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perhaps we should've got married

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...Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak on the 16th of May...

 

The wedding is, unsurprisingly, decorated in various shades of green, with gold and white trimmings. Iris absent-mindedly picks at the small conifer branch carefully wrapped around her wineglass, and wonders how on earth Oliver Queen ever thought he was subtle. (She's yet to speak about her theory on the Green Arrow to Barry, but she suspects his red face and stammering would be an answer if the gold arrow necklace around Felicity's collar-bones wasn't one already.) She takes another swallow of the wine, since she's hardly one to turn down a billionaire's open bar.

She's on the singles table, which is awful. One would think that between them, Oliver and Felicity would know some excellent bachelors, but she just feels small when she tells one guy that she's an online reporter and he laughs, "Oh, journalism only counts if you get published, everyone knows that." His slicked back hair and carefully trimmed stubble makes him come across as a little bit too well-kept, a little too practiced. So she’s not exactly feeling the loss of that one.

The other men on the table have either matched up with the two women sitting opposite Iris, or aren't really her type. She's not looking too closely at what exactly her type is, but she knows that the gym manager and the brooding stock broker definitely aren't it. There’s only the six of them on the table, so her options are vastly limited.

She lets out a small sigh and runs a fingertip around the glass's rim. There was honestly no point in even paying for her manicure, or for going to the more expensive place to relax her hair, especially since the more she drinks, the more sombre she feels.

The ceremony was beautiful, she has to admit. The look in Oliver’s eyes as his future bride walked up the aisle gave Iris a real hope for true love. (She then noticed the guy next to her was watching football on his phone, so the elation didn’t exactly last long.) And she guesses it was nice for most of their friends to be alive enough to be standing with him - Thea and Sara especially were lovely bridesmaids. Felicity tripped slightly on her way down the aisle, but she thinks everyone was expecting that, as was everyone predicting the vows to be adorned by her own special brand of babbling.

Iris looks up and sees Barry on another table, one closer to the bride and groom. He’s with Patty - of course he is, they’ve been going six months strong, why wouldn’t he bring his girlfriend as his plus one? She watches as he lets out a long laugh, one that he tips back his head to let loose. She finds herself staring at the long line of his throat, and she hastily gulps some of her wine to stop herself.

It’s times like these when she misses Eddie. When she misses just being able to turn and see him. Even when they were fighting, even when he didn’t trust Barry and she didn’t trust herself, he was always there with those kind blue eyes and stubble-covered jaw. But if she looks to her left now, she’ll just see Douche McDouche (his name is actually Steven DeMontfort and he’s a lawyer, and Felicity will assure her later he’s ‘a really awesome guy, honestly’, but whatever, he’s still a douche).

It's at that exact moment, when she's remembering the way Eddie used to bring her back DVDs he found in thrift shops, that Douche DeMontfort tries to strike up conversation, evidently deciding she's the best on offer at the moment. "So, how do you know the happy couple?" (At this point, said happy couple is currently on the dance floor - after Oliver had tried to lead Felicity in a waltz, Felicity had decided to get her own back by playing some song from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.)

"Oh you know, friend of a friend," she says, thinking back to when she had basically fangirled over Oliver. She's since seen him after he tried an eating contest against Cisco, so at least that attitude is over. "How do you?"

"I work with Felicity, I'm in the legal department of Palmer Tech." His shoulders actually puff up at this point, which is vaguely comical to an increasingly tipsy Iris. His suit looks expensive, and his tie is obviously silk. "It's a funny story how we met actually..."

He tells the story unprompted. It lasts about fifteen minutes, which doesn't necessarily sound that long, but when it's just one person monologuing a thoroughly unfunny story, fifteen minutes is apparently how long it takes Iris to get through another two glasses of wine.

(Really, who puts three bottles of wine on a table if they don't expect them to be drunk?)

So, anyway, that's her excuse as to why she's suddenly feeling very light-headed, and actually laughing at Douche's joke. He's clearly encouraged, and launches into another anecdote, even going so far as to lean his arm around her chair. She'd recline, but honestly, she's always been a flirty drunk, and she has to admit the sudden attention is nice.

"Hey, you want to get something at the bar?" McDouche asks, smiling with closed lips. "I heard Thea hired her best bartender, and she does a mean mojito."

Iris likes mojitos. But she's still not sure about this guy, and she's sharing a hotel room with Caitlin, even if she wanted to bring him back for just one night. (He is actually quite cute. If she squints his hair looks kind of mousy brown, and she could probably run her hands through it so it’ll look windswept, or like Barry's does when he takes his mask off after running and- She's going to stop those thoughts right there, thank you.)

Then she glances over to Barry's table, and watches as he, smiling with warm eyes and crinkled dimples, leans in to kiss Patty. She remembers Cisco letting slip that Patty and Barry were sharing a hotel room.

She gets to her feet and lets McDouche lead her - by the hand - to the bar. She's still holding her glass and she decides to just finish its contents. She drops it on a nearby table - or at least, she thought she did. Her aim must have been a little off because it slips to the floor and crashes. Loudly and exactly in between songs. At least half the venue look her way.

Her face heats, especially when she realises she's still holding hands with McDouche and Barry is looking straight at her, an unreadable expression on his face. She drops to a crouch and tries to clean up the shattered pieces of glass. She's trying not to think about how much each wine glass must've cost at a wedding like this when she feels a hand grip her shoulder. "Come on, let's just go," she hears McDouche says quietly, a touch of an edge to his voice.

"Hang on," she says, hissing in pain as one of the pieces pokes straight through the skin of her thumb. She flinches and sucks gently at the bleeding cut. His hand on her shoulder tightens and she waves it off, the back of her hand smacking into his wrist as she wobbles slightly in her crouched position on her stiletto heels. "God, just go get the mojitos yourself and bring them back here if you're so impatient."

He lets out a huffed laugh, and says quietly, leeringly, "Come on, we both know we weren't bothering with the bar."

Her gut tightens. Maybe that's what was going to happen at the end of the night, maybe that’s what she was aiming for, but the certainty in his voice makes her feel grimy and small. He leans down and grips her arm to pull her up. His fingers are tight enough to hurt, and she's steeling herself to push him away, whether she causes a scene or not, when she's yanked away and deposited in the hotel reception with the crack of red lightning following her.

She stumbles as she's left alone under her own weight again, vague nausea and adrenaline flowing through her body and hair softly falling back down. She's not drunk enough that she doesn't piece together these particular, glaringly-familiar, clues. She turns around and sure enough, there's Barry, his face stormy. "Who was that guy?"

As she realises that she's been damsel-in-distressed, annoyance bubbles up in her. "What the hell? You can't just pick me up and plop me somewhere else if I'm looking a bit uncomfortable!"

"That was more than uncomfortable." He points back towards the wedding venue, which is still going on a few corridors away.

"I was fine. I was about to deal with it!" She throws up her arms and is promptly horrified when she actually staggers with it. She catches Barry's disapproval and she points a warning finger at him. "Don't you dare. I'm just disorientated from you grabbing me!"

"Look, you're clearly-"

"I don't need you to tell me when I'm over the limit, Barry." Her voice is dangerous. "I'm a grown woman, remember?"

He lets out a frustrated sigh. "I was trying to help you. I'm not sure why I'm in the wrong here."

Iris puts her fingers to her temples to try and still her brain. She rubs gently, and realises she's tired, and kind of miserable, and probably more tipsy than she wants to be. "I think I want to go to bed. Can you tell Caitlin or something?"

"Let me help you," Barry says, already moving toward her with an outstretched, helping hand.

"Won't Patty miss you?" Her voice comes out more vicious than she intended.

His hand stops. "What does that mean?"

She slaps a hand over her mouth. "Nothing," she says into her palm. She removes it to repeat, "Nothing. Sorry, that came out wrong. Come on, Becky Cooper, Linda, this is what I do. I'm kidding." She punches his shoulder lightly to prove this.

"Right." But he's looking at her differently now, even as he moves his hand around her waist to move her towards the elevator.

Anyway, she does like Patty. She's dorky and she smiles a lot and seems to make Barry happy.

Barry laughs. "Yeah, she does." Iris realises she must have said that out loud and presses her fingertips to her lips, frowning at the betrayal of her own brain-to-mouth filter.

Another laugh escapes Barry. "I forgot what a dork you were when you get drunk."

“You’re a dork,” she refutes. Probably not her wittiest moment.

"True,” he says agreeably.

"You can't get drunk anymore," she muses. "That must suck."

"Caitlin's working on it," he assures her, corner of his mouth ticking upwards.

They make it upstairs and towards the hotel room as Iris says, “I love Caitlin. She’s awesome. Don’t you love Caitlin?”

“She is awesome,” Barry agrees, the twinkle in his eyes a clear sign that he’s laughing at her. He takes the hotel key card from her after she struggles with it for a few moments, and the door opens.

“Not as awesome as you though.” Iris pushes away from him and walks towards the bed by herself. “Sorry I didn’t thank you properly for rescuing me, but I still don’t think I needed to be rescued.” That made more sense in her head than it did outside of it.

“Okay,” he says peaceably. “We can talk about it in the morning if you like.”

She actually faceplants into the bed, which she hopes is hers rather than Caitlin’s. It’s the closest one; if Caitlin wants the bed, she can fight Iris over it.

“I’m sure she’ll let you have the bed,” Barry says.

Fuck. She waves a hand in his general area. “You can leave now,” she says. “Back to Patty.”

“What?”

“Back to the party, I said.” Good save there, Iris.

“I’ll go in a bit, once I’m sure you’re okay.” His smile is fond, and she abruptly feels like she doesn’t deserve it.

"Fuck. I'm not supposed to be this much of a mess. You shouldn't be helping me, Barry, you help so many other people, I don't want to-" Her voice is slightly slurring and pitched high at this point and she makes an effort to correct herself. "Sorry."

He's still smiling. "It's fine. But I'm always here to help you, Iris. You help me too, you know."

"Not anymore," she mumbles. "You're a superhero. And I cause you pain. I don't mean to." She jabs him in the chest, as if she wasn't already being clear in her reference. Nice, Iris, dredging up the past like that.

His smile is slightly strained now, and she's not coherent enough to understand the look in his eyes. "I know you don't. Come on, let's get these shoes off." As his long fingers ease away her stilettos, she sighs and seems to melt into the bed.

It's not fair. Barry is really attractive. He’s sexy and smart and kind. He's basically perfect. She should have realised that earlier.

She realises that Barry's fingers have stilled on her ankles as he lets out a quiet, "Iris?" Then she replays the past moment in her head and realises she said all of that out loud.

She jolts up, and sees her own terror reflected in Barry's eyes. "Sorry," she breathes.

"It's-" He clears his throat after his voice breaks on the syllable. "It's fine. Well, um. Fuck, Iris."

"I'm doing it again," she whispers. She reaches out to tap against the same spot she had pointed at a few minutes ago. “I’m not trying to hurt you. Never.”

“I know.” He swallows visibly and she realises how close she is, how her eyes are following the movement of his lips. His voice cracks. “Iris-”

She rushes forward and presses her lips to his, just pushes away whatever he was going to say next.

Her hands reach up to comb through his hair, and their mouths move together. The moment is quiet and Iris feels thunder in her brain. His own hand rests on her thigh, too high up to be platonic or anything close. The wet of his tongue brushes against her bottom lip, and she pushes closer, makes a small hum and scratches at his scalp. His hand tightens, and she feels her heart thudding and heat courses through her. Then he pulls away with a gasp, the wet sound of their mouths coming apart.

“Iris, no, we shouldn’t-.”

Embarrassingly, she’s still following the movement of his lips and just shakes her head, repeating, “no, we shouldn't.”

His hand is still on her thigh though and her hands are still in her hair, so she surges forward again and catches his bottom lip between her lips. His hand moves to her waist and she takes the opportunity to clamber over his lap, straddling his groin. His mouth opens and she licks inside filthily - even this stupid part of her mind knows that she’s going to take all that she can get. He lets out a moan against her as her thighs give out and her crotch rubs against his.

The sound douses her in cold water as she thinks that this wonderful bliss is what Patty gets to experience all the time. She pushes against his chest and moves off his lap, ignoring the way his head follows her and his hand moves to rub up her lower back.

“Fuck,” she says, trying to look at his wet lips. She falls back against the bed and hides her face in her hands, absolutely mortified.

“Fuck,” Barry echoes, sounding slightly run over. “I’m gonna- I guess I’m gonna go.”

To add to her humiliation, he has to remove the leg that is still thrown across him to leave. She groans as the door shuts and buries herself further into the covers. Well, she thinks to herself morosely, at least she isn’t feeling this regret in bed with McDouche next to her.

 

-

 

...Joe West and Eleanor Martin on the 2nd of July…

 

Joe West met Eleanor Martin at the hairdressers; technically, he was working a case there, but she had offered him a trim and a coffee in return for him saving her from the meta-human of the week, and, well, he hadn't said no. It had taken three weeks for him to decide to introduce her to his kids (of course, Barry had accidentally seen them together on the fourth day, and Iris had seen the leftover panties on the second.)

Eleanor is funny - actually, she's hilarious, and has had them all on the floor crying on more than three occasions - and she understands all of Joe's issues as much as he understands hers, and, best of all, Iris never has to pay for a hair stylist again. She also comes from another marriage, though her husband actually did die, from cancer, thirteen years ago. She is a mother to a fifteen year old girl, Jessica, who is a new entry to the family; Iris unabashedly adores her with all her heart.

Jessica is currently practising walking in her brand new Maid of Honour heels, in the changing room while Eleanor gets her make-up done. Iris is watching her totter with a smile on her face, her own hair and face ready. She says to Jessica, "You need to walk with your heel first."

"But that's the difficult bit!" Jessica protests. As if to prove her point, she steps forward and her whole foot twists, almost making her stumble to the floor. Iris leaps up and manages to catch her just in time by the elbows.

“Watch me,” Iris says, letting go of her. She walks forward, towards the door, and then spins dramatically, pulling a pose that makes Jessica laugh happily.

Of course, that’s when the door opens behind her, knocking her on the ass and making her trip forward. She’s saved from meeting the floor nose-first by warm hands and a familiar crackle of red lightning.

“Um,” Barry says as he lets her go.

“Thanks,” Iris says, equally as awkward, scratching the back of her head. She quickly remembers her intricate hairstyle and lets her hand drop.

“Hi, Barry!” Jessica waves. “Iris is teaching me how to walk in heels but T-B-H I think she’s really bad at it.”

“Hey!” Iris says, mock-indignantly. “See if I help you out again.”

Jessica holds up her hands in defence, biting back a smirk. Barry clears his throat, clearly fighting back his own smile. Last week he had taken Jessica to play baseball, despite having no hand-eye co-ordination in normal speed, which is a good summation of how much he loves having a little sister.

"Kids," Eleanor says, without even looking in their direction as pins are artfully placed in her hair. "No fighting. Or teaching Jessica to walk in high heels in a vicinity where she could fall into me."

Jessica spins around in outrage. "I won't!"

"I'm just saying that if my eyeliner is ruined, your graves will all read, 'Here lies children who messed with Eleanor's wings,' and no-one will have any sympathy for you because I look so very fleek."

"I don't think that's how you use that word, Eleanor," Iris feels obligated to point out.

"Whatever," Eleanor dismisses. She waves a hand, forgetting that her fingernails are being painted at that moment, and lets out a string of expletives. "See what you've done!"

"Sorry," they all chorus.

"What did you want, anyway, Barry?" She asks after inspecting her smudged thumbnail. "Please don't tell me Joe has run off, I can't hunt him down in this massive dress."

"No worries on that front, I was just sent to see how you were doing," he replies.

There's an odd tone to his voice, and Iris asks without thinking, "Did he send you to check Eleanor hasn't run off?"

Barry winces. "Um." Which is an answer in itself.

Eleanor frowns into her mirror. "That's ridiculous. He must know I wouldn't."

"To be fair," Iris points out tentatively, "His last wife was a bit of a flight risk."

"Well, you can both go and reassure him that I am staying put. He's stuck with me - forever." She smiles privately at that last bit, and Iris's heart seems to double in size at the thought of her dad finally getting to be married and happy.

"I could go tell him myself if you want to carry on teaching Jess how to walk," Barry offers, not quite meeting Iris's eyes. For a moment, Iris had almost forgotten how the two of them had barely spoken since Oliver and Felicity's wedding - since they kissed.

"No, you can both go." Eleanor says it with such authority that Iris has a sneaking suspicion that she and Joe have discussed the continuing awkwardness between Iris and Barry.

"Yeah, it's fine." Iris says, making an effort to ensure her tone is pleasant.

"Also I know how to walk," Jessica adds petulantly. "It's just these cursed shoes that are the problem."

"Are you insulting my wardrobe choices?" Eleanor says, an undercurrent of threat to her voice.

Barry and Iris decide to make their quick exit when Jessica replies, "Well, I certainly wouldn't call them practical."

As they walk into the corridor of the manor house, they lapse into silence. "Eleanor looks pretty,” Barry offers.

“Yeah, she does.”

The quiet permeates between them. Iris lets out a sigh as they come closer to the bedroom suite where Joe is currently getting ready, and where the newly-weds will spend the night. Iris tries not to think about that too much, despite Eleanor actually taking her shopping in Victoria’s Secret for specific lingerie. (That was certainly a bonding experience Iris never wants to repeat - she doesn’t need to know that her dad has experimented with men’s lingerie, thanks.)

It’s empty, and they share a look of confusion. “Um,” says Barry. “Were we worrying about the wrong flight risk?”

“Surely not.”

Iris turns as if to leave, but she’s stopped by Barry’s sudden hand around her wrist. “Come on, Iris, we should- you’ve got to stop avoiding me.”

“I haven’t been avoiding you,” Iris lies.

“Don’t be obtuse,” he accuses. “We’ve barely spoken since Felicity and Oliver’s wedding. And you ignored my text message.”

“I was thinking of a reply,” she defends, crossing her arms.

He squints at her. “You were thinking of a reply to ‘Hey, how are you?’”

She pauses. “Yes.”

“For real? Iris!” He gestures wildly and almost hits a lamp over. His frustration is momentarily interrupted by his usual awkward fumbling, and a small, “Um,” as he checks over the lamp. He refocuses. “I don’t get it. What have I done so wrong that you can’t even talk to me about it?”

“Look, no one’s done anything, there’s nothing to talk about,” she says, trying to make her tone soothing. “Because there’s no problem. I’m not avoiding you, Bear. We’re just busy, and I wanted to give you and Patty some space, and-”

“What are you talking about?” He looks honestly confused.

“Well, Linda may have hinted to me that I was too involved when you and her were dating, and I know sometimes your girlfriends can find me intimidating, and obviously I don’t want to be the one standing in between you two-” She actually cuts herself off forcibly, almost biting her own tongue. Christ, she’s been spending too much time with Felicity.

Barry says slowly, “Patty and I broke up. How- how do you not know that?”

“Oh.” She doesn’t have an answer for that; she obviously has been a really terrible friend if she didn’t know something that important about Barry. She realises suddenly how much she was relying on Joe to pass information along. Her expression softens. “Oh, Barry, I’m so sorry. What happened?”

“What do you think happened?” Another large gesture accompanies his explosive voice. “Iris, we kissed! You can’t kiss someone when you’re dating someone else!”

“I-” Guilt courses through her and she bites and her bottom lip. “I’m really sorry. I didn’t realise you’d tell her.”

“Of course I’d tell her, I-”

Barry is cut off suddenly by the sound of a deep voice giggling. They look at each other with matching expressions of horror when they both recognise it as their father’s.

“Come on, just come in here,” they hear him say.

“It’s bad luck to see the bride before the wedding, Joe!”

That’s Eleanor, Iris mouths at Barry. They clearly must’ve found each other without Barry and Iris’ assistance.

“Well, I’d better make sure I see all of her,” Iris hears her father leer. The doorknob rattles. In a moment of blind panic, they race into the nearest hiding space, the large wardrobe. Barry manages to close the doors behind them just as the couple stumble in. Through the keyhole, Iris can see them already kissing and pawing at each other.

“We have to be quick,” says Eleanor, though she carries on biting at Joe’s lips. “And don’t ruin my make-up. Or hair!” Joe’s hands fall guilty from her scalp, and wrap around her waist instead.

As she flinches away from the keyhole, Iris can only describe her expression as similar to when she first watched the birth scene in Alien.

Barry whispers, “This can’t be happening,’ as the bed squeaks, and that’s what sends Iris over the edge. She clamps her hand over her mouth to stop the hysterical laughter from escaping. Barry shakes his head in disapproval, but he’s pressing his lips tightly together as well.

The sound of clothes hitting the floor sounds, and Barry flinches at the sound. “Can you super-speed us out?” Iris hisses.

He shakes his head. “They might still hear. Or see the lightning.”

The mattress starts squeaking, and Iris adopts a pained expression. “This is the worst.”

“I don’t know,” Barry says quietly, almost to himself. “I think I’ve heard worse.”

“When?” She says at an almost normal pitch. She freezes, but the energetic squeaking continues unhindered. She repeats, more quietly, “What can you possibly have heard that is worse than this?”

His eyes dart to her guiltily. “Do you remember your freshman boyfriend in college? When you brought him back for the weekend.”

Iris feels her cheeks flame. “Oh no.”

“I think you thought I was out. But, um, our rooms are right next to each other, and…” He shrugs. “I didn’t have any headphones. And you could kind of hear...you and him throughout the house.”

Iris hides her face in her hands, and finds herself biting back laughter again. “Well this is just awful. And here I thought it couldn’t get any more awkward between us.”

“Ah-ha!” He stage-whispers. “I knew you knew you were avoiding me.”

“Okay but what was I supposed to say?” Iris accidentally smacks her hands against the plastic hangers inside the wardrobe and winces. “Sorry I made a massive mistake and possibly fucked up our relationship? Sorry I did it while you had a great relationship and fucked that one up too?”

“If that’s the truth, then yeah.” Barry’s gaze shifts to a spot on the wood. “I mean, like you said, just a mistake. Right?” His eyes flicker to hers, an odd kind of vulnerability in them.

She nods, biting back anything else. This is her chance to repair everything and she’s not going to fuck it up. “Yeah. Big mistake. Me and white wine are taking a break for the foreseeable future.”

He grins at that, but it falls away as the squeaking speeds up to a deafening volume, and Iris scrunches her eyes up against the horrible mental images. Then it stops. Iris pointedly doesn’t think about what that means.

“So, friends again?” Iris offers, as some kind of distraction.

“Yeah.” Barry scratches the back of his neck, and lifts up one shoulder. “I’d hug you or something, but-”

But my dad and future step-mom just had sex a foot away from us. “Yeah, we can hug later.”

They hear the sound of the door opening and closing outside, and breathe a sigh of relief. Barry opens the closet door, and they step outside. Iris is avoiding the sight of the bed, hoping that if she doesn’t see any confirming visuals she can keep pretending it didn’t actually happen.

“So,” Barry says, hands in his pockets. “Agree to never speak of this again?”

“Agreed,” Iris replies vehemently.

Barry holds the door open and they both step outside. Then they hear a girl’s voice: “Barry? Iris?” Jessica asks, confused. “What were you two doing in there?”

 

-

 

...Wally West and Linda Park on the 12th of September…

 

This should probably be weirder than it actually is, Iris thinks, reapplying her make-up in the bathroom. Not only is her best friend marrying her brother (her younger brother, as her grandmother keeps reminding her oh-so-helpfully), but also-

"Iris?" Jessica asks from behind a toilet cubicle. "Do you think it's strange that you met your future sister-in-law before you met your brother?"

"Yeah," Iris muses, pinching her false lashes to remove a particularly persistent mascara clump. "I guess. But I'm just glad I get to know them both now. That's the important thing."

The toilet flushes and Jessica emerges, wearing a gold dress Iris had passed down to her. She walks to the sink next to Iris and washes her hands, still with a thoughtful expression on her face. Iris nudges her with her elbow. "What's up?"

"Nothing," Jessica says quickly. Under Iris' unimpressed gaze, she then admits, "There's just been a lot of weddings recently. I'm starting to get bored of them."

"Yeah, me too." Iris looks at her reflection, trying not to think too hard about the disasters the last two had been. "There's only so many times I can reuse the same dress."

"You always look pretty," replies Jessica loyally. She pauses, and adds, "I mean, you're not thinking of going to any more weddings, are you?"

"I don't think so," Iris frowns. "Nope, I haven't got any invitations, so I'm free from them for at least a few months."

"Right," says Jessica. "So you're definitely not thinking about... participating in any weddings."

Suspicion grows, and Iris narrows her eyes at Jessica’s reflection. “Cut to the chase, girl. What are you talking about?”

Jessica shrugs just a tad too innocently. “Well, you and Barry seemed awfully close at the last wedding-”

Iris lets out a long groan. “How many times do I have to tell you? We were hiding!”

“I’m fifteen, Iris,” Jessica replies, unimpressed. “Not five.”

“Hiding is not, in this instance, code for sex!” Iris hisses.

Naturally, that’s when Linda’s great-aunt Ruth comes out of the end cubicle.

Jessica and Iris look away in mortification as Ruth washes her hands, somehow making even that action disapproving. Her gaudy floral dress matches a similarly gaudy head-piece, that is almost bigger that Iris’ whole torso. The only delicate and subtle item on her person is a simply gold necklace around her admittedly-wide neck, which Iris assumes must be a family heirloom.

“See you at the wedding, girls,” Ruth says. She gives Iris a particularly knowing gaze, probably under the impression that Iris is using the bathroom to corrupt young minds, while Jessica bites down on laughter behind her back.

“See you,” Iris says faintly, and then smacks Jessica on the shoulder as the bathroom door closes. “You’re such a menace.”

“Sorry, sorry!” Jessica looks upwards and dabs at her eyes, trying not to smudge her eyeliner. “But oh man, your face.”

They part ways outside of the bathroom - Jessica isn’t part of the main wedding party, and so goes to find her mother, while Iris goes towards the bridal chamber. Just before she opens the door, she hears a loud clatter and a smash, followed by, “Stop dodging, Allen!”

She steels herself - Linda warned you she’d become a Bridezilla when you agreed to be her Maid of Honour, West, you’ve no one to blame but yourself - and walks through the door.

Inside, a chaotic scene greets her: a smashed vase is on the floor by the wall, Linda is standing with her hands on her hips and a fuming expression on her face, and Barry is cowering under her glare.

“Hey guys,” Iris says brightly. “What’s up?”

“Your goddamn-” Linda stutters here, because as one Iris’ best friends she knows all about the complicated history between Iris and Barry and is probably struggling for a term to encapsulate it all. “Barry has lost my lucky necklace!”

“Okay,” Iris says over Barry’s hotly-voiced protests that he did no such thing. “What does the necklace look like? How did Barry lose it?”

“I didn’t!” Barry interjects hotly again.

“I asked him to bring in my jewellery case from the car. One, teeny tiny favour from my fiancé’s best man. And what does he do?”

Barry meekly looks down and fiddles with the back of his neck. “I dropped it.”

“He drops it!” Linda’s voice is shrill. “And he brings it back, sans-necklace.”

“I checked the ground a million times,” Barry pleads. “It can’t have been lost when I dropped the case.” The thing is, from anyone else this might be seen as an exaggeration, but Iris knows for a fact that Barry, who has both he powers of a superhero and the keen eye of a forensic scientist, would have scoured the area.

“Okay,” Iris placates. “Barry and I will go check again. Maybe someone else picked it up. What does it look like?”

Linda seems mollified. “It’s gold, a simple chain with a little bird pendant. I need it Iris, please.” She turns to Iris desperately, activating the full Bride-Guilt power-up on Iris.

“I’ll find it,” Iris promises, already backing away and dragging Barry by the wrist with her. “You just focus on getting ready and destressing. Happiest day of your life, remember!”

She manages to shut the door just in time to shield them from the shoe that gets thrown in their direction. It thumps against the wood and Barry flinches from the sound.

"I swear I checked that area a billion times, Iris," Barry repeats.

"I believe you, she must not have packed it. Can you speed back to her house and search for it?"

"I already have," Barry says miserably. "It's not there either."

"Fuck," says Iris. And because she must have done something to piss off a higher deity, or maybe the old woman has a super-sense they don't know about, Great-Aunt Ruth passes by just as she says it. She sends a scathing look Iris' way.

"Hello, dear," she says. "I trust everything is alright?"

“Fine, thank you,” Iris says politely, biting back the retort she’d love to give.

“And the bride?”

“Doing splendidly.” A strangled shriek sounds from behind the door and another crash. Both Iris and Barry keep their expressions impassive.

“Wonderful.” Ruth walks away.

Iris watches her leave, a niggling thought at the back of her mind. “Come on,” Barry says. “Let’s look at all our options before I have to run around the globe trying to find a replica.”

Suddenly, like a lightning-bolt (hah!) she realises why Linda’s description of the necklace struck her as so familiar. “Barry!” She hisses, clutching his arm perhaps a tad too forcefully if his yelp is anything to go by. “Barry, Ruth stole the necklace!”

“Alright, Agatha Christie, calm down.” He gingerly removes his arm from her grasp. “Are you sure?”

“Yes! Go check yourself if you don’t believe me!” A crack of lightning sounds, and he returns so quickly she couldn’t be sure he even left. She pats her hair carefully to make sure it’s still curled perfectly.

“Okay, it does match Linda’s description,” Barry concedes. “But I really don’t think she would have stolen it.”

Iris narrows her eyes. “You don’t know her like I do.” Admittedly, Iris barely knew her, but she had a bad feeling about her nonetheless. The woman had a damn knack for appearing at the most inopportune moments.

“Well, whatever, I’m going to grab it.”

“At super speed?” Iris asks, somewhat doubtfully. “Won’t she notice?”

“I can be pretty fast,” he replies in a droll tone.

She rolls her eyes. “Let me go ask for it first. What if she kicks up a fuss if she thinks it’s stolen?”

“Didn’t you just say she was the one who stole it?” Barry points out. Then his eyes narrow. “Hang on. You want to find out why she has it, don’t you?”

“No,” she denies, but breaks at Barry’s sceptical expression. “Okay but it’s going to kill me if I don’t figure it out! At what point did she get the necklace? Did she steal it or just appropriate it? What if there’s a whole family feud revolving around this necklace?”

“Maybe she just picked it up and put it on?” Barry says. But he sighs and waves her on, “Fine, you have five minutes to try it your way. But it’s my head on Linda’s guillotine if we don’t get the necklace back.”

Iris resists the urge to pump her fist in the air, and darts after Ruth. She catches up to her in the hallway just before the ceremony room, and she calls out, “Great-Aunt Ruth!”

The woman turns around, and Iris sees the gold swallow dancing on her collarbone. She raises a plucked eyebrow as Iris approaches. “Yes?”

“Well, you know I’m Maid of Honour for Linda, and you know that sometimes that means I have to do… slightly odd tasks.” Iris flashes her best winning smile. “I mean, brides get more superstitious than football players, am I right?”

“I don’t watch football.” Ruth sniffs. “And I got married in a woollen dress then went back to working on our farm in the afternoon. We didn't have much time for frivolities like superstitions.”

“Right, sure.” Iris balanced on the balls of her feet and then rested back on her heels. “Well, I still have to ask: Linda was wondering if she could have the necklace you’re wearing as her something old.”

“Old?” Ruth’s eyebrows shoot towards her receding hairline.

Okay, perhaps Iris’ charm could use some work - or maybe this woman is just immune to all charisma and niceties. “Well, something that belongs to a previous generation.”

Ruth makes a ‘harrumph’ sound, and looks shiftily away. Iris gets the adrenaline spike that always accompanies a breakthrough in a case. “I must confess - only because I’d feel terrible to lie to a bride on her wedding day - I only picked up this necklace outside. It was left on the path, and I’d forgotten my own jewellery. I was going to give it to the Lost and Found after the ceremony, you understand.”

“Sure, sure.” Iris nods along, the taste of victory in the air. Suck it, Barry. “But I think it’s the thought behind the object, rather than the actual object. Do you know what I mean? I think Linda just wants something from you.”

Ruth’s entire face softens. “Of course,” she says quietly, reaching behind her and unhooking the necklace.

Before Iris can celebrate her victory, three things happen at once.

Iris’ five minutes runs out, and Barry starts walking towards them at a slightly faster pace than the average human. Ruth’s hands, shaking slightly due to her arthritis, drop the necklace, and Iris is not quick enough to catch it. And thirdly, unbeknownst to either of the two women, Uncle Han’s new chihuahua, which has a terrible habit of eating everything in sight, escapes from its leash and runs straight towards them.

The two women watch in horror as the dog wolfs down the necklace, and swallows it with a gleam of sadistic satisfaction.

Iris falls to a crouch in horror just as Barry reaches them.

“No,” Iris says faintly.

Barry realises what’s just happened, and his own eyes widen. “No. Iris, please. No.”

Iris can only say another, pathetic-sounding, “No,” extending the vowel sound.

“If it’s really that important,” Great-Aunt Ruth offers, “I’m also wearing some earrings that really are old. I haven’t taken them off since 1983.”

 

Anyway, that’s how the two of them, with half an hour to go before the ceremony starts, are walking Uncle Han’s chihuahua around the park and giving the dog occasional sounds of encouragement.

“I swear it keeps urinating just to wind us up,” Barry says as ‘Roxy’ cocks his leg against the small pine tree yet again.

“There’s no way it’s going to pass a necklace in time. We’d be better trying to make it vomit,” Iris says darkly.

“We’re not poisoning the chihuahua, Iris.”

“I’m just saying!” she defends, throwing up her arms. “When Linda has your head on a plate, you’ll be wishing we used just a little bit of rat poison as well.”

Barry stares at the dog for a moment as it sniffs its own ass, and then shakes his head. “No, we are not poisoning a dog, end of discussion.”

“Fine,” Iris says. “How long are we going to be waiting, anyway?”

“It takes around 11 hours for something to pass through the average dog’s digestive system,” Barry says, almost absent-mindedly.

“Freak,” Iris says, though it comes out fond. “How on earth do you know that?”

“I took a veterinary course at college,” he defends. At her sceptical expression, he amends, “Okay, it was biology.”

“Barry.”

“Okay! I googled it when I was bored in a physics seminar. I made an Excel chart comparing the digestive systems of different pets.” He crosses his arms. “You happy now?”

“That’s super gross,” she says, but she’s smiling.

Suddenly, a window opens and they see Linda’s upper half stick out from the regal manor behind them. “What the fuck are you two doing?” she shouts. “Where’s my necklace?”

Unconsciously, both Barry and Iris look guiltily at Roxy. Iris can see the exact moment Linda understands: her face drains of colour and she retreats back into her room with a snap of the window falling back shut.

They make it to her room - Barry is entrusted with carrying Roxy, since he’ll be the one most equipped to get outside quickly if Roxy suddenly feels ‘the urge’ - and find Linda sitting on the stool in front of her make-up desk. She’s not crying, just staring at her own reflection, which is definitely a bad sign.

“Linda?” Iris says tentatively.

“I can’t do this,” Linda says hoarsely. “I can’t- The necklace is a sign, it must be. We’re waiting for a dog to crap out my family heirloom, there’s no way that isn’t a sign.”

“It’s not a sign, Linda, it’s an example of shitty luck,” Iris says, trying to make her voice soothing. “And I’ve got to say, if your lucky necklace gets eaten by a chihuahua, it’s not that lucky.”

“This isn’t just about the necklace!”

“Yeah, I figured.” Iris walks to Linda and makes her turn around. She crouches so she’s closer to Linda’s eye-level. “Linda, you love Wally, don’t you?”

“Yes,” Linda replies without hesitation. “But-”

“And I know for a fact Wally really loves you,” Iris continues, steamrolling over Linda’s protests. “And I’m not sure why the necklace has triggered this freak-out but everyone gets pre-wedding jitters, okay? You don’t need a lucky necklace, Linda, you’re getting married. To the love of your life.”

Linda still has a manic glint in her eye so Iris takes hold of both her hands.

“Linda, listen to me. You’re going to go out there, and you’re not going to put your faith in a stupid piece of jewellery.”

“Family heirloom,” Barry corrects under his breath, looking at the ceiling when Iris spins to glare at him.

She turns back to Linda and locks eyes with her. “Linda, you’re going to put your faith in my brother, okay? My dorky little brother who looks at you like you hung the moon. My brother, who wanted to marry you since you first talked about the Rangers.”

“Really?” The corners of Linda’s lips flutter, and her grip tightens on Iris’ hands.

“Yes, really. You should have seen him after your first date, he could have walked on clouds.” Iris feels her own eyes blur with moisture as Linda blinks away her own tears. “Linda, put your faith in Wally West. He’s already put his faith in you.”

 

The wedding, predictably, goes off without a hitch. Words can’t describe the emotion on Wally’s face as Linda walks up the aisle, and Iris thanks her stars that the two of them came into her life. Although she could have lived without seeing Linda stick her tongue into her little brother’s mouth as soon as the priest allows it, but whatever.

The reception is equally beautiful - not that Iris, who helped design and arrange it all, is biased at all - with pale blue ribbon and confetti and cream decor. The music starts playing, and she’s surveying the happy couple begin their first dance as Barry sidles up behind her.

“You’ve done a good job, Iris.”

She turns slowly, smiling up at him. She has to tilt her neck to match his eyes since he’s so close. She’d only have to reach out an inch to grasp his collar and pull her down to him - not that she’d necessarily want to. “We’ve done a good job, I think you mean.”

“Well, sure,” he allows.

She abruptly wants to kiss him. The desire surges in her, uncoiling from her belly and rising to the point where it seems more of a struggle not to kiss him. The way he’s looking at her makes her think he wouldn’t be averse to the idea. They’re both just staring at each stupidly, silently. She feels that lightning spark between them again, like all her nerve endings are waiting for her skin to touch his.

She feels herself leaning in, and she sees his eyelids flutter, as if he’s about to close them; she feels strangely calm, after all the tension and drama between them it feels right that it’s about to happen.

Then his phone beeps; she recognises it as the ringtone Cisco uses for Flash business. Barry actually freezes, eyes flickering between her and his pocket.

“You should get that,” she says.

“Right,” though it looks like it pains him to do so. He presses the phone to his ear and nods. “Cisco? Yeah. What- No, sure, why wouldn’t a meta-human be terrorising Central City right now?” He pulls a face at Iris and she stifles a laugh. “Yeah, I’m on my way.”

“The world need saving again?”

“Apparently,” he sighs dramatically. “It’s something to do with pine cone needles, it shouldn’t take long.”

“You should dance with me when you come back,” Iris says without even thinking. As the words come out, she feels as if she’s just taken a step over a cliff edge and she can’t wait to fall.

Barry’s gaze searches her face. “Yeah?”

“Yeah." She nods firmly, her stomach fluttering and her blood pulsating. There’s something between them, something that makes a promise of a dance into so much more.

With that, he zooms off; her hair lifts and drops with the wind created by his exit. She smiles to herself, and goes to sit down. Linda looks radiant as Wally spins her on the dancefloor. She sees her father and Eleanor laughing to each other as they attempt some weird tango/foxtrot formation. Jessica is being courted by a boy her own age with stolen cake and awkwardly-stilted dancing, She feels her heart swell, and she feels as if this is one of those moments she wants to keep a snapshot of for the rest of her life.

She's brought from her thoughts by a cough. "I wonder whether the Maid of Honor may grace me with a dance?"

She spins and breaks out into a delighted laugh as she recognises the face, coyly smiling with an outstretched hand. "Luke!"

"Hey, Iris." He looks devilishly handsome in a suit, the navy matching his startlingly blue eyes perfectly; she should know, she spent enough time crushing on them in her Media 101 seminars before she met Eddie. "Long time no see."

She takes his hand and stands; if nothing else, Luke had always been a great friend, and she wishes they hadn't fallen out of touch. "Last I heard, you were in National City."

He shrugs, stepping backwards to lead her onto the dancefloor. "Yeah, I had a bad break up. Plus it's saturated with reporters at the moment anyway."

"Supergirl?" she asks knowingly.

Nodding, he says, "But you'd know all about reporting on superheroes, wouldn't you?" He puts a hand on her waist as a slow song starts. She recognises it as something her dad used to play, and she abruptly thinks of Barry. Her gaze darts around for him, but he's still not back; as she pushes down the habitual worry that she always feels when he dons the suit and mask, she assures herself that she's not doing anything wrong, just passing time until Barry gets back. Luke is continuing, "Confession time: I was religiously reading your blog even when the guy was still called the Streak."

"No way," she says, laughing despite herself. Over Luke's shoulder, she sees Jessica frowning disapprovingly at them both, but she ignores her to focus back on Luke. "So what are you doing here?"

"I know Linda from when we were both reporting on the US Open," he says. "We bonded over pop-tarts and early mornings. And rude tennis players."

"Oh? Any gossip you can give me?" Iris realises, suddenly, that she's flirting. She deliberately stops her hands on his shoulders, keeping her folded arms between their bodies. They're just old friends catching up, she tells herself. No need to feel guilty. Barry's face flashes into her mind, and she looks around again, though it's a futile effort because he's still not back.

-

Barry skids back into the ballroom, eyes scanning the floor for Iris. He’s breathing heavily after having to run at normal pace through the lobby to keep up appearances, and his hair is windswept from his not-so-normal previous pace. He anxiously combs his hand through it trying to tame it. Probably he should have gone to the bathroom to fix it, but he’s already running late. For the first time he really, really hates the habit which has long been a lasting joke.

He’s trying to straighten his tie when he spots her. She’s in the arms of another man, one with a great smile and broad shoulders. Barry watches, his stomach sinking, as Iris laughs, her head thrown back in good humour. The man watches her with a smitten expression Barry knows all too well.

Yet again, he thinks bitterly, he’s too late. He lets out an exhale, fists balling and then relaxing, and he walks away. Time to see if a whole bar of alcohol can get him drunk.

 

-

 

We are greatly saddened to announce the passing of Janice West, beloved friend, mother, grandmother and neighbour, on the 15th December...

 

Iris pulls on her jacket over the black dress she’s wearing, barefoot on Luke’s carpet before she puts her boots on. It’ll be their four month anniversary in a week or so - she’s not one for dates, but Luke is, and she knows by now to expect a small little card or gift. It makes her feel treasured, she supposes, but it’s also all a little bit too formal, too monumental. She’s a girl who prefers just... hanging out, with the added bonus of sex and holding hands and dates. She thinks that’s what dating Barry would have been like - or maybe he would have been excitable? Maybe he would have- fuck.

She mentally shakes herself. It’s been four months since her and Barry’s almost: their almost kiss, their almost dance, their almost relationship. Clearly he changed his mind, or didn’t want to in the first place, otherwise he would have come back to the wedding. She had been so worried after the first hour - she rang Cisco even, who just told her, in a blasé tone like her heart wasn’t swooping towards her stomach, that Barry just went home after defeating the meta-human in just a few minutes.

Maybe it was better this way, she thinks. Maybe it would have been too messy - she and Barry would have had to be it, would have had to be end-game, because how on earth could they have come back from it? They share family and friends and lives. A small voice asks her why on earth they would break up when they already know everything about each other, but she squashes down the unnecessary thought.

In the mirror’s reflection, she sees Luke walk in. He comes up behind her and rests his hands on her shoulders. She leans back into him; Luke is good for her. Luke is nice and funny and handsome.

(He’s not Barry, though.)

 

They get to the church just as her dad arrives. She knows he was never that close to his mother, but she hugs him tight regardless. He squeezes his own arms around her, says, “Thanks baby,” and then lets her go. His eyes are wet.

“Um, Dad, this is Luke.” She winces at him to show she realises how awful the timing is.

Luckily, Luke takes it in his stride. He shakes Joe’s hand, and says, “Sir. I wish I was meeting you under better circumstances. I’m so sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you.” Joe’s grip is firm. He looks sideways to Iris as if to say, ‘Really?’ But Iris keeps his eye with a steady gaze. “Well, you two had better get inside, I think the ceremony is starting soon. I’m going to stay by the door to greet people.”

“Okay - is Barry inside?” She asks, making sure her voice sounds casual. The way she avoids Joe’s gaze however is probably a red flag to the detective. She and Barry have been friendly, sure, but almost too friendly, especially since neither one of them wants to talk about what happened at the wedding. Or, exactly what didn’t happen.

“Yeah,” Joe says slowly. “He’s sitting with Wally and Linda.”

“Cool.” She takes Luke’s hand and pulls him with her inside.

The church is beautiful, and was where her grandmother had sung in a gospel choir and met most of her friends. As such, most if the seats are already full. Wally spots Iris before she sees him, and he starts waving, oblivious to those who are staring at his behaviour. Iris smiles softly at the familiarity and tugs on Luke's hand as she walks towards them. The available seats are, as her luck would have it, beside Barry, who only gives her a passing smile before looking back towards the front.

"How are you?" Linda asks quietly, leaning around Barry.

"Alright, I think," Iris replies. "I didn't know her that well - I know she and Dad had a big argument after my mom left." At the mention of their mother, Wally's sympathetic smile tightens almost imperceptibly.

The five of them sit in relatively awkward silence, which is luckily shielded under the sombre atmosphere of mourning, until Joe comes to sit down by Luke. He’ll be helping to carry the coffin down to its final resting place, but his two elder sisters will be the ones conducting most of the ceremony.

But just as the vicar starts toward the podium, a loud drone-like noise sounds through the church. Iris’s brow creases in a frown, and she can sense her father tense at the same time she feels Barry do the same next to her. “What-” she begins to whisper, but Barry’s already excusing himself. Flash business, then.

It’s bizarre to be sitting here quietly as Barry just walks, apparently calmly, down the aisle towards the doors. Almost as he reaches them, they crash open, and a robot-like man, standing at over seven foot tall, emerges from outside. “Joe West,” he says, that drone-like buzz accompanying his deep, modified tone. Half his neck is replaced by a metal plate and when he walks his feet stamp with the extra weight of steel.

“Fuck,” Iris and Wally whisper in unison. The whole West family knows Barry’s secret, and that now includes Wally and Linda. So they know that this looks like a job for the Flash.

“What are we going to do?” Linda hisses under her breath. Luke is too busy staring in shock at the threatening figure to listen in to their conversation, fortunately.

“I’ll call Cisco,” Iris says, already flipping on her phone, and speed-dialling 3. “You and Wally get my dad away.”

They snap into action - Joe struggles against Wally and Linda, clearly wanting to confront the guy himself rather than sending Barry, but they manage to get him through the fire exit near the altar.

“Iris? What is it?” Cisco sounds tired, like he was napping, but Iris can’t dredge up too much sympathy for him considering it’s two in the afternoon.

“There’s a giant robot man at my grandma’s funeral, and he’s after my dad.”

That clearly grabs Cisco’s attention. “Shit. Okay, I’m already at the lab - okay, yep, Barry just came and got his suit, he’s probably back to you by now.” Sure enough, a flash of lightning and Barry, cloaked in his costume, is skidding to a stop in front of the cyborg. “Tell me, why is always your family, West?”

She rolls her eyes. Most of the church’s congregation have left screaming through the same fire exit Joe has just disappeared through, so there’s barely anyone left to watch as Barry zips around, darting punches that have little effect on a man made predominantly out of steel.

Iris knows Barry has a literal lightning trick up his sleeve, so she can’t help but wonder why he isn’t trying it. On the phone, Cisco is saying, “Barry’s fought this guy before, but he managed to escape before him and Joe could lock him up - he must have recognised Joe, that’s why he’s there now.” Cisco makes a frustrated noise through his teeth. “I don’t understand, Barry knows that lightning works against this guy, the metal on him even helps to conduct the electricity.”

“Well, he’s not doing it.” She’s worried, and by the aborted sound Cisco makes over the connection, he is too.

An arm blocks her from walking any closer - she suddenly realises she’s completely forgotten about Luke; in her rush to protect those closest to her, Luke had barely flickered into her thoughts. Guilt racks through her. “Iris, we need to leave,” he says urgently, stare focused on the fight a few feet away from them.

“I can’t,” she says, wincing when she then realises she can’t explain why not. “You go, I’ll join you.”

“Is this because you want the story?” He accuses with disbelief colouring his words. “Iris, no article is worth your life. Let’s go.”

Her hackles raise at the accusation and she has to remind herself he’s being brave by staying with her. She decides to just turn back to her phone. “Cisco, he’s still punching the guy. Is he talking to you at all?”

She realises what the issue is a split second later as she watches Barry’s motions carefully - he’s trying to coax the man outside - either he’s protecting Iris, or the church, or he simply needs more room to manoeuvre. Between the benches and the old architecture, the stone building is hardly designed for easy access to the speedforce.

Before she even thinks through her plan, she’s running around the aisle of benches and she gets herself behind the robotic man and between the door. She ignores the abject horror on Luke’s face, and how Barry slows down to stare at her.

“Hey, metal man!”

Cisco says, “Iris, what the hell-” before she just throws away the phone to concentrate. Whatever, she’s on a special plan considering how often she breaks them.

“Hey, over here! You want Joe West? I’m his daughter, you over-sized Tin Man!” That gets his attention. He spins, his arm knocking into a frozen Barry with the momentum of his twisting body. He clearly believes her - the resemblance between father and daughter is uncanny, for sure - because his face stretches in a slow smile. He stalks towards her; she actually hadn’t been counting on his strides being so long and his pace so quick.

She runs through the door and outside. If she remembers the area correctly, there’s a patch of empty land where they were planning to build a community centre right next to the church. If she can make it there, she knows that’s enough space for Barry to get to work.

But there was heavy rainfall last night, and her heels keep getting stuck in the tacky soil. She’s only a yard away from the church when the man clears the doorway. But she’s always been of the opinion that if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right, so she yells over her shoulder, “Is that all you’ve got? No wonder my old man got you so easily!”

When one heel gets stuck in the mud, she just leaves it behind; if she survives this, she can come back to get it later, and if she doesn’t- well. Adrenaline gives her enough to put on a bit of extra speed, and she loses the other shoe as she rounds the corner onto the building site.

As she turns to see how far away the man is, she feels an iron grip on her shoulder, and then she’s being lifted into the air. Her legs kick at nothing, and the hand moves to squeeze her neck.

“Iris!” She hears Barry shout.

Her heart sinks as high school science comes back to her in all its technicolor glory. Electricity conducts through humans easily. If Barry shoots lightning at the man, it’ll go through Iris as well. Her fingers are scrabbling at the metal fist around her throat, and she feels her lungs start to really ache for oxygen.

“Let her go.” His modified voice is still unmistakably Barry, and she wonders yet again how she could ever have missed it.

Things start to get a little hazy. She thinks that the sudden lack of pain throbbing and spiking from her throat is probably a bad sign. She hears her dad’s voice yelling, but she can’t be sure as her eyes become unfocused and blurry. She’s suddenly released and dropped to the ground. A manic thought about having to dry clean her dress flitters through her brain as she lands in the wet dirt.

She rolls onto her back and sees a halo of red lightning speeding up and crackling. She smiles weakly at the sign - all according to plan, really. (Her throat really, really hurts again.) She’s awake long enough to see the jolt of lightning hit, and Barry’s worried, masked face suddenly appear above her.

 

Her eyes flutter open and she’s in a hospital bed. An oxygen mask is over her mouth. Her throat aches painfully but she turns her head to the side anyway, and recognises Barry’s hair. He’s resting in his arms on her bed, by her elbow, sleeping. He looks so stressed, still in his clothes from the funeral. Her brain is hardly on full cylinders, but she doesn’t think anything of it when she groggily raises her hand - it takes more effort than it should - to gently trace her thumb over the worried crease between his brows.

He lets out a soft, sleepy groan, and starts to stir. Her hand falls to rest against his, and she squeezes it weakly before her eyelids can’t stay open any longer and she falls back into darkness.

 

When she wakes up again, it’s Luke by her bedside. She tells herself not to feel disappointed.

 

-

 

Mr and Mrs Farrow are pleased to invite you to the wedding of their son Luke to Miss Iris West on the 30th of April...

 

There’s a knock on her door as she’s smoothing down her dress in front of her reflection, and Joe pushes his head around. He smiles when he sees her. “You look beautiful, baby.”

 

“Thanks, dad.” She lifts her arms and he comes to hug her tightly. Joe’s offered to drive her to the rehearsal dinner, and she’s unspeakably grateful for the support. Luke’s family can be a little...intimidating. His brother’s on the Forbes 100 list, for god’s sake. The only thing they had in common last time she tried to speak to him was taking AP English, and there’s only so many times they can talk about To Kill A Mockingbird.

“The future Mrs Farrow,” he says, holding her at arm’s lengths. “How are you feeling?”

“Nervous,” she says, somewhat honestly, though it doesn’t seem to encapsulate the weird anticipation thrumming through her.

She’s tried to bring it up to Linda, tried to ask if this is a normal feeling: Linda just replied, “You know when it’s right. You might be scared of the act of marriage itself, but you know the person’s right.”

(What Iris hasn’t wanted to admit for five months is that maybe this marriage doesn’t feel right, and maybe neither does Luke.)

 

The rehearsal dinner is in the very same restaurant Luke proposed in, except the Farrows have hired it out. They were more than eager to pay for everything, being the second generation of a new money family, despite all of Joe and Iris’ protests. On the surface, it’s probably amazingly kind, and Iris can never complain else she sound ungrateful and mean, but she can’t help the creeping feeling that it means they get control over the wedding.

For example, she had wanted a simple wedding, with floral themes and tropical colours, something tastefully vibrant. The wedding she has is one with an overflowing guest list, a cream and lilac colour scheme, and inside the Farrow family’s New Hampshire estate. She tries not to let it bother her. She seems to be reminding herself a lot recently that it’s not how she gets married, but who she gets married to.

Cisco and Caitlin are already there waiting; Cisco is holding a gift that seems to be wrapped in more duct tape than paper, and he awkwardly thrusts it at her when he sees them come through the door. "Happy marriage!" e says. Then he pauses to think. "Wait that's not it. Congratulations?"

"Thanks, Cisco," Iris says, unable to stop the smile despite her somewhat anxious mood. "You didn't have to get me anything, that's awesome of you."

"Seriously, Iris, congratulations," Caitlin repeats, with a bit more feeling to it. A touch of melancholy seems to hang around her eyes, although that could be Iris' imagination, and Iris wonders if she's thinking back to her own marriage, and her own wedding to Ronnie.

But then a voice calls, "Iris!" and Jay walks towards them, coming to wrap an arm around Caitlin's waist. "How are you feeling?"

"Jittery," Iris says, letting everyone else interpret her words.

Joe contributes from her side, "I remember when I was about to marry your mother, Iris: thought I was about to burst with nerves."

"And when you married Eleanor?" Caitlin asks.

“Speaking of..." Cisco murmurs, and they all look to see Eleanor and Jessica shaking off the light April rain and walking towards them all.

"Hi!" Iris bends a little at the knee to wrap Jessica in a hug, and then extends to do the same to Eleanor. "Thanks for coming."

"We wouldn't miss it for the world, darling. Now why did I just hear my name?" Eleanor asks, leaning into Joe. Their easy familiarity always makes Iris a little more thankful for Eleanor coming into their lives.

"Caitlin was just asking how I felt before I married you," Joe says, squeezing her slightly. "I was just about to tell her that I didn't feel nervous at all."

"Didn’t you send me to go check she hadn't run off?"

Iris' heart seems to leap into her throat when she hears that voice. Barry. Smiling as he enters the conversation easily, like nothing's changed, like he hasn't been distant and awkward since he found out about the engagement.

He’s got his hands in his pockets; he looks unfairly handsome in a suit that easily fits his frame. She has the sudden urge to grab his tie and haul him down to her level, but she quickly crushes the mad instinct.

She’s just feeling a little loopy. A little stressed, even. She bets most future brides feel like this, just nobody wants to admit it once they’ve gone through with it. And she definitely intends to go through with it. “Can I take anybody’s coats?” she offers brightly, a distraction from her own thoughts with her arms bent at the elbow and palms facing up. Jessica and Eleanor give her theirs, while the others just shake their heads. (She thinks Cisco and Caitlin have been a little off with her recently as well - a small paranoid part of her thinks they’ve chosen sides, and she’s isn’t surprised they’re Team Barry.)

She walks past the window towards the cloakroom to hang up the coats; it was by the window when Luke proposed, she remembers with a jolt. She remembers she was looking at people passing by in the snow when he had cleared his throat to bring her attention back to him. At the time it had all seemed to blur. He had gotten down on one knee, and it was Christmas time, and people had been staring and smiling, and all that she could think was that if it had been Eddie, she would have immediately said yes. And if it was Barry, he wouldn’t have even had to ask. But she said yes, as if playing a role, as if in a daydream where you follow thoughts just to see where they’ll lead.

The thing is, Luke loves sports and he wants a big family and his favourite food is fish. Iris just wants one kid, maybe, way off in the future, and she goes to get her nails done when Luke is watching a baseball game, and she’s actually allergic to shellfish. None of which is an issue - Eddie loved mussels and would just make sure to really brush his teeth before coming to bed, and Barry gets weirdly fanatical about athletics competitions now - but it just all feels a little...hollow.

But none of that makes sense when she tries to write it down or say it out loud, and she’s been struggling for words for four months now. Which is why she’s currently smoothing down her dress and getting ready to step back outside the cloak room to greet all the other guests.

Within just a few moments, most people have arrived, including Luke, who sweeps her up in a hug that everyone claps at. He presses a firm kiss on her mouth that smacks when he moves back, and beams down at her. “Hey, babe,” he says. “How you doing?”

“Great,” she says, smiling back, conscious that everyone is looking at them. She feels on display and kind of uncomfortable because of it. “How are you?”

“Amazing.” He spins her around and she can’t help but laugh, her arms wrapped around his shoulders and her calves folded up against her thighs. He sets her back down. “Hey, when is the food coming out?”

She rolls her eyes. “Trust you to just think about the menu. I think they’re serving it in a bit - people need to get to their seats.”

He gives her a wounded look and rubs his belly. “But I’m starved!” He spots Joe over Iris’s shoulder, and extends his hand for a handshake. “Joe, hey, how are you?”

“Hi, Luke.” Iris can’t help but notice that Barry subtly slinks away, making his way over to Cisco and Caitlin. It’s starting to worry her a little how he and Luke have barely spoken; Wally’s said to her it’s because the only thing they’d have in common is Iris, which just makes her feel a little uneasy.

Someone announces the food has been set out, and everyone at once seems to go sit down at the many tables arranged with little placards reading ‘To the fortune of the happy couple’ beside each wine glass. At the head of all the tables is a blank screen set up for the speeches - apparently Luke’s best man has prepared a slide presentation to play in the background, which is undoubtedly a montage of baby pictures and then pictures of Luke and Iris from the past few months. Iris just hopes her dad didn’t contribute any from her awkward preteen years - those braces had been awful.

She notices Barry still hasn’t come back, though Cisco and Caitlin are sat down. On impulse, she follows in that direction, only to be stopped by a gentle grasp on her wrist. She turns and sees Luke looking confused. “Iris? Come on, I think the speeches are going to start in a few minutes.”

“I’m just going to check on Barry,” she says, already trying to pull away from his grip.

“He’ll be fine, he’s probably just gone to the bathroom or something.”

She doesn’t even bother to point out that the men’s bathroom is in the opposite direction, she just tugs her hand free. “No, I just need to check on him. I’ll be back in a second, don’t worry.”

“Okay,” he says, but he doesn’t look happy about it. She ignores it and walks to where she had last saw Barry. She sees him slipping into the cloakroom; feeling a rush of something, she follows him inside.

“Hey,” she says as he’s slipping on his coat. For what it is, the cloakroom is relatively large, but she can’t walk without the sleeves and padded jackets brushing against her shoulders.

He starts, and whirls around. “Iris! You startled me.” He tries for a grin but it falls weak. He seems on edge.

“Are you alright? I haven’t spoken to you in a while.” She takes a cautious step closer.

“Yeah, well.” He pauses, looks at a spot on the ground. “I guess we both know why that is.”

She’d like to feign ignorance, but even she isn’t in denial enough to miss all of these clues, but she can’t figure out why Barry apparently still feels the same way. She doesn’t understand why it’s taken until now for this confrontation. (Possibly, she’s been avoiding him just as much as he’s been avoiding her since Wally’s wedding.)

“You never came back for the dance,” Iris blurts out, almost horrified as soon as the words hang in the air.

“What?”

“At Wally and Linda’s wedding. We seemed-” She stops herself, letting out a small frustrated sound. “I checked the news and you were fine, you just never turned up!” She knows that this is her justification for the way things are now; she knows deep down that if he had come back to the wedding, things would be very different.

“Yes, I did,” he replies. His voice and body language is tense. He looks away. “You were dancing with Luke.”

“So what?” Her voice raises and she makes an effort to lower it back to a normal tone. “So that was it? You saw me dancing with a friend and you just walked away?”

“Clearly not just a friend!” He makes a gesture which she supposes is meant to encapsulate her entire engagement. She flinches from the volume of his words; he notices and visibly tries to calm himself. “I honestly just came here to wish you well. I wasn’t trying to-” He makes a fumbling movement with his hands.

“Yeah.” Iris forces herself to wrench her gaze from him. “God, Barry, this can’t keep happening.”

“Right.” He lets out a humourless laugh. “I’ve always had the worst timing, I guess. Today’s no different, clearly.”

She looks at him sharply. “What does that mean?”

He gives her an unreadable expression, and then seems to deflate. “Look, I promised myself that if we had this conversation, I’d be honest. Like I was before. But now it’s different, because at least back then I knew you were with Eddie, and I knew you loved him, and I didn’t have any room to hope.”

She’s frozen. She tries to say something but her mouth won’t work.

Barry just continues, “But, with Luke… Something doesn’t feel right between you. And I know it sounds like I’m just jealous, but I think I know you, Iris. And this past year, between you and me, it’s been different. This past year, so many times I find myself thinking that maybe, just maybe you feel the same.”

She’s softly shaking her head, but it’s in shock, certainly not denial. How can she deny any of that? “Barry-”

“Iris, I love you.” He looks her dead in the eye. He’s always been so much braver than her. “I don’t think you should be with Luke, I think you should be with me.”

There’s a dead silence. Then, amplified by the small microphone and speaker set Luke’s dad had found in their garage, she hears Luke’s best man say, “Right, who’s ready for a speech?”

“I should be out there,” she says softly.

“Wait, Iris.” He reaches out for her. The world seems to be slow and her limbs aren’t moving as quickly as she wants them to, shock and raw and she doesn’t want to keep hurting Barry anymore. Why is she still always hurting him? He places something in her hand. “Look, I’ve said everything I want to. Just- I don’t know whether you’re still with him because of your mom-”

Her hand snaps away from where he’s got it clasped between his two palms. “It’s nothing to do with my mother.”

(And yet, running out on a relationship is exactly what her mother did, and when she thinks about having any similarities with Francine, she feels slightly nauseous and usually has to sit down.)

“Fine. But just, he’s not your only option. Even if you don’t want to be with me, just make sure you’re happy. That’s all I want for you.”

“I just want you to be happy too," she whispers.

But she doesn’t do anything else. He searches her face, and apparently doesn’t see what he wants to: he sighs, and brushes her shoulder as he walks past her and leaves the cloakroom wordlessly.

She looks down in her hand and sees that it’s a small, velvet box that’s been put there. Her heart thunders in her ears and she slowly reaches down to open it.

Inside there is a single diamond ring, embedded in gold and nestling in a white cushion.

She shuts the box again, too terrified to look at it for much longer. Somehow, in a daze, she manages to find her way back to her seat, and Luke drapes a casual arm over her shoulders, and everyone’s smiling as Gareth is talking and grinning, but she’s not really seeing any of it.

Her brain is stuck on a loop: Barry, barely reaching the dining room table, with a cardboard sword saying ‘I love you’ to Iris dressed as a princess; Barry when he said ‘I love you’ with the Christmas tree lights reflected in his sad eyes; Barry, just now, handing her that box and saying ‘I love you’ like he really did expect her to say it back and mean it this time.

She looks up and sees a picture of Barry and her from when they were kids; at first she thinks she’s actually gone mad and she’s imagining it. But then it morphs into one from homecoming. Barry hadn’t been her date, she remembers, but they’d gotten pictures together all the same. It’s displayed on the screen next to one of Luke, with awful, JT-style curls and an ill-fitting suit, presumably from his own prom.

The speeches end, but the photos continue silently in the background. Iris, laughing in the snow with a woollen hat pulled over her eyes and over-sized mittens. Barry took that photo - just after the camera flashed, she threw a snowball straight at his face. Iris and Joe, grinning at each other because Barry had just gone upstairs in a tantrum to his room because they were making fun of his new glasses. Iris, graduating from college. She remembers that Barry had hugged her the hardest, almost prouder than her dad seemed to be.

Iris doesn’t feel afraid, suddenly. Her dazed and whirring mind seems to still with clarity. She gently moves so Luke’s arm falls away. “I- can we talk?”

He frowns at her. “Can’t it wait?”

She shakes her head, and she thinks he understands why not when his face drops. She stands and he follows her out of the main room, towards the hallway where the toilets are. Out of the corner of her eye, she can see her family watching her leave. She hopes they’ll understand.

Before she can even muster the words, he says, “It’s Barry, isn’t it?”

Her eyes brim with tears. She’s betrayed this lovely, kind man by waiting this long to tell him, waiting this long to figure it out for herself. “I’m so sorry.”

“Why now?” Then he notices the small box she’s still holding, and his cheeks flush with anger. “What- How dare he? It’s our rehearsal dinner.”

“Luke-”

“But you’re still choosing him, right?” He looks away, jaw tense. “Right. How can I compete with childhood best friends? Or the way he fucking looks at you? I can’t believe it’s taken this long for you to realise.”

“I should have realised sooner,” she agrees, tears finally spilling over and gently running down her cheeks. She’s too frozen to brush them away. “You have every right to be angry.”

“Oh, believe me, I am.” He shakes his head. “I always knew. I guess. I was just hoping I was wrong, or that you didn’t feel the same way.” He raises his fingers to his temples and presses, breath rushing out through his nostrils sharply. "Just leave. Please. I don't think I can even look at you right now."

“I should stay.” Her head shakes from side to side. “I should explain, to your family, your parents-”

“I’ll do it.” He’s stony-faced, and closed off; she’s only seen this side of him a few times, but it still leaves her a little cold and scared. “Just go.”

She silently slips his engagement ring, a silver and sapphire piece that cost more than she has in her bank, off her finger and passes it to him. He just looks at it for a long moment, and then snatches it from her fingers before stalking back into the main room. She leans back against the wall and presses her palms to her eyes, willing back the tears.

“Iris?” She opens her eyes again, and sees Wally standing at the end of the hallway. “Joe said to leave you alone, but you looked upset.”

Iris just extends her hands and Wally, without hesitation, comes to wrap her in a tight hug, kissing the top her head. “I broke up with Luke,” she confesses into his shoulder.

“Yeah, I figured.”

She lets out a humourless laugh. “Did everyone else see this coming? Am I that terrible at relationships?”

“Come on,” he says, just curling his arms tighter around her, not allowing anything to shake the two of them. “That’s not it. It’s not that Luke isn’t great. It’s just… Barry.”

“Yeah,” she says. It’s Barry, and it always has been. She suddenly withdraws from his hold. “I have to go after him.”

Wally grins, showing teeth. “Yeah, I think you do.”

“Can you-”

“Yeah, yeah.” He ushers at her. “Just go!”

“You don’t even know what I was going to say!” she says, but she’s laughing as she says it, feeling freer than she has in a long time, and she runs for the exit.

 

The taxi drops her off outside Barry’s apartment (he’d moved out from Joe’s just a few months ago.) Looking up at it, her bravado briefly fails her. Luckily, one of the inhabitants of the building is just leaving, and Iris manages to slip inside the door. She vaguely remembers the floor level and his apartment number from his housewarming party.

She finds the right door (she thinks) and stands outside it for a moment. What if he’s not home? She thinks about ringing first, but she knows she’d definitely chicken out if she doesn’t do this now.

She’s still holding the ring box: she looks down at it for a second for courage, and then knocks on the door with her other hand. As soon as the doorknob rattles, and the door begins to swing open, she steels herself and says, “I love you.”

But that’s not Barry on the other side of the door. In fact, it’s a rather large, past-his-prime man standing there in just boxers and a stained white vest. “You do?” He replies with a raised eyebrow.

“Ah.” She takes a step back and lifts a finger as if asking him to wait for just a moment. “I, um, I may have got the wrong door. Do you know where-?”

Iris?”

She whirls, and there he is, leaning around his doorway a few feet down the hall, his expression somewhere between confused and just a little bit hopeful. “What are you doing here? Don’t you have a dinner to be at?”

“Barry,” she breathes. His shirt is rumpled, and hair windswept, and his tie is off; she’d bet anything that he had run home from the restaurant. No more courage is needed when she looks at him, because it’s like she told Linda all those months ago: sometimes you just have to put your faith in one person.

She strides to his door and stands firm in front of him. She can feel his neighbour’s eyes still on them, but she puts him and his bad breath out of her mind. “I love you." She licks her lips because they've suddenly gone so dry. "More than just as a friend. And I don’t want to marry Luke, or anyone else. I want to marry you. Because when I imagine the rest of my life, you’re always there.”

It doesn’t seem to be enough - he’s still looking at her like she doesn’t mean it, like she’s suddenly going to reveal it’s all a joke or a misunderstanding. She lets out a small frustrated groan. Barry’s so much better at this.

The thought of Barry’s speech reminds her of the small object in her hand. She snaps it open, with trembling hands and fast, bold movements, and pulls out the ring. She puts it onto her own finger, and holds it straight up to show him. His eyes flicker from the ring resting above her knuckle to her face, his mouth slightly open.

“It’s you, okay?” She says, voice cracking a little. “It’s you. I could get married to you in a church or in a field or in a convenience store by the juice cartons, just as long as I’m marrying you.”

She can see the second when it finally hits him. One hand rises to curl in between her fingers and hold her hand - she thinks he wants to feel the undeniable weight of the ring against his skin - while the other carefully comes up to graze her cheek.

He kisses her and it’s desperate, and perfect, and she doesn’t realise she’s even crying until she feels the moisture on her cheeks. It’s messy, and there’s no finesse, just him clutching her cheek and her lower back as she holds onto him.

They stumble into his apartment, and he pushes her back against the closed door as emotion gives way to heat. She just wants to touch him everywhere, wants to solidify her claim, and she thinks he does as well. He breaks away from her, panting enough to make something uncoil in her belly in satisfaction, and leans his forehead against hers. “For real? Iris, I can’t do this and then-”

The unsaid makes her sorry for all their false starts that have given way to all this doubt. She lifts her hands to curl in his hair and she tugs slightly, making a mental note of the slight shiver that runs through him that she can feel all along where they’re pressed together.

“I’m in this forever,” she says, staring dead into his eyes so he can see the utter lack of hesitation.

He makes a broken sound and surges against her, capturing her kisses again and clutching her waist hard enough to leave bruises.


Forever a bridesmaid, she thinks to herself, finally a bride.