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Stepping onto butterflies

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In retrospective, he should have looked back at the consequences- but when he had traveled back in time to save his mother, Barry had honestly believed that, in the end, everything would have been all right: if the Reverse Flash had been the cause of everything that had gone wrong in his life- in the life of his city- then, getting rid of him should have done the trick, right?

Instead, no- even if the blood of his nemesis was on his hands, everything was still falling apart; like someone had once told him, history wanted to happen, no matter what, and there were few things that were written in the stones- things that couldn’t be undone, broken, no matter what. The Speed Force still needed an avatar, and to that power- to those powers-that-be he hadn’t even started to understand- it didn’t matter who wore the lighting on their chest .

Things still happened- only, it was like on Earth-2, in a way; it was the real Wells – a man married and with a young daughter, Jess -to cause the explosion of the particle accelerator- even if it wasn’t voluntary. But it still happened- and the Lighting struck anyway. Only, it wasn’t Barry- it was Welly West who was granted super-powers in that particular night, the young kid who was waiting for his father to close up a case at CCPD.

Wally was good- maybe even better than Barry had been at the beginning- and Barry allowed himself to get carried away in this new world he had created; sometimes, he couldn’t even say if that world he had left behind had been real or not; more often than not, he believed it to be a dream- and it was like that that the memories started to fade in and out, like nothing had happened at all. Which, in a way, was actually true.

Only… Wally did what Barry had done too- he became arrogant, too sure of himself and his abilities, smug; but whereas Barry had had back-ups and friends and people lecturing him, Wally had been alone… and it costed him everything; once discovered his identity, his enemies- a bloodier, crazier, eviler and more psyco version of the Rogues, who had allied themselves with Kara and Oliver’s nemeses, calling themselves the Legion - hit first his family, and then, after having tortured him, both in spirit and body, they killed Wally, making sure that the world would see and be terrorized in the knowledge that there was no stopping them.

Without a Flash, and with the Arrow busy fighting  his own battles in Starling, Central soon became just  like Earth 2- the evil was walking the streets, governing over the innocents, and all because Barry had dared to seek out  a selfish happiness, the whole world was falling down in millions of tiny little pieces at the Legion’s hands- and all because of him. He knew that it was up to him to remedy his mistake. And, even if it broke his heart, he also knew what had to be done to change things back, and stop the tidal wave of events that was causing the collapsing of his own world.

For his city- his world- to survive, things had to go back the way they were. For everyone to be saved, his parents had to die- and the only way to do so, was to get back in time and stop himself from killing the Reverse Flash.

There was only one little problem. To time-travel, he had to access the Speed Force… and he wasn’t a speedster any longer. Which meant… he needed his powers back. Asap- something that he knew very well he couldn’t do on his own- He needed help- he needed the help of the people who, in another life, had been  his best friends, his mentors.

His first attempt was with Wells- but this one was still a famous scientist, rich and who didn’t give a damn about his “followers”- and hated from the deepest recess of his heart the crazy stalkers who tried to get his attention with the stupidest sci-fi scientific theories possible. He immediately thought that Barry Allen was one of them- he didn’t even allow him to talk, just a look, and he knew that he would have meant troubles, and he (not so) kindly asked security to escort him outside. Possibly, kicking him in the ass while they were at it. Literally. The same scene happened with Cisco- actually, it was even worse, as Cisco was a tech mogul billionaire, Bruce Wayne Style- and for what concerned Cait… he couldn’t even find her in town (or anywhere in the country, for what mattered).

The world- his town- was burning,  he had caused the death of the only family he had ever had, no one was listening and he just couldn’t do any of it alone.

That was when he remembered that there was someone who had dealt with the crazy enough to actually believe him. A guy who- at least in his other life - had seen a resurrecting magical hot tube hidden in the mountains- a guy who knew of magic and the likes, and who, maybe, just maybe, wouldn’t have taken him for crazy. Maybe he would have listened to him, at least. He wasn’t asking anything more than that, after all.

Starling City, Barry thought, here I come.

“Who are you?”

As soon as he heard the voice coming from his back, Barry felt the tip of an arrow pinching the  skin of his neck; tentatively and slowly, he lifted his hands like in surrender, and  HE HALF-TURNED, NOTIVING, IN THE CORNER OF HIS EYES, Felicity, trying her best to hide herself (and her not-masked identity) under a desk and behind some stationery.

“Who the hell are you?” The Green Arrow demanded once again, as Barry stood right before him, gulping down a mouthful of saliva, the arrow pointing now at his forehead; he did his best to remember who he used to be in that other life- the one where he was The Flash- because part of him was scared. He knew that the All New, All Different Green Arrow didn’t kill unless strictly necessary, but this Green Arrow didn’t know who Barry was, didn’t have any kind of history with him; who he was to say that he wouldn’t have seen him as an enemy?

“Oliver… please, wait a second, all right?” Tentatively, Barry took a step forward, and moved the arrow out of the way. “You have to remember guys. It’s me, Barry- Barry Allen.”

“Oliver? As in Oliver Queen?” The Green Arrow asked.

Barry nodded. “I know your real name. I know what happened. The boat, the Island, and China and Russia and Merlyn and everything else.” Barry lowered his hands, and stood, serious and broken, right before the man he had considered his best friend for the last three years of his life, and the girl he had really, really liked- the girl that had gotten into that thick head of his that he was wrong and that there was no other girl than Iris for him.

Oliver lowered the bow, and slowly, like a predator, approached Barry; without second guessing himself, nor expecting any other kind of explanation from the younger man, fluid, he attacked his opponent, and incapacitated him, grabbing him for right arm and dislocating, with just a few gestures, his shoulder; Barry ended up, in pain, on his knees, and grabbed his shoulder, like hoping that it would magically get better, get back to the way it was supposed to.

“You son of a… you dislocated my shoulder… you could have broken my arm….” Barry hissed at low voice, clenching his teeth in pain.

“And I will break every bone in your body until you tell me who the hell you are and why the hell you are here.” The Green Arrow demanded in his rough and deep voice, the one Barry wasn’t used to hear. “Did Wilson send you? Waller? Darhk?”

“What? No!” Barry, still on the ground, managed to put himself in a corner, and, leaning against the wall, he stood up, an hand on his injured shoulder. “My name is Barry Allen, and like you I have another identity. I’m… I was the Flash. After I was struck by a bolt of lightning, I became the fasted man alive and…”

The Arrow attacked him, punched him in the jaw- as simple as that- and yet, Barry was hit fair and square, and hit the wall ay his back, Felicity screaming- just once- under her desk; Barry wasn’t an idiot- and maybe, just maybe, he didn’t know this Felicity, but he understood enough that she was scared. Even if he didn’t know if it was Oliver’s behavior, or a stranger’s presence to put her on alert. .

“You weren’t fast enough to avoid that, you delusional bastard.” Oliver took a step forward, towering over the injured Barry. “I may have never met the Flash in person- but I know enough to be sure that you can’t be him.”

Barry, knowing all too well what was at stake, stood up, and looked at Oliver in the eyes, not smug, not meek, but desperate and in need- like a man who knew what he wanted and was going to get it, no matter what. “That’s because I don’t have my powers any longer, and no one knows that I was the Flash.”   He barely avoided another punch- he did know Oliver, after all, and had sparred with him enough times to have a feeling of what he may or may not do. “Oliver, I’m not your enemy- I just… I need your help!”

“You came to the wrong place!” Oliver screamed in his Arrow voice as he threw Barry over one of Felicity’s desks.  “Get up now!”

Oliver grabbed Barry for the lapels of his shirt, and in doing so, he ripped it a little- and he revealed what was underneath; under the white shirt, he saw a glimpse of red and gold- a costume, very similar to his own; Oliver suddenly felt very strange, like he was supposed to know it, and took a step back, and, taking off his mask, looked, a bit scared, at the young man right before him. “That was my uniform, when I came from.” Barry said, taking off his shirt, remaining, from the waist up, with his Flash uniform.

“Don’t you happen to mean, where? Hi, I’m Felicity, by the way. Sorry for his behavior. He can get a ,little territorial when it’s about his cave.” Felicity said, leaving her spot under her desk, and getting closer to them; she was talking with Barry, and yet, she was half-hiding behind Oliver- even if she was offering her hand to the mystery man, she heard Oliver groan, and bit her lips. “Right. Secret Identities. I’m not supposed to show myself up or tell people my own name. Sorry?”

 “It’s ok. I know you. Felicity Smoak. We too are friends. You, actually, are one of the reasons I came here.” Barry smiled of a little, thigh smile. “And… no. I meant when.”

“Ah! I knew it! You are one of Rip’s Merry Crew of time-travelers!”

Barry, despite Felicity’s enthusiasm, shook his head; he took a big breath- a little relieved that, at least, Rip and his friends were still there, in that timeline as well, even if he had already witnessed changes that he would have never thought possible, last time he had checked, he had been told that Leonard had died to save time and history themselves; and yet, in this new timeline- this new reality-  Leonard had remained Captain Cold, and had formed a team of Rogues bloodier than ever- and, as far as he knew, he had even allied himself with the likes of Luthor, Merlyn and  Darhk to extend his power and fear through the world.

“I fear I am the villain of the situation.” Barry admitted, closing his eyes. He tried to sound sure- but he couldn’t. Right now, he only felt shame- for not having listened to what Professor Wells had told him; Wells had been adamant about the risks that time-traveling comported, and that no matter what, the timeline had to be preserved, otherwise life as they knew it would have been at stake. But Barry had been too clouded by his own pain, felt that, after everything he had lost for and because of the Flash, he deserved a new life. And he had acted. Without thinking.  

“When I was a kid, a man coming from the future- a man obsessed with whom I would have become- murdered my mother. My father was sentenced to life for her death- and only last year the real culprit confessed and got him free- only so that another lunatic killed him to make me an orphan, just like he had been. Just to see if I would have become a despotic murderer like him.”

“Yeah, I noticed that having lost one or both parents is sort of a requisite for playing dress-up and running in the streets  as costumed vigilantes slash heroes…” The guys looked at Felicity, Oliver a bit annoyed. “What? He says is an orphan, the Flash was revealed to be a kid orphaned of mother, you are an orphan, Sara, Laurel and I have been abandoned by one of our parents… I’m just saying, there’ a pattern here.”

“I did something worse.” Barry closed his eyes, fisting his unarmed hand, and took a big breath, breathing from his nostrils like an enraged bull. “I went in the past… to the day my mother died. I found the Reverse Flash- Eobard Thawne…”

“Thawne? What kind of name is that?”  Felicity asked, running her moth yet again- yet again not connecting her mouth-to-brain filter.

“A name from the future.” Barry answered; he stopped for just a fraction of second- one that felt like an eternity, for all of them, and not just for him, the former fastest man alive. “I pulled the whole power of the Speed Force- the source of my powers- into stopping him. Stopping him from killing my mother. And… I think I broke the history. I changed the timeline. The lives of everyone I have ever known.”  Silent tears began to wet Barry’s face, as he finally broke, realizing the entirety of what he had done- the consequences of a single action. “I traded my parents’ lives for the rest of the world.”

Felicity shook her head. “Ok, I get this, you avenged, or whatever, your parents’ deaths… but… let’s say that I- that we believe that a man can time-travel. I don’t get why you don’t have powers. You were supposed to be born with those, right? If the X-Men got it right, at least.”

Barry smirked. “After my mother’s murder, the Detective working the case adopted me. Because of him- and because I knew that it wasn’t my father the real killer- I went to work for the Crime Lab. Three years ago I was working late, looking over the evidence on my mother’s case, when STAR Lab’s particle accelerator exploded- and I got hit by lighting and covered in chemicals. But since my mother hadn’t been killed…”

“With your mother alive, you weren’t working the case that night. And you didn’t got powers.” Oliver finished for him, and Barry nodded.  “But what do you want form us? I just, I don’t get it.”

Barry took a big breath. “I need to run away before my memories will fade away completely- run in the past and stop me from changing history.  It’s the only way to save those dying at the hands of the Legion right now- the thousands and thousands who  already died.” He paused, lowered his eyes to the ground, ashamed of what he was about to say, like the world escaping his lips were venomous. “I need to stop myself from saving my family.”

Felicity’s breath died in her throat, and Oliver too felt a bolt of nausea; he didn’t know what to think of this young man; if he was telling the truth- and something told him that Barry Allen wasn’t lying- he was ready to sacrifice everything he had gotten so that others could be safe and sound; Oliver Queen too had lost both of his parents, and a friend that had been like a brother, and he wondered if he would have such a strength, if he too would renounce his selfish ways so that others could be happy.

As much as he had worked hard to be a better man- as much as he did for his city- somehow, he truly doubted it.

“Oh, God… it’s… so awful and sad….” Felicity said out loud, feeling the need to hug the young man- but resisting such an urge, knowing that it was inappropriate- and that Barry didn’t need her pity right now. “But, as much as I hate to repeat myself, how can we help you? Yeah, we know the All New, All Different Time Lords, but it’s not like they gave us an universal communicator. And it’s not like we have a time machine at hand. Also because, as far as I know, they haven’t been invented yet.” 

Barry opened his mouth as to speak, but he was hit by a sudden bolt of pain in his shoulder- the one Oliver had dislocated; he massaged it, but he made it only worse; Felicity simply rolled her eyes, and made a face at Oliver, who, grunting in his Arrow voice, as if he didn’t want to admit she was right, got the message, and went to put it back in order; Barry was still massaging it, and even if he was still feeling pain, it was now a little more bearable.

“Back when I come from, my powers had been stolen once. My friends, they helped me recreate the particle accelerator explosion that made me The Flash- what gave me my connection to the Speed Force. But I know that this time it’s different. I can feel the… tingling of the lighting in my veins. I know that my connection to the Speed Force is still there- I just don’t know how to reach it any longer.”

“So, no particle accelerator any longer? Too bad, I wasn’t there when they turned it on. Which, now that I think about it, it’s not so bad, otherwise I may have ended up a freak- not that I think you are a freak, but, still.” Felicity sighed, and, crossed arms, looked at Barry. “So, what then?”

“It’s gonna rain in Starling in the next few days, right?” He asked, pouting a little; Felicity checked the weather on her tablet and nodded. “Ok, then I need your help building an electric chair. But first, Felicity, would you mind hacking into STAR labs and stole the projects for their lighting rod?”

“So, dousing yourself in crime lab chemicals and plugging into a lightning rod electric chair is going to turn you into the fastest man alive?” Felicity asked as, under the heavy rain that was hitting hard the Verdant roof , she was finishing some calculations, covered by her pink umbrella; Barry and Oliver were  giving the finishing touches to the machine, their clothes sticking to their toned bodies, while her go-to tech guy, Curtis Holt, was at her side, chuckling shamelessly as he ogled the two handsome men.  

“If I’m right, this should do the trick and re-establish my connection to the Speed Force- after all, I was in Central when the Particle Accelerator exploded, which means that my body should has been irradiated by antimatter and dark energy already- there just wasn’t that particular extra mix that actually gave me my powers.”

“I don’t know if this is cool or freaky. Is it normal, right? Please tell me you used to feel the same way when you started helping out the Arrow. Which, by the way, is awesome.”

Oliver clenched his teeth, and groaned, as he tightened a bit too much a bolt; he hadn’t particularly liked the fact that Felicity had decided to share their little secret with Curtis, but he had accepted it- Barry was a Forensic genius, Felicity was an hacker goddess and he had barely finished high school, which meant that none of them was an electrical engineer – but did he really need to be there as well? And look at them like they were pieces of meat? And commenting every single thing they were and weren’t doing?

“Curtis, this isn’t my area of expertise. Which means that I have to concentrate. Which means you have to shout up right about now.” Oliver groaned in his Arrow voice, despite being mask-less, hoping that it would work, and that it wouldn’t be like with Felicity, who really, really liked his Arrow voice.   

“Ok, before shutting up, can I point out that it’s an extremely rare statistical occasion for lighting to hit twice the same spot or the same person? Even if technically you haven’t been hit by the lighting yet. Even if you did or we wouldn’t be here right now- because the fact that you did ensured that you didn’t and…” Curtis sighed and looked at the people around him, groaning, gesticulating heavily. “Is it a problem if I tell you that time-travel gives me the headache? And please, please tell me it does to you as well.”

“I don’t know about time-travel, but your ramblings surely did the trick for me…” Oliver whispered between clenched teeth, feeling his own headache getting stronger and stronger, as he was practically dealing with two versions of Felicity at the same time.

Rambling. There was way too much rambling for his own taste. He was seriously starting to miss the early days as the Arrow when he did everything all alone and on his own…

Barry chuckled as he saw the sighing Oliver- he was so similar to his own Oliver, and yet so different. How could it be possible that just not having meet could change a person so much? Did The Flash affect the people around him so much? How could he have been so blind to it, then? Barry knew the answer- grief and vengeance had blinded him, put him in a position where his focus was on one thing and one thing alone, getting the life he had been denied right from the start just because of The Flash- the thing he had come to hate that night  on his porch, when he had realized that the best version of him was the reason he had never been able to get his own Happy Ending.

“That’s why we stole the project for the Lighting Rod. Back in my world, it belonged to a meta-human named Weather Wizard. Friend of mine did some modifications- and it looks like he did them here as well.” Under the heavy rain, Barry stood up, and looked at their finished product; he was shaking, but not because of the cold. He was scared- scared that it wouldn’t work, that something would go bad. The Rogues and The Legion had plans for the world, and he feared them- as much as he hated to admit it, they were too strong, almost unstoppable. Too many had died. Even more were going to. If he wanted to save everyone, he had to put things back the way they used to. Even if it broke him.

As everyone took a few steps back, Barry went to seat on the metallic and wooden chair, taking big breaths, and trying to fix everything in his memory- hoping that, were it to work, he wouldn’t forget the last twenty years spent with his biological family;  without saying a word, under the worried watchful eyes of people he had considered friends in another world, he put the needles of the chemicals IV in his arms, just like Wells had done few months before- in another life, another world, another time;  he finished getting ready by putting on a rudimentary metallic helmet, and Felicity couldn’t help but being terrorized, for, not for his clothes, Barry would have looked exactly like a dead man walking from the twenties. 

“Ok people… let’s pull the switch and find out, shall we?”  They all took a few steps back, and Oliver turned on the rudimentary machine; the rain was falling heavier than ever before, and even if there was a thunderstorm, and the roar of the tempest was deafening them, none of the lightings were hitting them; Felicity was holding her breath, not knowing what she was supposed to be more scared about- that it would work, and the lighting would hit Barry, but the young man was wrong,  or that it wouldn’t work and Barry would remain powerless in a world where Merlyn and Company ruled as masters. “Come on… I’m here…. I’m right…”

But Barry couldn’t end the sentence, as it did work, maybe even too well- they all took a step back, and Felicity screamed, hiding herself in Oliver’s safe embrace when a bolt hit the lightning rod; as electricity was running through the machine and Barry’s whole being, the machine started to inoculate him automatically with the chemicals, and he screamed- on top of his lugs, so much, so strong that they could still hear his cries of pain over the tempest; Felicity was sobbing in Oliver’s chest, and he was drawing invisible and yet reassuring patterns on her drenched back when Barry stopped screaming and passed out, his whole body covered in flames. Both the archer and Curtis didn’t waste another second, and run to him, covering him with their jackets to kill the flames before they would  shatter Barry once and for all.

“What the hell do you think you are doing?”

As soon as she saw Barry trying to move on the medical table, Felicity run to him, and, with a gentle and yet firm hand on his chest, she stopped him from moving furthermore; she gulped down a mouthful of saliva as she fought back tears, shaking her head as she wondered how she could have allowed Allen into talking her into this: he looked like a monster, an horror from a show, hid whole body covered in gauze; outside, the storm was still roaring- and yet, she could only hear his cries of pain, she couldn’t take her eyes from the bloody bondages.

“I need to… try again…” Barry whispered with clenched teeth, hissing in pain. “Need…. A bigger bolt of lightning…”

“The only thing you need to do is lie down and let the morphine take effect. Do you have any idea how lucky you are to be alive? You have third degrees burns over seventy-five percent of your body!”

Barry tried to shake his head, crying out in pain as he did so. And yet, he still managed to let the words out- it was too important, more important than him, and he should have understood it sooner than that.

 “It… doesn’t… matter. Have to… try again. I can’t forget…” He closed his eyes, hissing. He was getting weaker and weaker, and getting the words out was killing him- probably literally. But they needed to know. They needed to help him out. There was just no other way. “Memories… keep changing. Realigning with this new history. If we don’t…. ugh… if we don’t fix it soon, I won’t know what’s wrong. I won’t be able to fix this… I won’t remember my adoptive father, my friends… Laurel and Sara and Thea…. Please guys… help me back to the roof.”

The trio looked between themselves, holding their breaths; they didn’t know what to do. But if Barry was right- and they had the feeling he was- then they had to help him out, if they wanted to make it right. They too had lost people they cared about to the so-called Legion, and maybe, just maybe, they wouldn’t get them back in that other world, but many others would be saved.

Shaking their heads, without saying a word, Oliver and Curtis took Barry and carried him back to the roof, with Felicity opening the doors for them; she was holding her breath, her eyes as he as saucers,  thinking about the people they had lost- to death, like Laurel, and to rage, like Thea. She would have done anything to get them back, but still, she couldn’t stop being a little afraid.  But maybe, just maybe, it was right- it was normal.

“I still think you are crazy.” Oliver smiled, grim, as he helped Barry back into the chair under the heavy rain; the young man couldn’t stop moaning out in pain, and yet, Oliver could see that he was doing his best to smile- it was all about hope and giving them strength, and that hope in return.

“Like a fox. Now get…”

Barry hadn’t been strapped in yet that another bolt of lightning hit the floor- not the chair, not the lightning rod, but him; his body was thrown in the air, flames engulfing Verdant roof, and he felt it- the surge running through him, feeling more alive than he ah ever felt before, time and space loosing meaning and suddenly having it again, past present future each every dimension being one and the same, connected and yet not…

Kneeling on the ground, hyperventilating, he tried to catch his breath, seconds after the impact- and yet like a lifetime- when he heard Oliver screaming, calling out for Felicity, leaning over the edge of the roof; Barry didn’t lose time to think, he just jumped in, and tightened his muscles, took a big breath, and he run- run like his life depended on it, like it was the only thing that mattered- and leaving behind a red blur and static, as the drops of rain seemed like immobile particles of water all around him, he grabbed Felicity as she was about to fall to her death, and, as quickly as he had moved to save her, he got back right before two very speechless Curtis and Oliver, that were still looking at the void- a void where there was nothing at all.  

 They turned, and looked at Felicity standing on her feet, with Barry at her side; he was half-covered in bandages, and even if his eyes were hard, they could still see a smug expression- like he was telling them that, even if they called him crazy, even if they hadn’t believed him, he was right; he had been the Flash and now he was him yet again.

“Did you…” Curtis tried to say, pointing at Barry and then turning to look at Oliver-like, if he was to tell him that yes, he had indeed saw the young man run at super-speed and catch his ex-girlfriend, it was definitely real. “You did see it, right?”

“Told you guys….” Barry smiled, as he super-speeded away just to get back a few seconds later dressed in his red uniform; he wasn’t wearing his hood, and they could still see few bandages, scars and the burns- and yet, they could also see them disappear right before their eyes.

“Are you… healing?” Felicity asked, even if it didn’t really sounded like a question; then, her eyes fell on his abdomen, and like tentatively skimmed over the toned and defined muscles she could see underneath the fabric of his costume. “Did the  lightning give you abs?!”

Barry chuckled. “My speed heightens my reparative functions. Which it certainly comes in handy in our line of work…” The Speed force run through Barry’s body- like he was struck by lightning once again- and he grimaced in pain, his head between his hands, as images kept running in his mind- two lives, one on top of the other, and he wasn’t sure he knew which was which; Oliver looked at him, and when Barry felt on the floor on his knees, the rain still heavy on their bodies, he went at his side, and put his hands on the young man’s shoulders, like an older brother would.

“You need to run away before your memories do.” He said, a hint of sadness on his voice. “You can save the people we’ve lost to the Rogues and The Legion- you can keep your promise and fix this. But… you need to run.” Oliver closed his eyes, and they would have sworn that they saw a glistering tears in the dark, because he knew how this young  man could feel; Oliver Queen would have done anything to get his family back; Barry had been able to- and yet, he was about to sacrifice a lifetime of happiness so that others could enjoy life. “I’m sorry about your family, but…”

Barry nodded; and without adding anything furthermore, he stood, and run; he left the dark, wet Starling, and in an heartbeat, he was kissed by the sun of Central as he knocked at his own doorstep, his parents opening the door for him; he looked at them, and he couldn’t help but cry- cry for what he had, and what he was about to lose.

“Barry? Why are you dressed like The Flash? I thought the Police was on alert… the news say that Luthor and the League of Assassins have the White House under siege…”

Barry stood, and hugged both of his parents at the same time, their hands heavy and yet gentle on his back; he sobbed in his father’s shirt, as he told them again and again that it was all his fault- and he told them everything from the star- his mother’s murderer, his father in jail, losing him and losing his mind to grief.

“I don’t know what to do…” he admitted, feeling ashamed, of course he knew what eh ad to do- but he didn’t like it. “I… Don’t want this life to be erased….”

Nora took her son’s face between her hands, while Henry grabbed, proud, Barry’s shoulder. “You know what to do, Barry.” She said, tears in her eyes.

“You have to let us go. “His father admitted, with in his eyes the same light as the day he found out his son was an hero- that his life’s mission was to save and protect. “This life, no matter what- one way or another, it still happened. And we couldn’t be any happier- or prouder- of the son we raised. But your mother is right- you have to let us go. And have faith,” Henry continued, looking with love and devotion at the love of his life, “that in the end, your mother and I will be together. No matter the circumstances.”

He hugged them back once again- hoping that, even without words, that they knew, that they understood- how much he cared for them, how much it was breaking him, how much he would miss them-  and he speeded away; he stopped at the doorstep, and turned away, glancing one last time in their direction, nodding to his father, and smiling the sight of them, holding hands, like for dear life, and then, he went.

He run once again- faster than ever, faster than every time he had done before, even than the other times he had time-traveled; he saw, running right before his eyes, visions, saw reality and time changing, and hoped that it was a good omen- that it mean that he was doing the right thing, and that it was going to work- and before he realized it, he was hiding behind that door once again, and saw himself appear in the next room, looking at his mother- their mother- being threatened by the Reverse Flash.

But this time, he didn’t hide away;   instead, he  moved in- and grabbed first his younger self, and then his older, adult version; he grabbed Other Barry and dragged him away, far, far away from the crime scene, feeling pain running through his whole being as he was hit at super-speed; at a certain point, he stopped- and launched Other Barry against a wall to slow him down; it worked well enough, and, taking off his hood, Barry stood right before himself, unable to hide the tears any longer as he stared at the kneeling and desperate version of himself trying to make sense of the events.

“What have you done?!” The Other screamed, standing and hitting Barry on the chest- but like a normal person would, like he had lost all energies, all reasons to be alive to begin with. “I could have saved them!”

But Barry shook his head. “I know how you are feeling… and I’m sorry… God, I’m so sorry… but we can’t. I didn’t think that one person could make such a difference, but… it all changed. For the worse. And I need you to run back in the time-stream- run back where you came from….”

The Other Barry run- he speeded away, lost in the Speed Force once again, his eyes set on the time he had come from- while the man who had been raised by Nora and Henry Allen vanished, like he had never been there to begin with…

As soon as he arrived back home- right before Joe’s apartment- Barry felt on his knees; he felt like his head was exploding, like memories of two lifetimes were being rewritten one of top of the other; it was an amalgam, and yet he could still differentiate between the life he had had, and the one he could have had- the one that the man had stopped him had lived. His mother had been right- one way or another, it had still happened- they still had lived that life.

“Barry?” Suddenly, he felt Iris’ hand on his head, taking off the hood and running her fingers though his hair; he was crying- and his tears were wetting the concrete. “Barry, what’s wrong?”

Barry shook his head, hiding himself in her lap- like he was a little child, like he had done in Joe’s broad body the night his mother had been murdered and the Police had dragged away his father.  “I tried to do it… but I couldn’t…he stopped me…”

“What? Who stopped you? Barry… it doesn’t make any sense…”

Sniffing, Barry sat on his heels, and took Iris’ hand in his own; he couldn’t lift his eyes, he was too ashamed to even just think about look at her face, see her emotions, her reaction to his doing- he was ashamed because he had failed, and ashamed of what he had tried to do- that he had been ready to throw away what they shared to get his family back, to undo the work of his enemies.

“I went back to kill The Reverse Flash before he killed my mum. I hoped that it would undo everything- but I just made things worse. The particle accelerator still exploded, and Wally became the Flash in my place. But he was too young, and alone… and he couldn’t stop any of them. Snart never redeemed himself, and he joined forces with Luthor and Merlyn and others, and they were taking the Country over… and as I’ve never went to Star City, I never met Oliver, and the Arrow and the Flash  never helped each other… the word was on the brink of destruction, Iris…”

“Do you think the world back to normal now?” She simply asked, her voice low, he dared to look at her- and he saw her expression, her eyes, Iris wasn’t mad with him- she was sorry. He felt even worse than before, and, as he nodded, he cried- cried like he hadn’t done since he was a child, with wild abandon.

“Trying to change history… I should have known better. Zoom was right- he did break me. Made me selfish.”

“Oh, Barry… don’t beat yourself up. If I had your powers,  I would have tried the same thing. And don’t think I haven’t thought about it.”  She said, her voice low, caressing his head, and underneath her fingertips, she felt the outline of Barry’s face- she felt his smile, even if he was still crying.

“I still remember my thirteen birthday party, when my mum baked me a cake shaped like a sport car. Taking my driver’s test with my dad when I turned sixteen. I remember going to their house- the house where I lived until college – every Sundays. Last time there was lasagna, and I brought dessert. Lemon tart. Her favorite. I don’t  know how or why,   but I remember every instant spent with my parents in that alternative time-line- even if I’m not sure I was the one who lived them to begin with….” He took a big breath, and looked at the sky; Central was big- but not as big as Star City, and the light pollution was still manageable, he could still see the stars at night.

“I don’t understand how it can be possible. Maybe it’s  a temporal after-effect. Or a chronal residue in my bloodstream?”   He mumbled the last sentence- more an inner monologue, a thought, than anything else, and Iris smiled as she put her head on his shoulders, and gazed into the infinite with him; she half-turned her head, and, still smiling, she tenderly kissed him, first his forehead, then his cheek, and then, and only then, his lips- washing away his tears with her fingertips as she did so; she smiled of a gentle smile, never breaking eye-contact with the love of her life, and promised herself to never let it go of him- and never allow Barry to escape into the Speed Force again.

“Or maybe it’s a gift, Barry. A gift to make it all easier.”

He nodded and they stood, holding hands, and they walked back inside, ready to face whatever tomorrow was going to throw at them…