The kid in the photo looks young. Exceptionally young – early twenties at best, with ruffled hair and a certain curve to his lips that makes him look ever so innocent in a way that he hasn’t seen for a while.
“His name is Barry Allen,” Eddie informs him, spreading the portfolio across his desk with pride – a justified amount of pride, perhaps. His partner has worked damn hard to bring all this to light, “twenty four, born in Central City and never left. His father murdered his mother in front of him when he was eleven years old, and after that we’ve no record of him until-“
Until three days ago. When Barry Allen, he of the ruffled hair and red lips, walked into a bank and walked out again with about a million in cash before the guards on the building could do more than give a confused yell.
“Good work,” he says gruffly, and watches Eddie beam. He’s a nice guy, is Eddie – he sometimes feels a tiny bit guilty that he was paired with him, instead of anybody actually encouraging, “do we have any leads? Any known associates or habits?”
“As I said, we’ve got no record of him,” Eddie offers, beam immediately falling off his face. Sometimes, just sometimes, it’s like working with a puppy – a shame, considering that he’s always been a cat kind of person, “but we think we may have found something. See photograph number five?”
He shifts through several shots of the crime scene, blurry security tapes taken firmly from the bank, pauses when he finds what Eddie means. A security camera shot of a coffee shop, full of bustling and bleary eyed people. In the corner a girl, smirking and of much the same age as Barry, leans covertly over a hooded figure. The figure’s face is almost entirely covered, but the quirk of those lips…
“Where was this taken?” He asks, examining them for perhaps longer than necessary. He’s always been thorough; Mick calls it a curse.
“Jitters, a coffee shop downtown,” Eddie pauses for a second, as if debating the virtues of a sales pitch on cut price coffee, mercifully shakes his head and carries on before he has to clear his throat, “what’s more important is who he’s with.”
He studies the photograph for another minute, carefully. Drags his eyes away from Barry’s lips – ever so red and fresh, now he pays attention to them – and examines the girl. Her smirk, her long hair, the odd familiarity of her face…
“That’s Iris West,” Eddie offers, a second before he comes up with the answer. When he looks up, the guy is looking dreamy in a way that he barely manages to hide a smirk at, “daughter of Joe West, the man we’ve been trying to catch for years. And I’m thinking that if we catch Allen, we also catch…”
“West,” he says thoughtfully, and returns his gaze to the photograph – to Barry’s lips, bitten and red in the centre of his vision “…Good work, Thawne.”
“We think he’s a meta.”
He pauses for a second, in the middle of pulling his parka on, gives Cisco a long look. They’ve worked together for months now, often with high success rates, but he has the feeling that they’re never really going to understand each other, “the mayor of Central City, or…?”
“Barry Allen,” Caitlin, far more sensible and thus far easier to actually understand, takes over – giving him a sympathetic glance as she trots into the room, “your bank robbery suspect. The one you told us about yesterday?”
Ah, yesterday - when he had to face down a man with playing cards for skin. You can say a lot of things about this job, but sensible is not one of them, “I remember. Why do you think he’s a meta?”
“Because it’d be impossible for an average human to do what he did,” Cisco, ever enthusiastic Cisco, blurts – waves his arms, with the usual cheery joy that only he seems able to summon over ridiculous supervillains with absurd powers, “One, nobody normal could carry a million dollars out by themselves at once. Two, nobody non-powered could get past that many guards without sustaining at least a little damage. Three, only somebody insane or with superpowers would dare to rob Pieria bank. And four-“
“We caught him on camera,” Wells, and damn did he hope to avoid that guy and the ever disapproving purse of his lips, interrupts – wheeling into the room with a cold arch of his eyebrow, “one moment he was innocently standing near the doors like any other street gawper, the next he was blurred. Almost as if-“
“He has super speed,” he offers thoughtfully, and watches Wells’ face curdle – thinks of Barry’s red, metahuman lips as an antidote, “interesting.”
“Hey, bro. Catch any freaks today?”
Lisa discovered that he’d gained superpowers before he did, technically. She’d blagged her way into the lab to see him, when he was still unconscious and lightning burnt, and had then allowed her natural instincts to take over. She’s always been nosy, has his little sister – always fond of poking her nose in where it doesn’t belong. It’s almost endearing, most of the time – when she’s not constantly asking him to cool down her sodas.
“You let her in again?” He asks Mick, sprawled out on the sofa in his usual post-work position, as he dumps his coat, “haven’t we talked about this, multiple times?”
“She offered to bake me a pie, man,” Mick, his best friend for reasons that he still has trouble grasping, grunts. His eyes remain fixed on the generic cooking programme on the television, his face doesn’t twitch otherwise. Mick is addicted to cooking programmes. He’s always thought that somewhat disturbing – considering his work in the forensics department, and his speciality in arson – but the apartment hasn’t burnt down yet and so he’s willing to give it a pass, “what could I do?”
“Remember that my little sister can’t bake, would be a start,” he murmurs, but lets it go for now. Lisa is staring at him expectantly, that’s never a good sign, “no, Lisa, no metas today.”
“Not even one?”
“Not even one who could make his ears go green.”
Lisa pouts, in that same way that she always does when an openly ridiculous thing is denied to her. It’s ridiculous, it’s deliberately ridiculous and he has to bite back laughter whenever he sees her use it on anybody else, But… Well.
Somehow it still gets to him. A side effect of them being the only reliable people in each other’s lives for so long, he thinks. He sighs, offers up a single titbit that hopefully won’t cost him too much, “we have identified a new meta, though. He has super speed, used it to rob a bank downtown.”
“Which bank?” Mick asks, attention still fixed – at least nominally – on salmon being grilled over an open fire.
…The twin wide-eyed stares he gets, Mick actually bothering to turn around, are almost satisfying. He smiles, just a little, shrugs one shoulder as he toes off his shoes and heads for the kitchen.
“Is he nuts?” Mick explodes, angry and puzzled as he’s almost reached the threshold.
“Maybe,” he yawns, teetering on the edge.
“Is he cute?” Lisa demands, eyeing him with a certain look in her eyes that convinces him, above all else, that her plans to set him up with somebody as ‘weird and freaky’ as him haven’t yet taken the natural course of fading away.
“…Yes,” he gives, smirks at Mick’s baffled gawp and heads ceaselessly for the cold beer calling his name.
Lisa, generally among the most sensible of people, has one fatal weakness: she thinks that he’s lonely. For years, as long as he can remember, she’s been trying to set him up with whatever strays crossed her path. The girl in middle school who he briefly worked with on a science project, his locker mate in high school with the long hair and the annoying habit of popping her gum, even one of his instructors at the police academy who seemed to make it her mission to glare at him every time he crossed her path. Had she a heartbeat, Lisa was there.
He expected things to slow down, at least a little, when he finally got around to informing her that women weren’t exactly his area - but, no, if anything her efforts only intensified. She whispered so loudly about the cute bartender at his favourite coffee shop that he had to stop going there out of sheer kindness, she kept staring so intensely at his last partner – before Eddie – that he’s pretty sure that the poor man jumped in front of a bullet mainly because of her, she once physically shoved him into a fireman that he briefly glanced at one day. Be he visibly alive, Lisa was visibly determined.
…He’s pretty sure she was only so enthusiastic about him moving in with Mick, due to cheap rent and the need to have somebody who wouldn’t mind him tramping in at all hours of the night, because she was already planning their wedding for some point at the future.
And, you know, it’s usually annoying. He’s a grown man, ten years older than his precocious little sister. He’s perfectly capable of conducting his own romantic relationships. He can do what he wants, go where he wants, pick up whoever he wants. He needs no help, no interference and certainly no set-ups from anybody. Let alone a pest who insists on him keeping her ice tray filled at all times.
But now, as he lies in his lumpy bed and allows himself to call up the image of Barry Allen - red lipped and laughing – in his mind…
Well, he supposes that he wouldn’t really mind being set-up. Just this once.