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Running Out of Time

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“What do you mean, ‘Len is dead’?” Barry repeated stupidly. He blinked his eyes rapidly as he tried to force his brain to wrap around the concept. “What…How…Leonard Snart is dead?”

The gruff, bald man in front of him betrayed no emotion beyond the cold fury wreathing his face. “You heard me right the first time, kid,” Mick Rory growled, his muscled arms flexing where they crossed his wide chest. “Lenny is dead and this is all your fault.”

This had not been what Barry had expected when the communication had come into S.T.A.R. Labs that evening. Cisco had been unable to trace the origins of the cryptic message that had flashed across their monitors. It had been a simple message: Tell Flash that I need a word. He knows where to find me. –Heat Wave. Though Cisco and Caitlin had both begged him not to go, Barry couldn’t resist the opportunity to see Snart again, because wherever Mick Rory was to be found, Snart wouldn’t be far behind.

Barry Allen, dressed fully in his Flash suit, staggered back at news. How could this have happened? Snart was a force of nature, and a calculating genius at getting himself and his crew out of dangerous situations. What on earth could have possibly taken out such a man?

Barry shook his head to get rid of the cobwebs of confusion and replied, “How is this my fault, Rory? I haven’t seen him since last Christmas when he warned me about the Trickster and Mardon gunning for my blood. What the hell happened? How is it that you’re standing here right now and he’s not?” Barry couldn’t hold back the resentment that dripped from his words like poison. Barry had seen the inner core of goodness inside the criminal, but Mick Rory had never displayed a single redeemable quality.

Mick’s nostrils flared and his eyes burned with fury. “Believe me, it wasn’t for lack of trying. That’s why this is all your fault. You’re the one that changed him, turned him into a bleeding-heart do-gooder with all your bullshit talk about ‘the good’ inside him. The Len that I knew before you came along would have never sacrificed himself for the crew, but the new Len? The one that climbed aboard the Waverider with the rest of our motley crew of time travelers? He died in an explosion to keep the rest of us safe, and now I’m here to make sure you save him.”

Barry’s mind whirled with the information overload that Mick poured out, but the vision of Len’s ice blue eyes dimming forever made his heart stop and his breath hitch. “Whoa, whoa,” he held his red-gloved hand out toward the criminal. “Slow down, Mick. What’s all this about a crew of time travelers? What the hell is a ‘Waverider’? Start at the beginning and don’t leave anything out.”

With cold precision, Mick Rory explained about the Time Master, Rip Hunter, and his mission to save the future by eliminating Vandal Savage. Barry listened in disbelief as Mick named off the list of people that had been recruited for the dangerous mission through time. Dr. Stein and Jax had never mentioned it, and no one at the lab had found the time to check in with them while they were handling Zoom and the metas from Earth-2. Ridiculously, Barry felt betrayed that Snart himself hadn’t let Barry know he was leaving, but he pushed that thought aside as Mick wrapped up his tale with the conclusion of the destruction of the Oculus.

Barry rubbed his face as Mick fixed his dead, soulless eyes on the speedster. “Somehow, I have the feeling that you’re leaving a lot out of it, Rory. What about your part in all this? You’re different now that you used to be. Being turned into this Chronos character changed you. Where’s the fiery mood swings and violent outbursts? If you think I’m really the one to blame for Snart’s death, then why aren’t you standing over me right now with your heat gun?”

Mick blinked slowly and his jaw clenched. His voice was a deep growl as he replied, “Kid, I’ve lived years and three different lifetimes since you last met me. The only reason I came back from that place of being erased and remade was because of Len. He brought me back, saved me from myself. When I tried to make good on that debt by being the one to blow up the Oculus, Len knocked me out cold and took my place. It’s not right, Flash, and you’re going to help me fix it.”

Barry paced back and forth as he racked his brains on how he was supposed to accomplish it. “How do you suggest I fix this, Mick? We’re not just talking about going back in time here. You guys were on a whole other plane of existence when this happened. From what you’re telling me, the Oculus was located in the Vanishing Point. I can barely control my ability to run back in time, but being able to travel outside of it? It’s impossible.”

Mick sucked his teeth as Barry stewed and ranted about the impossibility of being able to do what Mick wanted him to do. When Barry finally paused to suck in a breath, Mick asked drily, “You done?”

Barry sighed heavily and nodded. “Yeah, I’m done, because what you want me to do can’t be done, Rory. I’m sorry. I really am. I want to help you and Snart, but I’m not sure what you want me to do.”

Mick’s lips quirked with a sardonic twist. “It’s cute how you think you’re the one that’s gonna jump us through time, kid. Speedsters don’t hold the monopoly on that trick. All you have to do is come with me. And run really, really fast. I’ll take care of the rest.”

Barry looked Mick Rory over carefully as he weighed his options. If the Mick that he had met two years ago had said the same thing, Barry would have laughed and sped away. But this Mick? He was harder, quieter, smarter, and evoked an aura of confidence and power. This Mick was someone who could be either Barry’s greatest ally or most lethal opponent. For all Barry knew, Mick could be lying to him in order to lure the Flash to his death, but Barry’s instincts were screaming at him that Mick was telling the truth. Could Barry still say no and be able to live with himself? He and Snart had played this game of cat and mouse for two years, and somewhere along the way, Barry had found himself irresistibly drawn to the drawling criminal. If there was even a chance of being able to save Snart, Barry had to do it.

“Fine. I’ll do it, but I’m not leaving without telling my team where I’m going and who I’m going with. That’s the deal, Rory. Take it or leave it,” Barry demanded. There was no way he was leaving with this new, dangerous Heat Wave and not tell anyone about it.

Mick stared the Flash down for a long, uncomfortable moment before he nodded once. “You’ve got one hour, kid. I’m breaking all kinds of rules by doing this, and my team will know something is up unless I report back to the Waverider in 24 hours. The doofs actually think that I’m off consoling Lisa about her brother’s death. I’ll be damned if I ever actually have to do that. And so will you.”

Barry nodded stiffly and replied, “One hour. I’ll be here.” The he sped away back to S.T.A.R. Labs to confer with his friends.