AN: Okay, I haven't watched anything lately that had bears in it but every time I went to write 'beer' I typed 'bear' instead. Every single time. Anyway, apologies for not updating, I'll try to work this on a two-week update, unless I get motivated to update sooner than that. And yes, I know, this chapter was a long, long time coming. Hopefully I still have it.
Len had more in common with Barry than he had originally thought. They both hated social workers. In Len's case it had been because they had been inept, unable to take him and Lisa away from their abusive father no matter how much the children had cooperated. In Barry's case it was because they had kept trying to take him away from Detective West, citing any number of reasons most of which boiled down to that a black man could not foster a white boy.
The thief put the folder away, rubbing his temples. The information Hartley had uncovered was a good read, but nowhere near what they needed to understand Wells' endgame for the scarlet speedster. "Whatever it is, it's going to be messy," Len whispered. He should not be worrying about this right now though, he should be concentrating on the last details of the heist the Rogues had planned for the 13th. He should not be thinking about the pile of trouble Barry Allen was going to be in once Harrison Wells showed his true colors.
And there was that gaffe of his on the cellphone, giving that advice about using Vicks. If Len was honest with himself, he would say he was scared to run into the hero, for fear the kid would try to confront him about their past. Tapping his fingers on the table, the thief finally got up and walked out of the room. He was not a coward, and if Barry Allen remembered the night a certain thief had rescued him well then Len would just have to do what he always did…play it cool.
The days passed leading up to the proposed heist and anticipation zapped around the group, putting everyone on edge. Len had everything planned, and, as long as a certain speedster did not show up, the Rogues would pull off their first job together without a problem.
Evening of the thirteenth, Len, Lisa and Mick rode out on their bikes, Hartley staying behind. Rathaway's job was to run security, keeping an eye on police chatter, the security grid of the museum and warn them if the Flash was on his way. The whole thing was planned for ten minutes, and that was exactly the time it took to complete.
The Rogues were in and out of the museum, priceless artifacts tucked away carefully in their bike bags before the police showed up. The whole thing was a little anti-climatic for Len, but he supposed the point had been made. The four Rogues could work together, at least like this though Hartley was untested in the field as of yet, and they now had the money source to provide weapons and food for many months, and then some.
Still, he should have known that nothing ever goes smoothly. There is always something, so it really should not have surprised him to find the Flash in their hideout, talking to Hartley. Both hero and techno wizard were at ease, Rathaway sitting at his computer while the red clad speeder was leaning against the table, arms crossed over his chest. The two had obviously been conversing from the way they broke off and looked up upon the arrival of the rest of the Rogues.
Hartley, the smug jerk, leaned back in his chair, arms crossed behind his head with a smirk on his face. The Flash, of the other hand, tensed and looked certain that he was going to be shot any second. Which, judging by how quickly Mick and Lisa pointed their guns at him, was not an unreasonable assumption to make.
The fact that the hero made no move to defend himself, and kept his wide brown eyes fixed on Len, was very telling.
Len knew, right then, that Barry had figured it out and was here to confront him.
"Everyone leave." Mick was about to argue, while Lisa raised an eyebrow, but Len lifted a hand to cut off his pyro friend. "I've got this. It's fine. Leave. You too, Rathaway."
Using the Techno Wizard's last name made the boy flinch slightly, but Len caught his eye, softening his look so the kid would know the thief was not really mad at him. Relieved, Hartley followed Lisa and Mick out the door.
Bracing himself, Len looked at the Flash and watched the hero take off his mask. Barry Allen looked at him, his eyes shiny with unshed tears and his form shook slightly. "It— It took me a while to put it together. To remember why the suggestion of Vicks on bruises was familiar. I… It was you, that night, wasn't it? Who saved me from those angry juniors? Who stopped Butch from rearranging my face?" Barry continues on, not giving time for Len to answer but there is no need for him to do so for they both know the truth now. "All this time it was you. You knew too, didn't you? The second Cisco told you the Flash's identity, you remembered me, didn't you? Is that why you didn't kill me? Or exploit me even more for you own gain? The protection for my dad, the calls to check up on me after my fight with the Trickster. W-why Len?"
Len walked over to the fridge and got out a beer, popping the lid and sipping it before he looked back at the Flash. "What do you want me to say, Barry?"
The Allen boy shakes his head, runs a shaky hand through his hair and sighs heavily. "My life's so messed up now. No one's who they are anymore."
Len bristles, "So the star-crossed boy finds out his hero is a tarnished thief. I'm sure you'll live, Allen, every other disillusioned youngster manages it." He drank half the beer down, watching as Barry looked torn between yelling and crying, "At least one of us is living the dream, right?" At the boy's confused look Len elaborated, "You're a hero, just like you said you'd be."
His words are not a comfort, or a match to ignite the kid's righteous anger. If anything, Barry Allen looks like he's on a sinking ship and the rescue boat will not reach him in time. Len shook his head; the buzz from the beer and the successful heist was making his thought process goofy. And he promised himself he would never let Lisa pick the movie for movie night ever again.
"I'm no hero." Barry spoke quietly, but in the silent room Len heard him perfectly. "A hero knows who the villain is. A hero doesn't get the rug pulled out from under him because he knows who to trust, and when he gets knocked down he gets back up to keep fighting." Barry looks so tired then, like he's going to collapse any second, and Len moved before he was fully aware of deciding to do so. He grasped the speedster by the elbow, maneuvering the numb, red leather clad kid to sit on the couch.
Not knowing what Barry liked to drink, Len grabbed another chilled beer from the fridge and pushed it into the boy's hands. The effect is immediate, the cold drink gives Barry something to focus on and his eyes lose a little of their glazed look. Neither of them speak for a minute, the thief sipping his beer and the self proclaimed not-a-hero staring hopelessly into his bottle.
"You know I didn't graduate high school," Len finally spoke, watching as Barry startled at the sudden change to the quiet atmosphere. "I'm not very learned. I read a lot, just about anything I can get my hands on but only on subjects that interest me and only if the language is understandable. Put any of that technological stuff in front of me, Latin words or fancy lawyer talk, and I'm lost." The kid was looking perplexed, and eying the beer bottles as if they were the cause of the current drift of this conversation. Perhaps they were. "What I'm trying to say is, that even though I don't a have a degree in anything but how-to-pick-a-lock-successfully, there are some things I know without a doubt and one of those is that you are a hero. No, listen. I read fairy tales too, Barry, and stories of knights and ladies, anything I could read to Lisa that would give her good dreams about a better life, about happy endings and how we might earn one, one day. What I know is that you are a hero. Heroes are self-sacrificing, Barry, they see the danger and yet they go in anyway because they care, because they'd never be able to live with themselves for turning their back on someone in need. Because they're human, they're more human than anyone else because not only do they see the wrong happening, Barry, they try to stop it, they try to make the world a better place. What you've done since the lightning, since you got these powers of yours, you've helped people. I've heard of the others, Barry, the others who were affected by the explosion. Are they helping people, kid? No, they just added to the mess. You're the hero of this story, Barry, and if you still don't believe me then go look over everything you've done since waking from your little jolt. I'm sure Ramon has kept a file on it."
"None of that was real, though." Barry was looking at him, his face reminding Len of an inmate's back at Iron Heights who had been contemplating whether ending his existence would be the better route. "None of it was real. From the very beginning, Len, I've been manipulated by the man who was my idol. I looked up to him, read everything he ever published, knew his inventions inside and out, and I—" The Flash buried his head in his hands, cutting off a sob, "I was so grateful to him for everything. For not treating me like a freak, for not turning me over to General Eiling to be experimented on. For helping me understand my powers and pushing me to do better, go faster. I seriously looked up to him as another father-figure, filling a void Joe couldn't just because he didn't understand my science-talk. But it was all a lie! All of it! He started it all. He deliberately made the explosion happen to get me struck, he didn't care about the hurt that would be caused or the other meta-humans that would be made. He wanted me…and he got me."
Len did not need a name, he did not need any more clues, he knew whom Barry was talking about. The relief at knowing that Allen saw through the man, knew of his duplicity, that was good, the anguish in the kid's voice? That made Len want to hug him, as he had Lisa when she had been scared, when she had been hurt by their father. "You're talking about Dr. Wells."
Barry flinched. "He's the Man-in-Yellow, the Reverse-Flash, the guy that killed my mom and let my dad be framed and sent off to jail. He's responsible for it all, and I can't prove any of it." Barry looked at Len with red-rimmed eyes, "How did you know it was him I was talking about?"
"Hartley," Len answered. "Wells nearly destroyed him, and his parents didn't help. He needed a home, a new family, so I offered him one." Was that a flash of jealousy across Barry's face? "I guess it's my lot in life to take in banged up kids and straighten them out, huh?" He smirked at Barry, "Once a big brother, always a big brother I guess." Barry snorted and Len noticed how tired the kid was, the dark bags under his eyes. "When was the last night you slept, kid?"
"Hmm? Oh, I don't know. I've been too afraid to sleep, you know? Too afraid to let my guard down. There's so much Wells has done, I can't rule out that he's been keeping tabs on me somehow."
Len eyed the suit, "You got another one of those at the labs?" Barry nodded, "Good, Hartley's room is over there, he's got some extra sets of pajamas, go change and then give me the suit."
"What— What are you going to do with it?"
"Have Hartley check it for bugs. He rigged this system around the warehouse, interferes with any signals so right now I can say for certain you're not being tracked, but once you step out of here you will be. So go change, and call whoever you need to and tell them you're spending the night at a friend's, or whatever excuse works."
"What are you going to do?"
Len stood, stretching, "You're about to drop, kid, you need sleep. Me and Hartley can fill you in on everything we've gathered on Wells, after you've gotten some sleep because, seriously kid, the way you are now you'd face plant the table." Len hefted Barry up, steering him in the direction of Hartley's room, "Go in there, change, call, I'll get the couch set up because I'm not kicking Hart out of his own room and the couch is a bed so it'll be fine for the night."
Barry stumbled away from him, looking back, "Why do you care if I get some sleep? Why do you want me to spend the night here?"
Len smirked, "Big brother, remember? Gotta protect my investment, kid, now get going."
Barry was asleep on the couch bed the second his head hit the pillow and Len took the suit to Hartley, giving the kid a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder when Rathaway looked at him worriedly. "I'm sorry I just let him in without consulting you, but—"
"It's fine, Hart, our plans are just being moved up a bit, doesn't change anything except Allen's aware that Wells has been using him, though it goes back a lot farther than what we thought."
(Time Skip — Barry sleeps through the night and wakes to the smell of waffles and bacon.)
Barry groaned, not in pain but that satisfied sound you make when your body lets you know that it appreciates you finally allowing it to sleep for as long as it needs. He was surprised by how well rested he felt, having been unable to sleep through the night ever since he had learned of Wells' manipulations. From where he was lying, Barry could smell waffles and bacon; he could even hear the meat sizzling in the pan so the kitchen was not too far away.
It took a moment for Barry to remember why the kitchen would not be farther away, why, even though it smelled like a breakfast Joe would make, this was not home. The young hero opened his eyes and sat up, blinking.
The renovated warehouse was a work of art. What was obviously Hartley Rathaway's computer system was set up in one corner, screens and computers and other gadgets covered two tables, in a much more organized fashion than Cisco's.
Barry was lying on a couch in the living room, an assortment of couches and loveseats, all more comfortable than anything Barry had sat on and expensive looking. They were centered around a TV, a very large TV monitor that took up a good portion of the wall, Barry bet movie nights were awesome. The dining room was behind him, a long table with mismatched chairs that were also highly expensive due to the fashionable woodwork. The kitchen was at the other end of the common area, completing the open-concept idea.
Leonard Snart was moving between a stove and the sink, cooking and cleaning up as he went. Barry had to blink, and then blink again at seeing the thief cook. The older man moved with practiced ease, not hurried, no doubt having the exact count down for each thing cooking. The domesticity of the scene snapped Barry into the presence of mind he should have had, being in the lair of thieves as he was but he found it slipping away once again. Finding out one of his first heroes was the legendary thief and his nemesis had hurt, had been salt to the wound Wells' betrayal had opened inside him.
Numb, Barry walked slowly towards the kitchen, unsure what he was supposed to be doing but too hungry to care. He could not remember the last time food had actually looked appealing to him; lately he had just been eating because he had to or else suffer blackouts from exhaustion. However, this, what he felt now, was not a need to eat, Barry actually wanted to eat the food for the simple fact of eating and enjoying the taste that the delicious smell invoked.
Len turned just as Barry neared the island, ladle in hand to spoon another portion into the waffle maker. They eyed each other, Barry unsure if he should laugh or look away, because seeing the thief like this was not helping his cold reputation.
The thief dished up a plate and handed it to Barry, indicating he should sit at the island to eat, the emotionally drained hero did so. The food was as delicious as it smelled. Barry barely paid attention to Len sitting opposite him, too engrossed in eating and filling his empty stomach. He did not speed-eat, too intent on actually tasting and appreciating the food, plus it was rude to do that in front of people as it kind of grossed them out.
Len watched in amusement as the skinny speedster put away four plates before sitting back and slowly sipped away at his fifth cup of coffee, a content look on his face often associated with the feeling of a full stomach. "When was the last time you ate, kid?"
Barry's contentedness was broken, Len's voice reminding him he was in a den of thieves. "I eat," he answered, somewhat sounding like a petulant teenager but the thief was not amused.
"Just enough to keep going." Len did not even bother to ask, he simply stated it and by the way Barry ducked his head the older man knew he was right. "If you want to take down Wells then you need to take better care of yourself, kid. That means sleeping and eating more, not just the bare minimum and what you need to be on top of your game." The thief was angry, at Barry, at the hero's friends and at Wells' himself from this level of self-destruction the young man was started on. "If you want to fight the Reverse-Flash, and make him pay for what he's done to you and your mother then you need to be the very best you can be."
"But how can I beat him?" Barry asked, hunching over his cup of coffee. "I've already had a couple of run-ins with him and every time he beat me. He's faster, stronger and if it hadn't been for other people helping he would have killed me." Barry stopped, looking up at Len as he realized something.
"There is it," Len said with a smirk. "Maybe you can't beat him on your own, Barry, but you can with friends."
"Will you help?" Barry asked before he could stop himself.
Len was surprised, then he tilted his head and asked, "What's in it for me?"
"What happened to the whole 'big brother' spiel you gave yesterday?" Barry demanded and Len smirked.
"I still get something out of it, kid."
Barry cocked his head, "And making sure I sleep and eat enough is what exactly?"
"Come now," Len collected the dirty plates and took them to the sink, "can't have the city's hero in bad shape, with you not on par all matter of chaos would take over the streets. No," he turned back to Barry, waving his hand between the two of them, "I like this little arrangement we have and I want to keep it that way. Now, if you were to make the pitch that letting Wells run around unchecked would be bad for business I would agree with you. If you pointed out that he messed with a member of my team, very effectively destroying his self-esteem and avenging said teammate would be very beneficial not to mention go a long way in restoring an amount of Hartley's self-worth I again would agree with you." Len looked at the dirty dishes a moment and then turned back to Barry, "I'll make you a deal, Flash, you do the dishes and I'll help you stop Wells." Barry looked at Len, silently asking if he was serious.
When the thief said nothing else the speedster shrugged and stood up, "Deal."
"I gotta warn you though…" Len started to say, then paused as he watched a blur of yellow lightning zip around and the dishes zoom through the sink and into the dishwasher. Barry turned towards him, drying his hands on a towel. "Mick and Lisa won't like working with someone who hides behind a mask."
Barry gulped, "You want to tell Heatwave and Golden Glider my identity?"
Len shrugged, "It's up to you, Barry, their guns would help against Wells but I won't bring them in unless you're welling to tell them who you are."
Barry shifted on his feet, "Do… Do you trust them?"
"With my life," Len answered. "They won't betray me, Barry, and since neither of them would ever want to hurt me they won't betray you either."
"I'll… I'll think about it." Barry looked around, realizing he was still wearing a set of Hartley's pajamas, "Um, where's my suit?"
"Hart left it hanging in his room, there weren't any trackers in it so if Wells is keeping track of you it's not through that."
Barry nodded, flashing out of the room and then back in a second, "Okay, um, I guess I better get going. Um…" the kid looked up at Len through the fringe of his hair, looking even younger than the thief knew he was, "Thanks, Len, for everything."
Len winked, "Sure thing, kid. My number's in your phone if you need to get a hold of me."
"When did you—" Barry broke off, shaking his head, "Never mind. I'm going now before Joe starts to worry. Bye."
Then he was gone, leaving a trail of yellow that disappeared. Len lifted his mug, salting the spot the kid had been, "Bye Barry." Downing what was left of his coffee, Len pulled out his phone, "Hart, any idea yet what Wells is using to track the Flash? Cameras? Seriously? How many cameras are we talking—" Len stopped, listening as Hartley interrupted him. "When you say everywhere do you mean just all over the place or everywhere everywhere?" By the sheer number of cameras the techno kid had found in Barry's house alone, Len had a very bad feeling that Wells already knew the Flash knew about him, but if so why had he not done anything yet? "What are you planning, Wells?"
Of the Flash TV characters, whom would you wish to be saved by?
Captain Cold - 2
Barry(the Flash) – 1
Jay – 1
Caitlyn – 1
Firestorm – 1
Golden Glider -1