Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters, and I'm not making any money from this story.
Warning: spanking of an adult.AN EFFECTIVE PUNISHMENT
Caitlin finished examining Barry's eyes, and said, "I don't see anything out of the ordinary, and I've run every test I can think of."
"I told you I feel fine," Barry said.
Felicity, who had been hovering nearby during the exam said, "And you're sure you didn't feel anything when Roy looked into your eyes?"
Barry shrugged. "His eyes turned red, and then my vision was red for a few seconds, but it cleared up before I even left the building, and I didn't feel any different than I normally do."
Cisco looked up from his computer on the other side of the room and said, "No strong urge to punch someone?"
Caitlin reviewed her test results one more time, and said, "I guess you're in the clear then. His powers must not work on you."
"Not so fast." The four younger people all turned to see Dr. Wells arriving at the lab. He rolled up next to Felicity, and said, "Just because we can't detect anything, doesn't mean it had no effect. I think we should keep you under observation for twenty-four hours."
"Twenty-four hours?" Barry said. "Why? My metabolism is much faster than normal, so if it was going to affect me it should have happened immediately, and then left my system."
"If it were a normal chemical, yes," Dr. Wells agreed. "But this isn't a chemical reaction. We think he causes the reactions through the optic nerve with light and color. We don't have enough facts about any of it to say whether or not it affected you."
Barry shrugged, and said, "I'll stay the night if it will make you feel better, but I really have to go to work tomorrow morning."
"Work is the last place you should be if there's any chance you could be affected," Dr. Wells said.
"I can't miss work every time we think something might go wrong. I do have to hold down an actual job while being The Flash on the side."
Dr. Wells pulled out his cell phone, and said, "Let's see what Joe has to say about it."
Frowning, Barry said, "There's no need to call Joe," but Dr. Wells was already dialing. Barry had hated it yesterday when the two of them teamed up to tell him The Arrow shouldn't be trusted. He really had felt like he'd been sent to the principal's office when he'd made that joke, and he had no desire to feel that way again. He wanted Joe and Dr. Wells to get along and work together, but he didn't want them using that connection to gang up on him.
Dr. Wells put the phone to his ear, and Barry sighed. As soon as Dr. Wells had described the situation to Joe, he held the phone out to Barry and said, "Joe wants to talk to you."
Barry had a flashback to the principal calling Joe after he'd gotten in a fight at school. His shoulders slumped, and he muttered, "Great," as he took the phone. "Hey, Joe."
"Dr. Wells is right. You should stay at STAR Labs under observation both tonight and tomorrow."
Joe cut him off. "You saw what happened to those people at the bank. They were completely out of control. If that happens to you… with your speed, no one could stop you."
"And I'd agree with you if I was feeling unusual, but I feel completely normal, and the paperwork has been stacking up on my desk."
"The paperwork can wait. I'll cover for you at work, and you can go in tomorrow night when the twenty-four hours are up. You're always telling me that you get more done at night anyway."
Getting frustrated, Barry said, "Not when I've missed the whole day, and what about Roy? He's still out there. If I'm not at work, I should be out looking for him."
"Listen, son," Joe said in a placating tone that got under Barry's skin. "I'm sure it seems like overkill to you, but I don't want you to get hurt, and I certainly don't want you to have to live with the guilt if you hurt someone else while you're affected. Having these powers means that you have a responsibility to keep yourself in check."
With a disappointed sigh, Barry capitulated. "Okay, fine. You win."
Joe could imagine the pout that accompanied that tone of voice from Barry, and had to smile fondly. "You'll have better luck searching for Roy at STAR Labs with your friends anyway."
"I guess. Let me know if you get any news on the case," Barry said.
"I will. You do the same."
Barry hung up, and handed the phone back to Dr. Wells. "Looks like I'll be staying here."
"Good." Dr. Wells turned to Cisco and asked, "Can you stay the night and keep an eye on him?"
"No problem," Cisco said. He smiled at Barry and said, "Movie night and pizza?"
Barry smiled in spite of his irritation. "Sounds good."
Dr. Wells rolled up to Caitlin and said, "Can you come in a little early tomorrow? Say five a.m. to relieve Cisco so he can sleep?"
"Thank you." Dr. Wells gestured to the microscope and said, "Show me the data so far."
# # #
The next morning Caitlin found both young men asleep in their chairs in front of a computer screen with a movie still running. She left them to sleep, and went to make some coffee. When she came back, the credits were rolling. When the sound cut out, Cisco's eyes fluttered open.
"Hey," he said with a smile when he saw Caitlin. "Looks like I fell asleep." He glanced over at Barry and added, "We both did."
She whispered, "Go back to sleep, I'm here now."
He nodded, got into a more comfortable position, and promptly fell back asleep, while Caitlin went to check her emails.
Two hours later, Caitlin heard Barry shifting in his chair. When she saw his eyes open, she said in a hushed tone, "It's only seven. You can sleep longer if you want."
He shook his head and stretched. He looked over at Cisco, and said in a hushed tone, "I don't need as much sleep as I used to. Four hours does the same thing for me that eight does for most people."
"I didn't know that." Caitlin said with some excitement. "I'd love to do some testing on you while you slept. Maybe in a couple of days you could spend the night here, and I can monitor your sleep patterns."
Barry groaned, and said, "I need some coffee."
She gave him an apologetic smile for talking shop so early, and said, "I made a whole pot. It's in the kitchen."
He nodded in thanks, and went in search of the coffee. When he got to the kitchen, he saw that the coffee maker had turned itself off, which meant that the coffee had been made over an hour ago. He put a hand on the side of the carafe. It was barely lukewarm. The thought of heating it back up wasn't particularly appealing, especially compared to his usual trip to buy a fresh coffee and see Iris.
That thought gave him pause. A fresh cup of coffee and talking to Iris sounded awfully good right now. He looked down at yesterday's clothes, looked at his watch, and thought, 'I could go home, take a shower, change my clothes, stop to see Iris, get a coffee, and be back here before anyone knew I was gone.' He smirked, and took off as fast as his legs would take him.
Two minutes later he was all cleaned up, and walking into the coffee shop to see Iris. While he was waiting in line, his phone rang. He looked at the caller ID, and answered. "Hi Oliver, what's up?"
"Felicity told me you couldn't make our meeting today."
"Oh, right." Barry had completely forgotten. The plan had been to meet Oliver for more training this morning before work. He scowled, and thought, 'Do I even want to do another training session with Oliver? The last one sucked. Which is worse, telling Oliver I've basically been grounded to STAR Labs as a precaution, or having another humiliating training session where Oliver makes me feel incompetent? Or… I make sure he can't make me feel incompetent.'
He smiled and said, "It turns out I can make it."
"You can? But I thought they had you under observation until later tonight?"
"They decided it wasn't necessary after all. I could be there in three minutes. How long will it take you to get there?"
"I'm already here, but I'm not sure we should…"
Barry cut him off. "Great. I'll be there in a couple of minutes." Barry hung up the phone, and then turned it off. He waited impatiently for his turn to order coffee, and got irritated when the guy before him ordered three drinks.
# # #
Half an hour later, Barry stormed up the steps to the police station, wishing he'd never even heard of Oliver Queen or The Arrow. The man never failed to make him feel inferior, which was ridiculous, because Barry could think circles around the other man.
As Barry was walking, he muttered to himself. "I was nice enough to bring him coffee. I checked the area before I stopped to talk to him, just like he'd told me to in the last session, and what thanks do I get? None. Instead, all that self-righteous ass can do is tell me how much I screwed up last night, as if I didn't already know. Then he actually had the nerve to tell me… no, to order me back to STAR Labs since I'd left without permission. I don't need permission to do anything! I'm a fucking adult, and I can go to work whenever the hell I want to."
His muttering was cut off when the captain saw him walking by, and asked him for a report. Barry completely lost his temper, and yelled at his boss. He was probably on the verge of getting fired when Joe stepped in, making ridiculous excuses for Barry's behavior, which the captain seemed to believe. The only thing that kept Barry from striking out was the fact that Joe was the one who'd stepped in. After following the man's orders for half of his childhood, Barry automatically kept himself in check even though he was silently seething.
As soon as the captain walked away, Joe turned on Barry, grabbed the younger man's arm, and led him a few feet away so they could talk privately without being overheard.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Joe hissed, trying to keep his voice down while still showing his irritation with the younger man's recent decisions.
Barry yanked his arm out of Joe's grasp, and said at full volume, "Me? What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"Keep your voice down." Joe glanced behind them, hoping to discourage spectators with a glare, and then turned back to Barry. "I've been trying to reach you for the past twenty minutes. I've had calls from Caitlin, Dr. Wells, and Felicity. You knew you were supposed to stay at STAR Labs, and instead you take off to go to see The Arrow?"
Barry scoffed and shook his head. "That's rich coming from you, Joe. How dare you tell me what I'm supposed to be doing! I think we should talk about what you're supposed to be doing. You're supposed to be finding the man in yellow. You're supposed to be clearing my father's name. You're the one who put him away in the first place, but instead of trying to fix your mistakes, you're all over my case about things that don't even concern you! I'm not ten anymore. You can't ground me, or dictate who my friends are."
Joe's eyebrows slowly inched up during Barry's tirade. When the young man quit talking, Joe said with worry, "I need you to listen to me carefully, son. You've been…"
"Don't!" Barry shouted. He jabbed a finger at Joe's chest, and hissed with a glare, "Don't you dare call me son."
Before Joe could recover from the hurt those words caused, Barry had stormed off. Joe started to follow, but as soon as Barry got outside the precinct doors, he disappeared. Joe pulled his cell phone out, and called Dr. Wells. "We have a serious problem. I'm positive that Barry's been somehow affected by Roy, but I'm not sure what that's going to mean."
A few seconds later, Joe was making excuses to the captain, and heading out the door to STAR Labs.
# # #
Eight long hours later, Barry was still missing.
Dr. Wells was trying to convince himself to see things in a positive light. He'd figured out who The Arrow was, and now that the whole team knew, he felt much more comfortable accepting Oliver's help with finding Barry and getting Roy in custody. He also knew he should be pleased that Caitlin, Cisco, and Felicity had devised a set of lights that would supposedly reverse the effects of Roy's 'anger whammy' as Cisco liked to call it. But none of that mattered if they couldn't find Barry.
He'd managed to get away from the group half an hour ago, and went to check his hidden room. The computer had no records of The Flash in the future. That didn't necessarily mean Barry was dead, or even harmed, but it did mean that things were off track, and Harrison Wells did not like it when things went sideways.
Joe slammed his fist down on the table beside him, startling everyone in the room.
"I can't just sit here anymore," Joe said, rising to his feet. "I'm going to go out and look for him."
"Oliver is already out there looking for him," Felicity said softly. "The facial recognition software we've attached to the traffic camera feed we hacked is ninety-eight percent more likely to find him than anyone out there searching."
"I know." Joe sighed and ran a hand through his thinning hair. "I know you're right, but I just have to try. Maybe he went home. To my home I mean. I've got to at least check."
"I understand," Dr. Wells said. "Go ahead. We'll call you immediately if we find him."
Joe nodded his thanks for the understanding, and went to his car. He started out heading towards home, but then he decided to go see Iris first. Barry and Iris had always been close, and when he was having a bad day, the young man often found comfort in talking to her.
A few blocks away from the coffee shop, Joe had to screech to a halt to keep from hitting his partner, Eddie, who was lying in the middle of the road. "What the hell?" Joe muttered as he jumped out of the car. He rushed to Eddie's side. The man had some blood on his temple, but he was conscious and pushing himself into a sitting position.
"Eddie, you okay?" Joe said, as he knelt beside him.
"Joe?" Eddie grasped Joe's arm and said, "Joe, you've got to get Iris out of here. He's crazy."
"Who? Who's crazy?"
Eddie pointed down the street and said, "He is."
Joe turned to look. Three blocks away there were two young people standing next to a car. It was hard to discern features in the dark at that distance, but Joe could tell it was Barry and Iris, and it looked like Barry had his costume on. He could hear voices, so he knew they were talking, but they were too far away to make out what was being said.
"What happened?" Joe asked, checking Eddie over for other injuries.
"The Flash is real." Eddie said. "He attacked me while we were driving down the road. He pulled me through the passenger side window, and then tossed me down the street. I think I sprained my wrist."
Joe needed to get Iris and Eddie out of there so he could talk Barry down. He whispered, "I'll distract him. You go get Iris, and take her somewhere safe."
"What? No I…"
Joe glared at his partner and said, "Don't argue with me. You're injured, and I have a plan. Now go!" Eddie got on his feet, and Joe turned his back on him, praying that the younger man would do as he'd asked, and shouted down the road, "Hey! I want…" Before he could finish his statement, Barry was standing directly in front of him.
"What are you doing here?" Barry asked, his face twisted in rage.
"Looking for you." Joe said in a soothing tone. "I want you to go back to the lab with me, so we can run some tests."
"There's no way in hell I'm going anywhere with you! I'm done listening to you! You say you have my best interests at heart, you say you're trying to help me, but I know better. You just want to control me. Well guess what? You can't!"
Barry punched Joe in the stomach, and sent the older man flying backwards a few feet. He landed on the pavement with a loud groan.
"And you!" Barry zipped over to stand in front of Eddie, who'd made it halfway to Iris while he was talking to Joe. "Where do you think you're going?" Barry grabbed him, and shoved him. Eddie flew several feet back, and landed on the street.
"I didn't say you could leave. We're just getting started," Barry said with a mean smile.
"Stop it!" Joe said. He'd gotten to his feet, though he was hunched over. "This isn't you."
"You're wrong." Barry punched Joe in the jaw. Once the older man was back on the pavement Barry yelled, "You don't know me at all!" Barry kicked him in the side, to keep him down, and then turned his attention to Eddie.
Eddie was trying to crawl away. Barry flipped him onto his back, stood over him, and started punching him in the face. He only got five punches in, before he felt a wire wrapping around his arms to keep him from striking out.
Barry turned to see The Arrow behind him, and yelled in frustration while struggling to escape the wires. Oliver yanked Barry back, away from Eddie. "Run!" Oliver shouted at Eddie and Joe.
Eddie made his way to Joe, and both of them headed towards Iris and her car.
Barry stood up, and focused his rage on Oliver. "You better hold on." Barry took off running, dragging Oliver across the pavement behind him. He skidded to a stop, and the force of the abrupt stop yanked the wire out of Oliver's hands. Soon Barry and Oliver were all out fighting.
The crew back at STAR Labs had found Barry with the traffic cameras just before Joe had found Eddie. Dr Wells and Caitlin had rushed to the van that Cisco had equipped with the lights designed to cure Barry. Felicity was currently directing Caitlin to the location of the fight.
Before either Barry or Oliver could be considered the winner of the fight, Caitlin and Dr. Wells drove up beside them. The Arrow grabbed Barry, and held him facing the lights. The treatment worked instantly. The rage he'd felt seconds before simply vanished.
Barry shook his head a few times, looked at Dr. Wells, and said, "Joe and Eddie."
"We called an ambulance. They should be heading to the hospital as we speak."
"I need to see them," Barry pushed to get out of Oliver's grip, but the older man didn't let him go.
"Not so fast," Oliver said. "You're going back to STAR Labs to get tested first."
Feeling sick about what he'd done, Barry reluctantly nodded, and let Oliver help him into the waiting van.
# # #
They let Barry leave early the next morning, after Caitlin had run several tests. He went straight to the hospital to see how Joe and Eddie were doing. He went to Eddie's room first, not able to face Joe yet. Seeing the bruising that he'd put on Eddie's face made him sick to his stomach. Seeing Iris with tears in her eyes while she gently held Eddie's hand, forced him to come to the realization that he'd done more than physical damage.
"Hey," he said softly to announce his arrival.
Eddie held up his arm in a wave, and Barry winced when he noticed it was in a splint. Iris rushed over to him, and said, "Where have you been? I've been trying to reach you for hours."
"I know, I'm sorry. My phone was dead. I didn't get your messages until I charged it this morning. What do the doctors say?"
Iris reached out to hold Barry's hand while she gave him the news. "Both of them are going to be okay. They're bruised up, Dad has a concussion, and Eddie has a concussion and a sprained wrist, but they should both be released tomorrow morning. Have you gone to see Dad yet? He kept asking about you. He seemed really worried."
Barry hadn't thought it would be possible for him to feel worse, but he was wrong. He'd hurt Joe, and yet the man was worried about him. He squeezed Iris' hand and then let it go. "I'll go see him right now."
She nodded. Barry waved at Joe's partner, and said, "Feel better, Eddie. I'll see you later."
"Thanks for stopping by," Eddie said.
Barry walked slowly to Joe's room, dreading what he'd find there. He stopped in the doorway when he saw a bandage on the older man's head, and a large bruise covering the side of his jaw. He struggled to get air into his lungs.
"There you are," Joe said with relief, and pushed the button to make the bed sit him up further. He motioned with his hand for the younger man to come closer.
Barry took a deep breath, and walked to the side of Joe's bed. Joe reached out and took one of Barry's hands in his. "I spoke with Dr. Wells a few hours ago when they were testing you. He said they were able to reverse the effects. How are you doing?"
"I'm so sorry," he said past the lump in his throat, which made his voice sound hoarse. His eyes started to fill, as he got a close look at the older man's face.
"Hey now, none of that," Joe said gently. "It's not your fault."
"How can you say that?" Barry wiped some tears off his face with the palm of his hand. "It is my fault."
Joe patted the side of his bed and said, "Sit down, son." Once the younger man was sitting, Joe said, "Your fist may have hit me, but I know it wasn't you. The same way those people in the bank weren't themselves when they started hitting each other."
Barry shook his head, kept his eyes down and said, "You don't understand. I… I didn't leave STAR Labs this morning because I was angry. I left because I wanted to get a coffee and take a shower at home. I can't believe I was so stupid." More tears slid down his face, and he angrily wiped them off.
With a sigh, Joe pulled a slightly resisting Barry into a hug, and said, "You don't know that, son. My guess is that you were somewhat affected the moment you looked in Roy's eyes, it just took longer to make you violent." Barry shook his head, but Joe just kept holding him and talking. "But even if that weren't the case, you couldn't have known what would happen. We all make mistakes as adults. The thing you have to do is forgive yourself, and take steps to make sure it won't happen again." Joe let Barry go, and as soon as they had eye contact, Joe said, "Okay?"
Barry sniffed a few times and nodded. Joe reached over and grabbed some tissues from the box beside his bed. He handed them over, and started talking about the hospital food to distract the younger man.
# # #
Later that evening, after work, Barry headed to STAR Labs again. He's spent the whole day berating himself for what he'd done, and repeating Joe's advice over and over again in his head. Take steps to make sure it won't happen again.
He walked into the lab with a purpose, knowing what needed to be done, even though it wasn't what he wanted to do. Dr. Wells, Cisco, and Caitlin were all in the lab when he arrived.
Caitlin smiled. "Hi Barry."
"What's wrong?" Cisco asked after seeing Barry's somber expression.
Barry looked at each of them in turn and said, "There's no easy way to say this. I've been thinking it over since last night, and I've decided to hang up the suit."
"You're quitting?" Cisco asked.
"I don't want to. I love working with you guys, but after last night… I can't take the risk of being out of control again."
With a frown, Caitlin said, "So we'll take precautions in case there's a next time."
Barry shook his head, but before he could answer, Dr. Wells said, "We need to have a private conversation. My office." He gestured for Barry to go in front of him.
Barry's eyebrows went up at the Dr.'s tone of voice, but he dutifully headed towards the office.
Cisco winced. He'd had a 'private conversation' with Dr. Wells a few months ago when he'd made that freeze gun, and it hadn't involved much actual talking. He decided he didn't want to be there if anything remotely like that was going to happen, and he doubted Barry would appreciate it either.
"Hey Dr. Wells?" Cisco said.
"Yes?" He turned his wheelchair back to talk.
"Caitlin and I are gonna take off a few minutes early if that's okay."
"We are?" Caitlin asked.
Dr. Wells nodded. "That's fine. I'll see you both tomorrow." He turned and followed Barry to his office.
Cisco went to Caitlin and gently pulled at her arm. "Come on. Barry wouldn't want you to be here for this."
"Here for what?" she asked, as she let herself be led away.
"Just trust me. No one likes to get yelled at in front of their friends. You probably wouldn't understand, because you never do anything wrong, but I have and it sucks. Wanna get a drink before we go home? There's a new club a few blocks from here."
She grabbed her purse and coat as he pulled her out of the lab. "Okay, but only one drink."
Dr. Wells rolled into his office behind Barry, and swung the door closed after them. He gestured to one of the chairs in front of his desk, and Barry sat down.
"Quitting isn't the answer, Barry. I know you feel awful about what happened to Joe and Eddie, but you can't let that overshadow all the good you've done."
"All the good I've done will feel meaningless if I end up hurting someone again the way I did last night."
"What does Joe say about this?" Dr. Wells asked.
"I haven't told him yet, but he's the one who told me to take steps to make sure nothing like this happens again."
"Well, we can do that without you quitting."
"How? Call Oliver every time I go off the grid? How many people will I hurt before he gets here?"
"That's your guilt and anger talking, not logic or reasoning. Caitlin, Cisco, and I can come up with a contingency plan to keep you in check without Oliver."
Barry shook his head, stared at the floor and said, "But what if it doesn't work? We had a plan yesterday and I messed it up. I argued with you about it in the first place, and then after I finally agreed to stay, I left without telling anyone."
"Do you really think we'd let something like that happen twice? We're already working on a device to prevent you from leaving the lab if we deem it necessary."
Barry's eyes snapped up. "You are?"
"We are." Dr. Wells confirmed.
Both fear and relief swirled around inside Barry. He was glad they were working on a plan to keep him from going on another rampage, but he certainly didn't want to end up in one of the cells alongside the other meta-humans.
Dr. Wells leaned forward and said, "Listen, Barry, you're a good person, but you're young and inexperienced. Joe and I are here to help you become the great man that we know you can be, but that means you have to actually take our advice when we give it. You may be the one in the suit, but the whole team working together makes The Flash a hero. I'm telling you that quitting is not the right decision, and I bet if I called Joe he'd agree with me."
"Maybe." Barry said with a tired sigh. "I feel so awful about what happened last night, it's probably clouding my judgment. I should give it a few days before I make any decisions."
"I don't think time is what you need. What you really need is punishment."
"Punishment?" Barry's eyebrows drew together.
Dr Wells nodded. "Punishment."
"Like spending the weekend in one of the cells with the other meta-humans?"
"No, nothing that will take you away from your training. When you were younger, what did Joe do to punish you?"
"He usually grounded me."
"Usually?" Dr. Wells asked.
"Always?" Barry tried, but failed, to say it with confidence.
"No, there's something you're not telling me."
The younger man shook his head with a deer in the headlights expression on his face.
"It's obviously embarrassing to you, so my guess is that Joe spanked you once or twice."
Barry blushed and looked towards the door. He wanted to deny it, but he knew the blush had already given him away.
With a nod Dr. Wells continued, "It probably happened a couple of times early on, when you were adjusting to living in his house, and then once you settled in, Joe never needed to do it again. Am I right?"
He kept his eyes on the floor and muttered, "Just once. The day I ran away to see my dad in prison."
"It's settled then. You need punishment to get past this, so I'll spank you."
"What?" Barry made eye contact again and shook his head. "No. Don't be ridiculous."
"You feel bad about what you did last night, so bad that you're thinking about quitting. If I punish you for it, then you can get past it."
With rising panic, Barry sat up straight, and said more forcefully, "No. There's no way that's happening."
Dr. Wells just gave the younger man a sympathetic smile. "We both know I can't force you, but I can convince you that it's the right thing to do."
"I highly doubt that." Barry said. He relaxed a fraction when he realized Dr. Wells was right. The older man couldn't force him.
Taking a deep breath, Dr. Wells said, "Over the past ten years I've hired at least eighteen kids right out of college. Due to the nature of our work, I can't just substitute one employee with another, because the kids I pick out are brilliant in their specific fields. Because they're brilliant, and because they're irreplaceable, I can't just fire them when they mess up. But they're also still kids who've never really been out on their own, so they make all kinds of mistakes. At one point or another, I've had to punish all of them." He saw the incredulous look on Barry's face, and said, "I didn't say that I spanked all of them, I said that I had to punish all of them. For some of them that meant being suspended for a few days. For some it meant being taken off a project for a week. For some it meant having to do menial tasks around the workplace in front of their peers. And for three of them, not including you, it has meant a spanking. It all depends on the kid's personality, and what will work for them."
Feeling tense again, Barry said, "You can't spank your employees. That's assault."
Dr. Wells shrugged. "I've never forced anyone to take a spanking; it's always been their choice. As a matter of fact, every punishment for every employee has been a choice, because they have the option to quit. No one has ever reported me for assault after a spanking because I'm a good judge of character, and I know what will work for each kid."
"Take Caitlin for example," he continued, "Being forced to do menial tasks wouldn't be much of a punishment, because I see her doing little tasks around the office all the time, even after I've told her that the janitorial crew can do it. Being taken off a project wouldn't be much of a punishment, because she'd be just as interested in whatever I put her on instead. Being spanked would be traumatic for her. It would make her feel unloved. But, being suspended for a day is the perfect punishment for her, because she loves to come to work, and it's upsetting for her when she's not allowed to come in. Getting suspended is something she'll try to avoid, which will modify her behavior in the future without making her too upset."
"Okay," Barry said. "I get that, but what I don't get, is why you think spanking wouldn't be traumatic for me, because I sure think it would be."
"We'll get to that in a minute. I know you never met him, but you've heard of Caitlin's fiancé, Ronnie, right?"
"For him the most effective punishment was being taken off of a project for a week. He was a bit of a micro manager. He needed to oversee every part of a project, so knowing the project was going on without him was something he wanted to avoid at all costs."
"There was another kid who worked for me before the particle accelerator incident named Hartley. He came from a rich family, and had… a bit of an ego. Having to do menial tasks in front of his peers was horrible for him. In fact he almost quit over it when I told him that was his punishment for almost blowing up the lab while doing an unauthorized experiment. If he thought spanking was an option he would have begged for that over emptying the trash and cleaning the toilets, but a spanking wouldn't have been much of a deterrent to bad behavior for him. He would have just turned it into an endurance test in his mind, and he'd want to make sure he could take more than anyone else."
"Then there's Cisco." Dr. Wells scrutinized Barry for a moment. "Cisco is like you when it comes to punishment. He'd happily do any menial task I asked him to do. If I suspended him for a couple of days, he'd sit at home, drink beer and watch movies, or tinker with some invention. If I took him off a project, he'd pout, but a few minutes later he'd get interested in some other project. None of those punishments would deter him from behaving badly in the future. Any of that sound similar to how you'd react?"
Barry shifted uncomfortably in his chair, pursed his lips, and shrugged instead of answering.
"A spanking on the other hand isn't something he can ignore or laugh off. Physically it's unpleasant enough that he wants to avoid it. Emotionally it's not traumatic, because his grandma spanked him a couple of times when he was little, the same way someone who loved you spanked you in a non abusive way when you were little. And just like you, when he messes up he beats himself up about it, but after a spanking he gets to forgive himself."
"Wait," Barry shook his head, as if not wanting to believe what he was saying, "are you telling me that you've actually spanked Cisco? Our Cisco." Barry jerked a thumb behind him in the direction of the lab. "The guy who made my suit."
"Twice in the past four years. He even thanked me after the last time, because he knows that I'm doing it to help him."
"That's…" Barry shook his head again, and again. "That's just…"
"There's a reason Joe only had to spank you once. Because spanking works for you. Did you want to report Joe after he spanked you?"
Barry scowled. "That was different. I was a kid, and it wasn't even much of a spanking. It was a few swats before he put me in the car to drive me home from the prison."
"You can take a few days and think it over if you want, but you'll be better off just letting it happen now, because I know you'll eventually agree to it. You feel so bad about hitting Joe and Eddie that you want a punishment of some kind."
A lump formed in Barry's throat. He couldn't deny that statement. A sick feeling of dread filled his stomach, because he knew the older man was right. He did want some kind of punishment, and he would eventually agree, especially after hearing that Cisco had taken the same punishment. He remembered how he felt after Joe had spanked him, and while there were tears and remorse, mostly he'd felt better. He'd felt like an actual member of the family instead of an outsider sent to live with a foster family. And the next day he'd felt forgiven even though he'd been grounded for a week. He slowly nodded in agreement.
"Quitting is your way of punishing yourself, but I know you can't actually quit. You can't walk by a civilian in danger without helping. It's not in your nature." While Dr. Wells spoke, he used the levers on his wheelchair to shift the armrests down towards the floor, and out of the way of the seat itself. "So why don't you save yourself some heartache and come over here so we can get it over with."
Barry tensed when he saw what Dr. Wells was doing. "Over your lap?" His voice cracked as he asked.
"Well I can't exactly stand up to swing if you're bent over my desk." He looked back at his desk and pulled his metal ruler out of the pen caddy where he kept it. He held it up for Barry to see. "It will be this on the seat of your jeans until I think you've been punished enough. Because of your healing factor, I really should take your pants down so I can see what kind of damage I'm inflicting, but that probably would make it traumatic for you, so I won't."
After a few moments of tense silence, Dr. Wells said, "Time to decide, Barry. Either come over here, or go home and think it over."
He didn't want the spanking, not at all. But he desperately wanted the absolution that came after it was done. With a grimace and a blush, Barry stood up. Feeling as if someone else was the one moving, he took the two steps that separated him and Dr. Wells.
"Good choice." Dr. Wells took Barry's wrist, and gently tugged to get the younger man across his lap. Once he was in place, Dr. Wells wrapped one arm around his waist to hold him there, and rested the ruler against his rear end.
"Oh God," Barry muttered, not quite able to believe this was happening, and that he was a willing participant, but the image of Joe's face from earlier that morning kept him from trying to get up.
"I know why you want punishment, but do you know why I think you deserve punishment?"
Not trusting his voice, Barry shook his head.
"First, for going after Roy on your own without back up. That was a terrible plan, and the only reason you did it was to prove Oliver wrong, which is somewhat ironic since you ended up proving him right. Second, for arguing with me about staying here for observation. I do expect you to heed my advice for the next few years while we're all figuring out your powers. Third, for leaving the lab yesterday morning without telling anyone where you were going. I am not spanking you for what you did to Joe and Eddie, because by that point you were completely out of control, but you never would have gotten to that point if the first three things hadn't happened. Is all of that clear?"
Barry hung his head in shame, and muttered, "Yes."
"Good." Dr. Wells lifted the ruler, and slapped it back down. Barry kept silent, but the older man could feel him flinch in pain. Taking into account Barry's healing factor, Dr. Wells made sure that every swat landed in exactly the same spot, and he used more force than he would have for a normal human.
The ruler smacked his behind again, and again, making it difficult to stay still. He could feel his skin trying to heal itself in between swats, which created a very unpleasant itchy burn that got worse with each smack. Very soon his legs started to twitch with each strike. He felt Dr. Wells' arm tighten around him, and the smacks seemed to get impossibly harder.
"Ow." The tiny little complaint slipped out. Barry held his breath for the next five swats to keep from crying out, but it was a losing battle. Within seconds, he was making little grunts, hisses, and exclamations with every other strike. His legs were twitching more, and he was struggling to keep his hand on the floor instead of trying to block the blows. After his hand came off the floor for a third time in a half hearted attempt to reach back, he said desperately, "I think I've had enough!"
Dr. Wells kept spanking and said, "Sorry Barry, it doesn't work that way. We're not done until I think you've had enough."
Hearing that, Barry did reach back, and cover a portion of his rear end with his hand.
Dr. Wells stopped spanking long enough to grab Barry's wrist and hold it against his lower back. Once the target area was clear, he started up where he'd left off.
"Ow! Please not the same spot," Barry begged. His body had had more time to heal because of the pause, but that only seemed to make the new swats hurt more. Instead of the itchy burn of a newer injury, it felt sore, like getting smacked on top of a healing bruise.
Dr. Wells shook his head, and continued spanking in exactly the same place. "You need to think about why I'm doing this, and tell me how you're going to avoid it in the future."
"I won't go rogue again! Ow! I won't go after another meta-human without telling the team! Ow! Dr. Wells, please! I'm sorry! I swear I won't do it again, and I'll… Ow!… I'll listen to you from now on! Ow! I'll do whatever you say, just please stop! Please!"
Dr. Wells nodded, knowing that he'd gotten through to the younger man. He slapped the ruler down three more times, and stopped. He said, "Okay, It's over." He let go of Barry's wrist, tossed his ruler back on his desk, and patted the younger man's back. "I believe that you're being sincere, so we can start fresh tomorrow. I'm sure we'll never have to do this again."
Barry took a shuddering breath of relief, and tried not to break down crying. He sniffed a few times, wiped the dampness out of his eyes that he refused to call tears, and pushed himself up and off the older man's lap. He tried to take a step back, but Dr. Wells clasped his wrist in a strong grip to prevent that.
Once they had eye contact, Dr. Wells said intently, "You never intended for Joe or Eddie to get hurt, and now that you've been punished, you're going to forgive yourself. Do you hear me?"
The younger man nodded with a wide-eyed expression at the stern words. "Yes, Sir," he said quietly.
Dr. Wells squeezed his wrist gently and said, "Good." He let go of the wrist, smiled, and waived a hand towards the door. "Go on home, and get some rest. I'll see you in the morning."
"Okay." Barry realized his rear end was almost completely healed, and sped out the door.
He went home to his apartment to get his thoughts together. Ten minutes later, he realized that being alone probably wasn't the best thing for him right now. He kept going over the spanking again and again in his head, without feeling particularly absolved or forgiven. He decided to go see Joe at the hospital, wondering if seeing the older man would help him feel better, or make him feel worse.
He found Joe and Iris both in Eddie's room. When he arrived, he could hear Joe's deep laughter, and had to smile himself. Iris saw him first, and waved him in. "Barry, you've got to come and defend us. Dad's telling Eddie about the time we tried to rescue that cat from the neighbor's tree."
Barry instantly felt better than he had in days. He went in to sit with his family, and smiled. He said to Eddie, "Trust me, if you'd heard the noises Mr. Tribble was making, you would have tried to help him too."
"Exactly what I said!" Vindicated, Iris smirked at Eddie.
"Actually," Eddie said with his own smirk, "I think I would have reminded you both that cats are small and agile creatures that are much more capable of getting down on their own without a human's help."
"You must have been a very unpopular child," Iris said.
Barry snickered first, and soon all four of them were laughing.
When the laughter died down, Joe patted Barry's knee, and said, "I'm tired. Walk me back to my room?"
Once they were alone in the hall, Joe put an arm around Barry and said, "It's good to see you smiling again. I was worried about you when you left this morning."
Barry realized that he didn't feel the crushing guilt that had plagued him earlier in the day. He said, "I had a talk with Dr. Wells. He helped me to see things… from a different perspective."
"Well whatever he said seems to have worked wonders, so I'm glad."
Barry slowly nodded and was able to give an honest answer when he said, "Me, too."
When they got to Joe's room, he ruffled Barry's hair before he got in the bed.
Barry made a noise of protest, and smoothed down his hair. "Get some sleep old man. I'll see you tomorrow."
Joe pointed a finger at Barry and said, "You get some sleep too."
"I will. See you later."
Joe waved, and Barry headed home knowing that this time he'd be able to actually relax once he got there.