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If you're not the one for me
Then I'll come back and bring you to your knees
If you're not the one for me
Why do I hate the idea of being free?
And if I'm not the one for you
You've gotta stop holding me the way you do
Oh when you found that the one for you
Why have we been through what we have been through
– Water Under the Bridge (Adele)
April 5th 2024
She had never truly realized how little memories they had that they could touch. Of course they had lost much as the years went by, and material things had eventually lost their importance. Still, she had always hoped they would have something more.
With a sad smile, Caitlin studied the photographs in her hands. She was currently looking at the oldest they still had. Both Team Flash and Team Arrow were there, most of them smiling or laughing. Caitlin could not remember who had taken it, but everyone was there, gathered around a table, enjoying what had probably become one of their last gatherings. There was Joe with his arm around Wally as they spoke. HR was beaming at some Big Belly Burgers displayed at the table. Barry had Iris in his arms, and both were smiling sweetly at each other. Cisco was making her laugh at one of his jokes as well as Thea and Felicity. Oliver was on the opposite side of the table, observing the group next to John and Lyla, the last one holding little John in her arms.
Instinctively, Caitlin ran the tip of her fingers through the picture, a downhearted smile on her face. Things had changed so much after that. She could easily remember how Barry had virtually become crazy in his attempt to come up with a plan to save Iris. He had nearly turned everyone insane too. Saving Iris had become his mission, and even though everyone had accepted to help him, Barry had almost forgotten about his role as The Flash.
At the time, no one had managed to reach him. Not even Felicity with her buoyancy and willpower had been capable of making Barry calm down. Eventually, Caitlin had decided to take the matter in her own hands. It had been hard. At the time, she had been dealing with her own issues, her own demons, but maybe that had been the reason why she had been the one to reach out for Barry instead of anyone else.
Perhaps that had been why Barry had listened to her of all people.
Of course that as the urgency grew so did Caitlin's knowledge of Barry's feelings for Iris. He became agitated, nearly fanatical because they had been incapable of finding a way to save Iris. Unfortunately, it did not take long for Savitar to find a way to escape from the Speed, and then…
Caitlin closed her eyes, and let the photograph fall onto her lap. Her hands rested on her sides, her chest weighting as the pain and torment from the past settled on her shoulders.
She could vividly remember what had happened to Barry after Iris had been murdered. He had been so close, so dangerously close to give in to his dark side. He had pushed everyone away, living the life of a hermit. That had resulted in the collapse of Team Flash, and not even Team Arrow had been enough to help them. Felicity had tried to make Barry talk to her, after Cisco's failure in doing so while Oliver had made Barry his own personal mission, but nothing had worked.
Nothing until Savitar had forced them – had forced Barry – to make a choice.
Slowly, Caitlin opened her eyes, and looked down at her hands. It did not surprise her when she felt her body temperature drop. Icy mist surrounded her fingers, a silent but lethal dance caressing her skin, but Caitlin simply continued to observe the way her power was manifesting itself.
Then, she closed her hands into tight fists, forcing her power to fade away.
That was when she heard the front door being closed, and her eyes settled on the photograph she had placed on her lap. Caitlin did not raise her head when she heard the footsteps, and did not even bother to move when she felt Barry sit down next to her.
"Can we talk?"
Gently, Caitlin put the photograph on the small table in front of her. Then, she placed her feet on the sofa, pressing her legs against her chest before wrapping her arms around her knees. Her hair spilled around her shoulders, concealing most of her face.
It was not as if she had been avoiding Barry. It was impossible to do so when they lived in the same house. Still, with her job at STAR Labs and Barry busy both fighting villains and planning his trip to the past, they had managed to not see each other for the past few days. The only time of the day they were actually together was at night, but Caitlin always tried to be asleep by the time Barry joined her in bed.
Maybe that made her a coward, but Caitlin honestly did not care.
"What do you need?" Caitlin heard herself ask, still without looking at the man next to her. Barry let out a sigh, and Caitlin found herself troubling her lower lip with her teeth.
"First of all, I'd like you to look at me." Barry said, and Caitlin inwardly took in a deep breath. Slowly, she turned her head so that their eyes could meet. Barry smiled faintly at her. "Hey…"
"Hi…" Caitlin greeted him back with a faint voice; her arms still nestled around her legs.
"I want to say I'm sorry." Barry went straight to the point, his eyes never leaving hers. Caitlin felt all air vanish from her lungs at the expression on his face, but managed not to reveal her inner battle. "About what I told you last time, I… I shouldn't have done it."
"You preferred to keep it a secret?" Caitlin immediately inquired, and Barry blinked at that.
"What? No!" he promptly replied, shaking his head as he spoke. Then, he cleared his throat, trying to keep calm. "What I mean is… You were right. I should have talked to you first. I was wrong because now, whenever I think about what I did, I realize I pretty much went behind your back."
"You telling the team first wasn't what bothered me, Barry." Caitlin confessed, once Barry calmed down. She silently took in the way her words touched him, his puckered brow revealing his confusion. Then, realization hit him.
This time, Caitlin let out a sigh. Gently, she let her legs slide down the sofa, and her right hand grasped the golden ring on her neck. That had become one of her newest habits for whenever she was pensive, or so had Barry told her more than once.
"We never hid it from one another," Caitlin proceeded, trying to ignore the way Barry had breathed out her name, "The fact we would never be able to forget our respective first love. I will always remember Ronnie, and you'll always think of…" Caitlin swallowed, biting her lower lip for a moment before taking a deep breath. "I know you will always remember Iris."
For anyone else, it would seem as if her words had had no effect on Barry, but Caitlin knew better. She could see the pupil constriction miosis in his eyes, the setting of his jaw, and the tension on his muscles.
"I know her passing destroyed you." Caitlin quietly continued, without looking away from Barry's face. "What happened to her made you the man you are today, and you never really hid the fact that you've always wanted to find a way to change what happened. I really don't know why I was so surprised when you told me that you found a way to go back. I really should've expected it."
Unconsciously, Caitlin rested a hand to the side of her stomach, but still refused to break eye-contact with the man sitting next to her.
"I married you knowing Iris would always be on your mind." she continued. "Sometimes I think of Ronnie too, but… I guess I was just too blind by my feelings to accept the fact Iris would truly always be here…"
Caitlin waved a hand in direction of the space between them, leaving the meaning of her words hanging in the air. There was a lump in her throat, her nose was burning, her vision was blurring, but Caitlin refused to give in to the emotions that were slowly but surely wrapping around her heart.
"I want you to be happy, Barry." Caitlin confessed with a voice far too weak even to her own ears. "And if you being happy means going back in time, and change what happened, then… Then…"
Caitlin closed the hand resting on her stomach into a fist, and bit on her lower lip so hard she almost drew blood. Her heart was cracking in her chest, but Caitlin knew she had to say the words.
"I love you, and I…"
"Cait, stop," Barry almost begged, his hands cradling her cheeks, making Caitlin look up in surprise. His thumbs caressed her skin, wiping away the rebel tears that had dared to escape from her eyes. "Please, listen to me."
"Don't." Caitlin interrupted him once again, and this time more tears spilled down her cheeks. "Please, don't say it."
"Caitlin, I love you." Barry told her, his eyes locked directly with hers, and Caitlin took in a shaky breath. Trembling, Caitlin wrapped her hands around his wrists, and gently pulled his fingers away from her face.
"I know…" she sobbed, releasing his hands. "That's what makes everything so much worse."
With that said, Caitlin stood up from the sofa, bumping into the table as she did so. The photograph she had been studying before fell to the floor, but Caitlin failed to notice it. Instead, she rushed to leave the living-room, locking herself in the bathroom moments later. Barry had called her name as soon as she had crossed the door, but Caitlin refused to look behind her.
"Caitlin…" Barry's voice came from the other side of the door of the bathroom. Caitlin bit her lower lip hard, her back leaning against the door as she slid to the floor. "Cait, please, just let me explain…"
"Please, Barry…" Caitlin shakily said, the back of her head leaning against the door. "Just leave me alone for a while."
"I'm not going." Barry said all of a sudden, and Caitlin felt her breath get stuck on her throat. "I promised I wouldn't go back. In fact, no one's going back."
"What…?" Caitlin breathed out, still without moving from her spot. For some reason, she could tell Barry had also sat down on the floor, and was leaning against the door. "But… You said…"
"I know what I said, and I'm sorry. I should've explained everything to you instead of letting you leave." Barry continued, regret in his every word. "I couldn't go even if I wanted to. I have to stay. We have to find a way to fight the Reverse-Flash, and…"
There was a pause, and Caitlin felt her lungs beg for air. All she could do was stay very still and listen.
"I know that for you I'd only be gone for a second, but…" Barry paused, "I don't want to leave your side."
"But you want to save Iris…"
"I want to try, yes." Barry agreed, and for some reason Caitlin could swear he also had the back of his head pressed against the door. "But it's not only because of me. Joe and Wally, they… They were so lost. They still are. Nothing was ever the same since then, and I… They did so much for me, and I… I just want to try to…"
Barry's voice trailed off, and Caitlin looked over her shoulder. Her eyes landed on the door of the bathroom, and she instinctively pressed the palm of her hand against it.
"I love you…" Caitlin's heart jumped in her throat at the heartfelt confession. "You're right. Iris will always have a special place in my heart, just like Ronnie will always have a special place in yours. I don't know what's going to happen after we do this, but I need you to know, Cait… I need you to believe me when I say that I just want… I just want to fix this."
Tears rolled down Caitlin's cheeks as she listened to her husband's trembling voice. He had always been the torn hero, worn to shreds between doing what was right and what his heart wanted him to do. It was a constant struggle between mind and heart. Caitlin had watched him facing that war so many times she had lost count.
All of a sudden, Barry snuck something under the door, and Caitlin looked down. A sob almost abandoned her lips when her eyes landed on the photograph she had been looking at before. Everyone's smiles looked back at her, and suddenly all Caitlin wanted was to be nestled in Barry's embrace.
"But I won't do it if you don't want me to." Barry eventually said, "I can't really do anything without you."
Caitlin closed her eyes, tears still rolling down her cheeks. She reached out for the photograph with a shaky hand before pressing it against her chest, her free hand grasping the pendant on her neck. For a moment, she just meditated on everything that had happened on those last few days, and then she just knew.
Slowly, Caitlin stood up from the floor without noticing her numb legs. Then, she gently turned the doorknob, and opened the door. Barry was still there, sitting on the floor, elbows on his knees, hands grasping his hair as he kept his head down. He looked up once he realized she was standing beside him, and immediately stood up.
"You have to do this," Caitlin told him in a soft voice, "Or else you'll never forgive yourself."
"I won't do it if you don't want me to, Cait." Barry instantly responded, shaking his head lightly as he spoke. Caitlin knew what he was doing; he was giving her a way out. Still, the geneticist gripped the photograph she was still holding before letting it fall on the floor.
"I love you." Caitlin told him, but she knew her hidden message had been understood. She just wanted him to be happy. Tenderly, she cradled his face in her hands, and went up on her toes. Her lips meet his in a kindhearted caress, her body pressing against his in all the right places. Breaking the kiss, Caitlin looked at Barry right in the eye, her thumb playing with his lower lip. "Just love me, Barry."
The dark expression on his eyes did not go unnoticed. Without bothering to say anything, Barry pulled Caitlin into a searing kiss. Immediately, her hands met the back of his neck, and Caitlin felt one single tear roll down her face as she let Barry pull her into their bedroom.
To Be Continued…