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."