The deal with being in love with your best friend is that it’s so much easier in the movies.
The plan, he’d decided early on, is someday.
It’s not marked on his calendar, an alarm set for a specific date, a specific time, when she’ll turn around and he’ll be standing there, because he’s always standing there, and well—
It’s only ever been you.
Which is so lame, he doesn’t even admit to himself he ever thought that.
She stares at the ring on her finger. He stares at her bent head.
“Wow.” She says. Just wow. And if was reading her- and he can read her- he’s fluent in her, it’s not like wow, this is so amazing, I’m going to marry the man of my dreams, but more like wow, can you believe this is happening, it’s ridiculous.
Or maybe it’s the first one, and he needs to stop being a fucking idiot. This would definitely be a good time to start. That ring was the countdown to ground zero. He just missed it, because he's always late.
“Wow,” he echoes, tonelessly.
She turns around to give him a half smile, tilting her head in a way that’s so achingly familiar, it makes something inside him tighten into hard knots, and sometimes, just sometimes, he can’t breathe.
“You’re just a pocketful of sunshine today, aren’t you. What’s with the monosyllables? I always thought you’d be way more excited about wedding shenanigans than I’d ever muster up the enthusiasm to be.”
He would have been.
“It’s weighing your hand down,” he says, instead.
In all honesty, that’s not what he intended to say when he opened his mouth. Probably something more Hallmark like I’m so happy for you, Iris. You deserve all the happiness in the world.
Or maybe; Joe was wrong about that, you know; I’ve been in love with you since before I knew what love was. I don't even remember not being in love with you. God, isn't that certifiable.
“Yeah,” she says, quietly, turning her hand, head bent over it again, hair curtaining her face, away from his eyes, “yeah. It kind of is.”
He feels sick inside.
So someday is apparently three weeks from never.
He was far too late, again.
At least it’s good to have a count.
He’ll be the first to admit that he really screwed up with the rooftop stuff.
Or, well, he’s pretty sure Caitlin would be the first on his behalf, but he wouldn’t be far behind. Because he did. He fucked that up spectacularly. Drunk on the power of being able to talk to her without filtering half the words running through his head. Without having to sort through the incoherent mess of longing and want and need to find enough letters to string together into something appropriate.
Being able to stand close enough in her gravity to slow down.
It’s always harder to walk away from her, he’s noticed, like her gravitational pull is thirteen times what he’s used to, and even being The Flash and the fastest man alive or whatever is irrelevant when his feet won’t so much as lift off the ground.
So, yeah, he messed that up. And he lied to her, when he tells her- almost- everything, and this whole damn thing’s beginning to look a lot like karma.
(He doesn’t believe in karma, but he’s starting to believe in a lot these days.)
She’s still angry, he knows, but the curiosity is overwhelming. He knows that too. He hadn't suggested Journalism to her on a random whim. Iris was born to be the eye of the storm.
“So, let me get this straight. This is an interview?” She asks, cautiously, and something in him twists every time he realizes that he was the one to put that distance there.
He nods. The suit is uncomfortable. Right now, he just wants to take it off.
“Okay,” she turns back to the table, picking up plates. She’s assessing the situation, he can tell, by the way her hands linger on the edges, slowly. He’s watched her hands through a lifetime of shared space, long enough to create a language from her movements.
You’re not forgiven, she’ll say. That’s what she’d have said to him.
But she’s not talking to Barry; she’s talking to The Flash. Sometimes he forgets. All the times up on the rooftop, in the dark, close enough to touch, to reach out and touch her, he forgot.
“How did this happen—” she asks, turning around, finally, “were you born with the powers or—”
“When Wells’ particle accelerator malfunctioned due to the storm,” he begins, slowly, “I was in a laboratory. It was a freak accident, an unexpected chemical reaction. It put me in a coma for a long time.”
Her eyes widen, “you too? My best friend was in a coma for nine months after that storm.”
Something inside him twists.
“His heart kept stopping,” she continues, almost to herself. Keeps the cups down. It’s then he notices her hands are shaking too much to hold on.
And it strikes him; she's been pretending to be fine. For him. She's never allowed him to see her like this, never talks about it at all.
“Yeah,” he says, mouth dry, “it sucked.”
She shakes her head, as if staving off the remembrance, and he wants to erase every single moment of those nine months from her memory. To not have her bear the burden for something he can't even remember. He doesn’t ever want to be the reason for that look in her eyes.
“I hope,” she says, forced cheerily, “you had someone to look after you.”
“I did,” he manages, because well, when you ain't got nothing- “I heard you visited every day.”
Her face crinkles up in confusion, “I don’t und—”
She doesn’t talk to him for a month. He knows the exact count right down to the seconds, but he's pretending for this one moment that he isn't just plain sad, and he's willing to work with the whole numbers, because it sucks as much either way.
He sees her in the office some days. She looks tired. When she raises her hand to brush back a strand of hair, her ring catches the light.
Theoretically, he knows, if he could run faster than the speed of light, he could travel through time.
There’s never been anything in his quantum mechanics books about time slowing down, though. It's not like he doesn't understand relativity. But this isn't relativity. It's the objective truth.
“I’m fine,” he mutters.
Cisco and Caitlin still look at him like yeah, okay, then.
“Where fine is synonymous with ‘my heart has been shish kebabed on a rusty needle and I’m bleeding out of a gaping chest hole and asking you to save me?'” Cisco offers, helpfully, which makes Caitlin punch his shoulder. Hard enough to draw an ow and a wounded look from the other guy.
“Yeah,” he says, dryly, “thanks for that image. Very helpful.”
“I told you—” Caitlin begins, and stops before the so.
Cisco mock-slaps him on the shoulder, “you’re The Flash man, you’re hot stuff these days. So quit the moping, suit up, and save the world. You could have all the other girls you want. Just get out there, and start fishing.”
The problem is- well, he's the problem clearly- that it doesn't matter who asks, or the change in phrase, because there's never a different answer.
What other girls.
It’s cheating, he comes to conclude. But after a point he stopped caring. Somewhere between the distance to his house and her room, and all of the ten seconds that it took to cover it. Ten seconds he's been counting off in his head since he first woke up nine months later.
She looks unsurprised to see him there. She’s wearing her old nightdress, one he remembers vividly. Cotton and a print he could never figure out, which made her laugh, like it was a secret. It’s short for her now, barely skimming her knees.
He swallows, hard.
He’d almost forgotten, how it used to feel. To come home to her.
Apparently, even at this stage, even at this moment, he’s more aroused than he is sorry. And he’s really sorry. He really is. It probably makes him a terrible person. Not that that’s news around here anymore.
“Clever trick,” she says, coolly, “you jump from tree to tree too?”
“You’re thinking Tarzan,” he says, automatically, and her mouth curves, “I’m more like…Superman.”
She doesn’t say anything for a moment, turns around to her dresser, looking for something, “guess that makes me the poor man’s Lois Lane. Except with a lying best friend, instead of a muscled lover. Oh, and zero investigative journalism skills apparently. There goes the Pulitzer.”
She’s sarcastic when she’s hurt, he knows. He knows so much about her; sometimes it just pushes out everything else he’s supposed to know.
“I miss you,” he says, because that’s safe. That’s appropriate. Doesn’t extend to sheer the physicality of missing her, like a constant drowning. Like cutting himself on her angles. They're so sharp. He can see her shoulder-blades shift beneath the cotton.
"I miss you," he says. Present tense, not past. He's always missing her.
And the problem, with this- with them- is that there’s something there, that refuses to let go. God knows he’s tried. It’s why he always ended up on the rooftop in middle of fighting for his life or whatever. Because when she's around, he has space to breathe.
She might not feel a fraction of what he feels for her, but a fraction of what he feels for her was enough to get her through nine long months of a sine-wave of impossibility. That can't be science.
So he’s unsurprised this time, when she sighs, like she wishes she didn’t. She's so beautiful, it's ridiculous. “I miss you too.”
As long as she didn’t know, he was two different people. Split in half.
Now there’s only him.
When he runs this time, it feels like the first time. Like testing waters. Like doing the impossible. Like believing the impossible can be done.
When the ring disappears off it, he spends a day just staring at her hand from afar.
Joe catches him, a half-knowing, half-resigned expression on his face, “she gave it back. She thinks it happened too fast.”
“It did happen too fast,” he says, because he doesn’t know what else to say. Nothing that wouldn’t make him sound thirteen.
“Was that a joke about speed,” Joe shrugs, “because I didn’t get it. Something about so fast that even you missed it?”
“Yeah,” he says, eyes still on her hand, “something about that.”
“They’re not completely over, you know,” Joe says. It sounds like a fatherly warning. To quiet the ridiculous hope in his chest. To not string together random signs to build a thing with feathers. Like don’t you go breaking your heart, son.
But it’s not like he can sell it off on ebay, it’s too worn by now, so he thinks he’s going to have to keep this one, even though it’s been dysfunctional since he met her, and he should have returned it right when it started. Like, no thank you, I choose not to adore the fucking ground that woman walks on, you can have this back.
One of the days in between, when he gets back, there's an alert from her blog.
The first line is about his arms and how surprising it is that someone with arms like that could possibly take down any bad guys. Or, at least, the post reads, I think he'd have puny arms. Seems like the kind of guy to. What kind of a superpower is running fast anyway. Unless he can also fly, and is packing a laser gaze, maybe we should hold out for Superman before getting too excited about the whole thing. If we're taking that leap of faith anyway...
She still wears her mother’s ring around her neck on the chain he gave her.
It catches the glint off the sun when she turns to laugh at something someone says. He still stops by Jitters, just to look at her. Some days he’s almost blinded by it
And sometimes, when she looks up and catches his gaze, because he- well, he’s always looking- she smiles.
Accidentally. Out of sheer habit, he knows. She doesn’t mean to.
But smiles, still.
That’s enough for now. There’s time enough. Even he can’t run faster than it.
And it’s not like he isn’t infamous for always being late.
(But here’s the thing nobody ever gives him credit for; he does get everywhere eventually, though.)
She turns around, the plate almost slipping out of her hands in semi-surprise.
He catches it easily. She rolls her eyes.
“That isn’t weird at all. I should have known though; the next logical step from your level of nerdiness would have to be Peter Parker.”
It’s tentative, their truce. For now.
“You gave back the ring,” his voice is steady.
She turns away, “for now.”
The arch of her back is defensive. He can read her like a lost language. She keeps forgetting that.
Now, he’s beginning to realize, is good enough.
“Okay,” he says. It’s a confession, the okay. A lifetime of confessions. Sometimes, the silence weighs him down, like her ring did her. He was right that time.
When she turns around, she can’t meet his gaze, and that’s a first.
“Taking a break from all the world-saving?” is all she says, when he offers to help clean the dishes.
He stays back. Stands closer than necessary.
She doesn’t move away.
His depth perception is totaled when it comes to her, he knows, it's an open secret around town; but if he was trying the impossible on for size, he'd start here.
The deal with being in love with your best friend is that it’s so much easier in the movies.
But come on, on the Iris scale, those movies are, like, a minus two, tops.
(He doesn’t believe in destiny, but he’s starting to believe in a lot these days.)