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Of Rarest Quality

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Harry had washed his clothes. He'd even fixed a tear in his shirt. Cisco fingers a set of tiny stitches. The thought leaves him dizzy. Or that might be from being punched in the face yesterday. Either or.

He's curled up on the couch. Harry had fussed about him not going back to bed, but Cisco had refused. He aches, but he's not tired. Forced inactivity has never been a good look on him. Harry doesn’t have a TV. He does have a lot of books. Cisco can see them from his seat on the couch. He can't actually read the the titles. Not unless he gets up and goes over to the shelves, which he doesn't think will go over well with Harry.

He picks at bit of fuzz on his pants. Harry is puttering around in the kitchen, making him tea. Apparently that's a thing he does. Cisco isn't actually sure it's something Harry can drink, and he has a hard time picturing him having guests. Also, Cisco doesn't actually like tea. He's a coffee drinker, through and through. But he hadn't had the heart to say no when Harry had offered. The whole thing is surreal. Like that thing in the Trading Places movie, where Jamie Lee Curtis's character decided to forget that Dan Akroyd was paying her and was just nice to him when he was sick. Only in reverse.

Harry comes back from the kitchen, two mugs in his hands. He catches Cisco looking. "It's like diet drinks. It doesn't do much for me nutritionally, but I like the taste."

He pushes one of the mugs into Cisco's hands, then hesitates, looks at one of the chairs on the other side of the room to the couch where Cisco sits and back again. Cisco tucks his legs up to make room at the end of the couch. When Harry hesitates, he says "C'mon. I'm not the one who bites here."

Harry's eyes narrow, but Cisco counts it a win when Harry perches at the end of the couch. He takes a sip of the tea. It's herbal and sweet, but nothing he recognizes. It's not bad. For tea. He takes another sip and watches Harry. He looks like if Cisco so much as twitches, he''ll go flying off the couch. Every line in tense, held carefully still. He doesn't drink his tea, instead staring down into the depths of the mug. Cisco say, "It's your couch. You're allowed to sit on it."

Harry's jerks his head in Cisco's direction. The tea sloshes over the edge of mug. Harry wipes his hand across the front of his shirt. "Sorry. I just... I don't entertain very often."

"Yeah, I'm getting that." Cisco looks around the room, for a safe topic of conversation. "So, you play chess?"

"Of course I play chess. It's been the game of every great intellect since before even I was born." He follows Cisco's gaze to the set on the shelf. It's gorgeous, contrasting light and dark stone. "That one's mainly for show. Marble looks lovely, but drop one piece on the board, and the whole thing is ruined. I have other sets for play."

"We could play, if you want," offers Cisco.

"No, I don't think so." Cisco flinches. Of course Harry wouldn't want to play chess with him. He could hardly present a challenge. Harry takes a sip of his tea. "Maybe another time, when you haven't been punched in the head recently."

"Sure." That still leaves him on the couch, with nothing to do and scrounging for a topic. He tries to focus, but his head hurts. He has to squint a little against the light. Harry stands, and before Cisco can protest, lifts the mug of tea from his hands. "Here, lay down."

Cisco whines. He knows he sounds like a child and hates it, but can't stop himself. "I don't want to sleep."

"So don't sleep. Just close your eyes a bit." Harry nudges at his shoulders, pushing him back against the couch cushions, until Cisco gives in and stretches out horizontally. "There you go."

"'S boring. Don't like it."

Cisco's eyes are closed, but he can hear Harry rolling his. "Do you want me to read you a bedtime story?"

Harry underestimates how much Cisco hates being bored. "Yes, please. What do you have?"

"Seriously?" Cisco peeks with one eye to watch Harry step up to his shelves. Pale fingers skim over leather-bound spines. "I have Aristotle's Physica in the original Greek."

"How about something in English? Or Spanish. Spanish is also fine."

Harry looks back over his shoulder. "I'm told my Spanish is archaic. And that's by people from Spain. Where is your family from?"

"Puerto Rico. Why?"

"Because at that point, it might as well be Mandarin and Cantonese. " He pulls a book from the shelf. "Alice in Wonderland?"

Cisco sits up so he can get a better look at the book in Harry's hand. "Seriously ? Why do you even own that?"

"Charles Dodgson was an excellent mathematician." Harry perches on the arm of the couch. "Now, do you want me to read or not?"

Cisco needs to see this. Hear this. Whichever. It needs to happen. He settles back against the couch cushions. "Ok, show me what you've got."

Harry flips open the book. "Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do..."

Cisco opens his eyes. He'd made it to Alice being washed away by the pool of her own tears before he had succumbed to sleep. He finds Harry sitting in the chair opposite him, reading something that Cisco doubts is Alice in Wonderland. "What time is it?"

"Five-thirty." Harry sets to the book to the side. "I ordered you some dinner. It should be here shortly."

"Thanks." Now that food has been mentioned, Cisco can't ignore the pinched feeling of an empty stomach. He hasn't had more than tea all day. "What, exactly, am I eating?"

"Chinese food. Most people seem to like it."

Because Harry doesn't eat. Not the way Cisco does. "Chinese food is fine. Once I've eaten, I'll head home. Get out of your hair.

"If you insist." Harry drums his fingers against the arm of the chair. "You are welcome to stay. If you want."

A tiny part of Cisco is tempted. The idea of leaving, walking back to his place along the same streets where he was attacked is not fun. But he's not sure he has words for how much he wants to sleep in his own bed tonight. "I'll be fine. And, besides, you'll see me in less than three weeks."

"Six weeks."

"Check your calendar. Our next appointment is in less than three weeks."

"You're hurt." Harry gestures to Cisco's face. "You need time to heal. So I'll see you in six weeks."

"Are you sure? I mean, will you be okay?" There's a pang in his stomach that's not hunger.

Harry scoffs. "I've been taking care of myself for a long time now. I can manage a few weeks."

"Right." Cisco feels his face go red. That would have been obvious if he'd stopped to think about it. "Of course you can."

Harry rises from his chair. He leans over Cisco, runs the backs of his fingers across Cisco's cheek. "I appreciate your worry, but this isn't about me. I value you too much to place you at risk."

And what the hell is Cisco supposed to say in response to something like that? It's not the kind of thing covered in the etiquette lessons his mother had crammed down his throat as a child. Also, could a person's face blush a color beyond red? Because his cheeks are burning. He flounders for how to respond. When a knock on the door interrupted his thoughts, it was a relief.

"That''ll be the food." Harry glances at the door and back. "Are you sure you won't stay beyond dinner?"

"I'm sure." After that, Cisco is more ready than ever to go home, where his brain works and he can think.