1762: Love & Bullets – Chapter TenPosted: May 16, 2017
Title: Love & Bullets
URL: Chapter 10
Critiqued by BatJamags (BadJamags and GoodJamags)
WARNING: Author still thinks she can write about domestic abuse. Given that she can’t write healthy interpersonal relationships, my hopes aren’t high. Thankfully, it’s still just referenced and not shown.
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 that should be over already. Last time, we had another pointless fucking flashback. This time, we’ll dive into chapter 10 and hope that the fic will actually do something.
GoodJamags: And in case you’re wondering, no. The canned author’s note hasn’t gone away. Sadly. It’s not that bad on a first viewing, but at the top of every chapter, it’s just frustrating to see.
“I’m a mess here, Rae,” I tell her in a fractured whisper.
Dick: I’m stuck in a bad fanfiction, I’m under the Suefluence, and the author just won’t shut the hell up!
I feel more than hear the tiny sigh she releases. I figure she’s about to tell me that my misery is my own damn fault, point out that if I hadn’t asked her to marry me, and that if I’d just retracted the proposal like she’d urged me to do, everything would be all hunky dory between us. Yeah, she’s totally wrong and I wait with baited breath just to tell the daft woman that. Then Raya tips her head against my chest and surprises me by saying, “Then let’s be a mess together, Dick.”
Oh, what’s the issue now?!
GoodJamags: It’s because we saw this scene last chapter.
Great. Now I’m going to get *headshotted in the head*
Okay, so maybe her spending a night off with Tim and Conner has actually turned out to be a good thing…
GoodJamags: Not for us, it hasn’t.
Well, good thing for her, and probably Tim and Kon as well. Damian on the other hand is going to hold this over both their heads for the rest of their lives.
GoodJamags: For some reason.
Personally? I get why Raya asked Conner to take her to Tim’s. He’s her brother. Same as he’s my brother. But we’ve always accepted Tim as a member of our family. Damian, on the other hand has seen him as his enemy from the first moment he met him. Tim allowing Raya to take refuge at his place while she works through how to handle me and the situation I’ve created is tantamount to being a traitor in our little bird’s eyes. It’s another mark against Tim.
GoodJamags: Do we care? Does this affect the plot or the story in any capacity?
*Respawning* Hell no.
And a major point of contention between mama and baby bird. Just then I think I hear the soft grinding of the secret elevators gears as the conveyance is called into service, but I am too invested in having Raya in front of me finally to pay it much mind.
That sentence is painful to read.
That Bruce would retreat to the Cave doesn’t surprise me all that much. I’d love to tell you that he left us alone as a sign of respect for our privacy. To a certain degree, that is true. However, Bruce also doesn’t handle emotional conflicts well.
GoodJamags: Why is everyone’s response to problems in this fic “run away and then not have any other response?”
Probably because the writer sucks.
Google Batman and insane rage mode and you’ll see just how well he tends to handle his emotional conflicts.
That’s an odd thing to say, but I’ll try it.
And I found nothing but some pictures of the Arkham series and a few review videos in which somebody is raging. What the hell are you even talking about?
GoodJamags: Batman’s not even all that ragey.
And as much as he’d deny it if you asked him? He hates seeing me and Raya at odds more than Damian does. We are his first foundlings. We are the closest to him-even though he and I spend a lot of time at odds with each other. We’re the ones he let inside his heart and world and who he allowed to make the Dark Knight’s life just a little less bleak. We’re also the ones who can, and have, hurt him the most. Don’t think that Bruce doesn’t love Jason, Tim, Cass or Damian as much as he does us. He does. We’re just his first. And we’re special to him for that reason.
GoodJamags: I think I’ve figured out this story’s problem. It’s not that it takes so long to explain things. It’s that it takes so long to explain things that are completely irrelevant. Cut out most of these rambling asides, and all it would do to the fic is make it shorter, which would be a welcome alteration.
“What can I do, Rae?” I finally ask her. “What can I say that is going to convince you to marry me?”
Hmm… I think “the plot says you should stop dilly-dallying and say ‘yes’ now,” would do the trick.
“Dick…” I feel her whisper against my shoulder.
Raya Sue: I’m already married!
GoodJamags: Dun dun dun!
“Just say yes or no,” I entreat her. “Will you marry me?”
Yes, please! Just get this over with!
I figure she’s gonna balk, again, at my asking her to marry me. I assume she’s gonna make me squirm just a little bit as payback for the hell I’ve put her through.
GoodJamags: It’s one question, and an easy one to say “no” to. H-E-double-hockey-sticks it ain’t.
Making me dangle just a bit longer on the line before finally giving me an answer one way or another is so totally her version of payback.
And it’s as painful for us as it is for you. The difference here? We’re the readers, and we find it painful because this story only needed to be three chapters long.
When she merely tucks her head under my chin without uttering one word, I know she’s feeling pretty frazzled. Normally, I’d use this bit of disquiet to my advantage. The more unsettled Raya is, the more likely it is that you can get her to talk truthfully about her feelings.
GoodJamags: You mean you’re going to use her emotional distress to manipulate her into saying what you want her to say?
Dick is a dick count: 8
I’ve already told you that Raya’s a stubborn woman. But yanno what? Her will is what helps her survive the day-to-day nightmares our lives can become. See, normal people would look at what we contend with and run the other way.
Instead, Raya looks at what you contend with and runs the other way. Wait…
It is what any sane person would do. We don’t do that, though. We buckle down, toughen up and face the challenges presented to us.
GoodJamags: No. You sit around, wallow in your trajedy, and have pointless flashbacks for twelve chapters.
It’s how Bruce taught us to be. It’s how he taught us to act. It’s how he taught us to think. And as much as I absolutely hate admitting it?
We’re both just like him.
Oh, don’t start another pointless lecture. I’m snipping it.
She doesn’t say anything for a couple of agonizing minutes. I half imagine the silence to be her response to my question. Be just like the little minx to respond that way.
GoodJamags: This is not a complicated question. There’s two ways to respond. Here, have a flowchart:
Will you marry me?
<—-Change your mind?
You realize the formatting on that is not going to survive the transition to the Library, right?
[It could have gone a lot worse! – Lyle]
GoodJamags: They’ll get the point.
But then I feel her stir, feel her shift and settle more against me. Even before I feel them, I know her hands are going to drift beneath my t-shirt. I can imagine her touch long before I feel those elegant fingers stroke over my skin. Prickles of heat pool in my belly and spread outwards to the rest of my body. With every glide, every touch, and every whisper of her skin upon mine I can feel my nerves shiver and sigh. Every muscle quivers. And every ounce of my tension melts away. Everywhere she touches hums with pleasure. I admit it, I’ve missed this. I’ve been craving this, in fact. Raya tends to connect with the people she cares about through touch. It’s something she’s always done. Yet, the way she touches me is much different from how she touches Tim or Bruce.
And suddenly, overly purple not-really-sex-but-is-described-like-sex.
This is something even more intimate than sex.
GoodJamags: No, it’s really not. She’s just kind of rubbing you. That’s called a massage.
See, I’m… sensitive about who touches me. Even more so now than I was back when we were kids. Some of the major scars I’ve acquired over the years are a bit of an issue for me. It’s vanity, I know it is. I’m human, though. I have my quirks like anybody else. I don’t like those places touched because of the memories associated with that spot. I’ve had… meltdowns, to put it mildly when others I’ve been with have brushed a particular place on my body that I don’t like touched.
Not a canon trait, doesn’t fit his canon personality, and is just pointless padding.
Not with her.
Never with her.
GoodJamags: Really? I’m so surprised.
When her fingers skim over those areas, the demons inside me remain quiet.
How many times are we going to have to call the Ghostbusters here?!
Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because she is the flame bird and her touch healing.
You OK, man?
GoodJamags: She’s… not a cat. She’s a bird…
Maybe. I can’t even tell what that bullshit sentence is trying to say.
GoodJamags: Maybe she’s a gryphon.
Maybe it’s because I love her and trust her. It could be all of the above. I’m not honestly sure what the reason is. I just know it is.
The reason is that the author needed some more bullshit padding.
I’m also not like Raya, who somehow manages to wear the scar her father gave her as if it’s a badge of honor. My fingers trace over where the scar from that night zigzags her shoulder. It’s hidden from my view by the folds of Tim’s pilfered sweatshirt, but I know it is there. I will always know it’s there. For Raya, that scar is physical proof that shows other domestic abuse victims about how one can face their abuser and take back some of the control that was taken from them. Raya took back more than a bit of herself that night, though. She finally was able to put to rest one of the nights haunting her. And I gotta admit that putting that bastard into cuffs allowed me to take back a bit of myself as well.
GoodJamags: So, how well do you think the author can tackle domestic abuse?
I’m betting the guy is a cackling, sneering supervillain.
GoodJamags: Yeah, probably. That or he’s incredibly long-winded and will literally bore us to death.
However, that is still a night I would love a chance to do over. I’d make some vastly different choices from the ones I made that night. The first thing I’d change is my telling Raya that her father had Damian. Raya would never have put her life in jeopardy if I’d have left her with Tim and gone to rescue our little bird myself.
I’m guessing this has absolutely nothing to do with the current situation. I get the feeling that the author decided to write a twelve chapter story, and then crammed in all of this pointless fucking bullshit to make it that long.
Oh, but the biggest thing I’d change about that night was my decision to not put Matthew Berkeley down the second I saw him put that knife against Damian’s throat…
GoodJamags: So you’re saying you’d kill him? Because that’s not something Dick would think.
Dick is a dick count: 9
The Berkeley Estate
Ah, and here’s our obligatory pointless flashback.
Three years ago.
GoodJamags: So, are all these “Three years ago” parts happening simultaneously? No? Then give us a proper timeline!
“Either let me go now,” Robin growled at the man holding him hostage. “Or know that when I do get free that I will systematically take you apart, piece by piece. I will stick that kunai in your neck, in your thigh, in your stomach.” His eyes narrowed to thin blue slits. “And I will stand over you and watch as you bleed to death.”
One: Fuck you, Damian.
Two: I refuse to believe this random asshole took the Batman franchise’s resident Gary Stu hostage.
Berkeley’s face drained of all color in the wake of Robin’s very real threat. His hand trembled upon the handle of the knife he held in one hand. And there was a twitch of something- fear? that shimmered underneath the damnation of his madness.
“Damnation of his madness?” What does that mean? Is it like the danmation ob his innocents?
Then he chuckled. The sound of it had Batman’s and Red Robin’s bellies clenching in dread and their bodies coiling in preparation of action.
GoodJamags: You might want to get that checked out.
And yep. Cackling supervillain. Goddammit.
“You won’t kill me, little Robin.” He spoke with a confidence that was undermined by the tremor in his voice. “My sainted daughter won’t let you kill me. Plays by Batman’s rules, remember?”
No… No, Damian will decapitate your ass.
GoodJamags: Don’t ask us how that works, anatomically speaking.
Robin made a soft ffff sound. “I am not asking either her permission,” a pause. “Or Batman’s.”
GoodJamags: So… Any explanation how they got in this situation?
Matthew Berkeley visibly swallowed, and his eyes shifted nervously between the boy in his grasp, the caped figures flanking him, and the woman standing as still as a statue in front of him. Finally he smiled, a slow and slippery smile that was chalk full of predatory arrogance and glee.
Guess it’s just more of this guy being a generic villain.
“My dear boy,” he said silkily. “You won’t get a chance to kill me.” At Robin’s scoff, he continued, “My daughter wants to lock me in a prison cell for the rest of my life. Killing me would deny her that pleasure.”
GoodJamags: That was pretty much all of the clichés, right there in that one line. Wow.
“What you’ve always failed to realize, Father,” Raya’s voice was calm as a midsummer’s rain.
HEY! You leave Johnny Rivers out of this!
“Is that at no point in time do I have to choose to save you. And believe me,” she added in a low rasp. “My largest regret is stopping the Red Hood from putting a bullet in you when he had the chance.” Hatred swirled in that verdant gaze, swam across that alabaster face. “He’s right when he says that the world would be a lot better off without vermin like you and the Joker in it.”
GoodJamags: I find it very hard to believe that Jason puts this guy on the same level of hatred he’s got for the Joker.
Also, how many times have they had to deal with this idiot?
Berkeley’s breath expelled in one long, moist hiss. The implication in her tone was clear. Were Robin to get his hands on him, she wouldn’t save him. Not this time.
Our hero. Not that I’ve got any sympathy for Berkeley, it’s just that Raya’s saying she’d willingly be an accomplice to murder. Some franchises have heroes who kill, and this would make more sense somewhere like that, but with superheroes, that sort of thing just doesn’t fly.
I’ll address the actual villain here in a moment.
“Traitorous bitch…” he snarled. “You’re just like your mother. Weak and pathetic.”
GoodJamags: Not sure how that follows from the previous exchange, but sure. Throw some more clichés on the pile.
“I’m nothing like my mother,” Raya refuted in a hard voice. “She chose to remain with you. I chose Batman over you.”
Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! What’s that I hear? Could it be…
You disgusting, worthless, shit-licking puddle of piss. Do you even know what you’re talking about? Because I think you don’t. I was expecting this fic to trivialize abuse, because of course it would. But to act like Raya Sue’s mother is somehow… lesser, because she wasn’t able to escape from Berkeley?
That’s the funny (for certain definition of “funny”) thing about abuse: if it were so easy to just get away, it would barely ever happen. Abusers aren’t just violent or unstable; they’re manipulators. In some fantasy world where everyone was in perfect control of their emotions and thought processes, “choosing” to remain in an abusive household could be construed as a wrong choice. However, in the real world, victims are called victims because they are victims: persons who have been harmed by factors beyond their control. I’m not saying it’s impossible to escape or avoid this sort of thing, but don’t you dare imply that the victim is at fault.
GOD! Fuck this stupid fucking story, and its stupid fucking bullshit!
Berkeley howled with his rage. Batman was already reaching for a batarang in the second that it took him to lift up his arm. The light glinted off the cold metal as it came slashing down, spelling death as it rent through time and space on its way to its intended destination within the chest of the bound Robin. He let the batarang fly, saw out of the corner of his eye that Red had let one of his throwing disks fly at the same moment. Both of the projectiles sang as they tumbled end over end through the air. Each man knew that neither projectile was going to arrive in time to stop the events slowly unfolding with every second that ticked by on the clock.
Fine. Fucking fine. I’ll admit that this particular paragraph is well-written, but it does not make up for that bullshit before.
They could only watch as Raya curled her fingers into the nylon threads that held Robin immobile and yank the boy to her, twisting to the side in the same moment the smaller figure toppled against her.
GoodJamags: How did Raya get so close without Berkeley stabbing Damian?
Batman’s heart slammed against his chest as he watched that blade rip through her flesh rather than plunge into Robin’s chest, the surprising bite of the pain eliciting a soft shriek that rocked him forward even as she sunk down to one knee. Berkeley let out a high keening sound of triumph before he lifted the knife again.
GoodJamags: I’m sure there was a more efficient way of saving Damian.
The batarang slammed into the back of his neck, knocking the madman face down on the floor and stunning him.
GoodJamags: The back of his neck? Where is everybody standing in relation to each other?! And batarangs aren’t blunt weapons. They’re sharp, and mostly used for stabbing and pinning stuff (and occasionally delivering gadgets). Something that small that’s been thrown by hand isn’t going to knock you off your feet.
The bloody knife skittered harmlessly across the glossy floor, bouncing against the tip of Robin’s boot and remaining there. Batman saw Robin tilt his head to look at it, his eyes and face a mask of disgust, anger and shock. His immediate concern was for the woman on one knee.
GoodJamags: As opposed to all the other women in the room.
“Raya!” He rushed towards her, dropped beside her with Red Robin barely a step behind. He took hold of the injured limb, turning it gently while saying, “Let me see how bad it is.”
Turns out, she’s dead. Wouldn’t that be nice?
GoodJamags: … Maybe you should just sit down for a while.
“I’m okay,” she told him quietly. “You just go and cuff my father.”
“Damn it, woman,” he rasped. “You’re hurt. Red…”
GoodJamags: What, did she say that someone else was hurt?
“You get my father into restraints, Dick,” she told him in a low whisper. “You. I need you to cuff him. Please.”
GoodJamags: Why can’t this author just write “you” normally?! Why does it always need to be shortened or italicized? And why does she specifically need Batman to cuff the piece of crap?
Their eyes met, held. Shared secrets. Had words.
GoodJamags: Did things!
Finally he nodded and rose to his feet.
“Stay with her,” he ordered Robin. “Commissioner Gordon will be here in two minutes to Mirandize Berkeley. Then I want you both going to the bunker and getting checked out.”
GoodJamags: I don’t suppose we’ll be told what’s going on here? The context? Who’s involved?
Bullshit. It’s probably all bullshit.
“Ttch.” Robin mumbled that single, solitary word. “I do not need to be coddled.”
Batman, however, heard his uncertainty and hurt and took a moment to silently reassure the boy by setting a hand upon his shoulder. Then he turned to stalk towards where Berkeley was just stirring, taking out a set of restraints from his utility belt as he went. Raya had asked him to do this for her, but he really needed to do this for himself. This man had hurt many people with his madness. He bent and grasped Berkeley by his shirt front, yanking the man up until they were nose-to-nose.
GoodJamags: Context, author! Establish it!
“Your reign of terror is over, Berkeley!” he growled. “You understand me? A cell is going to be your home from now on.”
GoodJamags: He had a reign of terror? What was he doing? Is he just another member of the rogue’s gallery for these idiots? I need answers!
Here’s your answers: they’re all bullshit.
Berkeley coughed and chuckled tonelessly. “My only regret is I aimed for the brat and not my whore of a daughter.”
GoodJamags: Oh, look. Another villain cliché. I’m surprised.
“You come near her or Robin again,” he snarled. “And I will break you in half.”
Berkeley’s dark eyes studied his. “So tell me, Batman,” he said derisively. “Is my daughter spreading her legs for you?” His laugh was cold, cruel. “You’re awfully protective of her for some reason. Makes a father wonder… why?”
GoodJamags: Do we need a counter for the number of clichés this guy is spewing?
His answer was a jaw-breaking punch to the man’s sneering face.
GoodJamags: And there’s a sneer. At least we’re going back to Dick’s rambling narration.
Not killing Raya’s father is one of the biggest things I regret. I know, I know, Batman-nor Nightwing- kills. It does not mean that the want to do so doesn’t cross our minds at times. Again, we’re human. We have feelings, same as everybody. We’re not perfect. Plus, it’s managing to not take that step that separates us from the criminals that we bring to justice. But I’d have spared Raya, and plenty of others, years of emotional abuse and physical pain if I had been able to ignore our family’s golden rule about not killing.
You keep talking this up as a huge part of her backstory, but we’ve not actually been told what happened after Bruce took Raya in. I’m not doubting the guy’s a scumbag, I’m asking what he actually did, because you speak as though he continued to do something.
GoodJamags: Hey, you’re back. You OK now?
Still pissed. Are you not?
GoodJamags: No, I’m ticked too. I’m just maintaining my usual upbeat attitude in order to emphasize your anger.
Cool it. We’re writing a riff, not our own story.
And yes, I realize that I would not be the man that Raya sees me as if I had given into my temptation. Being that man she sees me as is what keeps me strong. It’s the thought I keep in my mind whenever I am facing down criminals like the Joker or Tony Zucco.
GoodJamags: In the main continuity, Tony Zucco has been dead or locked up for years. Dick only ever met him once or twice.
And the stupid fucking story just decided to turn Raya into Dick’s sole motivation. Of course.
Have I slipped? Yes. Have I skirted the sidelines of this particular rule? Yes. She’ll be the first one to tell you about how much both of those dances with the devil
cost me mentally. Same as she’ll tell you what she told me in order to help me get beyond those moments: “we fall so we can rise.”
GoodJamags: Correction: we rise because we fell. I can rise just fine on my own, thank you very much.
Bow chicka bow wow?
GoodJamags: Oh, shut up.
The fact remains that I’m her Knight. I’m her Hero. Bruce and Commissioner Gordon defend and protect her because they are her father’s and it’s what good father’s do. I do it because it is what a man does for the woman he loves. I’m the man who defends her honor, who protects her from harm. I shield her from as much of the bloody onslaught as I can. And I will continue to be that man until I am either to old, crippled or dead.
OK. Fine. Whatever. Just move on with the plot, Sir Patronizing
“I can’t answer this proposal, Dick,” I hear her saying.
GoodJamags: Yes, you can. Say “Yes” or “No.” It’s not that hard.
This proposal? That immediately snags my attention. I lean my head back and look at her.
“What do you mean by this proposal?”
It’s not that odd of a turn of phrase.
She gives me a look that says she’d love nothing better than to crack me over the head with anything heavy she could get her hands on. But then she says, “You asked me to marry you on my twenty-sixth birthday, buzzard brains.”
GoodJamags: Please don’t tell me the story’s going to act like this was the conflict all along.
Her twenty-sixth birthday? That was when… realization dawns brighter than the sun.
Surprising, coming from such a dim bulb as yourself.
“Bruce came home that night.”
“Yes.” I see her nod. “And I never answered that proposal because everything went crazy…”
“When are our lives not crazy, babe?”
GoodJamags: Exactly. How is this such a big deal? How have they not just gotten back to it? Why didn’t the story just start with that proposal and go mostly chronologically, and cut out the nonexistent drama from this time around?
“Well, things are always crazy in this family,” she admits with only the faintest of smiles curving her lips. “But we did have a lot of things hit us all at that time. I mean Bruce returned and got into that fight with Talia over Damian, Ra’s went after Tim for screwing over the League, Shiva tried to kill Tim and you and then Jason, there was that incident with the Joker, Crane resurfaced and took over Arkham, Cadmus sent men after Conner, there was that case I was working, and then Jason got injured and needed me to go take care of him.”
MissScorp: SEE SEE LOOK AT ALL THE CANON THINGS I KNOW BECAUSE I LISTED THEM
She drops her head back against my chest. “There just never seemed like a right time for me to bring the subject up. And when you didn’t bring up your having proposed again…” she trails off into a sigh.
“You figured that I had taken it back.”
Yup, that statement about me being the stupidest man in the entire universe is quickly becoming truer with every moment of my life I re-visit.
Actually, no. She’s the stupid one. She could just say “Hey, you proposed earlier. I say yes/no.” Boom. Done. She could’ve said it this time around, if that was her only holdup!
Why? I can hear you all asking. Well, I totally had the opportunity to make this incredible woman my wife three years ago, and I completely let her slip right through my stripped fingers. And why did I let Raya slide through my fingers? Because I was so busy with everything else going on that I failed to realize I never got an answer to the question that I’d asked her.
GoodJamags: This concept has just been expressed to us.
I know, I know. You’re asking how the hell can someone forget that they asked a woman to marry them?
Because a lot of other stuff happened, and it got lost in the sauce. We fucking get it.
GoodJamags: Please don’t.
I also know why she never brought the proposal up. It’s because she was afraid of the answer she might receive if she did.
But didn’t you just say it was because she thought you retracted it?
Raya fears rejection. And I’ve already got two strikes against me in that department.
GoodJamags: Whatever that means.
So Raya did what she always does when faced with a situation where the possibility of rejection is high. She avoided it.
She’s great at dodging her problems that way.
And I’ve been wondering why she hasn’t said yes, no, or go to hell to my proposal? I can see why. It’s because I didn’t give her a chance to say yes, no, or go to hell to my first proposal.
GoodJamags: “No” and “go to hell” are the same answer.
Well, there’s a way to fix that and put an end to this entire mess.
“Tell me the answer to that proposal now.”
This chapter had no fucking point other than to be stupid fucking bullshit and piss everyone off. We’re done here.
What do you need us for? count: 12
Bullet count: 0
Dick is a dick count: 9