Chapter 15 - 'Cause You Use Your Heart As A Weapon

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***BARRY***

Kara and her people leave, and I already miss them, but none more so than my lady love. And as I miss her, I feel like the Wests - Joe and Iris, anyway - are side-eyeing me because they know I finally slept with her. Bet Iris would be the first to tell me I'm positively glowing or something. Like, I don't announce it to the whole room when I note her smiling after she and Eddie have spent the night together (which is, of course, pretty much every night.) Just because I don't have nearly as many nights with Kara doesn't mean it has to make the news in this family every time I do. Even if Iris does work at the Picture News and investigative journalism is the name of her job.

Nobody really gets a chance to interrogate me about it, though, because Joe gets a call about a new case that just cropped up by CCMOMA. Within seconds of Joe hanging up, I get a call myself as Captain Singh requests my presence at the scene. To my surprise, it's not a murder today. Not surprising, though, is that the crime is grand theft artwork. It's the museum's latest centerpiece, a heart hammered from a continuous sheet of rose gold and joined together nigh-seamlessly. I'd wanted to take Kara to see it at some point, but as you can imagine, that chance never came by. And now, it might not come by for a while, unless we can find the missing heart art before some clearly heartless thief tries to sell it on the black market.

As I float this theory to Joe - and he chuckles at my bad jokes, already dad-like and I'm not even a for-real dad yet - he responds, "Who would actually steal this, though? I mean, it's made of gold, sure. But can it really fetch black-market prices?"

"I know a few metas and rogues who might be willing to pay those top dollars." Though would they? Captain Cold and Heat Wave are the first ones who come to mind for me, but as far as I'm aware, are still away somewhere. I haven't seen Rory in forever, but I did see Snart pretty recently, when he said goodbye before going off on what he described as some kind of time-traveling mission. What was it he said to me? Something about if he was back ten seconds later, the mission was a success. Something like that. Well, he never returned, but the timeline still hasn't changed too drastically that I'm aware of. Barack Obama's been our President; China still had all its dynasties; including the Mongol khanate; and Greeks bearing gifts are still bewared to this day. Diana, in particular, swears by that. Those silly Greeks and their millennia of trying and failing to colonize her fair island. Though she'll never say no to a good coffee. She'll just insist on calling it Turkish, or Israeli, or Egyptian, or Viennese, or Sicilian, or Themysciran. Anything but Greek.

(Bear in mind I've mostly got Kara to thank for this knowledge. She told me so many stories about Diana's uniquely quirky nature that they shaped my perception of her long before she and I ever met.)

"Anyone we can see about asking?" Joe asks, bringing me back to reality. I shake my head and tell him my usual underworld contacts are out of town, and he growls lightly to himself like he hasn't had enough coffee this morning. (He probably hasn't, but I'm not about to poke that sleeping bear.) "Typical," he says. "With friends like these..."

"We'll find someone to question," I assure him. "In the meantime, a speedster's gotta eat..."

Joe snorts at me, loudly, trying and failing to cover up my casual self-outing. It's not like anyone's close by enough to pay attention, and even if there were, they're probably colleagues of mine who still remember my clumsy ass, as has been my reputation from my earliest CSI days.

In any case, I find my way to the nearest vending machine and fish some money out of my wallet. Mmm...they have my favorite cappuccino-chip cookies. Those have proven strangely hard for me to find since they were phased out of my favorite vending machine when I was still a junior at CCU. Though they did upgrade to a pretty fancy new coffee machine afterwards, so I'm not complaining too much. Not anymore, anyway.

"Should've gone to the Caffè Museo."

I've just opened my cookie pouch and now I almost drop it after hearing an all-too-familiar voice. She even uses an Italian accent as she names the museum's top eating establishment.

I recover my senses as quickly as I can and fix this woman with the coolest gaze I can. "Linda."

My ex-girlfriend, Linda Park, smiles at me as casually as you please. "Barry."

Well. I didn't think I'd be nervous around her ever again, not when I'd long since moved on to date another girl with whom I was far more compatible. And far less having to keep secrets from. Secrets from a journalist, imagine that. Then again, I did spend the better part of a year keeping Iris in the dark about my identity as the Flash, a regret I'm probably never going to stop having. Not like the regret of me breaking it off with Linda, which eventually vanished after I met Kara and realized how much more super a girlfriend she was.

"They have terrific Italian sodas there," Linda says, pointing to the Caffè. "Maybe if you drank that instead of American sodas, you'd be less jittery."

"Come again?"

"Remember the one time we were making out and you were all shirtless and you couldn't stop vibrating?"

Shit, I'm actually starting to vibrate anew, remembering that. Control yourself, Bar. Come on.

"None of that for me anymore," I say with an awkward chuckle that I'm sure Joe hears loud and clear across the atrium. "I'm not a nervous virgin anymore."

"But you're still nervous, aren't you?" Linda's laugh grows awkward too, like she's not enjoying this banter any more than I am. She's probably found someone else to see just like I have. Or not. Whatever the case may be, I just hope she's happy.

"What brings you here?" I ask.

"Answering my question with another question? I don't remember you being so deflective."

"No, I've always been defensive. Part of why I made a terrible quarterback in high school."

"You were a quarterback?" Linda looks me up and down, then thumbs her phone screen. "On the record, I'm not buying that. At all."

"Did you really just-?"

She shows me the screen, which is blank and inactive. "Nope. Just my little joke."

"It better have been. I'm not supposed to comment on ongoing investigations."

Linda gazes at the empty display where the heart used to stand. "Doesn't seem like your usual speed, Barry." She never did call me "Bar" like Joe and Iris do. A nickname they themselves copied from my parents, unconsciously. Kara, however, she's been known to nick my name from time to time.

"I just go where they tell me to."

"You're smart enough that you shouldn't."

"Is that why we're not together anymore?" My smile has finally vanished.

Linda's vanishes too, then she says, "Look, I got put on this case first thing when I got into the office in the morning. All the coffee in the world couldn't have woken me up enough...but maybe if we combined forces, we could get the job done faster. Am I right?"

I look over at Joe one more time and see him talking to a museum guard making wide, sweeping gestures.

When I turn back to Linda, she's beckoning me to the empty display stand, where a little piece of paper sits at the base. "I didn't pick it up and read it," she says. "I wanted to, but-"

"You wanted to stand aside and let me do my job?"

"Only when I saw you were here."

Not sure if she's joking or not (though she probably is), I pick up the paper with the pair of tweezers I keep in my jacket pocket. Then I open it up carefully with my gloved hands. It's a Central City postcard, but formatted as a folding card with a blank interior.

Not blank today, though.

And immediately, I turn away from Linda so she can't see what's inside the card before I slide it as quickly as I can into an evidence bag - without giving my speed away.

"Hey, whoa, what the hell?" She actually tries to jump behind and around me. "Barry? What did it say?"

"Something serious" is all I'll tell her.

She doesn't need to know how scared I am.

Certainly not when the message begins with all-caps block letters blaring, "HI FLASH."

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