Later that evening, after work, Barry headed to STAR Labs again. He’s spent the whole day berating himself for what he’d done, and repeating Joe’s advice over and over again in his head. Take steps to make sure it won’t happen again.
He walked into the lab with a purpose, knowing what needed to be done, even though it wasn’t what he wanted to do. Dr. Wells, Cisco, and Caitlin were all in the lab when he arrived.
Caitlin smiled. “Hi Barry.”
“What’s wrong?” Cisco asked after seeing Barry’s somber expression.
Barry looked at each of them in turn and said, “There’s no easy way to say this. I’ve been thinking it over since last night, and I’ve decided to hang up the suit.”
“You’re quitting?” Cisco asked.
“I don’t want to. I love working with you guys, but after last night… I can’t take the risk of being out of control again.”
With a frown, Caitlin said, “So we’ll take precautions in case there’s a next time.”
Barry shook his head, but before he could answer, Dr. Wells said, “We need to have a private conversation. My office.” He gestured for Barry to go in front of him.
Barry’s eyebrows went up at the Dr.’s tone of voice, but he dutifully headed towards the office.
Cisco winced. He’d had a ‘private conversation’ with Dr. Wells a few months ago when he’d made that freeze gun, and it hadn’t involved much actual talking. He decided he didn’t want to be there if anything remotely like that was going to happen, and he doubted Barry would appreciate it either.
“Hey Dr. Wells?” Cisco said.
“Yes?” He turned his wheelchair back to talk.
“Caitlin and I are gonna take off a few minutes early if that’s okay.”
“We are?” Caitlin asked.
Dr. Wells nodded. “That’s fine. I’ll see you both tomorrow.” He turned and followed Barry to his office.
Cisco went to Caitlin and gently pulled at her arm. “Come on. Barry wouldn’t want you to be here for this.”
“Here for what?” she asked, as she let herself be led away.
“Just trust me. No one likes to get yelled at in front of their friends. You probably wouldn’t understand, because you never do anything wrong, but I have and it sucks. Wanna get a drink before we go home? There’s a new club a few blocks from here.”
She grabbed her purse and coat as he pulled her out of the lab. “Okay, but only one drink.”
Dr. Wells rolled into his office behind Barry, and swung the door closed after them. He gestured to one of the chairs in front of his desk, and Barry sat down.
“Quitting isn’t the answer, Barry. I know you feel awful about what happened to Joe and Eddie, but you can’t let that overshadow all the good you’ve done.”
“All the good I’ve done will feel meaningless if I end up hurting someone again the way I did last night.”
“What does Joe say about this?” Dr. Wells asked.
“I haven’t told him yet, but he’s the one who told me to take steps to make sure nothing like this happens again.”
“Well, we can do that without you quitting.”
“How? Call Oliver every time I go off the grid? How many people will I hurt before he gets here?”
“That’s your guilt and anger talking, not logic or reasoning. Caitlin, Cisco, and I can come up with a contingency plan to keep you in check without Oliver.”
Barry shook his head, stared at the floor and said, “But what if it doesn’t work? We had a plan yesterday and I messed it up. I argued with you about it in the first place, and then after I finally agreed to stay, I left without telling anyone.”
“Do you really think we’d let something like that happen twice? We’re already working on a device to prevent you from leaving the lab if we deem it necessary.”
Barry’s eyes snapped up. “You are?”
“We are.” Dr. Wells confirmed.
Both fear and relief swirled around inside Barry. He was glad they were working on a plan to keep him from going on another rampage, but he certainly didn’t want to end up in one of the cells alongside the other meta-humans.
Dr. Wells leaned forward and said, “Listen, Barry, you’re a good person, but you’re young and inexperienced. Joe and I are here to help you become the great man that we know you can be, but that means you have to actually take our advice when we give it. You may be the one in the suit, but the whole team working together makes The Flash a hero. I’m telling you that quitting is not the right decision, and I bet if I called Joe he’d agree with me.”
“Maybe.” Barry said with a tired sigh. “I feel so awful about what happened last night, it’s probably clouding my judgment. I should give it a few days before I make any decisions.”
“I don’t think time is what you need. What you really need is punishment.”
“Punishment?” Barry’s eyebrows drew together.
Dr Wells nodded. “Punishment.”
“Like spending the weekend in one of the cells with the other meta-humans?”
“No, nothing that will take you away from your training. When you were younger, what did Joe do to punish you?”
“He usually grounded me.”
“Usually?” Dr. Wells asked.
“Always?” Barry tried, but failed, to say it with confidence.
“No, there’s something you’re not telling me.”
The younger man shook his head with a deer in the headlights expression on his face.
“It’s obviously embarrassing to you, so my guess is that Joe spanked you once or twice.”
Barry blushed and looked towards the door. He wanted to deny it, but he knew the blush had already given him away.
With a nod Dr. Wells continued, “It probably happened a couple of times early on, when you were adjusting to living in his house, and then once you settled in, Joe never needed to do it again. Am I right?”
He kept his eyes on the floor and muttered, “Just once. The day I ran away to see my dad in prison.”
“It’s settled then. You need punishment to get past this, so I’ll spank you.”
“What?” Barry made eye contact again and shook his head. “No. Don’t be ridiculous.”
“You feel bad about what you did last night, so bad that you’re thinking about quitting. If I punish you for it, then you can get past it.”
With rising panic, Barry sat up straight, and said more forcefully, “No. There’s no way that’s happening.”
Dr. Wells just gave the younger man a sympathetic smile. “We both know I can’t force you, but I can convince you that it’s the right thing to do.”
“I highly doubt that.” Barry said. He relaxed a fraction when he realized Dr. Wells was right. The older man couldn’t force him.
Taking a deep breath, Dr. Wells said, “Over the past ten years I’ve hired at least eighteen kids right out of college. Due to the nature of our work, I can’t just substitute one employee with another, because the kids I pick out are brilliant in their specific fields. Because they’re brilliant, and because they’re irreplaceable, I can’t just fire them when they mess up. But they’re also still kids who’ve never really been out on their own, so they make all kinds of mistakes. At one point or another, I’ve had to punish all of them.” He saw the incredulous look on Barry’s face, and said, “I didn’t say that I spanked all of them, I said that I had to punish all of them. For some of them that meant being suspended for a few days. For some it meant being taken off a project for a week. For some it meant having to do menial tasks around the workplace in front of their peers. And for three of them, not including you, it has meant a spanking. It all depends on the kid’s personality, and what will work for them.”
Feeling tense again, Barry said, “You can’t spank your employees. That’s assault.”
Dr. Wells shrugged. “I’ve never forced anyone to take a spanking; it’s always been their choice. As a matter of fact, every punishment for every employee has been a choice, because they have the option to quit. No one has ever reported me for assault after a spanking because I’m a good judge of character, and I know what will work for each kid.”
“Take Caitlin for example,” he continued, “Being forced to do menial tasks wouldn’t be much of a punishment, because I see her doing little tasks around the office all the time, even after I’ve told her that the janitorial crew can do it. Being taken off a project wouldn’t be much of a punishment, because she’d be just as interested in whatever I put her on instead. Being spanked would be traumatic for her. It would make her feel unloved. But, being suspended for a day is the perfect punishment for her, because she loves to come to work, and it’s upsetting for her when she’s not allowed to come in. Getting suspended is something she’ll try to avoid, which will modify her behavior in the future without making her too upset.”
“Okay,” Barry said. “I get that, but what I don’t get, is why you think spanking wouldn’t be traumatic for me, because I sure think it would be.”
“We’ll get to that in a minute. I know you never met him, but you’ve heard of Caitlin’s fiancé, Ronnie, right?”
“For him the most effective punishment was being taken off of a project for a week. He was a bit of a micro manager. He needed to oversee every part of a project, so knowing the project was going on without him was something he wanted to avoid at all costs.”
“There was another kid who worked for me before the particle accelerator incident named Hartley. He came from a rich family, and had… a bit of an ego. Having to do menial tasks in front of his peers was horrible for him. In fact he almost quit over it when I told him that was his punishment for almost blowing up the lab while doing an unauthorized experiment. If he thought spanking was an option he would have begged for that over emptying the trash and cleaning the toilets, but a spanking wouldn’t have been much of a deterrent to bad behavior for him. He would have just turned it into an endurance test in his mind, and he’d want to make sure he could take more than anyone else.”
“Then there’s Cisco.” Dr. Wells scrutinized Barry for a moment. “Cisco is like you when it comes to punishment. He’d happily do any menial task I asked him to do. If I suspended him for a couple of days, he’d sit at home, drink beer and watch movies, or tinker with some invention. If I took him off a project, he’d pout, but a few minutes later he’d get interested in some other project. None of those punishments would deter him from behaving badly in the future. Any of that sound similar to how you’d react?”
Barry shifted uncomfortably in his chair, pursed his lips, and shrugged instead of answering.
“A spanking on the other hand isn’t something he can ignore or laugh off. Physically it’s unpleasant enough that he wants to avoid it. Emotionally it’s not traumatic, because his grandma spanked him a couple of times when he was little, the same way someone who loved you spanked you in a non abusive way when you were little. And just like you, when he messes up he beats himself up about it, but after a spanking he gets to forgive himself.”
“Wait,” Barry shook his head, as if not wanting to believe what he was saying, “are you telling me that you’ve actually spanked Cisco? Our Cisco.” Barry jerked a thumb behind him in the direction of the lab. “The guy who made my suit.”
“Twice in the past four years. He even thanked me after the last time, because he knows that I’m doing it to help him.”
“That’s…” Barry shook his head again, and again. “That’s just…”
“There’s a reason Joe only had to spank you once. Because spanking works for you. Did you want to report Joe after he spanked you?”
Barry scowled. “That was different. I was a kid, and it wasn’t even much of a spanking. It was a few swats before he put me in the car to drive me home from the prison.”
“You can take a few days and think it over if you want, but you’ll be better off just letting it happen now, because I know you’ll eventually agree to it. You feel so bad about hitting Joe and Eddie that you want
a punishment of some kind.”
A lump formed in Barry’s throat. He couldn’t deny that statement. A sick feeling of dread filled his stomach, because he knew the older man was right. He did want some kind of punishment, and he would eventually agree, especially after hearing that Cisco had taken the same punishment. He remembered how he felt after Joe had spanked him, and while there were tears and remorse, mostly he’d felt better. He’d felt like an actual member of the family instead of an outsider sent to live with a foster family. And the next day he’d felt forgiven even though he’d been grounded for a week. He slowly nodded in agreement.
“Quitting is your way of punishing yourself, but I know you can’t actually quit. You can’t walk by a civilian in danger without helping. It’s not in your nature.” While Dr. Wells spoke, he used the levers on his wheelchair to shift the armrests down towards the floor, and out of the way of the seat itself. “So why don’t you save yourself some heartache and come over here so we can get it over with.”
Barry tensed when he saw what Dr. Wells was doing. “Over your lap?” His voice cracked as he asked.
“Well I can’t exactly stand up to swing if you’re bent over my desk.” He looked back at his desk and pulled his metal ruler out of the pen caddy where he kept it. He held it up for Barry to see. “It will be this on the seat of your jeans until I think you’ve been punished enough. Because of your healing factor, I really should take your pants down so I can see what kind of damage I’m inflicting, but that probably would
make it traumatic for you, so I won’t.”
After a few moments of tense silence, Dr. Wells said, “Time to decide, Barry. Either come over here, or go home and think it over.”
He didn’t want the spanking, not at all. But he desperately wanted the absolution that came after it was done. With a grimace and a blush, Barry stood up. Feeling as if someone else was the one moving, he took the two steps that separated him and Dr. Wells.
“Good choice.” Dr. Wells took Barry’s wrist, and gently tugged to get the younger man across his lap. Once he was in place, Dr. Wells wrapped one arm around his waist to hold him there, and rested the ruler against his rear end.
“Oh God,” Barry muttered, not quite able to believe this was happening, and that he was a willing participant, but the image of Joe’s face from earlier that morning kept him from trying to get up.
“I know why you want punishment, but do you know why I think you deserve punishment?”
Not trusting his voice, Barry shook his head.
“First, for going after Roy on your own without back up. That was a terrible plan, and the only reason you did it was to prove Oliver wrong, which is somewhat ironic since you ended up proving him right. Second, for arguing with me about staying here for observation. I do expect you to heed my advice for the next few years while we’re all figuring out your powers. Third, for leaving the lab yesterday morning without telling anyone where you were going. I am not
spanking you for what you did to Joe and Eddie, because by that point you were completely out of control, but you never would have gotten to that point if the first three things hadn’t happened. Is all of that clear?”
Barry hung his head in shame, and muttered, “Yes.”
“Good.” Dr. Wells lifted the ruler, and slapped it back down. Barry kept silent, but the older man could feel him flinch in pain. Taking into account Barry’s healing factor, Dr. Wells made sure that every swat landed in exactly the same spot, and he used more force than he would have for a normal human.
The ruler smacked his behind again, and again, making it difficult to stay still. He could feel his skin trying to heal itself in between swats, which created a very unpleasant itchy burn that got worse with each smack. Very soon his legs started to twitch with each strike. He felt Dr. Wells’ arm tighten around him, and the smacks seemed to get impossibly harder.
“Ow.” The tiny little complaint slipped out. Barry held his breath for the next five swats to keep from crying out, but it was a losing battle. Within seconds, he was making little grunts, hisses, and exclamations with every other strike. His legs were twitching more, and he was struggling to keep his hand on the floor instead of trying to block the blows. After his hand came off the floor for a third time in a half hearted attempt to reach back, he said desperately, “I think I’ve had enough!”
Dr. Wells kept spanking and said, “Sorry Barry, it doesn’t work that way. We’re not done until I think you’ve had enough.”
Hearing that, Barry did reach back, and cover a portion of his rear end with his hand.
Dr. Wells stopped spanking long enough to grab Barry’s wrist and hold it against his lower back. Once the target area was clear, he started up where he’d left off.
“Ow! Please not the same spot,” Barry begged. His body had had more time to heal because of the pause, but that only seemed to make the new swats hurt more. Instead of the itchy burn of a newer injury, it felt sore, like getting smacked on top of a healing bruise.
Dr. Wells shook his head, and continued spanking in exactly the same place. “You need to think about why I’m doing this, and tell me how you’re going to avoid it in the future.”
“I won’t go rogue again! Ow! I won’t go after another meta-human without telling the team! Ow! Dr. Wells, please! I’m sorry! I swear I won’t do it again, and I’ll… Ow!… I’ll listen to you from now on! Ow! I’ll do whatever you say, just please stop! Please!”
Dr. Wells nodded, knowing that he’d gotten through to the younger man. He slapped the ruler down three more times, and stopped. He said, “Okay, It’s over.” He let go of Barry’s wrist, tossed his ruler back on his desk, and patted the younger man’s back. “I believe that you’re being sincere, so we can start fresh tomorrow. I’m sure we’ll never have to do this again.”
Barry took a shuddering breath of relief, and tried not to break down crying. He sniffed a few times, wiped the dampness out of his eyes that he refused to call tears, and pushed himself up and off the older man’s lap. He tried to take a step back, but Dr. Wells clasped his wrist in a strong grip to prevent that.
Once they had eye contact, Dr. Wells said intently, “You never intended for Joe or Eddie to get hurt, and now that you’ve been punished, you’re going to forgive yourself. Do you hear me?”
The younger man nodded with a wide-eyed expression at the stern words. “Yes, Sir,” he said quietly.
Dr. Wells squeezed his wrist gently and said, “Good.” He let go of the wrist, smiled, and waived a hand towards the door. “Go on home, and get some rest. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Okay.” Barry realized his rear end was almost completely healed, and sped out the door.
He went home to his apartment to get his thoughts together. Ten minutes later, he realized that being alone probably wasn’t the best thing for him right now. He kept going over the spanking again and again in his head, without feeling particularly absolved or forgiven. He decided to go see Joe at the hospital, wondering if seeing the older man would help him feel better, or make him feel worse.
He found Joe and Iris both in Eddie’s room. When he arrived, he could hear Joe’s deep laughter, and had to smile himself. Iris saw him first, and waved him in. “Barry, you’ve got to come and defend us. Dad’s telling Eddie about the time we tried to rescue that cat from the neighbor’s tree.”
Barry instantly felt better than he had in days. He went in to sit with his family, and smiled. He said to Eddie, “Trust me, if you’d heard the noises Mr. Tribble was making, you would have tried to help him too.”
“Exactly what I said!” Vindicated, Iris smirked at Eddie.
“Actually,” Eddie said with his own smirk, “I think I would have reminded you both that cats are small and agile creatures that are much more capable of getting down on their own without a human’s help.”
“You must have been a very unpopular child,” Iris said.
Barry snickered first, and soon all four of them were laughing.
When the laughter died down, Joe patted Barry’s knee, and said, “I’m tired. Walk me back to my room?”
Once they were alone in the hall, Joe put an arm around Barry and said, “It’s good to see you smiling again. I was worried about you when you left this morning.”
Barry realized that he didn’t feel the crushing guilt that had plagued him earlier in the day. He said, “I had a talk with Dr. Wells. He helped me to see things… from a different perspective.”
“Well whatever he said seems to have worked wonders, so I’m glad.”
Barry slowly nodded and was able to give an honest answer when he said, “Me, too.”
When they got to Joe’s room, he ruffled Barry’s hair before he got in the bed.
Barry made a noise of protest, and smoothed down his hair. “Get some sleep old man. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Joe pointed a finger at Barry and said, “You get some sleep too.”
“I will. See you later.”
Joe waved, and Barry headed home knowing that this time he’d be able to actually relax once he got there.
The Flash pictures courtesy of Screencapped.net
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