Chapter 1: PROLOGUE
“Are you afraid?” Barry said the words quietly.
Eobard didn’t turn to look at him, but instead kept his eyes focused on the grim sight ahead. It seemed unlikely that they would survive the upcoming battle--maybe one of them might, but not both. He could see the horizon with its clouds dark as night; they obliterated the sky. It was only ten in the morning.
“Would you believe me if I said I wasn’t, Mr. Allen?”
He said the words softly. Gently. In Harrison Wells’ voice and not his own, no vibration coursing through his vocal cords. The yellow cowl would stay in place; there was no time for goodbyes. It was the best he could do.
Barry touched his shoulder with light fingertips. Eobard could see his eyes from the corner of his vision, Speed Force crackling through them, absolutely beautiful. Wet with unshed tears. “We don’t have much time,” Barry said. “I just wanted you to know–”
Eobard held up a hand. “Don’t, Barry.”
“I forgave you,” Barry continued stubbornly. “A long time ago.”
There was so little time left. He didn’t take his eyes off the horizon. “Generous to the last,” he said, the words murmured almost under his breath, but he reached up with one black-gloved hand and rested it on Barry’s.
Chapter 2: PART I
Eobard crawled on hands and knees to throw himself over Barry’s prone form, the air surrounding them filled with ash, the streets scorched with fire as buildings began to fall around them. Pushing Barry over--no sign of breath in the boy, no pulse—he hauled himself up with electricity sparking in his hands, but the minutes wore on. Pressing rhythmically against Barry’s chest, he didn’t notice the others gather around him.
Get away from him, one of them screamed, but he knocked her away without thinking.
Eobard had wanted Barry dead, but not like this. Never like this. Barry’s death should have been a private affair, as hushed and intimate as their lovemaking. He had wanted to stare into Barry’s eyes and take the last breath from his mouth. Put his hand on Barry’s heart and squeeze. Other monsters had left their marks on Barry’s body, and they didn’t deserve the pleasure. He was going to kill them for it.
Barry stirred under his palms. He opened his eyes.
“Eobard,” he said.
Barry had been a silhouette against a red sky.
Eobard had only been able to see the outline of his body. Even as he knew with each cell of his own where Barry would strike next. It was why they had been teamed together, that instinctive understanding of the other's mind and movement. Eobard had thrown his head back and laughed, long and loud, when the Justice League had paired them together. Barry had only stood by his side with mouth pressed tight and fingers clenched. Reverses of each other to the end.
But the League had been correct: He knew exactly where to step to impede Barry's movements. Knew also where to push so that Barry exploded across the field in a wash of incredible power, each blow devastating and targeted against their enemies. Barry fought beautifully, each twist of his body and reach of his limbs insidiously fluid. He was a natural, born to bear the Speed Force. Eobard was precise and implacable and absolutely ruthless, and he had a mind for their enemies in a way Barry did not. They were formidable alone, when they fought separately. Together, they were absolutely, piercingly brilliant.
Eobard should never have let Barry out of his sight.
Seated by Barry's hospital bed, he grabbed at one of Barry's hands. He stared down at the pale, unmoving face. His voice rough and desperate even to his own ears, he said, "Wake up."
Barry was smiling before he even opened his eyes. “I thought you wanted me to get some rest,” he said.
The détente continued, then.
Eobard let out a breath slowly, counting the seconds before he spoke. He felt undone, his skin peeled away from the rest of his flesh, muscles detached and splayed open. Ribs cracked wide to expose his wildly beating heart.
“I do,” he said shortly. Barry’s hand was still clenched tightly in his own; he tried to relax his fingers. Nothing happened. The minutes passed, the silence between them growing awkwardly.
“I’ve been wondering,” Barry said finally, his voice quiet, “why you’ve kept that face. I’ve seen your pictures, and I caught a glimpse of you—your real self—that one time, before you died, before you somehow escaped the paradox. Not to mention all the other times. This is the future, the one you were running towards. You made it. There’s no point anymore. So why do you still look like Harrison Wells?”
As remembrance, Eobard didn’t say. As a reminder.
“It might surprise you to hear,” he said instead, “but after living in this body for over twenty years, it’s become more familiar to me than my own.” It wasn’t a lie. There were times that he still thought of himself as Harrison. “And because it gives me an advantage over you.”
They both knew it. There was no harm in saying it aloud.
Barry was huffing out a laugh, turning his head away. “You’re an asshole, you know that?”
Firmer ground. Eobard tilted his head so that he could better see Barry’s face, allowing the small smile to creep across his own mouth as he brought Barry’s hand to his lips. He kissed the tip of each finger, one at a time, and watched as heat and discomfort grew together in Barry’s eyes. Waited patiently as they co-mingled.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Barry,” Oliver Queen said from the doorway. “Him?”
Eobard didn’t freeze, but it was a near thing. Barry’s eyes snapped back to his, the expression in them absolutely mortified, and Eobard raised his eyebrows before he released his hand. Barry snatched it back immediately, cradling it to his chest, and Eobard couldn’t help the low chuckle that escaped from his lips.
“Your timing is as impeccable as always, Mr. Queen,” he said languidly.
“You shut the hell up,” Queen returned, his voice brusque. He strode into the room, his spine straight and his shoulders back, full of a restless, bristling energy. Eobard turned to look at him slowly, turning his head from the neck, the rest of his body immobile. “You have two seconds to get out of here before you get an arrow in your guts.”
Eobard smiled at him pleasantly. “If you try to make me leave this room,” he said, his voice bland, “the Flash will die. Because I will absolutely destroy this hospital as I go. The collateral damage alone, that would be—“
He grinned at Oliver, the expression full of a playful aggression. “Bad. To say the least.”
Queen nocked an arrow, his movements sure and deliberate. “I don’t believe you.”
Eobard turned to Barry, his eyebrows raised, and Barry took one look at his face before he huffed again.
“Believe it,” he said, resignation in his voice.
Eobard settled back in his chair with satisfaction.
“Shit, Barry,” Queen said after a moment. The arrow disappeared back into his quiver, but he didn’t take his eyes from Eobard. “When you said you were getting wrapped up in someone inappropriate,” he said the word slowly, his own tone going bland, “I never imagined this. Eobard Thawne, really? Are you out of your mind?”
“I ask myself that question every day,” Barry muttered.
At this point, he was sticking around just to make people uncomfortable.
Barry knew it too, turning around to glare at him every time Eobard opened his mouth. Eobard was the scorpion in the room, everyone keeping an eye on him no matter where he moved, the conversations around him faltering if he so much as twitched one of his feet. He had pushed his chair against the far wall in concession to Barry's need to speak with the rest of his family, but he grinned at Barry, teeth bared, whenever Barry looked at him.
(Iris had grabbed Joe's arm as soon as the man had walked in the room. Apparently he'd once shot at an innocent Harrison Wells. It was delightful.)
He could feel Cisco's eyes on him, and he turned to meet him steadily.
"Something you wanted to say?" he asked. He took in the yellow and red ensemble of the Vibe suit and wondered idly if it was meant to evoke the memory of his own and Barry's. Probably not. Though it would have been fitting.
Cisco met his eyes briefly before meddling with one of the many devices on his forearm. He was absolutely riddled with tech; Eobard itched to examine it all. A thought for another day. "You know the drill," Cisco said shortly. "You break it, you bought it."
Eobard smiled slightly. "This is cute," he said. "You warning me off Barry."
Cisco snorted. "As if. You know him," he said, and then grimaced at the reminder of their shared history, distasteful as it had turned out to be. He scratched at his head briefly before looking up at Eobard from under his lashes. "There's no convincing Barry of anything. If he's bound and determined to crash into you--and ugh, let's just pretend I didn't say that--then that's exactly what he's going to do. The rest of us are just gonna have to pick up the pieces."
"You're that sure of my intentions toward him?"
"Yeah," Cisco said. "Aren't you? I know you've got some kind of weird thing together--and no, I don't want an explanation, I'm scarred enough as it is--but it all boils down to you, Dr. Wells. You're bad people."
"Dr. Wells?" Eobard raised his eyebrows, a smile growing on his face.
"See, that." Cisco said, crossing his arms. "That's what I'm talking about. You just can't help yourself."
"Oh, I don't know," Eobard said, looking back towards Barry. Barry had noticed them speaking and was starting to look concerned, a tiny little crease between his brows. Time caught up with them in a variety of ways, despite their ridiculously long lifespans. "I managed to constrain myself for over a decade. Not an easy feat, if I do say so myself."
"Not with Barry, you didn't."
Eobard opened his mouth to refute the statement, his memory immediately bringing to mind a hundred examples where it was not quite accurate, but he instead placed his elbow on the armrest of his chair, resting his chin in his hand. He had never meant to get so caught up in Barry Allen, the boy and not the Flash, had never planned to care for him in the way he had come to do. Despite everything that had occurred between them.
Eobard regarded Cisco carefully. "You're a very smart man, Mr. Ramon."
Cisco looked up from the circuit board on his arm. "Not smart enough," he said.
Placing one hand next to Barry’s pillow, he leaned down carefully to press their lips together. He did it gently, mindful of the cuts on Barry’s face, the still-healing burns that covered his arms. This was not the time for weight or pressure. His blood was not boiling, not from desire, nor from rage. But Barry was sighing into the kiss as if the very touch of Eobard’s skin against his own nourished him in some unfathomable way, as if there was nothing more that he wanted or needed in that moment. He looked at peace, and Eobard couldn’t bear to take that away from him.
“Rest easy,” he said, when he at last drew away. “I won’t be far. If you need me, I’ll be back before anyone else can blink.”
“What name should I call out?” Barry looked at him with something close to fondness, his eyes tired but with a new lightness within them. It was a serious question, in the Watchtower as they were, secret identities on everyone's minds.
Eobard let out an amused breath. “I’ll always be Harrison to you,” he said, and it should have bothered him, but it didn’t. He had defined so much of Barry’s life. It was only fitting that the reverse was true as well. “Even when you remember otherwise. Call me whatever you wish."
Barry smiled. “What’s in a name, right?”
Eobard closed his eyes against the sweetness in his expression and pressed his lips to Barry’s once again. Felt Barry rest his fingers on the side of his face, butterfly-cautious.
“Everything,” Eobard answered.
No one else could see them. Joe had been going full bore into Barry, gesturing in Eobard’s direction with incredulity. Are you kidding me with this? he had said. Out of all the people in the world, in the universe, you’re bringing this guy back into our lives? Have you lost your ever-living mind? It wasn’t the first such rant that Eobard had heard that day, and it was doubtful to be the last. The scene unfolded almost identically to the one that had occurred five minutes before, Hal Jordan in the starring role the only difference. Eobard had looked at Barry, saw the fatigue in his eyes, and decided enough was enough.
Harnessing the Speed Force, he had turned to his counterpart.
“Are you going to let this go on all day?” he asked, keeping his voice easy, almost idle. The people around them were frozen like statues, their mouths open and arms outstretched. He looked at them all with aggravation that itched beneath his skin. It wasn’t a hardship to gather the Speed Force by any means, not anymore, but it was somewhat appalling to use it for such a plebeian necessity.
“They have the right to complain.” Barry hadn’t looked up at him, his head in his hands. “I owe them that much at least.”
Eobard remained silent for a long moment. “They have nothing to complain about,” he said at last. “You know that. I know that.”
Barry relaxed back on his bed, staring up at the ceiling. “I wish I was as sure about that as you seem to be.”
“Barry,” Eobard said his name quietly. “It would be obscene.”
“You’re telling me.”
There is no grand romance at play here, Eobard wanted to say. His infatuation with Barry, the way they clutched and grasped at one another when no one could see, when no one could hear—it was a survival mechanism brought on by stress and fear. It would pass. Leave both of them the emptier. But Eobard looked at Barry with no intention of voicing his thoughts aloud, only to see Barry already staring back at him with narrowed eyes and pursed mouth. It should have been a pensive expression. Barry made it look playful instead.
“While I still have the time,” Barry said softly. “While I still have the chance.”
A mirror to Eobard’s thoughts exactly.
“I know why I hate the Flash,” Eobard said conversationally. They were on the lower levels of the Watchtower, the only places that non-league members were allowed to wander unescorted; the war had indeed made strange bedfellows of them all. He looked at the woman beside him, noted the white of her hair and the blue tinge to her skin. “But what has he done to you?”
Caitlin looked up at him briefly, her fingers never ceasing in their click-click-click across the keyboard. “Don’t talk to me, Thawne.”
“Ouch,” Eobard said lightly.
He peered over her shoulder, noting that she was playing around with the molecular densities of a variety of elements, most of them taken from extraterrestrial sources. It seemed like the beginnings of a biological weapon, and he turned to look at her, his eyebrows raised. “This seems unlike you.”
“We have to kill them somehow,” she said shortly. She stared at her computer screen, a frown marring the line of her perfect brows.
Eobard sat down in the seat beside her. After booting up the computer in its station, he logged into the shared drive and brought up her files, scanning through them with a touch of superspeed. He readily caught the train of her thoughts; the years of working together were coming in handy. “Cisco calls you ‘Killer Frost’ these days,” he said idly. “Or so I’ve heard.” He stopped abruptly, the whirls of her half-constructed protein scaffold suddenly gaining clarity in his mind. “I see the name is apt.”
“Don’t talk to me about Cisco either.”
Eobard deliberately paused in his typing.
“I admit it,” he said after a moment. “I’m dying to know.”
“Then maybe you should mind your own business.”
“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”
Caitlin shook her hair back over her shoulders, the entire movement infused with scorn. “You don’t hate them,” she said. “Either of them. Maybe no one else knows what Cisco means to you, but I certainly do. And when it comes to the Flash, well. Everyone knows you’re bedding him.”
He noted the use of Barry’s code name with interest. “What a wonderfully archaic way of putting it.”
She rolled her eyes. “And what would you call it?”
“I would say that I’m fucking him.” Eobard said the expletive with great relish, letting the vowels and consonants slowly roll off his tongue. He thought of pushing inside Barry, skin on sweat-slicked skin. The way Barry’s face contorted as if in anguish, eyes squeezed shut and mouth parted wide. The glimmer of green beneath his eyelashes, his head thrown back with the long line of his neck on offer when he came. “He really is fantastic. Couldn’t recommend it highly enough.”
Eobard smiled at her; he had missed this. “He would say the same. Concerning the nature of our relationship, I mean.”
“Well, isn’t that nice for both of you,” she said, her voice icy.
Eobard shrugged and didn’t push her any further, letting their conversation die into a comfortable silence. Comfortable on his part, at least. If she felt any unease, he couldn’t be bothered to notice. Her work was fascinating and held most of his interest; Caitlin Snow was truly an excellent geneticist, and her grasp of molecular biology and bioengineering was unparalleled. He had been incredibly lucky to snap her up in S.T.A.R. Laboratories so long ago.
Though she probably didn’t agree with that assessment.
“I can’t help but notice,” he said, looking up at her briefly, “that despite your having had a falling out with Team Flash,” he said the name slowly, with great amusement, “you haven’t been spreading around his identity.”
Her mouth twisted with obvious bitterness.
“Even I get nostalgic,” she said.
Barry’s mouth was set in a hard line as he brought up the maps, one after another, on the holographic screen before them. The maps glimmered into view at eye-level before they expanded in size, slowly rotating as they merged with a spherical image that was forming in the screen’s center. Each map slotted into its appointed place, every one adding an additional level of detail, contour lines and enemy fortifications popping up across the sphere’s surface.
Eobard watched Barry carefully, noting the golden lightning that arced through his green eyes. That particular manifestation of the Speed Force was Barry’s instinctive response to danger, and its appearance compelled Eobard to crowd in next to him so that he could see the holographic image more clearly. He used his outstretched hand to sweep it around, showing him every single aspect of the now three-dimensional map.
“I see the necessity,” Eobard murmured at last.
“They’re all telepaths,” Barry said grimly. “Each and every one of them.”
There weren’t many people—within or without the League—who were resistant to mind control. Fewer still who could prevent their innermost thoughts from being read by an intruding intelligence. Speedsters were immune to telepaths if they were experienced enough, if they had incorporated the Speed Force into every aspect of their lives. They had a chance, and only a chance, if they lived each moment at the thrice the speed of sound, their minds churning at paces impossible for a telepath to follow.
He and Barry were the only ones Eobard counted among that number. West was still too young in the Speed Force, as was his doppelganger’s daughter Jesse Quick. They still had moments where they thought like normal humans, and that made them vulnerable.
“Telepathy or not, the Hyperclan’s attention will be drawn to us through regular means,” Eobard said, noting the obvious difficulty in case Barry hadn’t seen it. “There isn’t a path through their surveillance systems.”
“J’onn is working on it.”
Eobard turned to look at him. “We could use the Manhunter’s assistance in the field instead.”
“They can sense him coming,” Barry said, shaking his head, “even if they can’t read his mind. The same goes for Diana and all of our own telepaths. We’re the only ones who read null.”
“There’s no endgame to this plan,” Eobard said tightly. He pulled out a chair beneath the whirling image above them, and took a seat with his hands clasped in his lap. It was an old posture, something he had adopted for use as Harrison Wells. Something to which he knew Barry responded, if only on a subconscious level. “It’s too reactive. There’s no real strategy. Our resources, our people—they’ll be wasted before the Hyperclan truly begins.”
“Batman doesn’t think so.”
“As much as I admire the man, Batman is wrong.”
Barry’s face contorted abruptly. “They’re bringing a Tower to Central City,” he said, his voice desperate. He raked his fingers through his hair without looking at Eobard. “I have to go.”
The Towers had almost killed Barry a week ago. The large alien structures had suddenly appeared in the sky, and the shockwave had exploded outwards almost immediately. Barry had taken most of the damage, being closer to the ignition point, but even Eobard, who had seen the shockwave overcome Barry, had been given no time to act. The Towers had somehow isolated and burned away the atmosphere surrounding Chicago, and it had fallen with all lives lost, the city and surrounding areas made instantly unlivable. Eobard and Barry had survived only by the grace of their superspeed.
The Hyperclan, vanguard to the White Martian invasion force, did not take prisoners.
Eobard stared up at the map with unseeing eyes. He could still remember that ineffable tug at his chest, the way it had spun him around with the sudden knowledge of Barry being in danger. The miles-long smear of blood on the pavement, the frantic seconds where he couldn’t see Barry but could only see the torn, haphazard pieces of his suit being forcibly dispersed through the air. The split-second his eyes finally landed on the boy, on his unnaturally bent and broken limbs, his skin and hair on fire. The sound of Barry screaming, agonizing and horrible, before everything went silent, the shockwave finally reaching Eobard himself.
“I understand this mission is important to you,” Eobard finally said, his throat tight. He forced himself to meet Barry’s eyes. Maybe the emotions Barry saw in them would make an impact. “But there’s a difference between being a hero and being a fool.”
“I’m alive, Harrison,” Barry said quietly, knowing him well enough to speak to the heart of his concern.
“Not for long,” Eobard said.
He looked back up at the map, his mind working through the suggested plan for the hundredth time as he tried to figure out some way, any way, to make it work. Forming and then dismissing any number of possible other approaches as well. None of the ideas were viable.
He turned to Barry, unsmiling. “Do you expect me to die with you?”
Barry stared back at him, his face unreadable for once. “What do you think?” he asked steadily.
The truth was, Eobard had no idea. Most of him was absolutely sure that Barry had no intention of dragging him to his death, that Barry was wincing inwardly at the very suggestion. But he knew Barry Allen, sometimes better than the boy knew himself. There was a part of Barry that expected such loyalty from the people he loved, from the people who loved him in return. The presumption existed within him, even as it would horrify him to acknowledge it.
He wasn’t sure if Barry counted him among that number.
“I’m not going with you,” Eobard said softly.
“Did you really think you could placate me?” Eobard hissed the words into Barry’s face. He spun them around with a touch of superspeed, and threw Barry hard against the opposite wall. Barry crashed into it with a satisfying clatter.
They were in a six by nine foot cell, and Eobard was on the verge of screaming out his rage into Barry’s face, felt as if his lungs were going to burst from it. He wanted to tear off his own flesh just to escape. Tear off Barry’s face in return. Eobard took the few steps necessary to stand over him, and then hauled him up to pin him against the ballistic glass door, a hand fisted tight in the suit at his throat. “You are going to pay for what you’ve done to me, Flash.”
Barry stared back at him, his chin tilted up defiantly. “It wasn’t my decision.”
“Yet here I am,” Eobard snarled at him. “Charged with mutiny.”
He slammed his fist against Barry’s face, watched his head snap back with sick satisfaction. He didn’t stop there: With a quick blast of superspeed, he caught Barry by the shoulder and jerked him forward, kneeing him hard in the stomach. Barry staggered back, his hands going to his abdomen as he began retching, but Eobard only laughed viciously as he struck him hard and fast, as he lashed out at Barry again and again.
Barry slammed against the opposite wall, tumbled into an ungainly heap at Eobard’s feet. He struggled up on hands and knees, and then craned his neck to stare up at him. “Do whatever you need to do,” he said dejectedly.
There was no Speed Force in his eyes. No electricity coursing over his body. He remained immobile on his hands and knees, making no further move to get to his feet. Eobard had fought with Barry innumerable times before and understood his capabilities intimately; the days where he had easily outclassed the Flash were long since gone. They were equals in every way that mattered, just as they were meant to be, and that could only mean one thing: Barry Allen was holding back. It didn’t make any sense at all. There was not a single hint of submission in Barry’s expression, no docility anywhere in the lines of his body. Barry was holding himself tightly in check, a furious tension under his skin, as he allowed Eobard to do whatever he wanted to him.
“You’re sacrificing yourself,” Eobard said, cocking his head as slow realization crept up on him. “Trying to give me what I want…in return for my help. You think there is something you can give me that I don’t already have.” Eobard crouched over him and smiled, the expression unkind. “You thought wrong, Barry Allen.”
Barry never looked away from his eyes. “Just go ahead and get it over with.” He looked heartsick, his eyes bright and shining, but there was an implacable note in his voice. “I’ll do whatever it takes, Dr. Wells, whatever you want. I can’t do this without you.”
It was something Eobard had dreamed about for untold ages, the Flash prostrated before him on his hands and knees, admitting that he was the lesser, that he had found himself to be wanting. He hauled Barry up by the front of his suit and slammed him back against the wall. “And what if what I want,” Eobard parroted sarcastically, ignoring the need that had flared up in his gut, “is to cut off your fingertips so that I can open this door?”
“Go ahead,” Barry said, his chin jutting out. “It won’t get you anywhere.” He motioned with one hand to the camera fixated to the ceiling of their little cell, then at the one on the other side of the transparent door, and Eobard understood immediately. Barry was telling him that he had locked them both in without a passcode of his own, without a fingerprint lock or even a key. That the release commands were controlled remotely by someone who was watching them.
“Oh, very good, Mr. Allen,” Eobard said each word with emphasis, his voice laced with a cruel amusement. With casual brutality, he backhanded Barry across the face and allowed him to collapse back in a heap on the floor, then kicked him caustically in the stomach for good measure. “You’ve made yourself immune to torture--how very thoughtful of you. How decisive.”
Barry looked up from where he lay hunched over, his arms wrapped around his own stomach, and then he smiled grimly up at Eobard, the expression full of betrayal. “It always comes back to this, doesn’t it,” he said, and it wasn’t a question. “There’s no getting past this war between us, not for you.”
There it was. There was the look for which Eobard had been waiting, the sight he had been dying to see: Barry was cracked wide open, all of his fault lines exposed. The fractured surface of him, hidden deep beneath his eyes, no longer concealed the fragile beat of his heart, of his faith. The Flash lay in the dirt with his outstretched hands broken, abandoned and hopeless, his lifeblood draining away. As he finally understood that he had lost. That there had never been any true chance of victory.
Eobard picked the Flash up by the throat, stared up at him as he dangled from his fingers. “How does it feel, Flash, knowing you are beaten?” he asked, his voice distorted by Speed Force. His entire body was thrilling to the despondency written full on Barry’s face. “Tell me what it’s like.”
“Please don’t do this,” the Flash whispered to him.
Eobard struck him across the face.
Barry cried out but otherwise made no move to stop him. Dangling listlessly from the neck, he placed a hand on Eobard’s where it was clenched at his throat, and then looked back at him. “Is this what you want?” Barry asked quietly, soft and sad.
Eobard threw him down to the ground in disgust.
It was impossible to breathe through his anger. Barry refused to look away from him, his eyes piercing and impossibly bright, as if he was forcing himself to witness every single particle of his own heartbreak. As if he couldn’t quite believe what was happening, as if there was something still left to be shattered within him, and he was going to watch it happen, he was going to be sure when it did.
“You wanted to know what this feels like,” Barry whispered. His chest was rising and falling rapidly. “I’ll tell you: It feels like you’ve died. Like you’ve died again. And you said it, Thawne, you were right. What am I going to do without you?”
Eobard crouched down to grab Barry by the base of his neck, fisted his hand tight in his soft, messy hair. He was going to absolutely slaughter Barry Allen. He was going to tear Barry apart limb from limb, thrash him to within an inch of his life—because it was his fault, because Barry had allowed this to happen, because he had his hands in Eobard’s chest after all, on his heart, and Eobard had never even noticed it occurring. There was no other explanation for the pain behind his ribs. For the way his lungs refused to expand. He wrenched Barry’s head back with the hands in his hair, and driven beyond all endurance, finally crushed their lips together.
Barry surged into him immediately, wrapping his arms around Eobard’s neck. The taste of iron flooded Eobard’s tastebuds, blood from Barry’s split lip being shared between them, and Eobard frantically chased it with his tongue, licked at it until he had followed the trickling line back from whence it came. Barry was whimpering against his mouth, his voice wracked with equal parts pain and pleasure, and Eobard needed to hear more of it, bit down into the wound and worried it with his teeth. Barry’s noises were deepening, his groans sounding like they were coming from the depths of his lungs—the sound shocked through Eobard from the tips of his fingers to the base of his spine. Eobard couldn’t wait to hear it mouthed around his cock.
He was pushing Barry down when he suddenly remembered the cameras.
No one was banging down the door. No one had come running. It meant one of two things: That Barry was lying about controlling their exit from the cell or that Barry was telling the truth in order to manipulate him. Eobard felt a delirious laugh leave his lips, felt endlessly delighted by the thought of either possibility. He knew from exactly where that sort of deviousness had sprung, understood exactly whom Barry was mirroring.
“Let’s say I believe you,” Eobard murmured against Barry’s lips, and Barry drew back from him with a blissed-out sigh. Eobard laughed softly before he bit him again, loving the way that Barry whined against his lips. He chased the sound of it for long minutes, his tongue in Barry’s mouth. “Let’s say that you planned for this, that you, Barry Allen, one of the most private men on Earth, a person who can’t so much as kiss a girl without flushing like a virgin, that you came down here to whore yourself out in an effort to assuage my rage--and then left those cameras on for all the world to see?”
Eobard slowly pushed Barry backwards until he was leaning on his hands, and then pulled him forward to perch on the very tips of his fingers, held immobile by Eobard’s hands in his hair. “Who would you trust to see you like this?” Eobard asked softly as he stared down at Barry, at the way he held himself perfectly still, his body on display. “Is it Oliver Queen on the other side of that camera? Hal Jordan? Or perhaps even Cisco—no,” Eobard shook his head abruptly, “it wouldn’t be Cisco. Maybe Ms. Smoak?” He kissed Barry lightly as Barry squeezed his eyes shut. “Or did you choose a stranger, someone you could forget about, someone whose eyes you wouldn’t have to meet every day for the rest of your life?” Eobard couldn’t help but kiss Barry again, loving the perverse dichotomy of him, his innocence against the backdrop of deceit, the pliable sweetness of his lips coupled with the tension in his limbs. He took Barry’s mouth deeply, tasted him thoroughly, wanting it all.
“Well?” Eobard asked him at last. “Who is it?”
Barry grimaced with his eyes still shut, reluctance in every line of his body. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Tell me,” Eobard said soothingly. He pressed his lips against Barry’s temple.
“Fine,” Barry breathed out, shaking his head. Eobard had clenched his fingers in his hair in subtle warning. “It’s Oliver, okay?”
Eobard laughed quietly. “Oh, Barry. You shouldn’t have.”
He hauled Barry around with ungentle hands so that he was better exposed to one of the cameras, and began undressing him slowly, his fingers easily finding the clasps that held the scarlet uniform together. “What do you think he’s going to think of you?” Eobard asked, pressing his lips to the shell of Barry’s ear. “After he sees you like this, moaning because of my hands on your skin? What are you going to say to him, the next time you see his face?”
Barry was panting open-mouthed as he stared at the ceiling, his face contorting with appalled humiliation, but then he suddenly pressed his forehead into Eobard’s face, nuzzling against his cheek. It was Barry’s way of asking to be comforted, the action so unbearably sweet, so unbearably trusting, and Eobard found himself closing his eyes against the gesture, feeling absolutely slain by the sudden tenderness that he felt. After a minute, he couldn’t constrain himself; he pressed Barry’s face against his neck and cradled him close.
“Damn you,” he whispered into Barry’s hair.
It was that old protective instinct roaring furiously into life. No matter what Eobard did, no matter what he tried, it continued to be a part of him. Impeding his movements, interrupting his thoughts; he had cursed himself the very moment that he had travelled in time. He had been doomed from the moment he had brought Barry Allen, comatose and pale, into his lab; doomed since the moment Barry had awakened and turned to stare at him with those wide green eyes full of hero-worship. Eobard wished to God that none of it had ever happened.
“Do you want him to see?” Eobard asked Barry suddenly, and he swung himself around to shield Barry with his own body. Ready to defend him against the world once more, just like a fool.
Barry shook his head. “No,” he said roughly.
“Then Queen should have the decency to look away,” Eobard said, his voice loud in the confined space of the cell. He turned to stare at the camera with all the intensity he could muster, but nothing happened--the door didn’t swing open, the camera lights did not blink off. Queen didn’t trust him, of course he didn’t--or Barry was lying about the whole affair--but none of it mattered. Barry had pressed himself against Eobard’s body as close as he could go, his face still pressed against Eobard’s neck. Eobard wasn’t going to do this, wasn’t going to traumatize Barry further; he began to carefully disengage himself from Barry’s limbs, moving away from him with all the gentleness he could muster. But then suddenly Barry was throwing himself back into his arms, dragging him down into a kiss, his arms wrapping insistently around Eobard’s neck. Eobard couldn’t help himself as his hands immediately found the curve of Barry’s skull, and he kissed him back deeply, slowly, trying to hold back his resentment, his rage. He held Barry with all the self-control he could muster, and tried to touch him only with gentleness.
"Tell me to stop," Eobard said after long moments had passed. He felt unmoored, adrift in the tumultuous sea of his own conflicting emotions. He was not the sort of man who practiced self-deception; Barry had the ability to incite fury within him unlike anyone else, and he was already angry to start with. "Barry, I will not be kind."
"Then don't be kind," Barry whispered back.
“You don’t understand,” Eobard said forcefully. "I want to hurt you.”
"Then hurt me."
Barry said the words with so much desire in his voice that Eobard yanked him closer and immediately devoured his mouth. He was almost insane with it, with that demanding little twist to Barry’s voice, with the way Barry was keening against him with pure desperation. Eobard pressed his fingers into Barry’s face, finding the bruises that still lingered there, and then began to dig into them, wanting to hear Barry gasp with each press of his fingers. He worried at each cut as Barry trembled uncontrollably, as he grasped at Eobard’s shoulders, sometimes pulling him close, sometimes pushing them apart. He sounded as conflicted as Eobard felt, and Eobard suddenly wanted to punish him for it, for dragging them both into this confusion without being clear about his motives. He pressed his nails against the slowly-disappearing scars on Barry’s collarbone, and wondered what it would take to break him apart.
Eobard was ripping off that red suit before he knew what he was doing. Clasps undone in a flash, he yanked the suit up over Barry’s arms and then tossed it over his shoulder, his hands immediately going to the fly of Barry’s pants to undo them as well. He needed Barry naked, exposed to the light. Wanted to see every inch of him spread out beneath him.
“I don’t want to take you dry,” Eobard said, his voice uncontrollably harsh. He was sliding his hands along Barry’s body, over his chest and along the sides of his ribs, over the trim line of his hips. Then he took Barry’s cock in his hand, the engorged length of him hot against his palm, his un-cut skin incredibly smooth as Eobard began to jack him steadily. “Tell me you brought something.”
“Use your mouth,” Barry said.
Eobard’s eyes jerked to meet his. “Jesus fucking Christ, Barry,” he said, his voice as gravelly as a landslide.
Barry’s face was wide open with sheepish delight, but he raised his eyebrows at Eobard, and then, never looking away from Eobard’s face, he slowly spread his legs. “You little monster,” Eobard said appreciatively, laughing under his breath. He put his hands on Barry’s knees and pushed them wider apart, and then used his hands to spread open Barry’s cheeks. Pressing in closer, he swiped a thumb against Barry’s opening, and Barry bit his bottom lip, his eyes closing tight as his face contorted with pleasure.
Eobard grinned at him. “Is this what you want?”
“Please,” Barry groaned with amusement. “Please, Harrison.”
Eobard arranged himself so that he could lick a slow, enthusiastic line between Barry’s cheeks. But then he paused. “Try again, Mr. Allen.”
Barry was shaking his head, his whole body vibrating desperately. “Please,” he said again, a whine in his voice. “Please, please--Eobard.”
God, he was going to fuck Barry until he screamed.
“That’s the ticket,” Eobard rasped out, and then he was diving between Barry’s legs, pressing his mouth against the smooth skin behind Barry’s balls. He sucked there for long moments, listening to Barry’s breath become ragged, felt the way Barry’s legs jerked as they tried to wrap around Eobard’s shoulders and press him in closer. But Eobard kept him spread wide as he put his tongue flat against Barry’s skin, as he licked his way slowly down towards Barry’s opening, and then he was pressing his tongue past the tight little rim, Barry’s entire body clenching around him.
“Eobard,” Barry gasped out again, a pleading, encouraging note in his voice. “Eobard, Eobard.”
He was never going to tire of hearing his name in Barry’s voice.
Eobard pulled back momentarily to suck on one of his own fingers, getting it as wet as he could with his saliva, before he was licking at Barry again. He pressed that finger inside Barry slowly, keeping him as lubricated as he could with his tongue, and Barry began to tremble, began to vibrate, his body blurring at the edges. He was loosening up, his body relaxing into Eobard’s mouth and hands, and Eobard began spearing him with his finger, wanting to hear Barry groan aloud.
If Queen was watching on the cameras, he would have seen nothing of Barry’s body but a strung-out blur of light. Speed Force arcing through him with the Flash’s particular signature, golden and electric and overwhelmingly positive, like heat on a cold winter’s night, a light in the darkness. There was not a single speck of negative Speed Force within him, not like Eobard’s own manifestation. Nothing frightening, nothing lethal, no sign of destruction or death.
Eobard longed to be whole.
“I will take you dry if I must,” he said, looking up at Barry’s face. He tightened his hands on Barry’s thighs in an effort to hold himself back. “You won’t find that pleasant.” Barry stared back at him with wonderfully wild eyes, his hair completely disarrayed and sticking out in a multiple little tufts all over his head. His fingers were buried in between them--but even as Eobard watched, he loosened his grip on his head and lowered his arms slowly, as if it was only then dawning on him that Eobard had paused in his efforts to take him apart.
As if he was struggling to find his bearings, his eyes slowly sharpened on Eobard’s face. “Don’t count on it,” he finally muttered.
“Barry,” Eobard said warningly.
Barry shrugged at him, but then he tossed something at Eobard, who caught it reflexively. It was lube, damn the boy. “I told you I was planning this?” Barry said sheepishly.
Eobard closed his eyes and shook his head once, pressing his lips together in an effort not to smile. He had called Barry a gift, in their distant past, and it still held impossibly true. He kissed the inside of Barry’s thigh with foolish reverence before he pushed himself to his knees between Barry’s spread legs, and then he unzipped his fly and slicked himself quickly. He was already ridiculously hard, the smell of Barry’s sweat all over his face. “What I’m going to do to you,” he said, muttering the words under his breath.
Eobard took his time, went oh-so-slowly with barely the head of his cock pressing inside, allowing Barry the time he needed to adjust to the pressure. He should have taken more time in preparing Barry, felt Barry’s entire body clench down on him almost immediately, but what was done was done. Eobard waited with all the patience he had developed in all his years of waiting, slid his hands up and down Barry’s thighs as he murmured soothing words of praise. Barry slung an arm over his own head, his faced tucked into the crook of his elbow, but Eobard could hear the sounds he was making, the keening little gasps of breaths that escaped with each subtle movement of his hips. Barry was almost sobbing by the time Eobard was flush against him, his chest heaving with rapid breaths, and suddenly concerned, Eobard reached out to draw his arm away, wanting to see Barry’s face.
Barry opened his eyes slowly, blinking up at him with heavy-lidded eyes before he fully focused on Eobard’s face, the green of his eyes sharp and bright beneath his eyelashes. His mouth was parted as he panted for breath, but there was a smile in the slight twist of his lips.
“Hey,” he said, a greeting.
Eobard huffed out a breath of laughter. “You look surprisingly well.” Balancing on the palms of his hands, he rocked against Barry slowly, watching as Barry threw his head back in time with Eobard’s thrust. “Let’s see if we can make it better for you.”
“If it gets any better,” Barry muttered, his eyes still closed, “I’m going to die.”
“We wouldn’t want that,” Eobard said with a grin that even he would admit was wicked, and then he slowly pulled himself out of Barry, only the tip of him left inside. “But what a way to go.”
He snapped his hips forward.
Barry cried out beautifully. Spurred on by the sight of him, the sound of him, Eobard thrust into Barry with fierce determination, pushing into Barry with long, smooth strokes. He wanted to overwhelm Barry’s senses, make sure there was nothing else Barry could see, nothing else he could hear; he wanted Barry boneless beneath him as he accepted everything Eobard had to give him. Next time, Eobard swore to himself, he would use everything he had, would obliterate Barry with pain and pleasure both, bind him with tenderness, with brutality. Next time he wouldn’t be distracted by those soft and beautiful eyes, by the hope in Barry’s face, by his unending faith. But for now Eobard could only be glad for Barry’s presence, be grateful to be inside of him, to be surrounded by him. He could only press inside Barry as deep as he could go and wrap his arms around him tightly, because they were running out of time. The clock was ticking. The Hyperclan and their Towers were waiting. Soon Barry would be gone.
Soon Barry would be dead.
“Look at me,” Eobard said, his voice a ruin, dusty shale and dried-out bone.
Barry obeyed him instantly, placing a gentle hand on his face. “Harrison,” he said breathlessly. “Eobard.” The name that mattered to Barry, the name that mattered to Eobard, both given at once like a gift. Eobard devoured him desperately, greedily, wanting to bury himself beneath Barry’s skin, claw and scratch his way into his chest, make a home for himself there.
When Barry died, it would destroy him.
He blindly wrapped a hand around Barry’s cock, and Barry came instantly, his head tossing with abandon with his eyes squeezed shut. Eobard didn’t stop fucking him for a second. He was going to have Barry against the wall, with his naked legs wrapped around him. Against the door, his face pressed hard against the glass. On his hands and knees, quivering on limbs that threatened to give out on him. Eobard was going to fuck Barry through each and every one of their orgasms, again and again, and again. They were speedsters. They regenerated quickly.
No one like Barry would ever live again.
The door pinged open.
Eobard was still wrapped around Barry, and Barry stared up at him sheepishly, with that scrunched up look on his face that Eobard tried not to find adorable. Barry had pillowed his head on Eobard’s shoulder, ridiculously contorting himself to fit under Eobard’s arms, blithely ignoring the fact that he was too big to be the little spoon, that between the two of them, he was the taller one.
Barry looked at the door, and then looked back at Eobard. “I had it on a timer?”
Eobard narrowed his eyes, his suspicions confirmed. “No one was watching.”
“I…still can’t believe that worked,” Barry said with an abashed smile, somewhat concerned with damaging Eobard’s pride, no doubt. “I was sure you were going to look at me and just know. But seriously, I would have died. Died. Could you’ve imagined Oliver’s face? Like, how would you even start that conversation? Hi, I’m going to lock myself in a room with my, uh, my whatever it is you are, and he’s probably going to beat the living shit outta me and you have to let him; no, seriously, I mean it, it’s going to be bad and you can’t interfere--”
Eobard hooked his fingers beneath Barry’s chin, tilting up his head, and met Barry’s eyes with a baleful expression. It did nothing to hide the pride he felt. “Well played, Mr. Allen,” he said dryly.
The sheepish look only intensified.
“So you’ll help me?” Barry asked, wincing again.
Eobard pushed himself up on an elbow and took a hard look around himself. Both of their suits were stripped off and lying in small heaps around the cell. Barry was boneless and satisfied against him, his entire body gleaming with sweat, and he didn’t look in the least upset with the rough treatment Eobard had given him. In fact, he seemed positively pleased with himself; was staring at Eobard with a hopeful look. The fact that Barry had conceived of such a plan in the first place, that he had recklessly come into Eobard’s cell at all, that Barry had happily followed through on his insane idea—Eobard tried not to think about what it would mean for them.
“I have always believed in you, Barry,” Eobard said, quietly irritated with himself. It was pathetic, the way this boy brought him low. He nodded his head in answer to Barry’s question. “Why should I stop now?”
The doors slid open silently.
Eobard had never been in the War Room. He took in the sight carefully, knowing that it was unlikely that he would ever again get the chance. Full-length viewscreens lined the walls on either side of him, but directly opposite was an unobstructed view into space, the Earth rotating beneath the Watchtower in all its magnificent glory. In the center of the room was a metallic table, massive and anchored securely into steel, and he stared at it with eyebrows raised. He hadn’t expected there to be a place for him, but there was a chair sitting empty next to the Flash.
Eobard met Barry’s eyes briefly, noting that he had pushed back his cowl. Everyone in the room apparently knew who he was, a fact that spoke to Barry’s trust in them. Eobard marked them quickly--Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl, Green Lantern--and then glanced at Barry himself, looking him over quickly. It had been a few days since they had seen one another. The burn scars on his neck had faded away, Barry's brush with death finally erased from his skin. And the cuts and bruises on Barry’s face, placed there by Eobard’s hands, had all but disappeared. Eobard wasn't sure how he felt about that; his fingers itched to mark that smooth skin even as he felt satisfied at seeing Barry safe and well. The détente between them was getting to be more trouble than it was worth; he would have to figure out some way to detach himself from Barry Allen. The care he felt for the boy was suffocating--but for now, it was also horribly essential to their combined survival in the war.
Eobard took a step into the room. “What?” he asked shortly.
The assembled founders of the Justice League looked back at him nonplussed—a fact that made him smile back at them with amused malice. Except for Barry, he didn’t particularly care for any of them. Antagonizing them would be one way to take their measure. “Are we going to stare at each other, or did you need something from me?”
Barry was looking down at his hands and trying to hide his grin; the rest of them stared at him silently before Wonder Woman—he wasn’t calling her that, Diana was the name she gave to the media--rose slowly to her feet. “If you would sit with us,” she said sedately, and she indicated the chair next to Barry, “there is much we would discuss with you.”
She was the diplomat, then.
“This war has been underway for over a year,” Eobard said, raising his eyebrows, “and in all that time, I’ve never been here. Why the change?”
Barry raised a hand. “That would be me,” he said irreverently. He had apparently given up on hiding his shameless enjoyment of the situation; it was another interesting point that Eobard quietly marked. Barry felt comfortable with the other members of the League, not overawed in the least, and Eobard idly wondered if that was due to a lack of respect for his colleagues or merely true familiarity with them. “I figured after everything, you’d want to hear the whole story straight from the horse’s mouth.” He looked at Batman, and his eyes abruptly widened. “Not that I think you’re a horse,” he told the man, “I mean, of course I don’t, I was just trying to say that I—“
“Flash,” Batman said shortly. He sounded impatient, but Eobard could hear the undertone of amusement in his voice; Eobard felt the same way about Barry’s rambling, somewhat inappropriate speeches. Eobard was already predisposed to liking the Dark Knight—it was difficult to find any fault with such dedication, such intelligence—but his attitude towards Barry was endearing the man to him further. But Barry's reaction was fascinating in itself; there was a respect there. Perhaps more than respect--maybe intimidation, perhaps something more. Eobard eyed the Batman carefully and ignored the small spark of jealousy in his own gut.
“And yet,” Eobard said finally, keeping his voice bland, “not three days ago, I was thrown in the brig. Hardly an auspicious beginning.”
The entire table, sans Batman, turned to stare at Barry. Eobard looked at each one of them, turning his head in small, pointed increments from face to face before he followed their gazes to the Flash; the sheepish look on Barry’s face had intensified a thousand-fold. “That was your doing,” Eobard said slowly.
Superman coughed uncomfortably. Interesting.
“I thought it was a good idea,” Hawkgirl said mulishly. Also interesting.
Eobard wasn’t particularly surprised at the information, but he couldn’t help but wonder just how many times in the past his behavior had been orchestrated by the Flash. Had Barry been doing this all along, or was this something new? Eobard narrowed his eyes at Barry, trying to gauge his expression, but Barry was staring back at him with challenge growing in his eyes, and as Eobard watched, they grew heated, even lustful. Oh, for fuck’s sake.
Eobard sped around the table and sat down without meeting his eyes. “Let’s hear it,” he said, and he surreptitiously kicked Barry in the ankle.
“Please,” Barry begged, again and again, his breath warm against Eobard’s lips. He had such pretty eyes with his long lashes dipping low in supplication, and he pushed himself tightly against Eobard as if he couldn’t live with the distance between them, as if any air between their bodies was anathema. His words were said breathlessly, each one punctuated with a brush of his lips that felt like nothing more than a plea for attention, pathetically needy and earnestly sincere. His desperation was delicious, and Eobard couldn't help but smile at him indulgently while he pressed his own lips together, as he denied Barry the real kiss that he wanted. He ran his fingers lightly over Barry’s ribs as he seriously considered pushing him away. This was exactly how he liked Barry Allen: Frantic. Mindless. Chasing after his Reverse with no fulfillment in sight. His frustration mounting until it exploded into rage.
“Do you think you can bear it?” Eobard could hear the wickedness in his own voice; he pushed forward and pressed his lips teasingly against the shell of Barry’s ear. “Let’s pretend together—it’s necessary, after all. For the foreseeable future, this is who you’re going to be. This is going to be your role. So let's create this new history for you and I, let’s paint a picture: There you are, one face among the many in the lively and rambunctious crowd that’s come to cheer me on, a few years before the particle accelerator is activated—and I see you.”
Eobard pulled back slightly and saw Barry’s eyelids fluttering shut, a look of intense focus on his face, and Eobard knew him well enough to guess that this had been one of his fantasies, once upon a time. “I let you see me looking at you, see the way I’m appraising you from the tips of your messy spikes of hair to the excited bounce of your toes, and as I meet your eyes there’s a smile on my lips because everything I see is pleasing to me. Everything you are is perfect.”
Barry was panting open-mouthed against him now, his face pressed against his neck, and he licked and sucked on Eobard’s skin as if fixated, as if he needed some part of Eobard in his mouth. Eobard was going to take advantage of that wonderful oral fixation at some later date; for now, he trailed his fingers down along the line of Barry’s spine, his touch light enough to sensitize without providing comfort.
“That is what I would have done,” Eobard said softly. “It’s what I almost did—did you know that? So let's imagine that I made--I make my way off the dais and push myself through the crowd. I’m going to take you home with me. You’re going to become the Flash one day, but before I engineer your genesis, I’m going to have you, I’m going to snap you up and devour you while you’re still helpless. I’m going to own you, Barry Allen. I am going to make you want, always and everywhere. Your life will never be the same again.”
Eobard pushed Barry away slowly, lovingly, a deep satisfaction flaring to life within him at the way Barry kept pushing against his hands, at the way Barry pressed as close as Eobard allowed. He tilted Barry’s face up, and Barry opened his eyes slowly, his eyes glazed and far away. There was a happiness within them that Eobard hadn’t seen in many years; it suited him wonderfully.
“Can you see it?” Eobard whispered.
Barry focused on him, his lips twitching with a wry smile. “Yes.”
“Good,” Eobard said, and he turned them both so that they were staring down at the Earth spinning below them. The other League founders would be back any moment from their ten-minute break; the plan was coming along nicely. “Because when we go to Gotham, that’s who we’re going to be.”
“Correct me if I’m wrong, Mr. Allen,” Eobard said, hiding his incredulity behind sudden formality. He met Barry’s eyes steadily as he passed over his tablet. “But this seems unusual even considering our extraordinary circumstances.”
The others were frozen around them—he had harnessed the Speed Force to have this little conversation, Barry instinctively joining him within it. The planning session with the League was already in its fifth hour, and Eobard had been listening with only half an ear as the others argued; some teams worked best when given free rein. Swiping through his tablet, he had been going over the identities Batman had created for them—or perhaps they were better called histories, as he and Barry were going as themselves for the duration of their upcoming mission. Harrison Wells was already an established identity--Barry had rehabilitated the name years ago for use by his Earth-2 counterpart--but Barry Allen himself had no reason to attend the conference in Gotham, at least not in the capacity their mission required. Turning him into Harrison Wells’ plus one was the easiest solution to the problem. Their names had been linked together in the past; Batman merely needed to build upon an already-established paper trail.
But the man had apparently gotten carried away.
Barry took the tablet wordlessly, quickly perusing the screen, and then he looked up at Eobard with mirth in his eyes. “Hey, this was your idea,” he said, waggling his eyebrows. “And it makes sense to me. If we’ve been together so long, since before I was even the Flash, then hell yes, you’re putting a ring on it.”
It was entirely ridiculous; Eobard barked out a laugh. “God forbid that we should live in sin,” he said dryly.
“Don’t want to make an honest man out of me?”
“I have no idea,” Eobard said, “what you think I could contribute to such an endeavor.”
Barry laughed, his eyes dancing. “You have a point.”
Barry took another look at the tablet and then passed it back to Eobard, who took it with some reluctance. The image on the screen hadn’t changed: It was a scanned copy of a marriage license, dated some ten years back, with both of their names listed prominently at the top. It was nonsensical; there was no point to such a document. A new-found relationship between Harrison Wells and Barry Allen was one thing, easily believable because it was almost the truth, but a marriage of such long standing wasn’t tenable, no matter the false documentation. Harrison Wells was too much of a public figure; the idea would immediately arouse suspicion that they desperately needed to avoid. Fabricating a marriage license--Eobard was almost certain that it was the Dark Knight’s idea of a joke. Although now that Eobard was fully considering it, he was certain that the gesture wasn’t meant to be humorous. It contained a certain pointed irony. A rather harsh reminder.
“I suppose the real question is, Mr. Allen,” Eobard said, forcing his voice to blandness as he considered the dead-end nature of his and Barry’s relationship, “why on earth you would want to make an honest man out of me?”
Barry was no fool; he caught the sudden change in Eobard’s tone despite Eobard's best efforts to conceal it. “You said it yourself,” he said quietly. “It would be obscene.”
Eobard smiled unkindly. “It raises the question,” he said, clasping his hands together in his lap, “as to why we’re pursuing this at all.”
Barry sighed and shook his head, and Eobard watched him as he closed his eyes, watched him as a rueful smile twisted his lips. Barry Allen was beautiful, in his way, with a sorrow in his face that he couldn't quite hide; Eobard had no doubt that he had a large hand in placing it there. He had done it with purpose, in the beginning, and by the time he had wanted to revoke the action, it had been much too late, the paths their lives would take set in stone and inevitable. Eobard looked at Barry and thought him remarkable. Captivating. Exquisite. Entirely undiminished even in his vulnerability. There was a knife-sharp poignancy to his every expression, a devastating grace to his forbearance. It cut Eobard to the quick just to look at him, and that, at least, was fitting. “Because I can’t help it,” Barry said at last. “Believe me, I’ve tried. One day, in the future, I’ll be able to walk away from you—at the end of this war, when we don’t have to see each other every day. Maybe it will be easier then. But while you’re here, right here, next to me, you make me—“
“Want,” Eobard interrupted him, nodding. His own desire for Barry was a solar flare in his chest, brilliant and destructive. “Always and everywhere.”
They were the words Eobard had used to describe Barry’s fantasy—their shared fantasy, if he was being honest—of a time when a relationship between them would have been simpler. He would have fucked the boy, used him. (And probably developed feelings for him regardless--because wasn't that what he had done in any case? No physical intimacy required.) And Barry had trusted him then, easily and entirely. “I suppose we’re still living out a fantasy,” Eobard said slowly. “This one fueled by the insanity of war rather than—“
“The appealing nature of ignorance?” Barry asked.
“For people like you and me,” Eobard conceded, “there is a certain attraction to the notion.”
There was pain in Barry’s voice, more than was usual even for him, and Eobard reached for his hand without thinking. “Yes, Barry,” he said quietly, and he looked down at their joined hands, their fingers intertwined and their palms pressed together. They were being foolish. Unreasonable. The Batman had a point—this was going to end badly for the both of them.
Eobard didn’t try to pull his hand away.
Even if he had, he knew Barry wouldn’t have allowed it.
Eobard awoke in pitch darkness, already reaching for the Speed Force.
“It’s just me,” a voice said quietly.
The tension Eobard felt at discovering another person in his bedroom dissipated almost immediately, and he settled back on his bed as he considered Barry solemnly. He couldn’t see the boy at all, not even the outline of his body, but from the sound of his voice, Eobard knew that he was standing by the foot of the bed. Barry had never visited him in his rooms before, and Eobard was a little startled to see him now. They had both been pensive for the remainder of the League meeting, focusing on their work with strict professionalism in an effort to ignore the unease caused by their earlier conversation. And Barry had let himself into the room without permission, the latest example of the way he heedlessly trampled over and through Eobard’s life. Eobard felt only a deep satisfaction at his actions. If there was anyone in the world who had the right to violate his boundaries, it was Barry Allen.
Eobard waited patiently, saying nothing.
He heard the sudden rustle of clothing. In his mind’s eye, Eobard could see Barry pulling his shirt over his head. He heard the whisper of fabric falling into a heap on the floor, and then the bed was suddenly dipping under Barry's weight. All of their previous intimate encounters had been on the spur of the moment, barring their—Barry’s—manipulative tryst in the cell, but Eobard immediately reached out to welcome him, finding him by touch in the dark. Barry crawled over him slowly, with a hesitation that caused Eobard’s throat to tighten with an odd sense of sadness and shame. But when Eobard ran his hands encouragingly over Barry’s body, he settled quickly over Eobard’s thighs.
“I don’t care that this is stupid,” Barry said quietly. He reached for Eobard’s hands and squeezed them tightly. “And I don’t care if you think less of me, I just…I don’t want to be alone, not tonight. I promise I won’t make a habit of it.” His weight shifted uneasily. “I hope you don’t mind."
It was a display of vulnerability that Eobard hadn’t seen from him in many years, not since Barry had learned the truth of who he was. Eobard wasn’t sure if the gesture was meant as an indication of trust, or if it was merely a sign that Barry had reached his limits with Eobard, that he would merely take from him what he needed, the consequences be damned. It didn’t matter. Eobard was more than happy to give Barry his due: Harrison Wells owed at least that much to the boy he had once mentored, and the part of him that was the Reverse-Flash existed solely for the ceaseless push and pull between them--he would hollow himself out to give the Flash what he needed, if only to take it all away in the end. But Eobard Thawne…
Well. He hadn’t lied to Barry all those years ago.
“Whatever you want,” Eobard murmured. With pride. With love.
Barry’s fingers found his mouth, and Eobard forced his breath to evenness as Barry traced his bottom lip. He pressed them firmly inside, stroking his tongue with his fingertips, and Eobard wrapped his lips around Barry and sucked on him gently. But Barry drew his fingers away after only a few investigative seconds. “I want you to fuck me,” he said quietly. “Make me feel good. I feel alone, Harrison.”
Eobard was becoming more convinced by the day that his body had been formed around a bright spark of pain, a knife at the core of him digging into his flesh with each subtle movement, every wayward thought. He closed his eyes and found Barry’s hand in the dark, and then kissed the palm of his hand. “That I can do,” he said roughly.
Barry slid down Eobard’s body with his fingers going to Eobard’s waist, and Eobard lifted his hips to allow Barry to remove the pajama bottoms that he was wearing. He was naked beneath them, and Barry carefully pulled them down the rest of his body and then over his feet, one after the other. There was a gentleness to his actions that was almost servile in nature, and Eobard considered him with growing interest: Barry had never been subservient, not even at his most devoted, not even in the midst of adolescent hero-worship, and yet it was apparently the manner in which Barry was making himself feel better. Eobard didn’t move as Barry traced his legs with his fingertips, moving his hands over his ankles and up over his knees, spreading over his thighs. He felt a proprietary satisfaction take root within him when Barry found his groin, when Barry settled a hand gently against his half-hard cock.
“Let me,” Barry said simply.
Eobard responded quietly. “Of course.”
Barry parted Eobard’s thighs and pushed himself to settle between them, and Eobard couldn’t help but smile—Barry was lying stretched out on his belly, his feet no doubt hanging off the edge of the bed. Eobard hooked one of his legs around Barry in a gesture meant as comfort and encouragement both, and Barry immediately crept closer to rest his arms against Eobard’s hips. He could hear the sound of Barry’s breathing, not increasing in pace as he had expected, but instead smoothing out, becoming deep and even. It was calming Barry to be between his legs, and Eobard couldn’t help but reach out for him with a sudden fierce protectiveness; he ran his hands soothingly through Barry’s hair. The fine strands clung to his fingertips.
“Go on, then,” he said softly, and he felt Barry nod under his hands.
He felt the tip of a wet tongue against his cock, tentative and searching in the darkness, and then a moment later the heat of Barry’s mouth surrounded him. It wasn’t something they usually did, the act of sucking cock meaning more than what it was when one of them was angry, but Barry was humming softly to himself in apparent pleasure, licking around Eobard as if to better appreciate the shape and size of him. The submissive tinge to his behavior had not yet disappeared; Barry made inquisitive, uncertain noises from time to time, and Eobard instinctively murmured praise to him in response. He stretched back against his pillows to better enjoy the sensation of Barry pleasuring him, and each time Barry asked for him, it became more rewarding to answer in kind. He kept one hand buried in the softness of Barry’s hair and stroked his head gently. Barry’s mouth on him felt oddly soothing, a puzzle piece falling into place, and perhaps it was because of stillness particular to that time of night, in the small hours between midnight and true morning, but Eobard felt no sense of pressure, no desperate, clawing urgency. He enjoyed the teasing little licks of Barry’s tongue, the tantalizingly hot breaths. There was no rhyme or reason to Barry’s ministrations, but instead of frustration, Eobard felt only a slowly mounting pleasure that was accompanied by an equally growing tenderness.
“Enough,” Eobard said at last, and he placed a gentle hand on Barry’s face, felt the slide of himself inside and against Barry’s cheek. The sensation was intoxicating, but he tapped at Barry again, a quiet reminder. He was fully hard within Barry’s mouth. “This is not what you asked of me.”
Barry released him with seeming reluctance, and Eobard hauled him up to lie next to him on the bed, covering Barry with his own body. He took Barry’s mouth and tasted himself there, the bitterness of pre-come melding with Barry’s sheer sweetness, and Eobard kissed him deeply, trying to communicate his admiration, his reverence. He couldn’t see Barry’s face in the absolute darkness of the room, but Barry suddenly laughed aloud as he undulated against Eobard, and Eobard rewarded his bravery with a hand on his cock. Eobard loved the sound of him, his unadorned and unadulterated abandon, the crystal clarity of his need, all the extraneous details between them wiped away as he wholeheartedly gave himself over to Eobard’s hands. “It doesn’t make sense,” Barry whispered to him, and he kissed Eobard lightly, a multitude of sweet, closed-lipped presses of his mouth. “I still can’t believe this, sometimes. You make me so happy.”
Eobard paused in startlement. Not at the words themselves, since he already knew that he was capable of making Barry happy, just as Barry was capable of consuming him with uncomplicated joy in return—that was their particular curse. But there was a peculiarity in the way Barry said the words. Eobard remembered their interactions in the past, the bursts of insight from Barry that had taken him aback, that had made Eobard look at him twice and find something in him that he had never expected to see. Barry had always looked at things differently. Ever the hero, in all the best senses of the word. “You’re trying to comfort me, Mr. Allen?”
“I…I guess I am.” Barry breathed out a laugh. “Because you’ve been taking care of me, and I’m grateful. I really am. I’m sorry if I’m making you uncomfortable.”
Eobard reached across him to his bedside table, blindly grabbing at the lube in lieu of saying anything. He wasn’t quite sure what to think, and he took a few moments to ponder his own indecision as he slipped slick fingers between Barry’s legs and began to open him up. Barry curled back against him, panting into his shoulder. “I might admit to that,” Eobard said finally.
“Because of the role reversal?” Barry asked breathlessly.
“In a sense.”
“I’m in my forties, you know,” Barry said, and Eobard felt him stretch out on the bed, felt him swivel his hips so that Eobard’s fingers went deeper inside of him, and Eobard pressed them more firmly within him, answering his wordless request for more. “You persist,” Barry said, gasping out the words, “in thinking of me. As a young man. I understand that.”
Barry looked no older than he had at twenty-five, though they had both lived through many different timelines since then. Eobard himself retained Harrison Wells’ age at the time of DNA absorption. “You’ve loved and lost--and lived a life beyond me?” Eobard asked. “Is that what you’re trying to say?”
“Not beyond you,” Barry said immediately, and he wrapped his arms around Eobard’s neck, pressing his face against Eobard’s chest. He was shaking slightly, vibrations shivering over his body. “Never that. It’s not so simple. You’ve never been absent from my life--you keep showing up.”
“Ah, the unpleasant reality—for you, anyway—of time travel.”
“Not that unpleasant,” Barry murmured, laughter in his voice. He pulled Eobard closer and nuzzled at him for long moments, his breathing becoming ragged, a whine building in his throat. “Please,” he said at last, “Harrison. I want—please kiss me again.”
Eobard pressed their lips together carefully, the kiss almost chaste, and Barry sighed with satisfaction against him. Eobard inhaled deeply without even meaning to do so, his mouth parting so that he could capture Barry’s breath in his lungs; he wanted the taste of him in the air, the intoxicating pure scent of him in his mouth. They remained like that for long moments, motionless as they breathed into and against one another, until fine tremors began to roll over Barry’s body once again, and at last Eobard kissed him properly, opening his mouth to let Barry inside of him. Barry tilted his head back as he pressed more fully against him, and Eobard knew the gesture was meant as an offer. He pressed forward and cradled Barry’s head with his free hand, controlling the kiss with gentle, steady pressure as he slowly maneuvered himself between Barry’s legs.
Barry's brush with death had mutated their once-aggressive fucking into a kind of back-biting playfulness, but the world was shifting around them once again: When he finally pushed inside of Barry, he felt another layer of himself shedding away, the intimacy between them almost too great to bear. Barry’s soft gasps were filling his ears, and he was suddenly grateful for the lack of light in the room when Barry’s hands came up to frame his face. He couldn't imagine looking down into Barry's eyes and seeing the surrender within them, couldn’t imagine the response it would trigger within himself, didn’t want to know what Barry would see within his eyes. Eobard felt as if he was disintegrating with every swivel of his hips, as if he and Barry were disappearing into one another, their individual selves melting away as they devolved into that small, still place in the Speed Force where they were anchored together, where the cohesion between them was conceived and born. The Speed Force was no longer a binding force between them, but instead became the open air over a sweet-smelling field, full of wildness and growth and endless possibility. He knew, piercingly, that he could have loved Barry Allen in that place--did love him, in fact--and could have been everything the boy needed without any of the hard edges polluting them both. Barry could have been all the challenge Eobard required, an endless immortal mystery. Meeting Barry’s mouth in the dark with their limbs entwined and their bodies joined, they could have been any one of the other Barry Allens and Eobard Thawnes in the all the timelines and in all the universes, the ones who had made it work, who had made their peace with each other despite all the odds against them. They could have been the lucky ones.
"I love you," Barry suddenly murmured, shocking Eobard to his core. From the way Barry immediately froze beneath him, Eobard understood that the riot of endorphins had gotten to him, knew Barry had offered up a falsehood in the sheer overwhelming heat of the moment. Eobard found himself starkly glad of it, felt his insides seared by the impossible warmth of the lie.
“Sure you do,” Eobard said, laughing against his mouth. He pressed his forehead against Barry’s, shaking his head with bemused tenderness. “Say it again.”
Barry didn’t respond for a long moment, and Eobard didn’t pressure him, but instead pushed inside of him with slow, deliberate movements, content with the simple delight of being within him. Barry fell back on the bed all at once, becoming boneless once more as the tension slowly left his body, and Eobard lowered himself on his elbows so that they were pressed together tightly, skin sliding against skin with each undulation turning into a full-body caress. Barry’s arms wrapped around him again, and when Eobard took his mouth once more, Barry was smiling against his lips.
“I love you,” Barry whispered softly when they parted, the words almost breathless. “Always and everywhere.”
When they were finished, Barry asked to stay the night. Eobard let him. When Barry was fully asleep, curled in Eobard's arms with his breath soft and even against Eobard's chest, Eobard turned on one of the dim lights next to his bed. If he watched Barry silently, marveling at the impossible perfection of him as he refused to count the seconds, minutes, and hours that may or may not have passed, no one was there to see him do it.
Their eyes met across the Watchtower promenade.
Eobard’s peripheral vision was narrowing, the world momentarily slipping away as all of his senses focused in on Barry. He watched as Barry stared back with one of his hands outstretched, frozen over the bank of monitors before him. The two of them were separated by a hundred yards of space and milling crowds, but Eobard could suddenly smell Barry’s scent surrounding him, memories clouding his reality. He found himself drinking in the sight of Barry’s face, feeling a gladness that bordered on relief--it had been a week since they had seen one another, since Barry had crawled his way into Eobard’s bed, and they had been avoiding each other in the interim. Eobard straightened as he held Barry’s dismayed gaze, feeling a smile grow across his own lips. The expression was full of a mocking amusement.
Barry drew back sharply, the motion almost unnoticeable to normal vision. Eobard hadn't realized until that moment that he had also meant the look as a reprimand--for the both of them, if he was being honest. But then Barry abruptly rolled his eyes, a corner of his lips twitching with a seemingly contradictory mix of irritation and pleasure, and Eobard found his smile only growing wider in return. He couldn't help but consider Barry with a sense of uncertain and conflicted pride: Apparently Barry was also audience to Eobard's confusion, to his unintended moment of self-awareness.
“Can you please not do this now?” Cisco suddenly said from beside him. Eobard didn’t remember when he had dropped the thread of their conversation. “Come on already, spare my poor eyes. No one should have to see this.”
“My apologies, Mr. Ramon,” Eobard murmured, and with a raised eyebrow towards Barry--talk later?--he turned back to his work.
I owe this snippet to Kyele, whose thoughts on Eobard have dragged me back to writing this story. ;D
Gotham City was a place frozen in time. With the exception of a few buildings situated downtown, the once-changing architecture had seemingly halted in the 1940s, the skyscrapers richly embellished and full of a haughty grandeur that wasn't quite diminished by an obvious lack of maintenance. There was a shabby chic to the atmosphere--it was an ambiance the inhabitants had apparently embraced. The citizens of Gotham dressed in a way that evoked a sense of nostalgia, and even in the foyer of Wayne Enterprises, Eobard and Barry stood out in their sharp-edged Central City finery, in their relentlessly contemporary (if also bespoke) suits.
"You don't even look like him," Barry was saying, his eyes flickering over Eobard's face and hair. Eobard had aged his appearance using mundane dyes and makeups to better match his doppelganger’s. "I mean, you do, but everything is different. You don't even stand the same. And your face--stop making that face."
Eobard raised an eyebrow, his lips curling with amusement.
"That face," Barry said, his eyes widening with insistence. "Harry doesn't look like that--I've seen him laugh maybe five times. Maybe. Even when it's at someone and not with them, he doesn't do that. He gets irritated."
"He's having a good day," Eobard said mildly.
"He doesn't have good days. Not unless you're Jessie."
"You know him that well, do you?"
"Oddly enough," Barry said sarcastically, "I was kind of primed to accept the next mentor who came along wearing your face. I wonder how that happened?"
"Now, now, there's no need to be bitter."
"You're one to talk."
"That sounds like a story."
"Two words: Disillusioned fanboy."
Eobard laughed outright and led them towards the elevator. "Maybe once upon a time, I admit it. You're a hero," Eobard said the word like a slur, "after all--and you would know all about disillusionment at the hands of someone you'd once considered a hero, wouldn't you? But that was the beginning of our problems, not the end. Certainly not the end-all."
"That's not what you told me earlier."
"I remember that conversation," Eobard mused, refusing to rise to the bait. He pressed the elevator button and waited with Barry for the doors to open. "Odd. It wasn't a discussion we had the first time around, in our original timeline. Not with the you who you used to be, the one who grew up without my intervention."
"Yes, what a poor, betrayed little soul you are," Eobard said, casting his eyes upward. "I'm sure you've been thinking that for years. Far be it from me to prevent you from feeling sorry for yourself, but I wasn't lying to you, Barry, when I said that your life--all your lives--were so much better because I was a part of it."
"I'm sure that reasoning has nothing to do with the fact that you're a narcissist."
"S.T.A.R Labs, Cisco and Caitlin, I could go on--and can you imagine the lives that would have been lost without me? How many times, Mr. Allen, did I help you through a crisis?"
"You caused half of them!"
"I'd love to take the credit for that," Eobard said dryly. The elevator door pinged open, and he guided Barry inside. "Yet I find that I can't."
Two drabbles in a day! I'm on a roll.
By virtue of Harrison Wells' VIP status--or really, Eobard thought, by his own, as everything that his doppelganger had accomplished in this universe had been built upon the bedrock of Eobard's work--they had the elevator to themselves. Eobard eyed the patrons on the other side of the elevator doors as they closed, wondering who among them was actually a shapeshifter, a Hyperclan agent in disguise. But then he let himself be drawn back to Barry.
"Don't even think about it," Barry said, raising his eyebrows.
Eobard moved to stand next to him so that they were both facing the doors. "Where's your sense of adventure?" he murmured, eyeing Barry sideways. "Your sense of fun?"
"Do you live to be a cliché?" Barry asked him. "I'm really beginning to think you do."
"Live a little, Mr. Allen."
"I can't believe you are saying that to me. Weren't you always going on about caution?"
"That was a long time ago. As you've said, you're no longer a boy." Eobard smiled at him, sharp and fierce. "None of the same rules apply."
"I hesitate to say this," Barry said, not appearing hesitant at all, and Eobard took the look in his eyes as invitation to crowd close to him, harnessing the Speed Force to push Barry against the wall. Eobard stared at Barry's face as red electricity shivered over his skin, as it sparked between them, and felt himself smiling at the arousal growing in Barry's eyes. "But you really are a horny bastard."
"'Don't even think about it,' he says," Eobard said mockingly, but then he drew Barry closer and pressed their lips together. Barry leaned into it for a few moments, his eyes fluttering shut, before drawing back and meeting Eobard's gaze.
"Does it make it easier for you?" Barry asked. He tilted his head, regarding Eobard steadily. "Don't get me wrong, I kind of enjoy your horrible attitude, but still."
Eobard mirrored the gesture, letting his malicious smile grow wider. "So we're having this talk after all."
"We don't have to."
"I don't know what you're expecting me to say. Or what you think you're going to say." Eobard raised his hand, and to drive his point home, thrust it vibrating into Barry's face. "We have too much history, you and I."
Barry didn't even bother to flinch. He reached out carefully, his hand drawing closer to Eobard's, and Eobard allowed himself to slow into immobility as Barry's fingers wrapped around his own. "I don't actually expect you to change," Barry said. "I'm not that much of an idiot. You know that, right?"
"I'll disappoint you," Eobard said, and he let their joined hands fall away from each other. There was a sinking feeling in his gut, but he forcefully pushed it aside. Neither of them would be served by falsehoods, no matter how reassuring. "And though this should be obvious, when someone says they will be terrible for you--to you--then it's generally a good idea to listen to them. Especially when that person is me."
"I can live with disappointment."
Eobard couldn't help but frown. "When did you begin asking for so little?"
Barry smiled slightly. "For myself? I suppose it goes with the whole hero deal."
"It wears on you," Eobard said languidly, and yet it felt as if the words were being forced, one by one, from his lips. He didn't mean to sound sympathetic--and he probably didn't, his voice was too harsh for that, too full of mockery--but he had created the man before him. It galled him to see such obvious flaws. "I will wear on you, too."
"Don't get me wrong, I'm not asking to be broken," Barry said. "And I want to say that you couldn't do it if you tried, but I don't like to tempt fate. All I'm saying is that I'll take happiness where I can find it. No matter how long it will or won't last." He shrugged, a quick jerk of his shoulders. "Unless you don't want this."
"Unless I don't want you, you mean."
"Yes," Barry said steadily.
Eobard couldn't help but stare up at him. He could feel himself blinking away his own confusion, could feel the incredulity writ large across his face, but he couldn't find it in himself to suppress the tell. "I could hurt you so very badly," he said slowly. "Right now."
"It's the price of being vulnerable."
"You weren't meant to be vulnerable."
Barry threw his head back and laughed. "Wasn't I?"
Eobard hadn't ever truly thought of Barry's vulnerability either way. When he had been stranded in the past, destroying the Flash had been part and parcel of the goal in getting home, and yet the man had been so entirely larger-than-life that the creation of a vulnerability had seemed impossible. It was one of the reasons Eobard had run to the past to confront a child, that he had gone to the extremes of killing that child's mother. There was no other vulnerability in the Flash to be had.
It had taken him far too long to see just how exposed his Barry Allen truly was. Eobard had been ridiculously surprised every single time Barry had allowed him closer--when Barry really should have known better. Every single time the boy had shown him the slightest forbearance, where he had looked past Eobard's obvious amorality, revealed piece by damning piece, to care for the person of "Harrison Wells" beneath. Eobard had expected Barry to be a man puffed up with his own self-righteousness, and he had instead found a boy who desperately needed Eobard to believe in him. And so Eobard had.
"I was thinking about ending this," Barry said abruptly, startling him, but when Eobard would have drawn away, he found Barry's hands tight on his suit lapels, holding him in place. "Whatever it is we're doing, it's more than it should be, more than it was. I--look, I'll be honest, I loved you when I was younger, Harrison, and I don't really want to do it again. In any way. In any form."
"No one is saying that you have to love me," Eobard exhaled on a laugh. He tried to bury the part of him that alternately thrilled at Barry’s words and wanted desperately to run from them. "In fact, you shouldn't. And you don't."
"I care about you--it's bad enough," Barry said staunchly. "And you're beginning to care about me."
Eobard didn't deny it; it would be pointless. The fact that they were having this discussion at all was proof enough. "So let's stop."
"I don't want to stop."
"Maybe that shouldn't have anything to do with it."
"I guess we could just be here as friends?” Barry said uncertainly. “Colleagues. It wouldn't be so odd for me to be here with you. Dr. Wells and I--I mean Harrison, I mean Harry, not you--we're friends. He would have taken me here if I asked. We don't have to pretend to be more than that."
Eobard spared a moment to be grateful that Batman had disabled the Wayne Tech cameras from registering them; how the man had managed that, Eobard would have to discover. That and superspeed were keeping all of his and Barry's conversations discreet, but even so, Eobard forced his expression to neutrality. Not for the sake of any unlikely observers, but because he didn't know what it was about Barry Allen that amused him so inappropriately. It was becoming difficult to resist. He said, his voice dry as a desert, "Then we would have to be friendly."
Barry's sudden silence spoke volumes. "Yes," he finally said.
"You and I."
"I begin to see the problem," Barry said, sounding dubious. "But whether or not we can manage friendship--that isn't the issue?"
"No, I understand," Eobard said, forcing himself to sobriety about the situation. "You're not wrong." He met Barry's eyes, made a face at the combination of oddly conflicted stubbornness that he saw there. "Again, Barry, I don't know what you're expecting me to say. Do I think we should end this? Sure. Do I think we can? I suppose we can try."
"I don't want to try."
"Neither do I."
"Which means that we should."
Barry let out a loud sigh. "The more we agree on something, the more worried I become."
Eobard couldn't help the huff of laughter that escaped him then, and he pinched the bridge of his nose. The entire situation was headache-inducing. "Back to square one?" he asked, spreading his hand in a gesture of futility.
"I suppose so," Barry said. He reached up to run a hand through his hair, but at the last minute seemed to remember that it was styled into submission; he put his hand down with a sigh. "This doesn't feel real to me.”
Eobard reached out and hit the stop button on the elevator. "Nor to me," he said. "Discussing a somewhat amicable end of a relationship with you..." he trailed off as he closed his eyes and shook his head.
"This can't really be happening, right?" Barry said, laughing shakily.
Eobard turned to look at him. Barry was already staring back at him, his green eyes almost grey in the dim light of the elevator; it made him look otherworldly, almost out of reach. But Eobard could imagine all the marks he had ever left on that face and body, could superimpose them across Barry’s unblemished skin if he tried. The torn, swollen lips and black eyes he had given Barry barely weeks ago in the cell. The bruises across the boy’s stomach—mottled black marks on top of blue and green and purple, years upon years of them. The intangible if also indelible stains on his soul, the decades of loss.
"I can't imagine not being able to touch you," Eobard said quietly. "It's as if want has nothing to do with it. Nor consent. We push and we pull at each another, most of it against the other's will--what we've been doing in the dark seems of a piece with that. What does it mean to me, if you say no? You should have always been saying no."
Barry leaned against the wall, tilting his head back to look up at the elevator ceiling. "That would be the most messed up thing you've ever said to me," he said softly, "if I didn't understand exactly what you meant."
Eobard took a careful step away from Barry, turning his back so that all he could see was the elevator door. It wasn't quite anger that Eobard was experiencing: Anger felt like poisoned needles under the skin, a fire that caught and spread like wildfire until his entire body was ablaze with it, each and every thought consumed. Eobard had only felt rage of that magnitude a few times in his life, the majority of the experiences directly centered around Barry, and after each and every one, he had allowed the thought of guilt to brush across his mind, wondering if his response had been proportional to his perception of the offense. More often than not, after careful consideration he had found that his ire had been fairly earned, had been more than a little deserved.
There was something of the same compulsion in him now. He wanted to push Barry against the wall and dig his fingers in as deep as they would go, and if Barry bled for it, then so much the better. The crimson stain of the boy's lifeblood was blessedly familiar; Barry would gasp and shake, his entire body trembling against the pain of Eobard's touch, and underneath all the violence maybe Eobard would be able to bury the lingering, almost anticipatory sense of dread that he was not accustomed to feeling. Eobard forced himself to focus on the elevator's control mechanism instead, stabbing at it to make it start up again. "You should get out," he told Barry shortly. "Now."
There was nothing but silence behind him.
The elevator rose swiftly as the seconds passed. Eobard braced himself to turn around when he suddenly felt the heat of Barry's body against him--Barry was reaching past him, his fingers outstretched for the elevator's control panel. Eobard watched with a sense impending inevitability as Barry hit the stop button. "Don't," Eobard said harshly.
Barry ignored him. They stood like that for long moments, Barry pressed wholly against the line of his back, his breath soft and warm against Eobard's neck. Eobard didn't trust himself to move even a muscle, felt himself slowly succumbing to the whirlwind of conflicted violence and need that was rapidly accumulating in his heart and mind. "Love and loss are odd concepts," he heard himself saying.
"As in, it's better to have loved and lost?" Barry asked quietly.
Eobard nodded. "I'm beginning to understand that won't be true."
"No, I guess not." Barry pressed his face against Eobard's shoulder and laughed softly. "Nothing so graceful, not for you--what you love and lose, you'll destroy?"
The phrase tickled the recesses of Eobard's memory; he recognized it from one of Barry's favorite novels. "Are you calling me a demon?"
"I thought the comparison apt."
"I'll try to destroy you anyway," Eobard warned, though with what amount of sincerity he wasn't sure, "when the time comes."
"Probably," Barry said, and he wrapped his arms around Eobard's waist. "Sounds like you."
"But love would make it worse."
"For me, yes--but like I said, it wouldn't be the first time."
Eobard let out a breath slowly. Then he placed his hands on Barry's, pressing their joined hands against his abdomen. "You shouldn't give me that kind of ammunition."
"Too late," Barry said flippantly, but his entire body began trembling against Eobard's. Eobard found himself frowning despite himself, concern instantly welling up within him, the urge to comfort Barry rising with an uncomfortable, unfathomable strength--but with a sudden start of surprise, he realized that Barry was laughing.
"Barry," Eobard said quellingly, but he felt his own spirits begin to rise.
"This is ridiculous?"
Eobard found himself nodding in agreement, pressing his lips tightly together against the smile unwillingly breaking across his lips. Holding it back proved impossible; Barry was unsuccessfully trying to muffle his laughter against Eobard's neck. "You surprise me, Mr. Allen."
Eobard wasn't built for tenderness; it quietly seeped into his bones and disseminated throughout the heart of him. He could almost feel it mingling with the malice that he knew existed within each and every one of his cells, and even as he held Barry safe and close against him, the poignancy only served to direct his desires outward, turning him predatory instead. And maybe Barry understood him as well as they both feared he did, because Barry was going motionless, his laughter falling away to nothing.
Barry's hand came to rest on the nape of Eobard's neck.
"I want you so badly right now," Barry said, his voice quiet enough that Eobard could barely hear him. Eobard felt a shiver run through his own body, all of his attention narrowing in on the man behind him, and he straightened his spine against it, not wanting to give himself away, not wanting to give Barry that much of himself. "I can see how wound up you are. That you want to lash out. That you want to hurt me." Barry leaned in closer. "What are you going to do to me, Eobard?"
Eobard inhaled sharply and squeezed his fists together.
"And it's funny," Barry whispered, "it's so screwed up, but right now, in this moment--I'm completely aware of who you are. Eobard. Eobard Thawne. My Eobard Thawne. Not Harrison, not the man you pretended to be--nor even the Eobard you used to be." Barry lightly kissed his neck. "Mine. Everything I'm supposed to hate."
Eobard stared unblinkingly at the elevator doors, his jaw clenched so tightly that it began to ache. "Barry," he said warningly.
"I have no illusions about you."
Eobard squeezed his eyes shut, then opened them. "Flash," he said, trying to put some distance between them, but it was apparently the wrong tack to take, because Barry pressed up against him even more tightly, melting into him as if Eobard had murmured an endearment, as if Eobard was muttering filthy things into his ear.
Barry laughed softly. "Yeah."
"What you're asking for--you and I, we're not supposed to be here," Eobard tried, forcing his voice to steadiness. "In Gotham. We'll give ourselves away."
"No, we won't."
"I want you to hurt me."
"Don't be stupid."
"Come on, Eobard. Are you the Reverse Flash, or aren't you?" Barry said, rubbing his face against Eobard's shoulder. It was as if he was trying to cover himself in Eobard's scent; he pushed one side of his face and then the other in long, smooth caresses against Eobard's neck, pushed his face into Eobard's hair and inhaled deeply. Eobard's eyes were falling to half-mast despite himself--but they flashed open immediately when Barry slowly, deliberately set his teeth into the nape of his neck. Barry bit down harder and harder, breaking the skin, and Eobard found himself lowering his head in response. Not in submission: His spine was straightening further, his shoulders rounding out, and he couldn't help but slowly turn and look at Barry, focusing intently on the visible side of his face. Every muscle in Eobard's body was tensing. He felt coiled tight, ready to strike.
"I'm right here," Barry said, his voice low and persuasive. His teeth had left Eobard's neck, but in between his words, he pressed close to lick at Eobard's broken flesh, the delicate little laps of his tongue almost ticklish against the skin. Eobard could practically see his own blood in Barry's mouth, smeared across his lips; he suddenly wanted desperately to taste it there. "The Flash. Standing right behind you. Daring to touch you."
Eobard couldn't help himself; he pushed Barry away.
Then he backhanded Barry as hard as he could.
Barry slammed into the opposite wall. Eobard was on him instantly, dashing across the elevator with a burst of crimson light; it sped along his limbs as he slid his hands over Barry's body, grasping at him with greedy abandon. Barry curled into his arms almost immediately, his lips already parted and wet, and Eobard crushed their mouths together just to feel Barry's breath escaping him in short, sharp exhalations, as if he was in pain, as if the touch of Eobard's hands knocked the breath from his lungs.
And maybe it did: Eobard felt the negative Speed Force rising within him, the energy flowing from him freely in a wrathful crimson torrent, and he found himself succumbing to the urge to pour it within Barry, to overwhelm him with the feel of it. They were both surrounded by lightning, Barry's manifestation of the Speed Force giving as good as it got, and Eobard felt it twining in the fingers buried deep within his hair, felt it in Barry's arms as they encircled his neck. The golden feel of it reflected brilliantly in every place they touched, the positive Speed Force both familiar and welcoming, spreading over Eobard’s skin like the glimmering light of dawn. Eobard took Barry's mouth frantically, knowing that his own manifestation of the Speed Force must have felt quite different; the thought turned Eobard indulgent and almost patient, almost kind.
“Does it hurt?” Eobard asked, amused and curious, when they finally parted.
Barry was staring back at him hazily, the tip of his tongue barely visible between his soft and parted lips. There was a smear of blood--oddly shocking, oddly obscene--over the lower half of his face.
“Yes,” he murmured.
Eobard stared at him intently. “Tell me.”
"It’s like that first moment," Barry said, his eyes slowly beginning to sharpen, “when you're punched in the stomach. The intensity of it before realization dawns. Before the dull ache begins. Like there's nothing else that matters."
Eobard understood the sensation intimately. “It’s obliterating.”
Eobard raised an eyebrow. "Every time?"
“No,” Barry said, his lips curling upward. "Not every time."
Barry’s face was sheened with sweat and flushed with heat, and Eobard shoved him against the wall with a hand on his throat, merely so he could better look at him. Eobard examined him closely and Barry never looked away, his eyes fixed on Eobard’s, and at the challenge in his expression, Eobard couldn’t help but feel elated and exhausted. The entire right side of Barry’s face was flushing red with a spreading inflammatory stain, a nascent contusion that grew steadily over his cheek, and Eobard could picture the next moments perfectly: Barry’s accelerated healing would quickly congeal the blood beneath the skin, turn it into an incriminating, variegated bruise.
They would have no choice: Before they were seen in public by eyes that would never understand, Eobard would guide him back to their shared suite, and Barry would sit on their bathroom countertop, for once quiet beneath his hands. Somehow at peace with the fact that if his face were to be seen, he would be pitied by some and blamed by others, and Eobard wasn’t able to bear the thought of it—even at his worst, he had never and would never see Barry for less than what he was. And so with makeup under his fingertips, he would tend to Barry’s face, gently hiding the signs of his hands upon Barry’s skin. As if he didn’t have the right to mark him, as if either of them were shamed--but Eobard wouldn’t ever be able to regret the sight of it. Because Barry was already staring back at him with shining, mirthful eyes, amused and powerful all at once, and Eobard understood the look to the marrow of his bones, felt it mirrored within himself. The unending fatigue and dread beneath the expansive sense of wonder, as if he could tear the world apart with his fingernails, with such little effort, and the whole universe would crumble into pieces. All he would do was laugh until he screamed, and Barry would laugh with him, gods above the rest--until they killed one another, or the other gods of the League intervened at last and killed them first.
Barry returned his gaze and swallowed against the hand on his throat. He reached out for Eobard, tracing the line of his jaw with gentle fingers as if painting him with a matching bruise, but then he leaned forward until their foreheads were pressed together, until they were sharing breath. "We can't have this,” Barry told him, his voice almost a whisper.
"No," Eobard answered him. "We can't."
"It's the most addictive thing I've ever felt."
"And it takes everything. It will take everything."
There was joy in Barry’s eyes, but it was slowly fading. "Nothing else will matter."
"No," Eobard said and looked away from the change in Barry’s expression. It didn’t help; the lack of Barry’s face in his line of sight suddenly felt like an omen, and it made his lungs twist tight within his chest. "Not next to this."
“This is why you’re bad for me,” Barry said quietly. The entirety of him was disheveled and perfect, a riot of impossibility in his crumpled and ruined suit, the sleek, tailored lines of it rendered totally amiss. Eobard understood the spectacle they would make of themselves as soon as they left the haven provided by elevator doors; he had never before allowed himself to be anything less than immaculate when he was upon the stage. In his persona of CEO, at charity events, fundraisers, and media circuses alike, he had always been flawless, but for Barry he would announce to all the world how utterly he was taken, how obviously he had been marked.
Eobard couldn’t help but laugh at himself. "Whether you stay or leave,” he said, “I’ll end up destroying you.” For doing this to me, he didn’t say. “So run away, Barry. Run, Mr. Allen. Do it quickly, and do it now. Turn around and walk away.”
Barry's hands lingered over his arms, but Eobard forced himself to move away from his reach, taking another step back and then another. Barry’s fingers tightened on him for a long, strained moment, but then he suddenly released Eobard and sidled out from his place against the wall, turning his back as he faced the elevator doors. Eobard turned away himself, hiting the control panel to get the elevator moving again, before he turned back to keep an eye on Barry, who was muttering, "Bad for me," to himself under his breath, as if he needed both the goad and the reminder. The doors slid open and he moved between them, but as he stepped over the threshold, he turned to look over his shoulder at Eobard.
“The thing is, I don't even care,” he said, sounding almost helpless. “You say you’ll kill me, or make my life miserable—whatever, I don’t care. I don't want you to stop. I don’t want you to be good for me." He smiled at Eobard, the expression tight and unhappy. “But you’re right, aren’t you? I shouldn’t be counting on your sense of self-preservation to save me." He looked down, his hands clenching into fists. "Guess I have to save myself."
There was a moment, a split-second in time, where Eobard knew that he could have reached out and stopped Barry from leaving him. It felt like an eternity to a mind flush with superspeed, and it must have felt that way to Barry; Eobard never had the chance to discover what he might have done. Instead, Eobard silently watched as Barry turned away. As he walked out the doors.
He wished Barry had looked back, but Barry never did.
Barry was already disappearing into the crowd by the time Eobard left the elevator. His charcoal grey suit wasn't difficult to see as he weaved through the men and women clad in stolid black tuxedos and shimmering floor-length gowns; Barry didn't belong among them. He stood out like a sore thumb, and not because he didn't measure up to some absurd, arbitrary standard, but because it almost hurt to look at him. He was plain and sharp in his movements. His eyes were bluntly honest, like a sledgehammer to the head.
Eobard's chest burned fiercely. He warily considered the glass of liquor he held; he had plucked it from a passing server's hand.
Quickly picking his way in the opposite direction through the crowd, he searched for a restroom. He could tell by some of the sidelong glances sent his way that he had been correct in his assumption of spectacle; his hair was no doubt in disarray, his lips kiss-swollen. Knowing Barry Allen as he did, he probably had some visible mark upon his skin. Quid pro quo, Eobard thought, and laughed inwardly.
Nobody disturbed him until he reached the men's room; he could only imagine the forbidding look upon his face. He found himself staring blankly into the mirror sometime later, his eyes locked on his reflection, and he couldn't have said how long he had been standing there. His mouth was as reddened as he had suspected, the line of his jaw rough from the stubble on Barry's chin. They had shaved before attending the conference, but Barry had been distracted and hadn't done a particularly thorough job of it. Eobard hadn't said anything at the time. He had thought Barry elegant, in his way; he had liked the look of studied nonchalance. It had contrarily enhanced Barry's appearance of innocent charm, made it obvious that he had been tended to by other hands.
"Can I get you anything, sir?"
Eobard looked up, startled. It was the restroom attendant. "Privacy."
"Of course," said the man, but he retreated, irritatingly, only as far as the restroom's main doors.
Eobard suddenly imagined killing him. With a visceral sense of vicious glee, he could see himself walking over to the man and shoving his fist through his head, could almost picture the man's grey matter spattering in a chaotic pattern over the sinks and up the mirror, his blood trailing to the meticulously mosaicked floor. But the mess would inevitably be found by some intrepid soul who kicked off a police investigation, and a neater death, with a quickly disposed body, was unfeasible for the same reason. And if Eobard was being honest with himself, the thought of Barry's displeasure did briefly cross his mind--but if he had been bent on murder, not even in the best of circumstances would the boy have prevented it.
As it was, a police investigation would bring too much scrutiny. The handicapped stall would have to do for Eobard's purposes. He could use the private sink and larger space to steam the wrinkles from his clothing; it was a disreputable use of the Speed Force, but needs must when the devil drove.
He took the stall and closed the door behind him. Looked into the mirror again.
His dyed hair was riddled with graying strands; it made him look older, more similar to his aging counterpart. He examined his appearance, and feeling petty, felt that he had done the original Harrison Wells a favor. Earth Prime's Harrison Wells would never grow old, not in any way that anyone currently alive would notice. The Speed Force healed its avatars quickly, including the damage wrought by age, and only Barry could or ever would see the way that Eobard changed. Only Barry, if he bothered to notice. Eobard tugged the makeup containers out of his pockets and rubbed the loose powders into his skin; they deepened the existing lines in his face. With a quick touch of water and Speed Force, he once again appeared immaculate.
Eobard didn't break the mirror on his way out, but it was a near thing.
When they first arrived in Gotham, Eobard had opened his hotel door to find Barry in the hallway, his suitcase in hand. Eobard had stared at the luggage, and then at Barry himself--and Barry had looked back at him with wide, unblinking eyes, as if he wasn't quite sure what he was doing there either.
They were supposed to have separate accommodations. "Mr. Allen?"
Barry barreled past him with his luggage dragged haphazardly behind him, and Eobard watched him stalk past with raised eyebrows, his mind roiling with a sudden confusion of amusement and terror. He followed Barry into the bedroom, where the boy transformed into a whirlwind of movement, emptying his suitcase and arranging his things; his toothbrush was placed next to Eobard's on the sink, and some of their clothing suddenly shared space in a drawer. Barry's actions were incredibly appalling, absolutely reeking of entitlement, but something about Barry's posture--the tenseness of his shoulders, perhaps, or maybe the slight rigidity in his limbs--suddenly made it apparent to Eobard that instead of the self-satisfied confidence at which Barry was pretending, he was in actuality incredibly nervous. The sight was oddly touching.
Pitching his voice to dryness, Eobard said, "Miss me already?"
Barry froze for a long moment.
"Barry?" Eobard tried again, trying not to smile.
The boy turned to look at him, his movements slow and reluctant. "I'm not--" he blurted out, but whatever he wasn't, he never finished saying, because he took a deep breath instead. When he let it out again, his entire body was relaxing. "Tons," Barry finally said, his tone of voice matching Eobard's.
It was the type of response Eobard had been trying to elicit; he looked Barry over with a sense of satisfaction. From the look of things, it appeared that Barry had packed for himself--always a frightening endeavor. The boy was accustomed to superspeeding through the city to retrieve anything he needed or wanted, and he had apparently counted upon that instinct in his trip to Gotham. Eobard could see what seemed like a decent suit, navy blue and middling in price by the look of the fabric, laid out across the duvet, but nothing else within Barry's suitcase looked promising. They would have to go shopping.
Keeping his voice even, Eobard said, "I see you packed lightly."
"Uh huh," Barry said, instantly amused.
Eobard was laughing when his back suddenly hit the mattress, and he immediately gathered Barry close, relishing in the way the boy was absolutely buzzing with Speed Force. He smoothed his hands down the line of Barry's back; he was perched above him, propped up on his elbows over Eobard's head. "If you wanted me to buy you things," Eobard said, feeling gratified, "all you had to do was ask."
Barry shrugged sheepishly. "It wasn't a thing," he said. "You buying me things, I mean. Really."
"At least it wasn't before."
"But now it kind of is?" Barry squinted down at him. "Maybe. Should I be sorry?"
"Do I look sorry?"
Barry flashed a grin at him. "Are you sure you want me to answer that question?"
"That depends," Eobard said, raising an eyebrow, "on how indulgent you expect me to be."
A smile curled over Barry's lips, and with a huff of laughter, he rolled off Eobard to lie next to him. Their shoulders pressed together tightly. "You know, I think you're calling me a gold-digger."
He had left Barry S.T.A.R. Laboratories and more besides; Barry had no need for money. "Can you be bought?" Eobard asked maliciously.
"I don't know," Barry said, rolling his eyes. "Can I?"
Eobard reached for Barry at that, all at once giving up on his half-formed intentions of teasing him, and pulled him close to kiss him soundly. Their lips met with Barry's laughter between them, and if Eobard had expected the sound of it to be unkind, he was sorely disappointed. Barry's voice was brimming with tenderness, full of a bemused understanding, as if nothing Eobard said would be taken amiss. It was a promise of good faith, entirely unexpected. Absolutely undeserved. Eobard felt his breath catch.
Taking Barry's face between his hands, he said quietly, "You're impossible."
"You don't know the half of it," Barry said, his voice almost a whisper. His face was creased with a conspiratorial smile, the look entirely put-upon, and it was Eobard's turn to roll his eyes. Then they were kissing again, both of them exasperated and welcoming, until Eobard finally hauled Barry up from the bed and ordered him to shave. The opening ceremonies of the conference were about to begin; they had half an hour.
And that had been the whole of it. Nothing else had happened. Eobard didn't know what had changed between their time in the hotel room and their meeting in the elevator. They had headed to Wayne Enterprises directly--where their relationship, abruptly, had ended. Or somewhat ended; there was still the mission. Eobard found himself forcing his expression into near-perfect nonchalance; he had buried rage and hatred for fifteen years, once upon a time. Infuriated bewilderment was almost nothing by comparison; if it was necessary, he could bury that, too.
The Metro Condensed Matter Meeting was more than a desiccated, academic tableau. Gotham City being what it was, the scientific conference had taken on the decadent feel of an international exhibition--or in the common parlance, A World Fair. Wayne Enterprises had taken a cue from history and transformed its uppermost levels into a mimicry of the 19th century Crystal Palace, and in a massive undertaking, had stripped away each and every concrete wall to replace them with nostalgic cast-iron framing. Delicate panes of glass were suspended between them, each crystal piece seemingly warped with age, and through their perfectly imperfect panes, Gotham City with its gleaming lights seemed tantalizingly fantastic and almost hideously unreal. There was something about the look of it that reminded Eobard, suddenly and poignantly, of his birthplace: Through both his and Gotham's eyes, it was the current world who existed a step to the left. The outside world that was out of place. Almost uncannily unfamiliar.
The future, as it always did, reminded him of Barry.
The realization came upon him slowly. Perhaps it was due to their ineffable connection within the Speed Force, even as diametrically opposed as their manifestations were, or perhaps it was merely because Harrison Wells, one-time mentor, was attuned to his wayward protégé, but Eobard became steadily aware that it had been too long since he'd seen the boy. He rarely had any difficulty in locating Barry. There was a part of him that could look over his shoulder, or slightly turn his head to the side, or merely feel the uncomfortable prickle of eyes upon his back, and he would find himself with an immediate awareness of Barry's position. Eobard hadn't thought he'd been counting the minutes until that awareness returned, but a creeping sense of urgency was slowly overtaking him. The rate of his pulse was increasing steadily, adrenaline sharpening his vision, and his breathing had ever slightly deepened. Eobard released a breath slowly, and in a systematic pattern, his eyes took in the room.
There was no sign of Barry.
He had last seen the boy ten minutes ago. Ten minutes, give or take, after leaving the restroom. They had made eye contact briefly, confirming each other's presence, before proceeding with their separate mission objectives. They knew to be careful of remaining within earshot. Hyperclan Martians were too dangerous to face alone. Eobard could suddenly hear the loud, rapid beating of his heart, the seconds relentlessly ticking on, and he found himself harnessing the Speed Force. He dashed from one room of the Crystal Palace to another, the brilliant exhibitions flashing through his vision.
Room after room.
It wouldn't have been the first time one of them had vanished. One of the Robins--Eobard wasn't quite sure which--had disappeared early on, before the war had begun. The young man had been trained by the world's greatest detective, and it was assumed he had come across intelligence on the Hyperclan, back when it might have made a difference. It was too late to speculate. The League had never recovered the child's body. All of the Batman's family were the same, ridiculously impulsive and too curious by half.
Barry was forever getting himself into trouble, too.
He was emotional.
Always running where angels feared to tread.
They hadn't brought their earpieces--the League's communication signals, while being encrypted, were nonetheless entirely visible to a search. In a last-ditch effort, Eobard ground to a halt and pulled out his cell phone. He dialed Barry's number, hoping his call would be buried beneath Gotham's cell phone traffic.
No answer. It went straight to voicemail.
A whirlwind of images played in his mind's eye. There was the Flash, his mask torn apart, with unseeing eyes in an anemic face. He died with a spike in his chest, or a gash across his throat, or with electricity shivering over his skin. Barry was burning alive, as he had beneath the Towers, and then there was Barry, his Barry, the one who had grown into his own in more ways than one, the boy who had crawled into his bed with laughing eyes--and it wasn't Eobard's blood on his lips, not this time. Barry was gasping for air as if it escaped him, and Eobard had not come so far, put up with so much, had his entire world upended around him--and there was something to be said about Barry's role in that, but it was not the time--to have it taken all away. There was yet more to be said. To the boy, who was once his protégé. To the young man, who had become his enemy. To the Flash, in whose shadow Eobard had grown. Barry would not, could not, be taken from him now.
With a sudden flash of insight, Eobard sped over the balcony.
Down amongst the bowels of the skyscrapers, yet not quite at their roots on the ground, Eobard caught a glimpse of crimson suit and golden light. He could barely see the boy--in the congested mid-level arteries where old train-tracks weaved in and around buildings, and within the arc-boutant of Gotham's inner workings, there were too many braces and beams. Too many arcades in which to hide. All of them were set below the city skyline in decadent, decorative splendor. It was Gotham City; there were too many shadows.
Eobard activated his ring.
As the Reverse Flash, he burst upon the scene.
It was utter chaos.
There was no time to waste: He punched a fist forward. Impact with the Martian jarred his shoulders, left him breathless, but he craned his neck around all the same. Barry was falling away to the side, released from the Hyperclan agent's grasp--and dropping like a stone to the earth far below. Eobard ignored him forcefully, leaned sideways and skimmed his fingers against the skyscraper wall. Anchored himself just enough to whip around, propelling back towards the Martian. His speed was all that was holding him to the vertical plane.
He slammed into the Martian once again.
Then he was clear.
Barry suddenly appeared by his side. Eobard altered his trajectory with relief, arcing widely around the Martian instead of going in for a third pass--it gave him time to assess the situation. Barry was running next to him, their crimson and golden lightning satisfyingly intermingling, and he looked safe and whole, though the red mark on his cheek had been joined by other signs of battle. The white Martian was anchored to the skyscraper below them--the creature could fly, but seemed to prefer awaiting their return--and had abandoned its usual form to take on the appearance of a dragon, fluid and serpentine. It had a mass of writhing appendages that didn't belong on its body; before Eobard had broken them apart, one of them had been wrapped around Barry.
"Staying under the radar was too much to ask?" Eobard said.
"Don't start with me, Thawne."
Eobard grinned at him. "Pathetic."
He could see Barry with his own two eyes, not vanished, not dead. The exhilaration that came along fighting with the Flash--or against the Flash, as it usually happened, but it didn't seem to matter in the end--flared through him. They were both upon the field, their abilities unleashed and on display, nothing hidden, nothing constrained. Eobard edged faster, pulling upon the Speed Force, and a wild smile broke across his face as Barry kept pace with him.
They would rip the Martian apart--merely to see who could do it better. Eobard found himself whipping around in tight circles, unashamedly showing off as he gathered electricity to himself, and from the corner of his eye, he saw Barry move his arms in a gathering motion. Eobard released a bolt of lightning, Barry clapped his hands, and space-time jumped in a shockwave of rippling, queasy distress. Both of them were drawing upon the Speed Force, Barry perversely pulling upon its darker aspects and Eobard upon the light, both actions flashy and unnecessary. Performed only to show that they could.
The combined forces ripped through the Martian.
"Hunter Zolomon," Eobard said as they ran, recognizing Barry's move. He continued in his arc around the Martian, who was staggering in place. Its tentacles were writhing grotesquely. "I thought you put him down?"
"Wally," Barry said.
"Ah," Eobard nodded. "Is Zolomon dead?"
"Do you care?"
"Not really," Eobard said. "Just curious."
Barry rolled his eyes and didn't answer. Eobard eyed him sidelong, wondering at the sudden twinge within his chest; the thought of Barry learning an ability from someone else itched beneath his skin, but he quickly dismissed the notion as inevitable. Of course Barry would learn from others--Eobard had created in him a formidable foundation--but the remainder of Barry's training wasn't anything they had talked about. Before the Towers, they had fought and they had fucked, and not much more. Eobard wanted, suddenly, to know more about those years.
"Keep throwing lightning," Eobard ordered, distracting himself, before dashing off towards the Martian. He saw Barry's face scrunch up at the command, but it was not the time for teasing him; Eobard focused his attention on creating speed mirages instead. They worked in tandem, their movements becoming comfortable and familiar, Barry throwing lightning bolt after lightning bolt while Eobard harried the creature, distracting it from harming them both. Time seemed to congeal. To blur. They were the Flash and his Reverse, as they were always meant to be. When Eobard breathed, he felt Barry breathe with him. He threw a punch, and felt Barry behind his arm. The Martian didn't stand a chance, they were falling into sync--and that had always been their problem, that had always been their curse. They fell into easy intimacy without thinking about it, and the sensation felt good, it had always felt good.
Eobard had been driven from the future because of that connection. He had felt their bond within him even as a boy; the Speed Force crossed the barriers of space and time with blithe disregard for its avatars. As a child, he'd had the best imaginary friend, and if he hadn't known his friend's name or been able to see his face, that hadn't mattered to him. He had felt safe, secure in his friend's devotion. He had never been alone. But time went on. Barry's presence didn't leave him. Eobard had grown into manhood with a silent specter by his side, a ghost haunting his every movement. He had tried to move past the sense of Barry's presence, visiting counselor after counselor, feeling broken, feeling lost. His parents and friends had tried desperately to help him.
Then Eobard had visited the Flash museum.
He had laid eyes upon the man.
And Eobard had recognized him.
Like a supernova within his chest, fierce adoration had exploded within him, mingling with the sudden bitterness raging beneath his breastbone. Because the Flash was dead, long dead and buried, and none of it, neither Eobard's suffering nor his certainty, mattered in the least. He had been born too late to make a difference--in the 22nd century, they had believed the Flash's time traveling abilities to be a myth, merely part of his legend. And so Eobard had understood, with a feeling of utter despair, that he would never meet the man who mattered most to him. He would never get to see his face. He would never get to touch him. Eobard had looked upon the Flash's cowled visage, and he had seen nothing but a wreckage of lost and broken possibilities. Eobard had looked upon his face, and he had mourned.
"Now, Barry," Eobard gritted out, forcing his mind to the present.
They pushed forward together.
Barry wasn’t looking at Eobard, his eyes focused instead on the Martian bound in front of them. "I wasn't sure you'd come," he said quietly.
Eobard flinched before he could stop himself, surprised by Barry's accusation. He let himself glance in his direction as he moved closer to the Hyperclan agent, and then forced himself to focus on the alien, carefully toeing at it with his boot. They had knocked it to the ground, and it lay sprawled out and unconscious, its hands and legs bound together tightly. The grim alleyways of Gotham City surrounded them, the smell of rot and refuse overpowering.
Defaulting to sarcasm, Eobard said, "Surprised?"
Barry huffed under his breath. "Yeah, " he said.
Eobard turned away, ostentatiously to better investigate their surroundings. He remembered the sudden apprehension he had felt at Barry's disappearance--of course he had bothered to look for the boy. He thought, reluctantly, that he couldn't have done otherwise. Yet he couldn't fault Barry for his assumption, either. There was a certain sense to Barry believing himself abandoned after what had occurred between them in the elevator; it implied a lack of faith in Eobard that he had surely done his best to deserve. For most of their lives, they had been mortal enemies, and no matter that the relationship between them had been doomed from the start, Barry had, in essence, dumped the person in the world most dangerous to him. He had dumped Eobard Thawne, dumped the Reverse Flash. Eobard could recognize the humor in it; of course Barry had expected retribution.
"I can't promise that I'll always come for you," Eobard said finally, turning back to Barry. "So don't get your hopes up. I think we both know me better than that."
Barry looked at him solemnly. "Do we?"
"You have your doubts?"
"No," Barry said, shaking his head. "I already said that I didn't think you'd come. This time, I mean. But you look like--I don't know. Like maybe you disagree?"
The Martian at their feet was humanoid in appearance, rather than dragonlike as it had been, and Eobard frowned down at it. It had tried to kidnap or even murder Barry, perhaps in an effort to take his place--as if Eobard wouldn't have noticed the difference within two seconds flat. "I have the odd feeling," Eobard said, meeting Barry's eyes, "that I owe you an explanation. Do I?"
"You don't owe me anything."
Eobard smiled slightly. "Is that so?"
"You tell me."
Barry was staring back at him with mulish stubbornness; Eobard found himself fighting the instinct to draw him close, to take him into his arms. The urge was nonsensical. Neither of them seemed particularly annoyed nor upset, and yet Eobard still wanted to reach out and touch the boy. He wanted to place his hands on Barry's body and know that he was there, that he was real, that he was safe. He wanted to rest the tips of his fingers on Barry's face, sweep his thumb along the line of Barry's jaw, and see Barry smile back at him.
"Nothing has changed for me," Eobard said carefully. "I understand why you ended the, shall we say, more intimate part of our relationship, and as it happens, it's a decision I agree with. On some level, at least. But--and I would have hoped this would be obvious, Barry," Eobard smiled wryly, "but your safety isn't actually conditional upon my fucking you."
Barry pressed his lips together tightly. "Can you blame me for wondering?"
"No," Eobard said, shrugging his shoulders. He paused briefly. "And yes."
"That makes things clear," Barry said sarcastically.
Eobard smiled maliciously in return, feeling suddenly and irrationally irritated. "Were you expecting something different?"
"No," Barry said. "Not really."
"Good," Eobard said shortly, and then he crouched down by the Martian. Barry had insisted upon capturing it, refusing to kill unless it was absolutely necessary, even in the midst of a war. His skin crawling, he continued, "But as it turns out, I'm not that kind of monster."
Barry crouched down next to him. He reached out to check the Martian's pulse; it was in an odd location. Eobard supposed Barry knew where to find it because of the Manhunter. "And what kind of monster are we talking about, exactly?"
Eobard wanted to say, the kind who takes advantage of you, but that was blatantly untrue. Instead, he said, "I suppose I should be encouraging you to think the worst of me."
Barry eyed him sidelong. "It would probably be safer."
"For you, yes."
"But not for you?"
Eobard opened his mouth to agree, thinking of all the ways that he had once convinced Barry he was harmless, that he was safe. "Harrison Wells" had been a benevolent man beneath the arrogant exterior; it was a facade in which Barry had believed to his detriment. But there was something in the tone of Barry's voice that made Eobard suddenly realize that he was speaking of something else entirely. It came to him in a moment: Barry was suggesting that it was Eobard himself who would gain by keeping Barry at arm's length.
There was a measure of truth in the accusation, and it stung. Eobard found himself appreciating the pointed nature of it nonetheless. "Nicely done, Mr. Allen," he murmured.
Barry smiled, caught out and pleased with it. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"You don't honestly expect me to admit to my own vulnerability, do you?" Eobard raised an eyebrow.
"Depends," Barry grinned at him. "Are you saying there's a vulnerability to be had?"
Eobard closed his eyes and wished for patience. Tried also to avoid feeling seared to the bone. He forced himself to look at Barry after a long moment; Barry was staring back at him with gleeful eyes, wholly and utterly delighted in himself. Eobard reached out to touch his cheek lightly, entirely unable to stop himself. "I've said it before," he said gently. "You're impossible."
Barry's eyes were soft. "Always and everywhere, Harrison."
Always and everywhere, their phrase for a shared fantasy, a shared desire, a shared, self-deceptive love. Eobard felt his chest tighten, and yet he couldn't help but feel warmed through by the words, at the sound of them falling from Barry's lips. Always and everywhere. Perhaps it was taking on another meaning.
"You're not the only one," Barry said slowly, and he placed a hand on top of Eobard's, holding it in place against his cheek. "Who's vulnerable, I mean. I have to admit, I have no idea what I'm doing here. I'm trying to do the right thing, but when it comes to you--"
"When it comes to us, the right thing is impossible."
"Or at least unclear?" Barry said, nodding. "So we play it safe."
"Except that safe--"
"Exactly," Barry interrupted excitedly. "What is safe, anyway?"
"Yes," Eobard said, tapping him on the chest with his other hand. "Got it in one."
He would have expected Barry to become hesitant at that, unsure of how to proceed from such a realization, but the boy didn't drop his gaze. "If safety isn't the issue," Barry said deliberately, "it comes down to something else." He tilted his head at Eobard, the expression uncannily recognizable as Eobard's own mannerism reflected back at him. Then he raised his eyebrows, as if daring Eobard to complete his thoughts.
Eobard did not turn down challenges from the Flash.
"It comes down," Eobard said, his voice harsh, "to what we want."
Barry nodded slowly. "What we want," he confirmed, repeating the words softly. "And damn the consequences?"
Eobard searched his eyes intently. Barry had always possessed an element of the reckless to him; he had a tendency to react impulsively, his heart leading him down all the wrong paths. Or the right paths, as it happened. The Flash was a beloved hero for a reason, despite Eobard's many problems with him. "I wouldn't have expected you to say that," he said eventually. "And yet, at the same time, I find that I'm not surprised." He let his hand fall away from Barry's face, and he stood up, looking down at him. With a rough voice, he asked, "Which consequences are you concerned with, Barry Allen?"
Barry stared up at him from his place on the ground.
"I learned to be a hero at your feet, Eobard Thawne."
"Oh," Eobard said, making a sound of surprised satisfaction. "You did at that."
“Answer your own question, then. Explain it to me.”
Eobard predatorily appraised him; he could see that Barry was attempting to manipulate him, but still he couldn't help but close his eyes, allowing Barry's words to consume him with pleasure. The recognition of his role in Barry's life, at the implied exchange of fealty and possession inherent within the sentiment--it was absolutely delicious. But then Eobard opened his eyes once again; he would not let gratification get the better of him. "So the hero is allowed to be selfish. Is that what you're telling me?"
Barry met his eyes steadily. "I'm saying," he said slowly, "that the hero is allowed to want what he wants."
"Yes," Barry said. "Really."
A long moment passed between them. The thought came to Eobard slowly, like the creeping of the tide, that they were entering dangerous territory. He had always thought of the Flash, and of Barry Allen, as luminescent creatures, wild things that skimmed untouched over the surface of dark and murky waters. Eobard was the leviathan beneath the waves, waiting to drag him down. But it was beginning to occur to him, in increments, that in this case perhaps, their positions were reversed.
Eobard reached out a hand to help Barry to his feet. "Then what is it that you want, Mr. Allen?"
The boy smiled at him. The expression was not reassuring; it had too many teeth.
"That's for me to know," Barry said lightly. "And you to find out."
Eobard remembered the first time that he had ever played chess with Barry, and he also remembered the last.
On the first occasion, Eobard had sat in his wheelchair with Barry dashing across the floor, facing simultaneous challenges from Cisco and Caitlin. Most of Eobard’s attention had been focused upon Barry's nascent abilities, on the workings of his mind, and Eobard had wondered, as he had watched Barry play, if the boy had it in him to be ruthless. Did Barry Allen have a strategic mind, could he think tactically when pressed, did he react well under pressure--Eobard hadn't known. The entire event had been more for Eobard's education than for Barry's, and Barry himself had been nothing more than the means to an end.
The last time they played, Barry had sat across the board from him, smiling with his head tilted almost coquettishly, his hands waving expressively in the air. He had laughed frequently, with his eyes squinting and playful; he had been audacious in his tactics and delighted even as he lost, and Eobard hadn't been thinking on the workings of his mind at all--not beyond wondering at his ceaseless charm, at the absolute impossibility of him. Eobard had known their time to be limited then, the seconds counting down within his mind, each tick-tick-tick a few seconds closer to the moment Barry stared back at him with barely-concealed suspicion. With barely-concealed hatred, and Eobard sensed the loss of his regard like the rumble and howl of an approaching train. He had tied himself to the tracks with choices made fifteen years prior, and his only hope was in surviving the impact--a prospect that would leave him torn even in the best of circumstances.
On the face of it, the two events were similar: They were two men opposing one another across a gaming board. There were two identical contests. There were two identical outcomes. Yet the latter experience had felt somehow deeper than the first, made rich with poignancy, becoming almost painfully vivid due to the simple presence of developing emotion. This time around Barry was sitting across from him with a chess board that was metaphorical rather than literal, and with every passing moment the intrigue, and the sorrow, and the incredible joy between them was being layered, one on top of the other, creating in their mix and meld a mosaic of other emotions, too confusing and numerous to name.
It should have been frightening; it was enthralling instead. Feeling curiosity ignite within him, Eobard gently pulled Barry closer by their joined hands, and he knew, suddenly, that this was the way it would always be between them. It was the very essence of who they were: Eobard would never be able to love or hate Barry in the same way twice, because Barry was and would always be a living, breathing agent of Change. A living, breathing avatar of Challenge.
It was time for their next game.
"Then I'll find out," Eobard said.
They eventually left the alleyway, Barry using his cell phone to dial in the Martian's location. The Flash, at least, had been made, his presence known to whomever was watching--there was no longer any reason to avoid using League resources, as long as the Flash brought them in. The only good news was that the Hyperclan agent's telepathic alert had probably been trunctuated, blunted by the heat of battle; there was the slightest chance that their enemies didn't realize that the Reverse Flash was also in Gotham. And if they did suspect, it was better not to confirm their suspicions. Eobard was careful as he ran with Barry through the city, both of them moving too quickly to be seen; Cisco had given them small devices to help them avoid surveillance. They were able to loop back to one of the blind cameras behind Wayne Enterprises, and only then did they put away their gear.
Barry looked down at his civilian clothing. The charcoal jacket had been utterly destroyed, slashes of fabric open across his arms and chest. "I think I ruined your suit."
"It's your suit," Eobard said absently. Cisco had made the outfit; he had handed it to Eobard with a simple, Barry will forget. "The agent--did he know who you were?"
"I'm not sure," Barry admitted. "He caught me off guard."
"I was taking a breather," Barry said. "I wasn't--now that I think about it, it probably had nothing to do with the Flash? The conversation I was having before, it might've made me look like Gotham Underground. I was knocked off the balcony, the Martian probably thought he was taking care of a nuisance. At least until I didn't hit the ground."
It was a possibility: The Underground was sabotaging many of the laboratories and factories within Gotham in a scattershot effort to undermine Hyperclan activity. No one was quite sure which facilities were under human management, a consequence of the Martians' ability to shapeshift. "Unless you somehow gave yourself away?"
"I don't think so," Barry said with a frown. "I've been doing this long enough to avoid discovery--I didn't use my superspeed at all. At least, not once I left you."
Wayne Enterprises was probably one of the safest places to use their abilities, what with the way their cameras had been taken out of commission. "You realize," Eobard said, changing the subject--and he took a deep breath, Barry wasn't going to like this part, "that we should abort the mission."
Barry flatly stared back at him.
"Of course you won't." Eobard pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration. A Tower component was being built within Gotham, and they didn't know where, nor even who was involved. All they knew was what the Batman had discovered; someone in Wayne Enterprises had been co-opted. "Even though we've been compromised."
"You don't have to stay with me," Barry said quietly.
Eobard's response was immediate. "Damn you."
Somehow Barry managed to look contrite and stubborn at once. He said softly, "I'm sorry, Harrison."
He was apologizing for the choice he was making, for the fact that he would do whatever it took to save Central City--as if that was something Eobard didn't already know. Barry didn’t seem to understand that he should have been apologizing for something else. "I'm here," Eobard said shortly. "In Gotham. And I came looking for you, here and now."
"Do I have to spell it out for you?"
"Maybe you do." Barry looked back at him steadily. "Because now I'm wondering what I owe you in return."
He was making no sense at all. "What?" Eobard said, narrowing his eyes. "Is that what you think this is about?" He hadn't been thinking of their shared efforts as goods and services to be exchanged--but looking at Barry, it abruptly became obvious that the boy had. Eobard felt the sudden sensation of falling, as if the ground had been swept away beneath his feet; there was an old wound opening beneath his wet and sticky hands, the blood draining steadily away. "Tell me, Mr. Allen," Eobard said, distancing himself with great effort, "what, exactly, do you think is going on here? Be specific."
Barry grimaced, looking away as if shamed. The sight made Eobard sick to his stomach. "Are you trying to humiliate me?”
“No,” Eobard said. The urge to flinch had returned; he pushed through it impatiently. “Just answer the question.”
Barry didn't want to answer. He stared at Eobard with slowly hardening eyes, resentment at being asked to speak plainly growing with every passing moment--it was the worse possible response he could have had, and Eobard felt dread slowly gather within him. "I wanted your help," Barry said finally, the words flat and reluctant. “And you wanted me. So I gave that to you.”
Eobard couldn't help himself: He took a step away from Barry. And then another. Each action mindless and automatic. He couldn't breathe. He found himself pressing his fingers against his skull, cradling his forehead, as if the action could possibly help, as if it would somehow prevent Barry's words from registering. "That's not what happened," he was saying harshly. "That's not what's happening."
Eobard ignored him. “Everything you said—about want, about desire?”
“It’s what you wanted me to say,” Barry said, with obvious confusion.
Eobard remembered Barry telling him, a hero at your feet, and it was making sense at last, that he had said such a thing. Memories of the past few weeks were flashing through Eobard’s mind, each moment taking on a new light—everything Barry had said, everything he had done, but this time seen through the lens of Barry’s perception. Through the trade that had, apparently, been made. Eobard forced himself to trace each and every interaction between them, seeing where Barry had delighted and surprised him in turn—and of course he had, because it had been too good to be true, it had been intentional—all the way back to where, he suddenly realized, everything began. The cell. Where Barry had come to him with a deal. Where Eobard, at least on the surface of things, had taken him up on it.
“I thought you understood,” Barry said into the face of Eobard’s long silence. He sounded confused, uncertain. “Was I wrong? Wait, what--what do you think is happening here?”
There was no way in Hell that Eobard was answering that question. There was no possible way to tell the truth; he couldn't imagine looking Barry in the eye and saying, You offered me yourself in trade, you offered me submission--and I gave it back. Because you pressed your face against my neck, because you asked for comfort. Because you reached out for me. It wasn't going to happen.
"It doesn't matter," Eobard said instead. There was a scream trying to crawl its way up his throat, the sound mangled and terrifying; he shoved it back down with every inch of willpower that he possessed. "I miscalculated. What you said you wanted, Barry--as it happens, I'm feeling generous. You can have it. You wanted to save yourself from me? Do that."
"I still can't do this alone," Barry said quietly. "Especially now."
The Hyperclan was aware of the Flash's presence in the city. "You won't be."
Eobard smiled at him, and he could feel how the expression sat wrongly on his face, that it was twisted and unkind. But still he couldn’t allow Barry to die, not if he could help it—certainly not at another’s hands. "Don't worry about it."
Eobard was sitting on one side of the limousine, a glass of decently smooth, if mundane, Glenlivet-18 in his hand. He had forced his face into a pleasantly bland expression that had once been familiar to him in his years as Harrison Wells, and he kept his limbs loose and easy by his sides, betraying none of the tension running within him. If he turned to glance at Barry every once in a while, it was only to avoid the appearance of resolutely gazing through the window; he spent most of the drive with his eyes fixed on Gotham, on the freeways and overpasses set high off the ground. Their driver was taking the most scenic passages throughout the city on their way back to the hotel, and Eobard had forbidden Barry, and thus himself, from using the Speed Force as civilians, too aware of the possibility of surveillance.
Next to him, Barry shuffled his feet.
Eobard arched an eyebrow in his direction.
Barry frowned slightly, as if confused, and looked away.
Eobard was glad of the silence; he went back to staring through the window. There was a quality to their shared company that was familiar to him, in the uncertainty of the person sitting next to him, in the manner they searched for words and then decided not to speak. Eobard's older sister, once upon a time, had come to regard him in much the same manner; born eight years and three days apart, still they had understood one another in a way their other siblings hadn't—at least until they visited the Flash museum together. At least until he had looked up at the Flash, at his secret friend finally made visible, and tears had begun running down his cheeks.
He had been incoherent in his grief. Absolutely inconsolable.
His sister hadn't been concerned—she had been interested, perhaps almost entertained, and maybe that should have been a betrayal. But it was Eobard's parents who had heard Eobard's pressured speech, his seemingly nonsensical thoughts—nonsensical to people who had never touched the Speed Force, to people who had no conception of quantum mechanics, astrophysics, or chronophysics—and they had seen his outflung hands, heard his raised voice, and mistaken them for violence. Eobard had frightened them. He had frightened everyone. And at a mere thirteen-years-old, he'd been locked in the psych ward.
It had lasted only a week.
Eobard had learned his lesson.
With Barry's silent presence beside him now, Eobard could imagine himself saying, "You thought that I bought you," and even to his own ears, he would sound unconcerned. He would sound amused, just as his sister had been, all those many years ago.
Barry might glance at him briefly, Eobard wagered, and then he would look down at his hands. "It's not funny."
"Frankly, Mr. Allen," Eobard said, and if he felt a twinge in his chest, he ruthlessly suppressed it. "It's absolutely hilarious."
"I'm glad you think so."
A part of him was desperately curious as to the terms of their arrangement; at least as it had existed within Barry's mind. He wanted to know if there had been limits, or if Barry would have done anything, but that was a question that lived too close to the experience of what had already occurred between them. How many of Barry's actions had been committed merely because he believed Eobard had wanted them—and even that question presupposed that some of Barry's actions had been genuine, a situation that was not at all a certainty.
"I didn't think you had it in you," he finally decided on saying.
His lips twisted mirthlessly. "I thought you prided yourself on your honesty?"
"No, you didn't."
The Harrison Wells persona would have been pleased by that response. "No, I didn't."
But Eobard said none of it; he merely continued gazing through the window. It wasn't a conversation that he was ready to have, because there were so many different pathways that could be taken. Eobard could see the possibilities inherent within even that one particular interaction:
Barry might motion between them. "Not that honesty had anything to do with it."
"A deal is a deal?" Eobard regarded him skeptically.
"That's honest enough, maybe?"
Eobard felt his eyebrows rise incrementally. "That's mercenary of you."
"It is, isn't it," Barry said.
That was an avenue which led to resentment, and anger, and ultimately ended in violence.
Barry might motion between them. "My offer was genuine," he said, puzzled. "I don't know what you were—what happened? I don't understand."
"Of course you don't."
"It hardly matters anymore."
And maybe then, honesty be damned, Eobard would cut to the heart of the matter, severing the ties of his own feelings as deeply as he could. "Why?" he would ask. "Are you still on offer?"
"I don't know," Barry said slowly. "Are you trying to take me up on it?"
Eobard smiled, the expression cruel and empty, and reached out for him.
But Eobard would always remember experiencing their relationship as if it had been genuine. He would look down into Barry's face and remember believing that those eyes were truthful in their regard. He would remember hearing Barry's laughter, and how it had felt when he thought it was honest. He would forever be searching out the differences between what he had bargained for and what he had once believed to be given freely as a gift, and in the end the bargain would sour for the both of them. He would look at Barry and for once be unsatisfied—and Barry would sense it. Barry would learn to hate him for it, and Eobard would hate him in return. They would cannibalize each other, both of them made bitter and cold, the two of them together becoming desolate landscapes, the trees laid bare, the tiny burrowing creatures frozen and left for dead under the earth.
Down that avenue lay heartbreak; Eobard was not a masochist.
Barry might motion between them. "If we didn't have a deal—"
And he began to laugh.
"Yes, Mr. Allen?" Eobard asked smoothly, his voice like silk.
"You thought—" Barry eyed him with incredulity. "You actually thought that I—
Eobard would throw caution and decency to the wind. He would gather the Speed Force, and speed across the two scant feet that separated them--and Barry, who was laughing, whose guard was down, because Eobard had saved his life and foolishly set him free, Barry would be startled. He would be unsuspecting, and Eobard would use that surprise to force him down and force him open. He would place handcuffs on his arms and legs to hold him in place. And if Barry railed at him, if he screamed and begged, if blood ran down between his legs, then so much the better. He would know precisely how Eobard felt, the exact measure of it, the way it burned beneath his skin, the way it turned his eyes and mouth parched and dry, the way it left him cracked and desolate and empty.
Eobard would feel satisfaction at that.
He knew it.
He would also lose the feeling of Barry's face pressed against his shoulder. The sound of his carefree laughter as he pushed Eobard down on the bed. The way Barry had come to him in the dead of night, unashamedly vulnerable and asking for Eobard to take care of him.
Down that path lay a different sort of destruction, a destiny fierce with tooth and claw. Fearsome jaws were waiting to devour them both.
Barry might motion between them. "I was telling you the truth, Harrison."
"I said what you wanted me to say," Barry said quietly. "And it didn't require me to lie."
He was finally seeing Eobard clearly, could see straight through to the heart of him, and he understood the what and how and why of everything Eobard had and had not done. And if he didn't quite care for Eobard in the way he had once professed, maybe that was because it was merely the beginning. The world would open before them—how could it not? They were the Speed Force incarnate, both of its aspects; they were gods, fallen and uplifted alike. They would get another chance. They would start anew. And then maybe Barry would—
Down that path was denial, stark and flat and collapsing under the earth, roads and cars and people tumbling end over end until they disappeared under the ground. It was a sinkhole, and it would swallow Eobard whole.
Barry might motion between them. "I'm sorry," he said quietly. "About everything."
Eobard eyed him sidelong. "For what, Mr. Allen?"
"I figured it out," Barry said, and he looked down at his hands. He was twisting his fingers together with nervousness, with dread. "Why you did what you did. What it means. But I'm sorry, Harrison—and I should stop calling you that, shouldn't I? I didn't mean, I didn't think—I didn't know before." He took a deep breath. "Eobard, I'm sorry."
The heaviness was returning to the pit of Eobard's stomach.
Barry glanced up at him. "I'm sorry," he said in a small voice. "But I just don't feel the same. I never will. You—Eobard, you lied to me for years, you put my father in prison, you killed my mother—"
And down that avenue lay—
It would mean—
There was a shuffling noise next to him; Barry was pulling out his cell phone.
"Hi," he said into the device, and Eobard glanced at him, curious despite himself. "I was hoping you could help me, I'm in room five-eighteen—yes, no problem, of course. My name? Harrison Wells." Eobard arched an eyebrow at Barry's use of his alias, but Barry didn't turn to look at him; he continued nodding his head at whatever the person on the other end of the line was saying.
"In room five-eighteen, yes," Barry went on, and then he laughed abruptly. "Yes, that Harrison Wells. I'd like to book the room next to mine, the one that opens up into my suite—" He paused, listening. "There's a door to the main hallway and to the living area of five-eighteen, right? They share the same living area? Uh huh. Yes, I think so. Room five-nineteen, good. Yes, please go ahead and have someone open the doors between them, my partner and I—yes, yes, perfect, please go ahead and leave the new key cards in the suite. My husband and I will just go through five-eighteen. Great. We'll be there in around, oh, twenty minutes. Do I need to go down there and re-sign—no? Great, okay. No, that's it, thanks. Thank you. You too. Bye."
Barry tapped on his phone. He looked up at Eobard.
Eobard regarded him carefully. After a moment, he said, "You're staying with me."
"Yeah," Barry said slowly. "Is that okay?"
Eobard pressed his fingers against his own lips as he searched Barry's face. Cohabitation shouldn't have been something that Barry wanted. There was no desire in his eyes, false or otherwise—in fact, Barry was already staring back at him with something akin to wariness. Perhaps even fear, although of what, Eobard couldn't say. There were many ways in which Barry should have been afraid of him, but none of them applied to the current situation. Or maybe the expression on Barry's face was mere reluctance, and Barry was stubbornly holding to the terms of their supposed deal—and yet Eobard had explicitly put an end to that deal.
Revealing his own uncertainty would make the boy more forthcoming. "Why?" Eobard decided on asking.
Barry twisted in his seat, meeting his eyes squarely. It was fascinating; Eobard could tell that Barry was trying to bury his caution, that he was, in point of fact, trying to make himself appear unreadable. It was an obvious manipulation, becoming a blank slate that would exacerbate any projected feelings; he wanted to gauge Eobard's responses, and it was a tactic that Barry had no doubt learned from Eobard himself. But Barry had yet to perfect the maneuver. He had forgotten to control the rate and depth of his breathing, and his eyes were too wide by the barest amount. There was uncertainty in his face, coupled with an almost too-obvious bravado, and buried beneath both was a desperate sense of hope, a fierce determination. Whatever it was that Barry wanted, he wanted it badly. "It would be safer for me," Barry finally said.
It was a reasonable answer.
But not a truthful one.
"The Hyperclan?" Eobard asked, humoring him. He inwardly began to tick through the different possible reasons for Barry to lie.
"If there's a chance they know who I am," Barry said as he shrugged, "then we should stick together. Safety in numbers, you know?"
Harrison Wells would have encouraged such a sentiment. Eobard smiled mockingly instead, spreading his hands wide, a question.
Barry didn't flinch away. "Right?"
He continued to stare at Eobard, but all at once seemed to give up on his attempt at blankness—or perhaps he was merely terrible at it. His lips were pressing tightly together, his fingers beginning to clench over his thighs. The sight of him spurred on a curious sensation beneath Eobard's breastbone, and perhaps that was the point: Even a few hours ago, Eobard might have reached out for him. He would have placed a hand on Barry's shoulder, easing one and then the other; Barry was holding himself with his spine rigidly straight, in overcompensation to keep himself from hunching forward.
The urge continued to exist within Eobard: Driven by the challenge in Barry's voice—and there was challenge, even in the midst of his uncertainty—Eobard found himself wanting to alleviate and exacerbate Barry's worries all at once. He would have kissed Barry, soothing him. He would have laughed meanly against his lips, needling at Barry for his blatant need to prove Eobard's affection—not that Barry needed to prove its existence, but that he wanted to force Eobard's recognition of the same, as if Eobard wasn't aware of each breath that left Barry's lips, as if he wasn't measuring the steady beat of Barry's heart. It seemed impossible that Barry didn't already understand how Eobard viewed Barry's breath and blood as his own, that he didn't realize how every single particle in his body was precious to him. The urge to touch Barry's face in that moment, to both taunt and provide reassurance in a single stroke, was so powerful that Eobard found himself clenching his fists against it.
"Right," Eobard said, forcing his voice to wryness. If there was also a part of him that wanted to punish Barry for his rejection—if their supposed deal had been a rejection, and Eobard wasn't entirely sure that it was—it was a part of him that was too obvious by half. He was not about to reveal a vulnerability that lived so near to the heart of him. His voice dripping with sarcasm, he said, "You're always safe with me, Mr. Allen."
Barry stared at him—but then he looked away, saying nothing.
A long moment passed. Then another. And another. The car rolled smoothly on through Gotham City's streets, each of the alleyways they passed almost blinded by shadows. Eobard stared curiously down each and every one of them; there were an overabundance of streetlights throughout the city, and yet it didn't seem to matter. He wondered idly if Gotham would survive the war—if it didn't, he wouldn't miss it. He had no use for shadows. Unrelenting darkness was entirely predictable.
Something brushed against the sleeve of his jacket, and Eobard looked down. Barry was placing a tentative hand on his arm.
"I know," Barry said at last. His voice was quiet.
He couldn't possibly mean what Eobard thought he meant. He eyed Barry sidelong. "You know what?"
"That I'm safe with you," Barry said, confirming his suspicions.
He didn't meet Eobard's gaze, his head ducked down and turned away, but his voice was so entirely filled with sincerity, with unyielding belief, that Eobard couldn't help but stare down at him wordlessly. Barry wasn't safe with him, and he never had been. Probably never would be, not if either of them had any say in the matter. The words weren't anything Eobard ever would have conceived of Barry saying to him, nor were they something he wanted to hear from Barry's lips—whatever the boy was playing at, it wasn't due to any deal between them, not anymore.
"You don't believe that," Eobard finally said.
Barry looked up at him again, and Eobard hadn't known it was something he'd been angling for until it occurred; the knowledge pricked at him irritatingly. Barry was smiling at him oddly, with a small, private quirk to the corner of his lips. "You're going to keep looking for the lie, aren't you?"
"So it is a lie," Eobard said. He was almost certain that Barry was using one lie to cover for another--and he'd said it before, he'd say it again, Barry Allen was good.
"It might be?" Barry squinted at him, his face twisting playfully. "You know, I couldn't really tell you."
"Because you don't want to?" Eobard arched an eyebrow in return, feeling his spirits lift almost despite himself; he couldn't help but enjoy the push and pull between himself and the Flash. "Or because you don't know?" He paused for a moment, considering the idea, and then felt a twinge of unease as he answered his own question. "You don't know, do you?"
Barry grinned outright. "Are you really expecting me to answer that?"
For no discernible reason, the question made Eobard suddenly and inexplicably angry. He found himself staring at Barry until the boy's expression began to falter, until the smile abruptly fell from his lips. A bereft expression was slowly stealing across his features, and at the sight of it, Eobard realized that he was forcibly ignoring his own feelings—or maybe it was that he was punishing the boy after all, his own good intentions be damned. The expression Barry was wearing was a familiar one. He had worn it for years without end, and Eobard had ignored it then, he had pretended that he hadn't known what it meant. He would ignore it again. Because, he recognized, nothing had truly changed at all.
Eobard returned to staring through the window.
"Eobard," Barry said haltingly from beside him, "I know that you—"
"Look up Batman's interrogation records," Eobard said, cutting him off. "See if that Martian is telling him anything."
Eobard opened his eyes, blinking away the dawn light.
The thin white hotel sheet was tangled around his legs, and he kicked at the covers a little, trying to unravel them. He ran hot as a speedster; he had pushed back the duvet during the night, and he lay sprawled out on his bed, pushing his hands through sweaty hair as he tried to remember the night before. There was Batman, sardonic over the comm line, commenting on his and Barry's impatience before terminating the line. There was Barry meeting his eyes, and the sudden silence in their suite, and the way Barry's fingertips had lingered on his arm. Maybe Barry would have allowed it then, allowed Eobard to touch him. There had been a sort of gentleness between them, before their so-called deal—or at least, Eobard thought there might have been.
Movement in the corner of his vision caught his eye; Barry was standing by the floor-to-ceiling windows. He was tugging at the drapes, moving them the last few inches to press them against the wall; it was the light that had awakened Eobard. "It's barely dawn," Eobard found himself saying, his voice rough from sleep. He rubbed at his eyes, considering Barry blearily. He hadn't reached for Barry the night before. He had sent the boy away. He was sure of it. "This is unlike you."
Barry paused, his arms outstretched above him.
"I can get up early," he said after a moment, his voice dry. He released the drapery and looked over his shoulder, and then immediately glanced down the length of Eobard's body; Eobard abruptly realized he was naked. But Barry merely turned his back, crossing his arms over his chest. "You know. Here and there."
Eobard pinched the bridge of his nose. "Give me a moment, Mr. Allen."
Barry laughed softly, a sound of uncomplicated amusement. They were familiar with each other's confusion, at least when they were punch-drunk and stumbling after a battle; they had seen each other naked many times before as well. Yet the Flash in Eobard's bedroom, in the daylight, was an entirely different animal from Barry Allen in his rooms at night—and even their one shared evening had been a notable exception. It had been their habit to fuck only in the aftermath of bloodlust, at least before their so-called deal, and Barry Allen in his personal space, standing casually as if he belonged there...
It didn't bear thinking about.
Eobard pushed himself off the bed and made his way to the closet. The hotel had provided a plush and concealing bathrobe; Eobard passed over it and pulled on a thin black cotton robe instead. "Is there something I can help you with?" he asked carefully, pausing with his hand on the closet door.
His mind was rapidly clearing, the drowsiness of the morning fading by degrees. It was the second time in as many days that Barry had invaded his personal space; Barry had followed him with similar lack of subtlety in the early days of their partnership. Unabashedly suspicious as Barry had been, he had been almost insulting in the blatancy of his surveillance, and Eobard had looked up from his laboratory bench on multiple occasions, a malicious smile already spreading wide across his lips, knowing without needing to turn around that Barry stood behind him.
"I know what you're thinking," Eobard had said languidly, the very first time Barry had intruded upon him. Barry had been standing in the entrance to Eobard's laboratory, his mouth pressed tight and his arms crossed over his chest. He was wearing his uniform, the cowl pulled snug over his head; the crimson color of him was shocking against the unpainted steel surrounding them. The open promenade of the Watchtower stood behind Barry; work spaces assigned to non-League members remained in full view, access protected by a transparent—and genetically-coded—force field. The ruling members of the Justice League, Barry Allen included, had access to all of it.
Barry had opened his mouth to speak; Eobard held up a hand to forestall him. "Granted," he said, "if this installation had been on Earth, I might have given it a shot. But I'm not going destroy the Watchtower, Flash. Not in the vast emptiness of space. No matter how tempting the target, I promise you."
"You're crazy," Barry said flatly. He took a few steps into the room. "I stopped trying to predict you a long time ago."
Eobard smiled at him lazily.
"And you're desperate," Barry pointed out.
Eobard allowed his smile to grow for an instant more, and then he wiped the expression clean. He closed the distance between them, human-slow, moving towards Barry with each step deliberate, each step precisely placed. "To kill you?" he asked softly. "Usually. But not today."
Barry didn't look away from him. "Tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow," Eobard repeated mockingly, tilting his head as if he were considering the question. "Because that's what we're here for, isn't it? Our tomorrows, and all the days that come afterward—let's talk about tomorrow, Flash. The criminals in the Watchtower might believe they're here because of a misguided sense of heroism, but that's not your flaw, is it?"
"You would know," Barry said shortly.
Eobard smiled, delighted. "Are you setting me up to fail?"
"Do I have to?" Barry glared at him, his eyes burning, and when he spoke, his voice was full of false sweetness. "I know you, Thawne, just as well as you know me. And you talk a good game, you always have. But you're always one temper tantrum away from destroying everything." Barry smiled at him, his lips pressed tight. "And everyone."
"A temper tantrum," Eobard said.
"You heard me."
Eobard knew that if he reacted in the way Barry deserved, his stay in the Watchtower would be cut ridiculously short. "My compliments, Flash," Eobard said instead, pushing down his rage. He shoved his way back to his laboratory bench. "You've learned to mangle a person's life and belittle their misery. I suppose congratulations are in order?"
"Are you expecting me to feel sorry for you?" Barry said, following him inside. He sounded vaguely outraged. "You? After everything?"
"I'm expecting," Eobard said, looking over his shoulder, "you to stay out of my way, and to let me get on with the work with saving us—actually, no, I'm not expecting that at all. You're going to do what you do best, Mr. Allen. You're going to meddle until you get us both killed."
"Well, you taught me once, Dr. Wells," Barry said unrepentantly. He pushed in next to Eobard to stare down at the experiment in progress. "Teach me again."
"Your faith in me is overwhelming."
Barry had eyed him sidelong then, glaring at him from beneath lowered lashes. "I don't even know why you're here," he had muttered, jerking his shoulders in irritation. "You've got something else going on, I know it—why else haven't you run back to the future? But in the meantime, Eobard? If you want to stay here, you're going to be useful."
Barry had become pragmatic over the years.
Eobard ran his fingertips along the woodgrain of the closet door, taking a few moments to breathe. He considered the man standing behind him; their positions were familiar, as if each of them had stepped into the past, time righting itself as it always did and forcing them back into their proper alignment. But this time around, it was Eobard who remained unsure of Barry's motivations; the boy didn't share Eobard's perception of their relationship, that much had become perfectly clear. They shared a rivalry, as they always had, and a partnership born of necessity, but whereas Eobard saw in them a symmetry, and a desperate, destructive attraction that existed between them with all the force of two colliding singularities, he was beginning to understand that Barry saw them entirely differently. As disparate puzzle pieces, perhaps, their edges on the verge of alignment but never fully interlocking, any connection between them forced by circumstance or by Eobard's own too-stubborn hand. A necessity to be borne—but only until the correct piece was discovered. Only until the correct piece was slotted into place instead. Eobard filled a temporary gap; he was useful in the moment.
Eobard found his fingers clenched tightly on the closet door. But the situation as it existed—it was what he had wanted. A return to clarity. To well-defined roles. Everything was proceeding apace, and Eobard forced himself to relax his hands, to focus on the tidy line of black fabric hanging before him. There was the long line of his many suits, and he examined each of them with a critical eye. He needed something appropriate for daywear, possessing good lines while also being appropriate for the venue. He examined a suit and then another, pushing through the hangers one at a time.
Barry's hand landed on top of his.
"This one," Barry said gently, pressing Eobard's hand against the shoulder of one jacket; he had somehow pushed his way near without Eobard noticing. The clothing he had chosen was well-suited for Gotham; it was a nostalgic choice, classically fitted, with a notched lapel and a two-button closure.
"With a white shirt," Barry said quietly. "No tie."
Eobard exhaled slowly and carefully. He had worn the ensemble countless times—as Harrison Wells. Most notably on the day he had activated the particle accelerator, he suspected, though he couldn't be entirely certain; it had occurred so very long ago. But Eobard remembered Barry's face in the midst of that crowd, remembered it with clarity, the way he had stared at Eobard, his expression filled with excitement and awe. The adoration in his eyes when their gazes had locked, their eyes meeting for only a moment, and then Barry had flushed to the roots of his hair and ducked his head, breaking eye contact. Eobard had used those moments to examine his face, to memorize the thousands of microexpressions to be found there. Each one already familiar, each one lovingly cultivated. Each one carefully held within his mind.
"I used to imagine you wearing this," Barry said softly. "For me."
The universe around them froze into perfect clarity. Eobard could see motes of dust held motionless within beams of sunlight. Barry's hair was gilded with it, as bright as his lightning, the strands separating as he began to turn his head. His eyes would turn in a moment, Barry gathering the Speed Force to himself as easily as breathing. Eobard had milliseconds before it happened; they could feel like eons. Time and space were temporarily suspended. He had the whole of the timeline beneath his fingertips. Anything was possible.
Maybe everything could have begun in S.T.A.R. Laboratories—in the cortex so long ago, sitting next to each other, Eobard with half a mind on the screen before him. He had felt such an intensity of emotion for Barry in those days that lust had become almost incidental; Barry would have taken him by surprise, swooping in and stealing a kiss. His fingers would have tightened in Eobard's sweater, his mouth moving sweetly and almost uncertainly, but Eobard wouldn't have dared to close his eyes: Their lips would have met once, twice, and then three times, Barry panting against him in both relief and desperation, and Eobard would have watched every moment of it, watched Barry with half-lidded eyes.
"Dr. Wells," Barry breathed against his mouth. A question.
"Yes," Eobard said immediately.
Barry's hands tightened in his sweater. Possessive, but also afraid; there was a plea in his voice, the tenor of it rooted not in ownership. "Yes, what?"
"I mean yes," Eobard said, pushing down his own desperation. He kept his voice steady, balanced on a knife-edge. "That's my answer."
Maybe Barry would have asked him what he meant. Maybe Eobard would have been able to explain it to him. Or maybe they wouldn't have said a word—maybe Eobard would have hauled Barry towards him, pulling him onto his wheelchair, pushing aside the tablet-mount so that Barry could settle above him on his knees. Eobard would have pulled him tight against his own body, wrapping an arm around his waist, and Barry would have curled over him, both of his hands on Eobard's face. The night would have been silent around them; Barry would have waited until they were alone, but they would have been driven past decorum and caution all the same, past the last vestiges of safety. It was an impossible moment, something they were never supposed to have.
They didn't, in fact, have it.
The moment shattered. It had never existed. Neither had the possibility within it; Harrison Wells was dead or dying in every timeline, in every way that mattered. Barry Allen was forever walking on his inevitable pathway, each step taking him nearer to the Flash—there was no room for the two of them. There were only small differences: Barry was pressed against him, warm and rich with the smell of earth, with the scent of ozone. Eobard knew the feeling of Barry's power intimately, he knew it first-hand. The way it radiated against his own skin, every cell of their bodies drenched with the Speed Force, years upon years of it.
But nothing else had changed. Barry Allen existed as the person he was meant to be; there was barely any difference between him and the hated figure Eobard remembered. Eobard Thawne was the Reverse Flash. He was—himself.
"I would have done it," Eobard said at last, though he wasn't sure if he meant wearing the suit or something else, something more. He said it quietly, feeling that in some unfathomable way, he was saying goodbye—to a universe where a relationship between them was salvageable, to a Barry Allen who might have forgiven him, to a Barry Allen, perhaps, that he had never wronged. Eobard slowly extricated his hand from beneath Barry's fingers, forcing both of them to release the suit, and then he made his way to the sideboard by the window. There was the standard tray of miniature coffee maker, mugs, and condiments next to two water glasses, and for lack of something better to do with his hands, Eobard began to brew a cup for himself. After a moment, he added more grounds to the machine for Barry. "I would have enjoyed the symmetry."
"The symmetry," Barry said, frowning. He paused in the middle of Eobard's bedroom; he had been tentatively making his way to Eobard's side. "Between us? I—I'm almost afraid to ask."
"It was a long time ago," Eobard said, shaking his head. "It doesn't matter."
Barry took the last few steps necessary to stand beside him. "I thought that we still were—" he stopped uncertainly, seemingly disquieted. "You know, that we were," he motioned between them, and then his hands fell almost helplessly to his sides. "Eobard, you're my Reverse. What other symmetry do we need?"
The coffee maker had finished percolating, and Eobard considered Barry carefully as he poured a cup for himself. There was only one reason for Barry to ask such a question; Barry had never appreciated the connection between them, not for his own sake. He was placing a salve on Eobard's vanity—and this Flash was Eobard's creation, speaking about safety and symmetry, about deals and timers and friends lying in wait. He learned quickly. He had always learned well. Eobard could see Barry's mind at work in the way he had invoked the persona of Harrison Wells, in the way he had summoned the ghost of a gentler memory. In the way Barry had joined their hands, calculated and still too sweet, and in the way he had shown Eobard a vulnerability and then asked him to partake in it.
"I'm not going to leave you to die," Eobard said at last, speaking to the heart of Barry's concern. He could hear the resignation within his own voice—not now, he meant, and he supposed that would have to be enough for the both of them. "You can relax, Barry. All this—" he waved the mug carefully in Barry's direction, indicating the entirety of him. "It isn’t necessary."
Barry was going rigid beside him; he had placed his hands flat on the sideboard, as if showing Eobard he was unarmed—as if that was a possibility, as if it somehow mattered. "I guess there's a part of me that thinks it is," he said slowly, shaking his head. "That it's necessary, I mean."
Barry looked up at him then, and something in the lines of his body suggested a prey animal poised to run. Eobard instinctively gathered the Speed Force in preparation for the pursuit—he couldn't help himself—but Barry only stared back at him with a measuring gaze. He reached out after a long moment, his hands finding Eobard's where they were wrapped around his coffee mug. "I'm sorry."
Eobard couldn't look away from him. There was Speed Force running beneath his own skin; he wanted to maul the boy, mark him, scratch jagged lines into his flesh. But he also wanted to curl around Barry, territorial and animalistic, and bare his teeth at the world around them.
"Don't be," Eobard said, laughing shortly.
“But I'm not going to stop,” Barry went on, as if he hadn't spoken. "I think you might need the reminder."
"Harrison, look," Barry said, grinning at him. "What about this one?"
He had commandeered a grey shirt to go along with the navy suit he was wearing, and Eobard looked at him askance, raising his eyebrows. They were in Oxxford Clothes, a Gotham staple of many years, and though he would have preferred to buy Barry bespoke attire, they were pressed for time; a made-to-measure alternative would have to do. Eobard had brought him to the establishment at Barry's insistence: After Barry had made his declaration, he had ridiculously demanded Eobard's guidance in choosing his clothing. He had towed Eobard back to his closet, ordered him to get dressed, and then he had breezed out the door and back into their shared living room. He had even kissed Eobard on the cheek before he'd gone, his eyes dancing with mischievous laughter.
Eobard had obeyed out of sheer self-preservation.
He adjusted his glasses—why the other Wells hadn't elected for corrective surgery, Eobard didn't know, though he was glad his doppelganger had dispensed with the need for a wheelchair—and then stepped into Barry's space, forcing Barry to look down at him. "Looking good, Mr. Allen," he murmured appreciatively.
Barry ducked his head, seemingly pleased. "Mr. Allen, huh?"
Eobard allowed his hand to trail gently over Barry's arm before clasping him by the elbow; to the outside observer, it must have looked like he was whispering endearments in the boy's ear. "Would you prefer something else?"
Barry pressed into his touch. "What do you think?"
"Bartholomew Wells," Eobard said consideringly. He turned to meet Barry's eyes.
Barry swallowed audibly.
It was odd to be playing the role of Barry's husband—odd to the point of absurdity. He would have thought Batman more prudent, aware of the risk inherent in fabricating a false relationship, but he had apparently underestimated the man's penchant for drama. The marriage certificate had been altered since the last time he'd looked at it; he had come to discover that he and Barry were newlyweds.
"He knows," Barry had said dourly, when he'd first seen the document. His fists had gripped it tightly, crumpling the heavy paper at the edges.
"Knows what?" Eobard had asked.
Barry had only shaken his head.
It didn't matter; the damage had been done. The morning's limousine ride had been spent with the two of them perusing the magazines and newspapers their driver had left within their car; both of their faces had been plastered across the front pages. Harry Wells had retained a flair for the dramatic, at least in his own way—the tabloids remained as interested in his activities as they ever had in Eobard's—and the photos of Barry's face, reddened and bruised in the glaring light of camera flashes, hadn't done them any favors either.
The paparazzi had found them as they entered the store, their antiquated machines held tightly in their fists, and Eobard had spared a second to think about destroying the contraptions. But then Barry had touched his arm, and all thoughts of violence receded: Barry was smiling at him openly, his cheeks flushed in the harsh wind typical of Gotham, holding onto his overcoat as the fabric whipped around him. His hair was a wreck, completely askew, his eyes brilliant and poisonously green; he indicated the crowd with a roll of his eyes, and then he looked back at Eobard, scrunching up his face with a cute wrinkling of his nose, the expression utterly charming. He was playing his part to perfection, every inch the young man in love, and Eobard had stared at him wordlessly, the minutes passing heedlessly by, until the proprietors of Oxxford Clothes had come out to greet them at last, ushering them into the building.
Barry waited on the dais within a spacious fitting room; Eobard had joined him there. Their attendants were far afield, looking for the clothing that Barry had requested, too polite to stare at them openly. "I'm going to kiss you now," Eobard said to Barry quietly, a warning.
He leaned forward slowly, giving the boy ample time to draw away, but Barry only wrapped his arms around Eobard's neck and pushed into his touch with something like despair. Eobard nudged at Barry's face with his own, first to gentle Barry's frantic motions, and then to encourage him to tilt his chin just so; he breathed against Barry's mouth, savoring the warmth of him, the rich scent of green growth and lightning on his skin, the very fact of his nearness.
"There you are," Eobard murmured, brushing his lips against Barry's. The boy felt like home or near enough, but that was a foolish thought; Eobard made to draw away, thinking that they had done enough to satisfy public perception. But Barry's arms tightened around him.
"Please," Barry whispered. "Not yet."
Eobard immediately went still, his throat constricting painfully. He tried to breathe around it, his fingers fisting into Barry's new suit, but then Barry made a sound against his lips that was dangerously close to a whimper, and Eobard couldn't take it anymore—he shoved Barry against the mirrored wall and took his mouth, almost devouring him in sudden desperation. He wanted to taste Barry, to know once again the heat of him honey-sweet on his tongue; he licked into Barry's mouth and felt Barry's hands pushing through his hair, grabbing fistfuls of it. Barry was almost panting against him, violent shivers beginning to run over his skin, and Eobard pinched him hard—Barry was beginning to draw upon the Speed Force.
"No lightning," he hissed into Barry's ear, and then he yanked Barry's head back by the hair and took his mouth again.
Barry moaned, a low sound tugged deep from his guts.
"You want everything you shouldn't," Eobard said when he finally pulled away, his voice rough as sandpaper. He gently bit at the taut muscle running down one side of Barry's neck, following it from the angle of his jaw to the hollow of his throat, and then he pushed aside Barry's shirt, pressing his tongue against Barry's collarbone. Tasting him there, salt and clean sweat, the scent of ozone increasing with Barry's diminishing control. "And you want nothing that you should."
Barry shook his head. "That's you."
Eobard pushed slightly away, pulling his glasses from his face so that he could see Barry more clearly. "I don't mind the games," he said, and he kissed Barry gently, barely brushing their lips together. "You learned them from me."
"You narcissist," Barry laughed softly.
"And the lies."
"Who said anything about lies?"
"Or even the cruelty," Eobard said, and he framed Barry's face with his hands. He could have snapped Barry's neck, and by the way Barry was looking at him, the thought had crossed his mind; he was staring at Eobard almost defiantly. The sight made Eobard smile even as it pierced him straight through to his heart; he traced the line of Barry's cheekbones with his thumbs. "You're impossible, Mr. Allen."
Barry's chin lifted. "That's Mr. Wells to you."
"So we did get married after all," Eobard said musingly, his lips curling upward. He knew they were playing a foolish game, but he couldn't bring himself to care. "You and I." He smiled slyly, dangerously. "Did I say that I loved you?"
Barry eyes darkened. "Of course you did."
"And how did I do it?"
"On bended knee," Barry whispered indignantly, and then he whipped them around, slamming Eobard against the wall. Eobard felt the impact jar his spine, but he didn't move; he stayed where Barry put him. "Also? You're an asshole."
God, he had missed this.
Eobard wanted to laugh, but he choked it down to give Barry a facetiously solemn look, communicating an acknowledgement—if not quite an apology—for his questions. Then he gathered Barry within his arms, drawing him close and safe; this was what he was allowed to have, and if it wasn't all he wanted, at least he had this much—the in-between moments, the ones that were stolen. It wasn't as bad as he had feared, knowing that Barry was pretending to care for him; Eobard would take a life of stolen opportunities, if it was all there was at hand.
He ran his hands soothingly over Barry's shoulders. "Mr. Wells it is."
"And if I wanted you to be Dr. Allen?" Barry asked unforgivingly.
"Then, Barry," Eobard said easily, "that's who I'd be."
Eobard Thawne Allen, he thought, aware of the absurdity. He felt unmoored by the very possibility of the name; it meant an incontrovertible place in Barry's life, codified by law and recognized by history. Perhaps there was a dusty book or a near-forgotten dataset hidden somewhere within the multiverse, his name written next to Barry's in unmistakable type—maybe someone would find it a millennia hence, not understanding the significance of the connection. It was possible. It had taken Eobard countless years to discover that Barry Allen was the Flash, and he had never bothered to look for himself in the historical records. Maybe he had dropped the Thawne name in an amusing affront to his family and their incessant pride, and he had been born anew as Eobard Allen. He would have kept the name after Barry left him. He would have kept it after their inevitable divorce, held it tightly to himself as he had his new appearance, as a constant reminder of the universe's capriciousness, its chaotic brilliance and unending bitterness.
Barry's face had softened minutely. "You're still an asshole."
"I know," Eobard admitted.
"And arrogant, prickly, " Barry ducked his head, forcing Eobard to meet his eyes, "brusque, at times contemptuous—"
"—you know, you've read it twice," Eobard interrupted him. He was staring at Barry; he couldn't help it. "You remember."
Barry smiled at him. "So do you."
"Steel trap," Eobard told him, tapping at his temple.
Barry's eyes crinkled at the corners. He was staring back at Eobard with a complicated expression on his face, the looked tinged with amusement and sadness; after a moment, he bent his head and pressed their foreheads together. "Okay," he said softly. His voice was gentle. "Okay."
Eobard swallowed against his suddenly tight throat; he felt inexplicable shame. He wanted to apologize, but the words wouldn't come, and would have been false in any case; he placed a hand on Barry's neck instead, carefully holding him in place. "I can see what you're doing."
Barry didn't pretend to misunderstand. "I told you that I wouldn't stop."
"Stubborn till the end?"
"Dedicated," Barry said, and then he kissed Eobard sweetly, unhurriedly, with endless patience. "You should have said dedicated."
Someone cleared their throat beside them; it was one of the attendants. Eobard drew back from Barry reluctantly, examining the boy's face as he stepped away. Barry was blinking at him with a dazzled expression, his lips parted and wet, and Eobard found himself staring at his mouth for a long moment, feeling a longing that was almost tangible.
He forced himself to take another step back.
The attendant approached them carefully, and when Barry turned to him, handed over a black suit. Eobard could tell merely by looking at it that it was severely cut and relentlessly modern, very much Barry's usual style, his tastes no doubt guided by the hand of Iris West or even Eobard's doppelganger. Barry would look like exactly what he was, sharp and dangerous when pushed to extremes; Eobard had seen him with such a likeness many a time. The color of the suit would wash Barry out into alabaster paleness, an untouchable statue with an unreachable heart, the fabric tailored close to his body with razor-like, unforgiving precision.
Eobard met Barry's eyes, saying nothing.
Barry looked down at the suit for a long moment. "You don't like it," he said finally.
"I don't dislike it," Eobard carefully said.
Barry gave him a look, pressing his lips together, and then he walked to the attendant and handed back the suit. He turned to Eobard, crossing his arms over his chest, and then he raised his eyebrows. "What would you prefer?"
Eobard stared at him, disbelieving.
"I wanted your advice," Barry said softly. "That's why you're here."
Taking in the suit that Barry was currently wearing, a warmer navy with a charcoal shirt, Eobard eyed him for a long, suspicious moment. It wasn't a bad look by any means, solid and classic in both style and coloring, but the boy deserved more than mere adequacy. He tilted his head, accepting the challenge, and pushed Barry gently towards the curtained alcove in the corner of the room. "Wait there," he said. "I'll have the items brought to you."
Barry smiled, a small private thing. "Okay," he said, and went.
Eobard turned to appraise the attendant; the man was staring back at him blandly. "Your name," Eobard said, peremptorily.
"George, sir," the man said.
"Well, George," Eobard said, pitching his voice towards friendliness, "let's see what we can find," and then he led them both towards the multitude of shirts and pants and jackets, beginning to outline in careful detail exactly what he was trying to do, which items he expected to find. Every once in a while, the man raised his eyebrows, as if he was surprised at Eobard's choices; Eobard remembered a similar expression on Cisco's face in an almost forgotten time and place, when Eobard had known the location of a particular Belly Burger. Both of them surprised at Eobard's ability to color outside the lines, to look beyond his own usual tastes—a forgivable assumption, but one that was nonetheless inaccurate.
Minutes later, Eobard was back on the dais, waiting for Barry to emerge.
Barry stepped out of the alcove, tugging at the sleeves of his suit. His movements were uncertain, and he looked up at Eobard with a half-embarrassed expression on his face, as if he wasn't sure that the outfit suited him. Eobard appraised him for a long moment, taking him in from head to toe.
He crooked a finger at Barry. "Come here."
Barry stared at him with wide eyes, and Eobard waited patiently as he climbed onto the dais where Eobard was waiting for him; Barry was wearing the attire that Eobard had chosen, a linen suit with a natural roughened weave. It had been dyed the deep amber of honeycomb, the shirt beneath it barely a shade too natural to be considered pure white, and the fabric layered against his skin was woven so finely that it was almost transparent. Barry looked unreal—or maybe it was that he looked too real, supersaturated and startling, the brown of his hair deepened into the color of rich, fertile soil, his eyes the Seraphinite green of the ocean. Barry was youthful Dionysus, stepping out of the Earth itself and into the warmth of a summer sun, each of his steps bringing nourishment and the promise of satiation—a wildness lurking beneath the surface of him, not quite hidden in the green of his eyes, madness and delirium waiting within the touch of his fingers.
"You're beautiful," Eobard murmured, breathless.
Barry flushed to the roots of his hair.
Eobard touched Barry's cheek with gentle fingers; Barry's embarrassment felt somehow wrong to him—a heresy, an abomination. Shaking his head, Eobard said softly, "I hope you don't mind me saying so."
Barry had ducked his head abashedly, but at Eobard's words he glanced up again. He looked almost hopeful, as if he wasn't quite certain that Eobard's description was true and yet he was beginning to believe, and at the sight of it Eobard found himself oddly overwhelmed. He closed his eyes for a moment, gathering his control, and when he looked back at Barry, he leaned forward to place a chaste kiss on his cheek. "Beautiful," he said again. "Unbelievably so."
Barry's fingers trailed over the lapels of Eobard's suit. "We don't match."
Eobard wanted to kiss him so badly that he could hardly bear it. He turned Barry around instead, making him face the mirror and their reflections; Eobard stood behind him in his stark black and whites, as man-made and sharply defined as a skyscraper.
"We don't have to match," Eobard said.
"I guess you're right," Barry said, consideringly. He leaned back against Eobard. "We—we look pretty good? Like this?"
Eobard could have lived his whole life in that moment. He said nothing as he reached into his pocket; he had brought his own accoutrements when he'd packed for Gotham, knowing that he had to dress as Harrison Wells, and he had reached into his top drawer that morning to add a set to his own suit when his eyes had caught on another pair. The cufflinks were perhaps a little over-formal for Barry's attire, but Barry's suit was cut to emphasize his slim lines, the shirt designed to accommodate silk knots—Barry would be able to pull them off easily.
He held the cufflinks out in his hand, staring at them, allowing Barry to do the same. "These are mine," Eobard said carefully, not knowing quite how to explain his choice. "They won't—they won't be made for another fifty years."
Barry met his eyes in the mirror, startled.
"My father gave them to me," Eobard said, looking back at the cufflinks, "when I turned eighteen. I brought them with me." He had never done anything so sentimental before, but then he'd been away from his family for more than fifteen years; he had wanted to bring of piece of home with him when he'd left them again, no matter that his relationship with them was complicated. "I know they're usually passed down patrilineally, but..."
He wordlessly offered them to Barry.
"I can't," Barry said immediately, sounding as if he was being choked. "Harrison, I shouldn't—"
"Take them," Eobard interrupted quietly. He didn't want to explain the situation further; family was a dangerous subject to discuss with Barry. Taking his free hand from around Barry's waist, he reached for one of Barry's wrists and secured a cufflink in place, one and then the other. They had button closures, and would be annoying for Barry to fasten without help, but they were made of platinum and faced with mother-of-pearl, valuable and unique to the current time period. They looked good on Barry's slim wrists, both masculine and delicate; Eobard rubbed his thumb over one before he released Barry's hands.
"If you don't want them after today," Eobard began to say, but then he paused for a long moment, swallowing against the tightness in his throat as he tried to gather his thoughts into some semblance of coherency. He placed his hands on Barry's waist and felt an inexplicable comfort at the strength of Barry's body under his hands, at the softly textured fabric of Barry's clothing under his fingertips. "If you throw them away—"
Barry spun around in his arms before Eobard could say another word, and Eobard caught a glance of his face, wild-eyed and stricken, before Barry was wrapping his arms around Eobard's neck, his grip painfully tight. He was kissing Eobard, gasping against his mouth as if he was drowning, cursing under his breath and saying, "You idiot," and "I hate you," and Eobard found himself laughing against Barry's lips, because he understood completely, he understood everything that Barry felt.
"It's okay," Eobard told him gently. "It doesn't matter—"
"They're family heirlooms," Barry interrupted him. His hands were shaking, and his face had gone pale.
"You are my heir," Eobard told Barry simply.
Barry stared at him. "This is not the same thing at all."
Eobard thought of S.T.A.R. Laboratories, a conglomerate that had employed over a hundred thousand people at its height. He thought of his house, and the palace of glass and steel that he had made of it. Both projects had been labors of necessity, but he had built them with his hands and his mind; he had loved them, in his way. "It is to me."
"You idiot," Barry whispered again, seemingly devastated.
Eobard rubbed a soothing hand over Barry's back, and then he stepped away so that he could look Barry over with careful eyes. He held him at arm's length, examining him from head to toe, realization coming over him slowly, in increments, as inevitable as sunlight creeping over the horizon, as implacable as the coldness of space.
"You are my heir," he said again stupidly. He stepped away from Barry, trying to come to terms with his new knowledge, but it was impossible; he walked blindly off the dais and to a waiting table, its surface covered in a multitude of accessories. He ran his fingers over burnished copper cufflinks, yellow-gold tie pins, and crosshatched socks, over a seemingly endless variety of ties in different colors and patterns, until he found himself standing with one in his hand. It was a classically cut tie, neither too slim nor too wide, patterned with almost invisible stripes, the lines placed close together. They were barely visible to the naked eye, more of a texture than a visual effect, the pale cornflower blue of its surface appearing almost solid until carefully examined, the sky-and-navy blues and ocean-greens carefully hidden within the pattern. An appropriate effect, Eobard thought.
He stood staring down at the tie in his hands.
"Harrison?" Barry asked him quietly.
Eobard looked up at him. He stared at Barry Allen, at the Flash, at the person he had been chasing for as long as he could remember. At the man he had been running from for an even longer time, because he had known from his earliest memory that only destruction followed in his wake. He stared up at Barry—and he felt an overwhelming grief, as pervasive as he had ever felt as a boy, but more persistent, more incriminating, because he was a man, and he had lived long enough to know better.
"Come here," Eobard said.
Barry looked at him carefully, but then he made his way down the steps.
"Good boy," Eobard said, his voice soft, when Barry stood in front of him. He lifted the tie incrementally, showing it to Barry because he could see that there was caution in his eyes; he felt the corner of his lips curl without humor. But he didn't say anything as he looped it carefully around Barry's neck, only meeting Barry's eyes for a long moment as he tied it tight against his throat. The color of it brought out the blue in Barry's eyes, making him appear even more impossible, even more otherworldly, and Eobard stared at him unabashedly as he hooked a finger under the knot, checking that it was snug. The knot held, caught between his finger and thumb, and without looking away from Barry, he pulled the boy closer.
"Tell me to kiss you," Eobard said.
"Kiss me," Barry said without hesitation.
Eobard didn't move. "Tell me you want it."
Barry stared at him for a long moment, his pupils dilating, but he reached up slowly with one hand and placed it on Eobard's fingers against his throat. "I want it," he said.
He might have been telling the truth, Eobard couldn't know for certain. He stared at Barry with hard eyes, holding him in place with one imperious fist, looking at the work of his hands: He took in the newness of Barry's suit, the polished perfection of it, every inch of fabric screaming out the evidence of Eobard's touch, his attempts at mastery over the boy, his attempts at ownership over the Flash, all them defied by the simple fact of Barry's existence. He glanced at the cufflinks on Barry's wrists, at the pieces of jewelry older than his own living memory, both of them passed down through the ancient and distinguished line of Thawnes. Then with a creeping, inescapable dread, he stared at the blue tie caught within his fingers, at the way it looped around Barry's neck and held him in place, Barry staring back at him with eyes that were full of confusion.
Eobard remembered the traditions of the twenty-first century: Something old. Something new. And what Barry had borrowed from him, he was never returning—Eobard could finally admit it to himself, couldn't do anything but, not with the evidence in front of him and staring back into his eyes. You are my heir, Eobard thought fiercely, just as much as you are my love—and it didn't matter if either of those roles was unrequited.
He yanked Barry forward.
"What are you doing?" Barry whispered to him.
Eobard shook his head, biting back three words, keeping them behind his teeth. "Nothing," he said harshly, and then he crushed their mouths together.
Welcome to my trash heap! This chapter is literally Kyele's fault, bless her forever.
Eobard held Barry in place as he kissed him, moving into him fiercely, insistently, with a hand wrapped around Barry's tie and his other hand on Barry's throat—Eobard needed to hold him closer still, hold Barry with his jaw caught between fingers and thumb so that Eobard could feel the beat of Barry's heart against his hands, that measured but increasing pulse. Barry was melting into his touch, but it wasn't enough; Eobard tilted Barry's head so that he could kiss him more deeply.
Barry cried out, quietly, the sound muffled against Eobard's mouth—
Eobard closed his eyes.
He saw everything in a flare of light, a flash of memory:
There was a wall of impenetrable glass before him, and a variety, a parade, a sequence of eyes staring back at him. Each with their own story, their own tale of woe, you killed me, and are you expecting me to feel sorry for you, and finally a last anguished why to top off all the rest. They meant to leave Eobard behind that wall of glass, hundreds of feet beneath the city streets. They meant to bury him alive. Forget about him.
It was the same mistake, an identical sin. Because from behind that wall of glass, Eobard had pulled Barry towards him—not with his hands, not then, but with his words—and proffered a confession of pride and love made obscene by the memories that lived behind both of their eyes, by the knowledge found there, by the realization of a shared anger, if not quite a shared grief. And while with perfect hindsight, Eobard would eventually see that moment as the acute psychological torture that it was, he had then been driven by an insane desire to share some gentler emotion—as a defrayal of costs, perhaps, as a recognition of debt. As a sop to Barry's pride, saying, Don’t worry, Mr. Allen, I deceived myself, too.
Eobard kissed Barry, gasping, almost choking on the memories—
He refused to confess to any of it.
Telling Barry that he was loved, it wouldn't be a kindness.
Chapter 36: PART II
The last Martian on the field had been slaughtered, Barry’s voice a tinny, half-heard echo of outrage filtering through the bloodlust, full of the self-assured heroic righteousness that Eobard had always despised. Eobard had flung out a fist to knock him back, to knock him away—not being gentle by any means, but it had been a lover’s tap compared to what had passed between them at the beginning of the war.
Panting, spitting out the iron from between his teeth, he’d looked up into Barry’s face as the boy lay sprawled on his back yards away, and sick of it, sick of all of it, crazed by the fatigue of unending days and nights and effort, sweat, tears, and still they were going nowhere—
Eobard doesn’t remember what, he doesn’t remember why—
A blink and there he was, pushing Barry down with one arm wrapping around the slender waist, hauling him forward to grind his own erection against the boy’s pelvis—not hard from desire, but from rage and exhaustion and the blood on his hands, and maybe this would shut the boy up for once in his goddamned life, silence the moralistic sermons dripping from his lips, make him gnash his teeth together with disgust as he thrust Eobard away from him.
Shut up, shut up, shut up—
A mouth against his own. Too rough and filled with teeth to be a kiss, and Eobard had risked his own tongue to swipe it obscenely over the boy’s lips and up his cheek, waiting, waiting for the backhand across his own face that never arrived.
Pulling back, startled.
And there was the disgust in those green eyes, there it was, their first—it wasn’t a kiss, but it was close. The first time he’d touched the boy like that.
How Eobard had hated him.
They sprang apart, Eobard skidding over cracked and crumbling concrete as he pushed himself away, crouching down into a defensive position. Barry stared back at him, poised and ready, a mirror image.
“What the hell?” Barry spat at him.
Eobard felt the corner of his lips curl, unamused. He was too tired for this, breathing in and out sharply against fatigue, but he’d be damned if he was the first to lay down arms. He eyed the boy warily, every tendon in his own body pulled and tense, waiting, waiting, as he gathered himself tightly.
He lived for moments like these—and he wished he didn’t. Something curdled over in his chest, curling blackly around the edges as he met Barry’s eyes. Years upon years upon years of this, and still they persisted...
Although the desperate, short-lived press of their bodies together, that was new.
“It wasn’t enough,” Barry was saying angrily, “for you to take everything I ever cared about, now you’re even—“
“I despise you,” Eobard said lightly, his throat burning, aching.
Barry hissed, “You think I need the reminder?”
“Your needs,” Eobard said, forcing calm, forcing amusement, “such as they are, are no longer my responsibil—“
“They never were, you unbelievable piece of—“
The sickly gleam of a white Martian body slammed into Barry, Eobard’s eyes tearing across the field as they followed him.
Not so dead after all.
There were five of them, one with its hands on Barry’s neck. Eobard couldn’t tell if the boy was alive, but he could see that Barry wasn’t moving, and he grit his teeth; it was pointless to speculate. He forced himself to push past the anger, the outrage—there were five of the Pale Martians, still alive.
The Martian holding Barry wasn’t paying attention to Eobard, all of its attention focused on its hostage, its prize. Martian One, Eobard named it mentally—One could be ignored for the moment, though each second put Barry at risk. The boy, the Flash, would have to suffer through if either of them were to survive; Eobard quickly quashed the vengeful instinct rising up inside of him.
A couple of the Hyperclan—Two and Three, Eobard marked them—were crawling through the detritus of the buildings opposite, on high ground, their eyes focused on Eobard. Not fools, those two.
The last of them: Four was a few feet away—the closest threat, but visibly dismissive of the human near it. Five was flanking One, covering its back.
If they killed Barry—
Barry’s life and death was his to take; he had to believe it. He had to move. Voltage flooded in torrents down his limbs, propelling him forward, and he raced ahead to slam his fists against Four, watching it instantly catch fire. Their species didn’t like that, he noted dryly; he barked out a laugh.
The first one was always easy to deal with—Eobard remembered the last time he’d faced five-on-one. Barry and Team Flash, and of course they’d dragged along the Arrow and his sidekick, and Barry had been taunting him then, so very sure of his victory. Eobard had smashed Barry’s face along the pavement—it wasn’t so easy to subdue Eobard when he wasn’t crazed, sleep-deprived, barely surviving Earth-X and other unsavories. He’d made sure Barry remembered that. Remembered him, and who he was.
Eobard looked up at the remaining four. He was going to do it again. He was going to make Barry remember everything, the entirety of whom Eobard was, and the shape of the destruction of which he was capable. Eobard would show him what it meant for him to be claimed as Eobard’s own, as Barry had always been.