"We have a problem."
"A serious one."
"One that has gone on for long enough, if you ask me."
"Are you guys going to get to the point? And, can someone tell me why this secret meeting had to happen at my place?"
Iris, Barry, and Lisa turn to Cisco who had asked the question. The four were meeting in the genius's apartment. They were huddled around the kitchen table, the three siblings standing with their heads nearly touching while the fourth member of the group sat slouching in his chair.
"What's the matter, honey?" Lisa turns to her boyfriend. "Are you mad that the woman that you love is at your place? Or is it my siblings that are putting you on edge?"
Cisco rolls his eyes. "You know I love being around you, Lisa. I just don't understand what's going on, because none of you have TOLD me."
"We're talking about Lenny," Lisa explains as she moves to sit on the edge of the table. "He's been getting a little...too..."
"Ridiculously over-protective," Iris supplies.
Lisa nods to her foster sister, "Yes, over-protective, about our choice in partners. I mean, Iris moved in with her boyfriend and he still hasn't slowed down."
"I think it made things worse," Iris sighs. "And ever since Dad got him to cut back on his insults, he's made it a point to make them extra biting or perfectly timed to embarrass Eddie."
"Oh, yeah," Barry groans. "When he mentioned that rash in front of the Captain, I had to drag him away by his coat."
"I bet Captain Cranky loved that," Cisco mumbles with a grin.
Lisa raises a finger to gain everyone's attention.
"Then Iris threw Barry under the bus and sicked Len on him with Linda and you'd think things would get better with his mental resources spread throughout trying to bother three separate relationships, but NO!"
"I'm really sorry about that, Barry," Iris offers her foster brother a look of sympathy. "It wasn't right of me to do that. I was being selfish."
Barry sighs heavily.
"He interrogated Linda for two hours after you left. I kept trying to stop him but..." the young hero shrugs. "It's like his superpower or something. Unless I ran Linda out of there with my powers, there was no escaping Len."
"And it was definitely too early in your relationship to drop the 'I'm the most infamous Meta in all of Central City' bomb," Lisa states.
"We're not even in the general area of a relationship status," her foster brother groans as eh runs at his eyes. "Linda kept looking over to me for help after the first hour and I couldn't do anything!"
"Wow," Cisco straightens in his chair. "We really do have a problem. I always knew I wasn't the only one who had to deal with the Cold shoulder and the icy glares but...wow...Hey," the genius snaps his finger as an idea pops in his head. "Why not give him a taste of his own medicine?"
All three siblings turn to the genius.
"What are you talking about, Babe?" Lisa asks him.
"Well, why don't we just figure out who Captain Clingy is interested in and see if we can get them together? The guy's a bit of a jerk, no offense guys, but he's not ugly. Getting him a girlfriend shouldn't be too hard. Or..." Cisco hesitates, unsure of how to continue.
"Or?" Barry presses. "Or what, Cisco?"
"Or," the genius clears his throat nervously. "Is he...Does he..."
"Is this you being super awkward about asking if Len is gay?" Lisa supplies dryly with a raised brow. "Come on, Cisco! We're all grown-ups here!"
"Okay, fine," Cisco shrugs dramatically. "Do any of you know what kind of person your cantankerous brother would be interested in? I mean, normally I wouldn't say anything, but he's been spending A LOT of time with Hartley."
"Wait," Iris raises a hand as she turns to Barry. "Isn't that the evil genius you guys captured? The one with the noise gauntlet things?"
"Yeah," the speedster nods. "Len's been trying to...I dunno, change him for the better or something I think. He and Cisco even took him outside of STAR Labs."
Lisa giggles at that.
"What?" her boyfriend asks wearily.
"Oh nothing," the woman shakes her head as she fights back more laughter. "I'm just imagining you and Len working together as teachers on a field trip for villains."
"Hartley said he had info on Ronnie and we were just trying to see if he was telling the truth," Cisco reminds them. "It's not like we let him out of his cell for no good reason."
"He almost escaped," Barry points out.
"But he didn't!" his friend counters.
"Because of you or Lenny?" Lisa asks as she leans closer to her boyfriend. "You know, that part of the story is still a little vague when you tell it..."
"I thought we were talking about Major Pain-in-the-neck?" Cisco changes the topic back to what it was. "Do any of you know someone he's interested in, or not?"
"Well..." Barry tries to think back as his foster sisters do the same. "There were a few female officers I've seen him talking with....And a young male officer he gave a pen to once..."
The siblings look at each other in surprise.
"Does he have a love life?" they all say at once.
"He did once tell me he was worried he'd be single and living with Joe after Barry found someone," Lisa confesses. "It sounded like he wasn't even planning on trying to find anyone."
"That won't do," Iris decides. "If Len isn't going to go out and find someone, then we'll just have to do it for him."
"But...how?" Lisa asks with a small pout.
"By watching him like a hawk and following the clues like a case," Barry smiles, suddenly excited about the idea. "Cisco can keep an eye on his interaction with Hartley, I'll have him at the CCPD, Lisa will monitor him while he's home, and Iris can do some research about his military career and see if he has any Air Force friends he was especially friendly with."
"Lenny already told us about his friends in the Air Force," Lisa says.
"Yeah, but come on," Iris smiles. "Since when does Len tell us everything?"
"True," her foster sister agrees with a tilt of her head.
"Operation: Love Life is a go," Cisco grins, the others grin with him.
"Bishop to B4."
"Night to A5, stalemate again."
"What?" Hartley snaps, looking the board over. "That can't be."
"It can, it is, and that makes ten stalemates in a row," Len grins. "Are you sure you know how to play this game?"
The other man curses in six different languages as he runs a hand through his hair.
Harley levels a hard look at his opponent.
"Now that's just plain juvenile."
"You've got a hidden earpiece with Dr. Wells telling you where to put the pieces!"
Len's grin vanishes as he gives Hartley his own cold glare.
"I would never allow that man in my head. In fact, if I had things my way, he wouldn't be anywhere near my family."
Hartley is visibly taken aback by the venom in the other man's words.
"And here I thought I was the only one disillusioned by the man. You've got quite the distain for him as well."
"Let's just say," Len drawls as he resets the board. "I know a bad egg when I see one."
"Spoken like an expert. But, considering your age, I can surmise this comes from personal experience rather than exposure. Or..." the genius reconsiders. "Perhaps a bit of both?"
"I'll tell you about my dad if you tell me about yours," Len counters as he finishes placing the pieces. "Pawn to E4."
"My father is a dinosaur trapped in the fossilized thoughts of the past ways of thinking," Hartley remarks with anger. "Pawn to E5."
"I some times think fathers were solely put on earth so people know what a disappointment is," Len smirks. "Queen to H5."
Hartley huffs a laugh.
"Let me guess, abusive father? Knight to C6."
"What gave it away? The fact that yours beat you right after you came out? Bishop to C4."
"He didn't understand! Neither of them did! They refused to listen to me and threw me to the streets!" Hartley looks away as his anger grows. "Knight to G6."
"You went to them expecting them to change overnight?" Len shakes his head. "News like that takes time, Hartley. Even the most open-minded people might need a moment to adjust. It doesn't mean that they don't care about you."
Len looks down at the board as he moves the final piece.
"Queen to F7. Queen takes pawn. Checkmate."
Hartley nods without looking.
"Since when did you start going easy on me, Hartley?" Len smirks.
"About the same time I realized you might be my best chance of getting out of here, Lion-Heart," his opponent answers, still not looking at him.
"If you're banking on me, you've got a while to go yet, Potter."
Hartley gets up to move to the back of his cell. "I'm done for the day, Lion-Heart."
Len cleans up the chess board and leaves without a word.
"He calls him what?" Barry asks as he rides with Joe to a crime scene.
"Lion-Heart," Cisco repeats. "Dude, if your brother is falling for Hartley, I think my dislike for him will go up five more levels. What can he possibly see in him? Other than evil, I mean."
"But they're just playing chess together, right?" Barry tries to point out with a question. "It's not like Len is asking to take Hartley out of his cell or go in there with him or anything?"
"No for all of that, and like I'd let him," his friend scoffs at the end. "Fool me three times and I'm gonna beat the guy if he tries to escape again. For real."
"Barry, we're here," Joe interrupts his foster son.
"I've got to go, Cisco. Keep me updated."
Joe puts a hand on Barry's shoulder before he can leave the car.
"Why are you having Cisco spy on Len while he works with Hartley?" Joe asks, giving the young man a look that means he'd get in deep trouble if he tried to lie.
"We're trying to figure out who Len would want to date so we can get him in his own relationship and out of ours."
"Oh no," Joe sighs tiredly as he pulls his hand back to rub at his face. "I'm too old for this. By 'we', I'm assuming you mean yourself, Cisco, Lisa, and Iris? Is Eddie in on this too?"
"Eddie doesn't know, or," Barry shrugs. "Didn't know. Not when we were talking about it."
"Okay, well, see if you can keep your sister from telling him because I don't want this whole..." He waves a hand as if to summon the right words. "Matchmaking scheme you kids have going on to backfire all the way to my partner. Eddie has enough problems with Len as it is."
Barry chuckles before answering, "Yeah, I know. I'll text Iris on the way onto the crime scene to tell her not to."
Lisa is reheating leftovers when Len walks through the front door. She opens her mouth to greet her brother, but clamps it shut when she realizes he's on his cell.
"Yes, I got them this time," Len smiles as he removes his coat one arm at a time. "They were delicious too, thanks. I'll have to return the favor."
Lisa leans on the counter as she watches her brother laugh and step slowly closer.
"Well, I've been told I make a great French toast, so how about I make breakfast for you at the precinct?" Len waits a moment for a reply, then adds. "No, it won't be trouble at all. I have an electric stove top I can bring so they'll be hot and fresh for you." Another pause, then, "Don't you worry about anything. Just make sure you come to the break room after clocking in so that I can feed you before 'the thief' strikes again."
Len nods to whatever he hears, then says his goodbyes and hangs up.
"Hey, Lisa," Len gives his sister a quick hug. "Sorry about coming in on the phone. What are you cooking?"
"What are YOU cooking?" Lisa says as she puts her hands on her hips. "You got a girlfriend at work you're not telling me about, brother dearest?"
The man chuckles as he heads for the fridge.
"No, not a girlfriend, sorry," Len takes out a beer. "Just a friend. She made me an M&M cupcake today. It was a little dry at the bottom, but otherwise great. I'm just being polite by giving her something back."
"Well, does this nameless 'she' know that this 'polite gesture' is just a way of you saying thanks?"
"Lis," Len chuckles as he pops the top off his drink. "Is there a point to this?"
"I just think you should share your relationships with us if you're going to poke your nose into ours," his sister shrugs.
"Her name is Susan and I'm not interested, so don't worry."
Len walks over to his sister to pat her on the shoulder.
"When I do find someone, I'll make sure you're the first one to know. Okay?"
"Fine," Lisa gives up with a roll of her eyes. "But you better make me some special toast too. That way 'Susan' doesn't feel too special."
"I'm fairly certain Barry eating half of my supply will help disillusion her from that."
"The guy can't help himself. He eats everything!"
The siblings laugh at their foster brother's expense until the man himself walks through the door with Joe.
"What's got you two laughing?" their foster father asks as he takes off his coat.
"Just some...Frigid Issues," Len grins at his sister, then winks, which sends her into a fit of giggles.
The two keep their secret as they eat leftovers with Joe and Barry.
At Jitters, Iris approaches the table where Lisa and Barry where drinking coffee.
"So," the reporter starts without a greeting. "I got very little on Len, no surprise with his black opps nonsense, but I DID find one article where he saved a young woman from a raging river and she vowed to marry him."
"Raging river?" Lisa repeats, eyebrows rising. "When? Where? Are you sure it was him?"
"I'm sure," Iris produces a printed copy of the article. There's a small picture of Len, drenched from head to toe, as he pulls a woman from choppy looking, muddy water.
"I bet you this happened around the time he wrote to me saying he 'went for a swim'," Lisa grumbles as she looks the photo over carefully. "Who took this?"
"The photographer is anonymous but I know someone who knows the reporter. We're going to meet for dinner later and I'll get the whole story."
"Let me see," Barry takes the paper more than he is given them, then looks them over just as carefully as his foster sister had. "Wow...But...Do we really think that Len would marry some stranger?"
"We all marry strangers, Barry," Lisa grins.
"It doesn't really say much of what happened after the rescue," Iris says with more maturity than her foster sister. "That's why I'm meeting the reporter. Len might have left the next day, or it might just be a woman pledging love to her rescuer."
"It also doesn't say that Len accepted," Lisa adds, dropping her sarcasm.
"Wouldn't it be weird if we found out Len was secretly married?" Barry asks as he looks up at his siblings. "I mean...He was gone for months."
"If Lenny got married and didn't invite us to the wedding, I'm going to beat him into a retirement home," Lisa threatens with bite.
Barry and Iris flinch in sympathy for Len.
"I will let you know when I do," Iris pats both her foster siblings on the shoulders, then leaves the café.
Hours later, Iris sends Lisa and Barry a text:
'False alarm. Len sweetly turned the woman down and returned her to her family and betrothed future husband before leaving the country.'
The siblings text back their thanks and mutual regret.
Barry and Len arrive at a crime scene before Joe or Eddie. It's a triple break-in and the officers are still securing the scene, so the training detective goes to help out.
Barry stands next to his CSI kit as he checks his phone to check for messages. While he does that, he notices his foster brother leaning closer to one of the officers. Curiosity piques as the speedster watches his foster brother rub the other man's arm before pulling him into a hug.
Len was very...particular about who he touched. The only people he hugged freely were his family, so Barry's heart beats faster as he watches Len pat the officer on the back a few times before pulling away.
When his foster brother returns to Barry's side, the hero quickly puts his phone away.
"Who was that?" Barry asks as Len stops next to him.
"Who was who?" his foster brother prompts, faking confusion.
"The officer you just hugged. Is he a friend of yours?"
"Don't you know everybody in the department, Barry?"
"Everybody?" the CSI laughs. "You're joking, right?"
Len lifts and eyebrow and Barry realizes the man was NOT joking.
"Oh, wow, okay," the speedster clears his throat. "No, I don't. Sorry? You want to just tell me now? Or are you going to make me feel worse?"
"His name is Jeremy," Len glances over to the man before focusing on his brother. "His sister just lost her baby, so I was offering my condolences."
"That's terrible," Barry frowns in sympathy. "Can't he take the day or something?"
"That's what I said," his brother answers. "I told him to go to his sister. That I'd talk it over with the Captain when we got back. I don't think Singh will mind. The man seems decent enough."
"Captain Singh's great," Barry agrees.
Len nods. "It's good to hear you say that, since you've worked for him longer than I have. I wouldn't want Jeremy and his wife to blame me for him losing his job."
At the words 'his wife' all remaining thoughts of discovering a possible crush for his brother vanished. Not that he had much hope after hearing the awful news of what happened to the man's sister.
Joe arrives a few minutes later. After his boys explain about the officer, the detective quickly sends the man off the scene and personally calls Singh to tell him what was going on.
Like the brothers assumed, Singh was completely understanding and sent a new officer to take over for Jeremy.
"We've been at this a week and nothing," Lisa groans, back in her boyfriend's apartment with her two foster siblings. "Maybe Lenny isn't ready for a relationship. Maybe he's a love hermit."
"There's no such thing as a 'love hermit', Lisa." Iris huffs a laugh at the end of her sentence.
"Great, now Len is making up new terms on top of everything else!" the youngest siblings moans as she drops her head onto the table. "I can't even get him to talk about his favorite hair color! He keeps thinking I'm trying to figure out his favorite sibling!"
"Hartley still isn't talking to Captain Cranky and neither of them said anything remotely romantic either, not even in a twisted way," Cisco updates them.
"How can you be romantic in a twisted way?" Iris asks, confused.
"Major Pain would find a way," the genius says with conviction.
"Every time I think he's interested in someone at work," Barry shrugs. "It turns out he's just being nice to them. He doesn't stare at anyone. He doesn't mention anyone's name. He's just...Nice..."
Cisco barks a laugh but doesn't comment because his girlfriend glares him into silence.
Iris takes in a deep breath, then lets it out slow.
"I think we're going to have to deal with the fact that our brother is single and content to be so."
"So that he can meddle with our affairs," Lisa adds with a dramatic roll of the eyes.
"At least it seems like he's starting to hate Cisco less," Barry remarks with hope.
Cisco looks over to his friend with a grave expression.
"He sent me a picture of a snake he shot...In the head. I didn't realize how much brain matter was in a snake's head until today."
"Wait, he sent it today?" Lisa frowns. "I thought he sent it to you earlier this week?"
"That was his training paper," her boyfriend corrects. "Most of those holes were in the head as well. I think I have enough evidence to file for a restraining order."
"It won't do you any good," Lisa sighs as she gets into her boyfriend's lap. "He'd find the very edge of the line and glare at you from a distance, but it will still feel like he's standing right behind you."
Cisco stares at the woman, surprised.
"How does that not sound creepy and off to you?"
"I'm just telling you from experience."
"You put out a restraining order on your brother?"
"No, but I got him REALLY ticked off one time and I SWEAR I could feel his angry glare from Zimbabwe."
Down an empty street of Central City, Len stops at a blue, public mailbox and looks around. He pulls out a letter from inside a hidden pocket of his jacket and puts it into the box while looking around once more. He smirks, burrowing his hands deep inside his coat pockets as he walks away.
--- - ---