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In This House

Chapter Text

The huge empty space of STAR Labs seemed lonely. In the middle of the Speed Lab, the only person there who wasn’t locked in one of the cells lay on his back on the floor. He stared up at the ceiling, wishing his friends were with him.

Because Barry was gone, maybe forever, trapped in the Speed Force for a month now. Caitlin had disappeared as Killer Frost, and she didn’t want to be found. HR was dead. Jesse and Harry were back on Earth-2. Julian had left for a few months to “clear his head” on a trip to some far-off place that was almost unpronounceable, and Tracy had decided to leave the team com. Wally, admittedly, was usually there, but lately his classes had gotten very intensive and he was spending less time as Kid Flash (“But just until finals are over!”). Iris barely set foot in the Lab anymore, and Joe had work.

So it’s just little ol’ me, Cisco Ramon thought to himself, spreading his arms to take up as much space as possible. The floor was cool and smooth and comfortable, and he considered just staying there until morning. Of course, there was no guarantee that anyone else would even come in tomorrow, so he might have to wait a long time for someone to stumble across him in this pitiful position.

He sighed loudly and thought about getting up...he didn’t have the energy. He then thought about calling Iris and asking her to hang out, but he didn’t really feel up to talking. He didn’t want to go home. There was no point; he wouldn’t sleep, and he hadn’t really been hungry in days.

You know, those are the signs of a major depressive episode, an unhelpful voice in his head that sounded a little like Caitlin said. Fatigue, isolating yourself, disruption in sleep cycles and appetite…

“Kindly get the fuck out of my head,” he said aloud.

“Who’s in your head?” someone said, and Cisco nearly had a heart attack. He leapt to his feet with speed worthy of a Flash and before the intruder could say I’m a dickhead , Cisco had him thrown against the wall with a burst of blue vibrational energy.

“What the fuck?!” Cisco yelped, seeing who he had just knocked to the ground.

“That was a nice greeting,” Hartley Rathaway said, rubbing his head where it had hit the wall. “Most people say hello.”

Cisco stared. A second later, another Vibe-blast shot Hartley back down as he started to get up. “Don’t you dare!” Cisco threatened. “Stay down, Piper.”

“Would you believe me if I said I’m not actually here to hurt you?”

“Absolutely not,” Cisco told him, hands at the ready in case Hartley made another move. “I wouldn’t believe anything that came out of your mouth, you son of a bitch.”

“That’s fair. The, uh, not trusting me as well as the insult. You’re right, my mother is a bitch.” Very slowly, Hartley held his hands up to show that they were bare. “See? No Piper gloves. I haven’t got any weapons. Can I sit up now?”

A smaller, less violent Vibe-blast nudged him back down. “Nope.” Cisco crossed his arms, leaning onto one leg. “So, what’s your plan here? Did you set up explosives? Are you waiting until I let my guard down to shoot me with the sonic weapon? Because let me tell you, I’m in no mood for someone to try and kill me right now.”

“I don’t have any plan other than to talk to you, I did not set up explosives anywhere, and I literally don’t even have my weapons,” Hartley answered. “I’m really not here to hurt you.”

“And I really don’t believe you,” Cisco shot back. “We have not had a single interaction where you haven’t either tried to hurt me or insulted me. It was usually both.”

“You’re right,” Hartley said simply. “I haven’t got a good track record with you. There’s no reason you should trust me. But if you don’t at least hear me out, you’ll never know what I came here to say.”

Cisco hesitated. “Alright,” he said eventually. “I’ll hear you out. But , I’m cuffing you, and if you make one wrong move, I’m going full Vibe on your ass and knocking you out so hard you won’t remember your own name.”

Hartley raised his eyebrows. “Why is that strangely hot?”

Cisco raised his hand warningly.

“Alright, alright,” Hartley hastened. “Whatever you want. I just want to talk to you, Cisco, and if you still want to...to throw me in your little prison, or knock me out, or whatever you’re thinking about doing to me, I won’t stop you. Okay?”

“Okay.” Cautiously, Cisco turned, keeping Hartley in his peripheral vision, and pulled a pair of handcuffs out of the drawer in the desk nearby. “Don’t move.” He cuffed Hartley to the desk and sat him down in the chair, expecting another suggestive comment. But Hartley said nothing. Cisco sat on top of the desk a few feet away. “Alright, talk.”

Hartley took a deep breath. “I’m really sorry for the way I treated you when we worked together.”

Cisco blinked. He hadn’t expected that. “Excuse me?”

“I was a dick. I was taking some things out on you, and you didn’t deserve that.”

Cisco almost burst out laughing, but restrained himself. He wasn’t even sure why he wanted to laugh. This wasn’t funny, just...unexpected. “Yeah, I realize that, thanks.”

“Okay, I’m really trying to apologize and it’s very hard when your mouth is doing that twitchy thing that means you’re trying not to laugh,” Hartley said.

“Sorry.” Cisco bit his lip. What twitchy thing? “I’m not trying to laugh at you. Go on, I’m curious. What ‘things’ were you taking out on me?”

“You really want to hear my sob story?” Hartley asked. “‘Cause I don’t think you do.”

“I already know it,” Cisco said. “Came out as gay, got disowned. Harrison Wells was the closest thing to a supportive father you’d ever had, so when it looked like he had found a new ‘kid’ to adopt, you felt threatened. But guess what, pal? When you started to figure out how shady he was and tried to stop him, he just fired you. He killed me.”

Hartley frowned, and looked Cisco up and down.

“In an alternate timeline that the Flash erased,” Cisco clarified. “But I still remember it, so it counts. Anyway, like I said, I know your sob story. I know why you hate me. It doesn’t justify how you acted, though.”

“I know that,” Hartley said earnestly. “Which is why I’m apologizing--and, God, you really are slow, aren’t you?”

“Watch it, pal,” Cisco said.

“No, I meant--I don’t hate you,” Hartley exclaimed. “I did , I used to absolutely despise you. But I don’t hate you now . That would be stupid.”

“Uh-huh.” Cisco leaned in a little. “I’m listening.”

“Okay, look. If you want to know, over the past two years, I’ve been...laying low, of course. Staying out of trouble, trying to just live my life.” Hartley was starting to look almost nervous. “And if you laugh at this, I’m going to go back to hating you. But I’ve been in therapy, because...well, I had a boyfriend for a while, and he didn’t want to deal with my issues , especially the internalized homophobia and shit, and...he dumped me while kindly suggesting that I see someone to work that shit out with. So I did.”

“I'm not laughing,” Cisco said seriously. “Honestly? That's a really mature decision, and I'm glad that you aren't just the overgrown whiny toddler I always thought you were.”

“Thanks,” Hartley said sarcastically. “Well, anyway, I just wanted to tell you that I was sorry. So, I'll be on my way then. Course, I don't know where I'll go. I finished therapy and left the town I was living in. I guess I can just...find somewhere to go. Somewhere far away, probably. Where nobody knows me.”

Cisco paused. He was having a thought. It wasn't a thought he wanted to entertain, but it wouldn't go away. Eventually, it worked its way through his brain and popped out of his mouth. “No, you should stay here. Where I can keep an eye on you, that is,” he amended hastily. “I don't want you going all Pied Piper anywhere. I've got enough potentially evil people roaming around the globe where I can't find them.”

“Are you talking about Killer Frost?” Hartley asked. “I'm sorry about that, by the way. I know how close you two were.”

Cisco glared at him. He wasn't in the mood for someone to bring up Caitlin. “So, are you going to stay willingly, or do I have to keep you tied up?”

Hartley almost smiled. “If that's what you're into…”

“Oh, my god,” Cisco sighed. “I take it back. Leave, go far, far away.”

Hartley actually laughed. “I'm kidding. I'll stay willingly. I've actually missed Central City, that's the funny thing. So much shit happened here, and I still miss it.”

“Uh-huh,” Cisco said skeptically. “But I'm still going to keep a close eye on you, so go crash at a hotel for the night and come back here in the morning.”

Hartley held up his cuffed hands and stuck his bottom lip out slightly. “You're gonna have to let me out first.” He kept the slightly flirtatious note in his voice, exacerbated by the tiny pout. “And aren’t you going to invite me to stay at your place?”

“You're pushing your luck, Rathaway.” Cisco unlocked the cuffs. “Watch it.”

“Eh, brutum fulmen ,” replied Hartley.

Cisco shook his head blankly. “Nope. Didn't catch that.”

“It basically means ‘empty threat’.”

“Then why don't you just say ‘empty threat’?” Cisco demanded, exasperated. “Listen, I know two and several half languages and I don't go using random phrases to sound smarter. Because I don't need to sound smarter. I sound plenty smart as it is. That's just pretentious.”

Hartley shrugged. “Pretentiousness is subjective and depends upon the intelligence of the listener.”

“Get out of here,” Cisco snapped, shoving Hartley towards the door. “I will see you tomorrow, God help me.”

“Nice to talk to you again, Cisco.” Hartley walked away. “Sleep well. Hey, is the Flash actually missing?” he added suddenly, turning around. “I keep hearing that the scarlet speedster is gone, and that only the Kid Flash is left. Do you work with that guy, too?”

“Yes, Barry’s gone, and yes, I help Kid Flash, too. But they're talking about Vibe, too, right? As a superhero? It's not just Kid Flash, right?” Cisco asked, trying not to sound a little jealous.

“It's mostly Kid Flash. I heard, like, one newsperson mention Vibe. Goodnight, Cisco.” Hartley left.

Cisco clenched his hand. “Son of a…” His voice trailed off. Everything Hartley Rathaway did or said irritated him, but his apology had sounded sincere. Maybe he had actually grown a little.

He sighed and grabbed his stuff, ready to head home. Once he was in his bed, he sent Wally a text explaining why there was going to be an obnoxious new kid in the Lab tomorrow, and then closed his eyes.

Chapter Text

“So this Speed Force Bazooka, interesting design. Personally, I’d have put the dimensional transmogrifying wheel on the other side, but each to their own.”

Cisco put his head in his hands. Hartley had been prattling on all morning, and it was only 10:30. “Are you capable of, like, shutting up for more than a few seconds?” he snapped.

“Maybe, if I really wanted to. Hey, show me how the treadmill works,” Hartley requested.

“It’s no fun unless there’s a speedster on it,” Cisco pointed out. “And Kid Flash won’t be here until…3:00.”

“Why? Has he got something better to do?” Hartley sat down in a chair opposite Cisco, putting his feet up on the desk and leaning back. “Who is he, by the way?”

“Yes, he’s got better things to do. And no, no way! You expect me to just tell you that?!” Cisco exclaimed. “Absolutely not. I still don’t know if I can trust you.”

“Okay, fine. I’m sure it can’t be too hard to figure out on my own. I mean, apparently he just...takes selfies with people after saving their lives, and his mask only covers a few inches of his face.”

Cisco groaned. “He needs to stop doing that,” he muttered.

Hartley was looking through pictures on his phone. “He’s really cute,” he observed. “I don’t recognize him, so he’s not a prominent person like Arrow is--”

“What?!”

“Because, honestly, it took me about five minutes to figure out that Green Arrow is Oliver Queen, like...he’s not even trying. Nope, I don’t know this kid. Is he straight?” Hartley asked. “Because he’s adorable.”

Cisco sputtered, “I--Um, I’m not sure? But he does have a girlfriend right now, so…”

“Damn.”

“Wait, you...you figured out that Oliver is the Green Arrow? I couldn’t even narrow it down past about 150 people,” Cisco said.

“Oliver? You’re on first name basis with him? I mean, I know he and the Flash worked together, but like...can you introduce me? He’s quite possibly the sexiest guy on this planet,” Hartley said dreamily.

“Okay, why does everyone do that?” sighed Cisco. “Dude, everyone I know is lowkey in love with Oliver. He’s not that hot.”

“Um, he kinda is,” Hartley rebuked. “Especially in the Green Arrow costume, the one with no sleeves…”

“I made him that,” Cisco said proudly.

“And don’t tell me that you didn’t make it like that so everyone can see his pretty, pretty biceps.”

Flustered, Cisco said, “Well--No, of course not, it’s completely for functional purposes.”

“Uh-huh. Keep telling yourself that.” Hartley stood up. “Okay, I’m bored. Let’s make something.”

“Make something?”

“Uh, yeah? We’re engineers, we’re in an awesome Lab with every material we could dream of. Let’s make something cool. Or have you gotten too busy playing superhero and forgotten what you actually do for a living?” Hartley asked.

“Okay, first of all, I’m not playing. I am a superhero. See this?” Cisco opened a tiny breach and dropped an eraser into it. The little swirl of light, only about two inches wide, disappeared.

Hartley looked unimpressed. “You can make a small piece of rubber disappear. How wonderful. I’ve never seen a street magician perform such a feat.”

Cisco smirked. A second later, Hartley yelped as the eraser dropped onto his head from a breach several yards above him. “Ha! You just got Cisco-d!”

“Ouch,” Hartley said mildly. “So...you can do that, but stepping through the portals yourself?”

“And across dimensions and into alternate universes, baby,” Cisco announced. “I can also see the future, and the past, and the present just about anywhere in this world or any other if I try hard enough. Also, they’re called breaches.”

“Ehh...they’re glorified portals, Chell. Got a cube?” Hartley teased.

“Why am I not surprised that you play Portal?” sighed Cisco.

“What? It’s a great game. I beat it in a few hours. Now come on, build something with me. I’ve got these great designs for nanobots just sitting in my pocket.”

“You used to call in sick to avoid working with me,” Cisco pointed out. “I'm still really suspicious about this.”

“I'm bored and I haven't had someone anywhere close to my level to work with in ages. I'll take what I can get.” Hartley held his hand out.

Reluctantly giving in, Cisco took his hand and let Hartley pull him out of the chair. “Alright, fine. Let's see these nanobots.”

“Cisco?” called a voice, several hours later.

Cisco looked up, startled. “Shit, we lost track of time. Wa--Kid Flash is here. Hold on.” He sprang to his feet, leaving Hartley to work on the nanobot alone.

Wally was standing in the Speed Lab. “There you are! I've been waiting here. Where were you?”

“Hartley and I were...working on something, sorry. Hey, man, how's it going?” Cisco greeted.

“I'm good. So, what's the story with this Hartley dude?” Wally asked. “Iris said that she vaguely knew you used to work with him, and that he turned evil, but that's all she knew.”

“Yeah, she wasn't with us when he came back last time. Okay, so here's the deal. When STAR Labs was still, you know, a lab, Harrison Wells--who was actually Eobard Thawne, but we didn't know that at the time--had this protégé, Hartley Rathaway. But then he hired me, so Hartley hated me because he thought I was taking his place. We were building the particle accelerator, when--”

Suddenly, Hartley interrupted him. “When I figured out that the accelerator was dangerous, and Wells fired me and ruined my life. Hi, I'm Hartley Rathaway. You must be Kid Flash. Got another name?”

“I'm Wally West,” Wally said, shaking his hand.

“Aw--dude, you weren't supposed to tell him that,” Cisco chastised. “You're really bad at the whole secret identity thing. Also, stop taking pictures with people!”

“West, like Detective Joe West and Iris West?” Hartley asked.

“Yeah, my dad and my sister. So Barry is my adoptive brother,” Wally explained.

“Does speedster-ing run in the family?” Hartley said, completely deadpan.

Cisco groaned. “Enough. Wally, suit up. Let's get Kid Flash out on the streets. Hartley...just say nothing, and touch nothing. Got it?”

“Got it,” Hartley confirmed. “It'll be great to watch a Flash in action when he isn't trying to kill me.”

“Barry never tried to kill you,” Cisco scoffed. “You tried to kill him .”

“Fair enough.” Hartley sat down in Cisco’s chair in front of the largest monitor.

“Dude.” Cisco glared at him. “Get out of my chair.”

“Oh, is this your chair?”

“Yeah, it is. Get out of it.”

“Sorry, it’s just, there wasn’t a sign on it saying ‘Cisco’s Chair’.”

“Get out of my chair!”

Hartley got out of the chair.

Wally looked at Cisco and then at Hartley with a bemused expression. “A’right, should I just...like, go now?”

“Yes, go,” said Cisco. Wally rushed off in a whirl of yellow and red lightning, the Kid Flash suit disappearing from its display case.

Hartley, who had found another seat, propped his face up with his hand and gazed into the distance. “He’s even cuter in person.”

Cisco closed his eyes, sat down in his chair, and let out a very long, exasperated sigh. This was going to be interesting.

Chapter Text

“So this guy can step through any doorway, and appear on the other side of any other doorway within roughly a mile radius,” Iris clarified. She had finally been able to come back to the Lab without being overwhelmed with emotion. Cisco was glad. When she cried, he started crying, and he did not want to cry in front of Hartley. Iris had been taking a leadership position in Team Flash, and she had been doing it very well.

“That's correct. He can travel a mile in a few seconds, which wouldn't be much of a problem, Wally is much faster than that, except we can't know what direction he goes,” Cisco said.

Wally bit his lip. “Sorry, guys. I almost had him yesterday.”

“It wasn't your fault. We just have to be smarter. Okay, Hartley, what's your take?” Iris turned to him.

Hartley raised his eyebrows. “Wait, you're asking for my help?”

“You're here, aren't you?” Iris demanded.

“He's not part of Team Flash,” Cisco protested.

“And why not?” Iris retorted. “He's been here for two weeks now. Supposedly he's one of the smartest people you've ever met. And he's not evil anymore. I'm not going to forget that he tried to kill Barry, but to be honest, I doubt he ever stood a chance against the Flash.”

“I actually got pretty close, it was Dr. Wells--”

“Eobard Thawne.”

“--who saved him in the end,” Hartley finished. “Sorry, Cisco, I'm calling him Dr. Wells.”

“But we know other Harrison Wells...Wellses? Whatever, now, and they're not evil, and they shouldn't be affiliated with Thawne,” argued Cisco. “Plus, Wells was a real person on this Earth before Thawne came along, so…”

“Boys!” Iris snapped. “We have an actual problem here. The door guy. How do we stop him?”

“Well, we're not calling him Door Guy, first of all,” Cisco said.

“How about Door King?” suggested Wally. There was an awkward pause. “What? Am I not allowed to do the names once in awhile?”

“Not if they're gonna be like Door King,” Cisco stated.

“Threshold,” Hartley said.

Everyone turned to him. “Excuse me?” Cisco said incredulously.

Hartley shrugged. “For the name. Threshold. ‘Cause he hops from--”

“Yeah, yeah, I got it.” Cisco’s expression changed slowly from indignation to delight. “I love it!” Impulsively, he reached out give Hartley a fist bump. Hartley returned it hesitantly.

Iris was struggling not to roll her eyes. “That's great, boys, but how do we beat him? He's gonna keep robbing people and jumping away if we don't stop him.”

“Get him somewhere without doors, and he's powerless,” Wally said. “I could catch him no problem if he couldn't jump away.”

“Easier said than done, my friend,” Cisco said.

“The doors all have to be open for him to jump through, right?” Hartley asked.

“Right, as far as we can tell,” Iris confirmed.

Hartley stood up, eyes sparkling with ideas. “Cisco, you can see the future.”

“Um...not really, not without very specific directions. Why?”

“Okay, but if you ‘Vibed’ where Threshold was, where he was robbing, Wally could run you there, right? And close all the doors but one. Then you make a portal--’

“Breach.”

“--in the only open door just as he's about to jump through it, and the other side of the portal--”

“Breach!”

“Is straight into the cells. Boom.” Hartley had a lopsided, self-satisfied grin on his face.

Cisco got a strange, fluttery feeling in his belly when he saw that smug look. He chalked it up to being annoyed that Hartley had not only come up with a better name, but also a way to defeat Threshold. “That might work,” he admitted. “If I had something to Vibe off. And large intradimensional breaches are really draining on me, even after everything Cindy showed me. I'll probably pass out for an hour afterwards.”

“Who cares? We'd have the bad guy,” Hartley said.

“I care!” Cisco exclaimed. “Do you understand how much my head hurts after doing shit like that?”

“Oh, do I understand chronic, unyielding headaches?” Hartley shot back. “Yeah, actually, I do. In case you forgot, I still have cochlear implants to keep myself from overwhelming agony.”

“So you have to understand that I really don't want to do that unless absolutely necessary,” Cisco retorted.

“But I'd take them out to save myself or someone else,” Hartley replied. “I have, actually. Besides, you've got friends to take care of you afterwards.”

Cisco glared. “Damn you,” he muttered. “Get me something that belongs to Threshold, and I'll see what I can do.”

“I'm on it,” Wally volunteered, and ran off.

“It's interesting, you're like one of those search and rescue dogs,” Hartley observed helpfully. “We give you something with someone's scent, and you find them.”

Cisco stared at him. “I'm sorry? Did you just compare me to a dog?” he said finally.

“Yeah, but...you know, a cute one. A chocolate lab, or maybe a collie.”

“Thanks, Hartley, that's helpful,” Iris murmured under her breath.

“See, this is why I don't like you,” Cisco said flatly.

Wally returned, clutching a wallet in his hand. “This was in the box of his possessions when he got arrested last year,” he panted. “Will it work?”

Cisco was pulling on his jacket, gloves, and goggles. “Yeah, it should work. But when I make the breaches, I won't be able to get him all the way into the cell. I specifically designed them so breachers couldn't get in and out, in case another Reverb comes along, or if Cindy or I ever turned evil. Iris, Hartley, you're going to have to be prepared to shove him into the cell and lock the door really quickly if Wally isn't there in time. And Wally, you run back here as fast as you can when Threshold goes through the breach. Just leave me there, come back and get me after everything is over and Threshold is safely in the pipeline.”

“You sure you'll be okay?” Wally checked. “Because if you could keep the breach up for a few seconds, I could just hop through the breach right after Threshold to make sure he doesn't hurt Iris and Hartley.”

“I can handle myself against one guy,” Iris said, mildly irritated.

“Yeah, sis, I know. But there's less of a chance of anyone getting hurt if I speedster it up.”

“Yeah, I can probably keep the breach open for a little while. Okay, I'm gonna find him.” Cisco put his hands on the wallet. He gasped and tilted his head back. “12th and Hyde Street,” he said quickly. “Fancy old rich person’s house. He's putting some shiny things from the breakfront into a bag. There are three doors in the room.”

“Alright, cool,” Wally said.

“Hartley and I will head down to the pipeline,” Iris added.

“Let us know when you're there, and we'll head out,” Wally replied.

“Yep.” Iris and Hartley went down to the pipeline. A minute later, Iris’s voice came over the comm system. “In position!”

“You ready?” Wally asked Cisco.

“Ready as I can be.” Cisco adjusted his Vibe goggles. “Let's do this, Kid Flash.”

“Let's do it, Vibe.” Wally gripped Cisco’s arm tightly.

The next few seconds were a blur. As soon as they stopped, Cisco turned towards the open door.

“What the--” Threshold yelped. He sprang towards the door. At the very last moment, Cisco opened a breach in the doorway. Threshold disappeared. With a rush of lightning, Wally disappeared too.

Cisco let the breach die. He slumped backwards against the wall, panting. His head was starting to throb. He groaned softly.

Wally reappeared. “Hey, we got him. He's in the cell. We'll turn him over to the police tomorrow. You okay?”

In answer, Cisco closed his eyes and sank down to the ground.

“Okay, alright,” Wally said quickly, catching him by the elbow. “Alright, Cisco, I got you. I got you. Let's get you back to the lab.”

“Thanks, man,” Cisco mumbled.

“Course.” A rush of wind later, Wally sat Cisco down in his desk chair. “Here you go. There.”

“Hey,” Iris called, panting as she rushed up. “Cisco, you alright?”

“I'll be okay,” Cisco groaned. “I didn't even pass out, huh? Look at that.”

Suddenly, Iris’s phone rang. “Dad? Hi, what's up?...Oh. Oh! Oh, no. Um...Wally and I will be right there. Okay. I love you, too. Bye.” She put her phone in her pocket. “Um...family emergency. Wally and I have to go.”

Wally looked scared. “Is everything okay?”

“It's going to be fine, but we have to go now. Wait, Cisco, we...we have to take care of Cisco, and…” Iris sounded torn.

“I've got him,” Hartley said.

Iris and Wally turned towards him. Cisco opened one eye slightly, taken aback.

“What? I can be helpful,” Hartley defended. “I can take care of Cisco. Go, go do what you need to do.”

Iris glanced at Cisco, asking silently, Are you okay with this?

Cisco shrugged. Don't see why not.

“Okay,” Iris said. “Hartley, if you hurt him…”

“I'm dead, okay, whatever.” Hartley put his hand on Cisco’s shoulder. “I'm not going to hurt him.”

“I’d like to see you try,” Cisco mumbled. “Go, Iris, Wally. Go ahead. I'll be okay.”

“Okay. Call us if you need us.” Wally put his arm around Iris and ran off.

“Alright, what do I do to help?” Hartley asked Cisco.

“Lower your voice, first of all,” Cisco said, pressing his palm to his temple. “I'll be fine if you bring me some ibuprofen. It's not as bad as it sometimes is. The first couple of times I tried to open an intradimensional breach, I had a mini-stroke.”

Hartley had grabbed a bottle of ibuprofen from the cabinet in the medbay while Cisco was talking. “Two weeks ago you made a breach to throw an eraser at my head, and nothing happened,” he pointed out.

“Yeah, but that one was tiny.” Cisco swallowed a few of the small orange pills and the glass of water Hartley handed him. “Thanks, man.”

“No problem. Hey, maybe you should lie down,” Hartley said worriedly.

Cisco was trying to stand up, and was very unsteady. “I'm fine.” His legs gave out underneath him.

Hartley grabbed his shoulders. “Hey! I told you, you should lie down!” he exclaimed.

Cisco looked up. Hartley’s face was about two inches away from his own. His eyes, to Cisco’s surprise, held actual concern. “I'm okay,” he said again. “Here, let go of me, I'll sit down if that'll make you happy.”

Hartley took a step back quickly. A bit of color was rising to his cheeks. “Good. Because, if you pass out and hit your head, your friends will blame me.”

“Yeah. Of course.” Cisco frowned. Somehow, he felt like there was more to it than that. But his suspicion was barely tangible, so he said nothing and sat back against the chair, closing his eyes.

 

Four days later, Hartley walked into the Lab in the morning and handed Cisco a small metal plate. It was square and an inch across. It had a little clip on the back. “Here. This should counteract the pressure from creating the breaches if you attach them to your goggles. Might stop you from getting headaches, and protect you from any eventual complications like those mini-strokes you mentioned.”

Cisco tilted his head, looking at the square curiously. “Thanks, Hartley,” he said honestly. He looked up at Hartley, almost smiling.

Hartley shuffled his feet. “Yeah, well. Don't want you passing out when you're supposed to be saving the world. I live there, you know.” He turned and walked away.

Cisco chuckled. I think Hartley is trying to be my friend , he thought. Who would ever have guessed?

Chapter Text

“Guys, it's going too fast, I can't unwrite it!” Cisco cried, panicked. The lines of code were flying past on the computer screens.

“How do we stop it?” Iris demanded. “Cisco, we don't know what the virus is going to do to this place.”

“I know, I know! I'm trying my best!”

“Let me see.” Hartley grabbed Cisco’s keyboard and pulled it over to himself. “I can go faster than you, but I don't know if I can stop it.”

“There's two parts to the code,” Cisco told him.

“I can see that. One of these is definitely going to steal our information.”

“Whoever is doing this is good, almost Felicity Smoak good,” Cisco added. “I'm no match for that.”

“Lucky for you, I'm good at hacking.” Hartley was intensely focused on the code, typing furiously. “I'm slowing it down. I can read part of the code--” Suddenly, he froze. He stared at the screen with a scared expression.

“What is it? What's wrong?” Iris exclaimed.

“There are two viruses. I'm only going to have time to disable one of them.”

“Well, start! Disable the one that's going to steal our stuff!”

Cisco nodded. “We cannot let our files get out into the world, Hartley. What does the second virus do?”

Hartley started typing again. He looked pale but determined. “Doesn't matter. We'll survive that. You will be fine.”

The way Hartley said you made Cisco nervous. “Hartley, what--”

“Ten seconds. Shut up. Working.” Hartley kept typing.

Cisco counted down in his head silently. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three--

“Done, safe.”

One.

A small burst of sparks flew out of the computer. More sparks came from other bits of electronics around the room, and Cisco could almost feel the low pulse of an explosion radiate throughout the room.

Hartley screamed. His hands flew up to his ears, and he collapsed onto the ground.

“What just happened?!” Iris cried. “What's wrong with him?”

Cisco stared, breathing hard. “The second virus. It infected our computers and must have told them to send out an electromagnetic pulse that burns out just about any electronics around. Hartley’s implants just got fried.”

Still screaming, Hartley curled in on himself. “It hurts!” he wailed.

Cisco sprang into action, dropping down onto the floor and putting his hands over Hartley’s. “Hey, hey, calm down. Hartley, can you hear me?”

It didn't seem like Hartley could hear anything other than the sound in his head. He let out another high-pitched scream.

Iris winced. “Cisco, how do we help him? I hate to see anyone in that much pain.”

Cisco shook his head. “I don't know how to help him without pulling out his implants and fixing them, and that could take hours. The only way I can think of to stop his pain is to knock him out completely.”

“Well, we have to do that, then! Look at him, he's not going to be able to survive this.”

Still screaming, Hartley clutched at the front of Cisco’s shirt. His eyes were squeezed tightly shut, but tears were still pouring down his cheeks. He forced his eyes open and looked directly at Cisco. “Help me!” he whimpered.

“Okay, okay.” Taking a deep breath, Cisco wrapped his arms around Hartley’s chest, holding him still. “Iris, I need you to go into the medbay. There are some pre-prepared syringes in the drawers, I need you to find the ones with the instructions for regular human anesthesia. Not the meta-human ones we use on speedsters, that could kill him.”

Iris nodded and rushed off.

Cisco tried to get Hartley to stop screaming, but it was difficult. “Dude, I'm trying to help you. Just hold on for a minute longer. Shh, shhhh.” He caught Hartley’s eye contact and nodded encouragingly. “I've got you, man. You're going to be okay.” He held his finger to his lips. “Quiet, shhh.”

Hartley gritted his teeth, only letting a continuous whimper escape his lips. His hand found Cisco’s wrist and he squeezed tightly. He was sobbing now, looking almost more pitiful than Cisco had ever seen someone look.

“This is it, right?” Iris handed Cisco a box with a syringe in it.

Cisco looked at the label. “Yeah, that's right. Okay, here goes.” He slipped the needle into Hartley’s arm. A few seconds later, Hartley closed his eyes and fell limp and silent. Cisco breathed a sigh of relief. “He's out. Iris, help me get him up onto the bed in the medbay.”

Together, they carried Hartley in and placed him down onto the narrow white bed. “What now?” Iris asked.

“Call Wally.”

“Yeah, I was planning on doing that. And I'm going to tell him that as soon as his class is over, he needs to go looking for the hacker. And I'm going to contact Felicity and ask her if she knows who could be behind this. I meant, what do we do next about Hartley?” Iris clarified.

“I've got him.” Cisco had been rushing around and hooking up an IV with enough anesthesia to keep him under for a while. “I'm just going to fix the cochlear implants, and then let him wake up. He'll be fine.”

“Okay, cool.” Iris was pulling her phone out. She sent off a text, and then called Wally. “Hey, bro. Some problems came up at work. We got hacked. Our more obnoxious friend is...out of commission right now. Call me back when class is over. Bye.” She hung up and watched Cisco take the small implants out of Hartley’s ears, grimacing. “Ouch.”

“He can't feel it right now,” Cisco reminded her.

“I know. Still.” Iris hesitated. “Cisco...he knew what the virus was going to do.”

“Yes, I know,” was all Cisco said.

Iris waited for a second before continuing. “He knew, and he still disabled the one that would mean trouble for us instead of the one that would put him in agony.”

“Yeah, Iris, I know!” Cisco had begun tampering with the implants. “These could be much better designed,” he added casually.

“Cisco, I'm not sure you're hearing me.”

“I hear you, Iris.” He looked up, annoyed. “Hartley saved us, I know that. And he saved us knowing that it would hurt him. That's great. Whatever.”

“Don't you think it's time you started trusting him?” Iris asked.

“Absolutely not.” Cisco turned back to the circuit board he was working on.

“Listen, I know you and him don't like each other because of what happened between you when you worked together before. But it genuinely seems like he's trying to make it up to you.”

“I never thought you would like him. He did try to kill Barry. He almost vibrated Barry’s atoms apart,” Cisco reminded her.

“Yeah, well…”

Cisco knew exactly what she was going to say. “Don't.”

“So did Caitlin, so did Captain Cold, and we still work with him sometimes. Hell, Barry tried to kill Barry, and me, and you. Barry tried to kill Oliver once--”

“Under the influence of Rainbow Raider, didn't count--”

Iris pressed on. “Besides, you of all people should understand why he did what he did.”

Cisco didn't stop working on the implants, but he looked up at her incredulously. “Excuse me?”

“You two have more in common than you want to admit. You don't think Eobard didn't know exactly what he was doing when he hired you?” Iris said. “You don't think that manipulative asshole didn't pit you two against each other on purpose? Hartley had been hated and abused and rejected by his family, so he was in the perfect vulnerable position for Eobard to step in and snatch him. He was so desperate for validation, Cisco, that he would have done anything for this man who took him in and told him that he was special. And then Eobard hired you. You don't think he wouldn't have praised you in front of Hartley every chance he got? He wanted to make Hartley so blindly jealous of you that he would never even think of being your friend.”

Reeling slightly, Cisco asked, “Why would Eobard care if we were friends?”

“Well, from how stupid you're acting right now, I might have to take this back, but...obviously, because you two were the smartest people on his staff. You both independently figured out something was up with him, though it was at different times. Can you imagine how quickly you would have figured it out if you and Hartley were working together? Eobard wanted you to hate each other because he was scared of what you would do to him if both of your brains were on the same side.” Iris paused. “You dummy.”

Cisco stared at her blankly. “And how do you know all this?”

“It's obvious. I saw what Eobard did to you, and to Barry, and to Caitlin. He used all of you, abused you. Emotional abusers are the same whether they're from 134 years in the future and a supervillain or not, and this was honestly a textbook case.”

“What...do you want me to do with all that?” Cisco asked slowly. He had to put the implants down. For some reason, his hands were trembling.

“I just want you to think that maybe, becoming Hartley’s friend is something you can do that would really, really piss of Eobard’s ghost. Plus, it might help both of you recover from what he did to you.” Iris bit her lip. “Cisco?”

Cisco was struggling to look her in the eye. His hands were drifting up to his chest, though he was trying not to give in to the urge. In many ways, you have shown me... He could almost feel the vibrating hand solidifying inside him, gripping his heart and just stopping it, and…

“Cisco? Cisco, hey, hey, hey, it's okay, it's okay!” Iris was saying. She put her hands on his shoulders. “I'm here. I'm here. Oh, no, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to trigger you, Barry told me that happened sometimes, I'm so sorry, Cisco.”

“It's okay,” Cisco said automatically. He took a shaky breath and gripped Iris’s arm. “I'll be okay in a minute.”

“Still, I'm so sorry.” Iris rubbed his shoulder reassuringly. “You're okay, you're safe.”

“I know, I know.” Cisco tried to steady himself. “I need to finish fixing these, Iris, but my hands are shaking too much.”

Iris took his hands and pressed her thumb in slow circles over his palms. “Okay, okay, breathe. Shh, shh. Breathe.”

Cisco was beginning to calm back down. “Thank you.”

Wally came rushing into the medbay. “Iris?! What happened?”

“A hacker blew out our tech, and Hartley’s implants in the process,” Cisco said quickly. “He's in a lot of pain if they don't work, so I'm fixing them before he wakes up.”

“Why do you look like you just saw a ghost?” Wally asked.

“He just got a little freaked out, it's okay.” Iris squeezed his hands and let them go. “Huh, Cisco?”

“Yeah, I'm good now.” He smiled at her gratefully. “Wally, if I show you how these little things work, can you speed-fix them?”

“Probably. They don't look too complicated, even if I'm usually just the one making the designs.”

“The circuit boards just need to be rewired, here.” Cisco showed Wally the parts that were broken. “The hacker fried our stuff. I'm kinda mad about that, but Hartley here managed to make it so our files and everything is safe. Including, y’know, all our identities. So, kinda important.”

“Just a little bit important.” Wally picked up one of the implants. “Okay, yeah, I can fix this. No problem. One second.” His hands moving in a blur with the occasional burst of electricity, Wally fixed the implants. “There, I think that should work. Check ‘em for me?”

Cisco examined the implants. “Looks good. Thanks, that would have taken me an hour, and it's better if we can wake Hartley up sooner rather than later.”

“So, Hartley saved us, huh?” Wally asked. “I gotta say, I don't dislike him as much as you said I would.”

“Yeah, well. Maybe I was a little prejudiced.” Cisco was carefully replacing the implants in Hartley’s ears. “Thanks, guys. Maybe you can go talk to Felicity about the hacker. I'll wake Hartley up and make sure he's okay.”

“I can stay with you,” Iris offered.

“No, it's okay. I'm just gonna think about some things,” Cisco said.

Iris understood. “Okay, well, call us if you need us.”

“Yeah, we'll be right back if you do.” Wally clapped Cisco on the back and walked out with Iris.

Cisco breathed a long sigh and looked down at Hartley. Iris’s words had hit him hard. When he thought about it, he knew she was completely right.

He adjusted the IV drip in Hartley’s arm. Hartley would wake up slowly over the next few minutes, and Cisco could be alone with his thoughts until then.

As he reflected, Cisco realized that Hartley had probably also known what Iris had pointed out. After all, Hartley had said he had gone to therapy. He would have come to the same conclusions. So maybe that's why he was trying to befriend Cisco. Maybe he really had figured out that he only had hated Cisco because Eobard manipulated both of them. Maybe Cisco could move in the same direction.

Cisco found his gaze drifting towards Hartley’s lips. He remembered how, in the first few moments he had seen Hartley, he had instantly thought he was cute. But then Hartley had been mean, so he never really let himself think about it. Over the past few weeks, though, those feelings had been resurfacing. Obviously, he would never let them develop into anything more. Hartley was still just Hartley, after all. Besides, cis gay guys often wouldn’t date transboys. And there was no reason to think that Hartley liked him, either. But that didn’t mean that he wouldn’t think about kissing those pink lips that Hartley would bite when he was thinking, or...

Hartley gasped and sat up with a loud cry. He scraped at the sides of his head desperately. “No, no, no,” he whimpered.

“Hartley! Hey, Hartley, it's okay!” Cisco cried, startled, the thoughts about Hartley’s attractiveness leaving his mind.  He jumped forward and grasped Hartley’s wrists. “Calm down, focus. It's okay. They're fixed. You're okay.”

Slowly, Hartley realized that he was no longer in pain. He brought his hands down, breathing quickly. “What happened?” he asked softly.

Once he knew that Hartley wasn't going to keep freaking out, Cisco let him go. “There was a hacker, and you stopped them from stealing our information, but all our tech got fried, including your implants. Wally and I fixed them. You're okay now.”

“Right, I remember now.” Hartley touched the area right in front of his ears gingerly. “Thank you.”

“You kept us all safe at your own risk. I wouldn't have left you there in pain.” Cisco sat down. “We don’t do that in this house.”

“Even to someone you hated?”

“I don't hate you, Hartley.”

Hartley almost smiled. “I don't hate you, either, Cisco.”

And that was enough for now.


A few days later, Cisco went up to Hartley and tapped his shoulder gently. “Hey. Turn around.”

Hartley spun his chair around. “What's up?”

“Got something for you.” Cisco held his hand out. Resting in his palm were two small devices that looked almost like a regular hearing aid. “Stick those in your ears, nothing can disable the implants from the outside. Nothing.”

Hartley raised an eyebrow. “They're big. They'll be visible.”

“I think they're fashionable.” Cisco sighed. “C’mon, man, just take them.”

With a small smile, Hartley took the devices and placed them into his ears, tapping them to make sure they were secure. “Thanks.”

“Yeah, no problem. Wouldn't want you to collapse next time you save the world. I live there, you know.” Cisco winked, and walked away as Hartley’s cheeks turned pink.

Chapter Text

After that, Cisco made a concerted effort to make friends with Hartley. To his surprise, it wasn't actually that hard. They shared interests, were on the same intellectual level, and as it turned out, they worked very well together.

“Pass me the thingy.”

Cisco tossed Hartley the very specific tool to which he was referring. “Gotcha.” They weren't exactly sure what they were making, but they knew it was going to be awesome.

“Hey, you two busy?” Wally asked, popping into the room. “Oh, is that a molecule ray for destroying target particles inside an organism?”

Hartley and Cisco looked at each other and shrugged. “It is now,” Cisco said.

“If it works, it might be able to rid people of toxins,” Hartley added. “Neat. I'll add something to that.”

“Neat. Hey, listen, Cisco. Can I talk to you for a minute outside?” Wally requested.

“Sure.” Cisco stood up, pulled off his gloves and safety goggles, and followed Wally out of the room.

As soon as they were definitely out of earshot of Hartley, Wally stopped. “Cisco, the Rathaways are donating money to an anti-gay organization that's basically a terrorist group. Like, they had violent protests at CC Pride this year.”

“Oh, shit. The Rathaways, like, Hartley’s parents?” Cisco checked.

“Those are the ones.”

“Where did you learn this?”

“Felicity,” Wally said. “Apparently Curtis was looking into it. But they're too busy to come and deal with it, so they asked if we could dismantle the organization and turn the leaders in. Apparently they're already wanted for hate crimes, so Captain Singh will be thrilled to have them delivered to the station.”

“So let's deal with them,” Cisco said. “Easy enough, they're just regular humans, right? No metas?”

“Not that I can find. So, how soon can you be ready?”

Cisco paused. “Oh. You want to do this behind Hartley’s back.”

“It's just gonna freak him out,” Wally confirmed. “He seems to be doing so well, right?”

“We're not going behind his back,” Cisco said flatly. “Absolutely not. We're just barely starting to trust each other, Wally. This would shatter that trust. We have to tell him.”

Wally hesitated. “Fine. You get to tell him, then.”

“I will.” Cisco turned and started walking back to the room where he and Hartley had been working. Hartley was sketching out a plan for the next part of the device they were building. “Hey, Hartley. There's something you need to know.”


 

The Pied Piper joined Kid Flash and Vibe on this mission. Hartley wouldn't let the others talk him out of coming. “They're going to get their asses handed to them by a gay man, a Latino man, and a black man,” Hartley said firmly.

Cisco thought for a second about correcting him to say ‘a transgender bisexual Latino man’ but decided it wasn't worth it to play ‘oppression Olympics’. He'd let Hartley have this one.

“Under the excellent direction of a black woman,” Iris added. “You better tell them that. You hear me? You better tell them that.”

“I will, sis,” Wally promised her.

Cisco pulled on his gloves. “Are we ready, team?”

“How much did those shoes cost?” Hartley said suddenly. “Like...those look expensive as fuck.”

“Don't worry, they were. I spent way too much on them, and I will probably cry with regret if you ask me exactly how much,” Cisco answered.

“Yeah, okay, so how much did they cost exactly?” Hartley pressed.

“Is this really important right now?” Wally said, exasperated.

“Absolutely. I'm going in there tonight and if I die, I don't want to die not knowing how much Cisco’s shoes cost.” Hartley crossed his arms and waited.

“... $650 and I got them on sale,” Cisco admitted reluctantly. “They were originally  $1,075.”

Iris whistled. “Wow, okay, we are definitely talking more about that later. But for now, go beat some bigoted asses, alright?”

“Sounds great.” Cisco was eager to get going, but Hartley hesitated.

“It's been awhile since I've been out there,” Hartley said nervously.

“You're not going to die,” Cisco promised him. “Besides, you're the one who insisted on coming.”

“True, true.” Hartley shifted on his feet. “Okay. I'm ready.”

The mission went really well. The three heroes took down the organization easily, bringing them to the police station. Then, Hartley disappeared.

“What the hell? Man, where did he go?” Cisco exclaimed.

“You were with him last!” Wally retorted.

“He can't have just disappeared!”

Iris called over the comms, “Did you guys lose Hartley?”

Cisco gulped. “Um...maybe?”

“Well, go find him. He probably went to confront his parents. Their mansion is a block away from the station.”

“Ohhh, of course,” Cisco realized. “You're right.”

“I'm always right.”

Wally sighed. “You wanna deal with this one?” he asked.

“Sure, why not?” Cisco let Wally take his arm and pull him along the block, dropping him off right outside the huge house.

“I'm going back to the Lab. Bring Hartley out for a drink or something, he needs it.” Wally patted Cisco’s shoulder and ran off.

A few seconds later, a dark figure with a hood walked into view under a street lamp. Cisco waited until he was a few yards away before stepping into the light. “Hartley, what are you doing?” he asked.

Hartley jumped. “The fu--Cisco?”

“Wally is faster than you.” Cisco crossed his arms. “Hartley. Why are you coming here? This isn't going to help anyone.”

“They deserve jail, too.” Hartley glared up at the sparse lit windows.

Cisco sighed. “Yeah, maybe, but you're not gonna accomplish anything this way. C’mon. Come away from this place. That's it.” He put his arm around Hartley’s shoulders and led him away. “Be satisfied with the win we had, okay? Don't end the night on a loss because of a personal grudge. Unfortunately, the justice system isn't perfect, and a couple of rich white people aren't going to jail because they gave money to a hate group.”

“I know that.” Hartley fell silent.

Cisco began to wonder if Hartley was becoming uncomfortable with the physical contact, but since he didn't pull away, Cisco decided to go with it. “C’mon, I'll buy you a drink somewhere. Okay?”

“Sure.” Hartley glanced over at him. “That actually sounds really nice.”

The night was fairly cold. Cisco shivered as he pulled his gloves off and shoved them into his pocket. “You think Vibe is recognizable enough that someone will know what my jacket looks like?”

Hartley gave him a sidelong glance. “I think it's more likely they'll recognize either your $1000 shoes or your hair.”

“Hey, I told you, I only spent $600 on them,” protested Cisco.

“I still think it's hilarious, and you might have an actual problem. Are those the most expensive shoes you own?”

“Yes!” Cisco exclaimed. “Most of my shoes are less than $100.”

“Yeah,” Hartley sighed. “See, my shoes are usually about $30.”

“Oh, man. And I'm the one with the problem?”

“Yes, definitely.” Hartley shook his head and laughed.

Cisco grinned. “You should laugh more often. It's nice. You know, since you usually only laugh at other people's suffering.” He paused. “That was probably uncalled for. Sorry. Old habits die hard.”

“It's okay. Old me would have deserved that. How far is the bar you're taking me to?” Hartley asked.

“Um…” Cisco thought for a second. He hadn't actually thought about where they were going. “Okay. There's a place two blocks from here.”

“Cool. Nothing like a 10 PM stroll through Central City in November.”

“It is a bit cold, huh? Don’t worry, I’m sure a few drinks will warm us up.” Cisco squeezed Hartley’s shoulder, and they walked in silence for a bit.

They sat in the corner of the bar, not wanting anyone to overhear their conversations. The bartender, a slight young woman, came over with their drinks and looked at Cisco strangely. “Hey, are you that super guy? The one with the blue glasses?”

“No, we just came from a costume party,” Cisco replied, rolling his eyes.

“A’ight. That’s cool.” The bartender walked away.

Cisco and Hartley glanced at each other and cracked up. “My god,” Hartley snorted. “Costume party? Really?”

“Hey, it was the best thing I could come up with,” Cisco retorted. “She bought it, didn’t she?”

“Yeah, maybe. But if Vibe was really as well known as you’d like him to be, you’d be recognized instantly. See, that’s the thing--I don’t care if people know I’m Piper.”

“Shh, keep your voice down,” Cisco hissed. He glanced nervously around the bar. The only other people there were a group of three guys sitting a few tables away.

Hartley grudgingly lowered his voice to a quiet murmur. “It’s one thing for people like Barry, and Wally. They’ve got jobs and lives outside of this stuff. I left everything behind so many times, I haven’t got any other life to protect.” He took a drink of the hard cider he had ordered. “But I get why you don’t want to be known as Vibe. You’ve still got a possibility of a life.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you worked for one of the most well-known labs in the country, and you didn’t get fired and humiliated. I’m sure if you applied places, you’d get snatched up in an instant.”

Cisco frowned and swirled his glass a little. He wasn’t sure what he had ordered, but it had a pretty name and he wasn’t too picky. “I don’t know,” he said.

“Oh, come on, don’t tell me you haven’t thought about leaving this place. I mean, STAR paid really well. I worked there for three years, and I’ve still got enough money to be putting myself up in a nice hotel for a month, so I bet you could do--”

“Dude, you’re still staying in a hotel?” exclaimed Cisco. “Find an apartment!”

Hartley shrugged. “I didn’t know how long I’d be staying. Still don’t. Who knows how long it’ll be ‘til you all are sick of me?” He sounded like he was trying to joke, but there was something else to his voice. A sadness, a bitterness.

“You know why I never left the team, even after everything?” Cisco said slowly. “I thought about it, especially after my brother died and I didn’t want to be around Barry. I didn’t want to be in Central City, for that matter. Too many memories. But I stayed.” Cisco locked gazes with Hartley as he continued, “And you know why? Because Team Flash is family. And I don’t abandon family.”

“Yeah, well, my family is pretty shit,” Hartley said, no longer trying to hide the bitterness.

“Nah, man. ‘Cause your parents aren’t necessarily the family I’m talking about.”

Hartley scoffed. “Are you going to give me a speech about how family isn’t always blood, and that ‘found family’ can be just as good? Because I don’t have one of those either.”

“I just told you. Team Flash is family.”

For a second, Hartley didn’t seem to understand. Then he grabbed his drink in both shaking hands and couldn’t look Cisco in the eye. “That’s...um. Are you...are you saying I’m...a part of Team Flash?” he stumbled.

“Now he gets it!” Cisco smiled and patted Hartley’s arm. “There we go. Just breathe, amigo , you’re gonna be okay.”

Hartley took another drink, wide-eyed. He looked like his whole world had just turned upside down, but not necessarily in a bad way. He was just a little overwhelmed.

Cisco laughed quietly. “You okay, man?”

To his shock, Hartley had tears in in his eyes, though he was desperately trying to hide them. “I’m fine,” he choked out.

“Oh, boy. Alright,” Cisco sighed. “It’s okay, it’s okay. Alright. I see now that I’ve said something wrong, please let me know what so I don’t do it again.”

Hartley shook his head quickly. “You didn’t. Say anything wrong, that is.” He wiped his eyes with a breathless laugh. “I’m sorry. I just...I guess I just…”

“Okay, I get it,” Cisco said soothingly. “I understand. Okay, well, I think that these…” He gestured at their drinks. “Aren’t quite enough to get us as drunk as I think we need to be.”

“I agree,” Hartley said.

An hour and several drinks later, Cisco was a comfortable level of just inebriated enough to feel nice and drunk without worrying about getting sick. Hartley was slightly more tipsy. “Hey, Hartley, that’s probably enough soon,” Cisco said.

“Yeah, m’be.” Hartley blinked at him slowly. “I think we sh’d talk…’bout stuff.”

“What kinda stuff?”

“Why I hated you, ‘n stuff. ‘Cause...it wa’nt just that Dr. Wells loved you more.”

Cisco frowned. “Uh-huh? Then why?”

Hartley was staring at him. His face was flushed pink, but Cisco couldn’t tell if it was just the alcohol or something else. “It was also ‘cause you’re...you’re so…” His voice trailed off in a mumble.

“I have no idea what you just said,” Cisco told him. But for some reason, as Hartley leaned closer, he had a flutter in his tummy.

“‘Cause you’re so pretty ,” Hartley told him.

Cisco’s heart skipped a beat.

“Your hair is so nice and soft, and your face is so cute, and you made me feel things I...I wasn’t s’posed to feel,” Hartley continued, oblivious. “‘Cause you were a boy, and I’m not s’posed to feel...think that boys are pretty. And so when I...when I looked at you, I remembered that I was bad, and…”

Cisco didn’t know what to say, so he said nothing, and let Hartley keep rambling on.

“And I knew you c’ld never feel the same, and if I even tried, I’d be...I’d be tainting you. So I hated you instead, ‘cause it was easier th’n trying, and hating myself instead. But I still...I still just wanted to…” Slowly, Hartley reached out and touched the side of Cisco’s face.

Suddenly, Cisco was a bit scared. Not because Hartley was touching him-- god, that felt nice --but because he didn’t want to lead Hartley on without telling him… “Hartley, I…”

Hartley flinched and pulled his hand away. “I’m sorry!” he cried. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I...I didn’t mean to...I’d never…I mean, I didn’t…”

“Shhh, shh, hey,” Cisco said quickly. “Hold on, I just need to tell you something. Hartley, I’m trans.”

“I know,” Hartley said. “Saw your files. I just...I didn’t mean, right then...don’t...I’m sorry, I’m...I’ll leave, I don’t want to hurt you…”

“Whoa, hey, wait!” exclaimed Cisco. “You know I’m trans? And you never said anything?”

“None of my bi’nis,” murmured Hartley.

“And it doesn’t change anything...about what you said, about me?” Cisco checked. His heart was pounding.

“‘Course not, you...you’re a guy, I like guys, doesn’t matter…” Hartley was really trying to put together a cohesive thought, but he kept tripping over his words. “If the guy...if he’s got...I mean, ‘m a scientist, ‘n I’m a physicist...biology is stupid, ‘n complicated, I know that, ‘n gender is just...fuckin’ confusing, so...You’re a guy.”

Cisco couldn’t stop himself from smiling. “Well, that’s not what most people say, whether or not they’re accepting.”

Hartley was trying to stand up. “But I don’t...I don’t want you to...You’re so good , and I’m just...dirty, and I can’t hurt you, so…”

“Hey,” Cisco said, concerned. He stood up, trying to get Hartley to stay still for a second, to calm down. “What’re you talking about? Dirty? You’re not…” He remembered what Hartley had said about ‘tainting’ him, and he groaned. “Oh, wow. Internalized homophobia is a bitch. Hey, Hartley, hey, c’mere, c’mere.” He pulled Hartley into a tight hug.

Hartley pushed him away weakly. “I can’t…”

“It’s okay,” Cisco insisted. “It’s okay.”

After a second, Hartley gave in and pressed his face against Cisco’s shoulder with a sob. “I can’t…” he said again.

Cisco rubbed his back softly. “It’s okay.” He let Hartley cry for a moment, then cupped his hands around Hartley’s face and wiped the tears away. “Hey, Hartley? You can .”

“I can--what?” Hartley managed.

“This.” Cisco tilted his face up slightly and pressed his lips against Hartley’s. His mouth tasted like tears and hard cider, and Cisco shivered before pulling back.

Hartley’s eyes were closed for another second. When he opened them slowly to look at Cisco, he looked like all the air had been knocked out of him. “Oh,” was all he could say.

“That okay?” Cisco made sure.

“Um...You...you wanted ...to do that?” Hartley stuttered.

“Yeah, I did,” Cisco confessed. “I really did. But not if you’re not okay with it.”

“You promise you really want to? I’m not making you, or…”

“I promise,” Cisco reassured him.

In response, Hartley buried his hands in Cisco’s hair and pulled him in, kissing him just a little too hard. Cisco gasped as they broke apart, surprised by how Hartley had seemed to let everything he had been holding back just flood out. “Sorry,” Hartley breathed.

“Stop apologizing.” Cisco covered his mouth with another kiss.

“Fucking f*gs,” someone called.

Hartley leapt away from Cisco with a terrified expression, trying to hide by pressing up against the wall. Cisco, however, decided he was just drunk enough and just riding enough of a high from the kisses that he wasn’t just going to let that slide. “I’m sorry, what did you say?” he addressed the man who had spoken the slur.

The man crossed his arms and stood up. He was about twice Cisco’s size and several inches taller than him, but Cisco didn’t back away. “I called you a f*g, f**got,” he reiterated. “Don’t you have your own disgusting places to go? Why do you have to flaunt yourself in front of us normal people, huh? Nobody asked to see that.”

Cisco raised his eyebrows. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the bartender look scared and back away. She could only have been in her early twenties--barely old enough to be in a bar, let alone have to deal with bigots like this in her establishment. “First of all, we were just kissing. It’s not as if I haven’t seen straight people full-on feeling each other up in bars. Also, fuck you.”

“What are you gonna do about it?” the guy challenged. His two buddies sitting with him laughed in agreement.

Cisco sighed, and turned away for a second--just long enough to pull his gloves and goggles out of his pockets and put them on. Then, he whirled around and sent a Vibe-blast right into the man’s chest. He let out an undignified yelp as he crashed onto the table, which broke in half. His drink, as well as his buddies’ drinks, spilled and shattered as the glasses hit the floor. “Believe me, you don’t want to fight back,” Cisco let the guy know. “Unless you want all your asses handed to you wrapped in a bow. So I’d suggest--no, don’t get up.”

Looking shaken, the man had been slowly trying to sit up amid the wreckage. He fell back down as Cisco held his hands up threateningly.

“That’s better. Now, I’m gonna stay here while you pay the nice bartender over there for your drinks, and for the damage. Might as well give her a pretty big tip, too, because she’s not gonna call the police on you for breaking her stuff.” Cisco nodded at the frightened bartender and smiled reassuringly.

“Y-you are the superhero,” she said, awed.

“Uh, yep, that's me. Sorry I told you I was coming from a costume party. Hi, I'm Vibe. Don't worry about all this, I'll make sure it gets taken care of.” Cisco glared at the man. “Alright, you can stand up now. Go give the nice lady the money, and if you make a wrong move, be prepared for some serious hurt.”

Over the next few minutes, the bartender got her money, and the homophobe and his friends got sent on their way. Hartley remained in the corner, still tense and scared and a little too drunk to stay standing. Cisco cleaned up the shattered glass despite the bartender’s protests.

“It's fine, see? I've got gloves on. Besides, I broke them.” He finished sweeping it up. “Sorry about all this. What's your name?”

“K-Kathy,” she stuttered.

“Hi, Kathy, nice to meet you. Again, sorry about all this, but I couldn't just let him say something like that.”

“It's okay,” Kathy told him. “Those guys have been trying to get with me for weeks, even though they're twice my age. They're really rude and gross. Thank you for teaching them a lesson.”

“Always happy to help. Well, I'd better get my friend home. He's pretty shaken up. Goodbye, Kathy!”

“Bye, Vibe. Um, do you have a real name?”

“I have one, but you don't get to know it.” Cisco smiled at her and went over to Hartley. “Hey, there,” he murmured quietly. “Come on, let's get out of here.”

Hartley nodded and stayed close to Cisco’s side as they left the bar. The alcohol was making Cisco’s head a bit blurry after the adrenaline of the fight, and Hartley called for a cab. A few minutes later, Cisco found himself in the lobby of a hotel.

“I'm so tired,” he said.

Hartley stumbled over to the elevator, clutching Cisco’s hand. Cisco didn't think twice about following him into the elevator, down the hall, and into a hotel room. “Cisco, I…”

Cisco fell backwards onto the bed. “Wanna keep kissing?” he invited.

“Oh, god, yes.” Hartley dropped down next to him and pressed his lips against Cisco’s.

Cisco smiled into the kiss. “This is nice,” he mumbled. He rolled on top of Hartley, his hands pressing on his shoulders. As he kissed Hartley again, he bit Hartley’s bottom lip gently, sucking on it.

Hartley moaned. “Oh, my god.”

“You like that?” Cisco sat up, pulling Hartley with him. He straddled Hartley’s lap and kept kissing him, kissed him until he was panting and gasping for breath. His hands slipped under the edge of Hartley’s shirt, but he checked before pulling it off. “Okay?”

“Yeah,” Hartley said, and let Cisco pull his shirt off and run his hands down Hartley’s sides. “Can I…” Hartley tugged on the bottom of Cisco’s t-shirt.

“Sure, but I've got scars there,” Cisco warned. “Just don't get freaked out, they're pretty big.”

“It's okay.” Hartley lifted Cisco’s shirt, pulling it over his head. It got caught on one of Cisco’s arms. “Sorry, wait, it's tangled.”

Cisco laughed. “I've got it, it's okay.” He tossed the shirt aside and let Hartley look at the wide, dark scars on his chest from top surgery. Hartley traced his finger over one of them, and Cisco shivered.

“Did it hurt?” Hartley asked.

“Well, I was under anesthesia,” Cisco answered. “But yeah, afterwards, it felt like I'd gotten hit with a car. Everything ached for a month.”

Cautiously, Hartley pressed his lips to one of the scars. Again, Cisco shivered. “Is this okay?” Hartley asked.

“Uh, it's alright.” Cisco tilted Hartley’s chin up to kiss him on the mouth. “I prefer this, though.” They continued to make out for a few minutes. Cisco made sure to bite Hartley’s lip a few more times, and each one prompted a soft whimper. “God, you're pretty.”

“No, you're the pretty one. I'm just--”

Cisco shut him up with a kiss. “You're pretty,” he mumbled into Hartley’s mouth. “And don't deny it.” He pushed Hartley down onto the bed, their bare chests pressed together, warm and solid. “You're stunning, and...if I wasn't still drunk, I'd be able to come up with a dozen more words, but just...shhh.” He slipped one of his hands down between his hips and Hartley’s, searching for the zippers on their pants.

Hartley froze. He pulled away from Cisco’s kiss, wide-eyed.

Immediately, Cisco stopped. “Talk to me, what's wrong? You just give me the word, and I'll stop.”

“No, no, it's just...I'm nervous. It's okay.” Tentatively, Hartley’s hand joined Cisco’s and he undid his zipper. “It's okay.”

“Are you sure?” Cisco checked.

“Yes.”

Cisco kissed him. “If you want to stop, you just tell me. Anytime. Don't worry about it at all. I don't want to do anything that would make you uncomfortable.”

Hartley nodded. “Thank you.”

“I need to let you know, I haven't had bottom surgery,” Cisco told him. “So, it's not a dick down there.”

“That's okay,” Hartley assured him. “I've been with both.” He was almost smiling now, more confident, becoming the cocky, more confident person he was normally. “Unlike most gay guys I've met, I know what a vagina is.”

Cisco laughed. “Ain't that the truth?” He kissed Hartley on the side of the mouth. “A lot of gay guys I've tried to get with have been so grossed out that they leave before my pants are even off. Say they don't wanna be with a girl.”

“You're not a girl.”

“Yeah, but casual transphobia doesn't care.” Cisco shook his head. “Sorry, this isn't very sexy talk.”

“It's okay, I don't mind.” Hartley kissed him to reassure him. “So, you've been with guys, and girls…”

“I'm bisexual,” Cisco let him know.

“I'm gay,” Hartley offered.

Cisco laughed softly. “I know that, you dummy. Come here, shhh.”

Fumbling, often unsure, stopping constantly to make sure both of them were okay with what was happening and enjoying themselves, the night progressed. Even with the copious amount of alcohol he had drunk, Hartley was very present and conscious of everything he was doing. Cisco hadn't had as much to drink, but he was letting go a bit more. He followed Hartley’s lead for the most part, although he usually took control. It was... really nice.

Eventually, panting, they collapsed backwards against the pillows. “Everything okay?” Cisco asked.

“Great. You?”

Cisco rubbed his palm across Hartley’s chest. “Yeah. Tired.”

“Me too.”

“You're gonna have such a headache tomorrow,” giggled Cisco. “I don't envy you.”

“Hmmm.” Hartley’s eyelids were drooping. “Goodnight.”

“Hartley, hey.” Cisco tapped his cheek. “Hold on, don't fall asleep, I've got to talk to you for a minute.”

With difficulty, Hartley opened his eyes. “What?”

“I just have to warn you, I get nightmares sometimes,” Cisco said. “Just...just so you know.”

“I gotcha.” Hartley wrapped his arms around Cisco’s chest, pulling him close. “Can you reach the light? It's so bright in here.”

“Yeah, hold on.” Cisco wriggled free of his arms and reached out to flip the switch, then pulled the sheets over both of them. “It'll get cold if we're just here with no clothes. Also, excuse you, I'm the big spoon.” Cisco curled around Hartley, holding him close. “Okay?”

Hartley sighed, soft and long. “Yes, definitely.”

“Now go to sleep.” Cisco nestled his face against the back of Hartley’s neck.

Hartley was already mostly asleep. “Goodnight, Cisco,” he breathed.

“Goodnight, Hartley.” As Cisco closed his eyes, he could barely believe he was saying those words. If someone had told him just a month ago that he would be here cuddled up with Hartley Rathaway and liking it, he wouldn't have believed them. And yet, here they were. The world was a strange place, and the people unpredictable. It was beautiful, though. And Hartley’s skin was smooth and warm and he smelled nice, and Cisco was exhausted. He was asleep in a few minutes, and he dreamed only of pale skin and apple cider.

Chapter Text

It was the light that woke him finally, the clear, bright light of sunlight streaming through half-closed curtains. For a second, Cisco panicked. Why did this room smell like a hotel? This wasn't his bed.

But as he opened his eyes and saw Hartley asleep next to him, he remembered, and relaxed. Hartley’s mouth was slightly open, his lips pink and pretty, and Cisco had to stop himself from kissing them. He didn't want to wake him up, wanted to let him sleep for as long as possible. He probably needed it.

Cisco reached for his phone and winced as he saw that it was only at 11%. It was 9:30, and he had three texts and one missed call. The texts were from Iris.

Hey, so is H okay? That one was from the previous night. Cisco had let her know that he had found Hartley and was taking him for a drink, but he hadn't looked at his phone after that. Then, Guessing you're home, your phone is probably dead. See u tomorrow. The final text read, When are you coming in? I've got work, but Wally hasn't got class this morning.

The missed call was from Wally. Cisco texted him back, saying that he would be in a bit late. Wally would probably assume he was nursing a hangover. His head hurt a little, but he was okay. He did want a drink of water, though, so he carefully slid out of bed and filled the short glass on the bathroom counter, tossing the little white paper cap away. He didn't bother even glancing at the coffee maker--hotel coffee wasn't worth the effort.

After downing the water, refilling the glass, and finding a bottle of aspirin to place on the bedside table next to Hartley, Cisco set out in search for something to put on. He wasn't comfortable walking around the room naked, and he didn't want to do the ‘walk of shame’ into STAR Labs. Hartley had a few drawers with clothes, and Cisco pulled on a pair of briefs and some pajama pants. That was enough for now.

He climbed back in the bed after getting a text back from Wally ( Okay, dude, feel better! Haha) and plugging his phone in. Hartley hadn't stirred, and Cisco found himself watching his chest rise and fall. He couldn't help feeling a bit worried that Hartley would regret what had happened, even though he had taken every chance to check that it was okay in the moment. The last thing he wanted was to have taken advantage of Hartley.

Ten minutes later, Hartley rolled over and let out a soft groan, pulling the covers over his head. “Oh, god,” he moaned.

“Good morning!” Cisco said.

“No, it's not.”

Cisco smiled sympathetically. “Well, there's aspirin and water right next to you. So it'll be better in a few minutes, at least.”

Hartley’s hand popped out of the covers and reached around for the aspirin. Cisco placed a couple of pills in his palm. “Thanks,” Hartley mumbled. Eventually, he sat up, rubbing his eyes and yawning. He opened his eyes, wincing at the light even though Cisco had closed the curtains, and his gaze fell onto Cisco. “Hi,” he said.

“Hey.” Cisco was sitting cross-legged on top of the blankets. “So...last night.”

Hartley looked as if he was struggling not to freak out. “Are you...okay with it?” he asked anxiously.

I am. I was worried about you,” Cisco replied.

“Oh! I...I'm good with it.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, I mean…” Hartley’s pale face, made even paler with his hangover, turned pink. “I've been...I've wanted to...for ages.”

Cisco’s face split into a happy grin. “I’m glad you feel like that! ‘Cause, it would suck if you only agreed because you were drunk.” He flopped back against the pillows, his hands behind his head. “Wally thinks I'm at home with a hangover, so to be honest, we've got a lot of time before he thinks it's weird that neither of us are at the lab. Besides, he's got class at 3 today.”

“So…” Hartley narrowed his eyes. “What are you thinking?”

Cisco grinned. “You wanna kiss me?”

A lot more shyly than he had been when he was so drunk the night before, Hartley nodded. Slowly, he moved over on the bed and reached out to touch Cisco’s shoulder. He stopped before his fingers could even brush against Cisco’s skin. He looked almost frightened.

“It's okay,” Cisco said. “It's okay, Hartley, you can touch me. Wow, we really need to work on this. Here, okay. Take my hand.” Cisco grasped his wrist gently and made Hartley press his hand on his chest above his heart. “Okay? Look, you're touching me. Huh? We did a lot more than this last night.”

“I know.” Hartley was breathing a little too quickly. “It's a lot easier to forget that I'm...not usually…”

“Okay, breathe,” Cisco said.

Hartley laughed shakily. “This is why my last boyfriend dumped me. It's difficult when your significant other can't touch you intimately without a lot of alcohol.”

“I can't pretend to understand exactly how you're feeling, but...” Cisco hesitated. “I mean, I dealt with a lot of internalized transphobia during my transition, so I know it can suck. It's not exactly the same, but I couldn't look at myself in the mirror without crying sometimes.”

“It's just...everytime I'm... with a guy, I can hear my parents...my mom, she says that I'm a disgusting…” Hartley took a breath, trying to gather up the strength. “A disgusting, dirty queer who will never be welcome in her home. And my father saying that anyone I ever touched would be tainted with the stench of my betrayal of morality.”

Cisco couldn't hold back a slight gasp of horror. “That's…”

“I can't hear them as much when I'm drunk,” Hartley added.

“Holy shit,” Cisco said. He stared at Hartley, who had said all that like it was no big deal, like it was any kind of normal . Was that really what had been going on in this man’s head all those times he had shot Cisco a hateful look or gave him a degrading insult? Because, shit, it had still hurt, and it wasn't okay...but if Hartley really had those hate-filled voices ingrained in his memory, how else could he possibly have acted?

“Cisco? Cisco, you're staring.”

“Sorry, I just…” Cisco shook his head. “Hartley, you're not...you're not dirty or disgusting, and you're sure as hell not tainting anyone.”

“Well, objectively, I know that they were wrong. But I can't get rid of their voices.”

Cisco reached out and grabbed Hartley’s hands tightly. “I'm not going to let you feel like this anymore,” he said determinedly. “I'm going to help you, and you're going to get better.”

“I thought I'd left therapy back in Blueville,” Hartley muttered.

“Too bad. But in this therapy, you get lots of cuddles. Tell me that's not better than Blueville,” Cisco said.

Hartley almost laughed. “I guess it's okay.” He didn't make any moves by himself, but he let Cisco pull him into his arms.

“See? We're not dirty. We're people, who kiss, and touch, and cuddle. And yeah, we have sex, but that's not dirty, either. That's all just human.” Cisco caressed Hartley’s arm.

“I mean, my parents made me have sex with girls. They'd probably think what we did last night was fine, because you've got a vagina.” Hartley relaxed against Cisco’s chest.

“Great, now I kind of want bottom surgery just to piss off transphobes and homophobes,” Cisco said. “Except I don't want bottom surgery, so I won't.”

“Why not? If you don't mind me asking,” Hartley added quickly.

“No, it's fine. Honestly, I'm just comfortable with this, and I know my way around it. It sounds like way too much work to learn how to deal with a whole new set of genitals after two and a half decades.” Cisco ran his fingers through Hartley’s hair absently, and Hartley let out a sigh that was almost a moan.

“That feels really nice,” he breathed. “Also, totally valid explanation--ohhhh, please don't stop doing that.”

“There, you're getting it! See, touching is nice.” Cisco was pleased by how quickly Hartley seemed to be getting comfortable with the contact. He continued to play with Hartley’s hair and talk quietly. “Honestly, that's why I keep my hair long. It's just so nice when someone else is touching it.”

“Can I touch your hair?” Hartley asked suddenly.

“Yeah, of course.” Cisco bent his head, letting his long hair flip over and brush across Hartley’s face.

“Hey!” Hartley pursed his lips and blew the strands off his lips. “I said touch , not get suffocated by.” He reached up and took a lock of hair between his thumb and forefinger. “It's so soft,” he observed.

“I try,” Cisco said proudly. He slid down against the pillows until he was lying down completely again, with Hartley’s head on his chest.

Hartley propped himself up on one elbow, still twirling the lock of hair around his fingers. “Hey, look, I'm touching you without freaking out,” he said. “Suck it, mom and dad.”

“That's right! You tell ‘em.” Cisco smiled and let Hartley keep stroking his hair. “Eventually, I should go in and help Wally, though.” His phone vibrated, and he rolled over to look at it. “...The eventuality is now. Sorry. Let’s go.”


 

“Hey, you don’t look as bad as I thought you would,” Wally greeted. “Where’s Hartley?”

“I...um, I called him, he’s going to come in soon,” Cisco lied. Hartley was just waiting a couple minutes to walk into the lab so as not to raise suspicions. They had decided that Wally didn’t need to know about this quite yet. “Okay, what was the SOS about?”

Wally pulled him over to the computer. A security footage feed of a lower level of the lab was playing. “Watch. Any second now…” Suddenly, a blue light flickered in the air.

Cisco narrowed his eyes. “Is that a breach? Is someone trying to breach into our lab?”

“I thought so, but it’s not Cindy, right? It couldn’t be. She always gets the breach open first try, and this has been going on for like, 20 minutes,” Wally said.

“No, that’s not Cindy’s breach,” Cisco said immediately. “Hers look entirely different. I don’t know, it almost looks...synthetic? I don’t know how to explain it, but I can’t feel another breacher on the other side.”

“Maybe we should go check it out?” Wally suggested. “If there’s something dangerous that comes out, I can speed us away, or we can fight it. What do you think?”

“Sure, let’s go down and--oh, holy shit, Harry!” Cisco exclaimed. On the screen, the breach had appeared again, this time sustaining itself. Harry (or at least, Cisco thought it was Harry. It could be any number of Harrison Wellses from any number of Earths, but it dressed like Harry) rolled out of the breach to lie limp on the floor. He didn’t look very...alive. “Shit, let's go!”

Together, they rushed down and into the part of the bunker in which the breach had opened. Wally was, of course, there before Cisco. He was checking Harry’s pulse. “He’s alive!” he called as Cisco burst in, panting.

Cisco knelt down. “Harry? Harry, can you hear us?”

The man had a split lip and bruises on his face. The knuckles on one of his hands were scraped and bleeding. “I can hear you, Ramon,” he muttered.

“Oh, thank God. Hey, what happened? And how did you get here?!” Cisco was trying to help him sit up, but as Harry gasped and gritted his teeth, it seemed like it was doing more harm than good so he gave up. “And you are our Harry, right?”

“I damn well hope so. This is Earth-Prime, I’m from Earth-2 as you call it. My daughter is Jesse Quick, and together we’ve fought the large psychic gorilla named Grodd several times. Good enough for you, Ramon?” Harry sat up on his own, despite how much it seemed to hurt.

“Yeah, good enough. Harry, what are you doing here?” Cisco demanded. “ How are you here?”

“Long story.” Harry glanced down at his hand, which apart from being scraped up also held a small grey device with a blue light emanating from it. “Jesse and I were fighting a metahuman, Sonar, on our Earth, and I was taken hostage. The meta left me alone, and I believe Jesse must have defeated him, but then could not find me. I’ve been working on this device for months, but it can only create interdimensional breaches, hence...I am here. I suppose it isn’t such a long story after all. Also, I’ve got a bit of a problem.” He pulled aside the edge of his jacket to reveal a large bloodstain on his shirt. “It isn’t life threatening, but I’d appreciate it if I could patch myself up here.”

“Of course, yeah,” Wally said concernedly. “And Cisco, you can hop over to Earth-2 and get Jesse, right? I mean, because she’s probably worried sick about her dad. Not just because I want to see her--or, I mean…”

“It’s alright, Wally. Yes, Ramon, can you tell Jesse I’m alright?” Harry asked.

“Yeah, sure. Let’s get you upstairs and into the medbay first, though, alright?” With Wally’s help, Cisco lifted Harry to his feet and helped him up the stairs and into the cortex. Unfortunately, he had completely forgotten about Hartley.

Hartley had come into the lab, and had sat down. When he heard footsteps, he turned in his chair, saying, “I was wondering where--Ohgodohshitohfuck what the fuck?!” He dropped his mug of coffee and stared at Harry in horror.

Wally caught the mug before it could shatter. “Hartley, wait--”

But Hartley was already on his feet and rushing over to Cisco and Harry, fists clenched. “What the fuck ? Cisco, I don’t understand--”

“Hartley, wait a second--” Cisco tried.

“That’s Harrison Wells, oh, god, that’s Dr. Wells, he’s standing , what the fuck--”

“It’s not who you think it is, Hartley!” Cisco exclaimed.

“You--you, what are you doing here?” shouted Hartley at Harry angrily. “How dare you--I thought you were dead , and--you...you…” He threw himself forward suddenly, grabbing Harry by the collar.

Immediately, Wally pushed his way between them. “Hartley! Hartley, hey, stop!” he yelled. “Back off, hey, calm down!”

“You let him --and you’re telling me to calm down ?” Hartley struggled against Wally’s tight grip on his arms. “Let go of me, you--”

“Hartley.” Cisco had let Harry sit down in a chair and was rushing over to try and placate his angry friend. “Hartley, hey, listen. Trust me, please, just trust me for a minute. Please.”

Wally backed up, letting Cisco take over. He sat on the desk next to Harry, ready to burst in if Hartley freaked out any more. “Sorry about that,” he told Harry quietly.

“Oh, it’s alright. Ramon and Allen and Snow all had the same reaction when they saw me for the first time. Though, it was your father and Detective Spivot who both shot at me.”

“Hartley, listen,” Cisco was saying. “That’s not who you think it is. I told you, we know Harrison Wells on another couple Earths. That’s Harry. He’s from Earth-2. He’s not Eobard Thawne, I promise. He’s a friend.”

“Oh, god, I know you told me about that, but I didn’t think--he looks just like him, Cisco, he…”

“I know, I know. I had a hard time with it, too. But listen, Harry’s saved our asses more times than I can count, and he needs our help right now. So just...just calm down, and give him a chance.” Cautiously, Cisco let Hartley go. “Are you going to attack him again?”

“I…” Hartley sank down into a chair. “N-no, I’m good.”

“Alright, good.” Cisco breathed a sigh of relief. “Okay. Introductions. Harry, this is Hartley Rathaway, AKA Pied Piper. He worked with me and Caitlin when...the other Harrison Wells ran STAR Labs.”

“Yes, I gathered that,” Harry said dryly. “Great to meet you, Mr. Rathaway, but I'd appreciate it if I could, well…” He gestured down at his bloodstained shirt. “You understand.”

“Yes, of course,” Cisco said hastily. He went back over to Harry and helped him up, bringing him over to the medbay. “Wally, stay with them until I get back from Earth-2,” he said quietly to Wally as he put on his Vibe goggles and gloves. “I don't think leaving Hartley alone with him is a good idea.”

“Agreed. Good luck, man.”

“Yep.” Cisco patted Wally’s shoulder and opened a breach. He stepped through it, and into someone’s living room.

“Okay, just call me when you have any news.” The voice was Jesse’s, coming from the next room over.

“Jesse!” Cisco called.

There was the sound of something falling onto the floor, a cry of, “Oh, shit!” and then Jesse was racing into the living room. She looked disheveled. Her Quick suit was on, but the zipper down the front was open down to her navel and the arms were off, the entire torso of the suit hanging off her waist to reveal the black tank top underneath. Her hair was messy, put up in a quick ponytail, and her eyes were red from crying. The mascara smudges around her eyes looked days old. “Cisco?” she exclaimed incredulously.

“Hi, Jesse!”

“Do you know where my dad is? Oh, god, I've been searching for a week since Sonar ran away, he's just nowhere , I can't find him--”

“Hey, calm down,” Cisco said soothingly. He took her by the shoulders, leading her over to the sofa and making her sit down. “Your dad's okay. He found his way onto my Earth a little while ago. He's pretty banged up, but he's okay.”

“Oh, thank God.” Jesse sniffled. “I almost lost him before, with Grodd, and I don't think I could--”

“It's okay, it's okay.” Cisco pulled her into a hug. “He's okay. I came to take you to Earth-1, if that's okay with you.”

“Yes, please, I have to see him, make sure he's okay.”

“Alright, here.” Cisco wiped away the mascara smudges on her cheek with his thumb. “And put your suit on all the way. There's a new member of Team Flash, wouldn't want to make the wrong impression. Although, he already tried to punch your dad, so…”

“Why?” Jesse asked. Before Cisco could answer, she said, “Hold that thought,” and turned into a blur of lightning. When she was still again, her suit was zipped, her mask on, and her hair immaculate. “Alright, now. Why did this guy try to hit my dad?”

“He knew Earth-1 Harrison Wells, did not part on great terms with him, and didn't know that there was another guy with the same face. But it's cool now...I hope. Ready to go?”

“Absolutely. How's Wally?”

“See for yourself.” Cisco held his hand out for Jesse to take, and opened a breach back to Earth-1.

“I told you, I can do this by myself.”

“Dad!” Jesse cried.

Harry turned away from Wally, who was trying to help. His face melted into an expression of pure joy and love. “Jesse.”

She ran to him and threw her arms around him. “I was so scared, I couldn’t find you,” she said, a catch in her voice.

“I’ll always come back to you, Jesse Quick. There, now, I’m here. I’m here now.” He winced as she squeezed him tighter. “Jesse, I love you, but you’re going to have to let go of me now.”

She leapt back. “Oh, no, Dad, I’m so sorry! You’re hurt, let me help you.”

“Really, I’m alright,” he tried to say.

Wally shook his head. “He passed out twice while Cisco was gone. Maybe he’ll listen to you.”

Cisco glanced around. “Where did Hartley go?”

“I think he didn’t want to see my face anymore,” Harry replied. “He walked off.”

“I’ll go find him,” Cisco sighed. “And Harry? Let Jesse and Wally help you.” He left them in the medbay and went off in search of Hartley.

He found him sitting in one of the offices that nobody really went into these days. With slight surprise, Cisco remembered that this actually was Hartley’s old office. Hartley was on the floor, his arms around his knees. “You’re back,” he observed.

“Yeah, I brought Jesse, and she’s back with her dad,” Cisco let him know. He sat down on the ground a foot away from Hartley. “Comfy down here with all the lights off?”

Hartley gave him a sidelong glare. “What do you want, Cisco?”

“Well, in this house, we don’t let anyone wander off alone when they’re upset,” Cisco said gently. “It’s basically a given that if one of us walks away unhappy, someone’s gonna follow them. I’m sure it’d make for some really great scenes if someone was filming us for a movie or something, but unfortunately, they aren’t. C’mon, we’d make a great TV show.”

Hartley almost smiled. “What would you call it?”

“If I could name it? ‘Chronicles of Cisco’, obviously.”

That prompted a laugh. “Of course you would.”

“But probably, ‘Team Flash’, or ‘STAR Labs Stories’. Or possibly ‘Everything Goes to Shit, and A Small Group of People Keep Suffering.” Cisco thought for a second. “I doubt a producer would go for that title, unfortunately.”

“Yeah, the word ‘shit’ wouldn’t make it into a title on the CW.”

“Why the CW?”

Hartley shrugged. “I don’t know. Just a feeling.”

“Nah, ‘cause the CW would never have a bi trans character, and I ain’t settling for being some cishet guy.” Cisco paused before saying, “But in all seriousness, do you want to talk about it?”

“About the TV show, or--”

“No, you dummy. Do you want to talk about the reason you wandered off to hide in the corner of your old office?” Cisco clarified.

“There isn’t much to talk about. Hey, you remember that this is my office,” Hartley noticed.

“Well, I spent enough time avoiding it,” Cisco said honestly. “I would sometimes literally walk around the entire building so I didn’t have to see you.”

“Don’t worry, I did the exact same thing to you.”

“Rude.”

“Hey! You just said--”

“I know, I know,” Cisco laughed. “I was teasing you. I’m sorry.”

“Oh. I got it now.” Hartley leaned his head against the wall, blowing out a long stream of breath with his cheeks puffed out. “I just couldn’t stand seeing his face. Even if it belongs to a different person.”

“I know. It’s so disorienting. Try meeting an alternate universe you , but it’s evil,” Cisco told him. “Reverb. Ugh. That guy freaked me out.”

“I’m probably the evil one. If I met a parallel world me, he’d probably be the sweetest person ever,” Hartley remarked.

Cisco snorted. “I’m honestly not arguing that your doppelganger would be nice. But you’re not evil, you’re just an asshole sometimes. Well, you were evil at one point, but you aren’t anymore. I mean, you’re barely even an asshole anymore.”

“Don’t insult me,” Hartley replied, rolling his eyes. “My bitchy nature is all I have left.”

“Well, in my opinion, your bitchy nature isn’t really you. It’s a mask to cover up all the self-hatred and trauma, which is why you have intimacy problems. But, y’know. Just my opinion,” Cisco said conversationally.

“Oh, we’re doing psychoanalysis now, are we? Fine,” Hartley shot back. “I’ve taken so many psych classes and had so many therapy sessions that I’m practically a licensed psychologist.”

Cisco crossed his arms. “Alright, hit me with it,” he challenged.

Hartley studied him for a moment. The intense stare made Cisco squirm a little. “If I’ve got intimacy problems, you’ve got abandonment issues. You can’t believe that anyone is going to actually love you for who you are and stay with you. But who can blame you? I mean, your parents preferred your brother, who never took you seriously and wasn’t close to you for most of your adult life. When you were finally close, he died. Dr. Wells killed you after telling you that he thought of you like a son. Caitlin left you as Killer Frost. You mentioned Kendra, and Lisa, and Cindy to me a few times. From what I gather, they all left you too. Barry walked into the Speed Force, and your friend HR died. You definitely have abandonment issues, because just about everyone you cared about has abandoned you in one way or another. Oh, and you use humor as a coping mechanism because facing reality is too hard.”

Cisco was left reeling slightly. “A’right,” he said finally. “Well. You won that contest, buddy. Your trophy. Have it. Love it.”

Hartley laughed quietly. “I’m not done yet.”

“Great. Totally. By all means, keep baring my soul. I’ll just sit here.”

“Thank you, I will continue. I think you’ll like this part a little better, though.”

“Oh, and why is that?” Cisco asked dismally.

“Because it’s all about how you still manage to be an overwhelmingly positive person, and how you impact everyone around you and change them for the better. It’s about how you’re still open to loving people, and you’re willing to take chances. And it’s about how you held me last night when I was crying, and how you can still make yourself vulnerable in front of me even though I could hurt you. Even though I have hurt you. But you give people second chances, and third, and fourth, and you don’t give up on people when you have every right to just let yourself stop caring.” Hartley stopped.

Cisco was forcing back tears, and he wasn’t sure why. “Is that all?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Hartley said. “That’s all I’ve got.”

“Okay, then.” Cisco laughed through the lump in his throat. “I really...wasn’t expecting to be the one crying when I followed you down here.”

“So, I win at psychoanalysis?”

“Of fucking course you do. Jesus.” Cisco wiped his eyes.

Hartley bit his lip. “Are you okay?”

“I don’t know. You seem to know me better than I know myself, why don’t you tell me?” Cisco said, sarcastic but not angry.

“Okay, I know that was a joke, but I’m gonna go with...no, not so okay.”

“Bing, bing, we have a winner. Two trophies for the man with the fucked up hearing.”

“If it makes you feel any better, I’m not so okay right now, either,” Hartley offered. “Seeing Dr. Wells--Harry, just brought everything back up.”

“What a pair we make, huh?” Cisco commented. “Just a couple of fucked up kids sitting in the corner of a lab, trying to be heroes.”

“Hey. You are a hero. And...I’m getting there.”

“That’s it. Now who’s the positive one?”

“Cisco? I feel really strange asking this, but…” Hartley hesitated.

“What? Spit it out, Hartley,” Cisco said curiously.

“Can...you...hug me?” Hartley burst out.

Instantly, Cisco reached out and pulled Hartley into his arms. “In this house,” he mumbled against Hartley’s hair, “you never have to feel weird about asking for a hug.”

“This house is a bit different than any I’ve ever been in before,” Hartley said. But he was also putting his arms around Cisco, fingers brushing against his long, thick hair before gaining confidence and actually caressing the back of his neck.

Cisco closed his eyes and leaned into the soft touch. “Well, get used to it, bud. I think we’re gonna keep you around.”

After a few minutes, Cisco decided that they should probably head back to join the others. He pulled away from Hartley reluctantly, standing up and offering his hand. Hartley didn't move at first, but then he took Cisco’s hand and accepted the help up. “Thanks.”

“Ready to go back out there?” Cisco asked.

“As I'll ever be. I might run away again as soon as I see Harry, but...I'll try.”

Cisco didn't move towards the door. Instead, very cautiously, he stepped just a little closer to Hartley and slowly, making sure that Hartley could move away if he wanted to, pressed a kiss against his lips. “Is that an okay thing to do?” Cisco asked after he pulled away again. “I have no idea what's okay or not yet, I mean…”

“Yeah,” Hartley breathed. “Yeah, that's okay.” He touched his fingers to Cisco’s lips briefly before turning to the door and heading off. “Not in front of any of them, though.”

“I agree.” Cisco followed him. “Keeping this to ourselves sounds like a great idea. Definitely.”

They found Harry asleep on the bed in the medbay, his injury attended to. Jesse sat next to him, holding his hand tightly. She had her dad back, and she wasn't letting him go. Wally was waiting outside the medbay, giving them some space. “Hey, guys,” he greeted. “Hartley, you okay, man?”

“I'm fine,” Hartley said shortly.

Cisco broke in. “How bad was he hurt, really?” he asked.

“Uh…” Wally glanced over his shoulder. “Well, mostly he's dehydrated and hadn't eaten in a week. The blood on his shirt was from a bullet that just grazed him without doing any real damage. Other than that, just scrapes and bruises. He's totally happy now that Jesse is here, though. Couldn't care less about his injuries. It's kinda scary. We stitched up a big cut on his arm and he barely flinched because Jesse was talking to him.”

“I wouldn't trust any of the other Wellses with kids,” Cisco remarked. “Like, if HR’d had kids. Can you imagine?”

Wally laughed. “That would be...interesting. Oh, god. Mini HRs. ‘Until next communion’-ing all over the place.”

“Yeah.” Cisco’s laugh turned into a sad sigh. “I miss him,” he said quietly.

“Me too.” Wally met his eyes, and they both quickly turned away. “Well, I'm gonna go check on Jesse.”

“Hartley and I can make sure nothing terrible happened in the city while we dealt with this,” Cisco said.

“Sounds good.”

At the computer to monitor for any disturbances in the city, Hartley and Cisco didn't say anything for a while. After an hour of quiet, Hartley finally spoke. “How long do you think Harry is going to stay here?”

“Um, I don't know. He and Jesse seem busy on Earth-2, so they'll probably leave as soon as Harry is up for it. But you've gotta understand, they're always welcome here. It's their house, too. So this won't be the last time you see them,” Cisco told him.

“Great. Sounds great. Maybe I'll get used to it. But I doubt it.” Hartley turned his attention back to the screen, and fell silent again.

Wally and Jesse got to go out and put out a fire together a few hours later. Nobody got hurt in the flames thanks to Kid Flash and Quick, and Jesse seemed ecstatic. “That was so fun !” she shouted, punching the air. “We need to team up more often, Wally.”

“Hey, I had something to do with it,” Cisco said.

Wally rolled his eyes. “Yeah, but...like, double speedster power. It kinda rules. No offense, we love you, Cisco.”

“Yeah, I get it,” sighed Cisco.

Jesse was still bouncing around the cortex, so pumped up that electricity was sparking in her eyes and around her hands. “Dad, you should have seen us. We ran in there, and the flames were everywhere in this office building. It covered five floors!”

“Four floors,” Cisco corrected.

“The fire definitely spread to the fifth floor,” Wally countered.

Jesse kept telling her story to Harry, who was listening patiently. “And there were so many people we needed to save, so we ran and ran and got everyone out, but the building was still collapsing, right? But Barry had taught Wally how to create a vacuum to suck the air out of a room and stop a fire, so Wally showed me and it was like this --” She paused to stick her arms out and began to whirl them in a circle.

“Um, bad idea!” Cisco cried. Papers were flying everywhere.

Harry looked mildly alarmed. “Jesse, I get the concept, you don't have to show me.”

“Right, sorry.” Jesse put her arms back down. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. “Anyway, so we stopped the fire in time so the building didn't collapse. And we went out in front, and everyone wanted to talk to us. ‘Kid Flash, Kid Flash!’ they all were shouting.”

“That's me!” Wally said with a grin.

“‘But who are you?’ they ask me,” Jesse continued.

Wally broke in. “And she puts her hands on her hips and stands there all heroic, and just goes ‘I'm Jesse Quick. I'm a friend of Kid Flash.’”

“You need to stop telling people your name,” Harry told her.

She shrugged. “I live on a different Earth, Dad, and it's just my first name. It's not like anybody could figure out who I am.”

“Oh, also…” Wally said sheepishly. “Sorry, Cisco. I might have let the reporters take our picture.”

Cisco groaned. “Seriously? Y’all are terrible at having secret identities.”

“Yeah, I think one of my professors might have figured it out. But don't worry, she isn't gonna tell anyone. I think.” Wally winced. “I'm just gonna stop talking.”

“Good idea.” Cisco shook his head. “Honestly.”

“Hey, Wally, can me and Dad stay at your place tonight?” Jesse asked. “I don't want him doing interdimensional travel until he's really fully recovered.”

“I'm fine, Jesse,” Harry tried in vain.

“I'll ask my dad, but I'm sure he'll be cool with it. We've got the room, and Dad loves you guys,” Wally replied.

“Awesome! Thanks!”

Joe agreed to let the Wellses stay with them for a little while, saying that their home was always open to family. So that evening, Wally and Jesse and Harry all left for the West house. Cisco and Hartley remained at the lab, watching them go.

“So...now what?” Hartley asked.

Cisco shrugged. “I don't know. I think we should probably talk about what happened last night. And not like the way we talked about it earlier, with all the...tears, and stuff. I mean like what it means for us. Like, a month ago I kind of hated you, and then last night we had sex.”

“Yeah, where does that leave us? ‘Cause none of that felt like hate-fucking,” Hartley said bluntly.

“Exactly. We're...friends now, right?”

“I think so. I haven't had many friends, but I'm pretty sure not-friends don't have the kind of conversations we've been having.”

“Plus, we've been working together and helping each other with projects and trusting each other with secrets and, like, feelings. So, yeah. Friends,” Cisco concluded.

“You did say I was a part of the Team Flash family,” Hartley reminded him.

“Okay. Definitely friends. Wow, friends with Hartley Rathaway. If only 4 years ago me could see this,” Cisco laughed.

“If someone told 4 years ago me that I slept with Cisco Ramon, he'd probably have a heart attack,” added Hartley. “But he'd also be secretly really pleased.”

“Of course he would be! I mean, look at all this.” Cisco spread his arms. “I'm a catch, yo.”

Hartley rolled his eyes. “So, we're friends, who had sex. Where does that leave us ?” he emphasized.

“I suppose that depends on where we want it to leave us,” Cisco said, suddenly serious. “It could leave us just at that: friends who had sex. And we could just go back to being friends, who had sex once in a crazy story we'll tell at a party in a few years.”

Hartley made a face. “I’m not sure I like that one.”

“Good, me neither,” Cisco confessed. “‘Cause I had a lot of fun last night, and I'm not sure I want it to have been a one time thing.”

“I meant because you mentioned me being at a party, and I don't like parties,” Hartley said in a serious tone. After a second, he broke and laughed. “I'm kidding. I don't want it to be a one time thing, either.”

“Okay, first of all--not cool, I was about to be super embarrassed. Another option is to just be friends who have sex, which I've never really done but apparently people do.”

“How about this?” Hartley suggested. “Cisco, do you want to go to dinner with me? Tonight?”

“Oh, god, yes,” Cisco exclaimed. “I totally hate the idea of doing the whole friends with benefits thing. It's cool for other people, I'm sure, just... not me.”

“Me, neither,” Hartley said, smiling. “So...go home, get ready. I'll pick you up?”

“Where are we going?” Cisco asked.

“I'll think of something.” Hartley stood up, put his hands on Cisco’s shoulders and leaned down to kiss him. “Be ready in forty minutes. Okay?”

“Absolutely,” Cisco breathed. He watched Hartley leave. He was about to go on a date...with Hartley Rathaway. Hartley Rathaway was going to come to his home and pick him up to go to dinner.

He'd better get ready.

 

Chapter Text

“Iris, I need your help!”

“Cisco, what's wrong?” Iris said over the phone, panicked. “Are you in danger? Did something happen?”

“Oh! No, no, nothing like that,” Cisco hastened to reassure her. He had reached his place, and was unlocking the door. “No, I need your help getting ready.”

“For what?” Iris asked. “And don't open with ‘I need help’, because sometimes that really does mean something like ‘I've got a gun to my head’ and it really freaks me out.”

“Sorry! And, um...for a date,” Cisco mumbled.

Iris squealed. “Ooh! With who? Wait, wait...”

“Um, it's, uh, you don't know them…”

“It's Hartley, isn't it?” she said, sounding very self-satisfied.

Cisco gaped. “How...did you…”

“Oh, please. Honey, I knew this was going to happen for weeks now. Yeah, I'll get Wally to speed me over to your place. Don't worry, he doesn't know. I'll tell him I want to talk to you about an article I'm writing. You're at home, right?”

“I...yeah, I'm at home. Wait, how did you know...I didn't even know!” Cisco said.

“Of course you didn't know. Alright, I'll be right there. See you in a minute!” She hung up, leaving Cisco standing near the door with his mouth wide open and his phone in his hand.

A minute later, there was a knock at the door. He opened it and let Iris step inside. “Thanks for coming,” he said. “It's just, I haven't been on an actual date in...forever.”

“Of course,” Iris told him. “I'll always come when you need me. Okay, so are we looking at clothes? Let's look at clothes.” She pushed past him and headed straight to his bedroom. “You sit here.” She pushed him down to sit on the edge of his bed and opened up his closet.

“Nicer stuff is on the right,” he let her know.

“So, where are you two going?” Iris asked, rifling through the clothes.

“I don't know,” Cisco admitted. “It wasn't really a planned thing, it just happened.”

“Try this on.” Iris tossed him a dark red button down. “Can't go wrong with one of those, slacks, and a thin tie. Works for fancy or casual.”

Cisco turned his back to Iris to change. It felt a little strange, but she didn't seem to care, so he wouldn't either. “This is nice,” he said, buttoning it up.

“It's a good color on you,” Iris complimented. “Wait, when will he be here?”

“In about half an hour.”

“Good. Plenty of time. Pants, can't wear jeans with that,” Iris said, wincing at the sight. “Here, try these.”

Cisco took a glance at the black slacks she handed him and shook his head. “No good. These haven't fit me in ages, I got them when I was only a few years on T and I still had hips. This pair is better.” He pulled a different pair of pants out of his dresser, which, as he now realized, was a total disaster. “Oh, I should straighten this out,” he muttered.

Iris had sat down on his bed. “Okay, so I want to hear it. How did it happen? Did he just ask you?”

Cisco sighed. “You're not going to stop until I tell you the whole story, are you?”

“Of course not. I'm a reporter, I don't ever stop asking questions until I get the answer I want. So spill.”

Cisco pulled the pants on and turned back to her, crossing his arms. “Fine. How's this? We slept together last night.”

Iris’ mouth made a perfect ‘O’ shape. “No. Way.”

“Yep,” Cisco confirmed. “We did go for a drink after I found him near his parents’ house, and one thing led to another.”

“Wait, so you really did beat up some guys in a bar? I thought that was some silly rumor, but one of my coworkers insisted that Vibe went into his friend’s bar and broke a table,” Iris said.

“No, that was me,” Cisco laughed. “Hartley and I were kinda...kissing, and this guy called us f*gs. So I...didn't exactly beat him up, but I taught him a lesson.”

“Good for you!” Iris exclaimed. “And then...wait, did you come back here ?”

“No, Hartley’s hotel room,” Cisco hastened to say. “It was pretty nice, but I totally feel bad that he's still in a hotel.”

“Well…” Iris gestured around.

Cisco got what she meant. “Iris, I doubt we're ready for that,” he said.

“Fair enough. But, Cisco...do you like him?” Iris asked.

“You're the one who said we should, like, bond over shared trauma. Which by the way, you're scary good at that. We both cried more than once.”

Iris raised her eyebrows. “Hopefully not while you were doing it.”

“Not while . But he was crying when I kissed him first, and then we cried while we were talking today. No, the sex was nothing to cry about.” Cisco grinned as Iris winced.

“I take it back, please don't go into more detail. I love you, but...no details.”

“No details, I promise. So...this tie?” Cisco asked.

“Yeah, that looks nice.”

Cisco deftly tied the tie around his neck, folding the collar back down. “And to answer your question...yeah, I like him. It’s nice. Weird, but nice.”

Iris gave him a soft smile. “Good. You deserve to be happy.”

“We'll see where it goes.” Cisco sat down next to her and grabbed her hand. “Hey, Iris? We're going to get Barry back. You know that, right?”

“I know you're all doing your best. And I'm grateful. But I don't know if you're right about that.” She sighed and patted his hand. “It's okay, Cisco. I'm okay. You just enjoy yourself tonight, alright?”

“I will, I'm sure. But I need you to know that we're getting him back. Not just for you. I miss my friends, Iris. And I know I can't bring HR back, and Caitlin...well, that's up to her, not me. I'm bringing Barry home because he's the only one I can bring home. So, yeah. You're going to get your fiancé back, and Joe his son, and Wally his brother, and me my best friend. I won't let us lose him forever. I just won't.” Cisco took a deep breath as he finished.

Iris pulled him into a hug. “I know you won't. I know.” There was a knock at the door, and Iris sat back. Her eyes shone with unshed tears. “Your date is here. Go, have fun. I'll get Wally to come pick me up.”

Cisco stood up. “Do I look okay?” he asked anxiously.

Iris reached out and fixed his collar, then smoothed down his hair. “You look wonderful. Very handsome. Go get ‘em, brother.” She gave him a gentle shove towards the door.

“Hi!” Cisco said, opening the door.

Hartley was standing there in a pale blue shirt and dark grey jacket. “Hi,” he replied. He pushed his glasses up on his nose nervously. “Um...so I got us a reservation at a café across town, and a cab is waiting outside. Are you ready to go?”

“Yep, I'm ready.” Cisco stepped outside and closed the door.

“You look nice,” Hartley commented as they got into the cab.

“Thanks. You too.” Cisco smiled at him.

At the small, quiet restaurant, they were seated at a table in the back corner. It was well-lit and pretty, with a yellow and blue checked tablecloth. Cisco settled down in his chair and glanced over the menu before he spoke.

“So...normal people on a normal date. This is fun.”

“Yeah,” Hartley agreed. “Um, do you want something to drink?”

“I think I'll just have water,” replied Cisco. “You?”

“Yeah, last night was enough alcohol for me for a while.” They continued making idle chatter and ordered their food.

“So…” Cisco said after a few seconds of silence. “Did you grow up in Central City?”

“Kind of. I was sent to boarding school and lots of summer camps, so I wasn't ever really here, but my parents have lived here since before I was born,” replied Hartley. “How about you?”

“My mom and dad moved here from Puerto Rico when my brother Dante was a baby, and had me here. Boarding school, huh? That sounds interesting.”

Hartley grimaced. “An all-boys Christian boarding school? Absolute hell. And I was smarter than half the school combined, including all the professors, so it was even worse. Oh, and, I mean...I was gay, too, which was a great addition to my list of attributes that made me a target.”

“I was a nerdy, tomboyish Latinx kid in a white part of Central City, so...same. Plus I was kind of chubby and had short hair. I got called a lesbian a lot. It really confused me, because I liked boys, but nobody cared about that.” Cisco gave a short laugh.

“Okay, so, with the knowledge that I'm not going to tell my story right now and you don't have to tell me yours if you don't want to, I'm going to ask how you came out to your family?” Hartley requested. “But like I said, you don't have to tell me.”

“No, it's okay. And I get why you don't want to talk about it in the middle of the restaurant.” Cisco glanced up. The waiter was bringing out their food. He had ordered a bowl of pasta, and Hartley had some kind of vegetable soup. “Thank you,” he told the waiter.

“Of course, honey. Let me know if I can getcha anything else.” The waiter, an older lady, walked away.

“Why do old women always call me honey?” muttered Cisco.

“It's because you've got that soft babyface. They think you're cute, and they want to protect you. Whereas when they see me, they just think that I'm just some guy with a resting bitch face who would probably give them sass if they talked to me,” Hartley said matter-of-factly.

Cisco laughed. “First of all, the whole babyface thing? Rude. And you are the kind of guy who would sass an old lady. Anyway, coming out wasn't even a big thing, really. I mean, I always dressed more masculine, and I was out as bi because I brought a boyfriend home when I was 15 and a girlfriend at 16. But I actually had the sit-down, across the table, ‘Mom, Dad, we need to talk’ thing when I was 18.” Cisco paused, remembering.

“Yes, Francesca? What is it you want to talk about?”

“Well...Mom...you know how I like guys and girls?”

“Yes, mija, I know. And you know that we love you anyway.”

He squirmed uncomfortably. His parents’ gazes pierced him, and his brother, who already knew what he was going to say, leaned against the wall. “And, well...you know how I like to shop in the boys section.”

“Yes, you never did like dresses,” his father recalled.

Cisco laughed breathily, nervously twisting his hands. “Well, there's a reason for that. I...I'm a boy, Mamá, Papá. I'm transgender. I'm a boy.”

There was a moment of silence as the words sunk in. “You...are a boy?” his mother said.

Cisco nodded quickly. “I'm a boy. I'm...I'm Francisco now.”

“Are you sure?” his father asked.

“Sí. Positive.”

His mother was standing up, walking over to him. Her expression was unreadable, and Cisco’s heart pounded. But she put her hands on his shoulders and crouched down to meet his eyes. “I love you, Francisco. Do not ever doubt that...mijo.”

And then there were tears.

“I left for college the week after,” Cisco finished. “Got on T. I mean, I have tons of problems with my family, but my being trans and bi have nothing to do with that. Well, some of my grandparents and extended family, but…”

Hartley was looking at him wistfully. “It must be nice, having your parents accept you.”

“It is. They'd love you , honestly. You'd remind them of Dante, kinda, just ‘cause you can do so much stuff. I'm not imagining that you once had a keyboard in your office and you'd play songs, am I?” Cisco asked.

“Nope, I definitely did that. Just to prove I could. I hated boarding school, but they did teach me how to play 4 instruments and speak 5 languages.” Hartley thought about that for a moment before continuing, “6 instruments if you count recorder and triangle. But triangle probably doesn't count.”

Cisco raised his eyebrows. “What other instruments can you play?”

“Umm…” Hartley counted off on his fingers. “Piano, cello, flute, and harpsichord. Actually, does choir count as another instrument?”

“I don't see why not. Wait, can you sing?!” Cisco exclaimed.

Hartley turned a little pink. “Kinda. Yeah. I mean, I don't know if I'm that good. Well, the choir teacher said I was. I got a lot of solos. But, I don't really…”

“Well, I've got a great voice,” Cisco stated. “And I let myself own it. You should, too. Plus, I play guitar. We should try singing something together sometime.”

Hartley tugged at his hair, blushing. “Maybe so,” he said softly. “Sounds fun.”

“You're cute when you're embarrassed,” Cisco said impulsively. “And when you're trying to be modest. You so rarely do that, it's a nice change. Not that I don't also think that your bragging is cute, but...it's sweet that there are some things you aren't totally confident about.”

“Thanks,” Hartley mumbled.

Cisco reached across the table and squeezed his hand. “I mean it. You're really cute.”

Hartley blushed harder. “Um, uh...d-do you want to get dessert, or…?” he stuttered.

Cisco giggled. “Ohh, look. The great Hartley Rathaway, completely helpless because a boy called him cute. What would happen if that boy dared to call him adorable?”

Hartley buried his face in his hands. “Shut up.”

“Aw, but I think you're very cute, Hartley! Don't cover your face, I wanna see it,” Cisco teased.

“You're b-being ridiculous,” Hartley let him know.

Cisco grinned, absolutely delighted. “I know! It's so much fun.” He leaned over the table, getting closer to Hartley’s face. “And you're enjoying it too, handsome.”

Hartley groaned and sank down in his seat. “If this is how affectionate you are on a first date, what happens after you've been going out for a few weeks?” he demanded.

“Oh, it's unbearably soppy,” Cisco told him. “Especially if it's so easy to get you all blushy and flustered in public.”

“It's awful.”

“Do you actually hate it, or are you just embarrassed?” Cisco asked. “Because I will stop if it makes you uncomfortable.”

Hartley glared from behind his hands, spreading his fingers so he could look Cisco in the eye. “Don't you dare.”

“Hah! You are enjoying it!”

“Yeah, well, don't tell anyone. I've got to keep up my reputation as a heartless bastard.” Hartley sat back upright and uncovered his face. “I'm serious, though, do you want to get some dessert?”

They each got ice cream (strawberry for Hartley and chocolate for Cisco), and Hartley payed the bill.

“I can pay,” Cisco tried to protest.

“The one who asks the other on the date pays, that's how it works,” Hartley said firmly, and he wouldn't accept anything else.

“Chivalry is still very much alive in this one,” their waiter said. “You two are very cute together.”

Hartley turned bright red again and Cisco just laughed, thanked her, and stood up. “C’mon, Hartley. Let's go.”

Standing outside in the cool night air, they barely even realized that they were holding hands. It felt natural and good. “That was...nice,” Hartley said.

“Really nice,” Cisco agreed. “Hey, um...if you want, you should come to my place tonight.”

Hartley hesitated. “That's very kind, but...I'm not...I don't really want…” He was blushing again, but an uncomfortable blush.

“I'm not saying we have sex again,” Cisco said quickly. “Not if you don’t want to. That's not it at all. It just seems silly that you keep paying for a hotel room.”

“Oh! Okay.” Hartley looked relieved. “Because I'm just not really...I'd rather…Not, right now. It's not you, it's just...I'm not in the right headspace.”

“Totally get it,” Cisco reassured him. “I've even got a guest room.”

“In that case, I'd love to take you up on your offer. I'd have to go pick up my stuff at the hotel, of course, but...it would be nice. Hotels aren't the nicest places for more than a few nights. They get boring really fast.”

“Totally.”

They got a cab, and Hartley ran up to get his things and check out of the hotel. When they got back to Cisco’s place, Hartley looked around curiously. “It's cozy. Definitely not boring, much better than a hotel.”

“It's a mess, and it's small,” countered Cisco. “But it's home. Here, you can put your stuff in here.” He glanced at the clock. Somehow, it was already almost 11:00. “I'm gonna take a shower, and go to bed. Goodnight.” Carefully, he kissed Hartley’s lips and left him in the guest bedroom.

“Night,” replied Hartley.

Cisco undressed in the bathroom, stepping into the steaming shower. He washed his hair and then just stood under the hot water, zoning out. After quite a while, he finally turned the water off and put his pajamas on. He twisted his damp hair up and tied it in a loose knot at the base of his neck. Then he brushed his teeth and crawled into his own bed, closing his eyes.

“In many ways…”

“Yes, I know, I've heard this before.”

“Trying to be brave? Admirable, but look at you. You're trembling, Cisco. You're terrified, because I'm going to kill you.”

But the voice was changing. “No, not you. Her.”

“Cisco, help me!” Caitlin begged.

“No, help me, hermano!” Dante was saying.

“Cisco!” Barry screamed. “He's going to kill me!”

“I can't move!” wailed Cisco. “I can't...I can't help any of you, I can't move!” He was being pinned down, tied to something, and he couldn't move his arms or legs. “Help! Help me!”

“Poor Cisco,” purred Eobard. “Can't do anything to help his family. Such a failure, again and again. Crying out for help like the child he is.”

“Please, please don't.” The vibrating hand was getting closer and closer. “Don't.”

“But I've already done it. It means nothing. To me, you've been dead for centuries.”

And then the hand was inside his chest, and the agony of someone literally crushing his heart made him scream. But he didn't die. Why wasn't he dying?

“I guess it didn't stick. I'll have to try again.”

Again, again, again. It hurt so much, and it didn't stop hurting. It just wouldn't stop. Why couldn't he just die already? It would be better that way. Surely it would be better. Death couldn't hurt worse than this.

“Cisco! Cisco!”

“No, make it stop!” Cisco cried.

“Cisco, wake up! Wake up, it's just a dream.”

Cisco opened his eyes. Hartley was leaning over him, holding his shoulders tightly. “H-Hartley?”

“I heard you screaming,” Hartley said worriedly. “I thought...you were hurt, or...or something.”

“I don't...I was…” Cisco breathed heavily. “What...he was killing me, but…”

“No, it was just a dream.”

“Just a dream?” repeated Cisco.

“Yeah. Just a bad dream.”

“No, but it hurt. It hurt like...like it was real.”

“It wasn't,” Hartley insisted. He sat down on the edge of the bed. “Cisco, you're safe. It was just a dream.”

Cisco let out a sob, rolling over to put his face against his pillow. “It was a dream,” he whispered. “Just a dream, you stupid…”

“Whoa, hey, shhh.” Hartley rubbed his shoulder quickly. “Shhhh, don't talk like that. Just breathe. It's okay. I understand. We all have nightmares, Cisco. It's alright.”

“No, you don't get it, I couldn't save them, and he...my heart, he stopped it, I couldn't breathe…”

Suddenly, a warm weight settled against his back and put its arms around him. “It's alright,” Hartley soothed. “It's alright.”

Cisco whimpered and sobbed, letting Hartley rub his back softly. “You're...here,” he managed after several minutes.

“Shhh. I'm here.”

Everything was coming back to him. “But...you were in the guest room.”

“I told you. I heard you screaming.”

“I woke you up, I'm so sorry…” Cisco said.

“Don't apologize for having a nightmare.”

“But you came in here, and...you're just here , and you're touching me, and…”

“Shhhh. Shhh, ‘s alright. Shh, shush, now. Just calm down.” Hartley was still holding him.

Cisco rolled back over so he was face to face with Hartley. “Are you...leaving?” he asked, hardly daring to hope otherwise.

“Not unless you want me to,” Hartley told him. He slid underneath the covers and made Cisco move closer to the center of the bed.

“No, please don't go,” Cisco said quickly. “Please, stay, please don't leave me alone.”

“Okay, then. Not going to leave you alone. I'm gonna be right here.” Hartley pulled Cisco close again, holding him against his chest. “Shhh. Shhh, now. Go back to sleep. I'm right here. You're not alone. You're perfectly safe. Shhh, go to sleep.”

Cisco nestled his face against Hartley’s shoulder. “Thank you.” He breathed out slowly, relaxing as Hartley stroked his hair.

“Shhhh,” Hartley whispered. “I told you, go back to sleep.”

“I don't think I can.” But Cisco felt warm and safe now, and his eyes were closing.

“Yeah, I know, it's hard. But I'm here, I'm not leaving. Shhh. I know. Hush, hush. Don't worry, it's okay.” Hartley pressed a gentle kiss to Cisco’s forehead.

Cisco almost smiled. “That was sweet.”

“Shush,” Hartley insisted. “Just go to sleep, Cisco.”

Cisco obliged, letting himself drift back off to sleep. Fear kept gripping him in his dreams, but a soft voice shushing him gently let him calm down and stay asleep until morning.

Chapter Text

“Hey, Cisco, wake up. Wake up.”

He opened his eyes, exhausted. “What?” he mumbled. His limbs felt heavy. “Oh, my god. I'm so tired.”

Hartley squeezed his shoulder. “Yeah, I'm not surprised. You didn't sleep very well. But you need to wake up. Wally keeps calling you, and I don't want to answer it.”

With a loud groan, Cisco sat up and rubbed his eyes. “Gimme the phone,” he requested. Hartley put it in his hand. The phone was ringing, a picture of Wally making finger guns at the camera greeting him. “What?” Cisco demanded. “It's 5 in the morning. What happened?”

“Sorry,” Wally said guiltily. “It's just...I'm kind of...trapped.”

“What does that mean?” muttered Cisco. He got out of bed, ignoring Hartley’s questioning gaze.

“I couldn't sleep, so I was out running, and I stopped a few robberies. But then someone hit me with something and I got knocked out and when I woke up...I'm stuck under something really heavy and I think something’s broken, and it hurts too much to try and phase out,” Wally told him.

“Great. Sounds fantastic. Is Jesse with you?” Cisco asked. He balanced his phone between his ear and his shoulder as he got dressed quickly.

“No, she's sleeping at my dad’s. Cisco, I don't know where I am, and I can't move.” Wally sounded panicked.

“I'll find you, don't worry. It's going to be okay. Do you know who hit you?”

“No, I didn't see them. Cisco, please hurry!”

“I will. Try to stay calm. Bye.”

“Bye.”

Cisco finished getting dressed, and he and Hartley rushed to Joe’s house. Cisco knocked on the door loudly.

A minute later, Joe opened the door, looking annoyed at being woken up before 6 am. “What's going on?” he asked.

“Wally needs our help,” Cisco said.

“What? Wally is upstairs, asleep. Isn't he?”

Cisco shook his head. “No, he's not. I need something to Vibe off of, and Jesse’s help.”

“Well, come in then.” Joe ushered them inside.

When they were all awake and in the Lab, Jesse paced around the cortex. “Who do you think took him?” she asked.

“No idea. Okay, so, he could call me earlier, but now he can't or won't pick up. He told me he was hurt, so we need to hurry. Iris, what do you have for me to Vibe him?” Cisco requested.

Iris held out a small stuffed bear. “This was one of the few things he brought with him when he came to Central City.”

“Sweet. That's perfect.” Cisco took the bear. As soon as his fingers touched it, he was plunged into a Vibe.

“Help! Help, please!” Wally was pinned under something, buried alive. He stared up blankly. Although Cisco could see him, it was too dark where Wally was for him to see. His face had blood down one cheek, a gash on the side of his head. His leg was twisted at an odd angle and as he tried to move, he let out a groan of pain. “I can't move.” The words weren't coming from his mouth, but were just his thoughts. “It hurts so bad. What if they don't come? I can't breathe. There isn't enough air in here. What if I'm going to die here? I'm so scared. I'm so scared.” A tear fell from his eye.

Cisco gasped. He stepped away from Iris, trembling from the strength of Wally’s emotions.

“What is it?” Iris said anxiously. “What's wrong? Cisco, you're crying.”

“Am I?” Cisco reached up and touched his cheek. It was damp with tears. “Oh. I am.”

A hand suddenly rested on his shoulder. “What did you see? Cisco?” Hartley asked.

“I…” Cisco realized that he hadn't seen where Wally was. “I need to Vibe him again.”

“Cisco, what did you see ?” Jesse insisted.

“He's alive,” Cisco said shortly. “But I need to try again. I didn't see where he was, all I could see was him.”

Harry leaned forward in his chair. “So do it, Ramon.”

Cisco reached for the bear again, his hands shaking. He didn't want to be hit with Wally’s fear again.

“Hey, it's okay,” Hartley said softly. “We're here.” He squeezed Cisco’s shoulder.

Cisco took a deep breath and placed his hand on the stuffed bear. “I found him,” he said a few seconds later. “Jesse, are you ready?”

“I'm ready.”

“Dad, Harry,” Iris added, “you two need to be ready in the medbay for when they bring Wally back.”

“We've got it,” Joe said.

“Don't worry. Just bring him home,” Harry added.

Hartley adjusted his Piper gloves. “Let's go.”

Jesse ran. She stopped where Cisco had shown her, in the middle of a large field outside of the city. “Where is he?” she cried. “There's nothing here.”

Cisco stared around. “This is the place. I don't understand.” He and Jesse were both freaking out.

Hartley remained calm. He knelt down onto the ground, putting his gloved hands against the earth. A low pulse of sound emitted from the gloves. “No, I couldn't hear...I have to…”

Cisco stared. “What are you doing?”

“He's buried. He's underground. Obviously. But we don't know exactly where.” Hartley gritted his teeth. “I can find him with sound, but I can't hear the echos like this.” He reached for his ears.

“Hartley?! Wait, you don't have to…”

“What's he doing?” Jesse asked.

Hartley pulled one of the implants out of his ear, letting out a loud groan.

“Hartley!” Cisco exclaimed. He grabbed Hartley’s wrist, trying to stop him.

“Let go,” Hartley said. He was breathing too hard, holding back a scream. “Let go !”

Cisco pulled back as Hartley pulled the other implant out of his ear. He couldn't hold back a slight wail that time, but then he made his gloves emit another pulse. He cried out a second later, but stood up with difficulty.

“What is happening?” Jesse asked, bewildered.

“He's finding Wally,” Cisco said in disbelief. He took Hartley’s shoulders to steady him. “He can hear him.”

Hartley stepped across the field, his eyes squeezed shut and his face pained. About a hundred yards from where they started, he stopped. “He's right here,” he said. Then he collapsed, desperately trying to shove his implants back into his ears.

“Hey, I've got it. I've got it.” Cisco helped him put the implants back as Jesse appeared next to them.

“Thanks,” Hartley said with a sigh. “That's better. He's right under us, but way, way, down.”

“What's did you just do?” Jesse asked. She put her hand on Hartley’s shoulder. “How did you do that?”

“I've, um...got really weird hearing,” Hartley said vaguely. “I have severe tinnitus that only lets me hear certain frequencies outside of its own sound. Anyway, you need to get Wally out.”

“Right, of course!” Jesse sped them out of the way and then, in a blur of lightning and soil, dug her way down.

From about ten feet away, Cisco and Hartley watched. A few seconds later, Jesse cried out. “No!”

Cisco barely had time to react before he was being pushed out of the way by a force so strong it knocked the air out of him. The sound of an explosion deafened him as he was thrown onto the ground in a cloud of choking dust.

“Answer me! What's wrong? What happened? Someone, answer me !” Iris was shouting as Cisco’s hearing came back slowly. “Answer me!”

“Iris,” Cisco coughed. He sat up painfully, blinking hard. He couldn't see much through the dust and smoke. “Iris, I'm here.”

“Thank god. Where's everyone else? We heard an explosion.”

“I'm not sure. Hang on.” Cisco waved the smoke away and reached around him. His hands brushed against something soft. As the smoke cleared, he saw Hartley lying next to him. A few feet away lay Jesse and Wally. Jesse was draped over his chest. All three of them looked unconscious or worse. “They're here...they…”

“What is it?” Iris urged.

Cisco searched for the pulse on Hartley’s neck. He was alive. “Hartley’s okay,” he said.

Harry’s voice came over the comms. “Jesse. Where's Jesse?”

“Hang on.” Cisco crawled over to them, unable to put any weight on one ankle. He reached Jesse and Wally. “She's alive. She's unconscious,” he said.

“What about Wally?” Joe asked desperately. “Is my son alright?”

Cisco stared at Wally. His leg was broken just like in the Vibe, and his skin was ashy and pale. Slowly, he took Wally’s wrist. “He's alive,” he said after a second. He could hear Joe sigh in relief. “But he's really badly hurt. There's…” A metal rod was sticking out of Wally’s side. “He's hurt bad,” he repeated.

“Cisco?”

He turned around. Hartley was sitting up, rubbing his head. “Hartley, are you okay?”

“My head hurts. What happened?”

“I think this was a trap.” Cisco patted Jesse’s cheek as Hartley made his way over to them. “Jesse, Jesse. Wake up.”

Harry called to them over the comms. “Jesse! Jesse, I'm here. Answer me, Jess!”

“Dad…?” whispered Jesse. She reached out and touched Cisco’s hand.

“No, your dad is just on the comms,” Cisco told her. “It's me here. Jesse, we need you. Wake up. Please.”

Jesse opened her eyes. “What's going on?” she murmured.

“We got knocked out. There was an explosion.”

“Jesse, we need you to come back to the lab,” Iris said. “You all need to get home. Please, can you run?”

Jesse sat up. Her wrist was limp, and she winced. “Yeah, I can run. I'll bring Wally first, I'm not going to be able to carry more than one person.”

“Yeah, bring Wally first,” Cisco told her. “He looks really bad.”

“I'll be back in a minute.” Jesse and Wally disappeared.

“I don't like this,” Hartley said. “Cisco, I agree with you. This is a trap.”

Cisco tried to stand up, but couldn't. His ankle was definitely broken. “I don't know what to do,” he said. “We just have to wait here for Jesse, I guess.”

“We've got Wally,” Iris said over the comms. “Jesse will be back for you in--”

The comms crackled, and went silent. Cisco jumped. “Iris?”

There was no response. Hartley looked apprehensive. “Cisco?”

Suddenly, there was another explosion. Cisco had just enough time to feel Hartley slamming into him and hear his scream before everything went dark.

Chapter Text

“Cisco? Cisco, wake up,” came an urgent whisper. “Please, wake up.”

Cisco forced himself to wake up into the darkness. “Hartley?”

Hartley’s hands were on his face. “Cisco, everything is so dark. I can't see.”

“Me neither.” Cisco reached around in the blackness until he found Hartley’s hands and held them tightly. “Help me sit up.”

“Where are we?” Hartley demanded as he pulled Cisco up and hugged him.

Cisco gasped in pain. “Oh!” His sides felt like they were on fire, and his ankle sent stabbing pains up his leg.

“Are you hurt?” Hartley let go of him quickly.

“Um...my ankle is broken. Maybe my ribs, too. You?”

“I think I have a concussion. Where are we?” Hartley said again.

“I don't know.” Cisco tried to look around, but everything was still pitch black. It was also freezing. “Can I…?” He tried to open a breach, but nothing happened. “Something is blocking my powers,” he said.

“My gloves are gone, but my implants are still in,” Hartley told him.

“So...we can't get out of wherever this is,” sighed Cisco. “Well, we can still search around and see if we can get out of here.”

“Okay. Stay here, okay? Don't try to move.” Hartley’s clothes rustled as he stood up and took a few steps. Then he screamed, and fell backwards. “Th-there's a cliff edge, I almost stepped off it,” he stuttered.

“What?” Cisco inched his way over, reaching along the floor until he found the edge. The floor was smooth and cold, like a hard metal, and the edge was a right angle. Cisco reached over the edge as far as he could, but there wasn't anything else. “I'm going to drop something over the side.”

“It’s all the way around,” Hartley said with dread in his voice. “Cisco, the edge goes all the way around us. We're trapped.”

“Shh,” Cisco said. He had pulled a button off his shirt, and dropped it over the edge. He held his breath. Several seconds later, there was a soft clank . “Holy shit, that's a long way down.”

“Cisco!” Hartley’s voice was full of panic. “Cisco, I can't breathe.”

Concerned, Cisco reached out for Hartley. “Come here, come here.”

Hartley’s breathing was ragged and quick. He dropped down next to Cisco. “Cisco, I can't breathe,” he repeated.

“Why? What's wrong? Are you hurt more than you thought?” Cisco asked. He grasped Hartley’s arms.

“N-no, I'm n-not hurt, I...I…” Hartley was trembling.

“You're scared of falling,” Cisco realized. “Okay, hey. It's okay. I won't let you fall, okay? We'll just stay in the center. Here, I've got you. I've got you. I won't let you fall.”

“I can't…”

“Shh, breathe. Just breathe. You're not going off that edge, okay? Just stay calm.” Cisco held onto him tightly. “We can't fall if we just stay still.”

“Okay. Okay.” Hartley tried to slow his breathing. “Cisco, we need to get out of here.”

“Well, we can't do anything right now. We might just have to wait for them to rescue us,” Cisco told him.

Hartley sniffed disdainfully. “You think they can?”

“Of course. Team Flash won't rest until we're home, if I know them at all. And I do. So unless our circumstances change, and we're able to do something about it, we just need to sit tight and trust them.” Cisco took Hartley’s hand.

“But Wally is so badly hurt. It could be ages before they can even try to find us, even with speedster super-healing,” Hartley protested.

“They'll come for us,” Cisco insisted. “I know they will.”


“What happened? They just disappeared!” Iris cried.

“I don't know, I looked everywhere,” Jesse said.

“Jesse, come to the medbay now,” Harry ordered. “You're hurt.”

“I'm fine!” Jesse snapped.

“Your wrist is broken,” replied Harry. “Now get over here. Now .”

“Don't tell me what to do when Wally is…” Jesse shook her head. “Just help Wally, Dad. Don't worry about me.”

Harry narrowed his eyes, but turned back to Wally lying on the table. Joe was standing next to his son, clasping his hand tightly.

“Jesse, stay with me. We'll look for Cisco and Hartley, okay? And I can wrap your wrist.” Iris put her arm around Jesse and led her over to the computers.

Harry began examining Wally. “It doesn't look good. His leg is shattered, and I'll need to take the rod out of his side. If he wasn't a speedster, I'd be very worried.”

Joe nodded. “Do what you need to do, Wells.”

“Dad…?” mumbled Wally. Then he gasped and arched his back in pain. “It hurts!”

“Son, son, calm down!” Joe exclaimed.

“It hurts!” Wally cried.

Harry sighed. “Well, this will not be pleasant. Joe, you need to hold him still.”

Out in the cortex, Iris could hear her brother's cries. She had wrapped Jesse’s wrist, but now both of them were staring at the medbay with worry. “I...I want to go in there,” she said. “I can’t just listen to that and not…”

“Me too.” Jesse stood up. Together, they went into the medbay.

Wally was panting, his eyes squeezed shut. “It's okay, Harry. Just do it.”

“I'm not hesitating because I'm worried about hurting you, I know you'll be fine. I'm hesitating because I think that pulling the rod out might cause more harm than good,” Harry told him. “You could bleed out before you have a chance to heal if I get this wrong.”

“Harry, how can I help?” Iris asked firmly. She put her hand on Joe’s shoulder.

“Dad, what if I got the rod out of him with phasing?” Jesse asked. “Like Z...Zoom, did with the bullet inside you? I can do it. I know I can.”

“That might just work.” Harry thought for a second, looking at the X-rays of Wally’s chest. “Alright. Let me show you what you need to do.”

While Harry instructed Jesse, Wally’s breathing was getting shallower. “Dad?” he groaned.

“I'm here, Wally.”

“I'm here, too,” Iris told him. “You're gonna be okay, Wally. It's gonna be okay.”

He nodded. “Where's Cisco?”

“He…” Iris hesitated. “He and Hartley are missing.”

“What?” Wally asked. “Who took them?”

“Same person as did this to you, we think,” Joe told him. “But don't worry. We'll get them back.”

“Alright, I've got it,” Jesse said. She positioned herself at Wally’s side.

“This is going to hurt,” Harry warned. “Wally, we're going to hold you still.”

Joe pressed down on Wally’s shoulders as Iris took his hand. “We've got you,” she told him in a low voice. “I'm right here, little brother.”

Jesse’s hands began to vibrate as she reached for the rod. “I'm so sorry, Wally,” she whispered.

A second later, he screamed and struggled against the hands that held him down.

“Easy, son,” Joe told him.

“Wally, shhh, shhh,” Iris said urgently. “It's alright, it's alright. There, there, it's okay.”

Wally let out a gasping sob as Jesse finished and closed the wound. “It's done,” she said. “It's all done.”

“The bleeding is stopped. Well done, everyone,” Harry said. “Now I just have to straighten out your leg so it'll heal correctly on its own.”

Wally gave another pained shout as Harry touched his leg. “Please,” he begged. “Just give me a second to breathe.”

“The longer I wait, the more chance the bones fuse wrong and we have to break them again,” Harry said bluntly.

“Okay, okay, I'm ready.” Wally clung to his sister's hand.

“Shhh, I'm here,” she soothed. “I'm here, I…” She winced as Wally cried out, but she didn't stop talking. “You're doing great, Wally. It's going to be over soon.”

“You're being so brave, son,” Joe added.

Jesse held his head, stroking his cheek. “We've got you.”

“That should do it,” Harry said after a little while.

Wally went limp. “Oh, god,” he mumbled. “That really hurts.”

“I know,” Iris sighed. She pulled his hand up to press against her cheek. “I know, little brother.”

Chapter Text

It was going to be an eternity. Wherever they were being held was icy cold, and Hartley wrapped the cloak that was part of his Piper outfit around the both of them. But Cisco was still shivering. “H-Hartley, how long d-do you think we've been here?” he said, his voice shaking.

“Not quite an hour, maybe,” Hartley replied. “I'm not entirely sure.” He pulled Cisco closer, keeping the cloak around them both. “Are you really this cold?”

“It’s got to be about thirty d-degrees. So yeah, pretty damn cold.” Cisco groaned quietly. “How are you not sh-shivering just as much as I am?”

“Blueville had snow from October to April, and my boarding schools were all in the north,” Hartley replied. “I don't get cold very easily. Besides, you're warm.”

“No, I'm freezing.”

“Oh...dear. Cisco, I think you're in shock. And it's not nearly as cold as you seem to think it is.”

“I'm not in shock,” Cisco protested.

“You're shivering, your pulse is shallow and rapid. And you said a minute ago that your ankle doesn't hurt anymore. I wasn't going to say anything earlier even though I suspected because I didn't want to freak you out, but...you're definitely in shock.”

“Oh, first you said ‘I th-think’ and now it's ‘definitely’? M-make up your mind!” Cisco retorted.

“And you're not making very clear points. Cisco, you need to calm down.”

“You're the one who was having a p-panic attack earlier, and I need to calm down?” demanded Cisco.

“Yes,” Hartley said simply. “You're going into shock, Cisco. Your body is trying to shut down. It decided it can't deal with the injuries you have, and it's going into shock. You've got to fight it.” He took off his cloak and wrapped it around Cisco’s shoulders, making him lie down on his back. “Breathe slowly, Cisco. In through your nose, then out through your mouth.”

“I'm not in shock,” Cisco said again. But his ribs and ankle were numb, and his heart was beating too rapidly. Maybe Hartley was right.

“God, I wish we could see,” Hartley lamented. “Just hang on, Cisco. Hang on.” His hands rested on Cisco’s shoulders.

Something was constricting Cisco’s chest. He could barely breathe. “I'm not wearing a binder again, am I?” he mumbled.

“No, your ribs are broken.” Hartley pulled Cisco’s head into his lap. “You just need to stay calm and breathe.”

“That's a great idea…” Cisco’s voice trailed off as his eyes closed.

“Cisco, hey, stay with me. Stay with me, Cisco, keep talking.” Hartley’s hand brushed against a spot on Cisco’s ribs, and he gasped. “You're bleeding!”

“Yeah, that might explain th-the stabbing pain, but…” Again, his words trailed away. This time, however, his consciousness faded with them.


Hartley was scared, well and truly terrified. He was trapped alone in the dark, surrounded by a cliff that dropped down who knows how long, and Cisco was hurt. Without being able to see, he had no way of knowing how badly, or how to help him.

“Cisco, please wake up, please, please…” But it was no use, and somehow he couldn't place his trust in the rest of Team Flash as easily as Cisco could. They were stuck here unless he could figure out a way to escape. It was all up to him.

Hartley stood up. He stretched up as far as he could, but there was no ceiling in his reach.

“Damn it,” he muttered. Then he raised his voice, shouting into the darkness. “Hey! Whoever you are, come and face me!”

For a few seconds, as Hartley expected, there was no response. Then--

“Okay.”

Hartley recoiled. Someone had spoken, and it wasn't Cisco. But it…

“Hello, there, Hartley .”

Suddenly, a blinding light flooded the area. Hartley squinted, trying to see who was speaking. “Where are you?!” he demanded.

Once again, the voice spoke. “Give it a moment. Your eyes will adjust.”

Indeed, Hartley began to make out his surroundings after a few seconds. The first thing he looked for was Cisco, who lay on the smooth black floor wrapped in Hartley’s cloak. There was a patch of blood on his shirt. Hartley tore his gaze away from Cisco to look up.

Hovering above the tower they were trapped on top of, which was a circle about ten feet in diameter, there was a person. And not just any person. The sight confirmed what Hartley already knew from the voice.

It was him . Another him .

“What the fuck?” Hartley asked.

The other Hartley drifted down to land on the platform, standing a few feet in front of him. “Call me Sonar. Believe me, this is rather strange for me as well. I only learned about parallel worlds a few weeks ago. Obviously, I had to see for myself.” He walked calmly over to Cisco. “And you've got one of these on this Earth, too. I had hoped better for my doppelganger than to be affiliated with him.” He kicked Cisco’s arm disdainfully.

“Hey! Leave him alone!” Hartley cried.

Sonar laughed. “Oh, I can't believe that any version of me would actually care about this idiot.”

“Where did you come from?” Hartley demanded.

“You're in no position to ask me questions, Hartley. But I'll answer them. I followed Harrison Wells here. I had him captured a while ago because I wanted some of his technology. I had no idea that his daughter was Quick! That was just a happy coincidence.” Sonar paused, turning back to Hartley. “They never saw my face, as you could have guessed. No, I doubt Harrison even recognized you when he saw you for the first time. I was just an employee who was damaged in an accident, sent away to recover but never able to come back.”

Instantly, Hartley saw an opportunity. “Harrison Wells ruined your life, too?”

Sonar narrowed his eyes. “I'm still going, so no. He didn't ruin my life, just made it very unpleasant for a long time. Oh, and there's these.” He turned his head to the side, displaying large black devices that covered his ears.

“But you hate him,” Hartley pressed.

“Of course I hate him.”

“I hate Harrison Wells, too.” Hartley crossed his arms. “He fired me, discredited me, ruined my life, and gave me these.” He showed Sonar his own hearing aids.

“That was a different person. You have nothing in common with me,” Sonar said.

Hartley changed angles slightly. “Maybe not. But how do you know? You don't know me. I bet you just searched me out because I have your name and face. What exactly is it that you want with me?”

“I'm going to take your place,” Sonar told him. “This Earth’s Central City is full of opportunities, and my Earth has technology you couldn't dream of. Imagine what kind of power I'll have with my technology and your Rathaway fortune.”

Hartley raised his eyebrows. “Wow, you didn't even really do your research, did you?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, how much did you look up about me?” Hartley asked. “Or did you just find my face on security cameras? See, I can see how you might think that would work, but I would never be so foolish as to not do every research I could about the person I was going to impersonate.”

“Maybe so, but I captured you instead. Why would I bother with the Internet if I could just make you tell me how to be you?” Sonar countered.

“Now that's a great plan,” Hartley said sarcastically. “One problem with that, though. I haven't got a fortune.”

“But Rathaway Industries exists here,” argued Sonar.

“Yeah, sure. But they disowned me, pal.” Hartley watched Sonar’s face fall. “Sorry to disappoint. No fortunes here. But I do have a few more questions. Where the hell is this place?”

“It's a compressed portable holding cell with ATOM technology,” Sonar said blankly. “I don't understand. Disowned?”

Hartley chose not to focus on the ‘ATOM technology’ part for now. “Yeah, I don't know about your Earth, but on mine, being gay still isn't an asset when your parents come from old money and a conservative family.”

“You're gay?” Sonar looked genuinely shocked.

Hartley stared for a moment before groaning and burying his face in his hand. “My doppelganger is straight ? God, this really is the worst day ever.”


“Don't you dare try to stand up, Wallace West!” Joe said sternly.

Wally pouted stubbornly. “I'm fine. It's been three hours, I can stand up.”

“No, actually. The bones in your leg have barely fused. Joe is right, you are not to try and move,” Harry said. “And, really, you wouldn't want to. It wouldn't be...pleasant, to say the least.”

Joe rubbed his son’s shoulder comfortingly. “It won't be long now, Wally. Just rest and recover, and then you'll be able to go out and search for them.”

“But they could be in danger. I want to go now ,” Wally argued.

Jesse sped into the room. “No sign of them,” she panted. “And I've searched just about everywhere in Central City. I just don't understand how they could have disappeared so quickly without a trace. Do you think a speedster took them?”

Iris called from the cortex. “Guys, I've finally got a ping from Cisco’s tracking device in his goggles. Jesse, it's--”

Jesse disappeared, taking a glance at the computer screen on her way.

“Right where we found Wally,” Iris finished with a sigh. “But she's gone.”

Almost before she finished speaking, Jesse was back. She held Cisco’s Vibe goggles in her hands gently, like they might break if she held them too tight. “He wasn't there. Nobody was there. Just these.”

Iris took them from her. “It doesn't mean anything, Jess, hey...It's okay. We'll find them, alive and safe. I promise.”

“You can't promise that,” Jesse said. There was a catch in her voice. “If I'd been faster…”

“Don't think like that. Please, don't.” Iris grabbed her hand. “Jesse, I have to believe that Cisco and Hartley are still alive, okay? Because I can't lose another friend.”

“I know. I'm sorry.” Jesse took a deep breath. “I'll keep looking.” And then she was gone again.

Iris turned back to the computer. “Now, where are you hiding?” she murmured.

Chapter Text

Sonar had taken Hartley’s cloak and his gloves. He had transferred Hartley and Cisco into a different kind of cell, this one just a simple black box. It had no doors. “How are you going to get out of here?” Hartley asked.

“Very carefully.” Sonar examined his hands. “I think I'm going to need to be a bit more beat up to be believable, aren't I?”

Hartley winced. His own hands were bruised and scraped, his face bloody. He was more grateful than ever that Cisco had built the devices that protected his implants from tampering, because Sonar had tried torturing him to get him to tell him how to act and where to go to be able to impersonate Hartley well enough. However, he had stopped physically hurting Hartley when he had realized it was easier to threaten to kill Cisco. “Please...take Cisco with you. Leave me here, I don't care, or kill me, but take Cisco back to STAR Labs with you. I told you what you wanted to know, just please . Or he'll die.”

“I worked with his ‘ doppelganger’ for for a little while once back on my Earth,” Sonar said thoughtfully. “He was brash and obnoxious. I think I'll leave him here.”

“No!”

But Sonar tapped a button on one of the small devices on his ears, and a hole in the ceiling appeared. He pressed another button, and he lifted up into the air. Hartley made a mental note to figure out how he did that if they ever got out of this alive. “So long, my friends!” he called. He disappeared through the ceiling hole, and it closed. Sonar left the lights on this time, though.

Hartley groaned. He looked down at Cisco, who was looking even paler and more sickly than before. “Cisco, can you hear me?”

Cisco didn't respond, of course. He was out cold. Hartley reached for Cisco’s shirt, needing to find where the blood was coming from now that Sonar had left. He hated doing this without Cisco’s permission, but he figured Cisco wouldn't mind him taking his shirt off to save his life.

“Oh, my god,” Hartley muttered, horrified. One of Cisco’s ribs had broken so badly that is had pierced his skin from the inside. He had no idea how much damage there was internally. “Cisco…I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I don't know what to do, I…”

Suddenly, Cisco gasped and convulsed. “I…” A bit of blood appeared on his lip.

“No, nonono, stop moving!” Hartley cried. “Please, be still! You're going to hurt yourself even worse!” He tried to hold Cisco still, but Cisco writhed in pain.

“It hurts, it hurts!” Cisco whimpered. “ Dios mio, no puedo respirar, ayudame…

“Shhh, shhh,” Hartley soothed. “It's okay, it's okay. Calmate, por favor, calmate. Estoy aquí. Shhhhh.”

Cisco fell limp, wheezing as he breathed with difficulty. “It hurts,” he repeated. His hands were searching for the pain in his side.

Hartley caught his hands gently. “I know. Hush, Cisco. Just stay still, okay? I'm going to keep you safe, but you need to trust me.”

“I...trust you,” Cisco whispered.

“Good, that's right. Lie still. It's going to be okay.” Hartley hated lying to him, but the truth would do more harm than good. “It'll be alright.”


Iris gasped as Jesse reappeared in the Lab, carrying Hartley in her arms. “Hartley?!” she exclaimed, rushing towards them.

Hartley put his feet on the floor, Jesse steadying him. His face was bloody, and he was favoring one ankle. “Iris…?” He sounded almost hesitant.

“Yeah, it's me. Hey, sit down, are you alright?” Iris asked. “What happened to you?”

“There was an explosion,” Hartley said. “I…”

To Iris’s shock, there were tears in his eyes. “Hartley?” Dreading his answer, her heart pounding, she took his hand and asked, “Where's Cisco?”

Hartley let out a sob. “He…” Shaking, he buried his face in his hands.

“Oh...no,” Joe whispered. He had walked into the cortex supporting Wally. Harry followed them. “Hartley, son...is Cisco…”

Hartley nodded with another sob.

Iris collapsed backwards into a chair. “Oh, god. Are...are you sure?”

“I'm sure,” Hartley answered. “I'm so sorry, I…”

“Oh, god, no. No, no, this can't be happening, this can't…” Iris trembled, not able to process this. “He can't be, I can't lose another one. God, no, please…” Suddenly, she stood up and ran away, finally falling onto the ground. She realized that she had made it all the way into Cisco’s workshop, and began to sob.

Quick footsteps raced down the hallway, and then someone’s arms were around her. “Iris, Iris, it's okay,” Jesse said.

“It's not okay!” Iris cried.

Jesse held her tightly. “I know, I know. I know it isn't. I'm so sorry, Iris, I'm so sorry.”

“They're all gone,” Iris sobbed. “I can't...How am I supposed to keep doing this? Everyone...this life is going to take everyone.”

“Shhh, shhh.” Jesse rocked her back and forth. “It's alright. It's alright.”

Iris cried against her friend until her stomach hurt, and then she just kept crying. She cried for Cisco, of course, but she was also crying for Caitlin, lost to herself, and for Eddie and HR who had given their lives to keep her safe. And she cried for Barry, because if he ever came back, his best friend would be gone.

After ages, she ran out of tears to shed. Jesse kept holding her until she was ready to stand up. “Come on, let's go back to the others,” she murmured, keeping her arm around Iris’s waist.

Hartley was now curled up on the bed in the medbay, his injuries cleaned and wrapped. Wally, still unable to put weight on his left leg, sat in a chair with his head in his hands as Joe stood behind him and gripped his shoulders tightly. There were tears on his face, but he made no sound and did not move to wipe them away. Harry was watching over Hartley. His eyes were shiny, too, although he would probably never admit to crying.

Iris took charge. Just like they would want me to. “We need to figure out who’s behind this,” she said loudly. “We figure that out, and we find them, and we make them wish they were never born.”

“But how?” Wally said dully. He looked up, and there were tear tracks on his cheeks. “Hartley doesn't remember anything. We haven't got any more leads. Until we're attacked again, we can't do anything.”

“We have to try. We have to...we have to do something ,” Iris insisted. Her voice broke, and a lump rose in her throat.

“Baby girl…” Joe shook his head. “We can't right now. We can't.”

“We have to! Cisco would--he'd want us to keep looking. He wouldn't want us to stop.”

“No, he'd want you to stay safe,” Harry said quietly.

“Maybe so! But we can't know what he wants, because he's dead!” Iris shouted. “So I guess it doesn't matter what he'd want. It matters what I want, and I want to keep looking for the person who did this to us!”

“Tomorrow, Iris,” Jesse murmured. “Please, let's just stop until tomorrow. I think we all need a little time.”

Iris gave up, mostly because Wally was starting to tear up again and damn it , she wasn't going to let her baby brother cry. “Wally, come here.” She went over to him and pulled him close. He couldn't stand up, so his face was pressed against her stomach as he began to sob softly. “It's alright. It's okay.”

Joe took her hand. “Jesse is right. We need to wait until everyone is ready, and on top of their games. I'm not losing another kid. I can't do that.”

“I know, Dad. I know.” Iris looked him in the eye, and knew that they were both feeling the same pain.

About an hour later, Joe took Wally home. Jesse went with them. Harry was going to stay at the Lab with Hartley, but Iris shook her head.

“I need to be alone for a little while. Let me stay with him, Harry.” Something in her voice made him give in without any more fuss, and he left with his arm around his daughter. The elevator door closed, and Iris was alone. Well, Hartley was there, but he was asleep on the bed. Whatever had happened must have drained him completely. She settled down in a chair next to him and waited.

It was several hours later before Hartley woke up. He sat up in the bed and let his gaze fall on Iris. “How...how long have I been asleep?” he asked.

“A while. How are you feeling?”

“I'll be alright.” He rubbed the back of his hand over his eyes. “I...I'm so sorry. About Cisco.”

Iris nodded tightly. “I'm sorry, too. I know you two were getting pretty...close.”

“Yeah. He was a good guy.”

Something about the way he talked seemed off to Iris. “I mean...Hartley, I know that you two...you know.”

“What?”

“He called me, last night. I know you went on a date, and I know that you...the night before…” Iris frowned. “Hartley?”

Hartley looked about as confused as she felt, but he was trying to cover it. “Yeah. We went on a date. Right.”

“And you slept together,” Iris added. Something really didn't seem right.

“Wh--I mean, I...don't want to talk about it,” Hartley said evasively.

“Are you feeling alright? You seem a bit different.” Alarm bells were going off in Iris’s mind, but she couldn't put her finger to it.

“I guess my head is just a bit scrambled.”

That couldn't be all it was. “Are you sure?” Iris pressed.

“I'm sure, I just…” Hartley stood up. “I'm going to go now. I...I'm going home, I need to be alone.”

Suddenly, Iris caught a glimpse of his ears. The small grey hearing aids that Cisco had made to protect his implants were gone, and they were replaced by larger black ones. “Hartley, wait.”

“I have to go.”

“Where are you going?” Iris asked. She tried to keep her voice casual, but her suspicions were strong.

“Home,” he repeated.

“Where exactly is that, again?”

“Uh, my apartment,” Hartley told her vaguely. “Please, I just want to go be alone.”

Hartley doesn’t have an apartment. He's still staying in the hotel. “Right, okay. I'm sorry. Go ahead, I'm going home, too. If you need us, give us a call.” Iris watched him go for a second before calling out, “Wait!”

He stopped in his tracks and turned around. She held out a sweatshirt she had pulled from a cupboard.

“It's cold. Take this.”

Hartley pulled the sweatshirt on. “Thank you.” Then he left.

Iris waited until he had disappeared completely, and she heard the elevator close. Then, hands shaking, she pulled her phone out and called her dad.

“Hey, baby girl. What is it?”

“Hartley isn't Hartley,” Iris said quickly. “I know it sounds crazy, but it isn't him. I'm sure of it. And I put a tracking device on him. We need to follow him.”

“What? Baby, I don't understand,” Joe said.

“Have Jesse come get me and bring me home. We can't do this here, it's compromised.”

“I don't know what you're talking about, Iris. Sweetheart, aren't you being a little paranoid?”

Frustrated, Iris shook her head. “Just send Jesse!” she snapped.

“Alright, alright. She'll be there in a minute. Hang on, baby girl.” Joe hung up.

Jesse came whirling into the Lab a minute later. “Iris, what's going on? Joe said--”

“Take me home, please, Jesse,” Iris requested. “I'll explain there.”

Jesse asked no more questions, just lifted Iris into her arms and ran. The next thing Iris knew, she was sitting in her dad’s living room.

“Alright, Iris, what's going on? What do you mean, Hartley isn't Hartley?” Joe asked gently.

Quickly, Iris explained. “When he first said my name, he hesitated. Like he wasn't sure if I was Iris. And then later, he didn't know things I asked him about. Like…” She paused, not wanting to reveal what had happened between Hartley and Cisco without their permission. “Like he said he was going home to an apartment. I know for a fact that he's still in a hotel room.”

“That's not enough to prove anything,” Harry stated. “What else do you have?”

Iris nodded. “His hearing aids. They're different than they were just yesterday. The visible part, the protective ones that Cisco made him, they were light grey. The ones he has now are larger, and black. And there were other things he said, too. Please, trust me on this. I just know . Maybe he's a doppelganger, or a shapeshifter, or...I don't know exactly. But I do know that he's not our Hartley.”

“That's...that's a lot to take in, Iris,” Wally told her. “Are you positive?”

“He said he can't remember what happened, but that he knows Cisco is dead. It doesn't check out. I know when people are lying, and he was lying.” Iris didn't budge from her opinion. “I think whoever he is, he's behind this whole thing. I think he took Hartley and Cisco, and trapped Wally earlier. He's planning something.”

Everyone hesitated. Then, Jesse stepped forward. “I believe you,” she said. “I trust your instincts.”

Iris reached for her hand gratefully. “Thank you.”

“You know I'll always back you, baby girl,” Joe conceded. “If this is what you think we need to do, I'm with you.”

“Me, too,” Wally said.

“I'll help if I can.” Harry nodded at her.

“Iris, do you think...that Hartley and Cisco are alive?” Wally asked, a note of hope in his voice.

“I don't know,” Iris responded. “But if they are, we need to hurry. Like I said, I put a tracker on ‘Hartley.’” Her fingers made quotes in the air. “I gave him a sweatshirt with the device inside. He won't know it's there.”

“Then let's find him,” Jesse proclaimed.


“D-Dante?” Cisco mumbled.

“Your brother's not here, Cisco. It's just me. It's just Hartley.” Hartley was trying to hold onto any kind of hope, but it seemed like nothing was left other than despair.

“I'm cold, Dante. When can we go h-home?”

Hartley shook his head. “I'm not Dante, Cisco.”

“Hartley?”

“There we go,” Hartley sighed. “It's me, Cisco. It's just Hartley.”

“When can we go home? I'm so cold.”

Hartley put his hand on Cisco’s forehead. To his dismay, Cisco’s skin felt like it was on fire. “Soon, I promise. Just hold on for me, okay? Just hold on.”

Cisco blinked slowly. His eyes were unfocused as he stared up at nothing. “What’s happening?”

“Everything is fine. Don't worry.”

“Hartley...I need a favor.”

“Anything.”

“I know I'm probably not going to make it much longer.” Cisco was suddenly more coherent and less delirious as he focused his gaze to meet Hartley’s eyes.

“Don't talk like that,” Hartley said helplessly.

“Shut up. I've got little enough breath without arguing with you.” Cisco paused. “Don't let my...my family know about Team Flash. Or about Vibe. Let them think I'm still just...me. They'll have lost both their kids. They don't need more surprises.”

“Okay. If that's what you want, of course.” Hartley took Cisco’s hand. “Anything else?”

“Yeah. You. Stay with Team Flash, okay? And don't…” He was struggling to speak now. “Don't be alone, okay? Keep working to be a hero.”

“I promise. But you're not going to die, do you hear me? You're going to hang on until your friends find us. Just keep breathing. Cisco?” Hartley’s heart skipped a beat. Cisco’s eyes had closed. “Cisco? No, no, no...Oh, thank god.” He was still breathing, albeit shallowly. “You’re going to stay alive, Cisco. You're not going anywhere. Not yet.”

Chapter Text

“Are you sure you want to do this, Iris?” Joe asked. “If you’re wrong, and it is Hartley…”

“I know. But I’d rather ask for his forgiveness than let an intruder into our home. Ready?” Iris asked Wally over the comms.

“Yeah,” Wally whispered. “In position. He’s coming this way.”

“Kid Flash is ready. Quick, have you got the pulse ready to activate?” Iris stared at the three little dots on her laptop screen. The yellow one was Wally, waiting in an alley. A dark purple dot representing Jesse was on the other side of the street, and the black dot of the sweatshirt carried by ‘Hartley’ was approaching the area between them.

“I’m ready,” Jesse said.

Suddenly, the black dot stopped. It was still half a block away from Kid Flash and Quick. There was no way he could have seen them. “Talk to me, what’s happening?” Iris asked.

“I’m not sure. He stopped. Do you think he knows we followed him?” Jesse asked.

“No way he found the tracker in the sweatshirt. It’s the size of a pinhead, and inside the collar.” Iris held her breath. “What’s he doing?” The black dot was heading the other way now.

“He’s leaving.” Wally gasped. “Holy shit!”

Iris widened her eyes. “That doesn’t…” Somehow, the black dot was entering the z-axis. It was going upwards, into the air. “What is happening?!”

“He’s floating!” Jesse exclaimed.

Iris could just hear Hartley’s voice. She strained to make it out over the comms. “So, you figured it out. Oh, well. I don’t need you anyway.”

“Iris, he’s--” A burst of static and a high-pitched squeal came over the comms, cutting Wally off.

“Wally!” Iris shouted. “Wally! Answer me!” But the only sound continued to be the loud buzz. She turned to Harry and Joe. “I’ve lost contact.”

Harry grabbed the computer off the table and pulled it towards him. “They’re all still there. It looks like they’re fighting.” The three dots were dancing around each other, Wally’s and Jesse’s moving so quickly that the dots changed position every second without actually moving. “Should we go to them?”

“Wait, wait,” Iris said. “Look, they’re coming back this way.” And indeed, the dots were speeding back towards Joe’s house. Wally and Jesse appeared in the doorway, holding an unconscious ‘Hartley’ between them.

“You were right,” Jesse said in a too-loud voice. “He’s not Hartley. This is Sonar, the guy I was fighting back on my Earth.”

Iris winced. “Why are you shouting?”

“What?” Jesse shouted. “I can’t hear you!”

Wally dropped Sonar onto the ground unceremoniously and rubbed his temples. “He uses sound as a weapon just like Hartley does as Piper, but...ouch.”

Quickly, Iris took control. “Dad, get Sonar--Sonar, right?”

Harry nodded. “So that’s what he looks like. Wore a mask with us.”

“Dad, put Sonar in cuffs. He’s got a lot of explaining to do. As soon as he’s secure, get him to wake up. We need to know what he’s done with Hartley and Cisco.” Iris stood up and went over to Jesse and Wally as Joe handcuffed Sonar to the table.

“I don’t like having evil metahumans in my house,” he grumbled.

“You guys should sit down until your hearing comes back,” Iris told Jesse and Wally.

“What?” Jesse asked.

“Exactly.” Iris pulled her over to the couch and made her sit down. “Stay there.”

Wally tugged at his ears. “I can still hear, mostly. There’s just a really loud ringing. Jesse got hit with more of it. ‘Sonar’ is an understatement--those sound waves aren’t any kind of dolphin navigation, they’re explosive.”

“Okay, but are they meta-powers, or are they made with electronics like Hartley’s gloves?” Iris asked.

Harry had knelt down and was searching Sonar. “These...hearing aids. I think they're psychically linked to him, and they're what's making the sound waves. If we take them out…There.” He took the devices and handed them to Wally. “Take these far away. All the way to STAR Labs, preferably.”

“You got it.” Wally left.

“If his disability is anything like Hartley’s, he'll be in pain when he wakes up,” Iris said.

“Good. Easier to get the information out of him.” Harry stood up, brushing off his hands.

“Hey, we don't torture ,” Iris told him.

“Well, it might be that or never finding Ramon and Hartley--” Harry broke off. “ Rathaway ,” he muttered. “I knew I recognized that name.”

“What? What is it?” Joe asked.

“I believe I may have...offended this young man back on my Earth at one point,” Harry said reluctantly. “Similarly, perhaps, to how the Harrison Wells on your Earth hurt your Hartley. Except I didn't know him very well. I just let him go after an accident in my Lab injured him. He became obsessed with fixing himself, to the point where it affected his work. If I remember correctly, he's just deaf. Not quite like your Hartley.”

“Great. Anyone know sign language?” Iris asked.

“Of course,” Harry and Jesse said at the same time. He gave her a proud glance.

“My hearing is coming back,” Jesse added. “Alright. Let's see what we can do about this one.” She stood up, cracked her knuckles, and dropped down in front of Sonar. Without warning, she slapped him hard across the face.

“Hey!” Sonar cried, coming to suddenly. “What--” His voice broke off as his face became horrified. “Y-you took my hearing aids,” he said.

Jesse signed something aggressively at him.

Harry interpreted quietly. “She told him that yes, we did, because he hurt us with them. Now she’s telling him that he should have separate aids to those ones if he wants to be able to hear when someone captures him. Otherwise, we aren’t the kind of people to take harmless aids away from anyone.”

Sonar glared at Jesse before signing back.

“He says, ‘What gave me away?” Harry said.

“Jesse, tell him Hartley doesn’t have an apartment,” Iris said.

Jesse nodded and signed it. Sonar rolled his eyes and groaned, making a few quick signs.

“And now he says that he should have thought of that.”

“Jesse, ask him nicely where Hartley and Cisco are,” Iris requested.

“Nicely?” Jesse checked. “Do I have to?”

“For now. Then, if he doesn’t cooperate, we’ll turn up the heat.” Iris folded her arms and waited.

Sonar watched Jesse sign with a smug expression before responding.

“Okay, that wasn’t an answer, but he says he could talk out loud if he wanted to, he just doesn’t want to...basically, grace us with the presence of his voice,” Harry said, irritated.

“Jesse, repeat the question.”

A bit more forcefully, Jesse asked Sonar where Hartley and Cisco were located.

“‘Wouldn’t you like to know?’” Harry translated. “Jesse just asked him if he was telling the truth about Cisco before.”

Iris held her breath, watching Sonar’s face for any clues. He smiled, a self-satisfied smirk, and signed back. Jesse looked very upset, and she stood up to face Iris and the rest. “He says…” Her voice trembled, and Iris’s stomach tightened. “He says that he wasn’t lying about Cisco. That he doubts we’ll ever see him again alive, but there’s still a chance for Hartley.”

Harry’s face grew hard and serious. “Jesse, I’ll be the one asking questions now,” he said.

Jesse nodded, grateful, and went over to stand between Iris and Wally and hold both of their hands tightly.

It shouldn’t have come as a shock, but when Harry grabbed Sonar’s collar and shoved him back against the table leg with a loud thud, everyone jumped slightly. Harry began to sign at him, his movements sharp and deliberate.

“I’m not gonna translate that,” Jesse murmured to Iris.

“I think I can get the gist,” Iris replied. She didn’t want to think about Cisco right now, but having a little bit of hope only to have it snatched away again hurt .

About a minute into whatever threats Harry was signing, Sonar began to look apprehensive. As Harry made a particularly sharp gesture, he even flinched back. Harry looked pleased, and he turned his head to the other members of Team Flash. “Leave us alone for a minute, would you? Don’t worry, I won’t hurt him too badly.”

Iris bit her lip. She didn’t want to let Harry torture this man, even though she hated him. “Don’t you dare get blood on my dad’s floor,” she muttered after a minute.

Joe glanced at her, amused. “Thanks for that, baby girl. C’mon, let’s give Harry and his friend the room.” He led his kids and Jesse up the stairs and into the office, shutting the door. “Don’t worry, you three,” he said kindly. “Harry isn’t actually going to hurt the kid. I know when someone is bluffing.”

“Are you sure?” Wally said doubtfully. “He seemed pretty serious.”

“I don’t think my dad would really hurt him,” Jesse assured him. “Certainly not badly…”

Iris had sat down in the desk chair and put her head down on her arms, leaning onto the desk. Her shoulders shook with a sob.

“Oh, no. Hey, baby girl,” Joe said quietly. “It’s gonna be okay.” He sat on the desk next to her and rubbed her shoulders. “It’s gonna be okay.”

Jesse and Wally had sat down on the floor against the wall. Wally put his head down on her shoulder, and she kissed the top of his head softly. “I’m here,” she whispered.

A few minutes later, Harry opened the office door. “He’ll tell us,” he said shortly.

“He’s not down there bleeding on my nice floor, is he?” Joe asked. He sounded joking, but there was a note of seriousness in his voice.

“Of course not, he’s fine. I would never actually hurt him. Just scared the hell out of him.” Harry turned and went back down the stairs, followed by the others.

Sonar looked pale and frightened, flinching when he saw Harry. He spoke out loud, his voice slightly off but completely understandable. “The cuffs are loose enough for me to sign, but I need one hand loose if you want me to show you where your Hartley is.”

“No. Why?” Harry demanded, signing along with his words.

“I’ll show you. I can’t go anywhere. But...you promise you’ll let me go home after? You won’t just kill me?” Sonar asked nervously.

“We won’t let him kill you,” Iris said. Jesse repeated her words with signs.

Joe unlocked one of the cuffs carefully, letting Sonar shake his wrist out for a second. “Alright, now tell us where he is,” he said sternly.

“I’m sure you already searched me for weapons, so don’t freak out.” Sonar reached his hand into the pocket of his pants. Joe tensed, ready to act if he pulled out anything dangerous. But all he took from his pocket was what looked like a small, black di with a few small colored buttons, about an inch wide. “This is ATOM technology. It compresses the space between atoms and allows for miniaturization. This piece, in particular, is designed as a prison for soldiers to transport prisoners of war. Your friends are inside.”

Joe frowned, looking very confused. “Inside that thing?”

Harry snatched the cube away from Sonar. “Yes, Joe. It’s highly developed nanotechnology from my Earth. I can open it. We don’t need him anymore. Wally, Jesse, bring him to the pipeline.”

Sonar looked from face to face. “What? What are you saying?”

Jesse signed something at him as she spoke, “We’re taking you to our prison. We’ll decide what to do with you later, if you’re telling the truth.”

“But--” Sonar didn’t have time to say anything else. Wally and Jesse whisked him away, leaving just a table leg with a few scratches from the cuffs.

Harry was examining the cube. “This should be fairly simple to open. It’s designed to expand and release the contents inside without actually growing in size itself. Stand back.” He pushed Joe’s coffee table and couch against the walls, leaving a large empty expanse of carpet in the center of the room. Then he placed the cube down in the middle of the floor after pushing a few of the buttons quickly in succession. Wally and Jesse were back, and everyone watched anxiously.

For a few seconds, nothing happened. But then there was a sort of bright, shimmery light. Everyone blinked, and then gasped.

Hartley had appeared on the floor, his face and hands scraped and bruised. He was clutching Cisco, who looked grey and lifeless with a patch of blood on his side. Hartley cried out, startled by the sudden change in environment. “What--” Then he shook his head and said desperately, “Help me!”

Iris could barely move. Wally and Jesse both looked similarly frozen in place. But Harry was already snapping into action, kneeling down beside Hartley and reaching for Cisco’s wrist. “He’s alive,” he said immediately, and looked up to meet Iris’s gaze. He nodded at her. “Call an ambulance. Now .”

Hartley was shying away from Harry. “I...I’ve been trying to k-keep him alive, h-he’s really hurt, I’m s-sorry, I couldn’t do anything else…” He was shivering violently.

“You did the best you could,” Harry said gruffly. “And it might even have been enough.”

“Ambulance is on its way,” Iris said quickly. “Though I don’t know how we’re going to explain this to them.”

“I’ll handle it,” Joe told her. “Don’t worry about it.”

“D-did you get him?” Hartley asked. “Sonar, th-the... me from the other world? I’m s-sorry, I didn’t want to tell him how t-to be me, but he was going t-to hurt Cisco, I couldn’t let him…”

Iris knelt down next to him and put her hand on his shoulder. “It’s alright, Hartley. We got him. And he didn’t do a very good job of being you anyway. It’s alright. Everyone is safe now. Come here, okay?” She reached out to grab Cisco’s hand as well, needing to reassure herself that he really was alive. His hand was cold, but his pulse was still going. “Everyone is safe,” she repeated, mostly for herself.

Hartley let out a dry sob and pressed against her. Though he would normally be more reserved, he was in shock and in pain. He let his guard down, and just cried.

Chapter Text

Beep. Beep. Beep. The insistent, steady, mind-numbingly irritating beeps just kept going. It was sensory hell. The sheets were wrong, everything hurt, it smelled of disinfectant, and that incessant beeping . He wanted the beeping to stop, but that would mean…

Hospital smell. Beeping. Pain. He was attached to a heart monitor. If the beeping stopped, he would be dead. He didn’t want to be dead. Did he? No, surely he didn’t. But he had thought he was already dead. He had died in that box, with someone whispering to him, telling him to just hold on, to just breathe. And that had been…

“Hartley…” he whispered.

There was a gasp. “Cisco? Cisco, are you awake?” Someone took his hand, and he opened his eyes to see Iris coming into focus above him.

“I…” His throat felt dry and painful, and he swallowed. “What…?”

“You got hurt,” Iris told him simply. “You’re in the hospital. You’re gonna be okay.”

“What...what time is it?” For some reason, that was what his clouded mind jumped to first.

“It’s three in the afternoon, November 14th,” Iris said. “Cisco, you’ve been in a coma for three days.”

Somehow, that didn’t surprise him. “Feels like...I’ve been out for...months.”

“Shhh,” she said. “I’m gonna call a nurse, okay?”

His heart skipped a beat. Hospital . “No, no...wait, I’m...meta? D-do they…”

“It’s alright, it’s alright. They’re being really discreet. Nobody except one of the doctors and one nurse knows,” Iris assured him. “Just try to stay calm.”

Cisco closed his eyes. If Iris said it was alright, it must be alright. He trusted her with his life. “Everyone okay?” he asked.

“We’re all fine,” she promised. “It was my turn to sit with you, but my dad and Wally and Harry and Jesse and Hartley are all ready to come in at a moment’s notice in case you woke up.”

“Hartley, he’s okay?” Cisco made sure. “He’s okay?”

“He’s fine, Cisco. Everyone is fine. He’s been really worried about you, though. We all have. It was touch and go for a while. We weren’t sure if you were going to make it.” Iris tried to hide it, but her voice shook. “We were really scared.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“Don’t you dare apologize for almost dying.” Iris stroked his hair. “We love you, Cisco. We’re going to worry about you.”

Cisco leaned his head slightly into her touch. “Love you, too,” he murmured. “What happened...to Sonar?”

“Harry and Jesse brought him back to Earth-2. He’s in prison there. Everything is fine, and we’re all safe. Rest, Cisco. Just rest.”

Cisco couldn’t stay awake any longer and drifted back into a deep, heavily drugged sleep. When he next opened his eyes, someone was talking quietly.

“It's alright, I've got this shift. Go get some rest, son.”

“I'd rather stay, actually.”

Joe sighed softly. “I know you wanna stay with him, but you haven't slept since yesterday morning.”

“Hartley?” Cisco managed to say.

There was a sharp intake of breath as someone grabbed his hand. “Cisco?”

He opened his eyes and tried to smile at Hartley when he saw the worried look on his face. “Hey,” he murmured. “Joe’s right, you should get some rest.”

“Not when you've just woken up. I'm staying right here.”

Joe joined Hartley in Cisco’s line of vision. “Hey there, kiddo,” he said.

“Hi, Joe.” Cisco offered him a smile as well. “Nice to be...not dead. It's kind of...good, a good feeling, not dead-ness. I'm...is something…” He couldn't put his thoughts into coherent words. “How many painkillers? ‘Cause it feels like... all of them.”

Hartley let out a shuddering laugh. “Hah. I bet it does.”

Cisco stared straight up at the ceiling. “Can I go up there?” he asked vaguely.

Joe giggled. “Oh, dear, we're going to have our hands full with this one.” He patted Hartley’s shoulder. “Good luck. I'm gonna go get some coffee.”

Hartley looked at Cisco helplessly. Cisco took no notice, and just kept looking at the ceiling tiles. For some reason, they fascinated him at that moment, and he followed each and every line. “What are you doing?” Hartley asked.

“Playing tic-tac-toe on the ceiling,” Cisco said matter-of-factly. “I'm losing.”

“You're high is what you are,” Hartley muttered. “Okay, Cisco. Whatever makes you happy.”

Cisco tore his gaze away from the imaginary X’s and O’s on the ceiling to look at Hartley. “You make me happy,” he said plainly.

Hartley’s eyes widened. He hadn't expected that. “Um…”

“You're so stupid and you...don't understand how people work. But that's okay, I don't either.” Cisco reached up to touch Hartley’s face. “But you're so wonderful and good, and...you're so pretty. You make me happy, just by looking at you, but also ‘cause you aren't an asshole anymore. Hmm?”

Hartley was shaking his head. “Cisco, remember that you're on a lot of drugs before you say anything you might not otherwise say, okay?”

“I'm perfectly…” Cisco frowned. “Charged of my words. No, in charge.”

“Shhh,” Hartley said. “Cisco, just get some rest.”

“Only if you do. And I don't want to go back to sleep, I want to talk to you more.” Cisco clutched at Hartley’s wrist with clumsy hands. “Stay with me, please.”

Hartley couldn't say no to that. “I'm here. I won't leave.”

“Good, that's good.” Cisco patted the air, probably trying to reach Hartley’s shoulder but not succeeding. “Good that you stay. Ah, Dios mio, palabras son difíciles ,” he added in an annoyed mutter.

“Then don't try to talk right now,” Hartley told him, almost amused. “It's okay. You can just rest. I won't leave. You'll get better, and then we can really talk.”

“Sounds good,” Cisco agreed, and closed his eyes again.

Chapter Text

It was several weeks before Cisco was recovered enough to return to the Lab. He wanted to rejoin Kid Flash and Quick in the field, but the second he even suggested it, five voices all chimed in with a vehement “No!”

“I'm fine now! The doctors cleared me to go home,” Cisco protested.

“Yeah, home ,” Hartley exclaimed. “Home, as in to rest. Pretty sure home doesn't mean out in the streets fighting crime.”

“Dad and I stayed here so Wally would have backup until you're ready to come back,” Jesse said, a lot more calmly than Hartley. “Take advantage of that, and get all the way better.”

“Just stay behind the computer for a little bit,” Wally told him. “It's just until you've got all your strength back.”

“Dude, I spent two years sitting behind a computer while Barry ran around saving the world. I don't have to do that anymore, now that I have powers. I can't just sit here now,” Cisco argued.

Iris stepped up to him and put her hands on his shoulders. “Yeah? Well, we can't lose you again, Cisco. So you're going to stay here where you're safe for a little while and if you argue, I'm changing my mind to make you stay at your house for another two weeks.”

Cisco widened his eyes. Iris looked deadly serious. “You wouldn't.”

“Wouldn't I?” Iris held his gaze for another second before smiling innocently and letting him go. “I have to go to work. Hartley, you can stay here and keep Cisco company while Wally and Jesse are out in the field and Harry is in the workshop.”

Hartley knew better than to argue. “You got it,” he said reluctantly.

Iris gave them all a thumbs-up. “Great! Good luck, and don't get hurt or blow up the city while I'm not here to keep you in line.” She left.

“Well, you heard my sister. Jesse, shall we?” Wally held his hand out.

Jesse smiled and took his hand. “Let's go stop some crime, Kid Flash.” They disappeared in a whirlwind of red and yellow lightning.

Harry sighed. “I'll be in the workshop,” he said, and left the room.

Hartley leaned over Cisco’s chair to look at the computer screen. “Hey, Flashes. There's a bank robbery in progress at the CC Bank.”

“What, I'm not even allowed to announce things anymore?” Cisco said.

“I was just…”

“We're on it,” Jesse said. The comm went quiet.

Cisco turned his chair abruptly, knocking Hartley away. “Hey. I'm at the computer. I get to tell them where the crimes are.”

Hartley held up his hands. “I'm sorry, Cisco. I thought...I didn't think that would upset you. I'm sorry.”

“No, that's not an apology. ‘I didn't think that would upset you,’” Cisco echoed mockingly. “That's not an apology, that's an excuse to make you feel better.”

“Okay, okay, you're right. I'm sorry. Please, tell me why it upset you so I don't do it again,” Hartley corrected.

Cisco narrowed his eyes, then let out a sigh and leaned back against the back of the chair. The tension and irritation left his body. “No...I'm sorry. I shouldn't have snapped. I mean, I was telling the truth about your first apology, it sucked. But I shouldn't have been upset.”

“Maybe, but you were. And I'm trying, I'm really trying to be better with people. So...can you talk to me about why you were upset?” Hartley requested.

“I'm just...that's all I've got right now, Hart. I can't do anything else to help, right now, and I almost died, and I couldn't do anything about it,” Cisco blurted. “I was dying. I was so scared, and my powers were useless. So what...is the point of having these powers if anyone can just...block them? And if I can be killed by a sonic explosion? I don't know, Hartley, I just don't...don't like feeling useless.”

“You aren't useless,” Hartley said immediately. “That's the last thing you are, Cisco. And your powers are incredible. And you didn't die, Cisco, because you're strong. Sonar couldn't kill you.”

“He could have. But he didn't. Because you saved me.” Cisco ran his hands through his hair, frustrated. “And believe me, I'm grateful. Means a lot that you'd let that guy take your identity to save my life.”

“Y-you...I thought you were unconscious,” Hartley stammered. “W-we didn't tell you exactly what happened.”

“Yeah, I was awake. I heard him torture you, and I couldn't move. And then I heard him say he was going to kill me, and how you instantly said you'd tell him.”

“Cisco...of course I told him,” Hartley said. “I'm confused as to why you're surprised, or whatever it is that you are right now. I'm a member of Team Flash, remember? Any of us would do that for anyone else.”

“You're right. I know. I'm sorry, I'm just...I'm just having a bit of a hard time right now.”

“That's alright. You're allowed. It was a difficult...experience for both of us.”

“Hey, guys, we stopped the bank robbers. They're in police custody. What else do you want us to do?” Wally asked over the comms.

Hartley gestured for Cisco to take over, stepping back slightly. Cisco smiled and reached for the mic. “Nothing on our radar. Just...do what you do best, my lovely speedsters! Run, run run!”

“That was weird, and please don’t call us ‘lovely speedsters,’” Jesse replied.

“I don’t know, I kinda like it,” Wally laughed. “We’ll just run around and solve some problems, then?”

“Yep, sounds good. Let us know if you need any help.”

“Will do.” The comms shut back off.

“Any better?” Hartley asked.

Cisco raised his eyebrows. “I didn’t do anything!” He paused. “But yes, I do feel a little better.”

“Alright! That’s a good sign.” Hartley offered his hand for a high-five, which Cisco returned hesitantly.

“Dude, that’s...that’s my thing,” Cisco said.

“I thought I’d try it. No, it’s definitely better when you initiate it.”

Cisco nodded, agreeing. “Hey...We haven’t really...you know, talked , for the past few weeks. You want to go get coffee tomorrow morning, and try to figure things out?”

“Yeah. Yeah, that sounds like it’d be a good idea.”

That night, everyone went home except Cisco and Hartley. Cisco continued to work at his computer for a few minutes, confused as to why Hartley was just sitting there. He wasn’t doing anything, just...waiting. “Hey, Hartley?”

Hartley looked up, startled. “Huh?”

“Are you gonna leave? Get some sleep?” Cisco asked.

“Um...no.”

“Why not?” Cisco said slowly.

“I don’t have anywhere to go. I’m not staying at the hotel anymore, and for the past few weeks when I wasn’t at the hospital with you, I just slept here. I’ve got a couple blankets and a pillow in my old office. It’s fine, although it does get a bit cold here at night,” Hartley explained.

Cisco shook his head. “Uh-uh, Hartley. You don’t get to do that. Why didn’t you sleep at my place?”

“That...that would have been incredibly presumptuous, and you were so injured, I...I didn’t want to ask,” Hartley responded.

“Well, fine. I understand that. But not anymore, do you hear me? You’re coming home with me tonight, now that I get to go back there too.” Cisco turned off his computer. “Come on. I’m tired. Today was the first day in weeks that I haven’t been stuck in bed for the majority of the time, even if all I did was sit in a chair.”

“I...okay,” Hartley said without protesting.


“Ah, home sweet home,” Cisco sighed as he unlocked the door. “You know how much I hate hospital smell? And hospital sheets, and hospital noises?”

“I gathered,” Hartley said dryly. “Since every other word out of your mouth in the hospital was a complaint about one of those things.”

“I ain’t apologizing! Hospitals suck!” Cisco opened up his fridge and winced. “Okay, I’m gonna clean this out tomorrow. Damn, that’s gross.” He waved his hand in front of his nose as he closed the fridge door. “Alright. Sleep. You want the guest bedroom again, or--”

“That’s fine. Thanks for letting me stay.”

“Hartley. My friend. My pal. My buddy.” Cisco paused as if he were gathering patience, clasping his hands together and glancing at the ceiling. “We’ve had sex, and you’ve saved my life. You are always, always welcome here. Which is why I was going to ask if you wanted to just stay with me , with me tonight. No ‘falling asleep in different rooms and waking up in the same one’ schtick.”

Hartley blushed, looked at the ground, and mumbled something.

“What? Sorry, couldn’t quite…”

“I said, that might be nice, but I’ve been having nightmares,” Hartley said timidly. “I don’t want to wake you.”

“Oh, Hart…” Cisco went over to him and took his hands. “Believe me, I get that. I really do. And that’s why I’m going to have to say that’s complete nonsense, and I’d rather you wake me up than have to suffer through it alone. Okay?”

“Okay.”

A little while later, Cisco was curled up in his bed. He avoided lying on his right side, because it was still very sore from the cracked ribs and the surgery and...well, everything just sort of hurt. The heavy brace on his fractured ankle could be taken off at night, which was nice, but that hurt as well. And he was really trying not to take his pain meds unless he absolutely needed them, because he didn’t like what they did to his head. He’d just power through. It would probably get better soon.

“Hi,” Hartley murmured. He sat down on the edge of the bed, wearing a t-shirt and cotton shorts.

“Oh, my god,” Cisco said suddenly.

“What? What? Is something wrong?” Hartley said, looking around as if for someone attacking them.

“No! Oh, my god, calm down,” Cisco laughed. “It’s just...you’re wearing my t-shirt.”

Hartley glanced down. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. So?”

“Well, first of all, it’s cute as hell. You wearing my clothes? Adorable.”

Turning a bit red, Hartley asked, “You said ‘first of all’. What’s the second part?”

Cisco smiled softly, gazing at the shirt. “‘Keep Calm and Han Shot First’,” he read out loud. “That’s the shirt I was wearing my first day at STAR Labs.”

“...So it is,” Hartley confirmed. “And you know what? I stand by what I said. This is no professional work attire. But it does make excellent nightclothes.”

“Hey,” Cisco said mildly. “I’ll have you know, I do great work whether I’m wearing a graphic tee or not. Besides, I...I hadn’t had top surgery at that point, and loose t-shirts hide chest bulges better than any dress shirt.”

“Oh.” Hartley paused. “I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Of course you hadn’t,” Cisco snorted. “It’s not something a cis guy has to think about. Now lie down and turn off the lights, I’m tired.”

Hartley obliged. In the dark, Cisco could feel him shifting and settling down in the bed before letting out a quiet breath and growing still. “Cisco?” he whispered.

“Yeah?”

“Goodnight.”

Cisco reached out and fumbled around for Hartley’s hand. “G’night. Sleep well.”

“I’ll do my best.”

With Hartley’s rhythmic breathing next to him, Cisco had no problem falling asleep. It provided a nice relief from the constant aching of his body when he was awake.

“Cisco? Cisco, wake up, please, wake up.”

Slowly, he woke up to Hartley shaking his shoulder. “Hey,” he murmured. The bit of moonlight coming through the window fell on Hartley’s face, shining on tears. “Oh, hey. Hey, what’s wrong?”

“Just a bad dream, but…” Hartley’s lower lip trembled. “I don’t want to be alone.”

“‘Course. C’mere.” Cisco rolled over and put his arm over the shivering man. “Come here, hey. Shhh, I’ve gotcha. Want to talk about it?”

Hartley shook his head. “Just going back to sleep. Thank you.”

“No problem. Close your eyes, everything will be fine,” Cisco soothed. “I’ll be right here.”

In a few minutes, both of them were asleep again, and nothing else disturbed their rest for the remainder of the night.

Chapter Text

The pleasant, warm atmosphere of Jitters made a nice change from a harsh white hospital. Cisco wasn't thrilled that he had to drink decaf until he was off his pain medication, but it was better than nothing.

“Ahh,” Hartley sighed. “I used to hate that people were using the Flash as capitalistic propaganda, but this Flash coffee is...pretty great.”

Cisco sighed dismally and stared at his own drink. “Wally is very upset that the Kid Flash is a decaf, while I'm just over here in the corner wondering why Vibe doesn't have a drink named after him.”

“Did you just refer to yourself in the third person?” Hartley asked, amused.

“Shut up.”

“What would the Vibe drink even be?” Hartley pressed. “Like, the Flash drinks make sense.”

“I don't know, I'm just saying. It's the principle of the thing!” Cisco insisted.

Hartley smiled and looked down at the table. “I think it's sweet that you get so jealous of the Flashes. You're just as much of a hero as they are.”

“Central City doesn't seem to think so,” Cisco muttered. “If Kid Flash doesn't go out for so much as a day, we've got articles and conspiracy theories freaking out wondering if he's dead. But I've been in the hospital for three weeks, and nobody seems to care. It's not that I'm doing this for glory or attention, it's just...it'd be nice to know that someone out there cares.”

“I'm sure there's someone out there who loves Vibe and gets worried when you don't show up and dreams about getting saved by you just like some people dream about the Flashes,” Hartley assured him.

“That's kinda freaky, actually,” realized Cisco. “I'm not sure I like that.”

“Pretty sure that's how people think about superheroes.”

Cisco raised his eyebrows. “Are you sure that's not just how you think about superheroes?” he countered.

“I...I don't…” Hartley turned bright pink and took a sip of his coffee.

“You did spend quite a while commenting on how cute Kid Flash was before you even met Wally. And you said that the Green Arrow is hot,” Cisco remembered. “You flirted hard with Barry when we fought you three years ago. Are you projecting your superhero kink onto the rest of humanity?”

“I do not --” Hartley sputtered. “Have a...a superhero kink!”

Cisco struggled to hide his grin. “Oh, my god. That's hilarious. Look at you, you're so flustered. It's adorable. You're blushing.”

“I am not blushing,” Hartley protested, blushing even harder.

“Oh, no? What's this, then, what's--” Cisco reached out and poked Hartley’s cheek. “What's this, why is it so red? Oh, dear, are you sick? Oh, no! Someone, help, Hartley Rathaway is just too embarrassed.”

“Stop it,” Hartley muttered.

“Never.” Cisco gave Hartley’s nose a gentle boop before withdrawing his hand. “So, superhero kink, huh? Anything else I should know about?”

“I don't have a superhero kink!” Hartley exclaimed. Some people at the tables around them were giving them strange looks, and he lowered his voice. “You're being very loud, Cisco. Do you enjoy flustering me in public?”

“Um, yeah,” Cisco said. “Obviously.”

Hartley groaned. “Let's just get out of here.” He finished his coffee and stood up.

Cisco followed, giving up on his decaf coffee. “I'm serious, though, anything else you want to tell me? I'm fairly open to just about anything, and--”

“Shut up, Francisco ,” Hartley said threateningly.

“Alright, I get it. We'll discuss this later.” Cisco winked.

“You're impossible,” Hartley grumbled.

“Impossibly handsome?”

“Shut up.”

“Make me.”

That whole day was filled with teasing and bickering as Cisco and Hartley remained holed up in the cortex. It took precisely three minutes for Harry to decide he wanted nothing to do with it and stalk off to find his own corner of the Lab to work.

“Look, you drove Harry away,” Hartley said.

“Who knows why Harry does anything?” Cisco responded. “It’s not necessarily because of me.”

From the hallway, not completely out of earshot, Harry called, “No, I’m leaving because of you two.”

Cisco bit his cheek to hold back a snicker. “Nice,” he whispered.

“Why do you find this so funny?” Hartley demanded. “We’re supposed to be working.”

“Working on what?” Cisco gestured around. “I’ve got seven different programs running simulations on how to get Barry out of the Speed Force and three more trying to find Caitlin. Wally and Jesse can take care of themselves, ‘cause nothing unusual is happening out there. I’m bored. Teasing you is my only option.”

Hartley threw a pen at him, and he stopped it with a small Vibe blast, not even bothering to catch it. “Figure something else out, or I’m going to join Harry.”

“You absolutely are not,” Harry shouted from a distance.

“Stop listening to our conversation!” Cisco shouted back. “I thought you were trying to get away from us!”

There was no response from Harry, so Hartley continued to press his point. “There’s always something to do, Cisco.”

Cisco grinned, suddenly getting an idea.

“No, don’t--”

“Or some--”

“Don’t say it.”

“Some one . Ayyyy?”

Hartley whimpered loudly and put his head down on the desk. “Please, I’m begging you. Just be quiet for two minutes. Two minutes. That’s all I’m asking.”

“Fine.” Cisco turned to his computer, pouting a little. Ten seconds later, he said, “Okay, but theoretically, would you be down to--”

“Francisco Ramon, if you don’t shut up, I’m turning down my hearing aids so I cannot hear you at all anymore,” Hartley threatened.

Yikes ,” Cisco said, and finally fell silent.


“Sorry if I was being a little bit too much today,” Cisco said as he unlocked the door. “I was kind of--” To his surprise, he was abruptly being pushed against the wall by his shoulders as the door closed behind them. He barely had time to react before Hartley’s lips were against his and he was being kissed with desperate intensity.

“You need,” Hartley said as he pulled away for a second before going back to the kiss for a few seconds and then coming away again. “To stop saying things like that in front of everyone.”

Cisco stared breathlessly. “Wh-which things?” he stammered.

All of them, oh, my god .” Hartley kept him pinned against the wall and kissed him again. “Every single fucking word that came out of your mouth today just made me want to…” He couldn’t seem to say more than a sentence before having to kiss Cisco again.

“So what you’re saying,” Cisco said, grabbing Hartley’s waist and spinning around to pin Hartley against the wall instead, “is that I should be a sarcastic, obnoxious ass who makes terrible jokes more often?”

“That is the opposite of what I said.”

“But it got this kind of a reaction out of you, which is telling me I should do it more often,” Cisco pointed out.

“Shut up and kiss me, you asshole.” Hartley buried his hands in Cisco’s hair to pull his head forward.

Cisco could feel his entire body reacting to this kiss, and he knew he wanted to take it further. “Bedroom?” he managed to ask.

“Yes, fuck , yes,” Hartley replied.

Without further hesitation, Cisco pulled Hartley along by the arm and practically threw him down onto the bed. He kept hold of Hartley’s wrists and pinned them above his head against the pillows. Hartley looked up at him, breathing heavily. “Keep in mind, I'm still fairly broken,” Cisco reminded him quickly. “So just...don't be too rough with me.”

“Yeah, of course. The same restrictions don't apply to me,” Hartley hinted.

Cisco laughed and leaned down to kiss him. “Oh? Noted.” He let go of Hartley’s wrists to trail his hands down Hartley’s chest before slowly unbuttoning his shirt.

Hartley closed his eyes and bit his lip as Cisco continued to deliberately drag out the time it took to remove Hartley’s shirt. “Oh, my god.”

“Hush, now. All in good time,” Cisco whispered.

“Mmm-hmm,” Hartley managed. His breath hitched as Cisco placed his hands on his now-bare sides, ever so slowly moving them up to his chest and then bringing one hand up to touch his lips with one finger. Cisco’s finger traced all the way around his open mouth lightly. Hartley opened his eyes to see Cisco staring down at him with a fiery expression in his eyes. “What?” he asked.

“I'm just thinking of all the ways I could wreck you right now,” Cisco told him.

Of all the things Cisco could have said, that one was definitely the worst. Or maybe best? Hartley wasn't sure, but he did know that he could barely breathe now. “Oh, yeah?” he asked weakly.

“Oh, yeah.” Cisco smiled at him mischievously. Oh, he knew exactly what he was doing to Hartley, and he wasn't going to stop there. “Yeah, I'm wondering what the best way is to make you scream my name so loudly that it makes the neighbors worried.”

“Holy shit, Cisco…”

“Shhh.” Cisco settled onto his knees, straddled over Hartley’s thighs. He reached for the zipper of Hartley’s pants, carefully watching Hartley’s face for any signs of discomfort or apprehension, but when all he saw was pleasure and anticipation, he continued. “Shhh, now. It's alright. You're not going to remember your own name after I'm through with you, but don't worry. I'll take care of you.”

Hartley cried out softly, Cisco’s hands touching him and making him want more , until he could barely think. “Cisco, oh my god…”

“What did I say?” Cisco murmured, nothing in his voice other than calm steadiness that left no doubt as to who was in charge. “Hush, Hartley. No need to make a scene, is there?”

“N-no,” Hartley agreed instantly. It had been a question, but he had no choice about the answer. He lost himself in a whirl of sensation and Cisco’s voice telling him to keep being good and quiet, now, that's it.

“If you're going to scream my name, you'd better start now,” Cisco said, breathing hard. “No more quiet, Hartley. We're both almost undone, aren't we?”

For fuck’s sake, even on the edge of an orgasm, he's the most suave and collected man I've ever been with . “Oh, god, Cisco…” Hartley whined. “Cisco, please, Cisco--Oh! Cisco!”

“That's it, baby, tell me about it,” breathed Cisco. “Hartley…” He shuddered with a moan, and Hartley let out a loud cry.

“Cisco!” There were tears on his cheeks, and he went limp as his body fell into a post-pleasure stupor. The proverbial smoke cleared slowly. Cisco was stroking his chest, smiling down at him.

“Good?” he asked quietly. “You look happy, but I just want to check.”

“Uhhh...yeah. Good.” Hartley reached up to tuck a strand of Cisco’s hair behind his ear. “You?”

“Very much so.” Cisco’s eyes were half closed with satisfaction, not tiredness. “Join me in the shower before sleep?”

“Sure.” Hartley let Cisco pull him up into a sitting position and then onto his feet. Almost entwined together, they stepped into the shower.

The water was cold at first, and Hartley yelped. Cisco laughed and pulled him close to kiss him. “Shhh. It heats up fast.”

It did, and Hartley leaned against the tile wall as Cisco washed his hair. “How are you not as sleepy as I am?” he mumbled, blinking water out of his eyes.

“Because you have a dick, and I do not,” Cisco said. He reached out to poke Hartley’s stomach.

Hartley squeaked and pulled away, almost slipping. Cisco caught him with one hand before he could fall, not even stopping rinsing his hair out with his other hand.

“Careful there.”

“Thanks for the advice.” Hartley shook his head bemusedly. “You never cease to amaze me.”

“Aww. That's sweet.” Cisco wrapped his arms around Hartley’s waist and pulled him close. “Come here, I want you to smell like my shampoo tomorrow.”

Hartley closed his eyes as Cisco rubbed shampoo into his hair. “You know, this is great and all, but all I can think about is Boyle from Brooklyn-99 saying that washing someone’s hair is the most intimate thing you can do with them.”

Cisco snickered. “My god, you really are a total dork.”

“Hey, B99 is a great show.”

“I'm not disagreeing, but I am asking you to be quiet for a minute so I can kiss you.” Cisco held him tightly, the warm water from the shower head spraying down on them both, soaking them as they kissed.

“Real question, do people actually have shower sex?” Hartley asked as they both finished rinsing off and Cisco turned off the water. “Because I can't imagine it would go well. Someone would end up slipping and falling and dying.”

“That would kill the mood, wouldn't it?” Cisco agreed. He shook a towel out and tossed it around Hartley’s shoulders, using it to pull him in for another kiss. “Dry off, darling.” Cisco turned to the mirror and started twisting his hair up into a loose bun.

The steam on the mirror began to clear. Hartley stood behind Cisco with the towel draped around himself. Without his glasses, the reflection was blurry. He put his arms around Cisco’s waist and rested his chin on his shoulder. “You're lovely.”

“Hmm, I know.” Cisco smiled into the mirror and kept washing his face. “Do you want to go get in bed and wait?”

“No, I want to stay right here with you.” Hartley caressed Cisco’s side gently.

“You're getting so much better at this whole touching thing,” Cisco observed.

“I've had a pretty good teacher.” Hartley yawned and nestled his face against Cisco’s neck.

Cisco took pity on him. “Oh, come on, you. Let's get you into bed.” He led Hartley back to the bed and sat him down after tossing the strewn clothing into the laundry basket in the corner. “Lie down, darling. Go on to sleep.”

Hartley curled up under the sheet, appreciating the smooth coolness of the fabric against his bare skin. Cisco sat down next to him after a minute. “Hey, so...what you did earlier, it was...it was really good.” He could feel a little bit of heat rising to his cheeks as he admitted it.

“Oh, yeah, I could tell.” Cisco settled down as the big spoon, his hands rubbing lightly over Hartley’s tummy. “You like it when I take control, huh?”

“I guess,” Hartley mumbled.

“Oh, come on. ‘I guess’? That was more than an ‘I guess’,” Cisco teased. One of his hands rested over Hartley’s hip and he squeezed softly, moving his thumb in a circle over the skin.

Hartley squirmed. “Cisco!”

“Ticklish?” Cisco wriggled his fingers against Hartley’s belly as Hartley giggled breathlessly.

“Stop it!”

“Why? That's adorable!” Cisco exclaimed.

“Because I want to sleep,” Hartley gasped out. “Please?”

“Oh, alright.” Cisco stopped tickling him and just pulled him a little closer. “Goodnight, darling.”

“Sweet dreams,” Hartley murmured in response. He was almost asleep after just a few moments of listening to Cisco’s soft breathing, wondering how the hell he managed to get this lucky.

“Hey, Hart?” Cisco whispered suddenly.

“Huh, what?” mumbled Hartley, barely awake.

“I’m really glad you’re here right now.”

“An’ I‘m glad to be here, Cisco. I’m glad to be here.” And he really was, too.