Caitlin didn’t want to feel anything. She didn’t want to be sad, she didn’t want to hate Zoom and she didn’t want to grieve anymore. It seemed all she had done since the particle accelerator explosion was grieve. She had lost her husband, not once but multiple times, only to have him taken away again. And she had moved past it all to meet Jay and start to feel what real happiness and love was again. But it seemed the universe really had it out for her because even after she had found a cure for Jay’s dying cells he had been murdered right in front of her.
She had no room left in her heart. It was filled with people she had loved and lost and she would leave it open no more. She simply couldn’t take another death, it would kill her.
So she became someone else. Someone cold and uncaring. Someone who wouldn’t get their heart broken again.
Caitlin focused on her work and thought of nothing but helping The Flash. It was her job and she would do it. Sometimes her wall of ice would crack and memories of Jay would creep in. A conversation they had in the cortex, a smile he had hid from all but her, a kiss and some champagne in a beaker. They stung, and it stung even more to push the memories of him away but she needed to. Caitlin didn’t want to dissolve into grief again. It did nothing but waste her time.
She knew Cisco and Barry were worried for her and she wished they wouldn’t. She almost wanted them to completely ignore the absence of the former speedster because it would make it easier for her to move on. The Doctor grit her teeth and focused back on her work.
It wasn’t until Barry went after King Shark that Caitlin remembered she had more than just dead people in her heart.
Barry had been dragged into the water by the things teeth on his arm and she was worried it may pull the limb right off. The Flash disappeared in the water and the rest of them could do nothing but watch as lightening flashed through the waves, flickering in and out as the two fought in King Shark’s element.
The monitors on Caitlin’s tablet were beeping and flashing, showing Barry’s vitals as they plummeted. He was out of air and bleeding out. The lightening disappeared and the Argus agents grabbed a boat, going out over to where they last saw the lightening. Caitlin watched as they hastily pulled something out of the water, her heart was squeezed and her chest was tight as she watched them drag Barry’s limp body into the boat.
Caitlin’s heart counted out the few minutes it took them to get Barry back to shore. The boat pulled up to the dock and Caitlin dropped her tablet, it’s clattering hardly heard over the yelling.
Caitlin dropped down to her knees next to her hero and brushed the foreign hands away from his vulnerable body. Her mind screamed at her, cataloging his injuries. The skin and meat of his arm was torn and bleeding, it looked shredded and would need sewing back together but she needed to stop the bleeding first. Her hands sat on the speedster’s chest and as she spread her fingers against his suit she realized he wasn’t breathing. A glance up to his face showed Barry’s ashen face and blue tinted lips.
Caitlin immediately laced her fingers and pressed the heel of her hand to Barry’s chest, pressing down desperately, rhythmically. She had to force the water from his lungs but if he bled out he wouldn’t have any blood for his heart to pump. She was just tipping the boys head back when Diggle appeared beside her.
“What do you need me to do?”
The Doctor pressed her lips to Barry’s and forced air into his waterlogged chest twice before answering.
“Stop the bleeding on his arm. Check for more damage if you can, I don’t know the extent of his injuries and we need to get moving once I get him breathing again.”
Diggle nodded and started stripping his shirt off to press to the younger mans mangled arm.
Caitlin counted out thirty more compression's and pressed her lips to Barry’s mouth twice more before she realized Cisco was yelling in her ear through the coms.
“Caitlin what the hell is happening? Why isn’t Barry breathing?” He sounded terrified and close to tears. All he had on his monitors were the suit readings telling him his best friend was dying.
“King Shark dragged him into the water. He almost ate his arm off I’m going to need to sew it all together at the lab, can you get everything set up for me?”
“Yeah, yeah of course but he’s still not breathing.”
Caitlin pressed harder on Barry’s cold chest.
Diggle piped up from behind her.
“There are gashes on his side as well. Teeth marks, they’re pretty deep.”
Caitlin cursed and pressed her mouth to Barry’s again, painfully aware of how long his brain had been without oxygen.
Finally, after a few more forceful compression's, Barry jerked and started coughing, water erupting from his mouth. Caitlin gasped and maneuvered the speedster onto his side, cradling his head and hitting his back to help him expel the water. He was barely conscious as he threw up water and tried to breathe.
Caitlin listened to his rasping breaths and motioned for Diggle to help her pull the boy up. His chest was too battered to allow Barry to breathe lying down and she held him to her chest, head tipped forward onto her shoulder in order for him to get sufficient breath. Diggle held the boys limp, unusable arm and pressed the wounds in an attempt to slow the bleeding as Caitlin held him to her.
He was weak and couldn’t help hold himself up as she wrapped her arm around him, hitting his back to help him cough the water out, her other hand cradling the back of his head in comfort.
The Doctor closed her eyes briefly and sighed in relief as she felt his chest heave against her own. He was badly hurt but he was alive. Once Barry had finished coughing Diggle tied his makeshift bandages around the bleeding teeth marks and picked the boy up to take him to the car.
Caitlin held Barry in the backseat as Diggle and Lyla drove, the whole ride spent trying to get a response from the hero. Caitlin knew the effects of oxygen deprivation and she knew permanent damage was a possibility. The rest of the Argus agents collecting King Shark for detainment were forgotten as she tried to help Barry.
Their arrival at S.T.A.R. Labs was a blur of rushing movement and shouting but Caitlin saw only the bleeding, pale boy being placed on the table. Her Doctors mind took over and her hands flew, stitching and disinfecting wounds as Diggle and Wells dragged people away from the mess.
It took far too long but finally she had Barry breathing with only a cannula for help, his wounds stitched and covered and all monitors in place with good readings. He lay unconscious in the bed as the doctor tucked blankets over him, adding a heating blanket to bring his temperature back to normal and being careful of his IV’s and wires. Caitlin sighed as she adjusted one of the blood bags and wiped away a stray smear of blood from his shoulder. He had been covered in blood but she had cleaned that up too.
He was alive and healing thanks to her. As she looked at him, pale and cold and unconscious in that bed, another crack appeared in her wall of ice. She had more than Ronnie and Jay taking up space in her heart, Barry was there too. Cisco and Iris and Joe and all of them. They were all people that she loved and couldn’t stand to lose. With her luck it was only a matter of time before they died too. Tears fell, tears for Jay and for Barry and for herself because no matter how hard she tried not to feel, she would never be able to stop caring about her family.
The Doctor knew she should tell the others that Barry was okay. Diggle and Harrison had been pulling them away to let her work but now that she was finished they would want to see their speedster. But the Doctor couldn’t put her feelings behind a wall this time, they spilled from her and would not be ignored. Caitlin sat beside Barry’s bedside and took his hand as she laid her head down and cried.
After all they went through, no matter how many others they saved they could never seem to save the people that mattered most to them. There was always one that couldn’t be stopped, someone who couldn’t be saved. Barry had lost so much, so often and he was constantly being brought back from the brink of death just so he could do it again next week. He was a hero and no matter what he lost he always stood up again. Caitlin didn’t know how he did it. How could one person endure so much pain and loss? How could she carry on when she was hurt every time?
Cold fingers witched in her grasp and Dr Snow looked up in time to Barry’s eyelids flicker.
“Barry? Can you hear me?”
He grunted in pain but opened his eyes a crack to look at her with a smile ghosted on his, thankfully, pink lips.
He said her name like it was his salvation and though his words were slurred with pain and exhaustion Caitlin smiled back. She had to feel things, she needed to keep going because if she hid behind a wall of ice she would lose everything she had left. She would lose her family and friends, and she would lose herself. And she wouldn’t have been able to feel the rush was relief and warmth at seeing Barry smile.
The Doctor sniffed and sat up straight, carefully wiping her face.
“How are you feeling?”
Barry smiled again, his eyes drifting shut.
“Sore but alive. Thank you Caitlin. Thanks for always being my hero.”
“You’re welcome Barry.”
The Doctor smoothed her fingers through the tired speedster’s hair and leant over to press a kiss to his forehead. Barry wasn’t strong all the time, evidenced now by his closed eyes and his hand in hers. Barry took time to heal and to get strong again before getting back up. And it would be no different for her. Their team was waiting a few rooms away and Dr Snow realized that what she needed wasn’t to be cold and unfeeling, what she needed was her team, to hold her up till she could stand on her own again. That’s what family does.