The Loneliness of Company

Chapter 8

The air was tense, firm, twitchy. Any moment something awful was going to happen.

Or not.

They didn’t know.

It could work. And it could not. What happened then?

Worry about that later.

Barry Allen stiffened, reading to run. His head was fogged with exhaustion and the distant grip of pain medication. He’d get an awful headache sometimes and it was like-

No. Don’t think about that.

Wrinkling his nose at his own commands, Barry glanced up and his eyes locked with Cisco’s like puzzle pieces. He hadn’t noticed how solemn Cisco looked until that very moment. Everything was riding on the shoulders of a computer geek who said he could see into parallel universes. No wonder he kept shivering.

And the rest of the plan lay on Barry; a damaged speedster who couldn’t gather up enough courage to meet with his family, much less gather the speed to break the time and space continuum.

Joe and Iris thought Barry was dead. He wasn’t, obviously. He was selfish and Barry knew he was. Barry didn’t know what they would do when he told them. “Hey, tomorrow I’m not going to remember any of this and you’re probably going to have to take care of me my entire life because I’m broken.”

No. That was not going to happen. Not yet, anyway. He wasn’t ready.

If this didn’t work, he would go to them. He would talk about everything. But until every possibility of living a functional life had been exhausted, Barry wasn’t going to come home. Telling Joe and Iris would be like giving up. Giving in.

One of the British guys, Samick or something? Gave him a shout, asking if he was ready. Barry handed him a thumbs up. He took it down quickly, realizing he was shaking, similar to Cisco’s near constant vibrating ever since they’d met. Cisco didn’t appear to notice how much he moved, which was odd.

… And not necessary to think about right now.

He needed to concentrate.

They choose to race around the reactor because the very existence of the machine was unstable. If anywhere, it was here that he had the best chance of breaking into Earth One. At least, that’s what Cisco and Dr. Well’s said.

With one last look at his friends, Barry took a step forward and felt heat boiling in his chest. He drew a breath and with Harrison’s words “Run, Barry!” he flew down the track. Around and around and around.

Faster. He dug in with his heels and pushed.

It didn’t feel like he was moving fast. Instead, the world was really slow. Barry blocked out the images of his frozen friends as he zipped around and concentrated.

The world flickered, grew dark, and came back. Was that a good thing?
He raced three more times around the track and he could feel something ripping, just barely getting… loose…

But suddenly Cisco shouted a garbled message that Barry heard painfully through his earpiece. He faltered and caught a glimpse of Cisco tumbling headlong over the railing above him, Sherlock’s scarf in hand.

Instantly, the world sped up as Barry slowed. He ‘jogged’ over to Cisco, who was falling in slow motion. Barry caught him as he fell and set him on the floor.

The world resumed normal speed. Cisco was pale, eyes wide, gasping. His eyes shined blankly, but suddenly he blinked and grabbed Barry’s arm.

Barry held him down. He didn’t know what was wrong. Cisco shouldn’t move.

But Cisco shook his head rapidly and pointed up to the balcony that he had stood on. “It’s not me,” he bit out. “It’s them!”

Confused, Barry zipped up the stairs and onto the balcony.

Dr. Wells was frozen, eyebrows raised. Around him, all three of the British men were shades of green, struggling to stand.

Sherlock (oh right, that’s his name) tried to keep his feet, but to their mutual shock, his hand fell through the desk supporting him and he dropped to his knees with a hiss.

“What’s wrong with them?” Barry asked.

Harrison opened his mouth, shook his head. “I… don’t know.” He jumped forward and leaned over the railing. “Cisco!” Cisco was standing now. Harrison repeated Barry’s question and Cisco shivered so violently Barry could see it from twenty feet above.

“They’re fading,” Cisco shouted back. “They can’t stabilize here. I think we’re making them fade faster.” No one asked how he knew.

“What the heck is that supposed to mean?” John lurched to his feet. “What’s happening?”

“You’re caught between two weak universes!” Cisco replied. Barry could almost see his thoughts churning. “I get it now! You would be mostly fine if you were entirely here, but there’s a part of you that’s still back in your world. It’s not going to be pleasant. We’re opening a wound, of sorts. We need to make the wormhole. Now!” Cisco’s eyes met Barry’s and he nodded ever so slightly.

Barry ran.

Barry ran and ran until he felt like his heart would burst.

He couldn’t stop. Not now. Yellow lightning crackled around him, sending shivers up and down his spine. The Wind rushed across his face and he had to squint to keep his eyes open.

Cisco Ramon stood on the sideline, eyes wide, quivering and Barry caught a glimpse of him as he whipped around.

Suddenly he could hear Cisco in his earpiece, a crackling, scratchy sound.

“I’m going to try something. I think I can loosen the panes. I kind of get it now. It’s not a vibration, Barry. Not like I thought. I’m not vibrating. I’m moving in and out; existing in every universe for a fraction of a fraction of a second.”

“What? How?”

A pause. Seven laps around.

“This is wrong, Barry. This entire universe is wrong and it has been since it broke off. I can feel it.”

Barry frowned, confused, but kept running. “I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I. But… Creating a wormhole isn’t the answer.”

“Then what am I supposed to do?”

Cisco pursed his lips. “I think… Oh gosh, this is going to sound insane.”

“What is it, Cisco? Tell me. Now.”

Cisco took a deep breath and continued. “You can travel past the speed of light. I’ve seen it before. We can go back through time and change this entire situation. If you save Caitlynn and Dr. Wells, this offshoot of reality will blend with Earth One and none of this will have happened. At least, I think so.”

Barry understood, barely. Ten more laps. “If this reality never existed, then Sherlock wouldn’t have a wormhole to fall into in the first place. They would end up back in their universe.”

“Hopefully.” Cisco caught his eyes one last time. “But you can’t do it by yourself. I can’t do it either. We need to work together. Not alone.”

“Together.” Surging forward, Barry poured his confusion and sadness and hurt into each step. He wanted nothing more than to not be alone. “Whatever you’re planning, Cisco. Do it now.”

Four more laps.

In slow motion, Cisco raised his arm from the sideline and a shimmering, invisible wave poured from his fingertips. Barry didn’t have time to understand.

“What happens when I run into that?”

“I’m loosening the walls between the universes. I think. You’ll travel.”

“How do you know?”

“I don’t.”

Barry pursed his lips. “I’ll take it.”

“Goodbye, Barry.”

“Goodbye.” Barry flew directly into the shimmering wave. It pulled him forward. Deeper. Faster and faster.

He screamed in effort.

And the world disappeared in a flash.

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