“You look tired,” Iris said as they waited outside the school gates together.
“I’m fine,” Barry said. “Just busy.”
“You’re always busy.”
Wally and Jesse rushing towards them interrupted Iris before she went on another rant about Eobard at least.
The thing was, Eobard had given Barry a home. And Jesse. When Barry’s father had died, he’d helped Barry and his mother. He’d welcomed Jesse into his home with open arms after she’d lost her parents, knowing Barry’s mother was Jesse’s godmother. And he’d married Barry’s mother to make sure Barry and Jesse could stay after she’d passed too. Eobard had made sure he was fed, clothed, and had a roof over his head, and he’d gone to school and everything. Barry was grateful for that. It was only fair he do his share of chores in return. And there were a lot of chores. There were chickens and goats to feed, and clothes to clean and sometimes mend, and plants to care for, food to prepare, Jesse to take to and from school, there was a lot, but it was just chores and it wasn’t like Eddie, Eobard’s nephew, didn’t also have chores. He just didn’t have as much time right now because he was studying to attend university in September.
Except every time he saw her, Iris made sure Barry knew exactly what she thought of his list of chores. And she had very strong opinions on how many of them he should be doing. But Iris was a Lady. She was wonderful and Barry loved her, and he was glad she’d stayed his friend despite the opinions of everyone else, but she’d never quite understand. Maybe there were a lot of chores, but someone had to do them, and Barry owed Eobard for helping him.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Barry,” Iris said. Barry nodded.
Jesse grabbed Barry’s hand and they went to walk home.
“Did you have fun at school?” he asked.
“We learnt a lot,” Jesse said. “Do we have to go straight home?”
“You want to go visit?”
“Uncle Eobard won’t mind.”
“All right. Let’s go visit.”
Eobard raised an eyebrow when they got home slightly later than normal, but he didn’t say anything. He knew what the date was; he knew what Jesse always asked.
And Eddie came with Barry to drop Jesse off at school the next day.
“I could do it for you,” he offered. “You could have a lie-in.”
“I like dropping Jesse off. I get to spend time with Jesse, it’s a nice walk, and I get to see Iris too. Besides, I’d be up anyway to feed the animals and collect eggs.”
“You do know you can ask for help, right?”
“We need to get going,” Barry said. “Can you grab the basket?”
Barry and Eddie waved Jesse off and Barry managed to find Iris.
“Hey.” She hugged him. “Hi, Eddie.”
“Good morning, Dame Iris.” Eddie tipped his hat and Iris rolled her eyes at him.
“Are you both heading to town?” Iris asked. “I’m due at the tailors to meet a friend shortly.”
“We have a few things to pick up,” Barry said.
“We can walk together then.” Iris looped her arm through Barry’s. “Have you decided about next year yet? It’s not long until you’re eighteen.”
“I’m sure Uncle Eobard would know who to talk to if you want to attend university,” Eddie said.
“I don’t know,” Barry said. “It’s expensive, and far away.”
“Central City is only a few hours by horse, Barry,” Iris said. “But what about Doctor Ambress? She mentioned possibly taking on a new apprentice soon.”
“I don’t know,” Barry said. “I’ll think about it.”
It was a nice day. And it didn’t take them long to reach Mister Gambi’s tailors. The young man who stepped out was dressed in plain blue, but the material was much richer and certainly newer than Barry’s old brown jacket.
Barry recognised him though, and it was only a few seconds before Cisco was hugging both Iris and Barry.
Barry didn’t remember meeting Cisco exactly. Barry’s father had been the town doctor before Doctor Ambress, and he’d gone with his father to the West House when Iris’ mother had been expecting Wally. And during that time Barry’s parents had become friends with the Wests, and Barry had become best friends with Iris. And at some point, Cisco had been staying and Iris had introduced them.
The thing about Cisco was, he was a noble of some kind, like Iris. Barry couldn’t actually remember what he’d been told the first time they’d met, and he was too embarrassed to ask now, but he was definitely important. And Barry was very much not. It was nice to see him those few times a year he’d come and stay with the Wests, but that was all Barry could do.
“Did you grow again?” Cisco asked.
“I’m making up for those years I was the shortest,” Barry said.
“When do you have to get back?” Iris asked.
“We have a few things to pick up from town,” Eddie said. “I’m sure Uncle Eobard won’t be expecting us until lunch though.”
Cisco always got a few stares. Not so much from the locals, not anymore. Once, people had asked why Baron West of Danville had never seemed concerned by his eldest child and heir tearing around the woods barefoot with a commoner- and a boy at that- but it had been a long time since Iris and Barry had ended up with grazed knees from falling out of trees and people had learnt that Joe never much concerned himself with class, he was just friendly to everyone. And everyone knew Cisco would visit a couple of times a year. It was just something people who lived here got used to, and it was very rare anyone moved in or out. Mostly if there was a stranger they were just passing through on their way to Central City.
But Cisco would always make time if someone did stop him to talk. He offered to help Mrs Xavier from the orphanage when they saw her struggling with several baskets. Barry didn’t know about other nobles, but he hoped they were all nice like Cisco, Iris, and Joe. And Cisco was funny, and it was easy to just get caught up in finally being able to spend some time with his friends. They didn’t even notice the time until the sun was high in the sky.
“We should probably get back,” Barry said. “The groceries won’t keep all day.”
“I’ll be around for another week,” Cisco said. “Maybe you can get away for longer tomorrow?”
“I can cover for you,” Eddie said.
Barry smiled and nodded.
Cisco was there again when Barry picked Jesse up. And when he dropped her off the next day, and Eddie kept his promise so Barry could spend the whole day with him and Iris. And he was there the third day when Barry picked Jesse up too, when Eddie hadn’t been able to cover for Barry. And on the fourth day.
And Jesse was buzzing about a ball.
One of the most important celebrations of the year was the Spring Equinox, when the days started to lengthen again. Everyone would have celebrations, there would be dancing and parties in the street, everyone would be in costume, and every year the Royal Family would hold a ball where they would invite everyone from different towns and villages across the kingdom. Barry had been once, back when he was around seven, with his parents, but he couldn’t remember Danville being chosen since then.
Until this year.
Jesse was ecstatic- the balls had a reputation of being the highlight of the year, of being something incredible and unforgettable, and she’d never been to the City.
“You’ll be there, won’t you?” Cisco asked. “I have to go home tonight, but I’ll see you there.”
“You only just got here,” Wally said.
“I know, but you know how busy everything is in the run up to the Equinox, and they need me this year,” Cisco said.
“And you’ll see Cisco at the ball,” Iris said. “We all will, won’t we, Barry?”
“Wouldn’t miss it,” Barry said.
Eobard called Barry to his office after dinner.
“You’ve been late home every day this week.”
“I’m sorry,” Barry said. “It was Tess’ birthday Monday and Jesse wanted to visit.”
“And the other days? Edward told me you were with Dame Iris and another friend on Wednesday.”
“Yes, sir,” Barry said. “He was only visiting for a few days, so it won’t happen again.”
“I see. I’m sure you’ve heard about the Equinox Ball.”
“You won’t be attending.”
“You’ve been repetitively late and been neglecting your chores. I’d rather not confine you to the house, but you do need some form of punishment.”
“Perhaps you will consider that before you wander off without informing me next time, Bartholomew.”
“Yes, sir.” Barry looked down at his feet, and Eobard stood up to hug him.
“I am sorry, Barry. But there will be so many people, and it’ll be loud, and I doubt you’ll meet anyone quite like the Wests. And it may bring up memories for you.”
“Maybe,” Barry said. “Expensive to buy new clothes for too.”
“Yes. I do worry about you when you wander off, Barry. One day, maybe soon, maybe not, you won’t be able to be friends with Dame Iris any longer. Perceptions will change, especially now you’re both almost adults. Keeping your head down should spare you some of the pain that will bring.”
“Good boy. That will be all.”
He sat back down and focused on the papers at his desk. Barry lingered.
“That was a dismissal,” Eobard said.
“I know,” Barry said. He fumbled with the edge of his shirt. “Um. I was hoping I could talk to you about next month. Not- Not the ball, I understand that, but I’ll be eighteen soon.”
“I won’t be turning you out onto the street if that’s concerning you. You know I cared deeply about your mother, and she’d never forgive me if I abandoned you now. I doubt Eddie or Jesse would either.”
“I know, and I’m very grateful. It’s just, Iris mentioned Doctor Ambress was considering taking on an apprentice. I was wondering if I could have your acceptance to speak with her?”
“A doctor. Like your father.”
“I want to help people, and I like to learn and to understand, and it seems the best way to do those things. Maybe I could learn more about preventing sickness, so what happened here doesn’t have to happen anywhere else?”
“I see. It sounds admirable, but your help here is invaluable. You know I’m often too busy, and with Eddie leaving soon, there will be even less help.” Eobard sighed. “Let me consider it.”
“Thank you, Eobard,” Barry said. “Good night.”
“Good night, Barry.”
The weekend was always busy. Especially with the equinox approaching. The vegetable plot would need turning and manure spreading before new seeds for the year could be sown, and their handful of goats were getting closer to kidding, so they needed watching. And once that was down it would be back to early morning milking and butter churning and cheese making with any spare milk, and that would need taking to markets for loose change, and the chickens would lay more when the days were longer, and everything would be so busy.
And Eddie was leaving, so he wouldn’t be there to help, and Eobard had his research work still, and Jesse was too young, so maybe Eobard was right, maybe Barry should stay. Shovelling manure and soil wasn’t the easiest job, and Eobard wasn’t exactly a young man anymore, not like Barry. And Barry couldn’t imagine Eobard kneeling in with the goats helping a stuck kid. Barry couldn’t just leave with no one to take over his chores. But he couldn’t wait for Jesse either. Jesse was clever, and her parents had left her a little money, she deserved the chance to go to university too. Maybe by then Eddie would be back and he could take over? But that wouldn’t be fair on Eddie. Anyway, an apprenticeship with Doctor Ambress would mean lots of travelling, and he wouldn’t be able to see Iris or Jesse nearly as much.
But he didn’t want to stay forever. He didn’t want to spend his whole life looking after chickens and goats and growing vegetables and making cheese. He wanted to study, to learn everything he could, to help people like his father had.
He wanted his parents back. But he was standing in a field, covered in mud, his jacket patched and old because he couldn’t afford a new one and this one had belonged to his father and it was the only thing of his Barry had left, his hands covered in callouses, and the only person in town who wouldn’t be attending the Equinox Ball. Even though he’d already told Cisco he’d be there. He might as well just accept he’d never get further than muddy fields and a kitchen, and Cisco was a lord, he probably wouldn’t even notice if Barry wasn’t there.
He was fine with his goats. At least he had something to do.
Eddie had already asked about Barry not attending the ball. He’d noticed as soon as Barry hadn’t bee to the tailors with them. He’d offered to speak to Eobard, but Barry brushed him off.
Barry’s eighteenth passed without fuss. Jesse insisted on a cake, but there were still chores to do, and Barry rarely felt like celebrating. Iris always understood that. And Eobard had already spoken to him about expecting him to be late that evening. There was only one tradition Barry had on his birthday.
“Do you want some company?” Iris asked.
“I can wait with Jesse and Wally by the gate,” Eddie said.
Iris looped her arm through Barry’s, and they walked between the rows. Nora and Henry Allen’s gravestone was well-kept. Barry made sure of that. He ran his hand along the smooth stone and stood in silence for a while.
“I miss you,” he finally said. “I’m okay, Iris.”
“I know,” Iris said. “Do you want to stay a little longer?”
“We should both go home. The days aren’t longer yet.”
Wally and Jesse were playing when they reached the gate. Jesse stopped so she could hug Barry.
“I miss Aunt Nora too,” she said.
“Maybe if Barry becomes a doctor, he can help people who get sick and stop it happening to anyone else,” Eddie said.
“If Eobard ever gives me an answer,” Barry said.
“He hasn’t given you an answer? First the ball, now this-”
“What about the ball?” Iris asked.
“It’s not important,” Barry said.
“Barry’s not allowed to go,” Eddie said.
“It’s fine, Iris,” Barry said. “It’s because I was late back every day for a week.”
“Eddie was late back some of those days too, has he stopped you going?”
“No, and one of those it was my idea,” Eddie said.
“It’s fine,” Barry said. “I don’t even know how to dance.”
“But Cisco invited you,” Wally said. “You have to go.”
“I doubt you’ll change Eobard’s mind,” Barry said.
“Then just sneak in without him knowing.”
“Yeah,” Jesse said. “It’s a masquerade ball so he won’t be able to see your face under your mask.”
“And you can come with us so you don’t have to walk the whole way,” Wally said.
“It’s a nice idea,” Barry said. “But I don’t have anything to wear.”
Iris had a look on her face that implied this wouldn’t be the last Barry heard about it, but at least she changed the subject.
Or maybe it would be the last Barry heard about it, because the morning of the Equinox Barry had his usual chores, then he had to help Jesse get ready, and there was lunch to cook and so much to do. At least the Equinox was a holiday so Jesse didn’t have to get to school, and no one would be expected to be up the next day either.
Except Barry, because he wasn’t going to the Ball which meant he wasn’t celebrating this year. It wasn’t like anyone else would be doing anything, they’d all be at the palace. And he’d be too busy to go even if someone was doing something.
Iris was right, he was really tired. And Eobard still hadn’t given him an answer about the apprenticeship and Barry was starting to suspect he didn’t intend to. Yes, he’d need help. But he could hire some. He could sell the goats and probably still be fine. It wasn’t like he’d be feeding Eddie or Barry anymore, he’d probably be saving money, if he was that desperate for help, he could hire some. He could take Jesse to school himself for once. She was thirteen, she could walk herself, Barry was walking himself and Jesse at thirteen.
Maybe he’d be in a better mood after the ball. Barry could try asking again then. Find some way to talk him into it.
Jesse and Eddie both waved as they left with Eobard. Barry intended to spend the evening reading. At least he’d have a few moments quiet to do that.
Someone knocked on the door. He’d made sure Jesse had her mask at least five times already, she couldn’t possibly have forgotten it.
It wasn’t Eddie.
Iris was in a scarlet gown, feathers on her matching mask, and golden embroidery decorating the bodice. She held out a suit, a matching scarlet jacket with embroidered flowers across the lapels and around the ends of the sleeves, trousers, a waistcoat, and a shirt with frills. Barry blinked.
“Well, get changed, or we’ll be late,” Iris said.
“Wally’s got you a mask and shoes in the carriage, hurry up.”
“I know it’ll fit you. It might not be tailored to you, but Eddie borrowed one of your shirts and trousers to measure everything against, and Master Gambi adjusted it accordingly. The mask was guesswork so it might not fit as well, but it covers enough of your face Eobard shouldn’t recognise you, providing you keep your mouth shut and don’t look him in the eye. Ideally, just avoid him. It’ll be busy enough you can avoid him. You were late a few times, and they weren’t even your fault, it’s not fair to not let you go, and you told Cisco you’d be there. We just have to make sure you’re home by midnight so Eobard doesn’t notice you left.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Then think of it while you get changed. Hurry up.”
Barry accepted the suit and ran to his room. He could change quickly.
Iris had already warned him that she hadn’t exactly told Joe they were bringing Barry because Eobard hadn’t let him go, but he could still thank Joe and Cecile for taking him, and they were planning on being back before midnight anyway, they had Wally, Joanie, and Jenna to get to bed. And there was enough for everyone to talk about on the way that Barry could just sit and watch the world pass by out the carriage. He was further from home than he’d ever been, and this was both the most exciting and terrifying thing he’d ever done.
Central City was incredible and now Barry could feel himself buzzing. There were so many people out celebrating, and he’d never seen anything like it. And then they turned a corner and he could see the Royal Palace.
It was at the top of the hill, still within the old castle walls, but the gate was open, and Iris told him it was rarely closed. It was easily the biggest building Barry had ever seen, and absolutely beautiful. Trees lined the road leading up to it, already in blossom, and bunting hung everywhere. People were filtering in in outfits so intricate Barry could never have dreamt of. But then, yesterday he’d never have dreamt of the suit Iris had presented him with.
And the music! There was music playing when they walked in, with violins and other instruments Barry couldn’t name, the tables were piled with food, and Barry was really glad he had a mask on because he couldn’t stop staring at everything in wonder.
“Come on,” Iris said. “Let’s go dance.”
Iris pulled Barry to the middle of the room and spun around. The laughter in the room was as loud as the music, and the dances were simple enough Barry could more or less keep up.
And they were spinning, and spinning, and everyone’s partners kept changing, and then Barry lost Iris. For a moment, reality swept him up just as the dance had done, and he started to panic.
And then he was holding hands with Cisco. He was wearing a black suit with red and gold embroidery, a red mask, and a smile so bright Barry could hardly look.
“Hi,” Cisco said.
“Hi,” Barry said.
“I did. How have you been?”
“Good,” Cisco said. “Busy with getting ready for this. You’ve been busy. Iris said you always are.”
“I seem to have lost her.”
“You want to go look?”
Barry was fairly sure Iris wouldn’t be in the palace gardens, but he and Cisco had ended up here anyway. He was also sure he didn’t need to still be holding hands with Cisco, but he didn’t plan on letting go just yet. This was a one off; he could enjoy himself.
The gardens were beautiful. The first few flowers of spring were peeking through, and the smell of blossom filled the air. There were almost as many people enjoying themselves out here as there were inside.
Barry wasn’t sure how long he’d been sitting talking to Cisco, but it wasn’t long enough. If this night could last forever, that would be perfect.
He was laughing at a joke Cisco made when he became vaguely aware Cisco was watching him with a dopey smile on his face. They’d discarded their masks a while ago.
“May I kiss you?” Cisco asked.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a while. But only if you want to.”
“I’m not a noble.”
“I know. But you are Barry. Never mind, I shouldn’t have said anything.”
Barry leaned forward and caught Cisco’s lips with his. This was- He should not be doing this; Cisco was a noble and he was just Barry.
But kissing Cisco was something else, and Barry wanted to do nothing else for the rest of his life.
But they did both need to breathe.
“That was nice,” Barry said.
“It was. Would you do me the honour of letting me court you?”
“I’ve liked you for a long time.”
“I like you too, but I can’t. Eobard would never let me.”
“It’s your decision, not his.”
“I know, but he’s still my stepfather.”
“Cecile is Iris’ stepmother.”
“Your highness?” a guard asked. He glanced at Barry. “I apologise, your mother was enquiring as to your whereabouts, I’ll inform her you’re with company.”
“It’s all right, Ronnie, we’ll come back inside,” Cisco said. He picked up both masks and offered Barry his, but Barry couldn’t move.
He’d just kissed the prince. Cisco was the prince. Cisco was the prince and he’d just kissed him and Barry shouldn’t even be talking to him and-
The clock tower chimed eleven.
“I have to go,” Barry said. “I’m really sorry, I have to go.”
Barry was already running.
“Where have you been?” Iris asked as Barry ran to where they’d left the carriage. Jenna was already asleep in Joe’s lap.
“Sorry,” Barry said. “I got distracted.”
“Ready to go?” Cecile asked. Barry nodded and climbed up.
“You lost your mask,” Wally said. Barry reached up and felt his bare face. He’d left his mask with Cisco, he’d-
“It doesn’t matter,” Joe said. “Try and get some sleep, Wally.”
Barry thanked Joe and finally relaxed when he was in his bed and Eobard still wasn’t back. He’d hidden his suit under the bed, but he’d have to work out what to do with it in the long term.
He shouldn’t have just run away from Cisco. That wasn’t fair. He’d have to explain next time Cisco visited. But that wouldn’t be for months. Maybe he could write Cisco a letter, but he somehow doubted he could just post a letter to the prince.
Barry had known he was a lord. He’d known he shouldn’t kiss him before he’d realised exactly how important Cisco was. But he had really wanted to, and he’d like to do it again. Except he couldn’t because he’d run and Cisco would hate him now and he was the prince anyway so Barry wasn’t allowed. And if Eobard found out he’d gone to the ball he’d be in so much trouble. He definitely wouldn’t be allowed to speak to Doctor Ambress, and he’d have to stay to do all the chores forever.
Cisco had a point. Cecile was Iris’ stepmother, and she was lovely. Joe was Joanie’s stepfather and he was Joe. If it wasn’t fair for Barry to leave Eddie or Jesse with all the chores, why was it fair for just him to do them? Why was it fair to stop him going to the ball because he’d been late a few times when Eddie had also been late and not even had a warning?
None of this was fair.
Barry would wait a day, then ask about the apprenticeship again after he’d dropped Jesse off at school.
He had to pick up a few things from town first, but he waved off Eddie’s offer to help, and Iris’ offer to come with him. He had to be quick so he could get back as swiftly as he could.
He only paused when he overheard some people in the bakery talking about the ball, and about how heartbroken the prince had been when he’d wandered back in holding a mask.
“They’re saying the guards are going to look for whoever it belongs to, and the prince intends to offer his hand when he finds them.”
That wasn’t like Cisco at all. Especially not if he’d been heartbroken. Barry had done that to him. He really needed to find a way to apologise.
Barry found it much easier to get distracted on his way home again. He couldn’t stop thinking about Cisco.
Eobard was in his office. Barry knocked and opened the door when he was told.
“Barry,” Eobard said. “You were quick this morning.”
“I’m sorry to bother you,” Barry said. “But I was wondering if you’d given anymore thought as to me asking Doctor Ambress about the apprenticeship?”
“I see,” Eobard said. “Come in, shut the door behind you.”
Barry nodded and sat on the second chair when it was gestured to.
And Eobard put his suit from the ball on the desk.
“Could you explain this to me?”
“It was from Iris,” Barry said.
“You went to the ball. After I explicitly told you not to.”
“Jesse didn’t protest when we left you behind. Eddie didn’t come to me and ask me to be lenient. No excuse would have kept that from happening, therefore you had to have another plan. And Iris was involved.”
“It wasn’t my plan,” Barry said. “Iris just showed up, I couldn’t say no.”
“You could have said no. You could have said I forbid it.”
“I promised my friend I’d be there.”
“The mask is missing from this. The rumours are the prince is looking for someone who lost their mask. Is that a coincidence?”
“No,” Barry whispered. “He asked to kiss me, and I knew I shouldn’t, but I wanted to and then they said he was the prince and then I just ran and-”
“Oh, Barry,” Eobard said. “You have made a mistake, haven’t you? You can’t have feelings for him. He’s the prince. You’re just a commoner, and an orphan at that. You have nothing. You shouldn’t even know him by name. I did tell you you shouldn’t go to the ball.”
“You’re not to leave the house for the foreseeable future.”
“You heard me. I didn’t want to do this, you know that, but you disobeyed me again. Eddie will take over collecting Jesse and taking her to school, and your chores in town, and you will remain here.”
“And you won’t accept me going to talk to Doctor Ambress.”
“That isn’t fair.”
“Are you arguing with me?”
“Yes. I’m not a child anymore. You have looked after me, and I will thank you for that, but I am eighteen and I intend to go and start my own life.”
“You are my child-”
“I am not! You were married to my mother for a handful of weeks, that is all.”
“You should have been. Your mother and I were close when we were your age, did she ever tell you? For a time, I thought we would marry, but then she met your father and had you. He took her from me. He took the child that should have been mine from me.”
“No. My mother loved my father. She chose him. You did not have a right to her.”
“She came to me.”
“Because she was alone, and you offered help. She did not marry you for love, Eobard, she married you to ensure Jesse and I would be cared for when she passed too, and because she felt she owed you for helping us. You may have been my guardian for a while, but I already have a father, and he was a good man who cared about people, and he would not have treated me like you have. I’m leaving. I’m going to talk to Doctor Ambress with or without your acceptance.”
“Sit back down, Bartholomew.”
“If you walk out that door, you won’t be coming back in.”
“Fine by me.”
Barry made sure to slam it behind him.
Doctor Ambress was in her small building in town. There weren’t any patients, which was good.
“Barry,” she said. “Is something wrong?”
“No, ma’am,” Barry said. “Iris told me you were considering looking for an apprentice? I’d like to be considered if you do.”
“It’s demanding work.”
“I’m used to that.”
“We can talk.”
Barry stepped out onto the street with a smile on his face, which quickly faded when he realised exactly what he’d done. He couldn’t go back home. He had no money so he couldn’t rent anywhere. And all he had were the clothes he was wearing; he didn’t even have his nice suit from Iris. He couldn’t go back and get it from Eobard.
He had not thought this through at all.
He had no idea how long he was wandering around town, but it was certainly nearly dinner by the time he ended up sitting in the cemetery, and he hadn’t had lunch either.
He wasn’t quite sure how long he’d been sitting there before the footsteps stopped behind him either.
“Iris thought it might be good to check here twice,” Cisco said. “I thought you might be picking Jesse up.”
“No, your highness,” Barry said. “I, um.”
“You’ve never called me your highness,” Cisco said. Barry stood up and rubbed the back of his neck.
“That might be because I forgot exactly which lord you were?”
“Is that why you ran?”
“Maybe a little. I wasn’t supposed to be there.”
“Eddie and Iris explained.”
“I’m sorry. I had to get back, but I should have explained. I shouldn’t have just left you.”
“Eddie also said he heard shouting earlier.”
“Oh,” Barry said. He walked with Cisco back towards the gate. “Eobard found the suit and realised I’d gone despite what he said. He wanted to confide me to the house, indefinitely probably, and we argued. You were right, and Iris was right, and I left.”
“Oh,” Cisco said. “I’m sorry.”
“It would have happened eventually. But I am now a homeless, penniless orphan, so I really shouldn’t be talking to you.”
“You’re my friend.”
They were almost at the gate. Barry could see Iris and Eddie waiting, but Jesse ran to hug him as soon as she saw him.
“You didn’t come to pick me up.”
“I know, Jess, I’m sorry. I’m not going to be able to anymore.”
“Eobard and I had an argument and I left. I’m not going back. I don’t think he’ll let me see you anymore.”
“But that’s not fair.”
“I’ll get your things,” Eddie said.
“And you can stay with us,” Iris said.
“I really don’t think-”
“I honestly don’t care what appearances say, Barry, you can stay until you find something else.”
“I start an apprenticeship in a fortnight.”
“That’s great,” Eddie said. “You’ll be great, Barry.”
“Come on,” Iris said. “Eddie can drop your things off tomorrow. It’s getting late.”
Joe was more than happy to have Barry stay for a few days. And he didn’t have to cook or clear up.
The spare room he’d been offered was unbelievable too.
“Iris, this is-”
“Just get some sleep, Bare.” Iris stepped away, leaving Barry with Cisco again.
“Oh,” Cisco said. He offered Barry his red mask. “I meant to give this back to you.”
“Thank you,” Barry said. “I’m really sorry.”
“I can’t believe we’ve known each other for like eleven years and you forgot I’m a prince.”
“Yeah,” Barry said. “Maybe let’s not tell Iris that bit. We’re still friends, aren’t we?”
“We’re still friends. Unless you thought anymore about what I asked.” Cisco looked nervous. “There’s precedent! My grandfather on my mother’s side was a farmer, and my father’s mother was a seamstress, there’s nothing that says I have to marry a noble, especially since I’m the third son so it’s unlikely I’m ever going to inherit anything. I know it’ll be different for you.”
“But I might be able to visit the city. And you visit here every so often.”
“Would you want me to?”
“Yes. Very much. To both your questions.”
“May I kiss you, Barry?”
“I would like that very much, Cisco.”