the ground near Leonard.

“He can choose his own fate.”

 

[ … ] 

 

“I want it on record, Detective, that we should be waiting for backup.”

“Noted,” Joe ground out through his teeth at Agent Reynolds, tires squealing onto the road where Barry’s Uber receipts pointed them. The time it would take for tactical backup to assemble was time Joe was certain they didn’t have. No one was answering their phones including ‘Hunter Zoloman’ and hell if he was waiting one second to find his son.

“Can you please explain what connection Barry has to this addre—”

“That’s Eddie’s car,” Joe cut her off, parking behind it and out the door a second later. He could almost feel the frustration coming off her in waves but Barry was in danger and that was all that mattered—Barry and Eddie.

“There’s nothing here,” she was already checking out the nearest building, gun out and ready. He nodded at her, looking up and down the barren avenue. Shit.

“We don’t have time for—”

“I told Cisco to get access to the city’s electric grid through the taskforce’s resources before we left—one sec,” she pulled out her phone, “he sent it. There’s only… two buildings with power on this street.” She glanced one way up the street to a small shop advertising spare car parts; 10-to-1 it was a front. She glanced the other way.

“This way.”

He followed behind, catching sight of a pail of cigarette ashes and butts, some strewn around the pavement near it. “Rory.” He turned toward it, finding himself alongside a building, a red door slightly ajar.

They pulled out their guns, both aimed down, and communicated silently. He took point, eased the door open and cringed at how it creaked, hearing nothing inside, hearing barely anything over the steady drumming of his heartbeat pulsing in his ears. He started edging down the hall.

“I swear to god,” a voice came from beyond him in the main room, something strained about it that made the hairs on the back of Joe’s neck stand up. “The next person to come through that door better shoot me properly.”

Joe rounded the corner, breath catching in his throat. Leonard Snart was on the ground, sitting back against a grease-stained couch that had seen better days, framed in shadows from it, a single yellow bulb hanging over the coffee table on the other side. But it wasn’t so dark that Joe couldn’t see—

He holstered his gun, moving swiftly to the man’s side, “Snart—”

The other man was sweating, dark under his eyes. “West.”

“Where’s—”

“That fucker—” he made as if to move but hissed in a breath and settled again, eyes closed. He continued quieter, “that fucker took them both.”

“Barry and Eddie?”

“Mm.”

“The man who took them, was it a blond guy?”

Eobard. Made sure we knew his fucking—”

“How long ago?”

He drew in a breath. “Don’t…”

Joe nodded. “Did they say where they were going? Anything?”

“Phone.”

Behind him, he could hear Agent Reynolds on her walkie hailing an ambulance and shook his head in confusion. “Phone? Barry ain’t answering, we tried, he—”

Snart lifted the hand not clutching his stomach and pointed weakly at—Barry’s phone. No wonder he couldn’t answer. Joe inhaled and grabbed it up, cracked screen and all.

“How’s this gonna—”

“He’s got that…” another labored breath, “that fucking app. Find my phone.”

“But his phone is right here.” Maybe the man was getting delusional. He’d lost a lot of blood. And now he was groaning, but if anything it seemed like he was frustrated. Joe almost had to give him that one—he couldn’t feel anything but anger and concern, but Snart was shot in the stomach so he might win in the impatience department.

“Old phone,” he shook his head a little, seeming to gather himself when he looked at Joe again. “The one I stole.”

Even in this, palms sweating, ready to stand up and rush to wherever at a second’s notice, Joe couldn’t stop himself from giving Snart a flat expression at that. If nothing else, the man caught it, corners of his mouth lifting up, shameless even as he bled out.

“Still signed in.”

“And that phone’s with Barry?”

He shook his head then nodded. “Your partner. Slipped it in his pocket while I…” he looked down at his stomach and Joe didn’t quite get it. While he got shot? Whatever that had to do with Eddie, now wasn’t the time. He took Barry’s phone and Snart rasped off a password for it.

“How’d you even—”

“Top five most common…”

Of course he’d know something like that. But Joe was in and accessing the app.

“We’ve got a location.” He said, mostly to himself but he looked back at Snart and—

The man was alert, more so than Joe thought he could be, eyes focused intently on Joe’s, almost fervent in their intensity. He reached out, hand strong where it gripped his arm, just one tight squeeze.

“Get him back.”

Joe nodded, suddenly understanding. This was what Barry saw in him. This was what Snart was to him. And now, it might be the one thing that saved him.

 

Chapter Text

They shuffled along, moving as fast as they could with Barry wrists at his front cuffed to Eddie’s behind his back. Barry kept having nauseating thoughts of being cuffed to a corpse, determined not to let that happen. He couldn’t even think about Leonard (couldn’t think of anything but Leonard) as they made their way outside and to a white nondescript van.

Eobard opened the back for them, and inside was a wheelchair locked into place. Barry swore under his breath.

“That’s how you’ve been luring victims,” Eddie said and their captor gave him a flat look.

“Yes, obviously. Now get in.”

Barry was seething, thinking of all the people he’d hurt with this. “All this time—part of our investigation. You must have been laughing at our theories.”

“Often.”

“Did you set Leonard up on purpose by killing Korsukova?”

“A convenient happenstance.” If anything, the man seemed almost annoyed that he hadn’t planned it that way.

“But Griffin—”

“I have to admit,” the man’s lip curled, “I couldn’t suppress my disgust at watching you and that—” he nodded his chin back toward the warehouse, “your choice in partners leaves a lot to be desired, Barry.”

He bristled. “How long did you have cameras in my apartment?”

“That’s enough chatting. Get in the van or I’m going to shoot Edward in the leg and make you help me load him in.”

Eddie blanched and Barry complied, unable to keep stalling, clambering up in their still-awkward shuffle. Thawne followed them in, hauling on the back of Barry’s t-shirt when they almost fell, trying to move their legs at the same time and balance together. He reached around them for Eddie’s belt and liberated the cuffs’ key, pressing it to Barry hand.

“Uncuff Eddie, would you?”

Barry did as he was instructed since the gun was still trained on Eddie, Thawne stepping a little further away again, and they followed orders for Eddie to sit down in the chair. Thawne tossed Barry a roll of duct tape that he barely caught but managed, taping Eddie’s arms in place to the chair on instructions before the other man came over, taking Barry’s cuff’s link and dragging him—

Well, that was awkward. He was dragged onto Eddie’s lap with his cuffs down the back of the chair, arms over Eddie’s shoulders like an embrace, pulled taught when Thawne snagged the chain to the back of something on the wheelchair.

“Stay cozy.”

“Lovely,” Eddie muttered. Barry sighed and dropped his head onto his own arm, next to Eddie’s head. He tried not to breathe in his ear as Thawne moved to the front seat.

“Can you see where we’re headed?” Barry asked, since Eddie was the one facing forward.

“Not downtown. We’re on Chowdry Street.”

Barry hummed. “Heading West?”

“To the burbs, yeah.”

At least it was a part of town Barry knew well enough. There was a quiet beat.

“Look, Barry…”

“I’m so sorry, Eddie.” He closed his eyes, not that he could see Eddie’s face but still. “This is all my fault.”

The other man’s exhale tickled the hair on the skin of his neck. He imagined being in this positon with Len but that thought just led to—he pushed past the twist of worry in his gut. He didn’t have the luxury to think of anything but how to get out of this.

“You and Snart…”

He really wanted to talk about that now?

“It’s complicated.”

“I’ll say.”

“I’m sorry you had to see… that.” He was too tense to be embarrassed but shame still trickled up his throat.

Eddie snorted and shifted a little under him. It wasn’t comfortable for Barry but had to be a lot less so for Eddie, what with Barry’s legs on top of his, probably cutting off circulation at his thighs. He tried to shift without things getting any worse for them.

“I don’t get… why did he save my life?”

Barry shook his head then stopped because there was no room to do it. “I don’t really… know. Leonard’s an enigma.”

“He would’ve shot me, right?”

Barry wished he had a better answer than, “probably, yeah.”

“I guess I owe you both for saving me. Even if your methods were unconventional.”

He almost wanted to laugh. It was painfully awkward and sitting in the man’s lap was the worst place to have this conversation, but it beat never speaking to one another again. And… they might never get another chance to have it.

“I should’ve told you… you wouldn’t have tracked him like that if you knew.”

Eddie laughed, though it sounded wry. “Really, Barr? I probably would’ve tracked him faster.”

Right, still a criminal. Barry winced. “Still.”

“I won’t disagree. I have no idea what you’re thinking, with your whole… whatever you’re doing. But… for what it’s worth, I’m sorry too. That I thought you were the Lightning Killer.”

Right, there was that. “Why did you?”

The van was winding through light traffic and things were quiet enough for a minute that Barry started to feel antsy again, pulling at this cuffs, seeing if they were just hooked and he could unlink them from whatever it was.

“I… guess I have some biases I need to work though,” Eddie finally said, voice quiet. Barry stilled. “You were lying and I knew it, but I got it twisted in my head about what and why. You were so interested in the case and your behaviour was erratic and I just… you have childhood trauma, you could have repressed memories. I thought… the apple and the tree. The lightning scars didn’t help.”

He added the last bit like an afterthought, an excuse, but Barry felt hollow. No less anxious, but there was something numb and hurt next to that feeling now, different than the hurt he’d felt earlier when Eddie first accused him. That was full of anger. This…

“You thought I was like my dad. A good man gone off the rails. Because you didn’t believe my dad was innocent. So I couldn’t be either.” It wasn’t a question but he felt Eddie nod anyway, then tilt his head back.

“I’m sorry, Barr. I should’ve believed you. We all should’ve believed you.”

It was something. He held on to it.

The van pulled to a stop.

 

[ … ]

 

Joe raced out the warehouse and to his car at top speed. The dot on the screen was stationary, which meant Thawne already had them at his destination, too many minutes ahead of him already. Agent Reynolds tried to call him back, told him to wait for backup. He could hear the ambulance sirens in the distance, already close. He knew Reynolds and backup would be close behind him.

He got the location address off the screen then just stopped for a moment and stared at it. It couldn’t be right. There was no way.

He got out his walkie and contacted dispatch for backup, rattling off an address he knew by heart.

The Lightning Killer had taken Barry home.

 

[ … ]

 

Barry looked up as the vehicle stopped and then he started. His heart clenched. No.

The vehicle pulled forward once the garage door opened but Barry had already seen it, seen—

“No. Not here,” he twisted around as much as he could toward their captor, feeling trapped and confined suddenly, constricted in a new and horrible way. “Not here—not—”

“Where—” Eddie started.

“There’s no place like home, Barry. Or didn’t you know—I bought this place. Three years ago, actually, when I first moved back to Central.”

He felt sick. The man who killed his mother owned his childhood home. The home where she died. He tried to breathe. Eddie was smartly silent as Barry shook on top of him.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Eddie seethed out for him as soon as Eobard opened the side door to the van. “You’re insane.”

“You know Edward, insanity is really quite a vague term. And most definitely a matter of perspective.”

He unhooked the chair form the van and started wheeling them down the ramp and into the house. Barry kept his eyes locked on the man’s smiling face, wishing his hands weren’t hooked to whatever they were. Wishing he could pummel this monster to death.

“I was going to bring you here after lunch, Barry,” Thawne winked down at him and his gut churned, “without any tag-alongs or interruptions. I suppose we have to make the most of it, though. Please, look around. I’ve done the best I can with it.”

“With…?” He glanced to the side, then started, did a double-take. “I’m gonna be sick.”

“You don’t like it? It took me a long time to track down as much of the same furniture as I could. How’d I do?”

It looked exactly like it had that night.

“How did you even…?”

“My memory is very good. And your childhood photographs tell a story. Or did you think you’d just misplaced that album?”

He couldn’t help it—he lunged at the man, snarling. It did nothing. He was cuffed and stuck to a wheelchair with Eddie and he almost toppled both of them and Thawne laughed but Barry—Barry saw red.

“Let me outta here, Thawne. Let me out and I swear to god I’m going to kill you.”

“Oh—now that would be something. You want to hit me, Barry?”

“More than anything.”

“Well. That makes two of us.”

And like that, whatever Barry was hooked to was unclasped. He tumbled back, off of Eddie and out of the chair, onto his ass. He was on his feet in seconds though, cuffed hands up in front of him.

“Come on, Barry. Show me what you’ve got. I’ve been waiting a long time for this, after all.”

He wished he could keep a cool head but he couldn’t. He threw himself at the man who killed his mother and snarled when he sidestepped and laughed, launching himself right back at him. Thawne brought an elbow down on him and Barry took a second on the next run, breathed against the pain, aimed to feint but Thawne saw it coming, managed to trip Barry up and threw him back against Eddie, knocking the chair back, halfway in his lap. He struggled to his feet.

“I thought West gave you and Iris self-defense training. Is this all he was good for?”

He lunged dead on, hands out toward that smug face and neck and he could see the other man’s eyes widen, the move unexpected and he got the satisfaction of his fist connecting, of the cuffs chain scrapping the man’s skin.

That was all he got.

Thawne grabbed and threw him back against a side table, catching him hard in his back. He was hauled up by his t-shirt and thrown to the ground. He didn’t see the kick coming, curling instinctually around his stomach, gasping through the pain as another blow landed and then another one, his back and side, front again. The man got a hand in his hair and slammed him back against the hardwood floor and he groaned at the contact, on his back, expecting more blows that he couldn’t block, not like this, trying to hold his arms in front of his face but they were pulled down and—

Fuck, Thawne sat on his arms, sat on him. Barry struggled, snarled, adrenaline muting the pain but the man was heavier, faster, more practiced and ready and—

His hands were on Barry’s neck. He gasped in a thin stream of air, the man not squeezing hard enough to kill. Not yet.

“Such a lovely sight. You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for this.”

Barry tried to buck him off. He was distantly aware of Eddie shouting like he had been all the while, telling Thawne to get off him. The hands on his neck were hot and squeezed harder.

“Why me? What’d you even want from me?” Barry gasped out, almost regretting using up so much air for it, tears leaking out of his eyes. The fingers on his neck twitched in response.

“I have wanted to watch you die…a thousand painful deaths.”

Why?” He rasped, giving up on bucking up, spots of black dancing in his vision.

“Oh don’t you see—you weren’t mine.”

“Hn?” He didn’t have the air for words.

“When I found out that Nora had a son… for years I had tried so hard, Barry. To toe the company line. To be normal. But normal is beneath me. It always has been. And you—the perfect, angelic child, growing into something so much like your father—”

His grip tightened and Barry lost any ability to breathe. He relaxed it again a second later, letting Barry gasp in a slow breath. It was thin, the grip still too tight. He was teasing Barry with his own death, playing with his food before he ate it.

“I was there for you that night, you know. But Nora—she was always so radiant. Killing her was exquisite. I couldn’t believe how exquisite, so much better than I could have ever imagined. It made me… insatiable.”

Saliva was building up in Barry’s mouth but he couldn’t swallow even as it threatened to block his airway further, couldn’t do anything. Nothing was in focus anymore.

“I have wanted for so long to see you suffer. And here you are, the reason the walls have been closing in, the crack in an uncrackable case. I was doing this for years before you stumbled onto that warehouse, Barry. In Starling and then here, honing my skill. Not a single lead until you. But then it became fun. And I realized—all the more reason you should’ve been mine.”

“I’d never be yours,” he gasped out, barely following that jumble. “You killed my mother, you just shot Leonard for nothi—” he made a constricted noise, throat closing off completely. He was choking, limbs trying to seize, to buck the other man off in vein.

“How beautiful.” It sounded muffled and far away. Blood started to pound in his ears. Would his trachea collapse or would he suffocate first? Would the blood being cut off from his brain make it painless?

It didn’t feel painless. It burned. He could barely flail now, carotid arteries throbbing. It was useless. His vision was black with flashes of color and light. His lungs kept trying to expand, starting to burn too. He couldn’t—couldn’t think.

This was it—this was how he was going to die.

The hands retreated off his neck. His gasp sounded like that of a whale coming up for air—wet, undignified and, in his case, desperate. He gasped in the next several too, coughing.

“Oh, Barry,” there was a hand patting his head. “I’m not going to kill you like this. Though it is so, so tempting. Delicious, even. I just needed to put you in your place.”

Air burned his lungs and he sucked it in greedily. His vision was just barely starting to clear.

“I want you to know that I could though, Bartholomew. Kill you right here where I killed her.”

He almost let out a sob but needed the air too much. The man thumbed his lower lip and—Barry tried not to gag—pressed into his mouth, but not against his tongue, thank something. No, Eobard thumbed his eye-teeth.

“You know dental records are as unique as a thumbprint?” Just like the print on the thumb currently caressing his molars, invading and stroking each tooth. “Do you know what it’s like to have something unique from each person I’ve killed? Something that was theirs—and now it’s mine.

Barry closed his eyes even as they were finally almost clear of black spots, shuddering, but a second later his jaw was held tight and fast in the man’s hand, forcing them open.

“Look at me when I’m speaking to you, Barry.” The hand retreated. “That’s better.”

“What…” he sounded raspy. It was hard to get a full breath with the way the man was sitting on him but he tried. “What’d’you want with me, Eobard?”

“What, indeed.”

Thawne stepped up, off him. Barry started to stand but the other man was faster, grabbing him up by his tee, pulling him to his feet. He struggled to keep them under him, lightheaded as Thawne yanked him forward, turned him on a dime, pulled Barry’s back flush against his chest with an arm wrapped around his shoulders. His cuffed wrists went up to the arm, not even sure if he was holding on or trying to pull it off but a second later a knife was up under Barry’s neck. He stilled, chin tilted up away from the blade. Everything was sticky with sweat, tee sticking to his back, and even his neck felt wet with it, a sheen between the skin and blade.

“That’s it, Barry. That’s enough of that.”

He swallowed and wished he hadn’t, feeling the tip of the blade against his Adam’s apple as it bobbed.

“What’d’you want?” he had to ask again, had to grind out between his teeth, instinctually trying not to move his jaw to speak. It was hard, still feeling breathless, still blinking wetness out of his eyes from being choked.

The arm around his shoulders moved out of his grasp and went up to his forehead. Thawne brushed his matted hair back from his face, dragging through it, almost soothing. He shuddered.

“Oh Barry,” the man was too near his ear, body too close to his. It was all too intimate. He glanced down at Eddie right in front of them, stuck to that chair, holding Barry’s gaze with a fervent, fearful intensity. “Do you really think you could understand what I want?”

This guy’s ego… Barry’s eyes closed in frustration for a second, feeling his injuries more. He tested twitching away just a little but the knife pressed right under his jaw in response. His eyes bulged open, head tilted further back.

Hey—” he gasped out.

“Well, do you?”

It wasn’t a rhetorical question? He didn’t dare swallow again, no matter how his throat had the urge. “Try me.”

The man hummed and the knife pulled back. To Barry’s shock, Thawne moved it down and… put it in Barry’s cuffed and sweaty palm? The man held it there, Barry’s slippery fingers clasping around it, grip weak. The man moved just a little and—

“No—” Barry pushed back, stumbled back without any coordination, pressing into him in an instinct to get away from—his hand dropped the knife but Thawne kept it there, pressing it hot to his palm, pulling his hands toward Eddie before he snapped them back. “NO!”

“Shhh—shh shh shh,” Eobard had stopped pulling his hands forward, had taken the knife back, and was whispering soothingly near his ear, was brushing his hand through Barry’s hair again. “It’s okay.”

No,” he shook his head, tears and sweat obscuring his vision and he blinked hard, trying to get Eddie back into focus. The other man was still bound to the chair, eyes on the knife in Eobard’s hand.

“It’s okay, Barry. I won’t hurt you. Not if you do this for me. This is what I want.”

“I won’t hurt Eddie.”

The man was so close, helping him stand, it was almost a hug. “I’ll help you.”

“You’ll have to kill me first.”

“And I will, Barry, if you disappoint me. I’ll kill you and him and everyone you ever cared about.” There was the anger there again, sudden and sharp. “But you could live, Barry. You and me, together.”

Why? Why is this—why would you think I would do this?” His whole body shook.

“You might not know it yet, Barry, but you’re special. You’re just like me.”

“I am nothing like you.”

“You could be, Barry. And this is all it would take. Don’t you want to avenge her?”

Barry fought back the urge to vomit. He closed his eyes, unable to block out the image of her on the floor not far from where he stood. He was trying so hard not to think about— “Eddie has nothing to do with my mother.”

“No, he doesn’t. But I took something of yours. Now you can take something of mine, since it tagged along anyway.”

“Yours?”

“Edward is, of course, my nephew. The closest thing I have to progeny.”

Barry’s eyes snapped opened, eyebrows up in his hairline. Eddie looked just as shocked as he felt.

“I’m your what?! You’re not my—”

“Uncle?” Thawne finally stepped back and away from Barry and he felt suddenly cold and weak. He shivered, reminding his feet to keep their balance as the man moved closer to Eddie, that knife sliding up his arm like it was teasing him. “Of course I am.”

“I think I would know if I had a crazy uncle,” Eddie leaned away from the knife tip now playing against his cheek.

“You would—if you weren’t such a disappointment, Edward. Your father Malcolm and I were thick as thieves once upon a time. And I with you, back when I lived in Central, until you were about five. It’s such a shame you don’t remember, really.”

Barry tried to catch Eddie’s eye but the man was focused on Thawne—on his uncle. He’d circled behind Eddie, leaning down to make him tilt his head all the way back to look up at him. Barry couldn’t help but see the exposed line of his neck, the way Eobard’s hand was tight over his shoulder and clavicle, so close to his neck. His own throbbed.

“That’s a lie.”

Barry glanced surreptitiously around the room with just his eyes, not moving his head. Anything he could use to drop the other man without getting Eddie killed, that knife way too close for comfort.

“Is it?” He seemed amused. “Tell me I don’t look like Malcolm, Edward… You can’t, can you? We both had our father’s jaw, after all. Our mother’s eyes. Trying to remember, now? I would’ve sent postcards, but your father didn’t want you to have anything to do with me. Not after…”

“After?” Eddie seemed engrossed. Barry couldn’t blame him, but he shifted himself ever so slightly toward the nearest lamp anyway. Would hitting him with that be enough?

“Have you ever owned a cat?”

“I’m… more of a dog person.”

Barry shifted toward the lamp under the guise of moving away from Eobard, where he had circled to Eddie’s other side.

“Are you sure? Do you remember your little dog Sparky?”

“Sparky? He… died of old age.”

“He died of a shovel to the back of his head when he wouldn’t stop barking every time I came over.”

“You killed my dog?”

“You saw it, but it was our little secret. Not that Mal knew that. He suspected, though. Didn’t want me around you much after that. The final straw was the neighbor’s cat, though. It just wouldn’t stop caterwauling in the alley outside my window at night. It had to be done. I thought it might be a valuable lesson to teach you, since you were always such a crybaby too. Showed you how I skinned it and told you I’d do the same to you. You wouldn’t stop crying. I was joking, of course,” he laughed again, but then his face turned abruptly dark. “Malcolm didn’t find it so funny.”

“I… I didn’t… I had nightmares for years about—did you say I was five?”

“Barry—”

His head snapped up from where he was about to grab the lamp.

“Don’t.”

He swallowed, swaying in place. Eobard clapped Eddie on the shoulder and moved back around him and toward Barry. 

“You could take this fool from me. He can’t even remember—”

“Kids often repress traumatic memories,” Barry shot back, voice quiet but strong, standing straight as Thawne entered his space.

The man’s hand cupped his face, thumb stroking his cheek. “But not you. You remembered what I did that night. Even when everyone told you you were wrong. You remembered.”

He did. He met the man’s eyes, feeling nothing but hot rage again. “If you just hated me then why did you kill her?”

“I wasn’t planning to. Oh, I tried to be good, Barry. Like you’re trying now.” He moved back around Barry, hand gripping his neck this time, pushing him forward toward Eddie. “But she told me—she said she didn’t want children. Not ever. That we would never work because didn’t you know—I wanted to be a family man. She seemed so sincere. And then—well, then she met Henry. Then she had you. I had fallen out of touch with her by then, of course. No Facebook in those days. I had other dalliances. But I heard it through Tess—you know Tess Morgan. Her and Nora were still so close. Such good friends. But you, Barry—you weren’t supposed to exist. Not as anyone else’s.”

He was pushed almost overtop Eddie, catching himself with his hands on the other man’s shoulder. He breathed deep when Eobard let him stand, but as soon as his hands were free they were filled. He gripped the knife this time that it landed in his palms, even though his arms were dragged up toward Eddie. Thawne was holding both of his wrists this time, grip tight.

“You wanted her. You wanted… you don’t want me to be your partner,” Barry whispered as it clicked. “You want me to be your son.

He could feel the man nod against the side of his head, so close.

“I never planned to hurt her. No—but she wouldn’t let me see you. Wouldn’t let me look at your perfect little face or touch a hair on this perfect little head. And that—that just wouldn’t do.”

He could picture it. Could see his mother arguing with this man who would’ve come to their door under the guise of old friendship, how she would’ve let him in. But not too far. Not past the entry. Not upstairs to see Barry and then—Eobard’s anger was like a storm.

“You were strangling her.” He shifted the knife in his hands, both of them, bringing it up a little closer to Eddie, a little less shaky and a little more sure. The man’s eyes widened. “Till I came down the stairs.”

Run, Barry—

“Yes. But then you were there and once I saw what I really wanted—but then she was on me and I couldn’t have that, had to finish it fast so I could get to you. But you were already running, slipping through my fingers. And now we’re here, and now… You can avenge her, Barry.” He tilted his head against Barry’s, whispered in his ear. “You can take his life. My last living family in exchange for the one I took from you.”

“He’s your flesh and blood...”

“I came back to town because of him, you know. Barely three years ago. I came back for his father’s funeral, sat in the back. His eyes slid off me like water. Like I wasn’t there. I was going to reconnect but no—he couldn’t even remember me.” The scorn was evident in his voice. “I could barely believe he was my blood—so dull, so weak, just like the sniveling child I remembered. But you? You were everything you were meant to be. I went to the precinct to give him my card but I couldn’t take my eyes off of you once I saw you there. I knew who you were. Of course I knew. I remembered that night, and oh, that memory. It fuels me, Barry. And then there was so much more to learn about the man that you became. And you have not disappointed—not even once.”

“You came back… for Eddie. He brought you back to this city.” Barry stepped a little out from Eobard, a little closer to Eddie, knuckles white around the knife. “All of this—the stalking, the cameras, the nightmares. All of this is because of him.”

“That’s right, Barry. And now he’s yours. My gift to you.”

Barry pulled in a shuddered breath, bringing the knife up slowly toward Eddie’s neck. He remembered how hot Simmons’ blood had been on him. How time had slowed when Len surged at him with that knife. How it had been to feel the man die against his back.

“Barry,” Eddie whispered, eyes wide and wet.

“I’m sorry,” Barry gasped, knife right alongside Eddie’s left carotid artery and Eobard’s hands fell away from him, whispering yes

Barry flicked the blade over and twisted in one motion, slammed the knife behind him.

It should take more force. That thought flitted through his brain as hot blood gushed over his hands on the hilt. It should take more force to stab a person. It went in on momentum, cleaved through layers of skin and flesh and fat into soft organs. He swallowed, eyes locked on Eddie’s still as Eobard gasped behind him, already starting to struggle at the knife in his side, the only spot Barry could reach without seeing.

He was thrown forward into Eddie, caught himself, struggled to turn even as a litany of curses was reaching his ears. His hands were slick with blood. Eobard’s eyes were wild, the gun reproduced from his back even as he clutched the knife in his side.

“You dare—I am going to kill EVERYONE you have ever loved, and I am going to make you watch each and EVERY—”

The door slammed open with so much force the crack of splintered wood was almost deafening. Joe was there, not wasting any time taking in their sordid tableau. Barry was already shouting, Thawne’s gun swinging toward the door but Joe was faster. The shots cracked out, Barry’s ears ringing and two spots of red appeared on Eobard’s chest.

He fell back. Barry fell to his knees. Blood seeped out in a puddle, soaking into the floorboards. A stain on the floor he recognized. He shuddered. Eobard Thawne reached up with one bloodstained hand, cupping the side of Barry’s face.

“You will never… be free… of me.”

Tears fell down his cheeks. “I’m sorry to disappoint you, Eobard. But you’re already dead to me.”

The man’s final expression was one of rage. But then he fell back, no more words to utter. Barry closed his eyes, felt hands on his shoulders—Joe’s. Sirens were blaring in the distance. He let out a sob.

It was over.

 

Chapter Text

He came to slowly. His body kept dragging him back under, but after a while the bright sunlight was enough to rouse him and make him face the deep and serious ache that was his gut. His head was full of cotton balls but his eyebrows twitched together and he pieced it together fast.

He got himself shot in the stomach like a glorious asshole.

“Barry,” it came out short and rasped and he heard a chair scrape against the ground, squinted his eyes open.

“You’re awake,” Lisa’s face swam into his field of vision and he blinked her into focus. Len tried to reach toward her but—clang. His wrist was cuffed to the bed. He glanced at it.

“Really.”

“Don’t get me started. Can I sit you up?”

His bed was most of the way reclined and she was already pressing the button to raise him. He stopped her halfway.

“Barry.”

“Here, drink this.”

“Is he—”

“Your boytoy is alive and kicking. The Lightning Killer is not. And as for you—it’s been a day and a half since your surgery. You’ve been up twice but didn’t remember the first time, you were so out of it.”

That was coming back now. He’d felt like shit the last time he remembered waking up and had passed back out quick. It had been dark then.

“Where is…” It felt stupid to ask.

“Barry should in a meeting with the DA any minute now. He spent the night here mother-henning, you really just missed him.”

Len accepted the water with a straw she was poking in his direction. A nurse came in before he could ask anything else and a batter of medical questions and jargon later, he was eventually left alone with his sister again with the promise that his doctor would be by before long. On the exit from the nurse, he noticed a uniformed cop sitting next to his door.

“I hope you’re here to spring me.”

“That remains to be seen. But I think I can help with that cuff.”

He sent her a scathing look. “That I can handle on my own.”

She was already unlocking it for him. It was obvious why they hadn’t cuffed the other, a medical bandaid over the back of it.

“I had them take you off morphine before you woke up,” Lisa nodded at his hand. “I know you hate being loopy.”

He hummed. “It’s just one gunshot wound.”

“That had your insides spilling out into themselves. You should see the antibiotics they have you on.”

“I’m fine.”

“You almost died.” She snapped it then seemed to realize how much emotion was choking up her voice, turning away with a hand over her mouth.

Shit.

He sighed. Lisa was scared. She had every right to be upset. They didn’t do heart-to-hearts but they sure as hell didn’t do jumping in front of bullets either. He curled his wrist and inclined his bed up a bit more, ignoring the twinge in his side.

“You get the full story?”

She took a breath, composed herself and turned to face him again. “Barry told me everything. Saving a cop—it’s going to ruin your reputation.”

His eyes flashed to her but he saw her lips curl up at the corners. She was teasing.

“It better not.”

“No one would believe it even if word did get around. But Lenny…” she reached out and took his hand. “Why?”

He opened his mouth and closed it. Here in the sanitized, sunlit private hospital room—and exactly who’s dime was this place on? Lisa’s?—it all seemed far enough away. The urgency, knowing the man with the gun wasn’t about to stop at Thawne, that anyone but Barry was leverage or collateral but Thawne had a better chance than he did of sticking to Barry’s side if the killer knew anything at all about Len. He’d only have one chance to get that phone into Thawne’s pocket, after all.

But that was only half of it. The other half was… he didn’t really know how to explain how strongly he’d reacted to the pale terror on Barry’s face. It was disturbing even to himself, what he’d do to protect the other man however he could. It was because of the trust Barry placed in him, he was sure. Their give and take, an equal exchange where Barry could watch Len kill men who would kill him given half the chance and offer advice on how to conceal the evidence, where Len could take a bullet for the least likely person in the world if it meant Barry didn’t have to watch his friend die right at that moment.

“It won’t happen again,” he landed on instead of answering. There was no answer.

“It better not.”

“Now… are we springing me?”

“I already told you: it remains to be seen.”

“Remains based on what?”

“On how good your boyfriend is at batting his eyelashes at the DA. He’s aiming for full immunity. Detective Thawne’s backing him up.”

“He’s fucking… what?”

 

[ … ]

 

The two weeks suspension was the smallest slap on the wrist he could imagine, especially considering he would’ve needed to take medical and stress leave anyway. This was honestly less paperwork for Barry in the long run.

And he was buried in other paperwork besides. His and Eddie’s combined report on his dad’s case was going in front of a judge the next day, with commentary from the FBI recommending a full pardon. Captain Singh had even said it was airtight and offered to testify if needed.

And then there was all the work he did going through every case file they had on Len. He’d been up the whole night sitting next to his hospital bed pouring it over. From what he knew of the other man, what the CCPD had on him was only a fraction of what he’d likely done behind the scenes, but it was everything involving innocent people and bystanders (as far as he was aware) and it didn’t paint as bad of a picture as he was expecting.

All he had to do was sell the DA’s office on the idea that saving Eddie’s life and helping them catch the Lightning Killer was worth forgiving Len’s crimes. He wasn’t even convicted of them, just wanted in suspicion for them. The evidence was thin as hell on the robberies, all circumstantial. He nervously tapped the folders, waiting until—

“Right through here, Mrs. Lance.”

Shit. Barry scrambled to his feet as Laurel Lance was shown into the meeting room. He had really hoped it would be anyone but her.

“Laurel, hi.”

Her eyebrows climbed. “Barry! I didn’t realize…”

“If this is a conflict of interest…” He hedged. Her expression grew flat.

“Why don’t I take a look first, before you start asking around for a second opinion.”

He winced but handed her the documentation. She hummed and sat across from him, legs crossed. He bit down twice on the urge to interrupt her.

“There’s a lot of crimes here, Barry. Felonies, theft, grand larceny, assault, assault and battery, assault with a deadly weapon.”

“But no murder or manslaughter,” that she knew of, “and everything to do with theft is circumstantial. There’s nothing tying him to the casino heist except that his sister was seen in the building that night and Lisa’s record is clean.”

Laurel glanced up at him from over the work. “This letter from Detective Thawne is… compelling.”

“Leonard saved his life.”

“And what’s your stake in all this?”

Barry swallowed. “I’m kind of… seeing him.”

“You’re… seeing him. As in—dating him.”

“Yeah.”

Laurel rolled her eyes to the sky and tapped the bridge of her nose. “How has your judgement gotten worse, Barry?”

“I mean—at least he was single.”

It was not the right thing to say. Her expression darkened. He backtracked.

“I mean, not that I knew Oliver was taken when he and I—I definitely thought Ollie was single when we started—”

“Stop while you’re ahead.”

He sighed, dragging his hands down his face. “C’mon, Laurel. Leonard is—he’s a good person. He saved a cop’s life. He deserves better than to go to Iron Heights for a couple of crimes you can’t even tie him to in trial and a couple that... I mean obviously he’s uh, a changed man.”

She snorted and he couldn’t blame her. “Right. Well. Immunity doesn’t exist unless he wants to rollover on any of his pals.” She tossed a dossier in his direction, a list of names. One of them was Mark Mardon, another was Clyde, a third was Simmons. Barry bit his tongue.

“I uhm, Leonard’s not… likely to snitch.”

“Then the best I can do for you is a commutation, if he’s willing to plead guilty for the violent crimes.”

“The theft?”

She tapped the documents with a sigh. “It’s in no one’s interest if those go to trial, not if Snart won’t testify on his accomplices. Not when the press…”

Would eat them alive for going after a man who’d saved a detective’s life and helped bring down The Lightning Killer. Not that the press knew that now, but they could if this blew up. Barry was already imaging the pieces Iris could write on the subject if needed.

“The Governor doesn’t want Leonard’s involvement in any of this to get out, does she?”

“It doesn’t exactly look good, Barry. Not if so many members of the CCPD are going to sing this criminal’s praises.”

Why Laurel was giving so much was almost beyond him. This meeting could be going way differently.

“And then there’s… counter-suiting,” Barry pressed, leaning forward now. “Leonard could sue for damages, since Eddie didn’t have a warrant for any of what he did to track Leonard, not to mention he didn’t get mirandized.”

“He didn’t get miran—you know what,” Laurel flipped the case files closed. “I’ll draw up a fair offer. Something we can all agree to, likely with some anger management attached because of those assaults. But you’ll have to keep him out of trouble after this.”

He refrained from telling her there was a fat chance of that and nodded instead. He stood up to shake her hand and she responded in kind.

“If you don’t mind…” he was walking her toward the exit, scratching the back of his head. “Why are you being so… helpful with this? I know you don’t exactly like me…”

“I would never let our personal history get in the way of my professional judgement. And this really is in everyone’s best interest. I’ve seen you dig your heels in, Barry. I don’t want to see the fiasco you’d turn this into if you decided to blow this all up in court.”

He almost laughed. She wasn’t wrong.

“And off the record… if nothing else, I can empathize with your taste in bad boys.”

Barry choked out a laugh. “Right. Tell Ollie I uh, say hi?”

“I’ll do no such thing.” She winked, “my husband’s already way too fond of you. Moira though—she does say hi.”

“How is the Governor these days?”

“Happy the press cycle is moving on from the Lightning Killer, relieved you pulled through despite being his target, and… more than happy you’re not sleeping with her son anymore so she didn’t have to deal with that in the press. Can you imagine?”

He dragged a hand down his face and caught her laughing at him all the way down the hall.

 

[ … ]

 

The fact that there were butterflies in his stomach was probably one of the most silly and embarrassing things that had ever happened to him. After everything between him and Leonard, life and death, sex and violence, bullet wounds and kidnappings, somehow visiting the man in the hospital was making his heart flutter.

He still smoothed over his hair and checked his expression in the mirror beside the door. Morillo was sitting on duty and snorted at him.

“You’ve got it bad.”

“I know,” he halfway groaned.

“You’re the craziest guy on the force.”

“Tell me something I don’t know,” he grumbled, giving up and heading into the room. Lisa was there, politely pretending not to have listened to his entire conversation with Morillo, nose in a book. Leonard just arched an eyebrow at him.

“Hey.” He sounded breathless even to himself. He suddenly didn’t know what to do with this hands. He shifted on his feet. Leonard was already smirking.

“Hey yourself.”

“You look—good.”

“For a guy who got shot.”

Barry winced. “Yeah. But better than most people in the hospital.”

“So they tell me. I’m three days without shaving though and starting to itch. I think I’d take the Heights over this.”

Fishing. He wasn’t normally so obvious but Barry smiled. “Don’t think that’s going to happen.”

He saw Leonard’s shoulders relax and Lisa audibly sighed, snapping her book shut. “Finally an excuse to get out of here. Barry,” she kissed his cheek then went over to her brother and pecked the top of his head. “Lenny.”

“Such a lovely bedside manner,” he snarked at her.

“I hate hospitals and you know it. They smell like old people. You get out tomorrow anyway. Just try not to get into too much trouble before you do.”

She left that with a parting wink and closed the door behind her. Barry rolled his eyes to the ceiling.

“We’re not having hospital sex.”

“What—heart monitors and IVs don’t get you going?”

Barry snorted but pulled up Lisa’s chair closer to Len’s bed. He took the man’s hand and didn’t even apologize for it.

“You had us scared, you know.”

“Mm. A bullet’s not about to keep me down though. Didn’t even pass out until the anesthesia kicked in.”

Barry laughed but noticed that Leonard squeezed his hand anyway. “I almost did. After, I mean. Once Joe and the Captain were there it was like my legs forgot how to work, I almost fainted on my way to the ambulance.”

“Ambulance? I haven’t got the story yet.”

Right. Barry sighed, pulling back and starting to talk. He went through the whole thing, including everything Leonard didn’t know, including the cameras and the spiral the case took. And then there were the details he’d only learned since stepping outside his childhood home and having a medic fussing over him, things like how Cisco had told Joe where to find them, how he’d learned that Joe talked to Leonard and Leonard had told Joe where he was. And then what happened in that house, what Eobard had wanted, how Joe came in the nick of time.

His fingers were re-laced with Leonard’s by the end of recounting. His eyes were dry this time, unlike the first time he’d had to sit down and make his statement. Had come clean about everything—or, almost everything. Not what happened at the Ferris Air hangar with Simmons and Mardon, and not some of the more lurid details between him and Leonard. But enough to paint a picture for Captain Singh. And for Eddie, who’d drank in every word and corroborated all the ones he’d been there to see.

Neither of them mentioned Barry fellating Len’s gun. He was still hoping Eddie would take that to his grave.

“So that’s it then?”

“Yeah,” Barry leaned back and dragged his hands down his face. “That’s it.”

“How you holding up?” It sounded sardonic, but Barry was almost at the point of knowing Leonard well enough to read the layers under it. That and—after everything, if he’d ever doubted, he knew now that Leonard cared.

“I’m… hanging in there. It’s…a lot. But it’s just processing it, now. It’s over. And my dad’s case is being seen by a judge tomorrow and it turns out Laurel and Cecile are both in your corner for saving me and Eddie so—”

“Who’re Laurel and Cecile?”

“Uh… they both work in the DA’s office.”

“And you’re on first name terms with them?”

Why was Leonard like a bloodhound for Barry’s bullshit?

“I… may have dated Laurel’s husband back a few years ago. Before they were married. But… when they were dating.”

“You didn’t.”

Barry dropped his face into his hands. “He didn’t tell me he was seeing someone until after he swept me off my feet with money and partying and fun.”

“Well now I feel almost insulted. Are you saying you had a wild phase before me?”

Barry snorted. “I don’t know if I’d call Oliver Queen a ‘wild’ phase—”

“Oliver Queen—”

“Don’t. Just—don’t. The short version is that Laurel dumped his ass and he cleaned up his act and they got back together a year later and now they’re happy and he’s running for mayor in a few months and his mother is scary but apparently glad I’m all in one piece and that this serial killer thing is closed because it was bad press. She’s sending flowers.”

“The Governor is sending you flowers.”

“She’s sending you flowers. And the other woman in the DA’s office is secretly dating Joe and they don’t think I know? Can we focus on that?”

“This is far more entertaining.”

Barry shook his head but he was smiling. Leonard was too and it was amazing. He didn’t look pained when he smiled, and it crinkled the corners of his eyes just a little, something softer over his whole face.

“It’s a good deal. The one they drew up for you, I mean.” He non-sequitured, then got up and moved over to the bed, sitting partway on it, facing Leonard, taking up some of his space because he knew it would get the other man on edge to talk about the legalities.

“Is it now?”

“Any citizen who saved Eddie’s life like that probably would’ve got a medal. You… you get to plead guilty to a bunch of stuff and get away with time served, anger management, and a month or three of house arrest.”

“House arrest.”

“They suggested community service but… yeah, that.” Leonard’s expression had bunched up into severe disdain and Barry almost laughed. Then he sighed, tracing his thumb over Leonard’s forearm. “I talked you up as best as I could in my report, but nothing changes that you have violent priors, even if they are against other criminals. Most of the robbery stuff is getting shuffled away because there’s no evidence to speak of and no one wants any of this to go to trial but… a bit of house arrest won’t kill you.”

“Dunno,” Leonard tilted his head, voice droll, “I did get shot in the stomach last time I was laying low.”

Barry wished he didn’t bark out a laugh. “You’re not supposed to joke about that!”

“Too soon?”

“Y’think? You’re still in the hospital.”

“Wouldn’t be if Lisa had just sprung me like I told her to.”

Barry rolled his eyes. “It won’t kill you to sign these papers and walk out of here a free man.”

“Free to get an ankle bracelet.”

“I’ll visit lots.”

That caught the other man’s attention. His head turned a little sharper to Barry, eyes more intense. “Will you now?”

“You didn’t think I would?”

“Didn’t think about much, Barry. Hard to figure what you’d want with me after getting your ‘wild phase’ out of your system.”

Barry’s eyebrows shot up. “Is that what you—Leonard I… you know that’s not how I feel.”

The man glanced to the side, one eyebrow arched as if he was asking questions of the wall. “’N your cop buddies?”

He almost cursed Morillo for ribbing him before he came in here. “They know now. And yeah, okay, they think I’m nuts. But aside from the suspension—yeah I got suspended for all the withholding evidence and sleeping with a criminal but it’s only two weeks and—Leonard this is good. I don’t care if my coworkers think I’m crazy, they already thought that. This just means I don’t have to hide that I…”

He swallowed, feeling like a fool. Leonard had never said he wanted to be something more. He’d never offered commitment—the opposite, if anything. He started to pull his hand back, suddenly swamped in how he’d misread the other man’s comments, how clingy he must look and—

Leonard grabbed his wrist before he could escape the bed entirely. He held his breath, eyes darting to the other man.

“You know what I am.”

“Yeah,” he rasped, a little too quiet.

“There are no picket fences down this route.”

He shook his head. “Just so long as there’s no prison cells.”

Leonard held his gaze, then nodded once, slowly. “I think… I can do that. Might have to up my game.”

“Up your—Leonard.” He had to laugh, incredulous at the audacity of the other man. Getting his freedom and already planning his next job.

“You’ll be clean, that much I can guarantee.”

“You’re gonna ruin my life.”

“Thought I already had.”

Barry sighed, lovestruck. He knew that’s what it was. And Leonard was a bad idea, as much of one as ever, but he was Barry’s bad idea. “Only in the best ways.”

“You’ve really got it bad.”

“Yeah.”

Maybe Leonard didn’t expect him to admit it, but he seemed a little surprised by that, and then almost, for a fleeting second, shy, the way he glanced down, private smile on his lips.

“I guess that makes two of us.”

Barry couldn’t handle it any more—he leaned over Leonard and kissed him. It was full of stubble and he tasted like hospital jello but Barry wouldn’t change a thing about it, not for the world. He cupped Leonard’s cheek and kissed him again, deeper, amazed at how alive he felt. It was—there was so much. So much to process. So much emotion bracketed in tight in his chest, threatening to overwhelm at any second. But this, right here? This was the best of those emotions.

“How are you so fucking perfect?” Leonard whispered against his lips and it halfway made Barry laugh. The other halfway was that it made him want to crawl into the other man’s lap, hospital bed be damned.

“I think we’re just messed up in complimentary ways.”

“Is that how it works?”

Barry kissed him again because he didn’t have an answer and the man was just teasing and they almost died and he hadn’t seen him in days before that, hadn’t been able to tell him, to explain any of it and—it felt electric. Leonard didn’t seem to mind their setting too much either, hands snaking up Barry’s shirt, sliding over his sides. There were aches and bruises in a few places from his fight with Eobard but he couldn’t help but feel good when Leonard held on to him, kissed his neck, urged him to unbutton his shirt.

“Your heart monitor—”

“It’s a finger doohickey and it’s already off.”

“Your wound—”

“I won’t be fucking you for a while but I think I’ve earned a blowjob. I’ve practically been a saint.”

Barry murmured his agreement, mind flashing back to the last time he was on his knees for him, to how ready he was to give Leonard anything to save Eddie and then the man went and saved Eddie’s life after all that trouble anyway. His cock twitched in his pants just remembering how intense he’d felt, how much trust he’d felt but how it was all so razor sharp and thin, how owned he’d wanted to feel and needed the other man to understand, to accept that Barry was still everything he’d—

Fuck, they really did have it bad, didn’t they?

He was between Leonard’s knees a moment later, shifting and finding a comfortable spot on the single-person-sized hospital bed. His hands were sliding up Leonard’s thighs, the medical gown all but gone when—

“Hiii—aie aie I didn’t see anything!” Eddie halfway shouted, doing an about-face but—

He and Iris were still in the doorway. And closing the door. But still in the room. Eddie was already turned around, a vase of flowers in hand, and Iris’s eyebrows were in her hairline before she started and turned around too.

Barry’s ears were crimson. “Could you guys uh—”

Iris cleared her throat, staring at the door. “We um, just wanted to bring some flowers. For Leonard. Who we didn’t see anything of. Nothing.”

The man who’s ‘nothing’ was ‘not’ seen was scowling at Barry as if this was somehow his fault. He was also sitting up and Barry was leaning back and their clothes were both being righted.

“Twenty minutes ‘n I’ll be happy to have the bouquet.” He said it in his most dismissive voice. They didn’t seem to get the memo.

Iris elbowed Eddie, “oh, right!” and he dropped the vase on the nearest shelf.

“We’re also supposed to invite Leonard to Dad’s for dinner tomorrow night.”

Leonard snorted and Barry almost joined him. That was gonna be… something. And impossible with the house arrest anklet. Knowing him, Joe had probably planned that.

“Aaaand… I think that’s everything.”

“You know you guys can turn around, right.”

Leonard shot him a glare. Barry rolled his eyes at the other man. Like they were having sex now. The other two turned around.

“Just so you know…” Eddie glanced between them then skyward. “Someone from the DA’s office is on their way over with the paperwork. So maybe… wait? An hour? Until Snart is discharged once he signs on the dotted lines?”

“What’s the fun in waiting when I can traumatize Central City’s upstanding citizens like yourself, Detective?”

“Uh… huh. The first time was enough, thanks.”

First time?” Iris looked appropriately scandalized. “How are there parts to this story I haven’t heard yet? Edward Thawne. Barry Allen. What first time?”

Barry groaned and flopped down onto the bed, sprawled and hopeless. “There are things about me you don’t want to know, Iris.”

“Pleasure to make your acquaintance, by the way Miss West.”

“Right. Hi, umm, Leonard.”

“Len’s fine.”

Barry shot up. “Len is fine? I’ve been calling you Leonard this whole time!”

“You never asked.”

“You did just say it’s not too soon to make jokes about shooting you, right? Because seriously, Len—”

Leonard actually laughed, then glared at him because apparently that hurt his stomach.

Thea Queen—his ex’s little sister and could this get any worse?—arrived a minute later with the paperwork, took one look at Leonard, and told Barry that he ‘had a type’. The moment, such as it was, was officially ruined. He was grinning anyway.

 

[ … ]

 

“Safeword?”

“Thunder.”

Len rumbled appreciatively next to his hear and Barry swallowed, a thrill up his spine. He hadn’t known what to expect when Len told him to wear a plug on their date that night. He still didn’t know quite want to expect, only that Len had leaned into his space in the tight-packed dive bar he’d taken Barry to and ask him if he was in the mood for a little roleplay, but hell if he was about to say ‘no’ to an offer like that, whatever Len had in store for him.

It had only been a month since everything went down. A month of Len healing and on house arrest—his ankle monitor conveniently hacked for a night out or two for him and Barry—and a month of healing and sorting through the scorched earth in the wake of everything. A month of seeing his dad and having him enjoy his new freedom by choosing to get a cabin, stretching his legs outside the city. A month of not feeling like there was that same weight on his chest, even if there was a lot of process still.

And now—well now Leonard’s hand was on his chest, and he was leaning into Barry’s space and asking him about roleplay and checking his safeword, initiating a scene. The small of his back was pressed back against the bar, in between two stools, and before he could ask for any more details, Len was stepping back, leaving him feeling bereft. He nodded at the nearest stool, eyebrow arched, and Barry sat. Len made a show of going and playing a game of pool while Barry stewed and waited. He’d be annoyed if the anticipation of figuring out how Len was going to play this wasn’t driving him nuts. He nursed his drink, and had almost distracted himself fully enough that the hand that suddenly fell on the back of his neck really did make him start.

“Well well, look what we have here,” Len drawled, taking the stool next to him.

Barry swallowed, “is there a problem?”

The hand on the back of his neck was still there and gripped harder now, pulling him in so his voice wouldn’t carry. “Pretty boy cops aren’t welcome here.”

He had to stop his eyes from rolling back. It really shouldn’t turn him on so much that Len was so dangerous but he couldn’t help the thrill it sent through him.

“I’m just here for a drink, I don’t want any trouble.” He wasn’t the world’s best actor but he lowered his lashes in Len’s direction.

“A drink, hmm?” He lifted his free hand toward the bartender and motioned for a refill for both of them. She provided it silently and Barry almost hated her for her shitty service the rest of the night. “On me, then.”

“I know who you are, you know. I won’t accept anything from you.”

He was guessing here, but Len’s eyes glinted, predatory smirk in place and Barry’s swallow wasn’t for show this time.

“That so?” Len pressed one of the tumblers into Barry’s hand, other one shifting to graze his knuckles along Barry’s throat, gently over the pulse point. It had been bruised after Eobard had choked him. Len had lovingly kissed his throat purple over every mark left by the other man.

“I happen to have it on good authority, cop, that you need my help with a little something. So I’d think twice about rejecting my hospitality.”

Barry’s eyebrows went up a little but then he nodded, taking the glass, sipping the whiskey. It was top shelf. His knee knocked Len’s. The man shifted his hand from Barry’s neck to his thigh and he inhaled sharply.

Any of my hospitality.”

Oh he was so fucked. His cock twitched in his jeans. Was Leonard going to fuck him here? In the bathroom, maybe? Make Barry blow him in the alleyway behind the bar? It was impractical as hell but his head was swimming trying to decide if he was more terrified or turned on by the possibilities.

“If you already know what I need,” Barry replied, knowing that whatever it was didn’t matter, much as his brain was already supplying all sorts of predicaments he could’ve gotten himself into. Instead of thinking, he spread his legs wider, just enough. “Then whatever you need in return, I…” He sucked down the rest of his glass, dropping it to the counter. The burn was pleasant in his stomach. “I’m yours.”

The hand gripped his thigh, sliding higher, and then around, up to the line of his shirt then under it, stroking the small of his back, fingers trailing down to the hem of his pants to tease. Leonard was leaning fully into his space again. “Now that is a very dangerous thing to say, Mr. Allen.” He shivered, Len’s breath almost hitting against his throat, close to his ear. “Would you let me have you? Here?”

He wasn’t sure if it was for real or part of the scene but it didn’t matter, not really, because the answer was—“yes.” His voice was raw. Len hummed next to him and then sucked back his own whiskey, pulling Barry from his seat a moment later, leading him back through the bar with a hand to the small of his back and he wished he wasn’t sporting a half-chub but at least it was dark and smoky and no one was looking too hard.

Len led him upstairs—this place had an upstairs?—and to a room to which he had a key. Planned ahead then. There was a bed and a chair. Len took the chair. Barry’s heart was almost in his throat.

“Here’s what you’re going to do for me, if you want my help, that is. First, you’re going to strip. Second, you’re going to get on your knees and get me interested. Then, if I’m convinced you’re serious…” his lips quirked, eyes dark, “you’re going to ride me.”

Barry almost groaned. They hadn’t fucked since Len’s injury, mindful not to pull any stitches, but this—what a way to get back on the horse. He tried to remind himself to stay in character, at least a little longer before his brain lost all function anyway.

“I could go somewhere else for help.” Barry peeled off his outer layers, making it slow. Getting Len riled up. “You’re not the only one in this city who can fix this for me.”

“That so?” Len quirked his eyebrow. “I don’t see you slowing down. Maybe you know they’re all worse than me. And I… am not a good man, Barry Allen.”

He said it like it was a promise. Barry was fully hard, pulling his shirt over his head. His belt and jeans followed. He played with the waistline on his underwear.

“Those too.”

He met Len’s gaze and peeled them down, stepping out of them and closer to the man.

“Give us a twirl,” Len said like the asshole he was. Barry almost rolled his eyes, but he knew—he turned. And there, of course, was—

“My my, what’s this?”

Barry swallowed as Len’s fingers found the base of the plug he’d known would be there, pulling just enough for Barry to feel it.

“I—” he had no answer.

“Seems like you’re cheaper than I thought, Barry.”

He felt heat go up his chest, already bending a little at the waist. “Do you want to take it out?”

“Not yet. I already told you what I want you to do.”

Barry shivered and turned again, folding down to his knees. “How do you like it?” He asked like he didn’t already know, like it was important to learn fast. Len carded his fingers into his hair.

“Tease me.”

Barry pulled him out of his pants, mouth already salivating before it was on the other man. He enjoyed this, enjoyed the dark promises Len uttered when Barry had him in his mouth, the praise for his pretty lips and all the things he could do with his tongue. He was eager to get to the main course though. So before long, he pulled back with a pop, eyes wide up at Len, whose glare might’ve actually been real this time. That was enough to make him cheeky.

“I’m at your mercy,” he stroked up Len’s cock, lips parted, and that got his attention, his pupils blown. “But how do I know you’ll really help me once this is over?”

“That’s fair,” Len drawled, nasal and cunning. “I suppose you’ll just have to impress me.”

Barry licked up the underside of his cock. “Then how do you want me? Do you want me to ride you in this chair? Or on the bed? You can watch me bend over, open myself up for you.”

He could see the line of heat creeping up Len’s face. “Bed. Now.”

Barry didn’t hesitate to obey. He gave Len a show, partly because it was hard not to, the best angle to take this toy out definitely being on his knees with his legs spread. It pulled free without much trouble, slick as it needed to be and not too big. Nowhere near as big as Len was going to feel.

“Now that…” Len’s fingers landed on his ass while it was exposed anyway, teasing his rim. “Is a sight to behold.”

Barry gasped as Len fingered him, pressing one then two inside, stretching him out. He couldn’t hold back his noises once Len found his prostrate, fingers stroking it just to drive him wild, he knew. He moaned hard at a particularly deep thrust, precum leaking from his cock.

“Had enough?”

“Need—need you to touch me. Please.”

“Not till I’m inside you. And if you recall, that’s on your schedule.”

“Now. Definitely now.”

It was going to burn but who really cared? Len hummed and pulled back, sitting higher up on the bed, stripped down finally. Barry scrambled onto his lap, unable to disguise how eager he was. He had a condom on Len in record time, slick and ready for him.

“I missed this.”

Len’s hands were on his hips, helping guide him as Barry angled himself, hand on Len’s cock.

“Haven’t been able to think of anything else all week,” Len agreed and Barry’s ability to answer became compromised the second Leonard’s cock stretched his rim, pressing in. The descent onto him was slow and heady, barely able to keep his eyes focused because they rolled back in pleasure, mouth dropping open.

Len.”

The man kissed his open mouth, licking into it like he owned him and Barry groaned and kissed back and they were moving together. Len’s arms were tight around him and Barry held fast to his body, mindful of his healing side. He should’ve gone slow, dragged it out, made Len wild by controlling the pace on top of him but it was impossible. He did press Len down to the mattress and let him watch, fingers just holding Barry’s thighs as he worked himself on Len, moaning as his cock pressed in ever-deeper and speared him open until he was slamming his hips down onto it and Len was rolling himself up to meet his thrusts. It wasn’t slow, and it didn’t last forever, but it was electrifying.

He sped up and Len was gasping, always quieter, then groaning and swearing, letting Barry know he was close, that he was about to cum and Barry’s inner walls were tight around Len’s cock, feeling full and stretched out everywhere as the man thrust up into him and emptied himself. Barry moaned with him, rocking down, hand flying on his own cock and he came seconds later, striping Len’s chest with it, gasping out the other man’s name.

They both relaxed in the afterglow after cleaning up, laying naked and relaxed on the bed, Len stretched out because of his side and Barry using his arm as a pillow. Everything felt fuzzy in the best way.

“I can’t believe you rented us a room in the seediest place I’ve ever set foot in.”

Len chuckled. “It had the right… ambiance.”

“Ambiance, huh? Now I know why you called me cheap one time or ten back when we started dating. That a thing for you?”

“Having you at my mercy? Most definitely.”

Barry rolled his eyes but let it go because Len had started playing with his hair and that was nice.

“I don’t understand, sometimes, how I could be so… lucky,” Len said quietly, not a trace of sarcasm and Barry’s heart beat harder in his chest. He closed his eyes softly, not wanting to spoil the moment by thinking too hard.

“I feel the same.”

“I don’t know how I deserve this.”

“Mm, well, we both deserve better than this flea-invested motel. But… I don’t know how to do normal, Len.” He put his hand on the other man’s chest, tilting his head to catch his gaze now. “So it doesn’t have to be about our… careers. Or our lives before this. What matters is this, here, now.”

Len sighed in a breath then let it out. Barry felt his chest rise and fall. “I knew you were special the moment you first opened your mouth.”

Barry snorted, he couldn’t help it. “You mean when you almost shot me?”

“I mean when I didn’t shoot you.”

“That’s probably the night all these kinks manifested, you know that right?”

“Happy to take the blame. But what I’m trying to say is…”

Barry leaned up onto one elbow, smiling softly. “I know.”

“You do?”

“You took a bullet for Eddie. I know that wasn’t for him.”

Len’s eyes crinkled up at the corners in the way Barry had come to love. “You’ve got me there.”

“I feel the same, Len.”

The man hummed, seemingly satisfied, and Barry relaxed back into using his arm as a pillow again.

“And Barry?”

“Yeah?”

“Next time let’s roleplay our first meeting, minus the hired hands. I have some ideas for how to improve on it.”

Barry just smiled. “So long as they don’t involve zip ties or motorcycle rides this time. You spring for silk ties and a car or I’m out.”

“Anything for you.”