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07 September 2008 @ 10:55 am
Cleanup: Themes in the Key of B  
These were languishing on my harddrive. They were written about three years ago and have had little editing from me between then and now. I figured that with The Dark Knight out, I should just admit that I'm never going to finish these and post what I have.

26.) Drifting
Notes: I like this for the imagery and for exploring an interesting period in Bruce's life, but I don't think it's particularly insightful.


Bruce is drifting.

He drifts through worlds, through lives, through places. He collects little more than stories, memories, tidbits. A rolling stone gathers no moss.

He does not know what he's looking for, but he's still looking, so he probably hasn't found it yet.

---

In Africa, after he hasn't washed for days, he finds a public tap in a small back alley. The water is a dirty brown, but it will do. He closes his eyes and lets it stream through his hair, over his face.

It tastes like mud in his mouth, body too used to creature comforts. He will have to unlearn them to survive out here. He is unlearning them at this moment.

As the water flows over him, he thinks of rain, since the world here is always, always sunny.

Today, the air is hot and dusty. He will not have to worry about drying off. He will dry off eventually, on his own, in the air, and in a few days, he will probably wish for the cool, wet feel of water.

But for now, he pushes his hair back, out of his eyes, and stands up. Blinks a few times. Feels cleaner. Keeps walking.

---

In England, a world a step away from home, just different enough that he notices it. Wrong license plates, wrong side of the road, wrong lots of things.

In England, he learns to speak wrong, twisting his mouth and tongue around strange cockney vowels and phrases that he uses so that no one looks at him too closely. The bloke who looks like Bruce Wayne, but isn't him, because this bloke is from London and doesn't speak American.

The cockney accent is one of the tidbits he's picked up, a curiosity at most. Not what he's ultimately looking for.

It rains one day.

But it is England, after all, and Bruce barely notices until he looks up, into the gray-on-white sky and feels the rain on his face and eyes. He opens his mouth to drink it in, but it is too small, too insubstantial, that sort of mist-rain that barely seems there at all.

He thinks of Gotham's rain, tries to remember what it feels like.

He can't.

---

In Japan, he thinks of an essay one of his professors made him read as he stares at a giant LCD screen advertising cameras (he guesses, since his Japanese is shaky at best). It was about an author that moved to Europe and discovered his American-ness. Something like that.

It makes him wonder if that's what he's looking for.

But while he is American out here, he does not really understand the other Americans, and he cannot understand what they are looking for any more they understand what he is looking for. No, that is not it.

So Bruce finds his bag and wanders back into the darkness to keep searching.

---

In Taiwan, Bruce picks up Judo and Jiu Jitsu and some serviceable Mandarin. It rolls off his tongue even more strangely than the cockney, but one of the guys he's staying with assures him that he's pronouncing it correctly in his own broken English.

It's easier here, where no one really knows who or what he is. Where it doesn't matter.

In the Taipei night market, it's crowed, bright, jammed full of people. It's not Gotham, but it's still a city, and Bruce has long since figured out that he's a city person.

He buys dumplings from a vendor most nights. "Pot stickers" they're called, and it sounds a lot less stupid in Chinese than it does in English. He's certain that they have these in Gotham's Chinatown, though he's never been there.

The next time he's back home, he promises himself, he will get some.

The only problem is, he doesn't know when he's going to be back home.

---

In Bhutan, there is stillness.

It's a world frozen in time, distant and separate from real life. Bruce likes that. It gives him space to learn, to search.

He is always in motion here, constantly pushing himself mentally and physically, which seems at odds with the quiet of the place. He walks barefoot over wooden planks with feet that are too used to stone and steel and thinks of ice, its stability and fragility.

He is still looking, still searching, but he has stopped drifting. He has purpose, he has direction, and he feels rooted here, like he shouldn't leave, not until he's ready.

The training gives him discipline, something he knows he's been lacking, and focus. He can feel himself changing, sharpening, becoming something he needs to be.

The pieces are falling into place, and he's wondering why it couldn't have found this before. He asks Ducard about it, one day.

"What you were looking for was inside yourself all along. You just did not know how to find it," Ducard says, and Bruce believes him.


22.) Argument
Notes: Okay, this story makes me cringe and I was debating even adding it. I have discovered that I greatly dislike dialogue-only, which this is a blatant experiment in, and it has an undercurrent of misogyny that makes me uncomfortable. I'm posting it for completeness.



Let me tell you something, Bruce Wayne is a fucking douchebag. Don't be fooled by the smile, the money, the good looks. The guy is a grade-A asshole.

Is that so? I never would have guessed. He's always seemed like the pinnacle of gentlemanly proprietary and manners after that whole "showing up late to his own party late and then drunkenly kicking everyone out by calling them 'phonies'" debacle.

Look, I thought you'd be supportive, instead of all this "I told you so" crap. I have a strong need to rant at the moment.

Sorry. Go on.


I think I began to see him for what he really was during a Christmas party, I'm pretty sure it was the Donovans', they always have a spectacular Christmas party. Anyway, so he takes me to this party, right? He takes me. That means, he should, oh, maybe at least spend five minutes in my presence instead of running off to talk to everyone who wasn't me (oh, and Catherine, but after she tossed a drink in his face last week, that wasn't exactly surprising.)

Really? I haven't heard this story.


It wasn't a big deal, just another one of his other conquests getting her panties in a twist. I think he danced with Valerie and grabbed her ass when he took her (Catherine, not Valerie) to this charity dinner or something like that. He should be glad I haven't thrown anything in his face. It's not for lack of wanting, that's for sure.

I should hope not.

You did agree to be supportive, right?

I am being supportive. I'm just sad that you didn't throw anything in his face.

Ha. I really should have, but would I ever want to tell anyone I sunk town to Catherine Turner's level? Definitely not. Of course, that wasn't the worst part about it (the party, I mean), the worst part was that he had his butler drop me off afterward. His butler.

Wow. That is low. Please tell me he at least kissed you goodnight.


Nope, not a thing. He rushed out, for no reason whatsoever. I wouldn't have even seen him if I hadn't been coming out of the bathroom at that exact moment, I would have missed him.

So what happened? You probably didn't let him go without a fight.

So I say to him, "Where the hell do you think you're going?" and he grinned at me and said "Out." Like I was too stupid to understand what the hell he had to go out for. I saw Cady eyeing him all night, and he was flirting with her. By pretending to give a crap about this hostage situation or something on TV. He was chatting her up and playing the "I care about the little people, really!" card at the same time.

He actually did that? Methinks Mr. Wayne has sunk to new lows. And this is a guy that burned down his own house.

Well, I saw them talking in front of the television, and I heard Cady say something about how it was so sad that things like this happen, and he nodded. I didn't catch what he said back, but I'm sure it was suitably sympathetic and bleeding heart. And then, I saw Cady discreetly sneak out five minutes before I went to the bathroom. He should have known I would have seen that, surely.

I wouldn't give him that much credit, actually. Oh, excuse me, waiter? Could I have some more coffee? Thank you.

Oh, so I called him on it, the Cady thing, of course. I think I actually yelled "Do you think I'm a moron?" in his face. Good thing we were in the hallway, instead of in actual public place.

Did he have anything to say to that?


Oh, of course. Could I have a slice of the chocolate cake? Thanks. I know I should be counting calories, but I feel chocolate craving setting in. Anyway, so we got into something of an argument right there, him making excuse about having things to do "at the office." As if he actually does anything at Wayne Enterprises. I bet they give him a big office and an inexhaustible supply of secretaries so he won't cause trouble. I bet his "work to do" at the office was Cady. She probably has a desk fetish or something.

From what I've heard about her, that wouldn't surprise me. There was that whole thing with the CFO of Kord Industries.


Ooh, you'll have to let me in on the scoop, later of course. We were discussing how much of an asshole Bruce is, right? Okay, so then he takes off, and I'm just standing there in shock and disbelief that anyone, even Bruce Wayne, would have the gall.

Well, he is reasonably young, ridiculously hot, and ridiculously rich. That would probably give a person a lot of gall.

Still...

Yeah, I know what you mean.

And then this old English guy comes up to me and goes, "Ma'am. Master Wayne has asked that I take you home." That was actually a decent English accent, wasn't it?

Yeah, your vocal skills are unparalleled. Get on with the story.

I think I may have been a little rude to him, but I was still pissed off about the whole taking off thing.

Understandable.


The English guy was actually really nice, actually. He apologized a few times for "Master Wayne"'s behavior and really seemed to mean it.

I heard he actually raised Bruce. Like after his parents died.

Seriously? That's crazy. Guess he felt bad for seeing the kid he raised turn out to be such a useless asshole.

Happens to the best of us, I think.

This cake is fantastic, you have to try some.

Oh, this is good, though I don't think I should have any more. Not good for my figure either. So, yeah, what's the deal with you and Bruce now? You have to have ditched him by now.

We are so over. I don't think I'm ever going to talk to that asshole ever again. He can go rot in hell for all I care. Oh, wait, there goes my phone, sorry. Hello? Oh, it's you. I really should be hanging up right now. Why the hell should I hear you out? After that whole thing at the Donovans'? No, I am not being unreasonable. What about Cady? What do you mean 'which Cady'? The one you were flirting with all night! Where am I right now? Why does that matter? If you really must know, I'm having lunch with Veronica right now. Andreas'. Yes, on 10th Street. Don't even think about coming over. Yeah, you're sorry? Well, I don't believe you. You ignored me all night? I bet you always say that 'oh, I'll do better next time,' and yet you never do. How the hell do you think you're going to make it up to me?

I think those are yours.

Hmm. What's mine? Wow. That is a really nice necklace. Look, Bruce, I'll consider it. Can we talk it over later? Maybe? Okay. Bye.

Expensive, yet tasteful, I like.

Hey, we're supposed to be hating him, right? Right? Can I get some support here?

If you're set on hating him, can I have it?

No way. He asked me if I wanted to go with him to this charity thing next Tuesday. Do you think I should?

Up to you. You could always ditch him and keep the necklace. There's no ultimatum involved here, right?

Well, he seemed really sincere...

I don't know. If he turns out to be an asshole again, do I get to say 'I told you so' this time?


20.) Regrets
Notes: This one is also sort of bland and doesn't really seem to say anything new. Alas.


It is always Rachel who asks, because Rachel is the only one in a position to ask.

Do you ever want anything more than this? It's always half-whispered over the phone, wistful and sad.

Bruce always answers the question with another question, voice no louder than hers. More than what?

She always laughs, short and sharp, forced out more by pain than happiness. This.

His answer is always different.

Sometimes, he says what she wants to hear, that he wishes for a family, that he wishes to put all of this behind him and live a normal life. Have a family, have kids. He always closes his eyes when he answers this way, imagining an entirely new life behind his eyelids.

Sometimes, he says that he wants to go back and do it all over, and not be afraid of the bats on stage, to tell his dad not to give his mom the necklace, to pretend to be sick and miss the opera altogether. There is always a lump in his throat when he says this, and the images are always fresh in his mind hours later.

Sometimes, he tells her that he does not regret a single moment, a single day. He tells her that he does not wish for anything else, that this is only life he could live, would want to live. He always looks up when he tells her this, imagining the signal in the sky, the feel of wind at his back, the crunch of bone under his fist.

Sometimes, he does not say anything at all, preferring to let the silence speak for him.

It is always after these times that she hangs up first, the gentle click at the other end of the line echoing in his mind.

It is always after these times that he finds himself truly considering what he has lost and what he has gained, truly mulling over her question and all the things she has asked, in more than just words. He always reaches the same conclusion.

The most truthful answer he could possibly give her (and the one he never does) is, I don't know.


24.) Money
Notes: I think I was watching too much Kevin Smith and reading too much Authority when writing this. It quite unsubtly hammers in its theme, but Kev does amuse me.


Kev's always said that this fucking world revolves around money. He's said it over and over again to anyone who was willing to listen (and even some who weren't). His ex-girlfriend used to roll her eyes and mutter something about cliches whenever he says it, but there are reasons why she's his ex.

Kev fucking knows it's true, though. Especially in this town. Everything in this town runs on money.

---

He wakes up one Monday two hours late for work. Shit fuck. he thinks. Aparment's a mess, and he can't find his last pack of cigarettes. He manages to calm himself down before hitting anything. He'll just get them when he gets to the store, not a big deal. Being a clerk at a convenience store does have its perks.

On the front cover of the Gazette is a story about Bruce Wayne's latest conquest. Some reporter or something. He wonders why the fuck anyone would give that much of a shit about Wayne's life. He's a fucking moron.

But then again, he's money, old, Gotham money. And that's the way this town works.

---

Kev hates his job. It's just shit. His boss treats him like shit. His coworkers treat him like shit. The customers treat him like shit. He probably treats himself like shit too, without even knowing it.

When there's another angry customer in his face, he wonders why he's even here. Why he even bothers.

Oh, right, money. Why the fuck doesn't anyone listen to him?

---

It's late, and all Kev wants to do is close up shop, but he's on shift for another half an hour. He drums his fingers to the rhythm of an old Nirvana song on the counter top instead. It's always pretty dead this time of night, and he's bored out of his fucking skull.

It's not something he expects, a few guys with guns and black ski masks coming in, but he's not exactly surprised either. This shit happens all the time. He watches as a customer screams and one of the guys knocks her out. Another guy puts a gun in Kev's face. Kev can barely work up enough energy to give a flying fuck.

They want the cash register, obviously, and Kev hands it over without argument. It's not like they want to hurt him or anything. They just want the money. (That's what they all want, isn't it?)

All of a sudden, he feels really tired. Shit, man, he doesn't want to deal with this shit. He wants to rub his face with his hands, but he'd probably get shot. Figures.

As they're about to leave, however, something crashes through the window, and Kev sees a black thing before ducking behind the counter. From his hiding place, Kev can hear the screams, the gunshots, the scuffles.

Shit, he really doesn't want to deal with this shit.

When he gets back up, the place is mess. Some of the shelves have fallen and scattered their contents on the floor. The florescent lights are hanging from their wires, and Kev's almost afraid that they'll do that thing where they blow up and throw sparks everywhere and shit. But they don't.

"Fuck," he mutters under his breath.

A black shadow moves toward him. "Have you called the cops yet?" it asks, and then Kev can make out something approximating a human face, kind of, underneath a black mask.

"Uh," Kev says. "I was too busy trying not to get shot."

The guy, the thing, cocks his head to the side, and Kev wonders what he(it) wants with him. It's not like he has any cash on him or anything. Kev never been good with the fear thing. In fact, he's been pretty bad with the fear thing. And this this thing is pretty fucking scary. He resists the urge to hyperventilate.

"You should do that now," the thing says, before gliding out and disappearing through the window.

Kev nods to the somewhat empty store (the robbers are unconscious and tied up in a corner) and picks up the cash stolen from the register. He would pocket it, but he's fairly sure that guy is still watching him. He can probably see through walls.

Instead, he puts the money back in the register, calls the cops, leans his head against the front counter, waiting.

It's not until later, when the cops have finally cleared out and stopped asking questions that he realizes that the thing (that really fucking scary bat thing)
didn't take the money for itself.


34.) Flesh wound
Notes: An Alfred POV piece. It sounds too much like me and not enough like Alfred, I fear, but I think it's somewhat interesting, anyway.


Alfred knows the sight of blood.

He knows the feel of it, sliding through your fingers as you attempt to hold back the flow, the taste of it on split lips and bleeding gums. He's seen war, after all. He knows just how much the human body can take and still survive. He's seen it, over and over again.

But at the moment, what he's trying to deal with is Bruce's blood, Bruce's wounds, and that makes it different somehow, as if all blood is different, and Wayne blood especially so.

He watches as Bruce peels the wetsuit from his body, exposing dark bruises and a deep, red gash on his arm.

"Shall I inform Mr. Fox that we will need another repair for the suit?" Alfred asks. It is all about priorities, down here in the cave.

Bruce nods without speaking, and Alfred can see the darkness in his eyes. He is still inside the monster at the moment, but Alfred has learned to ignore it and continue as usual.

It still sometimes surprises him to feel warm flesh as he cleans the cut and bandages it. It is too easy, sometimes, to forget that Bruce is still human, though Alfred has known him far too long and far too well enough to let himself forget.

He treats the wound as gently as possible, fully aware that Bruce would insist that Alfred stop "babying" him if he knew. But Alfred also knows that someone needs to take care of Bruce, and it might as well be him.

It's a good thing this one isn't too deep or too hard to treat, since Bruce is always restless, unwilling to wait the few minutes it takes to treat even a shallow wound. Alfred always moves slower than he absolutely needs to in order to make a point that he's not quite sure Bruce has ever received.

Bruce does not say thank you after Alfred finishes, as if it is either unneeded or understood. He merely gets up and goes back to work.

Alfred thinks he knows Bruce better than anyone in the world (Bruce included), but even he doesn't fully understand him. It's too fragmented to ever form a complete picture. There are too many pieces.

But he is still Bruce Wayne, and Alfred still loves him, and he will still watch over him, just as he promised.

He can't not.


4.) House of mirrors
Notes: An intensely stylized one. It was originally meant to be longer, but I couldn't keep up the tone, so I cut it short. I did do some major editing to this one post-The Dark Knight to keep it canon, but I don't think I could bring the idea to its full potential, alas.


the bat does not go to arkham often, and he is only here now because he was asked to. the hallways dripdripdrip with leaking water and the doors creeeek when opened. old, older than the narrows that hold it, old with age and neglect. it is always dark there, as if the light of the outside world refuses to enter.

the commissioner, gordon, holds the door open for him, straight line mouth and eyes tired of madness and death. the gatekeeper. abandon all hope all ye who enter here.

they walk together, past the dripdripdrip, the creeek, into the darkness. a decent into hell.

i don't think this is a good idea, the commissioner says, pushing up his glasses. he licks his lips, a sign of nervousness, a sign of weakness. he'll talk, sure, but it won't be anything useful.

the ramblings of madmen, they are, but the bat does not care. he knows what he is doing.

the joker. his grin stretches across his face, too big, too bright, too cheerful. what can i do you for, batsy? he grins through his carved smile. he grins, and the bat frowns, because he is not in the mood for games today, he is never in the mood for games.

i want to know what you did, the bat says.

the joker's grin does not fade. it never fades. but where's the fun in that? you should never give away the punch line of the joke.

the bat's expression does not change. blank, bland, cool. i know you were working on something. i want to know what it was.

what makes you think i'll tell you, batsy? i'm crazy. i don't know my ups from my downs.

the bat stares, eyes black and yawning, but the joker does not notice.

i'm not crazy, he says. i just act that way sometimes. and laughs and laughs and laughs until the men in the white coats come and take him away.

gordon is waiting. did you get anything? he asks. he is nervous. he is tense. he does not belong in here, lost in madness.

no
, the bat says, disappearing into the darkness before they can take him away, too.
 
 
 
Rogaroga on September 9th, 2008 10:20 am (UTC)
Eep, the last one is creepy. Batman, you disturbed thing, you. I loved the Alfred POV, especially this line: Alfred thinks he knows Bruce better than anyone in the world (Bruce included), but even he doesn't fully understand him. It's too fragmented to ever form a complete picture. There are too many pieces.

...and I really liked the 'Drifting' section too.
thedeadparrot: batcavethedeadparrot on September 10th, 2008 03:32 am (UTC)
Whee, thanks! I was worried that the last one would come off as more lame than creepy, so I'm glad you liked it. And Alfred is just pure awesome ALL THE TIME. I don't know how he does it.