Disclaimer: Don't own Young Justice.
For the YJ anon meme: Wally is bullied in school for being different, and doesn't tell the team about the bullying or the reason behind it. They find out anyway.
Before he got his powers, Wally West had a really hard time keeping up in school. Now he does all right. Not brilliantly, but all right. He can superspeed his way through his homework, and he does all right.
Sometimes it feels like cheating. Sometimes, when he sees a spec-ed kid getting picked on and thinks about how that used to be him, he feels bad because he can pass as normal now.
Wally divides his life into before and after, but for more reasons than the obvious.
When Wally was five years old, he had a stutter. It was a flaw, but a flaw that could be fixed. His kindergarten teacher helped him through words and sentences, told him to enunciate. But it didn't just magic itself away. He had to work at it, and by the time his speech was flawless he was in second grade.
In the meantime, the other kids teased him.
It hurt, but his teacher was nice. He liked it best when she was the playground monitor at recess. When she wasn't, he had no choice but to go out and play on the equipment, and his bullies were never far behind. But when she was he could hang out with her, and the bullies wouldn't dare say anything then. He would stutter his way through how his mommy was reading Jurassic Park to him, and reassure his teacher that he wasn't scared, dinosaurs were cool and besides, science wasn't advanced enough yet to clone dinosaurs using deoxyribonucleic acid (and he was particularly proud of that one, he had made his mommy help him until he could say it almost perfectly, albeit slowly) taken from fossilized mosquitoes, though it could be possible eventually.
And his teacher would look at him like he was the specialest, most amazing boy on the planet, and it made the days when she wasn't playground monitor bearable. Even after he had moved on to first grade, he still liked her the best and clung to her when she was playground monitor.
Even after he had gotten over his stutter, the other kids still teased him about it.
The stutter was obvious. His other flaws didn't become apparent for a while, and even then it was some time before anyone suggested that they were actual flaws that needed to be addressed in a way other than 'work harder'.
He was excited when his first grade teacher handed out writing workbooks. She had written their names on labels and put the labels on the front and told them to not lose their workbooks because they were important. She then passed out nice sharp pencils and told them that they were going to do the first page that day. She encouraged them not to be discouraged if their letters didn't look anything like the pictures, because nobody was perfect and most of them were just starting out.
Wally picked up the pencil. It was skinny, and his fingers didn't want to wrap around it the way they did markers. And it was long, so his whole hand couldn't encase it like it did crayon stubs. He snuck a glance to Rodrigo, who sat next to him. Rodrigo's parents were really into learning and starting early, so if anyone knew how you were supposed to hold a pencil it would be Rodrigo.
Wally tried to mimic Rodrigo, forming his hand into a shape like a shadow puppet, gripping the pencil with the tips of his fingers. He promptly dropped it. He tried a few more times, then gave up on mimicking Rodrigo. He wrapped his hand around the pencil. It felt awkward and clumsy, but at least he wasn't dropping it.
His letters didn't look anything like the letters on the page, but neither did anyone else's, except Rodrigo's.
His teacher passed by, looking over students' shoulders, and stopped by him, bending over. "Wallace," she said because she didn't call anyone by nicknames, "You're holding the pencil wrong. You need to hold it like this." And she pulled her pencil from behind her ear and demonstrated to Wally.
"I like it better this way," Wally said, because he didn't want to admit that he kept dropping it when no one else was.
"No Wallace, like this. May I show you?" When Wally didn't object she grabbed his hand and started molding his fingers around the pencil. "There, that's better."
Wally dropped the pencil.
His teacher tutted and watched as he picked it up and managed to hang on to it, finally. She watched as he painstakingly etched out one wobbly A on the paper, no better than all the previous As, if anything even worse. But it seemed to meet her approval, and she walked off to see who else might need help.
A few As later, Wally dropped the pencil again. He went back to his old way of holding it.
Over time, everyone else's handwriting improved. Wally's didn't.
"Wallace, you need to hold your pencil correctly."
"I can't hold it like that."
"Yes you can, you just need to try harder."
The other kids were starting to make fun of his handwriting, too.
Wally has a very vivid memory of a time his mother came to pick him up after school, shortly after he started first grade. He doesn't remember why, but he does remember that his teacher talked with her for a really long time. He doesn't remember what they were talking about, just that it was boring adult stuff. They had been given a few simple math questions for homework, and eventually he got bored enough of waiting around that he started working on it right then and there. When he finished, he decided that turning in his homework was a good enough excuse to interrupt them and hopefully finally leave.
"You're done? You didn't need help at all?" his teacher asked, the same amazed look on her face that his kindergarten teacher had had when he told her about Walking With Dinosaurs and the mating habits of Tyrannosaurus Rex. He didn't see why though, they were really easy, and he told her so. She took the paper and looked at his answers. "You wrote the 5 backwards. The 5 goes the other way."
His mother was looking over at his homework too. "Wally, you did this just now? All by yourself?"
Wally had no idea why they found that that interesting. It was easy. The hardest part was writing the numbers, but numbers were easier than letters because there weren't as many of them. You didn't have to write out a whole sentence.
"You got them all right," his teacher congratulated, and Wally beamed, glad that he had successfully interrupted their conversation and that they would finally be going home.
Except then they started talking again, and Wally made a loudly obnoxious groan and wandered off to make noises at the class doves.
One day in the spring of first grade, a man Wally didn't know told him that he was going to take a test. Wally made a face. Wally's teacher had started giving math quizzes, longer than that first bit of homework, and Wally could never finish them on time. The man chuckled at him, and told him that it was a special kind of test.
When Wally told his parents at dinner that evening, his mother told him that she had been talking with his teacher and the man a lot and that Wally was going to take an IQ test. Wally wondered why the man hadn't just told him that.
After he took the test the man called him and his mother into his office. He explained that there were four kinds of questions on the test and that Wally had done really, really good on three of them, but really, really badly on the fourth one, and because of that he was going to take him out of class regularly and work with him.
The man was nice enough, but he talked to Wally in a way that he didn't like. When he got older, the word he attached to him in his mind was condescending. But at the time he was simply frustrated, because whenever he complained to his mother he didn't have the right word to use. 'Stupid' and 'slow' and variations thereupon were what the other kids called him. Adults didn't call him that, and he wasn't about to accidentally convince himself that they were thinking it, not if he could help it.
Sometimes he was dragged into meetings between his mother and the special ed teacher. He didn't like it, because they talked about him as if he wasn't there, but he did pay attention. There was something wrong with the way his hands worked, how he moved, and something wrong with the way his mind worked, and they were trying to figure out how to help him succeed in school. He had to go to physical therapy for his hands, and he had to spend time with the special ed teacher for his brain, but it didn't feel like it was helping. He still didn't have enough room on the lines to write, and his handwriting was still barely legible, and he still didn't have enough time to do class assignments, while everyone else finished with plenty of time to spare and talked endlessly, distracting him.
When it was clear that physical therapy wasn't helping, they stopped making him go. But he still had to spend time with the special ed teacher who talked to him like he was slow, because he was, there were tests that proved it and all his classmates called him slow.
No one ever called the Flash slow, Wally was sure of it. After all, he was the Flash, fastest man alive. Slow was the complete opposite. The Flash was the antithesis of slow.
When Wally stood in the back of the church, holding onto the little pillow with two rings resting on it for dear life and watched Mr. Jordan the best man bang on the closed door and shout, "Barry, you're so slow!" a surge of unstoppable happiness filled him.
After the ceremony, the reception was held in a large, open area. Wally was munching on a handful of crackers when a girl his age ran up to him. "Do you want to play? I'm Deidre."
Wally nodded. "Okay. I'm Wally. Do you want a cracker?"
He offered a cracker, and she took it. Together they quickly ate the rest of Wally's crackers, then Deidre tapped his arm and shouted, "You're it!" They ran all over the grass, finally collapsing in a panting heap. "What's your favorite TV show?" Deidre asked
"I watched Nova on PBS last night with my mom and dad," Wally answered, then promptly launched into an in-depth description of what the show had been about.
Deidre quickly got a glazed look in her eyes. "I like the Powerpuff Girls," she interrupted, clearly having no clue what Wally was talking about. "That cloud looks like a bunny," she pointed up at the sky.
Wally started talking about cumulus clouds. Deidre said she was going to go find something to eat and left. She didn't come back.
When Wally got superspeed, suddenly he could do everything faster. He could finish his homework on time. He could secretly use it when he was writing, and pretend that his bad handwriting was from going too quickly. He started getting good grades without help, and they kicked him out of spec-ed because they only had so much funding and they needed it for kids who couldn't get good grades without help. Then his family moved across town the summer before his freshman year of high school, and he went to a different school than his old classmates.
A new school where no one knew him. Where no one knew he was only passing for normal, that he really, really wasn't.
"Your work is excellent," his history teacher said, then turned the paper he was holding up around so that Wally could see it. "But do you think you could at least try to write a little better?"
Wally scratched the back of his neck, giving off an apologetic smile as fake as his teacher's faux leather shoes. "You know me, Mr. Ingalls. In too much of a hurry to get my thoughts down to bother writing neatly."
Uncle Barry knew about Wally's writing trick, but didn't say anything. Maybe he knew how much Wally had practiced before he tried it in public.
Artemis made cracks about Wally's handwriting, a lot. "Seriously Wally, could that be any more illegible?"
Wally sniffed at her. "You're just jealous that my handwriting is so artful." He could deal with it. It was just his handwriting. They weren't calling him slow, or stupid. He was Kid Flash, he was fast, faster than almost anyone else, and he was smart, he knew all sorts of things that Artemis and Kaldur and M'gann and even Superboy didn't know.
Wally's superspeed made everything go faster, not just his feet. Now the parts of his brain that went really fast before went even faster, and the part that went slow could pass as normal.
Meeting Robin for the first time was quite possibly the most nerve-wracking thing Wally had ever done, even worse than when he performed his superspeed experiment, or when he started high school and was terrified that everyone would see right through him. He was Robin, the definitive sidekick, and Wally desperately wanted him to like him. But he was sure Robin wouldn't. No one liked Wally. He talked too smart, too fast, and no one understood, and preferred to hang out with people they could understand.
As a result, Wally barely talked at all. Robin wasn't much of a talker either, and they mostly worked in silence. He and Robin ended up in some sort of control room, and immediately Robin went over to one of the consoles. "What are you doing?" Wally asked, frowning.
"Creating havoc," Robin answered. "Triggering alarms in all the wrong places, interrupting surveillance feeds, installing some subroutines that'll be really, really hard to get rid of, grabbing some files..." He looked over his shoulder at Wally, a little sheepish. "Geek stuff."
"I like geek stuff," Wally answered, then added, "Can I help?"
It turned out that Robin had the same fears as Wally, and once they got that out of the way Robin wouldn't shut up, and it turned out Wally wouldn't either, and after the mission they went out for ice cream and talked about the latest scientific advances, and the waitresses gave the two sidekicks talking nerd at each other funny looks, and Wally got himself a best friend who could keep up with him. Then he met Roy, and got a best friend who couldn't keep up with him but didn't care, and then he met Kaldur who didn't know anything about the surface world and so a lot of what he said didn't even compute which was just plain weird, but good weird, and Wally had friends, true friends, for the first time in his life.
And Wally knew he wasn't alone in having his secrets.
"Can you keep a secret?" Robin asked one night as they sat on a roof and overlooked Central.
"Rob, we're superheroes. Vast chunks of our lives are secret," Wally answered as an affirmative.
Rob shook his head. "No, I mean really secret. No one can know that you know."
Wally nodded. "Yeah, sure."
Robin leaned over and whispered his name in Wally's ear.
Batman would kill him if he knew that Wally knew. Literally rend him limb from limb. "Wow. I... I'm glad you trust me that much. Really surprised, but glad."
Robin looked at him, expression obscured by his domino mask and the darkness. "Of course I trust you that much. You're my best friend. You're on my level. If I start obsessively rambling about something you understand, because you do the same thing. You can keep up with me. Not a lot of people I've met can do that, and even fewer want to be friends."
Wally swallowed, mouth suddenly dry. He wanted to repay Robin in kind; wanted to tell him his own deep secret. But after that, how could he? Robin was the normal smart, just plain genius. The kind that was alienated simply because they were so much further ahead of everyone else, not alienated because they were broken. Wally was the broken smart, masquerading as the normal smart. How could he tell Robin that he was completely wrong about him, right after he'd said that?
So Wally didn't say anything.
Wally woke up one morning feeling that something was off. But whatever it was wasn't readily apparent, so he shrugged it off and went through his morning routine as normal. When he came downstairs, his mother turned to look at him worriedly. "How are you feeling Wally?"
Wally frowned at her. "Fine, why... shouldn't..." he trailed off as he realized that something was very, very wrong.
He wasn't hungry.
Ever since getting his superspeed, Wally had always woken up ravenous. His accelerated metabolism didn't stop just because he was asleep, and his mother was always sure to have a large breakfast waiting for him when he woke up. But right here, right now, when his stomach should be shouting at him for sustenance, it was merely sending small warning signals that maybe Wally should start thinking about maybe finding something to eat soon.
Wally grabbed the newspaper off the table and stared at it. He wasn't processing the words fast enough. "What happened?" he asked quietly.
"Barry called a few minutes ago," his mother started. "All of the humans with superpowers lost their powers overnight. The Justice League is trying to figure out what happened."
"All of the humans?" Wally questioned, thinking. "So we've still got non-humans, like Superman?"
His mother nodded.
Wally took a slice of toast from the plate on the table. "I'm... just going to stay in my room until this blows over."
"Wally," his mother pleaded, but he was already heading back up the stairs.
Zatanna stared down at her hands. "I just feel so useless, not being able to help at all."
"You're not useless," Robin insisted. "You can help coordinate things from the Cave. It's just that you haven't had much hand-to-hand training with Black Canary yet."
"Unlike someone, who has yet to show his sorry face around here," Artemis grumbled.
The Flash spoke up from the Cave's comm system, currently being in communication with the team and feeling the need to update them on Wally. "I checked up on Wally. He's sulking in his room, with no plans to leave until he gets his superspeed back. Anyway, I called to say that I think I've got Central covered, but that's only think and there's still Keystone regardless. I know everyone's a little stretched, and all the adult heroes who aren't working full-time on the problem are filling in for the depowered, but you think you can spare someone?"
Robin answered, "Criminals all over the country are taking advantage of the depowering. Miss Martian, Superboy, and Aqualad are all out helping. I was about to head back to Gotham, but Artemis can take care of that and I can come help you. Maybe we can stop by Wally's house and I can convince him to stop wallowing in misery."
Artemis groaned. "Oh you did not just use 'wallowing' to describe Wally."
Robin grinned. "Wally the wallower."
"Okay. Bring your R-cycle, I've commandeered transportation of my own."
Artemis frowned. "Isn't that abuse of power?"
"I commandeered it from Wally. Serves him right."
Robin chuckled. "If I have my way, you'll have to give it back. I'll zeta there right away."
There was an insistent tapping on the window. Which was stupid, because no one would be tapping on Wally's bedroom window. Sure there was a handy tree there, but that didn't mean people tapped on his window.
The tapping became more insistent. "Wally you idiot, open your window before your neighbors see me!"
Wally lifted his head from the pillow it was buried in and turned his neck to look out the window. Robin had on his 'someday this will be my Batman glare but right now I just look pouty, petulant, and adorable' look. "You know how to let yourself in."
Robin stuck his tongue out, then opened the window with the trick that Wally had been employing for years and climbed in. He shut it behind him, then turned to stare at Wally. "Just assessing how wallowy you're being."
"Why are you here?"
Robin folded his arms and glared. "You know just because you don't have superspeed anymore doesn't mean you can't help. Zatanna's back at the cave helping to coordinate efforts between those still active in the field. The Flash is out there zooming around on your motorcycle."
"I am staying right here Rob."
Robin rolled his eyes and stepped forward, his toe catching on an upturned book. "Wally, why is your textbook on the floor?"
"Tried doing homework. Got frustrated."
Robin picked the book up and inspected it for bent pages. "Wally, you never get frustrated. Not over homework at least. Try again."
Wally groaned and slammed his face back into his pillow. "Robin, go away."
This had the opposite of the desired effect. Robin put the book on Wally's desk and jumped onto his bed, settling down to sit cross-legged on Wally.
"Robin, get off."
Robin leaned forward, a concerned look on his face. He reached up and peeled off his mask, revealing his blue eyes. "No. Not until you tell me what's wrong, because this can't possibly be all because of losing your superspeed. So spill."
"I'm not going away until you tell me why you're sulking!" Dick sing-songed.
"I'm not sulking."
"Yes you are." Dick slid off of Wally's back and rolled around so he was lying next to Wally. He grabbed Wally's head and turned it, forcing him to meet his eyes. "I trust you Wally. Why won't you trust me?"
"You trust me for all the wrong reasons," Wally answered, and tried to roll away but Dick's grip held firm.
"I'm having a hard time believing that." Dick grinned. "Just because you've been brought down to normal like the rest of us doesn't mean that you are normal."
"You... you trust me because we're the same, but we're not." Wally answered quietly, hesitatingly.
Dick smiled. "No one's the same, they're just less different. Let's try this again. Hello Wally, my secret is Richard Grayson, what's yours?"
Wally bit his lip, and Dick was struck by how vulnerable he looked. He started, stopped, then started again, moving closer and whispering his secret in Dick's ear.
Once Wally had finished whispering, Dick had to refrain from rolling his eyes. "Silly." He took advantage of their close position and leaned forward, giving Wally a quick, clumsy peck on the lips. "You are the sum of yourself, and I wouldn't have you any other way." Wally raised two uncertain fingers to his lips, a very surprised look on his face. Dick smiled sheepishly. "That's my other secret."
Wally returned the smile, shyly. "Mine too." He raised his hands and cupped Dick's face, wiggling one of them between his head and the pillow. He pulled Dick into a longer, less clumsy kiss.
After he pulled back, Dick held up his mask. "Ready to get back to saving the world?"
Wally smiled. "Uncle Barry's out of a motorcycle."