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Tumbling Together

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The Bible tells us to love our neighbors and also to love our enemies, probably because they are generally the same people. – G.K. Chesterton

 


********

 

Barry hated the dentist. That was probably why he’d accidentally missed his first appointment the day before, which wasn’t helping him make a good first impression. It was his first time at this new dentist. Since he’d moved in to a new apartment a month ago, he was trying to shift his appointments and everything to his new neighborhood, and he’d hated his old dentist anyway. This office had been nice enough to let him reschedule after missing yesterday, which was good. He tended to run late and miss things thanks to Flash business, which had been the case the day before (or so he liked to tell himself, and not that it was because he hated the dentist). So now it was quarter to ten am and he was early, determined not to miss it twice in a row.

His leg was practically bouncing as he sat in the waiting room, the only one there, bored and impatient. This was the worst part, the waiting. Well, the waiting and the lectures at the end of the appointment, which he got from having too many years of cavities as a kid—he mostly blamed that on Iris’ baking habits though.

The bell over the door to the office jingled as another patient came in and he looked up eagerly, excited for the distraction of people-watching and maybe idle conversation when—what?

Leonard Snart had walked into the dental office.

They both stared at one another, Snart hesitating in the doorway for a second. Barry’s eyes were wide and his leg had stopped its restless shaking. Then, eyes still on Barry, Snart walked slowly over to the reception desk, leaning against the tall counter in a way that put him half facing Barry and half the receptionist, not showing his back.

“Appointment for Leonard Smith,” he said, eyes leaving Barry long enough to glance at the receptionist.

“Excellent, Mr. Smith. Please have a seat and the hygienist will be with you in a moment.”

Smith. Classic. Barry was sitting ramrod straight now, eyes still on Snart. Was it possible he was actually here just for a dentist appointment? It didn’t seem likely, especially when Snart nodded and gave what was probably supposed to be a charming smile to the receptionist before walking over and sitting right next to Barry.

“What the hell are you up to, Snart?” he hissed under his breath, shifting in his seat enough to make sure they wouldn’t knock knees.

Snart was purposely not looking at him anymore, just picked up a generic magazine and opened it, flipping idly through it. “I take that to mean you aren’t following me, Red?”

“Following you? You mean you’re not following me?”

Although now that he thought about it, it would be supremely creepy if Snart knew where his dentist was, or that he’d rescheduled an appointment for this morning. That would be Eobard Thawne-levels of stalking.

“Mr. Allen?”

His head snapped up, the dental hygienist having popped out of the back. “That’s me.”

“Right this way,” she was an Asian woman with a warm smile and it helped calm his nerves a bit. As Barry followed her to the back, he turned to cast a last suspicious glance at Snart. The other was smirking at him, eyes calculating like the whole situation was funny somehow. It wasn’t.

Sitting in the chair with metal tools poking his teeth, Barry contemplated what the statistical odds were that they would actually have the same dentist by coincidence, based on the number of people in Central City and an approximate number of dentists to serve the population needs, add in a term to the equation for dentist quality, which could be measured by reviews and ratings, and then factor in geogr—

“Is that too painful, Mr. Allen?”

“Ah, uh, uh uh,” he tried to respond, mouth full of a long sharp metal implement prodding around as he tried to shake his head. He wondered why they always asked questions when they had mirrors and tools in his mouth.

After that he was too distracted to finish the equation, answering questions until he heard Snart’s voice again. He was being seated in the room adjacent to Barry’s. Which really, there were no solid doors around here, the whole back of the dental office being open so the dentist could walk between patients and the dental assistants could step freely around, meaning if Barry listened he could hear—“I see it’s been a year since your last x-rays, Mr. Smith? We’ll be taking those today.”

It really was a routine dentist appointment? And shit, Barry’s own hygienist was looking at him like he’d missed something.

“Sorry, can you repeat that?” he asked when her fingers retreated from checking his gums for recession.

“I asked if you’ve been flossing regularly?”

He winced. “Umm… not that regularly?”

She asked him questions until he admitted that he hadn’t flossed in a few weeks. If he brushed twice a day, what was the need?

“Do I have any cavities?” He was still nervous about that—did his healing extend to his teeth? Could he be so lucky?

“It looks fine from here, but the dentist should be able to let you know.”

With that, she set about flossing his teeth while he winced, and he could hear Snart’s hygienist asking him similar questions in the other room. Of course Snart would floss daily. Barry bet it was a lie.

After getting fluoride, the dentist did her rounds, looked at Barry’s x-rays from his last dentist, which  he’d had sent over, and announced that Barry was, in fact, cavity free.

“But that doesn’t mean you should let yourself slip up. It says here you’ve had a bad history with cavities—bit of a sweet tooth, I’m guessing? Your last filling was just two years ago so you’ll want to keep brushing and flossing, especially around those back molars.”

He nodded, a bit chagrined but also pleased. Success, no cavities. He was waiting for his hygienist to finish up the paper work and book his next appointment, when he heard the dentist walk to the next room over and start talking to Snart.

“Mr. Smith, looks like you’re cavity-free as ever—a little demineralization around the back molars to watch out for, especially on the left side. Still wearing your retainer each night?”

Snart had a retainer?

“Of course.”

“Excellent—hate to lose any of that lovely alignment after all that work. Are you experiencing any sensitivity, to temperatures or—”

Barry’s hygienist interrupted his eavesdropping to schedule his next appointment and he picked the first date she mentioned and hurried out of there as quick as he could. It was too surreal to listen to Leonard Snart talk about retainers and teeth and flossing. Barry needed a new dentist, stat.

 

********

 

The oddness didn’t stop there.

Three days after the uncomfortable dentist appointment—something Barry had refrained from mentioning to Cisco and Caitlin and even Joe, mostly because he had no idea what he would say—it happened again. Not the dentist, he was never going back there, but running into Snart. At a bank.

Barry had just switched branches and needed to drop off a form for some new cheques, having used up the last of them on giving post-dated ones to his new landlord for rent. He was on a one-year lease, happy to be out of Joe’s house again, needing space. Sure, it was more expensive than living with Joe, but living with his father-figure was only so convenient before it was just awkward.

But maybe there was an ill omen to him moving out because ahead of him in line was Leonard Snart. In a suit.

“I swear to God, Snart, if you’re here to rob this place, I will—”

Relax, Barry,” Snart hissed back, voice just as quiet as Barry’s own whisper. “Believe it or not, even criminals need accounts. I’m here for an appointment.”

“Appointment? Are you casing the place?” It would make sense, this was one of the bigger and nicer branches but it wasn’t in the downtown core.

Snart gave him a look that clearly indicated he thought Barry was an idiot. “I have investments, kid. Those are something you might care about when you grow up.”

Barry bristled—“Investments? Is that what they’re calling it these—”

“Next please!”

Snart shot Barry a warning glance and stepped forward. “Leonard Pzynski, I have an appointment.”

Pzynski? Really?

“Mr. Pzynski, delighted to meet you. I hope your day is going well?”

Again, Snart gave the receptionist—this time a handsome man with dark skin and a low, rich voice—that charming smile he apparently reserved for all of the receptionists of the world. The receptionist smiled back and Barry was sure he saw the man’s eyes slide over Snart in a way that was more than friendly.

And to Barry’s surprise, he heard Snart’s voice turn to velvet, “It’s been interesting so far...” his eyes flicked to the name on the receptionist’s lapel, “Raymond. Could always get better though.”

The receptionist’s responding smile was definitely tinged with a bit of mischief and Barry’s jaw almost dropped. Leonard Snart was flirting with a man right in front of him and this had to be a setup for a heist of some sort. Was the receptionist the mark?

“Well, hopefully we can provide something to make your day that much better.”

Okay, this was bordering on unprofessional—

“And Mr. Caufield will be with you in just a moment. Would you like some coffee or tea while you wait?”

Thank god. At least receptionist Raymond had recalled his sense of propriety. Snart sighed and declined the drink then waited off to the side while the receptionist motioned Barry forward.

Barry had a hard time peeling his eyes off Snart as he walked up, trying to decipher what he’d just witnessed. What did the receptionist see in him? Sure, Snart looked okay in a suit—it was fitted, definitely tailored and pulling in the right places, a deep charcoal color with a blue tie that brought out his eyes—but he was a criminal! Not that the handsome receptionist would know that, but the fact remained. At least the man hadn’t seen Snart in his leather jacket.

“Uhm, I’m Barry Allen. I have this form it said to fill out on your website?” The receptionist—Raymond, apparently—took it and asked for his card, decidedly less inviting to Barry than he was to Snart. What did he know, anyway? Barry knew he was decent looking, and at least he wasn’t an insane thief who would rob this place given half a chance. He glanced to the side and could see Snart smirking out of the corner of his eye.

“Seems in order, Mr. Allen. Will that be all?”

He could see an old white man in an expensive suit come and out and greet Snart, walking him back to an office. “Wh—oh yes, that’s all thanks.”

When he glanced back at the receptionist, Raymond’s expression looked amused. “He’s handsome, isn’t he? Do you know him?”

“What, him? You mean S—I mean, Pzynski? Handsome? Ha, I uh, hadn’t noticed. I mean, yes, I know him, just casually—we’ve worked together, once, not close—“ he was babbling and Raymond was giving him some version of a ‘knowing’ look and probably coming to his own conclusions. Barry could feel his face heating up.

“Well, you’re a lucky man to have… worked with him. Have a great day, Mr. Allen.”

Barry was pretty sure his ears were red as he left the bank, too embarrassed to correct the other man.

 

********

 

Finally, the weekend put him back on solid ground again. Barry was out running the city, keeping an eye open for petty crime and an ear open for Caitlin and Cisco, letting him know about 911 and distress calls around the city when a new call came in.

“Armored transport, on its way to set up an exhibit at the Rathaway Conservatory—wait do Hartley’s parents own everything in this city—”

“Not the time, Cisco,” Barry replied.

Caitlin was the one to respond. “The transport is moving a Stardivarius viola—one of ten left in the world. It is worth a lot of money, Barry.”

“We’re talking many millions, here,” Cisco added.

“What’s the quickest way to the transport’s location?”

They were in his ear and he sped off, at the scene in a handful of seconds and—

“Snart?!”

Barry skidded to a stop, taking in the scene. Snart—Lisa Snart, that was—was on top of a transport truck with its back doors blown up. There were three other unmarked SUVs, all stopped with their doors open and no passengers. Leonard Snart was inside the truck, icing a lock on a cage that was in between him and access of the viola case. Mick Rory had all the security—he counted eight men—tied up next to the truck, flame gun trained on them and their weapons in a pile by one of the SUVs. Barry was fifteen feet from Heatwave, on the road where he could see the back of the truck and Snart inside.

“Oooh, Flash, nice of you to show.”

He glared up at Lisa. “Glider.” His eyes turned to Rory next. “Heatwave.”

The man grunted in response and tightened his grip on the gun. Had they ever told him they called him that?

“Flash—I thought we had a deal about things like this?” Snart—Leonard Snart—called from inside the truck, cage door opening. He didn’t even turn toward Barry.

“I thought I told you I wouldn’t just let you steal whatever you wanted!”

Snart laughed and hauled out the viola case, coming to stand on the back of the truck. “So stop us! You do realize it’s three against one, don’t you, kid?” Snart glanced around the truck at Rory and Barry’s eyes followed, tense. “Though if try to haul us off to any prisons, don’t expect us to hold up our end of the bargain, Scarlet.”

Barry ran—whipping to  Heatwave first, pulling him away from the guards, slamming him back against the transport truck. No one was hurt yet but he didn’t trust any of the Rogues. He could hear sirens in the distance, but his first priority was safety and he sped back to the guards and untied them, narrowly avoiding being turned into a golden splotch as he did, dodging at the last second. The guards were free and ran in the direction of the sirens while Barry narrowly avoided a burn from Rory’s gun, something he never enjoyed being on the receiving end of.

Barry went for Lisa next, dodging a cold gun blast from Snart as he tracked her movements, down off the truck as she jumped while shooting. He dodged her gun as he got close and—shit! Mick’s blast caught him in the side, tossing him a few feet onto the ground, gritting his teeth.

“Ready to turn up the heat, Flash?!” he yelled, and Barry aimed for him next. He realized it was a distraction at the last second though, because Lisa and Snart were loading up the viola into a car. The cops were getting closer and he whipped around Rory, spinning him and turning back to the Snarts.

“I’m not letting you get away with that viola, Cold!”

“This coming from the kid who can’t even floss his teeth once a day? You’re playing with actual adults here, Flash, not the other way around.”

He—what the—how dare he bring Barry’s flossing habits into this?! “I’m not the one with a retainer, Snart!” he yelled back, not really thinking. Lisa gave them both a confused look and he took advantage of the second of confusion—ran forward and—

Barry sped right into a blast of ice. Snart shot cold gun at the ground as soon as he’d moved to run then swung his arm into making an arch of ice over his head. Barry slipped the second he hit the ice, momentum carrying him up like a ski jump, over the Snarts and and then down in a long fall back down to asphalt. His body was heaved against the ground, spinning and skidding across it, battered, tasting blood. His ankle was twisted. Fuck.

“Let’s go! Cops’ll be here any second!” That was Snart’s voice and Barry groaned, tried to push himself into a sitting position on his hands and knees. His ankle was throbbing.

Distantly, he heard “Maybe next time, kid!” as the Snarts and Rory sped off. He spat blood on the ground. It was time for him to go too.

 

********

 

It took him a day to heal, after that. His bruises were fine within a few hours and he was gentle on his ankle the next day, though it was fine by evening. He’d had to explain the dentist trip to Cisco and Caitlin, who were more than curious about why he and Snart had been exchanging barbs about dental habits. When he told them, he was surprised they looked so relieved, until Cisco said—

“Thank goodness, man. We were worried you and Snart were making out on the sly or something.”

Barry choked on the water he was sipping. “Making ou—Cisco are you crazy? Why would I make out with Captain Cold? With Leonard Snart?!”

“I don’t know! He’s got those steely blue eyes and that dangerous thing!”

“Are you sure you don’t want to make out with him?” Barry’s voice was probably more shrill than it needed to be. He was glad he was sitting down for this, ankle on ice.

“For one, I don’t make out with arch enemies. For two, if I did, that is not the Snart I would be first in line to—”

“O-kay, Cisco!” Caitlin cut in. “What he means to say, Barry, is that we wouldn’t blame you if you had a perfectly reasonable attraction to Leonard Snart. You did tell us you were bisexual, and when you wanted him to help us with the meta-human transport a while ago, we couldn’t really make sense of why you went to him except that you, maybe…”

“I maybe…?”

“Had a crush, dude,” Cisco finished for her. “It made more sense than you asking Cold for help just ‘cause.”

“I asked him for help because he was the only option!”

“Well, in either case, we’re glad that you and him aren’t having any dangerous rendezvous. And that you’re okay. That ankle should be fine by tomorrow.”

Barry nodded, glad for the change of subject. Why did people keep making assumptions about him and Cold? Even his friends! He was never telling them about Raymond the receptionist.

********

 

Unfortunately, the knowing-where-he-stood with Snart didn’t last too long, barely a week.

Barry liked to do his grocery shopping as late in the evening before closing time as he could, hating it when he had to go before work because he preferred to sleep in, even if he didn't need as much sleep as he used to so long as he was eating enough. He liked to go late in the evening because the store was mostly empty and he could stroll around leisurely, filling his basket with all manner of carbs and proteins. He normally went two to three times a week now, since he went through a lot of food and didn’t have Joe to drive him now, carting the full bags of groceries the few blocks to his apartment on foot instead.

It was a Saturday evening and he was there a little earlier than usual. The store was busier than it was most nights, full of late and harried shoppers. His neighborhood seemed to be filled with a relatively eclectic and progressive sort of crowd, which was part of the reason he’d selected it. The suburban feel of Joe’s residential neighborhood could be stifling, and this was a much different pace, a better blend of lifestyles, old and young, single and families, affluent and struggling. The pace of life was quicker too, more to his own speed.

Barry was thinking about that as he finished up in the produce section, dodging around other shoppers going for the fresh strawberries as he reached for an avocado that looked ripe. Another hand got reached out at the same time as his and they both stilled.

Barry looked up, ready to offer the avocado to whomever it was but—“Snart?”

“Barry?” This time, Snart actually, finally, looked a bit ruffled. He narrowed his eyes at Barry. “You sure you’re not stalking me, kid?”

Me? You’re the one who—” he glanced around furtively and lowered his voice “—who tried to turn me into roadkill, Snart. Why the hell would I be following you around on my days off?”

Cold shrugged and grabbed the avocado.

“Hey, that was mine!”

“Too slow, kid,” he smirked and Barry glared. Then he was turning and starting off, away from Barry.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

“To finish shopping. I don’t know why you’re following me but until you decide to let me in on it, kid, I have better things to do.”

Barry gaped and then caught up with him, “I am not the one following you, here!”

“You just did,” he arched an eyebrow.

“I mean in general, not this second. And I’m going in this direction too, in case you hadn’t noticed, I am also just doing my grocery shopping.”

Snart peered over in his basket. “You really need that many frozen pizza pockets?”

Barry’s eyes might pop out of his head in aggravation. “For real, you’re critiquing my food choices now?”

Snart just gave him a withering look that could have bordered on teasing if he were anyone else. Then the man turned down an aisle and Barry didn’t follow, just finished his shopping with an eye out for Snart, avoiding whatever aisles he saw with the other man. First the dentist, then the bank, and now this—he definitely needed to get back to making that equation. There was probably something close to a .005% chance of them meeting like this unless Snart was up to something.

His suspicions got stronger when he finished checking out with the cashier, only to see Snart two lines away also finishing. What coincidental timing. He narrowed his eyes and caught up with Snart on his way out of the store. “Whatever game you’re playing, give it up, seriously.”

The man shot him a glare, eyes narrowed and face tight. “What exactly do you think my angle is, Red? My hands are full and my cold gun isn’t exactly within reach right now.”

Which… was definitely true. Both of them had arms full of groceries, and Snart was wearing jeans and a sweater, looking altogether too casual for a supervillain. Did he count as a supervillain? Barry wasn’t sure where the line was drawn on that sort of thing.

“How should I know what you’re up to? All I know is that there’s no way we’ve met this many times by chance.”

Barry wasn’t really paying attention to where they were headed, but he looked up when they reached a crosswalk and noticed it was in the direction of his apartment. Snart was looking ahead, eyebrows down and lips pursed like he was thinking. When he finally glanced over at Barry, both of them on the other side of the intersection now, he titled his head and nodded once.

“Say it isn’t chance but… something else. I’m not stalking you, you’re not stalking me, but it’s not random we’ve run into each other.”

“Then what it is?”

“Perhaps, not several smaller coincidences, but just one very unfortunate coincidence.”

Barry stopped at the corner and turned to the other man.

“Look, Snart, if this is all some grand ‘coincidence’ then fine—so be it. But I don’t exactly want you following me home so could you just head on your way?”

Snart gave him a long, considering look, like he knew something Barry didn’t. “My place is this way too, Barry.”

He met the cold gaze and ground out, “Fine.” Whatever. He was at least halfway confident Snart wasn’t doing all this just to find out where he lived because there were definitely easier ways to go about it, so he turned and kept walking.

They kept pace with one another, turning at the same streets, awkward silence becoming increasingly tense as they approached Barry’s apartment. He couldn't wait to get in there and away from this weird afternoon-evening. His agreement with Snart about prisons and his secret identity was never supposed to extend to dentists and bank appointments and grocery stores; he’d never considered that they would run into one another outside of being the Flash and Captain Cold, not unless they were seeking each other out for something deliberate, like the meta-human transport.

Finally, after what felt like forever but was really only about a ten minute walk, they were at his four-storey walk up. Barry stopped out front with a sigh of relief.

“Well, this has been sufficiently awkward, but—” he started, then saw that Snart was shifting bags in his hand and reaching for keys. “Umm, what are you doing?”

Snart’s back was to Barry and he unlocked the door to his apartment and held it open for Barry to walk through. He did, feet moving before his brain caught-up. It had clicked offline for the time being, because… there was no way.

“I started to wonder, after the bank, and then today, you know.” Snart stepped ahead of Barry and started up the stairs, the reality of the situation slowly dawning on him even as the other man kept talking, “but I didn’t really think it was possible that we would actually live so close to one another. At least, not until you started walking in this direction.”

They were passing the second floor and Barry kept following, silent and dumbfounded. The carpet dulled the sounds of their steps but the floor creaked just a bit. He focused on that.

“And then I remembered, as we got closer to home,” Snart continued when they reached the next floor up, and Barry was still a pace behind him. He flicked his eyes up from the carpet to stare at Snart’s shoulders as he followed the other man up the steps, heart rate slowly increasing. “That someone new moved in at the start of the month, into Unit 4C. And wouldn’t you know, Scarlet, we’re at the fourth floor.”

Unit 4C—his apartment. Snart knew his apartment number. Snart lived in his building. “This can’t be happening,” he finally said, voice stronger than he felt. They were walking down the hall, hands full of grocery bags, and then Snart stopped at the door right beyond Barry’s own. He pulled out his keys and put them in the lock.

Right. Next. Door.

“Can’t? Looks to me like it is… neighbor.”

 

Chapter Text

He was neighbors—he was neighbors with Captain Cold.

The thought was arresting.

Barry spent the remainder of his evening almost mechanically, trying to make sense of the information. How did something like that happen? What horrible part of the universe, of the timeline, decided to put him right next to his arch-nemesis? On a one-year lease, no less!

And wasn’t Snart some criminal mastermind with millions of dollars worth of stolen goods? Why was he living in a building like this? Did he blow through all of his cash on parkas and vodka? Leather jackets? Motorcycles?

Fuck, he should have recognized the motorcycle in the parking lot—he walked through the lot all the time. What was one motorcycle compared to another though? They all looked the same to Barry.

He really wasn’t thinking anything useful.

Should he tell Cisco and Caitlin? Joe would definitely want to know the location of Leonard Snart’s apartment, as would the CCPD no doubt. But no, that would definitely breach their weird truce, not to mention that charging and indicting Snart with anything would be next to impossible since his records were erased.

Barry resolved not to say anything for the time being—it wouldn't change anything and he didn’t want anyone to worry. Then he didn’t let himself think too much about it.

 

********

 

This was an inconvenient development. Having the Flash as a neighbor meant a few things for Len. First and foremost, he needed to find a new apartment as soon as possible. Moving was a bit of a pain and he liked this place, but it was definitely a necessity in this case. Maybe he should split up his time between safe houses until he found a spot? He wasn’t quite sure what Barry Allen was going to do, but he doubted he wanted to spend his time around home for the next little while. It didn’t seem… prudent.

Beyond that, Len was intrigued. What were the chances of them living so close to one another? What brought Barry to this neighborhood, this building of all places? And not just the apartment, but everything else about this situation made him curious as well. Living as neighbors made the rest of their encounters a little more likely but even so, he’d lived next to the previous tenant for over a year and they hadn’t brushed shoulders more than once or twice. He and Barry had oddly similar schedules.

And then, settling on the couch and forcing himself to relax, Len started to consider the possibilities. He was living next door to the Flash. Hell, they shared the same fire escape outside. Which meant he could learn a lot about Barry Allen—friends, weaknesses, schedule, patterns, basically anything he needed to know to help him get the upper hand in their little games. Of course, that worked in reverse as well—Len had a plethora of secrets he wouldn’t want exposed to Allen, but… maybe he could work this to his advantage, if he was smart about it.

He spent the rest of his evening considering. They would need a truce, of sorts, not unlike their current impasse. A set of rules laid out about things but… he might be able to make this work. And in the meantime, he was definitely going to start furnishing one of his safe houses a bit nicer, just in case.

 

********

 

Barry managed to go almost two weeks without seeing Snart, after that. He was careful about it, probably more than he needed to be, realistically. He changed his grocery shopping habits, going in the mornings before work more often than not. He saw Snart once across the street going into the local deli and he turned around and walked in the other direction. He paid all his bills online and avoided the bank.

Naturally, he should have figured that his luck would run out, right when he was starting to gain some confidence with his new routine. He stepped in to the café by his apartment for coffee one morning before work. It wasn’t Jitters, and he felt a slight pang of guilt in his chest for betraying his old stand-by, but it was a lot closer to home and he heard that they made an amazing Americano.

He was playing on his phone and not paying too much attention—line ups always drove him to distraction now that he could whip around at super speed—when he heard a voice behind him.

“Well well well, looks like you didn’t move out after all.”

Barry’s eyes snapped up from his phone. “Snart.”

“Barry.”

Why did Snart always call him by his first name? It made him uncomfortable, sent a shiver up his spine whenever the man said it in that low voice.

“Next please.”

He glared at Snart then tried to smile at the barista, ordering his Americano. He was pulling out his wallet when Snart stepped close, way too close, like physically touching close, arm brushing his close, and said—“It’s on me.”

Like hell it was. But before Barry could blink, the other kept talking, “And I’ll take a vanilla latte, almond milk.”

“Almond milk? Really?” Barry gave him a look as the other paid, almost forgetting he was supposed to be arguing with Snart about this.

Snart just shrugged and gave a casual smile to the barista before turning back to Barry, “What? I’m lactose intolerant.”

He scowled. Okay, sure, that made sense but—“Wouldn’t have figured you for the flavored latte type.”

The man arched an eyebrow while they waited for their drinks. “And with your history of cavities, I wouldn’t have figured you for anything less.”

Barry cocked his head to the side, jaw set at a stubborn angle. “You really gonna’ keep bringing that up?”

“Why not? It’s fun to see you frustrated.”

“Is that why you’re buying me coffee? To piss me off?”

To his surprise, Snart actually chuckled and picked up his drink. “No kid, that was a bribe—we should talk about our living situation.”

Of course it was a bribe. Actually, he shouldn’t feel disappointed, because that was a lot better than the idea of Snart buying him coffee for no reason. Barry sipped said coffee, and damn, it lived up to the hype. He let it put him in a slightly better mood, even as Snart just watched him.

“Fine—let’s talk then.”

It was probably a good idea; it would be a lot easier to avoid Snart if they both agreed to some basic things, like grocery shopping times and such. As Snart motioned toward a table and he sat, Barry wondered if he could work a way to bargain for who would get this coffee shop out of whatever agreement they made, because they made a really good cup of coffee.

“So,” Snart said. That was all he said.

Barry waited, but the other didn’t seem too forthcoming. He shifted in his seat and realized this was weird. He was having coffee with Snart, sitting across from him in broad daylight, the other wearing his leather jacket again, Barry on his way to work, dressed in a collared shirt and sweater.

“So…?” he eventually prompted, because he actually did have places to be.

“I figured we should lay down some ground rules about how this works, if we’re both going to continue living side by side. For one, it seems prudent to agree not to share the information with others—the CCPD and the Rogues, for instance.”

“I haven’t told anyone,” Barry supplied immediately.

“Good, the same goes for me. We should also have some agreement in place about not using this to catch or confront one another. Business is business, and this is personal.”

“Personal?”

“You have a better word, Scarlet?”

He shifted in his seat again and took another sip to cover it. No, he didn’t have a better word, but that just sounded awkward. Then he sighed, “Okay, so we leave our apartments out of our… out of what we do. You realize that means no more giving me hell about cavities and flossing, right?”

And it was weird, definitely, seeing Leonard Snart lean back and sip his drink, seeing him look comfortably amused. “Maybe not when you’re in costume, but here?”

“C’mon, you’re the one who wears a retainer.”

“You realize it only works if the other person is actually embarrassed about the thing you’re trying to tease them with, don’t you?”

Barry almost rolled his eyes, but resisted and sat back, crossed his arms. “Okay, we’ve agreed to keep business and this separate. But I want to see as little of you as possible, Snart. No more stealing my avocadoes and no more accidental run ins at this café.” He was hoping to angle for this café, please let Snart not be attached to this café.

“You’re really still mad about the avocado? It was great, by the way, I made guacamole.” That was weird. This whole conversation was weird. “But what’d’you suggest, kid? We map out our schedules to completely avoid one another?”

“Yes!” Perfect, Snart was on board.

“That’s idiotic.”

Never mind. “What? Why?”

“Because,” the other leaned forward and Barry tensed defensively, “Not only do I not believe you could stick to that schedule, Scarlet, but I seriously doubt that you want me to know exactly where you’ll be and when you’ll be there, seven days a week?”

Barry blanched.

“Didn’t think so.”

“So I guess I can’t convince you that we should make a map, pick different grocery stores, cafes, shops, so we don’t run into each other?”

Snart actually laughed. “Good luck—you’re not getting this café, Red.”

Dammit. “Do you have to keep calling me ‘Red’ and ‘Scarlet’? It’s not exactly subtle,” he grumbled. He wasn’t in costume, so if they were keeping work and life separate…

“Do you have to keep calling me ‘Snart’?”

“What else would I call you?”

“Len.”

Barry’s eyes felt like they might pop out of their sockets. “Len? You want me to call you Len?”

For his own part, Snart looked more annoyed than anything at his reaction. “Why not? It’s a name, kid, not an invitation to dinner.”

“How about Leonard?”

“You want me to start calling you Bartholomew?”

Barry winced. Point taken. “Okay… Len. We done here? I’m gonna’ be late for work if I don’t hurry.”

Snart—Len—nodded. “See you around, Barry.”

 

********

 

Len was pleased with how they dropped into a natural routine after that. Barry stopped accosting him in the produce section and he stopped teasing the kid about his dental hygiene, and if they ran into one another on the stairs—something that had only happened once so far, but it had happened—they nodded politely and that was that.

It was, more or less, exactly what he’d hoped and planned for. Len was getting great insight into the Flash’s routine and schedule, and a bit of insight into his speed. It didn't go unnoticed to him that Barry used the fire escape to slip in and out of his apartment (mostly) undetected at lightning-speed, which might have been why the kid picked the apartment in the first place. He was able to get an idea of which nights the Flash was more active (weekends) and what time the kid would leave to head to STAR Labs for… whatever it was they did there as Flash work.

Living next door was also giving Len a bit more insight into Barry Allen as a person. Beyond having learned about his grocery purchasing habits that one day—the kid was such a typical bachelor it was sad—he noticed that Barry didn’t invite any friends over other than Iris West and Cisco Ramon. Well, maybe he did when Len wasn’t around, but the only times he’d heard voices other than Barry’s out in the hall heading into his apartment, those were the ones he could identify.

Len also learned, oddly, that Barry had a lovely singing voice. It wasn’t something he would have guessed, but apparently was the case. More than once he’d went to shower in the morning only to hear the sound drifting through. Their bathrooms must border on one another across the wall, with the actual bathtubs at the back of the room meaning they bordered directly onto one another. Through whatever trick of the pipes and walls, if they were showering at the same time, the sound of singing would filter in. It was mostly showtunes so far but Len got a kick out of it. It was a shame they’d agreed not to use their home lives as ammunition as Cold and Flash, because he really did want to tease Barry about his rendition of Grease Lightning.

And every now and then, he would hear a thump from the other bathroom, after the music had trailed off but the water was still going and it made him wonder what else Barry’s shower routine might involve. Which really wasn’t any of his business, and would just indicate Barry was a normal and healthy young man, except that normally when the question popped into his mind, he was doing the same thing that he imagined Barry might be doing on the other side of the wall. And between the singing voice and the leather suit and the pretty face, imagining Barry in the shower really wasn’t a deterrent to Len’s libido—quite the opposite, actually.

 

********

 

After their agreement, Barry managed not to see Snart very much, which was more than okay with him. He wasn’t home much in the next few weeks anyway, busy on Flash business, a trip to Starling, and helping Iris and Eddie with wedding planning. That was interesting. He found it incredibly mind-numbing, but Iris had asked him to be her ‘man of honor’—because a ‘maid’ he was not—and he was roped into helping with things he hadn’t even known existed. He was mostly glad for them though, and now that they were engaged, he was forcing himself to move on from Iris for real. She was happy, and even if it was with someone else, that’s all he had ever truly wanted for her.

Even so, wedding planning was duller than he’d ever thought possible, so on a Friday night when he was supposed to be going over different stationary and font types for invitations but was interrupted by Flash business, he had never been more grateful for crime in Central City. Iris was very understanding that he had to go, and told him she’d narrow down the choices to a few finalists which, c’mon, how many types of fonts could there be to choose from? Either way, he was gone as soon as he could be, answering Cisco’s call.

And oh shit—“A bomb?! How big?! Is anyone—”

“No casualties, Barry!” Ciatlin’s voice came over the communicator, reassuring. Cisco had just finished telling him that Iron Heights had had a hole blown into it’s eastern walls, the external wall and the wall of the prison itself.

“Thank god,” he was immediately worried about his father, but so long as he was okay, there were bigger fish to fry—like who the hell had blown a hole into the prison compound and it’s outer wall, how they managed to be both inside and outside the prison to do it, and how many prisoners were escaping now.

Barry spent the rest of his evening on clean up—whisking escaping prisoners back into custody while the military helped quell the riot that was bubbling up in one of the cell blocks. He stayed out of the military’s way (even though he didn’t see Eisling) but the police were called in too, and Captain Singh had no qualms about calling in the Flash’s help if he was around. The new few hours passed in a blur, waiting to get a location or an area from Joe and then running to it to find the escaped con, at which point he dragged them back to the prison before they could reach Central.

By the time he was done, only two convicts were unaccounted for—James Jesse and Axel Walker. Of course. Neither of them were held in the cell block where the bomb went off, but Barry wasn’t even surprised. No doubt this was just a diversion while they used some other escape route. Who they used to plant the bomb was a question for another day.

Before turning home, Barry made sure to sneak in for a quick visit to his dad. It was comforting, as always, even if he couldn’t stay long without attracting attention. He promised he would be back for a visit soon.

Then he was running home, exhausted. He whipped back to Central on the last of his energy, sped up the fire escape, ready to zip in through his window and crash for the next five hours, maybe six if he sped around the next morning instead of taking his time. As soon as he made it up to his floor though, he noticed he wasn’t alone and jolted to a stop.

“Cold.”

The other man was leaning against the rail on his side of the fire escape, dressed in a pair of pajama pants and a light henley. It was a warm night but not that warm, and Barry wondered how he wasn’t chilly. And what he was doing outside. It wasn’t much a view from the fire escape, just an alleyway underneath them, which was part of why Barry had picked this place—a view meant others might see him coming in and out.

“Flash. You’re out late. Busy saving the city?”

It was dark in their alley but light enough to make out the other’s expression, which at the moment was apprehensive. He didn’t seem to have been waiting for Barry or anything, and actually looked more suspicious than Barry felt, which was fine by him. He leaned across the fire escape opposite to Len and pushed back his cowl.

“Heh, something like that,” he let himself smile a bit. It had been a long night, but ultimately good.

“You look like you ran from here to Hawaii.”

“You don’t even want to know.” Who knew—maybe he did, it was a good story. But Barry was too exhausted right now to tell it, and now that he had stopped running, he already wasn’t inclined to move again. Even climbing through the window was starting to look like energy he didn’t want to expend, so he asked instead, “what are you still doing up?”

“Couldn’t sleep. It gets harder after the age of forty—enjoy your youth.”

Len was that old? “You don’t look that old.”

“That a compliment?”

“I… an observation.” He thought about Raymond the receptionist, for some reason. “I guess that’s why you keep calling me ‘kid.’ I just figured you were an asshole.”

Len actually chuckled. “I’m forty two, Barry. Forty three in a few months.”

“Can I ask you something?” The words were out before he could think better of them.

The other man tilted his head. “Why do I get the feeling I won’t like where this is going?”

“No, no, it’s just—at the bank, when we saw each other that one time—was that really just an appointment? Or am I gonna’ be called to a bank robbery sometime soon?”

The other man snorted. “An appointment. I prefer to hit moving targets—banks are too obvious and too close to police stations.”

“But with your cold gun—”

“Are you encouraging me, Barry?” his eyes were suddenly intense, fixed on Barry in a way that made him squirm.

“What—no! I just figured it would, I don’t know, open up your horizons.”

“You’re acting like you’d rather I be stealing from the bank than investing there, you know.”

“Do they realize all your investments are from stolen goods?”

“Do you really care that much about my accounts?”

“I just—if you weren’t planning something then why did you flirt the receptionist?” he shouldn’t have asked—wouldn’t have if he wasn’t so exhausted and his impulse control wasn’t shot at the moment. He would take the words back if he could. He should go to bed.

“I… what?” Len seemed incredulous, then actually laughed, loud and genuine. “You're kidding me—you thought since I was flirting I must be casing the place? It’s called trying to get a date, kid. You need to get out more.”

Barry almost blushed and almost glared. He got out plenty. He didn’t have anything to prove though. Nothing. “I get—so wait, are you gay?” His mouth decided there were more pressing concerns than defending his social life.

Snart tipped his forehead forward. “That a problem?”

“No! No, I just didn’t realize—I’m not in the habit of thinking about my nemeses and their—thinking about them that way, that’s all.” He really needed to stop talking and go to bed. Instead, Len arched an eyebrow and he felt compelled to continue, really not wanting the other to think he was bigoted. “I’m, I mean for the record, I’m bisexual.”

Oh good, Len’s eyes widened, Barry had some surprises left up his sleeve. Not that he normally told people that, but it felt like the right thing to do, since Len was being open with him.

“Well I guess I’m a hypocrite, because now I’m the one who’s surprised. My my, the Scarlet Speedster—guess I see why you picked leather for that costume after all.”

Barry finally did blush, just a bit in the dark light and he hoped the other couldn’t see it. “What? No! The costume was all Cisco, and it’s tripolymer, not leather—”

“So what you’re saying is Cisco has a thing for you?”

“You really have a way of twisting words, Len.”

“You’re the one who thought I was trying to rob a bank because I was flirting.”

He sighed and dragged a hand over his face. “Well, this has been a spectacularly weird conversation. I’m going to bed.”

“Goodnight, Barry.”

He paused in the window, one foot in and one out. “Goodnight, Len.”

 

Chapter Text

A week after seeing Barry on the fire escape, Mick asked Len to watch Aiden.

It would be tough to refuse on any reasonable grounds. For one, he’d watched her plenty of times before at his place when the usual sitter was busy, so it couldn’t be that. For two, Mick knew he had no plans, which was exactly why he was asking. And for three, he really couldn’t say he was living next door to the Flash. So Len agreed, with only a little hesitation, to pick up and watch Mick’s daughter for the day while Mick ran a job.

He started his day early that Saturday so he could run his errands before picking up Aiden. That meant he was in the shower at seven am, the same time as Barry, amused and wondering what song this one was—Len wasn’t exactly up to date with Broadway or popular music. Part of him was tempted to shout through the wall and ask what it was called, but obviously that would give up the game of listening in so that wasn’t about to happen. And then he heard that tell tale thump, the one that sounded like someone leaning against the shower wall and his pulse quickened. Len felt like Pavlov’s dog but didn’t deny himself the enjoyment anyway.

Of course, letting himself take the extra time for a few more lascivious thoughts about Barry in the shower cut into his morning schedule. He had to cut down time at the grocery store—skipping most of the bigger and less essential items like flour—so that he could make it to Mick’s in time to pick up Aiden.

Aiden was three and a half, and an absolute bundle of joy—almost the polar opposite of her father. No one quite knew where Aiden’s sweet demeanor came from, because it definitely wasn’t from either of her parents. She was giggly and happy and liked to rub “Papa’s beard” because Mick’s face was apparently scratchy and it made her laugh. The only thing that seemed to bother her was too much noise, really. If there was one thing that disappointed Mick, it was that Aiden couldn't care less about fire. Len and Lisa were both secretly relieved about her disinterest.

When he got to Mick's place, she was already dressed to go in stockings and a pink dress. He smiled—Lisa kept trying to get her into blue and green but Aiden looked like a little princess all in pink. In one hand she was holding a mini monster truck and in the other was a CD. Who even used CDs anymore? He really needed to bring Mick up to the twenty first century.

“You all set, kiddo?” he kneeled down to her level.

“Unc’a Lenny—c’n we listen ta’ Princ’ss Ew-sa?”

He assumed that was the CD in her hand. “Of course, pumpkin.”

“Hey,” Mick called, finally off the phone. He’d be nattering away with someone and collecting things around the house since letting Len in. “You all good to go?”

“Looks that way. You meeting up with Roscoe later?”

Mick grunted, which was a yes. “Tell ‘im I say hi—he still thinks I’m mad since things went south with Lisa.”

“’Cause you are, Snart.”

He titled his head in acknowledgement. Nonetheless.

Then Mick picked up Aiden to give her a kiss on the cheek and she giggled and smiled and yeah—Len would never figure out how she was Mick’s daughter. And she definitely was, there had been a paternity test involved.

“Take care. You’ll be by around midnight to pick her up?”

“You got it.”

Then they were off—Len setting up Aiden’s car seat and listening to her talk about “Princess Ew-sa” and how pretty she was. He was gonna’ have to look into this, already imagining future birthday presents for her. Stuck in traffic on the drive, he finally put in that CD she was waving around and asking to listen to. It wasn’t too awful, though there was no label on it so it was something Mick just ripped online. It sounded like it was for a kid’s movie.

And then, almost back at his place, Len surprised himself by recognizing one of the songs. He looked down at the CD player but all it told him was that it was ‘track 5’ so it wasn’t exactly helpful.

“Aiden, honey, what’s this song?”

“It’s Princ’ss Ew-sa!!”

Which wasn’t really helping. But the chorus came on a second later, a rousing 'Let it go! Let it goooo!' and he was pretty sure he could figure it out from there. Why had Barry been singing a song from a kid’s movie though?

Len googled it on his phone after parking, then almost immediately laughed. It being from something called Frozen was almost too good. He looked up the lyrics—‘the cold never bothered me anyway’? He had to get that on a shirt or something, and then maybe find a way to get it to Barry.

 

********

 

Barry was about to head to the Picture News and pick up Iris for an early lunch. She was working on finishing a story for the Sunday edition the next day and he’d agreed to save her from her writing with food at her favorite restaurant near her work. All thoughts of food dropped from his brain as soon as he started down the stairs though.

He ran almost smack dab into Len. Into Len and… a small child?!

Barry almost had a heart attack.

Leonard Snart, Captain Cold, was coming up the stairs carrying a little girl. A little girl with bright brown curls and a pink dress and a pink backpack and—and Len had a Dora the Explorer bag slung over his shoulder, dangling by his side.

They stared at each other, frozen. Barry was on the landing between floors two and three; he had one hand on the railing and one foot dangling in the air, about to drop onto the stair below him. Len looked up from three stairs down, arms full of the happy toddler.

“You’re a father?!” Barry burst out, as soon as his brain caught up.

“Wha—she’s not mine!”

“What?! Are you kidnapping kids now, Len?” he might have shouted that.

“She’s Mick’s daughter—I’m babysitting!”

“She—what—Heatwave? Someone had a kid with Heatwave?!” again, shouted, this time in shock.

The little girl had stopped smiling and was looking between them, bringing one hand to her mouth and starting to tear up. She let out a slow wail.

“Oh shit—”

“Language, Scarlet!”

The girl was crying in earnest now, fat tears rolling down her chubby cheeks. Did Captain Cold really just chide him for swearing? Barry was starting to wonder if he’d walked into an alternate dimension. He stepped down on the stair, not sure yet if he should keep walking or… or what. He didn’t know.

Len was shushing the crying toddler, telling her the ‘loud man’ wasn’t ‘a meanie’ and wasn’t mad at her. Beyond the confusion of seeing Len comforting a little girl, Barry felt like a royal asshole.

“Is there anything I can… uh…” Barry hadn’t spent much time around toddlers—only the kids who came through the precinct on school tours or for science demos, and then a few of Iris’s cousins.

But then Len looked up at him, eyes calculating and then back to the little girl, immediately softer. It was almost jarring to see his expression change so fully so quickly.

“Aiden, honey,” his voice was softer too, velvety and sweet, “would you feel better if the loud man sang that song you like? He's only loud because he likes to sing.”

Her crying had turned into small sniffles by this point but she looked apprehensive at those words, then shyly at Barry. He was at a loss.

“Sing that one from the shower this morning, Red, the ‘Let it Go’ one.”

“You can hear—” Barry’s ears were red already but he snapped his mouth closed before it turned into a shout. Len was smirking and Barry might die of mortification. How many songs had Len heard him sing? And what else could he hear? The shower that morning he had—could Len—

“Let’t go?” peeped out a little voice, and Barry’s heart almost melted. He could worry about Len’s awkward eavesdropping later. His eyes flicked back up to at the other man.

“You’re serious?”

“As a snow storm.”

Okay, Len was just weird. Was that a Captain Cold pun or a Frozen joke or… whatever. Instead, Barry took in a deep breath and tried to plaster on a smile, deciding that ‘fuck it’ was his normal approach to life anyway.

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight,” he started, voice softer than usual because he was so close to the little girl, only two steps away but her eyes started to widen with her smile as soon as he began. He smiled brighter and kept going, trying not to get to loud in the stairwell, halfway embarrassed but the little girl was smiling and laughing and clapping now. She joined in (garbled but adorable) when he got to the chorus, making him laugh and relax a bit, singing the lines with her.

He only made it halfway through the song though, as she started trying to struggle out of Len’s arms and was saying “Up!” at Barry.

“I don’t think so, little rascal,” Len repositioned her, smiling fondly and then turning an enquiring eye to Barry. “I think Barry has places to be.”

“Oh right, Iris! It was nice to meet you, uhm…”

“Aiden. Aiden, this is Barry. Do you want to shake his hand?”

She reached out and smiled at him, wide and happy, “Hi Bar’y!” He reached out and shook her tiny hand.

“Hi Aiden. It’s nice to meet you.”

“C’n you sing ‘gain?”

“Not right now, I have to go. But next time?”

“Uh huh! Th’ snowman song!”

Len looked confused but Barry smiled. “Alright—next time I’ll sing ‘Do you wanna’ build a snowman’,” he did that line in tune and she giggled and clapped her hands.

“Bye now!”

“Buh bye!” She was already waving.

“See you around, kid,” Len gave him a look Barry couldn’t decipher but he was already late so he didn’t worry about it. Instead, he smiled once more at Aiden before hurrying down the steps.

Who would have guessed Heatwave had such a cute kid?

 

********

 

Barry’s day went somewhat sideways after that encounter. Lunch with Iris was lovely, though he felt a bit bad about his ongoing lie when she asked how he was enjoying the new apartment, now that he’d had time to settle in. He was enjoying it, and definitely told her so, but he still hadn’t mentioned anything about his neighbor, to her or anyone else. He wasn’t sure what to say—it wasn’t like any of them could change the situation, and he didn’t want them to worry. Not to mention that he and Len had agreed to keep it quiet. 

And Mick Rory had a kid. After lunch, Barry started to realize the implications of that. How the hell was he supposed to fight Rory knowing he would be beating up that cute little girl’s father? And how was he supposed to feel about the Rogues having kids and babysitting—they were all criminals. And where was the mother? He resolved to actually go and ask Len for some answers, if only to assuage his own conscience, but then his evening took a messy turn.

A new meta-human had shown up, some weirdo who could spin at crazy speeds and who Cisco was calling 'The Top' (not his best, in Barry's opinion, and he was more in favor of Caitlin's 'Turbine' suggestion). The guy had these little explosive tops that kept Barry running, and then, before Barry had had the chance to decide what he was gonna' do about this weird Heatwave-has-a-kid situation, the man himself had been there too, flamethrower ready. The two of them had given Barry a run for his money, conflicted between pulling his punches and not hurting Rory while also trying to stop these guys from getting whatever it was they were trying to steal from Mercury labs. The cops had shown up, demonstrating that this Top guy could spin fast enough to deflect bullets (which ricocheted off him and almost hit Heatwave). Barry had just barely managed to keep the cops from getting hurt before the Top spun off with Rory and what they'd come to steal. Barry was not pleased.

By the time he made it home after talking to Cisco and Caitlin, not mentioning anything about little Aiden until he decided what to do on that front, it was after midnight. Barry was aching, annoyed, and underfed. He munched on a sandwich before heading to shower and rinse off, sweaty from running and smelling like explosives. He hadn’t been in there for more than a minute when he heard— 

“You have got to be kidding me.”

The building’s fire alarm was going off. He groaned and dropped his head against the shower wall. There was no way. His day had been long enough already. But sure enough, he heard some benevolent neighbors filtering out into the hall and banging on doors to make sure everyone was up and getting out.

Barry sighed and grabbed his pants off the bathroom floor, towelling his hair as he made his way to the apartment door. “I’m here, I’m alive, I’m coming,” he said over the sound of the shrill alarm to the elderly woman knocking on his door. She didn’t look too impressed by his tone. “Sorry, ma’am, just let me find some shoes.”

“You know, when a place is on fire you’re not supposed to stop for anything, young man.”

He was fairly certain it was just a false alarm. It was pretty much always just a false alarm, right? Even so, he said, “I know ma’am, and thank you—” he slipped on some running shoes before grabbing his keys off the table by the door under her imperious gaze. As soon as he was in the hall, he noticed Len’s door was still closed.

“Did you, by any chance, knock on his door?”

“Oh of course,” the woman looped her arm in Barry’s and started walking toward the stairs, “He was awfully grumpy. They’ve already gone outside.”

“They?”

“Oh yes, dear—Leonard and his partner and that adorable little girl. Back in my day, you wouldn't see two men raising a child together. It’s lovely how times are changing.”

Barry almost choked on air and just caught himself from missing a step. Was she talking about Mick Rory and Len, as a couple? Wait—were they a couple? That was—that thought was not one his mind was having an easy time processing. It would explain why Len was watching his kid, and Len was gay so maybe Rory was too and—

The cold night air hit Barry’s skin and his whole body trembled. He had stepped out the doors with the small crowd of people, still arm and arm with the woman who’s name hadn’t caught yet, nodding at her comments about the 1970’s. It was only once he was outside though that he realized he was still shirtless and now frigid, body still dry and hair dripping down his neck. He had a towel draped around his neck but it was small and wet and offered zero protection from the cold.

“Oh deary, you’re positively shaking! Your hands are so cold!” the woman was patting his hand and looking at him in concern.

He tried to smile reassuringly, even as his teeth started to chatter, “I’ll be fine, I have great circulation and—”

Then he spotted Mick Rory and it clicked. Mick Rory—still dressed in his full Heatwave gear, and who the hell else would have started a fire at his apartment building at one am on a Saturday night. Suddenly, he was less worried about the cold. Instead, Barry was pissed.

 

********

 

“I’m telling you Mick, take Aiden and go before the firemen get here. You’re dressed in fire retardant clothing, the cops are still looking for you, and my gun is upstairs. I do not want to fight or to give them a reason to search my apartment. That’s why we came out here in the first place, so you would leave.”

They were standing toward the shadows near the alley, away from the rest of the people filtering out of the building and hopefully innocuous.

“I didn’t do anything Len, and I’m not gonna’ let some slack jaw fireman with a stick up—”

Mick.” Len was beyond done with this shit. Aiden was crying from the noise and being woken up, even as Mick tried to shush her, and it was freezing out, a chill evening for September and she wasn’t dressed warm for this in her ninja turtle pajamas.

“Fine. But I’m not doing it because the firemen ‘n I’m not—”

“Just go.”

Mick repositioned Aiden and held out his hand, into which Len dropped his car keys. “You’ve got less than two minutes so hurry up.”

“That kid’s looking at me funny.”

For the love of—Len rolled his eyes and turned to see who it was and—oh. It was Barry. Shit. Considering the Flash had busted up Mick's heist, no wonder Barry was glaring in their direction.

“I’m gonna’ fight him.”

“NO!” He whipped back to face his friend. “No, Mick. You are going to take Aiden and go home.”

“But—”

“I’ll deal with the kid. He’s my neighbor. If he suspects you started the fire, I’ll deal with it.” And Barry definitely would suspect it was Mick. As funny as it might be to let his friend challenge Barry to a fight though, nothing good would come of it. “Ninety seconds, Mick—get out of here.”

The sirens were getting louder and Mick huffed, but Aiden cried and snuggled in closer to his shoulder and the fight seemed to go out of him. Len watched him walk toward the alley and the parking lot beyond it, then noticed that he wasn’t the only one watching. Barry’s eyes were on Mick’s back.

And now that his friend was safe and he had a second to actually look at Barry, Len noticed that the kid was, well, an even bigger idiot than he had thought. He was shirtless and his hair was wet, it looked like it still had suds in it, and Dolores Thompson from 4F was fussing over him. How could someone with super speed not find the time to put on a shirt when the fire alarm goes off? Still, Len didn’t totally mind the view, especially because it would help update his shower fantasies. Barry had a rather cute pattern of moles that—

Barry turned to look at him and Len’s eyes shot up to meet his gaze. The fire trucks were pulling up now, shouts, people being directed out of the way. Len mostly ignored them, since he knew nothing was really on fire—Mick’s gun set off the alarm. Thankfully, it had been in the hallway, meaning there was no way to trace it back to Len’s apartment.

He walked over and stopped a few feet away from Barry and Dolores.

“Evening, Barry.”

“L-Leonard.”

It was impressive that he managed to make that sound as angry as it did between his chattering teeth. Len turned to his companion, “And Mrs. Thompson, so good to see you.”

“Leonard, you dear soul,” she reached forward and clasped his hand in both of hers in that happy way she had, “I was just telling this young man he was going to die of cold out here. Would you be a dear and lend him your jacket, darling?”

“Interesting choice of words, Mrs. Thompson, but why not?”

He drawled it low and barely resisted winking at Barry, who was shivering and glaring, “I’m f-fine, I don’t n-need your ccoat, C-Cold.”

But Len was already shrugging out of his jacket—his black wool pea coat. He held it out but Barry made no move to take it, insisting he was 'f-fine.' So Len smirked and—pushing his luck—stepped forward and swung it around Barry’s shoulders, pulling the front tight around him.

“We’ll probably be out here for a while—wouldn’t want you to catch a cold, Barry,” he challenged, hands still on the lapels and too close.

“There’s a good lad,” Dolores started patting Len’s arm so he turned to smile at her. “Now where did your fine man and little girl get off to? I’m sure he won’t want you flirting with all the young things out here—I’ll be happy to explain the situation to him.”

“Yes, Len, where did Mick Rory and his daughter get off to?” Barry’s voice was a bit raspy but not chattering anymore, and his lips stopped looking so blue. Len forced his eyes up from Barry’s lips, focusing on his eyes instead. Still angry, and still rather close.

“My friend wanted to take his daughter home,” he addressed it to Dolores, mostly because he knew it would piss Barry off, “and for the last time Mrs. Thompson, Mick and I are just friends.”

He glanced at Barry, ready to share an amused glance but the other was giving him this quizzical look. Len raised his eyebrows—“You didn’t actually think me and Mick—”

“I don’t know! I mean you look after his kid and you work together and—I mean it makes sense!”

Barry was… the kid had honest to god red cheeks. Was it just from the chill air? Len wasn’t sure the last time he knew someone who actually blushed from embarrassment. It shouldn’t be as endearing as it was.

“No reason to be jealous, Scarlet,” he smirked and Barry spluttered.

“I’m not jeal—are you insane?”

“You are wearing my jacket, you know.”

“Because you put it on me!”

Which, while accurate, the kid hadn’t tried to shrug it off yet, and his hands had actually come out to clutch the front tighter around him. Len just raised an eyebrow. Barry looked like he was about to protest and Len had already lined up his next answer (‘the lady doth protest too much, methinks’), when Dolores interrupted them.

“Now, boys, I don’t want to be the cause of a marital spat now—”

Len was actually starting to get annoyed by the old woman, “For the last time—”

“Mrs. Thompson, could you give me and Len a minute?”

She cast an accusatory eye on Barry, as if daring him to steal Len away from Mick. It would be hilarious if she didn’t glare down pretty much every man he’d brought back to his apartment who wasn’t Mick. But she just huffed and walked on her way to meet with a few of the other tenants asking questions of the firefighters.

“Barry?”

“Rory set off the fire alarm, didn’t he?”

“Real detective work on that one,” his voice was dripping with sarcasm.

Mother fucker—I knew it! Some of us actually had a long day, what with Mick and whoever the hell 'The Top' is and then you and your friends go and—”

“Don’t put this on me, if you wanna’ take it up with Mick, be my guest, but you might want to explain how the Flash knows he tripped the fire alarm at my place. Unless you plan to fight him as Barry Allen, bumbling forensic specialist?” Also, he was calling Dillon 'The Top'? Cisco could do better than that, Len hoped.

“Bumbling?!”

Len looked to the side and tried to quell his grin. “This is almost too easy, Barry.” The other seethed and Len managed to school his amusement into a smirk.

“Please tell me that he didn't actually light anything on fire.”

“If he did, I’d fight him myself. The place is fine, so chill for a bit. We’ll probably be back in soon.” Barry nodded and Len relaxed by a fraction.

The conversation reached a natural end but Len wasn’t really keen to go too far. Since he had him there, there were plenty of things he wouldn’t mind knowing about the Flash. He was trying to decide how to approach it and actually get answers, but Barry beat him to the punch.

“Can I ask—Rory’s daughter—where’s the mother? I mean, are her and him still together, or…?”

He titled his head and stared at Barry. They were standing pretty close, Len only two feet from the smaller man and appraising him. How did Barry intend to use that information? “She’s out of the picture,” he settled on honesty, eventually. He could deal whatever concerns the Flash brought up about Aiden’s upbringing.

“Is she—”

“She’s alive.”

“Can I ask why—I mean, how come Rory is the one raising her? He’s not exactly a—”

“Sterling role model?” Len sighed, “Aiden’s mother dropped out of her life over a year ago, going from full custody to leaving her for the weekend with Mick and never looking back… I tracked her down to see if she was still alive. She was in a drug den. After that, there was no way we were letting her anywhere near Aiden.”

Barry whistled between his teeth. “Okay, so Rory is actually an improvement then. And you help out with her?”

“Me, Lisa, a few others. Mick’s actually pretty good with her though, you might be surprised.”

Barry was clearly digesting this new information. Before he could ask anymore questions though, the firefighters were directing tenants back inside. Len followed in the throng of people, Barry behind him, and when they reached their floor he heard the other clear his throat. Len glanced over his shoulder, and Barry was holding out his coat, eyes almost challenging.

“You’re welcome,” he said, taking it back.

“Thank you,” Barry sounded like the words physically hurt him. But Len was standing close to all that skin on display now, and had to keep his eyes from straying.

“Maybe next time you’ll have something I need, Barry.”

Len again managed not to wink, just by the skin of his teeth, as he walked in to his apartment.

 

Chapter Text

After the false fire alarm, Barry didn’t run into Len at the café or grocer’s all week, which he tried to convince himself was a relief.

He was relaxing (for once) on Thursday evening, trying to decide which flavor of frozen pizza he would have for supper when there was a knock at the door. Which, that was unusual, because it wasn’t a buzzer so it must be another tenant in the building. Maybe Dolores Thompson…

He closed the freezer and walked to the door, only to find, “Len?”

“Evening, Barry. You don’t happen to have any flour on hand, do you?”

“Flowers?”

“Flour—f-l-o-u-r? White powder, used in cooking, baking?”

He blinked. Why would Len need flour? The other just rolled his eyes and shouldered past Barry into his apartment.

“Hey—what are you—” Barry followed him into his own kitchen as Len started opening his cupboards. This was his kitchen.

“That’s where the plates go—“

“Why would you put the plates there?”

“Because that’s where they—look, baking stuff is in the bottom cupboard,” he pointed, and Len squatted down on his knees to open it, sifting through items until—

“Thanks.” He hefted the small and unopened bag of flour and headed toward the door.

“What—hey! You can’t just take the bag!”

“Why not? I’m a thief. You’re making it too easy, you know.”

Barry followed him into the hall and Len got out his keys.

“You locked your door? You were gone for like—a minute?”

“Always lock up behind you.”

Barry didn’t even have his keys on him, but he shrugged and followed Len into his apartment. The man stopped almost immediately, turning to look at Barry.

“What are you doing?”

“Protecting my flour—take what you need and give it back.”

“It’s my flour now, kid, you haven’t even opened it.”

“That doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to use it. Maybe it’s brand new!” Len didn’t need to know it had been sitting in his cupboard since he moved in; it was his.

The other man arched a skeptical eyebrow but walked into the kitchen and let Barry follow. Which was only fair, Barry decided—if they were at the point of being neighbors where Len could waltz into his apartment and take things, that had to go both ways. He looked around curiously as they passed the living room but stayed in step behind Len.

“So what are you making anyway?”

“Cake.” Cake? Leonard Snart was baking, and he was baking a cake? “You can bake?”

“I can bake. It’s Lisa’s birthday and she’ll be here in an hour. I’m behind schedule. If I wasn’t, I’d’ve just gone to the store for flour.”

Oooh, he didn’t seem happy about being behind. Barry almost snickered. Captain Cold didn’t like being off schedule. “That’s sweet, baking for her,” he finally said, mostly because it was. He’d never baked a cake for Iris.

“Hmm.” Was all he got in response. Len set the flour down on the counter and pushed back his sleeves. Barry’s eyes were drawn from a mixing bowl of darker wet ingredients to his forearms, which were lined with tattooes that started at the wrist, patterns that went up into the sleeves of the sweater. He was instantly curious, wanting to see more, but it seemed too personal to ask, so he tried to focus on the baking instead.

“What kind of cake?”

“Black forest. It’s her favorite.”

“Oooh, that’s the one with the jam, right?”

“Cherries, actually. And whipped cream in place of icing.”

“Aren’t you lactose intolerant?”

“It’s coconut whipping cream.”

Len was sifting other ingredients into the flour, measuring them on a food scale to precision. Barry was pretty sure it was the opposite manner from anything he’d ever baked, which was mostly a haphazard tossing of things into bowls and mixing while hoping for the best. He really only ever did it because Iris roped him into it with her love of brownies and treats. Not that he didn’t love treats as well, but he was happy to buy instead of bake most of the time. He knew it was basically just chemistry, but had mostly been fond of putting together explosive and corrosive chemicals instead of edible ones.

Still, while it was fascinating to watch Len in his normal life, meticulous and focused even as he answered Barry’s questions without thinking, he was used to Iris telling him what to do in the kitchen. “Anything I can do to help?”

Len looked up sharply, evaluating.

“You said you were behind schedule, right? I can do… something?”

There was a long and intense moment of staring that made him fidget. Then Len nodded decisively. “Get the whipping cream out of the fridge. Bowls are in the corner cupboard, whisk in the drawer beside it."

Barry obeyed, grabbing out the requisite things and pouring some of the liquid into the bowl, ready to start stirring. He just had to whip it, right? And it would thicken? He started to stir and watch as Len started to carefully alternate mixing the wet and dry ingredients into a single bowl.

And Barry really should have known better than to let himself get distracted by watching the deft movements of Len’s long fingers, because a second later unwhipped whipping cream was being speed-stirred out of the bowl at a terminal velocity that was not ideal. It splattered his sweater and the front of the fridge and Len’s arm and—well, it was a mess.

“Shit! Sorry!”

“Barry—“

“I’ll fix it, just one—” he sped around the kitchen with a cloth from the sink and wiped up the mess, stopping when the cloth was on Len’s arm. “—second. Umm, right, sorry.” He stepped back. “I got carried away.”

“Your shirt—“

He looked down, a line of white on his front, and started swiping at it with the cloth. “Don’t worry about it.”

Len looked annoyed but refrained from commenting. Instead, he directed his attention back to his own bowl, starting to pour the batter into three separate and equal sized cake pans. Finally, when Barry was pretty sure he was about to get kicked out, the other said, “There’s an apron in the pantry. Don’t forget to add icing sugar after it starts to thicken.”

Barry felt a moment of relief, somewhat glad he was being allowed to stay. And right, sugar, he knew he was missing something. He looked around for the pantry and located it, opening it to a large amount of cans and boxes before grabbing the hanging apron. As soon as he put it on, he noticed it had Elsa from Frozen on the front. She was holding ice cream with a caption that said 'The cold never bothered me anyway'.

“For real, Len? A Frozen apron? This is ridiculous, even for you.” But even as he said it, Barry leaned against the counter and poured more liquid into his bowl.

Len had just finished putting the pans in the oven and looked over at him with a half smirk. “I don’t know—it suits you, Red.”

“Where did you even find this?”

He started to stir at a quick but not superhuman pace.

“It was a gift, Lisa appreciates my sense of humor.”

“Someone has to.”

Len actually laughed and Barry felt himself smile. Then the other brought over a bag of icing sugar and started pouring it into his bowl.

“Not going to measure each grain?”

“You didn’t measure the cream so now we have to do this the old fashioned way.”

“Which is?”

“Taste-testing.”

Barry laughed. “No complaints from me.”

It was surprisingly fun, to relax and mix. Len grabbed another bowl and started mixing too, since apparently they would need a lot, and Barry’s was starting to form peaks. “Hold up,” Len set his aside, “Time to test.”

He pulled out two spoons and they each tried it. “More sugar?” Len asked.

“Really, I thought it was okay?”

Len reached his spoon back in, and Barry interrupted him, “Hey—that’s double dipping!”

“This isn’t grade school, Barry. I promise I don’t have cooties.”

Oh that was it—Barry put his spoon back in and used it to flick whipped cream at Len.

There was a moment of silence. Whipped cream was on the end of Leonard Snart’s nose. Barry broke out into a grin, ear to ear and too bright to contain. He didn’t care if Len was pissed because the other man looked ridiculous and completely nonplussed.

And then, slowly, methodically, Len brought his spoon back up from the bowl and, at the same slow pace with a completely neutral expression, raised his hand and dropped the contents of the spoon right on top of Barry’s head.

They both burst out laughing—Len’s a deeper chuckle, Barry throwing his head back and letting out a deep-belly laugh. And then it was on.

Barry lobbed another spoonful at Len, who dodged and grabbed his own bowl back and flung another at Barry, who figured super speed would be cheating and tried to duck without it.

“Take that!” he challenged, using the whisk, and some definitely sailed past Len and onto the fridge again.

“Nice try!”

Len’s own whisk sent some up to the roof by accident but a splotch made it onto Barry’s cheek and chin. He laughed at the other’s aim and feinted closer to Len, spooning it onto his chin. The other caught his wrist, using his grip to bring the spoon up and wrapping his lips around it. “Definitely needs more sugar, Barry.”

He half laughed and smiled in response. “I don’t know, Len, I really thought it was okay.”

“Try some!” Len dropped Barry’s wrist and brought his hand onto Barry’s cheek, using his finger to wipe off a glob that was stuck there. Barry didn’t even think, just reached his mouth forward and latched his lips around it, tongue on the underside and—

“What exactly is going on in here, Lenny?”

Oh shit. Lisa Snart was standing in the doorway of Len’s kitchen holding a six-pack of beer and wearing a shocked expression. Time dilated as Barry realized—he was standing, holding a bowl of whipped cream between him and Len, the other man’s apron on, whipped cream in his hair, on his clothes, leaning forward with his mouth wrapped around Len’s index finger, which for the record was pressing against the roof of his mouth and oh shit oh shit oh shit—

Barry went beet red in an instant and dropped the finger, took a hasty step back, then another, until his back hit the fridge and he was holding the bowl in front him of him like a shield.

“Lisa! You’re early.”

“Didn’t think I’d be interrupting anything, Lenny. Who’s this?”

Oh shit.

“My neighbor.”

“Uh huh. You mean your boyfriend, right?”

Barry had just finished blushing and went red again. What? Why would Lisa assume—shit, of course Lisa would assume that. “Umm…”

“Lisa—”

“What, did you think I’d be mad you hadn’t told me about him yet? Clearly it’s serious if you’re baking together. You don’t even let me in the kitchen when you bake. This place is a mess, by the way.”

“We’re not, I mean I’m—” Barry started to say, since apparently Len wasn’t going to correct her. She wheeled on him and gave him a blatant once-over.

“What you are is jailbait. Do you have a name?”

“Barry,” he choked out.

She nodded and turned back to Len. “He’s cute. Please tell me he’s older than he looks?”

“He’s twenty five.”

Len knew his age?

“Thank goodness. Why didn’t you tell me you were inviting him to my birthday dinner? Honestly, Lenny, give a girl a head’s up next time. I didn’t even know you were seeing anyone?”

He looked at Len, eyes wide. The other was giving him some complex expression, half question and half challenge. Shit shit shit shit—

“I’m glad though, so don’t worry. You’ve been single for too long, you know.” Lisa was apparently oblivious to the effect she was having, waltzing over the counter and dropping things on it before nudging Barry out of the way to put the beer in the fridge.

“I really am his neighbor. I live next door,” Barry finally said, putting down the bowl. They needed to clear this up, stat.

Lisa turned and raised an eyebrow at Len, half ignoring Barry. “You’re dating your neighbor, Lenny? That’s new.”

“Well,” Len said, and Barry almost breathed a sigh of relief that he was finally going to clear this up, “you know me. Hard not to fall for a face as pretty as his.”

WHAT?!

Len stepped closer to Barry and put his arm around Barry’s waist. He tensed all over but that wasn’t even the most of it because a second later, Len kissed his cheek. Right over the remainder of the whip cream splotch. Barry felt his stomach clench when Len sucked the whipped cream off his cheek. He was torn between fainting and murdering Len but the other man pulled back, standing beside Barry still though, hand still on his waist and—

“He looks cute in your apron,” she smiled, and then finally stepped forward and extended her hand for Barry to shake. He did, half mechanically, wondering what the hell he was doing. “Nice to meet you, Barry. I’m Lisa.”

“Right, I kind of guessed. I mean—Len’s told me about you. Since we're dating, and that's what boyfriends do, they talk. I mean, it’s, uh, nice to meet you, ah, finally.”

He felt Len’s hand grip his waist for a second, trying to communicate something that Barry couldn't decipher—gratitude at extending his lie? chagrin at how bad Barry was at lying?—before the hand finally dropped. Barry didn't miss that it slid over his back before falling.

“Now that you’re introduced, if you two don’t mind, I have a dinner and a cake to finish making.”

Barry was ushered into the living room, leaving the apron with Len, feeling out of his element. He had no idea what what going on, why it was happening in the first place, and what lies to try and sell. Len was leaving him to chat with Lisa, who was probably excellent at lying. His palms were sweating as he sat on the couch. He took a sip of the beer that had somehow made its way to his hand. He was in over his head.

“So, Barry, tell me—how long have you and Lenny been together?”

“Umm… two months?” Was that too long? That was how about long it had been since he’d first seen Len at the dentist. What was he doing? “But I mean, we weren’t official until a little while ago, just dating…” Yes, dating. That was one word for it—running into each other in all sorts of places and having his avocadoes stolen, being shot at by the cold gun, fire alarms at one in the morning. Dating.

“And you met through being neighbors?”

“Ah—I um, just kept running into this handsome stranger after I moved in—at the dentist, the bank, the café around the corner. He bought me coffee one day, and one thing just sort of… led to the next.” He felt himself starting to flush and took a longer pull from his beer, glad it was in his hand.

He could hear Len in the kitchen, easily close enough in the small apartment the other could hear their conversation. If he had any issue with Barry’s lies, he could step in. He didn’t. Lisa was looking at him like she had x-ray vision though, probably missing nothing, and he shifted in his seat. He realized, maybe belatedly, that a misstep here could have her figuring out his secret identity. Was that why Len was going along with this lie, to help him?

“And what about you, Lisa, are you seeing anyone?” he asked, suddenly desperate to turn the conversation off of himself.

“Oh no, not right now. My plate’s a bit full at the moment, though I do have a crush on one particularly cute scientist.”

“Scientist?” his voice sounded strangled, even to his own ears. Did she mean Cisco?

“Mhmm, I go for the smart boys. Speaking of which, what is it that you do, Barry?”

Shit, what was he supposed to say? Would Len want his sister knowing he was dating someone who worked at the CCPD? Would it make her more suspicious? He was saved from answering, opening his mouth and having no idea yet what he was going to say, when Len called from the kitchen—

“He’s a badge, Lise.”

Her eyes widened, mouth parting just a touch before she regained herself. She turned toward the kitchen, not that they could see Len from where they were sitting, a wall in between them and him. “You’re dating a cop, Len?” her voice had lost that soft, sweet quality it had been holding. Barry finished his beer. This was a mess.

“He’s a forensic specialist, not a cop,” and thank god, Len was coming to the entrance of the kitchen, leaning against the wall that bordered onto the living room where they could see him. He was wearing the ridiculous apron.

“Are you—” she turned sharply back to Barry, then back to Len, “Does he—”

“He knows, Sis.”

Oh good. Barry actually did sigh in relief. He didn’t have to pretend he was some oblivious idiot who didn’t know he was dating Captain Cold. He opened his mouth to bolster Len’s lie but Lisa was already turning back to him, completely calculating now. “Len’s told you about his… lifestyle? Has he mentioned his… affinity for ice?”

Barry actually barked out a laugh. “That’s one way to put it. I know, though, yeah, about him being… Captain Cold.” Might as well be upfront about it. And now Lisa’s eyes were penetrating, expression surprised again. “Umm…?”

“I’m just—Lenny’s not normally so forthcoming,” she said, eyes flicking between them. “You two really are serious, aren’t you?”

“Lisa,” Len’s voice carried a warning of some kind, “Let’s not do a full interrogation of my boyfriend the first time you meet, okay?”

“It’s a sister’s job, Lenny. Your fault for introducing us on my birthday—I get full reign to ask what I want.”

And ask she did, while Len returned to the kitchen, apparently satisfied with the situation. Barry was explaining his job with the CCPD, how he came to find out that Len was Captain Cold—a bit of lying there, saying he’d seen the video from back when the Captain first called out the Flash, connected it to Len’s voice (since the man's records were all deleted now), confronted him about it—how he had accepted that element about his boyfriend because Len meant so much to him. He tossed in the bit about Len giving him his jacket the night of the fire alarm to explain how Len won him over so fully.

The whole thing was such a farce he almost lost it a few times in the telling though, though hopefully Lisa would interpret his almost-laughter as joy about Len and him being together. Yes, he and his boyfriend, Captain Cold, whose villainous lifestyle the cute forensic specialist Barry Allen just casually accepted because Cold wasn’t hurting civilians anymore and he just adored his sweet boyfriend. Just perfect. How was he in this situation? But Lisa just drank in his words and seemed to find it all reassuring, and then even took his hand and squeezed it, and said, “I’m glad he has you, Barry. Lenny’s been alone for far too long.”

Which, wow, he was not supposed to be having guilty and sad feelings about Leonard Snart, okay? He tried to smile at Lisa, “I’m glad I have him too.” This might be worse than lightning psychosis.

She smiled and he felt like an asshole, but then Len was telling them it was dinner time and he was saved from the conversation.

If nothing else, he got a free dinner and even some (delicious) cake out of this stupid lie. He never did get his flour back though.

 

********

 

Lisa left her brother’s place with her head reeling just a bit. What a birthday surprise that turned out to be—since when had Len started dating the Flash?! And seriously, did they really think she was that stupid, and wouldn’t realize? She’d heard his voice and seen half his face under that cowl, she knew enough to put that together as soon as he’d said the words ‘Captain Cold.’

But when she walked into the kitchen, before she’d realized, they looked so ridiculously in love it was hard to care. No wonder they’d tried to pass it off as just being neighbors though—which, if it was true, was hilarious. No doubt it contributed to them getting together. The coffee shop story was kind of a weak lie, hearing they’d just kept running into one another, like really? But then she remembered that Len and the Flash were tossing cavity and flossing jokes back and forth that one time, and then she wondered if that’s really how it had started.

Lisa chewed on her lip during the drive home. Len and the Flash, who was apparently a badge—could her brother be more unlucky about his romantic choices? Or maybe not, she realized, since this time he’d found a guy who knew about his stealing, his Cold persona, and despite working for the cops and being basically a superhero, Barry still looked at Len like he held the moon on a string. It really was the kind of look that could give someone cavities, it was so sweet.

And now, she wondered… how long could she convince them that she didn’t know? The thought brought a wicked smile to her lips. Time to have some fun.

Chapter Text

Len survived dinner and Lisa didn’t seem to be any the wiser about Barry, at least not yet. The Speedster was was helping with the dishes when Lisa had announced she was heading home, and they’d both gone to the door to say goodbye and wish her a happy birthday one more time. Then, as soon as she was safely out of Len’s apartment, Barry rounded on him.

“What the hell was that?” he demanded, already working his way to a shout but obviously trying to control it. So much for Mr. Nice Boyfriend.

“That, Flash, was me keeping your cover.”

Barry met Len’s glare and then rolled his eyes, stalking back to the kitchen and the dishes. Len blinked and followed him. He was finishing the dishes?

“By pretending we’re dating?” Barry looking like he was taking out his aggression on the casserole dish by scrubbing it to shine. Len wasn’t going to comment or complain though.

“Lisa is smart—she knows I wouldn’t just let some random neighbor into my kitchen to cook with me. And its not like she didn’t find us in a compromising position.”

Barry started to blush and Len smirked. Then he was being handed the casserole dish, which he assumed he was supposed to dry. He took it.

“Look, kid, if she had reason to start digging she would've. I used the most convenient excuse and I saved your ass. If anything, you owe me,” he made sure to look at Barry while delivering that line. Maybe not too surprisingly, the brunette turned to him with his jaw dropped.

“Owe you?! For dragging me into a lie and—I’m the one doing your dishes here! You should be thanking me!”

“I fed you dinner and gave you a second helping of cake,” Len shot back. Maybe he should thank Barry about the dishes, even as he finished drying the last one, but that might be like admitting some defeat here.

“So fine, we’re even.” Barry pulled the plug on the sink and let it drain while Len put the final dish away, triumphant. But Barry was turning toward the door then, and that wouldn't do.

“Not so fast, Scarlet.”

“What now?”

“You realize this isn’t over, right?”

Barry glanced at him then at the empty sink. “The dishes—”

Barry had to be smarter than that.

“The pretend dating.” Len managed not to roll his eyes but only just barely, unable to keep the condescension from his voice.

“Tell her we broke up.” And oh, Barry put on a hand on his hip and looked challenging. Len wasn’t exactly going to back down though, he’d had all of dinner and dessert to think this through and he was confident in his plan.

“Right, because Lisa is going to accept that right after she meets the badge I’ve secretly been dating and apparently like enough to tell about my life of crime—and who spent the whole evening saying he likes me enough to forgive that life of crime—we suddenly break up?”

“Pretend I couldn’t handle your sordid criminal lifestyle.”

“Did you miss the part where you spent the whole evening forgiving that? And are you sure you my sister’s wrath raining down on innocent Barry Allen, forensic specialist?” Len had thought about that—an abrupt breakup for no reason would an invitation for Lisa’s ire. Between that, her terrible habit of collecting information she shouldn’t, and her tendency for poking into Len’s affairs, giving her a reason to pry would just tumble down this little house of cards.

“I don’t know—cheat on me or something?”

He looked at Barry incredulously. “You think I want her wrath on me, kid?”

The other actually laughed. “So the only person who scares Captain Cold is his sister?”

He didn’t bother to deny it. “With good reason.”

Finally, Barry actually sighed and his pose deflated. Excellent. “So what do you want from me?”

“Pretend to date me.”

“Apparently we’re already doing that!” he threw his hands in the air, obviously annoyed and Len frowned.

“For a month, kid. After that I can tell Lisa it went south—we can play up the friction and the mess over the next few weeks and make it seem natural. In the meantime, it’ll help keep your cover, and it’ll keep her off my back.”

To his surprise, after the initial flabbergasted expression Barry looked like he might actually be considering it, crossing his arms, pursed lips. That was easier than he’d expected. “A month? And no one else finds out, right? No one else can find out, unless you want Joe to threaten to—" his eyes widened "—no wait I could lose my job if anyone at work found out, not to mention be criminally liable. You would owe me for this, Len.”

Owe him? Hell no, Len was doing him a favor, not the other way around. “We’re protecting your cover, Barry, not mine. And d’you think this is a cakewalk for me? I have Rogues to assemble and playing pretend with you won’t exactly make that easy.”

He didn’t mention that having a young and attractive man on his arm, one he got to lick whip cream off of, might not be the worst thing to happen to him this year. No need to push Barry too far, after all. But the other was distracted, eyes narrowed, and— “What do you mean, ‘Rogues to assemble’?”

He really should not have said that.

“Don’t push your luck,” Len put some steel into his voice. Pretend dating and neighbors or not, he wasn’t about to give up details about his Rogues to the Flash. Thankfully, Barry didn’t seem to mind, instead just shaking his head and snorting.

“Whatever, Len.” He scratched the back of his long neck and finally seemed to come to some mental decision, standing up straight. “Fine. One month. Then we break up in a way that keeps Lisa away from my personal life.”

“Deal.” Maybe he said it too quickly but, hell, this seemed like the best-case scenario. A month was plenty of time to make it realistic and not too far off of what Lisa would probably expect anyway, based on Len’s spotty love life. He kept his eyes on Barry though, appraising, trying to determine how risky this whole endeavor would be.

 “We should keep our stories straight,” the other suggested, and Len cocked his head to the side. That should be a given. “I’ll write down all the stuff I told her tonight, and you should let me know what you tell her about us.”

“Fair enough. You’ll have to go for lunch with us at least once, and out for drinks or over here again if she gets insistent.”

To his relief, Barry nodded. “Okay, just let me know I guess?”

With that, Barry headed back next door and Len finally let out the heavy sigh he’d been holding in after locking it behind him.

He’d been far too careless, letting Barry into his apartment at all, let alone past the entrance, let alone for so long, and in such a capacity. It was that damn stupid apron’s fault. It had just come in the mail yesterday after he’d ordered it—along with the matching one for Aiden—and he’d hung it up, amusing himself by imaging Barry in it and singing that stupid song. So of course when he’d started watching Len bake, the thought crossed his mind, and then the opportunity arose and…

He was probably never going to get the feel of Barry’s mouth around his finger out of his head. God his mouth was hot, sinful. It was going to be a definite problem, and not just for his next shower, updating the mental imagery of Barry to include the feel of his lips. Which, on that mental note, his imaginary Barry was getting a little too detailed and he should probably pull up a new fantasy soon. But right now he had bigger fish to fry, like how the hell he was going to survive the next month of actually touching Barry, even just casually, arm on his waist or shoulder, and how he would get passed flirting with him in a way more overt than he’d already been doing. He was entering actual crush territory, which for a million reasons was a terrible idea.

And then there was the spike of something almost like guilt, somewhere nebulous below the ribs and above the navel, because while he was fairly certain Barry was deliberately flirting back by this point—evidence being his lips around Len’s finger—that didn’t mean the kid was getting the same fun out of all this that he was. Barry hadn't really wanted to be saddled with such a convoluted situation that could put him in danger, even though it really was more Barry’s fault and more for his benefit. Either way though, all crushes and guilt aside, he’d meant what he said—letting the Flash stick so close to his side for a month would make things decidedly messy. But he could manage that damage control, and at the end of this, the Flash would owe him. That was enough.

 

********

 

Safely in his apartment, Barry finally let out the mental freakout he was trying to not show Len he was having. He zipped around his apartment in a streak, pacing circles until the rug started to singe and burn before dropping down on his couch to stare at the ceiling with wide eyes.

He was dating Leonard Snart. Fake dating. Pretend. As in, not really dating but still being kissed on the cheek by. And still licking whip-cream off of—Barry buried his face in a pillow to hide his blush, even though he was alone. How had that happened? Why was Len’s finger in his mouth? How old was he again? Forty two? Wow, yeah, this had better be pretend. He didn’t look that old though, mid-thirties maybe. And hey, at least Barry could tease him now if he flirted with any more receptionists. He might even get to have fun playing the jealous boyfriend if they had to go out somewhere with Lisa, the young arm-piece who—okay, he needed to stop that train of thought.

A semi-hysterical bubble of laughter peeled its way up his throat and he hugged the pillow harder to his face. Maybe if he suffocated in it, he’d wake up the next day and this would all be a weird dream.

 

********

 

It wasn’t a dream, but the next few days managed to distract Barry enough that he almost forgot about it anyway.

There was still nothing on the location of the escaped Tricksters, but he’d had his hands full with Weather Wizard. Mardon had finally come around to stir up trouble at the precinct by going after Joe, though this time Barry was much more prepared to deal with him, and there hadn’t been any injuries. The pipeline prison wasn’t an option, mostly because he really didn’t consider it an option anymore, not after everything that had happened and how incapable he, Cisco, and Caitlin were of actual rehabilitation for the metas. Thanks to that, he’d had to fight Mardon back with the help of the police and not whisk him to the pipeline. They managed to quell him and send him on his way with nothing more than minor ice and hail-related injuries—no one struck by lightning (except Barry, but it hadn’t hurt that bad)—but he still needed a more permanent solution to the metas, because fights like this meant it was only a matter of time before someone innocent got seriously injured or killed.

Still, he counted it as a win for the time being.

A few nights later, when he’d finally managed to successfully suppress all thoughts of The Whip Cream Fiasco™, Barry heard a knock on his door. Either it really would be Mrs. Thompson this time, or… yeah, no, it was Len.

“You here to steal my sugar this time?”

“Lunch, Saturday, with Lisa. Can you make it?”

Right, he’d agreed to lunch with them. Shit. He blinked and thought for a moment.

“Um. Yes, it’s my day off so apparently I can make it to lunch with two of my arch nemeses,” he smiled brightly and Len looked annoyed. Good. “I was thinking though, it really might be easier to keep this cover the less I talk to her. And we’re supposed to pretend we have friction so maybe I could rain-check at the last minute—”

“You lied well enough last time and the friction needs to be gradual, kid. She called you sweet three times on the phone.” Len looked like that left a sour taste in his mouth and Barry blinked, not sure how he felt about Lisa Snart calling him sweet.

“Okay, so I need to be less nice over lunch?”

“I’ll let you know how to play it. We can meet up beforehand to get our story straight.”

Oh lovely, more time spent with his arch nemesis working on their pretend relationship. Barry’s free time on his day off was steadily dwindling. He was pretty sure he was supposed to meet Iris that evening to go over fabric swatches for wedding linens too, which was also lovely.

“Fine, just tell me when and where.”

“Lisa hasn’t sent me the details yet and it’s her turn to pick. I’ll be driving you—it’ll look better if we arrive together.”

Barry’s eyebrows climbed up, fabric swatches forgotten. “On your motorcycle?”

“I was thinking my car, but if you’re interested—”

“Car is fine.” His voice did not squeak.

Len smirked but refrained from commenting. “One more thing, Scarlet—your cellphone number. We should probably exchange if we’re going to keep up this ruse.”

“I—oh. Don’t you just use burner phones and stuff like that?”

Len gave him that condescending look again and Barry frowned. “Stop watching so much television, kid. This isn’t evil mastermind 101, I have a cellphone that I use for my personal life and I use burners for jobs.”

“So you’re giving me your personal cellphone number.”

“You’re already making me regret this, kid.”

Barry laughed. “Okay, so I guess I have to agree not to use it to track your location or anything like that?”

Len’s eyes narrowed. “You’re right, this was a bad id—”

“No wait! Its fine, come on. I promise not to use your cellphone number for nefarious purposes. Or, y’know, technically moral purposes, but whatever. I live next door, it’s not like I couldn’t track you down if that was my goal.”

Len looked dubious but after a long glance at Barry, he rattled off a number, and seconds later it was in Barry’s phone under ‘Len’. Barry provided his in return, and then Len turned to go.

“I’ll see you Saturday.”

Barry would have waved but Len was literally right next door, already unlocking it, so he just replied, “Right, uh, see ya,” and closed the door.

 

********

 

Barry got a text from Len on Friday, tell him they would meet up at quarter after twelve and have lunch with Lisa at one. Close to a whole hour to get their stories straight? It wasn't that complicated. Regardless, he replied in the affirmative.

On Saturday, Len knocked on his door at exactly twelve fifteen (he looked at a clock to check). He should have known the other would be punctual.

“Len,” he opened it.

“Barry.”

They stood there, awkward for a beat, then—“May I come in?”

“Oh, uh, yeah.”

Barry stepped back to let him in, halfway surprised he’d asked this time instead of barging in.

He led the other to the living room and tried not to be too uncomfortable with the way Len was frankly looking around. “Tidier than I expected,” he finally said, and Barry rolled his eyes before dropping back onto the couch. Len sat on the other end of it, and okay, no, this was a new level of weird, somehow stranger almost than baking a cake with the man. That was, at least, Len’s element. This was Barry’s home turf, literally his home.

“So…” he felt the need to start the conversation, “getting our story straight.”

“You write down the lies?”

Barry zipped up and to his desk, back to the couch in the blink of an eye. “Here,” he handed Len the sheet of paper. The other man was wearing black button up shirt and a jacket Barry hadn’t seen before, with a pair of dark jeans. It was at once casual and cool in a classic way that made him a bit envious because he’d never be able to pull it off the same way. He was watching Len read this list, his own leg starting to bounce up and down and he bit the end of his thumb.

“Nervous, Barry?” Len’s eyes didn’t leave the page.

“Wha—oh.” He stopped is leg. “Restless. Is there anything I should know before lunch?”

Len finished the page and dropped it on Barry’s coffee table and ignored the question. “These are good lies, mostly based on actual situations.”

“Yeah, it was pretty much the only things I could think of under pressure.”

“What was our first date?”

“Seriously? I… umm. Guess dinner and a movie is out?”

Len chuckled and it was a warm and low sound that made Barry tense. “Let’s say I took you for drinks and to play pool.”

“I’m awful at pool, can’t it be bowli—”

“Pool it is.”

Barry resisted the urge to stick out his tongue.

“Is your sister really going to ask about our first date?”

“No.”

“Then why are we—”

“Mostly because your little list here is cute.”

Barry scrubbed his face over his hands. “I swear to God, I will supersonic punch you—”

“That’s domestic abuse you know.”

Barry let out an aggravated noise and dropped back against the couch cushions. “I’m trying to be serious.”

“I know, and I shouldn’t tease.” He didn’t sound repentant. “First date was billiards, you’re awful at it. Might come in handy to know that. Lisa’s more concerned about your job and how much I’ve told you about what I do as Cold, among other things.”

Okay—that, Barry could work with. They talked for a few more minutes, hashing out various relevant details before Len announced it was time to go and Barry followed him downstairs and outside. Len led him to the parking lot and to a 1984 Parisienne car that was appropriately black, and looked somehow to be in mint condition. He almost laughed.

“All the money in the world and this is what you spend it on, Len? Keeping old muscle cars in top form?”

Len smirked and started it, “Gotta’ have a sense of style, kid. Life’s no fun without it.”

He just shook his head. A few minutes later, when he was seated and watching the buildings go by, Len asked if he had a driver’s license and he told him no. Apparently that was also cute.

“I’ve just never needed to. Joe tried to teach me how to drive but it was kind of a disaster, and I never really wanted to. I was always happy taking the bus.”

“You mean you were always happy being late.”

Barry face scrunched up. Why did that confuse him? Oh, because… “how would you know that?”

He looked over and Len, for maybe the first time ever, looked almost contrite, staring straight ahead at the road and traffic. “After I found out your name, I made it a point to learn as much as I could about you—anything I could find online, staked out your house and work, though that was also true of your STAR Labs friends, and—”

“YOU STALKED ME?!”

“I cased you!”

“Same difference!”

“Only until I was reasonably satisfied I understood your weaknesses,” Len’s voice was clipped and—

“That almost makes it worse, you realize?” his own voice was scathing though quieter now in the small confines of the car.

“What did you expect me to do, Barry, not use what information I had to my advantage?”

He glared daggers in Len’s direction. “I hope you’re ready for me to be the ‘pissed off boyfriend’ at lunch because I am definitely in character right now.”

“For you to be ‘in character’ you’d have to actually be my boyfriend, Barry,” Len snapped in return, pulling a hard left and coming to an abrupt stop into a parking stall.

He was glad exiting the car saved him from having to figure out how to answer that. Then they were walking into the restaurant, Len almost automatically putting an arm around his waist as soon as Lisa came into view and he tried not to stiffen.

“Hey sis,” Len smiled and Barry did the same.

“Lenny, Barry,” she nodded. “They’re just getting our table ready. Have either of you been here before?”

“I have,” Barry chimed in. He’d been here with Iris on her lunch break once, since the Picture News was only a block down.

They walked to their table with Lisa asking for recommendations from the menu and he was glad to stay in safe territory, trying to remember the lies they'd prepared. Those thoughts went out the window when he noticed Len shrugging out of his jacket and hanging it on the back of his chair before rolling up his sleeves. Those arms, the tattoos on display again. Barry swallowed and looked away to doff his own button-up jacket on his chair, forcing himself not to stare at Len’s forearms. He should have asked about the tattoos earlier when they were sorting out fake relationship details.

Their server came by for their drink order and it was so far so good until—

“I’ll have a water—ice cold.”

Barry snorted and Lisa gave him at indulgent look. “Please tell me you don’t order all your drinks that way.”

“Only the ones that count, dear.” Len smirked at him, clearly enjoying himself. Barry gave him a chill smile in return, still not over the stalking thing. Then Len steered the conversation carefully to Lisa and what she’d been up to, safe until they ordered food and Len was smiling warmly at their server. He was young man, probably around Barry’s age with cute dimples and a smooth voice and Barry hated it. As soon as the server was gone with their order, he turned to Len,

“Do you need to flirt with every attractive person who works in sales or service?”

“That really doesn’t count as flirting, Barry,” Len looked dubious, like he was wondering if Barry was going to start a fight. Hell yes he was going to start a fight. He’d been wondering this for a while and had a great excuse to ask.

“You smile at each and every attractive service worker, form receptionists to order-takers. All of them. It’s like some kind of compulsion.”

“Not every attractive—”

“The dental office, the baristas at Crossroads Coffee, and don’t even get me started on the guy at the bank, Raymond—”

“You remembered his name, Barry?”

“He looked at you like you were a piece of meat—”

“We weren’t even dating then!”

They were interrupted by a peel of laughter, high and tinkling. “Oh boys—oh you two are too much,” Lisa was  chuckling and shaking her head like one of them had told a particularly good joke.

“We,” Barry looked at Len, confused, then back to Lisa, “we’ve been arguing all day.” They were supposed to be friction-y and tense. Not cute. He was getting tired of being called cute by the Snart siblings.

“That’s because Lenny can’t survive unless he’s pushing someone’s buttons. Don’t worry, Barry, it’s just because he likes you. Len loves to make sure people notice him.”

Barry scowled and looked sidelong at Len. “Well that part I already knew.”

To his credit, the other man actually chuckled. “You can’t seriously blame me.”

Lisa smiled at Barry again, and this was clearly a disaster. How did he botch up a fake fight? It got worse when she said, “it’s good that you’re jealous, Barry. It just means you care.”

He swallowed, expression suddenly strangled and he took a sip of his water. He really hadn’t expected to play up the ‘young jealous lover’ thing so quickly in their game—or at all. Where did he go from here?

“Yeah, well, Len’s just a lot more… suave than me. I've never been any good at flirting.” In his peripheral vision he saw Len turn and stare at him but he kept his eyes on Lisa. Inspiration struck. “And I’m not the only with a crazy way of showing I care. Did Len tell you that he was keeping tabs on me when we started dating? Basically stalking me?” he dropped his voice lower and leaned forward toward Lisa, completely ignoring whatever expressions Len might have been trying to send him.

“Oh that doesn’t surprise me. What with your line of work, Lenny would want to know he could trust you. He’s very careful, you know. And besides, protective and possessive is pretty much his default, which I'm sure you’ve noticed by now.”

He blinked. Possessive and protective. That was news to him. Before he could comment though, he heard—

“Barry?”

His head snapped up, panic suddenly roaring through his system. Iris. She was standing near the hostess podium at the front of the restaurant but their table was close and she had a clear line of sight and—shit shit shit shit shit.

She was walking over.

He shot a panicked look at Len and noticed that Lisa had pulled back and was looking between them, Len’s eyes were narrowed and then—

“H-ey, Iris,” he said weakly. Shit shit shit shit shit shit

“Sorry, I’m just picking up a take-out order on my lunch break. Who’s this?” she smiled at Len and Lisa and oh god he might throw up. Instead, actual words came out of his mouth, words that sounded like—

“Iris, this is my boyfriend Len, and his sister Lisa.” He didn’t even choke or stumble on the words. Except those words shouldn’t be coming out of his mouth. Because Iris was his best friend and she knew he wasn’t dating anyone right now and she was smart and—she was looking at Len, eyes wide in surprise and then she did a double-take as recognition set in. Barry’s eyes flicked between her and Len, and he knew that Len knew that Iris knew and—

“‘Len’ as in Leonard? As in Leonard Sna—”

“O-kay Iris! Why don’t we talk about this later, maybe when you’re off work?” he cut in, desperately, and she gave Barry an incredulous look. She stared in open shock between him and then at Len again, who somehow managed to look chill and impassive, just shy of glaring at Iris. She finally looked toward Lisa who had a vaguely amused expression on her face. Barry had seen her actually amused and relaxed now though, so he knew this look as more of her default evil amused than her actual amused and he needed to avoid Lisa and Iris talking at all costs.

“Barry—”

“Iris, I’m really sorry I didn’t tell you I was dating Leonard Snart and I promise I’ll explain later but can we pretty please not do this right here and now?”

She exhaled slowly, expression becoming altogether too calm, hard at the edges when she looked back at Barry. Then she readjusted her purse, looking lovely as ever and he hated it when her warm eyes looked at him, alternating between steely and hurt.

“Yeah, Barry, we can talk later,” she turned to Len and Barry almost winced, “It was nice meeting you… Leonard.”

“And you, Miss West.”

Her eyebrows shot up again and she nodded. Barry almost hit his head against the table—maybe he should just try to drown himself in his water glass?—but managed to refrain.

“Lisa.”

“Iris.”

Then Iris was gone without a backward glance and before Barry could determine if death by butter knife or fork would be faster, their server brought their food out.

“Well that was…” Lisa broke the awkward silence.

“She’s gonna’ kill me.”

“How do you know her?”

Barry stared down at his plate, “She’s my… best friend. She’s a journalist, and her dad and fiancé are both detectives and work with me at the station and I—” his face fell. He’d promised he’d stop lying to her. “Obviously I couldn’t tell her about me and Len. I mean—” shit, he had to sell it, right? “—I wanted to, I wanted her to meet Len and see what I see. I was going to tell her soon, but now…”

“She’ll come around,” Barry looked up at Len, who had put his hand over Barry’s in what was probably supposed to look like a reassuring gesture. He nodded at Len, fake (real) argument forgotten.

“I hope so.”

They finished lunch after that, Barry a little more somber and on edge, but if Lisa had had any suspicions before now, they were gone by the end of lunch, clearly sold by Barry’s hurt over Iris finding out ‘the truth’ and his all-too real concern about it. By the end of their meal, she was giving him tips on what to say, basically having decided that Barry and Iris were like her and Len—a notion that for once he didn't try to dispel—and that he clearly needed to be saved from his own inability to communicate with this sister. It was sweet, in its own way, and by the time he was getting into Len’s car, he was genuinely thanking Golden Glider for her relationship advice.

 

Chapter Text

Len drove them back to their building in silence after lunch. Barry was sulking, all the way up the steps and he followed Len into his apartment. Len decided not to comment on that, just made sure to keep them in the entrance way. Only once the door was closed did Barry finally start in, erupting from a sulk to a shout.   

“My one condition about fake dating you, my one condition, was that no one find out! ”

“I’m aware of that, Red.”

“Iris found out!”

“Also aware of that.”

“That was exactly what wasn’t supposed to happen, Len!”

“Of all the restaurants in all of Central City, your sister happened to choose—”

“She isn’t my sister.”

“Well whatever she is to you, then. Do you really think it’s my fault she happened to show up?”

“What if she tells Joe?!”

“Deal with it,” he snapped. Iris West had better not tell her father about any of this.

“Deal with—he’ll kill me! He’ll definitely kill you.”

Len let out an aggravated breath. “Then make sure she doesn’t tell him. What do you want me to say here, Barry?”

“We’re calling this off—this pretend relationship thing is a disaster. I’ll tell Iris the truth and—”

He was reaching for his cellphone and Len grabbed his wrist, fast, suddenly in Barry’s space.

“You think that’s a better idea? You intend to explain to her that rather than dating a notorious criminal, you’re living next to one and agreeing to pretend date him to both lie to and appease his equally-criminal sister?”

“It’s the truth!”

“It sounds insane.”

“It is insane! This whole thing is crazy, and I know crazy—I can literally time travel and this is still—”

“Wait wait—you can what?! ”

Barry laughed, hysterical. “Why is this my life?”

“You can time travel.” They needed to get back to that part.

“I go so fast I can speed through walls and I still end up lying to Iris.”

He couldn’t help the reverent note to his voice when he said, “Kid… you’d make such a beautiful thief.” Time travel. Could he convince Barry to explain that? And through walls, how did he—Barry blushed. Len realized he was staring, still close to Barry, hand still wrapped around his lean wrist. Len swallowed, composure regained, and dropped the wrist before stepping back.

“Good thing I’m on the good guys' side then I guess?”

“Good for the city, bad for business.”

“Wouldn’t be good for business if I was a rival thief, Len.”

He cocked his head to the side and said, “fair,” extending the single syllable. Why would he have to be a rival though? At Len’s side he could—

Barry sighed and shook his head, “I can’t lie to Iris, Len. I’ve lied to her way too much before. She’s my best friend.” Right, Len returned his attention to the issue at hand while Barry sighed.

“Then you’d better hope she doesn’t tell her father.”

He nodded, “I’ll make sure she won’t. And she can’t let her dad kill me, I’m her Maid of Honor, she needs me for her wedding still. ”

Some humor crept back into Len’s face, “Maid of Honor? This mean I get to see you in a dress, Scarlet? ”

Barry rolled his eyes but he was grinning. “You wish. ”

“I wouldn’t complain. ”

Barry dropped his jaw and still managed to smile. “You—”

Len arched an eyebrow

“Watch out or I’ll tell Lisa you’re not being a nice boyfriend. ”

“You already tried that, remember? She doesn’t have much pity, she’s had to put up with me her whole life. She’s probably just excited someone else has to deal with me right now.”

 

**********

 

Only after Barry went home did he realize he’d somehow gone from yelling at Len to being teased by him, not to mention giving him too much info about the Flash. Again. He picked up his tried and true couch pillow and dropped his face onto it, letting out an aggravated noise. This pillow was his friend, at least.

Then, collecting himself, he went to pick up Iris from work. Somehow, against all odds, for the first time ever he was wishing that he actually could be having a conversation about wedding fabrics and linens instead of what was coming.

Iris was frosty when he got to Picture News, finishing up her work while Barry waited around awkwardly. She could rival Joe in her arsenal of dirty looks and silent treatment. But finally she was ready, stalking out ahead of Barry, fast and angry. He followed her to Jitters, wishing she picked a spot that wasn’t so imbued in awkward memories for him, for them.

As soon as he sat down with their coffees, he was leveled with such a steely glare he almost withered under it.

“Iris… look, it’s not what you think, and I was gonna’ tell you, but the whole thing is insane and I wasn’t sure exactly what to say. Len and I had a deal and so I…” her eyes narrowed. “Right, why don’t I start at the beginning?”

“I don’t know, Barr, why don’t you start at whatever possessed you to lie to me, again!”

“Look I’m sorry, I’m so sorry Iris—but I'm not actually dating Len.”

She arched an eyebrow but he could tell she was surprised. Then her eyes widened and she leaned forward, abrupt and concerned.

“Barry is he blackmailing you? Because that was my first thought when I saw you there—if the Snarts are hurting you or holding something over you, I can help you, Barr, we all can. You don’t have to pretend he’s your boyfriend as some cover up for—”

“No! No no, Iris, you’ve got it all wrong. Len isn’t hurting me. We’re in this, I mean, not together together, but we’re in this together.”

She blinked. “You’re not making any sense, Barry.”

He sighed and dragged his hands through his hair. “I know. Okay—me and Len are neighbors.”

“You’re… neighbors. With Captain Cold?”

“Right. He lives in the apartment next door. We just found out a little while ago and we agreed not to do anything about it—we’re both stuck on a lease”—was Len stuck on a lease?—“and we were trying to just ignore it. But then his sister caught us in a compromising position and we—”

“What kind of compromising position?”

He winced and blushed simultaneously. “It was… it’s kind of embarrassing?”

She waited.

“I was maybe helping him bake. And maybe there was a whip cream fight. And maybe I was licking whip cream off his finger—“

“Barry! You just told me you weren’t actually dating him!”

“I’m not!”

“Then what were you doing licking him?”

He groaned. “You make it sound so much worse than it was.”

“I don’t think that’s possible.”

She was never learning that he was wearing Len’s apron at the time, he decided. “Look, one thing led to another and it happened. And then Lisa got the wrong idea and thought we were together and we went with it.”

“Why?”

“So that my identity as the Flash didn’t get exposed? We didn’t want her to be too suspicious. So really, we’re not actually together—we’re just fake together, faking it for Lisa’s sake. And we’re gonna’ pretend break up in about a month.”

He rushed to say it all so that Iris wouldn’t get confused. But she was staring at him, eyebrows climbing up her forehead, slowly shaking her head.

“You do realize that ‘pretending to date Captain Cold so his sister doesn’t find out I'm the Flash’ is probably the flimsiest excuse and craziest sentence known to man? Can you imagine what that would sound like as a headline? No one is ever going to believe that.”

“What—what do you mean? No one has to believe it—it’s the truth!”

“Are you sure Cold isn’t just manipulating you to get something from you? Using this dating scam as a ruse? Maybe him and his sister even planned it?”

“No, trust me, Len was just as surprised as I was when Lisa showed up. He never expected us to be neighbors either, that was a shock to both of us." Iris looked dubious, no doubt about to remind Barry how easily he could be duped or something similar, so he forged on, trying to convince her. "Len’s really not all that bad, I promise he's not what you would think. He bakes cakes and babysits kids and buys artisanal meats from the local deli, not to mention his apparently stellar flossing habits. He overtips baristas and apparently he even makes guacamole. Don't give me that look, I know it sounds crazy, but Len is actually such a dork in real life, you wouldn’t even believe—he has this old car that he keeps in mint condition just because he thinks it makes him seem tough. So please, trust me; this whole thing is pretend and he's definitely not trying to work an angle here.”

“Do you even hear yourself? You sound like you’re the one using this crazy pretend boyfriends thing as a way to seduce Cold, not the other way around.”

“Wha—I—you’re—that’s—do you hear yourself? That’s insane!”

“That’s what it sounds like—you’re telling me how nice he is and how he bakes cakes and how much you like his car! Barry, no one in their right mind fake dates somebody, especially not for some stupid reason like you told me. Are you sure this is fake?”

“Of course I’m sure! We’re nemesis!”

“Nemeses who have whip cream fights?”

He groaned in aggravation and sat back. “You’re not gonna’ let me live that down, are you? That was before the fake dating.”

“All the more reason that I don’t think it’s fake.” She leaned forward even as he leaned back, not letting this go.

“What can I say to convince you?”

“Probably nothing. As far as I'm concerned, unless I see evidence to the contrary, you and Leonard Snart are dating. And I want to meet him.”

He sat up straighter, looking for a joke on her beautiful features but found none. “What? No! I don’t want this mess with Len to interfere with my personal life.”

“It already has—not to mention that I think this ‘mess with Len’ is your personal life now. We’re best friends and the least that should mean is that I get to meet your boyfriends.”

“Fake boyfriends.”

“I told you, not too sure about that fake part. And even so, I need to see for myself if this guy really is half as trustworthy as you say he is, fake or real relationship, this is still Captain Cold. I haven’t forgotten how he betrayed you and everyone else when you asked him for help with transporting the meta-humans.”

He winced, since he’d mostly tried to skim over that memory recently. “Okay, if it makes you feel better, you can come over and meet him.”

“Oh, no—we’re going on a double date.”

His stomach sank and he started in shock. “A double—no way! There’s no way Eddie is going to be half so cool about this as you. You can’t tell him or your dad. I promised Len that no one at the CCPD would know.”

“And you promised me that there wouldn’t be anymore lying. Not to mention that I refuse to lie to Eddie—I know how much it hurts when people you care about lie to you. I won’t tell my dad for now, but if this keeps up then you really should.”

He sighed. When Iris dug in her heels, he was smart enough not to argue with her. “Okay, a double date. But Eddie has to agree that he won’t use any of this knowledge against Len or try to arrest him.”

She gave him a long stare, as if trying to see into Barry’s brain. Finally, she replied, “Of course, Barr. We won’t mess with your relationship like that.”

 

**********

 

Len wasn’t actually expecting to see Barry again that day, so the knock on his door later that evening was a surprise. He clicked off the TV—a rerun of Kitchen Nightmares because he was sucker for reality TV. It was hard not to be—half of the dramas on TV were overwrought or too unrealistic for him, anything with a cop in it was a turn off and that was half the shows these days, not to mention that he’d seen most of the sci-fi already, and comedies were only funny when you could relate to them.

Naturally, Barry was at the door.

“Scarlet. I take it your discussion with Miss West went as perfect as planned?” Which was to say, it crashed and burned, by the nervous look on the kid’s face.

“Can I come in?

Len let out a long-suffering sigh and stood back. He was mostly playing it up, not really minding having Barry in his apartment, but he didn’t need to know how much Len enjoyed his company.

“Look… Iris just… she thinks we’re actually dating.”

“I thought you told her the truth, kid?” Len was walking back toward the kitchen and leaned against one counter, crossing his arms. Only after did he realize he was in pajama pants and a sweater, not exactly the menacing figure he liked to effectuate.

“I did, but she doesn’t believe me.” Len arched an eyebrow. Barry was leaning against the counter opposite him, hands gripping the counter's edge by his sides. All things considered, it was a pretty open position, more vulnerable than not, but Barry didn't even seem to notice how apparently-secure he felt around Len. The kitchen was more long than it was wide, meaning they were about two feet apart. “I mean, she believes me, but she doesn’t think there’s any way I’d pretend to date you unless I was using it as an excuse to actually date you, so now she’s convinced that you’re my pretend-real boyfriend and wants to actually talk to you.”

Len blinked, attention turned to processing that instead of contemplating the long line of Barry's torso. If only it were the case that the other did want to date him for real. Not that it would work, but a guy could dream. “That’s… convoluted.” He finally said, since Barry seemed to expect a reply.

“I know.”

“Has she told Detective West?”

“No—no but she… she is telling Eddie Thawne? Her fiancé?”

He felt himself getting angry and took a deep breath. "Kid—" 

“Len—look, I know, okay? But Eddie is trustworthy and she won’t lie to her fiancé and I can’t expect her to. But she said she won’t tell him that it’s fake, only that we’re neighbors and we’re dating now.”

He stared at Barry and resisted the urge to punch the countertop, exhaling slowly. Then he dropped his head back and stared at the ceiling, expression becoming increasingly pinched. “So a member—a detective—of the CCPD now has my address?”

Barry became too still. “Um… Kind of.”

Len was pissed, took a half step forward, “Kid, I have half a mind to move out tonight so if you—”

“Hey! No, come on, no—Eddie is fine. We both know you could tell Lisa or the Rogues my identity any second, how is this any worse?”

“He’s a cop—”

“I work for the cops! Seriously, Eddie won’t do anything, Len, I promise. He’s a really really great guy.”

Len’s eyes narrowed. “You don’t have feelings for Thawne, do you, Barry?”

Barry almost choked, “No. God, no, Len! He’s—wow, no. He’s not my type.”

Len settled back against the counter again, feeling marginally better about the situation thanks to Barry’s apparently staunch faith in Thawne. That being said, Barry seemed to trust him so it really might not be a vote of confidence so much as his general idiocy. He was lucky he was super-powered and cute.

“Well good, my fake-real-whatever-the-hell-your-friend-thinks-we-are boyfriend shouldn’t be pining for his sister’s fiancé.”

“For the last time, she isn’t my sister.”

“Why are you so insistent about that?”

Barry shifted under his gaze, looking away. “We got it all the time as teenagers. I moved into her house when I was twelve—after all the court stuff with my dad’s case went through. We spent our whole teen years having people tell us we were like siblings but it never felt that way, so it was just strange. We’re not related by blood, obviously.”

Len shrugged. “Plenty of people consider themselves siblings who aren't, or are step or half-siblings. Me 'n Lisa are half-siblings, and my mother was a black woman so it’s not as though it doesn’t happen, or that you and Iris couldn't be related.” 

Barry looked surprised. “You and Lisa are half-siblings? I had no idea.”

“Mmm, same last name from our father. Neither of our mothers were around much—I never even met mine, just have a few old photos. Lisa’s mom would drop in a few times, over the years. Our father had custody of both of us though.”

He wasn't quite sure what possessed him to tell all of that to Barry, besides that it might come up with their ruse. It wasn't exactly strategic information, but he still wasn't sure he wanted the Flash knowing more than necessary about this personal life. But then Barry was just nodding along, digesting that information, and Len couldn't find it in him to regret sharing.

“That’s something we have in common, I guess. My mom died when I was a kid. But I guess you knew that.”

Len nodded.

“It was Harrison Wells—though actually, his name is Eobard and he’s from the future, but everyone knew him as Wells. He’s the one who killed her.”

Len's arms dropped back to his sides as he attempted work through that. His mouth caught up before his brain, “I thought your father—”

“No, they pinned it on him but he’s innocent. Wells—Eobard—he came back in time to kill me and ended up killing her instead. He’s another speedster.”

Harrison Wells was a time-travelling speedster? Time travel. Seriously. Len needed a drink before he was going to be ready to ask questions about time travel, he had decided. But beyond that, he focused on the part that was truly the most outlandish to him.

“After your innocent father got a life sentence, you trusted the justice system enough to become a badge?”

Barry actually laughed, and Len realized how on edge the other had been, curled in on himself while he spoke. Was it hard to talk about what had happened, or was he just not used to talking about things like this with Len? Maybe both? Either way, he was relaxing now, unfurling.

“I wanted to fix things, make them better. Part of me thought that I could use forensic knowledge to get my dad out of prison. I… it’s not going to happen, not now. But I grew up seeing two sides of the system. Despite being the one to charge my father, Joe is a good cop, and Eddie’s a good one, and Captain Singh—a lot of them are, actually.”

Len felt his stomach churn a bit. Joe West was the one who put Barry’s actual father behind bars? Then raised his kid? He couldn’t decide if that made him a saint or a monster.

“My father wasn’t. A good cop, I mean. Guess that colored my opinion of the rest.”

“Oh right—Joe mentioned something about that, back when I stopped that first heist of yours, for the diamond. He said…” Barry frowned and Len wondered what Joe West had said. West could’ve been a cop, a young one but still around, when his father was sent to prison. Whatever he knew about the Snart family, Len was suddenly curious. Not curious enough, however, to want to talk about it with Barry.

“It’s in the past.”

Barry pursed his lips and then stepped away from the counter. “Look, I’m sorry Eddie knows about this. If I’m wrong and he does tell Joe or Singh, and if you get carted off to prison or something, I’ll come break you out myself.”

Len knew he looked shocked by the offer, unable to school his expression. Had the Flash just offered him a ‘get out of jail free’ card? Not that he ever intended to need it, but nonetheless. Barry must have mistaken his expression for confusion because he rushed to explain—

“I can do that, you know. I’m fast enough, I’ve been in and out before. And phasing through walls kind of helps, so…”

“Sure, but you would?” The kid’s own father was still behind bars but he was offering to break out Len.

“Well, yeah. We have a deal, Len.”

Len was looking at him, not so much in disbelief, but with in wonderment. It wasn’t a totally free pass, but it was meant to soothe his concerns about meeting Barry’s friends. Which meant that Barry must really care about Len meeting his friends. “Okay, Scarlet. We can meet up with Miss West and her man.”

A smile blossomed over Barry’s face and something flipped in Len’s chest. “Thank you. I promise it won’t be awful.”

He had the insane urge to kiss Barry. Well, maybe not insane, maybe totally understandable, because when he smiled like that—a thousand watts of pure sunshine—anyone would want to kiss him. Len didn’t kiss him, of course, because they were only fake-dating despite whatever Iris West thought, but it did cross his mind. It was chased by wondering just how totally screwed he was.

 

**********

 

Barry’s palms were sweating on the drive to the bowling alley. Why Iris had picked bowling was beyond him, but she had, just like their accidental double date when he was with Linda. Except Barry hadn’t been half so nervous then.

It was only five days after his lunch with Len and Lisa, after his conversation with Iris. Eddie had given him the strangest look at work that Monday but hadn’t said anything at all about it, or almost anything to Barry whatsoever all week, even though Barry knew he knew. Or knew that he thought he knew, because Eddie didn’t actually know because Iris was only telling him that Barry and Len were for-real dating because she refused to believe otherwise.

So now he was going on a fake-real date with Len, again. Len, who had been a surprisingly good sport about the double date thing, after that first day. When Barry showed up on Tuesday to ask if he was free Friday, he’d easily agreed and even offered to drive again. Which was how Barry ended up in his car, quelling his nerves on the way to their date.

“You look like you’re ready to get a root canal, Scarlet. I thought you said you liked bowling?”

Len was glancing at him at stop lights along the way and Barry let out a sigh. “I do. But I don’t know what Iris expects and I’m a bit nervous that she’ll… I dunno’, confront you or something.” Or that Eddie would, but Barry wasn't going to mention Eddie.

Len snorted. “She can’t be worse than Lisa. I’m sure I can handle it.”

Barry winced. Lisa and Iris in the same room together—that was never allowed to happen. Or, to happen again. Lunch had been bad enough.

“Right. Well, at least it’s bowling. The last time I was on a group date at a restaurant, I swear it was the most awkward night of my life.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Ray Palmer bought the restaurant, Iris and Eddie were a fraction from breaking up, and I was rocking the fifth wheel while trying to figure out how to deal with Eobard.”

To his surprise, Len actually laughed. “Fifth wheel? Don’t tell me you couldn’t get a date, Barry.”

“Believe it or not, fake relationships aside, I haven’t actually had too much luck with dating.”

“I don’t believe it. Someone as handsome as you?”

Barry glanced over, feeling something warm in his chest. Was Len teasing him? Len actually glanced over long enough to raise his eyebrows for a second, and Barry couldn’t decide whether it was meant to be suggestive or humorous.

“Are you making fun of me?”

“What—no, kid. It’s called a compliment.”

“Oh.” He fought back the feeling in his stomach. “It was different before I was the Flash—I was mostly just gangly and awkward back then.”

Len smirked and Barry readied himself for a 'seems the same to me' comment, but instead the man said, “What about since then?”

It was a lot to explain, the mess with his old feelings for Iris that he was finally out of, the thing with Linda, and they were pulling into the parking lot so he didn’t bother jumping into it. Instead he just said, “less luck than you’d think.”

Len “huh”d as they got out of the car, but that was about it.

And then they were walking inside, and things went about as well as he had expected.

Eddie was stiff and formal. He wearing a tee and an undone button up shirt over it, and Barry was halfway relieved he didn’t come dressed in his workday suit just because Len was going to be there. He nodded at Barry and reached a hand out to shake Len’s.

“Snart.”

“Thawne.”

Barry and Iris exchanged a glance. He tried not to snicker when she rolled her eyes.

“Miss West, good to see you again.”

“Please, call me Iris.”

Len smiled in that decisive way of his, a half nod, “Iris it is. Call me Len.”

“So, we’ll grab shoes, play a few games, then maybe go for drinks?” She suggested, far more congenially than Barry had expected. There was some catch here, he just had to figure out what.

“Lovely.”

Did Len just say lovely?

They grabbed their bowling shoes then and found a lane. Eddie had this little frown on his face the whole time, spine too straight, and he wouldn’t look directly at Barry at any point. Which was just… lovely. There wasn’t much conversation at first—Eddie had no idea how to make small talk with Len and Len’s polite inquiry into how Iris’ work was going at the Picture News didn’t last too long. Barry forged ahead though, ordering some fries and absolutely annihilating the first few rounds, getting a few strikes, more than happy to rub it in Len’s face that he was better than him at this.

“I told you I’d rock you at bowling,” he said while Iris was attempting to get a 4-7 split that looked tricky.

“You did mention it, yes.”

“And…?”

“Gloating, Barry? That’s unseemly for a hero, you know. Just come play pool with me and then we’ll see who’s laughing.”

“Mmm—nope. I’ll pass. We have fake played pool and that is all that matters.”

“Uh, Bar—”

“You're just afraid to lose to Captain Cold.” Len winked. He honest to God winked. Barry's jaw dropped in indignation.

“Hey, B—”

“I'm not afraid, but you’re damn right I don’t wanna’ lose! I need to retain some dignity after someone decided to steal a priceless viola—which I haven’t forgot about, by the way.”

“So this bowling match is just way to redeem your reputation then, kid?”

Barry!”

They both blinked. “Eddie?” Barry asked.

“I’ve been trying to get your attention for over a minute. It’s your turn.”

He blinked then started, launching himself out the seat from where he was sitting next to Len. “Oh right! Uh, I’ll just—yeah.”

He went to take his shot, feeling his cheeks burn, fudging the ball into the gutter to a peel of Iris’ pleased laughter. “We should bring you bowling more often, Len. It’s not easy to knock him off his game.”

“Laugh it up,” Barry muttered, grabbing another ball to redeem his shot.

“Sure you could just zoom down the lane and kick them all over if you need to, Barry. You have a reputation to fix, so we won’t judge.” Len was grinning, smug, and Iris laughed again. He rolled his eyes at both of them and turned his miss into a spare, fist pumping the air.

“Ah, the triumphant hero’s pose,” Len was still teasing, but smiling now and Barry sat down beside him.

“Your turn. Let’s see you beat that.”

“Again, billiards.”

Barry couldn’t help but notice the slight swagger in Len’s step as he walked to grab a ball, or the way he moved as he lined up his shot. He exuded a predator’s grace, quick and confident movements, strength in each step. It was really ho—

“You know when Iris told me who you were dating, I really thought it was a joke.”

Barry blinked at looked at Eddie, sitting across from him. The blond man was suddenly the receiving end of a terse look from Iris for that comment and Barry shifted uncomfortably. “Uh, yeah, umm… thanks for being so cool about this, Eddie. I know it probably seems kind of—”

“Insane?”

He winced. “Yeah. I know. But he’s not—”

“Yeah she told me that too.”

Barry glanced to the side and spared a half-second smile for Len, who was grabbing a third ball to try and turn his lousy shot into something less atrocious. It turned into a full smile when Len smirked at him, nodding to the bright red and yellow bowling ball he was just about to throw.

“I don’t think I’d have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes,” Eddie’s voice brought him back to the present.

“Seen what?”

“You and him—flirting all night, the way you forget the rest of the world exists when he’s around. How did that even—”

He broke off as Len came to take his seat again, and Barry didn’t miss that Len’s arm dropped around his shoulder when it hadn’t been there before. He remembered belatedly that Len had thought he had feelings for Eddie—rich, really, all things considered.

“You’re up, Thawne.”

“Right.”

Barry felt the temperate drop as Eddie’s eyes were narrowed on Len but he got up anyway. Iris clapped her hands and smiled too bright.

“So—this isn’t so bad. Better than that time with Linda, right?”

“Linda?” Len asked.

Barry let out a huff and dropped his head back onto Len’s arm. “Really, Iris?”

“Sorry. I just mean we’re having a good time.”

He titled his head back up, all too conscious of Len’s cool fingers drifting against his bicep, to see Iris’ calculating gaze fixed on Len.

“I’m having fun, Iris.”

“Me too,” Barry chimed in, for what it was worth.

“Good—me three.”

She got up to congratulate Eddie on his shot and kiss him on the cheek before she went to take her turn and it was the three of them again. An awkward beat of time passed, and for Barry these moments always felt dragged out too long, indefinably so, like time was stretching just to mess with him.

Eddie’s eyes flitted between him and Len, taking in the arm on Barry’s shoulder—he should really talk to Len about his possessive tendencies—and clearly noticing how close they were sitting. And it was close. Len was practically pressed to his side now. It wasn’t uncomfortable, almost the opposite, but he kept forgetting that he was still trying to convince Iris that they weren’t dating, rather than that they were. Apparently Len was forgetting too. Or were they trying to convince her of that since Eddie was here, and he didn’t know the truth? Except that there was also no reason to lie to Eddie—except maybe there was, because he was less likely to antagonize or threaten to arrest Len if he thought they were dating? Maybe this ran both ways, lying to Lisa and Barry's CCPD friends? Or maybe—

“What were you saying, before you left?” Len asked, calm and cool beside him.

“Who, me?” Eddie blinked. “I was just wondering how you two, ah, got together. Seems like an unlikely match.”

Len’s fingers stilled on his bicep, clasping it instead. He opened his mouth but Iris was there again, telling Barry it was his shot and he didn’t mind dashing away, letting Len explain. Would he use their fake story that they had for Lisa? That wouldn't work on Eddie though, who knew Barry was the Flash so… he shook his head and decided to let Len figure out the lying. 

When he got back to their seats, Iris was laughing and clapping, Len looked smug, and Eddie was frowning. Oh no.

“Barry—” Iris wheezed in a breath, “Why didn’t you tell me about the fire alarm? And the old lady?”

“The fire—that? Why would you even tell them that, Len?”

“I got to play the hero for once, Scarlet, figured I’d lead with my finest moments.”

“But it’s not even—”

“I did get to see you half naked.”

Barry felt his cheeks flush. Ah, right, that had happened. The only thing he could think to say to Len’s casual smirk was, “Your turn.”

Then he sat, befuddled at his own life, and tried not to be too surprised that Len's flirting continued for the rest of the night. And Barry had realized, maybe a bit belatedly, that it was flirting. The smiles Len kept shooting him were the ones he reserved for receptionists and baristas. He decided not to wonder about it though, enjoying the evening instead of worrying about what Iris and Eddie might think. And somehow, by the end of their two games—the second of which Iris won, something Barry was loath to accept because it made Len too pleased—even Eddie had relaxed enough to smile a few times. Still, the detective suggested they rain check on drinks and Barry was only too eager to agree. Iris let them off the hook, but did tell them she expected them all to have dinner soon, something that Len was apparently happy to agree to on their behalf.

Still, drinks or no drinks, by the drive home Barry felt drained. He assumed it was from having to lie all night, except he couldn’t actually remember telling a single lie the whole evening.

“That wasn’t too awful,” Len ventured into the quiet of the car. “Thawne didn’t pull out his weapon even once.”

Barry snorted. “Were you expecting him to?”

“He’s a cop, Barry.”

“Give him some credit, I told you he’s a great guy. If Iris told him not to do anything rash, he wouldn’t.”

Len nodded. “Seems I won’t have to cash in on your get-out-of-jail-free card just yet, Scarlet.”

Barry laughed. “Is that what you’re calling it? Okay, Len. Just remember though, you’re the one who agreed to go for dinner with them soon.”

The man mmm'd but didn’t say anything and the rest of the drive was spent in a comfortable silence. Walking up to his apartment, Barry’s feet almost took him a step too far, instinctively following Len, almost past his own door. He corrected quickly.

“So, uh… goodnight, I guess?”

If they were a regular couple—an actual couple—right now would be the exact moment of the goodnight kiss. But they weren’t an actual couple, so Len just smiled, almost soft, and something tightened inside Barry’s chest when he said, “Goodnight, Barry” before going into his apartment.

He tried not to overthink it.

 

Chapter Text

Len woke up the morning after his date with the urge to bake. He found himself making cupcakes—red velvet, Barry’s stolen flour coming in handy though he used up the last of his baking soda—and contemplating the feel of Barry pressed alongside him at the same time. Barry who’s skin was warmer than his own, who fit comfortably under his arm around the leaner man’s shoulder, who smelled like a summer storm and an ocean breeze rolled in to one, who—

Len dumped the batter in the trash. If he finished the cupcakes, he would just end up wanting to give them to Barry.

Lisa called him around noon and he ignored it. It was the second call he’d avoided from her—the first had been a few days ago, when he was trying not to feel too nervous about his upcoming date alongside Iris West and Eddie Thawne. Now, he ignored it because Lisa knew him too well and she would sense that something was wrong if she heard his voice right now. Because he was in for it in a big way and he knew it—all he’d wanted to do since last night was kiss Barry. Which… was going to be a problem.

Len sighed and made a plan. He knew what he had to do.

 

*********

 

Two days after their date, Barry heard a knock on his door just after he got home from work.

“Len!”

Barry didn’t hesitate, just waved the other in and returned to the kitchen, pulling his frozen pizza out of the box.

“Ugh, you really need to learn to make pizza by hand, kid.”

“Snob.” Barry checked that the oven was done preheating while Len leaned on a counter near him. “I would offer you some but apparently it offends your sensibilities.”

“I… we should talk about our situation.”

He blinked and looked up at Len. The other man had his arms crossed and was glaring straight ahead. It might have been intimidating at one point, but now it was kind of silly to Barry. He was wearing a sweater again, which itself was frustrating too because he still wanted to get a look at the tattoos underneath.

“You mean because Iris and Eddie know?” Barry moved to pour himself a glass of water. “Want one?” he asked and Len blinked and gave him and ‘uh, sure’ so he poured the other man one. “Ice?” Len nodded so he grabbed some out of the freezer before handing his glass to him. He accepted it with a bemused expression and it was kind of funny to see Len looking out of his element when he was normally the one teasing Barry.

“Come on, we can talk on the couch.”

Len followed him and Barry quickly swiped his favorite pillow to his own side of the couch before the other sat down.

“So, what’s up?”

Len took a sip of his water then looked around. “Coaster?”

He laughed. “You are such an adult. I don’t have coasters.”

Len frowned. “You’re an adult too, Barry.”

“HA! Success—I got you to admit I’m not a kid!” He punched the air and outright laughed at Len’s dropped slowly jaw.

“I can’t believe it, Red—you actually got one over on me.”

“How does defeat taste, Frosty?” He smirked. Len’s insistence on calling him Flash-based nicknames meant he’d maybe spent the better part of one evening coming up with good ones to throw back.

But Len was smiling, arching an eyebrow. “Oh it’s not so bad, just watch out for revenge—you know they says it’s a dish best served—”

“Do not quote Star Trek at me, Len, that’s just too much. I get it everyday from Cisco already.”

He chuckled and leaned back and Barry smiled at him. “Fine. I’m just saying, watch out.”

“Uh huh. So what did you want to talk to me about? I’m guessing it’s not pop culture references?”

He didn’t miss that Len’s face dropped some of its good humor. “Our breakup.”

Barry’s chest tightened and stomach clenched. “Right now? What? But Eddie thinks we’re actually dating and Iris is trying to make dinner plans and you know she’ll be pissed and knocking on your door if we ruin dinner—”

“That’s just it, kid! How far is this gonna’ go?”

Barry’s words stilled as he realized—Len was right. Their plan was to date for a month to convince Lisa and it had been over three weeks and so far all that had happened was Iris and Eddie thinking he and Len were really together. Eddie had actually came up to him and work and told him that he and Len seemed like the perfect couple, and he was happy for them. Which wouldn’t be so bad except that it was a lie.

“I… okay.” He looked down at his hands. He could see Len out of the corner of his eye, leaning forward again, elbows on his knees. “I guess we need to convince Lisa we’re fighting, right? Because so far we’re kind of the cutest couple according to her, not to mention the double dates with my family.”

Len sighed beside him. “Right—pretend to fight. Can’t be Flash-related. Neither of us can cheat.”

“Shouldn’t be too immediate,” Barry ventured. “We wanted to make it seem like we were fighting or had troubles, right? Can you tell Lisa we had a fight?”

“Sure. What about?”

Barry had no idea. As crazy as it seemed now that he was thinking about it, Len stalking him was the only thing they’d even come close to fighting about, and Lisa interpreted that whole conversation as Barry being attached to Len. “Your snobby food tastes?”

At least he got a chuckle for his effort. “How about your reprehensible dental habits?”

“I flossed just yesterday!”

“You’re supposed to do it daily, Barry…”

“Okay, maybe you were an asshole about my work? Insulted Eddie?”

Len nodded slowly. “That might work. And I was mad that you took his side?”

“Because you’re too jealous.”

“I’m not too jealous, I just don’t think—”

Barry’s phone started to vibrate on the coffee table.

“It’s Cisco.”

Len nodded and sat back, not even looking frustrated at the interruption. Barry answered the call.

“Hey, man, kinda’ in the—”

 “Hey man, break in at the Gedde Natural History Museum. Security footage just got the Top—”

“The Top again? It’s still daylight—isn’t it still open?!”

“Closed an hour ago and I guess he didn’t feel the need to wait.”

“Got it, I’m on my way.”

He looked to Len but the other man was already waving him away so he sped off without another worry. All in all, it was kind of nice to be dating someone he didn't have to lie to about these sorts of things.

 

**********

 

Len sat back in aggravation after the lightning red streak that was Barry Allen zipped out the door. He didn’t want to call this fun dating thing off, he just had to, for his own sanity. One of these days he was going to accidentally kiss Barry. He'd wanted to just moments before, before letting him run out of the house. And Len's self-control was not exactly legendary, he knew he was doomed to do something stupid sooner rather than later.

Beep. Beep. Beeeeeeep.

What in the— Len stood instinctually before he recognized the sound as an oven timer and remembered—he was in Barry’s apartment. Alone. The kid hadn’t even locked the door or turned off the oven on his way out (and he thought Mick was the fire hazard?) before leaving his arch-nemesis alone in his apartment to do… whatever he was going to do. Which turned out to be not much, after all.

Len went to pull out the pizza and cut it into slices, helping himself to one as he peered around Barry’s kitchen. Contrary to what the kid might think, he wasn’t actually a food snob, it was just really fun to work Barry up. Munching on the slice, he poked his head into the bathroom, hall closet, and into Barry’s room. It was tempting, very tempting, to wade into the mess of clothes and books and papers strewn about there, to look around his room. He checked the urge though, if only because it was born of personal rather than professional curiosity, and the last thing he needed was to get even more wrapped up in this charade. It had absolutely nothing to do with Barry’s complaints about the stalking.

He noticed pictures in the living room, ones of Barry with Iris West, one of both Wests and Eddie with Barry at what looked like it must be a family meal. He put the frame down and looked back at the couch, eyeing the pillow Barry had maneuvered to his side of the couch. With a shrug, he sat down and pulled it into his lap, flicking on the television. Not surprisingly, Barry had Netflix, and Len would argue that checking out his watching history wasn’t really stalking. It was mostly sci-fi, a few documentaries—aliens, Barry? Really?—and his “recommended for you” categories had a full section for musicals. Of course.

Len tried not to smile and finished Barry’s glass of water still sitting on the coffee table, hugging the oddly-comfortable pillow to him as he turned on one of the documentaries—Bigfoot’s Reflection. It was awful and ridiculous, but he found himself laughing, wondering if this was the kind of thing Barry was into—mysteries of the unknown. It was over before Barry was back so Len gave up waiting and headed back to his own place, flicking the lock on the door knob before leaving. Someone had to look out for the kid’s life, since apparently he wasn’t capable of it himself.

 

**********

 

A pounding on his door shocked Len out of sleep. He was a light sleeper anyway but the insistent knocking was gonna’ wake up the whole damn hallway. He launched himself out of bed with a growl, stalking to the door with the cold gun in one hand, ready to ice whoever the hell thought it was a good idea to pound on his door at two in the goddamn morning.

He peered through the eye hole before opening it and—

“You have got to be kidding me!” He growled as he threw open the door. Barry was there in full Flash regalia, on hand on either edge of the doorframe and as soon as it was open he swayed on his feet, forward until Len caught him with his free arm.

“Barry?”

“Nnnggh.” He pushed against Len's chest and stood before pressing to his forehead, trying to orient himself.

“You okay?” the growl had fizzled out of Len’s voice, replaced by a note of concern he didn’t often hear himself use. His one hand was still on Barry's shoulder, half worried he’d pitch forward at any second.

“Fooood,” the other whispered, and Len barked out a relieved laugh. The kid wasn't injured, just hungry? He dropped his cold gun on the table near the door and looped one of Barry’s arms around his shoulder before kicking the door shut. He helped drag the red-clad man over to the couch and couldn't help but notice how soft the suit was under his fingers, smooth like leather but different. Len tried to lower Barry gently but he just tugged himself out of Len's grip flopped onto it, immediately moving to lay and pushing his cowl back. “So hungry.”

“Uh huh.” Len tried not to smile. There were worse things to be woken up for. He wandered to his kitchen, half wishing he hadn’t thrown out the red velvet batter as he routed around for some bread and supplies and started making a small stack of sandwiches. “You gonna’ tell me why you’re at my door instead of your own kitchen?”

He heard a groan from the couch. “My door was locked. Did you lock my door? I didn’t grab my keys.”

He didn’t grab his—what an idiot. “Always lock your door, kid.”

“Nnnngh, I’ll phase through it when I have energy again.”

Len wondered about that, the phasing thing, and still wondered about the time travel, but for now he asked, “why didn’t you eat before coming back here?”

“Didn’t realize my door would be locked?”

Len wandered into the living room with a plate full of sandwiches and a glass of water, watching it disappear in seconds. It was kind of gross in a fascinating way. Seriously, where did he put it all? And Barry just sat back with a sigh, patting his stomach and smiling. Now that Len could see his face in the dim room, light filtering over from the kitchen, Barry's exhaustion was easy to spot. He could barely keep his eyes open, hair flat from running no doubt, a drawn set to his features.

“I could sleep for a century,” he murmured and looked ready to do it. Len almost smiled but then, “ ’N I have a bone to pick with you, Len.”

“Is that so? Better not be a complaint about the food, since showing up here in the middle of the night won’t exactly get you gourmet service.”

Barry opened one eye to peer at him. Len was still standing and Barry didn’t look like he had the energy to get off the couch. “Who the hell is Roscoe Dillon?”

Len felt his features harden. “How the hell should I—”

Barry found the energy to wave one one hand at him. “His known associates in his file include Lisa and Mick. Probably you before your records were expunged.”

Shit. “What’s it to you, Barry? I thought Flash and Cold wasn’t supposed to be involved in this thing we're doing?”

Len picked up the plate and stalked back to the kitchen with it as Barry’s voice followed him. “What it is to me," Len heard him yawn, "is," a second yawn, "that he—The Top,—is a meta-human who got his hands on some tech and made bomb big enough to level half the city." Len could hear him shift on the couch. "He tried to use it to extort the governor into overturning his past convictions before I stopped him.” 

He yawned again at the end and Len stilled in the kitchen, one hand still on the plate. Roscoe did what?! Thank god Lisa had stopped dating that asshole, holy shit. That’s what he wanted from Mercury when he hired Mick?

He returned to the living room where Barry was spreading out on the couch, one leg dangling.

“Where’s Dillon now?” Len asked.

“Anyone’s guess,” Barry grunted without opening his eyes. “Gonna’ be a mess though with his powers. Cisco rigged up...somethin'  to help contain him but we have to catch him first. Got his bomb at least, for now…”

Len nodded, not that Barry could see. He’d seen Roscoe spin and wouldn’t want to be in the way of it, personally, but Barry did sort of make it his business to deal with things like this.

“Well then I don’t see why you need me to wade in on the issue, Red. You’ve got it sorted out.”

Barry sighed and shifted, opening his eyes and rousing his attention. “C’mon Len, you really want to let him blow up Central?”

Len frowned. He knew Dillon was crazy and narcissistic enough that he might actually do it, not that he wanted to help the Flash. At least, not for a price. “Okay kid, say I tell you about Dillon. I’d expect some information in return.”

Barry let out a breath, eyes drifting closed again. “Mhmm. ‘Course.”

Len made a decision then. “In the morning. We can talk about Dillon in the morning, and I can figure out what information I want in return.”

It was a testament to how tired Barry was that he didn’t even argue, just mumbled, “M’kay” like even those words were an effort.

“I’ll find you some pajamas.”

“M’Kay.”

Len did a 180 and marched to his room to grab a shirt and pajama pants as well as a spare blanket. It wasn’t until he was heading back to the living room that he realized Barry was going to be sleeping on his couch, that he’d offered it. As soon as he got to the door of the living room, he stilled. Barry was peeling off his costume, shirtless and kicking off the boots. Len stood fixed as Barry started to undo the fly on his pants and it jolted him to attention, stepping forward and clearing his throat. He wasn’t gonna’ add voyeur to his list of bad habits.

“Some pajamas.”

Barry stilled and smiled in a dopey, three-quarters-asleep sort out way up at him. “Thanks, Len.”

He dropped them on Barry’s lap and was turning to go when the other caught his wrist. His heart shot up to his chest as he turned to watch Barry blink blearily at his arm. “One ‘o these days, you’re gonna’ tell me about these tattoos.”

Len felt his chest rumble in a chuckle, too goddamn fond. “Whatever you say, Barry.”

Apparently satisfied, Barry dropped his wrist and Len left him to finish changing. An hour later when he got out of bed to grab a glass of water, unable to sleep, he caught sight of the other stretched out on the couch. He'd never put on the pajamas, laying on his stomach in his underwear, one arm under the couch pillow he was half hugging and half resting his head on. The blanket had fallen halfway to the ground and Barry's back was exposed, one leg uncovered. He looked ridiculous, but also cold. Len smiled and couldn’t stop his feet from dragging him over, picking up the blanket and sliding it over Barry again.

He couldn’t resist gently running his fingers over Barry’s hair before retracting them abruptly. What the hell was he doing? At one point in time, he would have killed to have the Flash so vulnerable to him, to have free access of his apartment, to be so near to him so exhausted, able to do whatever he could want to hurt the superpowered hero of Central City. But now, looking down at the prone form sleeping on his couch, lips slightly parted, looking altogether too soft, he didn’t see the Scarlet Speedster. He saw Barry Allen.

Which was when he realized he might be totally screwed even if he did break up with Barry.

 

**********

 

The smell of coffee woke him up in the morning. Barry blinked the crust out of his eyes, sitting up. Had he fallen asleep on his couch? His stomach was grumbling and he could smell bacon, hear sizzling in a pan and—

“Where am I?”

He looked around. Was he in Len’s—

“You awake out there, Scarlet?”

He snapped to attention at hearing Len’s voice, sitting up straight on his couch. Memories from the previous night started to filter in—fighting the Top, getting a look at his face and Cisco matching it to a crime database, hunting him down when he tried to kidnap the governor, getting the detonator away from him, the bomb contained. But he hadn’t caught Dillon and—

His stomach gurgled and clenched hard. “Oh god. Food.”

He heard Len laugh in the kitchen. “It’s on the way, Barry.”

He groaned and fell back down onto the couch. He barely remembered getting to Len’s, just that he was exhausted after the events of the night, that Joe had had to stay and help out the cops and he’d told Cisco and Caitlin over the comms that he was gonna’ call it a night and take the suit home with him.

With a start, he sat again and looked around until—there, his suit was on the ground. He didn’t even remember undressing. Then he looked down and realized—

“Why am I naked?!” Okay, so he was still in his underwear, but the point remained.

Len came into the room with a mug of coffee and a plate of food and Barry stopped caring about what he wasn't wearing except—

“You don’t remember? You started stripping in my living room.”

“I did not!... Did I?”

Len snorted. “You didn’t get off the couch, that’s for sure. There's some clothes on the coffee table.”

Barry cringed with embarrassment but then there was food in front of him and it took priority. He devoured the plate just shy of superspeed, glad Len had turned back to the kitchen because the plate was gone before he returned with—

“More food?”

“More food, Barry.”

Len dropped the second plate in front of Barry with a smile, and he returned a sheepish grin to the other before eating this food at a more reasonable pace. He'd wrapped the blankets around his waist in defense of his virtue (not that it apparently even mattered if he was throwing his clothes around Len's living room). This time he ate slow enough to actually taste the bacon and hashbrowns. By the time he was done, he was almost as embarrassed about his appetite as his state of undress.

“So… I kind of eat a lot.”

“I got that. Need more?”

“Uhhh…”

“I’ve got pancakes on.”

“Ohthankgod.”

Len smiled and—wow, he looked different when he smiled. It wasn’t a smirk, just full on and bright and with no strings attached. But he was turning away before Barry could put it firmly to memory, so he sipped the mug of coffee Len had brought over for him and tried to quell the upward tugging at the corners of his lips. Then he grabbed the t-shirt off the coffee table and put it on, because Len kept the temperature in his apartment pretty low.

“Thank you,” he called in the direction of the kitchen. “For all this.”

“You didn’t give me much choice, kid. Interrupted my beauty sleep to beg for food. Guess I had it coming since I locked your door. Here I thought I was doing you a favor.”

Oh right, the memory clicked into place. Him, falling half into Len’s arms, and a plate of sandwiches. Could this be any more mortifying? His nemesis wasn’t supposed to take care of him.

He also remembered something else, vaguely, which was—

“Did I ask you about the Top yet?”

Len was coming back, carrying a stack of pancakes and some syrup and Barry’s mouth started to water.

“You did. We agreed to talk about it this morning. I want information in return.”

Given their history, Barry was halfway surprised Len wasn’t going to extort him for feeding him breakfast and letting him crash on his couch, but such as it was he couldn’t really complain. At least Len was agreeing to give him info at all. “What kind?”

“Time travel. Phasing. Meta-humans.”

Barry’s fork stilled with a bite of pancake halfway to his mouth. Len was standing, arms crossed and Barry had to drag his eyes away from those damn tattoos again—intricate designs of images and words, symbols and shades of grey lining his arms, up to the edges of his t-shirt and certainly to his shoulders underneath it—forcing his eyes to the other's face to see that his expression was totally neutral.

“That your poker face, Len?” Barry finished his bite of pancake and noticed Len try to suppress a smirk. He failed at it, and then just tilted his head to the side and gave a little shrug.

“You’ve got some curious mysteries you’ve mentioned.”

Barry sighed, then— “Okay. You ask about my powers and whatever else, sure. But if we’re doing that, I want to ask questions about the Rogues too—I don’t need that much info on the Top.”

Len’s eyes narrowed but he nodded. “Let me grab my coffee.”

Then they were sitting on the couch, Barry slowly finishing his pancakes while Len sipped his coffee, trading questions back and forth. Barry explained how phasing worked, his time travel powers, both the ability to run back and the ability to create wormholes, and more than he ever expected to tell Captain Cold about Harrison Wells thanks to his line of questioning. In return, his learned that Roscoe Dillon was Lisa’s ex, that they’d dated before the particle accelerator blew and gave him powers, making him not only fast enough to spin like a one-man tornado but also much smarter. He also learned who was and wasn’t a Rogue, and Barry was secretly relieved that Len didn’t count the Top among his crew, because that would have been a bit awkward. He was surprised that Shawna Baez and Roy Bivolo had agreed to be Rogues, but Kyle Nimbus apparently had other ideas. Barry wasn’t too sad about Kyle—he was a hitman and the idea of him working with Len didn’t fit so well with the man sitting next to him on the couch, the one who fed him pancakes and let him crash on his couch, who knew how he liked his coffee.

“How do you discern between a Rogue and just any criminal you work with, if you’ve worked with Dillon before? Heatwave worked with him this month.”

Len shrugged. “We have a code—rules. No killing innocents, they check in with me periodically, we stick together. Lisa says one rule for joining is that you have to have a name from Cisco—according to her you have to be ‘badass enough to be on STAR Labs’ radar’ or something.”

Barry snorted into his coffee. “We call ourselves Team Flash, y’know.”

“That’s worse than I expected.”

“Coming from a guy who calls his band of criminals the Rogues.”

“You’re the one who coined that, Barry. I just thought it was cute.”

He grimaced, remembering. Len stood and stretched.

“Any more questions?”

Barry shook himself. He’d been watching the folds of Len’s shirt, the way it tucked up just enough when he stretched for Barry to see a line of exposed skin on his stomach.

“Uh… I don’t think so. You?”

“Not this second.”

Barry stood too, following Len to the kitchen. “I guess I should—holy shit is that the time?”

He was late, so very late, for work. He sped out of there and phased into his apartment without so much as a goodbye from Len, running straight to work once he was in his own clothes.

 

**********

 

Len received a call on Saturday, first thing in the morning. The phone blared near his ear on the nightstand and he groaned when he saw the call display.

“It’s seven in the morning, Lise. Whadd’you want?”

“Hmm, just curious if you’d prefer a bagel or an English muffin?”

“I—” Len roused himself enough to pull his head off the pillow. “Neither. You’re not coming here.”

“Uh huh, bagel it is.”

“No, Lise.”

“You’ve been avoiding me. I’m tired of it. We’re having a family day. I’m taking us swimming—I got Shawna to agree to bring Aiden over too. Even Mick can make it for breakfast before work.”

He hated swimming pools and she knew it. “I’m not swimming and we are not having a family day, Lise. I’m busy.”

“Doing what?”

Len dragged a hand over his face. He should know better than to lie to Lisa, by now. His schedule was totally open except working on his motorcycle. “I’m with Barry. We had a fight last night.” He really needed to tell her they had friction or else this was going to go on forever and that… that couldn’t happen. “We’re working on it this morning.”

“Oooh, so morning make up sex?”

He could only wish. “Just leave us alone for the day, okay?”

“He’s there right now, isn’t he? Tell him I say hi. I hope he’s okay with a bagel because I only got muffins for Shawna and Ai—”

“Lise I swear to god—”

“Oh come on, Lenny! I’ll help with Barry. He can come swimming! Either way, if you’re fighting, I don’t trust you not to screw it up. I’ll be up in a minute so put some clothes on, I’m just parking.”

She hung up and he swore. She was literally at his building already. He needed to call Barry.

 

Chapter Text

Barry was warm and comfortable and, maybe best of all, asleep. It was lovely, considering that he spent the night before chasing down Roscoe Dillon, up until the wee hours using Cisco’s tech to corner him and stop him. Finally, he’d got the Top in cuffs, thanks largely to a few tips from Len that helped Barry play to his ego and lure him in. Not that he was ready to tell Cisco and Caitlin where that stroke of genius came from, but either way, Cisco’s tech was holding him just fine as he was transferred into police custody, and it was a good night for all. After that, he figured he deserved to sleep for… well, as long as he wanted, but then, interrupting his slumber, a shrill ringing near his ear and—

“Yell’o?” he mumbled into the phone, three quarters asleep and on autopilot.

“Barry, get over here, now.”

It was Len. He looked at the clock. It was seven fifteen in the morning on a Saturday.

“Are you insane? I’m in bed.”

“I told Lisa I was spending last night and this morning with you so she’d leave me alone and now she’s on her way here so Kid if you’re not here—”

“Goddammit.”

Barry zipped out of bed and next door, which was locked still (c’mon Len). He could hear Lisa’s voice at the bottom of the stairwell (on the phone?) so he phased through the damn thing and almost ran into Len, who was in his kitchen heading toward the door.

“How the hell did you—”

“Phased. But I think I heard your sister in the stairwell, on her phone?” Barry dropped his own phone on the counter in annoyance. He could feel his hair sticking up at odd angles and was still groggy, though the phasing woke him up.

He looked at Len, who was wearing… pajamas. Len was wearing pajamas. He was in a pair of pajama pants that looked warm and soft and instantly cuddly, plus a white tank top that showed Barry the full length of his tattoo sleeves and then some, making him want to do something entirely different than cuddle. Some memory stirred up of Len’s wrist in his hand, the other man wearing something similar to this, but then Barry caught Len’s expression and noticed that he looked aggravated and on edge.

“You normally look like someone pissed in your cheerios when your boyfriends stay the night, Len?”

“Only when my sister decides to crash my morning.” Len’s eyes were looking him up and down and he tried to focus, suddenly conscious he was only in a STAR Labs t-shirt and his briefs.

“Why is she, anyway?”

“I’ve been avoiding her and she’s decided to try and screw up my day is retaliation. She only called me as she was pulling into the parking lot.” They heard feet coming up the stairs out in the hall, and Lisa’s voice, muffled through the door.

“Barry, take off that shirt. It’s a dead giveaway.”

He looked down and—shit. He was out of it in a second—“Where—”

“My room—”

He was gone and back again, dropping the shirt in Len’s room and sparing no time to look around before he zipped back and—wait no holy shit—he was in the other’s kitchen in nothing but his underwear. He was about to turn around again and find something of Len’s to put on when the other grabbed his arm.

“Wha—”

“Don’t punch me for this—”

They heard a key in the lock.

Len twirled them both around and pressed Barry to the fridge, kissing him soundly. He gasped at the cold fridge front along his back and then—holy shit that was tongue. He didn’t stop to think, just threw his arms round Len’s shoulders and kissed him back, fisting into the fabric of the tank top while Len’s hands snaked around his waist and up the naked skin of his back. Len was good at this, hands strong and sure, movements confident, tongue skilled as it pushed into Barry's mouth, pressing alongside his own and he almost moaned. They were only seconds into kissing and Barry was already arching his body forward, wanting more.

The door swung open.

Barry’s heartbeat shot up—faster than it already was—and snapped his head back, breaking off the kiss. Len pulled away slower, relegating his hands to Barry’s hips but not breaking contact, even as Lisa already started talking—

“Well good morning to you too. Jesus, Lenny, you knew I was almost here.”

Barry looked over at her in the entrance, cheeks flushing and pulling his hands back but Len hadn’t stepped away yet so he was forced to leave his own hands somewhere, deciding Len’s forearms were safe (and inviting) territory. “And you knew I wanted to spend my morning making up with Barry.”

Making up, making out, they were accomplishing one of those, Barry's mind supplied unhelpfully. Weren’t they supposed to be pretend-breaking up soon? Pretending to spend extra time with him seemed counterproductive to that. Kissing him so soundly was definitely counterproductive to… something. Everything.

“Len, why don’t I…” Barry started, ready to disentangle himself from Len’s arms and more than ready to hopefully sneak back to his apartment and have a meltdown into his favorite pillow about how good at kissing Captain Cold was.

Lisa directed her next statement to her phone, “Shawna I gotta’ go. See you in twenty? ‘Kay, bye.”

“Lisa, for the last time, I’m spending my morning with Barry and not—”

“Oh we can at least have breakfast, can’t we?” she was putting on a pout and even Barry didn’t trust it, but Len hadn’t let go of his hips yet and he was still stuck. “Are you hungry, Barry? I brought bagels from Crossroads?”

His stomach growled immediately, he could smell food in the bag Lisa was carrying. Her gaze zeroed in on him with a smile. “You work up an appetite, cutie?”

“I, uh… oh goddammit,” he flushed and Len was clearly trying not to look too smug about their pretend sex. “I’m gonna’ go find a shirt,” he landed on, and Len dropped his arms for Barry to stalk back in the direction of Len’s room. He heard their conversation continue as he walked, Len chastising an apparently unrepentant Lisa and Barry closed the door behind him. Then he leaned against it and felt the last few minutes catch up with him.

Len had kissed him. And he had kissed back. And wow, had he enjoyed it. But that was hardly his fault because Len was really good at kissing, with those long fingers that were so distracting all the time but were surprisingly nice curled around his waist or over his hips, cold as they might be, and his arms—had they always been that strong? Not to mention his torso, how nice Barry had felt pressing up against him and—oh shit.

Since when was he attracted to Captain Cold?!

But oh—oh no. He was. He—wow, Len was a really good kisser. Barry kept focusing on that detail. And Len was really sexy, especially when he wore a suit, and especially in pajamas. Raymond the receptionist would be jealous. He almost laughed hysterically at the thought. Len was sexy. When had that happened? That voice. Those fingers. He really, really wanted those fingers to—

Barry dropped his head into his hands and bit back the audible groan threatening to escape. He was so, so very screwed. How was he going to hide this from Len? He was already in over his head after the other night, crashing on his couch, eating breakfast, forgetting the damn Flash suit on the ground and having to come back for it (and wow did Len look good when he was teasing Barry about that, smirking and making a comment about the texture of the tripolymer, and oh god Barry had been flirting back with him this whole time, hadn't he?). Dammit, he really shouldn’t be thinking about these things while he was standing in the other man’s bedroom.

And then Barry realized that he was in his arch-nemesis’ bedroom. Under any other circumstances, this would be amazing—he would look around for clues as to the man’s schemes, see if he really did have a collection of parkas (okay, Barry did that anyway, but there was only one hanging in the closet alongside several other types of jackets), and try to uncover whatever he could. But now, with unwelcome realizations here in the room and Lisa just outside in the kitchen, waiting for him to come out in actual clothes, he didn’t waste any more time to find something to throw on. He landed on a white t-shirt and a pair of red plaid pj pants he couldn’t imagine Len ever wearing, both of which were too big but better than nothing. He also kicked his STAR Labs shirt under the bed, which he noted was a king size. He didn’t need that information right now.

Then Barry took a breath and went to have breakfast with someone he was going to dutifully not think about bending him over the nearest surface.

 

**********

 

Kissing Barry had been the best and worst decision ever. Best because it accomplished its goal of pissing Lisa right off, which she deserved if she was gonna’ crash his fake morning make-up sex; worst because it had felt too goddamn good and that was a problem. He’d been trying to deal with their flirting and odd situation without doing anything too stupid, but then with the lean man practically naked in his arms, responding much more enthusiastically than he’d expected—hadn’t really expected Barry to respond at all, let alone so eagerly—Len was very certain he’d just made a grave mistake. Because now all he wanted to do was kick his sister out and continue where they’d left off, except that that wouldn’t happen, because as soon as Lisa was gone, Barry would be too, no reason to stay and make out with Len without an audience. 

Len wrinkled his nose and tried to push away that odd thought, and was decidedly not pouting over the coffee maker as Lisa crooned and teased him. Ignoring his sister’s jibes, he asked, “Weren’t you supposed to be coming with Mick and Aiden?”

“And Shawna. She’ll be here in a bit.”

Len nodded—Shawna Baez was Aiden’s babysitter from time to time now, something becoming increasingly frequent as Mick was working steadier jobs and trying to keep life a bit more stable for the little one. “And then you’re going to the pool?”

“And you’re coming.”

“For the last time, I am not—”

“I bought you trunks—”

“You know I hate swimming pools. What are you playing at, Lise?”

“Me? I just wanted to see you Len, since you blew me off three times this month and keep ignoring my calls.”

Well, he couldn’t exactly argue that. Not true, he could, he was about to, when—

“Is that coffee I smell?” Barry was back, stepping into the kitchen with a sheepish smile and Len’s stomach did an odd and interesting little flip. Barry looked adorable. He was wearing Len’s clothes and they were too big on his lean frame and his hair was a mess but he was smiling and—

Len had a serious problem. That problem was named Barry Allen.

“Sure is, doll,” Lisa replied for him and Len realized he was staring and snapped his eyes away, even as she was grabbing a mug from the cupboard. Len took it from her and poured Barry coffee, not about to pass up any opportunity that presented itself, and kissed Barry on the cheek as he handed it to him. Much to his pleasure, Barry smiled warm and shy instead of flinching, even though Lisa wouldn’t be able to see around Len’s back to catch the expression.

“Thank god,” Barry mumbled, taking a sip. “You woke me up early enough, I better get two cups at least.”

He smiled indulgently, knowing he was a doomed man. “I’ll make you more.”

“You two are sickeningly cute,” Lisa poured her own coffee behind them and Barry looked down in embarrassment while she continued, “You need to share your good luck, Lenny. I need a nerdy scientist of my own to spoil.”

Len rolled his eyes, not that anyone but Barry could see it, then followed her to the dining room to help set up breakfast.

Two minutes later, Mick walked in with Aiden by his side, trundling along. He maybe should have warned Barry about that.

“Snart,” Mick grunted. Len still couldn’t figure out a pattern for when he was ‘Snart’ versus ‘Len’ versus whatever else his friend was in the mood to call him—Mick was inconsistent about things as basic as names. “Who’s this?”

“Mick, meet Barry. He’s my boyfriend. Barry, this is my good friend Mick Rory.”

There was a pause, he could practically feel Barry tensing and then—“Isn’t that the same kid who looked at me funny the last time I was here?”

Barry and Len both looked at Mick at the same time and Barry blinked owlishly before remembering—“You’re the one who set off the fire alarm!”

Len had to fight back from laughing.

“Same kid, Mick. Glad I didn’t let you fight him. Actually, I oughtta’ thank you for that, I got to give him my jacket and play the hero. Helped score me a date.”

“Nice.”

Lisa was rolling her eyes. “Mick, doll, you’re supposed to be on my side here. We’re mad at Lenny for avoiding us, remember?”

So she had recruited Mick to help screw up Len’s day.

The other man just shrugged, “I just came for the free bagels.”

Mick was walking over as Len and Barry were finally sitting and Aiden squealed. Len winced at the sounded and Barry jumped while Lisa and Mick looked up surprised, but she was running toward Barry and—“Prin-cess Ew’sa!!”

Len barked out a sudden laugh, something that turned deeper and harder to control at Barry’s deer-in-the-headlights expression. She ran up to his chair, demanding “Up!” before anyone could stop her. Len was still laughing, though both Lisa and Mick were clearly confused. But Barry was picked Aiden up and setting her on his lap, smiling sleepily as though all the Rogues in the room with him were forgotten.

“Guess I did promise to sing you a song, huh?”

“Uh huh! C’n you sing ‘gain?”

“Snowman or Let it Go?”

Her eyes were wide at having choices and Len smiled at her then looked up at Mick, “Barry ran into us in the hall before. He knows all the songs from that ice movie she likes.”

“Huh.” Mick sat down, staring at his happy daughter who was deciding that ‘snowman’—whatever that meant—was the song she wanted, and Barry cleared his throat and started in. Lisa’s eyebrows shot up but Len was just grinning, already more than aware of Barry’s vocal stylings, in part because he hadn't stopped signing in the shower even after knowing that Len knew. They sat and listened, Barry’s attention on Aiden and vice versa until the song was winding down and she was squealing again, “’gain! ‘Gain!”

“Aiden, honey,” Lisa crooned over, “remember to say please.”

She sucked in a reverent breath, too precious and Len might melt when she said, “’Gain p’ease?”

Barry laughed and glanced up around him, catching Len’s eye for a second and it almost took his breath away. Barry was grinning, open and carefree at breakfast with his would-be enemies, Aiden bouncing on his lap. Some deep, buried part of Len wanted this, wanted—

“I better get to work while she’s distracted,” Mick was dusting his fingers off on a napkin and swigging the last bit of his coffee. He stepped around the table and kissed Aiden on the forehead, casually entering Barry’s space without blinking and Len wondered if it was weird for the speedster to be in this situation. Len certainly hadn’t intended for any of it to happen but couldn’t really go back on it now—‘returning were as tedious as go o’er’ and all that.

After seeing Mick out, he came back to see Aiden still on Barry’s lap, humming and rolling a toy car along the surface of the table as Lisa and Barry discussed—

“Swimming?”

“We’re going to the pool today for a family swim. I just thought you might like to join us.”

Oh no. Lisa smirked in Len’s direction, eyes narrowed and—

“I love swimming!” Barry looked up at Len’s expression, “I mean—I’m not sure I can make it. Plans, with um—”

“Oh nonsense!” Lisa was pouncing and Len was screwed. He shouldn’t have left them alone for even a second. “I know you and Len were planning a different type of horizontal activity for today”—Barry already started to splutter and Len had a second to appreciate how easily he was flustered—“but I promise we’ll have fun at the pool. Lenny just loves swi—”

“I hate it and you know it,” he ground out, grabbing Barry’s mug to refill it and stalking to the kitchen.

“Umm, I’m not sure I should crash. I mean if it’s family then I—”

Yep, he was screwed. Lisa was crooning about how welcome Barry was and how Aiden’s babysitter would be joining them anyway.

“Oh, she has a babysitter?”

Len sighed, pouring coffee, knowing defeat, and then—wait, shit. Baez, who would be here any—

Knock knock knock

—second.

Getting past the building buzzer was never an issue for Peek-a-Boo.

He went to answer the door before Barry or Lisa could get up, feeling tense. Would she recognize Barry?

“Baez.”

“Snart,” she strolled past him and he glared and sipped Barry’s coffee. Ugh, no sugar. He and Shawna had an amicable rivalry for who was Aiden’s favorite babysitter—though if they weren’t careful, Barry would usurp them both soon.

“Aun’ie Boo!”

Oh right, shit—Len hurried around the corner to the dining room, ready for Shawna and/or Barry to be panicking. Instead, he turned and—

“Well hell-o, who is this handsome fellow?” Shawna was leering at Barry with a rapacious grin and Len almost growled.

“My boyfriend.”

She started and her eyes darted between Len and Barry, taking in the pajamas. “Ah, haha, got it. All-righty, Snart.”

“Aun’ie Boo! Up!”

Shawna regained her composure quick, already walking around the table to pick up Aiden as Lisa again tried to get her to say ‘please’ and Barry just looked at Len like he was a little overwhelmed. Len passed him his coffee and gave his shoulder a little squeeze.

“Never a dull moment, dear.”

 

**********

 

Somehow, and he still wasn’t entirely certain, Barry’s day had progressed from high hopes of sleeping in to visiting a pool with Captain Cold, Golden Glider, Heatwave’s daughter, and Peek-a-Boo. Against all possible reason here he was, stepping out of Len’s car at the nearest pool with a family swim time. He’d gone back to his apartment and put on trunks, packed a change of clothes and towel and whatever else he’d need, and let Lisa drag him along. She and Shawna drove with Aiden in a separate car, so Barry and Len managed to make idle conversation on the drive. As it turned out, Len had been living in this area for over a year before Barry moved in, and liked to play and watch hockey, cheering for the Keystone Combines. Barry explained that he was more of a soccer person, which was apparently hilarious.

“There’s no way it’s fair for you to play, kid.”

“I—hey, I liked it before the lightning.”

Len's chuckled just deepened, “is that what you call it? I know you’re in your twenties, but you don’t have to be a hipster about your powers, Barry.”

His jaw dropped. “You know the word hipster?”

Len glanced at him, “You know, I’m a criminal, not dead.”

Right. Right. Still.

Then they were walking into the building, catching up with Lisa and Shawna, and he was realizing how easily Len laughed. Barry had kind of expected him to be all stoic or darkly amused all the time, but in his personal life, it seemed like he was always chuckling at someone or something, or just straight out laughing at Barry. It wasn’t all that surprising if he thought about Captain Cold’s tendency to make (dark) jokes and turn things into a game, but he still hadn’t expected this more amicable humor.

Barry was still contemplating the dissonance into the change room, packing his things into a locker only to realize—holy hell Len was stripping. Barry had come dressed in his trunks already, a change of clothes ready for after getting out the water, but Len was in his jeans which meant—

“I’ll be right back,” Barry turned on a dime as Len was pulling off his shirt, all of his tattoos suddenly on display and nope. Barry found himself walking toward the urinals, which was at least a convenient excuse to have walked away and a good idea before getting in a pool. But then he was washing his hands and following Len to the pre-pool rinse off shower, looking at anything but the other man. And Barry tried, he really did, but Len stepped into the shower across from him and it was impossible, his eyes kept straying to Len, to the water rivulets running down his torso, his muscles, those tattoos

“See something you like, Barry?”

He snapped his eyes up to meet Len’s. He was being way too obvious, throat constricting for a second before he managed a safe answer, “Your tattoos. They’re something else.”

They really were, now that Barry could see it. Len had the tattoo sleeves on both his arms from wrist to shoulder, the designs he’d been distracted by so many times, interweaving elements that included a gun and a raven, a woman's face, and more besides. He also had a skull under some lettering on his left breast, over his heart, and an array of cards with the jack of spades on top of them on his right side.

Len looked down at his own body then back up, “probably should have mentioned them.”

Barry blinked, and they were each out their respective showers now. “For the cover? Yeah, just maybe. Lisa is going to assume I’ve seen them before.”

“Sure you’re not waiting for our wedding night, Barry?”

He scowled, “well maybe if you keep up with that attitude.”

They were out into the main area after that, Len a few steps ahead and Barry noticed he had another tattoo on his back, a figure-skater and he titled his head to stare at it, almost walking into Len when the other stopped.

“The girls are gonna’ take forever. Let’s hit the hot tub.”

Barry swallowed and nodded, trying very hard not to stare too hard at Len’s body. Instead he followed him to the hot tub and relaxed into it across from Len, only the two of them in it at this time of morning, with only a few other families filtering in to the pool yet. Len sat on the edge with only his feet and calves in.

“C’mon, Len—don’t tell me it’s not cool enough for you?” he grinned and Len cocked an eyebrow, but he had an amused half-smile tugging at his lips.

“I can appreciate heat, I just prefer the cold.”

“Only you.”

They relaxed there for a few minutes. Barry stretched out and leaned back, arms on either side of the hot tub, tilting his head back to sigh. “This is nice, though. I should do this more often. All that running…” his muscles were starting to unwind, warm and comfortable with his eyes closed and head back as he let out a contented sound.

Len make a noise like he was choking and cleared his throat. “Looks like the girls are out of the change room. My feet are too hot. Let’s go.”

Barry blinked his eyes open and moved to follow as Len abruptly turned away, sad to leave the hot tub behind. 

“Un’ca Lenny!” Aiden ran to Len, only to have Shawna quickly chastise her about running at the pool and Len shook his head when the little girl turned to him for support.

“No, Aiden, you have to listen to Shawna. No running.”

“I was always running when I was her age,” Barry offered with a smile. “Ran before I could walk even.”

Len looked like he was about to say something, no doubt to make some awful joke, but Shawna interjected to invite them over to the kids’ pool to play with Aiden. Lisa immediately said her and Barry were going to check out the deep end. He shrugged and followed her, not missing the way Len frowned at Lisa’s back before he turned and followed Aiden. Barry was a little disappointed, to be honest, because the kids’ pool had big plastic park in the shape of pirate ship for toddlers to play in, and it would be fun to see Len pretending to be a pirate king or something with Aiden.

“What’s up, Lisa?” he asked, sliding into the pool after her and shivering at the jarring temperature.

“Oh, nothing in particular, Barry. I just wanted a chance to get to know you without Len looking over my shoulder.”

Oh right. Part of him had almost forgotten that she didn't know he was the Flash, that she didn't realize they'd met plenty more times than just twice so far. He treaded water as she swam around, almost gliding with grace and he sent a mental compliment to Cisco for her alias choice.

“Kinda’ hard to chat while we swim,” he offered, already tempted to start diving and swimming under the water, and not just to make sure he didn't screw up any of his ongoing lies. He hadn’t really tested his speed in water but was suddenly curious, not that he could try anything too fun or obvious at a family pool, especially with the Rogues around. Maybe he could convince Cisco and Caitlin to set something up for testing.

“Not so hard as all that,” Lisa was on her back and Barry followed suit, kicking off from the side to catch up with her, trying to keep his pace leisurely and not too excited. “Lenny told me you two had a fight?”

He shifted into an upright position, hands sliding through his wet hair. He was reminded of their fake break-up conversation on his couch and it already felt like a million years ago. “Right, yeah. He was being a jerk about my friend Eddie—Iris’ fiancé.”

“What did he say?”

“We all went on a date—”

Lisa fumbled in the water, spluttering then rolling until she was upright like Barry, moving to tread water and dragging wet strands of hair that escaped her ponytail out of her face.

“Did you just say Lenny went on a double date with a detective?”

“I, uh—did he not mention that part?” Barry glanced over to the kids pool, immediately spying Len catching Aiden as she slid down a bright yellow slide, laughing with her. He forcibly dragged his attention back to Lisa. “That happened. We went bowling.”

She broke out into cackles. “Bowling? Please—please tell me there is photographic evidence.”

Barry caught himself grinning. “Next time.”

“I’m holding you to that, cutie.”

Dammit, it was hard to pretend to be fighting with Len and getting ready to break up with him when Barry was being invited to their family swim dates and laughing with his sister. He moved through the water, a few strokes taking him closer to the shallow end so he could stand, taking the time to think.

“Well it was fun, the date, but Len and Eddie didn’t really get along too well. I guess I saw it coming, but Len was acting jealous the whole time.”

Lisa was ringing out her ponytail. “Uh huh, not surprised. He really likes you, Barry, and it’s not like you weren’t jealous of—what was it, a receptionist?”

Barry felt his cheeks heat. He wasn’t actually jealous of Raymond, just… affronted. “I wasn’t a jerk about it though.”

Lisa sent him a skeptical look and… right. He kind of had been. But this was good, right? Maybe she’d think he wasn’t so great for Len after all if he acted like a bit of a jerk?

“Lenny just needs some reassurance, that’s all Barry. He needs to know that you like him even when he’s off his game, not suave like you seem to think he is.”

She said it like it was a mystery even to her and Barry almost winced. He was going to regret calling Len suave to his dying day. He was pretty sure the other man was just waiting for the perfect time to remind him he’d said that. But really, the man was suave, or at least something, with those tattoos, which Barry really wouldn't mind getting a closer look at, preferably in his kitchen again for a second round of whatever this morning had been, or maybe his room, or a shower with water dripping down his chest again or—Barry reigned in his thoughts before they got too out of control.

“Right. Uhm, I’ll keep that in mind—'reassure Len'—unless you have something specific—”

“I thought you’d never ask,” she smiled at him too wide and only then did Barry realize this was a set up. He wondered at what point he’d fallen into whatever trap she’d planned. Probably as soon as he'd walked into Len's apartment that morning.

“I, umm—”

“Lenny could really use your help in the water today.”

“He's in the water right now?" Barry’s voice was confused and he nodded to where Shawna was splashing Aiden gently and Len was procuring a water gun for the little girl to retaliate.

“Oh sure, in the kiddie pool. But he won’t set foot in this one.”

Barry blinked. “What does this have to do with me reassuring Len I like him even when he’s not being cool? I mean suave?”

Lisa sent him a fond look. “Almost impossible not to make awful puns thanks to him, isn’t it? But darling, this has everything to do with reassuring him, because maybe you can teach him something I’ve been trying to for years. He totally refuses to learn though.”

“And that is…”

“How to swim.”

“Len can’t swim?”

“I’ve never even seen him doggie paddle.”

“That’s just—that’s a life hazard. He needs to know basics at least! We live in a city next to a massive river with a huge inlet! We have a pier! I can’t believe he can’t—and he won’t learn?”

Lisa somehow managed to look both innocent as an angel and like the Cheshire cat when Barry pulled himself out of the pool to go talk to Len.

 

Chapter Text

Len looked surprised to see Barry marching over to the—admittedly super awesome—pirate ship park.

“You don’t look like you’re ready to play ‘sea monsters and pirates’, Barry,” he said with a frown. Len was up on the pirate ship on one of the lower levels, crouched near a stair so that he was actually looking up at Barry. For a moment, Barry was distracted from his intended course by wondering just how such a game was played, and by the small toy boat in Len’s hand, but he refocused.

“We can play later. Right now, we’ve got learning to do.”

“Learning? What—” Len glanced behind him and Barry turned enough to see Lisa smiling and waving, walking toward them with a few toys. “What did Lisa tell you?”

Barry set his jaw. “Do you know how much of a hazard it is that you can’t swim, Len? Do you know how much water there is near Central? With your lifestyle? It’s only a matter of time before someone drops you in a river.”

Len was glaring, features hard but Barry didn’t really intend to back down on this one. He’d taken lessons his whole childhood for swimming, not to mention the summer camps he went to when he was a kid. He’d always been raised with the idea that knowing to swim was kind of important, just in case.

“This isn’t up for discus—”

“Got'ch you!” Aiden jumped on Len’s back with a shrill giggle, clinging to him like a sea monkey. After the immediate oof Len put on a pirate-like grin, reaching behind himself to tickle her.

“Oh no you don’t, you little sea monster!”

She giggled and laughed, kicking at his hands as he tried to dislodge her and he stopped, glancing at her over his shoulder with a sneaky smile. “You wanna’ do something fun, Aiden?”

“Yea!”

“You see him—Barry?—he’s the worst pirate of all the pirates. He’s got the fastest ship in the sea and he always runs away from sea monsters. But guess what—he’s standing in the water.”

“Oh Len that’s not even—”

It was too late. Aiden was off Len’s back and hopping off the short step from the ship-shaped park, into the water with a splash and wading toward Barry. The water barely met his knees but was past her waist and he gave up, sitting down in the water with a half-glare half-smile at Len before he pretended to try and escape Aiden the sea monster. As it turned out, the rules of the game consisted simply of Aiden tackling whoever she wanted to. He was only saved from the adorable monster a few minutes later when Lisa distracted Aiden with the set of mermaid toys she’d carried over, shooting Barry a meaningful look. Right. He set his jaw. Swimming lessons.

Len was staring at him with a surprisingly warm smile until Barry set his jaw, and then Len was frowning. He stood up and offered his hand to Len. “We’re going swimming.”

Len glared at the hand and stood out of the shallow water on his own. “We’re not.”

“We are. Lisa’s orders.”

Len rolled his eyes. “Not happening.”

“I’ll teach you.”

“I don’t need teaching—”

“You do if you don’t know how to do it.”

“I hate swimming.”

“Have you even tried?”

“I hate it on principle.”

“Can you even tread water?”

“I get the physics behind it.”

Barry let out an aggravated sound. “You’re my boyfriend and I'm trying to do something nice for you to make sure you don’t drown. We can stand in the shallow end for as along as you want but you’re getting in that pool with me.”

Len glared at him and they were in a staring contest for a full minute before the other closed his eyes and titled his head. “Standing. Shallow end. That’s it.”

Barry turned before Len could see his triumphant grin and moved quickly to the cooler water of the larger pool, sliding in with a shiver.

“I figured you’d like this—it’s freezing in here.”

Len slipped in beside him, the water hitting both their waists, and seemed totally unperturbed by the cold. “The temperature is fine, it’s the submersion thing I don’t like.”

“You don't have to be totally submerged to swim. And definitely not to tread water.”

Barry turned to look at him and noticed that Len definitely looked uncomfortable, frowning and almost pouting.

“Len it’s okay. I'm not gonna’ make you go underwater or anything if you really don’t want. Look,” he waded closer to Len and took one of his hands, pulling him deeper until the water met their chests. “Now I’m gonna’ tread water, okay? If you’re uncomfortable you can move back, but I want you to watch my legs.”

“You don’t have to talk to me like a small child, Barry.”

“And you don’t have to be embarrassed about not swimming.”

“I’m not embarrassed.”

Barry rolled his eyes and started to tread water, arms maneuvering him a little farther out from Len to do it. “See? Nothing to it.”

“I didn’t say it’s hard—I’m sure I’m capable of doing it. I just haven’t wanted to.”

Barry splashed him and Len looked annoyed but then determined, moving his arms out onto the surface of the water, glaring at Barry even as they started to move. The lesson carried on for a few minutes, Barry encouraging, Len copying Barry, starting to tread water, legs bumping occasionally when Barry accidentally got too close.

“It looks like you’ve got this. What about trying to swim forward?”

“Not happening.”

And he called Barry stubborn.

“That’s what you said about treading water. Here, walk to the side of the pool.” Barry swam ahead and let Len wade through the water until they were at the side of the pool. “From here it’s easy—it’s still shallow enough to stand if you want, but you can hold on to the side and kick off.”

He demonstrated, gliding through the water until his momentum fizzled before standing with a flourish, arms overhead. “Ta-da!”

“Not interested.”

He sighed and swam back over, standing next to Len in water that was as deep as his chest. “What if I guide you?”

“Guide?”

He turned and took each of Len’s hands. “Like this? I’ll swim backward and you can just let me drag you along, kicking if you want. All you have to is let your body be horizontal.”

Len arched an eyebrow. “Pretty sure people will tell us to get a room if I’m horizontal on top of you in the water, Barry.”

“I—that’s not what I—Len!” He flushed and Len smirked, looking pleased with himself. He didn’t drop Len’s hands though. “Are you gonna’ try this with me or just keep stalling?”

That wiped the smirk off his face. “Fine, Barry. Drag me around like a tugboat if you’re so keen.”

He was, and he did. It was harder than he had expected, not the dragging Len but the not getting tangled up in him, trying to propel them both with his legs while holding onto Len meant there was a lot more skin-to-skin contact than he was expecting, narrowly avoiding his legs tangling up into Len’s. He stood in the neck-deep water after a minute of trying, Len following suit.

“Maybe that won’t work.”

“Told you, Red.” Len was still relaxed as he had been while treading water though, so he didn’t seem to mind too much. He still seemed like he was just humoring Barry by putting up with this.

“How about this, we go back to treading water, and I’ll show you how to turn that into a forward movement.”

Len sighed. “You’re nothing if not determined.”

Barry nodded and they went back to treading, Len picking up the movement easily this time. “Right, now all you have to do is angle your body—not like that, that’s backwards, you have to angle forward. Now you’re just standing again.”

“It seems easier to move forward from standing.”

“It’s not, trust me. Here, just let me—” Barry moved into Len’s space, holding himself up in the water with a hand on Len’s shoulder, “now see how I let my legs float out behind me?”

He ignored the fact that his upper half was leaning toward Len. They’d already kissed this morning, it wasn't like close contact should be an issue.

“It seems uncomfortable—why would you want to be face-first in water?”

“You don’t have to put your face in. Here, just move your torso like—” he reached down to move Len’s side and the other shifted as he did. Barry’s grip on his shoulder slipped, wet hand dropping off with a plop, feet sliding under him and his head dropped to the water. His hands reached out, clutching Len’s forearm and the front of his trunks and then Barry stood, spitting water, hands starting to relax, only to realize he was still gripping—

His hands snapped back at lightning speed, face beat red, almost falling back into the water—“oh shit oh my god shit sorry fuck—”

He had been clutching Len’s—his—wow that was his—but it was so—

“Barry,” Len was, he was actually chuckling, actually laughing, apparently at Barry. “chill. You slipped, I won’t hold it against you.”

“I—I just—I mean I shouldn’t have—I was touching your—”

“We’re boyfriends, remember? A little accidental dick grab shouldn’t be a big deal.” Little, oh no, it wasn’t a little accidental grab, it was… oh it was a big deal alright. A very big—Barry ran his hands over his head to stop his hair from dripping water in his eyes, wiping the excess liquid off his face as he tried to get a hold of himself.

“Right. Right. I’m just gonna’… ” He waved vaguely in the direction of Lisa and Shawna, eyes too wide. “Sorry.”

He could tell that Len was almost laughing still. “Got it. Does this mean I’m off the hook for this swimming lesson?”

Barry gave him a jerky nod then started wading back across the pool. It was so big. It was flaccid and in a cold pool and still so big. He found himself wondering just how big it was, how big when hard, suddenly glad the water was as chill as it was. Nope, screw it, even with the cold water, he needed to swim some lanes before exiting the pool. Today was a wreck. He now knew what kissing Len felt like. He knew what Len’s hands felt like on his skin when their bodies were pressed together, knew what his torso looked like, all those tattoos and that muscle, water cascading down. Barry sped up his lane swimming. It wasn’t helping. He would forever know about Len’s dick now, that soft or not, he could imagine and extrapolate from there.

Barry realized he really was, actually, quite very... screwed. Except he wasn’t even getting screwed at all. And until now, even with this morning’s kiss, he hadn’t realized just how much he wanted to be. But oh, did he want to be.

Eventually, Barry gave up lane swimming when his body had finally cooled down, went to sit by the girls and play with Aiden. Lisa announced that she was tired of the pool. Len was sitting with Shawna, talking in hushed tones about some no doubt nefarious deed but Barry couldn’t even fault him right now. Then they were packing up, Len suggesting they all grab ice cream, much to Aiden’s delight.

“Ice-screeeem?”

Lisa smiled down and held her hand, “only if you’re a good girl and don’t complain when I brush you hair.”

They wandered into the ladies’ room, Aiden complaining already about her hair, and oh shit. Barry was following Len back to the men’s change room now, which meant he might actually see it. The dick. The dick. The Dick. The Cock to end all—good god, he was turning into a rambling lunatic inside his own head.

Barry hurried to grab his towel and went to one of the shower stalls with a curtain, managing not to look at Len as he did, not turn his back when he heard Len walk passed his stall. He turned it to cold and tried to regain his composure. This was not the time. Definitely not the time. He needed his couch and his pillow and to have a meltdown in the privacy of his own apartment. He needed to be in his own shower at home and not at a public pool so that he could press at least three fingers inside himself and—

This wasn’t the time.

He really wanted to see it.

He really needed to get a grip. Not a grip—jesus. When had he become too attracted to Len to function as a human being?

Barry put his head into the cold spray of the shower and stayed there until his face was numb. He couldn’t hide in the shower forever though so he turned off the water, gathered up his trunks and rang them out, bunching them into one hand before wrapping his towel around his waist. The then held his head high as he walked back to his locker to dry off and grab his clothes, determined not to let his eyes wander. His heart was pure and his thoughts as saintly as they came. Until he saw Len. Until he saw Len’s naked ass, bending into a pair of black underwear. And then his thoughts were no longer saintly. Len's ass looked as nice as Barry could only imagine his cock would feel if they—

Somewhere, in the back of his mind, Barry wondered if it was possible to die of simultaneously feeling too aroused and mortified at once. It was like a month’s worth of pent up everything was rising to the surface. Rising. Oh god. Shit. Stay calm, Allen. Cool. Collected. Cold.

God fucking dammit.

He stalked next to Len and opened his locker, putting the door of it between them and keeping Len out of sight, even though the other was at least covered now. Then he dressed in enough of a hurry that he couldn’t spare any extra glances at Len, managing not to use his speed but only barely because it was tempting. Everything was tempting right now.

“You in for ice cream, Barry?”

Whew, he could do this. Conversation. Normal, functional, conversation. “Yep.”

“You okay over there?”

He pulled on his socks, sitting down on the bench to do so. “Fine, I'm fine. Totally normal.”

Len arched an eyebrow but didn’t say anything. Barry fought and lost against blushing.

 

***********

 

Len was glad to be leaving the pool. He typically hated everything about public pools, especially swimming. He didn’t enjoy being submerged, had never learned how to do much more than flail around in water and try not to drown, and he didn’t have much patience for crowded places full of yelling kids, part of why they went so early in the morning before too many families would arrive.

What he didn't mind was the sight of Barry Allen, half naked and frankly appraising Len's body in the pre-pool shower. The kid was too obvious but damn. If only Len could be sure the other was interested, not too virtuous to enjoy adding some sex to whatever this thing they were doing was. And then Barry had the audacity to lean back and almost moan in the hot tub, long neck stretched back, eyes closed. Fuck, Len was gonna’ get hard just looking at him, languid and stretched out, obscene and unaware of his charm.

After that, Len had been more than a little aggravated by Lisa’s machinations, no doubt enacting revenge for something, but with how it turned out he almost wanted to thank her. Barry had really lived up to the nickname ‘Scarlet’. He was pretty sure that no one in real life ever blushed all the way into their chest but they he’d seen the kid do just that after accidentally grabbing his junk in the pool. It really wasn’t that big of a deal—except the part where he would now imagine the feel of Barry’s hand on him, hello—but Barry seemed incredibly mortified over it anyway. It was hilarious, and Len really wanted to tease him over it, but he didn’t even have to. All he had to do was look at Barry and he blushed. Len was pretty sure if he had a super power, making Barry Allen blush would be it. It wouldn't be too bad if that was the case.

It wasn’t ideal, though, when he realized that Barry was standing next to him naked, only a towel around his waist. Len hauled on his shirt and tried not to look, though it was impossible not to see all that exposed skin out of the corner of his eye. God he was—thank god the kid dressed fast.

Then they were heading to the lobby and meeting up with the girls, and Len could breath again. Shawna was carrying Aiden, who was tired from the pool and Len immediately offered to take her. Baez stuck out her tongue at him as the mature adult that she was and Len rolled his eyes. “Have it your way.”

Lisa and Shawna walked behind him and Barry along on the short walk to the ice cream, chatting away about Shawna’s classes and how they were going. Shawna kept trying to ask Barry questions about whether he was in school then what he did, pressing for details when he told her about his work with the CCPD until Len slung his arm around Barry’s waist and glared over his shoulder at her. It was a cool enough day that Barry was wearing a jacket, but Len didn’t mind, settling his hand overtop it comfortably.

“I was just tryna’ be friendly, Snart.”

“A little too friendly, Baez.”

“Just because your boyfriend has a cute butt does not mean I’m tryna’ move in on him, Cold-i-locks.”

Lisa snorted and Aiden perked up while Barry just let out some exaggerated sigh beside Len.

“Golli’locks?”

“She knows Goldilocks?” Barry asked, half turning, and Lisa answered before Len could.

“Oh she knows every story that has to do with stealing and gold, Barry.”

“Wait, does he know what you two do?” Shawna was throwing a suspicious glance at Barry and Len didn’t like it.

“He knows. It’s not a problem.”

“With the names and the—”

“He knows, Shawna—”

“Even about the—”

“All of it.”

“Alright, je-sus, Cold.”

“Ruling with an iron fist, Len?” Barry was snickering beside Len and he moved his hand down to pinch the kid’s butt, since Shawna was apparently staring at it anyway.

Hey—”

“Iiiice screem!”

Shawna winced and put down the suddenly squirming Aiden, point at the large and garish cone on the sign of an equally garish single-stand ice cream parlor. Len loved this place. It had a sense of style. Not to mention 32 flavors and a few of his favorites in a dairy-free variety. They started to move toward the ordering window behind the girls. Len’s hand was back on Barry's waist. He was definitely pushing his luck but he hadn’t got an elbow in his side yet

“This place is ugly,” Barry announced, looking up at the sign. 

Len couldn't help but glare, “No accounting for taste with some people.”

“I have good taste!”

“This coming from a guy who watches Big Foot documentaries in his free time?”

“Wait how d’you know about—no way. Are you stalking my Netflix now, Len?!”

He frowned, “you realize you left me alone in your apartment with nothing to do and no clue when you were coming back?”

“I—oh man am I gonna’ go home only to realize all my baking supplies are gone?”

Someone cleared their throat and Len realized it was their turn to order. He dropped his arm from Barry’s concerns and didn’t miss the kid’s pout when he did.

“They’re not getting used so I might as well take them,” he turned to the young woman behind the counter and tried to seem less menacing than his usual self, putting on a smile, “one vanilla coconut cream cone with rainbow sprinkles, please.” He turned back to Barry, “whad’you want?”

“Rainbow… sprinkles?” Barry’s grin was too wide and Len wished he could roll his eyes but it was making the corners of his mouth tug up.

“Just order a cone, kid.”

Double scoop of cookies ‘n cream, not altogether surprising. They took their cones and joined the girls, finding a picnic table to sit down at the small park, watching Shawna push Aiden on the swing. It was a little chilly out for ice cream, but it suited Len perfect.

“So Barry, do you have any Halloween plans yet? I’ll be taking Aiden trick-or-treating if you’re free.”

Len tensed, glaring at his sister across the table. She knew what he had planned for Halloween.

“Ah—oh I’ve gotta’ work all night actually. The precinct likes all hands on deck for Halloween, since we get a lot of calls that night. Mostly teenagers making mischief but some real crazies come out on Halloween so you never really know how the night's gonna’ go.”

Lisa simpered in sympathy, telling him he was doing the city a service, and “I’m sure you’ll have plenty to keep you busy and rushing around that night.”

“Oh, I’m sure. It’s not too bad though, if I stayed in I probably would've watched a documentary about Big Foot—which is not just a crazy myth, Len, d’you know how many sightings…”

Barry kept talking, but Len wasn’t listening. He was staring at his sister, who laughed and disputed some claiming of Barry’s. Rushing around. Rushing. There was no way that she—

“Oh careful, Barry, you’ll get ice cream on your jacket!”

“Ah—oh!” to salvage it from dripping further, melted ice cream tracking down the cone and to his fingers, Barry dragged his tongue along his knuckles and the cone, up to the ice cream, all the way to the top and—

Wow did Barry have a long tongue. Len was definitely going to hell. But then he couldn't take his eyes away. And did Barry really need to eat his ice cream with such long, obscene licks? They were at a playground, that kind of display was just indecent, and—

“Well I can tell that whatever fights you two were having have been happily resolved. Kind of regretting breaking up the morning sex if it means I have to put up with another minute of this eye-fucking though.”

“Wha—” Barry whipped his head sharply in Lisa’s direct, getting ice cream on his cheek in the process and Len wanted to lick it off. He took another lick of his own ice cream to quench the desire. It wasn't that effective.

Lisa just looked between them and shook her head. “I’m never getting ice cream with you two again.”

 

**********

 

Len (and Barry) managed to survive the rest of the afternoon relatively unscathed. They drove back to Len’s apartment in a half-exhausted companionable quiet, Barry occasionally remarking on the fun he had. Len was mostly tired and not ready to think too much about the day, about whether he was okay or not with the Flash knowing he couldn’t really swim, or knowing that Shawna was around and in his personal and not just professional life. His monosyllabic answers must’ve got to Barry at some point though, because by the time they pulled up to the apartment he was casting Len worried glances, and by the time he was at the door of his apartment, Barry actually reached out and touched his arm.

“Hey, Len?”

He looked down at the hand on his arm then arched an eyebrow at Barry. “Yes Scarlet?”

“It’s okay, right? That I tagged along today? I mean, I wasn’t quite sure what else to do when you called me here this morning and Lisa brought it up.”

Ah, right, the morning. Wow this day had been long already. “It’s fine, Barry. I dragged you into today by trying to lie to Lisa—I should know better when it comes to her. You all right?”

“Yeah,” he smiled like he meant it, “I had fun.”

“Good.”

“Oh—that reminds me. Drinks with Eddie and Iris next Wednesday or Thursday? She hasn’t given me the date yet, we’re working around Eddie’s shifts.”

“Just let me know. That’s after Halloween so I should be free.”

“What’re you doing on—”

“Don’t worry about it.”

Len,” Barry hissed it in the quiet hall, stepping closer and Len drew himself up to his full height.

“I said don’t worry about, kid.”

“I swear to God if I catch you—”

“You’ll do what, arrest me? That’ll look so great from Lisa’s perspective, the Flash dropping me off at the precinct where you work—hell even your pal Eddie isn’t arresting me.”

Barry let out a frustrated groaned, “I can’t believe you.” It was a shame the groan had sounded to Len’s ears like something he might like to hear under another context, because he should really be focusing on this argument. But Barry was collecting himself, shaking his head and stepping back. “God, okay. Just don’t be a jackass or do anything that forces my hand in front the CCPD or anything, okay?”

Len frowned, “I’m not an idiot, Barry.”

“Good. I don’t need to deal with my boyfriend being sent to prison right now. I've already got Iris’s wedding, Joe bitching to me about Iris’s wedding and her marrying Eddie like I'm not her Maid of Honor, both Tricksters on the loose, and I don't suppose you’re gonna’ tell me what the hell Mark Mardon’s been up to on his latest string of robberies…”

“Not likely.”

“Right. So yeah, I’ve got enough on my plate, so please don’t ruin Halloween.”

Len sighed. “It’s small time stuff, Barry, I'm not icing half the city.”

“Okay.” He looked like he wanted to say something more.

“What?”

“Uh… this is kinda’ weird, right? But... thank you? And be careful. I really mean it when I say that the crazies come out on Halloween.”

Len couldn't help a small smile, then. “Got it. You too, Barry.”

 

Chapter Text

Lisa picked through the costumes in the shop, unimpressed. It was a pop-up shop for Halloween costumes, and she may have waited until the last minute to pick one up, as it was the morning of the 31st. But she blamed work and being busy setting up a fence for some of her old stolen jewels she was bored of wearing now, not to mention watching Aiden and keeping an eye on her brother and his ridiculous relationship with the Flash, whether Len wanted her to intervene or not.

She hmm’d as she thumbed over a Snow White costume. She’d be dressing up to please Aiden, not to look sexy for any parties. She hadn’t even planned on dressing up at all but Shawna had been scandalized when Lisa mentioned that, so now it was out of her hands and she'd be in something ridiculous unless she found herself a costume first. Giving up, Lisa pulled the dress off the rack. It was no Frozen costume—though Aiden was going as Elsa—but at least it would be one of the Disney princesses.

Lisa turned and walked down the aisle just as another woman rounded the corner into the non-sexy female costume section. They both stopped and stared for a second, the other woman blinking.

“Lisa—”

“Iris West.”

Hmm. This was inconvenient. But Lisa could play nice, and maybe get some dirt while she was here. “Such a pleasure to see you, Iris,” she smiled, showing teeth. To her delight, Iris put on a false smile and seemed willing to play along.

“Lisa. Picking up a costume?” Iris clasped her hands together and Lisa made the snap decision that this girl was probably more cutthroat than her friend Barry Allen. It was good to know—the kid obviously needed a minder.

“Last minute, I know," Lisa sighed, affecting a put-upon expression, "but you know how things are.”

Iris stepped further into the aisle. “Are you going to a party?” she asked, glancing at a nurse costume and wrinkling her nose.

“No, out trick-or-treating with the daughter of a friend.”

“Oh that’s nice. I’m going solo to a work party,” Iris rolled her eyes and smiled like Lisa would get the joke and oh—right, Iris's father, fiancé, and best friend would all be working that night.

“Well, don't let me keep you." Lisa moved to go and pretended to have an afterthought, like it wasn't her purpose for initiating conversation, "And, oh, Iris, can I just say? I was glad to hear that Barry and my brother went on a date with you and your partner. I hear you went bowling?”

Iris actually stopped leafing through pirate costumes to look at her with something approaching a real smile, far less frosty. “Oh, right, we did just a little while ago—it was actually  fun. You know I never would’ve thought those two would be so right for each other, but it seems to be working out.” She bit her lip when she talked and Lisa’s eyes zeroed in on it. Cutthroat or not, she wasn't any better at lying than her friend Barry, which Lisa figured must be the consequence of being raised by a good cop instead of a dirty one. Now to figure out what Miss West was hiding.

“Oh, I couldn’t agree more, what with their different lifestyles—Lenny’s extra curricular activities and history with law enforcement, and Barry’s profession. Such a surprising pair.”

“Right. Well, if you’ll excuse me,” she moved across the aisle to the witch costumes and Lisa smiled, knowing she had Iris on the ropes in whatever this was.

“Right, sorry, wouldn’t want to bother you. Ah, but if you could do me a favor, could you pass something on to Barry for me?”

Iris looked at her with a definite note of suspicion, but Lisa just smiled and tried to make it look warm. “If he happens to run into Lenny tonight, do tell him not to be too mad?”

Instead of hesitating or rolling her eyes or even telling Lisa off about her brother’s bad habits, Iris stepped in close with sharply narrowed eyes in a way that was fast and almost alarming, if Lisa were anyone else. “Run into what with Len? Why and how would Barry, a CSI, run into Captain Cold?”

Ah. Well, Iris was clearly smarter than Len or Barry for figuring this out so quickly, just from a little wordplay. “Well, since he is a CSI—”

“Do you know?!” she hissed in a lower whisper, and really she seemed far more scandalized about it than Lisa would’ve expected. It was, at the very least, confirmation to Lisa that Iris was aware of her best friend’s alter ego, so that was promising. She gave up the ruse and smirked.

“Why darling, you really didn’t think I’m that dense, did you? I figured Barry’s little identity secret out ages ago. What, is that a problem?”

Iris’s face did something very interesting, going from angry to shocked to consternated to bursting out laughing. Actually laughing, trying to get out words between her giggles, “Oh, oh no. Oh, god, that is too good. You know. You already know. And they don’t know that you know, do they?”

She calmed down enough to watch Lisa shake her head in bemusement before she burst into another fit of giggles, holding the shelf for support. Lisa was clearly missing something because this wasn’t that funny, even though she could only imagine that the jig was up, as Iris would be sure to tell Barry that Lisa knew.

“Oh Lisa, you have no idea what those idiots have been up to. How long have you known?”

“Well, since my birthday, when Lenny introduced me to Barry as his boyfriend.”

“Oh my god—” Iris was gone again, actual tears from laughter, whispering, “they’re so stupid, they’re so stupid” between breaths.

“What am I missing here, Iris?” Lisa wanted to laugh but she was getting annoyed, hated being on the outside of a joke.

“Oh,” she shook her head, wiping away the tears and chuckling, “please tell me you have time for coffee. This is too good not to go into detail.”

 

**********

 

“Are you shitting me?”

“One hundred percent true,” Iris grinned into her coffee.

“Those idiots!”

“That’s what I said!”

“Why didn’t they just tell me the truth?!”

“I know!”

“It’s like they were just looking for some excuse to pretend to date and touch each other!”

“Thank you! Yes, Lisa, that is exactly what I told Barry when he told me about all of this! Who the hell fake dates somebody? That’s not even a thing! Not outside of movies anyway.”

“They seemed so in love when I walked in, Iris. Len was smiling and Barry was flirting with him—”

“Please tell me—was he really licking whip cream off Len’s finger when you walked in?”

“Oh it was obscene, I was this close to turning around and walking right back out. I thought they were about to start fucking on the kitchen floor.”

Iris erupted into giggles.

“How have they kept it up so long?!” Lisa couldn’t help but ask. It had to be real, it had to be. There was no way they could kiss and cuddle and look so damn adorable in the kitchen that morning, and—“Barry was in Len’s apartment the morning we went swimming—how did he get there in his underwear if it’s fake?”

“Barry was in his underwear in Len’s apartment?” Iris’s eyes went wide at this new development.

“He was, just last week! I invited him to our family pool day.”

“Oh wow. I mean I suppose he could have sped in, he does that.”

Right, superpowers, Lisa had almost forgotten. “Hmm, okay. But if they’re not sleeping together, they really should be. You haven’t seen the eye-fucking—”

“Oh yes I have,” Iris shook her head. “They were the worst when we were bowling.”

“Bowling? Darling, I was in a pool with them, not to mention watching them eat ice cream after, I swear I'll never look at rainbow sprinkles the same after that.”

Iris grimaced at the thought. “Okay, you win. But look, it’s obvious Barry and Len adore each other, and if you already know, then there is no reason at all for them not to date for real! I mean, I’m already calling it real, but they’re still in denial, I think.”

Lisa frowned and shook her head. “No, that won't work. If they know that I know, then there’s no reason for them to stay together. And they should obviously be together—they’re clearly idiots in love. They can’t learn that I know, or they might break up.”

“But why? We both agree they love each other.”

“But they also haven’t sorted out all this Flash and Rogues stuff as much as I’d thought, Iris. If they have no reason to stick it out, what’s to say they don’t try to make a clean break of it? Barry is a civil servant and the Flash, so dating my brother is only going to make his life more complicated.” She paused and frowned, because really, it was true, and she half expected Iris to jump on that and suddenly change her mind about how the boys should continue dating. Lisa was pleased that she didn’t, just shook her head.

“Barry has been happier than I've seen him in years ever since he started this mess. He’s singing again and laughing, getting work done, going out and having a good time. Len is, somehow, really good for Barry. And…”

“And…?”

“And Barry really needed to move on, from someone that he was really hung up on for a long time. And it seems like he’s there, finally, like he’s really invested in this relationship with Len, real or not. I don’t think he’d want to lose it so easily. But you’re right, if Len tried to break it off, I don’t think Barry would have the confidence to fight for it, not right now. He might start to think about how it wouldn’t work. I mean, he obviously hasn’t even told my dad, or his friends at STAR Labs, so he’d think now is the easiest time to cut and run if Len is going to break it off, before everyone else knows.”

Lisa stared at the young woman and Iris stared back. “Iris… are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

Iris nodded slowly, a smile spreading out on her features. “Do you think—I think I can convince Barry to tell my dad he’s dating Len. I have the perfect way of doing it.”

“And I can get Barry more wrapped up in the rest of my brother’s life, make it harder for Len to let go if it happens, no chance of a clean break.”

Iris grinned. “Okay, I’ve got some ideas.”

Lisa leaned back and sipped her coffee, a slow grin spreading out on her features. “Me too.” Somehow, in some crazy way, she was now conspiring to help match-make her brother and his own boyfriend, who were already together and in love. If nothing else, she could say this for Barry: he made Len’s life, and her own by extension, a lot more interesting.

 

**********

 

Halloween was total chaos. Contrary to what he'd told Lisa, Barry actually had the night off but the Flash definitely didn’t. The Tricksters had finally made their reappearance. Of course they did, Barry thought to himself angrily, zipping to the location Cisco called out to him, across the city, another one of their jack-o-latern bombs spotted, this time at a goddamn kid’s party. They had no remorse. So far, no one had been hurt, Barry able to make it to each pumpkin-shaped bomb in time as they broadcast locations to the police, mostly to keep the Flash running while they pulled off their real trick, whatever that was going to be because they hadn’t announced it yet, just had some spooky countdown to it.

In between searching for bombs, Barry was also getting calls all around the city, stopping petty crime on his way, bullies stealing candy from younger kids, and pretty much running himself to exhaustion. He may or may not have zipped up to a door open to trick-or-treaters and taken some candy from the confused old lady at the door before zipping off, trying to keep up his metabolism.

The night wasn’t even half over and Barry was exhausted. But he heard Caitlin’s voice over the comms sending him in the direction of the next bomb, apparently hidden at the Central Art Gallery, ready to blow up it’s special collection gallery full of priceless artifacts. The gallery was hosting a Halloween special on death rituals through the ages, and there was supposed to be an event there that night but it had been cancelled last minute thanks to an apparent issue in the building, frozen pipes that had burst and flooded the street, and a frozen power lining shutting out the building and the block’s power, so at least no one was inside to get hurt. Even so, Barry rushed to the location, cranking up the speed until he could feel it coursing through him, the speed force, until he was phasing through the door and up the stairs, into the special collections gallery and—

Len?”

Flash?”

“What are you doing here?” Barry’s eyes scanned the room for the bomb but they landed on the small statuette in Len’s hand and—

Len—no, he was Captain Cold when he had all that gear on—hoisted his cold gun and cast a dubious expression at Barry. At the Flash. “What’d’you think, kid? What are you doing here?”

Barry flipped his communicator’s microphone off so that Cisco and Caitlin wouldn’t catch this.

“I’m not here to—look we don’t have time for this. There is a bomb in this building and—”

“Is somebody there?! Help!”

Barry heard the shout from down the hall and whipped his head back and forth toward the sound and Len.

“Security guard,” he shrugged one shoulder. “His feet are stuck in ice but I didn’t hurt him.”

“Dammit, Len, there is a bomb in this building, you can’t just go immobilizing people—it’s on a timer!”

He zipped away and down the hall to the guard.

“Please, help, it’s Captain Cold—”

“I know, just wait one second, there’s a bomb in here and we need to get you out—”

“A BOMB?!”

Okay, he probably shouldn't have said that while they guy was stuck in ice. “Just stay calm, okay sir?”

Barry’s suit was friction resistant, meaning he couldn’t use it and his speed to melt the ice encapsulating the man’s legs. Instead, he grabbed the guard’s night stick used his speed to chip away at the ice with it until the man could kick out of it. It took about seven seconds.

“You need to get out of here, now, and call for back-up—”

“He took my phone, radio—”

“Okay just go!”

The man did, running out the building, and Barry really didn’t have time for this. He was pissed at Len over this and ready to give him a piece of his mind—as soon as Barry got him out of here safely. He rushed back to where Len had been in the special collections gallery on the second floor, Caitlin and Cisco over the comms yelling at him through the comms even though they his microphone was off.

“Ten seconds to go before it blows, Barry!” Caitlin’s voice rang in his ear as he zipped into the gallery.

“Hey Scarlet—I think I may’ve found your bomb—” Len was standing, one foot out the window and the other in the gallery still, holding on to his statuette but looking at the jack-o-lantern bomb rolling in his direction, having been tossed into the room by what looked like some elaborate contraption coming out of a coffin, no doubt supposed to be launched into the crowd just in time to blow. Except now it wasn’t going to hurt anyone but Len.

Barry didn’t think—he whipped forward and grabbed the bomb, no time left to disarm it, and dashed forward to the window, lobbying the bomb out into the empty parking lot, nothing in sight but an empty car and a motorcycle. The bomb was just over the bike when it went off, blasting them back into the gallery, Len with his leg up, having been climbing back in when it exploded.

They were both launched across the floor, a little singed but Barry felt fine except for some bruising, especially in his chest, the blast throwing him onto his stomach. After a few seconds while his ears were still ringing, he groaned and rolled onto his hands and knees.

“You okay?”

“I’ll survive,” Len's voice was gravelly but otherwise he seemed okay, laying on his back, goggles knocked off and cold gun a few feet away. Barry stood and walked over to hold out a hand and help him up.

“I guess you win this round, kid.” Len took the hand and let Barry hoist him to his feet.

“I just don’t get why you gave up trick-or-treating with Aiden to come steal something.”

“Wasn’t just something, Barry, it was a score with a private buyer and an easy night, a fun little chase. Figured you’d be busy with all the Halloween commotion you kept complaining about anyway.”

Barry rolled his shoulders. “You wouldn’t believe. But why not get Mick or Lisa to come along?”

Len brushed himself off, frowning at the singe marks on his parka. “Lisa’s with Aiden and Mick’s working security. Shawna doesn’t really do this, you know, and she’s out with her boyfriend tonight. She won’t blow off her favorite holiday for a score.”

Barry snorted. “So it’s just you who has no life.”

Len fixed him with an annoyed glance. “And yet here you are, out at midnight on Halloween, chasing people around the city instead of at a party yourself.”

Barry had to acknowledge that with a smile. “Saving people, Len. And hey, at least I won.” He eyed the statuette on the ground to make sure Len didn't try to take it with him.

“That just helps redeem the Stradivarius score from a few months ago.” He moved and scooped up his gun, holstering it and casting a longing glance to the statuette but not making a move for it.

“Hey now, I thought the viola was redeemed over bowling.”

“As if that actually counts, Red. You have to let me take you to a bar to play pool.”

He laughed, determined to ensure that never happened. “I dunno’, if you teach me billiards that seems more like the swimming thing.” 

Len scowled in response, heading toward the window, “then it’s definitely only fair you let me take you.”

“All’s fair in love and war, Len.”

He stopped, turning back to arch an eyebrow at Barry, “That so? And which is this, Scarlet?”

Barry started, heart skipping an inconvenient beat, caught himself swallowing, unable to stop his own eyes from flicking down to Len’s lips for a fraction of a second. If only the man had never kissed him. “This is an impasse.”

Len's eyes narrowed in amusement, a smirk on his lips. Barry told himself to stop staring at Len's lips. “Diplomatic answer. It’s almost like you’re a real adult now.”

“Been flossing daily.”

That, finally, drew a laugh from the other man. “Okay, kid, whatever you say. But impasse or not,” he glanced out the window, “you owe me a ride home.”

“Don’t you have some getaway car?”

Len waved out the window behind him. “My bike. You threw a bomb on it, remember? About a minute ago? Even you’re not that slow, kid.”

“I—shit. I’m not paying for that.”

Len laughed again. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”

“I swear to God, when I get my hands on the Tricksters this time…” he sighed and wished his cowl was down so he could run his fingers through it. What a long night it had been and it was far from other. “I have to head back to STAR Labs, though, the Tricksters are still on the loose and I need to head back and see what solutions we’re working on for finding them." Caitlin and Cisco had stopped chattering in his ear at least, no doubt waiting for the next bomb announcement. "I can’t just whip you home.”

“Come on, kid, it'll take you what—twelve seconds?"

Barry scoffed, "Six, tops."

Len's voice could only be described as cajoling when he said, "It’s on the way.”

He rolled his eyes but indulged Len. After all, the man had let him crash on his couch and fed him breakfast. “Fine, just this once.”

Without waiting for an answer, Barry called the speed force to him again, everything getting faster, picking Len up into his arms bridal-style before racing back to their building, up the stairs on the fire escape, depositing Len back on his unsteady feet to grin as the man swayed before catching himself on the railing and getting back upright.

“That’s pretty handy, kid.”

“Don’t mention it,” he turned to go then stopped. “Oh wait, we’re still good for Thursday, right? With Iris and Eddie? That’s the day he’s free.”

“Yes, Barry, I haven’t forgotten about our next date, I’ll keep it open.”

“Good,” he beamed. Then he really did have to go, even though something in his gut was tugging him to stay, to kiss Len goodbye before blinking off. That only meant it was definitely time to go. “I, um, I'll see you later.”

“See you, Scarlet.”

 

**********

Barry was back in the lab for all of three seconds before he heard a high-pitched, enraged decibel from Caitlin he’d almost forgotten existed.

“BATHOLEMEW ALLEN!”

Barry winced and actually covered his ears before—“what?”

“You lied to us!”

“I didn’t—” Oh wait, no, shit, he did. Except how would they, oh shit the comms. Were they on for that whole exchange? He looked down at his chest and realized the communicator was dented in from the blast, and must have broadcasted his whole exchanged with Len.

“You told us ages ago that you and Cold weren’t sleeping together, Barry!”

“All those flossing comments, man, we knew something was up, you and Snart sucking face like—”

“We’re not!” Barry rushed to cut them off, half because it was a lie, they had it all wrong, and half because they had it all right and he had definitely ‘sucked face’ with Cold just days before and he really was starting to wish that—

“Don’t lie to us, Barry!” Caitlin was quieter now at least, but definitely not impressed. Maybe hurt.

“I’m not! Me and Len aren’t—”

“We just heard—”

“You're calling Captain Cold ‘Len,’ dude. Come on, man, that's—”

“You guys are misunderstanding!”

Caitlin let out an aggravated sound and stomped forward, pulling herself up to look impressively intimidating for her small stature. “Barry Allen, did you or did you not just give Leonard Snart a ‘ride’ home?”

“I did, but—”

“And did you or did you not make a plan for a date with Leonard Snart and Iris and Eddie?”

“We did, but it’s not really a d—”

“And is or is not the location you discussed all of this your apartment?”

“It’s—okay I see what—”

“Did you or did you not bring him back to your place in order to have se—”

Holyshitpleasedon’tfinishtthatquestion.”

Cisco cut in, “Barr, we saw the GPS, it led straight back to your apartment. You don’t have to hide this from us. If you and Cold wanna’ do the horizontal tango—”

“Cisco, no—it’s his apartment!”

Cisco's jaw dropped and there was a beat of silence as Barry's head caught up to what he'd just said before Caitlin’s voice erupted out, “you mean you moved in with him?! Is that why you moved out of Joe’s?!”

“NO!” Barry groaned in frustration and clutched his hair in both hands. No no no, no no— “Guys—me and Len are neighbors.”

“Oooh, that makes—dude what? You’re neighbors with Captain Cold!?”

“YES! And that’s why—”

“So you’re sleeping with your neighbor?” Caitlin seemed almost more scandalized about that than about it being Captain Cold. And Barry almost caught himself nodding, sighing, a half second of relief that she finally got it before—

“No! No, Caitlin, you’ve got it wrong. We are neighbors but it’s a really weird and complicated situation that has all these things—”

“Just tell the truth Barry—are you dating Leonard Snart?”

“I am. Look, yes, I’m dating him, but no, it’s not exactly a normal relationship because we’re—”

“We get it, Barry. You’re the Flash, he’s Captain Cold. But you have to know that we just want you to be happy. After all that mess with Iris, we just want what’s best for you.”

“I am, Caitlin. Len makes me happy,” he was beseeching now, reaching out to put a hand on her shoulder. At her nervous nod, he realized that was the wrong thing to say. “I mean—”

“Dude, did you think we’d be mad? You know you can trust us with anything, right?” Cisco stepped in closer, “I mean I know Cold is scary and all—”

Barry barked out a laugh. “Scary? No seriously, he’s not. I promise, he’s like some ridiculous oversized cold teddy bear. He bakes cakes and watches Frozen with Mick’s daughter and—”

“Mick Rory?” Caitlin stepped back, aghast, and oh right, the kidnapping, shit.

“Um, yes? But look, Mick’s not awful, he just has a problem, I think. He’s trying to be a good father to Aiden and keep a steady job now. Her name is Aiden and she’s three and sometimes Len babysits her and she’s really sweet. I sing songs to her.”

Caitlin seemed too shocked to speak, but Cisco always had words. “What. The. Hell. Dude, Heatwave has a kid? Heatwave? Like a baby Heatwave? Like… Heat Stroke? Heat Exhaustion? Warm Wave?”

“Cisco are you—are you trying to come up with a codename for Aiden?” Barry couldn’t help the laugh bubbling up in him, a smidgen more relaxed, picturing little Aiden singing Frozen and being called Warm Wave, it didn’t fit at all. “Dude, c’mon, at least wait until you meet her!”

“Meet—when am I going to meet Heatwave’s kid?”

“I don’t know, man, you’d be amazed at what happens when you spend time with Rogues. I ended up a pool the other day with Lisa and Shawna Baez, of all people. And oh—that reminds me! Cisco, I think you might really have a shot with Lisa—”

“Really?!”

“Barry! Don’t encourage him!”

“Hey! If he’s dating an evil Snart then why can’t I—”

Oh shit. Barry almost forgot that they didn’t know yet. “Guys wait, I'm not really—”

“That’s another thing though,” Caitlin turned from glowering at Cisco to look back at him, “Lisa and Rory and Peek-a-Boo—Barry do you realize you’re spending your time with criminals?”

“I’m spending it with Rogues, Caitlin, it’s different. They don’t hurt people anymore and they’re like a group of silly kids half the time, seriously. And I won’t stop fighting them, me and Len already agreed that nothing will change our Flash and Cold dynamic. You saw that tonight—I stopped him from stealing that statue thing from the gallery.” He said it a little too proudly, he was sure, chest puffing out because he was damn pleased with how they managed to handle that, and how this turned out better than the damn viola.

“How can you fight him though, now that you care about him?”

“I, uh,” he really did care about Len, “I guess it’s about trust and—”

A signal blared from the computer terminal and they all jumped, reminded of where they were and what was going on. Cisco hopped to it first.

“We’ve got a lead on the next bomb, Barr—police intel says its toward at a hotel hosting a masquerade on Fifth and Brightbank.”

He was gone in a flash.

 

Chapter Text

Barry spent the rest of his night chasing after the Tricksters after leaving STAR Labs. It paid off around 4am when he did catch them, but he was trapped inside a jack-o-lantern bomb himself, their endgame as it turned out. Things were pretty touch and go, and Barry just barely managed to phase out of the bomb before it exploded with him inside. He almost hadn’t been able to phase out of it, too exhausted and hungry, and there wasn't enough room inside the bomb casing to build up a run, something he still needed for phasing through anything thicker than a door. He was tight and constrained in the space, stuck vibrating and not much else. Caitlin and Cisco encouraged him over the comms, forced him to focus, and he closed his eyes and thought of Len, of his upcoming date with him and Iris and Eddie, how he couldn’t stand them up, and had to make it out of there safe. He managed it, after all, a little shaken. And after handing off the Tricksters to the cops, Barry decided he needed a lot of sleep, and that he could deal with Caitlin and Cisco’s assumptions about him and Len in the morning. Same with his own feelings on the matter, because his crush was one thing, but thinking of Len to help him phase was another.

He'd worry about it all in the morning.

Barry dragged himself home and barely made it into his own bed before crashing. He needed a vacation. Unfortunately, that wasn’t about to happen, because he got called into work early for analysis work on the evidence that had been scraped together from the Tricksters’ bombs—something STAR Labs was already working on but the CCPD wanted him on the case even though Singh was in contact with Cisco about it already. The kicker was that he even ended up working late, a backlog of cases thanks to Halloween mayhem because even the Flash couldn't stop every crime in Central City on Halloween, especially not when he had lunatic bombers to deal with.

By the evening, Barry was bemoaning his bad luck. It was supposed to be his day off. He'd been planning on doing his laundry that day, not working on his day off, and hated doing laundry Sunday nights because that’s when everyone else in the building seemed to do theirs, and Barry hated having to sit down there and wait.

He made it to the laundry room and groaned, seeing the machines all taken up, and decided his laundry could wait. So could cleaning house, he thought, looking around at the piles of papers and the dishes waiting in the sink. It would be nothing to speed clean but he didn't even want to do that. Instead, Barry decided he needed groceries and that, at least, was out of his apartment where he wouldn’t have to look at the mess lying around. He wondered why he hadn’t been shopping in the evenings, almost only ever in his mornings before work, which was such an inconvenient time after all.

Four aisles in and comparing boxes of cereals, the answer came to him.

“Just buy ‘em both, Barry, we know you’re going to eat through them in a day anyway,” Len’s voice sounded rich and sardonic and Barry didn’t even looked over, just groaned and dropped his head forward.

“Of course.”

“Didn’t expect to see you here tonight,” Len offered, and Barry finally looked up and over. He had a proper cart with assorted produce and meats, a big bag of flour—had he already gone through all of the stuff he stole from Barry?—and a carton of almond milk.

“I gave up on laundry and decided to get some things for the week,” he mumbled, dropping both boxes of cereal in his own cart.

“You never shop on Sundays.”

They both moved into the next aisle while Barry mentally debated if Len knowing he didn’t shop on Sundays was better or worse than if Barry admitted he didn’t shop on the weekend because he knew Len did shop then.

“Too many other things on the go, normally,” he landed on, waiting while Len picked out coffee before they moved along. Len didn’t critique all of Barry’s food choices verbally, but his raised eyebrows more than once at the things Barry put in his cart, actually physically turning and staring until Barry sighed and replaced the family-sized boxed of fruit roll ups.

“Really, Len?”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“You didn’t need to.”

Barry wasn’t pouting, definitely not pouting while they moved into the frozen food aisles. Barry almost laughed when Len reached for a frozen pizza.

“What?”

“It’s just—you gave me grief that one time?” Barry dropped five of them in his own cart while Len just snorted.

“I also ate a slice.”

“You did? I didn’t even notice—I didn’t eat any of it. I crashed at your place that night then only ran home to change. By the time I got home from work it was inedible, I just chucked it.”

He looked over at Len when he didn’t respond immediately and saw that he was giving Barry some look he didn’t know how to identify. If anything, it looked confused but not quite that.

“Len?”

“Never mind, kid,” he shook his head. “At least the whole thing didn’t go to waste.”

Barry nodded and watched Len, trying to make sense of him. He was in a jacket—so was Barry, it was November now—but it was fitting, somehow, in a way that was familiar to him, and Barry realized just how often he'd seen Len recently, his outfits becoming familiar, his whole person becoming familiar. He really should have taken some time to sort out his feelings about Len, because he had to stop himself from staring more than once, confused and tangled up feelings gnawing at his insides. They skipped a few aisles and he pushed away the thoughts for another time, refocusing on the present when Len moved toward the baking aisle.

"Not a chance," Barry said, one hand on the end of Len's cart to pull him along. "You'll be in there for days."

Len shot him an affronted look. "Not days. Actually, it'd be more like eighty seconds."

"Let's not."

Barry got to laugh at Len's expression but the man gave in with a glare that had no heat behind it. When they reached the 'natural' food aisle, Len dragged Barry in and grabbed a tub of coconut ice cream that Barry couldn't help but laugh about, still teasing Len by the time they made it to the bakery section, at least until Len was literally swatting a box of cookies out of his hand.

“No way, kid, these things are shit.”

“Like they’re any less healthy than that chocolate pecan ice cream you just got?” Barry frowned and reached for the cookies.

“No I mean they taste like shit—chemicals and crap.”

“Oh for the love of—you’re not gonna’ stop me from eating cookies because they’re beneath your fine baking sensibilities, are you? Saving me from myself?”

Len frowned and seemed to reevaluate his position, standing straighter and putting more of his bit back onto his face. “You’re right—eat whatever crap you like.”

Barry caught up to him halfway down the section—“come on, Len, you don’t need to be a jerk just because I like cookies.” Cookies which weren’t even in his cart since Len was gonna’ make such a big deal about it. But Len just cast him a cold glance and the fun seemed to drain out of their exchange, heading to the cash register.

Surprising Barry who was still trying to figure out what he'd done wrong, Len broke the frosty silence first, pulling items out of his cart and dropping them on the belt. “Thursday, is it just drinks with Iris and Thawne or are we doing dinner too?”

“I—oh, I’m not sure. I’ll ask, I guess.”

He nodded, “let me know.”

He placed the bar down after his groceries for Barry to start unpacking his cart, and as soon as Barry had the produce down, he noticed Len tilt his head to the side. He wasn’t about to ask, he decided, a little annoyed by the cold treatment, but he couldn’t hold himself to that when Len picked up his bag of avocadoes and put it on his side of the divider.

“What’re you—”

“You keep complaining about that I stole your avocadoes.”

“So you’re stealing more of them?”

Len leveled him with a stare that told Barry he was an idiot. “No, Barry, I’m buying them for you so you’ll stop complaining.”

Barry blinked and shook his head. “What? No—I don’t want to owe you avocadoes, Len.”

He reached for them but Len blocked him, catching Barry’s wrist, smirking now. “I was trying to be nice, you realize? But since you’re making such a big deal about it you can kiss these avocadoes goodbye.”

“You wouldn’t—”

“I already did.”

The cashier was scanning them and giving a weird look. Len dropped his wrist and Barry scratched the back of his neck, not making eye contact with Len or the young lady at the till.

“Your total is 142.17 tonight, sir, and how will you be paying?”

Len smiled at the young woman before in that damn way that he was currently reserving from Barry, pulling out a credit card. Instead of letting himself be jealous, Barry just rolled his eyes at the immediate change in Len’s demeanor.

“Can’t believe you stole my avocadoes a second time.”

Len shrugged and looked amused, “I’ll make you guacamole, call it even.”

“I’m holding you to that.”

The other man looked like he was about to say something but the cashier spoke sooner—“I’m sorry, but, uh, are you guys a couple?” Her ears burned as soon as she said it, immediately looking mortified. “I mean—sorry to assume, I know that’s not—it’s just that it’s—” she tapped the button she was wearing on the lapel of her uniform and Barry noticed the rainbow “uh, our company is having this contest here to support LGBT youth? People can donate to the Youth Emergency Services group that helps LGBT teens in need and every dollar donated gets you a chance to win a stay-cation spa pack for two?”

Len blinked. “How do I donate?”

“Oh—umm, you can with your transaction—I guess I should’ve said that sooner—or up at customer service.”

Len looked over and nodded decisively, “I’ll do that.”

“Great, thank you Mr. Pzynski!” she read the name from his receipt and Barry bit his lip. Illegal credit card? He’d have to ask Len about that. Len didn’t even seem to notice, turning to Barry, “I’ll see you in a minute?”

“Sure, yeah,” Barry waved him on as the lady started scanning his groceries. Part of him had wondered just how fast at that he could be if he was a cashier, but he’d probably break the machines if he tried. “You can add ten dollars to my bill for a donation too.”

The girl positively beamed. She had blue streaks in her hair and a few piercings with a bright smile. “Thank you! I volunteer with their programs at the YES group sometimes and they’re really great people. That’s why I asked if you were a couple, actually—me and my girlfriend get in little fights like that all the time, about the avocadoes I mean.”

Barry found himself smiling, “yeah, Len and I are… it’s complicated.” He glanced over at Len’s back at the customer service desk. It made sense he would donate to a cause like this, but it surprised Barry that he’d be charitable at all. Or… charitable with stolen money. He’d definitely have to ask about that.

“Well, I hope you sort it out,” she offered, and he realized he’d been staring at Len’s shoulders for too long, turning back to pay for his groceries. With how Barry was starting to pine for him, there was really only one of two ways to sort it out at this point.

“Me too.”

 

**********

 

Len wasn’t quite sure what to do with himself, a position he found incredibly uncomfortable at the best of times. He liked to have a plan, and know exactly how things would go down each second, or at least at each step. If things deviated from the plan, he was always ready to improvise, but he appreciated structure and information to work within.

With Barry, critical information was missing, and Len wasn’t too pleased about it. Data. He needed more data on Barry. That Barry cared about him was increasingly obvious, enough so that Len would accept it as a reality. The kid was soft and cared easy, it wasn’t too surprising that he’d let himself care about his neighbor, enemy or not. That Barry was attracted to him was established by their day at the pool, if not sooner. That they had chemistry was clear to Len—he couldn’t go a whole conversation without flirting, or itching to touch whatever exposed skin Barry happened to be showing, his lean neck and angular jaw often the point on which Len would fixate, at least this week. Barry seemed to have similar issues in return, and Len wasn’t about to short change himself and assume Barry was totally uninterested.

No, the missing information was what the hell Barry Allen might be willing to do about their situation? Despite their attraction, Len was only about thirty percent confident that he could seduce Barry if he tried, because the other might decide it was against his hero-like virtue to tumble into bed with his enemy, and had shown remarkable force of will at times. And if they did sleep together, then what? Letting this be more than fake—or more than casual sex, if he could convince Barry—was definitely out of the question. Because the missing data on that score was easy to fill in: there was no way this could ever work for real.

It didn’t matter whether Len felt a tug in his gut when Barry reminded him that the kid had spent a night on his couch, that Len had smoothed a hand over his hair because he couldn’t help it, or that his insides had done something altogether inappropriate when trying to convince Barry not to buy shitty chemical-filled cookies, about to offer to bake the kid some real cookies, ones that would melt in his mouth. It definitely didn’t matter that Len had had a second to picture feeding hand-made delicacies to Barry and watching him moan around each new bite, lips wrapped around Len’s fingers, that he’d spent the rest of their grocery shopping trip trying to get that image out of his head before he accidentally ended up flirting over goddamned avocadoes. None of that mattered because he was fairly damn certain that Barry ‘The Flash’ Allen was not seriously about to agree to date his nemesis for real, to tell his friends and family and put it all out on the line, to risk his job and reputation for Len. And Len sure as hell wasn’t about to give up his criminal lifestyle.

So it was an impasse. All’s fair in love and war, indeed. The issue was, this was starting to feel like both at once.

“Ready to go?”

Len tried not to jump, startled and hiding it. He’d been waiting outside for Barry to finish checking out.

“Sure, my car is this way.”

“You drove?” Barry followed him.

“I didn’t feel like carrying ten kilograms of flour on top of everything else.”

“That is a massive bag of flour.”

“Your single kilo bag didn’t exactly last very long.”

“Have you been baking a lot?”

Len felt his eyebrow twitch, glad it was dark out. Barry had been insistent about not going down the baking supplies aisle and had the nerve to ask about Len's baking? It was a good thing Len had grabbed the flour from a sale palette at the front of the store, at the very least. “Some.”

They put their groceries in the trunk and Barry was restless on the drive home. When they got to their apartments after, he started talking on their way up the staircase.

“When you’re done putting away your groceries, d’you wanna’ come over? Or I could come over there, since my place is a mess?”

Len’s arms were awkwardly full thanks to the flour and he shifted items in order to look at Barry over his shoulder, the kid two steps behind. “What for? I’ve already given you a ride home, figure that makes us square for last night.” At least he could pretend he had a reason to wait for Barry outside the store. He missed the days when it wasn't just pretending, when he didn't crave more time with the kid.

Barry snorted, “square from you trying to steal a priceless artifact—”

“My bike—”

“Yeah, yeah, I know.” They made it to their floor. “I actually meant to talk about things—our upcoming date, where things are… us.”

Len was glad he was a step ahead because Barry couldn’t see the way his lips pursed. “‘Us’, Barry?”

“Look, do you wanna’ come over or not?”

Who was he even kidding, at his point? Len dropped the flour to unlock his door. “See you in ten.”

 

**********

 

He propped himself up on Barry’s couch with a beer in his hand—he’d brought two over—and snagged the pillow from the middle seat. Barry glared at it for a second for some unknown reason before turning his attention to Len.

“So.”

“So? Are we dancing around the topic now, Barry? What is it?”

“You used that fake name for your credit card—”

“Is that really what you brought me over to talk about?” Len swallowed back some of his beer and turned to Barry with his eyebrows raised.

“Well it’s not like you should be donating to charities with stolen money—I mean I'm pretty sure that defeats the purpose.”

Len snorted, “call me Robin hood.”

“I—” Barry cricked his neck before sipping his beer. “Just tell me you didn’t steal someone’s actual identity?”

“Do give me a little credit.”

Barry huffed back against the cushion, making Len have to turn to keep him in his field of vision, arm reaching onto the back of the couch to make it comfortable. He wondered for a second why they never sat at Barry’s table then noticed the piles of papers and other odds and ends, dishes, even some clothes piled on it. “I’d’ve taken you for a neat freak, you know.”

“Huh? Oh—sometimes. About my work I am. My living space is more like… the only place I get to let go, you know?”

Len hmm’d and sipped his drink.

“I…we… look, Len,” Barry seemed to be stealing himself for something. “We agreed to date for a month and break up. A month’s already over and we—it’s just starting to feel like...”

Like it’ll never end, Len’s mind supplied. He pulled his arm back off the couch and sat back, knowing where this was going. Might as well bite the bullet, he knew, shoving down whatever feelings that threatened to tug at inside him. “Right, got it. This is you breaking up with me?”

“Wh—no! I mean—not this second? We have that date in a few days, and Lisa just saw us all close at the pool...”

Len couldn’t help but smirk, indulging the happy distraction, “you mean she saw you floundering after failing to teach me to swim?”

True to form, Barry blushed and Len let himself feel accomplished. “Sure, that. But just—now isn’t the right time, you know? I just mean, with how things are, it's been fun but—”

“But this can’t go on forever, kid, I get it.” Len sighed and stretched out his legs. He got it, he did. Data collected. He'd entertained the thought, if he was being honest, of their pretend relationship continuing, escalating until they were pretend engaged, ironically picking out wedding bands, challenging each other to take this farce a step further. He shoved away those thoughts and decided to get a grip, swallowing back more of his beer than was probably polite to lay those thoughts to rest. “You want your life back, and I want mine back.”

“I—“

“It’s high time we broke up anyway, before any of my Rogues figure out too much about you, or your friends figure out what’s going on. Iris excepted, of course.”

“Right,” Barry’s voice sounded strange and Len just filed away that information.

“We need to make some friction that’s realistic enough for Lisa to be convinced.”

"Haven't we tried that before? And it resulted in us going to the pool and, well, you know how it turned out."

"That's why it's gotta' seem real, Red."

“Um… shit, okay. If that’s what you—how about your heist? Because as a CSI I did have to stay late today to process evidence from your little pipe freezing trick to shut down the museum last night, and it did ruin my laundry day. It wouldn’t even have been hard to put that together if I hadn’t seen you there last night, it was the easy conclusion from the evidence.”

Len thought it through. There wasn’t any real flaw in it, a believable and realistic couple’s fight. “I can tell her my mood was sour because the Flash foiled my job, that it didn’t help things. So I’ll tell her we had an argument about it tonight. Make it escalate over the week? Make dinner awkward on Thursday, obvious that we’re mad at each other.”

“Oh, ah, yeah I can do that. I’ll draw upon the memory of the worst dinner ever—that horrible fifth wheel night I mentioned?—yeah that should work.”

Len nodded. “Well, if it all goes well, we might be broken up by the end of the week, Barry.”

The kid stilled next to him, and Len wondered if Barry had even clued into that fact when he brought up breaking up. It didn’t matter now; it was done. The plan was solid—he could work this angle on Lisa without any issue, and Barry would know how to play things over dinner. No one had to be around for their actual break up.

“Umm… I guess, cheers to that?” Barry raised his beer, lips pulled to the side. Len clinked his bottle against Barry’s decidedly more full one.

“Cheers.”

He should probably leave, Len knew, caught between finishing his drink and getting the hell out after basically but not actually breaking up, mostly numb to the feeling and needing to be home to sort through it, everything compartmentalized. But Barry just sighed and grabbed the TV remote, flicking it on.

“How d’you feel about documentaries?”

Len hesitated for a second more and then stretched and put his feet up, resting his arm again the back of the couch. If Barry wasn’t kicking him out, he decided, then he could be convinced to stay for an hour. “Put on Bourdain, he’s more entertaining.”

 

**********

 

Barry dropped down onto the sofa after showing Len to the door when he finally left, face falling on his favorite pillow. It smelled like Len and did not help. He sighed and rolled over, thinking about their encounter. It had not at all gone according to plan. He’d meant to ask Len about… this. About making it something more, something… well, real. But Len had jumped at the chance to break up, obviously excited to get Barry out of his life. Was it because Barry was too much trouble? Maybe it really was the Flash and Cold thing? Or maybe Len’s heart was too frosted over to let Barry in, whatever else it may have seemed like to Barry.

He didn’t really want to think about it. He couldn’t think of anything else. The pillow under his head was reminding him of Len. The empty beer on his coffee table was reminding him of Len. Even the mess in his apartment was— he had a problem.

After breaking up, would he and Len still be friends? Were they even friends now? Or were they just… neighbors? Nemeses? They had to be something, right? ‘It’s complicated’ definitely felt like the best description right now.

Because Len hadn’t rushed out the door as soon as their conversation was over. Barry clung to that, a little too tightly, probably. Len had stayed and watched ‘Parts Unknown’ with Barry, reaching forward to steal Barry’s beer when he didn’t finish it fast enough, laughing when Barry zipped up to grab a bag of chips instead. Barry ended up sitting closer than he intended to when he dropped back down on the couch, then, half under Len’s outstretched arm, and he’d shivered when Len’s fingers made it to the back of his neck, thumb rubbing over the short hairs there. Barry hadn’t said anything and neither had Len, but everything felt charged, Barry totally distracted and not paying attention to the show after that, just from that one point of contact between them. It lasted as long as the rest of that episode did, and when it was over Len stood and stretched, casual as though he hadn’t just made Barry’s stomach into a mess of emotions he wasn’t ready to examine.

It had to mean something, right?

He sighed, moving the pillow to his chest so he could hug it, thinking about the feel of Len’s fingers on his neck, swallowing hard after a minute. He was going to masturbate, he decided, and he was almost guaranteed going to be thinking about those fingers, about Len’s smirk, his voice, his tattoos and—god—the Dick. He was going to get off and it was going to get these thoughts about Len out of his system, and make him feel less depressed, and then he was gonna’ have the energy to clean his apartment.

Except that after he did get off, he realized that he probably shouldn’t have spent the whole time thinking about Len. Because it really wasn’t that helpful to think about Len and stifle the sound of Len’s name with his face pressed to a pillow that smelled like Len all while trying to make himself less of a mess about Len. Because it just made him wish he had Len here instead of next door. But he couldn't even pull up a fantasy about anyone else right now, too enmeshed in, well, Len.

He definitely had a problem.

As he tidied himself up, and got ready for bed, Barry did a mental calculation of how long it been since he actually had sex. It was… a little embarrassing. Maybe he just needed to go out with someone for real, to distract himself from someone who was obviously all wrong for him anyway. But he couldn’t exactly date anyone while he was dating Len. Or sort of dating Len. Either way, all of his friends knew he was dating Len so it seemed like a bad idea, not to mention that it left an unsavory taste in his mouth when he thought about it.

But still, he needed something more, or different, or… he needed to get laid, at the very least. Or the next best thing. Before falling asleep, Barry found himself googling for sex toys, against his own better judgment. He found a website that seemed classy with enough options and discrete packaging, and (he kept telling himself while pushing 'submit') if it helped then it would definitely be worth the price. And if the toy happened to be a color that reminded him of Len’s eyes, well… it wasn’t like anyone else was ever going to see the damn thing anyway.

 

**********

 

“A fight?” Lisa leaned back in her chair and waited for more details. Now she knew what Lenny and Jailbait were up to, but this meant they were trying to move forward with their little plan again and that wouldn’t do.

“Yes, Lise, a fight—couples have them sometimes.”

She narrowed her eyes, not that he could see it over the phone. “Was that a dig, Lenny? Because you know I’m trying to keep my prospects open right now.”

There was a sigh in the receiver and she almost rolled her eyes at him. Not actually being worried about him and Barry fighting was doing wonders for her stress level.

“No, sis, not a dig, just… things can be tough with Barry, sometimes. He worked the case on the museum break in from Halloween and put two and two together. He was torn between doing his job and pointing the finger in my direction, or not.”

Len was so full of shit. Lisa tried to hide the smile in her voice, “oh, that’s too bad. What did he pick?”

“To do his job.”

Of course the cutie-pie did, he’d foiled Len’s ridiculous little break in, after all. “Well then what’s the issue? It’s not like you’re about to get caught, and he got to do the right thing.” She glanced around, rolling her neck, eyes landing on her fingers tapping the table in front of her impatiently. She should probably fix her nail polish soon, it needed a touch up. Maybe Iris would go for manicures with her—Shawna never wanted to and Lisa needed more female friends.

“… and after he said all that, I didn’t help matters, pissed off because the Flash foiled the heist in the first place.”

Oh right, she was supposed to be listening to Len fake complain about his fake fight with his very real boyfriend. “Lenny, I’m sure Barry knows you can be a right dick sometimes, this isn’t your first disagreement. But I’ll save you from yourself—I’ll go talk to Barry.”

“No!”

Lisa covered the receiver to avoid snickering into the phone.

“No, Lise—I can sort this out on my own.”

Ah, they were trying to keep her out of it. Smart boys. “No big deal, dear, but if you’re sure, then I’ll just swing by your place. I’ll just pick up some candles and some chocolate—or do you boys prefer whip cream?—and help you clean your apartment so that—”

“I don’t need help getting laid!”

Obviously, he did. Not the point though. Lisa’s stomach was going to start hurting from holding back her laughter. “Oh well I just figured make-up sex after our trip to the pool worked so well, right? I just want you to be happy.”

There was a long pause, always the hardest to decipher when it came to Len. She kept tapping her nails. Finally, when she was getting annoyed, he said, “I just don’t know if things are gonna’ work out between me and Barry.”

Lisa sat up straighter. That voice was altogether too honest for Len to be faking this. Her own voice was sincere when she replied, “Len… you’re perfect for each other.”

“There’s a lot of complications—”

“You’ll sort them out. And you’re not alone—you’ve got me, and Barry has his friend Iris, and whoever else. Tell me, you really like him, right? He means something special to you?”

“…yeah, Lise, he’s—he’s starting to. That’s what I’m worried about.”

Lisa did feel nervous for him then, some coiling tension, because this could still all blow up in their faces. But somehow the Flash and Captain Cold weren’t at each other’s throats despite everything her brother was up to and despite the Rogues’ general pattern of activity, and out of costume, she’d never seen a more endearing couple, no one more clearly in love. She’d never seen Len in love like that, period—not the way he looked at Barry when he handed him a morning cup of coffee, the way they smiled like nothing else mattered.

“That means something, Len. Your feelings mean something. Just… trust your heart on this one, okay? I’ll drop by tomorrow after my deliveries—you’ll be done your recon by three, right?”

“Sure thing, sis. See you then.”

She hung up the phone and pulled up Iris West’s number.

 

Chapter Text

“Faster, Barry!”

“I’m trying!”

“It’s not enough!”

He ground to a halt and caught his breath, angry. “It’s not easy to phase through solid brick and mortor from stand-still, Caitlin!”

They’d been working on his phasing in Barry’s down time in the past few days. Caitlin and Cisco were worried after what happened with the bomb on Halloween, with Barry almost trapped inside.

“What if next time you can’t vibrate quick enough? Or what if it’s not just you, but you’re stuck with another person and have to phase them too?”

Barry knew they weren’t wrong, really, but he was trying hard to push his skills without thinking of another person, without thinking about Len, really, and it was harder that way. They were focused on phasing without a running start, just from standstill, which was mostly a lesson in advanced vibrating.

“Can’t we do something else?”

“Nah man,” Cisco leaned back and kicked up his feet, sucking on a lollipop. “But maybe we’re starting too big. You can already phase through small objects like handcuffs, but maybe we shouldn’t start with something so thick like a few layers of bricks. How about we try glass and doors first?”

Barry just sighed and nodded, “sure thing.”

“And practice, practice, practice.”

“I know, Cait. I’ll work on it at home. Speaking of which, I’ve gotta’ go—I’ve got a ton of work around the house to do and a few more cases at work to process before tomorrow.”

“Sure thing, Barr,” Cisco waved, “but oh, how’s mini Heatwave?”

Barry blinked, suddenly reminded that Caitlin and Cisco knew. Neither of them had mentioned it all week and he'd almost forgotten until that moment, caught up with everything at work in the post-Halloween processing of petty crimes. “Huh—oh, Aiden? I haven’t seen her except for some Facebook photos Shawna posted.” He wondered if he should take the opportunity to set the record straight about him and Len, but since they were about to break up, it almost didn't seem worth it.

Caitlin was scandalized, “You have Peek-a-Boo on Faceook?!”

“Oh. Umm. Yeah she added me. Neither Len or Lisa have Facebook but I guess Shawna does. She posted some Halloween photos.”

Cisco was out of his chair already, “Can we see? I’ve gotta’ see what mini Heatwave looks like.”

Barry flashed away to change and grab his phone in a blink. Then he was pulling up Shawna’s Aiden album. He couldn’t help the smug smile on his face when their jaws dropped, Caitlin’s curiosity getting the better of her enough to come and look.

"Mini Heatwave is definitely not a good enough alias."

“There is absolutely no way that is Mick Rory’s daughter.”

“Scout’s honor. But I gotta’ run, work beckons. See you guys later.”

 

**********

 

It was Wednesday and Barry really did mean what he said about housework, after he’d finished up his files. He really needed to do his laundry. It was basically obligatory at this point, because he was running out of clothes and would be gone the entire next evening out to dinner—it had definitely expanded beyond drinks—with Iris and Eddie.

That, and he was pretty sure he had heard Lisa show up next door and was keen to head down to the basement of the building and away from whatever machinations she was up to now. He and Len were supposed to be fighting still—escalating, even—and he didn’t want to be caught by the two of them. Which was why he wasn’t too impressed when he opened the door with a laundry basket under one arm and Lisa was there with a hand raised to knock. Len was nowhere in sight.

“Lisa,” Barry didn’t bother to hide his surprise.

“Barry, darling! Were you just about to do laundry?”

“I—yeah?” He noticed she had a container full of brownies and stepped back to let her in, “umm, it’s a bit of a mess.” At least he’d taken time to clean up before doing his laundry.

“No problem, I just came over to deliver some apology brownies.”

“I, uh—what?”

Lisa was glancing around in earnest, apparently not shy at all about casual snooping. “Apology brownies. My brother’s being a jerk but he’s baking for you because he communicates feelings through chocolate—and apparently he’s out of baking soda so he couldn't make cupcakes. Something about you distracting him at the grocery store?”

“I—oh, right. I guess that was my fault. I just didn’t want him to spend a decade pricing out chocolate chips or whatever. You know he prices out every single item? I’ve never seen a slower shopper.” He dropped the basked in his living room and came to join her by the table, scratching the back of his head.

“Mmm, trust me I know. It’s not even about the money, he just feels like it’s his duty as a consumer to get the best possible deal.”

“I know! I swear he’d haggle the prices if they let him.”

Lisa’s laugh was tinkling, “I’m sure he would.” She held out the plate of brownies, “care for a brownie?”

Barry would’ve liked to say no, maybe focused on his fake fight a bit more, but his stomach growled—it always growled—and he tried not to look embarrassed as he took one. “Does Len know you’re here?”

“Of course not,” she tossed her hair. “He thinks I took these for myself. He’s too proud to come over and tell you he’s baking for you, so instead he’s glaring around his kitchen and staring at the wall between your apartments.”

Barry wondered how much of that was true, stomach doing a little flip flop, and he took a bite of the brownie. He almost moaned and couldn’t help his eyes from closing at the burst of flavour. “Oh my god,” he mumbled. It was so rich, smooth, chocolately, all without being too sweet, enough crunch on the outside with the perfect degree of density and softness to the inside. “This might be heaven.”

Lisa smiled and put the container on the counter. “He’s very proud of his recipe, he’s been tinkering with it for years. I took this container before he could make the fudge icing for the top, but you’ll have to try one with the icing.”

Barry was worried that if he tried one with icing, he might find himself offering his body to Len in exchange for a constant supply of these things, they were so damn good. And wow, he did not need that mental image, thank you brain. He swallowed thick around the next bite.

“I’ll have to ask him about that.”

“You do that.”

There was a beat of silence and Barry eyed the brownie container. Lisa was positioned next to it. “Look, Barry, I know you’re mad at my brother and I don’t blame you, but I feel like there’s something you should know, something he’ll never actually tell you on his own.”

Barry’s eyes shot back to Lisa, away from the brownies. That wasn't what he’d expected, not something nearly so direct from the Golden Glider. “What’s that?”

“Lenny has a deal with the Flash.”

Barry almost choked then had to fight from bursting out laughing. Instead, his eyebrows shot up and he tried (failed) to keep a straight face. “Oh?”

“It sounds crazy, I know—him and the Scarlet Speedster have gone toe to toe so many times, I’m sure you’ve seen it on TV?”

He nodded, really unsure where Lisa was going with this. She obviously didn’t know his identity, but he really had no idea why she thought that a CSI would care about this. Or maybe he should care, as Len's boyfriend?

“Well, you might’ve guessed since you were on the crime scene, or maybe Len told you, but the Flash foiled his job the other night. And Lenny feels like he needs to keep up a tough front about that in front the Rogues, making it look like he’s seriously trying to get the Flash and beat him or kill him, because none of them know the details about this little deal, but Len even knows the Flash’s identity. He won’t tell a soul—not even me,” she pouted and Barry’s insides were debating whether to relax or tighten, “but that’s the kind of guy who Len is. He wants to see that weird red streak help people in this city, so he won’t actually fight to hurt him anymore, not since he realized what good the Flash does. He says it’s about mutual respect.”

Barry clasped his hands so they didn’t start trembling or vibrating. “I… didn’t know that. But why are you telling me all this?”

“Because I know you’re mad that Len broke into the museum and he put you in a tight spot at work, and even though you said you understand that Len is Captain Cold and you’re okay with it, I know that’s a hard pill to swallow some days. But I wanted you to know that even though Len steals and likes to dress up, he’s not such a bad person—even the Flash doesn’t mind him so much.”

“I never thought he was a bad person,” Barry stood up straight and felt the need to amend at Lisa’s skeptical glance. “I mean, okay sure, I did at first—he kidnapped people and hurt people and he—I mean he did try to kill the Flash. I had no idea what to think at first. But I know him a lot better now—obviously I do, and I trust Len completely… I’m not mad about this one job he worked, I just—why does he need to steal things in the first place? He’s so smart and skilled, he doesn’t need to steal to make a living, he just does it because it’s fun! He could be…” Barry glanced down, heart suddenly hurting, “he could be so much more.”

Lisa was quiet beside him, maybe stunned, and Barry was definitely stunned, staring down at his hands now. He wasn’t even sure where all this was coming from but it was all true. He did trust Len, and what he’d said to Caitlin and Cisco was also true—he cared about Len, and Len made him happy. But, Len wasn’t about to give up being a Rogue anytime soon.

“Len loves what he does, you know that. It makes him happy… but what he really loves is the chase, Barry—the rush.”

He didn’t know how to interpret that, biting his lip. There was something else. “And I… sometimes I wonder if he even cares about me. If I’m not just… a pleasant distraction for him. A fun game.”

Lisa put a hand on his arm until he looked at her. “Barry, trust me, Len cares about you. A lot. More than I’ve ever seen him care about anyone he was with. Please, have a little faith. If the Flash can…”

He nodded, and blew out a breath. “You’re right. If the Flash can, I guess I can too,” Barry felt some of his tension drain out, nervous and heavy and relieved all at once. Lisa had no idea the depth of that statement, but she smiled and hugged Barry, and he found himself hugging back.

 

**********

 

“Remember, Eddie,” Iris smiled and adjusted his tie. “Don’t freak out when I start to play things up, okay.”

He batted away her hands and fixed his tie. “I still don’t get why you’re gonna’ play anything up at all, babe.”

She rolled her eyes and applied her lipstick, smacking her lips. “Because Barry’s gotta’ come clean sooner or later, and he just needs a little push.” She smiled at his reflection in the mirror. “So let me do the talking, hm?”

He sighed and nodded, “we’d better hurry or we’ll be late.”

 

**********

 

By the time Len picked him up on Thursday, Barry wasn’t quite sure whether he should mention that Lisa had dropped by or not. He was still debating when there a was a knock at his door.

Barry opened the door and had the urge to slam it closed again immediately after. He didn’t. He just really wanted to. Why did Len have to look so—

“You look—um. You look.”

Len arched an eyebrow, smirking. “Tongue tied, kid?”

“That’s a nice suit.”

“I know.”

“Dick.”

That got a laugh out of Len, who’s almost-black suit fit him in ways that drew Barry’s eyes all too easily. He look edible. “You don’t look too bad yourself, though you should get that suit taken in sometime. Or just let me drag you to my tailor.”

Barry scowled and came out into the hall, turning to lock the door behind him. “I’m not that skinny.” Why did people always call him skinny?

“You’re trim, it’s not a bad thing. Anyone looks better in a suit when it’s tailored to their frame. If it makes you feel better, I can throw in a comment about how good you look in it and how much better you look out of it.”

Barry was glad he was ahead of Len going down the stairs so the other couldn’t see him try to screw up his face into something approaching neutrality instead of—whatever his face was probably doing as he avoided the mental image of him naked, of Len naked, of him being naked and Len complimenting him naked, and of—

“Pretty sure that’s not gonna’ help too much with our fake fight night, my dear almost-ex-boyfriend.” He reminded himself of the situation.

There was a pause behind him but then Len snorted, “maybe that’s what happens when we fight—I get handsy and you make me sleep on the couch?”

Barry could almost picture it, “pretty sure there’s no sleeping on the couch as neighbors. Pretty sure you’d just sleep in your own bed in that case.”

“Nope—you’re heartless, you take over my room and lock me out of your place.”

“Haha, no wait,” they were outside in the chill now, “I hack your Netflix so it’ll only play reruns of alien documentaries until you apologize.”

Len opened the car door for him, “Why Barry, that’s positively cold.”

Barry laughed then sat down and felt his stomach tighten a bit. What were they doing? This wasn’t even a real date but felt so much like one. He waited for Len to sit down. “We’re really bad at fighting.”

“No one else has to know that kid, though I’d’ve made it a real fight if you made us late.”

Barry almost smiled then steeled himself instead. “Speaking of no one knowing—about us fighting, I mean—did uh, Lisa mention anything?”

“I told her we’ve been having it out this week. She dropped by yesterday and I pulled out all the stops.”

“Right, well you should maybe lay back on the acting classes, DiCaprio.”

Len glanced over at him, and he looked like he was fighting not to smile. “Did you just make a pun on my name?”

“I—god I didn’t even plan that, how did I—this is your fault.”

Len laughed and Barry’s chest felt warm with how nice that sound was. He was so screwed. This was so much more than just wanting to see Len naked and on top of him. God he missed being in denial.

“So why should I scale it back, Barry? Thought this was the plan.”

“Yeah about that… Lisa dropped by my apartment yesterday.”

“She did WHAT—” Len slammed on the breaks to avoid hitting someone going through the 4-way stop, hand over Barry’s chest to make sure he didn’t slam forward too hard into his seatbelt. There was a tense second of breathing—Barry’s heart beating too fast—and then Len removed his hand and proceeded through the intersection.

“Sorry about that.”

“S’fine.”

“My sister went to your apartment?”

“Yeah, must’ve been right after she left your place. She brought me brownies.”

Len let out a curse under his breath, obviously directed at Lisa. Barry shrugged, “they were really good brownies. Like, amazing actually, I’m trying to ration them so I don’t just eat them all at once—”

“Eat as many as you like, Barry, I’ll make you more. The issue isn’t the brownies. What did Lisa say?”

Barry’s face scrunched up.

“Barry…”

He knew this was a bad idea. “She—well she told me about the Flash, actually.” Len shot him a glance with his eyebrows up. “I know, I almost laughed. But really, she uh, told me that Captain Cold has a deal with the Flash even, and that you—well that you and him get along well enough, and if the city’s hero can put up with what you get up to, maybe I can find it in my heart to forgive you.”

“She really said that?”

“Not exactly those words, but basically yeah? She asked me to have a little faith. And, well, I’m a bad liar, so I may have dug myself a hole by talking about how much I trust you, but I did make it up by insinuating that I wish you’d stop stealing and use your talents for good.”

Len’s expression was inscrutable, facing the road.

“Len?”

“You want me to change, Barry?”

Barry’s stomach dropped, and for some reason, this didn’t feel like the fake fight they were having a moment before. “I just don’t want to see you behind bars one day, Len. Don’t want to be the one who had to put you there.”

 

***********

 

“Well you two looking dashing this evening,” Iris West looked lovely in a red dress and Len rather thought she was putting it on thick with the compliment and smile as she leaned up to kiss Barry’s cheek.

Barry’s smile was stiff and Len knew it wasn’t even fake. The rest of the car ride had been tight and quiet and it wouldn’t be too hard to play things up over dinner. Which, apparently, was going to be necessary thanks to Lisa’s machinations.

Barry was on point though. “Thank you. Someone didn’t appreciate that I took extra time getting ready and almost made us late.”

“How you of all people manage to be late is beyond me, kid.”

Iris glanced between them and Len almost counted it as a victory until she laughed, “it’s amazing, isn’t it? Eddie was bugging me about the same thing—but I just had to find the right shade of lipstick to match his tie. I’m sure he just wanted to look nice coming out with you, Len.”

“Not nice enough, apparently, since Len thinks I need to tailor my suits.”

“All I said—”

“Was that I’m too skinny?”

“Our table’s ready, guys,” Thawne cut in, and they went through to a quiet table in the corner. Len couldn’t tell if the trim thing was an actual sore spot or just a way to play up the tension. Probably a bit of both, knowing Barry. Len filed the information away then mentally berated himself because he was filing it into ways to reassure Barry instead of ways to tear down the Flash. The lines were too blurred.

They sat without issue, but there was tension in the air. Len reminded himself that it was a good thing.

“Len, they’ve got a gratin dish on the menu.”

Len picked up his cue. “You know I'm lactose intolerant, Barry,” he frowned deliberately.

“And you know I’m allergic to bullshit and yet you still made me stop you at the museum on Halloween.”

“It’s not like you're totally innocent, Red, or did you forget about the bomb you literally dropped on my motorcycle?”

Thawne choked on his drink—“You what?”

“Hey, in my defense, I was saving Len’s life from certain doom. Halloween was not a good night and someone had to make it worse.”

Len wondered to what extent that was a lie. Barry had been smiling when they parted ways, but after talking in the car, it was hard to know.

“Oooh, I remember how mad you were when you told me about the Tricksters,” Iris leaned forward, and Len wondered what exactly else had happened that night. “I’m sure your patience was worn thin thanks to them.”

“Thanks to something.”

Iris’s eyes narrowed a bit between them and Len made sure to frown (it wasn’t hard to do) and glance sidelong at Barry. Thawne shifted and ordered wine with his meal when the waitress came by.

“You know, Barr, I get that it’s the people who are closest to us who make us worry the most. You could try just explaining to Len that you were worried about him thanks to the bomb instead of giving him the cold shoulder about it.”

“Wha—I’m not—”

“I know you, Barr,” she looked at Len and he blinked. “He always gets like this—he shuts people out when he’s worried. He learned it from dad.” Truth was apparently more mercurial in the West household than he’d realized, if Barry had been worried about him. It was news to Len.

“I didn’t—I mean sure but...” Barry sighed, “can’t you just let me be angry?”

She shook her head with a smile, “don’t be silly, Barry, you don't have to hold onto anger just 'cause you don't know how to talk about it. But god, speaking of angry, I’m ready to murder dad.” Iris sighed in a heavy, put-upon way, leaning forward toward Barry. Len was pretty sure their whole attempt at fighting might be screwed already, and her whole demeanor had shifted already as though his and Barry's fight was over. Was Barry going to be able to rally from this and keep up the tension? “D’you know what he said the other day about me ‘n Eddie? He made a joke about divorce. We aren’t even married yet and he’s already counting the days until he thinks we’re gonna’ get divorced.”

Len winced and saw Barry do the same. “Is he still being unsupportive? I thought by now—”

“Oh sure, he’s playing nice, but I know he hates it still. He still drops hints, and you can’t tell me he doesn’t complain to you about me and Eddie sometimes, thinking I won’t know.”

Barry shifted uncomfortably in his seat and Len wasn’t all too surprised. Joe West was kind of a dick, as far as he was concerned. Probably a good trait in a cop, but well, Len wasn’t a huge fan of cops.

“See? I knew it! And you know why he complains to you, Barry—”

“Iris—”

“He just won’t let it go, Barr.”

“Well, I mean… he’ll have to eventually. You and Eddie are about to be married.”

“I know, Barr, and I’m not blaming you.”

Len wondered what he was missing here, because there seemed to be something in between the lines he couldn’t figure it. Thawne was looking grumpy, taking a big drink from his wine as soon as it arrived. Iris kept talking, “I just… I just wish he could let it go, you know? Eddie being his partner, me lying to him about the start of our relationship, all of the rest of it. But it just seems like he can’t wrap his head around me getting married, and with the wedding coming up, there’s nothing to take his mind off of it. I just… I’m feeling down about it, Barr.”

Barry shot Len a glance and Len understood what it meant. Barry didn’t want to fight. Didn’t want to play it up anymore. He was worried about his sister and, well, Len could respect that. If Lisa was distraught, no matter how ridiculous, he knew he would want to make her feel better. Len turned to Iris, “anything Barry and I can do?”

“Oh!” Iris looked surprised he offered. “No, um, I don’t think so. Just listen to me vent about it?” She bit her lip, “and complain about the wedding too. There’s so much involved and my Maid of Honor needs to step up his game.”

Barry looked sheepish and Len snorted, “now that I don’t doubt. You must have all the details down by now though, right? I think Barry mentioned at some point that your wedding date is New Year’s?”

Barry shot him a eyebrows-up glance, like he was surprised Len had remembered. They’d made enough idle small talk by now though—in the stairwell, running into one another at Crossroads almost weekly, not to mention that grocery trip—and Len was used to internalizing anything about the Flash even before he and Barry had got so close.

“Yeah, New Year’s Eve actually.” She smiled at Thawne and he took her hand, relaxing, and Len almost felt himself smile for them. It was hard to find that kind of love. She was still talking about the wedding when the food arrived, “The venue, the flowers, the officiant, the dress—all that’s done. But you wouldn’t believe—our cake order just fell through!”

“What, why?”

“Well we were ordering from a local bakery but it went under! We were planning to do cheesecake but now we don’t know and I don’t know if we’ll be able to find another baker in time—it’s such a busy time of year.”

“Can’t you just order a cake from anywhere in the city?” Barry asked, and Len couldn’t deny the urge to roll his eyes.

“Wedding cakes are special, Barry, you don’t just order any old cake.”

Thank you!" Iris exclaimed, gesticulating with her fork, "Eddie’s been saying we can just get a regular cake!”

“Thawne, I’m only gonna’ say this once—no.”

Iris laughed and Thawne rolled his eyes in good humor, so Len would take it. “Have you tried calling around?”

“I did but pretty much none of them do cheesecake and other than that, me and Eddie can’t agree! I hate vanilla cake but Eddie doesn’t like chocolate. We can’t do Red Velvet because that’s Barry’s favorite and it would be too weird. I suggested a spice cake but Eddie’s mom says that’s not a cake fit for a wedding so we don’t know what to do.”

“Have you considered different types of cake for different layers?”

“Different types?”

“Plenty of people do it, it’s taking off as a trend. You can do vanilla and chocolate and spice and whatever you want…” they continued to discuss for a while, things like spice versus chocolate, different types of icing for different tiers, buttercream icing being richer and less sweet than fondant and how it would be easy to make or acquire a nondairy or lactose free tier, or even a gluten free one, until Barry and Eddie were almost half asleep sipping their drinks but Iris was grinning wide.

“Babe—problem solved!” she grabbed Eddie’s arm and he started from his near-slumber. Apparently wedding cakes weren’t exciting to everyone.

“Wh—oh right, cake. Um, sounds good to me.”

“Yes! Thank you so much, Len! We would never have thought of just doing everything if it wasn’t for you.”

He smiled and sat back, triumphant. “Always glad to talk weddings.”

“Really?”

“Absolutely, I love weddings.”

“Please tell your boyfriend that weddings are fun. I swear he can’t stand even the exciting stuff like menu selection.”

Barry cut in because he clearly had to defend himself, “it’s food. I like it all—how am I supposed to pick what’s best when I just want to eat everything in sight?”

Len rolled his eyes. “There’s where you’re going wrong, asking the guy who subsists off frozen pizza and avocadoes to pick a menu.”

Barry glared at him, “you know you still owe me guacamole for that, right?”

Len smirked. “It’s chilling in the fridge at home. Now,” he turned back to Iris, “I trust you sorted that out with the caterers already?”

“Oh yeah, months, ago, but…”

They talked all throughout the rest of dinner and Len found that Iris was incredibly easy to get along with. The conversation turned easily from weddings to other things, more comfortable than he would have expected. When the the bill finally came, Len paid for the meal. “Consider it an engagement gift, since I didn’t know you then.”

He noticed that Barry preened when he said it, and even Thawne (Eddie, maybe he should learn to call him Eddie) thanked him and smiled. Barry played it up too, kissing Len him on the cheek where Iris and Eddie could see, and Len couldn’t help the warmth or the smile that spread across his face. They left the restaurant with Len’s arm around Barry’s waist and he didn’t move it until they got in the car. Apparently they weren’t breaking up this week after all.

 

**********

 

The drive home was pleasant, a lot more than the drive there, quiet and comfortable.

“Y’know,” Barry murmured eventually, “I really am sorry about your bike.”

“No worries, Barry—or do you go by Barr? Iris calls you Barr?”

Barry’s face screwed up, “Barry, please. Iris, Joe, and… Cisco. They call me Barr. It’d be too weird from you.”

Len smiled, “that’s the thing about family. Only Lisa calls me Lenny.”

Barry laughed, rich and from his belly.

“What?”

“I’m imagining calling you Lenny. It’s kinda breaking my brain.”

Len snorted, “yeah. Don’t.”

“Good. Barry and Len. Not Barr and Lenny,” he gave an exaggerated shudder, “the ‘y’ must forever remain in my name and never in yours.”

“Never the twain shall meet,” Len nodded.

“Hey, I gotta’ ask—how do you know so much about weddings?”

“I don’t know that much, just more than you and Thawne. Thought you two might slip into a coma for a while there.”

“That’s not entirely fair, and hey, you know more than anyone but a bride, Len.”

“That’s thanks to reality TV.”

“What?”

“Reality TV. A big genre? Netflix?”

“You… no. You watch reality TV?”

“I’ve seen all the sci-fi and drama gets dull when you’re a criminal—you know how ridiculous most of it seems when you’ve actually lived through some of the shit they try to play off on shows? Reality TV’s at least entertaining.” He absolutely was not being defensive.

“Please, I have to see your Netlfix history. Stat.”

Len snorted, “I do have guacamole in the fridge. I thought we might be able to celebrate breaking up.” His gut twisted a bit when he said it, but he also knew that since the relationship, and hence the intended break up, was all a sham, he might have been able to convince Barry to come over for a bit to ‘celebrate’. It was fucked up, sure, but Len wasn’t above that.

“Celebrate? Well that’s out the window, but I hate to let the avocadoes go to waste,” he titled his head to the side to grin at Len from the passenger seat and Len resisted the urge to lean over and kiss him. He parked the car instead.

“Good, come on up.”

 

**********

 

“This show is traumatizing.”

“I told you you’d love it.”

“Why… why does it exist?”

Len clapped him on the knee, “just enjoy it, Scarlet.” Barry fought the swoop in his stomach at Len’s hand but then the other man leaned forward to grab his drink and Barry was saved from squirming when the hand moved away.

“These women are insane. We’re only on the second episode. Are they all like this?”

“You realize the show is called Bridezillas—of course they’re all like this. These aren’t even the really crazy ones yet.”

“But—how?”

Len laughed and Barry groaned. He could see what Len meant when he’d explained the show on the way up the stairs, about how any drama Iris could make as a bride and any issues selecting invitation fonts or table linens was nothing compared to what it could have been. Barry hadn’t believed him, but now he saw.

“And you enjoy watching this?”

“It’s amazing, kid. You’re just trying to take the moral high ground and trying to give these people of the benefit of the doubt. Just embrace the crazy.”

“I think you’re gonna’ have to bribe me with that guacamole now or I won’t survive another episode.”

“Coming right up.”

Len got off the couch and Barry stretched out, shaking his head at the antics of the woman and her in laws on the screen. Thank god Iris had never asked him to do… pretty much any of the things on the screen he was seeing.

“Hey Len?”

“Yep?” he was coming back into the room with a bowl of chips and a smaller bowl for the highly-anticipated avocado dip.

“D’you have any idea how to plan a bachelorette party? Iris’s is coming up and I’ll I’ve done is picked a date and invited the guest list for it.”

Len snorted, “just don’t do what you’d do for a bachelor party. Something tells me Iris won’t want strippers and Vegas.”

Barry thought about that for a second and… “you know, when her and Caitlin, or god forbid Felicity, put their heads together, strippers and Vegas almost seems tame in comparison.”

“Then you’re on your own, kid. Just ask those girls what she’d want.”

Barry sighed and took his first bite of a chip with some of the guacamole, not really thinking as he started to tune back into what was happening on the screen but—“mmff!”

He saw Len smirk beside him, “told you it’s good.”

“How do you get it to taste like that? It’s like—wow, okay, you know what, I don’t even want to know just never stop making it, okay?” Barry took another bite of the ridiculously tasty dip. It was a lot more than just avocadoes, saltier with garlic and enough lime and that was definitely pickled jalapeno and his eyes might've rolled back in his head. How long was it since he had something like this homemade? He grabbed another bite and shifted deeper into his seat, savoring it. “Can I just provide you with avocadoes for a constant supply of this?”

“It’s more fun if I steal them.”

“Got it, I’ll pretend to complain. How dare you steal my avocadoes? It’s nefarious. True villainy.” He grinned and caught Len doing the same before reaching over to gently shove Barry. His grin just grew, “no really—avocado theft if a very serious issue in the Twin cities, you know. I hear that that green grocers everywhere are lobbying for change in Congress to protect their avocadoes from people like you.”

“Barry Allen, you might be the most ridiculous person I’ve ever met.”

Barry took an exaggerated bite of a chip, knowing he was flirting like hell but completely unable to stop himself. He just barely resisted saying ‘but you love me anyway’ in response, only the fact that he currently had a mouth full of food to save him from himself.

“I take it this means that you’re gonna’ be coming over for more tv marathons in the future?”

“If the good food is the price I have to pay to watch this drivel, you win.”

Len smirked and took a chip, then leaned back and stretched his arms out along the back of the couch, kicking his feet up. It was just like watching the documentary at Barry’s place, Len’s arm suspiciously close to his shoulder, but he couldn’t find it in himself to want to move an inch away. Instead, when he finished the chips and the sinfully delicious dip, he leaned forward to put the bowl on the coffee table and let himself fall back into the couch, nestled now against Len’s side. Netflix had auto-started the next episode already and Len didn’t comment on Barry suddenly pressed against his side, even though Barry knew his own body was too tense as he waited for some reaction. After a beat, the arm settled around his shoulders and the tense and silent ‘we’re not talking about this’ moment was over, and Barry relaxed against Len. He was so screwed.

“I guess this show isn’t too bad, even if these women are nuts.”

He was too close to turn and see Len’s face, but he could hear the smile in his voice. “Not too bad at all, Scarlet.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Len woke up with a crick in his neck, brain fuzzy and taking a few moments to turn back online despite the awkwardness of his pose. He was warm and something solid and comfortable was pressed to his side, some white noise in the background and he…

He was asleep on the couch with Barry.

Well, that—ah—hm.

He peeled his eyes open and squinted around the room. The light outside the window said it was still the middle of the night sometime, Netflix was auto-playing episodes—the volume long since turned down to almost nothing—and his arm was still around Barry. Barry who was nestled to his side, snoring softly, half on Len with Len’s head tilted overtop of Barry’s. The awkwardness of the angle was definitely what woke him. And now, his heartbeat was keeping him up, a little louder and harder than he’d strictly like to admit it was.

This was maybe getting out of hand. But right now probably wasn’t the best time to contemplate that.

He’d never be able to fall back asleep as he was, but he didn’t especially want to rouse Barry and send him back home. Not to mention that he was having a hard time convincing himself to move at all. Barry’s hair smelled nice.

Okay, this was definitely getting out of hand. He should probably care more than he did.

Taking about ten more minutes of contended comfort out of the stolen cuddling before moving, Len slowly, almost agonizingly slowly so as not to disturb Barry, shifted so that the other moved into a lying down position, switching his own body for a pillow that had made its way to the floor. Then he moved quietly through the apartment to get the blanket Barry had used last time he was here and draped it over his sleeping frame. He hesitated to run his fingers through Barry’s hair again this time, his sleep so much more shallow than it had been the last time he fell asleep on Len’s couch, and flicked off the TV on his way to bed.

 

**********

 

Barry woke in the morning to vague memories of passing out on Len’s couch, mostly on Len, and of waking up halfway through the night on the couch alone, stripping out of his jeans and shirts because he was overheating and hell, Len had seen it all before, and stretching back out on the couch, passing out for a few more hours.

He slept on his stomach, blanket tangled around his legs, and propped his head up when he heard noise in the kitchen.

“G’morning,” his voice sounded sleepy even to his own ears.

“Good morning, Barry,” Len sure sounded smug this morning. Barry wondered if he should be embarrassed about passing out half on the man. Probably.

“Y’know,” he called, sitting up and taking a minute to stretch. Len came and leaned against the wall of the kitchen and the dining room where it opened to the living room. “This is your fault.” The best defense was a good offense, after all. He dropped back against the couch cushions before he noticed Len’s eyes were fixed on him. There was a pause.

“Len?”

“Coffee?” he turned abruptly and Barry stood to follow him.

“Yes, please, god.”

“What were you saying?”

“That it’s your fault I fell asleep on your couch. You made me watch that ridiculous show until it turned my brain to mush.”

He dragged a hand over his face to stifle a yawn and scratched the back of his head. When he opened his eyes Len hadn’t moved to pour any coffee.

“You okay?”

“You gonna’ put any clothes on?”

Oh. Barry looked down at himself, realizing he was still in his underwear. Then his brain connected a few dots, “am I making you uncomfortable?” It was out of his mouth before his brain was quick enough to stop it, and he probably shouldn’t have grinned when he said it, leaning forward just a bit. But then, anyone slower than Barry wouldn’t have caught the way the other man’s eyes dilated when he said it, and he didn't regret saying it as much as he should have.

“Not at all, Barry.”

He swallowed when Len finally handed him a cup of coffee and their fingers brushed. Len was in a pair of jeans and a grey t-shirt, something Barry seldom got to see him in, and the t-shirt was hugging his body, showing off his arms, and—“Good,” Barry landed on, before taking a gulp of the coffee. And now he was stuck in his underwear or else backing down from the implicit challenge. Smooth, he told himself, well done, Allen. And then he pursed his lips because his internal monologue was judging him and it wasn’t even—

“What time is it?”

“There is a clock right there.”

“Oh shi—I’m late—how the hell did I sleep past nine—” he was gone, pushing the coffee mug into Len’s hands on his way out, remembering belatedly to grab his clothes off Len’s living room floor this time, and then finally made his way to work.

 

**********

 

By two pm on Sunday, Barry had exhausted all other options. He’d patrolled the city, bothered Cisco for an hour to find things for the Flash to do, found out Joe was busy with an old friend from college and Iris was out with Linda, and then finally broke down and decided he needed to do his laundry.

He just… needed… to… there was nothing left to do. Even his apartment was clean. Maybe he could go bug Len, but the other was normally out on the weekends doing... something. Probably Rogue stuff. Maybe Barry should tail him one of these days, but that would probably go against their truce. And, well, the thought of keeping tabs on Len was just an uncomfortable thought. But Len had been really helpful with the Top, so maybe there was some room to—

Barry sighed and snatched up his first load of laundry, tossing it into a basket. Asking Len to change was obviously not something that sat well with the man. There was so much good in him, but Barry couldn’t force him to give up being a criminal, so he should probably—

“Argh!”

“Len!”

“Watch where you’re going, kid!”

They were out in the hall and Barry’s laundry basket had knocked into Len’s arm, walking right into him as he left his apartment, toppling a to-go cup of Crossroads coffee—no doubt another almond vanilla latte—all over the other man. Barry dropped the laundry basket and rushed forward at superspeed, then stopped—the laundry basket dropping behind him—because what was he about to do, strip off Len’s shirt in the hall? Not that it wasn’t an appetizing image but—

“Sorry—crap—I was about to do laundry, I didn’t even see you.”

“Uh huh,” Len was turning and Barry followed him into his apartment, watching him shrug out of his jacket and turn toward the hall.

“I am sorry you know—and hey, it’s my turn to buy coffee next anyway, so we’ll just count me as double?”

They had a bit of a game now whenever they ran into one another at Crossroads for who could by coffee for the other quicker. The baristas had started keeping score before eventually they had slipped into alternating so that Barry and Len could keep it fair.

“You have nothing better to do on a weekend afternoon than your laundry?” Len called from his room, and Barry poked his head around the corner into the hall. Which was an excellent idea, because Len was pulling off his shirt in his room. Those tattoos, oh how he’d missed them.

“Barry?”

“Huh?”

Len smirked from down the hall and moved to his dresser to grab out a shirt. He was only out of Barry’s line of sight for a second then back, standing in the doorway, pausing, still half naked. “Distracted?”

“Is this payback for the other morning?” The line came out without his permission, and he really needed to get a handle on that because that was basically an admission. He had a serious problem if he was admitting to Len that he was checking him out. Except that he was blatantly checking Len out. Which he should stop doing. Any second now.

“Is it working?” And oh, Len was doing it on purpose. The smug bastard. He just stretched his arms over his head to pull on the fresh shirt and Barry wanted to hit his head against the wall. He didn’t look away though, because if Len was gonna’ be a dick, he’d at least get in his moment of ogling. 

“I deny everything,” Barry decided when Len started back down the hall with a grin pulling at his features.

“You’re too obvious for that, kid.”

“And you’re a jerk.”

“You already knew that,” he grabbed his keys off the counter with an eyebrow arched at Barry, who sighed.

“There’s no winning with you.”

“Nope. Now get out of my apartment, I have places to be.”

“Places to be, things to steal, havoc to wreak?”

Len shot him a withering look but didn’t exactly deny it, just grabbed his jacket and Barry followed him back out into the hall. Back out to where his laundry basket was waiting. Right, that.

“Ugh. I hate laundry. I have about seven loads waiting at this point.”

“That’s sad, even for you.”

Barry rolled his eyes at Len’s back while he locked his apartment. “I just hate the building machines, they’re so slow and I always have to watch my stuff, ever since that time my favorite jeans disappeared.”

“Why don’t you just buy machines for your apartment? They fit in the storage room, you know.”

Barry stopped midway through bending to pick up his basket of laundry and looked up at Len. There was a pause as they looked one another in the eye, Barry already hoping, gathering breath to ask—

“No.”

“I didn’t even get to ask!”

“No, you can’t use my laundry machines.”

“Len, come on—”

“Did you not hear me?”

“Have a heart?”

“Nope.”

“Come on—please, Len, friend, buddy, pal, best boyfriend in the world, wonderful—”

“The answer is still—”

“—partner, handsomest and most charming—”

“Now you’re just—”

“—man I know, moon of my life, sexual dynamo—”

“This is getting ridiculous.”

“—tantric and creative and—look, seriously I could go on Len, just let me do my laundry at your place.”

If nothing else, Len looked caught between laughing and cringing. “How much do you hate laundry, Barry?”

“A lot.”

“What’s in it for me?”

Barry swallowed, “um, ah—what’d you want?”

“I’ll let you know when I get back. You’re not doing your laundry without me home.”

“Right. Cool. Cool cool cool. Okay.”

“You’re rambling.”

“I’ll see you later.”

At least he got to put off laundry for a few more hours.

 

**********

 

Barry was in his apartment doing laundry and Len was trying not to grind his teeth or let his leg jitter too obviously. He was frustrated, at his table, reading a book—the same page over and over, really—with a tumbler of whiskey close by. He had a cold drink and a handsome man in his apartment. By all rights, he should be happy. And he’d had a good, simple gig earlier with Mardon, who wanted help stealing a particular present for Shawna’s birthday, and they’d been in and out without tripping any alarms, no Flash to worry about, easy as pie. By all rights, he should be celebrating. He should be taking Mardon up on his offer of a drink instead of back at his apartment to babysit Barry while he did laundry.

By all rights, he should be doing anything but staring blankly at words on a page and trying not to be hyperaware of the speedster folding clothes in his storage room, humming to himself and occasionally singing a few lines of whatever top-40 song was stuck in his head, some song Len recognized from Barry singing it in the shower all week, a habit he hadn't given up after discovering Len could hear that.  

And really, by all rights, Len could be doing anything but exercising all his available willpower not to march in there and pick Barry up and drop him on Len’s bed instead. Anything but imagining how he would take Barry apart with his hands and mouth before the kid even knew what hit him. Anything but picturing the noises Barry might make when he—

This was Barry’s fault. If he got a hard on while sitting in his kitchen trying to read, it was definitely going to be Barry’s fault. Len finished the rest of his whiskey.

“Shouldn’t someone like you be able to fold faster than that, kid?” he called over his shoulder, if only to distract himself. Barry had said he hated laundry, after all.

“Then I don’t get the excuse of looking around your storage!”

Len snorted—as if he’d keep anything suspect around his regular apartment other than the gun and costume, especially living next door to Barry. And the parka he had several of, mostly stored at his safehouses. The one here was just a back up, anyway.

“Good luck with that,” he tried to refocus on his book, but a half second later, Barry was sitting on the chair next to him with a whoosh that flipped a few pages and lost his spot. He scowled, mostly for posterity, because Barry was grinning.

“That’s three loads done already!”

Len sighed and sat back. “You owe me.”

“Absolutely.”

He agreed too easily. It had to stay in their ‘personal’ lives instead of their costumed ones—of that much, he was certain. But the problem was that Len hadn’t even figured out what he’d wanted. Except that he was very tempted to ask for a kiss. Or a blowjob. Which was a very bad idea, all things considered, but he was slowly going crazy.

“At some point, Barry, we’re actually going to have to talk about this.”

“About... my laundry favor?”

Len gave him a flat look, and watched Barry’s face go through a complicated set of emotions—surprise, embarrassment, chagrin, and then nervousness, before he schooled it into something that looked like he was going for open and neutral but failed horribly.

“Oh. Um. Yeah,” he scratched the back of his head and looked away when Len didn’t say anything. “I guess we should. It's been getting...”

Len almost kicked himself. He wasn’t actually ready to talk about it right now—not when he had zero idea what he was actually hoping to get out of this beyond some shared orgasms. He really should’ve just asked for the damn blowjob and smirked while he did it. There was almost a 50/50 chance he’d have got it, judging by the way Barry stared at him earlier. Maybe he could still salvage this.

“Although…there are other things we could do besides talking about it,” he leaned toward Barry just slightly, letting his voice go a little darker and watching Barry’s reaction—the way his eyes flared open a little wider, and how his Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. Definitely should be asking for a blowjob. Worst case scenario would be not getting one. Best case scenario—

“What, ah, did you have in mind?” oh, Barry’s voice was raspy. That was good. That was very good. This might actually happen. This might be worth skipping out on drinks to stay home and do laundry. This might—

“Well since we both get so easily distracted…”

Barry burst out laughing, “that’s really what you’re leading with? Wait, was that a ‘let’s go get distracted together’ or a ‘this is me reminding you how good I look without a shirt on’? Because the second might actually work but the first one needs some work.”

“I—are you telling me I’m not smooth?” Len glared, doubting Barry would have been amenable to him just saying he wanted to fuck over every surface of the apartment.

“I’m just saying your lines could use some work.”

“So what would you have said?”

He paused and thought and Len had to fight from grinning. “Okay, well assuming you’re trying to seduce me…” Len nodded casually, if a little stiff—because he wasn't about to deny it if was on the table, and who the hell did Barry think he was, insulting Len’s lines? Barry kept talking, a little more confident and a little more nervous at the same time, “good, right, so then—something sexier, for sure. Nothing that cheesy. More like… putting a hand on my thigh, saying something like ‘I’ve been thinking about doing this for a long time, Barry’,” his voice dropped lower but in a ridiculous mimicry of Len’s and it was Len’s turn to burst out laughing.

“Is that what you think I sound like?”

"Oh come on, that was just an impression!"

"No, kid, that was a monstrosity. But okay—I'll try your ridiculous line then.” He leaned forward again and put a hand on Barry’s thigh, Barry’s laughter dying off with a strangled sound, “Because I have been thinking about this for a long time, Barry.”

“Oh fuck.”

“C’mere,” he pulled Barry forward and the most surprising part to Len was that the other went willingly, and the next thing he knew they were both standing together, pressing together—kissing. Finally. Yes, wow, he was kissing Barry. It felt abrupt and sudden and wonderful and like he'd been waiting forever to do it. And he had been waiting, waiting for weeks, if not months, thinking about it daily since the last time they’d kissed in his kitchen that morning. And now, without any complaint or coercion, Barry was in his arms, eager, pressing forward, hands on Len’s arms and mouth hot and wow—yes, this. Len put a hand into Barry's hair because it was so damn soft and Barry moaned into the kiss and Len might just die happy before they ever made it to the bedroom, pulling Barry flush against him.

He licked his way into Barry’s mouth the same moment that Barry’s phone rang. Len was going to kill someone. Barry pulled back abruptly, cheeks flushed, eyes dark, expression pained—“I should—”

Len nodded and Barry pulled it out of his pocket, wincing at the name on the screen, moving back enough to answer it. “Hey, Cisco—I’m kinda’ busy right now so—whoa slow down, what happened?”

Len dropped his head onto Barry’s shoulder with a sigh, hands relaxing on his waist. There went that plan. He didn’t even need to hear the rest of the conversation, contemplating his blue balls.

“At the prison? Right now?” Len perked up a bit. Iron Heights? Barry’s stance was already different, tense and alert suddenly, like he was set to run. “I’m on my way.” He ended the call.

“I’ve gotta’—”

“Run, I know. Go be a hero.”

Barry smiled at him with relief for the fraction of a second it took for him to disappear from Len’s arms. Of all the—

Oh hell. What was he doing? Len felt chill suddenly, alone in his apartment, and went to make himself another drink, trying to figure out what the hell he was gonna’ do after he and Barry tumbled into bed together. Because if he stopped lying to himself, he knew it was really only a matter of time, and after that… he wasn’t so sure.

 

**********

 

Lisa and Len grabbed lunch the next day. Barry hadn’t shown back up the night prior and there had been a break out from Iron Heights again, it was all over the news. Someone had died—some old crazy guy named Jesse—and Roscoe had escaped, apparently, alongside some kid named Axel Walker, and wouldn’t you know it, alongside their father, Lewis Snart. All thoughts of talking about progress with Barry or how to pursue this disappeared from his brain as soon as he’d seen that. Then it was down to priorities. Len didn’t know much about the escape yet, but he needed to see how Lisa was doing.

“I'm fine, Lenny,” she stabbed at her food with her fork. “Him being out doesn’t mean anything.”

He pursed his lips and sat back, “it’s been almost ten years since he was last out.”

“Almost ten years and we have the Rogues now, our wicked guns, and the entire city knows your name.” She leaned forward earnestly, “and we have each other, Len.”

“We always had each other.”

“I know. That’s why I know we’ll be fine.”

 

***********

 

She swung by his apartment after, both of them wanting to spend a little more time together, neither about to admit it. He stopped inside the building door to grab his mail, a postman there dropping things off, pinning a delivery notice to Barry’s mailbox.

“Barry Allen, 4C?”

The mailman looked up, “that you?”

“Sure.” Len didn’t really think twice about it, and the postman shrugged and handed over the pen pad for him to sign. He did a loopy approximation of Barry’s signature and took the proffered package with his most disarming smile before heading up the stairs.

“You two get more domestic every time I stop by,” Lisa’s voice had a smile in it, the first real one all day, he noticed. He could play along, if it kept her smiling.

“Must be why his laundry has started taking over my storage room.”

“Oh?” she had a tinkle in her voice, “you’re kidding?”

“Not at all,” he moved into the apartment and dropped the package on the counter, Lisa moving over to it behind him.

“Oh-ho! Lenny, apparently you two aren’t that old and domestic and boring yet.”

“Why’s that?”

She was staring down at the unobtrusive box with a wicked grin. “Because I know what website your darling’s been ordering from.”

 

***********

 

Barry’s night had been hell and he was tense and tied in knots about it (metaphorical knots, small favors, though right now literal ones might be easier for him to deal with). Apparently, the Tricksters were particularly adept at breaking out of Iron Heights, considering this was the third time they’d broken out, separately or together. This time, they had the help of Roscoe Dillon, without whom their plan wouldn’t have worked at all. But clearly, something had gone horribly wrong along the way, because instead of Jesse James making it out, a man named Lewis Snart had killed him—they had the security footage to show it, footage that had been disturbing and Barry shuddered thinking of it. Lewis dragged an irate Axel off with him, Roscoe seemingly more willing to turn over charge to Lewis and following.

Barry had some uncomfortable questions to ask. Of his boyfriend. Who was definitely his boyfriend. In some murky, impossible way, because they’d made out last night. Right before he’d run off to try and stop his boyfriend’s father from breaking out of prison. And then visited his own father in prison to let him know he was dating someone because the last thing he wanted was for his dad to hear this from someone else, and at the rate he was going, everyone was going to know he was dating Len. So yeah, telling his dad. But leaving names out. He couldn't remember his exact words, a quick chat with his father outside before returning him to his cell, but it had been something like, "So, just so you don't hear it from anyone else, I'm dating someone. It's a guy. He's a bad influence. I'll visit soon and give you details. It's not as bad as it sounds." He probably shouldn’t have had that conversation in the Flash suit. Or at all. But he'd been high off the kiss and hadn't yet found it it was Len's father who broke out and, well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Barry’s life was a mess. His couch pillow was judging him. The pillow he was currently trying to smother himself with. Because he’d just gotten home—he’d been out all afternoon at a crime scene and couldn't sneak away from work. Apparently someone had stolen a rather expensive set of jewellery from a private collection and hadn’t tripped any alarms in the process, so it had taken over a day for the owner to notice it was missing. His preliminary analysis told him that security system had been frozen stiff for the duration of the job, thanks to the time lag in the system’s records and, well, Barry could guess who had stolen that, considering Len had been cagey about what he was up to the day before.

Len. His boyfriend. Who stole jewellery. Who created cases that Barry processed evidence on. Whose father had broken out of prison and killed a guy. At least he knew for sure Len had nothing to do with that. Because he’d been kissing Len at the time. Len, who kissed like he knew exactly how to turn Barry on. 

Barry yelled into his pillow.

Were they boyfriends? It was hard to tell. Maybe fake relationships couldn’t turn into real ones. Maybe they needed to break up first and start dating properly. Was that a thing? A real first date? But what would they tell people? Oh god, what if they had kids and their kids asked how they met and how they got together and they had to say it was all a lie and—

Barry laughed a little hysterically into the pillow, hugging it closer. He wasn’t even making sense anymore.

Giving himself another minute to wallow in confusion, Barry finally dragged himself off the couch. If nothing else, he had laundry at Len’s he needed to pick up, and he was only delaying the inevitable awkwardness, not to mention he needed clothes to wear, pretty much on his last outfit.

He knocked on Len's door and tried to steel his nerves. He was the Flash. He could talk to his boyfriend about anything, certainly about his father breaking out of prison. Why was it easier to contemplate fighting Captain Cold in costume than talking to him over coffee?

Lisa answered the door. Barry really should have seen that coming, all things considered.

“Lisa!”

“Barry, do come in,” she smiled and stood back and he slid through the doorway a little awkwardly but with only minor flailing. He was too tense. Oh god he was sweating. He wanted to abort this plan already. He pushed through the panic, moving toward Len, who was leaning against the fridge. The Snarts liked to hangout in the kitchen. Both seemed a little tense, Len more obviously so, and neither had commented on Barry's supreme awkwardness (yet).

“Hey, guys.” Maybe he shouldn't talk about this with Lisa here, he decided. Too much mess. “I, umm… left some laundry here? Unless this is a bad time.” Please let it be a bad time.

“Not bad at all, cutie pie," Lisa leaned in the doorway of the kitchen and Barry was caught standing awkwardly, because Len's pose didn't really invite any 'hello' kiss or affection. Wait, shit, he wasn't mad at Barry for leaving last night, was he? "Actually, there’s something else here that belongs to you.”

“Oh?” Barry swallowed when Lisa didn't respond, just smiled, and he looked to Len for assistance. He nodded to a box on the counter.

“Came for you in the mail today. You were out so I signed for it.” His expression was hard to read. He didn't seem mad. It was more... carefully neutral. Barry was sure he was missing something, it was just a nondescript box. He moved closer even as Lisa tapped on it.

“It is nice that lovedreamer.com uses such a discrete cover, isn’t it?”

Instead of blushing, the blood drained from Barry’s face. Oh. Oh no. “I—uh—”

“Lenny said he had no idea, I hope this isn’t a sign he’s not treating you right?”

Oh god. Barry almost choked, and then he did blush, bright red, not sure if he should look at Lisa—smirking—Len—avoiding his gaze—or the box—betraying him.

“Wh—oh, no—ah, Len is great,” that didn’t sound inspiring, “amazing, actually, generous—ah,” Barry had no idea what Len would be like as a lover but he could imagine, had imagined, was suddenly imagining, oh god, “and very skilled. Knows what he's doing. Especially with his hands, and his tongue, actually, and—”

“Oh god, darling, I don’t actually want to know,” Lisa effectuated a shudder. “That’s already more detail than I needed.”

Barry wished the kitchen floor would swallow him. Right now seemed like a great time to practice vertical phasing. It was almost a shame Lisa didn’t know he was the Flash, it would be so much easier to escape this conversation.

“Right,” his rasped out the word. No one else said anything. Len wasn’t helping, but at least he looked like he was holding back laughter now, one eyebrow arched. Barry forged on with the only thing he could think of. “It was meant to be a surprise. For Len.”

Lisa nodded, her calm restored and amused again. “That’s what I figured. And since it’s here, why don’t I head out, and let you boys get to… whatever it is you’re going to do. Lenny could use some cheering up.”

She winked and waltzed past Barry, and Len passed him too to lock the door behind her. Barry just dropped his forehead against the nearest cupboard and tried to quell his mortification. Somehow, this might actually be worse than asking about Len’s father.

Len came and stood beside him and Barry couldn’t convince himself to look at the other man. “Nothing to be embarrassed about, kid. You’re human. Or, well, meta-human.” Barry shook his head, not turning to face Len. What would he see on the other’s face—humor? Pity? Embarrassment? Arousal? God, any and all of those, maybe. Barry threw himself a short mental pity party, distracted, sighing. But then there was the distinct sound of slicing and the scrtttch of cardboard and—

“Len! You can’t open it!”

It was too late. Barry’s cheeks flared red hot to life as the outer innocuous cardboard box gave way to another far more ornate box inside, one that proudly displayed its contents. Len was looking straight down into it and there, inside and happily sitting atop Len’s counter, was a silver blue dildo, and not a small one either. Definitely not a small one. It looked so much bigger in person than it had on the website.

“That’s not what I expected.” Len's voice sounded too hoarse.

Barry snatched the box away and closed the outer box’s flaps at lightning speed, holding it away from Len, against his chest. “Why would you open it?!”

“Because I was curious!”

“About my sex toys?! That’s none of your business!”

“You just told Lisa it was a surprise for me—what if she asks?”

It was a flimsy excuse considering how clear she'd made it that she really had zero desire to know, but even so—“You’re not under any obligation to tell her!”

“I thought it would be a vibrator, kid, but chill. I don’t care what sex toys you’re buying.”

“It is a felony to open another person’s mail you know!”

That’s your biggest issue here, Scarlet?”

“I hate you so much right now,” Barry groaned, looking heavenward. He wanted to be back in his apartment, with his couch pillow to hide him from the world. 

Len chuckled, relaxing slightly, “you know, Barry, embarrassment aside, I think this is the part where a good boyfriend would offer to help you out with that.”

Barry’s cheeks definitely heated back up. “I—god okay that mental image is not fair, Len—” the man’s eyes widened and Barry realized, probably belatedly, that that was supposed to be a joke. Not helping. “—but ah, we do have other stuff to talk about. Stuff that isn’t my laundry, either.”

“Let’s not. This topic is much more fun.”

“Len—your father broke out of prison last night, and I need some information.”  

Chapter Text

In retrospect, Barry decided, that statement might have gone over better if he wasn't holding a box with a large blue dildo in it while he said it.

“Excuse me?”

Yep. Definitely would feel better if he wasn’t still holding the box. Clutching it really, a bit like a shield now, because Len’s whole pose had shifted and he looked actually mad.

“Your father, prison, killed one of the Tricksters, took Roscoe Dillon along—kinda’ hoping you might be willing to answer some questions?”

“I do happen to watch the news, you know. I’m aware what happened.”

“Len, I’m not accusing you of anything here,” he put the box back on the counter and let himself get more serious. “I just want to know if you might be able to help me track them down.”

“And why would I do that?”

Right. Of course. Why would Len want his father back in prison? The most Barry could probably hope for was him not inviting the man to join the Rogues. “He killed a guy, Len.”

“Not my problem.”

“Can’t you just—”

No.”

Barry stepped back and ran a hand through his hair, looking at the cupboards. “I’m worried he’s gonna’ kill innocent people, Len. His rap sheet is nasty enough without him working alongside Dillon and Walker—not to mention that’s a powder keg, because he killed Walker’s father.”

“We’ve got a deal, Barry. I don’t bother you about your Flash business and you stay out of my Rogues business. I don’t intend to help you bust criminals.”

Barry wanted to point out that he hadn’t had an issue helping where The Top was concerned, but of course it would be different with family. Highlighting that wouldn't help though, so he nodded instead. “Okay. I can respect that.” He bit his lip. He wanted to ask how Len was doing, how tense he seemed, if he planned to see his father. It was all from a personal vantage point now, switching gears, but he didn’t think Len would believe that right after the Flash line of questioning, or that he’d really be open to answering anyway.

“I guess I should get my laundry out of your place.”

“Feel free to finish it, I know you have more left.”

Barry’s eyebrows shot up, “wh—okay. Yeah. Sure. Thank you.”

Len nodded and Barry realized it was kind of a different sort of truce, Len letting him know he was still welcome. Barry managed to smile while folding clothes and switching the loads, despite himself. He was nervous about Lewis Snart, but until the man could be found, Barry could let it rest. He could hear the sound of the TV a few minutes later, saw Len on the couch reading off a tablet with the television on in the background, and came to sit down, stopping at the pantry on the way to grab some chips, tuning in to ‘An Idiot Abroad’ since Len had put it on.

Barry hung around until his laundry was all done. They didn’t really talk, watching TV, reading, and moving around one another mostly, but he had the feeling Len enjoyed the company. And Barry had no idea where or what they were now, the painful reminder of how complex their lives were jarring his thoughts away from him and Len and a bed, things still a little awkward between them, but this was good too, at least for now. Being in limbo wasn’t so bad.

 

**********

 

It was a few days before Barry saw Len again. The other was out a lot, and Flash business did actually keep Barry busy most days, on top of everything else in his life like family, friends, work, and weddings. He had coffee with Iris and tried to be supportive—watching Bridzillas was helping him gain some perspective—and let her complain about how frustrating her dad was being. He had Cisco come over and hang out, almost laughing at the way Cisco pointed at the door of Len's apartment with wide eyes and an "oh man, right there? Right there?" and Barry had to nod. It was almost a shame Len wasn't home that night, because Cisco's brain probably would have exploded at seeing him in his home life. Barry remembered the feeling.

But Barry could pretty much always trust that sooner or later, he and Len would run into one another, and it only stood to reason that it happened at Crossroads. Barry was in line and hoping not to be late for work when he felt an arm slide around his waist. He didn’t even start in surprise, used to this routine.

“Morning, handsome,” he tilted his head to look at Len.

“Darling.” Len smirked. He only called Barry that in public, around cafes or the bank or the deli, when they ran into one another.

“You’ve gotta’ come up with a better pet name one of these days.”

Len squeezed his waist, outside his jacket. There was snow in his hair. “Should I call you ‘baby’?”

Barry laughed and nudged him, “only if you want to see me laugh so hard I cry.”

“The usual, guys?”

Len nodded at Shirley, one of their favorite baristas, and Barry elbowed in front of him. “It’s my turn to pay, darling.”

“You know that sounds better coming from me.”

“You know it makes you sound like an old man?”

Len pinched his ass and he squeaked—“I am trying to pay!”

He shrugged and smiled, unrepentant. “I’m not stopping you.”

Barry turned back to Shirley, who looked like she was stifling giggles. “Is he this insufferable when I’m not around?”

“I plead the fifth,” she winked, and Barry wondered how Len had all the baristas in his pocket. It definitely wasn’t fair.

“Good girl,” Len dropped a few extra bills in the tip jar and Barry called foul, dragging him away from Shirley, who waved. Their drinks were already ready by the time they made it away from the till to the pickup counter.

Len’s arm was back around him as they exited the café, and Barry smiled into his coffee, letting himself enjoy it for a second. This was nice. This was easy. This was the same as they’d been doing most times they ran into one another in the café over the past several weeks, playing it up because it was fun to push one another’s buttons, at first, and then because it became an easy rhythm. But now he almost felt like he had the option of leaning in and kissing Len before zipping to work, except that Len still pulled his arm away as soon as they weren’t in front of the café anymore.

Barry scowled, the November chill suddenly actually feeling cold. “You know, you were kind of right.”

“About what?” Len sipped his coffee as snowflakes fell around them.

“That we should talk about this.” Barry waved between them, a little surprised when Len didn’t smile but sighed and looked ahead, titling his head and considering. “What?”

“You know there’s only one way this ends, right Barry?”

“You mean with a happy ending?” Barry waggled his eyebrows and sipped his drink. 

“And after we’ve fucked it out of our systems?”

Barry tripped—on ice, definitely on the ice—and almost fell, flailing, barely catching himself with a hand on Len’s shoulder, superspeed the only reason he didn’t lose his coffee. “Wh—um, well since you put it that way… wait, how do you think this ends?” He pulled his arm back and hid his face in his coffee, taking a gulp that almost burned his throat. They weren’t even a foot apart. He was so used to being in Len’s space now, this type of nonexistent distance, but now it was nerve-wracking all over again. Did Len really think that having sex would—what, dispel the feelings between them? If anything, Barry was sure it would just make him care about Len more.

“Come over tonight, we can talk about it.”

“I’m at Joe’s for supper tonight.”

“Tomorrow, then.”

Barry nodded, almost queasy with anticipation. Was he going over to Len’s to get dumped or to get distracted again? God, if his brain supplied that as a new euphemism he was totally screwed. Well, hopefully screwed. God, if this went well, he might actually get good and properly screwed, finally, but if not—

“Tomorrow.” He never did kiss Len before zooming away, stomach swooping regardless. There were a million reasons why Len might think this was a bad idea, but Barry could hope.

 

***********

 

Dinner with Joe was mostly good, except for the nerves in Barry’s stomach. He knew Joe could tell something was up, because Joe always knew when there was something going on with him. He’d mostly been dodging Joe’s questions about how chipper Barry seemed over the last month, and Joe was mostly letting it be, even if he was suspicious. It was good to catch up, and he really did miss seeing Joe now that he didn't live at home anymore, even though they saw each other at the precinct all the time, not to mention with any tough Flash business.

But then the conversation turned to Iris and Eddie while Barry was doing dishes, and he found himself getting more and more frustrated by Joe’s complaints about how involved their wedding was becoming. Compared to Bridezillas, their wedding was nothing.

“It’s not just the wedding, Barr, you know that,” Joe crossed his arms and leaned against the counter, replying to Barry’s comment about how easy the planning really had been so far.

“Come on, Joe—they’re really happy together. It would mean so much to Iris and Eddie if you actually told them that you support them together, not just tolerate it.”

“But I don’t support them together, I just tolerate it.”

“They’re about to get married.”

“And I don’t support it.”

“Why not? Iris is happy.”

“For now.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You and I both know that there is someone else that Iris should be building her life with, Barry.”

“What—no, Joe. Not that again,” he practically groaned, drying his hands on a tea towel. “Iris is happy with Eddie and I'm done with that, I’ve spent the last eight months moving on from that. I moved out and stop going to Jitters and I’m finally not thinking about her all the time.” Or, ever, really, he realized suddenly. Not never, but not romantically ever. He hadn’t thought of Iris romantically since…

“But Eddie isn’t right for her.”

“How can you be sure? Sometimes people will surprise you with who they should be with.”

“I know my kids, Barry. He isn’t a good fit for Iris.”

Barr’s hackles started to rise. “Your support means so much to her. Eddie is great for her—he loves her so much, Joe, anyone can see that. And Iris might surprise you. She’s happy and there’s no reason to think that Eddie doesn’t make her happy or won’t in the future.” His arms moved as he talked, gesturing broadly, trying to get the point across to Joe.

“It’s not a match, Barry.”

“It’s a great match, Joe. The best!” he punctuated it by slamming his hand to the counter’s surface. The vehemence surprised Joe, who looked confused, eyebrows raised.

“C'mon, Barry, you know I can't fully support my kids being with anyone who I don’t think will make them happy.”

“Then there’s no way you’re ever gonna’ support who I’m with.” His heart hammered behind his ribcage. Oh. Oh no. Oh no oh no no no. What was he doing? What the hell was he doing?

“Who you’re… you’re dating someone, Barry? Since when?”

“Months. I’ve been seeing him for months.” He needed to stop talking. Words needed to stop coming out of his mouth.

Joe’s eyebrows shot up. “Him? And months? Oh you don’t think I wouldn’t support it because you’re dating a man? You know that’s not an issue, Barr. I knew something was going on with you. Is that why you didn’t tell me?”

“No, I didn’t tell you because the person I’m dating is Leonard Snart.”

 

***********

 

Len wasn’t expecting the knock at his door later that evening, close to midnight. He was surprised then tense, not prepared to talk to Barry yet, but maybe this was for the best. Maybe he could just rip off the band-aid and say what needed to be said if he didn’t think about it too much.

“Barry,” the kid looked like hell, “to what do I owe the pleasure?”

“We need to talk.”

Len let him in and watched him grab a beer from the fridge, which was pretty much a first because he always opted for water, then continued to just stare as Barry muttered, “I wish this had some effect,” before chugging the whole thing.

“Everything okay, Scarlet?”

“Mm.”

Len watched his throat constrict, transfixed until the drink was done and he dropped the empty bottle on the counter with an admittedly less attractive burp. Barry didn’t even seem to care, just waltzed to Len’s living room and dropped onto the couch, laying down with his feet up, depositing a pillow on top of his face.

“You’re starting to worry me, kid.”

“iscrdp,” came the muffled sound from under the pillow.

“What was that?”

It lifted off Barry’s face long enough for him to say, “I screwed up” before it was deposited again. Len huffed and rolled his eyes, not that Barry could see it, before lifting his feet on the couch and sitting in the space they were taking, dropping Barry’s legs down onto his lap.

“What happened?”

The pillow made it’s way under Barry’s head instead of over it, and with a put-upon sigh he sat up and leaned forward, legs still over Len’s lap so that they were sitting perpendicular.

“You’re gonna’ kill me.”

Len eyed him suspiciously. “What did you do?”

“Do you have any plans for Thanksgiving?”

Len blinked. Thanksgiving was still two weeks away and he was planning on being broken up with Barry by the end of the week, or day if possible. He'd given it a lot of thought and figured it was the only way that either of them were going to salvage their sanity or come out of this growing mess intact (and he wasn't about to admit he came to this conclusion with the new development of his father being out, but privately he knew it wasn't helping). “You made Thanksgiving plans for us?”

“And you really have to come. Like really. It’s super important. Kind of life and death.”

“Don’t be dramatic.”

“I’m not.”

“What the hell kind of plans did you make, Barry?”

“I told Joe about us.”

Len felt his chest constrict and his jaw dropped. “You told Joe West about us?!” he was on his feet, Barry’s legs dropped unceremoniously onto the ground, but instead of standing up and yelling back, Barry moved into a sitting position and put his head in his hands, pulling his hair with a groan.

“I know. I know, I know—and I knew you’d be mad and it was stupid and I shouldn’t have done it but he was being such an asshole about Eddie and Iris and I needed to say something to get it through his head that they are actually a totally logical couple that can be happy and have him give up the dream of me and Iris being together.”

Len breathed deep, slow, calming breaths while Barry talked, counting the seconds on the exhale so he didn’t blow up. But then he forgot to to breath at all because—

“You and Iris?! Isn’t she like your—that’s why you didn’t like it when I said she was your sister?”

“She isn’t my sister—” Barry’s head shot up.

“So you do have a thing for her—”

“I used to—the whole point of moving into this apartment was to get over her!” Barry stood as he spoke, arms out wide and panicked, “I gave up my old coffee stop and living with Joe and all the things we used to do together so I could move on after she got engaged to Eddie, and I’m happy for them! And I’m happy for me! Happier than I’ve ever been because I can finally spend time with her and not wish I was with her! I’m finally over her for real and now Joe is trying to pull this unsupportive crap because he thinks I’m still holding a candle for her and I'm not!”

Barry’s chest heaved as he yelled and Len was taken aback, then wondered how long he’d been waiting to get this off his chest, how badly he needed to say it all. He was also taken aback by how tense he was himself, almost sick.

“You really think you’re over her?”

Barry seemed to consider that, honestly, taking a minute and calming down slightly, fingers pressing to his temples. “It was hard—we’re best friends, I’m the Maid of Honor in her wedding. We’re really close. But it gets better and easier all the time, and I think I’m actually in a place where I can say I love her but I’m not in love with her. I don’t want to date her. I don’t think about her like that now, not anymore. And that’s a first for me... so yeah.”

“You must hate that she thinks you’re dating me?” Because wow had he apparently been spectacularly wrong about who to be jealous of in the Iris and Eddie combination.

Barry’s face screwed up. “You mean she knows I'm dating you.”

Len felt tight all over. It wasn’t the first time Barry had blurred the lines—hell, it wasn’t the first time he had himself, and kissing the other night hadn’t helped. But Barry directly saying they were dating, that it wasn’t fake—it was doing something to him. A fake relationship wasn’t something to lose. A real one…

“You realize there’s no going back from this, right Barry? Your whole family thinks we’re together. This is… it’s not going to be easy to break up after this, if we wanted to.”

“Is that what…” Barry looked up at him, then blew out a breath and looked to the side, hand at the back of his neck. “You really were about to dump me, weren’t you?”

Len didn't answer that. “Your pals at STAR Labs might even get wind of this. Are you ready for that?”

“Wh-oh, they already know we’re dating.”

“Iris West, Eddie Thawne, Joe West, and now Cisco Ramon and Caitlin Snow. When the hell did they find out?”

“Halloween—my comms got switched back on because of the explosive blast and I didn’t realize. They heard us on the balcony talking about a date and came to the conclusion I’d been lying to them and you and I were dating. I had to clarify that I wasn’t just dragging you to my place for a booty call, that you actually lived next door.”

“And you didn’t tell them we weren’t actually dating?” Weren’t. Past tense. This was… the strangest relationship he’d never been in. Len sat back down, wind going out of his sails.

“I… never got around to it,” Barry blushed. Barry might actually be his boyfriend. How had he not realized that sooner? Had Barry realized? Obviously, if he was telling everyone they were together.

“I see. So everyone in your life… and almost everyone in my life… thinks you and I have been together for months.” He leaned forward on his elbows to survey Barry's guilty expression.

“Kind of?” He winced. “I did say we should talk about this.”

“That was before you told everyone we know we’re dating. You know this changes things.”

“I’m sorry,” he moved around the coffee table dropped down next to Len on the couch, looked Len square in the eyes, and the breath was almost punched out of Len’s chest. Barry looked vulnerable. “You were just about to end this, weren't you? And I ruined it. I’ll understand if…”

“I’m not breaking up with you tonight, Barry. I’m not about to give Joe West that much satisfaction.”

The look of relief on Barry’s face was a problem. This was all a problem. And so was… “just to be clear, you are over Iris? Because I also won’t give her father the satisfaction of thinking you’re just using me to bide your time pining for her.” Len decided that it was fucked up on a few levels that Joe West wanted his ‘kids’ to date.

“I’m over her, Len,” he was so earnest, shifting forward, their knees bumping. “And my friendship with her and Eddie is easier than ever since you and I started… all this. Eddie’s way more relaxed about me being friends with Iris now that he’s seen me with you.”

“So you’re saying I help Thawne chill out,” he smirked, trying to take the tone down a notch and Barry huffed and relaxed a little.

“You’re ridiculous.”

Len sighed, forcing himself to relax as well. “You know, whatever else we are right now, we’ll have to properly sell this for West. Unlike Lisa or your friends, he’s the type of man who’ll look for chinks in the armor, instead of trying to wrangle us back together.”

Barry deflated a little, “Yeah, that's…. yeah.”

Len nodded, considering, calculating the possibilities, leaning back. “What, exactly, did you tell him?”

“Um, well first off that I was dating you. That we have been for months. He kind of blew up after that—well, after he stopped laughing because he thought I was joking.” Barry frowned then shook his head. “But after that, and after the yelling and me defending your moral character and telling him that we got together through… I gave him a pretty convoluted story. I didn’t tell him we were neighbors.”

Len nodded in relief. West didn’t know where he lived. “What details? That will matter, he’s a detective.”

“I maybe told him a kind of abridged version of the truth? It basically involved me seeing you outside of the costumes at a cafe and having a real conversation, and… I kind of told him that you invited me to play pool and I didn’t want to back down from a challenge, but things heated up and I found myself attracted to you, your sense of humor and…”

“Barry… did you tell your adoptive father that I seduced you with billiards and puns on the first date?”

Instead of protesting, Barry blushed and groaned and winced all at once before flopping his head forward into his hands all over again. “What am I doing with my life?”

“You did?” All the fake sex he was getting was gonna’ give him a reputation at this rate. Not that he was complaining, but if he wasn’t breaking up with Barry after all, he wouldn't mind it translating into real sex at some point.

“Look, I just didn’t think he’d buy the whole ‘he gave me his coat during a fire drill and I fell for how nice he was’ story that Eddie ate up, okay? He knows a lot more about you and  how I felt about you after you betrayed us at Ferris Air, so he would know I wouldn’t come around that easy. He’d definitely get suspicious if I said anything that led to you living here. So I went the whole ‘foolish passion’ route and told him I was acting reckless to try and get over Iris and the next thing I knew I was falling for you for real.”

He was still slightly flushed but looking up at Len imploringly and Len had to suppress the way his heart was beating in his chest, clearing his throat.

“It works,” he ground out, finally. “It’s not too different from what we told Lisa. But Thawne will know it’s bullshit because you fed him a different story, so you have to get him in on the lie. Iris too.”

Barry’s eyes went wide as saucers. “You’re okay with this?”

Len shifted on the couch and made his expression stern. “I’m not okay with West knowing anything about me, Barry. But I’ll come to Thanksgiving if I have to. So long as the man doesn’t try to shoot me, or arrest me.”

“Don’t worry, I made him promise.”

Len arched an eyebrow.

“I’m totally serious, he promised. He’s pissed about hosting a criminal but I told him that if you can’t come to Thanksgiving then I’m not coming either, and it’s either Thanksgiving or Christmas because if he doesn’t invite you for this then I won’t come and I would spend Christmas with you and Lisa. I guess I looked serious because he actually bought it. But I never really bluff so I think that helped.”

“Barry…” he didn’t really know what to say, except that maybe he should mention he didn't celebrate Christmas. He tried not to look too surprised, but he definitely was. Did Barry realize how much weight he was giving to their 'relationship'? 

“Len… you know I—”

“You owe me for this.”

Barry took a second to catch up, then sagged in relief and grinned. “Yes. Absolutely. Seriously, I know I do. Just name your price, okay?”

“I’m probably going to get shot.”

Barry coughed, with a bit of a blush. “Speaking of things you might get shot for…”

There was more? “What is it?”

“I just—ah—maybe made went the whole ‘reckless passion route’ when I tried to convince him that you’re not only the best boyfriend ever—I really had to sell it—so I kind of implied that we kindofcantkeepourhandsoffeachother.”

“Come again?” Len had heard the first time but he really wanted to hear Barry say it again and watch him squirm.

“That we kind of can’t keep our… hands… off each other. I wanted to make Joe uncomfortable and explain to him that sometimes people just click so he could expect a lot of PDA.”

Len couldn't help the warm feeling spreading through his stomach. “So what you’re saying, Barry, is that I have free license to spend all of Thanksgiving obnoxiously flirting with you and touching you, specifically to get under Joe West’s skin and piss him off, all in support of a person you used to be in love with and her fiancé?”

Barry seemed out of words, and just gave Len a wincing, smiling, shrugging nod that only he could’ve pulled off. Len was starting to realize that no, his life had not been this ridiculous before Barry was in it, and it was definitely the kid that brought the crazy with him.

“If it makes you feel any better, I can catch bullets.”

Len snorted. Of course he could. “Glad we got that settled.”

There was a minute of silence, all of that sinking in.

“Right. Sooo… I guess I should probably head home, since it’s after midnight.” There was a faint blush climbing up his cheeks and Len was very tempted to lean over and just… lick it.

“You’re welcome to stay.” He leaned forward and, since it had worked so well last time, dropped a hand onto Barry’s thigh. The other swallowed hard.

“I—agh, are you for real? You were just about to break up with me and now you want to have sex?”

Len shrugged one shoulder, eyes intent on Barry. “I’ve revised my position.”

“Okay, tempting, flattering, but—” he swallowed when Len’s hand shifted slightly. “Seriously cruel.”

Len pulled his hand away and leaned back with a smirk. “Considering you just asked met to spend Thanksgiving pawing at you, I don’t see why we can’t practice in the meantime?”

“Standards, Len. I need to have some. And those involve not sleeping with you unless you decide you’re not about to dump me as soon as it’s convenient.”

"It's not about convenience, Barry."

"Then what is it, Len?" he leaned forward, intent, and Len would much rather be stroking his thigh than dealing with this conversation. "I know you care about me."

And that was the whole issue, wasn't it? "I'm rather a proponent of enjoying things while they last." 

“So that's it, you think this is just gonna' blow up in our faces? Counting the days until that happens?" It was more than that, but the oversimplification was approximate enough. To his surprise, Barry didn't look angry at his lack of denial, just... amused. Mildly put out, but smiling. “So still with the dumping, because you're a pessimist?”

"I'm optimistic about how good the sex will be."

Barry laughed and shook his head. "Well apparently you have until after Thanksgiving to try and seduce me, if you plan to dump me after that. Gotta' at least give me a week after Thanksgiving though, or Joe's gonna tell me 'I told you so' again."

"So if we're in agreement, I’m trying to seduce you and you’re trying to win my ice cold heart?” he said it sardonically, but he was almost having fun. This was like a new type of game. The stakes were dizzying, but that had never stopped him before. 

“Guess so. Gotta say, I think you’re gonna’ be spending many nights solo.”

Oh, this was going to be fun. "On that note, Barry… you actually forgot something here the other day.”

“Huh? What are you—oh god.” Barry’s face went from light flush to full red and Len grinned. He’d had been waiting for Barry to come knocking on his door shamefaced for it, but this was better. “I—you—it’s—” he grabbed the pillow from beside him and buried his face into it with a muffled “whyyyy?”

Len was actually snickering now, and didn’t bother to hide it. Barry looked up from the pillow as if to defend himself, then shook his head and dropped it again. “You know what? You can keep it. It’s already been more trouble than it’s worth.”

He laughed harder, but tried to contain it so he could respond, “Now don't say that, you haven’t even tried it yet—might be worth more than you’re giving it credit for. It’s certainly big enough. But if you want to test it out in my room instead…”

Barry threw the pillow at him. “It’s after midnight, I have to work in the morning, and I don’t have enough dignity left to continue this conversation.”

He was making a red-faced beeline for the door and Len managed the throw the pillow just right so it connected with Barry’s ass as he exited the living room. He wasn’t getting laid, but it was almost worth it. And Barry still hadn’t left with the dildo, so Len now had the time to dream up more hilarious ways to tease Barry about it for the next time he was over.

 

Chapter Text

 

“Any word?”

“Mick said he’s been spotted in Keystone, laying low. No sign of Roscoe but I guess he’s got the kid, Walker, with him,” Len replied. He was out with Lisa on a delivery, too restless in his apartment. He’d had the baking supplies out when she called and asked if he wanted to meet up.

“I guess that’s something, anyway. He hasn’t tried to contact you?”

“He’s not that dumb. There’s a line up a mile long for his head on a stake, and you know I’m the front of it.”

“Hm, I like to think that I’m the front of that line, Lenny.”

He smirked and glanced around waiting for the middle man to show—he was 182 seconds late, and counting, but Len was used to a lack of punctuality in this neck of the woods. He was sipping his latte casually, cold gun holstered by his leg. Not that Lisa needed the back up, but sometimes it was nice to remind people that their unit was just that, a unit.

“Why don’t we call it a tie, Sis?” he decided, nodding to the car pulling up and letting Lisa take care of things while he waited. Then they were off again, Len in the passenger seat. “Any more to go?”

“That’s it for now,” she smiled and turned on the radio, “any plans for today?”

“Nothing in particular—planning a gig soon, there’s an architecture firm I’ve gotta’ hit in the next few weeks to be on track for it.” He paused. “Barry might drop by later, if he’s free after work.”

“And how’s that going?”

He chose his words carefully. “More serious than I expected.”

“Oh?”

“It was supposed to be a fling, you know how I am.”

“You know that serious isn’t a bad thing.”

He grimaced. “It’s complicated, Lise. His…job.”

“I thought you boys had worked around that.”

“I’m going to Thanksgiving with his family.”

Lisa was silent and Len had to look over after a minute. “Lise?”

“Lenny… I know you don’t like me sticking my nose in, but I’ll say this anyway. Don’t screw this up for yourself. If that boy is bringing you to dinner to meet his family—with Joe West—then he’s willing to put a lot on the line for you.”

“I know.”

“And you care about him too.”

He sighed, “I know, Lise.”

“Good. Then don’t deny yourself a chance at being happy. You deserve it, big bro.”

“It’s not that simple.”

“His family—”

“Not just West. Our family, too, Lise.”

She pursed her lips. “There’s always something.”

“This is a big something.”

“Well until dear old dad rears his ugly head, don’t be an ass and push Barry away. You deserve happiness, but he also deserves better than that.”

Len didn’t respond, lost in thought, and eventually Lisa picked up the thread of conversation, over to the plans for Shawna’s birthday. She wasn’t impressed that Len had declined to come, but he was guessing that Shawna and her friends didn’t want their ‘boss’ around at a party. Lisa frowned but didn't push it, and dropped Len off at his place to carry on with his baking.

 

**********

 

Barry was at the downtown farmer’s market with Iris, his mind wandering every few minutes back to Len, his conversation with Len, Len’s hand on his leg… Len’s text that morning, a picture of the box (and the dildo inside it) that Barry had left at his place (again) alongside the words ‘any day now’ and a winky face emoji. Barry couldn’t decide if he should laugh or scowl, and settled for ‘you could always just drop it off you know, instead of holding it hostage’. Len hadn’t replied.

“Barry are you even listening?”

“Wh—oh, yeah?” he dodged around an elderly couple to get back to Iris’s side. “Something about… cake?”

She sighed and gave him an unimpressed eye roll. “What’s up with you this morning? You’re totally distracted. And don’t tell me it’s Flash stuff—I went for drinks with Caitlin last night and I know you’ve had a quiet week since the Iron Heights break out.”

He sighed. “Have you talked to your dad since last night?”

“My dad? Did something happen?”

“I maaaay have told him about me and Len.”

“You what?” she whirled around, “Barry that’s amazing!”

“Amazing?”

“Eeee!” she threw her arms around him, practically bouncing, “I can’t believe it!”

“Me…neither?”

She stepped back and her grin was 1000 watts. “You guys are finally taking this thing to the next level! What did dad say?”

“Yeah, about that…”

He filled her in as they walked, first about her father’s reaction (“of course he freaked out, Barr, he’s just worried. Just wait till he sees you and Len together, then he’ll understand”) and then about his conversation with Len after, about how Len was about to call this whole thing off (“Oh Barry…”), and then he had to rewind and tell her about kissing Len (“Why did I not hear about this sooner?!”), and then fast forward and explain about their impasse with sex (“Did you seriously just cock-block yourself?”), by which point she was almost falling over laughing all over again, and he decided she was never, ever allowed to know about the dildo.

“So… uh, I guess I’ve just had a lot on my mind this morning.”

“You know, Barry, the world won’t end if you sleep with him.”

They grabbed some hot chocolate and sat a table at the little seating area in the corner of the farmer’s market, which was indoors and heated and least, while Barry contemplated that, and tried hard not to contemplate that. He'd be contemplating a little too much about Len while he was in the shower that morning.

“I just… if he’s gonna’ dump me, I don’t want to feel used like that.”

“I’m pretty sure that boy is not about to actually dump you, Barr.”

“He seemed pretty serious.”

“Uh huh, before or after he put your legs in his lap, and before or after he threw a pillow at your ass on the way out the door?”

“I guess I just don’t really know he wants… other than sex, I mean.” Barry knew Len wanted sex. The picture on his phone was proof. The hand on his leg was proof. The way he smirked at Barry when he was half naked and Barry couldn’t peel his eyes away was proof. God, he really needed to get laid.

“So what do you want Barry?”

“I don’t know…”

“Stop thinking and just say whatever comes to mind. What. Do. You. Want?”

He dropped his head into his arms. “Iwnasitnhsdck”

“What was that?”

He spoke to the table, needing to actually get the words out, to just tell someone, “I wanna’ sit on his dick. Or go down on him. Or both. Or let him bend me over the table in his dining room and—”

Whoa okay, you can stop there. Really, Barry? Ew. You could’ve just said you want to sleep with him.” 

 He glanced up to see her nose wrinkled and shook his head. “I can't help it. I’ve been thinking about his dick for over a month, Iris. I think he’s gonna’ win our bet. I don’t have that much will power.”

“Over a month, Barry?”

“It’s so big, Iris. So big.”

Barry! I do not need to know these things.”

“You asked! And trust me, you wouldn’t complain if you’d seen it.”

“When did you see it if you aren’t sleeping together?”

“We went swimming, remember? I kind of, maybe accidentally, there was sort of an accidental grope that happened. But it’s glorious, Iris, and I just wanna’—”

“Okay, that is enough of that for my ears. It’s just a dick, Barry.”

“It’s not just a dick, Iris. It’s The Dick.”

“You know you sound like a crazy person, right?”

He dropped his face back into his arms and continued bemoaning his existence.

 

**********

 

Barry was ridiculous, and traumatizing, and Iris really was doing him a favor by listening to him talk that much about Captain Cold’s dick. So the least she deserved to get out of it was some hilarious blackmail. Taking a video of Barry with his forehead on his arms over top the table complaining about how badly he needed to get laid and how badly he needed Len to do the laying was only fair.

Sending it to Lisa was also only fair.

By the way, he told my dad about them! Mission accomplished!

Lisa texted back almost immediately. Perfect! Things with Lenny are progressing faster than I expected too. There was a kiss emoji and a star one and a girl flipping her hair.

Umm did you not hear he tried to dump B last night?

Jfc I’m going to kill him HE DID NOT MENTION THAT

Iris laughed and Barry looked up from his arms. “Is my pain funny to you?”

“Hilarious,” she smiled. She got another text that read 'he’s home now and stress baking because he’s scared to commit. Family drama. Just make sure Barry holds in there and I’ll work my end of the plan. I’ve got something perfect in mind.' There were about ten heart and kiss emojis after that one.

He’s holding in there. Actually, he’s waxing poetic about your brother’s 'beautiful' dick and what he wants to do to it.

TMI!!!!

You have no idea

“C’mon Barr, let’s head back to your place and drop some of this food off,” before she lost her mind.

“Thanks again for driving. I’m gonna’ try and woo Len with a properly homemade meal, I think.”

“You’re going to cook? Look at you go, Mr. Romance.”

Barry smiled into his hot chocolate and Iris texted Lisa, planning their next get together before she started driving back to Barry’s. They were becoming pretty good friends, so long as Iris ignored the whole Golden Glider organized crime side of things. They’d started having movie nights with old horror flicks and Lisa insisted on taking Iris to get her nails done.

By the time they were back at Barry’s, Iris had a coffee date planned.

“You know, it’s actually tidy in here,” she smiled when she got in.

“I know! I’ve started doing all my laundry at Len’s, it really makes a difference.”

Iris felt her eyebrows shoot up. “You hate laundry.”

“That’s why he lets me do it there. He’s got private machines.”

For some reason, some weird look passed across Barry’s face and he started to blush. “What?” she laughed.

“Nothing. Just—nothing.”

“Well I know you didn’t have sex on the washing machine.”

“Nope, definitely did not.” He looked guilty.

“C’mon, Barr—what is it?”

He opened his mouth and there was a knock at the door. Iris almost squealed in delight. “Is that him?”

Barry was already making a quick march toward the door, face nervous. “Or Mrs. Thompson. Sometimes she comes over and asks if I want to watch Jeopardy with her.”

It wasn’t some old lady, it was definitely Len.

“Thought I heard you come home, kid.”

“I wasn’t serious about the dropping it off!” Barry’s voice was high and squeaky and that was interesting.

“No way in hell, you’re not getting it until you come over and ask for it.”

“Ask for what?” Iris asked, and Len seemed to notice her in Barry’s kitchen for the first time.

“Miss—Iris. Hello.”

“Hi Len,” she smiled and came over, “what does Barry have to get from you?”

There was a moment of silent communication between Barry and Len, Barry with a few panicked hand gestures and Len with growing amusement.

“Nothing, nothing at all, just—”

“Baked goods.”

Iris didn’t believe that for a second. “Baked goods?”

“Mm. I’ve been tinkering with some recipes, would you like to come over and taste test?”

 

**********

 

Barry was almost dead with mortification following Iris into Len’s apartment. She would never let him live it down if she found out about the dildo—which was most definitely ruining his life, to the point where someday there was going to be an afterschool special about the dangers of buying sex toys online and his life was going to be the warning story for all the other boys and girls out there. It might've been worth it if he actually got to use the damn thing.

But then he was in Len’s kitchen and saw the treats strewn over every counter and all thoughts of his embarrassment went right out the window. Iris was similarly in heaven because her brownie addiction was ten times worse than his own. And Len was only too happy to watch each of them sample pretty much everything and preen under their praise. And there was a lot of praise. Barry was trying hard not to moan, mostly because Iris was around. He was beyond the point of pretending to have dignity when it came to Len.

“Mmf! Is that a Frozen apron?” Iris asked halfway through a red velvet cupcake. Barry was eyeing that tray but hadn’t made it to them yet. He was pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to hold back the moaning if he ate one of those and things might get awkward.

“It was a gift,” Len said immediately, glancing at the apron hanging on the cupboard door, covered in chocolate streaks and flour. Barry had almost forgotten about it.

“Ah man, good times, good times. This apron was the root of everything. Well, the apron and the whip cream.”

“Ohhh, this is from the Whipcream Fiasco ™?” Iris moved closer to it as though to inspect it as an artefact.

“The what?” Len looked between them, “T-M?”

“I…maybe gave our whipcream fight a name? And decided it needed a verbal trademark?”

"A verbal... you gave it a name?"

Barry fought the urge to blush, inching close to the red velvet. "It's not as weird as it sounds."

"Do you name all our fights?"

"I'm not that creative. I can outsource to Cisco, if you want? I'm sure he'd have some ideas."

“Do you bake a lot, Len?” Iris asked, saving Barry from the withering look on Len’s face.

“Occasionally.”

“That’s a lie, he bakes all the time. He’s pretty much cleared out my entire baking cupboard at this point. Don’t think I haven’t noticed, Len.”

“And you’ve still got a load of laundry in my dryer.”

“Touche.”

Len arched and eyebrow and Barry sighed. “On it.” He zipped into the laundry room to start folding, and would’ve supersped through it but he could hear the two of them talking about baking and cakes in the kitchen and he’d pass, really. But by the time he was carrying the fresh hamper of clothes out, Iris was squealing and hugging Len and Barry was officially confused. So was Len, by the look on his face, and it occurred to Barry that in all their time dating, he’d never seen Len hug anyone, except maybe Aiden. He barely even touched anyone, come to think of it.

“Barr—guess what?” Iris detached herself from the bemused Len finally, but she was grinning wide.

“Uhhh… Len’s giving you his secret brownie recipe?”

Better! He’s baking the cake for my wedding!” she literally jumped and clapped her hands in excitement.

“He—for real?” he looked at Len, and this was one the rare times that the other man actually looked bashful.

“Why not? If she likes what I make, I don’t mind doing it.”

Barry nodded and said “uh huh” and tried not to read too much into it. Len was offering to bake his best friend’s wedding cake. With all the favors he had piling up, Barry was definitely going to owe him soon. Maybe he could give Len a blowjob and they’d call it even. Or maybe it would take a few blowjobs. Maybe they could swap back and forth, favors for oral. Maybe—maybe he needed to stop thinking about blowjobs while Iris was gushing about cake flavors not two feet away from him. Instead of joining the discussion, he snuck a cupcake and made his way to the living room to turn on Netflix.

Not for the first time, Barry wondered what his life was becoming.

 

**********

 

“So, uh, wedding cake?” he asked when Len dropped by that evening, having accepted Barry's invite to dinner.

“Why not?” Len dropped two bottles of wine on the counter, a red and white. “Didn’t know what we were having, played it safe.” He said to Barry’s questioning glance.

“Since when do you drink wine?”

“Since when do you cook?”

“Oh, haha, its gonna' be like that, huh? You know I can make more than frozen pizza,” he replied. He was slow-roasting ribs, braised in the oven, one of Joe’s recipes.

“We’ll see.”

“Word of advice, boyfriend, if you’re trying to get in my pants, insulting my cooking before trying it won’t exactly work in your favor,” he frowned while Len started opening his cupboards. “What’re you looking for?” He had the dishes cupboard open.

“This,” Len pulled out one of his vases.

“What, did you bring flowers too? Because I think I’m supposed to be doing the romancing.”

The completely flat stare in response was not what he was expecting.

“What?”

“How have you made it to twenty five years old?”

“C’mon, what?” he was almost laughing despite himself.

Len shook his head and rinsed out the vase, then put it down next to the wine. “It's not for flowers, Barry; it’s a decanter.”

“I’m gonna’ focus on the cooking,” he replied, straight faced, turning away to look back at the oven. Len was snickering. Since when did he even own a wine decanter?

Dinner went off mostly smoothly. They actually sat at the table, which was probably a first, normally snacking on the couch tuned out to Netflix. It felt more like a date than any of their actual dates so far, maybe because they were both aware of what it was, now. Or talking about it. Or not-talking about it, as was presently the case, as they struggled to find conversation topics for what felt like the first time, sipping at red wine that even Barry had to admit was good.

“Is this weird?” Barry asked eventually, wishing the alcohol did more for him than bring out the flavors in the food. 

“Undoubtedly. But what, exactly?”

“I just mean… we’ve been on lots of dates, by now. But this feels…”

“Like an awkward first date?”

Barry smiled, “I could compliment your shirt or something?” Which was a good idea, because the deep blue brought out Len’s eyes. But Len just snorted.

“If you try that, I’ll have to start in with some of my usual pick-up lines, Barry.”

“Oh man—please. After hearing your line about ‘distraction’ from last week? Please, let me see more of your lack of game.”

Len leaned back and sipped his wine, food done. “Not sure how it’s supposed to work if I already know you?”

“So you only use lines to get a date in the first place? There are puns, aren’t there? Oh god, of course there are puns.”

“Pretty sure I missed my chance to use the line: you must be exhausted because you’ve been running through my mind all day.”

“Oh my god, no." Barry couldn't contain his laugher, "Please, tell me you’ve never seriously used that one on any real human being.”

“It would work best on you, I think.”

“It would work best on no one. I’m gonna’ hope that if I was sitting at a bar you wouldn’t actually come up and say that to me.”

“Mm, lines don’t work as openers that well, I’ll grant you.”

“You’ll grant me—wait, you have actually tested that theory, haven’t you?”

Len didn't respond and Barry burst out laughing all over again. “I would pay to see that. How bad did you strike out?”

“I got laid often enough.”

“Uh huh, now I know why you flirt with retail service industry workers so much—it’s probably the only way you can get a date.”

“I got you, didn’t I?”

"Not yet, if you're talking about making it to bed with me."

"We'll see."

Barry snorted out his laugh. “Someone's confident. But thank god we never actually had a first date. So much for that story about billiards—you would not have woo’d me with those lines.”

Len sighed and sat back. “You know the last time you challenged me to woo you, we ended up making out at a table much like this one?”

Barry stopped grinning, some of the blood in his body going south fast as the memory fell into place, then remembered his own plan and started smirking anew, leaning forward. “It was a good kiss. But ah, I don’t know if I should be kissing someone who won’t commit to being my boyfriend. I mean, I don't know about you, but I wouldn’t want to get a reputation or anything.”

Len tilting his head, amused and rotating his wine glass, “I’m sure that’s your biggest concern.”

“It’s a shame, really. Because it’s been a long time since I got to kiss someone so much, I’m sure I could use some practice, and I'm sure you wouldn’t mind helping me out with that.” He flashed Len a grin for a second before scooping up the dishes, not being shy about leaning into the other man’s space to grab them.

“Aren’t I supposed to be seducing you, Barry?” Len followed him into the kitchen.

“Oh I don’t know,” he kept his voice perfectly light, “I figure that if I get you wound up enough, you might realize what you’re missing out on by being too cynical to admit you wanna’ date me.”

“Mm,” Len stepped up behind him as he put the dishes in the sink, hands over Barry’s forearms, fingers down to his wrists, gentle but stilling his movements, warm against his back, with his breath ghosting over Barry’s neck. He shivered, calm going out the window. “Seems to me that’ll just make things harder for you, Barry.”

His lips were a hair’s breadth from Barry’s neck and he tried not to let out any strangled sounds, because it almost felt like Len was kissing over his pulse point and that couldn’t be happening.

“Was that a—” Oh no. Never mind. Len was definitely kissing his neck, sucking on it, in fact. Gently. Evilly. Like a villain. A really good villain, with really soft lips. And just a hint, a soft scrape really, of teeth, making Barry's eyes flutter half-closed, a soft whine escape his mouth. Oh fuck, fuck, fuck, abort plan, run away, mission over, retreat, refocus “—ah. Uhm. Ah, was that a pun?”

Len chuckled against his neck and nope, no—god yes so very very yes—NOPE!

Barry squirmed out of Len's—admittedly loose—hold and sidestepped, hand going to his neck, knowing he was flushed and knowing just how far down his body it extended. “I call foul.”

“Did you think I wouldn’t play dirty?”

“Oh is that how it is? Okay, okay. Two can play it that way. Just you wait.”

“Mhmm. I’ll believe it when I’m appropriately gooey on the inside, mooning over you.”

“Oh it’ll happen.”

“Uh huh.”

“Next time we’re going for a real date, outside the house.”

“Movies?”

Barry glared, suspicious, still a little red. “You’re not seducing me in a movie theatre.”

“Shall we make it a bet?”

“No. You’re the worst.”

They continued to snark at each other while Barry cleaned up around them, sidestepping Len at every turn. Then they ate the dessert Len had brought over, Barry wasn’t even ashamed about the noises he made while eating it, smirking whenever he caught Len's eye because the other man was looking a little strained. And then he kicked Len out early instead of curling up next to him on the couch, pretty sure that if they ended up watching TV right then, very little TV would actually be watched.

“Go be a criminal or something.”

Len laughed, “can I get that on record?”

“I swear, our next date had better not be you trying to steal something, Len.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”

“Uh huh.” Barry didn’t believe him for a second, but he was smiling anyway. And when Len was gone, looking around his empty apartment, he started to wonder… was he wooing Len, or just getting himself deeper into this trench?

 

Chapter Text

“Hey, man. So I’m thinkin’ we watch the first movie, grab some grub because I know you’ll be hungry by eleven, then sit through the other two in the afternoon, pending whatever disaster shows up and how long you gotta’ spend saving the city?”

Barry laughed at Cisco’s advance summation of their day, walking up the steps in his building with the other man on his heels, a bag of movies and snacks slung over his shoulder. It was Sunday morning and a rare day off for Barry where he didn’t have plans with Joe or Iris, and it felt like months since he and Cisco had actually spent time just hanging out.

They made it up the stairs and Cisco looked around before following Barry in, finally pointing at the door next to Barry’s with raised eyebrows. “Eh? Ehhhh?”

“Get in here,” Barry laughed, dragged him in. “Yes, that’s Len’s apartment.”

“Oh my god, dude. You have you ever tried to prank him?”

“Prank my boyfriend?”

“I mean before—like butter on the doorknob, all that?”

“Ugh, don’t give him any ideas. With Len’s sense of humor, he might actually try something like that.”

“Captain Cold has a sense of humor?”

“An awful one. You should hear his pick up lines sometime. Or on second thought, no, never, because if you did, you might try to use them or something.”

“Hey now, I got game, I do okay.”

Barry raised his eyebrows but didn’t comment, just let Cisco set up the first movie. Why they were having a Back to the Future marathon was beyond him, but he wasn’t about to complain about being able to spend time with his friend that wasn’t running around the city stopping crime or grabbing a quick coffee or beer after work or after saving the city for the day.

Cisco was on target, though—Barry’s stomach was grumbling after the first movie was over.

“You bring over any more protein bars? I’m running low,” Barry asked, getting off the couch to stretch and forage for food.

“You know I got you covered—fresh box, and a new flavor’s in there.”

Barry wrinkled his nose. Cisco experimenting with the flavors of his high-calorie protein blend had never turned out well so far. “You know I don’t mind the basics—vanilla, chocolate.”

“This one is peanut butter and coconut.”

“Uh huh, hope it beats the attempt at strawberry shortcake.”

“C’mon man, that wasn’t so bad!”

Barry snorted. The first bite wasn’t so bad. The consecutive thirty bars? Not so great. He unpacked the box into his pantry while Cisco rummaged through his cupboards. “I brought some left over chili but dude, where’d your plates and bowls go?”

“What’d you mean?” Barry asked, opening the plate cupboard on his pass back into the kitchen.

“There? They used to be over here.”

“Were they?” Barry blinked, tilting his head, remembering. They had been.

“Yeah man, I helped you move in. Unpacked your kitchen, painstakingly and with love, remember? Had the system down to science.”

“Huh. I guess I moved them.”

Cisco started opening up his other cupboards. His cups were where his plates used to be. The wine decanter was the shelf above. And, “what’s all this food doing up here? I thought you put this stuff down below.”

Barry blinked again, this time at his baking supplies. He could remember grabbing sugar out of that cupboard just the other day. When had those supplies stopped being beneath the counter? And wait—his pots and pans were now were the baking supplies had been. He knew that; he’d used them just the other night to cook with Len. But when had...

“Oh, that bastard.”

“Barr—?”

Barry was already marching toward the door, not looking back at Cisco, who he could feel on his heels, before he was in the hall pounding on Len’s door.

 

**********

 

The banging on Len’s door jolted him out of a light doze. He’d barely been able to sleep the night before, half his time spent on the chilly fire escape in his parka just for the hell of it, the other half trying to convince his body that it wanted to sleep, mostly to no avail. He had to watch Aiden that day and needed the energy, so when he was comfortably nodding off on the couch and able to catch a bit of shut eye, the last thing he wanted was someone pounding on the door.

He was sure it was Mick, early to drop off his daughter. What he didn’t expect was to check the eye hole on the door and see an impatient and irritated Barry. With an alarmed Cisco Ramon behind him. Len’s scowl wasn’t even faking it when he swung open the door.

“Barry, what the hell’re you—”

“You’re unbelievable,” Barry pushed past him, heading straight for the kitchen. Len glanced at Cisco, whose eyes were like saucers and his face was screwed up halfway between an apology and horror. Len gave him a flat stare and stepped back to let him in, and after a second of even wider eyes, the kid stepped into the apartment.

Barry was opening all the cupboard doors in his kitchen, noisily.

“Oh yes, Barry, please, come in and interrupt my day with your inexplicable kitchen behavior. If this is about me stealing your cocoa powder, you ate three quarters of the brownies that went into—”

“HA!” Barry shouted, vehemently in fact, apparently satisfied with something, pointing at the cupboards. Len looked at Cisco for clarification—or well, any explanation at this point—but the younger man was just half curled in on himself and shaking his head slowly. Still thought he was going to get shot for daring to step foot in Len’s apartment. Excellent.

“ ‘Ha’ what, Barry?” Len hadn’t had enough coffee for this.

“You rearranged all my cupboards!”

Cisco groaned and dropped his head into his hands like somehow this was his fault—and Len believed that it might be, considering—

“Barry, I did that weeks ago.”

“I—you—weeks?!” Some of the wind was going out of Barry’s self-satisfied sails, turning to Len and shaking his head slowly.

And suddenly, this was too good. “You mean you didn’t notice, Barry?” He was smirking now, because how could he not? He stepped into the kitchen, starting to close all his cupboards, sleeves on his sweater pushed up. “I moved up the baking supplies first, switched their place twice before just deciding to put them in the same spot in your place as they are in mine, except what I keep in the pantry.” It wasn’t really an option in Barry’s apartment, his pantry was always too full of obscene amounts of food. “Then the cups, because why go so far when you want water—makes more sense to have them close to the sink.”

Barry was nodding, almost lost, and the expression made Len feel uncomfortably fond. “Then I started moving stuff in. Did you think you'd always owned that decanter?” No wonder he’d thought it was a goddamn flower vase.

“I—you—wait, are you telling me you were slipping dishware into my apartment?”

Len snorted, “and you’re telling me it took you until Cisco was rummaging through your cupboards for you to even know I did it?”

Cisco whipped his head back from staring around the corner with a guilty expression on his face, like he was afraid he wasn’t allowed to look. The kid was hilarious.

“I can’t believe you, Len.”

“That’s officially my line at this point, Barry.”

“This is so weird,” whispered Cisco, finally speaking up.

Barry sighed and dropped his arms by his side in defeat before running one hand through his hair. Len enjoyed how it looked mussed up like that. “Okay. I’m still not sure when you found the time to rearrange my cupboards—and I swear if I find out my bathroom cabinet is reorganized I’m coming back here—but we’ll get out of your hair. Me and Cisco are having a movie marathon.”

“Cute. Which movies?”

“Back to the Future,” Cisco ventured, still looking out of place in Len’s kitchen, hands stuffed in his pockets.

“I’d figure for people who deal with actual time travel, that would be a bit boring, no?”

Oh that brought him out of his shell. “No way! The paradoxes in that film? Totally legit. Do you realize how many paradoxes we’ve had to deal with since Barry started messing with the timeline—”

“I’m not the one who started it—”

“Even his suit is a paradox! And I’m still waiting for him to invent Gideon, like how he manages that one—”

“O-kay, Cisco—”

“What’s Gideon?”

Cisco looked ecstatic, “you haven’t told him about the AI from the future you're going invent? With my help, obviously.”

Barry scratched the back of his head. “Look, we try and keep Flash and Cold stuff kind of separate…”

Len was curious to the extreme, already wondering about the next time he could hedge to ask Barry more questions, before he heard a knock at the door. Everyone stilled.

“It’s Mick, he’s bringing Aiden by.” Len said, about to step toward the door.

Warmwave?”

“What?” Did Cisco name Aiden?

“Oh shit—Mick doesn’t know I'm the Flash,” Barry whispered in a hiss, looking alarmed, motioning to Cisco, who Mick had definitely met. Mick wasn’t a genius, but he might get suspicious if Barry’s close friends happened to be people they had kidnapped before, not to mention why Len would have Cisco in his apartment at all.

“Hide?” Len suggested, knowing Mick would only be there for a minute.

“Drop by later, maybe?” Barry did him one better than hiding, a quick blur of red energy, a streak of yellow lightning, and he and Cisco were gone. Gone through the wall between his and Barry’s apartments.

Well. That was new.

“Hey, Mick.”

 

**********

 

Dude!”

“Whew, close call.”

“You’re getting so good at phasing! We just went through a wall! A solid wall!”

Barry laughed, delighted. “Uh, yeah? Kinda’ do that on the daily right now, Cisco. Practicing still.”

Alright!”

Barry grinned and dropped down on the couch, unsurprised when Cisco started pelting him with questions about Len’s place, why it smelled like cookies, if Aiden came over often, how Barry was so chill about barging in and yelling at him, and whether he’d seriously not noticed when Len rearranged his cupboards. Barry was forced to answer all of it but didn’t mind, almost excited for an excuse to talk about Len, considering that Iris was currently dodging his calls after the TMI Incident © (because he couldn't trademark everything).

They were halfway through Back to the Future II when there was a knock at the door. Barry flashed to it in a second, smoothing back his hair.

“Hey,” he smiled when he opened the door.

“Hi,” Len’s smile was softer, the way it always was when Aiden was by his side. “You said to drop by, and Aiden misses her favorite singer.”

She was standing, holding on to Len’s pant leg, a ninja turtle action figure in her hand. Barry’s cheeks were going to hurt he was smiling so wide, leaning down, “hi Aiden!”

“Un’ca Barry,” she smiled. “Guess what?”

Barry wasn’t sure when he’d ascended to uncle status. He’d only seen her twice since their swimming day, when Mick had been dropping her off or picking her up and he’d run into them in the stairwell or else at Len’s apartment, poking his head in to steal food from Len. 

“What?” he asked, hands wide while Len closed the door behind him, scooting Aiden into the apartment. He heard Cisco come over.

“Dis week’s my aunnie Boo’s birthday.”

“Is it? Auntie Shawna’s?”

“Uh huh! ‘M givin’ her a present!”

“Are you?” he grinned up at Len, who looked like he couldn’t help but smile. “What are you getting for her?”

“A… a…” she looked up to Len for help.

“Stethoscope.”

“A steth-scope!”

“A stethoscope?”

“Baez is studying medicine, Barry.”

“She is?”

“Going back to school full time in January.”

“Sweet,” Cisco chimed in, and Barry stood up again.

“Cisco, meet Aiden. Aiden, this is my friend Cisco.”

When Aiden said hello, Cisco let out a little squeal that had Barry laughing and Len snorting. So much for movie marathons, Barry knew how he was spending his afternoon.

 

**********

 

Len knew he was in too deep. He knew long before he ever decided to bring Aiden by Barry’s and let Cisco meet her. He knew long before he saw Barry smile up at him, before Barry lifted up Aiden and sang her songs, long before Len had even woken up that morning. Len knew he was going to lose this bet from the moment Barry made it, knew that he wanted Barry for a lot more than their mutual flirtation, and had for a lot longer than he was comfortable admitting.

But it didn’t help to watch him all afternoon with Aiden. When he’d first run into Aiden and Len in the stairwell, Barry had seemed like a fish out of water with kids. But clearly, he just needed some time to warm up to them, because he was a natural around Aiden, singing and playing, giving Len time to make a late lunch in Barry's apartment without rushing. “Uncle Barry” was going to be the death of Len, he just knew it. Knowing it hadn’t stopped him from dropping by at Barry’s invite though, so at least he was walking to the firing squad with eyes wide open.

Cisco wasn’t bad either, clearly having spent enough time around kids, and once he got over his ‘what the hell am I doing playing with Heatwave’s kid while Captain Cold makes lunch’ bemusement—and it was obvious bemusement—he was engrossing Aiden with more ninja turtles stories than she could imagine. Len was glad he’d brought her bag of toys, complete with several more action figures, over to play.

By the time dinner was rolling around and Cisco was packing up to leave, Aiden was adopting him as an honorary ninja turtle and Lisa was going to have a field day with it if she heard. Aiden was upset to see him go, a small tantrum that told Len her afternoon nap had definitely not been long enough. He brought her back to his place and made her some food before dropping her in a pile of blankets on the couch with one of her favorite movies—this time it was one about personified feelings inside people’s heads, and the red guy made Len laugh, reminding him of Mick.

A timid knock later on the door soon after had Len motioning Barry into his kitchen. “Back so soon?”

“Ah, just wanted to check that that was okay—this afternoon, me and Cisco crashing?” Barry was already munching on a stolen bite of pasta from the pot of food Len’s stove.

“Cisco ever needs a new job, Mick’s gonna’ be looking for a new babysitter come January.”

Barry smiled but shook his head, and Len noticed his shoulders relax by a fraction, “good luck.”

“He seemed less freaked out by the time he left.”

“Cisco? Yeah. I guess it was the first time he’s seen you in person since the whole Ferris Air thing…”

Len nodded, remembering but hoping not to dwell on that particular memory. He’d do it again in a heartbeat, especially knowing what he knew now, but it wasn’t his favorite moment to relive.

“You’re good with her too, you realize? Aiden, I mean.”

“Ah, she just likes me because I know all her favorite songs.”

Len tilted his head to the side, trying to hide the irrepressible smile tugging at his lips. His chest felt warm. “I suppose you don’t mind either, then, that I crashed your day?”

“Wh-oh no, it’s all good. Me ‘n Cisco can watch movies any time, and he wanted to meet Aiden anyway.”

“He did?”

“Ah, yeah. I showed him and Caitlin pictures of her from Shawna’s Facebook.”

“Shawna’s… Facebook.”

“Yeah? Me and her are friends.” Barry pulled out his phone and opened the Facebook app, handing it to Len. “See? She’s got tons of cute photos of Aiden, a whole album.”

Len glared at the phone in his hand. “I don’t think Mick knows about this.”

“Wha—they’re just photos?”

“They’re traceable. And what’s Shawna doing on social media anyway?” he made sure to keep his voice in check, Aiden in the next room with sounds of the movie filtering in, but he was pissed. 

“Not everyone is out to get you and the Rogues, Len. Shawna’s not even known to the CCPD or anything, no arrest history, and it’s not like it links to Mick in any way.”

Len frowned and scrolled through Barry’s account, finding his friends. “Who else do you have on here?”

“Just her? I mean, you and Lisa aren’t on it from what I can tell, and I haven’t really gone searching for any other Rogues,” he laughed like it was funny, somehow, but Len was still frowning. There was a button at the top corner with a little red number in it that he pressed, and notifications popped up.

“You done stalking my Facebook yet?”

“Nope.”

There was an event reminder for this evening.

“Barry…”

He felt Barry stiffen beside him, no doubt at the cold tone to his voice. “Len?” he mimicked the tone, leaning close over Len’s shoulder to see what he was reading.

“Why does it say that you’re attending Shawna’s birthday event tonight?”

“Huh? Oh, I guess I accepted an invite. I forgot that was today, but she said you’d be there?” he caught Len's eye, shoulder to shoulder.

“You’re not going.”

“Wha—the hell I’m not,” Barry snatched back the phone and Len saw him open the event details. He snatched it back.

“You’re not going,” he went to hit the ‘decline’ button but Barry, not surprisingly, was too quick, taking the phone back again. Len glared at it.

“Oh you bet I’m going now. What’s the big deal?” he wasn’t smiling anymore and Len was drawing up to his full height, stepping close so there was barely any space between them, voice a quiet but angry hiss.

“The ‘big deal’ is that its an event full of Rogues and criminals, Barry, and it’s a breach of our deal to spend your evening gathering intel on my operations.”

“Ooooh, so you think I’m gonna’ be a spy here, Len? Come on, we’re going as a couple, I’m sure you can keep me in line,” he winked, but it was all challenge and Len wasn’t joking.

“Then since your ‘invite’ is as my boyfriend and I won’t be going, you can cancel your plans on attending.”

“Well if you’re not there, it’ll be even easier for me to learn some trade secrets, now won’t it?” Barry grinned, eyes flashing, but this was one of the few times Len was truly on edge around him.

Don't,” his voice was ice but Barry didn’t seem fazed in the least.

“Seriously? You’re not going? C’mon, this’ll be fun.”

“Seriously. You do realize that—”

There was a knock at the door. Len let out an aggravated breath, holding Barry’s gaze for another second from the scant inches between them before turning abruptly to answer it.

“Mick.”

“Who pissed in your cheerios, buddy?”

Len didn’t bother to hide it, Mick knew his moods well enough. He glared in Barry’s direction and Mick just laughed while Barry scratched the back of his head, the tension from a minute ago ebbing back.

“Papa!” Aiden clapped her hands from the couch.

“Hey munchkin,” Mick smiled over at her and she seemed contented, pointing at the screen. “’side Out!”

“Inside Out again?” he shook his head at Len. “You spoil her.”

Len shrugged, distracted, and Mick looked between him and Barry before rolling his shoulders and walking to the fridge, grabbing out a beer. “So what’re you fighting about?”

Barry gave Len a wide eyed look but Len just half-rolled his eyes. “Barry wants to go to Shawna’s party.”

“’N you don’t?”

“No.” That much should be obvious.

“Why not? I’m going.”

“What about Aiden?”

“Just for an hour, Aiden can come.”

“Isn’t it at a bar?” Barry asked, looking confused, but Mick just shrugged.

“Your point?”

Len arched an eyebrow at Barry’s expression, not surprised by his growing hesitation. This was good, maybe Barry would realize how different the people Len hung around with were, realizing how little he'd fit in.

“Lisa know you’re not coming?”

“She does.” Len crossed his arms.

“That why she told me she’d meet me here for a drink before heading over?”

Len felt his eye twitch and Barry broke out into giggles.

When?”

Mick looked at the clock. “Right about now, Lenny.”

Every now and then, Len lamented that he loved his sister as much as he did. She seemed determined to ruin his life as a way to repay the favor.

“I’m putting a stop to this.” He grabbed his phone off the counter and hit speed dial while Barry and Mick exchanged glances behind his back that they clearly thought he wouldn’t notice. There were a lot of reflective surfaces in Len’s kitchen. The phone went to voicemail. There was a knock at the door. His head was starting to pound. Len was going to murder someone by the time the night was over.

“Hel-lo." Lisa poked her head in the unlocked door. "Oh, it’s already a little party in here! Barry—so glad you’re joining us! I was just knocking on your door and there was no answer.”

Of course she would go to Barry’s first, she was trying to ruin Len’s life after all.

“Lisa.”

“Ooh Lenny, someone’s frosty today.” She smirked and made it look chiding at the same time, dropping an ornate gift bag and some vodka on the counter. “We’re cabbing over, right?”

“I can drive,” Mick said, “only having the one.” He shook his beer.

“You can drive you and Lisa, because me and Barry aren’t going.”

“Au’nie Lisey!”

“Aiden honey!” Lisa completely ignored Len and had a wide grin on her face, exaggerated and cheery as she strode into the living room, leaving Len fuming in the kitchen. Using Aiden as a buffer was completely unfair, but Lisa would play dirty.

“Barry, we’re not going.”

“I feel like this one is outta’ your hands, dear,” Barry’s eyes glinted. Len’s murder list for the night was growing. Lisa, Barry, who knew who’d be next?

Lisa popped back into the kitchen, Aiden in her arms, still wrapped up in a blanket. “Why aren’t there any drinks poured yet?”

“I’ll get that,” Barry grinned, moving to Len's cupboards for god knew what.

“You’re coming to Shawna’s party, right Barry?”

“We’re no—”

“I’d love to come. Shawna was really nice to me at the pool. So long as I’m welcome.”

“’Course you are,” Mick said as though it was decided.

“Lenny?” Lisa smirked like the victory was hers.

“Lisa, I don’t think it’s wise for Barry to come with us,” he ground out, eyes narrow on her. She should know why this was a bad idea in at least ten different ways.

“Why so grumpy, Lenny?” she mock-pouted, clearly having too much fun with this. She let the squirming Aiden down to run and grab a drawing to show her dad, taking the offered drink from Barry. 

“Did you forget the part where my boyfriend is a CSI, sis?” Of course he couldn’t say what was really on his mind and she damn well must know it.

“Huh?” Mick glanced up from where he was complimenting Aiden’s semi-random scribbles and Barry tensed. Len pressed his advantaged.

“Kid’s a regular badge, Mick.”

“No shit?” he glanced between Len and Barry and Len leaned back with a little smirk, sipping the drink Barry had passed him. Then he sipped it again, because it was surprisingly good.

“I just do the forensics,” Barry shifted from one foot to another, drink in his own hand, one that Len knew he wouldn’t feel. Maybe he made such tasty drinks because he might as well enjoy them if he couldn’t get drunk off them.

“Then what are you doing dating him?” Mick motioned at Len and Len snorted.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence. Glad to know where your priorities are.”

“Ah, I know Len has a record, but I don’t worry about it too much. My father’s in prison, too.”

That was… surprisingly smooth of Barry. Len glanced at him sharply, wondering if he meant to suppress his relationship with the West family around the Rogues. That was going to be a mistake, considering that—

“See, Lenny, no problem,” Lisa was all simpering sunshine today, dropping her empty glass on the counter. “Shawna adores Barry, Barry adores you, and you’re the one who said we can trust Barry. Can’t we, Lenny?”

He didn’t know how, or when, but he was getting revenge for this.

“Of course,” the words were ground out from him. His jaw was tense, empty hand in a tight fist, but it was three on one and there was no way he was letting Barry head to the Rogues' bar without him.

“So it’s settled, we’re all going,” Lisa smiled, tilting her head at him in a gesture he knew she’d learned from him.

“This should be fun.” Len smiled without much humor, downing the rest of his drink.

 

Chapter Text

Lisa called shotgun and enjoyed the sight of her brother and Barry sandwiched in the back seat on either side of Aiden’s car-seat. She laughed lightly at them, snapped a photo that Lenny complained about, and texted it straight to Iris with the caption ‘grumpy guss party wagon’.

Her and Iris were meeting up for lunch the next day, and Lisa was increasingly convinced that Len dating Barry was not just the best thing that had ever happened to him but also to her. She was making a new friend—a real friend—and things were feeling lighter than they had in a long time. There was still a specter hanging over her and her brother, but she was more confident about that than she could’ve ever dreamed she would be. They had a superhero on their side; their father had her ex-boyfriend and some punk kid.

“You boys holding up okay back there?” she called, glancing over her shoulder.

“Peachy.”

“Just fine.”

She tittered and relaxed back against the seat, apprehensive but pleased with the night so far. This was good, and more than good, it was important. Lenny needed to see that Barry could mesh not just with her and Aiden and the softer sides of his life, but all this too. If they wanted to figure out their Flash and Cold side of things along with everything else, they had to make proper headway in that department, with a little help as needed. The same way that Iris was pushing Barry to opening up his private life to Len, Lisa’s job was to make sure that Len didn’t try to cut Barry out of the rest of his life.

And on the flipside, Barry had better be able to handle all of Lenny. If he couldn’t, it would be better to figure that out sooner rather than later. But from what Lisa had seen so far, she wasn’t too worried. Maybe ironically, Barry was going to fit in with the Rogues just fine.

 

**********

 

Barry couldn’t figure out why Len was being such an ass about this whole thing. It wasn’t like they’d never talked Flash and Cold stuff—hell, Barry had stopped one of Len’s heists and blown up his motorcycle and Len was in a better mood then than he was right now. But whatever it was, this was obviously happening, so they might as well make the most of it.

That didn’t stop him from becoming increasingly nervous on the drive, between the silent treatment and Len’s slow but increasing tension. Barry was tapping out a beat with his hands for the whole drive, noticing Len’s own hands were restless too, fingers never still, and he all but piled out as soon as they were parked, making room for Mick to get Aiden out of her seat. Len got out considerably more slowly, all calm and cool in the frigid night air.

Shivering outside the bar, an establishment he didn’t recognize, Barry wished he was in a thicker jacket than his autumn one. Len was just in his own leather jacket over a sweater and couldn’t be much warmer, but it was like he was immune to the temperature. He stalked over to where Barry was standing and without waiting or hesitating, had his arm around Barry’s waist like a vice.

“You do not leave my side unless I give you permission,” he hissed in a tight whisper near Barry’s ear and Barry almost pulled his head away obstinately, then steadied and hissed back,

Permission?”

“You really want to do this right now, Barry?”

He didn’t, and he knew he was infringing here. Len was on edge and acting strange, becoming more closed off by the minute. Barry was pissed too, but he could accept the point that this wasn’t the time or place, so he ground out, “Yeah, fine, whatever.”

Not that he really intended to ask for permission for anything, but Len could just deal with that.

“Will you two kiss and make up already?” Mick growled over at them, and Len smirked then, kissing Barry on the cheek but it didn’t feel sweet or warm. And if he was just gonna’ be a complete dick the whole night, Barry was already regretting this.

Lisa had the door open and waiting for them, Mick with Aiden on his shoulders holding on to his forehead, seemingly immune to the cold in her light blue snowsuit, asking ‘papa’ if her uncle Len was mad at Barry. He felt like an ass and smiled an apology at Mick, who just waved him off while Len led Barry into the bar. There was a note on the door clearly marking that it was closed for a private function and they dropped their jackets at a coat check lady before entering in full, Len’s arm finding his waist again, insistent and ignoring Barry’s glare.

The bar smelled like smoke and beer when they walked in, tvs and music playing, the noise of pool games and people socialization, laughing. But Barry tensed. There were way less people than he’d expected, not knowing it was a private function, expecting there to be a swarm of regular bar goers. It wasn’t empty—a helluva lot fuller than any birthday party of his own would be—but the ‘lost in the crowd’ feel he was hoping for wasn’t really going to happen. Especially not, as it turned out, on Len’s arm.

There were welcomes and hellos with varying degrees of friendliness shot in Len’s direction the moment people saw him—“Snart!” and “Well look who it is!” and “Cold, you actually came?”—one even coming over to shake his hand and clap him on the arm, ask him how he’d been. His grip on Barry’s waist didn’t waver as he answered, introducing Barry to the guy, someone named Joey he’d never seen before, and then Len was ushering him toward the bar while Lisa took over the conversation.

“Who was that?”

“Santini, nobody.” Len’s voice was cold, but almost distracted, answering Barry offhand, eyes skimming the place. They landed on—

“You came!” Shawna practically squealed, arms out wide with a grin, teleporting forward in a blink in front of Len to hug him, throwing an arm around Barry too and catching him by surprise. He was already struggling to remember if he was supposed to know she could do that or not, even as he hugged her back. She’d been wrapped around someone, flirting, the guy’s back turned, and Barry was too distracted to notice whoever it was, pulling back from Shawna after a moment to smile at her.

“H-ey Shawna. Happy birthday!”

She stepped back with a grin and told him it was good to see him, and Len wished her a happy birthday in a voice that sounded more like himself.

“Thank you, Len. I’m seriously so glad you could make it.”

“We’re just dropping by for a little while.”

“Come on—stay, have fun, relax for once,” she caught sight of something and all Barry could hear was an excited “AIDEN!” before she disappeared again and he turned to watch her appear next to Mick.

“Boo!” was the squeaky, too thrilled reply that had Barry smiling, watching them over Len’s shoulder. It was weird to see Aiden in this place, altogether too cute and pure for the bar, a little less rundown than Saints and Sinners but still not exactly top class. But Aiden didn’t seem to mind or notice, a little beacon of warmth and light, everyone around her smiling and cooing, making her easily the center of attention. Clearly she was used to this place, or maybe these people, easily leaving her father’s arms for Shawna’s while Mick lifted the gift bag.

“Snart,” a voice called Barry’s attention back to the scene in front of him instead of behind him.

“Mardon.”

Oh. Shit.

“Good to see you,” he reached out and Len took his hand from Barry’s waist to shake Mardon’s.

“You too.” His voice was colder again, somehow, more lilted.

“Heard you been keeping busy, not seen much of you lately. That thanks to—” he turned to Barry with a charming smile, “—this…guy,” but the smile slid off his face, and Barry felt his heartbeat accelerate.

Did Mardon know? How could he? And just like that, his brain was going a mile a minute—wait, shit, no, oops, bad, not good, plan, needed a plan, this was bad, mega-bad—why oh why did the voice inside his head suddenly sound like Cisco?—ultra levels of bad—definitely an internal Cisco-style panic happening—and why wasn’t anyone moving and why was everything suddenly so slow and—oh right he had sped up. Panic would do that.

Barry took a moment—a long enough moment to him, a second to the rest of the world—to force himself not to run out of the bar and drag Len with him.

He could do this.

The rest of the world caught back up.

“Barry Allen?”

Mardon knew his name?!

“The one and only, Mark,” Len replied in a voice that sounded icy and easy at once, arm draping around Barry’s shoulders in an unmistakable gesture.

“Have we met?” Barry’s voice sounded chocked to his own ears, Len’s fingers tightening for a brief second on him.

“You’re Joe West’s son.”

“Oooooh! Oh! Oh shit—you’re—ah—I get it—you’re Mark Mardon,” Barry was rambling. To Weather Wizard. Smooth, Allen. “You—Joe—right. Oh. Oh no. No, no, I think we’ve got our wires crossed.”

He was shaking his head, waving his hand, trying to play it cool when he felt anything but that. Mardon didn’t know he was the Flash, he just knew that he was the son of the man he wanted to kill. Barry could almost thank the universe for small favors, except that this might be worse.

“Barry’s off limits. He’s my boyfriend,” Len saved him from his own babbling misery in a voice that brooked no argument—and Barry clued in with a start that it was the ‘Cold’ voice, that’s what had changed about his way of talking since getting out of the car.

“Your what?” he took a step closer with a half-snarl, eyeing Len’s hand on Barry and Len squared his shoulders in a way Barry wouldn’t have even noticed if he wasn’t pressed to the man’s side, feeling him lean just a fraction forward.

“I hope you don’t expect me to repeat myself.” Barry couldn’t really turn his head to look, caught next to Len, but he could hear the smirk in his voice, the tone of the man he’d faced off with plenty of times before.

“You know he’s a CSI, Snart? Dad’s a detective? Sister’s a reporter? Brother in law’s at the CCPD too? You do know—”

“The West family, Eddie Thawne, all upstanding citizens with glowing reputations, yes I’m aware.” Len waved his free hand dismissively, seemingly in charge of the situation. Barry took a second to glance around and noticed that a few people were eyeing their conversation, that Mick and Shawna were looking over at them. He swallowed uncomfortably. “But here’s the thing—I don’t care.”

“Don’t care? You know who West works with, Snart?” Mardon was trying to hiss it and out of the corner of his eye, Barry saw Shawna returning Aiden to Mick’s arms. He tensed again.

“I do. But what you might not know about Barry is that his golden boy routine really only runs so deep. I hope your research has told you enough to know who his actual father is, hm? Barry could care less about what we do and less about what West does with the Flash. He’s here because I want him here, and that should be enough for you.”

For probably the first time, Barry appreciated Len’s ability to lie.

Then Shawna was at Mark’s side in a puff of black smoke, one hand going to his chest. “Everything okay, babe?”

And oh—oh that made sense. In the right context, Barry’s brain recognized the jewelry she was wearing, stolen pieces he’d seen photos of on cases he was working, a string of robberies from Weather Wizard in recent weeks that he’d had too much on his plate to stop.

“Did you know about this, Boo?”

“What?”

“Allen’s a badge.”

That? ‘Course I knew,” she winked at Barry. “He’s a cute badge though, and who cares? Cold vouches for him.”

“He’s Joe West’s son.”

Shawna’s eyes widened, and then pulled together in confusion. “He must’ve had the lily whitest mother—”

“I’m adopted,” Barry interrupted, briefly reminded that Len was mixed race, understanding that Shawna was about to come to the wrong conclusion. “And for the record,” he turned to Mardon, drawing himself up and stepping forward, away from the protection of Len’s arm, “I may be a CSI, but I can separate work and play. I’m here with Len because Shawna invited me. I’m not here to talk about cases or give anyone a hard time. Not to bother anyone about things like the string of jewelers’ robberies I’ve had to spend whole work days processing evidence on this month, or the bank robbery case I worked from your face off against the Flash three months ago.” He smiled tight, a little head tilt to the side at Mark’s surprised expression. “I do my job and I leave it at work, Weather Wizard. So I won’t go into work tomorrow morning with any sudden insight as to where any of the stolen jewelry might be if you don’t spend your night giving your girlfriend and my boyfriend a hard time about me being here.”

He finished on a confident note, a little pleased with himself, jaw set, but there was a beat of silence after his little speech that made him sweat. Then, slowly, Mardon’s face broke out into a grin with a low whistle through his teeth.

“Well, Allen, you’re not what I expected. Guess you’re not too bad, after all.”

Barry grinned back, feeling a line of tension inside him break. Shawna kissed Mark’s cheek and then Len had an arm around his shoulder again, excusing them from the other couple to grab drinks at the bar.

Barry deflated the second they were standing at the bar, off to the side and more in a corner, out of the way of other patrons. He mimicked Len’s pose, forearms and elbows against the wood, waiting for a bartender, and after a sigh to reorient himself, to steel himself, he leaned into the other man and whispered, “I am so so sorry, Len. I had no idea he was going to be here.”

“I did.”

“I figured that out, believe it or not.” Something inside him squirmed. Why hadn’t Len just told him about Mardon? Was it because Lisa and Mick were there?

Len ordered them drinks that the bartender didn’t ask for money for.

“Snart!” another man, blond this time, came over and clapped Len on the shoulder, Len turning to shake his hand with a tight look, a kind of not-smile that Barry had seen before but not in a while. Standing beside the guy was Hartley Rathaway. Perfect. Just, wow, first Mardon and now this? Barry tried not to recognize him while Len introduced him to ‘James’ and Hartley. Nope. Never met. First meeting. Nice to meet you. Yep.

Hartley was similarly disinterested and merely polite while shaking his hand, giving no indication of recognition, but Barry knew he was an awkward turtle from the way Len took the conversation back over with his arm casually slung around Barry, his waist again this time, a little squeeze to shut him up from asking how Hartley and James knew Shawna. Then Len was casually congratulating the other two on some recent activity of theirs, and Barry had his answer except—since when was Rathaway a Rogue?

Hartley’s smile was polite and disinterested, but his eyes were sharp the second he turned back to Len and Barry wondered, not for the first time, how much of his identity Hartley had figured out from the data he’d stolen, and with his intellect, him knowing was a safe bet. He wondered if he should warn Len about that.

But then Len was dismissing them, “you kids go have fun. Hart, don’t let James beat you at darts just to stroke his ego,” and for a second he almost looked fond again before his face slipped back to neutral.

“ ‘Hart’?”

Len smirked, still cold. “Want me to call him Pied Piper over drinks?” Len turned back to face the bar with an eyebrow arched at Barry, and Barry sighed and did too. No talking Rogues stuff, he got it.

“How’s Shawna paying for all this? Private function, open bar?”

“She’s not.”

“Who is?”

If they were home, Len would have sighed, Barry was almost sure. Instead, he just rolled his expression over to Barry in a sardonic way, as though it should be obvious.

“Me.”

You?”

He looked at Len’s expression and back again out at the bar, at the others there, his brain putting pieces together that he’d seen since walking in.

And it clicked.

This wasn’t just Shawna and her friends with a Rogue or two mixed in. This was a full-blown Rogues Event. This was organized crime and mafia, or mobsters, or whatever, people from Shawna’s former circles mingling in a Rogues establishment—or something equivalent to it—like Santinis and god knew who else, meta-humans and more. Barry’s eyes scanned in a hurry, taking in things he hadn’t thought about, distracted by Len’s constant hand on his waist or arm. Rathaway and James at a dart board, and there was Roy Bivolo at a table with a few other people, and those were definitely some thieves Barry recognized from the precinct or Flash busts. Hell, Barry was suddenly just glad Roscoe Dillon or Kyle Nimbus wasn’t there.

With a sinking, uncomfortable feeling settling in to him, Barry wondered what the hell was he doing here. And at the same time, he noticed how many eyes were on them. On Len. Mobsters and the bartenders and others alike, Len’s presence like a gravitational field of which everyone else was in some way aware, around which everyone else was in some way rotating.

Because Len wasn’t just a criminal, he was a boss. The boss. He was in charge here, the leader of the Rogues. The man who had killed the head of the Santini crime family. Not just a killer—Barry knew that—but a man with a reputation. Crime, danger, money, and cold. Len wasn’t just using the cold voice here, he was Cold. And Cold didn’t bake wedding cakes or go bowling or watch Netflix until his boyfriend fell asleep on him and covered him in blankets, rearranged his goddamn cupboards. That’s not who Len was to these people. To Lisa, to Mick and maybe even Shawna, but not to Mardon, not to anyone else here.

Barry felt sick. He was going to fuck this up. He might’ve already. And the stakes were a lot higher than he’d realized.

He downed his drink and turned to Len. And for all that everyone else was watching Len, Len was watching him. “I fucked up, didn’t I?”

Len narrowed his eyes like he was trying to read Barry’s mind, and, apparently satisfied with whatever he saw, motioned the bartender for another drink for Barry and him. She prioritized him and Len over other patrons. How could he not have noticed that everyone here deferred to Len? Even Lisa and Mick had waited for Len before entering.

“You didn’t know.”

Barry squirmed. They were here. This had happened. This was on him. “How do I make this right?”

“Right?” Len was tapping a coaster against the counter, fresh drink appearing by his arm, a matching one by Barry’s.

“What do I…” he dragged a hand through his hair, stepping a little closer to Len and leaning in, voice quiet, “you’re obviously the boss. I get that, okay? This is your space and I’m infringing where I really shouldn’t have. But since I’m here… what do you need me to do? What do these people expect? Do I…” he swallowed, “does a mob wife act cool and aloof? Or should I be like the clingy puppy kind of boyfriend, all jealous and on your arm? The innocent lovestruck CSI out of his depth?”

Len snorted, expression more relaxed for a fraction of a second. “Did you just call yourself a mob wife?”

Barry tried not to smile, a little tension easing out of his shoulders. “Unless I’m your side piece, and that’s the real reason you didn’t want me here?”

Len sipped his drink, glancing around casually in a way that Barry knew now wasn’t the least bit casual. He moved a hand on the small of Barry’s back, thumb drifting idly, and Barry followed his gaze for a moment. He clued in that there was a reason they were at the side of the bar to order their drinks instead of the middle, that from here Len could see the whole establishment, back unexposed thanks to the way the wall cornered.

“You don’t need to take on any special role, Barry. You did fine with Mardon.”

Barry nodded, feeling more worried than he would like. “No big ‘do’ and ‘do not’ kind of things?”

Len’s gaze was back on him then, that sharp razor focus, and he leaned in closer with a hint of a smirk, and Barry didn’t miss how his eyes flicked to his lips then back to his eyes. “Well since you’ve caught on quick enough—you can take it for granted that my word is law, here.” He moved closer still, the hand on Barry’s back sliding around his waist again, Len moving half behind him, leaning closer to his ear. “You want to challenge me, you do it in private.”

Barry nodded, Len very close, nose nudging against the side of Barry’s neck in a way that made him swallow. “Anything else?”

Len’s hand slipped under Barry’s button-up shirt, thumb still rubbing back and forth except now it was over the bare skin of his torso and wow this was not the time or place for him to suddenly be fighting the urge to get an erection.

“One more thing—I’m going to be touching you, a lot. Be prepared and don’t balk. Boss perks including showing off the things that no one else can touch,” Len’s voice was hot and cold at once and there was something very frustrating to Barry’s libido about the dichotomy. Len’s fingers were trailing along his torso and he knew he was breathing a little more stuttered than was strictly socially acceptable. At least they were in a corner. But he also knew how many people had been looking their way just minutes ago.

“Arm candy…it is,” Barry’s voice was strained and Len had the gall to kiss his neck, just gently, just a brush of his lips, but it was enough to remind Barry of the other night in his kitchen and he was going to have a very real problem soon.

“If I didn’t know any better, Barry, I’d say you enjoy this.”

He breathed out through his nose. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you’re just doing this out of revenge.”

Len chuckled next to his neck—not fair in the slightest—but finally stepped back, dropping his hand from Barry’s side. “You’ve earned permission to mingle. Go have fun.” He stepped away with a smirk and Barry wondered if he was gonna’ survive the night.

 

 

Chapter Text

Barry did mingle, with Shawna, with Mick and Aiden until they left shortly after, and with Lisa, who gave him a very subtle wink and ‘good job’ when no one else was looking. He ended up talking to Hartley and James, more awkward than he’d like, and at some point Lisa even introduced him Bivolo, who another girl in the group described as ‘a real artist’. Barry had no idea what to make of that.

But mostly, in between all that, he stuck by Len. He didn’t really know anyone else here except people who wanted to kill members of his family, or people he’d locked into a prison, who may or may not recognize him for doing it. Jury was still out on Rathaway. And Len was introducing him to people, and encouraging Barry to stay close, and telling him about hockey since there was a game on and Len was apparently a fan.

Sticking by Len had its drawbacks though. Namely, how much he was touching Barry. The way he was doing it made Barry feel almost like a trophy being shown off, which on the one hand was degrading, but on the other hand, no one had ever wanted to make him their trophy before, or show him off at all. There was a little thrill to it, a rush that he wasn’t above feeling.

But it also made it hard to just ‘be himself’ because ‘himself’ would have long-since elbowed Len in the stomach for the way his hand slid into Barry’s back pocket like it belonged there whenever he came to stand beside Barry, or the way, when Len got bored of grabbing his ass—and sometimes kneading it in a way that made Barry’s breath hitch—that hand trailed up to the hem of his shirt and his thumb teased the bare skin under it, smoothing along his hip and making Barry swallow. He’d lean in too close to whisper a comment in Barry’s ear, not even something important, often just inane about the person he’d just met, but one time he did it he took an extra second to suck on the lobe and gently blow air in Barry’s ear and he shivered and felt like he going to spontaneously combust all at once.

It was a power thing, it was definitely a power thing, and not even about Barry himself, but about the signal he was sending to everyone else, to the people he was talking to as he did it. Now that Barry’s job was out in the open and Joey Santini and another person had asked about it after Mark, there was definitely a certain extent of ‘look what I managed to bag’ going on, the pretty CSI who’d risk his job to be with Captain Cold.

Despite all that though, Barry was still surprised when he was talking to Shawna and a few friends and Len came up beside him and asked Barry to join him at the bar, arm around his waist guiding him over.

“Someone made a comment I’m not a fan of,” Len whispered in Barry’s ear as he guided him to the bar with a hand on the small of his back.

“Oh?”

“I don’t take kindly to certain insinuations,” his voice had a growl in it that made Barry wonder what this guy had said. He was sorely tempted to make a sarcastic jibe about Len being his hero, but he knew it wouldn’t exactly be appreciated right then. Instead, he let Len turn him around and press Barry’s back against the wood, thumbing the top button of his shirt with a dark look in his eyes. He swallowed at the shift in the situation, Len’s intensity, trapped between Len and the wood, feeling far too public for whatever was coming next.

“You’re wearing a t-shirt under this?” Len somehow felt taller right now, even though Barry had an inch on him in height. It must be their positions, Barry leaning back, Len altogether too close.

“Yes?”

Len popped the top button, not even whispering anymore, “You should take this off.”

This was getting ridiculous. Barry felt his cheeks flushing, clamping down on the urge to make a snarky comment about a striptease and ignore the demand. The words Arm Candy Arm Candy Arm Candy kept flashing through his brain on repeat and he leveled his voice toward something he hoped wasn’t insubordinate since they’d stopped whispering, one hand moving to his second button to indicate compliance while he picked his words.

“You just want to see my arms.”

Len smirked, eyes moving to those arms under the plaid shirt, “I do.”

His throat constricted around his next breath, leaning forward into Len’s space, closer to the man’s ear in what should look like flirting, voice quiet, “You for real here?”

Len’s voice was next to his own ear, soft, “Not if you’re uncomfortable. But I want everyone to understand what I will and won’t tolerate, and I’ve always been a proponent of the efficacy of a visual display.”

That was a long-winded way to say ‘yes Barry, let me undress you at this bar.’

“And getting me out of my clothes accomplishes that how, exactly?” he glanced at Len out of the corner of his eyes, too close to see his expression, fingers still on the button, free hand moving to one of Len’s belt loops for the hell of it.

“Because, Barry,” Len moved his body closer and Barry could physically feel his heat, hand caught between their chests, “right now is the first anyone in my circles’ve heard of you as my boyfriend. On the one hand, I'm marking my territory.” Len’s hands were moving down Barry’s front and he told his body not to react. It was an impossible feat, but he was trying, at least. “Showing everyone else you’re off limits.”

His lips were ghosting over Barry’s neck while he spoke; anyone watching would guess it was sweet nothings he was saying, if they could tell at all, and Barry’s fingers had moved from Len’s belt loop to his sweater to clench convulsively.

“And our little display here shows people you not only belong to me, but that I’m going to do what I want, uncaring of what others think. They can leave their homophobic bullshit at home.” There was a bite to his voice, which would’ve been fine, if it wasn’t complicit with a bite to his earlobe. At least their corner was dark.

“‘Display’ is definitely one way to put it.” Barry gasped when Len’s hands hit the edge of his pants and stopped, fingers splayed over his hips. He felt like a tramp. He was sure they had an audience.

“I’m proving that I'm willing to show you off, and that I’m confident in how you’ll respond to me.”

Barry was breathing too hard. “I feel like you’re about to start fucking me against the bar.”

Len actually chuckled. “You should see the looks you’ve been getting, Barry. You can’t blame me for being a little possessive.”

God this had better not all be secretly about Len’s jealous tendencies. The worst part was that Barry couldn’t even make Len owe him for this. “You gonna’ take my overshirt off yet then? Before my brain melts the next time you kiss my neck?”

Len mmm’d against his neck and Barry cursed out whatever deities he could think of, letting Len undo the buttons down his front and slide it off his shoulders. He was in a t-shirt under it, it wasn’t like anything was truly on display, but he’d never been a fan of how he looked in t-shirts, his arms too long and thin, not enough bulk on his body to fill them out. But the way Len’s eyes drank him in when he stepped back was a compliment in its own way.

Len got him another drink then, and one for himself, and Barry was able to breathe again. If his pants were a little tight, that was a totally separate issue. “What do I do with my overshirt now?” he asked after downing his drink. At least he could get a reputation for being able to hold his liquor while he was at it.

Len took the shirt and handed it to the bartender with a promise to Barry that it would make it up to coat check with his jacket. Then he was leading Barry over to a conversation with some Santini assholes that Barry could only guess had made the comments earlier, casually sipping his drink in an incredibly smug sort of way. His hand had made it into Barry’s back pocket again. And now that he was paying attention, he could see the hungry glances, catching more than one person—men and women—eyeing him, though it was hard to tell if it was out of actual attraction to him or jealousy that he was the one on Len’s arm.

By the time Mark Mardon came over and asked Barry if he wanted to play pool, Barry was so worked up he actually said yes without thinking.

“Could serve to work on my game, and Snart’s no fun, he never loses.”

Barry dislodged himself from Len’s side with a little sense of relief and loss at once. He needed fresh air, meaning any air where he wasn’t breathing Len’s sex appeal, but he was also a little sad at the loss of contact.

“Then you’re in luck because I haven’t played in years.”

They played mostly quietly, a little conversation about hockey and how the Keystone Combines were doing well this season, and Barry wasn’t quite as atrocious as he remembered. His body was a lot more honed than it used to be, hand-eye coordination much improved through sheer muscle memory, and Mark was amicable enough as an opponent. If only that were true when Barry was in the Flash suit, too.

Mark sunk a stripe. “Does West know about you and Snart?”

Barry tried to refocus, brain catching up as he watched Mark line up another shot, taking a second to answer. “You mean Joe? Uh…yeah, sort of. We hid it for a while but… I just came clean last week, actually.”

“Heh, and how’d he take that?” Mark missed his shot and nodded at Barry to take his turn, as though they were still talking about something as light as hockey scores.

Barry pursed his lips, scratching his shot and sinking the cue ball and frowning. “About as well as you can imagine. The usual worries: I’m gonna get myself killed, he’s hurt people I care about, I’m insane, I’m being tricked, etcetera.”

Mark let out a laugh and dug the white ball out of the corner pocket, definitely winning this game. “Sounds about right. There’s a lot of bad blood there, y’know. Dunno if West told you, but he was there when Snart helped me and the other Rogues around here escape from the Flash’s little prison.”

Well. This was awkward. “Uh, yeah? Yeah, I know Joe works with the Flash sometimes. Metahuman task force and all that.”

Barry had to wonder if Mardon was gearing up to hurt Joe again, discomfort curling inside him.

“Then you know that your dear old dad doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty when he wants to?”

“Hands dirty? Joe’s a—oh, you mean with the Flash, and the pipeline?” Mardon glanced to him with a little nod, and missed his shot, Barry’s turn next but he didn’t move, stiff. “What does that have to do with anything, Mardon?”

“Just saying, Allen, if West tries to go through you to get to Cold…”

Barry’s jaw hung, and then he was angry, moving to Mark’s side of the table and lined up his next shot there so he could quietly hiss, “Are you crazy? You think Joe would try to hurt Len through me?”

The other man eyes him then shrugged one shoulder. “You know your old man doesn’t play by the rule book, don't you? Cold keeps us from killing, but cops don’t have those sorts of rules. And no one on the Flash’s little team seems to think twice about what they’re willing to do—locked me up before I even got a chance to hurt anybody.”

Barry didn’t even know what to make of that. He knew Mardon would’ve kidnapped Joe and caused a tsunami, but Mardon wasn’t ever going to remember getting the chance. “I…”

Mardon took pity on him, dropping a hand on his shoulder. “Look, Allen, you seem like an okay guy. Just tell me that if West does anything to Snart, you’ll come around here and let us know? We look out for our own.”

Barry’s chest felt tight. This was loyalty. Somehow, Len had built loyalty and protection and maybe more into a group of criminals. “I promise.”

Mark nodded and dropped his arm with an appeased, lopsided smile. “I can't believe it, Allen. I really misjudged you, you know that?”

Barry snorted, covering his relief, returning to the game to miss his next shot. Mark had totally ruined his focus. “You mean from all the stalking you apparently did?” And were all the Rogues such damn stalkers?

But Mark laughed and things were lighter again, Mark having no shame about telling Barry how much of a boring nerd he had seemed like from all the research he’d done into the West family. And after their game, Barry found himself smiling too, especially when Shawna appeared by Mark’s side to whisk him away, a little tipsy and grinning at her boyfriend. Mark grinned back and they were gone in a blink, and Barry wasn’t sure he wanted to find whatever corner they would wind up in.

“Ready to go, Barry?”

He looked at Len and couldn’t express his relief that this day and night was finally going to be over. “Like you wouldn’t believe.”

Len tilted his head to the side with a slightly softer sort of smirk than before, and Barry didn’t need any ushering to fall in line at Len’s side, inviting the hand to settle on his waist again.

 

**********

 

Lisa drove them home, maybe because it would be unbecoming of a mob boss—or really, whatever the hell the Rogues were considered—to cab home after a party he was hosting. Hosting and not planning to attend. Len was weird. Barry couldn’t decide fully if he was not planning to attend on his own account, on Shawna’s account, on account of not wanting to have to act like a stiff jerk all night, or on account of a general dislike of crowds and parties.

Whatever it was, there was something interesting that happened over the course of the drive home, Barry making chitchat with Lisa, reassuring her he’d had fun. Len didn’t talk, sitting in the back seat with Barry. But as the bar disappeared from view and they got closer to home, Len started to—Barry almost hated that there was no other word for it—thaw. He reached out and took Barry’s hand, his shoulders slowly going from stiff to simply straight and sure, which somehow was different. The lines in his face became less severe alongside his posture, and Barry hadn’t even really noticed that he’d been throwing out these ‘ready for a fight at any second’ vibes until they were dissipating. He went from Cold to Len, from the hard man Barry had first met him as to… his boyfriend, the man he knew now.

For some reason, it made his heart ache.

By the time they were bidding Lisa goodnight and marching up the stairs in quiet company, Barry staring at the line of Len’s shoulders, he wondered not just about the side of Len’s life he had no business in, but about just how lonely that side of Len’s life was, keeping everyone and everything at arm’s length, in charge and ready for to defend himself at the drop of a pin.

He kept wondering about how lonely Len had been.

Before they made it to the doors of their apartments, still silent, Barry caught up to Len and stepped up behind him, wrapping his arms around the other man. He needed to hug Len.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled into Len’s neck, breathing in his scent and the smell of his leather jacket.

Len felt stiff and then, after a beat, relaxed, and with almost a sigh, “what are you doing, Barry?”

“Apologizing.”

“You always apologize by ambushing people from behind?”

Barry almost laughed, “this isn’t an ambush, it’s a hug.”

He could hear the half-smile in Len’s voice, “oh is that what you’re calling it? Well can you at least bring it inside instead of the middle of the hallway?”

Barry huffed but smiled against Len’s neck and let him go long enough to follow him into his apartment.

Then they were inside, lights still off, and before Len could object or move, Barry was hugging him again, front to front this time. After a moment, Len’s arms reached up and, a little hesitantly, wrapped around Barry in return. He felt like dancing in victory, but wasn’t about to let go of Len to do it, the other man comfortable against his front. They were the same height almost exactly, heads alongside one another, almost ear to ear. “I really am sorry, you know.”

Len was relaxing against him, more by the second, arms getting firmer around his middle and leaning in, head tilting so it was resting against the side of Barry’s. “You’ve apologized enough times already, Barry. It’s fine. Think of it like Thanksgiving with your family.”

It wasn’t like Len to give him an out, “you know it’s not the same.”

Len nodded, “you know I went overboard with it. Consider us even.”

“I just assumed that you were seizing an opportunity.”

Len made a noise of assent but didn’t say anything. Barry didn’t want to let go, but figured he maybe should, at some point. He readjusted his arm position instead. “Why have we never hugged before?”

“Because grown men don’t usually hug one another in entranceways?” Especially not for so long, but that was left unsaid.

Barry smiled and dipped his head forward, titling, more along Len’s neck. “Boyfriends do. We could.”

Len hands tightened against Barry’s back then relaxed, and he stepped back. Barry let him go with only minor mourning of the loss. But Len didn’t let him go entirely. Instead he brought his hands around and to the zipper on Barry’s jacket, dragging it down, and Barry’s breath caught. In the non-existent light, just whatever filtered in over from the living room window from the lights of the city at night, Barry could barely see more than the glimmer of Len’s eyes. But he let Len slide him out of his jacket and half watched and half just heard Len drop his own.

He waited with baited breath, afraid to break the moment by talking, and Len didn’t disappoint. He brought his hands—so cold from the outside air, still—up to cup Barry’s jaw, stepping forward into his space. Barry’s hands were at Len’s waist, tugging the other forward by his sweater, and with a slow, agonizing breath between them, Len finally leaned forward and kissed him.

Barry thought it would be hot, passionate, an extension of all the teasing touches from the night, the wandering hands and the smirking lips against his neck from earlier. But instead it was something else entirely, slow and lingering, deep in a way that came from an ache in his chest instead of another part of him, breathless by the sheer intensity of how much he felt. Len’s lips were soft and sure, moving slowly against his, and Barry was melting into him.

And Barry knew, he felt—you don’t recover from a kiss like that.

He wanted it to go on forever, chased Len’s lips with a shaky breath when the other pulled back. “You should stay.”

Barry’s breath caught in his throat.

“I promise to be a gentleman.”

He let out a strangled laugh. He wasn’t sure he wanted Len to be a gentleman. But he did want to stay. The thought of being next to Len, alongside him, for whatever this was, he wanted that. Leaving seemed like the worst idea in the world. “Yeah. Yeah I’ll stay.” He swallowed, throat dry, and Len kissed the corner of his mouth gently, not enough time for Barry to respond, before taking his hand and leading him expertly through the apartment in the dark.

 

**********

 

If Len was totally honest—something he tried to be with himself, if no one else—he was nervous and terrified and excited and giddy and a whole series of emotional contrasts he hadn’t felt together in years, not since his first few solo heists, or maybe, not since his first few face offs with the Flash. It only stood to reason that Barry would be the one to bring this out in him.

He led Barry to his room, no real plans to seduce the other. He wanted to, physically ached to, but another part of him, a stupid ridiculous, improbable part of him, wanted not to. Wanted to prove to himself and Barry that he wasn’t here just for sex. That after the way Barry had somehow let Len parade him around all night, indulging his jealous and possessive nature, touching Barry without restraint, he genuinely wanted Barry to know that this was more than that.

Len wasn’t too proud as a person to willingly concede defeat on their bet. Not that he was going to voice out loud that he was a little warm at the thought of it, of how Barry had won him over.

He clicked on a lamp in his room, finally able to see Barry’s expression, a mix of emotions to mirror his own, but visible all over his face and pose because Barry wasn’t able to hide his feelings, heart on his sleeve. “Need some pajamas?”

Barry bit his lip, then shook his head. “I ah, sleep in a shirt and underwear. Or just underwear, most nights.”

Len nodded and led the other to the bathroom, pulling out a new toothbrush for him, with a smirk that said he didn’t need to make the comment about dental hygiene. Barry did it anyway, “you gonna’ make me floss, too?”

Len just arched an eyebrow and brushed his teeth, already deciding he’d leave his retainer off for the night. He left Barry to the washroom and pulled on some pajama pants, ditching his shirt before Barry made it back to the room and undressed, letting Len eye him appreciatively. Len loved the sight of him, long lines of unbroken skin, muscles that were harder and stronger than they had any right to be.

Len was sitting on the edge of the bed. It was easily big enough for the both of them, a king size that ate up a good deal of the space in his room, and Barry, mostly naked and clearly a little shy, finally came and sat beside him.

“Arm candy, hugging, sleeping together… it’s been a big day for us.” He leaned over and nudged Len’s side, bare shoulders bumping. Len had to tilt in response, mock considering.

“Considering that we’ve been dating for months and I’m about to have dinner with your family, some would say we’ve been a bit slow.”

That got the desired laugh, and a half-cheeky smile, “glacial.”

Len couldn’t help but laugh, Barry’s smile was too infectious. “You’ve finally figured out the way to woo me?”

Barry fell back onto the bed in a fit of laughter that had Len’s stomach doing uncomfortable but pleasant flips. “Cold puns. Of course. Why didn’t I try that weeks ago?”

“You’re a little slow sometimes.”

Barry hit him with a pillow.

“I probably deserved that.”

“You did,” Barry grinned, then grabbed the pillow and crawled into bed. Len tried not to act too much like a moonstruck idiot, flicking off the lamp and sliding in next to Barry. He wasn’t quite sure what the protocol was on cuddling, keeping his limbs to himself while Barry turned on his side to face him.

There was a moment of quiet. Idly, he wondered how long it had been since he hadn’t slept alone, especially the whole night through, particularly without some hasty, impersonal sex preceding it. His memory was murky on the subject, but it was easily on the order of years.

“I’m glad, you know.”

“Hmm?”

“That you’re… that I know this side of you.”

Len nodded, then rolled on to his side and leaned up on an elbow. “I appreciate that you can… handle the other sides to me.”

Barry just smiled at him, like somehow it was easy. Len knew it wasn't. “Just tell me that next time you’ll actually give me some idea of what I’m getting in to?”

“You going to tell me more about what it is you do all those nights you spend running around the city, or how you learned to phase other people through walls?”

“It’s a deal.”

Len almost couldn’t believe his luck. He must have been a much better person in some past life in order to deserve this. “You have to work in the morning, it’s late. I should let you sleep.”

“Ah, good point…”

It was much later than he’d planned to stay out, really, but he managed to amuse himself despite his expectations. Barry had made the whole evening a little easier to manage, just by his presence. Not that Len was about to invite him to more Rogue events anytime soon.

“I’m restless in my sleep. I might toss and turn, or get out of bed if I can’t sleep.”

In the moonlight, he could see the white of Barry’s teeth with how wide he smiling at Len, as though he couldn't stop. “I’m a deep sleeper, don’t worry about me.”

Len wasn’t sure what to say, then, but Barry scooted forward and kissed him, not entirely chastely, but not starting anything either. “Goodnight Len.”

“Goodnight Barry.”

 

Chapter Text

Barry woke up warm and comfortable to the grumbling of Len and the beeping of the alarm on his phone.

“Turn it off,” Len’s voice had never sounded closer to a whine, and Barry turned pulled himself away from the warmth of Len’s side to reach for it and do the simple math question that forced him to prove to his alarm he was awake. His late days at work were becoming a bit too much of a problem.

But two more minutes in bed wouldn’t hurt. Right? He slid back into the position he had from before, on his stomach and nestled against Len, who slept on his back. He didn’t dwell on the perfect fit.

“Work?”

“Yeah. But you’re warm.”

Len made a contented noise, arm wrapping around Barry. His morning wood was insistent between his legs, about a million times worse than normal with Len right here, but even he knew he didn’t have time to stay and indulge in that particular activity.

“I should go shower.”

“Hm.”

“I really only give myself just enough time in the morning.”

“Mhm.”

Barry was already a fan of half-asleep Len and the way the light hit his face and shoulders, highlighting tattoos and old scars and dips of skin. But he smiled and forced himself to slide out of Len’s embrace and off the bed, grabbing up his clothes.

“I can’t come by tonight—wedding crap with Eddie’s family, and I’ve got to fit in patrols.”

“Hn.” That noise was decidedly less impressed than the previous monosyllables.

“Text me.”

Len opened one eye, “I don’t even get a goodbye kiss?”

Barry smiled in response to Len’s waiting smirk, clearly devious and cocky even while half asleep. And for a second he was just struck in wonderment that he was pretty sure this side of Len was reserved for him and him alone. He leaned down and gave Len a quick peck, just enough that he could still bear to actually leave and not crawl back into bed alongside the other before rushing away, through his morning shower without even having time to sing before he was zipping off to work.

 

**********

 

“So how’s the wedding planning going?” Lisa asked Iris after ordering their meal. It was almost strange that they were here at the restaurant where Iris had first met Lisa and Len having lunch with Barry, suspecting nothing but the worst.

“Great, actually. We’re having dinner with Eddie’s parents tonight, a whole family thing.”

“Is your dad talking to Barry yet?”

Iris sighed and sipped her soda. “Not yet. Well I mean he’s talking to him, but not about personal stuff. His version of the cold shoulder.” She rolled her eyes and shrugged. “Barry can handle it. Dad says he’s just waiting for Thanksgiving to make any snap judgments, which basically means he’s expecting to be able to pull out some ‘I told you so’ crap.”

“I’m sure they can handle it.” Lisa waved dismissively. “Barry survived last night’s party just fine, after all. Thanksgiving should be a piece of cake for Lenny after that.”

“Oh yeah? With all the Rogues and everything?”

They paused for a moment when their food came before Lisa launched into an explanation, of how Lenny was more tense than usual, angry, and how apparently Weather Wizard knew Barry from who he was in relation to the West family, which didn’t sit too well with Iris, but Lisa waved her off. “Mark accepted the Rogues code. Lenny’s all for a good revenge—really, he is—but messing with anyone close to the Flash for personal gain was too risky even before Barry moved next door to Len.”

“You Rogues are pretty unique in that regard. The strangest mafia I’ve ever heard of.”

Lisa smiled like it was a compliment, and Iris realized that it sort of had been. “We’re more of a gang than a mafia, if you want to get technical. We aren’t interested in protection money or drug trafficking or that level of organization. We work with the mob, but we’re different.”

Iris wished that one day she’d actually be able to write about some of this. Picture News was just down the street and her fingers itched for the editorial on the Rogues that she knew she would never publish. At least not without their permission. “Don’t gangs have some awful initiations though?”

Lisa laughed lightly, sipping her drink in a way that Iris knew was supposed to look mysterious, but by now she just thought Lisa was silly whenever she tried it.

“Oh come on—dish. The Rogues have an initiation?”

“Well since you asked,” Lisa loved to gossip; Iris considered it a virtue. “To be a member you have to have faced off against the Flash and held your own.”

Iris burst out laughing and Lisa was close behind her. “Oh can I get an honorary membership then? Because I’m pretty sure I’ve taken Barry down more times than any of the Rogues.”

Lisa grinned and pointed her fork at Iris. “Absolutely. I'm sure Lenny would induct you, make it a wedding present.”

“Ah, he’s already making me a cake.”

“Oh he is? He’s always wanted to do that.”

“His baking is amazing.”

“Thank god Barry’s metabolism is as fast as the rest of him. Lenny’s slowly working to fatten up everyone in his life.”

Iris smiled and shook her head. “You know it doesn’t show. My brownie addiction on the other hand, definitely a problem sometimes.”

“You’d be gorgeous at any weight, Iris.”

Iris smiled. Sometimes, Lisa felt like the older sister she never had. “There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you. Do you like weddings?”

“So long as they aren’t mine. I don’t plan to marry.”

“Great. I was wondering if you wanted to come to mine? Barry still needs a date and he can’t exactly bring Len, considering half the guests will recognize him as a criminal. I asked Lenny if he wanted to come when he volunteered to make my cake, but he shut that idea right now.” She effectuated a plummeting torpedo with her fork to demonstrate.

“Oh he doesn’t like social gatherings at the best of times. But if you think it’s a good idea, my record’s still squeaky clean. Lenny always made sure I was too good to get caught.” Her smile was all confidence.

“Awesome, I can’t wait! Now, you have got to give me more details about last night’s party. And when can I finally meet Shawna? She sounds so cool!” Which was a big change from when Iris had been hitting her over the back of the head to save Caitlin from her, but change seemed to be in the air recently, and she was grateful for that much, at least.

 

**********

 

Three days went by in a blur. Barry felt constantly busy—wedding planning events, an influx of cases at work all pointing at a new meta-human to tackle, Roscoe Dillon causing problems, and just the general pace of his life. He hadn’t realized how used to seeing Len he was until he didn’t get the time to for a few days, relying on text messages and a stolen kiss after running into one another at Crossroads, smiling too wide at seeing the other man but Barry didn’t care.

What’s West’s favorite scotch?

Barry wondered if texting Captain Cold from inside a CCPD precinct was some kind of special sacrilege.

You’re bringing scotch to Thanksgiving?

You told me he won’t eat pie if I bake one.

Yeah but *I* would eat the whole pie if you do

The scotch?

Barry wasn’t even sure if Joe would accept it. Just get wine like a normal person...

Do I get to see you tonight?

:( The Top is being a dick, gotta do a stakeout in Keystone.

How is Ross ruining my life and he’s not even dating Lisa anymore?

Barry laughed at his phone. I might be able to sneak by on my patrols.

Because our apartment and Keystone are so close…

;P

In the end, he did sneak over, but as much fun as he discovered it was to make out on the fire escape in the Flash suit, he really did have places to be, and Caitlin and Cisco would never let him hear the end of it if he wasn’t around to catch Dillon because he was too busy kissing Len. On the other hand, his libido was already not letting him hear the end of it. How could he live next door to his boyfriend and still never get laid?

 

**********

 

Len wouldn’t admit to being nervous the morning of Thanksgiving. He did end up baking an extra pie, but he figured he would leave it home for Barry to eat later. He was very much hoping Barry would be coming by later.

The boyfriends thing was new, and somehow not new at all. Nothing had really changed that much, except that everything had. Barry was stopping by while patrolling the city to kiss him, and Len didn’t need to send him pictures of that ridiculous dildo because he knew that instead, Barry would soon be sleeping with him.

Which was a rather pleasant thought. He ended up taking another picture of the box anyway—stashed in his closet now—with the caption ‘you won’t really be needing this soon’. He hoped it would get his point across.

I had actually managed to repress the memory of ever buying that for a few days. Thx for nothing

Len sent one of those damn emojis back, the stupid winking face that was blowing a heart kiss. No response. He chuckled, and decided he could wait, trying to think up how else to bug Barry about that particular purchase (and also figure out if Barry had some secret collection of other toys he should know about). Then he double-checked with Mick what time he’d be there to pick up pie and Aiden’s toys that were left there the other night, and sipped his coffee before planning out the rest of his morning.

 

**********

 

Barry was buzzing with energy the day of Thanksgiving. He’d been out the night before, catching the new metahuman hanging around and getting them booked properly into Iron Heights and with no work that day, he got to sleep in till almost noon for once. He was energetic when he hopped in the shower, suds in his hair, singing You Can’t Hurry Love with the shampoo bottle as his microphone, belting it out because he was a little high on life.

Today was gonna’ be amazing.

He sang the song most of the way through, washing, thinking about the afternoon that was coming. Thinking about Len. About Len in the shower, and what it would be like if he was alongside Barry right now. That though brought up a rather pleasant mental image, half memory, of Len with water cascading down his body, and then of Len kissing him, of Len in bed the other morning, of all of it.

He really didn’t have time for this, but it was happening anyway, and the evening would probably go so much smoother if he wasn’t horny and on edge. So Barry dropped back against the shower wall with a thud, into his usual spot for when he wanted a good angle, and started to pump himself slowly, thinking of Len, a quick vibration shaking through him. He bit his lip to avoid making any sounds, only too aware that sound carried through their shower wall and he could hear water running on the other side; too much noise could make for a problem if he didn’t want to spend the whole drive to Joe’s being teased mercilessly.

God, he should probably hurry this up, they had places to be, but Barry wanted more, and couldn’t help but think of Len and that cock, of how it might look, or feel… clumsily, Barry grabbed the lube he’d started keeping in the shower—his libido ran high enough that he was masturbating twice a day most days, and the shower was a convenient spot for at least one of those times. He coated his fingers and got back into his spot against the wall before he was fingering himself and biting his lip again, vibrating hard with the effort not to make any noise, thinking about Len, thinking about The Dick, thinking about –

 

*********

 

Len got in the shower to the tail end of one of Barry’s songs—and why in the hell could Barry sing songs from years before he was even born, and where’d he learn to do it so well? Len was half-contemplating singing along, humming to himself and trying to be quick about washing when he heard what he considered to be a telltale thud along the wall. Len couldn’t help but feel his cock perk up at the sound, still trained from before they’d even started dating.

If Barry was masturbating, Len should at least have time to do so himself before Barry would be over to drag him off to thanksgiving, so Len let his hand drop to himself, indulging, picturing Barry. Picturing his long neck, the way his ass felt in Len’s hand, kneading it the other night, and how goddamn good he looked mostly naked in Len’s bed, how red he flushed when they kissed, how he felt pressed against Len and—

“Wh—oh—Sh—fuck!”

What the fu—

Len stepped back in shock, autopilot, his shower wall giving way. Out of the wall like a goddamned incorporeal ghost or a vibrating lunatic—definitely that one—tumbled—literally fell—through a wall!—Barry, who was flailing—arms wind-milling—and holy shit he was naked and—

Len caught his arms and Barry’s back landed on Len’s chest and he blinked owlishly up at Len for a half second, beautifully confused, and then—

“AGH!” He threw himself out of Len’s arms and that was all Len reacted too, letting out an alarmed sound of his own because how the hell did Barry get into his shower what the hell was he doing here?!

They stared at each other for a second, water spraying down between them as Barry pressed himself back against the wall he’d just come through, arms out against the wall and eyes like saucers, heaving in breaths.

Did you just phase into my—”

A pounding on the bathroom door jolted them both, three things happening at once. Barry opened his mouth to say—something, whatever, who knew—and Mick started shouting “You okay in there, Snart?!” all while Len whipped forward to press a hand over Barry’s mouth and stop him from giving away his random and impossible presence in Len’s bathroom, the other hand on the shower wall behind the kid.

“Just a spider, Mick!”

Barry was going red under his hand, from his cheeks to his forehead and down his neck, down—

“A spider?!” They could hear Mick guffaw. “You getting soft, Snart?”

Oh no, soft was definitely not the issue right now, his erection coming back in full force as his shock abated. Len swallowed, feeling for once his own cheeks flush a little because Barry was naked in his shower and Len’s eyes could not help but trail slowly down—he snapped them back up to Barry’s face. He wasn’t the only one who was hard. God he’d just looked at Barry’s—

“Just leave it, Mick!” he called back, hearing the laughter retreat away from the door and he took a shaky breath. Barry was here, unmoving, staring at him like if neither of them acknowledged this crazy situation then maybe neither of them would have to deal with it. Len slowly moved his hand off Barry’s mouth, watching him swallow hard.

“It was an accident,” his voice was low and rough and not quite a whisper and Len’s cock twitched.

“How the hell do you accidentally fall through a solid wall, Barry?” he hissed but didn’t step back. Barry was out from the spray of water, pressed to the wall almost directly under the shower faucet, and it was mostly falling down Len’s back. He was leaning forward, torso and upper body ahead of his hips and feet, so that they were almost chest to chest, faces inches apart. Barry’s eyes flicked down then back up and the brunet closed his eyes for a second and seemed to be steeling himself, voice strained when he spoke.

“I’ve been practicing phasing a lot recently and I was vibrating and it just… sort of… happened.”

Len should step back, should give Barry his space so he could phase back through the wall and they could pretend his had never happened, or could repeat it later when they actually had time, or do a lot of things except ask—“Vibrating?”

Barry went from almost a normal color to a whole new shade of red. “It—ah—I—oh fuck—”

“Barry do you vibrate when you’re—”

A quick shudder passed through Barry, almost too fast to see, a vibration, and Len couldn’t stop the short gasp from escaping him. Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck. He was so hard. Barry was so hard. He could feel it against his hip now and didn’t even know when they’d moved closer but yeah, he could feel it.

“Shit,” Barry whispered. His arms were down at his sides now. “Shit, Len, fuck, I am so sorry, I can’t believe I—god you know what just screw this like fuck please can you touch me already because I’m going to go in-fucking-sane if you don’t soon because you’re so damn hot and naked and wet and it’s so big god your cock is so big and I want it in me—ohmygod I can’t stop talking please put me out of my misery—”

Len kissed him, hard, tongues immediately meeting, insistent and deep as he pressed his body against Barry’s to stop the too-quick flow of words and fuck. Okay, Len was pretty sure this might be the best thing to ever happen to him. Barry’s hands were on him in an instant, his waist, back, hips, grinding himself against Len, each of their cocks hard against the other’s hip and stomach then against one another in between the press of their bodies and Barry’s body shook in a quick vibration and he groaned and it was a lovely sound except shit Len was supposed to be in this shower alone.

He pulled back from the kiss to whisper “quiet, Barry,” a hand going to Barry’s wet hair to slide the strands out of his face and back.

“I—” Barry inhaled and his voice was a rough whisper even as he moved a hand down between them to grab both of their cocks and wrap around them. Len had to check his own groan, keeping it low and barely audible when Barry’s hand wrapped around his cock, around his and Barry’s both, sliding them together. “God, you’re so big, Len.”

He wasn’t that big (okay, he knew he was) and he knew it could be intimidating for some people, but clearly Barry didn’t mind and Len was pleased about that. Actually, he was pretty sure Barry said something about how bad he wanted it in him, somewhere in that word jumble from earlier.

“You like that?” he whispered, close to Barry’s ear, close enough to hear him gasp.

Barry titled his head back with a stuttered, “y-yes” and then, to Len’s surprise, he whispered, “can I—god I can’t believe I’m about to say this—can you finger me? Please, I—”

God, yes. Len’s hand was on Barry’s hip and he moved to palm his ass cheek, round and firm in his hand. The only problem was, “lube?”

Barry exhaled and Len pulled his face back enough to see Barry flush again. His hand didn’t stop its steady pull on their cocks though. “I’m already, ah, I was already—”

Fuck, Barry,” Len whispered, kissing him again as he moved his fingers, pushing between Barry’s cheeks until he found his entrance, already slick and waiting for him. His cock ached between his legs, in Barry’s hand, as he slipped two fingers in right off the bat, greedy, in awe of the tight heat that clenched around him. Barry gasped into the kiss, legs spreading out, hips pressing up to make more room for Len’s hand between his ass and the shower wall. Then he was pumping his fingers in and out of Barry, swallowing his moans in their kiss, other hand on his hair while Barry’s hand worked them both, holding on to Len’s hip with his free hand.

When Barry got too noisy even through their kiss, too impatient, which didn’t take long, Len pulled back and kissed his neck, loving the way his breath hitched in his throat but even so, Len dragged his hand down from Barry’s hair to over his mouth to quiet him, sucking on his neck and teasing his prostate. Barry started to vibrate against him, whole body at once—neck under Len’s lips, ass around Len’s fingers, and—how was this even real—Barry’s hand on them, on his cock, and fuckholyshitgodyes, his cock started to vibrate against Len’s. Len forgot to breathe it felt so good, bit Barry’s neck hard to stifle his groan, wanting to shout, coming hard. Barry shook and groaned against his hand and came a few seconds later.

It was over way too soon, as far as Len was concerned. He wanted to stay in the shower all day and repeat it. He wanted to kick Mick out of his apartment and throw Barry over his table, fuck him against Len’s fridge, make up for all their lost time. But he’d already been in the shower too damn long and they had to go have dinner with Detective Joe goddamn West. So he kissed Barry then stepped back under the spray of the water when he was done panting, and grinning at the other.

“Don’t you have somewhere to be, kid?”

Barry gave him a quiet laugh and a good-natured glare. “I can guarantee I can be ready to go faster than you.”

“Prove it.”

Barry shook his head with a grin like he was clearly up to the challenge before his body shook again, faster than it had a minute ago, and before Len could blink he was pressing back into the wall behind him, through it and—

That was never not going to be weird. It had been weird when he came through Len’s door that one time, weird when he carried Cisco through a wall, and this wall he was moving through pipes and flowing water. How the hell did Barry even do that?

It didn’t matter, right now. Right now, he had to go tell Mick about the ostensible spider that landed on his shower and was the size of a tennis ball so that his right to be leader of the Rogues wasn’t revoked. Mick was never gonna’ let him live it down, regardless.

 

**********

 

Barry was at Len’s door in record time, except for the minute he’d taken to scream into his favorite couch pillow. Len’s fingers. Len’s mouth. Len’s cock.

That might have been the best worst most embarrassing and wonderful escapade his powers had ever taken him on. He was glad this was, finally, real. So so very, very real. That cock was… wow. So real. And Len’s fingers. Barry was gonna’ feel the phantom of those fingers all night, he was sure.

How he was gonna’ look Joe in the eye when they got to his house was another story.

He fought down the blush when he knocked on Len’s door not long later, Mick opening it with a grunt. Mick. Barry had almost forgotten about him.

“He’s picking out a shirt.”

Barry followed Mick into the living room.

“What, ah, what’re you doing here?” Barry wasn’t quite sure yet how to make small talk with the other man, used to the Aiden-buffer.

“I’m just picking up a pie and some of Aiden’s toys before I head over to Shawna’s,” Mick said in his way of clearly enunciating things. “Just got off work.”

“Right.”

“That you, Barry?” Len called from down the hall.

“That’s right, slowpoke!” Barry grinned even though Len couldn't see him.

“I told him to hurry his ass up. Freaking out over a goddamn spider in the shower like a pansy—”

Barry laughed to cover his blush and ended up coughing.

“It was the size of a tennis ball, Mick,” Len was coming down the hall and growling but his eyes caught Barry and he could see the mischief and smirk in them.

“And you screamed like a damsel in distress, Snart, worried I was gonna’ have to come in there and save you from it.”

Oh that would have been bad. Barry tried valiantly not to think about how bad that would have been, mortified and amused and still thinking about Len’s hands. He was hopeless.

“We should head out, we’re already late,” he said to Len instead. And Len looked nice in a pair of black pants and a dark blue button up shirt.

“Should I wear a tie?”

“Definitely not.”

Barry was in his jacket already and Len hauled on his own before they followed Mick out of the building, the man with two pies and some toys in a bag. Len had another bag, wine and pie as well—maybe they’d convince Joe to accept it after all—and Barry’s stomach was already ready to grumble. They parted ways with Mick in the parking lot and made it to Len’s car, Barry buzzing with energy as soon as he sat down and Len started the car.

“So.”

“So,” Len looked glanced over at him and there was a definite upward curl to his lips. “That was interesting.”

“That’s one way to put it.”

“I take it that you’re game to repeat it sometime?”

“Later tonight?”

“Glad we’re on the same page.”

Barry sat back and grinned. This was good. He could work with this. “I’ve wanted to do that since we went swimming the first time—no wait, since you kissed me—or well, probably before that.”

“God, me too, Barry. I never thought then that you’d go in for this.”

“For sex?”

“For sex with me in the crazy situation we were in.”

Barry laughed. “Crazy, yeah,” he scratched the back of his head. “I still can’t believe I let you convince me to pretend to date you.”

“In my defense, I never planned to actually date you, or even see you. Just pretend to fight with you and have it end easy.”

“Isn’t it sad how many times we tried to break up? Though they were all your fault.”

“You started most of them.”

Barry sighed and smiled. “I started like… one of them.”

Len’s eyes were focused on the road but he was fighting a smirk, Barry could tell. “You certainly ruined a few of them. Which I suppose I’m not too sorry about. I might even have to thank Joe West for being so inconsiderate about Iris and Eddie, if it made you cancel my actual attempt at breaking up.”

Barry watched cars and houses go by. “… we’re weird, aren't we?”

“You dress head to toe in red leather and you’re asking that now?”

“You’re lucky I’ve got a ‘don’t shove the driver’ policy.”

Len chuckled and Barry was pretty sure he’d lost that round. “You do know that I'm supposed to spend my night flirting with you, by your own request?”

“Ah, right, that. But not like—no ‘Arm Candy’ business. Happy flirting.”

“You mean I don’t get to grope your ass all night, Barry?”

“Don’t be a dick.”

Len smirked.

Barry hesitated for a moment, but decided he needed to hear it. “Just to be clear… this is real, right?”

There was a moment where Barry was sweating, before Len inclined his head. “Boyfriends.”

He left out a sigh of relief. “Boyfriends.”

“Guess you won the bet,” there was a curve up to Len’s smile.

“Ah, we both won. We definitely just had sex, and it’s not Thanksgiving dinner yet, technically.”

Len pulled the car up to a stop, partway down the block from Joe’s.

“You know, Barry… there’s still a lot to…” he tilted his head side to side, “consider, moving forward. Part of why this worked so well is because neither of us had to actually deal with the reality of it.”

“Why don’t we just get through dinner, first?”

Len nodded, “and in meantime,” he leaned forward, and Barry closed his eyes just in time for Len to kiss him, deep and warm and just enough to spread heat down into him, his chest and stomach and he was tight and a little turned on by the time Len pulled away. “Let’s just say I won’t complain about calling you mine for real.”

Somehow, Barry was out of breath from just that.

 

Chapter Text

Eddie couldn’t for the life of him figure out if being on Joe’s good side was better or worse than being on his bad side. The perks of being on his good side included his blessings about marrying his daughter, more active help with things relating to the wedding, more camaraderie at work, and oh yeah, listening to the man rant for two solid hours about how awful it was that Barry was dating ‘that no good sunofabitch murdering criminal with a record a mile long and nothing good to show for himself.’

Eddie couldn’t get a word in edgewise, tempted to try and defend what he’d seen of Snart so far, not because he really liked the man or found his record redeeming, but more because hearing Joe go on (and on, and on, and on) while setting up for Thanksgiving had lit the fire of solidarity in Eddie’s heart. Leonard was obviously important to Barry, and Eddie wanted to support them.

But when Barry and Snart walked in the door and the reality of the situation really made itself present, support was kind of an abstract concept.

“Hi Joe!” Barry said it too brightly as he took off his jacket, and Snart’s eyes were pinpointed like lasers on Joe.

“Barry.” And okay, Joe was admittedly being frosty.

“Detective West.”

Eddie felt like he was watching a tense sports match, like Snart had just made a serve and the ball was in Joe’s corner. He almost wished he had a stop watch to count how many seconds elapsed until Joe finally acknowledged, “Snart.”

Eddie let out the breath he was holding. Zero-zero so far. Barry offered to take Snart’s jacket—a thick pea coat—and hung it up, while Snart stepped forward and offered Joe a bottle of wine and a bag with—was that pie? 

“A token of my appreciation for hosting tonight.”

Joe was forced to accept it with a glare because Barry was right there, hovering at Snart’s side. One point for Snart. Barry, at least, seemed to relax.

“Barry, hi,” Eddie finally felt like it was safe to make his presence known. Barry blinked then said hi like he hadn’t even noticed Eddie—something he was getting used to happening whenever Barry and Snart were together—but Snart turned and nodded at him. “Len.”

“Eddie, good to see you again.”

“You too.”

Joe shot Eddie a glare that he withered under. “Uh, we’re just finishing up in the kitchen, so why don’t you guys hang out out here?” Football was muted on the TV and Eddie wasn’t about to suggest that Barry give Snart a tour of Joe’s house, but Joe wasn’t doing more than glaring at everyone yet.

“Can I get you a drink, Snart? We have beer.” Did that count as a point for Joe? Eddie decided that it did.

“Just one. I will be driving later.”

“Uh huh, in which stolen vehicle this week?”

Snart didn’t answer and Eddie was pretty sure Joe had just scored twice. Should he make a full points system? Nah, too much work, that was more Barry's thing. The room was tense for a second while Eddie watched it unfold, Barry starting to fidget, and finally spoke: 

“Eddie,” he started, casually stepping between Joe and his boyfriend with the pretense of coming closer to Eddie, “where’s Iris?” Good save. Point to Barry. Was he his own team, or Snart’s?

“She stepped out to grab a few things from the store, she should be back any minute.”

Joe retreated to the kitchen, presumably to grab Snart a beer and Eddie raised his eyebrows.

“Tense.”

That was when Barry turned to smile and he noticed the mark on Barry’s neck, the purple just above the slightly open collar. “We knew it would be. No weapons or death threats in the first five minutes though, so I’m counting it as a win.”

Eddie tried not to stare at the mark. Point to no one. Joe had definitely seen it, and with Barry’s healing, it had to be fresh. An hour old, if that. Barry was insane. There was going to be an ugly mass murder by the end of the night. Actually, so long as it wasn’t in this house, that might save the night—Eddie and Joe could go investigate, dragging Barry to the crime scene, and Snart could go home. Eddie told himself wasn’t actually wishing for mass homicide. Just a teensy bit.

“A win? Kinda’ seems like a stand off to me, Barr.”

"I feel like a tie for them is a win for me," he grinned and Eddie firmly decided he got to be his own team.

Snart stepped up beside Barry, a fond smile on his face looking at the other, arms bumping, clearly more relaxed with Joe in the kitchen. “I dunno’, this beats him making me spend hours going through old baby photos of yours.”

Barry rolled his eyes. “You can rest easy, there's no danger of that. Joe doesn’t have any context for them till I was ten anyway.”

Joe came back with the beer, and one for Eddie. No one could accuse him of poisoning Snart's because the lid was still on, though Eddie had faith that Joe could find a way if he was determined. If not, the death vibes emanating off him might do the trick.

“Thank you.”

“Uh huh. I’ll be in the kitchen.” He gave Eddie a significant look and Eddie nodded. He knew his job here. Operation ‘do not let Barry and Snart be left together alone under Joe’s roof’ was officially a go. He already couldn’t wait for Iris to get back, and sort of wished he’d never stopped smoking five years ago.

“You guys already watch the Parade?”

“I’ll pass.” Snart wasn't exactly being helpful. Eddie sighed.

“Wanna’ watch the game?”

“Who's winning?” Barry was already moving to the couch. With a curious glance around, Snart followed him.

“No one yet.”

“Shame it’s not hockey,” Snart dropped onto the couch next to Barry, arm settling on to his shoulder, Barry leaning into his side. Eddie looked away, turning the TV volume back on to save his sanity.

 

**********

 

The house was warm and smelled like food already when Iris got home, shaking snow out of her hair, the last few forgotten supplies in a grocery bag. She was delighted to see Barry and Len already there, cozied up on the couch. This was already going better than expected. Operation 'Get Dad to Accept Len' was officially a go.

“Well, hello! How are you two? I didn’t figure you’d be by until dinnertime?”

Barry and Eddie jumped up to greet her and Len was a little more slow, standing awkwardly and nodding, obviously attempting to smile but, well, he wasn’t the best at it, unless he was directing it at Barry and thought no one was watching.

“Ah, I figured we’d come by at the same time I always do. Why mess with tradition, right?”

“Wouldn’t want to jinx anything,” she smiled while Eddie offered to take the groceries to the kitchen and she remembered her dad’s little pep talk about not leaving Barry and Len alone in the house. She almost laughed, but Barry seemed relaxed, not near as tense as she was expecting, casually leaning in to Len’s side like—

Barry Allen,” she hissed quietly.

“What?!” he went completely deer-in-the-headlights.

“Is that a hickey?”

His hand snapped to his neck and Len had the good presence of mind to at least look slightly guilty, but also more smug than anything else, so he wasn’t exactly winning any points.

“I, uh, it just—when did you—” he addressed that at Len then shook his head, “—stupid question, I was distracted—”

Oh my god,” Iris was still keeping her voice barely above a whisper, even though it was pointless because if she noticed it, there was no way her dad hadn’t.

“Len, would you excuse us for a sec?” She didn’t wait for an answer, grabbing Barry’s arm and dragging him out to the porch.

“Hey—whoa, come on, it’s not that big of a deal, it’ll heal in like an hour—”

Exactly! How recent is that?”

And oh he was blushing. She looked him up and down and it clicked, it was obvious. No wonder he was so relaxed.

You had sex!

“I—wh—maybe—it’s none of your business anyway!”

She smacked him on the arm for good measure. “I cannot believe you! How did that happen? When?! Dish!”

“It’s cold out here…”

She was giggling though, irrepressible. “Please don’t tell me you wrote a sonnet to his dick and recited it to him? I'm pretty sure that would either get you laid or tossed in the looney bin.”

“I didn’t—hey, c’mon, give me a little more credit than that. No poetry was involved. It just... we uh... some of the walls—uh, barriers—between us just sort of... gave way.”

He coughed and Iris knew there must be more to the story but she didn't actually want to hear any details, still traumatized from last time she'd asked him to elaborate. So she squealed and hugged him. “I am so happy for you two! Finally! Please tell me you guys are done with all those stupid bets and challenges and pretending it’s fake and whatever else you’ve dreamed up?”

She stepped back and he scratched the back of his head, smiling. “I think so? Yeah, we’re talking, we’re on the same page, and he called me his boyfriend, for real.”

“For real,” she grinned. This day couldn't get any better.

 

**********

 

Eddie was still taking score. Although Barry was on his own team, it was obvious that Iris was somehow on Snart’s team, which was tipping the scales. Right now it was 7 for Team Snart, 3 for Team Barry, and 5 for Team Joe. Eddie felt a bit like a referee, calling foul and chiming in if anyone stepped over invisible lines he made up, but otherwise just trying to keep things running smoothly.

It didn’t help that Joe gave him a disapproving glance every time that Barry and Snart stood too close, or when Snart wrapped an arm around Barry’s waist and Barry leaned over and kissed his cheek, nosing it and laughing while Snart smirked. Joe had cleared his throat and they toned it down a bit, but Eddie didn’t appreciate that he was somehow being blamed for their bad behavior.

But mostly he just sighed his way through it, glad that Joe had a lot of beer on hand.

At the very least, it wasn’t too difficult to leave the two of them unchaperoned, especially with Iris there. And even better, Joe and Snart seemed to gravitate to different rooms. When Joe came out to watch the game, leaning against the wall in the living room, Iris dragged ‘Len’ to the kitchen to talk about pie and sample her attempt at brownies in case he had suggestions for improvements. Eddie secretly hoped that he did, because the brownies were far too dry and he kept hearing about the wonders of Snart’s baking. Which still boggled his mind, but whatever.

Eddie went to check on them a few minutes later (needing another beer because really, how else did they expect him to cope with this nonsense?), and Snart was checking on the food while Iris was giggling as he added more spice or salt to things, basted the turkey. Eddie shot them a disapproving glance but left it. Joe was a great cook, but if Snart decided to keep the food top quality while everyone else's backs were turned, Eddie wasn’t going to complain. He did, however, add another point to Team Snart.

Dinner was another thing entirely. It was a little painfully obvious that Snart wasn’t used to family meals like this. Barry had to basically direct him where to go, tell him what to do, if only with his eyebrows and tilts of his head. Family meals tended to always involve a minor amount of chaos, even with just a small group of people, but you got used to moving around people you spent time with. And it was clear that Barry and Snart moved seamlessly around one another—Barry tugging on Snart’s shirt whenever he was in the way, arm around his middle at one point, smiling at him as Snart just went along, bemused—but Snart didn’t really seem to know how to move around the rest of them. Which made sense, and Eddie could sympathize, remembering his first dinners with Joe and Iris and Barry altogether, but nonetheless, Team Joe was raking in points (though Team Barry scored one as well).

Somehow, they all managed to get seated around the table with nothing burnt and no one shot or completely drunk yet, for which Eddie was relieved, even if he was unabashedly pouring a large glass of wine for himself. Snart seemed able to just observe whatever Barry was doing and follow his lead, all of them eating comfortably, at least until Iris said, “so do we all have something we’re thankful for this year?”

Barry perked up, Snart’s face turned into a neutral mask, Joe looked fond if put-upon, and Eddie tried to think of something other than the wine that he was currently grateful for. He decided that being thankful for Iris was the safest answer (and true), and offered to go first.

“This year, I’m thankful for having Iris in my life, for agreeing to marry me, and for being the joy I get to wake up to every morning.”

She sighed in the way that made his heart melt and kissed his cheek, and Eddie decided that he should be keeping score for himself too because he’d definitely just earned a point. Even Joe didn’t glare at him, though he did shake his head, but it was a fond head-shake (Eddie had long-since learned the subtle headshake dialect of Joe West).

Iris spoke up next. "Well, this year, I have a lot to be thankful for, but the one thing that jumps to mind the most is new friends. I'm thankful for all the amazing new people that have come into my life this year.”

Eddie beamed, heart warming. How was Iris so good? She was so amazing, so beautiful, focused in life on all the right things, and he felt like he was going to overflow when she smiled over at him.

“I can’t believe I get to marry you,” he said.

“Alright you two, save the dinner-table canoodling for the wedding,” Joe admonished in his happy voice. Eddie was definitely enjoying the benefits of being on his good side.

“Barry, you next?”

“Uh, sure thing Eddie. I guess uh, this year I'm thankful for… happy accidents,” he looked at Snart when he said it, and Eddie was sure there was a story there because there was enough of a devious look to Barry’s face when he said it, but then in melted into something softer. “Happy accidents that bring you things in life you never would've let yourself realize you could want and have.”

Snart had been arching an eyebrow at Barry, a little smirk, but his face sort of mimicked Barry's, relaxing into a real smile. Eddie wondered if that was what he’d looked like just a moment ago, smiling at Iris.

“Your turn,” Barry nodded at his partner.

“Right.” Eddie had never seen Captain Cold look nervous before. He was sort of revelling in it, for the brief second it happened before he looked confident all over again. “I suppose… this year I would be thankful for trust and forgiveness. I haven’t always worked too well with those concepts, but they’re part of what brought Barry into my life, and I’m thankful for that.”

“Here, here!” Iris raised her wine, and even Eddie had to admit, point to Team Snart. The man just smiled just a little under the praise before they were all sipping their wine, and Iris turned expectantly to Joe.

“Dad?”

He sighed and sat back. “This year, same as every year, I’m thankful for family. For my great kids, who still keep me around, even though I’m old and they’re all grown up and moving on with their lives. I’ll always be thankful for you two.”

And with that, dinner was survived. Eddie sat back in relief.

Barry offered to clean up after, which Eddie thought was fair considering he’d eaten almost half the meal himself, and Snart offered to help. Which left Eddie sighing and following them into the kitchen at a look from Joe, Iris laughing at him.

The chaperoning may have been warranted in this case though, because they were definitely kissing by the time Eddie made it into the kitchen. He cleared his throat and Barry jolted but Snart leaned back smoothly and Eddie was pretty sure he’d known they had an audience. 

“You guys need any help cleaning up?”

Barry still had his arms around Snart, who still hand his own on Barry’s waist, and Eddie felt invisible.

“I think we’re okay, Eddie,” Barry didn’t even look away from Snart when he said it.

“If I didn’t know any better, I really would say you’re actively trying to see how close to getting me shot you can push it.”

Snart’s voice was way too low and quiet and Eddie was not being paid enough for this. He wasn’t being paid at all, unless you counted booze. He moved past them and started filling plates into the dishwasher.

“C’mon, Joe’s been nothing but polite so far, it’s kind of scary, actually.”

Eddie had to agree with Barry on that one, even as he studiously ignored them not-quite-kissing in the kitchen. It was like they were still in the honeymoon phase of the relationship, which made sense because it had only been a few months, but couldn’t they at least tone it down in Joe’s house?

“Mmm, polite and murderous can go hand in hand, you know.”

Eddie felt uncomfortable at the way Barry laughed at that, because it wasn’t really a joke, was it? Snart had murdered people. “Fine, if you’re that worried, I’ll take it down a notch.”

He stepped back from his boyfriend and Eddie decided it was a good time to start breathing again. “Please don’t tell me you two have been laying it on thick on purpose for some godforsaken reason?”

Barry looked guilty, Snart looked impassive, and Eddie threw his hands in the air and leaned back against the counter. “You’re gonna’ get yourselves killed.”

Barry stretched and came over to start filling the sink. “I just kind of wanted to stick it to Joe, just a bit, you know? He’s been giving me the cold shoulder about this all month since I told him about me and Len,” he shrugged like it didn’t matter, but the lines of tension told Eddie it did.

“It was juvenile, but hopefully West gets the message that I’m not going anywhere.” Snart started to bring dishes to the side of the sink for Barry, and Eddie wondered how often they did this routine at home.

“I’m sure he’s got it.” Whether or not he accepted it was another story. “You heard him out there, Joe loves his kids more than anything. If you make Barry happy, he’ll come around eventually.”

Barry turned to smile at him, "thanks, Eddie.” 

Even Snart looked appreciative. Another point to Team Eddie. He wasn’t so bad at this after all.

 

**********

 

Barry wasn’t even surprised when Joe asked him and Len to step outside with him for a few minutes. He knew something had to be coming. Joe had been way too civil all evening and the other shoe had to drop sometime, but at least Joe had waited until after dinner. They grabbed their coats and filed on to the porch, Iris giving him a thumbs up for good luck when Joe couldn’t see and he mostly winced in appreciation. 

“So, uhh… this the part where you threaten my boyfriend with a shotgun and tell him not to break my heart?” he tried to laugh, looking between Joe and Len, but neither of them appreciated Barry’s excellent sense of humor. He wondered if he was spending too much time with Cisco recently.

Joe sighed, crossed his arms, sighed again, and leaned against the porch column, looking out into the street for a second. Barry actually felt nervous then, because Joe wasn’t a dramatic guy, and didn't normally have an issue getting to the point. It felt like forever before he started to talk.

“Y'know, I had no idea what to think at first—you two, in a relationship? Didn’t seem possible. But Barry insisted,” he directed that part to Len, “so I tried to wrap my head around it. And it became clear pretty damn fast that Barry was serious 'bout this, that you meant somethin' to him 'n he was hoping you’d stick around. That part didn’t surprise me too much—Barry’s never been the guy to have a fling.”

This was good so far. Great. Barry could work with this. Joe turned to him.

“So I understand, son, that this relationship, that Leonard, means a lot to you. And I respect that. But—” oh here it was coming. Barry steeled himself for the angry tirade, “but… I have never been more terrified for you than I am right now.”

Barry swallowed. That wasn’t angry, that was—wow, that was actually Joe looking worried and almost upset. “Joe—”

“Just let me get through this, Barr. 'Cause I can tell where your head is at and I know you. You get caught up in things. 'N I don’t think you’ve given any real thought to how this kind of relationship, if you let it go on like this, is gonna' impact your life. So now I’m gonna’ be the bad guy, and I’m gonna’ spell some of it out for you.”

Barry shifted from foot to foot, moving just slightly closer to Len.

“You’re the Flash, and this man," he waved dismissively at Len, "he’s more 'n just a thief. He’s made a name for himself as your nemesis. And I know you two can say all that’s in the past or whatever, but Snart’s obviously not gonna’ stop stealing things or running the Rogues, and you’re not gonna’ stop being the Flash. So what happens when you two have t' face off against one another, huh?”

“It already happened, on Halloween,” Barry had to cut in. “It turned out fine—we didn’t even fight about it.”

“Uh huh. But what about the next time, and the time after that? You think Snart’s gonna’ be satisfied with losing to you all the time?”

“What makes you think I’ll lose, detective?”

“Way I see it, Snart, you’ll have some pretty limited options. Guys like you and me, we're normal humans. Barry? He's on a different level. And I'm good with that, I wouldn't want to try to keep up with the guys he fights, believe me. But you won't be able to either, not unless you use your little cold gun. And that gun? Is a weapon specifically designed by Cisco to hurt Barry, and it does, I've seen it. It hurts him like hell. You wanna’ be the guy who comes home victorious from stealing some diamond or whatever it is only to have your partner bruised and aching cause’f you and your toy? Even if you don’t kill anyone, you’re still gonna' have to hurt him.”

Barry turned to look at Len, who looked far more uncomfortable than Barry would’ve guessed. “Hey, hey, Len, c’mon, it’s fine. I heal fast. It’s not an issue. And we don’t really face off that much—we can come to an understanding about that.”

“Oh and that's another thing, Barry—you gonna’ be satisfied with your partner stealing whatever, whenever, right under your nose, making plans to do it while you’re around?”

“I wouldn’t plan jobs when he’s around, West. I’m not an idiot. And I don’t need the cold gun to hurt Barry in order to beat him, either. I’m perfectly capable of creating traps and other work-arounds.”

“Uh huh, traps and work arounds? Think that’ll work for how long till Barry figures ‘em out, till you get frustrated at him 'n start coming up with better ways to get at him? You’ve known his weaknesses since the first time you met him, but even you've gotta' know you can’t go around endangering people without losing him—you might mean the world to Barry but he ain’t gonna’ put up with that.”

“I’ll figure something out,” Len practically snarled.

“You’re human, Snart. Think you won't be able to avoid the temptation of setting traps and work arounds that come from things you know 'bout his powers from your personal life, or knowing when he will and won’t be around or in town, when he’s too busy with some meta-human to stop you from taking things? How do you think Barry'll feel about you using your private life that way, huh?”

Len felt tense next to Barry and an uncomfortable feeling was squirming up inside Barry too. He wanted to reassure Len, but he also had no idea how, because everything Joe was saying made sense. He couldn't sort his thoughts about it out before Joe was turning to him again.

“You think you’re gonna’ be okay with all of that? Having your relationship twisted for personal gain?”

“Hey, come on, Joe, it’s not…” he half lifted his arms and dropped them again. “I trust Len, okay? I trust that he’s not gonna’ do that. And if he does, we’ll just… cross that bridge when we come to it, I guess.”

“Uh huh, okay.” Joe leaned back against the column again, let out a breath, recrossed his arms. “I get that. All couples have challenges, you guys might be able to navigate your unique ones. Sure.” His voice was skeptical, but he forged on. “But there’s something else I’ve been wonderin'. You do know what you do for a living, right Barr?”

Barry felt his stomach start to clench. Maybe the third plate of food hadn't been such a great idea, because the question made him a little nauseated, coming from Joe. He had an idea where this was going, but his jaw was tight, so he just nodded.

“Uh huh. You work with the CCPD. And tell me—or maybe tell Leonard—why did you decide to become a forensic scientist?”

“To help people. To help my father,” his voice was a little raspy.

“Your father who is…?”

“In Iron Heights.”

“Your father who you cannot help if you get fired from the force for dating a criminal! How d’you think you’re gonna’ feel when dating Leonard Snart costs you your job? Are you ready to sacrifice that? And if you are, you think you won’t resent him for it when it happens?”

“We can hide it—have hidden it—”

“Not near so damn well as you think.”

“What’re you talking about?” Barry swallowed around the nausea.

“I had to cover for you two already, and mark my words I will not put my own neck on the line to cover for you 'n Snart again, Barry. But an informant picked up your name this past week,” Barry felt Len shift next to him, alert, “as being connected to Snart at some party. And I had to tell Morillo that you were there as a favor to the metahuman task force. And let me tell you what lies I do not like to tell. I do not like to hear that Snart was basically molesting you at some bar 'n treating you like a damn hooker, and I do not like to pretend that you went along with it to get information because ‘Captain Cold’ took a shining to you and you used it to get information. You want that to be what your work mates think about you, Barry? 'Cause I'm still tryin'a figure out what other options I had. And you're lucky, Barry, so lucky that it’s basically getting to the point where people associate the Rogues with metahumans and that we had that Hydra Hunter guy running around last week, or else I wouldn’t have had half so much weight in my lie for you. 'N I don’t know what’ll happen next time, 'cause I sure as hell ain't losing my job over Snart, not for this.”

Barry was sweating inside his jacket, unable to form words for a minute. Mortification gripped him, a deeply uncomfortable dread-like sensation. He seriously hoped Morillo’s informant was vague on the details. Barry couldn’t even look at Joe or Len for a moment, but no one was saying anything.

“Joe…” he whispered, finally. “I’m sorry.”

Joe just shook his head. “It’s gonna’ happen again, Barry. No matter how careful you are. How many people know your 'secret' identity at this point? You can’t keep that a secret but you think you can hide this relationship from people? What about when you start living together? Don’t pretend you haven’t thought about it—if you’re bringin' him to Thanksgiving and putting your neck out on the line for him, I know this is serious.”

Barry wanted to laugh, but it would come out sounding choked right now, just nodded instead. If only Joe knew.

“So what're you willing to lose, Barr? You need to seriously think about it. Your reputation? Your career? Your ability to keep criminals in this city in line as the Flash? Because you will be sacrificing Barry, it’s only a question of how much.”

He had no words, and Joe turned to Len, who tensed even further if that were possible, standing silent next to Barry. Joe wasn’t leaning anymore, he was standing tall.

“And you. You were the missing piece o' the puzzle, Snart, 'n I almost can’t believe it though I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. It was obvious Barry cared about you but I couldn’t know how you felt, didn’t want to hear it from anyone else till I could see it. And I do see it, Snart. I believe you care about Barry, maybe as much as he cares about you.”

He let that sink for a moment.

“So how much are you willing to let Barry sacrifice for you? His job, his best shot to save his father from prison, his ability to do the thing he loves most? But you know what, I don’t put that much faith in your capacity to make the selfless call here, so let me ask you—what are you willing to lose? To do? You really want to find out if you can turn that gun on someone you say you care about? Or if you do somehow convince him not to fight you, what about your Rogues?”

He stepped forward and Len pose shifted like he was ready for a fight, but Joe still barrelled on talking. He'd had a while to think, Barry figured.

“They’re not gonna’ stop fighting the Flash. How impartial are you gonna’ feel when one of them hurts Barry? When Barry hurts one of them? Who’s side are you gonna’ take when Barry sends one 'f your friends to prison? It’s gonna happen; we both know it’s only a matter of time. How will you feel coming home to him knowing he’s proud of his victory and your pals are planning revenge on him at that moment?”

Barry looked at Len, who’s face was just an angry, tense mask. He knew Len now, knew how he thought and felt, knew him as a person, and he knew Len hated what he was hearing. They were both reeling. None of this was secret, none of this wasn't anything they didn't already know, but having it spelled out, all these concerns, these things he’d been avoiding…

“I’ll deal with it,” Len finally hissed. Barry’s heart felt heavy.

“Uh huh. One last thing, Snart. What’re you gonna' do when the Rogues figure out who the Flash is under that mask? 'Cause the more time Barry spends with them and the more time they spend fighting him, they will figure it out, some of ‘em at least. And your sister might keep it a secret if she doesn’t know already, if only for your sake, but how do you expect a group of criminals and murderers to feel when they find out their leader is partners with their biggest enemy—one who’s put them behind bars and locked them in a pipeline and hurt them? How do you think they’re gonna’ feel about you lying to them about that?" 

Barry hadn’t thought of that. But he could picture it, was picturing it, vividly. Mardon, who thought ‘Barry Allen’ was alright but hated the Flash, was willing to test and push Len. Shawna, who might side with him. Bivolo, who'd thanked Len for saving them but had no issue with getting a room full of people to kill each other as a distraction for him to rob a bank. Len, who might end up fighting for his life against the people he’d brought together.

"What’d you think this relationship will cost you when people learn his secret?” Joe just looked at them one last time as they took that in, a final “uh huh,” before retreating back into the house.

 

Chapter Text

The car ride was silent the whole drive home. The walk up the stairs was equally silent. When they arrived at the doors of their apartments, the air was so tense it was palpable and Barry dropped his head against his door when neither of them moved to enter their respective homes. He needed to say something. He just didn't know what. He started, tried—

“This doesn’t change the way I feel, Len. But there are things we need to think about. Things I hadn’t—I just… I—”

“—don’t want to jeopardize your career and happiness for a washed up old criminal?” his voice sounded bitter.

Barry sighed. His eyes stung and he closed them. “It’s not just my career, Len—it’s my best hope for ever exonerating my dad from prison.” As if there was still any hope of that, with Eobard gone. “But even then, there’s other routes I could try that. But what about the rest of it? It’s the Flash versus the Rogues, but… how am I supposed to fight Mick when I come home and look after Aiden? How are you supposed to keep your role as leader when they realize you’re creating plans designed to make sure I don’t get hurt. Unless you do hurt me. And I don’t even know… I could probably—”

“You breaking up with me, Barry?”

Barry turned fast to Len, felt a lump in his throat. “I don’t want—” he dragged in a breath. “I don’t want to lose this.”

“That’s not answer.”

"The Rogues, Len, what if they try to hurt you? What if they find out?"

"I'm asking about the present, Barry. Are. You. Breaking up with me?"

“If we break up now… Joe’s almost definitely gonna’ find a way to arrest you. He’ll make my life a living hell for dating you in the first place if we break up so easily over this, over one fight.” Barry was grasping at straws. He didn’t care about any of that. He just needed to keep talking. “It’ll seem as if we never thought it through in the first place.”

“We didn’t, kid.”

“That doesn’t mean—”

“Dammit Barry, are you breaking up with me or not?” he almost shouted. Barry wasn't sure if he'd heard him shout like that, at home. But for his volume, Barry's own voice lowered, almost to a whisper.

No.” He couldn’t.

Len blew out a breath, more level.

“But you won’t be with me, right? Not really, not more than what we’ve been doing this whole time, not after realizing what it’ll mean—your job, your reputation, what a mess it’ll make with the Flash when you have to fight the Rogues again. So we just stay in limbo till you decide it’s not gonna’ work.”

“I—” Barry was being selfish, really selfish, and he knew it. He didn’t want to break up with Len, didn’t want to lose him. But he couldn’t be with him, not really, not out in the open if they kept going the way things were. Len would never be able to come to Iris’s wedding as his date, never be able to visit him at work or in many of the public places in the city—hell they’d been lucky it was Iris who saw them at lunch with Lisa and not someone else—and Barry wouldn’t even be able to tell his coworkers he was dating at all. And hiding wasn't the worst thing ever, he knew a lot about it, his friends and family accepted him and that's what mattered, but they'd already slipped up, and they might again. And then what? “Len, just… give me some time? To figure things out?”

“To figure out how to keep this a dirty little secret?”

Barry shook his head. “I… please. Just… a week, or two.”

“For what, Barry?”

“To figure out how I feel!”

“You mean to figure out I'm not worth it?”

Barry sucked in a breath, hurt.

“Let me tell you how it goes and spare us both, okay? You think about it for a few days. Maybe  we babysit Aiden and you realize that its nice, that Aiden is sweet, that staying over at my place is nice and that’s all well and good. But then you remember all this, and start feel guilty about Mick being her dad, and you let Joe talk to you at work, and your friends at STAR Labs worry about Mardon and what he’s up to while you know exactly what he’s doing, and you start to realize you’re stuck between picking this or picking them. And we both already know it’s them, Barry—it’s them every time. Let’s face it, we’ve been living on borrowed time up till now.”

“Goddammit, Len!” He stepped forward, into Len’s space, pleading and angry. “we’ve laughed, we’ve gone on dates, we’ve kissed, and hell you had your fingers inside me just hours ago, okay? So don’t pretend like this is simple when it’s not!”

"Don't ask me to pretend I have you when I don't, Barry—"

"You do, Len! Goodammit, you should know I'm yours—"

A second later they were kissing. Barry didn’t know who started it. Len's hands were fisted in his jacket and he was pushing Len back against his door and kissing him hard, Len giving as good as he got, Barry's hands hands tight holding Len's sides, both breathing heavy, making out and pressing together, and god Barry wanted—he pulled back before it could get too deep, before he could lose himself in the feel of Len, breathing heavy in the fraction of space between them.

Len’s hands tightened on Barry’s jacket and his voice was low when he spoke, “two minutes or two weeks, Barry, how much d’you think is gonna change in that time?”

Before he could answer, before he could come up with anything to say at all, a door creaked down the hall.

“Oh—”

Barry stepped back from Len, flushing, as Mrs. Thompson came into the hall.

“I thought I heard yelling. Is everything okay, boys?”

“Fine—”

“Peachy—”

“Oh no, is it about your husband, Mr. Colli?”

Barry almost laughed. Leonard Colli, really? So that’s why that name was on the building buzzer instead of ‘Snart’.

“For the last time, me and Mick are not married.” He enunciated each word low and clear like he thought the old lady might be deaf.

“Len is my boyfriend, Mrs. Thomspon.”

Len shot him a tight look.

“We’ve been dating for a while. You helped bring us together, actually, the night of the fire drill.”

“Oh I did?” she was coming closer, smiling but then dubious. “And are you sure he isn’t married, dear? Sometimes they can trick you, you know.”

“Hey!”

Barry laughed, “pretty sure, Mrs. Thompson. I have met Mick, after all.”

That changed her demeanor, suddenly might brighter. “Oh you have? And his lovely little girl?”

“Aiden? Absolutely. We were babysitting her just this past weekend.”

The old lady took his hand and smiled even as Len still looked tense and grumpy. “That’s lovely, dear. Oh, it’s so good for someone to finally be with Leonard, here. You know he can be a bit of a troublemaker.”

“Oh, I know. Trust me. But he’s sweet, when he wants to be.”

“Well, does this mean no more shouting in the hallway when I’m watching Jeopardy?”

“We’ll try to keep it down,” he smiled.

“Not too quiet though, I hope—don’t want to smother the spark, eh boys?”

It was Len’s turn to bark out a laugh while Barry tried to interpret that in the way she no-doubt intended instead of in the much dirtier way his mind was supplying. But Len didn’t seem to mind the double entendre, wrapping his hand snug around Barry’s waist and sidling up next to him.

“Oh that’s not a concern with this one, Dolores. I can promise, he is noisy.”

She laughed in a half-shocked kind of way. “Oh to be young again.” She winked at the increasingly-embarrassed Barry. “Be sure to keep him on his toes, young man.”

“I, uh, yes ma’am.”

She was still chortling when she turned to head back to her apartment and Barry followed Len into his.

Len,” he hissed as the door closed behind him.

“You started it, kid.”

He sighed and pressed a hand to his forehead. “Look, I—”

“Barry, we—”

“You first—”

They both stopped and Len sighed, turning to him, appraising and, for a moment, vulnerable, before he flicked his gaze to the side and flicked non-existent dust from the stand by the door. “It’s no secret that I care for you, Barry. You melted my ice cold heart after all because I’m ready to fight for this." His eyes were sharp on Barry. "It’s mine now. If you’re not kicking me to the curb right now then tell me what you need to make this work, and I’ll tell you if I can do it or not.”

Barry’s chest felt tight because, wow, he wasn’t sure what to say. Not just about the depth of Len’s feelings, but the obvious apprehension on his face. 

“Len, I… I don’t know what I would need.” He couldn’t imagine asking Len to give up being a criminal, to stop being a Rogue. It just didn’t compute. But could this really work if he didn’t change? “I like you—who you are here, at home, who you are when you’re with me. I want to… I have no idea what I want.”

That was a lie. He knew exactly what he wanted, but it didn’t exist. He wanted a perfect world where he was with Len and Len was a hero instead of a criminal and Joe didn’t hate Len; a world where dating Len wouldn’t risk his job and wouldn’t possibly endanger the citizens of Central because Barry couldn't bring himself to stop the Rogues. A world where the Rogues weren’t a danger to the city. A world where no one would try to hurt or kill Len if they found out Barry's identity.

Len nodded, almost defeated, "I figured as much."

"Don't you... aren't you worried? About any of the things Joe said?"

"I wasn't oblivious to any of them, Barry. They're issues. But here's the thing: I don't get to decide what choices or sacrifices you wanna' make. I made my peace with this mess when I agreed to be your boyfriend."

"Even if it gets you killed?"

"I'll take my chances."

Barry sighed. He couldn't sort out his feelings on Len being so willing to risk it for this. "I guess I... I just need to sort out if we can do this. How to make it work. I want it to work, I just... I don't know how, right now. So I don't want to break up, but I do need some space to wrap my head around what that means, how it'll work."

"So we're stuck in limbo until you figure yourself out?

“Yes?”

“And here I thought that of the two of us, I was the cruel one.”

Barry’s heart sank. “Len I’m—”

Don’t say you’re sorry, kid. I don’t wanna’ hear it.”

“Then what do you want?”

With a calculating glare, Len stepped closer into Barry’s space and Barry took a step back, finding his back against the door to Len’s apartment. A second later, Len was kissing him. Both hands on his face, jaw, pulling him in and Barry went willingly, let Len’s tongue tease against his lips and open them, shivered with his whole body when Len dragged his hands into his hair. He wrapped his arms around Len and pulled their bodies flush, his sense-memory taking him back to earlier that afternoon, to the feel of Len’s cock against his own when Len rocked his hips forward.

Barry broke off from the kiss to gasp for air, hands snapping to Len’s wrists—“Len, we can’t—”

“Why not?” his mouth was pressing hot, open-mouthed kisses to Barry’s neck and it was all he could do not to crumble. “You’re still my boyfriend.”

Those words, everything wrapped up in them…“I can’t—if I sleep with you again, I’ll—”

“Forget to break up with me?” he shouldn’t be allowed to sound so cold while he was doing such hot things to Barry’s neck. It was criminal.

But Barry needed to tell Len the truth, to be brave enough to be vulnerable like Len had, “I’ll fall in love with you.”

Len’s mouth stopped its movements on the base Barry’s of Barry’s neck, his hands going slack in Barry’s hair. He moved back by a fraction, “Barry—”

“I can’t, Len,” his voice sounded too thick and Barry realized he was close to tears. It was all too sudden. “Not until I know what this is, where it’s going, if it’s—” he blew out a breath and looked down into the suddenly empty space between them, Len retreating. He felt small, holding himself up against Len’s door. “I can’t fall in love with you until I know for sure and I will, okay? You know I care deep and fast and I already—not with the way things are, not like this, I—” one of his hand went to his face to press over it, to hide.

“Hey, hey,” Len’s voice was softer than Barry had expected, “it’s okay, Barry. I get it. Just… go home and get some rest, okay? Nothing has to change, we don’t have to figure it all out this second.”

Barry nodded and wiped the tears from him face. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be, just take care of yourself.”

He wanted to hug Len, but didn’t. Didn’t even looked at him as he turned and fled into the hallway, then into his apartment, then to his bed, to hug all of the pillows there because this was worse than needing to just hug his couch pillow. 

There was only one problem with everything that had just transpired, with what he’d just said. It wasn’t the truth. The truth he couldn’t bring himself to tell Len was that he was already head over heels in love with him, and he had no idea what he was going to do about it.

 

**********

 

“Have you heard from Barry yet?”

“They’re not broken up. At least, not yet.”

Lisa sighed in relief. “Lenny has been dodging my calls.”

“Barry’s withdrawing too, but he’d give me that much, at least.”

“Was it really that bad?”

“Worse. Me and Eddie listened to the whole thing. I really thought Dad was gonna’ read them the riot act but he just kept asking them uncomfortable questions and laying the guilt on so thick I thought I was gonna’ suffocate with it.”

Lisa glared at her coffee and crossed one leg over the other. “Your father’s a smart man. But you know…”

“Hmm?”

“This just means we have a new opponent to beat. In the words of Lenny, we’re gonna’ have to up our game.”

Lisa was charmed that Iris could laugh along with her at that, at least.

 

***********

 

The pie on Len’s counter was slowly driving him mad. It was taunting him. He had a choice between stabbing it, throwing it against a wall, or actually walking the five steps between the door of his apartment and that of Barry’s to deliver the damn thing.

He was never gonna’ get what he wanted if he didn’t try.

He stabbed it then threw it against the wall.

He’d pretend it was cathartic instead of self-defeating, but he was working on self-honesty. It was overrated.

 

**********

 

Barry was an embarrassment. He’d been blasting Can’t Hurry Love on repeat for three days in his apartment. He was honestly surprised he hadn’t got a noise complaint yet.

 

**********

 

“Barry, hon, I’m ready to stage an intervention. Your apartment’s a mess, you literally smell—go take a shower, seriously—and you haven’t even touched the brownies I brought over.”

He had touched them. They were dry. He missed Len’s baking.

“What am I gonna’ do, Iris?”

“Um, I dunno’ Barr—maybe try talking to your boyfriend? He is still your boyfriend, right?”

“He’s still my boyfriend.” He was sure of that much, at least. At least, he hoped he was sure of that much. He clutched the pillow on the couch. “And I’m not that bad. I mean, sure, I could use a shower, but I haven’t missed work or patrols. I’ve even been on time every day.”

“You realize that’s probably the most alarming part? Captain Singh is probably gonna’ start asking you if you’re sick or something.”

He sighed. “I just… I don’t know what to say, Iris. I don’t know what I want.”

“You want to be with him. You made that abundantly clear at the Farmer’s Market, remember? Because I remember. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to forget, so you’re not allowed to repress it.”

He got off the couch. He really did smell. “Look, I know you’re worried, and I appreciate it, but some things you just have to figure out yourself. So, can we talk about your Bachelorette Party like you came over to do?”

“Only if you shower first,” she wrinkled her nose.

He couldn’t even argue, just sped to the shower and rushed through it, mostly because every shower since Thanksgiving made him think of Len, and that was… unhelpful. But everything made him think of Len, so really, it was just more of the same. At least he was clean after the shower though, and sped around his apartment to tidy it before joining Iris in the livingroom.

“So, with advice from Felicity and Caitlin, the basics are dinner, then an event, then some dancing.”

She eye him suspiciously, “What’s the event?”

He shifted on the couch. “It’s a secret.”

“It had better not be strippers, Barry Allen.”

He laughed, scratching the back of his neck, recalling the terrifying combined force of Felicity and Caitlin. “Umm. I’m not at liberty to say.”

Barry!”

“If you have an issue with the event, or any of it, take it up with the girls.”

“You’re not supposed to out-source the Bachelorette, Barr,” Iris rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. “The blame is on you for whatever they came up with.”

“Ah, Linda seconded all their suggestions and picked the place for dinner.”

“Did you get literally everyone else to plan this?”

He shrugged one shoulder and went for a guileless smile, “I’ve never even been to a Bachelor party, cut me some slack?”

“Well, I hope there’s room in the invite list for one more. Lisa is coming.”

“Lisa… wait, Lisa Snart?”

“Mhmm.”

“Since when do you know Lisa Snart?!”

Iris smiled like she hadn’t just up-ended Barry’s entire world. “We ran into one another and started talking, since we had you and Len in common to commiserate about. She’s really nice once you get to know her, we meet up at least once a week and hang out. She loves crappy horror movies and sappy romance as much as I do, so we’re basically BFFs now.”

“You… and Lisa Snart… are becoming BFFs... and you never told me?”

“It didn’t really have anything to do with you, Barr.” She smiled and he was pretty sure there was some minor revenge happening in there for having kept it secret that he was dating/not-dating Len at first.

“Ugh, okay, so Lisa Snart is added to the guest list. Sure. I guess I’ll give a heads up to Caitlin and Felicity, no one else should care. There’s a bunch of your college friends coming to it too, and Linda spread the word to your work friends. Pretty much any girl on the wedding invite list.”

“Well at least someone taught you how to plan right,” she smiled, and he felt good for a moment, like he'd done something well, happy at the prospect of seeing Iris with her friends, smiling, even though it meant living through what Barry had let the ladies cook up for the evening. “Please tell me I’m getting a tiara.”

“And a feather boa. Don’t worry, there are supplies a-plenty. I had no idea how over the top these things are supposed to be.”

“Great!” she clapped her hands together. “Then tell Cait and Felicity thanks for me! And oh, I’m gonna’ give Lisa your number so she can get the details from you. Oh! That totally reminds me—she’s your date to my wedding.”

WHAT?!”

Barry very seldom felt like he was being slow, but right now he was having a hard time catching up.

“Yeah, forgot to mention that. But it’s set, she’s picking out her dress, something to match your tie.”

“Why is she my date? Why is she coming at all? Do you know how many cops are gonna’ be at this thing?”

“Lisa doesn’t even have a record, Barry,” she rolled her eyes. “She’s way too good for that.” Did Iris sound proud? She sounded proud. That was weird. Did Barry sound proud when he talked about the Rogues? Kids of a cop shouldn’t be proud of their criminal friends’ skills.

“You’re sure about this?”

“There’s no way my newest close friend isn’t coming to my wedding, as your date or not. But since you obviously can’t bring Lenny, I was hoping you’d bring Lisa. Unless there’s some reason not to?”

“… did you just call him Lenny?”

Iris blinked and Barry was pretty sure he’d walked into the twilight zone a little while ago, but then she was rolling her eyes and standing up. “It’s what Lisa calls him, I’m getting used to it. Now, I’ve got things to do, but since you’re clean and don’t look like a slob, go talk to your boyfriend and tell him you miss him, okay? I’ve got a wedding to plan and I can’t do it if I’m distracted worrying about your sob story of a love life. Don’t make me stick Eddie on you to convince you to deal with this. His puppy-dog look can kill.”

Barry laughed even though he was nervous, knowing the exact look she was talking about. “Okay, yeah, I’ll… I’ll talk to him. Soon. Tonight.”

Now, Barry.”

“Ugh, fine.”

 

***********

 

Len was walking up the stairs, tired from an afternoon spent getting updates on the situation in Keystone, when he ran into Iris West on her way down.

“Lenny!”

Lenny? That was new. “Iris.”

“So glad I ran into you,” she smiled. “Barry’s just heading over to your place right now, once he works up the nerve.”

He stiffened.

“Hey,” she stepped closer to him on the landing between floors two and three. “You mean the world to Barry. I know my Dad raised a lot of red flags, but Barry’s a ‘love conquers all’ kind of guy, he’s gonna’ go all in because he doesn’t do things any other way. You’ve just got to give him a little time.”

“Time for what, exactly?” he smiled coldly down at her, a little unkind but he wasn’t exactly in a stellar mood. “To decide he doesn’t want to ‘conquer all’ for me, that I’m not worth the trouble?”

Her face went from concerned to… heartbroken. She looked heartbroken, and actually reached out to put a hand on his arm. It was very strange and he worked not to shrug off the gesture, feeling too vulnerable. “Len… for him to figure out that you are worth it.”

She didn't want for him to respond, just smiled a little and went down the stairs. He took a second, eyes following her, before sighing and heading up to his apartment.

Barry was knocking on his door.

“You know, Red, I was starting to wonder if you were planning to spend the entirety of the next two weeks with radio silence.”

Barry looked startled, up at him, then glanced back at Len’s door like had somehow betrayed him. “I—uh, we should…talk?” He phrased it like a question, voicing rising at the end in uncertainty.

Len moved to unlock the door, ignoring the obvious comment about how that statement never ended well for a couple. Because they were a couple. Apparently. The word seemed strange inside his head, still.

“Are you wearing your cold gun?”

“Observant, aren’t you, Barry?” Len titled his head and let Barry in the door, locking it behind him.

Why? Wait, were you just out stealing something? You’re not in the parka?”

He sighed. “Business. Don’t worry about it.” He moved to his room to take off the holster, hearing sounds from his kitchen. By the time he came out of his room, Barry was putting the last dish on the drying rack and the rest of it was spotless.

“Did you just clean my kitchen?”

“Nervous habit.”

“You nervous, Barry?”

“I miss you.”

Len stilled, then willed himself to relax, not to treat Barry like he was unwelcome. He wasn’t. He was very welcome. Welcome into Len’s life, into his home, into his arms, bed, shower… He scowled.

“I was giving you time. You asked for it.” He’d asked not to fall in love with Len, but Len didn’t really want to deal with that thought.

“I know—I know and I’m… you must’ve heard the music.”

Len snorted, feeling some of his tension drain, just a little. This was still Barry. Still them. “How many times can you listen to one song without going insane?”

“Well it plays approximately 20 times per hour, and I definitely listened to it for over 7 hours across the past three days so… 140?”

Of course Barry would do the math. “How are you not sick of it yet?”

“Oh I am, but…” he looked at his hands, a flush hitting his cheeks, and Len was reminded too, of their shower escapade, of Barry singing that exact song before falling through a wall.

He cleared his throat. “Offer still stands.”

"That's not what I... I mean, I just like the song."

Len smirked, taking a step closer. If nothing else, he liked to feel like he had the upper hand when everything else was off kilter. He pitched his voice lower, looking Barry up and down. "I like what it reminds me of."

Barry actually made a whining noise in the back of his throat, one that probably wasn’t supposed to sound sexy but was doing things to Len’s libido nonetheless.

“I was being dramatic the other night, wasn’t I? Way too dramatic. Maudlin. I mean, denial has worked great so far, right? I’m just saying that—never mind I’m sure you don’t want—but if you did—I mean we could—we should—ah—is it a bad idea if we just—”

Len kissed him. He was ninety five percent sure Barry hadn’t come over for sex, probably to actually talk, but he couldn’t help it, not when Barry was being so simultaneously adorable and sexy, and not when it provided such a pleasant distraction from this current trainwreck of a conversation.

Barry moaned into the kiss and Len was probably a goner. He held Barry’s face and Barry’s arms wrapped around his back, pulling him closer, and Len could feel his own heart, his stomach, all warm and tight and pleasant, getting lost in the feeling of Barry, in the sensation of just kissing him, pressed against him, turned on but something else, something warmer in his chest, something more—

He pulled away. Barry whined again and followed his lips but Len dodged. He couldn’t believe himself, but—

“Before we go any further, you need to be certain. If this is what you want. Because if not, you could lose your job and end up in a lot of pain, Barry, and I don’t need that on my conscience. You never signed up for this mess.”

He wasn’t supposed to be the good guy. He missed being selfish already.

“Len, I… I never signed up for any of the mess in my life. I just know that I really like being with you.”

It wasn’t enough. The present wasn’t enough, he needed the future too, he needed more, he needed—oh. Fuck. And just like that, Len realized what he needed. He needed to know that Barry was in love with him. This was such a mess. Because Len couldn’t even say those words out loud to anyone in his life, not even to Lisa—she had the same problem—and how could he expect for Barry to say them to him? To mean them?

He kissed Barry’s cheek, the corner of his lips really, and forced his own hands not to tremble. “Decide what you want, Barry, and then we can move forward, if you decide it's me. I can be patient.”

Barry nodded, quiet, “yeah—yeah, I will, I'll figure this out.”

Len smirked, then. Because he had ideas forming. Awful ones that he might regret, but ideas anyway. “Good. And in the meantime, I'll ensure that you'll know exactly what you're missing until you determine how we proceed. Many nights of Netflix, baked goods,” he nipped Barry’s jaw for good measure, wondering what the hell he was doing, “other things.”

Barry swallowed. “Wait—fuck—are you basically—is this a reversal? Because you're not sleeping with me, right? I mean, until I figure my shit out?”

He nosed along Barry’s neck, not entirely just to rile up the other, but at least forty percent because he enjoyed this too damn much to stop himself. “Mhmm, something like that.” He kissed over wear he’d left a hickey just a few days ago, tonguing the skin, sad the mark had disappeared before it had even been dinner time. Barry gasped.

“You’re evil.”

“We’ve been over that. Captain Cold, remember?”

“How do you—how can you even—ugh your self-control is so frustrating.”

Len bit down and Barry moaned and oh, Len had better back off because his self-control wasn’t that strong. He felt himself getting hard and blew out a breath over the wet skin, stepped back, smirked at Barry’s flustered face. “Better figure things out fast then.”

It was cruel, he knew, but that suited him better. And until Barry did decide, Len could try and keep his own emotions in check and at bay. He wasn’t going to fall in love with Barry unless Barry was head over heels in love with him first.

 

Chapter Text

“So has he come by, yet?” Lisa asked, balancing beers, takeout containers, and the tv remote all at once. Len was at her house for once—she rented a whole house because she hated feeling cooped up—needing to get out of his own head, and at least they could keep blueprints strewn out in her place over any surface they wanted.

“No. He’s… sorting through things.”

“I don’t get it,” she put down the food, “it’s not like anything’s changed from before, right?”

He sighed and stabbed at some General Tso’s chicken with his chopsticks. He was pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to spear the bite on the end of the stick. “Correct.”

“Then why’s he acting like an asshole?”

Len frowned around the bite. “He’s not. He’s just… scared.”

She snorted. “Him? Of what?”

He eyed her and pretended she didn’t think it was so funny that Barry could be scared of something. She wasn’t supposed to know, after all. “Of what he serves to lose—a job, things that matter to him.”

She chewed on that, or really just on a bite of food, then pointed her chopsticks at him. “So what you’re saying is that Jailbait is hesitating to rush headlong into a bad idea for once in his life?”

He almost reprimanded her. He wanted plausible deniability about her not having figured things out, at least. “He is occasionally cautious about—”

“Nothing. So I don’t buy it.”

“He’s cautious about love.”

She sat up straight and he regretted his word choice. “Barry told you he loves you?”

No. No, sis." Shit. "He indicated that he was… worried. About falling in love with me. Which according to him, could happen if certain boundaries get pressed.”

“Oh Lenny—”

“But all that really means is that he doesn’t want to fall in love with me.”

“You—that’s what you take from that?”

He glared into his takeout box. “What else should I take it as?” He didn't blame Barry, really. It stung nonetheless.

“What complete idiots you both are. Barry’s obviously already—” She bit her lip, then shook her head. “What I mean is that if he didn’t want to fall in love, he’d have broken up with you a long time ago. So whatever is holding him back, deal with it.”

Len sighed. “And if it’s a hundred things holding him back?”

“Well, you like puzzles.”

He didn’t respond.

“Look, Lenny, I won’t bug you about this. But just—just don’t hesitate to push a bit. You’re worth it.”

He sighed and finished his beer, letting the conversation die at that.

 

**********

 

Eddie was tapping his pen on his pile of notes, flipping through them and looking back at the file open on his computer, sighing. It was another crook that Barry had put away, and writing up anything about the Flash was always tough, even if it made Barry laugh whenever he got to read over one of the reports. The police weren't allowed to appear too dependent upon a vigilante or too supportive, even if both were true. And he couldn’t for the life of him remember what name Cisco had given the villain of the week and it was in the news, Eddie knew, so he needed to include mention of it in his report.

With another sigh, he gave in and googled the Flash. It was something he tried to avoid doing most of the time but he didn’t want to admit to Barry (or Joe, who was sitting at the desk right in front of his own) that he’d forgotten. No need to give either of them the points.

He was sorting by most recent, looking for Iris’s article, but a link caught his eye, “Flash x Cold!! Watch Captain Cold get pounded!”

He was surprised for a second and didn’t hesitate to click it, not really thinking, immediately wondering if they had a fight, if there was something he missed the footage of or hearing about, hoping it was just an old link to the fight from almost a year ago with Rory, in front of the whole city.

Eddie had headphones hooked up, just ear buds, never wanting to distract his colleagues with noise and alerts from his computer. He was distracted finding them and putting them on for a moment, not looking at the screen. When he was settled back in and blinked at what was going on in the video, headphones carrying in a voice that sounded wrong, he realized it wasn't actually the news. It looked like a cheap set, actually, a warehouse of some sort, except Cold was in a lighter parka and tied up and it wasn’t really a fight either. Oh god. It wasn’t a fight at all. It wasn’t even them, some look-a-like of Snart on his knees, someone in a cheap Flash suit knockoff coming into the frame and the dialogue—“time to heat you up, Captain Cold”—oh hell no no no no, and oh god he should not be evaluating the costumes he should be closing this window before—

‘The Flash’ whipped out his dick and—

Agggghhhh!”

Eddie fell off his chair in his haste to close the window—he did not want to see Barry’s dick, real or an actor’s it was just as bad—but the headphones in his ears were pulled out of the computer, filling the bullpen with the sounds of cheap porn dialogue, everyone stopping to stare at his outburst. Joe stood up to lean over the desk at the crashing sound and Eddie’s head hurt from hitting the floor and the video was still going and he scrambled up to stop it, tripping over his chair and landing on his knees, hitting the spacebar button at the very least to stop the damn thing except what an awful frame to pause it on and he was moving for the mouse to just close the browser but Detective Santiago came to stand over his shoulder and laughed, taking the mouse and scrolling down—

“Flash porn?”

“I was looking for meta-human information!” he shouted. It was definitely a defensive and red-faced shout. Joe’s eyebrows were up in his hairline almost and half the precinct was starting to crowd around. Eddie would and could die of mortification right there, and the only thing that could make this worse would be—oh, no, it was as bad as it could get. Here came Barry.

Negative ten million points to Eddie.

 

**********

 

Barry was coming down the stairs to drop off a report for Captain Singh—late, so he was slipping it onto his desk while the Captain was away for his lunch with Rob—when he heard a shout and saw Eddie falling on his ass. Which was sort of hilarious for most people, and Barry couldn’t help but smile a bit, but he’d been the clumsy one most of his life and knew how much that smarted.

The dialogue coming off the computer was a lot more hilarious though, sounding like it was from some 1970’s old school porn or something, and a crowd was gathering before Eddie managed to stop it, someone on screen distinctly saying something about eating dick and justice in the same sentence. Barry was trying to hold back his snort but couldn’t, edging closer until he heard Santiago say “Flash porn?”

Barry stopped in his tracks. His stomach did the weirdest flop because what?!

There was Flash porn? Oh god. Of course there was. It was the internet. How had he not known? Someone he knew must’ve known. Cisco must’ve known. Did Iris know? Oh god, did Joe?! Were they just too polite to tell him? Did they think he already knew?

“I was looking for meta-human information!” Eddie stood up, red in the face and his eyes met Barry’s for all of a nano-second before looking away. Barry wondered if anyone would notice if he zipped out of there at top-speed, report still in hand.

“Yeah I can see how that would happen,” Santiago kept talking, “this website’s discreet, and it looks like this video was just added yesterday.”

“You know this website?!” Eddie all but shouted. Barry was getting increasingly mortified by the second, hoping his co-workers weren’t fantasizing about the Flash and oh god Joe was standing right there and looking at Santiago like she needed a shovel talk and—

“Cool your jets, Thawne, practically anyone who’s googled the Flash has run into the porn by now.”

“Don’t you all have work to do?” Joe growled, but pretty much everyone ignored him even as he crossed his arms.

“It’s true, there’s tons of it out there now,” Patty Spivot said, standing pretty much right next to Barry, drawing attention to both of them and effectively cutting off his ability to escape without being noticed and oh no Patty Spivot had seen Flash porn? She was on the meta-human task force with Joe and Eddie, and she was nice to Barry, and this was all too much to handle. “Which one is it this time?” She moved closer to Eddie’s desk and the ring of people closed behind Barry and he was well and truly trapped.

“Looks like it’s Flash and Captain Cold,” Detective Morillo replied instead of Eddie, who was looking at Joe like he was awaiting a death sentence for starting all this. Better than looking at Barry, in his opinion, because he suddenly felt like his face was on fire.

There was porn of him and Len? Fake porn, but—

“Oh it’s Captain Cold now? Haha—that’s ridiculous, isn’t it normally some metahuman fetish? The one I accidentally ran across was him and Weather Wizard.”

Barry gagged. That was much less sexy.

“Can’t we just finish with this mess?” Joe snapped, even as Eddie asked, eyes wide, “meta-human fetish? That’s a thing?”

“That or a Flash fetish, I guess, since apparently it’s not just meta-humans.” Patty shrugged like it was no big deal. “Looks like there’s an archive of videos, this website is up to 8 for the Flash now. And oh, two of them have Captain Cold.”

Barry was getting a little curious about the url despite himself, and increasingly torn. He was not going to look anyone in the eyes for the next week, probably.

Santiago was leaning forward with her, “Oh there’s a fiction archive too—”

“That’s enough!” Joe snapped and Barry was more than a little grateful. A fiction archive? 

“Of course, sir,” Patty closed the window and Barry let out a breath he hadn’t even realized he was holding. People started to disperse, and Barry was ready to be out of the bullpen, quickly edging toward Singh’s office door, having to walk past Morillo and Santiago’s desks, having to hear—

“You think the Flash would ever sleep with one of those villains?” Santiago was asking. Barry was increasingly concerned about her curiosity in the Flash.

“Oh I doubt it,” Morillo laughed. “Still, wonder who it would be? Probably not Cold. Someone with powers?”

“Not Weather Wizard though. Why not someone with no powers?”

“You’d really wager Captain Cold?”

“Better him than Heatwave,” Patty had to add, close enough to chime in. Barry’s eyes almost bulged. “I’d put my money on—”

“Are you guys seriously starting a betting pool? How would you even verify something like that?” Barry squeaked, throat finally unsticking, and he sort of wished he hadn’t called attention to himself because Morillo was suddenly looking at him in delight.

“Oh right—you helped out the task force, right Allen? Maybe you have some insight because Snart was getting handsy with you?”

“You helped out with the task force?” Patty asked, and oh shit, she was on the task force.

“Just a thing. For Joe. With umm—Hydra Hunter. Rogues had info. Not a big deal.”

She looked curious but Santiago was faster than Patty’s confusion, “so Snart felt you up? Why didn’t I hear about this?” She shoved her partner, Morillo, playfully. “So at least we know he’s gay, right?”

“I really don’t think this conversation is appropriate…” Barry started, wondering why he had to be struck by lightning when he was alone in his lab and not right this very second. He could really use a second coma right about now. Maybe he’d wake up and his life would’ve sorted itself out.

“Don’t be a spoil-sport, Allen!”

Patty frowned, “it’s fair if he worked a case on Snart. Wait, did you write a report? I haven’t seen one, and I always enjoy your reports.”

Patty read his reports? That was—okay that was probably something he should be careful about and—

“Allen!”

“Captain!” Barry’s spine was straighter and everyone around him snapped to attention at the same time and Barry had never been so glad for Captain Singh barking at him.

“That had better be the report on the soil analysis I asked for.”

“Yessir!”

He handed it to the captain and disappeared up to his lab and managed not too look up that video until he was home.

 

**********

 

“Did you know there’s porn of us?”

“Well hello to you too, Barry.”

Barry had no idea what to say to Len, really, not about the mess of feelings and things between them. Not about the scare he’d got at work that day, being asked by Morillo about his supposed undercover work for the task force. Not about the other night. But he had laundry to do and he wanted to see Len and he’d be damned if he didn’t just do it.

So he had his laundry basked under one arm when he knocked on Len’s door and well, yeah, maybe that hadn’t been the best opener. He sort of blurted it out.

“I—right, hi. But seriously,” he was starting to flush and pushed past Len into his apartment, “there’s porn of us. Or not us. But Flash and Cold. Did you know? Does everyone know? Am I the last one to find out about the porn sites—and the blogs! Oh my god the blogs—all dedicated to the Flash? They haven’t even seen my face and they—” He cut off, blushing in earnest thinking of a few of the drawings he’d come across.

“Did I know there was porn of us? No. I can assure you, I’d have watched it.”

Barry headed to the laundry room and Len followed him in, and Barry chanced a glance at the other man, who was leaning in the doorframe. Looking at him was the wrong idea because he looked way too smug, opening his mouth to say,

“Oh so you’ve watched it, then? Do tell, Barry.”

He started stuffing clothes into the washing machine, a little violently. “I’m not describing porn to you, Len!”

“You started it. But okay, I’ll go get my laptop.”

“Your—” he closed the washer and hurried after Len, “—you’re not about to watch it, are you?”

“What can I say? You’ve got me curious.”

“I’m not about to—we can’t just sit in your living room and watch porn together!”

Len sat on the couch and arched an eyebrow at him. “Can’t handle the heat, Barry?”

He remembered the line of dialogue from the most recent video about heating up Cold, and how many awful puns there had been in both videos, and—“I’m never going to be able to hear you make a pun after today.”

Oh?” Len looked far too intrigued and amused, typing. Barry waffled between sitting beside him and bolting. “Found it. It's buffering.”

Ohmygod.”

“Looks low-budget.”

Barry made the noise of a dying animal and accepted his fate. Who was he kidding? He wasn’t leaving now. He trudged over slowly and sat next to Len, leaving a healthy foot of space between them on the couch, shame-faced and barely letting himself look at the screen. He was more curious about Len’s reactions than the video itself at this point (having already watched it more times than he cared to admit).

“Wait, I’m the one tied up and on my knees?” Len actually sounded offended enough that Barry had to look over and laugh. He was staring at the screen with the same type of rapt attention with which he focused on heists, by the look of it.

“The videos are all about the Flash, ah, dominating his enemies.”

“What’s the fun in that? Shouldn’t the bad guys get to—”

“Are you seriously about to suggest that there should be porn of me getting bound and sexed up by the people I fight?”

Len finally looked over at him and blinked, then smirked. “No. Just by me.”

“You’re—”

You wanna’ fuck me, Flash, you’ll have to earn it.”

The video interrupted and Barry dropped his face in his hands. “I hate everything.”

Len just burst out in a deep chuckle. “You know, the guy’s not wrong.”

Barry groaned. “That’s it, I can’t watch this with you.”

“Looks like they’re finally getting somewhere.”

He made the mistake of glancing at the screen, where not-Len was fellating not-him. His throat made a constricted sound. He probably shouldn’t have jerked off to this an hour ago, because it had definitely not taken the edge off and now he was probably conditioned or something—or maybe that was just because he was sitting next to real Len's body so warm and close while a fake Len sucked a fake him’s cock, wishing real Len was doing the same.

Barry didn’t even bother to make an excuse, he just zipped to the kitchen and started pouring himself a glass of water and splashed a little water on his face for good measure. He pretended he couldn’t hear Len laughing at him from the living room, overtop the wet suction sounds and awkward grunts from the video.

“Do they ever actually get to fucking?”

“The video is twenty minutes long—they definitely get to fucking.” He called back from the kitchen, not daring to venture into the other room, choosing instead to lean back against the cool fridge. The cool fridge he was pressed against the first time Len kissed him.

He was such a goner.

“Alright, I suppose that’s enough of that.”

Barry heard the laptop close and the sound of Len standing. “I guess I’ll have to watch it later when I’m alone if you’re not up to it.”

Barry didn’t comment, stomach swooping instead.

“Your face is wet.”

He blinked open his eyes, unaware he’d even closed them, to see Len standing a few feet away. “I needed to cool down.”

“The porn wasn’t that good, Barry.”

He blushed.

“What, that a fantasy of yours? Trapping me while I’m in costume, having your wicked way with me?”

“It wasn’t.”

“But it is now?”

“We aren’t talking about this.”

“There’s a ten inch dildo sitting in my closet still and this is a conversation you can’t handle?”

Barry was pretty sure that whatever god existed was up there laughing at his embarrassment. “You had to bring that up? And for the record I didn’t realize it would be that big when I bought it, okay?” 

Len snorted, “whatever you say.”

“I’m serious!”

“So why pick that one?”

“Because it rem—” Barry clapped a hand over his own mouth to stop the flow of words.

“Barry?”

He looked at his feet and Len moved closer, coming across the kitchen and looking far too pleased at having information being withheld from him, at getting to draw it out of Barry.

“Why did you pick that one?” his voice was low and teasing and just the right side of dangerous.

Barry wasn’t going to say it. Except he was. Because he didn’t want to lie and he was embarrassed but it was better than letting Len think he wanted a ten inch monster dildo up his ass and… “The color reminded me of your eyes.”

He mumbled the words then bit the inside of his lip and stopped staring at the ground long enough to look up at Len so he could judge if he needed to run out of there—out of the city, maybe the state, or hell, he heard Canada was nice, and polar bears wouldn't judge him—except that Len didn’t look like he was about to tease Barry.

No. Len was blushing.

Barry’s eyes went wide and Len’s did too and then the other man was stepping back and seemed to realize he was blushing, fingers going to his cheek for a moment before he started to look away and turn but Barry was having none of that. He grinned and grabbed Len’s wrist and gently pulled it away from him face, getting even closer. For the first time he actually felt taller than Len, despite that he always had been taller, even though it was just an inch.

“You’re blushing.”

The other man was clearly trying to glare but really, it wasn’t working so well. “That’s entirely possible and an entirely typical reaction to someone telling you they bought a sex toy because it made them think of your eyes.”

Barry couldn’t suppress his shit-eating grin for the life of him. “So you can sit down and watch porn of yourself tied up by me, with me sitting next to you, and you stay cool as a cucumber? But oh no, me liking your eyes is enough to get you flustered?”

“I’m not flustered,” he half-snapped, but Barry didn’t stop smiling, wanting nothing more than to lean forward and kiss the embarrassed look off Len’s face. And then he decided to do just that, bridging the gap between them and kissing Len gently, smiling into it, almost laughing now as Len growled, “it’s not funny,” against his lips but kissed him back.

“It’s a little funny,” Barry managed to get out between kisses, smiling still, arms wrapping around Len like they belonged there, missing this feeling. He was getting caught up in the feel, warm and almost light-headed even though the kisses were light, like he could kiss for days and breathing was really a very secondary afterthought, but then Len pulled away.

Their foreheads pressed together but Barry didn't let go of Len, arms settling around his middle. Len’s hand drifted up to his cheek and it was soft and he was pretty sure he hadn’t ruined whatever this evening was quite yet.

“You have you decided then? What we’re up to?”

Oh. Oh damn. Len just had to ask. Barry tensed and Len must’ve felt it, moving back but that wouldn’t do; Barry cupped his jaw, tried to kiss him but Len dodged.

“Even you must know it’s cruel to kiss me, Barry.”

“I…” he sighed, ached for a second and dropped his forehead dropped to the crook of Len’s neck. “Yeah. I’m selfish, I know. I just want this so bad I get caught up.”

Len’s hands tightened on him. “Then have it.”

“I… you know what happened at work today: Detective Morillo—nice enough guy for a detective, pretty funny—he asked me about the undercover work I did for the task force, the lie Joe told him about why I was at that bar with you. And then someone else on the task force asked me about the report for it.”

He felt Len tense along his front, hands too still on Barry’s waist and the side of his neck, cupping his jaw where the hand had settled. “And here I thought the CCPD was completely incompetent.”

“I…”

“Why are you here, Barry?”

He could hear the washing machine beep from the laundry room, telling him it was time to switch his laundry load over. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, just tell me what you want from me.”

Barry nodded against Len’s neck. He couldn’t bend the world to make everything perfect, but he could figure out what he needed from Len. Barry hugged him for a quick, final second and then pulled back.

“I’ve been—there’s three things I realized we need to talk about before we can do much else. Figure out what you need and I need for them, what kind of compromises we’d really be making as we move forward. First, we’d need to come up with some agreement about Flash and Rogues stuff, about where the boundary is on things like you planning heists with me around, me poking into things like the night at the bar, sharing information like we did with The Top.” What to do if they found out his identity, Barry thought but didn't say.

Len actually moved back and pulled out a pen to start writing that down. “The other two things?”

“We need to come to some better understanding about you killing and endangering people, so that we don’t end up fighting too much about it.”

“Mm.” He kept scribbling words down.

“And uh, we should talk about my job. And how to keep this… secret, I guess. Not that I want to, but I also don’t want to get fired, but I guess we should talk about what happens if I get found out at work anyway.” 

“Okay, Barry. This all seems… reasonable,” Len titled his head, “but for the first two, I’ll need a day or two to think over my position on them.”

“Sure, yeah. I’m not totally sure either, I just started kind of putting things together in my head.”

“You should go do your laundry.”

“Right.”

Barry knew a dismissal when he heard one, going to switch his laundry over and taking a second to just sigh, to breathe. Then he came back out to the living room, ready to excuse himself, but couldn’t see Len. The window was open, on to the fire escape, and Barry glanced around for a second before going to it and, seeing Len there, climbing out.

Len didn’t turn, and Barry shivered in the cool night air, coming to lean on the railing with Len, on his forearms, looking out into the dismal alley, the lack of view. He was reminded of the first night he talked to Len out here, the first time he felt like he wanted to actually get to know the other, to learn more about him.

“Worst case scenario…” Barry spoke quietly, “this all goes to shit, we can’t make it work… d’you think we’ll manage to still be friends?”

“Friends, Barry? Is that what we are?”

Barry glanced over but Len was still looking out. He leaned a little closer for warmth. “Friends is part of being boyfriends, isn’t it?”

“Hmm.” Len was smiling now, at least, arching an eyebrow a little. “We’re awfully friendly then.”

Barry chuckled, “you sure you weren’t the one writing the dialogue for that porno?”

Len actually laughed. “Give me a little credit, Barry—my puns are better than that.”

He groaned and leaned over to shoulder Len, who glanced at him with a hint of a smile and nudged back.

“Truth be told, Barry… I have no idea what’ll happen if this doesn’t work out. You always manage to surprise me so it’s hard for me to guess.”

He smiled. “I’ll take it.”

“Good. Now, come inside and have a beer, it’s a little chilly even for me out here.”

Barry dutifully didn’t reply in any of the lines from that godforsaken video while he followed Len back into his apartment.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Barry was busy with work the two days after the porn fiasco, dutifully not thinking about it (but maybe rewatching it, for science of course, even though he hadn't clicked on any of the links that weren't Flash and Cold yet). He hadn’t had a chance to see Len the night before, with Flash work keeping him busy and wanting to give Len a little room to think. But he was hoping to see Len tonight, sure the other man would’ve had enough time to write out whatever he wanted out of a proper relationship, a real set of compromises and understandings.

Which was why it was frustrating that Len wasn’t answering his phone. And wasn’t home. And though Barry was tempted to just phase in and double check, he knew he was being ridiculous. Len was often out, probably at a bar or with the Rogues doing god knew what, planning heists and how to make the Flash’s life miserable. Though it would be a little ironic if he was off stealing something on the night they were supposed to talk about Flash and Rogues and their dynamic, but he almost wouldn’t put it past Len.

Barry settled in for a solo dinner over TV watching then suited up for his Flash rounds, chatted with Cisco and Caitlin for a bit when he’d finished dropping off a wannabe burglar to Eddie—who was on duty this evening—and checked his texts when he finally got back home around midnight. There was still no reply and he frowned. Normally Len didn’t take that long to get back to him. Maybe he really was working a job?

Barry went to bed with an uneasy feeling in his stomach, not the best time sleeping, and woke up to his phone blaring on his night stand, groggy and disoriented for all of a second as he answered it, just a random string of numbers and no contact, clock telling him it was well after 1am.

“ ‘lo?”

“Hey, S-sc-scarlet,” the voice on the other end’s had teeth chattering so bad it took Barry a moment to place the voice.

Len?!”

“C-c-c-ould use a l-l-ift if-f y—”

“Where are you?” Barry was already out of bed and in his Flash suit.

“El-ersllllly p-p-pay phone, d-d-dockside str—”

Barry was already off and gone.

 

**********

 

Len’s lips were blue and his hand was half-frozen to the receiver by the moment Barry got there. It was December and Len was sopping wet from head to toe, drenched to the bone, frost forming on his shirt and pants, hands looking the wrong shade, red with cold. His gun and parka were nowhere in sight, just black jeans and his leather jacket over a thin sweater. Barry didn’t even slow down; he just put the phone back on the receiver and scooped Len into his arms, speeding away from the docks and back to their apartment, Len’s expression changing in slow-motion from pinched to something like surprise by the time they were in Barry’s apartment. He phased them through the outer wall after zipping up the fire escape, into his bedroom, leaning Len against the wall before resuming normal speed.

The first thing Len did was groan. Barry had already turned up the thermometer by the time he finished making the sound.

“You need to get out of those wet clothes.” He had questions, but they could wait.

“If I wasn’t so c-cold I might be s-sick from that running.”

It had been a decent distance, but Barry was really more worried about the pale tint to his skin than any nausea, the frost on his wet clothing. “Can I strip you?”

Len waved a hand, shaking a little, eyes closed and brows drawn together as he clearly concentrated on either not throwing up or not giving away the pain he was in. Barry had him naked and wrapped in towels in a second, one around his waist and other around his shoulders. He moved Len to the bed after getting no protest from the other, zipping away for a third towel to start drying him, any exposed skin he could reach, at normal speed and more gently.

“You’ve got to warm up slowly. Hot baths or showers can backfire with hypothermia.”

“Mmm.” Len didn’t even open his eyes.

“Don’t fall asleep on me.”

“’m not.”

Barry sighed a little. His own heartbeat was erratic with worry, carefully drying each finger on Len’s hands before rubbing down his forearms and moving up from there. He gave Len a minute to relax, bottling up all the questions he had, toweling Len's calves and his frozen, stiff feet. Barry tried not to linger too long on any of the bruises he saw blossoming, ones on Len’s arms, a cut on his eyebrow and a small goose egg on his head, a bruise on his chest. Barry got a smaller towel to dry Len’s head, gently over the short shorn hair, and Len finally opened his eyes again and looked up at Barry when he was done. He looked exhausted, too dark under the eyes and Barry was certain he’d never seen Len so pliant in his life.

He dropped the towel and squatted so they were eye level, flicking his eyes between Len’s.

“Are you okay?”

Len glanced down and breathed out through his nose. That was as close to a ‘no’ as Barry was going to get, he knew.

“Let’s get you warmed up,” he said instead of pressing, flashing out of his suit and down to his underwear before grabbing a few spare blankets from the closet and dumping them on the bed. Without thinking too much about it, he slid into it then made room for Len, a clear invite to share his warmth. Len glanced at him for a second once he was situated then nodded, dropping the damp towels away and climbing under the covers. After a tentative moment, Barry moved forward and cuddled into him, relaxing a little when he rolled on his side and let Barry spoon him.

But holy hell, Len’s skin was ice. Barry tried to radiate heat from his frame but didn’t want to break any blood vessels by vibrating against Len, mind rehearsing the treatments for hypothermia. Len didn’t seem too far gone, not disoriented or slurring, so Barry was pretty sure he wouldn’t need any hospitalization. As it was, after a moment Len curled enough to press his cold feet against Barry’s shins, and he managed not to hiss and jerk away at the frigidity. He hoped Len didn’t have frostbite, wrapping an arm around his waist and snuggling in closer, speaking quietly.

“You know… some people would call it ironic that you have hypothermia.”

That, at least, earned a soft chuckle from Len. After another minute of quiet, the other finally spoke. “This is almost nice.”

Barry smiled, then felt almost guilty because Len was in his bed because of a low core body temperature and not there to flirt.

“You gonna’ tell me what happened?”

They were quiet for a moment, just the sound of breathing. Len was tense, Barry realized. He’d thought it was just from the cold, but as he was pressed to as much of Len’s skin as he physically could be, it was more obvious now that he was too on edge. Which... was probably fair, all things considered.

“Do I have to?” Len finally answered, and Barry managed not to tease him about sounding petulant. He didn’t actually sound petulant at all, and it might’ve been funnier if he had.

“No, Len,” he replied instead, voice quiet and lips near the back of Len’s neck. “You don’t have to.”

Len actually relaxed minutely then, and Barry took it as a victory. But the other sighed a minute later, shifted his feet to steal more of Barry’s warmth, and started talking in a low voice.

“My father… we don’t get along. I may not be good, but I strive not to be him. He’s… he did a number on me and Lisa both. Drunk, dirty cop, crook, enough anger to spare. He taught us to be what we are, how to steal, how to fence, what to do and who to know.”

Barry didn’t move away, rapt with attention. Len never gave out personal details, especially not about his past.

“Half the scars I have are from him.”

Barry exhaled and tightened his grip on Len.

“Lise, too. I tried to protect her, but it was never enough. He was locked away for life, or supposed to be. Enough ugly assault charges and a murder conviction to keep it that way, spared capital because of his service record on the force.”

He was quiet for a minute, and Barry couldn't help but prompt him, “but then he broke out?”

Len sighed, and to Barry’s surprise, he started to roll over. Barry gave him the space to do so, blankets up to their necks, but Len curled forward and Barry took the silent invite to wrap Len up in his arms, an embrace the other would probably never verbally ask for.

“He broke out,” Len said after a long minute of quiet. “Me ‘n Lisa have been keeping our eyes open. I didn’t want you—you or the Flash—involved. Doesn’t matter; he knows people, found out I'm dating ‘Barry Allen the CSI’ anyway. Can only guess how supportive he is of my ‘lifestyle’.”

“He didn’t know you were gay?”

“Word travels fast; he heard while he was in the clink, but it’s never anything we talked about.”

Barry rubbed circles gently into Len’s back. His voice was steady, if quiet, and his skin was getting warmer (really just getting less cold) except for his extremities, shins pressed to Barry’s now, hands curled in front him, between them, partway touching Barry’s chest.

“Did he try to hurt you?”

“No. He didn’t. He got the drop on me though—knows my habits, how to find me when I’m not suspecting trouble, hired a hand to help him with it. That kid—Walker?—was supposed to get Lisa, along with some other hand. Turns out she was with Iris tonight though. The hand made it back to the boat dad had me stashed on but he was alone, complained about the trouble. Guess Iris recognized Walker, saw through what he was up to while he was getting the drop on Lise and almost did him in; the other guy barely made it back.”

Barry almost smiled, though he wondered why Iris hadn’t said anything yet? By the sound of it though, the danger had passed fairly easily.

“What happened on the boat?”

Len wasn’t really looking at Barry while he talked, more staring at a point on the far wall, but then he turned onto this back and stared at the ceiling.

“He killed the guy for showing up empty handed, I almost killed him when I found out Lisa was free—it took some work, I was tied up pretty well. He knocked me out. I woke up and the boat was off the pier, dad driving, the other had a gun trained on me. The old man wants me to do a job with him, needs the cold gun. He took the time to give me the details; even without Lisa as collateral, he figured I couldn’t do much to say no until he did manage to pick her up, since we were out on the bay and I was weaponless and tied up.”

“He was wrong?”

Len smiled for a moment, a little off but still there. “Very. Hired hands tend to be lazy; it wasn’t hard to send him overboard, cut myself free on a piece of jagged metal. Dad’s not stupid though. He was across the boat and already shooting by the time I was out. I went overboard rather than get shot.”

You swam to shore?”

Len glanced over at Barry, “someone convinced me that swimming lessons were a good idea.”

Barry’s jaw dropped, “you’ve been taking lessons?”

“Three mornings a week the entire month. Shore wasn't too far still, so I guess it paid off.”

Barry grinned and Len looked a little smug, which was a good sign. He was more on even footing. And thinking about swimming made Barry think of—

“Should you call Lisa, and let her know you’re okay?”

“Called her before you, Barry.”

Of course he did—freezing to death in a phone booth and he phoned his sister to check in before phoning the person who was going to get him home. Barry almost rolled his eyes, except that he understood.

“I’m glad, you know,” he said quietly when it didn’t seem like Len was going to say anything else, “that you’re safe. And that you called me. And that… you told me all this. You didn’t have to.”

Len tilted his head to look at him. It was dim in Barry’s room, just the light from a lamp on the night stand, but Len’s face looked so much less creased with pain and worry than when they’d arrived, so much warmer, and it fit his soft tone when he replied. “I wanted to.”

Barry was so in love with this man he was probably doomed no matter what he did. Now wasn’t the time to say it, but he resolved that he would soon, maybe when they got around to talking about their dynamic, when he told Len that he’d figured out that wanted to be with him even if it cost him a few sacrifices, that he trusted him completely with the rest.

But now wasn’t the time. So instead he smiled and hoped it conveyed the feelings he wanted it to, and Len rolled over then, onto his side and away from Barry. Barry hesitated for a second, then leaned up, over Len to click off the light, and settled back in behind him, cuddling close and drifting off to sleep.

 

**********

 

Beep beep beep beep be—

“D’you have to have the most annoying alarm ‘n the world, Barry?” Len groaned and put his head under a pillow, hearing Barry laugh behind him, leaning over his body to turn the damn thing off.

“I always figured you’d be an early riser, believe it or not.”

“’m up till the middle of the night when I’m working, why’d you think I’d want to get up at the ass crack of dawn?”

Barry laughed again and Len smiled a little from under the pillow. He was overheating, he realized, the weight of at least three blankets over top of him, altogether too many. He sat up as Barry stumbled out of bed, enjoyed the sight of him tripping over himself, the shape of his pert ass clad only in his underwear, bent as he tried not to fall over.

“Least the view is good in the morning.”

Everything felt lighter with the morning sun, really, including everything that had happened the night before.

“Huh—oh,” Barry looked over at him and blushed but grinned a little, and from this angle, Len could see the morning wood he was sporting. “Ah, thanks? I'm glad you're feeling better. But I gotta’ go shower and head straight to work—come by tonight though?”

Len watched him disappear from the room and heard the shower a moment later, too fast and he sighed before dropping down onto the excessive number of pillows that lined Barry’s bed. It was softer than his own and smaller, a queen sized mattress instead of a king. Len had been too worked up and exhausted all at once to get a proper sleep, not that he typically slept all that well, but it had been… nice. Reassuring, maybe. To have Barry warm at his back all night. It quieted his reeling mind, even while he reminded himself that Lisa was safe and he need to warm up and rest right now, that that was the immediate priority.

He was stretching out on the pillows, the too-many blankets pushed down to his waist, when Barry flashed back in for clothes, dressing too quick for Len to sneak a glance.

“You don’t even make coffee before going?” 

“Coffee and breakfast at Jitters,” Barry grinned and shrugged, slowing down enough for Len to watch him pull on a shirt and sweater. “Really, I never give myself enough time in the morning. But call me later to let me know if I’m seeing you tonight.” He was rushing around but not at super speed, grabbing his bag, slipping into a pair of shoes and hopping on one foot as he spoke. “Oh and stay as long as you want, you can lock up behind you; I’ve got my keys. And have a good day. Lo—azy day! Relax and rest!”

He was out the door before Len could respond and wish him a good day at work, and that figured. He let himself enjoy the plushness of the bed for a few more minutes, contemplating if it would be sacrilege or sexy if he got himself off in Barry’s bed before deciding that when he eventually did that, he wanted Barry to be there with him. Or at least, he'd want Barry to know what he was up to. That might be the tipping point from sacrilege to sexy. So instead, he went and used Barry’s shower, some memories helping him along, more than a little amused to find a bottle of lube next to the shampoo.

Then, feeling a little less tense, he looked for some clothes from Barry’s closet—finding a shirt and pajama pants of his own that made him chuckle, stealing them back. He made himself breakfast and coffee and poked around, and almost went to rest on Barry’s couch—eyeing his favorite throw pillow that Barry always hoarded—before sighing to himself. He needed to get back to his apartment, set up one of his back up phones—his personal one hadn’t survived the kidnapping—and have a proper conversation with Lisa, and likely one with Mick.

His jacket still had his own keys, so he scooped up his clothes off the floor of Barry’s room and Len slipped out of the apartment with a sigh. He wasn’t quite sure when, but that place had started to feel a little like home.

 

**********

 

Barry sped to work with the force of panic-fueled adrenaline behind him. He had almost told Len he loved him on his way out the door—it had almost slipped out without him even thinking about it. He was going to have to watch that carefully or he was just gonna’ blurt it out over watching Four Weddings (they’d finished Bridezillas) sometime. He really intended for it to be more romantic than that, and only after they'd agreed on what they were doing. But really, he needed to tell Len.

Thoughts a mess, Barry could already feel that today was going to be a long day.

 

**********

 

Iris was still at Lisa’s house dutifully not eyeing up the blueprints spread out on her table when Lenny arrived. He seemed surprised to see her, but Lisa was still in the shower and Iris hadn’t wanted to leave without saying goodbye.

“Lisa said you had a rough night?”

He was leaning against the wall between the kitchen and dining room, glaring at nothing. She supposed she didn’t really blame him. “Understatement.”

“Did Barry pick you up?”

“He did. And you spent the night here with Lisa?”

“Yep.” Her lips snapped on the ‘p’. “Seemed like she could use the company.”

He was quiet for a minute and Iris went back to her phone, making lunch plans with Barry—she’d taken the day off work—until he said something wholly unexpected.

“Thank you, Iris.”

Her eyes snapped up.

“You looked out for my sister.”

“Oh—it was nothing. I recognized Axel Walker from when he poisoned me and a room full of over a hundred other people with his crazy father. When I saw him follow us out of the restaurant, we just pretended to part ways and see which one of us he was after. It wasn’t—”

“It was badass,” Lisa interrupted, hair still wet from the shower but dressed for action, coming from down the hall.

“I’d expect no less from any friend of yours, Lise,” Len smirked a little, but Iris flushed with pride.

“I’ll get out of your hair now, Lisa," she said, moving for the door. "But keep me posted?”

“Of course, dear. And I’ll let you know how it goes at the tailor’s tonight, but I’ll see you tomorrow night anyway.”

“Oh? What’s tomorrow?” Len asked the two of them as Iris put on her jacket.

“Barry didn’t mention? It’s my bachelorette party.” She grinned at Lisa. “And if what Caitlin says is true, it’s gonna’ be off the hook.”

“Mm, well just remember that I had zero part in the planning, so consider me blameless.”

Iris laughed like she knew better and then was out the door, Len tensing after she left, remembering what he was here to discuss, then relaxing on opening on an easier topic.

“You two are getting close.”

“Who, me and Iris? Why wouldn’t we?”

“How did you get to talking, again?”

“Girl world, Lenny.”

As if he was supposed to have any idea what that meant. “You know you need to be careful.”

“Why? So Barry doesn’t suspect that I know?”

He frowned. “I hope you don’t expect me to acknowledge that.”

She rolled her eyes, “you two make no sense some days. You must know, Lenny, that he’s got nothing to hide from me, not at this point, though he never really did.”

“Regardless.”

“You’re not here to talk about Barry.”

He crossed his arms and leaned against her fridge. “No.”

After a second of hesitation, she moved closer and winced at the bruise around the cut on his eyebrow. “Are you okay?”

“I’ll live,” he drawled. “But we’re going to need a new tactic. I don’t intend to wait around for him to strike a second time.”

“What does he want?”

“Diamonds—many of them, and my help procuring them, with the cold gun, to get past lasers.”

He was pleased when she laughed, finding the whole thing as idiotic as he did. “What a load of bullshit. Can the cold gun even do that?”

“It could, with the substance it emits , though there are about ten better ways to do it than to use my gun.”

She sighed and shook her head, face with harder lines when she looked back at him. “This is a mess.”

“One I intend to end.”

“You’re… okay. How?”

“I’m working on it. Is Walker still alive?”

She nodded. "I've got him stowed away right now, tied up well. Mick's keeping an eye on him."

“Good. Mick will be an asset.”

“What about Barry?”

Len flinched. “He stays out of this.”

“He’s already in this, Len, or didn’t you tell me he was coming to pick you up last night?”

“Regardless, he stays out of it from here on.”

“He could make this a whole lot easier—”

“I don’t want him getting his hands dirty, not with what I intend to do.”

She bit her lip to hold back whatever she was planning to say, hard around the eyes, then nodded. “Okay. I can respect that. But then what’re we thinking?”

He motioned for her to follow him into her living room and pulled over some paper, beginning to outline a rough plan.

 

**********

 

Barry was relieved when Iris dropped by the precinct for lunch that day, lunch in hand.

“Knock knock,” she smiled in the doorway of his lab.

“Iris! Hey!” He couldn't help the bright smile that bloomed on his face. “I hear that you’re the hero of the hour?”

“Wh—oh, with Lisa?” she blushed and he grinned.

“Doing my job for me?”

“Oh come on, it was nothing like that. Walker’s easy to spot with his creepy smile and all I did was hit him in the back of the head with a gun Lisa slipped me.”

“A what? That she what?!” Okay, Barry had not known that detail.

“What?” Iris gave him an annoyed glance, “I didn’t shoot him. And it's not like I've never held a gun before. But after what happened last time I saw the Trickster, I was glad not to take any chances.”

Barry frowned, “why was she carrying a gun?”

“Says the boyfriend of Captain Cold.”

Point. Barry suddenly wondered how often Len was carrying, which was a whole mental thought he didn’t want to examine because never until that very second had he thought that carrying a gun might be sexy but the thought of Len with one, dressed in that leather jacket, acting like a mob boss, it was all a little… it was definitely not the right time for those thoughts. He shook his head and refocused on Iris, who seemed altogether too relaxed for how her evening had gone.

“Okay, but you’re alright?”

“I’m great, yeah. I called Eddie and told him I was staying the night at Lisa’s and why, and he totally understood, and picked me up this morning. I'm fine, and everything's fine.”

“Okay, I'm glad. What happened to Walker?”

“…”

Iris?”

“Lisa… maybe wanted to ask him a few questions when he came to.”

“Ohmygod you kidnapped the Trickster?”

Iris looked a little guilty at least. “I... something like that?”

“What were you thinking?”

She went from chagrined to empowered in a half second. “Oh don’t give me that, Barry—you do crazier things all the time!”

“I have superpowers!”

She gave him a flat, unimpressed look. “I’ve known you since we were kids, Barr. You did not have superpowers any of the times you ran away to a maximum security prison a state over, or when you decided to up and vanish for weekends at a time to chase a lead on the impossible, or that time you decided to take on three muggers at once by yourself  'cause they were attacking an old man, or that—”

“Okay okay, you win.” He sighed and dropped his arms, slouching against his desk. “But where is Walker now?”

She winced, “Lisa ‘n me took him to a safehouse. She couldn’t get a hold of Lenny, which is when we realized something was definitely wrong. She called Mick but didn’t want it to get out too far, and I was about to phone you but then her brother called her and said he was handling it.”

Barry’s jaw might’ve been on the floor. Iris was altogether too casual talking about kidnapping supervillains and safehouses and Heatwave and guns and, and—and everything.

“Iris… I think Lisa might be a bad influence on you.”

She threw back her head and honestly laughed. “Oh god, Barry—you have zero room to talk. You had a pipeline prison!”

“Sshhh, a little quieter, please,” he hissed with a nervous glance at the door.

“Right, but still.”

“Does your dad know about this?”

She raised her eyebrows at him, “do I look like I have a death wish?”

“Does Eddie know?”

“Of course, I told him the full story this morning. He's not thrilled, but he respects my choices.”

 Barry's mind was reeling, and he felt a little unpleasant. He hadn't wanted Iris dragged into any of this, and not that he was going to point it out to her, but the Snarts and their friends weren’t likely to be exactly… savory, toward Axel Walker. He knew the Rogues had a code of sorts, knew Len wouldn’t kill Axel, but he still didn’t feel right about Iris helping apprehend him, knowing that nothing good was about to come the kid’s way.

“Look, Iris, I know you and Lisa are friends, but just… maybe Axel should’ve gone to the cops.”

“Barry, Walker’s either broken or helped others break out of Iron Heights three times now. He’s a bigger danger in there than out here, helping Lisa track down her father.”

He blinked, but she went on, a little flustered, pulling her hair around her shoulder. “I know, Barry, I know it doesn’t seem like the right thing to do, but I think it was? It felt like the right thing. Actually, I... I thought about what you would do. And I don't think you’d just give someone over to the police if there was a better way, or something more important at stake. I know you wouldn’t, because you don’t.”

He couldn’t really argue that, thoughts of Eobard, then of Len and Lisa and Mick, and all the other meta’s, everyone he hadn’t handed over to the cops for one reason or another, all swimming through his head.

“I—you’re right, sorry, Iris. I’m just worried about what’ll happen to Axel.”

“What’ll—Barry, Lisa’s not about to torture him or anything. Oh my—you thought I was handing him over to the Rogues just so they could traumatize him?”

“Iris, I know they’re our friends, but they’re also, kind of…”

“Have a little faith, Barr. I know they kidnapped Caitlin and Cisco before, but that was, y’know, then—before your deal with them and back when, according to Lisa, ‘the game was kill or be killed if you were smart’. She told me… look, I know I’m not supposed to tell you what Lisa tells me about the Rogues—” Barry wondered immediately if Iris knew more than he did about the Rogues “—but Lisa said she feels…sympathy, for Axel… he let his own dad convince him to do crazy things, got himself thrown in jail, broke out only for his dad to die, then got picked up by her monster of a father in order to do his bidding instead. I don’t think Lisa really wants to hurt Walker, I kind of think she wants to scare him straight, if she can.”

Barry took a second to process that. “Lisa Snart… wants to convince the Trickster… to stop being a criminal?” His voice was a like high at the end because it wasn't computing.

“I think so?” She bit her lip.

“When did the world stop making sense?”

Iris laughed, and the tension seemed to leave the room. They both sighed and their shoulders slumped. “Right? I know, it’s crazy. The bad guys are doing the good guys’ job and the hero is sleeping with the villain.”

“I’m not sleeping with Len yet.”

“What about before thanksgiving?”

“That was kind of an accident…”

“How do you accidentally sleep with someone?”

“The same way you accidentally date them?"

"Was there whip cream involved?"

"Not this time, just a shower. There may’ve been an incident with phasing and—I am not telling you this.”

Ohmygod Barry—what?!”

He groaned and dropped his head into his hands. “No way, nope, not happening.”

She was giggling and trying to stifle it behind her hand. "Oh Barry, you didn't. I mean, that might even be more embarrassing than what I heard Eddie did the other day.”

Do you need to remind me about the porn?”

She stopped even attempting to hide her laughter, holding the desk to keep from wheezing, “in front of the whole precinct?”

“Please tell me you didn't know there was Flash porn. I’m too afraid to ask Cisco if he knew.”

“Oh I bet he did."

"I think Santiago is starting a betting pool on the side," he whined.

"On what?"

"Which of the Flash's enemies he would be most likely to actually sleep with. Which makes zero sense, because obviously how would they ever even verify that and--Iris, what are you doing?"

"Just making a note in my phone to remember to go talk to Santiago. Clearly I know who to place money on."

"Iris!"

"I'll take you out to dinner with the winnings?"

"I cannot believe you." This was betrayal, clean and simple. She didn't seem fazed by his glare though. Just dropped the phone and smiled at him, a little too brightly.

"Also, dibs out on telling my dad about Walker? And uh, the story shouldn’t include me at all?”

He groaned, “first the betting pool and now you’re gonna’ make me tell him that the Snarts have Axel?” 

“Yep, I feel like you owe me one still for putting up with all the talk about his dick—yes, I know, 'The Dick'—" she made air quotes around it, "but regardless, you owe me, so you're telling dad. And speaking of Lisa and Lenny, don’t forget that you have an appointment at the tailor’s tonight with Lisa.”

“I have a what?” Iris was trying to ruin his life in the space of a single conversation, he was now convinced.

“Barry, I told you this!”

He looked at the heavens and implored them for a break already, some vague recollection of suit tailoring for her wedding and some mention somewhere in the back of his mind about Lisa attending the wedding as his date, memories all floating up.

“Are you for real?”

“Barry—come on, don’t even think about cancelling! My bachelorette is tomorrow and you know my goal was to have all the details finalized before the bachelorette! There’s still too much extra crap to do and the wedding is in less than a month.”

He dropped his head forward and groaned. “How is it that you can kidnap a supervillain one night and bully me into wedding prep the next?”

She laughed and munched on a fry, “life made a lot more sense before you got superpowers, but I won’t say I’m complaining.”

 

Chapter Text

“This is a little…”

“Essential?”

“I was gonna’ say unnecessary? I’m just here to do my final suit fitting for Iris’s wedding?”

“Nonsense, Barry—might as well get a few nice suits while we’re here.”

He was already done getting sized properly—so. many. measurements.—and was currently in a third suit that the tailor was pinning and checking so he could assess the style of it, for reasons unbeknownst to him. Lisa had been bossing him around since he’d arrived and he still wasn’t sure how this had happened.

“I have a suit or two?”

“But these will be nicer.”

He wasn’t sure about forking out the cash for a couple of new suits. “You know, I think I’ll just get the alterations done and leave it at that.”

Barry looked at the tailor. The tailor looked at Lisa. Lisa shook her head at the tailor and smiled at Barry. He was definitely seeing the family relation between her and Len right now.

“Are you up to something?”

“Nothing that should trouble you, Barry. Also, that one looks lovely. That and the dusty grey one.”

“This one’s a little—”

“It looks great. We’re getting it.”

…we’re?”

She winked at him, “don’t worry about a thing.”

“You’re not buying me clothes, Lisa!” He tried to move but the tailor’s pin poked him and he wasn’t quite sure it wasn’t deliberate. He glared down at the man, who sighed.

“You’re good to go and change, Mr. Allen.”

“Don’t worry, Barry, it’s all on Lenny.”

That did not make him feel any better. He went to change and then caught up with Lisa, who was waiting on a bench and smiling at her phone.

“I’m not letting Len pay for my clothes,” he opened with.

“Too late,” she laughed, smirking up at him, a credit card appearing between two fingers. It was black and looked like one of those ones you had to have a ridiculous income to get approved for. “Everything was charged to his account from the second we walked in the door; he called ahead and everything.”

“I—he—that’s a—what?”

She stood up and slipped the card into a pocket somewhere, all preening smiles. “Something about nice dinner dates in your future, I think?”

“Dinner dates? Len likes to spend his evenings with Netflix and a beer or out playing pool. You know, when he’s not being Captain Cold.”

“Or out getting thrown into the bay?”

They were outside now, and Barry followed Lisa to her car without even thinking about it, shoulders hunched against the cold as they walked. “Yeah, that… d’you wanna… I’m glad you’re okay.”

“And I'm glad Lenny is. Thank you for that, Barry.”

“It was the least I could do. I… Iris said you guys got Axel Walker?” He wondered if he could hedge and actually get something out of her.

“Mhmm.” Maybe not. But she waved to the passenger door and he got in. “Why don’t we grab a coffee and chat for a bit?”

 

**********

 

Lisa drove them to Crossroads coffee house, tapping her fingers and thinking on the drive about everything Iris and Lenny had told her about Barry, glad for a chance to spend time with him one-on-one. The barista had had the gall to actually glare at Barry and ask who she was (Lisa almost laughed) until he introduced her as Len’s sister. The girl was appropriately mollified and Lisa found it all hilarious, especially when Barry actually pouted right back in return until the girl rolled her eyes, “I was just checking.”

Barry snorted and paid for their drinks—he’d insisted on paying and Lisa was gracious enough to let him—while she just tittered beside him. “Good to know I’m not the only one looking out for your relationship.”

Barry huffed but grabbed his Americano with a smile at the barista despite her apparent treachery. The kid really was too sweet.

“You, our regular baristas, Iris, the cashiers at the grocery store, even Mark Mardon—all I need is for my boss to start lauding out his approval and I’m pretty sure the whole world will be on board.”

They found a table and Lisa smiled at that, making a note to mention it to Iris—though she’d have to ask Shawna about whatever Mark had said—but felt it might be worth it to gather some intel of her own, while they were on the subject, “and your father?”

“Hu—oh, you mean Joe? I thought you meant my actual dad for a second, which…” Barry looked pensive. “I told dad right after Thanksgiving, actually. He knew I was seeing someone so it went… okay. He just wants me to me happy, even if he’s having a hard time understanding me and Len together.”

“You told your father? Isn’t he… in prison?” Lisa didn’t mind playing a little stupid to keep Barry talking.

“Yeah, I visit though, as often as I can make it over. Did Len tell you…?”

“That your father is innocent? He mentioned that, yes.” She wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to say, but Barry relaxed under her gaze, which was interesting. Clearly, he trusted Lenny’s discretion over his secrets, one way or another.

“Yeah, so my dad’s… confused… by me dating a criminal, but he reserves judgment, I think. Joe, on the other hand…” Barry frowned.

"Is he still giving you a hard time?" Something she was worried he might keep from either Lenny or Iris.

"No, not—he's never really given me a hard time about it all, directly. He's just worried, and a little angry that I'm taking risks like this and I get that, I just..."

“He’ll come around, I’m sure.” Iris had told Lisa as much, after all.

“Yeah, he will.” Barry agreed, though he looked despondent. “He put up with Len at Thanksgiving, after all. Now I’ve just got to survive Christmas.”

“Christmas?” Uh oh.

“…the next major holiday?”

She sipped her tea.

“Lisa… what am I missing here?” Did Barry always pout like that? She might as well tell him though, if Lenny hadn’t yet.

“Well darling, it’s just that Lenny doesn’t celebrate Christmas. And nor do I.”

From pouting to kicked puppy in an instant. How Len survived those looks, that scrunched up face with raise eyebrows, it was beyond her. “You’re kidding me. Not even… at all?”

She considered withholding for a moment, then sighed and tapped her manicured nails on the table. “He celebrates Kwanzaa, actually. Well, ‘celebrates’ is a bit much, Lenny’s not very festive, but he observes it, and I do along with him.”

“I… Kwanzaa. Okay. I can work with that, though I don’t really know much about it. I mean, that is… would he mind if I— I guess I should ask him.”

“You want to celebrate with us?” She actually smiled wide, pearly white teeth and all, felt it stretching her face. “I’m sure he would love that.”

“Yeah?”

“It’s a family time of year, but Christmas was a write-off for us. No family feelings, or no good ones anyway.” The edge of bitterness seeped in, especially thinking of her father still on the loose. At least Lenny was with Axel right now, and this might end soon. So she focused on the present and sipped her honeyed tea. “But I wanted something to share and Lenny wanted to connect more to that side of his heritage, so he suggested it and I was happy to be part of it with him. I think he’d be happy to include you, if you’re interested, Barry. You’re… something, to Lenny. Something special.”

Her eyes twinkled and Barry’s next smile was shy, into his next sip of coffee, glancing down and away but the look on his face was sickly fond. “I’ll ask him about it next time I get a chance?”

“You do that, darling. But that reminds me—have you made any plans for his birthday yet?”

“His… birthday?”

“On the eleventh?”

“That’s a while away yet though?”

December eleventh?”

“The—that's in a week!”

“He… didn’t tell you his birthday was this month.” She might murder her brother. He was making it very difficult not to want to micromanage his life.

Barry glared off to the side, thick eyebrows draw together—uh oh—enough of an answer in itself but then he admitted, a little anger in his voice, “he told me it was in May.”

Lisa blinked, and then a shocked laugh escaped her throat. “May? May? Oh no, that idiot.” She almost couldn’t believe him. And the lengths she went to in order to save his sorry ass. “He’s such a grump sometimes, I swear. He hates celebrating things and parties so he’s probably just hoping to sneak it under the radar and tell you in May that it already passed. That or he’s embarrassed about being old.”

“He’s not that old.”

She arched an eyebrow, pleased that Barry's frown was relaxing. “Definitely not, since he seems to keep up with you okay.”

Although apparently they spent most of their time watching Netflix? Lisa might need to poke her brother in the direction of romance, at some point. He was failing on so many fronts, right now. But Barry was smiling again, though after a moment he looked a little more serious.

“So… okay. His birthday is in a week. He didn’t tell me. Obviously he doesn’t want some big party but… any ideas?”

Lisa entertained the idea of telling Barry to steal something for Len as a symbolic gesture, smirking but dismissing the idea, not wanting to make the poor kid choke on his next swallow of coffee. And he’d probably suffocate if she teased him about birthday sex too, or worse, he might start over-sharing again, and there was only so much of that that Lisa could survive. So she went with an honest reply.

“Why not a small gathering? Us, Mick and Aiden? I’d say Shawna and Mark too but Len prefers things as small as possible. Though he did lie about it,” she tapped her lip in thought, “so clearly he doesn’t get a say. Maybe we should invite Shawna and Mark.”

Barry got a little tense, which was no surprise, really. “He doesn’t seem like he can, uh, relax around them? Or around Mark, anyway? Quite as much?”

Lisa titled her head, curls falling to the side, a little smirk in place. She really would have to get details on Barry’s apparent discussion with Mark, but for now... “I suppose you’re right. No Shawna and Mark this time. Shame I can’t invite Cisco though.”

Barry shrugged, “Why not? Len gets along with him well enough. You can always invite him as your date and give a heads up to him about who will be there?”

“Oooh, so you’d actually give me his number to ask?”

“You mean you don’t already have it? He keeps dropping hints anyway.” Barry pulled out his phone, starting to scroll through it while she watched like a hawk, feeling a little excited. “I think he really likes you.”

That was news to her. She had hoped, but… “Well that is mutual, you know. A girl’s gotta do what she’s gotta do, but I really do like him too. He’s sweet, and smart, and different. My flirting isn’t all for show.”

“Yeah I can tell,” he smiled. “All the hints you’ve dropped in the past few…” Barry stopped. “Wait.”

He stared at her. She stared back and—oh. Right. Oh shit. Their eyes widened at the same time. She’d been so caught up thinking of Cisco, so naturally relaxed around Barry that…

She was waiting for him to say something, baited breath, but after too many seconds, Barry started looking like he was having an absence seizure, staring at her and staying stock still. She was honestly getting worried.

“Barry?”

He shook himself out of whatever line of thought he was stuck in. “Lisa…do you know?”

Her eyes scanned his face then there was a moment of anticipation before she rounded her lips in a picture of pure innocence (something she’d long-since perfected). “Oops.”

YOU DO?!” He shouted then immediately slapped a hand over his mouth, looked around and leaned forward to hiss. “You know?”

“Umm.” Obviously. But she didn’t want to startle him any further.

OhmygodhowlonghaveyouknownHOLYSHIT--!” He dropped his head onto the table and started gently pounding it in to the surface. Lisa burst out laughing, she couldn’t help it. She was pretty sure this was what Iris had told her about, Barry’s ridiculousness, and she started to slip off her chair she was giggling so hard. She righted herself with enough speed to record a video of his grumbling for posterity, still laughing at him.

“Sorry jailbait—you’re not that good at lying.” She slipped her phone away. “Or should I call you Flash? Scarlet, maybe?”

He didn’t even look up. “Why is this my life?” He groaned into the table surface, then his head snapped up, “wait—no. Does Len know you know?”

The cat was out of the bag anyway, so…

“He hasn’t said as much but that’s just to give himself plausible deniability. Pretty sure he figured it out weeks ago, maybe even after we went to the pool.”

“You’ve known since the pool date?! That was over a month ago!” he hissed, looking like he was about to start sweating.

“Oh relax—I’ve known since the first night we met.”

Barry’s mouth dropped open. “Ohgodohgodohgod—no. Just—you have no idea the lengths we’ve gone to you keep you in the dark.”

“Oh I have some idea. Iris filled me in. Faking it since The Whip Cream Fiasco?”

“TM.”

“T-M?”

“It’s the Whip Cream Fiasco™.”

“You’re very strange, Barry.”

“And you’re very sneaky, Lisa. I can’t believe you’ve known this whole time.”

“You’re lucky me and Iris knew—we’ve been making sure you boys didn’t do anything idiotic like break up.” They’d been up to more than that, but Barry didn’t need to know the particulars.

What?!”

She bit her lip, hoping she hadn’t made too many wrong steps here. “Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that. But if you use me knowing as an excuse to break up with him—”

“No—no no, don’t worry, I won’t—” he took a deep breath and seemed to calm down. “I really don’t intend to break up with him. It’s real.”

“Honey, I don’t think it was ever fake.”

He squirmed in his seat. “I can’t believe you knew the whole time.”

She almost rolled her eyes but refrained. They were far more obvious than they realized, the poor dears. Instead of pointing that out though, she refocused on what she was getting out of this. “How about that number, darling?”

He handed her his phone with a sigh. She was punching in the numbers when she heard, “hey Lisa? Can you do me a favor?”

Her eyes flicked to Barry, suspicious, and he looked lost in thought. “Hm?”

“Can you not tell Len that I know that you know?”

“Oooh, devious, Barry. What are you up to?” she handed back the phone with a smile.

“Things between me and Len are complicated, still. I don’t know if he’s told you?” He had, but Barry didn’t need to know that either. “But if he doesn’t know that I know that you know, I think we should at least get back at him for not telling me, if you want to help me?”

“My my my, I’m almost impressed. I suppose you wouldn’t be the Flash if you weren’t willing to play dirty every now and then. Now, what are we planning?”

She had to hand it to the kid, he was more fun than she ever would’ve guessed.

 

**********

 

Barry couldn’t believe the way his night had gone. The way his month had gone—life had gone, really.

But now Lisa was driving him home and humming to herself while he contemplated his boyfriend’s birthday and what the hell Len was thinking by lying to him about that. And about Lisa not knowing. And… they still had to discuss their relationship. And probably Axel Walker, who…

“Hey so uh…”

“Yes?”

She pulled in to Len’s usual parking spot. “Things with Axel…”

He glanced over at her as she narrowed her eyes and smiled a little too pleasantly, “yes, Barry?”

“What are you Rogues planning to—”

“Ah ah,” her smile took on a razor-sharp quality. “You’ll have to ask Lenny for details, darling. I can’t spill Rogue secrets to the Flash.”

“And if I go inside right now, will I find Len at home, or…”

She arched an eyebrow.

“He’s with Axel tonight, isn’t he?” Now he understood why Lisa had been so keen to keep him talking all evening.

“Have a good night, Barry.”

He was caught between rolling his eyes and glaring as he got out of the car, making a mental list of complaints he had for Len, one that needed to be organized and prioritized at this point. Maybe he should write it out. Make a letter. Deliver it to Len’s mailbox so he never actually had to piss him off by talking about any of this.

Barry made it all the way to his couch, dropped his head onto his favorite pillow, and then finally gave in to the urge to start pulling at his hair and to groan in dismay. He was probably the only hero in the history of ever to have a criminal boyfriend off kidnapping other criminals and using his sister to keep him busy. Maybe he should add that to his list of complaints too. After an hour passed, after he bemoaned his existence for a little while and got ready for bed and listened for the sound of Len arriving home, a sound that never came, Barry gave in to the even deeper urge to phone Len.

He answered on the third ring.

“Barry?”

“Hey…Len. Are you… you’re not coming home tonight, are you?”

“… most likely not.”

“You aren’t… please tell me you aren’t torturing anyone? I really don’t want to have to—”

“Torture isn’t my style and Walker isn’t that loyal to the man who killed his father.”

Barry breathed out a sigh of relief and finally sat on the edge of his bed, feeling a lot of his tension dissipate. “Okay. Um. That’s good. Great. This is why I lo—ooked the other way, I knew I could trust you.” Barry bit his lip, felt his insides squirm, and tried not to spill the beans over the goddamn phone.

“Thank you, Barry.”

“When I see you next, there’s a few things that I want to talk to you about. Good things! Not bad things. Well except that you shouldn’t be buying me clothes,” Barry wrinkled his nose, “and I’m not too sure how I feel about this whole Walker thing, and there’s also the issue of you lying to me about your birthday, and… no, I think that’s it. I’ve got a list somewhere. But other than that it’s good things. I hope.”

There was silence on the other end of the line and Barry started to sweat for a second until Len finally let out a slow, quiet chuckle, “you made a list?”

“You like lists.”

“I do.” Barry could hear the smile in Len’s voice, and found himself smiling by extension. “Was that all?”

“I… yeah. I guess I just wanted to hear your voice.” He felt his heart hammer, and rushed to continue, “and I probably won’t see you tomorrow either, for the record."

“Iris’s party is tomorrow, right?”

“Yeah, how’d you—Lisa, right?”

“Mm.”

They were both quiet for a minute. Barry didn’t want to hang up, but also knew, “I guess I shouldn’t keep you… you’re busy not-torturing someone and being nefarious, I’m sure.”

Len snorted on the other end of the line, “nefarious? Remind me again how old you are?”

“Remind me again who lied about his birthday?”

“I’m not the only one who’s been hearing things from Lisa.”

“You’re not. And seriously, the clothes, we will be talking about that. It’s bad enough that there’s porn of us out there, I don’t need anyone calling you my sugar daddy.”

There was an actual laugh from Len, “maybe I’ll write in to that website, request that ‘Sugar Daddy Cold’ be the title of the next instalment they make. That or my current favorite, ‘Frost Bite’.”

“Len… have you been thinking up titles for our porn?”

“Theirs are uncreative.”

“I’m officially hanging up now, and you’re gonna’ go back to being a badass mobster or whatever—”

“Nefarious—”

“—yes, that, go be nefarious while I go and douse myself in holy water and pretend that porn of us doesn’t exist and that my job doesn’t have a betting pool going about my sex life.” He almost did hang up too, but Len didn’t say goodbye.

“Barry?” he sounded quieter.

“Yeah?”

“Thanks for calling.”

Barry almost melted into the mattress. “Anytime, Len.”

“Goodnight.”

 

**********

 

Len hung up the phone and breathed in the night air out in the alleyway. He was glad for a reprieve. Axel Walker was a bit much, even when he was cooperating. And Len was very glad that he was cooperating. It was nice to report to Barry that no, he wasn’t torturing anyone.

It was a long night by the time it was through, but Mick agreed to drag Walker back to his place and keep an eye on him at the end of it.

“You sure? Aiden’s there.” Shawna was watching her right now, over at Mick’s, and Len wasn’t a fan of exposing Aiden to any more criminals than strictly necessary.

“S’fine. He so much as looks at her the wrong way and I’ll kill him.”

Right, well, that worked too, especially because they were standing next to Walker while discussing this. The kid swallowed hard and Len smirked. “Well he’s all yours then, Mick.”

He eyed Axel one last time just to make sure the kid was properly scared, but left it at that, too tired to make any more serious threats. By the time he was home, it was the middle of the night and he was climbing the stairs of his apartment and thinking of bed. But he… sleeping next to Barry the night before had been particularly nice, and Barry had said something about… good things, right? Len hesitated in the hall, knowing Barry would probably need his beauty sleep before whatever the girls dragged him out to do but…

Len knocked anyway. It was stupid, he realized immediately after. He shouldn’t—hopefully he hadn’t even woken Barry up. He turned toward his own door, but—

“’lo?”

Shit. Len already felt guilty. He turned back to face Barry, who’s expression was all scrunched up and sleepy and just…

“Hey, Barry. Sorry to wake you.”

“Mm, ‘rything o—” he yawned wide and stretched and Len’s heart took up a slow, steady residence somewhere around his middle. “Okay?”

“Yeah, sleepyhead. I must be tired, I didn’t realize the hour when I knocked.” It was just a little white lie, really; he knew the hour. But Barry looked… adorable. In his underwear and a muscle shirt, scratching the back of his head and blinking blearily over at Len.

“You wanna’ c’min?”

“I should—” Len pointed his thumb over his shoulder, “—got a retainer and everything to wear, not to mention I already stole back my pajamas from your place.”

He didn’t want to take over Barry’s bedroom, to impose himself. Especially not until he got some confirmation about this, much as he wanted to just insinuate himself as far into Barry’s life as he could so the other could (would) never let him go. And Barry deserved the chance to sort out his feelings without Len’s constant invasions.

“You…” Barry looked a little more awake, with a dopey, drowsy grin, and closed his own door behind him. “The retainer, eh? I finally get to see it?”

“You’re…coming over?”

“Oh! Gotta grab my phone. See you in a minute.” Barry turned back into his apartment without another word and Len went into his own, followed less than a minute later by Barry.

“Did you lock up behind you?” Len called from the bathroom, brushing his teeth.

“Your place, not mine.”

Len rolled his eyes when Barry wandered past the open bathroom door toward his bedroom. He was carrying a pillow, of all things. Pillows trumped keys? Only Barry could make that logic make sense.

Len bit the bullet and actually pulled out his retainer because he’d said he was going to, didn’t he? He pulled out the case, unsure if he was actually going to put it on. It hadn’t been embarrassing all those months ago, but now… he rolled his eyes at himself in the mirror and put the damn retainer on. Barry had fished him out of a phone booth freezing to death just twenty four hours prior, he could handle a retainer. He still brought the case and left it on his nightstand so he could divest of it before Barry was up in the morning anyway.

Barry, who was tucked into his bed and hugging a completely different pillow by the time Len made it in. He looked like he was back asleep already, lips slightly parted, breathing even, just the lamp on, dim light not disturbing him. Len smiled, couldn’t help but feel like he didn’t deserve this, but wanted it anyway, would take it so long as Barry let him.

Then he stripped down to his boxer briefs, clicked off the light, and slid in to the bed next to Barry.

“Mm?” He didn’t even stir.

“Just sleep, Barry.”

“Mhm.” He was barely moving his mouth, probably barely even clinging to consciousness. "G’night Len, love you.”

Did he just—

Did that just—

It wasn’t—but it had—

Len’s heart stopped its residency in his mid-abdomen. It instead decided to shoot up to his chest, no wait, to his throat. Both. And also his abdomen still. No, actually, just… all of him. He was full with it.

Len stared at Barry’s sleeping face in the dark and tried to tell himself it didn’t count. That Barry was asleep. That he hadn’t meant it. Wouldn’t have said it if he was awake. But Len… Len basked in it. And shifted closer. And smiled, and let his heart beat its steady pace in every extremity of his body. He couldn't help it. Couldn't help this feeling.

In some way, even without Len pushing, even without seducing Barry into his bed—well, not with sex, because he was definitely in Len’s bed—some part of Barry loved Len after all.

For tonight, grinning to himself in the dark like an idiot, that was more than enough.

 

Chapter Text

The night was a success so far, and for that, Barry was eternally grateful (and specifically, grateful to Caitlin and Felicity).

He’d woken up in Len’s bed in the morning, woken up to a blinding smile instead of Len’s usual morning grump, woken up to kisses that had almost tempted him to stay in bed and see exactly where those kisses were going except that he was teetering on being late for work and got a call out to a crime scene. But the day had started excellent and stayed that way so far.

Dinner was full of ladies, and Barry was very aware of being the only male in the group. There were all of Iris’s close girlfriends—Lisa, Caitlin, Linda—and then a few others in their broader social circle—Felicity, Laurel—and then some other women from the Picture News, a few from her old job at Jitters, and some carryovers from her college days.

Barry knew only a handful of them, half of whom were still convinced he was hopelessly in love with Iris and welling in his own misery. Mostly, he was awkward and trying to hide it throughout dinner. But Iris was laughing and enjoying her tiara and pink feather boa—not to mention the sash, the glitter wand, and the stickers, no matter how tacky it all looked—so Barry wasn’t going to complain. He had other things to worry about too, like Lisa who looked amused, Caitlin who was vacillating between smiles at Iris and disapproving glances at Lisa, and Felicity and Laurel who he’d rather not have figure out that Lisa was Golden Glider, at least not over this meal, right now.

But reprieve came after dinner. They were taking taxis over to the next part of the night—the burlesque show that Iris had been dying to go to for ages but had never actually dragged herself to—and Barry slipped into a taxi with Caitlin, Felicity, and Laurel.

“Hey Barry,” Felicity turned around in the front seat to grin back at him. “Everything so far so good!” She gave him a thumbs up.

“Yeah—burlesque then out dancing, shouldn’t be too hard, right?” He was in the middle seat and felt a little sandwiched in.

“About that,” Laurel said, and smirked over at him. “We’re doing an after party, right?”

“After party?”

“After the dancing winds down, most of the old friends go home, and then…?”

“I…guess? If people want to come back to my place? Eddie’s at Iris’s and I don’t know if we should really take over Joe’s house, so it’d kind of have to be my apartment?”

“Yours is perfect!” Felicity beamed, then turned around and started typing on her phone.

“Do I want to know?”

“Probably not,” said Caitlin, and then she handed him a flask.

“Um, Cait? Kind of… doesn’t make a difference for me?” And he wasn’t too sure about drinking next to a recovering alcoholic even if she’d been more than happy to come out tonight.

“Oh Barry, it’s for you. I added fomezipole and it should be able to get you drunk.” She leaned closer conspiratorially and patted his arm, “and by the end of the night, you’ll need it.”

That was… not encouraging. He glanced at Laurel though and she smiled, “have fun, Barry.”

Right. Okay. He tipped some of the liquid back.

Ow.” It burned like hell. He was pretty sure he’d just lost a few nose hairs from the vapors alone. But… “Hey wait… how fast does this take effect?”

“Oh with your metabolism it should be near-instantaneous, especially considering that alcohol absorption happens well before the duodenum.”

Right. Right. He glanced at the flask and took another sip.

It was going to be an interesting night.

 

**********

 

There was a…ruckus. That was the only word for it. And Len was tired. Between hypothermia, tension, and middle-of-the-night love confessions he was undoubtedly not supposed to hear and definitely not supposed to read into, he hadn’t actually being doing much sleeping. Which he would like to be doing now. Except that there was a ruckus.

He was on his couch, in his jeans still and a Henley, frowning at the TV and listening to music blasting from next door and the sound of laughter. It was one am. He wanted to go to sleep, knowing he wouldn’t with that noise next door. But he also wasn’t about to crash Iris’s bachelorette party.

Well. Maybe. Just a little. Len smirked into the beer he was sipping. Barry was a bad influence. First knocking on his door in the middle of the night, now tempted to come over and disrupt his party. He wasn’t going to though, if not for Barry then for Iris.

There was a knock on Len’s door and he hauled himself to his feet, a little excited, except—

“Dolores?”

“Leonard, deary,” she was in her nightgown, the old lady who lived down the hall. “Do you know anything about the racket coming from, um…”

“Barry’s?”

She eyed him suspiciously, “are you sure he’s your partner, son?”

He snorted, at least half because no one had called him ‘son’ in a long time. “I’m sure, Dolores. He’s hosting a bachelorette party.”

“A what?”

“It’s like a bachelor party? But for a woman?”

She just shook her head, “and you’re letting your partner spend his night at a bachelor party? I watch NBC, Leonard, I do know what happens at those things.”

He sighed at her, pretty sure he had nothing to worry about, even if Barry had been in love with the bachelorette herself at one point. He pushed that thought aside. “No cause for alarm, Mrs. Thompson. Why don’t you head back to bed and I’ll have them turn the music down?”

“Oh would you? Thank you, dear.” She patted his hand with a smile and he resisted the urge to smirk. Helping the little old ladies wasn’t normally part of his job description, but he didn’t mind having an excuse to poke his head in next door for just a minute.

He locked up behind him and knocked on Barry’s door, waving to Dolores as she slipped back into her apartment with a last glance behind her.

Iris opened the door, and next to her was Caitlin Snow with a flushed grin.

“Lenny!” Iris practically squealed, slamming a drink back into Snow’s chest. Iris was teetering slightly on some very high heels, pink feather boa around her neck.

He smiled, “Iris, hi. I was—wh—Iris—hey—” she had grabbed his arm and physically dragged him into the apartment. She was stronger than she looked. “Iris, I’m really just here to say—”

“Who’s a’ th’ door?” Barry was coming over and he was—“Oh my god—Lenny!” He threw his hands in the air and… was Barry drunk? That couldn’t be, but his cheeks were flushed and his eyes were glassy and he was holding a flask and—

He flung himself around Len’s shoulders, dislocating Iris’s hold on him. His breath smelled like pure alcohol and he spun on one foot, flung out an arm with drama—“Hey everyone! My boyfriend’s here!”

Len was gently trying to extricate himself from Barry’s grasp—“come on, that’s it, let go”—when there was a shout and a giggle and the music turned down sharply. Arms full of Barry, Len looked up to see three women on the couch that he didn’t recognize, all of them with jaws hanging, two of them holding drinks. Snow was already across the room and had a hand on the stereo dial. He had a feeling it wasn’t for his benefit.

“BARRY!” shouted a blonde on the couch, “since when are you dating Captain Cold?!”

Several things happened at once. Len felt his eyes widen and he started to tense—he wasn’t used to being recognized on sight, especially not when he was in his house clothes.

One of the women fell off the couch with a shriek and a giggle, collapsing into laughter; the brunette still on the couch’s eyes flicked everywhere and demanded of the blonde “you didn’t know about this either?!” while the one the floor laughed even more raucously and shouted “that’s why we didn't work out! I thought it was Iris you had the hots for, not Captain Cold!”; someone in the kitchen—Lisa?!—threw back her head and yelled ‘cheers!’ before downing a drink and slamming it back down on the counter, reveling in the chaos; the blonde was motormouthing to the brunette already who was working her way up to a shout and Len didn’t know where to look or what to address but then—

“ALL RIGHT STOP!” Barry shouted, way too close to his ear. Len was jarred a step back by the sound, let go of Barry and caught Iris’s eye, her gaze round as saucers, but then Barry took a step forward, hands out as he glanced around the room and kept going—“collaborate and listen!”

Oh no—

Ice is back with a brand new invention—”

He wasn’t

Something grabs a hold of me tightly, flow like a—”

He was

harpoon daily and nightly—Will it ever stop?”

“—Barry, no—”

Yo, I don’ know, turn the lights off ‘n I’ll glow—”

The others were staring, as they had every right to be as Barry was actually rapping—“to the extreme I rock a mic like a vandal”—the brunette on the couch whispered, “is he really…?”

Light up a stage ‘n wax a chump like a candle—

“Yep, he is,” answered the blonde. Iris and the woman on the ground were giggling, Caitlin with a hand over her mouth and clutching the stereo shelf, and Lisa—Lisa had her damn phone out recording this shit. And Barry was still going, into the next verse, getting into it, movements and everything, “love it or leave it, you better gain way—”

Len felt like a deer in the headlights, shaking his head slowly in horror as Barry finally got to—

Ice Ice Baby, Vanilla Ice Ice Baby. Ice Ice Baby, Vanilla Ice Ice Baby!

The room erupted in laughter. Len hated everyone in it, and he couldn’t handle it anymore, he stepped forward behind Barry and physically put a hand over his mouth and another around his waist to hold his arms down so he wouldn’t try to keep going, mouthing more muffled lyrics into Len’s hand in protest.

“How long have you been planning that?” Len growled, and Barry stopped fighting and started laughing against his hand, leaning back into him for support.

Iris was barely holding herself standing, clutching the wall and wiping tears from her eyes as she laughed, “oh no—he hasn’t been—he’s had it memorized since he was fifteen.”

Barry protested into his hand but Len was having none of that, fixing his hold.

Fifteen?”

“He had a—oh god I forgot about this—a phase. Where he got really into rap. I think he had an identity crisis.”

Barry was going red and finally pulled Len’s hand off—“it wasn’t an identity crisis—”

Len was struggling, trying his hardest not to laugh, but—he could almost picture it, the most awkward and gangly teenager trying to rap, probably making up new raps about chemistry or something, generally making an embarrassment of himself.

“It’s a wonder you didn’t get your teeth knocked out.” Len finally let him go and Barry was still arguing with Iris.

“It wasn’t a phase either—”

“It was something, Barr. I think me and dad were actually relieved when you got into showtunes.”

Aside from the laughter around them, the blonde on the couch was standing now and coming close, “please—please—tell me there is video footage of that, Iris.” She turned abruptly to Len with a wide smile and stuck out her hand. “Hi, Felicity Smoak. Barry’s friend. We met once. You derailed a train.”

He blinked and shook her hand, the memory clicking into place. “Right.” He wasn’t sure what else to say and Barry giggled next to him.

“Derailed a train, upped his game, made himself a household name.”

“Is he always like this when he drinks? Wait—” he looked at Barry, “how are you drunk?”

“SHOTS!”

That wasn’t Barry, that was Caitlin Snow, and she pushed two shots into Len’s open hands. “Hold on!” She waggled a finger under his nose and went to grab more.

“Um.”

Suddenly Iris, Felicity, Caitlin, and the Asian woman he hadn’t met yet (who was sitting on the ground by the couch) all had shots in hand, and Lisa was laughing on the couch now, next to the other brunette woman, who was still eyeing Len a little suspiciously. But there was a jubilant “cheers!” from everyone around him, including Barry, and he took his shots on habit, not even wincing at the taste of cheap vodka. Barry chased his own shot with a swig from his flask and shuddered after.

“Okay, I just came because the lady down the hall wants you all to keep it down a bit so—”

“Oh no, you’re not leaving, are you?” Iris pouted, right up by his side. On his other side, the blonde—Felicity?—was equally near and bright-eyed. When did they get so close?

“Oh no no no, you can’t leave yet. You’re dating Barry? And Barry, you’re dating Leonard Snart?” She smacked Barry on the arm—Barry, who was grinning and a little dopey eyed and threw an arm around her shoulders in response.

“Yeah.” He sounded wistful.

“I need stories. Many stories. All of them. Like how you went from trainwrecks to boyfriends and when? And is there evidence of this transition? Other than the videos—but those aren’t of you, of course—”

“The vid—Felicity not you too!

Did she mean the—

“What videos?” The brunette from the couch was coming over to stand and their little circle was getting cramped.

Len eyed Barry’s arm around the shoulder of the gorgeous blonde, but was distracted by Caitlin pressing a drink into his hand, “oh they’ve been sucking face for months, Felicity. You should read Barry the riot act for hiding it. And ooooh, I’m so glad we finally have a chance to talk, Leonard.”

“Um.” He looked down at his drink. He hoped it wasn’t just straight vodka with a lime wedge. Why had he taken it?

“Videos?” The brunette prompted again.

“Did I say videos, I meant—”

“Please please please tell me you haven’t seen the porn?” That was Barry, and Len winced at the screech of laughter from Iris and the shocked inhale of Caitlin and decided that if he was in this apartment for another minute longer, he definitely required booze to deal with it, testing his drink. Vodka, water, and lime. At least it wasn’t neat.

“Porn, Felicity?” That was the same woman again, the long-haired one with muscles in her arms that weren’t just for show, he could tell. But she was gorgeous anyway. Actually, every woman here was quite gorgeous, really. He frowned.

“Nothing, nothing, I didn’t mean—”

“There’s porn? Do you two have a sex tape?!” That was Snow again, also smacking Barry on the arm before downing her drink. Len followed suit, upending his glass.

“It’s not a sex tape!” Barry bellowed, pointing his flask at Snow. “It’s not us. It’s porn of us—of Captain Cold and the Flash.”

Len stilled. But no one else blinked at his admission of his identity. The brunette just raised her eyebrows, “please tell me that doesn’t exist for Star City heroes?”

Felicity blushed a little red and started to stammer, “um, well, okay, I mean, aside from the actual sex tapes of a certain someone? There’s…some. But not as much.”

“I picked a bad year to be sober,” she said it with a wry smile and Len felt a pang of sympathy. Why she was toughing out sobriety in a room full of drunk idiots was beyond him.

“I haven’t met you yet,” Len said instead of asking. “I’m Leonard Snart.”

“Laurel Lance. I’m a DA in Star City.” Her smile was razor sharp and he narrowed his eyes.

“I see.”

“Oh don’t worry about Laurel,” Caitlin half-hung on his arm with a smile and he resisted the urge to shake her off. In those heels, she’d probably fall over. “She’s more fun than she pretends. It’s a shame her sister Sara wanted to stay in Star, I bet you two’d get along like a house on fire.”

Len had no idea what to say to anything coming out of Caitlin’s mouth.

“I should probably go,” he said instead, still eyeing the close way that Barry and Felicity were talking in low voices, almost forehead to forehand and giggling, even if Barry wasn’t quite whispering. Len frowned. Snow, apparently, didn’t miss it.

“You know, Leonard, Barry and Felicity did kiss once.”

“Excuse me?”

Iris gasped, similarly shocked, but then cast her eyes around with a wicked grin, “oh that’s right. And he did date Linda—that pretty woman on the couch talking to your sister?”

Len narrowed his eyes at the couch. That woman was also very pretty.

“And a metahuman disguised as Barry did kiss me once,” Caitlin continued, a little sing-song. “I mean, it wasn’t Barry himself, but it was very convincing.”

“Oh and he did apparently kiss me in an alternate timeline, not that I remember it, but I think it counts on his end.”

Len had not heard about that. A vein in his temple might be starting to go. “I see. You think you can tempt me into staying by making me, what, jealous?”

He tried to pitch his voice cool. He wanted to leave. He should leave. But that would mean leaving Barry alone in a room full of increasingly drunk but incredibly beautiful women, many of whom he’d apparently kissed, and Len wasn’t really… he wasn’t jealous, and of course he trusted Barry, it was just that…

“Hey Linda!” Iris called, “come meet Barry’s boyfriend!”

She hopped off the couch and came over with a wide grin, sloshing her drink a little and thrusting out her hand to shake as Caitlin and Iris returned to the kitchen and dragged Laurel with them. “I’m Linda.”

At least Caitlin had relinquished his arm—and disappeared with his empty glass—so he shook her hand. “Leonard.”

“Soooo….you’re Captain Cold. And you ‘n Barry are… dating?”

He nodded, a little to the side, trying to regain his bearings. “Is that a problem?”

“No!” She shook her head then giggled. “God no! It just makes me feel better actually? About getting dumped by him. Clearly his type is supervillains that uh—” she waved vaguely up and down at Len, “nuh huh, not me.”

He sipped his drink, then realized that there was a drink in his hand to drink. When had that…

“Hi Lenny.” Lisa smirked and sidled up next to him and Linda.

“Lisa…”

She smiled at Linda, “I see you’ve met my brother.”

“Broth—ohmygod you’re the Golden Glider?! How did I not make that connection! Can I interview you?!” Oh yeah, she was drunk.

“Are you sticking around, Lenny?”

His gaze flicked to Barry, leaning against a wall and laughing with Felicity. “Apparently.”

“Oh good, I hear it’s about to get fun.” She winked in a way he knew meant trouble and dragged Linda over to the couch where Laurel joined them a moment later. At least the lawyer’s face had softened into a smile again, and Len took a second to find Barry, about to extricate him from the blonde’s side and—

There was a knock at the door. Len could only imagine it was Mrs. Thompson or another neighbor, fed up at the noise even though the music was down, but Felicity jumped to attention with a squeal.

“FINALLY!”

Oh god. Len knew what that meant. Snow looked excited and Lisa was cackling and Linda—that was her name, right?—jumped up and shouted for more drinks and—

Yep, there was a male stripper at the door.

“Did somebody call the fire department? Because it’s smoking in here.

The women all squealed in unison, shrill and Len winced. Nope. No way. Not happening. He was not sticking around for—

Which one of you guys hired the stripper?!” Barry was standing up off the wall and pointing fingers and thank god it wasn’t him, at least. Definitely that Felicity woman.

“So I hear there’s a lucky lady?”

It was all too much. The man was very quickly directed to Iris, who was very quickly directed to a chair, and his shitty music started to play and Len was this close to hightailing it out of there when Barry’s hand grabbed his arm like a vice.

“I had no—nuh uh, zero, no—part in this. I am not gay enough to handle this.”

Len snorted, “I don’t think anyone is gay enough for this.”

Barry giggled, leaning into Len’s side. That was a little better, at least. The ladies were very pleased with the stripper, giggling and squealing and all manner of mess. He was, naturally, stripping, and Len made his way to the kitchen and the copious amounts of booze that he found there when the pants started to disappear. He’d never been a particular fan of an over-muscled man in a fluorescent colored thong, thanks very much.

“You holding up okay, Lenny?” Lise came to check on him and he mixed himself a half-decent drink. He was starting to feel it. Okay, he was definitely feeling it. He typically would’ve counted all the shots being put into his hand, but the chaos of frenzied women had disarmed him a bit.

“Peachy, just don’t need to see a naked man giving Barry’s not-quite-sister a lapdance.”

“Who knows, maybe it’ll be Barry getting the next one.”

“It had better not be.”

She laughed and Laurel came to join them, “that is too much for any sober individual to handle.”

“Mm.” Len didn’t doubt it for a second, tipped his drink to her and gulped it. “Congratulations on your fortitude.”

“It’s ah, mind over matter. Really easy to be reminded why I don’t drink when I’m surrounded by…” she glanced around and smiled, a little awkward and he got the impression she might be shy. “But since my job for this evening was to secure a stripper and a place for him to find us tonight, my job is officially over, so I think I’m gonna’ crash. Leonard, is Barry going to be staying over at your place?”

He hadn’t thought about it, but with all the ladies here… “most likely.”

“Great, I’m taking his room. Lisa, tell whoever that if they want to crash in with me they can. But no strippers.”

“You’ve got it.”

Len watched her go then glanced at his sister, “you’re making friends.”

Lisa shrugged with a smile, “I like her. She appreciates Cisco.”

He had no idea what that meant, but Lisa didn’t seem especially concerned, and they were interrupted a moment later by Felicity and Caitlin rushing into the kitchen, and peels of laughter from the living room.

“Fact or fiction, Leonard Snart—your dick is bigger than the stripper’s.”

What?”

“Don’t tell him I said—!” Barry hopped into the kitchen behind them “—that. Uh. Hi, Lenny. Len. Leo-nard. Lllllee—”

“For the love of all that is holy, Barry, please stop.” Len’s drink was already empty.

“Hammertime—”

Don’t.”

“Cool.” Barry burst into laughter at his own pun.

Len wasn’t going to complain so long as he didn’t start rapping again, except “Snow, what is in that flask?”

She hiccoughed, and he was patently ignoring the look that Felicity was sending to his crotch. “It’s just very very high proof alcohol with an added chemical to inhibit ADH in his metabolism from—” she hiccoughed again, “breaking down the alcohol. That and some sssshhtabilizing compounds. The combination keeps him drunk so long as he takes another—hic—sip every now and then to keep the fomepizole active. ’m thinking of making him a patch with it.”

“Don’t.”

She burst into giggles and Len sighed and sipped the drink Lisa passed him, a little more slowly now. At least everyone here knew about him and Barry and their alter egos, so he could relax slightly. And presumably, no one was going to try to stab or shoot him either, which was always a positive. And Lisa was mostly sober. So, well—he wasn’t quite sure what drink number it was but tried not to worry about it. Especially not with Barry leaning back against him now, humming and sipping his flask and pulling Len’s arm around his waist.

“Have a good night!” Linda and Iris’s voices came from the entrance in unison, wishing the stripper a good evening.

“You guys missed all the fun!” That was Iris, pouring herself a liberal amount of gin and shaking the bottle at them.

“It was amazing.”

“Oh, we saw,” Felicity replied to them with a grin and Barry giggled into his neck with a not-quiet-enough-whisper—

“Definitely not as nice as yours. But I’ve never seen you in a thong so—”

Lisa made a noise of disgust and the rest of the crowd giggled. Len rolled his eyes heavenward but he was feeling a little loose by now, his arm comfortable around Barry and enjoying the buzz in his brain telling him not to worry about it.

“You know…” Felicity waggled her eyebrows over at them and Len blinked and focused on her, “there’s no reason not to see anyone else in a thong tonight.”

“No,” growled Len, even as Barry gasped and cheered and Lisa declared that her eyes would bleed even as she cackled.

“C’mon, Lenny,” Barry pouted up at him, tilting his head back, “you’ve got all those tattoos…”

“Wh—Barry—I’m not stripping for your—no.”

“Barry can strip,” Caitlin declared with a decisive nod to her chin, before teetering over and catching herself on the fridge. Iris laughed and helped her, though it was more a lost cause as they both too sloshed and giggly for a minute to fix themselves. He saw Lisa do a shot and nodded at her to get him one.

“I just mean,” Snow continued when she was on two feet again, “he can sing and dance and do everything else. Why not strip too?” She wasn’t even saying it like a tantalizing suggestion, more like she was offended by Barry being good at things. It was almost funny except that some of the other girls were looking at Barry with expressions hungrier than Len appreciated.

“The only one that Barry is going to be stripping for is me.”

Iris laughed and Lisa clapped him on the back. Barry, of all things, looked up at him a little glassy eyed, “you wan’ me to strip f’r you?” He was tugging on his own shirt.

“Not this second, Barry!”

Another round of giggles later, some commands from Iris about snacks and games, and Len found himself in the living room, somehow being sandwiched between Iris and Lisa on the couch with another drink in his hand while Felicity tried to ply information out of Barry about his relationship with Len. He was pretty sure some version of ‘never have I ever’ was going on but he wasn’t participating because he’d done any and everything and they weren’t really following any rules. He sat back and let the booze catch up to him a little, feeling sleepy and drowsy on Barry’s familiar couch, gathering up his favorite pillow to his lap and listening to the conversation around him for a few minutes. Conversation that turned to…

“But you look great, Barry! Truuuust me. I’ve seen it often enough, and—hic—I’m a doctor.”

“It’s just a shot or three, Barry! Just think—why even have abs if no one ever uses them for body shots? What’s the point?”

Len twitched and opened his eyes to—

“Why are you taking off his shirt?” he all but growled. Barry was sitting on the ground and definitely taking off his shirt, flanked by Felicity and Snow and Linda, and Len was so not prepared for whatever new heights of drunkenness this was. Barry fell onto his back giggling and Caitlin fell backward too, her and Felicity pushing one another and Lisa had disappeared from the couch at some point and was pouring more shots.

“Its—” Caitlin wheezed, “lightning gave him abs!”

Barry grinned up at him, shirt rucked up and exposing his stomach. “And abs means body shots?”

“Oh hell n—” Len stood up.

TEQUILA!” Iris hopped off the couch must faster and with a much louder shout. “We need salt!” She ran to the kitchen.

He was not drunk enough for this shit. Or too drunk. He sucked back the shot that Lisa had given him and sat on his knees in front of Barry to glare at his ridiculously pretty friends, “no one is doing shots off my boyfriend.”

A something—he looked and it was a pretzel—hit the side of his head. “Boo!” Lisa was winding up to throw another one. “Party pooper!”

Lise—”

“Well someone’s doing body shots off someone! It’s my party!” Iris was altogether too loud but it was her party, she had the tiara and sash to prove it. Len wasn’t pouting.

“I’ll even do a body shot off someone? Snow?” Lisa looked over at the other woman with a predatory smirk.

“Who—me?”

“Why not? Can’t expect Barry to do what you won’t.”

Len wasn’t sure if Lisa was helping his case or sinking it, because Caitlin was standing up in her heels, teetering, looking a little bare in her little black dress and—“Iris, the salt!”

The ladies all cheered and Len watched, a little alarmed, as Caitlin Snow laid down on the coffee table and hiked down her dress to expose her lacy bra. Len didn’t even know where to look, really, not one for boobs but also not used to being put in a situation where all attention was drawn to someone putting a line of salt along their breasts and a shot between them and—

“I’m not watching this,” he shook his head, realizing too late as Lisa leaned forward what was about to happen. Did happen. Was happening, as she licked the salt, took the shot, and then kissed the lime from Caitlin Snow’s lips.

“Whoa,” Barry whispered, and Len felt his jealousy stir again, glaring at Barry.

“That’s my sister.”

Barry was laughing at him then, still on the ground, up on his elbows and he’d kicked out his legs to frame Len. He nudged Len with his thighs, grinned at him, “’m not checkin’ out your sister, Len. Cait’s the one with her boobs out.”

He knew that very damn well, and was about to say so, but Lisa and Caitlin ended their impromptu make out session—definitely longer than required and wasn’t Snow married?—to cheers, standing. Lisa gave a mock bow and Caitlin was blowing kisses. “Who’s next?”

“Barry is!” Iris called, seated safely on the couch now. Linda was clapping her hands and grabbed the bowl of lime wedges.

“No he isn’t,” Len shot back, looked for the pretzel that Lisa had thrown, intending to volley it back at the other woman now.

C’mon, Len, it’ll be fun!” That was Barry, whining up at him with big, innocent eyes. Len felt a little bit like falling into them and reminded himself not to topple forward.

“You want to do this, darling?” He probably should’ve saved the pet name for when they were in private. Barry looked flushed. Len felt flushed.

Barry tipped back more of his flask—had it been refilled, at some point, or was it just that potent?—and winced at it before continuing. “Actually, I want you to do this. Lemme’ lick salt off your tattoos?”

Hell no.” Not with an audience. Though with the look Barry was giving him, Len might almost say yes. He hadn’t had sex since Thanksgiving and that had barely been enough, he’d been aching for Barry for a very long time and this—

This was not the venue in which to throw Barry down and have his way with him. But then, Len was pretty inebriated. And Barry had pulled off his shirt to the renewed coaxing of his friends while Len was sitting there between his legs staring. And this was out of hand but Len… felt warm and Barry was laying down on his back for Iris to pour salt in a line up his abs—which, admittedly, were very nice and worth displaying—before Caitlin shoved a lime wedge in his mouth and Felicity—when had she even got in the fray—balanced a shot glass on his sternum.

“If you don’t do it,” Linda was leaning back on the couch with a grin, “one of us will.”

She was a reckless instigator. Len hoped he was glaring. He was probably failing at it. But Barry had dated her so he must like reckless and—

Len moved forward and clamped his hands down on Barry’s naked sides, world spinning just slightly until he leaned forward and licked the salt, cheers erupting around them but he was focused on the way Barry moaned. He sealed the shot glass in his lips and sucked the liquid back, dropped the glass and sealed his lips over the lime, biting into it and kissing Barry. Because Barry was his. And no one else was going to touch or lick or kiss on any part of this body but Len. Especially since Barry had spit out the lime and was kissing him back, arms around his shoulders, and—

Barry groaned low in his throat and Len was so very done with the chorus around them. He moved back from the kiss but pulled Barry up with him and kept lifting until Barry’s legs were around his waist, hoisting him.

“We’ll see you ladies in the morning.” Len didn’t even wave, just carried Barry out—Barry who was mouthing his neck in a most obscene way. This was going to be—god this felt good already. Len pressed Barry up against the door to his apartment, trying to find his keys and hold Barry at the same time, making out in the hall for a solid few minutes before he remembered where they were. Barry felt so hot against him.

Eventually, he had to put Barry down, who didn’t seem to mind, just seemed determined to continue kissing Len for all he was worth and really, Len could get with that, rocking his hips into Barry’s before finally pulling back to unlock his apartment. They stumbled into it, kicking the door shut and pressed against the nearest wall, then another wall after that, giggling their drunken way toward the bedroom, Len’s shirt lost along the way. Barry made whining noises that were driving Len insane except—

“Wait, just a—” Len pulled back with a sigh, lamenting, “gotta’ piss.” It was becoming too distracting.

“Sure, I’ll be—”

“Yeah.”

He moved to the bathroom and Barry to the bedroom and Len splashed water on his face while he was there. Everything felt sharp and fuzzy all at the same time, drowsy and spinning but hot and good. He was a little drunk. He was pretty damn drunk. He poured himself a glass of water with the cup he kept in the bathroom and refilled it, bringing advil to his room for the nightstand because he already knew he was going to hate his head in the morning.

And when he got to his room, instead of an invitingly naked and spread out Barry, he was greeted with the ridiculous but endearing image of a passed-out drunk Barry, equally spread out but far less inviting. Len huffed out a laugh at the sight and shuffled out of his pants, pulling a blanket over Barry, who had at least managed to strip down to his underwear before falling asleep, not that he’d had much left to take off at that point.

Len shouldn’t find Barry’s drunken mess of a self near as endearing as he did.

He leaned over and smoothed a hand over Barry’s hair, kissed his temple, then laid down for sleep. Barry curled up into him and Len felt warm and drowsy, calm and sleepy, wrapped around Barry.

 

Chapter Text

Oliver was normally pretty good at assessing a situation and keeping calm, if irritated. He had honed his skills over several years and prided himself on having the tight degree of control that he did. He was able to focus, to do whatever needed to be done.

Oliver also considered himself fairly good at reading people. He knew he wasn't the most empathetic or sympathetic person, but he could normally tell when others were upset, or hiding things, and when they were keeping secrets, he normally knew what those secrets were.

And yet, he couldn’t for the life of him figure out what the hell to do with the video on his phone that Felicity had texted him in the middle of the night (he’d woken up to it), and couldn’t quite manage to stay calm as he pounded on the door of Barry’s 4th floor apartment.

Someone had better have answers.

After banging for a minute, a woman’s voice came from inside telling him to wait a second and there was the sound of scrambling and giggling before—

“’lo?”

Oliver had never met this woman. She was pretty, Asian, with some floppy curls and a very confused (if tired and unimpressed) expression, one that morphed into the type of shock that he’d seen before and—

Oliver Queen?”

“Hi.” He smiled, a little tight. “I’m here looking for—”

“Felicity, right? She’s your girlfriend?”

Oh good, he was at the right apartment at least. “Yes, and also—”

“Who’s at the—” Iris West came to stand in the doorway, looking equally bemused before her face split into a wide, warm (star struck) smile. “Oliver—hi!”

“Iris. Nice to see you again. Congratulations on your upcoming wedding,” he offered. Still no Barry at the door, still just smiling (obviously hungover) ladies, but he heard more feet and then—

“Oliver?” That was Doctor Snow, peeking her head out between the other two women. “What are you doing here?”

“Are you looking for Felicity?” Iris asked, still smiling a little too wide.

“Ah, yes, and Barry.” He smiled patiently but didn’t miss the panicked look that passed between Caitlin and Iris for a second before the woman whose name he still didn’t know leaned out into the hall and pointed at the next door over.

“They’re at Leonard’s.”

 

**********

 

 

Barry woke up with someone warm and hard pressed to his back. Hard in more ways than one. Oh. Oh wow.

His brain was slowly waking up but decided what exactly to focus on as he did, snuggling in a little closer, angling his hips a bit more, so that Len’s morning wood would land a little more snug against him, both of them in just their underwear.

“Barry…” Len’s voice sounded sleepy and gravelly and like a warning all at once and Barry smiled without opening his eyes, pressing back a little more. Len’s arm was around his waist and it was a little too warm but those fingers were really close to…

“’mornin’ Len.”

“How’s the hangover?”

“Mmm, no headache.” There wasn’t one, and he was eternally grateful.

“Superpowers, that’s just unfair.”

“How’s yours?”

“Been up long enough already to take some advil.”

Barry noticed that Len’s hand started to drift lazily up and down, just skimming, and he woke up a little more, breath hitching slightly. “Len…”

“Remember last night?”

Barry groaned. “Too well.” He didn’t want to think about most (any) of that right now.

Len nipped his ear lobe, surprising him, “think we have some unfinished business then.”

“Oh god.” Barry rocked his hips back without even thinking, pleased when he heard Len gasp quietly. “You’re really—thought you were holding out on me still?”

“I could be convinced,” his voice sounded like a purr and Barry felt warm all over.

“Then…mmm, we should—”

“Yeah—”

“Good—”

Barry turned his upper body enough to capture Len’s lips, groaning when the man’s hand slipped lower, cupping him on the outside of his underwear. “Finally,” he moaned into Len’s mouth, hips rocking forward.

“Barry—”

KNOCK KNOCK BANG BANG KNOCK—

“What the—”

There was pounding on Len’s apartment door, increasing in intensity and—

“I KNOW YOU’RE IN THERE, BARRY!” a measured but very audible shout from—

“OLLIE?!” Barry yelped and jumped a foot in the air, tripping over blankets and falling on his face off the side of the bed, rushing to disentangle himself at superspeed, falling on his ass next, hearing continued pounding, and rushing to the door, almost tripping again on Len’s shirt in the hall. His erection had been effectively killed at the second he’d heard Oliver’s disapproving shout.

“Barry who is at my—” Len’s voice was shouting down the hall but Barry was already opening the door.

“Oliver!”

Ollie was standing there, face dark and angry, not in his Green Arrow costume (thank god) but he might as well have been for the tight draw to his features, hand raised to keep banging on the door. He lowered it slowly and—

“Sorry, Barry,” Linda whispered, and Barry poked his head out in to the hall, forcing Oliver to back up a step. In the doorway to his own apartment were Linda, Iris, and Caitlin, all standing there looking guilty in pairs of Barry’s pajamas. Laurel’s face poked out a second later, looking confused.

“Traitors,” he grumbled, knowing exactly how Oliver had found out where he was.

“In our defense—” Caitlin started.

“It’s Oliver Queen—” whispered Iris, pointing at Ollie as though that should absolve them of all their crimes. Barry just glared.

“What’s going on?” he heard Len’s voice inside the apartment and he backed up, looking over his shoulder. Of course Len would have taken the time to get dressed, even if it was the same jeans as the night before and an undershirt, obviously rushing or else he’d have his arms covered too. But Barry felt like he was caught in some type of mousetrap, stuck in just his underwear between Len and Oliver, both of whom stopped and stared at one another in surprise. Barry’s head flipped back and forth between them, sense of danger mounting, animal instincts on alert.

After a tense second, Len came up behind him while Oliver took a step forward and pulled out his phone, pressed a button, and—“mind explaining this, Barry?”

Barry took it, and oh, oh no. It was a video. Of the night before. Of him, and Len, and the body shot, lots of laughter and giggles in the background but clearly centered on him and Len and wow Barry had looked way too into what was going on and way too flushed and had he actually moaned like that and was he really that skinny and—

Barry felt Len wrap his arms around his waist, voice cold as he said, “someone took a video?”

Barry was bright red. Under no circumstances should he be in his underwear with Len’s hands on his waist now, head hooked over Barry’s shoulder, with Oliver standing right there in the doorway threatening murder with his expression. Under no circumstances should he be watching—on replay—a video of Len licking anything off his stomach while Oliver’s fingers twitched toward an invisible weapon.

“That may have been my fault,” Felicity’s voice came from the living room, and Barry backed up in the entrance—Len stepped back with him. Oliver followed them in and closed the door behind him to a chorus of disappointed pouts from the other ladies in the hall, and they moved through with shuffling steps to where he could lean back (into Len) and see her. Felicity looked frazzled on the couch in one of his own t-shirts, Lisa stretching and yawning beside her. “I might have accidentally texted some videos of the night to Ollie and Digg when I was drunk.”

“You what?” Barry choked, and Oliver took back the phone with a glare. Behind Barry, Len stood up straight and moved to his side but kept one arm around his waist.

“Sorry, Barr!” Felicity was standing and hopping out of the blankets pooling on the ground. Lisa just looked politely curious. “I promise that no one else will ever see them!”

“That’s not what I’m worried about!” Barry replied at the same time Len asked, “who is ‘Digg’?”

“Digg’s Ollie’s best friend and he’s a friend of mine and Ollie is a friend too and we can trust them I swear so don’t freak out and please just—”

“Felicity, do send me those videos, and do delete them after that.” Len was way way too calm for a man about to get murdered by the Green Arrow. Not that he knew Ollie was the Green Arrow. But the point remained. Felicity should not be grinning and giving Len a thumbs up.

“Care to explain any of this, Barry?” Oliver’s growl drew his attention back to the issue at hand.

“Oh! Um…” Barry turned to look at a strangely smug Len and a very incensed Oliver. “Right. Proper introductions. Um. Len, this is my good friend, Oliver Queen. Ollie, this is uh,” his voice dropped to a mumble, “my boyfriend, Leonard Snart.”

“Pleasure,” Len didn’t hold out his hand for Oliver to shake and Oliver didn’t offer his own.

But then Oliver’s expression got flat and sort of eerie calm and polite, and he titled his head to enquire, “come again?” It shouldn’t sound as much like a threat as it did.

“My, er, boyfriend?” He shouldn’t have posed it as a question. Len’s hand flexed on his waist.

“Right.”

“Yeah.”

“Mhm. And how long has this been going on?”

“Barry,” Len interjected, “why don’t you tell me how you and Oliver Queen became such good friends?”

Ollie’s polite expression hinted back at a glare. Barry wondered if Len had already figured it out.

“And do let me know if I need to change my address after this.”

“Oh! Um. No—they’re… Felicity and Ollie, and Digg too, we can trust them.” He made sure to look at Oliver when he said that. Oliver just raised his eyebrows a little. Both him and Len, too calm. Very chill. Not good. This was bad.

Cisco was never going to let him live this down when he heard about it.

While he staved off the internal melt down, Felicity edged closer, just in a t-shirt (of Barry’s!) and her underwear. Lisa didn’t leave the safe sanctuary of the living room, but even she was in Barry’s pajamas. He wasn’t gonna’ have any clean pairs left, at this rate, and was tempted to go get some clothes of his own, but had a feeling that if he moved away from Len’s side, there might be bloodshed.

“Why don’t we all go for brunch?” Felicity smiled brightly, moving next to Oliver, putting a hand on his arm and leaning into his side. Barry could’ve kissed her. Well, kissed her again. Except that Oliver had almost killed him when he had learned about the first kiss so doing that really wouldn’t help things. But at least now he wasn’t the only one in his underwear acting as a human shield. Felicity was a good friend. A great friend. Except the part where she sent the video to Oliver in the first place. They might need to have words about that.

“No—”

“Absolutely n—”

“Brunch is a great idea!” Barry practically shouted. “Come on, Len, why don’t we get dressed—”

“You need a shower—”

“So I’ll shower!”

“Oh can I shower too?” Felicity asked, pointing to her hair.

“No one needs to shower, it’s a hangover brunch—” Oliver started to complain, and of all of them, he would know the etiquette on hungover brunches except—

“You can shower at Barry’s, Felicity. Me and Barry will shower here.” Len said it with an undercurrent to his voice that Barry’s libido didn’t know quite what to do with. Run away? Offer himself on a platter?

“We will? We will!”

“Barry—”

Len didn’t give Oliver time to finish his statement, just whisked Barry toward the hallway and called over his shoulder—“Lisa, make a pot of coffee!”

Oh god was he actually about to shower with Len? Again? Sort of again? For real this time? Was he about to have shower sex while Oliver was standing in Len’s apartment? Why was someone always standing in Len’s apartment when this happened?

He tried to reign in his thoughts.

“Ollie could’ve made coffee—”

“Queen’s not allowed to touch anything in my apartment,” Len growled, and there, that was really more the reaction Barry had been expecting from Len. He was pushed into the bathroom and—

“Are we seriously showering?”

Len was already pulling off his shirt, “unless you have objections?”

“I…” Barry started to blush as Len bent to turn on the water. “Only that Ollie is going to murder us both.”

“Think we can handle it.” Len turned back to him and arched an eyebrow, looking a little too devious.

“I also have to pee.” The sound of water was really not helping.

“Figures. Some of us did that before bed. Just wait until I’m in the shower.”

Were they this domestic already? He didn’t think too much about it because then Len was naked, so gloriously naked, and smirking again before he stepped into the shower. Barry spared himself a glance in the mirror—he looked frazzled, his hair mussed, cheeks too flushed, but he also looked… okay he looked like he’d been having sex, which he hadn’t, and that was distinctly unfair, but he was maybe about to, so that was better.

He went pee and tried not to think about how naked Len was on the other side of that curtain before stripping down and feeling a war of excited and nervous emotions as he stepped into the shower. That he felt nervous now, and not when he woke up that morning, or almost anytime around Len, felt stupid, but it seemed to only happen when he thought too much about what they were doing instead of just going with the flow. So it was probably good that that was what he was always doing as far as Len was concerned and holy hell—

“How are you so sexy?”

Len had water all down his front and Barry couldn’t look away. He loved how Len looked in the shower, ever since the first time he’d seen it at the pool. And speaking of the pool… Barry’s eyes trailed down, feeling his own stomach tighten and certain parts of him stir back to life in interest. He was not going to say ‘good morning’ to Len’s cock. He wasn’t. He also wasn’t going to stare like a creep. Or make any inappropriate comments about snake-charming. Or—

“See something you like, Barry?”

He snapped his eyes back up to Len’s face, flushing slightly. There was no way to respond to that. “You’re hogging all the water.”

“So come closer.”

Barry did, under the spray, giving up any pretense and just wrapping his arms around Len, kissing him because he couldn’t help it. Len’s arms were around him in an instant as well, hand trailing down his back and Barry groaned at how they were pressed together, but then Len—goddamn him—leaned back and chuckled.

“I hope you don’t think we’re having shower sex.”

“We’re not?” He was being cheated, betrayed, tricked, hoodwinked and conned and—

“No, Barry. We’re just pissing off Queen. Not enough time right now for all the things I intend to do to you.”

Why would you say that?” Barry may have been gently rocking his hips forward. Sure, Len wasn’t fully hard, not like Barry who was ready to cut diamonds down there, but still—how much self-control did this man have?

“Keeping you horny, making sure any lectures you get don’t dissuade you again.”

“Ah—oh,” Barry sobered for all of half a second, “but look, Ollie has no room to lecture me. Trust me. He—ooooh.” Len licked his neck then sucked it. “Len that’s—ah—so not fair. Really. Please. Fuck please, Lenny, god, I—”

Len stepped back, fully away, with a smirk. “Later. Just wait till later.”

Barry slumped against the shower wall. He got it. He did. Last time they did this before meeting up with someone important in Barry’s life, Barry had come a hair’s breadth from breaking up with Len and they still hadn’t fully sorted things out from it. His aching hard-on didn’t get it, and he might murder Oliver later for cockblocking him, but he did totally respect Len’s choices, and his unspoken insecurities, even if he had the nerve to express them in completely territorial bullshit like basically draping himself over Barry in front of Ollie and then dragging Barry into the shower just for show.

“Okay. Later. Now, I know you’re halfway to bald, but you do have some shampoo in here, right?”

 

**********

 

Brunch was going to be the best disaster of Len’s life. He was pissed at being interrupted that morning, pissed at Oliver Queen showing up unannounced at his apartment—along with the gaggle of females loitering about, in and out of his and Barry’s places for coffee and to swap articles of clothing, searching out a hair brush and more. Len wished he’d bothered to lock the door the night before but he’d been too distracted by Barry grinding against him at the time, and Lisa would have let them in anyway.

And now he had to go for brunch with Barry and try not to be to pissed that he hadn’t mentioned anything about ‘good friends’ with Oliver Goddamn Queen. So he was going to enjoy every second of this disaster even if it killed him.

Barry was still squirming by the time they were dressed and heading out to brunch. Apparently, it was just gonna’ be them with Queen and Felicity, everyone else heading home or out to see other people and do things. Even Laurel had taken one look at Queen’s face and laughed her way out of the apartment building, off to grab food with Iris and Lisa instead.

This oughtta’ be fun.

“So how do you know Queen?” Len asked as he drove to the nearest greasy spoon diner.

“I worked a case in Starling before I was struck by lightning, and it was at Queen Consolidated. I became friends with Felicity because she worked there, and then with Oliver through her.”

“You became awfully close for just working a case.”

“I—we’ve seen each other a few times since then.”

“It wouldn’t happen to be because he’s the Green Arrow, would it?”

Barry choked on air and Len considered his suspicions confirmed—“what? No! Why would you—what makes you think Ollie, Oliver Queen of all people, is the Green Arrow? I mean—he’s running for mayor—he doesn’t have time to—”

“You mean aside from the fact that the Star City police and news accused him of being the vigilante twice, the vigilante ‘died’ and Queen lost his company then months later a new, almost identical vigilante is on the scene again anyway, and the fact that Felicity and even Laurel seem to know you’re the Flash—are they part of Queen’s team?—well, beyond all that, there is that obvious jawline.”

“He’s gonna’ kill me,” Barry whined, slouching in his seat. Len just snorted.

“I can play it cool.”

“Like you did this morning, with the PDA and the shower?”

“Did I make you uncomfortable?” Len had clued in after that he might’ve, if unintentionally. He wasn’t a huge fan of Barry being friends with devilishly handsome former billionaires who happened also to be vigilante heroes, no doubt with a heart of gold or something if you didn’t count all the people he’d killed. And he especially wasn’t a fan of having not known it until that man was on his doorstep, or the way Barry had been mostly naked without a second thought when he let Queen in. Keeping Barry close and making sure Queen knew he was with Len was really only practical.

“No, more like…” Barry sounded resigned, “that’s just not how I wanted you to meet him. I knew I’d have to give him and Felicity a call and explain all this, I just pictured it being less…”

“Revealing?”

Out of the corner of his eye, he caught Barry’s scowl, “unexpected.”

“Mm, well I’ll try not to be too cold to him, though if he makes any threats, things may get frosty.”

“’m gonna’ murder you myself if you keep making jokes,” Barry grumbled, pouting out the window. Not that he’d admit he was pouting, but Len recognized the look.

“You’re just pissed because you’ve got blue balls.”

“Don’t even get me started.”

“You do realize we’re both in the same boat on that?”

“But I’m not dragging you into showers to tease you with my mesmerizing dick.”

“Mesmerizing? Really, Barry?”

“You are going to pretend I never said that.”

“After telling everyone last night that it was bigger than the stripper’s? Or had you forgot that part?”

Barry slouched lower in his seat, mumbling, “sorry about that…”

“I never would’ve taken for such a size que—”

“I am not a size queen!”

Len snorted. “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

“Are you quoting Shakespeare at me? I’m not a size queen.”

“Nothing to be ashamed of.”

“No, see, a size queen would like you less if you didn’t have a big dick. I’d lo-ike you just the same, I just happen to also like The Dick.”

Len’s heart skipped a beat. Did Barry just almost say what he thought he’d almost said? It was enough to put him in a better mood about brunch, except that the rest of his brain caught up and he had to wonder… “ ‘the’ dick?”

“God kill me now,” Barry whispered, presumably to himself, and Len glanced over to see just how mortified he looked.

“Barry have you been calling my penis ‘The Dick’ or something—”

“Wearenottalkingaboutthis!”

Len was glad he had just parked because he was suddenly laughing so hard it would have been a road hazard. There might be tears in his eyes.

“It’s not funny!”

“Barry, you—” he sighed and couldn't suppress the final wheeze, the grin pulling at his face, an attempt to suppress his laughter. “How long have you been nicknaming my cock?”

“Under pain of death, I deny everything.”

Len just laughed again, he had to, and he saw Barry fighting hard not to laugh too.

“In my defense, I name everything. The Whip Cream Fiasco™, the Thanksgiving Incident (never to be repeated), and last night will probably end up as The Bodyshot Travesty™.”

“Why the verbal trademark?”

They were getting out the car, thankful for the chilly air to bring them to their senses slightly, and Barry just shrugged. “Gives them a sense of uniqueness, memory.”

“Oh those events were unique alright.”

Barry smiled and nudged him, and Len smiled back.

 

**********

 

They made it into the diner and got a table, Felicity and Queen following them in a minute later, their car having followed Len’s on the drive. Barry wasn’t sure if he was hungry or nauseated or both. No wait, definitely both.

He didn’t let anyone get past small talk before ordering two meals for himself and registering Felicity’s wince at the amount of waffles he was getting. But once food was on the way, he found himself on the receiving end of Oliver’s stink-eye. Well, he’d had a good life at least. And at least he’d die eating waffles.

“So.”

“So.”

“Are you going to tell me how you and, ah, Leonard, became… involved?”

Barry cleared his throat, glanced out of the corner of his eye at Len, and squared his shoulders. “Well, you may have noticed that we are kinda’ neighbors…”

Success!! Ollie’s lips twitched up. They flattened along with his eyebrows into a scowl a second later, but his sense of humor wasn’t dead. That meant Barry’s death would be a quick one, and maybe Ollie would wait until after they’d eaten to flay him.

“Really, Barry?”

“Really. And get this—neighbors sometimes talk, get to know one another, flirt, have dinner—”

“This is Leonard Snart you’re talking about, Barry,” Ollie hissed. “You don’t just randomly become neighbors with a supervillain and fall into his bed.”

“You may have noticed Queen, but I’m sitting right here. And I’m a thief, not a supervillain. What is a ‘supervillain’ anyway?”

Oliver glanced at Len like a vein was about to pop in his forehead then looked back at Barry for a response.

“Right, see, he’s not a supervillain. But more to your point, I did actually randomly become his neighbor. It’s also not something we advertise—his address—so please keep that information to yourself.”

Yeah, Barry probably deserved that flat stare.

“Okay, look, it didn’t happen in one night or anything. We were as surprised as anyone about the whole neighbors thing. But, y’know, we decided to make it work and we really did get to know one another and after that, it just felt natural to…” He glanced at Len and had to redirect what he was about to say. Natural to fall in love.

“To?” Oliver prompted.

“Act on our chemistry.”

“Your ‘chemistry’ is the worst reason to get involved. What happens when neither of you change and he hurts someone and you can’t stop him and—”

“Hey, whoa Oliver, just put the breaks on for a second, okay? Len and I have talked about that stuff. We’re not stupid, we know what we’re getting into.” Sort of. “And it’s my relationship, okay? You don’t get to tell me who to date. I already got the fifth degree from Joe and I don’t need it from you.”

It was tense then, for a moment. The food came and no one touched it. Finally, Oliver’s shoulders dropped a little, and with a glance at Len, he sighed and met Barry’s gaze. “Fine. But we’ll be talking about secret keeping still. I don’t get to tell you what to do, but I’m your friend and I do get to worry about you.”

Barry relaxed by a million degrees and Felicity announced that they should eat. Under the table, Len’s foot nudged Barry’s. He smiled back at Len, just a little, relieved.

Hungover brunch was officially conquered.

 

Chapter Text

 

“Do you have any idea what you’re doing, Barry?”

It was the afternoon and he and Oliver were alone now, ‘training.’ Not much training was actually happening, out in the field where Barry had first been struck by Ollie’s arrows. He was really hoping this wasn’t going to be a repeat of that.

“I don’t wanna’ argue about this.”

Ollie leveled him with a stare, but it softened into something tired pretty quickly. “let me guess—you’ve already spent a lot of time justifying this to other people?”

Barry sighed and tried to find a way to answer.

“I figured. Seemed like it.”

“Great. So we can drop it?”

“I told you I wanted to talk about secret-keeping.”

Barry chewed his thumbnail. “I don’t owe you—”

“I know. Look, I know.” To his credit, Oliver seemed more consternated than angry. “But we’re friends, Barry, and I thought that meant we told each other the big things in our lives. You know everything going on in mine.”

Barry nodded, wincing a bit. “It… it started out… well it was kind of silly to start, and I didn’t think it was going to go anywhere, but then suddenly it felt like it was, but I wanted to, still need to, figure some parts of it out.”

“Leonard Snart and ‘silly’ don’t belong in the same hemisphere.”

Barry snorted, “he has the cheesiest sense of humor in the entire world, either hemisphere.”

Oliver arched an eyebrow, but didn’t question it. “When I mentioned secret-keeping… it goes both ways. There’s something I wanted to share about all of this.”

“Oh?” Barry stepped closer. Oliver was seldom in a ‘sharing’ mood.

“I dated one of my villains once.”

His jaw dropped. And then realigned. And then he raked his mind—“who? Cupid? No she was way too crazy from what you’ve said. Someone in the League? Or—”

“Okay I should clarify, I’ve dated two of my villains, but I only knew about one of them being a villain and the other shouldn’t count because what happens in Russia stays in—”

“You hooked up with a villain in Russia?!”

Oliver looked annoyed but Barry was pretty sure Christmas had just come early. Oh he did not get to be hypocritical about this!

“Isabel Rochev.”

“You slept with Deathstroke's right-hand woman?”

“In my defense—”

Barry was cackling. “Does Felicity know?”

“She was there.”

There?! As in in the r—”

“No! Barry—what? No. This was when Rochev and me were running Queen Consolidated and Felicity was posing as my secretary. She just found out right after it happened is all.”

“And this is the woman who’s somehow still dating you?”

Oliver’s lips twitched. “You know, she’s still more angry about Helena than she was about Isabel.”

“Helena as in the Huntress? You hooked up with the Huntress?”

“Dated, actually.”

Knowing she was the Huntress?”

“Yes, Barry, knowing she was the Huntress.”

He whistled between his teeth. “So what you’re saying is that you have zero room to talk when it comes to me and Len?”

“No—what I'm saying is that I know better than anyone how things are going to end between you and ‘Len’.”

Oh.

“You and Helena…”

“I wanted to show her that she could be more, and she wanted… something else.”

Barry nodded, more somber. “So what you’re saying is… if I think I can ‘change’ Len, give up now while I’m ahead?”

“Look I’m sorry B—”

“But what if I’m not trying to change him?”

There was a pause, and quieter: “come again?”

“What if… what if I take him as he is. ‘Warts and all,’ you know?”

“He… Barry he is a thief and a murderer.”

“I… I know.” He scratched the back of his head. “But he’s also kind and caring and funny and I’m sure he doesn’t want me telling you this but he bakes cakes and throws birthday parties for the people he cares about and babysits small children—seriously, he’s great with little kids—and more than anything, he makes me happy.”

Oliver, finally, looked off kilter. He turned and sat down on the railing of the porch they were standing on, the field to his back. After a minute of silence, he glanced up at Barry. “So you’re in love with him?”

He swallowed. “Yes.”

It felt exciting to say out loud, heart fluttering, stomach swooping.

“Wow.”

Barry laughed and moved to sit next to Oliver, a little embarrassed but chuckling. “Yeah… he’s… you know, he's not stringing me along. He pushed me to be sure I even wanted this, that I’m ready for it. We’re not 100% sure of everything yet, we keep meaning to sit down and talk and make some kind of ‘plan’ but… he’s serious too.”

Oliver nodded, “that’s good to know… But no matter how ‘good’ he is to you, Barry, even if you can forgive what he’s done in the past, are you really okay with being with someone who continues to steal and run around the city as a villain to you?”

“I… He hasn’t killed anyone since our deal, you know? Just… Simmons. To save my life.”

“So it’s okay so long as he’s not murdering people?”

“What d’you want from me, Ollie—a signed list of morally grey enough offences I don’t consider worth breaking up with him over?”

The other man arched an eyebrow at his tone. “No, Barry… I just don’t want to see you make the same mistakes I did.”

Barry knew he was being too tense about this, almost an asshole, but it was because he couldn’t defend it, not really, not Len’s actions. “You know…” he started, voice quiet. “He stole a viola worth millions shortly before we started dating. Before we even knew we were neighbors. I was a little sore after the fight, but I didn’t hate him, or Mick or Lisa. And after we started… this… I stopped him from stealing something at a museum on Halloween, and even investigated the crime scene,” he winced, because that was really a conflict of interest now, “and neither of us were bitter about it. He wins sometimes, I win sometimes, no one gets hurt.”

“And if someone does?”

Barry nodded. “Someone could always get hurt. I know. But if he’s careful, and I’m careful, then… I mean, that’s the most anyone can do, in any relationship. No matter who I date, there’s always a way someone I care about get hurt—people I care about do get kidnapped, way too often actually. So… at least I know he’s someone who can protect himself. And someone who cares enough to make damn sure he’s not going to hurt anyone else even if he is going to keep stealing. I always know he’s at least gonna’ do his best.”

Oliver sighed, but when Barry looked over, he was fighting a smile. “The CSI and the master thief, huh?”

Barry smiled too, and nudged Ollie with his shoulder. “The Flash and Captain Cold sounds even worse, doesn’t it?”

They both laughed. “God, Barry, you’re gonna’ make my hair go gray.”

“Come on, why don’t we actually train for a while? You can take out your frustration by trying to pump me full of arrows. Pretty sure that’s how you get your jollies.”

Oliver snorted, but even so, he said, “you’re on.”

 

*********

 

“Sooo, Leonard.”

“Felicity.”

“Why don’t you tell me how you and Barry got together?”

He glanced at her with a half-smirk. They were shopping, and rather specifically shopping in stores where Iris and Eddie had registered gifts for their wedding. How he’d somehow been wrangled to go shopping with Barry’s friend while dealing with the situation that was his father lurking about and Axel Walker transitioning into being a Rogue, he still couldn’t say.

“Why don’t you tell me when you and him allegedly kissed?”

She laughed, shook her head. “Jealous of a single kiss that happened over a year ago? Don’t let him tell you about the time we slow danced.”

Let tried to picture it.

“He was younger, for the record—it was before the coma and the—everything. So he was pretty awful. Two left feet.”

“Should’ve had him sing instead,” he offered, glancing at a set of dishes that looked far too ugly and boring to have been one of Iris’s choices. Leave it to Eddie to like boring plateware.

“Those are ugly.”

“I’m aware. Let’s move on, what else is on the list?”

“Lets go look at sheets.”

He followed her over to the bedding section, glad for all the water and Tylenol he’d had earlier and wondering if it wasn’t maybe a good thing he wasn’t dealing with Walker today. He’d be liable to get a headache and then ice the brat. Well, a worse headache. As he definitely had a mild one, and the back of his throat was feeling scratchy.

“Barry and I got together by pretending to date until we were actually dating.” He said eventually, coming back to her original question.

“…how does that work?”

He explained, briefly, reveling and expanding a bit at her shocked and horrified and amazed expressions. Felicity Smoak made for a captive audience, so he found himself reluctantly going back to more completely explain The Whip Cream Incident™—and how Barry named all these damn occurrences—and how all this got started.

They were out of the bedding section—all the sheets and quilts on the registry were already bought—and in small appliances by the time his abridged explanation was over and Miss Smoak was in stitches.

“I would pay serious money to have seen any of that. Oh. Any of it.”

Len’s lips twitched. “It’s a lot more amusing on the retelling, I've gotta’ say. Living it was…” He hadn’t even mentioned half of it, either—definitely not anything about the Flash porn or the dildo or details pertaining to Lisa’s (now obvious) machinations.

“You two seem pretty settled now?” she asked, glancing slyly at him while bending to read the description of one of the blenders.

“No one actually likes subjecting themselves to morning smoothies. Don’t get them a blender.”

“I like smoothies! They save my life each morning—can hack into any system under the sun but I’m hopeless in the kitchen.”

What was it with this generation and not cooking? “Queen doesn’t seem like he cooks. Too busy saving the city at night to wake up and make breakfast.”

Her eyes went a little wide and then her expression shuttered. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“I figured it out and Barry knows that I know. It’s only fair if everyone’s operating under the same information.”

They moved on from the blenders. “How… chivalrous of you.”

He arched an eyebrow. “Oh don’t worry, I have an ulterior motive for mentioning it.”

“Oh?” They were edging toward a display of microwaves.

“Mm.” He glanced at the registry, gathering what he wanted to ask. “A little quid pro quo in the honesty department… You and Barry are close, from what I gather.”

“You could say that.” She was looking straight at him and it made him uncomfortable. He’d much rather she pretend to look at the microwave like she had with the blender. He leaned against the shelf to project confidence, aiming for unaffected.

“If that’s the case, maybe you would be so kind as to give me an objective perspective on my odds.”

“Your odds for—oh! For things working out, between you and Barry?”

He glanced at her smiling face out of the corner of his eye, waving one hand a little dismissively while talked. “Considering his and my unusual situation, someone with insight into how he’ll do the… cost-benefit analysis of risking his job and more for a relationship with me—”

“Whoa.”

“Hm?”

“I cannot believe that I have the singular pleasure of watching Captain Cold try to ask me if Barry Allen has warm fuzzy feelings for him.”

“I didn’t say—”

“I’m sure you make him very warm and fuzzy, Leonard.”

“That’s not what I meant,” he decidedly did not grumble, voice dropping to a chill and glaring at the microwave for good measure before regrouping, tilting his head a little to the side. “I’ll acknowledge that he and I get… caught up, at times. His feelings aren’t my concern.” Especially after middle of the night love confessions he was still a little weak in the knees over, not that he’d ever let anyone know it. To cover it, he put a little more menace into his posture, smirking just a bit. “It’s his morals. Giving this up is the smart option for him.”

She burst out laughing. He was pretty sure he preferred it back when he could intimidate Barry’s friends. He probably should have led with this line of questioning before building up to it with an explanation of their misadventures in baking and more.

“Glad to see my reputation doesn’t hold you back from your good humor.”

“You know who I spend my nights with—I mean—no wait I also mean that—but I mean you should know that this ‘tough guy’ thing won’t work on me. Especially after last night.” She winked. The winced. “Okay also that sounded better in my head.”

He sighed and rolled his hand, waving them back to the issue at hand. “Cost-benefit analysis…”

“You seriously have to ask?” she smiled, and put a hand on the microwave next to him.

“Just because he cares doesn’t mean he cares enough to risk—”

“Why don’t you just ask him, instead of cornering his friends in Bed, Bath & Beyond next to the microwaves? Because something tells me you’ll like the answer.”

She smiled, and finally actually looked at the microwave shelf. “Oh this is perfect for newlyweds! They’re both way too busy to cook.”

Len snorted, but picked it up off the shelf for her, mulling over what she’d said, as much of a confirmation as he could hope for, really.

“And for the record,” she supplied as they stepped into line for the cashier. “Oliver is a great cook.”

He sighed. It figured.

 

**********

 

He dropped Miss Smoak and her microwave off at the hotel her and Queen were staying at and got a call on his way home.

The caller ID genuinely surprised him, but he masked it fast, even alone in his car, and pulled into a parking spot a second later before flipping it open.

“Dillon. To what do I owe this pleasure?”

“Snart. Long time no see.”

He refrained from the easy comment about how Roscoe couldn't technically see him. “And yet you’re still making my life difficult.” He put the appropriate amount of spite into it.

“Heh, you haven’t changed a bit.”

“Whad’you want?”

“In.”

In?”

“To your Rogues.”

Len’s eyebrow twitched and his knuckles whitened around the phone. “That’s funny,” he drawled. “And why would I do that?”

“Because, from all accounts, I already meet the entrance requirements. No killing? Not interested. Gimmick? Got one. And the Flash? I’ve faced off with him a few times, now. Bit of a rush, I can see why you made some new friends when he first showed his face.”

“That’s all well and good, but you’re missing the part where you broke my sister’s heart, not to mention the part where your shitty plan almost blew up the city.”

“Look, things with Lisey might be awkward—” Len’s teeth grated at the nickname “—but she’s a big girl. She can handle herself. And besides, it’s half for her safety I’m doing this.”

“Doing what?”

“You let me in your little club, ‘n I can hand you Lewis.”

 

**********

 

Len spent the next thirty six hours talking to Dillon (something he detested), babysitting talking to Axel (something that grated), stealing some blue prints and selecting a venue of sorts (something that helped scratch an itch), and making a plan (something that finally soothed). He also talked a lot to Mick and Lisa. He wasn’t gonna’ consider letting Dillon be a Rogue without his sister’s consent, but she just laughed at him for being too overprotective and said it’d probably help Roscoe stay in line, if anything was going to. As for Mick, he was more than happy to stay on standby and help with the plan Len was cooking up.

And there was a plan. Not that he was intending to share the details with anyone, at least more than ‘need to know’, but Dillon’s involvement made it a lot easier than just having Axel on board. Both of them together would be enough to lure his old man out into the open, forming a trap, and from there, Len and Mick could take him and Len could… could…

Well, could take care of a few birds with one stone, if everything went according to plan. If not, he’d find another way to get what he wanted.

His only trouble was going to be keeping Lisa out of it. He wanted Mick involved because he could trust him, but he wanted Lisa far away from it because he was sick at the thought of her and Lewis being in the same city, let alone the same room. And she would want to help, he knew. She knew he was getting information from Dillon, but that was all she knew, and he intended to keep it that way.

All in all, it was keeping him busy. It was Monday evening before he trudged up the stairs to his apartment, and he hadn’t caught more than a few hours of sleep combined between Saturday or Sunday nights, something he wasn’t unused to, but which still had an effect.

There was a dull ache in his bones, his throat hurt and scratched from all the talking he’d been doing, he had an off-and-on headache, and he felt exhausted.

Which was why he almost jumped out of his skin when Barry knocked on his door and then promptly poked his head straight through it—

“JES-us Christ!” Len narrowly avoiding smacking him in the head as he whipped around to answer the knock, still in his entrance way, and a disembodied vibrating head was right fucking there!

“Shit sorry!”

The rest of the vibrating body appeared as Barry’s whirring vocal chords took on a mechanical quality and then his whole form stabilized. Len managed not to clutch his heart as he got his breathing under control but it was a near miss.

“What the hell!”

“I just—you—” Barry looked helplessly at the locked door behind him and then back at Len, apologetic. “I wanted to say hi?”

Len dragged a hand over his face and snatched it away immediately after. He was picking up body language from Barry, dammit.

“You almost gave me a heart attack. What if I wasn't alone?”

“I, uh, recognized your footsteps? I knew it was just you…”

Len rolled his eyes, “boundaries.”

“Yeah, my bad.”

Len waved his hand and wandered into his apartment, Barry following. He dropped his jacket—the parka—snowflakes melting on his shoulders, and started to unstrap the cold gun from his thigh, once he reached his room.

“You been up to no good, Captain Cold?”

Barry said it in such a mock-serious voice that Len had to resist the urge to roll his eyes, replying without thinking. “Is that your impression of one of those pornos, Barry? Because if so, you should be the one undressing me.”

“Wh—I—why did you have to remind me that porn of us exists?”

Len smirked and started to hang up his jacket, glancing back at the bed. Truth be told, he was too exhausted to really be in the mood, but it was always worth it to see Barry splutter.

“Not of us, Barry, though if you’re inclined…”

“I’ll take a hard pass on a career in amateur porn. A ten second video of that body shot got us in enough trouble already, if you remember.”

He did, vividly. Miss Smoak had also been kind enough to email it to him—and how she got his email was something he didn’t want to know and wasn’t sure he was comfortable with—but he hadn’t even had a chance to watch it yet. It did come with the rather amusing title of ‘body shot heaven’ and he was pretty sure he and her were going to get along.

“Speaking of, did you enjoy your day out with Queen?”

He started moving back to the kitchen, stomach rumbling. Barry followed him, “You realize that was Saturday, right? Have you even been home since then?”

Len waved the question aside, “Queen, Barry. He give you a lecture?”

The other man sighed from behind him in the hall, “Nothing I couldn’t handle. He’s more supportive than you’d think. And he’s dated a few criminals himself. Crazy ones. So we’re all good.”

Len nodded and poked his head into the fridge. His stomach was trying to tell him he was hungry but he didn’t have much of an appetite.

“Oh, yo, I was cooking food, wanna’ just come over? You look like you’ll pass out if you try to cook right now.”

He frowned. He couldn't look that bad. Barry’s worried expression said otherwise. “Fine.” He closed the fridge door. “Lead the way.”

The smell of curry wafted through the door of Barry’s apartment before he was even inside, and he must be tired if he’d missed it on his way up the stairs earlier. Maybe it was because his sinuses felt a little stuffed. He wondered if he could blame the headache on that.

“I didn’t know you could make curry.”

“I can’t. This is a, uh, experiment.”

“Butter chicken?” He sniffed at the sauce reducing on the stove, stirring it before turning to poke through Barry’s spices, several of which were new as of that day, as Len was pretty sure he hadn’t had coriander, turmeric, or garam masala, the last time he’d slipped more spices and herbs onto that shelf.

“Yeah, made with coconut milk though.”

Len arched an eyebrow, stirring in some extra salt and a dash of cinnamon. He didn’t know how to thank Barry for being so naturally considerate of him being lactose intolerant, so he said the easiest thing that came to mind. “That’s how Mick makes it too.”

Barry’s ears went pink. “He… maybe gave me the recipe.”

Len blinked, processing that. His brain was a little too tired to contemplate but… “you and Mick… the Flash and Heatwave… are swapping recipes.”

“You say that as if the Flash and Captain Cold aren’t dating.”

Right. But still. “When did you even get Mick’s number?”

“… you didn’t answer your texts yesterday and I was getting worried. Lisa said you were with Mick and gave me his number. Mick said you were with Axel and too busy to chat. And we just started… talking.”

“And how was that?” He was trying to picture it, amused. Barry frowned at him and started pulling out bowls for food.

“Nice. I think. It’s hard to tell, with him. He told me to make you something nice because you were stressed out.”

“He shouldn’t have done that.”

“He’s your friend, he’s allowed to worry.”

“He doesn’t need to butt in.”

Barry snorted, “neither do my friends, but I didn’t see you complaining about going shopping with Felicity.”

They made it to the couch, no pretense of sitting at the table, and he practically melted into the cushions and started to eat. The food was a little bit like heaven.

“How was your afternoon with Felicity anyway?”

“Amenable.”

“Amenable? That’s what you’re gonna’ go with?”

“She’s… interesting. And you didn’t elaborate on your time with Queen.” That sounded more petulant than he’d intended. Barry stretched out beside him, foot on the coffee table, a careful buffer of a foot of space between them.

“Me and Ollie mostly trained, and I told you everything relevant.”

“Felicity bought Iris a microwave.”

“Oh shit—I still have to get Iris and Eddie a gift!”

Len actually laughed then, relaxing. Even he was getting her something, even if it was in the form of cake. “Well done.”

“Shitshitshitshitshitshit—and it has to be for both of them. What do I—hmm, I—nope—maybe the Flash can—no that’s too close to home—something tangible—or…”

“You’ll think of something, Barry.” He put his empty bowl down on the coffee table. “Thanks for the food.”

“You’re welcome. Sorry for giving you a heart attack.”

“You’re forgiven.”

“I was just…” Len glanced over, ready to fall asleep on the couch now that his stomach was full, and Barry looked nervous. “…worried about you.”

“Worried?”

“I haven’t heard from you since brunch on Saturday.”

“Mm. Been busy.”

“You gonna’ tell me about it?”

That woke him up a bit. Could he tell Barry about it? Should he? Not all of it. And not until some of it was already done. “It’s Rogue business.”

“… your point is?”

“We don’t talk about Rogue business.”

“Like we don’t talk about Flash business or the fact that one of my closest friends is also Oliver Queen aka the Green Arrow? Or about your birthday being this week and not in May? Or about my job? Or about—”

Okay, Barry, I get your point.” He was too tired to have this conversation right now, so his attempt to snap came out more mulish.

“I’m just saying—”

“That you didn’t hear from me for two days and you’re pissed and you were worried and you want me to tell you what’s going on. Yes, I gathered.”

Barry pouted. Len felt victorious, and pressed his advantage. “I haven’t slept in two days, Barry. Can we call this an impasse and reconvene tomorrow?”

“I work tomorrow morning.”

“Evening, then.”

“I… fine.”

Len nodded, and moved to stand. “I’ll even cook for you.”

“You know you can…”

Len paused and turned to see Barry picking at his sleeve. “Can?”

“Stay tonight. If you want. I won’t fall asleep for a bit, but... you can stay here. So long as you don’t snore.”

“I don’t snore.”

Barry grinned. “Like you’d know.”

Len hesitated. “I thought you were mad at me.”

Barry glanced at his hands. “I’m frustrated because I was worried and we have so much to talk about, but… I still want to sleep near you.”

Len couldn’t help the smile, the teasing note to his voice. “I see. In that case, I missed you too, Scarlet.”

That got him the smile he was hoping for. “I didn’t miss you—it was only two days.”

“Mhmm.”

“You’re the worst.”

“Just terrible.”

“I mean it.”

“Of course.”

“Just get your smug face to bed, I’ll be there in a bit. I bought you a toothbrush.”

That was news. Len decided to stop teasing Barry though, and just smiled on his way to prepare for bed.

 

**********

 

It was late by the time Barry turned in for bed. Len had passed out sprawled on his bed in minutes, from what Barry could tell when he went to check on him after cleaning up after dinner. He ran his rounds, stopped at STAR Labs, gathered gift ideas for Iris and Eddie, and then turned in to home, showered, and finally slid into his room.

Len roused a bit when he did, yawning and shuffling over to make room for him, wrapping around him like an octopus as soon as Barry was under the covers.

“Mmm. You’re cold.”

Barry loved the little whine to his voice whenever Len was sleepy. “You’re hot.”

“Mm. Your apartment’s too warm.”

Len was only even half under a blanket, just his legs, but he was warm, and it was nice. Barry settled into being the little spoon, Len’s arms around him, breath on his neck.

“Roscoe Dillon,” Len said, voice quiet, and it was such a non-sequitur that Barry took a minute to process it.

“What about him?”

“He’s gonna’ be a Rogue.”

Barry groaned into the pillow and rolled over to face Len. “Why? I thought you hated that guy. Didn’t he help your dad get out of prison?”

In the dark, Len’s face was impossible to see, but Barry was sure it would look closed off if it was visible.

“And now he’s delivering my old man to me.”

Oh. Oh. Barry tensed. “Are you going to…”

“Do you really want to know what I plan to do with him?”

He swallowed. He didn’t want to know. But he needed to. “Yes,” he whispered into the dark. He could just see the glitter of Len’s eyes from the light of the window.

“And what if the answer is something you don’t like?”

“Is… it something I can live with?”

It was tense for a moment, but then, against Barry’s expectations, Len shifted closer. “I need… for you to trust me.”

Barry’s throat felt tight. But it… it was Len. And if he was asking Barry to trust him… Barry did. So he nodded, a little shaky, said “okay”, and felt Len relax next to him, let out the breath Barry hadn’t realized the other man was holding.

Did he really think Barry was capable of saying ‘no’ to that question, even now?

“Thank you.”

He leaned forward and kissed Barry gently, and Barry felt relieved. He tucked himself in next to Len and listened to his heartbeat while he fell asleep, biting his lip so he didn’t say ‘I love you’ in the dark.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Barry woke up in the morning to something very hard pressing into his behind. Hard and… rocking, slightly. Which was… something, except that Len was snoring. Barry was sure the combination was going to make him combust or burst out laughing, but he managed to stifle both and decide on his next move.

They were cocooned in blankets that made Barry way too damn hot, and they were both sweating. It was tempting to just stay in bed and come up with other ways to get sweaty, but he really really couldn't afford to be late another day this year. Getting chewed out by Singh and frowned at by half the department was never a good idea, especially because he had a taskforce meeting to attend that morning.

He started to shift away and Len grumbled.

“Mm, Lenny—”

The arm around his waist pulled him in tighter and there was a vaguely pleased sound behind him. Len was right against his back, and his facial hair—the shadow of it last night that told Barry Len hadn’t had time to shave the morning before, and now it was longer still—was rubbing against his shoulder.

“Len, honey…”

“Mrrrhhh.”

“You’re kinda…” Barry shifted his hips.

“Hm? Mm.” Len backed up slightly. “s’rry.”

Barry chuckled and rolled away. His alarm was about to go off anyway so he shut it off and dropped his phone back on the nightstand, turned to look at Len. “Blue balls got you down?”

Len groaned and cracked one eye open to glare at him, “like you wouldn’t believe.”

Barry laughed and Len yawned and gave a half-aborted stretch and settled in more comfortably, eyes closed again.

“Nice beard.” It wasn’t quite a beard, not actually, but definitely more growth than his usual clean-shaven looked.

Len’s eyes popped open in confusion. “Bea—oh. Hm.” He scratched at the hair on his face. “Been busy. Hence the blue balls. Which are a more pressing matter than shaving.”

“You should keep the beard.”

“You should phone in sick.”

“To work?”

“Mm.” Len reached one arm toward Barry, hand landing on his chest.

“And why would I do that?”

The hand trailed down his front suggestively and when it kept going, he found himself making a slightly strangled noise. “Len.”

“Hm?”

“I’m not calling in sick to work just so we can have sex all day.”

“Why not?”

There were probably many good reasons. About bad ideas and about responsibility and duty, or about Joe knowing he wasn’t actually sick, or anything really. But the first thing he blurted was:

“I don’t have any sick days left for the year.”

Len’s hand stopped in its delightfully cruel teasing, his fingers having found the hollow of Barry’s hip and pressing just so against it, right next to where his embarrassingly hard cock was straining upward in his boxers.

In direct contrast to the tease of that hand, Len’s expression looked like the human personification of ‘grumpy cat’, leaning up on his free elbow suddenly and distinctly unimpressed. “Barry—you have super-healing.”

“I… take sick days to fight metahumans?”

Len groaned and rolled over, hands back to himself. “’m going back to sleep.”

“Ten hours and you’re still sleepy?”

Ten hours?”

“You crashed at nine last night.”

“Right. Best to get up then. Unless I can convince you to stick around in bed with me for an hour, just be late?”

“Temping, but I…. I kind of want to…” he sat up and glanced at his hands.

“Savor it?”

“Yeah.” Barry was glad Len had a word that didn’t sound as sappy as anything his own brain was coming up with.

“And yet you wondered why I didn’t want to have shower sex when Queen was outside the door.”

“In my defense, I was dragged into the shower by you under false pretenses, and very horny. Which, uh, so… I guess if you’re free tonight—”

“This is why you should skip work.”

Barry kissed Len and pulled back, getting out of bed. “I almost might if I didn’t have meetings all morning. Cisco and Joe will be there and I can’t convince them I’m sick.”

“Fine, I admit defeat. Do-gooder.”

Barry stretched, “if you hadn’t been so tired last night…”

Len’s eyes were focused into a glare. “Don’t be cruel.”

“Tell that to my blue balls.”

“As we just established, you are not the only one in that position.”

Barry glanced down at Len’s body where the covers had been kicked away. Barry wasn’t the only one still hard. He stared a little too long. Even the outline of it in those black boxer briefs was—

“Undressing me with your eyes, Barry?”

“No, I, uh—” He felt himself blush, forcing his eyes upward to Len’s smirking face.

“No?”

“I just, I was picturing something.”

“Ooh, do tell.” Len leaned up on his elbows and Barry was ninety percent certain it was just to tease him.

“Just. Of you. Takingcareofyourself. Inmybed. And I can’t believe I just said that out loud.”

Len’s eyebrows shot up. But there was a faint blush on his own cheeks so Barry didn’t regret saying it, and he really was picturing it. Still picturing it. Should stop picturing it any minute now.

“Would that be allowed?”

Barry almost had to shake his head to focus. “What?”

“Getting off in your bed?”

He made the most embarrassing squeaking sound, one that would be denied at all costs. “Um. Fuck. Yes? No? Yes. Definite y—god that’s just not fair.” His throat was dry. “I swear if you lay in my bed and get off without me, you owe me.”

“Owe you?” Len’s hand was heading south and Barry practically vibrated watching it dip just into the waistband of his boxers.

“Yes, like, I dunno’, some really good sex on my next day off. Or tonight, or the next night you have free. Or just like—shit I’m gonna’ be late if I don’t go shower—just don’t be a tease!”

He shouted on his way out the door, zooming out and thinking of old people and dead puppies. He’d grabbed up a set of clothes on his way out the door and didn’t dare set foot back in his bedroom before leaving his apartment. If Len really did decide to get off in his bed, he didn’t trust himself not to crawl back in there with him, work be damned.

 

**********

 

Len couldn’t believe he’d actually been given permission to get himself off in Barry’s bed. If the younger man had been kidding, it was his mistake, because Len was not about to let any good offer go to waste.

He wished he could breathe out his nose better (it was stuffed and he was trying very hard not to sound too nasal) or that his throat wasn’t scratching like hell or that his limbs didn’t sort of ache in a low, frustrating and inescapable way. But nothing was about to deter him from enjoying this. He was wrapped up in the smell of Barry that was just part of the room, part of the bed, his cologne and the faintly electric scent, and rolled over to where he could still feel the warm spot Barry left getting out of bed.

Fuck, this wasn’t gonna’ take long. He could hear the water on, knew Barry was in the shower, but the sound didn’t last long. Would he come back in? See Len there, fist tight around himself, underwear tugged down just enough?

He bit his lip thinking of Barry walking in and watching and forgot to breathe for a moment (his nose really wasn’t cooperating at all if he was being honest) but a lightning streak was out of the apartment moments later.

Damn. But Still.

It was over quickly—it really had been a few days, for this, for shaving, for everything, caught up with planning on short notice—and he was left laying in Barry’s bed feeling bereft. He was drowsy all over again and wanted Barry there to wrap himself around, press himself into, and just…

He was getting maudlin. It was embarrassing. His only consolation was that Barry was probably in a worse state, because with the amount of time they’d spent talking in bed, he doubted the other had had time to get off in the shower before zooming out that door.

He wondered if Barry would end up thinking about it all day. About Len laying in his bed, ‘taking care of himself’. He’d looked practically starved when Len had asked if he was allowed. Would he be distracted at work? Rush home quickly? Succumb to Len’s teasing, finally?

And on that thought, Len had a wicked idea. He was pretty sure he had just come up with a way to make sure Barry spent his entire day at work regretting not calling in sick.

 

**********

 

Eddie sat next to Barry in the briefing, slipping him a cup of coffee because his friend looked a little harangued when he tripped his way into work ten minutes late that morning.

“Rough night?” Eddie knew that, more often than not, Barry was out patrolling the city whenever he had some extra time on his hands.

“Wh—oh, uh, not so bad. Thanks for the coffee.” Barry sipped it with an expression like heaven and dropped his notepads, pens, cell, and everything he needed on the desk in front of him. It was a meeting of the meta-taskforce, which officially included Barry as of a few weeks ago because he was a little too worried about his and Joe’s lies matching up, ever since something to do with a party he had attended with Snart. Eddie didn’t know the details and didn’t really want to.

They waited for Joe to show up (he was caught up with Singh) while Spivot and Santiago wandered in, talking about… oh no.

“Okay but Heatwave was spotted with The Top months ago and hasn’t been seen since. I’m just saying, I don’t see why you put your money on him, of all people?”

“We can’t take one porn website as an authority on which villain the Flash would hook up with, Patty. I’ve made flowcharts and it makes the most logical sense that—”

“Are you guys still talking about that betting pool?” Barry looked murderous. Eddie hunched over his coffee and hoped they wouldn’t say—

“Why, do you want to get in on it? We’re making a chart. Even the Captain has placed a bet.”

“The Captain got in on—”

“Speaking of which, Eddie, didn’t you say yesterday you’d bring some money today to place a bet?”

Life, he was sure, was paying him back for something. Maybe this was some form of karmic revenge for having tried to instigate an anti-Flash taskforce the year prior. Maybe this was just evening the scales—he’d been lucky enough to win Iris’s heart, so now he had to have the worst luck in everything else.

The worst luck coupled with Barry’s look of complete and utter betrayal.

“Um.” Eddie shifted in his seat. “Maybe we can talk about that later.”

“You sure?”

The thing was—the thing was, it wasn’t even Eddie’s bet. Iris had prodded him into it, since it was only within the precinct. Her and Lisa. Who he was worrying might be a bad influence. Both of them had laughed about it over wine last time the other woman was over for dinner, but Iris wouldn’t let the idea go. Maybe she was the one out to get him. Pre-wedding jitters, trying to get him murdered by the Flash.

Barry was still staring at him.

“Um. I’m sure, Santiago. Thanks anyway.”

Barry looked mollified, a little, but rounded on the ladies next. “How do you even plan to confirm this little betting pool, anyway? You can’t actually think that the Flash is gonna’ just—just—sleep with some villain!”

Eddie fought hard not to snort.

“Of course not, Allen. It’s more…” Spivot looked at Santiago, “a morale booster? Like a joke? It makes the metas we go up against seem a little less likes demi-gods, you know? I think the whole pool’ll be donated to charity, maybe a hospital.”

Oh great, Barry looked guilty, and now Eddie felt like he should be placing a bet.

“Well, uh… what about the Flash? Don’t you think that he would maybe feel uncomfortable about the CCPD placing bets on his sex life?”

Santiago waved a hand. “I’m sure the Flash can take a joke, not that he’d ever know about it anyway.”

Spivot cinched it: “Besides, the ‘official’ betting pool is about which villain he’ll send back to Iron Heights next, you know. In case the public gets wind of the story. So it’s not like the Flash’ll learn the truth. He’ll probably think we’re just supporting him! Which we are. Mostly.”

Barry’s eyebrow twitched and he opened his mouth, but shut it as Joe walked in and looked at them all suspiciously. The ladies took their seats and Barry waved at Cisco, who showed up with Joe to brief them. The Captain finally moved into the room and the meeting looked like it was about to start.

At last, Eddie felt like he might survive the meeting with his sensibilities intact.

He really should have knocked on wood.

Because Barry’s phone vibrated on the desk a moment later, once the meeting was getting started. Barry grabbed it and Eddie glanced over as he opened the text automatically. He shouldn’t be looking, but Barry shouldn’t be checking his phone in meetings.

But now they’d both made a grave, grave mistake.

The text said ‘still holding on to this for you ;)’ and a second later another came through, an image—

What was—was that a—

Barry made a noise in the back of his throat like he was choking. Eddie was sure his own face was a tomato and took a swig of coffee to cover it. That couldn’t be as big as the picture made it seem. It was huge. And ice-blue. Why was ‘Len’ (the contact name and Barry should really be more careful) texting pictures of sex toys to Barry and why was he opening them in meetings and—

Another text came through: you can compare the size to ‘The Dick’ and let me know which one is more ~mesmerizing~

Eddie spit his coffee all over the desk in front of him.

Barry dropped the phone with a squeak and a loud clatter that echoed through the entire room.

Joe and Cisco stared at them and everyone else in the meeting turned around to look.

“Something you’d care to share with the class, gentlemen? Or can we keep going?” The Captain looked pissed.

Eddie was so glad he’d stopped keeping score.

 

**********

 

Barry was no sooner back to the (blessed) privacy of his own lab when he shot off rapidfire texts to Len.

Do the words ‘don’t be a tease’ mean NOTHING TO YOU

I am AT WORK

Are you INSANE

I FORGOT YOU EVEN STILL HAD THAT DILDO!!! I BURNED IT FROM MY MEMORY

He really had forgotten, at this point. That purchase was going on his list of biggest regrets. And now he was never going to be able to look Eddie in the eye again. God, the other man got such an unfortunate eyeful—Len had taken the dildo out of its package finally and was holding it in his hand to really showcase its, uh, not inconsiderable size.

Barry really wished it didn’t make his mouth water. 

Len finally responded. Just something to help tide you over ;)

I DON’T NEED DICK PICS AT WORK

It’s a dildo pic, technically. I won’t text you images of my penis. Your generation is crass.

Ffs, Len

What does ffs mean?

Barry groaned and fell into his desk chair. For fuck’s sake.

I like that.

I almost choked to death on air in my meeting when I saw that pic.

Should I apologize? Send a basket of muffins to the Captain?

Maybe to eddie. He was sitting next to me and I thought he was gonna choke to death on his coffee when he caught sight of my phone

Serves him right for looking.

You traumatized him

That’s his issue.

… I’m gonna go do my actual job. DO NOT send me any more pics

Len didn’t answer and Barry started to breathe easier. Now to, well, actually work.

 

**********

 

“How’s Walker this morning?”

Mick grunted, “Aiden’s getting attached.”

“Kids get attached to anyone, Mick.”

“He’s a good babysitter.”

“You let him babysit? On his own?”

They were having lunch at S ‘n S, and Aiden was nowhere in sight. “Test run. Someone’s gotta’ fill in for Shawna when she’s back to school in a month.”

Len was dubious about Axel Walker being the fill-in, but he wasn’t about to tell Mick how to raise his kid. “Just keep an eye on things.”

Mick gave him a look that said he wasn’t an idiot and rumbled out, “this mean I'm off duty for watching the brat tonight?”

“No. I had enough of him over the weekend. If Aiden’s fine and you’re fine, keep him. I just need to make sure he’s not about to flake before Thursday night.”

“Don’t worry, boss. He’s a crazy little shit but not dumb enough to run now.”

Len nodded. He had the same impression. Walker had been so glad (underneath the obligatory levels of scorn) to be taken in by people who wanted to offer him a good enough deal and some boundaries. Boundaries he was trying to test and press at each grating step, but a kid like that needed them.

Len wondered if Aiden was the only one getting attached, then put that thought from his mind.

“And you’re good for Sunday?”

“You know I am.”

He nodded again, but felt something uncomfortable stir inside him, asking Mick to do this for him. It wasn’t a regular job, not something he’d get a pay cut out of. It was just a personal favor, and Len didn’t like to ask favors of anyone, not even Mick. Still, he didn’t trust any other Rogues to do this, and honestly didn’t want Lisa there for it if he could avoid it. She’d lambaste him for that later, undoubtedly, but that was a future problem.

“Don’t know why you won’t let me come Thursday instead of that kid.”

“He’ll do just as good as you for creating the distraction I need. Besides, you have an actual job. Spend some time with Aiden on your nights off.”

“Wouldn’t mind roasting a couple pigs.”

Len rolled his eyes. “If my old man gets wind of me or you doing anything exciting this week, he might go to ground again for a while. Walker’s gonna’ make a splash with his distraction and probably end up on the news. Don’t need that to be you.”

Mick shrugged. “Still can’t believe you’re breaking into the CCPD without me.”

It wouldn’t do to tell Mick that he also didn’t want his friend in a position to potentially hurt the Flash, or in a position to get arrested. Mick was trying to get out, except for the odd job, mostly because of Aiden. He worked with Len and a few old-timers he knew like Dillon, mostly for extra cash and to fulfill his need to burn, the thrill of the chase that Len felt too. But on a job this risky, pulled together with as little time as he’d had to plan, he didn’t want Mick close to it. Axel and Hartley would have to do.

Len swallowed down his second shot of whiskey and sighed. He’d barely touched his food. The whiskey was supposed to help his throat, in theory. Burning it out was supposed to work. If it wasn’t helping with that, it had at least done a wonder for his sinuses. Not his appetite though, or the ache.

“You know you look like hell, Snart.”

He snapped his eyes to Mick’s and managed a sardonic smirk, “why Mick, you know I’m taken.”

“Cute. Mean it though.”

“Coming down with something,” Len admitted. He’d at least managed to shower and shave before sending off those ridiculous texts to Barry and heading out to meet Mick, but he knew he looked wan.

“Getting tossed in a river will do that to you,” Mick laughed. “Should’ve started a fire.”

“In my apartment?”

“Couldn’t hurt.”

“You do recall how sensitive the fire alarms are?”

Mick shrugged. “That was one time.”

Len tried to laugh but it turned into a coughing fit. His ribs hated him, just a little.

“Cough too?”

“Fuck you.”

“Go home and go to bed.”

“I’m not an invalid.”

“Get better by Saturday or I’m not bringing Aiden to your party.”

“…party?”

Mick’s eyes widened just a bit, then narrowed. “Lisa didn’t tell you?”

Len’s headache was starting back up. “She failed to mention it.”

“Jailbait didn’t say anything?”

That particular nickname had stuck, and Len couldn't help but be a bit amused about it. Now it was more about Barry’s job than his age, thankfully.

“Barry? No. Is he in on it?”

“Lisa said so.”

“Lovely. And I hear you’ve been giving him recipes.”

“How was the curry?”

Len sighed. This was just too much. He and Barry had skirted talking about a lot of their issues until now. He’d gathered that they were both on board and committed again, but that didn’t mean that much had been solved. He was trying to amend part of that with what he was planning, but in the meantime, having Barry getting closer to the Rogues and planning a birthday party for him was only making him tense.

“It was fine. Better than I would’ve expected. This party—how many people do I have to put up with?”

“Just me’n Aiden, Lise and Jailbait, obviously. And Lisa warned me about her date.”

“Date?”

“The Ramon kid. The one who made our guns. She’s sweet on him and convinced him to show up somehow. After she kidnapped him last time, I’m impressed.”

Len’s eye felt like it was about to start twitching. What the hell was she thinking tempting fate like this? How were Cisco and Barry going to pull off pretending they didn’t or barely knew one another? Lisa was still pretending she didn’t know Barry was the Flash and Mick hadn’t put anything together yet, and Barry was still in the dark about Lisa knowing and still trying to cover his tracks.

It was a nightmare waiting to happen.

“Maybe I’ll stay sick. Cancel the party.”

“Good luck, pal.”

“Mhm.”

Then he devolved into another coughing fit and cursed all of them.

 

**********

 

Barry made his way to Len’s after work as quickly as he reasonably could, taking a quick roundabout through the city and stopping in at STAR labs first, as he pretty much always did. But then he was like a bullet to Len’s. After that morning, how warm Len was, how adorable mumbling in his sleep, how ridiculously good he looked with facial hair—and why had Barry never seen that before—and then leaving him there in Barry’s bed, getting that text… Barry was more charged than ever to maybe, finally move on to actually getting laid.

Except.

Len let him into his apartment, looking surlier than usual and wearing an extra sweater. He’d shaved the beard after all, but the tip of his nose looked pink, almost comically because of his scowl. Barry’s first thought was to wonder what the hell he’d done to piss the other man off, but his greeting to Len was cut-off halfway by the other man starting to say hello and—

“AH-CHOOO!”

He let out the loudest sneeze Barry had ever heard. It was like a small bomb being dropped. It was the type of sneeze that would cause people to snap pencils if you were stuck in an exam with the sneezer. It was, in a word, mesmerizing.

“Bless you?” Barry all but snickered.

“Laugh it up, wise guy.”

His voice. It was—

“Fu—ah—CHOO!”

No way.

Len devolved into a coughing fit so hard he held onto the counter.

“Len, are you sick?”

“No.”

That voice, again, it was so nasal.

“You are!”

“’m not sick.”

Oh god he was sick. The tip of his nose and now that Barry looked, the slightly glassy, watery quality to his eyes, and his cheeks had this sort of flush that they wouldn’t normally have and hey, wait, that would mean—

Barry stuck his hand onto Len’s forehead. Or tried to. Len batted it away.

“I don’t have a fever, Barry. ‘m fine.”

“Testy,” Barry intoned, sidestepping the arm and putting his hand on Len’s forehead again anyway. “You’re burning up.”

“I said I’m fine.”

“You’re fine enough to be grumpy, but you’re not fine.”

“It’ll pass.”

Barry looked him up and down. That extra sweater and the way he was more hunched than usual, the droop in his shoulders—

“You need to see a doctor.”

“I have shit to do.”

“I’ll call Caitlin.”

“Don’t even think about it.”

Barry rolled his eyes, “Len, you had hypothermia last week. Seeing a doctor won’t kill you. What if you have pneumonia?”

“It’s not pneumonia.”

“How would you know?”

“It’s just a…” he hesitated and glared. It took a second to click, but then Barry grinned.

“A cold, Len? As in Captain Cold has a cold?”

Len’s glare intensified. “Yes, Barry. A cold. It’ll pass.”

At least he was admitting he was sick, though Barry was thinking it was either a bad cold, or a proper flu. He bit his tongue on that thought and watched Len wander his way into the living room and drop onto the couch—which had more pillows and blankets than Barry had ever seen on it, even if he shoved them out of the way—with a heavy sigh.

He started rummaging through Len’s cupboards. “Where’d you keep your tea?”

“Don’t have any.”

“You don’t—why don’t you have tea?”

“Don’t drink it.”

“Wait there.”

Len didn’t get a chance to protest before Barry was at the store, picking up a few types of tea and some cold meds, paying at the self-checkout and then zooming back. He phased through Len’s door to find the other man exactly where he’d left him, scowling.

“I don’t need tea.”

“Too bad.” Barry pulled out the kettle that Len seldom used and brought the cold meds to the living room, thrusting them at Len.

“’m fine.”

“What you are is the worst patient in history. Take your cold meds. You have a fever.”

“It’s mild. Not even a flu. I’ll sweat it out.”

Barry raised his eyebrows. “Captain Cold would rather sweat out a fever than take a pill?”

Len… Len honest to god pouted. “Is this how it feels to be on the receiving end of my puns?”

“Oh no, yours are much worse.” Barry wiggled the meds.

“I don’t like cold meds. They make me drowsy. Or loopy.”

“Oh for—some rest would do you good, Len. Take the damn meds. They won’t make you loopy, I promise. Or I can get you the totally weak stuff but it works for crap.”

“I know it does.” Len finally took the pack of pills and popped out two. Barry returned to the kitchen to pour him some tea.

“Does your throat hurt?”

“… maybe.”

Barry rolled his eyes and pulled out a chamomile tea bag. “This’ll help. Let it cool down though.”

Len glared up at him. The effect was greatly dulled by the rosy tip to his nose and pout to his lips.

“Yes, I know. You’re big and strong and this cold is no match for you.”

“Don’t mock me.”

“I’m just teasing.” Barry smiled and took a spot on the couch beside him, gathering up one of the blankets. “I don’t get to see you out of commission too often and you’re normally not so…”

“What?” his voice had some bite to it.

“Cute.”

“Oh.” Len actually seemed to contemplate that, pulling a pillow into his lap. Then he hummed and tilted his head back, closed his eyes. “Feel like my head’s full of cotton.”

“Yeah, that’ll be the fever.”

“I hate being sick.”

Barry wished he was recording some of this on video. He wasn’t sure he’d ever have such adorable blackmail as Len actually whining about being ill.

“Can I make you like… chicken soup or something?”

“I was supposed to make you dinner.”

“And now you’re about to pass out one the couch. Just stay there.”

Len made a vague affirmative noise and stretched out, looking like he was about to pass out. Barry tried not to smile on his way back to the kitchen, but failed. Then he settled in for a quiet night of looking after his sick boyfriend.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Len didn’t let Barry stay over that that night, despite Barry’s protests to the contrary. Sure the kid couldn’t get sick, but he’d be up half the night with Len’s tossing and turning and coughing, and one of them deserved to sleep. He still felt like hell when Barry left, but gave in and took the nighttime cold meds Barry pointedly stared at before leaving and managed to get a few hours of actual rest.

When he woke up, the previous night felt mostly like a fever haze. He was a little sour at needing to be taken care of in the first place, but the need not to be vulnerable had definitely lost out entirely to the indulgent desire to let Barry take care of him when the other had shown up at his door. Even if it meant he was too sick to make good on any of his promises to have his wicked way with Barry, eating soup and being cuddled apparently had their merits.

Still, by the next morning he was agitated again. There were things to be done and not that much time left in which to get the details in order. He resisted the urge to text Barry the next morning except to say he’d be home that night again. Then he was out of the house, running into Dillon, picking up the supplies Axel had claimed to need—and what he was planning with that much explosive material was a little concerning but not enough for Len to do anything about it—and swinging it all by his warehouse before heading home to collapse on the couch for an hour. He could worry about Axel’s apparent budding friendship with Mark Mardon another day, when he had the energy.

He tried not to feel too grateful when Barry actually showed up in the evening with as bright of smile as ever. He’d worked late so it was after dinner, and Len’s cold wasn’t that bad right now, the fever down from the night before, but it was still the first thing Barry asked about. Len dismissed it with a wave and glared at the tea Barry was already preparing.

“I’m fine. Thanks for…” Len waved vaguely, knowing his voice was still too nasal, “last night.”

“No problem.”

“Seems like you’ve had to deal with me sick or weak a lot recently,” he curled his fingers into a fist, staring at them, but Barry caught his eye, smiling over from where he was dunking a tea bag.

“Trust me, there’ll be plenty of opportunities to patch me up. Besides, you started it with the caretaking back the first time I crashed on your couch. And speaking of, budge over, I’m exhausted.”

Len moved his legs to make room. “How was work?” He promptly dropped his legs onto Barry’s lap once the other was seated, propped up and reclining against the arm of the couch so he wouldn't cough as much.

“Work? It was… work. Crime scene at a break in but nothing out of the ordinary. Processed evidence. Didn’t receive any dick pics, so I’ll count that as a win. No mention of Flash porn or betting pools or anything. Actually, today was awesome,” he laughed. “How was staying at home being sick?”

“Went out, actually.”

“Really?”

“Mm. Met up with Dillon and Walker to go over plans.”

“Plans? And don’t tell me he’s gonna be a Rogue too?”

Len really didn’t want to give Barry details, just in case. And also because there was no way he would approve. Better to ask forgiveness (and thanks, really) than permission.

“Not sure yet,” he admitted about the last part, skipping Barry’s question about the plans themselves. “Kid’s had a rough go of it.”

Barry hummed. “you getting a soft spot for Axel Walker?”

Len shrugged, “don’t overstate it.”

“So are you gonna take it easy the rest of the week at least?”

“I’m not dying, Barry. I’m a lot better today than yesterday. And I have a few things I have to pick up”—and drop off—“tomorrow night.”

“By which you mean steal?”

“Am I supposed to admit to that?”

Barry sighed, “you’re sick. Can’t I at least be worried?”

“No. It’s archival things, don’t intend to leave a trace, just… data mining, mostly.” And a bit more. Barry didn’t need to know. Plus, Len would have a distraction. Barry also didn’t need to know that. In fact, he needed to be one of the ones distracted.

Barry arched an eyebrow, “data mining? From where?”

“Don’t worry about it.”

He sighed again. Len stayed tense until Barry relaxed. “Guess I won’t see that much of you then?”

“Unless I can squeeze some time Friday, not till whatever you and Lisa are cooking up for Saturday.”

He arched an eyebrow at Barry.

“You heard about that?” Barry laughed so it must not be a surprise, really. “But okay, sounds good. Just don’t wear yourself down.”

“I’m fine.” Len settled back and his thoughts carried him back to his plans, the details, wondering if it was the best or worst idea he’d ever had. He fiddled with the hem of his sweater for a moment, then stopped, frustrated with himself for the obvious tell, even more so when Barry asked, “what is it?”

He pursed his lips. No sense pretending he wasn’t preoccupied. “Your job… do you enjoy it?”

“Is that why you asked me about work? You never ask me about work unless you’re trying to ply me for info.”

Len felt his lips twitch toward a smile. Barry wasn’t wrong, really. “Just curious what you would do if your dad was free? Still be a CSI?”

Barry became a little too still. “Is that your way of asking what I’ll do if I lose my job over all this?”

Len didn’t know quite how to respond to that. He set his jaw, brain working through the slight fever fog, but thankfully, Barry wasn’t in a stubborn mood and kept talking. Maybe being sick had a few perks after all.

“It’s okay, I actually… I’ve been thinking about it too. And I think… I’ve been thinking about something I’ve wanted to do for a while. Not even a back-up plan, more like a forward plan.”

“Oh?”

Barry shifted a little, fingers tapping on Len’s calves, tucked onto Barry’s lap. “Yeah. Or. I don’t know. I haven’t figured it out yet, if it’s even possible, or what it would take.”

“What is it?”

“I… don’t really want to say until I know for sure, one way or another? I know that’s a cheap-shot, but I wasn’t even gonna mention it till after the holidays anyway, and I want to figure out myself if it’s something I’m serious about without hearing what anyone else thinks about it first, one way or the other. I haven’t even told Joe or Iris yet. But I sent off some emails last night to ask about it so… I’ll let you know, one way or another, when I get a better sense of it.”

“It’s something big, I take it?”

“Heh, no, not really. Not like a massive career change even, if you’re banking on that. It’s just something that would probably help take the ‘what if we get caught tomorrow’ type stress down a notch, but that’s not a good enough reason to do it, so I have to figure out if it’s something I actually want.”

“Very well.” Len hoped he didn’t have to make any rash decisions, considering what he himself had up his sleeve. “But you know that means you don’t get to complain that I haven’t given you my plans for Walker and Dillon and the old man.”

“No, I know. And I told you I trusted you with that. I do. I mean… our deal still stands. Don’t kill anyone except in self-defense.”

Len nodded, “I’m aware. I do intend to stick to it. You were mad before though, about Walker.”

“I was worried and I hate being in the dark. But it’s fine. And,” Barry laughed, “if I was so mad, pretty sure I wouldn’t have been here last night taking care of you. And it didn’t stop you from sending dick pics, yesterday.”

“They weren’t dick pics, they were—”

“Dildo pics, yeah, got it.” Barry rolled his eyes. “But look, I was mad, a bit. I know we’re agreeing not to spill all our secrets right now, but there was some things you straight-up lied about. Like your birthday?”

Len rolled his hand dismissively. “Hate parties, hate getting old, hate making a big deal out of it.”

“Why not just tell me that?”

“Didn't feel like it.”

To his credit, Barry snorted. “Can we fix that for next time?”

“The next time I lie to you about my birthday?”

“You know what I mean.”

Len conceded the point. “I’ll be honest about the things that matter.”

Barry looked like he was about to object, but just shook his head. “Okay, that was mostly—oh! Don’t buy me clothes. That’s just…” He wrinkled his nose.

Ah right, he’d had a list of things to discuss, after all. “I’ve wanted to see you in a properly tailored suit for a while.”

“Well as luck would have it, I have a bright tripolymer red suit that is very tailored, actually—”

“The Flash suit doesn’t count.”

“Don’t buy me clothes.”

“I have money. I’m going to want to buy you nice things every now and then.”

Barry seemed to contemplate that. “…don’t buy me anything that I couldn’t afford to buy for myself.”

“I’ll…try.” He was already contemplating taking a peak at Barry’s salary information to see if he could commit to that.

“Since we’re sort of talking about things anyway, mentioning presents reminds me—Lisa said you celebrate Kwanzaa, not Christmas?”

Len blinked. “I’d been meaning to mention that.”

“Can you… give me some details?”

“About?”

“Any of it, I guess. I’ve never been super close anyone who actively celebrates it, at least without also celebrating Christmas too. I googled it after Lisa mentioned it—still trying to picture you decorating and wearing bright colors—but I don’t know much about it, really.”

Len nodded, settling back. “No, I suppose anyone you’d know who celebrates it wouldn't really be going out of their way to talk to you about it.”

Barry scratched the back of his head, “right. Sorry, if it’s, uh, private.”

Len waved the concern away, “it’s not. Well. Not from you.” He smiled a little over at Barry, but it was ruined by coughing.

“Need more tea?”

Len waved him away. The mug was still half-full and while the herbal muck (“it’s just chamomile, Len” “no, it’s muck”) had helped his throat, the cold meds were in full effect now and the tea could be damned.

“But really, does this mean I get to see you in a dashiki?”

Len chuckled, raspy as it might have been with his throat as it was. “Sorry to disappoint, but I tend not to get too festive. If you’d consider dressing up as one of Santa’s elves, a reindeer maybe, perhaps I’ll reconsider.”

It wasn’t really the same thing, one being cultural and the other commercial, but all the same, Barry burst out laughing. “Right. Got it. I’ll pass.”

“Thought so.” Len leaned forward, tired of being so distant on the opposite end of the couch, and sat up properly next to Barry so he could take his hand and turn it over. Something to do and fiddle with while he talked, if he was going to talk about this. “I grew up celebrating Christmas, you know.”

“Oh?”

“Mm. I don’t remember much about it from when my mother was around. Might’ve been nice back then. After she was gone ‘n before Lisa was born… it wasn’t bad. I’d get a few gifts, my grandfather made sure some came from ‘Santa’, ate the cookies I left out.”

“Gee, it’s almost like you were a normal kid.”

Len gave him a crooked smile. “Almost. But dad hated that time of year and it didn’t take long to see a pattern. He got drunker and meaner every December. Wasn’t long before even my grandpa couldn't stop me seeing how bad he got, then.” His voice dropped from storytelling and loud to quiet, looking down at his hands. “Started wishing for Santa to just make him happy. Wishing for Santa to take me away every December.”

“Oh…”

“I knew Santa wasn’t real. Kids just want something to cling on to. I’m sure you know how that is. When Lisa came, I thought maybe it would be different—tried to make Christmas good for her, when she was little. But then grandpa died one year… in December. I couldn't pretend anymore.”

Barry drew in a breath but didn’t move or try to offer condolences and Len was grateful for it. He couldn’t look at him, but kept talking.

“Lisa cried every December till she learned not to, torn up about dad and missing grandpa. Her mom took her one year and then never again. I hated the holiday. When dad was in the Heights and I was grown and moved out, she spent a year in foster care—I couldn’t look after her, I already had a record and ‘n open warrant, the system wouldn’t let me near her on paper—there was nothing but new socks under the tree for her, when the kids born into the family…”

Barry held his hand a little tighter and Len pushed aside the memory, Lisa telling him about it and trying to be flippant, too old to be teary-eyed, just angry in a way that covered too much hurt.

“… I told her Christmas was a dumb holiday. We didn’t need gifts, we could just take whatever we needed, wanted. But when we were older, reconnected… I’d get bitter every year. The whole month. Wouldn’t let her do anything for my birthday, Christmas. We fought like cats and dogs over it.”

Barry stroked the back of Len’s hand with his thumb and Len leaned into his side a little more. He was warm and it felt nice.

“And then… you started to celebrate Kwanzaa?”

Len nodded. This was harder than he’d expected to talk about. It wasn’t like a speech to his crew or a scathing story to keep people at arm’s length. It was more vulnerable than that. “I got drunk one December and…” he pursed his lips. “It was ugly. I…” he didn’t want to say that he thought he was turning out too much like his father during those thirty-one days of the year. “…knew something needed to change. I needed to fix how I felt about the month. Needed something to ground me, to look forward to.”

“And that was a holiday?”

“It’s not…” he tilted his head, “it wasn’t like that. And it didn't start like that. First I tried just leaving the country every year. Turns out I don’t like the tropics in December any more than any other time of year. Tried planning jobs in December. Didn’t help. So one year, I spent all month trying to find something to latch onto, and found myself in a community Kwanzaa celebration.”

He smiled at the memory. There had been lights and smiling people, families, but not a Christmas decoration in sight. He hadn’t known what to do with himself because he wasn’t one for celebrations period, for groups or parties of any sort, but had still felt happy anyway. “I had no idea what I was doing there, really. But I didn’t want to leave. I felt..." he thought carefully, "welcome. A few of the older women… they reminded me of my mother, the bits of her I remember. I left that night with a few books in tow, about Kwanzaa, 'n about history, identity. It felt good, lighter. Something December hadn't screwed up for me.”

He glanced at Barry’s face and had to look away. There was something a little too shiny and round about his eyes, right then.

“It’s not like Christmas. I assume your research told you? It’s secular, a holiday centered around meditation. Seven days, seven values. Ones even I can get behind—unity, self-determination, accountability, a few others, like shared enterprise."

“Shared enterprise?” Barry finally cut in, laughing quietly. “Len, you’re a thief.”

“And my Rogues and I work together as equals, Barry. We share the loot.”

He laughed harder. “Only you would think of crime as a shared enterprise. Sorry, sorry, go on.”

Len gave him a droll look but he was a little amused by Barry’s take on that. “My point was that it’s more in line with me and my values than any Christian commercialized holiday ever was.”

“Yeah I get that. And I’m glad that you have it. Something that makes December… better, for you. Even if you don’t do the bright colors.”

“…I decorate, a little.”

“You do?!”

“Just a little. After I told Lisa I was going to celebrate it the following year… you know how she enjoys shopping. She made sure I had everything I could possibly need.”

He smiled at the memory. She went overboard, of course. But there had been a few things he particularly liked and had kept since then.

“And she celebrates with you?”

“She’s family. She does more of a Christmas thing than I do, swaps presents with friends, I think, decorates the years she’s in the mood. She doesn’t call it Christmas though… something like ‘winter solstice’ celebration. But she comes over and celebrates some parts of Kwanzaa with me too.”

“I had no idea,” Barry was smiling, “this is all so—I feel like I’m learning so much about you.”

Len let himself smile back, a little. He was drained, but this had felt… good.

Barry hesitated for a moment, and then, “D’you mind if I ask… what happened to your mother?”

Len nodded and sipped some of the chamomile muck swirling in his mug. “I thought you might wonder. Unfortunately for you, I don’t know.”

Barry’s eyebrows shot up.

“I was too young to understand what was going on when she left, but I found out later, put the pieces together from what dad and my grandpa said, she got fed up with my drunk father, who became a bit of a good-for-nothing as soon as he was kicked off the force. She’d married a cop and ended up with a criminal. But the old man had connections and when she tried to leave him, I gather he got mean, gamed the system, made her into the villain. He wasn’t about to let anyone have what was… his.”

No, Lewis wouldn’t give up his ‘Plan A’ to be his successor so easily.

“So he got custody?”

Sole custody. I don’t know the details of how he defamed her, but the system’s rigged and we all know it. From what I figure, the old man ruined her life and eventually, she cut her losses.”

“And you haven’t seen her since?”

“Lise looked her up years later, both our mom’s, and found out mine had left the country around the time I was five. Remarried. Moved again. Lisa dropped the trailed there. I haven’t heard from her since I was a kid. Don’t want to.”

Barry looked stricken, and Len could only imagine. Here he was, with a mother who left him, whatever her valid reasons had been, and who he had no interest in knowing. But Barry’s mother had died and the kid would probably give anything to have had more time with her, to have known her more. There was no way around the difference in their situations.

“Don’t think too much, Barry. I don’t blame her, don't hate her, but it’s ancient history.”

“Yeah,” Barry leaned into him and hugged him, slow but tight. “Thank you,” he said into the side of Len’s neck, “for sharing that with me.”

Len nodded and let himself relax against Barry. “We’re doing that honesty thing, if I recall.”

“Yeah.”

 

**********

 

Barry took a few minutes to process everything Len had told him. Everything about his mother, Christmas and Kwanzaa, the things he let slip, like Lisa being in foster care. They sat for a few minutes in comfortable silence, relaxing. Len sipped at the tea Barry had brought him before scowling suddenly. “I hate being sick. Only good thing is I can barely taste this herbal crap you made me.”

“I can tell. You’re an awful patient. And it’s not crap. Thought you’d like it—baked goods and fancy food? But not tea?”

“Not tea.”

Barry was torn between sighing and laughing, and Len just shook his head. “Was there anything else on that list of yours to get through tonight? Buying you clothes, birthdays, Walker…”

“I think we’re good, Len. Like really—I know we still have some stuff to sort through, but I’m not about to jump fence. I wasn’t about to jump fence after Thanksgiving, either. We just needed time. And even if I don’t like it, we agreed to let bygones be bygones with Flash and Rogues stuff, or else it gets too complicated. So we’ll stick to our deals, make sure no other Rogues figure out my identity, and it’s fine.”

Len nodded and sighed through his mouth, nose obviously too stuffed to accomplish his put-upon aesthetic. “Now if only coughing, sneezing, and whining were sexy.”

 Barry sighed and leaned back into the cushions, thinking of all the things he wished they could get up to now that they were on the same page and in the same place. “More like, if only you were halfway healthy enough for the marathon sex we both deserve.”

Len groaned and actually put his face in his hands. “Why would you say that?”

“What, I’m not allowed to tease once in a while? Besides, at least you’ve been home sick, I’m sure you’ve had plenty of time to get off.”

“Other than yesterday morning? Not since before that party of Iris’s.”

“WHA—are you serious?! That was six days ago!”

 “Been too busy, or too sick. Fever wasn’t doing anything for my libido till it broke again an hour before you got here.” Len glance over and his despondent tone morphed to amusement. “But you know, six days isn’t actually the end of the world, Barry.”

Barry started to flush. “My, uh…”

“You’re about to tell me something spectacular, aren’t you?”

“My libido runs high. Now. Ever since I got my speed. Six days for you would feel like… a month? Probably.”

Really?” Len all but purred, despite his voice being too nasal and him coughing after, partially ruining the effect. “Damn.” He coughed again and sighed, leaning back into the cushion. “So how often do you…” he made a vague gesture that had Barry’s blushing more earnestly. Might as well be honest.

“Twice a day, normally. Morning and evening. Sometimes before dinner if I’m really, uh, pent up.”

“Hm. Fascinating. Once a day is more than enough for me. No wonder you complain so much about blue balls.”

“I, uh, yeah. Let’s just blame my libido for some of the more embarrassing things I said, ‘kay?”

“Like using the word mesmeri—”

Yes—god, can we not explore that particular memory?”

Len snorted and Barry couldn’t help his own grin. Seeing Len relaxed and smiling again, even if it was because he was teasing Barry, felt like an actual accomplishment. He’d been tense and grumpy ever since getting sick.

Seeing him like that, on the subject they were on, gave Barry a thought, one that had him a little nervous and a little excited at the same time.

“You know… I know you’re sick so we probably shouldn't do much but I mean, orgasms are a natural decongestant.”

He cringed after he said it. Really, decongestant? That was the line he was going with? Why was he like this?

Len narrowed his eyes. “Are you playing doctor or are you playing doctor?”

Barry groaned. “Fine, my seduction skills could use some work—”

“So that was a seduction attempt? And you call my lines bad.”

“Your lines are bad.”

“But you were trying to play doctor? Or just telling me that I should jerk off on the couch this time?”

Barry wrinkled his nose. Len’s couch deserved better. “I was offering to, uh, help you with that? With my mouth?” The mouth that he had clearly forgotten how to use because how was that trainwreck of a sentence something that had just come out of it? “I mean, I’m offering to give you a blowjob?” That didn’t sound any smoother. Come on, he was better than—

Fuck. Really, Barry?”

Oh. Apparently he was smooth enough, if Len’s tone was any indication.

“Yeah,” Barry shifted, pushing aside the embarrassment at his total lack of game, heart rate kicking up a bit. This was really happening. He shifted closer to the other man, voice dropping a little lower, leaning into his space. “I mean, why not? We’re together, you’re sick—what kind of boyfriend would I be if I didn’t help?”

He revelled in the heat in Len’s gaze—hoped it wasn’t just the fever, really—and kissed Len’s jaw, then down to his neck, even as Len started to shift to make it easier for him, hands coming up to Barry's waist. “You would be a very good one if you did help me out.”

As far as their attempts at anything approaching ‘flirting’ went, this conversation was probably going down in history as the worst of the worst, and he couldn’t even make fun of Len because he was the one who started it. He gave up trying and instead gently sucked at the other man’s neck, moved his hands up under Len’s shirt to feel the too-hot skin. Then he blurted out,

“You still have a fever, you need more Tylenol.”

Dammit.

“Very sexy, Dr. Barry, thank you.” If nothing else, Len’s voice sounded a little raspy in the good way. Barry tried to pretend it wasn’t driving him crazy.

 “I meant after.”

“Whatever the doctor orders.”

He groaned, “you can cut the doctor stuff any second now.”

“Mmm, so what did you have in mind for helping your patient out?”

Barry gave in and laughed. He was half in Len’s lap by this point and dropped his head onto the other’s chest until he was done giggling. “I can’t believe you.”

“Mm. I can be very dedicated to a role.”

“We are not role playing for the first time I give you a blowjob.”

“Sure we can’t go in for the marathon sex you mentioned?”

Barry felt a kind of giddiness lacing his confidence, kissing Len on the tip of his nose. “Not when you’re liable to sneeze on me halfway through. Just enjoy your blowjob. Like you said, doctor’s orders.”

Len was the one to laugh this time, head tilting back, and he missed Barry’s smirk right before he sped up and zipped them both into the bedroom. Len was midway through a chuckle when he landed on the bed.

“Well that is handy."

“I’m not all cheesy lines and awkward roleplay.”

“So we’re done playing doctor?” Len asked with some amusement, but there was a definite flush to his skin and he leaned up on his elbows. Barry was straddling his thighs, Len laying back on the mattress.

“We are.” He leaned forward to kiss the other man to cut off whatever quip he was going to come up with next.

He tasted like cough syrup and chamomile as soon as Barry’s tongue slipped into his mouth, but whatever, kissing him was worth it. He sucked on Len’s lip and enjoyed the heat of them moving together, getting lost in the feel of it. He couldn't help but rock his hips forward, craving friction, wanting more. Then he remembered that Len was sick and needed air to breathe and moved to his ear, nipping and pretending he was more confident than he actually was, “I can speed you down to your underwear too, if you’re interested.”

“Mm, I could be curious enough to see what that feels—”

He sped up and stripped himself first, revelling in his chance to undress Len. He took a little extra time to skim his fingers on Len’s skin, probably just enough to tickle, but the man was beautiful in a way that almost made Barry ache—a collection of scars and ink, both hard and soft in places and ways that Barry wasn’t.

But then he let his normal speed resume, let himself straddle Len’s hips and grind into the tent in his briefs, captured his lips in a kiss when they both gasped. Len’s hands were in Barry’s hair then, pulling him forward until their bodies were aligned and pressing against one another and Barry felt his erection line up against Len’s and moaned into their kiss.

“God I’ve wanted this for so long.”

“Not my fault we took so long to—”

“Kinda was, if I remember—”

“You started it.”

Barry groaned, uncaring. It wasn’t important now. He was getting too distracted and wrapped up in Len, in the feel of the man’s hands on him, his back and sides, kneading his ass. But they were getting off track and he forcibly pulled himself away from the kiss, mouthing down Len’s neck and chest, sliding his hand between them to Len’s dick—god it was so thick—on the outside of his boxers, massaging until Len was groaning and pressing his hips forward.

“’m pretty pent up,” he mumbled, one hand sliding down Barry’s waist to grip his hip.

“I won’t drag it out, don’t worry.” He punctuated his promise by sliding his way down Len’s body until he was in between the other man’s legs. Len made a rumbling noise in his throat that was almost but not actually a moan, sitting forward and spreading his legs just enough for Barry to fit between them. After that, Barry had had enough of Len’s boxers in the way.

“May I?”

He glanced up at Len and noticed, under the slight fever flush, how eager and nervous he looked, all at once. Len moved his hand down to thumb at Barry’s bottom lip and Barry could see how blown his pupils were.

“Please,” Len voice was still all confidence, and somehow him saying that, calm as you like, went straight to Barry’s cock. He actually moaned and captured Len’s thumb in his mouth, sucked it and held Len’s gaze until it was too much, and then dropped it finally so that he could pull off Len’s underwear.

His mouth may have started to water then. He wouldn’t confirm or deny it if anyone asked.

But he didn’t tease. Well, not too much. He did kiss his way up the insides of Len’s thighs, using more than a little tongue and suction, but he was kind enough to take Len in hand when he did, so really, he wasn’t being cruel. It was just that The Dick was a little intimidating. He wasn’t sure how much was going to fit in his mouth. But he was eager to find out.

And god, Len’s cock was so hot. In every sense. And beautiful. Barry was eyeing it and feeling the weight in his palm and listening to Len’s heavy breathing for each hitch and sound, testing grips, just… enjoying it way too much.

The fact that he got to have this, with Len, without being rushed or nervous. Well, a little nervous. He was out of practice and it was pretty big and this was probably going to be a bit sloppy and too eager and just—

He put his mouth on The Dick. It was the only way to stop his internal monologue from spiraling.

And oh, he had no regrets. The choked-off noise Len made and the way his fists clenched in the sheets the second Barry finally got his mouth on him? Divine. And also informative about just how sensitive he was.

He had promised not to tease but it was hard to deny himself the fun of trying things to see what Len liked, how to move his tongue, if he enjoyed a bit of teeth. It wasn’t long before Len was urging him on, “c’mon Barry, don’t be—ah—cruel,” and Barry took pity on him.

And, well, pity on himself, because he was aching for release and needed to hurry this along. So he got into a rhythm, sucking, lips stretched around it, hand stroking down the shaft in time on what he couldn’t fit in his mouth. He tried (failed) not to think too hard about how it was going to feel inside him. He was already so hard he was going crazy, he didn't need those mental images on top of everything.

Once he got the hang of it, Len was obviously trying to keep himself in check, fisting the sheets, keeping his hips still, and Barry almost smirked. He took one of Len’s hands and urged it to his hair, giving permission, and Len groaned and carded his fingers through the strands, pressed gently on the back of his head. Barry moaned and went with the movement, revelling in being the one to make Len lose his patience, in the way his fingers felt in Barry’s hair.

The fingers gripped tight when he took a little too much, when Len’s cock hit the back of his throat, and the feel of the grip made his eyes roll back. He moaned around Len’s cock and felt himself vibrate involuntarily. Len swore, and pulled again and Barry kept vibrating, half-lost in sensation, already craving his own release.

Len kept swearing, other hand finding its way to Barry’s hair, and it wasn’t long with Barry vibrating before he was moaning, deep and desperate, “fuck, gonna—fuck, Barry, I’m gonna come I'm—”

Barry moaned in a sense of extended sympathy feeling Len’s release, his own cock throbbing between his legs, swallowing and trying not to spill or make an even bigger mess of himself, a little embarrassed at the trail of saliva coming out of the corner of his mouth (vibrating was turning out be a messy business) when he pulled back finally, stroking Len through his aftershocks.

He wiped his chin and grinned and sat up on his knees to check out Len’s blissed out expression.

“Good?”

“Better than good. The vibrating—”

“First time I’ve had a chance to test that out. Is it awesome?”

“Unreal.”

Barry hummed and laid down next to Len, who gathered his wherewithal to roll onto his side a moment later.

“You gonna let me reciprocate?”

“Save your throat, and your germs. Just, uh,” —Barry couldn’t believe he was about to blush now of all times. Really? Really?—“give me a hand?”

Len smirked, hand dropping onto Barry’s hip then nearer. He leaned close, “sure you don’t want me to finger you again?”

Barry’s brain short-circuited at the suggestion. “Fuck, Len, I don’t even think I’ll last that long—”

He chuckled and kissed Barry’s neck, pulling his hand forward to cup Barry’s cock and he shivered.

“Underwear?”

“Y-yeah,” Barry pulled them off in a hurry, beyond being shy at this point. “Len.”

Len’s hand was on him then and Barry found himself clutching him, gasping, hips rocking into Len’s fist.

“Tell me what you like,” Len murmured in his ear and he felt hot all over.

“This—this is good. A little faster… yeah,” Barry swallowed hard, feeling himself vibrate again. “Fuck.”

Len’s hand was smooth and sure and he rocked his hips into it, torn between whimpering and moaning as Len tightened his grip, twirled at the wrist, and did things that Barry was pretty sure his own hand couldn’t do. There was some type of magic in Len’s fingers. Just the thought of those fingers, of where else they could be and what else they could do, and with the way Len was sucking on his neck like he knew just how to take Barry apart and—

He moaned loud and breathy, arching and vibrating as the pressured boil over, coming in Len’s hand.

He opened his eyes to the almost-blinding sight of Len smiling wide. It was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.

“Feel good?”

“I don’t even know how you do some of those things.”

Len chuckled and grabbed a shirt off the ground to wipe his hand on before he laid on his back, propping out an arm for Barry to tuck himself under. He was a little messy still but he didn’t care enough right then, settling in to cuddle. He hadn’t had a chance to cuddle the last time they’d done something like this, back in his accidental shower adventure, and he was going to savor it.

Within minutes, Len was starting to snore quietly, still stuffed up from his cold, and Barry went to clean up and get Len some meds for the morning before tucking himself back into bed. He smiled in the dark and whispered “I love you,” wishing Len was awake to hear it, wishing he was bold enough to say when Len could hear it. Then he rolled onto his stomach and fell asleep.

 

**********

 

Barry was on cloud nine the entirety of Thursday morning and afternoon, after waking up in Len’s bed (the man was still snoozing when Barry snuck off to work). Progress, with conversations and blowjobs and just a generally great night, did wonders for a guy’s ego. And he’d received a positive response about the email inquiry he’d sent out, more positive than he’d expected, so he really might have a plan for stepping outside of the CCPD for a little while, if he wanted it.

He was going to tell Len about it then, realizing his elation meant it genuinely was something he wanted to pursue, though he needed to seriously sit down and work out the logistics. Except that he didn’t see Len Thursday night, and remembered only belatedly that Len had said he’d be up to something that evening.

He did, however, see the Trickster, tearing up downtown with a series of bombs and tricks and gadgets that had Barry’s head spinning. Barry thought he was alone at first, though between all of his new toys, ones that Barry suspected he didn’t pick up on his own, and hostages in some secure location on footage broadcast on the news, it was enough to keep Barry running.

But as soon as Barry got too close to Walker, none other than Mark freaking Mardon appeared, and then Barry was pissed.

It didn’t help that he only discovered Mardon was there because he got struck by lightning from out of nowhere the second he had Walker cornered.

“Why not pick on someone your own size, Flash?”

Mardon’s voice was unmistakable, but Barry’s head was spinning and he couldn’t see him yet. He swore and spit out blood, thanking god—and mostly Cisco—for the lining in his suit that absorbed some of the blast.

“I will if you will, Mardon!” he called in return to—where the hell was—dodged another blast and looked up and—

You can FLY?!”

Mardon laughed from above him, hovering between the two buildings in the alleyway, air seeming to swirl under him. “Catch me if you can, Flash!”

“Wh—shit.”

“Did you say he can fly?!” Caitlin’s voice screeched in his ear, and he looked around for Walker but so no sign of him. Then he was off after the Weather Wizard, listening to his friends debate about Mark Mardon’s abilities, hearing Iris show up to STAR Labs to coordinate with them, with Joe and Eddie with the rest of the CCPD after the Trickster.

He spent the next hour chasing after Mardon and fighting him, dodging ice pellets and lightning, sweating and increasingly frustrated. He was getting updates about the CCPD and their work disarming Axel's bombs, which mostly went off without a hitch except for one of the cops got a decent burn from a blast and Barry rushed away to get her to the hospital before trying to hunt Mark back down. On the upside, so much of the Trickster’s action was right near the main precinct, the one Barry worked at, that the cavalry had arrived quick to corral the Trickster and minimize damage as soon as the mess had started. On the downside, his detour back there took him far enough from Mardon that there was no sign of the man when Barry returned to where he’d last seen him soaring past buildings.

And then everything went too quiet. Apparently Walker had released a series of videos for the CCPD that led them straight to the hostages over the hour, even though they never caught up to the Trickster himself. Meanwhile, Barry was gnashing his teeth when he finally slowed down.

“Anything, guys?” he asked for the fifth time over the comms.

“No sign of Tickster or Weather Wizard, man. No reported breaks ins, no bombs, videos, nothing.”

“Got it. I’m coming in.”

He stopped at home before heading back to STAR Labs to try and get an answer or three from Len but the other man wasn’t home yet. He wasn’t surprised, but he was frustrated, zooming to the lab. This was Walker, and so this was guaranteed part of Len’s plan. Adding Mardon to the mix didn’t impress him much though, especially not when there had been real hostages and real stakes and no apparent gain or reason—no alarms going off on breaks ins in the city, no ransom or goals, no real reason at all unless—

He sped to a stop in the cortex.

“Distraction.”

“What?” Cisco glanced up and Iris held down all the papers that went flying at his entrance.

“Len—Walker—this was all a distraction. It’s got to be. There’s nothing else to gain. It was just a diversion to keep me busy. Or the cops busy. Can you trace Len’s gun? Might tell us what the Rogues are actually up to.”

Caitlin blinked at him. “You want us to… stalk your boyfriend?”

“It’s not—look, it’s Flash and Rogues stuff. He knows that, I know that. And I want to know what the hell he thinks is so important that he convinced Walker to set off bombs all over downtown just for the fun of it.”

There was a pregnant pause and then Cisco walked over to the other computer terminal and started typing. “Gun’s offline. He hasn’t used it in the last 24 hours according to the satellite search for its temperature signature. Whatever he’s up to, he hasn’t had to use it yet.”

Data mining, right. But that just meant Len hadn’t needed the gun to get into and out of wherever he was going.

“Barr…” Iris started, but Barry shook his head.

“It’s fine, Iris. Unless Lisa told you what he’s up to—”

“I don’t think she even knew about this.”

“Right. ‘Kay.”

“He didn’t tell you anything?” She looked dubious and he pinched the bridge of his nose.

“No. Yes. Sort of. Not this, though. I thought it was just him and it would fly under the radar. I don’t know why he thought he had to set up such a dangerous distraction to keep me away, especially if he wasn’t using his gun.”

“Maybe it wasn’t for you,” Cisco sat back in his rolly chair, voice glib. “Maybe Axel was just acting out of turn. Or maybe this is all part of an even more elaborate scheme that involves a three phase system of—”

“Shit you’re right.”

“I am? I was about to go full conspiracy theory man, so maybe you should check that for a sec and—”

“It wasn’t for me. It was for the CCPD.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Len woke up Friday morning (closer to afternoon) at one of his safehouses to half a dozen messages from Barry. He only kept a burner with him when he was on a job and hadn’t checked his actual number before falling into bed after taking more Nyquil than was likely healthy, but waking up to the missed calls was enough to remind him that yes, Barry was smart, and yes, he’d figure out exactly what Len had been up to last night.

He clicked ‘listen’ to the first voicemail.

Where are you? It’s two am and I’m tired of running around the city looking for you. Look, I know you had something to do with this whole Axel and Mardon thing and I just want to pick your brain about it, okay? Call me.

That wasn’t so bad. He listened to the second.

Okay so now it’s three am and still no word. How long do your jobs normally take, anyway? Look, I know Axel and Weather Wizard were a distraction for the cops, I just don’t know why. So if you’re not coming home because you think I’m gonna’ be pissed about it, just… call me.”

Len deleted it and opened the next.

Hey Len, it’s Barry. I’m starting to feel like a crazy person leaving you so many voicemails, but I’m about to head to work and you’re not home yet and now I’m a bit worried because you said this job wasn’t a big deal, whatever it was. If you fell in the river again, I’ll drag you out of the water to kill you myself. Wait, that’s not funny. Shit. Sorry. Okay I’m hanging up now.

Len actually smiled at that one, before coughing and rolling over to listen to the next.

YOU HACKED MY COMPUTER AT WORK?! ARE YOU INSA—” Len held the phone away from his ear. Shit. “—I CAN’T EVEN BEGIN TO—WHY?! Did Hartley help you with this? What the hell were you—okay I’m hanging up before I bust a gasket over here. I’m on the roof of the precinct right now just so I can yell but you’re still not picking up your phone and I don't know whether to be pissed or worried anymore.

Shit. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to listen to the next message. Barry wasn’t supposed to figure out that Len had hacked into the computer in his lab, or that Hartley had been involved. He’d have to ask exactly how he had put it together, as it didn’t sit well with Len that it was so easy to figure out.

The plan had been simple. Axel—and it was not supposed to be Mark too, but that was another story—created a massive diversion downtown which emptied the precinct to a skeleton crew. Then Len and Hartley slipped in disguise, went to Barry’s lab (which was big and creepy but thankfully deserted and what the hell? Why did Barry work in such a strange lab?). From there, Hartley had extracted the info Len needed and hacked into the security feed to erase them ever having been there, also covering Len’s tracks as he swiped a badge from another CSI and made his way down to the evidence storage for the final thing he intended to do. They’d been in and out in under an hour and he had no clue how Barry even knew he’d been in his lab at all.

He bit the bullet and listened to the final message.

Okay. That last message was a little much. I still need to know what the hell you think you were doing in my lab because I’m ninety-nine percent sure it was you. But I’m going to stop calling now and I probably just have just texted instead of leaving you a million voicemails. But if I don’t hear from you by tonight I am gonna be seriously worried and call Lisa so uhh… if you’re alive, at least text me to let me know.

From the real strain in Barry’s voice, Len had a suspicion that he had been a rather shitty boyfriend last night. In his defense, he was new to the whole concept, as relationships weren’t really things that ‘stuck’ for him, at least not this long and with this much feeling, but…

He pulled himself off the moth-eaten mattress, splashed water on his face, took a shot of whiskey (safehouses tended to come with full liquor cabinets but a short supply of cold meds), and texted back ‘I’m alive.

Will you be home tonight?

He was marginally surprised Barry had answered.

Doubtful. The only reason I’ll be home tomorrow night is for this shin-dig you and Lisa have planned because I don't want her to figure out what I’m up to.

He realized what he’d just typed. Don’t tell her I said that.

He needed coffee.

Are you for real right now?

Len sighed, and typed back, We shouldn’t text about this.

So will you pick up your phone if I call?

I didn’t have it with me last night. Didn’t mean to worry you.

… so will you pick up if I call?

Yep, Barry was still pissed. Len tried to quell the knee-jerk anxiety it brought up in him, the need to fix it and avoid it all at once, the instinct to just stop answering or to tell Barry off, because it wouldn’t do any good.

Fine.

He glared at the ‘send’ button trying to decide if it sounded petulant before realizing he didn’t care if it did. Barry called him ten seconds later.

“Okay so new rule: when you get home safely from a job, you text me to let me know you’re not dead or kidnapped.”

“That only happened the once and I was fine,” he snapped. He didn’t need to be coddled.

“To you! D’you know how many times someone I care about has been kidnapped or held hostage or shot or—once is enough! Once is more than too much! I hate not knowing if you’re alive or dead, okay!”

Len felt simultaneously winded and embarrassed. Shit. “Okay, Barry,” he said softly, unable to muster any more bite. “I’ll text next time.”

Thank you,” Barry replied, equally quiet, if more fervent.

When Len couldn’t get a hold of people, mostly Lisa or Mick, it was because they skipped town for a few days or didn’t want to be reached. Someone worrying about him, because they cared, because they loved him… Regardless of whether he’d said it in his sleep or how he meant it, if he loved Len or was in love with him, Barry had said it, and the way he acted around Len, made time for him, worried about him, it was enough to make his head spin.

“I’m not… used to making calls, Barry. It didn’t cross my mind that you’d think I was dead. It wasn’t even a dangerous job.”

“It’s not the… people can get kidnapped just for showing up to a café in this city. And I didn’t really think you were dead, I just… you weren’t home this morning and I’m not used to that. I figured it was ‘cause you were worried I’d be pissed or because you were busy, but you’re sick and you had hypothermia just last week and your dad is a royal asshole and I thought maybe…”

“I get it. But I’m fine.”

Barry let out a long breath on the other end of the line. “You were in my lab, right? Not some other thieves breaking into the CCPD last night?”

Len pursed his lips. “It was me.” And Hartley, but Barry hadn’t asked for confirmation on that. “How did you know? The security footage should have looped over that hour.”

“Cisco. And Felicity. They have a lot of protective software on my computers because I have remote access to some STAR Labs stuff. I got an alert as soon as I logged in that I’d been hacked. Might get Cisco to make it turn on the webcam next time and record whoever it is, actually.”

“Ah.” He should have suspected there would be something like that. “Your lab is creepy, by the way.”

“I like it. And don’t try to change the subject. What were you looking for?”

Len was silent.

“For real? All that and you’re not gonna tell me?” His voice was flat but not amused.

“Not yet.”

“I can’t believe you. Okay,” he let out a sigh that sounded exasperated and Len would bet money on him pinching the bridge of his nose. “You get Axel and Mark Mardon to endanger innocent—

“Mark was an extra. Turns out he’s been bored recently and wanted to see ‘the new kid’ in action. He invited himself along.” Len wasn’t sure what possessed him to tell Barry that except, well, he didn’t want Barry to seriously think Len had pitted him against the Weather Wizard just for fun with no real purpose.

“Whatever, the Rogues endangered lives to get the CCPD out of the precinct just for you to break into my lab to get something—and you won’t tell me what—and you really expect me to be okay with any part of that?”

“We agreed two nights ago that Flash and Rogues business stays out of our relationship. The plan was solid, and even with Mark, the deal stayed intact. No one died. Don’t think anyone innocent even got hurt.”

“One of the officers got hurt. Not dead.”

Len hmm’d. “Occupational hazard.”

“Don’t be a dick.”

“What’d’you want me to say, Scarlet? We agreed—”

“Yeah, okay, we did. And don’t call me that when we’re having an argument, not unless I’m in the suit. But look, you still violated my personal privacy and don’t I get to be frustrated as ‘Barry Allen the CSI whose lab you broke into’ if not as the Flash? And what’s so important on my computer or in the precinct that you couldn’t just ask me about it?”

“… I’d rather not say until I’m done with what I'm cooking up.”

“Fine. Okay. I just… I’ll get over it. But I’ve gotta’ get back to work now because I’ve been up on the roof too long already in case someone drops by my lab. See ya.”

“Barry?”

There was silence on the other end of the line and Len cursed himself internally for stopping Barry from hanging up.

“Never mind. It’s no—”

“What is it, Len?”

“…”

“…”

“… we’re okay, right?”

“Oh,” he said almost too quietly for Len to catch, then a bit louder, in a much less aggravated voice. “Yeah, Len, we’re okay.”

Len felt his chest relax. “Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“See you.”

Just two more days, he told himself. After Sunday night, if he pulled it off clean, he could tell Barry what he’d been up to. Until then, he’d live with the other being frustrated.

 

**********

 

Barry clicked off the phone and stared at it for a minute, heart pounding. He was still pissed, still feeling a niggling sense of betrayal that he knew wasn’t fair given their agreement but wasn’t exactly easy to shake. But he wasn’t so mad that he wanted to say anything that could hurt Len. At the end, he’d wanted to reassure Len that he loved him. But in an argument was not the right time. He should have said something a few days ago when they were home together and sorting things out and Len was sick. But it hadn’t felt like the right lead in then either, and then he’d been distracted.

Now, he felt like an ass for not saying it sooner. Because he knew there wasn’t really such a thing as ‘the right time’ and as afraid as he was to spook Len by saying it early, waiting and holding off was just being cowardly. And because he was frustrated but he wasn’t oblivious. Len seemed to think that Barry was going to cut tail and run whenever Barry was mad at him or unsure of how to navigate their issues. Maybe him knowing Barry loved him would help with that.

A few minutes later, Barry texted him to remind him to take Tylenol and drink a lot of fluids, just to let him know he was thinking of him.

His dumb, sick, adorable, nefarious, wonderful boyfriend. As if Barry could walk away now, as if he wasn’t in way over his head a month ago. He laughed at himself quietly, a little forlorn, and got back to work.

 

**********

 

It turned out that Barry wasn’t the only one pissed at Len. The issue was that Lisa actually knew how to track him down when he wasn’t at home.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing sending Rogues out to make a splash on the front page!” She actually threw a newspaper on his desk for emphasis. He felt it was a bit much in terms of flair.

“What, we can’t have a little fun?”

Fun? What are you up to, Lenny?”

“Playing this one close to the chest, sis.”

He continued scrolling through the files open on his laptop while Lisa glared at him.

“He’s my father too, you know.”

He stopped pretending to focus on the screen and leaned back in his chair, appraising her. “Then you’ll understand why I want you far away from this.”

“I can handle m—”

“I know, you can handle yourself. But I have a plan, and I will take care of it.” His voice dropped to something colder than he intended. It was hard not to, thinking about their father.

“I have a right to be involved. If you’re gonna involve Walker and Mardon and god knows who else—”

“It’s not about rights. This is how it is. That’s final.”

“You don’t get to make that call for me.”

“It’s not like that, Sis.” It was. He couldn’t help it. Being on that boat with their father and having the man’s whole plan be to use Lisa against Len? There was no way he could stand to have her near their father. He could barely stand Mick being involved, if for slightly different reasons. “I have a plan and I’m working it.”

Her eyes narrowed. “And how does your boyfriend feel about what you’re up to?”

Len crossed his arms. “He has very little idea of it and it’s going to stay that way.”

“Oh, that’s how it is?” Lisa arched her eyebrow, face morphing into something without the anger but with the edge. “Well then. Your birthday party is going to be fun.”

He recognized it as the threat it was, but didn’t back down.

Speaking of—when were you going to mention that you invited Cisco Ramon along?”

Her eyes betrayed some surprise before she flipped her hair. “When it became relevant.”

“It was relevant before you decided to do it.”

“I’m not about to apologize. You have your cute heroic nerd, and I should at least have a shot at getting mine.”

“The issue being that mine knows yours and neither of ours can lie worth a damn.”

“Oh don’t worry, Lenny. I’ll play it oblivious, as if I don’t know they know each other. I’m sure Cisco will tell Barry he’s coming so they can get their story straight, so what’s the harm?” She smiled, baring too many teeth. “I promise, it’ll be fun.”

 

**********

 

Saturday came before Barry knew it. He hadn’t seen Len in two days and he was itching to for about a thousand different reasons at this point, but Lisa showed up first.

Barry blinked at her in the door of his apartment midway into the afternoon with bewilderment. Her arms were full of bags.

“Hi?”

“Aren’t you going to invite me in?”

He stepped aside, “come in?”

“Excellent. Have you seen Lenny yet today?”

“Don’t think he’s even been home in two days.”

She made a scathing noise. “Still holed up in his safehouse drowning himself in cold meds.”

“You know where he—”

“Don’t try it, cutie. He likes his safehouses to stay safe.”

Barry rolled his eyes. “How’s he doing?”

“Dickish.”

He felt his eyebrows go up.

“I’m not impressed with him keeping me at arm’s length. But that’s okay. You’re going to help me teach him a lesson.” Her smile was positively predatory.

“Umm…”

“We agreed already, remember? He doesn’t know that you know that I know that you’re the Flash?”

“Oh! Yeah. Um. I know I told you we should tease him about that so that I could use it to get a proper date and apology out of him, but considering how tense things are right now, should we just tell him that I know that you kn—”

Nonsense. Besides, Mick will be there and if you act like you know Cisco then he might be suspicious.” Right. Mick. Barry had almost forgotten that he didn’t know already too. “Don’t worry, Barry. I have a plan; this will be perfect.”

He sincerely doubted that.

“Now, come help me decorate. Cisco will be by in a few hours.”

 

**********

 

After taking more cold meds than was strictly recommended—it turned out they didn’t make him as loopy as he thought they would, and maybe it had been because he always combined them with liquor that that happened—and putting it off for as long as he reasonably could without being scolded by Lisa, Len finally plodded his way home Saturday toward the evening. He’d made himself slightly cross-eyed going over and back over the plan for Sunday until he could recite each line by rote anyway. He couldn’t wait to be done with it all. But first, he had to ‘celebrate’ getting a year older with his too-young boyfriend and too-meddlesome sister.

Lisa’s voice in his apartment heralded her presence before he stepped inside, the door unlocked, making his eye twitch. That indiscretion was nothing next to what the place looked like when he walked in.

“Really, Lise?”

There were streamers and balloons and—

“Lenny!” she called, sing-song from the kitchen. “There’s more in here! There’s a theme this year!”

“A theme?” Everything appeared to be blue that he could see. Captain Cold theme?

Barry’s face popped around the corner while Len hung up his jacket. “Uh, hey.”

He hadn’t seen Barry in a few days and he didn’t know what to expect. Their last conversation had been… tense. But he hoped Barry would understand, when it was all over.

“Hey.”

“How’s the cold?”

“On the mend.” Mostly. Sort of. Enough.

“Good.”

Barry smiled a little, almost shy, but it was enough to relax Len just a little. At least for tonight they could set aside their discord.

“There’s beer in the fridge.”

“Hallelujah.” Like that, something seemed to thaw in Barry’s stance and came over and took Len by surprise with a gentle kiss.

“Happy birthday, old man.”

He knew it was supposed to be a chaste kiss, a greeting, but Len surged forward to recapture Barry’s lips anyway, pulling him in to make it real. He didn’t plan to, it just happened. Barry didn’t complain beyond a startled sound, melting into his body, and Len felt the past twenty-four hours start to slip away.

Barry finally pulled back and Len let him go.

“That was—”

“A few days coming.”

“You two are disgustingly cute.” Lisa’s voice was a mix of fond and scathing and Len shot her a glance, heading toward the kitchen.

“Well you wouldn’t let me spend my evening doing anything of worth so you can put up with it.”

“You’d spend your night pouring over blueprints if I let you.” She rolled her eyes and followed him back into the kitchen.

“Considering it’s my birthday, you’d think I could enjoy it on my own terms.”

“Your terms would probably involve pulling a heist to play foostsies with the Flash if we let you.”

She smirked over at them and Len’s eyes narrowed in warning.

“Can we not discuss my line of work in front of my CSI boyfriend?” He liberated a beer from the fridge.

Barry just cleared his throat and looked almost guilty and Len handed him the beer before grabbing another. The kid was better at lying if he could eat or drink something (basically put anything in his mouth and wasn't that interesting) anytime he was about to say something that would give him away. Somehow, it made him a half-decent liar. It was a neat trick and easy to exploit.

“Oh, Barry’s in agreement with me about this anyway.” She winked and pulled some stuffed mushrooms out of the oven. His appetite must be back because they smelled amazing.

“Is he now?” he aimed for amused but it came out more annoyed.

“I really am, Len. Rather than spend your night, playing, uh, footsie with the Flash, I’d much rather you be here.”

“Here playing footsie with you instead?” Len couldn’t help it, a bit of a smirk made its way into his expression.

Barry’s laugh made it worth it. “Yes, exactly.”

“Mm.”

“Glad that’s settled,” Lisa beamed, “so you can put a smile on since my date’s almost here.”

“Oh goodie. I’ll be sure to play nice with Cisco too.”

“Cisco?” Barry asked innocently, and god the kid was gonna blow his own cover at this rate. Cisco had better have told Barry he was invited to this shindig.

“Cisco Ramon.” Lisa’s smile was positively Cheshire. “Why, do you know him?”

Len tensed while Barry hesitated, “I—uh,” Barry took a swig of his beer, “he’s a liaison at the department, for the meta-human task force. I’ve processed a lot of evidence for them before, and Cisco knows Joe.”

Len settled back against the counter. Always the drink to make the save. Maybe Barry was slowing down time to think of a lie while he had the excuse of a drink in hand? Did his powers work like that? Or was it just a tell like everyone else had?

“Oh how lovely! You already know him. Well, I’m sure he’ll be more comfortable knowing someone else there. And with dating a not-quite-criminal, if he knows a CSI dating my brother.”

“That’s enough, Lise.”

“Are you guys dating?” Barry asked with what Len knew to be mock-curiosity, digging this well deeper. Why Barry was egging Lisa on about this was beyond him.

“Oh no,” she winked at Barry. “I just intend to be soon. And don’t worry, Cisco’s good at keeping secrets, I’m sure you don’t have to worry about him keeping yours.”

She was such a little shit. If she were any more obvious, Barry was going to figure it out. Len opened his mouth but the door buzzer for the building went before he could say anything.

“That must be him! I’ll be right back!”

Len let out a breath and Barry relaxed beside him.

“You gonna be okay, pretending you barely know Cisco?”

“Who me? I’ll be fine. I’m good at keeping secrets at this point. Cisco’s good too.”

Len took a swig and nodded, hoping the evening didn’t blow up in everyone’s face thanks to Lisa’s machinations.

“And thank you,” Barry surprised Len by stepping in close, arms looping around his waist, “for not telling your sister about my identity.” He kissed the side of Len’s mouth, then his jaw. Len ached a bit, still surprised that Barry wasn’t angrier with him, enjoying this and trying not to wait for the other shoe to drop. “I know it must be hard for you to keep that secret from her.”

“I know how important your identity is to you.” It wasn’t even technically a lie. But this was nice, tilting his head back and letting Barry nuzzle his neck. This was more than nice.

“I appreciate it so much,” Barry kissed Len’s neck next and he might start to feel slightly guilty about that too at this rate, about Lisa knowing and Barry not knowing she knew. He hadn’t actually told her anything, but Barry was murmuring how grateful he was as his hands slid up the back of Len’s shirt and he wasn’t sure if the white lie was going to haunt him after this.

When he couldn’t stand it anymore, he dropped his beer on the counter and moved to capture Barry’s lips again. He felt starved. After all their contact, after finally getting in bed together, and then days of not even seeing Barry’s face, this was—

“DUDE!”

Barry jumped out of Len’s arms with a “DUDE!” out of his own mouth before thinking, obviously. “I mean. Um. Hi. I’m Barry. We, uh, we’ve met.”

“Right. Um. Hi.”

Len managed to retain his composure at least, not missing Lisa’s almost manic grin in the doorway beside the nervous engineer. “Cisco. Welcome to my apartment.”

Ramon looked a little tongue-tied. Len hoped he was smart enough to figure out he was supposed to act as if he’d never been there. He was a genius, he should be able to catch on.

“Would you like the grand tour?” Len snatched up his beer again, heading toward the living room.

“Wh—no uhh, I’m good man. I’m cool.” He edged a little closer to Lisa. “Thanks for having me. And… happy birthday?”

He actually proffered a gift bag. Len blinked at it before pulling up a disbelieving drawl, “you got me something?”

“Lisa said it was your birthday.” Len didn’t miss the way he glanced at Barry for confirmation. Len moved forward before Barry was ridiculous enough to be the one to confirm for him.

“It is. At my age, I don’t normally receive gifts though.” He arched an eyebrow toward Lisa at that, who rolled her eyes.

“Don’t spread bad rumors about me, Lenny. I always get you a gift.”

If by ‘a gift’ she was referring to how they’d typically steal something for one another each year around their respective birthdays, then yes she did. He didn’t comment, pulling the bottle of whiskey from the bag.

“Thanks, Cisco. My favorite. How ever did you know?”

“Lucky guess?” Cisco tucked his hair behind his ear and Len took a moment to repress a wince because the idiot must have asked Barry instead of Lisa for advice on it. Thank god these were the good guys and not criminals or they’d both be dead already.

“Right.” He left it at that, taking the bottle to the liquor cabinet while Lisa took back over. Barry was just sipping his drink with quiet amusement in his expression. At least one of them was relaxed now.

“Can I get you a drink, Cisco? Hors d’oevre? I made some snacks,” Lisa was saying.

“Maybe a—”

The door opened and they all glanced over as one.

“Hey Mick.”

“Just wait a sec, Aiden, just let me get your jacket off—hey Snart—there you go.”

She ran into the room with a delighted squeal, straight to Len’s leg which she wrapped herself around, looking up at him with huge blue eyes. “Happy birfday, Un’ca Len!”

Well if his bad mood could possibly persist in the face of that, he really would be a supervillain. “Thanks Aiden.” He hoisted her up into his arms while Mick hung up their jackets in the entry and Barry helped grab his bags—one that looked suspiciously full of what could only be the shape of a cake package and why they wouldn’t let him bake his own for his birthday was beyond him—when Aiden caught sight of Cisco.

“Mister ‘Sco!”

Len’s stomach dropped but Cisco grinned, “Warmwave! Hi!” He waved daintily with a huge smile, coming closer, and Len swore internally in a thousand shades. Lisa’s eyes looked for the first time like a deer in the headlights.

She didn’t know Cisco had met Aiden. Len had forgotten. Barry probably didn’t know Aiden was even coming. What an embarrassing oversight.

“How do you know my daughter, Ramon?”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

For a moment, nobody moved. Len counted six whole seconds, wracking his brain.

“Um—” like the (not) genius he was, Cisco looked to Barry for help. Barry looked to Len. Len opened his mouth, still not sure what words were going to come out, except—

“Didn’t I mention, Mick?” Lisa laughed easily. “I brought Cisco along with me when I took Aiden shopping last weekend.”

What?

Len had no idea why she would lie. She had to know that he would know it was a lie, and that Barry would know it was a lie. It was a lie, right?

“Yeah, haha,” Cisco tucked his hair behind his ear, other hand shoved in his pocket, slumped in a little on himself. Too many obvious tells. “Lisa told me she was your daughter and I thought she deserved a, er, alias?”

Mick looked at him, at Aiden, and then to Lisa. “You introduced my daughter to the Flash’s right-hand man without my permission?”

Lisa’s smile dropped. Barry got even more tense. Cisco let out a strangled sound.

“Fwash?” Aiden asked innocently from Len’s arms, blinking at her dad in confusion. Len followed her lead.

“Yes Aiden, the Flash. You like the Flash, right?”

“Ya!”

“See, Mick? No harm no foul. I’m sure Lise wouldn’t make any introductions if she didn’t trust Cisco to keep it a secret.”

Lisa’s smiled was even brighter this time, a little strained. “And he will keep it secret, Mick. Cisco’s even visited my apartment, and now Lenny’s, and of course none of that has made it back to the Flash yet.”

Len didn’t know whether to hug his sister or kill her, at this rate.

“When did you visit Lisa’s?” Barry blurted out, directed at Cisco.

Len stepped on his foot. He was going to blow his own damn cover and have only himself to blame.

“Wha—oh, uh, a few…times… now?” he glanced at Len as if waiting for hell to rain down. His fear would be cute if Len wasn’t ready to ask Mick to torch the entire party and wash his hands of the mess these three were making.

“Dude!”

“It’s not like you have any room to judge, man! You’re dating Captain Cold!”

“Cold!” Aiden exclaimed, wiggling in Len’s arms to hug him, giggling, investing herself in the conversation.

Mick eyed them all in suspicion. “What’m I missin’ here?”

“Cisco knows Barry from the CCPD.” Len really wasn’t about to let of these brats dig themselves deeper coming up with more lies. Or half-truths.

Mick grunted. “Got it.”

If there was one birthday miracle, it was that Mick didn’t give a shit about drama and details. “Ramon,” he said, louder, interrupting Barry and Cisco chiding one another, much to Lisa’s obvious amusement. “My daughter can’t be named Warmwave. That’s dumb.”

“Uh…”

“She doesn’t like fire. ‘N warm waves aren’t a thing.”

“Oh! Uh. Normally people like my names, man, I don’t…” he caught sight of Mick’s expression. “Right, okay, changing it, yessir, just give me a few minutes and I’ll…” he waved vaguely to indicate something, the secrets of alias-making maybe, an esoteric science known only to him.

Len glanced at Barry, who was curiously calm about this, and then set Aiden back onto her own two feet. “Why don’t you we get you some juice, hmm? Cisco was just about to get a drink too.” He glanced up from where he was kneeling with Aiden. “Want anything, Mick?”

Mick nodded and hoisted a case of beer and something in a paper bag, and somehow (Len was still trying to determine how, just really, how), no one had figured out anything. Was Barry really that oblivious? Did he think Cisco and Lisa were telling the truth? He had missed that Len reorganized his cupboards the one time…

“Beer or whiskey, Mick?”

“Bubbly.”

Bubbly?

Mick proffered the brown bag with a rare solemnity. “For the birthday boy.”

“You really shouldn—what the shit, Mick?”

An impish grin spread across Mick’s face, “it’s on theme.”

It was a bottle of Frozen themed sparkling wine with that ice princess on it. The blue streamers suddenly made sense.

“How much Frozen shit do I have to put up with tonight?”

“Just wait till you see the cake, buddy. Lady at the shop thought it was for Aiden.”

Len poured himself a hefty drink. He fucking deserved it. He also popped some cold meds because he had a feeling it was going to be a long night.

Mick followed Cisco to the living room after drinks were served, with Len settled against the door frame sipping his beer, watching them interact. Cisco kept a healthy distance, never far from Lisa or Barry, but he seemed lured into Aiden’s orbit now that she was on Mick’s lap.

They were debating the merits of the alias. Len had to smile.

“Heatwave works for me. I like to set things on fire. Aiden likes trucks and dinosaurs and Monster High.”

Cisco’s expression was amazing to witness, almost ten different things at once. Disagreement was definitely among them, but he obviously wasn’t about to argue while he was sharing a couch with Heatwave. “Right. Uh, anything… you had… in mind?”

They talked, Aiden played, sliding off her dad’s lap after a few minutes and tugging on Barry’s arm to make him play. Len started to relax, motioning to Lisa. She gave him a droll look and sauntered over.

“Cisco’s been visiting your place, huh?”

She smiled around her vodka water. “Once or twice.”

“And that’s obviously where he met Aiden.”

“Obviously.”

“Why’d you cover for me?”

“What would be the fun in letting your party be ruined?”

He eyed her suspiciously. “Barry ‘n Cisco’ll know you were lying.”

“What’s the harm there?”

He eyed her. “Does Barry know you know?”

“Of course not, Lenny. Don’t be so paranoid.”

Len stilled.

He knew all of his sister’s tells. They were barely there, but they existed, in her eyes, that smile and—

When had Barry learned that Lisa knew? Did he know that Len also knew Lisa knew?

“Come on, brother, I can see you thinking too hard. It’s fine. Barry won’t suspect a thing, don’t worry.” She smiled like a wolf and went to check on dinner, calling Barry into the kitchen ‘for help’ moments later.

Len finished his drink, already revisiting his wish to get Mick to burn the party down. Setting off the fire alarm had worked out so well for him the one time, after all.

Maybe if the cold meds interacted badly with this booze, he’d miraculously forget this party ever happened. One could always hope.

 

**********

 

“Len knows.”

Barry blinked at the complete non-sequitur as Lisa passed him a potato masher. “Uhhh…”

“He knows that you know that I know about you.”

“Oh! Oh. Uh, yeah. That makes… that thing with Cisco got a little transparent, huh?”

“You didn’t tell me he met Aiden!” she hissed at Barry, like this was somehow his fault.

“You didn’t tell me Aiden was gonna be here tonight!”

“Get mashing.”

“Roger roger, Golden Glider.”

She shot him a scathing look and he grinned at her, rolling up his sleeves to start mashing. “Look it’s fine anyway. If Len knows that I know you know, we can probably just drop the whole—”

Drop it? Barry, I play to win.”

“Win what? This was my idea.”

“That you asked me for help with. Look dear, thing is, he isn’t going to know that you know that he knows that I know about you, or if he figures that out, he still won’t know that you know that he knows that you know that I know about you—”

“Wait, what?”

“He won’t know that you know—”

“No no, just let me think.” He ran it around in his head three times trying to make sense of it. “So he knows I know that you know, but you don’t think he’s figured out that I know he knows that you know?”

Was that right? He wasn’t sure if was speaking gibberish.

“Exactly!”

Whew. But, “what’s your point?”

“That so long as he doesn’t know you know that he knows, then we can still get him.”

“Wait, why? Because he doesn’t know that I know that he knows about you knowing, or is it because now he doesn’t know that I know that he knows that I know about you knowing?”

Lisa looked at him, “wait, ah—right, okay, both. I think.”

“You’re just as confused as I am, aren’t you?”

“Nonsense.”

They both couldn’t contain their grins. This was a new level, even for him. “Are all your schemes like this? Because I gotta say, I think I’d rather face off against you planning heists than Len.”

“Oh shut it,” she flicked his arm and scooped up the bowl of pot of smooth potatoes to scoop them into a bowl for the table. “Look, if he knows then we should get Cisco in the loop for this.”

“For what?” Barry was being loaded up with various bowls and objects to carry to the table, balancing precariously.

“Cisco dear, can you come help carry food?” Lisa called through to the living room before turning back to Barry. “Obviously for our plan to make Len fess up and tell you that he knows so that you can lord it over him. Keep up, Barry.”

“Can’t I just do that anyway?”

“What can I carry?” Cisco appeared next to him, taking bowls off Barry’s arms. “Dude I didn’t know you could balance like that.”

He couldn’t. He was pretty sure Lisa was employing some minor witchcraft of keeping him perfectly still while balancing things on him.

“Of course not, Barry—you can’t take the high road unless he’s the one to fess up. You know that I know and you know that he knows, but you didn’t say anything so you don’t get any moral superiority here.”

Cisco looked between them. “Who knows what?”

Barry just groaned and carried his share of items to the dining area.

 

**********

 

Cisco and Lisa and Barry were in cahoots. It was the only explanation.

Dinner had seemed normal. Casual. Almost too casual. Though Len was pretty sure he was getting high on the cold meds + booze combination if that was a serious thought he’d just had.

But the point remained, they were up to something. Because Cisco looked like a ball of tension and Barry and Lisa kept exchanging glances and Cisco’s hand kept drifting toward his phone only for Lisa to give her head a subtle shake and if they thought Len didn’t catch any of it, they were clearly crazy.

After dinner was gifts (which he begrudgingly opening, not missing the flirtatious way Barry said “I’ll give you your present later” much to the dismay of Lisa who groaned and Cisco who looked like a deer in the headlights. At least Mick guffawed over it, but Len couldn’t really say anything too off color with Aiden sitting right there), and then after gifts was a round of poker (with Frozen-themed cards and where had Mick even found those?), and during poker, finally something happened to boil over the weirdness of how they were behaving.

Barry’s phone went off with an alert that Len had come to recognize.

‘The city is in danger and only the Flash can save it’ alert. Cisco was typing on his phone at the same time, and Barry, instead of rushing up to check it, made a show of pulling it out of his pocket and wincing and saying “it’s work” while Lisa just arched a cool eyebrow at him.

Len felt tempted to do the same in return. “Better take the call then, Barry.”

“Right, I’ll… kitchen.”

Barry slipped into the kitchen and Len followed him out. Mick took a swig of his beer with a questioning look that Len shook his head to. “Deal me in, I’ll just be a sec.”

Barry was gnawing on his thumbnail when Len entered. “Hey, so uh, can you cover for me with Mick and Lisa? It’s an alert on Cisco’s metahuman app and I want to check it out?”

Len wanted to feel guilty about being suspicious, except that he still felt suspicious. “Convenient timing.”

There it was, Barry’s slow nod. “Uh, yeah. Sorry? I’ll be back quick I’m sure. Just uh, just make sure Lisa doesn’t suspect anything.”

Cahoots.

Convenient timing.

Lisa’s smirk.

Of course.

Barry didn’t just know that Lisa knew, he knew that Len knew that Lisa knew. And maybe, with how he’d responded to Lisa earlier, they even knew that Len knew they knew.  

And that… that changed things.

But for now… “Of course, Barry. She won’t suspect a thing.” He tempered his smirk into something that was aiming toward reassuring. “I’ll cover for you to Lise.”

But then he was slipping out and Len swanned back into the dining room with a fresh drink. “Barry’s just gotta run and check on something. Shouldn’t be long.”

“He’s gon’?” Aiden looked up from her dad’s lap, playing with his cards.

“He’s coming back soon.”

“Good!”

Mick plucked his cards from her hands gently, “perks o’ dating the guy next door, huh?”

“Hopefully he can just check someone on his laptop, yes. Would be a shame if had to speed all the way to work this time of night to clean up someone else’s mess.” He smiled at Lisa, ready to bare his teeth.

Cisco slunked lower in his seat and tanked that round.

 

**********

 

What did you say to him?

Barry blinked at the text, munching on a cookie outside Crossroads (it only took 10 seconds to get to, how could he resist a little after-dinner snack?).

Nothing? Just to cover for me with you and Mick, like you told me to.

He’s smirking at me. He’s punning. I think he knows.

He knows… that I know that he knows you know? Or just that I know you know?

Lisa’s response was a series of emojis all rolling her eyes at him.

What does that even mean?

It means it doesn’t matter because – HE KNOWS

The next text came from Cisco, part of their group chat.

Ftr I don’t know anything I’m so confused here guys

It’s okay sweety.
But if lenny knows that barry knows that he knows or that I know then we better plan something more.

Barry started to shake his head. What was with the Snart siblings? This was worse than whenever the West family got competitive. He was never inviting either of them over for games night.

Can I come back yet?

Y. damage control time

Barry didn’t ask, just jogged back at what was a light pace, for him, making sure his hair didn’t look too windswept before sliding back in the door.

 

**********

 

Len pulled Cisco aside and onto his balcony when Lisa slipped into the bathroom after the next round, catching him typing on his phone.

“A word?”

“YI—AH—” he fumbled with his phone and caught it, snatching it close to his chest in an exaggerated move that Len tried hard not to laugh at. “Whoa, man, do they give you like stealth classes or something when you sign up to be a criminal?”

“Stealth class, locking picking 101, security systems advanced lecture,” Len checked them off with his fingers until Cisco rolled his eyes.

“I know what they’re up to, Cisco.”

“Up to? No one’s up to any—”

“Cut the crap. I know Barry knows I know.”

“That Lisa knows?”

“Yes.”

“Yeah they’re confusing as hell but they’re really not that subtle.”

“You don’t say.”

“But if you know that he knows…” he looked like he was counting on his fingers for a second “…that you know that she knows, then why don’t you just own up?”

“Because I don’t like being jerked around.”

Cisco sighed in a way so put-upon Len almost had to empathize. “What is it with you guys?”

“We hate to lose.”

“Kinda figured that one out, man. Like, the first time we met, really.”

“You’re going to help me.”

“What?! No, no dude I’m here with Lisa, I’m not about to jump ship and—”

“In return, I won’t give you any hell for dating her.” Not that he would anyway, but since Cisco obviously thought he was just biding his time for a few well-placed threats… “Don’t worry, I don’t ask much.”

Cisco eyed him but Len could see the exact second he threw in the towel.

“Where do I sign up?”

 

**********

 

Barry slipped back into the apartment with a sheepish grin. “Sorry about that, you know how work is.”

“Not really,” Len drawled, clinking his beer with Mick’s.

Barry scowled in response but ultimately couldn’t deny that it was a little funny. “Did I miss cake?”

“Of course not.”

Small favors. In the madness that was the Snart siblings attempting to out-subterfuge the other, at least he was going to get some fancy upperscale bakery lactose-free cake out of the night.

That and, so long as the siblings’ shenanigans didn’t ruin the evening, hopefully some incredible sex after everyone went home.

He wasn’t sure where that would land. Len was still sick, Barry was still frustrated about his lab and computer being broken into, and things were a bit off-kilter. But off-kilter was proving to be the norm and all strangeness of the evening aside, it felt lighthearted and like a truce, in its own way.

He was really, really looking forward to it, if Len was in the mood.

It was all he could think of when they popped the champagne and when, for Aiden’s sake, they actually sang Happy Birthday to Len, who pulled his best put-upon expression and threatened to burn the Frozen themed party hats Mick pulled out.

“Don’t you mean ice?”

“Those atrocities aren’t worth pulling out my cold gun, Mick. Your lighter will do just fine. Or your heat gun, if you have it. My cold gun does more damage than it anyway.”

“Oh ho, you think so, Snart?”

Len rolled his shoulder casually, “I do.”

“Pretty sure the flame has more power than the frost, buddy.”

“It’s the frost that stops the Flash after all, I’d say cold has the most potential.”

Barry eyed him. Did he really need to be riling up Mick into a pissing contest over their guns?

Cisco must agree, because he raised his hands placatingly, “now gentlemen, as the maker of your esteemed—” he coughed—“stolen weapons, I’ve got to say they’re about equal in terms of damage.”

“I disagree,” Len said.

“Well,” Lisa cut in with a sharp look, “it’s not like there’s any way to test so I wouldn’t think it’s worth worrying about.”

“We could always burn something down,” Mick grinned. Barry glanced at Aiden, starting to fall asleep on the couch, and frowned.

“No Mick, that favors your weapon. I’d say the only way to truly test it would be a face-off with the Flash.”

What?!” Barry squawked at the same time as Mick said, “now you’re talking.”

He looked at Cisco for help but his friend was slowly nodding as if there was some merit to it. “You know…” he said slowly, “you wouldn’t even have to face off with him. It’s his off night, y’know? I could call him though, see if he thinks one hurts worse than the other.”

What?! Barry tried to catch Cisco’s eye but his friend was tapping his lip thoughtfully and looking and Len.

“Oh you could?” Len’s voice was almost a purr and Barry’s stomach shot to unease. Oh. Oh. This was a setup. “That would be handy.”

“Flash ain’t gonna have a problem with you drinking with us?” Mick waved between himself and Len. Barry fought hard not to choke on air. Lisa caught his eye, looking put out and suspicious.

“Nah, he’s cool. He knows I’m seeing Lisa.”

“Cisco, dear,” she cut in finally, “I really don’t think you need to call the Flash.”

“I agree,” Barry piped up.

“Oh now, this oughtta be good.” Mick rubbed his hands together. Len smirked. Barry could kick him.

“I’m sure Cisco does have him on speed dial, don’t you?”

“You bet!”

“Okay you know what!” Barry cut in. Len gave him a sharp look to not do anything stupid but honestly, as if. He shot Len a glare. “I get that this is a pissing contest between Captain Cold and Heatwave, but at least on your birthday, can’t we just have a nice time without you putting on the alias? You don’t have to show off for Cisco here just because he’s friends with the Flash.”

“My my Barry, are you jealous?”

Barry puffed out his chest. “I’m not jealous. I just… me and Lisa just wanted this to a nice relaxing evening for you. I’m sure the Flash gives you plenty to worry about in your day to day life already without calling him up on your off nights and putting you on his radar.”

There was a beat of silence. Len looked like he was calculating his next move. To Barry’s extreme surprise, Mick broke it with a loud laugh. “Well ain’t that the cutest thing, Snart. Jailbait here’s worried the Flash is gonna tag you.”

Yes! Yes, that’s what I’m worried about. Yes. Mick gets me. Thank you, Mick.”

Barry nodded at Mick, who nodded back. Thank god. Lisa spoke up before Len could get a word in edgewise too.

“Well, now that that’s settled—let’s have some cake!”

 

**********

 

It wasn’t long later that Mick went home. Aiden roused herself to eat cake but mostly yawned and pushed it over to her dad to eat for her. She also sniffed his glass of champagne and stuck a finger in it to taste, screwing up her face after with a ‘blech’ followed fast by ‘I’m tired’.

Mick was packing up her stuff and Len was making sure they didn’t forget anything when he noticed Cisco staring pensively at her.

“You know… you’re right. She’s not really a Warm Wave. She’s more… she’s softer, you know?”

Mick grunted, “told you.”

“Like she’s got fire, but it’s more like… contained, like the calm after the stor—oh. Oh dude that’s it! She’s like an ember. Made from fire but just kinda glowing, you know?”

“Ember.”

“For her alias.”

Mick nodded once, decisively. “I like it.”

“You do?”

He clapped Cisco on the shoulder. “You’re not so bad, Ramon. Even if I wanna burn your pal.”

Cisco looked like his knees were about to buckle and Len caught Barry snorting at the sight. Len let his own good humor take over too, watching Mick pick up the little ball of a snow suit and curls that was his daughter.

“Ember,” Len said mostly to himself, nodding. It really did fit.

“See you tomorrow, Snart?”

He tensed but nodded. “See you then, Mick.”

He ignored Barry and Lisa’s questioning glances to close the door behind Mick.

Then he turned around to the tree brats still in his apartment. “Shame you never let Cisco call the Flash, Barry. I figured you’d want to meet him, what with him being the hero of Central City and all that. I know you’re a fan.”

He smirked and Lisa looked ready to open her mouth but Barry threw his hands in the air in defeat.

“I know, okay! I know that you know that I know that—look this is so dumb. Lisa knows. I’m never playing a game of chicken with either of you ever again. Or poker. I swear to god you both count cards for fun.”

Len wasn’t about to deny it, but that wasn’t the part of that speech that had him grinning ear to ear. Cisco let out a soft Spanish curse and relaxed against the nearest wall.

“I thought I was gonna have a heart attack, man.”

“What gave it all away?” Lisa was pouting. Typical, because she lost. This had to have been her doing.

“You have tells.”

“So do you.”

“Puns, apparently,” Barry slipped in, making himself another cocktail.

“How long have you known she knows?”

“Since uh… Since she took me suit shopping.”

“Well color me impressed, you lie better than I thought.”

“Hide in plain sight.”

Len felt a little proud, he wasn’t going to deny it. “Fix me one of those?”

Barry handed him the one he’d just finished making and started pouring another.

“So,” he sipped the drink and turned to Lisa, “was this whole night just your competitive edge coming out then?”

She scoffed, “don’t be an ass. I wanted to throw you a party long before any of these ideas ever came together. But you hardly ever let us celebrate you. I just wanted you to have some fun and get your mind off work, Lenny.”

Oh. Well. He had to admit… it had taken his mind off things. He hadn’t thought about the Rogues or about his father all night, not even when they were on the verge of fake-calling the Flash with Mick in the room.

He supposed he could admit a bit of defeat too. It would make her happy, at least. “Alright then, sis. I cave. Had a good night, can’t even complain about the cake.”

“That’s all I wanted.”

He glanced between her and Cisco. “You lovebirds sticking around?”

“Oh no, we’ll get out of your hair now that the fun’s over. Or just beginning. Whatever floats your boat.”

He curled his lip at the last remark. “Thanks.”

They said their goodbyes, Lisa in a good enough mood despite being defeated, Cisco with a sheepish smile that Len tried not to role his eyes at.

“You kids have fun.”

And then it was just him and Barry and Len let himself feel tired again. The drinks were keeping his sinuses clear but not helping with the fever he might be running, the exhausting lacing his bones.

Still, he refused to give in to feeling tired. The night wasn’t over yet.

Barry was already turning to the kitchen to start tidying up and Len followed him in.

“Thanks for the party.”

“Anything for the birthday boy.”

He snorted, almost couldn’t help it. “Anything like teaming up with my sister to try and one-up me?”

“In my defense, I tried to convince her to drop it.”

“Why hide it at all, if you found out a while ago?”

“Why did you?”

Len tipped his head to acknowledge the point.

“I’m actually waiting for an answer here. Because I hid it to prove a point and mostly to try to use it as leverage to get a nice dinner date. I’m still not actually sure why you hid it though.”

Oh. “Prudence.”

“Prudence?”

It was silly not to admit it tonight, but it hadn’t been silly at the time. “Wasn’t totally sure she knew, just… assumed.”

“You were sure.”

He conceded the point. “I was sure. But I was also… coming to enjoy this,” he motioned between them. “Having an excuse to keep it going was handy.”

“You mean until that time you tried to dump me?”

Len winced. “Preemptive strike.”

Riiiight,” it sounded sarcastic but Barry was smiling even if he was rolling his eyes, so Len would take it.

“You know you don’t have to clean up this second, right?”

Barry glanced over from putting dishes in the sink, “I can’t just leave it to the birthday boy,” he said, but there was something of an undercurrent to it, a question, lashes a little lowered. Len moved into his space, coming up behind him at the counter, arms finding their way around Barry’s lean waist.

“I think it can wait until the morning. After all, you did say something about giving me my present later.”

 

Chapter Text

Barry felt Len wrap his arms around him, stilling from putting the dishes on the counter.

“I do recall saying something like that, yes.” He leaned back into Len’s body for emphasis, heartrate starting to tick up. It wasn’t that he was nervous about sex, not really. He loved sex. It was that he was nervous about his first time having sex, or this type of sex anyway, with Len.

But Len kissed his neck and he sighed, eyes fluttering closed as he titled his head and felt Len do it again.

“So then you are up for having your wicked way with me?” Barry reached behind himself as he asked it, hand wrapping around Len’s shoulder then up to skim over his short shorn hair as he started to kiss Barry’s neck more earnestly, tongue sliding over the skin before gently sinking his teeth into it.

“Mm,” was the only reply Barry got but he wasn’t complaining, eyes rolling back with the things Len was doing to his neck, the spots he knew were sensitive.

It didn’t take long for him to turn around, to kiss Len, pulling him in close, feeling the counter press into his lower back as Len pushed him against it, kissing him harder.

It went fast from good to better, hot to gasping.

Somewhere between Len’s hands up his shirt and his leg between Barry’s thighs, between him tugging on Len’s shirt and nipping at Len’s jaw, he had the errant thought that it might be a good idea to take this to be bedroom if he didn’t want to end up being taken on the counter itself.

Len must’ve had the same idea. He pulled back and took a few quick breaths, panted against the skin of Barry’s bared clavicle.

“This is—”

“Long overdue. Bedroom?”

“Lead the way.”

Len let out a sound not entirely unlike a pleased growl and Barry was caught between thinking it was the most ridiculous and most sexy thing in the world. It was followed by Len coughing a bit which definitely cinched it as ridiculous though, so he was grinning following Len to his bedroom.

“Still sick?”

“Healthy enough for this.”

“Well don’t worry too much,” Barry moved right up behind him, whispering in his ear, “my plan is to do most of the work.”

Len hummed, moving back slightly into Barry. “That so?”

“Mhm. I want to ride you.”

Len titled his head back to rest on Barry’s shoulder. “Happy birthday to me.” He sounded pleased and Barry grinned.

They navigated themselves to the bed, shedding clothes along the way. Barry was always going to be a bit nervous about this part, letting Len undo his pants, his lean torso already bare, but Len was nervous about it too and that made it easier. Easier to lean in and kiss him and distract him for a minute when his body was thrumming with electricity and excitement, easy not to be shy about the hitch in his breath when Len’s hand dragged over the front of his briefs before sliding them off his skin.

Len’s underwear was divested shortly after, each of them feeling handsy, exploring. Barry moved to straddle him and his hands kept straying down, not able to help himself from touching, stroking Len. He titled his head into the crook of Len’s neck when the man’s own fingers started to slide down his back, to tease over the skin of his ass, just gently for now but as much as Barry wanted to savor this, he really wanted Len to get on with that part too.

After all, the prep was going to take a while.

“You gonna stop teasing me?” He kissed Len’s neck gently.

“Mm, just waiting for an invitation.”

“You’ve been invited. Doubly. Triply.”

Len chuckled and Barry felt it in his skin. Then they were leaning sideways to grab the lube and the show was finally on the road. The next time Len’s hands were on him they were far more targeted. One pulling at his cheek to spread it, the other—

“Ah—oh, that’s…mmm.” Barry shifted up a little higher on Len’s lap, straightening his back until it was arching slightly, looking down at Len now as he felt the first finger pressing in and out of his body.

“God you’re gorgeous.”

Barry knew he was probably getting red and flushed, wanted to deny the compliment but he knew that Len believed it.

“You’re one to talk.”

Len pressed a second finger against him and Barry sighed, giving up on comebacks and banter to let out a breathy sound, spreading his legs a little wider. Len pumped in both of them and Barry had long since given up on stroking the other man, holding onto his shoulders instead. He leaned forward to kiss Len, gasping as he felt a third finger tease against his rim.

He moaned against Len’s lips and leaned back to press himself against the digit. He could feel it stretching him, the slight burn as it pressed in alongside the others, the way his body tried to clamp down against the intrusion.

“Damn Barry, you’re still so tight.”

“Nnn, but it feels so good.”

“Let’s take this from a new position.”

Barry almost wanted to protest but had to agree the angle could be better, even if it meant sliding off Len. He moved, lamenting the lack of fingers inside him for the moment, letting Len nudge him until he was on his knees, bending down onto his elbows.

Len’s fingers were sliding circles around his rim a moment later.

“You just wanted the best view,” he teased. He felt vulnerable, but also couldn’t help that the tinge of shame was making him feel hot all over, bending a little deeper when he heard Len chuckle, low and dark.

“I won’t pretend otherwise.”

He nudged Barry to spread his legs wider and he did, feeling two of Len’s fingers finally sink back into him.

They both moaned. Len started to pump the digits in and out and it wasn’t long before Barry felt precum sliding down his cock, trying to hold back at least some of the noises. He felt that third finger again, pushing its way in, the way it helped stretch him out.

“Sometime when I’m not sick,” Len’s voice was low and hot, “I’m going to eat this pretty hole like it’s dessert.” He crooked his fingers the moment he said it and Barry choked out a sound, eyes rolling back.

He rocked his hips back, almost desperate. “Jesus fuck, Len—“ his fingers were sliding right over Barry’s prostate, “god you’re gonna make me—”

He vibrated and bit his lip, trying to hold on.

“Do it, Barry. Come.” His free hand moved from Barry’s hip to his cock, stroking it in short, hot pulses and it was over—he stilled, tight and wound and just—he groaned and shuddered, maybe vibrated, cumming, making a mess as he rocked himself against Len’s hands and gasped in air, swearing hoarsely as he started to come down.

He felt Len’s fingers inside him still and start to pull out before stopping, stretching a little. Barry closed his eyes against the slight burn, feeling Len’s pinky finger testing his rim, pushing in ever so slightly against flesh that didn’t want to yield.

“C’mon,” Barry whispered, urging wanting him to just do it if he was going for it.

“Does it hurt?”

“Just a bit, it’s fine.”

Len hummed but didn’t press it in. Instead, his thumb started to gentle run back and forth against the nearby skin, almost soothing.

“We might have to wait.”

Did he mean—for sex? Barry glanced over his shoulder. “I can take it. Trust me.”

Len frowned at him, just a little. “Be honest with me, Barry—have you ever had someone as big as me, or do you just think you want it this big?”

Barry looked at ‘this’, that he was indicating—The Dick. Which he should really stop calling it that, but yeah, the hard and ah, rather thick cock between his legs, the one Len’s free hand was wrapped around now, idly stroking.

Barry forced himself to stop staring and look back up at Len’s face, mouth a little dry, going for honest since Len was being serious. “It’s, uh, a little bigger than any… I mean that dildo you’re harboring is the only sex toy I’ve ever been brave enough to buy and that’s not even really… and it’s been a while since I did this. Like. A long while. And my college boyfriend was big but he wasn’t a porn star.”

Len snorted at that last bit, “right. Well let’s just say I do have some experience with fitting this in someone, and you’re gonna hurt if I try it right now. Maybe tear.”

 “Tear? For real, Len? C’mon, I’ll be fine. I want you.”

Len’s fingers were still inside him and they pressed forward gently, pinky teasing again and it pressed in, finally, just a little and Barry wished he’d had a little more warning because he let out a hiss, feeling his rim tighten and stretch around the digits, feeling just how tight the fit actually was.

Len pulled it out and Barry wished his shoulders didn’t sag in relief, just a little. “You’re still tight as hell ‘n my dick’s a lot wider than the tips of my fingers.”

Barry was caught between how incredibly hot that was, how he was already getting hard again from the stretch, the feel of Len’s fingers—just two again because he was a bastard—still gently stroking inside him, and the reality of the situation. Which was that he was pretty sure it was going to be a turn off for Len if he was hissing the whole time or clamped down so hard that the man lost circulation in his dick.

“Alright, problem acknowledged.” They shifted so that Barry could roll onto his back, Len sat back on his knees. “you’d think with superpowers something like this wouldn’t be an issue.”

Len looked chagrined for a second, “I figure… superpowers might be the issue.”

“What? Why?”

He moved to lay alongside Barry, wiping his hand on a cloth from the nightstand with a thoughtful look on his face. “Am I right in guessing you finger yourself… regularly?”

“Yeah?”

“Up to three?”

Only Len would ask for details. Barry squirmed. “Sometimes. Not… that often.”

“Do you have any concept of just how tight you are, for someone who’s used to taking some fingers up there pretty often?”

It started to click. “You don’t think I’m, what, healing? Like, each time I’m done, automatically going back to be being, uh, as tight as…”

He really didn’t want to say it but Len winced and yeah, that was the basic idea.

“Shit.”

So much for muscle-memory and all that. He should be able to relax through it, it wasn’t like it was his first time for real, but… yeah, relaxed or not, he wasn’t used to taking anything as thick as Len, and it might take some practice to get used to going from… as tight as he apparently was to that in the space of a session.

But Barry wasn’t about to give up. “Okay. That’s a problem. I’m still ready to try. I don’t mind taking our time. Any ideas? More fingering? I could do it at high-speed maybe?”

Len pursed his lips. “Maybe another time. For now… there is something else we could do, but it won’t lead to my dick in you this evening.”

There was almost mischief in his eyes, a bit of a smirk, and he trailed his fingers down Barry’s arm like this was some seduction tactic, as if he didn’t have Barry already naked in his bed.

It didn’t stop Barry from pouting. “I kinda thought that was the goal.”

Len dropped the coy look for a half-second. “Only if we want to be up all night doing it.”

Barry grinned and waggled his eyebrows, Len snorted.

“We’re not all 26 and superpowered.”

“Alright alright, so what did you have in mind then?”

“Well Barry, you did mention the dildo you bought…”

Barry felt his jaw drop and snapped his mouth closed, eyebrows hiking. “Uh. Yeah. Um. You want to… but shouldn’t this be about getting you off, not me? I already came.”

“Oh trust me,” oh yeah, no, he was fully devious now, leaning forward with a smirk, eyes dark. “I’ll enjoy watching you fall apart on it.”

Barry’s throat was dry all over again. “You’d like that?”

“Naturally.”

“Then uh—yeah, wow, I’m game.”

“Mmm,” Len leaned closer and kissed his shoulder before rolling away. “Wait here.”

He was off the bed in a second and Barry laid back to stare at the ceiling while Len rummaged into his closet. This was not what he’d expected when he’d decided to order that monstrosity. The monstrosity that might be long and thick, but not ridiculously thick, not like—

“Before we do that,” Barry looked at Len, coming back to bed with the blue dildo in hand, “I should at least get you close.”

Len didn’t protest and Barry was thankful, glad to turn the tables on Len for a few minutes. He had Len stand at the side of the bed and took him in his mouth, hand working on the base of his shaft, falling into an easier rhythm this time, feeling his own dick twitch when Len’s fingers slid into his hair. He tugged just a little and the sensation when straight to Barry’s dick.

It was easy to get lost in it, turned on and focused in equal measures, sliding his tongue around the head and chasing each sound he managed to drag out of Len, each hitched breath and quiet curse.

It wasn’t long before Len was pulling back though. Barry’s mouth tried to follow for a half-second until he aborted the movement, Len’s fingers sliding down his face, thumb catching on his bottom lip.

“This’ll be over before it begins if I let you keep going.”

Barry sucked on the thumb for a second, delighted in holding Len’s gaze and watching his eyes widen, before he dropped it with a pop and leaned back on his elbows.

“So how do you want me?”

Len just stared at him until Barry felt almost self-conscious, even if it was only a few seconds.

“Like that is good. Very good. Move back.”

Barry did, making room for Len on the bed, making room between his legs. He’d be nervous but Len was there moments later, started kissing him again, running hands down his body. Barry got with the program fast, arms around Len’s shoulders, wanting to writhe against Len’s body and just get both of them there fast. But Len had a plan and he was the type of man to stick to a plan, so Barry wasn’t really surprised to feel his hand sliding down, teasing past all the parts Barry was hoping he’d touch until his fingers found their target again, teasing at Barry’s hole.

The prep didn’t take as long this time. Barry wondered if he was right about the healing, if it was just in his head that he felt tighter than he had before, already. He’d have asked but he was distracted by Len’s lips on his neck, making him shudder. Len started sucking on the spot where he’d probably formed a hickey already, fingers finding their target inside of Barry.

He arched up in surprise, gasping, “Len.”

“Good?”

Barry let out a sound that must’ve been affirmative when Len crooked his fingers again because the other man was chuckling again.

“Hold back your legs for me?”

Oh hell. He bit his lip and complied, knowing he was flushing as he moved his legs and pulling them back, stretching them out. He saw Len slick up the dildo, which felt so big when he pressed it to Barry, even if it wasn’t as big as Len.

God!”

He groaned when he felt it stretch until the tip popped in, eyebrows creasing. It was a stretch. But it felt good—slick, slow, thick. He let out a breath, willing his body to relax, and felt Len kiss the inside of his knee, realized his eyes were closed. He gasped when he felt a hand on his cock stroking him, distracted him, relaxing him. He rocked his hips, feeling more of the length slide inside him, the wider portion. He moaned long and low until it finally stopped deep inside him.

“Fuck, Barry.”

Nnnn, god, it’s—”

Like the cruel bastard he was, Len took his hand off Barry’s cock to hold him steady, giving teasing thrusts with the toy altogether too gently, just barely, still snug and deep inside Barry. He let out short, panted breaths, writhing on it, barely remembering to hold his legs back, aching to wrap them around Len.

“You good?”

“So good, so—” Len pulled it most of the way out and he might’ve whimpered. Wasn’t about to confirm or deny that allegation. Then it was thrusting back in, pressing it along Barry’s prostate and he was groaning.

Before long with the steady rhythm, the short jabbing thrusts, he started to get noisy, just a—“fuck, Len, feel so full, so full I can’t—don’t fucking tease you bast—ahh—”

He should be embarrassed but it was past that point, so much sensation so fast, feeling hot, sweating out of his skin, rocking himself onto it.

“That’s it, Barry,” he heard Len urge, “touch yourself for me.”

Barry did, hand dropping down to his cock, stroking. He whined feeling the toy press even deeper and he wished it were Len’s cock, imagined that it was Len’s cock. Len fucking him, thrusting into him, being the one to stretch him out and make him feel this full. That Len’s cock was pressing against his prostate like that and that was—fuck that was it. He couldn’t—Barry groaned and shuddered, back arching as he came, eyes rolling back as his hand vibrated on his cock for just a second, sensation stretching out with a long moan.

He dropped back onto the bed with a shuddered tremble after, hearing Len swear.

“Knees.”

“Hm? Oh,” Barry rolled over, pliant and agreeable, Len moving to accommodate. He felt the toy pulled out of him, a sore, pleasurable, empty feeling in its wake. Len’s hand was on his hip, tilting Barry’s body and he figured it out, canted his hips up. He could hear the slap of skin that told him Len’s hand on his cock, stroking fast, and seconds later Barry felt the head sliding against his cleft. Len’s hand on his hip went from clutching to pulling at the skin, spreading his cheek to the side for a better view and Barry’s brain was close to short-circuiting.

This might be the hottest thing he could imagine, Len getting off on fucking him with a toy, stroking himself and looking at Barry’s used—

“Yeah, fuck Len, you gonna come on me?”

“Nn—all over your back and this perfect little ass.”

Barry surprised himself with the moan he let out, the rush of heat that shot south to his stomach. “Wanna—” he felt the head thrust against him, “uhn—come all over my hole?”

Fuck, Barry—can I?”

Len already knew that Barry was clean, that he couldn’t even get sick. This was just pure sex, no risks, and nothing was going to hold Barry’s raging libido back now that that idea was put in it.

“God yes. Do it.” He stretched out his legs, titled his hips and god, he even reached back to grab both of his cheeks and spread them, way past shame at this point, even he flushed all over, knowing how he must look.

But Len groaned and the sound of his hand on his cock sped up, the head rubbing along Barry’s cleft more earnestly, catching on his rim and—

“Fuck, fuck I’m—” Len let out a sound and Barry moaned with it, feeling it, the hot spurts of cum against him, sliding up and around, some shooting inside as Len pressed himself against Barry’s hole and made a complete mess of it. Barry shivered at the sensation. When Len finished moaning he rubbed his cock against Barry’s rim in a slow circle that had to look completely nasty in the best way.

God, Barry.”

Barry was aching between his legs. Len had come on him. Len had come in him. He was almost shaking he was so turned on.

Len was leaning over him on his elbows now, catching his breath, panting near Barry’s ear and he bit his lip to try and stifle just how crazy turned on he still (suddenly) was because the air ghosting past his ear was enough to make him want to whimper.

“You good?”

“Yeah, Len. I’m—that was so fucking hot.” His voice was totally shot.

Len shifted, “Barry are you—can you go again?”

“Um.” He swallowed, still in the awkward position of holding himself open, feeling a little silly but Len hadn’t really moved yet either. “Maybe.”

Jesus. How do you want it?”

Barry buried his forehead in the mattress. “Finger me. Please. Like this. With your cum. I want—”

Fuck, Barry.” But that wasn’t a complaint, he didn’t think, because Len shifted onto the mattress next to him and seconds later his fingers were in sliding down his cleft, slicking themselves up with cum before teasing him.

Barry was pretty sure he’d never had sex half this kinky, moaning when they pressed inside him. “Len—

“You’re so hot Barry. So hot for me.”

“Please.”

Len pressed a third finger inside and Barry shook, pressing himself back, up on his knees now with one hand under him, stroking himself.

“You like that? Having my cum inside you?”

Barry moaned against the mattress, thrusting his hips back on Len. He couldn’t stand it, feeling the slickness all around him, just—

“Len!

He came, shuddering out into Len’s hand. It was almost sore, close to dry from having it so fast after the last. But it felt amazing anyway, suffused with Len in every possible way.

Len pulled his fingers back and Barry crumpled onto the mattress after, exhausted.

 

**********

 

“That was…amazing.”

Barry curled into his side and Len hummed, sated.

“Pretty sure that’s my line, Barry.”

Barry laughed and Len congratulated himself internally.

“You always do that?”

“Uh—which part?” Barry shifted to glance at him. “Because there’s a lot of that that I never do.”

“You came three times.”

“Ah, that. Sometimes. Powers. It helps.”

Len nodded. “Figured.”

Barry sighed and settled back against him, but Len could tell he was more tense now. He was about to ask, but Barry beat him to the punch.

“You know there’s something… I keep meaning to say something. It never feels like the right time, but on your birthday, after some mind-blowing sex—seriously? That was awesome—it’s probably the best time I’ll get to tell you that I—”

“Wait.”

Barry stilled. Len stilled. He wasn’t even sure what possessed him to say such a dumb thing and cut Barry off except—

Wait? Uh, Len, that’s—”

“Wait until I can say it back.”

“I—oh.” Barry swallowed and shifted beside him. Len’s arm was around him and he was relieved that Barry didn’t pull away. His own heart was hammering in his chest. “So, you know what I was going to say?”

He fought the urge to say something sardonic. “I might’ve surmised.” The urge won.

Thankfully, Barry didn’t seem pissed. Still too tense though, shifting again, leaning up to glance down at Len, a little worried. “But you… don’t feel the same?”

Oh. Ah. Hm.

He trailed his fingers down Barry’s back, pursing his lips and glancing away, trying to put his thoughts in order. “I’ve never… had a relationship quite like this, Barry. It’s new to me, commitment. And I’ve never said that to anyone… not outside of my sister anyway, not in 30 years.”

“Oh.”

Barry settled back down next to him, too tall for Len’s arm to fit around him lying in tandem like this so he stole it back.

“I can wait then.”

Len felt he should probably venture some apology, but it didn’t feel right either. “Thank you.”

Barry hummed. “So long as you know how I feel.”

“I do.”

“Good. Now, can we clean up? I’m kind of a mess over here.”

And then they were laughing, and Len’s tension coiled out of him.

 

**********

 

As good as Saturday had been, as good as waking up next to Barry Sunday morning was, Sunday evening came fast. Roscoe called right on schedule and Len was a little relieved, even as he tensed up, ready.

He and Mick set out then to the location Ross gave them. The location his father expected to meet Ross in an hour, except Dillon wouldn’t be there. Len and Mick would.

The meatpacking district was always so empty in the evenings, especially this time of year. 

They were early, as intended. Lewis had clearly come and gone a few times in the past days, blueprints scattered about, markings on them that Len knew how to decipher, cigarette ash and burns on them because the man didn’t know how to be careful with a goddamn thing.

Mick grabbed the equipment bag from the van and Len poured over the list in his hand, the one he already had memorized, waiting. He took some cough suppressants but otherwise kept himself sharp.

When Lewis finally arrived, it really wasn’t much of a fight. All it took was Len leaning against the table waiting for him, a quick “where’s Dillon?” with his eyes narrowed, and Mick’s gun at his forehead. Then it clicked and the man was swearing but his hands were up.

“No sudden moves, old man.”

“Making a big mistake here, son.”

He glanced at his finger nails, unconcerned. “Best decision of my life, actually.”

Mick grabbed Lewis’s shoulder with a grunt. “Hands stay where I can see ‘em.” Then he was walking him over to the only chair in the place and Len brought over the rope. They checked Lewis over for weapons and extracted any they found, laying them out on the table. Then Len started to bind his feet to the chair, finishing up and moving to his hands when he heard—

Damn, so this is what this was all about?”

He almost dropped the rope. That was—what the hell was Axel doing there? He whirled around with his gun out, but the kid had his hands in the air the second Len did, whistling low. He’d dyed his hair an unfortunate shade of box blond in the past day.

“Hey now big guy, I’m just here for the show!”

“You’re not supposed to be here at all, Axel.”

“Well daddy Mick was—”

“Don’t call me that.”

Len glanced back at Mick, pleased to see he still had his gun trained on Lewis, one eye on him.

“Mommy Mick?”

“I’ll shave your head, Tricks.”

Axel let out a mock whimper and Len felt a vein in his forehead throb. “How did you find us, Axel?”

“Didn’t. He called me.” He pointed, finger guns and everything, at Lewis. Len refrained from groaning.

“Do not tell me you knew where he was this whole time.”

“Hell nah. He wanted to give me a last chance to ‘make things right’.” At that, Axel’s face took on a look a great deal more sinister, a leer aimed straight at Lewis. “But I got friends now. So I’m ready to sit back and watch you burn, old man.”

“Would you shut this kid up, son?” Lewis barked. “Can’t listen to his barking any more without wanting to slap that look off his face.”

Len’s frustration with Axel evaporated. “Well you <