"What are you doing here?" was the frosty greeting Barry received when he stood at the table where Iris West, The Flash as he'd learned recently, sat at in CC Jitters. She'd been typing away on her laptop and occasionally sipping from a cup of iced coffee when Barry entered the coffee house.
"I've been trying to reach you for days now," Barry said with a small sigh, a latte in hand. "I wanted to talk... about what happened."
"There's nothing to talk about, Allen," she said, closing her laptop and beginning to gather up her things. "You're in bed with a freaking criminal," she bit out under her breath. "Who you broke out of prison!"
"Illegal holding," Barry corrected her, giving her a pointed look. "Look, I know how it looks but that's why I need to talk to you one on one about this. I also made sure to approach you in public so you don't think I'm out to get you or something. Just hear me out, Iris."
"What could you possibly say to me that'd make me want to listen to you?"
"Can I sit?" he asked, gesturing to the chair across from her. She frowns, a "no" on the tip of her tongue before sighing.
"You better make this worth my time, Allen," she grit out.
"Thank you," Barry said and sat. "I suppose I should start with an apology." Iris scoffed at that. "I'm sorry I threatened to out your secret and endanger your family. But I had to have some leverage so I knew Lenny and I would walk out of there and not end up back in one of your secret prison cells."
"That's your excuse?" she asked. "You threatened my family Barry. My family! Do you have any idea what would happen to them if my secret was out? Every criminal in Central City would be after them."
"You don't think I know that?" Barry asked, feeling like he'd just had his intelligence insulted - which was exactly what happened in hindsight. "That's exactly why I made the threat, to force your hand so we could get away. Look I'm sorry I had to do that Iris but don't act like you're completely in the clear here. You're saying I threatened your family? Okay, I did and I'm not proud of it. But don't forget you threatened my family first."
"What, The Rogues? You can't be serious right now. I can't believe you stirred up all this fuss over them," she scoffed, rolling her eyes.
"What," Barry asked calmly, taking a deep breath to calm himself down before he finished his question, "is that supposed to mean?"
"They're criminals, Barry. Yet you're choosing them to be your family? Does that make any sense to you?"
"You know," Barry said, after a short laugh, "you're just like I remember you from high school. You probably don't remember but I went to CCH with you. I was a wallflower. No one noticed me, but I.. you see, I noticed everything. That was a perk of being practically invisible I guess. Just as I thought you were a stuck up princess on a high horse then, I see nothing's changed. You think the world is black and white, Iris, but it's not. The sooner you start seeing that the better it'd be for you. You grew up in the perfect little family in the perfect little home with your mom, dad and little brother. Now you're engaged to Detective 'Golden Boy' Thawne and you have these amazing abilities that many people would kill for. You have the perfect life, Iris. But it's blinding you from seeing that not everyone has that. Not everyone has the privilege to always have someone there for them, no matter where they are. But for people like me and the other Rogues' partners, we don't have that luxury. We just had the one person we could call our support system and you nearly took that away from us."
"Am I supposed to feel sorry for you? It doesn't change the fact that they're criminals, Barry," Iris replied.
"No, it doesn't. That's not what I'm trying to highlight here but you're not even listening to what I'm saying so let me say it simpler. We went out of our minds for days when we realized The Rogues went missing. If we were normal people we'd never have figured where to find them or even how to get them out and where would that leave us? Broken and alone and worried. You can't just go locking up people in solitary confinement without a proper trial, Iris. It's not fair to them and it's not fair to their families who are worried sick about what happened to their loved ones."
"I don't have a choice!" Iris exclaimed. "I'm the only one with the facilities to detain meta criminals and you want me to what, let them go just because they have families and I should feel sorry for them?"
"Iris, Iris, Iris," Barry laughed. "You're the only one with the facilities, yes. But do you see that you don't have to be? Your father and partner are detectives at CCPD and I know that guy Hartley that works at STAR Labs consults for the CCPD sometimes. You could have one or all of them pitch the idea or easily show up as The Flash and tell them you have the technology to help detain metas that the police could implement at Iron Heights. They could get charged properly and lawfully but you choose to do what instead, lock them up and throw away the key? Iris, I know you're better than that."
Iris' frown deepened for a moment before she sighed. "You're right. I didn't think of that. I suppose no one on my team thought of it either," she said, her tone somewhat defeated.
"I'm not the bad guy here, Iris," Barry sighed. "And I really wish things were different but like I said that night, just as you'd do anything to protect your family, I'd do anything to protect mine and right now Leonard and the Rogues are all I have."
"Look, I'm not forgiving you for blackmailing me but I suppose I do see where you're coming from," she sighed. "For what it's worth I'm sorry for putting you through that. I really wasn't thinking beyond stopping the metahumans from wreaking more havoc in the city. Between them and this speedster in yellow running around threatening my family I just-"
"You said speedster in yellow?" Barry asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Yeah, why? Have you seen him?" she asked, her brows furrowing.
"Does he have red lightning?" Barry asked, leaning forward and gripping the table. He'd seen the flash of red lightning and a yellow blur in some of the the CCTV footage he'd had to analyse to help with the prison break but he didn't think much of it at the time. He just figured it was another speedster who probably didn't want to go down the heroic path. Now, Iris was saying that said speedster was threatening her family which meant something more must have been going on that he clearly didn't know much about.
"Yes," Iris nodded. "What's wrong? Do you know him?"
"No, but I've seen him," Barry said, somewhat alarmed. "This isn't someone you work with? Like at all?"
"No, Barry, could you just spit it out already?" she snapped.
"It's just... when I was watching STAR Labs through CCTV footage to help break The Rogues out, I came across images of his lightning trail a few times. And by a few times I mean just as frequent as yours, Iris."
"What do you mean? He's been hanging around outside of STAR Labs? I figured," Iris said.
"No, Iris. Not just outside," Barry shook his head. "Inside. And I mean like, inside STAR Labs. His lightning trail is seen entering in the morning and you don't see it leave until late at night."
"What are you saying, Barry? That the man in yellow hangs out in STAR Labs during the day? I think we'd notice if that was the case," she said, scoffing.
"Unless..." Barry gave her a sad look. She stared back at him, reading his expression. She laughed.
"You can't be serious," she said, laughing. "I know you're not about to imply that someone on my team is secretly the metahuman who's been threatening my family and taunting me for weeks."
"There's no other explanation as to why the speedster's presence in STAR Labs almost everyday goes unnoticed, Iris," he said, softly. "You have to be open to the possibility."
"You're being ridiculous," she said, shaking her head. "Absolutely ridiculous. And here I thought you couldn't surprise me anymore after the fact that you're literally dating a criminal despite being in law enforcement."
"Stop trying to deflect, Iris. You have to consider the possibility. Just because the people around you aren't criminals on the books doesn't mean they aren't capable of the unspeakable," he said. "If this speedster is as dangerous as you're making them out to be you need to cover all your bases to protect your family. You need to be careful around your t-"
"Don't even finish that sentence," she said, the ice returning to her tone. Barry sighed and stood up, shaking his head. She clearly wasn't going to listen to him.
"Look, Iris. I know you don't like me or trust me right now but you really should consider what I've said. I'm just offering advice," he said. "It's up to you weather you take it and you probably won't even accept this offer but if you ever eventually need help, I'll be here for you. So will the Rogues and their other partners. They're scientists like me you know?"
"The Rogues? Help me? Now you're just talking out of your ass," she scoffs. Barry shook his head, giving her a sad smile. He realized then what Iris' problem was - she either trusted too much, or didn't trust at all.
"They're not bad people you know?" he said softly. "They may be thieves and they may have had to kill a few people to protect themselves but there's good in them too. They don't want to see this city burn anymore than you and I do. You know, when I broke them out of your little prison I was gonna do the same for everyone there? But Leonard stopped me. Said they were all dangerous, except Peek-A-Boo. He said they'd destroy the city if they ever got out and that's why we left them there. I hope you stop seeing the world in black and white soon, Iris. Otherwise you'll end up putting your trust in the ones that don't deserve it and leaving the ones that do out in the cold."
With that, he took his now cold latte and left her there.
Barry didn't speak to Iris again after that. He'd caught glimpses of her in passing at the precinct when she would visit her father or Eddie but that was about it. He also suspected that she hadn't told either of them about what really happened when The Rogues managed to escape STAR Labs - he knew because Eddie was still trying to befriend him and Joe West hadn't threatened to shoot him at all.
It wasn't until seven weeks later when he finally spoke to her again. He'd gotten off work late and had just returned home, surprised to see the female speedster sitting on his couch - thank god, Leonard, Mick and Lisa were meeting up at a safe house that night. Barry's first instinct was to be alarmed but when he took in the sight of her he could immediately tell something was off. Her cowl was pulled back and her eyes were red-rimmed and blood shot.
"Iris?" he said, stepping into the room. "What... what's wrong?"
"You were right," she croaked out, her voice hoarse. "My team betrayed me. Dr. Wells he... he's the man in yellow. He's the Reverse Flash. And he just killed my mother."