What would you do if you only had thirty days left to live?
Barry Allen had been asked that question before. He’d asked it of Iris, too, back when they were still kids, back when things like that could kind of be considered a joke. They would always come back with funny responses: things like skydiving, robbing a bank, becoming a superhero.
The last one was particularly ironic. Because, becoming the Flash, he really didn’t feel like there was that much of a need to really ask that question anymore. Yeah, he was constantly reminded how he wasn’t invincible, but knowing he could heal, couldn’t get sick, would even age slower, well, that all made questions of mortality a little irrelevant, at least for the time being.
But then Zoom had shown up, had enlisted Harry to not only steal his speed, but steel away his life, too. And the son of a bitch was now stuck in the pipeline, but the damage had already been done. In exchange for Jessie’s safety, steal the Flash’s speed through the emblem, and add in a dose of Velocity 6 to his system, masking the effects of the stolen speed while debilitating his cells without any of them ever once noticing.
Brilliant, actually. And none of them did notice for weeks, months, higher doses of Velocity 6 hiding those little percentages of stolen speed. While he was running sans Flash suit, he really couldn’t tell how fast he was actually going, and in his street clothes, there was no Caitlin or Cisco to measure his telemetry like that. Then, when he was in the suit, there was no telling his own speed from Velocity 6’s. There hadn’t been any real warning signs until Barry had just clean passed out after a mission. That was when Caitlin had found it. Found just what had been going on.
Joe had thrown Wells into a cell immediately, but Barry himself was still too busy reeling from the prognosis that had sent his foster father into such a rage. The degeneration was further along than any of them could’ve predicted.
Thirty days. That was all he had left. Thirty days.
That’d been a week ago. A week ago when Zoom had basically won, taking everything from Barry and leaving him with nothing.
They’d all agreed to let Barry take the time for what he wanted, far away from Flash business, as the worked on a solution to this impossible problem. And that whole time, his mind kept returning to that question: What would you do if you only had thirty days left to live?
He’d considered them all. Going back to work, pretending like nothing was happening at all. Robbing a bank and throwing all the money in the air. A long vacation, see the sights in Europe, in Asia, walk around New Zealand like he was a part of Middle Earth.
Seeing his dad again, one more time, going on that vacation together. Go out drinking a little with Joe and Iris because maybe the alcohol would do something now. Have a big dinner with all his friends and family: his dad, Joe, Iris, Caitlin, Cisco, Oliver, Felicity, everyone he’d gotten to know through his lifetime.
Except then everything just turned into this big noise in his head, a cacophony of ideas, of regrets, and the panic set in because this was it. There was no future for him anymore. He was gonna die.
And all that anxiety, all that panic, all that fear, it kept him curled up in his bed, a dark cloud forever looming over him, watching as each hour, each minute, each second ticked by, counting each moment until the end, until it all slipped away.
Something about the thought reminds him vaguely of Snart, actually, and he stuffs his face into his pillow, feeling the fabric turn hot with salty tears.
Leonard Snart. Captain Cold. Another missed opportunity.
For the longest time, Barry had never really known what their relationship had been. Snart was a criminal, but he had a code, and something about their banter had always been something of a guilty pleasure, something he really did enjoy. Then there was the fact that Barry knew Snart had good in him, first with killing Lewis then saving the entire world on adventures with the Legends. At some point, Barry had realized he’d had a crush, then something a little more than a crush. Of course, he hadn’t done anything about it, at the time.
But didn’t people always say they would confess their love in these sorts of situations, where the end was drawing so near? Say the things they never would’ve said when there was a future on the line?
Except that Barry Allen was a coward. For all his heroics, he knew the truth about himself. He hadn’t been able to bring himself to tell Iris about his crush on her for all those years. And now, even now, even on his deathbed, he couldn’t face his fears, couldn’t seek out Leonard Snart and say those few words to him.
Because he was pathetic. So, so pathetic.
He actually stifles a sob into the pillow this time, just trying to catch his breath amid his choked cries. Oliver had been right, back then; the good guys never did get the happy endings.
A number of hours passed, hours that Barry was only aware of because he remembered watching the sunlight fade on the opposite wall from where he lay curled on his side, the golden light having turned to a deep red before softening to a shimmering silver from the full moon. Some time ago (How long? He wasn’t really sure anymore, only assuming it was long enough that the rest of the household had succumbed to sleep some hours earlier), Iris had come home with the usual news: Cisco and Caitlin had worked all day to find something to reverse the damage. They were getting close. She was sure they’d find something in the next couple days.
And he’d just nodded mutely because how many times has he heard that already? How many times has he chased false hopes?
After that, he remembered her coming closer and sitting on his bed, gripping one of his hands in hers. She’d tried cheering him up, telling them they should go out and do something fun, the before it’s too late hanging unspoken between them. Covered with the assertion that it’d been a long time since they’d really gotten to do something together, between the CCPD, journalism, and superhero business.
Barry’s pretty sure he’d answered noncommittally, something along the lines of “yeah, sure, maybe.” The part he remembers most, though, is the look in her eyes as she leaves. So sad and disappointed, and it hurts him to know he’s the one who put it there.
But he just – he can’t. He’s never been good enough, can’t ever giver her back the brother she remembers.
He took in a shaking breath because everything is just so different now. In a matter of a week, everything had turned upside down, and what did he even have left? Iris’ pitying looks, his friends’ fruitless endeavors? All he wanted was his life back. All he wanted was to actually be the hero everyone saw him to be.
But no. It was all gone. All gone, and what was he but this empty, pathetic husk and –
Suddenly, he could hear footsteps outside his door – unfamiliar footsteps. He sat up quickly, swaying as the dizziness lasted a beat longer than it should’ve. The velocity 6 – it was really taking its toll and he’d hardly even noticed oh god, just how long had he been there how long did he have left oh god oh god.
The door swung slowly open, and Barry curled in on himself, so, so mad at himself for letting himself be reduced to this. In the semi-darkness, he couldn’t quite make out the shape, but he could tell from the voice, felt his chest tighten, his heart jump into his throat.
“Snart?” His voice is rough, cracking, being used for little more than crying these days, and that makes him wince, shying back a little further, wishing with his entire being that Snart wasn’t there to see him like this. He’d never liked his body on a good day, and now? Even thinner, even bonier, skin pale and cheeks sallow? He was just glad for the fact that Snart shouldn’t be able to see as much in the darkness. “How – how did you –?” Stupid question. “What’re you doing here?”
Snart shut the door silently behind him before turning to face Barry, arms crossed, form silhouetted enough in the moonlight for Barry to make out the shape of the jacket that he’d seen Snart wearing since returning with the Legends. That damn jacket that looked so good in ways the parka just didn’t because it made Barry just want so bad. Want Snart in all the ways he knew he shouldn’t, because he knew it wasn’t ever gonna happen, whether he’d still been healthy or not.
Barry sucked in a shaking breath, glad Snart offered a response to his earlier question before he had the chance to break down again. “Things were getting boring,” the drawl is there in full force, despite the hushed tone, Snart dragging a fingertip across a bookshelf as he sauntered closer, the motion and grace of his hands entrancing. “No one coming around to stop my heists.”
“Yeah? Thought you’d like that.”
“So did I. But that didn’t turn out to be as true as I’d thought.” And Barry couldn’t help but feel his heart leap a little at that because did that mean…no…no, it couldn’t what was he thinking? “Pulled a solo heist today to see if you’d show. Should I be offended by the cold shoulder?”
Barry laughed a little at that. God, he was gonna miss the man’s puns, as much as he was loathe to admit it. “No, it’s just, I – I can’t.”
“I – I can’t stop you. I actually can’t. Not anymore. My powers –“ another shuddering breath, and he was vaguely aware of Snart perching on his footboard, ready and attentive to listen to whatever Barry was about to say next. And maybe he shouldn’t be spilling his guts to his nemesis, personal feelings aside, but he’d already started, and everything was just waiting there to come tumbling out.
And it all did. Everything: Zoom and Harry and Jay and Earth-2. Losing his speed and Velocity 6. And dying.
“Thirty days. That’s it. That’s all I’ve got left. And – and that was a week ago, but what am I doing with it? Just sitting here and letting it waste away and –and I just,” he could feel the tears pooling again in his eyes, “I - I don’t know what I’m supposed to do and –“ He cut off because he was just so lost now, so, so lost as he dropped his head, fixated on his sheets.
“Barry…” he heard Snart again, voice curiously different, as the mattress dipped with the other man’s weight. There was another moment, and suddenly there came the feeling of a finger under his chin, lifting his head up gently, giving him a direct line of sight into blue eyes rendered silvery in the moonlight – an ice blue, but not cold, not really, not in the way Barry would’ve expected. And then, it hits him. Because – because Leonard Snart is right there, in his bedroom, the pretense and act of Captain Cold dropping. And just – just –
Barry Allen is weak, so weak. He’d known that, too, for a long time.
One second, nothing was happening, both of them trying to work out what they should be doing now. And the next, Barry feels himself lurching forward on impulse, his hands framing Snart’s face, catching cool lips in his own. It’s messy and fumbling and desperate and everything he wouldn’t have thought he’d want a first kiss to be. But it feels so good, good in a way Barry didn’t know how to explain, eyes squeezed shut, his heart hammering hard and fast in his chest as he’s waiting, waiting, waiting...for what, exactly?
What had he expected? God, he was so stupid! Why had he done that why why why?
He pulled away, ready to melt into the floor, eyes downcast, nowhere near ready to face the man before him. “Snart, I – “
He snapped his head up. “What?”
The older man shrugged, apparently nonchalant. “I think we moved onto a first name basis when you decided to kiss me, Scarlet.”
Barry felt his cheeks heat up, though he wasn’t about to reveal how relieved he’d been to hear that snark, see the smirk. “Yeah, umm…I’m –“
“Don’t go apologizing on my account, kid.”
Barry started. “Wh-what d’you -?”
And then Snart – Len – was back, initiating the kiss this time, deepening it, as Barry felt himself coming apart entirely under the other man’s touch. The moan escaped his lips almost without him knowing it, and soon after, his hands were fisted in Len’s jacket, desperately trying to hold on. Because he didn’t want this moment to ever end. It was like their alter egos didn’t exist, and it was just the two of them, committing the feel, the smell, the taste of each other to memory. Like nothing else really mattered now that he knew. Now that he knew what he had. Now that he knew what could’ve been. Now that he knew what could be.
Except… Except, no. No, there was nothing that could be; there was no future for this, for them. And he knew that. Had known that all along. It didn’t matter that it didn’t feel like anything else mattered, because it all did, regardless of how hard he willed it all to be otherwise. So how could he, in good conscience, rope Len into all of this?
He jolted backwards this time, now forcing himself to look Len in the eye, watching the confusion as it unfolded before him. “Something wrong, kid?”
“No,” he slipped back into denial, so quick, so easy, “I mean, well…” He took a deep breath. “Len,” the name sounds foreign on his tongue, and he really, really wishes it didn’t, “I – I’m gonna be gone in a couple weeks. And I can’t make you go through that. Not for me. I’m really not worth that much, or at least not enough to make you –“
“Barry,” Len interrupted, effectively cutting short his rambling with a look that was part exasperation and part…fondness? “You’ve been playing the hero too long. I would think that now would be the best time to be thinking of yourself. And besides,” there’s something that looks oddly like softness there as he continued, “you and your team face off against the impossible, what, every week? And win. Now, for as annoying as that can be for us,” then there’s a hint of a smirk back, and that comforts Barry because that, at least, is normal, “I can only assume they’ll figure something out in time.”
“You really think that?”
“I don’t say things I don’t mean, kid. Nor do I pursue things that aren’t of interest to me.” Blue eyes roamed down the length of Barry’s torso as he leaned slowly forward. “And you, Barry Allen, are the one thing I’ve never been able to catch.”
Then, there was some mysterious impulse that pushed them both forward, hands, noses, lips fumbling with desperation, want, need. And this time, Barry didn’t pull away – third time’s the charm, he couldn’t help but muse a little wryly in his head, the voice sounding oddly like Len’s – but instead let himself enjoy this, whatever “this” was.
Because he’d known all along that he’d always had two choices, and that fear had pushed him to pick one without him knowing it. As hard as it was to accept the idea, and for as much as it’d seemed too late to change his mind, maybe it wasn’t, maybe there was some hope left, maybe people really could change.
And maybe there was something to finding comfort – or more – in the most unlikely of places.