As a sorcerer, Barry was all about precision. He was by the book, a stickler for the rules, did things to a T. He didn’t play with the recipe like some people, didn’t substitute or manipulate, add or omit. He treated his magic like science. Some people might consider that boring or stuffy but he thought it was practical.
So when his life didn’t end up going by the book, he wasn’t quite sure what to do. Everyone said that by 18 years old, he should have a familiar. Whether it approached him or he summoned it, it was just the way things went. Everyone in his class had one… except him. He’d tried, oh, how he’d tried. In the month of his birthday he’d used the summoning spell nightly – all to no end.
When he’d walked into the classroom on the morning of his 18th birthday – a day that should have been a celebration – he was instead met with pitying looks when his classmates saw that he was still alone. Barry went through the day feeling ashamed and broken. What was wrong with him? Why didn’t a familiar want him?
As the last bell rang, Barry packed up his books with a heavy heart. He just wanted to crawl under his covers at home and cry. But the universe wasn’t even kind enough to give him a dignified exit. No, it sent Tony Woodford to be the cherry on top of an already crappy day.
Barry didn’t see him coming until it was too late. The wind went out of him as he was pushed up against the lockers, a meaty arm across his chest and Tony’s stupid face right up in his own. Barry tried to push back against him but was shoved back whole-body by a wave of magic. If Barry had had a familiar, he might have been able to match Tony’s power. As it was, he went limp and resigned himself to whatever Tony wanted to say or do to him.
“Poor little Allen.” Tony shook him as his metal-bound hellhound familiar bounced around excitedly at his feet. “No one wants you, hey?”
Barry sighed. Some days he put up a token resistance but today he just didn’t have the energy for it. “I guess not, Tony.”
Tony gave out a hearty laugh and pushed Barry away and to the floor. His hound growled at Barry, making him cower and ball up, before it bounded along after its master.
Barry picked himself up from the floor, his pride wounded more than anything else. Standing in the deserted corridor, completely alone in the school and in the world, Barry let his usual cautiousness fall away. His sorrow turned to anger and he made the promise to himself that never again would Tony Woodward be able to mock him. He would get power, he would get respect, he would get a familiar.
Barry had tried the usual summoning spells, the kind they let even the middle schoolers have access to, but he knew the secrets of more powerful magic were kept in the restricted area of the library. His feet headed in that direction almost of their own accord. The library was empty at this time of day – all the students gone home and all the teachers in the staff room. Usually you would have to submit an application to have access to the books in the restricted area, but for once in his life Barry was prioritising speed over finesse. He blasted the door guarding the special collection right off its hinges and ran through into the stacks. He had only the vaguest idea of what he needed and mere seconds to find it before someone came to see what had happened.
His finger ran over the old leather spines, searching for what he needed. Summoning… Summoning… Summoning familiars! There it was, and not a moment too soon. He could already hear footsteps echoing off the labyrinthine general collection, too close for comfort.
Barry sprinted until he was outside the restricted section’s magic guards and then muttered the spell of teleportation, jumping to his room just as a teacher rounded the corner.
Eventually they’d figure out he was the one who had broken in – but by then it would be too late for them to stop him.
Barry flipped to the first summoning spell he could find, not even reading the explanatory text, and traced the circle out in chalk right there in his bedroom. He sank to his knees in the circle and spoke the words of the spell, projecting power and authority into them. After waiting so long, he imagined there would be wind, electricity, fire… something! But as always, nothing changed in his room. There wasn’t even the tiniest spark. It seemed he would just have to admit that, yes, he was broken, unworthy of even a weak little slime as a familiar. Not even a pilfered incantation from a collection of the most powerful spell books known to man would change that.
Barry picked himself up from the floor and his body felt a hundred times heavier that it had going down. Tears pricked his eyes. He’d only wanted this one thing for as long as he could remember but he could do nothing to make it come about – for no creature, however small or powerless, would have him. He felt small, like a child, far too small to hold all the grief – grief for a future that would never be – within him.
Barry startled when a hand tapped his shoulder. He spun around but his feet were clumsy and he ended back down on the ground, looking up at a man he had never seen before in his room.
On closer inspection, though, he was no man. He was humanoid in appearance, that was for sure, but more than a passing glance revealed the horns sprouting from his forehead – small now but they would surely grow longer and more pointed the closer he came to his true form – and the serpentine tail emerging from his tailored suit and twitching impatiently like a cat about to pounce. These features did nothing to take away from the otherworldly beauty of his face and body though.
“You called?” he asked, a smile on his lips, and his voice was honey with a hint of gravel.
Barry felt pierced by those stormy eyes, rooted to the spot by a mixture of fear and something else. Power emanated off the creature in almost physical waves and Barry trembled to think what he had unknowingly summoned. He cursed himself for acting without forethought.
Barry pulled himself to his feet, his eyes never leaving the other occupant of the room for a second. “Who are you?”
The creature cocked his head in an exceedingly human gesture. “I go by Leonard Snart, though I suppose the question you’re really asking is:” he stepped closer to Barry, “what am I? You’re just too polite to put it like that,” he said with a hint of fang in his smile.
“I’m Barry Allen.” Barry reached out, entranced, and the creature inclined his head obligingly, the horns growing under Barry’s touch to their full length, curving back and around like a ram’s. “Are you a demon, Leonard?”
He leant into Barry’s touch, eyes heavy-lidded. “An Archdemon… and call me Len.”
An Archdemon… a leader of the demonic host. Barry’s mind boggled. There really was no one more powerful who he could have summoned, and Len was allowing Barry to pet him like a housecat. At that thought, he withdrew his hand as if it had been burned.
“Why would you answer my call? You’re too…” Barry let his sentence drift off unfinished. Too powerful, too important, too morally ambiguous: they were all equally true and were varying levels of insulting – mostly to himself but also to the Archdemon.
Len’s brow furrowed. “Do you want a familiar or not?”
“I do,” Barry was quick to assure. The last thing he wanted to do was offend the Archdemon. “But what’s in it for you?”
Len shrugged, turning away to survey Barry’s room. “Power, the same as you. An ally, perhaps. A companion at the very least.” Len’s tail whipped about irritably although he kept his face expressionless. “I offer myself up to you and you question it; am I not to your liking?”
“No, it’s nothing like that.” Len was very much to Barry’s liking. He was extremely powerful and handsome and if they joined their power, Barry would never have to fear being made fun of ever again. No one would pity him; they would look on him with awe. “I just thought, on seeing me, you might have second thoughts and want to leave.”
Len’s eyes flashed red. “You can’t call and then send me straight back to hell. It doesn’t work like that.”
“Then how does it work?” asked Barry, taken aback by Len’s apparent desire to stay with him.
“It’s a contract.”
“Yes,” another flash of those fangs, “‘til death do us part.”
“’Til death do us part.” None of Barry’s classmates had ever really described how they’d bonded with their familiars but Barry had always had the impression it was a mutually beneficial arrangement rather than a lifelong union. Until death do us part sounded awfully final. “Like the wedding vow?”
“Exactly,” Len answered with relish.
“Would we be married?” asked Barry, reaching out to touch the space between second knuckle and third on Len’s left hand where a wedding band would rest.
“In a way.” Len seemed amused by his boldness. He brought his tail forward and wrapped it around Barry’s wrist, not too tight but Barry could sense that, if he wanted to, Len could cause a great deal of pain with the appendage. Gently, he pulled Barry’s hand to his lips, his own hand taking over from his tail somewhere along the way, and placed a kiss upon the knuckles. “Would I not make a good husband?”
“Would we have to consummate it?” Barry asked, suddenly drunk on the idea. His face felt warm, flush with blood. Len was offering him everything he ever wanted: power, companionship and – it seemed – more.
Len’s eyes flicked up and down Barry’s body and a pointed tongue flicked out to wet his lips. “Yes.”
“And then you would give me power. You would help me.”
“I would.” With an arm around his waist, Len pulled Barry flush up against him. Barry felt the brush of fangs against his neck, deceptively gentle, as Len spoke. “No one would be your equal.”
“Then,” Barry pushed Len back a step, eased the jacket from his shoulders and began unbuttoning his shirt, “‘til death do us part,” Barry undid Len’s fly, “I will be your sorcerer.”
Len put a hand behind Barry’s neck and drew him in for a kiss. Between their lips surged power unimaginable, thrilling and intoxicating. “And I will be your familiar.”