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Give Me the Life I Lack

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Barry couldn't remember the last time he'd done anything besides run, zipping through crumbling buildings, saving innocent bystanders from the riots the arrival of the red sky had caused. Superman and the rest of the Justice League were busy fighting the Anti-Monitor, and Barry knew that he was better suited to protecting the people of his city instead of trying to get in the way of a superpowered slugfest. He'd leave the ridiculously overpowered villains to his ridiculously overpowered teammates.

He zipped into a grocery store, stopped some looting, left some money, and crammed a sandwich into his mouth as he ran. He was starving, could feel a blackout threatening at the corners of his vision, and for a second, he was grateful no one could take any decent pictures of him, because Iris would laugh until she cried if someone managed to get an image of him eating on duty, nevermind that Superman could — and often did — do the same thing.

He grabbed two more civilians and deposited them at the city limits, where there were emergency procedures in place for evacuation, and then streaked back toward the center of the city to help with a fire that was threatening an apartment building. Once the building was saved, Barry turned to run down an alley, Caitlin and Cisco calling out everything they heard over the police broadband.

There was a streak of yellow and red to his right, and that was his only warning before the Reverse Flash barrelled into him, sending him crashing into the main street. He rolled, scraped by the debris on the road, coughed, and was up again, dodging a flurry of the Reverse-Flash's punches.

"Thawne, the damned world is ending!" Barry yelled, dodging, weaving back and forth as he tried to fall back. "This is not the time!"

"If the world is really ending, this is the only time," Thawne said, and he pressed his advantage.

They traded blows, lightning flinging like javelins between them. Barry was faster than Thawne now, had worked and struggled and bled until he could make sure Thawne would never threaten him the way Thawne had before, but that didn't mean Thawne couldn't be annoying, especially when Barry had more important things to do than to punch a time-traveling jerk into submission.

Thawne grabbed Barry by the shoulders and whipped him around into the side of another building, and Barry was pretty sure he felt three ribs crack at the impact. He ignored it, ignored the deep-seated itch of healing bones inside him, and raced back out, punching Thawne in a series of quick strikes.

There was a familiar whir, a crackling sound in the air, and then a stream of ice-blue cold struck Thawne in the back. Thawne cried out, going to one knee, and Barry linked his fingers, bringing his hands down on the back of Thawne's head like a hammer to daze him further. He looked around, already on alert for Captain Cold, because if there was one thing guaranteed to bring everyone out of their holes, it was a crisis.

A quick survey of the open road didn't show Barry anything, so he zig-zagged through the streets until he saw a familiar blue parka. He snatched Cold between one step and another and shoved him against a crumbled wall, fists tight in the front of Cold's coat.

Cold coughed and struggled for a breath, but the corner of his mouth turned up in a smirk. "Damn it, kid. You weren't supposed to come after me."

"You're easier to catch than you think," Barry said, and he yanked off the hood of Cold's parka only to hesitate. It was Snart, definitely, but younger than the last time Barry had seen him, before Snart and his sister had hightailed it out of Central City the previous week. "You're not…"

Cold shrugged, a small movement Barry felt under his hands. "I'm not."

There was a crash and thud as The Atom slammed into the alley, palm raised, and Heatwave was only a step behind him.

"I told you to leave it, Snart!" Heatwave snarled. Barry released Cold and took a step back.

Cold rolled his shoulders, settling his parka back into place, and gave Heatwave an unrepentant look. "I couldn't resist. He needed a hand."

"Wait, wait—" Barry said, and he frowned, looking between the three of them. "Ray, what are you doing with these guys? Aren't you—"

"Don't worry about us, Scarlet," Cold said, and he gestured the way Barry had come. "Go. Do your hero thing."

Barry knew that Ray was currently working with the the other League members to figure out how to return their world back to normal, and Heatwave had been evacuated from Iron Heights with the first wave of refugees. It was either time travel or magic, and Barry didn't know how they could have been so stupid. "Are you from the past?"

"Yeah, kinda sorta." Ray gave an apologetic shrug. "Give me Cold, and we'll get out of your hair. Sorry. It looks like we showed up at a bad time."

Barry gave Ray a frustrated laugh. "Right. Yeah. Bad time. That's the end of the world for you."

Ray laughed. "It's not the end of the world. But we are going to get our butts kicked if we're not back. Like now."

Cold pushed away from the wall and smirked. "After you." Ray and Heatwave left, but Cold paused and looked back at Barry.

"What? You have something else to say?" Barry found himself asking. The Speed Force was zinging through him — something crazy had to be happening in the city — and he couldn't remain in one place for very much longer.

"If it's the end of the world…" Cold closed in on Barry's space, cupped a hand around the back of his neck and pulled him into a kiss. Cold's mouth was dry and tasted vaguely of the dust that had clouded the air of Central City for days now. It was chaste and gentle and startlingly pleasant. "For luck."

"Are you serious?" Barry blinked at Cold. "If Supes does save the world, we're going to have a talk."

"That's the future." And there was that aggravating smirk again, sliding into place. "I'll deal with it later." Cold slid his parka hood back on and gave Barry a two-fingered salute before he sauntered off after Ray and Heatwave.

Barry felt like he stood there for years, staring after Cold, but he knew it couldn't have been more than a matter of seconds. He shook himself out and sped back into the streets, cursing to himself when Thawne was waiting for him. He'd been so distracted by Cold that he hadn't taken the time to secure Thawne properly. It was times like this when Barry really hated his tendency to run off without thinking things through.

Barry began to run faster and faster — he was going to use Thawne's own teachings against him — and his eyes were open, but he couldn't focus on any one particular thing. There was the Speed Force singing within him, his fists flying in a blinding flurry at Thawne. The lightning was in his veins again, and he lost himself to it, growing lighter and lighter, his feet barely touching the ground.

A breach split in the air before him, spilling forth such a bright white light that Barry could barely see, and he was sliding forward, sucked into it. One moment, he was running circles around Thawne, and the next moment, it was light and fury and the impossible flooding his senses.

Barry lost track of how fast he was running, the universe blurring around him, and then it wasn't. He lost his breath, lost his connection, and he stumbled a few steps until he came to a stop, panting with exertion.

"Crap," he gasped, having to stop for a minute and set his hands on his knees, trying to get enough air in. "Seriously, I know better than this. I'm an idiot."

It was a moment's work to dart into a store and get some pedestrian clothing, his costume safely stored into his ring. He zipped to Jitters and took advantage of their televisions to try to pinpoint the date.

First thing, there was a Jitters. He hadn't gone too far. That was a good thing. Bad thing was that he'd gone nine years into the past. Not his best moment, but at least he hadn't accidentally dashed to the night of his mother's death again. Why the Speed Force had led him here, though, was a different question.

A question that was answered when Barry left Jitters only to see Cold— Snart exit the hardware store across the street. They froze when they saw each other, Snart's eyes narrowed into suspicious slits. Barry zipped across the street — more of a leisurely stroll across the road, if he were to be honest — and stopped in front of Snart, remembering the version he'd seen less than an hour ago.

"Scarlet," Snart said by way of greeting.

"Snart," Barry responded agreeably. "Can I ask you a question?"

"Depends." Snart crossed his arms over his chest, something that shouldn't have been as effective as it was, considering he had a plastic bag full of hardware dangling from one arm.

Barry didn't quite know how to ask his question discreetly, so he just decided to go with it. "Are you flying around time being an anti-hero with Ray Palmer and Mick Rory?"

Snart's eyebrows climbed with each word Barry spoke, and it was a minute or two before he answered. "Not exactly, but that's close enough."

They had worked together several times in the last nine years, and Barry's mind was full of that kiss, shared just in case Barry died, wondered if Cold had remembered it all that time and had been waiting for the moment Barry would bring it up. Leonard Snart was complicated. Barry really kind of hated complicated.

"So … how about being an anti-hero in the present?" Barry blurted out, instead of any of the other things he could have possibly said instead.

Snart laughed, without any maliciousness, and that... that was rather nice, too." Okay, kid. What's your angle this time?"

Barry ran through a hundred responses in his mind. He should just run right back to his present, fight Thawne, and wait for the other League members to save the world. If he changed anything in the past, it would make things worse in the future, but it was seriously likely that Barry couldn't remember everything well enough as it was and he was bound to screw everything up anyway. It would be nice to have something new for himself, something that had the potential to be great.

Barry reached out and pulled Snart into a kiss. It was sweet, Snart's lips soft in surprise, parted just enough that Barry could slide his tongue between Snart's teeth and taste him. If Barry wanted. Instead, Barry pulled back and gave Snart a small smile. "I guess that's my angle."

There was something immeasurably thrilling about catching Snart off guard, and Barry soaked that in, watching Snart lower his arms and tilt his head to the side, as if considering what Barry had done and why.

"Okay, Barry," Snart said after another long pause. "You've got my attention."

And that— That was a good place to start.