Chapter 1: Christmas On December 16th?
The West household was festooned with lights and bright Christmas decorations. Barry and Iris had spent the day finishing up the decoration of the Christmas tree, as was traditional - or had been until two years ago. It was nice, Barry thought, to get back to those Christmas traditions.
The only difference was, it wasn't Christmas yet.
"I can't believe I agreed to this," Joe grumbled, though he was smiling as he taste-tested Grandma West's traditional egg nog. "Christmas on December 16th? Who ever thought of that?"
"At least it means we'll have a Christmas, dad," Iris pointed out. "Barry hasn't exactly been here the last couple of years."
Though he knew they meant well, the reminder sent a sharp pain through Barry's heart. Two months ago, during the Dominators invasion, he had gotten the news that Len had died during his mission on the Waverider. He had been supportive of Len going on that adventure, even though Barry couldn't come along, but he hadn't expected that outcome.
Len had always seemed to be so impervious to danger, and now he was gone.
He had grieved, and right now with Christmas just around the corner, he knew that he hadn't processed Len's death nearly as well as he'd thought. Looking around himself, he half expected to see his lover come around the corner, a drink in hand and a smirk on his lips, and whisk Barry off to another snowy getaway.
"I'll be here this year, though," he said, struggling not to let the sadness he felt at the comment show in his voice.
Iris' smile faltered, but she quickly brightened again and patted Barry on the shoulder. "I know, Bear, but Cisco and Lisa will probably be gone. And, well." She glanced wryly out the window as if the Rogues might roll up in their van at any moment to kidnap Barry. "Frankly, after the last two years, I just wanted to be sure you won't miss out this time."
"I know," Barry said, and smiled at her. It wasn't her fault he was in the doldrums, and he knew she was doing her best to raise his spirits. He appreciated all of that.
"Hey Joe!" Eddie called from the kitchen. There was a great deal of clattering as he struggled with some side dish. The sweet potatoes had burned, and last Barry had seen, he was trying to save them. "I think you'd better check the turkey."
"Oops, better baste that bird," Joe said, and trotted into the kitchen. The doorbell rang, and Joe yelled over his shoulder. "That'll be Wally! Get the door, will you?"
Grateful for the distraction, Barry finished hanging the ornament in his hand and darted to the door. He twisted the knob and opened the door with a grin. "Hey-- you're not Wally."
"Not without a lot more time in the tanning booth, sweetheart," Lisa said. "And a few other changes." Her tone was cool and clipped, at odds with the warm, festive dress she wore - a red dress, trimmed in white fur, and glittering with gold sequins. She looked gorgeous and her eyes were two chips of ice.
"Hi Lisa," Barry squeaked. He hadn't seen her in months - not since she chewed him out for 'convincing' Len and Mick to go 'gallivanting off on that idiotic job'. He was certain, and not without justification, that she blamed him for Len's death. "Um, welcome to our house."
"I'm not staying," she said, and turned to the side. "And neither are you." Only now did Barry see Cisco standing just behind Lisa.
He looked harried. "Barry, we have-- a problem. We’ve gotten a message from Supergirl over at the lab, and from what Caitlin told us about what it says, I think you'd better come with us see it."
Of all the things Barry had expected Cisco to say, that was not one of them. "A message from Supergirl? Is she in trouble?"
"Yeah," Cisco said, and looked up at Lisa. "She's calling for help, but that's not all."
"It's about my brother," Lisa said, folding her arms. "He's alive."
Barry's knees actually buckled. He leaned on the doorjamb. "Len? Len's alive-- but what does that have to do with Supergirl?"
"That's what we have to figure out," Lisa said. She leaned closer to Barry, filling his vision and cutting off his view. "And you're going to help us go get him, Barry. Today."
Barry swallowed hard. "Okay. I'm coming."
~ ~ ~
If there was a possibility that Len might actually be alive and in trouble... Christmas could wait.
He raced to STAR Labs as soon as he could, and whirled into the cortex, coming to a stop when he saw Caitlin sitting at one of the work stations. "Hey," he said. "Cisco and Lisa came to my house. They said--"
"There's a message from Supergirl," she said. "Yeah. Here, I'll bring it up for you." Her eyes darted from Barry to the side and she pursed her lips tightly, jerking her head towards the doorway into Cisco's private lab. Barry looked in that direction, then back at Caitlin, the hairs on the back of his neck rising. The message was clear - they weren't alone.
As if on cue, Mick Rory emerged from the room. He had a twizzler hanging halfway out of his mouth and as he walked towards them, he stuffed a second one in with the first, shoving the entirety of both ropes into his gob and chewing. "That kid’s only got sweet shit," he commented through a mouthful of red, chewy candy.
Caitlin winced, her shoulders rising with tension.
"Mick, what are you doing here?" Barry asked, startled. "Are the rest of the Legends here, too?"
"I came home for Christmas, dumbass," he said. "Sara dropped me off, said I wouldn't like it in Iceland anyways. You think I should call them back? I figured we had enough people without adding those do-gooders to the mix." He grinned at Barry. "You an' pretty boy, and the gal will be enough." He glanced back over his shoulder, and to Barry's horror, Mark Mardon emerged from the room behind him, followed by Roy, Kyle, Hartley, and Shawna.
No wonder Caitlin was looking like she'd rather be anywhere but here.
"Hey, good to finally see you," Mark said with a wolfish grin, and Barry realized with a jolt - he wasn't wearing his mask.
The world slowed around him as his heart sped up and the speed force crackled around him. A litany of swear words that would have made Joe ground him for life ran through Barry's mind in an instant, but it was already too late to actually do anything about it. He closed his eyes, let out a breath, and allowed the world to speed up again.
"Good to see you, too, Mark," Barry lied and moved to join Caitlin behind the computer screen. She looked up at him, mouthing an apology, and he waved a hand dismissively. It wasn't her fault. She hadn't had time to properly warn him without tipping them off.
Mick blinked and then cuffed Mark on the back of the head. "Forget you ever saw it, if you know what's good for ya," he said, and wandered out of the room again, probably in search of more snacks.
The rest of the Rogues also scattered to different parts of the room, and Barry put them out of his mind for now. They were all here for the same purpose - to save Leonard Snart - so there was no danger from the Rogues today. Not much danger. Probably.
At least the Tricksters had apparently not been invited.
"Show me the message, please," he said quietly.
Hartley sauntered over while Caitlin brought up a video file, and leaned on the back of Caitlin's chair. "Hey Flash," he said cheerfully.
"Hey Hartley," Barry said, greeting him with a genuine smile. Then the video loaded, and he fell silent, watching.
The recording began with a close up of Kara's face. She wasn't wearing her glasses, and the background was slightly blurry, dark and with odd lighting, like the power wasn't working correctly. The lights behind her flashed erratically, throwing her face alternately into sharp relief and silhouette. Once, the lights failed completely, plunging the entire scene into complete darkness. The furrow between her brows was deep, her blue eyes hooded with exhaustion and desperation.
"Hi Cisco, it's Kara. Ha... I guess you knew that, huh? I'm sorry to be calling so soon asking for a favour, but we have a problem here, and we and the DEO need your help. There's been an invasion, and things-- it's bad. Look, I'll show you." She drew a breath, and turned the camera away from her face.
The video wobbled crazily as she moved the device, and then stabilized, showing a computer screen. The screen was playing a video of what looked like a traffic monitor feed. On the screen Barry saw a crowd of people, beating their fists on a heavily armoured door, surrounded by a destroyed chain link fence. It looked as though the hoard of people might have actually broken the fence down with their sheer numbers before throwing themselves at the door.
"This video shows the exterior of the DEO facility," Kara explained, her voice shaking. "Those people out there, they're humans, but they've been infected by some kind of virus. Alex is working to find a cure, but the source, the original source is still virtually unknown. A week ago a fleet of alien ships appeared in the sky, and all of this happened after they arrived. So far, the aliens have resisted any of our attempts to make contact with them, but it seems obvious that they are the source of the infection. We still don't know what they want, or how they're doing this."
The horrific scene shifted again, resolving once more on Kara's face. Tears were standing in her eyes. "People are dying, Cisco, and I'm just one person. I can't be everywhere at once. I just need help to buy time for Alex to find a cure for the virus. Please, bring everyone you can."
She swallowed, and a tentative smile graced her pretty features, at odds with the tears in her eyes. "Also, one more thing." She turned the camera again, and Barry caught his breath in shock. The room Kara was standing in had to be the medical bay in the DEO. It was almost unrecognizable given what was wrong with the lighting, but there was a medical bed and a man was lying in it, covered with a sheet. "I have good news for Barry," Kara said, and brought the camera close to the face of the man in the bed.
Len's face was wan and pale, and there was dried blood clinging to scabs on his forehead and cheek, which were purpled with bruises. Nevertheless, his face was familiar, his identity unmistakable. He cracked open his eyes at the approach of Supergirl, and Barry's heart clenched and broke at the look of confusion and fear in his eyes. His pupils were blown wide, and Barry wondered if he were drugged. How badly injured was he?
"Say hello to Barry, Leonard," Kara said. "He'll be coming for you, soon. I know he will."
"Barry?" Len murmured, his eyes widening. "Barry's coming?" As Barry had suspected, his words were slurred. Clearly they were having to keep him on some pretty heavy pain meds. He shifted under the blanket that covered him, as if straining to rise and unable to do so. "You know where Barry is?"
"Shhh," Kara murmured, patting him gently on the cheek. His eyes slid closed and he moaned, as the camera returned to Kara's face once more. "He goes in and out of lucidity, but I've been talking to him and I'm sure this is Len from your world. I have no idea how he got here," she said. "Alex says he'll be okay, but I know he'll be happy to see a familiar face."
Her expression crumpled once again, the desperation she felt cracking that cheerful veneer. "Cisco, please hurry. I don't know how long we can hold out."
~ ~ ~
“I sent the video,” Kara said. “Barry and his friends will be here any minute.” She shook her head and folded her arms, leaning against Leonard’s bed. He shifted under the blankets, his restraints rattling. “It’s too bad I had to drug you. It would’ve been better if you could have given him a more personal message. But I’m sure it was enough to bring him running.”
There was silence for a long moment, then he spoke. “Why haven’t you killed me?”
“Oh Len.” Kara turned to him and beamed, sweetly. “I’m not nearly done with you, yet.”
Chapter 2: Didn't You Like My Welcome Party?
The team travels to another world.
...did you say zombies?
"Cisco, please hurry. I don't know how long we can hold out."
The video ended abruptly, and Barry let out a breath he hadn't even realized he'd been holding. He looked at Caitlin, his heart surging with excitement. Now that he'd seen Len, confirmed his state, and the desperation of the overall situation in Earth-38, he could scarcely wait to leave. "Caitlin, can you--"
"I've already packed medical supplies and everything I can think of," she said calmly. "I'm coming along."
"And for what it's worth, I've got a bag of my own supplies packed, too," Hartley said, and tapped his right ear. "I'm not a doctor, but I know a few things about physiology. Some of my inventions might also be helpful against those aliens. All of us are ready to help in our own ways." His eyes darted to the other Rogues and he arched a brow and shrugged disdainfully. "Though most of them don't need much in the way of equipment, I'm sure we can find a use for them."
Shawna raised her middle finger cheerfully in Hartley's direction.
Cisco and Lisa walked into the cortex at that moment. Cisco stopped dead, his eyes wide as he stared around the room. "Uh, what are you guys all doing here?" he asked, his voice cracking slightly on the last word. Despite himself, Barry felt a bit of relief that Cisco hadn't known the Rogues were coming either.
Lisa breezed past him like a skiff under full sail. "I invited them, because it sounds like Lenny needs all hands on deck." She put her hands on her hips and looked from Cisco, to the faces of the other Rogues. "Where the hell is Mick?"
"Here!" Mick called from the next room. He sounded like his mouth was still full.
"Good." She turned to Cisco. "When can we leave, darling?"
Cisco jumped into action, darting around the room and throwing various pieces of esoteric equipment into bags. "Soon as we've got everything we need to repel a goddamn alien invasion on an entirely other Earth."
"Peachy," Lisa said.
Caitlin got up and headed into her lab to check her supplies. Since she'd already packed, Barry had a feeling she was just using it as an excuse to get away from the Rogues for a few minutes. Barry stood next to Hartley, resisting the urge to watch the video again, and feeling at loose ends. He hadn't packed anything, but there wasn't really anything to bring with him. He could go home and get a change of underwear, but that seemed like a waste of energy. All he really needed was the Flash suit.
Speaking of which... he put it on in a whirl of lightning and colour, and then returned to Hartley's side, tapping his foot impatiently. Hartley gave him a bemused look.
"Cisco, what's the plan," Barry said, needing something to distract him.
"I have a fix on the location Supergirl contacted me from," Cisco said, zipping up his bag. He had changed into his Vibe suit and had his goggles perched on his forehead. He tugged them down over his eyes as he continued. "We should arrive right inside the DEO. I'm assuming that Supergirl and her people have got an idea of where we should go from there."
"With all those people outside, we might find ourselves trapped in the facility if we go directly there. We may need to blast our way out," Kyle observed in his ponderous way. "Are we sure we shouldn't be calling in James and Axel on this?"
Everyone looked at everyone else.
"Hell no," Roy said. "They tried to blow us up last year."
"Besides," Barry said firmly, raising his voice to attract everyone's attention. "The people outside are people. Innocent people who aren't monsters - they're sick. We don't want to kill any of them if we can help it."
There was a murmur of discontented rumbling, and Barry winced. It didn't sound like they'd quite gotten the message. He looked at Lisa beseechingly, and she just shrugged.
"Our mission is to get Lenny safe. If that means saving the world, fine, but we're going to do it our way, sweetie," she said, flicking a hand discontentedly. Barry opened his mouth angrily, and she shook her head. "Yes, yes, we know your views on unnecessary killing, and I haven't forgotten about your arrangement with Lenny. We won't kill anyone if we don't have to."
Barry wasn't convinced, but looking into Lisa's eyes, he knew it was the best he could hope for. "Good," he said. "Are we ready to go?"
"Ready as we're gonna be," Cisco said, glancing around from face to face and shouldering his bulging backpack. The whole group trouped downstairs, and Cisco opened the portal. He ushered the rest of them through with one hand, the other holding the portal open. "Let's go fight some zombies!"
All the Rogues looked at each other uncertainly.
"I'll go first," Barry said with a sigh, and stepped forward into the shifting, rippling hole in reality.
As the portal swallowed him up, he heard Mick say, "Hey, no one told me there were gonna be zombies."
As always, the moment he entered the portal, something seemed to grab him somewhere around the region of his belly button and yank him forward into swirling light. He fell for an endless moment, and landed heavily on his feet on a solid floor. With long practice, Barry stepped forward quickly, clearing space for the next traveller. One after another, the Rogues landed, most of them stumbling a few steps before getting their bearings. Caitlin landed neatly and stepped over to Barry's side, followed by Hartley, Lisa, and finally, Cisco as the portal closed behind him.
By the time Cisco had arrived and it was too late, Barry had realized there was something wrong - this wasn't the DEO.
The floor and walls were made of a metal grating, but coated with a fine sheen of some kind of slime. Panels flickered and flashed in a pattern he recognized from the video Kara had sent. What he'd taken as malfunctioning fluorescent lights were actually alien-looking markers, labelled in a language he didn't recognize. They might have been access panels, or computer screens, or just sign-posts telling him which way to go to find the men's room. He had no idea.
The room they'd arrived in was circular, with only a single hexagonal panel in one end that might have been an exit. As Barry watched, the panel slid upwards, and a crowd of figures surged forward with a moan.
"What the--" Cisco gaped as the first four figures shambled into the room. They looked human, but their skin was grey. One woman, dressed in a tattered gown, was missing a large chunk out of the side of her throat. The wound was raw and bloody, like fresh meat. She fixed on Cisco with an animalistic hiss and hurried forward, arm raised in a grasping motion.
"Cisco," Barry said, eyes darting around the room as he debated the best way to handle the situation. "I don't think we're at the DEO."
Mick shoved Barry aside, stomping forward with his heat gun raised. "You guys never said there'd be zombies," he roared. "I fucking hate zombies."
He opened fire, turning the four zombies into torches and filling the corridor behind them with flaming, shrieking, undead monsters.
"Mick!" Barry exclaimed, as Mick continued to advance, the zombies scattering like burning leaves. "Mick wait!"
"He's clearing a path," Mark said, and pushed past Barry as well. "Follow me." Icy cold wind swirled around Mark's hands and he pushed it out in a cone around him. As they advanced down the corridor, burning zombies were pressed to the sides of the wide hallway, where they slowly collapsed into (mostly) inert piles of crisped barbeque.
There was nothing any of them could do but follow. The rest of the group crowded into the hallway behind Mark and Mick, shying away from any zombies who lay by the walls and reached for them, making weak, helpless grunting noises.
They passed junction after junction, corridor after corridor, and soon the zombie hoard had closed in behind them.
Lisa and Caitlin moved to the back of the line, Lisa turning zombies into golden statues if they got too close, while Caitlin allowed Killer Frost to take control. Killer Frost blasted zombies into ice statues, the two women backing up step by step as the whole group progressed through the labyrinth. And in all that, they never saw so much as a window, let alone an exit.
While they were moving quickly, and leaving devastation in their wake, Barry quickly saw that their situation was desperate. Were they on one of the alien ships? How could they have gotten things so wrong?
Mick and Lisa had to be running out of charge on their guns. When they stopped being able to fight, what then? Could Mark and Killer Frost protect them alone? None of the rest of them had powers that would help keep the entire group safe from the zombies.
"Mick!" Barry yelled. "Find us a room we can hide in and barricade the door. We need to buy some time to think!"
"Got it!" Mick shouted back over the blast of his gun. He paused next to a door like the one they had originally come through, and Barry pressed the flashing panel beside it.
The door rose into the ceiling and Barry tensed, expecting to find another hoard, but the room beyond was empty. It had two other exits, but they were also closed. There was a bunch of equipment in the room, perhaps computer consoles, but Barry didn't recognize anything as Earth tech. Somehow, Cisco had landed them in one of the alien ships instead of at the DEO.
"In here!" he called, and the group piled into the room. Mick and Killer Frost backed in last, both of them blasting the closest zombies in the face right before the door closed. Killer Frost pressed her palms to each of the doors, and a thick sheet of ice formed around it, sealing them in - and sealing the zombies out.
"So much for not killing any of the innocents," Lisa said with a sigh, lowering her gun. The muzzle was smoking slightly and Barry wondered if it was overheating. The charge indicator on the side looked dangerously low.
"Couldn't be helped," Hartley said. Silently, Barry had to agree. As much as his heart hurt at what had just transpired, if they hadn't fought their hardest, they all would have died. And there was also no telling how many of those people were goners regardless of their actions. Some, at least, had seemed to have wounds that would have been fatal anyway.
That didn't really make him feel better, but it allowed him to put the guilt aside and focus on their own survival. "Where are we, Cisco?" Barry asked, turning to his best friend. "This isn't the DEO. It's alien."
Cisco was poking at one of the computer consoles, but didn't seem to be having much luck. "I don't know, man. I assumed Supergirl was at the DEO. But instead we wound up in the middle of a Resident Evil dungeon."
"Well how're we gonna get outta the dungeon?" Mick growled. He glanced at Killer Frost, giving her an appraising look. "Girlie here's got style, but my gun's nearly out of juice."
"Thanks." Frost smirked at him and folded her arms, tossing her white hair and looking at Cisco. "I'd say Cisco has the best chance of getting us out of here. So what do you say? Port us back home, and forget we ever saw this hellhole."
"We're not leaving Lenny," Lisa snapped, at the same moment Barry shook his head violently.
"We can't leave," said Barry.
"But I can get us to the DEO," Cisco said. He unzipped his backpack and pulled out some wires and gadgets. Quickly, he plugged a wire into his cellphone, and the other one into another device. "Just... just give me a minute. I've got a little bit of signal. If I can just boost it, and get my cell talking to one of the local satellites..."
Hartley sprang to his side. "But it's alien tech," he said eagerly. "There's no way you can get Earth-38 tech to talk to your cellphone."
"Just you watch me," Cisco said grimly. "The tech's here's not that different, and I've already gotten a chance to play with Supergirl's phone when she was visiting our Earth..." He and Hartley devolved into techy speak that made Barry's head hurt, and he left them to it, praying that whatever they were doing, they would finish doing it soon.
A solid thump on one of the doors made them all jump.
Hartley pulled some kind of dish out of his own bag and he and Cisco hooked it up to the contraption they were building, connected to Cisco's cellphone. The Rogues, Barry, and Killer Frost arrayed themselves around the room, guarding each of the doors as the banging grew louder. Moans and groans echoed in the hallways beyond the doors.
The ice around one of the doors cracked with a sound like a gunshot. Killer Frost cursed and stepped forward, sealing it up again, but one of the others shattered an instant later.
As she reset the second seal, she glared over her shoulder at Cisco. "You boys had better hurry up!"
"I've got it," Cisco yelped. "A GPS signal. I... we're in the mountains, north of National City. I can get the coordinates of the DEO from here."
"Let's go, nerds," Roy growled. He was standing next to Lisa, a pistol in his hand. Barry suspected that the pistol would be more useful as a club in short order if the door was breached.
Cisco stood up and raised his hands. A portal formed in the middle of the room, swirling. "Okay, let's get out of here," he cried.
Hartley gathered up the equipment and was the first through the breach. As the rest of them began jumping into the portal one by one, one of the doors turned red. It buckled and blew apart with a mighty crack, pieces clattering to the floor.
Barry had been just about to step into the portal on Mick's heels, when he heard the sound. He yelped and turned around, waving Mark forward. He, Barry, and Cisco were the only ones left, and Cisco had to be the last. "Hurry, Mark. Go!" The Weather Wizard didn't wait, but plunged past Barry into the swirling portal.
The smoke from the superheated metal cleared quickly, and Supergirl came sauntering into the room. She glanced around, then her eyes landed on Barry. She looked distinctly put out.
"Kara?" Cisco choked. "What are you doing here?"
"Barry, Cisco," she said. "Where are you going? Didn't you like my welcome party?"
Zombies shambled out of the corridor behind her, arraying themselves around Kara like attendants with their queen. She raised a hand and they halted their advance, moaning softly with hunger.
"You're not Kara," Barry said, his voice raw with horror.
She rolled her eyes. "Of course I am, Barry. Now, come with me. I'll take you to your Leonard." She raised a hand, as if beckoning. The hairs on the back of Barry's neck stood straight up in warning.
Barry looked at Cisco. "Cisco, run!"
Cisco's eyes were wide, his hand shaking slightly with the strain of holding the portal open. "But Barry--"
Barry didn't wait. Kara surged forward, and the world slowed down as he called on the speedforce. Even with Barry's speed heightened, he had only an instant to act. Kara flew across the room towards them, her teeth bared and her eyes wild. Barry grabbed Cisco and leaped for the portal, even as it began to close.
A powerful hand grabbed Barry around the ankle. Kara was screaming a denial as she pulled him back.
With one last effort, Barry pushed Cisco hard, and he fell through the portal. It closed, an instant before Barry hit the floor hard, and the zombies descended on him.
~ ~ ~
"You okay, pretty?"
"Yeah," Cisco said, then looked around. They were standing in what looked like a hangar or garage, with military-style vehicles arrayed around them in bays. The rest of the Earth-1 people surrounded him and Mick in a loose group. He counted heads, his heart still pounding wildly from the fear, but there was still one missing. "Wait, no. Where's Barry?"
"He didn't come through with you," Lisa said. "What happened?"
"Something bad," Cisco said.
There was a loud clang, and a door opened not far away. Armed military officers flooded into the room, guns up and pointed at them. The Rogues reacted predictably, scattering for cover and raising their own weapons aggressively.
Cisco was left standing alone in the centre of the garage. He ignored Lisa's hiss, and waited. He'd kindof expected something like this.
A black man entered the room, followed by Kara's sister, Alex. Alex stood slightly behind the man and held a gun pointed at Cisco's head, but she frowned and lowered it a smidgen, recognition flickering in her eyes.
"What is the meaning of this?" the man demanded, putting his hands on his hips. "You people have entered a government facility and are not authorized to be here. Identify yourself immediately."
Cisco raised his hand in an awkward wave. "Hi, I'm Cisco Ramon. I'm a friend of the Flash... and Supergirl. She's the one who called us here."
"That is Cisco Ramon, sir," Alex said softly. "I don't know the others."
Lisa stood up, raising her own gun to rest on her shoulder, pointed at the sky. "I'm Lisa Snart," she said. "And I'm here to find my brother. He's with your Supergirl."
"And so is the Flash," Cisco put in, and swallowed a lump in his throat.
The man raised two fingers, signalling, and the soldiers lowered their weapons. One by one, the rest of the Rogues stepped out of concealment. The man surveyed each of them with piercing, thoughtful eyes, then returned his gaze to Cisco. "My name is J'onn J’onzz," he said. "I think we had better talk about Supergirl. If your brother and the Flash are with her, then they are in grave danger."
Chapter 3: Fuck Indeed
Our heroes get more bad news.
The Earth-1 gang were escorted deeper into the facility by a phalanx of soldiers, with J'onn in the lead. Cisco tried his best to memorize the route, but this place was a gigantic maze, and a part of him wondered if the leader was deliberately trying to confuse them.
Caitlin all but glued herself to his side - Cisco was relieved to see that she'd regained control and was back to normal, but she still seemed nervous. As they walked, Cisco offered her what he hoped was a reassuring smile, which she returned tightly.
Finally, they reached a sort of nerve centre, with people bustling about, and many computer screens. It reminded him of the Cortex back at STAR Labs, but with more people in it. Wearing uniforms. And mostly armed.
J'onn paused for a moment and surveyed the group. "Mr. Ramon, please step into my office, so I can debrief you. The rest of you can wait outside. Agent Schott, perhaps you could show them to Conference Room A."
A young, nervous-looking man jerked straight up in his chair upon his name being called and he swung around, his eyes widening as he got a look at the pack of (mostly) ruffians that Cisco had brought with him. "Oh-ah. Yes, sir. Of course. These are the...?" He made a sort of vague hand gesture, which J'onn appeared to understand.
Cisco felt an instant kinship with this guy.
"Yes, they're the ones who somehow teleported themselves into the secondary hangar," J'onn said. He gave Cisco a hard look. "Among other things, Mr. Ramon here will be explaining exactly how he accomplished that." He glanced at Alex. "Agent Danvers, go with them."
She nodded curtly. "Yes, sir."
Alex and the other man walked towards the Rogues, Alex gesturing towards a hallway. "It's this way. Follow me," while J'onn ushered Cisco towards another door.
"Excuse me," Lisa said sharply, a hand on one hip. "Why exactly are we being separated?"
"It's fine, Lisa. Let’s just… cooperate for now. Okay?" Cisco said nervously. He wasn't completely certain it was fine. He was, like, eighty-percent sure that he could trust Alex and that the only reason J'onn wanted to talk to him was because he seemed to be the leader and maybe because he was friends with Barry and Kara. But on the other hand, he wasn't super happy about being separated out from the group, either.
J'onn didn't appear upset by the question. "You're not being separated," he said. "Believe me, you'll each get your turn."
"Fantastic," Cisco groaned under his breath.
Lisa glared for a long moment, then turned with a huff, tossing her hair. "You have fifteen minutes, and then I want him delivered to me."
Cisco's cheeks burned as he turned to follow J'onn J'onzz into his office.
It was... office-like. Big desk. Chairs. Cisco sat in one of the chairs, while J'onn sat on the other side and observed him for a moment, fingers laced together on the desk blotter. Cisco attempted to sink through the chair and into the floor.
"Welcome to the DEO, Mr. Ramon. Would you like a glass of water?" J'onn offered mildly.
"Oh." Cisco sat up straighter. "No. Thanks. Um, can I ask you something?"
J'onn gestured that he might, yes.
"Are you really from Mars?"
J'onn's eyebrows rose. "Supergirl's been talking, I presume."
"Yeah." Cisco smiled awkwardly. "She did happen to mention you when she was on my Earth."
"I see." J'onn nodded gravely. Cisco couldn't tell if he was pissed off or not. The guy was totally unreadable. "Well, to answer your question - yes. I am from Mars, originally. Now, may I ask you a question?"
Cisco winced. "Sure."
"How - precisely - did you get here? And who are your companions?"
Cisco sighed. He recounted how STAR Labs had obtained the video message from Kara, and explained who the Rogues were. J'onn didn't seem super thrilled to learn that most of the people Cisco had brought to his doorstep were criminal metahumans. Then Cisco explained how they had come to this Earth, and found themselves in some kind of alien place, and how they had ultimately escaped from the facility just before Kara could kill them all.
J'onn absorbed the information with a wooden expression, nodding at times and asking pointed questions when he felt the need. When Cisco had finished his tale, and also given him a rundown on the metahuman abilities of the Rogues, J'onn finally sat back. "I'm sorry to tell you this, Mr. Ramon, but I'm afraid that Mr. Allen, and Mr. Snart, may already be as good as dead.
Cisco sat back, his stomach roiling. “That…there’s no way. There’s no way I’ll believe that until I know for sure.” Despite his forceful response, he felt tears pricking at the corners of his eyes. “What the hell is going on here, man?” he demanded. “If Kara didn’t send us that message, who did?”
J’onn’s expression drew down and he sighed. “I believe Kara did send you that message, Mr. Ramon. Supergirl’s been compromised.”
“No…” Cisco breathed. He had seen first-hand how powerful Kara was. She was practically a goddess, invulnerability being just one of her abilities. How could they beat that?
“Six weeks ago, a fleet of alien ships breached our atmosphere,” J’onn explained, while Cisco struggled to absorb his words through the roaring of horror in his ears. “They ignored all of our hails and every attempt to make contact, but shortly after their arrival, the first outbreak began. We believe, given the coincidence of timing, that the ships are the source of a virus which infects sentients and turns them into ravenous monsters. The virus causes them to continue to move and be animated, even in an extremity of damage done to them. Only fire seems to destroy them completely, though beheading renders them largely harmless.”
“Zombies, man, you can say the word,” Cisco murmured. He stared down at his hands in his lap.
“Colloquially, yes. We are indeed dealing with a zombie outbreak,” J’onn agreed solemnly. “The infection quickly spread. Of course, Supergirl was at the front lines of defence. However, this meant exposure to the virus. We believed she was likely impervious to this infection just as she is to all terrestrial illnesses, but this diseaase is so virulent, it appears that it can even breach a Kryptonian’s natural defenses.”
He drew in a breath, and for the first time the shell cracked. There was true grief and worry in J’onn’s eyes, so deep and immense that it took Cisco’s breath away. “Kara turned against us. Unlike the other infected, she hasn’t lost her mind, but she seems to be able to command the zombies. We have theorized that she is at the centre of a hive mind, and her goal is to ensure that every living person on the planet - human or alien - be infected with this virus.”
Cisco sat for a moment after J’onn finished his story, unable to encompass the immensity of this horror. “So… you think that Barry and Len are already infected, if they’re with Kara,” he said slowly.
He raised his head. “Why do you think Kara called us here? Len didn’t look like a zombie on the video.” Did he? No, he had talked, and he hadn’t exhibited the grey pallor or inarticulate moans that the other zombies had. He was still human when the video was made, Cisco was sure of it.
“That is still a mystery,” J’onn said. “It could be part of the same directive that drives her to infect the people on this Earth - to propagate the virus. If she could infect and control you, for example…”
Cisco twitched. “Oh fuck.” With Cisco’s abilities under her command, Kara could send zombies throughout the multiverse to infect everyone, in every world.
“Fuck indeed,” J’onn intoned gravely. “So I hope that you understand why I must demand that, if you choose not to return to your Earth, that you remain here, at the DEO, and avoid all possible contact with the zombie virus.”
That took a second. Cisco stared at him in shock. “I…what? You’re arresting me?”
“I should hope that wouldn’t be necessary. You understand the gravity of the situation.”
Cisco found himself on his feet without having consciously decided to rise. “But what about Barry? I can’t just sit on my hands and— you can’t make me just stay here and do nothing when Barry’s in trouble.”
“Mr. Ramon, control yourself,” J’onn said, gazing up at him with unflappable calm. “The last thing I want is for any harm to come to your friend, or anyone else. There are many things you can do to help here at the DEO. I understand that you’re an engineer and a computer genius. I’m certain we can use your skills, other than your metahuman or combat abilities, to great effect in stopping this scourge.”
“Kara told you I’m a computer genius?” Cisco blurted out, reddening. He swallowed and sank back down into his seat. “I’ll stay,” he said. “But what about the others?”
“We’ll assess the situation on a case by case basis,” J’onn said. “Obviously you will want to mount a rescue, and I cannot blame you. I’m willing to expend DEO resources towards that effort. But I also can’t allow any of you to cause more problems than we already have, so I expect us all to work together instead of running off half-cocked. Is that understood?”
“Understood,” Cisco said meekly. He was pretty sure far more than fifteen minutes had gone by. Lisa was probably getting upset. “If that’s everything, then I think I’d better get back to the others to let them know what’s going on.”
J’onn rose to his feet. “Of course. I’ll show you the way.” He paused. “For what it’s worth, Mr. Ramon, I am truly sorry about Mr. Allen.”
Cisco turned away to face the door, wishing his goggles were on right now so they would hide the tears that swam in his eyes. “Yeah… well I haven’t given up hope just yet.”
“It’s vital to keep hope alive,” J’onn said. He didn’t sound like he shared Cisco’s optimism. Cisco wasn’t even sure if he shared his own optimism.
~ ~ ~
Barry woke up with a killer headache, lying on a metal grating, with something soft pillowing his head. He groaned and raised a hand to press it to his forehead, and felt a twinge in his arm. He opened his eyes and observed the white fabric of a bandage wrapped around his forearm.
Barry’s heart nearly stopped at the sound of that beautiful, beautiful voice. He tilted his head and met Len’s gaze, as the older man stared down at him, and realized abruptly that he was lying on a floor, with his head pillowed on Len’s lap. “Len?” he croaked.
Len spread his hands in a wordless gesture.
The pain in his head and arm vanished as Barry sat up and threw his arms around Len’s neck, hugging him so tightly the other man gave a soft croak of protest. “Oh my god, Len! You’re okay!” he sobbed.
“For some value of okay,” Len managed with a wheeze. “You’re strong, kid.”
When Barry felt like he could actually talk without bursting into tears again, he raised his head and looked around, though he only loosened his grip enough for Len to breathe. Len was sitting in the corner of a small room. The room was square and featureless, except for one of those hexagonal doors with a glass window embedded into it. There was no sign of any control boxes or mechanism to open the door on this side.
A cell, then.
He turned back to Len. His lover was watching him with an odd wariness in his cool, blue gaze, his expression unsmiling and difficult to read. For the first time, Barry had to wonder if this was really his Len, like Kara had claimed. “They said you died,” Barry said cautiously. “Mick said you blew yourself up stopping the Time Masters.”
“Well, I tried to,” Len said wryly. “Your guess is as good as mine how I wound up here. I expected to wake up dead, but instead I woke up in the arms of some chick in a skirt. She was flying. Didn’t answer a lot of questions, either.”
Barry swallowed. “Kara Danvers. Also known as Supergirl,” he said. “She’s an alien, but this isn’t our Earth. It’s, um, a parallel world.”
“She’s a real peach,” Len said with a roll of his eyes. “And how do you know this alien from another Earth, Barry?”
“I accidentally came here once,” Barry admitted. “When I was practicing my speed.” He bit his lip. “Kara wasn’t evil then… She even came to our Earth a couple months ago to help us fight an alien invasion. I don’t know what’s happened to her.”
“She’s a zombie queen is what’s happened,” Len said bitingly. “Because zombies are a thing, too, apparently. How’re you feeling?”
“Fine,” Barry said, but there was something in Len’s tone that made him look at him again. “What…” Then it hit him. He looked down at his own arm, a terrible cold feeling creeping over him. He touched the bandage, then reached to unfasten the tape that held it on his arm, but Len caught his wrist before he could do so.
“Maybe best to leave it alone for now,” Len said softly.
Barry nodded and lowered his hand. “You think… you think I got bitten by one of those things?” He raised his head. “You haven’t been bitten, have you?”
“Not yet, no,” Len said, to Barry’s immense relief.
But that relief was short lived, as Barry tucked himself in closer to Len and his gaze fell onto the white bandage once again. There was a spot of red in the middle. How long ago had he been injured? Shouldn’t it have healed by now?
And if he really had been bitten - if the zombies here worked like they did in the movies - then how long would it be before he was a danger to Len?
He couldn’t just wait around for something bad to happen. Barry bounced to his feet, gathering his energy. His head still felt like it was about to split open, but that didn’t matter. He had to get himself and Len out of this place, and no door was a barrier to the Flash.
“What’s up, Barry?” Len asked from his spot on the floor.
“I’m gonna go through the door,” Barry said. “Do a little check around the place. We have to get out of here, but I’ll be back for you in a second, okay?”
“You think you can carry me out of here?” For the first time since Barry woke up, something like hope was blossoming in Len’s voice. He got to his feet, moving stiffly, but even under Barry’s overprotective gaze, he seemed tired, not badly hurt.
“I can and I will,” Barry said. “I just need to check around to find the quickest way out. The fewer walls to pass through the better, especially carrying you, right?”
Len’s expression turned wary. “Ah, I’d prefer not to go through any walls if possible. As a rule.”
Barry grinned. He flashed close, planted a kiss on Len’s lips, and zipped towards the door—
—And bounced off of it with a bone-clattering impact that sent him sliding across the floor. He lay for a few moments, stunned, and gradually realized that Len was holding him, shaking his shoulder and calling his name. He opened his eyes and sat up.
"I'm okay, I'm okay," he assured Len, who still looked shaken.
"I...I don't know." Barry got to his feet and walked to the door. He held out his hand, and made it vibrate. Slowly, he pushed his hand towards the door, but the instant he touched it, instead of it passing through the metal, his hand was thrown back violently. He examined a small mark he’d made on the door, and touched his hand. The tips of his fingers smarted, like he’d gotten a carpet burn.
Next, he pressed his palm to the door and began to vibrate at different frequencies. No matter what he did, he couldn't find a sympathetic frequency, and in fact he felt like the metal door itself was actively fighting him.
After trying the same techniques on the walls to similar effect. Barry sighed and turned away in defeat. Len was standing at the other side of the room, his expression closed and his arms folded. Though he leaned against the wall, the older man almost vibrated with tension. "Well?"
"I'm sorry," Barry said. "I can't get through the door. Something in the substance is cancelling out my powers."
Len pursed his lips, and sighed, then sank down to sit in the corner once again. He opened his arms, and Barry went to him. Curling into his arms and holding Len felt so right - it was the only thing that did.
“I’m scared, Len,” Barry whispered.
Len said nothing at all.
Chapter 4: Did Anyone Bring A Powerpoint?
Because letting the Rogues into the DEO can't possibly end badly.
Lisa took the lead, walking with the tall drink of water in the gorgeous boots - Danvers, was it? - as the Rogues were unceremoniously escorted away from the control centre of this creepy underground government facility. Lisa had never expected to be in a place like this and not stealing anything, and it definitely didn't sit well with her to be meekly led around by all the heavily armed commandos. Especially considering that Cisco was all on his own with the guy in charge.
Well, she knew she could handle the situation if it came down to it. She'd play nice for now, but if something hinky was going on with these people, she was sure they'd regret it.
"So," she said. "Nice place you've got here."
"Thanks," Alex said. "This way, please." She opened a door bearing a tasteful nameplate declaring it 'Conference Room 1' and held it open for the group. Beyond the door was a generic conference room - fluorescent lights, generic conference room chairs, generic glass-topped conference room table. No windows. No other exits.
Lisa swept in and sat on the edge of the table, close to the head, crossing one knee over the other. The rest of her people streamed into the room, each taking a seat. Mick sat at the spot that would be Lisa's right hand if she were actually sitting in the chair, and pushed back from the table, leaning the chair way back and putting his feet on the glass surface of the table.
Alex pursed her lips, looking at Mick. Lisa actually saw her decide it wasn't worth it to make an issue of it.
Caitlin Snow, the one remaining Team Flash member of their group, sat down on the other side of Lisa. Unfortunately for her, Roy Bivolo sat down on her other side. With all the chairs taken, Hartley moved in and rested his arms on the back of Caitlin's chair, effectively forming a shield between Roy and the young doctor. Caitlin shot Hartley a grateful look and chatted with him in low tones, utterly ignoring Roy.
Alex and the other one - a nerdy-looking fellow with a weird last name - remained standing. Alex leaned against the wall, looking more like she was guarding them than anything else. The other fellow looked like he didn't know what to do with his hands or body. He finally copied Alex, though the posture looked far less natural on him.
"Well then," Lisa said, once everyone had gotten settled. The chatter died instantly and every face turned towards her. "Isn't this nice. Shall we all introduce ourselves? Set an agenda? Did anyone bring a powerpoint?"
"Introductions wouldn't be a terrible idea," Alex said. "How about we start there. I'm Alex Danvers, this is Winn Schott."
Lisa rolled her eyes. Oh heck, why not? "Lisa Snart, Mick Rory..." She pointed around the table at each of them in turn.
"Don't know why we're putting up with this shit, Lisa," Mark spoke up just as she finished, because of course he did. "We should get out of here and go get Snart. These spooks have got nothing to offer us. I dunno why we even came here."
"We came here because the zombies were gonna take a bite out of you, Mark," said Kyle serenely. Of course of all of them, he was probably the one who had the least to worry about from zombies.
Mark chucked a paperclip at Kyle. "Fuck you, Nimbus." Kyle showed all his teeth in a grin.
"If we have nothing to offer you," Alex said, folding her arms across her chest. "Then why did you break in, in the first place?"
"Oh sweetheart, if we'd broken in, you'd have never seen us," Lisa said, eliciting a glare from Alex. "We came here because Cisco thought it was a good idea." Mark opened his mouth to say something further, his whole face lit up with gratification at what he clearly thought was agreement from Lisa, and she raised a finger to stop him from speaking. "And I do think it was a good idea. But make no mistake, Danvers - if you think we're staying here one minute longer than we want to, you're making a mistake. I'm here on this planet for one reason only, and that's to rescue my brother."
Alex's face went slack for a second, as if something Lisa had said was significant to her. "Your brother?"
Lisa considered for a moment, then decided that it was worth explaining. Cisco was likely telling the head honcho everything, anyway. "We're here because your Supergirl sent Cisco and the Flash a message. We thought she was with you people, and that you were helping my brother, but I think we have to conclude now that she's keeping him captive."
That seemed to mystify Alex as well, and she frowned in thought. It Winn who spoke up next. "Keeping him captive? That doesn't make any sense." As every eye now turned to him, he blushed and waved a hand.
Lisa uncrossed her legs and crossed them over again the other way, which allowed her to rest her chin on her fist. "Why doesn't it make sense? We're all bright people in this room - mostly. We can figure this out."
Winn began to pace. "Okay, well, you've all seen by now that we're dealing with this alien zombie outbreak," he said.
"Three words I think we all hoped never to hear strung together," Roy put in. There was a general rumbling of agreement from around the table.
"Right, yeah," Winn gave a soft laugh. "Trust me, we all feel the same way. Well, Supergirl's been infected by the zombie virus, too. And while everyone else who's been infected seems to like... lose their mind, just become ravenous monsters, she's still... her."
He stopped pacing and turned to face them all, gesturing with his hands as he talked. "But just because she is still smart, doesn't mean she isn't a zombie. One thing that seems universal is the imperative to spread the virus. Why wouldn't she have just infected him, too? Is there something special about your brother?"
Lisa opened her mouth and closed it again, confused. Well sure Lenny was special to her, but to some alien psycho infected by a zombie virus? "I... I don't think so. He's not even a metahuman."
"How many of you are?" Alex asked.
There was a moment of consternation, as some people obviously considered whether to keep that a mystery, then Mick solved the problem by pointing at each of the metas in turn. "Him, him, her, her, him. And the pretty boy in the other room's a meta, too. Lisa and me ain't." He turned his head to look at Alex. "Your name is Danvers, too. You got any relation to Skirt?"
Lisa stiffened in surprise as this incredible insight came flying out of the most improbable mouth in the room. Alex and Winn both gaped for a full few seconds before they managed to regain control of themselves.
"How...how the hell do you know Supergirl's name?" Alex asked, her voice breathless with shock and anger.
Mick shrugged. "We connected. When she was with us fighting the other aliens."
Lisa had already recovered, and hoped that the two DEO agents hadn't even noticed her own reaction. "Right, there's no secrets left," she said sweetly. "So why don't you just answer the question, hmm?"
Alex and Winn exchanged glances. "I'm her sister - adopted," Alex said, sounding as though the admission was being dragged out of her by force. "When Kara came to Earth as a child, my family took her in and raised her."
Lisa settled back, triumphant. So to these people, this threat wasn't just about a zombie apocalypse. It was also personal. It was family. That was useful.
Before she could think of a follow up question, a new voice rose. "Excuse me," Caitlin said. "You said this was caused by a virus. Were you being literal?"
"Yes," Alex said. "I haven't yet isolated the exact vector of the infection, but I have samples back in the infirmary that I'm still testing." She paused, then added. "My specialty is in bio-engineering, but I also serve as the chief medical officer."
Lisa blinked. This woman was a doctor? She looked like a combat specialist, not a bio-engineer - whatever that was.
Caitlin leaned forward. "I'm a medical doctor as well. Perhaps I can assist in the testing. If we can determine the vector of the infection, maybe we can develop a treatment."
Alex hesitated. "Actually, I would appreciate any help you can offer." She glanced at Winn, clearly debating, then seemed to make a decision. "Winn, stay here and answer any questions they have. I'll take-- sorry, what was your name?"
"I'll take Doctor Snow to the infirmary and get her set up."
Winn's eyes widened. He hissed to Alex, though it was clearly audible to everyone in the room. "You're leaving me alone with them?"
Alex looked torn. "I'm sure you'll be fine. I've already left my samples alone too long."
"Oh go on," Lisa said. "We'll take good care of little Winn." Her teasing didn't make either of the DEO Agents look more comfortable at all.
Caitlin rose to her feet and joined Alex and Winn by the door. "For what it's worth," she said. "Lisa probably won't let them hurt him."
"And actually, neither will Hartley Rathaway," Hartley said with a wave of his hand.
"Like you could stop us," Kyle said to Hartley, showing teeth again.
"Actually, I could," Hartley said.
"Enough," Lisa said, rolling her eyes. "Go, girls. I said we'd behave and we will."
Alex hesitated another few moments, then sighed and opened the door. "Come along." Caitlin strode after her, looking quite relieved to have something to do. Or maybe she was just glad to get away from all the Rogues. Lisa couldn't really blame her for either feeling. Hartley settled into her seat.
The door shut, and Lisa got to her feet, slinging herself into her chair and putting her feet up like Mick. "All right, boys - and girl," she added, nodding to Shawna. "That guy's got seven more minutes by my count before he has to deliver Cisco back to us. After that, we are out of here, and we're going to need a plan to save Lenny. Let's get cracking."
"Um, excuse me, what?" Winn blurted out. "You just got here, and you're really gonna just leave? Did you notice all the zombies everywhere? You don't even know where you're going."
Mick lowered his feet to the ground and leaned in close to Lisa. "He's gotta point," he said, very quietly.
Lisa blinked at Mick, bemused, and turned to Winn. "Have a seat, dear."
Winn glanced around the table, uncertainly. All the seats were taken. "Uh..."
"Oh please." Kyle rose to his feet and gestured graciously to his vacated chair. "Sit."
Lisa couldn't imagine anything quite so terrifying, but to her surprise, Winn almost seemed to steady himself. He gazed at Kyle for one long moment, then sat down in the chair obediently and rested his elbows on the table, lacing his hands together. "All right," he said. "Here's what we know. We believe Supergirl has set herself up in a structure in the mountains north of National City. The structure is alien, and we believe the bulk of it is underground. We think that it was constructed remotely, either by someone on the alien ships, or possibly built by the zombies themselves. She - or someone - has the ability to command the zombies. J'onn thinks the zombies are now working like a hive mind - sort of like ants or bees. The drones aren't smart, but their queen is, and their queen is Kara."
"That's where we were," Hartley said. "An alien building north of National City. We were able to get a GPS signal, but a weak one. I had to boost the signal enormously to connect to the local satellite network and figure out where we were in relationship to you so Cisco could portal us out."
Winn turned to Hartley. "You're the tech?"
"One of them. I should give Cisco some credit," Hartley all but purred and eyes rolled all around the table. Lisa had to suppress a smile.
"I'm shocked you could get a signal at all," Winn said with obvious excitement. "Whatever material the building and ships are made of has resisted all our attempts to penetrate it with any kind of sensor. The only reason we know there are underground parts of the structure is because that's where the dead zones are. Were you able to get any readings on the material? Any samples?"
"Sorry," Hartley said. "We were a little busy running for our lives. But I'll give you access to the equipment we used. We might be able to learn something more with a further analysis."
"That'd be great," Winn gushed.
"And Lenny's trapped inside this maze we can't see inside, and we still don't know why this zombie queen is bothering to keep him alive, or how long that might continue," Lisa said loudly, overriding the nerdgasm in progress. Hartley sat back in his chair, put out, while Winn seemed to only belatedly recall that they were there.
Winn ran a hand through his hair. "Look, you're completely right and I know you're worried about him, but if you just go straight back in there, you're just going to wind up in the same situation you were in before. The place is a maze, like you said. We have no idea of the layout." He looked up at Lisa. "We want to do something just as much as you. Kara's my best friend, and she's Alex's family. Alex is working around the clock to try to find a treatment for the zombie virus. If your brother's been bitten, then they're his best shot."
"Not gonna help if he's had his neck ripped out like some of them," Mick rumbled. He jabbed a thumb at Winn. "But the nerd's right. Snart would have a plan."
"He would have a plan," Lisa agreed softly.
"Snart would have blue prints, and guard schedules, and know where the alarms are and all that shit," Mark said. "But we don't have any of that."
"But we could get it," Hartley said insistently, leaning forward. "And I'm sure our new friend Winn can help us."
Winn looked startled. "I can? I mean, sure, yeah, I can." He looked around. "Um, with some time, and maybe some help."
Shawna straightened up. "Between Nimbus and I, we can get an idea of the layout." She looked at Kyle. "At least, we can give it a try."
"How?" Winn stared at them.
Shawna looked at him, then teleported across the room in a puff of black smoke. Winn gasped, then looked at Kyle. "You can do something like that, too?"
"Something like that," Kyle said. "Ventilation's too bad in this room to show you what I can do."
Lisa felt hope blossoming inside her. They were still very far from rescuing her brother, but there was a direction, at least. She got to her feet, commanding the attention of the room. "All right," she said. "Hart, you and Winn put your heads together. I want you to give me every scrap of information the DEO has in an hour. The rest of us will wait here."
"Yes, ma'am," Hartley said, breaking into a grin. He got to his feet and shouldered his pack. "Come on, Winn, show me your toys."
Winn jumped up, then hesitated. "Wait, I'm sort of supposed to be watching you."
"I said we'll wait here," Lisa said, arching a brow. "You have work to do."
Winn wavered, but Hartley put a hand on his shoulder and steered him towards the door. "Relax, Winn. She's right. We're dealing with a zombie apocalypse, and we're all on the same side."
The door closed behind the boys, and everyone turned expectantly towards Lisa. She glanced at her watch.
"Eighteen minutes," she said. "We are going to wait here for their report, except." She looked at Mick. "Go get me my boy."
Mick levered himself to his feet and cracked his knuckles. "You got it, Lisa." He headed for the door.
Chapter 5: Mary's Lunch
We're in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, so what do you suppose is on Mick's mind?
Caitlin couldn't have been happier to get out of that room. Sitting in there with those people had made her feel sick to her stomach, though the truth was she had felt sick for hours now. She started feeling it from the moment the Rogues came striding into the cortex like they owned the place and announced that they were coming along on this insane mission. She was sick at the number of people she'd killed as Killer Frost in the alien fortress. She was sick with worry about Barry, now, too. She was completely sick.
And it seemed like with each development, things were just going from bad to worse.
As an example of "worse" - Killer Frost was still very much present, eager to step forward and take control, and it was tempting to surrender. Surrounded by danger on all sides, Killer Frost whispered that she had nothing to fear from the ravening monsters. She could freeze them all in their tracks. But Caitlin knew that wouldn't solve anything long term.
At least now she had something constructive to do. Hopefully. The prospect of spending the next hours or days using her medical expertise to try to save this world focused her, and helped to quiet Killer Frost's seductive whispers in the back of her mind.
"The infirmary's this way," Alex said, as she led Caitlin through the nerve centre of the DEO and down another hallway.
Caitlin didn't have a good sense of Alex just yet. She seemed cool and professional, but not really in a bad way, and she supposed that Alex might just be distracted by the situation. For all Caitlin knew, she was nice.
"I'm sorry about your sister," Caitlin offered. "I fought beside Kara when the Dominators attacked, too, and I thought she was brave, and very sweet."
Alex shot her an uncertain look, which softened to a smile. "You know, I worry about her a lot, but the truth is that she's so powerful, I never thought something like this would affect her. Now that it has, I feel like my whole world has been turned upside-down."
"I'm sure we'll save her," Caitlin said. "We'll find a way."
Alex's smile widened a little and warmed. "Yes, I know we will. Thank you, Caitlin."
They stepped into the infirmary and Caitlin took a moment to look around at the beds and equipment, finding it largely familiar. "Okay, tell me what you've done so far."
Alex took her on a brief tour of the facility, and showed her where the samples were being kept, in an isolated quarantine section for the handling of dangerous toxins. Though this wasn't the CDC, Alex explained that the DEO was created to deal with any and all alien threats, and that included microbiological ones. As such, they had a state-of-the-art isolation ward, and the infirmary could be sealed off completely from the rest of the facility to make sure that no biological contaminants could escape.
When Alex told her that the tissue samples they'd collected so far were in a small fridge, Caitlin automatically opened it. Alex was going over the equipment they could use to analyze the samples, and wasn't looking in her direction.
Front and centre in the fridge was a large glass jar, containing a severed zombie head. It opened its mouth and made a movement like it was trying to groan, its eyes rolling helplessly in their sockets. Caitlin gave a shriek of surprise and horror and leaped back, her heart pounding.
"Oh god, I'm sorry," Alex said, wincing. "I should have warned you. One of the guards cut the head off a zombie a few days ago and I figured we shouldn't waste the opportunity to study its biology. The body's in one of the private rooms."
Indeed it was. The headless body was strapped to a table in the ward. Biohazard plastic had been taped up around the room to isolate it. The body writhed in its bonds weakly, despite not having a head.
"I believe the virus works to maintain the bodily functions," Alex said as the two women stood in the ward, watching the body squirm. "It doesn't know the body can't even eat anything. It just has an imperative to spread the infection, like all infections do."
Caitlin looked at Alex. "Well, I think I've seen enough. Let's get started. Where can I work?"
As she spoke, a rumbling sound erupted outside the door. Alarms erupted to life, the sirens threatening to deafen them. A voice echoed through the hallways. "Battle stations. Supergirl has attacked the facility."
Alex's eyes widened. "Will you--"
"Go, I'll be okay here," Caitlin said. The other woman nodded and raced out the door.
~ ~ ~
He marked the offices and headed for them. Where there were swanky offices, there were break rooms, and where there were break rooms, there were sometimes beer fridges. After burning all those zombies, and what with knowing there were probably at least a few outside right now, he was badly in need of a drink.
So he poked his head into doors until he found what he was looking for - a small room with a few chairs and tables and a fridge. Two people were sitting in the room eating their lunches.
"Hey, who're you?" one of them asked. Mick ignored them and opened the fridge to rummage inside. No beer, to his chagrin, but he grabbed a tupperware container and opened it, sniffing the contents.
Someone tapped him on the shoulder. "Excuse me. What are you doing here?"
Mick turned and regarded the small uniformed man who had confronted him. He picked a sandwich triangle up out of the container - someone had cut the crusts off, nice - and took a deliberate bite. Chewed. Swallowed. "I'm eating. What the fuck does it look like?"
"That's-- That's Mary's lunch," the man said, his voice shaking slightly.
"Who's Mary?" Mick repeated blankly. The man gestured to the container, and Mick looked down. Sure enough, something was written in sharpie on the container. 'Mary's Lunch'. Mick shrugged and took another bite.
He continued to eat, the refrigerator open and cooling his backside while the man struggled to decide if he was going to continue this argument or not, and his lunch buddy pretended the whole thing wasn't happening.
"Well--" the man began, and then there was a rumble, and a gigantic crash from nearby. Sirens began to wail, and Mick winced as the sound of it cut like a knife through his head.
"Shit," Mick commented as the two men rushed from the room. Break time was clearly over. He drew his heat gun, checked the charge, and went in search of Lisa's boy.
The room with all the computers didn't have very many working computers in it anymore. The roof had caved in along one side and Mick could see the sky as he emerged from the hallway, so a lot of the equipment was half-buried in rubble. High above, Mick saw Supergirl, flying in circles, her eyes shooting laser beams towards them. The uniformed goons were running around like panicked chickens, and firing their guns - not at Supergirl, but at the zombies who were beginning to climb inside. Others were grabbing whatever equipment was portable, and hauling ass.
Mick roasted a zombie that was about to bite his new friend - the one who had tried in vain to protect Mary's Lunch - and then went back to where the head honcho's office was. Only the head honcho's office wasn't there anymore. The place where it had been was under part of where the roof had caved in.
Mick growled with anger and concern. He grabbed the door and pulled it aside, and began digging into the concrete with both hands, keeping a weather eye out for any zombies that might come and try to take a bite out of him. "Hey pretty!" he yelled. "You in there? Cisco!"
He moved a piece of rubble and spotted a small brown hand peeking out from under a section of wall. Mick grabbed onto the wall, heaved and pulled until he uncovered Cisco. He was lying on the floor, face down and very still. Mick set his back against the wall to hold it off of the kid and then bent carefully, gathering him into his arms. Cisco's head lolled, but Mick could see his chest rising and falling. His eyes were closed, and blood trickled from a gash in his forehead, but he was still alive.
Mick considered the situation for a moment, gazing down at Cisco in his arms and wondering if he could make it so he could fire his heat gun and hold him at the same time. After a few seconds of rearranging him, Mick managed to free a hand. Cisco was now sprawled half over Mick's shoulder, his ass cradled in Mick's elbow, and Mick's right hand was free.
He looked around at the carnage. He was supposed to take him back to the conference room, but that was no good. The doctor lady was in the hospital place, not with Lisa. What had the other doctor lady called it? A mortuary.
No, that wasn't right. It didn't matter.
Mick walked over to his new friend, who was firing bullets into the face of a groaning zombie. The zombie dropped to the floor, and Mick tapped him on the shoulder,
The man screamed and whirled around. Mick caught his wrist and forced it upwards before he could shoot Mick in the face, too. Two gunshots fired harmlessly into the air.
"Where's the hospital?" Mick roared over the wail of the alarms.
"What?" the man exclaimed, his eyes wild with terror.
"He's hurt!" Mick growled, releasing the man's wrist and gesturing to Cisco. "Where do we go?"
Mick's friend stared at him, then gestured towards a hallway blocked by another pile of rubble, in the opposite direction from the conference room. "That way," he said.
"Thanks," Mick said. "Better watch your back."
The man whirled in place, just in time to get tackled by two zombies who bore him, screaming, to the ground. Mick booked it out of there, ducking into the hallway. After only a few feet, he came to the rubble blocking the way. He set Cisco down and set about widening the gap to allow himself to get out of the open. As he moved rocks, he saw another small hand grabbing rocks from the other side and removing them, too.
Quickly, the two of them created a large hole. The person on the other side climbed through it before it was even big enough to accommodate Mick.
It was the new doctor lady.
"You!" Mick exclaimed, and pointed to Cisco. "He's hurt. You've gotta do something."
Alex skirted past him, drawing her pistol and peering out of the hall at the carnage beyond. "The infirmary is down that hall. Caitlin is there. You'd better hurry if you want to get there, though. We're going into lockdown." With that, she darted out into the fray, firing her gun at every zombie in sight.
Mick grunted and shoved another couple of rocks out of the way, then pushed Cisco through the gap. He had to squeeze pretty hard to get through, and scraped his hands all to hell. He ripped his jeans open on a piece of rebar, but ignored the pain, picking up the kid and and hurrying along the hallway, checking each door as he passed for any kind of word that might mean there was medical stuff beyond it.
The alarms changed their tone as he moved, becoming a blaring, repetitive blast. As he reached a large door labeled 'Infirmary', Mick stopped. At that moment a metal shutter began to slide out of the ceiling, to cover the door. Mick swore and grabbed the handle, jiggled it, but it was locked.
He reared back, and slammed his foot against the door. Once, twice, and the door flew open with a crash. He heard a scream from beyond, but ignored it, ducking quickly under the closing shutter and through the doorway.
The shutter slammed shut seconds after he made it through, and the alarm sound stopped.
Mick looked around. The girl was there, standing in the middle of the room with her hands raised in a threatening gesture. Her hair was white, and her lips blue, her skin pale. "Pretty boy's hurt," Mick said, thrusting the unconscious Cisco in her direction. "You gotta help him."
She lowered her hands. "Was he bitten?" Her tone was languid, cold and distant.
"Don't think so. He had a building fall on him."
She flicked her eyes to the side, then back to him. "All right. This way." She turned and walked away, deeper into the ward.
"I'm sure Caitlin wouldn't want him to die," she sighed, pulling a curtain aside to reveal one of those medical beds with the metal railings on the sides. "So I'll do what I can."
Mick settled Cisco with care onto the bed. He looked very small and vulnerable on the white sheets, his head falling to the side. Blood had soaked into Mick's shirt, and it dripped lightly onto the bedding from the cut on Cisco's head.
She bent over and examined the cut, pulling out equipment from a cabinet and beginning to clean up the wound. She opened his eyes one by one and shone a light into it. Mick got bored and sat down on a chair, examining the hole in his jeans. Blood dripped down his thigh from where the metal had torn his flesh.
"How come you look like that?" he asked. "You didn't look like that before. Except sometimes you did."
"You scared Caitlin," she said, pressing a bandage to Cisco's head. "She thought you were a zombie, or possibly she's just scared of you. So I came forward to deal with you."
He frowned, cocking his head to look at her. "But you're a doctor, too, right?"
"I know what Caitlin knows. Or at least, some of it."
"You like a ghost or something?"
She blinked and paused, her hands stilling as she looked at him. "What?"
He made a vague gesture. "Like, a ghost in her body."
"Ah. No." She smiled and bent over her work. "When I give in to my metahuman powers, it affects my personality. It's convenient for me to think of myself as two people living in one body. Caitlin is a kind, sweet, generous person. And I am Killer Frost."
She inserted a needle into Cisco's arm and hung an IV, and added a bunch of little sticky circles with wires coming out, all around his head and others on his chest, hooked up to a machine. Soon, a soothing, steady beat rang out, as the machine recorded Cisco's heart, or maybe his brain. Mick figured so long as those noises kept going, Cisco was gonna be okay, but he wanted to be sure, so he asked anyway.
"He gonna be okay now?"
"It's hard to say." She straightened. "The swelling doesn't appear to be too bad, but he may have a concussion. He'll be unconscious for a while."
"Are you hurt?" she asked, looking over at him and cocking her head with interest.
He shrugged. "Got cut up on some metal."
"I'll take a look at it. Come with me." She gestured to him and he got to his feet. His leg hurt worse now that he was walking, but he ignored it and followed her out of the curtained area where Cisco's bed was, and into another curtained area. She patted the bed and he grunted, then sat on it.
Frost pulled out some pieces of equipment and then bent over him, tugging the rip in his jeans wider and dabbing at the cut with a sterile swab.
Mick watched her for a few moments, then fingered the collar of his shirt. It was soaked with Cisco's blood, which was now beginning to dry - head wounds always bled so bad. He didn't much want to have to wear a blood-stiff shirt, so while she worked on his leg, he pulled his shirt off and dropped it to the floor.
"You always undress in front of strange women?" Killer Frost asked.
"No," Mick said, frowning. "But I got blood on me."
"Might as well take the jeans off," she said. She turned away, unrolling a bandage. "I can't see properly with them on."
Mick shrugged and got to his feet. Without any shame, he undid his jeans and shucked them, then sat back down again. The sheets were cool and smooth against his bare ass. Mick rarely bothered with underwear.
Frost finished up cleaning away the blood and then pressed a bandage over the cut on his leg. Her hands were cold where they touched his skin, and it pebbled up under her fingertips.
"Don't usually like the cold," he commented.
She arched a brow. Her fingers lingered on his thighs, her palms pressed down, one on each. "Don't usually?"
"Yeah." He grinned at her. "But I could get to like you."
"Sure, you were good with those zombies." He twitched, reminded of the zombies right outside the door, and glanced back over his shoulder. "I guess they can't get in here with the door barred, right?"
She looked up. "Are you worried?"
"No," he said hastily. Then he added. "I just don't like zombies, okay?"
She smirked, then sobered. "Okay. Well, I think the point of the door being locked is to keep the infirmary locked down so the zombies can't get in. Maybe so they can't get out, actually."
"There's zombies in here?" Mick set his hand on the bed to push himself up, but she touched him on the chest - fuck she was cold - and pressed him back down.
"No zombies in here," she said. "But if there were, the security would trap them inside."
He settled under her insistent push and her hand dropped back down to the bandage, smoothing it out in a way he thought was pretty unnecessary. "So what you're saying is, we're trapped in here."
"True," she said.
"And the only other person here's Cisco, but he's asleep."
She looked up. He smiled at her. She looked slightly confused, so he put a hand on her waist. Then her eyes widened with understanding. "That's also true."
He slid his other hand around her waist, but before he could move further, she hopped up and straddled his thighs. He grunted with surprise as her lips met his eagerly.
Their breath frosted between their lips, and he groaned in excitement. His thigh smarted where her inner thigh pressed against it, but that was just spice, like, barely even pain. Her hair was soft under his rough hands, and her fingers felt like ice as they ran over his scar-covered shoulders and down his arms.
He pulled her shirt off and tossed it aside. She unhooked her bra and gave it the same treatment. He cupped her breasts, and she sighed, throwing her head back for a moment in pleasure as her nipples pebbled under his thumbs. Her skirt rode up around her thighs.
"Fuck me," she commanded.
He tugged her panties aside and entered her, and she rode him until she screamed her orgasm to the ceiling.
Later, he found frost burns in the shapes of her fingertips on his back.
Chapter 6: I'm Going To Go Get My Sister
The only warning Barry and Len had before the door opened was a soft, ear-bending chime and a click as the lock disengaged. Barry immediately was on his feet, putting himself between Len and the exit, and bouncing slightly with anticipation as the hexagonal portal opened, the door sliding up into the ceiling. For all he knew, a horde of zombies was about to come streaming through.
Instead, Kara entered the room. She looked much the same as she had the last time Barry had seen her, her blonde hair long and tumbling around her shoulders, and her cape sweeping behind her. Her skin was paler, though, with a greyish tinge that hadn't been there before, and her eyes were bloodshot, the veins standing out redly around her blue irises.
"Hello, Barry," she said, putting her hands on her hips and smiling. "How are you feeling?"
Barry sensed as much as heard Len rising to his feet behind him.
"I'm fine," he said aggressively, resisting the urge to touch the bandage on his arm. "Uh, how're you, Kara?"
She drew in a deep breath, her arms opening wide and her shoulders rising, and then let it out, smiling with her head tilted to one side. "I'm better than I've ever been." She held a hand out towards Barry, as if in invitation. "Barry, I'm so glad that you're here. I wish the rest of our friends hadn't rushed off before I had a chance to say 'hi'."
"Kara." Barry flailed, at a loss. It was so hard to be angry with her, not when she looked so... her. But that just left him not knowing how to feel. "Kara, listen to me. I don't know what you think you're doing, but you have to fight it. Whatever the virus is making you think - you're hurting people."
"Oh Barry." She snickered and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. "I know that's how you feel now. But don't worry - when you're finished your transformation, you'll see things differently. Just like I do."
Barry felt tears prick at the corner of his eyes. "My transformation? Is this fun for you?"
"Fun?" She chuckled. "Why are you acting like I'm some kind of monster? Didn't I bring you all the way here to be with the man you love?" He gestured towards Len, standing behind Barry. "Thanks to me, the two of you will be together for the rest of your lives."
The reference to their mortality sent a shock of cold through Barry. His chest squeezed, and he felt like he had to catch his breath before he could speak. "Are you... are you going to watch while I lose my mind, and then kill the man I love? Is that really why you brought me all the way here?"
Her eyes widened with shock, and her hand lowered to her side. "Barry, no. That's not what it's about at all."
The surprise and hurt in her voice caught Barry flat-footed. He hesitated, then spread his hands. "Please, Kara. Let us go. Let me help you."
Kara clasped her hands together. "I know you're scared and don't understand, but don't worry, Barry. Everything's going to be fine." She folded her arms, nodding as if a decision had been made. "I hoped you'd help me, but I guess I'm just going to have to do this myself."
"Do what?" Len asked in a low, menacing voice.
She smiled, and this time it was toothy and feral. "I'm going to go get my sister."
~ ~ ~
However, she wasn't too pleased that her clearly-imposed deadline had come and gone and still no Cisco. Worse, the other Rogues were starting to get bored.
"We aren't really gonna just stay here and wait forever like good little soldiers, are we Lisa?" Mark drawled, leaning back in his chair. He had formed a ball of ice in his hand and was tossing it up and down thoughtfully with his head tilted back, like he was considering which of the overhead lights he should throw the ball at first.
"Only as long as I say we will," Lisa returned. "I'm as eager as anyone to go get Lenny, but these goons might have things we could use. We shouldn't just leave without taking what we need from them, first."
There were nods of reluctant agreement around the table. Despite the situation, the prospect of stealing useful tech from a secret government facility would make any one of the Rogues salivate.
"Should I go look around?" Shawna asked. She wasn't usually the most antsy of the group, but she was the one most able to get around without detection. It made sense she'd be the one to do reconnaissance, and Lisa immediately nodded.
"I could, as well," Nimbus said.
Lisa considered that with a bit more reluctance, then nodded again. "Go on, both of you. Come back once you've mapped out the place. And Kyle?" He paused and looked at her, half risen from his chair. "No killing," she said, waggling a finger at him.
He gave her a serene look, which meant he was disappointed, but didn't want to admit it. "As you wish, Lisa." Then he began to waver into smoke and rose up into the ventilation system. Shawna just walked to the door, opened it a crack, and then vanished.
That left Roy and Mark alone with Lisa. Not her favourite combination, but it was what it was.
No sooner had she had that thought, but there was an ominous and loud rumbling from above them. The sound was drowned out the next moment by a loud claxon. Lisa looked upwards as the ground beneath them began to shake, and then saw a crack form in the ceiling right above them. "Is that an--"
Mark seized her arm and yanked her out of her chair. "Get under the table!" Roy was already diving for cover. Mark dragged Lisa under the conference room table only an instant before the roof caved in and tonnes of rock and debris rained down on top of them. Lisa found herself wedged between the two men, with Roy's head tucked against her side and Mark's arm protectively around her.
Mark cursed roundly and continuously, barely audible over the overwhelming noise, and Lisa felt the temperature drop precipitously. She hissed and tucked herself into a tighter ball, wondering what the hell Mark was doing, and afraid to break his concentration by asking.
After what felt like an eternity, the noise died away. The siren was still going, though it was far more muffled than before. Mark was panting, his breath harsh and rapid in her ear.
Lisa looked up, and saw that the table above them hadn't stood up to the weight. It had cracked down the middle, cross-wise, and would have caved in on them as well except that Mark had created a giant ice dome enclosing them.
"Thank you, Mark," Lisa said softly.
He nodded. "Won't be a sec," he said, his voice strained. He drew his hands up and out, and the debris outside the dome began to shift and move. It moved faster and faster as Mark concentrated, a tornado slowly drawing the debris off of the ice dome. The ice was beginning to show cracks from the weight pressed upon it, but daylight began to show through, and Lisa felt her hopes rise.
Then she saw what was going on outside, and she yelled to Mark. "Wait!"
The roof of the underground facility had caved in, leaving the level they were on open to the air. All around them were dozens of zombies, crawling over the debris in search of prey. Even worse, above them a woman was flying, her red cape flapping in the breeze. That had to be the woman on the video - and she was throwing out laser beams, which carved even more chunks out of the facility. All around them, the zombies were encountering DEO soldiers, and falling on them ravenously.
At her yell, Mark paused, his hands trembling as he held the air he'd gathered in a tight spiral. "What?" he hissed.
"There's a hundred zombies and a psycho metahuman out there," Lisa pointed out.
Roy sat up and peered upwards, pointing at the laser-wielding goddess. "Fuck, she's letting them in everywhere. The whole place is gonna be overrun."
Mark grimaced and looked up through the swirling funnel of debris and air that he'd formed. "We can't just stay here," he said. "Let me try something."
Mark redoubled his efforts, gathering up more of the debris into his air twister. He extended it upwards, drawing more and more of the stones and broken furniture and twisted metal into the body of the cyclone.
Lisa spotted Alex battling zombies as she headed for them, but she didn't see anyone else she recognized - not Cisco or Hartley, or Mick. Where were they? Were they OK?
Suddenly, Supergirl dove for Alex, her arms out as if to grab. At that same instant, Mark launched the gathered debris straight at her.
The twister made of a large section of the DEO and the earth above it slammed into the woman from the side, and she was totally unprepared for the attack. Mark grunted, making a pushing motion in her direction as he continued the onslaught. It looked as though Supergirl fell to the ground, covered in debris. Alex raced towards them, head down and gun up, picking off any zombies that she passed.
The ice dome crumbled, breaking into chunks and falling in on them. Lisa and Roy heaved at the ice and the broken table, keeping both off of Mark and trying to work themselves free.
There was a shriek of anger from where Supergirl had gone down. Lisa turned her head in that direction and spotted her flying straight up into the air as if shot by a cannon, dust and pieces of stone falling away. She headed off into the clouds, apparently defeated for now.
Mark collapsed to the floor, his eyes rolling up into his head as he passed out. Lisa got to her feet and stood over him, her gun out and scanning the area. Roy huddled at her feet, shaking Mark's shoulder and looking around nervously. She could understand his concern - she was pretty sure his powers weren't going to do shit against zombies.
Alex climbed over the wall of debris around them and stopped short, staring in utter shock. "You're alive! Did you do that thing with the rocks?"
"He did," Lisa said, gesturing down at the stricken Mark Mardon. "Of course we're alive!" Because they were totally awesome.
She punctuated her point by turning an investigating zombie into a golden statue.
"We need to get the fuck out of here," Roy exclaimed.
"Yes we do. Where are the others?" Alex asked with deep concern, scanning the debris around them.
As if summoned, Shawna Baez appeared next to Lisa in a puff of black dust. "Fuck me," she snapped. "What the fuck was that?"
"Supergirl," Lisa explained with a grimace. "Have you seen Cisco, Mick, or Hart?"
Shawna shook her head, but Alex spoke up. "I saw Cisco with Mick. Cisco was hurt and Mick was taking him to the infirmary. I'm sure they're safe from zombies. That area will be locked down by now."
Lisa's heart gave a little flip-flop at the news that Cisco was injured, but it sounded like there wasn't much they could do about it right now. More importantly, the zombies were starting to notice their little pow-wow, and she heard more groans and the shuffling of their feet as they approached. She turned to Alex. "Where do we go? We have to get out of the open."
"This way," Alex said, and took the lead. Shawna and Roy helped Mark to his feet and half-dragged him, while Lisa took the rear and picked off any zombies that came too close. Shortly, they reached a section of the building that hadn't collapsed, and Alex led them hurriedly down the corridor, passing several doors. Finally, she reached an elevator, and they all piled into it. It began to descend.
"Where are we going?" Roy asked. Mark was beginning to stir, but the shorter man was still bending under his weight. Shawna - even shorter - wasn't doing much to help.
"Down deeper in the building where the damage won't have reached," Alex said. "Those of us who survived and are able to make it to an elevator will gather there. The zombies won't be able to operate the elevators, and it's highly secure. From there we'll be able to barricade the rest of the exits, and figure out what to do."
The door opened. Beyond was a long series of branching corridors, leading to a central area with a few computers showing nothing but static on their screens. Along the walls of each corridor was a series of cells. Many of them contained prisoners. Lisa peeped into one of the cells as they passed and saw a man - or, something - with five tentacles protruding from his face. His(?) skin was grey and pebbled like an elephant. He was filling out a crossword puzzle with a stub of a pencil held in a pincer-shaped hand.
From another nearby cell, groans issued. Lisa saw a small gaggle of zombies wandering about inside, some of them scraping listlessly at the walls and groaning with hunger.
"Great," Roy growled. "We're gonna hide out in a prison."
"An alien prison," Lisa pointed out.
"Yup," Alex said wryly. "Better get comfortable - we might be here a while. At least we have plenty of beds."
Chapter 7: Inside Was Candyland
Hartley's got a cru~~ush...
Hartley followed Winn from the conference room back to the nerve centre of the DEO, while Winn chattered at him all the way. Once they reached Winn's work station, Hartley pulled up a chair to sit next to him, and leaned in close while Winn began to pull up information on his computer screen. Hartley dug into his bag and pulled out the jerry-rigged satellite access system he and Cisco had fashioned around his cellphone, and he and Winn had begun an in-depth discussion of how they might use a combination of satellite imagine, sonar, and other technology to map out the layout of the building where Supergirl was holding Snart.
Though they hadn't known one another long yet, Hartley felt like he and Winn had really hit it off. It was a strange feeling. Hartley had never been immediately liked by anyone in his entire life - except for Harrison Wells, and he had been a sociopathic murderer who wasn't even really Harrison Wells.
It worried him, somewhat, about Winn, but Hartley chose to believe that this just reflected all of the personal growth he had been working through lately.
Or maybe he was just really horny, and Winn was cute, and he was also fairly smart, all things considered. Past were the days when Hartley would look down on someone like Winn for being merely brilliant - like he had with Cisco when they had first met all those years ago. See? Personal growth.
"So the building just appeared overnight?" Hartley asked curiously.
"It might be one of the ships, reconfigured," Winn said, then brightened. "Like a Transformer! Do they have the Transformers in your world?"
"Like, the cartoon?" Hartley asked skeptically, and saw Winn's face fall. He considered that, then spread his hands, rallying quickly. "Not that there's anything wrong with a grown man liking a cartoon."
Winn didn't look convinced.
Hartley cleared his throat and reached past Winn to take control of the mouse, using it as a chance to lightly brush his arm against the other man's shoulder. "Do you have any pictures of the exterior? That's a place to start. If we can find a way in, like a vent or a window, Kyle Nimbus can always brute force a map. Of course, I'm not certain he's literate..."
Winn laughed nervously and scooted back, ceding control of the computer to Hartley, who pulled his own chair up to the work station.
"Ah, which one's Kyle Nimbus, and how could he make a map without getting killed by zombies?" Winn asked.
"The terrifying bald one," Hartley said. "He used to be a mob hit man. Would have died from lethal injection, but he was turned into a metahuman who can transform into a toxic mist instead." He paused. Winn's eyes were getting bigger and bigger. Hartley struggled to think of something reassuring to say, while at the same moment, Winn opened his mouth to say something.
But before either of them could voice what was on their mind, Hartley was distracted by a strange whine from above. He paused, frowned, and looked up. "What's that noise?"
Winn cocked his head in confusion unable to hear it, and an instant later a rumbling began that overwhelmed the sound Hartley had heard, and half the roof caved in.
Hartley acted before Winn had even heard the noise. He grabbed his bag in one hand, Winn in the other, and booked it in the opposite direction of the noise, which to his ears was an apocalyptic crashing of concrete and metal. Winn cried out in surprise, not yet having realized what was going on, but Hartley could hear the levels of the building above caving in on each other, one by one, moments before ceiling right above their heads was ripped apart by some kind of laser.
Debris tumbled down towards them, crushing Winn's work station moments after they got out of the way.
Thankfully, Hartley was still wearing his sonic gloves - here in enemy territory, he hadn't bothered to take them off. As another piece of masonry hurtled down towards them, Hartley gave Winn a shove towards the nearest door and fired his gloves upwards at a carefully - and quickly - calculated angle. The chunk of rock moved fractionally, just enough to give Hartley the space to back away and throw himself in the same direction he'd sent Winn.
The other man caught him and slammed his hand on a sensor next to the heavily fortified door. It scanned his palm and the door unlocked. Hartley pushed it open, and they both fled through it, just as the rest of the roof behind them caved in with a roar.
Inside, was Candyland.
All around them were various pieces of high-tech and/or alien equipment. Hartley could identify some of the human equipment that was being used to analyse or build the equipment, but some of it was new even to him. The least esoteric items on the tables were at least human in design, the kind of thing that Cisco might invent for Barry to use - or more likely, an organization like ARGUS could use to back up the Arrow. This was a place to study alien weaponry, and to invent devices to enhance humans, and make them into superheros.
Hartley was in love.
The door locked audibly behind them and Hartley turned to Winn. "Nice set up you've got here. I think we'll be safe here for now. I can't hear any more sounds of destruction, so I'm guessing that the crisis is over and the roof isn't going to cave in on our heads," he said. Then he paused.
Winn's eyes were wide and his breathing rapid, and not from the run. Hartley took a moment to reset his brain - right, Winn was probably scared for his friends. It wasn't like Hartley wasn't feeling the same way, but he tended to bury feelings like that until he was alone. Winn didn't seem to have his self control, or self-absorption.
He stepped closer and reached out. "Hey," he said in what he hoped was a kind tone. "We got out, and if we did, so did they." It was a platitude - some people were surely dead - but it wasn't a complete lie. These people seemed pretty competent. They would pull together and a lot of them would survive.
But Winn pulled away from his hand, hunching in on himself nervously, like he was afraid of Hartley's touch. "Right, yeah." He cleared his throat, continuing in an upbeat, but slightly manic, ramble. "Yeah, well this room is reinforced, and well, there's a lot of debris outside, so I guess we're stuck in here - and safe - for a while."
Hartley was left with his hand hovering in the air, feeling snubbed and foolish. Frowning, he let his hand drop. "Did I do something wrong?"
Winn was edging away, making for one of the work stations in the room. "What? Uh, no. No, why would you think that?"
Hartley watched him, his confusion struggling with a reactive anger that he didn't want to show. "I don't know, maybe because you're acting like you're locked in a room with a bear, and I don't see a bear, so it's got to be me."
Winn coloured. He sat down and picked up a pen, twiddling it in his fingers, avoiding Hartley's gaze. "I guess... Okay." He looked up and fixed Hartley with a penetrating look. "Yeah, you're right. I guess we'd better get it out in the open. So what did you do?"
"Huh?" Hartley stared, caught flat-footed by the nonsensical question. "What did I do when?"
Winn pointed his pen at Hartley. "That Nimbus guy, you said he was a hit man. What did you do?"
Oh. Ohhhh. "I'm a physicist."
Winn blinked in confusion. Despite everything, Hartley had the urge to laugh. The accusation was pretty much worth it for the look on Winn's face. Hartley knew - but didn't care - that he was grinning like a jerk as he dragged a rolling chair up to the workstation next to Winn's and straddled it backwards, resting his arms across the back of the chair.
"You're aware of how metahumans were created in our world?"
Winn nodded uncertainly. "Barry said like, it was a dark matter explosion."
"Correct. I used to work at STAR Labs with Cisco and Caitlin, which later was the source of the dark matter explosion. Shortly before the incident that created metahumans, I discovered a fault in the machinery, which I immediately deduced might cause an explosion in the particle accelerator when it was turned on. Of course, I went to my boss. He fired me on the spot, and blacklisted me from the entire scientific community. It turns out he had created the fault on purpose, because he was evil and wanted to create the Flash."
Winn's jaw was practically in his lap. Hartley continued, with great relish. "Currently, I consider myself to be a bit of an independent contractor. Yes, I work with the Rogues from time to time. I'm very good at hacking security systems. But I also help out the Flash when needed." He shrugged. "Winn, you seem like a good guy, but you don't really get the dynamic here, which isn't your fault. Things are not as simple as 'good' vs. 'evil' when it comes to this group."
The other man set his pen down, his earlier fear utterly gone. "What do you mean, 'the dynamic'?"
Hartley gestured towards the door. "Some of the Rogues are murderers, it's true. All of them are dangerous - and that includes myself, under the right circumstances, though I'm no killer. But Leonard Snart and his sister keep the others in line, and are... walking that grey area far more than the dark side these days. Especially now that Leonard has fallen head over heels for the Flash, and his Lisa has done the same with Cisco. Even Mick Rory is running around time and space saving the world these days." He spread his hands. "I know they don't want to think of themselves as heroes, and most of the rest of the Rogues are trash, but the leaders of the Rogues are far from the merciless monsters they'd like people to think they are. I wouldn't work with them if that weren't so."
Winn's expression was thoughtful. "Supergirl told us all about Barry and his friends. I met Barry when he came here, and he seemed like such a nice guy."
"He is," Hartley said wryly.
"I couldn't really understand why Barry would take up with a criminal organization," Winn confessed. "How the hell did he and this Leonard Snart character even get together?"
Hartley chuckled. "Well, that's a hell of a story. And I have the feeling there'll be time for me to tell it while we're stuck in here together, but now's probably not the time." He gestured towards the computer sitting at Winn's elbow. "First, maybe we should see how the rest of our friends are doing?"
Winn jumped, eyes widening. "Yeah, you're right. It had to be Supergirl who did it, but either she's accomplished what she was trying to achieve, or somehow she was driven off. At least the mainframe is buried deep underground, so it should still be up. I'll patch into the security systems and see if I can raise anyone on comms."
He typed rapidly while Hartley watched, considering their next move. With all the damage outside, they were probably trapped here for a long while. At least the zombies weren't going to be able to get past all the rocks or the heavy steel door.
"By the way," Winn said. "How did you know what was going to happen?" He shot Hartley a sidelong look, eyes narrowed with suspicion. Apparently he still wasn't completely certain that Hartley was on the up and up.
"I heard part of the building above collapsing," Hartley said frankly.
Winn turned to stare at him openly. "You did? I didn't hear anything until after you moved."
"That's my metahuman power. I have heightened hearing."
"Ohh... I thought you were a telekinetic or something," Winn said, eyes widening. "How did you move the rock if you can hear good?"
"Oh that." Hartley grinned and slipped off one of his sonic gloves, presenting it proudly to Winn. "For that, I used these."
Winn took the glove and examined it. "Woah... wait, do these use sonic technology?" He stared up at Hartley. "And your powers help you control it, right?"
Hartley was beaming. God, he was so cute, and not even dumb. He couldn't stand it. "Yes, that exactly." He wondered how Winn would react if Hartley stuck his tongue in his mouth right now.
"That's cool, man. You mind if I run it through my scanners later? I could probably find a dozen uses for tech like that."
"I wouldn't mind at all," said Hartley, effortlessly setting aside his usual protectiveness over his tech. Hartley normally jealously guarded every one of his inventions like a rabid dog. Each thing he invented was a possible ticket out of poverty, a patent waiting to be approved - which would transport him back into the life he'd lost when his parents disowned him. But hormones were a powerful motivator. "You're welcome to it."
"Thanks, bro." Beaming, Winn set the glove down again and turned back to the computer, apparently completely unaware that Hartley was melting like goo over him.
As much as Hartley was disappointed not to be the recipient of Winn's attentions any longer, he didn't object or try to turn the discussion back towards himself. If all that had gone on much longer, Hartley would probably have tried to kiss Winn, and that could go one of two ways - one of which was great, but neither of which would lead them to doing what they should be doing.
So he rested his chin on his clasped hands and watched Winn work, trying his best to convince himself that the warm feeling in the pit of his stomach wasn't reflected in his face.
Chapter 8: What's With All The Screaming?
When Killer Frost and Mick are conspiring to get in your pants... you know you're screwed.
Mick woke with a start, at first unsure of where he was. He opened his eyes and looked around, seeing that he was alone and recalling the events of the last few hours. He was lying on a hospital bed in the nude, not covered by so much as a blanket. Though hospitals weren't his usual fun space, he wasn't cuffed to the bed, nor was he hooked up to any weird machines, so that was all right.
His back hurt. There were little pin-pricks of pain when his skin brushed against the rough, starchy sheet underneath him, and he recalled with satisfaction how the ice lady had touched him and how it had burned.
Now where was she?
He got up and wandered out of the cubicle, parting the curtain and stepping through it. He padded on bare feet past Cisco's curtained off space - he paused only to confirm that the beeps were still beeping away, which meant both that he was still alive, but still sick. Not great, but not as bad as it could be. Then he poked his head into rooms until he found who he was looking for.
Caitlin sat with her back to the door, on a stool in front of a counter. The room was filled with big machines with lots of lights and weird dials. She was peering into a microscope, her brown hair a tumble down her back and wearing a lab coat.
"Hey babe," Mick rumbled, and ran fingers through her hair - to subtly get her attention.
She jumped and turned around, then shrieked in shock and surprise when she saw him. Instantly, he saw her eyes flash icy and her hair turned white.
Mick took a step back. "Woah," he commented, scratching his right hip. "Everything okay?"
She blinked up at him, a smirk pulling at the side of her lips. "Well, well, you're awake. About time."
If she wasn't freaked out, what was with all the screaming? Also, what was she implying? Mick scowled slightly and shrugged his shoulders. "I like to nap. Why were you screaming?"
She stared at him like she didn't know what he was talking about, then waved a hand. "Oh, Caitlin you mean. Was she screaming?" She looked him up and down, her smirk widening. "I can see why, but it's nothing to get that excited about."
Mick shifted from foot to foot. While he appreciated a gal who had an eye for a good set of assets, something was wrong here, and it wasn't just that ice chick didn't seem to know what was going on with regular chick. "She didn't look like she was glad to see me."
There was a harmonic when she hummed, that sang in his ears. He shook his head to clear it and waited, wishing for a beer and wondering if she was going to say anything else.
She seemed lost in thought for a moment, before she finally said. "I doubt she was. I'm guessing she's scared of you, and it probably didn't help for you to show up in the nude like that. Caitlin is a bit of a ninny, if you ask me. I'm always saying, she needs to learn how to have fun."
"She's scared of me," Mick echoed. Well sure, that made sense. He'd kidnapped her that one time, and anyway she'd been surprised to see him. He supposed it was natural. "But you're not."
She laughed. "Of course not." She got to her feet, abandoning whatever work she'd been doing like it meant nothing to her. "I have no reason to be. So what do you think, champ - you ready to go another round?"
Well, now that was the best idea he'd heard in at least five minutes. He grinned, and she went to him, wrapping both legs around his waist and leaving burning kisses along his skin.
They were mostly careful not to break any of the delicate equipment Caitlin needed to work with.
~ ~ ~
Len was still holding him, his arms cinched around Barry's shoulders. Neither of them moved for a moment, Barry tense and ready to get up and defend his lover, and Len's arms loosening to allow that to happen. But nothing happened. The door just remained open, and no one came through it.
Barry turned to look at Len, who gazed down at him with a wary watchfulness. "How're you feeling, Barry?"
"I'm fine," Barry lied. His arm was hurting, which was not normal. It should have healed by now. It should have healed long before he even discovered he'd ever been hurt, but instead the wound pulsed with a bone-deep ache that terrified him. He summoned a grin. "No urge to bite you, don't worry."
"Not yet," Len said fatalistically. He sobered and brushed the hair clinging onto Barry’s forehead. “You’re feverish.”
"I’m okay," Barry said with a conviction he didn't feel. "So..." He glanced back at the door, and then back at Len, arching a brow. "You game?"
Len looked offended. He tapped Barry on the hip with an open hand and Barry took that as a signal to get up. "When am I ever not game? Especially if it means getting out of a prison?"
Barry held out a hand to help Len to his feet. His lover still looked pale and tired, and Barry wasn't sure how long he'd been here, but he knew that Len hadn't been fed or had proper rest since Barry arrived, at least. Len ignored the hand up and got to his feet with something like his usual grace - though Barry didn't miss the slight wobble.
Compromising, Barry slipped his arm around Len's in a sort of standing-up snuggle and hoped that Len wouldn't realize it was a subtle way to give him support while they went.
"Don't you want to be free to move?" Len asked as they crossed the cell towards the door, though Barry noticed he didn't try to extricate himself from Barry's hold.
"I can always let go if I need to," Barry assured him. "And I'm not leaving you behind."
"I know that, idiot," Len said gruffly.
Barry peeked out the door. Beyond was a round room with a number of other doors, just like the room where they'd first arrived. Frankly, this could be the room where they'd first arrived. Only one of the doors was open, leading to a hallway, and Barry and Len walked through the doorway and down the hall.
Though they heard the distant groans of zombies, they saw few of them as they walked, and none of the ones they saw tried to attack them for some reason. Though Barry tried a dozen doors, all of them were locked, and just as repellent to his powers as the cell door. Each time they reached a junction, only one way was free of zombies. If they tried to turn a different way, their progress was quickly blocked by a knot of infected people, and they were forced to turn back.
"You get the feeling like we're being led somewhere?" Barry asked grimly after the second time that happened.
"Yes," Len said.
Abruptly their travels came to a destination. They had climbed a couple of staircases and traversed so many similar hallways without any windows or landmarks to differentiate them that Barry was completely lost. But finally they stepped through a wide set of double doors into a room that had a lot of windows. They seemed to be at the very top of the building, in a large circular room with a panoramic view of the countryside. Barry immediately spotted the tall buildings of National City in the distance.
But it was the contents of this room that really commanded his attention. In the centre of the room was a throne, and Supergirl reclined on it, attended by two dozen zombies, who stood at some semblance of attention, like two wings extending back from her shoulders.
Kara looked restless and irritated, shifting in her seat and crossing her legs, her red boots flashing in the setting sunlight as she crossed and recrossed her legs. When Barry and Len entered, she sat up.
"Ah! Finally you're here. It's about time."
"Sorry, Kara," Barry said, trying to sound sincere instead of giving in to sarcasm. It wasn’t Kara’s fault she was evil right now. "We didn't know you were in a hurry." He hesitated. "Is Alex okay?"
"Oh she's fine! I wasn't able to bring her here - not yet. But she'll come soon enough, don't worry. I made some arrangements with a friend of mine." She beamed, waved a hand dismissively and gestured towards him. "Come here, Barry. I want to take a look at you."
Barry was relieved to hear that Alex had so far escaped, but worried about this comment that Kara had made 'arrangements'. Was she completely batty, or had someone actually agreed to help her? He couldn't imagine that anyone at the DEO would give Alex up to Kara, unless it was part of a plan.
At Kara's imperious gesture, he and Len exchanged glances. On the whole, Barry had no particular desire to get any closer, but he also didn't want to get her mad at him. Len made the decision in the end - he let go of his arm and gave him a little nudge, and Barry sighed. He walked up to Kara.
She extended a hand and Barry allowed her to take hold of his wrist. Humming, she bared his forearm and peeled back the bandage.
Barry closed his eyes and looked away reflexively, but after a moment, he gathered his courage and snuck a peek. There was a deep bite mark on his forearm. Though one would expect that it would have crusted over by now, it was weeping a clear fluid, sluggishly. The edges of the bite were inflamed.
Kara clucked her tongue and pressed the bandage neatly into place again. "Your healing factor is working hard to slow the progress of your change," she said, releasing his wrist. "But don't worry, I'm sure it'll happen soon enough." She beamed up at him brightly.
"Kara..." Barry struggled for a moment. "Kara, I don't want to turn into a zombie. Can't you understand that?"
She took both of his hands and squeezed them, smiling. "You don't have to be afraid, Barry. You won't be a drone, like my children here." She released one hand to gesture to her undead attendants. "You'll be like me. Mostly like me. You might not be quite as smart as you were, but it should be close enough. You won't even know the difference."
Barry's skin crawled. He tugged his hands free and she pouted, but allowed him to go. "I'd like to leave, now."
"Sorry." She waggled a finger. "You can't go. You're infectious, remember?" Her eyes sparkled, like a shared joke.
He drew in a breath. "Then I'd like to go back to my cell. With Len."
She sighed and rested her chin on her hand. "Wouldn't you both like to stay with me for a while? Alex will be here soon, and then we can start the next phase."
Barry glanced back at Len. His lover was leaning against a post, apparently unconcerned, though Barry could see the tightness in his shoulders and around his eyes. He knew what Len would say if he could talk to him - learn whatever he could. Anything could lead to a way out.
He turned back to Kara. "What's the next phase?"
She beamed wickedly. "You'll see."
~ ~ ~
A large hand slipped around her back and tugged her close with surprising strength, tough scar tissue scraping lightly against the tender skin at the small of her back. That scar tissue feeling was strange enough that it finally shoved her fully into wakefulness, and her eyes snapped open.
Mick Rory was smiling at her as she looked up. It was a herculean effort not to immediately go Killer Frost as their eyes met and her heart all but stopped. She felt the icy sting as her eyes shifted, in fact, but Caitlin forced her down ruthlessly, maintaining control with a desperate internal clawing for purchase on that slippery surface of sanity. Allowing Killer Frost to take over again, to do this to her again was even more frightening a prospect than facing Rory on her own.
His eyebrows ticked up as Caitlin’s eyes shifted, and then lowered again when the cold feeling receded. His arm tightened around her, his other arm coming around to rest on her hip. Her eyes slid away from him desperately as she struggled not to get more of an eyeful of Mick’s nude body than she had ever wanted to see. With that, Caitlin realized they were lying on the floor in the lab where she'd been working the last time she was herself. Her stool had been overturned, and all around them was a minefield of broken or damaged glassware and equipment.
“Hey babe,” Mick grunted. “You stickin’ around this time, or is she comin’ back to play?”
Stick around? All she wanted was to run away, but there were a number of problems with that. First, they were literally surrounded by broken glass. More importantly, she had to make sure that her samples hadn’t been destroyed by her alter-self’s carelessness and recklessness.
And the most important factor - there was her pride.
“Caitlin,” she said.
“Hmm?” His hand stroked down her back, warm and callused.
She forced herself to look him in the face, summoning her strongest glare. “My name is Caitlin.”
He cocked his head, brows furrowing in confusion. “I know that. Caitlin Snow.”
On the one hand, she was honestly surprised that he knew. But the fact that he either couldn’t understand her point, or was choosing not to, was so infuriating that she paid that revelation only the briefest of attention. She drew a breath, and tried again. “And her name is Killer Frost.”
His expression cleared of confusion, like dark clouds parting and allowing a toothy grin to show. “Yeah, that’s good.” He gave her hip a squeeze, fingers uncomfortably close to her ass. “I like that name. Heat Wave and Killer Frost. Good combo.”
Why was he smiling? He still didn’t fucking get it. Caitlin seethed, her fingers clenching on Mick’s broad chest. “I’m not your babe,” she snapped. “Don’t you understand?”
His hands stilled on her, his brows furrowing again, a darkness she didn’t like clouding his eyes. “Why’re you mad?”
"Why am I mad?" she echoed, incredulously. "Why-- Why wouldn't I be mad?"
"Did you think I wanted this? That I wanted you?" she demanded. "You come in here like a... like a randy dog in the middle of a crisis. What is wrong with you?"
Mick was still holding her, but gingerly, like she was going to explode. He directed his gaze up to the ceiling, settling onto his back. "Seemed like you wanted me - like she did, anyways."
Caitlin grimaced. This wasn't the first time she'd learned of Frost's lack of any kind of standards, but it was the first time she had really been confronted by it in a direct way. "Maybe she did," she said. "But I'm not her."
Mick was silent for a moment. "She said she's not you, but she's a person. She's not a ghost in your body... she said."
"I don't care!"
Caitlin still pulsed with a hot, sick rage and shame, to the point where she scarcely heard what he said. She shoved herself away from him, jumping to her feet and searching in vain for her clothes. She stepped cautiously around a broken beaker, ranting. "I don't care what she told you. All I want is for you to leave me alone. You're a criminal, and I don't care who thinks you've reformed. I don't care that you're a Legend, now, or how you've fooled everyone into thinking you're different than you were."
She couldn't find her goddamn clothes. Where the hell were they? What had he done with them?
He made a noise, like an animalistic grunt, and she whirled on him, her voice rising hysterically. "Just go away!"
Mick was standing behind her, her clothes in a bundle and held out to her like a peace offering. She snatched them from him and held the bundle to her chest, realizing that there were tears in her eyes and hating herself even more for them. Even more than she hated him for looking confused and forlorn rather than angry and monstrous.
"Didn't know you'd be like that about it," he said. Then he turned, and walked out of the room, heedless of the glass crunching under his bare feet.
Caitlin sat down on the floor, clothes held to her chest, and pressed her hands into her eyes until they stopped trying to leak tears. He had no right to make her feel bad for what he'd done, and she refused to allow herself to feel that way.
Somewhere in the infirmary, she heard a roaring and a banging as he destroyed something. She had no intention of venturing out to find out what.
After a few minutes, she dressed and began to clean up the ravages of her office. She had work to do, and she wasn't about to let Mick Rory distract her from doing it.
Chapter 9: You Have Weird Friends
Alex had never felt more alone while surrounded by people than she did in the hours after the attack.
Upon her arrival down in the prison level, she had taken command immediately, setting everyone around her to any task she could think of to do. But she was painfully aware of the missing faces - Winn, J'onn.
The prison level was depressing enough when it wasn't being used as a bunker. Thankfully, they had a lot of empty cells, but she almost wished that they were having more difficulty finding space for everyone to sleep. Kara had cut through the DEO building to the hidden command centre buried beneath it with a literal laser accuracy, but there was no telling how many people had died either as a direct result of the damage to the building, or under the zombie hoard that had come on its heels.
After assigning tasks to as many people as she could - to try to access the mainframe, to prepare the empty cells for that night's rest, to check the status of and gather supplies, to set up barricades where needed - she got down to her own assigned task. As humiliating as it might be for everyone, she ruthlessly checked each and every person for any signs of bites or scratches. A couple of DEO soldiers had abrasions that didn't look to be infected, from falling debris. Two had bites. She isolated the two in one cell, though not the cell where the fully infected had been isolated early on in the crisis. They went miserably, but without resistance.
Then it was the newcomers' turn. Alex had designated one cell as the make-shift infirmary, and hung a blanket up to create some privacy. She asked each of Barry's friends to join her, one by one.
"Is this really necessary?" Lisa Snart sighed as she undressed. She was wearing black lingerie with what looked like actual cloth-of-gold accents. Alex averted her gaze politely while the woman settled onto the cot in her underwear, then slipped on a fresh pair of gloves and began her examination.
"You know it is," Alex said, running light fingers over Lisa's arms and checking the back of her shoulder and her arm pits. "Do you feel pain anywhere?"
"Only my pride," she sighed. "Mark protected Roy and I. We're fine."
"I hope that's true," Alex said. "It won't take long." She paused. "Where did the rest of your people go? I saw Mick just after the attack, but I notice three others are also missing and I didn't see any sign of them."
"Hartley went with Winn," Lisa said. Her face pulled down into a worried frown. "They were going to try to figure out how to get into Supergirl's fortress. Where did you see Mick? Is he okay?"
Alex grimaced faintly and made a mental note - remind Winn that when he was asked to babysit a bunch of criminals, he stayed with them. Though she couldn't fault his intentions. "He had Cisco and was headed for the infirmary. Mick looked unhurt. Cisco looked as though he'd been hit in the head by debris. It didn't look too bad." Lisa drew an audible breath and let it out in relief. But before she could ask another question, Alex doggedly pursued her own line of questioning. "And the rest? There are still two unaccounted for."
"Shawna and Kyle? I'm sure they're just fine."
Alex pursed her lips, watching Lisa's expression. The woman was watching her from under her eyelashes, calm and almost serene as Alex examined her. Was she just being strong? Or was she pulling something over on Alex?
"Can you turn onto your stomach, please?"
Lisa turned over obediently, propping herself up on her elbows. Though her skin was all but flawless to a degree that Alex envied, there were a couple of scars - one nasty one Alex had noted on her upper chest, a couple on her stomach, and a few more littering her back. None seemed fresh, though Alex checked them carefully anyway, to make sure they weren't disguising a mark from a zombie.
A soft hissing sound attracted her attention. She turned her head to see a green mist flowing from the ventilation grate up in the ceiling. Seeing it too, Lisa tensed and immediately pulled away from Alex, pushing herself up to sit. "Damnit, Kyle, what the fuck?"
To Alex's shock, the green mist coalesced into the form of a man - one of the men who'd come with Lisa and who had been missing. He grinned. "Thought you'd want to know I'm back."
"Get the fuck out, you perv!" Lisa snapped, eyes afire. "You could've told me later, when I was dressed." Though she was clearly angry, she defiantly made no move to cover herself.
"Sorry." Kyle didn't look the least bit repentant. His eyes shifted to Alex, looked her over, and then he turned to leave.
"Wait," Lisa said. "But don't fucking turn around." He stopped, facing the doorway. Lisa glanced at Alex, apparently satisfied by his obedience, if not completely forgiving. "Are we done?"
Bemused, Alex nodded. "Yes, we're done."
Lisa reached for her clothes and began to dress, apparently in no hurry. "All right, Kyle, what do you want to tell me?"
Kyle didn't seem to mind being forced to stand in the doorway of the cell, facing away from Lisa. His posture was relaxed and his expression - what Alex could see of it from her angle - was amused. She had a feeling this sort of power posturing was just par for the course in their criminal world. "That bitch who attacked us--"
"Hey," Alex snapped, unable to help herself. "That's my sister, and she's sick."
"She's right," Lisa said, though she sounded bored. "Be nice."
Kyle rolled his eyes. "I tried to follow her after the building came down, but she was too fast. I think she headed back to her hideout, though. A bunch of people got out. A bunch didn't. I didn't count, but there's zombies all over where it's open to the sky, so there's not going to be much moving around until we can clear them out. I saw Shawna helping a guy. I think she'll be here soon."
"Did you see Cisco?" Lisa asked.
Kyle glanced back over his shoulder. Lisa was buttoning her blouse and didn't seem to care that he looked. This time, his look was more curious than lascivious. "Didn't see him. You want me to go look for him?"
"Yes. Thank you, Kyle. He should be with Mick in the infirmary. Check on him and find Hartley, too."
Without another word, the man shifted to mist again and rose towards the ceiling. In seconds, he had vanished.
Alex looked at Lisa. "You have weird friends."
Lisa grinned. "So do you."
Shouting erupted out in the halls, and Alex's heart rate doubled. She raced out of the cell, drawing her gun and holding it in a ready position - low, finger on the guard, but prepared to raise it and start shooting at the slightest provocation - as she headed for the central area of the prison. However, before she emerged from the hallway, she realized that what she was hearing weren't sounds of a zombie hoard eating her colleagues - it sounded like cheers. Confused, she put the safety back on the gun and stepped out of the hall.
J'onn stood surrounded by a crowd of happy DEO agents. He was bruised and battered, leaning heavily on the short black woman who had come along with Barry's group, but he was alive and smiling.
Alex ran to him, the crowd parting for her, but stopped a short distance away. She realized with chagrin that she'd been on the edge of throwing herself into his arms. "Sir," she said, awkwardly. "Thank goodness you're alive."
"I'm fine, Alex," he said in answer to her unasked question. "The roof caved in when Supergirl attacked and I was briefly unconscious. This young woman pulled me out of the wreckage and got me here safely." He smiled down at Shawna Baez, who shrugged.
"That's me. A goddamn hero. Where should I put him?" she asked, turning to Alex.
"Help me get him to the infirmary," Alex said, getting under J'onn's other arm and taking some of the weight. J'onn made discontented noises, but didn't resist as the two women assisted him down the hall and into the cell where she'd been examining people. Despite his protestations - wordless and otherwise - that he was all right, J'onn grunted with relief when he sat down on the cot.
"Thank you," Alex said to the woman. "Don't go away, I should examine you to make sure you're all right, too."
"It can wait," Shawna said. "There might be some other people out there who aren't dead yet. Time's ticking, right?" And without waiting for Alex's response, she vanished in a puff of black smoke.
Alex shook her head in wonder. Now she understood why Lisa had insisted that Shawna and Kyle would be just fine. Barry's world was filled with people with such amazing abilities. Even after meeting such a variety of aliens with powers of their own, she could scarcely believe it.
She turned back to J'onn. "Well, I'd better examine you, sir." There was definitely some blood on his skin and clothes, though on a superficial examination, it appeared to be nothing more than abrasions from the falling debris.
"Of course, Alex," he said, settling back onto the mattress.
Though Alex found some cuts and bad bruises, she saw no signs of bites. J'onn explained that he'd sheltered Cisco from the falling debris, and had been knocked out. When he came to, it had been to Shawna touching him and then teleporting them into a safe hallway. They had ridden the elevator down together, and he hadn't seen any sign of Cisco since the attack. He was relieved to hear that Alex had seen Cisco - injured, but not badly - being transported to the infirmary by Mick Rory.
Though they were all separated and it would probably be impossible to reach the infirmary, it was a relief that they had some hint that some people had made it out alive other than the ones gathered down here in the prison.
Just as Alex settled J'onn in a cell of his own next door to the makeshift infirmary, a voice echoed through the intercom.
"Hello? If anyone can hear me, go to the nearest computer station and access your screen. I'll take it from there."
It was Winn. Alex's heart leapt with joy. She glanced at J'onn, who nodded. "Go. Report back to me."
She strode quickly back out to the central gathering area. One of the surviving techs had already sat down at the main computer - basically nothing more than a security station - and was pushing buttons. This computer station was all but isolated from the mainframe computer for security reasons, so thus far they hadn't been able to access the full range of functions, but as Alex drew close she saw that Winn had somehow uploaded an app to the computer, and she could still hear his voice walking the tech through the process of configuring it.
She pulled up the other chair and sat down next to the tech. "Winn, where are you? Are you safe?"
The tech finished the configuration and a window popped open on the screen, showing Winn's face. He looked dusty, with sprinkles of what was probably concrete in his hair, but alive and not obviously injured. He grinned and gave a little wave at the screen. "Hey Alex, I'm with Hartley in my lab," he said. "Smart move, going down to the prison level. Is everyone okay?"
"J'onn is here, and you can let Mr. Rathaway know that the rest of his people are fine. I understand that Cisco Ramon and Mick Rory are in the infirmary, which is on lockdown, and the rest are down here with me."
Hartley poked his head into the range of the camera. "Thank you. Glad to hear it. Actually, Nimbus already came by to let us know. He should be making his way back to you by now."
Alex nodded, and Hartley retreated again, giving the field of view over to Winn once more. She gave a quick rundown of who else had made it out. Winn's eyes widened a little at the short length of the list, and he nodded seriously.
"We won't be able to get to you," Winn said. "There's a couple tonnes of rock between us and the elevator. How can we help?"
"Keep the lines of communication open. Try and see if you can hook us into the infirmary as well. If we can all communicate, maybe we can coordinate something," Alex said. "At least Dr. Snow is still there to work on the vaccine."
"If anyone can figure out a way to cure a zombie plague, it's Dr. Snow," Hartley said quietly from just off camera. "But I'm sure she'd benefit from your expertise and knowledge, too. We'll work on bridging a connection between the infirmary computers and the prison level, next."
Winn nodded, glancing at Hartley and then back at the camera. "Ring us if there's anything else, and keep safe. We'll call back if we come up with anything."
"Thank you, Winn," Alex said, and the screen went to black.
She turned to the gathered DEO agents, noting the presence of Lisa and a couple of her people standing back in a cluster and watching what was going on. The energy in the room had shifted, at least slightly. While the situation was still dire, there was hope in the air. They weren't just a group of desperate people, setting up for their last stand against an implacable and powerful enemy. They had allies out there.
"All right, it's getting late," Alex said. "I'll assign a shift rotation to keep watch, but the rest of you, get some rest. Tomorrow's another day." The agents broke up to take their rest in one of the empty cells. Alex headed to her infirmary once more. Her eyes felt sandpapery, but she had no choice but to stay awake for another couple of hours as a few more survivors trickled in - mostly helped by Shawna Baez. Shawna managed to save three more people, though unfortunately one of them had to be isolated due to a mark that might have been a bite. Baez herself emerged unscathed, and after midnight, she and Nimbus had both reported that there was no one else moving around outside. In the end, just a bit over a hundred DEO agents had survived, most of them down in the prison level.
Shortly after two a.m., Alex laid down on the bunk in the infirmary and fell instantly asleep.
She felt like she had only slept for minutes when her eyes snapped open again. For a few seconds, every sense was on fire, her awareness screaming, while she struggled to figure out if she had actually heard something, or if she had just been awakened by a dream she no longer remembered.
Then she heard it again. A soft groan, and a muffled thump.
Thankfully, she hadn't bothered to get undressed before collapsing into bed. Silently, Alex reached under her pillow for her pistol and got up. She slid on stockinged feet out of the cell, scanning the darkened hallway. Another soft moan and a soft, wet sound drew her down the hallway towards the central area.
The room was lit only by the glow of the computer screen, yet she could have sworn it was brightly lit a few hours before. She squinted in the darkness, stepped further into the room, and nearly tripped over a body. It was one of the men she had assigned the watch to, lying face down on the floor. There was a bloody rent in the back of his shoulder. By his outstretched hand was a coffee mug, a pool of coffee spreading from it over the floor.
She touched a finger to the coffee and smelled it, then tasted it. There was a salty taste, almost fully covered by the bitterness of the coffee. Laced with Rohypnol?
Another moan had her up and moving again. Spotting a crumpled shape, she moved closer and bent to examine what turned out to be the other guard, also fallen, and bitten.
She opened her mouth to shout, to wake everyone, but a hand slipped around her neck and covered her mouth, cutting off the yell before she could voice it. She struggled and drove an elbow back into her attacker, kicking hard, but the arms holding her had the strength of iron and the elbow produced only a muffled grunt.
A grunt she recognized.
She relaxed immediately, and her assailant allowed her to turn. J'onn J'onzz, in his Martian guise, gazed down at her.
"J'onn," she whispered. "The zombies are out of their cells."
"I know," he said. "Be quiet, Alex. Everything's going to be fine."
Two shapes shambled out of the darkness. One of them, she recognized as James Olsen - who should have been in the cell with the other zombies. He had been one of the first to be bitten. They had kept him safe and contained while he went through the infection. Now his dark skin had a greyish tinge, and his eyes were bloodshot and staring vacantly.
"Behind you," she hissed, but J'onn pressed a hand to her chest, driving the air from her lungs. He turned to James and the other zombie and gestured to them. "Take her."
Cold hands seized her arms, surprisingly strong, and hauled her off her feet. J'onn strode away from her, towards the elevators, while the two zombies carried her along with him. Alex noticed that the elevator at the end of the hall was standing open. As they passed the light switch on the wall, she could see that it had been sabotaged. No wonder all the lights were off.
Alex drew in a breath, and screamed as loudly as she could.
"Damnit," J'onn said with a sigh. "I told you to be quiet, Alex. Come on, hurry, before they come."
Alex continued to scream at the top of her lungs as the zombies hauled her down the hall. She couldn't fight too hard, terrified to either provoke one of them to bite her - and why hadn't they? - or to hurt one of her closest friends.
Shawna appeared out of nowhere. "What the fu--" J'onn backhanded her across the face. She crashed into the wall and slid down it, unconscious.
"J'onn, what are you doing?" Alex demanded. "Why are you doing this?"
He glanced back at her as they stepped into the elevator. Under the lights of the elevator, she now saw that his eyes were blood shot, his skin greyed from the infection. Somehow, she had missed it. "I'm taking you to my Queen. Now, stop struggling. You're not going to be hurt."
Chapter 10: How Many Is Lots?
In which Hartley is a regular guy.
After establishing contact with Agent Danvers at the prison level, Hartley helped Winn to open a connection to the infirmary. That was less difficult than the prison had been. The infirmary itself might be locked down, but the computers were still on the network, while the prison network had had high security firewalls to keep it isolated from the mainframe in case there was a prison break.
It was a relief for Hartley to talk to Caitlin, even if only for a few minutes. She confirmed what Danvers had told them - that she was there with Mick and Cisco, and that they were safe. She had seemed distracted, which didn't surprise Hartley at all. She was in the best position to come up with some kind of cure or treatment for the zombie plague, and she clearly didn't want to spare more time than she had to on conversation.
Hartley and Winn then spent the next couple of hours discussing how they could help in other ways. Establishing communications was great, but they were still stuck in a small room full of toys, with a few hundred zombies right outside. Only Kyle Nimbus could get to them - through a ventilation shaft - so even if they could create some kind of weapon to take out the zombies, or other useful device, he couldn't transport it to the DEO agents.
This had led to a long argument about the principles of miniaturization, which Hartley had adored. Finally, someone he could talk to.
Winn seemed to have gotten over his earlier wariness of Hartley, as well. They chatted, and passed tools, half-finished gadgets, and the computer keyboard between them easily. Hartley couldn't remember the last time he'd had so much fun talking to another human being - it was probably during the early days of working for Harrison, but he tried not to think about that too much.
Now all Hartley had to do was figure out how the hell to flirt with someone he actually liked.
Back in the early days of exploring his sexuality, it wasn't that hard. You went to a gay bar, flashed some money around, and it tended to get attention. If you were willing to get down on your knees from time to time, it was even easier. But this was completely different. For one thing, there was no alcohol to smooth the way. For another, Winn wasn't also cruising.
For a third, for all Hartley knew, Winn might be straight. That would be the worst.
With Harrison Wells, no flirting had really been necessary. Hartley had admitted to Harrison during the interview why he wasn't working for Rathaway Industries, and it hadn't taken too long after he was hired for Wells to make it clear what he had in mind. Hartley had been eager to please, and more than willing to do what Harrison wanted. Whatever Harrison wanted.
Hartley never wanted to be in a position like that again, but with Winn, at least, he didn't have to worry about that.
Sure, he'd flirted outrageously with Barry and Cisco before, but that was meaningless and he'd never expected it to go anywhere. Right now, he was in a brand new conundrum - he was locked in a small lab with a gorgeous, smart, sweet, funny guy, and he had no fucking clue how to get his chess pieces to Winn's side of the board without risking his dignity.
During their talks, he'd done what he could to try to indicate interest. He used every opportunity he could manufacture to touch Winn - on an arm, or a hand, maybe a shoulder. Winn sometimes blushed when he did it, the tips of his ears burning adorably. This was good.
When night fell outside and they both began to yawn, Hartley knew it was time to make his move.
"Where are we going to sleep?" he said, glancing around. "I don't suppose you've got a cot tucked away for those late working nights."
"Not a cot, but I've got an air mattress," Winn said, jumping to his feet, jerky with haste. "Uh, just one, though."
Hartley rose more smoothly and followed as Winn moved through the lab to a cupboard and pulled out a folded up mattress and an air compressor. "I'm sure we'll fit," he said.
Winn glanced at him uncertainly over his shoulder, but as Hartley offered him a cheerful smile, he answered it with a shy smile of his own. "Oh yeah, sure."
They found a clear spot on the floor and Hartley connected the compressor and inflated the mattress while Winn pulled some blankets out of the cupboard and located a bag of beef jerky.
"Not a lot in the way of food, but between the candy and the jerky, we won't starve for a couple of days. There's a water cooler, at least," Winn said discontentedly, spreading out a blanket over the mattress. It was a twin, not exactly luxuriously large, but big enough for two rail-thin men who didn't mind getting close.
Hartley really, really hoped that Winn fit that entire description.
"It'll do," Hartley said. He shut off the lights and sat next to Winn, who ripped open a package of jerky and offered it to Hartley. Outside, Hartley could hear some moaning and shuffling as zombies wandered past, but inside the room were far more comforting noises to listen to - the whoosh of the air circulation, the hum of the electronic equipment, the slow, measured beat of Winn's heart.
Hartley finished a piece of jerky and turned to Winn, debating. What was the best way to approach this? Fast or slow? Aggressive or... well, passive was definitely not going to get him anywhere, so aggressive it would have to be.
He swallowed, his mouth dry and stinging from the salt in the jerky - and probably from nerves. "So Winn," he said. "We've been talking all evening, but I hardly know anything about you - other than the fact that you're a pretty smart guy who works for an organization that fights aliens."
"Oh, yeah." Winn gave a soft chuckle. "I guess that's true. But I mean, what do you want to know?"
Hartley considered that for a moment. It probably didn't matter what he asked so long as it was personal, so he asked the first obvious question that came to mind. "What made you decide to work for the DEO?"
"It was Kara, actually," Winn said. "We were friends, both working for CatCo Media - that's a news media organization in this world, I was in IT. When she became a superhero, actually started using her powers and became Supergirl, I helped her. I designed her first suit and helped her get started. Before I knew it, I was working full time for the DEO instead of at CatCo, since that's the best way I could support her."
Hartley listened to this with a sinking feeling. "Oh, that's swell. So are you two... a thing?" he asked, struggling to keep his bone-crushing disappointment out of his voice.
"A what-- oh god, no." Winn laughed, and Hartley immediately felt like the sun might rise again. "Kara and I are just friends. I mean, it's not like I'm dating anyone right now. I wouldn't really mind or anything, if she wasn't a ravening zombie at the mo--"
Hartley had lost patience. He leaned in close and kissed Winn, before he could finish his sentence.
Winn squeaked in surprise as their lips met, but he didn't pull away. Hartley took that as encouragement, and eagerly pressed forward, slipping his arms around the other man and drawing him close until they were chest to chest.
Winn's hands came up, gripping Hartley's upper arms as though he wasn't sure what to do with them. His lips were pliant, but his body quivered under Hartley's hands. Winn's heart beat wildly.
Finally, Winn pulled back, breaking the kiss before Hartley had quite gotten his money's worth. Both of them were panting softly, and Hartley bent, kissing Winn on the cheek, along his jaw line, and down to the nape of his neck.
"Wait-- Wait, hold up," Winn stammered, pulling back. Reluctantly, Hartley lifted his head.
With the lights off, he couldn't see much of Winn's features. In the darkened room, the only illumination came from the indicator lights on a few electronic devices, so all Hartley could really see was the vague outline of Winn's profile. His lips were parted, and Hartley thought he saw him lick his lips, his Adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed.
"Is everything okay?" Hartley prompted.
"Yeah-- I mean. No. I don't know." Winn scooted over even further, right to the bottom of the mattress, breaking the embrace. He wrapped his arms around himself, hunching down, and Hartley immediately felt a chill. Hadn't he been responding? Had Hartley pushed him too far?
"Winn," Hartley murmured. "If I've... what gives? I thought you were into it." Inwardly, he was screaming. Why? Why do I always like the ones who aren't into me?
Winn didn't reply for an agonizingly long time. "I'm sorry," he said finally. "I'm probably... being a complete idiot? I mean, I think you're nice, and smart, and I like you."
Hartley removed his glasses and rubbed a hand over his face. "But you're straight," he said hopelessly.
"Um." Winn swallowed again. "I don't think so. I mean, I like girls a lot, but I think I'm bi? But I've also never been with a guy, before."
Hope blossomed once more, a tiny ray of sunshine that Hartley almost hated because it would hurt so much worse when it was extinguished.
He opened his eyes and gazed at the silhouette of the other man. "I'll be gentle," he said, then cursed his own stupidity. What was he going to do, rail him on his first night? Is that what he wanted Winn to think he was going to do? He had to walk that back, somehow. "I mean. Whatever you want to do is fine."
Nailed it. Not. Fuck my life.
Winn shifted, making the mattress squeak, then he sighed. "This is stupid."
Hartley twitched. "What's stupid?" he asked, defensiveness making his voice harsher than he intended.
"No, I mean." Winn turned to face him again, combing his fingers through his hair restlessly. "I mean I'm going to sound really stupid, but-- Maybe we could just cuddle? Or something?"
Cuddle? That sounded like the best thing in the entire world. Except maybe giving Winn a blow job, but that might not be completely out of the running forever. The relief that he hadn't totally blown it was so strong that Hartley almost couldn't formulate an answer. "Yeah, sure. Cuddling is great."
Winn let out a breath in a whoosh. "Great. Yeah, okay."
Hartley set his glasses aside on a table and shucked his shoes and socks. Winn followed his example, and after some awkward side-eying, they both stripped down to their underwear. Soon they were ensconced on the squeaky mattress, under some scratchy government-issued blankets. Winn turned his back to Hartley, and Hartley spooned him, a hand resting on Winn's chest.
"This okay?" he murmured to the back of Winn's neck.
A hand grasped Hartley's gently, and Hartley closed his eyes, deliriously happy.
"So, um, have you been with lots of guys?" Winn asked.
Hartley frowned faintly and considered the question. "How many is 'lots'?"
"I dunno." Winn chuckled and shrugged. "Never mind. Dumb question."
"No, it's okay," Hartley assured him, though he wasn't entirely sure it was. If he'd been with lots of guys, was that a dealbreaker, or was Winn looking for someone with experience? Did Winn think he was a slut? "I went through a phase where I was cruising at gay bars, but it was relatively brief. I've only had one serious relationship."
"Ever? Or with guys?"
"Oh." Winn squeezed his hand and Hartley wondered what he was thinking about. Why hadn't he gotten a useful power, like to read minds? That would have been so good.
For a few minutes, Hartley wondered if Winn had fallen asleep, except that his heart rate and breathing didn't quite sound right. Abruptly, Winn started to speak again.
"I haven't exactly had a lot of luck with my love life," Winn said. "The last girl I dated, she was an alien, and kindof a con artist. I mean, she wasn't a bad person, but it was difficult. She tried to go straight, but it didn't work out, and eventually she left me." He shifted uncomfortably. "I guess I am worried I have a thing for people who aren't on the right side of the law."
All Hartley really got from that was that Winn was into him. And also that he was scared. Okay, fair enough. He could work with that.
"Perhaps my opinion doesn't mean much, but I don't think you need to worry about that," Hartley said. "One example doesn't make a pattern. You seem like a really nice person, and maybe you like a thrill, but that's not something to be afraid of." He grinned and nudged Winn on the back of the neck with his nose in a playful way. "I'm no villain, Winn, I just hang out with some, sometimes. I'm confident that as you get to know me, you'll see that I'm someone you can trust."
Winn was silent for a few moments, then nodded and squeezed Hartley's hand. "Okay," he said, though he sounded unconvinced.
Hartley lay there, listening to Winn's heartbeat slow and his breathing become measured as he settled into sleep. He could understand why Winn was nervous about getting involved with a criminal. He was Supergirl's friend, a regular guy who happened to be pretty bright and into computers, and who worked a day job - albeit one that brought him into some pretty interesting situations.
He had probably never interacted with criminals on a social level until this girl he dated, and now he was worried that Hartley was conning him.
Well, he'd just have to show him that Hartley could be a regular guy, too. Hartley could do that. Surely.
Chapter 11: It'll Be So Much Better
Zombie!Kara's not creepy, you're just mean.
Caitlin slept on the hospital bed next to Cisco's. From there, with the curtain between them parted, she could check on him by doing little more than turning her head to the side and opening her eyes to look at his monitors - something she did frequently as she tossed and turned all night. From the monstrous snores coming from the far end of the ward, Mick had decided to get some sleep. At least with that cacophony, she didn't need to worry about where he was.
In the morning, she didn't wake up so much as give up on trying to sleep. She changed Cisco's dressings and his IV and had breakfast from a stash of food she'd found in one of the sample fridges. She left a sandwich wrapped in cellophane outside of Mick's curtain, hoping that he would find it and wouldn't tear the place apart looking for food.
Then she returned to the infectious diseases lab to resume testing samples with the various anti-viral cocktails she'd decided to try.
After a while, she heard movement out in the main infirmary - the swish of curtains, the tread of boots on tile, the crackling of cellophane - that told her that Mick was awake. She ignored it, peering into a microscope and watching as the alien phage swallowed up the first of her drug cocktails without hesitation or apparent effect.
She lifted her head with a sigh, rubbed the back of her neck, and innoculated another slide with the next dose. She had just put the sample onto the plate and lowered her eye to the microscope again, when she heard a soft indrawn breath.
"Boo!" Mick shouted, right behind her.
Caitlin jumped and shrieked in surprise, and whirled around. Mick was standing only two feet away, his hands up and fingers crooked like claws and his back hunched threateningly. His eyes widened with expectation, watching her for a moment. Then he shrugged and turned away, walking out of the room without a word.
Heart beating wildly, Caitlin decided to pretend that had never happened. She turned back to her work.
Over the next three hours, he did it four more times.
There were variations on the theme. Once he snuck up behind her and pulled her hair. Once he threw a bag of saline at her - thankfully sealed tight - and nearly knocked a sample tray over when it bounced off her skull.
The next time after the saline incident, she was ready for him. When she heard him behind her she jumped down from her stool and advanced on him, shaking a finger right in his face. "Whatever you think you're doing. Knock. It. Off," she snapped. "I don't care if you think it's funny. I don't think it's funny. And if you don't stop right now I'm going to shoot you full of horse tranquilizer and strap you to a bed."
He took a step backwards, eyes wide, then looked away, brows drawing down into a frown. "I don't think it's funny," he mumbled.
"Then why the heck are you doing this to me?" she demanded, her voice rising with rage.
"I want to talk to her."
There was no question about who he was talking about. Caitlin clenched her fists at her sides. "Well I don't want you to talk to her. Especially if by 'talk' you mean 'banging like hyenas'. I want to work."
Mick frowned at the floor, then raised his head and looked at her squarely. "I don't mean fucking. I mean I want to talk to her."
There was something so quiet and solemn about the statement, that it cut through some of Caitlin's towering rage. She bit her lip and looked up at the clock. It was still shy of noon, and her stomach was rumbling. Maybe she could justify a brief break and try to figure out what Mick's problem was. If she could take care of it, then he'd stop bothering her, and she could actually get some work done.
"Come with me," she said. "You're officially barred from the lab, but... follow me."
She brushed past him and walked out to the tiny break room, just off of the infirmary. The room had a couple of chairs and a sagging couch, and a microwave. The small fridge in the corner contained only an abandoned lunch bag she hadn't dared open. Mick followed her obediently, and went straight to the fridge. He didn't hesitate in pulling the flowered lunch bag out and rooting through it.
He produced an apple, sniffed it, then offered it to her. She took it. The ham sandwich he began to cram into his mouth without bothering to shut the fridge door first.
Caitlin sat on the sofa and folded her hands in her lap, clutching the apple between them. "Maybe you can tell me what you want to tell Killer Frost."
"She won't remember." He plunked himself down on a plastic chair, which creaked ominously, then frowned and glanced down. He rose without ceremony and moved to sit beside her on the sofa instead.
Caitlin considered moving, and decided it would be petty. She almost moved anyway, but pride kept her in place.
"I know she won't remember, but I'm the one who decides if you get to talk to her. So talk to me."
Mick finished his sandwich, licked his gloved fingers and then looked at her. "It won't work like that."
She glared at him. "Tough."
He scowled. After a few moments, he apparently decided that she wasn't going to change her mind, and he grunted softly, looking down. He fidgeted. "I'm gonna ask her about what you said yesterday."
Caitlin blinked. "What I said? What about it?"
"Like about how you didn't want me," he said. "I wanna know what she thinks."
"Why?" Caitlin's anger flared hot and immediate once more. "So you two can conspire to get what you want without asking me?"
His head came up. "Wha-- That ain't what--"
"I know she doesn't care what I think," Caitlin growled. "She's made that completely clear. When she is in control, she does whatever she wants, and she doesn't care how it affects me. So if you're looking for some kind of license, I guarantee she'll give it to you. But I'm not just going to stand around and pretend it's not happening."
"I care, though."
The words were muttered so softly that Caitlin almost missed it. She fell silent, confused, trying to parse that half-heard phrase into something that she would have expected to hear from the man who'd kidnapped her and strapped her to a bomb. A man who killed and robbed with abandon. A man who got along with Killer Frost like they were soulmates.
"What?" she whispered, mouth dry.
He was staring at his gloved hands like he was ashamed. "I didn't mean to do nothin' you didn't want me to do. And if she doesn't care either, then that's not... that's not right. I ain't never forced anyone, and I don't want to be that kind of guy. I want to know what she thinks of all that."
The idea that Mick might be disturbed by Caitlin's distress had never occurred to her. She stared at his profile, at the way his fingers twisted together, and realized that he just might be sincere.
She struggled with herself for a long moment, then put a hand on his arm. "Listen. I really do need to work on this treatment. But if you leave me alone to work on this for the rest of the day, I promise I'll let you speak to Killer Frost tonight."
He looked up, brows furrowed. "You sure?"
Oddly, she was touched. It was possible this was all an act of some kind, or that if she let Killer Frost out, they would just end up having sex again instead of having the serious heart-to-heart talk that Mick was - improbably - planning to have. But Caitlin realized, even as the thought occurred to her, that she was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was lying, but she didn't think so.
And maybe if Killer Frost ended up seducing him, it wouldn't be the worst person she'd ever slept with, though that was still in doubt.
"I'm sure," she said, and his frown eased.
"I'll wait. You gotta stop the zombies, doc." He shuddered visibly. "Don't want any of them to get in here."
"They won't," Caitlin said, bemused by his reaction. She patted his arm and rose. "Thank you, Mick."
He grunted and reached for the lunch bag again, rooting through it. "You still want that apple?" he asked without looking up.
She glanced down. She was still holding the apple in her left hand, and had almost forgotten about it. "No. Here." She tossed it to him.
He glanced up and caught it, grinning, and took a bite. "Thanks, babe."
~ ~ ~
Strangely, neither of the zombies did. They held her firmly, but gently, and didn't bite or scratch. Even the zombies they passed - and they did pass quite a few on foot as they walked over the rubble to the doors that led to the hangar bay - were surprisingly docile. Many of them looked up and even shuffled towards her a few steps, but at a quiet word or look from J'onn, they turned away and resumed their slow search for viable prey.
"How are you doing that?" Alex asked him as they drove. "Is it your telepathy? Why didn't you tell me you could control the zombies?"
"We're all one mind," J'onn said amiably, glancing back at her in the rear view mirror with a smile. "I couldn't control them before I was awakened, but now I can talk to them. They're virtually mindless, but obedient to those like us."
"Like you?" Alex pressed. She almost hated her training, but it was second nature to interrogate an enemy - even if that enemy was practically her father.
J'onn smiled kindly. "You'll understand soon, Alex. I don't want to spoil the surprise."
Alex sensed that was his last word on the subject, so she tried another tack. "How did I miss the fact that you were infected? I didn't see a bite or scratch."
"It's not your fault." J'onn turned off the main road and onto a smaller highway that led up into the hills. "Kara shared her blood with me directly. It still took me a few hours to turn, but I wasn't aware of what she'd done until later. By then, I wasn't going to tell you - I knew what I had to do."
"Kara's controlling you, isn't she?" Alex whispered.
"No, Alex," J'onn said gently. "But she and I are communicating."
"Why not just let them bite me, if being a zombie is so great?" she couldn't help but challenge him, partially out of desperation.
"Don't worry. That'll come soon enough."
The kind way he said it shocked her into silence, and she spent her energy on thinking for the rest of the trip. Not that she thought of any ideas, but she knew if she could observe and gather data, she'd stand a much better chance of survival.
They reached the fortress eventually, and a large hexagonal door slid open to welcome them. J'onn drove straight into the building's maw and stopped, and her zombie guards pulled her from the vehicle. She was marched down several corridors and up several levels to a large room at the pinnacle of the fortress, where Kara awaited her, seated on a throne.
Alex immediately felt her eyes sting with tears at the sight of her. Her sister sat, looking almost normal in her Supergirl outfit, with legs crossed and hands resting in repose on the arms of the throne. Her eyes were bright, if reddened from broken capillaries, and her expression looked beatific. Like nothing was horribly, horribly wrong.
Kara jumped to her feet with a bright smile the moment she spotted Alex, and rushed to her. "Alex, I'm so glad you're here."
She clasped Alex's hand in both of hers. Kara usually ran hot, her skin burning like a mild fever from the heat of Earth's yellow sun. Today she was cold, her fingers like ice, and showing a greyish tinge against Alex's skin. Kara beamed at J'onn. "Thank you for bringing her. This is going to be so great."
"It was my pleasure, Kara," J'onn said with a kind smile. "Shall I leave you two to talk?"
The zombies released Alex and departed, J'onn in the lead. The door slid closed behind Alex, and she was alone with her sister.
"Kara," Alex said, pleadingly. "Whatever you think you're going to do, please don't do it. You're sick. I'm trying to find a way to make you better, but I can't do that if you kill me."
Kara's eyes widened and she squeezed Alex's hands. Kara was always so gentle, and now was no exception. Though she had the strength to crush Alex's bones without meaning to, she always kept her strength leashed tightly when she touched her human friends. Alex could almost believe nothing was wrong.
"Oh Alex, don't worry! I'm not going to kill you. Why would you think that?"
Alex's eyes filled with tears. "People are dying because of you, because of this alien virus."
"I know, but that's why I've brought you here," Kara said. "You and I are going to change all that."
For a moment, looking into Kara's eyes, Alex almost had hope. "How?"
"Barry and Leonard are here," Kara explained, and Alex drew a sharp breath in surprise.
"They're alive? Uninfected?"
"Of course! Well, Barry's infected," Kara said with a smile. "It'll take hold in time. I'd like you to examine him."
"Examine him? What for?"
Kara released Alex's hands and walked back to her seat, settling into it and looking out the large windows at the city. "We've accomplished quite a bit in the short time we've been here," she said, sounding faraway and thoughtful, as if it weren't Kara really speaking. "But we discovered something new in this host - in me. A host who stays strong, and keeps her mental faculties. J'onn is the same way, and we believe Barry will be, too."
She turned to look at Alex. "That's why we brought Barry and his friends here. And why we need you. You'll figure out how to replicate metahuman powers, turn as many humans as possible into metas. And along with that change will come our change. You won't have to be afraid of getting infected - I'll make sure that you'll still be yourself afterwards. In fact, no one will need to be afraid. The whole world will be remade, and it'll be better, Alex." She spread her hands. "You'll see. No wars, no disagreements, no death. It'll be so much better."
Alex watched the thing that infested her sister and knew she had to stop at nothing to eradicate it. Even if it meant killing Kara. With that decision made, she felt the tears in her eyes dry and disappear.
She nodded. "I'll examine Barry. Where can I work?"
Kara clapped her hands with excitement and jumped to her feet. "I'll show you. I have the perfect place all set up for you."
Chapter 12: Didn't Sound Like A Man's Screams
Caitlin worked. For hours, she inoculated samples, and watched as the alien virus systematically destroyed or ignored each and every attempt at a cure.
Some endless time later, marked only in sample numbers tracked in a spreadsheet, she realized that her eyes felt like they'd been rubbed with sandpaper and she had almost tested the same protein factor twice. That mistake would have destroyed the tissues for no purpose. She was almost out of tissue samples, and soon would need to go get more, but the thought of going into the room containing the headless zombie made her stomach churn.
And that reminded her that she hadn't eaten in hours.
With a sigh, she got up and stepped out of the lab, locking the door behind her. The ward was quiet except for a soft beeping. Cisco.
Food would wait. She dragged herself to Cisco's cubicle and pulled the curtain back. Then she stopped short, frozen by the sight.
Cisco lay still and silent on the bed, breathing evenly. His colour was better, and it seemed that he had stopped bleeding long ago. She would need to verify it by changing the bandage, but it looked clean and white against his forehead.
But it wasn't Cisco who had surprised her. Mick was on the bed next to him, his back to her. His scarred hand lay protectively on Cisco's chest, as if he wanted to check that he was breathing. For once, Mick wasn't snoring, though Caitlin was sure he was asleep, his chest expanding and contracting evenly so that his back shifted up and down with each breath.
After taking a second to gather her wits, she tiptoed around the bed and leaned over Cisco, gently pulling his dressing away from his wound. The gash did look good, and there was no blood on the bandage.
She bent to pull out a fresh bandage, and when she straightened, Mick was looking right at her.
She jumped, her hand coming to her chest as her heart went into overdrive. She felt her eyes prickle as the change threatened, but she swallowed it back with an effort. Not long now, she thought to that lurking presence in her head. Be patient. I'll let you out like I promised. But not until I'm ready.
"It's late," Mick rumbled, pushing himself up to sit. "You finished your work?"
"I haven't cured the virus, yet," Caitlin said, pressing the bandage into place. "If that's what you mean."
Caitlin tried to concentrate on what she was doing, but all she could think about was the way Mick was staring at her. She finished taping the bandage in place, struggling to ignore the feeling of being undressed with his eyes. "Eager to have someone more lively in bed with you?" she asked coldly.
Mick grunted. She wasn't sure if that was meant to be agreement, or what. She looked up, but he had his back to her. He hadn't been staring at her at all.
"I'm done for tonight," she said, cheeks reddening faintly. "I need to eat something and rest."
Mick got to his feet and glanced at her sidelong. "You said you'd let me talk to her."
"I will," Caitlin insisted. Was she procrastinating? Maybe.
Mick disappeared behind the bed, crouching down, and Caitlin craned her neck to see what he was doing. He seemed to be rummaging through a sack. Suddenly a sandwich shot through the air, lobbed by Mick in her direction. She caught it awkwardly. Mick straightened, popping back into view. "I'll be down there." He gestured towards the far end of the ward, and then he pushed through the curtain and vanished.
Caitlin sat down in the chair next to Cisco's bed and grasped his hand while she ate the stale sandwich. "You like him, right? After last Christmas, you wouldn't stop talking about him and how he'd stood by you," she whispered, afraid of being overheard. "I wish you were here to tell me what happened. I'd really listen this time."
She finished the sandwich, listening to the even pulse of Cisco's heart beat on the monitor, then she crumpled up the wrapper, threw it away, and marched off to confront Heat Wave.
It wasn't difficult to find him. As he'd promised, he was in the last cubicle on the ward, the curtains pulled all the way back so he was visible. He was sitting in the chair by the empty bed, his boots up on a piece of equipment, and reading a romance novel called "Thoroughbreds and Trailer Trash".
"Where'd you get that book?" she asked, startled. He reads?
"Found it in the breakroom," he rumbled, and set the book aside, carefully bending the corner of a page to mark his place. "Did you eat?"
Caitlin hesitated, but nodded. The food had done her some good, she suspected. "Yes."
He grunted, and put his feet down on the floor, looking at her expectantly. She knew what he was waiting for, and she was willing to keep her promise, but now that the time had come, she struggled. Invoking the change was never within her control. She had had to use all of her willpower to stop herself from changing only a few minutes ago, and now Killer Frost's presence seemed as elusive as ever.
She sighed. "It's not that easy. I need to be scared or... mad or something."
Mick regarded her for a few moments. "You're not scared?"
"Actually...no." She was bemused to realize it was true. At the beginning, she'd been so nervous about being around him, but somehow that had faded away in the last day or so. Maybe it was just exposure, but maybe it was because of the oddly respectful way he'd been behaving since their blow-out earlier in the day.
She boosted herself up to sit on the bed, legs dangling, and rested her chin in her hands. "Maybe... you're not like what I thought," she said slowly.
Mick grunted and his lips curved in a wry grin. "That's what all you guys say after you come to Christmas."
"Huh?" Caitlin blinked and straightened. "What do you mean?"
Mick ticked off one on his stubby fingers. "First Flash came to Christmas, and Snart got sweet on him, but I'd got to do a lot of the babysitting because of all the shit going down. Next thing you know, he's cuddling up to me any time Snart's not around, no problem at all, we're best of friends."
He raised a second finger, joining the first. "Then Pretty, last year. He was freaked out like you at first, but Snart won't let him near Lisa, so here I am babysitting again, and him I get to fuck until Lisa stakes her claim. Not scared at all of me after that, either. Now you."
A third finger rose, accompanied by a shrug. "When you spend more than ten minutes around me, turns out you got me all wrong. I get it, but you all should maybe talk to each other sometime."
Caitlin's cheeks burned as Mick recounted his adventures with her best friends without any hesitation or shame. She hadn't known that Cisco and Mick had had sex, and now she wondered what else Cisco and Barry had failed to mention about their time with the Rogues. She wasn't sure she wanted to know, now. But she did know that both of them had come back from those experiences with a much higher opinion of both Leonard Snart and Mick Rory.
"We did talk," she said, an edge of defensiveness in her tone. "Uh, but maybe I didn't listen very closely."
"You didn't want to hear it," Mick growled.
"I thought... after what they'd been through, that they were remembering things differently." She sighed. "After Barry came back from being kidnapped by the Rogues, I think we all assumed that he had Stockholm Syndrome or something. I know Joe never wanted to believe that he and Captain Cold were really in love, and I had the same opinion. We believed he was being manipulated."
"You don't give that kid enough fuckin' credit," Mick said. "He's strong, and he didn't let nobody hurt him."
That stung, but Caitlin nodded, her gaze dropping. "Maybe you're right."
An awkward silence ensued.
Mick stood up. Even with Caitlin sitting on the bed, he loomed over her, a physical presence that was impossible to ignore. She looked up as he leaned closer, and took her hand in his own. He wasn't wearing his gloves and his skin was rough and callused. She imagined that the calluses were caused by physical violence - holding guns, punching people, ripping things apart. But his grip was gentle, if firm.
Her heart sped up and she felt heat rush through her, liquid pooling between her legs. Shame followed hard on the realization that, on some level, she wanted him, but that didn't do a thing to calm the arousal that had struck her.
Of course, he didn't want her. He just wanted Killer Frost.
"Why do you like her?" she asked, and her cheeks flushed deeply. She hadn't meant to ask out loud, but he was so close. The heat from his body was radiating at her like a fire.
He cocked his head, brows furrowing. "She's hot. She's wild, too. Don't meet too many women like her." He shrugged his shoulders and grinned. "Fucking her is like fucking fire, 'cept it's cold. It burns."
The answer didn't really surprise her. Caitlin felt her throat close at the description of her evil alter ego. Of course he liked that. He was like a wild animal himself, untamed. Unhinged.
Yet he hadn't been acting that way. He even claimed to care that Caitlin felt violated by what they'd done.
And she wasn't anything like Killer Frost.
"You know you can't have her without having me, too, right?" she asked.
He nodded. His face filled her vision. His shadow fell on her, blotting out the harsh overhead lights. "I know," he said, and kissed her.
Mick kissed Caitlin like she was the centre of his universe. He wasn't particularly suave or practiced about it. There was no nuance or seduction. He attacked her with his lips, and drowned her with the intensity, and Caitlin fell into it without any hesitation. She gasped and his tongue plunged into her mouth, and his hands slipped around her, enfolding her in his embrace.
Her body tightened immediately, flushing with heat, her sex pulsing with the rapid beating of her heart. Her legs parted, and he pressed his hips between them, his thumbs skimming along her waistline and under her shirt to brush against her skin.
"Oh god," she moaned against his lips, the words muffled by his tongue. He caught her up in his hands and repositioned her, and the next thing she knew, she was flat on her back on the cot, his hand pushing her legs apart to grope and rub at her crotch.
Caitlin had only ever had sex with nice men. They took it slow. They checked in with her. They asked her if she was okay, if there was any concern that she might not be.
Mick didn't do any of those things. But when he settled her onto her back, his hands were firm, but not painful or biting. He pushed her legs apart with insistent determination, his breathing quickened with excitement. But she didn't get nervous or worry that he would hurt her or push her where she didn't want to go. She wanted to go where he led her, and she opened herself to him eagerly.
He pushed up her shirt, baring her breasts, and flicked the front catch on her bra, which parted instantly and the cups loosened, falling away. He cupped her right breast in his palm, rubbing at the nipple with his thumb. Caitlin gasped and moaned, squirming, and he was already undoing the fly of her pants, tugging down the zipper.
As his hand slipped into her underwear, she writhed, her breathing hitching with an almost painful level of arousal and desire.
"Wait!" she gulped.
Mick froze. Two fingers were penetrating her, his thumb pressed against her clit. His other hand was groping her breast. He didn't move a muscle.
Caitlin opened her eyes and looked up at him in dismay, wondering why he had stopped moving. Only belatedly did she realize she had actually spoken aloud instead of in her head.
Hard on the heels of that, she realized he actually had listened to her.
It took her a second to catch her breath enough to speak. "Sorry," she managed. "I didn't mean-- Don't stop, please."
He did withdraw his hands, but only for a moment. He grabbed her by the waist, lifted her hips, and dragged her pants and underwear off along with her shoes. She pushed up to help, sitting up to pull off her shirt and shrug out of her bra straps. Her skin prickled at the cold, but the heat radiating from him, and pulsing inside her body, kept her from shivering.
Mick grabbed her by the legs and dragged her down the bed, pushing his shoulders between her knees. He buried his face between her thighs and licked at her folds, and Caitlin cried out. Her back bowed, her head pressed into the thin hospital pillow as pleasure pulsed through her.
The ecstasy mounted, crested. Caitlin writhed and screamed, forgetting about dignity, about the sleeping Cisco at the other end of the ward, about anything other than the sensation pounding through her.
Her orgasm slammed through her. Her body jerked, and she opened her eyes as they shifted to white. Her next scream was swallowed and breathed out in a cloud of ice fog and snowflakes. Frost settled onto the bed as Mick raised his head and wiped the fluids from his skin. He smiled at the sight of her and reached up, fondling a breast.
Frost smirked and reached for him. "You got her. Good."
"Yeah," he murmured, and went to her.
~ ~ ~
She grabbed her gun from under her cot, wrapped a nightgown around herself - of course she had brought one, what was she, a heathen? - and stalked out of the cell in search of the source of the ungodly racket. She had a few theories about what it might be.
"Mark!" she shouted, and banged on the bars of the cell right next to her own. "Kyle! Whatever you're doing--"
"I'm here, Lisa, what the fuck? Why are you shouting at me?" Mark appeared at the doorway of his cell, rubbing sleep from his eyes. Roy sidled up behind him and peered at her, glasses askew on his nose.
Kyle drifted out of the next cell over, looking like he'd already been awake, and peered at her quizzically.
"Oh, never mind," Lisa said. She almost felt like apologizing, but that wasn't her style. Besides, now she didn't know what all the noise was about.
The screams had already stopped, which was no less ominous. People were murmuring sleepily all around them, some of them coming out of their rooms half-dressed and holding guns. Lisa scanned the crowd in the dark, trying to find the rest of her own people. Then she heard a soft hiss behind her that immediately put her hair on end.
Before she could react, Mark's hand shot out and grabbed her by the arm, yanking her into the cell. "Watch out!"
Lisa whirled around, gun coming up as she back-pedalled deeper into the room and away from the noise. Mark was between her and the zombie now, and they were grappling, too close for her to use her weapon. Roy retreated into the cell with her, fists up in a defensive - but ultimately futile - position. He couldn't use his powers on the zombies, and he was maybe 98 lbs soaking wet, not exactly a prize fighter.
Lisa stepped protectively in front of him and raised her gun in one hand. She didn't dare shoot at the zombie Mark was fighting with, or she'd risk turning them both into pretty statues. Her mind raced as she scanned the hallway for more threats, but now the DEO agents had realized that there were zombies amongst them and everything was dissolving into chaos.
One agent helpfully shot the zombie fighting Mark in the head, and Mark jumped back, dropping the corpse and cursing. Then he formed two ice balls in his palms and charged out into the fray, crushing the skull of a second zombie that was about to take a bite out of another DEO agent.
Lisa marched out after him and headed for the command centre. There were supposed to be people on guard, but that was the direction the screams had come from. That wasn't good.
By the time she reached the open area, the excitement was already over. Five zombies had been killed, and two more bodies found, both bitten and likely to rise themselves. Even as Lisa reached the area, DEO agents were shooting the dead men in the head to make sure they stayed down.
Once again, she counted heads. Kyle, Roy, Mark, Shawna. Of the people whose names she knew, everyone was accounted for, except-- "Where the hell are Alex and J'onn?"
People peeled off to check their cells, but quickly came back to report that both Alex and J'onn were missing.
Lisa perched on the console, considering the situation. "So in the middle of the night, someone lets the zombies out of their cells, and someone else screams their head off. Was that the men getting attacked?"
"Didn't sound like a man's screams, Lisa," Kyle said with chilling certainty.
"Could have been Alex, then," Lisa reasoned. "Kyle, Shawna, go see if you can find them."
Kyle nodded and shifted to mist, while Shawna peek-a-boo'd down the hallway towards the elevator. She had to stop and wait for it, pushing the button - there was no way for her to see out enough to get out of the underground prison. Confident that Kyle and Shawna would be all right and would be back soon, Lisa turned to look at Mark and Roy - only to realize that two dozen DEO agents were also gathered around, not doing their own thing - they were hanging on her every word.
"Who's in charge, here?" Lisa asked. There was a quiet comparison of rank, which Lisa quickly tired of. It was clear that the DEO had lost nearly all of their command staff now, and while there was probably a guidebook that set out the chain of command and what to do in this situation, none of the people here were eager to step up and claim leadership.
"Right, then," she said, standing and resting her gold gun against her shoulder. "Here's what we're going to do." She glanced around. There were four hallways radiating out from the central point where they stood. She had also seen a lot of zombie movies, and knew the rules - especially that you never went anywhere alone. So she counted off eight people. "You go check on every cell - two to a wing - and make sure that the prisoners are locked up good and tight. Stick together and watch each other's backs."
She stabbed a finger towards two others who looked nerdy. "You two go investigate and tell me how the zombies were released. Roy, you are with them. Everyone gets checked - I mean everyone - for bites all over again, so pair up and make that happen. Mark, you come with me. I'm checking you myself. Everyone else, make yourselves useful."
She turned and strode off in the direction of the cell Danvers had designated as her own. Mark fell in behind her with a low whistle. "You want a little privacy to get my clothes off, darlin'?" he drawled.
"Shut up," she said sweetly.
They reached the cell and Mark sat down on the cot, shrugging out of his jacket and pulling his shirt up and over his head. Lisa rolled her eyes and made some effort to peer at his skin, checking the back of his neck, his chest and shoulders and catching his arm to lift it up over his head to check underneath. As she examined him, she said, "What do you think about this?"
"The zombies gettin' let out? We have an enemy in here with us," Mark said.
"Obviously," Lisa sighed. "Or they've left along with Alex and her boss."
"Best not assume that."
She checked his other arm and then got him to lie down so she could check his legs. His clothing wasn't torn, so she didn't expect to find anything. She felt Mark's eyes on her as she worked, but for once he kept his mouth shut and let her think. Finally she urged him up and sat down in his place, opening her nightgown. She wore a night shirt - one of her brother's old t-shirts, actually, though she'd die before she admitted it aloud - and a pair of sweatpants she'd stolen from Cisco.
"We have twenty agents with us, and there are five of us Rogues down here," she said. "We're in charge now. I'm going to break them into four squads. Each of you are getting assigned five agents, but I have a special assignment for Kyle, so you'll have to take his."
"Okay," Mark said slowly, drawing out the vowels. He lifted her hair out of the way so he could examine her back. "What for?"
"They're lost," Lisa said, settling onto her back. Mark's fingers ran down her calves as he lifted each leg in turn. "Their leaders are all gone, and they're looking to me anyway. And they're good cannon fodder if we need them. Earn their trust and their loyalty. When we break out of here, they'll be helpful."
She sat up and looked at him. He nodded. "Got it. And when are we breaking out of here?"
She sighed and wrapped herself up in the silk nightgown. "I don't know."
Chapter 13: It's Not You, It's Me
Winn woke to the feeling of a warm body pressed against his back. His stomach rumbled, but he was comfortable, and he had the strong desire not to get out of bed even to seek breakfast. Somewhere in the back of his sleep-fogged brain, he knew that if he opened his eyes and thought about life, he would be deeply disappointed and possibly terrified. The half-asleep mode he was in right now was pleasant, though, and he luxuriated in it for as long as he could.
A hand rested on his hip. Winn dropped his own hand down and laced his fingers with the other's.
The thought wandered through his head that he should probably remember who that hand was attached to. That realization brought him to full wakefulness and the horrific events of the past day - and actually, the week before that - all came flooding back.
He shifted away from Hartley and sat up, the mattress bouncing under the shift of his weight. Carefully, he eased off of the mattress, trying not to wake the other man up, his skin prickling with cold the moment his boxer-clad butt touched the floor tiles.
His face wasn't cold, though. It was burning hot and the tips of his ears were tingling, all just at the memory of Hartley's offer the night before.
As he looked at the other man, glasses off and sleeping innocently with his head pillowed on a rolled-up hoodie, Winn wondered what the hell he had been thinking to turn Hartley down.
No, he knew what he'd been thinking. He'd been thinking about how for some reason he was attracted to questionable people. Kara had been an exception, but that crush was long over and he wasn't sure it had ever been real to begin with.
Winn had always wondered if being raised by a homicidal maniac had impacted him in some way beyond the things he had tried to work out in therapy. This was one of those ways. Hartley had assured him that he wasn't "really" a criminal, but Winn knew he'd be an idiot to believe him. And so, wouldn't he also be an idiot to sleep with him?
Hartley blinked his eyes open and looked around, a naked expression of worry on his face. When his eyes landed unfocused on Winn, the look turned immediately into a warm and sleepy smile.
Maybe Winn was an idiot not to sleep with him.
"Hey," Hartley said.
"I want to kiss you," Winn said.
Hartley's eyes lit up like two lamps. He grinned and cocked his head. "Then what are you doing sitting on the floor in your underwear?" He reached out, hand landing palm up on the mattress, and wiggled his fingers invitingly.
That was exactly the question Winn had been asking himself, but somehow having someone else ask him out loud allowed his brain to supply him with an answer. "I'm scared."
The smile vanished. "You don't have to be scared of me, Winn," Hartley said in a fervent tone that didn't really help.
Winn wanted very badly to get up off the cold floor and join Hartley on the warm mattress, but he knew if he did that he'd wind up doing what he wanted to do, and what he'd just been thinking about would fly right out the window. At least, until later, when he'd still have to deal with it, but it'd be so much harder.
He curled up, tucking his legs under him, which was still uncomfortable, but at least he wasn't quite as freezing. "I'm not scared of you, Hartley," he said. "Sorry, that's not it... It's not you at all. It's me."
A scowl flickered across Hartley's face. "Man, we haven't even dated yet. You don't have to feed me that line."
"No, I--" Winn waved his hands and then laced his fingers together, fidgeting. "I'm not feeding you a line, dude. I swear to god. Look." He drew a breath. "I have to explain something about me. And it's not something I really tell people, but I think I owe you that much."
Hartley's expression eased and he sat up, crossing his legs and turning to face Winn with attention. "Tell me, Winn. I'm listening."
Winn nodded. The fact that Hartley seemed to really be paying attention somehow made it easier. He squared his shoulders. "My father is a murderer. A supervillain, actually. The last time I saw him, he'd escaped from prison and set bombs in toys to make a point. He's a total maniac."
He hadn't known exactly how he would explain it until the words started to fall from his mouth. They came out in a surprisingly calm manner, all things considered, particularly since his heart was beating like a jackhammer. The explanation didn't take long. Finally, he ran out of words and he fell silent, finding himself staring at the floor.
But the act of admitting it lifted a weight. He'd admitted the worst thing there was about him, and explained, hopefully, a bit better why he was so worried about getting himself involved with a criminal again. Hartley would understand, now, at least. He lifted his gaze and met Hartley's eyes.
Hartley had put on his glasses and his gaze was focused and clear. He pushed the glasses up on his nose as he considered what Winn had told him. "I'm sorry, Winn. Your father is an even bigger dick than mine is, and that's saying something."
That response startled Winn enough to forget his own self-pity for a moment. "Really? What did your father do?"
Hartley's lips twisted into a wry smile. "It's nothing like what you've probably been though. I grew up in privilege, the only son of a powerful family who are the owners of an international tech corporation. When my father found out that I'm gay, he disowned me, and threw me out on the streets. I wound up getting a job at STAR Labs, and that eventually led to me working with the Rogues today."
Before Winn could stop himself, he climbed back onto the mattress and scooted close to Hartley. Both men hesitated, then their hands touched, fingers lacing together. "Your father sounds like a total jerk," Winn whispered.
"He is," Hartley said cheerfully. Then he sobered, though his eyes were still bright with anticipation. "So now that you've told me about your father, is it okay if I kiss you?"
Winn shifted awkwardly. "You still don't think that I have some kind of a...problem?"
Hartley broke into a grin once again. "No, I don't think you have a problem. But I know I have a problem, which can only be solved by kissing you." And without further ado, he leaned forward and their lips met.
Winn melted instantly into the kiss, all of his fears and misgivings flowing away. Maybe Hartley was right, and he shouldn't worry so much. They were living through a zombie apocalypse, and Hartley would be leaving as soon as he'd accomplished his purpose for coming here. Why not have some fun, while he had the chance?
He slipped his arms around Hartley's neck and scooted a few inches closer. A lingering tension in Hartley's body eased and Winn realized that the other man had been bracing himself, as if he were worried that Winn would reject him once again.
Hartley always seemed so poised and self-assured, but now Winn felt a surge of guilt and pressed even closer, eager to reassure the other man. He hadn't considered that Hartley would mind so much if Winn was ambivalent, but maybe this was more important to him than he thought.
After a few long minutes of kisses, as they explored each other's mouths, Winn came up for air and pressed his burning face against Hartley's neck, delivering another couple of soft, affectionate kisses to the soft skin there. Hartley hummed and sighed, forehead coming to rest with a thump against Winn's shoulder.
"Sorry I've been stupid about this," Winn said. "I'm okay, now."
"Good," Hartley whispered. "I'm so glad to hear that, you have no idea."
He turned his head and nuzzled into Winn's neck, his hands wandering downwards. He tugged playfully at the waistband of Winn's boxers, nibbling at the sensitive skin under his jaw so that tingles ran down Winn's spine. Winn gasped and squirmed, his cock jumping and flushing to life immediately.
"Fuck," Winn gasped.
Hartley smirked against his skin and nibbled again, then sucked at the spot.
Winn found himself melting bonelessly against the assault, moaning and whimpering as Hartley raised a series of welts on his skin with his lips. Hartley pulled off his glasses and tossed them carelessly aside, and the next thing Winn knew, his back had hit the mattress. Hartley's fingers were busy, skimming down his ribs and then scraping fingernails back up, making Winn buck and gasp in response.
Hartley hooked his fingers in Winn's waistband, then paused. "If you want me to stop, I will," he said softly, his voice strained with leashed heat. "But you've got to tell me."
Winn opened his eyes and shook his head quickly. He reached for Hartley, running his hands up and down Hartley's arms and smiling up at him. Hartley's eagerness was obvious in his eyes, and it was reassuring that he'd held off anyway. "I don't want you to stop. I want this, so don't worry."
"Thank goodness," Hartley said, throwing his head back with a groan. Then he grinned at him and bent, sealing his lips to Winn's again as he tugged his boxers off.
Winn squirmed as air hit his heated member, though he definitely didn't feel cold now. In fact, his body was flushed with heat, and Hartley's skin was like a furnace, burning with passion and eagerness. Hartley's long fingers curled around Winn and stroked him, and Winn returned the favour, shoving Hartley's boxers down off his hips and then touching him intimately.
Hartley's cock fit his palm well, he decided, giving it an experimental tug. Hartley groaned and thrust his tongue deeper into Winn's mouth, which he figured had to be a good sign.
The two of them tangled together on the mattress, jerking one another off with long strokes. They rolled over onto their sides, just enjoying one another's presences without fighting for positioning. Their moans, muffled by their kisses, reached a fever pitch quickly, and Winn suddenly threw his head back with a shudder. Hartley gasped and pressed his face into Winn's neck again, murmuring something he didn't quite catch, as they both orgasmed. It sounded a bit like "thank you".
Their fluids spattered one another's skin and soaked into the sheets as they shuddered in tandem through their ecstasy. Finally, they both lay quiescent and drowsing, their laboured breathing softening.
Winn napped for a while, entwined with Hartley, warm and snug despite the fact that the blankets were twisted and half-kicked off. He wasn't sure how long it had been, before Hartley stirred and lifted his head, which drew Winn's consciousness back up and out of his own stupor.
"You still sleeping?" Hartley murmured, prodding Winn playfully in the ribs.
"Yes," Winn murmured, shifting away from the tickle and attempting to stuff his head under the pillow. Unfortunately, there was no pillow, so he just got a face-full of Hartley's hoodie.
"Liar," Hartley said, and poked him again.
"Quit it," Winn muttered, the words muffled. "I'll make out with you again later."
"That sounds wonderful," Hartley said. "But first, you have to wake up. I have an idea for something we can try to use to fight the zombies."
~ ~ ~
On the other hand, she had to wonder what ever happened to Frost and Mick talking.
She sighed and tugged her blanket up a little higher, rolling onto her side and closing her eyes to tease just a few more minutes of rest. She knew she needed to get up, to check on Cisco, to get back to work, but she felt stretched thin and rolled out like dough.
A yell of terror rang out through the ward, propelling Caitlin out of bed. The shout had come from the isolation room where the samples were being kept - specifically, a headless zombie.
She realized halfway there that she was stark naked. Three quarters of the way, she registered that she had somehow not switched to Killer Frost. The presence in her mind was quiet and satisfied. Thanks, she thought sarcastically to Frost as she pushed through the door to the isolation ward. Thanks a lot. Glad you're well rested.
Mick was backing up just as Caitlin came barrelling through the door, and she grabbed onto his arm a split second before he would have slammed right into her and probably splattered her against the wall.
"Mick! What's wrong?" she exclaimed.
"Fucking zombie!" he exclaimed, pointing at the headless corpse strapped to the bed.
No, he wasn't pointing. At least, he wasn't pointing his finger - he aimed his heat gun at the zombie. Caitlin opened her mouth to scream at Mick to stop, but a stream of superheated flame erupted from his gun and played over the corpse. Mick pushed her back protectively, his other arm thrusting out to like a bar to separate Caitlin from the threat.
Caitlin had to squint against the glare and the terrific heat, but she watched with a rising horror as all of their hopes went up in literal smoke, the zombie turning to a charbroiled briquette.
A fire alarm erupted to life, and the sprinklers poured down to drench them both, far too late to save the sample.
Mick growled and gathered Caitlin up, herding her out of the room. "What the fuck was that thing doing in there?" he said, huffing and blowing as if he'd been running.
Caitlin fought her way out of his grip. Her hair was sticking to her face, and she shivered with no clothes , but she was far too angry to care. She slammed a fist into Mick's chest, and Mick took a step back, his eyes widening with surprise and hurt. "You idiot!" She could feel tears burning at the corners of her mouth. "You fucking idiot."
It felt good to swear. Cathartic. So she did it again, clenching her fists and yelling. "Fuck!"
"What's your problem?" Mick asked, his voice oddly subdued. He watched her warily, like she was a cornered animal he hoped to tame.
"You burned our sample, Mick. I needed that zombie to be able to test cures for the virus. Now it's destroyed. How am I supposed to find a cure without samples to test?"
Mick glanced away, his expression inscrutable. "Well how the fuck was I supposed to know? It was a zombie. I killed it."
"Why the hell did you even go in there? The door was locked!"
Mick shrugged. "I was lookin' around."
Caitlin glared at him for a long moment, but as she calmed down from the initial shock and horror at what Mick had done, it occurred to her to wonder about his behaviour more deeply.
She drew a breath and let it out, modulating her tone to sound more curious instead of pissed off. "Why did you scream like that?"
He scowled. "I didn't scream. Dunno what you're talking about."
She hesitated. "Mick... are you scared of zombies?"
He growled soft and low in the back of his throat. "I'm not scared of nothin'. I just don't like zombies, okay? I'm sorry I burned yours. I'll get you another one."
He turned away and marched off. Caitlin had just enough time to realize that he actually intended to go outside and somehow get a zombie right then and there, before he stopped and looked back at her. "Uh, how're we gonna get out of here? The doors are locked."
"I have no idea."
He grimaced and folded his arms, looking at her up and down. "Well, you ought to get some clothes on and help me, then. We gotta figure something out."
Seriously? Despite herself, she smiled as she turned to walk back towards the other end of the ward, where she was sure she'd find her clothes. "Right, right," she said. "I'll just get decent, shall I? We have work to do."
Chapter 14: Lie To Me Barry
Leonard Snart had been in a lot of prisons over the years. He had started with that stint in juvie where he had first met Mick, taken a couple of turns in Iron Heights, and had also spent a couple of months in the clink in Star City one memorable time. He had even been in a Russian gulag, but not as a prisoner. He had thought that the gulag would be the most memorable time in the joint, but this one took the cake. He had never been held in an alien prison before, nor had he ever been imprisoned by an insane god infected by a hive mind zombie virus.
At least he had good company. One of the first things he'd ever learned about prison was that if you had the right people around you, it was bearable. Safer, too. Mick had been the one to teach him that, and he had never forgotten. And Barry was the best of companions for just about anything, as far as Len was concerned.
Problem was, Len was afraid that Barry was rapidly turning into really bad company indeed. As they sat cuddled together in a corner of the cell, Len could feel the heat radiating off of his lover. It wasn't the usual warmth that Barry let off like he was Len's own personal sunbeam - a combination of his irrepressible cheerful attitude and the high metabolism he had from being a speedster.
No, this was a fever. Barry's skin was moist and clammy to the touch, and though he tried to pretend otherwise, Len knew that his body was slowly losing the battle against the zombie virus.
And when that happened, Len was going to be next. There were no ifs ands or buts about it - if they were still locked in a cell together when Barry lost it, Len would die in the fraction of a second following it.
"How're you doing, champ?" Len asked softly. Lie to me, Barry.
"Good, good," Barry said. He smiled up at him and pressed a kiss to Len's cheek. That was sweet.
"Great," Len said, rubbing a hand up and down his back. "I bet that healing factor of yours is beating that virus back."
Unable to sustain the meaningless, comforting falsehoods, the two of them both lapsed into silence for a while. Len wondered what everyone else was doing. Maybe they were all dead and he and Barry were the only ones left from Earth-1 on this planet.
"So, uh..." Barry wiped a sheen of sweat from his forehead and then dried his hand off on his jeans. "So, you never told me how you ended up here. Ray told me you d-died."
Did he now? Len thought, bemused. He wasn't surprised that Mick hadn't gotten around to telling Barry. Setting aside the difficulties that he and Mick had been having lately, Mick just wasn't that thoughtful.
His response was all but automatic. "Did you miss me?" he asked with a rakish smirk.
"Len..." Barry tightened his arms around him, and looked up at him. "It nearly killed me to lose you. You don't--" He swallowed, and Len realized with growing horror that Barry was near tears. His eyes were growing distinctly shiny, and his voice hoarse. "It's... it's been a really bad year, and I missed you so, so damn much. And now it's almost Christmas, and all I could think about was you, and how much I wished you would just show up and toss me in a car again and take me somewhere far away from everything."
Len didn't know what to say. "I... thought I'd be right back," he said, and loathed the way his voice had turned awkward, apologetic. This was Barry, and Barry always caught him off-guard these days, but he still didn't like sounding weak, even in front of him. "I didn't mean to be gone so long. Rip fucked us all over, and broke every promise he ever made."
Barry smiled faintly. "I know, Len. It wasn't your fault. I-- I'm sorry, I shouldn't be getting all... like this."
For some reason, the reality of Barry putting on a brave face, apologizing for getting emotional and pretending he was fine, was becoming painful instead of comforting. Usually, that was just how the Snarts worked, but this was Barry, and Barry wasn't like Len. He wore his emotions on his sleeve, and that was right. Seeing him like this was like seeing someone draw graffiti over a great piece of art.
"It's okay," Len said helplessly. "Hey, kid, you've had a rough time. It's all right to get weepy over me. We both know my death would have been a loss to the world." He drew a breath. How did you comfort people? Well, he knew what Barry would probably do. "Listen, we'll get out of this," he said with a certainty he didn't feel. "And then I'll whisk you away, I promise. No Rogues, either. Just you and me and the most luxurious hotel room in Beach City. And all the room service a stolen platinum card can buy. It'll be nothing but wine and caviar for days, you'll see."
Barry smiled wanly, which was sweet, because Len knew he had completely missed the mark. He had no idea what he should have said, but what he'd said was just ridiculous and couldn't possibly have helped.
"Thanks, Len," Barry said. "I feel a little better."
That couldn't be true, but it was nice of him to say.
Barry cuddled up again, resting his head on Len's shoulder. At least he wasn't crying anymore. Maybe Len really had said the right thing.
"So... why did Ray think you had died?" Barry prompted, recalling Len to the original topic of their conversation.
He sighed. "I thought I did, too," Len said. "We were at the Vanishing Point, and there was an explosion. It should have taken me out along with all of the Time Masters, but instead I woke up here, at this government place, where that bitch works." He was referring to Supergirl, and Barry seemed to get the reference. Barry nodded, and Len continued. "I was banged up. Apparently I had been in a coma for a while."
"You were at the DEO?" Barry asked.
Len nodded. "Right. They said they had found me at the site where some kind of breach had been opened. Their instruments went all haywire and they headed out to find out what was going on, and there I was. When I'd explained what happened, they decided that the explosion must have opened a tear in the space-time continuum, and I was thrown through it."
He shrugged and glanced around the prison cell. "Theoretically, I'm lucky to be alive. The explosion should've vaporized me, but I only got half-vaporized. Then that Supergirl chick got bitten by a zombie, and she kidnapped me on her way out. The next thing I knew, I was strapped to a table with an IV in my arm keeping me drugged, and she was feeding me lines while she recorded a video. I assume that's why you came."
Barry nodded, then glanced at him, head cocked. "'Theoretically' you're lucky to be alive?"
Len gave him a wry look. "Well, I am stuck in a zombie prison in the middle of an apocalypse. Not sure how much longer that 'living' thing is going to last at this rate."
He regretted that morbid statement the moment the words were out of his mouth. Barry's face fell again, his expression closing with misery and hopelessness.
Barry really must have had a bad year. Len was so used to Barry always managing to be upbeat and defiant that it physically pained him to see, and he quickly added. "Hey now, don't look at me like that. We're not dead yet. What happened to the 'never give up' Flash I know and love?"
The 'L' word was out of his mouth before Len had even realized he was going to say it. He didn't even trip over it when it came out, and it just sat there and dangled for a long moment while Barry's eyes got big and round.
Damnit, Len thought, even as Barry's face brightened like the sun coming out from behind a cloud. It felt so good to see, and he just knew that sooner or later, something else would happen to ruin that. And this time, it would really be Len's fault, and he'd actually feel guilty about it.
"Len," Barry whispered.
Len felt his own cheeks warming and he looked away. Everything was crashing in on him. He was embarrassing himself, and Barry could see it. All of his chill was gone. Every bit of it, and Barry would expect him to say it again. How could he expected to do this - to have a normal relationship, take care of this sweet man who meant the world to him, and not fuck it up?
"I love you, too," Barry said gently.
Len forced himself to look at Barry rather than continuing to act like a filthy coward. He knew before he looked that there would be expectation there, that Barry would be disappointed if he didn't say it again, that Barry would anticipate things from him that he didn't know how to give, and be upset when Len didn't live up to those expectations.
But...no, Barry was just smiling at him. The colour had come back into his cheeks, and some of the fever seemed to have receded for now. He looked happy for the first time since they had been tossed into this cell together, and there was no hint of disappointment shading his eyes, even as the silence drew out and Len didn't respond.
In fact, Barry just kissed him sweetly on the lips and cuddled up again, a lightness to his frame that hadn't been there before.
"I'll get you home," Len murmured.
Barry gave him a squeeze. "I'll get you home."
Len nodded and leaned his head back against the cold metal wall, closing his eyes. "And I won't leave again. I'll... I'll make it work, somehow. I shouldn't have gone on the Waverider to begin with."
"No, Len." Barry looked up at him again, and Len opened his eyes to meet his gaze. "No, I'm glad you went. It was a good thing to do. You helped save the world."
Len smiled wryly and brushed light fingers across Barry's cheek. "I don't care about saving the world. That wasn't why I went."
And it was true. There had been a lot of reasons why he'd gone on that journey, and a lot of things he had thought were reasons that had turned out not to be real. But one thing he had slowly begun to suspect was that he had left because the urge to stay and actually spend time with Barry had been getting stronger all the time. He had fled not just Central City, but the entire timeline, to avoid getting tied down by his emotions. He had even left Lisa to her own devices to get away.
But something had changed, maybe just in the last few minutes.
I can't let anything bad happen to him, Len realized. Not ever. Somehow, I have to save him, and get home, and BE there for him. And yet, that prospect held no horror for him, anymore. He didn't feel chained or restrained now. He wanted to do it, more than anything, to never be apart from this sweet young man.
The door slid open, and four zombies entered the room. Two of them seized Barry by the arms and pulled him away from Len, while the other two held Len back. Len reached out, straining against the hold, and made a grab for Barry. Their hands caught, and clasped for a long moment, and when they broke apart, Len saw the intention to fight light up like a fire in Barry's eyes.
"No don't," Len shouted, squirming against the cold, clammy hold of the two corpses that held him. He couldn't stand to see Barry get hurt or bitten again for no reason. "Just go for now, Barry. Find out what she wants. I'll be all right, here."
"I'll be back, Len," Barry said desperately, the fight going out of him as the zombies dragged him away.
"I know you will," Len said. The zombies released him and followed their fellows out the door. Barry would be back, Len knew. Supergirl seemed to want to keep them together.
But that didn't make the cell feel any less cold and lonely without Barry there.
Chapter 15: This Isn't A Prison Break
Kyle drifted unseen through the air currents towards the alien citadel.
The truth was, it caused him discomfort to spend time outside when in mist form. When he went out of an enclosed space like an elevator, his body wanted to expand to mix with the other gasses, and then to just spread out and out forever. It was an effort to remain close together, without actually reforming into a human body.
But going to his current destination in a human shape simply wasn't an option. The land between the DEO and the citadel was crawling with zombies, and he had no idea what would happen if he got bitten. Maybe he could throw it off if he reacted quickly enough. Hell, maybe he was immune - he hadn't gotten sick since the particle accelerator explosion - but he had no intention of taking that chance.
Unfortunately, this method was also slow as hell. Slower than walking, with all the wind trying to scatter him about, and the resulting amount of concentration required to stay together. All in all, it took him the better part of a day to traverse the distance.
But he made it, and once he'd reached the structure it was just a matter of finding a way inside. It was surprisingly difficult to find a way in, but eventually he found a doorway that had been damaged by an impact, leaving a small crack between the jamb and the door itself. Once he had poured himself through the damaged doorway, he would have breathed a sigh of relief - if he had been able to breathe.
Navigating the interior of the structure was easy. There were ventilation shafts like any other building, though none of them led outside. That tracked with what they'd been told - that this was a space ship that had set up shop on top of a hill. He supposed that ventilation shafts that led out to the vacuum of space wouldn't do anyone much good, even if they were zombies.
Drifting around from room to room didn't net him much, until he finally located Snart in a small cell.
He flowed immediately through the grate, and Snart came to his feet at the sight of him. "Nimbus!" Snart hissed, as Kyle formed himself back into the shape of a man. "Damn, I never thought I'd say this, but it's good to see you."
"Good to see you, too, boss," Kyle said, taking no offense. "We all thought you were dead."
"Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated," Snart said, and gestured towards the door. "So far. Did you see the Flash?"
"No, you're the first person I've found since I arrived," Kyle said. Of course the only thing Snart wanted to know about was his boy toy. Nothing had changed there. At least Kyle could be sure it was the Snart from their universe. No doubt if there was some double here, he wouldn't be into a kid like the Flash.
"They took him away a couple of hours ago," Snart said, beginning to pace. "We'll have to find him before we can leave. Where are the others?"
"They're at this underground government facility in Central City called the DEO," Kyle said, watching him move around the room. Snart looked like he was still healing from whatever injuries he'd suffered. He was up on his feet, which was good, but he was walking with a noticeably stiff gait. It didn't look serious, though, and Kyle determined that there was no need to be concerned about Snart's ability to keep up during an escape, so he filed that away and didn't address it. "The DEO is like ARGUS. They're allies of the Flash and his people. We arrived here in the building when we came through from our world at first, but got attacked by zombies. Cisco managed to get us out with one of his portals."
Snart nodded, gesturing impatiently. Of course, the Flash would have told him much of that part of the story.
"We arrived at the DEO, and it turns out that Supergirl worked there, before she turned into a zombie. Lisa said we should try to use them to get back here to rescue you, but then Supergirl attacked the place, cracked it open like an egg."
Snart winced, brows furrowing. "Is everyone okay?"
"Most of us are holed up together in one place," Kyle said. "We found shelter deep underground, where they keep their prisoners. Lisa is there, with Mark, Roy, and Shawna," he said, because he knew Snart would want to know about his sister specifically. "Mick, Cisco, and Caitlin Snow are in the medical wing, cut off from the rest of us, and Hartley is in another place with some DEO twink. He got the computers talking to each other, though, so I assume he's okay. I looked in on all of them before I came here and they seemed safe enough."
Snart paused his pacing and looked at him. "Are you saying that you're here alone? This isn't a prison break?"
"Not yet, boss," Kyle said defensively. "There's a million zombies between the DEO and here. I needed to do some recon, find you, so we could make a plan. Lisa told me to report back to her."
"Okay, fair," Snart allowed, spreading his hands in forgiveness. "But we don't have a lot of time to fuck around. Supergirl wants the Flash and I for something, and also someone named Alex. She said she'd be bringing her here."
"She probably has Alex by now," Kyle said. "Alex is a DEO agent, one of their leaders. She got kidnapped last night. One of the people down there was a traitor."
Snart froze and glared at him. "I thought you said that Lisa was safe."
"She is, boss," Kyle insisted. "They wanted Alex, not Lisa, and the traitor took Alex with him."
Snart sighed and continued to pace. "Look, I don't mean to be difficult. I'm just sick and tired of being stuck in here unable to do anything." He stopped and turned to Kyle again. "Go and find Flash and Alex, and report back here to tell me what's going on. Then you can go back to Lisa and start planning our escape."
"You got it," Kyle said. He turned to mist and flowed back up into the ceiling. He wasn't bothered by Snart getting antsy. He knew he'd be pissed off if he were in the same boat - he had always hated being confined, especially on death row. And this had to be like the worst death row of all, for Snart.
At least Snart showed no signs of being infected. He looked tired and like he was recovering from injuries, but he wasn't sweating or favouring any part of his body as if he had been bitten. His eyes weren't bloodshot. Kyle continued to be confident that he'd make a full recovery.
It didn't take him too long to find the other people in the building. After moving back and forth across the building, level by level, he encountered a strange sort of alien laboratory. The sounds of voices attracted him immediately, and he put out a feeler through the grating in the ceiling so he could get a better look at what was going on.
A young man was lying on some kind of operating table, speaking with Alex, who stood over him. Though there were cuffs attached to the table, he was lying still without being restrained, and Alex seemed to be taking blood from his arm. Though he wasn't wearing his uniform - or his cowl, for once, Kyle was immediately sure this was the Flash. He had the right build, the right jawline, the right voice. Kyle took a moment to properly memorize the face in case he saw him again.
"--think this will work?" Flash asked, turning his head to watch the blood flowing from his arm to fill a series of vials.
"Depends on how you define 'work'," Alex said in a serious tone. "And honestly? I have no idea if I can do what Kara wants me to do. I don't know if it's possible. More importantly, even if it is, I don't plan on doing what she tells me to do if I can avoid it."
"I know," Flash said. "I'm sure we'll get out of here, Alex. Also, if it were possible, then someone on Earth-1 would have figured out how to do it by now."
Alex removed the needle from Flash's arm and told him to hold a bandage over the wound, which he did. She turned away from him and stuck one of the vials into an alien machine, which began to beep and flash strange symbols. While the machine did its thing, she began to label the other vials one by one.
Kyle landed on the floor and reformed into the shape of a human. "What does she want you to do?" he asked.
Alex startled like a rabbit and nearly fumbled the vial in her hand. Even the Flash jumped in surprise.
"Kyle!" Flash exclaimed.
"What does she want you to do?" Kyle asked again, looking from Flash to Alex.
The woman drew a breath, clearly reluctant, but after she and the Flash had looked at one another - some unspoken communication passing between them that Kyle couldn't read, she nodded and spoke. "My sister Kara believes that I can figure out, using Barry's blood factors, how to turn any human into a metahuman."
"Yeah," the Flash - Barry - said. "She thinks that metas keep their mind intact when they get bitten, and she wants to turn as many people into them as possible, and then infect them."
Kyle grimaced faintly at this news. "Even if I won't lose my mind, I don't really want to be a zombie."
Barry laughed. "I feel the same way." He sat up. "Anyway though... I am glad to see you. Alex said that everyone else was okay the last time she saw them. Are we getting out of here, now?"
"I'm just doing recon," Kyle warned, flicking his eyes from side to side to take in the rest of the room. There was a window in one of the walls, and it was laid out somewhat like an operating theatre. Zombies wandered back and forth in the hallway outside, but none appeared to take any notice of him. "Lisa sent me to find you."
"Did you find Len?" Barry asked, his tone thick with worry. "Is he safe?"
"He seemed fine," Kyle said, and looked Alex up and down. "You seem fine, too."
"I am fine," Alex said, folding her arms. "J'onn J'onzz is a zombie. Somehow, probably because of his enhanced healing and alien biology, and the fact that my sister turned him directly, he turned without showing any sign of infection when I examined him. The zombies are a hive mind - or close to it. They communicate with each other."
"Good to know," Kyle said, filing that information away. Knowing that the zombies could communicate telepathically was important.
But there was one other crucial factor that he had concluded everyone needed to consider. He turned to Barry. "But you. You're not fine."
It was obvious to even a casual inspection that the Flash was infected. His eyes were reddened and he was sweating. Also, the bandage on his arm - which hadn't been there the last time Kyle saw him - was a big clue.
"No, I'm infected," Barry said, his cheeks paling under Kyle scrutiny.
"I've examined him," Alex said. "My theory is that his enhanced healing factor is fighting it off." Her lips pursed and she frowned, looking at Barry. "We're working as quickly as we can. I'm sure Caitlin is working on a cure as well."
"But there's no guarantee that Caitlin will find a cure at all. You're going to turn into a zombie," Kyle said relentlessly. "And when you do, you'll keep your powers, won't you?"
Barry frowned with confusion and looked at Alex, then back at Kyle. "As far as I know, yes."
"And you'll also be part of this hive mind," Kyle pointed out. He stepped closer to Barry and took his shoulders in both hands, leaning in so their faces were only inches apart. "You'll be controlled by Kara Danvers, and believe in her mission."
Barry nodded silently, his eyes wide with terror. Kyle had often seen that look, and he knew what it signified. This time, the fear wasn't directed at Kyle himself, but more at the situation that Barry found himself in. Perhaps he was thinking about how he would next attack all of his friends, and turn them into zombies. He would certainly be unhappy if he did something like that - or rather, he would be, if he were capable of such emotions by then, which he wouldn't be.
Kyle said nothing further. They would understand his actions.
He shifted to mist, and flowed over Barry's face. Alex seemed to realize what he was planning even before Barry did. She yelled in warning, and made a grabbing motion, but she couldn't do anything to hold him back with her bare hands, and she was forced to retreat immediately, choking. He didn't care to harm her, and drew his body in close, focusing all of his attention at the speedster.
Barry threw up his hands, and Kyle saw him beginning to spark as his powers activated, but Kyle wrapped himself around the other man. He couldn't allow Barry to turn into a zombie. If the Flash was dangerous before, he would be completely unstoppable as an undead zombie, but if Kyle suffocated him and then cut off his head, then he would never rise. Though Kyle knew Snart was likely to be pissed off, Kyle was confident he could make him understand.
As for Barry, well, it would be uncomfortable for him for a little while, but it would be over soon.
Suddenly, a wind blasted at him from behind. Barry flew across the room and slammed into a counter, but Kyle had even less protection from the inexplicable gale than Barry did. Instantly, he was thrown into total confusion, his senses overwhelmed as his body was scattered.
Desperately, he struggled against the gale to gather up every atom of his self. As he pulled himself together, he saw Supergirl standing in the middle of the room.
"Oh heck no," she said, her bloodshot blue eyes bright with malice. "I'm not going to let you hurt my friend, whoever you are."
She pursed her lips and blew a second time. This time, her breath came out in a stream of freezing fog.
In desperation to escape, Kyle made for the vent in the ceiling, but the second blast caught him. The next thing he experienced was a brutal cold searing his every cell, and then all was swallowed by darkness.
Chapter 16: You Think I'm Distracting
It wasn't often that Mick experienced discomfort when he screwed up. Sure, he had done it before. He couldn't count the number of times someone had taken him to task for some fuck up - from his father to Len, to every teacher he'd ever had, and let's not forget the number of times Rip Hunter had yelled at him over the past year.
Most of the time, even with Len, it rolled off his back. He did what he did. When it went wrong, it went wrong.
But maybe he felt a little bad about this one. He wasn't sure why, but when Caitlin yelled at him today, something had clenched in his chest.
He didn't like the feeling.
Though to be fair, it could be that he was just nervous about the prospect of opening up that door and facing who-knew-how-many zombies. Especially since he needed to capture one, not burn them all.
He clutched his flame gun to his chest as he walked over to the door and inspected it. A thick steel gate had slid over the door, sealing the entire doorway. He holstered the gun and investigated the edges, trying to find a place where he could pry at the gate, but the seal was far too narrow for his thick fingers to fit.
Caitlin walked up behind him. "I don't think we can just break down the door."
"Well what'd you want me to do, then?" Mick demanded. "Go through the vents?" The sudden realization that if he could go out the vents, then zombies could come in the vents had his eyes rising to the ceiling with an abrupt feeling of fear.
She put her warm hand on his arm. "Let's just stop and think. The vents are a no-go. This whole place is filtered, and the air is circulated internally, I'm sure. It's a sterile medical environment, so it won't have air exchange with the outside. I could probably break the door down with ice, but we don't really want to destroy our only protection. We'll wind up with more zombies than we want."
He shifted from foot to foot. "So we can't go out the vents, and we can't open the door, what the fuck we gotta do to get a zombie?"
Caitlin considered. Mick's attention wandered, caught by the gentle warmth of her hand on his arm. He liked Caitlin, he had decided - though this wasn't a new thought. As she pondered, lost in thought, he slipped his arm around her waist and tugged her against him. If only he could have taken her somewhere fun, like Cisco last year.
Then again, them being alone here was a chance. She couldn't leave, and she couldn't go off and get interested in someone else.
"There has to be a way to open the door from in here," she said.
"Huh?" he asked. What was she talking about?
She nudged him firmly and he nuzzled her neck. She poked him in the side. "Zombies."
He twitched. "What about 'em?"
"We need one, remember?"
It came back to him, and he straightened, tensing. "Yeah, 'course I remember. I thought we weren't gonna open the door."
She sighed. "We aren't going to break the door down, but we have to open it. There has to be a way to control the gate from inside. Why don't you look for a lever or something. I'll check the computer."
That tone in her voice was irritating. She was so much smarter than he was, which was okay, but he didn't like it if she thought he was dumb. He had a feeling that she didn't like dumb men.
All he said was, "'K." He wandered back over to the door and followed the wall, craning his neck upwards to search for a mechanism. The mechanism itself was inside, he was sure, but it wasn't obvious. The gate had rolled right out of a slot in the ceiling, and it looked as though the housing was reinforced steel.
He walked away in search of a screwdriver.
"Mick?" Caitlin called after him. He began rummaging in cupboards, searching for tools. Doctors needed tools, too, right? What if something broke in the middle of an emergency? They couldn't go running down to another part of the building to get tools if someone was dying and a machine went kaput.
Suddenly, Caitlin was behind him. "What are you doing?"
He had his head in a deep cupboard, down under one of the machines. He pulled his head out and straightened up. "Lookin' for a way to open the door. You checked the computer already?"
"No..." She looked up at him, confusion written all over her face. "How can you be looking for a way to open the door from there? The door's over there." She pointed, as if he didn't know where the door was.
He grunted with irritation. "There's gotta be tools around here. I could take the door off."
"Oh." Her confusion cleared. "Oh, that does make sense."
She paused, rocking back onto her heels and bit her lower lip. He thought she was about to say something more, but then she stepped forward and pressed her palm to his cheek.
He stood still, brows furrowing. "What're you doing?"
She looked at him, flushed, and shifted her hand to his forehead. "I'm, ah, checking your temperature."
His temperature? Why? People who got bit by zombies got fevers before they changed, right? She might have been checking for that fever, but Mick felt cold all of a sudden. His heart rate doubled, pounding in his chest. "I ain't been bit. How could that happen in here? I wasn't bit, doc!"
"Shh," she said, removing her hand and smiling up at him reassuringly. "You don't have a fever. I don't see anything physically wrong with you."
"But, you think somethin's wrong with me?" he asked cautiously.
She smiled awkwardly. "I don't know... I feel like you're distracted. More than usual."
"I am." He jabbed a thumb at the door. "There's zombies out there, and I gotta go get you another one. And there's you, too."
"Me?" Caitlin blinked in confusion, her eyebrows rising. "What about me?"
He grunted and got down on his knees again to continue his search of the cupboard. "You're distracting."
She was silent for a few moments, and yet he didn't hear her footsteps leaving. He had determined that there were no tools in this cupboard and he leaned back onto his heels, craning his neck around to look at her. She gazed at him with an obscure expression on his face. "What?" he asked.
Her cheeks flooded with red, the blush spreading quickly and touching the tips of her ears. "You think I'm distracting?"
He rubbed the back of his neck and gave her his best lascivious smirk. "Hell yeah."
She shifted her weight and then turned away. "Thank you," she said. Her voice was calm, almost normal, but the tips of her ears were still red and her steps overly fast as she darted away.
Mick grinned to himself and continued his search.
~ ~ ~
He had an obsession with fire. He had once strapped her to a bomb. He was a convicted felon.
She could understand why Killer Frost liked him, and from a physical perspective... well, her groin had a lot to say about his charms. But she had never been the kind of girl to melt and flutter over a guy with talented fingers or a clever tongue.
But every time he looked at her, when his arms went around her during a moment of inattention, she lost her mind. It was downright disconcerting. Maybe it was because he seemed to want her, almost as much as he wanted Frost.
Speaking of weird, it had concerned her when he seemed to forget about what she'd asked him to do and wandered off. She'd thought there really was something wrong with him - physically. But now she felt guilty for that assumption. He had had an idea of what to do, and it had been a good one. Who was she to assume that he had no idea what he was doing? She had a feeling that, if there was one thing he knew how to do, it was get through locked doors.
The irritated look on his face made her wonder if she wasn't the first person to assume he was stupid. She had struggled to come up with a way to apologize that wouldn't make things worse, and the next thing she knew, she had been touching him.
The worst part, she suspected he had seen right through that 'checking temperature' excuse, once she'd reassured him. He actually wasn't nearly as stupid as she had thought, and she would need to remember that in the future.
As she walked away, blushing helplessly at the look of desire he had directed towards her, she decided to stop thinking so much about Mick, and try to focus on what she was supposed to be doing.
She sat down at the main terminal and began searching through the applications. "Oh Cisco," she sighed, gazing with incomprehension at a completely unfamiliar user interface. This wasn't even an operating system she was familiar with, and it reminded her that she was so very far from her own Earth. "I wish you were awake."
Even in another universe, she was sure Cisco would make short work of the computer, familiarizing himself with it quickly and then bending it to his will.
Which reminded her of another option. When Hartley had called earlier, he had explained how to contact him again if they needed him. Well, this definitely qualified as a reason to reach out to the tech geniuses. She clicked on the icon and a window opened, three dots bouncing up and down to indicate that a connection was being made.
There was a click, and a vaguely familiar voice spoke. "Winn here."
Right, the man Hartley was trapped with. She wondered how they were getting along. Surely not as well as she and Mick were - at least, not in the same way. "Hello Winn, this is Caitlin Snow."
"Doctor Snow, good to hear from you," came Hartley's voice. He certainly sounded cheerful. "How are things?"
"Not ideal," she said soberly. "I've run out of samples to test." She decided that the exact details of how that had happened didn't need to be shared. "Mick and I want to open up the locked door so we can try to get another zombie to test, but there's a steel gate that's covered the door because of the security lockdown."
There was a short silence. "That sounds hella unsafe," said Winn.
"I don't have a choice," she said. "Unless you can come up with a way to teleport a single zombie through the door and into the isolation ward, we're going to have to go out and get one for ourselves. But I can't figure out how to open the door. I assume there's a way, maybe in the software of the computer, but I can't understand how to do it. Can you two help me?"
"Leave it to us, Caitlin," Hartley said brightly. "We'll sort it out for you."
"Thank you," she said. She paused. "How are you two doing?"
Hartley's voice couldn't have been more smug. In fact, Caitlin couldn't remember him ever sounding so happy. "Oh, we're doing just fine, Caitlin. Don't worry about us."
Chapter 17: That Sounds Hella Unsafe
Hartley hadn't felt this good in a long while. Sure, they were locked in a small room during a zombie apocalypse, but that fact seemed far away. He had had a good sleep, gotten laid, and was involved in working on a project with a companion who was nearly as bright as he was. Truly, there was nothing he'd rather be doing.
He had taken over one of the workbenches and cleared it of a half-finished project. Winn moved it carefully to a side table, leaving the space open for Hartley. Then Winn had shown him how to use the computer and holographic display attached to the work bench to design his project. The two of them had spent the next couple of hours in an intense discussion, culminating in the dismantling of one of Hartley's gloves.
Gripped by mutual inspiration, the two men utterly abandoned theory and began to put their ideas into practice. Suddenly, the half-finished project that had so recently been removed from the table, came back. Winn eagerly contributed a large metal gauntlet, and then things really began to come together - literally.
They were putting the finishing touches on their prototype when their computer program began to chime, indicating that someone was trying to call them. Hartley scarcely noticed, but Winn had the presence of mind to disengage. "Be right back," he said, giving Hartley's shoulder a squeeze.
Focused on performing the last microadjustments to the alignment of his sonic amplifier so that it would operate through the gauntlet's existing hardware, Hartley gave only a soft grunt to acknowledge him.
Winn moved over to the computer terminal and answered the call. "Winn here."
"Hello Winn, this is Caitlin Snow."
The familiar voice penetrated Hartley's concentration enough for him to consider he might want to pay attention. He turned his head towards the terminal. "Doctor Snow, good to hear from you," he said. "How are things?"
"Not ideal," she said soberly. "I've run out of samples to test." She drew an audible breath and let it out. "Mick and I want to open up the locked door so we can try to get another zombie to test, but there's a steel gate that's covered the door because of the security lockdown."
While she spoke, Hartley completed the last adjustment and pushed the magnifier up and away on its swivel arm. He set down his tools and walked over to Winn, slinging his arm casually around his shoulders. Winn smiled at him, but it didn't last. He was disturbed by what Caitlin was saying, and Hartley couldn't take it personally.
"That sounds hella unsafe," Winn said to Caitlin.
"I don't have a choice," she said. "Unless you can come up with a way to teleport a single zombie through the door and into the isolation ward, we're going to have to go out and get one for ourselves. But I can't figure out how to open the door. I assume there's a way, maybe in the software of the computer, but I can't understand how to do it. Can you two help me?"
"Leave it to us, Caitlin," Hartley said brightly. "We'll sort it out for you."
"Thank you," she said. She paused. "How are you two doing?"
Hartley tightened his arm around Winn, who leaned closer affectionately. He couldn't have felt better, but maybe it wasn't quite the right moment to discuss it. "Oh, we're doing just fine, Caitlin. Don't worry about us."
After a couple more pleasantries, they ended the call. Hartley leaned away from Winn, who swiveled on his chair to look up at him. "Should I pull up the schematics for the doors? I could probably walk her through it, but it might just be easier to hack the door controls remotely," Winn said, but his brows were furrowed with worry. "Is this a good idea, though?"
Hartley cocked his head thoughtfully, and his eyes slid inexorably towards the gauntlet. "I'm worried, too. I know Caitlin can take care of herself, and so can Mick, but just opening the door sounds like a recipe for disaster. What if they get overrun?"
Winn nodded, looking grave. "Sounds like the kind of plan that would end in badness in any zombie movie I've ever seen."
Hartley had the beginnings of a possible idea, but he needed more information. He turned back to Winn. "We're on the same floor as the infirmary, right?" At Winn's nod, he gestured towards the screen. "Bring up the blueprints for this level of the building. Obviously there's no going back out the way we came in, but maybe there's another option."
Winn blinked, then turned to the computer screen, pulling up the files. "You aren't thinking what I think you're thinking, are you?"
"Why?" Hartley grinned. "What are you thinking I'm thinking?"
"There is a hallway that runs behind the infirmary," Winn said. He opened the file and zoomed in, orienting the picture so that he could point out the feature. "There's no door on that side, though."
"Still, it'd get us close," Hartley said thoughtfully. "How do we get from here to that hallway?"
Winn grimaced. "Well, there are halls near here that connect to it, too. If we could get to here, then it'd be just two halls away, pretty easy." He traced the route with his pointer.
"And the walls? Are they reinforced or anything?"
"The doors will be hermetically sealed, and the air circulation is HEPA compliant, but the walls themselves are no more reinforced than any other wall in the building. Theoretically, we could cut through it," Winn said cautiously.
"So all we have to do is cut through our own wall, and the other one at the infirmary. With the tools we have, we could do that easily," Hartley said. "Then we'll be able to get back and forth easily." He could tell that Winn hadn't yet grasped the benefits of his plan. He gripped the other man's shoulder. "Get it? Once we've cut ourselves a new doorway, we could help Caitlin and Mick with whatever they need, instead of being stuck here dealing with them remotely if problems come up. It's always best to stay in a group when you're fighting zombies."
Winn straightened, that look of foreboding easing somewhat, but it didn't vanish entirely. "I get what you're saying, Hart. If we could do that, then I'll do you one better. We could even get to the rest of the DEO and your friends," he said, pointing to a stairwell. "From those stairs, we could go down to a safe level, and get to the elevator."
"Great! Let's do it," Hartley said brightly. "Once we've connected everyone together, we can figure out a way to get a zombie safely to Doctor Snow."
"But we can't," Winn said heavily. "Those halls have been completely overrun and sealed off since early on in the outbreak. They're full of zombies. Before Supergirl left, she started off by causing a massive diversion. She blasted a hole in that wall and let a bunch of zombies inside from there." He circled a spot about equidistant between where they were and the infirmary, not far from the stairwell.
Hartley froze. "Oh." He glanced at their new prototype, then back at Winn. "Okay, that's a problem, but it's not insurmountable."
Hartley moved to the table and pulled out his other glove. He opened it up and began making adjustments to the gain and field strength. "Think about it. Before, you had a lot of humans with guns versus one zombie goddess and ten thousand zombies."
"Well trained humans with guns who are used to fighting all kinds of aliens and weird stuff," Winn said defensively.
Hartley looked at him and raised an eyebrow.
Winn shrugged awkwardly. "Okay, normally we have Supergirl's help instead of her being on the other side, but still. What's your point?"
"My point is, now you have us." Hartley hopped up onto the table and set his sonic glove on his lap, continuing to toy with the settings while he talked. "Think about it. From here, we can coordinate a three-pronged attack. Mick and Killer Frost from one end. You and me from here. And the rest of the Rogues with your gun-toting regular guys - highly trained agents, I mean - coming up the stairs to clear out the rest. All we have to do is take out the zombies wandering the hallways and barricade up the hole so no more can come in. Then it'll be safe."
"That's all, huh?" Winn retorted, but Hartley could see that his expression looked more thoughtful than hopeless now. The wheels were beginning to turn.
Winn turned back towards the computer and opened a channel to Caitlin again. "Doctor Snow? This is Winn and Hartley again."
"Hello, Winn," Caitlin said, almost instantly. "Did you figure out a way to open the door?"
"Actually, Hart and I are working on another idea. Just sit tight for now, okay?" Winn said rapidly. "We aren't sure opening the door is a good plan at all, but we're going to try to clear a safe area to the back of the infirmary, so that we can all get to one another. From there, we can capture a zombie and deliver it to you."
Mick's voice suddenly intruded on the line. "Hey twinks, did I hear right? I don't gotta go out there with all those zombies?"
Caitlin added, "Mick's afraid of zombies."
"Fuck no I am not! I hate zombies!" Mick shouted, loudly enough that the mic cut out to save its own life.
"Come on, Mick," Hartley called out. "There's no shame here. The first step to recovery is to admit you have a problem. Tell us all about your undead phobia. We're all here for you."
"Fuck you, four-eyes!" Mick snapped. "I don't gotta recover from a healthy distaste for goddamn living corpses."
"Okay, okay, everyone calm down," Winn said.
"Anyway," Hartley said, hopping down from his perch and returning to the computer so he could talk at a normal volume. "You're going to have to help us, both of you. There's a hallway behind the infirmary. The plan is to cut through the wall and clear out the zombies back there, barricade the hole they're coming in through and link up all three locations where our people are currently holed up. So look around for a good way to safely cut through sheetrock, and anything you can spare that we could use to help us build a barricade. Got it?"
"Thank you, both of you," Caitlin said. Somewhere in the background, Hartley could hear Mick swearing. "Getting through the wall shouldn't be difficult for Killer Frost, unless it has to be neat?"
"Doesn't have to be pretty," Winn said. He tapped keys rapidly. "I'll send you the blueprints in a few minutes, with my notes showing what you need to know. We still need to coordinate with the others, so we'll be back in touch when we're ready."
"We'll wait for your signal, then," Caitlin said. Winn ended the call and finished noting up the blueprints, circling the locations of the best places to cut through walls and where they would need to place the barricade, then he sent the files off to the infirmary computer.
"Lisa next," Hartley said, and Winn placed the call.
After some brief discussion with one of the DEO agents covering the desk, Lisa came on the line. "Hey Hart, how's it going?"
"Going great, Lisa," Hartley said, leaning on Winn once more with his arm wrapped affectionately around his shoulders. He had pulled his glove on his other hand and he experimentally took aim at various features around the room, listening with one ear to the supersonic sounds only he could hear the glove make as its targetting functions operated. "We've got an idea."
"I'm open to any and all ideas at this point. Did anyone let you know that we had a breakout last night?"
"What?" Winn said. "What do you mean?"
"Sorry Winn," Lisa said. "But there's no kind way to say this. Your boss was turned into a zombie somehow. He kidnapped Alex, released the zombies that were locked up down here, and killed two guards. I sent Kyle to look for her and scout out Supergirl's base, but he's not back yet."
That news settled on them both heavily, mostly on Winn. Hartley felt him curl in on himself and he immediately desisted with his testing, putting his other arm around the other man and tightening. Winn gripped his forearm tightly with one hand, but his voice was steady, if soft, as he replied. "No, we didn't know."
"Is everyone else okay?" Hartley asked.
"The rest of us are fine for the moment, until something else happens," Lisa sighed. "So... you have a plan for getting us out of the shit?"
"Not entirely, but a plan that we think will help," Hartley said. "We've come up with a way to link up together, so we're not all scattered anymore and can help each other. Winn's sending you the blueprints now." At his prompting, Winn sent the files. "These hallways are full of zombies, but if we can work together to clear them, and block up the hole they're coming in, it'll be safe to travel between our lab, the infirmary, and where you are."
"That sounds worth doing. Have you talked to Mick and Caitlin about this already?"
"Yep, this actually came up because Doctor Snow needs more samples to test. While we're clearing out the hallway there, we can capture a zombie or two and deliver them to her."
"Okay, what do you need from us?"
"Just be ready to move," Hartley said. "I want to finish some adjustments on a device I'm working on, and we're going to have to cut holes in walls to get out of the room we're in - and the infirmary. When we're ready to start, you and your people can start clearing the stairs. Also, anything you can find that can be used for barricade material, would be helpful.
"How about locking steel doors?" Lisa offered. "This is a prison."
"So long as you don't mind lugging them up five flights of stairs, I think it's a great idea," Hartley said.
"Don't worry, I've got enough minions around these days, I'm sure we'll manage," Lisa said smugly. Dimly, Hartley heard Roy Bivolo yell 'Hey!' and Lisa said. "Not you Roy."
"Okay, well sit tight for now, we'll be calling back soon," Hartley said. Winn made no immediate move, so he reached out and ended the call.
Then he stayed where he was, because Winn wasn't letting go of his arm.
He hesitated for a few moments, casting about for exactly what was expected of him, then tightened his hug and rested his cheek on the top of Winn's hair. "You okay?"
"Yeah, yeah fine." Winn didn't sound fine at all.
Hartley closed his eyes. He just wasn't good at this stuff. He couldn't remember ever being the guy that someone else turned to as a shoulder to cry on. Heck, the number of times he could remember crying on someone's shoulder himself could be counted on the fingers of one hand, and that included his own mother and events that had occurred before he was school-aged. His family had expected him to take care of himself. Harrison had definitely not encouraged that sort of thing, and Hartley really didn't have friends.
"Can I do something?" he asked, then immediately cursed himself. He should know. Other people knew. Cisco would probably know. Barry was definitely a champion comforter. But both of them were out of commission, or unavailable, and Winn was right here, needing him, right now.
"I don't think so," Winn said, and sighed. He released Hartley's wrist from its death grip and Hartley straightened, unsure. "Sorry, man," Winn said. "We've got work to do, right?"
"Yeah," Hartley said. It was true, they did have work to do, and work had always helped him, but Winn still sat forlornly in his chair, gazing at the computer screen. Hartley shifted from foot to foot, then hugged him again from behind, and kissed him on the temple. "It'll be-- It'll get better. I'll, I'll protect you."
Tension eased in Winn's shoulders and he turned in his chair. He wrapped his arms around Hartley's waist, burying his face in his stomach. "Thanks, Hart. Just... I know you're trying to make me feel better, and you're really, really sweet. It's goddamn hard, you know? Kara's a zombie, and J'onn is also a zombie... and Alex is probably a zombie by now, too. James, too. All my friends are d-dead..." He sniffled into Hartley's shirt. "You're all I've got left right now, man."
Hartley had never been called sweet before. But more importantly, Winn was crying, now. Did this mean he was doing the wrong thing, or the right thing?
He just hung on. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I... I want to make everything better. But I don't know how to do that except with my gadgets."
Winn gave a watery chuckle. "Actually, that sounds like a good way to make things better. Maybe not everything... but it'll help."
He slowly loosened his grip and straightened, looking up at Hartley with a shy smile. "You really are the sweetest guy."
Hartley smiled. "No one's ever thought that about me before, babe. But I like that you think so." He cupped Winn's cheek, brushing a bit of moisture away with his thumb. "I like you."
The smile widened and grew more genuine, though that sadness still lurked in Winn's eyes. Maybe that was okay, though. Better that Winn feel comfortable showing Hartley how he felt.
In fact, now that he thought about it, that was a pretty big achievement.
"I like you, too," Winn said, which was even better.
"Good," Hartley said. He bent and kissed him, almost chastely, on the lips, then straightened. "Now, let me show you what I've been working on."
Chapter 18: Let’s Melt Some Zombie Brains
Lisa ended the call with Hartley and Winn, and turned to her remaining Rogues, who were gathered nearby. They were pretending that they didn't care, scattered around the room amongst the DEO agents and pointedly not looking towards her, but Lisa sensed that their attention during the call had been laser focused. Kyle was still not back, and of course Mick and Hartley were out of reach, leaving only Roy, Shauna, and Mark here for her to rely on. That would be enough.
"All right, you heard them," she said. "When we get the signal that Hartley's ready, we're going to be heading up a zombie infested stairwell to the upper level, and we're going to have to bring along some of the jail doors, or something else, to board up a hole to the outside. Your job is to figure out how we're gonna do it. First person who comes to me with an idea gets a gold star."
One of the techs spoke up. "Ma'am, it's not only about trying to get the doors up the stairs. That stairwell is designed to keep the prisoners in, and we don't have anyone here who is trained to operate the security systems."
"What? I thought we-- oh." Lisa winced as the tech glanced towards the cell where the bodies of the guards who'd died the night before had been stored. Their heads had been cut off, of course, but otherwise they had been treated with respect, wrapped in sheets and put away for later. Hopefully they'd get out of here or find some way of keeping the bodies cool, before too much time had passed. Maybe the infirmary had a morgue attached.
But the bodies were really not her first priority right now. The knowledge that those corpses had once held was. It looked like they were going to have to get creative. Luckily, she was a Rogue. They rarely did things the usual way.
She squared her shoulders. "Let me see the door. Mark, with me."
"Aye aye, ma'am," Mark said with a wry twist of his lips and a mocking salute. He'd been holding up one of the walls behind Lisa, and now he levered himself up and walked towards her. Lisa rolled her eyes at him, and he smirked.
"Don't be a shit," she said, but smiled faintly anyway as she turned to follow the tech towards the stairwell. The DEO tech led them down one of the wings of the prison, past several empty cells and ones that had been taken over by DEO agents as temporary shelter. At the end of this hallway an exit sign glowed above a heavy steel door.
"Well, here it is," the man said. "I know there are ways of unlocking it electronically using the terminal, but you need the right passwords. Without the Director, Agent Danvers, or any of the security staff, no one has those. And there's the key pad, but we have the same problem with that. No one here knows the code."
There was indeed a key pad beside the door. It had a brand name Lisa had never seen before.
Lisa bent and pulled a makeup compact out of her purse. She gave the eyeshadow applicator a twist and pulled out a tiny screwdriver from the handle. Within seconds, she had removed the face plate from the key pad, eliciting a protesting noise from the tech. "W-what are you doing? You can't just break the pad, it has double redundancy. Destroying it will just mean the door is locked permanently."
Lisa looked at Mark meaningfully. Does this guy think I'm a complete idiot?
Mark snorted in his shared amusement and grabbed the tech by the scruff of the neck, making him squawk as Mark pulled him down the hall. "Shut up and let the woman work," he said, doing his best Kyle impression.
As Lisa examined the wiring, she heard the groaning of zombies behind the door and a few muffled thumps. After several seconds, she placed the face plate back on and straightened, sauntering back towards the two men. "It's like a Montgomery, probably only the 2000 series. It's not from our world so there could be quirks I'm unaware of. Still, I'm pretty sure even with the differences I could do it, but there are a few zombies on the other side of the door."
"Did you just say you could hack our key pad?" the tech asked, his jaw dropping.
"Why not just let me freeze the door and crack it open?" Mark asked.
"That's why I brought you. Any issues with doing that?" Lisa asked. Mark just scoffed, and Lisa shrugged. "Just wanted to be sure. I'd rather not destroy the door, though, so we'll try the hack first."
Mark spread his hands in acceptance and shrugged. "Gotcha. You crack the door so we can close it again, I'll take care of the zombies on the other side."
"We'll leave Shauna and Roy here to keep an eye on things," Lisa continued, falling in next to Mark as they walked back towards the security console. "Now all we have to do is figure out how to get a couple of heavy steel doors up those stairs."
"It's awkward, but not impossible," Mark said. "We've got manpower. They can switch off."
"What about a pulley system?" Roy said. He was sitting on the terminal, feet swinging, and gave his suggestion at top volume just as Lisa and Mark returned. "Rig up some ropes over the railing and haul them up."
Lisa pointed at him, fingerguns. "Solid idea, if there's a railing. Is there a railing?"
There was a general murmured consensus from the gathered agents that the stairwell had a railing. "But how do we get the pulley up with all the zombies? Do we clear it out first?" asked someone.
"Can't clear it out first," Lisa said. "There are more zombies coming in, and we don't know how quickly. Maybe we can do it, but no guarantees that the zombie hoards will stop until we've got the doors where we want them to be. Shauna?"
"I can do it," Shauna said. "If I can take Mark up there with me to watch my back while I set the ropes."
"You got it, babe," Mark said, copying Lisa's fingerguns gesture and giving a wink. Shauna raised her middle finger at him in return.
"Okay," Lisa said. "We'll use the bedsheets for rope." Quickly, she assigned teams to remove a couple of the doors from their hinges and to weave the extra sheets into strong lengths of rope for the pulley. "We'll go level by level," she directed. "Stick together, use the doors to block them if there are too many, and let Mark and I protect you."
"You're gonna protect us?" one of the DEO agents asked skeptically. He was a large man, and was in the midst of breaking down and cleaning his gun. He gave Lisa and long look, up and down, and Lisa wondered if he would have dared to look at Alex that way. Probably not.
She smiled sweetly. "I'm no damsel. Don't worry, I'll leave one or two for you."
She turned away and saw Roy grinning at her. As she passed him, he leaned closer. "Assuming you don't break one of his legs and leave him to get his face eaten."
"Would I do that?" she purred.
She seated herself at the security terminal and checked the charge on her gold gun. She had charged it overnight, so it was full, and there was nothing more for her to do until Hartley called. She felt antsy, and it wasn't because she was nervous about zombies.
Every time she had any time to herself, she found herself worrying about Lenny and Cisco. But now it was even worse, because she knew that soon she'd get back to where Cisco was, and she'd be able to see how he was doing. She knew it was stupid, but all she wanted to do was hold his hand for a little bit, even though it wouldn't make any difference.
Well, soon enough they'd be back together. Once she and Cisco were back in action, she knew he'd be able to help her get Lenny back safe and sound. All she had to do was get there.
~ ~ ~
Hartley and Winn had cutting tools, and a really big piece of steel that they had reshaped into a hammer. They had already cut through the wall in a large rectangle using the tools, and they could hear the groaning of zombies on the other side. All it should take was a couple of good whacks with the hammer, and the door would come tumbling down.
"Can you hear how many there are?" Winn asked nervously.
Winn was wearing the large grey metal gauntlet on his right hand. They had tested it as best they could, and were fairly confident that it would work as intended, but there was nothing like a real field test. Problem was, if there was a failure, they wouldn't have a chance to fix it before they would both be dead.
Hartley was wearing his single remaining sonic glove, (since he'd cannibalized the other one for parts to upgrade Winn's gauntlet,) and holding the crude hammer in his right hand. He was no less nervous than Winn was. They very well might both be dead very soon.
He closed his eyes and listened, but the truth was he'd been listening as closely as he could since they had started cutting open the wall. It was clear to him that the sound of the torch had attracted more zombies than had been there before. "I think there are five."
"Give me a break, I'm not a man bat," Hartley said, flashing a grin. "I don't have sonar, just good hearing, and it's through a wall. Some of them could be quieter than others, but I'm pretty sure it's five."
Winn drew a breath and let it out. He was pale. "Sorry, man, I'm usually the guy in the truck."
Hartley had expected him to say 'chair', instead of truck, and shot him a curious look. "In the truck?"
Winn gave a soft laugh. "Ah, yeah. There's this guy I've been helping. He's the one I made the gauntlet for. He goes out and fights bad guys, and I sit in the truck and support him. I'm usually not doing field work from quite this close up, and the one time I tried it was a bit of a disaster."
"Oh," Hartley said. So it was basically the same thing as being the 'guy in the chair'. He grinned. "Actually, so am I. When I've worked with the Rogues, I usually am in a van, doing the hacking remotely, while they go in and do whatever they do. The one time I tried to do something directly, Barry beat me up and dragged me off to his prison within two seconds, before I'd even done anything."
"Right," Winn said, looking slightly pained.
The two men looked at each other.
"We're procrastinating," Hartley said. "Aren't we?"
Winn flushed faintly. "Yeah, we are."
Hartley turned towards the wall, and firmed his grip on the haft of the hammer. "We should do this."
"Right. We should," Winn said. He raised his gauntlet, ready.
Hartley hefted the hammer, then abruptly lowered it. "Hang on a second, I forgot something."
Winn's eyes were wide. "What? What did you forget? Do we need to check a setting?"
"No." Hartley took a step over to Winn, leaned forward, and kissed him. The kiss was sweet, and Hartley nibbled on Winn's lower lip as he pulled away, then gazed at him for a moment. Winn's eyes were closed and there was a look of bliss on his face. "That's what I forgot," Hartley murmured.
Winn opened his eyes and beamed shyly. "Wouldn't want to forget that."
Hartley nodded, turned away, and swung the hammer before he could think twice about it. The shock of it went up his arm, and the sound screamed in his ears, making him wince in response. He had the gain on his implants turned up to a much higher sensitivity than he usually did, so he could hear any zombies approaching to ambush them, but he hadn't realized just how loud this was going to be.
Well, he wasn't about to stop to adjust his ears. He swung again, and again, hitting a small black "X" that he had inscribed in the middle of the rectangle - the weakest point.
Abruptly, the hammer head went through the wall, which began to crack and fall away. Hartley grunted and pulled the hammer free, then swung again. This time, large chunks fell. Hands began to reach into the holes, ripping mindlessly at the rubble and pulling it down. The next swing of the hammer exploded the face of a zombie that had chosen a bad time to look through the hole.
Hartley's ears were ringing and his arm was aching from the weight of the weapon. He was starting to regret not using his sonic glove to break down the wall, except that with only one working glove, he wasn't sure they had enough power to do it anyway. A zombie grabbed the hammer and yanked it out of his grasp, and he made no effort to try to hang onto it. The zombies took care of the job of pulling down the wall on their own, widening the hole until it was large enough for a person to go through.
There were four zombies - five if you included the one Hartley had just killed. All of them were wearing DEO uniforms.
"Go, Winn," Hartley said, raising his left arm with the sonic glove. "I'm with you." He clenched his fist and sent a powerful sonic blast at the zombies who were now stepping through the hole in the wall. They staggered back into the hallway, giving him and Winn enough space to get through the hole.
Winn nodded and advanced, stepping over the rubble and meeting the zombies head-on. He made a fist, and a shield sprang into being in front of him, projected by the gauntlet. The zombies roared in discomfort, a new sound Hartley had never heard in a movie. The zombies tried to move forward, reaching for the meal they could see just out of reach, but began to shake when the sonic technology inside the shield came into contact with their bodies. The carefully modulated vibrations pulped what was left of their brains, and the zombies fell like stones to the floor.
"Woah, it worked!" Winn exclaimed, walking forward with the shield held in front of him.
Hartley moved behind Winn, ready to attack any zombie that tried to flank or got behind them. There were a couple of cross-corridors they would have to navigate, and that would be the toughest part. The shield in front of them filled nearly the entire corridor, but it was only in one direction. If a zombie got behind them, saving their asses would be Hartley's job.
"Of course it worked. We designed it," Hartley said.
Winn glanced back at him, flashing a grin. "We make a great team, Hart. Come on, let's melt some zombie brains."
Eager and showing no trace of any of his earlier fear, Winn strode forward down the corridor.
Hartley followed close behind, grinning from ear to ear. "We sure do."
Chapter 19: Are You Saying You Can't Do It?
It was time.
The keypad next to the door was naked, its wires hanging out. Lisa bent over it and twisted wires together, her brows furrowed with concentration. The sounds of groaning from the zombies just beyond the door were loud in her ears, but she tuned them out as best she could. They weren't her problem. This was her problem.
Lisa wasn't as good at cracking security systems as her brother was. When Lenny was a teenager, he'd begun to rebel in earnest, and their father had declared him a disappointment and thrown him out of the house. At the time, Lisa had blamed Lenny for it. Little did she realize then that what her father had called 'rebellion' was actually her brother trying to pull their father's attentions towards him, so Lisa would be safe.
After that, their father had reluctantly started taking Lisa on jobs, declaring her the prodigal daughter. Thing was, while she was just as smart and capable as Lenny, her father didn't have the patience to teach a child from scratch a second time. He'd barely had the patience for it the first time. It hadn't taken nearly as long for him to decide that she was little more than a pretty face, and no less of a disappointment than Lenny was.
It was just as well, but Lisa had taken engineering for her undergrad for a reason. She had never given up on proving that she was every bit as capable as a criminal as her brother.
So she took a few minutes to crack the system. Only a few minutes, where Lenny might have taken seconds. Then again, they were in another universe - Lenny might have struggled with it, too.
"You boys ready?" she asked, then nodded at a couple of the female DEO agents, and Shauna, who was carrying several lengths of bedsheet rope over her shoulder. "And gals."
Mark cupped his hands together and the temperature in the hallway dropped by ten degrees. A whirlwind of snow and fog formed in his hands. "Ready, Lisa."
Lisa made the last connection. The door lock clicked open and the light on the lock turned from red to green.
The door swung open as the zombies piled up against it applied pressure. Lisa retreated quickly, raising her gold gun, and Mark launched his snow tornado right into the faces of several zombies.
It wasn't as effective as the cold gun, but it was close enough. The front line of zombies froze in place and toppled over. Mark and Lisa strode forward, felling zombies as they went. After them, a clutch of DEO agents moved in swiftly, firing bullets into each head to make sure the zombies stay down after they thaw. Behind them, Shauna followed, holding her ropes, and finally, pulling up the rear, was a knot of grunts - techy DEO agents, whose job was to pull zombie bodies out of the way.
One last team of other agents remained in the hallway, ready to haul the doors into the stairwell once they were ready to lever them upwards.
The operation was going to take nearly all of their resources. Roy had remained behind at the console, with a small group of DEO agents to protect him if there was a breach of some kind while everyone else was away.
But so far so good. There were ten zombies dead on the ground as Lisa and Mark stood at the foot of the staircase. The stairwell was fairly open, a concrete set of steps with a steel railing spiralling up as far as Lisa could see. The groans of zombies echoed down towards them. There was no telling how many there were.
Lisa immediately saw a problem. They only needed to get the doors up five floors, but the stairwell looked as though it went further than that. They definitely didn't want to leave zombies at their backs.
Well, first they would get to where they needed to go, then decide what to do. "All right, ladies and gents, let's go," she said. A zombie was wandering down the stairs towards them, hands reaching towards the group. She raised her gun and fired, leaving a beautiful golden statue on the landing.
She and Mark went up, DEO agents crowding in behind them. Shauna puffed onto the landing above them, and then vanished again. Lisa's heart kicked into overdrive as Shauna moved beyond the area they'd cleared. She would rely on speed to set the ropes and begin the long and laborious process of hauling the doors up, but Lisa just hoped she wouldn't wind up running afoul of a big knot of zombies.
Thing was, there was no other way. If zombies were actively coming through the hole to outside, they couldn't wait to clear the entire area before getting the doors into place. They needed to get the doors in, and then they could clear at their leisure. That meant Shauna had to forge ahead of the group on her own.
Even as Lisa and Mark reached the first landing, she saw Shauna throw the rope over the side. She had tied it to the railing, close to the base of a post where it was secured to the concrete with several large bolts. Two zombies were approaching, but Shauna disappeared before they could come anywhere nearby, headed back down to direct the team with the doors below.
Mark and Lisa took care of the zombies, and paused to make sure the door on that level was barred with someone's sock stuffed between the door and the jamb.
Lisa didn't want to consider how many zombies might be clogging the maze of rooms, but that was a problem for another day. At least the heavy doors swung closed on their own. In the unlikely event that a zombie did push this door open, it would close again, rather than allowing a continuous stream of the monsters to pass into the stairwell. Stupid zombies didn't tend to push hard on doors - when they encountered an obstacle, they tended to just head in a different direction unless they knew there was prey on the other side, so any sort of door stopper would likely be enough to keep them safe.
Once they had confirmed that it would take some determined yanking to open the jammed up door, they continued up the stairs to the next floor.
And so it continued. Lisa and Mark did get ahead of Shauna for a while, keeping the stairwell clear, but then they reached the fifth level, and opened the door.
Twenty zombies turned towards them at the noise and began to shuffle towards them, groaning.
"Fuck me," Mark said, and shut the door again.
Below, Lisa could hear a lot of grunting and shouting as the DEO agents worked on hoisting the doors up to each landing. By now, all three doors they'd salvaged were in the air, at different levels.
"Well we can't stop here," Lisa said wryly. There were several muffled thumps as the zombies reached the door and began pounding on it, mindlessly trying to push it open.
Mark was sweating. He rubbed his forehead, pushing his hair back. "We can't use your gun on all of them," he said. "We won't be able to get the door through if they're solid statues. And I'm running out of juice, Lise. There could be hundreds out there."
Lisa thought for a few moments. She and Mark set their backs to the door, holding it closed as the zombies grew more aggressive. "How much juice do you have left?"
"I dunno. Not a hundred zombies worth."
"What about one man's worth?"
Mark turned to look at her, his eyes narrowed with suspicion. "Why?"
Lisa turned to the nearest DEO agent who wasn't currently trying to help them keep the door closed. "Run and find someone with a screwdriver. Hurry!" We need to take the railing off for a minute."
The agent's eyes widened and she raced off down the steps, shouting for a screwdriver.
"Lisa, what the hell?" Mark demanded.
"How many zombies do you suppose would survive a five story fall intact?" Lisa asked.
It took three minutes before someone had arrived with a screwdriver, and five minutes to remove a length of railing from the edge of the landing. Then Lisa had to convince Mark to cooperate.
"Are you saying you can't do it?" Lisa asked, which clinched the deal.
"Fucking hell," Mark snarled, and launched himself off the edge of the landing. He held his hands out, floating over empty space on a cushion of windy blasts coming from his palms, and positioned himself well out of arm's reach, over the landing below, where twenty agents were struggling to haul one of the doors over the railing down there.
"You ready?" Lisa asked, taking hold of the door handle. The door was shaking in its hinges, the agents straining to keep it closed under an ever-increasing pressure of the undead on the other side.
"Just do it," Mark said, his lips pale with fear and his brows furrowed with the strain. Lisa could empathize. He was obviously tired, and if he did need to defend himself, he couldn't - if he tried to blast a zombie, he'd fall. If he were lucky, he'd only fall to the landing below and break his ankle. If he missed, it was a much longer fall.
Which was sort of the point.
"Let go," Lisa said. The agents fled, and Lisa pulled the door open, putting the door itself between her and the zombie hoard. A couple of agents crowded in behind her, while the rest fled up the stairs to the floor above. The door was a terrible barrier, but it would put Lisa out of directly sight of the zombies, which - if she was lucky - would be enough to keep her from being zombie chow right at the moment.
The zombies burst through the doorway like a dam had broken, flooding onto the landing. Mark kicked his feet, attracting their notice. "Hey, you assholes! Come eat me!" he yelled.
The zombies lumbered forward, and off the edge. Lisa winced at the sickening crunching sounds as they struck the bottom, and then sighed as gunfire began. She had stationed half the agents at the bottom, to clean up any zombies who didn't die from the fall itself.
It took a surprisingly short amount of time before the stream of zombies slowed to a trickle. Mark lowered himself to the landing below and the agents came out from behind the door, firing at the zombies who remained.
Lisa made a few extra statues, but only a few. Mark was right - if she clogged up the hallways with statues, it would only block the way.
While the agents finished the cleanup and began moving into the hallway beyond the door, carefully picking off any other zombies nearby, Lisa went down the stairs to Mark, who was sitting against the wall, breathing hard. "Thank you," she said. "You did good. Take a breather."
He grinned. "That was fucked up, gal. Good job."
Lisa punched him in the shoulder and straightened up. "Thanks."
Now all they had to do was wrestle the doors a hundred feet to the opening in the wall and block it up. She only hoped that the others hadn't run into as much resistance.
~ ~ ~
Mick sat on a cot, heat gun at the ready, watching the length of wall where a new door was supposed to be made. They had cleared all of the equipment and furniture away from the area, giving lots of room for someone to come through the wall, but that was all they could really do. There was nothing in the whole infirmary that could break through solid concrete, and Caitlin wouldn't let him burn it down - which to be fair, probably wouldn't have worked.
She'd at one point said he could probably break it down with his head, but he was sure she was joking.
His girl sat next to him, fingers twisting nervously in her lap. A loud, tooth-rattling banging had started up not that long ago, and Mick expected this was the noise of them breaking down the wall, but he also knew that if there were zombies on the other side of the wall, a noise like that would definitely attract them.
"Do you think they're almost done?" Caitlin asked suddenly.
The banging and crashing went on, filling the infirmary with the noise. Mick was getting restless, and he got to his feet, just as a small bit of concrete fell from the wall into the room. There was now a hole, only an inch across.
Mick grunted. "Guess so."
"Caitlin?" Hartley's eye appeared at the hole. "Are you in there?"
"I'm here, Hartley," Caitlin called back. "Are you okay?"
"We're great!" Hartley said. "We've almost got the barriers up, and the area's almost totally cleaned out of zombies. It's working."
Caitin beamed. "I'm so glad. It's good to see you."
"You, too." Hartley's face disappeared once again, and the sounds of banging resumed, accompanied by a cracking of concrete as more and more of the wall began to crumble.
"Gonna see if there's somethin' else around to eat," Mick said, and turned to leave.
Cisco was standing five feet away.
The unexpected sight of him made a jolt run through Mick, as if an electric wire had been applied to his chest. He jumped, and took a step back with a yell, and Caitlin turned in confusion to see what had surprised him.
"Cisco?" she gasped, jumping down from the cot and hurrying towards him. "Cisco, what are you doing up?"
Some instinct made Mick grab for Caitlin just as she passed him. She yelped as he caught her around the waist and hauled her backwards. "Wait!"
Cisco raised his head. His eyes were blood shot and his skin pale. He bared his teeth. "Hi Caitlin. Hi Mick."
Mick raised his heat gun and aimed at Cisco. Caitlin was still squirming in his other arm. "He's a fuckin' zombie!" Mick shouted.
Caitlin stopped squirming, overcome with horror, but yelled out. "Wait Mick! Don't shoot him!"
Mick hadn't been about to shoot Cisco, though the urge to do so was overwhelming. His hand shook slightly as he aimed at the zombie, nightmare version of a kid he liked a whole hell of a lot. "What the fuck should I do?" he demanded, his eyes wide. "I ain't gonna be a zombie, babe. I ain't gonna let him bite me."
Cisco's grin was no less manic, but somehow it softened. He raised his hands placatingly. "Hey guys, don't worry. Everything's gonna be okay. Just put down the gun, Mick."
"Fuck no!" Mick snapped.
"Mick, please put me down," Caitlin hissed frantically, her voice very soft so that only Mick could hear. "We have to restrain him. Now."
Mick released Caitlin, and lowered his gun, setting it down very slowly on the cot next to him. His skin prickled with a visceral certainty that Cisco was about to charge him. Mick ignored the feeling as best he could and shrugged out of his jacket, baring his scarred arms.
Cisco cocked his head in confusion. "What are you doing?"
Mick rushed him, jacket out.
Cisco leaped backwards, turned, and fled. He raised his hands, and Mick saw a large weird portal appear in front of him. Cisco raced for it.
Mick was faster. He jumped and landed on Cisco, driving him to the floor, and wrapped his jacket around the zombie's head so Cisco couldn't bite him. Cisco wriggled and writhed, yelling incoherently, but he couldn't throw Mick off.
"Get him to the isolation ward," Caitlin said. Mick wrapped both arms around Cisco and the jacket, and got to his feet, hauling Cisco off his feet while holding him in a bear hug. Cisco kicked his shins and screamed bloody murder, squirming like a fish, but Mick held on tight.
"Gonna fix you," Mick said urgently, wishing that Cisco could understand him and suspecting that he couldn't. "You'll see. Caitlin's gonna fix you right up."
The cot where the old headless zombie had been was singed, but they had changed the sheets and disposed of the charred remains in a bag earlier, while they waited for the others to clear all the zombies out of the hallway outside. Mick grunted as he lifted Cisco even higher, and Caitlin grabbed him by the feet. Together, they wrestled him onto the cot and strapped his arms and legs down tightly.
Only then did Mick pull his jacket away from Cisco's face.
Cisco hissed at him like a cat. "Let me go!"
"Sorry, kid, that ain't happening," Mick said, retreating to a safe distance and inspecting his jacket for damage. He wasn't sure it was safe to put it back on. If Cisco bit the jacket and then he put it on, could he get infected? He draped the jacket over a convenient piece of equipment.
There was a loud crash outside and a cheer and several dozen footsteps as people entered the infirmary.
"Hey Caitlin! Mick!" Hartley called. "We've got your sample all ready to bring in."
Caitlin looked at Mick, and then back at Cisco, lying on the hospital bed. Her brows were furrowed and her lower lip trembling, her eyes shiny with tears. "I don't think we need it, anymore," she said.
Chapter 20: If it's bad, then I'm the worst
Happy Holidays everyone!
Hartley and Winn walked out of the infirmary through the freshly-cut doorway, accompanied by a contingent of DEO agents. Winn's gauntlet shield was nearly out of juice, and Hartley's sonic glove was now completely dead until he could recharge it back at the workshop, but they had succeeded in their mission. They had cleared the zombies out of this part of the building, and connected up all three groups of Rogues.
Hartley should have felt elated, but Cisco was a zombie.
"Hey man," Winn said softly. "I'm sorry about your friend."
"He wasn't my friend," Hartley said sharply, then bit his tongue and pulled off his glasses to clean them. There was blood on them, and some concrete dust mixed in. Gross.
He tried again. "I mean... I suppose he was, in a way. We used to work together at STAR Labs and I hated him upon first meeting. I don't think he liked me much more. But... that was water under the bridge a while ago. He was the only person who really listened to me when I tried to tell him what I knew about Harrison. So that's a thing."
Winn put a hand on Hartley's shoulder. "Hey, c'mere."
They stopped walking. Up ahead was a doorway, and there were a lot of drilling noises coming from the room beyond, as well as gunfire. Through that door was the hole in the building that led outside, and it sounded like Lisa and her people were still in the process of walling out the zombies. While the DEO agents hurried in that direction, Winn opened a different door and pulled Hartley through it into an unoccupied office.
They took a quick look around, but didn't see any sign of zombies in this room. Winn shut the door and turned the lock, then wrapped his arms around Hartley and gave him a squeeze. "I'm sorry about your friend," he said again, with emphasis.
Hartley stood still for a moment, then dropped his head to Winn's shoulder and returned the hug. "Damnit," he said softly. "Thanks."
"Why 'damnit'?" Winn asked, a tinge of amusement in his tone.
No one had been there to give Hartley a hug when his father had thrown him out on his ear. No one had been there to do the same thing when Harrison had done it. Hartley's throat closed up at the enormity of this feeling.
"Just... just that I really like you," he said helplessly. "But everything is fucked, and we're not even from the same universe, and the only guy who can transport people to other universes is a zombie, so if I go home I'll never see you again."
"Yeah," Winn said softly. "I really like you, too."
Their lips met, with a desperation and an urgency that had been absent earlier. Winn pushed Hartley against the desk and Hartley hopped up onto it, his legs spreading to draw Winn fully against him from hips to chest. Their tongues dueled, their breathing mingling as both men pushed a hand up under the other ones' shirt to skim bare skin.
That was awkward, and Winn made a frustrated noise, pulling away long enough to take off his gauntlet and drop it onto the floor.
"Hey, careful with my tech," Hartley said, grinning as he did the same thing with his glove.
"My tech," Winn corrected, grinning just as hard.
"Our tech," Hartley conceded. Winn laughed and shoved Hartley's shirt up, then tugged it over his head and tossed it aside to join the weapons on the floor. Hartley worked at Winn's fly, opening it up and sliding his hand inside to grope his erection through his underwear.
"This is crazy," Winn gasped, as he climbed onto the desk and pushed Hartley down onto his back. Hartley went eagerly, cradling the other man between his legs and arching up against his weight. "I don't even know whose office this is."
"I don't care," Hartley said with perfect honesty. "Winn, I want you to fuck me. Right now. On this desk."
Winn choked, and blushed. "Jesus," he muttered, hiding his face against Hartley's neck. He kissed him there, and nibbled at the sensitive skin, and Hartley could still feel the heat of the blush on Winn's cheeks. "Okay," he whispered.
"Fantastic," Hartley groaned. "Get up for a second."
Winn obeyed, his eyes flicking over Hartley and then away, but drawn inexorably back. Hartley lifted his hips and skimmed out of his pants, but paused to fish a small tube out of his pocket before dumping them onto the floor. He tossed the container to Winn, who caught it and looked at it with disbelief. "You just happen to have lube in your pocket?"
"It's oil for the gloves, shut up," Hartley said with a laugh.
He cupped his own erection, stroking it slowly and fixing his gaze on Winn. Winn was standing a short distance away, his erection pushing the fabric of his underwear so it peeked out of his open fly. Winn had a somewhat gobsmacked look on his face, his eyes wide and heated as he stared.
"You gonna leave me hanging?" Hartley asked. "I can finish myself off if you want, but it's not going to be nearly as much fun for you as it is for me."
"No, no, hang on," Winn gulped, and hastily dropped his jeans. He realized he had to pull off his shoes halfway through and did so, hopping on one foot to untie his sneakers and finally dragging the pants off completely. Hartley watched eagerly, stroking himself slowly and teasingly.
Winn quickly climbed back onto the desk, which gave a warning creak. "I hope this desk is solid," Winn groaned, unscrewing the top of the container. "Or this is going to end really badly."
"Is this place well-funded?" Hartley teased.
"Have you seen my workshop? Hell yeah it is," Winn retorted.
"Then I hope they spent some of that money on office furniture."
They were both grinning like maniacs, and it should have felt wrong to be joking and laughing and doing this at all. As Hartley had said before, everything was fucked, but he couldn't stop smiling. One thing was great - and he was about to get fucked by that thing. And that was really great.
Winn kissed him, which was even better.
Hartley reached down, grabbing Winn's cock and stroking it while Winn cursed and finally managed to get his fingers covered in oil, spattering the stuff everywhere at the same time. Then tentative fingers probed at Hartley's ass and Hartley drew his legs up and open, eager.
Winn pushed his fingers past the ring of muscle and worked them in and out. Hartley groaned and thrust his tongue into Winn's mouth, making encouraging, hungry noises. It didn't take too long before Hartley's sounds ramped up to whining, his body loosening around Winn's fingers as he relaxed and adjusted to the penetration.
Finally Winn pulled his fingers away and positioned his lower body between Hartley's legs. Winn's breathing was rapid and almost panicked, but Hartley wrapped his arms around him and curled his legs around his hips. "Fuck me," he begged. "I want you, Winn."
"I want you, too," Winn groaned, and slowly he pressed into Hartley's body.
Hartley moaned as Winn's cock stretched him wide, filling him in a way he hadn't felt for far too long. It felt fantastic, and even moreso, because Winn kissed him so sweetly and groaned so loudly as he took him, all but trembling in Hartley's arms.
"Hart," Winn whispered. "You're amazing. I... I never got to be with anyone like you."
Hartley shook his head and clung as Winn began to move in and out, their bodies moving in tandem. "You're the... amazing one," Hartley gasped between thrusts.
The sweet words gave way to wordless gasps, and then harsher grunts and moans. They worked in perfect sync, as Winn thrust into Hartley's body and Hartley rose up to meet each thrust. In too-short a time, they both reached a crescendo, their breathing worked up to a rapid pace, and then a trembling stillness as their climax moved through them.
Hartley settled onto the unyielding surface of the desk, sheened with sweat and panting. Winn collapsed on top of him, panting, his hands clinging to Hartley's upper arms. They were still joined intimately, and Hartley didn't ever want that feeling to end.
"I don't want you to go," Winn whispered. "Is that bad?"
Hartley's eyes squeezed shut and he tightened his grip on the other man. "If it's bad, then I'm the worst," he murmured.
"Oh thank goodness."
~ ~ ~
Half a dozen DEO agents were struggling to hold the solid steel door against a massive hole that had crumbled in the wall. While this level was mostly underground, the ground had subsided at this side of the building, and the wall had been blasted outwards in a perfect oval - as if carved by a laser beam - when Supergirl had first become infected and left the DEO.
The first door had gone in fairly easily. They had brought it into the room after clearing the nearby zombies, and bolted to the wall, half covering the hole, but by the time they had set it into place, the zombies had started to notice.
Setting the second door in place was more of a race, as more and more zombies piled up against the door, arms and fingers pushing and sliding between the wall and the door to try to grab at the agents. One of them had gotten bit on the hand when they allowed their grip to slip too close to the outer edge of the door. Lisa had had to grab a firearm - her gold gun was completely out of charge - and shoot him in the head while everyone else dithered.
Now, in response to her shout, another man yanked his hand away from the edge of the door just in time. Teeth snapped on air, and the zombie hissed. The man who had nearly been bitten picked up his rifle and slammed the butt of it against the zombie's face. Bone shattered and the zombie slid back out out of view, but was replaced almost instantly by more reaching and grabbing fingers.
"Mark, help me," Lisa said desperately. Mark was sitting against the back wall, as far from the zombies as possible, his face pale and sweaty. At Lisa's plea he hauled himself up and gathered the last dregs of his strength.
Ice flowed from his fingers in a narrow cone, which he played around the outsides of the door. Zombies hissed as their fingers and hands froze. Lisa slammed the butt of her gun against them, shattering them and clearing the way.
Finally the door was flush against the wall and overlapping the other door. Drills sang and huge long screws were driven deep into the concrete and through the steel door through pre-drilled holes Hartley and Winn had helped them with.
And with that, the room was secure. The frustrated moans of the zombies outside were muted by the thick steel doors, almost inaudible under the harsh pants and groans of the humans inside.
"Go rest," Lisa said. "You all did great. Buddy up and check each other for zombie bites first, though - no exceptions. If any of you turns because your buddy did a shitty job, I'm putting a bullet in both heads."
"Yes, ma'am," one of the agents said. Lisa didn't hesitate, but strode out of the room, headed for the hospital.
She navigated the short hallway, heart in her throat. Last she'd heard, Cisco was in a coma of some kind. She was tired, covered in blood and guts, and not looking her best, but she wouldn't wait another minute before verifying that he was okay.
Halfway there, she heard the unmistakable sounds of sex coming from an office. She didn't pause, shaking her head with amusement as she heard a name called out breathlessly. You go, Hart, she thought.
Then she saw the hole in the wall that would lead into the infirmary. She hurried through and caught Caitlin emerging from a room up ahead. The other woman looked tired, her eyes reddened, and she didn't notice Lisa immediately, her eyes downcast as she read a printout.
Caitlin looked up, and her eyes widened. "Lisa... Are you hurt?"
Lisa looked down at herself, then waved a hand. "Don't think any of this is mine. Sorry, I should shower. I just wanted to see Cisco, first."
"Oh..." Caitlin drew a breath and let it out. "Of course. This way." She opened the door she had just come through and held it for Lisa. "He's through here."
First, Lisa saw little, only the broad back of Mick standing between the door and the rest of the room. He glanced back when the door opened. "Hey Lise," he rumbled, and moved to the side, backing off to lean against the wall.
And Lisa saw Cisco, lying on a cot. He turned his head and looked at her, and smiled. "Lisa!"
"Cisco!" Lisa hurried forward, her heart in her throat. "You're awake! They said you were unconscious."
"Woah, hang on there!" Mick grabbed Lisa around the waist, dragging her back a few inches. "What're you doin' Lise?"
She struggled against Mick's hold. "Mick, what are you doing? Let me go!"
Suddenly Caitlin was between Lisa and Cisco, blocking her, her hands raised. "Lisa, you can't. He's infected."
Lisa went perfectly still, freezing in Mick's embrace. She stared past Caitlin into the bloodshot eyes of her boyfriend. "Oh no... Cisco," she said. Mick let her go, slowly, like he was ready to grab her again if she lunged towards Cisco.
But she remained perfectly still, carved like ice, or like one of her gold sculptures. She should have been prepared for this - she should have considered it was a possibility. Cisco had been buried under the rubble along with J'onn J'onzz, who had been infected without a noticeable bite. It shouldn't have been surprising that he was also infected.
If she just told herself that enough times, maybe she'd start to believe it.
"Hey, Lise?" Cisco whispered, his eyes wide. "Won't you let me out of these? Please, I don't know what's wrong with Mick and Caitlin, but they won't listen."
Lisa turned to Caitlin, her eyes sliding off of Cisco like he was coated in teflon, and focused entirely on the other woman's face. "Are you going to be able to cure him?"
Caitlin's expression was brittle as spun sugar. She nodded firmly. "I'm going to find a way. I've already started testing his blood."
"Good," Lisa said. "Keep me informed."
She spun on her heel and walked out. Mick had to almost leap to get out of her way. She brushed past him, head high and shoulders back, and met Hartley and Winn coming out of an office, looking disheveled and flushed with puppy love.
Hartley's eyes widened. "Oh Lisa, did you see--"
She smirked wickedly and swept past like a steam ship. "Hartley, you naughty boy. Taking a little break?"
Winn blushed and stammered, pressing back away from her as she passed. "Ah, we-- Just for a minute."
"Don't tell me you only lasted that long, Winnslow," Lisa purred. "I'd be disappointed on Hart's behalf."
"Trust me," Hartley said, a testy edge in his tone. "I've got no complaints."
And with that, she had escaped them, around the corner and down the hall. She didn't stop until she had reached the stairwell, and then she went up, up to the top, to where the door to the roof had been barred to keep any zombies from getting in.
There, she sat on the top step and stared down at her hands for a long while, thinking of nothing.
Chapter 21: Unstoppable Heroic Force Meets Immovable Criminal Object
Barry hadn't wanted to leave Alex alone in the lab once she'd done drawing samples from his arm, but he also didn't like leaving Len alone. When Alex had finished up, he had made a token protest to Kara, begging her again to just let them be and stop holding them prisoner, but she'd been firm.
"Once you're one of us properly, it'll be different, Barry!" she'd said cheerfully. "Don't you worry. Alex will figure out a way to turn your boyfriend into a metahuman, and then he'll be safe to turn, too. Then we'll all be a family."
The greenish popsicle that was Kyle was locked in a small, airtight box. Barry hoped he'd wake up soon and turn human again, but suspected that he wouldn't be human too much longer after that, so maybe it was best that he stay in his gas form.
Two zombies escorted Barry down into the bowels of the building, and back to his cell. Barry flirted with the idea of just speeding away, trying to break them all out, but it just all seemed so hopeless. Now he had three people to rescue - Alex, Len, and Kyle. And he still didn't know why he couldn't use his powers on certain doors. If he tried to escape, even if he managed to get one person out, he'd just be abandoning the others.
He had to wait for a plan.
So he allowed the zombies to escort him without protest, and stepped into the cell willingly. Len lay roughly where Barry had last seen him, curled against the wall on the floor. He looked up, and his eyes narrowed.
"How're you doing, Barry?"
"I'm fine," Barry assured him. "I'm doing fine. I haven't turned yet. Alex says that my healing factor is slowing down the progress of the virus." He crossed the room and dropped down to sit next to Len, putting his arms around the other man and hugging him tight.
Len wrapped his arms around him in return, letting out a long sigh. "That's fantastic."
"Um, Kyle Nimbus came here," Barry said tentatively.
Len tensed. "And?"
"And... Kara froze him somehow with her breath," Barry said miserably. "I think he's okay, but he's locked in an airtight container."
"Also, I think he tried to kill me, so... that's a thing."
Len went very still. "He. Did what."
Barry sighed. "He said something about, because I was infected, I was going to turn and still have my powers, but be part of the zombie hive mind. I think he decided I was a threat that was going to be a problem soon."
Len ran a hand over his face. "Well," he said wryly. "To be fair, he's not wrong. But I'm going to murder him anyway."
Len grunted stubbornly and tugged Barry closer. An entire conversation was contained in that single word and answering grunt, and both of them knew neither of them actually had to say anything further. Barry wouldn't stand by while Len murdered anyone - even one of the criminals who worked for him - and Len wouldn't abide anyone actually trying to kill Barry.
Unstoppable heroic force meets immovable criminal object.
"So what happened?" Len said after a few moments of silence. "Where'd you go?"
Barry sighed. "Kara brought her sister Alex here. She's a doctor, and Kara wants her to figure out how to turn people into metahumans, by studying my physiology."
"What the hell? Why?" Len asked, frowning.
"I think... because metahumans keep their minds when they've been turned into zombies," Barry said softly. "Like she did. So if she turns her friends into metahumans, they won't be mindless zombies, but will still be her friends. She keeps saying that you'll be okay, because she won't turn you into a zombie until we've figured out how to turn you into a metahuman first."
"Do you think she can do it?"
Barry shrugged. "Eobard Thawne knew exactly how to make metahumans. I'm assuming if there was an easier way than to create an entire particle accelerator to make the dark matter, then he would have done it. I don't see how it's possible." He sighed. "On the good side, though, so long as Alex is working on it, it means that you'll be safe."
Len rubbed the spot between his eyes. "Well thank you to Kara," he said sarcastically. "Looking out for you and I and all."
"It's not her fault, Len," Barry said. "She's not in her right mind. The virus is controlling her."
"Yeah, yeah, I know."
Len sagged in Barry's arms, and Barry cuddled him closer. He knew that Len's sarcasm was just a defense mechanism. Barry had no doubt that Len felt helpless and frustrated, and had to be out of his mind with worry about Lisa, and Mick - and Barry, too, of course. Barry couldn't think of a way to reassure him.
"How long do you think we'll be stuck in here together?" Len asked quietly, rubbing his hand up and down Barry's uninjured arm.
Barry glanced up, brows furrowed with confusion. "Why, do you want me to leave?"
Len snorted. "No, idiot. I..." He paused, obviously struggling, as he often did when emotions were at play. Barry waited patiently until Len drew a breath and spoke. "I'm hoping we can have some time, just you and me, without thinking about all this shit. I missed you, and every fucking second we've had since you arrived has sucked, except for the fact that you're here."
Barry's confusion cleared, and he found a tentative smile. "Well, I'm here now, and I don't think there's anyone about to bother us for a while. Alex said she had all the samples she needed for now."
Len nodded, his face clearing with relief. "Well, good, because I want to kiss you, properly." He paused. "If that's okay. I know this isn't the sexiest situation."
Barry kissed him, and it was sweet and warm, and as wonderful as ever. He climbed up to straddle his legs, the kiss drawing out. Their hands ran over one another's chest and back, as if rediscovering each other for the first time.
Barry had worried that Len wouldn't want to do this right now. Stuck in a zombie prison, not exactly smelling his best, and in a life-threatening situation - not exactly the kind of environment that lent itself to sexy-times.
How wrong he was.
Barry's hands slipped under Len's shirt within moments after their tongues began to grapple. He skimmed his fingernails over Len's chest, the nails stuttering over the scars that littered Len's skin. Then he tugged at Len's fly, opening it up and slipping a hand inside to massage his groin. Len groaned and his breathing began to quicken, his cock stiffening immediately under Barry's fingers. Len's hand pressed between Barry's legs, rubbing at him in return.
"Barry..." Len groaned. Barry gave a soft growl and bent to kiss and suck at Len's throat. "You are a fucking danger addict."
Barry turned as red as his suit. "I... I don't know what you're talking about," he stammered between kisses. "Len, are you sure this is okay? You're hurt."
"I'm fine, Barry," he murmured. "If I wasn't up to this, you'd know, because I'd be already dead."
Barry laughed, and kissed him again. Len unfastened the front of Barry's Flash suit and slipped a hand inside. They stroked one another and kissed, and even shared a few more laughs, until they both reached orgasm.
Len sacrificed one of his socks to the cause of cleaning up the resulting sticky mess, then tossed it into a far corner while Barry curled up on top of him and promptly fell asleep.
~ ~ ~
There had to be a way out of this situation. They couldn't just keep waiting like princesses in a tower for someone to rescue them.
The fact that Kyle was out of action was a massive blow - Lisa had sent him for a reason, and couldn't possibly know what had happened to him yet. She might not figure out that Kyle's mission had failed for hours. How long would she wait before giving up and trying something else? And what would be her next move? If she sent in someone else - Shawna Baez, perhaps - that person would be in even more danger than Kyle had been, and more likely to fail the mission.
And then what?
His mind whirled in circles, thinking through every angle. Len was a planner. He'd never run into a problem he couldn't solve.
To his own amazement, the beginnings of an idea occurred to him. But to his annoyance, Barry was still sleeping, lying very still in Len's arms. He shook Barry's shoulder.
"Hey sleepyhead, I need to think, and you need to listen." With Barry lying on top of him, he couldn't pace. And with Barry asleep, he couldn't bounce ideas off of him.
Barry didn't move. Len grimaced, caught between giving him the time to sleep when he was so obviously exhausted, and getting his chance to talk through his ideas.
He shook his shoulder again. And again.
Barry's head lolled bonelessly, like a corpse, and Len felt his heart rate triple.
"No," he whispered. "No, Barry."
He clutched at Barry desperately, no longer trying to wake him up, but only cling to him, as if somehow he could keep him alive by physically holding his soul in place. "Barry, wake up. I love you! Please, wake up!"
Barry stirred and Len breathed again. "I love you, too," he murmured, and nuzzled into Len's chest. "Why're you waking me up? I was sleeping..."
Len swallowed his heart, feeling it slow. He was panicking for nothing. Barry's healing factor had to be working overtime to compensate for the virus, and no wonder he was exhausted. Len immediately regretted disturbing him in the first place.
"It was no big deal," Len assured him hastily.
Barry grinned. "I heard you say you loved me."
Len felt a traitorous flush touch the tips of his ears. "Maybe I did," he said gruffly. Then he swallowed his pride, and decided to be a man about it. "I do lo..." He paused, drew a breath and soldiered on. "I do love you," he said firmly. "I'm sorry I didn't say it before, but I..." He stopped, his throat closing.
Barry kissed him on the cheek, the temple, hands stroking him reassuringly. "I love you," Barry whispered. "But don't worry, Len. You'll have lots of chances to say it - or not say it. I promise."
Len nodded, then shook his head. What he couldn't say, but which Barry understood, was a simple fact. Len hadn't wanted Barry to die without Len ever getting up the courage to say the words.
Then Barry raised his head and blinked at Len, smiling sweetly, and Len's heart stopped again.
Barry's eyes were bloodshot.
Len stared into Barry's eyes. "Barry?" he asked, his heart resuming its earlier frantic gallop. "You okay?"
Barry grinned, yawned, stretched, and settled onto Len's chest again. "Yeah, yeah I feel great. Better, actually. How long did I sleep?"
Len closed his eyes. "Just a little while," he said, his voice carefully even. Was he about to die? There was an urge to push the thing that had once been Barry away from him and run, but he was in a tiny metal box with that thing. And Barry was a speedster - even if the door opened, where could Len run to?
Maybe he was just being paranoid. He pressed a gentle finger to the side of Barry's neck, but Barry moved and raised his head before he could feel for a pulse. "What did you want to talk to me about, anyway?"
Len opened his eyes, his paranoia pinging like alarm bells, and looked up into Barry's innocent face. His instincts said to say nothing, to push Barry away and shut down. Barry was the only person who was here, the only person who could help him, but Len had learned since an early age not to rely on that.
But if there was one thing Barry was teaching him, it was not to trust those instincts he'd been taught by his father. Len was learning another way - and he wanted to learn another way.
He closed his eyes, drew a breath, and opened them again. "Barry," he said softly. "I need you to hold still for a second."
Barry cocked his head. "Okay...? I'm not going anywhere."
Len nodded and lifted his hand again. He paused, his hand hovering a few inches away from Barry. His heart rate increased again, and he held his position. Frozen.
For a long moment, he considered putting his hand down again, just... not knowing. Not checking. Every part of him just wanted Barry to be fine, and if he didn't know that Barry was a zombie, he could just go on pretending that he wasn't.
Idiot, he told himself in his father's voice. What kind of a coward are you? You've never been the guy to pretend the world wasn't what it was.
Barry gazed at him with utter trust.
Len forced himself to move. He rested two fingers against the side of Barry's neck.
Nothing. Len made a soft noise of protest. A helpless, animal sound of pain.
"Hey... I'm okay," Barry whispered. "I'm okay, Len."
Len closed his eyes. "Barry," he said, in a strangled voice. "You don't have a heartbeat."
"Yes I do," Barry said. He pushed himself up, straddling Len and pressing two fingers to his wrist. "I do!" he insisted. "My heartbeat is too fast for you to feel it, but it's there. It's been like that ever since I became the Flash."
Len drew a breath, then opened his eyes. Barry gazed down at him earnestly, his brows furrowed and his eyes filled with guileless sincerity. As always.
And Len didn't believe any of it.
Len smiled. "That explains it," he said, rubbing his hands up and down Barry's thighs. "Anyway, I'm sorry to wake you up. I thought I had an idea, but it disappeared on me."
Barry laughed and scooted down again, giving Len a dry peck on the lips. "I hate it when that happens." He snuggled up again, tucking his head under Len's chin.
Len wrapped his arms around the corpse of his beloved, and buried his face in his soft hair. He still smelled like lightning and spices. How long before that comforting scent would be replaced by the miasma of death?
"If it comes back to you, you'll tell me, right?" Barry asked.
"Of course I will," Len lied.
Chapter 22: That's What All The Zombies Do
Mick didn't think that Lisa had left the room to go cry.
He didn't think that because of a few different reasons.
One, Lisa didn't cry. Mick had known Lisa nearly her entire life, and he had never seen her cry, even when she was a really little kid and a lot less pretty than she was today.
Two, if Mick thought that Lisa was off somewhere crying, then he would have to go out and find her. But the problem was, he felt like Caitlin might need him more right now.
That was a thing Mick wasn't used to. He wasn't used to people needing him, and he was even less used to that mattering. Even more insane, the last place Mick actually wanted to be was here in this room with a zombie Cisco - yet here he was. Still standing there. In the room. With zombie Cisco and a silent Caitlin who was standing far too close to zombie Cisco for Mick's comfort.
Caitlin pulled a wheeled trolley over to Cisco's bedside. On that trolley was a rack of empty vials and some hoses and other stuff. She picked up a big needle and reached for Cisco's arm.
Cisco squirmed. "What are you doing?" he asked. He couldn't actually pull his hand away because there was a cuff holding it to the bed, but it turned out that he could sit up and snap his teeth in a way that made Mick want to move even further away, but it was impossible because he was already against the wall.
Caitlin, however, could get further away. In fact, she was now several inches distant from Cisco than she'd been before. She seemed okay, though. She just looked over her shoulder at Mick and gestured to him. "Mick, can you hold him?"
Mick very much wanted to say no, but that would be totally pussying out, and Mick was not a pussy. He forced himself to take a step closer, and then another one. "You want me to hold his head?"
"Yes. Please." Her tone was clipped. Almost unfriendly. "Can you?"
"Course I can," Mick grunted. He stepped closer. And then a little closer. And he gave Cisco's bed a wide berth until he was lined up with the back of Cisco's head. Then he moved closer again and put his hands very carefully - and firmly on either side of Cisco's head. If he didn't hold him well, Cisco might bite him, so he held on tight.
Cisco squirmed again. "Mick, you can let go. I just wanted to know what Caitlin was doing!"
"I ain't lettin' go, because you're gonna bite me," Mick told him.
"I'm not going to bite you, Mick!" Cisco tilted his head back a couple of inches, fighting the hold, and looked up at Mick. "I swear! I don't want to bite you." He paused, and pouted. "C'mon Caitlin. What are you doing? You can tell me that."
"I'm taking some blood, Cisco," Caitlin said. She pressed on Cisco's arm a few times, stuck the needle into his skin, and then put one of the tubes into the end of the needle. Blood began to fill the tube, and Caitlin muttered to herself. "Subject's heart is still beating, despite clear expression of the virus." Then, louder, she added. "I'm trying to figure out how to cure you, Cisco."
Cisco sighed. "Caitlin, I don't need to get cured."
"See, that's why we gotta cure you," Mick grumbled. "Because you lie, now. You didn't lie before."
"What?" Cisco's dismay and shock actually looked exactly like it had before. "What do you mean? I haven't lied."
"Yeah you did."
"I didn't! When did I lie to you?"
"What did I say?"
Mick grunted. He was getting irritated, and his hands were getting tired. Caitlin had half the rack of tubes full of blood. "When you said you didn't wanna bite me. You'd bite me in a second if I let go. You're a fuckin' zombie. That's what all the zombies do."
"I wouldn't, actually."
Mick rolled his eyes. "Another fuckin' lie."
"I wouldn't!" Cisco was trying to crane his neck around to look at Mick. "I really wouldn't."
"You literally just tried to bite me, Cisco!" Caitlin exclaimed. Her voice was far too high.
"Well, I do want to bite you, Caitlin!" Cisco said.
Caitlin's hands froze. She stared at Cisco for a few moments, then up at Mick, then pulled the needle out of Cisco's arm and pressed a cotton ball to the crook of Cisco's elbow.
"Cisco, why do you want to bite me, and not Mick?" she asked quietly, her eyes trained on the tubes as she methodically labelled them.
Cisco sighed. "Because you're a metahuman, Caitlin, and Mick isn't." He beamed. "But don't worry. I'm sure Alex and Barry are working on that problem."
Mick quickly let go of Cisco's face and took several steps back. Even though Cisco claimed he was telling the truth about the biting thing, Mick wasn't going to take a risk by sticking his fingers anywhere near Cisco's mouth. That was just crazy.
"What problem?" Mick demanded.
Now released, Cisco twisted his head around to look at Mick and beamed. "J'onn took Alex back to Kara so she could try to figure out how to make you all into metahumans, and once you are, then you can be infected without turning dumb. You'll be just like me." He spread his hands, the chains rattling against the frame of the cot. "If you really want to help, you'd let me go. I helped make Barry become the Flash in the first place, so I could do a lot. I know all kinds of things about dark matter. Don't you get it?"
"Mick, I need to see you in the other room," Caitlin said, walking towards the door. "Now, please."
Mick paused. Caitlin had left the blood vials behind, and he could even see that only half of them were labelled. The pen had fallen off the trolley and it was rolling across the floor. But Caitlin had disappeared through the door, and she was moving so fast it almost looked like she was running.
He followed, and closed the door behind him.
Caitlin turned when the door closed, and threw herself into his arms. He grunted at the unexpected embrace and stiffened, but slowly wrapped his arms around her, resting his hands at the small of her back.
"I'm sorry," she gasped. "I don't-- I'll be fine."
"S'okay," Mick grunted. He could count on the fingers of one hand how many times a gal had cried on his shoulder. Now, Caitlin wasn't actually crying, but she was sort of trembling on the edge of it, so it was practically the same thing.
She fell silent, clinging to him and shaking with emotion, for several minutes, before finally drawing a breath and letting it out. It sounded like she was gearing up to say or do something, but Mick beat her to it.
"You heard what he said?"
"Yes," Caitlin said. He'd thought she was going to pull away, but instead she relaxed into his embrace once again. "It... it sounds like there's a reason he's lucid, and it has something to do with him being a metahuman. At least, that's what he believes."
"You think he's wrong?" Mick asked, frowning.
Caitlin shook her head, then pressed her cheek against his chest. "No, I don't think so. But why would being a metahuman matter?" She continued on before Mick could think of a reply. "Unless the dark matter interacts with the zombie virus in a way that changes how it expresses. Maybe whatever causes low brain activity in zombies is deactivated in metahumans. And whatever Supergirl is, too."
"She's an alien," Mick said, with certainty. "Don't know anything about dark matter. Is that different from regular matter?"
She seemed to be coming alive, smiling once again, and her brain was buzzing so fast that Mick almost imagined he could hear it. "I think I need to do an EKG." She leaned up and gave Mick a kiss on the lips, startling him in a totally pleasant way. "Will you help me? I'll need you to hold Cisco again, and it seems like he wants to wait until they've turned you into a metahuman before biting you. It's almost kind, in a way."
Mick grunted. "I don't think I wanna be a metahuman. You guys are all fuckin' nuts."
Caitlin laughed, and she patted him on the back, then finally released him. "Well, don't worry. I don't think there's any way Alex can turn you into a metahuman, no matter how long she studies Barry's physiology."
"Right, 'cause you need that big building where you guys always hang out," Mick said. "But don't you think Cisco knows that?"
Caitlin had turned to walk away, but stopped short at the question. She paused and turned back to him. "Well, yeah, he must know that. But Supergirl might not."
"But the zombies can talk to each other in their brains, right? That's how Cisco knows about what Alex is doin'."
"Right," Caitlin said thoughtfully. "But... Cisco doesn't know what Alex is doing."
Mick could practically see the wheels turning in Caitlin's brain. "He said he's sure that Alex is working with Barry. He knows why J'onn took Alex, but he doesn't know what Alex is doing now. But if he was in constant contact with the other zombies, then he should know what Kara knows, which means he'd know what Alex is doing right now."
"So they can't talk from so far away?" Mick asked.
"Maybe," Caitlin said. She grimaced. "I have so many hypotheses I want to test. I just don't have enough data. If I had another metahuman zombie I could compare to Cisco, that also might tell us something, but it's not like we can get one of those."
"Not unless we do what Cisco wants," Mick said. "All the smart zombies are over where Kara is, and he wants us to all go there."
"Right." Caitlin stood still, staring at the ground for a long moment, then she looked up. "Come on. Let's run that EKG. I've got to think about this some more, but don't say anything to Cisco about this, okay?"
Mick nodded. "Got it," he grunted, and followed her back into the room where zombie Cisco waited.
~ ~ ~
Lisa quickly wiped her eyes and got to her feet at the sound of Mark's voice calling for her. She trotted down the stairs. "I'm here!" she called back.
A pounding of boots on steps answered her call, and a moment later Mark rounded the corner. His eyes were wide and his hair wild even compared to what she'd expect after such a long, exhausting battle. "Lisa it's-- come on," he said, reaching for her elbow. She had to hurry even more - an uncomfortable proposition, with Mark's hand firm on her elbow as they hurtled down the stairs.
"What the hell?" she demanded, half ready to yank her arm out of his grasp and half worried if she did so it would throw her off-balance enough that she'd take a tumble. "Mark, let me go!"
Instead of obeying, he launched himself over the edge of the balcony at the next landing. His other arm wrapped around her waist, and she shrieked as she threw her arms around his neck.
But they didn't hurtle down to their deaths, they only free-fell about halfway before a whirlwind of cold air began to slow them. Mark was rigid in Lisa's grasp, and she didn't want to disturb his concentration and end up breaking both of her legs, so she held her tongue and simmered the rest of the way to the basement.
But she didn't waste any time once her feet were firmly on the ground. "Mark, you had better explain why you nearly killed me!"
"Just look," he said tightly. "It's Roy."
The tone of his voice shut Lisa up more effectively than anything could have. She'd never heard Mark sound so bleak, except on the rare occasions when he mentioned his dead brother.
And in a few more steps, she understood why.
There had been a bloodbath in the control room. Roy was sitting on the floor, his face pale behind his glasses, pressing his palm tightly to his thigh. His jeans were soaked black with blood. There were several DEO agents milling around, and a couple of bodies on the floor, including one fully-turned zombie that lay on the floor with its brains spilling out from a large bullet hole in its forehead.
"What the fuck happened?" Lisa asked, her voice barely rising above a whisper despite the emotion and anger fueling the words. She pulled her gold gun and pointed it straight at Roy. Everyone else backed away.
Roy looked up. "There was one we missed," he said. "One fucker who was hiding a bite. He turned while you were all fighting your way up the stairs. One minute he was fine, and the next second he had turned on us." He was pale with pain, and she couldn't tell if his eyes were bloodshot behind his yellow glasses, but he was lucid.
He was lucid. Just like Cisco.
Lisa lowered her gun. "Roy, I can't tell if you're turned yet or not, honey. But here's what's going to happen. If you close your mouth, and do exactly as I say, then you're going to live a little longer. If you make any move to hurt anyone, then you'll die right now. Understand?"
He blinked rapidly, and nodded jerkily. "Yeah," he said, his voice a rasp. "I understand, Lise." Then he closed his mouth and watched her, eyes glimmering slightly behind the lenses of his glasses.
Lisa looked at Mark, and pointed. "Gag him, and tie him up. Then we're going to get him to Caitlin."
Mark stared at her for a few seconds, then let out a breath and nodded. "You're nuts, Lise, but if that's what you want, I'm game." He gestured to some of the DEO agents, who were still keeping their distance. "Go on, get me something to use to tie him up. Go!"
People scrambled to obey. Within moments, someone had come with a sheet, and several people applied utility knives to cut it into strips.
Quickly, the ropes were brought to Mark and he approached Roy with them held out in front of him like a paltry shield. Roy looked up at him with his lips pressed tightly together.
"You good, Roy?" Mark asked, dropping to one knee in front of the other man. He spoke like a cowboy wrangling a terrified horse, slow and low and even. Several DEO agents gathered around behind Roy, ready to reach and restrain him if he lunged.
Roy nodded slowly.
"All right, open up. We're gonna gag you first so you can't bite," Mark said.
Lisa's stomach had tied itself up into one big knot. She watched as Roy opened his mouth obediently, and Mark slid a braided length of cotton between Roy's teeth and tied it efficiently behind his head. Lisa was reminded of a horse being bridled.
Once the gag was in place, everyone in the room relaxed fractionally.
It wasn't long before Roy's wrists were also lashed behind his back. Once he was trussed up like a turkey, Mark helped him to his feet. Roy winced and limped, and Lisa stepped closer. "We should bind up his leg, too, so he doesn't bleed too much."
There was a general ripple of cautious agreement at this. Roy gave her a look of deep gratitude.
Soon, another length of fabric had been sacrificed to that cause, and wound several times around Roy's leg. The blood soaked through the first layer almost immediately, but only a few spots appeared on the second and third layer of the bandage.
When they reached the stairwell, though, Roy had a pained look on his face. "Can you carry him up, Mark?" Lisa asked, craning her neck upwards.
Roy made a loud sound of negation and shook his head. "Ah cah do ee," he managed through the gag.
"He can do it," Mark said with a shrug.
Lisa nodded and waved them off. "Go, then. Get him to Caitlin quick as you can. She'll help him, somehow." With that, she turned away and glared at the gathered agents. "Let's get this place cleaned up!"
She had to believe that Caitlin would help Roy. If she could help Roy, then she could help Cisco as well.
Chapter 23: She's My Girls
Lisa didn't need to come along, but she found herself following Mark and Roy all the way up the stairs and down the hall to the infirmary anyway. She might have tried to tell herself that she was In Charge, and therefore needed to stick around. She also might have told herself that she had to make sure Mark didn't do anything crazy like kill Roy on the way. But the truth was more of a horrified fascination - she couldn't tear herself away. She had to know what was going to happen to Roy.
When they marched the gagged and bound Roy through the doorway into the infirmary, Lisa looked around quickly, but there was no sign of anyone. Lisa's stomach clenched as she concluded that Caitlin and Mick had to be in the room with Cisco, which wasn't that surprising, in retrospect. She squared her shoulders, set aside her emotions ruthlessly, and took the lead.
"This way," she said, striding over to the door and pulling it open.
"Caitlin?" Lisa called.
"Hey Lisa!" said Cisco. Lisa didn't have any intention of looking at him or even acknowledging his presence, but her eyes were drawn towards him anyway as she took in the full scene. Mick was standing just behind Cisco's head, holding him still while Caitlin stuck plastic circles to his forehead. Lisa realized that the circles were electrodes, connected to a machine that was currently turned off.
Caitlin glanced up briefly, then pulled her hand away from Cisco and turned, her eyes widening with horror. "Oh no... Roy?"
"Showwy," Roy apologized through the gag, his head dropping.
"He hasn't turned," Mark said. "Not yet, we don't think."
Caitlin sprang into action. "Mick, can you bring over that other cot, please?" She gestured to a second bed which had been pushed against the far wall, out of the way. Mick grunted an acknowledgement and let go of Cisco, marching over and grabbing the cot, dragging it over next to Cisco's. Caitlin directed things in a clipped and authoritative tone, telling Mick just where to place the cot and how to lock the wheels, then ordering Mark to bring Roy over and help him lay down on it.
Somewhat to Lisa's surprise, neither Roy nor Mark objected to being ordered around by a member of Team Flash. Lisa stood back and watched, her eyes drawn to Cisco, who was watching her.
She swallowed and looked away.
"Hey Lisa?" Cisco called out, his voice carrying easily. Mick was holding Roy down while Caitlin and Mark latched the cuffs onto his wrists and ankles, despite the fact that Roy wasn't struggling. None paid any attention to Cisco's call.
Even Lisa. Really. She wasn't listening. Her lips thinned and her shoulders tightened, and she studied a wall chart showing a webbing of nerves laid out in the shape of a human body.
"Lisa, I know you're scared," Cisco said. "But it's okay. I love you, and I'm not gonna hurt you, I swear."
Lisa twitched. Hard. That word - the "L" word - was even harder to hear when it came from a virus masquerading as her boyfriend. "Shut up," she snapped, low and vicious. "Don't pretend you're him."
"But I am me!" Cisco said desperately. "Caitlin, tell her! I'm still me, and I won't bite her."
Caitlin was taking Roy's temperature and attaching electrodes to his forehead in the same pattern as Cisco. "That's what I'm trying to find out, Cisco," she said calmly. "What we do know is that Cisco claims to only want to bite metahumans, and isn't so interested in turning regular humans into zombies just now. Roy, how do you feel?"
"My leg hurts, doc," Roy said, his voice trembling. "It's burning." He was sweating and shivering at the same time. Caitlin grimaced and gestured Mick and Mark away. "You can go if you want," she said to Mark. "I'm sure you have something better to do."
Mark grimaced, taking a step back. "Can't really think of anything."
"What I mean is, get out," Caitlin said, turning away and walking towards a bank of more equipment, and beginning to wheel another EEG machine over to Roy's bed. "My patients don't need a hoard of gawkers around. They need rest and quiet. Only people who need to be here can stay."
"What about him?" Mark demanded, jabbing a thumb at Mick, who had retreated to a corner and folded his arms protectively across his chest as he watched Caitlin work.
"He's my assistant," Caitlin said, turning her head and fixing Mark with a cold stare.
Mark looked at Lisa. Lisa shrugged. "Come on, Mark," she said, and took two steps towards the door.
"No, Lisa. You can stay," Caitlin said.
"What the fuck, her too?" Mark bawled with frustration. "Is she your assistant, too, now?"
Caitlin finished hooking up the machine, which began to beep and show a pattern of lines zig-zagging up and down on the screen. She removed the gag from Roy's mouth and walked away, already set on another inscrutable task. Cisco's monitor also showed a series of jagged lines. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the patterns as far as Lisa could tell.
"I want Lisa to stay, because she's part of the experiment. Get out, Mardon, I won't say it again," Caitlin snapped. "And I don't want anyone else coming in here for the next hour."
"Aye aye, ma'am. Jeez," Mark snarled, and stomped towards the door. Lisa rolled her eyes. It was so Mark to throw a fit at not being allowed to stay, as if it were only the cool kids who were going to have the privilege of watching Roy Bivolo die in front of their eyes.
Mark didn't quite slam the door, though it seemed he was tempted. At the last moment, as it swung closed, he caught it and shut the door properly. Maybe even he had remembered that he was in a hospital.
"What do you need me to do, Caitlin?" Lisa asked. Caitlin had opened a bar fridge tucked under a counter and was rummaging around inside. She grasped something fairly large and straightened up, turning around.
Mick yelled and leaped - if it were possible - even further away from Caitlin. Even Lisa nearly screamed, though she managed somehow to swallow the noise before it could escape her throat.
Caitlin was holding a severed zombie head, sitting on a metal tray. Its eyes rolled blindly, having gone milky white, and its skin had gone the dull grey of meat left too long in the fridge without being cooked. Its mouth opened and closed spasmodically, teeth clacking together with a soft click-click-click.
"Nothing just yet," Caitlin said, her tone utterly businesslike as she carried the head over to a table and began sticking electrodes to its forehead as well.
"Jesus Christ, what the hell is that for?" Lisa demanded, her voice breathless from the shock and horror. Mick was just staring, jaw slack and eyes wide with horror.
"I'm curious," Caitlin said. She hooked up a third machine and then pulled a chair into the middle of the room, then sat down. "You can all join me if you wish, but you don't have to stay," she said.
Lisa and Mick exchanged glances. She'd have expected Mick to run for the hills by now - he was clearly uncomfortable, and Lisa had known about Mick's phobia of zombies since The Drive-In Movie Incident when she was ten - but to her surprise he grabbed a chair and plunked it firmly down next to Caitlin's. He sat down, grumbling and shifting in his seat.
And even more shocking, Caitlin leaned towards him and put a reassuring hand on his arm.
"Well, well," Lisa purred, glad for the distraction as she dragged a third chair over and set it down on Caitlin's other side, at a slight remove from the other two. "Don't tell me we've added yet another new member to our family."
Caitlin flushed, but she didn't remove her hand. "Let's just get through this," she said softly.
"She's my girls," Mick said proudly.
Roy's shivering had increased. Cisco lay quiet on the bed, alternating between watching Lisa with a worried and beseeching expression, and turning his head to observe Roy. After a while, Lisa noticed that Cisco's brainwaves got all spiky when he was looking at Lisa, but quieted when he looked at Roy. Roy's were spiking all over the place in no pattern that she could see.
The disembodied zombie head had nothing but a slow wave pattern, no spikes at all.
"There!" Caitlin said suddenly, her eyes widening. "Do you see it?"
"See what?" Lisa asked, brows furrowing as she looked from screen to screen.
"Look." Caitlin pointed to the disembodied zombie head. "See that wave form? The zombie has hardly any higher brain function at all, and just has this low-grade brain wave form I've never seen before. It's probably the minimum brain activity necessary for it to feed and move around, kept going by the virus."
Mick made an uncomfortable noise, and Lisa could relate. "Okay," Lisa said. "I see it."
"Look at Cisco's brain waves," Caitlin said. "Especially when he's looking at Roy."
"Huh? What about my brain?" Cisco asked.
"Be quiet right now, Cisco," Caitlin said, her eyes fixed on his brain waves. Lisa watched for a long moment, seeing a lot of wavy spikes.
Then it hit her. She looked at the disembodied zombie again, then back at Cisco's, trying to confirm what her eyes were seeing. Then she looked at Roy's pattern, and it really came together. "Cisco's is all spikey, but it's in the same pattern as the waves the zombie has," she said. "But Roy's isn't like that at all."
"Exactly!" Caitlin said. "I think that's the virus. And it also might have something to do with the hive mind behaviour they display. It's like they're thinking along the same wavelength - literally."
Roy was spasming and shuddering on the bed, and Caitlin leaped to her feet. She moved to Roy's bedside and pulled a blanket over him, tucking him in tight and making soothing noises as he whimpered. Lisa saw that she watched the monitors even as she stroked Roy's hair and comforted him. Slowly, his breathing eased, and the brain waves stilled.
But only for a few seconds. Roy's brain waves formed a single straight line for no more than a second or two, and then began to move up and down slowly in the exact same spiky wave pattern as Cisco had.
Caitlin pulled away, just as Roy opened his eyes again, drawing a deep breath and letting it out. "I'm okay, I'm okay," he said, voice shaking. "I haven't turned."
But Lisa knew he was lying. The spikes were back, but the lines didn't zig-zag back and forth across a straight axis anymore. They jigged and jagged up and down, following the gentle wave amplitude shared by Cisco and the disembodied zombie.
Caitlin, Lisa, and Mick shared a long look. "Well," Caitlin said sadly. "We have a new diagnostic tool."
"Does that help us in any actual way?" Lisa asked, getting to her feet.
Caitlin turned her head to look at the monitors again, thoughtful. "I don't really know," she said.
Chapter 24: It Was Full of Teeth
The alien battlestation that Kara had made into her lair-slash-zombie-making-factory wasn't the greatest setting for Alex to perform medical tests. To be fair, it did seem to Alex that the alien machines were meant to perform medical functions, but there was a significant learning curve to using them for a human accustomed to studying aliens on human made machines, as opposed to studying humans on alien made machines. Those two were not equivalent skills at all.
Lucky for her, she had no intention of actually figuring out how to turn the entire Earth population into metahumans so that Kara could safely infect them all with the zombie virus. Because... just no. So the fact that she didn't know how to use the machines created a convenient excuse for why it was taking a while.
She had dutifully drained Barry of as much blood as he could safely provide without compromising his healing factor - the same healing factor she hoped would continue to hold off the zombie virus long enough for them to find a cure. Now that Barry had been sent back to his cell, she was poking at a machine she thought might be an alien version of a centrifuge, but she couldn't figure out how to turn it on.
The door slid open and Alex tensed, turning to see Kara enter the room. "Hi Alex!" Kara said cheerfully, flashing her trademark smile that made Alex's heart ache and her stomach clench. "How's it going?"
"Great, Kara. I'm just about to centrifuge Barry's blood," Alex lied. "How are you?"
"Can't complain," Kara chirped. She gave Alex a quick hug. "I'm so glad you're here," she gushed. "Are you making any progress with Barry?"
"Some," Alex said noncommittally, her body shivering in Kara's gentle arms. "You know, it's not going to be easy to figure this out. There's no guarantee that anyone could learn how to make metahumans just by studying one."
"I know you can do it, Alex," Kara said warmly. "I believe in you. Besides, I have another option. Didn't Cisco actually help to make metahumans?"
"I think that's true, in a sense," Alex said cautiously. "Why?"
"Well, he's turned by now. He's too far away for me to ask him to help, but I'm about to fix that."
She released Alex and turned away, humming as she walked towards the cabinet where she had sealed Kyle Nimbus away. The glass front of the cabinet showed a roiling green fog. "Don't let me interrupt, though! You've got a lot to do."
"So you didn't come to check on me?" Alex asked, her stomach sinking. Despite the adrenaline coursing through her system, she had to suppress a yawn, and wondered what time it was.
"Oh no, not really. I mean, yeah." Kara grinned at Alex over her shoulder. "But Kyle should be done, now, so I thought I'd let him out and get him to help a bit, too."
"Done?" Alex asked, then yelped as Kara reached for the latch. "What are you doing?"
"Don't worry, Alex," Kara said, and twisted the latch, unsealing the airtight container. The green mist flowed out of the container and formed into the shape of the bald-headed man. Kyle turned to look at Alex, and there was a hunger in his eyes. Bloodshot eyes. His skin, though it had always been pale, now had a grey pallor that he hadn't had before.
"Oh my god," Alex breathed. "How? He was infected? When was he bitten?"
"He wasn't bitten," Kara said, patting him on the shoulder. He turned to Kara and grinned ferally. "I passed it on to him the same way I did J'onn, and Cisco. With my breath. It was easy."
Alex felt her knees give way. She clutched onto the alien centrifuge as she stared in horror at Kara and Kyle. "But... but that's impossible. If the vector's airborne, then no one is safe," she gasped. "Am I infected, too? I thought you weren't going to infect humans anymore until we had solved the metahuman problem."
Kara giggled. "Alex, calm down. Only I can do it that way. It must be because I'm Kryptonian. But it's better, don't you think? All that nasty biting is gross." She turned her head to look at Alex, brows furrowing. "Gosh, you look really tired, and you're not thinking straight. Do you need a rest?"
Alex swallowed, then nodded. Anything to stall. "Yeah... yeah maybe I should lie down for a bit. I am really tired."
"No problem," Kara said brightly. "We've got time. If you can't think straight, then you won't be able to figure it out. Kyle, would you take Alex somewhere safe to rest?"
Kyle bared his teeth at Alex. "Sure."
Alex shied away from him nervously. "Kara..."
"Don't bite her, Kyle," Kara said, waggling her finger. "She's not ready, yet. I want my sister to stay with me, and if you bite her now, then she won't be able to turn all the rest of our friends into metahumans before they get to join our family."
"I get it, boss," Kyle said, rolling his eyes. Nothing about what she'd said seemed to lessen the feral hunger he had on his face as he looked at her. "I'll keep her safe, I promise."
Kara nodded. "And after that, I want you to go get the others. I need Cisco here as soon as you can get him, and if you can bring the other metahumans along, so much the better."
"Kara, please," Alex sighed, though she knew it would make no difference. "Don't."
"Go as soon as you're done with Alex," Kara said. "And be careful!"
"Aye, boss," Kyle said.
Alex groaned and allowed Kyle to escort her out of the room and down to a cell a few levels below. The cell door locked ominously, and Kyle grinned at her through the hexagonal window before drifting away.
~ ~ ~
Something like that could be catastrophic to any development of a cure, though she was also beginning to lose hope that that was ever going to happen.
She pushed herself away from the desk and turned to find Mick sitting on a chair in the corner of her lab. He had the chair tipped back onto the back two legs, his back resting against the wall, and his head was tilted to the side as he snored.
"Mick?" she called softly. She was hesitant to wake him, but didn't want him to be startled if he woke and found her gone, though she wasn't planning on going far. Lisa had invited them to sleep on the prison level tonight, but the cots up here were probably no less comfortable than a prison bed. If she stayed here, she figured she'd be able to get back to work more quickly in the morning.
He startled and blinked his eyes open, then gave a big yawn. "Did you figure it out?"
His faith in her was gratifying, and she smiled faintly. "No," she said. "But I'm too tired to keep working on it. I thought I'd get some sleep."
"Okay," he said, and got to his feet. He stretched and cracked his neck, then marched out of the room with purpose. Bemused, Caitlin finished labelling and storing away her samples in the fridge for tomorrow, then emerged and locked the lab door. She checked on Cisco and Roy, locked the door to their room as well, then went to find a bed.
What she found was Mick monkeying with two of the beds. He had pulled two of them next to each other, and was bent down underneath them, lashing them together with plastic ties.
"Oh," Caitlin said, reddening. "Are we sleeping together?"
He backed up, bashed his head on the underside of the bed, and swore, then he straightened and looked at her, his brows furrowing. "You don't wanna?"
She couldn't help but smile. "No, I do."
He grunted and bent down again, finishing his work quickly while Caitlin fussed with the blankets and sheets, spreading them out so they could cover both cots. Once the two beds were lashed together and the wheels locked, it was almost a twin-sized bed, definitely big enough for two people who didn't mind getting close - and apparently that included Mick and Caitlin right now.
Caitlin took some time in the shower, even though it would mean that she'd be going to bed with wet hair, and bound up her hair in a tight braid, then walked back over to their rough curtained-off bedroom. In the time she'd been gone, Mick had apparently gotten some food from the others. The prison level had a large amount of stockpiled food for prisoners, as it turned out, so they didn't have to rely on old sandwiches anymore.
They munched on MREs, sitting side by side, while Caitlin yawned and fought to keep her eyes open. When the food was demolished, Mick put his heat gun on a stand next to the bed, then settled onto his back, and she cuddled up against him. She found with the greater amount of space, that she fit perfectly, his larger body cradling hers without any effort. His body radiated heat.
"You gonna figure this out tomorrow?" Mick asked softly. "I'm gettin' kinda sick of this place."
Caitlin sighed and closed her eyes. "I really hope so," she said, but she couldn't summon the energy to even sound optimistic.
Mick apparently got the message, because he grunted with understanding. After a few moments, he spoke up again. "I wonder if Kyle's dead."
"What?" Caitlin didn't open her eyes, but her attention sharpened. "What about Kyle?"
"Lisa's worried about him," Mick murmured. "He went to go scout out the alien place where Supergirl's holed up, but he hasn't come back."
"Oh." Now Caitlin was worried about him, too. In an objective sense, she wouldn't mourn if Kyle Nimbus died, but it was a bad thing for them currently. "I doubt he's dead," she said. "I'm not even sure he can die. He can just turn into mist. I'm not sure he can even be turned into a zombie if he got bitten."
"Then why ain't he back?" Mick asked.
Caitlin shook her head. "I have no idea. But there's nothing we can do about it. I have to focus on work - and for right now, getting some sleep."
Mick nodded. He rumbled a sigh and stroked a big, meaty hand down the side of her body. "Get some sleep then," he said.
~ ~ ~
She got up from her bed and was in her infirmary at STAR Labs.
Cisco came through the door. "Caitlin, I'm back. Did you miss me?"
"Cisco," Caitlin whispered, tears in her eyes. "You're okay."
"Of course I'm okay." He smiled and it was full of teeth. He opened his arms and she went to him.
His arms enfolded her in a hug, and his teeth sank into her shoulder. His teeth sank into her stomach. His teeth sank into her back, her arms, her legs.
There was teeth everywhere.
"Don't worry, Caitlin. It won't hurt for long."
Caitlin screamed, and pushed Cisco away, but her hands met nothing but warm air.
She sank into warm water. Cisco pushed her down and down, the water covering her face.
Caitlin struggled. She couldn't breathe.
She couldn't breathe!
She was choking!
A monster was roaring.
~ ~ ~
Her panic only increased. She struggled to hold her breath, terrified that she had already inhaled a lethal dose, but her lungs were burning with the need for oxygen.
Even now, her body betrayed her. She gasped in a lungful of what would be poison gas - or tried, but simply got nothing at all. Kyle didn't flow into her body, but he also was cutting off any access she had to air, by covering her mouth and nose.
And Mick was sitting up in bed right next to her, roaring. "Kyle! Get off her! Get the fuck off her now!"
He grabbed the heat gun off of the side table and pulled the trigger. Caitlin curled up in a ball, covering her head desperately as she felt the heat flick over just above her.
And just like that, Kyle seemed to scatter. The green flowed away, fleeing from the terrific heat of Mick's weapon, and Mick let out a breath. He dropped the weapon and leaned over Caitlin. "You okay, babe?"
Caitlin took a cautious breath, and then another one. To her shock, she didn't feel any effects from poison gas. Her lungs breathed easily, and as she began to recover from the oxygen deprivation, she didn't begin to sweat or shake.
"I'm okay," she panted. She found Mick's hand with both of hers and squeezed it, and he blinked at her owlishly. She smiled up at him. "I'm okay."
"Good," Mick grunted, then turned and scowled in the direction that Kyle had gone. "Wonder why he'd try to hurt ya when I'm right fuckin' here. He oughtta know I ain't gonna let that pass. Fucker is dead to me, now. I'd have burned him right to nothin' if I didn't have to be careful of you."
Caitlin couldn't really disagree, nor would she mourn if something did happen to Kyle Nimbus. "I don't know," she murmured. "But thank you for protecting me."
Mick grunted again, his glare still faraway. His fingers flexed under Caitlin's hands, as if he was imagining wrapping those fingers around Kyle's throat and squeezing. She tugged at him lightly, trying to encourage him to lie down. "Can we rest for a bit?" she asked. "He did get singed. I'm sure he'll think twice about coming back."
Under her encouragement, Mick settled down onto his back and Caitlin curled up against him once more. He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and held her.
"You like this, huh?" he asked tentatively.
"I do," Caitlin admitted. "You're... comfortable. It makes me feel safe."
"Huh," Mick said. "That's weird."
Caitlin laughed, and felt a rush of relief in response. Yes, it was weird, but only Mick would look a gift horse in the mouth and point it out. There truly was an honesty to him that she'd never have expected. It was refreshing.
But as they lay there together, and as the adrenaline began to wear off, Caitlin became aware of a stinging, prickling sensation all over her body. She shifted with discomfort, unable to identify the source of the feeling. It was like a paper cut, but on her cheeks and neck and arms and legs, everywhere that wasn't covered by her clothing, and even a few places, such as her stomach, where her clothes were loose.
"You sure you're good?" Mick asked. "You keep movin' around"
"I feel... uncomfortable," Caitlin said, and sat up. She reached out to switch on a nearby lamp and held her arms out in front of her.
She was bleeding.
Her skin was covered in tiny beads of blood, quickly drying once exposed to air. It truly was like she'd been poked with a needle, or cut by paper, but in a thousand thousand little spots all over her body.
Mick sat up, and blinked. And stared. "Why're you all..."
"Oh god," Caitlin whispered. She scrambled off the bed, and saw dozens of little dots of blood on the pristine white sheet she'd been lying on. "Mick, go shower off. Go right now."
"Why?" he asked, though to his credit he didn't hesitate to scoot off the bed and stand up, the sheet falling away to reveal his nudity.
"Because," she said. "You've got my blood on you, and you might have been touched by Kyle as well." She drew a breath, voicing the horror she knew would surely drive Mick away from her for good. "I think Kyle's infected, and he just bit me. In Mist form."
Chapter 25: After You Read His Brain, Can I Burn Him?
Winn didn't have a history of doing a lot of fighting. He was more of a desk jockey, the man in the chair, an Idea Guy. The closest he'd been to real action was that one time he and James Olson had done their short-lived experiment into Winn actually being on the front lines alongside Guardian. It hadn't worked out, and he hadn't had any urge to try it again.
But there was one thing to be said about fighting - the adrenaline rush was sweet.
It was the only explanation he could think of for why he'd done such a crazy thing as fuck Hartley on a desk in someone's office while all their friends were still fighting zombies just down the hallway.
It had been crazy, and stupid, and also the most amazing thing Winn had ever done.
Afterwards, they had drowsed, basking in the afterglow, but after a while, the hard surface of the desk started to get uncomfortable no matter how blissful they were. By then, everything was quiet. The battle was over.
Winn couldn't help but feel guilty as hell. Hartley didn't appear to give a crap that they had skipped out on the mop-up, and Winn was a little afraid to confront him about it.
Despite the feeling that they had been selfish, Winn couldn't quite regret it. They had walked - hand in hand, and Winn had seen his own blush at how sweet it was mirrored on Hartley's face - down to the prison level.
The first person Winn noticed was Lisa, but she didn't acknowledge them. She was far too busy. She hovered over the DEO agents and snapped a series of orders in a clipped and brutal tone, sending everyone scurrying to accomplish their jobs like the drones in an anthill. Food was being distributed, and someone pressed an MRE into Winn's hand.
He suddenly realized he was starving, and devoured it standing up, without bothering to find himself a fork.
Just as they finished up their meal, one of Hartley's other friends - or coworkers, or gang affiliates, or whatever they were - literally popped into view, carrying a load of freshly laundered sheets. "Hey Hartley. Winn," Shawna said with a heavy sigh. "Where've you guys been?"
"We were locked in a workroom, Shawna," Hartley said cheerfully. "I invented some zombie-killing sonic technology."
"We both did," Winn said gently, and Hartley's smile actually widened.
"We both did!" Hartley corrected himself.
"Wow." Shawna stared at the two of them. "You guys have really been off fucking each other this whole goddamn time?"
Winn turned red and shifted from foot to foot, but Hartley snapped a reply immediately. "Only half the goddamn time, Shawna. And can you blame me?" He threw a heated smirk at Winn who, if possible, blushed even more.
Shawna rolled her eyes. "I'll admit, he is cute. Not my type, though," she said. Then she sobered. "Have you heard about Roy and Cisco?"
"No, what?" Hartley's eyes widened. "Did Cisco wake up?"
"Yeah, he woke up," Shawna said, and glance downwards. "And he's a zombie. And Roy got bitten just about an hour ago. They're both in the infirmary upstairs." She glanced sidelong, and Winn followed the direction of her gaze to Lisa, who was still directing agents like an orchestra conductor. "Lisa's taking it hard."
"Did anyone else get bitten?" Winn asked.
"A couple of your guys, too," Shawna said. "We've managed to block everything off so it's supposed to be safe, but it's like a shitty horror movie in here. I guess someone didn't tell anyone they got bitten." She rolled her eyes. "As if that's ever worked out well."
Winn and Hartley exchanged worried glances. "What's the plan, Shawna?" Hartley asked. "We can't just hole up in here forever. I know Caitlin's working on a cure, but is that our only play?"
"Lisa sent Kyle to try to scout out and find Len and the Flash," Shawna said. "But he's not back yet. Can't imagine he's gotten into trouble, though. Of all of us, he probably can't get zombiefied."
"Why not?" Winn asked.
"Because he turns into a cloud of noxious gas," Shawna said with a shrug.
"Oh," Winn said, blinking.
"Anyway, I'd better get this stuff handed out or none of us are going to sleep tonight," Shawna said. "You can pick any of the rooms that haven't been staked out. They're comfortable enough, if you don't mind bars on the doors." She gave them a nod and disappeared in a puff of black smoke, reappearing a short distance away, and then vanishing again like Nightcrawler from a comic book.
Hartley glanced at Winn. "So... you want to pick a room?"
"You know what? Not really." Winn was well-acquainted with these rooms. He knew they had bunk beds, and were pretty cramped. It wasn't like he thought there was something wrong with them, but the thought of sleeping in one of them just wasn't attractive. Especially when there was an alternative. He turned a shy smile on Hartley. "I kinda liked the mattress we were sleeping on up to now."
Hartley brightened. "You've got a point," he said. "Let's grab another MRE and go back up there. It's too loud and depressing down here, anyway."
"Amen," Winn agreed.
No one paid them much attention as they got some more food and headed back upstairs. For the next couple of hours, the two of them tinkered with their machines and talked about how they had performed in combat. Winn had felt his own gauntlet had done well, but Hartley wanted to retune the frequency modulator, to give the shield more power. Winn was more than happy to help him out, and they both worked well into the night, fueled by coffee and energy drinks and enthusiasm.
It was Hartley who heard it first.
His head came up and he looked around. "Kyle?"
Winn looked with curiosity, his heart pounding. Hadn't Kyle been the one who was a murderer? And he could also turn into a cloud of gas? Not that any of Hartley's friends - or associates, or whatever - had made any move to hurt anyone so far as Winn knew.
Indeed, a green cloud of what looked like vapor was drifting into the room through the hole they had made in the wall. As Winn watched, he coalesced into a bald man that Winn had seen before with the group.
So this was Kyle.
Kyle smiled in a disconcerting way. "Hello Hartley."
"I heard you went scouting," Hartley said, snapping an access port closed on one of his sonic gloves, and slipping it on. He flexed his fingers, testing the fit.
"I just got back," Kyle said. "I was looking for you."
"And? What can I do you for?" Hartley asked, cocking his head.
"You need to join us, Hartley." Kyle swirled into mist again and dove towards them.
Winn cursed and scrambled away, grabbing for his own gauntlet, though he had no idea if the weapon could possibly help him against a cloud of homicidal gas. To his surprise, the mist ignored him completely, flowing straight towards Hartley as if Winn wasn't even there.
Hartley jerked his sonic glove up and fired it point blank at Kyle, right before the cloud was about to surround him.
The gas scattered apart, then coalesced again into the form of the man. Hartley jumped off his stool and advanced on Kyle, holding his glove out aggressively, and fired it again. Kyle cried out as he was knocked off his feet and scrambled backwards, looking around with shock and confusion.
"Hartley, wait!" Kyle exclaimed.
Warily, Hartley stopped his advance, glaring down at the prone Rogue. "What the hell, Kyle?"
"She turned me," Kyle hissed, his bloodshot eyes wide. "I'm a zombie. I... I was supposed to turn you, too, because you're a meta."
"And?" Hartley asked.
"And..." Kyle frowned. "And I don't want to. But a second ago... a second ago I could hear her. She was in my head."
Hartley looked at Winn, who stared back at him. "Kara can control zombies," Winn said slowly. "Maybe your sonic tech disrupted the control?"
"How long will it last?" Kyle asked.
"No idea," Hartley said seriously. He lowered his glove fractionally. "We'd better get you to Caitlin, right now, before it comes back."
Kyle nodded. "All right." His eyes darted from side to side as he walked towards the doorway. "Only... she might not be too pleased to see me right now."
Winn's stomach sank like a stone, but it was Hartley who had the courage to ask. "Why not?"
"You'll see," Kyle said solemnly.
With that ominous comment hanging in the air like a poisonous miasma, Winn, Hartley, and Kyle walked down the now zombie-free (with the exception of Kyle) hallway to the infirmary.
"Caitlin!" Hartley called as they walked through the freshly-cut hole in the wall.
A curtain twitched, someone's face peering through and then vanishing too quickly for Winn to identify whether they were a man or a woman, let alone who they were. Then suddenly Mick came barrelling out through the curtain, his weird contraption of a flame thrower in his hand.
"Kyle you motherfucker!" he snarled. "You're gonna fuckin' burn!"
Winn wasn't ashamed to say that he dove for cover rather than doing something heroic like jumping between the homicidal undead maniac and the other homicidal maniac. Hartley, on the other hand, while he didn't actually get between Kyle and Mick, he did step forward into Mick's line of sight and wave his arms frantically.
"Wait! Wait!" Hartley exclaimed. "I have a possible breakthrough! Don't kill him yet!"
"Yet," Kyle muttered under his breath, scowling. He had made no obvious move to try to avoid Mick's gun, though he had gone green and misty around the edges.
Reluctantly, Mick stopped moving forward, but the heat gun didn't waver, still pointed straight at Kyle's centre mass. "What kinda breakthrough?"
Since the danger had apparently lessened for the moment, Winn came out from behind the spindly heart monitor machine he had tried to take shelter behind. With a moment to catch his breath, he noticed that Mick was very, very naked. And also somewhat damp.
No one else seemed to mind, so he averted his gaze and tried to ignore it.
Hartley stepped to the side adroitly, and gestured to Kyle like the female assistant on a game show. "Notice that he's not trying to bite me."
"Yeah," Mick said skeptically.
"That's because I blasted him with my sonic gauntlet," Hartley said. "Somehow, it's disrupted the control Supergirl has on him, and he's back to what passes as normal for Nimbus."
"How'd it do that?"
Hartley spread his hands. "I have no fucking clue. That's why I'm here. Where's Caitlin?"
Caitlin emerged from behind the curtain. Winn gasped in confusion. Her hair was pure white, and her face so pale that her lips looked as blue as the heart of a glacier. It wasn't the grey pallor of a zombie, it was far more pasty white than that. She was also damp, wrapped in a white terrycloth robe, with her hair slicked down by water.
"Oh hey, Frost," Hartley said. "Did you...?"
"I heard," she said. She looked from one to the other, then sighed and turned around. "Just give me a minute." With that, she vanished through the curtain again, only to emerge a minute or two later. To Winn's renewed shock, she was back to normal, her hair back to its warm chestnut colour and her skin flushed with heat.
She also looked at them with confusion. "What's happening?"
Mick glanced at her. "Hartley blasted the dead man and now he's not tryin' to eat him anymore."
"True," Kyle said serenely. "I'm in possession of my faculties - at least, as much as I ever am."
Caitlin nodded. "I need to confirm with the EEG machine." Her eyes narrowed at Kyle. "And you're going to behave?"
Kyle shrugged. "I'll let you run your test."
"Good." She smirked. "Because I can bring Frost back if I have to, and I think you'll like what I can do a lot less than Hartley's little toy."
"Hey!" Hartley exclaimed.
Kyle snorted. "I've already been frozen once today. I won't provoke you to do it again."
"Too late, fucker," Mick snarled. "After what you did--"
Caitlin put a hand on Mick's arm. "Mick," she said gently.
Mick lowered his gun reluctantly. "After you read his brain, can I burn him?" he asked.
"I'm not ruling it out," Caitlin said. "This way."
Caitlin, Kyle, and Mick trooped through a door, but Winn hung back and put a hand out to stop Hartley when he would've followed. "So uh," Winn said. "Mick's pretty...naked, tonight."
"Yeah," Hartley said with a sigh. "You get used to it." He shot Winn a lopsided grin. "You aren't gonna ask?"
Winn blushed. "Also, uh, what's with Caitlin?"
"It's her metahuman power," Hartley said. "When it manifests, she has a totally different personality. She doesn't even remember what happens when she's changed. We call her Killer Frost when she's like that."
"Wow... badass," Winn said, staring. "Killer Frost? Any particular reason?"
"Let's just say she isn't always that nice," Hartley said wryly. "But she's warmed up a bit over the years."
"That's warm?" Winn asked disbelievingly.
"Hart, can you get in here?" Caitlin called. "I need you in case Kyle reverts."
"Coming!" Hartley called, then glanced at Winn and shrugged. "In comparison? Yeah. She didn't try to kill us all, so..." He flashed Winn a sheepish grin, then moved to follow the sound of Caitlin's voice. Winn followed with a sigh.
Cisco and Roy - and a severed zombie head - were already all in this room, hooked up to monitors showing their brainwaves. Winn sighed. It looked like what he and Hartley had been told was correct - the humans' numbers really were dwindling by the hour. Both metahuman zombies looked alert and lucid, but they were strapped down and seemed helpless for the moment.
"Hi Hartley," Cisco said hopefully.
"Hey," Hartley said, taking up a position leaning against the wall, not far from where Mick was doing the same thing. Winn joined them both.
Caitlin had lined up a third cot alongside Cisco and Roy's, and directed Kyle to lie down on it. He obeyed, hopping up onto it and stretching out. Caitlin picked up one of the manacles attached to the cot, then sighed and put it down. "No point," she muttered, and instead began sticking electrodes to his forehead, just like the others.
"What are we looking for, here?" Winn asked with curiosity as she pulled a fourth EEG machine over to the head of Kyle's bed.
"All of the zombies have a distinctive brain wave pattern," Caitlin said. "I want to see if Kyle is the same."
"I don't know why you're so interested in our brainwaves, Caitlin," Cisco said.
Winn started as a thought occurred to him. "Let's talk about it later," he said quickly, and loudly.
Hartley seemed to realize the same thing that Winn had thought, only a beat behind - that anything they said within the hearing of a zombie might well become known by all of them. "Yeah, it's nothing," he said. "Just intellectual curiosity, right Caitlin?"
"Right," Caitlin said. She shot a look at Mick, who seemed to be examining the charge on his heat gun, and wasn't apparently paying attention to any of them.
Winn noticed that Caitlin adjusted the EEG machine slightly as she pulled it closer to Kyle's cot, turning it just enough that Roy and Cisco wouldn't be able to see the readout.
After several seconds of examining the inscrutable patterns on the screen, she nodded. "Let's chat outside, everyone," she said. "Kyle, come with us."
"Yes, ma'am," he said and sat up, sliding off the cot and following as they trooped out of the room. Caitlin made sure to close the door before anyone said anything.
She turned to Kyle. "Tell me what you experienced."
"After I left here, I went after Hartley like that bitch wanted me to do," Kyle said. "My only real thought was that turning Hartley was best for him and everyone else, and after I was done with him I planned to go find Mark and Shawna, and complete the set. Then Hartley hit me with that sonic glove of his, and suddenly I didn't understand why I wanted to do that in the first place."
Caitlin listened to his story thoughtfully. "Well," she said. "Kyle, I can tell you that something is definitely different about your brain waves compared to the other two. All three of the other zombies show a distinctive wave pattern underlying the usual patterns we would expect to see, and in you that pattern is absent. I'm willing to believe, at least for now, that whatever Hartley's glove did, it disrupted the connection between you and Supergirl."
Mick finally looked up. "So he ain't a zombie no more?"
"He's a zombie," Caitlin said seriously. "I'm sure no sonic pulse could destroy the zombie virus. You're likely still infectious as well. Do you feel any symptoms?"
Kyle shrugged. "I feel like biting all of you," he said, with startling frankness. "But I don't have to do it. And I definitely don't want to do what that bitch says anymore, so I won't do it."
Winn rubbed his forehead. "So the sonic pulse disrupted the control, but not the virus. If we used it on the other zombies, they would stop being organized, but wouldn't stop wanting to spread the virus."
"We also don't know if it's permanent," Hartley said.
Caitlin nodded. "In fact, I'd be willing to bet that it's temporary at best. And Kyle, if you revert or lose control, then Hartley and the other metas in this building - let alone the humans - are all in danger. We can't take that risk."
"She's right," Hartley said. "He could reestablish that mental connection any time."
Kyle's eyes narrowed. "You wanna put me in a box again, girlie?"
"I don't want to," Caitlin said. "But--"
Winn saw Kyle's shoulders go up as his heavy brow pulled down in a deeper frown. There was a dangerous set to his stance that said that he wasn't at all pleased with what Caitlin was about to say, but before he could do anything, Hartley interrupted. "Caitlin, there may be another way. Just... do you have a screwdriver?"
"I got one," Mick said, and ambled off. Hartley pulled off his glove and set it down on a table, popping open the access panel on the back. Mick returned with a phillips head screwdriver and Hartley dove in, tinkering with it.
"What's the plan?" Winn asked, though he half expected Hartley not to hear him in the throes of another inspiration.
To his surprise, Hartley answered immediately. "I'm switching it to field projection mode. I never did think of a reason to do it, but... here we go."
Winn heard a soft whine, which diminished quickly. The glove was glowing, as if it were throwing off a blast, but in a low-key and steady way rather than the burst of light that usually accompanied the sonic pulse.
Hartley rubbed at his right ear as he handed the screwdriver back, wincing. "Well, that's unpleasant," he said. "Now, let's test it."
He picked up the glove and opened up the door to where the other zombies were housed.
Winn's heart was in his throat as he followed. Both Roy and Cisco shook their heads in confusion as Hartley neared them with the glove.
Cisco blinked twice and then stared up at them all with horror. "Oh my god... oh my god, what did you do? How'd you make it stop?"
Caitlin peered at the EEG monitors for a few seconds, then visibly relaxed. She clutched her hands together against her chest. "Cisco... you're back. Hartley, it worked!"
Hartley beamed, grinning from ear to ear. "I am a genius."
"Does this mean you can take off the cuffs?" Roy complained, rattling the chains against the side of his bed.
Everyone looked at Caitlin, who nodded. "Yes, so long as you remain here in this room, hooked up to the EEG, for now. I want to monitor this, and I want to know immediately if you feel any changes." She looked at Hartley. "How much of a range does that have?"
Hartley considered it thoughtfully. "Maybe ten foot radius," he said. "It'll be okay if they stay in this room, but we have a new project." He glanced at Winn with a grin of anticipation. "I bet we have the equipment we need to make one that's a lot bigger."
"How big?" Caitlin asked, her eyes widening.
Winn had caught the furor as well, and he grinned. "How about big enough to cover the entire building, to start?"
Caitlin looked like she could be knocked over by a feather. She beamed with relief. "That sounds like a great start."
Chapter 26: Low Emotional Intelligence Quotient
Caitlin watched Hartley and Winn go, already chattering animatedly in tech speak. For the first time in a while, there was hope, and it seemed like it had done them all some good.
But she knew it was false, temporary hope. Perhaps Hartley and Winn could invent a device that would bring all the metahuman zombies in the building back to their senses, and make it impossible for Kara to control the zombies in the area in a coordinated attack, but then what? The zombies were still zombies. They still had the urge to bite and spread the infection.
And she would soon be one of those zombies. What if she didn't keep her mental faculties the way Cisco and the others had? Her powers were dormant half the time. It was possible that Caitlin would be destroyed by the infection, while Killer Frost would remain intact.
But Killer Frost couldn't find a cure. She was a mediocre doctor and researcher at best. It just wasn't her temperament.
She swallowed all of those doubts, and unlocked the cuffs from Cisco's wrists. He looked up at her with trepidation, his fingers tracing the air as he hovered with arms still spread.
She hugged him tightly, and he let out a breath of relief, burying his face in her neck and hugging her back with rib-cracking tightness.
"It's going to be okay," she said, hoping to convince him, even if she couldn't convince herself.
"Yeah, yeah it will," Cisco said with a watery chuckle. "Don't you know it."
Eventually, Roy cleared his throat pointedly. Caitlin gave Cisco one last squeeze, then went to unlock him as well. "You all have to stay in this room, no matter what," she said. "I'm going to lock the door, just in case the device fails. Understand?"
"I get it, Snow," Roy said.
"Understood," Kyle added.
"I promise," Cisco said. "I'll keep these jerks in line," he added. Kyle turned a feral grin on him, and Cisco swallowed nervously.
Mick was standing in his usual spot when in the presence of zombies - as far away as possible, and as close to the door as he could manage. Still, when he pointed one finger at Kyle, the former hit man nearly took a step back. "You guys better not give pretty any fuckin' grief, you hear me? He's still mine, and I'm gonna be checkin'. I can still burn you, Nimbus."
Kyle shrugged, but he did appear vaguely cowed. "I didn't say anything," he said.
"I'll keep an eye on Kyle, Mick," Roy said, adjusting his glasses. "Never liked that guy."
Cisco blinked at Roy with surprise. "Uh... thanks, Roy."
Caitlin pursed her lips, but there was little they could really do. She wasn't comfortable with moving the glove or letting any of them get outside of the range of it for even a moment, so they would have to stay in the room. That meant either moving more beds into the room, or leaving Cisco alone with the two Rogues.
"I'll be fine, Caitlin," Cisco said. "Don't suppose you have a book or something to pass the time?"
Mick walked out of the room, then returned with a dog-eared novel, which he tossed in Cisco's general direction. "Here."
Cisco blinked at the cover, which depicted a girl and a horse. "Uh, thanks."
"It's good," Mick said forcefully. "A real page-turner."
"You got one for me, Mick?" Roy asked, though he cast a look of distaste towards the novel Cisco held in his hands.
Once Mick's entire hoard of books - he had obviously been gathering them from all over the building somehow, because there were at least ten - had been delivered to the room, Caitlin finally said good night to the three patients, and locked the door.
She expected Mick to retreat, but he wrapped a beefy arm around her shoulders and tugged her in close. "Hart'll make something," he said firmly. "He's good at that, the making stuff thing."
"I know he will," she said, and allowed herself to press against his chest, drinking in the comfort that he offered. "Aren't you worried that I'm infected?" she asked tentatively.
Mick was silent for a moment. "You ain't changed yet. You still got time to fix things."
Touched by his faith in her, Caitlin nodded. "I still need a few hours sleep first, though," she said. "I should have... a day, depending on the progress of the virus. That'll have to be enough."
Mick kissed the top of her head. "It'll be enough, babe. You're the smartest gal I know."
~ ~ ~
After that, they did indeed crash for a couple of hours, sleeping curled up close together, hands still clasped, as they slept off the chemicals.
Sometime in the morning, Winn woke Hartley with a kiss. Hartley smiled up at him, and wrapped his arms around him tightly, returning the kiss with interest.
"Ew, morning breath," Winn complained, making a half-hearted effort to escape the hold.
"You started it," Hartley pointed out, but released him. "How far did we get last night? Did I dream all that shit about Kyle and my glove?"
Winn sat up, and both men regarded the half-finished device. It was mostly a massive circular dish facing upwards, with a load of complicated circuitry below. Most of the lower half of the device was purely to generate the sounds at the proper frequency, while the dish would boost the power and hopefully project a field large enough to cover the entire building - and probably some distance outside as well.
"Nope, sorry. it looks like this whole zombie apocalypse thing still isn't just a nightmare," Winn said.
Hartley's stomach rumbled, and that galvanized him just enough to get him out of bed. "Well, I want breakfast, and I want to test this. We should put it in the basement, so it covers the biggest area."
"Might as well move it now before we finish it, then," Winn said. "We've got the parts, just have to finish assembling it. It'll be heavy to move once it's all put together."
"You read my mind," Hartley said, and planted another kiss on Winn's cheek.
The glove in the infirmary down the hall projected a continuous noise when it was in the current 'field' mode. In the workroom, with all the other ambient sounds of computers and various tools all around him, it was mostly drowned out unless Hartley deliberately tried to focus on it. But once they had emerged into the hallway, he heard it more clearly.
He shook his head as the high-pitched noise pressed on his ears like a late-night mosquito, and regretted the fact that he didn't dare free a hand to adjust his implants. The piece of machinery they were carrying was far too heavy and delicate to risk destabilizing it.
Thankfully, as they entered the stairwell and began to carefully descend, with Winn moving backwards step by step and Hartley guiding him as they wrestled with the projector, the sound faded into the background once more.
Still, once the projector was up and running, Hartley had a feeling he wasn't going to be able to hide from the sound anymore.
That was just something he was going to have to man up and deal with, though.
Halfway down, they met Mark Mardon coming up. For once, the Rogue didn't give Hartley or Winn any grief, instead relieving Hartley of the heavy bag of equipment he was also carrying, which made the remaining journey a little easier. Finally, they had reached the bottom of the stairs and entered the command centre of the prison level.
"Let's put it on there," Hartley gasped, jerking his head to indicate the centre computer console. Out of breath himself, Winn just nodded, and the two of them lugged the contraption over to the middle of the room and set it down with twin groans of relief.
"Wow," Mark said. "So that's cool." He looked the device over with an air of curiosity. "What's it do?"
"Nothing, just yet," Hartley said, holding his hand out for the bag. "But it's going to disrupt Supergirl's control over the zombies, which means that our friends will get their minds back - at least, the metahuman ones - and prevent Supergirl from mounting a coordinated attack inside the building.
"Are you kidding me?" Lisa had just emerged from one of the hallways. Her hair was still a little damp from her shower, but styled, and her makeup was on point. Hartley had no idea how she'd managed that. "How?" she demanded.
Hartley spread his hands, smug. "My sonic tech can do it. Cisco's back to his normal self, right now, if you want to visit with him. We discovered the effect last night when Kyle Nimbus got back and attacked me - he's infected, by the way - and I've set up one of my gloves as a temporary fix until we can get the projector working and covering the entire building."
Lisa's face had gone still and blank. "Oh, cool," she said finally. "Well, maybe I'll go visit if I have a little time." She shrugged nonchalantly and turned to stride away. "Good luck with it, Hart. I'm rooting for you."
Damnit, Hartley thought. He really didn't have time to babysit Lisa's feelings, and she was definitely doing the 'cool Snart' thing right now. Winn's expression was just confused as he followed her progress out the door. He likely had no idea what caused the reaction, not having experience with The Snart Family.
Hartley looked at Mark, who was mid-eye-roll even now. "Are you going to go sort that out, or do I have to do it on top of saving all our asses?" Hartley asked Mark sharply. "What are you doing to help out the team, huh?"
Mark shot him a glare. "I'm the pretty one," he said. "Fuck. All right, fine. I'll get her." With a sigh, he strode off after Lisa.
"What was that all about?" Winn asked as Hartley bent to pull the tools and parts they'd brought out of the bag.
"Low emotional intelligence quotient," Hartley said.
~ ~ ~
She shrugged him off sharply, turning on him. "What? Don't you know I'm busy?"
"Yeah." Mark stood back, folding his arms across his chest. "Yeah, we're all busy dying, and getting fucked, so what? What makes you so special?"
"What?" Lisa felt anger flash inside her like one of Mick's arsons, a conflagration that startled her with its heat. She wasn't as cool as Lenny, could be a spitfire in fact, but you couldn't be the excellent grifter she was, if you didn't have emotional control. "What do you mean?"
Mark rolled his eyes, then he fixed her with a serious look, one that seemed almost out of character for the sarcastic, angry man. "You know my brother's dead, right?"
The solemn mention of his brother calmed the fire inside. It was banked, still ready to flare at a moment's notice, burning in her stomach, but Lisa found the wherewithall to nod. "Of course," she said gently.
"I loved my brother," Mark said fiercely. "Loved him just as much as you love yours. If he were alive, and bit, then I'd be a fucking mess. I'd do anything to protect him, and I'd climb any mountain to find a cure. But your brother ain't dead, and your boyfriend is bit, but he's alive, too. You just heard your honey bunch is back to his right mind, and you're not going to see him? How much of a coward are you?"
Lisa drew back physically, stung. "I'm not a coward, Mark! I'm trying to do what I can to keep all these idiots from destroying each other." She waved her arm around, encompassing all of the survivors with one grand gesture. "I'm the only one keeping things together down here!"
"Yeah," Mark said. "And nothing's keeping you together. And when you melt down, when you get so deep in your head that you can't see out, who's gonna save us then?" He pointed back the way they had come. "Hartley and his boy are doing something concrete to help, right now. They're giving us hope, and they're gonna buy us the time we need so that we can get Snart and the Flash back safe, and for Caitlin Snow to find her cure."
As Lisa stood stunned and silent, Mark drew a breath, took a step forward into her space, and stuck a finger in her face. "You're our leader and you need to stay sane. But besides that, we don't know how long the zombiefied metas are gonna stay smart like they are. It seems to me like that might be temporary, so if you don't keep Cisco's mind as human as possible, and he goes totally feral and dies and we're all stuck here, then that's also your fucking fault. Even if I'm wrong and that isn't gonna happen, Cisco is where your focus should be, Lise - on the people you love. That's how you're gonna survive this, and that's how we're all gonna get home."
Lisa and Mark stared at each other for a few long seconds, then Lisa nodded. "Okay," she said.
Mark grinned. "That's my girl."
"Don't push it," she snapped, and brushed past him, heading for the stairs very nearly at a run.
Chapter 27: You'd Better Think Again Buddy
Cisco had never been so scared in his life, and that included all the times he nearly died facing down some metahuman as part of Team Flash.
This was somehow different. So different, that the fact that he was locked in a small room with both Roy Bivolo and Kyle Nimbus was barely a blip on his Oh-Shit-O-Meter.
He remembered every minute of what had happened from the moment he woke up in the hospital bed until now, but it was a little like he had been having an out-of-body experience. He had been awake and walking around, and talking, but all of it felt in his memory like someone else had been speaking using his mouth. Someone else had been moving his arms and legs around like he was a puppet.
It was the worst thing he had ever felt.
But the whole time, it had felt... fine. He hadn't felt fear, or sadness, or even happiness, though his body had moved and acted as though he was experiencing emotions. He had looked at Caitlin and Mick and felt nothing for them - neither good nor bad - except for the desire to propagate the virus. He had been chained down, yet hadn't even felt frustration at the confinement, though everything he had done from the moment he was chained up had been designed to try to get free.
He hadn't even felt scared at the fact that he was infected by a horrible virus that made him want to bite his friends and infect them, too.
But now that he was back in his own right mind, you can bet that all of that fear came flooding in, because now he knew that he might go back to the ravenous monster he had been, or worse, at any moment.
He sat on the edge of the cot, swinging his feet a bit, as he tried to focus on the novel Mick had lent him. For a while, the fact that Mick had actually read this book amused him enough to distract him from the guillotine hanging over his head, but then he'd discovered there weren't any aliens or science or much interesting happening in it, and that had quickly overcome that distraction.
Kyle was lying down on his cot, staring at the wall, with his book dangling unopened from his fingers. Roy, on the other hand, was sprawled out on his stomach with the book propped up on his pillow, reading with apparently avid interest. He was three quarters of the way through the first fat paperback book.
"So..." Cisco began, though even as the syllable escaped his throat, he wondered what he was thinking, or what he was about to say.
Well, it wasn't the first time he'd started talking without his brain catching up to his mouth. He usually just rolled with it.
Instead, he picked up Hartley's glove and examined it for a few minutes. Without tools he couldn't actually take it apart, so there was little to learn from a cursory examination that he hadn't already picked up from watching Hartley use it in the past.
Besides, he wasn't a complete idiot and didn't want to risk breaking it.
He put it down, very carefully.
"So," he said again. "Uh, either of you guys have a deck of cards or something?"
"Nope," Roy said without looking up from his book. Kyle didn't even respond.
I should've asked Caitlin for a computer, Cisco thought in despair. His fingers itched to do something. Anything. He had always thought it was Barry who was obsessed with running headlong into danger, but it turned out that Cisco also wasn't used to just sitting around twiddling his thumbs while people were in danger.
He felt the urge to try to converse with the Rogues to pass the time rising up again, and he fought it with a sinking feeling. He had already dug himself into a hole, and clearly they weren't interested, but boredom and the need to distract himself - even with suicidal actions - was overpowering. But before he could grab the shovel and continue digging in earnest, the door unlocked.
All three men poked their heads up, but it wasn't Caitlin who opened the door.
It was Lisa.
She pushed the door open slowly, standing just beyond the threshold with a look on her face that Cisco had never seen before - an uncertain, almost nervous expression.
Their eyes met.
"Hey Cisco," Lisa said with her usual casual aplomb. "What's going on?"
Maybe it was because Cisco knew her so much better now, or maybe the mask was just that much thinner today. Either way, he saw right through the tissue paper veneer of Snart Cool to the fragile emotions underneath, and saw worry and fear and confusion.
Cisco glanced back and saw Kyle and Roy looking at them. "Hey guys, you mind?"
Both of them stared at him for a fraction of a second, exchanged glances, then both settled back down onto their cots and rolled onto their sides, putting their backs to Cisco and Lisa.
Cisco dropped down from the cot. "Hey Lise," he said softly. "It's okay. I'm really me, now. Still a zombie, but, uh, not in here." He prodded his temple with a finger and smiled up at her hopefully.
Skepticism flickered in her eyes. "You said you were just fine before, too, when you were chained to that bed." She gestured to indicate the cot he had just vacated. "How the hell am I supposed to know if you're lying this time?"
"You kidding me?" Cisco couldn't help but smile a bit, though he felt bad about making light of things when she had good reasons to be scared. "When have you ever not been able to tell when I was fibbing? Are you a world-class grifter or not?"
He could see the tension in her lessen slightly. She put her hands on her hips haughtily. "Cisco Ramon, are you trying to butter me up?"
His smile warmed to a grin. "Is it working?"
She huffed and crossed her arms, and tapped her foot a couple of times. Her eyes darted past him, looking at Kyle and Roy for a fraction of a second before returning to his face.
Cisco understood without her having to say a word. It was awkward in front of the other two. All they both wanted, he was sure, was some time alone to talk so they could both seek reassurance from the other. But that just wasn't possible.
Cisco crossed the room towards her. Her shoulders went up, but she stood her ground, planting herself in the doorway like she thought he was trying to get past her. But nothing could be further from his mind. The last thing he wanted was to leave the ephemeral sphere of protection Hartley's glove afforded.
When he got within a foot of her he stopped, and reached out. He paused, watching her, his hands hovering a few inches away, and waited.
It was Lisa who closed the distance. She let out a soft breath and released her hold on herself, then pushed forward and wrapped Cisco up in a tight hug. Cisco closed his eyes and buried his face against her shoulder.
He kept his mouth closed tight.
"Are you really okay?" she whispered into his hair. Her voice sounded suspiciously wobbly.
Cisco's eyes prickled with tears, and the shirt under his cheek was getting a little damp. "I'm okay-ish," he said. "I'm not gonna lie, Lisa. This is scary as hell."
"I know," Lisa whispered.
Cisco's chest tightened. If Lisa was admitting that, out loud, even to him - that meant it was bad. And if he knew anything about her, she was carrying all that fear alone.
"It'll work out fine in the end," he said, tightening his arms around her. "Don't worry."
She laughed, throwing her head back. "You're right," she said. "I can always tell when you're lying."
Approaching footsteps had Lisa turning her head, though she didn't let go of Cisco. "Winn," she said. "Is something wrong?"
Cisco drew away just enough to see the face of the young DEO engineer. He was smiling, though there was something distressed about the set of his shoulders. "No, no, everything's great," he said. "I just came to get Hartley's glove. The whole building should be safe now for everyone. We got the big sonic generator up and running."
Cisco felt a rush of relief and felt more of the tension in Lisa's back go out of her. "Really? I can go anywhere I want?" Cisco asked. He and Lisa broke apart, so Winn could get past them, and Cisco took one nervous step outside of the room. Then another. He still felt like himself.
Winn retrieved the glove and poked a screwdriver into the open port on the back. It stopped glowing. "Yeah, anywhere you like so long as you stay in the building."
"Deal," Cisco said, relieved. He turned to Lisa, smiling broadly, but Lisa's expression was thoughtful.
"Where's Hartley? You two've been joined at the hip since before the attack," she asked. "I'd have thought he'd want to crow about this himself."
The smile faltered. "Oh, yeah. He's okay. He's just a bit... under the weather. The sound of the generator isn't agreeing with him." Winn waved the glove awkwardly. "In fact, I'd better get back to him. We have some more work to do."
With that, he vanished out the doorway.
Kyle glided past Cisco. "Glad that's over," he said. "I'm going back to bed in my cell until any of you need me for something."
"Me too," Roy said, striding after him. "Hospitals give me the creeps."
And Cisco and Lisa were alone with Mick's resonating snores, which echoed from the other end of the ward.
"Well," Lisa said after a moment. "I suppose I'd better get back downstairs. Those DEO guys have no idea what they're doing without me to hold their hands."
"Can I come?" Cisco asked.
Lisa rolled her eyes and held out her hand to him. "You think I'm gonna let you out of my sight now? You'd better think again, buddy."
Cisco grinned - then paused and left a quick note for Caitlin. "Okay," he said, snickering at the way Lisa huffed and tapped her foot. "Now we can go."
Lisa snorted, caught his hand, and they went.
~ ~ ~
Maybe it was the strain they were under, the strange intimacy of being thrown into a life-or-death situation and also being forced to spend every waking moment together for a while after the attack, but Winn didn't think so. As much as he loved Kara, and Jimmy, and Alex, he didn't think that the same thing would have happened if one of them had been stuck in a room with him like Hartley had.
Hartley was special. He fit.
"Hartley?" Winn called as he stepped into their workshop. "How're you doing?"
Hartley didn't respond. He lay on the mattress, hands pressed to his ears, and gasped as if he couldn't get enough air. Winn crossed the room and dropped to one knee in front of him. At the movement of the mattress, Hartley opened his eyes. Surprise and dismay flickered across his face, and then he smiled, freeing one hand to give a thumb's up.
"I think it's getting easier," he shouted at the top of his lungs.
Winn winced. He wasn't fooled.
"Bullshit," he said. Hartley watched his lips closely, as if reading them, so Winn made sure to enunciate his words clearly. "Bull. Shit. You're in agony."
"Can't be helped. The noise is across so many frequencies it's overwhelming the implants' ability to sort out the different noises and adjust without causing feedback," Hartley said, a little more quietly than last time. He pushed himself up to sit. "I built these implants under the same sort of circumstances. I can push through this. We have work to do."
Winn grabbed him by the shoulder before he could stand. "I know you can handle it," he said. "But isn't there anything we can do to make it shut off that sound?"
Hartley seemed to take a few seconds to understand what Winn said. He squinted his eyes and furrowed his brow, like he was trying to parse it from words half-heard and garbled. Winn hadn't yet asked Hartley to try to describe what he was experiencing, but he imagined it probably was a little like that time they had tried to test Kara's speed in a wind tunnel and Winn had had to practically rebuild the thing from scratch to boost the power enough for them to do the test. His ears had rung for a week after experiencing the noise of a super-boosted wind tunnel.
"If I turn it off, I'll hear everything," Hartley exclaimed. "My head'll feel like it's exploding."
"No, no!" Winn said. "I mean, can you increase the power even more? Just reduce the sound across all the frequencies."
"If I do that, I won't be able to hear anything," Hartley protested.
"So what?" Winn demanded. "Isn't that better than this?"
Hartley's eyes widened. "I, no, I didn't make them to block all sound, just adjust the volume of different types of sounds. I'd have to reconfigure it entirely to block everything out. I can't do that while they're in my ears, and I can't take them out, or..." He shook his head. "What they're doing now is the only thing keeping me sane."
Winn hesitated. While Hartley had created the devices while under considerable stress, he imagined this was magnified a thousand times. There was no way Hartley could keep his focus enough to work on the devices without their assistance - he could barely focus on this conversation, with them in his ears.
He scooted closer and put a hand on Hartley's shoulder. "If you tell me what needs to be changed, I can do it," he said. "I'll do it fast, Hartley. You can trust me."
Hartley gazed at him for a long moment, then swallowed hard and closed his eyes. "Okay... okay, this is what you're going to have to do."
Chapter 28: The Ice Thing And Stuff
Caitlin woke with Mick's arms cinched tightly around her and his nose buried in her hair, as he snored like a fire alarm into her ear. Oddly, it was a nice way to wake up - even accounting for the snoring. She thought after all this, she might do a little research into sleep apnea and see if she could clear it up for him. It would make things a lot easier in the long run.
It occurred to her a few seconds later that she had just seriously entertained the thought of sleeping with Mick after this was all over. Like, in her real bed, in her actual home, on a regular basis.
Setting aside the fact that she was currently dying of a highly infectious illness, and might well never see her home again, it was a shockingly tempting fantasy.
So long as she could do something about his tendency to saw logs at top volume.
She had expected Mick to stay far away from her once she had gotten infected. He had behaved with an obvious phobia this entire time, when confronted with zombies in any context, yet he didn't abandon her. That devotion warmed her towards him. She had let go of her fears that all he wanted was a chance to have sex with Killer Frost again, a couple of days ago now. Somewhere along the line, she had accepted that he actually liked Caitlin, too.
She kissed him on the cheek and slid off the cot, dressed and parted the curtain. Some thoughtful person had piled up a stack of MREs just outside the curtained-off part of the ward where she and Mick slept. Pinned to the top was a piece of note paper, with a few sentences in Cisco's messy hand.
"Caitlin, Winn says Hartley says we can go. I went downstairs to the basement with Lisa. Feeling OK. BE SAFE!!"
Mick padded up behind her as she read the note, and she handed him an MRE. He tore it open and began to munch on the contents. "Sleep okay?" he asked.
"Well enough," she said. "Looks like Hartley finished the bigger sonic device, so Cisco and the others are free to move around the building."
Mick scratched his bare stomach. "Knew he could do it," he said. "So everyone's okay, now?"
"So far as I know, we are all safe from being bitten for the moment, at least by our metahuman friends," Caitlin said cautiously. "But they're still infected, and still infectious. We still need to find a cure."
"Well you got all those samples," Mick said. "You'll figure it out."
Caitlin smiled wanly, touched by his unwavering faith in her. "I sure hope so. I'm running out of time."
He paused, a cracker half-way shoved into his mouth. He bit it in half, chewed and swallowed, frowning at her. "Whaddaya mean? If you become a zombie, you'll still be you, just like Cisco is, now."
"I just don't know that," Caitlin said with a sigh. "Right now, I feel completely human. The dark matter in my cells is dormant. You probably have some dark matter in you if you were nearby when the explosion happened in the particle accelerator, but you aren't a metahuman."
"I was doin' a job in Keystone when all that went down," Mick interrupted.
Caitlin shrugged, and opened up an MRE of her own, her stomach growling. "Well then you might not have dark matter inside you, but my point stands. There are over a million people in Central City who were exposed to the explosion and didn't become metahumans. I don't have hard data on that, but there's no evidence that the dark matter itself is what's affecting the virus's expression in the metahumans. For example, Kara and J'onn are also affected the same way as Cisco - they keep their minds, but have no dark matter inside them. I'm willing to bet, until it's proven otherwise through testing, that non-metas from Central City will lose their minds if infected, just like the non-metas here."
Mick was frowning, obviously making an effort to follow her reasoning rather than just glazing over as she might have expected him to do. "But you ain't a regular person. You are a meta," he argued. "You can do the ice thing and stuff." He waved his fingers like casting a spell.
"I can't," Caitlin said. "Killer Frost can. She is what I am when the dark matter is activated, and other times I'm just me. I've told you, Killer Frost and I really are almost like different people inhabiting the same body - so far as I've been able to tell, that includes our physiology."
"So what?" Mick said, shrugging uncomfortably. "You're different, but she's still here. When you change over, if you go dumb, I can just make you into her. She can fix everyone, and then you'll be okay again."
Caitlin shook her head. "Killer Frost isn't like me. She might not even care about saving everyone. She might have the same information as me, but she probably won't spend hours testing samples, no matter what the stakes are. She might just leave everyone to die."
Mick cocked his head, brows furrowing even more deeply. "Yeah... she's more like me than like you. I know I ain't got the patience to get a medical degree." He shrugged, expression smoothing. "Well then, you'd better get crackin'," he said. "Because I like you, and I don't want you to become a zombie, babe."
She smiled. "You're right." Taking her half-eaten breakfast MRE, she turned away to head down the ward.
Then she stopped, and turned. "I like you, too, Mick," she said, and felt her cheeks turn just a bit red.
He blinked a couple of times, then smiled in an oddly shy manner. After a moment, he seemed to remember himself and scowled, giving a gruff, "That's good," before turning and wandering away towards the shower.
~ ~ ~
When the particle accelerator in Central City had exploded years ago, Hartley hadn't been surprised to see the cloud of dark matter rushing towards him like a door had opened into hell. But he had been completely unprepared for what would confront him when he woke the following morning with his powers fully awakened.
The week of unrelenting pain and overwhelming noise pounding down on him had been the worst week of Hartley's life - and that included the week after his father had kicked him out, when he had slept in a doorway before he managed to find somewhere to stay and gotten his job at STAR Labs, which permitted him to start rebuilding his life.
He had thought that since he had experienced this before, he would be prepared. It wasn't going to go on for days - it would take Winn only a matter of hours to retune and reconfigure the implants. Hartley had already survived it once, how bad could it be?
It was unbelievably and indescribably bad.
Hartley couldn't possibly have done the work himself. It was unimaginable to him to even open his eyes or move his body, let alone invent a new device or make changes to the delicate implants he already had. All he could do was lie on the mattress, holding his ears in a futile effort to block out even a tiny fraction of the crushing weight of sound, and whimper.
When Winn returned, Hartley felt the mattress move, and didn't understand what it meant at first.
Warm hands gently touched his shoulder, shook it. Hartley could only hear the screaming, and if Winn spoke, he couldn't pick it out of the chaos.
He drew a breath and forced his eyes open. Winn's expression was full of fear, his mouth moving, speaking Hartley's name.
For a moment Hartley was sure Winn had failed entirely. The nightmare would never end. He had broken Hartley's precious implants, which only helped a tiny bit, but at least they provided some relief. Tears spilled down Hartley's cheeks. "No... god Winn, I can't."
Winn's eyes widened and he brushed the tears away. He held up the implants, imploring, and held them out as his mouth continued to move. Hartley's vision was blurred by the tears, too much to be able to read Winn's lips - which wasn't a skill he was all that practiced at.
Then Winn frowned and the fear gave way to a determination. He grabbed Hartley by the back of the head, and turned him onto his side. Hartley yelped, but Winn's hold was gentle, yet uncompromising, and didn't hurt. Hartley was far too exhausted to fight.
Then Winn pressed the implant to Hartley's ear, carefully threading the cochlear wiring into Hartley's ear canal. Only then did Hartley comprehend what Winn wanted, and he held still docilely while Winn set one of the implants in place, and then turned him over and placed the other one. Then he touched each one, activating them.
And the screaming sound abruptly gave way to a screaming silence.
The transition was so sudden that the absence of noise was almost as painful as the sound itself had been. Hartley's ears rang for several seconds, his overstimulated and confused brain trying to supply sound even though there was none anymore. He opened his eyes again, realizing that he had closed them without noticing he had.
Winn sat in front of him still, his eyes filled with hope and worry. His mouth was moving, and Hartley was able to tell he was asking a question, but he still couldn't understand well enough. Hartley sat up, gesturing, then remembered that he could still talk.
"Paper, please," he said. "I can't understand you."
He couldn't even hear himself. The implants had cut off all sound to such a degree that even the vibrations transmitted through his own skull were being filtered out. Well, that was better than being driven crazy by the overwhelming noise.
Winn nodded and leaped to his feet again. He rummaged around on his desk, eventually coming up with a battered notebook and a pen. He scribbled in the notebook, then turned it around.
"How are you feeling?"
Hartley smiled. "A lot better. Thanks, Winn."
Winn beamed, and dropped the notebook to the mattress as they hugged. That, Hartley could understand without a word being spoken.
Hartley wiped away the last of the embarrassing tears remaining on his cheeks, and pulled back enough to see Winn's face again. "Thank you," he said again. "I couldn't have done it, myself. You did a good job."
Winn nodded, then grabbed up the notebook and scribbled for a few seconds. Then he turned the book around. This time, he had made a crude drawing that Hartley recognized as his gauntlet, and written two sentences underneath it.
"I have an idea. We can rescue Barry."
~ ~ ~
She knew that Cisco was far from being out of the woods. She figured Lenny would probably tell her to walk away before she got herself hurt even more, but for now Cisco was still Cisco, and Lisa couldn't walk away from that no matter how smart it might be.
Anyway, she was pretty sure the Lenny in her conscience was full of shit - the real Lenny wouldn't abandon Barry under the same circumstances, either. In fact, Lenny was probably doing exactly what she was doing right now - clinging to his boyfriend and pretending everything was going to be okay, just for a little while.
Cisco had been nervous about tucking into the bed with her, and balked when she pulled the blankets back in invitation.
"What if something happens?" he asked worriedly. "What if I scratch you or the sonic device stops working?"
He was adorable, but. But.
Lisa huffed and folded her arms across her chest. "First of all, Hartley wouldn't say the device worked if it didn't. I'm not putting you in a cage on the off-chance that Hartley fucked something up for once in his life," she said. "Second, the virus is only transmitted through bodily fluids, so you can't infect me just by scratching me with your fingernails unless you're planning to lick me, too, or something." She leaned forward, putting special emphasis on her next words. "And I trust you. "
Cisco hovered for a moment longer, then sighed and pulled off his hospital gown, then climbed into bed next to her. "Man, even I know how much of an admission that was," he said. "How can I say no to that?"
"You should never say no to me," Lisa pointed out sweetly.
The bed was technically large enough for both of them, but it was a good thing that they were friendly. Cisco had to press himself right against Lisa to fit. He rested his cheek against her chest, and Lisa felt the tension drain out of her for the first time in days. Cisco's body also seemed to relax completely against her, and he let out a sigh of relief.
Lisa smiled at the role reversal. In the past, she had mostly dated men who were taller and broader than she was, but she didn't miss that. Cisco fit just perfectly, in his own way.
They didn't dare so much as share a kiss, but it was still nice. After days of worrying about Cisco's fate, and whether he would ever wake up again, Lisa luxuriated in the feeling of him in her arms again. It was such a simple, but wonderful thing.
They slept well enough, though Lisa thought Cisco probably woke up often - as she did - with the bed being too small to really fit both of them comfortably. Still, they stubbornly held each other until the increase in noise outside in the hallway meant morning had come.
Cisco opened his eyes and looked up at her, smiling sleepily and pushing his hair back out of his eyes. "Wow," he murmured, his voice liquid warmth. "There's not much better than waking up to see you."
"I'm a mess," she said, smiling back. "No make up. I've barely slept. The bags under my eyes must be as big as my purse."
"You're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen," Cisco said. Lisa grinned despite herself at the lie - and anyway, it seemed like Cisco really did mean it.
There was a curtain hung up across the doorway of the cell - just a sheet that Lisa had clipped up to ensure her privacy. The curtain waved a bit and there was a cough.
"What's wrong?" she asked instantly.
"Nothing - ah, it's Winn and Hartley," said Winn's voice nervously. "Can we come in?"
Cisco tensed and reached for the blanket, but Lisa tugged him close again and dragged the blanket up to cover their nudity more securely. "Just come in, but discreetly," she said.
There was a pause, and then the curtain twitched aside. Winn ducked through, and his eyes widened. He reddened and glanced away, clearing his throat, while Hartley entered behind him. Hartley blinked, then grinned. "Nice," he said, his voice overly loud.
"Shut up, seriously," Lisa snorted. "You woke us up, do you have to be twelve about it?"
Hartley gave her a blank stare, then looked at Winn for some reason.
Winn sighed. "Ah, Hartley can't hear anything right now," he explained. "I had to retune his implants to cut off the noise from the sonic devices. That means I've blocked all of the frequencies he can hear - which is pretty much all of them that exist."
Cisco startled against her and pushed himself up a bit further. "Is he going to be okay?"
"He'll be fine," Winn said. "Once the zombies are all cured and we can turn the thing off, we can put things back to normal with him, too. But until then, speak slowly and write things down." He paused and turned to Hartley, who was gazing fixedly at his face in profile. "I just told them about your hearing," he said slowly, and Hartley nodded.
"Fantastic," Lisa sighed. "Our chief engineer is deaf, but he's still smart. Is that the disaster you came to tell us about?"
Winn chuckled, an odd sign Lisa didn't know how to interpret. "No, no, I said there's nothing wrong. We came to tell you - we think it's time to go deal with the next threat, and save the prisoners. Hartley and I have created some portable versions of the sonic device, which means we can carry the anti-zombie-mindfuck field with us into their fortress."
Lisa froze. "That's wonderful, boys, but there are thousands of zombies between us and them, not to mention Supergirl"
"I'm not saying it'll be easy," Hartley said. Lisa wasn't sure if he had read her lips, or if he had just correctly anticipated what she would say. "But we still have a bunch of metahumans, and the longer we wait, the fewer allies we'll have. Things aren't going to get any better than they are right now."
"But Caitlin hasn't found a cure, yet!" Lisa protested. "If we wait until then, we can cure all the zombies and not have to fight at all."
She felt like she was letting Lenny down by not rushing off immediately, but all the rest of the people were her responsibility. If they all died going against this threat, then he would still die, too.
Cisco shifted and turned to look at her, his dark eyes solemn and gentle. "Lise, Caitlin may never find a cure. It might be too late for a lot of people, but it might not be too late for Barry and Snart. We shouldn't just wait around here if there's a chance."
"Besides," Winn said. "Alex is a doctor, too. If she's still alive, she can help Caitlin with the cure."
Lisa closed her eyes. Her stomach twisted with fear, and she suddenly realized something horrible - she was afraid.
Afraid to venture out of the tiny island of safety she had created within this building. For one moment, she had felt safe. Sure, everything had still been horrible, but here in this small room, surrounded by armed agents, with her lover in her arms temporarily cured of his insanity, she could pretend that she wasn't in terrible danger.
If she ventured out with nothing but her gold gun between her and hoards of zombies, she might get bitten. She might die a horrible death, and be resurrected to serve an insane goddess.
But she was a Snart.
She opened her eyes and looked at Winn. "How long do you need to get ready?"
Winn broke into a smile. "An hour to pack our gear and distribute the devices."
"Then we go in an hour," she said. "Let's go save my brother."
Chapter 29: I'm Not Like You
Alex wasn't sure how long she had been alone in her cell, but she estimated it had been at least eight hours since Kyle Nimbus had dropped her off. It had been enough time for her to get some uncomfortable sleep on the floor of the cell. At one point, two dumb human zombies pushed a tray with cold deli sandwiches over the floor towards her before shuffling off, but that didn't really give her much of a clue of how much time had passed.
Her stomach clenched with hunger at the sight of the food, but as hungry as she was she didn't dare to touch them. Though they were wrapped in plastic, the plastic wasn't air tight, and had little holes in to keep the moisture from accumulating on the fluffy bread. She didn't care eat any food a zombie had handled, no matter how much she trusted that Kara truly wanted to keep her from contracting the infection until she was turned into a metahuman.
The food was still sitting there when the door opened, and Kara walked into the cell.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, looking around. "Oh Alex, I'm sorry, this place is really stark isn't it. Are you doing okay? Aren't you hungry?"
Alex pushed herself up, some misplaced protective instinct making her want to hide from her sister the fact that her body was sore and her stomach cramped with hunger. She needed to eat something eventually, or at least drink some water, but there was filtered water in the lab she could drink. She would survive a while longer without food.
"I'm fine, Kara," she said. "I'm just fine."
Kara caught her hand and clasped it in both of hers. "Good," she said, eyes shining. "Because I need you to be in tip-top shape today."
"Why's that?" Alex asked warily.
"Because, something terrible might be happening," Kara said, leading Alex to the door. "All of our friends back at the DEO have done something - I don't know what, but what I do know is there's a big dead zone around the DEO. I don't know what it means, or what they're planning, but it can't be good."
Hope soared in Alex's chest. "Oh yeah?" she prompted, trying not to sound eager. "What do you mean by a dead zone?"
"I can't talk to any of our friends," Kara explained, glancing back and giving Alex a serious expression. "I don't think they're dead, because I didn't feel them die, but I can't tell what they're doing or see what's happening there anymore. It's like everyone in that area is just...gone."
Wow, good job whoever did that, Alex thought. "What could cause that?" she asked innocently.
"I have no idea!" Kara exclaimed. She shook her head. "It's so bad. I really didn't want to have to hurt anyone, Alex, but the thing is, now I'm afraid they might have forced my hand."
Alex paused, and Kara turned to face her. The infected Kryptonian's eyes were afire with righteous anger. Alex had seen that expression before, when Kara faced down evils from across the galaxy. Never had she looked this way while talking about hurting their friends.
"What are you going to do, Kara?" Alex asked softly, afraid of the answer.
"Hopefully, I don't have to do anything," Kara said firmly. She turned away and started off again, forcing Alex almost to run in order to keep up. "Because you're going to solve this puzzle, today. And if you don't, then I don't have a choice - I'm going to have to infect everyone on the planet, as quickly as I can, before they find a way to stop me."
~ ~ ~
He was carrying his heat gun - not a strange thing, really. But he was also fully dressed in the slightly-singed clothing he'd arrived in - which was, on the whole, a bit strange. He'd spent a socially unacceptable amount of time in some state of undress since they had started sleeping together. In contrast, the fact that he had all his clothes on made him look like he was geared up for action.
"Are you going somewhere?" she asked, arching a brow as she swivelled her stool around to look at him.
"Yeah," he said, tugging on the cuffs of his gloves to seat them properly on his fingers. "Lise says it's time to go fight Skirt and get Snart and Flash back. Suit up."
Caitlin's eyes widened. "How are you going to do that? There are so many zombies, not to mention Supergirl."
He made a vague gesture with one hand. "Hart and his boy did a thing, I guess. Portable noisemaker, like the glove."
She nodded. That did make sense, and she felt a huge sense of relief that the mission to rescue Barry was finally being attempted. "Good luck," she said fervently.
He blinked at her. "Ain't you comin'? I thought Frost was gonna do her thing, too." He grinned in an almost lascivious manner. "Sure was fun fightin' with her before."
"I'm sure it was," Caitlin said. "But I have to finish this testing. If all goes well, perhaps I'll have a cure ready by the time you get back."
Despite her best efforts to sound upbeat, her voice dropped by the end of the sentence. She was running out of ideas to try and anti-viral combinations to test, and absolutely nothing had worked so far. While it was wonderful that she'd been able to get blood from Cisco, Roy, and Kyle, with the way things were going, she was going to literally run out of options before she ran out of samples to test.
Mick regarded her with an inscrutable expression for a few moments, then he stepped forward. He wrapped his arms around her, and she closed her eyes, resting gratefully against his broad chest as he held her gently in his massive arms. The heat gun held in his fist poked her uncomfortably in the back, but that didn't really bother her.
Before he pulled away, he bent and kissed her gently on the forehead. "You can do it, doc," he said. "Don't give up. Our boys need you to get this, and there ain't nobody who can do it better than you."
She smiled. "Thank you, Mick," she said. "Bring Barry and Leonard home for us."
He nodded, and his eyes gleamed. "Anyone who tries to stop me's gonna burn," he promised, then he turned away and marched out the door with new purpose.
Caitlin turned back to her samples with renewed energy. There was no telling how long the energy would last, but it didn't matter. What really mattered was getting the next battery of tests done. And the next. And the next. Until she had found the answer.
She wiped the sweat from her feverish brow, and bent over her microscope again.
~ ~ ~
It was all an act, forced by an alien virus, designed to keep Len off-guard so Barry could chow down on him at his leisure, or something like that. Len was sure the scientists would understand it.
He just wanted to kill it. Kill the thing that had taken his lover away.
When the door opened again, it was almost a relief. Barry got up obediently, forced by his alien parasite to obey. But this time, Len jumped up as well. He hadn't been out of this cell in too long, and even if it was just a woman he didn't know, he was aching to see a human face. "I want to come, too."
Barry glanced back at him, frowning faintly, then looked at the drooling zombies who had been sent to fetch him. "Can he come?"
Len wasn't sure who he was really talking to. Maybe his alien mistress, the queen bee Supergirl.
"I won't be any trouble," Len said innocently. Maybe he'd get lucky and find a weapon. Maybe he and Alex could find a way to escape and burn the place to the ground on the way out. What he wouldn't give to have Mick here right now.
"He just doesn't want to be left alone all the time," Barry said quickly. "Maybe he can help with the experiments."
The zombies regarded them for a couple of seconds, then turned away and started walking. Nobody tried to stop Len as he followed, so perhaps that was his answer.
They were led through a series of corridors into a room that was unmistakably a laboratory. A dark-haired woman in a lab coat was examining blood samples with gloved hands, noting results in a logbook.
She turned around at their entrance, her eyes wide with nervousness, but relaxed slightly and smiled. "Hi Barry. How are you doing?"
"Fine Alex," Barry said, smiling brightly. Len tried not to show his dismay outwardly. Would Alex be able to tell that his infection had progressed, or would she be fooled? Barry turned to Len and his smile softened. "Alex Danvers, this is my boyfriend Leonard Snart."
Len gave her one of his patented cool smiles. "Charmed," he purred.
Alex's smile was equally cool, but warmed when she looked at Barry. "He's why you came? I'm glad you found him." She looked to Len. "And I'm glad to see you look to be in pretty decent shape, considering your ordeal. Do you want me to examine you?"
The last thing Len particularly wanted was to be examined by a doctor. He shrugged and found a spot on the wall to hold up, folding his arms and leaning. "Don't want to trouble you, doc. I know you've got stuff to do. I understand that you're the one who's supposed to turn us all into metahumans so we can be smart little drones for the queen bitch up on her throne." He pointed to the ceiling, in the rough direction of the room at the top of the alien structure.
As he spoke, he watched Barry closely, wondering if he'd get angry when Len insulted his mistress, but it was Alex's voice that rose with annoyance.
"That's my sister you're talking about, Snart. And what's happened doesn't make her a 'bitch'. She's sick, and she's not in control over her own actions," Alex snapped.
Barry flushed and raised his hands placatingly. "She's right, Len. It's not Kara's fault," he said gently. "But Alex, Len doesn't really mean it. He knows that." He looked at Len hopefully. "Right?"
Len gestured vaguely. "Right, sure. Sorry," he muttered.
Alex didn't seem particularly reassured, but she was at least mollified. "Well, it's fine," she said, though grudgingly. "Anyway, there's been a development." She paused briefly, but they were alone in the room, the door closed and the zombies outside passing by without a glance into the room through the windows. "Kara told me that something's changed. The DEO has found a way to cut her off from reading the minds of zombies, I think. She called it a dead zone."
That sharpened Len's attention, though his eyes darted to Barry. "Ah, maybe we shouldn't--"
But Barry cut him off, taking an eager step towards Alex. "Oh wow, that's great. That's progress. What do you think it means?"
"I don't know, but I hope they do something soon," Alex said. "I don't know how much longer I can put Kara off, and keep on pretending--"
At the moment she said the word 'pretending', alarm bells rang in Len's head. Whatever the secret was, she was about to tell Kara without realizing it. He leaped forward, hands out as if he could somehow physically stop the words from coming out of her mouth. "Wait, shut up!" he snapped. "Barry's a zombie!"
Alex's eyes widened and she clapped a hand to her mouth in horrified realization. "Oh god, no," she gasped.
Barry looked around at Len, brows furrowed with hurt confusion. "What? No I'm not!"
The denial was just too much. Len backed away, coming to stand next to Alex as if the two humans had any way to defend themselves against the speedster. Barry stood still, brows still furrowed in that adorable, puppy-dog expression that Len usually wanted to kiss all over. Now Len knew it was just a lie, and he was sure if he just repeated it to himself enough times, his heart would believe it.
He picked up a heavy tool from a nearby counter. He had no idea what it was or whether it was important. He knew if Barry wanted to, he could disarm him in a fraction of a blink of an eye. It still felt better to have a weapon in his hand.
"Len, I'm not a zombie," Barry protested. He took a step closer - a slow step. Len raised the tool a couple of inches, and Barry's eyes began to shine with misery. "What are you doing? Are you going to attack me?"
"Sorry, kid," Len said, putting as much cold ice into his tone as he could, even though his heart was shattering. "The cute act isn't gonna work on me. I felt it when you changed."
Alex looked at him, then back to Barry, then opened her mouth. "Barry, maybe if you could--"
Whatever she wanted Barry to do, she never got a chance to say it. Supergirl walked through the door - actually walked through it, the door crumpled and bent to the sides around her body as she didn't bother to open it first. She was moving at a speed that might rival Barry - at least, on a bad day.
"Alex! Why aren't you working?" she snapped, her eyes afire. "I told you how urgent it is!"
Somewhere, distantly, there was the sound of an explosion. The structure shuddered.
"You see?" Supergirl exclaimed. "They're attacking, and I've run out of time. Now I have to change everyone - and do it right now!"
"No wait!" Alex exclaimed, but Supergirl didn't hesitate.
She grabbed Len by the back of the neck. The structure shuddered a second time, and Supergirl's face loomed in front of Len. She leaned closer, moving so quickly his mind could scarcely catch up, but the way she tilted her face made him think - crazily - that she was about to kiss him.
She breathed out, her sweet breath washing over Len. Involuntarily, he inhaled.
She dropped him, and his limbs wouldn't work anymore. He was vaguely aware that he was collapsing to the floor, limbs shaking as the infection raced through him at lightning speed.
Strong arms caught him. Barry's grip was strong, and held him up, protecting him. "It's okay, Len," Barry said, his voice broken with tears. "It'll be okay."
"No it won't," Len whispered. "I'm not like you, Barry."
And then he was gone.
Chapter 30: Welcome Back To The Fun House
The trip out to the alien fortress was, for Hartley, both exhilarating and terrifying. Trapped in a tiny bubble of silence as they hurtled through the streets of a post-apocalyptic urban wasteland, he had nothing to do but watch the scenery rush by and worry about what lay ahead.
He and Winn had created three portable sonic devices in total - RG (right glove), LG (left glove), and G (gauntlet). The code names needed more work. As did the devices themselves. Given more time, the two of them could have created more and better sonic emitters with the equipment they had in Winn's lab, but time was one thing they were quickly running out of.
It wasn't easy for Hartley to hand his gloves over to people who weren't him, especially since one of them was Mick, and the other was Kyle Nimbus.
Mick he liked, but the man wasn't exactly gentle with his toys. Kyle - well, was Kyle - but he was the most mobile of them all and since he was infected, he needed to stay close to one of the devices at all times. It would be a disaster if he reverted to Kara's control if he got separated or left the group. So Kyle got one.
Winn kept his gauntlet, which now emitted the sonic vibrations at the correct frequency in addition to having an anti-zombie energy shield. Both engineers worried that the power cell would fry under the load, but it seemed to hold up during the brief bit of testing they'd done, and Winn had brought some others along with them, just in case.
The DEO had several military-style jeeps in their garage. Once they were ready to go, the metahumans, Rogues, and agents piled into them and headed out into the city.
They had all but emptied out the building for this effort, leaving only a skeleton crew of DEO agents behind to guard the place so that Caitlin could continue her testing without worrying about an attack. Of course, the large sonic emitter in the basement would repulse most attacks - or rather, make them virtually impossible. Zombies robbed of Supergirl's telepathic control turned into disorganized walking corpses who were more likely to run into a wall repeatedly than much else. If they were shown prey directly they still attacked, but it was unlikely that they would make their way into the building at all with the doors locked and entries barred.
The drive wasn't exactly pleasant. Hartley wasn't sure if it was because of the emitters, or just because they were moving quickly, but the zombies paid them little notice as they passed. But it was uncomfortable and lonely to be sitting in the car surrounded by a shield of utter silence. He felt like there was a glass wall between himself and the whole rest of the world. The others were engaged in talking, he knew, but he couldn't follow the conversation. He lapsed into staring out the window, which meant even those few snatches of conversation completely passed him by.
And looking out the window was depressing as hell. The city was bigger than Central City, with taller buildings that arched overhead as they sped through the streets in a military convoy, dodging abandoned vehicles. Other than a few wandering zombies, Hartley didn't see any people at all. He could only hope that all these efforts weren't too late to save any of the millions of people who obviously lived here.
He hadn't even considered the question of how far the infection had spread by now, either.
When he could no longer stand looking out at the urban wasteland, Hartley shivered and sat back, but the view up ahead wasn't much better. They were already leaving the city, and he could see a hill up ahead, with an alien-looking structure crouching on top like a poisonous spider.
Even still, he was glad that he'd been able to argue the others into letting him come. If something went wrong with the gloves, he knew Winn could probably handle it himself, but two hands - and two brains - were still better than one. Besides, the idea of just sitting back at headquarters alone with nothing to do didn't sit well with him. He knew his hearing gave him a disadvantage, and it was pretty terrifying, but he knew he could handle it.
Winn's hand snuck into Hartley's, and he clasped it gratefully. They held tight to each other as the convoy made their final approach.
~ ~ ~
All the way there, Winn's mind had been working overtime trying to figure out the what to expect. He figured there was no possibility that the zombie queen would have failed to notice their approach, and Winn also expected they wouldn't just open the doors and invite them in.
He wasn't sure of the radius of the sonic devices, because he and Hartley hadn't been able to test it properly with the bigger device active. So as all of the vehicles came to a stop outside the building, Winn was already looking around for any indication that the devices were working.
There were no immediately obvious signs. The building squatted above them, an alien structure with no apparent means of entry.
Winn swallowed, gave Hartley's hand one more squeeze, then opened the door of the jeep and stepped out. Hartley slid out behind him, and Winn stepped deliberately between Hartley and the building as if he could shield the other man with his body.
The fact was, Winn hadn't wanted Hartley to come at all. He still couldn't hear, because they couldn't retune his implants on the road, and he didn't have his gloves. But Hartley had insisted he needed to be there in case any of the devices failed and his technical know-how was helpful. Winn had tried to argue that he could handle it himself, but Hartley had been stubborn about it. In the end, Winn had surrendered, and just decided to keep a close eye on Hartley - he suspected the real reason was that Hartley didn't want to be left behind.
Several zombies lurched towards them in a disorganized way. A dozen DEO agents raised their weapons and gunfire split the air.
"How're we going to get inside?" Winn asked, watching the area around them. More zombies would have heard the guns and might be coming even now. They were horribly exposed out here on the open terrain. Indeed, even as he thought it, dozens more lurched up the hillside and around the building from either direction. They weren't organized in any way, but that didn't make them any less dangerous.
The group put the building to their backs, the DEO agents forming a semi-circle around the others as the zombies began to approach.
Suddenly, the sound of an explosion erupted deep within the bowels of the building. The structure shuddered audibly, flakes of rust raining down upon them.
"That'll be Kyle," Lisa said with pride in her voice.
Then there was a strange noise from behind Winn. He whirled around, his heart in his throat, and saw an oval sort of window forming in the skin of the building's wall. The watery fabric of the oval split apart, revealing a corridor beyond, and Mick and Cisco standing in the corridor. Cisco had his hands up, and a look of concentration on his face, though half of it was obscured by a set of goggles. Energy rushed from his fingertips, forming the oval - which Winn now realized was a portal.
"Come through!" Cisco cried. "Quick!"
Hartley had looked around when Winn had. As the portal solidified, Hartley grabbed Winn's hand and rushed towards it without hesitation, and Winn was only too happy to follow. They leaped through at the last moment, and then they were standing inside the alien fortress.
The others crowded through, the DEO agents quickly fanning out to the front and behind, covering all of the door in the hallway as more and more of them poured through. Finally, the last of them jumped through the portal, the agent firing wildly into the gaping maw of a zombie, whose limbs grasped at him hungrily before it fell away.
Then the portal closed with a pop.
"Welcome back to the fun house," Cisco said ironically. "Come on, we'd better move before Kara realizes where we are."
As the group began to move, another explosion rocked the building. "What's going on?" Winn asked. In the whirlwind of prepping the devices, he and Hartley had been insulated from most of the planning.
"Kyle took some charges down to the basement," Lisa said. "This fortress was actually a ship, so we figured - it has to have engines, right? Blowing those up should distract everyone long enough for us to find Lenny and the Flash."
"It better," Mick growled, from just behind Winn. Winn squeezed Hartley's hand. How were they going to find anyone in this insane maze? Winn was also starting to feel bad about every zombie that they killed. Nearly all of them might be curable, for all they knew. Every bullet in the brain of one of the attacking zombies was a person who wasn't coming back from this disaster.
Assuming a cure was possible. He had to believe that, though.
"Fan out!" Lisa yelled to the DEO agents. "Check every corridor and every door."
As they reached cross corridors, contingents of agents peeled off to check them. Maybe it was possible to search the entire labyrinth.
No sooner had that thought crossed his mind, but arms wrapped around Winn from the side. The grasping hands were as strong as tree trunks, and Winn screamed as he was yanked sideways, and through the nearby solid wall.
He clung to Hartley's hand desperately, but the contact was broken in an instant, and the last thing he heard before being pulled away was Hartley's distressed yell.
As insubstantial as the wall had seemed for an instant, it was definitely still solid. Winn discovered that when those same strong arms pushed him up against that wall an instant later. The bloodshot eyes of J'onn, his face reverted to full Green Martian, glared at him.
"Oh god oh god oh god," Winn whimpered, holding up the gauntlet as if it could somehow shield him from the superpowerful alien.
J'onn blinked, then blinked again. "Winn?" he said. Then his face went slack with horrified realization. "What have I done?"
Winn sagged with relief. "Oh thank god it worked," he said. His feet still weren't touching the ground, but J'onn seemed to realize that a moment later and set him gently down.
"Agent Schott, what is happening?" J'onn said. "I recall the building collapsing, and then Kara-- she dug me out of the rubble and infected me with her breath. And then I--" He paused, shaking his head. "What have I done?" he moaned softly.
Winn grabbed his boss by the shoulders. "Hey, hey, what happened wasn't your fault," he said forcefully. "It was the infection."
"Have you somehow cured me?" J'onn asked, his eyes widening.
"Not yet," Winn admitted. "Hartley and I discovered that a particular sonic frequency can disrupt Kara's mental control. So... you're sane, but still a zombie. Caitlin Snow is working on a cure and, uh... I'm sure she'll find one!" he said, injecting as much hope as he could into his words. "Right now, we really need your help finding the prisoners."
J'onn nodded. "I know exactly where they are," he said.
"Great," Winn said. "Just, don't leave me. I have the thing that keeps you safe."
"I understand," J'onn said gravely. "I will show you and the others the way. We must hurry, though. Every minute we waste, is another horror that will weigh on Kara's conscience."
J'onn transformed back into his human form, then gripped Winn's shoulder. "Forgive me," J'onn added, then he pushed forward, dragging Winn with him. Winn had just enough time to brace himself, before they popped back through the wall and into the midst of the distressed knot of agents and rogues who were still trying to figure out where he was.
Roughly a dozen guns swung around to point in their direction. Hartley threw himself at both of them, heedless of what he must have thought was mortal danger, and wrested Winn away from J'onn, who raised his hands in surrender.
"It's okay!" Winn exclaimed. "J'onn is on our side again. The glove brought him back to his senses."
Hartley's face was still pinched with distress and worry. As the others lowered their weapons and moved forward to welcome J'onn back with cautious relief, Winn turned to his boyfriend and looked into his eyes. "I'm okay," he said slowly and clearly. "I'm fine."
Hartley flushed visibly and nodded, pushing up his glasses in an embarrassed gesture. "Sorry," he said. He'd figured out - mostly - how to modulate his voice again even though he couldn't hear himself, and it came out so softly that Winn could barely hear him.
Winn kissed him, then turned back to the others. "J'onn's gonna show us where to go. So let's get moving, huh?"
The group moved out once again, moving with purpose now that they had a clear direction. J'onn took charge, and Lisa reluctantly ceded him the authority, as he led the way.
Winn was hopelessly lost by the time they reached a corridor with windows along the wall. The door to the room had been blown apart, the metal peeled back like a tin can lid. "Hurry," J'onn said. "Supergirl is here!"
Winn's heart went into overdrive. If Kara was here, and so was Barry and Alex, that might mean they were all in imminent danger. But he knew what he had to do.
He let go of Hartley's hand and raced forward, raising his gauntlet in front of him like a shield. His mind screamed at him to wait, to ask someone what he should do before he did something completely insane.
He ignored it.
Winn was the first one through the door. As he plunged through the opening, he saw Alex, Barry, and Kara, all with their backs to the door. There was another man Winn didn't know, and Kara was holding him up off his feet. She let him go and started to turn, and the man's body fell like a rag doll, limp and boneless.
Barry caught him, lightning crackling around his body as he dropped to the floor with the man cradled in his arms.
Kara turned towards Winn, her feet parting ways with the floor, her shoulders thrown back and her eyes afire. "No!" she exclaimed. "No, you can't stop me!"
"Come back, Kara," Winn exclaimed desperately, thrusting the gauntlet forward as if a few more inches would make any difference.
Kara moved towards him. Then she stopped.
Her feet touched the ground.
"No..." she whispered.
Then she sank down to her knees, covering her face. "Oh god... no," she moaned.
Alex and Winn reached Kara's side at almost the same time. Both of them threw their arms around Kara and held her as she sobbed.
Chapter 31: Is It Christmas Already
The familiar sound of Cisco's portal opening right behind her had Caitlin immediately pulling away from the microscope and whirling around on her stool. Reflexively, she picked up a heavy - and probably expensive - piece of equipment that she wasn't currently using off the desk. Just in case.
She was distantly aware that her shirt was sticking to her back, and sweat was running into her eyes. Her breathing was shallow and rapid. The fever was raging through her body.
But she still had six samples to test.
She couldn't stop until she had exhausted every avenue. For the past hour, that had turned into a kind of mantra - twenty samples left to test. Nineteen. Eighteen.
Very soon, the number would reach zero, but in all honesty it wasn't hope that she might find a solution that was keeping Caitlin going - that hope had long ago fled, leaving only a numb determination to put one foot in front of the other until she fell down and stopped moving.
Or in this case, kept on moving, but was no longer herself anymore.
Several people came through the portal almost at once. Mick was the first one through. He had someone slung over his shoulder, butt in the air, and Caitlin's heart leaped into her throat as she wondered who it was.
Barry followed him through a moment later, the portal closing almost on his heels. The sight of him was such a relief that Caitlin had to repressed the urge to throw herself at Barry to give him a hug - the time for hugs was later. If Mick was carrying someone, that meant Doctor Snow was needed right now, not weepy Caitlin Snow.
"What happened?" she demanded. "Follow me." She set down her improvised weapon and strode out of the lab and into the ward, pointing to the nearest cot. "Put them down there."
"Supergirl infected him," Barry said, his voice high and tight, speaking so rapidly he was almost unintelligible. "Caitlin, it was just a few minutes ago, but I think he's already changing!"
From the terror in Barry's voice, Caitlin had divined who her patient was by the time Mick laid him down gently onto the cot. Barry was right about the progress of the infection. Leonard was hot to the touch, and shuddering, his eyes closed tightly. Caitlin grimaced, immediately identifying the signs of the final stages of the zombie change.
"Quickly," she ordered. "Put the restraints on him. He'll turn any moment, and with the speed this infection is progressing, I don't want anyone to get bitten."
"Oh god," Barry gulped, but he whirled into action. In the blink of an eye, Len's wrists and ankles were tied down.
There was literally nothing Caitlin could do for him. She took a few moments, gazing at him as if she were trying to come up with a solution, then she turned to Barry and Mick, her eyes flicking over them for any sign of infection.
Barry had a bandage on his forearm.
"How are you, Barry?" she asked, her eyes narrowing. She didn't have time to beat around the bush. "How far has the infection progressed in you?"
"I'm okay," Barry said, his hand coming up to cover the bandage in what looked like a reflexive gesture. Caitlin thinned her lips and held out her hand to him in an unmistakable command. After a moment, Barry extended his injured arm and she peeled the bandage back.
The skin was smooth and unbroken, but the bandage clearly hadn't been changed in a couple of days, and there were dark spots of old blood on it. She frowned and looked up at him. Barry's eyes were wide with surprise. "That wasn't like that this morning," he said. "The bite wasn't healing like it normally would."
Caitlin exchanged a glance with Mick, who spread his hands. "I ain't been bitten," he said. "We got to the room where Skirt and the others were, and he just started shaking right away after Skirt let him go. Then Skirt started cryin', and we got Snart outta there right away."
As sympathetic as Caitlin was to Kara's feelings, right now she was just relieved that the sonic device had worked on her. It was just too bad that they hadn't gotten there in time to save Len from this fate.
She looked at Barry again. If he was a zombie then he should have woken up and come back to himself when exposed to the sound. She had no reason to disbelieve him if he said he wasn't a zombie.
But there was no room for doubt. Especially given the implications of this.
"Come this way, Barry," she said. She headed for the lab with Barry and Mick on her heels. She opened the door just fine, but her shoulder glanced hard off the door jamb as she went through the door. She reeled and Mick caught her in his arms.
"You gotta rest, doc," he rumbled, and she shook her head.
"No, no, Barry, sit on there. I need to read your brain. I need to see... see your thoughts." Her legs were shaking as a wave of weakness passed over her. She was so hot she felt like her face was on fire. "Mick... help me."
With Mick supporting her weight, she managed to stick the EEG electrodes onto Barry's forehead and turn on the machine.
No zombie wave form. His brain was operating like a regular human being, without any sign of the zombie infection. Even with the sonic device still operating in the basement to counteract it, if he was a fully changed zombie, there would be some sign of unusual activity.
Caitlin sagged against Mick, and this time it wasn't just because of the infection raging through her body. His arms were so warm, but his chest was cool against her cheek. "Barry," she said. "It has to be your healing factor. You fought off the infection, which means your blood will have antibodies against it now. You're a walking cure."
Barry's eyes widened. "Caitlin, are you okay? What should I do?"
"She's infected," Mick barked. His voice rose with panic as he held her tightly. "You gotta do something, Barry!"
Barry leaped up from the cot, pulling the electrodes off. "I'm going to get Alex," he said. In a bolt of lightning, he disappeared, but darkness was already rising up to swallow Caitlin.
"Don't," she gasped. "Please don't let me bite you, Mick."
He lifted her into his arms, bridal style. "Just rest," he said gruffly. "Baby, you found the cure. You did it. Everything's gonna be okay now."
But Caitlin was already gone.
~ ~ ~
It started off well enough, waking with Lisa and then getting the great news that Hartley and Winn had built the devices they needed to plan an actual mission to rescue Barry. The mission had gone better than he had dared to hope, with Kyle successfully disabling the engines and causing a distraction, and then they had woken J'onn up, and then Kara.
While Len had been infected, Barry had turned out to be completely clean of the virus - which led to the breakthrough Alex and Caitlin needed.
Cisco had been one of the first people to get a dose of medication, and felt a lot better. Even still, he had kept one of Hartley's gloves on him, just in case.
For the past several hours, as the only one with the ability to make portals, Cisco had ferried people to safety, transported other people to and from quarantine areas, and made medicine deliveries. Alex, the remaining DEO, and the CDC were in charge of disseminating the medication. With Cisco supporting their efforts, slowly but surely it seemed like the humans were re-taking Capital City from the zombie hoard.
As a bonus, Barry's blood seemed to be a deterrent to the zombie's hunger, and people who had received injections were ignored by the infected.
This meant that with the aid of the sonic devices, and with the workers already inoculated with injections of Barry's blood, it was safe enough for people to go into zombie infested areas and corral the zombies into trucks to be quarantined and inoculated with the cure, then monitored as they recovered.
Fewer people were being bitten and the spread of the virus had slowed to almost a standstill. All around the world, scientists were working on synthesizing the cure, and hope was a real thing.
As the sun began to set and Cisco's strength flagged, J'onn had finally released him from duty. Alex had done a thorough exam and pronounced him cured and non-infectious, and then told him to go meet up with the others from his world. Apparently, his services could be dispensed with for the night.
Somehow, Cisco had summoned the energy to open one more portal. He staggered through it, and his feet crunched on a gravel roadway, leading up to a cheerful cottage, framed by green pines. The sight was like a Christmas card, the cottage sugared by snow on the eaves and with a cheerful curl of smoke issuing from the fireplace.
Well, looked like Mick was home.
Cisco already felt a heavy weight beginning to slide off of his shoulders.
The chalet had been Barry's idea. The Earth-1 people had a number of patients who needed to be monitored, but they didn't have homes to go to and the hospitals were full to bursting and understaffed. Since the only other place they could have gone - DEO headquarters - was basically destroyed, they needed a place to stay until the infection had been eradicated and the quarantine on this world had been lifted. They had all agreed that they weren't going back to Earth-1 until they were absolutely certain they wouldn't carry the virus there with them.
Thankfully, the company that owned the cottage and rented it out had been willing to take their reservation at short notice. Cisco had seen it once before - when he opened a portal to drop everyone off there - but hadn't set foot on the grounds himself until now.
He just hoped everyone else was responding to the medication as well as he had done. He was most worried about Len and Caitlin, but he had heard they both got doses of the medication early on.
He walked to the door and tried the knob. The door opened easily under his hand, and he was greeted by a cheerful front lobby and the smell of baking cookies.
He followed his nose.
Lisa was in the kitchen, directing the chaos like an orchestral conductor. Mark, Roy and Shawna were darting around, cutting, basting, and mixing while Lisa stalked back and forth snapping orders.
"Is it Christmas already?" Cisco asked. It was an honest question - he had no clue what day it was anymore.
"Who the fuck cares?" Mark said. He was frantically mixing the contents of a bowl. "Point is we aren't fucked anymore, and that means it's time to celebrate."
Lisa swooped down upon Cisco and caught him up in a hug. "How are you?" she asked, murmuring the question into his ear as she held him close.
He closed his eyes. She was soft, vibrant, and perfect against him. If they had been alone, he had a dozen things he would have wanted to do - though honestly he wasn't sure if he would simply pass out mid-coitus with how tired he was.
"I'm great," he said. "One hundred percent healthy with no undead content remaining. I'm also dead tired, but I can baste a turkey if you need an extra pair of hands. Just don't let me fall asleep in the mashed potatoes."
Lisa giggled, drew back enough to kiss him on the lips, then wrapped both arms around his waist and lifted him a foot off the ground. "Excuse me, boys and gal," she said, while Cisco yelped and grabbed around her neck to steady himself. "Keep doing what you're doing and don't burn anything. I need to go put this bad boy to bed."
"Enjoy the fucking," Shawna said, waving a tea towel in their direction like she was sending off the Titanic, as Lisa carried Cisco from the room. Mark put two fingers to his lips and gave the most piercing wolf whistle Cisco had ever heard.
Cisco buried his burning face in Lisa's shoulder.
She set him down on his feet once they reached the lobby. Hand in hand, they trotted up the stairs and through the first door they encountered. Cisco had time to register a cheerful room with pink wallpaper and a four-poster bed with roses climbing all over both the bedding and carved into the bed frame, before Lisa tipped him onto the bed and climbed on top of him.
"I've been so worried about you, you jerk," Lisa said, pulling her shirt up over her head to reveal a purple, lacy bra.
"Why'm I the jerk?" Cisco protested, squirming out of his own T-shirt and throwing it onto the floor. "It wasn't my fault a building fell on me and I got infected by Supergirl while I was unconscious."
Lisa bent down, dropping onto hands and knees and leaning over him. He surged up for a kiss, but she pressed hands to his shoulders and pushed him back down onto the mattress, denying him the kiss. "But were you really unconscious?" she purred. "I hear she gave a kiss to infect people."
There was something dangerous in her tone, which set Cisco's heart pounding. She couldn't think--! "I-it was more of a blowing into your face thing," he stammered. "A-at least that's what she did to your brother. I swear I wasn't conscious at the time, Lisa!"
She glared at him for a long moment, then she began to giggle. "Oh my god, are you really scared I'd think you wanted her?" she snickered. She kissed him again and then scooted off of him, undoing her fly and skimming out of her pants.
His cheeks were burning again as he pulled off his jeans and underwear. "Hey, I don't want you to worry," he exclaimed. "But I'd never--"
"Go off and fuck Mick while I was down the hall?" Lisa said sweetly. She turned away, unhooking her bra and gave him a heated smirk over her shoulder as she did it.
"You said it was okay," Cisco said weakly.
"My god, you're right. I did." Lisa drew off her underwear and climbed onto the bed again, pressing Cisco back onto the pillows. She nosed up under his jaw, kissing his throat and making his skin tingle in response. "Almost like I'm not a jealous kind of girl."
Cisco made a quiet, scoffing noise.
She chuckled. "Okay, I would be super pissed if you'd gotten into some fun with Supergirl, but I know you'd never do that, Cisco." She lifted up her head and smiled at him. "You're one of the good guys."
He smiled back. "I love you," he said. Her face went through some rather adorable gymnastics and she glanced away.
"Love you, too," she murmured. "Idiot."
He grinned and wrapped his arms around her, and they kissed.
Holding Lisa and being held last night had been reassuring. It was the kind of night, the kind of comfort, that Cisco imagined two people might share after years of marriage - where the intensity had faded, replaced by a deep warmth and safety. Where that person's arms were home, no matter whether they were on an alien world or in their own apartment.
Today, it was like two people coming together who had never touched before. It was the electricity and excitement of two bodies joining and discovering each other for the very first time.
Whenever Lisa's fingers pressed against his skin, Cisco practically felt a spark leaping between the gap. And when he touched her, she gasped, as if she felt the same thing, too.
There was no longer any need to fear, so there was no hesitation. They moved together, joined intimately, and pushed each other towards climax even as they were pushed.
When Cisco orgasmed, the sensation was so powerful that his brain short circuited for a few moments. He came down gasping, clinging tightly to Lisa, and felt her arms tight around him in return. She settled at his side and pillowed her head on his chest. His lungs heaved as he struggled to suck in enough air, slowly calming as the intensity began to fade.
"You're the best," he murmured, eyes closed as he drowsed.
"I know," she murmured. He grinned, and so did she. She kissed him sweetly on the cheek. "So are you," she added. "Get some sleep, babe. I'll wake you when it's time for dinner."
"'Kay," Cisco murmured. He yawned hugely and loosened his arms so Lisa could get up and go back to the kitchen if she wanted, but she made no move to leave just yet. He stroked her back, feeling her soft hair tumble over his hand. "How's Len?" he murmured, suddenly remembering. He wasn't a metahuman, and he had been subjected to the full force of the virus, almost an instantaneous change. Cisco had been worried it would be too much for Len's body to recover.
But he was so exhausted that if Lisa did give him a response, Cisco never heard it.
Chapter 32: Appropriate Boundaries
The first time Len had passed out believing he was going to die, he eventually woke to pain and immense feelings of helplessness as he was brutally used by an alien zombie queen to lure his boyfriend to another universe to die.
The second time, he felt like he was floating, warm and wrapped up tight. He tried to move his arms, but they seemed to be weighed down heavily.
He wiggled his toes. That seemed to work.
He opened his eyes and gazed up at an IV full of a clear liquid, which slowly dripped into a line. He followed the line with his eyes until it disappeared under the blanket that was tucked up under his chin.
Beyond the IV was a window, the blinds drawn, and bright sunlight visible in the tiny gaps between the slats. Surrounding the window was a cheerful valance, and yellow flowered wallpaper.
Then he turned his head the other way, and saw Barry, sitting in a chair beside his bed. Barry's head was lolling to the side and his mouth was slightly parted, his chest rising and falling regularly. His hand clutched Len's in a loose grip.
Len squeezed his fingers, and Barry jolted upright. He opened his eyes and stared at Len, then his expression brightened into a smile of relief. "You're awake!"
Barry's a zombie, Len's mind reminded him.
"I'm awake," Len said warily. "Where are we and what's with the IV?"
Barry's face fell at his cold tone. "We're still in the other Earth," he said. "Capital City is still being cleaned up, and the DEO headquarters is mostly destroyed. We didn't want to go too far away in case we were needed, and we couldn't go back to our Earth until we were sure that the zombie virus has been completely cured and none of us are contagious. But we wanted to get out of the way until everyone's recovered, so we found a chalet that was available on short notice and... it just seemed to make sense." He finished his explanation with a nervous uptick of his lips, and a hopeful quirk of his eyebrows. "How're you feeling, Len?"
"Fine," Len said uncertainly, still chewing on what Barry had just said. His mind was reeling, and he was hard to keep his cool in the face of all this. "Are... are you telling me that the zombie virus is cured?"
The door opened just as he said that, and Caitlin came bustling into the room. She was somehow managing to carry a steaming tray of food and also drag an IV stand with a bag hanging from it at the same time. She didn't appear to be allowing it to slow her down at all.
"Yes, Leonard," she said, setting the tray down on a table next to Barry's chair. As she turned, Len realized that the IV line was attached to her arm. "The zombie virus is cured. Barry was the reason, actually. His blood contained all of the antibodies that we needed to cure the virus."
Len turned to stare at Barry again. "It did?"
"Yes," Caitlin said. Barry smiled weakly. "When the virus hit critical in Barry, he didn't actually turn. Instead, his healing factor allowed him to fight it off and develop the antibodies he needed. Now we can use his blood to synthesize an antidote, and a vaccine, and Alex at the DEO is using more of his blood to try to create a synthetic version for mass production."
Len was silent for a long moment. All he could think about was how he had pushed Barry away, accusing him of being a zombie, and Barry had been fine.
A horrible feeling was assailing him. An unfamiliar feeling. Guilt.
Caitlin and Barry exchanged glances, and then Caitlin moved to Len's side and reached under his blanket. "You should be clear of the virus by now, so I'll remove your IV so you can be more comfortable," she said. "But you have to promise to cooperate with a full exam and brain scan tomorrow to make sure you don't need another dose. You succumbed to the infection fastest out of anyone."
"Hmm," Len said. He dropped his gaze to contemplate the blanket. That had been the worst feeling of his life, when Kara had attacked him and he knew he was done for.
Caitlin tapped her foot twice. "Well?"
Oh right, she was still waiting for a response. "I promise," he said grudgingly.
"Thank you," she said tartly. She gently removed the IV needle from his arm and put a bandage over the insertion point. Then she took herself and her own IV stand out of the room and shut the door.
"I'm sorry," Len said, speaking up at the exact same moment. He met Barry's gaze, and Barry's eyes were wide with confusion.
"Why?" Barry asked, brows furrowing.
That was an unexpectedly hard question to answer. Len's words stuck in his throat as they crowded in together. Finally he just blurted out, "I thought you were a zombie, but I was wrong. And then..." It took him a moment to find a way to express this feeling that lay upon him like a muffling weight. "Then I realized that being an asshole to you was the last thing I had done before I was going to die... and that was a shitty way to go out."
Len stared at him. Somehow, the weight was evaporating, like dew under sunshine. "What?"
"I love you," Barry said warmly.
Len choked and looked away. And down. He picked at a loose thread on the blanket. "I love you, too," he muttered resentfully.
Barry turned to the side and blurred. An instant later, the plates - yes, plates - of food Caitlin had brought were shining clean. Then Barry got up from the chair and climbed into bed next to Len. "I know," he said, wrapping his arms around Len and tucking his head under Len's chin. "But thank you for saying it when you know I can actually hear you."
Len sighed and settled onto the pillows, squeezing Barry tightly. He would have been perfectly content never to let go. "What's with the speed-eating?"
"I had to give a lot of blood," Barry said into Len's shirt. "I've got to replace that. And I might wind up having to give more. The virus spread quite far before the quarantine efforts really began, and it'll might take some time to synthesize the artificial stuff. I'll give all I can in the meantime. Thankfully, with my healing factor, so long as I keep my strength up, I can keep giving."
"Of course you will," Len sighed. "You always give too much, Barry."
Barry shook his head. "I give what I can, and that's all anyone can do." He shrugged. "I know that's not your thing, and that's fine."
Len cupped Barry's cheek, turning onto his side. "If I did what you do, there'd be nothing left of me," he said wryly.
Barry smiled, though Len thought he saw something tired behind his eyes. "That's why I have you, to keep me grounded," he said.
Len nodded, and Barry cuddled against his chest again, and they lapsed into a companionable silence.
Len felt bone-tired, but alert. The puncture at the bend of his elbow was vaguely sore, but it only distracted him a little while he was moving. It seemed like he wasn't suffering from any side effects from his latest brush with death. With a little food, sleep, and TLC, he was sure he'd be just fine.
"Are you going to go back on the Waverider?" Barry asked softly.
That was exactly the question Len probably should have considered before now. But he hadn't had room to think about anything other than survival recently. For the past week, his chances of survival had been so much in doubt, the issue of whether he would return to the time-travelling space ship where he'd almost died hadn't even crossed his mind.
"I don't know," he said, then frowned at himself. He had the urge to ask Barry what he wanted, but that just wasn't his style.
"What would you prefer I do?" he asked tentatively.
Barry didn't answer for long enough that Len realized that he was wrestling with himself just as much as Len was. Finally he drew a breath. "I don't want you to stay just because I want you to be close," he said. "I think you going on the Waverider was really... a great thing for you."
Len smiled faintly. Of course that would be Barry's worry. "A great thing? Getting lied to and then dying was a great thing for me?"
Barry coughed and shook his head. "That's not what I meant," he said severely.
"You just like thinking that I'm being heroic," Len said with a smirk. "But you'd be wrong. I went on that trip for my own selfish reasons, just like I've done everything in my life."
"Oh yeah?" Barry lifted his head and looked down at him, raising an eyebrow. He rubbed his own throat, reminding Len of the collar that he had worn the very first Christmas. "Everything you've done was selfish?"
Len actually felt his cheeks flush. "I'd say buying you has worked out pretty well for me," he said archly.
Barry grinned at him and settled back down. "Besides, that isn't how Mick talks about it."
"Huh?" Len blinked. "Mick... what did Mick say?" He hadn't had the courage to ask about Mick or really even think about him the whole time they had been stuck in the alien fortress. Until this moment, he hadn't even dared to wonder whether Mick was here.
"Oh, some fuzzy stuff about you being a hero," Barry said.
Len made a noise of disbelief. "Pull the other one."
"I'm serious!" Barry laughed, giving him a squeeze. "I know things went bad between you and Mick, but he seems to have forgiven you. He also seems committed to staying on the Waverider."
"Well, stranger things have happened," Len said. "I mean, surely stranger things have happened, right?"
Len fell silent once more, actually thinking about the question Barry had asked. "I think..." he said finally. "I'm going to wait to decide what I'm going to do until after Christmas. It's been a hell of a time recently, and all I want to do right now is enjoy a little holiday."
Barry beamed. "That sounds great," he said warmly.
~ ~ ~
Caitlin sat at the long table, sandwiched between Barry and Mick, and felt no fear when she looked at the various faces around the table. There was no hateful looks thrown at Team Flash, either. No muttered threats. And there was no need to put on a show by collaring and dominating the Team Flash people. There was just a strange, companionable camaraderie.
Apparently going through a zombie apocalypse together was enough to overcome even the antipathy caused by locking someone in a small box in the basement of a particle accelerator for a year.
Caitlin's arm hurt a little where the IV had been inserted, but she had run herself through every test she could think of, and there was no sign of the virus remaining in her system. Roy, Cisco, Len, and Kyle had also all recovered nicely, though she could tell that Len was still going to take some time to fully recover from the injuries he sustained during the explosion at the Vanishing Point, and the subsequent weeks of being held in an alien zombie prison.
He endured everything with his usual resiliency, acting as though nothing was wrong, though Caitlin's sharp eyes did still detect a bit of stiffness when he moved.
Tonight, though, small complaints aside, no one was complaining about their health.
Hartley was the only one not at the table - he had chosen to stay behind at the DEO and help, though it was likely that he had other reasons for doing that besides altruism. Caitlin thought he probably just wanted to spend as much time with Winn as possible before he would be forced to return to their Earth.
The gathered rogues and heroes shared a massive spread of roast turkey, various sides, and a huge pile of sugar cookies that Mark Mardon took credit for. Wine and liquors were passed around liberally, and Caitlin's wine glass just seemed never to be empty. She finally had to just put one of Mark's sugar cookies on top to stop herself from draining it again, nervous of winding up so intoxicated that there would be another repeat of the Karaoke Incident.
Conversation rose and fell, at times loud and boisterous, while at other times the tryptophan and wine conspired to make everyone drowsy. As the bird was demolished and even the cookie tray started to look diminished, people began to depart from the table in ones and twos, moving into the den to play games or retiring to their rooms for the night.
Caitlin thought about getting up a couple of times, but couldn't quite summon the motivation to do it, until Mick gently poked her in the shoulder and she realized that she had leaned over in her chair until her head rested against his arm, effectively trapping him.
"You wanna go to bed?" he murmured, an unexpected gesture. In Caitlin's experience, Mick was more likely to just do things, rather than ask.
She nodded, and roused herself, giving him a sheepish smile as she got to her feet. "I guess I was more tired than I realized," she said.
"No wonder," Mick said. "You been workin' hard, doc."
"I have," Caitlin acknowledged. She tucked her arm into Mick's elbow, leaning her head against his shoulder again as they walked together up the stairs and down the hall. As they walked, he glanced at her every few seconds, like he was reassuring himself that she was still there.
"Do you think you'll be going back on the Waverider when we get back?" Caitlin asked.
Mick made a grunting noise that sounded like assent. After a few steps, he seemed to decide that wasn't enough for an answer and added. "Those idiots'd be dead twenty times if it weren't for me. I gotta stick around."
"Fair enough," Caitlin said, smiling faintly. They reached a door and Mick twisted the knob, letting them in. Caitlin had caught a nap in this room already, while she recovered from her own infection. Though there was enough beds and rooms for everyone to have their own, Mick didn't seem to have staked his claim on any other room, and by mutual, silent agreement, it seemed this one had been chosen by both of them.
Caitlin was fine with that.
She disengaged from him and sat down on the edge of the bed. She pulled her shirt off and unhooked her bra.
Mick stood by the door, gazing at her in silence.
"You can join me," Caitlin said softly. "If you want."
Mick shifted from foot to foot and then crossed the room. He stood for a moment, his shadow falling upon her, and then bent down. Gently, he grasped her shoulders, then moved his hands back, planing across her shoulder blades and then up into her hair. He gathered her long hair up in his hands, twisting the strands around and then allowing them to fall again as he grasped the straps of her bra and slid them down her arms.
"Gonna miss you," he said, his breath hot against her neck. She sighed, gooseflesh rising on her skin as her panties grew wet with her arousal. Who knew he could touch her that way?
"You don't have to."
"Nah, I know how this goes," he said. He pushed at her shoulders and Caitlin fell back, lifting her hips in invitation as his fingers tugged at her fly. "I get it. We were alone, and you were scared. But after this you'll be back with your friends, and you'll see me different."
"I do see you differently," Caitlin said. He stripped her pants off, and hooked his thumbs in her underwear, brushing his fingers against the join of her legs. She gasped, and her eyes rolled back, her spine arching. "I thought... I thought lots of things about you, Mick. I don't know if you're different than you were, or if I've just gotten to know a different side of you, but I'm not going to forget."
"It's okay, babe."
She pulled away and sat up, tucking her legs under her until she could rise up onto her knees and grasp him by the shoulders. "Listen to me," she said, looking into his eyes. "I can't promise that everything will work out - no one can. I've had my share of heartbreak, too. And I don't do this sort of thing lightly. If you think I'm just blowing smoke, then you don't know me at all."
He blinked a couple of times. "I'll make sure the Cap'n drops me off in 2018 every so often so we can hook up," he said.
She nodded. "Good. Do that."
She leaned forward and kissed him, and he growled against her lips like a wild animal. Her body tingled and she drew in a sharp breath as he laid her down again and drew back, tugging off his clothes as he stared down at her naked body with hunger and heat in his eyes.
It's time to let go, she thought, and with that she felt another kind of sensation rising up inside her. For once, she fell into it willingly, and gave herself to Killer Frost.
Frost opened her eyes and smirked at him. "About time. I missed you, big boy."
"Yeah," Mick growled, shucking his jeans and tugging his underwear off, revealing the hard evidence of his arousal, jutting up from the join of his legs. Frost squirmed, already wet as hell, and drew up her knees, parting her legs in shameless invitation.
"Seems like Caity's all right with all this, now," she commented, curling a lock of white hair around a blue-tinted cold fingertip. "How'd you do it?"
He shrugged and climbed onto the bed, pressing himself between her parted thighs and dropping two meaty hands onto her breasts. He fondled them thoughtfully, teasing the nipples to sharp peaks. "Just bein' myself."
"And she liked that?" Frost asked doubtfully, though a smile played about her lips.
"Seems like you don't know her as well as you think," Mick said. He kissed her, and their breath mingled, their tongues duelling as he rocked himself erotically against the folds of her labia, teasing them both for a few moments. Then he pressed into her, penetrating her wet folds with his cock and stretching her wide open.
Frost gasped, her breath sparkling with snow. He grunted as ice formed on her fingertips, burning his skin, and kissed her harder. His teeth sank into her lower lip and he growled, rutting into her hard enough to rock the bed and slam the headboard against the wall.
Frost threw her head back and cried out, urging him harder and faster. They burned, hot and cold mingling together, until a final peak crested and broke and he emptied himself into her body while Frost screamed her pleasure to the ceiling.
~ ~ ~
The cleanup continued on this Earth, and would continue for some time. Pockets of infection were still being discovered, and a world-wide massive vaccination effort took time. Still, it seemed clear that the danger was basically over, and those who had been infected but not fatally injured, were slowly recovering and returning to their former lives with little harm done.
The emotional damage would also take time. Supergirl still blamed herself for much of the damage, though universally it was agreed that it wasn't her fault.
All of the Earth-1 people had been fully cleared both by Caitlin Snow and the DEO. Extensive testing of their blood had turned up no sign of the zombie virus in anyone's system, and those who had never contracted the virus had also been vaccinated with doses of Barry Allen's blood. They were as safe as they could be, and it had been decided that quarantine could be broken and the travellers could return to their home world.
The travellers from Earth-1 returned to the DEO, where Hartley met them. The building was still a shambles, but all of the extensive underground portion of the facility had been reclaimed and though the command centre was still open to the sky, the power was still on and the network was working. The DEO's important work could continue, including a send-off for their guests.
They gathered in the hangar, the same place where they had first come from the alien fortress to the DEO. The Earth-1 contingent was a little bigger than it had been, with the addition of Leonard Snart. The DEO send-off crew was smaller, consisting only of Alex, J'onn, Winn, and the fully recovered James Olson, who had spent the entire crisis zombified and locked in a cell on the prison level. Kara sent her apologies, but she was still circling the world delivering vaccines, since Cisco could no longer lend his portal-making ability to the effort.
As the group made their goodbyes, Hartley had a realization, like a lightning bolt hitting him. He had been avoiding thinking about this moment all week, but now it was here, and he couldn't just walk through that portal, just like that.
He grasped Winn by the arm and drew him aside. Several people glanced in their direction, but looked away, giving them a private moment.
"I'm going to miss you," Hartley blurted, his fingers tightening with the desire not to let go.
Winn flushed. He leaned forward and kissed him, and his lips were soft and wistful. "Yeah, man," he said. "God, I'm gonna miss you, too. Maybe... maybe Cisco can send you here from time to time?" he asked hopefully. "I mean, if it's not too much trouble."
Hartley glanced back, looking at Cisco. Yeah, he probably would. When he wasn't too busy with superheroing. "It's gonna be hard to wait," Hartley said, half-joking. "The truth is, the moment I walk through that portal, I'm going to want to just turn around and come back."
Winn laughed. Then he swallowed and offered him a shy smile. "I'd be okay with that."
Hartley looked at him again. "Yeah?" Winn nodded, the smile widening tentatively. "What if I just didn't go?" Hartley asked.
Winn blinked. "Can you do that?"
Hartley would have thought it through, but there was nothing to think about. What the hell did he have to go back to?
A crappy apartment full of his inventions? He had everything he had ever done in his head.
A contract job working for a bunch of ruffians? Even if he were attached to that, it looked like Snart was moving away from being a rogue anyway, and Hartley had never gotten along with the others as well as with the leader of the group. There was every chance that with Leonard Snart being a hero, Mick swanning off on the Waverider, and Lisa dating Cisco, the rogues were effectively over.
He had no family, no real friends.
"If you don't mind me crashing on your sofa for a little bit until I get on my feet," Hartley said, turning back to Winn and crooking a hopeful grin.
Winn blushed. "How about in my bed?" he said, then his eyes widened. "Uh, I mean, it's too soon to move in together, right?"
"Right," Hartley said without much sincerity. "Totally too soon. Couch it is. Appropriate boundaries."
"Well," Winn said. "The bed's okay, too. It's a big bed."
"We'll be roommates," Hartley said. "Roommates who fuck."
"I'm sold," Winn said.
"Hey Hart!" Cisco called to them. "I can't hold this portal forever. You coming or not?"
Hartley grabbed Winn's hand again and looked over at Cisco. "You go ahead, Cisco. I've got... some things to figure out."
Cisco laughed. "Called it," he said. "Good luck, buddy. I'll let them know, and look in on you from time to time." He gave one last wave and then hopped through the portal, which closed behind him.
Hartley grinned and glanced over at his boyfriend, who smiled up at him warmly. "I think things are going to be just fine," he murmured.