This fic is a Snowbarry storyline set after and between the episodes of late Season 1, with the relevant episode(s) indicated at the beginning of each chapter. This particular chapter takes place after the end of Season 1, Episode 16 "Rogue Time". Enjoy, and please review!
Barry sat on the couch next to the flowers he'd bought for Iris, staring lividly at the stupid, half-consumed beer in his hand, furious at the thought that it could no longer drown his sorrows. Using his superspeed, he skolled the rest of it and threw it at the corner of the ceiling, only to run and catch it whilst it was still arcing mid-air. No matter how angry and upset he was feeling, this wasn't his house. It was Joe's, and Joe, he knew, would not tolerate rage-trashing the place, even if Barry could clean up after himself in mere seconds (if that even).
Joe was working late tonight, and as such, Barry had the house to himself. Well, him, his beer and his flowers, which he noticed were just beginning to wilt. He resigned himself to repeatedly dropping and catching the bottle just milliseconds before it had a chance to hit the ground and send shards speeding out in all directions like shrapnel. Over and over again. It was becoming clear to him that, now that he was used to moving at superhuman speeds, it wasn't really that much fun using his powers to do mundane tasks just for the sake of it.
Yet, Barry continued playing with the bottle, torturing it. Continually fooling it into thinking that he would finally end its suffering and let it shatter. Doing what Iris did to him every second that he was around her. Coming close to, but not quite smashing his heart to smithereens, all the time. It was during these moments that being the fastest man alive was much less a blessing and much more a curse, as each second could easily drag like heavy baggage for what felt like hours.
Over and over in his head, the contrasting painfully brief moment in which he was kissing Iris, holding her, unashamedly showing her how much he loved her, replayed. Those mere minutes, so perfect and so unadulterated (ironically, as they had both been committing adultery at the time), when he knew for sure that she loved him back. They were together and happy, and it didn't even matter that she knew his secret. Everything was okay for once. Okay, for once in this weird and screwed up twenty-five year saga Barry called his life. For once something had gone right. Someone who wasn't a bully or a metahuman was after him, and not in a high-speed chase kind of way. For once he didn't have to face the thrashing, searing, slicing, scorching sting of rejection administered by the only woman he'd ever truly loved. For once, he finally had one of the few things in this life that he so desperately wanted, nay, craved like an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet after a long night of fighting metahuman villains. For once, his smile wasn't a mask hiding the kind of emotional numbness one must adopt to survive seeing someone feel exactly what you feel for them, for someone else, every day; Barry's smile was genuine. But, how could he even know the true meaning of that word any more, after a having such a moment of genuine happiness and genuine feelings, that time had simply snatched away in a flash? Time hadn't just screwed him; it had really fucked him up the metaphorical ass. Violated him and left him even more emotionally fragile than he had been before. Before he had any idea that Iris had any sort of more-than-platonic feelings for him. Barry felt a pang of empathy for the bottle in his hand and momentarily ceased his sick game, before realising that it was an inanimate object and resuming.
Did I just relate to a freaking bottle? How frickin' crazy am I? How frickin' crazy does she make me? Barry mentally slapped himself in the face. This is what Iris did to him; she drove him absolutely insane sometimes. The events of the last few days (or day? He wasn't sure, and wasn't bothered getting into yet another mental argument with himself about it) only made his predicament a hell of a lot worse. She did have feelings for him, she had said it herself; "the reason that I couldn't stop thinking about you, was because I didn't want to". Lies. Lies. That was the perfect word to describe everything that she'd said to him. Pure lies, spluttered desperately in the heat of the moment. A moment which kept replaying in his mind, her words echoing and, in hindsight, dripping with derision. If a person looks too good to be true, they usually are. That was the philosophy his job had forced him to adopt; in his few years working with the CCPD, he had investigated too many crimes to count where the perpetrator had been the kind of person who had been "beneath suspicion".
He began to wonder why he had put up with her crap for so long, as he stopped dropping the bottle to grip it tightly in his hand, and stare angrily at the flowers. Why she hadn't noticed his more-than-just-friends feelings for her, when they were apparently obvious to everyone else who knew the two of them, including his own father, who he'd barely seen in fifteen years. Why he hadn't told her how he felt earlier, when she was still single and available; before junior prom, when he went away to college, when he came back from college, one of the many nights that they'd stayed up talking, one of the fourteen Christmases or twenty-eight birthdays they'd shared or, most infuriatingly of all, the night the particle accelerator had been switched on. Why he had let her string him along for fifteen years. Why he had let her be such a …
No. Just no. He couldn't call Iris that word, not even in his mind. Not even when there was no one else around to hear it. He just cared about her too much to do that. Nay, loved her too much. He loved her. Love. God, that word!
He could no longer stand even the word itself any more. It was vile. Disgusting. Intriguing. Legendary, in a way. How could a single word express such pain and such joy, such happiness and such sorrow, in only four letters? How could there be such an emotion with the power to both fulfil and destroy you? Heaving a heavy sigh, Barry begrudgingly admitted to himself, as he had numerous times before, that the scientific method couldn't solve every problem or investigate every hypothesis. His gaze retreated from the bouquet and found refuge in the opening of the empty bottle, which had by now made its way to rest between his knees, his hands cradling its neck.
He realised that holding onto such feelings, and holding out hope that they may be one day reciprocated, was unhelpful, and futile, and, quite literally, a punch in the face. Eddie had reminded him of that. As much as Barry was jealous, he didn't hate the guy, and as much as being in a coma for nine months only to wake up to the love of his life in the arms of another man sucked, he didn't hate Doctor Wells either. If he was being really, brutally honest with himself, he could just bring himself to admit that having those extra nine months with Iris probably wouldn't have made a difference. What's nine extra months when you've been living in the same house as the girl of your dreams for over a decade? Had he been there, honestly, when Iris and Eddie began to fall for each other, he probably wouldn't have done anything to stop it. Nothing. Using the coma, as well as "the man in yellow" as scapegoats had served as a nice security blanket, but deep down, Barry knew that the only thing that had been standing in the way of him and Iris being together, of his own happiness, was himself. And now that he'd seen how Iris really felt about him, he knew for certain that this was true.
At that instant, he was once again standing face-to-face with Eddie, who was smashing him in the face. The punch itself hurt, but the sentiment behind it hurt even more. "I thought we were friends," Eddie had said, and it was when he said that, that Barry had briefly caught the look in the detective's eyes and known that he too, was hurt, and not just angry. Squeezing his dangerously moist eyes shut, Barry put that moment out of his mind and, instead, recalled the warm, apologetic hug that Eddie had greeted him with the next time they saw each other. Lightning-induced psychosis, that's what Caitlin, his saving grace, had told them. The thought of her, lying out of her ass to save his brought a little smile to his face, for the first time that night. What a friend, he thought to himself. He realised that he ought to thank her properly; no one had ever told such a twisted yet perfect lie for his sake before. He tilted back his head and rubbed his watery eyes, before resettling them on the bouquet which, upon second glance, didn't appear so dull and so fast-fading as it had before.
I should give her the flowers. She really does deserve them, Barry decided. I really need more friends like her in my life. The kind of friends whom you feel like you've known for years, despite only having known them for a few months (well, a little over a year technically, but time spent unconscious, in Barry's mind, didn't really count). The kind of friends who worry about your safety all the time, even when you have superhuman speed. The kind of friends who ask you to sing karaoke with them, and later to stay by their bedside until they fall asleep when they're not quite shitfaced enough to pass out immediately. The kind of friends who you know would never do anything to hurt your feelings, and usually know what's actually going on inside your head.
Before any more thoughts could bloom like the flowers Barry was staring at dreamily, the beer bottle was on the floor in pieces, the bouquet protectively hidden inside his jacket and he was superspeeding his way to Caitlin's apartment. In a literal instant he was at her front door, and had pulled out the flowers. Thankfully, his jacket had shielded them well and they'd survived the journey mostly intact. He politely pressed the doorbell once, before super-speedily rapping on the door, vibrating his hand as he knocked. She knew about his powers, so why not use them when it's only in front of her? Why not?
It was when that rhetorical question casually wandered into his mind that he regretfully began to actually answer it. Why not? Why shouldn't I be knocking on Caitlin's door at 1 a.m.?
The next two words to emerge in his head hit him harder than all the times Tony Woodward's fists ever had, combined.
There were in fact, many, many reasons that he shouldn't have been knocking on Doctor Snow's door at 1 a.m., not the least of which was the fact that it was 1 in the freaking morning. Great. Not only was he giving her a gift that he knew he'd think was stupid and regret in the morning (despite the fact that he wasn't the slightest bit drunk), but he had also just woken her up in the middle of the night on account of something that was completely and totally trivial, 100%. Maybe. Maybe not? Did she actually hear me? he wondered hopefully. Gently pressing his ear to her front door, his hopes that he hadn't just pissed Caitlin the hell off were quickly dashed by the sound of mouse-like footsteps scurrying about on the other side. Metallic, trembling keys quickly reassured him that the footsteps hadn't just been an extreme auditory insomnia-induced hallucination. He obviously still had plenty of time to speed away, and pretend that this had never happened. However, apart from his quivering lungs sucking in shallow, nervous breaths and his remorseful heart beating irregularly, his body refused to move; the fastest man alive was frozen.
Caitlin had opened the door between her and Barry in a flash; even he was surprised at how quickly she'd responded to his knocking. Too late to dash off now. Taking a quick moment before she could greet him to observe her facial expression and body language, Barry noted that she didn't seem too angry, and, as he noticed the very day he met her, she wasn't particularly good at hiding her feelings. Her mouth was in its usual slight, contemplative frown, and her body had the confident posture and stance that he had come to expect. She would have looked like she had just woken up and was getting ready for an honest day's work, if it hadn't been for her eyes; they were currently very wide and seemingly frightened in a way that he had never seen on her face before. A look of worried concern immediately grasped his own facial features just as she began to speak.
"Barry, I thought it was you speed-knocking. What's wrong? Are you okay?" Caitlin quickly murmured, eyeing him as though she was expecting to hear something terrible.
Barry stuttered. "N... N-Nothing's wrong Caitlin, I-I just really wanted to give these to you," Barry awkwardly raised the hand holding the bouquet up between their chests.
Looking puzzled, but still not mad, Caitlin replied, "Flowers, in the middle of the night? That's a strange-"
"I know, I'm sorry, I really shouldn't have woken you up. It's just, you've been a really good friend to me, and I, you know, I really haven't thanked you properly for saving my ass after what I said to Iris, and just… thank you."
After he'd finished rambling, Barry gave himself the opportunity to notice that Caitlin's mouth had morphed into one of its signature small but sincere smiles, and her fearful eyes were now almost at ease. Looking warmly at the bunch she'd by now taken into both of her hands, she cracked a grin before gazing up into Barry's eyes with an expression that looked, to him, somewhat like relief.
"Thank you, they're beautiful. And don't mention it, you're just as good a friend to me as I am to you, if not better," Caitlin whispered.
At this Barry couldn't help but chuckle. Giving him no time to protest, however, she continued, "C'mon, I know that you would've done the same for me. Remember when we were out that night and I got ridiculously hammered? Well, I don't think I could count on any of my other friends to superspeed me out of a club like that so that I could throw up in privacy, or to get me into my PJs without peeking."
The two smiled at the memory of trying to have a fun night out together, even if it didn't end as well as they'd hoped. Barry began to retreat, but Caitlin interrupted him before he could bid her farewell.
"Wait, please don't go yet!"
"What is it?" Barry moved back closer to her, happy to spend a minute or two longer with her.
"I'm actually glad that you woke me up. I was having a nightmare where you were about to die and… it was horrible. I… I don't think I can live without you, Barry."
All Barry could do then was stare at her, in complete awe of how much she cared. Gazing into her fragile eyes, he cautiously took a step forward, and leaned in.