Most of the time, Iris loved being the Flash.
She loved running. She loved the feel of the wind on her face and the spray of sparks when she stopped too soon, skidding the last few feet to wherever she was trying to go. She loved being able to trust her family to be there running beside her. And most of all, Iris loved being able to help people.
But sometimes… Sometimes the loss was too much to bear.
Iris still remembered the icy fear that had dug into her chest when she’d found the bodies in STAR Labs. The way the empty fabric had felt in her hands, the way Avery and August had stopped dead (hah) in their tracks behind her. Avery’s choking sobs. Only fourteen and already experiencing horrible things like this.
Iris had been so sure Meena was alive. She wasn’t a scientist, technically, but she’d begged Barry for his help and he’d agreed. She wasn’t a detective, either, but she’d scoured through the wreckage anyway, trying to find a clue, any clue, even as all the instincts that let her be such a good investigative journalist screamed at her that this was the kind of crime scene you couldn’t walk away from.
She’d been so angry at August… He’d deserved her anger, she was still sure of that much, and he deserved to be put away for a long time for killing innocent people (people like Meena, people like Billy Parks), but… Barry had told her horror stories about Iron Heights and the Pipeline inside of it. She’d even seen some of its cruelty for herself. And August was… Barry had told her that he seemed to be feeling genuinely remorseful for his actions. That he seemed to actually understand that he’d been wrong and had resigned himself to staying inside Iron Heights for the remainder of his sentence.
Iris believed Barry when he said that, not August. She wasn’t sure if she’d ever be able to properly forgive him. But that didn’t matter right now. None of it mattered. Not August betraying them, not Avery being on the other side of the world with her new junior Justice League friends, not her young nephew gripping her hand so tightly it hurt, not whatever Barry thought about his ex boyfriend being a good person deep down inside, not any of it.
It didn't matter, because Meena was standing right in front of them. Alive and whole like nothing had ever happened to take her away.
Iris took a step forward and reached out to touch her face. Meena’s eyes weren’t as soft as they’d been the last time Iris had seen her. There was a purplish sheen to them now. There was a scar on her cheek, brown skin slightly raised and puckered. Iris let her fingers trace through Meena’s thick, dark hair. It crackled with static in her wake.
Meena’s expression faltered, slightly. She felt suddenly unsure that she’d made the right decision to come back, not that Iris knew what was running through her mind. “What are you-”
“I missed you,” Iris said quietly. Her throat felt too tight to say anything else. Anything more meaningful. She stepped back and let Wally jump forward into Meena’s arms, hugging her tightly the way Iris wished she could. The material of her suit suddenly felt too tight, too constricting. Too much like watching Meena disappear, even though she hadn’t actually been there when it happened.
There was an itch in her bones. Something wasn’t right. Why would Meena wait this long to come back? Did she know how long it had been? She must have, she was in new clothes and there was that strange fuzziness to her whole body-aside from the coldness in her eyes, like she didn’t quite remember how to smile. Suddenly desperate to be proven wrong about her suspicions, Iris pulled her cowl down, curls springing free immediately.
Meena looked at her, biting her lower lip, and Wally quieted, looking back and forth between them nervously. “How did you come back?” He asked softly. “Why did you-why did you leave, if you weren’t dead? What happened to you? If you didn’t… If you didn’t die?”
“The Speedforce absorbed me,” Meena explained. Her eyes never once left Iris’s face, and Iris stepped forward to take her hand. “It held me there for awhile. I don’t know how long. But when it spat me out again-or when they pulled me out-it was Black Hole. They wanted me. There were some former STAR Labs scientists there, and they wanted me to-to take over where Carver had left off.”
Iris swallowed. She should have seen it. She’d thought her feelings about Meena had been distracting her, keeping her from finding Godspeed, and everything had kept piling up after that-she was an investigative journalist for Christ’s sake, she should have followed her gut when it told her Meena was alive. (But she’d thought it had been her heart telling her, not her brain.) “And did you?”
For the first time, Meena looked down. “...I did,” she admitted. “I don’t know what I thought. But I did it. They said that they could restore my connection to the Speedforce, and then they said that they could connect me to something that they called the Negative Speedforce?” She held up her hands and blue-black-purple lightning sprang between her fingers. “Black Hole gave me my powers back.”
“Are you still working with them?” Wally asked suspiciously.
“No,” Meena rushed to say. “I was-I got away. They might still be following me, but I wanted to see you, Iris.” She looked at Wally. “Both of you. And Avery. I was worried something might have happened. I’d been gone for so long. And the Negative Speedforce is unstudied. I don’t know what it will do to me, especially since I already had the normal Speedforce inside me when they gave it to me, it was just laying dormant.”
“You missed a lot,” Wally said. “August is Godspeed and we caught him, and there was this guy who was made of blood and guts and he tried to kill Barry and it was gross, and the Rogues did some stuff, and the Reverse-Flash came back, and Iris-”
“That’s enough,” Iris said firmly. “He’s… Right, but… You said that Black Hole might still be following you? We should worry about that. There’ll be time to tell you what you’ve missed later. We need to get you someplace safe.” She’s the Flash. She had to think about the bigger picture. Even when it tore her up inside to let go of Meena’s hand.
Unfortunately, as if she’d jinxed it, Iris heard Wally gasp, and she saw the line of black trucks coming toward them over the thin road from Keystone City to Iron Heights. It was too far away for Iris to make out if they were really Black Hole vans or not (she still remembered when they’d grabbed her without knowing that she was the Flash), but even if they weren’t, the police and Warden Wolfe had no love for the Flash and Kid Flash.
They’d need to run before they spotted the three of them standing on the rocky coastline of the outcropping the prison was situated on, no matter who was coming.
Most of the time, Iris loved being the Flash.
But sometimes the loss was too much to bear. And because of that, Iris would not lose anybody else that she loved. Not ever. Eobard Thawne had tried, and he’d found out the hard way that nobody messed with her. Nobody else would take someone she loved away.
So Iris held Meena closer and kissed her, gently, and smiled as she felt Meena hug her back, before the two of them, with Wally right behind, started to run.