1756: Love & Bullets – Chapter NinePosted: May 9, 2017
Title: Love & Bullets
URL: Chapter 9
Critiqued by BatJamags (BadJamags and GoodJamags)
What do you need us for? count: 12
Dick is a dick count: 7
Bullet count: 0
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 where I’ve literally lost count of how many chapters it’s been since the plot moved forward. So far, the format has just been:
Someone points out something entirely logical.
A pointless flashback meant to counter their point happens, but fails to actually address the point.
A cliffhanger happens that doesn’t actually lead to anything different from what we’ve been seeing this whole time.
GoodJamags: So, let’s hope that chapter nine will actually do something.
If it does, it’ll be after the canned author’s note.
GoodJamags: And the line break! Don’t forget the line break!
Bruce was seated at the desk in his office and relaxing after having spent the majority of the evening at a committee meeting discussing how to stop the mayor from turning a portion of the East End into a massive prison compound he wanted to name Arkham. It was a plan that Bruce, as well as a great many others, considered to be a catastrophe in the making. Not that the mayor cared about what they thought, of course. All of the facts that had been presented to the man had been ruthlessly rejected.
We’re not going to actually see the Arkham City project in this fic, so the author’s once again just namedropping something Batman-related and hoping we’ll think she’s smart or something.
The mayor had, in fact, brusquely informed him that he had “absolutely no intention” to “change his plans,” and that they all needed to “stop trying to prevent” him from “accomplishing something” that would be a “benefit to the city of Gotham and her people.” And he’d informed the mayor that he’d “stop” trying to “prevent the opening of this prison” after he agreed to not go forth with his “ridiculous plans to build it.”
GoodJamags: Not sure why the quotes had to be arranged like that rather than just writing down what was actually said.
A prison in the heart of the city of Gotham, Bruce pondered as he tossed out a handful of invitations without even bothering to glance at them. He had enough things to worry about at that moment. He didn’t need, nor did he righty care, to add determining what social functions to attend to his ever increasing list.
I don’t think it’s the fact that it’s in the middle of Gotham that makes it such a bad idea. It’s the fact that they’re going to wall off half the city and leave an army of crooks to survive in there.
“Did Alfred leave you a stack of invitations to sift through as punishment for something?”
GoodJamags: First of all, it’s not a very good punishment, since Bruce just threw them all out. Second of all, where would he get them from?
Bruce’s lips twitched. “Are you assuming I have done something to provoke Alfred’s displeasure?”
No, I’m just assuming this author can’t write natural-sounding dialogue to save her life. Why is this so difficult for people?!
“Normally he leaves what functions and gatherings that you’re invited to with Raya and lets her pick through for those that might suit your particular whim or fancy.”
GoodJamags: That Bruce Wayne, he sure is known for his whims and fancies.
He noticed Dick spoke calmly enough. Yet, there was a bite beneath the words that told him his son was in a deep and dark place at that moment. He doesn’t handle her being gone any better than Damian tends, too.
Please learn to grammar better.
He angled his head to look over at the younger man. His face may have revealed nothing of what he was thinking or feeling, but Bruce knew Dick was like a boiling volcano on the inside.
GoodJamags: But is he a shield volcano or a stratovolcano? Inquiring minds want to know!
Stratovolcano. S.H.I.E.L.D. is a Marvel property.
Things are not so easy now, are they, chum? he asked the younger man silently.
I don’t think Bruce calls Dick “chum” anywhere except the Adam West TV show from the 60’s. Which, unlike this fic, is actually good.
It’s not so simple now that the boundaries of the relationship have changed. You’re no longer just friends, but something that’s become fused together through an intimate connection that’s not easily broken.
GoodJamags: So, want to take bets on how many times the fic is going to explain this before it ends?
Bruce knew it wasn’t easy to separate the professional from the personal, to disassociate yourself from your significant other so you both could do what needed to be done. Not when you loved someone in the way he knew his oldest two loved each other. Opening himself and allowing himself to love-and allow them to love him in return- was where he and Dick Grayson differed. For a while, and specifically after a period of never ending traumas, Dick had shut himself off to love. He’d focused upon his missions, on his cases, and on stopping the criminals from winning. His personal relationships all had suffered because he’d become the one thing he knew Dick feared becoming the most: him.
Still waiting for new information.
GoodJamags: Give it some time, maybe it’ll- OH HOLY CRAP!
Bruce readily admitted that he had willingly sacrificed his feelings, as well as the few healthy relationships he’d had over the years, in order to focus on his objective to clean up and protect Gotham from the filth trying to overrun it. He’d organized his family and friends into particular compartments within him in order to protect them from the person who could hurt them the most: himself. Compartmentalizing wasn’t something Dick could do with Raya, however. They had become attached the night he’d introduced them, bonded over their shared traumas and shared pain. Nothing in the last nineteen years had managed to sever that connection-though the Joker, Crane and Berkeley had certainly all tried their best to break them apart. I knew you would be good for each other, he told the brooding man across from him silently. I knew you both needed someone to love. I knew you needed someone to love you because you are you. So I gave you each other. Little did I know that introducing you two would lead you down this particular path, however. I mean, marriage, Dick? It’s such a dangerous road to travel…
*Roaring is heard in the distance*
GoodJamags: Sorry, Gumdrop! At least it’s not too big.
I wasn’t even sure whether it really counted as a Wall of Text, but I think it’s big enough. Aside from the pointless rambling and distinctly un-Batman-like thought process, there’s nothing much to snark in there.
Bruce could admit, albeit, only to himself, Jim Gordon and Alfred, that he was deeply worried about this situation. The direction that Dick wanted to take his relationship with Raya was one he’d seen many others falter upon. As much as he loved the both of them, as much as he wanted them to find the love and happiness absent in his own life, he still had grave concerns about them getting married. He knew firsthand about how crime fighters and relationships mixed together about as well as oil and water. In a city like Gotham, a crime fighter’s family was the favorite means for an enemy to obtain revenge. Dick and Raya each had a fair share of enemies who would think nothing about kidnapping or killing the other in order to make them pay for their continued stopping of their criminal activities.
Ah, here we are. He’s still narrating about it, but as soon as Bruce vocalizes this entirely legitimate point, Dick will launch into an irrelevant flashback, and Bruce will just kind of forget about this.
At the end of the day, heroes weren’t supposed to have happy and ordinary personal lives.
They simply weren’t ordinary people.
Bruce pushed his internal musings aside when he heard Dick let out a sigh. He glanced at him, seeing the brief flicker of doubt and hurt that appeared in those electric eyes. “She’ll come home,” he told him gently. “Just give her time.”
GoodJamags: I like to think that when the author starts narrating stuff we already know at us, the POV character is just kind of zoning out and not paying attention to anyone else in the scene.
Sort of like us whenever the author starts babbling?
GoodJamags: Yes, actually. That’s exactly it.
Dick just nodded before he said, “I know.” Then he added, his lips twitching, “I dared her to meet me at our spot on the Pioneer Bridge at midnight.”
Bruce swallowed a laugh. “Is there any particular reason behind why you dared her to meet rather than simply asked her to?”
I’m sure it’ll be explained to us at length.
“Well, she’s as compulsory as you when it comes to challenges for one,” he retorted cheekily. “And she is as prideful as you for another.” His grin only got wider when Bruce sighed. “So I know the woman will meet me at the top of the Pioneer Bridge at midnight. Her stubborn pride won’t allow her not too.”
GoodJamags: It’s almost like the author already told us all of this.
Was this story written by the damned DRD or something?
“That’s not why she’ll meet you, Dick,” Bruce rumbled even as he felt a memory playing tug with his subconscious. “It’s not why she will meet you at all, in fact.”
One black brow lifted. “Oh?” There was curiously in that tone. “And why do you think she will meet me without me having dared her into it?”
But… You did dare her.
GoodJamags: And I’m betting she won’t meet him. That way the author can drag out this un-conflict for a few more chapters.
“She’ll meet you at the Bridge for the same reason that she agreed to attend the first Wayne Foundation Christmas Eve Ball with you,” Bruce replied with a soft smile. “Because despite knowing that confronting you will cause her a massive headache,” he paused to savor Dick’s groan. “She loves you and will do almost anything to make you happy.”
GoodJamags: Well, that logic came out of nowhere.
Oh, and here’s our pointless flashback! It didn’t segue into it exactly as I had expected, but I’m somehow not surprised.
GoodJamags: You know what is surprising? The line break!
It’s really not all that interesting.
Stately Wayne Manor.
Twelve years ago.
GoodJamags: Still no frame of reference.
She looked like a princess.
Another poor fool who missed the memo that Halloween costumes are supposed to be monsters and villains and stuff.
GoodJamags: Well, I mean, I’m sure we could come up with an example of an evil princess.
Her gown, a floor length creation of crushed velvet dyed a deep shade of aquamarine swirled around her ankles as she circled the dance floor with his grinning ward.
GoodJamags: At least this is the most description of the dress we’re going to get.
However, Bruce’s enjoyment of the evening was being dampened by the voices of those gossiping in the shadowy confines of the many alcoves the ballroom had.
The whispers had started the moment the teens had entered the ballroom, in fact.
Wangst by proxy incoming.
Poor child, he heard them saying. How long has it been since Ellen was murdered?
GoodJamags: Oh, horrors! The sympathy! IT BURNS!
Nine years, he heard someone say.
Can you imagine that it has been that long?
And why is all of this in italics, anyway?
Who is this Ellen you are speaking of? he heard someone ask. I don’t think I’ve met her.
GoodJamags: Maybe it’s because you’re a robot, or so your speech patterns would indicate.
Surely you’ve heard about the Berkeley murder? someone gasped.
Why, you simply must have heard about a nine-year-old murder case and not forgotten about it over the course of those nine years! It even involved the Sue!
Why, no, that person replied. I wasn’t living in the city at the time. What happened?
GoodJamags: Trajek backstory happened.
Oh, my, it was really quite the scandal!
That’s one way of describing a murder.
It happened a few days before Christmas, in fact.
GoodJamags: This frame of reference is meaningless, since we don’t know what year it was, or why it’s even important to know when this happened.
Ellen Rae Berkeley was murdered while her daughter was asleep in her bed.
And then I was granted the power of delivering exposition and became: THE EXPOSITOR!
Heavens! Do they know who did it?
GoodJamags: Probably Professor Zoom.
Robbers, it was said.
Awkward phrasing, it was exposited.
No wonder Matthew Berkeley withdrew from society. He heard someone sniffle. Why that poor man! Mourning his wife all these years later…
GoodJamags: Do we need to hear all of this?
And then he heard the whisper that had his teeth gnashing and his rage boiling, Well, that ungrateful brat certainly didn’t help matters any when she tossed over poor Matty for Wayne and that filthy mongrel he took in. Imagine! Disowning your own father for a wastrel!
*Sigh* Yep. Wangst by proxy, though we had to sit through more boring-ass exposition.
GoodJamags: I’m strongly considering moving that hyphen.
Hey, at least some ass-exposition would be more entertaining than this shit.
Raya must have heard the whispers as she and Dick were exiting the dance floor because she instantly turned tail to run. Bruce reached out to detain her.
GoodJamags: This room would have to be small, largely empty, and have no music playing whatsoever for her to have heard people whispering from across the room. Worst party ever.
GoodJamags: Well, best party ever by our standards, but we’re antisocial nerds who don’t like loud noises. Not exactly the best party judges.
“Honor me with the next dance?” he asked her in a hushed tone. “Please?”
Bruce: Here, come submit yourself to further public embarrassment.
“Oh, Bruce…” she chewed on her lower lip, clearly uncertain of how to respond and deathly afraid of being the center of more unwanted attention. “I…”
He leaned to her ear and whispered one word, “Rise.”
Black Power Ring: Mary Sue of Earth. Rise.
The reminder had the exact effect he’d known it would. Raya schooled her features into a cool, composed mask before giving her assent with a slight nod. Bruce tucked her hand into the curve of his elbow and escorted her out onto the dance floor. He could feel every eye upon them as he circled her trim waist with one arm and signaled for the band to resume playing. A slow melody soon floated upon the holly and pine scented air. Bruce felt Raya slowly relax as they circled the floor together. Soon, they both were beyond caring about what any of the vile and nasty people were saying or thinking about her, about the night her mother was murdered, about anything. The night became theirs, and nothing and nobody was going to spoil the magic of this moment for either of them.
Uh. She’s his adopted daughter. This is going in a very uncomfortable and My Bleeding Crimson Despair-esque direction.
“You seem to be enjoying yourself again,” Bruce said quietly after a few minutes.
“It’s actually turned into quite a lovely evening,” she admitted with a soft smile. “I’m glad you convinced me to atte…” her voice dropped off and she shot a quick look over her shoulder.
GoodJamags: Is there seriously a reason for any of this to be here, other than to hit us over the head with how trajek the Sue’s life is?
Bruce glanced to the left and saw that Astral Van de Camp and her fiancée, Clancy Yarborough had moved into their vicinity. One steely look was enough to convince Clancy to swing his fiancée in another direction.
I don’t care.
“Ignore them, imp.”
GoodJamags: “Imp?” Really?
“Thank you,” she said gratefully.
… He didn’t do anything. He just said to ignore them.
GoodJamags: Wait, “gratefully?” What other way of saying “thank you” is there?
*Headshotted in the head*
“And thank you for not letting me run off because of what the society sharks are saying about me.” She lifted eyes that glittered with hurt and rage to his before stating in a firm tone, “and about you and Dick, as well.”
GoodJamags: Seriously, the “society sharks” are being pointlessly vindictive about absolutely nothing here. There’s really no reason for them to be this concerned about the Berkeley murder so long after it happened. If nothing else, they’d have moved on to another target by now.
“Dick would never have forgiven me if I did not manage to talk you into attending the Ball.”
But she did attend the ball. She just wanted to leave.
“Well, the opportunity to dance with the second handsomest man in Gotham was a mighty persuasive argument,” she teased.
GoodJamags: I don’t recall there being any debate about whether she’d attend the ball. Probably because we’re being told about it rather than shown it.
Not that we need to be shown it. This stupid fic has enough irrelevant flashbacks as it is.
“Second?” he drawled while arching one dark brow. “You better not tell Dick you only find him second in terms of good looks.”
God, the dialogue in this piece of shit is awkward.
He managed to surprise a laugh out of her. “Well, who says you’re the most handsome man in Gotham, Bruce?” she challenged with a twinkle in her eye. “Maybe I meant Oliver Westheimer.”
The author really sucks at coming up with names.
“He’s a hundred,” Bruce retorted, “and looks like a gnome.”
GoodJamags: Hey, don’t be hating on gnomes!
She snorted a laugh but made no other retort. Instead of returning her to the boy fluttering at the edge of the dance floor, Bruce led her into another dance. Let their viperous tongues wag. Tonight is for magic and wonder, for love and family.
This scene should’ve ended long before this. We’re still not getting any new information here.
“They’ll never forget about what happened, will they?” he heard Raya ask him in a small voice. “And they will never allow me to forget, either. No more than they’ve allowed you or Dick to forget what happened to your parents.”
GoodJamags: Yeah, they’re weirdly persistent, aren’t they? Almost like the author is summoning up some CONTRIVED DRAMA.
There was nothing that Bruce could say, no words to deny what she already knew as the truth or that would take away the pain their continued reminders would cause. So he did the only thing he could do, the only thing she needed him to do, in fact. He was just there. To soon the song ended, and soft clapping followed. Bruce tucked Raya’s gloved hand into the crook of his arm and led her through the throng of other party goers to where Dick was waiting for them.
Y’know, in the place.
“About time you brought my date back,” he said dryly. “Was starting to think I’d have to ask Miss Puchenko to dance with me just so you’d remember you have a date of your own…”
GoodJamags: “Puchenko” could be a real name, but my spellcheck doesn’t think so, and given this author’s track record with names so far, I’m inclined to believe it.
“I can’t help it if your date prefers dancing with me over you, chum.”
“Please.” Dick rolled his eyes even as Raya giggled. “Like Raya even has eyes for anyone other than me.”
In fact, for most people, she’s just got empty sockets.
“Well,” Bruce said slowly with a conspiratorial wink at Raya, “she did say that dancing with the most handsome man in all Gotham was at the top of her reasons for why she accepted our invitation to the Ball.”
GoodJamags: This “banter” would be endearing if it had a soul.
“She obviously meant that about yours truly,” Dick retorted cheekily. “I mean, look at me. How could she resist such a perfect package?”
Bow chicka bow wow.
“Actually, I recall telling Bruce that I could have just as easily meant Oliver Westheimer.” There was just a hint of mischief in her voice; her eyes. “Or Nathaniel Everwood.” She tapped an elegant finger against her lips before issuing a, “Hmmm,” deep in her throat.
GoodJamags: Nope. You still suck at names.
“Hmm, what, imp?”
“Oh, just thinking is all.”
“Yeah,” Dick groused. “It’s what you are thinking that Bruce wants to know about here, Rae.”
Get to the goddamned point.
“Well, I’m thinking…” she paused to cock her head to the side, studying the elderly Everwood intently before glancing over at Oliver Westheimer. “They are both extremely handsome men. I’d be hard pressed to decide which one I should ask to dance with me.”
GoodJamags: Is this supposed to be funny? I think it’s supposed to be funny.
It’s not funny.
Dick snorted a laugh. “Yeah, right,” he drawled in a lazy tone. “We both know that you won’t go and ask either man to dance with you.”
Because that would get in the way of TEH SHIPPING.
“And why do you say that in quite so insulting a fashion, Richard?”
Dick smirked at her prim and proper tone.
GoodJamags: That’s also not funny. Or prim and proper. It’s just awkward.
“‘Cause Nathaniel Everwood is a hundred at least, hasn’t got a single tooth in his mouth and a wart on his chin with a hair growing from it. And Westheimer just looks like Grumpy Dwarf.”
You said he was a Gnome earlier! Dwarves and Gnomes are two different species!
GoodJamags: That’s racist.
Bruce coughed to hide his chuckle. “And on that that note,” he said to his young wards. “I am going to take my leave of you. I see Lucius Fox has arrived and would like to have a quick word with him before things get fully underway.”
GoodJamags: Aha! Things! And they’re doing the other things! But only after Lucius Fox shows up!
“And I’d love a breath of fresh air,” Raya stated while fanning her face with her hand, “it’s a bit stifling in here at the moment what with all the people in attendance.”
“And I’d love a breath of fresh air,” BadJamags stated while fanning his face with his Door launcher, “it’s a bit stifling in here at the moment what with all the awkward phrasing in the dialogue.”
“Yeah, I gotta admit,” Dick chirped. “You do look hot, Rae.”
Bow chicka bow-
Dick’s face might have been the picture of innocence, but the look in his eyes was anything but.
*Department of Contradictions Agency Officers spring into action and do nothing*
Raya merely heaved a long suffering sigh before shooting a dirty look at him.
Bow chicka bow-
“Velvet doesn’t exactly breathe as well as cotton here, pasăre băiat,” she informed him with a small sniff.
GoodJamags: So, any idea what the fic is trying to say here?
Dick waggled his eyebrows at her and worked up a rakish leer. “I could always rid you of a few of those layers if you want…”
Dick, please. Contain yourself.
“Richard Grayson!” Raya hissed, her face suffusing with color. “Would you please shut up?!”
“What?” He smiled engagingly at her. “I was merely offering to help you with your dress problems…”
GoodJamags: So, do we care yet?
I don’t think so.
“Ya just think you’re adorable, don’t ya?” she huffed.
“No,” he denied with a shake of his head. “I know I’m adorable.”
That’s also not funny. Stop repeating it.
Raya clapped a hand to her face before muttering, “Oy, you’re impossible at times, I swear.”
“But you love me.”
“Rub it in, ya jerk.”
GoodJamags: Can this scene end now?
Bruce swallowed a laugh before laying a hand on his ward’s shoulder. They were quite amusing to watch, he thought.
They really weren’t.
As amusing as he found them, though, Bruce realized that their relationship was still a very dangerous one. Already eyes were turning to watch the teens as they traded their playful barbs and quips. Even now he heard the twitters and the speculation. By morning it would be all over the society pages about how Bruce Wayne’s boy was involved with the Berkeley girl. Best to get them out of sight, he decided.
GoodJamags: Wait. I thought that in this twisted shadow of canon, Raya was taken in by Bruce around the same time as Dick. So why is Dick any more Bruce’s than she is?
And I thought Bruce was going to go talk to Lucius Fox?
“I would head to the gardens at the back of the Manor for that bit of air that Raya wants,” he told Dick in a loud voice. He saw Dick frown his confusion and subtly pointed to where Helexia Grant had her head craned to the side in order to speak with Elsa Roquefort.
“Elsa Roquefort” isn’t bad, though it’s not a great name. I’m not going to give you “Helexia Grant,” though. You still fail at names.
Then he lowered his voice and said, “Go through the kitchen and up the servant stairs in order to avoid being seen and use the panel in the office to go to the cave.”
GoodJamags: And what did any of this have to do with the stupid-name-people?
And with that he turned, leaving the gaping teens staring at his back while he made his way through the throng of people to where Fox was conversing with Rodney Saunders, the senior VP of Wayne Pharmaceuticals.
Why did we need to know who Lucius was talking to? So that the author could shoehorn in more pointless names?
GoodJamags: Maybe they’re discussing Wayne Enterprises’ new product: line breaks!
Dick opened his mouth to say something, but the front door slamming with enough force that it rattled the windows of the Manor caused his mouth to snap shut. Bruce leapt to his feet to go and see what was going on. He barely made it around the desk when they heard feet tearing up the stairs as if the hounds of hell were hot on their heels. They caught a brief glimpse of Damian right before he raced down the hall towards his bedroom. Individually, they counted the number of steps it would take for him to reach his bedroom, and waited for the obligatory slam! of the door. When it came exactly ten seconds later they turned to look at the other, ghosts of smiles hovering upon their lips.
GoodJamags: So, Damian’s already back?
So, that means that Raya already made her choice?
YOU FINALLY ADVANCED THE FUCKING PLOT, AND YOU DID THAT SHIT OFF-SCREEN?! WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU, AUTHOR?!
“I should go speak with him…” Bruce said on a long breath. “See what is bothering him.”
Bullshit. It’s probably bullshit.
“Are you sure that you want to tangle with the mini-you right now?” Dick teased. “I would…”
“- leave him to sit and stew in his room,” a familiar voice spoke from the doorway. “It’s what the little bird deserves after boldly threatening to hurt Tim if I didn’t come here and talk to you.”
GoodJamags: Why’d he hold Tim hostage?
Because he’s a piece of shit, that’s why.
Bruce glanced over at the same time Dick did to see that Raya was standing there in the doorway. She was wearing an oversized sweatshirt he recognized from the school logo to be one of Tim’s and a pair of cotton workout pants he knew were hers. Her dark hair was piled up in a messy bun at her crown and she had no shoes or socks upon her feet. The dark smudges beneath her eyes told him she wasn’t sleeping. However, it was what he could see swirling in that verdant gaze, upon that porcelain face that had his heart snag on a beat.
Ow, the costume porn.
GoodJamags: And it’s purple, too.
His imp’s mask, the one she’d crafted from birth, had completely shattered.
GoodJamags: Fortunately, the bat-family keeps a lot of spare masks on hand for just such an occasion.
Her face at that moment was completely naked and raw and so achingly vulnerable that it hurt worse than a knife to the gut. Every single emotion she was feeling was openly visible at that moment to him. There was guilt and relief, anger and shame, disgust and sadness, love and happiness. Yet it was seeing her fear that shook Bruce to the core of his being. Every ounce of his fatherly instinct screamed at him to pull her into his arms, just as he’d done when she’d been a little girl and assure her that she was safe, that she was okay.
Ow, would you stop purpling at us?
However, it wasn’t up to him to quiet her fears this time.
No, it was up to the man who was seated in front of his desk.
There was the sound of a chair scraping on the floor and Bruce watched Dick slowly climb to his feet from the corner of his eye. He could see that an echo of the same emotions on her face was flickering across his. Raya wasn’t the only one screwed up by the distance between them. So was Dick. Bruce watched as he limped the few feet to where she stood. Then he heard him sigh and saw him rest his hand against the door jamb by her hip.
“I’m a mess here, Rae,” he heard him murmur in a tortured voice.
Raya tipped her head against his chest. “Then let’s be a mess together, Dick.”
Alright! Alright! It’s all very trajek. Now they kiss and make up, and we move on with our lives, right?
GoodJamags: You wish. But hey, maybe the next three chapters are short and have stuff actually happening.
No, they’re not. There’s no way. This author wouldn’t let it happen like that, and I need to rest.
What do you need us for? count: 12
Dick is a dick count: 7
Bullet count: 0