Do As I Say...

Title: Do As I Say...

Disclaimer: We own nothing from DC Comics or the television series Flash and are not making money from this fic.

Summary: Written for the 'required' square in Advent Holiday Bingo and comes off this prompt: A character regularly ends up serving as a 'meat shield', punching bag, or the person who 'takes one for the team' and the rest of their team are too preoccupied with their own jobs/issues to notice and/or the character does a very good job of hiding their injuries, until something happens and everyone realizes what has been going on. Both the character's self-sacrificing tendencies and their team members' guilt over not having noticed until now are addressed.

Warning(s): Spanking; spoilers for seasons one and two of Arrow; violence and some descriptions of wounds left untreated

Authors: BlackFox12 and Hope1iz

It wasn't until he was in his office, alone, that Wells felt able to check on the injuries he'd sustained while out in the field. Even Barry had his limits; and while Wells wasn't gifted in the same way as the younger members of the team, he wanted to help. He knew there were tensions between them...and much as he didn't know how to bridge the gaps between him and the others, at least outside of the times he had to take Cisco in hand, that didn't stop him not wanting to see any of them hurt.

Barry had been busy with the gang members; too busy running at high speed to realise Wells was trying to take out anyone who might be a threat outside of the immediate area. He'd used some darts to take out most of the gang members outside...but one of them had got the drop on him. He'd taken him out, too, but not before sustaining injuries.

Knowing that none of the younger team members would question him, Wells had quickly retreated to his office. This wasn't the first time he'd been injured; but as he gingerly peeled back the sleeve of his shirt, he could barely hold back a wince as he saw the deep bruising and swelling that had come from his arm being ground into the concrete like meat.

Barry had barely glanced in Wells' direction as the man had made a beeline for the office he'd been given. He was too focused on the fact that their main target- the meta who had gathered all the gang-members together and coerced them into harassing the regular populace as well as targeting the police- had slipped his grasp...yet again. "Is there any indication of where he ended up at?" he asked Caitlin in hopeless frustration. It was bad enough that civilians were being harassed, but several of his friends on the force had ended up with injuries severe enough that they had to get treatment at the hospital.

"Not yet...but you put that tracker on him and as soon as he stops moving, I'll let you know where he's at..." Caitlin sighed. She was frustrated, too, but had learned long ago that showing her frustration didn't do anything to calm the other members of the team down.

Cisco was ignoring everyone, as he was going over their equipment, trying to find the glitch that had caused him and Caitlin to lose contact with Barry and Wells. Even though it was only for a few seconds, those seconds were important. He gave Wells a cursory glance as the older man left, noting that he seemed to be favoring one of his arms, but didn't comment or follow up on the observation, too focused on the problem with the equipment.

Joe had been standing quietly in the middle of the chaos, letting it all wash over him. He hadn't been at the warehouse when they'd attempted to nab the meta; he'd been back at the headquarters with Caitlin and Iris listening in. He did notice Wells leaving; he noticed the favoring of the arm, too, and wasn't about to let it go unremarked. While the others argued and tried to pin-point what exactly had gone wrong, he went to Wells' office to check on the other man.

Wells had only closed the door; he hadn't concerned himself with locking it. The bruises on his arm were probably the worst of the injuries he'd had recently. He didn't like to admit it, but treating himself was harder and he couldn't strap up all of the injuries in the best way. On a previous outing, he'd badly sprained his ankle; and it was still giving him a small amount of trouble.

His back to the door, Wells stepped over to the first aid kit, removing the roll of bandages and taking a pair of tweezers out. This was the worst part. Getting the bits of gravel out that had been embedded into his arm.

Joe had only paused at the closed door long enough to knock before he was opening it. "Harrison, could you...?" He stopped what he had been about to open with - a bland request for information that wasn't filtered through a veil of irritation and self-recrimination- and focused on what he was seeing. "Those injuries aren't new..." he said, more calmly than he felt. The fresh bruising and abrasions were obviously bad; but under those was bruising that had to have been at least several days old, if not longer, depending on how bad they originally were. Without waiting for a reply, he walked in and closed the door behind him before taking the tweezers from Wells' hand and beginning to remove the bits of debris from the wounds himself. "You should have said something. Caitlin would have helped. She does it all the time for Barry and Cisco..." He managed to stay calm, although the more he 'doctored' the other man, the more agitated he was becoming. It was apparent that some of the injuries sustained were serious; and yet Wells hadn't said anything at any point in time about having been hurt.

Surprised, Wells didn't stop or protest Joe taking over his doctoring. What he did say was, "She has enough to do taking care of Barry and Cisco. I can take care of these injuries." They'd been healing and he really didn't think there was anything more that Caitlin could have done than he'd done himself.

Joe just gave him a look as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing. "I wouldn't accept that answer from one of the kids and I'm not accepting it from you!" he retorted dryly. "Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should; and I can't believe I have to explain that to a father nearing fifty!" He muttered the last.

Before he could continue chiding, the door popped open and Cisco came in, complaining. "I found the reason the communications went down, but it's gonna take two pairs of hands to fix and..." He stopped mid rant and stared at Wells. "Whaaat?!" was all he managed to get out.

Wells would have made some kind of response to Joe, but Cisco's sudden entrance cut him off. He sighed, not entirely sure what Joe was looking for from him, and decided to focus on what Cisco had just burst in with. "That's fine. As soon as we're done here, you can give me the details of the problem."

"It might be awhile, so maybe you should have Caitlin do a quick check over you and Barry to make sure you don't have any injuries hiding..." Joe's tone was still calm, but he was obviously not happy.

Cisco just continued to stare at Wells, mouth hanging open. Even he could tell the injuries needed help to take care of; and there were some obviously old ones that indicated this wasn't the first time Wells had been hurt. How could he have missed something like this? Shouldn't he have at least 'Vibed' if his friends were being hurt this seriously?!

Joe, realizing Cisco needed a push out the door, reached over and tapped the boy's chin so that he'd close his mouth. Then he put a hand on his shoulder and redirected him to the open door. "Go find Barry. The two of you get checked out. Make sure no one else comes back to this office. I'll take care of Harrison and he'll come get you when he is able to talk."

The orders were fairly brief and easy to follow and soon, Cisco was gone, the door closed and locked to make certain there were no other surprise guests.

Wells thought he should probably protest Joe taking charge like that, but for the time being, he decided not to comment on it or protest. Besides, now that he no longer had to hold himself tense and hide the pain from the injuries, he could relax. The adrenaline was no longer running through his body, which meant he couldn't stop the hiss of breath through his teeth that was almost a groan.

"Even Cisco can tell you were hurt badly. I can understand your reluctance to go to a hospital, given you aren't actually from this Earth, but to not get any help at all was reckless. If Jesse had done this, you would have been livid. I know for a fact you require her to get medical help when needed; same as you do all the younger members of the team..." Joe continued to chide as he cleaned, bandaged and wrapped.

"Of course I would and do. They're my responsibility." The response was a reflex. Holding himself to a different standard than he did his daughter? Than he did the younger team members? "They need to be kept safe. I don't have any special abilities, but I've been making sure they don't have cause to worry." Of course, with Cisco having come into the room and seen the injuries, hiding them so that they didn't know he was hurt and have that affect them was no longer an option.

Joe scowled, but continued to treat his colleague- and dare he think friend- as gently as possible, given the injury. "I won't disagree that we need to keep them as safe as possible and doing what we can to ease their worry is understandable. But failing to get proper medical help doesn't do that. If this became infected because you missed a spot you couldn't reach? If they needed you in field and you couldn't move fluidly enough to do what they needed because of injuries they didn't know about? They wouldn't be safe at all and they'd worry worse because you'd be in worse shape..." Joe finally finished cleaning the last of the wounds and began to slather anti-biotics onto them. "And they only worry because they care about you. You know damn well Cisco is probably out there telling Barry and Caitlin how he failed you; so now not only is he worrying, he's going to blame himself for not noticing. It'd have been much easier just to tell them."

"That wasn't his responsibility." But apart from saying that, Wells didn't argue any more with what Joe was saying. Still, he did say, "I'll tell him it's not his responsibility." It wasn't Cisco's job to worry about Wells; rather, the other way around. But Joe was right and Wells' grimace had more to do with that knowledge than with the pain treating the wounds caused.

"Yeah. You tell him that..." Joe somehow managed to sound amused. It was clear that he thought telling Cisco wouldn't make a bit of difference and he knew Wells would figure that out quickly enough. "I certainly hope you don't hide anything like this again, though." The statement was more of a question and Joe eyed Wells closely. If the other man answered with anything more than a 'I won't', then they were going to have more than words.

Wells frowned. "I would argue it isn't necessary to tell them every time I get hurt. They have enough to worry about as it is already." He wasn't arguing...not exactly. But he still couldn't let go of that feeling he had to be better. He had to prove himself over the man who had betrayed the team.

"Beeeeep... Wrong answer..." Joe said, with a grin what was more wolfish than happy. "You tell someone whenever you get hurt, even if it is just me. If you don't want Caitlin helping you take care of your wounds, I'll do it. But you aren't to keep it to yourself. Not anymore." Joe's eyes narrowed. He suspected Wells would continue to argue and he'd have to employ sterner means to convince the man he meant business and wouldn't accept anything but compliance with his demand.

Wells tilted his head slightly to one side, trying to figure out where Joe was going with this. If he said no, did the other man plan to force the issue? And how did he intend to do that? Wells wasn't made of stone, no matter what kind of mask he put up. If Joe was offering out of a sense of friendship...he really wanted that. More than he thought he should. But if all it was, was a sense of duty... "You have enough to deal with already. I don't think you need to add me to your list."

"Too late. You're already on my list of people I care and worry about and you telling me I don't need to, isn't going to change that. However, you obviously need some encouragement to take my demands seriously and I'm all about encouragement..." Joe had been moving closer to Wells as he was speaking, so by the time he finished the comment, he'd taken hold of Wells' uninjured arm and was gently pulling him toward a chair that had conveniently been left sitting in the center of the room. He didn't give Wells time to digest what he was doing- he didn't want an actual fight on his hands, after all- so he moved quickly and, within moments of having made his decision on what to do, he was sitting on the chair with Wells carefully draped over his lap, the injured arm on the inside against his torso where it wouldn't jar or move too much.

Wells had opened his mouth to make a retort, but things had moved far too quickly, and he blinked, suddenly finding himself upended over Joe's lap. It wasn't like he was a stranger to this; but it had been a long time since he'd been on the receiving end. He breathed in deep, trying to quell the instinct to fight back.

"Consider this a reminder... Whenever you're tempted to hide an injury or illness from the rest of us... You are NOT expendable, or unimportant, or anything else that should make you think we don't care about you or your well-being. You are our friend!" By this point of his mini-lecture, Joe had divested Wells of his slacks and underwear. Raising his hand, he let it fall in the first firm smack and he quickly began to repeat the process over and over, covering the other man's backside with the precise swats. "We care about you and want to help you when you need it and it hurts us motr to hear that you feel 'bothering us' would be worse than allowing us to give you our care and help." He started over with a second circuit; and just in case the fact the team cared about him didn't sway Wells, Joe added, "And it sets a horribly bad example to the kids!"

Wells grit his teeth, trying to force past the pain and listen to the words Joe was saying. He was surprised to realise he actually cared about what the other man was saying. His breath caught as the second circuit of swats began and his voice was strained as he said, "I have better. Than him."

Joe paused long enough to make it clear he had heard what Wells said, before continuing to swat at the same pace and strength. "You are already better than him. You're better because you aren't pretending to be someone you aren't. You weren't planning to betray all of us and setting us up to do so. And when push came to shove, you chose to be honest and let us help you instead of betraying us to help your daughter. You are better." He began a third circuit, increasing the pace fractionally and the force a little more. "You have nothing to prove to us...we like you and care about you and trust you. You need to have more faith in yourself and our feelings for you."

Wells swallowed past the lump forming in his throat. His chest felt tight and his eyes were growing damp. It wasn't even the pain of the spanking that was causing his reactions, although his backside was stinging, especially when the swats had more force behind them. "I think..." His voice wavered, becoming more uncertain. "Maybe...when you all look at still see him."

Joe continued to swat, even as he thought about that. "I think...I think some part of us will never forget him. But all you have to do is say something and we could never see him. You are your own person. And it's you we depend on."

The dampness was starting to become tears. Since coming to Earth 1, Wells had felt like he either had to live up to the memory of the man who came before...or spend his whole time proving himself. Doing that had become an added strain on him. He liked the team here. He cared about them as much as Joe was saying he was cared about. He twitched slightly and closed his eyes for a moment, breath catching in the beginnings of a sob.

Joe was watching carefully, and he could tell when what he'd said had broken through. He wasn't interested in breaking Harrison. He wasn't even interested in making him submit. He was only interested in making him realize how important he was, so that he wouldn't neglect his own health. He felt they'd finally reached that point. Tipping the other man forward slightly, he targeted Wells' upper thighs and sit spots- six smacks on each side- before letting his hand rest on the man's lower back to let Wells respond however he needed.

Wells breathed in deep as the spanking stopped, blinking back the tears that had been trickling down his cheeks. Lifting a hand, he swiped at the wetness on his cheeks and then, with another deep breath, started to push himself up.

Joe let his hand shift from Wells lower back up to his shoulder, rubbing his back along the way. "You're family now, man. Don't forget it..." he admonished firmly, as only a brother could.

It wasn't exactly a laugh that escaped Wells at that, but it was definitely close to it. "I suspect I won't be forgetting any time soon." He carefully levered himself up off Joe's lap.

Joe's smile was quirky, but he didn't comment, carefully standing and giving Wells room to fix his clothing, but not moving too far away. He had every intention of giving his 'brother' a hug, if Wells would allow him to.

Wells replaced his clothing and sighed, almost unconsciously listing towards Joe. While he hadn't been crying hard, what had just happened had still caused something of an emotional upheaval.

Joe took the minute movement to move forward and wrap his arms tightly around Wells, hugging him close and tight, though he was mindful of the injuries. "I'm glad you're okay. Next time, tell me instead of letting me find out by accident. I'll help you. Promise."

Surprised, Wells slowly wrapped his arms around Joe in return. He took a deep breath and nodded. "I will."

"Good. Then I'm happy..." Joe smiled at Wells, before shifting so he could put an arm around his shoulder. "You ready to go let the kiddies know you're alright and aren't bleeding out on the office floor? Which Cisco is most likely assuming..."

Wells nodded. "I'm ready. It would be good to know why the communications went out, too."

"That it would. I don't like when Barry or anyone with him gets cut off from headquarters..." Joe muttered, his worry clear.

"Cisco mentioned he'd found something, so we'll check on that." While he was talking, Wells was heading out of the office door.

Joe quickly followed. As they neared the main area of the labs, they could hear arguing.

"I feel bad that he was hurt, but he's an adult fully capable of letting me know when he needs help. It's not my fault if he chooses not to..." Caitlin was saying.

"I should have paid closer attention to you all when the coms went out. Made certain no one got hurt...but beyond that, Caitlin's right..." Barry agreed.

"Well...I can't help feeling that if we paid closer attention once returning, that he'd be in better shape. Instead of having so many wounds. It's not just from tonight. Some of them are obviously days old, if not older," Cisco argued, voice dripping with guilt. "We're his friends. We should notice these things... I should at least. I didn't even vibe it..."

"Your vibing power doesn't work like that, Cisco..." Caitlin tried to soothe.

"It might!" he argued back.

Wells could hear the argument going on. He wasn't particularly surprised by what any of them were saying...but he couldn't help feeling a stab of guilt that Cisco was taking his actions so close to heart. He resisted the urge to glance at Joe for help or even encouragement. The younger members of the team felt like this due to his own actions. It was up to him to help them feel better.

Walking into the main area of the labs, Wells cleared his throat. "Cisco, Barry and Caitlin are right. None of you are responsible for the actions I chose to take." He worked hard to inject a reassuring note into his voice.

"I must be somewhat responsible. You didn't trust us to know you were hurt. You didn't trust me. It's because I looked at you suspiciously for so long..." Cisco was just throwing out possible reasons, since he didn't know for sure. He was positive that it was his fault, though.

"It had nothing to do with trust or a lack of it," Wells replied. He wasn't really that comfortable going into the reasons behind his decision to hide his injuries; at least not with all of them there. He considered suggesting Cisco come into his office, so he could hopefully ease the younger man's mind in a more private setting.

"Of course, it did. You obviously thought we wouldn't care enough to help you! Thought we'd look down on you, or use it against you somehow..." Cisco was waving his hands around in a flailing motion.

Caitlin backed away, shaking her head. "I'm going home before I get dragged into your madness," she muttered toward her friend, before waving at the others. "See you tomorrow."

Barry shook his head. "Maybe we all need sleep. Meet up tomorrow?" He glanced toward Wells, before looking at Joe. "Can I crash at home tonight? My hot water went out in the apartment..."

Joe glanced toward Wells as well, to make certain he was okay, while answering Barry. "You know you're always welcome to stay at home. Your room is always ready..."

Wells nodded towards Barry and Joe, a bit torn between letting Cisco head home in this state and trying to fix things before they had the chance to get worse. Making a quick decision, he stepped over to Cisco and placed a hand on his shoulder. "We'll continue this conversation in my office."

"What's to continue? You don't trust me and it's my own fault!" Cisco was too distraught to notice everyone else had left. "And you were hurt because of it and I didn't notice! I'm a horrible person and a worse friend!"

Wells hesitated before placing his other hand on Cisco's shoulder. He wasn't always too comfortable with allowing his personal space to be invaded, but at the moment, he thought he needed to push past his own hang-ups. "It isn't because of you, Cisco. I admitted it to Joe...I've convinced myself I need to be better than the man you knew. To protect you in the way he was unable or unwilling to."

"But...even he let us help him. We didn't know what his real plan was, and he hated us, but he still let us help him..." Cisco obviously still felt it was his fault in some way, the way he couldn't meet Wells' eyes and fidgeting making it clear.

"Well, I don't hate you. And I don't have an ulterior plan," Wells added. He sighed and gently squeezed Cisco's shoulder. "Do we need to have a more hands-on discussion about this?" he asked seriously.

"What? How will that make it better!? I failed you as a friend and as someone who should've been watching out for you...and I didn't even realize I was failing!" Cisco was distraught.

Wells knew he could continue trying to tell Cisco through words that it wasn't his fault, but he suspected the younger man was past listening to him. It was obvious Cisco was feeling guilty and Wells needed to head that off at the pass. He didn't waste any more time in guiding the younger man towards one of the chairs in the room.

Cisco was too busy rattling off the myriad ways he'd failed Wells, and how sorry he was, to notice where he was being led.

Wells kept hold of Cisco, taking a seat and then gently tugging the younger man across his knees. His left arm was the one that had been more recently wounded and he used that to gently pin Cisco in place.

Cisco stopped mid-ramble when he finally became aware of his position. "You're gonna spank me?" he asked, in a tiny voice. "You'll forgive me and give me another chance to do better, after?" His tone was hesitantly hopeful.

Wells let his hand rub over Cisco's back. "I'm not upset with you, Cisco. There isn't anything you've done wrong and you're not responsible for the bad choice I made. But I won't let you pile this guilt on your own shoulders." He wasted no time in baring the younger man.

Cisco whimpered, and he wasn't entirely certain Wells was telling him the truth; he'd hidden being hurt, after all. It would be easier to pretend you didn't blame someone for something that was their fault; at least he thought it should be. "Really?" he found himself asking nervously, instead of arguing or trying to get away or anything that would have made more sense in his current position.

"I hid my injuries out of a misguided attempt to protect you and the others and to make sure you wouldn't worry about me," Wells replied. "It isn't your fault I did that. But while that might have been a mistake, it isn't one to stop you feeling guilty," he added, before lifting his hand and bringing it down in a firm swat.

Cisco yelped before quickly reaching down and grabbing hold of Wells' ankle with both hands. "I should have seen, I could help you..." Cisco swallowed hard. "I mean...I hid the fact I got grazed by a bullet last week, but Gypsy still noticed. I had to make her promise not to tell anyone and avoid doing anything that got your attention, cuz I knew you'd notice if I didn't. You weren't even trying hard to hide it that well and I still didn't notice!"

Wells arched his eyebrows at that admittance and had a moment to realise Joe had been right. That he wouldn't accept his own behaviour from the youngsters. He delivered a matching swat nearly on top of the first and then two more on the opposite side. "You didn't tell me that you got hurt." He now had a better understanding of how Cisco was feeling.

"Ow!" Cisco yelped again, then answered in confusion. "No...It was just a scratch and I took care of it and I didn't want you to wor..." His voice trailed off as he realized that maybe Wells hadn't kept his injuries a secret because of a lack of trust, but because he actually cared about Cisco. It didn't make him feel any better about having missed the fact his mentor had been hurt, but he was more willing to believe it hadn't been kept from him due to Wells not liking or trusting him.

Keeping the swats at the same speed and force, Wells went down to Cisco's thighs and then began again from the top. "Not telling you I was injured had nothing to do with trusting you or not. I hope, by now, you've realised I do trust you. I do..." He hesitated. "I do like you. It's not your job to worry about me. It's mine to worry about you."

Cisco couldn't help but begin to wiggle around as Wells continued to swat. He wasn't fighting the older man, however, having realized that he'd screwed up and deserved what he was getting. Plus, he still felt guilty about missing clues that the man was hurt. Even if he was being told he shouldn't. "...It's not a job worrying..." he whimpered. "...Worry cuz I like you and don't want you to di...disappear...!" he admitted in a choked voice, his fingers flexing against Wells' ankle.

Completing the second circuit, Wells began a third, going a fraction harder and faster. "Cisco, I know I can't make any promises as to what will happen in the future, but even though this wasn't the world I was born into, it...feels like home. You and the others...this is where I belong." He was voicing more honesty than he had in a long time; but his own experience with Joe was still at the front of his mind.

Cisco choked back a sob and gripped Wells' ankle more tightly. "Really?" His voice was tiny and uncertain but hopeful; more like a child than the competent young adult he normally was. He blinked his eyes several times to clear the tears from them.

"Do you think I'd worry about you as much as I do, or bother to do this, if that wasn't true?" Wells asked, focusing more swats to the younger man's sit spots and thighs.

"No..." Cisco whined and tried to squirm out of the line of fire. He bit his lip hard and tried not to start crying harder or vocally at Wells' words. The older man was very convincing in his caring.

Wells softened his tone, even while he tightened his grip on Cisco and remained unnerring in the swats he was delivering. "If it wasn't true, I wouldn't care about you feeling guilty due to a bad decision I made."

Cisco blinked back more tears, but this time, his eyes didn't clear; there were too many of them. "I should have noticed..." he whispered uncertainly, in a strained voice. He was starting to realize that maybe he shouldn't be blaming himself for that either. After all, Wells hadn't known he'd been grazed by the bullet until he'd accidentally confessed.

"In the same way I should have known that you were grazed by a bullet?" Wells' voice was gentle, in comparison to the slightly harder swats he was still delivering.

Cisco took a deep breath and shivered. "...No? " He winced as his voice came out more confused and as if he was asking a question instead of answering one. He'd felt so much guilt when he'd seen Wells' wounds, but he'd pretty much done the same thing as Wells had a few weeks earlier when he hid the bullet grazing...and he didn't blame Wells for not noticing. So maybe he was being too hard on himself for not noticing. And to be honest, his backside was stinging so badly by this point, he'd agree to anything and promise anything that Wells said if it would end the spanking. "...I...I'm sorry I didn't notice you were hurt..." he said mournfully, before adding, "...And I'm sorry I hid when I was wounded from you. I...I know that wasn't right..." he admitted in a tight voice, before his voice cracked and tiny little cries escaped.

"The only thing you should be sorry for is hiding that you were wounded from me," Wells said seriously. "Not noticing I was hurt wasn't on you. But if you promise to make sure I know if you're hurt, I'll make you the same promise. So you don't worry so much that I'll disappear."

"I promise!" Cisco quickly agreed, letting out a choked sob. "I'll never hide wounds or other injuries from you, ever again!" He let out another choked sob. "I'm sorry..."

"I know. And I forgive you." Wells brought the spanking to a stop, letting his hand rest gently on Cisco's warmed backside.

"You forgive me? That...that's..." Cisco swallowed hard and managed to take a deep breath without sobbing again. "...Thank you..." he finally whispered, letting himself go slack over Wells' lap. It seemed like the older man was through punishing him, but since Wells hadn't indicated he could get up and still had his hand on his backside, he figured he better wait till Wells told him to move. Besides...tears were still streaming down his face and if he got up, he'd have to face the older man and let him see what a baby he'd been about getting a spanking.

Wells moved his hand to Cisco's lower back, rubbing gently. He cleared his throat. "Want to get up? We can do something here in the labs together."

Cisco swallowed again and cleared his own throat before saying, in a shaky voice, "Yes, sir..." before carefully standing and fixing his clothing. He couldn't face the older man. Not only had Wells had to take him in hand, but he'd reacted like a baby. On top of that... well, only Cisco's doctor and Gypsy had seen so much of him.

Wells reached out and gently squeezed Cisco's shoulder. "You don't need to feel embarrassed," he said calmly. "You've been punished. It's over with." He hesitated and then wrapped his arms around the younger man in a hug.

Cisco only hesitated briefly before his relief at the physical show of forgiveness and affection caused him to quickly wrap his own arms around Wells and hold on tightly. He shifted his head so that his face was hidden against Wells shoulder. "Can't help it..." he said sheepishly.

"It doesn't need to be brought up again," Wells said, tightening his embrace. "You made a mistake and were punished for it. That means it's over with."

"Okay..." Cisco let out a tiny sigh and didn't let go of the older man, perfectly happy to be hugged until Wells got tired of it. "If...if I mess up again or feel guilty...?"

"I'll spank you," Wells answered, without any hesitation. "But it's not going to change anything." What he really meant was, 'it's not going to change how I feel about you', but he wasn't sure if Cisco would take that the way it was meant.

"So... basically... I'm accountable to you now," Cisco said hesitantly, though it was more a question than a statement.

"Yes," Wells agreed. "Because...I do care," he said, a bit haltingly. "About you staying safe. About you not feeling guilty and hurt."

"That's cool..." Cisco finally stepped away and gave Wells a crooked smile. "It... feels right. I care about you too," he responded, a little less haltingly, but a bit more shyly.

Wells smiled at him. "I apologise for worrying you; but I will make sure not to do that again in the future," he promised.

"Thanks... I tend to make really bad mistakes when I'm worried..." Cisco admitted.

"Would you like to show me the problem you found with the communication now?" Wells asked.

Cisco's eyes widened, and he was immediately focused on the problem. "Yes!" He turned toward where the communication device was attached to one of the computers. "...If you look here, you'll see that somehow the frequency got changed in the devices... but not here..."

Wells moved immediately to where Cisco was referencing, giving the younger man his full and complete attention.

The End