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Happy Birthday Harold

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He breathes on his hands in an attempt to warm them up as he kicks open the door to the broom closet they like to call his office at Ferris. This is California. Who cares what month it is, there should never be actual goddamn frost on his windshield. The light gives a pathetic flicker before finally deciding to turn on with a low thrum. He’s knocking the door closed behind him when he sees it.

A steaming cup of coffee, right on the middle of his desk.

He blinks, momentarily sure he’s hallucinating before poking his head back out of his office to check the hallway. Nope. No one there. Hell, he thinks as he inches towards the desk, even the janitor probably isn’t here this early on a Friday. He glances at the ceiling. He really needs to get off of Carol’s shitlist before he loses his goddamn mind.

Ass hits uncomfortable office chair and it’s only then that he notices the actual croissant sitting next to the coffee cup. He pokes it with a finger. Still warm. Like someone had pulled it straight out of the oven and plopped it on the middle of his desk. The cheap plastic bearings on his chair squeak as he leans back as far as it will allow.

Carol? He thinks back to their last argument– the one that had ended their.. tenth ( eleventh? ) attempt at a relationship. Thinks about that heel-sized hole in his wall that he still hasn’t gotten around to fixing. Definitely not. Then his eyes narrow in suspicion.

“Ring, are these.. poisoned in some way?” He would not put it past some of his villains to try to off him with delicious pastries and a mug of black coffee that smells insanely good.

<< Negative. >>

“Huh.” He wraps his hands around the coffee and groans with how good the heat feels against his frozen fingers. God, he really needs to get the heating in his apartment working again. He raises it to his lips and takes a tentative sip.

His eyes slip closed. Oh god, that’s the good stuff. This isn’t some gas station quality coffee– this is like.. fancy coffee. The stuff that people pay eight dollars a cup for at some hipster place. He eyes the croissant before snatching it off the table and taking a bite.

H’god.”

It’s so good. So, so good. Suddenly his horrible morning shift doesn’t seem quite that daunting when he has some truly excellent pastry practically melting in his mouth and a piping hot cup of expensive coffee warming him from the inside out. He even lets his lips quirk in a small smile.

Maybe today won’t be so bad.

 

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That thought lasts for a whole two hours before he finds out that his test flight is cancelled. Due to honest-to-god weather conditions. They’re practically in the middle of a desert, for Christ's sake. Who wants a jet that can only run in clear skies? Ridiculous.

He kicks at the underside of his desk with the toe of his boot. Today was going so well too. Now he has nothing to do except.. paperwork. A shiver works its way through his entire body.

His finger tugs at the desk drawer– the one that’s slightly hard to tug open due to how infrequently it’s used. He would put it off– fuck around with Tom in his workshop, go on a tweeting spree, go punch some second-time offender– but Carol had given him a look when she “suggested” he go “catch up on his paperwork”. The kind of look that would send a lesser man running. Luckily for Hal, he’s used to Carol’s death glare, so he walked back to his office.. totally by his own choice, thank you very much. At a very manly speed.

The drawer eases open and he swallows before taking a peek. Yup. Basically overflowing. God, what he wouldn’t give for an alien invasion right about now.

The first folder plops on his desk and he reaches for the chewed-up ballpoint pen he keeps nearby for finger-twirling purposes. He leans forward with trepidation–

“What.”

It’s filled out. The whole thing. Did he actually do some paperwork and forget to turn it in? He quirks an eyebrow and reaches for the next folder. 

Every line is filled out in neat handwriting, blue-colored pen. His eyes go wide as he reaches for the next folder.

Every single one. Filled out to completion. What the hell.

“Ring. Who did this?”

<< Insufficient evidence. >>

He sighs. “Of course.”

Someone is fucking with him. First the coffee and pastry, now this. It’s too good to be true. He eyes the ceiling, almost expecting it to collapse down around him. This has to be some elaborate plan by one of his enemies to catch him off guard. He glances back down at the neat handwriting on the paper. It’s working, he can’t help but think.

With all the folders stacked in his dust-covered out box, he finally notices something else in the drawer before he goes to close it.

It’s a package. Small and unassuming. Plain, brown-colored paper and a thin string wrapped neatly around all four sides. His eyes narrow in suspicion. Got you.

“Ring. Scan for explosive materials.”

<< Scanning. Results negative. No explosive materials found. >>

Hal blinks. “Um, biological maybe? Disease-ridden interior, something designed to hurt me in some way?”

<< No biological contaminants found. >>

“Huh.”

He glances back down at the package and hesitates for all of three seconds before gingerly, carefully, setting it on his desk. Maybe a secret admirer? The thought makes Hal smirk. Heh.

The string falls away with a gentle tug. He digs his fingers under the picture-perfect wrapping job and balls up the paper before tossing it in the trash can on the opposite side of the room. There’s no markings, no label. No card admitting undying love and devotion. Hmm.

He pops open the top of the plain white box with the tip of his thumb. There’s some light green wrapping paper– green.. do they know who I am?– and then his fingers encounter something soft.

It’s a scarf. He tugs it up into the harsh fluorescent lighting. A dark green scarf. One of those ones where there’s no ends to flap around in the wind– just a big circle. He strokes the fabric. It’s soft, too. Probably expensive.

He glances around the office. Who would give him a scarf? Don’t they know he lives in California? Actually, who would give him anything? Why is someone leaving him presents? So many questions.

He looks back down at the scarf with pursed lips. It's a nice scarf. Very soft and expensive-looking. He checks the tag. Yup, 100% cashmere. His lips purse in a low whistle. Damn. Brown eyes flicker to outside– outside where his window is still frosted-over. It is pretty cold.

The scarf slips over his head and he twists it once before tugging it over a second time.

“Oh god.”

It’s warm. So warm. He ducks his head a little so that his mouth is covered by the soft fabric and lets out a content sigh. His breath gets caught between the scarf and his skin and warms up his frozen nose.

He peeks one eye open and grabs for his phone on his desk. He opens the camera app. It’s already on the front-facing camera.

He can pull off a scarf. It looks nice. Classy, even. Hal clicks off his phone’s screen and drops it back to the desk. He blinks. What is he thinking? He’s Hal Jordan. He can pull off anything.

With his paperwork already filled out by his mysterious admirer, the one who, apparently, likes to drop big bucks on fancy scarves, his afternoon is suddenly looking much more bearable. He pushes back his chair and slides his phone into his back pocket. Time to pester Tom into letting him get elbow-deep in that new prototype jet engine.

 

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It’s not until he’s washing jet fuel off his forearms while Tom’s buried in his delicious-looking homemade lunch ( he tries– and fails– to not get too envious of Tegra’s cooking ) that he’s interrupted by a loud knocking sound. There’s a guy holding a white bag at the hangar entrance.

“Delivery for–” the guy looks at a piece of paper “– Harold Jordan.”

He can’t help but flinch at the name. He can see Tom sniggering in his peripheral vision and throws the greasy towel right at his face. The delivery guy ignores his antics and shoves the back into his arms before heading out of site. Hal smells it before he sees it.

“In-n-Out yesss.”

He drops to the dirt-covered floor and shovels a handful of fries into his mouth with a sensual moan.

“You coulda told me you were getting takeout. You know I love their animal fries.”

He glances at Tom and shrugs.

“I didn’t order it.” He unwraps his– god, yes, double meat– burger while popping another fry into his mouth. “Someone is, like, stalking me. But in a less creepy, more kind, gift-giving way.”

Tom blinks at him with a mouth full of cod.

“What? Why?”

Hal leans back with a sleazy smirk. “It’s probably because of my irresistible good looks and charming personality.”

Tom snorts. “Well, make sure it’s not, like, poisoned or something.”

Hal throws him a look. “Duh. It seems harmless enough.” He tosses a fry into the air and catches it in his mouth. Tom doesn’t look nearly as impressed as he should. Hal does it again, in case he missed it the first time.

“I can’t help it if someone wants to shower me with delicious food and expensive clothing.” Hal slurps at the coke that came with his order while placing his hand against his chest. “Don’t be jealous of my hoards of secret admirers, Tom.”

He’s not surprised when Tom throws the grease towel back at his face.

 

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He takes a moment to reflect on the day he’s had as he shovels more debris into a frighteningly large pile on the side of what used to be an abandoned warehouse in Metropolis ( and that’s not his fault– he offered to throw Doomsday into the sun, but ‘noooo we can’t do that GL’.. buncha buzzkills. )

It hadn’t just been the breakfast, the paperwork, the scarf, or his delicious lunch.

That weird sputtering noise his car always made because he can’t afford to replace his muffler mysteriously vanished. He also has a full tank of gas.. which has literally never happened in the history of his entire life.

Then there had been the signed replica Maverick helmet on his coffee table. Signed. By Mr. Scientology himself. The one that he definitely did not shove onto his head and recreate several of his top favorite scenes of all time in his living room. Nope.

And just when he was getting antsy for some action, Doomsday, the dude he conveniently doesn’t have to pull his punches for, decided to show up in Metropolis while Supes was busy off-planet.

Okay, he highly doubts his secret admirer let a super villain loose on the population of Metropolis. But still.

He’s still smiling to himself while he shovels more debris out of the way. He’s in such a good mood, he doesn’t even mind clean-up duty. There’s not much that could make his day any better right now.

“Hey GL, can you lift this pile next to the other one? If I have to move them all again even my blisters will get blisters.”

Hal snorts as he shifts the piles together before turning to Barry with a smirk. Okay, maybe there's one thing that could make his day better. The genuine pout on Barry’s face makes him laugh.

“Gross.”

He watches as Barry plops on top of a large chunk of ceiling and holds his ankle in his hand while he rotates his foot.

“Hey, you try to run several thousand miles in the span of half an hour and see how your feet look afterwards.”

Hal stretches his arms above his head and winces as his back gives an unpleasant pop. Must have been from that last ass-first collision with an entire building.

“They’d look perfect. Just like the rest of me.” He flexes his arms for good measure and relishes in the cute-looking blush that appears on Barry’s cheeks. Really, it’s too easy to rile him up. It also happens to be one of his favorite activities to participate in, so he’s not complaining.

“That’s–” Barry lets out a weird-sounding cough. Maybe he inhaled too many crushed-building fumes. “Well, that’s just–” Barry rolls his eyes. Hal’s grin only gets wider as he realises that Barry didn’t disagree.

“Listen, anyways– I was gonna get some dinner, if you wanna come.” Barry looks to the side, almost like he’s nervous. Hmm. Barry glances back at him and says the magic words.

“My treat.”

Well, he’s not gonna say no to that.

 

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“Oh god, I can’t move. You’re gonna have to carry me back to Coast.”

Barry balls up his napkin and flicks it at Hal’s nose. The bastard has impeccable aim. Hal glares at him as Barry laughs.

“Shut up. I ate, like, twice as much as you. Three times, probably.”

Hal leans back in his chair with a pout.

“Yeah but you have a super stomach Barry.”

Barry rolls his eyes. “It’s called having a fast metabolism, Harold.”

Hal grabs the napkin and tosses it back in Barry’s general direction. Barry swats it out of the air with ease. Unfair.

“Uh huh, whatever.” He’s smiling as he grabs for his nearly-empty beer, brown eyes drifting out to where the sun is setting over the water.

It’s a nice place. He has no idea where the hell they are– somewhere where they speak Italian, judging by the menu and the outrageous amount of amazing pasta he just consumed. It’s right on the water, too. In fact – he narrows his eyes a bit– it would almost be romantic if it wasn’t Barry who took him here. Barry his best buddy. His favorite pal. His strictly platonic.. dude.

“You look happy.”

Hal glances back at Barry who’s leaning forward on the table, head propped up on his hand and a soft smile on his face. The scrutiny makes Hal shift a little in his seat.

“Uh–” he tugs at the soft fabric of his scarf. “Yeah? I dunno. I had a good day, I guess.”

That statement makes Barry smile even wider for some reason. His big blue eyes ( seriously– unfair ) widen ever so slightly as he reaches with one arm into in the small backpack he had brought with him.

“Oh? Would you say, perhaps, that this is the best twentieth of February you have ever had?”

Hal freezes.

Barry’s smiling like a loon as he slides a clear container with a single cupcake inside in front of him. He doesn’t drop his gaze as he pries off the top and shoves a single candle right in the middle. Hal gasps.

“It was you!

Barry smiles so wide Hal’s sure his ridiculous dimples will fly right off of his face.

“Guilty.”

The candle’s lit before he can even blink.

“Happy Birthday, Hal.”

Hal buries his face in his hands. “Oh my god, I didn’t even realise it was my birthday.” He shifts one finger aside to look at Barry with suspicion. “How did you even know?”

Barry puts his other hand on the opposite side of his face. He looks way too pleased with himself.

“You dropped your license on my carpet while you were throwing up in my bathroom a few weeks ago.” Barry leans forward to slurp at his San Pellegrino through the straw. “I consider it payment for the irreparable damage you did to my shower curtain.”

Hal groans. “I thought I had, like, a super intense secret admirer.” He leans forward to inspect the cupcake. So full.. but it looks so good. Barry makes an odd sound and Hal glances up to meet his gaze.

Barry’s blushing. Like, full-on blushing. He can see his skin get red all the way down to the collar of his button-up shirt. Interesting. He watches as Barry grabs for his drink and downs the rest of it all at once.

“You– someone broke into your apartment to leave you a present and you just thought ‘eh, seems reasonable’?” Barry looks a combination of embarrassed and horrified. Hal crosses his arms over his chest defensively.

“Uh, I was a little distracted by the best present ever sitting on my table.” It’s a good excuse. In hindsight, it’s pretty obvious it was Barry. Who else could leave a super awesome gift for him and still lock the door behind them?

Barry looks so pleased with himself. “Yeah? You like it?”

Hal leans forward. “Bar, you literally ascended out of nerdom with that gift. You’re now officially at ‘dork’ level. Bordering on ‘only slightly lame’.”

Barry huffs. “Hey!”

Hal laughs. Barry is honestly so adorable. It’s very distracting. The candle light catches in the ocean breeze and pulls at Hal’s attention.

“Hmm, okay, I guess I can make room for a cupcake.” He points at Barry accusingly. “But no singing. That’s where I draw the line.”

Barry holds up his hands in surrender. “Fine, fine. Next year.”

Hal narrows his eyes and leans forward with a deep breath–

“Wait!”

– and freezes.

“What?”

Barry suddenly looks incredibly earnest. He leans forward ever so slightly.

“You have to make a wish.”

Is he for real? Barry’s eyes get even wider, eyebrows furrowed in the middle like when he’s giving one of his motivational speeches to the team. Oh god, he’s serious.

Hal coughs, suddenly feeling awkward. “Uh, okay.” Quick, what’s the most ridiculous thing he can think of.. “Well, I wish–”

A hand slaps over his mouth.

“You can’t tell me what it is, Hal. That’s not how it works.”

Hal swats his hand away. His face feels hot for some reason. Must be the scarf making him too warm.

“Okay mom.”

Barry smiles at him. It’s really unfair. The way Barry went out of his way to make Hal’s day incredible. The whole romantic beach setup. Truly unfair. How is he supposed to deal with this overwhelming crush he has on his best friend when he does things like this? The only thing he can even think of wishing is that–

He looks down. Glances back up at Barry’s ridiculously sincere blue eyes. Back to the candle. He sucks in a breath and blows it out all at once.

Barry’s finger taps the back of his hand. Hal glances back at him.

“You made one?”

Hal’s palms feel sweaty all of a sudden.

“Uh, yeah.”

Barry smiles and reaches to tug out the candle.

“Good.”

Hal blinks out of his stupor and reaches for the cupcake. Chocolate with chocolate icing. Barry knows him a little too well.

“As long as you don’t tell anyone, it’ll come true.”

Hal winces a little bit and tries to cover it up by taking a huge mouthful of delicious cupcake. He swallows and glances back up at Barry. The way he’s looking at him– the way his eyes are all crinkley in the corner like just seeing him be happy made doing all of this stuff worth it– well.. it makes an ill-advised amount of hope bubble in his stomach.

“Yeah? Guess I’ll have to keep it to myself.”

Barry smiles. He taps on the side of his mouth and Hal swipes his tongue out to lick off the smear of icing. That blush is back on Barry’s face. He hasn’t seen him blush this much in a long time. It looks good on him. Hal hesitates for a second before reaching over to squeeze Barry’s arm.

“Thanks, Bar.” He pours every ounce of gratitude that he has in his body into the statement. Honestly, he doesn’t deserve someone like Barry in his life, but he’s so grateful that he’s here regardless. Barry reaches up to squeeze his hand.

“Your welcome.”

Hal moves to draw his arm away. Barry starts a little and slowly tugs his fingers away– almost like he had forgotten for a moment that two dudes don’t normally hold hands while having dinner on a secluded beach. Hal wiggles his fingers and grins. Maybe that tiny amount of hope he feels isn’t so misguided after all. Barry rolls his eyes ( but is still blushing, much to Hal’s delight ).

“Eat your cupcake.”