He finds Frost on the roof. Watching the sunset doesn't seem her style but here she is, legs dangling casually over the edge, nonplussed at the drop to the pavement underneath S.T.A.R. Labs. He supposes having only minutes left to live might change what she considers important. Does she even realise she's their hero too now? That that city horizon she is staring out over is full of people who are starting to respect her, cheer for her, not just for Vibe or The Flash. And soon they may owe Frost her life, Caitlin's as well, sacrified the same any other hero would for the greater good.
Everyone else infected by the meta had died within a hour or so. They'd all died gruesomely, unstoppable widespread hemorrhaging. He knows Frost's healing factor is even more powerful than his own but they can't be sure she'll overcome this. If she has any chance at surviving it she has to stay as Frost, he can't even speak to Caitlin before...
They are down their best bio expert but Cisco, Harry and Jesse are huddled together in one of the labs trying their damndest to figure out how to neutralise the poison in the limited time they have. He'd come up here intending to escort Frost back to them, ready so they could administer any last minute cures, but he doesn't have the heart to insist she go back down when she clearly wants to be alone.
He can get her down to them in a flash should they need to, but that means he at least is staying in her presence, waiting with her, waiting for any sign of distress. He isn't sure how she will take that – angrily, exasperated, literally icy? She helps them out thesedays but he's no closer to understanding her as a person. He's surprised when she merely cocks her head at him and strangely pats the ledge next to her, indicating he should join her.
He sits next to Frost, feeling her chill emanating and it's almost as comforting as the warmth he'd expect from Cait because it means she's still alive. He wants to hug her and resists that urge as he doubts Frost would appreciate such sentimentality. It would only make him feel better at this point and maybe not even that when he'd be wishing she was Cait instead.
Frost seems to be taking the news of her potential impending death spectacularly well, nothing really fazes her. He doesn't know how Caitlin is feeling, other than scared. She'd switched in a splitsecond to Frost once they'd realised she'd been infected. He doesn't know if that was simply because she was scared, bringing Frost out naturally, or if it was because she needed Frost, a practical choice. The expression on her face right before it had paled to that of Frost had been indescribable and he can't ask her anything anymore. Not until it's over. Possibly not at all.
He swallows hard at that thought and blinks back the tears threatening to spill onto his cheeks. He looks up to find Frost watching him studiously, like she's trying to figure him out.
“Oh Barry,“ she says dragging his name out with amusement, “Caity isn't afraid to die. If anything, she's tediously afraid to live.“
He scrunches his brow up in confusion at the cryptic nature of her words. Frost is still looking at him, though the look has the tinge of the predatory to it and he wonders if he should for once fear her. Fear what she might do when she is desperate, backed into a corner again, but she doesn't seem desperate to him. She seems at ease, same as usual. She laughs throatily, apparently at some thought that occurs to her she doesn't care to share, before turning back to him and leaning forward into his personal space as she speaks low.
“If we make it through, maybe I can at least give her this.“
He's about to ask what 'this' is when he senses her shift, her intention becoming ever clearer as he watches in slow motion her moving in towards him. He knows what her target is, he watches her eyes looking hungrily at his lips. He could stop her. Perhaps he should stop her but he realises he doesn't want to.
She isn't Cait but he understands what she means to do, gifting a kiss by proxy. She's doing what Cait wouldn't dream of and she wants Cait to remember it; so does he. He wants Cait to live and then to relive this moment in her own mind. To talk to him about it, shout at him about it, anything really – just for her to have a chance to do it again, if she wants.
She wakes up to the whole team standing around her in the medbay with matching grins. She wakes up. She's alive. She hadn't honestly expected to. She'd hoped, and she'd trusted her body to Frost, to her abilities, and to her friends, the backup plan for their science to save the day.
“Snow,“ Harry says gruffly yet somehow also affectionately, “She did it. You healed.“
There's barely masked joy in his voice, covering up a retreating unease. Her eyes flick about the medbay, noticing the things they are not telling her. Her usually ordered instruments are scattered, many of them missing, it's honestly a mess and she can tell from the shining floor they've cleaned recently, whoever did it missed a few smears of blood around the cabinets. She has a set of clean clothes on, as do several of them. So, she had bled like predicted, probably a lot she thinks grimly given the spread it must've reached to need mopping up, but she'd come through it somehow. Partly, she's sure, due to her bloodbank protocols – donating essentially to their future selves, stocking up regularly, just in case.
Her attention is brought back up to her friends as Cisco reaches out to take her hand in his, grasping it tightly.
There is a flutter of a memory in her consciousness, clawing up out of the usual darkness that goes with almost all her time as Frost. Swathes of color across a skyline come to mind. Being ontop of S.T.A.R. Labs; a cool wind breezing past her but a warm body on each side. Cisco and Barry keeping her company until the unpleasantness started. That warmth, of friendship, caring, was something she could tell Frost felt conflicted by in the moment, squashed down because she needed to remain her aloof self to survive. That warmth was something Frost couldn't have much of, something only she as Caitlin got to have – it was what was meant to bring her back, the same way the touch of cold rage or the chill of fear brought Frost to the fore.
Cisco beside her looks a little teary eyed through the smile he has but it's there, undoubtedly genuine. She smiles up at him in return, feeling such relief to see him happy once more. She glances around at the rest of the gang. They're all watching her as if she's a miracle and she figures it must've been touch and go for her.
She finally settles her gaze on Barry who is standing at the head of the bed, a heartwarmingly fond expression on his face as he looks to her, and then there's another memory that surfaces from deeper, from earlier; sensations stirring up inside her.
Still on the roof with its feel of cool air surrounding her, the recollection causing goosebumps on her skin. There's a warmth to this feeling too, one that had threatened Frost again. A risk Frost dared take despite that. Warm lips pressed to hers, so warm in comparison to her. Gentle at first. Little more than a brief peck before drawing back quickly, though not withdrawing far at all. The tension of his lips parted, hovering over hers, hesistant for a moment. Waiting for his warmth to return but still so close. Close enough for the intimacy of him breathing his breath into her mouth before he'd closed the distance again. Coming back with more fervour, tenderness lost to passion. So much heat to take. Frost had liked that but it hadn't lasted. She'd put stop to it, not Barry. The memory starts to fade out there, becoming vague. She knows they talked after that and Cisco breached up there to join them; the only spike of more detail the snatch of memory she'd already cottoned onto at the sight of Cisco.
She shakes herself out of the daydream to find everyone looking at her, a touch concerned again.
“I'm fine. Tired, but fine. Nothing a little rest won't fix.“
Harry looks like he wants to say something more, but Jesse throws him a look of her own and he simply nods, acquiesing to Caitlin's hinted desire to be left alone.
“On that note, we'll leave you to your beauty sleep,“ Joe says with his usual forthrightness, none too subtly shepherding people out of the room. Everyone is leaving, including Barry.
“Barry, wait. Can you come back here?“
He slows, glances over his shoulder at her and she catches a slight sheepishness pass over his face. As he moves to come to the side of the bed he looks ever more nervous. His attention flittering about for a second like he can't decide whether he should sit in the chair, on the side of the bed or continue to stand awkwardly. Indecision wins out and she sees him wring his hands in the absence of doing anything else. She isn't sure how to start this conversation but Barry fills in the silence, predictably assuming she wants his help and quick to offer it.
“Is there something you need? Are you hungry? I could go get you some -“
She's confident the next words out of his mouth would be 'Big Belly Burger', at the thought of which her stomach does indeed growl a little, but she stops him there.
“No. Not right now. I need to talk to you about something. About what happened...up there,“ she prompts, raising her eyebrows briefly and pointing her finger straight up.
Barry doesn't seem to want to look at her now that topic is being broached, ducking his head down and rubbing his neck, looking like it's a strain to get any words out in reply. Eventually he does manage to get a whole heap out in a rush, the start of a new ramble.
“Oh. Sure. Whatever you want... I mean, we can forget about it if you want -“
A ramble that she is certain she needs to stop in its tracks, to get them to the point they need to find instead of circling around it like it feels they may have been doing for a long time.
“ - do you want to?“ she asks directly.
A billion other questions spring to mind but that's the one she lets leave her mouth because it seems the most important. She wonders if the kiss was an adrenaline fueled mistake to him, or a concession to a what if they might never have had if she'd died. Whether it was for her or for Frost - she can only tell Frost wanted her to know about it, not the full context. She really wants to know if it was because she was dying, or so they thought, or if it had meant more to him; if it had touched on something she'd always tried to deny and assumed he didn't feel in return.
Barry still can't seem to look at her, standing with his hands in his pockets, stuck in his own contemplation. It's up to her she realises because the ball is in her court this time. Frost had made a move and Barry had responded; now it's Caitlin's turn.
“I want you to say you did it because you wanted to. Because you chose to, not because Frost offered or asked you to. But I also want you to say you wanted it to be me, not her. That it wasn't just some goodbye I might never have gotten. I want it to be the start of something, not the end.“
Barry's eyes are back on her in an instant and she can read the disbelief in them. She shouldn't be so surprised really, she's been trying plenty hard to keep her feelings under wraps and it looks like she'd done an excellent job if his reaction is anything to go by.
“You mean that?“ he asks breathily, his face suddenly lighting up. The way the question comes out implies urgency, like he has to know right away.
“Of course,“ she replies, ever so slightly bemused he would doubt her, that Barry Allen of all people would need confirmation she absolutely wants to be with him. It makes more sense to her when she recalls he always has undervalued himself as a person, thinking only of his worth as a hero, as someone who saves others. Barry all too often forgets what he needs, for which she is usually the one reminding him to slow down, to take time to heal, to not rush off and put off his needs for the sake of others. But Caitlin realises she's gotten to be the same, which is probably one of the reasons neither of them has said anything before. They'd each thought the other needed a friend most of all and had strived to fulful that, forsaking other possibilities.
“What I want, right now, Barry Allen, is for you to come closer,“ she says, voice firm as she shifts her form to one side of the bed to make room for him, patting the space to indicate she wants him to occupy it.
“I thought you needed to sleep,“ he teases as he sits, his weight sinking into the mattress next to her.
“It might be more theraputic for you to join me.“
Seeing his raised eyebrows at the comment she rolls her eyes.
“Not like that. Just...“ she twists her mouth, agonising more than a little over what it is she is trying to say exactly when she's not yet certain of where this will go precisely nor how fast things ought to be taken, “...stay with me?“
“That I can do, Cait,“ Barry says softly as he swings his legs up onto bed and turns on his side to face her.
She shifts down the bed from her seated position, angling towards him and finds the courage to snake her hands around his torso in a loose hug.
Barry brings one hand up to her cheek, staring intently at her before he leans in. It's not a chaste kiss but he takes it slow, teasing out several undignified sounds from her in the process that only seem to spur him on more until he has to break away, out of breath. She feels like he was savouring it as their true first kiss, one where they are both present.
Panting a bit, resting his foreheard on hers, he beams at her and she can only grin back, his elation infectious, amplifying her own happiness. It's the only kiss like that they share there in the medbay bed, not wanting to rush things, but Barry isn't shy about snuggling closer, wrapping his arms around her tightly like he never wants to let go.
She wants to savor every second of it, tries to resist as long as possible the pull of her eyelids drooping. In the end, knowing she needs to rest, she gives in to the comfort and contentment of being in his arms, letting it lull her into sleep, because she also knows she will get to savor this tomorrow. This is the beginning she hadn't dared hope for; their time has come and neither of them is going to waste it now it's here.