Barry remembered the first time he showed someone his soulmark who wasn’t his parents. Of course he remembered—it was Iris.
He’d been old enough when he moved in with the Wests that it wasn’t as if Joe ever gave him baths, so the discussion of his soulmark never came up. If someone had one in a not so visible place, it was expected they had it in a private location and it was impolite to ask.
But that day they were going swimming at the local pool, and Barry had been trying to sneak a peek at Iris’s mark. She was wearing a two piece, nothing scandalous at twelve, but still thrilling when Barry’s hormones were just starting to awaken. He was already in love with her, and the idea of discovering their soulmarks matched would have made every heartache over the past year and a half sting a little less if he’d ended up living with the girl he was destined to be with forever.
While he was working up the courage to ask her what her soulmark looked like instead of straight out where it was, hoping she’d show it off anyway, she turned to him and said, “Your mark must be somewhere really hidden, huh?”
Barry was only wearing trunks. “Uhh I guess so? Not like…embarrassing.”
“Too hidden to show me?”
At the invitation, Barry tugged down the edge of his trunks maybe a little too eagerly to show off the snowflake shaped mark on the dip of his hip bone with a jagged design through it that he wouldn’t equate to a lightning bolt until years later. It could have been a tattoo about an inch in diameter but soulmarks had a shimmer to them that stood them apart.
Maybe it was too much to ask that Barry wanted Iris to look disappointed instead of smiling when she said, “It’s really pretty, Barry,” and turned to lift her arm where her mark was hidden along her ribcage like the top three points of a star. “See mine?”
Barry remembered just as clearly the first time he saw the matching mark on Eddie.
Iris and Eddie were already dating but hadn’t slept together yet—which Barry hadn’t known but was able to guess when he saw the match. If Iris knew she was dating her soulmate, she wouldn’t have been able to contain it, would have told Barry, would have been glowing even more than she already was any time she was with Eddie.
There Barry and Eddie were sparring in the precinct, and the other man stretched high above his head in his tank top to reveal the same half star. A small vindictive part of Barry wanted to keep quiet, but when the moment passed, he hated himself for thinking of being so hurtful, especially keeping a secret that was bound to come out eventually.
The look on Eddie’s face when he told him—that was love, which was all Barry had ever wanted for Iris. He just wished he knew where to find it himself.
Plenty of people didn’t put stock in soulmates, regardless of the research. Everyone had a mark. Not everyone found their match. Sometimes it wasn’t even meant to mean romance, which was why people wrote whole books on why soulmates were merely a genetic aspect of humanity that allowed two people to connect enough to share memories and thought.
“Basically, a great way to create spies,” Barry had once heard from a cynic.
Most people, however, believed there was power in soulmates, whatever their connection, and Barry had always been certain his true love would be his match. Just like with his parents.
It was only recently he’d started to give up.
Barry had been with people, dated, tried to imagine life with anyone compatible rather than ‘the one’, but it wasn’t what he wanted. Seeing his father move on with Tina McGee, who just like him had a black mark to indicate her soulmate was gone, he wondered if he was too romantic and only setting himself up for failure.
“Oh kiddo, don’t give up,” his father said. “Knowing your soulmate is a beautiful thing. It’s true that life has to go on whether we have them in our lives or not so we remember we’re all connected, but you say it like you’re resigned to be miserable, not freeing yourself to find something unexpected.”
“I know, Dad. I don’t have a problem with you and Tina, please don’t think that’s what this is about. I’m happy for you, really. But I can’t keep putting so much stock in something I might never find.”
Barry didn’t want to start something new unless it was the last time he ever started over, and he still wasn’t sure he could do that with someone who wasn’t his match. Tonight, he didn’t want to think about either option, he wanted escape. Iris and Eddie’s wedding was only a few weeks away.
Sure, he wondered if a certain thief might still be in town after Christmas, when Snart had come to his home to warn him about Mardon and Jesse, but Barry hadn’t chosen Saints and Sinners looking for the man.
It was just his luck Snart happened to be there.
The smart thing when Len saw Barry walk up to the bar on a night when it was bustling with music and moving bodies was to duck out the back to avoid whatever favor the kid was after this time or the next plea for Len’s soul. Deep down though, he was a gambling man, and he was curious.
As soon as Barry’s eyes scanned the bar and found his, the smile that lit up the kid’s face said something different was in the air tonight.
“Business or pleasure, Barry?” Len said as he sauntered up, going to the kid directly since several pairs of eyes had already perused him like an easy mark or hot piece of ass, and as entertaining as the former would be, Len didn’t feel up to killing someone over the latter.
Barry also needed to learn that his ‘Sam’ getup in no way made him look like he fit in with the rest of the clientele, adorable as he was in all black.
“If I say pleasure, you gonna pull the cold gun anyway?” Barry smirked.
“And what does The Flash,” Len said in a close, teasing whisper, “do for pleasure? Drink?”
“Doesn’t do much for me, actually. The buzz only lasts a few seconds.”
“So shots? Or do you require something more medicinal?”
Barry laughed, and it was far more carefree than Len had ever heard from him. Then his eyes widened. “Wait, seriously? Is that an option?”
There was interest in his hushed voice, not accusation. “My, my, Scarlet, what would Detective West say?”
“Probably the ‘I'm not mad, I'm disappointed’ speech he gave the first time he caught me smoking in the house.”
Len had mostly been joking, assuming Barry wouldn't go for anything illicit, but possession was less daunting than grand larceny, he supposed. “The Scarlet Speedster was a normal high school kid? You don’t say?”
“Not really.” Barry glanced at the bar top he was leaning against, faint color darkening his cheeks. “And it was college.”
“Most of my experimenting wasn’t a phase.”
“Oh really?” Len’s eyes dropped to Barry’s lips.
“Coz I have a degree in organic chemistry!” he fumbled, darkening deeper red. “Not…I mean…well…” he shrugged like he couldn’t deny other implications.
“Hey, Charles,” Len called to the bartender, “bring four whiskey shots and two Jack and Cokes to the room downstairs.”
“You got it, boss.”
“Boss?” Barry asked, scrambling to follow after Len the moment he turned from the bar.
“Sure it is. Wait, there's a downstairs to this place?”
“Come on, Barry, if you’re looking for a night out of the cowl, better live it up in style, be a little bad for bad’s sake, doncha think? Unless that isn’t your speed tonight?” He turned as he reached the door to the lower level, a bit hidden by the bathrooms but not overly secretive. Barry needed to work on his observation skills.
“I feel like this is a trap.”
“Yet you’re still following.”
“I am.” Barry smiled without any dissent, and Len led the way downstairs.
Another smaller bar and dance floor existed here with a more intimate crowd, but no one paid them much mind as Len headed for the room in the far corner with an intimidating bouncer guarding it.
“Frank, I’d like the room to myself.”
“No worries, Mr. Snart. It’s empty. All yours til ya leave.” He stepped aside, giving Barry a brief once over.
“Much obliged,” Len said and gestured Barry to go in first.
Barry needed mindless fun tonight, no judgment, no disapproving stares from friends or family, and there was no better partner than Leonard Snart.
He hadn't expected this kind of fun, but the potent smell of weed in the room didn’t deter him. He hadn't tried marijuana when he tested how much alcohol it took to bypass his powers. There were other strong smells beneath the surface here though, lemony like cleaner. Given the seedier, private nature of the room, Barry could imagine plenty of other reasons it might require frequent cleaning.
“This room isn’t only for drug use, is it?” he said, taking a seat in the middle of the plush sofa. The room was more like a large walk-in closet or one of those karaoke spaces, with a coffee table, end table, sofa, and a few chairs.
“Sometimes,” Snart joined him after removing the cold gun from its holster, hidden by his long jacket but still present as Barry had guessed, and placed it on the coffee table like a peace offering. Then he reached to scrounge in the end table’s top drawer as if he hadn’t just admitted he’d been armed. “Sometimes it has other uses. If it eases your conscience, I have certain sway in this establishment, so the drugs remain soft, and anything hard crossing the threshold is always consensual.”
Barry laughed. Ever with the puns. “I take it that means you’ve used this room before?”
“From time to time.” He produced a lighter and freshly rolled joint. There were a lot more where that came from, Barry saw over his shoulder. He wondered what was in the next drawer down as Snart handed it to him.
“I don’t know if this will affect me. We experimented with alcohol, but never recreational drugs. I tend to burn through most meds.”
“No harm if it does nothing then. Unless you’re planning to arrest me.”
The crackle of the lighter and flicker of shadows it painted across Snart’s face tingled Barry with goosebumps. He sucked on one end of the joint as he leaned forward for the other to be lit, breathing in and holding it before he let out a slow stream of smoke. Snart watched the display with rapt attention.
A gentle knock drew Snart to the door, which he opened to accept a tray of drinks.
“To your overactive health,” he said once they were alone again, lifting a shot glass, which Barry mirrored. “Drink, then take a hit. We'll relax you yet.”
Barry did like a challenge. He and Snart clinked, tapped the shots on the table, and downed them. Immediately, Barry sucked in another long puff from the joint and held it in before exhaling. The warm burn went all through him.
Entrancing fingers plucked the blunt from his hand to do the same.
Glancing at the rest of the drinks, Barry had to ask, “You wanted to do two shots right away?”
“The rest are for you. You said it doesn’t affect you.”
“Right...true.” Barry sagged into the sofa to close his eyes and feel like he used to, checking for those telltale signs that no longer reared their heads when lightning zapped everything through his system too quickly.
The few times he’d smoked before, it took a good long while before he felt anything, whereas drinking used to affect him straightaway. The combination didn’t make him feel drunk exactly, but like something was happening.
“I think it’s working, just…faster than I remember? Wow.”
Already as Barry said that he could feel the buzz fading, though it was lasting longer than drinking alone. He shot back up to down a second shot and swiped the joint back from Snart. Another puff. Another warm burn. Chasing the dragon never felt so apt, since as The Flash, he was always chasing something.
Somewhere within the blend of the two substances, he was finally finding that haze he missed—not drunk, not high, but the perfect place between.
“I can feel it cycling through me, but I…I feel it. You are a genius, Snart.”
“Don’t hog all the fun,” the man snickered. Taking a small sip from one of the Jack and Cokes, he followed it up with a long hit of his own.
Barry watched the way Snart’s fingers rolled the end of the blunt with his puff. His lips were as hypnotic as those elegant digits with the way smoke billowed between them. “I wouldn’t have thought you’d smoke.”
“Rarely. But even I need a good chill on occasion. Anything that dulls the senses isn’t smart when you’re watching your back or planning a heist.”
“Planning any now? You’ve been quiet.”
“You know my MO, Barry,” Snart passed the joint back to him.
Barry took a deeper hit this time while Snart claimed the drink he’d been sipping. “You stopped with the six months thing a while ago. You’ve been around more. Or had been. Now you’ve been holding back, I think…because you’ve been considering what I said.”
“There being good in you. About being something more, something better.”
That smirk was dangerous, but more telling than Snart realized. “A hero like you, you mean? What’s that pay again?”
“I could pay you.”
“Drug use and propositioning in a single night?”
“Not—! I meant—”
“Relax, Barry,” Snart snickered again.
Barry took the third and final shot to hide his blush. Then another puff, deep, and held it for as long as he could. The buzz was fleeting but it was there, longer than seconds, which was bliss for a speedster who felt like he was never allowed to slow down.
“More?” Snart asked.
Unsure how long he could maintain this feeling but not ready to give it up, Barry nodded. He tried his own Jack and Coke while Snart peeked his head out of the room to request another order. More shots for Barry mostly, while Snart planned to pace himself between the blunt and his own drink, knowing where his line was, while pushing to see where Barry’s might end.
The sofa was faux leather but felt softer beneath Barry's touch, trailing his fingers there between passing the joint and taking more swallows of booze. The dim lighting was soothing, thrum of the music from the other room muted but driving. And Snart—god, he was beautiful. Long jacket, vibrant blue eyes, the coil of his fingers around his glass or the end of the blunt, all pure sex and coolness. Barry envied how effortless he made it seem.
The other shots came, and Barry took one the moment it was set in front of him. They’d need another joint soon with the way he was monopolizing it, and just as he thought that, Snart thought the same and got a fresh one. The hollowing of his cheeks taking several short puffs while lighting it reminded Barry of other things those lips might do.
“Cisco is gonna be thrilled I found something that works,” he raised the next shot before downing it.
“Plan to tell him all about this, huh?”
“Maybe not everything. Oh! I could pay you though. To help Team Flash, I meant. Like a consultant? I own STAR Labs, our patents make good money, not to mention what I got from Wells and the settlement after my dad was released. I could pay you if that’s the problem, if you need incentive.”
“I don’t need money, Barry. I’ve squirreled away plenty over the years.”
“You know what,” his voice came sharper, colder.
“The thrill. The challenge,” Barry recited. “But you can get those things by stopping criminals instead of being one. Trial run sometime?” He stubbed out the finished blunt in the ashtray, then plucked the fresh one from Snart’s lips and brought it to his own.
Snart watched the trek to Barry’s mouth and took a long swallow that almost killed his drink. “That’s a big ask, Scarlet.”
“Think about it. Unfettered access to the Labs. You play nice, and if you don’t like it, well…it’ll be pretty hard for us to stop you from screwing us over if we let you in the front door.”
The sheet of ice Snart had pulled around him started to crack, and with it came a smile at Barry’s teasing. “You haven’t learned yet not to trust scoundrels, have you?”
“Nope,” Barry took another drag. “At least not the ones who aren’t as bad as they pretend to be.”
Setting his drink on the end table, Snart shifted out of the corner to crowd in on Barry instead. “Meaning,” he said, reclaiming the joint, “if I want to prove I’m not as heroic as you seem to think…I need to be bad?” and took a deep inhale before diving forward to capture Barry’s lips.
The buzz of the exhale went right to Barry’s head, only partially because of the narcotic. Their tongues barely touched with the passing of breath, but when Snart pulled away, Barry found himself chasing after him. He wanted another hit, another shot, another taste.
But he didn’t want this to feel cheap, didn’t want Snart to think he thought he was cheap.
“Snart, I didn’t come here for—”
“Really, Barry?” Snart read him like always, wide open. His left arm slid along the back of the sofa for leverage, right still holding the joint, eyes on Barry’s lips while his own were left shimmering. “Coz I think this is exactly what you came here for. Which sounds like marvelous fun, but if I’m wrong, say the word.”
Offering up the blunt, he held it in place for Barry to take another puff.
Barry’s lips parted so prettily to take the hit, holding in the smoke as Len had, then leaning forward to offer the same shared exhale in answer. This time, when they passed the smoke between them, Barry pressed the kiss deeper and twisted his fingers into Len’s sweater to pull him closer.
Len nearly missed the coffee table groping to drop the blunt into the ashtray, wanting only to push forward and topple Barry back onto the cushions. The boy made the loveliest whimper as he climbed on top of him.
Len was in a good place, just where he liked to ride, on the edge of losing control, but he needed to be certain Barry was keeping pace.
“You clear headed, kid?”
“Mmhm. Just relaxed.”
“Good. So am I. And very certain of what I want.” Reaching between them, he found the bulge in Barry’s jeans and squeezed.
“Y-Yeah…” Barry bucked into his touch. “Me too.”
“Need more?” Len glanced at the table.
“One more,” Barry nodded, eyes already clearing to prove how much his buzz needed to be chased.
Len sat up to allow the boy to take another shot, while he claimed a puff before passing the blunt to Barry again. Both held in the smoke this time, and they went for each other in tandem, breath escaping, tongues seeking, bodies moving in frenzied rhythm as they stretched once more onto the sofa. It left Len’s head fuzzy but his mind clear. He’d never expected to get The Flash beneath him, but he wasn’t complaining.
“More,” Barry said, wrapping denim-clad legs around Len’s waist.
“You,” he pushed Len’s jacket from his shoulders and pawed at the edge of his sweater. Naturally the speedster would be greedy. Len loved the things about them that echoed each other—and the things that didn’t.
Whenever their hips connected, the most pleasant thrill shot through him, but while it was easy to tear away their upper layers, it was more difficult to rid Barry of his jeans, or Len of his, with those long legs tangled, hips never ceasing their upward momentum through each kiss and caress.
“Better loosen that hold, Scarlet, if you want all I have to offer.”
Barry whined at the disconnection, but Len made up for it by opening his jeans and sliding a hand down the front of them. Barry’s skin was hot, slick, and his neck stretched long and inviting at Len’s touch. He couldn’t wait to get Barry’s hands on him.
Len felt another tingle as his fingers crossed Barry's skin, but he was more focused on tugging the jeans down, which meant, when he pulled them further open and finally, truly looked, he froze at what he found on Barry’s hip.
His soulmark was shaped in a familiar broken snowflake that for years Len had thought he’d never see on anyone else. On his own skin, he thought the snowflake was cut in half, bisected, but on Barry, he saw the jagged design running through it for what it was—a lightning bolt.
They matched. They were…
“Snart,” Barry moaned, reaching to undo Len's jeans, swift and eager, and all too late Len realized what would happen. He’d felt the tingle when he touched Barry’s mark, and if Barry touched his, they’d Bond.
Snatching the kid’s wrist to stop him, Len was as fast as he’d ever been against The Flash, but not fast enough to stop him from seeing the evidence staring back at him. Hazel eyes widened as they took in the shared mark, clearing of any buzz or arousal to be replaced with disbelief, wonder, and…joy.
“It’s you. I'd given up, thought I’d…that I'd never find you, and all this time…” That smile, the hitch to his breath, the whole situation and what it meant, shredded Len like swallowing glass. “It’s you. You’re my—” but as Barry reached to complete the Bond, Len held him firmly in place to prevent it.
Shoving forward to knock Barry off balance, Len took the opportunity to scramble from the sofa, knocking his shin into the coffee table in his haste and cursing at the pain, but not stopping.
“Snart! What are you—”
“Get out,” Len snarled once he’d righted himself, looming over Barry but remaining out of range.
“What? But why—”
They were both down to unbuttoned jeans, but Barry could get dressed in seconds, and that’s what he damn well better do if he knew what was good for him.
“Listen,” he tried, running a hand through his tousled hair as he stood and moved toward Len.
“One more step,” Len snagged the cold gun from the coffee table and charged it as he pointed it in Barry’s face, “and I don’t care about any deals we’ve had in the past. Get. Out.” He would not be swayed by the heartbreak on that pretty, foolish face, not when everything beneath his skin felt like fire that not even the cold gun could cool.
“Leonard…” Barry took another step anyway, pleading, gentle, and all around too good.
The glow of the cooling cells lit up the room as Len prepared to fire, and only then was there a whoosh, a spark of yellow, and the sudden departure of Barry and his clothing.
Dropping the cold gun onto the cushions, Len reached not for the joint but the remaining alcohol and downed every last drop.
He had to get out of there, but more than that, he had to be certain Barry did not follow him home.
Finally. Just when Barry had accepted that it would never happen, that he’d always have some piece of him missing, he’d found his matching mark, and of all people to discover it on, it was Leonard Snart.
Joe would be horrified. Cisco would be horrified. Iris would probably laugh—good naturedly, but still—and Caitlin would get that nose crinkle of disapproval, but none of their reactions mattered, because they wouldn’t change the truth. Captain Cold and The Flash were connected the deepest way two people could be.
Why Barry was so drawn to him, so in synch, so willing to forgive and trust and try again made so much sense. There had always been something different about Snart, and now Barry knew why he’d had a sixth sense about the man from day one.
He wasn’t disappointed or upset; he was thrilled. Snart was gorgeous, intelligent, funny, sexy, creative, a huge dork while exuding coolness, and despite every bad thing Barry could list…the man had been changing his ways enough to prove there was good in him just like Barry had always known.
Tonight, when Barry felt tingles at Snart’s touch, he’d assumed it was arousal mixed with the buzz from their high, but it was the start of their Bond. If Barry had touched Snart’s mark in return, it would have completed, fastening them together with shared memory and thought in a rush most people described as bliss no artificial high could match.
Was Snart truly that disappointed to be soulmates with his nemesis that he’d deny them that? Clearly, the attraction went both ways. They understood each other, Barry thought, shared a mutual respect at least.
No, it wasn’t disgust Barry felt in the connection they shared, mild though it was and incomplete, but fear. And Barry knew exactly why.
He’d considered waiting outside Saints and Sinners to follow Snart, but he didn’t want to push the man when he needed space, so he’d headed home instead.
He had his own apartment now, and he was glad for it tonight when he wasn’t ready to tell anyone yet and didn’t want to see anyone either. He was only half connected to Snart, but it was still a connection. With concentration, he could feel a thrum of fear, anger, irritation—maybe because Barry was prying, but he just wanted Snart to understand.
Sitting on the edge of his bed, he slid his hand into his waistband to touch his mark, eyes closed, and focused on projecting calm and reassurance, so Snart wouldn’t be afraid.
The rush of feeling struck the air from Len’s chest.
Idiot. Barry didn’t get what a disaster this was—for him. He was supposed to Bond with some pretty girl who Len would have sneered at and resented, but it would have been fitting for the wayward hero, expected. He wasn’t meant to Bond with someone who had too many memories to share, almost more extra years than Barry had been alive, and most of them not worth remembering at all.
Not that Len cared about their ages. He didn’t care about that. He didn’t care about anyone, had never longed for or expected to find his soulmate, because it would have meant someone knowing him from the inside out, and there was nothing to find there but muck.
Please…the foreign emotions pushing on him seemed to say, pure with longing.
Len pulled up to the safehouse he’d been staying at, parked his bike, walked to the brick wall of the building, and punched it as hard as he could.
“Ah!” Barry shook his hand to chase away the phantom sting.
He got the message, but he wasn’t giving up without a fight.
Mick and Lisa were out of town, which was just as well. Both would have been able to read how off Len was, though only Lisa would have pried and tried to talk him out of an impromptu heist after only twenty-four hours.
He’d stopped with the sixth month planning ages ago, like Barry said, changed the game for The Flash and had more fun, in the long run, because he didn’t need six months when he wanted to get caught. The same was true this time.
He needed to teach Barry swift and harsh what he was and what would never be in their future.
Len needed to forget the past year and a half and the miracle boy who believed in him, who foolishly thought this was something to celebrate, or he’d start to long for what Barry’s eyes promised, staring up at him from that dingy sofa.
It would only lead to disaster…
…if they bonded and Barry saw plainly the monster he was tethered to.
“Please tell me you’re joking.”
“Captain Cold is your—” Cisco cut off, glancing around the Cortex, even though no one else was there to overhear. “Dude, really? I still can’t believe you got high with him in that creepy bar and started making out, like TMI—way TMI—but you’re soulmates with the guy? What are you gonna do?”
As it turned out, Barry had told Cisco everything. “I need him to talk to me first. He thinks I don’t get it, but I do.”
“Why he’s upset. Why he made me leave.”
“Because he doesn’t think he deserves me.”
Cisco knew not to take Barry’s words for preening, just insight into the thief’s mind that he couldn’t deny once he processed it. “You can feel that?”
“Not specifically, but I know him. We’re a lot alike.”
“Yeah?” Cisco smiled like he wasn’t sure he believed that.
“I don’t think I deserve him either.”
“Sometimes I hate myself for the things I’ve done, whether in my control or not,” Barry said, not mincing words or how he’d been feeling lately, waiting for Iris and Eddie’s wedding, resigned to a fate without the epic romance he’d always envisioned for himself. But epic stories weren’t told without strife, without conflict and challenge. “I think he’s the same way, but he’s so far down the rabbit hole because of his dad and decades of being in that life, he doesn’t think he can climb out again. But he can. I know he can. He already has been, he’s just scared.”
“Barry, I get it, but being soulmates doesn’t suddenly change someone. It doesn’t mean you…love each other and everything will be perfect.”
“I don’t love him, Cisco,” Barry said. He was a romantic, not an idiot—usually. “But I see how I could. He doesn’t need to change for me. He assumes that’s what I want, but all I’d ever ask is for him to accept what he was almost ready to anyway, that there’s compromise. This just spooked him.”
Cisco nodded, more understanding than Barry had given him credit for, but he’d chosen Cisco to confess to because his friend knew what it was like to flirt with danger—and a Snart. “What do you need, buddy? How can I help?”
“Help give me space. He’s going to do something stupid, and I don’t want the rest of the team to figure out what’s going on until I’m ready to tell them the truth. After I’ve talked with him, then I’ll tell them. Maybe we’ll tell everyone together,” he smiled wistfully at the thought.
“There’s something to add to my to-do list,” Cisco offered a wide, quivering smile, “witnessing Joe’s head vein pop.”
“I get it. I got your back, man. But what do you think he’s gonna do?”
“Whatever it is, no matter what happens, I will not give him what he wants.”
Punching that wall was foolhardy, the last thing Len would have done before a heist if he’d been thinking clearly, but Barry had earned retaliation for trying to get inside his head.
Since then, the presses of emotion had been subtler, unintentional, Len believed, but still more potent than he cared to experience. Confidence. Caring. Sympathy. Longing.
It wasn’t only emotion either. The connection was incomplete, so occasionally Len would reach for something before realizing nothing was there. Barry was the one, elsewhere, anywhere, moving to grasp some object he sought.
He didn’t get into any fights at least, but whenever he ran, Len felt that too, like his heart was racing, wind in his face, breath caught like the thrill of a rollercoaster, without the nausea that actually being carted off by The Flash could cause.
Len felt when Barry was hungry, worried, tired, when he finally fell off to sleep last night, and the restrained feeling of touching inch after inch of skin when he showered that morning.
It would pass. It would fade, over time. Once Barry gave up and moved on, the connection would dwindle as if they’d never come close to bonding. Len just had to make it clear that’s how things were going to be.
Hand wrapped beneath his glove from the sprain in his fingers, he kept it near his cold gun without winding his grip tight until he needed to. The museum was familiar stomping grounds and fitting as a reminder to his nemesis what sides they were on. He’d made sure the alarm was tripped but still moved smoothly to acquire the trinkets he’d selected for tonight—all smart business, nothing sentimental, the sentiment was in the location, which Barry would understand and arrive, no doubt, in moments once Team Flash detected the use of his gun.
CCPD would take ten minutes to respond. The Flash less than two.
And he didn’t disappoint.
“You need a new profession, Snart.”
Bag of loot in hand, halfway to the exit, having hoped he’d be stopped just like this, Len spun toward the sound of Barry’s voice to find—Barry. Not The Flash, not the suit, just the boy, wearing jeans, a T-shirt, and a red jacket like some mockery.
“Fairly certain this hurts more without the leather,” he tipped his gun at Barry’s form.
“Better run off and change now, though I can’t say I’ll still be here when you get back.”
“I’m not going anywhere, Snart,” Barry said, posture tall and steps sure. “And I’m not changing. If we’re gonna do this, I’m staying as I am.”
The museum was dim like Barry remembered from their first face-to-face, which made the cells of the cold gun glow that much brighter. He’d been careful not to flash by anyone while in civilian garb or in front of any cameras, though Cisco was taking care of that so the interlude wouldn’t be recorded.
He had to be Barry for this because otherwise Snart would hide behind their personas and keep convincing himself they had to be at odds.
“No thermal dampeners in cotton,” Snart dipped his gun down Barry’s body once more.
“Then I guess if you shoot me, I’ll have a hard time healing.”
A huff and sneer replied from behind familiar goggles. “You think this’ll sway me? That I won’t fire?”
Snart fired that second, a blazing stream of cold past Barry’s head—but past him.
“Next time, I won’t. You don’t want to play hero tonight, fine. I’ll be on my merry way.” He turned, but after a step, Barry was in front of him again with a lick of lightning at his heels.
“I can’t let you do that.”
“Then, once again, you are sorely underdressed.”
“You knocked out the guards, Snart,” Barry advanced on him only to meet the business end of the gun’s glow, “but they’re all fine, I checked. No civilians hurt. No one dead.”
“Looking to change that, Flash?” Snart snarled.
“You don’t want to do this anymore, Leonard.”
“I guarantee you, I do.”
“Not if people get hurt. You know I’m right about you, that’s why—”
Snart fired a second time, close enough that Barry hissed from a graze along his ear and cheek, hand instinctively going to cup it. “Last warning, Flash!”
“You don’t have to prove anything to me!” Barry said, holding his ground. “I know exactly what you hoped to do tonight—to push me. Get me angry so I’d see the darkness in you and give up. It’s not going to work.
“I spent my whole life dreaming about who my soulmate might be.” He took another cautious step, daring Snart to fire, which would have to be centered this time or reveal the lie of his intent. “Never came close to finding them, but no one else was ever enough. They write research papers on how harmful it is to wait for your soulmate, to live your life without living, but I couldn’t imagine being happy without finding that one person. It’s all I ever wanted, especially after seeing my parents lose it.”
“What a disappointment this must be for you then,” Snart said with a cold and calculating stillness.
“But it’s not. Did I look disappointed last night? It made so much sense—”
“Because I’m your project, that it?” Snart stalked forward, but Barry saw how his grip shook. “So you can fix me?”
“No,” Barry held still only after the end of the gun touched the center of his T-shirt and the cold in the muzzle made his breath catch. “Because you’re not as bad as you think. And I’m not always so nice. But we see that about each other and accept it, balance it. That’s what soulmates do, Leonard—”
“Stop calling me that. You’d rather make me shoot you,” he pushed the barrel harder against Barry’s breastbone, “to force me into bonding than accept that I don’t want this?”
“I’d never force you.” Barry stilled, watching the warring emotions on Snart’s face bleed past his mask, and trusting in what he could feel through their tenuous connection. “But if you really don’t want this then tell me it’s because you hate me. Because I’m not enough. Because I’m not good enough. Tell me that’s the reason and I’ll walk away. I don’t think it is though. I think you’re scared that when we Bond I won’t like what I see.”
“You won’t,” his grip faltered again and started to drift down, “you’ll see everything, and trust me, kid, you won’t feel the same, you won’t want this.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Yes, I do.”
“I know plenty about you already. I know you at your best and worst—”
Barry sighed, but he knew he wasn’t spouting at a brick wall; there was a window cracking open, hopeful for air. “I need you to believe in me, Snart. Leonard. Please. I believe in you. I’m glad it’s you. Please believe that making this real won’t change how I see you.”
The gun fell the rest of the way to point at the floor, leaving the picture of a defeated man who’d been so sure a moment ago. “If you’re wrong—”
“Then you can ice me. Truth is, you might be surprised at the darkness you see in me, but I won’t be surprised by what I know you’ve lived with or the things you’ve done. And I won’t be surprised by the good I’ll find either.”
It was a foregone conclusion for Barry how the night would end, because believing in someone meant believing always. He knew Snart was never going to shoot him, but he’d had to face him without flinching to prove that.
At last, the gun returned to its holster and the bag of loot dropped to the floor.
“Like I said, kid, you’re underdressed. Spoils the mood,” Len said, exhausted—beaten by this boy again all because he couldn’t shoot. But Barry was right; he couldn’t.
“What now?” Barry inched closer. “Back to Saints and Sinners to pick up where we left off?”
Len chuckled at the prospect, in full gear and all, not that the crew down there would bat an eye. “That what all your childhood daydreams looked like, Barry, smoking in a seedy bar with a man twice your age?”
“Depends on the daydream,” Barry fell into step with their usual banter.
But Len didn’t have much more to give. If he was going to do this, it had to be now, before he lost his nerve. Glancing at the bag of loot, he decided he was fine with it staying right where it was, and said, “Take me home, Scarlet. Get us out of here.”
In a whirlwind that reminded Len of all the times he’d felt Barry run these past twenty-four hours, the museum was there and then suddenly not, replaced by light and blurred images and the feeling of his stomach left behind before reality rematerialized inside an apartment. At least the kid didn’t live with West anymore.
Len teetered to find his feet, but stabilized as Barry came to stand in front of him, not crowding, not invading, just waiting, far more patient than Len would expect from a speed freak.
They made a strange parody of themselves, Len in full gear, Barry in civvies. Len walked to the sofa to remove his gun. Then his holster. Then his parka, and the goggles and gloves dropped on top of it. He hesitated, watching Barry watch him, then started to undo his pants.
“No talking. The longer we wait, the more I’m itching to pick up that gun.”
Instead of trying to stop Len again, Barry removed his jacket like he needed to keep them even while Len opened his pants to reveal the mark.
Barry threw his jacket on the sofa, the opposite end from the Cold gear, and they met in the middle behind it, only for Barry to reach for Len’s cheek instead of the task at hand.
“No talking, fine, but…let me do this first,” he said, and drew Len into a kiss.
Silly romantic. A kiss wouldn’t change anything, it only reminded Len how good this felt, just like it felt last night, which would make it all worse when Barry recoiled.
Len fought to grasp the kid’s free hand while he battled to make the kiss harsher and brought Barry’s warm fingers to his stomach. Barry flipped it around and brought Len’s hand to the edge of his T-shirt first. Then he reached to return to the skin he’d left and slowly began to drift downward.
Same time, he wanted, though Len had already touched Barry once. Fine—romance it was, before it broke.
Pushing up beneath the T-shirt, Len felt Barry’s skin, warmer than his hand. His jeans were the skinny kind, but not too tight that he couldn’t slip in and find the groove of his hip.
In the moment, it was easy to forget that they could feel part of each other already, but as their fingers drew downward, they truly were in synch, like being pulled by an evenly stretched thread.
Their breaths caught, a pause in their kiss, as they reached their marks together—and why soulmarks shimmered like oil on pavement on a summer day made sudden, glaring sense, because a rainbow of color exploded behind the dark of Len’s eyes.
He’d read about the Bond. He’d seen movies depict it in silly romances and great tragedies. Nothing could have prepared him for how it felt, but even in the first few seconds, he knew this was not what other people experienced.
Snapping back from their kiss, Len looked around them to find the apartment indistinct beyond a glowing vortex of light—no, lightning—and a stillness over everything, even the air, as if Time itself had stopped.
“The Speed Force,” Barry’s voice cut through the crackling din, “you can see it?”
“I can feel it.”
The smile on Barry’s face was more brilliant than any lightning, than any Force beyond nature that made him such a wonder. He drew Len back to him, and their hands slid from their marks because it was no longer necessary. The Bond had started, but instead of a rush, Len knew they’d experience it their own way, like no one else ever had.
They kissed—and Len was three years old in dinosaur pajamas being tickled by his mother.
Barry’s mother read to him of a dinosaur he cherished like a keepsake as real as the book.
Len was booked for the first time in juvi for theft, then nearly killed until Mick showed up to save him.
Barry was saved by Joe West when his parents were taken, but it was a long time later before he cried.
Len never cried when his father struck bruises into his skin, not since Lisa gave him something to protect.
Barry protected himself by keeping people at arm’s length, because they all shunned him eventually once they learned about his obsession and a father in jail for murder.
Len murdered his first man when he was twenty—hand quaking, nearly dropping the gun—but he couldn’t think of it as murder then, it was survival.
Barry survived the lightning because he had to, he had to, but survival wasn’t enough on its own.
“Len…” he knew instinctively now not to call him Leonard.
“I’m sorry, Barry,” Len said, overlapping the memory of the first time he'd said that, only months ago when he thought his father shot the boy dead.
“Me too,” Barry whispered, “but I’m not sorry we’re here. I’m not sorry you’re mine.”
As he gripped Len’s sweater, the lightning took them, moving through the apartment in a flash. Inside the Speed Force felt so different from being an observer—Len was part of it now, part of Barry, part of everything, and he’d never felt so whole.
Barry’s bedroom lit up like the living room had as they hit the mattress, a cyclone of red and yellow like they were floating through hyperspace. The flashes of memory didn’t come in order, but they were always a balance.
Len's first day of school and Barry's first kiss; Len taking his first hit for Lisa and Barry’s first Christmas with the West’s; the first time Len touched a boy...and the first time Barry did; all the way to the current moment, seen through each other’s eyes and all their own too.
It should have been strange to be everywhere and also each individual moment, some speeding up, others drawn out like real-time, but through it all, Len was aware of his surroundings, of Barry’s lips and body, the apartment, even the thrum of lightning holding communion with them like a shield.
There was bliss and there was heartache, fury and forgiveness, every stumble and new experience each had ever known. There was darkness, so much of it, but light too, even some things they’d forgotten.
Len wept to feel it all again with Barry’s openness coursing through him, while Barry’s eyes looked clear and steady to live it all with Len’s control.
The memories gave way to emotion, to the moment, to the need to touch every part of them not already entwined, until they were bare on the bed, moving in tune with the licks of lightning at their skin. It wasn’t anything like Len imagined, simply…beautiful, too beautiful not to sob in the connection and wonder why Barry wasn’t sobbing with him.
“Shhh…it’s okay. We’re feeling each other more than ourselves, and you’re so strong, Len. I want more of you.”
They had nothing but each other and the lightning, yet somehow ‘more’ didn’t seem like an impossible task. Len reached for Barry and he opened up to pull Len closer, drew his hands and fingers lower, and this too dilated and sped up in increments as though they skimmed the edge of a singularity, only this one they could control. This they were masters of.
Len sank into Barry like surrendering to the warmest, calmest ocean, and it was there, guiding their movements, that Len realized he had dominion over the Speed Force as absolutely as Barry did—here, now, while they bonded, however long it lasted. He didn’t know if that would carry past tonight, but for now he rode the waves of Barry Allen in awe, back arching, one hand seeking the mark they shared, the other reaching skyward to tap a lightning bolt that zipped around the room like something alive.
Barry laughed, and Len looked at him with such devotion, he didn’t know how to express the emotions running through him. He thought he might love this boy, might drown in him and wanted to, but for now, he accepted being able to move and have the world move with them.
Time didn’t exist normally here, so their union went on for what might have been hours or minutes, but between them was lifetimes and hope for a new one that would be shared.
Maybe they were still in that room at Saints and Sinners, high and drunk off each other, imagining it all, but Len knew better than to think his fantasies could ever be this pure.
There was no grand explosion when they finally came, in perfect harmony, just a pulse and shudder of light. Their cocoon inside the Speed Force didn’t immediately dwindle, but stayed as if they floated with the cosmos lying in bed, sticky and sweaty and spent.
Wherever they touched, there was the sense that they connected deeper than skin, and for now, Len still felt every part of Barry more than an echo, but like himself, and he cried because of it, while Barry held him close and murmured tenderly.
“I’ve got you, Len.”
Finally, someone had him and wanted what they’d found.
“How do you stand feeling this all the time?” Snart sniffled—no, Len did. He was Len.
“How do you handle holding it all in?” Barry asked.
“Because if I didn't...I would have been just like him. Not that I mean you—”
“I know. Your strength is amazing, Len.”
“Your compassion is. The things I've done...”
“I've done terrible things too.”
“Not on the same scale.”
“Maybe not,” Barry said. “Should I hate you for all of it when I know you want to be better? I couldn't even hate the man who killed my mother just to torture me. I can forgive you.”
“I don't know if I can,” Len’s voice came almost too softly to hear, “even if a sweet boy promises sweet things and believes in me.”
The bright colors of the lightning were fading, returning to the core of Barry where they originated, but he wondered if it would always seek Len now and consider him part of it. He took Len's hand, wrapped in gauze, and started to unwind the simple cloth, knowing what he'd find when he finished and tossed the wrappings away - that the damage was healed. “Well too bad, coz I'm not going to stop believing in you until it rubs off. You and me,” he held the man closer, “it was always meant to be you and me.”
“You deserve better,” Len said, though without the bite he’d used last night—or even tonight.
“I deserve exactly what I have. You just have to let me.”
Slowly, the rest of the lightning blinked out, pulses calmed, emotions came in check, memories like echoes between them, not as distinct as their own, but present, almost as if they’d lived them together.
The room seemed too dark and too quiet in the aftermath, until Len said, “Where do we begin?”
“I know it’s going to be complicated, but I can handle that. Though it would help if you weren’t committing heists.”
Len chuckled now that his tears had dried. His face didn’t appear reddened or chapped when he looked at Barry. He seemed younger. “No promises. But when you need me, maybe I can give this…hero thing a try. On occasion,” he said, like it was the harshest concession.
“I warn you, you’re gonna end up loving it.”
“Maybe… Or maybe I can corrupt you a little too.”
“Tit for tat and all that.” Len’s eyes shimmered with mischief. “If I try heroing, you have to try a heist.”
“What? I can’t…that’s…” But Barry was trapped because the main emotion he’d been trying to share since last night was his willingness to compromise. “One heist.”
That lit up Len’s face in delighted surprise. “I warn you,” he echoed Barry, “you’re gonna end up loving it.”
“This city’s in trouble if you’re right.”
“I, uhh…told Cisco.”
There came a more familiar cringe, bringing about the swing of an axe labeled ‘reality’. It was easier to remain in the dark of Barry’s bedroom, on top of jumbled sheets, naked and almost too warm but unwilling to separate. “And you want to tell everyone now, I assume.”
“Yep. You should too.”
“My everyone is smaller. Though I suppose I could just ice you and end this misery.”
“You could,” Barry said, wondering if he was imagining that Len’s hair seemed darker, face just a little less lined and thinner, but maybe it was from all those memories he’d experienced that hadn’t once turned him off from what he wanted. “You won’t though.”
“No,” Len said and reached for Barry to claim another kiss, “I won’t.”