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Retreat

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It was a quiet Friday morning in STAR labs. Sunlight streamed in through the skylights and Cisco sat typing at his computer in the Cortex. Harry was working at the little workbench he had set up for himself in the heart of the building, staying close in case Barry should need his help that morning. He had come back after a long evening searching for Jesse. There were deep shadows under eyes highlighted by the dawn's light. He tinkered with a device at the desk almost distractedly.

 Caitlin walked in, looking refreshed. “So, has there been any work for Barry yet?”

 “Not yet,” Cisco murmured.

 Harry sneezed.

 They both looked at their resident shadow, the man who currently sat sniffling while working on his micro tech.

 “Your Earth 2 immune system not doing so hot?” Cisco called over to him.

 Harry shrugged, unable to be provoked into responding so early in the morning.

 Cisco turned to Caitlin. “I've been thinking, we should have retreat tonight. The van's loaded up and Barry's got nothing going on.”

 “What about Iris?” Caitlin asked.

 “Don't know, but we could always bring someone else in case she can't make it. We can bring Harry if he doesn't spread his cold around.” He turned slightly in his chair to call out to Wells. “Hey, Harry. Go with us to our field tonight.”

 Harry raised his head, squinting tiredly at them.

 “There's going to be Coast City pizza and music, dude. You don't want to miss it.”

 Harry coughed quietly and shrugged, going back to work.

 “Was that a yes?” Caitlin turned to Cisco.

 Cisco looked nonplussed. “I don't know. I haven't managed to translate Harry speak this early yet. He's really quiet in the mornings. It's kind of nice.”

 Caitlin shot her coworker a disapproving look.

 “Hey, at least we aren't biting each others heads off.”

 The computer terminal beeped.

 Cisco picked up his phone and speed dialed the first person on his contact list, eyes on his computer screen. “Barry, there's a high speed chase going on on I77 near exit 34.”

 “Okay.”

 They spent the next few minutes engaged in watching and occasionally advising Barry. The speedster pulled his car shut down trick that he kept up his sleeve for this kind of instance. It involved manuevering the vehicle over and stealing the key in the span of a couple of seconds. Barry soon had the situation under control and he managed to hand the criminal over to the CCPD.

 “Hey Barry, what do you think about having retreat tonight?” Cisco asked

 Not even winded, Barry answered back. “I don't think Iris can make it. She's working on a big story.”

 “That's okay, we were going to take Harry as our fourth person.”

 “He agreed?” Barry asked in bewilderment.

 “I mean, yeah. I think so. He's got a cold but he's more or less coherent. His shrugs usually mean yes.”

 “Uh, okay. What's the plan for tonight? Are we bringing the camp cooker?”

 “No, I figured you could pick up some pizza.”

 “Oh, has the novelty of roasting marshmallows and cheese sandwiches over a fire worn off?” Barry asked teasingly.

 “Never, dude. It just looks like it might rain. We'll leave by 7:30. I'm going to bring my guitar, so brush up on your tunes if we're going to impress Caitlin,” Cisco told him.

 Harry listened detachedly to the exchange, thinking back to the trio's previous retreat plans. They had never invited Harry, but he had always been otherwise occupied with the search for Jesse.

 He had always rolled his eyes, perceiving these monthly retreats as a waste of time. He was unsurprised that they had returned to work the next day exhausted, Ramon yawning close to his ear. However, there was an inexplicable ease to their interactions after those nights spent together. He caught Ramon and Snow grinning broadly to themselves the next few days. Perhaps there was something to relaxing out in their field, close enough to the coast to get an updraft of salty breeze.

 They always brought a guest, either Iris or a date. Now that it was Harry's turn he saw no reason to reject the invitation. Perhaps some part of him was curious about what exactly they got up to. Another more worn part of him longed for Jesse's company. They each reminded him of her in their own way. He had to admit to himself that he was drawn to that youthful enthusiasm.

 He could almost hear her in his head. “Be nice, dad,” she scolded fondly. He always endeavored to do as she asked.

 


 

 Harry sneezed from the backseat of the STAR labs van. Cisco shot him an unreadable look but made no remark. Caitlin turned in her seat.

 “Are you warm enough, Harry?” Her hand hovered over the heating controls of the van.

 In a subtle show of gentlemanly behavior he had surrendered shotgun to her.

 “I'm fine, Snow,” he gave her a wan smile.

 An upbeat song played in the background. Harry turned his attention to the landscape drifting by. It was starting to grow more desolate. There were less trees and more scrubby bushes. He saw a hint of green ocean water on the horizon

 “How did you find this place?” Harry asked curiously.

 Cisco smiled. “I was testing out a sonic wave device away from civilization. After that Barry used to bring us there just to hang out or have a private conversation.”

 The van started slowing down.

 “We're here,” Cisco announced.

 At first glance the place was unimpressive. It was a field covered with semi-tall grass and gently sloping hills. They drove up an overgrown gravel path and parked close to the road. Caitlin got out first.

 “I never understand why you don't let me drive when we take the van. I like driving,” she told Cisco.

 “I do too. But I'm a mechanical engineer, it's like my thing. I won't even let Barry drive it when he's not saving the world.”

 Harry helped Cisco dig out items in the back, including blankets and his guitar.

 “When's Barry showing up?” Caitlin asked.

 Cisco checked his watch. “Any minute now.”

 Caitlin peeked into the back. “Oh, my popcorn is still back here.”

 “I thought those were bio samples or something.”

 “No, it's just caramel and cheddar popcorn in metal containers. I picked them up a couple of days ago.”

 “Classy,” Cisco said approvingly, stealing a handful of caramel popcorn.

 A whoosh of lightning crackled through the air and suddenly Flash was standing beside them holding several pizza boxes aloft. He was decked out in his suit with a backpack slung over his shoulder. This time he looked ever so slightly winded. It was a long distance to run back and forth and he had to wear the suit so as to not catch on fire.

 “You guys order pizza?” He grinned, handing the boxes over to Harry.

 Barry retreated to do a quick change of clothes. At that moment Harry felt another sneeze coming on. He turned away just in time to avoid everyone and the food.

 “Whew, nice save,” Cisco commented. “You should probably give those to me though.” Cisco reached for the pizza boxes.

 “No,” Harry said simply and walked with Caitlin and Barry out further into the field.

 He smiled internally as he heard Cisco call him a few choice names behind his back. Sometimes he lived for tormenting Cisco. It was too entertaining.

Caitlin and Barry started spreading blankets out on the grass. The crickets were already chirping and several purple clouds drifted lazily across the sky overhead. It was a relatively clear night with no signs of the predicted rain. They sat down and ate, only making conversation at intervals. When they finished Ramon sat back with a groan.

 “I don't know how you eat so much food, man,” he directed at Barry.

 Barry shrugged, finishing off his sixth slice of pizza. “I use it up. Aren't you supposed to be playing for us?” Barry pointed at his acoustic.

 “Give it to me,” Harry reached for the guitar, trusting that Barry would respond to the command.

 “No!” Cisco whined as Barry handed the instrument over. “He's going to throw it or something.”

 Harry chuckled, still congested. “Relax, Ramon. I know what I'm doing.”

 They discovered that Harry did indeed know what he was doing. He spent a few minutes tuning the instrument before he played a soft melody. Barry's eyes were wide and Caitlin smiled.

 “I learned in college. I still play occasionally for my daughter.”

 Cisco sighed, still uptight but grudgingly enjoying the tune. They let him play quietly for a while until Cisco made grabby hands for the guitar. Harry surrendered the guitar almost reluctantly.

 Cisco plucked at the strings. “Get ready to be serenaded.”

 Caitlin laughed softly and Barry waited, smiling. Cisco started strumming on his guitar. There was a dramatic pause before he began singing.

 “Summer loving had me a blast.”

 Caitlin gave a high pitched wail and covered her face. Barry's expression lit up like a Christmas tree and he joined in singing the next lyrics.

 “Summer loving happened so fast. I met a girl crazy for me. Met a boy cute as can be.”

 Caitlin's face was flushed and she was visibly pouting at the both of them. Cisco caved first and stopped strumming.

 “Alright, alright. Someday you guys really have to tell me the story behind that one.”

 “I am never telling you that story,” Caitlin said. “You promised, Barry.”

 Barry held up his hands, looking innocent. “I did promise.”

 “Yo, got any requests, Harry?” Cisco asked.

 Harry sniffled, eyeing their antics with a raised eyebrow. “If I remember correctly you were unappreciative of my taste in music other than my playing.”

 “I know what you should play!” Barry interrupted.

 “No Lady Gaga, dude.”

 “I wasn't going to-” Barry started to protest.

 “Bad Romance,” Caitlin cut in.

 “Really?” Cisco shot them an exasperated look but with a hint of fondness. Barry shrugged.

 “Okay.”

 Caitlin flopped back on the grass, gaze going up to the sky. Barry joined her. Harry remained seated as he listened to Cisco's voice. The song was mostly done Acapella with only occassional guitar accompaniment. Harry could not recall the tune, but the music was casual and it resonated through the air as the breeze whipped by them. Harry smiled softly for a moment. He wished that Jesse could be here for the gathering; she would have enjoyed this sort of get together immensely.

 Cisco played for a while, during which time Barry wolfed down more popcorn. Soon, he started up a whispering conversation with Caitlin.

 To his surprise, Barry waved him over to join them. Cisco's playing died down to just random string plucking. He crept in too. The three younger individuals lay on their backs on the grass. Harry scooted up to them, about to ask what their discussion was about.

 “Hey, we were wondering about what sort of constellations you have on your Earth.” Barry said. “Does the sky look pretty much the same?”

 “Well, let me see.” Wells maneuvered more slowly onto his back. The movement triggered a small coughing fit.

 Barry started pulling up the blankets more securely around Harry's shoulders as he turned his attention toward the night sky. Only a part of his attention remained focused on Barry's strange actions. Then he remembered Barry's former mentor, the mentor he had come to trust and who had played the part of a man with a major disability. He supposed that sort of memory might bring out protective instincts in the young speedster. Harrison did not try to protest or shake him off. Barry had been betrayed enough by the other man with his face.

 Clearing his throat, Harrison started picking out important stars and constellations. He compared them aloud with the input of the other three. It seemed that their Earths still had the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper, as well as Leo and Regulus. There were a few that differed from their Earth, such as the Cyclops. Barry ended up finding Sirius.

 As they studied the stars Harry felt his eyelids grow heavier and heavier. He gave several steady slow blinks as he listened to the others get sidetracked. They were talking about the Greek and Roman myths behind the stars that ended up somehow evolving into a discussion about favorite childhood fairy tales.

 Laying next to Barry was similar to lounging near a heater. His extraordinarily high metabolism made him a human furnace, one that his friends seemed to be taking full advantage of. Caitlin had her head pressed up by Barry's waist and Cisco had gotten closer to Barry's outstretched arm. Harry was getting a good dose of heat through his blanket. It was doing nothing to help keep him awake.

 After a long pause in the conversation he heard Caitlin whisper, “I think Harry's asleep.”

 There was some shifting on Caitlin's other side.

 “Awww. He doesn't look like he's going to bite my head off,” Cisco said in a sugary voice.

 “Maybe I should take him home,” Barry murmured. “He's shivering.”

 The breeze had picked up and it was gusting strongly against Harry's vulnerable side. Harry remained unmoving during their conversation, teetering on the edge of slumber.

 “Nah man, he's wiped. Let him sleep so he doesn't go all grumpy bear on us. Get the extra blanket.”

 “I've got it,” Caitlin shifted and dragged the spare cover over. She threw it to Barry, who in turn tucked it gently around Harry, careful not to disturb him.

 They all settled back down, Barry still close to his side. The extra heat is what sent Wells off to sleep, catching him up on some much needed rest. In his frantic search for his daughter he had been putting off sleep until he crashed at STAR labs every couple of days. Now he went off to sleep without a second thought, warm and in familiar surroundings.

 


 

 Harry came to in his cot back at STAR labs. He blinked, disoriented for a moment until he realized that Barry must have brought him back after falling asleep in the field outside Coast City. He sniffed and coughed cautiously, realizing that his sinuses and congestion had cleared up. The extra rest must have done his body some good.

 Last night had been...interesting. He remembered Ramon and Allen's singing voices echoing across the landscape and the way they had all teased each other comfortably. It was hardly a wild college night, but Wells had never been one to drink heavily and celebrate. He swore to himself that next time he would bring Jesse with him. He would find her and bring her home, home to her family and friends.


 

The End