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Tracing Time

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"We're going back tonight," Leonard said.

"Back where?" one of his thugs asked.

"To the museum," Leonard explained. "That diamond isn't going to steal itself."

"Super gun freeze your brain, Snart?" the other thug scoffed. "The museum's going to be crawling with police by now. And the Streak."

"This can stop the Streak," Leonard said, hefting the cold gun. "It hurt him, and I know his real weakness. So we go, unless you want out."

"We both want out," one of the thugs growled.

click!

Leonard paused, barely turning his head when he sensed the guns pointed at him.

"Alive," the thug finished.

"So you thought ahead and made a plan," Leonard drawled. "Least I taught you something." He sighed. "So what are you waiting for? Shoot me."

Neither thug moved.

Morons. Clearly they needed another lesson in following their plans, but he just couldn't dredge up the energy to care any more. "You better put a bullet in my brain right now," he snarled. "Because if you don't, I ever see either one of you again...."

"You don't get it, do you? This blur is out there, and Central City ain't your playground anymore."

The two left the warehouse, covering him with their pistols until they were out of sight.

"Sure it is," Leonard muttered, returning his attention to admiring the cold gun.

"I wouldn't bet on that just yet," a voice said from behind him. "Of course, I would've killed them for even thinking of threatening me."

Leonard spun to face the intruder, but when he saw who it was, he lowered the cold gun.

"Hello, Darkh," Leonard greeted his long-ago rescuers. "Merlyn. Thawne." He cocked his head and eyed the three men warily before focusing on Eobard. "Is that a common name, or...."

Eobard grimaced. "The detective is a distant relative," he replied. "Unfortunately. He's something of a black sheep in the family. I guess you could call me Eobard if it makes it easier."

Leonard shrugged. "I'm sure you've noticed that my crew just vanished, so I'm a little busier than normal. Could this wait, or was there something you gentlemen needed?"

"I've got a job for you," Eobard replied. "Something a little more interesting than swiping a diamond out from under the Flash's nose."

Leonard frowned. "What's the flash?"

"Right, sorry, you still call him the Streak, don't you?"

"I wasn't aware he had any other name." Leonard glanced at the other two men, but they seemed content to let Eobard do the talking.

Strange. He'd been certain Damien was in charge of the group, the way the man had handled the rescue operation.

That was ten years ago, though. Clearly their arrangement had changed in that time. Or perhaps things hadn't been as obvious as they'd seemed; Leonard's own perspective had been horribly compromised back then, after all.

"Not yet," Eobard said. "Give it a week; it'll catch on. Though I believe you prefer 'the Scarlet Speedster.'"

Leonard tossed the gun aside, folded his arms, and sat down on the nearest table. "This job... I suppose I should hear you out. I owe you three at least that much. What sort of job?"

"We're after a very special artifact," Eobard said. "Powerful enough to change the world. To change reality itself. With it, you could have anything you want, with no cops, no Flash—no Streak—to get in your way."

"Hmm... sounds like a wonderful dream," Leonard murmured. He sighed and shook his head. "Sorry. I'll have to take a pass. I learned the hard way what happens when you believe in them too strongly, as you three should remember." He turned around to reach for his cold gun and blueprints. "If that will be all...?"

"It's not a dream!" Eobard hissed.

The hairs on the back of Leonard's neck stood on end. Part of it was nerves, an instinct that warned him of danger, and part of it....

What was that, static? It wasn't that dry in here.

"I am terribly sorry for wasting your time, Mr. Thawne," Damien said.

His voice sounded closer. Much too close.

Sloppy. Just because they'd saved him once didn't mean he could trust them. He'd known then that they'd only busted him out of that hellhole because they had a use for him, and he doubted a decade had changed their motives. If he'd just lost that usefulness by turning down this job....

"I know Mr. Snart is fond of his pretty baubles," Damien continued before Leonard could react, "but I was certain he'd welcome the chance to see Lisa again."

Lisa? How did Damien—how could any of them—know about Lisa?

But when he turned back around to ask, the three men were gone.

Leonard shivered. Had they simply been another hallucination?

He took a deep breath and forced himself to walk over to the spot where he'd seen them standing. The static was stronger over here, and the air stunk of ozone.

There he found several markings charred into the table. There was a trio of hexagons, and within two of them were a stylized arrowhead and a lightning bolt.

Within the third hexagon was simply the word "tonight."

—CHANGES: TRACING TIME—

"There's nowhere to run," the Streak—Flash? Leonard thought. Whatever—said.

Leonard took advantage of the speedster's proximity to examine the face visible under the mask.

Yellow. The Flash's eyes, when he used his power, were yellow. Not red like the thing in the hospital.

Pity. That could've been solid proof that he hadn't been hallucinating... and the perfect excuse to kill the speedster on the spot.

"I didn't see you before," Leonard said with a smirk. "Your mom know you're out past your bedtime?"

A flash of yellow outside distracted Leonard for just a moment. When he returned his attention to the Flash, he saw a series of marks etched into the sign behind the speedster: a trio of hexagons, an arrowhead, and a lightning bolt.

Looks like this is my stop.

The Flash grinned. "If you wanted to get away you should've taken something faster than a train."

"That's if I wanted to get away," Leonard replied.

The Flash's grin vanished.

"I've seen your weakness at the armored car," Leonard continued, "then at the theater. See, while you're busy saving everybody, I'll be saving myself."

He gave the Flash just a moment to let those words sink in before he aimed the cold gun at the floor.

The Flash ducked, hiding his eyes from the glare, unable to do anything to stop Leonard as the ice burst through the bottom of the train.

In mere seconds, the squeal told the thief he'd accomplished his goal, and the passengers screamed as the train began to lose control.

Leonard fought to maintain his balance as he made his way towards the emergency exit.

"Good luck with that!" Leonard called to the Flash. He leapt to the ground and rolled to a stop. He only waited to catch his breath before he ran to put some distance between himself and the impending wreck.

Once he was sure he was safe he turned around, but his view was blocked by the three men who watched him.

Leonard narrowed his eyes at the way Eobard blurred in front of him. "You're a speedster," he realized. "Like the... the Flash." Or like the thing in the hospital.

But it had been too dark to see what the thing really looked like. And he couldn't tell what color Eobard's eyes were.

Eobard bristled. "I am better than the Flash could even dream of becoming," he spat.

"Easy, Mr. Thawne," Damien murmured. "He doesn't know your history with the Flash."

"So, are you in?" Malcolm asked.

"Lisa is..." Leonard said, then hesitated.

Is what? Dead? Instinct told him she was, but there was no evidence that she'd ever even existed.

Not real? That's what logic told him. What the doctors told him. What everyone told him. Even Lewis insisted there was no such person, whenever Leonard could stomach the man's presence long enough to broach the subject.

One of the only people he could dare talk to had disappeared before that nightmare transfer. By the time he met back up with Mick, Leonard had been terrified of being committed again, and had simply quit asking about her.

But if she was just another hallucination, as she must be, then how could these three know how important she was to him? How badly he needed to protect her? Even his ramblings in that hellhole couldn't have told anyone that much, but how else could Damien have known earlier to mention her name?

"History is a delicate thing," Eobard murmured once Damien had calmed him down. "You should never change it so carelessly."

Leonard frowned. "I'm sorry, wait. You said changing history? We're talking about time travel, now?"

"I am," Eobard replied. "We're all from different times. I come from the twenty-second century, I recruited Damien from thirty years ago, and Malcolm... "

Malcolm cleared his throat. "I'm just a couple of years ahead of you," he said.

Eobard grinned. "He's still embarrassed. We've all had some rather nasty setbacks—or will, in your and Damien's cases—Malcolm's just happens to be a little closer to the day I recruited him."

"And what do these... setbacks have to do with Lisa?" Leonard asked. "Or are you not allowed to tell me that?"

"We need the artifact to prevent these setbacks, but there's another group trying to stop us," Eobard replied. "Time travelers, all of them. You're part of their team, actually—will be from your perspective, were from theirs."

"Don't try to figure out the tenses," Malcolm warned. "Eobard gets himself off on giving people headaches."

Eobard scowled at the archer.

"Their motives were admirable enough, at first," Damien admitted. "Even you respected them. But they were careless. Changed things they should've left alone, and it threatened their success. In order to preserve the mission, you attempted to blow up the, uh...." He glanced at Eobard.

"The Oculus Wellspring," Eobard supplied. "A device used to manipulate time; sabotaging the Wellspring freed them to complete their mission. But your proximity to the explosion sent a shockwave through your personal timeline, shattered your very history to pieces. I'm sure you've had moments where you've felt disconnected from reality? That's why, not because of anything as mundane as a hallucination."

Leonard took a moment to process the explanation. He wasn't certain whether to believe a single word they told him; the entire story was just too insane to accept.

But so was the Flash. If Eobard's theory was correct, then maybe Leonard hadn't lost his mind all those years ago.

But if he hadn't lost his mind, then what had he seen at the hospital?

Leonard shivered. "And how does Lisa fit into this?" he finally asked. Time enough to worry about that thing later.

"Your sister wasn't supposed to die," Damien murmured.

Leonard stared at him.

"But now...." Damien shrugged. "The Wellspring gives us fragments, sometimes; we've seen what happened to her. But you're the only who truly remembers her."

"How?" Leonard asked, his voice unexpectedly rough. His eyes stung. He cleared his throat and tried again. "How did she die?"

Damien and Eobard glanced at each other.

"Are you sure you want to know that?" Eobard asked. "It isn't pleasant. Harder men than you would be sickened by it."

"I need to know," Leonard said. "Please."

Eobard sighed and nodded. He lifted his arm to speak into a device there. "Gideon, show him the footage I salvaged."

A face appeared in midair. "Of course, Mr. Thawne."

The face transformed into a hologram. Leonard saw a woman there, a dark-haired beauty—

Lisa.... Leonard fought to swallow the painful lump in his throat.

Someone snuck up on her. Ben Santini, the leader of Leonard's old gang.

Lisa had only a moment to whirl around at Ben's presence, to recognize him, her mouth dropping in shock.

He pointed a gun at her, but instead of bullets it sent a massive shockwave through her.

Leonard dropped to his hands and knees, releasing the diamond to let it roll away somewhere. He squeezed his eyes shut against the footage, but he couldn't erase what he'd just seen. He couldn't forget Ben's eyes, flashing red as the blast tore into—

He began retching.

A pair of hands grasped his shoulders, supporting him until his body was convinced his stomach was empty.

Leonard risked a glance up. Malcolm knelt by him, but the archer scowled at the footage.

Or rather, at the empty space where the footage had been.

A crackle of lightning, and Eobard crouched in front of the shaking thief. "I can't promise you revenge," the speedster murmured, "but if you help us, I will do absolutely everything in my power to see you reunited with your sister. But I have a condition."

"Name it," Leonard rasped.

"Follow my orders. Without question."

Leonard winced.

"Second guess me all you like," Eobard continued. "After. I know you can't help it; you're too smart not to. And anyway, we'll be taking turns taking charge as our unique skills come into play. But I need to know that I can trust you to do whatever I need, whenever I need it, without wasting time questioning me."

"There will still be people like... like that," Leonard said. "We get this artifact, I'll be able to protect her?"

"When this is all over, I guarantee, nobody will be able to hurt either of you, ever again." Eobard reached out a hand to Leonard. "So are you in?"

Leonard took only two seconds to decide, and let Eobard pull him to his feet. "Yeah. I'm in." He didn't spare the diamond another thought as the speedster swept him away.