Wednesday, March 23, 2016
He really did have to give Thawne credit for the theater of it all. Even in the middle if the day, the Cortex could be seriously creepy when it was empty. Even with his music blasting while he worked, Cisco couldn't quite ward off the creep factor.
Time had crept by since Barry had rushed out of the labs in his little temper tantrum, and they'd all been left in an awkward state of shock.
Iris had taken Caitlin home, no one quite sure what to say with her, dealing with their own levels of betrayal, and hopefully by now they we're having some seriously strong drinks and passing out.
Joe had stayed long enough to help him clean up the broken glass before heading in to work, leaving Cisco alone with the eerie silence. He should have been used to it by now. More than the others he felt possessive of the labs, spent the most time there.
But now there was a new level of unsettling in the air.
It's Jay. He's Zoom.
The words kept echoing in his head. The man who had just walked in here, seemingly bland and harmless, and made a place for himself as their friend and ally, was the nightmare that had been chasing them for months. Over and over he kept remembering the darkness, the crackling blue lightning, and the cold, hard expression on Jay's face.
Hadn't they already been through this one? The kindly mentor who gained their trust that turned out to be an evil speedster? Was this some kind of recurring cosmic joke? How many lies, how much deception, did they have to go through?”
Maybe it was just compounded now, but somehow it felt darker, more malignant than it had with Thawne. Reverse Flash had been a person. Obsessed, batshit crazy, but a person, seeking revenge for what he considered a betrayal. Crazy, but human.
Thawne had done so much to Barry, to Ronnie, to him, but somehow he wasn't as purely terrifying as Zoom.
Maybe it was the yellow? Hard to be scary in yellow. Nah, bees were still scary as all hell. And wasn't Reverse Flash just a giant bumble bee, really?
Of course, that would make Zoom a wasp, which was really just the asshole of the insect world. Wasps were made of evil and spite, which did seem to suit. And those solid black ones were just super creepy.
And somehow, putting a face to Zoom only made it worse, made him real. And he'd really been too damn close to them all for comfort.
And they'd called Harry “Dr. Wells: the sequel”. The irony was crisp.
It seemed like trying to work to distract himself was a bust. His thoughts just kept circling back to Zoom, no matter how much he puttered around. He'd checked out Trajectory’s suit, which had been an interesting piece, even if the fitting and material wasn't up to his standards. He'd already gone over it for trace remnants of Eliza, which was morbid as hell if he thought too hard about it. But Caitlin would want to go over them later. He knew when she was feeling up to it, she would want to bury herself in her work. It was a coping mechanism he understood all too well. And if he was frustrated and angry, he couldn't even imagine how she was feeling now.
Was it wrong that he'd been happier when they'd just thought Jay was dead? If he ever got his hands on the asshole, he'd make Reverb look like a tame kitten.
Annoyed with his own looping thoughts, he finally gave up the ghost on focusing. There was no point in checking the scanners for meta activity; Barry was still AWOL and there was no telling when he would be back. Besides, they'd already been up all night; it had to be past noon now. Everyone needed sleep. But he needed to lick his wounds, and he did that best here, burying himself in the workshop or bickering with Harry.
Where the hell had Harry gotten to, anyway?
He had to have slipped away early while they were all still reeling, and too distracted to notice. Hell, Harry had to be livid. He hated Jay from the get-go, and never bothered to hide it. To find out the man who had held and tortured his daughter for nearly a year had been laughing in their faces the whole time.
Honestly, they should have all taken a page from his book and been more suspicious, which was hilarious, in a horrible way. Out of everyone, Harrison freaking Wells was the trustworthy one. Oh sure, he'd lied, and snuck around, but he had just been trying to save Jesse. And when things had gone South, he up and confessed. He never pretended to be their friend or like them, or be anything other than what he was, which was kind of a jerk. He'd never tried to hurt anyone.
Well, except Turtle.
But if there was anyone right now who could commiserate with him and distract him, he'd be damned if it wasn't Harry.
And hey, Reverb's goggles were starting to collect dust down in the workshop. He'd been avoiding them like the plague since coming back from Earth 2 and come up with all sorts of excuses for himself. There was time, Zoom was trapped, his own goggles worked fine here. But honestly he didn't know a thing about his double’s gear.
He'd been so afraid of his powers, and what Reverb represented, the temptation he offered, that he'd been too afraid to even put them on. Maybe if he had sucked it up back at the beginning and explored what he had, they could have avoided all this mess coming, been prepared for it.
He could sure as hell do something about it now. Maybe figure out the differences between Reverb goggles and his own. Learn how to blast things like him. Blasting Jay would be hella satisfying, and computers and one-liners could only take a man so far. And Barry needed all the backup he could get.
Putting the computers on standby for the night, he headed out of the cortex. If he was lucky, he could pry Harry away from Jessie for a couple hours of work and experimentation. They could trade insults and snipe at each other and burn off the worst of their frustration. He would never admit just how much a treasured part of his daily routine working with Harry had become.
Having the other man's razor sharp mind to bounce ideas off of was a thrill. It didn't even occur to him that Harry might have gone to sleep. Bad sleeping habits were just another thing they had in common.
He was halfway down the corridor to Chéz Wells when a familiar crash made him grin.
It was probably a bad sign that the sound of destruction had become a commonplace thing in his life. But crashes and breaking just added to the list of weird things that had become normal in his life.
Still, he was used to hearing it come from the workshop, not domestic residences.
Reaching the open door, he peered into the room and saw only Harry inside. Standing over the fallen remains of a small side table, the man was one tall, long line of tension, and looked a little bit breathless.
He could practically visualize the man shoving the poor furniture over in a fit of anger, no vibe necessary. It made his lips twitch. Good, predictable Harry.
He announced his presence with a low whistle, leaning against the door frame, and watched Harry's head jerk up.
“Good one. Gonna be a bitch to clean up, though.” He raised his brows in an impressed expression. There was no need to ask what had set him off; there were plenty of options to choose from. He was a little surprised that Harry was by himself, though.
“Jesse not back yet?” He'd been too distracted before to think it odd that she's gone out at such a time, when they were all caught up in the revelation. But now that he was thinking about it, all sorts of alarm bells were going off. Since when did Harry let Jesse go out anywhere by herself, anyway? And in the middle of a crisis, and right after she was nearly killed? That made no kind of sense.
The look on Harry's face, a blank sort of bitterness, very clearly told him that all was not right in the earth 2 section of the labs.
“She's not coming back.”
Danger, Will Robinson, Danger.
Cisco looked around the room once again, frowning, as though he expected the girl to pop out of a corner somewhere. It just didn't make any sense.
“I'm going to assume you didn't mean that in the creepy I killed her and dispose of the body sort of way.”
There was a sort of desperate hysteria in his tone that sounded dangerously close to cracking, and Cisco's heart went out to him.
Wordlessly, Harry picked up his watch from one of the beds and handed it over, hitting a button on it to play a recorded message.
He listen to Jesse's voice explaining why she was leaving and telling him not to come after her. When it was done, Cisco found himself scowling at the watch and consternation.
“All sounds very reasonable until you remember she's seventeen and on a completely new Earth.” There was a look of profound gratitude on Harry's face that told him he agreed.
“Even brilliant teenagers are still teenagers.”
“Which as we all know is a serious mental condition.” He smiled at him consolingly, then sighed. “What brought all this on?” It was an odd time for a teenage rebellion.
“She listened to my log recordings.” He gestured to the watch. “Found out about Glauson.”
It took a moment for the implication of that to sink in, then his stomach dropped. He sat down hard on a bed.
Harry's week laugh of agreement rang hollow, and the man sat down across from him. He didn't really know what to say to him. His own family was a mess. And really, Harry had killed a man. Not that any of them had actually said it out loud. There had been extenuating circumstances, and Turtle had been all kinds of twisted. But they had all been very deliberately “not thinking about it”.
“Look man, you did what you had to do, okay?” He hoped the words didn't sound as hollow to Harry as they did to him. The words “cool story, still murder” had never applied harder.
“Did I?” Harry's bitter voice made him shiver. “I could have come to you lot, asked for help. Gotten Snow to help me take less lethal samples.”
“Because unwilling human experimentation is so much better.”
“The point is all I managed to do was make Zoom stronger, and get Ms. West nearly killed.
Damn, dude definitely had a point. But there was at least one consolation that he could offer.
“And kept Jesse alive. You bought us the time we needed to get to her and save her. We all agreed we would have done the same for our families.”
“Saying and doing are two entirely different things. And apparently putting her life ahead of others is one more check against me.” Harry threw his hands up and got up to pace once more, on a roll now. “Apparently, giving Trajectory the V9 when she had a gun to my only child's head was the final straw.”
“Wait, wait, what? Literally any of us would have given it over if you hadn't.”
“Right?! But no, I'm too overprotective. It's not like she's my daughter and my only family. Or that she just spent eight months chained in a cell, or that we are on the run. No, I need to chill out and back off.”
Harry was clearly ranting now, though Cisco wasn't sure Harry was actually talking to him at this point. The explosion had clearly been building. But watching him gesture to the air and looking frazzled, Cisco thought he was actually seeing the real Harry for the first time.
And he liked it.
“Teenagers.” He offered in consolation, then got up to try and reign the man in. “Look, Harry, I've never been your biggest fan, but anyone can see this whole thing is a mess. You were being a dad. A good one. Liam Neeson would be proud. She'll come around eventually.”
Harry opened his mouth, then closed it.
“That might make you my biggest fan.”
Cisco had the grin at the concession, and patted his arm. “Then you really need help. Hey, why don't we get the hell out of here for a bit?” Obviously Harry needed a good outlet even more than he did at this point. “We can get some coffee, go back to my place, do some science.”
“What kind of science? I'm not helping you clean out your fridge.”
“Harsh man.” He warred with himself, weighing Harry's need against his own discomfort. It was a surprisingly easy battle.
“I wanted to test out Reverb’s goggles. Figure out how he was so much more advanced than I was.” He shrugged his shoulder. “It's something productive, you know?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I know.” Harry scrubbed a hand over his face, calming down. “All right, let's go.”
“For real?” Well, that was easy.
“A change of scenery would be nice. And caffeine. Lots and lots of caffeine.”
“Amen to that.” Cisco shifted gears and realigned his earlier plans. This was good. Positive. “Right. You get what you need, I'm gonna grab my stuff from the workshop.” A grin split his face as excitement welled. Jay might have messed them up, but he sure as hell couldn't keep them down.
“I'm regretting this already.” Harry decided, and Cisco's grin widened as he rushed for the door.
“I'll meet you outside!”
Not giving him a chance to change his mind, he ran down to his workshop, packing up both pairs of goggles and some of his tools. When he had everything he could think of, he headed for the exit. Harry would bite his head off if he made him wait too long.
The man was there with a bag of his own, skulking about the parking lot.
“I'm not sure if you look like a mugger, or a creep handing out candy to kids.” He teased, rocking back on his heels. Harry's expression was pure exasperation and it delighted him.
“Well, I've got a white van over there. I think I have Red Vines in it.”
“Dude, if the villains of this city had that kind of intel on my weaknesses, we'd all be in trouble.” He admitted, grinning
“Most super heroes aren't swayed with candy and Slurpees.”
“Hey, nobody's perfect. I could shut you down by changing the wifi password. Don't think I haven't noticed the Netflix activity.”
Harry stiffened slightly.
“That was Jesse.”
“The Disney movies, maybe. Fuller House? Yeah, no, that's all you, pal.”
Delighted with Harry's incriminating silence, Cisco walked ahead, pleased when Harry fell into step beside him. When had Harry's presence changed so thoroughly from grating to soothing? It didn't seem like that long ago just having him in the workshop kept Cisco completely tense and on edge. His temper sharp and bitter. They had been constantly bickering and butting heads. But now even that was fun. Familiar. Somehow Harry had actually become a friend. Harrison Wells was his friend. Serious Twilight Zone material there.
“There's a little coffee place a couple blocks down we can hit. This isn't prime-time TV, so Jitters is probably a little too risky.”
“Why do all the shows on your earth act like there is only one local hangout in the whole city?”
“Not enough budget for more sets.”
“On my earth we have CGI for all our sets. A couple pieces of generic furniture and we can make just about any setting.”
Cisco felt himself gaping at him.
“Nuh-uh. No way. Doesn't it look terrible? Television CGI is always so wonky.”
“The fake wall in my Time Vault uses the same rendering software.”
“No.” jealousy was alive and visceral thing inside of him, and he didn't bother to hide it. He wanted it. He wanted it bad. “There has to be a catch, though, or you would have bitched about it.” He looked at Harry suspiciously. “The acting is terrible, isn't it?”
Harry's lips quivered before a chuckle escaped.
“Oh God, it is.”
Cisco grinned triumphantly, immediately cheered.
“I should have known. Reverb and Frost were so crazy over the top. Your bad television ruined them.” He accused playfully. “We could be Gods,” my ass.”
“He said that?”
“Hell yeah, he did. When he wasn't undressing me with his eyes. Not that I can blame him for that.”
“Your narcissism clearly spreads across the Multiverse.”
“Wait, are you talking about me me, or him me?”
“Works both ways.”
“Yeah, all right Mr. Einstein's riddle. Like you can talk.”
“I'm not interested in getting myself naked.” Cisco couldn't quite keep the flush off his face.
“Well, when you look this fine, how can you help it?”
“I'm sure I'd manage. What have you learned about Reverb goggles so far?”
Oof, Well that was a buzz kill.
“Uh… They have blue lighting filters instead of green? And with that hair style his forehead looked huge.”
“Hey man, it's important information. Mistakes were made there. Though I have to admit that jacket was pretty sweet.” He gave a lusty sigh at the thought of it.
“The colors makes sense, at least.” Harry drew his attention back.
“The color blue resonates at a higher frequency than green on the visible spectrum, by up to 142 terahertz.” Cisco filed that away for later. “He had more control over his abilities.”
“That's an understatement. He said he'd been watching me. That we were all connected. I guess he meant me and... other mes. Of course, he also said he was going to take out Zoom, and we saw how that worked out for him.” He really didn't want to think about seeing himself being murdered again. “Dude was a lot of talk and hand blasts.” The subject of Reverb and his agenda was very unsettling. He barely gotten over being afraid of his powers turning him evil when Reverb had stirred all that up.
“You've never vibed any other versions of yourself?”
“Pretty sure I would have mentioned something like that.”
Harry scoff made him bristle.
“Oh right, of course you would. How silly of me. Like you mentioned having powers right away. Or that you've been vibing Zoom.”
He sputtered, but couldn't argue with that. His powers were such a sensitive topic that there was no way he would have spoken up.
“Would you want to know how many other versions of yourself are evil?” He protested. “At least you can say that evil Wells wasn't even you, but a crazy body snatcher. Reverb was actually me. An evil crazy me.”
Harry's expression with scrutinous and he felt vulnerable under that gaze.
“You're afraid of them?”
Cisco rubbed his arms and blamed the cool March air for the chill.
“I'm afraid of me.”
“That at least we have in common. Finding that our limits are much more fluid than we thought. Learning what we are capable of... Maybe Jesse was right to run away from me.”
He was sure his face couldn't fully express his disbelief.
“You're kidding, right? Protecting your daughter hardly makes you an evil mastermind. The monster is the asshole you were trying to save her from.” He stressed. He fully understood what a person would do for family. “I'd have done the same thing. I did the same thing.”
Harry looked at him in surprise, but didn't ask.
“Maybe we should do Irish coffee instead. The need for booze is rising.”
“If it makes you feel any better, Reverb was already a criminal before the accelerator. Gang activity, theft, assault. They didn't corrupt him, they just gave him a new weapon.”
He stopped to consider that, frowning as he imagined what would make him that way, but another thought surfaced.
“Wait, you knew about him?”
Harry had the grace to look sheepish.
“He has quite the reputation on my earth. I didn't connect you to him until you explained your powers. That, and your connection to Snow made it easy to put together.”
“But… when we went over there, why didn't you say anything, warn us about him?”
“I did say something. I said stop looking. Frost and Deathstorm had been open and prevalent in working for Zoom, but Reverb have completely fallen off the grid. I assumed he'd gone to ground to escape Zoom.” Harry dragged a hand through his hair.
“The plan was to get in, get Jesse, without ever being seen by Zoom or his minions. A surgical extraction.” the older man looked at him in frustration. “His life isn't your life. And knowing about him hasn't done you any favors.”
He wanted to argue, but he couldn't. The spectre of Reverb in his mind had kept him up more nights than he care to admit. But it still rankled.
“You're not him, Ramon. And in my experience, it's the people who aren't afraid of themselves that are the most dangerous. I used to be sure and smug that I was a good man doing good things. My earth called me a hero, and I believed it. We were all wrong.” They fell into a short silence before Cisco broke it gracelessly.
“What was it like?... Killing someone?”
The question sprung to his lips before he could stop it. Cisco was about to apologize for the sheer stupidity when Harry held up a hand to cut him off.
“Alcohol. A great deal of it.” He interjected. “There has to be a bar in this city seedy enough not to card a man with graying hair.”
Cisco was surprised, but immensely grateful that Harry hadn't simply bitten his head off for the question. This was the promise of a conversation he was not sure he was ready to have.
“If you think I haven't already made you five different fake ID, you severely underestimated me.” he joked, only not really, because he actually made seven. Two of them hadn't lived up to his standards. Digging into the bag at his hip, he pulled out a handful of laminated cards.
Picking one out, he handed it to him.
“Here you go, Tom. You look like a Tom.”
“I'm not sure how to take that.”
“It was either Tom or Dick. I'm feeling generous.” He offered with a grin.
“So I'm lumped together with every Tom, Dick, and Harry, am I?”
“Well, you're just so bland and ordinary.” Leave it to Harry to get his jokes.
“I hope you have money on you, because this ordinary Tom has nothing. Unless I can get on that payroll Allen has you all on.”
“Hey, we do work, man. And now you do work. You should get on that.” he urged shamelessly. “Of course, technically it's all Harrison Wells’ money, so you should totally have dibs.”
“I have no interest in my doppelganger’s fortune. Especially when it comes with an arrest warrant.”
“Valid choice.” He didn't mind footing the bill this once. It was a small price to pay for a distraction. Even if he was still stinging over the sixty-seven dollars Eliza had lifted off of him.
A quick search on his phone found them a bar that fit their needs. It was a low-slung brick building, with neon signs advertising beers, but no actual name of the establishment. It was run-down and grimy and perfect.
“I hope your tetanus shot is up to date.”
Inside, he took in the darkroom, sick with the smell of stale beer and fried food. It was clearly a dive, and not the kind to show up on the Food Network.
They settled in at the bar, and Harry signaled the bartender over.
“Jack and Coke, tall.”
Cisco considered the very pitiful selection.
“Patrón, and something resembling food.”
The bartender produced a pair of slightly sticky menus and Harry didn't do more than glance at his.
“Get the burger. Probably the safest thing.”
“We can't all be Burger addicts, man. Also, how the hell are you so skinny? With the way you eat you should look like Pizza the Hut.” He eyed him up and down critically, highly disturbed by what he saw. Harry looked good. “Ugh. I'll try the potato skins. Less chance of E coli.”
Harry shrugged off his complaints.
“I run.” He admitted. “I was going for my tenth marathon before… well, everything.”
He gave Harry a sideways look.
“Huh, yeah. The last guy with your face like to run, too.”
“I stick to mediocre human speeds.”
He looked Harry over again, somewhat against his will. Harry was long and lean and definitely did not have the body of a man who sat behind a desk all day. “Damn.”
There was something distinctly uncomfortable with the realization that Harry was hot.
“Damn, what? Damn the computer monitors have finally fried your brain? I'm afraid it was inevitable.”
“Okay, there we go. You're not hot anymore.” He sighed in relief, then froze. “Tell me I did not just say that out loud. Bartender! Really need that drink over here!”
He was acutely aware as Harry blinks slowly at him, then brought his hand up, rubbing his hand over his mouth in a baffled gesture Cisco recognized.
“I didn't say anything. I was just sitting here, minding my own business. Then I think I had a stroke, or was possessed by aliens. I don't know, it's all very unclear.” He stressed, staring at a water stain on the bar until, thank God, his drink was set in front of him and he happily poured himself into it.
Harry sipped his own drink quietly for a moment.
“It was... very simple, killing someone. Horrifyingly simple.”
Somehow, that seems like a much safer Topic at the moment, and Cisco grabbed onto it with both hands, even as his gut clinched. Though that could have been the tequila.
“Simple? How could it be?”
“I stopped looking at him as a person. He was something standing between me and Jesse. An obstacle. A means to an end.”
A means to an end.
He had to repress a shutter at those words in that voice. It was a different place, a different man.
“Did it… I don't even know what I want to ask.”
“Take your time, we've got all day.” Harry sighed. “It's not like I'm going anywhere.”
Cisco consider that for a moment.
“It's not like you have to stay here with us, you know.” He murmured. “You can do whatever you want. Tom could move to Midway City, design video game software, or write sci-fi novels. Or start a blog. You've got a whole new world here. You don't have to stick around if you don't want to.” Though the thought of Harry taking off, never to be heard from again, made his stomach lurch.
But thankfully Harry shook his head.
“I need to find Jesse, even if she wants nothing to do with me, I need to at least know where she is. And this might not be my world, but I'm similarly responsible for a city full of metas. I need to help.” He sipped his drink, then smiled wryly. “I did design a video game once, actually. It was terrible.”
Cisco gaped at him slightly. “I can't imagine you making a bad game.”
“The programming was perfect. The game was terrible.”
“It is now my mission in life to play this game.” He decided.
“You will not be playing the Pony Simulator I built for Jessie when she was six. Fortunately, the code is long-dead on another world, and will never see the light of day.”
“Hey, no program ever truly dies. I will find it. And I will laugh.” He warned, then smiled. “But you made your kid a pony sim. You are like the dadliest dad. Is Full House your instruction manual? You need a sitcom, dude.”
“We’ve established I'm not prime-time material, Ramon. I drove my daughter to run off for Parts Unknown with no way of finding her.”
“She's a teenager, man. One who has been through a hell of a lot. She'll be back.” He assured. “Don't worry.”
“Oh, don't worry about it? I feel so much better now.” Harry's tone turned impressively scathing. Last time I checked, you weren't a father to anything more than a Tamagotchi with a dead battery.”
“You leave Bill out of this!” He sputtered, then shook his head. “I might not be a parent, but I've had a few of them. And the best one punched a hole through my chest. Jesse knows you love her, and she loves you. She'll be back.”
Harry looked at him blankly for a moment before nodding.
“God, we’re a mess.” Harry reached for his drink as it was refilled. “Fuck our lives.”
“Word.” He talked back his own drink, closing his eyes as he reeled slightly from it, letting it settle in his system. This wasn't nearly as fun as getting drunk should have been. Sitting there, in a grungy bar with Harry, venting his spleen, should have been cathartic, but it just left him feeling off-kilter. “You know what's really sad?”
“I'd rather be hanging out with you than him.” He wasn't sure what the implications of that were. He hadn't had nearly enough drinks to handle it. “You're more fun.”
“Well, I'm not planning on killing everyone you love, so the bar is a bit low, but I'll take it.”
Snorting softly, Cisco leaned against the bar. The drinks had him comfortably warm, and his tongue a bit looser.”
“I couldn't argue with him. He was all friendly patience and calm and reasonable. I didn't realize it was because he was playing us the whole time.”
“Shades of Dark Helmet with his dolls?”
The image forced a chuckle from him and made him grin. “Yeah, just like that. It's more fun having someone I can bitch at.”
“He also had power over you.” Harry pointed out, eyeing him over his own drink. “He was your boss, your mentor, father figure. He was holding all the cards, and playing a rigged deck. You and I don't have any cards between us.”
“More like 52 card pickup.” He agreed, and gave Harry a lopsided smirk. “For what it's worth, I'm glad you're here.”
“Thank you… I suppose you're not completely annoying.”
Cisco stared for a moment before rolling his eyes.
“Dude, we need to work on your social skills. I'll take that as a compliment.” And the warmth in his stomach was from the tequila, and not crappy, backhanded compliments.
“If you want sweetness, go drinking with Snow. You fish for compliments off this pier, expect a boot.”
I think you're mixing your metaphors.” He frowned, his thoughts tangled. “I like sour, anyway.”
“Bitter is more accurate.” There was a pause before Harry shifted, and turned towards him. “Tell me something about you. Something I don't know.”
Blinking, Cisco eyed him curiously. Harry wanted to know more about him? That was... Nice.
“Uhh.. I can sing.”
”Karaoke doesn't count as actual singing.”
“Don't look down on karaoke, man. It's a glorious art form of making a fool of yourself.” he insisted was a sniff. “For real, though. My parents hoped I would get into music like Dante. The concert pianist.” He snorted. “You can guess who the favorite son is there. Unfortunately for them, I was more interested in turning the toaster into a rocket then tidying up and singing pretty.”
“Ah, I can see that” Harry chuckled briefly. “In my own fit of teenage rebellion, I took up the guitar. Made my father furious. He wanted me to focus on my studies and get a stable job.”
“Guitar and quantum physics. You must have driven him up the walls. Fitting, though. They go well together.”
“Music and math; the languages of the universe.”
“Amen.” He eyed Harry with renewed interest. Thawne had good music taste, but he was cold, reserved. Harry had passion.
“Were you any good?”
“That's debatable. Sometimes I still… did still play at night when I'm trying to work through a problem, or just unwind.”
He wanted to see it, he decided, hear it. He could imagine Harry letting his guard down, intensely focused on his cords, losing himself. Harry's focus was a thing of beauty.
“Almost wish I had a guitar stashed someplace at home.”
“I try not to be the asshole at parties playing Wonderwall.”
“Good to know some concepts are universal.”
The food arrived and Cisco let himself be distracted. Two drinks in, it almost looked appetizing. Speaking of which- he signaled the bartender for another round, figuring they might as well make an event of it before sloshing back to his place.
“So,” he picked up the dropped conversation. “You find other ways to be an asshole?” He quipped, and took a cautious bite of potato skin.
“It works for me.” Harry looked at him sidelong, then smirked. “Apparently it works for you, too.”
The insinuation had him swallowing hard around his second bite, and his eyes watered as he forced it down in an attempt not to choke. Slowly, he turned to look at Harry for a long, pointed moment.
“I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.”
He attempted to stare Harry down, but the man was much better at it, and he wanted to squirm, and clearly Harry knew it.
“Your poker face is embarrassing.”
“That's not embarrassing. You haven't seen embarrassing yet, man.” He insisted with a huff. “Wait until I've had a third drink, then you'll see embarrassing.” That said, he reached for his newly refilled glass.
“What happens after the third drink? Do you turn into Sailor Moon?”
“One: Earth 2 has Sailor Moon? Two: you could only wish to see me in a mini skirt. My legs are a national treasure, pal.” he insisted, waving his glass in Harry's direction. “Four drinks in, I might actually put one on.”
Harry stared at him for a long moment before slowly dragging his gaze down Cisco's body, staring at his pant-covered legs before moving back to his face. Cisco had to suck in a breath, and cleared his throat loudly. “Anyway, third drink makes you still sexy despite the crappy attitude.”
“Apparently you thought that before the first drink.”
“You were being unusually sociable.”
Harry frowned at him briefly.
“You do know I'm old enough to be your father, right? I haven't aged that well.”
“Twice my age, exactly!” Cisco offered helpfully, watching Harry grimace. Amused, and pleasantly buzzed, he studied him. “Looks good on you.”
Harry dragged a hand over his face.
“How much of this are you going to regret tomorrow?” He demanded, and it was an interesting question.
“Mm. About sixty-two percent if you shut me down. Fifteen if it goes somewhere. A hundred percent if you tell anyone ever.”
Harry jerked slightly beside him.
“You want this to go somewhere.” He realized quietly. “Is inviting me to work at your place you are way of asking me to look at your etchings?”
Cisco stared at his feet for a moment as he contemplated it. Talking wasn't nearly as fun as bickering.
“Didn't start that way.” He insisted, perilously close to whining. “I just wanted to do cool science-y things and maybe watch movies, so we don't have to think about crap. There's something to be said for Netflix and chill, though.”
“I have no idea what that means.”
“Usually it's sex, or close to it, on the couch while pretending to watch a movie.” He explained. “It's risky, though, because if the sex sucks, it's a waste of a movie, and if the movie sucks, it kills the mood.”
“Ah. Of course.” Maybe it was his imagination, or the tequila, but Harry sounded distinctly amused. “Let's table the risk for the night. While chill does have some appeal, I'd rather make that decision sober.”
Cisco spun his stool towards him, gaping slightly. He hadn't expected that at all. The idea that Harry might be down to get down was a shock. And a thrill.
“For real? Like for real for real? I… don't think I'm mentally prepared for this.” He decided.
“I still have my concerns. Such as the fact that we barely tolerate each other.”
“Harsh.” Cisco frowned to himself at the sting of it through the haze of tequila. Staring down his glass, he was half tempted to shove it off the bar. “Is that how you really feel? That I'm just something to tolerate?” He demanded.
“I'd assumed that's how you felt.”
“... I do like you. Sometimes.” He grumbled his admission reluctantly. “I mean, you're seriously a dick, but sometimes it's pretty funny. And you're ridiculously smart, and you can talk in movies. And you just… get it.” tolerated wasn't the most flattering thing he'd ever heard, but Harry was nothing but honest.
There was an uncomfortable silence as Harry took another drink, then sighed as he turned to face him.
“You're and obnoxious pain in the ass.” The older man complained. “But you’re intelligent, innovative, uncowed. Most people I've worked with either couldn't keep up, or couldn't deal with my temperament. You’re… better than most.”
“Gee, Harry, I'm all aflutter.”
He received a glare for that, but truth was those small concessions had warmed him. He wasn't the only one who had come to enjoy working together.
With a sigh, he stretched out his legs, searching for words.
“Look, man.. if you're not interested, that's cool. I can handle a rejection like a big boy, if that's where you're going with this.”
“It's not rejection, just... caution.”
“Caution, huh?” It was something to think about later, preferably when he was sober, and not emotionally compromised. “I'll probably thank you for it later, I guess. When distraction sex doesn't sound like a really great idea.” He saluted him with his glass, delighted when Harry chuckled in response. It was a fairly new sound, all but unheard-of before they'd rescued Jesse.
“Well, it does have its time and place.”
Harry was staring into his burger for the moment, and Cisco fully believed that he wasn't the only one imagining what it would be like to push caution out the window.
“Unfortunately, I'm too old to be that impulsive.”
“Psh, the day you're too old for reckless, bad decisions, is the day life is no longer worth living.”
“I'll keep that in mind.”
His grin felt a little less hard-won then, and it was almost worth his embarrassing revelation. It was better, loads better, to realize that he wouldn't mind getting busy with Harry, than it was to think about Jay and all his lies.
Polishing off his potato skins, that he could barely taste through the sheen of grease, he gave a contented sigh and regarded the man beside him curiously. Despite having spent the last four and a half months under each other's feet, working together, and apparent sexual tension, he still knew very little about him and the life that had brought him here.
“So, I gotta know: bar food on Earth 2, is it this bad?”
Harry didn't seem to have any problem devouring his burger, which honestly look like a crime scene, but then, he been on a steady diet of coffee and cholesterol since he'd gotten there.
“Mm, lounges became en vogue about twenty years ago, and most seedy bars went under. The few that are left usually stick to hard liquor and tetanus.”
“We have burger shops, obviously. But the style and feel is vastly different. Brighter, family-centric. Wholesome?” He made a face.
“Ooh, let me guess, checkerboard tiles, lots of glass and chrome, and workers in white suits with cute little hats and bowties?”
The look of blatant consternation on Harry's face told him that he'd hit the mark.
“If it makes you feel better, I have a jukebox at home.” He offered gleefully. “It's an antique.”
“Anyway, I'm not sure my Earth would know what to do with buffalo wings.”
“They don't know what they're missing.”
“Congestive heart failure, probably.” Harry chuckled, wiping a bit of catch-up from the corner of his mouth.
“How does it taste?”
They shared a grin, wry and tired, but genuine, and Cisco considered the whole outing of victory.
“You about ready to go? We can watch Three Stooges until we dry up enough to do cool sciencey stuff.” He could admit, to himself at least, that the suggestion was his idea of a pretty sweet date, especially after hitting a bar, but Harry didn't need to know that.
Eh, who is he kidding? Harry totally knew that
But Harry nodded, despite watching him thoughtfully for a minute.
“I wonder what effect intoxication has on your abilities.”
The incredulous expression that crept over his face couldn't possibly express the deep levels of nope he was feeling.
“Pretty sure that falls under the category of impulsive, reckless decisions.” he definitely did not like the grin on Harry's face. It was the same look of wicked curiosity he'd had when he first upgraded Cisco's goggles. “Man, when did I become your guinea pig?”
“It's the principle, Ramon. For science.”
Trying not to grin himself, he paid their bill and left a tip on the bar before getting to his feet. He wobbled enough that he didn't argue when Harry took him by the elbow to keep him up right. It was a casual, steady touch, and he was grateful for it.
Grateful not to be alone.
“Hey, you want to just crash at my place after this? No point in dragging yourself back to the labs later. None of us have had any sleep.” And selfishly, he wanted to keep Harry's company just a little bit longer. Didn't want to be by himself. And if there was anyone who is reliable and safe, it was Harry. Or Joe. But he didn't think he'd be allowed to borrow him for the day.
“I'm still not having sex with you tonight.”
Cisco smirked at the qualifier.
“It's the middle of the afternoon, but I'm sure I'll survive somehow. Your loss, though.” Maybe it wasn't the worst possible thing in the world to be attracted to this man, with his dry humor and little smirks. And that massive fucking brain. “You will just have to suffer longer without knowing the joys of my waterbed.”
Stepping out into the fresh air, the slight chill helped to clear his head a little, and, well if he moved a little closer to Harry, it was purely unconscious. Everything felt so real, turned upside down after the last few months. Maybe that was why it felt so easy, just hanging out with Harry like this.
“I'm afraid to ask what a waterbed is.”
Cisco nearly tripped over his feet.
“Earth 2 doesn't have waterbeds?” he didn't have to exaggerate his horror.
“Still not entirely sure what one is.”
“It's a bed, duh, filled with water instead of foam and springs. It's heaven.” He insisted, shaking his head in disbelief.
“That sounds ridiculous. What happens if you spring a leak?”
“You cry.” He shot him a shameless grin. “Still worth it, all the way. I don't have nearly as much trouble sleeping now as I used to. The water is heated, so it's warm, and you just sort of sway. Bliss.”
“Hedonist. We definitely don't have those.”
“A damn shame.” He takes, shaking his head. “You know, Thawne didn't know what they were either when I first got it. Should have been a clue something was up.” he mused, then perked up. “And this is why we have evil speedsters.”
Harry's bland look was a thing of beauty.
“Your leap of logic is astounding.”
“Hey, I'm just saying. More people got a good night sleep, there'd be less supervillains.” He insisted. “Bet that was Reverb's problem, too. Wasn't all eye makeup, dude just had mad bags under his eyes. Sometimes when I don't get enough sleep, I want to take over the world, too.”
He could actually feel Harry staring at him, presumably trying to decide how serious he was.
“Then I'm absolutely not having sex with you. I wouldn't want to deprive you of much-needed sleep.”
“Well, now you're the one jumping to ridiculous conclusions. Besides, who doesn't sleep better after sex? Or is that not an earth 2 thing?” he paused, considering a new startling thought. “Is sex different on Earth 2? Is it like Demolition Man or something?”
“We do not have virtual headsets for sex. Or Taco Bell.” Harry assured him with a weak laugh. “I'm either too drunk, or not drunk enough for this conversation.”
“Harry, if this is you drunk, then I owe Barry fifty bucks because you are in fact a robot. You're pulling a Ted on me. You're actually a robot who is actually John Ritter back from the dead.” Cisco paused and made a face. “Okay, maybe I'm too drunk for this conversation.”
He was surprised to find himself grinning as they walked towards his place. A few hours ago the gloom had been suffocating, and the haunting image of Jay's face as he pulled off his mask seem burned into his brain.
Now it had faded just enough that he could put it down under the surface far enough to smile again.
“Man, why haven't we hung out like this before? This is good.”
“My resemblance to a known, dead murderer might have had something to do with it. And being blackmailed for the safety of my kidnapped daughter. And finding you horribly obnoxious.”
“Okay, okay, shut up already.” He laughed, shoveling at him a little. “Let's just say bad timing, then.”
“Sure, let's go with that.”
“Seriously though, I'm glad you're here. I'd be bored to death if you were shut away on some other Earth.”
“I suppose I've developed a... tolerance for this Earth.”
“Uh-huh, oh yeah, like you tolerate me, right? Just admit it, you love it here.”
Chuckling, he shifted the bag on his shoulder, then hooked his free arm through Harry's playfully, earning him a startled stare.
“That last shot was clearly a mistake.”
“Heh heh, yeah it was. Now shut up; we're bonding.”
The walk back to his place was surprisingly peaceful, the quiet soothing rather than stilted, and over a little too quickly for his liking.
The converted warehouse was something he was privately proud of. It was old, and small, but it was his from floor-to-ceiling. Still, he held his breath as he unlocked the doors and let Harry into his space.
He done pretty well for himself, but this was the guy who had built a world famous tech company that had to be worth billions of dollars, and probably lived in some fancy-ass mansion back on Earth 2.
The building was little more than one open space, with a closed-off bedroom and bath that had once been office spaces.
There was a small, crowded kitchen, cramped with utensils and jars, and red and blue dishes stacked above his cabinets. A collection of hot sauces ran along the back of his stove, as varied as his own moods. Past the small kitchen table was a foosball table, dividing the space. There was a couch and built-ins showcasing the TV, with movie paraphernalia littered around the place. A tidy sort of cluttered chaos, and very much home.
It was a far cry from a posh, classy space, but he loved it.
Having Harry here in such a private place was a new feeling. And now everything felt too tight and small. Or maybe that was just his own skin. This new awareness of Harry, of wanting something from him, was unsettling, and thrummed deep under his skin.
“Welcome to Casa de Ramon.”
He counted the seconds pensively is Harry looked around his space, taking it all in.
“It's very… subtle, all things considered.”
“What's that supposed to mean?”
“Not sure if I expected elaborate Blueprints and projects everywhere, or an actual movie theater and snack bar.”
“Hah.” He scrunched his nose. “I have the lab for all my projects, and there's a theater around the block with real, actual people in it.” He insisted.
Harry chuckled softly.
“All the more reason to stay away. It's neater than I expected, too.”
“Yeah, well, I don't normally have bitchy jerks coming through tossing my stuff around.”
The parroting of his own words made him chuckle as he headed for the kitchen. “Have a seat. I'll get some coffee going to help sober things up before we start the science portion of this adventure.”
While Harry sat down on the couch, getting comfortable and unpacking his things, Cisco put the coffee on. He was glad for the moment to himself to sort out his thoughts. The last two days had been unrelenting and beneath his racing thoughts and conflicting emotions, he was bone tired. But he knew if he tried to sleep now, it would be a tangle of shadowy nightmares, or worse, visions of things he didn't want to see. The spectre of it wasn't as heavy as before, but it was still there.
Better to push it all aside and think of work. Of his goggles, his powers, and even Reverb. And later, he could think of Harry and risks and possibilities, until his emotions finally studied out, and he didn't feel like the world was trembling apart around him.
When the coffee maker beeped at him, startling him out of his thoughts he had to laugh at himself. He was strung together tighter than he thought and even the booze hadn't really loosened it all. Sighing, he poured the coffee and headed for the couch.
Harry already had both sets of goggles out, and despite looking identical, he knew it was his sitting on the table, And Reverb's that Harry was poking at.
“Didn't anyone ever tell you not to drink and science,” He sat down the mugs and took a seat beside him, watching the goggles warily, only mostly sure that they wouldn't actually bite him.
“I must have missed that lecture.” Harry readily traded the goggles for coffee and Cisco relaxed a little. “Anyway, you promised me stooges.”
“You are so right.” He agreed, grabbing his DVDs. “At least three of them.”
“At least? How many more are there?”
“Some would argue 7.2 billion. Some would say six. But I'm betting that Shemp gets the shaft in every world.”
There was a look of painful incomprehension on Harry's face and he had to grin as he started up The Collection. Harry clearly decided his coffee was safer than questioning further.
Pleased with himself, Cisco toned down the lighting a little and propped his feet on the coffee table. To his delight, Harry did the same. There was something appealing about the simplistic humor, with the straight man and the jokers, and the jokes delivered as much with body as with words. You didn't have to overthink anything, nothing was complicated, and there was nothing a smack to the back of the head wouldn't fix.
If only they could take a good swipe at zoom and makes their problems go away. He lingered on the image of smacking Jay silly longer than he probably needed to. He'd have to mention it to Harry later; he'd get a kick out of it.
Harry understood a lot of the things he enjoyed, or the random thoughts he had. It was strange how they could be so similar, and so different at the same time. Maybe that was why working with him had become so easy.
Even now he heard Harry chuckle occasionally, or felt the jostle of him chuckling beside him. Thawne never laughed at the Stooges, unless Cisco looked at him expectantly. Harry got it, though. Harry understood.
Time wore on and the coffee chased the fog of alcohol from his mind. He finally paused between the shorts, looking over at Harry, who was sprawled inelegantly against the corner of the couch.
“Guess we should get to business. How's your head?”
“Unfortunately clear. But you drank more than I did.”
“Shut it.” He huffed, turning up the lights, and made a sound of discontent as Harry reached for the goggles on the table. Whenever he looked at them he could hear Reverb's smug voice in the back of his mind.
He pulled out his tools, and handed Harry a screwdriver without needing to be asked. It was shameful that he barely knew what Harry was doing. He and Caitlin had made the original setup for lucid dreaming, but the upgrade and the Delta wave emitter had all been Harry. It should have been obvious that Harry had known about Reverb just from that, considering the resemblance in the goggles. When he opened up the panels though, the wiring was completely different.
“What's the verdict, doc?”
“You already know what I'm going to say.”
“I have to use them.”
“You have to use them.” Harry agreed simply. “We won't have a starting point until we know how differently they work from your own. You barely used this to begin with. We need to set a consistent baseline and start from there.”
“Right, well, I've got Caitlin on speed dial if my head suddenly explodes.” He offered grimly, reaching for his own goggles first.
“Good to know. I brought the portable EEG machine from the medical bay, so we can get a better idea what effects are taking place in your brain.” Harry's clinical tone was strangely soothing and he focused on it as he was hooked up to the machine.
When Harry nodded to him, he put on his goggles and turned them on, feeling the sudden rush of adrenaline caused by Harry's wavelength trigger. Everything came alive around him just like last time, scenes and events overlapping one another.
“What should I try to see?”
“Anything. Try something simple and focus on it. Same as last time.”
He waffled for a minute, not sure what to think of, and eventually he thought about Dante. He hasn't seen his brother since everything that went down was Captain Cold, and they'd fallen back into their old routine of pretending the other didn't exist. He'd be lying if he said it didn't bother him.
Focusing on his brother, he parked through memories of old arguments and recent disasters, finally settling on a wobbly image of Dante at the piano in his parents home. It was one of the rare times Cisco ever saw his brother truly focused on something. Then Dante stopped abruptly, gripping his hand to his chest. Cisco realized belatedly with some horror that it was the hand that Snart had Frozen. Frozen because he wanted something from Cisco, and Dante was his brother. Frozen with a gun that Cisco had made. There was no angle to look at where it wasn't his fault.
The one thing Dante loved and he'd made it painful for him. And he hadn't even bothered to check up on him after that. Swamped with the stress, he reached up to remove his goggles. “Well, that was fun.”
Sensing a sensitive topic, Harry didn't ask, instead looking over the data from the EEG.
“Your brain activity is nearly off-the-charts when you Vibe, but there is a relatively consistent pattern to it. Like extremely hardcore dreaming. A normal brain should be able to withstand that level of stress.”
“Well, that's reassuring.” He huffed a little. “It doesn't feel like I'm overwhelmed.”
“Your ability to process your visions is clearly a part of your powers. The same way Allen's brain can process his surroundings while he's running at high speeds.
“Oh. Well, that makes sense.” He decided.
“Your powers allow you to manipulate the extra-dimensional energy around you. To see things through the space-time barrier, or in Reverb's case, turn the energy into a projectile force.”
“Oh, right, that.” He grimaced a little at the memory. “How the hell did he do that, anyway? I don't have the first clue.” He scrubbed a hand over his face, then glared at his doppleganger's goggles accusingly.
“That's the question. Hopefully his goggles will tell us.”
Bracing himself, he took a cup of coffee, and held out his hand for the goggles. Harry surprised him by bypassing his shaky hand entirely, leaning into set the goggles on his face and hit the switch.
He held his breath, waiting for the sudden, shocking response he was used to. But unlike his own goggles, the world around him didn't change so much as it looked like he was sinking underwater. Everything was blue and desaturated, and distorted through the waves of energy around him. There were voices, distant echoes, and faded bubbles of other times and places. It was so tempting to touch, and peek, and see everything. His own goggles couldn't compare to this experience.
“What do you see?”
Harry's voice had gone distant, almost tinny, but he could see it in waves, rippling through the air around him. And he realized there was another sense, one distant front sight and sound. An awareness if the energy around him, and the one major distortion there.
“It's hard to explain. You don't fit.” He realized.
“I can see all these waves of energy everywhere, pulsing and rebounding off each other. Then there's you and all the waves around you are going crazy.” He stared for a moment, marveling at it.
“My earth exists at a higher frequency. It makes sense that I would stand out.”
“Huh, is that why all my vibes are breachers and time aberrations? Because they're the energy equivalent of a rock in my shoe?”
“It's very plausible.”
“How the hell did Reverb make sense of all this? It's like weird, intangible, Ghostbusters shit.” He huffed.
“Focus. Bring your attention back to one specific thing.” Harry urged, his tone steadying. “Find Allen. See if you can locate him.”
He obeyed, focusing in on his friend, thinking of how he rushed out of the labs after the bombshell of zoom and Jay, and everything narrowed into a rushing tunnel. He saw Barry, tearing through the streets, screaming at the canyon to vent his rage. And then finally, back at the West household, on the couch with Joe, their heads been closed in an intimate family moment Cisco felt like he was intruding on.
“He's back home with Joe.” He murmured, letting go of the image, slipping back to the here and now. It was smooth and fluid and as natural as breathing.
“Was it easier than tracking Reverse Flash?”
“Way. I can see the… energy, I guess? There's all these different flows and paths in layers. But I can tell what they are, and follow the one I want.” He mused, seeing the pulsing trail that had led him to Barry, clearer now that he was focused on it, knew the feeling of it.
“Reverb's goggles must allow you to visualize the vibrational frequencies of the world around you. Seeing it would make it easier to manipulate it the way Reverb did on a physical level. Maybe even open breaches.”
That thought chilled him, and Cisco shook his head.
“Nope, not going there.”
Reverb powers at his fingertips was not a reassuring thought, but it was a tempting one. All that power, meant for him. The things he could do, as sure as Reverb had promised, was right there in front of him, calling.
He was vaguely aware of Harry calling his name, but it sounded distant, drowned out by his own pounding heart, and the promise of what he could be. Not just like Reverb, but others with his same resonance, same Powers. It called to him, and he fell into the vision like water, waves coming forward in layers clear and deeper. Not just scenes, but memories that triggered his heart through another life.
Reverb came easily, bitter and scheming as he was forced to bow before Zoom, dreaming of revolution. Humiliation was better than death, and he would come out on top in the end... Frost was getting too erratic, too easily cowed by zoom, and Deathstorm was wrapped pitifully around her finger. They were a liability. But he was coming, and everything would change...
The images came faster, cluttered with feelings of solitude, discontent, Despair and resignation before it all came to an end, and Cisco was shunted deeper down the rabbit hole, to another time and place.
“Cisco, Armando!” Dante screams were young, frail and broken through the roar of the world being torn open. Armando was reaching for him, and grasping his hand tight, and for a moment Cisco thought everything would be alright. Then his body was shredded From the inside out by power he couldn't have imagined, tearing him apart and putting him back together, new and different. And all he knew was Dante's horrified tear stricken face before his mind let go.
“I've grown quite fond of you.” That memory he knew immediately, the feelings of betrayal into feet sliding home into the places they had carved into his heart. Dr. Wells. All this time, it was Dr. Wells. Using them, hurting them. Nothing had been real. All a lie. And now he was going to die, knowing that. He'd never truly been loved.
“Mr. Ramon, your car is ready, sir.”
His car. This jet. His yacht. Whatever he wanted, ready for him at the snap of his fingers. He turn that himself, without any help from anyone. Certainly not his friends that had scoffed at him, or his family who had looked at him like some alien creature when he told them he was producing apps and programming software. That he wanted to start a tech company. He had done it, and he hadn't needed anyone.
But... It would have been nice to have had them.
He was falling faster now, through moments and memories he could only catch glimpses of before he hit bottom, in a world of cold sterile white. There Cisco learned what it was to feel fear straight down to his bones. It was cold and white, terrifyingly, and stole his breath. There were no vibrations here, no pulses of life in space and time. Just nothingness. Even now, his fear, his wonder, all his emotions felt lost behind a fog, muted.
There was no doubt here, no pain, no loss., quiet, and soothing. He could forget about everything here. Be safe here. He could stay…
Then he was yanked out, violently pulled back to reality when Harry jerked the goggles off his head.
Nausea reared up inside of him as his emotions came flooding back, seizing his throat. He made a scrambling dash for the kitchen sink, heaving up the contents of his stomach and clutching at the counter as the world around him struggled to right itself.
Harry, bless him, was right there, pulling his hair away from his face, and calmly turning on the faucet to help wash the mess down the drain. His stomach felt like it was trying to turn itself inside out, heaving until there was nothing left but bile and a sharp, throbbing pain behind his eyes.
“Holy fuck.” He rasped when his system finally settled into something manageable. His stomach was raw and achy, and his throat burned but he could breathe now. “What the hell happened?”
“You tell me. You were in a hyper-state resembling N3 sleep patterns when you vibed Allen, but steady. Then it all went to hell.” Harry told him, dabbing a paper towel at a nosebleed he hadn't noticed, and Cisco held still for him. “You started having a stroke.”
“Oh. Fun.” He would freak out about that later; right now he was barely holding himself up right. Weak, he let Harry guide him back to the couch, and put a cool glass of water in his hands as he tried to figure out what had happened to him. He'd been pulled out abruptly and everything felt worlds away.
“Oh man. Those potato skins? Way worse coming back up.” He cautiously sipped at his water, praying it stayed down.
“Do you think you can tell me what happened?”
“Mm.” He closed his eyes, pitifully grateful that the water settled. “I think… I got caught in a loop.” He decided.
“I accidentally vibed Reverb. But I wasn't seeing him, I was him. And then I was someone else. A different me. And then another. And another. Just vibe after vibe, ad nauseum. Emphasis on the nauseum.” He mumbled, closing his eyes against the throb in his head.
He felt an icy prickle of fear in his gut, but he could no longer define what had caused it. Just white and terror. He swallowed it back carefully.
“A feedback loop? Well that would account for the erratic readings. Do you feel up for trying again?”
He squinted his eyes at the older man dubiously.
“You just told me I had a stroke!” He reminded.
“No, I said you started to have one. I stopped it. You're welcome.”
“Jackass.” He huffed without any heat behind it.
“Snow will need to give you a full workup tomorrow, but I think the on-paper symptoms weren't nearly as catastrophic in your brain. How's your vision?”
He squinted a little. “Head hurts like a bitch, but it's clear.”
“Come here.” Harry urged him over to him, and reached up, bringing his hands to Cisco's throbbing temples, rubbing circles into them. He blinked at the end of it touch, and the immediate relief brought on by that.
“Oh man.” He groaned. “This feels like a bribe.”
“This is absolutely a bribe.”
“I like it.”
He closed his eyes, melting into the careful touch that chased back the worst of his headache. Harry did have some pretty impressive hands, and if he hadn't been feeling so incredibly not sexy at the moment, he would have let himself imagine those hands and other ways. As it was, just having them at his temples, a gentle, steady pressure, was like heaven. It gave him some moments to study himself and get his thoughts, until he no longer felt like he was going to fly apart in a million different directions.
When he was bordering on dozing off, he took a deep breath.
“All right, I'm as ready as I'm going to be. But just one more time.” He straightened his spine. “At least I know what to expect this time. Just have to figure out how to keep it from flooding my brain.”
Harry drew his hands away, and he nearly whined at the loss. But then he was being turned, angled towards the other man until their knees touched.
“If you find yourself caught again, focus on something, anything else, as hard as you can. It's all in your head, and you're in charge there.”
“Man, if people could control the shit in their heads, shrinks would be out of business.” He laughed weakly.
“Good thing you're not an ordinary person, isn't it?”
The compliment surprised him, and made him grin.
“Damn right, I'm not. Okay, I'm ready let's do it.”
“Good man.” Harry reset the EEG and placed the goggles back on his face carefully. And to his surprise he could feel Harry's hands settle on his shoulders, steady and anchoring, and he was immensely grateful for it.
He was prepared for the shift this time, the change in the world around him. Even the small pulses of energy he could now feel coming from Harry's body, blending with his own. It was... Really fucking cool, honestly.
But rather than let himself be swept away again, he focused his thoughts on Jessie, who had slipped out under their noses. She was out there on her own somewhere while her father was putting up a brave front against fear and sorrow and guilt.
It came on fast, tangled images. Harry and Jesse, clinging to each other after the escape from Zoom, Jesse angry and defiant in the face of a monster, and oh-ho, flustered and smiling coyly at Wally. Jessie and her father in a peaceful time and, good Lord, all the dad jokes. It made him smile, then refocus. He needed to see her now, not then. But thankfully he had a great big connection to her right here, already touching him.
His living room faded, changing to a quiet city street. And there was a slim, female figure at an ATM, looking like anyone else. But Cisco saw the tablet in her hands, the slightly anxious gleam in her eyes as she waited for the money to be dispensed, which she quickly shoved in her pockets before moving on, fading Into a crowd unnoticed.
The hands on his shoulders tightened, strong and reassuring.
“What? What is it?”
“Did you teach your kid to hack ATMs?”
“You vibed Jesse?”
He eased out of the vision, fumbling a little as he operated more on instincts and actually knowing what he was doing. He took off the goggles to smile at Harry.
“Seemed like the thing to look for. She definitely wasn't in Central City. Girl moves fast, but she looked fine. Other than mugging poor, helpless machines.” He gave Harry an arched look, and watched as he visibly relaxed. Some of the lines on his face simply erased themselves, and his shoulders slumped.
“That's all her.”
“When she was nine I made her write an apology to the NSA for hacking their servers and flooding them with cat pictures.” Harry smiled at the memory. “Her philosophy was ‘make cats not war’.”
“And meme culture claims another victim.”
They shared a chuckle, and to Cisco's surprise Harry's Hands came back up to his temples, chasing away the pain once more.
“Thank you for that. For checking on her.”
“Hey, she's part of the family. You both are.”
He saw Harry's smile deepen, and he felt warmed by it. Harry had a great smile when he finally busted it out.
“I want to go over your brain scans with Snow later, but it's different from anything I've seen before, outside of Allen's, but still very different. A hyper-dream state. It would be a big advantage if you can fully control it and we can directly guide you.”
“Mm, keep that up and you can guide me wherever you want.” He mumbled, leaning into his touch.
“God, you're easy.”
“It's not my fault you have secret massage superpowers.” He mumbled. “That's like… cheating.”
He leaned into Harry and was surprised and delighted when one of those hands slid back under his hair to rub at the nape of his neck. And there was no stopping the sound of delight that escaped him.
“I do cheat. It's the best way to get things done.”
“Guess I finally found your off switch.”
“More of an on switch at this point.”
Unfortunately, that made Harry's hands stop the wonderful things they were doing. He pouted, cracking an eye open to look at him.
“I was serious about not starting anything tonight.” The annoyance in Harry's tone tickled him.
Taking his time, he studied the man. He and Harry had gotten in each other's faces more times than he could count; But he never really looked at him up close like this. With those sharp blue eyes and firm-set mouth, Harry was pretty intense stuff. Not that he was ready to actually admit it.
Bringing his hands up, he tugged at the front of a shirt.
“Okay, but you really need to hurry up and kiss me.”
“You're not listening to a thing I say, are you?” Despite a pretty epic eye roll, Harry was leaning in towards him, and Cisco grinned shamelessly.
“Not a word.” He wrapped his arms around Harry's neck, and waited for him to make the next move.
And he had to give the guy credit, when Harry decided to do something, he didn't hesitate. The hand at the back of his neck shifted, grabbing a handful of his beloved hair, and tucked back lightly; having the dual effect of shocking Cisco system and tilting his head back.
Harry's mouth found his before he could collect himself, slow and careful as it found just the right angle. Later, he would suggest some lip balm or something, because Harry's lips were mad and chapped, but the rough, dry feeling moving against his own lips was one hell of a thrill.
Finally, he got his own senses back and shifted against him, opening his lips little against Harry's, inviting and curious.
Harry wouldn't be rushed, though, taking his time and lavishing attention on his top lip, and then the bottom, in equal measure. Cisco was positive he had never had a kiss like it, but damn if it didn't tell him he needed to step up his own game. A hand settled on his side, and the warmth of it poured through his shirt, teasing him with thoughts of bare skin on skin.
How good would it be to completely give into temptation, to forget about everything and just feel his hands and mouth for the rest of the night? Could he really be blamed for wanting to find out? Especially after such a shity couple of days?
But he was exhausted enough that when he eased back, he couldn't offer up more than a token whine of protest. Harry regarded him heatedly for a moment.
“You taste vile.”
He blinked, completely startled, then let out a laugh, shoving at Harry.
“Dude! For real?”
“Come back after you've spent some personal time with a bottle of mouthwash.” Harry's darkly wicked look made him grin against his will.
“You're not exactly minty fresh yourself, pal.” He reminded with a smile. “But damn… you got some skills.” He licked his lips, still feeling the pressure from his kiss there.
Harry's expression was smug and warm, and Cisco was thrilled with the way the man's eyes tracked the motion of his tongue. At least he wasn't the only one getting heated.
“I do have a few years of experience on you. I've learned a thing or two.”
If Harry thought he was going to be put off by the age gap, he was going to be disappointed. Curiosity and him wanted to know what other skills he had, or if his hands were just as talented on a person as they were with a pulse rifle.
Oh, he wasn't going to be able to see Harry with his favorite toy again without thinking dangerous thoughts.
“One of these days you're going to have to share some of that experience.” He warned, sitting back. The space on the couch was Tiny now, and he had to struggle to clear his head. “We done for tonight? Today? Whatever the hell time it is?”
Harry glanced at his watch briefly. “About four-thirty. Your brain has had enough. Get some rest before we put it in the blender again.”
“Joy.” Cisco got to his feet carefully, feeling the last tendrils of vertigo tugging at him. “Right, I'm going to take a shower and crash. Pillows and blankets in the closet over there, make yourself at home.” the idea of inviting Harry to share his bed was there, but this was hardly the right time for it, and he was too exhausted to put any real suggestiveness behind it.
“I'll be fine. Get.”
He didn't need any more encouragement than that, heading for the shower to wash away the grime of the last two days.
It was a bit of a blur when he scrubbed himself clean wrapped himself in a towel and staggered to bed, asleep before any of his lingering thoughts could creep in.
Sleep was deep, dark, and thankfully dreamless.
It was solid darkness when he woke, foggy and disoriented. He stared blearily at his ceiling as memories slowly filtered back in. Jay, Zoom, Harry, Reverb’s goggles. The surrealness of the last two days. He had to lay there for a bit to let it all completely settle.
It didn't seem entirely real, honestly, everything that had gone down. Though there was still a shadow of a headache to give it credence, and the faint hum under his skin, awareness of his powers that was stronger than before. Whether that was a good or a bad thing remained to be seen.
When he felt steady enough, he finally sat up, peeling himself out of bed, and went to the closet, pulling on a pair of boxers and a large shirt, the kind he kept for loafing, but would never wear outside. He wanted to be comfortable right now, when all his senses were a little too sharp.
Everything was quiet, telling him it was the early morning hours where no one was out on the streets but stray animals. No wonder he felt so punchy, he rarely slept more than five or six hours at a time. Exhaustion must have completely caught up with him.
Carefully, he padded out to the main area, where the room was cast in the faint glow of outside street lights, and scrunched up on his couch was Harry, barely covered by a thin blanket, and the sight made him smile.
The parts scattered on his coffee table told him Harry had kept himself busy for at least a little while before sleeping. A part of him hadn't fully expected him not to take off first chance he got.
Like this, the man looked remarkably unguarded, with bed head and his face half smushed into a pillow. It shouldn't have been remotely attractive, but the appeal was strong. Especially when one of his last memories before passing out was Harry kissing him right there on the couch. Something he definitely wanted to try again sober and clear-headed.
Which reminded him to brush his teeth before the man woke up and he’d be tempted to do so. Quietly padding to the kitchen, he got coffee going, then dipped back to the bathroom to get freshened up. His mouth tasted like seven layers of gross, and no amount of cuteness and charm would cover it up.
Coming back, he found Harry propped up slightly, sniffing at the air with his eyes barely cracked, like a cat scenting food. It was ridiculous how adorable it was.
Harry took one look at him, then flopped back down into his nest with a grunt.
“What's that, Harry? 'Cisco, you brilliant, handsome man, would you kindly share some of that coffee you're brewing?’”
Sharp blue eyes squinted at Cisco warningly before Harry huffed and shooed him with his hand. “Yeah, sure, that.”
Shaking his head, he chuckled as he went back into the kitchen, and retrieved two mugs as the coffee finished brewing.
Everything still felt a bit disjointed after the last two days, and his brain nearly imploding the night before. But all in all, he felt lighter, more together, and less like he was about to crack around the edges.
And if there was a brilliant, sarcastic, sexy older white dude laid out on his couch, well then, things we're obviously starting to look up.
Bringing the coffee cups out to the living room, he set them down on the coffee table. Harry had managed to sit upright, and was fighting a losing battle with his hair as Cisco dropped down onto the cushions beside him.
“One cup of coffee, black like the depths of your soul.” He offered, delighted as Harry winced.
“Must you be so loud? Why aren't you hungover?”
Cisco took a suspicious glare in stride.
“Pretty sure I puked up everything I drank last night, so…”
“Ugh. That's a myth.”
“Yeah?” He took a sip from his mug, savoring the warm punch of it to his system. “How late did you stay up?”
Harry didn't answer right away, instead drinking from his own batch with an almost desperate focus. When he set his mug down, his eyes were sharper, clearer.
“Not much longer than you did. We were both pretty worn out.”
“It all sort of piled up on us. I'd say we were due.” He agreed, trying for casual, when he didn't feel that way at all. There had been a drastic shift between them, and he wasn't sure what the new status quo was going to be.
He trailed off with all the obvious implications packed into that one syllable. And considering how Harry rolled his eyes, he got the message.
“It's too early for clichés, Ramon.”
“Dude, believe me, I'm right there with you on that one. But I don't know where we stand now.” He insisted, gesturing awkwardly. Harry winced as he got louder and he took a small joy in it. “On one hand, you're still a dick. On the other hand, drunk me tells sober me that you're an awesome kisser. What's a guy to do?”
He let out a surprised sound when Harry took his mug from his hands and set it on the table, and he found himself tugged so that he all but splayed against the man.
“You were hardly drunk at that point.” Harry reminded, and Cisco flushed a little as a large hand cradled the back of his neck. When Harry leaned in so they we're nose to nose, he could practically feel his heart lodged in his throat.
“But the logical thing to do would be to retest that theory.” Up close, and clear-headed, Cisco was caught by how sharp and blue Harry's eyes were, and the low rasp of his voice rippled along his skin.
“Mm, logic is good,” he mumbled, “let's go with logic.”
“Stop talking.” Harry huffed, and Cisco grinned as he leaned in to catch his mouth, bringing his arms up around the man's neck.
It was definitely different now in the morning, when everything else was faded by sleep and he was thinking clearly. Harry's mouth was hard and firm, and could clearly be demanding when it wanted. Apparently whatever curious testing it had done last night had been settled and he was now in Take mode. And Cisco could not find a single fault with that.
It was strangely similar to the rush he got when they argued, when Harry would shout and throw things, and they'd both wind up a little bit breathless; and he wondered if maybe he hadn't been thinking about Harry way longer than he'd realized.
Curious and excited, he threw shyness out the window, and moved to straddle Harry's lap, plastering himself to the man's front. A part of him still couldn't believe this was happening, that he was making out on his couch with cranky-ass Harry, but the rest of him was absolutely gung ho about it.
Long fingers tangled into his hair, and he had to try not to moan out loud at the feeling. For all that he babied his hair, having someone's hands in it, gripping and tugging, had the effect of turning him into pure liquid heat. And he didn't need Harry to know about that particular weakness just yet.
And it surprised him how nice it was, to just kiss and cling to Harry. Not trying to rush straight to bed. Not that the idea of it wasn't getting more and more appealing by the minute. But everything was still raw and feelings of all sorts we're bruised and tender. So it was nice to touch and be touched without having to worry about anything else.
When he eased back for air, he felt warm and relaxed, and damn didn't Harry look pretty damn pleased with himself?
Smirking back at him, he's moved his hands down the front of Harry shirt.
“Dude, mouthwash. You taste like burger and death.” He laughed, even as he was unceremoniously tossed from Harry's lap to the other side of the couch. That was good. Nothing between them had gotten too strange by throwing attraction into the mix. Everything would be weird enough later, when they all got back to the labs. Jay being trapped on Earth 2 didn't mean that crime was just going to give then a break. Having to tiptoe around his interactions with Harry would just be too much.
And Harry grumbling as he slogged his way to the bathroom was just the right thing to ease the tension of the morning.
Feeling bolstered for the day, he dug into his fridge to start making breakfast for two. He'd only done this once or twice if a night hanging out with Caitlin ended with them passed out drunk on the couch. But this was more like a morning after, even without more than a curious goodnight kiss. The intimacy had been there. Putting himself in Harry's hands and exploring his powers had certainly left him vulnerable and laid bare.
So making breakfast for them in his underwear at the ass crack of dawn was full of possibilities. Of course, starting up something with a billionaire that lived on another Earth seemed every bit as risky as dating reincarnated bird royalty. So maybe he was setting himself up for disappointment all over again, but he couldn't help himself.
By the time Harry came back out, looking refreshed, with his hair somewhat straightened, he was cracking eggs into a bowl while a pan heated on the stove.
“What do you like in your omelets?”
Harry seemed to be eyeing him cautiously as he came into the kitchen to see what he was doing.
“What normally goes into them on this Earth?”
Cisco clucked his tongue in disappointment.
“We need to get you to an IHOP, stat.” He decided, grinning as he whisked the eggs. “You can put any damn thing you want in them. Check the fridge, see what sounds good to you.” He left him to it, dropping butter into the hot pan.
“I didn't realize you cook. An oversight on my part.”
“Oh?” He glanced at Harry curiously as the man built up a pile of ham, cheese and mushrooms.
“You're very particular. About movies, about your workshop, your tools, and your clothes. Of course you'd be particular about your food as well.”
Surprised that Harry had paid that much attention to him, he moved to chop up the ham, and it was just natural that Harry began prepping the mushrooms beside him.
“I'm not picky or anything. I like eating out.” He insisted, half distracted with the food.
“But if you want something just so, you like to make it yourself, your way.”
“Well yeah. Who doesn't?”
“I paid a housekeeper for years to make sure Jesse had hot meals after school until she learned to cook for herself. Then I lived on takeout until she laid down the law and started making me eat proper vegetables.”
“Dude, for real?” Chuckling, he shook his head. “The mega genius can't cook?”
“Lack of motivation was a factor.”
“Nu-uh, man. You just lazy.” He teased, chuckling. “No wonder you live on burgers. Chop those shrooms.”
“You're awfully demanding today.”
“I'm always demanding. You're just more hungover than normal.” He scraped the toppings into the omelet mixture and poured it onto then pan, letting out a pleased sound as it simmered.
“A solid argument.”
When the egg cooked, he carefully flipped the omelet and slid it onto the plate, handing it to Harry.
“Pick your hot sauce of choice. We have everything from delightfully zesty to “I wasn't using those taste buds anyway.””
“Scaled by heat?”
Harry observed the bottles curiously as he made his own omelet. He was well aware of the older man in his personal space, finding it surprisingly comfortable.
“On my earth, ketchup is popular.”
“Not in my house, pal.”
Chuckling, Harry picked a bottle from the lineup, and to Cisco's delight, liberally splashed it over the dish. Generously, he put bread in the toaster to go with it all.
“If you misjudged, there should be milk in the fridge.”
He kept his own expression innocent, pretending to focus on his own omelet and the toast while Harry looked at his plate warily before getting the carton out.
“Top right cabinet.”
Somehow they both found their way to the small dining table to eat, and it gave Cisco's mind a chance to wander to the day ahead of them.
“We're going to have a mess on our hands when everyone comes in.” He decided after a couple bites. Harry made a face that indicated he agreed.
“Allen will be… erratic at best-”
“The world you're looking for is obsessed.”
“-and the Wests will be focused on coddling him. Snow will be over-compensating-”
“Cold and withdrawn.”
“-and you will be focused on coddling her.”
“And you're emotionally compromised.” He offered helpfully.
“What? No, no. I'm perfectly in control of my emotions.”
“You got drunk and started dating-but-not actually-dating me.”
“I am not dating you.”
“We had drinks, watched movies, and made out on my couch. And you spent the night. That's perilously close to dating territory, pal.”
Harry floundered for a moment, mouth opening and closing several times as he struggled to find an argument. Finally he huffed.
“Alright, maybe, just maybe I'm not in the best state of mind.” he finally conceded, to Cisco's eternal delight. “... Have you been taking advantage of me and my compromised state?”
“Pretty sure mutual advantage was taken. And I didn't hear you complaining.” he gestured at him pointedly with his fork.
“I reserve the right to complain at a later date.”
Cisco snorted softly, taking a bite from his omelet.
“Wouldn't dream of denying you. Without complaining, you wouldn't know what to do with yourself.”
“Watch more Netflix.”
Cisco nodded, gesturing at him in approval.
“A very valid alternative.”
He put away a generous portion of his plate, and finally got to his feet.
“Take your time to finish eating. I'm gonna get dressed.” Maybe Harry had been too tired to notice his clothes before, but the man looked at him now, running his gaze down him, from his tank top to his boxers, and down over his bare legs. His gaze lingered and Cisco felt heat flare up into his cheeks.
“Dude! My eyes are up here.”
“Your legs are more interesting.”
He gave a scandalized gasp, but was flattered by his appreciative gaze. Usually people just thought he was cute. Like a teddy bear or something. Harry's gaze was something else entirely.
“For that, you can wash the dishes, perv.”
He retreated into his room with Harry's soft chuckle echoing behind him. His heart was beating just a little too fast. How messed up was he that Harry of all people made him feel flustered like this?
Trying to shake it off, he got some fresh clothes out of his dresser, trying to find one of his more stupidly humorous shirts to cheer himself up and set a good mood for the day. They were going to have a lot on their plate today especially.
He smiled when he heard the water running in the kitchen, reminding him that at least everything wasn't bad. They were all alive and healthy. They knew what they were facing now.
As long as Barry didn't pull something stupid, everything would be just fine.