Cisco sat behind one of the panels at STAR labs. He had his right leg crossed over his left, his calf gingerly elevated but still relaxed. Over the weekend Cisco had gotten a new tattoo and so far it was his little secret.
Caitlin leaned forward and patted Cisco's leg "Can you track this meta, Cisco?"
Cisco hissed a sudden breath in through clenched teeth. "Jesus Christian Anderson, easy on the goods," Cisco said testily, jerking his leg away.
Caitlin froze, palms raised. Then she took a harder look at the way Cisco was wincing, cradling the back of his calf of all places...
"Cisco Ramon." Cait started.
"No, please." Cisco moaned without even hearing the next words. He knew he'd been caught.
"What's happening?" Iris asked.
Barry looked on in confusion. "I'm actually not sure."
"Cisco did you get a new tattoo??" Cait begged and Cisco groaned.
"Wait a minute...new tattoo?" Barry asked
"Implying there are old tattoos?" Ralph asked and Cisco groaned again.
"Everyone please stop paying attention to me..." Cisco pleaded
"I wanna see!!" Iris said excitedly.
Cisco looked up at the ceiling. "I know I asked for more attention, but this isn't what I wanted. Please make it go back to how it used to be."
Ralph looked at his own body, thinking hard. "Do you think I could even get a tattoo?"
"I don't know, how 'bout I run some tests and see if you can?" Cisco asked getting up from his chair. Cait pushed him back down, one hand firmly on his shoulder.
The whole team looked on, waiting to see if Cisco would unveil the new tattoo.
Eventually Cisco sighed. "It's for HR." He said softly. "We just hit a year and I know we had a lot on our plate with DeVoe but... he's been gone a whole year now, and I felt like I needed to do this." Cisco cuffed his pant leg, revealing two tastefully placed drum sticks, with two roses on the sides, and one behind.
Iris covered her mouth in surprise and Cait teared up a bit. "It's beautiful Cisco. He would have loved it." Cait said.
Cisco nodded, shaking his head a little. "You're right. He, for sure, would have loved it. Kinda makes it suck even worse." Cisco said, swallowing hard and tucking his hair behind his ear.
"We'll never stop being grateful for what he did for me...for us." Iris said.
"Absolutely." Barry agreed coming to touch Cisco's shoulder. “He’s a hero,”
"You know... sometimes I go back and I read his writing and it's... it's almost like he's talking to me again." Cisco shook his head. "But I always know how the story ends."
Barry sighed and patted Cisco's shoulder. "Well we're here for you whatever you need buddy. We all miss him and want to remember him with you."
"Means a lot guys." Cisco looked up at everyone with soft eyes. "I think I just need some time. I'm gonna go down to the workshop."
"Sure, Cisco." Cait said, patting him on the shoulder.
Cisco meandered around his workshop. This year with DeVoe had been terrifying. Cisco was worried he would lose Harry, he was worried he would lose the rest of the team. Getting Ralph back had been a win for sure, but losing him had been almost unbearable. He couldn't get HR out of his head these days no matter what he tried.
Cisco couldn't get that look out of his head. HR had been so eager to be a Hero, to be important and valuable to the team. HR needed to be the one to save Iris after he accidentally told savitar her location. Cisco could see it there in his eyes, he just couldn't prevent HR from being the one to lay down their life for the team.
The tattoo was a nice reminder of what was lost. The drum sticks had annoyed Cisco unconditionally at first. The way HR carried the drum sticks everywhere screamed tool to Cisco, even unaided by the porkpie hat. The dull pain in his calf was nothing to the dull ache he carried around with him. He couldn’t forgive himself for letting things turn out the way they did, couldn’t get his mind to stop replaying the last words that Barry told him.
It was no use, whenever Cisco closed his eyes HR was there, saving Barry and saving Iris, saving Cisco and Caitlin while letting himself be destroyed.
It was a burden Cisco was unable to bear for a long time. There was a box that Barry had given Cisco, shortly after the funeral. There were some key items that didn’t go with HR and were left to Cisco.
The year had come and gone and Cisco had only stared at the box, unable to push himself to open it. Finally, with his calf aching, but his heart feeling lighter than it had since DeVoe targeted them, he dug into the box. Cisco found a half stamped punch card for CC Jitters on top. His fingers trembled as he lifted it.
On top of the card where it said name, HR had started to write
Harrison scrawled it out and wrote HR Smith, instead. Cisco smirked, a tear already coming down his cheek. Underneath there were papers with some writings, some poems, but most were just doodled book titles.
All's Wells that ends Wells.
A Fair Wells’ Two Arms.
Wells, Wells, Wells...what do we have here? A Beginner detectives guide.
Cisco sighed looking at his late partner's scrawled handwriting. At the bottom of the box when he moved all the doodle sheets, there was a thick envelope with a wax seal stamp on it.
On the front, in HR’s stupid, beautiful handwriting, it bore one word.
Cisco sucked in a surprised breath, looking at the envelope. He touched it delicately, picking it up as if it might break.
The stamp on the wax seal was a little STAR labs logo. Knowing HR, he probably got it out of the museum gift shop.
Cisco touched it gently, fingering the ridges in the wax. He closed his eyes and imagined HR’s fingers tracing it the very same way.
I miss you Cisco thought.
A little over a year and what felt like a lifetime ago, HR cruised lazily into Cisco's workshop, twirling a drumstick in one hand, a coffee steaming in the other. Cisco felt as though he could hear HR coming all the way from the cortex, he was so bumbling.
Even still, HR tiptoed from the doorway, to stand right behind Cisco, carefully setting his coffee down and tucking his drumstick back into his pocket. He reached around, covering Cisco's eyes with the palms of his hands.
Cisco hummed. “Hmm… I'm not sure…” he teased.
“It's me!” HR laughed, spinning Cisco around to see him.
“Hey there, buddy.” Cisco smiled, happy to take a little break from his current project.
HR leaned in, entranced with Cisco, then remembered himself and leaned back again. Cisco had a strict no kissing in STAR labs policy. “Francisco, are you almost done?” HR whined. “I want to take you for dinner. Then maybe we can go walk around central city in the evening air.”
“I'll be done in a little while. Sit and have your coffee while I finish up?” Cisco asked, patting HR’s hand.
“Okay,” he said, grinning dumbly and sitting down to watch Cisco work, nimble fingers moving gracefully over the intense tech.
A little while later Cisco shouted. “Eureka!”
“All finished?” HR asked with a genuine grin.
“You bet I am.” Cisco said, his smile lighting up his whole face. He stood in front of HR, hand outstretched for him. “Let's go back to my place and I'll cook for us.”
HR chuckled. “You are too good to me, Francisco, I wouldn't dream of letting you go to such trouble.”
Cisco opened a breach to his apartment. “Come on, no trouble at all,”
With a final glance at Cisco, HR and the young engineer hopped through the breach to Cisco's place.
HR was as reverential as he watched Cisco cook as he was when he watched Cisco work in his workshop. “How do you…?” HR started, gesturing to the many pots and pans Cisco was juggling on the stove.
“I always used to watch my mom. Just the way my household was, you know? Lots of food, always.” Cisco said as he shifted around the stove. Cisco looked as much in his element in the kitchen as he did in his workshop.
“Seems like magic to me,” HR chuckled.
“You seem like magic to me,” Cisco laughed, pointing the spatula at HR and then coming closer.
“Me? Aw shucks. You're embarrassing me, Francisco.” HR said with hooded eyes
Cisco shook his head and threw his arms around HR’s neck, leaning up to press their lips together.
Cisco sat in front of his apartment desk in a rolly chair, leaning back with his feet perched up on the desktop. He flipped page after page in HR’s latest novel. The fluffy way HR used words made Cisco's head spin a little bit, but there was always an underlying mystery, a twist Cisco could never see coming.
The last two novels had completely knocked Cisco's socks off. Sure, HR was no Hemingway, but he was surely an amazing storyteller, and of that Cisco was convinced.
There was a knock at Cisco's apartment door, but he didn't budge. “Come in, it's open,” he called.
HR burst through the door, throwing it shut behind him. “Francisc-” he froze when he took in Cisco's homey appearance, and the small chunk of pages he had left in the paper copy HR had signed for him. “Ooooh,” HR buzzed with excitement.
“I can't put it down, HR,” Cisco said, a smile in his voice.
HR approached and leaned down to peck Cisco on the lips.
“Okay, I love that you're reading my newest installment, but it's Sunday, we're supposed to go out for breakfast.” HR complained
“Aw babe I've only got like 40 pages left.” Cisco moaned. “It'll probably only take me like an hour to finish and then we can talk about it at breakfast!... er,” the young engineer glanced at his watch. “I mean, brunch.”
HR opened his mouth to argue so Cisco brought out the pouty eyes.
“Please?” Cisco asked
HR sighed, collapsing down on Cisco's couch. “Fine. Only cause I can't say no to you,”
“Yes!” Cisco smiled, his cheeks scrunching up, and buried his nose in the book again.
For most of the next hour HR snoozed on Cisco's couch. With ten pages left, Cisco started to narrate. “Woah, woah what? No way. How is Ella gonna break up with Carol 10 pages from the end? HR,” Cisco looked up at HR with tears springing in his eyes.
HR looked at Cisco with a mixture of fondness and amusement in his eyes. “Finish the book, Francisco.”
Cisco's pout deepened and, a moment later HR shifted a little and patted his lap. Cisco looked up with a grin and popped up out of his reading chair. He crossed the living room in a few quick strides and happily cuddled himself into HR’s lap.
With HR’s hands wrapped tightly around Cisco, the younger man finished the book, jumping up and shouting when the very final plot twist was revealed.
“So… you liked it?” HR asked, a blush creeping up his cheeks.
“Liked it? I loved it HR.” Cisco laughed. “You have such a talent.”
“We can talk about the plot stuff over breakfast. But, I still want the notes! I know you always have a ton of notes for me,” HR waved his hand around. “Alas, they are very helpful, so please, where are they?”
Cisco shook his head, grinning at HR. “No notes.”
HR’s eyebrows pulled down. “No notes? What do you mean no notes?” He asked
“I mean, no notes. I told you, HR. I loved it.”
HR’s grin changed, his cheeks burning red again. “I don’t know if you’re just saying this because you like me or not, but either way, I’ll take it,”
“Hmm.” Cisco put his pointer finger to his chin. “That’s actually a very real possibility.” He side eyed HR and the two collapsed in laughter and kisses.
Cisco pulled himself from his memories forcibly. Impatience got the better of him. Cisco just had to know what was inside the envelope
Back in the present moment, Cisco took one more deep breath and opened the letter.
My dearest Francisco,
You have given me nothing but joy on this earth and for that, I will be forever indebted to you. You made this earth, this place away from my home, you made it a home for me.
You deserve every happiness this world, no, this multiverse, has to offer. I wish we had more time together, my perfect Francisco, but you have to continue to help your friends and be their hero after I've gone. I'm not sure how yet, but I know I have to help this team save Iris at any cost. You helped me realize that.
I know it'll be hard… but I know you can do it. I know because you're Francisco Ramon and you're the smartest man I have ever had the pleasure to know.
Yours, from here to earth 19,
Yours, til the ends of the multiverse
Cisco was careful not to let his tears fall on the letter. He read it three times and then folded it up and put it back in the box. Cisco closed his eyes and put his head in his hands.
“Hey. Need to talk?” Cait asked at the doorway.
Cisco shook his head. “He left me a letter Cait. A letter I didn't read all year. A letter I didn't read because there were too many distractions, DeVoe, Cynthia, Harry.” Cisco shrugged. “He was talking to me all this time and I just wasn't listening.”
Cait came over and touched Cisco's shoulder. “You can't blame yourself. HR would have wanted you to keep moving and living your life, not wallowing over what happened to him.”
Cisco sighed. “Maybe you're right. It just stings. All this time I've been looking for a sign and it's been right under my nose.” Cisco said, getting up and hugging Cait. “I didn't even look.” he cried on her shoulder and she patted him on the head.
“Aw Cisco. Don't you kind of think you found it when you needed it most?” Cait whispered and Cisco stilled a little. “It's kind of like he gave it to you to say he likes your tattoo.” She said softly.
Cisco hugged her tight. “You're a really amazing friend, Caitlin.”
“I learned from the best.” She said softly. “How bout we have a movie night at my place? I have a secret stash of lots of sickly sweet candy for you.” Cait asked, still hugging Cisco and holding him close.
He sniffled and laughed a little. “That sounds nice, actually, yeah. I’d like to do that, Cait,” Cisco said smiling sadly at her.
Cait threw her arm around Cisco’s shoulders.Together they would remember HR and celebrate the time they all got to spend together. Cisco packed the box back up and breached it to his apartment. When he got back, Cait was waiting for him, and the two best friends headed out of STAR labs.
That night Cisco fell asleep re-reading one of the novels that HR had signed for him. Cisco lay curled on his side, the book flipped shut most of the way. His thumb propped open the cover, inside in HR's scrawling cursive:
My inspiration, my muse; Francisco.