1705: Love & Bullets – Chapter Five, Part TwoPosted: March 7, 2017
Title: Love & Bullets
URL: Chapter 5
Critiqued by BatJamags (BadJamags and GoodJamags)
WARNING: Chapter contains references to domestic abuse. I must just be drawn to fics with poorly-handled abuse. Goody.
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 more of Love & Bullets, the fic that dares to spend five chapters on two plot points. Let’s get started, shall we?
Alfred drew free of his reverie and stifled a soft sigh. Nineteen years may have passed since that night, but Miss Raya and Master Richard still belonged to each other (and to Master Bruce as well). They were even more bonded
GoodJamags: James Bonded.
now than they had been as children. If they just could work through this minor hiccup in their relationship…
The funny thing is that it is a minor hiccup: marriage would literally not change anything in this scenario. They live together, work together, provide for each other, and neither one has denied that they’re in “love.” What would they do differently if they got married?
He pushed the thought aside and turned to walk into Master Bruce’s private study. He passed the row of wooden bookcases that lined the walls on the left side of the room, skirted an antique mahogany table that held a vintage globe of the Earth on top of it and approached a smaller table that stood beside the grand piano that Bruce’s mother had often played before her untimely death.
GoodJamags: Alright, we don’t need to know that much about the furniture.
That table contained a single stand upon which the red abalone shell Master Dick had given Master Bruce as a Father’s Day present a few years ago was proudly displayed. Alfred ran a finger over the shell’s iridescently smooth inner surface and felt a poignant memory surface. Master Richard had found the shell on a beach in California while the four of them were there vacationing. It had been their first vacation together—the first of any kind that Master Bruce had taken without an injury or ulterior crime fighting motive being involved, and the first since Master Richard and Miss Raya had come to stay with them.
GoodJamags: I said we don’t need to know that much about the furniture!
*Headshotted in the head*
Of all the antiques and heirlooms that were on display in this room, this was the item that Alfred knew meant the most to his employer. It was a gift that had been given from the heart, from a son to his father. It was the same for the gold pocket watch that sat on the table beside his bed. Master Timothy had given him the watch on Master Bruce’s first Christmas home after his travels through time. There were dozens of other things, inconsequential little items-report cards, awards and school certificates, scraps of papers with faded words written upon them, broken weapons; photographs that he knew were stored in secret places throughout the Manor and the caves below. His employer was not a man who looked it, and he’d deny it if asked, but he’d kept everything that defined the children who’d come into his world. What was inconsequential to some meant the world to Bruce Wayne.
GoodJamags: Alright! I get it! What does this have to do with anything that’s actually going on in the story?!
They were the legacies of the children he’d helped mature into capable, confident adults.
Well, you know, except for Dick and Raya. They’re missing the “capable” part. And the “confident” part. And the “adults” part.
Finally, he turned towards the piano. He glanced at one particular bookcase as he tapped out a specific, rather difficult sequence of three notes on the black-and-white keys. In response, a secret door, built into the bookcase, swung outward and exposed the elevator hidden behind it. The concealed hinges of the invisible door never made a sound as they popped free.
GoodJamags: Pretty sure hinges aren’t supposed to pop free.
He personally made sure that they were cleaned and oiled every few days to ensure that they did not squeak, or get stuck. Secrecy was, after all, a matter of utmost importance in this household.
That was why he was using this particular entrance to the Batcave in the first place. The crew that he had hired to help with preparing the Manor for Master Bruce’s annual birthday bash were even now working to set up chairs and tents on the front lawns as well as cleaning the inside of the Manor from top to bottom. The dozens of voices and various machines in use that echoed from below were all that was needed to remind him that work was being done.
It’s Bruce’s birthday? Wow, we would’ve known that if the author had bothered to establish anything about when this is happening. It’s an AU, you don’t need to be constrained by the comics’ ambiguous sliding timeline.
Have you chosen to remain below to brood like Master Bruce, Master Richard?
GoodJamags: You were talking about it earlier like you knew he did.
Alfred rode the elevator down; not sure what he would find once he reached the bottom. As the elevator descended into the caves below, he allowed his thoughts to again drift. Romantic fool that he was, Alfred had often hoped his eldest charges would figure out that they loved each other and decide to marry. Seeing them find happiness and achieving that balance that Master Bruce never had was his greatest wish.
You’ve expressed this concept.
When Master Richard revealed he’d proposed to Raya in Chicago, he’d been elated. His joy had quickly turned to shock and dismay, though, when he found out just how he’d asked the girl to marry him.
Whoever heard of a marriage proposal being made in a dirty alley?
I heard of it. Repeatedly. For four and a half chapters. I’m quite sick of hearing of it, to be honest.
He’d been about to scold Dick for becoming a bit too much like Master Bruce when the boy (he still struggled sometimes with the realization that Master Richard was all grown up) revealed that Miss Raya had neither accepted, nor rejected his proposal. In fact, the young miss was avoiding both him and the subject with an iron-willed dedication that Alfred knew was making Bruce proud.
WE READ THE FUCKING FIC! STOP EXPLAINING THE PLOT TO US!
GoodJamags: We’re not goldfish, here.
Alfred, of course knew why the young woman was reluctant to navigate such churning waters. Her view of the state of marriage was not a positive one. Not only had her own parent’s marriage been a deeply corrosive affair, but the marriage of James and Barbara Kean-Gordon had also been a less than stellar representation of wedded bliss for the impressionable girl.
GoodJamags: So… She thinks marriage magically turns you into a jerk?
(Ah, so that’s where the “Kean” part comes from. That’s what happens when you’re too bored to do the research. And by “you’re” I mean “I’m.”)
That Miss Raya had not readily accepted, and Alfred knew she desperately wanted to accept Master Richard’s proposal was understandable given the aspects of her upbringing.
That sentence makes no sense.
GoodJamags: And so do I!
Of course, the truly deplorable manner in which the offer was made certainly waw not helping matters any…
GoodJamags: “Waw?” Why am I thinking of the sad trombone “wa-wa” music?
Because you’re a blight upon this reality?
What were you thinking, Master Richard?
Both: He wasn’t.
He had hoped that once she’d explained everything that they’d sort out their relationship. But they had reached no such accord because of something Miss Raya overheard her cousin, Barbara say.
Barbara: Raya’s pancakes are just awful!
Sue: *Le gasp!*
Exactly what the something she heard was Alfred did not know. Oh, but he suspected what it was. Yes, there was only one phrase that could cause her to flee the mansion like that.
Wait, what is it “Marry Me,” or “You’re not good enough?” Both of them seem quite good at making the Sue run away from her problems.
Did Miss Barbara say you were not good enough for him, miss? Is that why you left as you did?
Ah, there we are.
The elevator came to a stop with only the barest of sounds then and Alfred stepped out into the vast caverns that made up the Batfamily’s central base of operations. He made his way down the staircase to the caves bottom floor, crossing a bridge below which the shallow, slow-moving river that served as the launching station for the Batboat, flowed. To the right of him was the storage area where a virtual array of specialized vehicles—land, sea and air—were housed. To the left was the fleet of regular vehicles—sports and luxury models mainly—that the family used when they were not out fighting crime.
GoodJamags: While we’re waiting for the furniture porn to be over, I’m just going to question why the bat-family keeps their civilian vehicles in the batcave. What happens when they need to leave, and someone else is in or near the house?
Bruce: Looks like we’re out of milk. Alfred, would you kindly take the car that’s in the basement with no visible entrances which is actually a cave hidden behind the bookcase and our guests are not allowed in there and run to the grocery store?
Guest: Why do you have a place like that?
Bruce: I have no idea what you’re talking about. Have I told you about the fact that my parents are dead?
In front of him was a montage of various trophies- the oversized Joker playing card, the large penny, that dinosaur that Master Bruce had insisted upon bringing home with him stood proudly over glass cases containing dozens of memories collected over Batman’s long years as a crime fighter.
GoodJamags: That’s not what a montage is.
Lev Kuleshov would be disappointed.
Alfred walked up a small set of steps and headed beyond the personal gymnasium, the grottos where the smaller scaled library and armor stations were located and up a steel ramp to the main grotto where the medical bay, crime lab and main computers were situated. He ascended another set of short steps and found Master Richard slouched in front of the main computer station. A large, high-definition flat screen monitor dominated the wall in front of him.
We still don’t need to know all of this.
Seven linked Cray supercomputers hummed quietly, providing enough data storage and computing power to make even the most high tech geek weep with envy.
GoodJamags: Those linked supercomputers are cray cray.
Dick’s eyes were fixed on the screen in front of him.
You might want to get that checked out.
GoodJamags: How can Alfred tell where Dick’s looking, if he’s standing behind Dick?
“Good morning, Master Richard,” Alfred said.
Dick shifted his attention away from the computer monitor to glance at the butler. “Morning, Alfred,” he mumbled before turning back to the computer.
Dick: Hang on a minute, Alfred, I just want to get through one more level…
Alfred glanced at the monitor; a map of the area known as The Bowery was splashed across the screen. “Did Master Bruce compel you to remain down here to help him with researching this super prison that the Mayor has decided to build?”
Or did you choose to immerse yourself in work so that you wouldn’t have to think about your problems?
You asked this question already.
“He didn’t exactly twist my arm about it, Alfie,” Dick said dryly. “I agreed to stay down here and help with researching this Arkham project.”
GoodJamags: You have no idea how much I’d rather be playing Arkham City than reading this.
What about Arkham Knight?
At least we agree on something.
He made a face and a shadow of anger passed over his face. “It was the only thing he’d let me do. He wouldn’t hear of me going out with Damian on patrol.”
“I should say not,” Alfred said stiffly. “You are still recuperating from a rather nasty knife wound, Master Richard…” he stated, but Dick cut him off.
Was the knife poisoned or something?
“I could have handled driving while Damian or Bruce took care of any problems that we encountered.”
“And still would have risked ripping open your stitches.”
Seriously, I’m pretty sure cuts heal faster than this.
“That was what Damian said once Bruce and I stopped yelling.” He cast a surreptitious glance at the tray in the butler’s hands. “Please tell me that that is coffee I smell?”
Alfred smiled and set the tray on top of a cabinet that was not covered by a mountain of papers, folders, or other miscellaneous items. “And fresh baked blackberry scones.”
“Alfred.” Dick looked ridiculously close to weeping as he slowly got up to go and pour himself a cup of coffee from the silver carafe. “You are a God.”
GoodJamags: Don’t insult him like that, Dick! He’s Alfred.
Alfred felt his lips trembling with a smile. That Richard Grayson had a love affair with coffee was not a huge secret. In fact, his coffee addiction had become something of an inside family joke. Yet, while the butler understood that his java fixation was just another faucet of his personality, he also knew that it was a defense mechanism Dick was using at that moment to avoid discussing what was really bothering him at that moment.
Or it could also be because he’s been awake all night, but sure, let’s go with coffee obsession-that’s-never-been-established-before-this.
“Has Miss Raya been located?” he asked as he poured himself a cup of coffee. “Or is she still missing?”
GoodJamags: Let me translate: “Is Raya still being whiny over an out-of-context comment for the sake of CONTRIVED DRAMA, or is somebody trying to talk some sense into her?”
Dick turned back to the computer before saying in a dark, moody voice, “She’s staying at Tim’s.”
Not sure why Tim’s putting up with her, but alright.
“Master Timothy informed you she is staying with him?”
“No,” he grumbled. “Conner called to let me know that that was where she asked him to take her after she ran into him on her race from the Manor.”
GoodJamags: Pronouns. You’re using them wrong.
Dick plays the pronoun game so that audience won’t understand something that’s supposed to be clear.
Dick is a dick to audiences.
Dick is a dick count: 5
GoodJamags: Fifteen seconds of CinemaSins references.
Alfred could tell by the scowl on his face that Master Richard’s thoughts were on anything but the map that was still on the screen. He set a hand upon the man’s shoulder and queried in a gentle voice, “Are things really so bad as all that, Master Richard?”
No. No they’re not.
Dick was silent for about thirty seconds.
GoodJamags: Oh, don’t start the Sonic.exe thing of specifying the exact number of seconds everything took.
At first the butler thought his young master was just trying to come up with one of his typical wisecrack quips in order to cover just how upset he was by this rift between him and Raya. When Alfred felt the shoulder beneath his palm slump and saw that proud head fall forward, he knew that this went well beyond just a dark and brooding mood. This man he loved as if he was his own was hurting. And he was hurting badly.
Have you ever heard of the eight deadly words?
GoodJamags: *Pretending he hasn’t for the sake of the patrons* Isn’t that a George Carlin routine?
No, that’s seven words you can’t say on broadcast television. The eight deadly words are “I don’t care what happens to these people.” They’ll kill any story, unless it’s a movie (especially French movies and most movies directed by Woody Allen). (Then it’s TRUE ART.) Well, I don’t care what happens to these people. Even the canon characters could all die in a fire, and I really wouldn’t be all that shaken up about it. Even parts like this, which really aren’t that bad, are just too little, too late.
“I’ve lost her, Alfred,” Dick finally told him on a fractured breath. “Just when I’ve realized how much I love and need her, I lost her.”
GoodJamags: I wonder, maybe we should come up with a CONTRIVED DRAMA song.
You think we’re that creative? Pfffffffft.
Aha, was the butler’s somber thought. So it goes as deep as all that, does it?
“You have not lost her,” the butler said softly. “Miss Raya just needs some time to think is all.”
“No, I have lost her.” He raked his fingers through his hair and blew out a breath that was weighted by frustration and punctuated by angst. “I didn’t realize that she was standing outside the bedroom door and listening…” his fist slammed down upon the console. “She heard Barbara say she wasn’t good enough for me.” He shifted his head around to stare up at the butler with eyes that were deep, dark swirling pools of torture. “You know what those words do to her, Alfie.“
They make her realize she’s a Sue and needs to get out of the fic?
“Yes, I do know what those words do to Miss Raya,” Alfred stated in a matter-of-fact voice. “I also know she has overcome a great many of her fears and insecurities because she loves you.”
GoodJamags: Oh, yeah, like that one and those other ones over there. Y’know, the ones we’ve been shown instead of told about.
“But she won’t marry me, Alfie.”
“Has she told you she will not marry you?”
“No,” was punctuated by a long sigh. “But I am not holding out much hope that she is going to say yes at this point.”
Except Dick also has no reason to think this. It was Barbara who said she wasn’t good enough for Dick, not Dick himself.
He was silent a second and Alfred saw his eyebrows draw down over his nose. “Maybe I should take the proposal back like Barb suggested. Maybe it is…”
GoodJamags: Yes! Do it! Save yourself from the Suefluence!
“Master Richard,” Alfred cut in smartly. “Have you stopped to consider that why Miss Raya is struggling with saying yes is because she wants to reveal the one secret she’s kept from you for all these years?”
No, because that’s an oddly specific reason to struggle with accepting a marriage proposal.
“I’ve thought of that…” he admitted with a slight shake of his head. “What does telling me about what happened the night her mom died have to do with any of this?”
GoodJamags: And what is this BIG SEKRET anyway?
“It has everything to do with why Miss Raya has not said yes,” the butler said gently. “A marriage should be built upon trust and honesty.”
And she clearly doesn’t trust Dick with her background.
“I know she trusts me, Alfie…”
Bullshit. See above.
“But she’s never been honest with you about what happened the night her mother died. And for Miss Raya,” he paused, but it was long enough for his charge to pick up on the point.
“It’s like lying.” He lifted his head to look at the aged butler. “And she hates lies and liars.” He ran a hand over his face. “That’s why she’s been avoiding me. She sees herself as a liar.”
GoodJamags: I don’t care what Doc Scratch says, a lie of omission is still a lie.
“That would be one logical conclusion, yes.”
Silence descended between them. Alfred turned to pour himself a cup of coffee from the carafe. Dick watched him for a moment.
Alfred: I’m too tired for this shit.
“Alfred?” he said suddenly.
“Yes, Master Richard?”
“What am I supposed to do here?”
“Be patient, Master Richard,” the butler said kindly. “Miss Raya will return once she knows how to say what she needs to say.”
And in the meantime, I’m sure you’ll talk about it for, like, five billion more chapters, because that hasn’t gotten old.
He reached over to squeeze the young man’s shoulder. “There is a lot going on inside her head right now. So endure, and have patience. All will turn out right in the end. I promise.”
Yeah, but in the meantime we have to sit through a lot more of this boring shit. See you all next time.
What do you need us for? count: 9
Dick is a dick count: 5