Everything with Jay is complicated. It has always been complicated. Harry can’t imagine a time when it won’t be.
Jay himself, of course, isn’t complicated at all. Jay Garrick is just about the least complicated person Harry’s ever met, which is part of the problem. Ever since he founded S.T.A.R. Labs almost twenty years ago, achieving respect and influence and eventually true fame, there have been people working the angles. Kids trying to get jobs. Competitors trying to steal research. Media trying to squirrel out any info on his private life. Everyone he’s met in the last twenty years has had to be handled with care and suspicion, including Jesse’s kindergarten classmates. No one has wanted to know Harry Wells, science dork, for a very long time. Everyone has wanted to know Dr. Harrison Wells, Central City’s very own superstar.
Jay Garrick hadn’t come to the lab with an ulterior motive. He’d body checked Harry on the basketball court and Harry had gone down hard on the hot concrete. The pick-up games were a regular feature of his week, a way to keep fit and blow off steam. The other players were S.T.A.R. Labs staff and friends-of-friends. Harry hadn’t even noticed the new guy until Jay came steaming across his path like a massive blond brick wall. And before Harry could even shout foul, there was a big warm hand around his, pulling him up, the guy apologizing so hard he was practically blushing.
“It’s okay,” Harry had said, brushing him off, shutting him down, and taking the throw.
They played a lot after that. Jay wasn’t good on any kind of technical level, but he could hustle, and his annoyingly bouncy enthusiasm meant that Harry couldn’t get too irritated by all the fouls, or the missed shots. Well, at first it was the enthusiasm. Then it was the July day Jay stripped off his sweat-soaked college shirt. Harry stared. Jay saw him staring.
It’s been three years. Three years that had been nothing Harry had cared to count at the beginning, because he didn’t and couldn’t do relationships. There was a city full of hot bodies out there, and he was happy to make his way through them. So going back to Jay’s loft apartment and fucking after the game was nothing. It was good, but it was nothing. Except somewhere in the sixth month he’d started thinking maybe it wasn’t, and somewhere before a year had passed he’d stopped fucking around. He didn’t want an adoring tour guide in his bed, a wide-eyed twink on the couch… He sat in his office, fiddled in his workshop, and thought of Jay’s big, muscular, uncomplicated body. And that’s where he always went. It’s where he still goes. And it’s still complicated.
The loft gets cold this time of year. It’s been a long time since Harry lived anywhere that the weather could affect his living conditions. But however primitive it might be, it’s also nice to have that chill air on his back when they fuck, because they fuck hot and hard and practically steam with sweat in the summer. It’s nice to have an excuse to pull the comforter over them when they’re done. To have Jay wrap arms around him and not pull away.
“Any plans for the weekend?” Harry asks. They do bland small talk a lot. It’s where he’s most comfortable. If Jay was going to go to the press about their relationship or blab details about research or Jesse, he would’ve done it a long time ago, but Harry doesn’t do trust anymore.
Jay stretches out, rubbing a hand down Harry’s stomach. It makes Harry want to run off and do a hundred crunches. “Christmas? Pretty low-key. Probably just some work. Watch a couple of movies.”
“Yeah.” Harry stares at the knotted wood in Jay’s ceiling. He does many reckless things in his life and work, but this isn’t one of them. This is something that’s been preying on his mind since… probably since last Christmas. “Garrick… Jay… Of course I don’t want to keep you from your work. But…” He makes himself take a breath. He’s been feted in Time as an excellent public speaker. He can do this. “I finally gave in and got Jesse a chemistry set this year, and it’s not really my area of expertise, so if you happened to find yourself free…”
There’s a second of silence, and then Jay actually giggles. “Are you asking me to spend Christmas with you?”
Harry takes a chance and glances into Jay’s eyes. He glances away very quickly, because Jay is just too happy and loving, like a big Labrador. “I might be.” He should probably correct ‘spend Christmas’ to something else, because that sounds like it might involve a lot of hours. A lot of time. Maybe the whole day. But he doesn’t say anything at all.
“You want me to meet Jesse,” Jay says, somewhere between a statement and a question.
“You’ve met her.”
“Sure. It was really a memorable moment when you said my name among the eight other guys we were hanging with on the court.”
Harry bites his lip and reaches for his glasses on the bedside table. He doesn’t want to think about this any more than he has to. “Just… if you find yourself with nothing better to do, you could come over, okay?”
“Okay,” Jay says, and watches Harry get dressed.
It’s been just the two of them for a long time, and Harry probably feels it more than Jesse does. To her it’s normal to have just her and her dad unwrapping presents, singing songs, eating a turkey dinner, and curling up to watch movies. Harry hadn’t even had that much at her age, but he knows what he had hoped for her: a big, warm family with dozens of friends, laughter and cheer. Her mom had been good at that stuff. A great hostess, the kind of person who befriended everyone and made them all feel welcome. Harry’s always been shy with new people, and outright suspicious of them in the recent past. He doesn’t make friends easily, and although Jesse takes after her mom, all those school friends have their own families on Christmas Day.
They have fun, though. They always have fun. She’s been his joy ever since she was born, a little wriggly bundle made from pure light and love. And she loves him, even in times he’s thought it impossible anyone could. She races out from school and flings her arms around his neck and tells him everything all at once before he can remind her to slow down.
And even though they have fun, it niggles at him. The front door. The time. Jay Garrick absolutely should not be on his mind. He doesn’t need Jay here. In fact, things will be simpler without him. And still he glances at his watch while Jesse’s bumping her mini drone into every wall she can find.
But of course there can’t be a knock at the door anyway. There’s a buzz from a very apologetic-sounding security guard asking whether Jason P. Garrick is expected. Her tone of voice suggests she’s already convinced that of course the answer is no and that Harry will probably snap at her for interrupting his day.
“He can come in,” Harry says. “Merry Christmas, officer.”
After all that – and the five minutes it actually takes Jay to get past the gate and walk up the driveway – he can almost pretend he’s a perfectly normal homeowner welcoming a guest at the door. Except that Jay looks like one of those tourists seeing a big city for the first time. Harry doesn’t get embarrassed by his wealth very often, but his house could easily accommodate Jay’s apartment a couple of dozen times.
“Hi,” Harry says.
It’s a good thing Jay’s so tall. He’s carrying enough gifts that they’d dwarf him otherwise. Harry plucks the top box off the stack. “You didn’t have to-”
“Well, you know.” Jay’s grin is broad. “How many other kids do I get to give presents to? That one’s for you, though.”
“Thank you.” From the shape and weight, it’s obviously some kind of whiskey or bourbon. Harry can’t decide whether he wants it to actually be good, or if that’ll just make him feel guilty for making Jay spend money. Jay’s not poor, but he’s only well-off for a single man living in a drafty loft. Harry draws a breath and makes himself say it: “Thank you for coming.”
“Like I said, I wasn’t doing much else.”
Jay’s exactly the kind of guy who should be swarmed in his own kids – or, at bare minimum, nieces and nephews – on a holiday like this. One of those men whose family holds a traditional Christmas dinner, plays touch football in the back yard… Harry stands back and lets him in.
“Wow,” Jay says. Obviously they’re not going to be pretending Harry doesn’t live in a mansion forever. “Huh.”
Jay shrugs, and the whole stack of gifts shrugs with him. “I mean, it’s nice. Just looks kind of… cold.”
There’s a fire blazing in the center of the lounge. Harry would look at it pointedly, except Jesse has wandered out to find him, carrying a slightly worse-for-wear drone. “Daddy?”
“Jess, this is Jay.”
Jay smiles. One of those big broad smiles that puts people at ease. “Hi.”
Jesse smiles back, but looks up at Harry quizzically. “Is he a courier?”
“Uh, no.” Good question, given the boxes and the fact no one ever visits on Christmas Day. “He’s… Jay’s a friend of mine. He’s a chemist. I thought you might want some help with the new set.”
“Oh.” Jesse, who has never wanted help with anything in her entire life, is caught between protesting and being polite. She’s exceptionally good at being polite. “Um… Can I help you with the boxes? Dad, the wing’s all wonky.”
And so Harry goes to find a screwdriver. When he gets back, they’re sitting on the floor with the gifts, while Jay takes a look at the chem set. Harry could’ve put together an entire lab for her, but, knowing his own adventures in that area, it probably wouldn’t last long.
“What’s the J for?” Jesse asks. “Cause I’m a J too.”
“Jason,” Jay says. “But that’s just for my parents. I write it J-A-Y.”
Jesse glances at Harry. “People always want to write my name with an i. They keep saying it’s a boy’s name.”
“Doesn’t mean it can’t be your name too.”
“I’m not mad about the name. I’m mad about the people.”
Jay takes this in. “Okay. Well, lots of people have unconventional names. Harry’s the only Harrison I’ve ever met.”
Harry stops his tinkering for a second, hoping Jesse is too absorbed in unwrapping duties to notice. But already: “He doesn’t like it when people call him Harry.”
“Oh.” Jay looks up and Harry deliberately avoids meeting his eyes, setting the repaired drone on the table. “Well… okay, good to know.”
The sweater Jay’s brought for Jesse is big and knitted: S.T.A.R. Labs blue, with a white snowflake pattern. It’s nothing like anything Jesse has in her closet, but she squeals, presses it to her cheek. “This is so cute!” And she wriggles into it immediately. “Dad, look! Can you take a picture?”
“I wasn’t sure what size…” Jay says apologetically while Harry dutifully takes the photos Jesse is demanding.
“It’s perfect! Thanks Jay-for-Jason.” She doesn’t quite hug him, but she squeezes his knee pretty hard.
They work with the chem set for most of the afternoon. It’s impressive, the way Harry checks back every half-hour and finds them still on the floor, surrounded by yet more colorful beakers and pipettes. Jesse usually blasts through everything and gets bored, moving on to whatever’s next to spark her curiosity. But Jay, somehow, is keeping her engaged, answering her questions and posing others. Harry watches for a few minutes and slips back to his computer, monitoring the simulations he’d set running the previous evening. There’s nothing really to do, but his mind itches with another puzzle.
Jay would make a good parent. He’s safe, dependable, trustworthy. Jesse likes him.
The next step is so real and obvious it’s almost tangible. Hundreds and thousands of parents do this. Jesse’s smart and loving. She won’t break. She might already know, with the sudden appearance of a big, handsome stranger her dad is actually happy to leave alone with her. And yet. It’s complicated.
Jay stays into the evening, when they have pizza and soda, watching animated movies Jesse pretends to be too sophisticated for during the rest of the year. She snuggles into his side, his little Jesse Quick, his arm around her. And even though it’s usually just the two of them, having Jay on his other side, sprawled out, laughing at every joke, absolutely rapt… It seems right. It seems like this could be the fiftieth time they’ve done this. Jay doesn’t touch him, doesn’t throw an arm around his shoulders, but sometimes when Harry watches the light from the TV flashing over his face, Jay glances around and lets the glance linger.
By the end of the second movie, Jesse’s almost asleep and still protesting about going to bed, but Harry gets her there, all the way through brushing her teeth and half-carrying her to her bedroom. There won’t be too many more years before she’ll be staying up all night on her tablet and phone, setting her own boundaries and breaking them. Tonight is still on his terms, though.
Well, until he goes back downstairs and finds Jay leaning against the lounge door frame. Jay’s only ever able to be seductive when he doesn’t realize he’s doing it. He has no idea about the way his stance pulls his shirt tight across his chest and shoulders, the shadows cast by the fire highlighting his cheekbones, darkening his eyes. Harry had fully, fully intended to wish him good night and promise to call.
Jay can be a brick wall on the basketball court. In Harry’s hallway he’s startled and off-balance when Harry pushes him back into the lounge, getting fistfuls of shirt at both shoulders in a way that pops a button right off. But in barely a moment he’s already halfway through a laugh, dipping his head to kiss Harry full on the mouth. Harry shoves him back onto the daybed, Jay’s flailing heel knocking over a partly-built electronics kit Tina had sent for Jesse. Jesse… is upstairs, not yet asleep. But, for better or worse, it’s not like Harry’s never done this before.
He’s already breathing hard, skin prickling with heat from the fire, as Jay wriggles out of his shirt. Such a perfect, golden, youthful body that seems not to have changed at all since the first time they did this, three years ago. Likely those three years have been longer for Harry, even if Jay still looks at him with eyes full of hunger when Harry stretches and peels off his shirt.
Often Jay’s loft echoes with their cries, with bodies crushed into benches and slammed into walls, but they’re quiet now, breaths loud but no louder than the roar of the fire, certainly nowhere near enough to make Jesse investigate. And it’s somehow even better this way, just feeling it all, enjoying Jay’s body without distractions.
“It’s okay,” Jay whispers, and Harry’s eyes meet his without wanting to see before Jay grabs at him, pulls him down to kiss him. Harry stutters out a groan, would object to Jay’s hands in his hair, Jay’s tongue in his mouth, everything stopping him just fucking Jay like he wants to. Because this makes things complicated. The way Jay smells of something that Harry’s brain calls Christmas but can’t otherwise define. The way Jay’s hands are big, gentle, caring. The way…
And Harry tucks his head into the hollow of Jay’s shoulder as Jay’s legs wrap around his hips, and it’s different than it’s ever been, the rhythm changing, his heartbeat slowing to match the thud he can hear through Jay’s chest. “Jay,” he says, not sure what he means to follow it with.
“It’s okay,” Jay says again. “It’s good.”
Harry repeats that to himself once they’ve finished, once he’s rolled off Jay and Jay’s cleaned them both up. This is okay. This is good. The perfect Christmas, with Jesse, with science, with laughter, with lovemaking that’s left him feeling both buzzed and relaxed. He could feel this way all the time. He could take Jay to bed, wake up with him early, go running and burn off the extra adrenaline with him in the shower. Jay makes great waffles. Jesse would love his breakfasts and having another person to talk to about school and friendship crises. It would be okay. It would be good.
“You have to leave,” he says, when Jay once again looms nakedly into view.
“Leave?” Jay sounds genuinely confused. Usually he’s good at taking hints. But then it’s always been Harry who’s left before.
Harry makes himself sit up, his body leaden. His chest is still smeared with their sweat. “I’ll call you.”
Jay frowns. “Is that seriously where you’re taking this, Harrison?”
“I don’t follow.”
“I’ve had three years of ‘I’ll call you.’ So you invite me to spend Christmas with your family, and it still ends with that?”
Harry bites his lip, he studies the flames. “It was nice of you to come. Jesse loved it.”
“I loved it too. And you know that’s not all.”
“Jay…” Harry’s lips move, but only a sigh of frustration comes out. “You know I can’t-”
“Yeah, I’m starting to believe you really can’t.” He’s never seen Jay this angry before, pulling on clothes like they, too, have disappointed him. Certainly not this angry at him. “Not because of your daughter or your image. But because you’re actually incapable of it.”
“You know that’s not true.”
“I know it wasn’t true. Things change.” Jay stamps into his shoes and smooths down his hair. “And you, we, have to change too. So sure, you can call me. But you’d better have something to say.”
It’s so typically Jay it’s almost amusing. The righteousness. The need for normalcy. Except this is far more complicated than anything he’s done before. And there’s a solution to this problem. Several solutions. Solving problems is what Harry does, what he’s best at… If they’re numbers on a board, not… Not Jay, not anyone who needs more from him than he’s been prepared to give in years.
Jay gives him the chance to speak. To apologize. To tell him to stay, or at least to explain and make plans. Harry only stares, his chest tight, searching for answers and courage that won’t come. And then, finally, Jay looks away.
“Merry Christmas,” Jay says, his head bowed as he strides quickly to the door. It’s the way Jesse moves when she’s trying to make it to her room without crying, which every single time means Harry jogs after her and scoops her up and makes everything okay, whatever it takes. Now the door closes and he hasn't moved.
Harry sits there and thinks about nothing, as best he can, until it’s long past the time needed for Jay to make his way out and past the gate to his car. Long past the time he could run after him or ask the guard to turn him back.
“It’s okay,” he tells the fire. “It’s good.”
His phone falls out of his pants pocket when he lifts them from the floor. Two different numbers for Jay, cell and home, both frequently dialed. Call me. Something he’s done hundreds of times in the last three years. Few things have been easy, but that always has been. One button to touch, one “I need to see you.” Simple. Uncomplicated.
He’ll never make that call again.