Henry Allen was led from his cell towards the visitation area. This was normal enough; his son came to see him every few weeks. But Barry had just been here last week, and it was unlikely that he would have come again so soon. This was more to Henry’s request than Barry’s desires. The boy would have been in every week is Henry would have allowed it. But he didn’t like to think of his son wasting his life away on the other side of a glass partition, talking to the father who had never been there. The request was just as selfish as it was noble however, because it hurt Henry to see his son growing up without him.
Whatever surprise he felt at the thought that Barry had returned so soon was amplified by the fact that the face waiting on the other side of the partition was not that of his son, but that of Detective Joe West. As the guard removed his shackles, Henry studied the detective’s face. He had known Joe West for a long time. Iris and Barry had been close friends since kindergarten, and the amount of time the two families spent together had occasionally bordered on ridiculous. But in all that time, there were few instances in which the detective had looked so grim.
As he took his seat and reached for the receiver, Joe mirrored his actions. Once the other man had taken his own receiver, Henry spoke.
“Hello Joe. To what to I owe the pleasure?”
Joe shifted in his seat before answering, “I’m here Henry, because I have some news for you, and…I’m afraid it’s not good.”
Henry felt a dropping sensation in his gut, “Barry?” he asked tentatively. That was the only topic that would bring Joe here with such remorse.
Joe nodded, and Henry felt like he had been punched in the gut as he watched tears begin to well up into the detective’s eyes. “What happened?” he asked quietly.
When there was no immediate response, he asked again, with more force, “Joe! What happened to my boy?!”
“There was a storm last night,” Joe began, and a thousand scenarios rushed through Henry’s head. Car accident? No, Barry didn’t own a car. Maybe he had been in a cab? It’s possible. Did this have something to do with the accelerator at S.T.A.R. labs? He had heard that there was some sort of catastrophe, and he knew that Barry wanted to be there when it was started. He had even told him about it in his last visit.
As Henry’s mind raced with possibilities and horrible imagined demises for his son, Joe began to speak again, and Henry forced his mind to quiet, to listen to what Joe would say next.
“He was in his lab,” Joe continued, “and somehow, he…he was…struck by lightening.”
The overwhelming grief that Henry felt was edged out ever so slightly enraged disbelief, “he was struck by lightening, indoors?”
Joe nodded grimly. “The sky light in his lab,” he explained, was shattered and the lightning came through. It struck him and exploded half his lab. Officers came running at the sound, and they found him. He was rushed to the hospital right away.”
Henry was certain he already knew the answer, but he had to have it confirmed. As long as there was any shadow of a doubt, he would hold onto hope for. But he needed to know for sure.
“Joe,” he asked point blank, “Barry. Is he…?” he trailed off, for whatever his intentions had been, he couldn’t get out the words.
Joe knew what words he couldn’t get out. “He’s still alive.”
Henry felt a rush of relief, though he noted the underlying sense of the phrase. There was an underlying “for now” floating between the two old friends.
Joe continued, “he’s in a coma, but stable. It was touch and go there for a while,” Henry noted the catch in the other man’s voice as he said that, “be he’s stable now. He’s under the care of a specialist now.”
This caught Henry’s attention and reawakened the doctor’s mind that had been laying dormant for years, “what specialist?”
“Harrison Wells, from-”
“S.T.A.R. Labs.” Henry finished. He was thoughtful for moment, “why is he interested in Barry?”
Joe shrugged, “I don’t know. I think he just feels guilty for all the destruction his creation caused and wanted to do something good to make up for it. Whatever his reasoning is, I didn’t really see much of a chance for Barry otherwise. The doctor’s at the hospital didn’t seem to be able to do anything. His heart-” here, Joe stopped again, the catch in his voice un deniable, “his heart kept stopping Henry. I felt like I was watching him die over and over again. So when Wells approached Iris and I…felt like we had nothing to loose. And whatever Wells did, it worked. He’s stable now, so it’s just a matter of time now.”
Henry watched his friend, saw the hopeful look on his face. He didn’t say anything, and returned the smile, though his was taut and rather forced. Henry had been a doctor for any years before everything went to hell, and he knew as well as anyone that a stable person in a coma may not be as well off as they seem. But as a father, he could only hope that this time the odds were in his boy’s favor. From a logical standpoint, one could argue that after being struck by lightning, a person should have used up all of their bad luck for a lifetime. Henry hoped they were right.
After a few more minutes of idle chat, mostly about Barry (it was what still brought them together after all these years after all), Joe stood to leave and promised to keep Henry in the loop should any changes in Barry’s condition come up. And with that and a sad smile, the detective left.
Henry was escorted back to his cell moments later, and the guard who had served as his escort, a young man who had always been kind to Henry, softly offered his regrets on Barry’s accident as he shut the door and exited the cell and Henry found himself in solitude once again.
He lay back on his cot, running through the news in his head. Stuck by lightning. Hadn’t his boy already suffered enough for three lifetimes? Now he had had to be a living cliché of bad luck. His heart kept stopping. But he was stable. Even though Henry knew that it was only tentative, he still held out hope that soon he would walk into the visiting area to see his son smiling back at him.
Months passed. Joe stopped by every once and a while to tell Henry what he had already suspected – no news. Barry was thought that was always lying around in the back of his mind, something that took center stage whenever his attention wasn’t devoted to something else. He knew it was the same for Joe. The visits were proof of that. It had been a theme for years. Henry knew that the only thing that kept Joe from hating him for what the world thought he did was Barry, and he had never appreciated that as much as he did right now.
The city picked up and moved on after the catastrophe at S.T.A.R. Labs. The police hired an interim replacement for Barry. Joe always stressed the “interim” part when speaking to Henry, and the other man had a suspicion that he did so when speaking to the interim himself. Things settled back to normal, but Barry was always in Henry’s mind.
Nine months later, when the guard (the same young guard as the first night) came to fetch Henry from his cell, he had no indication that tonight would be any different than usual. He calmly followed the guard, but didn’t give a second thought to the smile on the guard’s face. He was a nice guy – he often smiled.
But when they entered the visiting room, he thought his heart was going to stop.
For instead of the grim face of Detective Joe West, he was greeted with the smiling face of his son.
Henry felt a wide smile grow across his face, stretching muscles that had been unused for months. He felt the moisture gathering in his eyes, but made no move to wipe it away. Barry was here. Barry was alive, and awake and here.
He sat down at his seat, never taking his eyes off of the wonderful sight before him. With a trembling hand he reached for the receiver. “Hey Slugger,” he said warmly, and felt a warmth in his chest as his son laughed in response, a wonderfully familiar sound that he had not heard for far too long.
But it was okay.
His boy was here again.