A/N: My first Justice League story. I wanted to do something that focused on Flash, and everything about him that isn't stated on the show. This is a heavily introspective piece that portrays the reason, in my opinion, why Wally West is Flash.
The Reason Why
He knows they see him as a kid, a child they need to look after. It's true that he was the youngest of the group when it was just the seven of them, and even after the expansion he remains one of the youngest in the entire League – but he hasn't had the opportunity to actually be a kid since he was six years old.
Wally has never had the best relationship with his parents. His mother died in an accident when he was six, and after that his father degenerated into alcoholism. Within a few months, he'd drunk himself so far into a haze that he started abusing his young son. Wally handled it the best he could, and never told anyone – he still loved his father and wanted to protect him, even if he did things no father should ever do to his son. Wally's heart was just that big.
Eventually, though, Rudolph West was killed while driving under the influence, and nine-year-old Wally was bounced around from foster home to foster home for the next two years before finally ending up in the Keystone City Orphanage. He spent another three years there before his Aunt Iris found him and adopted him, taking him to live with her and her husband, Barry Allen – who just so happened to be the Flash. For the first time since he was six, Wally was happy.
At fourteen, while running an errand for Iris that took him to Barry's workplace (Central City's police station), Wally was struck by lightning-energized chemicals that granted him the same superspeed powers as his uncle. From then on, he fought alongside Barry as Kid Flash. It was the best time of his life. And when he joined the Teen Titans – nothing could have been more perfect.
He should have known it was too good to last. A supernatural crisis cropped up, threatening the entire universe as they knew it. Barry took the brunt of it, sacrificing his life to save Earth. At nineteen, Wally closed the door on Kid Flash and took over the mantle of the Flash, determined to honor Barry's memory and the legacy left to him.
He likes to think he's done a fair job. He protects both Central and Keystone and makes it a point to be an approachable hero. The citizens of the cities he defends know they can talk to him if they want to, and he has numerous friends both in and out of costume. He hopes Barry is proud.
Wally knows his League friends are aware that he was once Kid Flash – it's common knowledge that the previous Flash died and Kid Flash took his place. However, he's certain they don't know just what it means to be the man under the scarlet suit. He loves the job, sure, and he loves helping people – but it isn't just the title of 'Fastest Man Alive' that he has to live up to.
Barry Allen was a good man; he was a father to him in ways his own father never was – and Wally wants to make sure no one ever forgets that. First and foremost, he is the Flash because Barry was. It means he has a conscience that's more active than most people's, a moral compass that always points dead north and never wavers. He lives by a strict code of values and never compromises his beliefs, even in the stickiest of situations. Some of the more ruthless heroes – like Question or Huntress – might believe that sometimes there is no choice but to kill – but Wally will never, ever, do that. That the League knows. Even if his villains will continue to torture and torment him, he will never cross the line and take another life. He's tempted, sometimes…but all he has to do to rein in his impulses is to remind himself why he does this, why he is the Flash. He admits that this is the reason why the Justice Lords went rogue – if their Flash was anything like he is, once he was gone, the Lords lost their conscience.
Batman told him once that he had recruited Green Arrow in an effort to ensure that the League remained honest. Wally doesn't envy the archer that job – in a big group like the League, with a significant number of metahumans and aliens of such fantastic power, it's easy to fall into temptation. But being honest isn't the same as being moral – and that, Wally knows, is his job. If ever he needs proof that he is the moral anchor of the League, all he has to do is remember how far the Question was willing to go to save him from just the possibility of death. Question had been ready to kill Luthor, just so Luthor would never be able to threaten Flash. It was a humbling and awe-inspiring revelation of just how important he really is to the League.
However, Wally refuses to believe that after all they've done, and all they've seen, and all they've gone through together, that his friends would really go rogue if anything ever happened to him. All the other six founders have strong consciences of their own – even Batman doesn't kill, and he's got the most psychotic villains of anyone in the League. Wally has to admit he has doubts about Shayera – but he knows the others will keep her in check if it comes down to it. They've seen what happened to the Lords, and they know what they can do – and they've all vowed that they'll never progress to that level. Still, he isn't planning on dying anytime soon, so hopefully they'll never have to find out.
Sometimes Wally wonders if they would treat him differently if they knew just how powerful he really is. Contrary to popular belief, he isn't naïve about his power. Several people have told him he could be great, and make so much more of himself than what he does. You have so much potential, they say. Why can't you make use of it?
The answer is easy. Superman isn't the only one who has to be careful about his abilities. Flash is possibly one of the most powerful metahumans on the planet, but very few people think that, because Wally is very careful not to let anything slip. No one except himself knows just how powerful he really is – and even he isn't sure how much he can actually do.
Barry Allen was powerful in his own right, but Wally was connected to the Speed Force at a young age, before puberty had really kicked in. Being exposed to those chemicals so early in life had had a strange effect. The result: the Speed Force energy that Wally received grew and increased with him as he matured, and the incident with Luthor/Brainiac only cemented his connection with the force. Wally can feel the difference – instead of just tapping into the Speed Force's energy when he runs, he is now a living, breathing conduit for it. He literally channels the Speed Force when he uses his powers now. He can go from zero to the speed of sound so easily now, it's almost negligible. Even lightspeed is a piece of cake. Wally knows that if he pushes himself, he can reach speeds fast enough to break the time-dimensional barrier. It gives a whole new meaning to the term, 'Fastest Man Alive'. There isn't a doubt in Wally's mind that he is.
But for all that power, he still allows himself to be taken down by people and objects that should be mundane. He still pretends to have trouble chasing someone traveling at Mach 1 and still feigns being unable to avoid quick-moving laser beams. It's all an act to hide what he can really do. Generally, he doesn't allow himself to go faster than sound, because people can get hurt if he does. He's afraid that if he crosses that line and allows himself to push more, he will eventually grow more and more careless about how much he uses the Speed Force – and then where will he be? Ordinary people will be so in awe of him that he won't be able to have casual conversations with them like he does now, and even some of his super friends will be cautious around him. He's spent years cultivating the image of an average guy who just so happens to be super fast – that will all crumble to dust if he ever slips up and reveals how fast he actually is.
Wally knows some people will say it's stupid – names like Orion and Aquaman come to mind – to restrict himself like this, but he knows better. If he allows his powers free reign, he will lose something that he'll never be able to get back. Even his Rogues will never cross him again – and while most heroes would consider that a good thing, he doesn't. Flash has a strange relationship with his villains – they're not crazy like Batman's criminals, or unbelievably powerful like Superman's – mostly, they're like him: regular guys who happen to have abilities above the norm. He and his Rogues go way back, and no outsider could possibly understand why he'll occasionally visit them in jail, or give them more leeway than he strictly should. He knows that they know he'll stop them every time – because that's who he is and that's what he does – but they keep up with their little games of crime anyway, because that's who they are and that's what they do.
That's not to say it doesn't get frustrating sometimes. There are times when he gets tired of being treated like a kid or being passed over for missions that are 'too dangerous for him'. Those times, he wishes he could let go and show them exactly who and what he is. But he doesn't. Letting go of a lifetime of work isn't worth a few minutes of recognition. He knows that. It's why he pretends, on those rare instances when he actually utilizes his full potential, that he doesn't know he can do those things. It's also why he will insist that those same events are the result of a tremendous amount of effort on his part, and that he will never be able to do them on a regular basis. Truthfully, at this moment, he can't – but he knows that if he does them often enough, he will eventually be able to. So he simply doesn't, unless absolutely necessary.
Even though it's frustrating, there are little things along the way that remind him exactly why he doesn't break his façade – things like playing Brawling Bots with Elongated Man, or stopping for two-minute conversations with civilians during his patrols, or the exasperated looks on the Leaguers' faces when he pulls his pranks. Those are things he wouldn't give up, not for all the power and recognition in the world. Even more so when he considers the various times he's exhibited his true capabilities and witnessed the reactions he received.
An excellent example would be the Luthor/Brainiac incident. When he came out of the Speed Force, he saw the looks of relief on his friends' faces – but he also glimpsed the complete shock and awe still present in their expressions. They had seen a side of him that night that he normally never allowed them near, and the entire League, after hearing what he'd done, had been slightly jumpy around him for several days after. The same thing had happened in the aftermath of his switching brains with Luthor – Luthor in his body had taken down half the League and avoided all attempts to restrain him until gravity brought him down – literally. Half the Watchtower had actually had to be shut down for repairs after Luthor used Wally's abilities to vibrate through practically every door that stood in his way, causing explosions all over the place. Wally always recalls that particular week with a wince; no one had been comfortable around him for a while.
No, siree, he is never going to be able to live with that on a regular basis. He's too much of a social person for that. He'd rather they all see him as everyone's favorite kid brother than some speed god who could take them all down within the blink of an eye.
In the end, though, it all comes down to Barry. Wally, as the Flash, is recognized as a great hero in his own right now, but in his eyes, Barry is, and always will be, the original Scarlet Speedster. Everything he does as Flash is meant to live up to the legacy Barry left behind, and that will always be a primary driving force in his work as a hero. Wally knows this because he can identify the exact moment he believed he had succeeded as the Flash – and it wasn't when he founded the League, or defeated Brainiac, or saved the world. No – the precise point at which Wally West felt Flash had accomplished everything he set out to do was when the people of Central and Keystone opened the section of the Flash museum that was devoted solely to the previous Flash.
In that exact instant, Wally knew Barry would have been proud of him, and he knew Flash was a true hero.