At this point, I think you're gonna be reading this while fully caught up on other chapters uploaded to MP, so no more chapter lists from this point forward. Just read on and enjoy!
It's a nerd's dream come true - three superheroes in the same room together. How long until three (or more) villains come along for us to all take on and save the day? Stay tuned. Until then, for those of you playing at home, here's the continuation of my first real meeting with the boys behind the masks of Spider-Man and Nightwing.
"Is now a bad time to mention that I hacked into you guys' records?" Cisco says, barely managing to contain his own excitement.
"Is there ever a good time to mention that?" asks Nightwing - or, as Cisco's search through private files from across the country has told us, Dick Grayson.
A blonde girl, undoubtedly Peter's girlfriend (she's holding his hand), shakes her head. "I don't think so," she says, raising her eyebrows until they disappear into her bangs. "'Cause nobody wants to know their records are being looked at by unauthorized personnel. And I should warn you guys, I'm the daughter of a cop, so..." She lets her words hang over our heads, making them sound very genuine - but somehow, I sense she's bluffing. Maybe not about the "daughter of a cop" thing - I've known Iris long enough to pick up on the signs - but about the unspoken threat to have me and my friends brought to justice for our search of highly questionable legality.
"Note to self," Cisco says. "Make sure to wipe all traces of today's hacking."
"As if you don't already do that," Caitlin snickers. "You're too careful."
"If I had my literal white hat," Cisco says, ruffling his own overgrown hair, "I'd put it on right now. I just hope you guys would all get the joke."
A chorus of "Uh, yeah" and/or other similar phrases rises from Peter, his girlfriend, and Grayson. Grayson's girlfriend, however, puts on a high-pitched, ditzy-sounding voice and says, "I don't get it! Someone tell me what it means? Please? Pretty please?"
"You know," says Peter's girlfriend with a half-scowling smile, "if you have to have the joke explained to you, it loses its funny."
Cisco, Caitlin, and I sit next to everyone else. More introductions are passed around, and I finally get the names of the guys' girlfriends - Peter's girlfriend is Gwen Stacy, and Grayson's is Olivia Miralo. "Yeah, I know," she says as Cisco opens his mouth. "My name means 'look at it.' I've heard it a million times already, chico."
I have no idea what embarrasses Cisco more - being stopped before he can provide a translation of Olivia's name for the uncivilized, non-Spanish-speaking masses (of which I'm a member, having chosen to take French in school despite Spanish being more useful where I live, like Debra Morgan), or being called chico to his face by a stunning young woman light-years out of his league. Parsecs, even. No offense to Cisco, of course, but he's got a ways to go before he's well and truly ready to get his first girlfriend - he freely admits it.
"So, what brings you guys out west?" I ask. "I mean, New York and Gotham we ain't."
"You say 'out west?'" Grayson asks, looking a tad bit perplexed. "I thought people around here would say 'out east' and 'back west,' not the other way around."
"'Back west' doesn't really roll off the tongue so well, does it?" Caitlin says. "But I usually say 'out east' myself."
"It's all relative," I say. "And for you guys, this would be 'out west,' right?"
"Very out west," Peter says. He grins nervously, then adds, "This is literally the furthest from home I've ever been." He looks over to the long line in front of the elevator - evacuees from downtown still waiting to get a room in this hotel. If I hadn't moved back in with Joe a few months ago, I probably would be among them, since my old place is in the newly-defined exclusion zone around STAR Labs. We were actually forced to leave the place not long after Grayson left - that was when the National Guard came in and hustled us out of the building like it was on fire. Luckily, Cisco was able to snag a tablet and keep his hack-search going.
"Yeah," I say, turning back to Peter. "You really picked a hell of a time to visit."
"It's not like I haven't seen worse," Peter says. "There was 9/11, even though I barely remember that - I was just four years old." This tallies with what Cisco found in his records, which state that he was born in August 1997. Most people would probably see him unmasked and find it hard to believe he's only a few months shy of seventeen, but I know better. Given the chance, I probably would have become a Kick-Ass-type amateur superhero at that age. But unlike Dave Lizewski, I had another major interest to keep me going in life - science. Don't get me wrong, Lizewski's very much root-for-able, if that's even a word (I doubt it). But I can't imagine being so bored that I would routinely jack off to anything and everything from visions of my English teacher (and I never had any who were remotely wank-worthy) to pictures of bare-breasted women from Africa. Shares in Kleenex wouldn't have been waiting for my hormones to balance out before taking a dive.
"And the Battle of New York, don't forget that," Gwen says.
"How could I?" Peter's face clouds over slightly. "Our school put on a really good fundraiser, though. I took so many pictures that day, and I didn't wanna have to delete any of them...but only so many could go into the yearbook."
"And most of them had my face in them," Gwen teases him.
"I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times," Peter laughs, his face starting to brighten up again. "It's 'cause you've got such a pretty face. Prettiest in town, in fact."
"Depends on which town, though," Olivia says.
"Yeah," Grayson pipes up. "Around here, you've got the prettiest face, Flash."
I practically die laughing. "Aww, thanks," I say when I finally catch my breath. "Vous me flattez, monsieur," I add, grateful for a chance to finally tap into my high-school French.
"Merci beaucoup," Grayson says with a polite inclination of his head, barely masking his own stupid, highly flattered grin. "Et si on se tutoyait?"
"Ça me plairait aussi." Maybe it's because I haven't spoken the language in a while - other than occasionally mouthing along with French subtitles while watching Harry Potter movies, something I used to do for fun all the time before becoming the Flash - but now that I'm using it again, I sound so formal. Especially if one were to translate my words literally back to English.
"Any of you guys speak French too?" Grayson asks the others. "Sorry if we're losing you here."
"I do," Gwen says. Peter nods along with her. Cisco, Caitlin, and Olivia, however, all shake their heads.
"All right," I say, taking note of the fact that not quite half the people in our group parlent la langue d'amour. "English it is."
"It almost feels like that first scene of Inglourious Basterds," Peter says. "You know, the one where Landa starts out speaking French, then says he's reached the limit of his French and switches to English?"
"Why do you love Tarantino so much?" Gwen asks.
"Yeah," Caitlin says, eyes widening slightly. "Isn't that guy supposed to be a pretentious assbag?"
"Doesn't mean he can't make a good movie," Peter says with a defiant smirk. "Same with Dan Harmon making a good little show called Community - Harmon's a bit of a snot-nosed prick, but he gets me in stitches almost every time."
This guy is really growing on me. He reminds me of myself in so many ways, especially because, like me, he looks like a recovering socially-awkward nerd - recovering from social awkwardness, that is. As for the nerd, you can try and take the kid from the science, but you can't take the science from the kid. Or something like that. I think that's supposed to be some kind of sports metaphor - wrestling or boxing, maybe - so that's probably why I don't quite get it. I was never really interested in sports, even though my dad and Joe both encouraged me to at least try out for baseball or something in high school. The basketball coach even tried to actively recruit me come senior year, by which time I'd hit six feet and was towering over all but the biggest jocks. But as Joe said later, "If I know you, had you gotten on the baseball team, you'd be sneaking your chemistry book into the dugout so you could study."
My response: "Didn't Iris do that once?" Iris played softball our sophomore year, and then in our junior year, she decided the game was...too soft. So she fought long and hard to earn a place on the baseball team with the boys, and she reached her goal. And yes, I do remember once coming to pick Iris up after practice, and I saw her reading her anatomy textbook (she'd gone an easier route than my choice of AP Chem, being less scientifically inclined) in the dugout until she saw me and hastily stuffed it into her gym bag.
With that memory having been brought up, Iris did the only thing a tough-cookie adopted sister would do in those circumstances - slug me in the shoulder.
Before I can do much more than laugh along with Peter's comment about Community, though, Grayson spots someone else coming into the building. "He sure looks frazzled, doesn't he?" he asks, pointing somewhere over my shoulder.
I turn around, and at the sight of the guy Grayson's pointing out, my heart drops through the floor. "How is he here?" I whisper to myself. I even blink rapidly to try and clear whatever hallucination this is out of my vision.
It's no hallucination, though. Because how else would Grayson also be able to see a disheveled, freaked-out-of-his-mind Dr. Wells on the approach?
Wells comes up to me and gets to his knees behind the couch, looking dazed. "Barry. Thank God."
"Before you go any further," I say, turning around to get a better look at him, "please tell me you're actually Dr. Wells and not-"
"I am not now, nor have I ever been, anyone but myself," Wells says.
"Well, sorry if we don't exactly believe you," I say. "Especially after you spent months deceiving us all."
"I got here through a wormhole," Wells says. "I was...I was being attacked by a man who claimed he was from the future. Called himself-"
"Eobard Thawne?" Cisco asks, his tone none too kind. Eobard did kill him in another timeline, though - one which I thankfully (but accidentally) erased.
"That's the guy," Wells says. He gets to his feet - it's still very strange to see him able to walk - then comes around and sits on the couch next to me. "He would've done it too, if not for the wormhole swallowing me up when it did."
"But Eobard's dead," Caitlin says.
"Who or what is Eobard?" asks Grayson. I don't even have to turn around to picture the perplexed look on his face. I'm sure Olivia, Peter, and Gwen have matching expressions too.
Cisco and Caitlin proceed to explain the whole Eobard/Wells thing to the uninitiated ones, while I concentrate on Wells. "Eobard is dead. Eddie killed himself, and with him dead, Eobard couldn't exist, 'cause he was Eddie's descendant."
"A paradox," Wells breathes. "But explain to me why he was still there to attack me. Or how I ended up here with only one thought in my mind - 'find Barry Allen.'"
"Who knows?" I knead my forehead. "God, who knows how badly messed up the space-time continuum must be. Wait - was that really your only thought? You didn't even know me when Eobard..." I barely manage to stop myself from finishing that sentence. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I sense that if Wells were to find out he was supposed to have died at Eobard's hands and been impersonated by him later, he would vanish into thin air the way the other Captain Cold did. I'm reasonably convinced at this point that that version of Leonard Snart we encountered today isn't the same one I've dealt with before - because if Wells' story about the wormhole is true, then perhaps that other Snart got brought here through a wormhole of his own, from an alternate universe.
"Well, not my only thought," Wells amends. "I was trying to focus on keeping away from the gentleman following me here."
"What are you talking about?"
"The one with the burns all over his body," Wells says. "The one with the heat gun. I had a feeling I had something to do with that at some point - maybe an experiment gone awry?" He looks at me meaningfully. "Like you, but more evil. And less speedy."
My eyes move to the hotel's glass front door. As if I wasn't horror-struck enough, now it's even worse, because I can see Heat Wave himself, Mick Rory, storming the gates, having presumably been led here by Wells.
Without thinking, I jump over the couch and tear across the lobby, pushing Rory out the door before he can fire his weapon. A few seconds of super-fast running - in street clothes, at that - leaves us on the shoreline, the both of us trailing a small amount of smoke.
"How'd you get here?" I ask, needing an answer ASAP. "Tell me how you got here!"
Rory chuckles to himself. "Those were some pretty lights," he says. "Oh look, here they come again! I didn't kill you this time, but I'll show up again soon! You better watch your back, kid!"
"Wait!" I cry out, but it's too late. A silvery pinprick of light materializes over Rory's head, and less than a second later, he's vanished, just like Snart.
The only thing for me to do is race back to the hotel, where everyone instantly clamors to find out what just happened. All I can say, though, is this: "I wish I could tell you. But I still can't make sense of it myself."