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“Hey, sorry, sorry,” Barry says, coming into the office fifteen minutes late with Jitters. Eddie wants to think that Barry does this for comic relief, but he’s pretty sure that’s asking too much. “Eddie, I have the report you needed, tests are saying there’s traces of highly compressed rubber in the skid marks, definitely way above standard tire grade, so I think you might want to look into more unorthodox bike models--”

“I didn’t need that report until Friday,” Eddie says mildly. “You didn’t bump me up the queue, did you?”

“What? No. I had...some free time.”

People in forensics, in busy cities even with average crime rates, rarely have free time. Everyone knows that unless it’s a dire emergency, you don’t expect immediate results from them when they have twenty other cases in hand at any given time.

Joe only smiles at Barry’s efficiency; proud dad all the way.

As far as Eddie can tell (though it’s only through word of mouth), Barry was never quite this fast before he woke up.

He’s not sure what to do with that yet, but he thinks about it, from time to time.

“Then thanks, I appreciate it,” he says.

Barry gives him a smile, both genuine and a little sad. “No problem. Oh, this one’s for you, also.” He puts one of the coffees down.

“Thanks,” Eddie says again. “You’ve made my day.”

Another tight smile, and then Barry rushes away to his lab.

Eddie stares at the vacant doorway for a few seconds after Barry disappears from it. Then he tries to go back to work.

Eddie’s current case is straightforward, for which he is very, very thankful. This whole metahuman thing is just...yeah. He tries not to spend all his time thinking about it, but hasn’t had much success. He looks over Barry’s report, and starts searching the databases for galvanised rubber tires and mod shops.

It’s lunchtime before he manages to land a solid lead, but he pins it down just as Iris knocks on his door.

“Hey, you,” she says. She’s wearing the gray coat Eddie has always liked on her, and what he’s pretty sure is a new shade of lipstick.

“Hey, yourself.” He stands to kiss her, and asks for it to linger, flattening his hand on her waist. Iris hums against his mouth, sounding pleased.

“How’s work going? Anything interesting?” she asks, when they finally manage to pull away. She hands him chopsticks and a takeaway box, still piping hot, and settles in her usual chair by his desk. She’s such a cop’s daughter--easily assuming that if they don’t have plans otherwise, Eddie will be eating at his desk.

“Not this time,” Eddie replies. “Smash and grab, and I’ve got a solid lead, thanks to Barry.”

At the mention of Barry, Eddie watches Iris’s smile go crooked. It’s funny how she and Barry have exactly the same way of being happy and sad at the same time.

“He doing okay?” she asks. She stirs her chopsticks around in her carton of lo mein.

Eddie frowns at her. “You haven’t seen him lately?”

“I think he’s giving me space,” Iris says with a grimace. “I’m pretty sure I need it. Doesn’t mean I have to like it, though.”

“You guys have been weird since the holidays,” Eddie remarks, watching her. “What’s going on?”

Iris exhales. “You were right,” she admits. “About him liking me.”

Eddie sits back, unable to suppress that familiar flash of guilt, now doubled for having its source confirmed. “He said that?” he asks, trying to sound as neutral as possible.

Iris nods, looking down at her food. “Since we were kids, he said. It was so...he doesn’t expect anything from me. He just wanted to be honest. For once.”

“‘For once’?” Eddie repeats.

Iris huffs. “Okay, he’s usually honest with me, almost always, except this, apparently, but--I don’t know what to think. It never occurred to me, I don’t know why I never noticed when it was clearly so obvious to you, and he said it’s been for forever--

“Hey,” Eddie cuts in gently, “Sometimes it’s hard to see that stuff, when it’s so close and has been that way for so long. I was just giving the outsider’s perspective.”

“You’re not an outsider,” Iris chides. “You’ve been here for more than a year, and we’re going to live together, you’re not--you’re you.

“Compared to you and Barry, then, I’m an outsider,” Eddie says, smiling. He scoops a cube of tofu into his mouth.

Iris purses her lips and studies him. Eddie lets her.

“You’re part of our family now,” she says eventually.

Sometimes, the whole West family’s generosity just floors him. He ducks his head. “I know,” he murmurs, “It means a lot.”

“Then you’re not an outsider,” Iris says. Then with a small grin, she adds, “You’re as inside as it gets.”

“Oh yeah?” Eddie smirks. “Good. I like that.”

Iris waggles her eyebrows at him and laughs before digging back into her food. They finish lunch in companionable silence.

When Iris rises to leave for her lecture, Eddie catches her arm. “Hey,” he says, “Maybe it’s not just you Barry’s giving space to, huh? Maybe he needs it too.”

Iris nods, but the sad smile is back. “I miss him,” she says plainly. “I always miss him when he’s not around.”

Eddie has the strange, strong impulse to drag Barry down from his lab and into Eddie’s office just to push him into Iris’s arms. He chalks it up to always wanting to see Iris happy, no matter what. “I get that,” he says instead. “But give him time. You guys are too close to drift apart over this. It’ll work out.”

Iris nods again, and then pulls him into a hug. She gives amazing hugs, and Eddie returns this one firmly, breathing in the faint scent of verbena from her shampoo. “You’re great,” Iris says into his jacket. “You know that, right?”

“Sure thing,” Eddie replies. His automatic, brazen joke of I’m the best, however, stays lodged in his throat.

It often does, when he thinks of Barry.

***

The crux of the matter is that Eddie? Is a detective. A pretty damn good one.

Also, so much as he might claim to be, Barry has never been subtle.

The other thing is that Eddie feels genuinely guilty about it. Because of course Barry, the guy who'd grown up with Iris, who has a full appreciation of who she is and what she’s doing with her life, would be in love with her. Who wouldn't? Eddie, for one, couldn't think of a single reason.

(Eddie is so fucking lucky.)

And moreover, Barry is kind of great. Smart and competent, despite being a little flighty. His analysis is always useful, his work always excellent. Iris’s affection for him is entirely understandable too. In that regard, she and Eddie are pretty similar--they like people who are good at what they do.

In short, Eddie gets them, apart and together.

The problem, then, is that...Eddie's here, too.

***

Barry is trying to move on. It is, again, very obvious.

When he comes in fifteen minutes late with Jitters again (seriously, the jokes Eddie could and should be cracking), there’s a fragility to the stiff set of his shoulders that says he’s been forcing a smile for the better part of his morning.

Eddie’s been having a rough morning himself, so he says, “How’s Iris today?”

“She’s great,” Barry says, too quickly. The forced smile is plastered firmly in place. “Turned in her paper late last night, but I’m sure you know that.”

“No way, she kicked me out so she could finish it,” Eddie returns. “Glad she got it done.”

Barry hovers for a second; Eddie sort of wishes he wouldn’t, but also doesn’t want him to leave.

“Are you guys...looking for an apartment now?” Barry tries.

Eddie exhales. “Yeah, I don’t think my bachelor pad’s really suitable, and the lease is almost up anyway. Why, you know anyone?”

“No, but I could take a look?”

Eddie raises an eyebrow. “That’s kind of our job, Barry, you don’t have to do that.”

“I have a good sense of apartments, nowadays, after seeing so many at...well, work,” Barry points out. He deflates. “But I’m sure you guys have specific things in mind, you’re right, I’ll just--”

“Thanks for the offer,” Eddie says, before Barry hyperventilates. “It’s really nice of you. And feel free to give us a heads up if we’re about to settle on a money pit.” He smiles at Barry, who automatically returns it, though thankfully in a less-strained fashion than his earlier grins.

“Sure, of course. Comes with the job, you know, forensics, good for finding problems in houses,” he says, backing out of the room.

“We’ll call on you,” Eddie says. “Thanks, Barry.”

Barry waves vaguely, and nearly trips over his own feet in his escape. It’s painfully adorable. When he’s out of sight, Eddie puts his head on his desk.

“I want to hug him, and that is not allowed,” he mutters to himself.

“Hug who?” Joe says, stopping in the doorway. “You still have the Delmonte file with you?”

“No one,” Eddie says, jerking upright, “Here.” He hands over the file.

“Thanks,” Joe says, eyeing him. “You okay?”

“Yeah, thanks, no problem, fine,” Eddie says, and then has to take his own moment to breathe.

Joe gives him an extremely sceptical look. “You sure?”

“Yes. Sure.” Eddie delivers his best sunny smile.

“Mmhmm,” Joe says, raising one eyebrow and then scanning the Delmonte file. “When you get a chance, I’ve heard back from Trevors, he said he’s found the guy who did the mod on your perp’s bike. You’ll want to see him, I’ve emailed you the address.”

"Okay, thanks."

Joe pauses in the doorway.

“If you think Barry needs a hug, give him one,” he advises almost absent-mindedly, still looking over the file. “He’s a big fan of hugs, and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind one from you.”

“Wha--?” Eddie starts, but Joe is long gone.

Eddie is pretty sure he’s losing control of his life in more ways than just the metahuman thing.

***

“So,” Iris says, a week or so later, “Apartments.”

“Apartments,” Eddie says, “Let’s do it.”

Easier fucking said than done.

They go through a lot of postings. They end up consulting a real estate agent named Anita, who has ash blond hair cut severely into a bob and an old, expressive mouth. She takes them to a few places. Every place they look at, Eddie thinks that there’s something missing.

“We’re only two people,” Iris says, not for the first time, “We know how to live in each other’s space already. This shouldn’t be that hard.”

“We just need it to be comfortable,” Eddie says. “But we should be able to have guests. Joe, maybe, or--”

“Barry,” they say at once.

Anita looks between them. “Barry?” she says, with a questioning expression.

“Um,” Iris says.

“Well,” Eddie says.

“Ah,” Anita says. “I see. Perhaps a guest bedroom to start with, with maybe a more expansive master bedroom…?”

“It isn’t--” Iris starts.

“Maybe just--” Eddie tries.

“This is my job,” Anita says. “I’m not here to judge your life choices. If you need a guest bedroom, or perhaps simply room for more than two people, then we must accommodate. Give me a little more time, and I’ll get back to you.”

“Okay,” Eddie says weakly, “Thanks.”

Iris echoes him.

As they leave the latest prospective apartment, she wraps her hand around his elbow and says, “We maybe have things to talk about.”

“Yeah,” Eddie says, dreading it.

***

They don’t get a chance, at least not immediately. A guy with control over lightning--maybe??--shows up in Central City, and Joe’s right in the middle of it all, so Eddie is as well.

It’s a giant goddamn mess, not the least because Lightning Guy tries to kill Eddie when he’s trying to ground the guy’s electrical production, and the Flash suddenly shows up for a knockdown, drag-out, fight.

Eddie is winded, bruised, and concussed, but his eyesight is just fine, and there’s a moment when Lightning Guy reaches for him with the intent to zap him, and the Flash grabs him out of the way.

Eddie gets a brief, but very distinct glimpse of the Flash’s face. It is more than enough to establish that that’s Barry’s chin and Barry’s eyes, because he’s been watching Barry too goddamn closely lately, and holy shit, Barry is the Flash.

“You okay?” The Flash says afterward, voice echoey and distorted. He hadn’t been nearly so careful about blurring his face during the fight; Eddie never would have recognised him otherwise. Still, Eddie nods, breathing harshly.

The Flash turns away, and then looks back at Eddie, hands clenching and unclenching at his sides. “Good,” he says, and then, “I’m...I’m sorry. For before. I wasn’t myself then. I know that’s no excuse, but I’m still sorry. I would never--I would never mean to harm you.” And then he’s gone in a blur of red.

“Still in one piece?” Joe says a few seconds later, jogging over and offering a hand up. Farther away, Lightning Guy is being barricaded into a heavily absorbent, non-conductive portable cell.

“Had worse,” Eddie says on auto-pilot.

Joe gives him a steady look. “The Flash say something to you?” he asked.

“He apologized,” Eddie replies. Then he tries to focus.

Joe had known about metahumans. Had evaded Eddie’s question about The Flash’s identity. Hadn’t been surprised when, last time they’d had a run-in, The Flash had saved them, not hurt them.

Pieces click into place.

Once he’s on his feet, Eddie leans in speak closely. “Does Iris know?” he mutters.

Joe stiffens, then lets out a breath. “No. And I’d like to keep it that way. Otherwise, she’s in danger, just like us.”

“Fuck,” Eddie breathes. But he doesn’t disagree.

Beanpole, science dork Barry Allen is the goddamn Flash. He attacked Eddie, then saved him, and said the first bit hadn’t been his fault. Knowing that it was Barry making that apology made Eddie inclined to believe him.

And Eddie can’t tell all that to the woman he loves. The woman who’d turned her back on the Flash because he had threatened Eddie.

“How the hell have you been dealing with this?” he asks Joe.

Joe makes a face like, what can you do?

“One day at a time, mostly,” he says.

Eddie decides to go home and break out the good bourbon he keeps in his closet.

***

Apartment hunting gets weird. Eddie's pretty sure it's his fault.

“I think we should have a solid fire escape,” he finds himself saying.

“They’re sort of a security hazard, aren’t they?” Iris says, eyeing him, “And there are solid fire protocols in most of the modern buildings.”

“Yeah, but,” and then Eddie has to stop himself before he starts sounding really stupid.

Anita gives him extremely weird looks all afternoon.

“How’s the search going?” Barry asks, when they stumble into Jitters later that night.

“Rent is too damn high in this city,” Iris says, her chin in her hands, shoulders slumped over the standing table.

“And we’re maybe too picky,” Eddie concedes.

“Speak for yourself,” Iris says, “Mr. I-Want-A-Fire-Escape-For-Inexplicable-Reasons.”

“They’re not--” Eddie stops himself.

“You want a fire escape?” Barry asks, looking thrown.

Eddie shrugs. “Having an escape route isn’t a bad thing.”

“No, it’s not,” Barry allows, “But it’s guaranteeing you an older property. Which can have its charms, but you should definitely make sure its renovated fully, kitchen included.”

“How do you know about this stuff?” Iris says, smiling. She bumps her hip against Barry’s, and then seems to remember that they’re supposed to be giving one another space.

Barry huffs out a laugh, and says, “I do have my own place, you know. But if you really want to know? Crime scenes. You see a lot of apartments that way. And believe me, I much prefer the renovated properties, otherwise you find weird gross stuff under the sinks and behind the radiator, and you can never tell what might be relevant to the investigation.”

“Okay, so, fire escape, but no weird gross stuff,” Iris summarises, “I feel like this shouldn’t be so difficult.”

Without thinking, Eddie quips, “Maybe you should come with us, Barry.”

Both Iris and Barry still, before shooting sidelong glances at each other. Eddie replays what he just said to himself, and feels like the ground under his feet has suddenly shifted sharply to one side. He blinks rapidly, and tries not to look like he just got clobbered over the head by a two-by-four.

Thankfully, neither Iris nor Barry seem in any condition to notice him. Barry looks away first.

“Like you said, Eddie, it’s your apartment. I shouldn’t--”

“No, actually,” Iris cuts in, looking at her hands, cupped around her mug of coffee. “Come along, if you like. We’d appreciate a new set of eyes, and we’d want you to be comfortable, wherever we end up.”

Barry swallows. “Okay,” he says. He sounds like he’s swallowed something jagged. “If you want me there.”

Eddie reaches out to put a hand on Barry’s shoulder. Now that he knows that he’s the Flash, he notices the firmness of lean muscle under his hand. “Hey, you don’t have to,” he says, meaning it.

“No, sure,” Barry says, bobbing his head, looking at the floor. “I’ll come.” He shoots a smile at Iris, who lights up with him, like she always does. “It’ll be fun,” he adds.

Eddie returns the smile, trying to look reassuring about it. Then he realises he’s still got his hand on Barry’s arm, and tries to pull away without looking like a jerk.

Barry doesn’t seem to notice--he just nods again, a sharp little gesture. “I should get going,” he says, after a pause. “But just let me know when you want me there.”

“We will,” Iris says.

When Barry has slipped out the door, Eddie breathes out, hard.

“We really need to talk about this,” he says.

Iris nods. “Yeah.” She fiddles with her mug. “Maybe we shouldn’t have...but. I want him there, but it’s...did you see his face? I can’t do that to him. It’s selfish.”

“I saw,” Eddie nods. “You still miss him, though.”

She nods, glumly. “Dad’s started asking about what’s going on. He’s clearly known how Barry’s felt for ages, because of course he does, he never misses a trick. I don’t know what to tell him.”

“Barry misses you, too,” he offers. “He asks about you. Though why he chooses me to ask, I don’t really know.”

“He trusts you,” she murmurs.

Eddie taps his fingers on the table, and decides to put his cards on the table. “You love Barry,” he says. He holds up a hand when Iris opens her mouth. “Like family, I know. But is it just that?”

Iris bites her lip. “I’m still figuring that part out,” she admits. “It’s not something I’d thought about, before, and now all of a sudden...but, you know I love you, right? I wouldn’t--”

“Iris,” Eddie cuts in. “You’re the best person I know. Barry intimidated me at first, but it was never because I doubted you.”

Iris watches him steadily. “Good,” she says, after a moment. “So what, then?”

Eddie takes a breath. “You know I’m bi.”

Iris looks up at him and dimples. “I’m aware,” she says dryly. It had been one of the first things Eddie had told her about himself--he’d learned in the past that the reception of that little fact was a deal-breaker.

“Well, I…,” he starts. Stops. Abruptly runs out of words.“That is, Barry is...uh.”

Very slowly, Iris cocks her head.

“Um,” Eddie adds eloquently. He feels his neck heat.

“Oh my god,” Iris says, the beginnings of a grin at the corners of her mouth. “I know that face. I’ve seen that face on the interns around the station whenever Barry does something especially brilliant and cute. You, too?”

“He is brilliant and cute,” Eddie says, a little helplessly.

“Yes,” Iris confirms, “He is.”

They stare at each other for a long moment. Then Iris laughs, a little disbelievingly.

“Well,” she says, “Does this change anything?”

He considers it. “It doesn’t have to. And in time, I’m sure he’d be able to get over you. But...I guess I don’t want him to have to go through that.”

Iris gave him a careful look. “You really care about him.”

For some reason, this causes Eddie to flush further. It’s actually worse, he realises, now that he knows that Barry--sweet-natured, bright-eyed Barry--is a fucking superhero. “Yeah,” he manages.

She taps her fingers on the table. “Well,” she begins, “First of all, I understand completely.”

“Yeah,” Eddie huffs.

“And there’s a solution to this,” Iris continues. She bites her lip. “Possibly.”

Eddie stares at her. “Are you suggesting…?”

Iris shrugs, a little defensively. “I’m a psych student. I read about partnerships, relationships...other things.”

“I guess I’m just surprised that I’m not the only one to consider it,” Eddie says, a little blankly.

She raises an eyebrow, smirking a little. “Look at you, all nontraditional and shit.”

Eddie lifts his hands. “Behind this boring blonde exterior lies many surprises.”

“I know. It’s what I like about you.”

“You’d really...consider that?”

Iris exhales, stretching herself over the tabletop. “I think that Barry...” she says, then seems to reconsider. “Barry,” she repeats, more slowly, “I think I want--have always wanted--him to have everything he’s ever wanted. And if that includes us, then...”

Eddie nods. He’s only known Barry for half a year, but he gets that.

Iris pushes off from the table. “I guess he really does need to come apartment hunting with us.”

“We can’t tease him,” Eddie says.

“No. But we should include him. Or try to. See what it's like, for us, because this is a new thing to consider, and we don't know how we really feel about it yet. But if he wants to be included, then…” She trails off. “I don’t just mean together, together. That would be a big step, and I don’t know if we...well. But we can talk about it, if that comes up.”

Eddie nods, and shifts a bit. “Do you think he’d…?” he starts. He gestures vaguely at himself.

Iris tilts her head. “He admires you. Thinks you’re a great cop, which is only correct. And sometimes he...looks at you.” She shrugs. “Maybe. We’ll be careful. But this is good to know,” she points between herself and Eddie, “About us.”

“One more thing we have in common,” Eddie jokes.

Iris snorts. “I guess so.”

Eddie shakes his head. “You’re okay with this?”

“We don’t even know what ‘this’ is, yet,” Iris says, still laughing a bit. “But it’s like I told you before--we’re all family already. We’ve just got to work out what that means.”

“You’re amazing,” Eddie tells her.

She gives him an exaggerated smug look. “I know.”

***

A week later, Anita looks between the three of them, one eyebrow raised. “You’re Barry, I presume?” she says, as soon as they get into the car.

Barry looks dubiously between Iris and Eddie, and says, “...Yes?”

Anita nods primly. “Good. Come along then, lots to see.”

To say that Barry improves the situation is a vast understatement. He finds cracks in the moulding, strange anomalies with the outside brick, and can recognise good brands of refrigerators and shower heads.

He clears Eddie’s head, too, Eddie finds. With Barry running around, inspecting closets and boiler rooms, Eddie falls into investigation mode as well, clearing away his vague, disorganised vision of where he lives now and where he imagines he could live. Iris points them in various directions, remarking on features she likes and dislikes, listening to their comments and Googling things they don’t know about on her phone.

Anita adds an idle word now and then, but mostly just watches them with satisfaction.

They don’t find anything that first time out, but Eddie doesn’t feel actively discouraged anymore.

“Next time,” Iris says, as they head back to the station. Eddie has some paperwork to pick up.

“Next time,” Eddie confirms. “Barry, you okay with that? You were a huge help.”

Barry nods a little, then again more firmly. “Yeah. This was kind of fun, actually. Sure.”

Iris lunges forward suddenly and hugs him. “Thanks,” Eddie hears her say.

Barry hugs her back, tucking his face into her neck a little. Then he looks over her shoulder at Eddie, catching his eye with uncertainty.

Eddie just smiles at him. They look good together, Barry and Iris.

***

As it turns out, the smash and grab Eddie had been looking into turns suddenly into a chain of smash and grabs, which turns into metahuman territory, again. Eddie begins to question his life choices.

The Flash, inevitably, shows up. Joe gives Eddie a sidelong glance.

“Did you call him?” Eddie asks dryly.

“Maybe,” Joe concedes.

Eddie rolls his eyes, and does his job.

When he gets home, mostly unscathed, Barry is on his doorstep.

“Hey,” Eddie says with surprise. “It’s late.”

Barry has what looks like an old friction burn on his cheekbone. He hadn’t had it that morning. “Yeah, sorry,” he says. “Needed to get out of the lab.”

“Sure,” Eddie says, for lack of anything else to say. “Want a coffee?”

Barry heaves himself to his feet. “Sounds amazing.”

Eddie eyes him as he unlocks the front door. “You look beat. Long day?”

“Very.”

Eddie goes about the usual motions of coffee making. Barry perches at the island. After the pot has started to fill, he finally breaks. “Joe said you know,” he blurts. “About me. Said you’ve known for a week now.”

Eddie stops, and then carefully sets the mugs he’d taken from the cupboard down on the counter. “Yeah,” he says.

Barry’s face is stricken. “I didn’t believe him, when he told me today,” he says, “You haven’t--you haven’t done anything differently, treated me differently or anything, after what I did--

“You apologised,” Eddie says mildly. “That counts for a lot.”

“I was going to hurt you!” Barry exclaims. “How can you--”

“Lots of people try to hurt me,” Eddie replies. “I’m a cop. And you said you weren’t yourself. What did you mean by that, by the way?”

Barry deflates. “It was this--this rage thing, like hypnotism, there was this guy who could make other people angry, lose their inhibitions--”

“A metahuman?”

“--Yeah, and I thought I was fine, but it turns out I wasn’t, and I, I hurt people, the things I said, and then I went after you, and I just--I’m so, so sorry, Eddie, I shouldn’t even be making excuses, I’m just so damn sorry.”

“Breathe,” Eddie advises.

Barry rakes a hand through his hair and slumps over the counter. Eddie wants to hug him really badly. And maybe ruffle his hair a little more.

Instead, he takes his time pouring the coffee. “Milk? Sugar?” he suggests.

“Just sugar, please,” Barry says meekly. “I need the fuel.”

Eddie nods and puts the sugar bowl in front of him. Barry proceeds to make his coffee monstrously sweet.

“It sounds to me,” Eddie says carefully, “That we have some issues to work out. You were already angry with me, that guy just made you do something about it. Do we have a problem?”

“No,” Barry says instantly. Then he makes an inarticulate sound. “Not anymore,” he amends. “I’m over it, we’re good. Promise.”

Eddie looks at him over the rim of his coffee. “Good,” he says, “Because I like you, Barry, and I don’t want to have upset you, in any way.”

“You’ve never upset me, you’ve actually been amazingly, ridiculously nice to me,” Barry says, leaning forward. “It’s all on me, okay? It’s not your problem, nothing’s wrong with what you’ve done, you’re sort of perfect, so please don’t worry.”

They both pause for a second; Barry turns bright red.

“Drink your coffee,” Eddie says. He feels a little lightheaded.

Barry scrambles to do so.

They finish the coffee in silence.

“I should go,” Barry says.

“Okay,” Eddie replies. “You need to call a cab?”

Barry gives him a look.

Eddie rolls his eyes. “Right. Stupid question.” At Barry’s dubious look, he adds, “Your secret’s safe with me. I won’t tell Iris.”

“I used to wish that she knew,” Barry mutters. “Now…”

“She’d forgive you. Him, whatever,” Eddie says, certain of it. “But I get why we can’t say anything.”

Barry nods. He goes to the door, and Eddie follows. “Thanks.”

“Anytime. Thanks for the help with the case today.”

“Just doing my job,” Barry shrugs. And then, with a little grin, he zooms away with a sudden burst of air and speed, out of sight in a split second.

Eddie can’t help but laugh.

***

A few days later, they go on another apartment hunt, to little success. It remains, however, a fairly lighthearted process. Barry seems more at ease than he has been in weeks, and Eddie lets himself bump shoulders with him, and steer him around the apartments with a hand low on his back.

Iris observes this with a sly smile.

Anita lets them go with a sigh at the end of the afternoon, but promises to take them out again in a few days.

“Let’s go to Dad’s,” Iris says, “I’m exhausted and starving, and I’m pretty sure he bought chilli ingredients the other day.”

“I’ll call to see if he’s in,” Barry volunteers. “I’m pretty sure I left my headphones there last week anyway, I should look.”

Eddie has no complaints--Joe’s his partner first, his girlfriend’s dad second, and anyway, the West residence always seems warm and open in comparison to his own parents’ more reserved household.

Joe, it turns out, is indeed in, and he raises his eyebrows at the three of them standing on the threshold. “Are you begging for food, is that what’s happening here?” he says.

“Maybe?” Barry offers, giving a winning smile. “I heard there was chilli?”

Joe rolls his eyes. “There will be chilli, if you help me out. And it’s a damn good thing I’m still in the habit of cooking for an army. Come on in.” He kisses Iris’s cheek as she skips in, gives Barry a hug, and claps Eddie on the back. “How’s house hunting?”

“Difficult,” Iris says over her shoulder, already headed for the kitchen. “There’s just so much to consider! And I keep misremembering which things we saw where.”

“I’ve started keeping a list,” Barry says. “Since neither of these two seem willing.”

“I’ve never been a list person,” Eddie admits. “But it is proving helpful.”

“You’re helping them pick an apartment?” Joe asks Barry, puzzled.

“Yeah, I offered,” Barry says. “Crime scenes, you know how it is.”

Joe makes a considering face. “It does give you a good sense of the real estate market in this city.”

“Precisely,” Barry says.

Eddie thinks that’s the end of it, because then Barry and Joe are off comparing urban neighbourhoods and suburban housing, so he heads into the kitchen to find Iris chopping onions like a boss.

“And you’re good with knives, too. You’re a dangerous lady, Ms. West,” he says.

“Don’t you forget it,” Iris smiles at him. “You want to do the garlic?”

“Sure.”

She hands him a paring knife, and he gets to work.

Joe comes in after a few minutes. “Well, at least you’re contributing, if you’re going to eat me out of house and home,” he says.

“We aim to please,” Iris singsongs.

Joe huffs. Then he looks seriously at Eddie. “What are you both doing, making Barry go house hunting with you?”

Eddie puts down his knife. “We’re not making him,” he says. “We were very clear that this wasn’t something we were asking of him. But--”

“I missed him,” Iris cuts in. “I wanted to spend time with him, and he wasn’t going to do that at any other time than this. And it’s been good. We’re talking more, and he and Eddie are getting along really well, right?”

“We’re good,” Eddie says, echoing Barry.

Joe’s arms remained crossed. “Be careful with him,” he advises.

“We will, Dad,” Iris says. “You know we will.”

“Hm,” Joe says. Finally, he unwinds. “Well, get back to work,” he prompted, shooing them along. “Chilli won’t make itself, and I have to make the sauce still.”

Barry announces himself by thundering back down the stairs. “Found my headphones! Finally! How can I help?”

“You are not to be trusted with anything related to the stove,” Joe says sternly.

“I’m a chemist!” Barry protests. “That’s basically cooking!”

“Lies,” Iris says, “Lies and deceit.” To Eddie, she adds, “He set a bowl of pasta on fire once.”

“One time, that was one time,” Barry says, and then they’re off again, slinging teasing insults back and forth, Joe smirking through it all.

Eddie grabs another clove of garlic to mince, and laughs along.

***

Now that Eddie’s looking for it, he gets what Iris meant when she said that sometimes Barry looks. It’s not precisely furtive, or even conscious, Eddie imagines, but it’s definitely there.

Eddie is...well, ’flattered’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. He and Iris start shooting each other glances when Barry’s with them, like can you believe how great he is?

Barry bounces around, and gets used to Eddie leading him around with a hand on his elbow, and Iris linking arms with him again.

But then the Man in the Yellow Suit comes back.

He goes after Iris.

All bets are off.

***

Eddie comes out of it with a sprained wrist and a bruised ego. He’s easily the best off out of all of them.

Joe has cracked ribs, and Iris has a twisted ankle and split knuckles, mostly due to having landed a beautiful haymaker on ‘Reverse Flash’, or whatever the guy’s called.

But Barry--Barry’s unconscious. His mask is torn off entirely, lost to a burning car, so far as Eddie can tell.

Iris refuses to leave Barry’s side afterward, and together she and Eddie and Joe carry him back to STAR Labs to have him looked after.

“His cells are still healing themselves at an accelerated rate,” Caitlin says, looking uncomfortable, but steady. “He sustained very serious injuries that could have done terrible damage to a normal person, but he’ll be okay. He just needs time, and rest, and a lot of fluids. We’ll put him on an IV drip as soon as possible.”

“If that guy’s the reverse of the Flash, why the hell is he faster?” Cisco asks, looking offended at the lack of rationale. “Why doesn’t he have to run backwards? I don’t get this dude at all.”

“We need to process all the data we have on him using the new surveillance footage,” Dr. Wells says. “I want to know how the hell he knew to come after Ms. West. Cisco, if you would?”

“Can we stay with him?” Joe cuts in, his hand still gripped around Barry’s lax one. His ribs are wrapped tightly under his half-open shirt. “Until he wakes up?”

“Of course,” Caitlin says. “This isn’t a hospital, we don’t stand on ceremony. Can I...would anyone like tea, or coffee?”

Iris seems, finally, to rouse herself from the shock she’s been going through for the past hour. “Coffee, please,” she says roughly. “I need to sit down.”

Eddie wordlessly steers her towards one of the rolling chairs, and goes to grab a brace for her ankle.

“You’re not surprised,” she says, after a moment, when he’s strapping up her leg. “You’re not acting surprised.”

Eddie braces for impact. “No,” he says.

Silently, angrily, she starts to cry.

Eddie looks up at Joe, and Joe just shakes his head, handing him more bandages.

They’re in for a long night.

***

“I’m extremely upset with all of you right now, and you’re going to have to just live with it,” Iris says, several hours later.

It’s not the first time she’s said it.

(Barry had finally regained consciousness about an hour after Caitlin got the drip feed started. His breathing had sped up suddenly, and then he had groaned. “Ow.

“Hey, Barry,” Joe had said, sounding immensely relieved.

Iris, on the other hand, had lurched out of her chair to loom over Barry. “You,” she had hissed. “I want to slap you, but I’m pretty sure you’ve already got a broken cheekbone. Consider this an IOU.” And then she’d kissed him very firmly on the head.

Barry had winced, and then given a horrified look to Joe. “What is she doing here?”

“Couldn’t stop her,” Joe had said. “And I wasn’t inclined to try this time. You had us really goddamn worried, Barry.”

“...Oh god,” Barry had said, and then passed out again.)

Eddie accepts his place in the doghouse with as much grace as he can muster. It’s not as if he can blame Iris--no matter what, it’s always awful to be the last person to find something out. And to find out about this? Yeah.

Caitlin makes endless cups of coffee and tea between monitoring Barry’s condition, and Joe paces around. Wells and Cisco appear to have gone off to try and science their way through the problem.

Barry sleeps on for another hour, and then wakes abruptly once more.

“I lost him,” he mutters, pawing at the IV drip. “I lost him again.”

Joe stills his hands. “We’re not going to give up. But you need to rest right now.”

“I want to let it go,” Barry mumbles. “But I can’t.”

Joe closes his eyes. “I know, kid. I know.”

Iris has her hands over her mouth. Eddie wraps an arm around her shoulders.

Barry drifts off to sleep again.

“How long?” Iris asks, when it’s clear he’s unconscious. “How long has he been doing this?”

Joe sighs. “Since he woke up. It was the accident that made him this way.”

Iris swears soundly. Joe doesn’t bother rebuking her.

“Why don’t you guys go home, get some rest?” he suggests. “Barry just has to sleep it off now. There’s no point in all of us being useless tomorrow. And I’m not going to be able to sleep with these damn things anyway.” He gestures at his ribs.

Eddie exhales. “That okay with you, babe?” he asks, squeezing Iris’s shoulder. “We can stay if you want.”

“He’ll get that pinched, embarrassed look on his face if we do,” she says reluctantly. “Like--”

What the hell did you think you were doing, worrying about me?” Eddie finishes. “One hundred percent.”

“Yeah,” Iris agrees. “Okay. You get some rest too, Dad, okay? And call us if there’s any change.”

“You got it,” Joe promises. “We’ll hold down the fort. Stay at the house, it’s closer.”

Eddie nods, and they head off.

When they finally make it to the house and crawl, exhausted, into bed, Iris stares at the ceiling for a long time.

Eddie watches her.

“Barry is The Flash,” she says.

“Yeah,” Eddie confirms.

She breathes out once, twice. “A part of me isn’t even surprised. He’s always wanted to help people, always was too good to do anything but the right thing. I’m not surprised.”

Eddie waits.

“I’m so scared for him,” she whispers.

Eddie pulls her to him, tucking her into the curve of his body, pressing close to the warmth of her. “We’ll look after him,” he says, because there’s no other option now. “We’ll do everything we can for him. We’ll give him everything.”

“Okay,” Iris answers, closing her hand over his arm. “Okay.”

***

Barry takes the next day off from work, but then he’s back. There isn’t a mark on him.

Iris has a late shift at Jitters that day, so instead of working the morning shift, she’s at the station, forcing apple crumble and coffee down Eddie’s throat and distracting him entirely from work.

They both spot Barry at the same time, look at each other, and make a beeline for him.

“Hey guys,” Barry says, clutching his messenger bag with a white-knuckled grip. “How’s it going?”

Iris makes a face, and then nearly chokes him with her hug. He sputters.

“I’m glad you’re okay,” Iris says, “Dad said you stayed in STAR Labs all of yesterday.”

“Yeah, that wasn’t particularly pleasant, but Cisco and Caitlin are good company,” Barry says, laughing a little. “I’m okay. Promise.” Then he looks down at her seriously. “Hey. I’m sorry. Really, really sorry.”

Iris sighs against his chest. “You should be. But I get it. Apology accepted.”

“Thanks,” Barry murmurs. “Means a lot.”

Eddie gives in to temptation and curls his hand around the back of Barry’s neck, right at the base of his skull, and pulls him forward over Iris’s shoulder. He presses his lips against Barry’s temple, and hears Barry’s breath hitch. “Welcome back, then,” he murmurs.

“Thanks,” Barry says, a little thinly.

Joe walks up and raises an eyebrow. “All good here?” he says, after a second.

Barry nods, a little jerkily.

“Good. Then go on, get to work. We missed you yesterday.”

“Yes, sir.”

Barry scurries off.

“I should get going as well,” Iris says. “Lecture at 11:30.”

“You’re okay to walk on your ankle?” Eddie asks.

“It’s barely three blocks, I’ll be fine.”

“Okay.” He kisses her briefly and sees her off.

***

They all collectively forget that they’re still on the hunt for an apartment until it pops up on Iris’s calendar several days later.

Barry is in the middle of testing some weird residue found at a murder site while Eddie sits in the corner of the lab with a pile of paperwork in his lap. He’s gotten in the habit, lately, of doing the boring parts of police work in Barry’s space, because Barry tends to distract from how painful filling out forms in triplicate can be.

Barry doesn’t seem to mind; the first time Eddie came up only to flop down next to the pipettes and groan at his plight, he’d zoomed to Jitters and back in less than a second, dropped the cup of coffee onto the desk in front of Eddie, and said, “Look! I’m faster than a centrifuge!” and carried on with his work at lightning speed.

Eddie gets the sense that Barry likes to be able to share what he can do with other people. And in fairness, it’s pretty damn amazing to watch. So now Eddie does his paperwork, and out of the corner of his eye, watches Barry take readings and act as his own chemical agitator and generally be, as previously established, brilliant and cute.

Thus, when Iris bursts into the lab, they’re both buried in work, and they jump out of their skins when she says, “We forgot about the appointment, Anita’s out front, can you come?”

“Shit,” Eddie says, “Give me two minutes to finish this?”

“Be done in thirty seconds if you close the door,” Barry offers.

Iris’s eyes widen. “Done and done,” she says, shutting the door behind her.

Eddie finishes his report with a flourish; Barry is a just a blur of flying papers and Erlenmeyer flasks. Iris watches him go with a thrilled sort of smile on her face.

He stops with a jolt in front of her. “Ready?”

Iris grins in amazement, and nods.

Eddie claps him on the shoulder as they head to the door. “Let’s go.”

Anita eyes Iris’s ankle brace and Eddie’s ace bandage-wrapped wrist, but doesn’t comment. They see a couple of properties that none of them are particularly inspired by, but then they get to the upper floor of a worn, but handsome townhouse, a manageable distance from both the university and the police station. Eddie looks approvingly at the staircase as they ascend--a big mahogany affair, old but solid.

“Early twentieth century, recently refurbished,” Anita recites. “On the upper end of your price range, but I think you’ll find the space is worth it.”

She unlocks the apartment door and they all step inside.

Iris takes a breath, and then hums thoughtfully. Eddie looks around.

It isn’t a huge place, but it isn’t small, either.

“Good light,” Barry comments. He’s right--the afternoon sun comes through the tall windows in great swathes, falling across new wooden floors and uneven, thickly painted white walls. The living room seems to be the main event, but a large opening in the wall dividing it from the kitchen reveals gleaming stainless steel appliances and modest counter space.

“These are solid brands, right?” Iris says, pointing at the stove.

Barry nods. “They look pretty new, I imagine they’ll last for as long as you’re here.”

“The apartment was just recently bought by a new landlord, who invested a lot in getting the place cleaned up and restored,” Anita says. “For all that, the rent is exceedingly reasonable.”

They keep looking around, Barry peering at the window casings and walking up and down the floors, listening for creaks. It’s an old apartment, and feels it, but not in any sort of unstable or crumbling way. They ask after the landlord, and the garbage pickup schedule, and the pet policy.

Eddie finds himself smiling as they continue to look.

“This place is kind of great, guys,” Barry says eventually. He looks a little excited in spite of himself. “What do you think?”

“It’s good,” Iris says. “Really good.”

“Yeah,” Eddie nods. “Yeah, I think--I think this could be the right one.”

Iris tucks her hand into the crook of his elbow, leaning into him. “Bedroom’s big enough,” she murmurs.

So Eddie hadn’t been the only one to notice the expansive room that rendered a guest room impossible and a large bed very, very achievable. That felt pretty right, too.

“You like it?” He asks Barry.

"Do you?" Barry counters. "It's your place, potentially."

"We like it," Iris says. Then she seems to gather herself. Eddie wonders if this is really the time and place, considering Anita is hanging out in the other room, waiting for them.

"We like it, and we want you to like it," Iris says. "So do you?"

Barry looks between them, clearly sensing that something was different. "...Yes? Yes. I like it a lot. Wouldn't mind living here myself, if I had someone to share it with." He laughs, a little nervously.

“Okay,” Eddie says, “Then we’ll take it.” He goes out to Anita to give the okay. Behind him, he hears Barry say quietly, “Iris, what’re you--why are you guys--”

“We’d like to talk to you about something,” Iris says carefully, “If you’d like. No obligation, no pressure.”

There’s a long pause, and then Barry says, very quietly, “Okay.”

***

Anita is very pleased with their choice, and starts the paperwork rolling immediately. Eddie and Iris arrange the deposit and set a move-in date; Joe looks pleased when he sees the pictures they took of the place.

Barry hovers, and then buries himself in work for a few days. Eddie and Iris give him the space.

The Flash takes down a few bank robbers and saves a family from a burning building; the newspapers publish photos of a red streak blurring across the page. Eddie is overwhelmingly fucking proud of him. The difference between a vigilante and a hero, he suspects, is knowing who the person is underneath the mask.

Eventually, Eddie finds himself back in Barry’s lab, slogging through a series of reports while Barry whizzes around, not saying much. There’s a nervous energy to him, above and beyond his usual overabundance of fast-twitch movements.

When he stops for a moment to write some observations down at the table Eddie’s settled at, Eddie puts his hand on his wrist to still him. “You okay, Barry?” he asks.

Barry breathes out sharply. “Um.”

Eddie waits, but doesn’t let go of Barry’s wrist. His pulse is jumping under Eddie’s fingers.

“Dr. Wells,” Barry says eventually. “I talked to him the other day, after you guys settled on the apartment. I guess I was telling him a lot about you guys. He...I think he was trying to look out for me.”

Eddie has to try very hard not to tighten his grip. He’s not sure he entirely succeeds, considering the way Barry’s pulse jumps.

“He said I was setting myself up for a fall,” Barry says at last. “That I should be careful, and that I’m investing myself in a situation that’s only going to get me hurt, and that maybe, considering what I do, my job as The Flash, I should try and disengage from the things that will compromise my ability to be the best at--”

“Christ,” Eddie blurts out, “We’ve done this all wrong.” He stands up abruptly. “Barry,” he says, “We...that is, Iris and I, we wanted to ask…”

Barry looks down, like he’s expecting to be disappointed.

“Please don’t disengage,” Eddie asks, a little desperately. “Wells was trying to help, yes, but he doesn’t know how much we...that is, I know I’m not who you necessarily want in this equation, but--”

Barry just frowns, refusing to look up. Eddie makes an inarticulate noise in his throat. He pulls at Barry’s wrist to bring him close, raises his other hand to rest on the back of Barry’s neck to get him closer still. Tilts slightly to duck in.

He pauses momentarily when he’s an inch from Barry’s mouth, giving him a chance to draw away. Barry is frozen, wide-eyed. Eddie brushes a very light kiss across his lips. Meets no resistance, and so he presses a little further.

Barry takes a shuddering breath in, and then sways into Eddie. Eddie doesn’t let him fall, just reels him in, lets himself be thorough, loving the way Barry fits against him, all lean muscle and vibrating energy, completely different from Iris and so equally wanted.

When he pulls away, Barry’s eyes are closed. “Iris,” he says, beginning to frown.

“We’ve had a lot of talks about you,” Eddie says. “Mostly about how we sort of want to take you home with us. I can call her to confirm. I should, actually, I kind of jumped the gun with this, we had a plan, before.”

Barry finally opens his eyes to stare at Eddie, looking slightly cross-eyed for being so close. “You and Iris…?”

“Yup,” Eddie says, popping the ‘p’. “We, uh...well, we owe you an apology, first of all. We’ve been asking a lot of you, and it wasn’t fair to do that when you thought...well.”

Barry just keeps staring at him, clearly trying to put it all together, and his hands flex around where he’s gripping Eddie’s bicep and waist, almost painfully tight. “In fairness,” he says slowly, “You never made me do anything I didn’t want to do. Even when it hurt, I’ve always wanted to be around Iris. Around you,” he adds, quirking a rueful smile up at Eddie. “You’re my friends. That’s never changed.”

Eddie nods, a little relieved despite himself. “Well, we both care about you, very much. And now that we both know about the whole speedster thing, we’re on a more level playing field, so I thought, if you wanted--that is, if--”

“You’re really bad at this,” Barry cuts in, a little wonderingly. “How does Iris deal with you?”

“I have no idea sometimes,” Eddie admits. “But now you and Iris can handle that bit. I’ll just smile and nod a lot.”

“Please do more than that,” Barry says automatically, and then goes bright red again.

Eddie huffs, and then gets his phone.

***

Iris is waiting for them when they both exit the station at the end of the day, bouncing on her toes.

“Your place?” she says to Eddie, without preamble.

“Sure,” Eddie says.

Barry just nods mutely.

Iris looks at him for a second, and then hugs him. “I’m sorry,” she says. “I’m really, really sorry. We’ve been awful.”

“How about we call it even?” Barry suggests, folding his arms around her, laughing a little. “This has been confusing, and I don’t like not talking to you, and--”

“If you’re okay with that,” she replies. “You don’t have to be.”

“I am, really,” Barry says quickly. “Really, really. I mean, I--”

“Come on,” Eddie says, “Let’s go.”

Barry subsides, nodding. Iris smiles over Barry’s shoulder at him, and then links arms with them both as they head for Eddie’s car.

Eddie catches a glimpse of the three of them in a shop window as they round the corner to the parking lot. They look comfortable. Like they’ve been this way forever.

***

At Eddie’s apartment, Barry stands in the kitchen, looking stranded. “Is this what you wanted to talk about?” he says eventually, “When we were in the apartment?”

“Yes,” Iris says, leaning against the refrigerator, meeting his eyes steadily. “You know I love you, Barry. Always have. But before you dropped that bomb on me, before Christmas, I hadn’t thought about what kind of love that was.”

Barry nods, and looks down, shoving his hands in his pockets. “I get that,” he says.

Iris steps up to him, and gently puts her fingertips under his chin to lift his head. “I’ve been thinking a lot about what kind of love, lately,” she confesses.

Barry stares at her, wide-eyed.

“And Eddie thinks you’re brilliant and cute,” she adds.

“Hey,” Eddie says mildly, “I admitted that in confidence.”

Iris scoffs. Barry still hasn’t taken his eyes off her. She focusses on him. “I love Eddie,” she says gently. “We’re kind of a package deal at this point. But if that’s something that could appeal to you, if you want to be with us, not just me, we would be very, very happy to try it.”

"That... seems like a big risk," Barry says, sounding uneven. "You're moving in together. That's already a huge change. Isn't this...this can't be a safe idea."

"True," Iris admits. "But I'd be lying if I said we didn't spend a lot of time while looking at apartments thinking about how you'd fit there."

Barry stares at her, then at Eddie. "...Really?"

"It was kind of embarrassing," Eddie says. "Anita already thinks we're a set."

"Is that why she kept tutting and giving me significant looks? Oh god."

"Sorry."

"Not sorry," Iris says, only half joking. Then she sobers. "The point is that we've given this a lot of thought, Barry. The question then is, what do you want?"

"I want..." Barry stops. Shakes his head. "I want to be a part of this," he says quietly. "Whatever that means."

"Good," Eddie says. “We want that.”

"You're really okay with it?" Barry asks, looking at him.

“If I wasn’t,” Eddie says simply, “I wouldn’t have kissed you today.”

And with that, he moves to make them all coffee.

They end up in the sitting room, Barry and Iris on the couch, Eddie in the armchair. Barry keeps fiddling with his mug. They’re all way too quiet.

Eventually, Iris leans towards Barry. “Hey,” she says.

Barry stills. Waits.

“I think we need to take this as it comes,” she says carefully. “We’ve established that we all like each other, and we’re taking this seriously. Good. Over-planning, however, is going to make us all nervous.”

“‘Make’ us,” Barry starts, “I’m already--”

“Exactly,” Iris interrupts. “Do you trust me?”

Barry doesn’t even hesitate, just nods.

Without further ado, Iris swings a leg over his to settle in his lap. Eddie puts his coffee down rather clumsily, because wow.

“Eddie already kissed you,” Iris points out, as if explaining something obvious to her undergrads. “I find this unfair.”

“Okay,” Barry croaks.

She kisses him. Thoroughly. Barry’s hands slide up from her hips to thread into her hair, cup her jaw, grip her shoulders. Eddie finds himself fascinated by the span of his long fingers, and the small, pleased sounds Iris makes in her throat that never fail to make Eddie want to throw her onto the nearest horizontal surface and get his mouth on her.

Barry, it seems, has much the same urge, if the way he leans up into her is any indication. His eyes fall shut and he presses forward like he’s starved for her. Eddie’s grip on the arm of his chair becomes white-knuckled.

When they break apart to breathe, Iris grins, a little disbelieving. “Wow,” she says. “I knew it would be good, but wow.”

“Exactly what I was thinking, actually,” Eddie says.

Iris looks over at him, leaning into Barry as she does so. “Come here,” she says lowly.

Eddie goes as if compelled. He settles next to Barry, one knee bent up on the couch to face him and Iris. He looks between them, at the way Barry is gasping for breath like he’s run a hundred (hell, a thousand) miles, and the way Iris is shifting her hips, almost unconsciously. “You’re gorgeous,” he says, and doesn’t know who he means.

Both: it has to be.

Iris leans sideways and kisses him, familiar and wonderful, warming him from the inside out. He groans into her mouth when a warm, long-fingered hand lands on his thigh and tightens.

“I’ve spent so much time watching you do that,” Barry murmurs, “Without appreciating how incredible it looks.”

“So much time, huh?” Iris teases, breaking away and smiling, though again, it’s that little crooked smile that’s sad at the edges.

Barry shrugs, rueful. Eddie has to kiss him then, and is surprised when Barry presses into it, hard, more like the way he’d kissed Iris, nothing like the cautious acquiescence he’d shown in the middle of the lab. Eddie curls into it helplessly, falling into the small space between the two of them, allowing himself to be guided by Barry’s hands and shivering when Iris kisses his neck, setting her teeth lightly against the largest tendon.

Barry draws away first, eyes glassy.

“Well,” Iris says, a little breathlessly, “I think this is going to work out, so far as bedroom issues go.”

"It's just all the rest of it," Barry points out. "What with the whole metahuman thing, and--"

"We'll deal with that tomorrow," Eddie says, feeling wrung out and also strangely calm. "For now, come to bed with us. Not for anything," he adds quickly. "Just to see how it feels. If you want."

"I want," Barry nods, more confidently. "Please."

Iris smiles, incandescent. She climbs off the couch, and offers Barry a hand up. He takes it, and then pulls Eddie up along with him.

The bed is too small for three by a long shot. They make it work.

"We have to start shopping for a bed," Iris remarks, when they've settled.

“Move in first,” Barry advises. “Also, invest in tape measures. You can never have too many.”

“Done and done,” Eddie says, and rolls so that he can fit his arm around the both of them.

***

It takes ages for Iris to finally ask the question.

“So we have a fire escape,” she says, arranging a pot of flowers on the new windowsill. Barry is draped over the counter, looking like a spoiled house cat, while Eddie cuts up chives. They all have a late morning for once, and Eddie has decided that fancy scrambled eggs is the only way to have an appreciable morning. "Why, precisely, was that a thing that you needed? We don't use it, except occasionally to put extra plants on."

“It’s stupid,” he says, dumping the chives into the mostly cooked eggs. He stirs them, adding a bit more pepper. The sun comes in through the blinds in great shafts of clear, warm light. It’s as cozy and open as they’d hoped.

“It was an awfully specific request,” Barry points out. Eddie jabs at him with the spatula; Barry dodges easily.

Eddie breathes out. “It was for The Flash,” he admits. “I wanted him to be able to make a quick exit without it coming up on security cams, or revealing anything about where he usually is. Fire escapes are normal enough to be unnoticeable, but their exit routes are reliable and discreet. I just...I wanted to accommodate.”

He pokes intently at the eggs, unwilling to look up and face his humiliation. Then he senses movement to his left, followed by long arms wrapped around his waist.

“You are adorable, and I am so, so happy I get to keep you,” Barry says.

“Ditto,” Iris says. “But you’re an idiot.”

“Why?” Eddie protests.

“I can walk down walls,” Barry says. “I’m faster than gravity by a long shot, it’s not that huge of an effort. Also, up walls. You leave the window open, I’m there, first floor, sixteenth floor, whatever. Security cameras got nothin’ on me.”

Eddie digests this, and then makes a disgusted sound. “Don’t even talk to me.”

Barry just tightens his hold, pressing his lips against the back of Eddie’s neck. “Nope. Tough luck. I like talking to you too much.”

“I’m going to tell Joe that you’re being a little shit.”

“Oooh, he’s gonna tell Dad on you,” Iris goads.

“Tattle tail,” Barry murmurs into Eddie’s neck. “You wouldn’t.”

“I would,” Eddie claims. “I absolutely would. He’s my partner, I’m allowed to bitch about my significant others to him. Also, I hate you.”

“Liar,” Iris says. “You love us.”

“You’re the liar,” Eddie retorts, “You are full of lies.”

Iris giggles at him, and Eddie can feel Barry vibrate with laughter against his back. He concedes--privately but never unhappily--that they aren’t wrong.

“Eat your goddamn eggs,” he says to them both.

He feels whole. This is my family, he thinks, and doesn't for a moment feel dishonest, or outside.

The apartment, so new and still half in boxes, feels like home.