Cisco’s Thursday was pretty uneventful until Joe West dashed into the cortex just as they were all preparing to leave for the day, his face full of worry. “Two CCPD officers had a run-in with a meta this afternoon,” he said, out of breath.
Cisco looked up from his phone, where he was engaged in a brutal Words with Friends battle with Caitlin. “All right, let’s see what we can do,” he said, spinning his chair around to face his computer and stretching out his knuckles. It had been a boring week, with nothing to do at S.T.A.R. Labs, and a meta attack was a nice break from the monotony.
“Are the officers okay?” Caitlin asked.
Joe scratched his head. “You tell me. One’s been changed into a fifteen-year-old, and the other one seems to be seven.”
“They’ve what?” Cisco exclaimed. “Are you saying our meta de-aged them?” He snapped his fingers, trying to spark the creative juices in his brain. “Fountain of Youth.”
“Too much of a mouthful,” said Harry flatly behind him.
“You’re too much of a mouthful,” Cisco told him, pausing as the innuendo registered. “Wait—”
“Smith is in his thirties and August in his twenties, so it looks like they both lost about two decades,” Joe continued, ignoring Cisco and Harry with the ease of long practice. “It’s pretty chaotic down at the station. August’s wife already has a new baby and is not happy she has to babysit her husband as well.”
“So we have to find this meta and figure out how to reverse this de-aging,” Barry said.
“What happens if the meta comes into contact with someone under twenty?” Caitlin asked.
Joe shook his head. “I don’t know and I don’t plan to find out. The only report that Smith and August gave was that they’d been reviewing witnesses for a case. We tried to get a better description out of them, but Smith is a moody adolescent and August just wants to talk about robots.” He let out the sigh of the long suffering.
“A kid after my own heart,” Cisco said with a grin. He typed in some search parameters for their social media scanner to look for instances of talking about children, youth, de-aging, and anything related. No hits. “There’s nothing on the net about this yet, so your cops must have been Fountain of Youth’s first victims. Either that or anyone who was whammied before them didn’t yell on Twitter about it.”
“We’re not calling this meta Fountain of Youth,” said Iris.
“Metas usually freak out once they affect someone,” Barry mused. “They’ll probably start creating more trouble now that they’re scared.”
“Cisco,” Harry said gruffly. Cisco’s ears perked up as they always did when Harry said his name. “We should go down to the station, see if you can pick up a vibe from either of the officers.”
He wanted to be contrary just for the sake of it, but it was their best lead. “Good idea,” he said. “Caitlin can keep an eye on the social media feed to see if anyone says anything about it.”
Caitlin nodded. “Happy to.”
Since they were going down to CCPD in their official roles as ‘police consultants’, Cisco couldn’t just open a breach down there. Instead, they went in “stealth mode” (as Cisco called it), preparing one of the S.T.A.R. Labs vans and loading it up with some rudimentary tech equipment and Harry’s pulse gun. Cisco slouched artfully in the passenger seat, glancing over at Harry to see if he was ready.
Their eyes caught and held. Cisco looked away, his mouth dry. Weird eye contact had been happening more and more, and Cisco wasn’t sure the meaning of it; he just knew that he really, really liked to look at Harry.
“Ready to go?” Harry asked gruffly. He turned the key, the engine turned over, and he pulled out of the S.T.A.R. Labs garage into evening rush hour traffic.
They sat on the highway for a few minutes staring out at a sea of brake lights before Caitlin radioed. “Cisco, there’s been another incident,” she said.
Cisco sat up straight, leaning forward and peering out the window. “What happened?” Harry immediately moved into the right lane and made a beeline for the next exit; although they were crawling, it wouldn’t take too long to reach it and escape the nightmare of Central City’s main expressway at 5pm.
“Central City Institute of Technology just ended midterms, and there was a pub crawl downtown to celebrate. Somehow our meta got stuck in the middle of it, and now there are a bunch toddlers at a dive bar.”
“Toddlers at a dive bar,” Cisco repeated. “Man, sometimes our lives are pretty bizarre.”
“CCPD is rounding up the kids with help from social services, but our meta can’t have gone far,” Caitlin told him.
Luckily, the exit from the expressway landed them right smack dab in the middle of the main nightlife district. Harry pulled the van over and parked. “It’ll be faster if you can open a breach,” he said, going into the back of the van and strapping his pulse gun over his shoulder in a completely conspicuous way.
“In the middle of all these people?” Cisco asked, gesturing outside to the crowds that were on the street. It was still happy hour at many of the bars surrounding them, and Cisco briefly wished he could be inside a cozy pub having a beer instead of chasing some insane meta. What would it be like, to have a normal life?
Harry gave him an imploring look. Cisco sighed, abandoned his daydream about normalcy, and climbed into the back of the van, tugging Harry in with him by his wrist and closing the doors behind them. “Ramon, what are you—” Harry demanded, clearly off-kilter.
Cisco put on his goggles. The blue light from a breach lit the interior of the van a moment later. The back of the van was barely big enough for the interdimensional portal to fit, but it worked. “This should appear in an alley near the bar,” Cisco said. Harry seemed to get himself under control; he nodded and stepped through the breach without a word, Cisco hot on his heels.
The alley was thankfully deserted. Cisco radioed Caitlin again. “We’re in the area,” he said. “Any other reports that will help us track where Fountain of Youth is going? Or what they look like?”
“Nothing else,” said Caitlin.
“Split up,” ordered Harry. “We’ll walk around and look for anyone who seems upset or acting suspicious. Cisco, you head towards the bar where the meta first appeared. I’ll start with a small perimeter and gradually move outwards.”
“Deal,” said Cisco. “Be careful, Harry. Nobody wants to take care of you as a toddler.”
Harry rolled his eyes and stalked off, one hand comfortably resting on the barrel of his pulse rifle.
Cisco removed his goggles, stowing them in his pocket, and made his way back to the dive bar. The bar was closed off by a police barricade and a bunch of officers were standing right in the open door, a few others chasing a bunch of naked toddlers around while they tried to interview witnesses. Cisco evaluated his feelings about children (ambivalent) and decided the police had it all under control. He walked around the corner to a side street, put on his goggles again, and pressed his palm to the bricks. The world turned blue.
A blonde woman who couldn’t have been older than twenty-three was stumbling along the sidewalk, her face in tears. “Harry, I’m vibing our meta,” Cisco said into the comm. He focused on the street sign near her head. “She’s at the corner of 15th and Washington.”
“That’s close,” Harry replied as Cisco’s vibe faded. “I’m on it.”
Cisco was also on it – he pulled out his phone, opened Google maps, and looked for a good deserted location for a breach. There was an alley a few blocks down, and Cisco quickly breached over there. “Harry, I’m coming in for backup.”
“I’ve got this,” said Harry. A moment later, Cisco heard him say, “are you okay?”
“No! Stay away from me!” a young woman’s voice yelled. Cisco frowned and began to run towards 15th and Washington. “You don’t know what I’ll—oh, no.”
The horror in her voice, reflected through Harry’s comm, made something sink in Cisco’s stomach. “Harry?!” he yelled. “Harry, are you okay?”
There was a moment of terrifying silence. Then, Harry said, “I’m okay,” his voice slightly softer than normal.
“Did you stop Fountain?” Cisco asked, silently agreeing that Fountain of Youth was way too long after all. He crossed the street quickly against a light, ignoring the honking that sounded behind him.
There was something funny in Harry’s voice. “I caught her. Briefly.”
Cisco cursed and kept running. “Harry, did she whammy you?” he said, visions of a sulky teenaged Harrison Wells running through his head. Nobody really knew how Fountain’s powers worked. Really, would a teenaged Harry really act all that differently?
He rounded the corner and ran straight into the arms of the most beautiful man he’d ever seen.
“Oh, oh wow, I’m sorry,” he babbled, backing away; his bisexuality didn’t rear its head often, but sometimes it pulled no punches. “Did you see a young woman run by here? Blonde? Maybe with a sulky teenaged sidekick?”
“Good god, Ramon,” said the outrageously hot stranger, and Cisco’s heart sank. No, no, this could not be happening.
“Harry?” Cisco asked in a small voice, studying the high cheekbones, thick mop of dark hair, the lines of his face. He did look like Harry – but he couldn’t have been older than his early thirties, and he was as handsome as any leading man. If Cisco hadn’t known any better, he’d have thought Harry had a secret, even hotter relative.
“Yes, for god’s sake, Ramon, it’s me!” Hot Harry answered bitchily. “I believe that she, as you so eloquently like to call it, ‘whammied’ me.”
It really, really was not Cisco’s day.
Cisco refused to let Hot Harry drive back to the lab, mostly because they didn’t know what residual effects the age change would have on him. Other than his appearance and more softness in his voice, there didn’t seem to be any major differences, but Harry was angry as a wet cat and on the verge of throwing a tantrum, so it was really hard to tell.
Harry finished looking in the mirror and slammed the overhead visor shut against the ceiling viciously. “I can’t believe this,” he snapped. “I look like a fool. Do you know how long it took people to take me seriously when I looked like this?” He slouched down in the passenger seat, clearly getting ready for a good, long sulk.
Cisco’s mouth may have been dry and his interior temperature running high since Harry had been transformed, but he still knew how to interact with his temper. “Yes, Harry, tell me more about not being taken seriously due to your appearance,” he said flatly. “A short Latino engineer who looks five years younger than his actual age has no idea what that feels like.”
Harry glared at him. Even the death glare was really doing it for Cisco; he licked his lips and had to look away.
The thing was, Cisco had been into Harry long before this de-aging had come about; the lust hitting him now had always just been more low-key. The age difference (not to mention the fact that Harry shared a face with a man who had murdered Cisco) made it easy to temper those feelings, ignore them as inappropriate. But now Harry looked like less of a hot dad and more of a model, and he definitely did not look like Eobard Thawne – Cisco couldn’t stop staring at him.
Of course, Harry noticed. “Keep your eyes on the road, Ramon,” he snapped, and Cisco dragged his eyes away from those perfectly symmetrical features to pay attention to his driving. He was thrilled to see that Harry’s mood was at the point on the scale where he refused to use Cisco’s first name; that was always a delight.
They thankfully made it back to S.T.A.R. Labs without incident and the rest of the team met them in the garage, curious to witness de-aged Harry. Iris was holding a tablet with Caitlin at her side, Ralph scratching his head in the corner, and Barry, still in his Flash suit, stood in the center of all of them. The moment Cisco got out of the truck, they all started talking at once.
“What happened to Harry?” Barry asked.
“How badly was he whammied?” Iris said at the same time.
“Did it de-age him the same amount as the other victims?” asked Caitlin.
Harry climbed out of the passenger door and came face to face with them, closest to Caitlin. Cisco watched with annoyance as her whole face turned red. She took a step back. “Harry?” she asked tentatively, her voice unsure.
Cisco quickly inserted himself in between them. “Yes, we get it, he’s a major babe,” he snapped. “Let’s fix this.”
Everyone went silent, staring at him, and Cisco’s brain gently registered what exactly he’d said. He felt his cheeks heat and very studiously did not look at Harry. “What are you all staring at?”
Caitlin looked close to laughter. “Is he a ‘major babe’?” she asked, and although she didn’t use air quotes, it was clear that she wanted to.
To Cisco’s surprise, it was Harry who replied. “This is—Snow, that’s not the point. This is ridiculous. This is inconvenient, and it needs to be fixed immediately. Cisco is—everyone is getting distracted.”
Cisco turned to look at Harry, who was also blushing. It was a good look on him, with his pale skin and dark features, and before Cisco knew it, he was staring again.
Caitlin looked like she was about to fan herself. Cisco didn’t like any of it. “Why don’t you come down to the infirmary so I can run some tests, Harry?” Caitlin suggested. She took him by one of his arms and started to lead him towards the elevators, subtly feeling up his biceps.
“Hey, he needs to help me unload—what are you doing? You better not take advantage of him!” Cisco shouted after her as the elevator closed and she and Harry disappeared. The moment they were gone, Barry and Iris started laughing hysterically, and Cisco turned his probably-crazy eyes onto them. “What?!”
“I don’t think you staked your territory obviously enough,” Barry said. “Maybe you should pee on a tree or something.”
“Remember, I put up with your Iris nonsense for years,” Cisco replied, pointing at him. “Years.”
“For which we are eternally thankful,” Iris cut in, still giggling. “Still…Harry was pretty handsome, huh?”
“Not you, too,” Cisco groaned, hiding his face in his hands. Was he going to have to fight off their entire team to protect Harry’s honor?
“I always knew deep down that guy was a DILF,” Ralph commented from across the garage. God, Cisco’s nightmare was just never ending.
Cisco moved his pointed finger from Barry to Iris. “First of all, Harry is pretty handsome, de-aging didn’t change that.” He moved to point at Ralph. “Second of all, I will change the molecular composition of your suit to constrict when you try to expand. Just try me, Dibny.”
“Cool,” said Ralph, who had never met a threat that wouldn’t go over his head.
Iris patted Cisco on the shoulder. “Let’s help you unpack the van,” she said. “I think you need to take a few deep breaths and let your brain catch back up with your mouth.”
Cisco rewound the last thirty seconds and felt his cheeks heat again. At least Harry hadn’t been present to hear any of his latest nonsense.
“It’s okay, Cisco,” Barry said cheerfully. “Your secret crush is safe with us.” He flashed into a lightning bolt and a moment later, the van was all unpacked.
“Okay, I guess Barry will help you unpack the van,” Iris corrected.
“I’d better get down to the infirmary,” Cisco said. “Have to make sure Caitlin isn’t doing anything, uh, inappropriate.” He hurried for the elevator, ignoring the fact that he could hear Barry and Iris laughing again behind him.
Of course, when he got to the infirmary, he found Harry sitting on a cot with his shirt off, electrodes plastered on his firm chest and one of his biceps. Caitlin was nowhere in sight. Cisco took one look at the flat stomach and defined abs and made a noise like a dying animal.
“Ramon?” Harry asked, sitting up. “Thank god. Snow said she was going to measure my muscle reactions and then vanished.” He gave his toned bicep a glare as though it had personally offended him.
Ah, so they were still on the ‘Ramon’ level of the bitchiness scale. That was something Cisco could work with. “We unloaded the van, no thanks to your help,” Cisco said, although the usual bite wasn’t in his words. Harry’s eyes had always been the kind of blue that a person could get lost in, but younger, they were sharper, more crystal, framed by that mop of dark hair. God, he was handsome…
He was also waving his hand in front of Cisco’s face. “Earth to Ramon,” he barked. “Are you all going to act like idiots until we find a way to change me back?”
“Do we really have to change you back?” Cisco asked without really thinking, and something hardened in Harry’s eyes. He hopped off the exam table and ripped off the electrodes, tossing them on Caitlin’s desk.
“I don’t—there isn’t time for this,” he said furiously. “I feel fine. We don’t have to do lab tests; we need to find a way to change me back to normal.”
“Wow,” Cisco drawled. “What bee got into your bonnet today?”
“Gee, Ramon. Maybe it’s that I’ve been de-aged twenty years to the same age I was when Jesse was born. Maybe it’s because there’s no guarantee that I can be changed back. Maybe I liked being the age I was, the person I was.” He threw his hands in the air and stalked out of the infirmary. A moment later, Cisco heard something crash in the next room and ran in to find a several markers scattered across the floor where they’d clearly been thrown from one of the dry erase boards.
“Very mature!” he yelled after Harry, who had already disappeared and, from his route, was apparently stalking down to his room. There was no reply.
Caitlin came up behind him. “What’s his problem?” she asked. “I didn’t get to finish my tests.”
Cisco gestured in a way that he hoped signified ‘Harry has anger management issues and is having a bad day’. “We probably should let him have a time out,” he said ruefully.
“Probably,” Caitlin said with a smile. “Still, it’s nice to see even with the model’s face, he’s still the same old Harry.”
Cisco pointed at her. “No,” he said.
She flashed him the big eyes. “What?”
“Absolutely not. Harry is off-limits.”
Caitlin quirked her mouth in a way that on a douchier person could be called a smirk. “And why is that, Cisco?”
“He’s compromised. He just got attacked by Fountain and he’s upset. If you all start flirting with him, he’s going to think you only like him for his looks.” Cisco put his hands on his hips, ready to die on this hill.
“Oh Cisco,” Caitlin said, ruffling his hair. Cisco wrinkled his nose at her; he was not five. “I think this is an instance where you’re seeing what you want to see.” Then she grinned at him. “Although, did you take a look at his six-pack?”
“Get out of my face,” Cisco ordered. “Out!”
She disappeared, giggling, and Cisco pretended his face wasn’t red again.
By the next morning, the de-aging meta had run through an elderly care home and changed all the residents into their sixties and fifties. After that, she took a rush-hour bus that resulted in a lot of grumpy teenagers. Barry immediately headed out to try and stop her, but Cisco stayed back at the lab, working with Caitlin to try to figure out how Fountain was even able to de-age people.
Caitlin had taken a sample of Harry’s blood and was looking at the cells under the microscope while Cisco hovered unhelpfully, spinning on a desk chair. “Even his cells are younger,” Caitlin said finally. “They look like they’ve completely regenerated. I don’t know how she did it, but it’s incredible. She’s literally erased the aging on the body.”
“How does she consistently erase twenty years from everyone?” Cisco asked. “That doesn’t seem possible to do precisely.”
“There may be variations between the age someone is and how much they get aged down,” Caitlin mused. “Maybe it only seems like it’s in twenty year increments because we don’t understand it.”
“Uh, guys,” Joe West said from the doorway, clearing his throat. “You might want to join us in the cortex.”
Cisco pinched his temples. “We’re figuring this out, Joe,” he said.
“Now,” was all Joe said ominously. Caitlin and Cisco met each other’s eyes; that could only mean one thing.
They entered the cortex to find a red blur zigzagging around the room while Iris and Joe yelled at it. Eventually, the blur of red lightning resolved itself into a small, fat-cheeked blonde boy who attached himself to Iris’s leg. He gave Cisco a wide, gap-toothed smile. “Hey Cisco,” he said. “I’m fast!”
“This is bad,” said Cisco. “This is very, very bad.”
“That’s an understatement,” Iris muttered. “Chasing a hyperactive kid is bad enough without super speed thrown in.” She petted small Barry’s hair, and Cisco got the feeling from the softness in her eyes that she didn’t really mind it too much.
Someone cleared their throat in the doorway. They all whirled to find Harry slouched against the doorframe, still dressed in his all black ensemble, looking even more like a snack than he had the previous day.
“It looks like we have more incentive to reverse this effect as soon as possible,” he said, snapping his fingers. “Come on, Snow,” he added, disappearing off towards the infirmary.
“Is it me, or is he acting even more like a dick than normal?” Cisco asked the room. Caitlin patted him on the arm and headed back to the infirmary. Cisco turned to follow.
“Wait,” said Joe. “What should we do about Barry?”
“You could always drug him,” suggested Ralph. Iris and Joe glared at him.
“Have him run laps around the accelerator,” Cisco countered. “Tire him out.”
“Good idea,” Iris said. “Hey, Barry, do you want to show us how fast you can run? Around the training course?”
“Yeah!” Barry said loudly, turning back into red lightning and zipping out.
One problem dealt with, Cisco headed out of the room after Harry and Caitlin. He found them studying the images of Harry’s cells, heads bent together, and walked over and stuck himself in between them.
“What are we looking at?” he asked as though he hadn’t just acted completely territorial and weird.
Harry gave him such a withering look that it was a miracle that Cisco didn’t shrivel up and die on sight, but Caitlin smiled and bumped her hip against Cisco’s in solidarity. “Look, you can see movement in the cells. They’re not stable – they keep trying to change back to normal but something’s keeping them young.” She made eye contact with Cisco. “Have we figured out the meta’s method of transmission yet?”
“Victim testimonials are too unreliable,” Cisco said. “Kids are bad witnesses.”
“What about the nursing home?” Caitlin asked. “I’m sure they can give you clearer accounts of what happened."
“They’re at CCPD headquarters right now,” Cisco said. “Joe can probably get us in to talk with them.” He glanced at Harry, who was scowling at the screen as though it personally offended him, and leaned over to bump shoulders with him. “Want to come with me to interview some de-aged geriatrics? You’ll feel right at home.”
“Aw, Cisco,” Caitlin said. “Harry’s going to think that you think he’s old.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “As if I care what he thinks. Whatever. I’m fine to go interview people.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “Let’s go.”
Cisco wondered if he was still in the doghouse enough to be called Ramon or if he’d graduated back to Cisco yet. The short sentences suggested things were still not great. “Okay, but I’m still driving. I have the feeling you might murder anyone who cuts you off if you get behind the wheel today.”
When they arrived at CCPD, the lobby was full of middle-aged people in various states of disbelief and euphoria.
A woman who looked about sixty with wavy gray-brown hair smiled gleefully at Cisco and Harry as they entered. “Well, look at you two handsome young men,” she said. “Are you also police officers?”
Cisco turned on his mega-watt smile. “We’re consultants,” he said, sitting down next to her. “I’m Cisco and this is Harry. And you are?”
“I’m Doris,” she said with an answering smile.
“Great. Doris, if you don’t mind me asking, exactly how old are you?”
She directed a coy, fluttering look right at Harry. “A lady never tells,” she said.
Harry looked exceedingly uncomfortable and muttered under his breath, “I didn’t miss this.”
Cisco turned back to Doris. “Please, it’ll help our investigation. Would you say that you’re significantly younger now than you were when you woke up this morning?”
“Oh, yes,” Doris said cheerfully. “It’s a miracle from that lovely young woman.”
The man on the bench next to her, looking to be about Harry’s normal age, started nodding as well. “Yes, that young woman! I saw her too.”
“That’s good!” Caitlin said in his ear. “Ask them if they can figure out mode of transmission.”
“Okay,” Cisco said, “good. Can you tell us what she did? How did she go about creating this…miracle?”
Doris and her companion looked at one another and shrugged. “She just told us we’d thank her,” Doris said. “She came by and touched her thumb to my forehead like she was going to give me the sign of the cross. I thought she was from pastoral care until Sandra – my nurse – turned into a child right in front of me.”
“Religious link?” Cisco murmured to Harry, who pushed his glasses up on his nose with a gesture that was outrageously hot. Cisco stared at his mouth, licking his lips, and was surprised when Harry’s scowl returned at full force.
“Concentrate, Ramon,” he growled.
“Concentrating,” Cisco said faintly, turning back to Doris and ignoring his runaway hormones. “Okay, so she touched you. Did she also touch Sandra?” Doris nodded.
“She touched me on the forehead as well,” said Doris’s companion.
“So it sounds like that’s the common link,” Cisco said. “Did you two notice anything else? Was there anyone at the nursing home who was not affected?”
Doris pointed to some people in the corner wearing hospital scrubs. “Some of the nurses weren’t.”
“Something else,” said Doris’s companion. “Billy doesn’t have Alzheimer’s anymore. He’s cured.”
“It’s a miracle,” Doris murmured under her breath. “My eyesight is back, and Joan’s hip works like she never broke it. She practically sprang out of her walker.”
“So not just the fountain of youth, but also healing,” Cisco said, hoping Caitlin was picking all of this up through the comm in his ear. “Got it.”
“Cisco, ask them if we can take some blood samples,” Caitlin asked.
After collecting samples from Doris and her companion, whose name was Leonard, they went around and interviewed some of the other people from the nursing home. All of the stories were similar – a blonde young woman came into their room, pressed her thumb to their forehead, and after an indeterminate time, they realized they were younger. Some of them also knew nurses or doctors who had been de-aged, usually by the blonde woman taking their wrist or touching them on the shoulder. Most of the ailments associated with the elderly had vanished, but any that people had had before then were still present; one man, a diabetic, was delighted to hear his kidneys were functioning again and he no longer needed dialysis, but he still had to administer his insulin.
All throughout the interviews, Harry was a thundercloud at Cisco’s side, generally unhelpful. Despite his mood, everyone seemed to smile and open up to him. The little old ladies who were no longer very old all seemed to enjoy flirting with him. It surprised Cisco a little bit, how much Harry seemed to hate the attention, and how much of it everyone wanted to give him.
Finally, they made their way to the small group of people in scrubs. A thirty-something brunette woman seemed to be their de facto leader, and she watched Cisco and Harry suspiciously as they walked over, Harry’s arms full with a rack of blood samples.
“Who are you?” the brunette asked. “You’d better not be hassling our patients. We want to know exactly what happened here and how we can fix it.” She seemed very no-nonsense and Cisco immediately decided he liked her.
“We’re scientists who consult with CCPD on metahuman issues,” Cisco told her. “We’re just trying to get an idea of what happened here so we can return everyone to normal.”
The woman scowled. “What happened is that some of my colleagues and friends are now five-year-olds, and all of our patients are no longer elderly. This is unacceptable. There’s no way our facility is going to stay open after this; can you imagine the lawsuits?” She pointed at him. “Find a way to fix it.”
“Did you see the young woman who did this?” Harry asked. At the sight of his face, the brunette softened slightly, a bit of pinkness in her cheeks. She nodded
“I did, but only from behind as she was leaving. She was short, blonde, and wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. She looked perfectly ordinary.”
“So she didn’t touch you,” Cisco confirmed, and the brunette shook her head.
“It seems pretty definitive that this metahuman spreads her de-aging by touch,” Caitlin said in their ears. “That gives me plenty to start with. Bring those samples back to the lab?”
Cisco fumbled with his pockets and produced his laser gun-decorated business cards (courtesy of VistaPrint). “If you think of anything else, email or call,” he said. “We’re working as hard as we can to reverse this."
Harry sulked all the way back to the van. Cisco didn’t even try to engage him in conversation; he just put the van in drive and started heading back to S.T.A.R. Labs. He wondered if he was starting to become immune to Harry’s hotness – he hadn’t gotten stuck staring in at least an hour.
Harry clutched the test tubes with blood samples to his chest like precious cargo. “The ache in my knee is gone,” he said out of nowhere as Cisco was merging onto the highway.
Once they were situated in their lane, Cisco glanced over at him briefly. “The ache in your knee?” he asked. “I didn’t know you had an ache in your knee.”
Harry grimaced. “I don’t talk about it,” he said. “But there’s an ache. In my knee. I wake up with it sometimes, when it rains. I broke it ten years ago.” He scowled. “It’s gone.”
“You really are the strangest person,” Cisco said. “Look at how delighted all of those old people were to be younger, and yet you act like this is the worst thing that’s ever happened to you. What gives, Harry?”
Harry frowned, staring out the window, and Cisco glanced over again. Younger, his face seemed softer, more vulnerable. Cisco tore his eyes back to the road before he accidentally missed their exit or got them killed. “I don’t like it,” Harry said at last. “The last twenty years gave me a lot of pain. They also made me who I am. I’m not—I’m not this person anymore, this idiot who thought the world would hand everything to him, who didn’t appreciate his wife before she was gone, who didn’t want a child.” He ran his hands through his thick hair. “I earned every wrinkle and pain and gray hair. I want them back.”
Cisco’s mouth opened in surprise, although he didn’t have anything to say. They rode in silence the rest of the way back to S.T.A.R. Labs.
“I’m sorry,” Cisco said after he parked the van. Harry glanced at him, surprised, his hand stalling on the door handle. “I’m sorry, I was so focused on…other things that I didn’t realize how difficult this was for you.”
Harry was smiling slightly at him, and Cisco watched him, the air between them suddenly thick with tension. “You’re forgiven, Cisco,” Harry said, his voice even deeper than normal.
Cisco licked his lips, feeling a stupid quip on the tip of his tongue and unable to keep it in. “You just look like such a snack, it’s hard to—”
Harry opened the door and got out of the van abruptly, slamming it behind him. Cisco stared at the empty passenger seat next to him, stunned at the sudden ferocity of his response.
Cisco pondered overnight and realized that Harry was making it abundantly clear that he didn’t enjoy being thirsted after, at least not by Cisco. He felt hollow in the pit of his stomach from the rejection, and he kind of wanted to buy a pint of ice cream and watch The Wrath of Khan. Instead, he forced himself to go to sleep, rationalizing that he needed to be back at the lab bright and early, fully rested and ready to be a friend to Harry despite his stupid feelings. Cisco wasn’t about to cross the guy’s boundaries just because he’d turned even hotter than before.
When Cisco arrived at S.T.A.R. Labs the next morning, he found Caitlin asleep at her desk in front of a box of slides made from blood samples. He left her alone and moved to their workshop, where he discovered Harry and Ralph bickering over how to improve Ralph’s suit for maximum elongation.
“It’s just, I can stretch so long,” Ralph was saying. “Like, really really long.”
Cisco moved faster and rounded the corner to see Ralph sitting on one of their workbenches staring earnestly at Harry, who was studying a dry erase board filled with design options and frowning at it.
“Hey Ralph,” Cisco said, full of mock cheer. “What are you doing, buddy?”
“Good old Harry’s going to help me fix my suit to better suit my…flexibility. I can just elongate so much more now and your design doesn’t hold up. Sometimes it makes me throb.” He wiggled his eyebrows just in case Cisco had missed all of the innuendo, which of course, he hadn’t.
“That suit is a masterpiece,” Cisco hissed, snapping his fingers at him. “Out!”
“But Cisco—” Ralph started with a pout.
“Out!” Cisco said again, pointing at the door. Ralph slouched himself off of the workbench and sulked over to the door, throwing one last look at Harry before disappearing.
Harry’s mouth was twitching. “You almost sounded like me,” he said.
Cisco crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m not letting them mess with you,” he said. “’Maximum elongation’. I need bleach for my brain.”
“Find some for me as well,” Harry said dryly. “You only walked in on the very end of that conversation, but apparently Dibny is also flexible enough to um, pleasure himself.”
“Gross!” Cisco shouted. “Party foul! Why would you tell me that, ever?!”
Harry smirked. “If I have to know, you do too.” He was astonishingly hot when smirking, and Cisco’s eyes glazed over briefly before he shook himself out of it. He could do this. Harry needed a friend right now, especially since everybody else was trying to flirt non-stop. If there was such a thing as a Veela outside the Harry Potter universe, Harry definitely was one of them.
Cisco settled himself in the workshop with Harry. There were occasional crashes and yells from the cortex, and Cisco almost ran out to see what was happening until Harry stopped him with a warm hand on his shoulder and said simply, “Barry.” Right, they were still trying to deal with a tiny Barry Allen on top of everything.
“So what’s on the plan for today?” Cisco asked.
“Snow is still going over samples in the lab,” Harry told him. “She thinks she can isolate the chemical that’s causing the de-aging reaction and reverse it. We can make a vaccine, and then we’ll go inoculate all of the people who’ve been affected.” They launched into a discussion about snare tactics for a meta they couldn’t touch, but something was clearly on Harry’s mind.
“Hey,” Cisco asked when there was a lull in the conversation. “What is it? What’s eating you, man?”
Harry glanced at him as though surprised that he was so perceptive. “I’m not—nothing’s eating at me, Ramon.”
So he was Ramon again. “C’mon, Harry, I know you well enough to know when something’s bothering you, even if you’re all young now.” Cisco leveled him with a look, determined not to get stuck tracing his cheekbones with his eyes. “What’s bugging you?”
Harry sighed gustily and rubbed his hand across his mouth. “Is it ethical to reverse this?” he said, which, okay, was the last thing Cisco was expecting him to say.
“What?” Cisco asked. “Dude, last night you wanted nothing more than to go back to normal.”
“No, no. Not for me. For the others, the old people. Is it ethical to vaccinate them back to their true ages and give them back all their ailments, to return them to Alzheimer’s and kidney failure?” He began to pace. “You saw their faces. They think they’ve received a second chance at life.”
Cisco had wondered that too, in the back of his mind, but he felt so far removed from the experiences of people in a nursing home that he hadn’t really dwelt on it, especially when he had Harry’s rejection to angst over instead. “I don’t know,” he said slowly. “Are you saying we should just keep them younger if they choose to stay that way?”
“I know it’s wrong,” Harry said. “But this already happened to them. Snow’s talking about isolating the chemical that the meta used to cause this and trying to shop it to researchers who are working on anti-aging treatments, so this may be available to everyone within a few decades. Is it fair to give them their lives back only to snatch them away again?"
“I don’t know,” Cisco murmured again. “I don’t think there’s a right answer.”
Harry massaged his temples. “Neither do I,” he muttered. “This is why I stick with science. I hate it when there’s no correct answer."
“Yeah, ethics, who needs ‘em?” Cisco said flippantly. He sobered again, remembering the fragment of a thought he’d had the night before. “But there has to be a reason that Fountain targeted that nursing home. She went through specifically making sure to touch every patient. Doris thought it was religious. There’s something there.” He blinked. “Harry, what if she thinks she’s performing miracles?”
Harry snapped his fingers. “It could be,” he said. “She’s not creating chaos. She’s trying to help people with these powers.”
“And if we know that—” Cisco began.
“—then we can figure out where she’ll go next,” Harry finished.
“Let’s go tell Iris and set up a search algorithm. I’ll try to vibe, too.” Cisco snatched his goggles and started for the door. He turned back. Harry was still standing at his dry erase board, watching him leave, a deeply sad look on his face. “Harry,” Cisco said. “Are you coming?”
Harry nodded, shaking himself out of whatever reverie he was in, and followed after Cisco.
They stood side by side in the elevator to the cortex, studiously not looking at each other – Cisco because he didn’t want to make Harry uncomfortable. They exited a moment later and found Iris curled up in one of the desk chairs by the computers with child Barry, reading him a book.
“Harry! Cisco!” small Barry yelled when they entered. “Iris is the best! She can give you popsicles."
“Is sugar really the best choice for him?” Cisco asked. Iris looked exhausted, like she hadn’t slept all night.
“Please, god, tell me you know how to change him back,” Joe begged from the corner. He also had bloodshot eyes.
“Caitlin’s almost there,” Cisco promised, hoping it was true. Iris and Joe didn’t look like they were going to make it much longer. Cisco didn’t think kids as old as Barry were usually that much trouble, but perhaps with a speedster it was a different story. “And we have a breakthrough on Fountain. We think she’s trying to de-age the elderly on purpose to do good.”
Iris perked up. “Interesting,” she said. “So her run through the nursing home yesterday was deliberate.”
Barry tugged on her sleeve. “We were reading,” he said petulantly.
“Right,” Iris said, shooting them an apologetic look and going back to the book, reading out loud with a small smile. She was going to make a hell of a mom someday, Cisco thought.
Harry sat down at one of the computers and started programming in search parameters to try to figure out where Fountain was going to strike next. He glanced at Cisco and mimed putting on the goggles; Cisco frowned at him, but seated himself in another chair and put the goggles on anyway. The world flashed blue.
There was the same young woman from before, sweet-faced with light hair and an expressive mouth, walking into the entrance of another nursing facility. Cisco squinted and caught the name on the plaque behind the front desk – Church Road Elder Care Facility. “Church Road Elder Care,” he said out loud, hearing the sound of typing next to him. There was a clock on the wall – he glanced at it. “A few minutes past seven o’clock,” he added.
Harry’s voice filtered into the vibe. “Morning or evening?”
Cisco glanced behind him, noting the darkness beyond the glass doors of the entryway. “Evening,” he answered.
His vibe continued to follow Fountain through the halls. She studiously avoided touching anyone younger, but whenever she saw an older patient, she’d lean over and whisper something, pressing her thumb to their forehead. Her face was kind every time. A nurse tried to stop her and talk to her, and she reached over and grabbed the nurse by the wrist. Cisco watched in rapt horror as the nurse slowly shrunk down into a ten-year-old’s body, looking confused.
There was a commotion in the next hallway. A group of kids – Cisco couldn’t figure out why there were so many, but there were at least ten in matching uniforms, maybe part of a volunteer group? – were making their way down the hallway. Fountain was heading right towards them, even though Cisco didn’t know if they’d ever answered the question of what happened if she transformed anyone under the age of twenty. Would they age down to babies? Would they cease to exist?
The sense of horror that overtook him snapped him out of the vibe before he could see what happened to the kids.
“There were kids there,” Cisco said, panicked, scrambling to remove his goggles and tossing them on the table next to him.
“What?” Harry asked. Cisco panted, his eyes wild, trying to bring himself back to the cortex, back to himself. To his surprise, Harry rolled his desk chair over and placed both hands on Cisco’s shoulders, concern in his eyes. “Cisco. Breathe. You’re at S.T.A.R. Labs. Tell me what you saw.” His voice was soft, kind, nothing like the usual Harry.
Cisco glanced up at him and met his gaze, holding it as he came back to himself. Even though the face in front of him was strange and beautiful, it was still Harry in there, his Harry. His breathing gradually returned to normal, the heartbeat in his chest slowing back down.
“There were kids,” Cisco said again, softly. “She’ll be there tonight, and there’s a group of kids. Do we know what happens when she touches anyone under twenty?”
Harry shook his head, Cisco’s concern mirrored on his face. “As far as I know, she hasn’t encountered any children yet.”
“We’ve got to stop her,” Cisco said, only realizing then that Harry’s hands were still on his shoulders, their faces close together. He felt a blush start to spread across his cheeks and broke eye contact, not wanting to force Harry to continue to deal with his errant feelings. “Thanks, Harry,” he added.
Harry coughed and rolled back to his own computer; Cisco’s shoulders felt cold with the sudden loss of contact. “It was no problem,” Harry said gruffly. “We should let Caitlin know that we need that vaccine to be ready before tonight so that we can have Barry ready to stop her.”
“You and I can stop her,” Cisco said confidently.
Harry shook his head. “I have no desire to ever experience you as a child, Ramon,” he said dryly. “Until we have that vaccine, you’re not going anywhere near her.”
Cisco didn’t know if he should be insulted or not.
Cisco planned to spend the afternoon giving Harry some space by helping Caitlin engineer vaccines in her lab. Unfortunately, he hadn’t counted on the fact that Caitlin and himself were the two people that Harry tolerated the most of all of Team Flash, and thus he found himself sitting almost thigh-to-thigh with Harry, pipetting ingredients for a solution into a beaker for Caitlin.
“Are you sure that this isn’t something just one of us can do?” Cisco asked for the third time after he brushed against Harry’s wrist while reaching for another ingredient.
“Positive,” Caitlin answered cheerfully. Cisco gritted his teeth; he couldn’t blame her for torturing him, not when she didn’t realize how uncomfortable Harry was with his attraction. She couldn’t know what was going on between them.
Oddly, Harry didn’t seem to mind their closeness either. He absent-mindedly crossed his ankle over Cisco’s, not even seeming to notice, and earlier he’d been perfectly happy to flick some distilled water at Cisco with his pipet (Cisco had flicked water back; he was trying to make his libido behave, but he wasn’t completely immune to flirting.)
After they were done measuring the solution Caitlin needed in the proportions that she’d requested, Harry went back to flicking distilled water at him.
“Really?” Cisco asked, wiping off his forehead. “What are you, five?”
“Just entertaining myself,” Harry said, dipping the pipet in the distilled water and squirting it at him.
“Oh, this is war,” Cisco breathed, shoving him over to stick his own pipet into the distilled water. He squirted it back and Harry ducked his head.
“Children!” Caitlin said sternly, not even looking away from her microscope. “You’ve helped all you can. Why don’t you go take Barry off of Iris’s hands for awhile so that she can get a nap?"
And that’s how Cisco found himself taking Barry to the park with Harry. Before they’d left, Harry had crouched down to Barry’s level and said, “we can go outside, but we have to remember to be slow at all times. Okay?” Barry had nodded earnestly, eyeing Harry like he was his new favorite person. Something in Cisco’s heart had seized, watching them together.
Barry walked between them, holding one of each of their hands and talking non-stop about how cool science was. It was a beautiful spring day, and the park a few blocks away from S.T.A.R. Labs was filled with parents and small children. Barry being school-aged, he was a little bit older than most of them, but he didn’t seem to mind, happily running off to join some kids pretending the jungle gym was a pirate ship.
Cisco and Harry sat on a bench and watched him. Cisco looked up at the wide blue sky and thought about how rare it was that any of them got to appreciate a beautiful day.
A mom approached them. “Your son looks just like you,” she said to Harry, her eyes intensely watching him. She didn’t even spare a glance for Cisco as she focused on batting her eyelashes.
“They don’t even have the same hair color,” Cisco muttered.
To his surprise, Harry moved closer into his space, further from the woman, and said, “yes, that’s our son.”
Cisco blinked. What on earth?
The mom’s gaze moved to Cisco for the first time and she looked him over as though she found him wanting. Cisco met her stare, irritated and deciding to play along to get rid of her. “Barry’s the best pirate on the playground,” he told her. He reached over and took Harry’s hand. “He has such an imagination. Must have gotten it from me."
For fake handholding, it felt vibrantly real as Harry ran his fingers over Cisco’s palm. Cisco forgot how to breathe momentarily.
“Of course,” said the mom. “Well, have a good day.” She slunk away, clearly in search of other hot dads to pick up at the playground. Like, seriously, who did that?
To Cisco’s astonishment, Harry didn’t drop his hand the moment she was gone. He continued to stroke his thumb along the ridge of Cisco’s index finger, which was surprisingly sensitive. Cisco resisted the urge to shiver. Maybe he was keeping up the act in case any of the other moms or dads got any ideas? But when Cisco glanced around at the other parents, none were paying any attention to the two of them.
Time passed, and Harry didn’t reclaim his hand. Cisco didn’t dare to breathe, fearing that Harry would withdraw. Harry didn’t seem to be paying attention, watching Barry begin a hostile takeover of the pirate crew. For the child version of a do-gooder superhero, he was surprisingly ruthless.
Finally, Barry was king of the pirates and he ran back over to them, cheeks pink with exercise. “I’m hungry!” he announced. “Can we get Big Belly Burger?”
Harry slowly let go of Cisco’s hand, giving it one final caress that made Cisco’s heart careen in his chest. “That’s a great idea,” he declared. “Big Belly Burger it is.”
“Iris isn’t going to be happy if we feed him fast food,” Cisco said.
“Iris is going to be happier if we can let her take a nice, long nap,” Harry pointed out. “Let’s go get the van and we’ll go through the drive-through.” Barry cheered, delighted.
They walked back to S.T.A.R. Labs, swinging Barry between them, and took the elevator to the parking garage. They got Barry installed in the back (he was chanting ‘Big Belly Burger!’ over and over again) and Cisco let Harry drive, still feeling his head spinning from earlier.
The closest Big Belly Burger was ten minutes away. Cisco made sure to turn the radio to cheesy pop music so that Barry would sing along in the back, grinning as Harry gritted his teeth.
“Is this necessary, Ramon?” Harry asked as they waited at a stoplight. Barry yelled at the top of his lungs in the back, ‘tell me what you want, what you really really want!’.
“It keeps him entertained, and he’s happy,” Cisco said. “At least he has Barry’s memory of 90s pop music.”
“What do you mean, ‘at least’?” Harry groused. “This is like slow torture.” But he gave Cisco a look that could only be described as fond, and Cisco felt his heart skip a beat in his chest.
Soon, they reached the drive-through and ordered Barry a kid’s meal, making sure to get hamburgers for Harry and Cisco as well. As they were pulling out to head back to S.T.A.R. Labs, Cisco’s phone rang. He turned off the radio and fished his phone out of his pocket – it was Caitlin.
“Can you bring Barry back to the lab?” she asked without preamble. “I think I’ve finished our vaccine.”
“I don’t like shots,” said kid Barry, wrinkling his nose as he sat on Caitlin’s exam table.
“I know, sweetie,” she replied gently. Cisco wondered if there was some other universe where she would have made an excellent pediatrician; she certainly had the bedside manner for it.
“I don’t wanna be here. I wanna run,” Barry whined.
Harry stood stiffly next to Cisco, watching Caitlin’s hands like a hawk as she prepared the vaccine. He tapped his fingers against the lab surface until Cisco grabbed them and held them still. “Stop it. This will either work or it won’t.”
“Thanks,” Harry said dryly. “I didn’t realize that until you took the liberty of informing me.”
“I know you’re only acting like an ass because you’re scared this isn’t going to work,” Cisco said airily, “so you get a pass for that."
“Harry’s an ass!” Barry exclaimed gleefully, earning Cisco another dirty look from Harry. Caitlin smoothed his hair and swabbed his arm with an alcohol pad. She stuck him with the needle gently a moment later, and Barry howled as she administered the vaccine. The moment she pulled it from him, he vanished in a zigzag of lightning, leaving papers flying everywhere.
“Well, that went well,” Caitlin muttered, mopping at her forehead. “We have to find him to see if it worked.”
“You can test it on me,” said Harry, moving over to sit on the exam table that Barry had just vacated. “I promise I won’t run away,” he added.
Caitlin nodded and began preparing another dose of the vaccine, but something didn’t feel right to Cisco.
“Wait,” he said, coming over to them. “I think we should keep Harry whammied for a little longer.”
Harry and Caitlin both looked at him skeptically. “Explain,” Harry growled.
“Well,” Cisco said, “while you’re whammied, Fountain can’t de-age you again, right?”
“We don’t actually know that. I could end up a teenager if she touches me again.” Harry looked horrified at the thought, and Cisco didn’t blame him.
“Well, let’s assume she can only affect people once. If that’s the case, you’re one of the few members of Team Flash who can touch her without being turned into a child. You’ve got to be the one to help us catch her.”
Harry frowned at him. “I’m tired of looking like this,” he groused.
Cisco was never going to get tired of those startlingly good looks in front of him, but he was also starting to see the hot stranger who’d appeared in their lives as Harry again, the same as his own grumpy, rumpled, older Harry. The hotness had become part of him, somehow. It wasn’t like Harry wasn’t hot when he was older as well, and Harrison Wells’s attractiveness had always struck Cisco a little stupid.
“It’s just until we catch her,” Cisco said softly. “Tonight we’ll get her, and then you can go back to normal.”
Their eyes met. Cisco didn’t breathe as Harry studied his face, his thoughts unreadable. The air between them felt charged, almost electric, and Cisco wanted nothing more than to lean forward—
Caitlin cleared her throat. “So should we wait to vaccinate you?” she asked Harry.
Harry, oddly enough, seemed a bit flustered. “I think—Cisco is probably right,” he said gruffly. “If there’s a chance that my remaining ‘whammied’ can help us capture this meta, let’s hold off on administering the vaccine.” He pointed at Cisco. “The moment we have her in custody, however,” he added, “I’m going back to myself.”
“The moment we have her,” Cisco agreed.
There was another flash of lightning at the entrance to the infirmary that slowly resolved into a very naked adult Barry Allen.
“Hey guys,” he said in a small voice. “Can I get some clothes?”
Barry and Ralph stood in their suits in the breach room flanking Harry, who looked like some sort of pornographically-hot action star with his pulse gun. Cisco ignored his libido and readied his goggles, preparing to breach them to Church Road Elder Care Facility. Iris paced in front of them, her face stern.
“Remember,” she said to Barry and Ralph, “you cannot allow her to touch you anywhere.”
“Anywhere?” Ralph asked, wiggling his eyebrows.
“Dibny, I hate you,” said Barry without any real heat to it. They’d learned that the vaccine had a beast of a headache as a side effect, and Barry was not happy about it.
“No, but seriously, she’s hot, right?” Ralph continued. “I mean, you said she was blonde.”
“Do you seriously want to have sex with a woman whose touch will turn you into a child?” Harry asked in his most withering tone. “There’s something very wrong with you."
“Have you met Ralph?” Barry asked. “There’s been something very wrong with him for awhile.”
“Are we ready, peanut gallery?” Cisco asked. He readied the breach, opening it into a stable portal so that the other three could step through. Caitlin handed him a cooler filled with vaccines, her face proud.
“Go get ‘em,” she told him. Cisco saluted at her and stepped through the breach, appearing next to Harry in the empty street behind the elder care facility. It was exactly seven o’clock.
“Go,” Cisco breathed at the others once the breach was closed. “You have to stop her before she accidentally touches any of those kids.” Ralph and Barry looked at one another, nodded, and Barry grabbed Ralph’s arm and they disappeared in a flash of lightning. Harry glanced ruefully at Cisco, smiling at the cooler in his arms.
“That’s almost bigger than you are,” he said. “Are you sure you can carry it all by yourself?”
As Cisco opened his mouth to retort, a scream was heard in the distance.
“Sounds like our turn,” Harry said. Despite that, he seemed hesitant to leave Cisco, waiting for him rather than running towards the sound of chaos.
“Didn’t we leave you young so that you could apprehend Fountain?” Cisco asked. He made a shooing motion with his free hand. “Better get apprehending!”
“I’m going, I’m going,” Harry told him with a sigh. He turned around and headed towards the front entrance, Cisco trailing behind him with the cooler.
They reached a scene of utter chaos.
Barry and Ralph had Fountain cornered in the lobby. Behind the reception desk, a toddler was bawling, wrapped in women’s work clothes. Two teenagers and a kid looking around ten were huddled under a table in oversized scrubs, looking upset. Ralph was stretched across the entrance into the rest of the facility from the lobby, preventing anyone else from getting in.
Fountain was ugly crying. “I just wanted to help people!” she said as Barry ran a fast perimeter around the lobby, his lightning keeping her isolated from the rest of the people in the room. “I never could save my granddad. I got this power too late for him, but at least I can use it to save others.”
Harry slid through the sliding doors and took the pair of meta cuffs from his pocket. “Allen, let me pass,” he said, and the lightning zigzagging around the lobby abruptly turned back into the Flash once more.
Cisco set the cooler down, reached in, and pulled out a prepared vaccine, taking it over to the reception desk and sticking the poor child with it in her upper arm. The toddler wailed harder, and Cisco wondered how long it would take the vaccine to take effect.
Harry walked over to Fountain and knelt down beside her. “What’s your name?” he asked, so softly that Cisco almost couldn’t hear him over the general din.
“Jillian,” the young woman replied, sniffling and looking up at him. Her eyes tracked his face and she licked her lips. “I know you. I already blessed you.”
Harry nodded. “You did.”
The receptionist toddler began to turn back into a fully grown woman once more, growing slowly back into herself in a way that made Cisco feel slightly ill. His job done, Cisco moved to the kids under the table and began to administer the vaccines to them as well.
Fountain was still crying, but she managed to flash a smile at Harry. “I just want to help. I watched my grandfather waste away, and I was his caregiver, you know? But now he’s given me this gift after he passed, and I can make it so that no one else ever has to go through what I went through, ever again.” She smiled at Harry. “I’ve saved you from the curse of aging.”
Harry shook his head. “Aging isn’t a curse,” he told her. Glancing around at the starkness of the nursing home, he waved his hand. “Well—sometimes it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. But we also learn. We grow.” He shrugged. “When I looked like this, before, I had to work to earn people’s respect. I didn’t trust people. I knew most people were only kind to me because they wanted something from me. The best gift age brought me was the knowledge that people like me for who I am, now.”
His eyes met Cisco’s across the room, and with breathless clarity, Cisco suddenly understood.
“Aren’t you like, mega-rich?” Ralph interjected from his position across the hallway. “People probably still want to befriend you because of that.”
“Shut up, Dibny,” Cisco hissed. Ralph held up his arms in surrender, rolling his eyes.
“Let me bless these people,” Jillian said to Harry, her eyes pleading. “I’m meant to do this. This is what I was born for.”
“I’m sorry,” said Harry. “I can’t let you do that.” He leaned over and snapped the cuffs on her, stepping back as she lurched forward, her face suddenly growing furious.
“No!” she shouted. “This is my gift! You can’t take it from me! It’s mine!”
“Right now, you could hurt people,” Harry told her. “Our team will make sure you get trained to actually use it properly.” The last part was said with a fond twist of his mouth, but it didn’t seem to comfort her as she burst into noisy tears once more.
Cisco administered the last vaccine and approached Harry. Barry and Ralph had already regrouped, deciding the danger was past. “Ready to go?” Cisco murmured.
Harry met his eyes again, his own a deep blue and his gaze beseeching, like he wanted Cisco to understand. Cisco wanted to tell him he did, but not there, not in front of so many people. He gave him a small nod and Harry closed his eyes for a moment, like a prayer.
Cisco opened a breach back to S.T.A.R. Labs and Harry walked through with Jillian. Barry and Ralph followed, and Cisco grabbed Barry’s arm as he was about to step through.
“That girl doesn’t belong in a cell,” he said. “We need to do as Harry said, train her to use her powers responsibly. Maybe we can connect her with Caitlin’s friends working on anti-aging research."
“That’s an idea,” said Barry. “I agree.” He zipped through the breach.
Another young woman approached, and Cisco realized that it was the young receptionist, barely out of college. “You’re Vibe, right?” she said tentatively. She reached out and took his hand gratefully. “Thank you.”
“All in a day’s work,” Cisco said to cover his embarrassment. He hefted the cooler. “Now we have a lot more kids to turn back to adults.” He saluted at her and jumped through the breach, feeling momentarily like the hero he knew he was.
The next few days involved a lot of clean-up. Caitlin and Cisco took a vanload of the vaccine over to CCPD, where it was slowly administered to all of the victims who had been turned into children. Iris and Joe took much needed naps. Harry stayed young, for some reason, probably because he was trying to help Jillian figure out how to train her powers. After she’d calmed down, she’d been willing to see reason and had agreed to join Caitlin’s researcher friends.
Cisco fashioned Jillian a pair of gloves that would protect her touch from de-aging anyone around her and presented them to her on the day she was scheduled to catch her flight to Gotham, where she was due to join the research team.
Her eyes watered as she took them from him. “Thank you,” she said. “Thank all of you for believing in me. I didn’t mean to hurt people. I thought this was a blessing.”
“You’re learning to control your abilities,” Harry said gruffly. “It doesn’t seem like you’ll hurt anyone by mistake again.”
“And if you ever get mugged, you have an instant weapon,” Cisco pointed out. “Take off a glove and bam, instant child!”
“Although be careful with kids under twenty,” Caitlin reminded her. “We still don’t know what would happen to them if you touched them.”
“We’re not going to find out,” Jillian said. “I’ll be careful.” She put the gloves on over her head-to-toe clothing getup, smiling at them all. “I’d hug you but I wouldn’t want to accidentally turn you all into children.”
“No hugs necessary,” said Cisco. “Just go and make a better world.”
With that, she and Harry headed off to the airport to drop her off. Cisco retreated to his workshop and started working on an upgraded version of his cold gun, feeling a bit at loose ends as he always did when a particular case wrapped up.
About an hour later, there was a cough behind him. Cisco turned and saw Harry hovering in the doorway, his face unsure. They hadn’t had a moment alone since Jillian had come to S.T.A.R. Labs, and Cisco was suddenly acutely aware of his realization from a few days before.
“I, uh, wanted to say. Before I switch back,” Harry said awkwardly, running a hand through his unruly hair. “I know you were a fan of my appearance. Like this.”
Cisco felt his face heat, not sure what Harry was doing. Hadn’t they covered this? “Is this because I called you a snack?” he asked. “Because you are, but if it makes you uncomfortable, I won’t say it.”
Harry rolled his eyes expressively and somehow still made it hot. “I just—you’ll never see me like this again, Ramon. I wanted to…” he stopped in frustration. “I wanted to see if you had anything else you wanted to…cover…before I get the vaccine from Snow.”
Cisco suddenly realized what Harry was getting at. “Are you trying to offer me a chance to bang you before you go back to being in your fifties?” he asked, horrified when his voice squeaked mid-sentence.
Harry looked sheepish but didn’t deny it.
It was tempting, it really was. That shock of hair, those piercing eyes, that mouth – Harry was beautiful. His ridiculous Veela-like powers over everyone else were also hard to miss, even though he’d made it very clear how much he hated when people had that reaction to him. And yet here he was, offering himself to Cisco…
Cisco knew exactly what he had to do.
He looked Harry up and down and said, “I’ll pass.”
Harry blinked. Cisco wondered if anyone had ever refused to have sex with him before when he’d looked like that. He seemed pretty stunned at Cisco’s refusal, and his face was beginning to turn red with embarrassment.
“Oh,” he said stiffly. “Well. Sorry I bothered you.” He turned to leave, but Cisco was already on his feet and reached out to take his elbow, stopping him.
Harry turned back around, looking down at him. Cisco ran his fingertips over Harry’s handsome face, tracing his nose, cheekbones, lips. It was so, so tempting. “Do you know why I passed?” he asked, his voice embarrassingly higher than normal at their proximity. Harry was watching him, his eyes surprised.
“Presumably not in order to then give me ridiculously mixed signals,” he said snappishly.
Cisco shook his head. “You don’t have to offer yourself to me like this. You’re good enough as yourself.” He cupped Harry’s face softly, hoping he wasn’t misreading this. “I want you no matter how old you are.”
They watched each other for several long moments, Cisco’s heart pounding in his ears. Then, Harry’s eyes went dark and he leaned down to capture Cisco’s mouth with his own. Cisco opened underneath him, moaning into the kiss as Harry crowded into his space, cupping his face with his hands and kissing him for all he was worth.
They broke apart panting. Young Harry looked good with his mouth bruised by kissing, but Cisco had a sneaking suspicion that older Harry would look good like that too.
“You’d better get up to the infirmary,” Cisco murmured, trying to catch his breath. “Caitlin’s waiting for you.”
Harry licked his lips. He leaned down and kissed Cisco one last time, letting Cisco tangle his fingers in that thick, luscious hair and suck on his lower lip before releasing him. “We’re finishing this later,” he said darkly, a promise, before turning on his heel and leaving the workshop.
Cisco stared after him, licking his lips and stunned by the sudden change his fortune.
Cisco’s phone rang with Iris’s picture, and he answered immediately. “Can you come down to the cortex?” she asked. He looked up from the model he was working on and saw that it had been awhile since Harry had left him in the workshop. He could hear loud voices behind Iris debating something – one of them was definitely Harry’s.
“On my way,” Cisco told her.
When he entered, the rest of the team was gathered, and Barry was saying, “I just don’t think it’s ethical.”
Harry was back to his true age, hair graying at the roots where it had grown out from its last dye job, slight wrinkles, eyes still blue as ever. He was a sight for sore eyes, no matter how hot he’d been earlier, and Cisco drank the sight of him in. Harry studiously did not look at him as he entered.
“So we give these people what, five days to be younger again, to remember what it’s like to not be dependent on others and suffering from disease, and then we send them back?” Harry asked. “What do you think that will do to their spirits? I researched the elderly care facilities on this Earth – your outcomes are terrible. Mental health is even worse. We want to send them back there?”
Caitlin’s lips were pressed in a thin line. “I don’t think we should make that decision for anyone,” she said.
“And if they choose to stay younger?” Barry asked. “Are we just going to play god?”
“Playing god?” Harry asked with a scoff. “Playing god! As if making them get a vaccine against their will isn’t playing god!"
Iris sidled over to Cisco. “As you can see, tempers are running a little high,” she murmured. “I don’t suppose you can help?”
Ah yes. Cisco Ramon: mechanical engineer, brilliant scientist, fledgling superhero, and designated Harry Wells wrangler.
“Is this about the old people that Fountain whammied?” Cisco asked, walking over to stand between Harry and Barry, positioning himself in front of Harry within arms’ reach. If anyone noticed their proximity, not a single eyebrow was raised. “I thought CCPD vaccinated them days ago.”
Caitlin shook her head. “We vaccinated the kids,” she said. “I wanted to see if there would be any side effects since it wasn’t as urgent for anyone adult to be vaccinated. It’s ready now, but there’s a difference in opinion about how it should be used.”
“What’s our purpose?” Harry asked. “This team? The work we do? Is it to minimize human suffering or is it to keep things as normal as possible?”
“I have a duty to this city to try to prevent metahumans from meddling—” Barry began.
“The meddling already happened, Allen,” Harry snapped. “We can’t take back the last week of these people’s lives. So do we change them back, assuming it will cause even more harm, or do we let them keep their second chance at life?”
“I agree with Caitlin,” Cisco said. “This may sound crazy, but why not let each person decide for themselves if they want to stay younger?”
Harry nodded. “I could live with that. I don’t want to force anyone to stay younger,” he said.
“Especially since I’m pretty sure you would have gone postal if you’d stayed in your thirties for a day longer,” Cisco muttered.
“Shut up, Ramon,” said Harry, but they both knew he didn’t mean it. Cisco turned and gave him a small, hopeful smile. The side of Harry’s mouth twitched.
“Sorry, bro,” Cisco said, patting Barry on the shoulder. “I get your ‘no meddling’ thing, but you’re the last person to talk about meddling, and we should let these people have this chance if they want to.” It still hurt, remembering how far Barry had been willing to go to get his perfect life – but being mad wouldn’t bring Dante back, and the wound in Cisco’s heart was mostly healed.
“Let’s vote,” said Iris. “All in favor of giving people a choice?” Cisco raised his hand, along with Caitlin, Harry, and Iris, who shot Barry an apologetic look. “In favor of vaccinating everyone?” Iris continued. Joe, Barry, and Ralph put up their hands. “Looks like we’re going to ask the people what they want.”
Caitlin smiled at Harry. “Since you’re so passionate about this, why don’t you help me speak with the victims and administer the vaccines?” she said.
“I’m coming too,” said Cisco.
“Of course,” Caitlin said, her smile gaining an edge that said, ‘I see right through you.’ Whatever, Cisco didn’t owe her an explanation anyway.
Since they were in stealth mode once more, Harry drove them to the former nursing home, which was now serving as a dormitory while the patients had been waiting for a vaccine to be ready. Some of nurses and staff had been temporarily reassigned to other facilities with just a skeleton crew running the place, and the nurse who’d taken charge of the situation was the thirty-something brunette from the day of the attack. She looked relieved to see them.
“We’re going to offer your patients a choice,” Caitlin explained to her. “We’ll either let them get vaccinated and go back to their original age,” Cisco held up the cooler to demonstrate, “or we’ll leave them as is, with our contact information if they change their mind later.”
The nurse looked skeptical. “You’re going to keep them this way? I thought we were trying to heal them?"
Harry gave her an intense look. “Are we healing them? Or are we making them sicker?”
She squinted at him. “You look really familiar,” she said, “but I don’t think we’ve met."
“I have one of those faces,” Harry said dryly.
They went room to room, talking with each of the residents and administering the vaccine if necessary. Surprisingly, the split ended up being way closer to half and half than Cisco had expected.
When they entered the room of a woman who was supposed to be 96, she smiled at them demurely and asked for the vaccine.
“Why?” Harry asked. “You could have twenty more years if you stay this way.”
She shrugged. “I’ve already lived 96 years,” she said. “At this point, I just want to feel like myself.”
When they reached Doris, she chose to remain young, which didn’t surprise Cisco in the slightest. “Thank you,” she said to him, coming over and giving him a hug. “I was so scared that you were going to take this away from me.”
As they left the elder care facility a few hours later, Cisco wasn’t sure if he felt heavier or lighter. He did feel like he’d gotten a glimpse at a part of humanity that a lot of people didn’t experience. Harry, on the other hand, had what amounted to a clear spring in his step.
Cisco took Caitlin aside on the way back to the van. “Can you drive the van back to S.T.A.R. Labs?” he asked.
She glanced at him. “Oh? Why?”
He gave her a small grin. “I’ll tell you later?” he said, and she laughed.
“Of course I’ll take it back. You go take Harry and…do whatever you intend to do.”
When they reached the van, Cisco stowed the cooler in the backseat and Caitlin claimed the driver’s side before Harry could blink. “Nope,” she said through the rolled-down window, locking the doors when he walked around to the passenger side. “I’m the only one returning to S.T.A.R. Labs tonight. See you guys later!”
They watched her drive off, Harry’s mouth slightly open in surprise.
“Cisco,” Harry said, glancing over at him. “Was this your doing?”
“Harry,” Cisco parroted. “Let’s get dinner.”
Barry paid Cisco a very nice salary, so he took some of that sweet cash and used it to take Harry to dinner with style at the same steakhouse that they’d intended to go to for Barry’s bachelor party.
Harry seated himself across from Cisco, watching him carefully as the hostess handed them both menus. Cisco caught his eye, and looked down at his menu, embarrassed. As he scanned the list of whiskey, he reminded himself that it was okay to look at Harry, now. He was free to look as much as he wanted.
He raised his gaze to watch him again and was unsurprised to see Harry staring back. The look in his eyes took his breath away – Harry Wells was not a man who showed his emotions or embraced his feelings, but there was no way that Cisco could ignore the exasperated affection he saw reflected back at him.
He swallowed around the lump in his throat. “You like scotch,” he said weakly. “I’ll have whatever you’re having. My treat.”
Harry frowned down at the whiskey list. “Ramon. You’re not—this is a date. You brought me on a date.”
Cisco clapped his hands. “Very observant. Did you just figure that out now?”
Harry rolled his eyes at him. “No. Of course not.”
The waiter arrived, gave them some info on the wine list, and didn’t even look affronted when Harry cut him off to order two expensive glasses of scotch on the rocks. Cisco could see that Harry’s face was more flushed than usual but resisted the urge to tease him about it. This was new ground for both of them.
Cisco studied the menu. “I think I’m going to try the—”
“Is this just because of what happened?” Harry interrupted, not meeting Cisco’s eyes.
Cisco blinked. “What do you mean, because of what happened?”
Harry waved one hand in the air like that was supposed to mean something. “Because you saw me. You saw what I used to look like.”
“Are you asking if I kissed you, told you I wasn’t going to bang you as your younger self, and then took you out to dinner because I’m secretly actually lusting after your younger self?” Cisco asked.
Someone cleared their throat behind him. Cisco felt the back of his neck grow hot as the waiter placed the two scotches in front of him. “We need a minute—” Harry started to say.
“No, no, take your time!” the waiter told them, practically running off. Cisco couldn’t help the laugh that escaped him which earned him a fierce glare from Harry. He stopped laughing and took a large sip of his scotch to distract himself. It was pretty decent.
Harry looked at the scotch, looked at Cisco, and drank the entire glass in one gulp. “Yes,” he said with gritted teeth, putting down the empty glass hard enough that the ice clinked. “I’m asking if you got it into your head that because I was—"
“—a total hottie?” Cisco helped.
“—attractive in the past, you suddenly have feelings for me.” Harry said the word ‘feelings’ as though it had personally offended him.
“Man, you need to improve your relationship with mirrors,” Cisco said, taking another sip of his own scotch. “I don’t know if you’ve checked one lately, but you are still a total hottie.”
Harry glowered at him. “You’re enjoying this,” he accused.
“I like seeing you off-kilter,” said Cisco. “It reminds me that we’re equals here. That you’re not him.”
Harry’s glare faded as though it had never existed, replaced with something softer. “Ramon,” he said pleadingly. “If you only want this because of what happened over the last few days…I can’t do this.”
Cisco took pity on him and slid over his own glass of scotch. “Breathe. Drink.” Harry eyed it for a moment, then grabbed it and gulped that down too. “You’re on the verge of panicking. I need you to tone this down from a ten to at least a three, can you do that for me?”
Harry glared at him again. “I’m not panicking,” he said.
“You’re straight up freaking out, and you haven’t even let me buy you dinner yet,” Cisco pointed out.
“I’m a millionaire. I don’t need you to buy me dinner,” Harry said derisively.
“You’re not a millionaire on this Earth, in case you haven’t noticed. You just have a lot of Monopoly money. And maybe I want to buy you dinner,” Cisco snapped. “Would you decide on a steak already? The waiter looks terrified to approach us again. I think he thinks I have daddy issues.”
Harry groaned and massaged his temples. “You’re going to be the death of me,” he muttered, picking up his menu again and scanning over it. Cisco waved the waiter over, and he approached them reluctantly, taking their dinner orders as well as an order for two more glasses of scotch.
“You never answered my question,” Harry said when the waiter had left.
“That’s because you were about two seconds from hyperventilating, and I don’t know if my answer is going to make it better or worse,” Cisco said.
“Look,” said Harry, and Cisco had a premonition that one of Harry’s usual terrible backhanded compliments was headed in his direction. “You’re significantly younger than me – you’re practically my daughter’s age. You and I fight all the time.”
Cisco was starting to get nervous about Harry’s objections. Had he been wrong and misread the situation again?
“You have a terrible sense of style and your jokes are even worse,” Harry continued. “And for some reason, over the last two and a half years of working together, I haven’t been able to get you out of my head, even for a second. So if this—thing—is because you just saw me looking like,” he made air quotes, “’a snack’ last week, I don’t want anything to do with it.” He met Cisco’s gaze, determined.
Cisco was rooted to the spot, stunned. He’d realized that Harry liked him, but with this depth, this ferocity? “That was a love confession,” he said faintly. “From you, that’s a love confession.”
The waiter, of course, chose that moment to bring them their second round of scotch, not even bothering to try to hide his discomfort. This time Cisco was the one to take up the whole glass and gulp it down.
So much for trying to play his own feelings close to the vest until he felt this out.
“If you think this just started last week for me,” Cisco said, “you’re an idiot. I’d have asked you out a year ago if I’d known you weren’t going to laugh in my face.” He swallowed hard. It wasn’t easy, to talk about his feelings after he’d spent so much time trying to ignore them. “You’re brilliant, you’re charismatic, you’re hot, we spend all of our time together building amazing things, you read my mind half the time—” He stopped and looked down at the tablecloth. “Harry, I—”
Now it was Harry’s turn to stare at him, his gaze hot. “This dinner,” he said. “Get it to go.”
“What?” Cisco asked. “This is a nice steakhouse. These are fifty dollar steaks. You can’t just get them to go. I’m treating you—”
Harry leaned close, his eyes dark. “Cisco,” he said, his voice throatier than usual. “Get dinner to go.”
Cisco swallowed and got up find the waiter.
The moment they were out of the restaurant, Cisco’s bank account a good amount lighter and two delicious steaks in to-go containers in a bag hanging from Cisco’s wrist, Harry pushed Cisco up against the brick wall outside and kissed him deeply, his mouth hot.
Cisco moaned and kissed back, bringing his free hand up to clasp at the collar of Harry’s shirt, feeling Harry’s hardness pressing against him. He broke away from the kiss to gasp a breath. Harry kissed a path from his mouth, tracing the line of his jaw to his neck, sucking a bruise into his soft skin and smirking when Cisco made an embarrassing noise.
“God, Harry—” he panted as Harry’s lips found his earlobe, sucking gently. Shivers went straight down his spine, and his skin felt like it was radiant, his body electric with want. “Harry, I—”
“Shh,” Harry murmured, capturing his mouth once more and tangling a hand in his hair to angle him better for kissing. Cisco willingly moved as directed, feeling like his entire body was made of putty, pliable for Harry.
There was embarrassed giggling behind them and Harry abruptly broke away, glaring at the group of young women who were staring at them with wide eyes. The group quickly darted into a bar next door, but the moment was ruined.
“We should go,” Harry said, a catch in his voice.
Cisco nodded, not trusting his own voice either, and took Harry’s hand in his. He tugged him around the corner onto an empty side street. The moment they were out of view, he pulled out his Vibe goggles and put them on, opening a breach to his apartment.
“C’mon,” he said, “I’m going to rock your world.” He pulled Harry through by their joint hands before he had time to reply, closing the breach behind them.
When Cisco arrived at S.T.A.R. Labs the next morning, a picture of young Harry was blown up to a huge proportion and taped to the computer he used in the cortex. He and Harry breached in together, Harry in yesterday’s clothes and otherwise not looking worse for wear, Cisco with a giant hickey blooming on the side of his neck that he was desperately hoping his hair would hide.
“I’m going to kill Caitlin,” Cisco said immediately when he saw the photo. “We’ve been friends for a long time, but I won’t stand for this betrayal.”
Iris turned around and grinned sunnily at both of them. “Actually, it’s a present from all of us,” she said. “We thought you might be missing Hot Harry.”
It wasn’t just Caitlin; the entirety of Team Flash had to die. It was a shame that superheroing would be difficult with just him and Harry, but surely Vibe was worthy of being the lone superhero of Central City.
Cisco glanced over at Harry, sure that the murder eyes were going to be back out at the picture of his younger self. To his shock, Harry was smirking, with eyes devoid of murder but very full of amusement.
“If you don’t want to be teased by your teammates, Ramon, you should be less obvious,” he suggested.
“Wait,” Cisco said, narrowing his eyes. “You hated it when people thought you were hot when you were younger. You were at a 10 on the bitchy scale the entire time you were de-aged. You don’t get to laugh at me for this now.”
“It was annoying,” Harry said with a shrug, “but the only person I hated thinking I was hot was you. Because I thought.” He stopped, his cheeks turning red.
“Because you thought I didn’t feel that way normally?” Cisco asked, leaning in closer and taking Harry’s hand in his own. Both of them had completely forgotten about their audience. “Awww, Harry.”
“Awwwwww,” Ralph crooned from the corner.
“Cisco loves you just the way you are, Harry,” Caitlin chimed in.
Barry high-fived Iris. “Babe, we’re no longer the most embarrassing couple on Team Flash!”
“Oh honey,” said Iris. “We’re still the most embarrassing couple on Team Flash.”
Harry abruptly dropped Cisco’s hand. “I hate all of you,” he announced. “All of you.” He stalked towards the elevator and vanished, but just before he was out of sight, he turned back around and snuck Cisco a small smile.
Cisco felt like he was going to float away. Even better, he had a huge steak for lunch. Life was looking up.
“Soooo,” Caitlin said, coming over and staring at him with huge, imploring eyes. “That’s a thing?”
“That’s a thing,” Cisco said, “but I do not kiss and tell.” He smirked at her, which was the wrong thing to do, because she leaned over and flicked him on the neck right in the hickey. “Hey! That’s dirty pool.”
Joe burst in. “We have another meta sighting,” he said. Everyone immediately snapped to attention.
There was never a dull moment on Team Flash - it was time to get to work.