When Barry Allen first learned about soulmarks in school at the age of ten, he couldn't wait to run home to talk to his parents. He had a million questions and he knew his parents, whom he'd always known were soulmates, would know the answers. They knew everything, after all.
He'd managed to restrain himself until they were eating dinner that night.
"So, what did you learn in school today?" Henry asked his son as he spooned mashed potatoes onto Barry's plate and then his own before handing the bowl to Nora.
Grinning toothily, Barry announced, "We learned about soulmarks."
Henry and Nora shared a look, silently sending strength to each other as they prepared for what was about to come.
"Really?" Nora asked. "What did you learn about them?"
Barry bounced a bit in his seat. He held up one hand and started ticking what he knew off on his fingers. "Everyone has a soulmate, but not everyone gets a soulmark because soulmarks only show up if the other person has been injured enough to get a scar." He wasn't sure if that was one or two, but he counted it as two on his fingers. Touching his middle finger, he said, "Soulmarks look like the state flower of wherever the person was, physically, when they were injured; so you could end up with flowers from all over the place if your soulmate got injured while traveling a lot. Like soldiers' soulmates."
Pausing, Barry looked up at his dad. "Do scars from surgeries cause soulmarks, Daddy?"
"Yes, son, any kind of scar creates a soulmark," Henry answered.
"How do you recognize your soulmate if neither of you have any scars?" Barry asked.
"You know it in your heart," Nora said, lacing her fingers through Henry's. "In your soul. It's that feeling of knowing that your life would be incomplete without the other person."
"Like me and Iris," Barry said. "I can't imagine my life without Iris in it."
"Perhaps," Henry said. "Only time will tell if you two are soulmates."
His beliefs were shattered when they were seventeen and Iris's appendix burst. She had to have emergency surgery and, remembering what his dad had told him as a kid, Barry frantically looked for a soulmark on his abdomen after her surgery. He'd seen her scar, but he didn't have the matching soulmark. He'd been shattered, wanting nothing more than to cry in bed for a week, but he couldn't do that because Iris needed him to cheer her up in the hospital. So that's what he did. She was still his best friend and he still loved her.
One day in the fall of 2007, Barry had felt a tingling on his left shoulder. When he looked in the mirror, there were a cluster of small purple flowers. He later discovered that they were the flowers from the Hong Kong Orchid Tree.
His soulmate was Chinese? How was he ever going to meet someone from China?
Several weeks later, a row of the same flowers appeared beneath his left pectoral.
It was a couple of years later that the same flowers appeared on Barry's back right shoulder in overlapping lines. And then a few weeks after that a semi-circle of flowers materialized on the left side of his abdomen. If Barry didn't know better, he'd say it was some kind of bite mark.
Wherever his soulmate was, Barry hoped he or she was okay and that that person would live long enough for them to meet.
Barry's eyes widened as he realized that this was the first time Joe was seeing his soulmarks, just as Joe's eyes were widening in parental fear at how many soulmarks Barry had.
"Barr," Joe whispered, his hand unconsciously rising towards Barry. "How? When?"
Barry flushed, his hand coming up to rest on the back of his neck. Then he realized that only displayed the marks on his abdomen better and he lowered it. "Let me put some pants on and we can talk."
Joe blinked and nodded. "I'm just gonna…" He gestured towards the bathroom. "And then I'll come to your room."
Barry nodded and turned away, internally wincing as he realized he was now presenting the marks on his back to Joe.
He quickly pulled on a pair of boxers, socks, and jeans while he waited for Joe. He laid out a shirt to wear, but left it on his bed, knowing he should leave his marks bare for this conversation.
After just a few minutes, there was a knock on the door and Barry called for Joe to enter.
"Let me get a look at you, son," Joe said, quickly closing the door behind him.
Barry held his arms out to the side and did a slow turn for Joe. When he stopped, he could see Joe trying to mentally calculate the last time he'd seen Barry shirtless.
"The first one showed up when I was eighteen," Barry said, gesturing to the flowers on his left shoulder.
Joe stepped in close, examining the flowers. "I don't recognize this. Everyone I know has the white hawthorn blossom for Missouri."
"It took some research, but it's from Hong Kong," Barry confirmed.
"China? Really?" Joe exclaimed, in surprise. "How'd you end up with a soulmate in China?"
Barry shrugged. "I've been wondering that for the past three years."
"And you have no idea who it is?"
"None. All I know is that my soulmate goes through phases of getting injured a lot," Barry said. "I can't even imagine what caused all of these scars."
"If you weren't almost about to graduate, I might suggest taking some classes on PTSD," Joe said, almost to himself. "Your soulmate is bound to have some serious issues if you ever meet."
"That's actually a good idea, Joe," Barry said. "I'll see if I can take a psych class next semester. Maybe Iris and I can take something together."
"I'm sure she'd like that," Joe said. "Just, don't tell her why. I don't want her to know about all of this." He gestured to Barry's torso.
Pulling his shirt over his head and down to cover his body, Barry said, "Don't worry, I'm in no rush for her to know about these marks." After a brief hesitation, he asked, "Was Iris's mom your soulmate?"
Joe reached up to scratch his beard before wearily answering. "No, she wasn't. When we first got together, I thought we were, but that was just young love. As time went on, scars that should have been soulmarks never showed up."
"So your soulmate is still out there?"
Joe shrugged. "Perhaps. Or maybe I'm one of those rare people who doesn't have a soulmate. Or they died before we could meet."
"Nah, I think they're still out there," Barry said, ever the optimist.
Upon further research, he discovered that the new flower was chamomile, which was the national flower of Russia. How had his soulmate gone from China to Russia and was still getting injured enough to scar?
Then, not too long after that, more Hong Kong Orchids appeared in quick succession. His entire lower back was covered in a field of purple orchids and a bouquet of flowers appeared on his right pectoral within a matter of minutes.
After that, Barry got very confused about who his soulmate could be, because the next flower to appear on his body was a Golden Poppy on his arm, which was the state flower of California.
Over the next several months, several small golden poppies appeared on Barry's arms, legs, and chest.
Does this mean that his soulmate is in the US now? Might they be getting closer to meeting? His mind reeled with the possibilities.
Luckily, his job as an Assistant CSI with the Central City police department didn't give him a lot of spare time to over analyze this change in location too much.
When he heard about an unusual case in Starling City, California about a year later that reminded him a lot of his mother's murder, Barry couldn't resist following the lead. Even if it meant using up some of his sick time. Maybe this strange case would help him meet his soulmate?
Perhaps his luck was starting to turn around.
Then again, the way Oliver Queen, the CEO of Queen Consolidated, put him down almost immediately almost threw him off his game. Luckily, Barry was used to getting under-estimated because he looked younger than his twenty-four years. He'd purposely waited to approach with his theories until he'd had some proof to back it up.
He'd also been observing the group talking for personal reasons.
On the long train ride from Central City, Barry had taken some time to do some research on Oliver Queen. He'd only returned to Starling City a year ago after having been presumed dead five years ago when the boat he'd been on had sunk in the North China Sea.
Barry's hands had unconsciously drifted over his torso, brushing against the spots where the Hong Kong Orchids were located. Counting back, he realized that it had been about six years ago since the first mark appeared on his shoulder.
Could Oliver Queen be his soulmate?
After meeting the man, Barry kind of hoped that Oliver was not his soulmate. The man was a condescending jerk. Albeit a gorgeous, condescending jerk… who he felt inexplicably drawn to.
His assistant on the other hand, Felicity Smoak, was someone he could see himself falling for. She was cute, and quirky, and she actually seemed to understand his scientific babble. More than most people, at least.
When Oliver confronted him about lying about why he was in Starling City, he told his sob story. He hated having to talk about his mom's murder and how his dad went to jail for it because no one would believe an eleven year old boy that a blurry man came into his home and killed his mom. No one ever believed him; not even Joe.
Which is why he'd been surprised when Oliver called him and asked him to still be Felicity's plus one to the party he was throwing. Barry wasn't sure what had changed the man's mind, but he wasn't going to turn down the chance to see him, or Felicity, again.
Barry had known he was bisexual for a while now, he just didn't usually find himself reacting so strongly to two people at once.
After being shot with a tranquilizer dart and waking up in the Vigilante's...lair...everything became very clear for Barry.
Oliver Queen was the Vigilante. He was also Barry's soulmate. He knew the layout of those scars intimately.
Barry couldn't even stop to process any of that just yet because first he had to save Oliver from being poisoned.
As he was capturing the assailant's fingerprint from Oliver's neck, Oliver suddenly woke up and began choking Barry.
"Oliver, let him go." "Oliver!" Felicity and Diggle yelled.
Rolling off the table, Oliver asked, "What the... What the hell is going on?"
"You were injected with a strong-acting blood coagulant," Felicity said.
Barry coughed. "You would have stroked out, ahem, but fortunately you had a very effective blood thinner handy. Warfarin. Better known as rat poison."
"Kid saved your life, Oliver," Diggle said.
"This is the point in a lifesaving emergency where you thank the person that did the lifesaving," Felicity prompted.
Sounding hurt, Oliver turned on her. "You told him who I am."
"Yeah, I did," Felicity agreed.
"That's not your secret to tell, Felicity. I decide who finds out my identity."
"Well, we didn't have time to get your vote, what with you unconscious and dying," she pointed out.
"What happens if he leaves here and goes right to the police?"
"He wouldn't do that," Felicity said confidently.
"I wouldn't do that," Barry agreed. He wasn't sure why he bothered speaking, as Oliver seemed happy to ignore his presence.
"I trust him," Felicity insisted.
Barry shouldn't be surprised by Oliver's statement, but he was hurt by it. He'd just found his soulmate, and he hated him. Didn't Oliver feel drawn to him the way that Barry was drawn to him, despite his better judgement?
"What are you going to do, put an arrow in him?" Felicity shot back.
"I am considering it," Oliver growled, finally looking at Barry.
"Don't worry, he's kidding!" Felicity bit out in Barry's direction before returning her focus to Oliver. "How is this any different from when your mother shot you and you came to me for help?"
"Your mother shot you?" Barry asked. He wondered which one of the golden poppies that was.
"Or when you brought Dig down here when he was poisoned with curare," Felicity continued.
"The difference is that I did my homework on both of you! I don't just tell people easily," Oliver said, his voice thick with emotion.
"I'm not going to tell anyone," Barry said, drawing their attention back to him. "And you don't have to thank me, but you should thank her instead of being kind of a jerk." Oliver took a menacing step towards him. "Mr. Queen."
Oliver's cell phone began to vibrate, cutting through the tension. He picked it up and sighed. "I have to go home. That man that I fought in the bunker; he has what he needs to mass produce the serum from the island. And we have to stop him."
Not really in the mood to help Oliver out after the way he'd just treated him, Barry couldn't knowingly withhold evidence in their investigation. "He touched your skin when he grabbed your neck. I was able to absorb the residual oils from his skin, which, when added to a gel-based polymer, might be able to recreate his fingerprint."
While he watched Oliver head off to get changed into his street clothes, Felicity came up behind him.
"Never meet your heroes, right?"
Never meet your vigilante soulmate was more like it, Barry thought.
He should have left after that, but he didn't. He lingered in the Arrow's lair, which Diggle said he liked to be called now, determined to see this case through. He could put his personal feelings aside long enough to get the job done.
When Felicity jokingly said that it sounded like Barry wanted to date Oliver, he quickly covered his tracks. There was no way that he was going to let it slip to Felicity that Oliver was his soulmate. Certainly not before he talked to Oliver about it himself. Whenever that was going to be.
Since they were just killing time down in the lair while the blood analysis ran, Barry spent some time poking around while Felicity worked on the computers. He happened to find some scraps of green fabric laying around as well as the chemicals he could use to make it compressible, so he began to make a mask for Oliver. It wasn't something that he advertised, but he was actually really good at sewing. He finished just before he needed to leave to catch his train back to Central City.
He really didn't want to miss the particle accelerator being turned on. He'd hoped to be at S.T.A.R. Labs when it happened, but his train got him in too late for that, of course, so he went to his lab at work instead. May as well get started catching up on work, after all.
He saw the particle accelerator explode and he was still holding onto the metal chain to close the leaky skylight window when the lightning struck.
His last thought was to wonder if Oliver would have a soulmark from him now.