A close encounter

I was surprised to discover absolutely no listing of this particular Jay Garrick anywhere. Ralph taught me a few tricks of his trade during our marriage but not one of them turned up the man who Caitlin worked with. Mind you, I had little enough to go on—no age, birthdate, even height or weight–but someone who styled himself as a “metahuman behaviorist” would, by necessity, be a very large frog in a tiny puddle. Eventually, I realized how presumptuous I was in researching the beau of a woman I hardly knew and let it go.

I did, however, find out more about Barry Allen, police forensic scientist and owner of S.T.A.R Labs. Seemed Harrison Wells’s confession freed Barry’s father, Henry, from prison.

True to her word, Caitlin passed my request on to Barry, who phoned me to discuss the check I’d sent.

“Mrs. Dibny—”

“Please, Barry, call me Sue.” I was fairly sure what he was going to say just by the tone of his voice.

“I really can’t take this money. It’s too much.”

Ha! I was right! I mentally patted myself on the back.

“You can and you will.” Ralphie trotted over and rose up on his hind legs, resting his forepaws on my knee. I scratched him behind his ears before wandering over to the divan. Plunking myself onto its cushions, I tucked my legs up under me. Ralphie jumped up and settled his head on my bent knee. “It’s not like I drained my savings or anything and what you did for me and Ralph; well, it was priceless.”

The next thing I knew, Ralphie was licking my face and Barry was calling my name. “Sue? Are you all right?”

“Yes, Barry. I am.” I sighed, stroking the dog to reassure him. “That was Ralph, wasn’t it? What did he have to say?”

“Ah, yeah. That was Ralph.” He paused, then sighed. “He suggested I put the money away until I could make repairs. And that you wanted to warn me about Jay? Jay Garrick?”

I blinked, startled. “Well, yes. It’s nothing I have proof of, but he did raise Ralphie’s hackles and Ralphie—that’s my dog—is a good judge of character. Do you have any information on his background?” I cut myself off right there; no need for him to know I’d gone and searched the Internet for the man.

“Actually, I do. He comes highly recommended.”

It was so tempting to ask just whose recommendation Barry had, but I bit my tongue. It really wasn’t my place. “Good to know.”

“About Ralph—” Barry cleared his throat. “He also asked me to tell you he loves you.”

I smiled, chuckling a little. “Well, thank you for passing on the message. We both appreciate it.”

“No problem. You take care now, okay?”

“You, too. Have a good day.”

I disconnected the call and set the phone down. There was still something off about that Garrick; I wished I could put a finger on it. Scratching my dog behind the ears again, I asked the air, “Well? Do you have anything concrete I could show Barry and Caitlin?” A few moments passed; I remained seated—no change of position, no dog slobbering over my face. “I didn’t think so, but … thanks for telling him. I love you, too.”

Another thing I liked about Central City, I decided, was my neighborhood. Though it was older, it had long been a bastion of professionals: doctors, lawyers, university professors, etc. Many of the older houses were in the process of being renovated, which made taking Ralphie for a walk during the day like threading through an obstacle course. So, we preferred the evenings, even if they were chilly.

The city was under siege from Zoom, according to the news reports. Fortunately, the Flash managed to confine their skirmishes to the downtown or industrial areas. As a result, I felt perfectly safe walking at night. Not only did I have my fierce little hound sniffing every bush and tree for danger (and occasionally saluting them as we passed) but my unseen protector hovered nearby, listening as I chattered freely about my day. If anyone else was about, I’m sure they assumed I was talking to my dog. Mind you, I did take some precautions against more common criminals, mostly in the form of pepper spray and my cell phone. I’m not stupid.

On this particular evening, Ralphie and I were a block and a half from home when a blue bolt of energy, jagged and swift, shot past us, followed by red and yellow blur. The combined force of their wake spun me around. I fell, losing my grip on Ralphie’s leash.

He took off like a shot, barking and growling as he dashed up the steps and through the open door of a nearby house.

“Ralphie! Come here!” I picked myself up, wincing as I dusted off my hands. My hip ached, one arm stung, and a knee of my leggings was ripped. With a groan, I hobbled up the flight of concrete steps as quickly as I could.

Beyond the half-open door, I heard Ralphie yipping and snarling. Two male voices pleaded with someone to stop whatever was going on. My nose twitched, hard. I pushed the door open further and limped inside.

An older man shot me a glance as I came into the living room. There, on the hardwood floor, lay Jay Garrick, and on top of him, pounding Jay’s face with a flurry of blows too fast to be seen, knelt Barry Allen! Dressed in stark black, his face already purpling with bruises, Jay had his forearm up, trying to deflect the punches. He kept calling, “Barry! Stop it, would ya?”

The older gentleman had his arms full of squirming, yipping dog, but he still turned and tried to stop me from coming closer. “Ma’am, please stay here with me. It’s dangerous.” He hefted Ralphie. “I take it this is your dog?”

I nodded, opening my mouth to answer him when Jay looked right at me. He lisped between swollen lips, “Sue! Susie-Q! Tell the kid who I am!”

Before I could stop myself, I threw myself at Barry, shouting his name. His arms were moving too fast, so I grabbed the red hood attached to the suit he wore and tugged, hard. He paused his beat down long enough to turn my way, scowling. I could have sworn a bright yellow bolt of lightning arced across his narrowed eyes.

“Barry! That’s Ralph!” I pointed at Jay/Ralph; Barry followed my finger. “It’s Ralph, Barry! He’s in control, but not for long!”

I didn’t even see him get up. Just a bolt of scarlet and gold lightning arced by, this time heading out. They were both gone.

I rocked back on my heels, surprised to find myself almost panting. “Wow.” Shaking my head, I gulped in a deep breath, letting it out slowly. “Wow,” I repeated, louder this time. Ralphie, free from his captor’s arms, trotted over. I laughed as he slobbered kisses all over my face.

“Ralphie, you rascal!” I scratched him behind the ears. “Who’s a good boy? You are! Such a good boy!” Of course, I said all this in a baby-talk voice I swore I’d never use with him.

Finally, I rose to my feet, groaning. Ralphie was still on his leash; the older man who’d tried to stop me holding the handle. He looked familiar.

“Henry Allen, right? Barry’s father?”

He started. “Uh, yes.” A puzzled frown crossed his face as he looked at me. “Do I know you?”

“No. I’m Sue. Sue Dibny. I’m acquainted with your son. I saw your picture online.” I held out a hand, then hissed at seeing the scrapes across my palm. “Uh, do you have a first aid kit? I was knocked over outside.”

Henry shook his head. “I’m afraid I don’t live here anymore. I did, once, a long time ago. But not now.”

Warning bells went off in my head. “So,” I drawled, “that means we’re both—”

I said, “Trespassers” at the same moment Henry said, “Trespassing.” He continued, “We should get out of here before the neighbors notice–”

“–And call the police.” I took Ralphie’s leash from him and hobbled to the door.

“Don’t worry about that,” he said, offering his arm. I took it; my injuries made the steep concrete stairs seem daunting. “I have a friend or two at CCPD. I can make a call and clear this up.”

He paused; I looked up to see him grimace. “Hm. There’s one snag: I don’t have my phone with me.”

“No problem. I—ow!—have mine. Just get me down to sidewalk level and you can borrow it.”

By the time we reached the sidewalk, a few of the neighbors had already gathered. A couple of them recognized me—or, I should say, they recognized Ralphie. They moved in to pet him as Henry lowered me to one of the bottom steps. One, in particular, recognized his old neighbor.

“Henry Allen, as I live and breathe!” The portly gentleman who lived next door—Mr. Whitmire, I recalled–stepped forward, offering his hand. “It’s been a long time!”

Henry turned and shook Whitmire’s hand. “It has been at that, Phil!” He motioned toward me. “Have you met Sue Dibny?”

“Of course! Maureen and I see her and her dog pass by most every evening.” Whitmire stepped closer. “Are you all right? Mo saw you fall; she sent me out to help. By the time I got out here, the two of you were coming down the stairs.”

“I heard shouting,” said Dr. Akumi, the pediatric ophthalmologist who lived on the other side. “Terese is out of town so I was about to call the police—” She held out her cell phone and shrugged.

“Did I see the Flash come out of there?”

Everyone turned to Xavion Lewis, center for the Central City Stingers, our soccer team. He gave Ralphie a last scratch before standing and crossing his arms over his chest. “I’ve seen him before. I know what he looks like in motion.”

That’s the pieces all came together. Barry—red hood (mask, cowl, what was it?)—superspeed and lightning across his eyes—

Barry Allen was the Flash!

The idea hit me like a hammer. I would have fallen over if I wasn’t already sitting. It made so much sense. Henry must have seen me make the connection just from my expression; he shot me pleading glance. He knew, too! Of course, he did! Barry was his son!

I breathed in to steady myself then huffed it out, nodding slowly as I turned my attention to Xavion. “Yes, it was the Flash. I saw him run in; the wind in his wake knocked me down and I dropped Ralphie’s leash.” I snapped my fingers; Ralphie bounded up to sit beside me. “This mutt here went tearing off after him, barking and growling.” I shrugged. “Once I got up, I had to follow.”

“Of course you did. What happened next?” Maureen Whitmire joined the party. She settled down on the step, too, offering me an ice pack for my knee. I noticed Henry asking Dr. Akumi for the use of her phone. I pulled mine from my bag and held it out. Xavion tugged on Henry’s arm, pointed to my phone, and passed it over at Henry’s nod. I wished I could hear just who he was calling at the CCPD. I figured it probably wouldn’t be Barry, not this time. After all, he was busy.

“Well, when I got up there, Henry was already inside. He had hold of Ralphie. The Flash had someone on the floor and was really waling on him! He sure seemed angry!” That was the truth; so far, so good.

“Why? Who was it?” Dr. Akumi turned toward me as Henry stepped off the curb to make his call.

“And why here of all places?” Whitmire asked, gazing at the house with a speculative look.

I shrugged. “No idea. Just that he was male and the Flash was pummeling him.” Half-truth there; I knew who was being pummeled but why? I think Henry would have to tell me. I rubbed my chin. “I must have yelled something because the Flash glanced up, realized he had an audience, and took off with whoever it was.” Maybe a three-quarter truth this time.

“I’m sure the Flash had a good reason for what he did and we’ll hear on the news tonight he’s caught and jailed some dangerous metahuman,” Maureen opined. “Maybe even this Zoom character himself! Wouldn’t that be a relief!”

Henry interrupted, holding one hand over my phone’s mic. “Mrs. Dibny? Do you need an ambulance?”

“Hell, no!” I snorted, shaking my head emphatically. “I’m not spending half the night in the E.R. for a scraped elbow and a banged-up knee! Not when I have a perfectly serviceable first aid kit at home.” Whitmire and Lewis chuckled. Maureen gave me an affronted side-eye and Dr. Akumi pretended she didn’t hear me.

Henry grinned. “Good choice. What number is your house?”

“I’m at 574.”

“Thanks.” He turned back to his phone conversation.

“Are you sure you don’t need any medical attention?” Dr. Akumi asked. “I may be an ophthalmologist but I can triage and bandage.”

“No need.” Henry returned my phone to me. “I can do it. The CCPD is sending a squad car here and a detective will meet Mrs. Dibny and me at her place.” He offered me a hand up.

“Could you use a lift?” Xavion asked. “I haven’t parked my car yet.”

Henry and I exchanged glances. “That’s a good idea,” he said. “Don’t need to damage yourself any further. I can take Ralphie—if he’ll let me—and walk him down. It’s not far.”

I nodded. “That sounds good. Let’s do it.”

We managed to get down the street and into my house before the squad car arrived to interview the neighbors. Xavion went on and on about how awesome the Flash was as he drove. I was glad; it kept him from asking awkward questions.

By the time Henry’s CCPD contact showed up, we two were in my kitchen, waiting for coffee to brew as Henry treated my more visible injuries. While he worked, I explained about Ralph and how I first met Barry. He, in turn, told me who Jay Garrick really was and what Garrick was doing before Ralph possessed him.

“So. Your son is the Flash.” I shook my head, huffing out a self-deprecating laugh. “I was so stupid to not make the connection as soon as I saw him beating on Garrick.” Henry glanced up at me but before he could say anything, I smiled. “You must be very proud of him.”

He nodded. “I am. But I was proud of him long before he became the Flash.”

“I just hope he was able to keep hold of Zoom until Barry could put him behind bars.” I hissed as he finished bandaging my knee.

“You and me both.” He handed me an ice pack. “Don’t worry about keeping our stories straight. My contact will help us out.” The doorbell rang. Ralphie galloped toward the front hall, barking his head off. “I’ll get it.”

I nodded, propping my leg up on a kitchen chair and settling the pack on top of the bandages. Henry returned with a familiar figure.

“Detective West!” I waved, smiling. “So good to see you again! ”

Detective West regarded me for a long minute, studying my face. “I think I remember you. That body by the jetport, after the particle accelerator. You’re the wife, right?” He muttered under his breath. “Disn—no, Dib—” He snapped his fingers. “Dibny. Mrs. Dibny! Nice to meet you again.”

“Please, call me Sue.” I held out my hand. He took it. We shook firmly and I gestured to a seat.

He glanced around my kitchen before sitting down; Henry was poking through the cabinets, looking for coffee cups. “I thought you lived in Opal City?”

“Henry, try the cabinet to your right.” I turned my attention back to the detective. “Yes, I lived there. I moved here a few months ago. Ralph and I bought this house before he died. Thought I might as well take possession.” I glanced from one man to the other. “I’m told you know Barry Allen?”

“Yeah, I know Barry pretty well.”

Henry spoke over one shoulder. “He’s a good friend. He raised Barry while I was in prison.” He took down four mugs and set them on the table. “He also knows about Barry’s little secret. Uh, where’s the sugar?”

“Right here.” I indicated the container of sugar packets. “The milk’s in the fridge. Spoons are in the top drawer next to the sink.”

As he finished up by bringing the fresh coffee to the table, the doorbell rang again. Ralphie hared off to the front door; I sighed in exasperation. “Could you get it?” I asked the detective.

“Yeah, sure.” Detective West got up. “It’s probably Barry. I gave him your address.”

Indeed it was. Barry made a beeline for Henry. “Dad!” They hugged, a warm, lingering embrace. Ralphie barked, bouncing around their feet.

I snapped my fingers. “Ralphie! Here!” He trotted over to me, sitting by my side, panting.

Father and son broke their embrace. Henry asked, “Did you get him?”

Barry’s grin grew wide as he crossed to join us. “We got him!”

There was a small eruption of jubilation. Father and son embraced again. Detective West joined in the hug, pounding Barry on the back. Henry offered me a high-five, which I returned with a heartfelt, “Yes!”

Barry motioned toward me. “Couldn’t have done it without Ralph—or you, Mrs. Dibny. I didn’t know Ralph had possessed Jay until you grabbed me.”

The three men joined me at the table. “So Ralph was able to hold on?” I asked.

Barry nodded, murmuring thanks as his father handed him a cup of coffee. “All the way to the Pipeline.” At my blank look, he explained, “The Pipeline is where we keep the metahumans we capture. It’s at S.T.A.R. Labs.”

“I hear there’s talk of building a metahuman wing at Iron Heights,” Henry said. He sipped his coffee. “Still, if it’s all the same to you, Barry, I think I’m going to leave town for a while—just in case. Don’t want either of us going through that again.”

“Dad, Zoom’s not going to get out. Thawne couldn’t. Last I saw, Jay was unconscious. Even with his enhanced healing ability, he won’t be in any shape to hurt anyone for a while.”

“Waitwaitwaitwait.” I held out my hands, confused and concerned. “These cells—they hold metahumans, right?”

“Yeah,” Barry drawled, a puzzled frown on his face.

“Then Ralph might be stuck in there with him? With Zoom?” My level of concern was rising fast.

“Who’s Ralph?” Detective West asked, looking as confused as I felt. He thought for a moment and his eyes widened. “You mean, your Ralph? Your dead husband?”

“My not-all-dead metahuman of a husband, Detective. He can possess people.” I turned back to Barry as the detective muttered, “Day-am,” under his breath. “Well? I know you can’t really know if he’s trapped, but could he be?”

Barry opened his mouth to speak, but Henry beat him to the punch. “Susie-Q,” he said, catching my attention. “No need to worry? I’m just fine.”


Henry took my hand and kissed it; a light flush crept up my cheeks. “I like this guy,” he said, cupping my face with the other hand. “He looked out for you back there. And he’s a doctor! What more could you want?”

“Ralph, you sound like my mother.”

He laughed, pulling his hand away from my face. “Oh, no. Not that! Anything but that!” His expression was sheepish as he scratched the back of his neck. “I’ll try not to be so pushy.”

I put a hand over Henry’s, squeezing it gently. “I think you’d better let Henry here go. You’re weirding out the good detective.”

“Ah, yeah. Just one more thing.” Turning his attention to Detective West, he said, “Thanks for helping Sue here out when she wanted answers about my, uh, my bodily death. I appreciate it.”

West looked startled. “Uh, yeah. Sure. Glad to help.”

He addressed Barry, “Anytime you need my help, Flash, just tell Sue. I’ll be hanging around.”

Barry gave him a thumbs up. “I will, Ralph. Now, can I have my Dad back, please?”

“Sure.” Henry kissed my hand once more. “See you around, honey.” He winked at me, then Henry reached out to sip his coffee. “Huh. This was hot just a minute ago.”

West was staring at him, shaking his head, while Barry and I shared a knowing smile.

Henry’s brow furrowed as his eyes darted from me to Barry to the detective. “What?”

“That was, uh—” West blew out a, “Whoo!” He gestured to Henry. “That was weird. I’ve seen a lot of metahumans but nothing like that before.”

Before Henry could ask again, I explained. “Ralph just let us know he’s okay.”

I’ll say one thing for Henry, he’s quick on the uptake. “He used me?”


It was the detective’s turn to frown. “Hold up a second. I get that Ralph knows about Barry, but Sue–?”

“She figured it out just tonight.” West gave Henry the side-eye. Henry shrugged. “Ask Barry what happened and you’ll see how. Right now, Sue and I have to get our stories straight and on the record—with your help.”

Barry looked puzzled. “Why would you need to?”

“Believe it or not, son, you were seen.” Henry freshened his coffee from the heated pot.

“And the neighbors heard yelling,” I added. “They’re a very nosy bunch. I gave them enough of a story to pacify them; it has the advantage of being mostly true. However, Henry needs a good reason for being there.”

“Okay, then.” Detective West pulled out a notebook. “Let me take your statements and we’ll see what we can do.”

A quiet house, a warm bath, and a couple of painkillers later, I lay curled up in bed with my tablet. Ralphie snored beside me, his hind legs jerking occasionally as he dreamed. As of yet, there was no mention of Zoom’s capture, though a small story in Picture News brought up the Flash’s takedown of some not-as-yet-identified metahuman. Dr. Akumi and Xavion Lewis were interviewed. The byline was Iris West; I vaguely wondered if she were related to the detective.

As I slid my tablet into the nightstand drawer, I picked up the picture sitting by my bedside. Ralph smiled out at me, dressed in a tuxedo, his cheek pressed to mine.

“Well, Ralph, you did good work today,” I murmured. “I suppose we both did. I sure didn’t see Barry as the Flash, but it makes a lot of sense.” I sighed. “Living with and without you simultaneously will take some getting used to. In any case, I love you and I always will.”

With that, I put the picture back on the nightstand and turned off the light.

As any fan of The Flash knows, Ralph Dibny made his debut in the fourth season. Said debut jossed the hell out of my little fic but as it was really a fix-it fic for Henry Allen, it’s okay. I like seeing the heel-face-turn of the rascally Ralph, aka the Elongated Man, in the show so it’s all good. Hope you enjoyed this little story. I’m sorry it took so long to finish.

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