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Thereafter I

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They did figure things out. Barry and Iris. The road started that night at the dance, when he awkwardly held her in his arm, and she giggled through the whole thing. But it was a bit messy after that, with friends leaving, Kara moving to a different school, and sending her texts about her weird new friends, especially this guy called Winn, who was apparently like Barry. Iris also got daily messages about Cat, her mean English teacher. It was painful without at first, life without Kara, but she still had Barry.

Then the seniors graduated, and she no longer had juicy stories about Oliver and Felicity. And Cisco got a bit sad when Diggle left, thought that sadness was quickly shed when Leo’s cousin, Gypsy, joined them in 11th grade.

Despite the gazes and almost-confessions, especially during their prom night, Barry and Iris graduated without resolving their feelings.

It took a three months separation when they went to separate universities for Iris to realize that life was significantly less interesting without Barry.

**

So the next time they met up, sitting at Jitters, Iris decided that she couldn’t hide any longer.

She didn’t give herself time to think about it. She swallowed her hot cocoa and sprung off her chair, the chair nearly tipping backwards at the force. Her heart hammered, and she felt like was sweating from every single pore in her body. Barry blinked up at her surprised and his widened green eyes bore into her. She bit her lips not sure how to tell her best friend that she had probably loved him from the moment he had offered his hand during recess when she had fallen down from the monkey bars. She shook her head in disbelief, her actions and behavior towards Barry over the years making more sense.

“Bear. Could you stand up for a minute? I want to tell you something,” Iris asked shakily, practically chewing off her lower lip.

Barry confused, stood up slowly. She looked up at him, almost irritated. How had he imagined to get so much taller than her? How had he managed to turn into the person in front of her, lean, handsome, with the most infectious smile? She had just blinked. She had just blinked, and then realized that she was in love. It was pretty ridiculous.
She swayed a little in front of him, not sure how to proceed. Then without thinking about it, she stepped forward and embraced him, her head resting on his chest, feeling his frantic heart-beat.
“While I was at University, trying to cram a theory of mass communication, it hit me that-” she paused and closed her eyes, feeling soothed when Barry brought up his arms around her. “I realized that I have probably been in love with you for years.” She felt Barry tense beneath her, but she persevered, “I know this might make things weird between us but I felt like I should tell you, just in case you feel the same way.”

The world slowed down around her, and the noises in the café turned into soft murmurs. She kept her eyes closed and concentrated on Barry’s heartbeat. She didn’t dare let go off of him, or look up at him because she was suddenly terrified of losing him. She wanted to hold him for as long as possible, before he replied.

Finally, she felt Barry lean down and place a soft kiss in her hair. It wasn’t the first time he had done something like that, but this time it felt more intimate, especially after her confession.
When Barry spoke, it was slower than his usual fast speech, and there was an air of wonder about it, like he was describing a sunset, “I was going to do it on Christmas.”

Iris finally felt brave enough to tilt her head upwards. Her heart did a summersault when she realized that he was grinning, nearly tearing up. His hands tightened on her waist.

She leaned away from him, hands on his chest, and broke into a blinding smile, “do what?” She knew what he wanted to say, but she realized she desperately wanted to hear it. Her heart was begging for the words.

Barry shrugged, chuckling in embarrassment, “I was going to tell you that I love you. I was going to hug you tightly and tell you that I have loved you before I knew what love was.”

Iris sniffed, emotions overwhelming her, she rubbed her face on his chest in giddiness trying to regain some semblance of control before looking back up at Barry.

“Really?”

Barry cradled her face, his thumbs caressing her cheeks. Iris swooned, her legs turning into jelly. If she didn’t know it, she definitely knew it now, she had always been running to Barry.

He bent down and placed a soft kiss on her lips. It wasn’t anything passionate, or long. It was innocent and fleeting, but it managed to take her breath away.

When he pulled away, he kept his face close to hers so she could see the sincerity in his eyes.

“Oh Iris. Always and forever.”