kat8cha: (Superheroes - pretty piper)
[personal profile] kat8cha
Title: Out in the Cold
Author: K8
Fandom: DC - The Flash
Rating: PG
Characters: Barry Allen, Wally West, Linda West, Iris Allen, Irey West, Jai West, Hartley Rathaway
Summary: Inspired by a [livejournal.com profile] comment_fic prompt

Keystone and Central were two relatively temperate cities. They got snow, now and again, and during the winter their median temperature was somewhere in the forties. They rarely dropped below freezing for a sustained period of time. Of course with Captain Cold and the Weather Wizard around it didn't really matter sometimes what the weather was supposed to be like. The recent, and sustained, cold snap had been all their fault and it had left Barry with quite a big mess to clean up. There were a lot of homeless people around Central city who were still trying to sleep outside and would have ended up frozen if Barry hadn't grabbed them. Barry was feeling a little chilled himself by the time he found the latest hypothermia victim holed up in an abandoned factory somewhere on the waterfront.

"C'mon, let's get you to the-" It took Barry a second to focus on the costume underneath the fine dusting of snow and the rough treatment it had been given. He'd read up on the times and Wally had shown him pictures of the young man in his arms. Piper, the Pied Piper, also known as Hartley Rathaway. Barry could remember when he'd fought the young man seriously, Flash versus Rogue. Hartley couldn't have been much more than eighteen at the time, barely four years older than Wally, but he'd seemed like a villain who knew what he was doing. His mind control had gotten Barry into some awful straights.

But he'd reformed after Barry's death and had gone on to fight not just on the side of good but alongside Wally. Then he'd also betrayed Wally, Barry had seen the Piper evident in the Rogue's War, and he knew that Piper had a hand in the death of Barry's own grandson, Bart. Barry didn't consider Inertia his grandson, but he had been another young man to meet his death at the hands of the Rogues, another young man Piper had helped kill.

Briefly, Barry thought about taking Piper straight to Iron Heights, but given the stiffness of Piper's limbs and the blue caste to his cheeks it would be a better idea to take him to the hospital. If Piper was a wanted man, and Barry couldn't imagine how he was not, the police would come and fetch him after a little hospital care patched him up. Iron Heights was probably not the best place for anyone to heal, even a criminal like Piper. Barry dropped Piper off at the E.R. and after the nurses took him he left and did not think twice about it for the rest of the day. He was busy after all, both at his job as Barry Allen and his job as The Flash, if he thought about all the nameless people he'd saved he'd never stop thinking about it, and what was the Pied Piper except a former rogue who had fallen on hard times?

Barry did such a good job of not thinking about it (he'd honestly put it out of his mind) that he did not even think about checking on Piper to see if the police had picked him up until Wally, Linda, and the kids came over for Sunday dinner. It was odd to see Wally with family, but more than that it was odd *being* family with Wally. The kids made it seem warmer than when it had just been him and Wally and Iris. It was also far noisier. Barry did not know what the kids had been like when they were younger but as pre-teens they were almost impossible to ignore.

Apparently their school was pushing learning music, and Barry was glad that the Keystone city schools hadn't abandoned the arts to push science and math like some schools did. Although Barry thought that science and math were important, after all that's what his job was all about, he didn't think they were so important one should squash youthful exploration. Though, Barry winced at the sound of Jai playing the clarinet for everyone, perhaps there was a reason behind cutting music programs other than cutting budgets.

"He wanted the trumpet," Linda said to Iris when Jai went to put his instrument away and Iris started playing the violin, "but we talked him down to a clarinet." The notes being pulled from the violin made Barry wince. He was sure that such noises weren't meant to be made.

"It's a good thing you did." Barry said quietly. "I don't think I've had my head ring this badly since my last battle with the Pied Piper." That was when Barry remembered that he had dropped the ex-convict in the hospital and wondered briefly if he should mention it to Wally and Linda.

"I wonder where Piper is, now." Linda said and glanced at Wally. Wally shrugged and his gaze went from Iris, where he'd been staring in the kind of brain-dead glossy half proud fatherly way some parents looked at their children, to stare at his hands.

"I haven't seen him in… a while. Not since just after Bart's funeral. I was so mad at him and Trickster." Wally rubbed the back of his head. "Never mind." Then Iris finished and everyone was compelled to applaud, even Jai who was making faces behind his sister's back.

"Kids, why don't you help your Aunt Iris put the table together? I need to talk to your dad for a second." Barry pulled Wally out of the dining room by the crook of his elbow. Linda watched curiously, and Iris knowingly, while the kids complained good naturedly and started getting out silverware and plates, Irey cheating and using her speed until her mother stopped her.

"What's up?" Wally asked once they were out of eavesdropping range on the other side of the living room. "There's no super-villain attack going on right now, is there?"

"It's not that," Barry dropped a hand on Wally's shoulder and squeezed. "You two mentioned the Pied Piper earlier and I thought you should know, I dropped him off at Central's hospital earlier in the week suffering from exposure." The second that it took for Wally to comprehend stretched forever, subjectively anyway, and in the blink of an eye (a normal blink) Wally had snapped into the dining room and back, he held Linda in his arms.

"Central Metro? Is he alright? Exposure? Where was he?" Linda looked confused and was almost clinging to her husband's arm, but that was primarily because Wally's grip on her was not giving her a chance to steady herself. "He found Piper, Linda." It took Linda even less than a second to understand and she went from the steady woman that Barry usually dealt with to the fierce woman who would face down super-villains to protect her family.

"Where is he?"

"Central Metro…" Then Wally was in his Flash costume and zipping out of the room. He zipped back a second later to speak to Linda.

"He's still there, the nurses say he was malnourished, they're not letting him go anytime soon but they've had to sedate him to keep HIM from going anywhere. He's asleep right now."

"I'll need an overnight bag." Linda stated and she walked over to where her coat and hat were while Wally zipped in and out to get her bag.

"Mom?" Irey peeked out of the dining room with concern written all over her face. She looked as confused as Barry felt as well. "Are you going somewhere? What about dinner?"

"You two'll have to behave for your uncle and aunt, alright?" Linda spoke to Jai as well as she pulled on her coat. "Your dad'll be back soon."

"If you're going to be staying-" Wally stopped when Linda held up a hand.

"I'll need to wrangle permission to stay past visiting hours anyway. I'm sure I'll be able to do it, I'm Linda Park West after all, but you're not going to do anyone any good and the last thing Piper needs to see when he wakes up is your guilty face. Don't worry, I'll call you as soon as he wakes up. I just wish Barry'd told us sooner." There was no recrimination in her tone and no anger, but Barry felt vague guilt anyway.

"I did not think you two would care."

Wally and Linda both stared at him with wide surprised eyes, Iris stood with her hands on her hips and her lips thin. It was the look she gave Barry when he was being an ass and did not realize it. Barry was not sure what sort of social faux pas he had committed this time.

"Of course we care." Wally spoke up and picked up Linda and her accoutrements in his arms. "Piper's our friend." And then Wally was gone in a burst of chilly air and a hint of burnt ozone.
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