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Barry's Pretty Terrible Yet Not So Bad Week

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Sunday. A bank robbery, three muggings, and a battle with their latest meta-human du jour. Barry fell asleep before his head hit the pillow and woke up the next morning, realising that he’d snoozed his alarm for a whole hour.

Monday. Overdue reports for three different crime scenes, a burning tenement building, and finally capturing that pesky meta-human who could spew fire. Barry didn’t even remember changing into his pyjamas. He woke up, this time only 45 minutes past his alarm, cursing because he was still hearing Dr. Wells's voice in his dreams.

You don't have to worry, it said. I would never try anything with him.

Barry buried his face in his pillow.

One day, he might wake up on time and not have to use his super speed to avoid Captain Singh’s wrath. One day, he might actually collapse from juggling his real job with the CCPD and his responsibility as the neighbourhood superhero of Central City. One day, if he was lucky, he might be able to walk into Star Labs and not feel a tug at his heart when Harrison Wells smiled and said, “Ah, Mr. Allen, perfect timing.”

Wishful thinking, said the voice in the back of his head. Barry pushed it far, far, back.

X

The fire was quickly put out and half the tenement building remained standing. Only one victim wanted to talk to the police.

“I saw it. A red blur. It took my daughter from the fire, put her down and was gone. Maybe I was seeing things. No, I didn’t inhale any fumes,” said the frazzled woman with the flyaway hair, cradling her child. "It saved my daughter. Why would I lie about that?"

X

Tuesday. Barry was on his way to work when Cisco redirected him to a house in the outskirts of the city, where a serial killer was holed up with three hostages while the police tried to convince him to surrender. Barry had to super-sonic it to make it in time for work.

“I think someone is stirring up trouble,” he said over a burger dinner at Star Labs because Joe was on a stakeout. “I can’t remember the last time I went a day without saving someone from a non meta-human problem.”

“Maybe people are just being careless. We are getting closer to holiday season,” said Caitlin.

“If I’m late to work again, Captain Singh is going to dock my pay.”

“You could ask Dr. Wells for a salary. What's the hourly rate for superhero work?” said Cisco.

Barry laughed. “Nice try, but the only other hero we know is the Arrow and Oliver owns a conglomerate.”

“I wonder how much Supergirl earns from her day job. Do you think she gets royalties from having her photos in the paper all the time?”

“Still doesn’t apply to me. No one knows I exist, remember?” said Barry.

“Not true. Iris told me the conspiracy theory forums have been talking about a red blur. So far, the popular theory is that it's a mirage caused by the weather, but if you want to stay secret, you have to be more careful,” said Caitlin.

“And on that note, I gotta go," said Barry, hopping to his feet and depositing his Big Belly Burger wrappers into the bin.

“But Dr. Wells isn’t back from his meeting yet. I’m sure he’ll want to thank you for getting him dinner.”

The classic cheeseburger with extra ketchup, fries and Coke sat untouched on the table.

Barry shook his head. “I’m exhausted. I’m going to call it a night.”

X

“The glass on my shop window shattered,” said the owner of the barbershop. “Not just mine, the entire street of windows. But right before that, there was this red blur, and five minutes after that, the TV says that the serial killer was in police custody and that all the hostages are okay. Coincidence? What, you think I’m stupid?”

X

To own the truth, Barry has been avoiding Dr. Wells for over a week. He couldn't bear to face him. Not after overhearing that conversation he had with Joe.

Barry was sure Joe meant well when he warned Dr. Wells against taking advantage of him. After all, Barry has been looking up to Harrison Wells ever since his first science textbook. Barry had been about to interrupt and inform Joe that he was 25 years' old and he could take care of himself, thank you very much. But then, Dr. Wells had said, “I understand your concern, Detective West, but you don’t have to worry about me. I would never try anything with him.”

He could have meant it in a completely innocent way. But Barry has been looking at Dr. Wells with stars in his eyes for months now, so to hear him say that stung.

Barry’s injured ego tried to tell him that if Harrison Wells wasn’t interested in him, it was his loss. Harrison Wells wasn’t all that great anyway.

But he was.

He published his first article when he was thirteen and by twenty-five, was leading the research on dark matter. He was the mind behind the particle accelerator, and while the machine might have failed, the science had been sound.

The accident had injured Dr. Wells’s legs, but he managed to walk again by sheer will and loads of physiotherapy.

He generally kept a calm and distant air and yet, whenever he spoke about the future of humanity and what science could bring to it, his eyes would blaze and turn Barry into jelly. He was the raspy voice in Barry’s ear whenever he patrolled the city. He was always the first to say, "You can do it," whenever Barry came across a difficult foe. "I know you can. Run, Barry, run."

Barry tried to stay away from Dr. Wells to sort out his feelings, but all that had achieved was make him think of him more. It has also made Iris suspicious, so she had plied him with coffee and smiles until he told her everything.

She had said, “Oh, Barry,” and hugged him. “I thought you just had a celebrity crush on him. What happened?”

Barry could still recall the exact moment. It was his favourite memory to return to.

They had been in the basement of Star Labs, fresh from putting away an electro-hungry meta-human, and Barry had wanted to apologise to Dr. Wells for some accusations he’d made in the heat of the moment. But Dr. Wells had waved it aside. “You’re right. I do not care much for people,” he had said, “but I care about you.”

How could Barry not get his hopes up when such a remarkable man, who was called prickly a thousand times in his own autobiography, said such things to him?

“What should I do?” said Barry.

“I think you should talk to him. Tell him how you feel and that you understand if he’s not interested, and then move on. There’ll be someone else for you," said Iris.

“That sounds so reasonable it’s horrible.”

That had been the end of the conversation because two seconds later, a waitress found a bomb sitting behind a flower pot. Barry snatched it from under her nose and hurled it into the river, far away from the city. It barely made a sound when it went off. Unfortunately, no one knew who placed the bomb there since the cameras at Jitters had been down for repairs.

X

“One minute the bomb was right in front of me and then it wasn’t,” said the waitress. “I swear, I didn’t imagine it. The customer in the blue hoodie saw it too. What happened? There was a gush of wind and the bomb was gone. Don’t give me that look. Obviously the wind didn’t blow that bomb away. I think it’s that urban legend. The red streak. How else would you explain it?”

X

Wednesday. A bus skidded on some ice. Barry deposited all 24 passengers and the one bus driver onto the neighbouring street and jumped behind the steering wheel before the bus crashed into a nail salon. “You weren’t kidding about people being careless closer to holiday season, Caitlin," he said, rounding back to Star Labs after his patrol to take off his suit. "I don’t understand how they missed that big patch of ice.”

“Mr. Allen,” said Dr. Wells from the workstation, “what a pleasant surprise. It feels like it’s been a while since I last saw you.”

Barry tried not to enjoy the note of delight in Dr. Wells’s voice or how attractive he looked when he smiled.

“Between your hours at Mercury Labs and Barry's patrols, you two were ships in the night,” said Caitlin.

Remembering Iris's advice, Barry steeled himself. “Listen, Dr. Wells, I need to talk to you about something.”

“Certainly, Barry. What is it? Actually, hold that thought,” said Dr. Wells as Tina McGee entered the lab. “I’m due for lunch with Dr. McGee but I’m happy to meet you later if you’d like.”

Barry nodded. “How about Jitters at 6? Iris will give us a discount.” Iris would also be giving moral support but Dr. Wells didn’t need to know that.

At 5.30pm, Dr. Wells called Barry to cancel their meeting. He was held up at Mercury Labs, consulting on Tina McGee’s latest project, and wondered if they could reschedule to breakfast tomorrow.

X

“There was a man,” said one of the bus passengers to the police.

The woman beside him nodded. “He came in, grabbed all of us, one-by-one. Next thing we know, we were on this street and we heard this loud crash. We didn’t even realise that was the bus.”

“I know what we’re saying sounds impossible, but I swear, it’s one man. Just one guy. Zipping in and out.”

“It’s the streak,” said a guy in a hoodie. “You all saw it right? That red streak.”

More than half of the shell-shocked bus passengers nodded.

Detective Joe West swallowed his sigh and closed his notebook.

X

Thursday. Breakfast with Dr. Wells didn't happen because Joe came storming into Star Labs clutching a newspaper. “I had a feeling that this was going to happen.”

The incident with the bus was on the front page, as were several witnesses testifying that they were saved by the same red streak that everyone has been gossiping about for weeks now. Page 3 had an opinion column about what the red streak actually was - act of God or another alien super-being like Superman? Page 4 was an op-ed about what living in the same city as a super-being implied; both the good and the bad. Page 5 told readers about the dangers of having a neighbourhood vigilante hero, using Gotham and Starling City as an example. On page 6 was a fluff piece imagining how people would react if they found out their loved one had superpowers.

Cisco dropped the paper like it was burning him. “This is like all the tabloid rags we tried to avoid on crack.”

“If you want your existence to remain secret, you have to tone down the heroics, Barry,” said Joe.

“It’s not Barry’s fault,” said Caitlin. “We’ve had more non-meta-human-related incidents this week than the past three weeks combined. It’s like everyone woke up and their cars decided to break down at the same time.” The more she spoke, the wider her eyes grew. “You don’t think someone is doing this on purpose, do you?”

“What? Trying to kill people in Central City through a series of random accidents?” said Barry.

“No, I think what Caitlin is implying is more sinister,” said Dr. Wells, blue gaze narrowing. “Someone’s trying to drag you into the light.”

“Why? Despite what page 5 claims, I’m not the Arrow or Batman. I’m not stirring trouble by picking fights with crime lords. People aren’t going to be angry with me for saving them from burning buildings.”

“That may be so, but whatever this person intends to do with you, you can be sure that it’s not good,” said Joe.

“I think we’re looking too hard at this. We’re not even sure that someone really is out to get me,” said Barry. “For all we know, people really do just need to get their car brakes checked more often.”

Later that evening, a train derailed. Nearly all the passengers who found themselves deposited on the green field next to the train tracks told the police that they had been transported so quickly they had not seen anything.

A tired journalist typing up the report made an error, so that the next morning, instead of telling her readers that the train passengers were saved in a flash, the headlines read: SAVED BY THE FLASH.

X

The morning crowd at CC Jitters was petering out when Iris put a mug of coffee in front of Barry. His head was buried in his arms. “The universe is out to get me.”

“I won’t dispute that, but my break only lasts 20 minutes, so is there anything else you want to tell me?” said Iris.

Barry sipped the proffered coffee and furrowed his brows. “What is this?”

“Black coffee with a shot of espresso. It’s called the Flash,” said Iris, smiling. Barry dropped his head again and groaned. Iris slapped him lightly on the arm. “Tell me what happened between you and Dr Wells.”

“I haven’t spoken to him yet. I was going to, but then all /this/ happened.”

“The longer you put it off, the less it’s likely to happen.”

“I’m not putting it off on purpose. I want to tell him. I want to get over him. But it’s hard enough, looking at him and thinking about saying those things. And then the moment I muster my courage, I have to rush halfway across the city to save a cat from a tree. And when I return from saving the cat, he’s off at Mercury Labs helping Dr. McGee,” said Barry.

“What’s the story there? Are they dating?” said Iris.

Barry’s heart twinged. “I don’t think so. She and Dr. Wells go way back. She was good friends with his late wife.”

“Does he ever bring her up?”

“Tess Morgan? No. Not that we’re forbidden to talk about her but…it just feels wrong to.” Barry pulled on a mirthless smile. “Maybe that’s why he doesn’t even think of me that way. I’m nothing like Tess.”

“Barry, don’t. Thinking like that doesn’t help.” Iris stroked his arm. “You know what, I think we need reinforcements.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ll see,” said Iris, eyes twinkling. Even though Barry had no idea what was going through her head, he felt somewhat comforted.

X

Friday. Barry was in the middle of assessing a homicide scene when Caitlin informed him of a man hanging for dear life from a broken fire escape five blocks away. As he rushed to get the man, Cisco reported a group of bank robbers, who had just gunned down two cops and was making their escape in a getaway Toyota.

He had only just stopped the bank robbers and dropped the policemen in a hospital when Caitlin and Cisco told him about the school children trapped under a crane that had toppled over during a field trip.

“Guys, what is going on?” said Barry.

“It’s the perpetrator,” said Cisco. “He’s setting you up somehow. Giving you so many crises that you stretch yourself thin.”

“I have a bad feeling about this, Barry,” said Caitlin. “I think we should call Dr. Wells.”

“We can call him after I help the school kids.”

“Which ones?” said Cisco. “The elementary school three streets away from you is on fire.”

Barry demanded directions from Cisco and switched course to the school. The kids under the crane had some time. A burning building did not.

Barry outran two fire trucks on his way to the school. Half the faculty and students were out on the field, watching the leaping flames with horror. Barry rushed in through the front doors and strained his ears for any screams or coughs. He cleared out the second floor and the rest of the lobby. He grabbed four kitchen ladies and one gym coach.

When Barry broke through the topmost floor of the building, he found a class of 34 children with one teacher, who looked like he was two seconds from passing out from smoke inhalation.

“Stay low, kids,” the teacher choked out. “Try not to breathe it in.”

Barry told himself not to panic. He was the fastest man alive. He could do this. He brought them out methodically. With the smaller children, he could support two at once, zipping down and up the stairs, which were wearing away from fire damage every minute.

He ignored the burning in his lungs, concentrated on the solid weight of every child he rescued. He took the last girl, slipping out just as the building collapsed upon itsef despite the firemen’s efforts. But just as he set the girl down, he heard a loud crash and saw a rising cloud of dust in the distance. The children under the crane.

“No,” Barry said. He fell sideways, dizzy from the carbon monoxide in his lungs and exhausted.

“Barry? Barry!” That was Caitlin in his ears. “Are you okay?”

“Those kids. The crane,” croaked Barry.

“They’re fine. We called Joe. He and Eddie got their people there in time. The kids are safe," said Cisco.

Barry tapped the side of his ear, cutting off communication. He was too tired to speak and too relieved to scream. He didn’t realise that everyone on the field, everyone who had been in the school including the firemen, were staring at him.

The girl was looking up at him with round eyes. “Dad kept saying the newspaper was lying, but they were right, weren’t they? You’ve been saving everybody,” she said. “You’re the Flash.”

Barry didn’t know what to say. He tried to swallow but his mouth was parchment dry.

From behind him, he heard a soft, slow clap. It was joined by another, and another, and another. It increased in speed and volume until the entire field was applauding.

“Thank you for doing what you do," said the teacher from before.

Still unable to find any words, Barry nodded and sped away.

X

“What were you thinking?” Dr. Wells rarely shouted, so when he did everyone knew to back off. “When we agreed to help Central City all those months ago, what did we agree on? That we would do it together. Yet, here you are speeding off on your own even though Cisco told you it was most likely a trap.”

“There was a school on fire. What did you want me to do? Come back to Star Labs and talk strategy?” said Barry.

“I expected you to contact me, or Joe. Not wait till you’re nearly passing out to realise you need help. You’re a grown man, Barry. We’ve told you before that someone is out to get you and today you almost played right into their hands.”

“But everything turned out okay. We saved everyone.”

“At what cost, Barry? You were exposed.” Dr. Wells ran a hand through his hair wearily. “This time tomorrow, everyone in Central City will know that there’s a super-powered vigilante amongst them. From now on, every victory, every tragedy is on you. This burden is the very reason we wanted to keep your existence a secret in the first place. Or did you forget that as well?”

Barry’s face burned.

Tina McGee was standing just outside the room. She had been with Dr. Wells when Cisco contacted him. The doors were soundproof so she couldn’t hear a word of their conversation, but the window afforded her a clear view of the severe tongue-lashing Dr. Wells was giving Barry.

This has been a bad day already. The last thing Barry wanted was to be humiliated in front of a woman whom Dr. Wells probably preferred over him. So when Dr. Wells said, “We want you safe. How are we supposed to do that if you won’t let us?”, Barry snapped, “Then don’t bother.”

“Barry,” said Cisco, but the good thing about having super-speed was that no one could stop you if you wanted to go.

“Barry!” Caitlin said.

X

Joe ordered pizzas that night because he could tell Barry was in a foul mood and didn’t want to talk about it. Unfortunately, Iris was home as well, which meant that the minute Joe left the sofa, she was going to grill him.

“Listen, can we just not today? I really don’t want to think about it,” said Barry.

“Well, you may not want to, but you’re not the only one who’s involved in this anymore," said Iris. The doorbell rang. Barry raised his eyebrows. Who would be calling on them at this hour? Iris cocked her head at the door. “Go get it.”

It was Cisco and Caitlin.

“Guys," said Barry, surprised, “what are you doing here?”

“We were worried about you after you stormed off,” said Cisco.

“So we called Iris,” said Caitlin.

“They’re reinforcements,” said Iris. “I’ve been trying to help but it's obvious that you need more than what I can give. You were honest with me, and I appreciated that. I’m sure Caitlin and Cisco would too.”

Barry groaned into his hands. The last thing he foresaw was his heart troubles being their common ground.

“Barry, you know you can tell us anything,” said Caitlin once they were settled in the living room. Cisco nodded encouragingly.

Barry stared beseechingly at Iris, but she crossed her arms and shrugged. Shoulders drooping, Barry sighed. “Alright, I -" He tried again. "I’m in love with Dr. Wells and I need to learn how not to be.”

Caitlin and Cisco were stunned into silence.

Finally, Cisco said, “Of all the 43 scenarios in my head, that was not the one I would’ve picked.”

Barry shot him a look of disbelief. “You thought up 42 other theories?”

“Yeah. And that was number 43.”

“Why? Because you can’t see me going for someone who’s -“ Barry made a gesture with his hand, “-male?”, at the same time Cisco and Caitlin said, “Older.”

Barry straightened himself, indignant. “What are you guys talking about? Dr. Wells is smart and generous and he might not be the kindest person, but he’s taken care of all of us as best as he could -“

Cisco broke into hysterical laughter. “Run, Caitlin, he’s going to brain us with Dr. Wells’s autobiography any second now.”

“This isn’t funny, Cisco,” said Caitlin, even though there was a smile struggling at the corners of her lips. “Barry asked for our help.”

“More like your support,” said Iris. “Listen, here's what I was thinking.”

“No, absolutely not,” said Barry half an hour later. “I just yelled at him and ran off. I can’t go back and ask that of him. No way. Iris, no. I’m saying no. This is me putting my foot down. Do you see this? It’s my foot. It’s down. Iris? Iris!”

X

Saturday. Star Labs was empty when Barry arrived. For a moment, he thought that God had answered his prayers and that Dr. Wells had not checked his email, but as he turned to leave, he saw Dr. Well’s long, lean figure stretched across the doorway like the beginning of many of his fantasies. Barry shook himself. So not the right time.

“I have to admit that after your outburst last night, I was surprised to get your email,” said Dr. Wells.

My outburst? I wasn’t the one yelling.”

Slow jazz music started playing over the speakers. Dr. Wells’s eyebrows rose while Barry turned red. The lights dimmed.

“Alright, that’s enough, Cisco. Stop the music,” said Barry. The jazz continued. “Caitlin, please make him stop. This is awkward enough.” More sweet jazz came through. “I promise I won’t argue with him.” The music was cut off abruptly and the lights went back to normal.

To his credit, Dr. Wells merely hummed. “I didn’t even know the lights could dim. So, what is this about, Barry?”

“Why do you that? Sometimes you call me Barry, and sometimes it’s Mr. Allen.”

Dr. Wells looked taken aback at that. “I didn’t realise. Does it bother you?”

“It’s messing with my head.”

“I’m sorry?”

“It’s harder for me to get over you when you call me by my name. I can’t explain it, but it is.” Barry offered him a wry grin. “I know. Not what you expected, right? I’ve tried to talk myself out of it but it didn’t work. I’ve respected you for so long and you’re so much more than I expected. And then I heard you talking with Joe two weeks ago about how he didn’t have to worry because you would never try anything with me.” Barry tried hard to keep his face from crumpling. He looked down at his feet so he wouldn’t be able to see the rejection on Dr. Wells’s face, if it was there.

“I needed to tell you,” said Barry, “so you can tell me that you’re not interested, so I can move on. And so things can go back to normal between the two of us.”

“Normal? Things have never been ‘normal’ between us.” said Dr. Wells with a bitter laugh that made Barry look up. There was no rejection in Dr. Wells's face. There was pain. “It’s not been easy for me either. Can you imagine what it’s like having such tender feelings for someone nearly half your age? For that someone to be near invincible, yet still be able to bleed, to be hurt.” Dr. Wells wrung his hands and looked away. “Every time I send you out to danger, I feel like throwing up, and this is me still trying not to have feelings for you. Can you imagine what would happen to me if I started indulging?”

Barry found his voice. “What are you saying? Does that mean I can’t even try? You won’t let me?”

“Please understand. This cannot go further than it already has. I’ve already lost Tess. I don’t want to have you to lose as well.” The terrible, vulnerable expression on Dr. Wells's face retreated.

“This isn’t fair,” said Barry. “You can’t tell me that you have feelings for me and then not act on them.”

But it was too late. Dr. Wells had closed himself off. “I’m sorry I yelled at you.”

"Dr. Wells -"

"No, Mr. Allen. That is final."

Barry was grateful for the silence Dr. Wells left in his wake. It gave him the peace the work through his heartbreak, even though he knew on the other side of that quiet was Caitlin and Cisco's speechless sympathy.

X

There were no civilian accidents on Saturday. No muggings to stop, no police car chases gone awry. No robberies, back-alley stabbings or vehicular accidents. Everyone was in agreement that the culprit was gearing up for something big, but it wasn't going to happen tonight. So when Barry heard about the explosion at the glue factory at midnight, he didn't think much of it.

According to the police scanner, a bomb had collapsed the main entrance and that there were five employees trapped inside. Finding a way inside was the tricky bit. Thankfully, all five men were in the same break room.

“Flash, thank goodness you’re here,” said one of them.

“Thank me later,” said Barry.

When he deposited the fifth man outside and was ready to leave, the man said, “Wait, what about Marshall?”

“I thought there were five of you in there,” said Barry.

“No, Marshall went to patrol the vats. You gotta go back and save him.”

Barry was off before the man finished speaking. He sped around each room he could reach, calling out for Marshall. Eventually, he heard someone screaming, “Help!” Barry sped towards the voice and saw a figure in a blue hoodie hunched over a control panel. “Help!” said the figure.

Barry frowned. “Marshall?”

The figure straightened and turned to face Barry with a grin. It was the teacher from the school. He jammed a button on the control panel.

Two large vats of industrial glue on either side of Barry tipped inwards and poured their considerable contents onto him. It was thick, heavy, and sticky as molasses, and as impossible to escape from. Barry struggled upwards so he could break surface and breathe, but he could do little else. Within seconds, the glue had solidified and stuck him still.

The man patted the side of the vats. “The strongest cyanoacrylates produced in this city. Even with a heat gun, it would take an hour to set you free.”

“You’re the teacher from that school,” said Barry.

“Substitute teacher,” said the man.

“But you work here. The man from the break-room knew you.”

“Last-minute hire.” The man shrugged. “I’m good with papers, amongst other things. But enough about me. Let’s talk about you, /Flash/. You’re a tricky man to lure out. At first I thought I could exhaust you with sheer heroism, but you have an in with the CCPD, don’t you? In the end, the simplest methods are always the best.” He drew a gun out of the pocket of his hoodie.

“Why are you doing this?”

“Because I need you out of the way. Do you know how many times I’ve relocated because of souped-up crazies like you? Metropolis, Gotham, Starling City, National City - they’re all lost causes now. I’ll be damned if I have to give up Central City as well.”

“Someone else will just take my place,” said Barry. “I’m not the only souped-up crazy in this town. If you don’t know that, you’ve not been paying attention.”

“But there’s a difference. The others are on my side. You - you’re just a pain in the butt.” He shot Barry in the thigh. Pain blossomed up and down his leg. Barry gritted his teeth and held back his scream. "I'm going to take my time enjoying you, Flash, before I put a bullet through your head." Barry felt white-hot pain tearing through his left side, let out a helpless noise of agony when the man dug bullets into his shoulders.

“How about your spinal cord next so you can slowly lose feeling in those precious legs of yours? I think three bullets ought to do it. Hold still. I don’t want to miss,” the man said, taking aim.

“No,” said Barry, weak with pain. “Stop.” He was afraid. “Caitlin. Cisco.” He’d let the man get inside his head. He didn’t want to lose his legs. He’s lost his speed before and this would be a million times worst if the man succeeded. “Harrison,” he choked out.

The man grinned. “This is better that I hoped for. If only your city could see you now.” He reached down, tugged Barry’s cowl off his face, and cocked his gun. “This has been fun, Flash.”

Barry heard two shots go off and clenched his eyes shut to fend off the pain. But then he felt Joe’s hand on his head.

Eddie had descended upon the man, who was wounded in his right shoulder, cuffing his wrists while keeping his gun trained on him. Eddie froze when he saw Barry. Joe gave him a sharp look and put a finger to his lips. Jaw working hard, Eddie gave a steely nod.

In his ear, Caitlin and Cisco’s voices were a high tinny. “Barry, Barry, are you alright? Talk to us, Barry!”

X

Sunday. After Caitlin dug out the bullets out of him, it had taken Barry’s body no time to heal. But even Cisco had remained quiet during the procedure. Both of them were still shaken. Dr. Wells had outright refused to look at Barry.

Barry didn’t want to think about why that was. He was surprised when all three of them decided to accompany him to the station.

“You guys know I’m fine, right?” said Barry.

“We know,” said Caitlin.

“We just want to see the man who did this to you,” Cisco said. Barry has never heard Cisco sound so cold before.

The man’s name was Marshall Pennbridge. He was a contract jack-of-all-trades criminal. Barry had foiled a handful of his enterprises, which had led Marshall on a mission to discover and expose what Barry was before destroying him.

He sat in a solitary holding cell at the station. Joe allowed Dr. Wells, Cisco, and Caitlin a visit, but Barry couldn’t go in with them because Marshall would recognise him. So he joined Joe at his desk and watched the CCTV footage of the holding cell instead.

“And who are you?” Marshall sneered.

Cisco was about to say something - something righteous and angry judging by his expression - but Dr. Wells cut him off.

"You are fortunate in many ways you’re not aware of, Mr. Pennbridge," said Dr. Wells, his expression inscrutable. "The first is that you do not present any peculiar abilities, which means I have to leave you to the mercies of Iron Heights, instead of having you as a personal labrat in the basement of my labs. The second is that in spite of your plans, the Flash remains alive and unhurt. Should that have been otherwise, you and I would be having a very different conversation. The third is that you are already behind bars so the best I can do is issue a warning: if you try to hurt the Flash. Ever. Again,” said Dr. Wells, his voice rising until he was near shouting; he breathed in, “we will have words.”

Caitlin and Cisco were staring at Dr. Wells as if they’d never seen him before.

“You call that a threat?” said Marshall with a touch of fear in his eyes.

Dr. Wells smiled. “Very lovely to have met you, Mr. Pennbridge. If you’ll excuse me.” He stalked out of the room, leaving Caitlin and Cisco dumfounded in his wake.

Still staring at the screen, Joe exhaled noisily. “I’ll go down and collect Caitlin and Cisco. You better take care of that,” he said.

“What?” said Barry.

Joe gave Barry a meaningful look and left.

Barry eventually found Dr. Wells in the crime lab with his back towards him and his head hung, chest expanding and deflating as he tried to calm himself. “I wanted to kill him. I wanted to take his neck with these two hands and punish him for -“ He shook his head. “Do you have any idea what it was like hearing you call out for me and I could do - nothing.” He wrung his hands. "I thought, this is it. This is the moment I'm going to lose you."

Barry drew close to him and stroked his arm. “I love you,” he said softly to the nape of Dr. Wells’s neck.

Dr. Wells took Barry’s hand without turning around and squeezed it hard. “Barry,” he started.

Barry saw the chink in Dr. Wells's wall and embraced him from behind. “I love you.” He heard Dr. Wells’s breath catch in his chest, felt his fingers tentatively skate the length of his arm. “I love you. I’m going to keep saying it until you stop me.” Dr. Wells’s chest rumbled with laughter.

Barry hid his smile in Dr. Wells’s shoulder.

“Barry Allen,” said Dr. Wells. His voice was raspy with emotion. It sent zinging streaks of happiness up and down Barry’s mind. “What am I going to do with you?” He turned and kissed Barry until Caitlin cleared her throat.

“Sorry, you guys, but Joe wants to talk to Dr. Wells.”

X

Monday. There was a mass breakout at a pet store, which meant Barry went around the city chasing dogs, cats and the odd ferret. Also, he encountered a new meta-human enemy, which was reassuring, because after the drama of last week, meta-humans were easy.

Barry raced back to Star Labs after his patrol, even though he had two overdue reports and Captain Singh was going to rant at him.

But tonight was important.

“Am I late?” said Barry when he arrived at Star Labs.

“When are you not?” said Iris. She was arranging the bean bags on the empty floor space with Eddie, who’s already broken into the cooler of beers Joe brought.

“So if you can do everything really fast, why are your reports always late?” Eddie said.

Barry ignored both Eddie’s question and Joe’s sniggering. “Where’s Dr. Wells?”

“Even later than you are. He’s coming in from Mercury Labs. Apparently he had an argument with Dr. McGee about hiring some bonehead physicist. Go figure,” said Cisco, carrying two armfuls of potato chips.

“And why do you still call him Dr. Wells? The two of you are dating now. Or is that something I’d rather not know about?” Caitlin said, plugging in the projector.

Joe tapped his nose urgently, to which everyone made a face. Barry flushed red and Iris laughed at him.

“Sorry, I’m late,” said Dr. Wells, announcing his arrival, “but to be fair, I was skeptical about this proposed ‘bonding session’ to begin with. I did not know there would be quite so many people crowding my lab.”

“You agreed,” said Joe simply. “I told you that if you wanted to be part of Barry’s life, you need to be part of ours. So grab a beer, Doctor. We’re watching Ghostbusters.”

Dr. Wells and Barry took a beanbag for themselves. Barry made himself comfortable on Dr. Wells’s chest, smile growing without his consent when Dr. Wells slipped an arm around his waist and dropped a kiss on his head.

Ten minutes into the movie, Barry yawned and his eyes slipped close. He heard Dr. Wells whisper, “Sweet dreams, Barry.” He woke up an hour before his alarm the next morning, still in Dr. Wells’s arms, grinning like a loon. He was so damn happy.