1671: Love & Bullets – Chapter Three, Part TwoPosted: January 29, 2017
Title: Love & Bullets
URL: Chapter Three
Critiqued by BatJamags (BadJamags and GoodJamags)
WARNING: THIS CHAPTER CONTAINS A REFERENCE TO DOMESTIC ABUSE. I’M WARNING YOU IN PART BECAUSE THE AUTHOR WASN’T CONISIDERATE ENOUGH TO DO SO.
What do you need us for? count: 4
Hello once again, patrons! I’m your guest host, BatJamags, and I’m back with this nerd-
To riff more of this turd.
GoodJamags: Previously, on Love & Bullets: Raya Sue talked to Alfred, and was trajek. And now back to your regularly scheduled nothing:
“And why did you tell Master Jason and not either Master Bruce or Richard?”
“Jason grew up in a house like mine.” She heaved a weary sigh. “He knows about what it is to be a grown-up child. He knows about having to be the parent to your parent.”
“He knows what it is to be abused,” Alfred murmured with a nod of understanding. “Having been a victim of abuse himself, he was not surprised by anything that you revealed to him.”
GoodJamags: That’s actually pretty reasonable. I’m no psychologist, but it makes sense that she’d go to someone who understood what she went through. I’ve got no frame of reference, but I feel like it’s what I’d do.
I guess you’re right. This would make this subject somewhat tactfully handled except for the fact that the story is billed as a romance starring Dick Grayson. This whole backstory is just a roundabout plot device to keep our two leads apart. Also, the author didn’t put a warning at the top.
Raya nodded. It was the tie, as sad as that fact was that bound her and Jason Todd together. It was what made a relationship between them seem, on the outside, like a good idea. They were two emotionally crippled people struggling with overcoming the same issues. Yet their very issues were what ultimately kept a relationship from forming between them. Jason blamed Dick and her unresolved feelings for the breakdown of their relationship. But Raya knew it was because neither of them had been ready for the commitment that an interpersonal relationship required. Their emotional baggage had made it next to impossible for them to enter into such a complicated relationship. They’d ended things before they’d even really gotten much of a chance to get started.
GoodJamags: Oh, and she latched onto Jason, too. Lovely.
“Has there ever been a time where you wanted to tell Master Richard not only about the night your mother was killed, but about the abuse as well?” Alfred asked in a gentle tone. “Has there ever been a moment where you wanted to drop the mask and let him see what you were born from?”
This seems kind of obvious. She’s wanted to tell Bruce, and she’s clearly closer to Dick than to Bruce.
Raya felt her lips twitch at his chosen words. Only silently, however, did she think, he’s right. I was not born into a family. No, she’d been born from a fiery circle and taken in by a family. This family,she thought. The three of you- along with uncle Jim and Barbara became my family. And then Tim, Cassandra, Jason and Damian joined our ranks and made our little family even more complete.
GoodJamags: OK, that’s nice. Now, the point: get to it.
But then her mind drifted back and she recalled the time, the one and only time in which she’d debated telling Dick the truth about her family.
Oh, so Bruce she considered telling a bunch of times, but she only wanted to tell Dick once?
“There was one time,” she told him finally. “There was one time where I wavered back and forth about whether or not I should finally share the truth with him.”
GoodJamags: If she was about to say this, the fic didn’t need to tell us about this in the narration. Showing is better than telling, but you don’t need to do both.
“And when was that?”
“It was right around the anniversary of my father’s acquittal,” she began saying. “The summer we turned fourteen…”
So… Wanna tell us what he got acquitted for? No? Just gonna stay vague about it?
GoodJamags: *POMMEL-STRIKE!* That’s stately Wayne Manor.
“‘My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I-‘.”
GoodJamags: Waitwaitwaitwait I got this one! Sounds like Shakespeare (as if this author’s creative enough reference a different classic author), and that kind of over-the-top prattling means it’s either one of his comedies or Romeo and Juliet…
Nah, I bet it’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, from the Pyramus and Thysbe play-within-a-play the mechanicals do. R&J’s possible too, but it’s over-the-top even for that.
An articulated snort stopped her in mid-sentence. Then Dick Grayson was saying (with all the worldliness of a fourteen-year-old boy), “Geez, Raya, whatcha have ta go and pick a goofy play likeRomeo & Juliet for?“
GoodJamags: Ha! I was right!
See, what most readers and viewers don’t get about Romeo and Juliet is that the title characters aren’t even the main characters. They’re just stupid kids who think they’re in love and get killed by their parents’ rivalry. The real main characters are Montague and Capulet. Why? They’re the ones who learn their lesson at the end. We may be seeing it from Romeo and Juliet’s point of view, but Montague and Capulet are the ones with actual character arcs. They feud a whole bunch, lose their kids because of it, and learn not to feud so much anymore. So, to emphasize this, the two lovers’ dialogue is completely hammed up and kind of ridiculous even by Shakespearian standards.
GoodJamags: This pointless tangent brought to you by: stories more interesting than this one.
Raya sighed in that way of young girls just learning about the frequently frustrating teenage male species.
Stop talking about the “male species.” Gender =/= species. The metaphor works fine once, but repeating it just sounds odd.
She fixed the smirking boy lounging upon the floor with a stern look before saying in as patient a tone as she could muster, given her present vexation with him, “Bruce asked me to introduce you to classic literature. And,” she continued even as Dick groaned in that way which made it seem like she was torturing him with hot pokers, “there is no other writer I can think of that epitomizes classic literature better than William Shakespeare.”
GoodJamags: And why are you so knowledgeable about classic literature when he’s not?
“Ya, but ya totally coulda picked Macbeth or Hamlet instead of this romantic nonsense,” he retorted with a roll of his eyes. Then he gave her a wolfish grin. “I’d happily listen to ya read to me all day long if’n ya hadn’t picked something so girlie.”
One: That is not how anyone talks.
Two: That is not how “girly” is spelled.
GoodJamags: Spellcheck seems fine with it, so maybe the author’s just not American.
Word’s set to proofread for American English. If I write “tyre,” it gets pissy at me.
GoodJamags: Oh, give me a second here. Ah, according to the dictionary, a “girlie” play would be quite appealing to the average teenaged boy. It means “featuring scantily clothed women.”
Heh. Nice job, author.
Raya counted to ten before calmly saying, “Ya do realize that both of those are Shakespearian plays, don’tcha, bird blunder?”
GoodJamags: He didn’t act like he didn’t…
“Yeah, I know they are both Shakespearian plays,” he retorted cheerfully. “Point is they aren’t a girlie one like Romeo & Juliet.”
*Snerk* OK, this is great.
“Ya do realize that not all literature is about sword fights and blood shed, right?”
GoodJamags: Nah, there are guns too!
“But the best stories are those where there are lotsa sword fights and bloodshed.”
Surprisingly eloquently put for such a meatheaded sentiment.
Raya heaved a sigh while silently contemplating the cost for smacking her best friend over the head with the thin paperback book.
GoodJamags: If it’s a thin paperback, I’d say the cost isn’t too much, since it’s not really going to do anything to him or the book.
Dick flopped over onto his back at that moment, his dark head plopping down into her lap and effectively covering up the book she’d been reading from. A sigh of contentment tumbled from his lips and a triumphant light flashed in the depths of his eyes. Raya gave him a dirty look, but found her annoyance fading (like it always did) when he gave her that trademarked puppy-dog look he’d (sadly) perfected. “Ya just think you’re adorable, don’tcha, bird boy?” she muttered crossly.
So far in this scene, we’ve established that Dick doesn’t give a shit, and Raya Sue thinks he’s an uncultured asshole.
GoodJamags: A romance for the ages.
“No,” he corrected with a wide grin. “I know I’m adorable. And,” he continued in a sing-songy voice, “so do you, Rae. Admit it.”
Why do all the fics I riff have puppy-dog eyes as all-powerful mind-changers?
Raya merely snorted a laugh before pulling the book out from beneath his head. Dick groaned as she opened the book again to the page she’d been reading from before he’d interrupted her.
GoodJamags: Is this scene going to have a point anytime soon?
“C’mon, can’t we negotiate this?” he whined. “I’ll do anything here. Anything. Just don’t read me anymore of this dreck.”
Call Romeo and Juliet dreck one more time and you’ll find yourself vomiting up your own intestines. I was going to *PISTOL-WHIP!* you, but I think it’s more appropriate to go with a…
GoodJamags: And don’t go throwing around words like “dreck” when you’re in this fic.
She had to admit that the idea of having him at her mercy was a tempting one. However, Bruce had made it clear that he’d been quizzing them about the play when he came up from the cave.
GoodJamags: At least somebody who isn’t the Sue has an appreciation for the classics around here. Not who I expected, but I’ll take it.
“Romeo & Juliet is a timeless tale of two…”
Giving him a plot summary won’t make him want to hear it.
“It’s girlie stuff and you know it!”
Raya merely rolled her eyes heavenwards, silently beseeching whatever deities might be listening to grant her the strength to not strangle the boy known throughout the city of Gotham as Robin. While she prayed for the fortitude to keep from killing her best friend, her thoughts shifted inward, and Shakespeare took a backseat as she recalled that the anniversary of her father’s acquittal of murder was approaching. June 2nd. It was the one date she hated with every fiber of her being.
GoodJamags: GAH! Sudden subject change!
To soothe the storm kicking up inside her, she slowly threaded her fingers into the silky strands of Dick’s hair. She loved the way those locks felt, the way they tickled as they slid over her hands and fingers. His hair always reminded her of ink spilling out of a bottle.
Messy, embarrassing, and hard to clean?
She could smell him, over the clean scent of furniture polish and beeswax; she could smell that spicy, musky scent she knew was Dick. She was instantly quieted. With a smile, Dick reached up to take one of her hands in his.
“Sad-eyed Juliet, what are you brooding about this time?”
GoodJamags: Her Generic Backstory, pay attention.
Her lips twitched. He was the only one who knew how to tease her out of her dark moods. “Silly, Romeo, I’m not brooding.”
No one’s allowed in the bat-family without brooding. No one.
GoodJamags: What about Stephanie Brown?
But she had been. Those who recalled what had taken place at the Berkeley Estate almost six years ago would begin whispering about those events all over again. June 2nd was her least favorite date for that very reason. She hated the sympathetic looks they’d give her, the insincere apologies for the “tragedy” that had befallen her family and the rude way they’d inquire about how she was coping “with her poor mother’s death.” The tidal wave of emotions that engulfed her the week running up to the holiday was also something she despised. She’d already started to bounce along the gray edges of sanity.
You’ve established that it’s a painful memory. Care to actually explain what happened?
Before long she’d be one emotional mess that would concern everybody, especially the boy currently sighing with his contentment. It was one reason why Uncle Jim had shipped her off to Wayne Manor at the first sign of a change in her moods. He knew how stressful this week was for her, what an emotional toll it took, and accepted that the place where she felt the most comfortable as she dealt with the looks, the whispers and the renewed grief was here with Bruce. Bruce understood the churning anger deep in her belly, the tidal wave of hate and resentment swirling in her soul, and the clawing grief that shredded her insides.
No? Just going to wax purple for a while?
They were the emotions that drove him to become Batman.
Compare yourself to Bats a little? Alright. If that’s what floats your boat.
Lately, she’d been questioning herself about if she should finally share the details of what happened the night her mother had been murdered with Dick.
GoodJamags: “Lately” and “ONLY ONCE EVER” are two different things.
As much as she hated to admit it, her best friend also could understand how she felt. He’d seen his own parents plummet to their deaths when he’d been nine. Just a little older than I was when Father shot Mother, she thought with a stab of sorrow.
It was the fiber that connected the two teens not only with each other, but the mentor they knew was brooding in his cave below the manor.
So, is “brooding” just “I need Bruce not to be in this scene” now?
The thought of telling Dick about what actually happened the night of her mom’s death was both tempting and terrifying. However, she’d started to contemplate it a lot lately. More and more she’d wondered about what would happen if she finally shared her most shameful secrets with him. They already knew everything that there was to know about the other, what was one more secret? However, every time she started to tell him about those events, the words froze in her mouth; clogged in her throat.
GoodJamags: What’s so shameful about this? Her dad shot her mom. The second chapter indicates that Dick already knows the guy was a dirtbag, so it’s not like he’s going to think worse of Raya Sue for it.
No matter what she did, or how hard she tried, Raya just couldn’t make the words come out. She blamed her inability to vocalize what happened that night upon being raised in a house of silence.
GoodJamags: I know, I know, nothing to do with the fic at hand.
Dude, I’m not gonna complain about an excuse to listen to Simon and Garfunkel.
Secrets had been something that the Berkeley family kept in mason jars wrapped in chains.
And only in mason jars, mind you. Porcelain jars are for public information, and should be wrapped in ribbons.
It was a crime against the family to speak about the things that went on behind the thick oak doors of the Berkeley Estate.
GoodJamags: But only things that went on behind the doors. If it’s somewhere upstairs near a window, you can gab about it all you want.
So she didn’t know where exactly to start speaking. Or how. Bruce and her uncle Jim were showing her, but it was a slow process. One that she knew required her to put in the greatest amount of effort. She needed to think it over again. Consider what sharing her darkest nightmare could do to Dick mentally. He has his own nightmares. He does not need mine as well. And I don’t want…
So we’re expected to believe that her backstory is so traumatic that it’ll traumatize Dick if he just listens to it?
GoodJamags: Ooh, line break!
It never ceases to amaze me how easily amused you are.
“The stain of my family taking away from the beauty of his memories of his family,” she finished quietly a few minutes later.
GoodJamags: Alright, now that’s not how that works.
“And do you still feel that way? Do you feel that sharing the truth with him now will take away from the memories he has of his parents?”
She shook her head. “No.”
You mean we were wasting our time with that flashback? THEN WHAT’S YOUR FUCKING PROBLEM?!
“Then why do you not share it with him? What are you afraid will happen?”
Yeah, what he said!
What was she afraid would happen? Easy. She was afraid of looking into that man’s beautiful face and seeing disgust and hatred rather than the love she’d seen shining there on that long ago day.
GoodJamags: And what did she do that would warrant “disgust and hatred” from someone who’s usually pretty understanding?
I’m guessing it’s going to be bullshit.
It had been the first time she’d seen Dick unmasked. He’d been about to take her up (much to her dismay) on the trapeze that Bruce had built for him…
… not that he’d told her that that was his intention, of course. Her lips curved, warm with affection as she slid backwards into one of her fondest memories…
DEAR GOD WILL YOU PLEASE JUST GET TO THE POINT?!
“If you’re not brooding,” she heard Dick saying, “then prove it.”
GoodJamags: Can’t prove a negative, man. Hasn’t Bruce been teaching you anything?
Yeah, what she said!
She glanced down in time to see him roll nimbly to his feet. He reached down to pull her to hers.
“Easy! Come flying with me.”
Wrong superhero, man.
“We can’t go out swinging,” she pointed out as he began tugging her towards the door. “It’s ten o’clock in the morning. Bruce would flip his lid if we went out right now. And so would Alfred.”
Oh, they’re swinging? I didn’t think this fic was gonna get girlie.
“We don’t need to go out,” he retorted cheerfully. “We don’t even have to leave the grounds.”
“We don’t need to go out?” she asked dumbly.
GoodJamags: She does a lot of things that way.
“But…” she frowned her confusion. “How are we gonna go out and swing if we don’t, yanno, go out?”
He tossed a grin over his shoulder. “You’ll see. Now, c’mon.”
It’s way too easy to turn this entire conversation into innuendo.
Curious despite herself, Raya allowed him to lead her down into the gymnasium that the Batcave boasted. State of the art fitness equipment, a tumbling area and balance and uneven bars were set up in the various workout stations. However, it was the sight of the short horizontal bar hung by metal straps from a support anchored to the cave floor that had her heart leaping into her throat.
“Richard John Grayson,” she said hoarsely. “Is that a trapeze?”
GoodJamags: MY GOD, IT’S A TRAPEZE!
WHAT NEW SPORE OF MADNESS IS THIS?!
GoodJamags: It’s so exotic and difficult to build! I can’t imagine how or why a rich dude whose ward is an acrobat could possibly acquire a trapeze!
“Uh-huh,” came his brightly uttered response. “Bruce had it built so I could swing whenever I felt like it.”
GoodJamags: Ooh, the Felt!
Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing here. You’re torturing me by reminding me of things I’d rather be doing than reading this fic.
GoodJamags: “Torture” is kind of a strong word for it…
“And you want me to go up there with you to swing?” She shook her head. “No…” her fingers clamped down upon his. They were trembling right along with her heart. “Dick, I can’t get on that thing. I don’t have the training and experience that you do!”
Earlier, she was talking like they, ah, “swing” all the time.
GoodJamags: Be consistent, story!
“Don’t worry,” he said, tugging her towards the gleaming contraption. “I’ll teach ya.”
GoodJamags: But seriously, this can’t end well.
She swallowed down the saliva which gushed into her mouth like a geyser.
Is there a reason she’s salivating about… swinging?
GoodJamags: I think you just answered your own question.
“Can we talk about this?” she squeaked. “Negotiate here? Like, I promise not to read anymore of Romeo & Juliet if you will agree to not drag me up there.”
GoodJamags: Hmm… Maybe if you realize that “anymore” and “any more” are two different expressions with two different meanings, I’ll consider it.
“We have talked about this,” he replied. Then he added, “and you are so not reading anymore of that goofy play to me. I am going to hide it somewhere where not even Alfred can find it.”
“No, what you said was let’s go swing. You rather willfully left out the part about what you meant about swinging.”
Oh, we know what he meant by-
GoodJamags: Alright, come on. Cut that out.
Panic was beginning to twist her insides into knots.
That’s the second time she’s been twisted into knots this chapter. We sure she’s not Ragdoll?
Her breaths were coming in short, little pants.
GoodJamags: She’s breathing hotpants?
Dick must have finally heard the raw chord of fear in her voice because he turned to look at her, frowning slightly.
“What are you afraid of, Rae?” he asked her in all seriousness. “Bruce has been showing you how to use a grapnel gun. And you swing with me all the time so I know it’s not that you fear heights or free falling.”
GoodJamags: *Pulls up YouTube*
“Falling down and going splat is always a prevalent thought on my mind when I am swinging,” she informed him primly. “And Bruce hasn’t let me go higher than the parallel bars because of how much I tense up whenever I’m swinging by myself.”
I’m not sure you can sw-
GoodJamags: If you’re cutting me off from my songs, I’m cutting you off from your innuendos.
Dick surprised her by cupping her face in his hands.
“I’ll be there to catch you,” he assured her in a soft voice. “I won’t let you fall, Rae. I will never let you fall. I promise.”
Do we care yet?
GoodJamags: No. This scene still has no point.
Raya’s breath froze in her chest at the expression that suddenly came over his face.
GoodJamags: You might want to get that checked out.
All of Dick’s teenage self-confidence and man-child bravado was stripped away and the boy restless with his hunger to be loved, to be needed; wanted came shining through. Her heart hammered in her chest and her hands were trembling as she reached up to lay them over his.
And we just went purple again. Geez.
GoodJamags: It’s eggplant.
Oh, shut up.
“You promise?” she whispered in a voice she almost didn’t recognize as her own. It was lower, throatier than her normal speaking voice. “You won’t let me fall?”
Pretty sure he just told you that.
“I’ll always be there to catch you.” He told her again in that quietly earnest tone. “I’ll never let you fall, Rae. I promise.”
Well, great. Luckily, I’ve set up a trapeze in the hallway, the mere existence of which should distract the DRD until *Headshotted in the head*
GoodJamags: Until what? Don’t leave me in suspense here! Ooh, another line break! That means more nothing’s gonna happen!
She didn’t know she’d spoken until she heard Alfred ask, “And has he ever let you fall?”
She blinked her eyes, shifted them to look over at him. “No.” She shook her head. “That man has never let me fall, Alfred. He’s been there to catch me each and every time that I have taken a tumble.”
I refuse to believe that.
GoodJamags: When did you respawn?
Y’know, back then.
“Then go talk to him, Miss Raya,” he suggested gently. “Tell him the truth about what happened the night your mother was murdered.” His fingers squeezed her shoulder, warm and comforting. “I guarantee that the only thing you’ll see in that boy’s eyes is exactly what you saw in those very same eyes all those years ago.”
“How can you be so sure about that, Alfred?” she beseeched him in this little voice she didn’t recognize as her own. “How can you know he won’t look at me with disgust and hatred once he learns the truth?”
Because he’s not an asshole, and whatever it is clearly isn’t bad enough to make Alfred look at you with disgust and hatred, and while Alfred might be a bit more patient than Dick, it’s not like his standards are any lower?
GoodJamags: I’m pretty sure that’s a run-on.
You’re a run-on.
GoodJamags: Don’t start this again. Also, your face is a run-on.
“Because I know,” was all he said.
GoodJamags: Or that. That works too.
Finally this chapter’s over! We moved past the conversation from the first two chapters, and I still feel like we did nothing to advance the plot! See you guys next time for what will presumably be more nothing.
What do you need us for? count: 4