Admittedly, Wally wasn't very popular at his school. It bugged him, sometimes, because the same kids that liked to gang up on him in gym class worshiped The Flash and Kid Flash. Jerkoff Atkins (okay, so obviously not his real name, but Wally thought that one much more appropriate than Jeremy) in particular seemed to adore Uncle Barry.
Who wouldn't adore Uncle Barry, really? But that wasn't the point.
The point was, that after each of the numerous times that Atkins led the class in humiliating Wally, Jerkoff could be heard going on and on to anyone who would listen about how he'd "just helped The Flash round up a couple of Rogues last night. No big deal, right?"
His classmates - especially the prettier ones, Wally couldn't help but notice - always gathered around and listened to Atkins' stories with the kind of rapt attention that could have made Wally pretty jealous.
After all, unlike Jerkoff, Wally actually was helping the Flash round-up villains, to say nothing of the top secret work Wally did with his own team. That someone else was taking credit for it - and receiving the kind of praise and admiration that was on the complete opposite end of human behavior from the way his classmates treated Wally - could easily have pissed Wally off.
But mostly, those were the times that Wally just felt sorry for the guy. He couldn't have any pity or much sympathy when he had to stand still and let the ball hit him in the face to keep his secret safe. But when the bully was so desperately aching for the life Wally led, it was pretty easy.
After all, Wally really was lucky, and who wouldn't want his life?
Barry waited patiently for Wally after school. It wasn't often that he could pick his nephew up formally. Many times The Flash did have to swing by and meet up with Kid Flash, but that was an entirely different scenario and didn't count, in Barry's eyes. Sometimes a kid just needed his uncle, and not his mentor.
But Weather Wizard had caused a flood, which had leaked into their offices. While The Flash had cleaned up the mess, the Health Department was still refusing to give clearance until they had inspected every room in the place.
As a bonus, Barry got the day off, and he got to watch his nephew's face light up when he caught a glimpse of Barry.
"Who did it this time and dowegettocatchhim?"
"Slow down," Barry chuckled. "Weather Wizard, and nope. Already taken care of."
"Aw, man. I could really have used some excuse to let out the tension."
"Bad day?" Barry asked.
"Same old, same old," Wally answered with a shrug. Barry didn't press; he remembered what it was like, being the science dork. He hadn't had their powers, yet, of course, and he wasn't sure whether that would have made things worse or better - especially if he hadn't been able to use them to outrun the abuse.
"I would have thought that the pretty lady I saw walking out of the school with you would have made it a bit better."
"Who - oh, her. That's just Linda Park. She doesn't even go to this school. She's a college student who thinks she's going to be the next big Lois Lane, and who, apparently thinks that Kid Flash is a 'prime example' of child endangerment."
"Oh, really?" Barry asked, keeping his voice neutral. It wasn't the first time the subject had come up. The League had dealt with it as a whole, back when Robin had first put on his tights. Funny how things had changed, with them trusting their most precious of partners to Batman these days.
"Yeah, Jerko - erm. Atkins, a boy in my class, really let her have it. I guess she got plenty of 'opinion' for her 'article.'"
"And what was your opinion?"
"I had no comment."
"Really? You seemed to be talking an awful lot -"
"No, no. That was all her. She had plenty of comments!" Wally said, exasperatedly.
Barry opted not to point out that opinionated reporters were a Flash's Kryptonite.
"I was thinking," Barry said, changing the subject, "that we could use Weather Wizard's foolishness as an excuse to indulge in our geekery."
"Today is Wednesday," Wally said solemnly. "The most magical of days for geeks."
"Indeed, and Iris will be much less inclined to yell at me for my childish collector ways if I accompany her nephew to the comic store as well," Barry agreed, just as solemnly.
"And you really want to, especially today, because today is the day that the new Young Avengers comic comes out," Wally said, his excitement breaking the mock-solemnity.
"They're still publishing that old thing?" Barry teased.
"Yes!" Wally said, indignantly. "Though you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise, considering that someone thinks bi-monthly was an acceptable schedule."
"In that case, we'd better get there, before they sell out. Let's make it it to the oak tree, then we'll race, okay?"
"Deal," Wally agreed.
They made it half-way to the comic store before they had to change course to deal with the horde of rats that had sprung up out of nowhere. Apparently, the Pied Piper had grown tired of silly flutes and decided to live up to his namesake.
For the record, rats were way more gross than blizzards or floods or Trickster's silly bag of tricks or even angry mind-controlling gorillas. Namely, because rats liked to poop, and Wally, of course, got clean-up duty on that while his uncle wasted his time giving Piper yet another speech about how he needed to reform and clean up his ways and yada yada.
Guys like Piper never changed. Why that wasn't so obvious to Uncle Barry, Wally didn't know. But he guessed everyone had his or her own flaws, even someone as awesome as Uncle Barry.
Piper's little stint only caused a brief detour in Wally's otherwise very awesome day with his uncle. After doing their good deed, Wally and Barry went to Chicago for Pizza before finally making it to the comic store (in Metropolis, because that one stayed open way late. Why anyone needed a comic store that stayed open so late when you were home to Superman, Wally didn't know.)
By the time Wally got home, he was starving again, and grabbed another quick meal while his uncle soothed over things with his parents. His parents, like everyone else in the world, could not argue with Uncle Barry's awesome, and so Wally was able to sneak upstairs for a little quality text messaging before bed.
u ran to Chicago 4 pizza? DORK.
u eat pizza in a cave. BIGGER DORK.
not feeling the sult. read YA yet?
too tired. gonna crash. sult?
u can never call me a dork again. u win that forever.
whatever, dork. go to bed, wussycat.
DUDE! i did some serious running today!
As much fun as arguing with Robin was (and it was a lot of fun), Wally was exhausted and he climbed into bed. In no time, he dozed off.
He wasn't sure how much time had passed, before he was awoken. Blinking rapidly, his uncle's face came into view.
"Uncle Barry, what -" he began.
"Shh. You don't want to wake your parents, do you, Kid?" The affectionate nick name that Uncle Barry always used felt wrong, and it took Wally's sleepy brain a minute to figure out why.
But then his uncle's hand moved between Wally's legs, and it became suddenly clear not only why the nickname felt wrong, but why he had woken up in the first place.
"Your poor parents. You know they really do resent you, Kid. They were especially mad at you tonight." His uncle shook his head, in the same gesture of sympathy that should have looked so right on his uncle.
God knows, he'd done it plenty of times before. But again, that wrongness twisted in Wally's gut, just as Uncle Barry's hand twisted - no. No,no, no. That wasn't happening. This was all obviously some horrible, horrible dream, because Uncle Barry wouldn't.
"We wouldn't want to wake them up and give them more reason to be angry at you, would we?" Uncle Barry's voice was barely a whisper, but it was more than Wally could manage.
He just shook his head no.
"That's a good boy. You just lay back there, and close your eyes and it will be all over before you know it."
Wally'd never been very good at disobeying his uncle - okay, except that time at Cadmus with his team, and actually? That was a great train of thought to follow. Wally squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block out the sound of his uncle's breathing with thoughts of his team.
It was also easier than Wally admitting that his body was reacting to the verywrongverybad touch.
His uncle, on the other hand, didn't ignore it. "Your body seems to want this as much as you wanted my powers, Kid."
"No." Wally found his voice, and he tried to sound defiant about it, as defiant as his fingers digging into the bedsheets, but his uncle's hand began increasing in speed and -
And his uncle laughed - still soft, still barely above a whisper - as Wally came. "Whatever you say, Kid." Wally's eyes flew open as his uncle dropped a kiss onto Wally's cheek. "Let's keep this just between us, right, Wally? After all, I don't think either of us wants to explain what we did tonight to your parents, do we?"
"No, I don't," Wally said, which was true enough. Long after Uncle Barry left, it remained true.
But Wally forced himself to lie in bed, and forced himself to go back to sleep. He told himself, as he squeezed his eyes shut, that in the morning this would all make sense.
Maybe, if he was very lucky, it would all turn out to be a bad dream.
When it came to Flash family night dinners, Barry was rarely on time. Given his particular power set, Iris found this mostly hilarious, and loved to tease him about it. It was one of her more endearing traits, really. At least, in Barry's opinion.
But, late as he was, he always tried to make it, and on this particular Thursday, he was only running 15 minutes late.
"Not bad, considering some of your previous exploits," Iris teased him, claiming a kiss as he sat down at the table.
"Sorry," Barry said good-naturedly.
"What was it this time?" Iris asked.
"Cold and Golden Glider," Barry answered. "Yet again."
"You didn't need any back-up?" Wally asked quietly. Hmm. A little too quietly, for Wally. Kid must have had a really rough day. He wasn't usually anywhere near this demure.
"Nah. 'Sides, I figured you'd probably still be mad at me about yesterday," Barry explained.
Wally blinked at him twice, and Barry took that for confusion. "The rats?" he reminded.
"Oh. No. I uh, I don't care about the rats anymore, Uncle Barry."
"That's good. I thought for sure I was going to be hearing about picking up rat droppings for the rest of our partnership," Barry teased.
"You know, Barry, if you ever need any back-up, I'm not as young as I used to be, but I can still handle myself in battle," Jay Garrick spoke up. "Especially if Wally's ever unavailable."
"I appreciate the offer, Jay, but I already have a partner," Barry pointed out.
"Who also has his own team now," Iris interrupted. "The two of you might not be able to always be there for each other like you have been."
"His own team in addition to school work," Mary pointed out, as was a perfectly reasonable thing for a mother to say.
"If there are ever any problems, I'm sure Barry and Wally will understand that their partnership has to be put on hold," Iris said smoothly, leaning over to ruffle Wally's hair.
The Kid winced, so Barry hastily assured him, "I'm sure that's true. But Wally's a good, dependable kid. I don't think any of us have to worry about that."
"Thanks, Uncle Barry."
"No, problem, Kid. If you can't count on your partner to watch your back, who can you count on?"
The thing about the Flash family was that hugs were expected. Robin had noted it, once - having dinner with two guys who wore their costumes through the whole thing was weird, by the way - and said that Wally's family looked like they belonged in a circus.
Since Wally's only attachment to the circus at that point had been Trickster, he'd been offended, right up until the point where he'd found out Robin's true identity. Then he'd been kind of flattered.
Tonight, though, Wally kind of wished his family had more of a traditional stand off approach to superheroing. He couldn't see guys like Green Arrow or Aquaman hugging their sidekicks on a regular basis. Maybe Batman would, if Robin was having a really bad day.
But Wally couldn't say any of that aloud, so instead he went through the motions of hugging Jay, Joan and Aunt Iris before he got to Uncle Barry.
His throat tightened and his stomach did a flip that would have fit right in with either Trickster or Robin's circus, but he stepped up for the hug, anyway. After all, the rest of them were complaining about him being "too quiet" and "standoffish" as it was. Not hugging Uncle Barry would really have gotten the comments going and Wally...just really didn't want to deal with those questions right now.
If Uncle Barry could act like nothing at all had happened last night, then Wally certainly could follow the example. Because Wally really, really wanted nothing to have happened at all last night.
But although the hug was perfectly normal, perfectly good touch in the exact opposite of the bad touch from the night before, returning it was the hardest thing he'd ever done.
When they finally made it out the door, it was all Wally could do not to take off at a run. Instead, he sulked into the backseat of his parents' very slow car.
His mother turned around in the middle of a red light and shook her head at him before remarking to his father, "Teenagers. I remember when I was that moody."
"Me too," his father remarked, as the light thankfully turned green, after what felt like forever at the light. "It's a wonder our parents didn't kill us."
Wally stuck his tongue out at his father's head, but remained quiet otherwise, until they reached home. Once there, he took long, slow pains in cleaning out Velocity's cage. Who knew turtles could get around enough to need such a thorough cleaning?
By the time he was satisfied with the cleaning, his parents had seized upon some new item to argue about, and not wanting to be a part of that, he headed upstairs to do his homework.
He took Velocity with him, finding that it was a comfort to have someone in the room to keep him company.
Somewhere between his English homework and his much more interesting science homework, he got another text from Robin.
DUDE. where have you been all day? do i need to have bm call fl to make sure u r okay?
Wally made a face, before replying.
no, dork. been busy. clingy much?
not clingy. worried. asshole much?
6 texts in 1 day? soooo clingy. clingy like my turtle is with his rocks.
worst simile ever.
says the dude who thinks aster is a real word that real people use.
Texting was an excellent waste of time. It allowed hours to go by, with Wally doing nothing but mocking the science questions, reminding Robin that he needed to grow a hormone already so that he could see how hot the girls on their team were, and making occasional runs to the refrigerator.
parents still fighting?
yup. an Olympic sport for them.
that sucks, dude.
what? the butler and b-man don't have lover quarrels?
scarred for life now, thnx.
By the time Robin had to go on patrol, Wally was feeling rather relaxed. Enough so that he was able to finish his homework in peace at a fairly reasonable hour (eleven o'clock was perfectly reasonable!)
He sat for another half an hour with Velocity, until he realized that he was being silly and avoiding actually getting into bed.
"It's stupid. It's not going to happen again, right? Uncle Barry just wasn't himself, or whatever. The hug he gave me today was perfectly platonic and that probably means he's sorry, right? It's not going to happen again. It's not."
Velocity just strained his head and looked up at Wally silently. Really, when a turtle looked at you as though you'd lost your mind, it put things in perspective.
With a sigh, Wally put Velocity back in his cage, changed into his pajamas and slipped into bed. A half an hour later, his parents called good night to him.
A hour after that, he was just beginning to get tired, when he felt a cool breeze settle into his room, and the quiet click of his door knob.
"Hey, Kid. Waiting up for me?" The Flash stood smirking at the corner of his bed.
"Uncle Barry. D-did you need back-up?" Wally attempted to scramble out of bed, but Uncle Barry's hand rested heavily on his chest.
"Now, now, Kid. We both know that's not why I'm here so late, don't we?" Uncle Barry's hands fingered the top two buttons on Wally's pajama top and Wally tried to squirm away.
Uncle Barry laughed at his efforts. "Are you going to fight me, kid?" The voice was still a whisper, yet Wally couldn't help but be angry that his parents couldn't hear it. Why couldn't they? If they could hear, then they would come in, and Uncle Barry would stop it.
"I don't want to do this, Uncle Barry," Wally answered, trying again to squirm away. Uncle Barry was bigger, faster - if it came to a fight, Wally wasn't sure he would win.
But fighting would be better, wouldn't it? Than just lying here and letting Uncle Barry touch him?
It had to be better, but why did both options feel equally terrible?
"Go ahead, then, Kid. Fight me. Tell me no. Make me angry enough that I fire you from being my partner. What happens then?" Uncle Barry's hand rose, stoking Wally's cheek, just inches from where Aunt Iris had kissed it hours before. "You strike out on your own like Speedy?"
Red Arrow, Wally's mind shouted defiantly, which made no real sense, because it was so not the point. But the defiance wasn't quite as loud, in the face of being threatened with being fired. "I don't want to strike out on my own, Uncle Barry."
Why was he whispering? He should be yelling, but that ... that would make Uncle Barry upset too, and Wally didn't want to stop being Kid Flash.
"Do you think your team will still want you then?" Barry continued, "When you've made me replace you?"
"I don't want to be replaced," Wally said softly. "Please, Uncle Barry."
Barry stroked his cheek again, so tenderly this time that Wally wanted to puke. "I don't want to replace you, either, Kid. I like you a lot. But if I can't depend on you - "
"You can depend on me, Uncle Barry," Wally insisted, because no matter what else was happening, that was true. The last thing on earth Wally wanted to do was disappoint Uncle Barry.
"I want to believe that, Wally. I want to believe that you won't disappoint me." Uncle Barry's fingers dipped back down to his pajama top. Buttons rapidly unbuttoned, and Uncle Barry rested his hand on Waly's naked skin. "Such soft, creamy freckles. Just like your Aunt Iris."
Uncle Barry's free hand worked on the bottom of his Flash costume, until it came just below his knees. Then he knelt on the bed. "Time for you to return the favor from last night, Kid."
"I don't know how. I mean, I've never..." He hadn't. And that seemed colossally unfair, because there were so many prospects and so many fantasies - none of them had ever involved his uncle.
"It's just a hand job, Kid. It's no different than jerking off yourself, except you do it to another person. And I'm sure you've managed to discover masturbation just fine." Uncle Barry reached for his hand, and placed it on -
oh, god, no, no, no -
Placed it on Uncle Barry's dick. Uncle Barry wrapped his hand around Wally's and began to push Wally's hand up and down the shaft. "Good, oh, god, Kid. That feels great. I'm going to let go now, and you take over, okay? No cheating and using your powers. Slow and steady wins this race."
Wally tried to look anywhere but at his uncle's dick. He focused on the Flash symbol on his chest, which seemed a little obscene, all things considered, but since it was the thing he was dearly afraid of losing, well, it made sense.
As Uncle Barry got closer to finishing, he scooted closer to Wally. By the time he climaxed, he was close enough to spill himself all over Wally's chest.
Uncle Barry stood up, pulled his costume back into place and handed Wally one of the tissues from the box beside Wally's bed. "Clean yourself up, Kid."
Waly absolutely cheated and used his powers to get his uncle's semen off him and hastily threw the tissues into the trash can.
"There. That's not so bad, was it, Kid?" Uncle Barry's fingers returned to Wally's shirt, this time buttoning them back up. "Just our little secret, a little fun for The Flash and the Kid."
"But it's wrong," Wally protested softly. His uncle was a police scientist. He should know how wrong it was.
"It's not wrong. It's okay as long as nobody knows. It's when other people find out that there will be problems," Uncle Barry answered. "But I'm sure that's not going to be an issue, because I can trust you to keep this between us, can't I, partner?"
"Of course, Uncle Barry." Because who on earth would Wally ever be able to tell?
The weekends were not Barry's favorite time of the week. For one, it was an extremely hectic time for both of his careers - people tended to commit really stupid crimes when they were completely drunk, whether they were the run of the mill crimes that Barry Allen, police scientist fought against, or the more outlandish crimes committed by the Rogues, that only The Flash could fight against.
There was also the fact that he didn't have as much backup, typically, during the weekends. Iris was almost guaranteed to be spending most of her morning tracking down a lead for one (or more) of her stories. Kid Flash, meanwhile, usually spent the weekend with his newly formed team.
Proud as Barry was of his nephew's role in forming a team for a whole new generation of superheroes, he still worried. He trusted Batman and Black Canary with his life (both literally and figuratively) and wouldn't have agreed to the arrangement if he hadn't, but that didn't make sending his sidekick off to fight battles away from his supervision any easier.
So, on the best of occasions, Barry and Fridays were not on friendly terms. When he made it to the Justice League watchtower to discover that at least one of his teammates had lost their mind, it put him in an even more foul mood.
"Something wrong, Bare?" Black Canary asked as she entered the kitchen, just barely missing an angry Blue Beetle stalk out of the room. "Ted seems pretty upset."
"Yeah. Apparently I've done something to piss him off lately, and I can't imagine what it might be," Barry admitted, irritably. "I feel like I should be saying 'I'm sorry,' but I'm not sure why."
"Who knows? Ted's a great guy, but this could very well be one of his and Booster's practical jokes," Dinah reminded him, reaching into the refrigerator for her Gatorade.
"Yeah, I guess you're right," Barry muttered. "As usual, I don't find it very funny."
Dinah took a swig of her drink and grinned at him. "And that's why they target you, Barry. Because frustrating you is easier than frustrating anyone else."
"But Batman will kick their asses. You'll just grumble crankily to your other friends."
Barry gave a faint smile at that. "Speaking of friends, how's my nephew's team going?"
"Pretty good," Dinah answered. "They're really starting to work together as a team, instead of a bunch of individuals. They have their rough spots, as all new teams do, and they all take it just as hard as all new teams do. I'm torn between wanting to pinch their cheeks and hug them and tell them it's going to be okay."
"Somehow I don't think Superboy would appreciate it very much if you started pinching his cheeks," Barry chuckled.
"Pft. Shows what you know. He'd love it, just like he loved the shopping trip we took yesterday to get new sheets for his room in the cave," Dinah answered. "Lots of red. I'd absolutely give Clark a good punch, if it would do any good."
"Yeah, my nephew is in your camp," Barry admitted. He tried not to judge the Clark situation too strongly. It wasn't what he would do, but Clark was a good guy. One of their best. He had to come around, eventually. In the meantime, Superboy had a great mentor with Black Canary.
"Your nephew might not be the best source, considering that he won the mentor jackpot," Dinah chuckled.
"Speaking of which, I should probably go round the boy up. He'd hate to be late meeting up with his friends," Barry said.
"I'd hate for him to be late, too. He has some serious training to do today. Make sure he eats something before you bring him to the cave."
True to his word, Barry collected Wally and stopped by the apartment he shared with Iris to make sure the boy was properly fed. Happily, just this once, the Rogues seemed to cooperate long enough for them to have their meal in peace. Still, both Barry and Wally rushed through the eating, because a quiet moment in this city usually only lasted long enough for the Rogues to catch their breath.
"Everything okay?" Barry asked, as he pulled out dessert from the refrigerator. "You seem pretty distracted."
"Everything's fine. There are no problems," Wally assured him hastily.
"That's good to know," Barry chuckled. "Your aunt is going to kill me if I let you let this pie be the dessert. It has absolutely no nutritional value. But on the other hand, it is pretty tasty." He flashed a grin to his nephew. "You can keep a secret, right?"
His nephew blinked at him for a moment, then nodded solemnly. "Of course."
With that, Barry sliced the pie down the middle and took half of it for himself. Blueberry would beat Clark's silly apple every day of the week.
Wally ate quickly, which really wasn't out of the ordinary, but he was quieter than normal, which was out of the ordinary.
But Wally had already told him that nothing was wrong, and his nephew had never given him any reason to doubt his word, so Barry ignored the strange behavior and escorted Wally to the his team's headquarters.
Uncle Barry had told Wally once that he never really minded being around Martian Manhunter, because Flashes could think faster than Martians could, and if he just thought fast enough, there was no way for J'onn to keep up. Especially if his thoughts were nonsense, like numbers or formulas. It was a useful back-up plan, Uncle Barry had told him, just in case.
The "just in case one of their mind-reading teammates went to the dark side" kind of went unsaid, and really, that was the kind of irony that Wally was definitely not appreciating at the moment.
But he was appreciating the idea that he had a way of keeping M'Gann from accidentally discovering any ... secrets. Wally practiced thinking really fast during the entire time he was there. Thank god he knew so many completely simple, completely otherwise useless formulas.
Those were the best kind to rattle off while his team trained ("Not so rough, Wally" was stupid advice, if anyone wanted Wally's opinion. He was fighting villains. Why shouldn't he be rough with them?) and even better to mentally rattle off while they waited for a mission and watched completely ridiculous movies.
"I cannot believe we are watching The Little Mermaid," Robin groaned, on the couch next to Wally. "Kaldur, tell us this is completely offending you on a personal level, so we can watch something good."
"I like it," Superboy announced.
"...You like The Little Mermaid?" Robin asked incredulously.
"Of course he likes it. Ariel gave up the only world she had known, because of someone else," M'gann pointed out. "Doesn't that remind you of anyone?"
"So...this movie has a deeper meaning for you and Superboy?" Robin asked, sounding very pained.
"It is about us," Superboy agreed. "...Except I'm not a girl."
"Yeah, I think most of us managed to figure that out," Artemis said with a snort.
"Oi. I suppose this has some deeper meaning for you, too, Kaldur?" Robin asked, with a heavy sigh.
"It does not," Kaldur assured him. "Unless contemplation of the ways that Queen Mera could defeat Ursula while my king thoroughly defeated Ariel's father count as a deeper meaning."
"Score! The leader is on my side."
"However," Kaldur interrupted, "I still find this dreadful movie far preferable to your ninja films."
"Hey!" Robin pouted for a minute, then turned to Wally. "This is where you have a moral obligation to defend those ninja films."
"I don't like you that much," Wally answered. "Sorry."
"He speaks!" Artemis exclaimed. "It's about time."
"I've been speaking!" Wally answered defensively.
"Not as much as usual," Robin agreed. "You've kind of been a million miles away today."
Wally shrugged, and concentrated ever so much on those formulas. "I've had a lot on my mind. Can we just drop it and get back to watching M'gann and Superboy's life story?"
"Sure, sure," Robin sighed. "But if Kaldur gets to imagine his people kicking people's asses, I'm totally mentally inserting ninjas."
"Batman versus a talking lobster. There's a fight for the ages," Wally joked, and it felt good to hear Robin laugh beside him.
It felt even better when the mission came, even if it did interrupt the big mermaid-human wedding. There was something incredibly cathartic about lurking about in the dark on covert missions. Which was odd, all things considered, since The Flash was pretty much all bright colors and daytime sparkle.
That probably had a great deal to do with why Wally enjoyed the escape so much.
It also took the pressure off, and allowed him to simply concentrate on fighting the villains. No need to worry about reciting formulas, when his attention was very much on the Mad Mod's ridiculous antics.
"You are the only person who is taking Mad Mod seriously, you know this, right? I think this is another version of the League testing us," Robin informed him in mid-battle, as they regrouped to consider "strategy." The strategy in question was mostly complaining about the mission, of course.
"I am tempted to agree," Kaldur offered, making a face. "This is a low budget smuggling operation - "
"Of really ugly clothes!" Artemis added.
"Technically, there are goods inside the clothing," M'gann corrected, earning her a glare.
"This is why Speedy laughs at us," Robin groaned.
"If it is a test, we should show the League we are serious," Kid Flash answered.
"Can we go hit the villainous fashion designer now?" Superboy interrupted, which, as far as Wally was concerned, was a great idea.
Maybe Black Canary was right; maybe he was being too rough. But beating up Mad Mod and his army of illicit clothes smugglers felt really good. It felt great, actually, to be able to do something, instead of just lying back and taking it.
But the fight eventually came to a close, and so, too, did the weekend.
Barry was there to greet Wally when he got home. Mary and Rudolph were out, which was nice, because they meant well, but at times, they really didn't seem to understand their son.
Wally frowned when he saw Barry. "Is there something wrong? Is there another mission? Or - "
"No, Kid. No mission. But we need to talk. Have a seat."
Wally hesitated, but obeyed, and Barry placed the newspaper in front of him. "This was the Sunday morning edition of the paper. I wanted to be the one to break the news to you."
Apparently Linda Park wasn't just a college student, but an intern at the daily paper, as well. Her name was in the by-line, right underneath the title that asked, "The Flash: Hero or Reckless Guardian?"
Beneath the title was a picture of Kid Flash. The implication wasn't hard to guess, even without reading the article.
Wally appeared to read at least the first half of the article, though, before he crumbled it into tiny pieces. "How dare she? Never mind her, this is the paper Aunt Iris works at. How could she let this be published?"
"It's not up to her, Kid, you know that. She's not the editor, and, as your Aunt Iris would point out, reporters need to have the freedom to express themselves."
Wally looked at him, for all the world looking like Barry had just betrayed him, and Barry sighed. "Look, I just need to know that this is still what you want. If it's not, I'm giving you an out."
"I told you already!" Wally snapped. "I don't want to be fired."
"I'm not trying to fire you, Wally. I'm trying to remind you that you always have a choice."
"Yeah, I know," Wally answered angrily. "Look, can we just drop this conversation? If there's something else you want, let's move on to that, alright? It's been a long weekend and I'd like to actually go to bed."
"I get that you're upset," Barry said evenly. "And you have every right to be."
"How kind of you."
Barry sighed. Maybe it was better just to let the kid alone, so he could stew in his anger for a while. Maybe talk to Robin, or one of the other teammates.
"I promised your Aunt Iris I'd be home soon, so I'm going to go, okay?"
"Oh, yes. We wouldn't want to do anything to upset Aunt Iris."
Barry narrowed his eyes. "Look, Kid. You can be angry at me and Linda Park all you want. But you can't take your anger out on a woman who has done nothing but love you. Do you have any idea how much? Or how much it would hurt her if she knew you were angry at her?" Barry sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "I thought you were better than that, Kid. I didn't think you'd want to hurt your aunt."
"I don't want to hurt Aunt Iris," Wally said softly.
"Then maybe you should put more thought into what you say and do," Barry answered. "To make sure you don't accidentally do something to hurt someone else."
Wally just blinked at him, again, and Barry felt his frustration growing. "I'll see you around, Kid."
When he left, Barry took several good laps around the city to get rid of some of his excess energy before heading home.
He really, really didn't like the weekends.
By the time Wally made it upstairs, he'd received one text message from Robin.
gargoyle times came early 2nite, sorry 2 say. No chatty times! talk 2 u 2morrow. p.s. mad mod sucks and so does your newspaper.
Early patrol. Well, that was just fabulous. On all the nights he could have really used some distraction...
He was really going to have to get around to showing M'gann and Superboy how to text. Or use cell phones. Or both.
He did text Roy's old number, but not surprisingly, it went unanswered. It probably didn't even work anymore.
Lacking any other outlet, he settled in for a good yell at Velocity. "Where does he get off, exactly? Lecturing me on hurting Aunt Iris. Like I would! Like she'd be oh so pleased to hear that her husband is sneaking into her nephew's room for a little late night handjob! Like that wouldn't hurt her!" Velocity shrunk back into his shell at Wally's shouting, and god, how Wally wished for the ability to do have a shell to slink back into. "It's why I can't tell her, you know. It'd absolutely kill her. And what kind of hero would I be if I couldn't even protect my own aunt?"
Velocity didn't answer him, and didn't come back out of his shell for the rest of the night, even after Wally had finished his homework, eaten dinner, and welcomed his parents back from their make-up dinner.
"I don't blame you, turtle. I wouldn't want to watch what's about to happen, either," Wally told Velocity, before slipping into bed.
Uncle Barry was a little later that night than normal, and Wally was beginning to both hope and fear that he'd made Uncle Barry angry enough that he wouldn't show up.
But no such luck.
"I missed you, Kid," Uncle Barry told him, "Did you miss me?"
"O-of course, Uncle Barry." It wasn't exactly a lie. There was much about Uncle Barry that Wally did miss; it just didn't have anything to do with the man Uncle Barry had been lately. "Look, about the fight we had - "
"I don't want to talk about that now, Kid. But you know what I want, don't you?"
"Yeah," Wally answered quietly.
"Then be a good boy, and get undressed."
That was a whole new level of humiliation, and Wally's fingers kept fumbling with the buttons of his shirt. He tried to think of other things, of those damn formulas he'd been reciting, of Mad Mod's stupid scheme, of Robin's gargoyles - anything but the fact that he was stripping in front of his uncle.
"Fold your clothes, nice and neat and put them on your desk. Right next to the turtle. Then go back to the bed and lie on your back."
Every whisper filled Wally with dread and he had to force his feet to actually move to follow the commands. He waited, certain that Uncle Barry was going to strip next.
But he didn't. He kept the suit on, and for Wally, that was even worse.
"It's been so long, I think we need to a special treat tonight, don't you, Kid?" Uncle Barry asked as he stroked along the length of Wally's cock.
No. "I-I'm not sure what you mean, Uncle Barry," Wally answered hesitantly.
"You're a 15-year-old-boy," Uncle Barry scoffed gently. "Surely your sexual daydreams go beyond hands?"
Wally didn't have a whole lot of time to consider the horrifying ramifications of that question, before Uncle Barry lowered his head and took Wally's cock into his mouth.
Wally squeezed his eyes shut. Oh, he'd thought about this, before, alright. Never, ever with Uncle Barry - not even when he hadn't been Uncle Barry yet ,and had only been the very awesome Flash that everyone with any sense knew was the very best hero there was. Other faces and names had certainly been where Uncle Barry's mouth was, in Wally's imagination, because he was a 15-year-old teenager.
His morning masturbation sessions had already been interrupted by Uncle Barry's visits. But this was something he used to still be able to dream about.
And oh, god, the boys that sat in the back of his chem class and made the crudest remarks possible were right about how it felt. If it had been any mouth but Uncle Barry's -
But it wasn't, and what did it make Wally that his cock was responding so readily to Barry's mouth? What did it say about Wally that his uncle's tongue felt so good in what it was doing?
Nerves, Wally reminded himself desperately. It's all nerves down there. It's designed to be sensitive. Hello, evolution! Hello, science!
Because Wally didn't want this, no matter what his cock was saying to the contrary.
But just because Waly knew why his body was betraying him didn't make the humiliation of his uncle laughing around his cock any less hurtful.
Uncle Barry swallowed down his come, before he chuckled. "That didn't last very long, Kid. Your first time?"
"Yes," Wally answered, and he didn't quite keep the bitterness out of his voice, the way he should have.
"Good. I'd worried that it wouldn't be, with you keeping company with all those other teenage heroes." Uncle Barry stroked his cheek and leaned close enough that Wally could smell his own scent on Uncle Barry's mouth. "And your first time should be special. It's the one time you'll never forget. No matter who you end up being intimate with in the future, you'll always remember the hands and mouth that first touched you."
Wally wanted that to not be true. It couldn't be true, because if he was, he was never, ever going to be able to do this with anyone ever again.
"But the future is a little way off. Right now, I think it's time you returned the favor, Kid." Uncle Barry began to undo the bottom half of his costume, and Wally wondered how he was going to make it through this without throwing up.
"I'm not sure I can, Uncle Barry."
"Nonsense. I'll teach you. Just remember to watch the teeth, and swallow." Uncle Barry leaned back onto the bed and spread his legs. There was a lot of muscle and a lot of blond hair to work through to get to what Uncle Barry wanted Wally to do. "C'mon, Kid. You obviously enjoyed receiving. It's only fair to reciprocate."
Wally bent his head and took Uncle Barry into his mouth. At first, all he could taste was wet hair, and that was bad enough, but then a second, more distinct taste took over. Wally gagged reflexively, but Uncle Barry buried his hands in Wally's head and urged him forward.
Wally was proud of himself, though, because he managed not to throw up until after Uncle Barry had left. He even managed to throw on a pair of pants and make it to the bathroom before he gave into the urge to vomit.
He stayed in the bathroom for a long time, enjoying the coolness of the tile floor and the solitude the room offered.
By Monday morning, Barry was feeling a little guilty about the fight he'd had with Wally. They'd both been stressed, and they'd taken it out on each other, and that was no way to behave to your partner. Iris ruffled his hair, told him he was being silly, and went off to work.
When Wally didn't meet up with him at the lab after school, Barry felt even more guilty. When Tuesday went by and Wally still didn't meet him, Barry felt even worse.
Barry had every intention of showing up after school on Wednesday, but the Rogues, as usual, put a damper in his plan. He was fighting off a combined force of fire and half of Trickster's bag of tricks and planning how he was going to take out Mirror Master when Kid Flash showed up and took care of the problem for him.
"Good job, Kid!" Barry called cheerfully and while he waited on a comeback (which didn't come) he managed to round up Trickster and Heat Wave.
"A little advice," Barry offered. "No matter what your buddies in Arkham might say, prison isn't a revolving door."
"Those Gotham creeps aren't Rogues," Trickster said indignantly.
"They aren't our buddies," Heat Wave emphasized.
"My mistake," Barry said sarcastically. "Sometimes I forget about your 'honor,' what with you trying to blow up the city and everything."
"I think you should worry a little bit more about taking care of business closer to home, Flash," Mirror Master answered. "Things seem a little tense between you and the sidekick. Makes a fellow wonder if those rumors the paper's been reporting are true."
Barry gritted his teeth and would have had a quick comeback, except that he couldn't exactly deny Mirror Master's words when Wally hadn't even stuck around for the post-battle celebratory ice cream.
As far as Wally was concerned, the Internet was completely useless. He shared this opinion with Robin in a text, though he certainly didn't share why. Because somehow "sucking cock is disgusting and the Internet won't give me any methods that will actually work in dealing with the gross taste" wasn't something that he thought could have gone over well. Nor did he think that Robin would be in any way sympathetic to the fact that Wally was currently reading a website entitled "100 Cum Swallowing Tips."
the internet fails.
or do you fail the internet?
what are you trying to look up? maybe i can help.
Wally shuddered at the very idea that Robin could help.
that's probably why u r failing the internet. it has a lot of stuff. u have to specify.
y so nosy? nosey? however u spell it.
i am not of the nose. y so cranky?
Wally laughed bitterly at the phone. Oh, gee, why on Earth would he be cranky? But he bit down his anger, because it wasn't Robin's fault.
i'm not being cranky.
u r. is this about the article in ur paper? or something w/ur uncle?
y would it have anything 2 do w/uncle barry?
he came 2 visit 2day.
The room felt even smaller than it normally did, and Wally swallowed several times before he typed his reply.
what did he want?
worried about u. says u've been having problems. very whelmed.
"He's worried? Worried!" Throwing his phone against the wall was absolutely not productive, in any way. While his parents didn't seem to notice (but they never noticed anything, Wally thought bitterly. Weather Wizard could produce an entire hurricane inside his bedroom, and apparently, his parents would just not even notice) it did result in a broken phone.
Also, Velocity dove back into his shell, which made Wally feel like an asshole. Since he didn't have a way to return Robin's texts, Robin probably agreed with the sentiment.
With a sigh, Wally opened his desk drawer, got out the package of Tic Tacs and swallowed them quickly, hoping against all logic that they actually worked the way the website promised they would.
When Uncle Barry showed up, an hour later, it was a pretty moot point, because Uncle Barry didn't seem quite as ready to go to the blowjobs as he'd been the past few nights.
Not that Wally was complaining about that fact, of course. But a tiny gnawing nagging in the pit of his stomach told Wally that things were only getting worse, not better, so this couldn't be a positive development.
That feeling didn't get any less nagging as he stripped for Uncle Barry and laid down on the bed. Nor did it stop as Uncle Barry's hands wandered, seemingly without purpose, all over Wally's body.
It didn't make sense that they would just go back to handjobs, did it? That would be better than what they'd been doing, but ...
"You seem a little extra agitated tonight," Uncle Barry noted, with that irritating smirk in place.
"I'm not," Wally said quickly.
"It's not nice to lie, Kid."
"Watch the tone."
"The sooner you tell me what's bugging you, the sooner we can get on with what I'm here for. Of course, if you'd like to prolong out activities, that's perfectly okay with me."
Wally took a deep breath, because god, no, that was the last thing he wanted. "I talked to Robin. He told me you went to visit him," Wally confessed. "That you were worried. Why would you do that?"
"Mmm." Uncle Barry's face nuzzled in the crook of Wally's neck and both his lips and the Flash cowl pressed against Wally's skin. "Are you worried I might be getting ready to replace you?"
Wally suddenly had the sharpest image in his mind, of Robin - of Dick being forced to do the things he'd been doing. "No! You can't!"
He even forgot to whisper that time, though, predictably, his parents didn't seem to notice.
Uncle Barry just chuckled against his skin, the same lazy, mid-western chuckle that always put people at ease and made people think he was so likable. "Don't worry, Kid. Robin doesn't do it for me. I don't love him the way I do you." Uncle Barry pulled back and looked at him seriously. "You do know I love you, don't you, Kid?"
"Sure," Wally choked bitterly. "That's why you do this."
"Because you're very special to me," Uncle Barry agreed. "You do want to be special to me, don't you, Wally?"
Wally just closed his eyes. "Please, Uncle Barry. Whatever it is you want, just tell me so - " so we can get it over with. "So I can do it already."
Uncle Barry stroked his cheek. "That's a good boy. I was waiting for you to ask me for it. Lay back on your back for me, Kid. Tonight, we're going to do something new."
There was that feeling again, in the pit of his stomach, but Wally obeyed. Wally watched nervously as Uncle Barry began to remove his pants and reached for the bottle he'd placed on the bed when he'd first arrived. Wally hadn't been paying attention at the time, because he'd been too upset about the conversation with Robin and the impending taste of his uncle's semen, but now he wished he'd paid attention.
But even if he hadn't been paying attention, he began to realize, with growing horror, what the substance was the minute that Uncle Barry began to spread it on his cock.
Wally started to sit back up, immediately, but his uncle was too fast for him. "No. I'm not going to do that."
He struggled, but it just felt like Uncle Barry got a better grip of Wally's arms with each struggle. Uncle Barry pushed Wally's legs up to his chest and held Wally's arms down into the mattress, his grip tightening on Wally's wrists.
Stronger. Bigger. Faster. There wasn't even any competition. Wally was a 15-year-old kid and Uncle Barry was The Fastest Man Alive.
"Don't be like that, Kid. You know I always make you feel good, too," Uncle Barry told him.
"No. Please, Uncle Barry. Not that."
"You'll like it. Just like you've liked all the other things we've done."
"I haven't liked them either," Wally snapped, and oh, neither of them were being quiet, why wasn't anyone coming into the room? How the hell were his parents sleeping through this?
"C'mon, Kid. We both know that isn't true. You've enjoyed it just as much as I have. Always lying back, always letting me touch you, always responding so well to my touch. If you didn't like it so much, why did you let me do it?" Uncle Barry asked, and Wally's throat went dry. It felt like he couldn't get enough air into his lungs, and his efforts at breathing felt just as useless as his struggles.
"No, no, no. Please Uncle Barry." Wally was ashamed of his own voice. It sounded so small, so weak - it was weak. It was just as weak as his pathetic attempts to struggle or to breathe.
"Shh, Kid. Just relax. It'll feel better for you, if you do." Uncle Barry kissed him on the mouth, and that sensation was so new, that Wally was almost distracted from the impending doom.
But it was hard to be distracted from the feel of someone shoving their cock into his ass. And when it happened, Uncle Barry's mouth completely covered Wally's, swallowing up the scream of pain that Wally couldn't quite hold down.
Uncle Barry kept his mouth on his, moaning with pleasure in time to every single thrust, until Wally's cries subsided. When they did, Uncle Barry gave a pleased sigh and continued to thrust into Wally.
"I've waited for this for so long, Kid. So very long. But the time - no, the time was never right before. And timing is very important." Uncle Barry smiled down at him. "My plan is going perfectly. Every time I see you, it just gets better and better."
Wally squeezed his eyes shut, trying to block out the words and the feel of his uncle fucking him.
"Open your eyes, Kid. I want to see those pretty green eyes while we do this." When Wally didn't immediately reply, Uncle Barry just laughed. "I'm a Speedster, Wally. I can keep this up all night, if you want to be stubborn. Is that what you want?"
Reluctantly, Wally opened his eyes. He tried to focus on the Flash symbol, but Uncle Barry shook his head. "Look at my face, Kid."
Wally obeyed, hoping just to get it over already.
"Good, good, Kid." Uncle Barry's hips increased in speed, and Wally bit his lip to keep from crying out again. "I'm almost - ah! - almost there. Tell The Flash how grateful you are, Kid. Tell The Flash thank you for making all your dreams come true."
There were tears welling in Wally's eyes, and he blinked them away as fast as he could. He did not want to cry in front of Uncle Barry. Especially not now.
"Thank you, Uncle Barry," Wally said softly.
"The Flash," Uncle Barry corrected, his hands digging roughly into Wally's wrists. "Say it."
"Thank you, Flash," Wally said hastily.
"For what, Kid Flash?"
"For - for making my dreams come true." It was a choked response, and barely audible.
But it must have been enough, because Uncle Barry finally finished, and Wally was finally left alone. He ached all over, and he was too sore to even think about trying to make it to the bathroom.
The urge to cry was strong, but Wally wouldn't give in and give his uncle the satisfaction, even if he wasn't here any longer. Instead, Wally curled around his pillow, holding on for dear life.
On Friday morning, Barry was woken from a rather pleasant dream, and the even more pleasant arms of Iris, by the sound of the phone ringing, two hours before he needed to even think about getting out of bed. He laid there and let it reach two rings before deciding to get up.
Slipping quietly out of bed, so that he wouldn't wake Iris, he shrugged on his robe and answered it before the third ring could complete itself.
"Barry, it's Bruce."
"Calling awfully early, Bruce. What's wrong?" Barry covered a yawn and stretched. He had the fleeting thought that something could be wrong with Wally, and that made him worry, but he quickly dismissed it.
Wally wouldn't be going to visit the team until tonight, after school. Right now, he was still in bed, safe and sound.
"My ward is concerned about your nephew. Apparently, they were 'texting' - " Barry would have smiled at the disdain in Bruce's voice towards the act, if the situation had been different. "And Wally stopped abruptly."
"What time was this? We didn't have anything past 6 last night," Barry said. They'd made an agreement a long time ago that Wally wouldn't go out to fight crime without Barry present. Wally's team was an exception to that rule, and even with all that was going on between them, Barry didn't think that Wally would break that rule.
"According to Dick, it was around 11 your time," Bruce answered, then a bit more severely, "Far past when certain wards should have been in bed."
"Maybe they're just having a teenage spat?" Barry suggested.
"A ... spat?"
"Wally's been in kind of a bad mood lately," Barry answered, not liking feeling like he was selling his nephew out, but it was necessary to tell the truth. "Maybe Dick said something that set him off?"
"Unlikely," Bruce said dismissively. "You've said yourself that Wally's not been acting like himself. You were worried when you came to visit us. I've also talked to Dinah who reports that Wally's behavior was more violent last weekend than in previous missions. Kaldur's reports back up this claim."
"You talked to his teammates behind his back?" Barry said, a little fiercely.
"Of course I did. As did you."
"No, I talked to his best friend. There is a very noticeable difference for those of us who actually understand how social interaction works."
"Your concern for your nephew is admirable, Allen. But while you can worry about the one, I have five other children to worry about. I did what I had to do."
Barry sighed, and dialed back his temper. "Wally would never do anything to hurt his teammates."
"Maybe not on purpose. But I think it would be helpful if we, along with his team, sat him down and got to the bottom of his problems," Bruce insisted. "Tonight, before I send them out on a mission."
Barry bit his lip. "I don't like it. It will feel like we're ganging up on him."
"You said yourself that he isn't acting normal. Did Iris have any luck last night after your ... weekly gathering?"
"No," Barry admitted reluctantly. According to Iris, Wally had just hugged her and told her that she was his favorite, and that she shouldn't worry.
Barry was absolutely not admitting any jealousy over the fact that once upon a time not too long ago, he had been Wally's favorite. No, no jealousy at all there.
"Then we don't have a choice," Bruce said shortly. "I'll see you this afternoon."
In Wally's dreams, someone always walked into his room to catch Uncle Barry touching him. It had been someone different almost every night. Sometimes, his teammates walked in, looking disappointed and disgusted. Other times, it was Aunt Iris, who never failed to blame him for making her husband cheat on her. Once, it had been creepy old Doctor Fate, who had reminded Wally that he'd always been a bother. Still other times, it was the Rogues.
"I thought we were supposed to be the bad guys," dream Pied Piper had said, sounding a little bit more mocking in Wally's dreams than he had ever sounded before.
On the night after Uncle Barry forcibly penetrated Wally, Wally's dreams were filled with Uncle Barry in his civilian lab coat walking in on him, with Linda Park at his side.
"I told you," Linda Park said with disgust. "This is how sidekicks are treated. Child abuse, plain and simple."
"Oh, no," Lab Scientist Uncle Barry said. "Wally, why are you letting this happen?"
And of course, nobody in his dreams actually stopped Uncle Barry from what he was doing.
Wally woke up Friday morning still feeling sore. But he forced himself to get up and take a shower, because he was rather certain that he couldn't actually still be sore. He healed faster than that. Wounds - physical ones, at least - healed faster than that.
It had to just be in his head. No matter how forceful Uncle Barry had been, he should be healed by now. In any event, the little pains he felt when he walked to the bathroom would be good as new once he took a nice, long, hot shower.
Wally spent a little longer than necessary in the shower. The hot water felt nice ,and while he stood under the shower, he could almost pretend that he was getting clean.
At least, until he glanced down between his legs. His jerkoff sessions used to be pretty epic in the mornings, but now he couldn't even touch himself without thinking about Uncle Barry's nightly visits.
But, then, wasn't that exactly what Uncle Barry had promised? No matter who you end up being intimate with in the future, you'll always remember the hands and mouth that first touched you. Apparently, that was true, even when the only person Wally was trying to be intimate with was himself.
Under the hot water, Wally shuddered, and cranked the hot water up higher. As steam filled the bathroom, Wally scrubbed the bar of soap furiously against his skin - particularly the neck where Uncle Barry had spent so much time kissing and caressing the night before.
He should know better by now. He'd been trying to wash the feel of Uncle Barry's hands off him for almost two weeks, and it hadn't done any good.
But every morning, he scrubbed a little harder, and hoped a little more strongly, that it would. Of course, Wally didn't believe in magic. But if ever there was going to be a miracle, Wally was really hoping it would happen one morning in one of these showers.
"Wally! Hurry up! Your Uncle Barry is waiting!"
Wally froze in place in the shower. That was ... unusual. Uncle Barry didn't usually walk him to school. He was too old for that, and besides, Uncle Barry had to be at work an hour before his school even started.
A slow, nauseating fear rose in the pit of Wally's stomach. Maybe the night time visits weren't enough? Maybe Uncle Barry wanted a morning visit too.
Oh, god, please no.
Wally slowly turned off the shower and got dressed, and made his way downstairs. His ass felt more and more sore the closer he got to the bottom of the stairs, and Wally just took that as confirmation that it was all in his head.
Uncle Barry was there, waiting on him, while snacking on his mom's bacon. "Hey, Kid. I took the day off and I thought I would walk to school with you. Do you mind?"
That was weird. Uncle Barry didn't take time off work unless he was needed as the Flash.
"No, it's fine, Uncle Barry." Wally scooped a handful of bacon into his mouth and hastily ate his pancakes. He pocketed 2 pop tarts for a mid morning snack, and let his mother hug him good-bye.
"I'll be back. In six hours, even! Jeez, Mom." Wally broke the hug rather quickly, and his scowl grew as he caught Uncle Barry frowning at him.
"Such an attitude lately," his father said, disapprovingly, and Wally bit down the retort on his tongue.
Maybe if you and mom wouldn't sleep what Uncle Barry was doing to me, I wouldn't have such an attitude, Dad.
"Learned from the best," Wally answered flippantly.
"You know you aren't too old for a good spanking, young man," his father said harshly, and Wally did laugh then.
"You'd have to catch me first. And somehow? I think that'd be a problem for you."
"That wasn't very respectful of you, Kid," Uncle Barry scolded lightly.
"You're going to give me a lecture about respect? Really?" Wally asked. "Great. Because that doesn't make you the biggest hypocrite alive, or anything. Oh, wait. Yes, it does."
"Are you still mad at me? Is that what this is about?"
"Yes, I'm still mad at you! I think I have a right to be! After - " Wally swallowed down what he was about to say. Given the fact that his parents were looking so concerned (oh, how nice it was of them to actually notice for a change!) maybe he should just stop shouting entirely. "After what you've done," he finished lamely.
"I thought were were over that," Uncle Barry said quietly, and he gave a concerned look to Wally's parents.
That just made Wally's gut twist all the harder.
"Over it? Over it? You know when Linda Park was nosing around, I actually defended you. Or I tried to anyway. It didn't do much good, but you... You didn't deserve any of it. Everything she wrote about you is true."
"Wally!" his mother sounded scandalized, and Wally swallowed down everything he wanted to yell at her for never hearing him.
"Boy, you should be more respectful of that to your uncle," his father said, and Wally ignored him too.
Because Uncle Barry just looked like he had been punched by Superman himself, and why, oh, why could that still hurt Wally? He hadn't said anything that wasn't true! Uncle Barry was the one who should feel guilty.
"Yeah, because respect is a big thing for our family," Wally muttered.
"Are you saying you don't want to be my partner anymore?" Uncle Barry asked softly. Too softly. As though he gave a damn about Wally's choices. As if he wasn't the same uncle who got off on holding Wally down and ripping him in half.
But he was that uncle. Just like he was the very same uncle that Wally had always idolized, and who he wanted so very much to be just exactly like.
So his voice shook when he answered, "No. I don't think I do."
"Barry, I'm sure he doesn't mean-"
Uncle Barry raised a hand and waved at Wally's father to cut him off. "I came here this morning to let you know that your teammates and Black Canary have expressed concern for your recent mood swings."
"I haven't had any mood swings. We punch the enemy. We punch them harder, they go down faster. It's not a difficult concept."
"Batman's called a meeting," Uncle Barry said, sounding tired. Like he had any right to. Gee, Uncle Barry, maybe if you weren't up all night raping your nephew, you wouldn't be so tired. "Today, before he sends you out on a mission, we're going to sit down. All of us - me, you, your team, the members of the League who have sidekicks - "
"Oh, that's just great. So, Aqualad can run off to Atlantis any time he wants, and that's fine. Superboy can engage in random property damage and hey, no problem. Robin can run off and ditch the team because he just has more experience, and that's no problem. Miss Martian can accidentally read all our minds and it's no big! Artemis can lie to our faces about who she is - no, Uncle Barry, none of us were dumb enough to think that she was really Green Arrow's niece - and that's just swell. But me? I punch bad guys a little too hard and we have to have an intervention? Really? Why isn't anyone having an intervention for Speedy? He's off taking on ninjas by himself! That needs an intervention!"
"They're concerned about you, Wally. We all are," Uncle Barry answered.
"Yeah, I bet."
"Look, after the meeting. If - if you still want to go your own way... well, we'll talk about it then, okay, Kid?" Uncle Barry sounded so hopeful, and that just made Wally even more angry.
"Fine. But I can find my own way to school. I'm not going with you."
With that, Wally was out the door, and thankfully, despite the hurt look on his uncle's face, he didn't follow.
Wally was true to his word, and he did go to school. He made it as far as third period before he realized that there was no way he could actually show up and deal with his teammates - especially since they had such a low opinion of him as it was - and Uncle Barry and Batman and Black Canary.
So instead, he ate his pop tarts for fuel before ditching class. What he needed was a good run to clear his mind, and maybe a good talk with the only friend he had who wasn't squealing behind his back.
Finding Roy would be a problem, but fortunately, Wally had the entire rest of the weekend to do it.
"You know things aren't going well when you actually show up on time to a lunch date," Iris teased Barry as she slid into her chair in the cafe. "Ooh. You ordered my favorite latte?"
"Of course." Barry gave her a weak smile. "Did you talk to Mary and Rudolph?"
"I did," Iris agreed, and she gave him a sad smile, which made Barry's heart clench almost as much as the earlier fight with Wally had. "They sounded pretty worried. I guess you are, too."
"He wants to quit, Iris," Barry answered sullenly, because that was as much as he could say in a cafe. But it was enough to sound selfish, even to his own ears.
"Hey." Iris reached across the table to squeeze his hand. "I know you and Wally were close, and he said some harsh things, but every teenager wants to fight for independence."
"Not like this," Barry argued.
"Barry... Wally is a good kid. A great kid, and frankly, we've all had it really lucky with him for a while. But I'm afraid that maybe the easy spell spoiled you and his parents."
"Made you forget the kind of things you're supposed to be going through. You're so used to him being the good kid, that you've forgotten that teenagers are supposed to be angry. They're supposed to yell and throw things and stomp off in a huff."
"You didn't see him today, Iris," Barry argued, shaking his head furiously. "I don't know what's wrong, but it can't be normal. He's too ... furious for that."
"Barry. When I was Wally's age, I ran away from home because I was furious at my parents, too," Iris told him. "And do you know what terrible transgression they made? They wouldn't let me get a tongue piercing."
Barry frowned. "Why on earth would you want a tongue piercing."
"Because the girls who sat three seats behind me in the bus swore it drove the boys wild, and I was so naive that I hadn't the first clue what they were talking about," Iris said breezily. She leaned forward and smiled at Barry in a way that made him warm in all the worst places to be warm at inside a public place. "But my parents were probably right in the long run; I don't think a tongue piercing would have done much good on you anyway. But the point is, acting irrationally and foolishly as a teenager is not only normal, but for Wally, it runs in the family."
"I don't like it, Iris. It feels deeper than that."
"Barry, it's been what, less than two weeks?"
"That's just it. This change in behavior, the rebellion, the rage, it's so sudden."
"Barry, hon. This is the same nephew who not too long ago decided, along with his friends, to run off and do his own ... 'thing' that went completely against what you and all the other guardians and parents wanted, isn't it? I hate to say it, Barry, but I think this has been building up for a while."
"But there's something missing Iris. It feels like I'm looking at case file where the suspect is all wrong, but I can't figure out why, because I'm missing something obvious. Like somebody took a piece out of the evidence locker when I wasn't looking and forgot to tell me."
"I think that if you keep expecting teenage boys to act as logical as the stuff in your evidence locker, you are going to be disappointed, Mister Allen." Iris gave his hand another firm squeeze before picking up her menu. "Now, about lunch..."
Barry tried really hard throughout the lunch to ignore the nagging in the back of his head, and he was almost successful.
But it grew harder to do throughout the day. When Barry arrived at Wally's school to find that he had been absent since third period, it became impossible.
Wally was starving by the time he finally found Roy, because Seattle was a long way from Star City, which was the last place he'd looked. He'd remembered Roy mentioning a case he'd done with Green Arrow and Black Canary once in the city, and Roy had seemed rather fond of Seattle at the time. So Wally took a hunch, and thankfully, it turned out to be a good one, because his stomach couldn't stand much more of running on empty.
He was incredibly grateful that Roy let him into the apartment silently and handed him a loaf of bread. Wally scarfed it down before even trying to mumble a greeting.
"There's real food in the kitchen," Roy said, locking the door behind Wally. "C'mon."
Wally followed behind, forcing himself to go at a casual speed and not rush to the refrigerator and throw himself in, face first.
He was even polite enough to not mention that the "kitchen" was little more than a small rectangular space on one end of the tiny studio apartment. His tact turned out to be fortunate, because Roy opened the refrigerator and began to stack Wally's arms with all of Wally's favorite foods.
"You were expecting me?" Wally asked, once he downed half of the pizza, which was excellent, cold or not. It was exactly the way Wally loved it - gooey with extra cheese, stuffed crust, deep dish, and covered with sausage and pepperoni. It was the exact opposite of the kind of pizza that Roy loved, and lacked any tell-tale peppers or onions to make it a compromise pizza. The same could be said for the chips, soda, veggies and dip, cookies and fruit that Roy had given him, which were currently forming a circle around Wally's very grateful feet.
Unless Roy had moved in with a person who had the exact same tastes as Wally, the food had to have been purchased just for Wally. Considering the smallness of the apartment, Wally wasn't exactly sure Roy could afford it.
Wally would have taken the time to be touched, if his mind wasn't otherwise occupied.
"Your uncle came by. Twice." Wally tensed, but if Roy noticed, he didn't say anything. "So did Jordan."
Wally's throat suddenly went dry and he reached for a soda and quickly downed half a can. "What did you say?"
Roy shrugged. "They were whining about you ditching them. I told them that they were a bunch of liars and hypocrites and you and I were the only ones that had enough damn sense to see through them."
The memory of Uncle Barry looking so sad before he'd left home filled Wally's memory, but fortunately (or not) he had plenty of equally vicious memories of Uncle Barry over the past couple of weeks to counteract that one.
They made him shudder and grip the pizza box a little tighter.
Roy tilted his head, but Wally ignored it and Roy didn't press the issue. He waited, instead, for Wally to finish eating, before he spoke again. "So, apparently, there is some type of email system set up in your clubhouse. Apparently the security is top notch."
"Huh? Oh, yeah, I think so. Why?"
"Because I keep getting angsty messages from everyone on that damn team."
Wally scowled. "Yeah, I bet they were real angsty about not getting to go behind my back anymore. What did you tell them?"
Roy shrugged. "That you were probably damn sick of being treated like a baby. Then I asked them why the hell they were whining to me about it."
Wally smiled, somewhat smugly. It felt nice to have someone having his back again, even if it was in Roy's own special messed up kind of way. "I bet they didn't much appreciate that."
"Batman thinks he's my dad, or something, so he can fuck right off. Kaldur scolded me. It sounded very leaderly," Roy mocked. "Robin sent me an email full of words that were missing prefixes and suffixes. Artemis knows a lot of four letter words. Superboy said he would guard your souvenirs. M'gann mentioned cookies."
Wally glanced down at the bag of cookies that Roy had given him. They were perfect and not burnt in any way, but Wally was suddenly hit with a craving for those burnt cookies of M'gann's - and the kitchen space much larger than Roy's, but equally crowded, once Wally's teammates gathered in it.
It was a completely ridiculous craving, and Wally tried to ignore it. "Sounds about like their normal."
"I was not whelmed about it," Roy answered. "So...you want to talk about what's bothering you?"
"Good. Patient listener isn't really my strong suite," Roy said with relief.
"Are you working on a case? Because hitting bad guys is my idea of a good time."
"I am. Not sure I should let you in on it. The League would think you're too young," Roy informed him, with a tone that said very much what Roy thought about the League, as if the entire world didn't know already.
"Not the entire League," Wally said quietly. "I'm pretty sure I can take it, Speedy."
"It's not Speedy!"
"Sorry, sorry, Red Arrow," Wally corrected. "So what's the case?"
"Perverts," Roy said, and Wally's world spun so much at the word, and all it implied, that he almost missed Roy's signal to follow him into the out of the kitchen.
In what would have been a living room, if Roy's apartment had been a little bit bigger, sat a small table full of maps and other tactical plans that both Robin and Kaldur would have approved of. Batman, too, and really, you couldn't be homesick for something that wasn't actually your home, could you?
"What kind of perverts?" Wally managed to say, once he reached the table.
Roy sat down on the couch that looked like it doubled as a bed and scrubbed his eyes with his fist. "The sick fucks kind," he answered.
"That doesn't really narrow it down, Roy," Wally told him. "We work with supervillains like the Joker and Grodd. Sick fucks kind of comes with the territory."
"These guys make Joker and Grodd look like Superman," Roy answered. "They're human traffickers, Wallly. They buy and sell and take a dip in the merchandise when they feel like it. They're grade A scum."
"Didn't realize Seattle was a big place for that," Wally said, trying to hide the nausea that came over him. "Isn't it a ... normal city?"
"By 'normal' do you mean American? Human trafficking thrives in American cities, too, Wally. Especially big ones," Roy scolded, and Wally was almost irritated enough at the tone to tell him that he sounded like Green Arrow.
But Roy had just fed him, so maybe Wally would dial back the insults.
"Especially big ones without a hero to protect it?" Wally asked instead.
"Exactly. But Seattle doesn't have to worry about that now. It has me," Roy said protectively. "I've managed to round up a lot of them, but you have to keep careful track of their movements. Creeps like them, they're persistent. They might slink off into the shadows, but they never stop hurting people. You have to find them and make them pay, so they can't hurt anyone else."
Robin told Wally once that the longest moment in his life was watching his parents fall to their death, knowing what was going to happen and not being able to do anything about it. Wally hadn't experienced anything like that, but he was pretty sure the feeling that came over him as he listened to Roy was pretty close to what Robin had felt that day.
And just like the night before, Wally had difficulty getting enough air into his lungs.
"Do you think that's always true?" he asked Roy. "I mean, of all creeps."
"Is what true?" Roy asked.
"That they don't ... they don't stop. They just go on to hurt other people. More people. People in addition to." Wally was rambling, but considering that it felt like the air had been sucked out of his lungs, he figured he could be forgiven for that.
Roy nudged a map with his knee and nodded slowly. "I do. One victim grows up or escapes, they move on to the next. They're criminals of opportunity. That's how they work."
Are you afraid I'll replace you? Uncle Barry's voice, cold and callous, whispered in his mind, and Wally felt the warmth of Uncle Barry's breath on his neck all over again. He shuddered and desperately tried to take a deep breath.
"Hey, Wally, what's wrong?"
Wally was certain that Roy meant well when he reached over and grabbed Wally's arm, but Wally acted instinctively, and threw a punch that landed Roy flat on his ass, three feet away.
The realization of what he'd done was enough to snap him out of his momentary attack of panic.
"Oh, god. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to- are you okay?" Wally waited for the anger that was sure to come. That's who Roy was these days - all anger and throwing of hats and growling at the Justice League.
But it didn't come. Roy just wiped his mouth and stood back up. "I'm fine. Are you alright? I don't have any seats besides the couch, yet, but maybe you should have a seat and try to calm down."
Wally glanced at the couch, with its crumpled sheets and wrinkled pillow, and he shook his head. "No, I think that's a pretty bad idea, actually."
"Are you sure you're okay? I didn't mean to hurt you. I guess the team had a point. I am too rough. With you, with the bad guys, with Velocity."
"Your turtle? What the hell does your turtle have to do with anything?"
"He wouldn't come out of his shell this morning," Wally said softly. "He doesn't most of the time, lately. He's afraid of me, I guess. That's a pretty terrible way to treat someone who trusted you, isn't it?"
"Wally..." Roy sighed and Wally was pretty sure Roy was feeling sad that he didn't have a hat to throw at anyone. "Dammit, Wally, are you sure you don't need to talk about anything?"
"You said it yourself, Roy, you're terrible at the sympathetic listener deal."
"Yeah, I am. But there are people who aren't. Lots of people who aren't me are really great at it."
"Not as many as you might think."
Roy sounding patient just sounded all sorts of wrong and terrible. "Because Robin is 13, and I'm not going to burden him with this kind of crap. The rest of my team...is my team, and I can't...and the League." Wally sighed.
"The League is full of lying jerks," Roy answered. "But you usually like the lying jerks."
Wally shrugged. "Most of them think The Flash is the best thing ever." Wally took a deep breath and hoped that Roy wouldn't remind him that Wally usually thought that way, too. When he didn't, Wally continued, hesitantly. "That's kind of a problem."
"That son of a bitch." Roy was angry a lot, these days, but this anger was different. It was less "let's throw hats in big angry gestures" and more "I'd like to shove an arrow through someone's balls."
It was really nice to have someone watching his back again. "Yeah, you could say that."
Roy was quiet for a moment. "You know, Ollie said once that Batman had a back-up plan for all of us, to take all of us out. That's crazy, by the way. But he's a teammate of your uncle's, yet he doesn't have his head shoved so high up his ass that he can see his intestines."
"What does that even mean?"
"It means that whatever you've got to say, he'll listen."
"Even if he is crummy Leaguer?" Wally joked lightly. It was hard to joke with your stomach twisting itself in knots, though.
Roy gave a short nod. "He's the least of all the currently available evils at the moment. We could send a reply to his sanctimonious little email if you want. He's got all those fancy jets and everything, I'm sure he'll be here in no time once we send word."
Wally really didn't want to. Not even in the slightest. But the idea that Uncle Barry would ever use Wally's escape as an excuse to hurt someone else the same way he'd hurt Wally made him nod silently.
"Anything you want to say in the email?"
Wally shook his head. He wasn't entirely sure he trusted his fingers.
Roy shrugged and sat down to type out an email.
Flash is an asshole. KF needs to speak to you alone. P.S. bring food
It wasn't exactly what Wally would have written, but it'd do.
Seven hours after Wally had disappeared, Barry sat in the communication center of the Young Justice headquarters at Mount Justice with Wally's teammates and the half of the League that had (or acknowledged) their sidekicks.
Barry was trying to be patient. He was trying to remember that he was an adult in the presence of impressionable teenagers who were concerned about their teammate.
As concerned as he was, those were difficult facts to keep in mind.
Not that he was doing so well in the whole "serving as a good example for impressionable teenagers" anyway. Because if he had been, he would have been able to catch on to what was bothering Wally long before it had gotten this bad.
And if he was any kind of Flash at all, he would have been able to find his nephew. Maybe he should go for another run...
But while he was in the middle of considering it, an electronic device on Batman's belt beeped. Barry forced himself to sit still while Bruce attended to it. From the way his eyes moved down the device and the way his fingers tapped against it, Barry guessed it was an email, probably the one hooked up to the system here in the cave.
The world had always moved so slow since Barry had become the Flash, but since his nephew had gone missing, it felt like the world had slowed down even more.
"Your nephew has made contact," Batman said, placing the device back into his belt.
"Where is he?" Barry demanded. "Is he alright? What was he thinking? He needs food. He's been gone for so long. Whereis he?" Barry vibrated in place, anxious to get to Wally.
Whatever was wrong, it didn't matter. They could fix it, as long as Wally was okay. Barry had to believe that.
"He's agreed to a meeting place," Batman answered simply. "I've agreed to meet him there. Alone."
"No," Barry said forcefully. "He's my sidekick -"
"You said he quit," Batman interrupted. "When you first arrived, that's what you told us. That makes him not your sidekick anymore."
"He is my nephew. I can't just sit here while you go off and -"
"Flash," Martian Manhunter interrupted. "Perhaps, given the recent issues between yourself and Kid Flash, it is best to step aside and let someone else step in. Batman may have a more calming effect on your nephew and may be able to succeed where you have been unsuccessful."
The reminder of just how badly he'd failed his nephew lately made Barry swallow down the argument that was building inside of him. "Alright. I guess it isn't a competition. As long as he gets home, that's all that matters."
Batman nodded, once, shortly. "Maybe you should return home and update Wally's aunt and parents. I'm sure they're worried."
"I should come with you," Robin informed Batman, and for a moment, Barry really did feel selfish. The kid was only 13, and sounded just as worried as Barry felt.
Way to focus on the younger generation, Barry, he mentally chided himself.
"Wally's contact specified that I should come alone."
"But he's my best friend!"
"In that case, you should want to respect his wishes," Batman answered, and as Robin's shoulders sagged in defeat, Batman leaned forward and gave them a squeeze. "Stay here. Contact Roy and let him know we found Wally. If all else fails, get in some sparring practice with your team."
"Bring him home safe," Robin said softly.
"I will." Batman shared a hug with his sidekick before departing.
Barry didn't remember ever being quite so selfish and jealous before, but apparently all of his sins were adding up today.
The entire time since Roy had pressed "send," Wally thought about going for a run and not coming back. He kept replaying the conversation he was about to have with Batman in his head and he couldn't see how any good could come of it.
He more or less believed that Batman would believe him. Though there was a tiny, nagging suspicion that he wouldn't, there were other methods to turn to if Batman didn't. There was Wonder Woman and her lasso of truth, or Martian Manhunter and his mind reading abilities.
Wally personally hoped that he didn't have to tell a woman what Uncle Barry had been doing to him, ever. For the rest of his entire life ever, really. As for J'onn... well, Wally didn't know exactly how Martian families worked, but M'gann lived at the Cave, so Wally figured that Martian families couldn't be as close as human ones. Uncle Barry would never have let him get away with living in the cave, even back when Uncle Barry wasn't crawling in his bed every night.
Which meant that J'onn probably wouldn't understand at all how or why Wally had let things progress so far, or why he hadn't told someone before now. Because if they didn't have relationships like the one Wally and Uncle Barry used to have on Mars, then there was no way for Wally to explain that.
Fortunately, Batman was as paranoid as Superman was strong, so Wally didn't think they'd have to go to J'onn or Wondy. The great thing about being paranoid was that it enabled you to think the very worst about everyone - even the greatest hero the planet had.
But even if Batman believed him entirely, there would still be fallout. Uncle Barry had to be stopped. Which meant telling his mother and father and oh, god, Aunt Iris. There would probably be a trial and how on earth did you have a trial against The Flash?
Maybe Wally'd have to wind up testifying to the whole League, anyway. Which meant testifying to Dinah, Hal, Ralph - all the people who had been close to Uncle Barry long before Wally had ever entered the picture. They were all people that had loyalties to The Flash, not to Kid Flash.
His team had loyalties to Kid Flash, of course. But how was he ever supposed to look at the guys on his team - to say nothing of M'gann and Artemis - and tell them how weak and useless he'd been?
It was enough to make a guy give up and take off and not look bad, for sure.
The only reason he didn't leave was because he feared that what Roy had said was true. Wally hadn't been very good at protecting himself, but if anything ever happened to Robin because Wally hadn't spoken up - or to the rest of his team - Wally would never forgive himself.
So instead of running, Wally contented himself with pacing nervously inside Roy's cramped apartment.
"You're going to work up a hunger again," Roy warned. "And we're all out of food."
"Yeah, sorry about that. I'll pay you back?"
Roy snorted. "Bullshit."
"It's not bullshit! I can pay you back. And I will. I mean, it's the least I can do."
Roy rolled his eyes. "No, I mean it's bullshit that you think you need to pay me back. I'm not an asshole, Wally. Well. Mostly not."
"Sometimes not?" It would have sounded better if Wally could force his voice to sound as light as he wanted his voice to be. No such luck.
Roy gave him a smirk. "Sometimes not."
"It works better when you have a hat," Wally told him solemnly. "Better effect."
"Next time, I am buying you pizza with anchovies and pineapple," Roy warned.
Roy smirked at him and went back to the charting he was doing on his maps, and Wally went back to pacing.
When Batman finally showed up at Roy's apartment, he was still dressed in full Batman suit, and he entered through the only window the tiny apartment had.
Under his arm he carried a black backpack, which he deposited on the floor beside Roy's table. "Food, as you've requested. There's enough for you both."
"I ate earlier," Roy said huffily, and Wally wondered if it was true or if he was just not wanting to accept food for himself from a League member. Then he looked at Wally. "Look, do you want me to be here, or would it be better for you if I'm not. I mean, I'm not stupid. I get the gist of what's going on - "
Yeah, Wally figured as much, because he'd been giving some Bat-signal-sized clues, hadn't he?
"But if you don't want me around for the details, well. Like I said. I'm not an asshole. Much."
"I don't want to kick you out of your own place," Wally said hesitantly.
"I got patrol." Roy stood up and slid on his quiver. Before he left, he gave Batman a scathing look. "Don't be a jerk."
"I'll try," Batman said dryly. "Stay safe, Roy."
"I'll try," Roy huffed, before darting out the window.
When they were alone, Batman nodded to the backpack. "Chicken salad, two loaves of fresh baked bread, a block of cheese, some fresh fruit and chocolate chip cookies."
Well, a man couldn't just reject Alfred Pennyworth food. Dick had shared enough of it for Wally to have found that out a long time ago. Wally reached for the bag, and the smell of the contents made his stomach rumble with anticipation. He was grateful for the food Roy had provided, but the contents of the bag made the pizza he'd had smell like Velocity's cage in comparison.
With the thought of home, Wally looked up at Batman guiltily. "Um, I guess I should probably not keep you waiting."
"You should eat," Batman answered. "Then you should talk."
Batman then assessed the room (okay, Wally admitted; he probably assessed it for the second time, the first being when he'd walked in) and sat down, legs crossed, on the floor.
Well, that was one way to deal with the lack of chairs, other than the bed/couch. Wally mimicked the gesture, sitting at the opposite end of the table as Batman. It put a good distance between them, and oh,man, what kind of antisocial person was he that he was minding such stupid things as normal human interaction?
The food allowed him a distraction from that train of thought, and Wally took it.
A loaf of bread, half a block of cheese and an apple later, Wally was momentarily full. Or, okay, maybe he was a little stuffed. The apple, as it turned out, was just a bit too much, and he should really stop stalling.
He played with a cookie while he was talking, anyway. It helped him focus on something - anything - other than what this conversation was going to be about, and Wally was grateful for that much of a distraction.
"So, Roy mentioned The Flash, right?" Wally said. It was a dumb segue, because Wally already knew the answer.
"I guess I should get on with it, before he gets here, right?" Wally said nervously.
Batman tilted his head. "The instructions I gave Robin prior to coming here should have made the rest of the League believe you are anywhere but here," he answered.
"Robin's not alone with Uncle Barry, is he?" Wally asked quickly.
"No. Your uncle is at home with your aunt and your parents. Robin is with your team," Batman replied. "Is there a reason Robin shouldn't be alone with The Flash?"
"Yeah, there really is." Wally gathered his knees up to his chest. His mouth felt incredibly dry, and Wally had to resist the urge to run to the sink for a glass of water. He told himself it wasn't really necessary. He didn't need it, the dry mouth was just a way for his mind to try to stall the inevitable. "Uncle Barry, he's been - I mean ..."
Wally squeezed his knees harder, and that same old not-being-able to breathe problem decided to rear its ugly head again.
"Wally. I can't help you if you don't tell me what's going on."
"I'm trying!" Wally snapped, and to Batman's credit, he didn't show his surprise at the outburst. "Sorry. I didn't mean to yell."
"I've sparred with Black Canary. Her yell is more painful," Batman said simply.
It was a general sign that a person's life completely and absolutely sucked when Batman was making jokes to make them feel better. Wally was pretty sure that was in the big superhero rulebook somewhere.
"I've never told anyone this before," Wally said finally. His voice sounded rather pathetically weak to his own ears, and maybe his throat really was too dry, because he couldn't force his voice to be any louder, no matter how hard he tried. "I don't even know how to tell you. I mean, it's Uncle Barry. It'd be different if it was someone else. I could tell you easy, then. Except then I wouldn't be telling you, I'd be telling Uncle Barry. Because he's my partner, and that's how it's supposed to work. He's my uncle."
"Wally, has your uncle hurt you?" Batman's voice was perfectly neutral. He could have very well have been asking Wally if he had liked the chicken salad.
Wally nodded, once. It was easier than talking.
Wally started to nod, then considered what Batman probably meant. "No. I mean, he isn't using me as a punching bag, or anything. If that's what you're trying to ask. But he hasn't ... uh, been very gentle, either."
There was a pause, before Batman asked in the same neutral tone, "Sexually?"
Wally nodded, and he watched Batman process. He didn't show any outward appearances of doing so, and Wally was able to breathe a little better. A complete lack of response was a lot better than Roy's random extra niceness. It meant Batman wasn't pitying Wally.
"How long has this been going on?"
"Last Wednesday," Wally answered. "Uncle Barry came and picked me up from school. He doesn't usually, and I guess...I guess maybe that should have been a sign something was off, right? Some sort of clue. Some crime fighter I"m going to be if I can't even pick up big obvious, bright red and gold clues."
"I don't have any uncles," Batman informed him. "But I am fairly certain that if I did, I would not see an act as harmless as picking me up from school to be a sign that they were going to behave inappropriately. Do not blame yourself."
Wally hugged his knees a little tighter. "We did all the usual geeky Wednesday stuff. Fighting crime, talking about pretty girls, running to Metropolis for comics, running to Chicago for pizza, that sort of thing. Then I came home and I texted Robin for a bit, and went to bed. Oh. I fed my turtle before I went to bed, too. Oh, god, I ran off and left Velocity there and mom and dad will not remember to feed him. What if they see him hiding in his shell and think he's dead? What if they just throw him out? I am the worst turtle owner ever."
"Sorry. Anyway, I woke up." The cookie was pretty much pure crumbs in Wally's hands now and he didn't have anything to distract his hands with, so he pressed them together and focused his attention on rocking lightly in place. "Uncle Barry was touching me. I asked him to stop, but he wouldn't. He just kept... doing it."
"Did he come back the following night?"
Run. Run. Run. The words were screaming inside of Wally's head. It didn't matter how Batman was responding - still steady, still calm, still exactly as though they were discussing chicken salad - Wally just wanted to get away. He didn't want to be discussing this at all. With anyone.
But each time the urge to run got so loud that Wally nearly gave in, he thought about his teammates. If he didn't keep talking, Uncle Barry could hurt them too.
The thought was repulsive, but it made Wally stay where he was, and forced him to find the words he needed. "Yeah. He forced me to touch him the next night. Andhekeptcomingback. Every night."
"He's been fondling you every night since last Wednesday?"
There was a creep of sympathy in Batman's voice, and no, no, no. Don't be sympathetic. Be Batman.
"No. I mean, sometimes. But that wasn't enough for him, eventually. He moved t-to blowjobs. And..." Wally's breath was coming in hitches now, but at least they were dry hitches, because the alternative was sobbing in front of Batman. "And the other thing."
"He assaulted you anally as well?"
Wally just nodded. It was odd how the bland matter-of-factness that had been so helpful up to that point suddenly made Wally want to hit something when it was used to describe the last act Uncle Barry had performed on him.
Which clearly meant that in addition to all his other problems, Wally was going crazy. That was just great.
"Where were your parents during these assaults?"
"In their room. Asleep," Wally said bitterly.
"They slept through you being assaulted on a nightly basis since last Wednesday?"
"Is that ... normal behavior for them? To not notice when something of that magnitude is happening under their roof? I assume the assaults were not quiet."
"So what does that mean? That if I had just been louder they would have come running to my rescue? That maybe if I hadn't just laid back and let it happen then they would have heard me? Maybe if I hadn't whispered the way Uncle Barry told me to, it wouldn't have happened. Well, okay, you know what, maybe I should have been louder at first. Maybe I should have fought harder or kicked more or ... or something. But I wasn't at all quiet that last time. I did yell and I did scream. And they had to have heard me, and they still didn't come." That sounded dangerously close to a sob, and Wally bit hard into his bottom lip to bite it all back.
It occurred to Wally that he was stuck in a cramped studio apartment in Seattle, yelling at Batman and biting down his own lip in an attempt not to completely lose it and sob like a baby.
And to think, this is an attempt to make things get better.
"Wally. That's not at all what I meant. I was simply attempting to not miss a potential clue. I wasn't blaming you."
Wally just squeezed his knees closer to his chest, or attempted to, anyway, and nodded, not trusting his voice to speak.
Batman's lips thinned, then he spoke again. "What happened wasn't your fault. Don't you ever believe that. No matter what your uncle said to you, or what anyone else says to you from this point forward, he's a grown man. He violated your trust and manipulated the relationship between you into something sick for his own twisted enjoyment. That is not your fault."
It was a little bit easier to breathe with that particular rant of Batman's out of the way, and Wally repaid the favor by offering, "I'm sorry for freaking out on you like that."
"I'm from Gotham. I'm used to it," Batman answered, and then he stood. Feeling suddenly silly for remaining on the floor, Wally did the same. "Speaking of Gotham, you should come back with me. You can stay at the Manor while the League gets things taken care of."
Wally blinked. "Really? At the manor? I mean, uh. Isn't that kind of invite supposed to come with a lecture about how Robin's identity is supposed to be a secret, and everything?"
"It should. Unfortunately, that lecture is going to have to wait. I have other priorities at the moment."
"Right. Let me leave a note for Roy."
Wally scribbled a hasty good-bye, with a fond little hat drawn in the corner of the note. Then he placed the remaining chicken salad, bread and fruit inside the refrigerator.
He kept the rest of the cookies, though, for the flight back to Gotham. He was sure Roy would understand.
Sitting still was difficult for a speedster, even in the best of circumstances. With the events of the past couple of days, and the fact that his own nephew was trusting Batman above and beyond him, circumstances definitely did not qualify as "the best."
But Barry was doing his best to sit on the couch, because Iris was resting her head on his chest and looking up at him with big, sad eyes that said she needed Barry's support. And as much as he'd failed their nephew, he didn't want to equally fail his wife.
So he stroked her hair, and forced himself to sit still, even when it caused every muscle in his body ache like it was on fire to do so.
"I still feel like I should be over with Rudy and Mary," Iris sighed.
"Joan and Jay will keep them company," Barry reminded her gently. "That many stressed people in one house isn't good for anybody, least of all Wally when he gets home."
"You know, mister, this is where you are supposed to demand a big, fat 'I told you so,'" Iris told him.
"You've been trying to tell me all week that something was wrong. I kept dismissing you." Iris sighed and wriggled closer to him, nuzzling her face closer into his chest. "I shouldn't have. I should have paid attention to what you were trying to say."
"None of this is your fault, Iris."
"He's my nephew."
Iris smiled at him. "He was mine first, Mr. Allen."
"And my sidekick first, Mrs. Allen."
"I'll keep that in mind when I start looking for my first pair of spandex pants," Iris retorted. Her voice was light, but her eyes still carried the worry that Barry felt.
Of course they did. Batman was a great guy, but his reputation was built on fear. Despite being in the League with Barry, he was still a creature of the night. People who didn't see Bruce up close and in person, who didn't see him interacting with Robin, or with Wally's team, didn't always get how much he cared. They saw the costume, and focused on that, instead of the man beneath it.
It worked well for Bruce's mission, but it had taken some time and persuading, from both Wally and Barry, to get Iris to agree to her nephew being on a team whose missions were going to be directed by Batman.
With that little amount of trust to start with, sitting on a couch in Central City, while Batman went off to who knew where to rescue her nephew, had to be almost as hard for Iris as it was for Barry.
He hugged her tightly, in an attempt to support her, when all he really wanted to do was run.
"I worry about him, you know," Iris confessed. "Not the same way you do. I worry for different reasons. He's only 15 years old, and he's already saving the world. With you, with his team - how long will it be until he's going it solo, too?"
"He's a good kid, Iris. He's strong. He can handle the responsibility."
"Maybe so. But I worry sometimes that he's missing all the good and fun parts of his childhood. I know it's what he wants, but ... I guess I was just hoping that all of this fussing and fighting he's been doing with you over the past few days was his way of getting that normalcy back." Iris shook her head. "I should have listened to you, and I should have listened to what he was trying to say a little better."
Barry had worried about all of those things before too, truth be told. But maybe he hadn't worried enough, or worried about the right things, considering how things had turned out.
But he was supposed to be the supportive one, not the one adding to Iris' troubles.
"I tell you what. When Wally gets back and everything gets all sorted out, I'll take him out for ice cream, just like every normal, every day average kid, and you can take him out to get a tongue piercing, just like any every day average teenager."
Iris gave a soft laugh, which was an improvement, even if the worry around her eyes didn't quite disappear. "You are a super dork, Barry Allen."
"And yet, you love me anyway, Iris West-Allen."
"I sure do." Iris leaned up to kiss his him, just as the doorbell rang.
Barry jumped up hopefully, all the ability to sit still suddenly gone. That had to be Batman, with word about his nephew - or, more hopefully still, with his nephew himself. Nobody else would show up this late at night.
Or so Barry thought. But when he opened the door, he was greeted by the grim faces of Superman, Wonder Woman, two Green Lanterns (not Hal, his mind immediately noticed) and Zatara. His first thought was that was a lot of firepower. His second thought was that something must be gravely wrong with Wally for them to all be looking so grim.
"How badly is he hurt?" he asked immediately.
The frown across Superman's face deepened. "You need to come with us," he answered, in a voice that sounded less like that of a teammate, and more like that of an opponent.
"What's going on with my nephew?" Iris demanded, stepping forward. Her hand tightened around Barry's arm.
"Ma'am, I'm sorry, but this is League business," Superman answered.
"This is Kid Flash business," Iris corrected. "And that has everything to do with me."
"Batman is with Jay Garrick and Kid Flash's parents," Wonder Woman spoke up. "They will be happy to fill you in. But we are here only to retrieve The Flash."
Retrieve? "What is going on?" he asked. "And why won't you tell me what's wrong with Wally?"
"It would be best if you came quietly, Barry," Superman answered crisply.
Barry had been part of enough crime scenes to know that wasn't a good sign, but the hand on his arm was tightening, and for Iris' sake, he decided to play along with whatever the League was up to. For now, at least.
Even if Superman was treating him with all the disdain usually reserved for Lex Luthor.
"Iris, you should go over to Rudolph and Mary's. Speak with Batman and Jay. Find out what's going on with Wally," Barry told her. "I need to go with the League."
"Alright," Iris said, reluctantly, and she kissed him goodbye.
The kiss barely ended before he was tugged into the sky by both of the Green Lanterns. It was a none-too-gentle tug, and the green bonds that tightened around him weren't particularly gentle, either.
But the fact that none of his teammates would speak to him was an even more telling fact than the tightness of Green Lantern's restraints.
The flight to Gotham was a short, direct one. Batman didn't, thankfully, attempt to make any small talk, and they didn't stop at Mount Justice to pick up Robin first.
Wally wasn't really sure if he was relieved by that decision, or if he was disappointed. On one hand, it would have been nice to have someone his own age with him. It had been light years easier to relax around Roy, for example, than it had been to do so around Batman.
It would also have been nice to make sure that Robin was someone nearby and safe. That hadn't been a consideration, really, until Roy had brought up his terrible, no good, absolutely horrible philosophy about the predatory methods of creeps who snuck into their nephew's bedrooms at night. But now that Roy had brought it up, the fear wouldn't leave Wally's mind.
But on the other hand, once Robin came around, they'd have to have a discussion, and that was the last thing Wally wanted to do.
When they arrived at the manor, Batman briefly introduced Wally to Alfred Pennyworth, who seemed incredibly uptight and severe, right up until the moment that he offered Wally food. Since the flight to Gotham had been just long enough for Wally's metabolism to catch up and take care of the overly stuffed feeling, Wally snacked happily accepted the offered strawberry pie.
He tried not to notice, or care, about the way Batman pulled Alfred into the other room to "discuss security protocols." Because, really, Wally might not have been the world's greatest detective but he wasn't stupid. He knew that somewhere in that discussion had to be "oh, by the way, The Flash has been doing Uncle Bad Touch on a nightly basis since last Wednesday."
Wally supposed it was necessary, and he supposed a lot of people were going to be informed before it was all over. But it didn't make having his shame spread around so freely any easier, just because Wally knew that it was necessary.
Before he left, Batman came back into the kitchen to address Wally. "I need to gather evidence," he informed Wally.
Wally paused in eating long enough to ask, "You aren't going to leave that to the police?"
Batman paused, and really, Wally wondered if he really wore the cowl 24-7. Because he hadn't taken it off so much as once since they'd arrived.
"I'm not sure we can trust the Central City police to handle this investigation," he said finally. "As The Flash, your uncle is greatly beloved and makes the jobs of the police in the city much easier, and I'm not sure they would be any less likely to be unbiased with the case than the police in Metropolis would be for Superman. In his civilian identity, Barry Allen is part of the city's law enforcement, which makes the probability of bias even more likely."
"You don't think they'd believe me?" Wally asked, and oh, there was that dry mouth deal again. He rather desperately wished that his body would quit making up symptoms based entirely on his level of discomfort at any given moment.
Batman's answer was slower, and more deliberate than it should have been. "Based on the interactions I have had with the Gotham PD, I think it is safer to assume that they would not. While it is entirely possible that the police in Central City are not as prone to corruption as the ones in Gotham, I would rather not leave that to chance."
Wally nodded, and watched him go, before returning to his pie. He finished it and his glass of milk and went to wash it in the sink, at just the time that Alfred came back into the kitchen.
"You do realize that's part of my job, don't you, Master Wally?"
"Oh, yeah, I guess it is. Sorry. I'm - uh, not really used to having a butler."
"It's quite alright. I imagine your mind has greater concerns at the moment."
"Yeah, I guess you could say I'm definitely turbed."
Alfred raised an eyebrow in the very best impersonation of a Vulcan that Wally had ever seen. "Indeed, Master Wally, I could say that, but I'm afraid I shall have to resist the urge to abuse the English language in such a way," he answered. "I have been informed that you have had quite a long day. Perhaps I can show you to the guest quarters?"
Despite the fact that Wally's stomach wanted to immediately reject the pie, along with half the rest of the food he'd eaten that day, at the idea of going to bed, Wally really was tired. It was well into Saturday morning, and he'd been running across the country for the majority of the previous day.
"That's probably a good idea," Wally agreed, and he followed Alfred up the stairs, despite the unease he couldn't quite shake.
The "guest quarters," as it turned out, had their own bathroom, complete with a shower that was larger than Wally's bedroom back home. In fact, Wally was pretty sure that the bathroom cost more than his parents' entire house.
The bedroom itself just looked old, and if Wally didn't know better, it would have been hard for him to imagine that someone like Dick lived in a house with rooms like this. It was so formal and harsh looking.
"The pajamas were a gift from a fashion designer 'friend' of Master Bruce, originally intended for Master Dick," Alfred informed him. "They were too large for Master Dick, but I believe they will work nicely for you."
"Bruce Wayne has friends who give his ward random pajamas? Because, uh, admittedly, I might just be seeing the creepy in everything lately, but that sounds pretty creepy to me."
Alfred gave him that Vulcan eyebrow-lift again. "They were given under the pretense of getting Master Dick to model a line of clothing," he explained. "Though none of us found it particularly appropriate, either, which is why the modeling contract never quite materialized."
Well, Wally supposed it was nice that someone was paying attention to people being creepy around their kids. Unlike, say, Wally's parents.
"Regardless of their previously creepy state, they've been thoroughly cleaned and examined for any bugging equipment," Alfred said, seemingly completely unaware of how bizarre it was to check pajamas for bugging equipment. "They should provide you a comfortable night's rest. If you require anything, Master Wally, please do not hesitate to come find me."
Wally nodded, and watched Alfred go, shutting the door behind him. Slowly, he slipped the pajamas on, and oh. These probably were worth more than his dad's car, but Wally was absolutely convinced that every penny would have been worth it. The silky material moved as Wally moved, and he'd never worn more comfortable clothes in his life.
The bed was similarly comfortable, and as Wally climbed under the sheets, he tried to focus on the comfort of the situation. He tried not to worry about poor Velocity, how his parents and Aunt Iris were going to react, or the reactions of his teammates.
He especially tried not to worry about the fact that Uncle Barry knew Batman's identity and could easily find him, if the League wasn't fast enough.
And Uncle Barry was faster than all of them, so it was rather impossible to worry, no matter how comfortable the sheets and pajamas actually were.
But the events of the day eventually won out over his worry, and Wally managed to drift off to sleep.
Wally couldn't move his arms.
Each of his hands was tied to Bruce Wayne's big, four poster bed and his uncle was staring down at him.
"You can't be here. I told the League what you've been doing," Wally protested, and he struggled at his bonds, but they just grew tighter.
"You poor, stupid boy," Uncle Barry said, his voice never changing from the soft, rapid, kind tone that Uncle Barry used at all times, even when it sounded completely at odds with the words he was saying. "You thought telling them what I was doing was going to make it stop?"
"Batman is going to stop you." Wally kept tugging at his restraints, red and gold, just like his costume, but he couldn't escape. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't escape. "He'll be back,and he'll hear me, and he'll stop you."
"Batman's just a man." Uncle Barry's hands were on him, tugging, pulling, ripping the silk pajamas off Wally's skin. "He could never win against me. Contingency plans? Please, I could snap his neck before he even finished a thought."
"Uncle Barry, please no. I don't want this. Please."
"It's not nice to lie, Kid." Hands were wrapping around him, and Uncle Barry's mouth was kissing a trail along Wally's chest. "You've wanted this from the start. Your parents could see it, that's why they never stopped me. Your teammates could see it, that's why they complained about you. The League could see it too, that's why they let me go."
"You let it happen. You wanted it. You wanted me. It felt good."
"No, Uncle Barry!"
"You came. Each and every time you came. Batman is going to find evidence of that, you know. What are you going to tell him, Kid?"
"I didn't want it. I didn't." His voice was coming out in sobs now, but Uncle Barry wasn't paying any attention. His kisses just grew more insistent.
"You loved it, Kid. You loved it so much you kept our little secret and kept letting me come back every night. You think you can make me stop just because you all of the sudden changed your mind? It doesn't work that way. You aren't going to ruin my plans." Uncle Barry was undoing his pants. "I'm the Fastest Man Alive Kid. You can never escape me. Never. You can't even vibrate through your restraints."
"Uncle Barry, please!"
"This time, you should see my face, don'tcha think, Kid?" Uncle Barry reached up and took off the cowl. With green eyes staring into Wally's, he forced himself into Wally for the second time.
"Tell me how much you love it, Kid."
"No, I don't. No, Uncle Barry, no."
"Say it, Kid."
"Wally!" Hands were shaking him, shaking him ... awake?
Oh. It had just been a dream.
"Let go," Wally whispered softly, because Robins' hands were still on his arms.
Robin let go quickly. "Sorry, you were uh, kind of yelling. Kind of loud. I thought I should wake you."
The fact that Wally's cheeks were still wet was something Robin completely failed to mention, and Wally was incredibly grateful. If anyone ever tried to claim Robin wasn't a good bro, Wally was certain he was officially obligated to punch them in the face forever.
"Sorry. Did I wake you ... erm, I assume not. Seriously, does everyone wear their costume around this place 24 hours a day?"
Robin smirked at him then. "I just got home. I hadn't had time to change yet. I intercepted Alfred in the hall and told him I'd wake you up. If you were going to punch anyone in your sleep, I wanted it to be me, not Alfie."
Wally shuddered. "Couldn't punch you," he muttered. "I couldn't move."
Robin looked like he wanted to question that, but in the end, he shrugged, because he wasn't just a good bro, he was an awesome one. "Batman told me that we should go ahead and set up somewhere for Velocity to stay while you're here," he informed Wally. "I was going to do it while you got some sleep, because the Internet is not nearly as useless as you claim it to be, but - "
"Trust me, Robin. I am not going to get back to sleep anytime soon."
Robin grinned and reached up to pull off his mask. "Our secret's out, Wally. You can call me Dick now."
"Okay, Dick." Wally used the sleeves of his pajamas to wipe his eyes as he hopped out of bed. "Let's go fix a place for my turtle."
Barry's teammates continued not to speak to him when they arrived at headquarters. The silent treatment continued as Superman and Wonder Woman placed a pair of arm restraints on him.
Barry wondered, briefly, what restraints were supposed to do, when he could easily vibrate through them. But that annoyance took a backseat to his annoyance at his teammates' behavior. Now that they were away from Iris and couldn't cause her any unnecessary worry, Barry's tolerance for their behavior was reaching a breaking point.
Wally was his nephew. Keeping information about his well-being a secret was not acceptable. "What's going on?" Barry demanded. "If something's wrong with my nephew, I have a right to know."
"I think you have a lot of nerve to say that, Allen," John Stewart said coldly.
Well, that was an... odd reaction. Barry had never been as close to John as he'd been with Hal, but he'd always thought they'd gotten along okay.
"Is he hurt? He's okay, right?"
Wonder Woman's eyes narrowed. "He's a child. By the rules of my people, it would be perfectly acceptable to execute you for your actions."
"Execute? Diana, I don't know what you think I've done, but - "
"In other words, no, he is not alright," Zatara interrupted. His words were not as harsh as Wonder Woman's, but the tone certainly conveyed agreement.
"Nobody is going to be executing anyone," Superman said firmly. "That's not how the League works."
"Dunno. We could probably make an exception this time," Guy Gardner offered.
"Why are you even here?" Barry asked. It was easier to be annoyed at Guy than indulging in the fear for his nephew that the League was just making worse."You aren't even a member of the League. We kicked you out after the first week."
"Because I can still kick your ass, Allen," Guy answered. "And the League finally got around to seeing how much you deserve it."
None of his teammates seemed to disagree with that assessment, nor did they particularly seem interested in sharing what was wrong with Wally. "Something's obviously wrong with my nephew, and since you won't tell me what it is, I'm guess I'm going to have to find out for myself. Sorry, guys."
An apology was definitely in order, because fighting his teammates was the last thing in the world Barry wanted to do. But for Wally's well-being, he was willing to make that sacrifice.
He noticed that none of the League answered him, nor did any of them make a move to try to stop him, but Barry was used to the world responding slower than he did, so he didn't consider it particularly out of the ordinary.
At least, not until he attempted to vibrate through the restraints.
Barry had never had a seizure before, but in the long ago early days of his his anatomy and physiology courses, he'd studied them. He had quite a theoretical understanding of how they worked, and when his skeletal muscles suddenly went rigid and he felt himself falling, part of Barry's consciousness understood that was what was happening.
Because his muscles were rigid, Barry couldn't actually stop his fall, but he was still The Flash, which meant every second of the fall stretched on and on. The fall could reasonably only have taken seconds, but to Barry, it felt like hours - hours in which he watched his friends stand by with cold expressions on their faces, not moving so much as a hand to stop him. He tried to speak, to cry out, but he couldn't make the words form.
When he hit the floor, the seizure grew even worse. His skin felt numb all over, as he struggled to move, desperate to make the numbness stop, and even more desperate to escape his restraints. But his struggles only seemed to make the seizure worse; his skin stopped being numb, but that symptom was replaced with the feel of a million needles pricking skin all over his body. The pricking sensation grew in intensity to the point where Barry would have cried out in pain, if only he'd had the ability to use his voice to do so.
But he didn't, so he had to experience his anguish in silence, as the pain rose and his vision first blurred, then went black completely. He couldn't see, he couldn't talk,and he couldn't move. His friends were there, watching it all happen, and they weren't doing anything to stop it.
Sometime in the midst of the seizure, Barry felt the sensation of being moved, but he wasn't even sure that was real. Maybe it was just another symptom of the seizure. The hands that held him were hard, and strong, but they didn't feel gentle and they did nothing to cushion the sensation of falling when they set him down again.
When his heart began to feel as though it was racing to jump out of his chest and his breathing became irregular, Barry couldn't even tell if that was due to the seizure or the side effects of being forced to endure hours of neurological torture.
"Two minutes," Superman corrected. "Though Batman did mention it would feel like hours to you, because of your powers."
Barry stared at him, from the other side of the containment cell, where the League must have moved him to during the seizure. That made sense; either Diana and Clark could have gotten him here in the two minute time span.
It took a minute for Barry to be able to regain his ability to talk. "Batman designed this device," he said quietly.
"Yes. It was designed specifically to hold you and prevent your escape. If any part of your body moves faster than average human speed, messages are sent to your nervous system to send you into a seizure. The enhanced speed of your nervous system works against you by making the seizure seem instant." Clark frowned and shifted, and Barry thought he detected something that looked like remorse.
Well, that made sense. Whatever their reasons, Clark standing by and enjoying a teammate in pain made little to no sense.
"Why are you doing this?" Barry wondered if the fleeting moment of betrayal he felt for his teammates' actions made him as bad of a uncle as he feared. After all, something was wrong with Wally and he should be focused on what was wrong with Wally, not the fact that his own feelings were hurt.
"Batman had a very thorough discussion with Wally," Clark said firmly, and he spoke with a finality that said his words should explain everything.
"Is Wally alright? He must not be, if I'm here but I don't understand what could be wrong with him that you would be doing this. What's wrong with him and why won't you let me see him?"
"He told Batman what you did," Clark said, raising his voice a little.
Barry frowned. "What I did? ... He told you about our fight over Iris? That's why I'm here?"
"He said you've been molesting him," Clark said softly.
The seizure had been painful, but nothing could compare to the punch in the gut that Clark's words were. "He said I was what?"
Even with all that was wrong between them lately, why would Wally say that about him? How could the nephew that Barry loved so much accuse him of something so terrible?
Worse still, how could anyone believe that Barry would do something like that?
"He was worried you'd hurt the others," Clark continued.
"I would never." There was anger in his voice, Barry realized belatedly. Yelling at Superman was perhaps not the best way to deal with the accusation, but it allowed Barry to do something besides try to escape again. "I would never lay a finger on any of them."
"Batman is at Wally's home. He's been in contact several times with the League. There appears to be evidence which supports Wally's claims."
"Evidence? What kind of evidence?" Barry clenched his fists in frustration - something he made sure to do ever so slowly. "Fingerprints? Hair? Because you are going to find all of those all over my nephew's bedroom."
"You've spent a considerable amount of time there?" The accusation could not have been anymore plainly stated in Clark's voice.
"He's my nephew. I've spent a lot of time all over his house, including his bedroom. I've been up there to help him with his quadratic equations, back when he was having a rough time. I've been up there to take him an improved Kid Flash design. I was up there when he had chicken pox, back before he ever got his powers. I've carried him up there on the days that he's been injured in battle. I've been up there when he made a mistake in battle and needed reassurance. I've been there to help him set up his turtle's habitat, back when he first got him." Barry knew he was rambling. He knew that had to make him sound guilty - hell, he'd suspect himself at this point. But he couldn't stop thinking about all the times that he and the Kid had spent together, times that Barry had cherished, but apparently Wally hadn't - not if he could accuse Barry of something like this. "They're perfectly normal uncle things to do. Perfectly normal things to do with your family and your sidekick, though let's face it, it's not as though you'd know anything about that, would you?"
It was a low blow, admittedly.
Clark's lips thinned in response. "The evidence is greater than a few hairs, Barry."
"What kind of evidence?" That was impossible. There was nothing that could exist that could make him look guilty of a crime he would never commit.
"You can save your argument. Black Canary and Martian Manhunter are with Wally's team, making sure we don't have to bring you up on further charges. When Dinah, J'onn and Bruce return, the facts will be discussed. You should carefully consider consenting to a mind probe by J'onn, and a lasso test from Diana." Clark's hands moved over the control panel for the containment cell, and Barry could feel his muscles growing heavier.
He sank to his knees and he wondered if he had somehow triggered the restraint system all over again.
"What are you doing?"
"This cell comes equipped with an artificial gravity field. It's a secondary precaution to stop you from using your powers." Clark paused. "It's for your own good, really. It makes your limbs too heavy to move, making it less likely that you'll attempt to vibrate and set off the restraint mechanism."
"C-Clark." So hard to talk. "I need to see Wally. Need to talk to him."
If he could just talk to Wally, he could figure out what was going on. They could fix it. Whatever reason Wally had - and there had to be one, even if Barry couldn't figure it out, just now - they could work past it and they could fix it.
"The League thinks it's best to keep him away from you for now," Clark answered. "Where he knows he is safe."
Wally sat on the floor of the Wayne Manor library, on the opposite side of a 50 gallon aquarium as Dick, with his turtle in hand. Velocity occasionally peeked his head out of his shell, but he didn't seem overly confident. Whether that was because he was expecting one of Wally's outbursts, or because he was adjusting to being transported to the Manor, Wally wasn't sure.
But he tried to be patient - no matter how very much that wasn't Wally's normal m.o. - in hopes that his turtle would start liking him again.
Batman hadn't even visited them when he dropped Velocity off at the Manor. Wally worried about what that meant, but Dick shook his head.
"That's just how he gets sometimes, when he's really focused on a case," Dick explained. "And, uh, he's kind of focused on this one. Kind of a lot."
"Well, it's good, right? That he's focused. I mean, world's greatest detective. Who wouldn't want him on your side?"
"The guilty," Dick said simply, reaching in to Velocity's cage to adjust the rocks being used as a basking area. He'd already adjusted them six times.
His best friend was a freak, Wally thought, affectionately. "It's okay if the rocks aren't perfect, you know."
"Wally, if you were stuck in a 50 gallon tank, would you want rocks that were only okay?"
"Point." Wally held Velocity at eye level and spoke to him very solemnly. "Nothing but the most precise placement of rocks for you, buddy."
"Very cise," Dick agreed, moving yet another rock.
Velocity titled his head, which wasn't as quite as good of an impression of a Vulcan as Alfred Pennyworth, but it still conveyed the general sense of what the hell is wrong with both of you? that Wally was sure had to be on the turtle's mind.
And really, if Wally could speak Robin's language, his turtle language translations had to be awesome.
After a few more moments of fiddling with the rocks, Dick sat back and surveyed his work. "There," he said with satisfaction. "A very clusive hangout for Velocity."
Wally gently placed Velocity down on top of the rocks and watched him take his time to get comfortable.
"Does he need anything to eat?" Robin asked. "Turtles are omnivores, right?"
"They are, but even if we get him his favorite meal of mushrooms, strawberries and earthworms, he usually won't eat until after he's gotten in some prime basking time," Wally explained.
"I am ... kind of whelmed about that diet plan," Dick admitted.
Wally smirked and handled him an antibacterial wipe to wash his hands with. It wouldn't do if his best friend caught salmonella from trying to help him set up a cage for his turtle.
"We could probably grab something to eat before Velocity is ready," Wally offered. "If Alfred's not tired of feeding me yet."
"Alfie never gets tired of feeding people. He likes feeding people the way you like to run," Dick declared.
"That's good to hear, because he's definitely done more than his fair share of it the past couple of days. I keep thinking maybe I should get him a card for that, but I'm not sure they really make cards for that sort of thing."
Thanks for feeding me after I ran away from Uncle Bad Touch didn't exactly seem like a Hallmark sentiment. Which was too bad, because Wally really needed to buy one for Roy, too.
"Yeah, probably not." Dick shifted, which on the surface wasn't particularly a bad sign, because that's what former acrobats did - they moved. But there were different types of movement, just like there were different types of Supey growlings to decipher. Some meant mild amusement, some meant 'I'm bored out my mind' and others meant 'I have a question to ask and am trying to think how to ask it.'
Dick's current squirms were definitely more of the latter. Since he had a pretty good idea what Dick wanted to ask, Wally certainly wasn't going to make the conversation any easier for him.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Dick asked finally.
Dick shrugged. "You know... stuff. What's been happening."
"I'd rather eat Velocity's earthworms for myself than talk about it."
"Oh. Right. Well, I guess you probably did all the talking you wanted to do about it with Roy, anyway."
"Dude. Are you serious? Are you really going to be jealous over Roy right now?"
Dick had the good grace to actually look embarrassed. "No, because that would be incredibly selfish of me, right? So definitely not at all jealous that you just stopped talking to me entirely one day. And am totally not jealous that instead of talking to me, you picked up and ran all the way to Seattle to talk to Roy instead."
"Well, I'm glad we cleared that up," Wally said sarcastically. "And you're right, you know. It would really make you the biggest, most selfish ass alive. Well, second maybe to Uncle Barry, but that's not exactly company you want to keep these days."
Even as he said it, Wally felt that tiny sting inside of him, the one that reminded him that he was being unloyal towards the man he'd always loved the most.
It just made him more aggravated at himself that he could still feel that way towards someone who obviously didn't care for him at all, and who had taken such sadistic delight in hurting him so badly.
Oh, and there was that feeling of not being able to breathe, again. It was becoming rather irritatingly familiar.
"Wally?" Dick's voice sounded pretty small, and Wally mentally kicked himself. He's only 13, Wally. Don't be such a complete jerkwad. "Are you okay? You look pretty upset. Look, I'm sorry for - "
"It's alright. I just don't know why we're even having this conversation. You're Batman's partner. I had to sit on the floor of Roy's place and tell him everything that happened. I'm sure he already told you, along with the entire League, and probably our team, too."
Dick squirmed again. "He didn't, exactly. But Black Canary and Martian Manhunter sat down with each of us and asked if Flash had ever hurt any of us, or ever been ... inappropriate. So, it's not hard to guess."
"No, I guess it wouldn't be," Wally said quietly. "How ... how is the rest of the team?"
It was a much better question than how am I ever going to show up and face them again?, Wally figured.
"They're worried about you. Upset. I'm not sure Supey entirely understands what's going on, and Kaldur's just been speaking in Atlantean. Artemis figures it translates to I would like to rip that man's balls out through his nostrils, but none of us can say for certain besides Aquaman, and he's not sharing with the class."
"Aquaman's always messing up the team playing deal," Wally agreed. "All of you... I mean, none of you are going to mind having me on your team after this?"
Dick stared at him like he'd grown another head. Or started eating earthworms, one of the two. "We'd all kick The Flash's ass for you," Dick stated."You know, if we could, and if the Justice League didn't already have him under guard."
"But that's just it. I'm the one who should be able to take him out for you. I couldn't. I tried, and I couldn't, and I had to go tattle to Batman and get the League to do it. How can you guys still want me on your team when I'm that useless?"
"None of us think that," Dick said firmly, and it wasn't the voice of a 13-year-old kid who laughed and turned cartwheels and made words up. That was the voice of Batman's protege - forceful and hardened and protective. It was a voice that could have forced fear into The Joker, and for a brief moment, Wally allowed himself to imagine the type of hero his best friend was going to turn into.
Someone terrifying, Wally thought with a small grin - someone who would chase away all the right types of shadows.
Better still, Wally was going to get to stick around and be part of whatever team that ended up having that Dick Grayson on it. That was pretty cool, and even if it couldn't quite make the queasy feeling in Wally's stomach go away, it was a good start.
"I'm glad," Wally said sincerely. "I mean, I'm not really sure where I'm going to end up after this is all over. It's good to know I don't have to worry about my team."
Dick shrugged. "We all get injured in battle, Wally. Sometimes we need our teammates to bandage our wounds, because we can't do it ourselves. This isn't any different, right?"
"This is just an excuse for you to get to use the word hesive instead of adhesive, isn't it?"
Dick smirked at him. "I was thinking about working it in the next reply, yup."
"You're a hopeless, hopeless dork." The tight feeling loosened in Wally's chest as Dick laughed at him, and Wally felt compelled to admit, "I only stopped talking to you because I broke my phone. Apparently, that's what happens when you throw them against the wall."
"So you didn't even call Roy before you went to visit him? You just ran off to his place?"
"This is you being jealous again."
"Sorry." To be perfectly fair, Dick did look sorry. But he also looked a little unsure, and that made Wally feel pretty terrible. His relationship with his uncle was screwed all to pieces, his turtle hid from him most of the time; the last thing Wally wanted to do was mess up his relationship with his best friend.
"Look, I ran away because of what was happening with Uncle Barry, and because I didn't know about my place on the team. And okay, because I was angry at you guys for talking about me behind my back."
"We were worried," Dick interrupted. "You weren't acting yourself, which makes perfect sense. But the whole grr, argh growling thing is Supey's deal, not yours."
"But when I was up there," Wally continued, ignoring Dick's outburst. "You know what made me come back?"
"Making sure The Flash rots in jail?"
Wally shook his head. "I was worried that he was going to hurt my team, but mostly that he was going to hurt you. So ... you can be angry, I guess, that I ran off to eat all of Roy's food, but you should know that my best friend is why I came back."
"Oh," Dick said softly. "Bro hug?"
"Definitely calls for bro hug," Wally agreed.
He was worried, when Dick moved to hug him, because Uncle Barry's taunting voice told him that every touch was going to remind him of the bad touches. But his best friend gave completely dorky acrobat hugs that were nothing at all like the type of touch that Uncle Barry had been giving Wally.
Take that, Uncle Barry, Wally thought triumphantly, as Dick broke the hug. You didn't get to screw up all my human interactions forever after all.
"We should go get some food from Alfie," Dick said confidently. "Then feed your turtle. Then we can either do video games or..."
"Or sneak out and get in some patrol, while Batman is distracted and less likely to kill us for it."
"That sounds like an awesome plan."
"All my plans are awesome."
"You wish, dork," Wally retorted, as he followed Dick into the kitchen.
Barry was vaguely aware of Superman walking into the room, and even more vaguely aware of Superman coming to stand in front of the containment cell.
Curled on his stomach, in a desperate attempt to help gravity make him feel a little less than terrible, Barry struggled to sit up.
"I'm returning the gravity to normal," Superman cautioned. "Give it a moment."
A "moment" stretched for an eternity, but eventually, Barry was able to sit up. Without a word, Superman lifted him up by the arms and escorted him to the meeting room.
Within the room were the remaining members of the Justice League, along with a Jay Garrick who looked more severe and disappointing than Barry could ever have remembered him looking before. Which made perfect sense, Barry supposed, given the circumstances.
Barry took a seat, and wished for his stomach to stop hurting quite so much.
"The evidence is conflicting," Batman stated calmly.
"That's impossible," Barry answered weakly. "I would never hurt my nephew. But listen, I've been thinking. Wally wouldn't have made these claims unless someone was hurting him. It wasn't me. I would never. But obviously someone is and you have to let me go so I can talk to him and figure out -"
"His mother takes a daily vitamin before bed, and his father has a nightly beer," Batman continued. "Both of which tested positive for sedatives."
"Someone's been hurting Mary and Rudolph, too?" A knot of fear began to twist in Barry's gut.
"Wally reported that his parents never heard him cry out for help. It certainly explains why. The sedatives were high enough of a dosage that they could have achieved a considerable amount of damage to their bodies long term."
The idea of his nephew crying out for help against being hurt that way hurt Barry worse than his seizure had. He curled his fingers into his palms. "You have to let me these restraints so that I can find the person responsible for this. Someone is hurting my family and I have to stop them."
"The materials used to make the sedatives all came from your laboratory, Barry."
Barry blinked. "There are a number of people who have access to my laboratory," he said slowly. "It's not exactly closed."
"There aren't a number of people being accused with your crime," Batman pointed out.
"Look, this is stupid," Hal Jordan interrupted. "There is no way that Barry did what you are accusing him of. Nobody who really knows him could think otherwise."
"The kid's aunt does," Batman answered flatly.
And oh, the hurt didn't get much sharper than that, did it? Of all the people who were supposed to believe in him, Iris was supposed to believe in him the most.
"Iris thinks that I would hurt Wally?" Barry asked softly.
Batman started to speak, but Jay interrupted him. "She doesn't know what to think, Barry. What kind of aunt doesn't believe her own nephew, and it's not like the kid can't identify your voice, or your powers, or your movement."
"She's a smart woman," Batman continued. "She knows how predators work. She covers them daily, and what part of your behavior isn't that of a predator?"
"Gee, I don't know, maybe the part where he's saved lives every day?" Hal interrupted.
"Policemen can be predators. So can firemen, doctors, lawyers, and even superheroes," Batman answered. "You just happened to meet a woman with a nephew you found attractive -"
"No. I was never attracted to Wally. For Christ's sake, he's fifteen."
"And younger before that," Batman said, dismissing his point entirely. "You met a single woman with a nephew who not only adored her, but adored your alter ego as well. It gave you perfect access to a perfect target that you thought would be perfectly willing."
Barry's stomach wasn't feeling any better. In fact, by the moment, he grew sicker and sicker, as he listened to Batman talk. "That is how predators work," he agreed softly. "But if that's who I was, then why did I wait so long to make my move on the kid?"
"That's a question we have, too," Batman admitted. "Additionally, there were trace amounts of DNA found in Wally's room. They don't appear to match anyone in the home or the DNA we have on file for you."
"Then that should tell you that someone," Barry said, with the greatest amount of patience he had, "Is impersonating me and hurting my nephew. Just do the lasso test already so I can get out of here and catch him, before he hurts Wally again."
Every minute he sat here, someone could be hurting Wally, like they'd already hurt him before, and ohgodohgod what kind of uncle am I that I couldn't protect my nephew from someone hurting him like that?
What good did it do anyone to be the Fastest Man Alive when he couldn't protect his own family? When someone could slip into their home, impersonate him, and hurt his family?
"Wally is safe where he is," Batman answered, but he motioned to Diana, who rose and slipped the lasso over Barry.
It felt good to run again. As fun as hanging out in the Manor with his best friend was, and as fun as it was to actually be able to call Robin by his actual name, sitting still wasn't fun for Wally, and hadn't been since he'd actually been successful in his lab experiment.
But every time he ran, he thought of Uncle Barry. His uncle was the reason he'd wanted so desperately to be the Fastest Kid Alive, and running now only reminded Wally that he'd lost that partner permanently.
What would it be like, he wondered, to never be able to run alongside The Flash again?
"Hey, we got out here to get away from the whole brooding thing," Robin reminded him.
Wally glanced over to the cycle that Robin was on, and gave a half-hearted smirk. "Sorry. But your city is great for brooding. All dark and cranky and full of people in weird costumes."
"Weird costumes? Look who is talking," Robin snorted.
Wally was about to retort, but his attention was diverted by a scream. There were lots of screams in Gotham, and he was learning that they sounded even more terrified than the ones in Central City ever sounded.
Neither he nor Robin said anything as they sped towards the sound of the scream. Wally arrived their first, and he was greeted with the sight of a teenager about his age, all alone, clutching his neck.
"There was a man," he stammered, and he looked pretty terrified. Wally didn't think anything of it; he lived in Gotham, after all.
"It'll be okay," Wally promised. "We'll get you to the hospital, and - "
"Oh, I think it'll be okay," said a terrifyingly familiar voice. "I don't think he needs a hospital, do you, kid?"
Wally whirled around, to find Uncle Barry in his Flash suit, holding an unconscious Robin over his shoulder.
"Nah, I'm good. Thanks for the money, Mister," the kid-who-wasn't-a-victim-after-all said.
"No problem. Now why don't you run along so my sidekick and I can get better acquainted," Uncle Barry said, with a wide smile that took up his entire face.
"But the Justice League has you," Wally said, and he didn't even care that his voice shook, nor did he care that the other kid wasn't even all the way out of the alley yet. "You can't be here."
His worse dreams were coming true. But not Robin,oh, no, no, no.
"I'm a police scientist, kid. You think I couldn't get out of being accused of a crime? Besides, it wasn't hard to convince them that you'd just been a hysterical brat. Hell, truth be told, I think most of them thought you were begging for it, anyway. Let's be honest, that's the truth, isn't it?"
"Put Robin down." Wally couldn't make his voice stop shaking, no matter that it made Uncle Barry's smile just grow wider. "Whatever you want, it doesn't involve him. J-just put him down and don't hurt him."
"Oh, I don't know. Maybe we should involve him. The more the merrier, right, Kid?"
"No. I won't let you hurt Robin." Wally lunged forward, but Uncle Barry just laughed and grabbed him by the throat. Suddenly, Wally was thrust up against the side of the building leading into the alley, and Uncle Barry's hand was wrapped around his neck.
"I suggest you remember how easily I could snap your little friend's fragile, mortal little neck, Kid."
Wally'd always prided himself on not crying in front of Uncle Barry, no matter what he'd done,but he couldn't help it now. "Please don't hurt him, Uncle Barry, please. I'll do whatever you want, just don't hurt him."
"If you're a good kid, he'll only have to watch." Uncle Barry smiled at him and pulled him close. "If you so much as struggle for a microsecond, I will snap his pretty little neck, got it, Kid?"
"Yeah," Wally said softly, "I got it."
Nobody liked wearing the lasso, to be perfectly honest. It stripped all of a person's control completely away from them, leaving them helpless. It didn't matter if a person didn't have anything to hide, or if they were completely innocent. Wearing the lasso still tore away at the core sense of protection that everyone had - where you were able to shield yourself against any question you didn't want to answer.
Any secret thought or desire could be obtained and exploited, and no matter how powerful a person was, they would be helpless to stop it.
It didn't matter that Diana would never misuse her powers that way. The fear was still there, for anyone who ever had to slip the lasso on.
Barry was no exception.
"Are the allegations against you true, Flash?"
"Have you ever touched your nephew in a sexual manner?"
"No. I would never."
"Do you have any idea why who could be doing these things to Kid Flash?"
"Did you poison Mary and Rudolph West with materials from your laboratory?"
There was no satisfaction to be gained from the gentle way that Diana removed the lasso, or the embarrassed look on some of his colleagues' faces. Especially not the look of concern on Jay's face.
Barry wouldn't allow himself any satisfaction at the way that Hal clapped him on the back and proclaimed, "I told you he wouldn't do it. Not in a million years."
When this was all over, maybe then Barry could allow himself to be thankful for having such a good friend - even if it was just the one friend, instead of the many that Barry had once counted.
He also didn't count it as a victory when Batman removed his restraints.
"Your nephew wasn't lying," Batman said simply.
"No. Someone was hurting him, and doing a good impression of me while they were at it." Which is why Barry couldn't count any victories or gain any satisfaction from being vindicated.
Someone had hurt Wally and Barry was horrified that he'd get an opportunity to do it again.
"We need to break the news to Wally together," Batman stated. "Right now, Wally's still ... afraid of you."
Barry spared a moment to close his eyes and compose himself. He won't be. We can work through this. No matter what. "Let's go."
Wally tried to think of a different plan, one that would ensure Robin's safety and still prevent the last thing Wally ever wanted his best friend to have to watch.
He tried to think of something the entire time that they ran. To be fair, they stopped long before they should have.
"Ohio is close enough to where we want to be, don't ya think?" Uncle Barry asked, as he came to a stop in an abandoned barn in the middle of the aforementioned state. "I'm going to sit you down now, Kid. Feel free to escape, if you like. I have another prize to keep me busy if you decide to be foolish."
Wally wanted to be foolish. He wanted to be foolish and rescue his best friend and get them out of there.
But a microsecond was a terribly short amount of time and Uncle Barry was just plain faster. It wasn't as though they hadn't raced enough times for Wally to know that.
Uncle Barry wouldn't really snap Robin's neck a little voice whispered inside of Wally's head. He couldn't get away with it.
Look what he's gotten away with already, part of Wally argued right back.
Uncle Barry doesn't kill. He doesn't even threaten to kill.
Uncle Barry doesn't rape, either. And yet...
So you're just going to let him do it again. And make Robin watch.
What if I fight him and I lose? What if he does snap Robin's neck? I can't stop him. I'm not fast enough. What am I supposed to do?
Fight. Don't let this happen. Don't let Robin watch you be so weak.
But weak was all Wally could be, while Uncle Barry secured Robin to one of the barn's gates. It looked like the kind that had kept horses in their stalls, once upon a time.
Once Robin was tied up, he gave a soft groan that showed he was beginning to wake up. Wally had really hoped he would stay out of it for the entire time. No such luck.
"There, there. Don't struggle, little Robin. It will just make things worse for Wally." Uncle Barry smiled at him, and patted Robin's head, which made Wally almost as nauseous as all the touching ever had. Then he looked at Wally. "You know how easy it would be to just vibrate my fingers right through his pretty little head? It'd kill him almost instantly, of course."
And the fear was overwhelming. Wally might have been a superhero, but he wasn't a Green Lantern. He wasn't fearless and the idea of Robin being hurt was enough to reduce Wally to begging, no matter how disgusted one of the voices in his head might have been at his weakness.
"Uncle Barry, I already promised. I'll do anything. Just don't hurt Robin. Please."
"KF, you don't have to do this," Robin interrupted. "Just run. Get away from here."
It might have been convincing, if Robin hadn't winced when Uncle Barry stroked his hair, and winced again when Uncle Barry tore a piece of his cape off and used it to gag Robin.
The fear inside him grew and only strengthened Wally's resolve not to leave.
"That's a good kid. You can start by taking off your clothes. No, no. Stay where you are. Strip for us."
Wally swallowed hard and very carefully did not meet Robin or Uncle Barry's eyes as he began to take off his Kid Flash costume.
"Oh, it's amazing how much I missed this," Uncle Barry chuckled as Wally undressed. "You know, I never thought I would enjoy you quite so much when I started. That wasn't in my plans. I guess we can just call it an extra bonus perk."
Wally shivered, whether out of the coolness of the Ohio barn or the delight in his uncle's voice, he wasn't sure.
"Now, I want you to stroke yourself," Uncle Barry instructed. "And look at me, Kid."
Wally swallowed and forced himself to obey the order. Looking at Uncle Barry's smug little smile made him feel all the weaker for not being able to wipe that smirk off Uncle Barry's face.
And why, oh why, did he feel guilty for wanting to punch Uncle Barry so badly? If anyone ever deserved it, it was Uncle Barry.
"I wonder who you think about late at night, when I'm not there and you're touching yourself," Uncle Barry cooed. "Is it your little pal here? Oh, what a friendship of legend the two of you were destined to have. I suspect that won't be true now. With that core friendship broken, I wonder what will happen to your little team? Not exactly going to be legends, are we?"
Wally suspected not, and that kind of hurt grew in his chest and moved upwards, to lodge in his throat.
"Though I suspect it might be me that you think of," Uncle Barry continued. "You always did love our sessions so. Didn't you, Kid?"
"You know I didn't," Wally hissed.
Uncle Barry shook his head and gave Robin's head a firm little squeeze. It was firm enough that Robin cried out softly behind his gag. It was enough for Wally to have to look at Robin's face and ... well, he'd expected the disgust. But that made the hurt in Wally's throat grow tighter.
"Let's try again, Kid. Keep stroking yourself, and tell me just how much you want it."
"P-please, Uncle Barry. I want it so bad." It wasn't even the littlest bit convincing, but apparently, Uncle Barry didn't care about that.
"That's a good kid. You want me to fuck you, is that it? Because we only got that one session, and that just wasn't enough, was it, Kid?"
"No, it wasn't," Wally whispered.
"Beg me to do it again. Keep stroking yourself, Wally. I didn't tell you to stop."
"Please, Uncle Barry," the hurt was tumbling out of his throat, no matter how hard Wally tried to stop it.
"Please what, kid? You want me to take that tight little ass of yours? You want me to fuck you?"
No, no, no.
"Yes, Uncle Barry," Wally said softly.
"Well, since you asked so nicely, Kid. It would be terrible of me to deny you, wouldn't it?"
So slow Barry thought irritably, the whole way to Gotham.
But Batman was right. Wally was afraid of him, and they had to do this the right way. His poor nephew had already been through enough, and Barry wasn't going to make it any worse.
When they got there, Alfred looked quite displeased at Barry's presence.
"It was an imposter," Batman explained simply. "Where are the boys?"
Alfred took the news of an imposter in stride and answered, "Upstairs, playing video games. Quite loud and violent ones, but I suspected that Master Wally needed such a release. Shall I fetch them and bring them down to the cave?"
"Yes, Alfred, thank you."
Anger began to replace the fear that had been in Barry's stomach. He was just now beginning to consider the kind of hurt that Wally had been in, and that someone would do that to his nephew made Barry furious.
When they found out who it was, Barry hoped the League was there to stop him. Otherwise, Barry wasn't so sure he would be able to keep his vow against killing.
The pure amount of rage he felt almost frightened Barry.
"Save the anger for later, Barry," Batman cautioned. "Your nephew is hurt, and if you act angry, he's going to think it's because you are angry at him."
"I could never be angry at him. This isn't his fault," Barry said quietly.
"He's a frightened 15-year-old. He doesn't know that," Batman answered. "Now we should consider who would be able to impersonate both you and your speed, and who also knows your secret identities."
"It has to be a new player," Barry answered. "None of my Rogues fit the profile, even if they had found out our identities and would hurt Wally that way, and I'm pretty sure none of them would."
"They're villains," Batman said flatly.
"Yes, but not every villain is the Joker," Barry answered. "Though some are obviously worse."
Their conversation was interrupted by a frustrated Alfred.
"Where are the boys?" Barry asked quickly.
"I apologize, Master Barry. It seems they have ... snuck out."
"You can track Robin, right?" Barry asked, trying to be rational, despite the fear inside him. They were together, they shouldn't be harmed, the villain had never attacked while Wally was with someone else before.
But villains could change their method of attack. Frequently they did so.
"Of course." Batman's fingers flew across an electronic device on his wrist, and Barry shifted his weight impatiently. His fear doubled when Batman's lips turned into a frown.
"What is it?"
"They're not in Gotham. That doesn't seem right. With everything that is going on, I don't think that Robin would have consented to a cross country trip."
Barry didn't think so, either. And his nephew wouldn't have forced the issue, Barry was sure, so that left only one other option. The villain had them.
"Where are they?" Barry demanded, and Bruce paused just long enough to make Barry want to rip the device out of his hands.
"They're in Ohio," Bruce said eventually. "Fifty miles north of Columbus."
Barry didn't wait for specifics. He just ran.
Uncle Barry stroked Robin's cheek lightly and again, Wally had to see the revulsion written all over Robin's face. Wally didn't blame him; it matched the nauseous feeling in the pit of Wally's stomach.
Still, he had no doubt that after this was all said and done, his best friend wasn't going to want him as a friend anymore.
No more bro hugs, a tiny, nagging voice whispered in the back of his head.
"Remember, little Robin," Uncle Barry whispered, and for just a minute, the voice was all wrong, before it slipped back into the familiar mid-western drawl, "I know you can get out of these restraints, but I can have him halfway across the country and broken before you can do anything. So don't be stupid. Unless you've suddenly become quicker - " Uncle Barry was on top of Wally then, pushing him onto the ground. "- than a Flash. Remember to look at me, kid. No closing those pretty green eyes of yours."
Wally forced himself to look up at Uncle Barry, no matter how much he would have preferred to look at anything but the smug smirk all over Uncle Barry's face. Wally dug his fingers into the moist ground beneath him to keep from crying out as Uncle Barry pushed his way into him.
As disgusted as Robin already was at him, Wally didn't want to show the kind of weakness that would make his best friend have even more reason to be disgusted.
"Poor Kid. If you weren't so hard for me, I'd think you were upset, or something." Uncle Barry laughed and he was close enough that Wally could feel the warmth of his breath on his own lips. Wally wanted to run, he wanted to vomit, and he wanted to cry - simultaneously.
"Worried about the little Robin, are we? Don't see why. He's pretty replaceable. Eventually, even Batman will see it, and there will be more little Robins. Some smarter, some prettier, and a few almost angry enough to be worthy opponents."
"You stupid, stupid boy. Never were really worthy of the suit. I'm doing the world, Central and Keystone a favor and they can't even see it."
"What - mmph!"
Uncle Barry's mouth was on his then, and Uncle Barry's hands were digging into his wrists, pushing his hands up over his head. It was different than it had been before. Before, Uncle Barry's hands had always been gentle, even when his thrusts had hurt Wally.
But now his hands were rough, and he sounded angry. It sounded like he couldn't even stand Wally, and that -
It shouldn't matter. He didn't care about you before, so stop it. Stop being the stupid kid he thinks you are Wally chided himself.
Uncle Barry's mouth moved to Wally's neck, and the soft kisses that Uncle Barry had given him before now turned into angry bite marks. Each bite was harder than the last, and Wally couldn't quite stop himself from crying out.
"Good, good. Oh, how I've missed that sound, Kid. For the rest of my life, I will never be tired of hearing you cry out in pain. For the rest of my life, it will be what brings me pleasure when I am alone." The words, half-muffled against Wally's neck, still made the world spin even slower than it ever did before.
Something is wrong. Uncle Barry wouldn't... This isn't Uncle Barry.
The thought gave Wally a brief moment of hope. Maybe something was wrong. Maybe Uncle Barry just wasn't himself. Maybe everything that had happened could be explained away - Maybe Uncle Barry didn't really get off on hearing him in pain.
Please. Oh, god, please.
But then Uncle Barry stopped what he was doing, and rose just enough so that he could look down into Wally's face. His hands dug even more tightly and he vibrated inside of Wally.
It could have, on a purely theoretical basis, have felt good. There were toys that were modeled and sold on that very basis - it wasn't as though Wally didn't have Internet access. He knew this. He knew science, and how the body worked, and how it could have felt, if Uncle Barry had taken his time and vibrated gently. As disgusting as that would have been, it could have, in theory, been a pleasant sensation.
But it was the anything but gentle. It was pure agony. Wally's vision went white with the pain. There wasn't any simpering or attempts to cry out - Wally was simply screaming. He couldn't even make himself stop.
And Uncle Barry just kept doing it. He wouldn't stop, no matter how loudly Wally screamed.
"Tsk, tsk. Is that a struggle? Remember what I told you about struggling, boy. Lie still and take it like a good little brat, unless you want Robin to get hurt."
Wally wasn't even trying to struggle, but at the mention of Robin, all he could do was worry that his reaction was going to be bad enough that Robin was going to try something stupid and heroic like breaking free and Wally wouldn't be able to do anything to stop it, andifUncleBarryvibratedinsideRobinthiswaywoulditkillhim and -
And the thought process was stopped by a very sudden gust of wind knocking Uncle Barry off of Wally, and for a dizzy, confused microsecond, Wally was certain that Robin had gotten free and was attempting to do something very stupid.
But then his brain registered the image in front of him.
Two Uncle Barrys. Fighting each other.
HehurtWally.HehurtWally.HehurtWally. That thought, on continual loop, was all Barry could think about as he slammed into the imposter, knocking him off of his nephew. There was a noticeable trail of blood as Barry ripped him away from Wally, and that just made Barry all the more furious.
Barry had never fought anyone as fast as himself before. All of his Rogues had various talents that made it difficult to battle them, but they were, at the end of the day, slow. It was an advantage that Barry took for granted.
This man, this man who had hurt Barry's nephew, was fast. That naturally made it harder to hit him, though Barry's pure rage made it equally hard to hit him. Speed was nothing without the ability to focus.
"Oh, Barry Allen. How good of you to finally join us," the imposter laughed. "I was beginning to think that poor Wallace was enjoying our sessions too much to ever tell anyone."
"He didn't enjoy anything. You hurt him."
"What are you going to do, Allen, kill me?" The imposter continued to laugh at him.
God help me Barry thought. You have no idea how much I'd like to.
The urge grew with the sound of Wally's whimper behind them.
Wally was trying to reach his pants. It was difficult for a number of reasons. One, he didn't want to take his eyes off the two Uncle Barrys fighting in front of him, and two, the Uncle Barry that had hurt him had done a pretty thorough job.
His powers might have kept him alive, but they couldn't quite soothe the pain that Wally experienced as he reached for his pants. He could feel his body trying to heal, but he wasn't quite at The Flash's level of powers yet and the same lack that gave him nosebleeds when he tried to follow his uncle through a wall also made Wally's recovery slower than Uncle Barry's would have been.
But Wally wasn't going to focus on Uncle Barry right now - not the one who wore pants and not the one that was currently without pants - because that was making his whole effort to get his own pants even more taxing.
At least, until Robin knelt down beside him and handed Wally his pants. "Here."
"The Evil Uncle Barry that bad at making knots?" Wally asked.
"Epic fail at making knots," Robin answered. "Uh, do you need help walking?"
Wally wanted to tell him no, because one, touching was not high on his list of fun things at the moment and two, how pathetic was he that he couldn't even walk by himself?
Hadn't he shown enough weakness to his best friend? Really, Wally could do with not showing any more. "I've got it," he said, irritably - possibly more irritably than Robin deserved, since Robin hadn't actually done anything - as he ripped the pants out of Robin's hands.
True to his word, Wally was able to jerk the pants on and even wiggle into them, despite the immense pain. Walking, on the other hand, was a different matter entirely.
"Okay, I could use a little help," Wally muttered, trying to ignore the not-entirely-small pile of blood pooling on his pants.
To his great surprise, Robin scooped Wally up in a manner that was entirely too close to bridal style to fit Wally's comfort level. "You're about two foot two," Wally pointed out, because the situation definitely called for an exaggeration. "How are you going to carry me anywhere?"
"Acrobatics," Robin said haughtily. "Hello, upper body strength? I've got this covered. Just hang on."
Weakness be damned, Wally followed the instructions and hung on to Robin's neck with all his might.
The imposter lunged for Robin and Wally when they were half way out of the barn, and that was when Barry regained his ability to focus.
It was also when he realized he had no problem fighting dirty under the current circumstances. Which was why the imposter earned a well-placed round of punches to his genitals.
Barry wasn't Batman, but you didn't have to be a martial arts specialist to hurt someone when you were punching them in the private region. Moreover, super speed punches had the benefit of hurting more than a traditional punch would have.
Barry enjoyed the way the pain that flashed across the imposter's face, and the way he doubled over, entirely more than was strictly appropriate for a superhero. And while he knew this deep inside, it did not stop Barry from taking advantage of the man being doubled over in pain to slam him against the ground. Barry held him in place with one hand wrapped tightly around the imposter's throat and figured that if their powers were similar, it would be harder for the imposter to vibrate through the ground than it would have been a simple object.
It was, truth be told, not a wise way to hold someone in place when a part of Barry ached to snap the man's neck.
The man's low groans of pain gave way to a low laugh. "I repeat, Allen, what are you going to do, kill me? Because we both know that isn't true. Barry Allen, patron saint of the Justice League, kill someone? Please. You'd never."
It was goading, Barry recognized. It was almost as if the imposter wanted to make Barry snap and actually kill him. Barry had seen a lot of stupid antics by villains in his time as a hero, but that really took the cake.
"You've been hurting my nephew," Barry said slowly - painfully slowly, for him.
"Oh, I wouldn't call it hurting," the imposter retorted. "What's the matter, does the big, strong superhero have to use a euphemism to describe the simple act of fucking? Let's not, Allen. Let's just cut through the bullshit and call it what it is. I've been fucking him, and I don't see why you're so upset. He loved every minute of it."
"No," Barry hissed, and he curled his free hand into a fist, digging his fingers into his palm as far as they would go, to keep the hand wrapped around the imposter's throat steady. "Youhurthim. You. Hurt. Him. But that's probably what you tried to tell him, isn't it? Was that it? You tried to make him believe some sick lie to justify what you were doing."
"Of course he liked it, Allen. The boy worships you, and he was stupid enough to believe I was you. You think he didn't relish being underneath his idol? Because he did."
"He had no reason to believe that you weren't me," Barry admitted softly. "Everyone else we've fought, they've had bigger motives than hurting us. Wealth, fame, world domination. But you - all you were ever motivated in was being a creepy pedophile. Nothing he's ever fought has suggested that you would have such a sick ... such a pathetic motivation to be a supervillain."
Barry had dealt with pedophiles before, of course. But always before, it had been as Barry Allen, police scientist. Always before, he'd dealt with them strictly as a scientist looking at the evidence objectively. While it never made their crimes less horrifying, it was another thing entirely to have to deal with one this close up, to look into eyes that didn't seem to have so much as a shimmer of remorse in them for committing an act so vile.
But while there was no remorse, there was definitely a response behind the imposter's mask at Barry's words.
"I would never have become a supervillain if it hadn't been for you, Barry Allen!" the imposter yelled - at least as loudly as he could, with Barry's hand still tightly wrapped around his throat. Barry couldn't deny the small shiver of satisfaction he gained from the hoarseness that accompanied the would-be shout.
"I've never even met you," Barry snapped.
"Oh, you poor, ignorant fool. Don't you have the cosmic treadmill yet? Surely those precious scientist powers of yours let you know that time travel is possible."
"You're from the future, then?" Barry asked. He clenched and unclenched his fist, expelling lack of patience into his palm. Being from the future would explain a lot - how he knew about their identities, for example.
"Timing is a funny thing, really. It's so hard to get it just right. One trip might destroy your entire world. It might break every ounce of faith a guy ever had in his favorite superhero, for example. It might tell him that he ends up being the greatest foe his hero's ever faced," the imposter revealed. "But then, sometimes time can be a great friend. It can help you force Saint Barry to pay, by taking away everything he ever held dear, just the way he did to you."
"I'm trying to have sympathy for what you've been through," Barry said slowly, and it was the truth, no matter how much he hated the man before him, no one started out evil. If Barry had been responsible for that change in anyway, he would be willing to bear the weight of that... even if it meant he was responsible, no matter how indirectly, for hurting his nephew.
"I don't need your pity, Allen."
"But there's one thing standing in my way," Barry continued quietly. "Your problem was with me. You took out your frustrations about me on The Kid. That's - that's unforgivable."
"It was the best way to hurt you, you fool," the imposter retorted, and Barry's stomach twisted at the reply. "I thought about going after Iris - she's very pretty, your wife, isn't she? And oh, it's quite a little love story the two of you have. One for the ages. Someday, she'll write a book about you, and it will go a long way in bestowing you with the saint status you never deserved."
"If you ever touch Iris - " Barry began, and his hand tightened around the imposter's neck.
It would be so easy to give in. So very, very easy. As it was, Barry could feel every swallow, every pulse, every breath.
"You'll what? Kill me. Oh, no, never Saint Barry," the imposter scoffed. "We've already established that. Besides, we both know that if anything was going to push you over the edge, it would be hurting The Kid. That's why I chose him. Such a perfect partnership you had - the stuff of legends. It's pathetic really, how much he yearned for your approval, how much he wanted to be just like you. Such a stupid, stupid kid."
"Why?" Barry forced himself not to yell, but he couldn't quite get passed that point. "What kind of man goes after a child?"
"That relationship and trust deserved to be ruined. You ruined my life, Barry Allen. You deserve to have the most precious and innocent of your relationships ruined. If The Kid manned up and told anyone, you'd be in trouble with the League. If he didn't, your precious relationship would still be ruined. It will be, of course. I've succeeded there, and even you know that, don't you, Allen? No matter what happens to me, no matter what prison you try to send me to - even if you manned up and actually killed me, I've won. You'll never hug The Kid again, without reminding him of what I've done to him. He'll never be able to look at you without hearing my voice. I've destroyed what you had, and you can't ever fix it." The imposter laughed, as Barry's free hand shook, despite his best effort to remain in control. "That I got to feel the little brat wriggle around on the other end of my dick was really just icing on the cake."
Barry couldn't talk anymore at that point, and he gave in to the urge to make the imposter suffer. He let lose with the punches, and as satisfying as the first sight of blood from the imposter's nose was, Barry made sure never to hit the same spot twice.
Wally was a bit beyond having any real understanding of time at the moment. Most days, he was able to fake it pretty well, for a speedster, with the notable exception of such terrible classes as history and English, which dragged on forever.
But with everything that had happened lately, Wally really wasn't in the mood to pretend right now. So he had no idea how much time had passed since he and Robin had left the barn, before the Justice League showed up.
Oh, and Jay Garrick. That was just great.
Nobody ever wanted to be looked at like that from Superman, that was for sure.
"Hey, Supes," Robin said lightly. "Maybe you could uh, tone down the whole pity look? I'm sure we look pretty terrible, but it's not doing wonders for our egos at the moment."
"I'm sorry," Superman said quietly. "Batman contacted us and sent us your coordinates. He has reason to believe that a supervillain impersonating the Flash - "
"Is currently getting beat up by someone who I'm guessing is the real Flash," Robin interrupted. "In the barn, about a mile back."
An imposter? Wally instantly began to wonder just how long the man had been impersonating his uncle. It was only recently that he didn't act like Uncle Barry... well, as long as the whole "bad touch" thing didn't figure in.
But the whole "bad touch" deal had been completely out of the blue. Maybe the imposter had been a stranger all along...
That didn't exactly make Wally feel any better. Some strange man had been sneaking into his bedroom and Wally hadn't even been smart enough to figure out that it hadn't been his uncle.
The urge to vomit had become a familiar one over the past week, but Wally closed his eyes against the urge. Vomiting on Robin would be a pretty terrible way of saying "thank you for getting me out of harm's way," wouldn't it?
The next person to speak was Wonder Woman. "The League will assist The Flash. In the meantime, the First Flash will take you back to the Hall of Justice to keep you safe. Batman will be meeting you there."
"KF needs medical attention," Robin spoke up.
"Dr. Mid-nite is waiting on you back at the Hall of Justice," Superman answered. "Batman was ... afraid you'd need help during his transmission."
"I'll be fine," Wally corrected. "Super fast healing powers, remember?"
"We'll get you both checked out, Son," Jay Garrick answered. The Justice League took that as their cue to take off towards the barn, and Jay Garrick stepped forward and reached for Wally.
Wally tried really hard not to wince when he was passed into Jay's arms. He wasn't entirely unsuccessful.
"Be careful," Robin scolded. "He's hurt."
It was a nice cover up for the wince, even if it wasn't the reason Wally was wincing.
"Sorry about that, Wally." Jay's voice was so kind that Wally could almost fool himself into believing that the older man wouldn't be furious at him for lying about Uncle Barry - because, after all, that was what Wally had been doing, wasn't it?
Jay scooped Robin into his other arm. "I need you to hold on, Robin."
"Pft. Everyone keeps forgetting my amazing acrobatic powers. I'm definitely turbed about it."
"Robin, don't talk back to a member of the Justice Society," Wally said, half-heartedly.
"Why not? I talk back to Batman. Superman, sometimes, too."
Jay ignored their squabbling - which was a welcome distraction, Wally had to admit - and took off at a run towards the Hall.
"Flash! Flash, stop it! You'll kill him." Clark's hands were stronger than Barry's and they were pulling him off the imposter - but not before Hal, John and Guy used their rings to hold the imposter in place.
"I"m a scientist, Superman," Barry answered. "I knew exactly where to hit him without killing him."
"That's not what we do," Superman said, his voice rich in disapproval.
"Get back to me when you give a damn about Superboy," Barry answered. "Because on that day, you'll have a right to pretend that you have any idea what this man has done."
Superman's lips thinned into a straight line and Barry did feel guilty for what he'd said. Even if it was truth, it was a low blow - and Clark wasn't to blame for what had happened here.
"He'll pay for what he's done," Diana promised. Barry watched her take in the scene, and all the evidence that lay scattered in the barn, including the small amounts of blood.
Wally's blood, though there was plenty of the imposter's blood as well.
"I have to admit, Allen, I was beginning to think that you almost had it in you," the imposter stated, with that maddening little laugh. "It was something, finally seeing you pushed to the edge. It wasn't nearly as delightful as fucking Wallace has been, but it was nice nonetheless. Too bad your pathetic little friends had to show up and ruin everything."
The look on Diana's face said plainly that if she had wanted to execute Barry before, when she thought he was guilty, that desire went doubly so for the imposter.
But that wasn't how the Justice League worked. Clark was right about that. Instead, Hal used his ring to force the imposter's pants back on and Clark slipped the restraints that had been on Barry not too long ago onto the imposter.
Barry remembered exactly how those seizures had felt and how painful they had been, even though he hadn't moved for that long. He remembered how long the pain had seemed to last and how it increased with every additional effort to move.
He remembered those things clearly, and in the fraction of the second in which the restraints snapped into place and the Lanterns and Clark stepped back to allow the imposter the freedom to move (no doubt to discover what the restraints would do) Barry made a decision.
He ran forward, grabbed the imposter and continued to run. A trip around the world wasn't that long, when you were The Flash. But from experience, Barry figured the restraints and the seizures they were causing made the trip seem that much longer.
In the time it had taken the Justice League to arrive at the barn, Barry had had time to consider the imposter's words. Barry knew the statistics and how badly damaged victims of sexual assault could be. He knew that the imposter's threatened consequences might very well happen. Wally might never heal, mentally. Wally and Barry's relationship might never heal. It was too late for Barry to do anything about that now - he'd failed Wally when it had mattered - but if Barry and Wally were never going to be able to fix their relationship, then at least the imposter was never going to be able to forget the pain he'd been in either.
He dropped an alive, but unconscious imposter at Clark's feet when he returned to Ohio.
"Where did you go?" Superman demanded.
"Around the world. I wanted to make sure the imposter knew exactly how the restraints worked."
Superman's eyes widened. "You could have - "
"Killed him? No. He has the same healing powers I do. They kept him alive. Killing him wasn't going to happen."
It wasn't compassionate, and it wasn't kind, and it wasn't fair - Barry knew that. But there would be time tomorrow for regret. Barry couldn't spare any today.
"Let's get imposter boy back to the Watchtower," Hal said. "We can argue about The Flash's actions later - preferably after you've all apologized for believing him to be a pedophile."
With that, Diana scooped up the imposter with her lasso, and the League headed towards the Hall of Justice.
Wally stared at the ceiling of the medical bay the whole time his examination took place, while Batman, Robin and Jay Garrick waited outside. He forced himself to think about other things, while Mid-nite gathered "evidence."
When Mid-nite was done, Batman, Robin and Jay Garrick entered.
"I think it's best if you come home with me," Batman said, slowly and just as kindly as he had before Wally had turned out to be a giant liar. "This way we can allow your family to get settled in and the imposter processed within the criminal justice system before we send you home."
"Plus, Velocity is still with us, and he'll miss you," Robin chimed in. "Don't want to traumatize the turtle."
"It might be for the best," Jay Garrick agreed.
Wally agreed to that plan, and he noted that neither Batman nor Jay mentioned his parents. Wally wasn't surprised by that. They had to be angry at Wally, after the trouble he'd caused Uncle Barry and Aunt Iris.
Still, he wished that his parents would at least put up a fight and want him back. But since they didn't, Batman scooped Wally up - humiliatingly - into his arms, and Wally tried really hard not to flinch.
"You'll always remember the first time Uncle Barry - no. The Imposter's voice sing-songed in Wally's mind. That was turning out to be true.
Nobody mentioned anything about Uncle Barry, before they left the Watchtower, and Wally didn't ask.
Wally spent two days - not the originally prescribed week, because apparently Mid-nite underestimated the awesome healing power of speedsters - hanging out in the guest bedroom he'd been assigned in Wayne Manor.
The first night was full of food and hot cocoa and playing with the few games that Robin had that didn't require excessive movement.
The second night, Robin showed up in the middle of the night. It would have been annoying to Wally's sleep schedule, if Wally had been able to do much sleeping at all.
"Hey," Robin said. "I wake you up?"
"Can I come in?"
"If you want. Couldn't sleep?"
"Nightmares," Robin answered. The shrug he gave was supposed to be nonchalant one, Wally supposed. It was a pretty bad imitation of one, though.
"Yeah, I hear you on those. Welcome to the reason I'm not sleeping," Wally answered.
Dick walked in, shut the door quietly behind him and took a seat on the reclining sofa that Batman had in his guest bedroom for who-knew-what reasons. Really, who had a sofa in their bedroom?
A moment stretched way too long, before Robin blurted out, "I'm sorry."
"What are you sorry for?" Wally demanded. "Because I know I'm usually way smarter than most people give me credit for - " except for when I can't tell the difference between a stranger and my uncle he mentally amended, " - but I'm sitting here and trying to figure what has happened the last couple of days that isn't one hundred percent my fault and I'm coming up empty. Except that time that Velocity pooped on you, yesterday. I did warn you about that."
Dick shook his head, and didn't smile or crack a joke at the memory of turtle poop, which was how Wally knew that things were truly dire. As if he'd needed an additional reminder.
"If I hadn't suggested we go out on patrol, none of this would have happened. The imposter wouldn't have been able to get to you."
"He got to us, and I led him to directly to you," Wally reminded Dick. "That's my fault."
"It's my city. I should have protected you," Dick insisted.
"He's my supervillain. I should have protected you," Wally argued. "And after we were captured, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't think of how to save us. He could have hurt you - "
"But he didn't," Dick countered. "Because you saved me by sacrificing yourself to the imposter."
"Because I was too weak to do anything else," Wally said bitterly.
"Dude! Keep it down. You're going to wake up Batman."
"Bruce already knew I was awake when I crept out of my bedroom and snuck down the hall," Dick retorted. "He hears floorboards, you know."
"What a creepster."
"It's in the job description," Dick answered. "And it's supposed to be in mine. Which is why you should hate me forever. Because I kind of messed that up."
When Dick was upset - which, to be fair, wasn't something he let people see a lot, because Robin had to be stronger than that - he responded by withdrawing into himself. It was a pretty rotten thing to do to his best friend, but Wally couldn't deny his responsibility when Dick curled his knees up to his chest and hugged them tightly.
"Sure, I could do that," Wally agreed. "Just like you could hate me for forcing you to have to watch me get hurt. Which, you know, I'm sure didn't bring up any issues about your parents at all. Except for how it totally did."
"That's not your fault!" Dick protested, sounding angry, which Wally supposed was a better sign than withdrawn. "It's not your fault anymore than it's my parent's fault for what Zucco did."
"Well, if it's not my fault for not protecting you, then it's not your fault for not protecting me!" Wally snapped, more than a little peevishly. Then he felt bad, because Dick was thirteen years old. "Look...I have a lot of crap to deal with right now, okay? I can't add your guilt to the pile, Dick. I'm sorry if that makes me a crappy friend."
"It doesn't," Dick said immediately. "I - I'm sorry for dumping this on you."
"Don't worry about it." Wally sighed and leaned back into the pillow. He was exhausted. "You know, when this is all over, you and I are going to need so much therapy."
"More than we needed before?" Dick asked.
"Yeah, and considering that you were a witness to your parents' murder and I was so desperate to be my hero that I subjected myself to a potentially lethal science experiment, that really says something, doesn't it?"
"It says that our therapist is going to be pretty rich when she's done with us."
Wally gave a soft laugh. "She'll have a better set of bathrooms than Bruce Wayne does."
"Yeah. We should coerce Roy into going with us," Dick said thoughtfully. "So she can afford a nice kitchen, too."
"Oh, god. Roy in therapy. Do you think we can convince him it's not okay to throw things at the nice therapist lady?"
Dick picked up a pillow from the sofa and stood up swiftly, throwing the pillow in mock anger onto the floor. He gave his best attempt at lowering his voice to mimic Roy's when he spoke, "And then Batman came to my apartment and brought us food. Like we were some kind of sidekicks!"
"Tell me, Mister Harper, how does that make you feel?"
"It makes me feel angry! I rescue hot chicks from groups of assassins all by myself! I'm not a sidekick! And now I'm out of hats to throw at you, so I'm even angrier!"
Wally laughed. "Dude, stop making fun of Roy for having feelings."
"I'm not!" Dick protested. "I totally get that sometimes things are very whelming."
"Aw, you're back to making up words. I was beginning to worry about that."
Dick shrugged. "It hasn't felt appropriate for a while, you know?"
"Yeah, I get that," Wally agreed. Lots of things hadn't felt appropriate for a while now.
Dick leaned down to pick up the pillow and placed it back on the sofa. "I guess I should probably go try to get some more sleep."
"Do you - do you want to stay? I mean, touching is really, really bad right now, but the bed is pretty freaking huge and ... well, it might not make the nightmares go away, but they might make it better when I wake up and see that you're safe?" Wally bit his lip, and wondered how a solitary week had turned him into the world's most giant wuss.
But Dick beamed at him. "Would you rather I sleep on the sofa? That would minimize the chance of accidental touching."
"That'd work," Wally agreed. "Need a blanket?"
"No, I'm good." Dick yawned and stretched, and curled up onto the sofa, which, to be fair, was about the size of Wally's bed back home.
It was the best impersonation of a cat that Wally had ever seen a human being do.
"We totally have to tell our therapist about this," Wally informed Dick. "And then, Doctor, we camped out in Batman's guest room."
"This?" Dick asked. "Nah, this is normal. This is just teammates watching out for each others' backs."
"Yeah, I guess. Goodnight, Robin."
Wally took a deep breath, leaned back into the pillow, and tried not to think about what his family was doing right now, or whether they were thinking about him at all. That went doubly true for Uncle Barry, which wasn't new, even if the specific reasons were new.
Six hours was an incredibly long time for a speedster. But that was how long it took to deal with the fallout of everything the imposter - Professor Zoom, he was calling himself - had done. First, there was the need to wait while the imposter gained consciousness, during which Barry ran back and forth to the outside of the medbay.
He wanted to go in there and tell Wally everything would be okay. He wanted to hold him and apologize...
"You'll make things worse," Batman said, flatly, and even as Barry wanted to argue, he knew that Bruce was right. So he let Jay and Bruce and Robin take care of things.
He couldn't change what had happened, but he could do everything in his power to keep it from getting worse. He could do that much.
"I'll run ahead, have a talk with Iris and the Wests. Wally's a good kid," Jay told him. "Things will work out, Barry."
Then came Zoom's interrogation - a much more formal version of the questioning that Barry had conducted in the barn. They followed the interrogation with the official discussion of the evidence against Zoom, during which Barry tried to remain as much in the mindset of his police scientist role as possible, because a discussion about evidence against a man he had caught in the act of raping his nephew was almost too much.
Then came the apologies.
"We wanted to be fair to Wally, you understand that, don't you, Bare?" Black Canary asked.
"If we had let our doubts stand in the way, he could have continued to be hurt," Superman stated, as though Barry needed to be reminded of that fact.
"We needed to make sure the other sidekicks were safe," Aquaman stated. "It appears we failed entirely."
"It wasn't just Wally. Many of us have had interactions with Professor Zoom this week that have been been placing your character in suspicion," Martian Manhunter explained.
"Yeah, and maybe the fact that he suddenly started acting completely out of character was a good sign something fuzzy was going on," Hal suggested, rolling his eyes.
"Everyone," Barry said quietly. "I understand that you were trying to protect my nephew. I respect and appreciate that. Maybe we should move the conversation along to the matter of what we are going to do with Zoom?"
"He belongs in prison," Green Arrow argued. "Even after all he's done, he still has basic rights."
"Maybe he shouldn't," Hal answered back. "Maybe that's too good for him."
"Constitutional rights. Right to Due Process. Any of that ringing a bell, Lantern?" Green Arrow asked.
"Raping a 15-year-old kid and trying to destroy the reputation of the Justice League in the process. That ringing a bell, Arrow?" Hal shot back. "Hell, you've heard the evidence. Some crimes are just worse than the others."
"Getting a little comfortable in our fascist overlord role, are we, Jordan?" Green Arrow demanded. "I always knew that 'space cop' role would go to your head eventually."
"The better question is why you are arguing so passionately for the man, after what he did to one of Roy's friends," Hal snapped. "No wonder Roy - "
"Hal. Shut. Up," Black Canary scolded, and to Hal's credit, he was smart enough to listen. To Ollie's credit, so was he.
"He knows our identities," Wonder Woman pointed out. "At least some of them. He's also from the future. Imagine the damage he could do if he were to escape, now that he has a reason to hold a grudge against all of us, and not simply the Flash."
"Erasing his memories would not be a problem," Zatara remarked.
"There are the ethics to consider," Superman stated. "Green Arrow does have a point."
"I'm glad someone thinks so!" Green Arrow huffed.
"I'm finding it incredibly difficult to have sympathy for this man," Aquaman stated. "Though perhaps my opinion on the matter is of little consequence, because had it been Kaldur'ahm in Wallace's place, I would have beheaded Professor Zoom myself, the Justice League's opinion on the matter be damned."
"Well," Blue Beetle said, after a moment of silence, in which Barry could only agree with Arthur's comments. "I guess that would certainly make the question of removing his memory rather moot, wouldn't it?"
"If we remove his memories," Superman continued patiently, with far more patience than Barry was in the mood to give at the moment, "we will essentially be jailing and punishing a different man than the one who committed the crime."
"I'm not sure I agree about that," Black Canary stated, "but I am afraid it gives him an easy out. He doesn't have to rot in prison and know that he lost. He doesn't have to sit there and suffer from the consequences of his actions. Ripping away his memories gives him a kind of peace that he doesn't deserve."
"What that man has done is the worst type of crime I can even begin to imagine," Superman agreed, "but the amount of vengeance some of you thirst for ... that isn't what the League is supposed to stand for. That isn't what we banded together to become. We're supposed to protect, not destroy."
"Yeah, and so far the League's done a real bang-up job of protecting the Flashes, haven't we?" Hal snapped.
"You're being very quiet, Flash," Hawkman noted. "Don't you have any thoughts on the issue? It is your nephew and your supervillain we're dealing with."
"Yes, Hawkman, I'm aware of that."
"Don't you have any thoughts on the issue? If it were my kin - "
"But it's not, so please don't patronize me with what you would do or think in my place. You don't have - none of you - had the relationship I had with my nephew, and while I appreciate your concern, I don't really care to hear what you would do in my place." Barry made his voice as polite as possible, in honor of the friendships he'd always treasured. "As for Zoom... as much as I want him to suffer, as much as I want him to sit in a cell and know that he lost, what I want more than that is to make sure he can never hurt anyone ever again. The best way to do that is to wipe his memory and then lock him up, in my opinion."
There were some frowns, but when the Justice League voted on what to do with Zoom's memories, for the first time in a long time, Barry got his way.
There wasn't much else to do after that point but go home.
"You can come stay with me, until things settle down," Hal suggested.
"Thanks, but I'd really rather just go home. Talk things over with Iris, try to fix things with Wally," Barry explained.
Hal gave him a look, like he wanted to say more. "Y'know, if Ralph and Sue hadn't been off on their second honeymoon halfway around the world, they would have been on your side, too. Wouldn't just have been me."
"Thanks, Hal. I'll keep that in mind."
Barry stood outside the home he had shared for so long with Iris, and debated Hal's offer. He debated knocking, but that seemed silly to do in his own home.
So he opened the door and walked in.
Iris was waiting for him on the couch.
"Oh, Barry!" Her arms were around him as quickly as a non-speedster could do, and in the moment that it took him, Barry thought briefly about moving out of the way. He thought about pushing her away, because the hurt - she believed that I would hurt Wally that way - was still raw and real inside of him.
But it was Iris. Barry could never push Iris away. He let her embrace him, and after a fraction of a second, he embraced her, too.
"Jay told me everything," Iris said, between sobs. "Oh, Barry, I'm so, so sorry. I didn't want to believe it, you have to know that. But he's my nephew - "
"He's my nephew, too," Barry said softly, and Iris pulled back to look at him.
"I know. And I shouldn't have ... I should have backed you," Iris said. "But oh, Barry. How could I have ever have been the aunt that said she didn't believe her nephew? I didn't want to be that aunt. Tell me you understand that, Barry."
"If it had been you he'd accused, I would have believed both of you," Barry said quietly. "And I would have worked to have found a way to see both of you vindicated."
"I'm not a superhero, Barry," Iris said quietly.
"No, you're not."
Iris scanned his face for a moment, but she didn't let go of him. She stroked his cheek, and asked softly, "Are we going to get over this?"
He pulled her close and breathed in her scent. "I like to think that the love we have for each other is more powerful than any power any supervillian might have," he answered, and apparently, it was a good answer, because she rewarded him by wrapping her arms around him.
"It is," she promised. "And if it's not, we'll work at it until it damn well is."
It was a good promise, and Barry spent the entire night lying awake, watching his wife sleep, and thinking about that promise and how his nephew was doing.
The next day, Barry called Bruce.
"He's recovering well. He was walking around today without much difficulty. I think he will be ready to go home tomorrow. Have you squared things away with his parents?"
"You should get that taken care of. They were... extremely difficult when we were there."
When Batman said someone was extremely difficult, it couldn't be a good sign.
In fact, it wasn't, because the bulk of the next day was spent trying to convince Mary and Rudolph that no, forcing Wally to retire from being a hero wasn't a good plan.
"If he hadn't been a hero," Rudolph argued, "none of this would have happened."
"Maybe, maybe not," Barry answered. "Zoom almost targeted Iris instead. Maybe he still would have targeted Wally, because he was my nephew."
"Then maybe you should retire," Mary answered. "And quit putting people in your family in danger."
It was a harsh blow, and luckily, Jay Garrick picked up the slack for him. "Barry could do that, and all the people that he saves every day could die, because he was trying to protect his family."
"What good is being a hero if you can't protect your own family?" Rudolph demanded, and it was a fair question, and one that had been on Barry's mind since the Justice League had revealed what had happened to Wally.
"You protect other families," Iris said firmly. "So that no other parents have to sit here and ask the same questions you did. Because really, if it wasn't Barry that Zoom was fixated on and blaming his problems on, don't you think he would have found someone else? If Barry retired, how many times do you think Grodd would have won? Because really, it just would have taken that one time."
"I can't worry about protecting the world!" Mary shouted at Iris. "You don't have any children, Iris; you don't understand. I need to protect my son."
"Then you're doing a pretty crappy job of it," Iris argued right back. "Because you want to take away one of the most important things in the world to him."
"We're not," Rudolph protested. "We're trying to protect him."
"And you're going to break his heart," Barry answered. "Look, I can't dispute that I should have done a better job protecting Wally. I should have."
"Barry, that's nonsense," Jay began.
"Please, Mr. Garrick, let me finish," Barry interrupted. "But all I can think is how to make things better now, and how much I don't want to make things worse. Telling Wally that he has to retire is going to make him think that you believe him to be responsible."
"Of course we don't," Mary said.
"But you're saying that he needs to change his life to prevent what happened from happening again," Iris pointed out. "How else is he supposed to take what you're saying, Mary? Other than a 'you're directly responsible for what Zoom did to you'?"
"They're right, Mary," Rudolph acknowledged with a sigh.
"I suppose I should be proud of him," Mary said, shaking her head, "but all I want to do is hold him close and protect him. But ... I don't want to cause him greater issues."
"We have a friend in the League who is willing to help with the psychological fallout," Barry told her. "Wally will definitely need it, and I think it would be a good idea idea if you took that help, too. So that the three of you can heal together."
Mary squeezed Rudolph's hand. "I think that sounds like a good idea."
The dinner they had that night was a very quiet one, and Barry felt guilty for having it without Wally, no matter that his nephew was clearly having much better food.
On the third day, his guilt was replaced by anxiety when he received a call from Mary. "That nice Bat fellow brought Wally home about an hour ago. He's fixing up things with his turtle. I thought you would like to know."
"Can I talk to him?" Barry asked.
"Just a minute."
There was a brief wait - which, of course, dragged on and on for Barry - before a hesitant Wally answered. "Hello?"
"Hey, Wally. Settling back in?"
"I bet Velocity is glad to be back in his real cage."
Barry closed his eyes. This wasn't at all going well. He hoped it would go better in person. "Listen, Wally, there are a lot of things I think we should talk about. It might go better face to face, but I don't want to rush anything for you. So you can give me a call when you're ready to talk, okay?"
"I don't ... I mean. You could come over today? If you want."
"You sure?" Barry asked, trying not to sound too hopeful.
"Yeah. Might as well get it over with, right?"
Barry's heart sank. "Yeah, might as well. See you soon, Kid."
"See you, Uncle Barry."
When Barry called, Wally was in the middle of making a snack for Velocity. The poor turtle had been shuttled across the United States twice in a Batplane, and if that wasn't a good way to earn a favorite snack,Wally didn't know what was.
After his conversation with Barry, Wally finished up his grapes and mealworms and carried them upstairs. He set the food into the cage and sat on the chair next to Velocity's cage to watch the turtle eat.
It was uncomfortable, being back in his room, after all that had happened. He could still smell Zoom, which was ridiculous, because Wally knew everything had been taken out of his room for evidence and the whole place was clean now. But the scent that he shouldn't be able to smell still lingered, if only in his imagination.
But it was better than tip-toeing around his mom, who couldn't seem to go more than five minutes without asking if Wally was okay, or if there was something she could get him, as if just the right snack would magically undo everything that had happened. Wally wanted to yell at her, at times, and tell her that she was just making him more crazy. But that wasn't fair, especially since everything that had happened had been entirely Wally's fault.
Staying in his room was also a better option than dealing with his dad, who, unlike Wally's mother, was dealing with recent events by just pretending nothing was wrong. Wally figured that his parents' greatly different ways of dealing with what had happened to him was going to be the cause for some truly epic fights, eventually. Just as soon as they stopped trying so hard to compensate for what had happened - for what Wally had allowed a stranger to do. Wally wasn't looking forward to that.
But in the meantime, Wally sat in his room and waited for Uncle Barry to arrive. When he finally did show up, Wally could see him out the window of his bedroom, waiting in the backyard.
Before Wally had messed everything up, Uncle Barry would have just come right up the stairs to talk to him. But Wally tried not to think about that, as he walked down the stairs and out the door.
His mother was talking to Uncle Barry when he reached the patio. "Oh, hello, Wally. I was just about to yell up at you. Are you finished feeding the turtle?"
"Yeah, Mom." His mother seemed to hesitate then, and Wally tried really hard not to be impatient with her. Nothing that had happened lately was her fault and it wasn't fair to be angry at her. And it had never been fair to be impatient at her slowness. "Something wrong, Mom?"
"Your Uncle says he wants to talk to you. Is ... is that okay, Wally?"
"He mentioned it on the phone," Wally said quickly. "I told him it was fine to come on over."
"Oh, I see. Well, then. Would you like me to stay with you, or - "
"Mom. He didn't do it, you know that."
"I know!" His mother flushed brightly at Wally's statement. "I just don't want you to feel any more ... awkward than necessary."
Awkward. Well, that was certainly one way to describe how Wally was feeling. Maybe not the most accurate way, but it would do in a pinch. "Actually, Mom, I'm pretty sure things will only be more awkward with you here."
"Oh, okay, then." His mother patted the front of her skirt nervously for a moment. "I-I'll just leave the two of you alone, then. You'll let me know if you need anything, Wally?"
Wally nodded and she patted the front of her skirt twice more, before going back into the house. Uncle Barry waited for the door to close behind her, before he spoke. "Hey, Kid," he said, softly.
Wally listened to that voice, and he tried to detect the disappointment Wally was sure was there. But Uncle Barry's voice sounded just like it had on that day that Wally had tried to replicate The Flash's powers and ended up hurting himself in the process.
Well... that was appropriate, Wally figured. "Hey, Uncle Barry. Don't worry about Mom. She's just a little overprotective lately."
"With good reason," Uncle Barry answered. "I'm sure Rudolph's the same way."
"Nah. He's ignoring it and hoping it will go away." Wally picked up a lawn chair and scooted it across the patio, so that he was sitting across from Uncle Barry.
"Somehow, I'm afraid that won't work. Burying the truth never makes it go away," Uncle Barry said quietly. "Which is why I think we need to discuss things, as ...awkward as it might be."
Wally nodded and tried to look at his uncle, instead of at his own hands. "You saw the paper today?"
Uncle Barry nodded. "The League has been fielding questions the past couple of days. The cover story is that Kid Flash and Robin were injured on a mission with The Flash against an alien menace."
"It's pretty crappy of them to make it a mission with you," Wally said bitterly.
Uncle Barry gave a soft smile. "We needed something to explain why the first Flash was rushing the two of you into the Hall of Justice in front of a crowd of tourists and reporters."
Wally shrugged. "I guess? I'm sorry, though."
"It's not your fault, Wally. Why on earth would you be sorry?"
"It's the third time in what, less than two weeks? That I've dragged your name through the mud. First with that article about Kid Flash that Linda Park wrote. Then I lied to the League and everyone else about what I let a stranger do to me, and now this article."
"Wally." Uncle Barry leaned forward and started to reach for him, and Wally tensed instantly. He knew it was stupid, but he still couldn't quite stop it. Uncle Barry was fast, though, and he moved his hands back into his lap instead.
That one act, and the hurt that wasn't quite fast enough to flicker over Uncle Barry's face before Wally could see it, was enough to make Wally feel even more awful than he already did.
"Sorry," Wally mumbled.
But Uncle Barry shook his head and continued, "Wally, you didn't lie to anyone."
"It wasn't the truth."
"But it's what you thought was the truth," Uncle Barry reminded him gently. So incredibly gently, and that gentleness just made the knot in Wally's stomach jump up to his throat.
"But I shouldn't have. I should have known that you would never - I should have known the first time he touched me. All that science, all that logic, all that working with the sidekick to the world's greatest detective - what good is it, when I can't see something so obvious? I couldn't even tell the difference between you and a total stranger. I let him because I thought ... You feel bad when you raise your voice at me, let alone - " And whether it was the memories of what Zoom had done, or the memories of what Wally had done, the knot in Wally's throat seemed to grow three sizes all at once, and he had to stop talking.
"Wally, you had every reason to believe that Zoom was me," Uncle Barry said quietly. Then a bit more fiercely, he added, "We've never fought anything like this before."
"But we're supposed to be prepared for anything," Wally insisted. "That's what heroes are supposed to do."
"No. We're supposed to be willing to fight anything, to stand up for the weak and the innocent. And, Wally, that's just what you did. Canary's done some talking to Red Arrow,and he says you came forward because you were afraid of anyone else getting hurt.You were willing to stand up to your own partner in order to protect the innocent. That must have been incredibly difficult, and I could not be more proud of you, because you could not have been any more brave than you were."
And that speech was so at odds with everything that Zoom had done in disguise as Uncle Barry that it was too much. Wally couldn't stop the tears from falling. He tried, but it was pretty useless.
"I did a lousy job of protecting you," Wally pointed out. His voice sounded small and weak, and Wally was perfectly aware of how entirely appropriate that was.
"I'm the mentor, Kid," Uncle Barry reminded him softly, so softly that Wally wondered if maybe Uncle Barry was having problems with knots in his throat, too. "It was my job to protect you, while I show you the ropes. What did I do instead? I got frustrated at you and yelled when you acted out. The signs were there that something was wrong, and even when I knew something was wrong, I didn't act in time. I allowed the most precious person in this world to me get hurt, because I wasn't fast enough."
And okay, Wally really couldn't stop the tears at that point, nor could he stop the sobs that suddenly decided to accompany them. Because Wally could handle a lot of things, but he couldn't handle his uncle's voice being that gentle, and that kind, and that soft - the way Wally tried to be with Velocity, when he was coaxing the Velocity out of his shell.
"Zoom sure messed everything up," Wally managed between his sobs.
"Yeah, that was his plan," Uncle Barry answered. "He knew how important we were to each other, Kid. And he wanted to destroy that, permanently."
You'll never forget this, Zoom's voice murmured in the back of Wally's mind and Wally shuddered. "Do you think he did, Uncle Barry?"
"I think a lot of us - you, me, Robin, your parents and your aunt - are going to need a lot of therapy with J'onn to get beyond what Zoom did to us." Uncle Barry was quiet for a moment. "Zoom was the strongest villain we've faced yet, Kid. But I hope that the bond between us is even stronger."
Just like that, the decision was in Wally's lap. He couldn't just sit there, and let Zoom win. Which was why he tentatively stepped out of his chair, leaned over and gave his uncle a hug. Wally could feel the surprise in Uncle Barry's shoulders, before Uncle Barry relaxed and returned the hug.
It was a far more tense and far more gentle hug than they'd ever given each other. But that didn't matter.
What mattered was that Zoom was wrong. The hug wasn't what it had been- the closeness wasn't there, anymore, and there was a definite gulf. Wally could feel it, and he knew Uncle Barry could too, by the lightness of the other man's hands on him.
Yet, Wally didn't want to run to the ends of the earth to get away from the touch, the way Zoom had promised he would.
It wasn't the way things used to be, or the way things should be, but it also wasn't the end of the world. Zoom hadn't won, and if Barry and Wally hadn't quite won, yet - well, they had time to work on it.
And, as speedsters, time was on their side of the fight.
The day that Zoom was sent to prison, Barry escorted him to his cell personally, along with the guards. Zoom was still bound with restraints and it wasn't entirely necessary. But Barry needed to see it through.
He stood and watched as the guards placed Zoom in his cell and listened to the man's cries. Zatara had completely removed every memory relating to Barry, the Justice League, or Wally. Barry wondered if Zatara had dug even deeper, though, because the man seemed very confused and very frightened - more so than Barry would have expected.
They were very lucky, Barry knew, that the justice system trusted heroes so much. If they didn't, the relatively secret trial, conviction and detainment would have been impossible.
Part of Barry wondered if that wasn't a grave misuse of his powers. It was certainly easy to feel sympathy for a confused and broken man who had no idea what he had done to be given this sentence and who kept swearing at the top of his voice that he would never hurt anyone.
But on the other hand, every time Barry looked at that man's face, he remembered how it had looked, contorted with sadistic delight as the man had hurt Barry's nephew.
As Barry turned to make his way out of the prison, Captain Cold's voice stopped him. Snart was leaning casually on the bars to his cell, his head cocked to the side. "It true what they say about him, Flash? That he hurt the Kid?"
Barry closed his eyes for a moment, and hoped it was fast enough that Cold wouldn't catch on. "Let's just say I owe your team an apology, Cold. I mocked their sense of honor, and recently I've been given plenty of cause to suspect that I was wrong about that."
"Other people's lack of honor have a way of doing that," Cold answered. "Sorry the Kid had to pay the price, though."
"Nothing for you to be sorry about. Zoom wasn't one of you."
"No, he isn't." There was something sinister in Cold's voice that made Barry pause, but he was in a hurry - it was Wednesday and he promised Wally they could swing by the comic store in Metropolis again. Some priorities had to take precedence over others.
The next day, when Barry received news of Zoom's death, he remembered that pause. But contrary to what was possibly appropriate superhero behavior, he did not feel entirely guilty about the order his priorities had taken.