Dearly Beloved…

AN: Inspired by that teeny exchange amidst the madness of last week's episode. I know, I know… Iris/Barry is canon, but as we've seen with ARROW, this crew of showrunners isn't afraid to turn canon on its ear. So it's with that faint hope, I hold out for a Caitlin/Barry future. Or at least a nugget. Especially given the reactions of our duo as they gazed upon that byline.

Disclaimer: The usual. Don't own anything other than the cracked out ideas in my head that need out.


"…that would mean we're living in a causal nexus. Wow—this is so trippy. Like… Marty and the Polaroid trippy."

"Not as trippy as the name on the byline."

"Iris West…Allen."

"Mazel…tov?"

The world as they knew it had pretty much been upended. All hell was pretty much breaking loose. Events that, even with all they'd seen in the past year, she couldn't have ever imagined as the remotest possibility were unfolding with rapid-fire speed with no immediate solutions looming on the horizon—and that snippet of conversation was all she could focus on.

No. Not the conversation. The byline.

That glaring, damning byline.

Iris West-Allen.

Caitlin knew she should be happy. At least on some level. That byline—the date on that newspaper of April 25, 2024 meant that they—or at the very least Barry—would survive.

Maybe more importantly, it meant that he would get his heart's deepest desire because no matter what he said, she knew his feelings for Iris still ran deep.

She couldn't help but wonder, however, how it was that Iris was able to write an in-depth piece on the disappearance and presumably death—Caitlin suppressed a shudder at the thought—of her husband mere hours after its occurrence. After Ronnie had died— or so Caitlin had thought—in the particle accelerator explosion, she'd been near-catatonic with grief, only rousing herself to some semblance of functioning human with Barry's arrival at Star Labs weeks after the accident and Dr. Wells'—again, she suppressed a shudder at the thought of the man she'd so completely trusted—request that she come help him take care of the young man in a coma.

How she'd resented that request.

And in a way, how she'd hated Barry.

Who was this Barry Allen? Why was he so important that Wells felt the need to save him? Felt the need to rouse her from her grief and force her to deal with someone who'd survived when Ronnie—her Ronnie—hadn't?

Barry's being in a coma for so long had been something of a blessing in disguise—for both of them. He'd been spared the brunt of her rage and as for her…

She'd learned how to care again.

And after he awoke…

Well, despite her certainty it would never happen again—her absolute determination to never allow it to happen again because she wasn't sure she could survive it—she had nevertheless learned how to love again.

Barry truly was the impossible in so many ways.

But as it so happened, his heart belonged to another.

And despite Iris moving on with Eddie while Barry lingered unconscious, and then her seeming obliviousness to his feelings once he awoke, Caitlin knew damned well Iris had some pretty deep-seated feelings for him as well and maintained a special place in her heart for him.

After all, how could she not? It was Barry.

And so Caitlin steeled her own heart—protected herself against further hurt. Until Ronnie's reappearance and her discovery that amidst her joy that he had survived, their love…hadn't. Not the way it had been before. Which brought with it a wave of renewed pain, but at the same time, made saying goodbye shockingly easy.

Certainly far easier than watching Barry constantly mooning over Iris. Or observing his tentative forays into a new relationship with Linda Park despite the fact that she herself was the one who'd encouraged him.

And definitely easier than reading this byline. Written just hours after… after…

No. No. She wouldn't think it. She couldn't.

Which again, begged the question—how could Iris?

God knows, icy cold professionalism was a trait Caitlin deeply admired and aspired to in her own work but this was Barry.

Could Iris really be so professional to the point of absolute personal detachment? Or was her ability to write such an article indicative of something…else?

"Gideon?"

"Yes, Dr. Snow?"

"Is—" She paused, chewing on her thumbnail as she considered how to frame her question. She'd already learned, during their first encounter, that one had to be fairly specific with Gideon. "Are—" she started once more before stuttering to another awkward pause. She released an impatient sigh and shoved her hand through her hair. "Never mind."

"Yes, Dr. Snow."

She turned to leave then paused and took a final look back over her shoulder at the newspaper story with its byline that had made her heart sink. Barry had said he could travel back in time to change things. With that in mind, she kept returning to this room and pulling up the front page, her heart pounding in the hopes of seeing something different.

She wanted Barry to survive far beyond nine years into the future. Wells had said they'd be fighting for centuries after all. So that boded well for his long-term survival, right? That little kernel of knowledge soothed a lingering ache deep within her. Barry would live. He would survive and fight and become acknowledged as the hero she knew he was.

Which begged the question—what was the change she was really hoping to see on that front page?