“Our hour is up,” Ben said.
Tate whimpered softly, and sunk further into the couch. “It is?”
Ben nodded, stood up, and unbuckled his belt. When Tate made no move to get up, Ben said, “Tate.”
“It’s been three months, Dr. Harmon,” Tate said with a shaky voice.
Ben simply raised an eyebrow, took his belt off, and gestured to the back of the couch Tate was sitting on.
The teen whimpered again, and stood up. “How long ‘till you forgive me?” he asked, walking to the back of the couch.
Ben sighed. “Don’t play innocent, Tate, that just annoys me. It’s not about forgiveness. It’s about punishment. I understand that you don’t like this. That’s the point. Now stop stalling.”
“Violet still won’t even talk to me.” Tate whispered.
Ben had to bite his lip to keep from saying ‘good’. Instead he said, “Do you want to see her this week or not?” When Tate didn’t answer right away, Ben started to put his belt back on. “Okay, that’s fine with me.”
“No, wait!” Tate said, unsnapping his pants. “I’m getting into position.” He let the pants fall to the floor, and bent himself over the back of the couch. “See? Don’t leave.” He reached back and slid the underwear down just enough to uncover his ass.
Ben doubled his belt over, and held it in one hand. He put his free hand on the middle of Tate’s back and said, “Tell me the rules.”
“Be completely honest, and stay in position.”
“And if you break the rules?”
“This week doesn’t count, I don’t get to see Violet, and we try again next week.”
“Good. We’re on number eleven.”
“Number eleven was Stephanie Boggs.” There was quite a long pause while Tate talked himself into getting started. Eventually he whispered, “I shot her in the head.”
Ben snapped the belt down onto Tate’s bare skin. The teen yelped, and his whole body tensed up. Ben smiled with satisfaction as the red stripe appeared on Tate’s behind. He landed nine more blows and then paused.
“Repeat after me,” said Ben. “Killing Stephanie was morally, spiritually, and ethically wrong.”
With tears running down his face, Tate started to repeat the words.
Ben didn’t let Tate’s sorrowful voice sway him in the least. Tate could cry at the drop of a hat, and it had nothing to do with actual remorse. Ben gave him five more blistering smacks as Tate stammered through the sentence.
“Did you feel bad about killing Stephanie before you met Violet?” Ben asked.
Tate hesitated. His instincts were screaming at him to lie, but he knew from past experience that Ben would know it was a lie. If he lied, Ben would stop. If Ben stopped, he wouldn’t get to see Violet until next week, and they’d start with number eleven all over again. He sniffed, wiped some tears off his face, and muttered the truth. “No.”
Ben patted Tate’s back for giving an honest answer, and then slapped the belt down five times. Tate yelped loudly with each smack, and grabbed a fist full of the couch cushions in each hand to keep himself in place.
“How did you feel when Violet died?”
Tate was crying too hard to speak for a few seconds. Ben knew this was the hardest question for Tate to answer, and waited patiently.
“Like s… someone was ripping out my guts. I wanted to die all over again.”
Ben nodded. He firmly believed that Tate was telling the truth about his love for Violet, and that was the only reason he’d agreed to this little project that they’d started three months ago. He said, “When you killed Stephanie, that’s how you made her family feel.”
“I’m sorry!” Tate yelled as the belt slapped down five more times.
“Repeat after me again,” Ben said. “I deserve a whipping for murdering Stephanie.”
Tate tearfully repeated the words. “I d… deserve a w… whipping for m… murdering Stephanie.”
Ben moved the belt down to Tate’s thighs, and gave him ten hard whacks, causing the teen’s cries to go up in volume and pitch.
“Okay Tate, last one,” Ben said. “What am I going to do to you if you hurt any other living person in the future?”
“Y… you’re gonna w… whip me e… every day for a m… month.”
Ben waited for a few seconds and then prompted, “Because?”
“Because Violet l… loves me, and she n… needs me to s… stop behaving like a psychopath.”
Ben put some pressure on the teen’s back to hold him down, and said, “That’s right, she does.”
He lifted the belt higher than before and started snapping it down hard enough to leave welts with each strike. He started at the top of Tate’s rear end, and moved all the way down to his lower thighs, laying a total of fifteen angry red raised stripes on top of the already pink skin.
Tate thrashed around, kicked his legs, and cried loudly while it was happening, but kept both hands twisted in the couch cushions.
When Ben was done he set the belt down on the couch in Tate’s line of sight to signal that the punishment was over. Tate’s whole body went limp at the sight of it, and he sobbed with relief, pressing his face into the seat of the couch.
Ben sat on the edge of the couch next to Tate, and patted the teen’s back. He waited quietly for a few minutes, until Tate’s injuries had disappeared, and he’d cried himself out. Ben gave the boy one more pat and moved his hand. He stood up, grabbed his belt and put it back on.
Tate propped himself up on an elbow and wiped at his face. He reached back to pull up his underwear. Once they were in place, he stood, picked up his pants, and pulled them back on.
Ben said, “How do you think the behavior modification is going so far?”
“Why don’t you ever ask me that before the whipping?” Tate asked with a scowl.
“I think you’re more prone to honesty once it’s done.”
Tate shrugged. “It’s hard to say. I hate it. I hate every second of it, but like you said, that’s the point.”
“Did any thoughts of whipping intrude on your fantasies of killing people this past week?”
Frowning, Tate nodded. “Every time.”
Ben smiled. “Then I’d say it’s working. I’ll send Violet in, and later tonight, I’ll encourage her to talk to you after we’re done with the fifteen people you killed as a human.”
“You will?” Tate said with a smile. “Thank you, Dr. Harmon. For everything.”
“Don’t thank me yet.” Ben said sincerely, “I haven’t told you my plans for your behavior modification once we start on the people you killed as a ghost.”
“What plans?” Tate asked with genuine worry.
“If their souls are still in the house, your victims are going to witness to your punishment, and possibly punish you themselves.”
Tate shook his head. “No,” he whispered, “Please no.”
“You’re the one who came to me, Tate,” Ben said. “You’re the one who wants forgiveness. You’re the one who wanted to make amends. You asked for my help, and that’s what I’m trying to do. So you will take whatever punishment I say you deserve, or you’ll be outside looking through the glass at Violet for an eternity.”
Tears started running down Tate’s face again, but he nodded in understanding and acceptance.
Ben opened the door to his office and said, “Violet?”
She appeared in front of him. He gave her a kiss on the forehead and said, ‘Half an hour sweetheart.”
She gave him a quick hug and said, “Thanks, Dad.”
Ben left the room, closing the door behind him.
Violet and Tate simply stared at each other for a few seconds. Tate slowly sank to his knees and said softly, “I miss you.”
Violet went to stand directly in front of him, and brushed the hair away from his eyes. He leaned the side of his face against her stomach, and wrapped his arms around her middle. She used one hand to press his head even closer to her, and put the other around his shoulders.
Half an hour later, Ben found them in exactly the same position. “Times up,” he said.
Violet felt Tate’s arms tighten around her. She leaned down and kissed the top of his head before letting go of him entirely. He very slowly and reluctantly let go of her too.
“See you next week,” he said softly, and disappeared up to the attic to seek comfort in playing ball with his brother.
American Horror Story pictures courtesy of Home of the Nutty
(Feedback makes me happy.)