Len knew Barry was in love with Iris. It sucked because of his… inconvenient feelings for Barry, but it was what it was. If he could make himself feel a certain way, he would first stop caring about icing his father, and then care more about Lisa’s wishes and desires. His feelings for Barry wouldn’t even make the list of things to change. It’s not like Len considered himself boyfriend material. His life had always been ill-suited to relationships.
So, he sucked it up and joined the Legends and started doing good, which in some ways was his homage to his feelings for Barry. He knew they would never be reciprocated, so this was the closest he would ever get to expressing them. Added bonus, it took him out of time, literally, and out of Barry’s sphere. The last thing he wanted to do was follow Barry around like a lovesick puppy.
Thus, he was thoroughly surprised when Barry showed up while he was traveling through time and said, “I need your help.”
So, to gather his wits, he started grandstanding, all while his heart had leapt at Barry’s face and words. “Barry Allen, the hero of Central City. This is Siberia in the year 1892. We’re a little out of your jurisdiction.” Barry was wearing a maroon Flash suit, and his legs looked delightful in the tight polymer. Len could only imagine how good his ass looked.
Barry said, “Yeah, hear me out. I want to recruit you… for a mission,” And Len’s stupid heart gave a happy pitter-patter. He wanted to shoot himself with the cold gun for being such a sap.
So, he snappishly replied, “I’m already helping a bunch of idiot do-gooders. Sorry, I’m up to my fuzzy hood in teamwork.”
“Would it help if I said please?”
“No! And you already have a bunch of superhero types in your life, why ask me?” He always was too sensitive for his own good, even if he covered it in snark.
Barry said, “Well, you have a particular set of skills.”
“Great movie. Last time we tried to be buddy-buddy, it didn’t work out so well… for you. Why trust me now?” And this was the crutch of the matter. Has Barry’s feelings for him changed? Has he changed enough to warrant Barry’s faith? Does he want it? Or is he skidding on thin ice with his heart laid bare?
And as Barry’s pause lengthened, Len got mad. “Spit it out or I’m going to step onto that ship and pretend like this conversation never happened.”
And finally, Barry said it. “Iris.”
And Len’s heart plummeted. How could he forget? “Oy.”
“She’s everything to me.”
“What about her?”
“If you don’t help me, she’s going to die.”
And Len couldn’t help mockingly saying, “True love. That’s your pitch?” And he knew then that he would do it for Barry and Barry’s love, but he would need to drink himself under the table afterwards.
Barry said, “It’s all I’ve got.”
“And I guess saving your love requires doing something less than lawful?”
“We need to break into Argus and steal an alien power source.”
“Flash, a thief,” Len said. “It’s my kind of mission. One condition. My rules.”
And Barry was obviously desperate because he easily agreed. “Your rules.”
So, Len allowed the Flash to whisk him away through the time force, which was a helluva way to travel. Thankfully he didn’t get sick, but it was a near thing, and his grip on the cold gun tightened until it was painful. And then when it was obvious that Barry hadn’t shared his idea to recruit Len with anyone, Len got the hell out of dodge and started making plans. He had a heist to do and a true love to save.
Len was prepared for Barry to be all gung-ho about saving Iris through any means necessary, it’s what he would do for his sister, but he was still a bit shocked when Barry attacked the guards because he didn’t know the code phrase. He took his time undoing his handcuffs to allow him time to watch, and quipped about a magic trick when Barry asked him about the delay.
As they made their way to deep into the center of the facility, Len made sure to look around. One never knew when something he learned here would be useful in another job, er, mission. And then the came to the power source guarded by, “King Shark. That’s adorable.” And he meant it wholeheartedly. Team Flash and their nicknames always gave his pun-loving heart the warm fuzzies. God, he had it bad.
But when Barry wanted to kill King Shark, Len frantically did the math in his head to try to talk Barry out of it, to allow him the freedom to not be a killer like Len. In the end he taunted Barry and gave him a different way. He wasn’t disappointed.
After they took care of King Shark and made it to the power source, Len edged to the far side away from where they had last seen King Shark. As Barry lifted it out of its casing, an alarm sounded and the door started shutting. They dashed for the door, but only Barry made it, and all Len could do was shout, “Barry,” as he was caught on the wrong side.
Feeling trapped and a bit hopeless, Len started talking as always. “This place is going to be crawling with Argus agents in the next two minutes. Look on the bright side, Barry, this is your chance to show how ruthless you really are.”
As they stared at each other and Barry looked hopelessly around the room, Len said, “Sometimes you gotta make a tough call, Barry,” and even he wasn’t sure if he was telling Barry to abandon him or trying to reverse psychology him into getting Len the hell out of there.
But Barry saved him, which made Len eternally grateful, and once back at Star Labs, Barry did take him back to exactly when they had left Siberia, 1892. As they walked through the forest, Barry asked, “Tell me, Snart, did you think I had it in me to leave you behind?”
“I wasn’t sure, but I’ve known you’ve always had the potential to be as ruthless as they come. Your history made sure of that, same as mine. Who knows, maybe that’s why we get along. You see the good in me and I see the bad in you.”
Barry just said, “Maybe.”
Len continued, “Piece of advice. Stop trying to beat Savitar at his own game. Your goodness is your strength. And call me sentimental, but I think the Flash should remain a hero,” as he wiped a bit of debris from Barry’s shoulder.
Barry finally smiled softly at him, and held out his hand. “Take care of yourself, Snart.”
Len shook his hand, and said “No strings on me,” which made him pause and say the words again as he walked back to the Waverider. What the hell did that mean?
And then as his journey on the Waverider continued, Len was soon knocking Mick out so he could sacrifice himself to blow up the Oculus, and he remembered the words he had said to Barry, and they seemed fitting for the Time Masters. “There are no strings on me,” he said. He liked how apropos it was as well as the symmetry. This was all because of his ill-conceived feelings for Barry, after all.
And then Len found himself in the speed force, not dead. A bit confused, Len could feel his ties to earth growing fainter the longer he stayed there. It was fascinating and challenging, but so isolating and lonely.
And after forever and a day, or what felt like it, he was confronted with, “Snart?”
Turning, Len beamed and said, “Barry. Don’t tarry. Dime time.”
“What?” Barry replied, as Len took his hand and dragged him further into the speed force. And then Len was babbling at him about time and stars and string theory and ‘no strings on me’ out of relief at not being alone, but he could tell by the look on Barry’s face he wasn’t making sense to him.
Barry finally tugged on his hand to halt Len and put both of his hands on Len’s shoulders. “Snart. How did you get here? You’re supposed to be dead.”
He had forgotten about the speed force, so they both jumped when she spoke. “He released the time stream from the Time Masters’ foolery, but it didn’t kill him. Just trapped him here like Savitar.”
“Is he a remnant? Why isn’t he making sense?”
“He isn’t a remnant. He’s as real as you. And he is making sense. You just don’t understand yet.” And then she faded from view.
Barry muttered, “What the fuck,” but then Len was pulling on one of his hands and pointing at the speed force pulsing around them. “String, ping, sing. Pull, pull, pull. Stars. Twinkle, twinkle little star.”
And Barry just shook his head and had to admit, “I don’t understand.”
Len pointed again and grinned. “Rings, wings, free, no strings on me!”
Barry nodded and agreed, “There’s no strings on you.” Len pulled him into a tight hug and Barry melted into it. It was such bliss, Len wasn’t sure it was real. But he would take the illusion over an eternity alone any day.
So, Barry settled in with Len, telling him stories about what happened with Savitar and all the things Barry knew had happened since Len had died, or well not died, but been trapped in the speed force. When Len offered commentary, he knew it sounded rhyme-y and disjointed, but as time passed, and he had no idea how long it took, it all began making sense to Barry too. It was like a shorthand for understanding the universe and themselves. And they fell into a language only the two of them could understand as they explored and investigated, always keeping each other on their toes.
They didn’t have to sleep, at least Len didn’t notice ever getting tired, but they always kept in contact. Holding hands or arms wrapped together. Apparently, Barry wanted his company as much as Len wanted Barry’s. The last thing he wanted was to end up alone again.
And then suddenly Len felt a weird tugging sensation pulling at Barry. Barry said, “Wha-,” and he was violently separated from Len and thrust full-speed out of the speed force. All Len could think was, “He knew it had been too good to last.”
So, when Len was left alone, he was bitter. To have Barry and then to have him ripped away seemed like the story of his life. He always thought his Dad was a fool for not learning to avoid getting caught, but he was the one who fell into emotional traps over and over again. He railed at the speed force. “Why? Cry and fry, stars align and then burst into supernova!” The time force didn’t answer and Len started losing himself in the stream of time again.
And some indeterminant amount of time later, Len felt a tugging sensation, and he eagerly fell into it for the novelty.
The next thing he knew, he was skidding across a hard, asphalt road in bright sunshine and more warmth than he remembered. As he lay there panting, he rolled to look at the sky. The blue was soothing and the heat of the sun on his parched skin was refreshing.
And then Barry was holding him in his arms, the heat of him even more startling than the sun’s warmth, and saying, “Craved, saved, sad, mad, glad!”
Wanting to know how Barry had saved him, Len asked, “Cut strings and butterfly wings?”
Barry nodded. “Free and clear! Never fear, all is dear.”
Detective West said, “Oh great, now there’s two of them,” but he looked remarkable happy to see Len.
And then Len realized he was lying naked in the middle of the road with Team Flash carefully not looking at his junk. Laughing hoarsely and looking into Barry’s face, he said, “Make time, primed to loosen, call the goose in.”
And Barry smiled at him, and Len knew his thanks were understood.
And then Iris was offering a blanket, and Barry was helping him stand up, babbling away about how happy he was to see Len. Len understood; they hadn’t lost their shared language, but it was obvious from the expressions on the people around them that none of them got what Barry was saying. Iris at least looked fond, but Len didn’t care about the rest of Team Flash. They were free and Barry had saved him, that was all that mattered.
Once back at Star Labs, Len was given some sweats and a t-shirt after Caitlin fixed his road burns from his skid across the asphalt. Barry hovered by his side nervous and happy, and Len was glad of it. And then he wondered what happened next. He couldn’t be kicked out, could he? No one but Barry understood him, and no matter how dangerous it was to his heart, he didn’t want to leave now. He asked Barry, “Nowhere, despair, air, ensnare?”
Barry nodded frantically and took his hand as if there was no way he was letting Len go now. “Paradoxical sleep, sweep, key, decree, keep!”
Reassured, Len turned to Caitlin and raised an eyebrow. She shook her head. “I have no idea what you two are talking about, but you’re both staying here until we figure out how to get your language abilities back. So, once I take some blood, you’re free to go to the rec room, assuming Barry isn’t going to go haring off again.”
Barry beamed at her, and said, “Relent, descent, content.”
Caitlin smiled pityingly at him, and Len wanted to protest that it was her who was missing out on language skills, but he knew if he spoke, he would get the same smile from her except maybe less tolerant, so he shut up and followed Barry out of the lab after she took her blood samples.
As the days passed, Len and Barry started speech therapy, which began to help their ability to make sense to everyone else. Len watched closely, but although he saw a lot of emotional affection between Iris and Barry, they never kissed or wandered off alone. He was almost indignant for Barry that Iris didn’t seem to want him now that she couldn’t understand him.
He almost asked Barry about it once, but then chickened out. What could Barry say? He loved Iris, no matter if she was being a dick to him. He knew all too well how someone could be sucked into a bad relationship. He’d seen enough of it. So, he kept his mouth shut and secretly judged.
Although it had the benefit for Len of Barry spending all his time with him. They were never far apart, even when their language skills started morphing again to include everyday English and not speed force induced rhyming.
And then after a particularly good day where they both barely rhymed at all, Barry kissed him. Not being a dweeb, he kissed back to memorize the feel of Barry’s lips on his. When the kiss ended, Barry pulled back beaming at him and squeezed his hand. It was not the look of someone using him to get back at a distant lover.
Len got the feeling he was missing something important, so falling back on their shared language, he asked, “Flower power?”
Confusion washed over Barry’s face. “Iris? Well, yeah, she encouraged me to go for it, but I swear it’s all my own feelings.”
Wrestling his language into place, not wanting to be misunderstood, Lens aid, “I thought you were in love with her.”
“Yeah, in high school.”
“You said you would do anything for her. You were prepared to do anything to save her.”
“Well, yeah, it’s Iris. She’s part of my family.”
And Len tried to think back to that forest in Siberia, and what Barry had said. Did Barry call it true love, or did he? He guessed he took too long, because Barry tentatively asked, “Are we not on the same page?”
Finally, after a long searching look into Barry’s hopeful face, Len said, “I think I was reading every fifth word of the book. But I’m getting a clearer picture now,” and he kissed Barry for all he was worth.