And I would fight my strength to untape my mouth
When I used to be afraid of words
But with you I've learnt just to let it out
Now my heart is ready to burst
-Yours, Ella Henderson
It was bound to happen. A man and a woman working in the same place where the woman would always see the man shirtless and always touch the man, even if it was just for the purposes of healing, what else could happen? It was cliché and typical but it happened.
They weren't even drunk or high off anything. It was just a normal night, where she would be the last one to leave the Labs and Barry would wait for her until they were both out of the building. They were walking – strolling – to her apartment building. She listened to him talk about his job at the precinct and how Director Singh was always on his ass about some stupid report. He listened to her talk about her latest discovery with certain cells and tissues.
And then they reached her apartment and she was fishing for her keys but she couldn't find them so he used his speed to take it out for her and he was smirking at her and they realized that they were so close that if one of them moved just an inch they would be kissing and then that happened.
He woke up and he felt at peace. Barry briefly wondered how long had it been since he'd felt like this (heart beating at a slow, steady pace; head clear and vibrant; skeleton completely at ease; respiration slow and deep). He looked to his left, downwards a little, and found the reason behind that reprieve.
He found his nose buried in light brown locks, smooth and finely textured. The inevitable smile stretched across his face and he breathed it in. Cinnamon and apples. He reached out with his hand and stroked a lock gently. The motion somehow woke the woman in his arms up.
He watched as Caitlin mumbled in protest and buried her face deeper into chest. He chuckled. She tensed in his arms. His smile vanished. She hesitantly pushed herself up to look up at him. His eyes met her dark brown ones.
They agreed to not talk about it. Well, she made him agree to not talk about it but he completely agreed to her demand once he had time to mull over it.
He was in love with Iris West. He'd loved her since he even knew what love as. That kind of feeling didn't just go away after a one night stand or at the snap of his fingers.
And then there was the fact that she was still head over heels for her presumed-dead-but-actually-not-dead-only-metahumanized fiancé. That kind of feeling didn't just go away after a one night stand or at the snap of her fingers too.
So, they amicably agreed to keep it a secret and never to talk about it again.
Except then he'd see her in his light brown jacket that he'd left at her place. They would share a look and he just could not stop himself from smirking and she would smirk as well.
He wouldn't ask for the jacket back. She wouldn't return it. He had to admit that she looked really good in it. And he couldn't deny the increased thumps of his heartbeat against his chest and the slight buzz in his brain and the stiffening of his length in his pants.
Because it made him feel like she didn't forget that night as much as he would dream of it every other night.
Things weren't as they were before. It was as if because they'd seen each other shirtless and they'd brought one another to an infinite climax, things had shifted. They didn't joke as much. They tried to avoid being in the same room as much as possible. She wasn't as carefree in treating his wounds as she used to. He stopped bringing her early morning coffee.
Everyone noticed. Cisco, Dr. Wells, Joe, Felicity, Iris and even Eddie; they all noticed the weirdness between the two of them.
"What's going on with you two?" they would each ask, with different wording and tone but always the same context.
And when Iris pulled him aside in Jitters and asked him, he looked down at her perfect coal black hair and brown complexion and naked eyes, and his heart didn't fault in its beat. And he couldn't help but release a disbelieving laughter.
"Nothing," he said with a laugh and found that he could walk away from her touch without so much as a tinge of longing.
One day, he was watching Caitlin and Ronnie talking in the other room – him seated on a chair and her perched against the desk, between his legs – completely at ease with each other. And he felt a twinge of something familiar in his stomach (the same feeling he had when he was in love with Iris and he saw her with Eddie).
He wished that Caitlin needed him. He wished that without him, her heart would break. He wished that without him, she'd spend her nights tossing and turning, unable to sleep. He wished that without him, she couldn't eat. He wished he was the last thing on his mind before she went to sleep.
But as he watched Caitlin touched Ronnie's shoulder and laughed wholeheartedly to a lame joke Ronnie just told her, that wouldn't be possible.
Felicity came to visit one day in September and they were talking in Jitters while Caitlin was chatting with Iris at the counter. And he probably was too obvious.
"How long has it been?" she asked, poker face on.
He blinked and looked at her in surprise. "How long has what been?" Her pupils went to Caitlin and then back to him. She gave him a knowing look and a coy smile. "Oh, Caitlin and I are not a thing." She cocked her brows. "Seriously."
"Okay, then what's going on with you two?"
He spluttered, claiming that nothing was going on and they were just friends and he did not have feelings for Caitlin.
Felicity snorted with a roll of her eyes and straightened up slightly. "You sound like me when we first met and you said that thing about seeing why I like Oliver," she told him. "Which was a total lie so yeah, you're lying, Barry Allen."
Barry shifted in his seat. He looked to Caitlin again and their eyes caught. Caitlin's smile seemed to warm a little bit more and she waved at him. He couldn't help but smile back. And then his head turned back to see Felicity looking at him expectantly and knowingly.
"Come clean, Allen," she ordered.
He sighed and scratched the back of his head. He then rehashed everything that had happened, from their night together and everything that had followed. He told Felicity about how he liked it when Caitlin just smiled at him with that special smile of hers. Or when she would always look pissed off but still gentle when he came back with another set of injuries. Or that jingling laugh of hers that always tickled his nerves in such an addictive way.
"And I think I recently just realized that this uncomfortable feeling in my chest is pain because she doesn't feel the same way about me. And this pain is more intense than when I still had feelings for Iris."
Felicity hummed with a nod. He thought she would understand. She'd been through similar situation with Oliver, despite how happy she was with Oliver right now. "My dad – before he left- used to tell me this: Your first love isn't the first person you give your heart to; it's the one who first breaks it."
For a few moments, silence lingered between them. Felicity casually brought her cup of latte to her lips and checked her tablet, allowing him space to ponder her words. Then the sound of that jingling laughter filled his ears again and he felt his heart naturally relaxed to it, as if it recognized that gentle lull. He turned slowly, eying Caitlin who didn't notice him at all.
And then he realized, in the words of Augustus Waters, it would be a privilege to have his heart broken by that beautiful, wonderful woman.
"Ronnie is your home." He didn't remember what brought this on but he remembered this, because what she replied him with triggered something akin to bravery in his core.
They were quiet for the next several seconds. He'd looked away because he knew he probably wouldn't be able to handle the twinkle and shine in her eyes whenever they mentioned Ronnie. He could feel her eyes on him though.
"Not anymore," she replied gently.
He looked up in surprise and she smiled before walking away.
Iris caught on pretty quickly and she kept telling him to talk to Caitlin.
"Look, Barry, I've seen the way that girl looks at you. You need to talk to her," she whispered harshly.
And he'd never ever gotten over the wimpy fear that emerged whenever she used that tone with him. So here he was, here they were, alone.
"Caitlin," he called after gathering up the courage. His heart thumped against his chest harshly. She turned to him with that innocent look of hers. He stared at her for a second, like he was seeing her for the last time. Honestly, every time he looked at her, it always felt like the last time. "Can we talk?"
She nodded, biting her lip. She put down the clipboard and perched herself against the desk, waiting for him.
He took a deep breath and approached her as slowly as possible. He was stalling, he knew, but it was now or never. "I want to talk about that night."
She was a genius. It didn't take her long to figure out what he was talking about. She straightened up. "There's nothing to talk about." And then she tried to walk away. He grabbed her forearm and easily whip her back around, which resulted in their noses touching and their lips just there. "Barry –"
He leaned down and captured her lips for the first time in months. And it felt like the first kiss. It felt like his first kiss. It was right and manic and oh so pleasurably painful. The pressure of her full plump lips against his almost had his knees weakening. It was dangerously wonderful. She was dangerously wonderful.
He didn't know how long later, but he eventually let her go but kept her in his arms. He smiled helplessly down at her and she was staring up at him in confusion and lust.
"I love you," he whispered. The moment the last syllable left his lips, it was almost like he saw the world in a new shade. He felt lighter.
She frowned and tried to push him away but he wouldn't let her. "What about Iris?" she asked, almost whined.
"I don't have those feelings for her anymore, Caitlin," he explained. "To be honest, if it wasn't for that night, I wouldn't have realized that I haven't felt for Iris like that for a long, long time."
"Barry, you're not making any sense."
"I am in love with you, Caitlin Snow." She stopped struggling and looked into his eyes. He delved into her dark brown, caramel flaked irises. He could see so much and nothing at the same time. "I used to think that Iris is my missing piece; that hole in me that only she could fill. But then I met you and I got to know you and I found out that you are that piece."
She relaxed in his arms, gradually and softly. His smile widened.
"Fuck, I'd swallow poison if it tastes like you," he whispered, his voice cracking in the end. That was how much he loved her.
Her wariness remained. He made sure to look her in the eyes, hoping to convey his sincerity and honesty through that one glance. He had put it all out there. He was hers to take. He wished she would take. He wanted her to take, take, take and he wanted to just give, give, give.
It felt like a millennia, them in the Labs in each other arms and waiting, until she perched on her toes because she was tiny and he was tall and she kissed him this time. She kissed him and she whispered, "I love you too."
He loved her and that's the beginning and the end of everything. And then there would be a new beginning.