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Relationship Status

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Barry actually really hates that he seems to be the reason for the majority of Iris and Eddie's fights. (Since he'd woken from the coma, at least.) First it was because Iris trusted the Flash and Eddie thought he was a dangerous man, and then it was about Barry being in a polyamorous relationship, which he'd found out about at Christmas.

It had gone something like this: Iris had had one too many cups of eggnog – to be fair, Barry was probably the only one not feeling the buzz, which would never not suck, and a part of him really wished he hadn't promised to be Caitlin and Cisco's designated driver, because he sort of just wanted to go home – and she turned to Barry and said, like she did pretty much every Christmas, "You should have invited your boyfriends."

Barry rolled his eyes, opening his mouth to tell her a flat no – never mind that Joe would never let them in the door on account of his not approving, she knew they were at least small-time criminals, and they had two cops over – when Caitlin called out, "Right! That's what Christmas is for."

Cisco, somehow having the most sense of the lot of them, made a hushing motion towards Caitlin and glanced over at where Joe was scowling into his mug.

"Come on, Bare," Iris continued, pushing like she always did when she'd had a bit too much to drink. "Not even Dad can kick them out on Christmas."

"Wait, Detective West doesn't–?" Caitlin started, before Cisco finally managed to shut her up. (Barry wondered which sweets would make the best thank you gift, and which of Cisco's hiding places were the emptiest. Something to determine later.)

"Damn right I don't approve," Joe muttered into his mug, and Barry saw Cisco and Caitlin both wince.

Iris made a 'see?' motion towards her dad, as if Joe choosing to respond to Caitlin's comment, rather than hers, was proof that they'd be welcome.

(Welcome to an interrogation, maybe. With Joe holding the gun.)

"Lenny's Jewish," Barry reminded her, because they'd had this conversation enough times over the years, and that had become his default defense. Not that Len was a practicing Jew, and nor did he celebrate Hanukkah, beyond lighting a menorah he'd apparently inherited from his mom. Honestly, neither of his boyfriends celebrated any holidays (save April Fools, which Barry will probably kill them over one year), besides using them as an excuse to commit crimes, which they'd do anyway, and maybe spoiling themselves and Barry with some really excellent baking.

(Okay, but seriously. Len makes a mean marble cake, and both Len and Barry agree that Mick's carrot cake is the best way to suffer eating carrots. Barry's baking skills start and end with store-bought brownie mixes and those chilled cookie rolls you just have to slice apart and stick in the oven; it isn't that he burns anything else, he just never has the patience to fuss with presentation. And while he's perfectly capable of handling the prep work, he tends to get distracted and make a mess, especially if Len or Mick are within shouting distance.)

"He can be Jewish during Christmas," Iris insisted, and Barry rolled his eyes. "And don't start in on Micky's hating the holidays, okay? Christmas is for family. Even grumpy family."

Barry sighed and said, "Not this year," like he did every year. By Iris' scowl, she knew that, too, but she let it go, as she usually did.

Barry had thought that would be the end of it, at least until the next year, except Iris came storming into his lab the next afternoon and shouted, "My boyfriend is a jerk!"

Barry blinked a few times and carefully set down the blood sample he'd been working with before turning to face her. She was definitely angry, but in that same way she always got when Joe was being difficult about Barry visiting his dad or his boyfriends.

Barry's boyfriends. Which had been brought up at the Christmas gathering. Which Eddie had attended, though he'd been refilling his and Iris' eggnog when the topic had been brought up. Not that he couldn't have heard the whole thing from the kitchen.

"Oh, no," Barry whispered a bit weakly, because he'd got so used to all of his friends knowing he was in a polyamorous relationship, he'd forgotten that there was someone who didn't know.

Iris' face just sort of crumpled and she sagged against one of the tables, looking heartsore. "He said," she admitted in a voice that hurt to hear, while Barry hurried over to her, "that he doesn't care if you're gay, it's the–" She waved her hand in the air, like she couldn't find the words she wanted. Or she couldn't bring herself to say any more.

"It's that there's more than one," Barry finished for her, catching her waving hand and using it to pull her into a hug.

She clung to his jumper and sobbed, "Why can't he just accept it?!"

Barry hugged her tight and shook his head, because he'd never really understood people's hang-ups with polyamory, either. Well, so long as everyone in the relationship was cool with things. When you had the sort of mess Felicity had told him about, where it was essentially cheating, that wasn't cool. But if everyone knew and was cool with things, no matter who had sex with whom, there should be nothing to complain about. Just a group of consenting adults being a part of a consenting relationship together.

They ended up going out for an early lunch together, after Barry put his work safely away, and he listened to her talk about metahumans – not the Flash, who she was still a little freaked out about after he'd taken his anger issues out on a certain conservative public official who had a history of being a dick to members of the queer community – and she'd kicked him under the table until he filled her in on how things were with Len and Mick, which included catching her up on Len being back in town and off the couch.

Barry walked her back to Jitters, happy to see her smiling again, then returned to the precinct, where he walked right up to Eddie's desk in the bullpen, ignoring the curious looks he got from Joe, Singh, and some of the other detectives, and leant forward to snarl – in his best Len impression, because cold rage was terrifying – at him, "If you have a problem with my relationship, Detective Thawne, you keep it between us. You leave Iris well the fuck out of it, because she doesn't need to deal with whatever prejudiced bullshit you're slinging. Clear?"

And Eddie, eyes wide like he'd never seen Barry angry before – to be fair, he probably hadn't – whispered, "Yeah."

Barry straightened. "She's at Jitters. Go buy something, tip really well, and then apologize." And then he turned and stalked back up to his lab.

The next time he saw Iris, she was all smiles and whispered, "Thank you," when she kissed his cheek.

Eddie spent the next two months or so doing his damnedest to avoid Barry. Barry had honestly expected that wouldn't be changing any time soon, but then he gets called to the scene of a grizzly homicide, where two men and a women had been murdered in the same bed, spread eagle all on top of each other, the word 'SINNERS' written in blood on the wall behind the bed.

"Murder-suicide," one of the cops is saying as Barry snaps on his gloves and grimly starts to get to work. "One of the guys probably gets home, sees his bird with another man fucking her, slits both their throats, then his own. Classic."

Barry clenches his teeth, because he didn't need more than a glance to know that was very much not what had happened; all three were naked, the detritus on the side tables of the bed and the dresser made it pretty clear more than two people lived in this room, and there were a dozen other signs he'd seen as he'd walked through the house towards the bedroom. Signs that, perhaps, someone unfamiliar with polyamorous relationships would miss. (That, or he was giving this cop too much credit; he was just a beat cop, not a detective, not trained to look at the whole picture.)

"You're wrong," his fellow CSI – and one of the handful of people at the precinct he would have called a friend, though not quite on the same level as Felicity or Cisco – Kelley says, and Barry doesn't have to look to know which glare she's got turned on the asshole. "This was a straight-up homicide. Hate crime."

The cop and his buddy both laugh. "And what makes you say that, pretty lady? You think the woman walked in on her boy banging another boy?"

"No," Kelley snaps, and Barry knows her glare has narrowed into something slightly murderous. "I'm saying this wasn't two couples, it was a threesome."

There's a beat of silence, then someone says, "That's just wrong!" while someone else says, "Does that mean they took her from either end, 'cause that's kinda hot," and a third person laughs a bit and says, "Okay, but two girls going down on a guy would be way better."

Barry can't breathe.

"That's enough!" someone roars, and everyone goes dead silent again. "You assholes scram before I report you to Singh," the someone continues, and Barry gasps out a breath of air when he realizes it's Eddie.

There's a flurry of movement behind him, and then Kelley mutters, "I'm gonna report 'em anyway. Disrespecting victims like that."

"Oh, good," Eddie says in a forced cheerful sort of voice. "Two reports'll really get Singh in a mood. Bet he'll put together a sewer duty roster just for them if we make it three." And then there's a hand on Barry's shoulder, and he can't quite stop himself from flinching, but at least he manages to tamp down on his speed so he doesn't flash away from the touch. "What do you think, Bare? Gonna help us report those jerks to the captain?"

Barry twists and looks up at Eddie, thrown by the use of the nickname Eddie hadn't used since before the Christmas party. There's something that might be grief in Eddie's eyes, or maybe shame, and Barry has to swallow once before he can find his voice enough to admit, "I wasn't actually paying attention to who they were."

Kelley's quick to fill him in, still angry on behalf of their victims, and that part's familiar, eases his heart back into a normal rhythm.

"Yeah," he says, pulling away from Eddie and moving to do his job, "I think three reports are a good, solid number. Not sure the commissioner'll let the captain set up any sewer duty, though."

"I dunno, I've heard stories about sewer workers vanishing down there," Kelley says.

Barry scoffs, because those sorts of stories are almost as common as stories of people claiming they're being haunted. (He should know, he used to wade through those sorts of stories as a hobby, looking for the real gems.)

Barry and Kelley continue to debate possible punishments for the officers, between sharing potential clues they've found, and while Eddie doesn't really join in, he doesn't leave, either, instead staying by the door, well out of the way.

Once the coroner's come through and collected the bodies, and Barry and Kelley have finished hunting down every last potential scrap of evidence, they start packing up their things. Before they can leave the room, though, Eddie says, "Bare, I can give you a ride back to the precinct, if you need?"

Barry'd come with Kelley, because she actually had a car – her parents lived out in the suburbs, beyond bus access, and she liked to visit them every other weekend or so, so having a car was sort of necessary for her – and he sort of expected to just go back with her. By the look she throws him, she's been expecting the same. But...

Eddie calling him 'Bare', not escaping at the first chance, actually offering to spend time with him? It sounds a little like he wants to talk and, given the current case, Barry can make a pretty good guess about what.

A part of him wants to say no, because he hasn't been particularly bothered by the current state of affairs, so long as Eddie doesn't mouth off and go upsetting Iris again, because she'd never signed up to deal with monogamist bullshit on Barry's behalf. But, then, he's seen the way Iris and Eddie look at each other, and he's fairly certain Eddie's going to be sticking around for a long while. He doesn't want to be the one to drive yet another wedge between them, just because he refuses to take an olive branch, so...

He sighs and nods. "Yeah, I'd appreciate that. I'll see you back at the lab?" he adds to Kelley.

"Uh-huh. You owe me a latte if you're more than ten minutes behind me, Barry," she replies, then sidles past Eddie and is gone.

Barry sighs again and motions for Eddie to lead the way, which he does with a sort of stiff-legged walk that doesn't bode well for the ride.

Barry's starting to wish he'd just gone with Kelley.

It's hardly the first time he's been in Eddie's car, but it is the first time it's just been him and Eddie, which makes him realize: "No Joe?"

Eddie's expression twists with a sort of angry disappointment, but Barry isn't really surprised when he says, "Joe heard the dispatch and said he wanted nothing to do with this case."

"Yeah," Barry says, his voice flat. "You're not the first person to judge me for how many people I'm sleeping with."

Eddie flinches, his hands going white-knuckled-tight around the steering wheel. "Barry, what I said–" He stops, lets out a shaky breath and very obviously flexes his fingers, loosening their death grip. "I'm sorry. I was...way out of line. I shouldn't have judged you for how many partners you have, and I really shouldn't have let it impact our...our friendship."

Barry waits – maybe a beat or three too long – to see if he has anything more to add. When nothing seems to be forthcoming, he sighs and says, "What do you want me to say, Eddie? It's not the first time someone turned into an asshole on me when they found out; I'm used to it."

"But that's not–"

"Look," Barry interrupts, scowling at him. "You were an asshole to Iris, but you two sorted that out. That's all I care about."

Eddie takes a loud, shaky breath. "Okay, but that doesn't mean we're okay."

"No, it doesn't," Barry agrees, going for his seatbelt, because Eddie's pulling into the precinct carpark.

Eddie looks a little like Barry just punched him, and Barry has to admit he's a little impressed that they don't run into any of the other cars.

Still, he's pulled to a stop in his shock, so Barry takes the chance and shoves his door open. "If you're looking for forgiveness, fine, take it. If you wanna be friends again, though." Barry offers him one of Len's chilly smiles as he grabs his evidence case. "That, you have to earn. Thanks for the ride." Then he slams the door shut and makes his way into the precinct and up to his lab.

Kelley's a little sad he wasn't late enough for her to claim her latte, but they settle down to divvy up their evidence – they both have their specialties, for all they can handle any evidence they find, and it just makes sense to give each of them what they're best at to expedite the results – and she leaves for her lab without too much fuss.

Barry writes up his report on the officers while he's waiting for a test to finish running, then sends it off to Singh. Judging by the shouting that starts about twenty minutes later – and the fact that Kelley comes out to join him at the railing looking down on the lobby with a smug little smile, while Eddie's standing just below them, wearing a vicious smirk – he wasn't the only one to report the three officers, and Singh is going to make their lives hell for it.

Eddie sends him a video someone in the bullpen had made of the whole thing, and when he shares it with Len and Mick that night, they all end up wearing similar vicious grins.

"So," Mick says after Barry's put the video away and they're all getting ready for bed, "ya gonna be makin' friendly with Detective Douche?"

Barry rolls his eyes at the name Len had coined for Eddie after he'd told them about the whole mess. "I don't know. Depends on him, I guess."

"Make it hard for him," Len insists.

"Harder 'en ya made it fer him," Mick adds, shoving his thumb in Len's direction.

Len makes that ridiculous little pouting face that no one would ever believe exists, and Barry has yet to be fast enough to get photographic evidence of.

Barry just turns an unimpressed stare on Mick. "I'm sorry, which of us made it easy for him?"

"Okay!" Len calls, stepping quickly over to the light switch. "Bed!"

Mick starts snickering and Barry joins him after a moment, because they're maybe both still punishing Len, just a little bit. Len turns the light off on them with a huff. As if that'll stop them.

(He does, eventually, rebuild his friendship with Eddie, though only after he finds out he's the Flash. Because when Eddie finds out Iris doesn't know, his first question – after making it clear that he's pissed about that, but Joe insisted, and Barry tries not to put too much strain on their relationship, so he hasn't told her – is if Barry's boyfriends know. And his honest relief when Barry says he'd told them first thing – and, oh boy, Joe is not happy about that, because Barry had never actually told him he'd filled them in – makes Barry think that, just maybe, they can heal their friendship after all.)