(first time – sleep)
He was half-asleep when the first wave of loneliness hit him.
It came a bit unexpectedly, without too much of a warning. All that Barry Allen knew was that in one minute, he was drowsing off and in the next moment, vivid memories were flickering underneath his eyelids – and then he was jolting awake, his heart pounding too quickly in his chest and his skin feeling clammy and cold.
He sat up straight, his eyes blinking rapidly to adjust to the lighting in STAR Labs. Barry felt his hands slap against the cool desk; he cringed back, partly in surprise and partly in anger at himself. He had fallen asleep here. Again.
And more specifically, in Harrison’s – no, Eobard’s – usual spot. (Usually at the center – sometimes a little to the right where Caitlin would be.) Barry hadn’t even meant to sleep here, but it happened.
It had been happening too often these days.
Barry let out a soft groan, leaning forward and letting his elbows hit the desk. He rubbed a pair of cold hands over his flushed cheeks. He couldn’t keep this up. He couldn’t.
Barry turned slightly to the spot next to him. If Eobard was still here, this would be where he’d be. Right next to him, sitting in the wheelchair, his face drawn with a few stern lines; the light would glint off his glasses – his steely irises would cut through the confusion of anything and everything.
(Once upon a time (when the Flash was just a streak and a rumor – back when Harrison Wells was just Harrison Wells – back when the oddest thing in Central City were meta-humans and cold guns), Barry fell asleep at Harrison’s usual desk. He hadn’t been getting too much sleep – whether it was work, or if it was because of all of the energy he had still inside of him – it made it hard for him to get a full night of easy sleep.
But the lights were dim in STAR Labs today (something that didn’t happen often), and Barry was so incredibly tired and he felt as though his eyelids were being dragged by bags of sand…and he sat down for what seemed to be just a moment…but then that singular moment stringed into a few more moments until time was no longer linear, but completely nonexistent.
Barry wasn’t sure how long he slept, but he remembered waking up and feeling the slightly scratchy feel of a blanket covering him. He lifted his cheek – which was undoubtedly red from being pressed against a desk for so long – and found the blanket slipping away from his shoulders.
“You’re awake,” Barry heard someone say.
He turned around, lips parting as he found Harrison’s eyes. The man was sitting right next to Barry, his fingers moving quickly over a keyboard. Without looking at Barry, Harrison said, “I figured you’d be awake sooner rather than later – I couldn’t take you home right away, and Caitlin and Cisco had to leave early.”
“That’s fine – I…” Barry looked down at the blanket, which had fallen to the ground. He hastily picked it up and folded it over before placing it on the desk. “I – uh – thanks.”
“You’re welcome, Mr. Allen.”)
Barry found himself rubbing the back of his neck. He let his fingers linger at the base for a few moments – and then he stood up. He vaguely remembered where the blankets were in STAR Labs (there were always a few extras for the scientists who sometimes pulled all-nighters) – and just after a few seconds, Barry was looking into a small closet filled with blankets and towels.
Wordlessly, Barry plucked a blanket from the top of the pile and walked back to the cortex. He slipped the blanket over his shoulders, and though he felt ridiculous, he sank back into his chair and rested his face on the desk.
He should be angry. He should be furious. He should be telling himself that he hated Eobard – he hated him – for killing his mother, for screwing up everything with his father – for screwing up the timeline in general –
Only Barry supposed that the fact that he had brought this blanket went against everything he was supposed to think.
Because God, did Barry miss him.
(second time – run)
He was with Iris when it happened again.
It was supposed to be something completely innocent, and then again, the first time she had said it, Barry hadn’t reacted like this before. Maybe it had been the stress running through his system at the time, or maybe it was just that he had subconsciously chose to ignore it. Maybe it had been because he felt too angry and bothered to care.
Catching lunch with Iris was supposed to be a relaxing thing, too. Something that Barry could look forward to, especially since he was so tired lately.
And at first, everything seemed to be fine. (Well, as fine as fine could be in their situation.) Iris smiled more than Barry did, and more than once did he wonder what the true motive behind lunch was.
But eventually, the tension lessened – and Barry allowed himself to slip a little. He laughed at Iris’ jokes, tried to concentrate on her description of her job (which was still going along just fantastically), and even managed to feel better until he spilled his coffee all over the table.
“Agh – sorry, Iris,” Barry grimaced, standing up. He looked around the restaurant, wondering if he could perhaps risk running across the room to grab the napkins by the doors, but decided against it. People have been looking more for the Flash lately, and to be honest, Barry wasn’t too sure how they’d react to seeing a blur right now.
“It’s fine,” Iris said kindly, scooting back. She grabbed her own napkin, dabbing at the mess. “I’m kind of an expert at this. Spills happened a lot more in Jitters than you’d think.” Her napkins started to soak through. “Um, but I might need some more napkins.” Barry watched as the coffee started to dribble over the sides of the table. Iris grabbed Barry’s napkin, too. “Um, maybe now!”
“Got it,” Barry said quickly, scooting away from the table. He started to head for the napkins station when he heard Iris shout after him, “Run, Barry, run!”
Barry stiffened. He stopped short in front of the station.
(Once upon a time (when the Flash was just a streak and a rumor – back when Harrison Wells was just Harrison Wells – back when the oddest thing in Central City were meta-humans and cold guns), Barry kissed Harrison for the first time. It was something completely unplanned – something that had thrown Barry off-guard, but it was happening and it was happening now and Barry felt as though he was getting struck by lightning all over again.
It had been somewhat spontaneous, too – what with Barry getting angry over something silly, and he had gotten so frustrated that the only solution he could find was to shut Harrison’s mouth with a kiss.
Barry, who had been crouching a little when he first kissed Harrison, only started to lower himself further until he was practically touching the ground. Harrison kept running his hands through Barry’s hair, dragging him close and their teeth knocking together – which would have been uncomfortable – only right now, it wasn’t. Barry was too caught up in the frenzy of their kisses to even care.
“Been – waiting for this,” Barry breathed heavily, practically biting at Harrison’s lip. It shocked him how fast his kisses were – how wild his kisses were – but the words that kept tumbling out only proved how needing – how much he wanted this. “Every – damn – time. God, Harrison.”
If Barry had it his way, he would have taken Harrison home right then – right now – and he had the feeling that Harrison wouldn’t complain.
But then there was a small sound that made both Barry and Harrison freeze.
There was an all-too familiar clicking sound of high heels against pavement coming towards them.
“Run,” Harrison breathed, disentangling himself from Barry. There was a smile on his lips now, all smug and winning, as though he knew exactly what his words were doing to Barry. (God, did Barry just want to take him right now.) “Run, Barry, run.”)
“Barry?” Iris was waving a hand in front of his eyes, worried. She was holding a new set of napkins now – it took Barry a second to realize that she had taken them from him. “Barry – Barry – hello? Are you okay?” She pressed her lips together, concerned. “Do you feel sick?”
Barry blinked his eyes. He turned to Iris, feeling cold goosebumps settle over his arms. “No,” he managed to say. “I’m not sick or anything.”
Iris let out a breath of relief. “Good,” she murmured, shaking her head. She laughed nervously, adding, “I thought you were gone for a second. Are you sure you’re feeling okay?”
Barry forced a smile. “Yeah,” he replied quickly, taking the napkins from Iris. “Sorry – I just realized I was missing something.”
“Oh, Barry,” Iris grinned. “Well, did you find it?”
Barry scrubbed hard at the spillage. He willed his voice to be as light and as uncaring as possible as he replied, “No.”
(third time – sweaters)
“You look like you’re going to throw up.”
“Already tried,” Barry groaned, sinking into the couch. “Didn’t work.”
Cisco scooted a plastic bag in Barry’s direction, a sympathetic look on his face. “I don’t know, man,” he said, sitting down. “This isn’t me being squeamish or anything, so don’t get the wrong idea – but don’t you think you should just go home? Get some rest. Try not to throw up on anyone.”
“If I go home, I think there might be a chance I will throw up on someone,” Barry muttered, squeezing his eyes shut. The lights were blinding him. (Couldn’t Cisco have dimmed the lights? Barry wanted to say something, but he couldn’t find enough strength to do something as simple as that.) “And that’d be great – along with…screwing up the city, I can add barfing on random pedestrians to my list of failures as the Flash.”
There was a small silence that followed Barry’s words. Though Barry couldn’t see Cisco, he could already picture the expression on his friend’s face. Probably disappointed – probably pained – probably a little stunned from Barry’s sudden exclamation. (But it wasn’t like Cisco could deny it.)
Then, Cisco said, “Okay. Bed rest it is, then.”
“Oh, boy,” Cisco whispered, and a minute later, there was the sound of crumpling plastic as Barry’s stomach finally gave in.
Barry rolled over on his side and found a plastic bag right below him – convenient, too, especially when he vomited out his insides.
He was semi-aware of Cisco rubbing his back, occasionally murmuring things like, “Get it all out, Barry – get it all – oh. Oh. Okay – um, yeah. You’re doing great. You’re doing great.” Barry was tempted to stand up and thank Cisco – or at least show some gesture of affection for his friend – but only found that he was too busy emptying the contents of his stomach to do anything about the situation.
When Barry fell back to the couch, Cisco was already up on his feet and tying up the vomit-bag. Barry didn’t miss the way Cisco cringed – nor did he miss the way he looked down at Barry with such sad eyes.
“Listen,” Cisco said, holding up the vomit-bag. “I’m going to throw this out – and since you’re obviously too tired and sick to move anywhere, I’ll be back with a sweater or something. And blankets. And maybe something you could actually eat without throwing up again. Does that sound good?”
Barry nodded weakly. “Thanks, Cisco,” he croaked. “You’re the best, man.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Cisco patted Barry’s leg. “Just don’t die.”
Barry managed a small laugh as Cisco disappeared into the hallway. He lifted his eyes up at the lights, one hand placed over his stomach and the other dangling over the edge of the couch. His head was spinning too much for him to actually stand up. Barry knew that he should probably call Joe or something – but there wasn’t any point in that. Besides, Joe was away in Starling City – there was nothing his foster dad could do right now – and even if Joe did come back to Central City, Barry wasn’t sure if he’d be able to forgive himself for distracting him from a case.
Barry didn’t want to call Iris, either. She would get too worried about him – and honestly, she had enough problems of her own. And after Eddie’s death…God, even when Iris kept telling Barry that it wasn’t his fault, he still didn’t know how to talk to her. How to look at her without feeling so much guilt –
There was no point in even bothering to talk to Caitlin. She was gone now – went away to Mercury Labs, which Barry could hardly blame her for.
“Here,” Cisco said, sitting down in front of Barry. “I ordered some soup from this great restaurant just a few blocks from here – it’s got some pretty fantastic homemade stuff…” He handed Barry a familiar STAR Labs sweatshirt. “I got an extra big size,” he explained. “I…found it a few days ago while I was cleaning some stuff out in STAR Labs.” Cisco’s voice grew quiet. He cleared his throat. “But anyways, I think you might want to wear it. It’s clean and everything.”
Barry smiled again in thanks – and it wasn’t until he was in the sweatshirt did he catch a quick smell of the inside.
(Once upon a time (when the Flash was just a streak and a rumor – back when Harrison Wells was just Harrison Wells – back when the oddest thing in Central City were meta-humans and cold guns), Barry was standing outside of STAR Labs in the rain, his hair drenched and his shirt soaked through completely. It was early in the morning – too early for there to be any actual light – and it was raining too hard to see anything, anyways.
But Barry stood outside STAR Labs, even though he knew he looked foolish for doing so. He kept his hand covered over his phone, though he wanted nothing more than to throw it at something – throw it and scream and scream and scream –
It was another bad day.
Another bad day at Iron Heights, and Barry wasn’t even allowed to see his own father right now.
Instead of screaming, Barry stood stock-still in the rain, letting the numbness of the cold water needle its way into him. He would get scolded for this later – whether it be from Caitlin or Joe – but he didn’t care. He was allowed to be angry once in a while, wasn’t he? After everything – after all of this shit he’s been through – he was more than allowed to want to scream at the world.
Barry lifted his eyes to see Harrison sitting in the doorway. It was hard to tell through the rain, but Barry was sure he saw a look of sympathy in the man’s eyes – almost as though he knew before Barry had.
“Dr. Wells,” Barry replied. His voice came out in an embarrassingly shaky manner, bouncing up and down in the worst way possible. “What’re – you – you – doing here?”
“I could ask the same thing of you,” Harrison replied dryly. “But I won’t.” He started to turn his wheelchair around. “Come in – you’ll catch something if you don’t.”
“Pretty sure I’ll be fine.”
“That wasn’t up for debate.”
“Barry,” Harrison sighed. “Don’t make me come out to get you.”
Harrison glared back.
“I’m only coming in because I don’t want you to get out,” Barry grumbled, pushing past Harrison. He heard a faint chuckle from the older man, but he didn’t bother turning around to say anything. Barry’s sneakers made a disgusting squelching sound as he stormed down the hallway – and it wasn’t until he was in the cortex did he realize that he probably should have been more careful about leaving a mess.
“Bad day?” Harrison asked, heading into the cortex after Barry.
“What gave it away?” Barry asked flatly.
Harrison smiled again, this one a bit smaller than the last. He held something out in front of Barry – a STAR Labs sweatshirt, not unlike the one Barry had at home.
“Wear it,” Harrison said quietly. “You’re wet.”
“I’m not cold.”
Barry snorted. “Why, because you’re always right?” That wasn’t fair – and Barry knew it wasn’t – but to his surprise, Harrison didn’t seem to be ruffled from his crude comment.
“You’re shivering,” he only said, pushing the sweatshirt forward until it bumped against Barry’s stomach.
“I’m not –” Barry stopped, looking down at himself. He tugged his hand out of his pockets and found that they were, in fact, trembling. He shoved them away and added, “I’m angry.”
“I know you are,” Harrison responded. “But you’re also cold, so wear the sweatshirt.”
It took another few seconds, but Barry (grudgingly, reluctantly) accepted the sweatshirt. He tugged it over his head and sat down next to Harrison – and for the longest time, the two men didn’t say anything.
“Better?” Harrison asked at last.
“It’s his,” Barry mumbled.
Cisco’s eyes widened. “What?”
“It’s his,” Barry repeated, burying himself a little deeper into the couch.
“Shit – uh, do you want me to…?”
“No,” Barry replied. “It’s fine.”
(fourth time – glasses)
“I can’t believe we’re doing this again,” Joe said from the little couch in the corner of the shop. “The last time we got you glasses, you were a freshman in high school.”
“I know,” Barry replied with a halfhearted smile. “But I was told to stop using my contacts for a little bit – they’ve been irritating me, anyways…so until my eye doctor can give me some other good news, it’s back to finding some actual prescription glasses.” He picked up a brown pair and pushed them up the bridge of his nose. He looked up at the mirror – the shop had dozens of them – and instantly cringed, putting them back down. (He heard Joe snort something that sounded vaguely like, “Nice save.”)
Barry fingered another pair – this one was a nice light blue color, but once lifting it to his face, he set them back down. They were the wrong color for his eyes, anyways.
“Do you remember the reason why we had to get you glasses in the first place?” Joe asked suddenly.
Barry couldn’t help but to laugh. He picked up a pair of (red) rims, replying, “How can I forget?” He placed the glasses back down on the table and turned around to look at Joe. “I kept reading books when I should have been sleeping – and the nightlight was too dim.”
Joe grinned, shaking his head. “Iris always tried to cover for you,” he said. “Of course, I always knew she was lying – whenever I’d look under your bed, there’d be piles and piles of books that you accidentally dropped when you put them under your pillow. It made sense, too – I was beginning to wonder why you always seemed to have fewer books on your shelf.”
Barry waved his hands towards the glasses sitting before him. “Well, my eyes paid the price,” he pointed out.
“Mm-hm,” Joe nodded. “Prescription glasses aren’t cheap.”
“Man,” Barry groaned, “remember all those times I’d break them because some jerk thought it’d be funny to play with them?”
“Do I remember? Son, I was the one going up to your principal for months after that,” Joe snorted.
Barry laughed again, turning back to the glasses. His eyes moved around the different frames – there were so many different kinds, all ranging from bright, cheerful pastel colors to clean-cut, polished-looking styles. Barry could see all types of people gathered around the glasses, too – some were little kids who looked old enough to be in elementary school; others were white-haired, smiling couples who occasionally giggled and teased at the other with the glasses.
“Dad, look! These are just like yours!”
“You’re right, Nora – they are!”
It was something of an instinct – a stupid one, too – but Barry’s ears pricked at the name.
Smiling slightly, Barry turned to see a little girl with thick, dark hair practically exploding from a pink elastic. She was bouncing on the tips of her toes, one brown hand clasped tightly in a paler one.
Barry looked up – and for a painful second, he couldn’t breathe.
There was a painfully familiar looking man standing right next to him, with dark hair and tempest-colored eyes.
“Dad,” the girl said suddenly. “There’s someone staring at us.”
Barry reacted too late.
The man looked over at Barry, eyebrows lifted and eyes already narrowed suspiciously. “Can I help you with something?” he asked, his voice losing all of the warmth it had with…Barry could only assume the little girl was a daughter. Or perhaps a niece? (They didn’t look alike…)
Barry blinked once – twice – and slowly came to realize that this man’s eyes weren’t grey or blue – they were green. His hair wasn’t black – it was a dark brown color, and he had the wrong face shape.
“I – sorry,” Barry said quickly, looking away. “I thought you were someone I knew.”
“I see,” the man replied. Barry noticed the slight relaxation in his shoulders, but besides that, the tension between them didn’t change.
“Are you here to look for glasses?” the girl – Nora – next to the man asked. She was looking up at Barry now, her wide, brown eyes filled with curiosity.
It took a few seconds for Barry to comprehend what Nora was asking.
“Yeah,” he finally managed to say. “Looking for glasses.”
Nora tilted her head to the side. “You should look for glasses that don’t hide your eyes,” she said simply. “’Cause you’ve got nice eyes.”
Barry felt something uncomfortable lodge in his throat. “Yeah?” he forced his voice to be light.
“Uh-huh,” Nora responded cheerfully. “Plus, you have my daddy’s eyes.” She looked up at the man with her. “Not him, though – my other dad.”
Barry blinked again. He looked up at the man standing in front of him, who only stared straight back, as though daring Barry to say something. The scene was almost comical – Barry was tempted to laugh at the irony of it all.
Instead, he only said, “Really.”
“Uh-huh,” Nora replied. “He needs glasses, too, but he steals Dad’s all the time.” She beams up at her father, as though this was the greatest thing in the world. And maybe it was – maybe something as simple and as domestic as that was what ensured this girl that in the end, everything would be normal.
“Nora,” the man started to say, “come on now – I’m sure this guy needs to find his own glasses.”
“Just wait a minute!” Nora replied, and she darted away from her father’s hand. Faster than Barry could process, she was back, carrying a pair of rectangular glasses. “See?” she asked, holding it up to Barry. “This is the kind my dad wears.” For clarification, she jutted her thumb back at her father standing behind her. “And Daddy’s always taking them from him even though he has his own.”
Barry smiled, and just for the hell of it, he took up the glasses from little Nora’s hands. “Thanks,” he said softly. “I’ll try these on.”
“Uh-huh!” Nora grinned. She took up her father’s hand again, and with a wide smile, she said, “Maybe you’ll find someone who looks just like my dad!”
Barry smiled again. “Maybe,” he managed to reply, and gave both Nora and her father a wave before they disappeared into the back of the store for a different pair of glasses.
That was when Barry took a better look at the glasses he was holding – and he felt something tighten in his chest.
They were rectangular – black – and oddly familiar.
(Once upon a time (when the Flash was just a streak and a rumor – back when Harrison Wells was just Harrison Wells – back when the oddest thing in Central City were meta-humans and cold guns), Barry was sitting next to Harrison, who had fallen asleep at his desk. Barry, ever so sneaky, had taken the liberty of taking pictures of him – he couldn’t help himself.
The side of Harrison’s face was pressed against his arms, which had been resting on his desk. His glasses were propped up at the top of his head (they had originally been skewed over his face – because Barry was worried something might end up happening to Harrison if his glasses remained in such a way, Barry had scooted them upwards instead), and the only sounds coming from him were deep, sleepy breaths.
Barry placed an affectionate hand on Harrison’s back, rubbing the area between his shoulder blades. It was time to leave STAR Labs now – and Barry wanted to wake Harrison as easily as possible.
When Harrison didn’t wake right away, Barry leaned in and brushed a quick kiss against the man’s forehead. “Hey,” he breathed, “come on.”
Harrison’s eyes opened once before squeezing back shut. “Barry,” he mumbled, “where are my glasses?”
Barry grinned. He dropped Harrison’s glasses back to the bridge of his nose with a quick flick of his fingers.
“Why were they up there?” Harrison murmured, eyes still closed.
“You were sleeping.” Barry replied, standing up.
Harrison slowly straightened himself, rubbing his eyes from behind the lenses. He blinked a few times, getting adjusted to the brightness of the room, and then said, “My glasses are smudged.”
“You’re going to clean them when we get home.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Barry laughed. “You should be glad I had glasses before. I’m the best boyfriend in the world, aren’t I?”
“Depends on how well you clean my glasses,” came Harrison’s dry response.
“Better make it good, then.”)
Barry slowly placed them back on the table. He flicked his eyes back to Nora and her father at the back – Nora was bouncing up and down, holding up random pairs of glasses and waving them in her father’s face. Her father’s eyes would always soften, and he’d patiently nod and smile at whatever pair she had decided to pick up.
And for a second – and though it was only for a second – Barry caught a small ghost of him flickering around the father.
They looked so alike from the side…
“Have you chosen your pair yet?”
Barry turned around to see Joe holding up the pair of glasses that Barry had just put down.
“Were you going to buy these?” Joe asked, lifting his eyebrows.
Barry quickly took them away from Joe’s hands. “I – no,” he managed to say. “No way. Wrong…shape for my face, I think.”
“Well, keep choosing until you find the right pair, then.”
“Yeah.” Barry risked another glance at Nora. She caught him looking at her and waved again. Barry fluttered his fingers back – and went back to searching for his glasses, never bothering to look at Nora or her father again.
(and that one time)
Barry skidded to a stop right behind the hooded figure. He could feel fear – disbelief – curiosity – just pumping through his veins, calling out –
“Who the hell are you?”
He sees the hand first – rising up, tugging back the hood –
And then Barry sees his hair (black, sticking up a little) – and then the man turns around, his face so painstakingly familiar that Barry feels as though someone’s thrown something at him.
Same steel-colored eyes. Same slightly calculated expression. Same face, same movements, same everything –