1698: Love & Bullets – Chapter Five, Part OnePosted: February 28, 2017
Title: Love & Bullets
URL: Chapter 5
Critiqued by BatJamags (BadJamags and GoodJamags)
WARNING: Chapter contains references to domestic abuse.
What do you need us for? count: 9
Dick is a dick count: 4
Hello once again, patrons! I’m your guest host, BadJamags…
GoodJamags: … And I’m your guest guest host, GoodJamags…
… And we’re back for another riff of Love & Bullets, the fic that spent four chapters on two plot points.
GoodJamags: And let’s be fair here: the second plot point didn’t come into play until the end of the fourth chapter.
Speaking of which, we closed out last chapter with CONTRIVED DRAMA, and now the Sue… extra doesn’t want to marry Dick or something. I must’ve been asleep at that part.
A/N: Hello m’dears! I hope the week has been good to you!
Please, if you like this story, click the follow button. Also, reviews are deeply cherished!
GoodJamags: This canned author’s note, on the other hand, is not cherished at all, unlike the line break that comes right after it.
Early morning sunlight filtered through the heavy drapery covering the bedroom windows. Alfred entered the room upon silent feet, bearing breakfast and fresh bandages on a large silver serving tray.
Dick pulled a muscle and was stabbed once in the arm. Bruce has taken worse and not even stopped to be treated. Dick, on the other hand, gets this, and is laid up in bed for some vaguely defined, but certainly multiple-day, amount of time.
He was surprised to find the king-sized bed unoccupied. In fact, it didn’t look as if the bed had been slept in at any point whatsoever in the last twelve hours.
GoodJamags: However, it clearly was slept in exactly twelve hours and one minute ago.
“Master Richard?” he called softly.
I suppose he silently yelled it too.
*Alarms blare quietly*
Dammit, there doesn’t go the DCA again.
No answer came.
GoodJamags: Maybe Dick’s been kidnapped and is being held hostage until this fic actually has a plot.
Judging by the length of the fic, I’d say he’s got another nine chapters to wait before that happens.
GoodJamags: … But it’s only got twelve chapters, and we’ve been through four of them.
Puzzled as to where his young and injured charge could be, Alfred calmly explored the entire east wing of the mansion. He found no sign to suggest that he’d stepped one foot out of the Batcave since he’d entered it the evening prior.
I like GJ’s kidnapping idea better.
Alfred found himself wondering if the young man’s choice to remain in the cave was because Miss Raya had chosen to vacate the premises the afternoon before and he was immersing himself in work in order to avoid dealing with how he felt about her leaving, or because whatever case Master Bruce had given him to work upon while he waited for the girl to return home was a compelling one.
GoodJamags: That sentence is entirely too long for its own good.
The butler suspected that the latter, rather than the former, was the case.
Author, “latter” means “the last one.” In other words, you just said that Dick’s just interested in the case, rather than moping about the Sue. It’s in character, sure, but given the nature of this fic, I think you’ve got latter and former mixed up.
It had been eight days since Master Richard proposed to Miss Raya, and the young couple was nowhere near having reached a resolution upon the matter.
GoodJamags: I hadn’t noticed.
Alfred had hoped that after his talk with Raya that she and Master Richard would themselves speak and come to the conclusion that he, along with everyone else in the family wanted them to come too.
GoodJamags: I think you really need to st-
Don’t start that again. Just don’t.
Alfred didn’t know what had driven Miss Raya to leave Wayne Manor as she had, but he knew she’d return once she’d worked through whatever upset her. His eldest charges were not capable of staying away from each other for long. Master Richard and Miss Raya were better as one unified unit than they were apart. They brought out the best (and the worst) in each other. They made each other stronger, faster, and smarter.
GoodJamags: They will be the world’s first bionic man! Wait…
GoodJamags: Something on your mind?
Let’s get the end of the paragraph out of the way before I rant.
They were the other half of the other, their light inside the darkness, and the anchor that kept each other grounded when the world got tossed into chaos.
Let me spell it out for you, author:
I. Don’t. Care. Anymore.
Hell, I didn’t care to begin with, but if your writing was a little more competent, I might’ve even found the pairing of Dick with your Sue vaguely tolerable, if a little overblown. But so far, you’ve just spend pages upon pages upon pages doing nothing but telling me that they’re perfect for each other. I get the point! Now show me! Or rather, don’t bother, because your Sue isn’t a good enough character to be compelling, and I choose that phrasing not by accident or as a joke, but very deliberately.
There’s just nothing to her! Ignore what we’ve been told. Think about what we’ve been shown. We’ve been shown that she runs away at the first sign of having to commit to something, even if it’s not that big of a step up from where she already is. We’ve been shown that she’s emotionally fragile and never learned the “sticks and stones” thing (I mean, we’ve been told she’s very strong and stubborn, but we haven’t seen it). What else have we been shown about her personality? Nothing. She’s nothing but a vehicle for a romance with Dick. Speaking of which, what have we been shown that makes us want to see her and Dick get together? That she was vaguely supportive at one time? There’s just nothing there! Show us Raya acting in a way that makes her seem compelling. Don’t narrate it to us and don’t throw an only tangentially relevant flashback at us, show us.
If anybody were to ask him about whether or not he thought his charges belonged together, he’d answer yes without any reservations whatsoever. And if they asked him why he thought that way he’d tell them how he’d always known the two belonged together. That they’d always belonged to each other. He’d known it the night Master Bruce brought Miss Raya home…
No. You don’t get to save face now. You’ve already fucked up, because I already want to see Raya pushed out of Dick’s life.
Nineteen years ago…
These timestamps are just vague enough not to be useful.
It was still dark when Alfred crept into the entertainment room on silent feet in order to check upon the two figures stretched out upon the huge sectional situated in the middle of the room. The Manor may have been swamped in shadows, but he had no trouble navigating the sea of furniture in the pre-dawn light. He stared down at the duo who were curled together on the couch, fast asleep. His young charge’s arm was curved protectively around the petite figure of the girl who was sleeping with her head cradled on his shoulder, her hand resting upon his chest.
It was an affectionate and sweetly innocent embrace.
GoodJamags: Aside from rambling a little, this is the first passage in the entire fic that’s neither obnoxious nor boring. Coming in on the heels of a rant-inducingly repetitive section, that’s not bad.
A shame it’s just a basic description of actions and setting and not an ACTUAL FUCKING PLOT POINT.
One that he knew was desperately needed after the traumatic events of that day. Alfred saw Miss Raya was resting quietly at the moment, but he knew that that was all she was doing.
GoodJamags: I think the author did manage to include a word in that sentence which was very important to the meaning.
His heart constricted at the sight of the raw pain and sorrow etched into that sweetly young face. Even sleep would offer her no solace from her memories. As he well knew from having watched Master Bruce and Master Richard suffer in much the same way.
When the ability to care’s gone,
And I don’t want to go on,
“The demons are going to haunt her even more now, Alfred.”
I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!
GoodJamags: Who you gonna call?
GoodJamags: *Pulls up YouTube*
Dude, no. You literally just posted a song one blockquote ago.
GoodJamags: Yeah, but it’s the Ghostbusters theme.
You make a compelling point.
Alfred turned to look at the figure standing watch by the window.
Bruce: I agreed to take first watch, Alfred, but my shift was up fifteen minutes ago. Get over here!
“They will never stop haunting her.” A wealth of feeling rippled in Master Bruce’s voice.
GoodJamags: Pretty sure Bruce just has the regular kind of wealth.
“Or Dick for that matter. Neither will have justice given to them.”
But together, we can be justice!
“They have both been dealt very traumatic blows, Master Bruce,” the butler replied in as quiet a tone as his employer had used. “It will just take time for them to heal from the traumas they’ve endured.”
GoodJamags: Let’s traumatically play a traumatic game involving trauma! How many traumatic times can we traumatically say “trauma” traumatically in a single traumatic sentence filled traumatically with trauma?
You knew that was going to happen.
*Headshotted in the head*
“They will never heal from the things they’ve bern through, Alfred,”
GoodJamags: The things they’ve “bern” through? So they’re feeling the Bern?
Well, that’s a joke that’ll be outdated by the time this riff goes up.
[Editor’s note from THE FUTURE – Hell, it’s outdated by the time I’m sending it in – nice job forgetting you’d finished editing these, Bat]
there was a mountain of bitterness dripping from every word he spoke. “Never.”
NEVER, I SAY! NEVER!
“They are young,” Alfred declared in a soothing voice, “and much more resilient than you are giving them credit for being. Plus,” he continued on a long breath, “they now have each other.”
“You think that their being friends will help them recover from the emotional blows they’ve been dealt?” One dark brow lifted before he drawled, “They are only nine, Alfred.”
“Yes,” Alfred intoned. “And have each other to hold onto, to lean upon, and to be there to see them get through the dark days ahead. They are the best support system that either could hope to have at this point in time. You only need to look at them to see that they belong to each other now. They are tied together by a bond that nothing and nobody will ever sever.”
And they both belong to you, too.
GoodJamags: Huh. Another not-too-bad-ish passage. Is MissScorp learning to write about new things?
Alfred didn’t say that, though. He knew he didn’t need too. Bruce turned to look out the window. Not before the butler saw the exhaustion that was haunting his eyes and lining his grim face. He released a soft sigh while gazing at this man he’d raised from a boy. A boy who had been the exact same age as both sleeping children when he’d lost his parents.
Bruce was eight, Einstein. And Dick Grayson was Age Twelve, dammit!
GoodJamags: Minor continuity hiccup. We’re dealing with AU here, anyway. And don’t even start with the All-Star Batman and Robin references.
Have you considered how much you need them? he silently asked. Do you even realize how much both of these children mean to you? How important they have become? Do you see how you’ve crossed over into fatherhood without anybody having to push you into accepting the responsibility?
“I should have protected them from this.”
GoodJamags: *Points* That.
Those broad shoulders drooped, and Alfred knew the mantle of blame and guilt was weighing heavy upon a soul bearing far more than it should. You are so predictable, Master Bruce, he told him silently. Shouldering the blame even though you are not the cause for what happened to either child.
GoodJamags: I mean… the author’s finally covering new ground here, and I still feel like I’m waiting for something to happen. Maybe I’m just impatient?
If you are, so am I.
“Batman,” he informed the man curtly. “Is not who should have been protecting either of these children from the violence that has permeated their lives.”
“I should have stopped…”
Bruce blinked. “What?”
This Bruce is a little slow, isn’t he?
GoodJamags: Why do you always find the fics where Bats is a moron?
I don’t know.
“How could you have stopped the Grayson’s from falling to their deaths?”
GoodJamags: That’s not how you write plural’s.
*Twitch* Take that apostrophe out right now.
GoodJamags: OK: “Thats not how you write plural’s.”
*Twitch-twitch* Fuck you.
He kept his tone brisk, knew it to be the only way to make his employer see reason. “How could you have prevented Ellen Kean-Berkeley from being murdered?”
GoodJamags: That’s actually kind of brilliant.
GoodJamags: What if Bruce goes back in time, stops the Sue’s mother from being murdered, the Sue never joins the bat-family, and the universe is restored to how it’s supposed to be, demonstrating that her existence had no purpose whatsoever?
“I don’t know,” Bruce replied slowly. He was silent as he worked his words through his mind. Then he said, “I don’t know how I would have helped them. I just know I should have.”
“You are not omnipotent, Master Bruce.”
GoodJamags: No, but he’s Batman. Omnipotence would be a step down.
“Do you know what bothers me the most, Alfred?” Bruce glanced over at the butler and in the faint light Alfred could see how his eyes shimmered with emotions he’d never give voice too. “She has been living in this hell since the moment I met her and never breathed a word about it to me.”
Well, that would mean something if I knew how long Bruce has known her by this point.
“Not talking about the abuse,” Alfred pointed out gently, “made the abuse less real for her.”
“What does she think will happen if she tells us the truth?” There was a mountain of frustration inside that question. “Does she think we will think less of her? That we will look at her differently because of what Berkeley did?”
GoodJamags: Bruce, you do realize that Alfred literally just explained why she didn’t tell you, right?
“I imagine she sees her life as being something so ugly that she doesn’t want it to stain the beauty of yours.”
I- but- It wouldn’t change Bruce’s life! There’s absolutely no staining going on here! That’s like saying that the carpet got stained because there was red wine in the room – the stain requires contact, dammit!
“What-?” Bruce gritted but Alfred merely raised a hand to ask for silence.
GoodJamags: In other news, “grit” is still not a speakin’ word.
“Miss Raya is quite likely trying to protect the memories the boy has of his mother and father. And if I may be so bold as to say,” he continued as he reached for a blanket draped across the back of the couch. “I believe that that is why she has not shared her story with you as well.”
It wouldn’t change Dick’s memories of his parents! We’re talking about two different sets of people here!
“She’s a baby, Alfred,”
GoodJamags: She’s nine. Nine years old does not a baby make.
Care to phrase that a little differently?
GoodJamags: I mean, what I said is accurate either way, but I see your point…
Bruce grumbled as he padded over to look down at the children in his care. “She shouldn’t be protecting me, Dick, or her mother…”
“But that is exactly what she was taught to do, sir,” the butler interjected in a somber voice. “As soon as Miss Raya became old enough she assumed the role of the parent. She became the protector. Now she knows no other way to be. Her identity is that of the adult, not of the child.”
Because nine-year-olds have the emotional maturity and sense of personal responsibility to do that, apparently.
Bruce reached out a hand that Alfred saw was not quite steady and tucked a dark curl behind the girl’s ear. Alfred could tell what his employer was thinking because it was what he was thinking too. Miss Raya was unlike Richard Grayson. The boy never had to doubt that John and Mary Grayson loved him and wanted him. He knew they had done everything in their powers to protect him from the evils of the world.
Oh, great. Is this where we get to hear about how much MORE TRAJEKER the Sue is?
Even Bruce’s own parents had ensured that he knew how much he was loved and wanted. But this little girl had never been given that assurance, or shown that kind of love and affection by either one of her parents. Until Captain… Commissioner, he corrected Gordon and Batman came into this child’s life, she’d had nobody there to soothe away her fears or tell her about how much she was loved and wanted.
GoodJamags: Yeah, pretty much.
“How do I help her, Alfred?” he heard Bruce ask him quietly. “She’s so very different from Dick.”
“Yes.” He nodded his head. “Yes, she is. Yet ,she needs the same things the boy does. She needs someone to show her how to rise above her fear and combat the demons that will now hound her.
GoodJamags: I mean, how else is she going to know not to cross the streams?
Teach her how to temper her anger with compassion, her hatred with justice and that there are consequences in this world. Show her how to protect others from suffering what she’s suffered. Make her strong.”
Bruce: She must take on an image that will strike fear into the hearts of criminals.
Alfred: I sincerely hope you’re not going to dress this one up in bright green underwear, too?
Bruce: No, I’m thinking… The Fenix!
Alfred: Master Bruce, that is the stupidest superhero name I’ve ever heard. What is this, Gears of War?
Bruce glanced at him. “She needs a parent more than she needs a mentor, Alfred.”
“She needs Bruce Wayne as much as she needs Batman, sir.”
“She needs a stable home environment and the familiarity and comfort of the people that she loves and trusts so she can begin to heal from the damage that’s been inflicted upon her more than she needs me to give her another mask.”
Gotta agree with Bruce on this one.
“Master Bruce,” Alfred said smartly. “Miss Raya has not allowed herself to start feeling the anger simmering just below the surface. Without a hand to show her how to direct the flow of her rage, how to use it for the greater good, she will falter and go down a very dark road. A road you could have gone down had you not had someone there to help with channeling your rage into something for the greater good.”
GoodJamags: Because real abuse victims either become superheroes or turn evil. That’s clearly how it works.
Actually… I’m going to give half a point to Alfred here. Most child abusers were themselves abused as children (though I’m not sure the correlation runs the other way). I still think running out and punching bad guys in a costume isn’t the healthiest place for her to be.
Bruce looked like he was going to say more on the matter but then he sighed and said, “Gordon thinks it is best that she remain here for the time being. His feeling is that she is safer here with us then she would be with him.”
“Commissioner Gordon knows that her father will come after her now that he’s been acquitted,” Alfred said with a nod. “And that he will attempt to take her back if only to ensure she will never again speak about him being his wife’s murderer.”
GoodJamags: Yeah, except for all Gordon knows, Bruce is just some rich guy. Gordon is a trained police officer who’s been in his fair share of fights and has literally the entire police department working for him. He’s also actually related to the girl.
“She’s ours now.” The words were uttered in the familiar raspy growl that he used when wearing the infamous cape and cowl. “He’ll have to go through me to get to her.”
Alfred had a feeling that Matthew Berkeley would have to go through more than just Batman in order to get his hands upon his daughter. Something told him that the man would have to go through Robin before he’d be able to lay so much as one finger upon this tiny girl. Alfred tucked the blanket around them before he turned and made his way from the room.
So… What does any of this have to do with the plot at hand?
GoodJamags: Absolutely nothing. We’re at a line break, so this seems like as good a place to stop as any.
See you all next time.
What do you need us for? count: 9
Dick is a dick count: 4